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[This series is a work-in-progress glossary of football concepts we tend to talk about in these pages. Previously:
Special Teams: Spread punt vs NFL-style]
This one confused us when Michigan ran it. In the above Poggi was trying to go between Braden and Butt while a middle linebacker got to sit free in a hole. Smith kind of challenged that guy, then bounced outside for a big gain. Brian guessed it was some sort of split zone that Poggi biffed. But after a twitter conversation and a few recent trips through Bo’s old playbooks I theorize it was Duo.
Also known as Double, or “Power without a puller,” Duo is a man-blocking play that apes inside zone while actually leaving the reads to the running back. Sometimes it looks like inside zone except the center ID’d the wrong guy and the running back fixed it by setting up the middle linebacker. Sometimes it looks like inside zone with a planned backside cut. But apparently it’s a whole different tree.
Duo concept (Power O w/o pull) vs Over Stack front. Two double teams inside w/ the C & BSG working Nose 2 Will. B gap read for the back. pic.twitter.com/0hqngDUNvS
— Anthony White (@AWhite_73) April 8, 2017
Anthony White and James Light and Ted Nguyen were talking about this play a few weeks ago on Twitter, and Zach Dunn of Inside the Headset wrote a whole article on it called “Duo/Double: The Best Play in Football.”
With Duo the Running Back is reading the Mike linebacker. The Running Back will press the ‘B’ Gap and read the movement of the Mike. If the Mike plays over the top and outside of the second double team, the Running Back can bend it back to the first double team. If the Mike presses and steps up into the line of scrimmage the Running Back can bounce the play out and cut off the Tight End’s block.
Then Geoff Schwartz did a video about how to differentiate it from backside inside zone, and found Bob Wylie giving a seminar on it. So as you can imagine I was feeling a bit left out. Let’s fantasize for a moment that there’s any value I can add to these guys who know way more than I do, and draw it up.
This play is not only a staple of the Harbaugh running game, but one he almost certainly took from Bo. Old timers, get your nodding muscles ready, because this is bar none the Schembechleriest play we’ve ever drawn here:
It’s called “Duo” or “Double” because of all the initial double-teams. On the above example from backup hour in the Hawaii game you can see both defensive tackles are getting doubled initially.
[Feeling the Bo yet? Hit the JUMP]
You’ll note I’ve circled the middle linebacker or “Mike” here. This play is all about screwing with that dude. He’s seeing the double-teams, and eyeing the fullback, and knows he’s only likely to remain unblocked for a short time. Maybe he has to close that gap before the center comes off and makes a lane (inside zone). Maybe he has to pick off that fullback to clog up the hole and force a bounce into one of his unblocked linebacking wingmen (iso). Maybe there’s a blocker coming from who knows where? He’s got to make a decision soon, and he’s reading the running back to help him make it.
But—and here’s an important key to this play—the center isn’t going to bother with the middle linebacker at all. Kugler here is working down to the weakside linebacker, or “Will”, who is expecting to be a free hitter here. Getting sealed instead by the center coming off a double team isn’t the most unusual thing, but it’s not the first thing he’s expecting either because why would the offense leave the Mike free in the gap they want to run into?
The running back is going to help make the Mike wrong. Isaac will stare down the Mike and “press” the open gap, which means what you think it means: threaten to run up it without fully committing.
A beat later it looks, to a casual observer and to the defense, like someone screwed up a blocking assignment:
Note that Khalid Hill (80) has gone out to the “D” gap to hit the strongside linebacker, or “Sam”. It sorta looks like the RB’s blocking has all abandoned him. The Sam isn’t reacting much because that big gaping hole inside still looks kinda threatening. The Will has gotten himself wide to seal a cutback into the backside B gap. The Mike is looking into the eyes of Ty Isaac, sending thoughts of TFL. Isaac’s eyes are looking back, not worried. Why aren’t they worried? Oh crap his feet…
With the WLB taken care of (the guy committed so hard to the backside B gap that Kugler didn’t have to block him), and having defeated the MLB with his eyes, Ty Isaac now just has to cut off the tight end’s single block, however that’s gone. In this case the tight end has gotten a pretty good seal on the strongside end so the read is to bounce out again and head for the safeties. McKeon (84) released that end a bit early, and that guy ended up tackling after a few, else it’s RB vs S for all the yards.
So this is the ideal. The DTs get blown downfield and fighting inside just gets them stuck there, while the middle linebacker blocks himself by playing the wide open hole aggressively but not aggressively enough to prevent the running back from cutting away. Get some big beefy linemen and a running back with a patience-cut-boom running style (damn all Bama bagmen) and this is a devastating complement to an inside zone/power/iso running game.
WHY IS THIS PLAY DIFFERENT FROM ZONE?
The big difference is how those combos go down. Here’s the setup for the Penn State run that I led the post off with, but drawn up as if it was inside zone:
Let’s remember our zone rules. If you’re covered (a DL is lined up over you) you block him. If you’re not, you combo whoever’s in range then work down to the next level, or release immediately if you’re totally clear and your buddy’s seemingly in good shape. You block whoever tries to cross your bonnet, and take him where he wants to go, so one way or another a gap should form somewhere.
The weird thing is these two guys aren’t releasing:
Because it’s really Duo.
Penn State’s slanting their DL—a trick they tried to use all day and got nowhere with. Just as the frontside linebacker was blocked with Khalid Hill in the Hawaii example, here Poggi is supposed to be shooting the gap between Butt’s supposed kickout block and Magnusson blocking down, thereby meeting the strongside linebacker* in the “C” gap and clearing the point of attack for Smith to cut off of Butt’s block.
But that’s not how it goes down. PSU’s slant puts the nose tackle right up in that gap so Poggi has his way cut off and doesn’t quite have an idea how to improvise:
That’ll be a problem if/when the Sam comes around the edge to cut off where Smith wants to bounce to. But for now the rest of the play is going as planned. Notice that our center, Cole (52), is still on his double and not moving down to the center, but it looks for all the world—to the center at least—like this is going to go right down the hash.
Poggi sees someone to block—that NT who slanted over Kalis and isn’t quite yet sealed by Magnusson. Kalis stumbles past and finds the Sam that Poggi was initially headed for. But instead of hitting the Sam and making this de facto correct, Kalis is looking inside to cut off the middle linebacker trying to recover from getting held inside by Smith’s cut. That—I’m pretty sure—is what Kalis is coached to do.
But fortunately the Sam is still thinking this is is coming down the hashes, and can’t really see Smith behind all of those big bodies.
Until it’s too late to get anything more than an arm tackle attempt.
And no, that arm ain’t stopping Monsieur Smith.
* [Technically this guy is normally PSU’s weakside linebacker, however Michigan’s strength is to this side and I didn’t want to get even more confusing, so let’s call him the Sam right now shall we?]
WHEN IT DOESN’T WORK
So Duo’s core is to play off a linebacker but the linebacker won’t always get played. If the MLB sniffs what’s up and follows the fullback outside, well, now there’s a big gap in the middle. I thought I remembered De’Veon Smith making a Mike jump out of his way earlier this year but I can’t find that now.
The greater danger from the Mike is if he smells that gap quickly and attacks it like a helldemon, getting into the backfield before the running back can cut away. The far more normal defense however is the Mike reads the back’s legs and gets outside before the wash prevents that. Here’s why you want big burly OL who will physically dominate the DTs they double: if a tackle stands up to a double-team there’s less room in the backfield for this maneuver and more room for the linebacker to flow with the cut.
The other common malfunction this might face is the edge blocking, particularly if the TE’s block—you know the one he’s supposed to actually be cutting around—goes badly. Here’s one against Indiana:
Note that at first glance it looks like badly run inside zone, unless the whole point is to seal the doubled defenders inside and hold the linebackers there while a lane opens up outside the tight end. If this is inside zone it makes no sense why Bredeson would leave his combo with Braden. But in Duo, that’s good so long as their DT is stuck inside. However on this play Wheatley got shoved into the backfield by the DE, and now cutting off that block ends in disaster either way.
So Evans cuts to the backside, where Braden and Bredeson’s sealed DT just now happens to be on the correct side of both of his blocks.
WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR?
Duo as part of a mix that includes some power, zone, isos, pitches, and whatnot is effective and relatively low-rent to install. It’s also a good play for play-action since your linemen aren’t giving away the play by releasing downfield. The things that defenses can do to stop it, like activating super-aggressive linebackers or going to a “Bear” front (meaning the center and both guards are covered), make them susceptible to getting run around or gashed by counters and traps. Really the best way to handle this as a defense is have tackles who can stand up to those doubles and ends who will blow up single-blocks. For example trying to run this against Michigan last year was asking for Hurst or Glasgow to gum things up while Wormley blows up the key TE block and getting out the edge merely sets up a date with Peppers.
For Michigan in 2017 however it has some significant upsides:
Emphasizes the best aspects of Evans, Isaac, Higdon and Walker, who have good acceleration and cuts, and are tough to tackle, but haven’t (other than Evans a little) shown much breakaway speed.
Takes pressure off the passing game with effective play-action and constantly threatening runs inside of aggressive edge rushers.
- Takes advantage of the physical strength of guys like Onwenu, Ruiz, Bredeson, et al. who haven’t played a lot of football but are quite large.
- It fits our skill personnel. Duo works really well with one back and two or three tight ends, IE the position groups where Michigan has a lot of good options (as opposed to, like, fullback).
- Hits defenses with something they’re not used to and punishes their natural reactions to the rest of Michigan’s running game.
- Fits the Bo->Harbaugh Michigan paradigm of power football.
Michigan spent chunks of last year trying to establish counters and complements for their Power rushing offense, and the Power offense itself, but nothing fully clicked. There were a lot of reasons—Kalis never got consistent, Newsome’s injury forced Michigan to go with a true freshman at left guard, Magnusson’s ceiling wasn’t that strong, Cole was in his first year at center and wasn’t strong enough to stand up to some very good NTs, and the veterans had been through myriad systems. For the immediate future, the OL’s combined problems will be greater, but instead of lots of issues all over the line they’ve got one big issue—major inexperience—shared by most of it. As Drevno and Harbaugh look for ways to mitigate that issue, Duo seems like a natural fit.
With all the things that defenses can do to you—physically and tactically—building a run offense that can have sustained success means not just having a good idea, but an idea that maximizes your players’ assets and hides their flaws. Outside zone for example can emphasize great vision, agility, and quick-thinking offensive linemen and backs, but you can get away with smaller players. Power emphasizes size, brawn, and guards and fullbacks who can adjust on the fly then maul someone, with less emphasis on backs making quick reads or redirections.
As you saw with the backups in against Hawaii at the top of this article, Duo can be run without a ton of reading and reaction from the blockers—mostly they have to be big and strong. The onus of picking apart the defense’s over- or under-reactions then falls on a patient running back who can set up his blocks, cut like a wizard, then blast through arm tackles and defensive backs. With freshmen and grape-eating giants on the line, and Chris Evans and co. behind them, Duo might be a good way to make use of 2017 Michigan’s offensive talent without exposing its glaring weaknesses.
IT IS 1998 and hockey is dying.
Its executioners are its own coaches, who have strangled opposing offenses with a variety of neutral zone traps. Scoring is down almost two and a half goals a game from the firewagon 1980s. Jacques Lemaire wins three Stanley Cups playing the most stultifying brand of hockey imaginable. At Michigan State, Ron Mason seeks to win games –1 to –2, and does with depressing frequency. Your author is mere months away from swearing off the Red Wings forever after attending two games at Joe Louis Arena at which the only reaction from the crowd comes on goals, of which there is about one a period, and when a man named "Mo Cheese" does a jiggle-dance on the jumbotron.
That fall, two people walked into Yost Ice Arena for the first time: Mike Comrie and I. I sat in the student section; Mike Comrie set people on fire and laughed about it. I don't know anything about Mike Comrie's childhood but I know it involved ants and a magnifying glass.
I just missed the Brendan Morrison era but even if I'd seen it, I'd probably still believe Comrie is the closest thing to an on-ice avatar of the Red Berenson era in existence. He was a tiny puck wizard who defied all logical modes of playing hockey with sheer talent. It was not uncommon for Comrie to make a zone entry by himself, then tool around the offensive zone like Spike Albrecht doing donuts in the lane. The opposition allowed this because the alternative was approaching Comrie and risking an explosive moment after which Michigan would have another goal and you would have no pants.
Over the next decade it seemed like Michigan had an infinite supply of these guys. After Comrie came Mike Cammalleri, Jeff Tambellini, Eric Werner (who belongs on this list despite being a defenseman), TJ Hensick, Andrew Ebbett, John Shouneyia, and Andrew Cogliano. They were all different versions of the same assassin. Collectively they are this Cammalleri goal.
Under Red Berenson, Michigan hockey was an electric middle finger to the neutral zone trap. It defied NHL norms of the time, and sometimes basic physics itself. It took no quarter, and gave none. It lived in Yost Ice Arena, which for about 15 years was the most intimidating environment in sports.
YOST WAS BLACK, pitch black. Literally so. The shot at the top of the post is one of the bleachers that I had the good fortune to acquire when Dave Brandon's renovation of Yost was literally throwing them away. It is not the bright and shiny anodyne chrome of the current building. It is not even the respectable deep blue that Michigan has on hand for uniforms, logos, and what-have-you. It is black.
It is unnecessarily black. At one edge the paint has worn down and you can see that underneath there is a layer of blue. Someone erased that blue, probably for no reason at all other than hockey was a non-revenue sport and black paint was cheaper. So they painted it black.
To walk into Yost Ice Arena in 1998 was a mindblowing experience for someone raised on the relatively genteel ways of Michigan Stadium. To be a Michigan fan is to have your nose in the air about the unhinged activities of those people; Yost was the Scarface coke bender kept hidden from public view. It is the only environment in the history of Michigan sports that can be compared in any way to Miami and its general attitude.
I have thought long and hard about why this might have come to be and still have no unifying theory, but by the time you arrived in 1998 at the same time as Mike Comrie it took about three games to fully assimilate into the baying hive mind. Then-Lake Superior State coach Frank Anzalone once told me to "shut the fuck up" between periods, and while I don't remember why he did this I assume he was 100% correct to do so.
And I was just a guy, really, not one of the gentlemen in the section behind the opposing bench. One of the Superfans was there, the guy with the Flintstones water buffalo hat. Next to him was the guy with the megaphone, and around them was a cadre of the dirtiest dudes in town.
The megaphone, I think, is key to understanding the allure here. We have all had the experience of shouting something in anger at a referee at a football game. This is exactly as effective as shouting at your TV. There are one hundred thousand people in the stands and you are some vast distance away from the field even if you're in row 20; you are just a voice in the crowd.
At Yost, amongst six thousand people, in row ten, with the ears just the other side of some plexiglass, you know damn well that everyone can hear your every word. With a megaphone or without. By the time I had arrived there was a culture that understood and sought to exploit this, and it worked. I can't tell you how many times opposing players tried to spray people in the crowd with water bottles. The opposing parents were seated directly behind their bench, and directly in front of the dirtiest dudes in town, and since the dirtiest dudes in town had a tendency to select one player for excessive torment it was a semi-regular occurrence for a hockey parent to respond in kind. Rarely you'd catch a slightly unhinged one who would fume his way up the stairs and try to get in a fight.
The stupidity and the gloriousness of this should be apparent. For a period of several years the opposing parents had to be located across the rink, the ice serving as a demilitarized zone. Yost got people shook.
The creation of this seething cauldron in the context of dead-puck-era hockey, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is one of the great miracles of sports. The none-more-blackness of Yost had something to do with it. So did the basketball team's malaise.
But the primary factor was Red Berenson, who never gave a damn about what you thought he should do. Berenson spent four years in college when college was not a path to the NHL. He was literally the first player to ever go directly from the NCAA to the NHL. He was the NHL coach of the year at one point and could have continued being an NHL head coach indefinitely if he so chose. Instead he came back to Michigan. At a time when the primary way to win hockey games was by murdering the game itself he played balls-to-the-wall.
Yost was a magnet for sadists because it was a place you could go and see someone blown off the ice 8-1. A promotion where attendees got free tacos if Michigan scored ten goals had to be discontinued because it was costing too much. Here is an arena where the residents are chanting for more goals when they are already at nine—nine! They are no longer beating the dead horse, but gleefully spitting on its grave. Yost was a reflection of the product on the ice.
Red Berenson did a lot of great things for his university, his players, his student managers, his coaches, his alumni, and they will all remember him for the things he did for them. The thing Red Berenson did for me is turn Yost Ice Arena into the greatest sports environment I've ever been in. He did that because he is metal. Bite-the-head-off-a-bat metal.
Black fucking metal.
[Ed. A- David Nasternak, our hockey beat writer, did the heavy lifting in compiling this article and also helped author it.]
At some point today, Warde Manuel will sit down in his office overlooking Hoover Avenue and State Street, check his to-do list, and find an item at the top wholly unfamiliar to him as Michigan’s athletic director, a task that was also wholly unfamiliar to the seven men who previously sat behind his desk: hire a new men’s ice hockey head coach.
Most of the buzz on this site and around the local scene has been centered near Mel Pearson, Red Berenson’s longtime assistant turned Michigan Tech head coach. There is probably a good case for him (particularly if based on his teams’ Corsi over the past few seasons), and he might be a fine head coach and quality option, but there are also a couple of reasons to remain skeptical. We’re not saying that they cannot be ironed out or that he would not succeed as Michigan’s next head coach. We do think that there are other options out there to consider as well.
David talked to a handful of people and did a lot of digging. These are the upper-echelon alternatives that we think should at least be investigated. For the record, very established guys at programs that aren’t a step down from Michigan have not been included on this list, so you’re not going to find Don Lucia or Jerry York on here.
SUCCESSFUL COLLEGIATE COACHES
Norm Bazin, UMass Lowell
He’s only 46 years old and already has nine years of head-coaching experience and an additional 11 years experience as an assistant. Eight of his years as an assistant came at Colorado College; those years nearly killed him. Seriously. His incredible survival story is a must-read.
- Three years as an assistant at UML
- Eight years as an assistant at Colorado College
- Three years head coach at Hamilton College
- Six years head coach at UML
Over the course of his six years at UMass Lowell, he has: twice been named Hockey East Coach of the Year, won the Penrose award for Division I coach of the year, finished with a winning percentage >.600 each of the last seven years, won the regular season Hockey East title two of the last five seasons, won the Hockey East conference tournament three of the last six seasons (while making the final five consecutive seasons), made the NCAA tournament five of the last six years, won at least one game in the NCAA tournament each of those five times, and made the Frozen Four in 2012-13.
Unfortunately for Michigan, given all that he has been through and that he is coaching at his alma mater, he may be happy at UML. Regardless, he should be first on the list. He might be the list. And he’s young, too. Give him what he wants.
[After THE JUMP: other current collegiate head coaches, guys with Michigan connections, and a couple wildcards]
Jim Montgomery, University of Denver
Montgomery has turned a pretty good Denver program into the top team in the nation this season despite having just six players on the roster drafted by the NHL. He has become one of the hotter coaching commodities in college hockey; the first paragraph of his bio on DU’s website says that he just signed a contract extension through 2020-21, which feels a little GET OFF MY LAWN. Looking through his accomplishments, you can understand why:
- Hired as DU’s head coach in 2013, his team won the NCHC conference tournament in 2014, made the Elite Eight in 2015, made the Frozen Four in 2016, and won the 2017 national championship
- His Denver squad finished at the top of the PairWise rankings and won the NCHC regular season title
- Was the head coach and general manager of the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints from 2010-13, during which time he won two Clark Cup championships
- In 2013, he guided his team to a regular season championship and was named the USHL’s general manager of the year
- Spent four years (2006-10) as an assistant at RPI
Though one can hope that it won’t be, Montgomery’s new contract could be a sticking point. He has four years left on a deal for which terms haven’t been disclosed but is rumored to be among the highest-paying in the NCHC. Michigan would be competing with NHL teams for his services as well; apparently Calgary offered him the head job last summer and the Florida Panthers want to interview him for their vacant head coaching position.
Nate Leaman, Providence
What Leaman has done at Providence is nothing short of remarkable. In 2011-12, he took over a program that had finished over .500 once in the previous seven seasons. Since then, he has:
- Finished five consecutive seasons with a >.500 overall and conference record
- Made four consecutive NCAA tournament appearances
- Won a national title in 2015
- Named the USCHO Coach of the Year in 2015
- Won the Hockey East coach of the year award in 2015-16
And that’s just at Providence. He was also the head coach at Union for eight years, culminating in a Spencer Penrose Award win for the top coach in DI hockey in 2011. All that, and he’s only 44 years old. Like Montgomery, he has a contract that runs through 2020-21 and has turned down NHL offers (though not NHL head coaching jobs) in the past. FWIW, he kind of looks like Mike Babcock. (That’s not worth anything. I’m sorry. It’s true, though.)
Rand Pecknold, Quinnipiac
Pecknold has been the coach at Quinnipiac since 1994. He’s led the transition from DII to DI, maneuvered several different conferences, and is finally a regular in the NCAA Tournament. He has not had a losing season at any level since the ’95-’96 campaign. His team has dropped off a little bit this season, though, and will not get an at-large bid. Some of his highlights include:
- Making the NCAA Tournament four of the last five seasons
- Making the NCAA title game in 2013 and 2016
- Won three different CoY awards in 2016
- Has a .600+ winning % over the last five seasons and .800+ in two of the last four
His downside is that he has almost been at Quinnipiac as long as Red has been at Michigan. So, would he even be interested in leaving? It’s definitely worth finding out. He’s also never been as successful as he’s been in the last half-decade. If there’s a time for him to push his ceiling, it’s now.
Keith Allain, Yale
Despite having a down season, Keith Allain has been tremendously successful at Yale. He’s in his 11th season with the Bulldogs and has built up quite a resume:
- Making the NCAA Tournament in six of his last nine seasons
- Winning the National Championship in 2013
- Owns a .570 career winning % at Yale
Despite making the NCAAs, he’s only won a game in two of his six seasons. He’s also 58. That’s not too old, but there are also a few younger options who have the prime of their careers ahead of them. We don’t think that Allain is a bad option, but he’s a bit farther down the list.
Scott Sandelin, University of Minnesota-Duluth
He does not have the gaudy winning percentage that some of the other candidates have, but he’s also been competing in the old WCHA and now the NCHC, both very tough conferences. Some of his highlights include:
- Was an assistant coach at North Dakota for six seasons (‘95-’00)
- Took UMD to the NCAA Tournament in six of the last nine seasons (including this season)
- Made the Frozen Four three times, the national title game this season, and won a National Championship (which you, uh, might remember quite vividly)
Sandelin, like Pecknold, has seemed to find his niche; he’s been in Duluth for 17 seasons. It could be tough to pry him away from a program that he, like Berenson, has mostly built and maintained himself. UMD is a perennial contender and coming off of one of their best seasons this year. Unfortunately, without much of a coaching tree from Red, Michigan is going to have to go pull a guy out of someplace else. Sandelin is not a bad option.
STRONG MICHIGAN CONNECTIONS
Madden played at Michigan from ’94-’97 under Red Berenson. After leaving Michigan, he played in the NHL for 10+ years with the Devils (where he won a Cup), Blackhawks, Wild, and Panthers. After retiring, he was an assistant coach with the Florida Panthers for three seasons before becoming the head coach with the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters. He is just finishing up his first season, sitting just above .500. It is probably a little too early to hand him the keys to the program, but he’s definitely a guy to keep your eye on.
Bill Muckalt, Tri-City Storm (USHL)
Muckalt could be an interesting guy. He’s a flier for sure, but definitely worth consideration. He also played under Red at Michigan from ’95-’98. His coaching record includes:
- Four years as an assistant at Michigan Tech from ’12-’15 under Mel Pearson, who recruited him
- Taking over for the USHL’s Tri-City Storm and leading the organization to its first Championship ever in ’15-‘16. The team won their division by four points despite losing 17 games in OT or a Shootout, which is about twice as many as the team with the second most extra time losses (nine). That seems rather unlucky. This season, the team has come back to earth, however, hovering just below .500
Apparently, he is also called “Full Throttle” because of his intensity and dedication to what he does. That seems…familiar.
“Nicknamed “Full Throttle” because he doesn’t do anything halfway; the past month Muckalt has had knee surgery, travelled to Sweden to meet Frolunda junior Linus Weissbach, held a week-long tryout in Las Vegas and is now on route to this weekend’s NHL draft.
Pearson speaks highly of his protégé, “he’s a rising star, true student of the game.”
-The Hockey News, June 26, 2016
Jeff Blashill, Detroit Red Wings
Blashill is currently employed by an NHL team. A local NHL team. You may have heard of the Detroit Red Wings? David was never a fan, but there are (and have been) rumors swirling about his impending release by the organization. However, a lot of Hockey Folk believe that the actual problem lies elsewhere, not with Mr Blashill. So…crazy? Sure! But…that’s why he is a ‘wildcard.’ Let’s look at some things:
- He has state of Michigan ties (from Detroit, then Sault Ste. Marie, played and started coaching at Ferris State)
- He continued under Enrico Blasi at Miami (NTM) for 6 seasons
- Won a USHL Championship in 2009 with the Indiana Ice
- Won an AHL Championship with the Grand Rapids Griffins in 2013
- Took Western Michigan to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 15 years in 2011 (also their best season in over a decade) in his only season in Kalamazoo
Let’s be real. He may not have an interest in coming back to college. He may not even have to leave Detroit (but probably). However, he’s still a very viable option. He’s been successful everywhere he’s gone (before the NHL), and he still very young (43). He might not be our top choice, but if he’s available and remotely interested, he’s definitely worth looking into. The point is that there are other guys, like Blashill, that could be decent options.
Ron Wilson, former NHL head coach; 2016 Team USA WJC head coach
Alright, let’s go super rogue! Here are his highlights:
- Coached 4 NHL franchises, leading 3 of them to the Playoffs, including Washington to the Cup Final in 1998
- He made the NHL Playoffs in 8 of his 17 seasons
- He coached the US and won the 1996 World Cup of Hockey
- He coached Team USA in the 1998 and 2010 Olympics, winning a silver medal in Vancouver
- He was also tabbed to lead the US in the 2016 World Junior Championship
Unfortunately, Ron Wilson had a stroke in December of 2016 and was unable to coach Team USA. So, this may not even be feasible. His name came up as a “you never know” and upon thinking about it further, he seemed like an intriguing option. If he is capable and interested, he certainly has the experience. The grind is also lighter than the NHL/professional schedule; he turns 62 very soon. Western Michigan had success bringing back Andy Murray, a candidate in a similar situation as Wilson. He is the perfect way to end this list of guys with which it would be intriguing to start a coaching search--a search that Michigan has not had to do in quite some time.
Michigan landed its second commitment in a four-day span with today's addition of three-star Atlanta (GA) Buford RB Christian Turner, who announced his commitment on Twitter. Turner visited Michigan last week between two trips to rival schools; the former had him leaning hard towards Notre Dame, while the latter, as is tradition, sealed the deal for Michigan:
Turner is the fifth commit in the 2018 class, joining IN OG Emil Ekiyor, MI DE Aidan Hutchinson, GA OLB Otis Reese, and GA DB Myles Sims. Yes, 60% of Michigan's class is comprised of Georgia recruits.
|3*, #72 RB||3*, #26 RB||
3*, #19 RB,
3*, 87, #29 RB,
4*, #30 RB,
Turner's early rankings peg him in the 20-30 range among 2018 RBs, with Scout as a low outlier. That's likely to change. According to The Mathlete's rank-by-offers method, Turner is the #10 RB and #161 overall prospect in the class. He's also coming off a strong performance in March's The Opening Atlanta regional that had Scout calling him one of the surprises of the camp.
At the Atlanta regional, Turner measured in at 5'11", 187 pounds. While not a huge back, he's got a solid build.
[Hit THE JUMP for scouting, video, class impact, and more.]
Scouting on Turner is mostly limited to one camp appearance, so let's take a look at his film first.
highly recommend the play at 4:08
Buford doesn't play the highest level of competition in Georgia, which is apparent on his film; his offensive line outclasses the opponents. With that out of the way, I really like what he shows here, especially for a back destined for a Harbaugh offense.
Turner runs behind his pads, generating good power, and possesses great balance. He keeps his legs moving through contact. He doesn't waste time finding the right hole and hitting it; his vision is a strength, and he gets a lot of big runs by seeing and executing the move he needs to make when he hits the second level. Notably, he does this behind both gap and zone blocking. While he doesn't quite have elite top-end speed, he's got good burst out of his cuts, and he goes North-South at the first opportunity. We don't get to see him as a blocker or receiver; as a runner, he's a very good prospect. I expect his rankings will be more in line with his offers before too long.
ESPN has an undated underclassman eval for Turner, and they don't find much to critique for a player they rank as a three-star:
STRENGTHS: Tall with great length. Has the long speed to take it the distance. Patient and savvy runner who consistently finds the open lanes. Slasher who explodes out of his cuts and is difficult to handle in space. Well-balanced runner who flashes the ability to break through tackles and push the pile. Possesses natural hands. ... AREAS OF IMPROVEMENT: Needs to add bulk and functional strength. Lacks experience as a blocker in pass protection. ... BOTTOM LINE: Turner has all the tools to be an every down running back at the next level. Once he adds some size, he should be able to handle the load for a Power 5 program. Overall, he's a very good prospect with upside.
That was all the scouting available on Turner until the end of March, when he had a standout showing at The Opening Atlanta regional. He was the third player listed on the top ten offensive performer list of Scout's Michael Clark:
Buford (Ga.) running back Christian Turner is not the biggest back, but he is a dynamic football player. The 5-10, 185-pound Turner showed tremendous quickness and impressive speed. He was also very instinctive and elusive, leaving many defenders grasping at air throughout the day.
In the list of top surprises from the event, Scout added one more detail:
He has added some good weight during the offseason and looked very strong.
247 left him out of their top five offensive players, but noted he's "an explosive prospect that caught the football well." While four-star AL RB Harold Joiner had more attention heading into the event, it was Turner who came away with an invite to The Opening finals.
Turner's offer sheet includes Louisville, Miami, Michigan State, Minnesota, Mizzou, Nebraska, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Tennessee, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, among others.
Buford is one of the stronger programs in Georgia's AAAAA classification, the third-largest in the state. The school has produced a number of Power 5 signees, mostly for SEC/ACC schools. They've mostly been in the three-star range; five prospects ranked four-stars or better have come out of Buford in the Rivals era (2002-present).
According to his 247 profile, Turner had 1100 yards and 18 touchdowns on 110 carries as a junior, and 82 carries for 789 yards and nine TDs as a sophomore.
FAKE 40 TIME
Turner only tested in the vertical leap at the Atlanta Opening regional; he recorded an impressive 37.7-inch jump.
Sophomore highlights and single-game reels can be found on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
I'm a fan of Turner's film, and his experience running both gap and zone plays in an up-tempo spread may be more of a benefit than you'd think in Harbaugh's offense now that Greg Frey is on the staff. As with every back who'll step foot on campus under Harbaugh, Turner will face plenty of competition. After a year or two of cooling his heels behind some combination of Karan Higdon, Chris Evans, Kareem Walker, O'Maury Samuels, and Kurt Taylor, Turner should work his way into the committee, and I wouldn't be surprised if he develops into a productive every-down back with all-conference capability.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
In a down year for RBs, Michigan could stand pat with adding Turner to their current stable of backs, though it'd never be too much of a surprise to see Harbaugh go after a second if there's a good fit.
This projects to be a smaller class than recent years, with the final number probably falling in the ~20 range. Positions of need include QB, WR, TE, OT, DT, CB, and S. With the Spring Game on Saturday, this is setting up to be a big visit weekend; top targets and Las Vegas Bishop Gorman teammates QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson and TE Brevin Jordan are expected to be among those on campus.
Welcome to random newsdump day! Harbaugh's press conference has two bits of information that are front-page worthy. Information #1:
Drake Johnson will not return to the Michigan football team, according to Harbaugh
— Orion Sang (@orion_sang) April 10, 2017
Johnson would have been a rotation piece in the backfield; they still have Evans, Higdon, Isaac, and Kareem Walker along with O'Maury Samuels arriving in the fall. On-field impact should be low. FWIW, this has been likely for a couple months now and Michigan recruited like it.
Before Drake Johnson fades into legend let us remember one of the greatest anecdotes of all time.
"I'm sitting in [Fred Jackson's] office, and there was a fridge right over there, and he's like, 'You hungry?'" Johnson said. "I'm like, 'No man, I'm not hungry.' So he's like, 'OK, I'm going to grab myself a Coke.' So he grabs himself a Coke and he sits down.
"He takes maybe two sips, and he's like, 'Hey Drake, you want something to drink?' And I'm like, 'No, I'm still good.' He's like, 'I think I'm going to get myself an orange juice.' I'm like, 'Dude, you have a Coke in front of you.' He says, 'It's fine.'
"So I'm sitting there, and maybe two minutes later, he's like, 'I think I'm going to get myself a drink,' and I'm like, 'Coach, you already got two drinks in front of you, man! Your thirst can be quenched by what's in front of you.'
"He says, 'I'm just going to grab myself some water. You want some water?' And I'm like, "Nooo, I have Gatorade in my hand, guy. It's fine.'"
Let him take up his place in the Jibreel Black wing of the Michigan Hall of Fame where we put all the folks who didn't have a huge on-field impact but were nonetheless delightful.
Jim Harbaugh says there has been some difficulty in Grant Newsome's recovery - thinks he will be back next year instead of this year
— Orion Sang (@orion_sang) April 10, 2017
Newsome's return was always 50/50 at best, and now it's probably 10/90. He does have a redshirt available, which he'll take, and hope to return as a redshirt junior next year. Michigan's looking at Cole, Bredeson, Juwann Bushell-Beatty, Nolan Ulizio, and incoming freshmen for their two tackle spots.
Redshirt sophomore forward DJ Wilson announced he will enter the NBA Draft without hiring an agent.
— D.J. Wilson (@Lanky_Smoove) April 10, 2017
Mere moments later, sophomore forward Moe Wagner did the same.
— Moe Wagner (@moritz_weasley) April 10, 2017
By not hiring agents, both players have left the window open for a return to Michigan. They can participate in the combine and work out for individual teams. The deadline to withdraw from the draft is May 24th. Wilson has been projected in the mid-to-late first round in some mocks; Wagner's projections have been mostly in the latter half draft. It's quite possible, as occurs quite often with the new rule, that one or both ends up returning.
Michigan currently has one open scholarship for the 2017-18 season; departures from Wagner and Wilson could bring that number to three. They are in continued pursuit of five-star C Mo Bamba, who'd be the ideal replacement but also has Duke, Kentucky, and Texas in hot pursuit. The coaches are also looking into grad transfer options; they're in contact with Wright State guard Mark Alstork, Howard guard James Daniel, and Pitt forward Cameron Johnson.