Stopping Virginia Tech's offense means stopping RB David Wilson.
Brian has covered the most important part of scouting Virginia Tech—how they fared against Duke, of course—but I figured I'd check out the tape of their ACC title game loss at the hands of Clemson and see if I could come up with any further insight on the Hokies. To be honest, my notes look much the same as what Brian took away from the Duke game, but seeing Clemson dominate VT helped to solidify some of those impressions and create some new ones. So, for one last time in 2011, let's do this FFFF thing:
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Spread, mostly. VT operates out of the gun most of the time, always with at least three receivers. They'll go under center in either the ace or I-form on occasion, and they'll usually run when that happens.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? VT loves to pull their guards to try to get RB David Wilson to the edge, so despite the spread offense, we get a MANBALL here. They'll also do their share of zone blocking, and the inverted veer is their short-yardage weapon of choice, so you will see a little bit of everything out of their run game.
Quarterback Dilithium Level (Scale: 1 [Navarre] to 10 [Denard]): Starting quarterback Logan Thomas stands at 6'6", 254 pounds, and while he's not the fastest guy out there, he's very good at using his size to find a way upfield. He's the Hokies best short-yardage option, usually keeping on the inverted veer and plunging ahead for yardage, and he'll also see his fair share of QB draws and scrambles. Thomas doesn't display the 3G-force cuts of Denard, or anything close, but he's good at finding a seam and getting upfield in a hurry—he won't break a lot of big runs, but he can eat up 5-7 yard chunks with regularity if he finds the space. I'll give him a 6.
Dangerman: Though he had an awful game against Clemson, rushing for just 32 yards on 11 carries, David Wilson (#4) is the best player on the Hokie offense—on the year he has 266 carries for 1627 yards (6.1 yards per carry) and nine touchdowns. Wilson has elite speed and surprising strength for a 5'10", 205-pound tailback, but his vision appears to be lacking—he's definitely got some Michael Shaw bouncebouncebounce in him. When he can get the edge, he's very dangerous. When he can't, as was the case against Clemson, he can be bottled up and contained. Still, he topped 100 yards in all but two games this season, so expect him to find some success in the Sugar Bowl.
Zook Factor: I did not notice Frank Beamer do anything Zookian. This should not come as a surprise.
OVERVIEW: Ideally (for them) Virginia Tech is going to find the edge with Wilson, get him eating up big chunks of yardage behind some pulling linemen—they love the POWER run—then unleash their play-action passing game with Thomas, a pretty accurate QB with a very strong arm. Most of VT's passes were either downfield strikes off of run fakes or quick hitters to the middle of the field out of the gun. I guess there's also a third category—panicked dumpoffs by Thomas when his O-line collapses, which occurred with regularity against the Tigers. The blitz will be key for Michigan, as not only is VT's line suspect, but Thomas often holds onto the ball too long and is very hesitant to throw downfield against a good rush.
The Wolverine defense will have to be sound underneath, as not only does Thomas love hitting quick slants, but he often dumps the ball off to Wilson when all else fails. While Wilson has suspect hands, he's very good in space, so making sure he's accounted for is a priority on any play, run or pass. Clemson was rather successful in this regard:
You may notice the total ownage of all things interior O-line on the above play. That was a theme. Let's skip right to the...
PLAY BREAKDOWN: I cut way too many videos from this game, so let's dive right in. As stated, offensive line looks to be a weak point for Virginia Tech, especially in the interior. Here's a miserably-failed attempt at running the inverted veer:
While that blocking wasn't terrible—that's mostly a great play by #40 on Clemson—the O-line can't get any sort of push, and that was a common thread throughout the ACC title game. This play also shows off another potential issue for VT, which BWS picked up on from watching them play Miami (YTM):
Ball security. This probably isn't a trend, but Thomas had a lot of trouble with ball security. He bobbled and fumbled one snap and failed to tuck the ball when he was pressured on another play and fumbled it. There was also another poor snap during the game that had to be recovered. I don't know if these are consistent problems, but they certainly were during this game.
I think we now have a trend. Thomas lost the above fumble after a review, and on several other runs he failed to tuck the ball away, nearly losing it a couple times when taking hits. Michigan's opportunistic defense should have more opportunities for turnovers when Thomas tucks and runs. As for VT's run game from under center, Clemson shut that down as well, again thanks to terrible blocking in the middle:
Mike Martin should be chomping at the bit to get after these guys, as they were bull-rushed into oblivion by the Tigers. Wilson doesn't help here, either, as he comes to a complete stop in the backfield instead of cutting to the backside—when a play breaks down and there's no chance to bounce it out playside, he looks pretty pedestrian. Despite lacking a run game entirely, however, the Hokies still managed to get a big play out of their play-action game:
Clemson had a lot of success by loading up the box and playing very aggressively against the run while playing one deep safety with man coverage, but this is the flip side—the defensive backs must be on top of their game, and they obviously slipped up here. Thomas does those Juice Williams-esque long play fakes and his deep throws are quite accurate. 'No duh' statement of the day: the safeties are going to have to play like they did the first 11 games of the year, because if they repeat their Ohio State performance, it could be a long night.
Thomas is at his best when he gets time in the pocket so he can wait on his first or second read to come open—if those aren't there, he's going to check down to the back—and hit those intermediate throws. His arm strength is not an issue:
That's a fantastic throw between two zones, albeit a slightly dangerous one. Thomas got picked off twice in the fourth quarter after the Hokies fell behind by 28—he'll force a couple passes into tight windows, and Michigan needs to be able to take advantage.
- VT has a solid group of receivers, but there's no one guy that stands out as particularly impressive. Senior Danny Coale and Jarrett Boykin both have over 50 catches and 700 yards, though they accumulate their numbers in differing fashion: Coale is quick and shifty—he also returns punts (and actually punts, more on that later)—and does a lot of his damage after the catch, while Boykin is a bigger target with great hands who is a solid possession guy but not a huge big-play threat. One guy to watch is Marcus Davis, who averages over 17 yards per catch.
- Right tackle Blake DeChristopher (#62) is a redshirt senior who garnered first-team All-ACC honors this season, but I wasn't impressed by him. He got beaten easily around the edge for a sack and had his fair share of issues in the run game as well. The Hokie line in general is not especially large, going 306-297-290-307-311 from left to right, and while the guards are athletic enough to pull, they don't have the strength to get a good push against a solid defensive front. Thomas had multiple passes batted down despite being 6'6" with a high release point—that's a pretty bad sign.
- The Hokies have what appears to be a decent backup option at running back in Josh Oglesby, who's runs with a very differing style from Wilson—he hits the hole hard and goes North-South until he runs into something. His numbers don't jump off the page, as he averaged 3.7 ypc on 90 carries this season, but if he finds a seam he can barrel into the secondary in a hurry.
Base Set? BWS pointed out that VT ran not only a base 4-3 against Miami, but also a 4-4 run stopping look, a 3-3-5 package used mostly for blitzing, and an Okie formation quite similar to Michigan's, though with less linemen dropping into coverage. Due to injuries to their linebackers, the Hokies have had to adjust a bit, and against Clemson they mostly played a very aggressive 4-2-5 with DB Kyle Fuller essentially playing linebacker. They'll still switch up their look frequently, but they're a bit limited because of their lack of LBs. A far better breakdown of all this is the now-frequently-linked Dr. Saturday post on the Hokie D.
Man or zone coverage? VT came out playing mostly man coverage—in large part due to their aggressive blitz schemes—but they'll throw out some zone coverage (and zone blitzes) to switch things up and confuse the offense.
Pressure: GERG or Greg? A whole lotta Greg. Virginia Tech brings at least one linebacker on practically every play, and they bring Fuller off the edge often—despite being a nominal defensive back, he's amassed 14.5 TFLs this season.
Dangerman: Fuller (#17 in your program, probably unranked in your heart if you're reading this blog). He's a terror off the edge, blowing up run plays without much help when coming on the blitz, and he's strong in man coverage—he held his own on the few occasions when he went one-on-one with Sammy Watkins. Fuller is also good tackler in space. If you forget his name between now and Tuesday, you'll quickly remember him as the guy making all the plays.
OVERVIEW: Bud Foster's defense is extremely aggressive, and while much of that is by design, it's also a necessity—the Hokie D-line and linebackers are thoroughly unimpressive, but their secondary is able to make up for a lot of that thanks to Fuller's blitzing and very sound coverage. Here's what I thought was an ideal two-play sequence for VT—the first play they rush four and force a throwaway despite getting no pressure, and they follow that up with a curveball zone blitz that catches Clemson off-guard and nearly nets a sack:
You can see Fuller (#17) blitzes here and actually draws a block from the left guard, opening things up for the other rushers to get pressure—he demands a lot of attention. As Brian noted after watching the Duke game, VT is very good in coverage—junior corner Jayron Hosley in particular—and that really lets them bring the heat without too much fear of the big play.
PLAY BREAKDOWN: That doesn't mean the defensive backs are perfect, however. Clemson found some success running the football and dialed up a perfect play-action bomb to Watkins in the third quarter. Corner Cris Hill, who starts when Fuller is playing his hybrid spot, gets absolutely torched on a double move here and there's no help behind him:
Hill wasn't the only player victimized in the secondary. VT runs a complicated scheme that mixes zone and man principles, and while that's confusing for the offense, it can also be tough on their own guys, as well. Clemson's first TD was the result of Fuller settling into a robber zone instead of playing man, and judging by the result of the play, I think it's safe to say he was supposed to pick this guy up:
Tech's run defense found a lot of success early when they were able to bring a ton of heat and flow to the ball—their team speed is a definite plus, and it's hard to get the edge against them using conventional runs when they're blitzing hard. Clemson was able to soften up the defense with multiple quick-hitting end-arounds to Watkins, however, and then they went to work on VT's undersized D-line. Here's Clemson breaking out of the shadow of their own end zone with a simple inside zone that their running back takes off-tackle:
The Hokie defensive ends all weigh in the 240-250 pound range, and in this instance backup Zack McCray (#95) is sealed to the inside while the linebackers both play passively and allow themselves to get blocked with ease. VT blitzes the nearside corner, but he can't get to the play in time, and Ellington waltzes into the secondary. That success would continue late in the game—here's a two-play sequence where Ellington picks up a big chunk on an inside zone before finishing off the drive with a power run off-tackle for a 30-yard touchdown:
On the first play, the defensive tackles both are shoved right out of the hole, and the linebackers just aren't there to pick up the slack—the middle of that defense looked soft all game. The next play is beautifully executed by Clemson, and I can't help but think that Denard could find some success on the edge if Borges dials up an outside run away from the inevitable blitz, especially if it's preceded by a successful run up the gut.
- This could be the game where the tunnel screen actually works for a big play. With VT's suspect linebackers and their propensity to bring 6-7 men on the rush, Michigan should be able to hit a receiver quickly and give him space to maneuver upfield. Tech gave a lot of cushion on the edge against Clemson, and the Tigers took advantage with some quick-hitting screens to Watkins that usually netted 8-10 yards.
- VT's safeties are very, very aggressive in run support, and they're solid tacklers at the line. Denard is going to have to establish himself as a reliable and accurate passer early, or the Hokies will be able to load up the box and tee off on the run. Hitting those quick timing routes that are so fundamental to Borges's offense will be paramount if Michigan is going to succeed against this defense. With all the blitzing, Denard is not going to have all day in the pocket.
- While the DBs are great in run support, I disagreed with Brian's assertion that they were all-around sound at tackling in space. They missed a few tackles on Clemson's receivers when they caught the ball in space—another reason why I think establishing a short passing game will be the key to Michigan's success.
- I flat-out wasn't impressed with the defensive line. Their DEs have some decent TFL numbers, but most of their plays in the backfield came when VT brought extra men—when rushing four, the Hokies got little push against the run and nothing resembling a pass rush. The DTs often got blown right back out of the hole. This shouldn't come as a huge surprise: The Hokies have a true freshman starting at DT surrounded by three sophomore starters, and the depth along the line is young as well—there isn't a single senior on the two-deep for Tuesday's game.
- One last note: Thanks to injuries and ineffectiveness, wide receiver Danny Coale also doubles as the punter. He's been surprisingly good, averaging 44 yards per punt on 12 attempts, and he had two 60-yard boots against Clemson that pinned them deep in their own territory. Coale also shanked a 28-yarder in his own end to help set up a Tiger score, so consistency may be an issue. With their top two kickers suspended for the game as well, things could get adventurous for the normally-great Tech special teams.
Part of the Sugar Bowl swag is pre-transcribed press conferences.
Michigan Offensive Coordinator Al Borges
THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with our Michigan offensive press conference this morning. We're joined by Offensive Coordinator Al Borges. Coach, opening remarks.
COACH BORGES: This is actually my second trip to the Sugar Bowl. I had an opportunity in 2005 to come here, and ironically enough, we played Virginia Tech, which is kind of cool.
But I can tell you, I've been fortunate over the last few years of my career to go to several Bowl games, but the Sugar Bowl is without question at the top of the list with regard to hospitality, accommodations, the whole deal.
They just do a wonderful job. You can tell they've been here before. They know exactly what they're doing. I know our kids are enjoying this experience. The coaches, when they've had an opportunity outside our work schedule, to do things, we've had a great time so far.
And our preparations have gone real well. Back at Ann Arbor, a precursor to the Bowl game, the kids have practiced hard and stayed pretty focused and it's carried over these last couple of days of practice.
So we're looking forward to playing a really, really well-coached, tough football team in Virginia Tech, a team that I think deserves to be here, having the type of year they had and being the type of team that they are.
You know, Frank Beamer is a proven commodity in this business, and having an opportunity to coach against Bud Foster who coordinates the defense and does now and always has done a great job of coordinating his schemes and style of play that really presents some real issues for us offensively.
So it's going to be a great challenge for us. But we're looking forward to the challenge and having an opportunity to win 11 games, as great a tradition as Michigan has, I think it's only been done about five times. So our team is fired up and can't wait to get this thing underway.
Q. You talked about Foster. Is that something that you see as like somewhat of a challenge because he's so well respected and because you guys have a little bit of a history, at least?
Yeah. And, again, I don't have a lot of history other than one football game.
But just knowing Bud and knowing what they do and have an idea what they do. And he's like we have been offensively. Their defense is ever?evolving. They're a little different than the last time we played them, but still some of the base schemes are the same.
But he's a well-respected guy because he's done such a nice job and presents some problems for you. They have a nice pressure package when they need it. They play the run real well. All their numbers, statistically, would bear that out.
Q. How much of an advantage is it, if any, that they haven't faced a quarterback like Denard Robinson this year?
How much have they played a guy like Denard? I don't think they've played a guy like Denard.
Q. How much of an advantage is it for you?
I'm not sure. I'm not sure how to answer that question. Denard presents some problems. I don't think anybody would argue that.
The biggest thing with Denard is if Denard's throwing the ball well, which he's been doing of late, then he really adds a new… a whole different dimension to having to defend him, because with opportunities, he's going to run the ball well. He can do that.
You very seldom have slumps running the ball. But passing, you can go into some slumps. But he's been throwing the ball well lately.
And if we haven't lost any of our timing, which it doesn't appear at this point in our practices that we have, I think we'll be okay. But I think, like I said, they're going to have answers. They're not going to make any concessions to us, that's for sure. And we're going to have to deal with those as the game progresses.
I don't know if I answered your question or not, but...
Q. To the end of that question, to what extent does this game come down to identifying early what they're trying to do to him and reacting to it?
It's always huge, because within the first couple series, you'll have somewhat of an idea how they're going to go about defending you. And I have found here at Michigan, with Denard, more so than probably most the quarterbacks I've coached in the past, is everybody's got kind of a different solution to dealing with Denard's skill level.
So as a coach you have to identify what they're overdefending and then be able to make the adequate adjustments to take advantage of what they're defending less. Okay? And now it comes down to whether or not you can exploit that. Sometimes it's the passing game, like I said before.
And if they're giving you some opportunities in your passing game and you can take advantage of it, you can have a pretty good day. But if they make you play left-handed and you can't take advantage of it, then you could have a long day.
So I think it's huge, is figuring out how they're going to go about defending you and then being able to counterpunch.
[ED: remainder after the jump.]
Like Saban, except without the wins; a guy who made a bad decision
DeAnthony Arnett wants to leave Tennessee. This should be enough reason for Derek Dooley to release him, full stop. When Dooley left Louisiana Tech for Tennessee, he did not require the permission of Louisiana Tech. Because of the way the NCAA "just works"—to quote that guy at Indiana State—Arnett does need permission from UT if he's going to be on scholarship somewhere next season.
Dooley won't give it to him. This is because Tennessee has a "policy."
A Tennessee spokesman said Arnett is not being denied the opportunity to be released and play FBS-level football. The school has a policy of not releasing players to schools Tennessee plays or recruits against, the spokesman said.
Joe Paterno should have thought of that. "We have a policy of not disclosing the activities of sexual predators on campus." End of story. There's a policy, folks. Nothing to see here.
Arnett is the fourth Tennessee player that Derek Dooley has vindictively screwed over on a transfer. The first, All-SEC lineman Aaron Douglas, had to transfer to an Arizona JUCO for a year before transferring back to Alabama*. Dooley imposed a requirement that Douglas transfer at least eight hours away from his home in Knoxville and offered this explanation:
“I’m trying to help him. If the problem is truly at home, then he shouldn’t be at home. But if it’s not truly at home, then we think he should be at Tennessee.”
"They're within their legal rights to do what they're doing, but we're adults. Part of our business is to help young people develop and stay in line, but it's also to take care of them. I can see if Nick was in the plans for them, then fine. But if he's not in the plans, let him go play somewhere else."
Lamaison was an unlikely candidate to play for the Vols this season or down the road, and he never seriously threatened either Jonathan Crompton or Nick Stephens for playing time a year ago either.
Stephens transferred midway through spring practice, but like last fall, Lamaison was again clearly stuck behind two quarterbacks as junior transfer Matt Simms and freshman Tyler Bray quickly jumped him on the depth chart.
He ended up going back to JUCO for a year and then starting at UTEP. The only players Tennessee has actually let go are Todd Campbell, a little-used fifth year senior who transferred to MTSU, and backup QB Nick Stephens, who transferred to D-II Tarleton State. Anyone with the slightest bit of talent at Tennessee will not be released to play at a BCS school. QB coach leaves, dad is terribly sick, you are never ever going to play: doesn't matter. Dooley owns you.
So if you're thinking about going to Tennessee, be sure you want to play for a nepotistic failure coming off a 1-7 conference record with no track record of success hired by a total moron. It's going to cost you five figures if you're wrong.
*[Douglas died with a cocktail of drugs in his system in May. This is not relevant to the rest of the post but it seems impossible to mention his story without its tragic conclusion. Dooley didn't show up at the funeral, BTW. Quality guy.]
I am officially back from vacation and gearing up for the stretch run to Signing Day 2012. Usual request: please contact me via email or Twitter (or leave a comment) with any suggestions, tips, or links you think should show up in the next recruiting roundup.
Remember DeAnthony Arnett, the 2011 four-star receiver from Saginaw who ultimately decided to attend Tennessee? He's looking to transfer close to home to be with his ailing father, who—according to a statement released by Arnett himself—has had two recent heart attacks and undergone dialysis. Arnett was strongly considering both Michigan and Michigan State during the recruiting process, and ideally he'd like to join one of those two programs while helping his family deal with his father's health issues.
Simple, right? Not in the SEC. Here's some epic scumbaggery courtesy of Tennessee coach Derek Dooley (quoted from Arnett's statement):
Coach Dooley has singled two programs that I can’t get an unconditional release to and they are the University of Michigan and Michigan State University.
He told me I can attend any Mid American Conference school I want and if I wanted to attend either The University of Michigan or Michigan State University I would have to pay for school instead of be on scholarship. I don’t know what’s next. My family can’t afford to pay for school, but my father’s poor health isn’t a good enough excuse for me to attend a BCS school close to home.
Therefore as a student athlete I feel coach Dooley is trying to hinder my success by not allowing me to compete at a BCS level and neglecting the fact my father is severely ill.
Tennessee's rationale is that they have "a policy of not releasing players to schools Tennessee plays or recruits against," according to a school spokesman. That same spokesman said that UT is not denying Arnett the opportunity to play FBS-level football, which is technically true, but have you ever watched the MAC? To say this goes against all moral and rational reasoning and instead sits firmly in the realm of petty absurdity is putting it lightly. MaizePages even adds hypocrisy to the list of Tennessee missteps in handling this situation:
What's worse is that Dooley's decision, with the assumed support of the athletic department and University president given their silence on the issue, also represents the height of hypocricy. The Vols benefited from a similar situation just a few years ago. In 2007, hoops star Tyler Smith was granted a full release by Iowa so he could be closer to his family since his father was battling cancer. Smith, who grew up a Vols fan, also requested and received a waiver from the NCAA not to sit out a season due to "extenuating family circumstances." Iowa did what was right for the student-athlete; Bruce Pearl and Tennessee happily took him in.
Yes, Michigan could really use a receiver of Arnett's abilities—he recorded 24 catches as a true freshman this season—but this is about what's right, not what could benefit the Wolverines on the field. Arnett could go to U-M or MSU next year regardless of Tennessee granting a waiver if his family paid his way through his first year at school, but he made it clear in his statement that isn't an option. Instead, he can either hope an appeal to Tennessee allows him to transfer to a Big Ten school without losing his scholarship for a season, or he'll likely be forced to transfer to a MAC school in order to be close to his family. The situation is especially unfortunate considering that not only are Michigan and MSU the two schools with the best football programs for Arnett, but they're the two FBS schools in the state with the best academics as well.
Just No Stomping, Mr. Garnett
Sam Webb's latest DetNews feature is on Josh Garnett, who talks about an on-field mean streak that he had to tone down after spending his junior year "just looking for a fight" on every play. Though he's chilled out a little between the lines, Garnett still says he's "like [Ndamukong] Suh, but on offense," which sounds pretty awesome to me. Here's the blue-chip OL prospect on how he could fit in along the offensive line:
"I think I'll play wherever I need to go first — tackle, guard, or center," Garnett said when asked to describe his game. "Athletically the coaches are telling me I (am capable of) definitely playing those spots. I do think guard is where I'm going to be able to excel the most. I've got big lower legs, I've got great technique, and good hands. I'm good at hand fighting so I think at guard I can use my abilities to come down on linebackers pretty tough and pull around those corners on a lot of those power plays."
Garnett will decide between Michigan, Notre Dame, and Stanford at the end of January—he decided against taking a visit to Miami this month—and he's leaving the logistics of his announcement up to his twin sister. That choice will come sometime after his official visit to Stanford, which is slated for the weekend of the 14th.
As for others along the O-line, Alex Kozan is considering taking a fifth official visit ($, info in header) to either Oklahoma or Oregon—his previous officials have been to Iowa, Ohio State, Michigan, and Auburn. Meanwhile, Jordan Diamond is "not close" to a decision ($, info in header), and he has yet to narrow his list of schools from a final eight.
One piece of big news to come in over the break is that four-star cornerback and current Penn State commit Armani Reeves will take an official visit to Michigan ($, info in header), though the visit hasn't yet been finalized:
"He'll visit Penn State January 13, so we have a few weekends after that we could probably get, though the basketball schedule is kind of crazy. We definitely want to get him out there. What we've done is keep in contact with the schools that have shown most the interest in him, Michigan, Notre Dame and Ohio State. Michigan is a definite visit, Ohio State or Notre Dame, it will be one or the other."
It sounds like the Wolverines are in the best position to land Reeves should he decide to back out of his Penn State commitment. With the PSU coaching search looking like it could extend close to signing day, that seems like a very good possibility.
Happy trails to a pair of tight ends as Taylor McNamara committed to Oklahoma and former M commit Pharaoh Brown pledged to Oregon this week. Boston College commit Sam Grant appears to be the last viable option at tight end, and Michigan could actually be helped by McNamara's choice to go to Oklahoma, as that was one of the schools from whom Grant had recently received major interest recently.
The EEs Have Landed
As expected, three recruits from Michigan's class of 2012 have enrolled early, and it sounds like they're on campus and ready to start classes:
It appears at least three 2012 Michigan football recruits have enrolled early at the university.
There are listings for a Jarrod Arthur Lee Wilson, Joseph Daniel Bolden and Kaleb Stefon Ringer in Michigan's online directory of current students.
Those first and last names match three verbal commitments to Michigan, although a school spokesman said Thursday the program likely will not verify they are with the team until the start of winter classes.
This ensures that Michigan will be able to backdate those three players to the 2011 class and take 28 recruits in 2012.
From a recent local newspaper article, we find out senior (and sophomore) year stats for Michigan's most recent commit, receiver Jehu Chesson:
Chesson has been one of the area's top wide receivers the past two seasons. After grabbing 23 catches for 402 yards and four scores as a sophomore, Chesson had 53 receptions for 605 yards and scored 11 total touchdowns as a junior and had 53 catches for 757 yards and eight total touchdowns this fall.
Those catch totals are consistent, to say the least, and while he had fewer touchdowns as a senior, the increased yards per catch (from 11.4 to 14.3) indicates Chesson is improving after the catch.
Quickly: James Ross is named as Rivals.com's first-team All-American middle linebacker for 2011, while several commits make 247's Best of the Midwest list.
Tuley-Tillman Goes From Unknown to Blue-Chip
247Sports updated their class of 2013 rankings (I know, that was fast), and the top-ranked new arrival to their Top247 is none other than Peoria (IL) Manual OT Logan Tuley-Tillman, who went from unranked to the #38 overall player in the class (the article lists him at #37, but he's one spot lower when you click over to the rankings). For a full list of where Michigan offerees now stand, check out Touch the Banner.
Quickly, because this post is getting lengthy: Cass Tech corner Jourdan Lewis has Michigan at the top of his list, though he's yet to receive an offer ($, info in header); top-ranked TE Adam Breneman is looking to visit Michigan for a junior day or spring practice ($, info in header); the Wolverines offered a pair of Louisville (KY) Trinity prospects in WR James Quick and DE Jason Hatcher ($, info in header); four-star LB/S Su'a Cravens is already planning to take an official visit to Michigan during his senior season ($, info in header); TomVH profiles Good Counsel DB Kendall Fuller ($); and Sam Webb interviews Highland (UT) head coach Brody Benson, coach of 2012 commit Sione Houma and 2014 DT Bryan Mone, who received Michigan's first offer to a member of the current sophomore class ($).
After a year off, a review of the luckiest teams of the year is back. Two years ago I prepped the concept of “lucky.” It’s been a while so here’s a quick recap of how luck is defined for this exercise.
I define luck as what your record should have been with your full season performance and your schedule versus what your record actually was. It is not about injuries, having an easy schedule or even lucky bounces. Interceptions, punt returns and every relevant rush or pass are included in the full season team score. Fumbles, garbage time, interception returns and a few others play are excluded.
So the annual team score which is an average of up to 12 individual game scores (Championship and Bowl Games are excluded) and I take the schedule for the season and re-simulate it based on the actual quality of all the teams, not the pre-season expectation. I then compare actual records to projected records to find this years luckiest teams.
You could call this over or under-achieving and you would be partially right. The challenge is that over the last several years, I have been unable to find any teams that consistently bias one way by any real margin. You can point to grit, toughness, wanting it more and all the clichés, but with no record of teams being able to repeat, I just call it luck.
80 out of 120 FBS teams perform within 1 game of their projected total, leaving about 20 each in the real lucky and unlucky categories.
|Team||Conf||Proj W||Final W||Vs Exp|
|Kansas St||Big XII||7.5||10||2.5|
|Penn St||Big Ten||7.1||9||1.9|
Ball St is the clear-cut winner for luckiest team of 2011, winning 6 when their performance and schedule predicted less than 3. Kansas St, unsurprisingly is the luckiest BCS team going a full 2.5 games better than they “should” have. Going 9-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less will make you feel pretty lucky.
Sugar Bowl opponent Virginia Tech checks in at #6. As has been discussed elsewhere, the Hokies had a strange season. Got blown out by Clemson twice, several decent wins and some strange close games. Ultimately a weak schedule, blowout losses and narrow wins over four unranked opponents lands VT at 2 games better than expected.
RG3 earned his Heisman carrying the pathetic Baylor defense. Baylor’s overall rating was lower due to their horrendous defense, but the offense was good enough to win games giving 48, 31, 26, 39, 38 and 42 points in the regular season. Of course they cap it off by winning while giving up 56 last night.
Penn St surely doesn’t consider themselves lucky right now but 9 wins was nearly two more than they should have had. The Nittany Lions were the anti-Baylor, doing with a stout defense and a really weak offense. Penn St went 6-2 in Big Ten play despite being outscored and also beat Temple by 4 in a game they had no business pulling out.
|Team||Conf||Proj W||Final W||Vs Exp|
|Texas A&M||Big XII||8.5||6||(2.5)|
|S Florida||Big East||7.2||5||(2.2)|
|Louisiana Mon||Sun Belt||6.1||4||(2.1)|
Some familiar names show up. UCF is tops at 3 games worse than expected. UCF had BCS buster talk heading into the season and failed to even qualify for a bowl. Even the 8 projected wins would have been a disappointment but going 0-6 in games decided by a TD or less really hurts.
Texas A&M’s trials this season are well-documented. They blew leads like crazy, lost five games to bowl teams in OT or by 4 points or less. The Aggies have to feel like in some alternate universe their season and Kansas St’s is switched.
The Big Ten+
|Team||Conf||Proj W||Final W||Vs Exp|
|Ohio St||Big Ten||6.9||6||(0.9)|
|Michigan St||Big Ten||9.3||10||0.7|
|Penn St||Big Ten||7.1||9||1.9|
Michigan checks in at slightly lucky. They were a toss-up between 9 and 10 wins and hit the over. The Wolverines had only 3 games decided by a possession or less and went 2-1 in them.
The other side of the ball from the Duke game that it's all like LOL you watched and cared about.
Surprise! Virginia Tech is aggressive. Let's go back to that Smart Football diagram of the VT defense:
This isn't always what VT runs—a lot of the time they have their front seven in an undershifted front just like Michigan—but the primary thing is that guy labeled "R," who is a "rover"; the "W" is the "whip," and they're both little lightning bastards equally capable of dropping into coverage or blitzing into your face.
As noted in the VEQ last week, corner/rover/nickelback Justin Fuller is a TFL machine with 14.5. This is the equivalent of Jordan Kovacs or Courtney Avery having 14.5 TFLs. Kovacs had eight. Mattison is pretty aggressive, but he's not Bud Foster. Here's Fuller shutting down the zone read:
That is consistent. The end will crash down the line and VT will fill with the rover or whip depending on which side of the formation the play is going to. This means a lot of man, or zones that devolve into man coverage based on keys a la a Saban defense. This is usually very effective. Sometimes it's not…
The secondary. Just Duke caveats apply, but dang they're good. They can get burned by double moves and the like…
…but it is rare to see that much separation. Former Michigan recruit Jayron Hosley has developed into a premiere cover corner and there's not much separating him from the rest of the secondary, including the safeties.
Even when Duke hit stuff VT made it difficult to execute:
While I'm sure there's an athleticism gap between Michigan's WRs and Duke's, Michigan does not have anyone you'd describe as a burner. Precision execution like that Michigan got against Ohio State will be required. The windows are small.
The key matchup: Denard versus fill safety. VT uses that safety fill even on conventional running plays, which allows them to crash hard to the playside without giving up the cutback. Usually, anyway. When the safety screws up there isn't help and runs can go long:
This is an improvisation from the tailback as he sees nothing on the front side of the play, but a conventional zone read pull puts Denard in that space by himself with that safety. If Denard manages to make him miss like the Duke tailback he's not getting tackled.
We saw Denard WOOP an Ohio State linebacker on his 42-yard touchdown against Ohio State; we've also seen him chopped down as he tries to make it outside too often. Getting those decisive upfield cuts that churn out 4/5/6 yards when the big play isn't there will keep the offense in a position to exploit that aggression. Losing two yards is a recipe for punting.
As for the inverted veer: VT runs it plenty, using Thomas as a plowhorse. They are likely to have a better plan for it than OSU did. I expect Michigan to run it a few times just in case it keeps working, find little success, and move on to other stuff.
Other key matchup: Borges pass routes versus Foster. Borges didn't exactly light up Foster in their earlier meeting. The high-powered Campbell-Williams-Brown 2004 Auburn offense eked out 16 points in a narrow win.
It's a different year, though, and a different version of the Hokie D. The 2011 edition is quality (13th nationally); it does not live up to the terrifying 2004 unit, which gave up 268 yards a game en route to finishing 4th nationally. That Hokies outfit had to go up against USC, then at the apex of their power, and Auburn. This one hasn't played anyone of note outside of a weak ACC.
So there will be more opportunities for Borges to wiggle his guys open with the sort of passing routes that Rodriguez never bothered to envision. The heavy emphasis on man and man-like principles leaves VT open to some pick plays:
That is like the circle route above. Both are instances where VT incorrectly diagnoses the route either pre- or post-snap and Duke gets a guy open with the play design. The frequency of Borges RPS+ routes will have a major impact on the efficacy of the offense. If you like bunches and that triple stack, I have good news: expect all of the bunches and triple stack.
Other other key matchup: Denard reading the defense. Here are a couple slants. The Duke guy picks the right one:
The one further inside is a pick waiting to happen thanks to a front seven member dropping out into a robber zone—a pick Denard has thrown this year. VT pairs its man-like principles with random guys in zones in the hopes of getting a big play. Denard managed to cut down his interceptions in the last two games (just one). Maintaining that improvement will likely lead to victory.
The line. In this game it was exceedingly young with three sophomores and a freshman. The two ends do get some pressure. Sophomores JR Collins and James Gayle combined for 13 sacks this year. In this game Collins—who seemed like the better player—smoked the Duke LT to force an interception:
I don't think he'll be able to manage that against Lewan. IIRC, Lewan has no pass protection minuses all year save for stunts on which there was poor communication here and there.
While Huyge is more vulnerable, the bet here is Michigan does not give up much pass rush against four men. If they do it will be a long day. I don't think Michigan's receivers are well suited to a quick passing game against a secondary with this many cover guys.
What about a conventional running game? Duke hardly ran and is very much Just Duke in this department, so I'll punt on that.
Takeaways. Virginia Tech's D in bullet points:
- Young, undersized line
- Extremely aggressive safeties
- Four solid cover guys
- Good open field tacklers
- Can get burned when opponents confuse their coverages
This will be a tough game for Borges and the offense.
The DL took a hit for the Sugar. Nate Brink is out, leaving I Don't Know behind RVB at strongside defensive end, and Will Heininger is "questionable" with a foot thing. No one expects him to play. Heininger's absence would probably mean a start for Will Campbell and more playing time for Quinton Washington, plus a tired Mike Martin since he won't have anything approximating a plausible backup:
"(We have) two other seniors up front that are going to play their last college game and their last game for Michigan," Hoke said. "Sometimes, you’ve got to be an iron man."
The line is thin.
MonuMental dropped wallpaper. It's uncommonly gorgeous even for MonuMental.
He also has a request for people who have enjoyed his work. Click through.
Denard got Sports Scienced. BIZANG
Virginia Tech's kicker got in jail. Like, jail-jail. I think I mentioned that already, but the new thing is VT's significant uncertainty at the spot:
Beamer said everyone made the trip except suspended place-kicker Cody Journell, who is facing a felony charge of entering a house with the intent to commit a felony. He spent six days in jail before being released this morning.
Beamer said senior Tyler Weiss will handle extra-point tries and field goals of less than 22 yards against Michigan, and senior Justin Myer will attempt longer kicks.
The Hokies have a guy who's deadly accurate from inside the five but can't get a 30-yarder over the bar. I look forward to seeing this strangely configured man.
The Big Ten and Pac 12 enjoyed a long, teary hug. Starting in 2017 the two conferences will have a scheduling alliance designed to "match teams of similar strength" in football, which is all that matters. The two leagues will also play in all other sports but in all other sports it's a matter of replacing one of your quality nonconference opponents with a Pac-12 school. Only in football does this make for real change.
While the move away from cupcake non-games is welcome, that was already on the docket as the Big Ten prepared to move to a nine-game conference schedule. That is now off the table:
The scheduling partnership means the Big Ten won't be moving from eight conference games to nine beginning in the 2017 season. The league had announced the increase in August.
"If it's not off the board, it's coming off the board," Delany said. "When this opportunity was raised, it's pretty much the understanding that it's in lieu of."
Instead of playing Wisconsin and Penn State more Michigan will play some Pac-10 teams. Honestly, I'd rather skip this business and expand the conference schedule. I'd rather have a more balanced conference schedule and more frequently revisited rivalries with the rest of the league than games Michigan could schedule anyway.
ANTI-BONUS: This hurts Michigan and Ohio State more than anyone else since they are locked into that cross-divisional protected rivalry. The other contenders in the West have annual matchups against Purdue (Iowa), Indiana (MSU), and the post-apocalypse version of Penn State (Nebraska). Michigan gets OSU annually. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes' main division rival's permanent crossover is… Minnesota. At least the Badgers won't be able to duck any and all plausible nonconference opponents anymore.
So it's a push leaning to not good right now. It will will be a total fail if Michigan takes the opportunity to ditch the ND series. Survey says… probably not($):
While Brandon said he wouldn’t want to predict anything in the long term -- and he said 2017 is not considered long term in his view of football scheduling -- if the current schedule were to remain the same, the Irish will remain on the schedule.
That schedule would be eight Big Ten games, a home or away game with the Big Ten/Pac-12 agreement, a home or away game against Notre Dame and two non-conference home games.
“They like to play us and we like to play them so that game continues to be on our schedule,” Brandon said. “As it relates to the long term, who knows. The long term is pretty hard to predict with the constant changes in college football, but for now we intend to play Notre Dame and they are on our schedule and we’ll be playing them for the next few years anyway.”
If the ND game stays in place that will take Michigan's interesting nonconference games from one to two in 2017, but you can say goodbye to the idea of playing anyone from the ACC, Big 12, or SEC in the nonconference unless Jerry Jones is throwing money around like a sad old lonely man. And that was going to happen in 2017 anyway with a move to a nine-game conference schedule.
The Big Ten got a lot of credit for envisioneering a multifaceted solution to the dynamic problems of college athletics. I don't get it. Not to pick on the MZone, but, uh:
And just like that, the SEC's addition of Mizzou and Texas A&M seems so...quaint. The Big East's addition of Boise State and...who again?... seems so 2011. As Scott points out, the B1G and Pac-12 gain a lot of the upside of expansion (broader reach, new markets and recruiting areas( without actually expanding. And with the conferences' TV deals with ESPN expiring in 2016, the BTN and the Pac-12 new network stand to make a financial killing.
The SEC diluting its product with Mizzou and A&M was never a good idea to begin with. This lacks any huge, stupid downsides like the SEC deal, so there's that, but at its heart it's one football game a year. Just because the man with the eyebrows says something doesn't mean it's true.
Michigan hired a soccer coach. He's from Providence, he's turned a nothing program into a consistent NCAA participant, he's not Caleb Porter, but he seems like a pretty good idea. More details in the board thread.
Tigerdroppings got cited by a newspaper. Tennessee WR DeAnthony Arnett is leaving Tennessee after Charlie Baggett's exit to be closer to his ailing father. You're probably wondering if Michigan will take a look after grabbing Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh in the last few weeks. There is a wild card spot open since Bri'onte Dunn decided to stick with the Golden Bobcats.
Michigan would be foolish not to explore the possibility. If he doesn't get a waiver he'd be coming off his redshirt year with three to play when Roundtree and Stonum exit. He fills a hole on the roster after Michigan didn't take any WRs last year. If Michigan doesn't hop on him his most likely destination is MSU. Since he's a transfer he doesn't have to be crammed into the 28 available LOI slots. His stock has not dropped over the last year: Arnett had 24 catches as a freshman. His timeline matches up well with Michigan's needs and he's got talent. I would grab him and see if Michigan suffers the one or two extra departures that would allow them to take 28 on Signing Day anyway.
That's beside the point. This is the point:
Arnett caught 24 passes for 242 as a true freshman for the Volunteers last season, but several factors have prompted Arnett to ask for a release from Tennesse, according to fan site tigerdroppings.com.
That link leads to a C&P of the Rivals article on his decision to exit.
OH TE Sam Grant is seeing Michigan's main competition fill up a bit. Kyle Kalis teammate Sam Grant just picked up an Oklahoma offer, which had the potential to significantly complicate what looked like a straightforward decision to avoid the tire fire that is BC football for Michigan. That offer may have just fell by the wayside with AZ TE Taylor McNamara's commitment to the Sooners($). McNamara was briefly a Michigan target before he decided Ann Arbor was too far from home.
That gives OU two tight ends in the last week, but Grant is still planning on a visit in January.
Josh Garnett said something reasonable. This was it.
Michigan recruit Josh Garnett: 'I'm like Suh, but on offense'
Also not sure if serious. Wait… what?
Despite his pro-style roots, Borges didn't shun the spread. After resigning from Auburn in December 2007, Borges took the next year off, his first since starting coaching, and made visits to college teams like Mississippi State, Florida and Cal as well as to the NFL's Detroit Lions.
Then, in preparation for Michigan's season, he consulted with spread-offense practitioners like Temple coach Steve Addazio.
Steve Addazio is a spread offense practitioner like Jim Tressel is an honesty practitioner.
Multi-year scholarships got overriden, too. That PDF only had 48 objections to the multi-year scholarship option so I thought it was in the clear. It is not:
More than 75 schools are asking to override a plan approved in October to allow multiyear athletic scholarships rather than the one-year renewable awards schools currently provide.
That's disappointing but at least the world is being alerted to the asshat factory that is the Indiana State athletic department. If it goes to an override vote, 5/8ths of the membership would have to vote it down to eliminate it.
Someone made Central Michigan's stadium in Minecraft. Srs.
CMU was not in my top ten "schools most likely to create 1:1 replica of their stadium in Minecraft." BOOM:
- Georgia Tech
- Washington State
- Notre Dame
Bowl lol continues. It's costing LSU and Alabama almost a million dollars to buy their band tickets for the SEC West title game. Clemson expects to eat 200k in losses for winning the ACC, too.
Michigan's uniforms were named the best in college football by, like, fashion people. WSJ:
Michigan: Of all the traditional uniforms, the Wolverines' maize-and-blue unis earned the highest marks from the panel. (Michigan also wore throwback uniforms this season that received mixed reviews, but our panel didn't evaluate them.)
American fashion designer Marc Ecko especially liked the color weight on the jersey, while graphic artist Josh Vanover praised the "bold, bright colors" and "clean" fonts.
But what really pushed Michigan to the top was its iconic winged helmet, which received near-universal praise for its creativity.
"Anyone that uses it, no matter what color you put it in, it's Michigan," said Anthony Coleman, the managing editor of the fashion and street culture blog SlamxHype. "You can use it, but realize that you're stealing from Michigan."
Maryland also came in for praise for their whatever that was, as did Oregon, so this is not a panel of get-off-my-lawn types. Michigan does their thing so well they don't have to resort to goofy things they've done so far this year.
Basketball had a scare against Bradley. A second-half run finally broke open an uncomfortable game as Michigan put the nonconference schedule (mostly) to bed. Holding the Rope has a holistic overview. Jon Horford's lingering stress fracture forced McLimans on the floor and there were a fair number of "OH COME ON" shots made by the Braves as they isolationed their way to a barrage of shots Kobe Bryant would find difficult. Still… Bradley went out and got annihilated 90-51 by a very good Witchita State team yesterday and the Big Ten is terrifying.
Without Horford it is even more critical for Morgan and Smotrycz to stay out of foul trouble. That is not likely. Michigan cannot drop tonight's game against Penn State. There's zero room for error in the league this year and there is a bright line between 9-9—tourney lock—and 8-10. This game against PSU is just one of seven Michigan has left against teams ranked below them in Kenpom (#143 PSU x2, #69 NW, #122 Iowa, #126 Nebraska, #93 Arkansas).
INSANE SMOTRYCZ SHOOTING UPDATE: 22 of 38 from 3 (58%), fifth nationally in eFG%. Novak is 16th with his 64%/42% shooting.
Etc.: Michigan scores best comeback on Doctor Saturday's year-end list of said comebacks. The Rees fumble that greatly aided that comeback leads off the list of gaffes. Penn State tire fire claims Drake, McGloin, Paul Jones, forces Bolden to start against Houston. Penn State still has no coach.
Eds-[As in all of us]: Bumped from boards (!) for awesome. May 2012 be even better!
Finally for all us Wolverines fans, we have a year we can look back on fondly and anticipate the future (mostly in regards to football and basketball). Here's a little picture page-ish post recollecting the past 12 months. I hope you enjoy.
After starting the year out unauspiciously, a new era of Michigan football took hold on January 11th as AD David Brandon introduced us all to....
and the now famous Hoke-point.
The Hokester brought along his buddy
which was encouraging to most, but some people were still
On the hardwood, the cagers started the season off right with a win over
only to go on a 6 game losing streak, including 2 narrow losses to the #2 and #3 teams in the country.
People were starting to question
But Ann Arbor Torch and Pitch Fork closed it's door for the year after the Wolverines marched into Breslin Arena and ended the Spartans beloved "Days since....." calendar, forcing these assclowns
to have to scrub each other's prepubescent chests.
Get the **** off my court.
After just 3 weeks on the job, Hokester salvages a top20 recruiting class, including
Brennan Beyer (SAM) | Frank Clark (WDE) | Blake Countess (CB)
Delonte Hollowell (CB) | Desmond Morgan (WLB) | Matt Wile (K/P/KO)
...who either start or make signficant contributions in just their first year on campus. We didn't know at the time, but these 6 turn out to be pretty damn good.
Meanwhile, the pipeline from Farmington Hills Harrison to Lansing is temporarily diverted west as
solidify their future by taking their talents to the good side.
decide to go all
on some poor dude in a Colorado bar then flee the scene. The po-po apprehended them and sentenced them to 1 to 3 more years in East Lansing.
went to the NCAA finals, narrowly losing 3-2 in overtime to Minnesota-Duluth.
Memorial Day Weekend. It's one of those days where you remember exactly where you were at that moment in time when
was "forced out" at Ohio State for repeatedly lying to his administration and NCAA. Turns out Cheaty knew about some shenanigans going on inside his program but didn't want to upset the winning apple cart, so he only told the owner of this car
and perhaps an FBI agent.
Ding dong, the dick is dead.
At a team meeting to tell all the Buckeyes their coach had been fired for failing to monitor his program, which included massive memorabilia sales and trades for tatoos and questionable car deals, TP decided it would be a good idea to roll up in
with temporary tags. TP would also be unceremoniously led out of Columbus.
Take that, Brutus.
In one of the saddest and most unbelievable tragedies I can remember, 16 year old basketball commit Austin Hatch survives his SECOND airplane crash. The plane went down in northern Michigan, killing Austin's father and step mother. In the first crash in 2003, Austin and his dad survived but his mother and two siblings were killed.
Thankfully, Austin's recovery has been nothing short of miraculous. He may not play basketball again, but he'll be a Wolverine for life.
As a result of the aforementioned Buckeye shenanigans,
delivers another dong punch to the evil empire by switching his commitment from OSU to Meeeeeeeechigan. Buckeyes everywhere suck it.
Finally all the speculation and predictions have come to an end and it's time to play some football.
The boys take care of Western Michigan in grand fashion before 2 lightning delays force an early end to the game.
Then the much anticipated
Trailing 24-7 at the end of 3 quarters,
leads the Wolverines to a furious 28-point 4th quarter rally. With 1:22 left in the game, Denard hits Vincent Smith on a screen pass that goes for 21 yards and the score. The crowd goes nuts. We win, we win, we.......................... fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu. Notre Dame pulls out the unthinkable and drives right down the field, and Tommy Rees hits a wide open Theo Riddick for a 29 yard touchdown.
What a f****** drag. God******. What the hell is wrong with our D? Screw you Mattison. FU Kelly. God da.......
Wait a minute. There's still 30 seconds left. Who knows, right? Anything can happen, right? RIGHT?
Suck it Irish.
October and November
We lose to Satan for the 4th time in a row during a trash tornado, and inexplicably look bad against an average Iowa team. But all is not lost. We go on to beat Illinois, run a train on Nebraska, and then, FINALLY, after a decade of OSU dominance...
Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year. All America.
Here's a list of other
Conference Champions from 2011...
- Field Hickey wins the regular season and conference tournament championship
- Women's Gymnastics
- Men's Swimming and Diving
- Women's Tennis
- Men's Soccer wins the tournament title.
As Coach Hoke will tell you, it wasn't a "great" season because we didn't achieve our goal, which is the Big Ten Title. But after the last 3 years, and since 2006 frankly, this year has given us reason to be very optimistic for the future. I'm proud to be a Wolverine. My wife and I (also an alum) are fortunate to have a son who was accepted into UofM last week and hope he will grow as attached to this great institution as we are.
Thanks for the memories 2011.
[Ed-S: Festivus Bump!]
In modern football, there are 2 popular base defensive sets. Most teams run either a 3-4 Base or a 4-3 Base.
The quick explanation of these defenses is that the first number (“3” in a 3-4) is your number of Down Linemen (literally people who line up with their hand on the ground in a 3 or 4 point stance on the line of scrimmage) and the second number (“4” in a 3-4) is your number of linebackers (people who line up in a 2 point stance, behind the down linemen).
This diary will discuss the 4-3 Under, its similarities to a 3-4 set, and make sense of our defensive line recruiting. For the purposes of this diary I’m ignoring the secondary. You need corners and safeties. They’re all similarly sized players, get fast ones. The front 7 is where you need guys over a 100lb range and some more major differences show up.
Here’s a base 4-3:
Here's a base 3-4:
Both of these defensive base sets have advantages and disadvantages, and both lend themselves to different styles of players. When it comes to what Michigan is running as a base defense, the 4-3 Under, recruiting starts to make sense if you look at it as a 3-4 defense.
The 4-3 Under:
First, look at the D Line from the middle out. In a 4-3 Under you have a defensive tackle on the Nose, in a 0 or 1 Technique (NT) (Technique definitions:
You then have 2 players lining up at the 3 tech (DT) and 5 tech (SDE). Then you have 2 players further out on the line, at a 7 tech (WDE) and 9 Tech (SAM). Finally, you have 2 linebackers off the line of scrimmage (MIKE and WILL).
Now, compare these positions to the 3-4 Base. You still have a huge space-eating Nose Tackle (NT) who lines up at the 0 or 1 tech, 2 Defensive Ends over the guards, tackles, or in between (4 tech... hmmm, just a slight shift from the 3 or 5 tech...) and 2 people outside of them near the line of Scrimmage (OLBs). Finally you have 2 linebackers off the line of scrimmage (MIKE and WILL).
If you look at these two defenses, the only main difference is one of your 3-4 OLBs has his hand on the ground. That’s it! There are minor shifts on the line and other intricacies, but big picture the 4-3 under has personnel requirements very similar to a 3-4.
For the 4-3 Under OR the 3-4 in your front 7 personnel you need:
- 3-Tech DT and SDE (5-Tech)
- WDE and SAM
Michigan is recruiting the right numbers for the scheme they run. These are 17-year-old guys we’re discussing with recruits. Some will get bigger, some are maxed out. Some of the WDE/SAM types will be better at coverage and will play SAM. We saw Frank Clark and Beyer make this switch this year, one was a LB, one a DE in High School, and they switched at Michigan. Some will be better pass rushers and will drop into coverage less at the WDE.
The “Glut” at SDE doesn’t exist since the 3-Tech DT is a very similar position in the 4-3 Under, so some of these guys will play there. The coaches know what they need to run the 4-3 under, and hopefully this diary provided some insight into the personnel requirements so we can somewhat understand the method to the madness.
We interrupt your regularly scheduled afternoon to bring you this important science (Science!) update, courtesy of ESPN Sport Science and HT ChuckWood. It has a 15-second Wodka commercial introduction that's worth waiting through. Follow either link for findings such as:
- Denard is like Michael Vick only faster (and with better quarterbacking numbers)
- Denard can get up to 11 mph in four steps
- Denard's top speed is somewhere close to 22 mph
- Denard recreates the G force of a shuttle launch when he cuts.
Denard Robinson is made of dilithium. Science!
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