the season has truly begun now
BABY PLEASE DON'T GO
Burkedate. You've probably seen this from Beilein:
My coaching staff and I have met with Trey and his parents several times over the past two weeks. Collectively, we have gathered and shared with each of them some necessary information that we feel will help Trey make the most informed decision for his future.
The Burke family has been very receptive to our assistance and appreciates that we have encouraged Trey to take his time and look at all of his options between now and the April 10 deadline.
With only one full week of classes remaining, Trey and his teammates, like all students at Michigan, are working diligently to complete their assignments and prepare for final exams.
Hopefully we can exhale about that Guptill tweet. A reader noted that "move sci" is one of those massive 101-level lectures that doesn't take attendance and probably has as multiple choice exam—ah, Anthro 101 fulfilling my R&E requirement. Burke's probably not missing anything other than quality time with the Daily crossword.
As for where the needle's pointing on a departure, it hasn't moved since yesterday when the forecast called for despair with a small pocket of hope starting at about 3 PM. I don't have anything new, and given the situation anything other than an official declaration one way or the other is going to be worth little.
Go Ferris. Ferris State beat Union yesterday to advance to the NCAA hockey championship game against a rampant BC. For state pride and underdog status and to put the Ferris program on solid footing in the coming hockey New World Order, a Bulldog championship would be sweet. The game is tomorrow at 7 on ESPN2.
In danger. Josh Furman's absence from practice has been attributed to "administrative" issues that aren't academic, and this gives off a whiff of doghouse:
When asked how safety Josh Furman has been doing during camp, Mattison reversed course and said Michigan head coach Brady Hoke would have to answer that.
Dollars to donuts Furman's got a strike or two to his name. Being held out of spring practice is not a good sign. Meanwhile, Marvin Robinson will plead to a lesser charge in his having-a-"concussion"-that-held-him-out-of-eight-games case. He's practicing, so extrapolate Furman's situation from that.
RELEASE THE MCALBRECHTKEN. It's back to the drawing board for the internet nickname but it looks like the brief, passionate courtship between Michigan and Spike Albrecht will come to a satisfactory conclusion. The NWI Times reports that he's "expected to sign" today—should be "commit" since the signing period doesn't start for a few days. Coach quote:
"Spike always played at a high level for us," Swan said, "but to see what he did at the highest level of prep school ball this past year, that was remarkable.
"I know the Michigan staff is very excited about Spike and I know I am really happy for him. He's worked really hard for this opportunity."
Finally we have our revenge on Appalachian State. Can we cancel that game now?
Albrecht's presumed commitment gives Michigan a point guard in the event of a Burke departure; they've still got one or two open slots for 2012 depending on how that goes and a third scholarship they could spend on a grad-year transfer. Speaking of…
Another name for the transfer mill. Boston College's Matt Humphrey has decided to spend his last year of eligibility elsewhere. He's more of a wing or shooting guard and did not stand out amongst the wreckage that was BC's most recent season, but he was their second-leading scorer. BC Interruption on his game:
Humphrey was an enigma during his times with the Eagles. At times he was the offensive and defensive rock for BC, providing veteran leadership to a very young and inexperienced team. On the other hand he was impatient (shooting 35% from the field), and averaged two turnovers a game. He also showed an impatient fiery streak, sometimes making big turnovers in crucial moments.
As literally the only non-freshman who played more than a third of BC's minutes, it's hard to judge how he'd contribute to a better team. BC was 9-22 last year. His efficiency numbers are poor—he was 40% from 2, 31% from three—but shot selection had a lot to do with that. Presumably the shots would be better here.
With a BC degree in hand the academics shouldn't be a problem.
Why do you keep hitting yourself? Ramzy posts up an 84-year-old OSU program written by Brady Hoke:
You there with the helmet: go forth and show that beaver subphylum what Ohio is all about. Well done.
Insert usual amusement at OSU fans getting terribly peeved about That School Up North not calling them by their official name. Not Ramzy in particular, just, you know, them.
Seven teams, pi semifinals, one and a half finals: The Delany Plan. I don't have to mention that Jim Delany's ludicrous three-semifinal plan for a "plus one" is ludicrous, right? This is how that would have looked the past five years:
Semifinals: No. 1 LSU-No. 5 Oregon (replacing Stanford), No. 2 Alabama-No. 3 Oklahoma State
Rose Bowl: No. 4 Stanford-No. 10 Wisconsin
Semifinals: No. 1 Auburn-No. 6 Ohio State (replacing Wisconsin), No. 3 TCU-No. 4 Stanford
Rose Bowl: No. 2 Oregon-No. 5 Wisconsin
Semifinals: No. 2 LSU-No. 5 Georgia (replacing Ohio State), No. 3 Virginia Tech-No. 4 Oklahoma
Rose Bowl: No. 1 Ohio State-No. 7 USC
The Rose Bowl has survived years in which it's lost one of its tenants to the national title game just fine. Over the last five years it would have had to replace three of its eight berths with… 11-1 Michigan (2007), 11-1 Stanford (2010), and 10-2 Oregon(2011). The Rose Bowl will survive a move to a four-team playoff just fine.
Tom Fornelli has the plan I endorse anyway.
Think of the children. Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott surveys his players for their desires in re: playoff:
While the players expressed a range of opinions, the "common thread" was their desire for some form of playoff. "If you're a competitor, you want a chance to play for it on the field, versus being voted for. That was made loud and clear," said Scott.
This has long been the case but now it matters because people have to backtrack on their lame justifications of the previous system.
Kind of, yes. Joe Nocera's been hammering the NCAA for months now but never has he taken on a more harpoon-worthy whale than that condescending ad you learned to hate over the course of the NCAA tournament. Not the Spandeau Ballet one. The other one:
If you’ve been watching the N.C.A.A. men’s basketball championship — a k a March Madness — you’ve undoubtedly seen the commercial. It’s an N.C.A.A. ad that shows college athletes pumping iron, running sprints and playing games. The voice-over, though, talks not about athletic achievement but academic accomplishment. “African-American males who are student-athletes are 10 percent more likely to graduate,” says the narrator. As the ad concludes, a female athlete looks into the camera and says, “Still think we’re just a bunch of dumb jocks?”
Well… it appears you can't do math:
But Richard Southall, who directs the College Sport Research Institute at the University of North Carolina — along with two colleagues, E. Woodrow Eckard of the University of Colorado-Denver and Mark Nagel at the University of South Carolina — have done rigorous studies that show the opposite. In comparing college basketball players with their true peer group — full-time college students — their data show that the athletes are 20 percent less likely to graduate than nonathletes. They also parsed the data by race: of the teams in this year’s March Madness, for instance, the black athletes are 33 percent less likely to graduate than nonathletes.
There are a lot of good reasons this may be. By the time a lot of players get to college they've been set up to struggle. But the relationship between money, prestige, and cut corners is clear.
Etc.: ESPN revamps its 2012 basketball rankings a final time. GRIII is #18, McGary #27, Stauskas #76. The overall class has dipped to #11. The OHL Draft is this weekend. Keep an eye on where commits Kyle Connor and Dylan Larkin go—the lower the better. More Albrecht scouting from people hitting up the full-game youtube videos of his team playing. An early look at the Alabama offense.
Already strong desire to see Amedeo Della Valle wearing Michigan electric banana yellow: incremented. Also, here's 6'7" Bo Zeigler.
What to do with the extra options.
I'm curious what you think Michigan should do with their suddenly available basketball scholarships. I realize it is impossible to predict specific names since you don't know who is really out there or how they look outside their highlight films. But from a position stand-point, what do you think?
I ask because I've had a debate with Dylan at UMHoops the past few days about it. He's of the opinion that a combo guard like Della Valle would be the best choice because we don't need a true PG with Burke and Walton. My opinion is that the end of the bench is designed for people who fit a very specific role and are comfortable being a developmental prospect so I think we need a true PG who can back up Burke and Walton and be available in case of emergency.
I think Travis Trice (MSU) and Stilman White (UNC) are perfect examples of the type of player you want to provide depth. They were both undersized, low-ranked recruits coming into a full roster with many more heralded players but both played critical back-up roles for their teams when needed. To me, that is the first priority with these available scholarships and the second priority is either a combo guard with a lot of upside or a pure shooter to groom into the Vogrich role.
Michigan could take both a PG and a combo now and a third guy besides if he's a grad-year transfer. I think the ideal situation is a grad-year PG, Della Valle, and a full-court press on Bo Zeigler and Monte Morris as Michigan tries to add to its 2013 class.
If there isn't a suitable grad-year guy out there, then it comes down to what you think of your available point guard options. Michigan does need a second point guard at some point. Do you think Della Valle and/or Stauskas can give you backup minutes if Burke stays? Do you think Spike Albrecht or other random unsigned guy can play? How do you feel about your shot at doubling up with Walton and Morris in 2013? What is your contingency plan if Burke goes pro?
I can't answer any of those questions, but I don't think you want to take a guy just to take a guy. Christian was an example of that. He was going to Tulane and had little interest outside of that before Michigan swooped in. He ended up sitting on the bench before departing, and the limited utility he provided in his sparse minutes probably could have been handled by Corey Person without much problem.
Albrecht is a walking question mark right now. There's a big difference between Travis Trice—who had offers from Minnesota, Northwestern, Dayton, and Butler—and Albrecht, who doesn't even have profile at the major sites and has Vermont fans on the fence about taking him. Meanwhile, White had a BYU offer. I can't find a confirmed Albrecht offer from anyone—his profile is a lot closer to Christian than either of your four-year examples.
Unless you think Albrecht is the sort of guy who can give you ten minutes now and could start as a senior, I wouldn't take him. If he's as good as Dave Sobolewski, the guy Sam Webb compared him to, I would. But even a low profile guy like Sobocop got three stars from Rivals and shows a number of quality mid-major offers like Harvard, Northern Iowa, and Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
In contrast, we know Della Valle has high-level suitors. If Michigan gets him they'll beat out Texas A&M, Arizona, Gonzaga, and others for him (AFAIK he does not have an official OSU offer). That's a guy you'd take any time.
This is my point guard decision matrix:
- If you can get a grad-year guy, take him.
- Otherwise, if you think Albrecht or other guy is as good as Sobolewski, take him.
- Otherwise, if Trey Burke stays just deal with 5-10 minutes a game with Stauskas or hopefully Della Valle at the point.
- If Trey Burke leaves, panic. Then reach for someone, anyone.
FWIW, A Trey Zeigler transfer—which doesn't seem to be on the table—doesn't fit well with Michigan's needs. They need another guard next year, when Zeigler won't be eligible, and he's probably more of a shooting guard. If you can get Della Valle he's preferable since he's available now.
Mmmm, roster fantasy.
I don't think it's possible...but we just think about the possibility of Burke and Hardaway staying for not one, but TWO years!?! How good could that team be assuming all the incoming freshmen stay?
[ED: This email came in before the attrition and the Burke news.]
Sure it's possible, but I'm not sure we want that to happen. If Hardaway has another year like his most recent one and Burke doesn't improve significantly they'll again be in that range of second-round-to-undrafted prospects and the calculus will dictate a return. I'd rather have Hardaway turn into a lottery pick both for roster reasons and, hey, NBA lottery pick driving team forward.
A hypothetical 2013-14 squad featuring everyone from the current roster and the next two incoming classes would be one-seed good even without Smotrycz. It would probably mean the upcoming season was a disappointment, though. I'd rather have a breakout year and deal with the consequences.
It's in the past.
So with the partnership between the B1G and PAC12 coming up in a few years to do some cross conference games some of the teams are getting a slight jump (i.e. Northwestern playing Stanford and Cal, as well as the recent announcement of Michigan State and Oregon). While I would love to see a home and home with USC, isn’t the most intriguing matchup with Arizona? It might be a lose-lose situation for us where if we win we were expected to win and if we lose then Rich Rod will have his moment of glory.
Who would you like to see?
Intriguing, yes. Annoying, God yes. I would like Michigan to stay away from any rehash of the Rodriguez era. This desire is on par with Michigan making a Rose Bowl: let us never speak of that again. Playing Arizona is like scheduling a rematch with Appalachian…
Oh, right. That.
If they zipper future matchups like they do for the Big Ten/ACC challenge (though I assume they'll do home-and-homes in this Pac-10 alliance), Michigan might not have a choice. It's hard to see the near future of both conferences panning out in such a way as to dictate the Arizona-Michigan matchup unless TV wants to get cute. I'd expect USC, Oregon, Stanford, etc. Arizona's been down forever for a reason.
On the philosophical shortcomings of the program expressed via the lens of running back recruiting.
The recent commit of Deveon Smith, which possibly excludes Ty Isaac, brought to the forefront an interesting inner debate I've had for a while. You have said that the Ohio State game is a microcosm of UM's season. I similarly have thought that Mike Hart was a microcosm of UM football in not only the late Carr years, but also the Bo years. (Disclaimer: do not read further if you think of the Bo years as the pinnacle of a college football program).
Anyway, Hart was so very good but just not quite fast enough to take it to the house after he hit the second level; often getting caught from behind. Similarly, the late Carr years, as well as Bo's years, resulted in very good teams which just couldn't reach an NC (or a very good bowl record). Obviously the leading all-time rusher in UM history is not to blame for UM's failure to win NC's, but rather a microcosm; just doesn't have that last little burst to become elite.
I see the same in Smith vs Isaac: one a more sure-fire prospect, but lacks the elite higher ceiling that great break-away speed gives (Smith), or a bigger risk in waiting for that elite size/speed combo (Isaac). I'm honestly not sure where I stand in the inner debate of whether I would rather risk a higher level ceiling (in prospects and program), or go a safer route, but with a lower ceiling that results in conference championships but not the elite national championships. I was curious to know your thoughts on the subject.
The tension here was on display in Hoke's first press conference when Drew Sharp managed to break away from the gentle grape-peeling-and-feeding session to ask a typically nasty question about Hoke's focus on winning the Big Ten, and how it wasn't a focus on winning national championships, and doesn't that make you some sort of jerk, Brady, and don't even think I'm projecting my failures on to you and everyone I write about I HAVE A VERY IMPORTANT JOB AT A NEWSPAPER.
Hoke looked at Sharp like his cool leather jacket was made out of baby skin—which, unbeknownst to him, it was—and mumbled something about how that opportunity would be there if they won the league. Sharp tried to press the point, but Hoke had already moved on to recruiting the 2015 class.
The idea that Michigan plays it safe was something I've felt as I watched good teams play in fear of what could go wrong instead of pressing their advantages and fall apart against teams they have no business doing so against. That was pretty much the only thing I thought when Hoke was hired: oh God this again, even further removed from the time period in which it was a good idea.
Hoke then set about annihilating that expectation, on and off the field. He hired Greg Mattison and brought along an honest-to-God offensive coordinator, he went for it—a lot—and told the media not to expect him to change after it didn't work out that one time against Illinois. And of course the recruiting. Brady Hoke's answer to Smith vs Isaac is "why not both?" I gingerly suggest that will also be his approach to Big Ten title vs National title. Hoke likes to win games, and tries to win all of them, and is recruiting at a level that will allow him to do so.
Wilson is needed at safety because Josh Furman's hair may be too spectacular for him to see the field.
Some Spring FB questions that so far I have not seen much about:
1) With the additions of Wilson and Clark as Free Safeties (and Dymonte in 2013) it would seem that moving Tamari Carter back to his HS position of CB would be logical given his size and our depth chart. I know there is talk of trying Wilson at CB but I don't buy it.
I haven't heard anything about Wilson at CB; I'd be surprised if he was not a safety all the way. As far as Carter goes, I'm looking at the depth chart and it seems like Michigan has three solid veterans plus a couple of true sophomore backups they liked enough to play last year. That seems like a position of less uncertainty than safety, partially because Marvin Robinson…
2) Any word on whether Marvin Robinson will get a medical red shirt for last year and also if that minor X Box spat has been cleared up? I still see Marvin as #2 on the depth chart and heir apparent to Kovacs at SS, so an extra year of eligibility would be nice. In other Red Shirt News I know it is futile to ask why we can't get a straight answer about Devin's possible wasted Freshman year... a riddle wrapped in a conundrum.
…does not seem like he's going to be a factor this year. I've gotten a report that he has not looked in shape at early spring practices. Obviously a lot of time left before fall; still not a good sign. If he's not in line for playing time Carter is one of only two guys with a year under his belt at safety. The other is Josh Furman, who has reportedly been absent for a few practices. Even if that's benign (class conflict?) it's not a good sign for potential Furman playing time. Things could go wrong a lot more quickly there than corner.
I don't know about Gardner. I've heard the opposite about the likelihood he ends up getting the extra year—e.g., it is a formality. I don't know what to believe there.
3) Is there any buzz at all about Ken Wilkins? He seems like a great possibility at SDE but I am starting to feel "Adam Patterson Syndrome" with regard to Mr. Wilkins.
Jerry In Ibiza
There hasn't been much buzz about Wilkins and the move of not one but two WDEs inside to positions he might play is not a good sign for him when it comes to seeing the field. The last we saw Wilkins he was getting annihilated by a walk-on as an undersized three-tech in the spring game; he did not surface at all last season even when the defensive line depth was whittled down to nothing in the Sugar Bowl.
He's got a shot at the rotation this year whether it's behind Black or Roh; if he doesn't do it now chances are he won't ever. If Patterson was on the sort of roster Wilkins will be as a fourth year player, he would have been buried.
UPDATE: Dangit. I forgot to pump this: the Blood Battle is going on RIGHT NOW. Defeat OSU, get cookies.
RIP Bo. Five years ago today.
Black and Blue. Hey, kids. That documentary about Gerald Ford, Willis Ward, and Georgia Tech is being screened for free at the Ford Presidential Library at 7 on Friday. If you're not going to the hockey game, hit it up. I am, so I can't, but if anyone does end up going a review in the diaries would be nice.
I let do… wat? Demar Dorsey features in the Detroit News saying things that are unexpected:
The passion for such a goal runs so deep in Dorsey that he claims he would try out for the team as a walk-on if a scholarship isn't available.
"If I can get into the school, I know I'll find a way to make the team," he said. "Nobody knows how bad I want it." … "I'm in the same state!" Dorsey said. "Why would you miss out on your best shot in the state? C'mon, Brady Hoke!"
You'd think the cynical crap he got from the local media would have turned him off on the entire state, but I guess not. Guy has goals. Unfortunately, with Michigan's class near-full, its APR hovering in a dangerous zone, the coach who recruited him gone, and Dorsey still carrying academic question marks from his high school career, a reunion is exceedingly unlikely.
Too bad. I'd love to see certain local folks twist themselves into pretzels trying to contrast this version of Dorsey with the one that proved Rich Rodriguez was Mark Dantonio.
UPDATE II: Apparently Dorsey is a 2013 prospect, so it's somewhat less of a longshot. Still a longshot.
The bump. Ace mentioned this in the morning but it's worth repeating: Scout's latest rankings see three Michigan commits (Joe Bolden, Tom Strobel, and AJ Williams) rise significantly with only one (Kaleb Ringer) dropping. Conspiracy theories about Michigan commits dropping all the time should be shelved this year.
BONUS eeee recruiting accounting: Michigan currently has thirteen commits in the Scout 300—actually all in the top 250—and virtually everyone they're still pursuing is also amongst that number. It seems like the only way they won't end up with 17 is if they strike out on two of their three high-end WR targets and have to pick up a decent three star instead.
Marvin Robinson's lawyer: better than Jerry Sandusky's. The Robinson POV on his court thing:
Mason said Robinson already has an Xbox. In fact, he has two, Mason said. The student who reported the theft is an acquaintance of Robinson's, and Robinson has been in his room on "various occasions," Mason said. They trade Xboxes, he said. Mason, a U-M graduate, said it's not uncommon for a student to go into another student's room.
"I lived in Michigan dorms and I used to walk into my room and find people sitting there, watching TV," he said.
Robinson is going to cooperate with university police and Washtenaw County prosecutors, Mason said, adding that Robinson has no criminal record.
"He goes to class," he said. "He goes to study hall. He goes to practice. And he goes to church every Sunday with his mom and dad."
His hearing has been delayed until January. No idea if that's an accurate picture of the situation but I'm guessing Robinson is still on the team when this is resolved.
In 2062, this will be an article about Toledo. Apparently beating Michigan in 1962 was a big deal:
Bob Devaney earned his first signature victory on that sunny September afternoon in 1962, upsetting the Wolverines 25-13 in what was supposed to be, according to the Detroit Free Press, an “opening-day breather” for the home team.
The rest is history.
Michigan went 2-7 in 1962.
Van Bergen FTW. A bit more on Van Bergen's stunt stunt last weekend, and the study that generates it, from the Daily:
Every Tuesday, the coaches hand out the scouting reports. Van Bergen usually finds the tendencies and play consistencies watching film on his own. Sometimes he’s right, and sometimes Montgomery has to straighten him out. The answers are always in the binder. In practice, the scout team gives the defense simulations of what they’ll see in the game.
“It goes from there to the game,” Montgomery said. “ ‘Hey Coach, this holds up. Every time they do this, it’s accurate.’ Then they start to believe.” …
Van Bergen knew Iowa was going to sneak its quarterback when it hurried up to the line on a fourth-and-1 two weeks ago — he and Martin snuffed it out.
The past three weeks in particular, Montgomery said, Van Bergen has been well versed in the opponent’s “meat and potatoes” (Hoke’s term for tendencies and key plays).
No wonder they’ve been his best three weeks of the season — 13 tackles, five tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.
He knew what play Purdue was going to run in the shadow of its own endzone, based on a tip — alignment, personnel, formation or all the above. He told Martin, who then ripped through the line for a safety because he knew what was coming.
Unless he has a long NFL career (not entirely out of the question), Van Bergen is going to be defensive line Mike Hart as soon as he graduates—the guy everyone follows in his coaching career, hoping he returns.
I was listening to the BSD podcast this week for various reasons mostly having nothing to do with football, but I did get a football tidbit when they had Ramzy from Eleven Warriors on. He mentioned that you can pick out OSU passing plays because their n00b receivers only look at their wristbands when it's a pass. That'll probably get hammered out by the time the Game rolls around; given the widespread antipathy for Bollman OSU will probably be tipping things in ways not so easily addressable.
More Van Bergen. I like Ryan Van Bergen.
"The year my class came here was after the 1 versus 2 Ohio (State) game and Michigan went to the Rose Bowl," Van Bergen said, referring to the 2006 season. "That was my expectation — we're going to play Ohio to go to the Rose Bowl every year I'm here. I was going to have coach (Lloyd) Carr for my whole time here, and it was going to be great.
"The amount of adversity that has been encountered by this senior class, especially the fifth-year guys, I'd be hard-pressed to find another group that has survived and now thrives in that situation. I don't know how much people even realize how dedicated these guys were."
"I guessed three times it was going to be a pass just by their formation, and I was right all three times. So I was like, 'You know what? Eff this, I'm doing it.' Mike went with me. He jumped in and it was successful."
(Angelique bowdlerized "eff this" to "forget this"; Heiko reports that it was "Eff" but not the full Molk.)
What’s Nebraska’s greatest position strength? Greatest weakness?
It’s not really a matter of position strength as it is a matter of depth and experience. It’s kind of a catch 22 for NU right now. NU’s best defensive player is a linebacker, Lavonte David. And, Will Compton has steadily improved. So, its a strength, right? The problem is they are very weak/thin at linebacker after those two. The same could be said for the secondary. Alfonzo Dennard is a stud, and they all feed off of him. At times, they play well. At others, they are very suspect. It’s the same story at running back – a strength because Burkhead is stud, potential weakness because it’s only freshman behind him. When he got nicked up against Northwestern, it hurt the offense a lot.
As far as a a true strength for NU, I can’t overstate how much quality special teams play has helped the Huskers so far this year. Brett Maher’s punting was important last week. He’s done a great job as a kicker this year too. The NU return game has been strong too. That’s the stuff that quietly helps win games.
Tight ends: pro-style requirements. Today in "quoting everything Chris Brown writes" we focus on tight ends. You may remember an emailer questioning Michigan's decision to take Pharaoh Brown as a tight end because defensive ends seem more valuable. I wrote then:
I get the vibe that tight end is going to be a big deal with Borges. If we're headed to a collection-of-plays Boise-style offense, having a diverse set of tight ends is a key component. Having a 6'6" guy who can run some is a major help in your effort to whiplash the defense from huge power running sets to spread passing attacks. What do you do when the opposition has a guy who can block a defensive end but can't be covered by a linebacker? Brown may be that guy.
Now Brown tackles the transformation of the Patriots offense from a full-spread passing attack back to something approximating NFL norms:
[In response to Rex Ryan blitzing his spread to death] Belichick went out and drafted [tight ends] Gronkowski and Hernandez.
Hernandez is more of a pure receiver, and his chief advantage is as a substitution/personnel problem: If he's in the game, you don't know if he'll line up as a tight end or if he'll split wide so that Welker can play the slot, forcing you to decide whether to put your cornerback on Welker or Hernandez, potentially creating advantages in both the run and passing game. But Gronkowski is a true triple-threat from the tight-end spot: He can block, he can go out for passes, and he can even block and then go out for delayed passes. Multiple defenders have to keep their eyes on him. And against such a threat, Ryan can't sell out with the multifarious blitzes overloaded to one side or the other, simply in an all-out effort to get Tom Brady. The presence of the tight ends—where will they line up, what will they do—dictates terms back to Rex Ryan, who would much rather cut loose and go on carrying his father's torch as the destroyer of pretty-boy quarterbacks.
Having Brown, Devin Funchess, and AJ Williams* in one class isn't overkill if a two-TE set is going to be the closest thing to a base offense Michigan has, and if you can split out a 6'6" dude like Brown that makes the whiplashing even whiplashier. There are a lot of things to get excited about in this recruiting class but the diverse, athletic set of tight ends they acquired is high on my list.
*[I know a lot of people are talking up Williams as a tackle. I think that's a possible endpoint for him but if that move ends up happening it won't be soon. Michigan will need him to play as a freshman.]
Etc.: Extensively reported NYT piece on Penn State makes McQueary look a little better, everyone else look worse. The NCAA left its SharePoint site open to the public for a while. Can't go two weeks in the Michigan blogosphere without someone posting some latin. BWS picture pages the Ryan/Kovacs speed option destruction.
This is very important. Fitz Tous is a much weirder name than Gerald Saint.
An image. This was on the internet, but not widely enough. Undoubtedly from this year's Big Ten Media Days, the family portrait:
I'm just posting this for Pelini.
WHAT ABOUT MY SOUL
Where have you been all my life. I can't believe this guy has been doing this for three years and no one has found him before MGoVideo stumbled across him this weekend:
A check of his account reveals he's done this exact same thing dozens of times over the past three years for things as insignificant as victories over Hillsdale. There is no corresponding "BOO" for losses, unfortunately.
NoPa. Whoever wins the league this year won't have to pick up their trophy with tongs:
Former Penn State coach Joe Paterno's name has been removed from the Big Ten's football championship trophy, league commissioner Jim Delany said Monday.
“We believe that it would be inappropriate to keep Joe Paterno’s name on the trophy at this time,” Delany said. “The trophy and its namesake are intended to be celebratory and aspirational, not controversial. We believe that it’s important to keep the focus on the players and the teams that will be competing in the inaugural championship game.”
They're going with just "Stagg." Now all we have to do is tie the division names into a horrible crime and we're set nomenclature-wise. Paterno is kind of a leader and legend all wrapped into one, isn't he?
Legal argh. Marvin Robinson's concussion turns out to be one that causes bad decisions:
Robinson, 20, was arraigned last week on a charge of second degree home invasion and released on a promise to appear. He is accused of breaking into a locked dorm room at 10 p.m. Sept. 29 and stealing the game.
After getting some time early in the year Robinson mysteriously disappeared; now we know why. There's a lot of speculation about this being the end of MRob by mysterious insiders; I find that odd. Unless he's had previous incidents this seems like a first strike type event. Previous Michigan players in the same level of trouble have been able to return after doing penance.
"(They) gave me some freedom to call some stunts up front that coaches wouldn’t typically do, but they trust that I’m smart enough to make the right calls," Van Bergen said. "We didn’t actually get the green light, we just started doing it. Take a risk. Why not?
"It worked the first two or three times, and the coaches were just like, ‘Call ‘em when you feel like calling ‘em.’"
Remember a couple years ago when Indiana ripped off an 85-yard touchdown because RVB missed a check? That doesn't so much happen anymore. Seniors. I like them. We should try to have more of them. You, Desmond Morgan: be a senior with four years of eligibility starting now.
A note on Denard fumbly bits. While it's frustrating to endure a game in which Denard fumbles turn two drives in field goal range to dust, the team's overall trend is still highly positive:
|Year: 2011||Thru: 11/12/11|
The noise you hear is Rich Rodriguez screaming "oh, of course this happens the year after I get fired." Denard coughed it up twice against Illinois and had the elaborate-sack-escape fumble against Iowa; the other two lost fumbles were from Smith and Hopkins against SDSU. Robinson's had 330 events this year; losing three fumbles on them isn't that bad.
Last year Michigan lost 14(!) as a team. The improvement here has been significant enough to more than combat the increase in interceptions.
Complicated bits. Smart Football's Grantland work seems specifically targeted at things we've been discussing about Michigan's offensive transition. There a post about how Jim Harbaugh has dumped sight reading from the 49ers offense and thereby aided them in their transformation from chumps to 7-1. At first they were like this:
And then they would change to this when they got a blitz:
But now they're like this:
They always have hot routes built into the play. Michigan has gone the other direction. Unfortunately you're thinking of Vincent Smith not running a slant against Michigan State right now, but I can't do anything about that. Chris Brown's take on this adaptation:
It's my personal view, but I think NFL teams rely too much on sight adjustments. There are two reasons for this: First, these plays were far more straightforward a decade or two ago than they are now, and second, coaches who spend nearly all their waking hours thinking about football tend to forget that it's not how many X's and O's they know but what they can teach their players. To the first point, sight adjustments are old — at least 50 years old, if not more. But they arose before zone blitzes became popular. Against a blitz with man-to-man coverage in the secondary, sight adjustments made perfect sense. They were extensions of backyard football — throw a quick one to the fast guy and let him run with the ball before the blitz overwhelms the offensive line.
Now it's not so simple. With the rise of the zone blitz, the fact that three defenders might rush from one side tells the offense almost nothing about where the coverage will be. This is why, when zone blitzes first became prominent, you saw quarterbacks throwing awful passes directly to defenders who weren't even close to receivers. This is not to say that sight adjustments are impossible in today's environment, but they require an almost telepathic relationship between quarterback, receiver, and even the offensive line.
Borges and Hoke have been grumbling about wide receivers being hidden issues in the passing game for chunks of the year and I think this is what they're talking about. In the spring game Gardner missed Gallon three times when Gallon pulled up short and Gardner threw long or vice versa; the Smith interception happened; Denard has often been under pressure without anywhere to go with the ball because everyone's 30 yards downfield. That seems nuts so my assumption is when that happens it's because the receivers have not read the play correctly.
While this should get better next year when Gallon, Roundtree, and Stonum all have a year of experience under their belts I'm a little leery of Michigan using sight reads extensively—and they seem like an all-or-nothing proposition like being a triple option or Air Raid team. You're either 100% committed to it or you suck. I'll figure out more about this over the offseason—I've signed up for some clinics featuring Michigan's coordinators that will hopefully shed some light on what Michigan's trying to do.
BONUS relevance: Brown also breaks down one of Oregon's long runs against Stanford with a focus on the alignment of the line and how Oregon forces you to respect the bubble. I'll probably tackle that in greater detail in a picture pages.
Yost attendance problem mitigation. If you have tickets, need tickets, need a rideshare, or require any other thing that will get you to Yost there is a Children of Yost facebook page that can help you with these matters. I don't think their services extend to calling you up at 7:15 and screaming "PUT DOWN THE MW3 AND LEAVE THE HOUSE NOW," unfortunately.
More Trouba. Via NHL.com:
"He has offense skills and he really does defend well," Gregory said. "You can just tell by how he plays in all areas of the ice that he's a big kid who skates really well. He loves to jump into the play and has confidence because he knows his skating can get him back, so he rarely gets caught out of position. He's going to be someone people are going to talk about; we've known about him for a couple years and he's not disappointing early on this year, either."…
"He skates exceptionally well and likes to rush up the ice with the puck and with good speed," he said. "He's very confident, has great agility, is strong physically and is always alert. He's done a good job in 1-on-1 situations against opposing forwards and contained his man very well."
(HT: Michigan Hockey Net.)
This week in going for it. Advanced NFL Stats has a go-or-not 4th down calculator, but I think it's broken. When I punch in the situation from the weekend, it says 100% of 92 is 93. As a result it says M should have kicked.
I think it means the decision to go was correct since it says you have a 70% chance of success and your WP goes from 92 to 93 if you get it right. Expected points are massively in favor of going, FWIW: 4.5 to 2.4.
The mid 90s summed up. Midnight Maize brings us this shirt, which should be the student T this year and for all time:
That is wicked off the hook but inexplicably managed to escape its ebay auction unsold.
Etc.: Toussaint interviewed by TIM DOYLE OMG. Says "I'm just a big fan of fashion." Toussaint, not Doyle. Dreaded Judgment gets on the "third down == awesome" bandwagon. MGoFootball Illinois bullets arrived too late for yesterday's game post.
Iowa fans think Michigan State got fainting disease last Saturday, which I point out mostly to marvel at the idea anyone would have to slow the Hawkeyes' tempo down. I guess they were down a billion.
Gratuitous Video of the Week: here's Will Campbell showing men of Thor who Thor really is:
More on him later.
Formation Notes: Michigan ran a lot of nickel against ND since ND ran a ton of three- and four-wide sets; this was usually an "even" front:
IE, both sides of the line are set up essentially the same way. You can see Thomas Gordon over the slot to the bottom of the screen.
When ND went to more conventional sets it was the 4-3 under. Here's an example you might recognize:
They also did their okie thing and nickel eff it, but you know about the latter from momentarily horrifying touchdowns.
Substitution Notes: much less rotation on the defensive line this time around. Roh and Black split time at WDE. Martin was almost always the nose. Van Bergen split time between three-tech and SDE, as did Heininger. Heininger also spotted Martin at the nose when he took a breather. Washington got in for a few plays; Campbell replaced Heininger late to excellent effect. Both were three-techs.
As you can see above, it seemed like Michigan had two different packages on the line:
- Pass rush: SDE Ryan / NT Martin / 3TECH RVB / WDE Black/Roh
- Run D: SDE RVB / NT Martin / 3TECH Heininger/Campbell/Washington / WDE Black/Roh Jake Ryan and Kenny Demens went the whole way at LB. The WLB was Desmond Morgan for the first four or so drives and then Brandin Hawthorne the rest of the way. Ryan also lined up at defensive end plenty when ND went to packages with lots of wideouts.
In the secondary it was mostly Avery and Floyd with Woolfolk rotating in from time to time. Kovacs and Robinson played the whole way at safety; Thomas Gordon got all but a handful of snaps as Michigan spent most of its time in a nickel package.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O43||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Morgan||11|
|Morgan starts and immediately gives up a play. Wood's headed straight up the middle of the field but Demens is there, unblocked. Martin(+0.5) was momentarily doubled and then gets the inside guy to release downfield. He then sets up inside of the G. That plus Demens means Wood has to cut outside of the Martin block and inside of Roh. Morgan(-2) fails to read the play quickly enough and does not get outside to stand Wood up in the hole. Have to get here if you're unblocked. If he's there Wood has nowhere to go and this is a no gain. Instead he's late, missing an arm tackle(-1) and sending Wood into the secondary for Kovacs to tackle.|
|M46||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Morgan||5|
|Heininger at the three tech with RVB at the five, except this is an even front with Roh on the strongside. Michigan slants its line away from the play; Roh(+0.5) shoots under the TE quickly enough to bang the pulling G. He's not far enough upfield to stop him cold but does slow him up and prevent him from effectively blocking Morgan. I am not entirely sure but I think Demens may have screwed up here—usually when you see a slant like this both linebackers will flow over the top behind it. Instead Demens goes straight upfield, getting knocked out by a tackle releasing downfield. HOWEVA, Gordon is blitzing off the edge so maybe Demens is doing what he should and it's Morgan who is making the error by not getting inside to bounce the play to his force help. So I just don't know. I think this is Morgan(-0.5) because of the blitz, and he did fall off the tackle(-1), but Demens(-0.5) also comes in for a wag of the finger.|
|M41||2||5||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 under||Pass||N/A||Waggle out||Floyd?||21|
|Looks like the same slant. Roh(-1) is left unblocked on the end, sees the TE pulling across the line, and crashes down the line at said TE. He gets chucked to the inside as he releases into the route. Rees has no pressure on the corner and finds Floyd wide open for a big gainer. (Cover -2, Pressure -2, RPS -1) Either on Floyd for going deep when he had help over the top or Gordon for not getting over fast enough. I'd be guessing.|
|M20||1||10||Ace twins twin TE||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Martin||11|
|TE originally spread out before coming in as an H-back over the gap between Martin and Heininger. Both linebackers flow to to the wrong side a step as the RB takes a counter step before cutting backside. Heininger(-1) was easily kicked out of the hole and sealed. Martin(-1) is slanting, I think, and also gets blown out of the hole. Morgan(-0.5) and Demens(-0.5) both get blown up by ND OL on the second level, and Wood just shoots straight upfield. Yuck.|
|M9||1||G||Ace twins twin TE||4-4 over||Run||N/A||Yakety snap||--||0|
|M9||2||G||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel over||Run||N/A||Quick pitch||Black||2|
|Eifert split out. Slightly, Michigan shifted towards him in case there is funny stuff. Morgan telegraphs his blitz, Rees checks. He checks to a quick pitch outside that takes advantage of that blitz(RPS -1). Black(+2) is left unblocked and starts charging up at the quarterback; on the pitch he changes direction impressively, gets out on the RB, and manages to tackle(+1) just as Wood crosses the LOS. Terrific individual play.|
|M7||3||G||Shotgun 4-wide||Okie||Pass||7||Rollout out||Gordon||7|
|Michigan sends the house; Notre Dame rolls away from the pressure and towards the out route Riddick is running on Gordon; Gordon has to set up with inside leverage and has no real chance at doing anything with this. Cover -1, RPS -1.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-7, 9 min 1st Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O17||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel under||Pass||4||Dumpoff||Morgan?||15|
|This director is very frustrating because his shots are all super-tight. You can see literally three yards downfield. Is this zone or man? I don't know. I believe it's zone given the reactions after the dumpoff. Problem: Morgan(-2, cover -2) takes off on a drag route as if it's man, opening up this stupid dumpoff for a big gain. No pressure(-1), either. On replay, definitely zone except for Morgan.|
|O32||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel under||Run||N/A||Pin and pull zone||Martin||-3|
|Martin(+3) gets under the blocker assigned to him and shoots into the backfield for a TFL. Roh(+1) had set up outside in good contain position, removing any chance of a bounceout. Heininger(-1) got clobbered, though it didn't matter. RPS+1 for the slant.|
|O29||2||13||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||N/A||16|
|Kovacs and Morgan telegraph a blitz; Rees checks out of it; Michigan does not check out of their blitz. The check is a power play to the strong side of the line, where there are two Michigan defenders and four blockers with the pull. RPS -2. Hopeless. Heininger(-1) makes things worse by getting destroyed. RVB(-1) flew upfield, opening a big hole. Demens is almost triple-teamed as a result. Wood can go to either side. Gordon has to keep leverage and heads outside; Wood cuts in. Robinson(-1) comes up hard, misses the tackle, and gets lucky that Wood is forced into Floyd.|
|O45||1||10||Shotgun empty||Nickel even||Pass||4||Out||Demens||6|
|Zone blitz sends Morgan and drops Black. This gets a free run for Morgan and does see Black cover Eifert effectively, but no RPS because ND has a hot route they hit. Demens is in man on Riddick; Riddick runs an out; he was lined up way outside of Demens; all Demens can do is tackle. It is possible Gordon was supposed to be in zone here but I think it's just a tough cover for Demens as Mattison tries to confuse ND.|
|M49||2||4||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Penalty||N/A||False start||N/A||-5|
|Why does ND always have at least two linemen with full-on Viking manes? I can't think of a team more likely to have hair sticking out of their OL's helmets.|
|O46||2||9||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Drag||Kovacs||11|
|Washington in. Morgan(+1) blitzes and gets in clean, lighting up Rees as he throws (pressure +2), but Demens has been run off (cover -1) underneath and a short crossing route is turned up for 8 YAC. This is not Demens's fault—he actually did a great job of passing Floyd off to the safety. Kovacs(-1) is the culprit I think; two ND receivers jumped inside and he was the nearest available defender.|
|M43||1||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||4||Bubble screen||Demens||8|
|Gordon(+1) does a great job of avoiding a cut block and is right there; Demens(-2) is flowing from the inside. He overpursues and lets Floyd back inside of him when the two of them had him pinned for a minimal gain. (Tackling -1)|
|M35||2||2||Ace twin TE||4-3 under||Pass||6||TE In||--||13|
|Morgan and Ryan blitz and are picked up(pressure -2). Once that happens it's an easy matter to find the hole in the zone. Kovacs and Demens were the guys nearest but this is on the blitz not getting close to home.|
|M22||1||10||Shotgun empty bunch||Nickel even||Pass||4||Slant||Morgan||14|
|Morgan(-1) again telegraphs his blitz, Rees checks, Michigan does not check, and it's easy as pie to throw it where Morgan blitzed from (RPS -2.) It's a matter of picking the wide open WR. Mattison getting torn apart so far. Kovacs(-1) misses a tackle(-1), ceding another half-dozen yards.|
|M8||1||G||Ace Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Ryan||5|
|Michigan still slanting these. Unlike Roh earlier, Ryan(-1) does not get underneath his blocker. He's kicked out. The slant isn't helping Heininger but he gets annihilated(-1). Big hole. Morgan(-0.5) gets pancaked, but he wasn't done any favors. Held down by safety help near the goal line.|
|M3||2||G||Ace Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Black||3|
|Same play they ran for 11 yards on the first drive. Black(-1) blown out by a double. Martin(-1) fights to the wrong side of his blocker; Morgan(-1) again goes with the counter step and again gets pancaked in the end zone. Demens(-0.5) can't do much. This is easy, yo.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-14, 1 min 1st Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|M39||1||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Trap?||Van Bergen||2|
|Hawthorne in. G pulls around Martin(-0.5) as the C kicks him upfield. Tough job to stay disciplined there but Martin could have done better. Hawthorne shoots the gap outside and misses but does get an arm on Wood, causing him to stumble. RVB(+1.5) fought inside a double and now gets in the way, forcing a spin; Demens(+0.5) and Kovacs(+0.5) converge to thump him down.|
|M37||2||8||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Out||Floyd||Inc|
|Zone blitz sees both DEs drop off as the MLBs blitz and Kovacs comes from way back. Rushers get picked up and Rees has a guy wide open on an out for the first (pressure -1, cover -1, Floyd -1), but instead of throwing it at the WR he throws it in the direction of Floyd five yards deeper. That's a letoff.|
|M37||3||8||Shotgun empty||Nickel even||Pass||4||Drag||Hawthorne||Inc|
|Hawthorne(+1) sent on the same blitz Morgan was earlier, but he doesn't tip it off, getting in free right after the snap (pressure +2, RPS +1). Rees chucks it in panic. General direction of a drag that probably won't get the first down; turfed. I have a new respect for giving free rushers +1s after watching Morgan earlier.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-14, 14 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O14||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||Nickel over||Pass||5||Bubble screen||Gordon||22|
|Blitz from JT Floyd in the slot and ND bubbles right at it (RPS -1). Gordon gets a chuck in press man on Riddick, then disengages as Kovacs comes up. Riddick takes Kovacs. Gordon is now alone with Floyd on the edge. Floyd smokes him(-2, tackling -1) to the outside and turns a moderate gain into 20 yards.|
|O36||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Nickel over||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Martin||0|
|RVB(+1) stands up to a double right at the LOS. This allows Martin(+1) to read the pull and pull himself, getting into the hole. Demens attacks and gets there at about the LOS; he turns it inside but I think he got bashed out the hole and would have given up a lane if not for Martin. Black(+1) set up, chucked the DE, and dove at Gray's feet as he passed—he's actually the first guy to tackle(+1). Well done all around by the DL.|
|O36||2||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Fade||Woolfolk||Inc|
|Hawthorne as a standup DE-ish thing and Ryan as an MLB. Blitz telegraphed? I don't remember this play. Survey says... yes. Ryan blitzes, Hawthorne drops into coverage, ND picks it up. Rees wants Floyd on a fade covered by Woolfolk. Woolfolk(+2) is step for step and uses his club to knock the ball away as it arrives. Robinson(+0.5) was there to whack him, too. (Cover +2)|
|Massive coverage bailout: the one that worked. ND rolls away from pressure that doesn't exist and still lets the backside DE roar in free. Rees has a timer in his head and needs to chuck it; he does. Kovacs(+3) backs out into a zone, reads the roll and the QBs eyes, and undercuts Floyd to intercept. Only problem: Eifert is wide open in the seam for a touchdown. Um (cover +1, RPS +1). I guess. Picture paged by dnak438.|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 0-14, 11 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O24||1||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||4||Screen||Black||Inc|
|Black(+2) reads the screen, gets upfield, shoots out on the running back, and tackles him as Rees turfs the ball. (RPS +1, cover +1)|
|Michigan shows the okie package on second and long; Rees checks, Michigan does nothing, and even after it's like “they called a play where they think we have no MLBs,” they still drop Mike Martin into a zone like it's third and twenty. Black did try to stunt inside and get crushed to the ground, so that's a -1. Everything else is on Mattison here. RPS -3. Little chance to defend this. I do wonder if the draw defense here was supposed to be Fitzgerald plunging down the line from outside.|
|O44||1||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||4||Fade||Avery||Inc (Pen 15)|
|No question about this. Avery shoves Floyd OOB on a very catchable fade (-2, cover -1).|
|M41||1||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel press||Penalty||N/A||False start||--||-5|
|I bet they all saw “Thor” on opening night.|
|M46||1||15||Shotgun trips||Okie||Pass||5||Tunnel screen||Fitzgerald||3 – 15 Pen|
|Michigan drops a couple linebackers and sends five. The blitz prevents any ND OL from getting out just because they're getting blocked, essentially, and Fitzgerald(+0.5) just has to form up; RVB(+0.5) tackles from behind. RPS +1. Thor gets a personal foul.|
|Floyd on Floyd action. Floyd(+1, cover +1) has excellent, blanketing coverage on Floyd but the back shoulder throw is perfect and his hand is a half-second late. Floyd stabs a foot down and Floyd can't do much other than ride him out of bounds. Sometimes you just have to tip your hat. This is one of those times. That is hard. That is why Floyd (not our Floyd) is going to be rich in about nine months.|
|M36||3||In||Goal line||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Dive||Hawthorne||In|
|Linemen just fall all over each other, leaving Hawthorne(+1) to leap over the pile with beautiful timing and nail Wood in the backfield. Could be a stop but Wood does burrow for the first. Refs got this spot on the money.|
|M36||1||10||Ace twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Heininger||5|
|Heininger(-2) crushed out of the hole. He has to take the double there; he does not. He gets sealed instantly and in one motion the T is out on Hawthorne. LBs have blockers in their faces. Demens(+0.5) sets up well and gets Wood to commit inside, then pops off and falls backwards and causes Wood to fall; Hawthorne(+0.5) had taken the hit and gotten playside. Not heroic work but they held this down without involving a safety despite both getting blocked.|
|M31||2||5||Ace trip TE||Base 3-4?||Run||N/A||Down G pitch||Demens||3|
|Ryan(-2) is on the edge against three freaking tight ends and doesn't try to not get sealed. He's not even slanting. He rushes straight upfield, gets sealed by Eifert, and doesn't delay the puller. Hawthorne(-0.5) is on the LOS inside of Ryan and meets the same fate. Hard to blame him. Floyd sets up outside to force it back; Demens(+2, tackling +1) is running his ass off to beat the blocker coming out on him and catch Wood. He does just as Wood tries to break outside of Kovacs(+0.5), who had taken on the last TE and gotten outside all textbook and stuff.|
|M28||3||2||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under||Penalty||N/A||Delay of game||--||-5|
|Brian Kelly thinks he's coaching basketball yo.|
|M33||3||7||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel stack||Pass||4||Out||Avery||15|
|Avery on Floyd; I think Floyd pushes off here to get separation but there is no call. Avery -1, cover -1.|
|M18||1||10||Shotgun 2TE twins||4-3 under||Pass||5||Rollout dumb||Floyd||Int|
|Rees goes “FLOYDFLOYDFLOYD” and throws it to him despite Floyd having three defenders around him, one directly in front of him. JT Floyd(+2, cover +2) picks it off.|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 7-14, 5 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|50||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Slant||Avery||12|
|Play action fake with a pull does suck Hawthorne(-0.5) out of position, but it's hard to not suck up given what's been happening. The bigger problem is Avery(-1.5, cover -1, tackling -1), who has no other threats than Floyd and would be fine if he just tackled on the catch here. He doesn't; Floyd breaks the tackle and turns five yards into a first down.|
|M38||1||10||Ace twins twin TE||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Down G pitch||Black||3|
|Black(+1) slants inside the TE assigned to him, getting into the backfield. He draws one of the pulling OL and cuts off the outside, forcing a cutback. The TE peels back to try to deal with him and then thinks better of it. Wood cuts inside the Black engagement and would be in trouble if Heininger(-1) hadn't been completely handled by one-on-one blocking. If Heininger is just okay here this is no gain. Instead he's crushed, leaving a gap. Hawthorne(-0.5) was cut as well but gets up crazy fast; Demens(+1) avoided his cut and fills to thump.|
|M35||2||7||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Heininger||2|
|Good fightback from Heiniger(+1.5) here. He takes a one on one block and gets playside. This is definitely not supposed to happen since the H-back is running straight at this gap. Heininger is there; H-back runs into him. He holds. Running back now hits the pile; he starts to yield a little bit. He's still taken on two blockers and forced a bounce. An unblocked Demens(+0.5) is in the right place to lead the tacklers.|
|Same thing that went for 20 on an earlier drive, with Martin backing out into a zone as ND runs a draw right at it. It's even worse this time as there is no one in the center of the field not dropping into a zone. RPS -3.|
|M21||1||10||Ace twin TE||4-3 under||Pass||4||Rollout throwaway||--||Inc|
|Good coverage(+2) causes Rees to throw it away as he nears the sideline.|
|M21||2||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Okie||Pass||5||Fade||Van Bergen||Inc|
|They back out the MLBs this time and send the DL plus the OLBs. RVB(+1, pressure +2, RPS +2) is instantly past the G assigned to him because of a poor pickup; Rees chucks a ball off his back foot that's not catchable. Eifert gives it a go, though.|
|M21||3||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||4||Slant||Gordon||Inc|
|Gordon(+2, cover +1) gets an excellent jam at the line and disrupts the route. I think this was destined for the slot but it could have been Floyd. Throw was less awful if it was the slot.|
|Drive Notes: FG(38), 7-17, 1 min 2nd Q. Greg Mattison's getting a little fancy here.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||Ace twin TE||4-3 over||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Roh||4|
|Heininger out, Campbell in. I think Mattison knows Heininger has been getting manhandled. ND tries to run at Campbell; his(+0.5) response to a double is to burrow his way straight upfield. This does occupy two blockers for the duration of the play but I'm a little worried he went too upfield and didn't go down the line. This is still better than Heininger's output. Roh(+0.5) is also doubled and manages to split it after giving ground. This forces the RB outside, where Hawthorne can flow; Roh couldn't tackle but his penetration robbed the G of any ability to block Hawthorne. Would like Hawthorne to get to the hole quicker to hold this down a bit.|
|O24||2||6||Shotgun 2TE||4-3 under||Pass||4||Quick out||Floyd||7|
|Martin(+1, pressure +1) beats the center and threatens Rees up the middle. Doesn't matter because Floyd(-1, cover -1) is in the parking lot on a quick out for Floyd. Way too easy.|
|O31||1||10||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Martin||19|
|TE as H-back and lead blocker. Martin(-2) is clubbed, getting hit by a single momentary double and then sealed away by one guy after the G releases downfield. RVB(-2) gets upfield and is pancaked. Linebackers really have no chance here. Floyd(-1, tackling -1) is in overhang mode; he misses a tackle near ten yards and Wood ends up picking up 10 more.|
|50||1||10||Ace 2TE twins||4-3 over||Penalty||N/A||False start||--||-5|
|I bet they're all drummers, too.|
|O45||1||15||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||N/A||Bubble screen||--||8|
|Tough to defend as aligned(RPS -1), with Woolfolk bailing out and Gordon trying to hold his ground at about five yards getting blocked. Gordon does force it back inside, where Demens and MRobinson tackle.|
|M47||2||7||Shotgun 2TE||4-3 under||Pass||5||Hitch||Floyd||6|
|Heininger back in; they've flipped him to SDE with RVB at three tech. Hawthorne blitzes and is picked up (pressure -1); Rees hits Floyd on a hitch near the sticks in front of Floyd. Floyd probably gets the first down if he doesn't fall, but he does fall, so he doesn't. (Cover -1)|
|M41||3||1||Ace twin TE||6-2 Bear||Run||N/A||Iso||Van Bergen||-2|
|Bear? Why the hell not. This is a line of six dudes across ND's line with the DL shifted one way and two linebackers lined up above SDE Heininger. Demens is the lone LB; Kovacs also ends up in the box at LB depth as Eifert motions in. RVB(+2) blows through his blocker and is into the backfield; Ryan(+1) blitzed untouched from the outside; Martin(+1) avoided a submarine block from the center and leapt into the path of Eifert up the middle, allowing Demens(+0.5) to charge through the gap unmolested and finish off the tackle RVB and Ryan started. RPS +3; big big stop.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-17, 10 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O32||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Counter||Ryan||38|
|Man, we suck at counters. This one is tough as Michigan has just six in the box against six blockers. Ryan(-2) plunges down the line and get annihilated by the RT. He is gone, he is being shoved into Martin, game over for the DL. Hawthorne(-1) sucked up to the LOS and gave the C a great angle to block him. I would be interested to know why Mattison doesn't key on OL pulls. There's got to be a reason. Anyway, with Hawthorne and the DL out of the picture, Kenny Demens(+1) is one on one with the pulling OL in acres of space. He sets up inside, realizes Gray is going outside of him, gets out to force a slow-down and cut-back, then gets plowed. Valiant effort there. Marvin Robinson(-3) then turns ten yards into many more by losing leverage. Kovacs had this covered at the sticks if Gray does not get outside.|
|M30||1||10||Ace 2TE tight||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Ryan||0|
|Excellent work by the entire DL here, as they flow down the line in textbook fashion. Martin(+1) controls the center and drives him back, flowing. Campbell(+1) takes a double but stays playside of it and occupies both blockers for the whole play. Ryan(+2) dominates the TE assigned to him, not only driving him into the backfield two yards but shoving him into Martin's lineman; Woods has nowhere to go except up his blockers' backs. RVB took a double too; he gave ground but it didn't matter. Wood then puts the ball on the turf; Campbell recovers.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 7-17, 7 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O29||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||MRobinson||24|
|Simply untenable, this. RVB(-2) shoots straight upfield. He does bump a puller and delay him, but he falls to the ground and is useless. Martin is on the backside and wasn't going to be able to do much but now he's totally out of the play. Black(-2) locks in with Eifert and then makes a critical error: instead of bulling him back and stringing the play out he attempts to disengage. He gets playside but gives up two yards of penetration and gets way too far outside in the process, now getting caught up with Hawthorne. Then he falls. Big cutback lane. Robinson(-2, tackling -2) whiffs so bad he hardly slows Wood, turning a nice gain into a huge one.|
|M47||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||Nickel under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Black||0|
|Floyd(-1) telegraphs blitz, no check. ND runs away from it and might have a big gainer if they can get the edge sealed. This time Black(+2) stands up, chucks Eifert inside of him, and pops up on the edge a yard into the backfield, forcing a cutback. Martin(+0.5) has flowed down the line to cut off the immediate cutback and Demens(+0.5) comes in from behind to tackle.|
|Michigan sends Ryan and Kovacs from the outside while dropping Demens and Hawthorne back to linebacker depth. This initially fools the LT, who ends up having to chase Demens(+1) as he scrapes to the hole to tackle. Demens ends up missing the tackle because the OL blocks him in the back (refs -1); Martin(+0.5) set up well and came off a block to finish the tackle. Should have been two yards or negative ten, but that's life. RPS +1|
|M42||3||5||Shotgun trips TE||Nickel even||Pass||5||Rollout out||Floyd||16|
|Floyd(-2, cover -2) gets killed on this little rollout out. Giving up the first down is one thing. Getting so far out of position on a five yard out that you can't even miss a tackle until the safety comes up and the WR has to delay is another. Easy.|
|M26||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Van Bergen||-4 (Pen +10)|
|M waits to tip its blitz until after the check, getting Gordon(+1, RPS +2) in off the edge on the playside. Michigan slants under the zone blocking and RVB(+1) gets through to tackle immediately on the cutback Gordon forces. Heininger(-1) erases all of that by yanking an ND OL by the jersey as he's cut to the ground.|
|M16||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Fade||Floyd||Inc|
|Floyd(+2, cover +2) in press here and stays step-for-step with Floyd on the fade, breaking it up as it arrives. Fade is not well thrown, which helps.|
|M16||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 two deep||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Demens||1|
|Three man line with Ryan as a Crable DT; they send him and Demens at the same gap. ND runs away from it. Trouble? Maybe. Martin(+0.5) and Heininger(+0.5) flow away from the blitz against single blocking and hold up; Demens(+2) keeps his head up, reads the play, gets into his blocker, and then releases down the line to tackle.|
|M15||3||9||Shotgun empty||3-3-5 two deep||Pass||N/A||Drag||Van Slyke||15|
|Three man rush leaves Rees all day(pressure -1) but does force a checkdown. Slot WR is running in front of Van Slyke(-2, tackling -1), who's too far behind to do anything but make a desperation dive that does not bring the WR down. That's the first down; the TD is mostly due to a stellar block by an ND WR that cut off three guys.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-24, 2 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O10||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||TE out||Hawthorne||Inc|
|Herbstreit is now circling our telegraphed blitzes. Rees is still checking out of plays. This time it's Kovacs rolling up and blitzing; ND rolls away from it. Rees seems to have a WR open but goes to Eifert, who is blanketed by Hawthorne(+2, cover +2). Hawthorne comes over the top to break it up. Impressive.|
|O10||2||10||Ace twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Hawthorne||8|
|Van Bergen(-1) is battered out of the hole but Ryan(+0.5) sets up right this time and Demens(+0.5) scrapes to hit the lead DE at the LOS. Narrow gap for the tailback that should be filled by Hawthorne(-1) but isn't because he shuffled to the LOS instead of flowing over the top and allowed the C to block him. Picture paged.|
|O18||3||2||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Hawthorne||-2|
|Same play. Michigan sends Hawthorne on a blitz this time. RVB(+2) shoots upfield, getting his blocker in trouble and picking off a pulling G. He is surging through both these guys two yards in the backfield as Wood approaches. Ryan(+0.5) again sets up well on the edge. Wood is going to try to bounce, which will test Ryan severely because Demens(-0.5) is not in position to bounce with him. Moot, though, as Hawthorne(+2) has zipped through the crack provided by the pulling G and tackles for loss. RPS +2.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-24, 13 4th Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O40||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||PA TE drag||Hawthorne||5|
|Rees goes play action and then finds his tight end for a moderate gain. Hawthorne tackles immediately. Pressure was getting-there-ish, coverage was okay, throw could have been better... this is average all around.|
|O45||2||5||Ace||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Campbell||2 (Pen -10)|
|Campbell(+1!) bowls over the backside G. RVB(+1) has cut through his blocking on the frontside, which forces a cutback. Campbell might have as shot at a TFL but is held, allowing the RB past; Demens(+1) reads and slices through a gap to make an ankle tackle as Wood gets to the LOS. Black(-1) got blown up and pancaked by Eifert on the backside, which is why this became dangerous.|
|O35||2||15||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||3||Tunnel screen||Black||0|
|Hawthorne sent; Black drops off. Think Rees puts this too far outside but Black(+2) takes advantage. He's chucking a TE on his drop who turns into his blocker; Black shucks him and tackles Floyd at the line. (RPS +1, tackling +1)|
|O35||3||15||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||4||TE post||--||21|
|No pressure(-1) on a four man rush allows Rees to step up and sling it in a very small gap between Hawthorne and Demens(+1); this is good coverage(+1) that Rees beats with a fantastic throw. Demens was right there, man.|
|M43||1||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel spread||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Gordon||2|
|Hawthorne split out in man and I think this baits ND since it looks like Demens is the only LB. On the snap, Gordon blitzes and the line slants. RVB(+0.5) gets some penetration and Wood cuts back. Gordon(+0.5) is there to contain; Demens(-0.5) gets too far outside and doesn't provide a thump to hold this to one yard. RPS +1|
|M41||2||8||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Slant||Ryan||11|
|ND is taking a long time to get their plays called and M takes advantage, sending Gordon and Demens and dropping off Ryan. This is almost deadly. Rees hurries his throw and it's right at the zone Ryan(-1, cover -1) is dropping into except he's too far into the flat, so instead of going right to him it passes just by his outstretched hand. He drops properly and we could be talking pick six. (RPS +2)|
|M30||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||3-3-5 two deep||Pass||5||Slant||Woolfolk||8|
|ND runs double slants and Woolfolk(-1) is beaten to the inside; he does tackle immediately. (Cover -1)|
|M22||2||2||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Fade||Avery||Inc (Pen 15)|
|Kovacs rolls up; check. They take advantage of the man to man to take a shot at the endzone. Avery(+1, cover +1) is right in the WR's face as the ball comes in; it's low and to the outside and Avery can't do anything about the futile one-handed stab the WR makes, but it's a futile one-handed stab. Avery is hit with a terrible PI flag (refs -1)|
|M7||1||G||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 under||Pass||6||DERP||DERP||DERP|
|DERP. Michigan had blitzed and gotten Black(+1, pressure +1, RPS +1) in Rees's face so if this goes forward it's almost certainly getting batted anyway.|
|Drive Notes: DERP, 21-24, 6 min 4th Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|M20||1||10||Ace twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Campbell?||3|
|Campbell does okay with a double but only okay and starts getting shoved back. ND RT releases downfield into... no one. Weird. I guess I have to give Campbell +0.5 since one of his guys was probably supposed to get Hawthorne. Hawthorne is now unblocked so he is headed to the frontside gap; Wood cuts behind. Demens(+0.5) and RVB(+0.5) combine to tackle.|
|M23||2||7||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||4||Out||Woolfolk||6|
|No pressure(-1); easy throw for Rees as Woolfolk is in man. No minus here since it's a six yard completion with an instant tackle. That's kind of a win for the cornerback.|
|M29||3||1||Ace trips TE||6-2 Bear||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Ryan||-2|
|Credit could go to either Ryan or Campbell. Campbell(+2) destroys the RT. He gets under him and pancakes the dude. He dead. This constricts the hole and picks off the pulling TE. Wood has to take it inside slightly, where Ryan(+2) blazed past the other tackle on an outside blitz and took a perfect angle to Flying Squirrel Tackle Wood; Demens(+0.5) was there to clean up if necessary. Either Ryan or Campbell was enough to stuff this. Both and you look dominant. (RPS +3)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 21-24, 2 min 4th Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O39||1||10||Shotgun empty||Nickel even||Pass||5||Fade||Floyd||Inc (Pen 15)|
|Hawthorne(+1, pressure +1) gets a free run at Rees so he chucks it to Floyd, Floyd(-2, cover -2) is beaten instantly and starts yanking the jersey in a desperate bid to not be an instant goat.|
|M46||1||10||Shotgun empty||Nickel even||Pass||3||TE In||Demens||12|
|All day (pressure -2) on a three man rush; Rees patiently waits until he finds Eifert for a first down. Demens right there to tackle.|
|M34||1||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||3||Rollout out||--||5|
|No pressure on the roll but lots of coverage(+1) in the area because of the extra defender means Rees has to check down for a few yards.|
|Miscommunication between QB and receiver means pass is nowhere near anyone. Blitz was just getting home.|
|M29||3||5||Shotgun trips||Nickel eff it||Pass||3||Seam||MRobinson?||29|
|This has to be a bust by someone but it's also hugely risky in an area of the field where you have another ten yards before you can really start bringing the heat. It must be Robinson(-2), but this is such a ridiculously hard thing to ask this kid to do that an RPS -3 is warranted. Picture paged by dnak438.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 28-31, 30 sec 4th Q|
So how was that?
I don't know, man.
I sentence you to death!
I'm already a condemned man.
I sentence your face to death!
Great. So Michigan gave up 31 points and 513 yards on Saturday. They acquired four turnovers, only two of which could plausibly be declared forced—the two fumbles were just ND players dropping the ball—and one of the plausibly forced also featured a hand-wavingly open coverage bust. Without Notre Dame literally handing the ball to Michigan they likely score between 37 and 45 points. Yeesh.
There is one major mitigating factor: drives. Notre Dame had 13. That's a lot, even more than last year's opponents averaged (12.4) during a time when every other play was a long touchdown. It's still tough to be encouraged when the opponent threw for 8.1 YPA and ran for 6 YPC.
But Notre Dame's offense is really good!
This I buy. Eifert and Floyd are a hell of a receiving combo, their line consists entirely of veterans who Michigan would have loved to have, Brian Kelly is an established offensive super genius, and I love Cierre Wood. If Rees ever stops turning the ball over they could rack up some silly numbers. Big if given Rees's tunnel vision for Floyd, granted.
A quick glance at the schedule suggests the only offense that looks anywhere near as talented is at—ugh—Michigan State. If your line coming out of this game is "this is the most talented offense we'll face," I'm inclined to agree given the dodgy nature of the State offensive line.
And we got a lot better late!
Also true, but first let's get some context, let's get—
He does make an appearance.
Will Campbell chart.
SAY IT LIKE YOU MEAN IT
|Van Bergen||11||6||5||Two huge plays on third and short pull him above average.|
|Martin||9||4.5||4.5||Had one trademark slash for TFL, was otherwise kinda eh.|
|Heininger||2||8||-6||Consistently blown up by single blocking.|
|Black||11||5||6||Made a lot of plays on the edge.|
|Campbell||5||-||5||Please be real.|
|TOTAL||40||24.5||15.5||Decent but the "pressure" metric below is a downer.|
|Demens||13||4.5||8.5||Twelve tackles and few errors.|
|Ryan||6||6||0||Had some trouble holding up on the edge when asked to slant|
|Fitzgerald||0.5||-||0.5||About two plays.|
|Hawthorne||6.5||4||2.5||Alternated nice plays, coverage, with slow reads.|
|Morgan||1||7||-6||Yanked. Back problem time?|
|TOTAL||27||21.5||5.5||Can Hawthorne hold up?|
|Floyd||5||8||-3||Good PBUs deep, couldn't keep on the radar underneath|
|Avery||1||4.5||-3.5||Struggled, but PI unfair.|
|Kovacs||4||2||2||Less explosive day, rarely blitzed, but didn't get beat.|
|T. Gordon||4.5||2||2.5||I like him.|
|Robinson||0.5||8||-7.5||Lost leverage twice, blew deep coverage twice.|
|TOTAL||17||25.5||-8.5||FS play killing them.|
|Pressure||7||13||-6||Front four not getting anywhere.|
|Coverage||17||18||-1||Good deep in press man.|
|Tackling||4||10||-6||Very poor day.|
|RPS||22||18||4||Big recovery late with third and short stops worth +8.|
The defensive line generally emerged positive but throw in that pressure metric and it's a below-average day. No one is getting to the quarterback. Their big positives came when ND could not pick up third and short.
I struggled with what to do with plays like the Kovacs interception, on which I gave Kovacs a big plus and Mattison/coverage a small one. (Given Rees's rolling out the TE throw would have been tough.) The surprising net result: a positive RPS day after a lot of big minuses. That is due in large part to Mattison bringing out blitzes that stoned Notre Dame on third and short three times. Those are critical turning points that, according to the Mathlete, swung Michigan's run defense from –4 points above normal (PAN) in the first half to +4 in the second.
Would you like to debate the semantics of the word "sound"?
There's been some pushback (at BWS and also on twitter) on my declaration the defense is not "sound" after pointing out the various ways in which Mattison plus Michigan's inexperience yield a bunch of holes in the D. Some of this is my fault since I did not make it clear that when I was describing something as unsound it was the defense as a whole, not necessarily any individual play. I say this because of plays like this:
Is this a massive missed assignment that leaves essentially no one in the middle of the field? I suppose that's possible, but it doesn't sound like it:
Longer runs when Mike Martin dropped into coverage. How do you protect the middle of field? “The same blitzes that hit the quarterback from western -- [Notre Dame] obviously saw that and didn’t want that pressure to come at them, so what they did was check to a run whenever they saw that look. We have defenses that look exactly the same that are run defenses, and it’s the same thing. I called the pressure thinking it was pass, and in the back of my mind, I’m thinking I should have called the pressure for the run because maybe they’re going to do that, and sure enough they did do it. And the next one they ran it on third-and-seven. If a team’s going to run it on third-and-seven, you aren’t ever going to pressure if you’re worried about it. And some of the overloads on both sides -- they aren’t great run defenses.”
Sometimes Mattison runs sucky run defenses on second and ten. Sometimes he calls plays where there's no one deeper than five yards and would like a true sophomore in his first extended playing time to cover not only the deep middle but a seam route he's not even looking at. Sometimes he asks the WLB to run hash-to-hash with his back towards the QB and then do something about a seven-yard hitch. Are these plays sound? Maybe some of them are… on paper. In practice the kinds of zone blitzing Mattison uses give certain defenders massively difficult tasks.
Is that sound? Yes, technically, but only technically.
I don't have a problem with this, by the way, since it's the equivalent of taking over Michigan's 2008 offense. Do whatever you want. Caviar dreams appreciated.
Do we have a weakside linebacker?
I think we might. Desmond Morgan got a shot and looked like a true freshman. He tipped his blitzes, failed to scrape to the hole despite being unblocked, and had at least one instance in which he did the "I'm in man, everyone else is in zone" thing we saw too frequently last year and from Herron in the opener. Sad fugee faces.
Then Hawthorne came in, and while he had his errors he also flashed impressive coverage skills…
…and the ability to Ian Gold his way into the opponent's backfield:
[update: wrong video. fixed.]
The sample size is small but in retrospect that practice where everyone freaked out because Campbell wasn't starting, then breathed a sigh of relief because Brandin Hawthorne was in there at WLB so it couldn't have actually been the first team defense, was prescient. Hawthorne leapt to the top of the depth chart in the aftermath of his performance and will likely stick there until Northwestern, Michigan State, and Iowa test him down the road.
Do we have a three tech?
Come on, baby. It eventually became clear to Michigan's coaches that Will Heininger was a problem on the interior and they started rotating other options into the game. Quinton Washington got a few snaps and didn't do anything of note. Will Campbell, though, not only features in the above Gratuitous Video but a couple other instances where he all but threw Notre Dame offensive linemen into the ballcarrier. Here he's held!
By the end of the game he'd racked up a +5 with no minuses. This came a week after WMU lit him up and he got promptly yanked.
What changed? Michigan's scheme probably helped. Against WMU they ran a lot of three-man lines with a nose tackle and a couple ends. Against ND it was all four-man lines in which Campbell was the three-tech. That makes him harder to double and apparently allows him to chuck a three-hundred pound redshirt senior like he's Sam McGuffie.
This almost can't be real, so let's say it's not. Likely scenario: Campbell is making some progress but needs to be constantly reminded of his technique, applied in limited situations in which he can succeed, and gets tired really quickly.
Do we have a free safety?
No. Best hope there is for one of the corners to take over at nickelback and get Thomas Gordon back there.
Do we have a weakside defensive end?
Maybe, but it's not the one people expected. Jibreel Black didn't get any quarterback pressure on his own but he still racked up a nice day thanks to athletic plays like this:
He's chucking tight ends out of his face and holding up on the edge (usually) and may have passed Roh. Now about that pass rush…
Kenny Demens was probably Michigan's best defender on the day, and when Campbell and Hawthorne's powers combined on the final four drives Notre Dame averaged 3.3 YPC on twelve attempts.
Marvin Robinson lost leverage frequently and busted the final TD. Anyone covering Floyd on anything but a fly route was helpless, but that can't really be held against them. Morgan and Heininger were poor before being lifted.
What does it mean for Eastern Michigan and the future?
The next three weeks will be spent consolidating a starting position for Hawthorne, working out what Campbell's role can be, working on reducing the number of busts, and hopefully finding someone to play free safety. IME this has to be Thomas Gordon, so look for Blake Countess to begin rotating in as a nickelback so Michigan can develop the corner depth they'll want to keep Gordon at safety full time.
They could look okay by the end of that period. I'm extremely worried about the pass rush from the front four, though. I assumed that would be a strength and it has not been anything close. If they don't get more they'll be totally reliant on wacky blitz packages Michigan's transitioning defense clearly isn't doing a great job of executing. That will make for a rollercoaster.
Previously: The Story.
The existential crisis that was last year's secondary has been the subject of emo rehash and frequently-updated "Never Forget" banners in this space for going on a year now. In mid-August of 2010, Troy Woolfolk did something strange and painful to his ankle and I—and I assume a good chunk of the Michigan fanbase—decided ankle-exploding time was drankin' time. Twitter archived the results; read from the bottom.
The headache I had the next morning did not subside until Greg Mattison was hired.
Woolfolk wasn't going to cure last year's secondary issues by himself but he was going to be a decent returning starter in a secondary without any other than Jordan Kovacs. Without him this section of last year's preview started "What's the point of anything?" because everyone left was either a freshman, walk-on, or JT Floyd.
After a deceptively promising start courtesy of the vast incompetence of Zack Frazer and Notre Dame's backup quarterbacks, the doom took hold. Everyone who saw a snap last year contributed to it but if we have to pick a single moment that best represents Michigan's 2010 secondary it would have to be this:
JT Floyd picking up a –3 against Penn State
That is how Matt McGloin tears you up for 41 points on nine drives. Let's never speak of this again.
While this year's secondary won't bring back memories of Charles Woodson, improvement is almost a given. It could be vast, even. Every contributor returns save James Rogers. Woolfolk is back and healthy, and there's a small horde of freshmen.
If you believe the message board chatter about Tony Gibson's coaching acumen, Curt Mallory is a huge upgrade. My favorite apocryphal story is that when Scot Shafer resigned he told Rodriguez he would take all the blame publicly if Rodriguez admitted to Shafer that Gibson was "the worst secondary coach in the country." Shortly after his resignation, Shafer did pop up in the News stating it was all his fault. Poppycock? Probably, but you can't rule it out.
Things are looking up. They could be okay. Not okay for Michigan, but okay for a mediocre Big Ten defense. They've got a cap—like everywhere on this attrition-wracked team the depth is a little scary. The starters still include a walk-on and the talent level as measured by stars is strictly second-rate. They haven't disproved that on the field, so expectations should be kept in check.
That there are any except doom is pretty cool. Bohemian Crapsody begone.
|Corner #1||Yr.||Corner #2||Yr.|
|Troy Woolfolk||Sr.*||Courtney Avery||So.|
|JT Floyd||Jr.*||Tony Anderson||Sr.*#|
|Terrence Talbott||So.||Blake Countess||Fr.|
[* = player has taken redshirt. # = walk-on.]
Woolfolk in T-Woolf mode
Unless something very depressing happens in the near future I will not need any power tools this year. Troy Woolfolk is healthy, and while he's probably not going to be All Big Ten he's fast and steady enough to get good reviews a couple of years ago when he split time between safety and corner. There is empirical evidence for this, and how: Woolfolk's absence from the safety spot marked the point the 2009 defense went off a cliff. Michigan went from giving up 23 points per game with Woolfolk at safety to 37 without.
Those reviews have moved from potentially ignorant bloggers to the head coach. Woolfolk was one of three defensive Wolverines to be named a starter by Hoke weeks before the season (Kovacs and Martin were the others) and is conspicuously first when Hoke talks about his corners:
"(Woolfolk is) is a guy who I think, as a senior, has taken some ownership and he's done everything," Michigan coach Brady Hoke. "J.T. is fighting. Courtney Avery is fighting, Terrence Talbott, they're all fighting with each other to see who's going to be the guy."
Mattison joined in as well:
What are your impressions of Troy Woolfolk? "I'm really, really impressed with a senior -- with a new staff, with a new system -- with a guy that comes out every day and says 'I'm going to do what you tell me to do, I'm going to do it how you tell me to do it, and I'm going to try as hard as I can to do it.' ... I think his technique is improving."
That bit at the end about his improving technique is a little ominous. Woolfolk's injury and position switches may leave him vulnerable to Morgan Trent-like deficiencies. The two are similar players: very fast, rangy corners who are tough to beat on a fade but can struggle when opponents are changing direction rapidly. Woolfolk's main advantage over Trent is want-to. Trent spent his senior year raging against the new regime and saw his play suffer. Woolfolk should have no such issues.
Assuming he's healthy, another year to learn the position and get bigger should see him improve on his previous form. There is a nonzero chance his earlier performances were not representative of his ability, but the smart money is on Woolfolk being at least average. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him go at the tail end of next year's NFL draft.
|juuuuust evades the fingertips|
|jars the ball free|
|comes up too hard|
|pwns a UW guard!|
Opposite Woolfolk the battle is on between sophomore Courtney Avery and redshirt junior JT Floyd. The bet here is that Avery wins that battle. Avery drew into the starting lineup last year when Floyd exited with yet another injury and seemed to outplay the guy he was replacing.
What he brings to the table is still up in the air. He was seeing spot duty relieving Floyd and Rogers even before Floyd's injury; he also split time with Terry Talbott when Michigan went to nickel and dime packages. In that role he was erratic. He wasn't good, per se. But in the tire fire that was last year's secondary he showed a little spark. This spark allowed other portions of the tire fire to spew ever more pitch black tar smoke into the observers face, yes. The spark remained.
Here's an erratic UFR that might not mean that much because he's a corner and his playing time was highly variable:
Zone vacancy II.
|MSU||-||-||-||Didn't register. Yay?|
|Iowa||-||5.5||-5.5||The whiff, the zone vacation, etc.|
|PSU||-||-||-||DNP, I think.|
|Illinois||3.5||0.5||3||Two key tackles.|
|Purdue||3||6||-3||Gave up the big screen.|
|Wisconsin||2.5||3||-0.5||Could have been harsher on him.|
It's not great, though a big chunk of his Indiana negative might have been erroneously given. The blogosphere ferociously debated whether a particular frustrating Iowa touchdown was mostly on the head of Kenny Demens or Avery and eventually decided it was kind of both but maybe probably mostly Demens. The UFR still registers Avery as the victim.
Given the circumstances—tire fire—he did well to not get hammered on a consistent basis. Try to judge him as a freshman by comparing him to his classmates: the highly-touted Cullen Christian was a blinking "throw at me" sign whenever he was on the field. Terrance Talbott was clearly behind. His main issue was playing zone coverage too aggressively, vacating his zone as he chased receivers across the field.
His quickness and aggressiveness bodes well. This is just Bowling Green (see also: the brief blip of Ray Vinopal hope) but Michigan hasn't had a corner who's able to recover like this in a while:
Avery's two years younger than Floyd and was healthy through the entirety of last year and spring practice. He played quarterback in high school; nagging injuries scuppered plans to play him both ways as a senior. He was just learning the rudiments of playing corner when he was thrust onto the field last year. Even if Avery and Floyd were close a year ago—something that is generous to Floyd—Avery should improve much faster than his competition. Avery has never seemed to "transparently lack the speed to be a Big Ten cornerback."
With practice buzz generally talking up Avery, it would be a surprise if he was not the starter. If not now, then by the Big Ten season. He should make a big leap forward in year two.
The primary backup and presumed nickel/dimeback will be the loser of the Avery/Floyd battle. This preview presumes that will be JT Floyd. Our last glimpses of him were against Penn State, when he turned in the coverage-type substance at the top of this post and a few other howlers. Here's one:
The game before that, it was Floyd who gave up slant after slant on critical third downs against Iowa. Even before that this blog declared his coverage "only brushes up against adequate."
|Iowa||2.5||11||-8.5||Oh my god the slants.|
|PSU||3||12||-9||Awful, awful, awful.|
Floyd was so overmatched as a redshirt freshman that Rodriguez and Robinson pulled him off the field, moved Woolfolk from his duties as a fairly effective free safety, and inserted Mike Williams to disastrous effect. Yeah, that could be another symptom of the insanity that ruled decision-making on the D these last few years. But unlike Kenny Demens's debut, Floyd's return to the field didn't make anyone think his removal was a mistake.
As you can see at right, Floyd started off well enough against the incompetent quarterbacks of the nonconference schedule. A number of whiffed tackles and Mouton-like angles against UMass were cause for concern. That concern bloomed, then metastasized in the Big Ten schedule.
|Nate Montana gift|
|breaks on to break up|
|reads and attacks|
|boxed out by Rudolph|
|sucks up on drag|
|allows Willis to drag him 15 yards|
First he was amongst the many Wolverines who were too confused or too slow to keep those four-yard Indiana routes from becoming eight. While he wasn't a major factor in the Michigan State game, he imploded against Iowa and Penn State.
In context it seems like his relatively benign Michigan State game was because the Spartans had even easier prey elsewhere on the field. And maybe Michigan protected him in favor of that prey. Remember the sinfully easy 41-yard touchdown Cullen Christian yielded? Yeah:
Why the hell is Cullen Christian the guy in man coverage on a receiver running a fly route? Why isn't it Floyd? Christian(-3, cover –3, RPS -2) is smoked crispy as he bites on an out and up gives up the touchdown. Roh was about to hit Cousins but no matter.
After that it was the elevator straight down and the injury. If he gets a lot better this year it's time to take the Gibson chatter seriously.
If there are injuries, options past the top three are dicey. With Floyd and Woolfolk held out of spring practice the starting cornerbacks were Avery and Tony Anderson, who's one of many walk-ons threatening for playing time. Anderson played ahead of Cullen Christian and Terrance Talbott; Christian transferred soon after. Talbott remains.
The hope is that's motivational or Talbott can accelerate past Anderson's spot on the depth chart as his scholarship-having self surpasses Anderson's walk-on ceiling. Talbott got sporadic time last year and was okay for a freshman. He got lost on zone drops and was a weak tackler, etc. The book on him…
The book on Talbott: short, smart, agile, excellent in coverage but needs a year or two to bulk up for college.
…seemed pretty accurate. He can be a contributor down the road… if he sticks with football. There were widespread rumors Talbott was off the team, by choice, for a period this offseason.
Beyond Talbott it's true freshmen, but at least there's a horde of them. Maryland's Blake Countess arrives with the most hype and should be the biggest threat to play. (Caveat: last year Cullen Christian arrived with the most hype.) Greg Brown [recruiting profile] enrolled early and was decent in the spring game. Those two feature on the first depth chart. Talbott does not.
The rest of the n00bs: Raymon Taylor [recruiting profile] is speedy, might not have the greatest change of direction, and got a fourth star from Rivals. Delonte Hollowell [recruiting profile] is yet another smurfy Cass Tech corner who can't be put on outside receivers; he'll probably have to wait for time to open up at nickelback. He is rooting hard for Thomas Gordon to win the safety job opposite Kovacs. Finally, Tamani Carter [recruiting profile] is probably a safety; as a guy Michigan hijacked from Minnesota it will be a bad callback to Ray Vinopal if he doesn't redshirt.
That's five dudes instead of three; if it turns out some of the guys ahead of them on the depth chart can't play the one who emerges as a contributor will probably be better than Talbott and Avery were last year.
|Free Safety||Yr.||Strong Safety||Yr.|
|Jordan Kovacs||Jr.*#||Thomas Gordon||So.*|
|Marvin Robinson||So.||Carvin Johnson||So.|
[* = player has taken redshirt. # = walk-on, or former walk-on]
Is it possible that last year's Michigan defense actually one-upped the safety horror on display in 2009? Yes. It was actually worse than even the situation that gave rise to this in last year's preview:
Their [Kovacs and Mike Williams's] powers combined in episodes like "Iowa tight ends are open by 15 yards," "We don't have a guy in the deep middle on third and twenty four," and "What would Juice Williams be like if he was an unstoppable 500-foot-tall robot?"
While the situation two years ago was never good it didn't drop off a cliff until Michigan moved Troy Woolfolk to corner. First Mike Williams and then Jordan Kovacs leisurely escorted opponents into the endzone for the remainder of the year, sure. But last year Michigan started out with this…
…and then pulled a similar switch by moving Cam Gordon to spur and inserting true freshman two-star Ray Vinopal. Vinopal wasn't quite as likely to take a terrible angle. Instead he was a 160-pound object in the way of Wisconsin's various house-sized Katamaris.
Artist's impression of Vinopal tackling Montee Ball
He also took some terrible angles. Kovacs was better but still kind of eh—he has not yet found that Iowa zen where the slow small white guy is always in the right place—and Michigan never got competent play from the other spot. Survey says increase doom panic victory 2010. And there was much rejoicing.
It can't be that bad again, right? I'm seriously asking this. Please, someone tell me it can't be that bad again. If no one else is willing to stand in front of that howitzer I guess it's up to me: they can't be that bad again.
|blasted all over|
|fends off the RT|
|shoots the gap|
|instant tackle on WR|
|tackles in the backfield|
|leaking out into the flat|
|capable zone coverage|
|almost a 95-yard Rick Six|
|not so smrt|
|inexplicably slows up|
It was already a foregone conclusion, but Brady Hoke explicitly confirmed that Jordan Kovacs will start for a third year this fall. He did so almost before anyone asked. The man once mistaken for Matt Cavanaugh by Greg Robinson is on track to becoming the first four-year starter at safety since
Jamar Adams [Ed-M: Marcus Ray ('95-'98). Adams's RS Fr year was Shazor/Mundy]
Unfortunately, thanks to the defensive implosion of the last three years this does not necessarily mean he is any good. Whether he is or not is a subject of heated debate wherever Michigan's starting secondary is discussed. His freshman year he was solid as a box safety. His instincts and tackling made him an effective force player and blitzer. Then the whole Woolfolk-to-corner thing happened and he got switched into a deep half role. To say he struggled was an understatement. Some UFR comments from that portion of his freshman year:
Just can't play a deep half.
Again burned as a deep half safety.
Enormous bust #3.
So that didn't go so well.
Last year Michigan tried to move him back into the box by switching to a 3-3-5 in which he was the "bandit" (a strong safety that spends his time on or near the LOS), but then they spent a lot of time in a two deep shell that saw Kovacs's deep limitations tested again. He did not pass with flying colors but thanks to his awareness and solid tackling was not the flaming dump truck the rest of the secondary was. It's not a coincidence that the new coaching staff has been talking him up. Hoke:
"He's a guy that can get things lined up for you, and he's a tough guy, and he will go attack the football," Hoke said of the former walk-on. "He has a great deal of pride in his performance on a daily basis. He's one of those guys who has an urgency about getting to the football. I'm pleased with what he's done to this point. I would guess that he won't take a step backward."
Kovacs did improve last year, and significantly. Kovacs went from deep half dead meat to "the king of moderate-moderate-0". In three different games (ND, BGSU, and Indiana) he had plusses that exactly offset his minuses; in four more (UConn, UMass, Iowa, and Penn State) he was just above or below breaking even. He was excellent against MSU…
…may have had his best game at Michigan. He's so reliable; on a day when Michigan couldn't find a tackle it didn't want to miss, Kovacs twice dragged down TEs in space to boot MSU off the field. Only one counted, unfortunately.
…but he broke down late, picking up negative days against Illinois, Purdue, and Wisconsin.
Even so, his season was a step forward from obvious liability to "certainly not a liability." Even if he's a walk-on and even if he's obviously small and slow, he should continue improving. He'll be a little less small and slow with another year of conditioning. Being in a coherent defensive system should help put him in positions to make plays. His redshirt year was not spent on the team so he's not as close to his ceiling as your average redshirt junior.
He's not going to be Reggie Nelson. That won't keep him from becoming the first Michigan safety you only hate a little tiny bit since Jamar Adams.
Thomas Gordon: prison abs, manages to look badass on last year's D
|sends the house|
|makes a solid TFL in some space|
|get outside his blocker|
|moves up into the gap|
|not brandon harrison|
|search and destroy|
The spot next to Kovacs is second to only weakside linebacker when it comes to mystery on this year's team. One candidate is sophomore Carvin Johnson, who had a plentiful helping of hype early and started in the spring game. The other is redshirt sophomore Thomas Gordon.
These two are familiar with each other since they spent last year duking it out with each other. The twist: they were doing so at Spur; Cam Gordon had locked down free safety. This year they're swapped.
The smaller Gordon has the advantage. He played at nickelback in the spring, swapping with the WLB on passing downs and covering slot receivers. He seemed well-suited for that spot. Moving him to safety signals some discontent with the options there, and since the move practice scuttlebutt has talked him up a bit more than Johnson. When Countdown to Kickoff flagged down DBs coach Curt Mallory he described the situation at safety like this:
It starts with Jordan right now. … He's done a great job, had a good two-a-days. Then we've got some younger guys in there. Thomas Gordon, I've been really pleased with how he's improved. [pause] And then with the two other guys…
That sounds like Johnson had eleven days to displace Gordon for Western Michigan. As of publication there's been no indication that switch has happened. Gordon was just named a starter by the WMU depth chart.
Gordon's 2010 was abbreviated. He started the season thanks to an injury to Johnson and played pretty well. Particularly impressive was his ability to roar off the edge without pulling a Brandon Harrison by zooming right by the quarterback. Gordon showed a knack for coming in at the fastest possible speed that would allow him to rope the QB to the ground, which accounted for many of his plus plays last year. Here's a good one against Notre Dame:
Outside of that it was minus half points here and there for poor coverage or missed tackles. He and Johnson displayed a knack for finishing his day with around three positive points and two negative ones. The spur was not a high-impact position either way last year until Cam Gordon switched to it and promptly got himself lost on flat zones he'd never been asked to play before.
Like Avery above, Gordon's ability to not be the most spectacularly flaming tire is encouraging. He came in with bler recruiting rankings but—again like Avery—he was a high school quarterback who got a Michigan camp offer and then did not play in his high school's secondary because of injury. He's beaten out some actual scholarship players and drawn praise from the coaches for his play. When I clipped something he did last year it was usually something positive.
I have the same optimism about this Johnson/Gordon combo that I had last year. This, of course, terrifies me. It seems unnatural to think an unproven Michigan safety could be competent. I like Gordon's agility and tackling, though, and while there will be rough spots early by midseason he should settle into that midlevel safety range like Englemon or Barringer.
Carvin Johnson does not like losing.
Curt Mallory wants his safeties to be interchangeable, so this will probably be a situation like offensive line where there's a line behind the starters and whoever the top backup is will come off the bench no matter who exits. That is likely to be Carvin Johnson. Johnson shouldn't feel too down: what small tea leaves we've gotten from the defense suggest he will be the first defensive back off the bench when Michigan goes nickel—in the Saturday punting demo he was on the field plenty as Thomas Gordon played nickelback in Michigan's third down package.
His season was even more abbreviated than Gordon's due to injury. I clipped three events from him last year:
- A bad zone drop against UConn
- An Indiana touchdown on which he was playing some sort of weird ILB and got crushed.
- A nice open field tackle on Rob Henry.
#2 won't be an issue if he's playing a deep safety; #3 is an asset that was promised by his recruiting profile. One… maybe not so much. Though people talk him up Michigan felt it necessary to move Gordon back, whereupon he won the job. He's probably a little unreliable at the moment.
Past Johnson there are actual scholarship(!) players who weren't(!) in high school last year. One is Marvin Robinson [recruiting profile], he of the obligatory OMG shirtless pictures…
…and that thing he did in the spring game where he ran with a slant pattern while Mike Cox was waving at him en route to the endzone. Practice reports on Robinson alternate tales of massive here-comes-the-BOOM-type hits and equally massive touchdown-ceding errors. If you hit up that recruiting profile you'll see a lot of skepticism he can play safety; last year he spent a good chunk of his time at WLB. That may be his long term destination.
For now he's behind Kovacs. He seems to be the second guy in the pecking order; Michigan will try to avoid using him until he has that consistency thing every coach ever but especially Michigan's keep harping on.
The final scholarship guy is Josh Furman. Furman's a bit like Avery in that he was almost exclusively an offensive player in high school. (He put up some Rawls-like games in the Maryland state playoffs.) Michigan managed to redshirt him last year, so his recruiting profile is about all we know. He's reputed to be super athletic, like six FAKES out of five 40 athletic, and will have a role on special teams this year. When asked about the safeties for CTK, Mallory mentioned Kovacs, Gordon, Johnson, and Robinson but not Furman. He's still a year or two away from seeing the field on defense.