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News bullets and other items:
Today’s starting offensive line would be Mason Cole- LT; Erik Magnuson- LG; Jack Miller- C; Burzynski/Bosch/Kalis- RG; Ben Braden- RT
Jabrill Peppers will start at nickel but has picked up the defense fast enough that he’s taking some snaps at boundary corner
Hoke can’t remember Devin Funchess dropping a single pass in fall camp which, like, eeeeee
Derrick Green and DeVeon Smith are considered the downhill backs, while Drake Johnson and Justice Hayes are the third-down backs
Preparation for that game on the 30th against that one team begins Thursday
Brady Hoke “Well,…” count: 6
"Thanks for coming out. I think we haven't spoken to each other since Saturday. We've had good practices, good energy, good competition. I think that's one thing we've talked about every time is to compete and challenge each other and I think this team has done that. I think there's leadership throughout the team in all classes which has been good to see. If you're good enough, you're old enough and that's been part of what we talked about. I think that's very good. Starting to get...we are starting to get prepared for Appalachian State here in the next couple days. We'll do some things with switch [?] teams and really have some good competition with that part of it and also keep the speed of how we want to play the game, so there will always be situational ones on ones, twos on twos. Tomorrow is Tuesday, the next day is Wednesday and Saturday is a Thursday how we look at it and next week we'll take Sunday and do some walk-throughs, get the tape reviewed. Next Tuesday will be a Tuesday, Wednesday will be a Wednesday, and Thursday will be Thursday so you've got to figure it out on my end sometimes. But it's been a good camp. I guess we'll break on Saturday morning – about 1 PM on Saturday after we go up to the stadium, have a good practice there. We'll do a lot of game rehearsal things, trying to put the players in situations that they will be in. I think that's important. So… excited. I think we're all excited. Are we ready? Not yet, so we have a lot of work ahead of us but at the same time I like how we go about our business every day."
You said this was the day you start preparing for App State. Do you have a set offensive line?
“Well, I think there's still some competition but I think Ben Braden has been a very steady performer at right tackle. I think Mason Cole has been very, very steady at the left tackle position. I always get asked – not just by you guys but Mason Cole, you don't notice him so you don't notice any mistakes. He's not a guy who's been a guy who killed plays and that's the kind of stuff… Jack will be the center, Kugler will back him up. We'll be without Graham as you all know. Mags will be the left guard if we were playing today and at the right guard I think there's good competition. Joe Burzynski, Kyle Bosch, Kalis is getting work at both guards, he's just getting back into things yesterday so I think we're still– I have an idea, but I don't think we're set at that right guard position right now.”
What did the film from Saturday show you as far as the offensive line goes?
“You know, there were some holes and there were some holes we have to take advantage of and there's also times where the back’s got to make it right, you know, quarterback drifting out of his ball handling knocks a back out of his A gap. We had some of those. Still not enough of them. We still got to move the line of scrimmage better and that's a constant that we'll have. I thought that yesterday the backs did a nice job. I think that Fred [Jackson] definitely had an effect on how they need to approach it and so I think we're making really good progress there.”
To clarify something from Saturday, did you say that in a 4-3 defense, your base, Jabrill [Peppers] would be a corner and then slide into the nickel spot?
“Yeah, I mean he would slide inside. We're going to really try and make sure that he’s set at the nickel before we get too far out there being a boundary corner. I mean, we played him at boundary corner some the other night with the first group. There's some things that are different when you're playing one-third than when you're playing a nickel position so right now, yes, he's playing some corner but we are going to focus in on nickel with him in there.”
You said that you wanted him just to be practicing in one position to get really comfortable there. What have you seen out of him that you feel comfortable, obviously, giving him more responsibility?
“Well, he's learned fast. I think the way he's engrossed himself in the playbook. I think from a fundamental/technique standpoint he's come a long way. Just think he's done a nice job overall.”
[After THE JUMP: sorting out the running back situation, Devin Gardner’s leadership, and my inaugural MGoQuestion]
You said there were some holes that were missed there by the running backs. You watch the film and you had an order going in on Saturday. Is that still the same and is that even close to being set as far as who's your guy at running back?
“Well, I think when you look at our backs all of them have done a nice job. There are improving, I think they're getting better. When you look at third-down situations Drake [Johnson] and Justice [Hayes] both’ve done a nice job. Derek [Green] and DeVeon [Smith], from getting downhill, both of them we have to keep improving with.
Is it sort of split? Derrick and DeVeon are the downhill guys, Drake and Justice are the…
“Yes, even though Drake had some really powerful things yesterday.”
When you look at Devin and what he's done in this camp and you went in with expectations of what you wanted to see from him. Where has he shown the most growth?
“I think, you know, how he's taking the offense. I think from that standpoint getting us in good plays. Being a little more assertive at the line of scrimmage when you look at MIKE points and motivating guys. His demeanor has been really positive when things aren’t going well which is good because body language, I think there's a lot to that.”
Confidence you had talked about as a thing you wanted to see from him. Is that a consistent thing?
“Yeah, I think so. I think it really has. I really think and I think we all think him and Shane have a lot of confidence. I think by the 30th he’ll have even more.”
Have you made a decision yet on walk-ons getting scholarships?
When are captains going to be decided?
“Sometime here… I'll go back to my statement. I think we got great leadership throughout our team. A lot of guys on board with.”
You talk about competition on the offensive line, a lot of guys could be starting for the first time. What have you seen through camp and who’s the strongest person you’ve seen so far on the offensive line?
“Well, it depends what you look at. You look at consistency, I think Jack's been pretty dag on consistent. Magnuson has been consistent. I'd say Mason Cole but they've all worked extremely hard and they've all improved themselves since the beginning of fall camp.”
And in the grand Heikoian tradition, the season’s first…
MGoQuestion: from a schematic standpoint, are the safety roles similar or they significantly different?
“Well, depends. It really depends and you get in subpackages or just a base package and so with Jarrod [Wilson] and Jeremy [Clark] right now being the two guys who are out there…again, and I think both of them of had a good camp so far. There's a little bit of differences but depending on the package it changes a little bit.”
Is Ray Taylor getting a little bit of a look at safety right now?
“No. It's how schematically that defense lines up.”
We saw in the scrimmage on Saturday that Devin Funchess had a couple of really nice catches but that was never a problem for him last year, making the great catch, it was more the consistent every-catch. How has he done in terms of the ones he should be catching, is he catching?
“You know, I can't remember a whole lot where he hasn't done a good job catching the football this fall camp. I'll go back – you know, we chart drops and all that stuff but I don't remember any offhand right now.”
Can you talk about the defensive line a little bit in terms of pass rush. Are you starting to see what you wanted to?
“I think on the outside. I think our outside rushers have done a nice job. I think the interior rushers, we need to get more push. And we've challenged them for that. They done a good job working on being a little better fundamentally but Willie Henry has stepped up a little bit and Ryan Glasgow was playing very good in the middle.”
Guys we haven't heard a lot about – Tom Strobel, Henry Poggi?
“Poggi’s getting a lot of snaps and he's been… you can see the improvement and I would say Tommy the same. Tommy's a very intense guy so we are pleased with his progress.”
When Graham’s [Glasgow] back does he move back into the middle spot?
“I think that's one possibility but I'm not going to say that's what's going to happen.”
I just had a question to clarify: is Doug going to be on the field or…
“He'll be on the field.”
The wide receiver group, it's competitive. Do you think a guy like Maurice Ways is going to be able to contribute this year?
“He's a guy that we’re looking at as to where his fit will be this year. You know, I don't think we made a decision. He’s gotten some snaps with the second group and third group. Hasn't gotten a whole lot of snaps with the first group but I think he's a guy where it's still up in the air what we are going to do with him.”
With 10 days to go until the game how much better can a young offensive line get between the scrimmage on Saturday to two weeks from now?
“Well, I think there's a lot they learned from Saturday and we're going to continue to put a lot of pressure on them and a lot of stress on them. So far defensively it's usually that way and I think, you know, because of the experience that we have on defense with older guys and leadership the defense has been ahead and Greg doesn't make it easy for them. I mean, they're not just sitting there in a 4–3. There's linebackers coming all over the place and that can slow you down a little bit but at the same time they have started, in my opinion, really – because the communication when we put stress on them, Glick gets pretty loud. Watching them communicate with each other, talk to each other, there's a significant improvement.”
The last one went pretty well.
We now know one of the two "huge" non-conference opponents that Dave Brandon teased last week, as today Michigan announced a home-and-home series with Washington scheduled for the 2020 and 2021 seasons. From the athletic department release:
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The University of Michigan and University of Washington will renew an old rivalry when the two football programs meet for a home-and-home series during the 2020 and 2021 seasons. This will be the 13th and 14th meetings between the two schools.
The Wolverines will travel to Seattle, Wash., for the matchup on Sept. 5, 2020, at Husky Stadium. The return trip by the Huskies will take place at Michigan Stadium on Sept. 18, 2021.
"We are excited to rekindle a rivalry that has showcased some great games and great teams for both programs," said Brady Hoke, U-M's J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Head Football Coach. "There have been some exciting, down-to-the-wire football games between Michigan and Washington and we anticipate the same type of contests when this series is played at the outset of the next decade."
This will be the fifth time that the two programs have played a home-and-home series.
Michigan holds a 7-5 edge in the series, winning the most recent contest in 2002 when Phil Brabbs connected on his famous game-winning field goal—a game also notable for Marlin Jackson setting the school record for pass breakups while defending Washington's All-American receiver, Reggie Williams.
Michigan once again cruised to victory in their second game in Italy, defeating the Vicenza All-Stars 93-53 yesterday afternoon. Zak Irvin again led Michigan in scoring with 18 points, sinking 7/8 field goals, including 4/5 threes—he's now 9/10 on three-pointers over Michigan's two games on the tour.
Freshman center Ricky Doyle posted an impressive double-double with 15 points (6/8 FG) and 14 rebounds (5 offensive) in just 19 minutes. Fellow freshman Kameron Chatman added 17 points and six boards in 21 minutes. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman scored 13 points and got to the line regularly, shooting 7/11 from the charity stripe. Austin Hatch once again got on the court for the final few minutes, this time getting off a shot attempt, though it didn't quite go down.
Full box score (click to embiggen—turnover, steal, and block numbers weren't available):
We were lucky enough to have a reader who's in Italy and caught the game, and he emailed us his impressions of the team. A huge thanks to Kyle for sending this along; all opinions are his own, of course, as the Italy games aren't being streamed online.
1. Who will start at the 5? Doyle. Mark Donnal started and Beilein pulled him 1:49 into the game to teach him something specific. Doyle then came in and played a huge majority of the game. The most surprising thing about the whole game to me was Ricky Doyle. He was by far the most vocal on defense of everyone as a true freshman. His basketball IQ is obvious (calling out screens he could not see, making the correct pass). Crafty moves and very good at boxing out.
This is not even close as to who will start the season opener. Doyle seemed to play at an intelligence level far beyond his years. Donnal seemed a bit timid, got outrebound by a 45 year old 3rd round draft pick at your local YMCA, and definitely is not prepared for the rigors of being a big man in the Big 10 (mainly mentally, lacks confidence not talent). There were not even flashes of someone that was a top 150 recruit. Donnal was extremely disappointing. There is not an argument as to who will start the season opener. It is Doyle.
2. Who will be draw Brian’s ire as the most likely to shoot a lot of long two-point shots early in the shot clock? Kam Chatman guaranteed. I counted six, although one was at the end of a quarter…but still. He is smooth on offense, made a few sweet passes, and you will like him a lot. Offensively, he could might be more useful than Robinson III immediately.
3. Spike didn’t play very much and when he did was not awesome Spike. Derrick Walton almost seemed a bit disinterested against the talent level of Birracrua. Still, I have no qualms at point.
4. Who will replace Mitch McGary as Andrew Dakich’s dance partner? Austin Hatch. He was the most fired up in pre-game, was into it the whole time from the bench, and everyone (fans and players) loved him as he entered the game and led the post-game “Hail”. He is a definite asset to the program.
5. Holy Pants! Half the team wore blue leggings under their shorts.
6. Who will redshirt? Not Aubrey Dawkins. He looked very athletic and is far ahead of MAAR at this point on offense and defense. Assuming D.J. Wilson gets healthy; MAAR should take a redshirt and be a solid contributor after that. He played and scored some points at the line late, but the stats do not reflect what I saw. Maybe nobody redshirts.
7. This opponent was not good, old, and not really a team (their offense was primitive and not indicative of a European squad that they could be with familiarity). The U-M offense was not smooth but didn’t have to be with most of the guards being able to simply take guys off the dribble. Knowing Beilein, it will work itself out, especially when he figures out how to best use Chatman and Irvin. Irvin didn’t miss much and even made two three pointers after stepping out of bounds when he looked like he was in due to the volleyball-like lines on the court. He still did not finish strong or do any cool drive and dishes. “Not just a shooter”? We’ll see. I’m hopeful.
8. Biggest problem? Rebounding. This team looks to be even worse than any team he’s had at rebounding and they’ve never been overly good. I’m dreading Wisconsin and any other ‘big’ team. This team might not get a rebound against last year’s Texas team. This is a huge issue and is not going to go away. Score a lot of points and make three pointers, please.
9. Atmosphere. The overwhelmingly Italian crowd was polite and respectful. The kind of crowd you’d bring home to mom. They cheered at the rare crafty European moves that would baffle any American. The half time entertainment was a live (maybe the best) Italian rapper. The piped in music was mostly unedited American rap. If anyone gets a chance to travel abroad the next time Michigan travels…do it!
Thanks again to Kyle for passing along his impressions; he says he'll be at the last couple Italy games, too, so hopefully we'll have more of this as the team wraps up the tour.
[After THE JUMP, quotes from John Beilein and a few players courtesy of the athletic department.]
Quotes courtesy of the athletic department.
Michigan Head Coach John Beilein
On what he saw from his team today ... "It was just good to see them play together because we did make some steps in the last game and we also discovered some things we have to work on a lot. There are so many opportunities for us to get better, including turnovers and missed foul shots. What I'm proud of is that fourth quarter; we held them to eight points."
On adjusting to the 24-second shot clock in Europe ... "We have a much better feel for how quickly we have to get the shot off and how quickly we have to read and react. With all the players out on that court for the first time, this is invaluable film for us moving forward."
On Ricky Doyle's elevated play on the glass and progress from Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman ... "There were two things that Ricky really did well: rebound in traffic and finish in traffic. Those are big things for us. He's only 6-9, but he plays even bigger than that on some occasions and today was one of them. Muhammad has really gone out there and used his speed, where he has been able to get to the foul line again; that's two games in a row. Right now I think what we are valuing is his ability to see the floor when he's going his quickest."
On the crowd and atmosphere ... "It was really good to have a crowd like this in this nice arena. Michigan travels very well; the brand travels very well and I think we saw how excited people were to see us over on this continent and in Italy in particular."
Sophomore Zak Irvin
On how he feels through two games overseas ... "I'm really in a great rhythm right now. The ball has been falling in warmups, but I have to give credit to my teammates who keep finding me when I'm open. They're the ones helping me knock down these shots."
On how the team has progressed between games ... "I think watching film earlier today helped out a lot. We have a growing team, so we know we have freshmen that are still learning the game and the way we play. Also, the team we played against today played like they knew more about the game, being an older team. They were physical, but we came out with a win."
Freshman Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman
On his reflections through two contests ... "It's been a great experience (so far). Not many people get the chance to play as a freshman before the season starts. It gives you a good chance to get in a rhythm with the team and work on good chemistry. I think I've played decent; the team is playing better so it doesn't really matter how I'm playing as long as the team is winning and I can contribute."
On picking up the system ... "It's kind of confusing at first, but as you pay attention and focus in practice it's a little better, and easier to pick up. Then once you get in a game, it's more fluent."
Freshman Ricky Doyle
On the differences between games one and two from his perspective ... "Game one, we were shooting really well. Zak was 5-for-5 from the field. In this game we weren't making as many shots, but I transitioned from the first game to the second game. I watched a lot of film, and watched what I could do to get those 50/50 rebounds that I should have gotten. Coach BA really helped me take an easier approach to getting those rebounds, giving me simple steps and it worked. Being more aggressive and timing my jumps are some of the things I paid attention to and tried to bring it back out on the court."
On how the team has adjusted to the system thus far ... "The plays are running more smoothly; I know I have a hard time remembering some of the plays, coming in fresh, but having these games, you have to play through your mistakes. It's only a 24-second shot clock and you only have so much time to play; it's really helped me remember the offense more and it's really opening my game, helping me see the court more."
[UPDATED 12:25p.m. Now with 100% more Ace]
The Q: Michigan graduated much of its 2013 receiver depth chart and did away with the fancy Borges stacks and routes. In this new world, after Funchess, who's going to be Gardner's favorite target this year? Who are we going to see more or less of among the receivers/tight ends?
Brian: 1. Amara Darboh. Darboh was going to start last year and the buzz there was palpable. He brings physicality against what I promise you will be the grabbiest set of Big Ten pass defenses you've ever seen—the MSU effect—and he's even got mutant muscles in his arms, which I assume will be the entirety of Ace's response. He should ease past Canteen for the starting job, at least to start, and Canteen will have a tough time catching up since he's not going to drop off the face of the earth.
2. Dennis Norfleet. This is an artifact of some assumptions about the rest of the offense. Namely, that they won't be able to run that well and the tight end situation is going to be suboptimal. With reports that Norfleet looks great in space and an offensive coordinator who's not afraid to throw to his WRs on the perimeter, Norfleet's catch volume should spike as Michigan looks to him for easy yards that get defenders out of the box.
3. Freddy Canteen. Yeah, he's probably Manningham again, but even Manningham had a bit of a slow start. It'll be close with Norfleet.
4. Jehu Chesson/Jake Butt. Your guess is as good as mine about relative frequency here. I have a hunch we're going to see tight ends stay in to block frequently this year what with the lack of NFL OTs, and Butt is going to miss at least a game or two after his ACL tear. But he's got a much clearer path to playing time than Chesson and already had more catches than Chesson did a year ago.
Everyone else gets scraps, maybe a dozen catches spread between AJ Williams, Keith Heitzman, Da'Mario Jones, and Jaron Dukes and another dozen to the tailbacks. I hope we don't see any of the true freshmen other than Canteen, because there's not much need either this year or next and all could use work.
[Jump for the rest of us twisting ourselves to not have the same responses]
BiSB: 1. Amara Darboh. Darboh was my HTTV breakout candidate (buy it, people, it's really good). He's got a certain "they forgot about Dre" quality after missing so much time, at least in the public eye, to that foot injury. He'll be on the field a great deal because in addition to his receiving skills he's the receiver most likely to be able to block a safety (yes, yes, Chesson Turkey notwithstanding). We're all rightfully excited about Canteen, but he's a true freshman. And while he was an early enrollee, he's also been moved around a bit (from outside to the slot), and he's still learning what to do and where to go. Darboh is in his third year in the program, and only Funchess and Norfleet have been there longer.
|Canteen's height is Big Ten-ready but he could still use a lot of filling out to be effective in outlet routes, and therefore constantly deployable. [Fuller]|
2. Freddy Canteen. Yeah, I know what I said. It'll take him some time to figure out which way is up. But he'll get plenty of run against Michigan's soft, blowout-rich early schedule (unless THAT happens again), and once he gets going, good luck with that. He'll spend some time outside as well as in the slot, and he's going to be really, really fun.
3. Jehu Chesson. He was fourth in catches last year, and that feels about right for this year too.
4. DeVeon Smith. When Nussmeier was at Alabama, one out of every six completions went to a running back. At Washington, it was more than one out of every five completions. With Michigan's potentially... uh, problematic.. offensive line situation and the likelihood they'll get blitzed to kingdom come, look for a buuuuuuunch of screens, both of the wide receiver variety and the running back variety. He might be higher if I could choose "whoever the hell becomes the regular running back" as a candidate on the list.
5. Dennis Norfleet. Norfleet has to share time in the slot with Canteen, and frankly I'm tired of Brian getting us all excited about NORFLEEEEEET and having the results be "NORFLEEEawwwww he almost had it that time." This is me being cautiously pessimistic
6. Jake Butt. Look, I love Jake Butt. And I know he's made of that stuff they make self-healing car tires out of. But my troglodyte, luddite brain refuses to believe that an ACL is really a six month injury from tear to gridiron. He may play within the first few weeks, and that is a miracle of modern science, but it will still take him several weeks to get back into the flow. The coaches are going to take it slow with him; they won't press it over the Utah/Minnesota/Rutgers portion of the schedule, so we're looking at Penn State and beyond for full deployment. Over the last half of the season he'll be one of the top 3 or 4 targeted receivers, but not overall.
Adam: 1. Amara Darboh. I'll let Devin Funchess explain this one for me. At Media Day he was asked what made Darboh unique and stated that it was the same freakish extra forearm muscle Brian alluded to. Funchess even said that the existence of the muscle had been proven by science. I won't argue with science, man. Also, when a 6'5 receiver who's known for VAULTING OTHER HUMANS is calling someone else a physical freak I'm pretty sure that player's capable of having a big season.
|Scouting reports say Darboh can actually catch passes on his forearms.|
2. Freddy Canteen. There has obviously been a tremendous amount of buzz about him coming out of camp (and since spring, really), but I'm listing him as Gardner's second favorite receiver in large part because of where I expect him to line up. The coaches have alluded to the competition at slot being between him and Norfleet, so I fully expect him to see the field a significant portion of the time. Add to that the fact that he has the route running ability to be moved outside and I like his chances not just at getting playing time but at raining death upon Big Ten secondaries.
3. Dennis Norfleet. I may be new here but I'm not stupid.
4. Jehu Chesson. We know that there's a competition between two slot guys, Funchess will likely hold down the X receiver role, and Darboh is your likely Z receiver. This leaves Chesson as something of the odd man out. Will he play? Of course. Do I like his chances of racking up a ton of catches with the state of the receiving corps being what it is? No, I don't.
5. Jake Butt. If we believe what Brady Hoke said in Wednesday's press conferences Butt won't be back for the first few games. Factoring that and the time it will take him to be up to true game speed even after he returns and I think it may be the the last third of the season before he starts to be an effective option for Gardner.
Seth: Literally everybody started their response with "1. Amara Darboh" and I can't argue. The scrimmage performance inked that. We haven't mentioned enough how Nussmeier's passing game differs from Borges's but it was definitely on display in the public scrimmage last weekend. The motion stuff is one, but intrinsic to Nuss's passing offense is there's always one or two quick outlet routes, and more often than not, an intermediate option meant to stretch the linebackers. Borges's passing plays worked like a symphony; Nuss is more often content to let a guy rock out.
To be successful the outlet needs to get off the line, run a very crisp route, and shield the ball from defenders with his body. When working against the linebackers, speed can be sacrificed for toughness. Note: every receiver will be running short, medium and long routes; my point is that they'll all have to be good at outlets and intermediate outlets. Jason Avant was the man at this, and that seems to be Darboh's game. In the limited reps the starters were given (all of the starting candidate receivers rotated with the 1's and there weren't all that many reps for the 1's) Darboh brought in several of these.
They're hard routes, but consistent execution takes a ton of pressure off the offense. Given the blitz-fest Michigan is likely to experience again from opponents taking advantage of the iffy blocking, outlets are going to be a big part of what works in Michigan's offense, and Darboh is the key to that.
2. Freddy Canteen. My expectation here is for more yards than Chesson or Norfleet on fewer targets. When you think of Canteen's skillset, yes his feet do indeed move faster than any current human video compression can capture. I also want you to think of this:
Did you catch the thing that guy did? Watch it again until you see it: the hip went in just a tiny bit as if he was going to cut inside; the corner stopped playing the go route, and just like that [pwuah] he's gone. Manningham indeed.
The trouble with Canteen is he's not very big yet, though he definitely has some height, and when a defender catches up the passes aren't as likely to be reeled in. I think Canteen will get some awesome touchdowns and be a constant threat; I don't think Michigan's running game or long passing game is good enough to get Canteen freed from safety help. He'll play a lot; don't expect 100 targets.
3. Jehu Chesson. Brian's got a point about WR screens and the like being a likely replacement for Michigan's lack of a running game, but I'll mentally give those passes to Norflleet after I see it; from what I've seen of Nuss's offense in the past he's more likely to have those go to Funchess. But there's another favorite type of route in Nuss's passing game that we haven't discussed as much: the drag. The outlet routes are mostly to protect against instant pressure; Cover 2 defenses contain those very well. With Gardner, those "it's been 3 seconds; now what?" plays might check down to "just run," but at Bama there was almost always a fast receiver coming across the formation.
Chesson was 4th in targets last year, when he was a redshirt freshman. I've said before that superstar receivers can show early but most receivers need development. Chesson is an important year further in his development now, and also about up to playing weight. This was kinda lucky…
…but also spectacular, and that guy is now a lot stronger.
Lastly, on Moe Ways, considering his size advantage on the guy covering him at the scrimmage, I really didn't away much from the success he had at that. Da'Mario Jones got open against the 2nd team—Channing Stribling et al.)—and dropped things; that might be as useful as the Ways stuff. I believe the Funchess-Darboh-Canteen-Chesson-Norfleet axis are your receiver mix.
Tight end: Ungh. I have a Hokepoints coming up on the movement and how they're doing some Penn State stuff with them, but I didn't see anything from Heitzman or A.J. Williams that made me think their blocking or receiving makes a mismatch against your standard Big Ten defenders, whatever level. I take Hoke's quotes about Butt to mean that he definitely doesn't figure in by Notre Dame, and will be more of a second-half-of-the-season help. Bunting will probably be used though I hope they get a redshirt on him. For the moment I see Wyatt Shallman emerging as a motional U-back and Heitzman/Williams rotating as a mostly-blocking Y until Butt shoves both out of the lineup. I'd much rather have Chesson on the field than them now.
1. Amara Darboh. Potentially an X-Man. Almost certainly a reliable possession receiver who can use his large frame to win battles against tight coverage—he caught a few slants in the scrimmage despite being practically wearing Jourdan Lewis as a cape. Darboh's also flashed tantalizing potential as a downfield threat in the brief moments we've seen him healthy. It seems like he and Gardner have a solid rapport.
|Seth and Ace are on the Chesson bandwagon. Or the Jehu track. Or, you know, we're Chesson fans. [Upchurch]|
2. Jehu Chesson. He was the third option last year, and unlike in the spring he played over Freddy Canteen for much of the scrimmage, working a lot with the ones. Much like with Darboh, Gardner looks comfortable working with him, and we know he'll be a plus as a blocker in the running game, too. That last part may not matter directly in terms of getting targets, but it'll get him on the field over less experienced players.
3. Dennis Norfleet. We have the practice reports, which indicate Norfleet is not only the starter at slot, but a potentially significant piece of the offense. His short-area quickness could make him extremely dangerous as a slant and screen merchant; guarding him one-on-one should prove difficult.
4. Jake Butt. Moved shockingly well in the drills before the scrimmage; the talk that he could be back by the Notre Dame game is much more realistic than I think anyone expected, including the coaches. Whenever he gets in the lineup, he'll ease some of the burden on Darboh to be the guy risking life and limb over the middle, and his ability to stay on the field every down will get him plenty of targets.
5. Freddy Canteen. I buy the hype. I really do. Canteen should make an impact both in the slot and on the outside. The problem is Michigan is so loaded with depth at receiver that the little things that often pose issues for freshmen—blocking, getting off the line clean, chemistry with the quarterback, etc.—might add up to be just enough to keep him behind the players above. If Canteen's route-running mitigates a lot of those issues, he could easily vault up this list.
6. Drake Johnson/Justice Hayes. I think one of these two will end up getting a lot of snaps on third down—likely whomever shows they're best at blitz pickup, given last year's issues and what appears to be a shaky O-line once again this year. Nussmeier should utilize the screen game plenty to combat opposing pass rushes; Hayes was recruited out of high school as a receiver by several schools—and got a nice chunk gain in the scrimmage on a slip screen—while Johnson has the straight-line track speed to make some big plays if he gets the ball in space.
The big one. With Braxton Miller out for the year, Ohio State needs a new quarterback. It looks like it is going to be JT Barrett, a well-regarded but not elite recruit out of Texas. His OC talked about him when he was declared the #2 recently:
"Gets the ball out quickly. Very efficient. Smooth release. Very accurate. Extremely cerebral. Very magnetic leader. I think the kids kind of gravitate towards him."
"We've got to work on strengthening his arm. He's a distant third to Braxton and Cardale in terms of just rearing back and trying to throw it through a wall. But he makes up for it in his anticipation and his accuracy and all that. You don't have to have a howitzer to be successful in college football. I'm very pleased with his continuing growth."
He has sort of won the job by default, though. OSU has had surprising issues recruiting QBs. Cardale "I ain't come to play SCHOOL" Jones and middling true freshman Stephen Collier are OSU's other options.
Shaky QB play has not prevented OSU from beating Michigan lots in the recent past, unfortunately, and Meyer runs a system that's pretty forgiving to young guys because big chunks of it are "you: run".
Frank Clark profiled. Clark's background is highly improbable:
Frank Clark can't provide a last known address in Los Angeles. He and [his mother] Teneka, along with his two older siblings, were nomadic. They rambled around town, sleeping in a shelter one night, in a random friend’s house another night. Teneka had drug problems, Frank explains, and this was the fallout.
“I’d walk for hours with my mother, wondering where we were going next, what we were going to do next,” Clark said.
He was handed a plane ticket in 2003 and deposited with relatives in Cleveland, whereupon he grew large and went to Glenville:
“Frank wanted to do everything except what I wanted him to do,” Ginn said.
Ginn wanted Clark to play defensive end and the two locked horns.
“So I fought with Frank from his sophomore year to his senior year,” Ginn said. “In his senior year, he finally decided to listen.”
That is the flip side to Csont'e York. Clark had issues even at Michigan, stealing a laptop and getting a year of probation after being put in a diversionary program, but has come through them and stands on the verge of a Michigan degree and an NFL career. That is how you want it to work when you draw the NCAA up.
Making it work. The NFL has gone from dismissing Chip Kelly to imitating him, says Chris Brown at Grantland, and interestingly for Michigan fans he specifically cites a number of tackle over formations the Eagles went with a year ago as part of Kelly's success:
Why is this a component of Kelly's offensive genius and Borges's failure? Tempo. The Eagles run a high-paced no huddle system that only allows the defense to substitute when they do. The defense is under constant pressure to recognize and adjust to new formations on the fly. In this and another example the end result of going tackle over is confusion and blown assignments because of the pressure Philly's tempo puts on the opponents. Brown's key insight:
This breakdown occurred not because Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers doesn’t know how to match up against an unbalanced set. (He does. I think.) It happened because, against Kelly’s offense, it doesn’t matter what the other coaches know. The 11 defenders on the field need to be able to identify the unbalanced set and call the right adjustments, on the fly, at a super-fast tempo, while worrying about 50 other things.
When you go at Borges tempo, you get a different result:
4 DTs and an SDE with PSU's best player (Jones) lined up over your tackle over. Penn State did this only three or four times in that game but that they were able to do it at all is a condemnation; meanwhile there was absolutely no way that PSU was going to blow an assignment when Michigan was barely getting the play off before the clock expired.
High tempo takes defensive coordinators out of the game and puts the responsibilities they generally have on the players on the field—a big advantage at the NFL level and and even bigger one in college.
Meanwhile you hear dinosaur coach types talk about how the spread makes your defense soft, but you never hear them talk about how living at walking pace makes your defense unprepared to face teams like Indiana.
All of the shirts all of the shirts. Jared Shanker takes a look at how many kids redshirt at last year's conference champions, and comes back with the startling news that over the last three years all of seven MSU recruits have played as freshman—12%. Alabama and FSU are at 45%, with Oklahoma and Oregon at 33 and 35%, respectively. Other powers are closer to the FSU/Bama numbers than anything else, with only South Carolina coming anywhere near MSU—they play only a quarter of their freshmen.
A lot of this has to do with recruiting rankings. FSU and Bama tend to get freshmen who are physically ready to compete right away, and Bama in particular tends to toss guys out the door if they're not panning out. MSU has limited access* to high-level players and is trying to get the most out of each one. They've done so successfully.
What about Michigan? I went back and checked:
- 2011: 8 out of 20 played in the Hoke/RR emergency transition class by the standards of this study, but circumstances conspired to hew this class down before it even reached the opener. Three players (Kellen Jones, Chris Barnett, and Tony Posada) didn't even make it to game one; Greg Brown transferred midseason.
- 2012: 12 out of 25 played, with Terry Richardson and Amara Darboh redshirting their second years.
- 2013: 13 out of 26 played. (I'm not counting long snapper Scott Sypniewski for this purpose).
Michigan's numbers are skewed by the disastrous 2010 and sort of disastrous 2011 recruiting classes, but seriously about a third of those burned redshirts the last couple years were questionable at best: Dymonte Thomas, Da'Mario Jones, Csont'e York, Ben Gedeon, and Taco Charlton contributed little in 2013; Joe Bolden, Amara Darboh, Sione Houma, Royce Jenkins-Stone, and Terry Richardson did little in 2012.
How much of that is down to recruiting promises is unknown, but it just seems silly not to give yourself a fifth year option. Hopefully Michigan can start upping their redshirt percentage now that they have stabilized the roster.
*[This is changing somewhat this year, but for the period covered in this study it was certainly true.]
They had a competition, and now they don't. Utah names Travis Wilson its starting QB. Wilson had a rocky 2013, throwing 16 interceptions to 16 touchdowns and losing his job after a 6 for 21 performance against Arizona State. He did have a nice YPA for the year (7.7), but he also threw a Demetrius Brown-like six interceptions in a 34-27 loss to UCLA. Woof.
Wilson beat out Oklahoma transfer Kendal Thompson, FWIW, so maybe he's improved.
I can't do better. Get The Picture nails the headline on this quote:
The NCAA has reached the point on unfavorable legal rulings that retiring University System of Maryland chancellor William Kirwan, co-chair of the reform-minded Knight Commission, said he now views Congress as “our last, best hope for getting anything right with intercollegiate athletics.”
Oh god the tedious Knight Commission, constantly seeking ways to divert the surplus of revenue athletes to the academic side of colleges, go away.
Etc.: Michigan's student advisory council rejection letter ain't come to play school either. Here's to hope, says the Hoover Street Rag. High school QBs now planning to graduate in three years so they can transfer without penalty if it doesn't work out at school #1. MSU loses OG Connor Kruse for a significant period of time, one that probably does not eliminate him from the M game.
Michigan crushes another Italian team.
What is Draftageddon: In place of a trite and useless preseason "best players in the Big Ten" series, we drafted teams out of the the same pool and got into detail about our picks and what makes them worth picking. If such an exercise isn't your bag, I implore you to skip this one; a roundtable-y informative thing will follow later.
Previously: opening round, stupid round, hair round, corners round, a lineman from Rutgers round, Hack round, Peppers round, a member of the Illini secondary is drafted round, terp round, guards round, backups round, dramatic round, punting round.
Now we defend our teams, and make fun of each other's. Then you vote for a winner.
THE HALF-COOKED BRIAN ZOOKS
*Miller (and a couple hits to Seth's Wildcats) happened too late for more supplemental picks
Brian: On offense, I attempted to fuse Wisconsin's core rushing offense into a spread. IE: I tried to replicate last year's Ohio State team. Miller and Gordon are the backfield, with Ferguson in the Wilson/Harvin role and Stephon Diggs being just terrifying on the outside. The OL: Wisconsin. Hooray. Base defense is your standard 4-3. I guess I'm in an over since I've got two similar defensive ends and no obvious on-the-line SAM.
Strengths: every second down is second and two. Every third down is a first down because we picked up eight yards on second and two. The defensive line is highly stout, with upside in spades; the corners are excellent.
|Brian got out of a Michael Rose pick and drafted every Michigan linebacker but the really good one.|
Weaknesses: Pass protection. I don't have a left tackle. As we saw with Denard, though, having an incredible athlete at QB tends to turn pass rush off by itself. This was by design after I picked Miller and any true difference-maker tackles were gone by the next pick.
Also my safeties are both Northwestern safeties. And I guess I don't have a punter, but who cares.
Snarked by BiSB: Brian’s theory is pretty basic: find a unit that performed well, and draft The. Whole. Damn. Thing. Wisconsin runs the ball well? Take their running game. Michigan’s linebacker corps looks pretty okay? GOTTA GRAB ‘EM ALL (except for the best piece, of course, which I got). Northwestern’s secondary is outstanding on 3rd and 20? Say no more, give me them safeties.
The problem, of course, is that he’s left with a hodgepodge of assorted whatnot that doesn’t work together. Offensively, I don’t know what the hell Brian is. He took a spread option quarterback and outfitted him with a manball offensive line and running back. His receiving corp is a coming-off-an-injury Stefon Diggs, made-fewer-than-two-catches-per-game Jeff Heuerman, and… Tony Lippett? And of course there’s the whole two-vastly-different-quarterbacks thing he’s got going on with Hackenberg. After a year of lamenting an offensive system that lacked internal cohesion, you’re going to THIS? For shame, sir. For shame. You don’t DESERVE Kyle Prater.
On defense, Brian has a solid-ish defensive line, and absolutely nothing behind it in the middle of the field. His linebackers are Michigan’s current linebackers if you replaced Jake Ryan with
Michael Rose Joe Bolden. Does this sound like a good idea? No. No it does not. It does not sound like a good idea. But don’t worry, because Ibraheim Campbell and Traveon Henry are there to kinda keep the lid on. And again, you have your press-happy stud corner playing alongside a pair of bend-but-don’t-break safeties.
[Immediately after the jump, an image that will probably appear in all future Google searches for Ace Anbender, but just in case: Ace Anbender, Ace Anbender, Ace Anbender, Ace Anbender, Ace Anbender, Ace Anbender, Ace Anbender, Ace Anbender, Ace Anbender]
THE COVER WHO? CORNBENDERS
Ace: Despite my belief that I have the best group of receivers among us, my offense would definitely be a run-first outfit. The line is built for this—Brandon Scherff is a monster run-blocker, and other than Kaleb Johnson, an NFL prospect on a bad Rutgers line, the rest are played on excellent running teams. Ameer Abdullah is a heck of a feature back, Dontre Wilson can spot him in the backfield or go for misdirection with jet sweeps, and Connor Cook is juuuuust fast enough that I could even throw in a little zone read to mix things up. Then defenses have to figure out how to guard two massive targets in Devin Funchess and Maxx Williams, a speedy slot guy in Levern Jacobs, and a solid possession receiver in Tony Jones. All four of my receivers are pretty major threats in the screen game, too, which takes off what little pressure there is on Cook. Good luck guarding all that.
Base defense is a 4-3 over, since I don't have a rush linebacker type, but the key to this defense is its multiplicity/versatility, with a couple solid Cover 2 safeties (Jarrod Wilson and John Lowdermilk) holding things down on the back end. Against spread-to-run teams I can put Earnest Thomas out there as a rover and lift Quinton Alston; for spread-to-pass teams, Will Likely can get the starting nod at corner with Darian Hicks shifting down to nickel. Chi Chi Ariguzo and Matt Robinson (a former safety) are both excellent coverage linebackers; I made sure to draft corners that aren't averse to run support. Andre Monroe could play just about anywhere on the line, or even stand up as a rush LB. This defense could really come out in any number of looks depending on what type of offense they're going up against.
Snarked by Seth: Let me start with some great Ace picks: Scherff, Abdullah, Maxxxx, Monroe and Kilgo, Funchess, and some good targets around him (if Brian won't respect your NW Jones, I will, since it forced me to settle with Mac Kings). With so many bad options at safety, a boring one like Jarrod Wilson is fine. I concede Dontre Wilson.
But you took ETIII 63rd, and now you're explaining how (against our 3- and 4-wide spreads no less!) you're not really playing him except in rare nickel sets. You've got Chad Lindsay—a Bama castoff Michigan wanted because we're desperate and Ohio State wanted because Michigan was desperate—anchoring a haphazard OL of competing competencies. Your defense after the respectable DL is Northwestern Desmond Morgan,two crappy LBs, and a white Iowa safety [obligatory:
no that's not Lowdermilk but the whole point of Iowa safeties is they're all the same]
…who only knows how to Cover 2. And Connor Cook was good enough at executing freshman-level reads as a RS Soph; he also started more drives than any other QB in the country in his opponent's territory, and yet had a TD rate like Gary Nova. He's a fine QB, but conservative-wired Connor Cook is the exact wrong dude for a 4-wide, high-flying, only-one-side-is-blocking offense.
You picked up a lot of pieces to block the rest of us, but that just makes you the guy with a lot of mismatched properties and zero Monopolies. The half of your team that's mediocre makes the good half of your team really good irrelevant. You got the chess, but none of the the Fun!
BLUE IN EAST LANSI…LOOK PEPPERS!
BiSB: One word: flexibility. I think either Al Borges or Doug Nussmeier would like this team. I’ve got the weapons (Shane Wynn, Kenny Bell, Deon Long, and Tyler Kroft) to go three- and four-wide, as well as two quality backs in Jeremy Langford and Tevin Coleman. I also have the most balanced of duel threat quarterbacks in the conference. I don’t have a dominant offensive line, but my linemen are (almost) all mobile and athletic, and could operate either a man scheme or a zone scheme. Epping is a brick, but a pretty good one. Offensively, I live and die with Devin Gardner, which feels… familiar.
Where I’m going to win this league is on defense, where I have bona fide stars on every level. I’d argue I have the best defensive lineman (Joey Bosa), the best linebacker (Jake Ryan), and the best defensive back (unnamed Michigan State guy) in the conference. Given the composition of my defensive line, I’ll be playing a 4-man front, and having Jake Ryan makes it tempting to play an Under. I have the best front seven in the league, hands down. And when the biggest question mark on one’s team is “is Jabrill Peppers athletic enough to play boundary corner,” life if pretty okay.
Thing I am like:
Snarked by Ace: Anyway, BiSB's Fightin' Drummonds boasts the most solid defense of our group, but I can't get past the lack of offensive weapons outside of Devin Gardner and Tevin Coleman (which, admittedly, is a very strong start, but these are all-star teams). We've been busy snarking Seth for having (yawwwwwn) Christian Jones as his top wideout, but can we turn our attention to Kenny Bell for a moment? He's BiSB's top target, and there's a very good argument to be made that my fifth receiving option is flat-out better. Even when accounting for Nebraska's crappy QB situation, Bell had a rough year in 2013, and with Quincy Enunwa no longer attracting the opponent's top corner there's no guarantee he regains the form he had in 2012. Shane Wynn needs to go from #3 option to #1 option on Indiana, no small feat for a tiny slot bug. Deon Long is the fourth-best receiver on his own team. Tyler Kroft was a nice late pick at tight end, but I don't think he's on the level of Heuerman or MAXX. The passing game underwhelms here.
BiSB will assert that his defense is just fine with Jabrill Peppers at boundary corner, and while that very well may be true, we'll have no way of knowing that this year with Peppers lining up at either nickel or strong safety. Things get really dicey if you're not convinced a true freshman is ready to start right away at cornerback—with a freshman Charles Woodson, Michigan finished a meh 29th in pass efficiency defense in 1995, and he started across from a senior Clarence Thompson. Other than Sojourn Shelton, there isn't a cornerback on the roster. Maybe BiSB can try Sean Davis there when RJ Williamson inevitably outperforms him at strong safety? Oh, right, that would be a disaster.
SPACEBALL SETH AND THE WOUNDED WILDCATS
*Mark has since decided to transfer too, and Christian Jones is out for the season. Blake Countess is fine but might have been pushed out of the starting role. If you're asking if I'm upset that key skill players on the offenses of Michigan opponents are disappearing while one really good Wolverine CB may have been passed by two better ones, no, I'm not upset at all.
Seth: What kind of team? Well first of all it's a TEAM. Offensively, it's a hyperspeed spread-n-shred outfit that's built from the inside-out; even if some of the skill pieces aren't as flashy (or present), it's not the Big Ten's defensive backs I thought I needed to answer so much as those DL. My focus was on building an offensive line of smart, experienced, talented, agile dudes who know how to run an up-tempo spread. You look at a guy like Vitabile—he's run this offense for four years, he's spent the last three in All Big Ten land, and he's going to the NFL. If the last few years have taught us anything, a great center in a cohesive offense is worth letting any 10 receivers go off the board.
Which I did, but got myself role players who can stretch that defense vertically to keep things operating underneath. Jesse James's size and Kings's route-running can add pressure there, and that makes space for the home run hitters in the backfield.
|Countess may be relegated to nickel or rotation duties this year; weirdly this is a good thing. [Upchurch]|
On defense, it's a base nickel under (figuring these are all spreads I'm going against), which alignment gets Gregory (WDE) and Bennett (3T)—just the two best DL in the conference—a lot of single blocks. Rush (5T) and Herring (NT) are no-mistake complements. In a weak LB draft Longa and T.Jones were a steal. My HSP is the starter but in 4-3 sets Davis (SAM) can be another edge terror opposite Gregory. Those guys should get enough time to do their thing, because in a draft where secondary holes are a dime a dozen I got Amos-Cooper-Murray-Countess-Caputo.
Also I have a punter who can punt, and he's also a kicker who can kick.
Snarked by Brian: Seth, let's just sit and think for a moment about cleverness. It is clear that from pick one you were setting your team up to be CLEVER so that when the final reveal was made you could say "I made Indiana's offense," figuring that the appropriate bits to do that would be undervalued.
In doing so, you picked Venric Mark over not only Melvin Gordon but Ameer Abdullah, who is like Venric Mark except he played football last year. That is too clever by half, and is thus not clever. And then, like... Christian Jones? This year's completely replaceable Northwestern WR? Brandon Vitabile? A completely replaceable center to go with another center? And then you just talked epic shit about everyone else... this was the thing, Seth. Your offense is a collection of middling talents that look nice statistically because of tempo and structure, and y'all be trashing Ace for having Scherrf/Funchess/Abdullah.
On D... actually you're pretty much fine there. Taiwan Jones was a massive reach, but the Caputo HSP pick was very good late. Murray is probably fine. But they're just going to be on the field all the time when your offense goes sploot.
Who won? You decide. In…… EPIC DRFFFT BTTTSARRRISTERRRRERR