The nutty Michigan coverage isn't so much about Harbaugh as it is a signal to the Big Ten that Fox wants to party.
My Irrational Gametime Borges Emotion Meter flipped from disgusted to enthralled back to disgusted on a series of three plays on Michigan's second drive. The first play was the second and twelve play action on which an unimpressed defensive end flew upfield and sacked Robinson without giving any thought to the tailback supposedly getting the ball. Running second and twelve play action from a big I-Form set makes Homer crazy.
It got better. On the next play, Borges rolled the pocket and flooded the roll side. Via BWS:
This is another way to high-low the corner, something this series has discussed in the context of curl-flat routes against UConn and Notre Dame. In this instance the flood worked for a big-time completion as Roundtree beat the safety to the corner route and the cornerback sucked up on the Hemingway deep out.
Grady at the 20. Hemingway at the 35 with the cover-two corner. Roundtree at the 45 beating the safety to the outside.
On the next play Borges did the exact same thing, but he did it completely differently. He flooded a zoning cornerback and high-lowed him for a big gain. It was the same guy. He'd just gotten beaten over the top and sank back into the deep route, leaving the intermediate guy wide open. Gardner ignored the blitheringly wide open guy, instead chucking a terrible interception. Live this flipped me back to disgusted mode, and this lasted long enough for me to complain about two-man routes on the podcast. I was wrong. Borges engaged a decided schematic advantage here only to see a freshman (-ish) quarterback derp it.
Michigan comes out in a Gardner formation with Robinson as the slot receiver.
Now for something completely the same
Before the snap they motion Hemingway tighter to the line. The cornerback's reaction and the two deep safeties imply another zone.
On the snap they fake a handoff and then fake the end around. The coverage is revealed to be Not Cover 2. Both corners are headed deep and one safety steps up into a robber zone in the middle. This is cover three:
robber in red, three-deep in blue
Gallon is running straight downfield and will take both the corner and the topmost safety with him—Hemingway cuts his route off and he has no other vertical threats and can double. The two linebackers you see have their eyes in the backfield, preparing for an end-around. By the time it's certain Gardner has the ball Hemingway is ten yards downfield, running hard, with inside position on the robber. The linebackers are done.
Now it's a little bit of a problem that Gardner took his eyes off the defense for a long time as he executed both handoff fakes, but he is literally eight yards from the nearest defender as he sets up. He has plenty of time to read the corner Michigan is trying to high-low.
doo dee doo dee doo
You can see the playside LB heading out for Robinson's wheel route, which doesn't seem like a real option but still demands attention. There's no one checking Hemingway except that robber, who is improvising in the time-honored tradition of anyone who sees something going very wrong and runs at the red button screaming "oh shiiiiiiiiii—."
Gardner loads up and fires…
…over the head of a wide open Hemingway hanging out 20 yards downfield…
…to the bracketed Gallon…
…and throws it way short to add interception to injury. Derp.
Items of Interest
This is the same passing concept out of a totally different play. Michigan goes from a three-wide stack with a rollout to that side to an ace set with a couple of play action fakes, but it's the same thing for the quarterback: three options of varying depth along the left sideline. (Depending on how real the Denard wheel is. If it's not it should be.) On both plays the depths are five yards, 20 yards, and 40 yards. On both plays the playside corner is the main dude to read.
This kind of thing is all the rage in the NFL and various places in college football: Stanford, Boise State, wherever Weis is hanging his hat ("Let them try to stop a pro-style offense, which has multiple personnel groups and multiple formations."), etc. Smart Football notes the concept is one of three main ways modern offenses beat defenses:
Use multiple formations and motions to confuse the defense or gain an advantage in numbers or leverage. This approach tries to turn the defense against itself by never giving the defense a chance to get settled or to identify what the offense may do. Moreover, sometimes the defense simply fails to adjust, and the offense gains some new advantage. The downside of this approach is it leaves little time and fewer clues for the offense to make adjustments, but the idea is that “motion causes emotion” (to use the old adage) and the offense has an advantage in that it knows where it is going. This is the method employed by Boise State.
The other two are changing the play before the snap and using good old option football to force the opponent to be wrong.
The advantage of the multiple look is that it gets complex for the defense while remaining simple for the offense, particularly the critical guy with the ball in his hands every play. On back-to-back plays a zone flood wins, getting receivers open for huge chunks. Since the flood develops differently the defense has a hard time picking up on the tendency. Here the quarterback switch mitigates the effect of having the QB get to make the same read he just successfully executed, but in a normal situation you get the advantage of familiarity while the defense does not.
This may be why it feels like Michigan increasingly has no "base." Here's Boise State's RB coach on what they do on offense:
“We run plays, we don’t have an offense. It makes it difficult to defend.” At that time he was working with the running backs. Before this project, I wondered how an offense can’t be a system. Coordinators pride themselves on establishing identities: “It’s what we do” is a common mantra among the coaching profession. Urban Meyer at Florida has his spread option, Chip Kelly at Oregon has his QB run game, Steve Sarkasian at Washington has his pro-style offense that he developed at USC. Well, apparently Boise was the Seinfeld of college football — their lack of identity is their identity.
I've described the offense as "grab-bag," "cute," and "gimmickball" at various points during the year because they don't have a core play—at least not one that works COUGH power COUGH—that forces opponents to cheat and opens up your constraint plays.
Michigan fans have never seen an offense like this. Rodriguez varied his base but there was always the zone, inside and out, or the QB iso offense. DeBord literally ran a zone stretch left on the first play 90% of the time. Before that Michigan based its offense off pro-style power running (even though they couldn't run). They always had a Thing They Did.
This year Michigan has done the following things on the ground: iso, power, pitch sweep, speed option, inside zone, outside zone, inverted veer, down G, sprint counter, jet sweep. That is damn near everything possible short of triple option and trapping, and it moves from week to week. Most people, including myself, have believed this is a transitional cost of fitting Borges into an offense he didn't build. I am beginning to doubt that conclusion.
Maybe this should have been obvious given the multiplicity of Borges's SDSU offense but there's a big difference between watching a team and living it.
Even though this should be simple for the QB Gardner biffs spectacularly. Man is this a terrible decision. This isn't the error he made against State by throwing to Hemingway instead of the free touchdown offered Hopkins. Hemingway was kind of open and a good throw is a potential touchdown.
Here he's got a hand-wavingly open guy and a double-covered one. He's reading one guy, the playside corner. He's got enough time to take tea in the backfield. The playside corner is booking it downfield with his back to the guy underneath him. And Gardner still throws to the double-covered guy. If Borges didn't throw something in the press box he's a better man than I.
Anyone calling for Gardner to start should be shown this play over and over.
Formation notes: Michigan didn't show anything new except what I called Denard Jet for obvious reasons.
That's an ace set with an offset back and two other wideouts.
Northwestern mostly hung out in their default 4-3. At the beginning of the second half they walked a safety down…
…to show an eight-man front, then crashed the end while using the safety as the contain guy. The result was the 0 and –1 yard runs that started the half. Then they rushed three on third and long. Woo!
Substitution notes: Schofield went the whole way for Barnum. When Lewan went out for a play they flipped Huyge to LT and put Mealer in at RT. I assume a longer term Lewan absence would see Schofield move back outside and Khoury or Mealer enter.
Watson again was the #2 TE; Gallon, Hemingway, and Roundtree got the bulk of the WR snaps, with Dileo the fourth guy. Michigan is tipping run when they bring Odoms in, BTW. Toussaint and Smith were the RBs with Hopkins playing FB; Shaw got some playing time in the second half.
Denard went out with another boo-boo to his non-throwing hand, causing a few goal line plays on which Gardner handed off or rolled out. Gardner was in on the Denard Jet plays, obviously, and also had a rollout pass to Jackson on which he was seemingly inserted without any problems with Robinson.
|M26||1||10||Shotgun twins twin TE||1||2||2||4-3 under||Run||QB power||Robinson||2|
|Corner on the edge tight and a safety over the strength of the formation about seven yards deep. Linebackers are flowing down at this hard; Koger(-0.5) blocks down on the playside LB, who gets some penetration. Schofield(-1) should still be able to come around it upfield but does not, instead getting caught up in the wash and failing to get out on the edge. Free hitter results and there is also a safety; Denard gets what he can. RUN-: Schofield, Koger(-0.5)|
|M28||2||8||Denard Jet||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||Jet sweep||Robinson||6|
|Blocking here is good all around. Lewan(+1) seals the playside DE. Koger kicks out the edge guy, which is easy since he has to maintain contain; NW LB flows hard upfield inside of Smith, which causes Smith to peel off. He doesn't get a piece but that's because the LB went too hard inside to actually get Robinson. Once he runs himself out of position it's open because Molk(+1) and Schofield(+1) scooped the playside NT; Schofield got out on the WLB. Denard is chopped down by a quick-filling safety. Why doesn't Hemingway head for the S instead of keeping the CB outside? Note: NW DE on the backside stays responsible.|
|M34||3||2||Shotgun trips TE||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||QB power alt||Robinson||5|
|Breaking a tendency here as the power is going away from the RB side as Molk and Schofield pull around. This works well enough; Koger(+1) seals the playside DE easily and Omameh(+1) gets out on the MLB to cut him. Schofield(-1) pulls around and runs right by the SLB; instead both he and Molk head for the corner. Molk is trailing and realizes that the LB is about to hit Robinson, but it's too late for him to do anything. Robinson(+1) stiffarms the dude and rolls for the first down. Because he's been forced to the sideline the CB Schofield cut can force him out with an arm-tackle attempt.|
|RUN+: Koger, Molk, Omameh, Robinson||RUN-: Schofield(2)|
|M39||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||4-3 even||Pass||Hitch||Roundtree||Inc|
|Hitch is open for six plus some YAC; Denard one-hops it. (IN, 0, protection 1/1)|
|M39||2||10||Shotgun 2back TE||2||1||2||4-3 under||Run||Power off tackle||Toussaint||3|
|Koger covered. NW goes under in response to the TE. SLB goes into a pass drop; Hopkins(+1) buries him. Koger(+1) blows up the playside DE. Huyge(+1) climbs to the second level and seals the WLB out of the play. Molk and Omameh down block successfully on the backside; Denard holds the backside DE. Result: MLB vs Schofield and Toussaint in a ton of space. LB bursts outside to funnel back to help that isn't there; instead of setting up the block Toussaint(-2) runs right into the linebacker when a cut back behind puts him one on one with the S for a big gainer.|
|RUN+: Hopkins, Huyge, Koger||RUN-: Toussaint(2)|
|M42||3||7||Shotgun 4-wide tight||1||1||3||Stack two deep||Post||Hemingway||48|
|Three man rush with this WR return guy as a spy. They rush three with the spy attacking later. Huyge(-1) beaten and is fortunate a little shove on his part gets this DE to the ground. Good pocket otherwise because there's a three man rush; Robinson steps up and bombs it deep to Hemingway in single coverage. It's a bit underthrown but not quite enough to give the DB a play on the ball; Hemingway goes up and gets it. (CA, 2, protection ½, Huyge)|
|O10||1||G||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||4-3 even||Run||Iso||Toussaint||1|
|I think so but I'm not sure because Toussaint's angle is outside. Smith heads straight upfield. Omameh(-1) is handled by the DT over him; Smith(-1) runs by the playside LB without hitting anyone. Schofield(-1) can't handle the other DT; three guys converge on Toussaint.|
|RUN+: N/A||RUN-: Omameh, Smith, Schofield|
|O9||2||G||I-form big||2||2||1||4-3 under||Pass||Waggle corner||Watson||9|
|LB who previously shot upfield on the Robinson third down power is probably the guy who busts here. He chases after Robinson on the playfake. Watson is wide open. Denard gets a little pressure but not much and chucks it off his back foot. Watson has to adjust and manages to make a diving catch in the endzone. (IN, 1, protection 1/1, RPS +2)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-0, 10 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M31||1||10||Shotgun twins twin TE||1||2||2||4-3 even||Pass||PA Out||Hemingway||27|
|Play action with max protect; two-man route, though Toussaint does leak out late. The PA fake sucks in between eight and nine NW players; Denard has all day. He zings it to a wide open Hemingway on a deep out. (DO, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +2)|
|O42||1||10||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||4-3 even||Run||Zone read dive||Smith||2|
|Denard(-2) misses a massive keep read with the backside DE shuffling down and Dileo cracking down on the contain guy. NW is slanting to the playside, forcing Smith into the unblocked backside guy. No minus but it's clear Schofield is having a tough time with DiNardo.|
|RUN+: N/A||RUN-: Robinson(2)|
|O40||2||8||Shotgun 3||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||PA Deep post||Hemingway||Int|
|They run the sprint counter except it's a playfake, and it's a good thing since a late shift and S blitz would have picked off the lead blocker and exposed Smith to a TFL. Denard gets some late pressure as Dinardo releases to the outside of Molk—Molk can't do anything about this because he's cutting behind a teammate. An inadvertent stunt. Denard again chucks a punt off his back foot that is way long; safety picks it off. Never should have thrown it with the safety there; he had a little hitch he could have taken. (BRINX, 0, protection 2/2) Picture-paged by BWS.|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 7-7, 7 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M35||1||10||Shotgun 2TE twins||1||2||2||4-3 even||Run||Pin and pull zone||Robinson||4|
|They bring down a LB and blitz from the backside. More pin and pull and as per usual it doesn't quite work. Huyge(+1) cannot get playside of his guy but does end up cutting him, which takes him and the guy playside of Schofield out. Watson kicks out the playside DE. Omameh(-1) is first through the hole and contacts a LB around the LOS. He gets driven back. These guys just aren't drive blockers. Molk bangs into this block, surging it forward, and Robinson bangs into the whole mess. Everyone falls forward.|
|RUN+: Huyge||RUN-: Omameh|
|M39||2||6||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||PA Quick seam||Koger||Inc|
|Wide open; Denard wings it high. Koger does get his fingertips to it but this is not a shoulda-caught-it kind of pass. (IN, 1, protection 1/1, RPS +1)|
|M39||3||6||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||4-3 even||Pass||Hitch||Hemingway||9|
|Four man rush doesn't even try to get to Denard. Expecting a QB draw is the only thing I can think of. Totally unmolested Denard pumps once, then zings it into Hemingway for the first down. (CA, 3, protection 1/1… RPS+1, I guess. No pass rush at all.)|
|M48||1||10||Shotgun empty||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||Hitch||Gallon||10|
|Easy pitch and catch with the outside corner playing soft; good timing on the throw gives Gallon an opportunity to pick up a little YAC. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|O42||1||10||I-Form twins||2||1||2||4-3 under||Run||Iso||Toussaint||7 (Pen -10)|
|This opens up as it looks like the playside DE tries to go outside without the NT slanting behind him, for whatever reason. Huyge(+1) and Omameh(+1) kick their guys out. Nice hole. Molk(+1) buries the WLB on the second level. Guy in the hole is the MLB against Hopkins; Hopkins bashes him and then tosses him upfield, sending Toussaint into the secondary, where that quick-filling safety fills again. Hopkins gets a holding call that seems ludicrous. Toussaint is gone, any hypothetical hold had no impact on the play, and you call that when NW has arms outside the shoulder pads on every play? Refs -2.|
|M48||1||20||Ace trips tight bunch||1||1||3||4-3 under||Pass||Throwback screen||Gallon||8|
|AKA the pitch formation. Michigan goes with a PA throwback screen that Lewan(-1) takes a little too far of a downfield angle on and lets the corner come up to hassle Gallon. Corner gets upfield and makes a diving ankle tackle attempt; Gallon steps through it and gets hacked down by the backside DE from behind. (CA, 3, screen)|
|O44||2||12||Shotgun 2TE twins||1||2||2||4-3 under||Pass||PA scramble||Robinson||8|
|Attempted play action on which Schofield(+1) pulls to protect the edge. Last week two guys would shoot up into this play and twice Michigan OL would get lost in indecision, forcing Denard to chuck it off his back foot. This week Schofield has eyes only for the outside guy, who he seals, allowing Denard the edge. Denard on edge equals takeoff. (SCR, N/A, protection 1/1, Schofield run bonus for tough job well done.) Picture paged.|
|RUN+: Schofield, Robinson||RUN-:|
|O36||3||4||Shotgun 4-wide tight||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||TE Dig||Koger||16|
|NW rushes five and gets nowhere thanks in large part to Vincent Smith coming across the protection to pick up the blitzer. Remainder of NW rushers stoned. Robinson steps up and zings it to Koger. Ball is a little behind Koger, forcing him to spin and eventually taking him off his feet. Better thrown and this is a TD. Still good enough for a CA since it is about 15 yards downfield. (CA, 2, protection 3/3)|
|O20||1||10||Denard Jet||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||PA scramble||Gardner||4|
|NW expecting this and has the same DE on the edge, covering everyone (RPS -1); Gardner(+1) does well to hold up at the sideline, pump, and then accelerate past the guy to turn this into a few yards.|
|O16||2||6||Shotgun twins twin TE||1||2||2||4-3 even||Pass||PA wheel||Smith||Int|
|Okay, I get it. NW blitzes up the gut and gets instant pressure on Robinson, so he sees that Smith has blazed the corner on the play action and tosses the wheel. Safety intercepts because Robinson was rushed. Given some more time he would have either hit Koger wide open because the safety is sucking up or hit Smith wide open because the safety went with Koger. I think Schofield(-2) is the problem here—everyone else is blocking someone and Schofield is pulling into the middle of nowhere instead of reading the blitz up the middle. This is sad, because it was a beautiful design that should have been a wide open TD. I kind of want to PR this but can't. (BR, 0, protection 0/2, Schofield 2). Do not listen to this color guy: I think the safety busts here and that's why this is not wide open for Smith. Picture paged.|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 7-14, 14 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M28||1||10||I-Form twins||2||1||2||4-3 even||Run||Iso||Toussaint||5|
|Schofield loses the DT to the inside of him but not too badly; he fends him off well enough to prevent him from getting into the backfield. The two LBs are headed inside anyway, with Molk and Hopkins banging them. Not relevant because of the Schofield thing, which forces Toussaint behind and into the overhanging corner. No one did anything spectacularly good or bad on this play.|
|RUN+: Toussaint(0.5), Schofield(0.5)||RUN-:|
|M33||2||5||Shotgun 2-back TE||2||1||2||4-3 under||Run||Pin and pull zone||Toussaint||8 (Pen -10)|
|Koger(+1) blocks down on the playside DE and wins; Omameh(-0.5) loses playside DT. SLB is shooting upfield; Huyge contacts him a couple yards into the backfield, which Hopkins(+1) sees. He nails the guy before moving downfield; Huyge(-2) gets his arms around the neck of the SLB and gets a deserved holding call that may not have been necessary. Really wish Hopkins had just held up that guy without moving on but that's not his fault. Schofield(+1) had cut the WLB to the ground, so Hopkins didn't have anyone to block once he got past the LOS.|
|M23||2||15||Shotgun 2-back TE||2||1||2||4-3 even||Run||Triple option||Robinson||0|
|Northwestern has a LB overhanging the slot, which is a big difference from what Michigan's doing. Huyge(-2) blocks the playside DE, getting a lame shove before trying to release into the second level; he ends up blocking no one really, as that DE, the MLB, and the playside LB all flow out—instead of of one guy for two they have three. Robinson wisely eats it. RPS -2.|
|RUN+: N/A||RUN-: Huyge|
|M23||3||15||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||Stack two deep||Pass||Deep out||Dileo||Inc|
|Robinson finds a hole in a seven-man zone for first down yardage and throws it out there; Dileo extends for it but the thing bounces off his outstretched hand. Tight window throwing to a 5'9” receiver. If Dileo is 6'1” this is probably complete. Still, could have been better, results based, etc. (MA, 1, protection 2/2) Not a bad throw.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-14, 10 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M33||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||QB Iso||Robinson||2|
|They need to run oh noes about three times more often than they do. They're letting opponents cheat on this with impunity. Anyway, as soon as Denard moves to LOS LBs freak out and Denard decides to bounce. LBs flowing hard means that wasn't a terrible decision. M WRs now cracking down so there should be space but Gallon(-1) whiffs on his and Huyge's DE reaches out to grab Denard's jersey, at which point he just goes to ground after grabbing what he can. Evidence for the "jerseys are too easy to grab" crowd. RPS -1.|
|RUN+: Molk(0.5), Omameh(0.5)||RUN-: Gallon, Robinson(0.5)|
|M35||2||8||Shotgun twin TE twins||1||2||2||4-3 even||Run||Zone read dive||Toussaint||7|
|Someone on NW screws up as they blitz off the corner to contain and the WLB still scrapes over the top when the DE crashes. Toussaint has room behind the blocking because Schofield(+1) escorted his guy way down the line. Nice gain because of the vacated area.|
|M42||3||1||Maryland I||3||1||1||Goal line||Run||Iso||Toussaint||1|
|Argh shuffling fullback /shoots self. Watson(-2) shuffles; NW responds by having WLB CRUSH him at the LOS with a blitz. Another LB scrapes over the top, the original blitzer is still up, and Michigan gets nothing. Shuffling fullback. RPS -1.|
|RUN+: N/A||RUN-: Watson(2)|
|M43||4||In||Shotgun twin TE twins||1||2||2||4-3 even||Run||QB power||Robinson||3|
|Yes, Schofield: yes. Pulling again and NW blitzing in the same fashion that got them their INT two drives earlier. Schofield(+1) pulls up and seals the guy. That's it for NW since Koger(+1) and Watson(+1) blow up the playside DE; Smith kicks out the overhanging corner, and the last guy can't prevent Robinson from getting it. Picture paged.|
|RUN+: Schofield, Koger, Watson||RUN-:|
|M46||1||10||Shotgun trips||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||Zone read dive||Smith||6|
|NW playing it straight with the backside DE keeping contain as the linebackers flow frontside; backside NT gets under Lewan(+1), but Lewan keeps blocking him down the line and puts him on his butt; Smith(+1) hops behind that block and scoots through the hole before the contain DE can come down on him. He should really run away from that guy but instead tries to cut behind the slot WR's block, whereupon contain DE tackles him. RPS+1. Zone read FTW.|
|RUN+: Lewan, Smith||RUN-:|
|O48||2||4||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||QB power||Robinson||18|
|Late shift with slot blitz. M runs away from it. Playside LB blitzes, then holds up. Huyge(+0.5) stalemates the playside DE until Toussaint(+0.5) seals him enough; Koger(+1) fought off the DE upfield to provide a hole. Robinson(+1) bursts outside and heads into the secondary. RPS +1.|
|RUN+: Koger, Robinson, Toussaint(0.5), Huyge(0.5)||RUN-:|
|O30||1||10||Shotgun twin TE twins||1||2||2||4-3 even||Run||Zone belly||Toussaint||5|
|Similar to the previous one except with two TEs on that side who release downfield, so it's almost like a DT read. Like to see Michigan block that DE and spring Denard on the edge. Anyway, this is a lot like RR's old belly series, with the backside G and T doubling the DT and driving him downfield (+0.5 Omameh, Huyge) as the frontside DT gets the same business. LBs suck frontside; Toussaint cuts behind the backside double and is tackled from behind by the contain DE. This is the iso of the spread—hard for D to keep from getting some, hard for O to get a bunch.|
|RUN+: Omameh(0.5), Huyge(0.5)||RUN-:|
|O25||2||5||Ace trips tight bunch||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||Throwback screen||Gallon||25|
|The difference between this throwback and the previous one is pretty simple: the unblocked playside DE is thinking about defending the zone read and instead of peeling back on the screen when he's not blocked he tries to contain Denard. Yes, even though they're under center. He's dead. Also Huyge(+1) and Omameh(+1) block their dudes such that they cannot even touch Gallon(+0.5), who makes a super easy juke on a safety for six. RPS +1. (CA, 3, screen)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-14, 4 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M22||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||QB power||Robinson||-1|
|Omameh(-1) pulls and pulls incredibly slowly; Denard always has to wait for his blocking on these. By the time Omameh gets to the POA a non-crazy MLB has scraped to the LOS and put himself in a position where Omameh can't even block him. Robinson(-1) bounces outside because he's spooked by the blitzing WLB, which kills the blocking angles.|
|RUN+: Schofield(0.5), Koger(0.5)||RUN-: Omameh, Robinson|
|M21||2||11||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||Out||Roundtree||Inc|
|Another back-foot throw sails. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|M21||3||11||Shotgun trips TE||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||Rollout deep out||Hemingway||22|
|No NW players are tight on the edge so rolling the pocket works unless the playside DE flies straight upfield immediately; he does not and Smith chops him out of the play. Robinson has all day. He finds Hemingway, steps into the throw, and zings a twenty-yard dart at the sideline. (DO, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +1) This is an NFL throw. Hurrah for stepping into things.|
|M43||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||Slant||Gallon||13|
|LB creeps down off the corner as NW telegraphs a blitz. Soft corner on the 1WR side as NW runs a zone; Denard fires the ball in before the flat defender can get in the throwing lane. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|O44||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||Hitch||Roundtree||Inc|
|Airmailed. Possibly a good thing as a linebacker was threatening to run underneath the route but there's no way I can credit that as intentional. Routes were pretty well covered here. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|O44||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||Cross||Hemingway||Int|
|I can explain the previous interceptions. This one I have no idea. It's either a massively overthrown out to a double covered Hemingway or massively underthrown fade to Roundtree. (INX, 0, protection 2/2) Okay... on replay it's clear he's overthrowing Hemingway by ten yards. At least he was open!|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 14-21, 1 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M20||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-4 even||Run||Zone read dive||Smith||0|
|With a linebacker over the slot, safety rolls down for a full seventh in the box. Safety blitzes off the snap to contain the zone read, end crashes down, line slants hard playside. Smith has no choice but to run behind Omameh and get nailed by the backside DE. RPS -1.|
|M20||2||10||Shotgun 2-back TE||2||1||2||4-4 even||Run||Iso||Toussaint||-1|
|Backside DE again crashes with a scraper; Omameh(-1) loses the backside DT and there's nowhere to go. RPS –2 for same error twice in a row.|
|M19||3||11||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Stack two deep||Pass||Dig||Roundtree||17|
|Three man rush gives M all day. Robinson surveys and finds Roundtree for a bunch in between about four guys in the zone. (CA+, 2, protection 2/2)|
|M36||1||10||I-Form twins||2||1||2||4-3 under||Run||Iso||Toussaint||4|
|Unbalanced with Koger covered. This does not hit the intended hole as Omameh(-1) is shot back by the DT. Schofield(+0.5) gets a little push on the other DT, though not of the sealing variety, and Toussaint(+1) manages to cut behind him. A safety overhanging meets Toussaint about two yards downfield; he breaks a tackle and grabs a couple more.|
|RUN+: Toussaint, Schofield(0.5)||RUN-: Omameh|
|M40||2||6||Shotgun twin TE twins||1||2||2||4-3 even||Pass||PA Deep post||Roundtree||57|
|Max protection; Watson(-1) gets beat to the inside by the DE, who gets some pressure on Robinson. Robinson rolls away from it as Koger adjusts to push him out of the play. Spying LB now coming up hard. Robinson lets a 60-yard pass fly on the move. Roundtree's in single coverage and the DB is step-for-step. He slows up, then extends back as the ball arrives, getting a little bit of separation and bringing in the bomb. Um, so... if Henne had thrown this to Edwards? Yeah. (DO, 2, protection 2/3, Watson). How does NW let this happen on a two man route, I ask you?|
|O3||1||G||I-Form twins||2||1||2||Goal line||Run||Iso||Toussaint||1|
|Hopkins(-1) whiffs on the crashing LB, forcing Toussaint(+1) to cut behind after running through the resulting arm tackle. That's possible because Omameh(+1) kicked out the backside DE and Molk(+1) plugged a LB trying to hit the gap. Schofield did just okay against the other DT. Toussaint drags the LB who hit Hopkins to the one, where a corner scrapes over to take him down. Toussaint gets a crappy spot.|
|RUN+: Toussaint, Molk, Omameh||RUN-: Hopkins|
|O2||2||G||Shotgun twins twin TE||1||2||2||Goal line||Run||QB power||Robinson||0|
|Watson(-1) is stood up by the DE and gets beaten inside; Schofield(-1) then hits it up in that gap, leaving the outside guys by themselves, so Robinson can't do much other than follow into the big pile for little.|
|RUN+: N/A||RUN-: Watson, Schofield|
|O2||3||G||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||Goal line||Run||Speed option||Robinson||2|
|Stretch blocking immediately seals both playside DEs; Koger releases downfield and Robinson can walk in. Molk, Omameh, Huyge get pluses; RPS +1.|
|RUN+: Molk, Omameh, Huyge, Koger(0.5)||RUN-:|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-24, 10 min 1st Q. Option had nothing to do with the TD; DL was screwed by the zone step.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M20||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-4 even||Run||QB draw||Robinson||25|
|Tough to tell what exactly this was supposed to be since Robinson drops the snap but the line is pass blocking and the WRs are stalk-blocking so I'm guessing a QB draw. Seems designed to exploit the scrape as even though there's a delay the S flying right upfield can't do anything about this play that goes at the backside of the line. Huyge(+2) starts losing the DE to the inside of him but eventually stalls him at the line and drives him well past where he wants to go. Omameh(+1) is tasked with the SLB; he heads outside and he has to go around the Huyge block. He eventually gets back into position to wall off the pursuit after Robinson(+2) bursts past them. Shaw(+1) is the lead blocker, he cuts the last LB. Robinson into the secondary. Gallon(-1) couldn't do anything with his corner and probably cost Michigan five or six yards. RPS +1, I'm guessing.|
|RUN+: Huyge(2), Robinson(2), Omameh, Shaw||RUN-: Gallon|
|M45||1||10||Shotgun 2back TE||2||1||2||4-3 even||Pass||PA Hitch||Roundtree||9|
|No pressure at all with just a three man route; NW playing soft and opens up a hitch for solid yardage. You want Robinson to find this a bit faster to open up some YAC. (CA, 3, protection 2/2) RPS +1; good way to exploit the now-terrified NW corners.|
|O46||2||1||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||4-3 even||Run||Zone read keeper||Robinson||-1|
|Yuck. NW slants away from the play; Molk(-1) gets crushed back by the NT coming into him and the other guy wraps around the backside of the line, getting Toussaint tackled behind the line. Robinson is also tackled behind the line because he didn't ride the fake long enough; instead he pulls it really fast and allows the NW DE to redirect to him. Ugly, ugly, ugly. RPS -2.|
|RUN+: N/A||RUN-: Robinson, Molk, Lewan|
|O47||3||2||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-4 even||Run||QB power||Robinson||4|
|Safety in box. Michigan runs QB power and just barely gets it thanks to a monster play from Schofield(+2). NW slanting hard, getting under Koger(-1) and threatening to get their backside DE straight upfield into Denard. Schofield has to peel off and plug him. He does. Koger keeps pushing the DE past the play. SLB flows up hard, then breaks down at the LOS; Robinson slows up in response, and Schofield disengages from the Koger block to plug the SLB. Robinson squeezes through the hole, jukes the backside DE flowing down after dropping into a short zone, and ekes out the first. RPS -1.|
|RUN+: Schofield(2), Robinson(2)||RUN-: Koger|
|O43||1||10||Denard Jet||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||Counter pitch||Shaw||4|
|Huyge somehow manages to not seal the playside DE despite the guy stepping playside; he should easily get this guy out the play. Instead DE disconnects and starts flowing. He's a couple yards outside the LB and that's the difference between three yards and seven. RPS +1; should have worked, no blocking necessary.|
|RUN+: N/A||RUN-: Huyge|
|O39||2||6||Shotgun 2back TE||2||1||2||4-4 even||Pass||Devious TE seam||Koger||19|
|This is bizarre, with both RBs running flare screens and the OL splitting to block them but remaining careful to remain behind the LOS. Koger then releases on a quick seam as the DL and LBs bug out for the flare screens. It's complete, though a NW DB is alert enough to hit right on the catch. Koger powers through the tackle for some extra yardage. What if the DL tear after Robinson? I don't know man. (CA, 3, protection N/A, RPS +1)|
|O20||1||10||Ace trips tight bunch||1||1||3||4-3 press||Run||Outside pitch||Shaw||1|
|Pitch formation; they run the pitch. Koger(+1) blows up the playside DE; Odoms(+1) mountain-goats a DB. Dileo gets a cut on the inside of another DB, and Molk is bugging out for the last LB after guys releasing downfield blow up the rest of the world. Shaw(-2) misses the intended gap in favor of BOUNCEBOUNCEBOUNCEBOUNCE, allowing the DB, who gets up from the cut to string him out until he gets a yard at the sideline.|
|RUN+: Odoms, Koger||RUN-: Shaw(2)|
|O19||2||9||Denard Jet||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||Throwback screen||Smith||6|
|Okay, 51 is McNaul. I like him. Smart kid. On this play he diagnoses the throwback screen and is out on it too fast for Schofield or Molk to do anything about it. He's about to blow this up for a loss when Gallon(+1) accelerates on his crackback and shoves him past Smith. Smith(+1) still has to spin through this without losing his balance, which he does. The delay allows a corner to come up, forcing it inside despite Lewan(+1) getting a chop. Schofield(-1) ran past the MLB flowing from the inside; he tackles.|
|RUN+: Gallon, Smith, Lewan||RUN-: Schofield|
|O13||3||3||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||4-3 even||Run||Speed option||Robinson||12|
|Omameh(-1) fails to cut the backside DT. Schofield(+1) does latch onto the frontside guy and push him down the line. Koger... actually I don't think I mind Koger losing the DE to the inside because that should mean the pitch is wide open, which it is. Robinson says no to that and shoots up behind Schofield in front of the DT that Omameh did not cut; he got too far upfield and was off balance. Once past that hole he's got Molk, Lewan, and Huyge blocking downfield. Lewan(+1) donkeys McNaul. Molk(+1) gets another linebacker, and when McNaul sheds Lewan Huyge(+1) is there to pick him up. Robinson dances through all this to the goal line.|
|RUN+: Robinson(3), Lewan, Molk, Huyge||RUN-: Omameh|
|O1||1||G||I-form Big||2||2||1||Goal line||Run||FB dive||Toussaint||1|
|This play again. NW is ready for it. When Hopkins motions out of the backfield, one of the linebackers points at Toussaint and the other one adjusts his alignment. They jump at him; Toussaint ends up just short.|
|O1||2||G||I-form Big||2||2||1||Goal line||Run||FB dive||Toussaint||0|
|For some reason Toussaint doesn't jump this time.|
|O1||3||G||Maryland I||2||3||0||Goal line||Pass||Waggle scramble||Gardner||1|
|Gardner does have Watson open but knows he can outrun the LB and beats him to the corner. I'm not RPSing a goal line play unless it's just ridiculously easy. This is not quite ridiculously easy.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 28-24, 3 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O47||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||PA Fly||Gallon||Inc|
|Gallon has his man beaten by yards but the throw is long. Robinson stepped into it and everything, he just missed. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|O47||2||10||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||4-3 even||Run||QB draw||Robinson||25|
|Line slanting so Omameh(+1) has a somewhat easy job to push the DT out of the hole. He still does it with aplomb. Molk(+1) gets out on the MLB; McNaul is coming to the line but momentarily thinks pass and takes a step back, which allows Shaw(+1) to cut him to the ground. Big hole; Denard zips up into it, eventually getting taken down by the ankles by the FS. RPS +1. This was the "nice block" play.|
|RUN+: Molk, Robinson, Omameh, Shaw||RUN-:|
|O22||1||10||Shotgun twin TE twins||1||2||2||4-4 even||Run||QB power||Robinson||0|
|Just tons of guys headed to the line again, with McNaul zipping into the play. Schofield does block him but Robinson has to slow up because of how far McNaul is into the backfield. Shaw(-1) basically misses his guy and the overhanging safety creeps up to help tackle at the line. RPS -1. RUN-: Shaw.|
|O22||2||10||Ace twins twin TE||1||2||2||4-3 even||Pass||Waggle cross||Jackson||19|
|Gardner in. Michigan does exploit the aggressive NW defense by running the waggle; Gardner has multiple options as Jackson beats the linebackers on his crossing route and Koger releases wide open in the flat. Gardner goes deeper, making a back-foot-ish toss that's a dart right to Jackson's hands for first and goal. (CA+, 3, protection N/A, RPS +1)|
|O3||1||G||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||QB power||Robinson||0|
|Just too much traffic. I think Huyge(-0.5) and Koger(-0.5) don't do great on their blocks—no movement and then there's a free hitter because it's so tight here.|
|O3||2||G||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||Inside zone||Shaw||3|
|Yeah, that adjustment thing where Shaw is supposedly directed to get outside is entirely Shaw's brain going BOUNCE. He has good reason here since Schofield(-1) gives up penetration; a DT falls in the middle of the line, erasing any potential holes. Shaw bounces to the outside, where his speed and a great block from Gallon get him into the endzone. This too may be an effect of super aggressive NW LBs being super aggressive—playside LB runs straight upfield into a block.|
|RUN+: Shaw, Gallon||RUN-: Schofield|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 35-24, 14 min 4th Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M42||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||QB power||Robinson||-7|
|Away from the RB to break a tendency with Molk pulling, but NW blitzes right into it. Robinson(-2) should try to hit it up behind Molk and get back to the LOS before a free LB nails him; instead he reverses field and gets eaten up by the slanting Wildcat line. RPS -1.|
|RUN+: N/A||RUN-: Robinson(2)|
|M35||2||17||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||Screen||Shaw||12|
|Same blitz; Michigan throws a screen at the vacated area. Molk and Schofield are in the area and get decent blocks but don't take their guys out; they do give Shaw a bunch of room to the sidelines. (CA, 3, screen, RPS +2)|
|M47||3||5||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Stack two deep||Pass||Hitch||Gallon||17|
|Gallon gets the NW CB to turn his back, then stops; Robinson tosses it out there on the money. Gallon can turn it up for bonus YAC because the throw is on time and the CB is remembering that one time he got burned like whoah. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2)|
|O36||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||4-3 even||Run||QB draw||Robinson||-2|
|It's hard to tell whether this is actually a blitz or if the LBs are just looking for this play; both of them absolutely fly up into the intended gap, overwhelming the lead block of Shaw and getting a TFL. Once too many times to the well. RPS -1.|
|RUN+: N/A||RUN-: Shaw|
|O38||2||12||Shotgun 2back TE||1||2||2||4-4 even||Run||Sweep||Shaw||9|
|Not quite the pin and pull as this has down blocking, not zone steps; Molk and Schofield pull; Hopkins leads. Koger(+0.5) gets enough of the playside DE to take him out of the play. Hopkins(+2) shoots up into the hole and cuts the playside LB to the ground, getting a 3 for 1 when the guy trailing him and the guy trailing the trailer go down. Schofield kicks the edge guy. Odoms(+1) gets a safety and Shaw(+1) hits the gap for a nice gain. This is not actually a fumble, as the ball comes out when his elbow smashes the ground. We are now tipping runs by inserting Odoms, btw.|
|RUN+: Shaw, Odoms, Hopkins(2), Koger(0.5), Schofield(0.5)||RUN-:|
|O29||3||3||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||4-3 even||Run||Speed option||Robinson||-2|
|Massively aggressive McNaul is massively aggressive, shooting the gap between the two playside doubles. Robinson has two options: pitch to Toussaint who may or may not have it on the edge, or cut back. Cutback is there because the backside DT crumpled to the ground with little provocation (+1 Omameh, I guess). Backside DE is flowing down the line but Robinson is almost certain to get the first down or something close enough to it to go if he just goes straight upfield; instead he tries to dance around that guy and loses two yards.|
|RUN+: Omameh||RUN-: Robinson(2)|
|Drive Notes: Missed FG(48), 9 min 4th Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O38||1||10||Shotgun 2back TE||1||2||2||4-4 even||Run||Pin and pull zone||Shaw||6|
|Huyge and Molk pulling and Omameh and Koger zone step to get playside of their guys. Koger(+1) kills his dude downfield; Omameh(+1) also wins his block. Playside LB reads what's going on and shoots upfield to cut-block Huyge, creating a pile Shaw has to go around. Shaw can cut up or bounce and bounces, which is good because Lewan had no shot at the backside DT. Shaw's speed(+1) gets him the edge as Hopkins(+1) kicks out the corner.|
|RUN+: Omameh, Koger, Shaw, Hopkins||RUN-:|
|O32||2||4||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||4-3 even||Run||QB power||Robinson||4|
|Huyge(-1) gets beat on his down-block, erasing any hole that may exist and forcing a cutback. Omameh(+1) blew out the backside DT so there's a gap, one filled by the MLB; Robinson(+1) ducks under him to near the first down.|
|RUN+: Robinson, Omameh||RUN-: Huyge|
|O28||3||in||I-Form twins||2||1||2||4-4 even||Run||Iso||Toussaint||2|
|Lewan moves a hair early and does not get called. Refs +1. Thanks to that his kick is easy, but no plus because he is not playing by the rules. Schofield(+1) kicks his guy; Hopkins(+0.5) gets a block on the MLB but has it shed. That block erases MLB's momentum and allows Toussaint(+0.5) to bowl him over for the first.|
|RUN+: Hopkins(0.5), Toussaint(0.5), Schofield||RUN-:|
|O26||1||10||Shotgun 2TE twins||1||2||2||4-3 even||Run||QB power||Robinson||3|
|Double on playside DT just does work; Huyge(+1) helps Omameh(-0.5) get a push and then releases into the MLB; Omameh almost loses the DT when that happens but Robinson is too quick. CB coming around the outside does not get picked off; Robinson runs through the tackle attempt. Toussaint(+1) nailed McNaul, so there's a crease. Schofield is heading downfield into the safety after a chunk; Robinson is about to pop outside when the playside DE nails him after disconnection from Watson downfield. Not Watson's fault, just a good play. I'm impressed with him. 97: Tyler Scott. Redshirt sophomore. Robinson's bounce attempt holds this to three when he gets six if he just burrows.|
|RUN+: Huyge, Toussaint||RUN-: Omameh(0.5)|
|O23||2||7||Shotgun 2back TE||2||1||2||4-3 even||Run||Pin and pull zone||Toussaint||-1|
|Opposition LBs tearing hell bent after this. Schofield's downblock is almost ducked under; he shoves the NT past the play. Both LBs shoot the gap between this and the Koger block; Molk peels to get one of them but is just one dude; McNaul tackles for loss. RPS -1. Had this and the keeper dead.|
|O24||3||8||I-Form twins||2||1||2||4-3 even||Pass||PA corner||Hemingway||18|
|Lewan goes to the sideline and Mealer comes in. M puts him at RT, flips Huyge to LT, and places a TE next to Mealer. They run PA. Koger(-2) gets killed by Scott, who comes in to pressure Robinson. He doesn't want to get juked so he comes in slow. Short stuff is covered because the edge LB backed off Toussaint's block into the otherwise open Hopkins, but Denard fires deep anyway, finding Hemingway just in front of a safety. (DO, 2, protection 0/2, Koger -2)|
|O6||1||G||I-Form twins||2||1||2||4-4 even||Run||Iso||Shaw||3|
|Schofield(+1) seals and sends the playside DT to the ground. Lewan(+0.5) does okay with the DE. Hopkins gets a piece of the MLB; Molk(+0.5) pushes McNaul past the play from the other side as Shaw(+1) deftly cuts between the two.|
|RUN+: Schofield, Lewan(0.5), Shaw, Molk(0.5)||RUN-:|
|O3||2||G||Shotgun 2back TE||2||1||2||Goal line||Run||Power off tackle||Toussaint||-2|
|MLB blitzes the gap between the playside double and Schofield, making a TFL. RPS or Omameh not adjusting? Not sure. Hopkins(-1) did a crappy job on the edge, though and his guy helps tackle. RPS -1, Omameh off the hook—this would be a hard block to make.|
|O5||3||G||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||QB draw||Robinson||5|
|Omameh(-1) driven back by a bull rush and the MLB hits Toussaint at the LOS so not much in the way of places to go here; Robinson bounces and because the playside LB turned his back to zone drop after chucking Koger the corner is open. Nice block by Dileo.|
|RUN+: Dileo, Robinson(2)||RUN-: Omameh|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 42-24, 2 min 4th Q|
Yay a billion points yay!
Yeah, man, that's a lot of points when you turn the ball over three times and miss a field goal. I'm not entirely sure how they managed it, honestly.
But they have all of the Denards.
Yeah, and all of the third down conversions. For all of the angst about Denard's passing he sure reminded me of John Navarre in the
2004 2002 Ohio State game from time to time. In that game Michigan drives went like this:
- 0 yard run
- 1 yard run
- 15 yard Navarre laser to Avant or Edwards
- -2 yard run
- 1 yard run
- 16 yard Navarre laser to Avant or Edwards
Here Denard got put behind the chains frequently and did this:
So… yeah. Weird, weird day. When not throwing terrible interceptions he was good. You can see this in the—
[Hover over column headers for explanation of abbreviation.]
|2009, All Of It||1||7||6(2)||3(1)||4||4||-||-||?||44%|
|Notre Dame '11||6||7(1)||1||6(1)||5||1||1||1||-||50%|
Gardner picked up a TA (the three yard run after a jet fake), a SCR (TD), and a CA+(Jackson to the three).
You can see a couple of those four DOs above, long conversions in small holes in the zone. The one on the last touchdown drive is notable because Koger lost #97* and he proceeded to pressure Denard. Result:
Also first and goal. Compare that to his first half:
One of these was a zinger into Hemingway's chest, the other a massively underthrown duck Watson managed to dig out that only wasn't an INT because the guy covering Watson is also one of the guys about four yards away from Denard.
It was remarkable how consistent the mechanical issues were in this game. Back foot was misery, front foot glory. The hope is that's the thing he needs to get corrected and once he does he'll be good at throwing. He certainly was in the second half, when he added two DOs, 5 CAs, and a single understandable IN (the overthrown bomb to Gallon) to a diabolical first half.
*[Who I liked enough to look up on the Northwestern roster: redshirt sophomore Tyler Scott. New starter. Active kid, will be good.]
Let me hear about the receiving corps.
They had an excellent outing.
No drops and seven instances where receivers brought in medium difficulty throws. It's clear by the way I file these that you should be hauling in well more than half of them but no drops in seven opportunities is pretty good. They were at 58% before Northwestern.
Two of those catches were the bombs to Hemingway and Roundtree that were over 100 of Michigan's 541 total yards; on both the WRs showed excellent skill to high-point the ball.
Roundtree's slow-then-extend technique…
…was not quite as flawless as Manningham's. He still caught around his shoulder-pads, not above his head. But slowing down like that puts the DB in a bind. He can run you over, or he can get his head around because you have implied the ball is well underthrown and he can make a play on it. The slow-to-extend gives the DB the wrong idea about the location of the ball and if done perfectly means the guy can't make a play on it at all. Here he could, but didn't know where it was. Meanwhile, Hemingway is Junior Megatron, as Steve Sapardanis dubbed him on MVictors.
Those plays were not luck, and calling them jump balls is harsh. This was not ND when you were throwing back shoulder fades against over the top coverage (or double coverage) that may not have been that intentional. These were balls that gave the WR an opportunity to make a play in single coverage when they have the advantage.
As for the line, they had a step back:
|Lewan||4.5||2||2.5||Why so low, numbers? Discussion later.|
|Omameh||10||7.5||3.5||Thought he'd come out worse than this but more later.|
|Huyge||9||6.5||2.5||Pretty much his average.|
|Schofield||12||7||5||Pulling mania. This third down conversion was all him.|
|Watson||1||3||-2||Not so strong.|
|Koger||8||2||6||Had a day, yo.|
|TOTAL||51.5||29||22.5||Ratio drops and overall ++ go down: 50 carries this week.|
|Robinson||12||9.5||2.5||Missed a lot of opportunities and made some bad decisions; still Denard.|
|Gardner||1||-||1||One scramble, one edge TD.|
|Shaw||6||4||2||bounce bounce bounce bounce|
|Smith||2||1||1||Major step back in usefulness, possibly because of Hopkins…|
|Hopkins||5.5||2||3.5||…who seemed to usurp Smith's role as blocking dude.|
|TOTAL||30||18.5||11.5||Not what you'd like to see from 50 carries.|
|TOTAL||5.5||2||3.5||Secondary less involved.|
|Protection||33||6||85%||Koger 2, Schofield 2, Watson 1, Huyge 1|
Michigan averaged 3.6 YPC on 50 carries, which is disturbing. Some of that was on the ballcarriers, especially Robinson, who missed opportunities to pick up first downs, mitigate damage, or break big ones. Some of that is on the line, which went from averaging 2 plus for every minus to a 5:3 ratio. Some of that was RPS. Michigan won it, but break it down into pass and run RPSs and Michigan wins the first massively and loses the second not quite as massively.
Northwestern stacks the line and says "just try to run on us." That's why Michigan got 3.6 YPC, Illinois got 3.1, and why the Wildcat secondary is giving up 12.5 YPA the last two weeks*. The difference on Michigan's long bombs in this game is there was no safety over the top to cause woe.
Even so, I'm a little worried about the run game now. Pass blocking was again very good, though.
*[They gave up a ton to Army but Army is a pure triple option team so overloading the box is something they are designed to handle and getting aggressive gets you gashed.]
What is with those Lewan numbers?
I know, right? The system doesn't try to judge blocks that are far away from the play and often declares an easy thing done okay to be a zero, so backside tackles and down-blocking guys a gap away from the play rarely register. Lewan rarely registered and this week's picture pages were examples of Schofield pulling, Schofield pulling, and Schofield pulling. Why is Michigan pulling the converted tackle backup and running away from their donkey-hating first round tackle?
The only conclusion that makes sense is they hate pulling Omameh. When they did pull left, they pulled Molk or Schofield and Molk, only rarely trying Omameh. Early in the year they were a left-handed power team; now they're right-handed, seemingly because Omameh can't pull and when he does manage to get into the hole without making Denard slow up he gets knocked backwards too often. So they give him the relatively easy job of blocking down and run behind Huyge, who's decent but no Lewan.
Where did Vincent Smith go?
I don't know, man. I think they may have tossed the screen to Shaw just to break a tendency. Smith did get in one of his usual blitz pickups:
I don't think his brief absence in the second half means he's going to lose his playing time as long as he's doing that.
Why do these throwback screens keep working even though they seem bloody obvious?
The throwback screen from under center on waggle action? It works because the playside tackle releases outside, the linebackers have to respect the play action, and Denard Is Job One for opposing defenses:
Borges has been punishing those uber-responsible DEs, so at least the waggle's given us that.
Scheme complaints of the week?
I would have like to see more play action to punish aggressive linebackers, but I was largely content. Rollouts were minimized and successful, the tunnel screen evaporated, and the I-Form was restricted to passing(!) and short yardage with one or two exceptions.
Nits: the FB dive over the top has run its course and the Denard Jet package was a little too obvious.
The receivers as a unit. Gallon, Hemingway, and Roundtree were flawless and punished Northwestern for their aggression against the run. Also Good Denard.
Evil Denard. The offensive line could have done better, and as a group the tailbacks had an off day.
What does it mean for Michigan State and beyond?
If Michigan can't get a ground game going against a cover-two I'll start to get seriously worried but it's hard to judge against a team so hell bent on defending the run they'll put you in crappy single coverage all over the field so your QB can still have an obliterating QB rating despite three terrible interceptions.
So not seriously worried. Still a little worried. Michigan does not run power well but unlike running under center they don't seem to be moving away from it. The stretch blocking on the speed option is still providing cutback lanes, which I like better than the pin and pull because it gives you multiple ways to succeed. It's possible that MSU crushes power blocking, leaving Borges to scramble to find something else after falling behind.
Denard… well. I hope he can step into his throws consistently and that is his only accuracy issue. If so it's a matter of keeping him clean and exploiting overreactions to his legs. This will be a test for him and for Borges. The latter is consistently picking up yards with new stuff; I hope he's got a bundle left before the bye week.
9/10/2011 – Michigan 35, Notre Dame 31 – 2-0
is this real life?
Not only can Denard Robinson redefine All-America teams, average nearly 500 yards per game against Notre Dame, and pilot the most insane fourth quarter Michigan Stadium has ever seen, but he can sum up what happened on Saturday in a single word:
If you still need evidence that Denard can do things other people can't, there you go. Because I've got nothing. I can gape, slack-jawed and twitching, if you'd like. Oh, and I can put my finger between my lips and go "brrrrrrrrrbbrbrbrbrbrbrbrbrrbb" with crazy googly eyes. Also I can spin in a circle going "yip yip yip yip yip."
These are my capabilities. All other functions are currently offline. Attempt to access higher cognition and you will receive 503 Gateway Not Found.
That's fine. There's nothing to say that "brrrrrrbrbrbrbrbrrbrbrb" doesn't cover anyway. I am so high, you guys. I don't even know what I'm saying.
Seriously. I'm really struggling here to put words in the computer. I guess… okay.
The thing I really really hated about the first three quarters (other than everything) was the way the offense made Denard mortal. This extended beyond the usual reasons 90 yards of offense in a half make you homicidal. Not only were we lost and hopeless in our first serious game after returning nine starters from one of the nation's most explosive offenses, but the guy who didn't transfer when his offense got fired out from under him was busy playing out everyone's worst-case scenarios.
I don't think I can take football games in which I'd rather have Alex Carder than Denard Robinson. A return of freshman Denard looking like a sad panda is too depressing for a multitude of reasons but mostly because just look at him:
Shoehorning him into an offense that doesn't fit him is a crime against man and panda and manpanda. He had to be dying in the first half as he flung balls to Tacopants and ran waggles the entire stadium could predict. People twittered me about moving him to RB so Gardner can get on the field. I couldn't block them from my phone. The tweets sat there, whispering evil things into my ear.
As I projected Denard's state of mind my own got inky black. The road ahead seemed like another two years of painful rebuilding towards a goal Denard will never see, his career relegated to that of Brandon Graham when Desmond Howard seemed in reach. It's going to kill me if Denard ends up a really good player on a mediocre team for the duration of his career and Michigan doesn't end up making anyone who wants 16 in the future wear a patch with dreads on it. It's going to be worse if he's not even a really good player. Someone is at fault for this travesty.
I was running advanced equations of blame assignment amongst Bill Martin, Rich Rodriguez, Al Borges, Dave Brandon, and bloody fate when Denard rolled out. Corralled by a Notre Dame defender, he stood perfectly still but still delivered a game-changing dart to Junior Hemingway before two more ND players could close in.
From there the delirium took over.
That game was delirious because of the many improbable events stacked on each other. Jeremy Gallon jump-ball touchdowns. Tommy Rees's aiming device locked on Michael Floyd. Tommy Rees throwing a ball backwards for no reason. More jump balls to Junior Hemingway and Roy Roundtree and Jeremy Gallon turning invisible with 23 seconds left. All the reasons it left you with your finger between your teeth are reasons to wonder about the smoothness of this transition (not very), the repeatability of such miracles (even less).
This isn't to blame anyone—it seems that coaches are who they are and as much as I want to, you can't hire a guy based on the two years left you've got with Denard. But I hope I'm not the only one who felt a sense of foreboding in the midst of the joy and relief. We've seen this script the last two years, and never has it been as rickety.
Michigan has to fix some stuff—lots of stuff—by the Big Ten season. The stakes are only Denard's career, everyone's faith in the Ethical Les Miles theory of Hoke's success, and the very survival of pandas in the wild. I'll take the escape. I wonder what happens when the drugs wear off and real life reasserts itself.
For now, though:
The game is ova!
Non-Bullets Of WHAT?
Pantheon placement. I think this is below Braylonfest—but only just—in the competition for Best Comeback Ever (that people 32 or under remember). For Michigan to pull Braylonfest out they had to recover an onside kick and survive not just triple overtime by an oft-forgotten 50-yard field goal attempt at the end of regulation that was set up by a horrible pass interference call.
A good proxy for the level of kickass in your comeback is how many people left the stadium early. While there were some people who took off when ND made it 24-7, they don't compare to the legions who left early during that MSU game. And winning that eventually got Michigan a Rose Bowl appearance. The season-long significance of this ND game is going to be lower.
It easily beats out the Buffalo Stampede game, since it's not against Minnesota or in the Metrodome, and then it's a long way to fourth place.
As far as best game ever… it depends on what you're rating it on. I like my defining victories to be well-played and not hinge on the opposing quarterback throwing the ball backwards for no reason. In terms of pure drama it's up there but with both teams unranked and not looking likely to defy that I'd say most Ohio State games before we stopped being competitive had more salt to them. We lost all the ones that came down to the last play, though.
The entire Denard interview. If you missed this, you should fix that:
Commence the bitching about the offense. Watching Michigan run a play-action bomb from the I-formation after averaging exactly two yards per carry out of the I on previous attempts was exactly what I was beating into the ground over the offseason. No one is scared of Michigan's crappy backs running power out of the I-form so no one has to cheat to it. Thus instead of Worst Waldo plays featuring Roy Roundtree and twenty yards of grass we got a lot of hopeful downfield jump balls into excellent coverage.
Michigan was lucky as hell to get most of those. That was a Jeff Bowden special right there. I'm not alone in this. There has to be some adaptation now that we know the relative success rates of manball and Denardball. When Denard's averaging 7.5 YPC (sack excluded) and the rest of the backs under are 2, power is a lost cause.
Denard has to be the focal point of the offense, fragile or no. And the new offense seemed to remove Denard's legs as the primary threat without actually reducing his carries: he had 15 carries* in just 50 snaps. Project that to last year's 72 offensive snaps per game and Denard would have carried 22(!) times. What's the point of throwing away snaps on two-yard runs from the I?
Primary thing that may just work. "Chuck it up to Hemingway" may be the world's most primitive passing game but dang if it doesn't work. Hemingway not only has great leaping ability, he's enormous and therefore capable of boxing out opponents. Add in an uncanny knack for being able to high-point the ball and he's a hell of a lot like Marquise Walker before Walker got the dropsies as a senior.
Primary thing that did work from under center. Vincent Smith's throwback screen touchdown was a great call since it used Denard's legs. He rolls, defense freaks, he throws back, Smith should have an easy touchdown if any of the offensive linemen block that one linebacker, Smith makes it happen anyway. Contrast with the earlier screen where a short Denard has to float a ball over a guy leaping in his face and ends up throwing it eight yards too far and getting it picked off.
And introducing… Facepalm Guy. The facepalm guy from the sad fugee face picture in the "So I Was Like" post: the the new Lloyd Brady? He's already won an award for "Media Criticism" from Doctor Saturday.
1) He caught ESPN's camera's capturing his facepalm moment and gave them an oh-no-you-di'in't:
2) After the game he… well, he did this:
Can a brother get a Facepalm Guy touchdown Jesus photoshop?
(HT to MGoUser Haterade.)
Defensive events. Brandon Herron and Mike Jones were supposedly out with injury but if I had to guess they were not so badly hurt they couldn't play and Michigan was trying out their other options at WLB. Desmond Morgan started, played poorly—he got trucked like he was in a BTN practice highlight-type substance—and was yanked. Then Brandin Hawthorne came in and may have been plausible. He knifed into the backfield for one key TFL on third and short. I'm guessing he was at least partially responsible for a number of Cierre Wood runs that went for big yardage, but we'll see. WLB remains a sore spot.
The other sore spot is an alarming, unexpected one: WDE. Craig Roh had zero tackles for the second straight week and while he did get a QB hurry or two he seems less impactful from that spot than he did last year. I mean, last year he split two ND linemen and picked up a huge TFL en route to a +11 day. This year he'll be lucky to break even. Hopefully he's still sick. I wonder if we see more Black in the short term.
How did Jordan Kovacs only have eight tackles?
BONUS: Will Campbell got held! By an offensive lineman!
Special teams. Matt Wile has been at least average spelling Hagerup, and with only one more real-ish game left before the latter returns it looks like Michigan will escape that suspension without much real damage. I still hate the regular punt. If ND's John Goodman hadn't made inexplicable fair catches he had tons of room on two of Wile's five punts despite Wile's excellent hangtime.
The patch thing. It's pretty cool. Some potential tweaks and additions:
- Should we un-retire numbers? I could get behind a 98 if it meant someone was going to be sitting in front of a locker that said Tom Harmon. You'd have to ask whoever the nearest relative is.
Further locker room additions. Everyone who's been an All-American should have their name engraved in a fashion more understated than this legends designation…
...but still be there. Having Chappius and Oosterbaan and Friedman and McKenzie and Dierdorf and Long's names up in the locker room would be a nice way to recognize All-Americans past.
- Next up. AC and Woodson. If they don't put the retired numbers back in circulation. Jake Long would probably be next up way down the road.
- The patch is too big. That's just, like, my opinion, man.
So there's this. Exploit your children for fun and profit:
Profit not applicable.
Pom-poms and RAWK and crowd noise. Is it just me or was the stadium not actually very loud when it would help out the most? The pom-poms encouraged people to use their hands shaking pom-poms instead of making noise and while the piped-in music was indeed loud, when it cut out the people in the stadium making noise were largely going "OH oh oh oh oh, OH oh oh oh oh" instead of "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA." The latter is louder.
Putting aside the insults to the Great Tradition they represent, is the noise level created by the frippery mostly cosmetic? It has seemed much louder in Michigan Stadium—I was frustrated as I was screaming myself hoarse on the last drive while people around me shook their little plastic thingies. Plastic thingy shaking is not that intimidating, people.
And then there's the guy two rows in front of you who's shaking the thing constantly so you can't see the game. In the South they have a protocol about these things: raise that thing above your shoulder during a play and you're not getting that arm back. Here we get them every five years or so and there's always someone who thinks row 14 is the last one.
ST3 goes inside the box score. Michael Scarn says trying to describe that game was like taking a picture of Bigfoot. Post-ND MonuMental riff by ppToilet. (You can't choose your username, man, it chooses you.) MonuMental himself shows up to modify his Denard action figure for the occasion.
Pretty much the best. An obviously drunk Jeff at Maize Pages digs up the fantastically entertaining Roundtree-Shaw Newlywed game BTN video in response to the delerium.
Photo galleries and assorted media. Pregame shots from MNB Nation. Other shots from MNBN. The Shredder took a zillion shots. Tailgating from AnnArbor.com. Also the game. Here's a great stadium shot from Melanie Maxwell:
Also here's this dude:
The whole gallery is worth checking out.
Wolverine Historian put together a 28 minute highlight reel.
Column-type events. Wojo. More Wojo. MVictors also fills you in on the techno viking behind Hoke: yes, it's Steve Everitt, and no, you do not want to get between him and his cubs. Kyle Meinke says Denard was a big part of the offense and the running backs weren't and that's not so cool. Florek in the Daily.
UGA/M dual-fan Michael at Braves & Birds wonders whether it's better to play poorly and win (as Michigan did) or play well and lose (as Georgia did).
Entertaining serieseses of bullets. MVictors:
On the sunny side, they pulled out all the stops in the press box for the media on hand. Witness the butter dish of victory:
This might have been Brandon's special bonus.
[Robinson's] total of 446 yards and 5 touchdowns was excellent, but how he got there was strange. Through three quarters of football, he was 4-for-14 passing (if that accuracy rate sounds familiarly horrible, that's because it's the same as Michigan's kickers circa 2010) for 136 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions. In the fourth stanza, Robinson went 8-for-11 for 217 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception, plus a recovered Stephen Hopkins fumble that he turned into a touchdown.
That graph is intended as a baseline estimator for a team's real-time win probability and is independent of situation, but the site also offers a crude win probability calculator, which, while it's calibrated to an NFL scale, can at least give us a decent estimate of how unlikely Michigan's victory was: four percent, Michigan's win probability after Notre Dame's slot receiver scampered into the endzone without a defender in site. Denard Robinson laughs at your probabilities and says, "Really? Oh man, that's crazy," and throws the ball to Jeremy Gallon standing alone in the Notre Dame secondary.
Maize and Blue Nation wins best headline: "The Denard. The Denard. The Denard."
National takes: Adam Jacobi marvels and notes that Robinson couldn't throw the ball even when he was completing passes; he also points out that uh… the Big Ten is not so much this year. Doctor Saturday:
Here, instead of merely covering poorly, Notre Dame subsequently failed to cover Wolverine receiver Jeremy Gallon at all, incredibly freeing him for a 64-yard sprint to the Irish 16-yard line with eight seconds left for a) A couple shots at the winning touchdown; b) A shot at a field goal to tie; or c) A confused catastrophe that left 110,000 people contemplated mass hara-kiri. With all of every one of those people secretly fearing c), Robinson delivered the dagger.
Robinson was, again, heroic for Michigan. He has brutalized the Irish the past two seasons, rolling up a mind-boggling 948 yards of total offense to go with eight TDs. His performance in the fourth quarter Saturday night was downright epic: 7 of 9, 202 yards, three passing touchdowns to go with six carries for 24 yards and another TD. In all, he accounted for a staggering 226 of his team's 229 yards.
In Case You Live Under A Rock
Is Al Borges going to play to his strengths or Denard's?
Borges has been talking about lots of wide receivers and lots of shotgun since people started him asking the obvious question of the offseason. This has not kept people from asking him "yeah, but how much?" The only thing Borges could have done to get people to cease and desist is present a signed contract guaranteeing a certain number of shotgun snaps and QB Draw Oh Noes.
He didn't quite do that in his interview with the BTN crew when they hit up Ann Arbor, but he came closer than he ever had before:
Point blank: Denard "is the priority." (Readers wishing to contrast with Rich Rodriguez are asked to focus on his obsession with a poorly-run 3-3-5, not his inability to squeeze maximum production out of the ragtag 2008 offense.)
The spring game disputes this version of reality:
They kept running the waggle and Denard could not get anything out of it. There was a guy in his face the whole time; the resulting throws were frequently incomplete due to inaccuracy. In the video above when Hoke references a couple of "drops" the best examples the BTN can dig up are Drew Dileo almost making a spectacular one-handed stab and Darryl Stonum almost making a spectacular sideline lay-out.
Maybe in a tackle football game he can escape that contain guy on the regular, but that seems like a high variance strategy with limited upside. Option 1: beats corner guy, is on corner, has shot at running some probably not immense distance or hitting a crossing route of some variety. Option 2: second and 20. There's a reason the waggle is strictly an occasional changeup—whenever you've got the ball and are spending time with your back to the defense there's a chance something awful is going to happen, like John Navarre getting blown up in that one MSU game.
But after the game Borges said Denard would run more "in the real world" and that's a long time ago now and every indication we've had since is that the offense isn't going to be a whole lot different than it was last year.
ONE: it suggests that Al Borges is awesome. His career has hinted from this as it rambled from scrambling Forcier-a-like Cade McNown to brutal play-action annihilation with Ronnie Brown, Cadillac Williams, and Jason Campbell to a flexible multi-formation West Coast attack featuring Ryan Lindley in any formation you care to name. Now he's got the squarest peg he's ever run across and he's busily shaving his offense to match.
TWO: This is the way to go, especially now. In the NFL, shotgun formations are more efficient:
Shotgun formations are generally more efficient than formations with the quarterback under center.
Over the past three seasons, offenses have averaged 5.9 yards per play from Shotgun, but just 5.1 yards per play with the quarterback under center. This wide split exists even if you analyze the data to try to weed out biases like teams using Shotgun more often on third-and-long, or against prevent defenses in the fourth quarter. Shotgun offense is more efficient if you only look at the first half, on every down, and even if you only look at running back carries rather than passes and scrambles.
In college, running quarterbacks have a real advantage that the Mathlete stumbled across while trying to figure something else out:
In Denard's specific case the threat of a run from him is the reason he could surge to 20th in passer efficiency (Chad Henne 2006: 26th) one year after being totally incompetent.
Al Borges is going to do his damndest to keep Denard productive, upright, and beaming.
How much will Borges's lack of familiarity with cheetahs in Porsches strapped to jet engines and dropped out of an airplane hurt the offense?
It is going to hurt somewhat. Pretty much the only thing Rodriguez was consistently awesome at was introducing wrinkles in the run game that consistently produced. Remember that dreamlike first half against Penn State in 2008 when Brandon Minor emerged from nowhere and raged his way down PSU's throat? Rodriguez was fantastic at that stuff.
It petered out in his first two years because he had nothing to go to—no constraints—when the defense started cheating on him. With Robinson the wrinkles not only to the run game but to the defense-crippling QB Draw Oh Noes resulted in either points or plays where the points were there for the taking if only the players could have executed. Maybe the fundamentals were lacking. I tend to think of these things as youth and bloody fate. Either way you could see the outline of something great and tentacled in Michigan's fumbling missteps and blown opportunities. Rodriguez's offense was gorgeous in how it gave defenses awful choices.
Al Borges can do that. In his first year at Auburn, Jason Campbell averaged 10 YPA. Ten! That is a great many yards per attempt.
I'm not sure he can do that with Denard. He'll give Denard a more sophisticated offense that he won't execute as well as Borges needs him to; he'll use Denard's legs but not quite as effectively as Rodriguez would have. These guys are good because they've spent a lot of time specializing in ways that make them successful. There is a necessary lack of efficiency once they get outside their comfort zones.
Is anyone going to help Denard out?
I think so. Injuries laid up Shaw and Toussaint last year; both are apparently healthy. It's also possible that Vincent Smith will be closer to his late freshman form now that he's almost two years removed from his ACL tear. Add in a sophomore Hopkins and a couple freshmen and there are a lot more bullets in the chamber than there were last year, when Michigan was down to Smith and a fumble-prone Hopkins most of the season.
Without a similar plague of injuries, whoever emerges from those six guys is going to be better than the one who emerged from two. That's still going to hold true even when the grim reaper scythes one of Shaw or Toussaint down in the Big Ten opener. (Don't even think this isn't happening.) Getting production out of the tailback is key. If they can do that they can approximate last year's offense without putting undue pressure on Denard's bones.
In the passing game the #1 candidate to turn incompletions and short gains into longer ones is Junior Hemingway. He averaged 18.5 yards a catch last year and showed signs of being a guy you can just chuck it to because he'll come down with it. A fully healthy, senior Hemingway is a potential breakout performer.
Is the offensive line cut out for this?
Las year's offensive line was a B+. They didn't get an A because of a zillion Taylor Lewan penalties and mediocre play at right tackle. The interior line was very good. This year everyone is back save Steve Schilling and Perry Dorrestein. Dorrestein was a replacement level starter and Schilling has a touted, capable backup entering his redshirt junior year. Four starters return.
If this is not a great offensive line it will be because of a mismatch between what they were recruited to do and what they've been asked to do. Of late there has been a surge in OL skepticism from the premium practice reports on the message boards; I interpret this as a bunch of power being run not very effectively by a crew that should be running primarily zone.
If "this" is old-school MANBALL running, the answer is no. If it's a hybrid between last year and MANBALL, they'll get by. If they're making people cheat on the zone they will kill.
Michigan will backslide. But let's set the point from which they will backslide: I believe the advanced metrics. Michigan's field position was terrible, field goals were terrible, turnovers were terrible, and so forth and so on. We would have gotten a better picture of this offense if the field position they gained was honored either by the special teams or the defense. What happened last year was a lot of excellent play marred by turnovers from a true sophomore first-year starter with the weight of the world on his shoulders.
If Michigan did not have the #2 offense in the country last year, they weren't far off. What we had going last year was both explosive on the ground (5.6 YPC exceeded Carr's best effort this decade by almost a yard and a half) and in the air:
Last season, his first as a full-time starter in former coach Rich Rodriguez's spread offense, Robinson had 16 runs that covered at least 20 yards and seven that exceeded 30 yards. He had at least one 20-yard gain in nine of the Wolverines' 13 games last season. He scored touchdowns on runs of 87, 72, 47, 32 and 32 yards. He also had 12 pass completions of more than 40 yards. That's more than Stanford's Andrew Luck.
Criticisms about Michigan's inability to score points against elite defenses mostly boil down to inopportune turnovers and bad defense. In games against Iowa, Penn State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State, Michigan averaged nearly 440 yards. Because of the defense, special teams, and Denard's high turnover rate they didn't turn those yards into enough points—and they still scored 28 or more in three of those games. The bowl game was the only real clunker.
It was for real and it returns everyone save Steve Schilling, Martell Webb, and Darryl Stonum. Those three guys have upperclass replacements that should do just fine. The main issues with maintaining last year's level of productivity are:
- Regression to the mean.
- Keeping Denard upright.
- Not suffering more than two injuries on the OL or at TE.
- Having horrible enough field position to lead the country in long TD drives again.
- Not screwing it up.
#2 is the biggest problem. The most efficient version of the offense is also the one most likely to get Denard knocked
up out. They'll move away from that when they can, which will mean a hit. This is some version of #4: not screwing it up. I don't think they will. We will get some symbolic MANBALL—the first play against WMU is probably going to be power out of the I-form that goes for three yards—to please the Great Tradition and then Borges will get down to the business of being a coordinator instead of Mike DeBord.
Let's hit shift and comma!
- junior Denard > sophomore Denard
- Toussaint/Shaw/Smith/Hopkins > younger, more injured versions of same
- junior Patrick Omameh > sophomore Omameh
- sophomore Taylor Lewan >> Huyge/Lewan/Penaltyfest
- Huyge/Schofield > Huyge/Dorrestein
- David Molk == David Molk
- Junior Hemingway == Junior Hemingway
- Roundtree/Grady == Roundtree/Grady
- Ricky Barnum < Steve Schilling
- Kevin Koger/Brandon Moore < Koger/Webb
- Martavious Odoms < Darryl Stonum
- This is still going to be a very good offense, and this year they should have points to show for it.
Last Year's Stupid Predictions
Michigan 2010 finishes atop the rush YPC chart above without considering the UMass game and by a considerable margin.
Gardner ends up burning his redshirt in very, very frustrating fashion, because…
Check-ish. Michigan is trying to un-burn that redshirt.
Denard is pretty much your starting quarterback all year, but…
…Forcier plays in every game, bailing Michigan out in one critical fourth quarter.
Not quite every game but lots of them. Forcier did bail Michigan out against Illinois and came damn near doing so against Iowa.
Vincent Smith gets the most touches amongst the running backs. Second: Shaw. Third: Toussaint. Fourth: Hopkins.
Pretty close. Toussaint's injuries knocked him out.
Robinson is Michigan's leading rusher.
All too easy.
Darryl Stonum does not exactly go Chris Henry on the planet but does greatly increase production via a series of big plays: 30 catches, 650 yards, 6 touchdowns.
Stonum did see his production increase to 633 yards but it took him 49 catches to get there. The Chris Henry lite of the offense was Junior Hemingway, who had 593 yards on 32 catches.
Michigan breaks out the triple option with regularity, using Hopkins as the dive back and Shaw/Smith the pitch guy. They also dig out those WVU formations where the slot motions into the backfield, with Grady the man beneficiary.
This Year's Stupid Predictions
- Yards per carry drop quite a bit but nose above 5.
- Shaw claims the starting job to himself in week four, gets injured shortly after, and Toussaint takes over. Both are much better than Smith at making extra yards. At the end of the year they've all got somewhere between 400 and 800 yards.
- Denard rushes for 1200 yards. His interception rate falls significantly but is still not great.
- Michigan runs more zone blocking than gap blocking. When they do gap block they are a left-handed team thanks to Taylor Lewan.
- Koger's production is up a bit but total TE catches only go up slightly: 20 last year, 30 this year.
- Huyge gives way to Schofield mid-year.
- Michigan finishes around 15th in FEI and other advance metrics. By yardage they drop to about the same spot; scoring offense increases from 25th to match.
|Junior Hemingway||Sr.*||Martavious Odoms||Sr.||Roy Roundtree||Jr.*||Kevin Koger||Sr.|
|Jeremy Jackson||So.||Jeremy Gallon||So.*||Kelvin Grady||Sr.*||Brandon Moore||Jr.*|
|Drew Dileo||So.||Jerald Robinson||Fr.*||Terrance Robinson||Jr.*||Steve Watson||Sr.*|
Yeah, I know the depth chart lists a fullback and crams the wideouts into two spots, but Al Borges keeps saying shotgun and wideouts and even Lloyd Carr rocked three-wide for much of his later period. The slot lives here, for at least another year or two. The slot lives on like whoah, actually: six of the nine guys on that depth chart can't get on the rides at Cedar Point, and one of the exceptions is the returning starter in the… slot.
So they're going to be short. And you should take the above depth chart with as much of a grain of salt as I did the official one and its lack of a slot and placement of Martavious Odoms on the third string. Any of these guys could pop up anywhere save Hemingway, Jackson, and Robinson, who are outside guys exclusively. It sounds like everyone is an outside guy now:
"The difference in this offense is there aren't really slot receivers as much as outside receivers — they play everywhere on the field and we move them around," Hecklinski said. "The switch is big because of all the little things asked of them - they have to convert routes, pick up checks and route changes and coverages."
That is a lot more complicated than what they did last year when the entire passing game was a constraint play. This is necessary to move the offensive forward. I'll discuss it more in the quarterback section, but when Denard's legs were removed from the equation on passing downs YPC dropped to an ugly 5.7—not much better than the 2008 disaster.
There are downsides to this. For example, in the two minute drill stuff after the punting demo Jeremy Gallon twice broke off option routes only to see the quarterbacks chuck it deep. There's going to be an adjustment period here. Roundtree:
“You have to have the timing down in this offense because if the timing is off, then the quarterback is off,” junior receiver Roy Roundtree said. “Our receivers want the ball, so we got to get open and keep the timing good for Denard.
Where is that timing at now?
“We’re getting there,” he said. “We still have two more weeks to get ready.”
Timing's always important and in the long term this passing offense will be more robust. I just hope we get plenty of last year's stuff in appropriate situations.
|like Marquise Walker|
|we totally planned this|
|drags a toe|
|also totally planned this|
|a back-shoulder leap|
|little high, no problem|
|cover zero in the alps|
|inexplicable yac knack|
|Purdue orbit step|
|Illinois Houdini act TD|
|tough to tackle|
|yac knack attack|
|not a replay of YKA|
Over the summer Junior Hemingway ventured into the heart of a South American jungle to perform an arcane rite that would free him of the injury jinx that's plagued him since his arrival Ann Arbor. It worked. It wrought a price on Martavious Odoms, but it worked. Hemingway hasn't been laid up with mono, an ankle sprain, a shoulder problem, or the Black Death in quite a long while.
If he can manage that through the season he's going to end the year with a ton of catches. Even if the Michigan offense doesn't go full MANBALL right away continued development from Denard Robinson will make difficult pro-style throws that frequently target outside wide receivers more feasible; Borges's offense will make them more frequent. Combine that with Hemingway's main skill and there will be jump balls for the taking.
That's convenient. That main skill is being enormous and jumpy. As the table says, he's like Marquise Walker. He's not a guy who's going to blaze past the secondary. There's going to be a corner in the vicinity. If it's going well they're going to watch Hemingway make the catch anyway. What you see at right emphasizes that theme: there's always a guy around, but he's often six inches too short to do anything about it.
A number of the catches are back-shoulder throws that don't necessarily seem intentional. If they aren't they might become so as Borges emphasizes a more sophisticated, they-tried-to-man-up-Crab passing offense.
The canonical example follows.
It might be a mirage conjured by playing next to Darryl Stonum for the last three years, but Hemingway does adjust to the ball in the air pretty well. He doesn't get a ton of separation, but his leaping/box-out ability is top shelf. He does do a good job of finding the ball and bringing it in.
He's also got this strange knack for picking up yards after the catch. He's a 230 pound monster who should get tackled on the catch every time, but this fails to happen with some consistency. There was that ridiculous touchdown against Illinois, for one. The highlights above have a few more examples.
Put the inexplicable YAC knack with his ability to snag downfield jump balls and good enough hands (he had four routine drops on 27 opportunities last year—not good—but snagged 3/5 circus attempts—very good) and you've got a solid Big Ten receiver. He'll see his production increase significantly. If he can maintain his 18.5 YPC he'll challenge Roundtree for the most receiving yards on the team. Expect a bit under 1,000 yards from him.
|quicks way past safety|
|will headbutt you|
|extended screen block|
|opens the corner|
|comes back to ball|
|wide open downfield|
|guy on his back no problem|
Martavious Odoms showed up way down the depth chart a few days ago. I'm not buying that. Hoke wants experience, toughness and blocking, and Odoms provides that. He's going to have to put a third wideout on the field, and Odoms is going to be #3 in snaps after Hemingway and Roundtree. So he's a quasi-starter.
He's probably way down the depth chart because his injury thing is becoming a problem. He missed the second half of last year with a broken foot, spent a big chunk of fall camp sporting a cast, showed up with his shoulder in a sling in a CTK episode, and apparently has another cast on now. In context it seems like his depth chart demotion is a health issue and he'll bubble up (HA!) when and if that gets resolved.
When on the field Odoms has been a reliable, unthrilling option. Odoms is from Pahokee, so he's small and would headbutt a goat if he thought it would get him two yards. His elusiveness is just okay—Roundtree and Hemingway probably have better YAC stats. His hands are good. Over the past two years he's 26/27 on routine catches, 7/10 on somewhat difficult ones, and 2/4 on very difficult ones. On the downside, his lack of height makes him a tougher target. Sometimes balls that Hemingway would grab zing way over his head.
The total package is a useful player but not one that's going to show up in the opposing team's gameplan. If healthy he'll at least double his 16 catches from last year; 45 is the guess here.
Jackson; Robinson (not that Robinson, or that one, or that one)
Since we've shuffled Roundtree off to his old position, there's only two guys bigger than a breadbox left. Jeremy Jackson is the one you've seen. The son of running backs coach and hyperbole enthusiast Fred, Jackson is a lanky, "lumbering" possession receiver who seems like the cream of the four-person WR recruiting class of two years ago. That's not a big hill to climb since DJ Williamson transferred, Ricardo Miller moved to tight end, and Jerald Robinson can't get on the depth chart.
He only managed four catches last year but at least they were all against Wisconsin and Ohio State. He'll see his involvement rise as Michigan spreads Stonum's catches around; 15 catches is as good a guess as any. Hope for reliable hands and an ability to get open thanks to his sizeable frame—a poor man's Avant is the goal.
Jerald Robinson also exists, but not on the depth chart. His recruiting profile makes him out to be a rangy leaper with good hands and some upside on deep balls. His omission from the depth chart was a surprise after the coaches and teammates had spent time talking him up:
“I feel like he’s going to get time,” Roundtree said. “I talked to him the other day, like, ‘Look man, this camp, you got to stay focused, don’t get down because your legs are sore. That’s supposed to happen.’ Jerald’s been having a great camp because he wants to learn and he wants to get better. He can play.” …
“Jerald doesn’t know how good Jerald can be,” wide receivers coach Jeff Hecklinski said. “There’s a lot of times where he’s really, really come along. It goes back to this is just a process.
“There’s some things he looks really, really good at, and there’s some things that we’re going to continue to work with him on.”
There were reports that Robinson did not Get It and may be in the process of doing so, FWIW. Hecklinski evidently thinks he has not fully acquired It and will wait to put him on the field until he has safely done so. He's a guy to look at for next year. Borges says "he seems like he has a future here," which is not a present here. He's just a redshirt freshman, after all.
Though the short guys are probably going to play outside as much as they do inside I'll cover them in the slot section.
Roy Roundtree is an eventful dude whether he's hand-wavingly wide open for a touchdown or dooming Michigan to turn the ball over by dropping the ball. Thanks to a massive game in the insane triple-OT Illinois thriller he finished as the Big Ten's second-leading receiver.
A large chunk of that is thanks to Denard's legs. There's a certain theme running through many of Roundtree's long receptions: desolation. When Denard catches the safety the resulting throw looks like post-apocalyptic football. Where is everyone? They're dead. Let's run through this tumbleweed-infested secondary.
That did not take a ton of skill on Roundtree's part.
But there is a reason he leapt off the bench during the 2009 Michigan State game and has been the favorite target of whoever's at QB since. For one, he's more slippery than you'd think. Michigan's recruited a horde of 5'9" YAC guys but it's Roundtree who gets targeted on bubbles. It's easy to see why:
|the worst waldo|
|blindingly wide open|
|Indiana oh noes|
|breaks wide open|
|safety just barely gets him|
|fourth down TD|
|gets crushed; hangs on|
|20 against UW|
|guy on his back|
|over the shoulder|
|jukes two different guys|
|smokes him on a juke|
|shakes CB for TD|
Odoms doesn't have much like that on his resume and Gallon is just a rumor. Roundtree's only competition is Hemingway's inexplicable YAC knack.
And his hands are pretty good despite the drops—four in 41 opportunities in the first 11 games last year. He gets targeted a lot. They could be better, sure, but I think everyone remembers them more because instead of converting a first down after Roundtree drops a ball Michigan immediately turned the ball over on three separate occasions. Those tend to burn themselves into your head. Hemingway had the same number of drops in 27 opportunities last year but you only hear about Roundtree's fumblefingers moments. Not that they don't rankle. It's just that I think our subjective memories are not 100% reliable in this matter.
If they move him outside he'll lose his spot as the designated hand-wavingly-open dude jetting past safeties. I think that would be a mistake since he's an easier target to hit than any the other options. When things opened up for the slot last year they often opened so wide that the only things that mattered were 1) how easy is it for Denard to hit him and 2) being faster than a tight end so no one catches him. Roundtree fit on both counts.
Meanwhile, moving outside may make him vulnerable to getting jammed at the line. As a slight guy who hasn't had to deal with that much in his career I can see that going poorly. A corner can get into him—under him—and disrupt his business. He's probably still the second best option out there in those circumstances; he's just not going to be as effective.
Roundtree's production will drop this year as Michigan tries to get Hemingway and Koger more involved. He can't expect set the single-game receiving record every year. He'll still run neck and neck with Hemingway fro the most receiving yards on the team.
If there's one thing that is a must-recycle from last year's preview it's this stunning Kelvin Grady wallpaper:
DOWNLOAD NOW INSTALL NOW KEEP FOREVERRRR
|over the shoulder|
|gets nailed but hangs on|
|a bullet he snags|
|spins to catch it|
|lit up and hangs on|
|designated reverse guy|
|an alley outside|
|just outruns dudes|
I have no memory where that came from, unfortunately. I would like to find this person and see if they have excessively dramatic wallpapers for Nate Brink yet. I bet the text reads "on the BRINK of a REVOLUTION."
Anyway: Grady. He moved over from the basketball team and dropped a lot of balls two years ago, whereupon he was dropped from the lineup when Roy Roundtree burst onto the scene. When Odoms moved outside last year he got another shot and did surprisingly well with it. The hands issues disappeared—while he did have one routine drop on nine attempts he was six of six on more difficult stuff—as he became the designated reverse guy. By the end of the year it was a litte disappointing they hadn't used him more.
Entering his final season Grady's best shot at extensive playing time is based on 1) a lot of three wide and 2) Roundtree playing mostly on the outside. In that situation he's the established veteran. He'd get a crack at screens and seams and whatnot en route to a breakout mini-'Tree year. More likely is a moderately increased role as Roundtree bounces inside and out with around 30 catches.
It could go sour for Grady if Jeremy Gallon translates chatter into playing time. Gallon came to Michigan with a ton of hype and a stunning resemblance to The Wire's Snoop…
Normally this would spell another year on the bench making people wonder what the big deal was all about. Stonum's suspension and the injury curse migrating to Odoms gives him an opening. If you listen to the coaches he seems to be taking advantage of the opportunity.
As a result he passed Odoms on the official depth chart, though this preview assumes that's because of injury. Perhaps more interesting is surging ahead of Jackson and Robinson, who are closer to the strapping downfield leapers the pro-style offense generally prefers. Gallon had seemingly fallen behind Jackson in particular late last year.
(Gallon's special teams contributions are covered in a separate section.)
Sophomore Drew Dileo is basically Wes Welker, of course. He had one catch for three yards a year ago and will probably have to wait another year for some of the small guy logjam to clear before he gets significant time. I can't understand why he's not returning punts since that's supposedly what he was recruited to do and Gallon has been maddening, but there are now two coaching staffs who have come to the same conclusion about the depth chart there.
Finally, Terrance Robinson's still around. He's been conspicuously absent from both press conference chatter and the depth chart. He's been passed by younger guys in Dileo, Gallon, and Jackson. He's probably not going to see time. Here's this catch he had last year, though.
Kevin Koger can't go twenty minutes without someone asking him if he's excited for an increased role in the offense as if he or Martell Webb weren't on the field for 80% of Michigan's snaps last year. The conventional wisdom holds that blocking ain't playin', apparently.
Koger did a lot of that last year and was effective but not stellar. Webb was clearly a superior blocker and was the preferred choice when Michigan got close to the goal line and things got hairy. While Koger was preferred in the passing game, it wasn't by much. His 14 catches were nine more than Webb's five.
Is that going to change this year? If they run the I-form a lot, maybe. That takes the slot off the field and makes the tight end the natural target in the seam areas that are so deliciously open because of Denard's running. I'm not sure how you get opponents to vacate those when you're under center (fake QB draws?), but if anyone can do it it's Denard. When Michigan's in the shotgun he'll have competition from Roundtree, et al., in those zones and it's clear Denard's comfort level is higher with 'Tree.
Koger's lack of participation in the passing game may be his own doing. Two years ago he started the season by making a series of ridiculous catches, then blew all that goodwill and more by catching just 7 of 11 routine opportunities. He was 9/9 last year on those, which helps but still gets him to 16 of 20 all-time— still worse than anyone on the team last year. If he's dropping stuff in practice the lack of attention is not related to the spread. I know there was that one year that Tim Massaqoui broke his hand and Mike DeBord kept throwing to him, but I choose to believe that little wrinkle was unique to The Avalanche.
Koger's role will be up to him. He'll be somewhere between a B- and B+ blocker and will have opportunities to establish himself a major part of the passing game. Our sample size on his hands is still very small and the bad part is now two years removed and he's quite an athlete—his upside is high. I can't help but think he's been held back by things other than Rich Rodriguez's preferences, though. I'm betting on a good but unmemorable senior year.
Moore; weird guy with weird hat and Watson
There are a couple scholarship options behind Koger but they're not particularly encouraging. Despite being a big time recruit, redshirt junior Brandon Moore has hardly been seen on the field outside of baby seal clubbings. Even if he did have a couple of quality options ahead of him on the depth chart, the third tight end should see snaps here and there if he's quality.
More ominous yet has been the total lack of buzz surrounding him in fall. Borges's only mention of the guys behind Koger was when he was directly asked about TEs other than the starter. The result:
I think Brandon Moore has done a nice job. He is still climbing if you know what I mean. He is getting better every single day and Steve Watson is a solid player. I think we’re pretty deep there. I think we’re pretty deep. Because Kog got hurt in the spring, those other guys got a lot of reps.
That seems to be something to file under coachspeak. We'll see; given Moore's physical talents he could surprise.
And then there's Steve Watson, who came in as a tight end, got moved to DE, linebacker, TE again, and then started playing FB—he appears on both depth charts. I imagine he'll get some time near the goal line as a threat out of the backfield and out of necessity when Borges feels the need for a big set. At this point it's hard to think he'll do much with it.
Ricardo Miller's the lone other TE on the roster. After moving from WR he's up to 234 pounds, which is far too little to see the field unless the roof caves in.
- Thomas Gordon had ice wrapped around his right knee.
- Will Heininger had ice wrapped around both knees.
- Junior Hemingway had no ice wrapped around either knee.
- It's probably nothing.
Thomas Gordon reminds Will Heininger of Shawn Crable.
There's ice on your knee. Is that bad? "Nah, just a little tender. It's been a long, tough camp, but it's got some ice on it as a precaution. It's not serious."
How physical has camp been? "It's something that I've never been in before. It was pretty tough. We got through it, and I think it's going to make us better as a team. We came together this camp, and I'm really proud of what we did."
You were playing nickel a while ago, and now you're starting free safety. What happened/Congratulations? "They got me in a couple places. I'm just doing what the coaches have asked me to do over the summer and camp. I've lived up to my expectations and I'm ready to play this year."
What did you do to earn the start? "I think it's more outside of football, just being more dedicated to football and being a team player. Coming along as an individual off the field has really helped me on the field."
How hard did you work this summer? "This summer, (I worked hard) with the new weight staff and Coach Wellman. They're a really dedicated staff, and they put their work in with me and all the other players, and it helped me tremendously on the field as far as size and speed. I hope it transitions to the field, and I'm waiting to see what the effects are going to be during the season."
How have you changed physically? "When the old staff left, I was at 213 (pounds), but when the new staff came in I moved it up to 217, and that's a good thing. As far as being more explosive -- as a DB, (that) is real key, and that's what they helped me do."
Mattison talked about different looks, different schemes. How complex is this defense? "It's a lot of stuff you need to get a hold of, but you just take it one play at a time and just focus and key in on what you have to do. It's not that hard. It's simple -- the same techniques. We've just been on top of it as a group and in the film room everyday as a group."
You guys feeling confident? "Yeah we're real confident. All those guys back there: Kovacs, Troy, Carvin, Courtney, all of us. We're real confident with the game plan."
Did you not feel confident last year? "I was still comfortable last year. I think last year it was more for me getting my feet wet, more of a transition (than) this year. I know what it feels like to be in a game. I'm ready to step in."
Do you feel like the game is slowing down? "Oh yeah, it's way slower now. Last year was kind of like a blur out there. Now I see what's going on, and I really got a grasp and understanding of it."
Why will this year's defense be better? "Effort to the football. That's been the key our whole camp. It's effort to the football. If you mess up a play, it's always effort to the football and getting to the football that's the big key."
Is Western's QB going to be a challenge? "Oh yeah, most definitely. I think it's Crader? That's the kid. He can put the ball in tight windows, and he's a real good quarterback, and we gotta be in our p's and q's when we go against him on Saturday."
How much will you move around pre-snap to confuse him? "There will be a lot of movement because he's a real poised quarterback, and he has experience, but we still can disguise our looks and kind of get him confused, and I think that will play to our advantage."
What do you like about the free safety position? "I just like sitting back and seeing everything. It makes me feel like i'm a ballhawk. I haven't really played that since high school, (and) when I came in with Coach Rod, I was a spur. But now I'm back there and I feel natural back there, and that's a good thing."
Will Heininger, middle, reminds Thomas Gordon of this guy.
How do you feel about rotating guys constantly on the D-line? "We've rotated in the past, but I think Coach Mattison and Coach Montgomery really believe in keeping guys fresh. There's no point in going 80% to the ball. You go 100% until you can't. That's why you gotta have depth and guys who can play, and that's why we're lucky to have that."
So is it effective? "I think it's a great feeling knowing that you have someone that you trust to come in for you so that you can go 100% all the time. I know times in the past, Brandon Graham would just go forever until he was on empty. It's good to have guys that you can rotate. I think the strength in our D-line is depth and guys who can play multiple positions."
What would it mean to be a starter on Saturday? "Those things are nice, and being from Ann Arbor, I don't think there's much more you can ask for than playing for this school, but in the end, those are coaches' decisions, and I'm just excited to play for Michigan and get wins. That's what i'm excited for more than (being a) starter."
How good will it be to have a SAM linebacker helping you out in the 4-3 under? "Without getting into scheme too much, it's fun to have a big guy out there with you who you know is going to come down and lay the wood on the power or whatever."
What do you see in Western Michigan? Western has a good O-line -- a big O-line -- so I think we're excited to go against them and get back to physical football, and test ourselves against them."
What's the deal with the fight song from Hoke's office? "Coach Hoke said that everyday between 1:30 and 2:30 we're going to have that music blaring out of his office, and that's something he chose to do, and we love it. It's great. We have the best band in the country, so why not hear it?"
Mattison said something about giving the defense enough bullets. "When he says enough bullets, he means that he's never gonna put us in a situation where we can't defend something or we don't have an answer for something. I can't get too much into scheme, but that's what he's talking about, and I'm comfortable with our package."
What does "Michigan defense" mean to Mattison? Guys flying to the ball and celebrating when you get there, celebrating with each other. I think we do get it, and you get feelings of it during practice."
What does "Michigan defense" mean to you? "David Harris flying to the ball. Charles Woodson ... Crable knocking people out. Just all those guys bringing this physical, in your face, I'm gonna beat you, that kind of stuff."
What's your first recollection of Michigan football? "Tyrone Wheatley, when I was probably five years old, that was the first player I remember, and the first game I remember was Coach Carr's first game when we beat Virginia on the last play. I was watching TV at my friend's house. Unfortunately their family's Ohio
State fans, but I went crazy in their living room and didn't know any better at the time."
What's the best part of game week? "Can I say Saturday? First play on the field, smack somebody."
If there was ever a point when Junior Hemingway passed on the injury bug, this was it.
Do you feel like you need to stay healthy this season to prove to NFL scouts you're not made out of glass? "I think that's one of my goals for this season because the past seasons I haven't been able to finish the season or (play in the) beginning."
Is this offense as explosive as last year's? "Right now we've been working day in and day out ... just growing and molding, but I think we have the potential to be real explosive this year."
Is this the offensive you envisioned you'd play in coming out of high school? " ... You know ... Yes. Coach Carr had more of a pro-style (offense), then Coach Rod came in with the spread, but I just need to be adaptable to whatever."
So is this a hybrid offense? "Denard had a really big year in the spread offense. Just keeping some of those things ... some of those (plays) stick, so why not use them?"
Let's do some Western secondary scouting. "They have a real good defense. They have a real good secondary. They have one corner, Lewis Toler. They got him as one of the best DB's on the team -- All-MAC."
Why is Odoms third on the depth chart? "Everybody has been taking a lot of reps. Everybody's been getting the same number of reps, so that doesn't affect anything."
You talk to Darryl Stonum often? "Yeah. He's my roommate." Aha. "I just gotta be like a brother to him, (tell him to) just keep his head on straight and it'll be all right. We got his back regardless. Good thing is he's still on the team."