in town for free camps
I mentioned this on the podcast, but here's a text version: the recent shuffling in the football program does not fill me with a feeing of warmth. Three things that have happened that make me frown about where we are right now:
Moving Jake Ryan to MLB. The linebackers were slightly disappointing last year but mostly because they ended up playing behind guys like Nose Tackle Jibreel Black and Richard Ash. They weren't kept clean, ate a lot of instant-release blocks, and tried to cope.
Desmond Morgan is a quality player and James Ross will be once someone blocks a dude in front of him; Michigan also returns both of their backups. There is zero reason to move Ryan to the interior.
Meanwhile, SAM is much closer to the WDE spot than either interior one. Michigan will flip its line on up to 40% of their snaps, whereupon Ryan essentially is the WDE. He has never had to read run/pass from behind a defensive line. He's is prone to breakdowns he can get away with on the edge, given his athleticism and time. He has a spot as a WDE in nickel packages that gets him rushing the passer, which he's really good at. He's not used to the zone drops he needs to take from the interior. His best asset—rushing upfield—is going to happen on way fewer snaps.
That move is flat-out nonsense. Who plays SAM now? Are they moving Ross there? Playing Gant? McCray? Any knowledge we don't have about why they're making this move is bad knowledge to have about the future: it basically means that the current returning starters on the interior can't play, unless you want to be a Mike McCray booster.
Reshuffling every defensive assistant. Cornerbacks coach Roy Manning, who has never played or coached cornerbacks, sounds… not good. I'm willing to throw anyone who can recruit at a RB or WR position, but corner seems like a thing that you should either have done yourself or have a heap of previous experience doing.
Other guys do have some experience with the roles they step into, but shuffling these guys around is redolent of panic and seems unlikely to do much of anything to help. They had something very good going with their DL development, something that personnel issues may have obscured last year.
And the defense was basically fine last year until the last two games, when they got ground down by the best rushing offense in the country and blasted off the field by Tyler Lockett. Neither was entirely surprising. Meanwhile, the offensive staff is sacrosanct save the coordinator.
Chris Bryant's departure. Not that I had much hope that Bryant was going to contribute once we'd heard about yet another surgery for the poor kid.
The issue here is that the exit, which Michigan certainly knew about or could predict before signing day, makes the whole no-commits-since August thing look even worse. It reinforces the toxicity that descended on the program midseason. It's one thing to lose the two DL you have on the hook because you can't run for yard one; it's an additional thing to replace them with air.
Depending on the status of a couple of special teams players, Michigan is one or two scholarships short and if inclined could have given a firm handshake to a couple of graduated fifth year guys. It's one thing to have a 16-man class when you've really only got 16 spots; it's another to leave three or four potential slots open, especially when you're the opposite of careful with redshirts.
That's why this class isn't quite what the star average makes it out to be, and why the recruiting tailspin hurts more than just on the defensive line.
These are the reasons I'm feeling nervous. But hey I was just feeling super optimistic in August so I'm probably totally wrong about this! That's the ticket!
Let's smother this meme in its crib, okay? In the aftermath of Nussmeier's hire you can't throw a rock without hitting an article that broaches the possibility of a QB controversy next year. [Picture at right: Adam Glanzman.]
Gentlemen. Let me first say that you are upstanding writers of things on the internet and I respect you all greatly. That dispensed with:
ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR COTTON-PICKIN' MAIZE AND BLUE MINDS
FOR PANTS SAKE
WHEN IS THE LAST TIME MICHIGAN REPLACED A FIFTH YEAR SENIOR QUARTERBACK WITH A UNDERCLASSMAN VOLUNTARILY
DON'T LOOK IT UP I'LL TELL YOU NEVER
WHAT WAS IT ABOUT SHANE MORRIS'S PERFORMANCE IN THE BOWL GAME THAT CONVINCES YOU HE'S THE GUY, EXACTLY
THAT ONE SCREEN PASS HE THREW THAT WENT A LONG WAY
OR THAT OTHER SCREEN PASS HE THREW THAT WENT A LONG WAY
OR THAT END AROUND THAT TECHNICALLY COUNTS AS A PASS
THE DUDE AVERAGED 5.2 YPA, WHICH IS THREET/SHERIDAN PRODUCTION
HE THREW AN INTERCEPTION THE INSTANT MICHIGAN LET HIM THROW DOWNFIELD
MICHIGAN SCORED SIX MEANINGFUL POINTS
DEVIN GARDNER WAS 80% DEAD MOST OF THIS YEAR AND STILL HAD 8.6 YPA
Right. I have high hopes that Morris and his cannon arm will develop nicely, but a senior Gardner coming off a season that's statistically quite promising despite having absolutely zero help from his running game is not getting replaced. Period. Guy was literally playing on a broken foot for most of the OSU game and still put up 41. He smoked Notre Dame. He had a lot of wobbly moments midseason, but when you're getting sacked 21 times in a month that will happen.
I'm sure there will be some rumbles about competition; I will believe each and every one of them just as much as I believed Saban to Texas.
200 pounds of twisted blue steel. Via MVictors, here is an OMG shirtless Bo in 1976 post heart-surgery:
1981 Rose Bowl. Here's all of it. Dick Enberg, not Keith Jackson, unfortunately:
Goodbye, Jeremy. A Gallon tribute:
Goodbye, NCAA. Underclassmen are leaving college for the pro ranks in increasing numbers, with last years record high of 73 already broken. This draft may feature as many as 100 underclassmen. This is partially due to CBA changes in the NFL that have prevented rookies from getting big first contracts, which changes the equation as to whether they should stay or go:
The new system doesn’t remove huge contracts. It delays them. To get a huge contract, a player must have at least three years in the NFL. And so it now makes sense to get to the NFL ASAFP, and to put in the time necessary to get the second contract.
The increasing money all around the kids probably isn't helping, either.
While this hasn't affected Michigan or—sigh—Ohio State much (Roby was gone either way), Notre Dame has taken a couple of unexpected hits, first RB/KR George Atkinson then TE Troy Niklas. Atkinson's departure is firmly on the "nuts" side of the scale since he's unlikely to get drafted at all; Niklas is projected as a second-rounder. ND has also lost WR Davaris Daniels to academics for the upcoming semester, but he should be back for fall as long as he crosses his Ts and dots his Is instead of having someone else do it.
A familiar name. Notre Dame is still looking for an offensive coordinator, and it might be someone you've heard of.
A source told Blue & Gold Illustrated that former Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges, current Buffalo head coach Jeff Quinn and Quinn’s former assistant Don Patterson are on the short list.
Yuuuuup. Unfortunately, twitter is no longer showing the cavalcade of Michigan fans responding to Steve Lorenz's tweet on this topic, otherwise I would count up the AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA-variant responses and compare them to the LOL-type responses.
Meanwhile in "really?" Bobby Petrino has swiped Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham for a reported five-year guaranteed contract of one million dollars per year. Louisville is throwing money at their problem like you would not believe, but unlike Doug Nussmeier, Grantham's track record is pretty iffy. Georgia yards per play of late:
- 2013: 5.4, 54th.
- 2012: 5.2, 34th.
- 2011: 4.5, 7th.
- 2010: 5.2, 39th.
- Georgia was in that 30-40 range just before Grantham showed up, so this is a guy with the best coordinator contract in all the land and he's had one legit defense in the past four years.
I wonder what the real numbers are. The GoDaddy bowl reported attendance of 107% of capacity. This may be slightly optimistic.
On the whole, bowl attendance declined marginally this offseason, but with the rampant number-fudging going on attendance could be collapsed and the official numbers would just be bolder and bolder lies.
Sounds familiar. The Seattle Seahawks have a pass defense that is almost unprecedented in the recent history of the NFL. How do they do it?
Quietly, the Seahawks have achieved a 13-3 record and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs by exploiting a loophole: NFL referees are reluctant to throw endless flags for pass interference and defensive holding, even if defenses deserve them.
"They look at it and say, 'We may get called for one but not 10,'" said Mike Pereira, a former NFL vice president of officiating who is now a Fox analyst.
League insiders say this divisional-round matchup between the Seahawks and Saints, the NFC's top passing offense, may be Seattle's rule-bending masterpiece.
"They just seem to not care about the rules," said New York Giants wide receiver Louis Murphy, whose team was routed 23-0 by Seattle this season.
This is also Michigan State's strategy, not that Michigan could protect Devin Gardner long enough for anyone watching that particular game long enough to find out. The Seahawks are masters of the art, trading off less than one pass interference penalty a game (they picked up 13 on the year) for play after play where routes are disrupted and balls fall incomplete.
Since the NFL is the NFL, I'd expect them to come down with some sort of point of emphasis ruling, but college doesn't respond nearly as quickly and the penalties are far less punitive, so the jam-and-grab style with big corners projects to be effective into the future. Jabrill Peppers fits that mold, and once you put a bunch of weight on Channing Stribling he does as well.
Small changes. The NCAA is exploring allowing athletes to do stuff other than athlete, so the Boise State running back whose name I can forget can make hats and rappists can rap, etc.
Etc.: Urban loses Mike Vrabel to BOB's new Texans regime, which is a surprise. Vrabel's supposed to be Urban's ace recruiter; I'm not waiting for OSU's recruiting to fall off a cliff.
I know we no longer have Borges, Hoover Street Rag, but I say you should cram your existing OC-O-Meter philosophy onto whatever OC we currently have. Illinois was ranked, but they just lost to Northwestern so they will no longer be ranked. Probably ever. Meanwhile, Tre Demps is the Big Ten's Marshall Henderson.
Michigan's program is worth as much as an NFL team despite vastly lower revenues. I do not wonder why this is.
Sam Webb is a connected person, and it appears that the Michigan OC choice is a barely-hidden secret amongst the connected, so when he posts an article titled
Michigan's Ideal Candidate
With a picture of Doug Nussmeier and long discussion of Doug Nussmeier, who you'd think would be untouchable at Alabama, this is… unlikely to be a guess. And since it's followed quickly by Bruce Feldman confirming, it seems to be done. Informative update to follow.
INFORMATIVE UPDATE. So who is this dude? He started his coaching career in the CFL with a couple of years as a QB coach, then moved on to Michigan State in the same capacity for three years (Jeff Smoker as a senior and then two years of Drew Stanton), then the Rams for two years. Marc Bulger was an All-Pro in year 1, which was an 8-8 season, and then the Rams went 3-13 and everyone got fired.
Nussmeier landed at Fresno State as OC for one season, was immediately hired away by Washington, and after three years was hired by Saban. His numbers as an offensive coordinator:
|2008||Fresno State||56%||5||7.2||5.9 (28th)||387 (43rd)||59th|
|2009||Washington||49%||4.3||7.1||5.7 (48th)||376 (62nd)||41st|
|2010||Washington||56%||4.7||6.6||5.5 (67th)||362 (76th)||63rd|
|2011||Washington||53%||4.4||8.2||6.2 (24th)||410 (38th)||24th|
|2012||Alabama||63%||5.6||9.3||7.0 (5th)||446 (31st)||5th|
|2013||Alabama||56%||5.8||8.8||7.2 (5th)||454 (33rd)||9th|
It should be noted that the Washington job was massive reclamation project after Ty Willingham cratered the Huskies to 0-12. The year before Nussmeier showed up the Huskies were 118th of 120 in total yardage at 263, and their other stats were basically the same. With Jake Locker, Nussmeier popped the Huskies up to average and when Keith Price took over in 2011 they were legit. The caveat there is that Steve Sarkisian, an offensive guy, was his head coach.
Then he was hired by Alabama and everything got very shiny indeed. However, it is Alabama, and make no mistake: Nussmeier was not some pirate coup with Alabama desperately defending as Michigan thrusted and parried. Alabama boards have been buzzing for weeks about who their new OC would be. Saban told Nussmeier to look around for a nice landing spot and Michigan provided one. For whatever reason, Nussmeier was just not process-y enough for Dear Robot.
Nussmeier's got a pretty good resume both as an OC and a QB coach, what with Smoker/Stanton/Bulger/Price/Locker/McCarron on his resume, and quickly climbed the ladder. He's got a good rep as a recruiter and at 43 is relatively young for a BCS offensive coordinator; his Washington offenses were spread/pro mish-mash amalgams and then he seemed to do just fine with Alabama's pro-style attack. It's possible Michigan was going to ride with Borges for another year before the rarest commodity of all appeared: a proven college offensive coordinator with pro-style genes.
NOPE. / Please!
UPDATE: Kirk Herbstreit says it is a current college OC.
I'm going to try to keep this realistic, which means Oregon OC Scott Frost is out, RichRod OC Calvin Magee is out, and the two guys who have been in Manhattan, Kansas for 16 and 17 years as co-OCs are out. This puts me one step ahead of Coaching Scoop, which throws out Lane Kiffin as a name to watch.
The question is: how much control will Hoke cede and how married is he to manball? His coaching history suggests he's a "whatever works" guy, running a MAC-standard passing spread during his breakout year with Nate Davis and hiring Rocky Long to run the dreaded 3-3-5 at San Diego State. The fact that This Is Michigan seems to have given him the impression that he has to run Carr's mid-nineties offense. Has this season disabused him of that notion? Is he willing to hand the keys over to a proven offensive mind and say "go get it," even if it looks funky and does not abide by the Queensbury rules?
I don't know.
The problem with assuming that Hoke will look for a "pro style" coordinator is that they are increasingly hard to find. Looking at the top teams in yards per play this year is futile since they consist of guys Michigan cannot get to make a lateral move (OCs at Alabama, LSU, FSU, and Georgia aren't moving) or run offenses that would require a major philosophical shift(Oregon, Baylor, A&M, Auburn, Indiana) even if Michigan could hypothetically grab their OC. If we are sticking to manball, the field quickly narrows, leaving Michigan looking at candidates who are… uh… well, they're not slam dunks.
Current D-I coordinators who seem like they might fit are limited. Two that seem plausible:
Jim Chaney, OC, Arkansas. Chaney's been around the block, operating both Purdue's passing spread under Drew Brees and Tennessee's pro-style attack with Tyler "The" Bray. He just got hired at Arkansas by Bret Bielema and while Arkansas was in no way good, it is impressive that the Razorbacks had two 900 yard rushers and finished in the top 20 in YPC despite having a QB who completed fewer than half his passes for a Sheridan-like 6.0 YPC. Tennessee's offenses with Chaney were up and down; he did finish 2012 with the #19 YPP offense despite the turbulence at the end of the Dooley era.
Chaney's been around the block and has coordinated both spread and pro-style attacks; he knows the Big Ten from nine years as Purdue's OC.
Matt Canada, OC, NC State. Was Indiana's OC from 2007 to 2010, when Bill Lynch was swept out. Then started a Loeffler-like odyssey, visiting Northern Illinois, Wisconsin, and NC State for one year stints. None of his stops have been that successful save the one year at Northern Illinois, but did blow up at Bielema prior to last year's Big Ten Championship game, a 70-31 explosion against Nebraska. Likes futzin' and hoodaddery, in a Fritz Crisler sort of way.
Neither of these guys do much for me, and often the smart answer is to dip down to lower levels and pick off the guys killing it down there. Oklahoma State keeps losing offensive coordinator after offensive coordinator to head coaching jobs, and the last time Mike Gundy had to pick a guy he went over to the NCAA's website and picked off the guy at the head of D-II stats. That worked out fairly well.
With the kind of money Michigan was throwing at Borges they might not have to look at lower-level OCs, they can take a shot at…
Rob Ambrose, HC, Towson. You may remember Towson as the team that had an easier time against UConn than Michigan did, or from that time their basketball team played Michigan and was just unbelievably bad. Towson ended up in the FCS national title game against North Dakota State, and that is an amazing accomplishment for a program that almost ended in 1990. Ambrose was Towson's OC for a while before moving into the head job; he is a former quarterback who coaches that position but has flexibility:
Combs said many former quarterbacks who become offensive coordinators or head coaches often stick with pass-heavy offenses regardless of personnel.
Not Ambrose, Combs said.
With Ambrose as offensive coordinator in 1999, the Tigers thrived behind quarterback Joe Lee’s school-record 4,168 passing yards. The following season, Towson built its offense around running back Noah Reed, who rushed for a Patriot League-record 1,422 yards.
After a rough start, Towson's gone 9-3, 7-4, and 13-3, and Ambrose has heard of Michigan:
For Towson, winning a national championship means making history, and that’s something Rob Ambrose plays up when he talks to recruits.
“You can go to Michigan and be on Page 7,000 of their history book or you can come here and write it,’’ he said.
The article describes battles won to get coaches' cell phones paid for by the school, so I don't think the demotion in rank is going to bother Ambrose, hypothetically.
Bob Stitt, HC, Colorado School Of Mines. Stitt got on everyone's radar after Dana Holgorsen shredded Clemson with a play Stitt gave him, and his work at CSM has been impressive over a long duration. Hoke would have to give him the keys entirely…
Stitt says he'd be willing to move up as an offensive coordinator, but only if the head coach would give him total offensive control. It's not difficult to see why he's so well-regarded in coaching circles, especially by those who run wide-open offenses. At 6-3, Stitt is closing in on his 11th winning season in 13 years. In all but a few of those years, the Orediggers, who play in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, have ranked among the top-10 in Div. II in passing offense.
…but this is a guy widely known for not wearing a headset for most of the game, so… yeah. That's implied. In terms of consistent, long-term resume and success at a school with zero recruiting advantages(Mines consists of 5200 engineers), Stitt is tough to beat.
Troy Rothenbuhler, OC, Findlay. Three year record as OC with D-II Oilers is impressive. First year featured a bounce up from under 250 yards a game to nearly 400; year two was 437 yards a game, and year three saw Findlay crack 500. They do run a spread, but their plays per game of 75 is not super fast. Rushed for almost 2900 yards this year at 5.5 a pop. Is an OSU grad, with whom Michigan has done well with in the past.
Phil Longo, OC, Slippery Rock. Yeah, seriously. The main issue here is that he's a no-huddle Air Raid guy, but hear me out: He's in his third year at Slippery Rock, finding plenty of success, and spent two years at SIU in which the Salukies went 20-5. One year he lost his QB midyear and went from passing-oriented to spread 'n' shred. Kind of looks like Brock Lesnar, too.
The other option is to look up at NFL types. When not mentioning Lane Kiffin, Football Scoop throws out three NFL position coaches that induce varying levels of depression in the author:
Mike Groh, WR, Chicago Bears. The Jay Paterno of Virginia football under Al Groh. Was OC for three years at end of Groh tenure. In 2008, Virginia was 102nd in YPP, in 2007 they were 105th. CFB Stats does not have 2006, but I think the point is made. Groh's resume is terrible. DEPRESSION LEVEL: immense.
John McNulty, QB, Arizona Cardinals. A grad assistant at Michigan in the early 90s and has one year as an OC to his name, that in 2008 at Rutgers. Rutgers was good that year (20th in YPP) and he is a QB coach in the NFL. Track record very thin. DEPRESSION LEVEL: moderate.
Randy Fitchner, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers. Another guy who started as a grad assistant at Michigan, Fitchner in the mid-80s. He was a college OC for a decade at Arkansas State and Memphis, where he ran spread offenses rather effectively. This was the DeAngelo Williams era at Memphis, not the incredibly depressing stuff since. DEPRESSION LEVEL: minimal.
…and now Sam Webb's hinting strongly($) that the announcement will come tomorrow and crosses off Kiffin, Mazzone, and a few other possibilities that no one thought were particularly serious, so we won't have to wait long. To me this means none of these guys are particularly likely unless Hoke's been doing groundwork completely out of the public eye since AFAIK none of them have Hoke ties. I figured Michigan would vet and interview candidates at the big AFCA coaching hoo-haw this week; apparently not.
According to Brady Hoke, the coaching staff will return intact next year:
"I anticipate (this) staff (to be back)," Hoke said after attending a UAW/Ford Child Identity Program event at Ford Field.
Asked again, if he does not anticipate any staff changes for the 2014 season, Hoke responded with the following: "Correct."
And so will Devin Gardner, guy who sent me that one email about how he could transfer and not sit out a year.
"He'll be back," he said.
I don't pretend to know the intricacies of football but during the Nebraska game it seemed that Toussaint, in pass protection, would wait for his blocking assignment to come to him before engaging the player. Seeing as Toussaint is significantly smaller then the LB or lineman he's been assigned to block this usually resulted in Toussaint getting pushed backwards (physics and all). Is this how RBs are typically coached to play pass protection?
I mostly stay away from the how of any particular technique failing; more of a "what" guy since I didn't play the game, etc. But to me Toussaint's blocking issues stem from three problems:
- Michigan's line has to resort to slide protections that often expose him to a pass-rushing DE. This is a bad matchup for anyone.
- He's part of that need to resort to slide protections since his recognition isn't good; when he is tasked with identifying guys to pick up he often catches them. Vincent Smith and Mike Hart would find guys and then get some momentum before making contact.
- He hits guys too high sometimes, which makes it easy for them to shed him and attack. Smith and Hart got low, or in Smith's case existed in a perpetual state of low-ness.
3 is his problem, 2 is part his and part a holistic inability to pick up blitzes, and 1 is not his fault.
What's different about this year?
Regarding the offensive line, I saw some comments that intrigued me that intrigued me the other day and I’m curious your perspective.
Borges indicated that another variable in the mix this year is that it’s “the first year in the scheme we’ve wanted to move to.” Based on your work therefore, do you conclude that:
1) There is a significant difference this year in scheme, protections, and what the offense is asking of the o’line?
2) That experienced lines would be impacted by such a scheme change?
3) That inexperienced players would unimpacted (i.e. just as inexperienced)?
4) That therefore the years experience/games experience would also be negatively impacted from a production standpoint.
So that in conclusion – there’s actually hope bc the ones that are young are young and the ones that are supposed to have experience have less experience than one would otherwise understand to be true.
And – that next year or the year after really will be better!
Keep up the good work.
Unfortunately, I'm not seeing a whole lot of evidence for that rationale.
Borges's comments make no sense. This year started out with Michigan running a bunch of stretch plays, which was a departure from what they'd done the first two years… and a staple of the Rodriguez offense. If that's what he meant, he could have just, you know, kept running the stretch.
Instead Michigan was almost exclusively an inside zone and power team their first two years here, and the differences between running those things from under center versus the shotgun are minimal. There has been a more concerted effort to run plays from under center, but that shift was even more pronounced late last year after Gardner took the helm of the offense.
If anything's changed this year from last year in terms of blocking it's that Denard isn't around to bail it out. Borges trying to use him to cover his ass by claiming he somehow couldn't run the schemes he wanted to be cause the guy running behind them was also the one taking the snap is a weak excuse that throws Denard (of all people!) under the bus.
[After THE JUMP: WHY WOULD YOU THINK THAT MAKES ME FEEL BETTER]