well that's just, like, your opinion, man
Praise to all available deities. I know it's 50/50 whether this is real or "we want to be aggressive" annual offseason pablum, but I'm storing my cynicism because I need it to be the former. Devin Gardner:
"Practices are really fast, we get a lot of reps. This was probably the fastest practice I've ever been a part of ... I feel like, right now, there's a lot of energy in practice. I'm happy with it. ... Coach Nuss definitely pushes tempo, makes sure we get to the ball fast, get the calls out, do everything you need to do and then get the ball hiked. He's pushing that a lot. And sometimes we just go hurry-up to get more reps."
It was as if a million botched two-minute drills cried out, and then were silent. [Ed-S: ...were suddently silenced! ARGH YOU ALWAYS DO THIS!] If you have not wandered on to this site straight from the maternity ward of the local hospital still covered in amniotic goo you are aware of the author's tendency to engage in spittle-flecked rants when it comes to the idea that you must slow down your offense to protect your defense.
(I MEAN WHAT DOES THAT IMPLY ABOUT THE EFFECTIVENESS OF TEMPO?! YOU'RE FLAT OUT STATING THAT TEMPO IS DIFFICULT TO DEAL AND INSTEAD OF COMING TO GRIPS WITH IT YOU PREFER TO JUST NOT THINK ABOUT IT ARRRRRGH. I put this in parens so that you can't blame me for this spittle-flecked rant. I am invulnerable in here.)
So. More tempo means more reps, means more ability to go fast without sacrificing your ability to go slow, means the defense is better prepared to deal with teams that go fast, means less shoe-throwing as Michigan spends the last two minutes of the half imitating a newly-hatched sea turtle trundling towards the sea. All praise to modern football thinking.
…but I don't believe you for a second. While it appears that coaches are talking to the press when they talk to the press, they are in fact talking to their players. This one insight explains every bit of coachspeak ever: they speak in motivational parables designed to get people to try hard no matter how tenuous their relationship to something interesting or accurate.
So, when asked how he's evaluating his quarterbacks at this point, his answer was hardly surprising.
"We're going to evaluate everything, just like every other position on our offense," Nussmeier said. "We want to create competition, we want guys to go out and compete."
Articles about the "spring QB race" result. This space already had a spittle-flecked rant on this subject, so let me just reiterate that I will consume a rack of hats if Devin Gardner is not the clear starting quarterback.
Perpetually entertaining. If the Ed O'Bannon case does nothing other than bring to light internal NCAA emails that plainly admit that the NCAA is profiting off the likeness of their players, it will still be a worthwhile endeavor. (And it seems likely it'll do much more than that.) The latest quotes would be astounding if they weren't part of an ever-expanding genre:
Leeland Zeller writes back to the LSU official that an NCAA rules interpretation "clearly addresses" and prohibits "the use of the DVD as 'premium' in conjunction with a subscription. ... Regardless, SI does this every year. If the school asks about it, they are advised to send a cease and desist letter, which preserves the eligibility of the student-athletes. SI ignores the letter and we all go on about our business."
In other news, it was not a coincidence that the play by play guy could pronounce "Tebow," and EA was trying to weasel the names and faces of players into NCAA because it was just like television.
What was that? Episode two in "Brian crams Big Ten basketball talking into his UV because his other platform was stolen": what the hell was Iowa doing last night? They ended up losing 93 to 86 in a wild 83 possession game at Indiana.
Everyone knows Iowa likes to run and that's fine as it goes, but Iowa played directly into the hands of the Hoosiers by employing a half-assed 1-2-2 pressure that turned Indiana possessions into transition possessions, which is the last thing in the world you would ever want to do. And then several times they just did not run back on defense, leading to a parade of Will Sheehey layups. I was shocked that the combustible Fran McCaffery didn't throttle various players. It was thoroughly gross.
This one probably doesn't end like the Dr. V putter story. Everyone on twitter recommends this profile of Caris LeVert, because LeVert just put this out there in a press conference:
“Caris, have there been any defining moments in your life?”
He looks around an empty room, considering the question and the door it leads to.
“Well, on Easter of sophomore year of high school, me and my brother found my dad dead on our living room floor.”
Wow. Read the whole thing, as they say.
Help wanted. Hockey picks up a commitment from NAHL defenseman Sam Piazza, who had an interesting path to his commitment. It's not often you see a guy who was committed to Boston College for 2012 end up in the NAHL two years later. In Piazza's case a severe concussion held him out for at least five months in what was expected to be his final season of junior. Hockey DB shows just 18 games played for Piazza from 2010-12; BC deferred him, reasonably, and he ended up playing 25 games for Chicago before dropping to the NAHL level.
“Michigan had called me about two weeks before the Top Prospects Tournament, so I knew they would be watching,” the defenseman said. “After Top Prospects, they invited me to tour the campus. I was not expecting much, but they wound up offering right there.”
…so there's more expectation for success here than there would be with your usual 20-year-old late NAHL skater pickup. And this is of course excellent because Michigan needs defensemen badly. Coach quote:
“Sam is a powerful skater with great on-ice vision and stick skills. In the years I have been coaching junior hockey, I have not seen anyone with his vision on defense. When you couple that vision with his high-end stick skills, that is a tremendous combination for a hockey player,” Baxter said.
Center Ice has more.
Etc.: Joba Chamberlain scar smiley face zoom in. Needs "SOON" in last panel.
the solution to Michigan's OL issues is clear: get the mustache back
Yeah but all those other guys.
I am shocked that a discussion regarding Nussmeier working with last year's assistant coaches has not yet been brought up. Besides being forced to run a system for which they were unfamiliar, one of the assumed major downfalls of Scott Shafer and Greg Robinson's tenures was that they did not pick their assistants.
First, would you assume that Nussmeier was given the opportunity to make changes to the offensive staff? Why wouldn't he choose assistants he has worked with in the past? Are Borges's and Nussmeier's offenses similar enough that the assistants' philosophies are in line? Why are we putting so much faith in assistants (esp. Funk) that fielded such underwhelming position groups?
Looking forward to your response,
Dazed and Confused (Brad)
Most coordinators do not sweep out the assistants en masse and replace them. OSU just hired a new guy after Everett Withers left, but hired their DL coach before the DC and then picked up the DC. Alabama did not make Nussmeier-initiated changes when they hired him and did not make Kiffin-initiated changes when they hired him. Notre Dame is replacing both coordinators; neither will bring in a new staff with them. For whatever reason, the "mass firing followed by a totally new regime" thing is just not done.
Those reasons include recruiting, which is somewhere between 20% (OL coach) and 80% (RB coach) of any particular position coach's job, as well as familiarity with the players, continuity, and the difficulty of hiring four or five coaches all in one swoop who will all work together well and get along.
Meanwhile, the OC is near-irrelevant for Jackson and Hecklinski, who will teach their guys the same things (don't fumble, catch the ball, run to the hole, follow these rules on zone runs) in just about any system. There is an art to the zone that is different than running power, but Jackson's coached an awful lot of stretch and inside zone over the last decade—the fit is fine. I'm not even sure what Ferrigno does with the tight ends that couldn't be split between Hecklinski and the OL coach, so whatever.
The big fit thing is with the OL coach and the OC, as the things the OL can do affect the things the OC can call and how he structures his offense. All offenses do everything and teach everything; all offenses should have a bread and butter that they stick to. Nussmeier ran a lot of shotgun power and inside zone at Washington, and did much the same at Alabama, albeit with more under center stuff. When Funk goes to coaching clinics he gives three hour presentations on inside zone minutia. I think the fit there is good.
As for the thing about firing the OL coach after a couple of years of really disappointing performances, I don't think you'd find a guy who would object if Funk was cut loose after this season. Hoke's hanging his career on his evaluation of his OL coach. I liked the guy myself and shudder at the hand he was dealt; even so, last year's performance was alarming. We'll have something definitive either way next year.
Yeah but what about the defense?
I'm as excited about the new OC hire as everyone else, but I think it may be overshadowing an equally concerning issue.
In the last 2 years, Michigan's defenses have not done that well against good offenses, and sometimes have been lit up by mediocre offenses. To my untrained eye, it appeared that in the bowl game we consistently put overmatched CBs on an island against their sole elite WR with disastrous effects. Isn't that the DC's job to get them some help? In his first year, Matteson used the blitz masterfully when he had a front 4 that couldn't get consistent pressure, but since then it seems that he's often content to rush 4 and get no pressure. I realize that the leading edge of our top notched recruiting classes were only true sophomores/red-shirt freshman last season, but it seems like seeing player and scheme development this next season is just as critical on the defensive side as the offensive side.
Rod [ed: not that Rod]
It is the DC's job to get them some help but that's the thing about offenses that consistently threaten you with the QB as a runner: it's hard to give guys help. If you put two safeties back you're asking your overmatched defensive line to hold up short a guy. If you bring a safety up he has to stay in the center of the field and Tyler Lockett can roam down the sideline with impunity. That is a choice you have to make. Michigan went into that game betting that their corners, who had performed well all year, could handle Lockett and tried to cover up for the issues in the front seven. They chose… poorly.
When you have a guy who can cover Tyler Lockett, you're good. No one has that. When you have a front six that can beat seven guys, you're good. Michigan did not have that. The spread is relentless. It forces you to win one on one matchups. Michigan did not.
I'm disappointed, sure, but Michigan just did not have the horses in the final two games against the best rushing offense in the country and the best WR in the country. Before that the schemes were holding up as well as you could expect the personnel to do so.
While I'm as disappointed in the passivity of this year's defense as you are and as concerned about Michigan getting ripped by spread teams as you are, on defense it was more about a severe personnel deficiency at defensive tackle and safety (remember Jarrod Wilson was out for the OSU game with disastrous results) than the chaos that reigned on the other side of the ball.
Head asplode rating.
On a scale of 1-10, how much did the Borges firing blow your mind? I would have bet good money against it.
I don't know. On the one hand, Michigan finished last in TFLs allowed this year and rushed for negative yards in consecutive games and that's aside from that game where the top tailback ran 27 times for 27 yards. So 1.
On the other, I'd heard from various people that a change was not likely, and Hoke said he didn't anticipate any changes a month ago. So, like, 8. I do wonder if Nussmeier's unexpected availability moved the needle there, that Brady was grudgingly content to move forward with Borges until a confirmed QB guru who'd run pro-style offenses (shhhh) was suddenly on the market.
Can Heiko ask Nuss about bubble screens.
No, because Heiko is going to be a doctor. And given what I've seen from Washington's 2011 campaign (post on this forthcoming) there will be no need to badger the OC to throw a WR screen from time to time when the OL is terrible. Washington's 2011 OL was and Washington tried to run every WR screen in the book.
m a sports debater person on the University's student radio station WCBN. Yesterday on our daily sports report we discussed the possibility of Gardner switching back to WR next year to prep for the NFL and then a QB battle would ensue between Morris and Speight (one of the guys on our show also threw out the idea of wildcat sets and all the yummy trick plays that go along with having 2 or 3 really good QBs on your roster). Does the Nussmeier make the possibilities of the Gardner move more or less likely? Does Michigan stay their current course with DG as the signal caller and then transition after he graduates or do they make that jump during this offseason?
Seriously did we not learn our lesson about going into a season with like 1 quarterback on the roster last year? And I mean seriously what about the six points Michigan scored before the bowl game was over makes you think that Devin Gardner is a worse option? Do you know how hard it is not to put this response in all caps? Super hard.
Over the last one and a half years, Devin Gardner:
- Completed 60% of his passes.
- Averaged 8.9 yards an attempt.
- Had a 32:16 TD:INT ratio.
- Had this combined statline against Notre Dame and OSU this year: 53 of 78, 68% completion rate, 9.6 YPA, 8 TD, 1 INT.
- In 2013, ran for 751 yards on 130 attempts, 5.8 yards per.
- Did this behind a line that gave up 36 sacks.
- Did this without any run game whatsover.
- Did this with a damaged shoulder, hand, rib, foot, and soul.
Devin Gardner is not getting replaced by a true sophomore. Repeat after me. Or I swear to God I will come to your radio station with a posse of boxing kangaroos, and you will be sorry.
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.
How much can Devin Gardner benefit from the change in OCs? Quite a bit, it appears.
Before new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier entered the coaching ranks, he was a Walter Payton Award winner (best I-AA player) as a quarterback for Idaho under the tutelage of John L. Smith and Scott Linehan before playing five seasons in the NFL and one in the CFL. After retiring as a player following the 2000 season, he spent two years as a quarterbacks coach in the CFL before taking the same position at Michigan State for his old coach, Smith.
Ever since, Nussmeier's coaching responsibilities have included working with quarterbacks, and like Al Borges he'll serve as his own QB coach at Michigan. While that arrangement didn't work out so well for Borges—who, notably, didn't have the playing pedigree of Nussmeier—there's a lot of evidence to suggest it'll go a lot better this time around. Here's a look at each of Nussmeier's coaching stops, starting with MSU, and how his quarterbacks fared under his tutelage.
Michigan State (QB Coach, 2003-2005)
John L. Smith hired Nussmeier in 2003, Jeff Smoker's senior year following a junior campaign in which he was suspended the final five games for substance abuse-related issues.
Below are the numbers for Nussmeier's starting QBs at MSU, including the years immediately prior to and following his time there. What we see from his time at East Lansing will come up again at future stops:
|2002 (Smoker, Jr.)||114||203||56.2||1593||7.8||13||10||133.4|
|2003 (Smoker, Sr.)||302||488||61.9||3395||7.0||21||14||128.8|
|2004 (Stanton, So.)||141||220||64.1||1601||7.3||8||6||131.8|
|2005 (Stanton, Jr.)||236||354||66.7||3077||8.7||22||12||153.4|
|2006 (Stanton, Sr.)||164||269||61.0||1807||6.7||12||10||124.7|
Smoker's senior-year numbers don't leap off the page, but they do exhibit one trend in Nussmeier's quarterback coaching: when he takes charge, interception rates fall. While Smoker threw 14 picks in 2003, he did so on 226 more attempts than he had in any other season, and his 2.9% interception rate was a career best.
Drew Stanton's numbers are muddled by injuries in each of his three seasons as the starter; even so, the huge strides he made under Nussmeier from his sophomore to junior seasons are apparent—his completion percentage, yards per attempt, touchdown rate, and overall efficiency all improved even with a significant uptick in attempts. Perhaps even more indicative of Nussmeier's skill with QBs is Stanton's huge dropoff when his coach moved on—not the last time this would happen after Nussmeier left a job. Stanton's quote to Angelique Chengelis after Michigan hired Nussmeier really stands out after looking at the numbers:
“Doug Nussmeier is everything as advertised and more,” Stanton told The News Wednesday night. “He has an unbelievable approach to the game that demands a lot out of his players but also has a way of making every day fun. He represents what college football should be all about. He’s going to make a great head coach some day, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without him. I was literally in tears when he left my junior year at Michigan State.”
Are there mitigating factors here? Absolutely. Smoker's lost 2002 season makes it difficult to parse out how much of his senior-year resurgence was due to coaching, while Stanton's injuries in his sophomore and senior seasons (remember LaMarr Woodley?) impacted his performance in those years. Stanton's outstanding junior year is still hard to ignore, however, especially once it's put in the context of Nussmeier's other coaching stops.
[Hit THE JUMP for Nussmeier's other stops, including Marc Bulger's Last Stand and the transformations of Keith Price and AJ McCarron.]
DEPARTURES IN ORDER OF SIGNIFICANCE.
- LT Taylor Lewan. Four year starter took all kinds of heat for performance of Michigan OL as if he was able to play four positions at once or he had some sort of deficiency in his Leadership Aura and was not communicating enough Leadership to the rag-tag interior line. Was in fact the same player he was as a junior—a great one—and NFL draft slot in the first round will reflect this.
- WR Jeremy Gallon. Michigan's all-time single season receiving yards record is now his, so at least I was right about one thing in the preseason. Short, but good at fades; eviscerated Notre Dame; eviscerated Indiana; eviscerated Ohio State; best pound for pound WR in country not named Lockett.
- RT Michael Schofield. Overshadowed by Lewan his entire career but emerged into a complete run/pass tackle as a senior. I know there was so much pressure up the middle that there were fewer opportunities than normal for tackles to biff, but when's the last time you remember Schofield getting beat by a pass rusher? That one time he miscommunicated with Toussaint doesn't count. I mean straight-up beat. It's hard to remember. Will be missed; will be drafted.
- WR Drew Dileo. Sticky-fingered Louisiana gnome sort of epitomized 2013 with ill-time drops, but was a reliable chain-mover and special teams tool. Will miss calling him "sticky-fingered Louisiana gnome" because obviously.
- RB Fitzgerald Toussaint. Final game saw him receive two carries; entire career one long comedown from explosive junior season; horrible, horrible pass blocker. Had mostly been replaced by end of year.
- WRs Jeremy Jackson and Joe Reynolds. Little-used backups were good program guys but should be replaceable.
I may have reused these pictures. The numbers may be a give away.
- QB Devin Gardner. Chaos machine seemed to reduce interceptions as season went along, but how much that perception changes if some guys catch some passes in their guts is up for debate. Excellent YPA despite having most of his body ground into paste by year's end. Should take step forward as senior; still major X-factor.
- WR Devin Funchess. For the love of God, world, stop pretending this man is a tight end. Looking at you, Big Ten awards committee. Michigan's second-leading receiver with 49 catches for 748 yards and six TDs; works just fine as a jumbo WR, thanks. Hands issues late after fine start to career. Go-to WR next year.
- OL Graham Glasgow. Only returning OL to have and hold a job all year; had some struggles after move to center; has the size and athleticism for the major college level of competition, as ESPN is wont to say; will play somewhere but Michigan probably hoping Patrick Kugler bounces him out to guard.
- TE Jake Butt. Site tagline does not refer to him. Productive freshman season saw him add 45 pounds and catch 20 balls for 235 yards; was probably M's best blocker at the spot; 15 more pounds and he is the dual threat Borges has wanted from day one.
- OL Erik Magnuson. Entered on second line shuffle of year and stuck; now obviously moving out to tackle and must be quality, because options other than him are scanty indeed.
- OL Kyle Kalis. Recruiting sheen severely reduced after painful redshirt freshman season saw him benched, supposedly for an undisclosed ankle injury. Performance even before that was middling at best. But was FR OL.
- OL Kyle Bosch. True freshman showed some promise; showed a lot of true freshman business. Momentarily replaced Kalis but then lost his job to Kalis once again. Tentatively penciled in as a starter
- WR Jehu Chesson. Nominal starter hardly targeted in first few games and then saw Funchess eat his job; did grab 15 balls for 221 yards and crushed a few dudes, whether it was on special teams or after the catch. Probably still the #3 WR with Amara Darboh's return but a promising freshman year should see him eat up some of Gallon's targets.
- TE AJ Williams. Blocking TE seemed to regress after freshman year; could not block. Major issue needs repairing STAT.
- FB Joe Kerridge. Your primary blocking back. May be drafted as pass protector again, but hopefully not.
WHAT'S NEW, OR CLOSE ENOUGH, ANYWAY
Kugler and Braden may step in
One or two or three guys on the offensive line. At this instant your leaders on the offensive line are probably Magnuson-Bosch-Glasgow-Kalis mentioned above and Ben Braden at RT, but that is the shakiest depth chart in the history of the concept. Magnuson is the only certainty, as Michigan isn't going to trust anyone else to be their left tackle a year after Braden went from sure starter to ghost because he didn't have the foot quickness to hack it at guard. Glasgow is also pretty safe, as he didn't get pulled from the lineup last year and can play any of the three interior spots.
Everyone else is 50/50 at best with Michigan getting five guys off redshirts and having a few veterans also competing. Will Patrick Kugler be the man from day one at center? Will Chris Bryant get it together? Will David Dawson beat someone out whether it's at guard or right tackle, where I've heard they expect him to compete? The answers to these questions will start trickling in during spring and not have a full resolution until Michigan's first offensive snap… if then.
A dang running back who can run the dang ball, again. I'm lumping Michigan's four returning tailbacks into the "new" category for reasons both obvious and hopeful:
- Drake Johnson tore his ACL covering a kick after two carries.
- Justice Hayes had two carries last year; De'Veon Smith had 26.
- Derrick Green did get 83 carries, normally enough to put him into the returning category, but with so many of those doomed by the OL in front of him and the hope that he goes from kind of plodding to the lean brute that impressed recruiting analysts, those 83 carries don't mean much.
For the third straight year Michigan will be looking for anything that works on the ground other than Denard Robinson, and what Michigan can expect from its tailbacks is still in doubt.
"The single greatest catch I've ever seen in person" –Devin Gardner
African refugee wide receivers, again. Amara Darboh's debut was delayed by a foot injury suffered late in fall camp; this year he should debut as something between an uninspiring chain mover and Jason Avant (but fast)! Darboh had buckets of practice hype after a series of spectacular catches put him on everyone's lips in press conferences. He was clearly ahead of Chesson at the time and probably still is after Chesson had a decent but not paradigm-shifting debut.
And we can throw in Chesson here, too: he figures to absorb a lot of snaps not just from Gallon but Dileo, Jackson, and Reynolds. With Gallon's targets spreading across the offense he'll get a shot to be an impact player he didn't this year.
Dennis Norfleet, for pants' sake. I swear on this bible factory that if Michigan can't find a productive role for Dennis Norfleet in this offense I am going to break every rule in the factory of bibles I have just sworn upon. This does not mean bringing him in motion every time he's on the field. It means looking at him as a slot receiver instead of a tiny bouncy freak show, which okay yeah he is but seriously people just imagine what West Virginia would do with the guy and do it.
More TE-ish guys. Khalid Hill and Wyatt Shallman come off redshirts and should bring blocky/catchy/runny aspects to the guys on the field who aren't WRs or RBs, whatever you'd like to call them. With Butt and Williams aging and hopefully improving, Michigan might have some options here to do tricky things, particularly in the redzone. If any of them can block.
WHAT'S ROD STEWART 1972
Gardner to Funchess. This was Gardner to Gallon last year. This year it is pretty obvious what replaces that: Devin Funchess blew up after his move to WR, taking end-arounds and leaping over people both before and after he acquired the ball. They even threw him a couple fades late in the year when it occurred to them that maybe that was a good idea.
Unfortunately, after a very strong start to his career in the catching department drops became an issue around the Michigan State game. The overall picture is still a guy with very good hands and a huge catching radius, though.
He's already the Big Ten's second-leading returning receiver, behind only Hoosier Cody Latimer, and Latimer plays in a light-speed offense that inflates basic counting stats. With a full season at WR and Gallon off to the NFL, a thousand-yard season is a certainty. The only question is at what point television accepts the fact that he's a wideout.
What happens if Gardner gets injured, at least relative to usual. Michigan seems to have itself a legit backup QB in Shane Morris for the first time in forever.
Passing weapons writ large. There is some projection in saying this, but it doesn't seem like Gallon's departure is going to leave Gardner bereft of options. He's got a #1 guy ready to step into that role and then you've got Darboh, Chesson, Butt, Norfleet, and possibly contributors from either the three-man 2013 class or Drake Harris/Moe Ways/Freddy Canteen in 2014. Five veterans plus six young options looks like a lot of options to me.
WHAT'S ROD STEWART 2013
Pass protection. This was horrendous and doesn't figure to get a lot better with both tackles out the door. Magnuson still needs to add 15-20 pounds to hold up against bull rushes and the question mark at right tackle is highly ominous. Maybe I'm making too much of Braden's swift disappearance from the two deep in fall, but… man, to swiftly disappear from that two-deep would seem to bode unwell. If it's not Braden then it seems like Michigan is trying to shoehorn a guy who would be better at guard into the RT spot, whether it's Dan Samuelson or David Dawson or even Bosch. Add to that continuing uncertainty on the interior and it's easy to see Michigan QBs get harassed as much as they were this year.
The seeming certainty that there will be three (or more!) brutal clunkers from this unit. Three years in and Borges's crew has thrown up at least three horrendous games a year, every year, as whatever mad scientist stuff Borges throws at the wall backfires spectacularly when his team can't execute the new stuff and can't execute anything else because the offense is a chameleon from game to game with the exception of throwback screens.
How far they have to go and how much time they have to do it in. Discussed more in the next section, but it seems like the best case scenario next year is improvement by default that gives us little insight into what Michigan should do going forward. Regression to the mean should see Michigan uptick in many categories in which they set dubious records. Hooray, but if Michigan is 70th in TFLs allowed in year four that just puts us in an uncertain netherworld. Your options here:
- Michigan has a near repeat of last year. PRO: No uncertainty here as everyone is put on a donkey and ridden out of town. CON: Michigan has a near repeat of last year.
- Michigan is below mediocre on the line, but not a completely unwatchable tire fire. PRO: Manage to avoid stabbing other eye out. CON: No idea whether to stay the course and hope for further improvement in year five or move on after third consecutive mediocre at best season.
- Michigan is good! PRO: Michigan is good. CON: Drugs are expensive.
It's hard to see anything definitively good happening next year.
WHAT'S HEISENBERG ROD STEWART UNCERTAINTY
The offensive line can't be worse, right? This is a repeat from last year, because the offensive line was worse and now the offensive line is losing two NFL tackles. This year… they literally cannot be worse. Michigan finished 123rd of 123 in tackles for loss allowed and turned Devin Gardner into hamburger. So we've got that going for us. The offensive line can't be worse, because they're already at the bottom.
Okay but can they be massively better? That is the real question here. Michigan has to be vastly better on the offensive line next year or it's firing time: for Funk definitely, for Borges definitely, and after (hypothetically) three straight years of non-Denard utter incompetence on the ground probably Hoke.
And… yikes. Frankly, writing this bit makes me think they should just throw everyone over right now because how can you go from that to average in one year while losing your two best guys? These kind of reclamation projects are two-year deals, usually, and that's if they get reclaimed at all.
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD CAN ANYONE OTHER THAN DENARD ROBINSON PICK UP THREE FEET ON THE GROUND? This is also a repeat from last year, because the answer was NO FOR THE LOVE OF GOD NO. For perspective, Michigan rushed for 3.9 yards a carry in 2008, with Brandon Minor leading the way at 5.2 yards a pop. Last year, Michigan had 3.3. This rushing offense was tons worse than the 2008 outfit despite having some very threatening weapons on the outside. No offense to Nick Sheridan, Steven Threet, Greg Mathews or Martavious Odoms, but in terms of loosening up a defense… uh… does this sentence need to continue? Nope. It ended right there.
Michigan must have a function running back for the first time in three years or it's head-lopping time.
Can Gardner get his interceptions down to a reasonable rate? You'd think this would improve what with experience and not getting annihilated all the time, but 1) he might get annihilated all the time, and 2) we saw with Denard that sometimes guys just don't get better at taking care of the ball as they acquire experience. This is pretty much another do or die here for Borges: have one of your quarterback show major improvement or GTFO.
MANDATORY WILD ASS GUESS
Oh hell, I don't know. Things should get better on the ground and the pass protection won't be great… could be just as bad. Gardner's experience and a lot of options in the passing game should result in something more tolerable than 2013. How much and how much impact that has on the wins and losses I just don't know anymore man.
I'll take "inappropriate file photos" for 1000 [Bryan Fuller]
The most important bit out of Hoke's latest presser will not please you:
Hoke: Devin Gardner held out of practice again today. Still using crutches
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) December 16, 2013
Hoke wouldn't go as far as calling Gardner questionable for the bowl game. But doesn't sound like a total certainty right now.
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) December 16, 2013
Hoke probably wouldn't call Gardner questionable if he had been eaten by a dinosaur and was listed by the athletic department as (OUT—Time Traveling Velociraptor Attack). For this exercise we are assuming Michigan is issuing injury reports, and yes that's less realistic than Time Travelling Velociraptors.
If Gardner doesn't play in the bowl game, it's hide yo' kids time.
[4:08 PM] Ace: on the plus side, this could silence all the shane morris truthers.
[4:09 PM] Brian Cook: "plus side"