here's one vote for "John Beilein's head in a Futurama jar"
The 2011 Michigan Football Recruiting Board lives here.
Brennen Beyer Goes Blue
And He's Leaping With Excitement About It! (Sorry).
Michigan's 2011 recruiting class now stands at four commitments after MI DE Brennen Beyer joined the fold Thursday afternoon. For much more on his commitment check out Hello: Brennen Beyer. Tom talked to Brennen Thursday after he committed, and gave a brief update in the comments of that post:
He said, "After seeing all the other schools, I knew that this was the right place. I couldn't think of anywhere else I wanted to go."
He has been a lifelong Michigan fan and added an emphatic "Go Blue!' at the end.
Touch The Banner breaks down his game:
In many ways, Beyer reminds me of Craig Roh. Both are long, explosive, and relentless. Both are somewhat susceptible to taking the run game head on. Roh was a little more refined coming out of high school and, despite being a little bigger, has a little more athleticism... Beyer will likely redshirt in 2011 and have a real shot at contributing in 2013 after Roh graduates.
"A lot like Craig Roh" is the prevailing opinion on Beyer, so no surprise there.
Spring Game: The Aftermath
A number of important visitors were at the Spring Game over the weekend, including several top instate guys, as well as some out-of-state prospects. Perhaps none is more important than FL RB Demetrius Hart (pictured at right). Sam Webb profiled Hart in the Detroit News last week. On top of his football skills, he has all the intangibles as well:
"Hart's physical ability, speed and quickness, are easily identified, but after watching him for two days there is much more to this impressive athlete," said Scout.com recruiting analyst Bill Greene. "His leadership ability, infectious attitude, and desire to win far outshine his impressive physical gifts. Demetrius Hart is a winner, on and off the field. He will be an outstanding addition to whichever college he chooses."
Most of the article recaps the ongoing "Michigan leads - wait no they don't - I'm not considering them - wait yes I am" saga that's we've been following for several weeks, but also says that he'll be deciding over the summer:
"I am going to Auburn at the end of May, and then on June 5 to Alabama," Hart reported. "I do not have an overall favorite until I see what (his mother) thinks. I'll make my decision sometime this summer. I am going to look at academics and playing time."
The Michigan visit may have pushed that decision forward somewhat. Tom talked to his mother during the visit, and she spoke glowingly of the Michigan program:
TOM: Does this visit change anything with Demetrius, as far as his top schools?
MRS HART: I’ll say this, I would say that they received a whole lot of brownie points with this visit. And, we’ll be back soon. You have to go somewhere you feel loved and supported, and I know he would get that here.
TOM: Will he be deciding anytime soon?
MRS HART: It’s going to be soon. Within a month.
There's much more info in the post, so check it out. The fact that he's deciding shortly after a return visit to Michigan (likely for the "BBQ at the Big House" near the end of May) is a very, very good sign. Sam Webb said on WTKA the other day that he has a "strong gut feeling" on Hart, which typically indicates a silent commitment to the Wolverines.
In other Spring Game-related news, PA DE Deion Barnes was in attendance with the Top Prospects Family, and he received an offer ($, info in header) from the Michigan coaching staff on his "legendary" ($, info in header) visit. He spoke with ESPN last week prior to the visit, though the video's not that informative.
Top recruits FL WR Sammy Watkins (younger brother of Florida freshman CB Jaylen Watkins) and FL Ath/QB/S Dallas Crawford attended the spring game. Crawford "loved his Michigan visit" ($, info in header), They are expected to be big time recruits, and would be huge gets for the Wolverines.
One prospect I was interested in hearing from following the spring game was MI OL Anthony Zettel. He's been favoring Michigan ($, info in header) for quite some time now, but the visit wasn't enough to coax a commitment out of him.
IL OL Jordan Walsh was there ($, info in header).
Tom has a bunch of other news from the Spring Game visitors he's talked to, which includes the snippet that MD DT Vincent Croce now favors the Wolverines, along with UVA, as well as a tidbit on MI WR DeAnthony Arnett. Our Helmets Have Wings goes into further depth on Arnett:
Arnett still plans to take in the spring game at MSU this upcoming weekend, but he indicated he will create a top 7 this summer and then top 5 right before his senior season, and that he won’t decide until after his senior season is over.
Arnett was pleased with Michigan's passing game during the spring game, and since he grew up a fan of Michigan and Oklahoma, a strong season for the Wolverines could help net a commit from him. Highlights from his performance at the Michigan Football Showcase are now available on Youtube:
News Of The Not-So-Happy Variety
Not all news is good news this week, as Michigan went from one of the favorites for OH DT Kevin Williams, to slipping, to outside his top 3 by the time he committed to Nebraska following his visit to their spring game. He was one of Michigan's top targets, and it hurts to lose a guy that had Michigan at the top only a month ago. However, there are other defensive tackles in the sea, and the staff will shift focus to the likes of Vincent Croce, Kevin McReynolds, and others.
AZ OL Christian Westerman committed to Texas a little while ago, but I forgot to remove him from the recruiting board. He's off now.
TN Ath/QB Jabriel Washington has committed to Alabama. Despite his Michigan offer, he always favored SEC schools, so it's no surprise.
Demetrius Hart's teammate, FL S Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, committed to Alabama. If Hart does indeed commit to Michigan, might he be able to sway his teammate? It sounds like Clinton-Dix is 100% Crimson, unfortunately.
FL RB Mike Blakely has been offered ($, info in header). Michigan is "still in the mix" for SC WR Hakeem Flowers ($, info in header). FL TE Jeff Heuerman will visit today. AZ OL Andre Yruretagoyena "likes the cold" ($, info in header), which can only help Michigan. Michigan leads for FL OL Tony Posada, and he plans to visit ($, info in header). LA OL Trai Turner will decide over the summer ($, info in header). Stanford leads for Michigan offeree CA DE Charles Burks ($, info in header). NC LB Kris Frost would prefer to play WR ($, info in header). Michigan appears to be in third for OH CB Doran Grant ($, info in header). Eleven Warriors talks to him as well.
Why? We're 3-9 and have no bowl game, that's why. But also because I just found the stats interesting.
Michigan State played Georgia in the Citrus Bowl, prompting dual Georgia/Michigan fan Michael at Braves & Birds to ponder World War II (most things cause him to ponder World War II):
Michigan State came into the Citrus Bowl (I refuse to use the new name) in a position not unlike the one that Japan in 1940-41. MSU was opposed by a slumbering giant, an opponent that was complacent and unprepared for war at the outset, but an opponent with far greater talent and capacity for a long-term fight.
Long story short: the giant woke up in the second half and dropped bombs. Only Georgia's disinterest in the game kept Michigan State's 2008 from being a mirror image of Notre Dame's 2006 minus the undeserved BCS bid, a superficially pretty record marred by epic beatings at the hands of the few top ten teams on the schedule.
Here's a table.
|Team||Total Offense||Total Defense||Margin||Total Offense||Total Defense||Margin|
|Team A||352.4 (67th)||357.9 (40th)||-5.5||339.5 (8th)||375.4 (8th)||-35.9|
|Team B||416.8 (42nd)||345.5 (32nd)||71.3||431.1 (1st)||394.1 (7th)||37|
Which team went 9-4 and which team went 7-6? It's obvious. If team B went 9-4 I wouldn't be posting about it. Michigan State's offense fell off a cliff and the defense basically stayed level and the end result was a significant improvement. As a bonus, the real numbers are actually worse than what you see above since they don't include the Citrus loss in which State was outgained by about 100 yards.
Anyone who's read this blog for more than a couple months knows the a-ha moment that's coming up: turnover margin! Except the 7-6 team was slightly better than the 9-4 team that critical, near-random category. No dice there. Neither can the explanation be found on special teams. Punting was about a yard better this year, and while the punt returns got a lot better the kick returns got a lot worse. There's nothing in the stats that offers an easy explanation as to why Michigan State seemingly got much worse but won more games.
The nearest thing to an explanation I can come up with is the distribution of turnovers. MSU was in -7 in turnover margin against Ohio State and Penn State, both epic losses; in all other games they were +9. Since a large chunk of that yardage gap also came in those aforementioned epic losses, State played a large number of games in which they were on the whole equal with their opponents and won the turnover battle and therefore the game. State won three games in which they were outgained, sometimes badly:
|Opponent||Yards For||Yards Allowed||Margin||TO Margin||Final Score|
State had no games that went the other way; they had their crappy days against teams they were highly unlikely to beat anyway. The Spartans were a 6-6 or 7-5 team—again—that had the breaks fall in the right way for them to leap up a couple spots in the weakest Big Ten in memory.
This is the long way of saying I'm not particularly afeared of Dantonio. While he seems like a better coach than the last two jokers at State (an honor also shared by Clay Aiken and jars of peanuts), Braves and Birds nails his ceiling:
Mark Dantonio is Jim Tressel without the talent base. Exhibit A: punting in the first quarter on 4th and 1 from the Georgia 39. Exhibit B: an offense built around running the same guy over and over between the tackles. (At least Tressel came out of the dark ages with Troy Smith.) Exhibit C: a kicker who attempted 25 field goals this year. Exhibit D: an on-field persona that makes Ben Stein's character in Ferris Bueller's Day Off look like Sam Kinison. With the way Dantonio's team approaches offense, I'm constantly reminded of the Japanese officer who said in 1944 that Japan didn't need radar because its soldiers could see perfectly well.
World War II analogies are appropriate because the last time Dantonio updated his thinking was during the Battle of Midway. At best he makes Michigan State into a Wisconsin or Iowa level program, and even that seems pretty doubtful.
Update 12/11: Added CA CB David Ross, a four star without an offer who claims Michigan his "dream school." Removed DE, er, DE Devon Still, who dropped us. Moved KS LB Austin Panter to committed. Linked to article on AZ OL Jaivorio Burkes and one on OT commitment Mark Huyge. Added CA LB Malcolm Smith. Removed some safety chaff. Moved TX LB Brandon Herron to committed. Removed IL DE Martez Wilson, VA CB Cris Hill (dropped us). Added VA LB Marell Evans to committed.
Editorial Opinion: Panter and Herron have been covered before. New commitment is that of Evans, a two-star with no reasonable argument that he might have been overlooked. He doesn't play for an obscure high school (Varina is a state power), he hasn't been injured or forced to play out of position, and he doesn't have offers that belie his ranking. Michigan snatched him away from Temple, Buffalo, and Middle Tennessee. Virginia Tech appeared to be interested...
Meanwhile, last we heard Virginia Tech was looking at Varina defenders Andre Branch and Marell Evans.
"I know the Michigan coaches are coming down this week to see Marell," he said. "I believe Virginia Tech likes him, but coach Cavanaugh didn't say a lot when he checked him out. He does think he's a good player, but Tech is in a bind since they've got almost everyone they want. I do know that Virginia Tech does like him more as a defensive end. He's the type of kid that can put on weight and run really well."
... but not interested enough to offer. So he's got that going for him. He was also his district's defensive player of the year, and you can assume that Michigan has a high familiarity with him after spending much of last year chasing after Brandon Minor, who also attended Varina. Still, the probability he's a major contributor is lower than most other Michigan recruits. Standard disclaimer that the number of stars next to a players name does not etch their fate in stone, but it is relevant.
Other bits: dropped by a couple DEs; in all probability we're going to get Van Bergen and that's it. We'll need a blue-chippah next year but with Germany, Patterson, and Graham all entering their sophomore years the lack of numbers there isn't a concern. Weird article about David Ross, a California four-star who basically begged for a Michigan offer on Scout.com. He's a soft verbal to Nebraska now and visiting Oregon... no idea what the deal is there. I moved Jerimy Finch back to safety since there seems to be a flood of linebackers incoming. Things are looking good for FL OLB/S Lorenzo Edwards.
The above-linked Huyge article is worth a read for anyone concerned about OT recruiting. Michigan's had a lot of high-profile busts and low-profile successes recently, so I'm not particularly worried. It would be nice to pick up Romine or Elliot, though.
WXYT 1270 in Detroit had Gary Danielson and Kirk Herbstreit on recently. I think the results speak for themselves.
I understand that expecting sports talking heads to make a damn bit of sense is futile, but good God... I can't watch or read anything without feeling an intense desire to choke whoever wrote/said it.
If you say any of the following things, you are wrong and should be shamed.
Michigan didn't win its conference. If this was going to be changed it would have been changed after the Nebraska fiasco. It wasn't, even though the BCS was fully aware it was a possibility. The system is about the two best teams, and this year every indication is that they come from the same conference.
Michigan had its chance. AOK SWELL. If we change the location of the MNC game to Columbus, Ohio, and play on crappy turf that OSU is used to but Florida is not, I can see this argument working. I doubt that's going to happen. This is also ignoring what the BCS is about: the two best teams. There is no "they had their chance" clause.
Florida played a harder schedule. Says who? The only team with anything resembling a pulse on the nonconference schedule was Florida State, and that's a mighty generous definition of the word "pulse." Then we're getting into the SEC, which has pretty records because of the Sun Belt World tour and excessive media hype. Objective measures of these things have Michigan slightly behind or slightly ahead. In any case, the gap is razor thin, close enough that the relative performances of the two teams against their nearly identical schedules should be the deciding factor.
Michigan has been idle for two weeks. Yes, I have actually seen this. Personally, I think Florida should go to the Alamo Bowl because it had bye weeks early in the season instead of Michigan's incredible twelve straight weeks. The idea that Michigan has an unviolable right to the #2 spot because they "didn't get worse" -- as advanced by Doug Flutie -- is wrong, since Florida's accomplishments since
Do you notice what Florida backers never talk about?
Michigan and Florida. They make it about whether Alabama is better than Indiana. Whether Penn State is better than Georgia. The historical fluke that the #1 team happens to be in Michigan's conference. While I'm not in favor of Vegas-style rankings because they discard what actually, you know, happened, in this case we have two teams having played comparable schedules and with comparable records. Style points don't matter, but substance points do. South Carolina may be a hair better than Iowa, but Michigan's game against Iowa -- though close-ish in the second half -- did not come down to a blocked extra point and two blocked field goals. Michigan dominated Vandy; Florida was outgained by them and won by 6. Florida limped past Georgia and Florida State; though the scores were superficially similar in the Penn State and Minnesota games, Michigan was never really threatened, unless you consider a petrified third-string quarterback with 80 yards to go when his team has racked up a total of 150 a "threat."
The foes were comparable. Michigan has ruthlessly executed them; Florida has scraped by on a wing and a prayer. With accomplishments relatively equal, we can look to Vegas.
Vegas says Michigan by six.
|M20||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Run||3||Hart||Zone left|
|Third wideout is actually Butler, who comes in motion to the playside. He kind of whiffs on the linebacker but with the help of Ecker, turns him out. Gholston, lined up over Long(-1), gets free, forcing Hart back inside of him and into the remaining linebackers.|
|Smith owned. Henne lays it right in stride to Manningham, allowing him to rack up a big gain after the catch. (DO, 3, protection 1/1)|
|First indication that the field might be an issue, as Washington slips trying to break on this. Wouldn't have done much other than hold the gain down a yard or two, but still an indication. Ohio State's doing this flyaway thing I've seen them do quite a bit where they line up in press cover, then start bailing at the snap. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|Ton of time for Henne. Henne looks deep, then comes down to Butler for the first down. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|I'm not sure what to call this. It's not our typical zone stretch but it's not really a draw either. Oluigbo leads weakside as Michigan OL start pass drop, then engage. The OSU defensive line has started shifted right, over the tight end, and is walled off fairly easily. Obi kicks out a blitzing corner. Laurinaitis and Kerr get sucked up and blocked â€“ Kerr tries a diving tackle that Hart bursts through â€“ and Hart's into the secondary for a good gain.|
|O24||2||1||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||23||Manningham||Post (2)|
|Press-bail again, where the cornerback immediately turns his hips and starts flying downfield, reading the quarterback. Michigan is ready for this, running a post against cover 1 (seven in the box versus this formation that features Ecker spread wide to the top of the formation). Manningham gets inside Smith easily and throws a perfect dart. (DO, 2, protection 2/2)|
|Yeesh. Nearly a hold on Butler as he grabs a cornerback's arm, and then he falls to the ground. Obi gets the other corner hooked and Hart has the corner easy.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-0, 12 min 1st Q. I didn't realize the Dave Matthews Band had kicked in for this game. Anyway... uh... yeah. That was machine-like.|
|Manningham slips... he was open and the ball was there despite pressure. Ball was there. (CA, 0, protection Â½)|
|Michigan has the outside sealed â€“ Laurinaitis swept up by the guard and then Obi â€“ but Arrington can't maintain his block on Jenkins. He comes free and shuts Hart down for a moderate gain. Riley(-1) driven backwards, delaying Hart's progress around the edge and giving Jenkins time to come up.|
|Second read nails Breaston between the numbers. Excellent coverage. (CA, 2, protection 2/2)|
|M31||1||10||I-Form Twins||Penalty||-5||Mitchell||False Start|
|OMG DEREK JETER|
|Ugh. Manningham is ten yards past Jenkins and heading for an easy touchdown but Henne overthrows him. Manningham throws his arms up in despair. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Another second read. This one is a bit in front of Butler but still reeled in for a good gain. (CA, 2, protection 2/2)|
|Plenty of time. Ecker is jammed at the line and held. Henne appears to have Breaston short quickly but he never comes to him. Eventually he tosses it away, trying to avoid pressure. Musberger getting intolerable. (TA, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 4 min 1st Q.|
|Henne has a moment before Lawrence Wilson drives Ecker(-1) into the pocket, forcing a panicked scramble. He has to realize what's happening and do something like dump the ball off to Hart, who looked like he had some room to make positive yards. Instead we get the same thing we've seen a lot this year where Henne takes his eyes off his receivers and gets sacked. (PR, --, protection 1/2, Ecker -1)|
|Well executed. Good blocks by Arrington(+1) and Butler(+1). (CA, 3)|
|M23||3||1||Ace 3-Wide||Run||0||Hart||Zone right|
|Oh, how I despise this playcall. I've been bitching about this all year, no? Third and one, we bring in three wideouts and run a stretch play without a lead blocker. They stuff the box, sell out on the zone play, and stuff it. Musberger credits Laurinaitis when all he did was chase down the play after everyone else did the hard work.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 14 min 2nd Q. Dear Animal, Your Kid Is Overrated.|
|M27||1||10||I-Form Twins||Run||1||Hart||Zone left|
|With two receivers to one side, OSU shows eight in the box then backs out of it just before the snap. OSU gets far enough upfield to cut off the outside and with the still aggressive safety on the backside the linebackers are free to flow to the ball, outnumber the Michigan blockers.|
|Actually an intentional grounding call but it goes down as a sack. Henne has time and the ability to make a throw here but hesitates and starts r unning around, at which point he's dead. Strange thing is that he started running into pressure instead of moving up into the pocket. I have no idea if his man was covered or whatever, but this is brutal play. Step up in the pocket, throw it away... do something other than take a 17 yard sack. Goddammit. Now I see why the hesitation: Henne's receiver (the second read) ate turf trying to cut. He was open, so Henne didn't come off of him, and when he went down the blitz had gone from picked up to not picked up. Filed as a BR for poor pocket awareness but with an asterisk. (BR, --, protection 1/2)|
|Open underneath deep coverage and picks up half of it. I don't have a huge problem with the call. It's 14 yards of field position and getting it on third and twenty seven is not likely. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|M25||4||12||Punt||Penalty||15||--||Whackin' the Center|
|Yeah, you can't do that. Ever wonder why long snappers are always the third guy downfield on punt coverage? Because you can't hit 'em until they get their head up, by which point hittin' em is useless.|
|M40||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Run||0||Hart||Zone left|
|Against the strength of the formation. There's a bit of a problem with the exchange, but it doesn't affect the play. No one gets a block on the second level or much push. Riley(-1) is so late he tries to go out and block the corner to that side because the linebacker's already yards inside of him. Hart cuts back. There's a lot of space but two unblocked linebackers.|
|No blitz and hardly any penetration from the DL. Weird looking screen. The third "wideout" is actually Ecker screen side, which might be a tipoff. Pitcock reads it and tracks down Hart; Hart jukes past him easily (Kraus slips to the turf trying to turn and block him) but the delay holds down the gain. (CA, 3)|
|Henne checks down as Manningham is covered and hits Breaston on a cross. He's tackled immediately by Freeman. Nice play. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-14, 8 min 2nd Q.|
|Smith bails out, giving Manningham a ton of room. There might be a miscommunication on this as the throw is a yard or two further downfield than Manningham expects. Still catchable but only marginally accurate given the error. Not sure who to blame. (CA, 2, protection 1/1)|
|Woo. Life. Laurinaitis is plowed by Oluigbo and out of the play, then Hart puts a move on the safety to break past the line of scrimmage. He puts a second move on Jenkins, bursts past him, and is tripped by by a diving corner.|
|50||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Run||1||Hart||Zone right|
|Extra guy in the box; they're in cover one with a seven man front. No likey run here. The front side is jammed up â€“ we can't crease them so far â€“ and when Hart tries to cut to the backside Gholston is there. Butler was confused, initially blowing past him in an attempt to get out on a linebacker, then turning and trying a half-hearted grab a second later. Gholston would have been vastly out of position on the waggle if Henne kept the ball.|
|O49||2||9||I-Form Twins||Run||7||Hart||Zone left|
|This is kind of weird. Looks like OSU is caught in a nickel here. They have one safety way back in the middle of the field and one shaded over Arrington and Manningham. The third corner backs off the LOS before the snap in that weakside zone technique you see a lot. We run at him. We finally crease the line, giving Hart a lane. Someone dives at his feet, he hurdles forward and falls for seven yards.|
|I bet an OSU fan a dollar about Herbstreit's opinion on this. Jenkins jams Manningham about eight yards downfield as Henne lofts a ball up for him. Flag comes down as the ball was in the air. Bet is a push, as Herbstreit offers no opinion either way. (Not charted, 0, protection 1/1)|
|Poor Alex Mitchell is asked to block two defensive linemen as we bust a blitz pickup. Henne's snowed under, no chance. (PR, --, protection 0/3, Riley-3) It's Riley who decides to take a late blitzing corner instead of blocking Gholston.|
|Combo route with Manningham gets Arrington millions of yards open â€“ this will happen again in the second half but Henne will miss him â€“ and leads to a touchdown. (DO, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-21, 2 min 2nd Q.|
|Massey slips trying to set up and block Smith; freed of Ecker, Smith makes the tackle. (CA, 3)|
|Laurinaitis does a great job of fending off Oluigbo â€“ first time I've ever seen him do that â€“ and manages a tackle attempt near the LOS. Hart runs through it. The other linebacker, Kerr, was engaged on the second level nicely by Bihl(+1) and can't do anything but chase Hart down from behind.|
|This is Adam Kraus' hole. He gets an outstanding, driving block on Kerr. Long kicks out Gholston; Bihl chops and removes Pitcock, who was firing forward at the snap. Oluigbo takes out Mitchell, opening up a hole for Hart.|
|No presnap formation; we join the play just as Hart gets the ball. Don't know if we caught them off guard or what but they have their linebackers shifted towards the open side of the field, away from where we're running. Patterson gets in to the backfield but can't get out to Hart before he shoots up into the hole. Bihl(+1) scoops Pitcock out of the way, and gets out on Laurinaitis. Hart reads everything beautifully and cuts his way through the ho le, past Bihl, and into the secondary.|
|Obi motions out to be a second TE on the right side. Great job by Butler(+1) to seal the DE, then impede Laurinaitis enough to give Hart the corner easily.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-28, 12 min 3rd Q.|
|O25||1||10||I-Form Twins||Run||5||Hart||Zone left|
|Nominally eight in the box â€“ Jenkins on the weakside covering a short zone â€“ but we run away from two blitzers who shoot upfield and take themselves out of the play. As a result, the backside is wide open. Hart sees it... cuts... slips. His hand hits the turf and he stumbles. Out of position linebacker (55?) recovers. He makes that cut cleanly and he has one safety between him and the endzone and a sure first down.|
|O20||2||5||I-Form Twins||Run||-2||Hart||Zone right|
|Playside block for Bihl on Patterson that he does not make. A replay of various runs all season where a DT drives one of our interior linemen into Hart in the backfield. Hart breaks the tackle but by that time he's swarmed.|
|Gholston and Pitcock stunt; Gholston blows up Kraus(-1) and gets pressure on Henne, who ends up throwing the ball away in the general direction of Manningham. (PR, 0, protection 0/2, Kraus -2) No Gholston likely means he throws to Breaston free on a crossing route after coming off Manningham.|
|Drive Notes: FG, 24-28, 8 min 3rd Q. The obvious issues with the field are actually affecting our offense more than our defense. Hart was one move away from the endzone on first down here.|
|Batted down at the line. (BA, 0)|
|Quick snap. Long(+1) gets great push on Richardson, allowing Hart the corner. Obi takes out the nearest linebacker and Hart goes up the sideline until the defense converges.|
|Ohio State blitzes; we pick it up. Mario comes across the formation and is trailed by a defender, revealing man coverage. With time, Henne finds Arrington, who's beaten Smith to the inside by a couple yards. (CA, 3, protection 3/3)|
|Quick snap. Long(-1) is hesitant (slip?), allowing Gholston to burst into him and shove him back. He then definitely slips. With the DE to the playside free, there's not much Hart can do except cut up into bodies.|
|Beautiful pocket. Henne drops back and fires it to Arrington running in between levels in the zone; right on the money. (DO, 3, protection 2/2)|
|O33||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Run||0||Hart||Zone left|
|Smith brought off of Arrington in the slot to blitz; does so right into the play. Arrington comes in motion before the snap and manages to wall off Smith without blocking him in the back. Hart jumps outside of him. Timing disrupted, the safety already creeping towards the line of scrimmage, Hart has the outside cut off and has to head upfield.|
|Don't know what Long's doing. The DE slants inside and gets there, driving towards Henne. Henne has to get rid of it and throws to an open Butler but can't step into the throw with the pressure and sails it. (PR, 0, protection 0/2, Long -2)|
|Stunt. Patterson splits the gap between Riley(-1) and Mitchell(-1). Henne, under tremendous pressure, has to toss it away. (PR, 0, protection 0/2, Mitchell, Riley -1)|
|We've seen this play all year, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. It's a checkdown to Breaston on the crossing route a few yards short of the sticks. Breaston cuts and slips to the turf. Does he make it otherwise? Maybe. We've seen him do it before. He had Jenkins to contend with... 50/50.|
|Drive Notes: Turnover on Downs, 24-35, 4 min 3rd Q.|
|Ugh. The aforementioned overthrow on the wheel route. Arrington was open by about ten yards and all Henne had to do was lay it in there for a 20 or 30 yard gain. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|OSU blitzes right into this. Obi gets a piece of Laurinaitis and allows Hart a crease to split the two linebackers; Hart then owns Brandon Mitchell for another four yards.|
|Jenkins step for step with Manningham but has given him way too much room inside. There's a window here for a completion... unfortunately, Long passes Gholston off to Kraus, who hasn't slid his protection. Result: Henne hit as he throws, underthrown ball, and a punt. (PR, 0, protection 0/2, Kraus -2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 24-35, 1 min 3rd Q.|
|Ohio State strings this out nicely. Obi decides to head outside and Hart follows him. Ecker is battling Gholston to a stalemate when Wilson shoots past Long(-1) and grabs Hart from behind.|
|Play is made by Arrington's killer block on Washington. Breaston's speed got him outside the defensive end. I don't see how this replay is indisputable, by the way.|
|By all rights should be stopped at the one by an unblocked Mitchell with Kerr impacting him a moment later. Hart plows in anyway.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 31-35, 14 min 4th Q.|
|Henne stands in bravely as Patterson goes right past a confused Mitchell/Bihl combo and hits an open Manningham for about six yards with a lot of YAC potential. It's dropped. (CA, 2, protection 0/2, Mitchell -1, Bihl -1)|
|Open and he's immediately into the second level with the linebackers dropping way downfield.|
|Washington jams Breaston and he's yards away from the ball as the pass is thrown. Uh...BR, I guess. (BR, 0, protection 1/1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 31-35, 10 min 4th Q.|
|Underneath the coverage for a few; need yards in bigger chunks here. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Double clutch as Henne comes off Manningham and hits Arrington. It's a little low â€“ there was an opportunity to get a few more yards and then OOB if accurate. (CA, 2, protection 2/2)|
|Comes down to Hart as his first read or two is covered. Jenkins makes a nice ankle tackle to hold the gain down. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Beautiful throw well downfield in between four guys in the zone. (DO, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Throwing under the coverage. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Holding on Riley and a call that has to be made. Henne puts this in a tiny window in the zone right on Arrington's hands. Arrington is blown up by Laurinaitis but holds on. (DO, 2, protection 0/2, Riley -2) Shame. GOOD LORD. ABC does its standard "look at the guy who screwed up shot" and catches Alex Mitchell popping Riley's shoulder back into place.|
|Good for 8 to 10 if Ecker makes a simple catch. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|This is just terrible from the right side of the OL. I can't get that mad at Riley â€“ shoulder â€“ but when the DE swims inside and no one's coming at Mitchell, he has to get out and help Riley. He ends up blocking no one, getting Henne sacked. (PR, protection 0/2, -1 Riley, Mitchell)|
|M44||4||16||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||Inc + 15||Manningham||Bomb|
|Weird. Herbstreit immediately bursts into a spiel about how that's obvious interference and I'm like 'no it isn't.' This ball is well underthrown â€“ Mario had burned O'Neal crispy â€“ allowing the S to get back into the play. He doesn't look, the ball hits him in the back or arm or something, and Manningham's progress is never impeded. This is the same kind of crappy call we've been getting on our DBs all year, and it's still crappy when it happens in our favor. (IN, 1, protection 2/2)|
|Underneath again; a second read as Arrington was running the wheel again. Defender on that side dropped back to cover it and Henne's second progression was the cross. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Not well thrown â€“ Massey has to dive to the ground and scoop the ball off the turf as he gets into the second level â€“ but I think Freeman's threatened bump caused Massey to get to the designated spot a little late. Great catch. (CA, 1, protection 2/2)|
|Though incomplete this is an excellent decision and throw from Henne. Arrington is bracketed and with 2:30 left in the game and no timeouts Michigan can't really afford little checkdowns anymore. So he fires it high and to the outside where only Arrington can get it. It would have been a miracle if he pulled it in but it was still the best option. Filed as TA. (TA, 1, protection 2/2)|
|OSU blitzes; we pick it up but only momentarily. Henne starts moving up in the pocket and I'm like "aaah no more useless Henne scramblor", then finds Ecker wide open at the six; he takes it in for the touchdown. (CA, 3, protection Â½)|
|Just a little stop in front of the zone. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown(2PT), EOG|
So... the field?
It clearly harmed Michigan on a few critical plays: stumbling receivers on various passes, a Hart run that was held down to five that should have been a big gain, a fourth down conversion attempt that ended with Breaston skidding to the ground yards short of the sticks. Overall, far more Michigan players ended up face down on the turf than Ohio State players, and though I gave the turf theory little credence in the immediate aftermath of the game I have to say that on replay there's about 8-10 instances where a Michigan player's inability to plant is relevant and maybe 1-2 similar plays for OSU.
How could this be true? Theories:
- Michigan has guys who rely on sharp cuts more often. Manningham's a double move guy. Breaston's entire football usefulness is built around his ability to change direction faster than anyone else. Hart is a low-to-the-ground, compact back in a running game that demands wild changes of direction fairly regularly. Meanwhile, Pittman and Wells are more north-south guys and Ginn just runs straight past people.
- OSU's used to playing on crappy turf, having dealt with this issue all year (OSU's resodded twice). Maybe they know what they can and can't do when you're on the football equivalent of ice levels in Super Mario Brothers.
Now let's not get all PSU here. Unless this is a brilliant conspiracy launched as soon as word of a zone rushing game reached OSU coaches' ears that sacrificed an entire year of reasonable field conditions and was immediately followed by the installation of fieldturf, the conditions were more fortuitous than a dark plot. But it's clear that the conditions harmed Michigan more than they did Ohio State.
This will no doubt lead to an assertion that "both teams played on the same field," but if Michigan installed a field that randomly shot white-clad players in the kneecap you would agree that this is not a situation that impacts both teams equally, yes?
The difference between the two quarterbacks comes in the final column. Smith hardly ever had things filed "PR" because even when get got "PR-ed" he usually got off a short hitch to Gonzalez or Hall or Ginn or whoever because we couldn't cover long enough for unblocked blitzers to be useful. Henne, on the other hand, got swamped by linemen:
Protection: 34/55. Kraus -4, Ecker -1, Riley -7, Long -2, Mitchell -3, Bihl -1, assorted miscellaneous.
Some of that was just the scheme: Michigan's routes need time to develop. Primary reads on each play are long gainers and our little checkdown routes are slow-developing crosses. Henne spent vastly more time with the ball in his hand than Smith did. Some of that was just bad play. some of that was no doubt Henne-caused, as there were a few more instances of run-around-uselessly theater (though, like Navarre, Henne has started to indicate that he's getting better at this late in his junior season: see the Ecker touchdown).
(Question for peanut gallery: I'm thinking about adding a "marginal" category. It would live in-between "CA" and "IN" and exist for throws that are, well, marginal, like a slant that's completed but forces the wide receiver off his feet to catch it, removing the possibility of YAC. Yes/no? I'm bothered by the huge range of throws in the "CA" category.)
A good day from the receivers, who got a ton more work in this game than any previous. Only one drop of a 3.
Well, if you had told me we would score 39 points I would have kissed the man. And even in the aftermath he revealed himself to be anything but a run-first curmudgeon when Michigan isn't being mind-bogglingly arrogant. DeBord used the pass to set up the run and this worked. We marched down the field mostly through the air on the first drive, and from that point on Hart picked up a number of huge gains on draw plays. He established Henne and Manningham as threats early and forced Ohio State to defend everything. I have few quibbles with anything DeBord did.
I do have some questions:
- We didn't run play-action once. How bizarre is that? Henne's throwing the ball all over creation and there's not so much as the token draw fake we throw out there nearly constantly. No waggle, either, even though Vernon Gholston displayed a predilection for being wildly irresponsible about it.
- I swear to God if I see another zone stretch in three-wide on third and short I am going to short-circuit. How many drives this year died at the hands of that call? I'm going to revisit this in the offseason, youbetcha.
- The screen and Hart dumpoff nearly vanished from the playbook this year. That's understandable because the passing game spent much of the year in mothballs and why screen when they expect you to run every first and second down, but I still miss it.
That was the Michigan "scoring offense," and it scored. Next year, when our number of reliable cornerbacks dips to zero and quarterback pressure becomes less of a given -- in short, when our defense does not destroy (almost) all comers -- it will have to be deployed all game long, especially with a senior Henne.
How come we never throw over the middle?
What, are you stuck in 2005? This time-tested complaint should be shelved until 2008. Henne is now probing the middle of the fiel d on digs, crosses, seams, and posts with frequency and success. Yes, this is a reminder for the first game of 2007, when we run a really boring offense against a MAC school and everyone freaks out.
What does it mean for Probably LSU?
An interesting note on LSU's pass defense: it has faced no one who even approaches competent save Chris Leak. (We all agree to discard Brandon Cox from that category, right? Right.) Eric Ainge missed UT's game against the Tigers. Jonathan Crompton stepped in, but not very well.
Leak was held in check -- 17/26 with an interception for 155 yards -- but that's partially because Tim Tebow ganked his touchdowns. If we face the Tigers I'll provide a fuller breakdown, but a cursory glance at their opponents reveals a virtual who's who of D-I's worst passing offenses. Wait... make that worst offenses, period.
Anyway: Chad Henne was deployed fully for the first time since the Notre Dame game and turned in an impressive performance. He has total command of his reads and routes. His accuracy is greatly improved. His pocket awareness... needs work but is improving. So aerial fiesta against LSU? Maybe. The issue the game will turn on will be protection. Michigan struggled to keep Henne clean and LSU presents a similar challenge -- 7th nationally in sacks and just generally very LSU-y, which is to say good God they're terrifying.