Last week in Picture Pages we saw one of Michigan's counters to the "scrape exchange" that Western ran constantly last game. Michigan ran a ton of bubble screens or "long handoff"* routes and gave Forcier another option after he decided to pull the ball out: run or toss it to a (usually) wide open receiver. Once Forcier got over some early jitters, this worked well.
Notre Dame was determined to take that away:
This is Michigan's first drive of the second half. Michigan's moved the ball and just got a gashing Brandon Minor run on a zone stretch. They're going to play off that success here.
You can see Notre Dame's response to what they saw in the Western game: line up in press coverage all day, including over the slot receiver. There will be no bubbles here. To prevent Notre Dame from being outnumbered in the box, 80% of the time Notre Dame walks one or both safeties up just before the snap. And to deal with the zone read, Notre Dame is running a scrape exchange every play. (Reminder: on a scrape exchange the backside DE just hauls ass for the tailback and a linebacker pops out to contain the QB.)
Notre Dame has countered Michigan's counter to their counter and pretty much shut down Michigan's rushing attack in the first half. But it's time for the counter-counter-counter-counter.
Here's the snap as it approaches the handoff point. Note that 1) there's no bubble available and 2) Kevin Koger is pulling across the formation. Oh and 3) Moosman, who is the second OL from the top, is just drive blocking his guy instead of taking zone steps to the left in an attempt to get his helmet across. His ability to shove the DT back a yard or two is key to this play.
A couple of moments later, Michigan's diabolical plan is revealed:
Points of interest:
- Kevin Koger's pull block pops the backside defensive end, providing a lane between that guy and RG David Moosman.
- Mark Huyge gets a free release on the linebacker, who you can see moving upfield and to the outside to contain Forcier. When he realizes Forcier does not have the ball he will have run himself into a spot where Huyge has a great angle to block him.
- Molk and Moosman have terrific angles to block their guys. Why are these blocks so easy? Notre Dame is anticipating a stretch play, which is what Michigan usually runs from this formation, and if it was a stretch play it would be imperative for them to get playside of their blockers. On this counter, that expectation runs them into places where it's easy to seal them away from the play.
This is basically over. A moment later, you can see the motion of the scrape linebacker has taken him into Huyge's block and that Moosman and Molk have locked up their defenders. Brandon Minor doesn't even have to cut:
The play ends at the one yard line. Watch it in glorious Youtube-o-vision:
Minor misses a cut on first down, Forcier fumbles on second, and a pitch gets blown up on third; Michigan misses a chip shot field goal, providing yrs truly with a wave of despair. But it ended well: Michigan was provided a short field on the next drive after a Notre Dame fumble and went from the 26 to the 7 with a six-yard stretch and 13 more on this play; that drive ended in a touchdown.
*(I don't have good lingo for that. Basically, the outside receiver stands there.)
First we talked coaches, and now onto the players themselves.
- Shaw is hoping that he will be able to stay fully healthy this year. He has his burst back, and he just needs to get his confidence going full blast again.
- "I'm kinda favoring it [the injury]. My confidence is returning, and I just can't let up in rehab."
- The indication that there was something truly wrong was the Minnesota game. He was caught from behind for the first time in his career - "and I've been playing football since I was 7 years old" - and his dad called and said there must be something more serious wrong with him.
- The team had lots to prove in the offseason, and they took their workouts to a whole new level to prove it.
- Grady will play both fullback and tailback "whatever position helps the team win." Being able to play multiple positions gives the team more personnel versatility.
- "I haven't played with my brother since I was a sophomore [in high school], so it should be pretty cool."
- As defending the spread goes, it's the more experienced defensive teams that are best at trying to shut them down.
- Mathews isn't sure whether the spread offense will best help prepare him for the NFL. "I still have my old playbook, so I can always look at that." If anything, he says playing in multiple offenses over his career might help make him a better all-around receiver.
- Different offenses (such as the spread) work well in college, which is what makes the college game more fun to watch. However, in the NFL, there are so many good athletes on defense that it's difficult for these offenses to succeed.
- He has only been in Ann Arbor a little over two weeks, though he participated in voluntary workouts over the summer. It was frustrating to wait at home and miss the first week of practice, especially because he needed to get going on the adjustment to college ball.
- Turner grew up a Michigan fan (and took grief from Ohio State fans once he committed to the Wolverines), and he has some family in the area, so if he feels homesick, they're only 20 minutes away.
- Charles Woodson was the reason that Turner liked Michigan as a child, and he was happy to get the #2 jersey to honor his idol. Though he hasn't met Woodson, his eyes lit up when told that he would probably have the opportunity. "Today?" Sorry, it will have to wait until the season.
- Koger will be used as a true TE, flexed out wide, and this year, they're adding in some packages as an H-Back.
- In terms of catching passes, his use won't be too different from last year - though hopefully he'll see more passes thrown his way: "If I'm open, I'll get the ball."
- He's looking forward to spending a year healthy. The wrist injury plagued him all last year - even after he made his breakthrough later in the season.
- It was a relief to break out against Penn State, but not too big because he was expecting to do it eventually. That doesn't mean he was too frustrated with his performance leading up to the game, though. He's forgotten about all of the struggles last year (both individual and team) and looking forward to this year.
- He doesn't care if splitting carries reduces his time in the spotlight, saying "I'll take them as they come. Whatever helps us win."
Don't forget about Paul's media day photo gallery, either. It features Michigan QBs holding hands, and should not be missed.
Programming note. I've accepted the daunting task of getting up at 7AM to sit in for Sam Webb on WTKA's morning show tomorrow. I'll be on from 7-10. Wooo Mountain Dew!
Charity note. If anyone's got some spare roller hockey equipment lying around, L'Hockey Folie would like to put it to good use.
Luxury box followup! Artist's rendition of the 2025 Big House:
The Shredder explains his masterpiece:
With all the HD Jumbo screen talk(and with my boring 3rd shift) I figured I would draw it using my awesome skills. Now every one can see it. The future of the Big House. Around 2025 I am guessing. I did remove the one press box so you could see the field, so just pretend it's there. I also added seats above the HD screens and on top of the press box. Bringing the total seating to 125,000. In the year 2025 we will have be playing night games and using Maize jersey's. Welcome to the future! Great Scott!
These were not the top secret plans I referenced this morning. But they should be.
Obvious quarterback questioning. Tim's getting frustrated with the nonstop quarterback questioning at the press conferences, but none of you are going so here you go:
The art of saying nothing in 1:14. I don't think there's much chance all three QBs play equally well for anything length of time, and neither does Rodriguez, but he refuses to rule out anything. All things are possible.
Mealer okay? Elliot Mealer's shoulder was severely injured in that Christmas Eve car crash and there were some rumors that the effects of it still lingered and may be a permanent hindrance to his ability to play. Apparently that's not true:
"I've come a long ways," Mealer said. "You know, My arm is actually stronger, I think. My bad arm, so to speak, is stronger than my good arm and it's been a long ways. I still rehab it to this day, and then do a little prehab, as they call it, just to keep it loose and it helps. So it's come a long ways."
Mealer's not likely to play this year but should work himself into the playing mix in 2010.
BONUS Kevin Koger hype (the article is about Toledo-area players for M):
"Kevin Koger's had a great great offseason," said Calvin Magee, Koger's offensive coordinator and position mentor. "He's done well. He's gotten a lot stronger and a lot faster, and it's a natural progression from freshman to sophomore year.
"He's changed his body. You know, his weight's around the same. He's more lean now. So naturally, he's got more muscle on him. That allows him to be faster and he's one of those kids that committed himself to the offseason conditioning and it's going to help him a great deal."
The Revsine return. The Big Ten Network has returned from its tour of Big Ten practices and Dave Revsine has superlatives:
Best Drill: The "M" Drill at Michigan. It's the Oklahoma Drill, but with a twist. There are three layers of blocking going on – linemen going 1 on 1, then a FB or TE engaged with a LB, followed by a WR and a DB. The back with the ball then tries to run through all three levels. Very intense and really well done. …
Impact Freshman: Tate Forcier, Michigan. I think Forcier is perfect for Rodriguez's system. Throws well, particularly on the run, and he runs well. He has everything they need. Seems Rodriguez isn't quite as convinced, given his plans to play three QBs in the opener against Western Michigan, but I still think that, ultimately, Forcier will be the guy. …
Honorable Mention: Vincent Smith, Michigan. Another tiny Smith who packs some serious punch, Smith absolutely bowled over a defender in a tackling drill, then, the next time he had the ball, juked another guy out of his uniform with a great move.
All that's cool, but Michigan didn't show up on any of Revsine's top position groups, or honorable mentions. Not that you expected them to anywhere except tailback, where Revsine bizarrely goes with Michigan State as his third-place team.
You said what? Gary Barnett talked crap about Gary Moeller's substitutions. This did not end well for him.
Isn't it strange that Barnett left Northwestern for Colorado and since that event Northwestern has probably been the better program? What happened to the Buffs?
Required. Hey here's a quote by new offensive line grad assistant Cory Zirbel that contradicts those of the discontent departures and by law I must post it:
"I've had people come up to me and say, 'How can you be a part of that coaching staff?' Those people aren't true Michigan fans. ... People don't understand how I accept my role, but those people don't know.
"It's an honor. It's Michigan, always going to be Michigan. Coach Rodriguez is a great guy, presented me an opportunity, and I took it."
So there you go, family values and so forth and so on.
Coner! It took four years but someone finally mentioned David Cone in a practice recap:
Speaking of Forcier, I'm really started to warm to the way he throws the ball. It looks much better than any of the other quarterbacks. Also, David Cone has an odd throwing motion.
I think I buried the lead there.
Etc.: Herbstreit says the M-ND game is make or break for Weis, which yeah probably. GBMW has a transcript of Rodriguez's appearance on the Dan Patrick show. Michigan's replacing its media guides with online equivalents. Volleyball and women's soccer are test cases.
Martavious Odoms, Greg Mathews, Carson Butler's Meathead Lawyer, and Carson Butler
Though you could somewhat reasonably grade this position "incomplete," the preseason sunniness…
Despite the early departures of Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington to the NFL, Michigan has stockpiled a considerable amount of talent at wide receiver and tight end and the dropoff shouldn’t be severe. There will be a dropoff, though, as no one on the roster save maybe Darryl Stonum can hope to replicate Manningham’s explosive deep routes, and Stonum is just a freshman.
…was obviously too sunny. Greg Mathews starred as Jason Avant 2.0:
The upside here is Jason Avant, a reliable guy on a variety of short routes with outstanding hands and the strength to get off a jam. (We haven't actually seen the outstanding hands, yet, as Mathews has been reliable but unspectacular in the catching-stuff category, but Avant's reliability was only a theory before Braylon left.)
Toney Clemons, Junior Hemingway, and Darryl Stonum were all mentioned on the outside. This was wrong as hell:
Normally the most optimistic projection for Stonum’s freshman year would be something similar to that turned in by Mario Manningham—27 catches, 433 yards, 6 touchdowns—but the early enrollment should help him see the field earlier and more frequently. Forty or even fifty catches is not out of the question.
No, this did not happen. I didn't fall for the LaTerryal-Savoy-is-starting bait, though, saying "the bet here is that once Hemingway’s injury and Stonum’s inexperience subside so will Savoy’s prominence on the depth chart."
In the slot, Martavious Odoms was declared the man. This was not a tough call since Michigan had zero other oompa-loompas on the team with functioning appendages. The praise came in on the high side:
Unlike many guys Odoms' size, he's always been a receiver, and few players can claim to have the extensive in-game experience he has. Practice reports have been universally positive, praising his hands, toughness, silky-smooth moves and ability to make the first tackler miss. I go back to what a Floridian high school football veteran and Friend of Blog told me unprompted when Odoms committed:
He's a tough SOB. Small cat, really tough, will remind you of Steve Smith. Very, very fast. I'm a huge Martavious Odoms fan, you'll love him.
Watch out for him; this is one of those guys you see named “Moss” playing for Miami and think to yourself "goddamn why can't we ever have kids like that?" Practice reports are very encouraging; he sounds like a Steve Breaston if Breaston had been a natural-born receiver. He’s listed as the starter in the slot for Utah. You will see plenty of him.
At tight end, Carson Butler was declared to have "the potential to be ridiculously good as long as he’s not asked to block anyone ever" and the preview basically threw up its hands:
I have no idea what to expect out of Butler this year. He could be an All-American caliber performer (he’s unlikely to get enough catches to be an actual All-American) in a contract year for him. He could lose his job in week two.
It was door #2 for Butler. Backup Mike Massey got a thorough "meh":
In three years of sporadic onfield action, Massey hasn’t done much except almost make a couple of spectacular catches. He was the tentative starter last year until the injury in the Northwestern game. He seems totally average, a guy who will catch the balls he should and make most of the blocks he should but excel in no way whatsoever.
Kevin Koger, meanwhile, was declared likely to receive "a smattering of snaps in preparation for a starting job next year."
Well, that happened, I guess
It's hard to judge this group on their own merits when balls were so often whizzed (or floated) well over their heads and a series of wide receiver screens against Minnesota qualified as the most competent series of passes over the whole season. Receivers without quarterbacks are ornaments, and the stats bear this out.
So do the comments on the UFR receiverchart.
No drops; few opportunities to do so. One good catch from Koger.
Mostly fine, with no routine drops. Not many opportunities.
An okay day, with the one big drop from Stonum that would have provided Michigan a (likely meaningless) touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
Not much to go around, really, with the 0/2 in Clemons' 2 category the biggest issues. It's hard to blame Clemons for either, really, but I think Avant makes those catches. Or Mathews, actually.
You get the idea. Not enough data so I make big.
In the slot, the job was Odoms' as soon as Robinson went down. He quickly proved to be Michigan's most versatile and reliable receiver, catching a wide variety of bubble screens and having good success on wheel routes until opponents figured out that that was about the only thing Michigan's passing game had going for them. He still ran a bunch of routes that weren't quite right and dropped a few balls, most notably in the horrible frigid pounding death rain that suffused all things during the Northwestern game. That game also featured a series of increasingly spectacular Odoms fumbles.
Those fumbles and his general absence during the Ohio State game have soured many folks on Odoms going forward; projections that Robinson or incoming recruit Jeremy Gallon will wrest the job away are common on the internets, but Odoms is going to have a lot of experience on both those guys, both of whom were primarily high school quarterbacks. He remains the heavy favorite to be the top slot guy this fall.
On the outside, Mathews was a constant and basically lived up to expectations. In tough conditions against Notre Dame he came through with a couple excellent catches and was a razor-thin review away from a circus catch touchdown. Later against Minnesota there was this note:
Also note that Mathews is the only guy to have hauled in any "1s" so far this year (other than Butler, who no longer plays offense); he's the guy with the hands.
He's not electric and he doesn't dust people by five yards but most programs would be perfectly happy to have him as their possession go-to guy.
As for the other guy on the outside, well… Clemons ended up Odoms' backup in the slot because of the Robinson injury. Hemingway had a promising start but was shut down by mono on top of his shoulder and ankle injuries. (Yes, this blog has considered changing Angry Michigan Safety Hating God's name to Angry Junior Hemingway Hating God.) Stonum was a starter much of the year but dropped a lot of balls, picked up a DUI arrest, and was generally disappointing. The real answer to "who is Michigan's second outside receiver?" was "nobody." If pressed further you'd have to go with Stonum's 14 catches and one touchdown.
At tight end, Butler quickly played himself out of the starting job, moved to defense midway through the season, was rumored to have challenged Rodriguez to a fight, and "entered the NFL draft," by which we mean "was basically kicked off the team." If Butler has a future in doing athletic-type things, it's as a heel professional wrestler. Just ask cruiserweight champion That Kid Who Wants To Borrow An Iron.
Also, poor Mike Massey. It's not like he ever did anything positive in his time on the field, but whenever he had the opportunity someone else had to go and screw it up:
[Against Northwestern] Mike Massey was targeted three times, all of them uncatchable. This is the Golden Law of Mike Massey: whenever he is open for a touchdown, the ball will be overthrown. Mike Massey could be open by ten yards against OSU and the quarterback will throw it so high it hits a bird.
Massey's career expired with nary a catch his final year. He has a future as a stockbroker or something, I guess, so it's not too bad.
Your unexpected King of the Royal Tight End Rumble was actually Kevin Koger, who reeled in… uh… six catches. But one of those was a touchdown, so that's cool.
2009, And Beyond
Despite a bevy of transfer rumors, the whole gang is scheduled to return in 2009. Greg Mathews is what he is: a quality possession receiver who's not going to stretch many defenses. Mathews in a nutshell:
That's one-on-one press coverage against a crappy Minnesota cornerback. He gets very little separation, forcing him to make a spectacular catch, which he does. Ideally he'd be a #2 receiver on a good team; on this one it looks like there is no true #1.
Other contenders on the outside are Stonum, who did not have a Manningham-esque freshman campaign, Hemingway, Clemons, and possibly James Rogers or a freshman. At this point most hopes are pinned on Hemingway, who looked like the sort of explosive leaper who can catch himself some downfield jump balls, and by God Michigan can throw a downfield jump ball with the best of 'em. The other hope is that Stonum gets a lot better and fast. At this point I don't think much is expected from Clemons or Rogers. Joining the fun this year is redshirt freshman Roy Roundtree, who's supposed to be a twig-sized version of Mathews.
In the slot, Odoms returns. He'll be joined by Robinson and Jeremy Gallon, the Apopka single-wing quarterback and star of Army All-American practices. Having multiple slot threats should improve performance from the spot, as in four-wide packages two can show up at the same time, forcing the defense to defend against screens on both side of the field. If Odoms is hurt or not performing someone can step in for him.
At tight end, Koger returns and should/may/could have help from redshirt sophomore Martell Webb, who played some as a true freshman before wholly disappearing last year, and redshirt freshman Brandon Moore, who could end up anything from a hulking 6'6" receiver to an offensive tackle.
Everyone returns, so production should be better, but unless Stonum takes a great leap forward or Gallon is just ridiculous it looks like a corps closer to the just-okay 2005 unit, which had Avant and Breaston but no real deep threat.
A disclaimer on the "You May Remember Me From Such Players As": YMRMFSPA is supposed to be a rough estimate of what kind of player the recruit could turn into if he pans out. It is not a projection. The players listed tend to be very good because no one knows what kind of player Doug Dutch is; we just know he can't get on the field. I am not saying that I expect Martavious Odoms to be Devin Hester, the best return man in the history of the NFL. I'm saying that Odoms is sort of like Devin Hester and if we roll a second critical hit on our critical hit roll he might be half as good.
End disclaimer. On with shew.
|Trotwood, Ohio - 6'6" 245|
|Scout||3*, #43 TE|
|Rivals||4*, #8 TE, #187 overall|
|ESPN||81, #4 TE, #115 overall|
|Others||#91 to Lemming|
|Other Suitors||Georgia, LSU, Notre Dame, Florida, Miami|
|Rapid Fire Commitment Party Hats|
|Notes||Teammate of Roundtree and Shaw|
Brandon Moore is a tough recruit to figure out. The good: He started popping up on recruiting sites after his sophomore year. As a 6'6" 200-ish pound freshman he ran a 4.61 at Ohio State's summer camp. Georgia and a few others offered him before his junior year even began, and the initial wave was followed up with offers from a who's who of college powers including LSU, Georgia, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Florida, and others.
By the time Moore short-circuited what looked to be a thunderous nationwide recruiting battle by committing to Michigan in mid-May he had his choice of virtually any school in the country except Ohio State. Scout ranked him the #98 prospect in the country; Rivals placed him #53 in their initial Rivals 100 for 2008.
Pro scout Randy Rogers on Moore:
Very impressive on tape. Long limbed, can really create space when he blocks. Has the frame to really fill out. Runs really well. His highlights have a heavy dose of "hitch screens", where you can really see him run after the catch. Has the potential for big "YAC yardage" (yards after catch). Big, soft hands. Is the type of player where you want him to get the ball early and often, because he can create big plays.
His junior year highlight reel agrees:
Then his senior season started and the slide began. Bob Lichtenfels, effusive about virtually everyone else in the Trotwood-Highlands game at the Kirk Herbstreit Classic this fall, said Moore was "disappointing" and "doesn't seem to like blocking very much." His stats for the year were underwhelming to say the least: eight catches. By the end of the recruiting cycle, Moore had dropped 100-some slots in Rivals' estimation and even further in Scout's, which now has him the #43 tight end, five spots lower than some kid going to SMU.
You take high school statistics for wide receivers seriously at your peril, and there are mitigating factors here for Moore: the presence of fellow D-I recruits Roy Roundtree and Michael Shaw absorbed a lot of touches. QB Dominick Britt ended up at a I-AA school and often decided to scramble when his first read -- usually Roundtree, according to his numbers -- was covered. But as a high-profile recruit at a heavily scouted program, the guru's reliability here is good. The picture painted is of a player with an enormous amount of physical ability that disappointed as a senior. There may be work ethic or motor issues that need hammering out --Moore doesn't exactly remind you of hulk-beast Mike Martin when his shirt comes off (eee!). Scout sees only the issues; Lemming only sees the potential, and Rivals a mix of the two. ESPN rated him last summer and then forgot about him.
You may note that Mario Urrutia, the "You May Remember Me From Such Players As" above, is not actually a tight end. Rather, he was Louisville's enormous, slightly ponderous jump ball threat the past few years. Moore will end up much bigger than Urrutia, but his film from Scouting Ohio reminds me of the ex-Cardinal. Trotwood often lined Moore up as receiver and, amazingly, tossed him WR screens. When they went deep he can go up and rip the ball away from smaller defenders.
If Moore isn't much of an inline blocker he could still be a hell of a weapon in the spread as a wideout, where his blocking would likely be crushing against defensive backs.
Guru Reliability: High, though the wild variance in estimated ability is offputting.
General Excitement Level: High, with caveats. Moore is a boom-or-bust guy with much potential but a long way to go.
Projection: Great success, great failure, or somewhere in between. Specific cat is specific.
|Toledo, Ohio - 6'4" 225|
|Scout||4*, #6 TE, #115 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #4 TE, #145 overall|
|ESPN||73, #113 DE|
|Other Suitors||Ohio State|
|YMRMFSPA||Carson Butler minus the attitude|
|Hurray For Being Wrong|
|Notes||Is not named "Kroger," message board doofi.|
One of two recruits Michigan really went head-to-head for against Ohio St ate this year, Kevin Koger is the one who picked the light side. (Defensive tackle Garrett Goebel is the darksider with Pryor still pending, obviously.) His father's lifelong Michigan fandom helped, as did Ohio State's attitude towards tight ends, which is roughly "block, son, and maybe drop a touchdown against Texas and get death threats."
Koger was a nonentity when he popped up on Michigan's radar. IIRC, both recruting services had him an uninspiring three-star recruit, though they quickly changed their tune once it became clear Koger was wanted badly by the two biggest programs in the Midwest. Koger's now just outside the top 100 on both major sites. ESPN lags, rating Koger exclusively as a DE and poorly at that. It's tough to give them any credence when they give the equivalent of a low three-star rating to a guy both M and OSU chased hard and ended up giving an early offer.
Koger's Scouting Ohio film reveals a very large man who can run very fast. You might be confused by a punt return midway through. Koger isn't the returner:
That's a lot of impressive athleticism split across two positions. It must be said: Koger is widely regarded a prospect of equal or greater merit at defensive end, and with Nick Perry's escape to Southern Cal Michigan finds themselves with one defensive end recruit across two classes. Though it's possible one of the linebackers -- most likely Marcus Witherspoon -- could end up with his hand down, Michigan is critically short there.
Meanwhile, Michigan has Martell Webb, Steve Watson, and Moore along with Koger for a single starting spot in the spread offense. This is not an efficient allocation of talent, and someone will end up moving.
At first it will not be Koger. A reader with a connection to the Toledo Whitmer program emailed a short while ago:
Last week Carl Koger(dad) had RRod at the Koger house for several hours visiting to secure Kevin. They had a great visit along with the O coordinator and yes they plan on using Kevin on offense.
So... not yet.
Guru Reliability: High, with the obvious exception of ESPN.
General Excitement Level: High.
Projection: I think the need at DE will eventually force a move, but not this year. He's a high-caliber athlete, but might need a while to learn his position.