January 4th was at the peak apex and swift crescendo of a roller coaster of weirdness that permeated Ann Arbor, Michigan for the last four years. We all know that when things get weird, the weird turn pro, but what happens when things return to normalcy?
Michigan began a warpath of rampage wider than Genghis Khan. Michigan had no wall. The first victims of the conquering heroes were the clueless and tailback led offense. Nebraska has always had an interesting and sometimes intimidating offense. The TB actually plays in the QB position for Nebraska. This offense has seen days of complete domination and recently, days of high Drama between their prima donna TB/QB and their 12 time anger management/spittle distance champion coach. Their latest season proved to be as bi-polar as Pelini. The 2011 Cornhuskers team defeated foes the like of Michigan Staee Penitentiary, Iowa, and an emotionally charged cult team from State College, PA.
Michigan came in unsure about the future after many déjà vu experiences of late season collapses and self loathing tongue lashings. Watching the game in the quiet hamlet of Livonia with my necessary equipment and required medication, I quickly realized my mind did need prodding for altered consciousness. The serious beating of the Cornhuskers by the Wolverines was like watching an unruly Kodiak taking on a clubbed foot mink. This was a Michigan effort I haven’t seen in a long time.
Nebraska served as a launching pad for GoBo’s offense and Hoke’s voodoo pointing to the next week death match against the Terrell Pryor’s School of Selective Contributions located in a shitcan town dead center of a cesspool state north of where the Hatfields and McCoys spilled blood over swine. The game went back and forth and Michigan tried dearly to hand the evil empire an undeserving victory. As best as the philanthropic Wolverines tried, they ended a long agonizing stretch of losing to a team that needs four people to figure out how to spell their state’s name.
The Wolverines found themselves in an unusual place, playing football in January in New Orleans (Thank you to all the MGoGeographers out there for setting me straight). Unfortunately, I missed half the game studying an accordion type device that promised to send you to a planet of unicorns, badass grizzly care bears, and a bottomless plate of fat free/vitamin rich BBQ spare ribs. I did return from the outer reaches of the universe to see an anemic offense get in a position to win the game with a field goal. At first I thought I ended up on an episode of Sliders, reaching a parallel universe. Michigan winning a big game on special teams? Staunch defense not allowing massive deflation compared to the previous three years of eleventy billion ppg, to a high powered and traditional powerhouse from the ACC? I realized then that the ESPN3.com screen in front of me in a valley separating NY and PA that Todd Blackledge and Brad Nessler would never be in a place that resembles a personal utopia. This was real. The year ended and Michigan was Sugar Bowl champs. What now? What panic and angst would I write of? Is this the end of the modern day Greek tragedy known as Michigan football? As a fan I sure as hell hoped so, but as a periodic panic purveyor, I feared the worst.
As spring football ushers in absolutely nothing in substance and the recruiting trail of coming years are hot, the feared doldrums of normalcy and confidence have not yet fully entrenched the Michigan faithful for the upcoming year’s slate of games. The ulcer creating anticipation and fear are starting to creep back into the hearts of Mittenanders everywhere. The Michigan team will no longer be such a severe underdog for teams the like of Nebraska and they will also have to play the most difficult challenges in the belly of several beasts. The schedule is grim from start to finish with the exception of little brother at home. Dave Brandon sold his grandson’s first born male to play the incorruptible Tide of Alabama in the home of the vilest man in the NFL. Along with Alabama away, Michigan must also battle filth in Columbus, Nebraska, and South Bend. Also adding to the drama this year is the new coach for our last opponent of the regular season, Urban Meyer, or as I enjoy calling him, Pope Urban II. Will he tilt the edge back into the favor or mouth breathing truck drivers or will he wilt and receive mysterious personal and family issues pulling this great coach of Tim Tebow back to the commentator’s desk of Brent Musburger and Matt Millen?
Those issues above combined with the usual tragic injuries of gladiator sports, unexpected moments of disappointed, disgust, and the usual hijinks of college football are a sure bet to create the writing fuel many of the bloggers here eat up. With expectations up, and challenges large, we shall have another year in which there may be little actual turmoil, but we can be sure that turmoil, panic, and The Fear will have a safe place on this blog of myriad personalities and clinically psychotic bloggers in this invisible village of rabid fanatics. Have a great, safe, and twisted summer. See you in August.
Hey MGoBloggers, just got back from a really fun event at Sunda in Chicago, the Illinois launch of TwentyFour wines from Charles Woodson. He took pictures with everyone, chatted with people, and we all had 4 glasses of different wines from their label. A few notes follow:
He's just a really nice guy. He holds C.S. Mott as a special place (which we already know) but he truly seems touched by his experiences there when he was a player and afterward. The proceeds from dinner and from the silent auction are going to his foundation which is tied to C.S. Mott. I picked up a signed authetic helmet. Pretty sweet swag I must say.
During question and answer session (about 50 people there), he talked about his time as Michigan. He felt his greatest football moment was his punt return against Ohio. He was asked if he was going to do the Heisman pose in the endzone, and his honest answer was yes, he wanted to do it, but he got mobbed by his teammates before he could. He said it turned out to be better that way b/c he feels the pose really was Desmond's moment, and the rose in the teeth is his. I agree with him 100%, I'm glad he didn't give the pose, although had he done it I'm sure we'd all look back at it and call it some sort of tradition.
Questions asked about his eventual HOF induction for the NFL and his Green Bay jersey retirement (good # of Packers fans at the event), and he was extremely humble saying he would hopes it will happen and would relish the events. He said he'd be speechless if the Packers retired his #.
Questions about winning a National Championship vs. a Super Bowl; he said at the time, since he's in college, there's nothing better than a NC, but once you get to the NFL, at that level, winning the Super Bowl is the best reward. Obviously a PC answer with a bipartisan crowd (almost tripartisan with a couple Raiders fans), but it was clear to me he has a lot of pride in winning that Super Bowl, but Michigan obviously has a special place in his heart.
Obvious questions about current team and coach. He said that, bottom line, Coach Hoke just cares about people and cares about his players. He's a no nonsense guy when it comes to that. He loves the kids and it's completely clear to every family he recruits that he loves the kids. That's part of what makes him so special. He said the turnaround in the team, even without "Hoke's" recruits, speaks for itself, and the excuses for the previous coaches (re: Rodriguez) not winning with Carr's recruits is, well, a swear word that I won't write out for Charles' sake. He said the biggest difference between now and the previous coach is, simply, flat-out coaching. It's better now than it was the previous 3 years. As with many former players, it's clear he loves where the program is and where it's going. Jarrett Irons also showed up and seemed to agree with what Charles said.
Question about being the "last" defensive player to win the Heisman. He laughingly corrected the guy and said he's the first and last defensive player to win it. Then he said he's sure another defensive player will win it eventually, but he's honored that he's been the only one so far.
As far as concussions and stuff, he talked at length about how he played flag-football from age 7, then started tackle at 11 or 12, and that's all he's really known in life. He feels like maybe he didn't take his education seriously b/c he knew he had the talent to get to the NFL. He laughed when he said he just recently found out how much more work he has to do to get his degree. He said a lot of guys just don't have the planning WHILE they're playing football for life AFTER football, and he's fortunate to have the wine stuff, the foundation stuff, and some other things to let him easily transition when he's done. Irons chimed in again and said the lack of association in the football fraternity is what causes so many guys to become depressed afterwards, not necessarily the hardship from lack of income and money and things like that. Charles seemed upset about Junior Seau's demise and doesn't think he'll end up that way. He said all those hits he's given and taken, he can't get them back, so he absolutely advocates what the NFL is doing to limit concussions and protect players.
I asked him directly when we were talking about the infamous fire. He said mostly stuff we already knew, but Rick (his wine partner who was also at the function) was the guy sleeping. Charles was up til at least 4 am, then saw the smoke. He woke Rick up, woke up his friend sleeping in a bedroom, and got them out. Others had already ran out as well. Someone there knew exactly how many people were staying at this 17,000 sqft house (Charles and Rick didn't know as they were out and came back late), so as Charles and Rick were running back into the house to get more people out, they were told the count was correct and nobody else was left inside. They watched the entire thing burn to the ground.
I asked him to play for our flag football team playoffs and he laughingly said he can't. We talked about a couple NFL guys who've injured themselves in the off-season and are probably going to lose some money. He's got 2 years left on his deal, so if he makes it 2 more seasons he should get a pretty decent contract afterwards (I think he'll be fine).
When asked about his Michigan jersey "retirement," he basically said, while smiling, "I'm not supposed to be talking about that." This leads me to believe he's gonna follow in Desmond's footsteps, yet again. Nothing we probably couldn't have guessed, but I'm assuming it means something this season. Maybe MSU? Illinois for homecoming? Nothing else seems worthy this year.
tl;dr, I know. Diary if it's deemed worthy. Thanks. Also, pardon mistakes, I've had too much wine. Goodnight.
Little of note in this week's recruiting rankings, save for Illinois jumping up a couple of spots after breaking double-digit commits. Have a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day; thank you to the incredibly brave people who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for their beliefs and country. Changes since the last rankings:
5-22-12: Nebraska picks up Dan Samuelson.
5-26-12: Illinois picks up Reon Dawson.
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|Rank||School||# Commits||Rivals Avg||Scout Avg||24/7 Avg||ESPN Avg||Avg Avg^|
^The average of the average rankings of the four recruiting services (the previous four columns). The figure is calculated based on the raw numbers and then rounded, so the numbers above may not average out exactly.
NOTE: Unranked recruits are counted as two-star players.
On to the full data after the jump.
FF410: 2012 Spring Game Breakdown - DG Pass Plays - Day 3
Last time we looked at the second five pass plays from Devin Gardner and analyzed the results. Today will be much of the same. I'll also break down one defensive play.
Play 11 - 4:12
It’s really hard to tell what routes the WRs are running as the camera doesn’t give a good enough look. Based on the down in distance I would assume it’s a verts play, either 3 or 4 verticle routes in an attempt to find an opening between the safeties downfield. In all honesty, I can’t even really tell what the defense is running. You can see that the two safeties are dropping. My guess is that this is a very safe cover 4, in which case hitting any seem pass is going to be difficult. If they were facing cover 3 or cover 2 the play would work very well, as the safety would have to essentially choose a side, however, against cover 4, the WRs are basically running directly at the defenders. If every assumption I made is correct, than DG makes the correct read on the check down.
DG’s footwork here looks alright. You can still see him thinking about his drop a little bit though once he gets set. It’s clearly his natural tendency to escape backwards out of the pocket still (or simply to keep dropping/back peddling). He hesitates and looks a little indecisive with his footwork as he attempts to at least maintain his position (or stand in the pocket). I’d still like to see him actually step in and make his throw though. He “arm throws” it again on the check down pass. It was successful, but it’s still breaking form, which leads to bad habits which leads to bad mistakes. DG looks like he does everything effortlessly (I mean that in a good way), but I think he needs to not be so lax on the shorter throws and stop trying to aim the ball and actually throw it properly.
The RB out of the backfield actually probably has an option route, either check to the outside, inside, or check back (in between gaps in the LB zones). Smith makes the correct read and Ryan does a poor job of getting a body on him. Typically, the LB in this case will essentially want to take away half the field by using his body. If the RB tries to cross the LB, the LB needs to stop the RBs body. If the LB is in the correct position, the RB will have no choice but to break this outside, where the LB’s body is facing and the LB can make a play. Ryan wiffs and thus the RB picks up decent yards. There is some confusion in the zone drops by the LBs as it appears Ryan and the MLB drop to the same point, rather than bracketing anyone coming out of the backfield/crossing the field.
A couple other things I’d like to point out: notice the nickel back over the slot toward the top of the screen. He is lined up inside of his receiver to stop any quick slants to break into the next level. He then forces the WR off of his path (though not exactly well) to disrupt the timing of the play and appears to let him through to the deep safety. He is covering the short zone to the field side, but is dropping deep because of down and distance.
Play 12 - 4:33
Michigan in a pro set I and the defense in their typical 4-3 under look with a safety rolled down. DG appears to almost drop the snap as he is really trying to bail out and get a good run fake. Michigan is doing something that should look familiar, deep post to one side to take advantage of any single man coverage, and a levels concept to the short side to take advantage of any zone look. The defense actually shows a wrinkle, which I can be seen below: a corner blitz.* Note how they roll the DBs so that they are still running a cover 3/ shifted cover 2.
I believe here that the TE is open but DG can’t get him the ball because of the pressure. The X receiver successfully takes the safety covering him out of the short zone. He does so by attacking the safety, which he would do regardless if the corner was blitzing or if it was a typical cover 2. He forces the safety to take him and take away the inside threat, before breaking to the corner. Will bites hard on the PA and gets out of position and the TE is athletic enough to get behind him, which is why I believe he is open toward the sideline. I believe DG was making the correct read as you see him look left when he sees the SS stay high (basically bracketing the Z receiver). But he feels the pressure and can’t make his second read (the TE). I think he actually had enough time to make the read if he stays in the pocket, but it would have been an uncomfortable throw. This is because of the O-line. The LT recognizes the corner blitzing very late but gets enough of a push on the corner to drive him deep. The break down on the offensive line actually comes at LG, as he gives up too much depth which doesn’t give DG a solid pocket. This forces DG to basically run and he makes some athletic plays to gain yards and use his center as a blocker.
The breakdown on defense comes from the WILL spot, as he slips when trying to contain DG. That changes this from a 3 yard play to a big gain.
*As said, Michigan is corner blitzing and turning into a quasi- cover 3 or shifted cover 2. It appears as if the FS is matched up on the X receiver, most likely to prevent any quick play like a quick WR pass so that he has the ball in space. He then follows him deep, so I think it’s more of a cover 3. It could also be a shifted cover 2 which is the second picture below.
Play 13 - 4:50
Slants with a play action fake to get the LBs to clear out from the underneath zones. Very simple play. I like it from the shotgun because it moves the LBs away from the single receiver side. The tightend sells the play action by faking a run block on a power play or a QB read. It also allows DG to see the play develop. The first thing DG reads is the single high safety and single coverage on the X receiver. This means that he is going to the X receiver pretty much all day as his initial read. If the CB over the X receiver had safety help, he would look to the other side initially. At the snap, the WR does a great job getting off the LOS cleanly. He runs a great route until the end, when he starts to fade up field. It doesn’t appear this is really his fault though. Clearly, there is PI on the CB on this play. But even before that it looks like he grabs the shoulder and pulls the WR into him. I guess it’s a good play by the corner as it would have been a TD had he not interfered. The problem begins with the WILL over committing to the run and not maintaining his underneath zone, which is intended to stop the slant. Basically Michigan has two LBs covering one zone that no one on offense is threatening.
The backside is actually more open on this play, but DG can’t know that because he is accurately going through his progression, which reads that the first man is open (which he is for a TD, good read). On the field side, the slot is more or less intended to clear out that underneath zone from the nickel back/ LBs/ safety by running an initial slant. He doesn’t run a great route but it isn’t too important. The outside WR then runs behind that to a news vacated area, which is also wide open. He runs it a little more flat and a little deeper to truly attack the endzone and the opening between the FS and the corners. The corner either needs to play it more inside, as the slant or in is much more dangerous than the fade route if he doesn’t have safety help; or the safety can’t react so much to the run fake and take himself out of position. The corners alignment tells me he thought he had safety help, but the safety’s eyes tell me he was looking run support first and would help over the slot first. There is some confusion there on the defense. It appears he is playing him straight up as if he has inside help, which isn’t there because of the slant from the slot.
This play looks eerily familiar to a great play in Michigan history, where Michigan attacks the 2 WR side with great success:
- Tight end will not be a position of strength this year. The run blocking is their strong area, which is meh. The route running is ugly.
- WR =/= getting separation. This was a worry last year and it gets even scarier this year. They still need to work a lot on their route running, as I think the athletes, while not great, are sufficient enough to get open. Hopefully they’ll be working hard over the summer.
- The O-line is still feeling itself out. Barnum appears to be struggling with some calls, which is expected at this point. LG is a worry. At this point I actually think having a Denard type QB is beneficial for this O-line, as the tackles still struggle gaining depth and any QB that takes deeper drops is risking getting beat up a bit. They are a much stronger unit at run blocking.
- DG needs to improve his footwork. You can tell he’s working at it, but it’s still not second nature. When his footwork is better, it still looks a bit mechanical. Otherwise it slips and you see some poor throws. The worst is that he doesn’t consistently step into throws. He has a strong arm, but needs to improve his mechanics to become more accurate. Also needs to work on getting the snap from under center (he’s bailing early). This is probably a bit nerves to be honest. Very good athlete though (aka get him in at WR).
- I’ll try to discuss the RB position a bit more later, but there is a wide separation between Fitz in the next guy. The depth seems decent, but Michigan needs Fitz to stay healthy this year (knock on wood).
- It appears that Kovacs has moved to more of a free safety position, which is something I haven’t seen pointed out here before.
- It looks like Michigan will run more odd fronts this year to get more LBs on the field as LB appears to be a stronger position group than the D-line, particularly on passing downs
- As many have seen, even during last year, the DBs have improved and continue to improve tremendously. This was partially due to them being so young previously, but also because they are actually being coached properly. You can see them starting to naturally understand why they are doing what they are doing, not just individually but as a group. There is no understating how much better that makes the position group.
- The LBs are still struggling a bit with their zone drops. This is something almost all programs struggle with as there as so many other responsibilities they are being coached to do. Most important is run fits, which they are improving on.
I think these break downs give a pretty good idea of where Michigan is going into the fall. They still have a lot of things to work on, particularly in the pass game. The defense looks decent on pass plays, but there is still some confusion in the zones, particularly from the LBs. Again, we didn’t see anything very interesting from the defense.
I still plan on doing select plays from Bellomy and some select run plays. If you have any questions or suggestions or things to add let me know.
Since the stroll through 1986 came off pretty well, and since it’s the off-season, and since Seth asked for it, we step into the Quantum Leap accelerator, once again, and journey back into the glorious past to observe Michigan athletics as part of overall history. We emerge in a time that will be unfamiliar to most of us, including yours truly as this is the year of my birth; a time without PCs, and cell phones, and ESPN, and internets, and blogs. Journey back to the bizarre and colorful times that were….1971!
We are in the midst of Richard Nixon’s first term as president, where he shows a penchant for pointing at things. Vietnam is still going on and still unpopular. It gets even more unpopular when the New York Times publishes the Pentagon Papers, and all the dirty secrets of the war that past administrations have kept from the public are brought to light. On the international scene, the United Nations formally recognizes the Peoples Republic of China and also declares the first Earth Day, Idi Amin leads a coup and seizes control in Uganda, and IRA-led rioting in Northern Ireland grows worse against British rule.
Human exploration of the Moon continues with the Apollo 14 and 15 missions, with Apollo 15 featuring a crew of Michigan alumni (Space, Bitches….Space) and a sweet ride in the Lunar Rover. The Soviet Union also achieves a technological milestone with the launch of Salyat 1, the world’s first orbiting space station. Other milestones in technology include the release of the Intel 4004, the first commercial microprocessor. Texas Instruments introduces the first pocket calculator sounding the death knell of the slide rule. And, the first e-mails and chat rooms appear on the ARPAnet, the precursor of the modern Internet.
1971 is the year that many sporting legacies are born. Joe Frazier defeats Muhammad Ali in the “Fight of the Century” to set off one of the great boxing rivalries in history. The great Roberto Clemente leads the Pirates to the World Series title. In the NBA, future legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar leads the Milwaukee Bucks to their only world title. In other areas of sport, legacies are being solidified. UCLA continues its era of dominance under John Wooden, defeating Villanova to earn their 7thtitle in 8 years. The Montreal Canadiens win the 17thof what will be 24 Stanley Cups. In the world of golf, Jack Nicklaus wins the PGA, rounding out the first half of his record 18 major championships.
In our spare time we watched television on just three stations. We were offered edgy broadcasting like “All In The Family” and “The Odd Couple” and tamer fare like “The Partridge Family”. On the big screen we were following the exploits of Popeye Doyle in “The French Connection”, Alex and his droogs in “A Clockwork Orange”, and we meet Dirty Harry for the first time. On the music front, Led Zepplin IV is released, the Allman Brothers record At Fillmore East, Queen is formed, and Jim Morrison is found dead in Paris.
The music of Michigan was different during this time too. The Michigan Marching Band is an all-men arrangement under the direction of the legendary William T. Revelli and are introduced with the less politically correct “Men, take the field!” during football pre-games. Women would not be seen amongst their ranks for another year. Women are not seen amongst the ranks of any of Michigan’s varsity sports in 1971, as Title XI is still a year away from passage into law.
Bo Schembechler is in his 3rdseason as head coach of the Wolverines and fields one of his greatest teams and points at things while doing so. Lead by All-Americans Reggie McKenzie, Billy Taylor, Thom Darden, and Mike Taylor, Michigan went 11-0 during the regular season and won Bo’s 2ndBig 10 championship. Billy Taylor would finish his career as Michigan’s all-time rushing leader with 3,072 yards, a record that would stand for 6 years until broken by Rob Lytle. Mike Taylor would go on to play 2 seasons for the New York Jets. Reggie McKenzie would go on to a 13 year NFL career with the Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks, blocking for the likes of OJ Simpson. Thom Darden would be a 3 time All-Pro in his 10 seasons with the Cleveland Browns and is still the career-leader in interceptions for the franchise.
The season was highlighted by a thrilling 10-7 victory over Ohio in Ann Arbor. The game’s memorable moment came late in the game when Darden came up with a win-preserving interception that Woody Hayes insisted to the referees should have been called pass interference. Hayes proceeded on a minutes-long tirade, ripping up yard markers, drawing 2 unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, and making an embarrassing spectacle that aired on news programs nationally…quite an accomplishment in the days before 24 hour media coverage.
Michigan’s season would end with another disappointing showing in Pasadena with a 13-12 loss to the Stanford Indians (Stanford would not become the “Cardinals” until 1972 and not the “Cardinal” until 1981). Michigan came into the game ranked 3rdin the country and a 10.5 point favorite against the 8-3 Indians, but Stanford managed to edge out the Wolverines with a 31 yard field goal with 16 seconds to play. The 1971 Michigan team would finish ranked 6thin the AP and 4thin the UPI and is commonly regarded as the team that came closest to earning Schembechler a National Championship, although it is debatable that even a 12-0 Michigan team would’ve passed up eventual champion Nebraska.
Well, that concludes our nostalgic step through 1971. A time where clothes were bold and loud, phones were rotary dialed, and Michigan still didn’t sell out every home football game. It’s hard to imagine a time without video games, personal computers, and 24 hour news coverage, but those times existed. Here’s hoping that Michigan’s upcoming season sees Michigan back in the Rose Bowl undefeated against Stanford. I got a feeling Hoke would serve up epic payback topped off with a pointed finger.
(Click the image to view full size)
Ohio State vs. Michigan. Thor vs. Loki. Mark Dantonio vs. dentistry.
And now, I give you... Baby Bo and Fielding.
On Thursday we'll start with a new string of Charlie-related strips pairing our own Michigan fanaticism with good ol-fashioned childhood optimism and creativity.
I'd also like to announce that next week I'm embarking on a good ol' American family vacation... As such, the regularly scheduled Tuesday and Thursday strips will tentatively run on the official site with an automated publish, but I'm not going to be putting together the Tuesday strip here on MGoBlog. So no Tuesday post next week.
THE BLOCKHAMS™ runs (typically) every Tuesday here at MGoBlog, and at least
every Thursday on its official home page. Also, don't forget to check out our newest
feature, Friday Roughs, a spontaneous low-end comic based on trending
Michigan events, available on Twitter and Facebook every Friday.