I can think of no two individuals more alike than Jim Harbaugh and Napoleon Dynamite. They do whatever they feel like they want to do (gosh!), attack life/tetherball with an Enthusiasm Unknown to Mankind and express extremely strong opinions about one's choices regarding milk consumption.
"I see you're drinking 1%. Is that 'cause you think you're fat? 'Cause you're not. You could be drinking whole if you wanted to."
"Drink as much milk as your little belly can hold...the ideal is the whole milk."
The images below are previews only. You can get the widescreen, iPad and mobile wallpapers at The Art. The Art. The Art!.
Follow me on Twitter @thearttheart for updates.
Four Plays – Michigan @ Rutgers 2015
This series examines the probable individual matchups Michigan expects to face against particular opponents on one of Michigan’s key running plays and one of its key passing plays, as well as defensively against a couple of the opponent’s key plays (assuming first-sting personnel in a base defensive alignment).
I did four of these in 2013, and was planning on doing more but was too demoralized by around week seven to keep going. I only made it about half that far last season. Now we have Harbaugh though, so I’m pretty confident I can make it through the whole season.
The first game, of course, is on the road against Utah—a team that has always seemed to get the most out of its talent and has played Michigan tough over the years. Those past games were all played in the friendly confines of Michigan Stadium, but this year the Wolverines go on the road to experience Rice-Eccles Stadium and its 4.657-foot elevation. Evidently the Ute fans, butthurt over Harbaugh’s decision to swap out Alex Smith for Colin Kaepernick in 49er days, plan on welcoming the Michigan head coach with a bunch of Alex Smith heads-on-sticks. There probably aren’t many things less intimidating than Alex Smith’s head on a stick, so that’s all I’m going to say about that. Let’s look at some matchups.
When Michigan has the ball…
1. Counter F
Power O is certainly a well-known part of Jim Harbaugh’s offense, as the White Team famously made clear by coming out on the first play of the spring game and running Power O for 34 yards. Indeed, this off-season you couldn’t click on a “Harbaugh Offense” search window without somebody diagramming Power O and linking clips of old Stanford teams kicking ass with it. So, it might behoove me to choose Power O for the first play here. Yet in an effort to not be redundant, I am instead going wit Counter F, a similar play to Power O that utilizes newly-minted Michigan captain Joe Kerridge as the lead blocker in place of the usual backside guard.
Power O, in case you are new to the schematics, is a classic running play on which the playside tackle and tight end double-team the opposing defensive end, a fullback or h-back “kicks out” (drives to the outside) the “EMLOS” (End Man on Line of Scrimmage), and a pulling guard leads the running back through the “6 hole” (i.e., the gap outside the tackle).
26 Power O:
Counter F works much like Power O; the offense still gets a double-team at the point-of-attack, and the tailback’s initial counter-step hopefully gets linebackers flowing away from the playside. But now, the responsibilities of the fullback and backside guard are exchanged: the guard executes a trap block on the EMLOS, while fullback leads the ballcarrier through the six hole.
26 Counter F:
LT Mason Cole: Down block WDE Jason Fanaika
LG Ben Braden: Execute long trap block to kick-out “Stud” LB Uaea Masina
C Graham Glasgow: Down block DT Filipo Mokofisi
RG Kyle Kalis: Down block NT Lowell Lotulelei
RT Erik Magnuson: Block SDE Hunter Dimmck (away from 6-hole)
TE Jake Butt: With RT Erick Magnuson, double-team SDE Hunter Dimick; move to second level and block WLB Jared Norris
FB Joe Kerridge: Lead tailback through 6-hole, block first red jersey (presumably MLB Jason Whittingham)
RB – Deveon Smith: Take counter-step toward backside (to influence linebackers), then take handoff on playside; run through 6-hole, read and cut off of FB Joe Kerridge’s block
We’re all excited to see what Tim Drevno can do with Michigan’s offensive line. He has a lot of experienced talent to work with, and most of Michigan’s projected OL starters are upper-classmen with several years of college S&C in the books. But as promising as that looks, Michigan’s OL is still potential while Utah’s defensive line has produced. Strongside end Hunter Dimick had 10 sacks and 14.5 TFLs last season, while NT Lowell Latoulelei is an early-entry candidate for the NFL draft. Add to that Utah’s deep collection of junior and senior LBs, and M has a lot to prove here.
Another main theme of the off-season has been that big things are expected of junior tight end Jake Butt. I’m a big believer in this myself, as Butt has both proven himself a gritty, tough player in the Bo/Harbaugh tradition and demonstrated superior receiving skills from day one. One way to get Butt the ball is the Y-Cross concept, an old Lavell Edwards play that has become a staple of Air Raid and passing spread offenses.
Though there are countless variations on the Y-Cross, the main concept is to have an outside receiver occupy the cornerback deep, while the crossing tight end or slot receiver heads for the vacated space. While crossing routes are naturally good against man coverage, Y-Cross is also a good call against 3-deep zones because the crosser and the Z-receiver end up flooding the same deep third. Other variations combine Y-Cross with option routes, or with play-action fakes designed to freeze the linebackers and shake the crosser wide open.
Most versions of Y-Cross also have a third playside receiver—usually a back or TE releasing into the flat, and the quarterback reads deep-to-short (fade, to cross, to flat). But in the Michigan spring game, the White Team ran a version of Y-Cross from a 2 TE shotgun look with only two playside receivers. On that play, White kept back in for protection and got TE Chase Winovich isolated against a safety. Winovich unfortunately dropped a strike from Malzone, but the play would have gone for big yardage if caught.
XWR Amara Darboh: Run fade route vs. BCB Reggie Porter
RB Ty Isaac: Pass protection
LT Mason Cole: Pass block SDE Hunter Dimick
LG Ben Braden: Pass block DT Filipo Mokofisi
C Graham Glasgow: Pass block NT Lowell Lotolelei
RG Kyle Kalis: Pass block NT Lowell Lotolelei
RT Erik Magnuson: Pass block WDE Jason Fanaika
Slot WR Grant Perry: Run dig route vs. NCB Justin Thomas
YTE Jake Butt: Run crossing route (inside release, aim for sideline at 20 yards) vs. MLB Jason Whittingham
ZWR Jehu Chesson: Run fade route vs. FCB Dominique Hatfield
QB Jake Rudock: 5-step drop; “alert” read is Z Receiver (read during drop and throw in case of coverage bust) #1 read is Y-cross; if covered, #2 read is slot receiver on dig route.
According to the position-group previews on Utah blog Block U, it just about every player on Utah is an unstoppable ANFO-breathing football ninja, so perhaps I really should be giving the edge to the Utes here. I think M can hold its own though; not only does the Utah pass rush look significantly less scary with Nate Orchard now a Cleveland Brown, but Jake Butt is an accomplished receiving TE and this type of play appears to be in Jake Rudock’s wheelhouse.
When Utah has the ball…
1. Pistol Inside Zone
Inside Zone, as you probably know by now, is the ubiquitous downhill running play on which covered linemen block the defenders lined up across from them, uncovered linemen head to the second level, and the running back then reads the blocking and cuts north into daylight.
Last season I diagrammed Utah’s Inside Zone Read, a version of the same play but involving an option read at the mesh point. Inside Zone Read gives the offense an extra blocker by enabling the QB run threat to effectively “block” the backside defensive end. But the Utah backfield pairs 1,500-yard, bowling-ball style rusher Devantae Booker with 6’7” Travis Wilson; though Wilson himself has over 300 yards rushing in each of the past two seasons, letting him keep the ball on option reads takes the ball out of the hands of Booker—a fierce back currently projected to be taken in the second or third round of the 2016 NFL Draft. That’s probably why, as Oregon blog FishDuck noticed while previewing the Utes last season, Utah started just using an H-back to actually block the backside pursuer, rather than option him off with Wilson.
WDE Mario Ojemudia: set edge two yards deep and two yards outside, defend C-gap vs. RT Hiva Lutui, constrict B-gap
NT Ryan Glasgow: hold up to double-team vs. LG Isaac Asiata and LT JJ Dielman, defend backside A-gap
DT Willie Henry: hold up to double-team vs. C Siaosi Aiono and RG Salesi Uhatafe, defend playside B-gap
SDE Chris Wormley: Defeat block of H-Back Siale Fakailoatonga, backside pursuit
WLB Desmond Morgan: Defeat block of C Siaosi Aiono, defend playside A-gap
MLB Joe Bolden: Defeat block of LT JJ Dielman, defend backside B-gap
Booker is an outstanding running back. But their offensive line is young and does not appear to have a replacement for graduated star tackle Jeremiah Poutasi. While pass rush remains a question mark for Michigan, the Wolverines remain a stout run defense unit and that should continue in 2015.
2. All Curls
I took an educated guess last year that all-curls might be Utah’s base passing play, mainly because Utah had hired passing spread guru Dave Christiansen as their offensive coordinator and he had shown a proclivity for the play. Though I prefer to make jokes about all the things I get wrong, in this case I actually got it right; here you can see Utah run all-curls repeatedly on a game winning drive against USC.
All-curls is a particularly effective against Cover 3, which leaves only four underneath defenders to cover five possible receivers. But even against other coverages, the play is a reliable chain-mover that provides two distinct advantages as a base play. For one, all-curls gives the quarterback four slow-moving or stationary targets, each facing the QB, and spread horizontally across the field, as well as a releasing back for a safety valve option. Second, numerous other route combinations can be built off the same route stem as all-curls (e.g., slant-wheel, smash-corner, four verticals, etc.)—thus giving the offense plenty of constraint alternatives against a defense that overplays the curls.
BCB Wayne Lyons: Press coverage vs. WR Kenneth Scott
NCB Jabrill Peppers: Press coverage vs. Slot WR Delshawn McClellan
WDE Mario Ojemudia: Pass rushg vs. LT JJ Dielman
3T Willie Henry: Pass Rush vs. LG Isaac Asiata
NT Ryan Glasgow: Pass rush vs. C Siaosi Aiono, RG Salesi Uhatafe
SDE Chris Wormley: Pass rush vs. RT Hiva Lutui
WLB Joe Bolden: Man coverage vs. RB Devontae Booker
MLB Desmond Morgan: Drop into middle zone; read and follow QB’s eyes to ball
FS Jerrod Wilson: Cover deep middle
SS Delano Hill: Press coverage vs. WR Kenric Young
FCB Jourdan Lewis: Press coverage vs. WR Tim Patrick
One piece of extremely good news for Michigan is that Utah’s outstanding 2014 wide receivers, Dres Anderson and Kaelin Clay, have graduated, and there doesn’t appear to have been much behind them. Senior Kenneth Scott caught 48 balls for 506 yards and 4 TDs last season, but nobody else has much in the way of statistics—or even hype on the ridiculously effusive Block U. As for Michigan, the secondary is one of the team’s strongest units, with Jourdan Lewis arguably the team’s best returning defensive player and Jabrill Peppers looking a possible DPOY candidate in the Big Ten. M’s pass rush remains a point of concern, however, and Utah does have a mobile senior QB, so no advantage overall. Hopefully Jourdan and Jabrill prove me wrong about that a few times.
Bonus: EGD’s 2015 Michigan Preview
Almost every year since probably the late 1990s I’ve written a Michigan football preview targeted at my friends and acquaintances—most of whom aren’t exactly mgousers. I posted it here the last two or three seasons and it was reasonably well-received, but on the whole I’d say if you haven’t read HTTV yet, read that; if you haven’t read the front-page UM preview material yet, read that. If you’ve plowed through all that and still have a UM Football jones, click on the link below.
Saturday, Michigan Man par excellence John U. Bacon kicked off the promotional whirlwind for his new book, Endzone: The Rise, Fall, and Return of Michigan Football at the Diag bar in Chicago at an event sponsored by the U of M Club of Greater Chicago.
To a standing-room-only crowd ranging from alumni to former Bacon students (like myself) to such luminaries as Will Hagerup and Carl Grapentine, the voice of the Michigan Marching Band and Michigan Stadium, Bacon explained the breakneck pace at which he completed his latest work on "this Michigan of ours." Though some (ahem, Buckeyes) are taking issue with the subtitle of the book (particularly, the part about Rise, Fall, and Return), Bacon's main thesis is that this book is not about wins and losses--it's about Michigan reclaiming itself from within.
This "Return," then, is one of values and traditions. While the losses the program has experienced since 2006 were certainly concerning, Bacon emphasizes that students, fans, and alumni were more concerned with the bigger picture around those losses: the rapid erosion of what made Michigan special, largely through the attitude and actions of former Athletic Director Dave Brandon. As a result, Bacon starts the story not with Dave Brandon, but Charles Baird, who pioneered the role of Athletic Director, building the foundation for Yost, Crisler, and Canham. As Bacon explained, this is a story of how Michigan built an unparalleled legacy and tradition for over a century, based on selling not a product or a game, but Michigan. By treating ticketholders, alumni, letterwiners, students, and fans with respect and a relatively remarkable degree of restraint and transparency, the Athletic Department built mountains of trust--and a waitlist for football tickets to show for it. When Dave Brandon eroded that trust, challenging the status quo at nearly every juncture for reasons that seemed petty or misguided, if not simply greedy, Michigan's core constituencies appealed to that same tradition and trust to unseat Brandon.
What makes this book so interesting, from portions I've torn through since I got my hands on it yesterday, is that this is clearly not a narrative about one big moment. While some may point to the Noodle, the Shane Morris incident, or the "quit drinking and go to bed" emails as points of rupture, these are just isolated examples that point to the fundamental reason Dave Brandon failed at Michigan: the slow accumulation of similarly small, seemingly innocuous changes and/or actions that in one way or another systematically ticked off yet another constituency within the Michigan family, from former M lettermen to Olympic sports coaches to alumni organizations to donors to the ordinary fan trying to bring their kid to a Michigan game. Ignoring many of the benchmarks of leadership Bacon highlighted in Bo's Lasting Lessons, Brandon found new and infinitely infuriating ways to turn every corner of the University against him, perhaps none more important than the Board of Regents, on which he had previously served with distinction. As a litany of miscues, it's truly breathtaking, and some in the crowd were only too eager to share yet more from their own experiences.
At the same time, Bacon was clear to point out that while we can all point to countless examples of Brandon's mismanagement and misdirected ego, he was also capable of going the extra mile for student-athletes and others within the department. Bacon emphasized Will Hagerup's story, with Hagerup in attendance, as a particularly poignant example to this end. It's clear Brandon cares deeply about Michigan, and often went out of his way to go the extra mile for those he considered his core constituencies.
Yet just as Lloyd Carr's true motivations were somewhat obscured in Three and Out, Bacon's book on Rich Rodriguez's tenure at Michigan, I think there's a similar complexity here about Dave Brandon. Just as Carr did with 3&O, Brandon declined Bacon's request for comment--even though, as Bacon explained yesterday, he was offered a nearly endless timeline to answer a series of questions (via email, which we know is a medium Brandon knows how to use) at the conclusion of the project. We're left, then, with a picture of a man whose actions usually didn't measure up to the better angels of his nature, inexplicably working to destroy a legacy Brandon was raised to uphold from the moment he committed to Michigan at the foot of Bo's hospital bed in January 1970. We're left with the frustration that Brandon knew better, yet seldom acted as if he did.
Which brings us to Jim Hackett and Harbaugh, which Bacon explained was a result of yet more small and seemingly innocuous events and coincidences that culminated in the perfect storm for Michigan to hire the right interim AD, and in turn to the right coach. And it was all made possible because Michigan's alumni, students, letterwinners, student-athletes, and coaches rallied around each other to reclaim what they knew to be Michigan, something which was far too important to let die away.
The event at the Diag was wonderful, as is the norm for the UMCGC, with lively discussion and questions (including one from Carl Grapentine himself, which, as Bacon commented, was "ear chocolate" for those of us who love Carl's dulcet tones), and a line out the door for signed books. For many of us who studied with Mr. Bacon at Michigan (as I did--a Baked Potato extended to my fellow Bacon alums!), it was just like being in that auditorium at Angell Hall.
For those in the Ann Arbor area, there will be a similar event on Tuesday, September 1st, at Rackham Auditorium at 7PM. There's room for a thousand people--tell your friends, bring the kids, and buy a book!
As we all know, November is the most packed of the month of the athletic calendar.
It is the only time where we are guaranteed all of the "big 3 sports" all playing at the same time in terms of their seasons.
Also included in this post, inevitable doubleheaders of Hockey and Basketball beyond the month of November.
Here are the important dates for you to know in regardst to this, now that the complete Football, Hockey and Men's Basketball schedules are out with times and TV TBA for the latter two.
Hockey- vs Robert Morris (3pm)
Football- at Minnesota (8pm)
M Basketball- vs Northern Michigan
Hockey- vs Niagara
M Basketball- vs Xavier
Hockey- at Boston University
Football- at Penn State
Hockey- at Boston University
M Basketball- Battle 4 Atlantis final
Hockey- vs Dartmouth
Football- vs Ohio State
Hockey- vs Dartmouth
M Basketball- vs Houston Baptist
Hockey- vs Wisconsin
Football- B1G Championship (if applies)
M Basketball- vs Delaware State
Hockey- vs Minnesota
Hockey- Michigan Tech/Michigan State (GLI)
M Basketball- at Illinois
M Basketball- at Iowa
Hockey- vs Ohio State
M Basketball- Penn State (B1G Hoops & Hockey at MSG)
Hockey- Penn State (B1G Hoops & Hockey at MSG)
M Basketball- vs Michigan State
Hockey- at Michigan State
M Basketball- vs Purdue
Hockey- at Wisconsin
M Basketball- B1G Tournament Quarterfinals (if applies)
Hockey- vs Penn State
M Basketball- B1G Tournament Semifinals (if applies)
Hockey- vs Penn State
[Ed-S: Moved to diaries so people will remember. We have 51 signups for a room that holds 50. Rather than do a checklist and a million RSVPs just to have a beer if you're coming from far out just get there early. We'll overflow upstairs]
Twas the Night Before Football
No fan could do nothing, but sit there and wait.
We re-read their previews, refreshed our home page.
Is it Smith, Green, or Isaac? Well no-one could say.
The players were nestled all snug in Salt Lake,
and we sent out prayers for the hams of poor Drake.
And Jabrill in his 'kerchief, and Jim in his cap,
awoke that old quiver from its long winter's nap.
But the minutes were hours, and hours were days;
and we'd talked ourselves into the hype for Moe Ways.
Our focus was shattered, our speech MGo-patois
They asked us "What is it?" We said only, "Harbaugh."
The phone told us nothing; the Twitter was mum.
No matter how many times we yanked the screen down with our thumb.
When what to our wondering eyes should appear
but a gentle reminder to come have a beer:
With a little explaining, and maybe a look,
We dashed out the door to catch Ace, Seth and Cook.
To the downstairs of Ashley's thanks to Demo we came
and we whistled and shouted and called them by name:
"Now Jourdan! Now Glasgows!
Now, Darboh and Taco!
On, Khalid! On, Kalis!
On, Mason and Butt!
Go Oji, go Bolden!
Come Ross and Mo Hurst!
And Lyons and Henry
and Morgan who hurts!
Homesure Lending is buying, so we can all raise a glass!
And shout THANK BO ALMIGHTY
IT'S HARBAUGH AT LAST!
We've rented out the basement of Ashley's on S. State Street in Ann Arbor, from 7:30 to 10:30 on the Wednesday night before the season starts to have a beer with other MGoBloggers, since we're pretty much in no state at that point to be around normal folks. The sponsor, Homesure Lending, is not collecting leads or anything; he offered to rent out the space and buy the first round in gratitude of all the people here (including Brian and myself) who closed out a loan with him this year. Link is here. We have have a 40ish people max so we threw up an informal registration form in there, mostly to get a head count.