Below are some charts - yes, charts - showing how the defense stacks up after three games, both this year and last year. Please take these charts with a massive grain of salt, but I was still a little surprised by the findings. Also, I know that the defense last year was statistically one of the worst in UM's history, but I still think that was due more to the offense's inability to stay on the field than a complete implosion by the defense.
So not as bad as I thought. Points are just about equal (one of ND's 2008 touchdowns was on a fumble return, which I did not attribute to the defense). The passing yards are essentially the same, with the rushing defense clearly taking a step back. At least part of that rushing difference, though, can be attributed to the Herculean effort the defense put on Utah, holding them to 0.8 yards per carry on 43(!) attempts in the first game of 2008. Put their average from last year (157 yds/gm), and you have effectively the same defensive effort.
But what about the offenses faced? Were the offenses UM faced last year statistically better or worse than the ones they have faced so far? I wanted to find out, so I go again to my trusty excel chart.*
*Note, the national rankings for the 2009 opponents only includes the first 2 games (since today's games are not complete). Also, I included both the final and after-3-games totals for the 2008 offenses.
|Teams||Utah||Miami (NTM)||ND||AVERAGE RANKING|
|After 3 games|
2009 - after 2 games
So yeah, the defense is struggling a bit, but certainly not to the extent people first envisioned. While I will update the 2009 numbers when they are posted, both ND and WMU have/are putting a hurting on their most recent opponents, and EMU showed some competence against both UM and NW. As you can see, the rush defense might have been helped by the fact that both ND and Miami (NTM) trotted out some of the worst rushing offenses last year, and Utah was the first game of the year against a fresh defensive front. This year it is clear that the line is a work in progress, and the LBs need to tackle better, but those were trouble spots everyone expected. Not to harp on the Denny Green meme, but the front 7 are who we thought they were - incredibly shallow with some clear weaknesses. Still, the rush defense is ranked #43 (last year it finished #50), and my guess is that it will improve somewhat as the season progresses and some of the younger players get their feet under them and GERG's principles become more familiar.
As for the passing defenses, they are remarkably similar statistically. Sure, Cissoko has struggled mightily this year, but don't forget that last year Stevie was letting bombs soar over his head and receivers scoot by him virtually unmolested. Angry Secondary Michigan Hating God works in mysterious ways, but apparently the pox can never be eradicated; just moved to a different victim. It should be noted that they have faced two top-30 passing offenses so far this season, so perhaps we shouldn't read that heavily into the fact that the backfield has been exposed somewhat. Currently the defense is 87th in passing defense, but that happens when you face top-30 passing attacks. Last year they finished #79, and I would be amazed if the pass defense didn't finish in the 60's or even the 50's by the end of the season.
So I guess my conclusion is that while the defense has struggled somewhat this year, let's not forget that it wasn't some juggernaut last year. For all of Cissoko's recent failings and the struggles of the front 7 against the run, the team is not that far away from last year's numbers, and should probably exceed them once the sample size increases. Yes, PSU and OSU will likely run all over the D, but that should surprise nobody. Those are top-notch offenses with dynamic playmakers in the backfield. But I like what I'm seeing so far under GERG - tackling alone seems light-years ahead of last year, the players seem to get the scheme, the young guys, especially Roh, look legit, and Warren and Graham have been revelations. I'm not saying this defense will approach 1997 or 2006, but I do think it will grade out better than people expect.
I would love to hear what people who know far more about football, especially on the defensive side, think of this defense and how it should look going forward.
EDIT: I have updated the rankings for this year's offenses after 3 games. Overall, they match up quite similarly to last year's offenses after 3 games, when the defense was touted as one of the best. My take is that while the defense certainly has to improve, I think that it will certainly be better than last year's because the offense should protect it via sustained drives and, hopefully, less turnovers resulting in bad field position.
2009 - after 3 games
There will be no formal Big 10 Picks edition this week. Next week, with a full slate of league games, we'll pick this feature back up. Doing it on non conference weekends is fun, but forces my hand to call way too many games. There is no way I could duplicate last week's success over the course of another 10 games, so we're taking a pass on the full schedule.
Instead, let me indulge in a few thoughts before I fire the car up for the short drive up to Ann Arbor to see the Wolverines quiet the Caw.
Can we please layoff Boubacar Cissoko. Do we throw players under the bus 120 minutes into their career as a starter? Is that really what we want the Michigan fanbase to be all about? Some of the hate surrounding Cissoko in the wake of the Notre Dame game makes me to a double take to make sure I didnt step into a taping of Buckeye Roundtable.
Please remember that this team is still young, will make plenty of mistakes and go through bouts where its play is whatever the opposite of last week's magic is. I hope when that happens that I dont check into this blog and read all sorts of threads denigrating the players. Last week, we had folks crying that Stonum, a sophomore after spending his first year as second string, was a disappointment. Now we're pilloring Cissoko. Keep in mind that this team, nay Rodriguez's whole program, remains a work in progress. In the end, its going to be a fine wine. Vintage. Just stop and smell the bouquet before you chug the whole thing down. Try to enjoy the harvesting.
Getting back to Cissoko, what is there to really say? He got worked all last Saturday. But, he was going toe to toe with a future first round draft pick and somebody who I think is one of the favorites for the Biletnekoff Award. It was a mistmach. I'd love to know the thought process behind planning that matchup, but also sticking with it as it became obvious that Cissoko had more than his hands full with Floyd. Is Rodriguez pushing him, throwing him out there on that island to better his game?
This is like a swimming coach taking a prize pupil who can race sprints well in alll four strokes and trying to mold him into a distance individual medley racer. That first race might end with a sixth place dud, but if the kid has talent, seeing first hand how to handle that competition in that forum is invaluable. The next race should be better. Cissoko just went up against the best and saw where it is his game was defecient. Can we at least wait and see how he takes that experience and how he builds from it before we cast him aside and start comparing him to past whipping boys. Please?
Dont forget, he had a good opening day, that included a game changing opening quarter pick. Yes, I said game changing. Two players later, the Denard Robinson run happened. After that, the rout was on. Despite being abused against the Irish, he had another pick on his hands, but just could not close the deal. He is one play away from all of us celebrating him, instead we fans light him up all week. The difference in sporting results is sometimes a fine line.
Alright, my moralizing is done. Be your own fan. But, expect some fighting words like a scorned Bandie if I think player a critique is a bit over the top.
Enough of that. More randon, less pious thoughts:
*****Today is a huge day for the mid majors with Utah traveling to Oregon and BYU hosting Florida State. If the upsarts (can you really call BYU, a 7-point favorite, an upstart?) pull off wins and TCU beats Clemson next week, the Moutain West suddenly has a round robin slate that will have BCS Title game implications. Is there any way we can quickly drop Boise State into the MWC? This league is one more high end team away from being better than half of the BCS leagues. Just E-pinion.
******The Florida-Tennesse line has grown from -24 to -30 during the last two weeks. The public demands Urban Meyer runs up the score. Their pocketbooks are at stake.
*******Are you excited by the possible return of BOOM MALLET'ED? Tonight the Ryan Mallett era at Arkansas gets underway in earnest when the Hogs host UGA. The Dawgs have already played two high end foes, while this is the Razorbacks first real sweat of the year. Are the Hogs this year's Ole Miss, an SEC West team that makes a leap and pulls off at least one stunning upset? Be very quiet about any expectations, but I give a Arky-UM Outback Bowl about a 25 percent chance of happening right now. That said, whats the Over/Under on botched snaps tonight?
******* There are two Big 10/Pac Challenges today with Cal and Arizona playing at Minnesota and Iowa. The Bears are close to two touchdown chalk on the road. Big 10 boosters better hope Kinnick Stadium magic is out in full force because they will need a Hawkeyes win to help the league save some face. That said, a Minnesota win might be as important to the league as a Buckeye win might have been last week. It would be the eighth best team in one league beating the second best in another. People would certainly re-evaluate the depth of the league.
******* We're all getting our popcorn ready for the Tailspin Bowl in South Bend aren't we? Is history and program identity finally starting to catchup with Mark Dantonio? Is there a coach not named Lane Kiffin more in a pressure cooker today than Charlie Weis? Winner rights the ship and has a lot of their preseason goals still in front of them. The Loser? Well, their hometown will certainly be a special place this week, won't it?
I dont have a full card of Big 10 games, but I will offer up some Big 10 Picks and count them in the record. Check out my blog for a full acount of my thoughts on today's games and where else I'm putting my money where my mouth is.
Iowa -4 over Arizona. The Hawks win 21-9, scoring a touchdown, four field goals and a safety. Iowa is 35-19-1 ATS at home.
Indiana +3.5 over Akron. The Hoosiers have matched up well with the MAC, despite how bad things are down in Bloomington for the football team. They did lose to Ball State and Central last season, but those were some special teams. Indiana is better this year and Akron is no version of CMU or BSU. I felt IU would be 3-0 heading into the Michigan game. I'll take these 3.5 points.
MSU +11 over Notre Dame. We are all versed in the series history that trends to Sparty here. But, let me throw something else out there. The Spartans are road dogs today after losing outright at home as double digit favorites. Teams in that role are 90-55-3 ATS the last 13 years. We're rolling with that system today.
There you go, an abbreviated version of Big 10 picks. Enjoy the games today.
This is a follow up to a diary I wrote before the season started, where I aggregated all of the preseason polls I could find and tried to turn their individual uselessness into something that might be useful. I thought that perhaps that:
AVERAGE(Moron1:MoronN) +/- arbitrary fudge factor = something to kill time before kickoff
I got enough positive comments that I decided to update the prediction based on the first two games and take it a little further into implied point spreads.
My initial model predicted 6.28 wins which seemed about right at the time given the little we knew about the new roster and the other teams in the Big Ten. However, I closed the diary by saying the following:
“The first two games should tell us everything we need to know. If M starts out 2-0 then look for an 8 or 9 win season as the Illinois and Wisconsin games would start to look much more favorable. A 1-1 start means 5 or 6 wins as it means we have lost our first tossup game and our ranking around 50 is probably correct. 0-2 means a season of 3 or 4 wins is coming as we have dropped one of our 5 likely wins and all the tossups start looking like losses.”
Some of the polls I used at the beginning of the year don’t continue to do a 1-120 ranking each week but I was able to find enough polls to get a good cross section of data and remove the effects of any outliers. Currently Michigan’s average ranking is 22 compared to the preseason average of 49. Future opponents are now ranked as follows (preseason ranking in parentheses):
EMU 112 (113), IU 83 (91), MSU 50 (29), Iowa 26 (23), Delaware State NA, PSU 10 (11), Illinois 60 (38), Purdue 57 (76), Wisconsin 40 (42), and OSU 8 (8).
I then used a simple model**. I start every game as a 55-45 proposition in favor of the home team. I then add/subtract a point based on the difference in ranking. So a home team ranked #20 would be given a 75% chance of beating a team ranked #40 (55 + (40-20)). Given upsets in recent years, I topped it out at a 95% chance of winning or losing.***
I also looked at spreads and money lines to determine what point spread was being implied to get a sanity check on the numbers. From looking at a combination of spreads and money lines for this weekends game I determined that a 3% increase in your chance of winning increases the spread by 1 point. So a 59% chance of winning a game implies a spread of 3 points.****
Here is what the numbers looked like then and now for Michigan’s probability of winning each game along with the spread implied by that percentage:
Game preseason week2 implied spread
WMU .79 1.00
ND .34 1.00
EMU .95 0.95 -33
IU .95 0.95 -23.5
MSU .25 0.72 -7
Iowa .19 0.49 pick
Del St .95 0.95 NA
PSU .17 0.42 +2.5
Ill .34 0.82 -10
Pur .82 0.90 -13
Wisc .38 0.63 -4
OSU .14 0.41 +3
Total expected wins preseason = 6.28
Current expected wins = 9.25
What a difference a few weeks makes. My main concern pre-season was that the Big Ten Schedule was the exact opposite of what I wanted. In all of the home games UM looked to be heavy favorites or heavy dogs. Meanwhile all of the away games looked like tossups. Now I like this schedule much better. I’d still trade having PU and IU at home to have MSU and Iowa at home, but having PSU and OSU at home now looks a lot more fun.
From a point spread perspective its looks decent. Vegas EMU spread is currently -24 whereas I am saying it should be -33 (for the EMU and IU games I used the actual delta as opposed to my 95% artificial limit). If the MSU game was happening tomorrow I would expect a point spread of 4-5 not 7. If Illinois was tomorrow I would probably expect 6-7 not 10. But the others actually look pretty reasonable if those games were being held tomorrow. *****
*Model used neither solid nor proven.
**for the sake of simplicity
***I realize there are more scientific and complicated ways to do this. There are inputs better than poll numbers. However I am a back of the envelope guy and at the end of the day you are trying to determine a win total in a pretty small band – no matter what you use you are probably going to come out with a number between 8 and 10
**** I’m not a regular gambler, I deduced this by looking at a dozen or so spreads and money lines, if anyone has better data let me know
WEEK 2 OUTCOME:
Most Hideous: Toledo 54 - Colorado 38 AND Maryland 38 - JMU 35 (OT)
- Not only is this a terrible job of scheduling by the Colorado AD, but coming off a loss to CSU the Buffs were in a no win situation. Friday night is usually reserved for High School Football, and Colorado's level of play reflected that. I thought the 2008 Michigan defense that gave up 6 points to Toledo was one of the worst I had ever seen, but Colorado, I salute you.
-Well, I (almost) told you so. After losing 52-13 in week 1 to Cal, Maryland nearly suffered a defeat at the hand of the Colonial Athletic Association's powerhouse, JMU. However down 28-21 going into the 4th Quarter, Ralph Friedgen pulled off a brilliant coaching move by purging an entire chicken, motivating his men to victory in one of the biggest wins in Maryland history.
WEEK 3 HEAVYWEIGHTS:
Gardner-Webb @ N.C. State: The only way I would watch this game is if you told me that next year Devin Gardner and Martell Webb were going to play N.C. State by themselves with perfect 10 models as the officials and all proceeds going to charity.
MSU @ Notre Dame: Little Brother @ Giant Whiner. This game is hideous for so many reasons, but none more than the fanbase of the two squads. If ND loses I can't help but think Fat Charlie will all but have lost his job and the reaction among the Domer faithful should provide endless hours of entertainment. If MSU loses; the RCMB will spontaneously combust eliminating 1,000 of the worst people on Earth and Dantonio will be seen for what he really is, a career .500 coach. With a Spartan loss Dantonio will also achieve what even Bobby Williams and John Lansing Smith couldn't, losing at ND.
Iowa State @ Kent State: Please, oh god please, someone turn it off. No seriously, I'm begging, is Real Housewives of Atlanta re-runs on? Will somebody snatch a kid and trigger the Amber Alert? Can I get a Tornado Warning? Anything but this.
OSU @ Toledo: Any outcome other than a 40 point win with TP throwing like Tate Christ will have the Buckeye nation spinning. Does anyone else think Toledo will put up more than a good fight? After 30+ points on offense the first two weeks including the 54 they hung on Colorado last week, I wouldn't be that surprised. Some advice to the Vest, run Pryor.
UVA @ Southern Miss: Last chance Mr. Grohl, and I don't like your chances. TMHGOTW is going to miss you.
I am interested as always to hear your thoughts on which games you find to be particularly terrible.
Before we get started, I just want to say "WOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!" I know it's thursday, but that's how good that game made me feel! Ok, now lets get to it.
As always, small sample sizes screw around with efficiency stats. But as the numbers accumulate, these will be more telling. So please have patience.
Category 1: Yards/TA is the total receiving yardage divided by the number of times a receiver is "thrown at". The idea here is that if a receiver can't get open, or if he drops the ball, his stats should reflect that in some way. "Thrown at" can be subjective if more than one receiver is in the area. But usually the primary receiver can be deduced based on alignment, coverage, routes, and who the QB chews out after the play. In extreme cases of throw aways or intentional groundings, no receiver is assigned. But if the QB throws it at the feet of a RB who can't get open on a screen, that still counts.
Category 2: YAC/TA is the amount of yards after the catch divided by the number of times thrown at. This measure is especially important for slot receivers and running backs who can make a lot of easy catches near or behind the line of scrimmage, but then have to make something happen with their feet.
Category 3: C Eff stands for Conversion Efficiency. I've made a change to this metric to reduce the amount of negative numbers. The formula is :
This isn't really an efficiency in the strictest sense of the word (more of an average score), but positive numbers here indicate that a receiver is doing enough to continue moving the chains and collecting first downs. On first down, a receiver only needs to get 1/4 of the remaining yards to go to get a positive score. But on 4th down, if the receiver doesn't convert, there's no more chances, and he gets a big old negative for coming up one yard short. If it's 3rd and 8 and you only get 5 yards, that's negative. But if you get 7, even though you didn't convert, you made it easier to convert on 4th down, so the score is positive.
Category 4: R Eff stands for Redzone Efficiency. This is just the number of TD's scored in the redzone divided by the number of times thrown at in the redzone (I count the redzone as the 20 yardline and closer, some people like the 25). This number is important for TE, FB, and bigger WR. Every team needs at least one person who can score high on this metric. Otherwise you're doomed to lots of bad angle field goal attempts. (unless your running game is awesome)
|Player||Yards/TA||YAC/TA||C Eff||R Eff|
I included ND's top four for comparison's sake. The high numbers across the board for Yards/TA show what a wild game it was. Another thing that stands out is Carlos Brown's ability to get yards coming out of the backfield. Allen and Rudolph both got big chunks of yards on screens leading to their high YAC/TA . Mathews kind of had another rough day, (better than last week) but BOY DID HE COME THROUGH WHEN IT MATTERED!
Now that's a guy who looks like he's having fun on the sidelines!
It's still just week 2, but here's the Year to date stats.
|Player||Yards/TA||YAC/TA||C Eff||R Eff|
Can't really draw conclusions from this yet, other than that Grady has not been much of a factor in the passing game (he got some good runs against western michigan). This may be due to ND's scheme cutting off our bubble screens.
Our running game has been good enough where we haven't really needed to throw much in the Redzone. But Koger is still 2 for 2 on the year.
You can see the loss of Hemingway really hurt during the ND game. Not just on catching the long ball, but also on bubble screens and just plain fighting for yards after a catch. Just like rushing stats, you want a YAC/TA above 3, and closer to 4. But it's not as important for outside receivers.
And now for the random comments:
- I'm really beginning to hate the 3 addidas stripes on the back of the coaches shirts. I keep seeing them during many different games and they remind me of nazi barcodes.
- A Duke DB had back to back pick 6's. 16 seconds apart! I've never seen that before.
- The big ten had a bunch of squeakers. Only PSU, ILL, and Iowa won by more than a TD. The margins of victory in the other games were 3, 4, 2, 3, 4, 7, 3, 2. Exciting football, but not real great for the conference's image. However, the conference is still 18-4 and basically tied with the pac 10 for the best non-conf record.
- USC won, but did not "kill" tosu as predicted here last week. I chalk this up to homefield advantage.
- But that also makes me worry about our trip to MSU as it's our first road game (some, CMU did just beat them there).
- And it makes me think ND will get some bogus calls and help from the crowd to beat MSU this week.
- THANK GOD, they didn't play that Chesney crap country music this week! At least I didn't hear it, if they played it.
- The blue block "M" looks awesome from the aerial shots! Way to go students. Now if the alumni could just figure out that there's a huge block M painted on the eastern side of the stadium...
- I thought GERG made excellent halftime adjustments!
- Clausen STILL can't handle pressure. Every ND opponent from here on out should just blitz the hell out of him.
- UCLA looks to be greatly improved too. I hope they upset USC.
- I'm loving that a 4 gigabyte torrent only takes me 20 minutes to download!
- With no bye weeks, we really need to use the next two weeks as an opportunity to get healthy. Conference play is going to be a grind. Thank god for a well placed delaware state matchup.
- It's really hard to keep my expectations down after that game. I have to remind myself that 7-5 and a bowl game would still be awesome. (even if I am dreaming of 10-2)
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Todd HowardNOTE: Major edits made 9/18 to fix statistical errors -- used the opportunity to do a little clarification, and add some context for the "you knocked on boobie -- die mthrfkr!" contingent, which I realize I kind of brought on myself by not adding any context.
ALSO NOTE: This is e-pinion, not empirical fact.
Alas, again, I have begun to write a long Misopo-reply, only to upgrade mid-writing to a Diary.
This one goes out to MGoHero jg2112's "Support Boubacar Cissoko this Saturday" post, in which 'jg' posited that Boubacar Cissoko is this year's Martavious Odoms, i.e. a great player who gets the general M fan negbang beyond his actual faults.*
Cissoko is not Odoms.
For one, "Tay" is your vintage Rich-Rod slot ninja, a guy recruited for a system position. Cornerback, however, doesn't change much from Hermann to Robinson -- coverage, at the college level at least, is coverage, and every system puts cornerbacks in multiple roles during a game. In other words, Cissoko's size or jet-engine-ness are not something to get used to because of the coaching shift; he's a Carr recruit playing a position that fundamentally requires the same skill set.
His problems in the Notre Dame game, as noted in Brian's UFR, were not just size. He was bailing and leaving large cushions. This could be underclassman-y stuff from a true sophomore left out to dry with no safety help, but the mental mistakes, I think, were not what you expect from a lock-down corner. Or more importantly, not what you'd expect from a guy you might expect to join the ranks of the post-Bo pantheon of great corners.
Hey, Misopogon. It's Brian's bolded subconscious. Guess what I'm here for?
You know me too well...
That's Boubacar's stats through two games into his sophomore season. Now lets compare with other Michigan cornerbacks who
True freshmen who became serviceable-to-good late in their careers:
The Late-'90s/Early '00s Backfield of Horrors
And just so they don't feel left out, here's the stats after 2 games of true sophomores or redshirt freshmen who didn't start until their second years:
So what does this tell us? Well, it's not good, but it's also not much. Among the stars, the only one close to Cissoko's numbers (but still better by a solid margin) was Leon Hall. Hall, like Cissoko, was mostly a nickelback his freshman year, but Leon beat out upperclassman versions of 5-stars Markus Curry and Jeremy LeSueur for the starting gig as a sophomore. Without similar talent to compare Cissoko against, it has to be assumed that Cissoko's playing time wasn't as hard to earn as Hall's.
I think at this point, Cissoko has not demonstrated that he belongs with that group, who all:
- Were 6 feet or taller
- Earned starts as freshmen over returning starters
- Showed an early aptitude for generating tackles.
The stars-are-big-and-get-lots-of-playing-time-and-tackles-early lesson is the only relatively solid (and that has been questioned) thing I found in the statistics available (if anyone has access to better stats for corners, I'm all ears!)
So What Have We Here?We've established that Cissoko isn't likely to be Woodson or Law (which, like, it's not like it's a sin to not be a Heisman winner or an NFL All-Pro). So then what is he?
As for the guys who became serviceable/good later in their careers, they generated those stats in a lot fewer snaps (e.g. Weathers didn't start playing regularly in '94 until late in the season; M.Curry was mostly a backup his freshman year).
Markus Curry is a possibility. Like Cissoko, he was a kick/punt returner his freshman year. A well-hyped recruit, he played early his freshman year but lost playing time to classmate Marlin Jackson's emergence early in the Big Ten season. Curry was a starter early his sophomore year, but then fell behind LeSeuer and Zia Combs (until that horrible injury -- G-d bless him wherever he is today).
The big difference between Cissoko and Curry the Younger, I think, is size, which has a big effect on either player's game. Curry was hyped as fast, but on the field his speed and agility turned out to be overrated, while after what we've seen of Cissoko, he definitely has the quicks and flat-out speed to keep up with anyone. Boubacar, however, is probably a good inch shorter than his listed height of 5'9", while Curry was just under 6.
Overall, Curry is a good comparison, but not great. Curry was bigger, and when he finally broke into the depth chart as a junior, the major difference IIRC was that he played "bigger," i.e. he was at his best when leaving a cushion, closing the gap, and popping the ball out, as opposed to pressing at the line, staying between the receiver and the ball, then trying to get his hands in the way.
Cissoko is never going to play, act, or be a big cornerback. He's a cover guy. In gauging his career arc, then, I would think that he will become exactly what he wasn't in the Notre Dame game. I can't fault him for giving Floyd a cushion (and there was only one fade which was pretty undefendable). But that's never going to be Boubacar's bread and butter.
The guys that Boubacar charts out closest to: I hate myself for doing this, but it's Whitley and Howard. Both are short (like Boubacar). Both were highly regarded recruits. Both were forced into lots of early playing time. Both were labeled Future Stars of the XFL by their sophomore years.
Of these two guys, Cissoko's early numbers are more like Whitley, but he strikes me as more Howard-esque than Whitley-esque. Todd was the smaller of the two, but also the faster, and more effective. He was owned early his sophomore year against Plaxico Burress, mirroring Cissoko's game against Floyd, when Todd was forced to give a cushion and keep the big guy underneath. Eventually that game, Howard was moved over for David Terrell, who had the height and ups to run with Plaxico in man.
By his (Todd Howard's) senior year, he was a poor man's Morgan Trent, necessitating early starting time for freshmen Markus Curry, Jeremy LeSueur (RS) and Marlin Jackson. But he was world's more effective than he had been as a sophomore.
Howard, I remember vividly, also probably was more overrated than any other Wolverine -- every year -- in progressive versions of EA Sports's NCAA Football Series.
Unlike Whitley, Todd Howard was fast, and wasn't relegated to the short side. He was out-manned against top talent, but help up pretty well against receivers who weren't 6'8" or could leap small buildings in a single bound, or ran NFL routes, or scurried around in free space underneath thanks to Northwestern's spread, or had Drew Brees bullseyes coming at them, or were named Charles Rogers.
That's not to say that his career potential is lifelong bomb threat. Remember, after all, Whitley was the one who generated the bulk of M fan ire. Howard, on the other hand, covered the wide side, made the occasional great play (especially against Ohio State -- that photo below was a key PBU in the '01 game) and fared well when he wasn't going against future NFL talent. Like you, I was hoping for a lot more. But Todd Howard isn't all that bad.
It's perfectly okay to be Todd Howard -- so long as the guy opposite him isn't Whitley. And fortunately for us, barring early NFL, Donovan Warren is probably only just past the half-way mark of his career, and between Turner and the guys we look pretty good for next year, I think M's chances of scoring another one of those top-end guys ain't too shabby.
What's in Store?In Year 2, Game 3 of Todd Howard's career, he had a breakout game at Syracuse minus McNabb, with 10 tackles, 1 sack for 15 yards, 2 PBUs and a forced fumble. Eastern Michigan isn't Syracuse '99, but hey, if Cissoko is all over the field on Saturday, remember you heard it here first.
There's a lot of time left in Cissoko's career. This is just an early analysis, and I think only made possible because he plays a position which, at least at Michigan, has tended to show its cards early.
Still, provided the other side of the field has Day 1 Draft Pick caliber guy opposite him, another Todd Howard isn't that bad of a prospect, really. What did Brian say in his secondary preview:
My go-to (and now rapidly aging) comparison was Arkansas corner Chris Houston, who I once saw battle the South Carolina star receiver before Kenny McKinley (his name escapes me) in a pitched Thursday night battle. Houston lined up two inches from his cover's grill and rode him into fades all night, some of which the opponent brought in spectacularly. That's life with feisty dwarves.Word.
P.S. If Cissoko is Howard, this only adds fuel to the "Justin Turner is Jeremy LeSueur" contingent, which does not yet exist, and thus probably can't use fuel. But now it's out there.
* The whole "folks tend to knock on Odoms" thing is played out, IMHO, as evidenced by every show of Odoms support being met with a cascade of "I've always liked the guy" posts. I don't remember ever wanting to knock him, except to yell "take your gloves off!" into a couple of monsoons.