spoiler alert: i linked this
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This is spring ball. There are guys on the field who are never going to play, there are guys on the field who are going to play who not playing very well, and the coaches, whom I haven't spoken to, are not going to show the really juicy stuff in a public scrimmage. Therefore all of this is written in very light sand.
But I think…I think I saw a cool variation of a thing that's all over Don Brown's 2013 playbook, and if you'll bear with me and a lot of asterisks we might learn a thing about how Michigan's personnel fits the stuff we've been talking about in the Dude Glossary.
So late in the spring game the Blue team ran a backside power play and got stuffed. Some of that was good play by the defense, some of that bad play by the offense. But the play design itself appeared to illustrate an example of a "Bear"-like* defense they can get into any time they're in 3rd and short or near the goal line, and then change up at the line based on what the offense shows.
* [It's not a real Bear because the backside DE is not in a 3-tech. Speaking of the Bear, JeepinBen wrote a thing on Buddy Ryan's 46 Defense when it appeared in Hoke/Mattison's first year if you want a refresher on that)]
THE PERSONNEL: BUTKUS, TECHNICALLY
"Butkus" is the one I described where they trade some middle meat on the line for extra upfield rush. BC would usually use this formation for a 46 Bear defense. I mentioned at the time that Michigan's NTs work just fine as the gap-attacking meatheads the Bear likes, and here Maurice Hurst is indeed the tackle. The "Butkus"—a hybrid specialty position that's meant to be a DE/OLB (Jake Ryan-esque player), is Alex Kaminski, who is 5'10/215 (the standup guy hanging off the edge at the top of the line above).
As for the rest, the End (E) is Chase Winovich, the Will (W) is Mike McCray, the Mike (M) is walk-on Cheyenn Robertson, the free safety (F) is Dymonte, the Anchor (A) is walk-on Garret Miller, the Rover (R) is Tyree Kinnel, and the Sam (S) is Lawrence Marshall.
If you said "huh?" at the last bit, yeah Marshall is a defensive end. In this formation that's not so important since he, like the Butkus, is in there primarily to be an edge-rusher/-setter. Forget that "Sam" is a "linebacker" and instead think about Will Gholston lining up outside tight ends and getting unblocked sacks.
Also remember Peppers is going to be somewhere on that map this year, and it's my guess from the way Brown set this up that the somewhere will be Butkus, i.e. the place they've got Alex Kaminski.
Anyway if you're counting that's really four DL who are the same as the white team's base DL, three linebackers who were the base linebackers, and the same four defensive backs. In other words Brown didn't take his 4-3 personnel off the field. He did, however, put them in places that emphasized different skills. I bet that will be a regular feature of this year's defense.
[After the jump: how they attack (I think) and how it works (I'm pretty sure)]
THE PLAY: BEAR (WHAM) FALCON (kinda) (not exactly though)
click the others for big.
Above you see 10 different plays with the same name out of the 2013 BC playbook. They're really the same play, with a bunch of checks based on the offensive personnel and how they line up. The first one is the nearest version:
It's a cover zero with 6.5* blitzers. Let's go over all those terms.
BUTKUS BEAR WHAM FALCON—Butkus is the personnel. Bear is the alignment. WhaM means the Will and Mike are blitzers. Falcon is the coverage (cover zero).
RAM/LION—Right and left, i.e. which side are we calling the strong side? On a "RAM" call the anchor lines up on the right side, the tackle will go in the right A gap, and everybody else sets their assignments based on that. On a "LION" call the tackle goes to the left A gap.
LATCH—I am close to certain that this is the same thing as “peel” and refers to the DE/OLB on the edge being responsible for man-to-man coverage on an RB releasing to his side. They're blitzers, but they check the RB and if he's leaking out to the flat to their side these edge guys will "peel" after the RB and cover him man to man. I ran that by Ian Boyd and Steve Sharik and they agree.
"ME"—The MLB and the WLB will have a call to determine which one of them is going to be up on the line blitzing, and which is going to start in a normal linebacker position and then blitz. The MLB makes this call; if the MLB is up on the line he yells "Me!" at the WLB, and if the WLB is supposed to get up on the line the MLB yells "You!" at him.
Dotted lines—Man coverage. The rover (strong safety) takes the tight end.
Those FS instructions—The free safety takes one of the backs in man, either the fullback or whichever one is offset (for example if the RB motions out into the slot like M used to do with Vincent Smith in 2011 and now you're remembering UTL and me too good times).
* [There are seven guys blitzing, but the Sam or Butkus has the 5th eligible receiver, the RB, if he goes out (see LATCH above). That includes before the snap so, e.g., if the offense goes with an empty formation then the Sam or Butkus is in man on that guy and there's technically six blitzers.]
THE THING: THIS IS NOT THAT.
A short list of things that make this different than any of the Bear (Wham) Falcons you see from the 2013 playbook:
1. Winovich is outside the right tackle, and McCray is over the guard instead. I am guessing they did this because Winovich is listed at just five pounds more than McCray and when you see them both together you'd think McCray is more like 250 and Winovich is like 230. The current thinking around here is that Chase can gain 5-10 pounds by fall to be a plausible DE; asking him to play 3-tech right now however is just too much. So Brown’s concocted some weirdness to accomplish the deed.
2. The MLB and WLB are blitzing the same gap. This is indeed a changeup, possibly related to the size issue I just mentioned.
3. To make up for the lack of a player on the strongside C gap the defense has the Rover, Kinnel, right up on the line where the blitzing LB would typically be. Michigan is overloading the backside and having the safeties play the frontside super-aggressively, and slanting right to make up for it.
When you watch the play give a round to Dymonte Thomas at free safety as he tracks the fullback's Mike DeBord Memorial shuffle. On 2nd and goal from the four the defense is cheating to run.
They're gambling that Kinnel won't get mauled by that tight end (Jocz). Ultimately he won't. I really like Kinnel, and this is a tiny bit of possible evidence the coaches do too.
WHAT'S THE OFFENSE DOING: BACKSIDE POWER WITH A TWIST
Don’t hold me to the name. It’s a backside power play where the pulling guard and the fullback switch jobs, i.e. the puller has the kick-out (why I called it a trap) on the EMLOS. The fullback shuffles to the strongside before the snap to sell a frontside run, then acts as lead blocker.
HOW IT WORKS OUT:
It's going to be really hard to learn anything from backups and whatnot but this is Neck Sharpies so might as well watch the play.
We'll just run through the matchups that mattered:
1. Kaminski (Butkus) vs. Kareem Walker (RB): This goes as well as you might expect from the talent disparity. Kaminski is the free hitter here and doesn't have the athleticism to form up at the handoff then shoot out of that once he registers it. Walker cuts inside of Kaminski's tackle attempt, but is slowed up. I like Walker's vision to cut past Kaminski and Winovich and then try to get into the hole. If that's Peppers coming though…
2. Winovich (End) vs. Runyan (LG, pulling): This wasn't great from either of them I think. Winovich gets some credit for not losing a bad matchup, forming up and popping a 300-pound Runyan with a head of steam and getting enough that the pulling guard is now a big load of meat right in the way of the play.
If that's an MSU or Wisconsin guard (or—eek—Ohio State's All-American) I imagine that block knocks Winovich into Kaminski and it's a coast to the end zone with a lead blocker. Runyan's a redshirt freshman but he's over 300 pounds, so he comes off worse. Still, Winovich ends up getting outside Runyan and that's bad. You want to see the DE's helmet inside, spilling the RB to the unblocked Butkus. Instead there's a hole here that Kareem nearly takes.
3. McCray (WLB) vs. Magnuson (RT): Mags wins handily. McCray shuffled to get in his gap and didn't even see the OT until getting bashed into the endzone and past the hashmark. McCray did spin off that and try to work his way back but it could have been disaster. McCray's got to be more aggressive. Get into that gap and get upfield and this play is over. There were other good plays all game from him, but four yards from the end zone in the fourth quarter…right, yes, just Spring.
4. Kalis (RG) vs. Cheyenn Robertson (MLB): His name is Cheyenn, with no 'e' at the end of it. Kalis blocks him to Wyoming anyway. The end.
5. Hurst (T) vs. Kugler (C) and Henderson (FB): What were you expecting? Hurst bursts into his A gap, but when McCray is blown to bits Hurst works his way to the attack point, stiff-arming Kugler back a bit. This doesn't get Hurst to playside (not his gap anyway) but center in the backfield is usually a bad thing for an inside run. Henderson is now coming through the hole and helps keep Hurst sealed behind the wall of Kalis and Mags.
6. Miller (A) vs. Braden (T) and Kugler: We are into the backside B gap and Braden's job is really to just make sure the Anchor isn't shooting through it so fast it kills everything. He gets a shove on Miller and looks to the next guy, Kinnel, who's working down (I love Kinnel). Kugler lets Hurst loose to then deals with Miller, i.e. he sits on him. But this is happening so deep in the backfield that Miller gets his hat into the ballcarrier's feet. Thus stopped, Kareem is swarmed by first Winovich and Kaminski, and prevented from falling forward by McCray and Kinnel (<3) arriving.
SLOW-MO SET TO OBLIVION MUSIC
(The song is “American History XXX” and I actually contributed to some of the lyrics you can’t understand since Tres is yelling).
THINGS TO TAKE AWAY:
Nothing. It's a spring game.
THE POINT OF THIS WHOLE EXERCISE:
Don Brown can do a lot more within the basic structure of his defense than what we've managed to pull so far, but it does seem that structure is the same. This was an interesting take on the Bear defense, which has historically been murder on two-back offenses. We're a long way from the Ohio State game, and Ohio State's had Bears thrown its way before*.
But I do think we're seeing the first signs of what Brown intends to do with the wealth of multi-talented players that will be available to him this year. Here he gave Kinnel a hard assignment, got the offense to feint as if it was going to attack that spot, and then won a TFL despite both interior LBs getting blown out of the hole. One play's not nearly enough to tell anything about these players, but this one play says a lot about Brown's ability to tap all sorts of abilities in his personnel inside a rather simple scheme. I think. It's spring.
* [Va Tech beat them with it, then got creamed the next time they tried it]
|Mckeesport, PA – 5'11", 205|
|Scout||4*, #273 overall
|Rivals||3*, NR overall
#26 S, #10 PA
|ESPN||3*, NR overall,
#40 S, #13 PA
|24/7||4*, #313 overall
#15 S, #11 PA
|Other Suitors||PSU, Pitt, UCLA, VT, BC, MSU, Neb|
|YMRMFSPA||Mortal Jabrill Peppers|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from me.|
|Notes||Twitter. Pronounced "Khaleek".|
Ace put together a Semper Fi highlight reel:
Safeties go first in this series and Khaleke Hudson just committed January 27th, so this isn't going to be much different than Hudson's Hello post. I even authored that one since Ace was getting buried, so there won't even be a slight variation on takes here. The song is the same.
However, since Khaleke Hudson's song is hyperviolence it's worth revisiting. If you've followed this blog, like, at all over the past few months you're aware that we are slightly more enthused about Hudson than we are about Rashan Gary. Hudson is a short-area burst player with terrific balance, evil intent, missile-like attributes, and the smarts to be in the right place to make good on the former qualities. I've found no better description than this from opposing coach John Ruane:
"He is the best combination of strength, speed and burst I've seen in a long time," said Ruane. "Every tackle, run and block is violent with him. He will be playing on Sundays someday. And I'm happy he's graduating."
(Ruane offered that quote to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette when Hudson won their player of the year award—Steve Breaston is a previous recipient.) Local scout Joe Butler comes in second:
“He's a vicious hitter, a knockdown hitter,” Metro Index scouting director Joe Butler said. “He can play right away. He's ready. He's got everything going for him, all the physical tools and ball skills to make plays.”
At Mckeesport Hudson did everything possible for a player his size, playing RB, H-back, S, LB, KR, PR, a little WR, and even occasionally flicking passes on trick plays. His highlight film above is his collected effort in all of those departments plus his blocking, which appears to be a never-ending series of rim-rattling dunks on people. Highlight films can lie, but once they hit a tightly-edited 15 minutes they are far less likely to. And on top of that we saw him in the Semper Fi game, where he collected seven tackles, two forced fumbles, and four PBUs in about half a game after ripping up practice on both sides of the ball. Hudson is a FOOTBALL (period) PLAYER (period), as they say. Also he does rad tricks.
— Khaleke Hudson2⃣1⃣ (@NeverDone_21) May 25, 2015
Hudson got my attention when I turned on the Semper Fi game, but if I'd been paying attention in the run-up to it I would have noticed that he was getting an inordinate amount of praise from the people covering it. 247 has a thing where they pick five guys on each side of the ball on each day of an all-star game's practice; on day two Hudson featured on both lists. On defense he looked "very fluid in coverage"; on offense his performance at running back was dubbed "special" by the coaches. Meanwhile he was the top guy on defense on D on day one and oh hey look Peppers resemblance:
With his compact physique, Hudson looks like the hybrid linebacker/strong safeties that are starting to become very popular as teams move to more sub-package schemes to combat spread attacks.
247 was not alone, as Scout dubbed him the best safety and the best running back at the game:
Khaleke Hudson was the best overall player on the East squad. He was the best safety, and also the best running back.
…as a running back he had a knack for finding the holes with fantastic vision, then using his explosive burst to get through it in a hurry. He had a comfort to him at running back and could feel his way in and out of spots and holes.
Hudson is a tough, physical safety who hits hard. … He's also a plus athlete who runs well and looks very comfortable playing in space.
Scout also brought the Peppers resemblance to the table…
…a tough, physical safety who loves to hit. At 6-1, 200 pounds, Hudson has a strong, powerful build and is a prototype downhill safety who can fly off the hash in run support.
Hudson football played his way to nearly 3000 football rushing yards and 50 football touchdowns at 10 yards a pop over the last two years of his high school career while playing full-time on defense, where he is likely better. If this reminds you of a certain someone, well, yeah. Hudson:
"I know Michigan has said that I could play both sides. They actually think I could be very similar to Jabrill Peppers."
There is a 5'8" safety who runs a 4.9 in Kansas somewhere who was told the same thing by Michigan, but with Hudson it's easy to believe they mean it.
So why did it take that breakout Semper Fi performance to get on the radar with recruiting sites? I don't know. His junior tape is another impressive 15 minutes; Mckeesport is a big school just outside of Pittsburgh and so should have a solid competition level. But for whatever reason nobody was particularly taken with Hudson until very late. Penn State infamously turned down at least one commitment from him and possibly up to three. (This site projects that PSU fans will feel exactly the same way about Hudson as Michigan fans feel about Anthony Zettel, down to the fact that it's a bad memory about a previous coach.)
Michigan didn't even offer until November, although that was because DJ Durkin was skeptical:
A couple of Michigan's staff members were in love with Hudson's junior film and were trying to get Hudson an offer earlier in the process. … as Hudson's senior film started to surface in October, those assistants were able to finally convince D.J. Durkin to sign off on a scholarship offer.
Don Brown, on the other hand, had BC throw its hat in the ring long before that.
Rivals moved to a new system that seems to have dropped various posts, but it looks like the only scouting material they had on him was from a camp just before his junior year, when Josh Helmholdt noted he "was one of the most physically impressive" DBs at a 7-on-7 camp and that his break on the football was "definitely sufficient" but could improve. From there it's radio silence until Tim Sullivan interviewed Rivals's Mid-Atlantic guy about Hudson, he said all the best things…
“The way he moves on the field is so impressive. … His athleticism is fantastic, he’s a great form tackler, but he also has really good speed, he’s just a violent player. …
“His explosiveness if going to help him blitz. His strength will help him fend off would-be blockers. In coverage, he’s going to be able to keep up with guys. Being that nickel safety, he’s not going to have to guard the biggest players, especially against running backs and underneath routes, he’s ideally suited to cover. He can give big hits coming across the middle.”
…and then justified Rivals's generic three-star ranking by citing his lack of height, which was "not major Division I material." I dunno, man. Everyone has him at 5'11", and even if that's slightly generous I'd bet he's more or less exactly the same size as Peppers. And the dude just noted that his college position is not one that will emphasize height. So that's fine. As far as reasons to downplay a recruit go, I like ones that make no sense.
In a similar vein, I mentioned in the Metellus post that ESPN's take on Hudson would engender some discussion of the particular merits of their system, because the scouting report is rapture…
…reads the play quickly and has an excellent burst to get to the spot. Very good at reading and reacting. …has the speed and quicks to cover man, especially TEs or RBs. He is very good at his zone cover responsibilities. He opens to the ball, reads into the QB and has a rapid break to the football in flight. … very quick out of his stance/pedal and flies all over the secondary and into the line of scrimmage with speed and positioning. Aggressive and physical, he is a solid tackler.
…and the ranking is that of a guy who got left behind. This was even more acute in the immediate aftermath of his commit, when Hudson was the #86(!) safety. (Somebody got in a quick re-rank just before Signing Day.) Evaluations that seem to have little relation to the ensuing rankings are not uncommon at ESPN, as it seems like they tend to fire and forget.
On the one hand, they're open-minded enough to look at Metellus seriously. On the other, sometimes Khaleke Hudson ends up ranked below guys going to Louisiana-Lafayette. I like the fact that they're very different from other rating services but you have to take the good with the bad—ESPN is mostly focused on the kind of kids who will make televised announcements and the fidelity of their rankings drops off considerably once you get past ESPN300 types. On the other hand, they tell you why they like or don't like any particular player.
What is not in doubt is that Hudson is an archetypical Harbaugh guy. A multiple-position star who is seemingly designed by man and God to punish people is exactly the kind of player Harbaugh would carve from stone if that was required of him. (Meanwhile, Hugh Freeze sits next to an untouched rock complaining that he is a father.) Lorenz:
There is a certain style of player that fits the mold you think of when you think about the type of player Jim Harbaugh wants to recruit at Michigan; Hudson to us is one of those guys in this class for them.
Brown's arrival complicates our projections for Hudson slightly since his main comparison point, Peppers, is now playing a lot of linebacker and some other stuff. How that plays out during the season is still unknown—the guess here is that it's not too different from his 2015 nickel role. If so, then Hudson slides in neatly there. He will also likely get a hard look at the more conventional safety spots. He is a more natural fit as a hybrid space player, no matter what positional label you want to slap on him.
And then there's the other side of the ball. While it's a stone-cold guarantee Jim Harbaugh flips Hudson to offense in spring practice at some point during his career, the state of the roster should mean he ends up a defensive player. Michigan has plenty of tailbacks and a worrying dearth of safeties in 2017. If Michigan moves a couple wide receivers and they catch on and everyone's really excited about them then maybe it could happen. More likely is that starting safety Hudson is a candidate to get a few offensive touches a game, a la Peppers.
I might not be averse to that. Hudson's running back film above is terrific. He's got a lot of Mike Hart in him: great balance, ability to make the Madden back juke, pile-pushing power. Consistent praise for his skills…
Excellent balance when running the ball . . . Runs behind his pads . . . Good speed . . . Quick feet . . . Good lateral quickness . . . Accelerates quickly out of cuts . . . Willing and capable blocker
…and his ability to play both the A-back and B-back in Mckeesport's flexbone (along with various defensive positions) suggest he'd be able to hack it in college even if it's not a full-time thing.
Etc.: Jourdan Lewis is impressed. Committed on the same day Denard Robinson Cook was born NO PRESSURE.
Why Mortal Jabrill Peppers? I mean, he's not Peppers. But other than not being Peppers, he's basically Peppers.
If forced to pick someone other than Peppers I'd go with former Iowa safety Bob Sanders, who carved out a near-decade in the NFL despite being 5'8" because he was the deadliest oompa-loompa.
Guru Reliability: Moderate. Healthy, but a big split. Couple of sites paid close attention to Semper Fi and bumped him. Rivals's reasoning for not doing so doesn't make sense; ESPN's ranking doesn't match their scouting.
Variance: Low. At a solid 205 already, Hudson is more or less college-sized for a HSP. He appears to be able to play a ton of positions at the same time, so he's got a high football IQ. And he is very underrated.
Ceiling: High. I mean, he's not Peppers because he can't go play boundary corner like it's nothing, but I don't see why he can't just-about-replicate Peppers as a nickel, and that's a damn good player.
General Excitement Level: Irrational. I see no way Hudson isn't a major contributor. He would have been the sleeper of the year if Scout and 247 hadn't given him four stars. It's better this way since Hudson is so obvious I wouldn't be telling you much.
Projection: He'll play this year. Michigan is probably losing their entire secondary and must blood the new generation. In addition, Hudson is obviously going to play a ton of special teams since squat missiles with nothing but nuclear destruction on their minds are useful there. He should start spotting Peppers after a few games and give him a regular rest by midseason.
If Peppers leaves for the NFL, which I think most people expect, Hudson should to slot into the hybrid space player role more or less seamlessly.
Will he play offense? Probably not for a bit. Michigan has a lot of options at tailback now. Safety and HSP are much thinner. Hudson looks like a terrific back but probably isn't the kind of athlete who will demand that you play him both ways. Maybe if he hits the top end of his potential you talk about it when he's an upperclassman.
Michigan Leads For Slaton
Five-star FL OT Tedarrell Slaton has, at previous points in his recruitment, named Michigan his leader before walking back that stance. 247's Ryan Bartow has been going around Florida getting updates on seemingly every recruit in the state; when he hit American Heritage, Slaton once again said the Wolverines are out in front:
Slaton tells Bartow that Michigan "still has the edge" for his services. This is the third time Slaton has publicly placed Michigan ahead of the competition in his recruitment. Per Bartow:
The nation’s No. 7 offensive tackle, Tedarrell Slaton, said Michigan has the edge. Slaton also said Tennessee and Miami are programs he feels are recruiting him consistently.
In an interesting twist, Slaton added that he prefers to play defensive tackle. Oddly, there aren't full-season highlights of Slaton anywhere on his Hudl page or YouTube, and the single-game reels only feature scattered snaps at DT. His positional preference may not matter much anyway; Michigan would certainly take him and worry about the rest later.
Bartow also caught up with Flanagan five-star CB Stanford Samuels, who went further in depth on the top four—consisting of Alabama, Florida State, Georgia, and Michigan—he released over the weekend:
Michigan: “I like all the NFL guys they have on staff. All the guys on that coaching staff have been there and done that. When you have that experience it makes it hard for you not to get the right coaching.”
While Samuels has Michigan connections through his former coach, Devin Bush, and the three Flanagan teammates who will be freshmen this year, it's hard to see him ending up in Ann Arbor. He plans to make a summer decision and enroll early; unless he makes it to campus before then, FSU looks like the choice.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
Rivals Vs. Everybody, Singleton Edition
Drew Singleton and some other guy from his high school. [Isaiah Hole/247]
If you've followed along with the roundups here recently, you've probably noticed that Rivals has departed from the conventional wisdom regarding some big-name Michigan targets with, at best, mixed results. For example, mods on the Fort insisted the Wolverines was a top option for 2016 five-star Caleb Kelly well after Michigan had stopped recruiting him (he committed to Oklahoma), and Rivals pushed Clemson as a "true true threat" to land Rashan Gary—you know how that one turned out.
Here we are again. Four-star Paramus Catholic LB Drew Singleton visited Ann Arbor for the Spring Game, did an extensive in-studio interview with Sam Webb on WTKA—usually an excellent sign a player will end up at Michigan—and his father had previously told Webb that the presence of Chris Partridge is of "HUGE, huge significance" in Singleton's recruitment. After Singleton's most recent visit, Steve Lorenz didn't mince words regarding M's outlook:
Michigan remains heavily in front for Top100 linebacker Drew Singleton (Paramus, NJ/Catholic). The Crystal Ball in that situation isn't going anywhere.
After Singleton's Clemson visit, however, Tim Sullivan had a different take on the Fort:
I see Clemson as a safe leader over Michigan right now - though close enough that it's far from a done deal - and those two as the only serious contenders.
"Safe leader" flies in the face of the rest of the info we have on Singleton unless Clemson completely blew him away on his visit, and while Singleton had high praise for the trip when talking to Rivals' Clemson outlet, it doesn't sound like it separated them from Michigan:
“The Michigan trip went real well, too,” he said. “It was a great experience, just like Clemson was.”
Singleton's recruitment won't wrap up any time soon, and Clemson is clearly Michigan's primary competition—it might be a while before we get an idea of whose intel is best.
Looking Good For Malone-Hatcher
Michigan has long been the favorite for four-star DE Corey Malone-Hatcher, who missed the Spring Game due to illness but made it to campus the following day. With a summer decision planned before an early enrollment, Hatcher's father told Sam Webb that M remains in great shape:
"They're still definitely up there as one of his favorites,” said Mr. Malone. “He's always had great experiences with Michigan, he loves Harbaugh, loves Coach Mattison, loves Coach Mattison's wife, and it has always been a real loving experience there. He's always said he could see himself playing there, so Michigan is definitely in good position. We just keep working through everything. I don't see them sliding down or falling anywhere."
Malone-Hatcher will take a handful of visits before his decision; it would be a surprise if he ended up elsewhere.
M Offers Fast-Rising In-State Junior
Michigan offered four-star 2018 Muskegon OT Antwan Reed yesterday afternoon, per Lorenz. Reed is one of the more intriguing prospects in the state. He's young for his grade, didn't start playing high school football until his sophomore year, and he already stands at 6'7", 285 pounds. Arkansas, Michigan State, Penn State, Tennessee, and Virginia Tech have also put forth early offers.
Michigan will host four-star OH TE Matt Dotson this weekend, per Lorenz. Ohio State and Tennessee split his Crystal Ball choices down the middle, but Lorenz expects Michigan to make a big push—he's near the top of the board in a class thin on tight ends.
Four-star CA DE Hunter Echols, a UCLA commit, told Lorenz that Michigan will receive one of his official visits. He added that it would "take something big" for him to decommit from UCLA.
Michigan is running second behind Florida for three-star Cass Tech OG Jordan Reid. If he sticks to his commitment timeline of "soon," it's unclear if M is even an option; the Wolverines are at or near the top for multiple higher-ranked interior line prospects.
[This is a series reviewing last year's primary contributors]
It’s worth remembering that Zak Irvin entered the season at less than 100% after losing months of practice and workout time to a back injury. He struggled to return to form early in the season, shooting an abysmal percentage from three – no doubt due at least partially to the lingering effects of the injury. Then, just like last year, he was thrust into a prominent offensive role due to injury and had to stay on the court for nearly entire games in conference play (only Yogi Ferrell played more minutes in B1G games in each of the last two years). After LeVert’s injury, Irvin was forced into much tougher shots, much more offensive responsibility, and a critical leadership role with both seniors injured.
While there were some notable highs – Zak was the best player on the floor in wins against Purdue and Maryland, and he hit a couple huge late-game shots like the one gif’d above – there were struggles as well. Because of his low shooting percentages (over three-quarters of his shots were jump shots, which had an incredibly low eFG% of 41.9%), his efficiency numbers were dragged down, and were the worst on the team:
But, as the chart shows, Zak used more possessions in sum than any other Wolverine. While his usage rate itself wasn’t abnormally high, the sheer amount of minutes he played drives his total contributions close to what you would expect from your lead guy – or at the very least, to within the range of the most critical of your offensive pieces. As you can see, Irvin is near the bottom of the pack efficiency-wise of those types of players.
[After the JUMP, how Zak handled the alpha role]
Michigan clearly wasn’t ready to thrust him into a lead role (because they had an All-American potential player in LeVert), and there’s no doubt that both his recent injuries and heavy workload (especially on defense, where he was physically battling with bigger players) affected his level of efficiency. The types of players he was on the floor with were very rarely shot creators: Derrick Walton’s assist rate of 24.4 is the only one higher than Irvin’s 18.0 in the main rotation,* and players like Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Duncan Robinson, and Aubrey Dawkins contributed very little in terms of creating good looks for Zak.
When Michigan ran lackadaisical offense and was leveraged into late-clock pick-and-rolls or isos, Irvin was often the one with the ball in his hands in difficult situations. With Walton’s frustrating inability to convert opportunities inside the arc, it was Michigan’s best option. While others on the roster are seemingly hesitant to seize open looks, Irvin (who, deep down, is a guy who loves to hoist shots) became the de facto alpha dog down the stretch in Michigan’s improbable postseason. With Irvin shooting jumpers as inefficiently as he did, it was far from an ideal arrangement, but Beilein’s injury-depleted rotation had to make it work. It sorta did.
*LeVert’s was 32.9 before he went down with his foot injury, which would have been in the Top 50 nationally. His last game was a points-assists double-double. Oh, what could have been…
Irvin’s missed offseason is surely a factor in him being pretty much the same player as he was a year before, save for his worse 3-point shooting (35.1% in 2015, 29.8% in 2016) and far better assist rate (10.4 improving to 18.0). The development in his playmaking – from a black hole as a freshman to a solidly above-average passing wing – has been very encouraging; the steady decline in his 3-point % has been equally discouraging. Save for those two factors, his statistical profile was pretty close to identical.
And his shooting splits this past year were quite poor. His hot-shooting freshman year feels like a distant memory – his injury and his unorthodox form are partially to blame and the quality of looks has definitely gone down, but ultimately this is just not ideal for an offense’s go-to option:
His early-season 3-point % was so bad that it had to be due to the injury, and after LeVert got hurt, Zak was forced into far more mid-range shots off the dribble than he should have been taking. It was slightly disappointing to see his percentage at the rim drop in Big Ten play (no doubt due to the far better rim protection than most of Michigan’s non-conference opponents), but he just wasn’t getting there enough at any point this season: he took 397 jump shots and 90 shots at the rim. How much of that was due to a lack of conditioning entering the season is anyone’s guess, but he has a slow, long first step and just isn’t the type of player who can get a ton of looks at the rim. Even though he was often guarded by more traditional power forwards, Irvin was frequently taking shots from outside or trying to pass the ball when he got too deep into the paint.
Weirdly, his shooting was extremely one-sided:
Right-handed players usually shoot better from the left side of the court, but this disparity is extreme. The breakdown of shots by side is pretty even and suggests that perhaps Irvin should have spent more time as the “three” in the Michigan offense – starting on that left side of the floor – than he did. That he made only 1 of 16 right corner threes is baffling, frankly.
* * *
With the new 2016 player data in my similarity score database, there are over 1,000 potential comparisons for a given player. Let’s check out Irvin’s:
Not a great list. Tre Demps was a combo guard with the reputation of a chucker for Northwestern during his career in Evanston, and he was often the man with the ball in his hands for (typically unsuccessful) late-clock situations. William Buford was a disappointing senior swingman on a very good OSU team; Durrell Summers was a disappointing senior swingman on an equally disappointing MSU team. Then there’s Tim Hardaway, who was drafted in the first round after that successful junior season – and the difference in their offensive ratings is directly correlated to their difference in three-point %.
Zak needs to shoot better from three next season. Hardaway is a promising comparison as he was a secondary scorer on an elite team, but Irvin would need to make enough jumpers to drive up his efficiency considerably.
* * *
Life with Irvin as Michigan’s 1A or 1B option (depending on who you think is more crucial between he and Derrick Walton) hasn’t been as bad as the above numbers would suggest. He averaged 14.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game in Michigan’s five better-than-expected-on-the-whole postseason games. At his best, he can be the difference in dragging a worse team over an upset over a bigger and stronger opponent:
Despite these wins over two enormous teams, Michigan can still struggle with size – look no further than the State game – but it’s fascinating that they were able to get their two biggest wins against Maryland and Purdue, teams that should theoretically punish Michigan inside for 40 minutes with ease. The wins came in different ways, but the MVP for Michigan was the same in both games: Zak Irvin.
And, really, it’s Irvin’s potential at the four that does so much for Michigan: against Maryland, he forced them to go away from their best lineup and avoid playing their three most effective players at the same time; against Purdue, Matt Painter decided to stick with Swanigan on Irvin and paid for it dearly as Irvin decisively won that matchup. As a guy who can play the two, run the pick-and-roll very patiently, and shoot well enough [ED: later proven to be untrue] – over 40% in Big Ten play – Irvin is a matchup nightmare at the four; because of his improvements on the defensive end, he’s game enough to handle bigger players and make them work for their buckets.
This recap hadn’t even mentioned Irvin’s defense, which has undeniably improved since his freshman year. While I’m reluctant to give much defensive praise to anyone on the roster because of how bad they were collectively, I don’t think that Zak was among the most responsible for Michigan’s struggles on that end. And I don’t think that Michigan is hampered much by playing him at the four on defense for significant minutes – very rarely would you want to give a college power forward around a dozen post-ups per game in today’s day in age and more and more teams are moving away from a post-up-heavy offense anyways. When guarding other wings, Zak often seemed a step slow, but wasn’t as bad as the other wings. His rebounding on the defensive end of the floor is much better than he’s commonly given credit for.
It will be interesting to see if he looks like a completely different player next year. Instead of spending an offseason getting stronger and more athletic, he was sidelined, and as a result, his progression plateaued. You evidently can be an NCAA Tournament-level team with Irvin as your top option, but the ceiling didn’t seem to be that much higher. With Irvin (and Walton) slated to lead the team again in their final go-round as seniors, I really wouldn’t be surprised to see Zak look quicker. The biggest question is his three-point shooting: if he can get up a ton of jumpers this summer and correct his form to the point where he’s shooting even a middling percentage, he’d be a strong candidate for a breakout season as a senior.
time to make another huge Swedish flag
Michigan is now waiting on JT Compher's decision, which he says he'll make after the World Championships—USA Hockey took CCM lock stock and barrel. I'm guessing he joins his linemates in the NHL. Either way the spate of departures has answered questions about which recruits will actually be on next year's roster: all of 'em.
Bork 2.0. Michigan in fact just added draft-eligible, Paris-born Swede Gustaf Westlund:
Winning a prep 'ship, Westlund (MI) was a consistent offensive look, using speed/creativity. Screams a high ceiling w/ the puck in open ice.
— Over The Boards (@OverTheBoards) April 12, 2016
[UPDATE: Westlund's father emailed to say that Westlund is a 2017 recruit.]
The late-rising Westlund was stuck playing low-level midget for longer than a draftable prospect generally does, so he was one of the few kids who end up taking their recruitment this late. He broke out in December, in fact:
The Gunnery #23 - 5'11" 160 - LC - 12/12/97
After playing Tier II Midget during the fall season, the Swedish native made his first real impression on the myriad of NHL scouts and college coaches in attendance for Monday's Berkshire Jamboree. Playing center, he showed off his wheels. He's a tremendous skater who has a good first step and can really move around the sheet. It will be interesting to see how he continues to adjust to the style of play over here, but he's an athletic, raw talent that should be watched closely. A few NHL scouts were very high on him after seeing yesterday's games against Kent and Northwood.
Like Andrew Copp, Westlund is under the radar because of his participation in another sport. In his case it's soccer. Copp turned out to be underrated. Hopefuly Westlund is as well, but probably not this underrated:
It’s absurd to compare anyone to Buffalo Sabres star Jack Eichel, but there are similarities in his skill set to that of the former BU Terrier. Westlund is a very good skater. He has a long, smooth stride that appears effortless. He can really get going quickly and seems to have that extra gear.
He has a long reach for a player that isn’t very tall. He does a good job pulling the puck back before quickly releasing a hard wrist shot on net.
Westlund is ranked #116 by the CSB and should be a mid-round pick. That is an excellent late addition, and one that Michigan needs. If JT Compher does sign Michigan will have lost five forwards; Westlund helps stanch that cut. Heisenberg shows Michigan with a couple of forwards beyond the NTDP guys but they seem like fourth-liners. Michigan will have a ton of defensemen next year even without Werenski and Downing, so a more or less permanent move forward is likely for someone. Cutler Martin moved up for a few games last year.
Meanwhile, the final CSB rankings came out. Michigan recruits on the list all fell significantly:
- #70 Griffin Luce (down from 54)
- #108 Will Lockwood (down from 69)
- #112 Nick Pastujov (down from 100)
- #117 Ken Johnson (down from 97)
- #146 James Sanchez (down from 135)
D Luke Martin is 2017 eligible and supposedly a first-round pick; Johnson may or may not arrive this fall. Other than him it's a bunch of guys like Marody or Kile: mid-rounders who might become nice players but are not going to replace Kyle Connor's production immediately. That Lockwood drop is a surprise since Kyle Woodlief recently named him a late riser.
The distant future, the birth year 2000. F Blade Jenkins and D Mattias Samuelsson made the NTDP. While that's an unusually low number for Michigan, three guys in the 2018 class—G Dylan St. Cyr, D Quinn Hughes, and F Joshua Norris—were already with the NTDP this year. (Although that may change. I'm going by the Chris Heisenberg list and he has just two skaters in the 2017 class. Kile, Shuart, De Jong, Allen, and Lohan will all depart next year. Very possible a couple guys are either misclassified or get bumped up.)
Jenkins was a shock selection in the OHL draft, going fourth overall to Saginaw. Usually that means that the player in question has an under-the-table deal already, but in the aftermath Todd Jenkins, the father, confirmed that Blade would play for the NTDP. Saginaw's GM was like "whatevs, man":
"Is it going to be easy to get them here?" Drinkill said. "No, it's not."
Saginaw is not a team that's particularly good at turning guys—Brandon Saad's college commitment was widely regarded as fictional long before he defected. But there will (probably) be a new coach so there's the potential for some wobble. FWIW, Jenkins's dad played at Maine.
Drinkill did give us a scouting report:
"Blade is the best player in the draft, and that's the consensus of the hockey world," Drinkill said. "He's got elite skills, but he's also the player who wants to be on the ice at all times. He will do anything to play."
Michigan hasn't had to worry about the OHL coming after commits for a half a decade; here's hoping Jenkins doesn't break the mold.
A note if you think you may have already read this post. You did. Your brain shut down because of the following section and won't let you remember it out of self defense. You should probably go read the Economist or something and come back later this afternoon.
what does any of this even mean [Bryan Fuller]
The nonsense doesn't stop. Ace covered much of this yesterday but since it just keeps coming, let's talk about satellite camps some more. Dennis Dodd wrote an article that was so nonsensical he took his twitter account private. In it he decries the hypocrisy of… I have no idea?
It's the reaction to closing that little loophole that smacks of hypocrisy. With satellite camps shutting down, the conversation suddenly became about depriving poor kids of opportunities.
This is in contrast to the conversation being about Harbaugh, I guess. This is because before Harbaugh was doing things, and now the NCAA is doing things. Thus the conversation shifts.
Proponents argued satellite camps provided “exposure.” I'm sorry, did that Internet that Harbaugh so expertly hijacked suddenly go down? Phone service, too?
This segues into a discussion of this new "Hudl" thing Dennis Dodd just discovered, which is so detailed that it even has… phone numbers. Therefore because Hudl there is no reason to have a camp. I'm not fisking this. This is not a fisk. I'm not
Here's the further hypocrisy: If satellite camps are truly about opportunities for recruits, it's about time to double down on that assertion.
Um, okay, and how would you do th
How about providing those same opportunities on the back end? Let college players participate in the NFL Combine without penalty. If they don't like their performance or draft projection, allow them to return to college and retain their eligibility.
AAAAAARGH WHAT DOES THAT HAVE TO DO WITH ANYTHING
THIS IS NOT A FISK
That jarring nonsequitur probably shut down many readers' brains and… just a second. Okay, I've prevented an infinite loop with the section at the top of this post. Anyway, in response to a satellite camp ban affecting high schoolers, Dennis Dodd suggests that the NCAA should loosen its rules for an entirely different cohort of people. He talks about the "hypocrisy" of people who don't like the ban without even gesturing towards a way in which their words and actions might conflict, and finally:
The whole satellite camp episode was a lot more about closing off Harbaugh than opening opportunities for all those deprived prospects.
This is 100% wrong. The clumsy total ban of satellite camps does significantly impact staffs and players around the country, leading to more unfortunate situations where a kid gets midway through his career only to discover that he's in the wrong place.
Gah. I'm going to do something more productive and argue with my plants.
Harbaugh don't stop can't stop. Dude is giving the commencement speech at Paramus. All I got for Michigan's commencement was some poet laureate.
There is a petition. While online petitions are of questionable efficacy, a big number on this one in what is essentially a PR battle might help something. Also it was started by Donovan Peoples-Jones's mother, which is interesting. We've heard a lot from current college athletes upset about the ban, but not so much from recruits. Even if this is indirect evidence it is evidence.
Mike Leach has no time for lyin'. Mike Leach is a gentleman and a pirate.
“The voting process, that’s a rabbled-up mystery too,” Leach said. “From what I understand, this is befuddling, and I do plan to find out because our conference voted to eliminate satellite camps, and yet the vast majority of schools in our conference were in favor of satellite camps.
“I can’t fathom how it’s possible we voted to eliminate it. I don’t know the details. Whether it’s smart, dumb or in the middle, it’s wrong. It’s wrong. If you’re some kid in south central LA who’s really worked hard at football and worked really hard for your grades, now all of a sudden you don’t have the opportunity to see as many schools as you would otherwise. That’s crazy.”
Leach said the vote will “further oppress low-income families.”
To be fair, the rule change was two sentences long. Hugh Freeze, he of the "you can't work because I don't want to work" quote, is also surprised about how words work in an Andy Staples article:
Monday morning, Freeze’s phone rang. On the other end was a coach wondering if he was no longer allowed to work the Ole Miss camp. The coach worked at an FBS school, and Freeze realized that coach would be banned by a rule passed Friday. … Freeze realized quickly that the ban had a serious consequence he hadn’t considered. In keeping Michigan coaches from working camps at high schools in Alabama, Florida and Georgia and Oklahoma State coaches from working camps at a Division III school in Texas, the schools also had banned Bowling Green coaches from working Ohio State’s camp and Arkansas State coaches from working the Ole Miss camp.
Freeze is clarifying his position into something even more selfish: you can work as long as you aren't competing with me.
“I would love to continue that,” Freeze said Monday. “I just don’t want satellite camps for the Power Five. I am for non-Power Five schools being able to attend and evaluate.”
This is so dumb it reminds me of the way college hockey works. We have a rule that 1) all athletes hate, 2) most of the Pac-12 hates despite the fact that they voted for this, 3) even people in support of it don't understand, and 4) turned the Sun Belt Commissioner into Perd Hapley. Staples again:
I’ve told you for a year that the satellite camp argument was one of the stupidest in the long and storied history of stupid NCAA rule arguments. It came to the stupidest logical conclusion Friday when a vote that should have been 11–4—because each Power Five conference vote counts double—against the ban came out 10–5 in favor of the ban.
Hugh Freeze's only asset as a coach is that he turns a blind eye to the most obvious bagmen in the country, and he will eventually be found out.
Yet another dumb thing. All other levels of football think satellite camps are fine. From an article on the impact to SMSB:
Despite the camp being held in Detroit, schools like Michigan, Michigan State, Western Michigan, Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan programs will not have the opportunity to scout and interact with potential recruits in what could be considered each program's own backyard. However, Football Champions Subdivision, Division II and other coaches will still be able to be in attendance.
This really is a rule that some selfish coaches voted into existence because they didn't want to be jackhammers.
The great Hackenberg debate of 2016 is not much of a debate. PFF posted a draft evaluation of Christian Hackenberg, presumably because they don't have a draftable grade for him and people keep asking them about it. They explained themselves. Witheringly so:
This season his completion percentage when adjusted for drops, spikes, etc. was 64.0 percent, which was 120th in the nation. In 2014, he was 105th. Every accuracy number you look at sees Hackenberg struggle, and the tape shows the same thing.
Even when under no pressure at all this past season, he completed just 61.9 percent of his passes. That’s the same completion percentage Cardale Jones managed on all plays, not just pressure plays, and Jones is a player whose accuracy is seen as a negative.
Hackenberg’s completion percentage under no pressure at all of 61.9 percent would only have ranked 44th in the nation, if it was his real completion percentage.
This goes on and on for paragraphs, each piling more problems on Hackenberg as an NFL quarterback. While it is by no means a nice evaluation it is backed by a ton of numbers and game charting and more or less confirms what any neutral observer saw out of Hackenberg over the course of his career: brief moments of being John Elway amongst a sea of turfed screens and airmailed out routes. Michigan got a taste of that last year when Hackenberg put together a couple of pinpoint, NFL throws on a day where his other accomplishments were seeing Jabrill Peppers misplay a jump ball and piloting an offense that barely cracked 200 yards.
The PFF evaluation seemed pretty definitive to me, but Penn State folk kind of lost their minds about it. Black Shoe Diaries in particular:
At what point do I, as a Penn State alumnus and fan, step back and try to be even more subjective about the NFL draft stock of Christian Hackenberg?
Did you mean "objective"? Because it feels like you meant "objective," but then the rest of your piece makes me think that you actually meant "subjective" since it's all hand-waving at some pretty eye-popping stats. PSU fans seize on one error—the Allen Robinson catch at the end of regulation against M a couple years back is held up as a example of a bad decision without taking the game context into account—to dismiss the whole thing when it contains startling facts like "16% of Hackenberg screens are off target."
While I don't know exactly how PFF goes about their business, my grades and theirs for Michigan players generally line up*, and charting pass accuracy is probably the easiest thing I do. An outfit like PFF isn't going to be so far off with the above numbers that Hackenberg actually looks good. By a few hundred words into the piece it's clear that the dude is just swinging in the dark, and this…
Lack of Upside
…is waving a tiny punt flag in the face of a guy who actually put in the work. At least it led to one of the most entertainingly one-sided twitter fights in recent memory:
@PFF_Sam sure, feel free to cherrypick lowlights and use those to back up your contrarian conclusion, that's a thing normal people do
— Black Shoe Diaries (@BSDtweet) April 11, 2016
This was said in response to a piece that dealt with every Christian Hackenberg throw over the past two years. He might get drafted but only because there are mugwumps running NFL teams. Hi, Jed York!
*[To the point that when they were pumping up the Michigan D and noted that only one major contributor wasn't grading out very positive I knew exactly who that was because I also had one major contributor not grading out very positive.]
Etc.: Basketball ticket sales not going well. Man hired to do job. Man has job, doesn't do it, and everyone thinks that's fine. Jimmy Vesey won the Hobey because the saps who vote for the thing bought his PR story about why he returned to college. Why does that even matter? I don't know, but it does.