Will Cameron Gordon bring balance to the force? Will Vlad the Impaler ever transition from psych to sang? Is Marvin the Marvelous Marvel just an empty OMG shirtless? Do 40-times matter at all? Will Misopogon exhaust his annual allotment of rhetorical questions before this deck is even finished? I dunno, but I was seriously freaking about about free safety, man, so I dipped into UFRs of yore and found….hope?
Question for you Cam: What has two thumbs, and is responsible for stopping the big play?
Tthere are things that concern me very much about 2010. Chief among these, and that which I would like to now give the full Misopogonal logorrhea treatment in an attempt to allay those fears in my own head (and SLEEP dammit), is the position of Free Safety.
Or Deep Safety.
Or Deathbacking D-Back of Defensive Doom.
You know what I'm talking about: the middle safety who is supposed to play Cover 1, or center Cover 3, or clean up anything that runs by Obi Ezeh and whichever lineman Obi has affixed himself to for the duration of that play.
The position which, at least in our current defensive terminology, I believe is officially called the…
* Good news is none of those links are RickRolls. Bad news is they are all much, much worse.
To really grasp what kind of play to expect this season from the quarterback of the defense, and what kind of player tends to succeed in that position I felt it necessary to go over the kind of deep safety play that Michigan has had since, oh, 2005.
…[Misopogon spends two full evenings in old UFRs]
Omigod guys, there's some seriously bad safety play in there. But I learned some things today… Fortify your stomach, then click to continue.
Here are your unofficial Michigan free agency signings, for our boys who missed out on draft day, but will still look to earn an NFL paycheck (except Carson Butler, who will undoubtedly be cut after releasing a terror-spree the nerdy denizens of Wisconsin).
Full (and still unofficial) list can be found here: http://www.nepatriotsdraft.com/2009/04/2009-undrafted-free-agent-signing...
Will Johnson - Ravens
Brandon Harrison - Colts
Tim Jamison - Texans
Doug Dutch - Redskins
Sean Griffin - Seahawks
Carson Butler - Packers
Here's hoping these undrafted guys impress enough to crack the roster.
Interesting article in the Columbus Dispatch on Rich Rodriguez and the trials of taking over a storied program like Michigan - and struggling mightily your first year.
A couple of things stood out to me. One was the discipline he is trying to install:
It wasn't just the playbook that changed.
"From practices to meetings to dress codes to lifting schedules to where we eat, what we can do, where we can go, curfew -- there are a lot of things that are different," senior defensive tackle Terrance Taylor said. "You expect that, but being here, you want to hold on to something you know about."
Michigan used to have season-long captains. This year, they were chosen on a weekly basis.
Before, Michigan players didn't have a curfew. Taylor said Sunday night's curfew required players to be home by 10 p.m., in bed by 11.
Rodriguez has banned players from using cell phones in the team's building "because when we're in the building he wants us talking to each other," Taylor said.
Given the trouble college football players seem prone to get into when out late, the curfew seems like a good idea. And the cell phone rule connects with a larger theme Rich Rod is trying to build:
As for changing the team's culture, Rodriguez said he wasn't sure how that should be defined. He said that if that meant instilling the desire to do the best they can on and off the field and put team before individual, that's what he wants.
"Is that the culture where I'm at right now?" he said. "I don't know. But that's the culture that I want. If that's the culture that our fans want, then we're on the same page."
I think that is a simple but worthy philosophy: the desire to be the best on and off the field and to value your team more than yourself. I am confident Rodriguez can recruit talent. But if he can mold a true team that has that camaraderie and commitment then Michigan can be a national contender again.
The article ends with an anecdote that shows how Rodriguez is illustrating that commitment himself:
It could very well be that all Rodriguez needs is time. That's something he didn't have after his hiring. Though he had the senior class over to his house more than once, some of them felt they got short shrift.
Harrison, the safety, was among them. Then last weekend on Senior Day, his parents were late getting to Michigan Stadium from Dayton because of traffic from an accident. So instead of having Harrison take the field unescorted, Rodriguez accompanied him.
"He didn't really need to do that," Harrison said. "I see him in a whole different way. I used to look at him as just my head coach. Now I look at him as if it's a different type of bond."
I don't know about other Michigan fans, but I felt better about our coach after reading this article. There has been a lot of debate about the so called "family values" at Michigan under Rodriguez, but the values noted above are the right ones in my opinion.
Justin Feagin, change-up QB. From all indications, Feagin isn't ready to be a full time quarterback in the FBS. He has some issues with mechanics that can be seen on high school game film and college practice film. He also seems to lack some arm strength, and Rich Rodriguez has hinted that he also lacks the ability to make the right reads in the passing game. That being said, Feagin obviously held some potential to play quarterback in college. High school film indicates that he has the ability to make some plays with his arm, which means he can be a threat to throw the ball. This threat seemed to be enough to keep Minnesota's defense off balance when Feagin played QB. Even though he never threw the ball, you could tell that Minnesota's defense was just a little bit hesitant to come up in run support when he had the ball. This could serve the team well as this season - and, potentially, future seasons - goes on. I liked the way that the coaching staff sprinkled Feagin throughout the game. They didn't give him a series or two. They put him in for a play or two at a time. No matter who the starter is in future weeks - Threet or Sheridan - Feagin should continue to see occasional action at QB.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER WHO SHOULD LOSE HIS JOB
DEFENSIVE PLAYER WHO SHOULD KEEP HIS JOB
Brandon Harrison, SS/LB. At least for now, Rodriguez and Scott Shafer decided to do away with the 3-3-5. After the Purdue nightmare, they decided to go back to a four-man front. They should never have veered from that set, but that's neither here nor there. For much of Saturday's game, Michigan employed a 4-2-5 against Minnesota's spread offense. The Wolverines limited Minnesota to six points (two field goals) and 188 total yards. Brandon Harrison played closer to the line than usual and came up with some key plays, especially a sack of Minnesota QB Adam Weber. This should continue for Northwestern and possibly Ohio State. Thompson is a decent run stopper, but he's ineffective on pass plays, whether he's covering or blitzing. If the team wanted to stick to a 4-3 this year, they should have kept Thompson at MIKE and moved Ezeh to SAM. But they didn't. Now Thompson has been effectively benched against spread teams (presumably, unless things change this week). Harrison is adept at run support and also has excellent speed to chase plays down from behind. Unless Michigan encounters power run formations in which Thompson would hold up better than the 205-pound Harrison, the SS should stay near the line and Michael Williams or Charles Stewart should play deep. This was a nice adjustment by Shafer.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER WHO SHOULD LOSE HIS JOB
This was the best defensive game of the season. The entire team tackled well and maintained their responsibilities.
Michigan's lineup has fluctuated throughout the year, and I expect that it will continue to change until Michigan plays with more consistency - which may not happen until 2009. Note: Only players who have a viable backup will be chosen to lose their jobs. For example, Threet likely will not be chosen because Sheridan has been a complete disaster.
OFFENSIVE STARTER WHO SHOULD KEEP HIS JOB
Greg Mathews, WR. I choose Mathews because...well...he's not horrible, despite an unnecessary unnecessary roughness call in the second half of Saturday's game.
OFFENSIVE STARTER WHO SHOULD LOSE HIS JOB
Tie: Sam McGuffie, RB and Toney Clemons, WR. Before all the McGuffie lovers get their panties in a bunch, I think McGuffie should still be a starter - at slot receiver. With Martavious Odoms out with an injury and Terrence Robinson seemingly headed for a redshirt, a shakeup is necessary. Odoms has consistently been able to find soft spots in the defense from the slot position. McGuffie has similar size and moves and would benefit from being put out into open space. He has also shown good hands (zero drops this season) and the ability to make people miss. When Odoms returns from his shoulder injury (presumably next week), he could move into the starting Y receiver position, forming a trio of Mathews, Odoms, and McGuffie as wide receivers. Toney Clemons dropped two catchable balls on Saturday that led to two interceptions; on top of that, he doesn't have the speed or elusiveness to be effective in the slot. Moving McGuffie to the slot would allow Brandon Minor (who either scores a TD or fumbles on every touch), Carlos Brown (when he returns from injury), Michael Shaw, and Kevin Grady to get touches out of the backfield. McGuffie might be our best option at RB, but the backup RB's aren't nearly as bad as the backup slot receivers.
DEFENSIVE STARTER WHO SHOULD KEEP HIS JOB
Brandon Harrison, SS. Harrison has been Michigan's most reliable defensive back in 2008. And while no one seemed to play particularly well against Toledo, Harrison was a solid tackler and didn't get beaten in the passing game. With the lack of push from the defensive line, the linebackers' inconsistency, and the cornerbacks' continued softness, there's not a lot to be excited about at this point. But when I see #27 flash into the picture, I always feel somewhat relieved that he's going to make a solid tackle or use his sprinter's speed to chase someone down.
DEFENSIVE STARTER WHO SHOULD LOSE HIS JOB
Morgan Trent, CB. I don't understand Morgan Trent's regression. He had a promising season a year ago. He supposedly put on a Barwis-fed 10 pounds and got faster. He hits people hard. But he continues to play really soft in coverage and he's been putting his shoulder into ballcarriers instead of wrapping them up and taking them to the ground. The soft coverage could very well be a scheme of Scott Shafer's or it could be because Trent doesn't trust his safety help. Either way, it's not working. Boubacar Cissoko needs to teach Trent how to play physically. Until Trent steps up his game, Cissoko and Donovan Warren (assuming he returns from injury next week) should be the starting corners. Maybe a one-game benching would catch Trent's attention.
Just like every Michigan fan, I sat dumbfounded for the first four minutes of the game against Notre Dame on Saturday. Throughout the offseason, Michigan fans were so adamant that Notre Dame is a horrible team. And they were right, to an extent. But none of us thought Michigan would be horrible-er. Michigan dominated every single statistical category on Saturday, except for the two most important ones: turnovers and the scoreboard. Based on this game, a few position battles are finally becoming clear:
QB: Steven Threet vs. Nick Sheridan
Threet started the game this week, and Rodriguez had said that Sheridan would probably get some snaps, too. It turns out that Threet played so well that Sheridan didn't get any snaps until late in the fourth quarter, when the game was already decided and Threet was hobble by a leg injury. In fact, not only did Threet outplay anything Sheridan has done so far this year - he outplayed Notre Dame's 5-star, all-everything golden boy, sophomore quarterback Jimmy Clausen. Threet was 16-for-23 for 179 yards and a touchdown with zero interceptions. Several of those incompletions weren't his fault, either. A couple were straight-out drops by Martavious Odoms and Greg Mathews in the rain; one incompletion should have been a long TD pass to Mathews, but the referee erroneously said Mathews didn't control the ball before it touched the ground. Nick Sheridan entered the game in the fourth quarter and threw two interceptions. One wasn't his fault - it was almost directly at tight end Carson Butler's head, but Butler didn't turn around fast enough - but the other was a floater thrown into double or triple coverage.
Verdict: Threet will be the starter unless his injury causes him to miss significant time.
RB: Sam McGuffie vs. Brandon Minor/Carlos Brown/Kevin Grady/Michael Shaw
If any questions remained after last week's game against Miami (OH), McGuffie answered them this week. McGuffie broke tackles repeatedly on the way to his first career 100 yard game. He had a couple electrifying plays, including a quick screen pass on which he weaved through traffic and bounced off a downfield Perry Dorrestein block to score a 40-yard TD. He also didn't fumble, which was key on a day when Michigan's other players fumbled a ridiculous seven times. Brandon Minor continues to run the ball well - he had a tough 9-yard run - but he also continues to turn the ball over, even though his turnovers might not be his fault. In the Utah game, his "fumble" happened because his forearm hit the ground, which should have ruled him down. In the Notre Dame game, "his" fumble was a quick swing pass that Threet might have thrown too soon; as soon as Minor turned his head around, the ball was almost in his facemask. Minor probably should have caught it, but I think that was a combo effort. Carlos Brown continues to be nagged by small injuries and he's done zilch with his two carries this season. Kevin Grady produces more fumbles than a 16-year-old trying to unclasp a bra for the first time; even though he carried a Notre Dame linebacker on his back for five yards to score a TD, his ball security has been a career-long issue. Shaw has the best pure speed of any of the running backs, but he's currently fighting a groin pull.
Verdict: It's McGuffie's job to lose, but I expect everyone to continue getting an occasional carry.
FS: Steve Brown vs. ANYBODY
I'm not the world's biggest Steve Brown hater. I won't jump on the pile, because he seems like a decent kid and he obviously doesn't mean to make these mistakes (unlike Carson Butler, who ought to be kicked off the team for throwing a punch in the Notre Dame game). But I have a hard time believing that he is far and away the best option at free safety for this Wolverines team. He is probably the best physical specimen that Michigan has had at the position. He's 6' and around 205 lbs. and he has pretty darn good speed. However, anyone can see that he's uncomfortable playing in space. He misses way too many tackles in the open field, and that's exactly what you don't need in a free safety. He should probably move to strong safety and let Brandon Harrison have the free safety spot, because Brown is more effective as a tackler when he's playing downhill and attacking the line of scrimmage. If that can't happen, then the coaches should give fifth year senior Charles Stewart or redshirt freshman Michael Williams or sophomore Artis Chambers a shot. Brown has been neither a ballhawk or a solid tackler, so I see no significant reason to keep him on the field full-time week after week.
Verdict: I would not be surprised to see a switch or a schematic change for the Wisconsin game in two weeks. The coaching staff should know by now that Brown's slip-ups are habits, not flukes.