"It's a lot easier being a drug dealer than an AAU coach" - this guy. Tell me something I don't know. I mean, don't think but have never tried either.
The NFL preseason is officially underway, and with mandatory roster cuts (down to 75) set for August 26th, now is a good time to check in with the former Wolverines currently playing in the league. After scouring the interwebs, here's my best guess at where each Michigan representative stands as we near the start of the season.
Locks To Make It
Jason Avant, WR, Carolina. After being relegated to decoy duty in Chip Kelly's offense for Philadelphia in 2013, Avant—who boasts the lowest drop percentage in the NFL over the last three years—should be one of Cam Newton's top targets with his move to the Panthers.
Tom Brady, QB, New England. Brady threw for over 4,300 yards with 25 touchdowns last season while working with a very raw receiving corps. It was universally considered a down year. I think he's gonna make it, y'all.
Alan Branch, DE, Buffalo. Branch was an integral member of the D-line rotation for the Bills last season, recording 39 tackles, and he should reprise that role working behind up-and-coming star Marcell Dareus again this year.
Stevie Brown, FS, New York Giants. After finishing second in the NFL with eight interceptions in 2012, Brown missed all of 2013 with a torn ACL. He's back from the injury and expected to start at free safety.
Larry Foote, ILB, Arizona. The longtime Steeler—Foote has played 11 of his 12 NFL seasons in Pittsburgh—was cut in the offseason, but quickly found a home in Arizona, which lost both of their starting ILBs from last season. He's currently atop the depth chart, and even if he doesn't hold that spot, he should stick around to provide veteran leadership for a young position group.
Jonathan Goodwin, C/G, New Orleans. According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Goodwin and Tim Lelito, the two players competing to start at center, are "certain to make the final roster." Goodwin's ability to play both center and guard gives him extra job security, even at 35 years old, as does his relatively cheap one-year deal.
Leon Hall, CB, Cincinnati. While Hall tore his right Achilles tendon last season, just two seasons removed from tearing his left Achilles, he's back in the starting lineup as Cinci's slot corner, a spot he plays about as well as anybody in the league when healthy. Barring further injury, his spot is very much safe.
David Harris, ILB, New York Jets. Jets head coach Rex Ryan called Harris "the most underrated player in the league" after he was left of the NFL Network's top 100 players list for 2014. Yeah, he's safe.
Junior Hemingway, WR, Kansas City. Even though Hemingway missed a good deal of training camp with a hamstring injury, he came right back and was a prime target for QB Alex Smith out of the slot. This very thorough rundown of the Chiefs' roster situation has Hemingway safely on the team—in fact, he should start in the slot—and that doesn't look likely to change.
Chad Henne, QB, Jacksonville. Though Jacksonville used the #3 overall pick on QB Blake Bortles, Henne started the first preseason game, and the Jaguars higher-ups insist there's no QB controversy. Bortles is the QB of the future; for now, however, this is Henne's job.
Taylor Lewan, OT, Tennessee. First-round picks don't get cut in their rookie seasons, especially when they're competing for starting jobs.
Jake Long, OT, St. Louis. Long is coming back from a torn ACL and MCL, so he's been held out so far in the preseason, but he's on track to make a surpringly quick return. Also, he's Jake Long, which should be enough.
Ryan Mundy, S, Chicago. Even though the Bears have shuffled their safeties around, Mundy has seen the most action on the first team of anyone, and he can play both free and strong safety in their system. He started the preseason strong, picking off a pass in the opener.
Michael Schofield, OG/OT, Denver. Third-round picks also don't get cut in their rookie season, except in very unusual circumstances. Considering Schofield is "in the mix" at both left guard and right tackle, it looks like he'll be a critical backup at the very least in Denver.
LaMarr Woodley, DE, Oakland. After seven productive years in Pittsburgh, Woodley was unceremoniously released by the Steelers over the offseason, and the Raiders were happy to get him. He provides a major upgrade from them at DE, a spot that may suit him better than 3-4 OLB, where he played in Pittsburgh.
Charles Woodson, S, Oakland. At 37, Woodson came back to Oakland, where he's beloved by the fanbase. He'll play safety there, and he is Charles Woodson, so he'll play well until he decides it's time to hang up the cleats.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the list.]
Gallon's levitation skills translated to the college game just fine.
Finishing out the series looking back on the 2009 recruiting class, here's a look at the non-quarterback offensive players, as described in Brian's recruiting posts of yore. But first...
My Bad, Cam
While I remembered to include then-OL, future-NT Quinton Washington on the defensive side of the ball, I forgot to do the same for Cam Gordon, the future defensive positional nomad who came to Michigan with most recruiting services considering him a wide receiver. As Gordon's recruitment wore on, it became more clear that his best spot may actually be in the defensive back seven, and thus we got one of the odder player comps I've seen:
Jason Avant, or maybe Prescott Burgess
Why Avant or Burgess? Bulky 6'2" wide receiver who will push 215 and lacks deep speed == Avant. Rangy linebacker who needs to put on 20 pounds, switch positions (sort of) and probably struggle with the mental part of being a college linebacker for a while == Burgess.
Free safety wasn't mentioned, because only an insane, desperate person would put a player matching that profile on the last line of defen--AAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIGGGGHHHHHH. (Thank you, Denard, forever and always.)
Gordon ended his career as a backup outside linebacker and situational defensive end. Fire Tony Gibson again, just in case.
The Blue Darter
As for prospects who actually ended up at receiver, Michigan had two: consensus top-200 prospect Je'Ron Stokes, and a high school single-wing quarterback who—despite being an Army All-American—earned four-star status on just one site due to his diminutive stature.
PEAK MIXTAPE WEEZY WITH A KEVIN FEDERLINE REFERENCE.
HOW DID IT GET SO LATE SO SOON?
Though everyone pegged Jeremy Gallon as a pure slot ninja—he'd prove to be much more, obviously—the eye-opening highlights and strong Army week performance earned him plenty of hype:
Gallon is a Swiss Army knife of a player: pocket-sized, versatile, capable of surprising feats, and… uh… hard to tackle. (If you've ever tried to tackle a Swiss Army knife you know what I'm talking about. They're pointy.) It's hard to envision a scenario in which one of his diverse and sundry talents doesn't find him on the field, if not this fall than next.
Brian, I'd like to hear more about your past attempts to ... tackle ... pocket knives.
As for Stokes...
When Je'Ron Stokes committed to Michigan I was in an airport about to board a plane for Egypt by way of Germany, and as soon as he did I logged off and forgot all about him. Ever since when something reminds me of that commitment, it's like a weird bonus: oh, yeah, that universally-praised wide receiver in the class I never remember. He's like a ghost recruit.
Yeah, that was for the best.
Oh Damn, Fitz
From 2008-09, I worked as an intern at The Wolverine, and one of my primary tasks during football season was posting the stats of Michigan's commits each week. A back from Ohio's Division V Youngstown Liberty by the name of Fitzgerald Toussaint committed a few months before I got that job, so week after week that fall I'd look up his stats, bug out my eyes, and get incrementally more excited for him to see the field at U-M:
Fitzgerald Toussaint, Youngstown Liberty: Senior RB and Michigan recruit went over 250 yards for the seventh week in a row in a 33-28 win over Hubbard. After generating 16 yards on four carries in the first half, Toussaint erupted for 235 yards in the second half and scored two TDs. He has 1,950 yards in eight games.
He'd finish the season with over 2,200 yards and 28 touchdowns. Between those numbers and his excellently soundtracked highlights, I thought he'd be the next great Michigan running back:
That wasn't to be, at least in large part for reasons outside his control, but when remembering where Toussaint came from...
It wasn't all flowers and 90-yard touchdowns for Toussaint, though. His dad—also named Fitzgerald Toussaint—ended up in jail after stabbing his ex-wife's boyfriend… at a football scrimmage. Nasty business.
...I'd say 32 career starts, graduating from U-M, and getting a shot to make an NFL roster constitutes a very successful college career.
Vincent Smith's profile started out with similar recounting of a tough upbringing in Pahokee, then mostly waffled between excitement about his highlights/fit in the scheme and trepidation about his size, which was the subject of an awkwardly written ESPN scouting report:
ESPN says Smith lacks size "on paper"—which uh what about real life too—and says he runs "low to the ground," as if he has a choice.
Michigan rounded out a three-man running back class with Cass Tech product Teric Jones, who recorded the fastest time at the Army combine after his junior year but didn't receive much at all in the way of recruiting hype. By the time he got to campus the coaches were already considering a position switch:
In fact, Michigan might be shooting Jones into lots of space as a slot receiver. Rodriguez said Jones was a slot receiver who "may also get reps at running back" at the signing day press conference, and Jones did have some nice receiving numbers as a junior: 24 catches for 306 yards.
Jones ended up playing special teams as a true freshman, bounced between running back and cornerback as the thin roster dictated need, then left the team and went on medical scholarship before the 2011 season after a sophomore-year knee injury.
If You Just Take Two Linemen...
...you might as well make them NFL linemen, and that's exactly what happened with U-M's 2009 O-line class of Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield. Lewan, especially, was quite the steal; he was a total unknown until moving from defensive line to offensive line before his senior season, then vaulted into the top 300 recruits on all three recruiting services and played in the Under Armour AA Game in his first year playing the position. Michigan had a nice in with Lewan—his teammate at Chaparral High, Craig Roh, had been committed to U-M for months when Lewan decided to also head to Ann Arbor.
While this usually doesn't happen, Lewan's high school coach ended up giving the most accurate forecast of his player's potential:
“Michigan is getting, in my opinion, the steal of this year's recruiting class in the country,” Ragle said. “I know that's a bold statement to make, (but) this kid’s ability on the field won't be questioned. He's as good an athlete on the offensive line as I've ever seen.”
"He's as good athletically as any guy I have ever coached," Ragle said. "The thing that makes him so special is his upside when you think he's only been coached at the position for about eight months. But the one intangible that's most impressive is his nastiness --Taylor wants to burry [sic] someone on every play, and you can't coach that."
On point, Coach Ragle.
Schofield's rankings were in a similar range as Lewan's after a strong senior season. What stood out about him most was his athleticism—which translated to the college game, as he seamlessly transition from being Michigan's best pulling guard to a nimble pass-protector at tackle—and considering he's now 6'7" and 300+ pounds this is rather astounding:
In his first two years at Sandburg, Schofield ran the 110 high hurdles for the Eagles’ track team, winning a conference title his freshman year and finishing second his sophomore season. He also moved up to the varsity team for the state tournament during his sophomore year, finishing sixth in sectionals.
Unfortunately, there's no video of this, as the age of someone-on-a-smartphone-will-film-literally-anything hadn't hit yet.
So, with that exercise out of the way, who's ready to go over the 2010 class?
On second thought, let's save that for next summer. Or perhaps never. Leaning towards never.
While the NFL Draft hasn't been much of an event for Michigan fans in recent years, this year's iteration produced three Wolverine draftees, including the highest-picked Big Ten player in Taylor Lewan. When I'm not allowing the Lions to ruin my fall Sundays, I'm spending them watching the Red Zone channel, with one eye out for my fantasy players and the other hoping to see a former Michigan player in action.
I'm sure many of you are as curious as I am to see how the newest NFL Wolverines fit in to the squads that drafted them. While it's possible all three spend this year developing behind returning veterans, each has a chance to carve out a role for himself.
Taylor Lewan, Tennessee Titans
Draft position: First round, #11 overall
New uniform number: #77, same as the old uniform number
Fit: The selection of Lewan surprised some due to the fact that offensive tackle wasn't their biggest need, but they clearly felt he was the best option on the board. The long-term plan is likely to have Lewan supplant 31-year-old stalwart Michael Roos at left tackle. That probably won't be this year, however, as the two-time All-Pro has started all but one of Tennessee's last 144 regular-season games. There are some rumors that Roos could be dealt before the season, but at the moment that appears to be speculation fueled by the Lewan pick.
That doesn't mean Lewan is destined to ride the pine, however, as he could provide fierce competition from the get-go for right tackle Michael Oher, he of Blind Side fame. While the Titans inked Oher to a 4-year, $20 million contract over the offseason, his on-field performance hasn't come close to living up to the hype since his standout rookie season—he was one of the more disappointing players on a Baltimore line that graded out as one of the NFL's worst by Football Outsiders in 2013.
In fact, despite Oher's new deal, SBNation's Titans blog projects Lewan as this fall's starter at right tackle. At the very least, he should push Oher for time this year, and with Roos in the final year of his contract, it's tough to see Lewan not starting by 2015.
Projection: Backup in 2014, starting left tackle in 2015
I can't say I expected to find a good blocking-related picture from this, of all games. [Fuller]
Michael Schofield, Denver Broncos
Draft position: Third round, #95 overall
New uniform number: #79
Fit: Denver's offensive line is in a state of flux, which could provide an opening for Schofield to crack the lineup, especially given his experience playing both guard and tackle. Last year's starter at left guard, Zane Beadles, signed with Jacksonville in free agency; one potential candidate to replace him, Chris Kuper, retired in March due to ankle problems. With two-time first-team All-Pro LT Ryan Clady returning this year after missing all but the first two games of 2013, RT Orlando Franklin is expected to shift down to LG while Clady's 2013 replacement, Chris Clark, fills in at right tackle.
That isn't set in stone, by any means. Per the Mile High Report, the Broncos picked Schofield for his versatility and potential to contribute right away at multiple positions:
The Broncos drafted OT Michael Schofield with versatility in mind. Denver's o-line is in the middle of some personnel shifting, with Orlando Franklin testing his mettle at left guard and Chris Clark possibly moving to right tackle. Schofield played both positions in college, giving the Broncos depth and experience - and another name to add to the competition.
"He's got a lot of upside," John Fox said of Schofield. "Very long, very athletic. A guy that we studied really hard in the Senior Bowl as well as his college tape and we think has tremendous upside and can come in and help us right away."
MHR's current projected depth chart has Schofield as the primary backup for both guard spots, which seems like a natural fit for him early in his career.
Projection: Backup guard, first lineman off the bench if an injury occurs
Sadly, Gallon can't bring Indiana's secondary with him to the NFL [Fuller]
Jeremy Gallon, New England Patriots
Draft position: Seventh round, #244 overall
New uniform number: #83
Fit: Given a cursory glance, Gallon to the Patriots seems like a great fit—New England had serious issues with their receivers last season and we all love the idea of a Brady-to-Gallon connection. The trouble is, with Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman on the roster, the diminutive Gallon will have to prove his worth as an outside receiver or special teams standout if he wants to make the roster. Amendola is signed through 2017 and Edelman got a four-year contract and a big pay raise this offseason; they're not going anywhere, and both play primarily out of the slot.
SBNation's Patriots blog, Pats Pulpit, sees Gallon as a low-risk, high-reward pick who could push one of New England's young outside receivers for a place on the roster:
Gallon is interesting because there's no real competition on the roster. Is he a slot receiver? Because Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman have that covered. At 5'7 1/2, he's too small to be an X with Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins. The only remaining option is the Z with Brandon LaFell and Josh Boyce- and it's likely that Gallon will be fighting with Boyce. Gallon always rises up against the top competition and I wouldn't be too surprised if was up for the task.
Boyce was a fourth-round selection out of TCU in 2013; despite some serious struggles from the non-Edelman receivers last season (Amendola was hurt for much of the year), he only managed to catch nine passes in nine games, so it's not unreasonable to hope Gallon can beat him out.
Boston.com, meanwhile, doesn't appear to expect Gallon to make the roster:
It's going to be real interesting to watch the training camp battle at wide receiver. Looks like at least one familiar name is going home. The way I see it, if you can only keep five (not including Matthew Slater, who is a specialist for all intents and purposes): Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins, Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, and Brandon LaFell are the ones to keep.
Slater is an interesting name here; he's been with the Pats for six years despite catching just two passes because of his ability on special teams. If New England keeps just six receivers, Gallon's roster spot could depend on his ability to excel in that area of the game while biding his time for an opportunity to open up at receiver.
Projection: Cut by the Patriots. I'd be willing to bet he gets a better shot with another team, as soon as this year. Gallon's a good example of a player who may have preferred going undrafted—and subsequently choosing from multiple training camp invites—to getting picked up in the final round.
Undrafted Free Agents
I won't break down the situations for each UDFA, as they're all essentially in the same boat: it's an uphill battle to make an NFL roster from that position, and—like Gallon—the path to surviving training camp cuts often runs through special teams. Here's the list as it currently stands, culled from multiple sources:
DL Jibreel Black, Pittsburgh Steelers
LS Jareth Glanda, New Orleans Saints
OLB Cameron Gordon, New England Patriots
S Thomas Gordon, New York Giants
RB Fitzgerald Toussaint, Baltimore Ravens
DT Quinton Washington, Oakland Raiders
Former Michigan safety Marvin Robinson, who played his final season of eligibility at Ferris State, earned a training camp invite from the Dallas Cowboys.
Harris had ten points on four shot equivalents in last year's matchup.
Open the floodgates. As you've probably heard, WVU transfer Eron Harris got his paperwork and immediately spoke to a gentleman of distinction:
West Virginia transfer Eron Harris has finally received his release. Told ESPN that Michigan's John Beilein has already contacted him today.
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) May 7, 2014
That is quite interesting. Harris, a DO WANT shooter, is essentially a class of 2015 guy who will be super-ready to play with two years of eligibility. But after taking MAAR and Aubrey Dawkins, there's no question that grabbing him seriously impinges on Michigan's ability to promise 2015 kids like Jalen Brunson and Jalen Coleman playing time—and their ability to offer scholarships. (Maybe less so Brunson since he is more of a PG, but with Walton likely still around Michigan's pitch has to center around the two of them playing at the same time.)
Do you grab that guy? Since Michigan's having a hard time holding onto guards for more than a couple years, I would say yup. Harris is also less of a deterrent to the 2016 kids Michigan seems to be doing very well with since he'll be around a maximum of one year after their arrival.
In the flurry of articles following that tweet two things became clear. One, being closer to home is not as much of a priority as the right fit…
"The fit is more important that the location (of the school)," Harris said. "Eron is used to seeing his brothers and family more than he has the past couple years. But if he has to go to New York or California to find the right fit, then that's what he'll do."
…and two, Michigan's going to have to put on its prettiest dress and bat its eyes:
Within two hours of getting his release, Harris had already been contacted by Butler, Indiana and Purdue as well as Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Michigan State, New Mexico, Notre Dame, Ohio State and UCLA.
Harris is a terrific get-your-own-shot shooter who would have an apprenticeship before seeing the floor. If he's fleeing Huggy Bear because of fit, Beilein is pretty much the opposite… and this quote all but begs you to read between the lines:
“It is going to be the place that I can be myself,” said Harris. “I want to be myself. I want to go out there and play basketball and love playing basketball. I am a competitor first, and I want to play instinctively. That is it. I want my coach to respect me and I will respect him."
The art of shade, man.
OPEN THE PRETZEL. One WI SG Brevin Pritzl, a shooting guard out of Wisconsin, blew up over the past couple of weeks of AAU tourneys. This has intrigued Michigan, who's bringing him in for a visit this weekend. An offer is probably not in the offing unless they're really serious about moving on from the dawdling Jalen Coleman, but he's a guy to keep an eye on down the road.
2016 priorities. MI PG Cassius Winston is a highly-rated gentleman in his own right, one who Michigan has a lot of interest in. He's waiting for an offer this summer, but not in June:
“I’m pretty sure, if I know correctly, that I’ll be offered by the end of the summer,” Winston said on Saturday at the Spiece Memorial Run-n-Slam.
To me that says Michigan is going to give Derryck Thornton the first crack before they expand their PG POV. That expresses a level of confidence that Michigan didn't have when they went after Derrick Walton; they offered the other instate PG, Monte Morris, at the same time.
In other Thornton news, current main competitor Arizona picked up their second 2015 commit from a highly-rated PG, which can't hurt.
Hibbity hooblah! It's NFL draft time, hooray. Taylor Lewan will go in the first 15 picks tonight; Jeremy Gallon and Michael Schofield are likely to follow in the next two days. Baumgardner profiles Gallon:
"We've had dozens of guys go off to college and (not make it)) that had circumstances a lot better than Jeremy's," said Rick Darlington, Gallon's former coach at Apopka High School. "He had to fight to get into college. Then he had to fight to stay in college. Then he had to fight to get on the field.
"You look at him now, and it's easy to say he was a great college player in the end. But it was never as easy for him as it was for others. He always had to struggle ... it didn't come easy."
Gallon had to take three classes after his graduation just to get to Ann Arbor, which I know is something that was a problem with admissions. Not in Gallon's specific case, necessarily, but in the sheer numbers of guys Rodriguez recruited that needed serious help. Michigan would not look at Gallon today even if he was 6'4" because hypothetical rising senior Gallon's grades would make them move on.
On the one hand, some guys come through and become Jeremy Gallon. On the other, attrition watch.
In other news, Hoke defends Taylor Lewan again.
I didn't expect anything different, but wow. Various NCAA personages are appearing in front of a congressional committee today to talk about unionization. There is a lot of ludicrous stonewalling like the Stanford AD refusing to state how much his coaches make when you can google it in five seconds—the answer is three million dollars—but nothing quite so faceplam inducing as congressmen taking up irrelevant talking points that have already been eviscerated and left for dead while waving his iPad around:
Congressman Roe: "I just pulled up on my iPad (holds up iPad) that most schools lose money." …
— Kevin Trahan (@k_trahan) May 8, 2014
Congressman Roe then resumed playing Candy Crush Saga before a brief nap, so he missed this riposte:
— Kevin Trahan (@k_trahan) May 8, 2014
People in congress are just in congress for no reason.
Anger bit. Jim Delany talked to USA Today for two extensive pieces, one of which makes me involuntarily shake my fist at nothing in particular when Delany has the balls to make this assertion:
Q: Eight games vs. nine is a hot topic right now. What was the driving force behind the Big Ten going to nine conference games?
A: For us, it's a combination of things. One is the Playoff. Another thing is we're going to get larger (as a conference), we're going to play each other more. We want to be a conference.
Well, you were, Jim. And then somebody had to chase money in a nonsensical way, thanks to the faulty assumption that the current setup wherein sports leagues can involuntarily tax non-fans is going to last in an era of streaming.
This is not a "conference":
What I really like is that every athlete in the Big Ten who plays football will play every opponent inside the four-year period. That's what I like.
That is more of a conference than the SEC's setup where crossover teams without protected rivalries see each other once every six years, but Michigan hasn't played Wisconsin in four years. They may as well be in the Big 12. Going forward they will play the other division less than half the time.
I feel that this has to be intentional trolling. I mean I just…
Michigan's new "historic traditions" football page features an Adidas uniform they wore once. http://t.co/8nwffdIzZi
— Ben Mathis-Lilley (@BenMathisLilley) May 6, 2014
There is subset of MBAs who have their own opposite-day dialect of the English language.
Simplify : offense :: aggressive : defense. "Seven ways that Lane Kiffin will change Alabama's offense" unfortunately doesn't include "make it squintier" but does include this familiar refrain:
3. Playbook simplified
One change won't be too obvious from the seats or living rooms. After playing with in an offense known for complicated terminology, players see a difference in Kiffin's style.
"Some coaches and quarterbacks over-analyze things at times," receiver Amari Cooper said. "Sometimes it can be pitch and catch, let the play-makers make plays."
Cooper, the leading receiver each of the past two years, also likes the in-game adjustments he saw from game film.
"Coach Kiffin calls plays based on matchups and what he sees," Cooper said. "Like I said before, it's a simple offense. If he sees they are in man-to-man coverage and I have a hitch route, it converts if he's close to me, we are going to throw a little fade route and make something out of it."
I really need Al Borges to get hired somewhere so there can be an article about how he's going to simplify offense X.
That article includes obvious balderdash like "finding the playmakers" as if that's a huge overlooked priority for an outfit that saw AJ McCarron throw for 9.1 yards a pop with a 28:7 TD:INT ratio and rushed for 5.8 yards a carry without even removing sacks. But it also gives you some insight into what Nussmeier does:
2. Fullback added
Alabama's been primarily a one-back running team during the Saban era. They used an H-back to help clear the way, but it sounds like the Tide will be using a more traditional fullback in 2014.
Michigan's picked up a one-back offensive coordinator just in time for their four-man fullback crop to ripen. To H-back you go, gentlemen.
Etc.: NFL.com scouting reports are creepy. Remember when John Beilein was not a golden colossus? Why Nick Saban hates the hurry up. Former MI SF AJ Turner is now prepping in NH and might be a guy to keep an eye on if Coleman doesn't work out.
More fun with stats! CFBStats helpfully grabs every play off the NCAA's box scores and turns lines like "Devin Gardner pass complete to Jeremy Gallon for 14 yards" into downloadable data on receiver targeting. Here's where Gardner's passes went last year by down:
|Receiver||Target(%)||1st Dn||2nd Dn||3rd Dn|
|Total passes||395 (n/a)||142||144||105|
|Jeremy Gallon||137 (35%)||43%||28%||34%|
|Devin Funchess||92 (23%)||25%||18%||28%|
|Drew Dileo||30 (8%)||6%||5%||12%|
|Jake Butt||27 (7%)||3%||13%||4%|
|Jehu Chesson||24 (6%)||4%||8%||6%|
|Jeremy Jackson||10 (3%)||3%||3%||1%|
|Joe Reynolds||7 (2%)||2%||3%||-|
|A.J. Williams||2 (1%)||-||1%||-|
|Fitz Toussaint||20 (5%)||4%||8%||3%|
|Other backs||23 (6%)||6%||6%||6%|
There were four passes on 4th down: two that Funchess converted and two that Dileo didn't. For our purposes I'm going to count them with 3rd downs because they're functionally the same (i.e. not converting is a failure). When every preview this year says defenses will be focused on taking away Funchess, you can see why: most every other target from last year is graduated or not immediately available (Butt). The data also show whether each reception ended up in a 1st down:
|Receiver||1st/2nd Dn||Conv%||3rd/4th Dn||Conv%|
I don't know if the conversion rate for 1st and 2nd down will be that valuable except as a measure of team dink-and-dunk-iness. The numbers for conversion downs show tendency and success. Again, nothing surprising here. Gallon and Funchess remained equal targets, with Dileo the only other likely 3rd down destination.
Was it common for teams to be so focused on a few guys? Well those 3rd down targeting numbers are high. Gallon was the recipient of just over a third of Michigan's 3rd/4th down attempts; that's 7th in the nation at go-to-guyness. The rest:
|Receiver||School||Tm Att||Tgts||Conv %|
|Alex Amidon||Boston College||106||43 (41%)||42%|
|Jordan Matthews||Vanderbilt||104||39 (38%)||38%|
|Shaun Joplin||Bowling Green||114||41 (36%)||49%|
|Willie Snead||Ball State||131||47 (36%)||55%|
|Allen Robinson||Penn State||129||46 (36%)||43%|
|Ryan Grant||Tulane||133||46 (35%)||46%|
|Jeremy Gallon||Michigan||109||36 (33%)||42%|
|Ty Montgomery||Stanford||100||33 (33%)||55%|
|Titus Davis||Central Michigan||98||32 (33%)||56%|
|Quincy Enunwa||Nebraska||112||36 (32%)||33%|
Gallon was as important of a chain-mover for Michigan as A-Rob was to Penn State. What's weird is Michigan's 2nd guy was also really high on the list. Funchess (29% of 3rd/4th down targets, 39% conversion rate) also appears on the national leaderboard, at 19th, right behind Jared Abbrederis.
[After the jump: Michigan was the most obvious team in the country, finding Dileo-like objects, target types.]
The best guy. When it comes to outperforming seed expectations, John Beilein is it.
He was eighth before last season's run, so this is a list that can change quickly even for a veteran. Beilein also has the relative advantage of having a low average seed compared to guys like Krzyzewski and Calipari, who are impressively high on the list for teams that get such high seeds.
Draft bits. Large chunks of the basketball team are playing or not playing their way into the Interesting Decision section of NBA draft hopefuls. Certainly-gone Mitch McGary's back injury now sees him slip off many first round boards and Nik Stauskas turning into Darius Morris + 45% three point shooting has put him on many radars.
UMHoops runs down the opinions out there at the moment:
- GLENN ROBINSON III has seen his stock drop into the fringe of the first round, as he no longer has Trey Burke feeding him regularly. A lot of the evaluations seem to have some lag in them, as they complain about his inability to shoot. Chad Ford: "can’t hit a shot right now and is stuck in tweener land until he develops a reliable jumper." Okay, but I'm kind of expecting him to hit at least one 18-foot pullup per game these days.
- MITCH MCGARY is old, turning 22 in June, and will have a difficult decision. Some guys say he should absolutely return, others go with the tough decision song and dance. McGary either not on first round boards or hanging on at the very end at 29 or 30.
- NIK STAUSKAS comes up when people get detailed enough to list second-rounders. He's not in anyone's first round right now, though he's on the fringe of it at Draft Express and moving up into the mid-40s on Chad Ford's board. That, too, may be lag as Stauskas's offensive arsenal continues to expand. (Will the NBA care about his defense? I don't actually know.)
If Robinson continues playing like he has been the last couple weeks he'll bounce back into the late lottery range he was in last year and be gone; if the other two want to be first round picks it sounds like they would both lean to a return. Early yet, obviously.
It may have been brutally disappointing and eventually soul-crushing, but at least it was fun for neutrals? Michigan makes the top ten in Bill Connolly's top 100 games of the season, in a loss, naturally. They also check in at 24 (a win!), 17 (a win… against Akron), 42 and 43 (OT affairs against PSU and Northwestern), and 92 (the inexplicably included Iowa loss that was brutally unwatchable all the way through). That's six games, which seems like a lot for a totally nondescript 7-6 outfit.
Gallon continuing on. Always difficult to make a living in the NFL as a 5'7" guy, but Jeremy Gallon just might do that. He's at the Shrine Bowl this week, trying to make a name for himself. He is doing so:
One of the shortest players on the field, Gallon has probably been told he's “too small” his entire life, but he certainly doesn't play like it, displaying a competitive chip on his shoulder in every drill and each snap. Despite his shorter stature (5-foot-7), he has good-sized mitts and is a natural hands-catcher. Gallon has excellent controlled momentum in his routes to catch-and-go in the same motion to be a threat after the reception. As one scout put it on Tuesday: “I know he's small, but look at the production. The kid's just a football player.”
This opinion is not a solitary one:
-The best receiver today was Michigan’s Jeremy Gallon, who consistently got the type of separation I was optimistic we’d see this week. The smallest receiver here, Gallon needed to prove he can get free route-wise other than on underneath drag routes and deep comebacks. So far, he’s done it this week. Much of it is thanks to his quickness at the top of his routes. He snaps his head around so quickly, transitioning from a smooth, appearing-to-be slow start into a quick burst away from his defender.
Gallon's not going to go early at his height but I bet he goes in the mid rounds and hangs around forever as a slot receiver.
Yeah, sure Wake Forest, go for it. Even if ESPN was trying to get the ACC to poach Big Ten schools, that was probably some mid-level exec humoring the dude he was talking to at that moment. "Yeah, Wake Forest dude," said the incredibly bored man, "you should totally turn the tables on those jerks, and it will totally work. A-C-C."
We have the money. You have the numbers. Fight. They're having some sort of NCAA jamboree in San Diego this week, and the primary topic is schools with buckets of money no longer putting up with the idea that the Indiana States of the world should be able to rein them in.
At the annual NCAA convention, a sub-committee of the Division I board of directors proposed a rough governance model that would give more autonomy to the five power conferences -- the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, ACC -- and give a stronger voice to athletic directors with respect to how student-athletes are supported.
IE, we want to give some more money to these guys and if you can't afford it pound sand. This in particular is a good idea:
The ongoing education element would allow student-athletes to leave school for an extended time, but retain their scholarship so they could graduate. For example, a player drafted could go on to have a career, but not give up the academic portion of their scholarship and they could return to finish their education at a later date. A player leaving early would still give up their athletic eligibility, but not their academic eligibility.
Regretful and broke now that you're 25 and your pro career didn't work out? Come back to school and get serious, on the NCAA's dime. Jam that through as fast as possible and make it retroactive.
Meanwhile in Emmert complaining. The jamboree is derided as "all for show" by industry insiders in a Stewart Mandel article, with various athletic directors upset. Which ones makes all the difference:
"A lot of us are concerned about where this is headed," College of Charleston AD Joe Hull said after the first seminar broke up. "We're concerned about where this thing will end up."
These are the right people to be upset. UConn AD, Michigan alum, and potential future Michigan AD Warde Manuel got in a zinger that Lloyd Carr would approve of:
And Connecticut AD Warde Manuel cynically suggested the word "revenue" should probably be included among those core values. So at least some people that work in college athletics are just as jaded about the state of college athletics as you are.
Other issues on the table include redefining agent rules (please) and changing coaching personnel rules to limit the increasing use of gray-area guys.
Chris Brown on Pete Carroll. Carroll is a 4-3 under specialist who has huge corners that he plays press coverage with in a cover-3, which seems like a direction Michigan might be headed what with Mattison's under adherence, Michigan's tendency towards cover 3 this year, their obvious desire to grab jumbo corners (Stribling and
Conley Dawson), and Jabrill Peppers coming in next year.
Sherman’s skills allow Carroll to put his spin on old, conservative Cover Three: While this is zone coverage, Seattle’s cornerbacks play tight press coverage on the outside wide receivers as long as a receiver’s initial steps are straight downfield. Notice the coverage drops from the underneath defenders in the GIF below: This is a zone defense all the way, except for those press corners.
They are not likely to be as good, of course, but Mattison does want to be aggressive—remember the ND touchdown in 2011 where all eleven Michigan players were within five yards of the LOS?—and if he acquires confidence in his secondary, they might end up with something not entirely unlike what Seattle does.
Just try not to play Tyler Lockett next year.