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- Brown thinks Gary and Hurst are the best Anchor-3T combo in the nation
- Mike Wroblewski was talked up as a guy who knows the scheme so well that he makes calls for not only his but other position groups; Brown has to tell him to let other guys make their calls, a first in his career
- Current combatants at Peppers’s vacated VIPER spot: Khaleke Hudson, Jordan Glasgow, Josh Metellus
- Hill and Long have first dibs on the corner spots, but the plan is to let everyone compete and see what happens
- On the defense’s youth: “I’d rather be talented and young than not, than the alternative; have a bunch of veterans and you’re going, oh my god, what am I gonna do?”
- Devin Bush is flipping between Mike and Will. Brown feels like he’s got three guys for two positions between McCray, Wroblewski, and Bush
“How are you guys?”
Good, how are you?
“Glad to be coaching ball, that’s all I know. Good first day. Guys worked hard, really did. The youth on our team…you know, you can look at it and say ‘Oh, we got a long way to go,’ which we do, but it’s just such an energizing feeling when you go out there and you’re actually walking off the field going ‘Damn, we functioned pretty well today.’ So, you know, excited about it.
“It’s a good group, but kind of an interesting blend. So there’s enough guys that have been around that will demand execution and demand effort and energy that I feel like we’ll be in great shape.”
Some of the guys at Pro Day today, Taco and Chris [Wormley], were saying that they think this defensive line group is maybe more athletic than the group that’s departed. Is that fair?
“I think with Rashan and Mo Hurst…I have to tilt my head back and think for a minute. [He really is tilting his head back.] I don’t know, I’m not sure there’s a better tandem Anchor-tackle in the country. I’m very confident with Bryan [Mone]—here’s the key: we played eight guys last year. Four are gone, but we’ve got a first team with Bryan Mone—and Chase Winovich is such a better player.
“I think back—I did a bad thing yesterday. I went back and watched practice #3 of spring last year. Hooooly moly. What was that? We’re just so different, and those first four guys are really, they’re setting the tone. We’ve got some youth there that I’m very excited about. I thought Donovan Jeter, his raw ability today, thought he showed some really good signs, which is good.
“The Sam-Mike-Will thing: getting Mike McCray back. (W)robo, Mike Wroblewski, there’s another guy where I’m watching him in practice last year [and] just can’t even believe it’s the same guy. You talk about a self-made football player, but a guy who knows it all. Here’s—I’ve never had to do this before. He’s telling the secondary, making their on-rights and lefts call, he’s making the tight call, he’s making the detach call for the outside linebacker and it’s finally like, ‘Hey Robo, you need to shut up and let those guys make those calls themselves.’ ‘Oh yeah, Coach, yeah, yeah, yeah.’ That’s how well he knows the scheme. So him and Devin Bush and Mike McCray. Furbush was good.
“We got Uche goin’ at Sam and Khaleke Hudson was our VIPER today. Arrows up; really excited about him. Glasgow was a VIPER today and that young secondary, Lavert Hill, David Long, Josh Metellus, Tyree—Tyree Kinnel has just quietly done a nice job.
“So, we’ll see. There’s a lot of youth there. St. Juste, he’ll be an interesting guy as we move forward. Ambry Thomas, again, another interesting guy. J’Marick Woods and Jaylen Kelly-Powell, all those guys are good players. The nice thing is I don’t think there’s a lot of guys that are misplaced. They’re in the right place in terms of their level of competition.”
[After THE JUMP: on the concept of the VIPER and an excellent, in-depth response to criticisms of Peppers’ game]
Is Metellus still an option at that VIPER spot?
“Yeah, yeah. I’m gonna let him look at it and we’re gonna rotate through it. Yeah. That’s—every day competition’s a beautiful thing, and we have several battles goin’ on so it’s exciting, too. You know, young guys are hungry. They just seem to be hungry. I don’t think that’s ever a bad thing. In fact, I think it’s a great thing for our defensive football team because everybody’s trying to make plays, which isn’t a bad thing.”
How do you balance filling that position with needing depth at the safety spot, because you do lose quite a few players from there also?
“You know, it’s a good question. That’s why when Khaleke’s there at the VIPER we leave Josh [Metellus] at the strong safety position and Jaylen’s with him. I’ve even toyed with the idea of giving Jaylen some work there but [chortles] I mean, his world right now, things are happening so fast, let’s get him comfortable and settled a the ROVER position but I can rotate those guys and feel pretty comfortable with it.”
Does it tweak what you do at the VIPER spot without Jabrill or is it the same concept overall?
“Oh, there’ll be tweakin’. Do you know how many calls I’ve gotten this winter? ‘I’m the next Jabrill Peppers!’ ‘No, you’re not.’ No, I’m just kidding. But, I mean, I’ve gotten a lot of those emails, you know.
“He’s a unique talent and I thought we did as good a job as possible trying to use him as much as we could. And like I told you before, we just gave him a bunch of jobs and moved him around and tried to complicate people’s world and I thought that was fairly effective.
“The concept of the VIPER position really isn’t gonna change much. We’re gonna play, I don’t know, ten spread teams? Michigan State will come at us. Wisconsin will come at us. We’ll see on the rest. I mean, Ohio State comes at ya but in a different way. It’ll be interesting.”
Hill and Long, are they the leaders at corner at this point? Do you go into it with that in mind, at least?
“You know, I’m really not. I’m just kind letting them play. Obviously they get first dibs and if they can hold onto it, great. They’re such young guys, just let ‘em compete and it’ll take care of itself. I’m really not—you know, I joked around last fall and said I’m not afraid.
“We’ll get it, we’ll be settled, we’ll have our packages down, and we’ll have a very, very solid group that’ll be able to compete at a high level despite the age. I’m not worried about that at all. I’d rather be talented and young than not, than the alternative; have a bunch of veterans and you’re going, oh my god, what am I gonna do? I’ll take the alternative and be happy with it.
“It’s really a fun group to coach. They’re kinda like the Feed Me Patrol, so it’s kind of a fun thing. They just want more and more and more. They’re coming in extra, which they don’t have to do, and they want to be good. That’s half the battle is when guys want to be great players. Usually that’s a good sign that they’re going to be.”
What’s it going to be like for you to watch all those guys who were at Pro Day today go on to the next level?
“Ah, I’m so excited. I really am. Those four guys up front. Ben Gedeon; he’s really atoned himself well. Wish we had him back for another year, but I’m happy for him. Obviously Jabrill, Delano [Hill], Dymonte [Thomas] ran really good today, so that was good. Strib did a great job, and Jourdan Lewis is, in my opinion, the best nickel corner in the country, but that’s me. And I am prejudiced about it. He is. He’s the best. I think that’ll show itself out over the next few years; he’s a great player. Good bunch. Really good bunch.”
We all know that Jabrill’s athletic. You’ve talked about him at length. Do you feel like his intelligence might be an underrated aspect?
“Yes. He’s one of the brightest football players on the field that I’ve ever been around. It was one of those [things where] I’d see the hand go up and I’d know, hey, you better have your stuff together because this question’s gonna have some substance to it. He’d have his couple questions and when you told him once it was over. I mean, it was done and it was handled. We asked a lot of him mentally and I thought Coach said it the best; I heard him on the tube today say he’s the best tackler in the country. What an underrated skill in college football, being the best tackler in the open field in the country. That’s a hard thing to do, now. You know, that, coverage skills—I had somebody ask me, ‘Well, he must not be able to catch very well since he only had one interception.’ Well, we play a lot of man so you’re gonna get a lot of the pass breakup stuff. Go back 50 yards and try to catch those punts and then tell me you have no hands. I mean, that’s just ridiculous.”
What do you make of the discussion of what position he’s going to play?
“I just had film on today, I was watching Patrick Chung of the Patriots. Okay, he’s covering the tight end, blitzing off the edge on the next play, back covering the tight end, he’s back covering half the field. There’s guys like that in the NFL all over the place where they give ‘em jobs and give ‘em a bunch of things to do.
“I will say this: probably part of the thing that hurts him is we asked him to cover the big tight ends and the hybrid tight ends for us because he had that uncanny ability to be able to play against big people. So, who’s gonna throw the ball to him? If I’m a quarterback going back and there’s the tight end I’m not sure that’s my prime target.
“Maybe his opportunities were down a little bit in terms of number of balls thrown at him. Plus, I can only think of four or five catches that he was even remotely involved in.”
With McCray and Bush both playing at the Will last year, is one of them moving inside to the Mike so that they can both be out there?
[long pause] “Kinda. I’m flipping Devin around because he knows how to play both. He’s been learning Mike but he knows how to play Will. I’m leaving Mike [McCray] where he is. I got Robo there. I kinda got three for two at the start of spring practice and I’m working hard to develop some depth there, but I’m very happy with those three guys.”
I know Pep [Hamilton] and Greg [Frey] coach the other side but can you pick up things from them?
“Oh yeah. Coach does a great job of hiring guys that bring stuff to the table, so I’m sure we’ll get tested during the spring. Greg will be a great asset because obviously he had to gameplan us last year. We’ll definitely share some thoughts, and we have already.”
I guess he really really didn't want to play fullback [Eric Upchurch]
Per Sam Webb, Kingston Davis is set to transfer.
— Sam Webb (@SamWebb77) March 24, 2017
Davis got a few carries early last year before an apparent redshirt. Meanwhile the quick emergence of Chris Evans and Kareem Walker navigating some rocky early waters makes the depth chart look tough indeed for anyone in the same class, as Davis was.
With Davis's transfer, the expected departure of Shelton Johnson would bring Michigan down to 85 before spring practice. That means no fifth years are potential cuts even if everyone else sticks it out.
3/23/2017 – Michigan 68, Oregon 69 – 26-12, season over
There are few things more haunting in sports than coming up on the short end of a bonafide one-point basketball game. There are so many points and so many opportunities to get two more or prevent two more that it is impossible not to inventory all the slight tweaks in the universe that could have gotten you one step closer to the promised land, or at least destruction at the hands of Kansas.
The wide open DJ Wilson layup and two Duncan Robinson threes that were halfway down stand out in this regard. So too does the late Oregon free throw miss that Wilson couldn't box out on. And then there is the blizzard of threes that did not go halfway down, for reasons.
Oregon's approach seemed to be "leave Michigan blitheringly wide open from three and see what happens." Michigan took more threes than twos, and if any of them seemed unreasonable it was only in aggregate. There will be some complaints about Michigan launching early in the shot clock, but the vast majority of Michigan's 31 attempts from behind the arc were preceded by my inner monologue—and sometimes the external one, too—yelling "shoot that." A couple of ugly ones should have been rhythm catch and shoot opportunities that Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Mo Wagner, collectively 0-8 in this game, passed up on to dribble themselves into worse shots.
This is certainly a way to play against a John Beilein team. Usually it's a way to get your face melted off. The shattered corpse of Oklahoma State basketball would like a word at this point. That word is "aaaargh."
Michigan hit a respectable 11 of 31—36 percent. This was not enough. It was not enough even though they won the style contest on defense. Oregon only got up 10 transition shots, which they did poorly on. A third of their shots were the two point jumpers Michigan strives to force and Oregon is very bad at. They hit 25%.
If you'd told me all the peripheral numbers from this game beforehand I'd have taken it in a hot second. I would not have believed you if you'd told me that despite those numbers Michigan's offense would look like a hamster searching for a wheel for big chunks of the game.
Dana Altman's combination of the half-ass press a bunch of teams run now that the shot clock is down to 30 and 40% matchup zone got Michigan off balance. A plan to punish the incessant switching by replicating the second half against Louisville ended up with some poor Wagner shots and turnovers; Wagner spent the last ten minutes on the bench in favor of Duncan Robinson, who seemingly couldn't guard anyone on the floor.
The game was just... off. With virtually every ticket in the sweaty palms of Kansas fans the arena was near-empty at tipoff and dead throughout. That gave a tense, taught game an unfortunate NBA D-League or NCAA hockey regional vibe, and while I don't think that caused the ugly game it certainly reinforced it. It was weirdly muted for one of the most important games of the college basketball season.
It was ugly to the point where a final score close to 70 for both teams is unexpected. Michigan perpetually felt eight points behind and suddenly they were in the lead with two minutes left, sort of like the Oklahoma State and Louisville games. And then.
In the aftermath you're left grasping at opportunities spurned, at whatever air eddies pushed this ball a micron away from a good-enough trajectory, at this breakdown or that breakdown that would go almost entirely unremarked upon if not for the fact that Oregon had N and Michigan had N –1.
An inch; a point; it's been a year of almosts for Michigan athletics.
Rather satisfying all the same. Losing a one-point Sweet Sixteen game is no shame. It's a hard thing to do, winning basketball games against good teams. Michigan picked up a banner, got a measure of Louisville revenge, and was amongst the best teams in the country for a full half season. Over the full span they finished 20th on Kenpom.
This wasn't a return to the Burke/Stauskas years but it was a solid top 25 season.
The Walton; the Irvin. I pulled the "Zak Irvin is happening" tag out of mothballs for this game because he was happening, man. His late surge as he re-found his excellent-third-banana level was such that everybody had to stop complaining about him. This is a monumental internet accomplishment. He held Michigan in this game, hit tough late-clock shots, and was clearly on another level from Duncan Robinson as he checked Oregon's perimeter guys.
Building on that? Obviously much hinges on the return of Wilson and Wagner. I'd guess with their tough final games and the super deep draft—DX has Caleb Swanigan 30th!—both will return for another year of that sweet Beilein development. Both guys are potential lottery picks if they continue to improve at a decent clip. Right now there are sufficient questions that they'd be borderline first rounders.
If Michigan does not have any unexpected departures you're looking at something like:
- Xavier Simpson/Eli Brooks
- MAAR/Jordan Poole
- Charles Matthews/Duncan Robinson
- DJ Wilson/Isaiah Livers
- Mo Wagner/Jon Teske/Austin Davis
Michigan does have an open scholarship they could use on either Mo Bamba—uh not likely—or one of the late risers they've done so well with; there are also a number of intriguing transfer options. Since Brooks and Poole may not be impact freshmen, an immediately eligible backcourt scorer would be real nice. You've probably heard about faintly ludicrous Chippewa Marcus Keene and his 37% usage. Keene shot 82/51/37 on incredible volume and had an excellent assist rate on a bad MAC team that was nonetheless 56th in offensive efficiency.
There's also New Mexico guard Elijah Brown, another 30%+ usage player with decent efficiency. His three point shooting fell off this year but he was near 40% a year ago (on 226 attempts); he gets to the line and his excellent FT shooting implies that his rough two point percentages are more about his situation than his talent.
Or Michigan could go the Matthews route again and attempt to acquire the services of blue-blood transfer Chase Jeter, who's leaving Duke after two injury-plagued years. Jeter is a 6'10" post and would have to sit out, so he's not an ideal fit for the roster. I'd still poke around there because the rate of big washout is so high. You can't count on both Teske and Davis being around in two years. See: all of college basketball.
Tourney coverage complaint. There are way too many fouls that don't get replays to check on them. DJ Wilson's second was a potentially dubious call on which a second look would have been very helpful; instead nothing.
Also in complaints: I have no idea how anyone can listen to Reggie Miller and think "I should pay this person to do this thing."
44 minutes. Yes, a lot of it is dated now.
Still Ira in for Sam, who’s in a place with better meat right now.
- First weekend recap: Michigan beat Louisville two points at a time. Weekend vs. very tough teams showed what a Beilein offense can be when all five guys are firing.
- Beilein now versus when he got here: totally different offense, totally different defense. Moe is the first 5 who can shoot that B’s had since Pittsnoggle and that one guy the year after Pittsnoggle.
- The rest of the tourney: Big Ten has acquitted itself well, the refs not so much.
- Nerd-out on the seeding: advocating better metrics but don’t make it all about advanced stats either. Right now they’re just using RPI, which is bad.
- Oregon preview: Almost as up-tempo as Oklahoma State—don’t let them take a three! Vegas takes into account the loss of Boucher and the fact that Michigan is playing like a 2-seed.
- Kansas in case: Bill Self-destruction in March is a thing, but Kansas has some ATHs. Ira makes a good argument that we’d rather face them than Purdue?
- Rundown of the rest: Who do you like for the Final Four?
- Spring Football! Brian points out which guys he wants to hear nice things about.
You can catch the entire episode on Michigan Insider's podcast stream on Audioboom.
THE USUAL LINKS
- Helpful iTunes subscribe link
- General podcast feed link
- Direct download link
- What's with the theme music?
The final shots. [Joseph Dressler]
In the movie script, that shot goes in.
Michigan hadn't played their best game—far from it—but Derrick Walton nevertheless had a clean look to send the Wolverines to the Elite Eight and keep this magical run going. With time about to expire, Walton cleared out space, rose, and fired. His shot caught iron. Walton clutched his head, likely feeling the same combination of surprise and dismay as the rest of us.
"I had a good look at the basket and it just didn't drop for me," Walton said.
This is not a movie script.
In a disjointed game, Michigan's seniors fought valiantly to the finish. Walton shook off a hard fall on his elbow in the first half to finish with a game-high 20 points on 6-for-10 shooting, five rebounds, and eight assists. Zak Irvin poured in 19, going 8-of-14 from the field, pulled down eight rebounds, and played lockdown defense on Oregon star Dillon Brooks, who needed 13 shots to score 12 points. In the last five minutes, the two combined for three go-ahead shots, and Walton added a nasty fadeaway jumper to give the Wolverines a three-point lead with 2:02 left.
They could not get a fourth. Instead, Oregon's two best players on the night made the plays in winning time. Jordan Bell, a force in the paint all evening, put back a missed free throw to get the Ducks within one after Walton's jumper. After Walton couldn't get a tough layup to fall, Tyler Dorsey got a step on Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and finished at the rim for what were ultimately the final points of the game.
Michigan would get two more shots to win. DJ Wilson's three-pointer with 46 seconds remaining was well off the mark. After Dylan Ennis missed another free throw with 15 seconds to play, Oregon surprisingly chose to give only one of their three remaining fouls to give, allowing Walton to get that final look. It fell short.
"I've seen him make that shot thousands of times, so I had confidence in him knocking it down," said Irvin. "It looked good from my angle. No one else on this team that we wanted taking that shot. He's been on a run and he's such a great player. I'm proud of him."
Jordan Bell made play after play in the paint. [Dressler]
From the start, this didn't feel like Michigan's night. The Wolverines went just 11-for-28 in the first half, and while they only trailed by two at the break, it could've easily been worse. Wilson sat for much of the half with foul trouble. Oregon's guards repeatedly blew by Michigan defenders. Dorsey sunk three of his four first-half three-point attempts. Walton grinded out 11 points and seven assists by halftime, keeping his team within striking distance. With Wilson set to get back on the court, the hope was Michigan could find their groove.
It never quite clicked. Moe Wagner barely played in the second half and finished the night with only seven points on 3-for-10 shooting. Abdur-Rahkman all but disappeared, tallying more turnovers (3) than points (2). Duncan Robinson's eight points weren't enough to offset his defensive shortcomings. While Wilson hit four three-pointers, he didn't get a bucket inside the arc as Bell dominated the paint; his missed second-half layup will stay with him for a while.
While tonight wasn't their night, this team can hold their heads high. Walton and Irvin battled to the bitter end, and this season will ultimately be remembered far more for the remarkable highs of the last month than tonight's low. When it mattered the most, this team galvanized around its leaders, and the most difficult part of tonight is knowing we won't get to see them all play together again.
"It's the tightest bunch I've been around in all my years of playing basketball," said Walton. "Just a very selfless group. I had the joy of being a part of it and being one of the leaders. Like I said, I wish we could have more games to play together because I think a couple minutes throughout the game we didn't show the type of team we were becoming and overall just thank them for allowing me to be part of such a great team."
"We're very close-knit, playing our best basketball and didn't want the season to end," said Irvin. "This team had a lot of great memories. We battled through adversity and just a team that I will always remember."
He's not alone.
— Alejandro Zúñiga (@ByAZuniga) March 20, 2017
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