to play football, not to play trumpet
The series continues with a look back at the defensive prospects in Michigan's 2010 recruiting class. Rich Rodriguez took 16 defenders in the class; more of them failed to make it to the opening kickoff of their freshman year (four) than advanced all the way to Senior Day (three).
I apologize in advance.
Those Who Stayed
Especially in retrospect, Jake Ryan's recruitment was bizarre. Ryan was the most productive defender on a state-title-winning Cleveland St. Ignatius squad that got plenty of exposure; he played next to Ohio State commit Scott McVey; his highlight tape provided more than a glimpse of what he'd become at Michigan. He looked a whole lot like Jake MF Ryan, minus the flowing locks.
Yet Ryan went unranked for much of the process, and even after a strong senior season only earned middling three-star rankings. Michigan didn't offer Ryan until he took an official visit a couple weeks before Signing Day. Ryan, holding only MAC offers, committed the next day. Reading his profile today makes me wonder if I unwittingly ingested all of the drugs:
Why Obi Ezeh? Ryan is a big, slightly clunky middle linebacker who will easily reach Ezeh's current 245 pounds and may outgrow the position entirely. As a recruit Ezeh was an anonymous three-star in about the same range Ryan is; he was also a sleeper-type pickup who had not been on anyone's radar before Michigan grabbed him. Ryan is praised for his vertical attacking and dogged for his ability to cut through the trash sideline-to-sideline or effectively cover zones; Ezeh's career is ably summed up by those critiques.
Ryan has some assets Ezeh doesn't: a high school career at linebacker (Ezeh was mostly a running back), a head start on the system he'll be playing in, and Greg Robinson as a position coach. Hopefully he'll have some consistency in coaching as well.
Notably, Greg Robinson as a position coach was listed as a positive. Greg Robinson as a defensive coordinator was... not.
Jibreel Black's profile spent a lot of time hoping he'd become at least a poor man's Brandon Graham. While Black didn't come close to Graham's heights, he was a solid contributor his last three years, and he could've been more productive if Michigan's issues with D-line depth didn't force him into a role as a 275-pound nose tackle for much of his senior season. Black is one of many players from the Rodriguez/Hoke era whose career would've benefited from a redshirt year he wasn't afforded.
The career of Courtney Avery saw him go from promising freshman corner to clearly undersized spot starter to senior utility man—he'd finish his time at Michigan with 19 starts, five of them at safety in 2013. Avery was also a two-time Academic All-Big Ten selection, which shouldn't come as a surprise since he flipped his commitment from Stanford to Michigan; his high school coach thought very highly of him:
“He’s the type of kid that if he wants to be president of the United States one day, he will be. I got two compliments I could give him. That’s the first, and the second is if my daughter was 18, she could date him."
"Thanks, Coach. I'm deeply uncomfortable."
[Hit THE JUMP, if you dare.]
So this happened.
We need a Holtz/Norfleet mashup.
Penn State fans: aim before firing. See, this is a fanbase that's overreacting:
— Toyota Jackson (@PancakeCatapult) October 12, 2014
Year one, sanctions finally biting deeply, coach made Vanderbilt competitive. Let's stone him!
We are fulfilling our responsibilities as an internet website under provision 6 of the Norfleet Atomic Dog Act of 2560. Via Melissa Storch:
We misattributed the source of the Norfleet GIF in One Frame At A Time; this is the original.
INJURIES. Michigan has an implausible number of them. Remember when we thought Hoke was lucky? Funny thing about that. Water finds its level. Gardner was in a boot after the PSU game, but that seems like a precaution more than anything since the guy was on the field. He's got a well-timed bye to rest up before… another bye? Let's go with that.
Speaking of injuries, we have confirmation that Gardner was playing on a broken toe last year:
"Devin's leadership has been outstanding," Hoke said Saturday night. "He played a year ago with a broken toe for half the game (against Ohio State). You know he's got a toughness to him.
Everyone knew this; Michigan insisted on pretending otherwise.
Well played, headline guy? He didn't say the thing that is implied here:
Brady Hoke asked about being at Michigan in 2015, says he's not focused on that
"I'm focused on Heartstone, mostly."
Kelley prepares the players for chaos. Pulaski lives in created chaos - their job is to inoculate their players to its effects and let the other team drown in it. That's what the conventional analysis of Kelley's approach doesn't understand - the Pulaski defense fully EXPECTS that they're going on the field with the opponent inside their territory several times in a game. It's how they play. Your panic is their comfort zone. It's just another day at the office. …
Their guys are mentally tougher than yours because they always play in the fringes of chaos - they're experts in weirdness. You're playing weird just one week. They're veterans of weird outcomes and know that leads with time on the clock either way mean nothing. Just keep playing.
We probably shouldn't hire the guy who never punts. But Kelley is an interesting guy who questions the basic assumptions of football in the same way Beilein did coming up what with his 1-3-1 zone and ALL OF THE SHOOTERS lineups. The burgeoning conventional wisdom that you should strive to shoot threes and layups and nothing else was the moneyball that got Beilein to the top of the ladder and there are guys out there who are doing the same in football now. We just don't know which thing is the thing.
Michigan should be looking for the most interesting plausible mind.
So here's Dan Mullen doing things. Mississippi State has a 6'5" linebacker headed for the early rounds of the NFL draft. How did that happen? Via the Caris LeVert method:
But then, to hear his coach tell it, McKinney’s emergence from obscurity had nothing to with odds, gambling, or catching lightning in a bottle. To Mullen, it’s all in a day’s work. “I don’t look at where they are today. My mind is, ‘Where are they going to be three years from now?’” Mullen told me. “Here’s a 6-foot-3, 210-pound high school quarterback who hasn’t played a lot of linebacker. But you talk to him and you realize he has toughness. And he can run. And you get him in the weight room, and he grows an inch and a half — which you can’t control — and he becomes a 250-pound athletic linebacker who can play at the next level.” …
“I’ll tell a kid sometimes, if he’s not rated very highly [by the recruiting services], ‘Hey, we have you rated higher than that,’” Mullen said. “If he’s got two stars beside his name, that’s even better. Because in my evaluation, he’s not that player.”
Mississippi State has systematically found guys who exceed expectations in the same way John Beilein has, and he's deployed them to maximum effectiveness. There hasn't been anything fluky about Mississippi State's rise, and that's why anyone with a job opening will be blowing up his agent's phone for the next couple months.
The NFL does not exist. That's the approach Michigan should be taking here. When Penn State grabbed Bill O'Brien, Brian Bennett wrote up a piece on guys who had made the NFL-to-college leap. I'm going to cut out everything and just list the names in the article:
- Bill O'Brien
- Charlie Weis
- Ron Turner
- Bill Callahan
- Tim Brewster
- Kirk Ferentz
- Al Groh
- Pat Hill
- Pete Carroll
- Mike Sherman
- Dave Wannstedt
So you've got Carroll, who is in the 99th percentile of hey dude energy, Kirk Ferentz, a guy who went back to the NFL after two years, and fail fail fail fail fail. Oh and Pat Hill, who had a good run at Fresno.
The best coaches in college football are all college guys. The NFL does not exist.
Mullen speculation will be constant. Spencer Hall thinks that there might be a bit of a rift between Mullen and Florida AD Not Dave Brandon:
WE THINK DAN WOULD BE FINE BUT DOESN'T REALLY GET ALONG WITH FOLEY REPORTEDLY DOT COM. It's a nice idea to want Dan Mullen as Florida's head coach, but there are a few problems with this. Like for instance--
--fine, fine, just get the damn checkbook and paperwork. Get it now. YOU GO RUN AND GET THAT DAMN CHECKBOOK RIGHT NOW, FOLEY.
So there's that.
LeVert, profiled. DX scouting report:
If I was a college coach I'd have the "weaknesses" music on cue to blast whenever one of my stars lived up to one.
Furman, ascendant. Remember Josh Furman bolting for Oklahoma State in the offseason? Not really, because he seemed like a meh player? Well:
How’s this for help: Furman, with a fifth sack Saturday, through six games has more sacks than any Cowboy’s produced in a season since 2011. He forced a fumble to go with his pick against Kansas, adding just another solid performance to his building resume that would put him on a short list of contenders for OSU Most Valuable Player at the midway point.
“Yeah, I’d hate to think where we’d be without him,” Spencer said.
He is a "star" linebacker akin to the S/LB hybrids OSU rolls out on the regular; think a senior version of Stevie Brown.
Insert Balotelli WHY ALWAYS ME shirt here. Jon Chait (no polo) on football's concussion/health panic:
he same organization cited by Time found that, over a 30-year period, football is not a uniquely deadly sport for high-school athletes. It is not even the deadliest sport. High-school football has a fatality rate of 0.83 per 100,000 participants. This is actually lower than the rates of boys’ basketball (0.92), lacrosse (1.00), boys’ gymnastics (1.00), and water polo (1.3). There were three heartbreaking deaths of high-school football players last week, each of which attracted wide media coverage the way that tragic low-frequency events often do. But the unusual cluster of unfortunate deaths does not indicate a broader trend any more than the crash of an airliner signals an increasing danger associated with air travel.
Chait also follows up with a response to a guy who is a crusader against barbarism.
It might be more maize? Usual disclaimers about photo coloring apply but MVictors caught a reshoot of Devin Funchess on the program cover that strongly implies that Michigan has moved away from the highlighter yellow this year:
Since cover shots for the game programs of the players were shot before the season, they had to re-shoot Funchess in the #1 jersey:
1. Notice Funchess has the 2014 helmet with the block M nosebumper.
2. Notice the striking difference in maize tone in the wings that was cited earlier this season between the 2014 and 2013 helmets.
And while we’re on the topic of game programs…again—I wish they’d get creative here—do somethingbeyond just players standing there posing!
Those are likely to be in controlled conditions so I think it's for real. Small mercies.
The mood from an outsider's view. Excellent Michigan blog with bizarre color scheme Eleven Warriors had a correspondent take in the threatening-cow-rubbing affair on Saturday. The pulse:
Michigan is not broken, nor is it going anywhere at any point in the near future. Though the current caretakers aren't living up to the high standards heaped upon them, the likelihood of the program as a whole sliding toward eternal mediocrity is unlikely. With hundreds of thousands of living alumni, the tradition of "Michigan" is bigger than any one person.
I'm considering a piece about the "lack of local fan support," per Gameday, and the finger-wagging about how Michigan fans need to get behind the program. We're behind it; we're just thinking about more than the next few game.
Rick Pitino says Louisville is at a disadvantage recruiting because they're an Adidas school. SBN CEO Jim Bankoff talking media stuff is worth a read. Nerds are being adopted by hockey. Defense every snap.
Michigan's run by a guy who only sees the next spreadsheet.
Come on guys, do you know there's a basketball game tonight?
Anyway: along with Thomas Rawls, Michigan has announced that Josh Furman and Richard Ash are exiting the program. Both would have been fifth year seniors and can presumably transfer and be eligible immediately as long as they have graduated.
Both Furman and Ash were pressed into the first extensive duty of their career late in the year, with Furman getting a couple of starts due to injury in the safety corps and Ash being rolled out to see if he could somewhat delay the runaway train that was the OSU rushing offense. The answer there was NOPE, and Furman was also not too good in his limited time.
Michigan now has 85 slot allotted for next year's roster, and there are a couple of other players in unfavorable depth chart situations who might look for greener pastures themselves.
In HTTV last year we made a strange assertion: that given the relative drop-off to their replacements, Kovacs would probably be missed more than Denard Robinson. I thought I'd pose the question now concerning this year's seniors, except there's one guy who could have gone 1st overall in the NFL draft LAST YEAR, and he's being replaced by either a member of the worst interior offensive line in Michigan memory or a guy who couldn't beat out one of those guys for playing time.
|Actually, #2 Taylor Lewan's twosie and #3 Taylor Lewan's pet pig are also out of the running. [Upchurch]|
So, OTHER than that guy,
Which senior will Michigan miss most next season?
Ace: I'll leave a couple very strong candidates aside—namely, Jeremy Gallon and Thomas Gordon—and go to the other bookend of the offensive line, Michael Schofield. Michigan already needs to get much (much) better play out of the interior of the line next year, not to mention a major step up in blocking from the backs and tight ends. Losing not just one, but two NFL-quality tackles means the Wolverines once again head into a new season with major uncertainty up front.
I expect the interior line to be better, especially since some of the true freshmen who weren't viable options this season—especially Patrick Kugler and David Dawson—should at least be ready to compete for a spot on the two-deep. Losing Schofield along with Lewan, however, means that there's almost no margin for error with the new tackles; Michigan needs to find two decent starters out of Ben Braden, Erik Magnuson, and... that's about it.
I guess Dawson could play right tackle, as could Kyle Kalis, but both are more natural fits inside. Chris Fox, coming off a major knee injury that delayed his freshman progress, and Logan Tuley-Tillman, a raw-upside prospect with a heavy emphasis on raw, probably won't be ready to step in and be very effective.
Losing Lewan hurts the most, of course; that's compounded by the absence of Schofield—who really came into his own this year—leaving Michigan with, at best, four relatively unproven players competing for two open tackle spots while the interior of the line is still very much a question mark.
[After the jump: Pining for (Scho)fields]
12/1/2013 – Michigan 41, Ohio State 42 – 7-5, 3-5 Big Ten
About a dozen people asked me during and after the game about how they should feel, and all I had and have is a shrug. I don't know, man. I know this is the part of the blog where I come up with The Big Feel (uh… working title) about what happened on Saturday, and I'm as jumbled as anyone else.
How are you supposed to feel after coming up one play short against an undefeated Ohio State team that was favored by three scores? How about when that makes you two of the last 13 against the Great Satan? How are you supposed to feel after watching whatever that was on offense since the Notre Dame game* turn in the second-most yards Ohio State has ceded in 123 years? After watching the mostly valiant defense turn into the Indiana outfit that necessitated the footnote in the previous sentence?
Football's ridiculous. There's that. We can all agree on that after the football gods cooked up the worst possible torture imaginable for Harvey Updyke, who is 100% at fault for the way the Iron Bowl ended. That is the only thing that actually makes sense about football, a 109-yard field goal return to beat the #1 team in the country. Football is ridiculous.
For me this is a giant ball of frustration. Sometimes you come out on the wrong end of a classic and that sucks but it's still pretty much okay because of the context of the game and the fact that you got to experience it. The 2005 Rose Bowl is the best example in Michigan's recent history. This aspired to that status, but was doomed from the start because of one question.
People will say things about rivalries and sure, I believe that after watching Michigan State play Michigan for the past half-decade. There is no amount of rivalry that bridges this gap:
IOWA, 7 BIG TEN GAMES AGAINST NOT MICHIGAN: 4.9 yards per play allowed, in a pack just about tied for second in the conference behind MSU.
IOWA VS MICHIGAN: 158 yards ceded at 2.8 per play.
NEBRASKA, 7 BIG TEN GAMES AGAINST NOT MICHIGAN: 4.8 yards per play allowed, also in the pack. (Yes. Nebraska's defense was actually kind of good in Big Ten play.)
NEBRASKA VS MICHIGAN: 175 yards ceded at 2.8 per play.
OHIO STATE, 7 BIG TEN GAMES AGAINST NOT MICHIGAN: 5.0 yards per play allowed, third member of pack**.
OHIO STATE VS MICHIGAN: 603 yards ceded at 7.4 per play.
One of these things is not like the others. It's the one that doesn't make you want to listen to Pearl Jam like you're 15 and a girl just laughed at you. If Michigan does anything like what they did in this game against Nebraska, Iowa, and Penn State, they're 10-1 and shaking their fist at Michigan State's defense as the reason this game won't result in a rematch. In that context, a battle of top ten teams that goes down to the wire inside the wire, sure, classic away aw shucks it only hurts when I think about it, it's on. Which BCS bowl are we going to?
After the nine games between Notre Dame and Ohio State, that's a bit fanciful.
When Dave Brandon's not making ludicrous comparisons to Nick Saban and throwing Mike Martin, Denard Robinson, and Martavious Odoms under the bus, he's pointing out that Michigan is just two… three… four plays away from being Super Awesome Team. Anyone with eyes can see that they are three rather improbable ones away from being 4-8. Michigan was a yard away from losing to Akron, needed Desmond Morgan's best Woodson impression to beat UConn, and executed the only successful fire-drill field goal in the history of football to get to overtime against Northwestern. Fate has been kind and cruel in equal parts this year. This is a 7-5 team that finished with a losing record in conference because it deserved to.
That sucks. Putting on the fireworks against Ohio State to end the season is better than taking a steel-toed boot for three hours, but you watch them run play action that curls Jeremy Gallon back to Gardner off of that bubble-iso look and the mind argues with itself about whether it should say "hooray" and wave a little flag or "did you not want to win the Iowa game?" and wave a pitchfork.
You wonder how much earlier this progress could have come if Michigan had settled on a few simple things to start the season instead of trying to run everything that had ever been drawn up on a napkin. Or how much time they set on fire by running that gimmicky tackle over stuff that was dead as soon as it was put on film. How is it that these pieces can be assembled to put up 41 points against ND and OSU and zero (approximately) against the rest of the schedule?
Actually winning the game comes with a big old bucket of redemption. Coming that close and coming up short… well, ask Devin Gardner.
“I threw an interception to lose the game,” Gardner said, his voice low and barely audible. “There’s not much else I can say.”
This is a person who just completed 70% of his passes for 450 yards and in the press conference after he's like me on the benches after the game, keeping my head down and trying not to hear the Ohio State fans around me. Hurting. In his case, both physically and mentally. All I've got on the former part is a sore wrist from bowling, but man did I feel that other bit at the same time he did.
This is a moral victory. It stops a large chunk of the bleeding, likely solidifies the recruiting class, and gives Hoke more stable footing going forward. And he's going to be here. It is much better than getting your head stomped.
But the thing about moral victories is that they aren't, you know, victories.
*[Indiana just gave up nearly 500 yards passing to Danny Etling. Indiana is rookie mode, and is set aside.]
**[Wisconsin at 4.8 without a Michigan game is the fourth member; Michigan is next in a tier by itself at 5.4, but then again it didn't get to play its offense; FWIW, Penn State's defense was meh at 5.7 and Michigan got 4.7 per play.]
Brady Hoke Epic Double Point Of The Week. At one point late in the game, Gardner scrambled out of the pocket, found himself alone with a defensive back, and faked a throw to absolutely no one. This got him a first down and what looked like a sprained ankle. He managed to limp back to the huddle, whereupon I felt Michigan should just run the ball because their QB needed some time to not be dead. They threw it; Gallon was wide open on a corner route; Gardner missed it badly. Because he was dead.
When not dead, he turned in a superlative performance despite being pretty much dead. Devin Gardner is tough. Yes.
Honorable mention: Gallon and Funchess are pretty good you guys. The offensive line had a pretty good day not just by their standards but by the standards of average-ish D-I teams everywhere.
Epic Double Point Standings.
2.0: Jeremy Gallon (ND, Indiana), Devin Gardner(ND, OSU)
1.0: Desmond Morgan(UConn), Devin Funchess(Minnesota), Frank Clark(PSU), Matt Wile (Nebraska), James Ross (Northwestern)
0.5: Cam Gordon (CMU), Brennen Beyer (CMU)
Brady Hoke Epic Double Fist-Pump Of The Week. In a game that was more about holding serve than field position, Michigan somehow stripping Carlos Hyde as he GRRAAAHHHHed his way towards another first down was even more important than a turnover usually is. That got Michigan back on level terms after being down a break, as it were, and provided the frenetic finish.
Honorable mention: Gallon screen goes for 84, announces that Michigan is not going to roll over dead. De'Veon Smith rumbles for 38 yards, looking like he did as a high schooler what with dudes bouncing off of him and such. That thing with Gardner pump-faking at air. Fight!
Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.
8/31/2013: Dymonte Thomas introduces himself by blocking a punt.
9/7/2013: Jeremy Gallon spins through four Notre Dame defenders for a 61-yard touchdown.
9/14/2013: Michigan does not lose to Akron. Thanks, Thomas Gordon.
9/21/2013: Desmond Morgan's leaping one-handed spear INT saves Michigan's bacon against UConn.
10/5/2013: Fitzgerald Toussaint runs for ten yards, gets touchdown rather easily.
10/12/2013: Devin Funchess shoots up the middle of the field to catch a 40 yard touchdown, staking Michigan to a ten-point lead they wouldn't relinquish. (Right?)
10/19/2013: Thomas Gordon picks off an Indiana pass to end the Hoosiers' last drive that could have taken the lead.
11/2/2013: Clock expires.
11/9/2013: Nebraska muffs a punt through no action of Michigan's.
11/16/2013: Michigan executes a clock-running last-second field goal to get the game to OT.
11/23/2013: 404 file not found
NEW! MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK. At the fine suggestion of a reader, this goes to the worst, most ANGAR-inducing thing in the game. Because double birds will live forever.
Your inaugural Epic Double Bird: Devin Gardner's "fumble" that was reviewed and confirmed after about three seconds when he looks clearly, obviously down.
[AFTER THE JUMP: Throw it up at the tall guy, FIGHT, defensive implosion, further double-birding at the replay official.]
FORMATION NOTES: Michigan abandoned the two-high look for most of this game in favor of seven or seven and a half man fronts depending on whether Nebraska was in standard or three-wide personnel. Against 2TEs and a back:
Against three wide they would often go with a straight up 4-3 under on plausible run downs. This is a four-wide formation on which Michigan has 4-3 personnel on the field (that's Cam Gordon over the slot) and only gets out of their 4-3 under because Nebraska splits a TE.
This is a wide shot of a fairly typical one-high setup:
All of this was great for jamming up Nebraska's inside run game and very bad for option pitches.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Avery and Furman started at safety, with Wilson frequently subbing in. He was in the same role Bolden was, essentially a third starter. Thomas Gordon did not play. Countess went out in the first quarter, which put Dymonte Thomas on the field in the nickel and Stribling on the field on all downs. Lewis played only a little early and then was out.
Linebackers were the usual. Ryan/Gordon at SAM, Ross/Bolden/Morgan three guys for two spots at ILB. On the line, Jibreel Black(!) was your starting nose tackle with Washington rotating in. Henry and Glasgow were at the three tech, Clark went almost the whole way at WDE with Ojemudia in a clear backup role, and the same thing happened at SDE with Beyer and Wormley. On nickel packages, Taco Charlton came in as a DT. This was probably not a good move.
[After THE JUMP: 17 points should be good enough.]