Here is the offense, I will probably do defense sometime tomorrow. Wrote the majority of this friday night, so it was kind of funny to see how some of the stuff manifested on the field saturday. Post USF game reflections on some of the more, how you would say "memorable" moments are at the end.
QB: Jr Dayne Crist (LY 174 of 294 15 TD, 7 INT), So Tommy Rees (LY 100 of 164 12 TD, 8 INT) So Andrew Hendrix, Fr Everett Golson
Crist went down for the year during the Tulsa game last season with his 2nd knee injury since coming to ND. After rehab and spring ball was announced the starter about 2 weeks ago, expected to be the starter as long as he is healthy (err uh the first half of game 1….., well actual announcement will be made Monday but just look at the drive chart: http://espn.go.com/ncf/drivechart?gameId=312460087). Has been very business like when it comes to practice and camp this year, had done a lot to win back his position. The problem with Crist as a starter is that he isn’t the steadiest guy on the field, letting a play go, getting the offense refocused it just doesn’t always happen. Rees came in as a true freshman in 2010 and finished with a 4-0 record, though ND is 0-3 when he has had to come in to replace Dayne. Strong depth at QB this year, Golson is the guy of the future but it isn’t clear where he and Hendrix shake out at this point. Either one could see a special package this season which is more in line with their running ability.
RB: So Cierre Wood (LY 119 for 603yds, 3TD), Sr Jonas Gray (LY 20 for 100yds, 0TD), Fr Cam McDaniel, Fr George Atkinson
Wood grew through the year along with ND’s run game, the staff is expecting him to be a workhorse but this isn’t a position of great depth. Gray didn’t see much time last year because he wouldn’t play the role the staff asked of him, ie he wasn’t playing the power back his body is equipped for. If he were reliable it would add much needed depth to a position lacking a lot of it, the early returns aren’t very good for his future. The running game was emphasized much more this year through the spring and summer camp.
WR (X): Sr. Michael Floyd (LY 79 for 1025yds, 12TD), Jr John Goodman (LY 15 for 146, 0TD)
Floyd’s off field stupidity has been discussed pretty thoroughly and what he can do on the field is nothing new either. Goodman is not Floyd, he has similar size but saw the majority of his play on special teams as a sure-handed punt returner. Not so much the return part though, I believe his average return was in the 1-2 foot range, he was reliable though. I am sure his touches will go up this year, the staff is relying on him to be a solid contributor.
WR (Y): So. TJ Jones (LY 23 for 352yds, 3TD), Fr DaVaris Daniels
Jones did pretty well as a freshman last year, he wasn’t targeted nearly as much as Floyd or whichever TE was in at the time. Daniels is a bit of an unknown, supposed to be fast but every kid in the preseason is fast, it does mean something to see him in the 2 deep to start the season though.
WR(Z): Jr. Theo Riddick (LY 40 for 414, 3 TD), Jr. Roby Toma (LY 14 for 187, 0TD)
Riddick the converted RB (sound familiar) was still learning the WR position last season, expected to be the #2 WR behind Floyd. Toma hasn’t seen many snaps, mostly last year as the backup to the slot. Not a ton of top end speed but he is quick enough to get open underneath.
TE So. Tyler Eifert (LY 27 for 352, 2 TD) Sr. Mike Ragone (LY 3 for 32, 0TD)
Eifert was a bit of revelation once Rudolph was knocked out for the year in week 6. The way he played to end the season, he is expected to be a big part of the offense going forward. Ragone has battled multiple injuries through his career, he saw most of his time in protection when on the field last year.
LT Jr. Zach Martin, Fr. Nick Martin
Zach earned his spot last year and has held onto it since then. His backup is actually his brother. I am not yet sold that Nick would be Zach’s first backup as every lineman has cross trained at other positions.
LG So. Chris Watt, Sr. Andrew Nuss
This was the only battle on the Oline coming into summer camp. It is likely there will be a rotation to some degree at the position. One has been talked about as more of a run blocker while the other a pass blocker
C Jr. Braxston Cave, Jr. Mike Golic
Cave held this position all of last year to my knowledge, not much new to really tell. Oh the first Golic sighting. Not a lot has been said about Cave or Golic, it a position of good depth and not really a concern.
RG Sr. Trevor Robinson, Fr. Conor Hanratty
Another returning starter from last season Robinson is a 5th year senior and one of the leaders on the Oline. The offense will not shy away from running in his direction. Hanratty is another freshman Olineman. This one has received quite a bit of praise through camp while putting a lot of time in the weight room from high school.
RT Sr. Taylor Dever, So. Christian Lombard
Dever did well last season, another returning 5th year. He has seen a lot of coaches but really helped the run game develop at the end of the year. Lombard, his backup saw sometime as a freshman last year, he is the heir apparent at the position going forward
The oline needs to show they can be a cohesive unit as they were at the end of the year last year if the running and passing games are going to be effective this year. It all starts on the Oline and with 4 returning starters it should be decent at least. ND has one of the best receiving corps in the country on paper, the WRs themselves along with the TE and RB out of the backfield are all capable receivers. The QBs need to trust their WRs enough to put a few of them out there for them to go and get, but at the same time they need to take care of the ball. Crist has gone through camp this year with actual competition, he sounds to have learned a great deal as well, so we’ll have to see what happens. The running game right now is going to come down to depth, both freshman are likely to play at some point but how much will come down to Gray. If he can be dependable in his role it will take a ton of pressure off the freshman and the offense itself.
USF Game Reflections (NOTE: I did miss the rest of the game past the 2nd weather delay):
Crist threw a horrible pick in the end zone, it was late it was to a covered guy, plus he had floyd, of all people!, open underneath that would have gotten a first down if not a TD. He was supposed to be past this, but his timing is still late, and was really one of the first pieces of the team to crumble. Playing at home, he was playing scared, it really doesn’t get much worse than that.
Gray, opening drive, 3 yards from the goal line, this is what we have a big back for, hand him the ball he fumbles on the 1 its returned for 6. He had 2 more touches during the game. (which surprised me a bit to see him get in at all, probably a reflection on the freshman to be honest)
TJ Jones, 2 drops and one deflection off his head (in the red zone of course) which resulted in the 4th TO. I am not a position coach but I would expect my WR to be ready to receive a ball when on a crossing route just beyond the line of scrimmage. The best part was after he felt himself get hit by the ball, he turned around like who ran into me? Like he was looking for a flag or something.
Riddick, oh man. Well his biggest impact was on the muffed punt, that should be TO #3 I believe, that USF recovered, Mayock was great “he just handed the ball to him” man he is good at this. I was in full ROFL mode at this point. After that he had 2 more muffed-ish punts where he basically would just fall directly onto the ball after catching it. Paging John Goodman, John Goodman into the starting lineup please? Thanks. After that he had a least a couple drops, 1 in particular was just memory inducing. After missing his whole “receiving” role in the offense on this play, he stood up looking to blame the drop on someone, he was wiiiiiiiiide open, ball hit him on both arms it was perfect. Another mayock moment, “not sure who he thinks he can blame that one on but himself”.
Eifert, had a couple drops, 1 was behind him but still the QB is hitting him in the hands with the ball unless he has a broken hand there isn’t an excuse that works.
Wood and Floyd were the only dependable skill positions during the game. Oline did what they needed to. The QB doesn’t need to be a world-beater for the offense to have success but he cannot be the weakest link on the field, in the first half it was absolutely true. Crist had soooooo much confidence in the preseason; everyone wants to know where that was coming from at this point.
This is my first time to do the diary thing because I figure I never have enough content that anyone would want or that deserved it's own space. Not gonna lie - little nervous. If this does not really fit into the diary parameters then I would not be offended by it's deletion. I'm also grown up enough to take the criticism often found on the MGoBoard.
Now to the point. Many of you are familiar with monuMental and his amazing artwork that can be found over at theartthearttheartdotcom. Most of you also know he will not be able to provide wallpaper this season because he has too much on his plate.
I'd like to say that I am by no means as creative as many others on this board and not anywhere near worthy enough to even touch monuMental's magnetic lasso tool. However, I was asked by a couple friends if I had any UofM wallpaper so I decided to give it an amateurish try.
This is what I came up with for the Under The Lights game. I wanted to keep it slick and simple so I imediately considered stadium lights. I recall the day Addidas previewed the throwback uniforms and went searching for those. Once I found them I thought of combining them and the lights idea. After many different attempts and changes I simply came back to the clean look I landed on and added the UTL official logo. Thoughts?
The latest week in recruiting sees Notre Dame pick up their highest-ranked recruit in DT Jarron Jones while Purdue and Northwestern each add some lower-ranked players to their classes. Other than that, nothing really happened. Action since last rankings:
8-28-11 Northwestern gains commitment from Jaylen Prater.
8-29-11 Notre Dame gains commitment from Jarron Jones. Purdue gains commitment from Carlos Carvajal.
8-30-11 Northwestern gains commitment from Terrance Brown.
9-3-11 Purdue gains commitment from Aloyis Gray.
9-4-11 Purdue gains commitment from Devin Smith.
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|Rank||School||# Commits||Rivals Avg||Scout Avg||ESPN Avg||24/7 Avg|
*ESPN doesn't rate JUCOs, so Isaac Fruechte (Minnesota), Darius Stroud (Indiana), Steffon Martin and Devin Smith (Purdue) are exluded from their respective team averages.
On to the full data, after the jump.
|#1 Michigan - 22 Commits|
Michigan maintains their stranglehold at the top of the rankings. Sione Houma moves from two to three stars on Rivals, and he's now ranked as their #5 fullback in the country.
|#2 Notre Dame - 14 Commits|
The Irish land Jarron Jones, their highest-rated recruit across the board to date. They still have some ground to cover to catch Michigan, going by pure numbers, but in terms of quality of commits this class is right up there.
|#3 Penn State - 17 Commits|
J.P. Holtz earns a three-star ranking from Rivals.
|#4 Ohio State - 12 Commits|
No change for the Buckeyes.
|#5 Michigan State - 14 Commits|
Kodi Keiler is upgraded from unranked to three stars on Rivals. Interesting, but completely irrelevant, sidenote: Rivals and Scout are in complete lockstep when it comes to ranking the Spartan commits (requisite dig: because they're almost all three-stars—but, you know, national three-stars).
|#6 Wisconsin - 10 Commits|
No change for the Badgers.
|#7 Indiana - 17 Commits|
Shawn Heffern gets a three-star ranking from Rivals, while Alex Todd picks up three stars from 24/7. I'm still keeping them just a hair below Wisconsin, but if the average rankings get any closer or the Hoosiers pick up another commit that'll probably change.
|#8 Northwestern - 16 Commits|
The Wildcats pick up a pair of unheralded recruits in LB Jaylen Prater and S Terrance Brown. This drags down their averages considerably, but I won't punish a team for picking up commits. Iowa is hot on their heels, though.
|#9 Iowa - 10 Commits|
No change for the Hawkeyes.
|#10 Minnesota - 18 Commits|
Nick Rallis, Maxx Williams, and Rodrick Williams each pick up three stars from Rivals after being unrated. 24/7 does the same for Scott Ekpe and R. Williams.
|#11 Purdue - 15 Commits|
The Boilermakers land ATH Aloyis Gray, OL Devin Smith, and TE Carlos Carvajal. Jimmy Herman picks up three stars from Rivals. By the power of sheer volume, Purdue moves ahead of Nebraska. File that under: 'Things I Never Thought I'd Write About Football and/or Recruiting'.
|#12 Nebraska - 6 Commits|
No change for the Huskers. Still. Bo Pelini isn't expecting some sort of Big Ten Expansion Draft, is he?
|#13 Illinois - 8 Commits|
No new commits for the Illini. Joseph Spencer picks up three stars and Joey Warburg two from Rivals.
Dan Wetzel's background piece offers interesting perspectives on Les Miles' approach to defending Oregon's high-tempo spread offense.
While acknowledging Miles' eccentricities, including game-management, grass-eating, etc., Wetzel brings out the exhaustive detail Miles brings to daily practice and game preparation, a side of Miles not covered in much depth by most writers. Most interesting to me is LSU's prep for facing the Oregon spread. Here is an excerpt from Wetzel:
LSU began preparing its defense to handle Oregon’s fast-break offensive timing just days after last year’s victory in the Cotton Bowl. Throughout spring practice, and then into fall camp, Miles and his staff dreamed up a drill called “tempo” that would condition the Tigers for the challenge.
It featured one defense facing two offenses. One offensive unit would line up and run a play while the other huddled. When the play ended, the second offense would sprint into formation and snap the ball as fast as possible and the defense would have to scramble into position. Then the first offense would huddle and repeat the cycle.
It caused defenders minds to spin and their muscles to burn. It also got them ready to stuff the Oregon offense and negate the Ducks’ usual schematic advantage.
Whatever odd impulses pulse through his brain during critical game situations, Les Miles clearly is much shrewder than appearances sometimes suggest.
“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”
So here we are again at the beginning of a new era in Michigan Football, not nearly far enough removed from the last “beginning of a new era”, and once again I find myself seated in front of the computer trying to sort out my feelings on the matter. In truth I had planned on not doing these this year. Most of my impetus for spilling my thoughts here for the past three seasons stemmed from the completely foreign sensation a Rich Rodriguez led Michigan team left me with on fall Saturdays – an out-of-sorts feeling of not really knowing what to expect going forward. While Bo/Mo/Carr teams had a character that evolved so slowly that year-to-year change was almost undetectable, Rich Rod’s first tilt against Utah flipped my perceptions of Michigan completely and it seemed each successive game of the past three seasons distorted my outlook further. Michigan football went from being a solid thing I could count on and often take for granted, to a crapshoot of strangeness that forced me to question my unhealthy obsession with Michigan Football each and every week.
I thought Brady Hoke’s hiring would make things easy again and give me that cock-sure attitude back that said “I don’t need to worry about the details; I can just turn on the TV on Saturday and feel assured that Michigan will most probably win.” My cousin who played DE as a walk on under Hoke assured me that there was no better hire to be had, and that the past would become the future. Hell, maybe it will eventually, but for now the trials of the past few seasons compel me to question what the future has in store.
Learn from yesterday…
What did the game against Western Michigan teach us, and what is left unclear?
· Just because your name is Greg doesn’t mean you can’t coordinate a defense. Seriously, raise your hand if the thought of starting out the season against a very-good, veteran QB didn’t worry you a bit. After last year I was braced for the worst and Carder was every bit the accurate and composed passer he was advertised to be. He shredded our secondary at will until Greg Mattison made adjustments and started getting blitzers through. In truth our defense never truly broke; the longest play allowed was a 24 yard run and the longest reception only netted 20 yards for WMU. I waited all game for the play that would torch us, but the defense did a good enough job of keeping the play in front of them and got aggressive when it was well suited. The end result was something bordering on mediocrity, which felt like competency, and is a win for Mattison for sure. Two defensive touchdowns is a nice start to the season as well.
· Will the Al Borges offense work? Not enough data here really, what with Michigan’s offense having only 6 meaningful drives to look at. The data we have is surely encouraging though. Michigan’s first drive showed a degree of composure and demonstrated an ability to take control of the game tempo. The long runs seemed to be set up for success, especially coming practically back-to-back. We probably would have scored on 4 of 6 drives had the game not been halted, though the other two were 3andouts. Will it work for Denard? I am not so sure of this. The first offensive play from scrimmage looked very familiar indeed. In fact most of the first drive looked much like last year, right down to the amount of punishment Denard was being exposed to. If the defense hadn’t spotted Michigan two touchdowns, I wonder if run-hard Denard would have continued to be the go-to play if the score had remained closer. Denard’s comfort level overall was encouraging though, and he looked much better playing under center than last year.
· +3 on turnovers will make a fairly evenly matched game into a lopsided one. This is obviously true and was on full display in this game. Two of WMU’s three were of the most back-breaking variety imaginable, while the third almost assuredly took points off the board for them. Even the most conservative estimate would have a 20 point swing from turnovers alone. We should all keep in mind that this could have easily been a dogfight to the finish.
Live for Today…
Several Michigan players should bask in the glow of their accomplishments:
1. Jordan Kovacs– KOVACS!!! KOVACS SMASH!!! KOVACS, KOVACS, KOVACS!!! (I had my four year old son chanting this with me. Kovacs is now the first Michigan player he knows by name.) Seriously, it is insane that this guy came from open tryouts. He is my favorite player.
2. Brandon Herron – Talk about johnny-on-the-spot! The best part though was that neither of those were gimmee TDs. Herron showed great agility and stamina to stay in bounds and truck 94 yards in that heat and scooping up the fumble instead of falling on it was a heady play as well.
3. Fitzgerald Toussaint and Mike Shaw – Big runs by these two led to the touchdown that finally blew the game wide open. If the damned commentator had been right, and the first of the two runs had indeed been Shaw, there wouldn’t have been need of a second because Shaw == Fast. Fitz still looks somewhat slow, but manballed two TDs in from close which is admirable.
4. Kevin Koger – Koger
only had one grab but it had two receptions and one was a doozy. Stretched out and snagging the ball with his fingertips, he still managed to put a hurting on the safety that hit him with a full head of steam. Gets up like no prob, first down converted. Nails.
5. Denard Robinson – No particular statistics are amazing, but he seems to have handled the transition pretty well and had several encouraging plays. Of note: the pull-down-and-scramble move for 12 yards and a first down just prior to Michigan’s third TD. Also the long pass completed on the money (I think at least, TV commentator be damned) to Hemingway. Denard probably doesn’t need to be listed here as he is always awesome and steadfastly refuses to bask in his own glow (making him even more awesome of course).
Also of note was the play of Jeremy Gallon, Jake Ryan, Mike Martin, Courtney Avery, and Kenny Demens. Oh, and Woolfolk before his injury – here's to a speed recovery.
Hope for Tomorrow
Next week brings a matchup with a Notre Dame team that just choked on its season opener, losing to a South Florida team that it exactly doubled in total yardage in South Bend. The Irish seem to have settled back on the QB that led them to 4 straight victories to end last season, Tommy Rees. They also have Michael Floyd. After watching Carder to White shred us yesterday, it is safe to say that Rees/Floyd is going to be bad news indeed.
Then again, Rees did throw two picks, so maybe karma will continue to be on Michigan’s side and we will score multiple defensive touchdowns, and Denard will gain 500+ yards of offense again, and all will be just swell. In reality though, ND is good and will be playing with a chip on their shoulder after losing and the game is in our house and we may even be favored despite not outplaying a MAC school by all that much. Add it up and history dictates a heart-wrenching loss. I continue to be braced for the worst.
PS - I realize that the quantity and quality of the posting on MGoBlog has increased by leaps and bounds the past three years, and that my posts tend to be more emo/rah-rah than actually, you know, useful. So if the obvious consensus is that my posts are no longer a welcome addition to the blog, then by all means let me know so that I can ride off into the sunset and trouble you all no more.
This year's dose of what has become a yearly philosophical rambling
Well, my friends, it has arrived.
I look back on seasons past and think of all those mornings I woke up too early, too excited, and too impatient for the first game. So much has changed since then. I am no longer rousing myself hung over and dehydrated; I do not have heart-cringing football food laid out for the entire day; I am not making plans with friends to sit on couches from ESPN College GameDay to TBS Pac-10 late games; and I will not end the night celebrating or drowning my sorrows in a frozen stein somewhere.
Disney's Jake and the NeverLand Pirates are holding the TV hostage as I type this. I was up before 6 and took orders for cinnamon toast and Honey Nut Cheerios. The dog has been walked, toweled off, fed, and wrestled with, perhaps not necessarily in that order. I've already punished the same kid twice for something the child already knows all too better. And I have ultimately dedicated myself to being SuperDad for the entire chunk of the day just to reserve a healthy 3:30 - 7:00pm EST block all to myself.
(Don't get me wrong, the kids will be there-- they woke up saying "What time is Michigan??"-- but their attention span will be exhausted about three seconds after Denard breaks the first of his several gazelle impersonations that are sure to take place today. There's something that tells me it's not quite fair to make young children watch every play, even if it's a Mattison defense.)
But despite all these changes in my life... and even all the changes that have befallen Fort Schembechler for the past decade and beyond... nothing has changed.
This morning, I lay in my bed like a bright-eyed, ten-year old maize-and-blue-clad dreamer, full of optimism, hope and enough anticipation to power an oil refinery. I lay there in the dark beside my beautiful wife-- who either doesn't really understand how deep all of this runs in my veins, or does and yet still manages to take me seriously anyway-- with visions of broken plays turning into 65 yard scampers, competent decision-making by the secondary, and enough blitzes to make General Patton happy all dancing inside my head. As I laid there waiting for Gameday to begin, it didn't matter who I was or everything my life has become.
There's something timeless about Michigan football, and that translates to us as well. No matter where life will take us, and no matter who we ever become, there's moments like today that serve as a constant reminder of who we really are inside, and for better or worse, what's really important to us, at least in the fall. The restless impatience we are all boiling over with this morning-- well, may it never change, despite how much any or all of us do.
We will always be men of Michigan. GO BLUE, and we'll see you on the other side tonight.