spoiler alert: i linked this
Shooting for the "most times a single GIF hits the front page" record.
Michigan lost one of the most genuinely enjoyable players to watch in recent memory with the graduation of Jeremy Gallon, and unfortunately, I don't think we'll be seeing a 5'8" dude with rocket boots and a cloaking device breaking school receiving records again anytime soon.
That said, the Wolverines don't lack players that can make your jaw drop. Inspired by this Matt Hinton piece on college football's most exciting players, here's my list of the Wolverines who should provide the most entertainment this season. Take note: this isn't a rundown of the best players, but a subjective list of who I think will be the most fun to watch—it's ordered by position, since what constitutes "fun to watch" varies wildly from person to person.
QB Devin Gardner
An obvious choice, especially since some of Gardner's bad habits—namely, reversing field when under pressure—can still produce spectacular results. He's an electric runner even when not at full health. He's got a heck of an arm; this throw against Notre Dame last year simply defies explanation. He continued the grand tradition of Michigan quarterbacks hilariously punking Tanner Miller. His ability to improvise has bailed out the offense on many occasions. Yes, this sometimes gets him into trouble—I know another throw from that otherwise amazing Notre Dame performance is going through your head right now—but it also poses a threat to opponents that is extremely difficult to defend, and it's sure fun to watch when everything clicks.
WR Devin Funchess
Again, an obvious choice is obvious, as evidenced by the GIF that graces the top of this post—and that wasn't the first time Funchess leaped over an oncoming defender:
The whole "hurdles defensive backs on the run" thing is pretty great, but that's just a small part of what makes Funchess so remarkable. He's a 6'5", 230-pound former tight end with legitimate top-end speed; his movements bear the grace of a much smaller player. Even when he slips, he seamlessly recovers, and the average defensive back is going to have a very difficult time contending with his ball skills or bringing him down once he makes the catch. Oh, and having oven-mitt-sized hands allows for him to make catches like this while on a dead sprint.
If Funchess isn't on the team in 2015, it'll be because he turned in a monster year and justifiably went pro, and I don't think anybody could begrudge him that move.
[Hit THE JUMP for eight exciting players not named Devin.]
There are five…SIX principle benchmarks of a quarterback. The secret is surprise, surprise and fear, fear and a fanatical devotion to protection… [Fuller]
Diarist of the Week MCalibur was bumped this morning. Scroll, or continue. Some Meta things to get into first.
East Coast Trip. The New York and Philly alumni associations have invited Brian to come do his spiel. Details:
- Monday, 8/18: New York, New York (We're in New York!) Brian will be at Professor Thom's on 2nd Ave between 13th & 14th, 7pm to 8:30, for their annual kickoff event, along with Paul Myerberg of USA Today. There's a thread up to put your questions in, and for any other signup details.
- Tuesday, 8/19: Philadelphia, PA. 6:30 to 9pm at the Fox and Hound on 15th and Spruce with the Philly alumni association. Thread for questions. They have tickets on sale and details here. Hot appetizers provided.
Yes Brian will have a stack of HTTVs there. About that…
Check your mailbox right now. The bulk of the Kickstarter books should arrive today. These were supposed to go direct from the printer two weeks ago; instead they arrived a week ago in Ann Arbor, whence we got them to a mailing house and out as quickly as possible.
The t-shirt orders and signed books are coming. The books are now on sale. If you haven't gotten one yet, a reminder that book sponsor Draft Kings is still offering a free copy for a $15 deposit—that's the least expensive method of acquisition. If that's not your bag, "pre-sale" has moved to "on sale" on the MGoStore. It also comes in digital. And if you know any Penn State fans, we made a version for them too (digital edition).
Ticket Center. We're shopping for a new ticket vendor where MGoBloggers will be able to exchange with each other for free and find better deals on tix, since this year's secondary market will be pretty alive this year. If you have preferences (not Stubhub—they haven't offered) let them be known in the comments; number one priority is what you'll want to use.
The Venn of Brandon. This by 4roses is a Venn of Brandon's responsibilities:
Do you need the entire key? I'm kind of confused on the methodology; I think the idea is the circle is whether it's a priority for the AD? Are we placing different ideas here, so like Slippery Rock is B3? How do we separate complaints about marketing in general from being bad at it?
[After the jump: recruiting's secret sauce, hoops practice, Darboh's arms, and political things]
Not to compare it to last year, but what is a Doug Nussmeier offense? What is this offense going to look like?
“We want to play physical. We want to establish an identity as a physical and explosive offense.”
How have the guys embraced that?
“I feel really good about the way that our guys have worked. The players have worked extremely hard, had a good summer with Coach Wellman and come to camp, like I said, really focused. They’ve had a good first week.”
How important is it to figure out who you are on the offensive line and let them gel? [Note: that’s my best guess as to the question. The audio was garbled.]
“Obviously the sooner you can answer that question the better off you’re going to be. It’s not just the verbal communication but it’s also the nonverbal communication that goes on there. It’s something that we’re working on. We’re looking at a couple different scenarios and combinations right now and we’ll settle on that soon.”
Is there pressure or excitement or both?
“You know, it’s all how you look at it. There’s always excitement and pressure’s what you put on yourself. For me, the expectation at Michigan is extremely high and that’s the way we want it. That’s why you coach at Michigan, that’s why you play at Michigan. You embrace it. There’s a lot of guys that have played in this program and coached in this program before that have set a standard and you want to be part of that and that’s why it’s a special place.”
The offensive line had its struggles last year and yet lost two NFL Draft picks. How can this line be better even without that group?
“Well, we’re really excited about the group we have—young players and they’re growing everyday with different things. They’re trying to focus in on certain things that we do every week so that they can really get good and, as you say, get better with repetition and so hopefully each week we’ll get better and better.”
Are you starting to see guys blossom because of the opportunity?
“I think Coach [Hoke] has said it many times, we’ve created some really good competition on our team. We’re getting better and deeper as far as creating competition at different position and we’re moving guys around to create competition, so you’d think that competition brings out the best in every player.”
Coach Hoke said today that Drake Johnson and De’Veon [Smith] are kind of a cut above the other running backs. What set them apart, those two in particular?
“Well, first thing when you talk about De’Veon is you talk about how physical of a player he is. He’s a tough, tough guy and really day in and day out he’s a guy that puts on his hard hat and brings his lunch pail. To me that’s the thing that’s stood out the most about him. Drake looks really explosive coming off the injury from last year, did a great job with rehab. Schmidty [Paul Schimdt, Head Trainer] and his staff and Aaron [Wellman] this summer, they’ve done a great job of getting him ready to go. And Derrick Green’s done some really good things. Justice does some good things also. There’s a group of guys there and we’re really looking for somebody to separate themselves from the group.”
Brady [Hoke] said he wants toughness to be the identity of this team. For an offense what does that mean?
“Talk about being physical, being physical at the line of scrimmage. That’s across the board. Our wideouts are going to be be physical players. We’re going to demand that from everybody on the offense.”
[After THE JUMP: offensive installation, Devin Gardner, and Jabrill Peppers?]
Pelini forever. The day that Bo Pelini ceases being a Big Ten coach is going to be a sad one.
He screams like a lunatic, he makes jokes about his cat, he wears… that… and looks like he believes the camera is taking a piece of his soul with it. Joke's on you, camera! Ain't got no soul, he thinks. Oh and his offense is kind of a looney tunes spread triple option thing that is both modern and very Nebraska. I only wish he was still in our football conference.
Always the best thing out of media days. Mike Spath's anonymous chatter articles are quality as always and the defense one is free. An opponent on the tao of Countess:
"I thought Blake Countess was tough to play against. He's not real physical but he's one of those guys that knows what he does well and what he doesn't. And he sort of lulled us to sleep. We kept thinking that we could go at him and I think that's what he wanted because he stepped in front of two balls, picked one, and we didn't throw at him very much after that."
Countess had INTs against Minnesota, Iowa, and OSU last year, FWIW. The offense is paywalled, but I have to quote this bit:
"They were one of those teams that were tough to prepare for and not tough at the same time because they did so many different things. We had a lot of guys watching a lot more film the week before because they could run 75 different plays in the same game, but I think what stood out was that they didn't have an identity and they never had go-to plays so if you just played sound, technique-strong football, you were OK."
And that had a lot to do with Michigan's ups and downs. OSU did not play anything approximating sound football in their secondary last year and Michigan ate them up; Iowa is nothing but sound cover two and Michigan could do nothing.
The overall theme of that latter one is that opposing teams have a hell of a lot of respect for Devin Gardner since he did not die last year.
You could knock me down with a feather right now. Shock and alarm at unexpected news:
"Going in (to camp, there will be competition between Devin Gardner and Shane Morris)," Hoke said during his appearance on "Numbers Never Lie." "We've got great competition. (But) if we opened the season today, Devin would start for the Wolverines."
I will personally fight anyone* who sends me an email about whether Morris should start.
*[Offer not valid unless you are Ellen Degeneres.]
Ready to go. Ondre Pipkins is cleared and even more importantly, is apparently fit.
"He's done a nice job, he's made a lot of progress and he's passed the conditioning test and all those things," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said this week. "We'll probably be smart with him as we move forward, you know, especially on two-a-days.
"We'll (watch his) reps and those things. But he's cleared and ready to go."
Figuratively and literally massive for the defense. Article notes that Willie Henry is slated to compete with Pipkins at nose, but I'm hoping they figure out that they can start both those guys. We'll see.
'96 Colorado. I missed this game; remember sitting in a car listening to the end of it just terrified about the Hail Mary.
Well, no. No we do not. Hoke on the opener:
Brady Hoke says he gets some grief from alumni about having App State on the schedule. No one wants to see those highlights, he says
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) July 31, 2014
He didn't do it.
LEMON UPDATE. Aw man I am going to have to find like a video crew and a roaring fireplace.
Junior linebacker Joe Bolden was named the 2014 Meyer Morton Award winner. The Morton Award is given to the player who "shows the greatest development and most promise as a result of the annual spring practice."
Jarrod Wilson and Chris Wormley also pulled in awards.
The plan. After experimenting with Graham Glasgow at tackle it seems like Michigan is going to leave him at center:
When fall camp opens Sunday, though, Hoke says Glasgow -- who is suspended for the season-opener against Appalachian State due to an offseason drunken driving arrest -- will begin where he ended last year. At center, and likely with the first team.
"I would say he could (be with the starters at center) early in camp but then you’ve got to develop others," Hoke said this week at Big Ten media days in Chicago. "This is why, when you make decisions that don’t help the team, you find out how you hurt the team.”
If Glasgow does move that says more about Ben Braden than anyone else. That is an outcome I don't want to see, as that would be a major strike against a player who was hyped up as a physical marvel by many people a year ago.
It also sounds like the current plan is to leave Cole at left tackle for this year to provide a backup there. Tuley-Tillman and Fox are both likely to need another year before putting them on the field would be anything other than a major problem.
The rehab. Ondre Pipkins is cleared to practice at the start of fall camp
It could be worse, everyone! Man, Illinois fans are grasping at straws:
Tim Beckman came into this morning's press conference after a long bowl game-less winter and a 4-8 season record with only one conference win. But something was noticeably different about his speech this time. He finally seemed comfortable and confident at the podium.
… he hardly pauses or stumbles for the right words. His "uhs" and "ums" are fewer and farther between than in the past. He came off as a true leader and respectable speaker.
Well, I know that our coach starts every sentence with "well" and is not exactly Steve Spurrier. But there's going to be a post this year on an Illinois blog that says "we may have lost by sixty points but it seems like Tim Beckmann's dressing himself these days, so things are really coming along for us."
Unfortunate for Northwestern. Projected starting corner Daniel Jones is forced to retire thanks to injuries. Corner being the Wildcats' achilles heel since it ceased being "the whole team," that bodes unwell for the Wildcats and better for Michigan. Jones was lost for the year in the opener, so this is more Northwestern not getting that guy back than anything else.
The Daily makes the Daily show. You gotta put it in your click hole, nerds.
The most correct thing. This isn't relevant to anything but it is the most correct thing that's ever been said:
I spent five days in Las Vegas by myself earlier this month. If that sounds like your idea of paradise, let me stop you right there, because you’re wrong. Even though I know nothing about you, I’m fairly certain that five days alone in Vegas is enough to make anybody rethink their life. Five days in Vegas with friends or family is still probably four days too many, but being alone in Vegas is like finding out halfway through a party that you were invited by mistake. Everyone is having the time of their lives around you, and even though you were excited when you arrived, you’re just off to the side wondering what you’re doing there.
As someone who spent a week in Vegas by myself*, this is so accurate. I eventually just spent the money for wifi (this was back when wifi still cost money at hotels) and sat in my hotel room because being alone by yourself is so much more tolerable than being alone around everyone. Vegas by yourself: horrible.
The rest of this article is an entertaining Mark Titus piece on attending an NBA scout "school" and finding out just how horrible that job is. So it's sports! On topic! (Not on topic.)
*[Qualified for the WSOP during the heyday of online poker and couldn't hector any of my friends into railbirding me. WSOP was very large that year so there were four separate Day 1s for a quarter of the field and two Day 2s.]
Etc.: Arian Foster gives classic 'Sheed interview. 1985 Big Ten commercial might as well be from 1685. BHGP sent a horse to Big Ten Media Days. This is legit you guys. Hooray Michelle Beadle. Michigan unranked in opening coaches' poll.
Big Ten coaches really like the word "think." Derrick Walton transitioning away from being just a shooter. I found the only Penn State fan that doesn't loathe us with the fury of a thousand suns.
As it turns out, taking this kind of beating has a long-lasting effect. [Fuller]
We all know that a well-timed hit on a passing quarterback, whether or not it results in a sack, makes it far less likely that pass will be completed, not to mention more likely to fall into the hands of a defender. It stands to reason, as well, that the cumulative effect of multiple hits on a quarterback will eventually affect his performance even when he's not taking hits.
Devin Gardner's 2013 season stands as a testament to this hypothesis. After the MSU seven-sack breaking point, there were several occasions when it seemed like he simply didn't have the juice to make certain throws that he didn't have any trouble making before his body was demolished piece by piece.
A recent article from the excellent site Pro Football Focus helpfully quantifies the effect of such punishment on a quarterback's accuracy and interception rate, using a data sample of every NFL throw from the past six years. As a quarterback takes more hits over the course of a game, their accuracy predictably plummets—on every throw, not just the ones when they're eating a defender:
After every sack or hit the quarterback takes, their Accuracy Percentage decreases by an average of a half of a percent. While that might not seem like much, there also isn’t much difference between the best and worst quarterbacks in the league. Based on the graph, an above average quarterback after five hits or sacks performs as well as an average quarterback with no hits or sacks. Once that above average quarterback has been sacked or hit 10 times, they play as well as a below average quarterback who hasn’t been sacked or hit.
The article also shows that interception rates increase substantially as the hits pile up, and more experienced quarterbacks are much better at mitigating these effects than rookie signal-callers—something to keep in mind when considering the relative merits of Gardner and Shane Morris.
When looking at Michigan's 2013 season, there's no question Gardner was a victim of this phenomenon. There's also evidence that he's better than most at handling the heat:
|2 sacks or fewer||152||94||61.8||10.1||7.9||3.9|
The heroic Ohio State (3 sacks) performance skews the numbers, though in fairness, so did Indiana's defense on the other. Even so, Gardner performed markedly better when not under constant pressure, especially when it came to producing yards and points.
The oddball interception rates can be chalked up to the concerted effort by Gardner to make fewer risky plays as the season went along. The desperation throwaways that resulted in stuff like the Stephon Tuitt pick-six turned into sacks intelligently taken as the season wore on, to the benefit of the turnover margin and serious detriment to Gardner's health and ability to make big plays on the ground or through the air.
So here's the hopeful part. Imagine a world in which Michigan has a running game that can move the ball forwards, forcing defenses to respect the run instead of pinning their ears back and going full-bore for Gardner's chest. Imagine a coherent Michigan offense that finds a way to counter the constant opponent blitzes. Imagine a full season of an offense directed by an NFL-level talent who doesn't end half his games resembling a coal miner.
This could very well be Michigan's reality in 2014. If it is, expect Devin Gardner to do big things.
Draftageddon is upon us. We will delight half the readers, irritate the other half, and learn much more about Big Ten football than we ever thought possible; along the way Seth will issue terrible snark about players like they will always be what they were last year and ignore it when Jack Mewhort ends up drafted in the second round.
THE OCEANS WILL BOIL, THE LAND WILL BE BESET. And so forth and so on. Devin Gardner knows what's up.
Everyone drafts a QB, 5 OL, and six skill players on offense. Heiko is not with us but yes you can take a QB to be a skill player other than your QB. The sixth skill player is for flexibility. Please denote RB/FB/TE/WR when you draft, and sure you can draft six tailbacks if you want to feel the wrath of the voters.
On defense, everyone drafts 4 DL, 3 LB, 2 CB, and 2 S and one wild card intended to be a hybrid space player. The extra guy is because nickel packages are important, and defending the spread is important. But yeah he could be whatever you want, you loons.
A punter and a kicker are also drafted.
Standard snake procedure.
Imaginary points are awarded for PR/KR skills amongst your draftees.
Once everyone has filled a particular slot the last remaining guy who has not filled the slot has to take a guy at most three rounds later, to prevent three QBs from going off the board in the first round and no one for the rest of the draft until the very end (although with this group that would be dangerous and leave you with Andrew Maxwell).
Kyle Prater must be drafted far too early.
I get to gloat about Rashede Hageman every third round.
As randomly determined by RANDOM.ORG the order is
Brian, you are me, and also on the clock.
ROUND 1 - PICK 1: Braxton Miller, QB, OSU
O: QB Braxton Miller (OSU)
BRIAN: While I don't think there's that huge of a gap between Miller and Devin Gardner since neither of them are likely to be around when things get back to me I have to grab one now. The clear choice is Miller. The only guy to finish in the top ten in both rushing yards and passer efficiency last year, Miller is by far the most explosive QB in the Big Ten and has steadily progressed as a passer, going from 54% to 58% to 64% completions over the past three years and steadily increasing his ability in the pocket. Will he ever be great there? No. But, uh...
...he doesn't have to be. Main concerns here are dual: OSU revamps its OL and loses Carlos Hyde, which may make things generally less efficient and put more burden on Miller; this leads to concern #2: Miller seems to be bionic with the hits he can take but the was knocked out of enough games last year to get Kenny Guiton 109 attempts. He's not exactly fragile but neither can you expect him to get through a season totally unscathed.
ROUND 1 - PICK 2: Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa
O: LT Brandon Scherff (Iowa)
ACE: As tempting as it is to build my offense around Devin Gardner and a functional offensive line, I think in a four-person draft the Big Ten has enough talent at quarterback to hold off on picking one here. Meanwhile, I'm not convinced the conference is as deep at tackle (at least for this exercise), and there just happens to be one—and only one—that could've been a first-round NFL Draft pick had he left early: Iowa's Brandon Scherff, who's present in the top ten of just about any 2015 mock draft you can find.
At 6'5", 320 pounds, Scherff has pro-ready size, and he's a monster of a run blocker with a size/quickness combination that's truly impressive on film. At the very least, watch the first clip from this video of him absolutely dominating Northwestern for a series:
Sure, I'll take the guy who can escort a defensive lineman ten yards downfield with one arm. Also, in a league that features some talented pass-rushers, Scherff provides a reliable blindside protector—Iowa finished first in the B1G in fewest sacks allowed and, since that number is skewed by pace/style, third in adjusted sack rate last season.
While my heart told me to pick Gardner, my brain remembered what happens to quarterbacks that aren't properly protected. With this pick, I've got easily the best run-blocking tackle in the conference, and probably the best pass-blocker, too.
ROUND 1 - PICK 3: Devin Gardner, QB, Michigan
O: QB Devin Gardner (Michigan)
BISB: I don't think Gardner is the best player remaining, but in my mind there's a bigger drop-off from Gardner to the next quarterbacks than there is between the top-flight defensive linemen I'm tempted to grab. Seth can't take all of those.
[@ RIGHT: Bryan Fuller]
Gardner threw for 2960 yards (in only 12 games) at a 60.3% completion rate. His 8.6 YPA was the best in the Big Ten, and more than a yard per attempt more than Cook and Hackenberg. Ha accounted for 32 TDs (21 throwing, 11 rushing) against 11 INTs. He threw for 14 TDs against 3 picks and 8.85 YPA in Big Ten play. And he did that with absolutely no running game (at least of the 'forward' variety). He did it without padding his yardage numbers with bubble screens. He did it with a strained everything. And the next time he sees a pocket will be the first time.
The last time he stepped onto the field, he threw for 451 yards and 4 TDs with no picks and ran for another score. On a broken foot. And when he was healthy? Boy howdy.
Gardner lost pocket-sized safety blankets Jeremy Gallon and Drew Dileo, but Devin Funchess is a legit #1 receiver (I swear, if anyone drafts him as a TE I will force-quit the draft), and between him, Freddy Canteen, Amara Darboh, Jehu Chesson, and Dennis "DENNIS NORFLEET" Norfleet he will have plenty of targets, He should be productive once again. Now, if he can just get a liiiiiiittle time to throw the ball...
Uh oh crap forgot about that.
[AFTER THE JUMP: Alarming quantities of opposition defensive linemen]