no wonder we hired Hunter Lochmann
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I said I'd come back to this when I have video, and now I do. In last week's Iowa game, the linebackers became extremely aggressive against the run. This usually worked out pretty well. Iowa had a lot of problems running the ball, and what success they had was usually due to the NT getting blown too far back off the ball for Mouton—it was usually Mouton caught in the wash, with Ezeh flowing to a point farther outside—to flow to the ball. There were a couple instances in which the linebackers zipped into the wrong hole, but all told it was an encouraging performance, especially for Ezeh. Ezeh picked up a +4.5, his first positive outcome of the season.
Here's an excellent example of the linebacker's new aggression. It's first and ten late in the first half. Iowa's got the ball and is playing conservatively. They start in an I and motion the outside receiver in:
Here's the snap. You can see Martin already off the ball. Woolfolk has gone in motion to cover the receiver who shifted; this is man coverage:
A half-second later, Iowa is shifting the line left and running a zone stretch. It's hard to see the line from this angle but from the top to the bottom:
- Stevie Brown is holding the outside against an Iowa TE.
- Craig Roh has gotten sealed inside by his guy. I think this is because Michigan's line was slanting away from the play at the snap and then had to try to adjust. Look at Martin in the picture above: he's heading straight upfield. In the picture below, he's behind an OL and trying to come around.
- Ryan Van Bergen and Martin are in a big heap of bodies, with three blockers trying to take on two linemen. They don't crease and they don't allow anyone to get to the second level, so that's a win for Michigan.
- Brandon Graham isn't doing so hot but it doesn't matter. He may be preparing to shoot upfield in the event of a waggle.
And then you've got the linebackers, who are moving forward already, well before the handoff point. Both of them are headed outside.
At the handoff point, Roh has gotten himself a tad bit farther in the backfield. There are still no creases and no downfield blockers. Ezeh is heading outside into the crease between Brown and Roh. Mouton's waiting a bit in case there's a cutback; his designated hole is somewhere between Roh and Martin:
The handoff's made, and Mouton reads that there's nothing in the middle and heads outside. Ezeh's already in the hole, about to meet the fullback…
…who he crushes:
The key in the above frame is that Ezeh got outside the fullback, forcing the tailback behind him and into the help, which could be Roh or RVB but in this case is Mouton, who's running untouched into the path of the tailback…
…for a TFL:
Here's the video:
In real time you can hear, and feel, the crunching destruction of the pwned fullback. Michigan's been doing this for a while now. Contrast several plays against Iowa and Michigan State on which the linebackers flow downhill immediately with this, the opening play of the Notre Dame game:
Yes, they're flowing to the ball, but the hesitancy is obvious. This happened a few times.
The problem comes when opponents go to play action and two tight ends get wide open at the same time, but I don't know if that's their responsibility. With Michigan going to more man coverage since the insertion of Woolfolk at corner, Mouton and Ezeh can be responsible for the two guys in the I; the tight ends are not their problem. In an ace set, that's not the case, but at least one of them was innocent on Moeaki Disaster II.
I'm not sure if this is better play from the linebackers or Robinson removing responsibilities from them and telling them to go forth to rampage. The multiple times Iowa got guys wide open on play action waggles, and Michigan State's success with tight ends, suggest that Michigan has traded one problem for another here.
Editor's note: Tom's back after a happy hiatus with a roundup on the defensive prospects. Items in blockquotes are direct quotes; items outside are impressions gleaned from Tom's conversations with the below recruits.
In light of the depth chart, defensive players are now the focus of recruiting. Michigan has 19 commits on board and will look to fill the rest of the open spots with defense. Here's an update from most of the recruits left on the board:
Bobby Swigert. He will be visiting for either the Penn State, or Ohio State game. He wants to make a decision relatively soon.
Cullen Christian. Cullen is visiting November 21st, and making his decision on November 24th.
“Michigan still leads.” –Cullen Christian
Michigan is in good position to land Christian, and always have been. A lot of the current commits have been contacting him, letting him know how much Michigan wants him.
Marquis Flowers. He’s focusing on his season, and will start evaluating schools once his season is over. He’s not sure if he’s going to visit Michigan. He said he will probably visit, but he’s not sure.
"Notre Dame is really the only visit I have set up right now. I'm going to make my decision either at the Army All American game, or at signing day. I'm just going to take my time with it." –Marquis Flowers
By the sound of how he was talking, he hasn’t put a lot of stock or time into his recruitment yet.
Rashad Knight. Knight is visiting for the Ohio State game, which is shaping up to be a huge game for recruit visits. He doesn’t have any leaders as of now. He has never been to Michigan before, and wants to wait to see the campus before naming any leaders, which is a good sign for M.
Aramide Olaniyan. He recently took a visit to UNC, and (surprise!) he liked it. Everything is still wide open with him. Until his parents get to see the campus of the schools he’s really interested in, he won’t make a decision.
Josh Furman. Josh just visited Virginia Tech. That scares me a little, and I can’t get a feel for what he’s going to do.
Tony Grimes. Grimes will be visiting with his teammate, Clarence Murphy, for the Ohio State game. They have said before that they both want to go to school together. Michigan is one of few schools that have offered both prospects.
"As of right now, Michigan leads for both myself and Clarence (Murphy)." –Tony Grimes
Grimes will be deciding on signing day, and I’m assuming so will Murphy, otherwise that would ruin the surprise.
John Fulton. He has interest in Michigan. We’re not in his top group, he’s an outside shot, but there’s still a shot. I spoke with him the other day, and didn’t sense that much interest, FWIW.
Dietrich Riley. Will take a visit after his season is done, he’s not sure if it will be official, or not.
"They pretty much call every week, so I definitely know that they're interested. I'm just waiting until everything slows down." –Dietrich Riley
He said he liked that they have shown so much interest. This will be a wait and see. He’s one of the better prospects out there, and is being recruited for both safety and running back.
Some names that might still pop up. Ricardo Allen, Dior Mathis, Sean Parker.
Why? Because I have to. Not because I believe in jinxes or anything, but because readers do and I serve at their pleasure. For a fuller Hornet breakdown check When Carcajous Attack(!).
|WHAT||Michigan vs Delaware State|
|WHERE||Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI|
|WHEN||12:00 EST, October 17th, 2009|
|THE LINE||Hypothetically? M –35.5|
|TELEVISION||Nationwide on BTN|
|WEATHER||Cloudy, mid-40s, dry.|
Run Offense vs. Delaware State
This should be no contest. Despite the debacle against Michigan State, Michigan is 23rd in rushing offense in I-A. The Hornets are 105th in I-AA, giving up 202 yards a game at more than 5 YPC. The most interesting thing here will be the performances of Shaw, Smith, and Cox. I expect Brown to get like three carries.
Key Matchup: Probably Hornet safeties versus repeated attempts to run by them into the endzone.
Pass Offense vs. Delaware State
Delaware State is marginally better here, in the 50s in both pass efficiency and total yardage defense when it comes to the pass. And Michigan is considerably weaker, currently hovering around 81st in passer efficiency, though a large chunk of that is Denard Robinson's tendency to chuck interceptions. Forcier is middling (55th) nationally.
Key Matchup: Pass protection versus Anonymous Hornets. Forcier's dinged, let's keep him that way instead of seriously dinged.
Run Defense vs. Delaware State
Michigan's coming off two good performances marred by things outside the defensive line's control. Delaware State is the #84 rushing offense in I-AA. This will be a potentially depressing test of Michigan's opponent-invariant defense. Will Delaware State rip off some gashing runs when Michigan players either line up wrong or blow an assignment?
Key Matchup: Mouton and Ezeh versus Aforementioned Blown Assignments. Plz keep getting better here.
Pass Defense vs. Delaware State
Delaware State is 91st in passing offense and 103rd in passing efficiency. It'll be interesting to see how Woolfolk does and if Williams does better at free safety.
Key Matchup: Williams versus Getting Beat Deep.
CATCH THE DAMN BALL
CATCH THE DAMN BALL
Key Matchup: CATCH THE DAMN BALL.
Kittens are not deployed for games against I-AA teams. Here's this instead:
- This is at all close.
- Someone gets injured.
- Delaware State does anything positive at all.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Tate looks like he's back to his old, better self.
- No one gets injured.
- I don't know, don't cackle, it's not nice.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 0 out of 10. (Baseline 5, –1 for I-AA Team, –1 for 1-3 I-AA Team, –1 for 1-3 I-AA Team That Just Gave Bethune-Cookman Its First Win Of The Season, –1 for 1-3 I-AA Team That Just Gave Bethune-Cookman Its First Win Of The Season And Is Worse Than 90th In Both Total Offense And Total Defense, –1 for 1-3 I-AA Team That Just Gave Bethune-Cookman Its First Win Of The Season And Is Worse Than 90th In Both Total Offense And Total Defense And Has Been Pegged With A More Than Five-Touchdown Spread By Crazy Offshore Gambling Folk).
Desperate need to win level: 10 out of 10. (Baseline 5, +1 for No Horror Redux, +1 for This Would Actually Be Worse, +1 for Way Worse, +1 for I Expended All My "Get Out Of Spending Two Days In Fetal Position Free" Cards Last Year, +1 for Just No.)
Loss will cause me to... spend the next twenty years of my life digging a ditch around Delaware, and the following ten trying to push it out to sea.
Win will cause me to... react in no way whatsoever.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
Finally, opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Vincent Smith and Michael Shaw have a ton of carries.
- Michigan does nothing new at all.
- Denard gets half of the snaps.
- Michigan, 45-10.
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Madness! Madness-type object that's not at midnight goes down tonight at 9PM in Crisler, with doors at 8 and a "barbecue" from 7-8 on the east lawn, which sounds like a good idea except it's mid-October. Dylan has a primer for you. In celebration of the basketball team's achievements and in an attempt to make money, allow me to present MGoBlog's sweet basketball shirt:
It is, as per usual, by Six Zero. I know what you're thinking, guy who took Spanish in high school, but you're wrong: "sofa" is irregular and takes a masculine article. I looked it up three times.
While we're on the basketball team, Big Ten Geeks has a two-part preview of the season that focuses on tempo-free stats. The first part shows what you already know: Beilein's second year was a huge leap forward from his first. They ask this question;
Note that leap goes only to 50th, not the 40th you'd expect from Michigan's tournament seeding or the 32nd-ish you'd expect from their advancement to the second round. I expect the team to improve this year, but I'll be marking improvement from 50th.
The Geeks then attempt to answer their question with an array of tempo-free charts comparing Michigan's first two season under Beilein to West Virginia's first three. It appears the offense can expect another step forward in eFG%, but is probably maxing out in 3FGA/FGA and minimizing TOs as much as humanly possible.
Note: a reader gave me the idea for this shirt but a search of the ever-expanding, world-encompassing inbox does not turn up who it is. If it's you, email me and claim your reward.
Bombshell! This is what passes for the biggest story in the Free Press's world:
That's right: "Mom popped hood so boy could get gun, kill" and Taylor Swift (!!!) get second billing to the Free Press FOIAing the University for grade records—the one thing actually covered by the FERPA law that athletic departments abuse willy-nilly—multiple times and Rodriguez saying this:
I have mentioned publicly several times that the football team last year achieved the highest average GPA ever, and I'd like to set the record straight on that statement. Last fall, in order to boost academic performance, I asked the Academic Success Program for the highest-ever team GPA and challenged the players to beat it. The ASP doesn't track team GPAs, so they provided me with an estimate based on their experience dealing with individual performance. They did not make it clear that the number was just an estimate and not an exact calculation
The bastard. In a TLA, LOL. This
is getting has long been comical.
Wolverines, for real. They're remaking Red Dawn, for some reason, but at least they're doing it with proper respect for wolverines:
For former Michigan players Sean Griffin, Charles Stewart, Darnell Hood and Brandent Englemon, playing high school football players -- for a team named the Wolverines, no less -- in the remake of the 1980's movie "Red Dawn," came, in some respects, almost naturally.
"It's just football," said Griffin, a 2008 U-M graduate and former long snapper.
It's not just football, it's a titanic struggle against communism in a dystopic alternate reality, Sean. Let's get with the program.
I once went to the world's worst staging of any play—they sang "Silent Night" at the end—just because Jamar Adams and Jake Long and Chad Henne were vaguely in it, so I guess I have to go see the remake of Red Dawn now. The dangerous precedents I set.
Happy fun time forever hurray! Rick Leach finally followed through on his promise to bring down the thunder on someone for not being all in for Rich Rodriguez. As you've no doubt already found out because I've been studiously avoiding the topic to the point where Doctor Saturday himself pinged me to inform me about this event, it was Lloyd Freakin' Carr:
This morning former U-M QB Rick Leach dialed up WTKA’s Michigan Insider with Sam Webb and Ira Weintraub to sound off about the report that Rodriguez backed off the claim that the team hit the highest GPA in team history. Leach painted it as another attempt by the media to discredit Rodriguez, paraphrasing: “turning a good story into a bad one.”
But then Leach took aim at former coach Lloyd Carr, asking folks to investigate where and with whom Carr sat at the Iowa game. … Per Leach, this act is effectively waving a “middle finger” at U-M.
I find this wonderful in all ways and love everything forever. Like everyone else who reads a lot of Michigan message boards, I've heard dark stories about Carr and Eastern regent James Stapleton—a guy who thought Brian Ellerbe's firing was racist!—and what some brilliant, anonymous person called the "shadow government" in Ypsilanti, all of the vague beyond the point of usefulness and extremely irritating. I've never found anyone worth citing, even if I maybe kind of believe certain aspects of it. Which I think I do. But I haven't heard anything worth publishing. When and if I do, I'll publish it.
Bracelet note. If you clicked the button on the top right to donate to Phil Brabbs and get yourself a cancer kicker bracelet, there is another step you have to execute: email email@example.com to tell them how many you'd like. Details here. Video blog from Brabbs and wife here.
You can see Hemingway two steps beyond his guy, loping down field. He pulls up, thus turning a potential deep completion into an easy interception. This guy's answer: no, it wasn't Hemingway's fault. If he'd kept going on his route he might have had a chance to break the play up but watch the video; watch how long the safety is just waiting for the ball to come directly to him:
Receiver or no, that is not a good throw. Especially with Odoms hand-wavingly wide open underneath.
Inside vs outside zone. I've struggled to recognize the differences between inside and outside zone plays for a long time now, but Chris Brown (Not That Chris Brown) has illuminated it for me, and for you:
On outside zone plays, the "covered" offensive linemen (those with a defender lined up directly in front of them) will take a little bit more of a lateral first step and try to "reach" the defender -- that is, get their body in position to seal the defender from chasing the ball outside. The running back aims for a point outside the tight end, though he can cut it upfield wherever a seam appears.
Michigan hardly ever gets outside the tight end, or outside the tackle, because defensive ends are coached to get upfield and force the play back inside of them. When they do get outside the tackle it's usually a big gainer. A large number of Michigan's outside zone (or "stretch") plays end up going between the tackle and the center; the guard to that side of the field releases downfield to get a block on a linebacker.
Anyway, this causes people to start flowing fast to the sideline, at which point it's time to hit them with a counter. The simplest zone counter is to just execute the same play with a slightly different goal:
Once the defense begins flowing too fast to the sideline, Wilson will come back to the inside zone. The rules are the same -- covered and uncovered -- except this is more of a drive block as the aiming points are inside. The play often results in a cutback if the defense is flowing fast for the outside zone, but the difference between the outside zone is one of technique, not assignment.
So instead of trying to get around your guy with a reach block and sealing him, you just shove him down the line and have Minor cut behind you.
Here's an a-ha I just had. You know how Michigan was blocking the backside end much of the day? All those must have been inside zone plays. These days unblocked DEs tend to crash down on the backside, turning cutback lanes into minimal gains. Blocking that guy gives your moosebot tailback the opportunity to cut back on the inside zone without getting an unblocked DE in his face.
Etc.: Guess what Pryor's running now? The spread 'n' shred. Also this counter draw play OSU is running is something Michigan should put in the Robinson playbook. You can sign up to support Michigan Stadium's World Cup bid. There is a student protest today at City Hall to fight for State Street's right to party. The Beastie Boys would be proud. Correction: the Beastie Boys 20 years ago would be proud. The current Beastie Boys are very disappointed you're not thinking about Tibet.
For the Delaware State Game (Saturday, Oct. 17)
Zac Johnson (shoulder)
David Molk (foot)
Probable (75 percent chance of playing)
Carlos Brown (concussion)
Tate Forcier (concussion)
In addition, head coach Rich Rodriguez announced the game captains for the game against Delaware State: defensive end Brandon Graham, kicker Jason Olesnavage, linebacker Ohene Opong-Owusu and left tackle Mark Ortmann.
Interesting that Brown's on this one but wasn't last week, eh? Gamesmanship? (Rosenberg: read LIES LIES LIES)