"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
9/19/2015 – Michigan 28, UNLV 7 – 2-1
This is our concern, Dude [Patrick Barron]
It didn't take long for Jim Harbaugh to shift from cheerfully and convincingly explaining why Jake Rudock's play was better than it looked against Utah to… not doing that. After UNLV, a couple of post-game questions clearly designed to fill already-written stories about Rudock's grim day with quotes raised Harbaugh's ire. He deflected a couple with boilerplate ("his job is to win football games") and assertions about a swirling wind, but when a third came:
Um, I guess I’m not as concerned with statistics as you two seem to be.
I hesitate to side with the Talk About types, but I'm concerned. I'm concerned with both the statistics (123 yards against UNLV, probably half of which came on "smoke" screens) and the overall level of play the statistics crystallize.
We're working with small sample sizes, of course, but that's all we've got to project with. The projections are not ideal.
I am not buying the wind conditions being a problem. I was in that stadium. I have been in it for many games. I once had a life and death fight with a poorly designed poncho. I have seen and endured all kinds of weather, and at no point on Saturday did the wind rise to a level where it felt like a serious factor. It blew a bit; I have seen many quarterbacks deal with that and much worse.
Those quarterbacks include one Jake Rudock. Kinnick Stadium juts out of a vast unbroken expanse of plains extending to the Rocky Mountains. In February I had occasion to drive through virtually the entire state of Iowa during a blizzard; I went at highway speeds because the snow was blown over the roads in an ever-streaming mass, never settling. Only the odd copse of trees huddled around a farmhouse provided enough of a windbreak to allow snow a temporary home, and even that was more refugee shelter than citizenship.
That drive reminded me of a David Foster Wallace essay about his youth tennis career that necessarily focused on one of the overriding concerns outdoor sportsmen have when the nearest bump in the terrain is thousands of miles to the west:
The biggest single factor in Central Illinois' quality of outdoor life is wind. There are more local jokes than I can summon about bent weather vanes and leaning barns, more downstate sobriquets for kinds of wind than there are in Malamut for snow. The wind had a personality, a (poor) temper, and, apparently, agendas. The wind blew autumn leaves into intercalated lines and arcs of force so regular you could photograph them for a textbook on Cramer's Rule and the cross-products of curves in 3-space. It molded winter snow into blinding truncheons that buried stalled cars and required citizens to shovel out not only driveways but the sides of homes; a Central Illinois "blizzard" starts only when the snowfall stops and the wind begins. Most people in Philo didn't comb their hair because why bother.
Of all the things that might explain why Jake Rudock could not hit Drake Johnson on a five-yard swing pass, wind is the least believable.
So. Let us calibrate our panic. It is the first year of a new head coach handed a terrible QB situation making do; that head coach has been massively successful anywhere he's laid his head. Macro panic: nil.
Micro panic: measurable. The Big Ten looks like a bunch of goobers plus MSU and OSU and I guess maybe Northwestern is good. A team that has Michigan's salty defense and a steady, boring offense is going to win a healthy number of games. Michigan's offense has been boring; it has only managed to be steady against Oregon State.
The offense Michigan fielded on Saturday loses games Michigan fans are currently filing in the win column. While that's cause for a shrug long term thanks to the state of the QB roster, it does dent Harbaugh's early momentum. Does that matter much? The recent trajectories of high-level coaches and… well… Brady Hoke say not particularly.
But it is nice to win things. I'm busy downgrading my expectations about as fast as I'm downgrading my expectations for the rest of Michigan's schedule, which is fine, I guess. I expect a bumpy ride and then as soon as anything goes smoothly I exclaim THIS IS IT FOREVER, because I am irrational.
We've gone from hoping that we should dump Rudock's career at Iowa from our expectations to hoping it's still valid to add those games in; it probably is. The upside of escaping Greg Davis, where Iowa fans are going nuts about a guy whose completions are five yards downfield or shorter 80% of the time feels gone. We would like to lock in the low-turnover game manager if that is still available.
wear Jourdan Lewis #brand jackets [Patrick Barron]
Yet To Be Named Harbaugh-Themed Guys Who Did Good Award.
you're the man now, dog
#1 Jourdan Lewis had 4(!) PBUs on the day, and those were mostly as he covered the very legit Devonte Boyd. Playing as well as any Michigan DB since… Leon Hall?
#2 Ty Isaac ripped off the 76-yard touchdown that made things comfortable at halftime. On that play he made a swift cut upfield, broke a tackle, and put on the jets. He looked solid on his other seven runs as well.
#3 Channing Stribling picked off a pass, defended another, and was able to stick to the receiver any time he was tested.
Honorable mention: Blake O'Neill probably would have snagged the first-ever punter mention in this section if he hadn't shanked that one. Any member of the front seven—Michigan spread 8 TFLs among 9 players. Jehu Chesson did go grab a rushing touchdown.
5: Chris Wormley(#2 Utah, #1 Oregon State)
3: Jake Butt (#1 Utah), Jourdan Lewis (#1 UNLV)
2: De'Veon Smith(#2 Oregon State), Ty Isaac(#2 UNLV)
1: Willie Henry (#3 Utah), AJ Williams (#3 Oregon State), Channing Stribling(#3 UNLV)
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
Honorable mention: Picks from Clark and Stribling. Glasgow's thunderous TFL. Blake O'Neill essentially passing the ball down to the 3, and hitting a 59-yarder without a return.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
The general sentiment was to keep double bird. That was my inclination as well.
This week's worst thing ever.
Jake Rudock matches his 2014 interception total in game three by throwing one that hits a linebacker in both hands. The linebacker deflected it to a defensive back, but that was not bad luck.
Honorable mention: Rudock misses a flare route by yards. Any number of interior rushes that didn't get much. Those two Decker passes towards the end that seriously compromised Michigan's quest to keep UNLV under 200 yards.
Utah: circle route pick six.
Oregon State: Rudock fumbles after blitz bust.
UNLV: Rudock matches 2014 INT total in game 3.
I am sensing an unfortunate theme.
[After THE JUMP: corners making plays, DL emerging, run game woes explained, YIP YIP YIP YIP]
IT'S THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN, EVERYBODY. They've let Tim Beckman out of his tiny pool, gently removed the arm floaties, and put him in front of reporters. Let's see how that's going!
DID YOU THROW THE BALL OR NOT AHHHHH
Illinois kept this person because he led their football program to a better than average performance for them, which is usually why you keep a football coach. Funny ol' world.
OKAY BUT SERIOUSLY. Whenever I see Tim Beckman put in a low-pressure situation and asked softball questions he looks like a dog that doesn't know whether you're going to throw the stick or beat him with it. How does this person get past a job interview, let alone a Head Football Coach job interview?
That is a high pressure situation in which questions like "why on Earth would we pick a guy with one good season in the MAC with an outlying turnover ratio to coach our team?" get asked. Was the answer Illinois sought "uh, team performance leads to excellence in all our endeavors"? Did they not notice when he repeated that when they asked him what he wanted for lunch?
Help me understand. I do not understand.
Also at Big Ten Media Days. Harbaugh finna get himself shivved bae*:
— Sean Churchill (@SeanChurchy) July 31, 2015
Also, and always, Beckman.
*[I think? I may have just said "Harbaugh I fart on myself" in teentwitterese.]
Also also at Big Ten Media days. Never let it be said this is not journalism.
"Saade is a self-taught taxidermist and says that the job can actually be quite lucrative." Got a lot of dead chipmunks around the house. Dunno why. Mother keeps saying something about mah sleepwalking. Mother says she don't wanna say when I ask why such a thing would happen. Mother says waste not want not. Mother don't remember which team won that crazy overtime game from a few years back on account of her blackout. Mother is pretty sure though. Mother is always right.
Mother says this is how it's always been and how it always will be, mother and the chipmunks and the always recovering on-side kicks and never ever havin nobody named Braylon she knows about, no nothin. That ain't even a name she says. Who ever heard of a name like that. Who ever heard of that.
Sometimes I think I ain't sleep-murderin no chipmunks but I know better than to say so.
You know, for a turkey that's on the lam there seem to be a lot of photos of it in the same place. God, I wish this had happened when I was in college.
If I could fight a turkey on my way to discrete math I would be so happy.
"Do not try to approach the turkey," she said. "We've gotten calls from people who have been trapped and unable to move because he's cornered them."
The symptom. It's hard to blame Devin Funchess for his occasional lackadaisical play last year. If I was suffused with ennui it's hard to imagine what he was going through. But that's the thing about coaching: it is your job to get people to play to the best of their ability. Brady Hoke did not do this, and Funchess was the best example last year.
Here is confirmation of that from what's annually the best thing to come out of Big Ten Media Days, Mike Spath's article where he offers anonymity in exchange for real talk:
"They had a guy that on paper was just a nightmare because he was so tall, and big - he was supposed to be a tight end but they played him at wide receiver [Devin Funchess] - and man all week our coaches just kept saying, 'We've got no one that can match up with him. No one that can stop this kid.'
"It was motivating and I was foaming at the mouth, but I built him up into this goliath that was going to take my best effort, and he took a lot less than that. He didn't seem to care at all about helping his quarterback out.
"Everything about him was half-speed. It was sort of like what they used to say about Randy Moss - when he knew the ball wasn't coming his way on a play, it was like he wasn't even out there."
Randy Moss made it work, and Funchess ended up a second-round pick. But you read that and it's just like… I knew that. And I knew that it didn't come from Funchess, it came from the program.
Ferentz finally under the gun. Matt Hinton surveys the situation at Iowa, which is still technically part of the same conference Michigan is:
“It’s been five years now of unremarkable football, is probably the best way to put it,” says Marc Morehouse, who took over the Hawkeyes beat at the Cedar Rapids Gazette in 1999, the same year Ferentz arrived in Iowa City, and who has seen more than his fair share of unremarkable football. “I’ve covered Ferentz since he’s been here, and the ‘hot seat’ concept has come up in the past, but I’ve never taken it seriously. … I’ve never bought into it, but this year, even in November, even in January after [the bowl game], I’m buying into it. OK, this is a real hot seat now. This is a hot seat year, no question about it.”
Ferentz has doubled down here by letting his starting quarterback depart for a team technically in the same conference. If Rudock does well and Iowa remains Iowa-esque, Ferentz will go from "can't afford to fire" to "can't afford to keep" in a flash.
All of this makes for a fascinating alternate history in which Michigan goes with the coach Lloyd Carr recommended if they were making an external hire. Things probably go better for a while. Does Ferentz take better advantage of Michigan's ability to recruit? Are they again that kind of 8-4, 9-3 team that Michigan was for big chunks of the 90s?
The end of civilization. Not with a bang but with a pun.
— Adam Jacobi (@Adam_Jacobi) July 31, 2015
Etc.: They promise to actually pay attention to the illegal men downfield rule this year. Now I like it when the Onion writes something about Michigan! A whopping 37% of top-100 players who aren't one-and-done transfer. Kellen Jones has been to Michigan Oklahoma Clemson Wisconsin Tampa Panama Mattawa La Paloma Bangor Baltimore Salvador Amarillo...
The first rule of Draftageddon is "you must complain about Draftageddon." The second is "the four people drafting assemble teams of Big Ten players in an effort to seem the best at drafting."
THAT WHICH HAS COME BEFORE
Previously on Draftageddon:
- Adam takes a guy with a ~33% chance to start first overall! Joey Bosa lasts until pick 3! Seth is generally sensible! For him that counts as Heiko-ing, I think!
- Brian takes back to back QBs! Several additional Ohio State players go off the board! 24-12!
THAT WHICH IS THE CURRENT SITUATION
ACE: Round 8, Pick 2: Braxton Miller, QB/?, Ohio State
OFFENSE: QB Braxton Miller (OSU), WR Michael Thomas (OSU), WR DaeSean Hamilton (PSU), OT Jack Conklin (MSU)
DEFENSE: DE Joey Bosa (OSU), DT Darius Hamilton (RU), NT Austin Johnson (PSU), OLB Darron Lee (OSU)
The rules dictate I take a quarterback here, and I'll abide by those rules. For the most part.
Braxton Miller isn't the favorite to win the job at Ohio State. He's coming off a lost season after his surgically repaired throwing shoulder fell apart in fall camp. JT Barrett stepped in and nearly won the Heisman; Cardale Jones relieved Barrett and won the national title. Miller may have the least amount of pro potential of the three, at least at quarterback.
Health permitting, however, Miller may be the best college quarterback. It's not a stretch to say he's already a legendary Big Ten QB. He's one of four players in the history of the conference to win two Big Ten MVP awards. In his most recent season, he passed for 2094 yards on 8.2 YPA and rushed for 1068 on 6.2 YPC; he accounted for 36 touchdowns and threw only seven interceptions. The list of national, Big Ten, and school records he owns or has in his sights is too long to list here. He may not be the most polished passer, but he is a breathtaking runner:
While Miller's injury is a downside the other two Buckeye QBs don't have, his running ability provides an upside his competition lacks. If Miller doesn't win the job, it's in everyone's best interest for him to play running back or H-back (Meyer's Percy Harvin position). He probably wouldn't start with Ezekiel Elliott and Jalin Marshall, respectively, holding those two spots, but it'd be hard to keep him off the field as long as he stays healthy.
If I'm lucky, I just snagged a #1-pick value in the eighth round. If I'm not, I still think Miller will contribute in some form, and I can grab one of the middle-tier quarterbacks later as insurance.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Soon after Ace made this pick it was announced that Miller would be playing H-back/Harvin guy. The commissioner decided that Ace had to take an actual QB with his next pick, which is in the next post, and had the option of keeping Miller or throwing him back in the pool and taking a supplemental pick immediately. Ace chose to keep Miller, because duh.]
SETH: Round 8, Pick 3: Michael Caputo, strong safety, Wisconsin
OFFENSE: QB Connor Cook (MSU), RB Corey Clement (WIS), WR Leonte Carroo (Rut), OC Jack Allen (MSU), OG Pat Elflein (OSU)
DEFENSE: HSP Jabrill Peppers (Mich), DB Jordan Lucas (PSU), S Michael Caputo (Wis)
After 30 picks you don't expect to find a second-team All-American still on the board, especially not when he's a linebacker-sized ballhawk who led Wisconsin in tackles last year as a safety, and outshone Chris Borland in 2013 from F linebacker (hybrid space player).
As you might have guessed, I'm picking for either a 3-3-5 or a 4-2-5 defense with hybrids to either side. Since the conference's elite pass rushers went off the board quickly, my strategy for kicking ass will have to include a lot of blitzing, which means having the dudes who can do that or cover a lot of ground behind it. Basically it's the anti-spread modern version of the 46 defense. And it just so happens the reincarnation of #46 (Doug Plank) himself plays in the Big Ten.
If we're assigning roles between this trio, Caputo is the two-parts-linebacker/meat-raw safety who takes the side of the tight end. From Madison.com:
Michael Caputo was 2 years old when he hopped on his toy articulated vehicle, a load of dirt in the back, and pedaled down the 125-foot long driveway at the family’s home near Pittsburgh. The boy picked up speed along the way crashing into a concrete wall.
He thought it was so much fun that he did it over and over.
Go ahead and save that for the next time someone asks you to describe Wisconsin in so many words. After cement walls, Caputo finds Big Ten tight ends remarkably pliable, if less fun. Popping bubble screens is just easy. Last year when I stole him in round 21 I quoted DC Dave Arranda on how his then-sophomore was the only guy who could make the schematic adjustments that made Wisconsin's run defense work. Here's safeties coach Bill Busch one year later:
“He’s the true captain of the ship back there with all the adjustments that he makes,” Busch said of Caputo, who plays alongside true freshman Lubern Figaro. “A lot of times we put him in the position that requires the most thinking.”
The Kovacs is strong in this one. If Kovacs was the size of a linebacker, hit like a truck, and fell one spot shy of a Bednarik semifinalist last year.
ADAM: Round 8, Pick 4: Eric Murray, CB, Minnesota
Round 9, Pick 1: Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State
OFFENSE: QB J.T. Barrett (OSU), WR Jordan Westerkamp (Neb), OT Jason Spriggs, (IU), TE Jake Butt (UM)
DEFENSE: DE Shilique Calhoun (MSU), DT Adolphus Washington (OSU), S Vonn Bell (OSU), CB Eric Murray (Minn), LB Raekwon McMillan (OSU)
The Big Ten may have an abundance of talent at corner this fall, but I couldn't let Murray sit on the board any longer. He has a two-year track record as one of the best cover corners in college football, lining up so close he can tell you what the opposing receiver had for their pregame meal while possessing the rare ability to jam and turn and run and actually stay with guys for more than 10 yards.
He's not going to post eye-popping interception totals (he has one career pick, and that came last season against San Jose State), but his 17 PBUs and 75% of tackles being of the solo variety over the past two years show what he can do in coverage and in run support. Defensive backs coach Jay Sawvel agrees:
"He's a good tackler, he's a great blitzer, he's a tremendous special-teams player, he's very, very good in press coverage to the point where a lot of times a play will just break down."
The conference has Michael Thomas, Leonte Carroo, and Dudes Who Sometimes Catch Things. I think Murray will be just fine.
Sticking with defense, I've decided to start building my linebacking corps in the middle, which is probably the conference's weakest spot. You can't say I didn't try to make this draft entertaining.
McMillan takes over for the departed (and oft-criticized) Curtis Grant, whose playing time McMillan already started leeching last fall. McMillan finished the season with 54 total tackles, 6.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 1 interception, and 1 PBU, playing in every game except the season opener against Navy and the Sugar Bowl against Alabama.
He's not the fastest, but he has good size (6-2, 240) and the kind of instincts that are so often discussed they fill many pages when you Google him. He's also adapted nicely to calling the defense. Per DC Luke Fickell:
"That's the thing that you saw early on. There's some guys who have intelligence and some that aren't football smart, then some who are and don't really work at it. He's got an incredible combination of all of it."
McMillan will benefit from playing next to WLB/Heart and Soul Guy/Gritty Gritster Josh Perry and SLB/hybrid space destroyer/stat sheet filler Darron Lee, but the former top-50 recruit should be able to hold his own against the Big Ten's terrifying stable of offensive weapons.
[After THE JUMP: WE ARE CERTAINLY OUT OF BUCKEYES THIS TIME]