the just released schedules were a flat-out statement that the B10 doesn't believe SOS will matter in playoff selection
The option has always been about making a defender wrong about who has the ball, thus effectively blocking him. Since you don't have to actually block him this means you can take out a slavering rage-beast with even the daintiest of skill position players.
Rich Rodriguez's innovation was taking the hazard-laden option and turning it into a simple yes-or-no handoff. The read option makes a guy wrong without requiring a pitch, and without getting your quarterback lit up time and again. Pairing that with plays that stretch the defense across the field horizontally opens up the box, forces safeties down, and creates the kind of environments that see his teams run for nearly six yards a clip.
Borges and Hoke have a different outlook on football. Last year when the inverted veer was running riot over Ohio State, they were consistently blocking the guy a Rodriguez-style offense would consider optioned off.
This worked, but I wondered if it was working because Ryan Shazier was an injured freshman who was pretty horrible in that game. It's hard not to look at what's going on with Michael Schofield in this clip and not pine for the guy to move past the OSU DE and take on Ohrian Johnson, thus likely springing Denard for another huge gain.
Last year both myself and fellow guy who does the picture paging Chris Gaerig thought that this was an execution issue that would be hammered out given enough time, but Tyler Sellhorn, a high school OL coach who frequently emails me tips and corrections, thought this was a philosophical thing:
I think Schofield and Omameh were coached to block the DE. Hoke/Borges do not like leaving unblocked defensive linemen out there. A famous unattributed coaching axiom that I am sure that Hoke/Borges believe in is: "First level defenders cause fumbles, second level defenders make tackles." To me, this is the "MANBALL" component of M's "option" game. True power running game people think like that. I think that is the reason there have been fewer really long runs (the second level has been blocked less consistently this season).
This is one philosophical difference: RR's first thought always was, "How can we mess with the safeties to get big yards when we break through the line", Hoke/Borges first thought is "How can we mess with the DL so they are less aggro (in run and pass situations) and we don't ever have a negative play." Both work well as we have seen.
The consistency with which Michigan guys were blocking the supposedly option DL was a point in his favor. At first I thought the Alabama game was the point at which this was undeniable, but now I think Alabama was blocking Michigan, not the other way around.
Optioning Nobody #1
It's Michigan's first drive. They've picked up a first down with a (horribly spotted) flare to Smith and a third down conversion from same. They come out in a two-back, three-wide set. Alabama responds with its base 3-4 set, half-rolling a safety into the box.
Michigan will run the veer. They pull Barnum (1), use Hopkins(2) as a lead blocker, and block down on the front side. This leaves the Alabama defender (3) there unblocked… for now, anyway.
Hopkins. You are not flaring out, my man. You are doing something that isn't that.
At the mesh point, Hopkins (1) has contacted the "unblocked" Alabama defensive end. This means he is now blocked. (Science!) Hopkins is also blocked. They are mutually blocking each other. Neither can go forward very easily.
This happens really fast. The DE is doing this on purpose. His goal here is two-fold: one, to force the handoff, and two to pick off one of the lead blockers.
Barnum(2) is still pulling for the front side; since the guys blocking down have actually done a pretty good job of getting push he's got a lane. Denard(3) sees the DE underneath Hopkins and gives.
And now it's over. Hopkins has indeed eliminated the Alabama DE, and Barnum reaches the hole as Smith sprints outside. Also sprinting outside: the totally unblocked Alabama LB.
Michigan's got some other problems, too, as the playside DE came through the double on the playside when Kwiatkowski released—you can see Schofield hunched over in an "oops" way right at the LOS behind Barnum. Given Smith's angle and Barnum's this is only a further indicator that Schofield got hammered on Saturday, not an actual reason the play doesn't work.
And that's all she wrote.
Who did Michigan block with Denard's legs on this play? Nobody.
[After THE JUMP: oops they did it again :( ]
|Taylor Lewan||Jr.*||Elliott Mealer||Sr.*||Ricky Barnum||Sr.*||Patrick Omameh||Sr.*||Michael Schofield||Jr.*|
|Erik Magnuson||Fr.||Joey Burzynski||So.*||Jack Miller||Fr.*||Kyle Kalis||Fr.||Ben Braden||Fr.|
This again. One year after Michigan's offensive line looked pretty shiny as long as you did not consider the cliff after guy #6, Michigan's offensive line looks really shiny… as long as you don't consider the cliff after guy #5. Or maybe guy #4. In a best case scenario, still guy #6.
Last year, Michigan had Michael Schofield to step into the lineup, and needed him to. This year any injury will see a walk-on or freshman—probably a true freshman—hit the field. Yipes.
But let's not think about that. As long as the starting five stays intact, the line should be quality. Taylor Lewan is projected as a first-round NFL draft pick, Patrick Omameh is in his fourth year as a starter, Michael Schofield started most of last year and moves to a more natural position, and the other two guys are redshirt seniors. Michigan should have a better line this year even without David Molk.
That first step's a doozy, though.
Rating: 5 of 5, not considering depth
Guralnick/Greilick, Detroit News
At this point, "Taylor Lewan is the next Jake Long" is not hope or hype or projection but just a (pretty much) true thing. Lewan may not go first overall in the NFL draft but he's already being projected in the top half of the first round next year, should he choose to depart.
After a promising but penalty-filled freshman year, Lewan cut out the holding calls and stoned opposing pass rushers, snap in, snap out. The primary reason ultra-hyped MSU DE Will Gholston started playing judo chop with various Lewan limbs was that he had no hope of impacting the game in any other fashion:
|AGILITY TO PULL|
|gets outside on p&p|
|another sprint counter|
|donkey some guy|
|nice seal on Worthy|
|stands up Binns|
|gets Toussaint edge|
|fails to cut on screen|
In a game where the Michigan OL was overwhelmed, blitz or not (Mark Huyge got 7 protection minuses), Lewan had a measly +1. Across twelve games of fending off the opposition's best pass rusher he racked up a total of four protection minuses. Two of those were for not cutting a guy on a screen; a third was not getting out on a corner on an attempted double pass. The fourth is somewhere in that video above, and I'm not even sure what that was. Even counting that there was literally one QB hurry going one-on-one with Lewan last year, to say nothing of actual sacks. There is a reason he is getting the NFL hype.
(Note that when blitzes cause confusion not localizable to one or two players that sends in free rushers I file that under "team." Lewan's no doubt responsible for some of those. When he identifies a guy to block, it's over.)
The black lining in our silver cloud was Lewan's lack of impact in the run game. He started off well, with three games around +10 in the UFR run chart and a 7-3-+4 against ND in limited opportunities—Michigan did jack before eviscerating Gary Gray in the fourth quarter. This was noted.
how often have you thought about Taylor Lewan this year? Not often, right? Mostly when he takes some donkey and punches it so hard in the nose shards of cartilage come out the back of its donkeyhelmet, right? (In a non-personal-foul acquiring way, of course.)
After that, he struggled to register on the run chart until late. His Big Ten season:
|5||MINN||5.5||6||-0.5||Yeah, surprised me too: had a couple busts and one bad whiff.|
|6||NW||4.5||2||2.5||Why so low, numbers? Discussion later.|
|7||MSU||6||5||1||Lucky to have both arms in his shoulder sockets.|
|8||PU||7||1||6||Would like to see him more involved somehow.|
|10||Illinois||8||5||3||Had some mistakes in space.|
|11||Nebraska||9||-||9||Finally some productive donkey hatred. Belly helps him produce; also got Toussaint the edge on a play that would have gone badly otherwise.|
|12||OSU||9.5||1||8||Effective against DTs, mostly, also getting to the second level.|
There's a certain amount of busting plays that is part and parcel of being an offensive lineman, especially one learning a new offense. That doesn't bother me. What does is the overall lack of positives until the tail end of the season. Heavily involved linemen will be putting up twice the positives and negatives as the above—Omameh had eight games where his positives were above ten and five where they were 13 or greater. Lewan didn't get there, and I think this was because of Omameh, ironically:
What is with those Lewan numbers?
The system doesn't try to judge blocks that are far away from the play and often declares an easy thing done okay to be a zero, so backside tackles and down-blocking guys a gap away from the play rarely register. Lewan rarely registered and this week's picture pages were examples of Schofield pulling, Schofield pulling, and Schofield pulling. Why is Michigan pulling the converted tackle backup and running away from their donkey-hating first round tackle?
The only conclusion that makes sense is they hate pulling Omameh. When they did pull left, they pulled Molk or Schofield and Molk, only rarely trying Omameh.
We'll talk about that when we get to the right guard, but Omameh came on in those last three games in which Lewan finally got some traction. Once they could pull the right guard, the left tackle got to express his donkey hatred.
With Omameh figuring it out and another year of experience for both, Michigan figures to be more left-handed on the ground; combine that with the pass blocking mentioned above and factor the injuries Lewan dragged around all year and the projections for his 2012 should be sky-high. He should be an All-American, or at least play like one.
[hit THE JUMP to find out about the other starters, but probably not the backups.]
Several weeks ago Brian sent me an e-mail to say we're going to have a fantasy draft of Big Ten players called "The Draft Where Whoever Picks Denard Wins," and that I was on the clock. (Parts II, III, and IV)
People of the Earth: this is how you recruit for a fantasy league. Actually this is how if you're a college sports site editor you motivate your hypercompetitive (Michigan grads, remember?) staff to become insane experts on the rest of the conference right before football season begins. For that reason, despite quarterbacks chosen out of position and so so much snark, right now we feel as competent as anyone at putting out one of those All-Such-and-Such list things.
The draft is still going on and some of the picks we've made have yet to be revealed, however we have tagged enough positions at this point to post an official-ish pre-season All Big Ten team. There's a few specialists I'll include but won't reveal who drafted them. I'll also follow up either next week or later on this week with a "what we learned about the Big Ten" post that breaks down all the picks by team. This one's about the best by position.
Site note: We're bringing back jumps again so we can fit more content on the front page for you during the season. You see the "Read more" thing below this? CLICK THAT to get to the good stuff.
PREVIOUSLY ON "MGOBLOG WRITERS DRAFT THEIR OWN BIG TEN TEAMS FOR A GIMMICKY PRESEASON SERIES OF POSTS"…
SETH got Denard, and therefore won. He also drafted a killer 1-2 DT punch.
ACE drafted all the Wisconsin players he could think of and screwed me by taking James Vandenberg too early.
HEIKO drafted two spread quarterbacks and was being egged on to take more.
BRIAN is going to need all the pass rush he can muster since Nathan Scheelhaase is his quarterback, but he's got a lot of that and Taylor Lewan.
SNARK was passed back and forth.
READERS are reminded that the goal of this thing is to assemble the most impressive-seeming full starting 22 plus a nickelback and FB/H-back type.
When we left our noble drafters, BRIAN had just cursed fate and time, taken Scheelhaase due to rules he himself implemented, and then nabbed Denicos Allen. Our scene set, we return to the WAR ROOM of the TOLEDO RAMADA INN. The SECOND PICK of ROUND FOUR is set to happen…
/moans incomprehensibly about his QB situation
PICK: Michael Buchanan (DE, Illinois)
CURRENT O: Braxton Miller (QB, OSU), Taylor Martinez (QB, UNL), Kyle Prater (WR, NW)
CURRENT D: Michael Buchanan (DE, Illinois)
BRIEF EXPLANATION: This 6-6, 240 lb terror is statistically the B1G's best returning DE not named Tom. He racked up 13.5 TFL and 7.5 sacks last season. Illinois has had a pretty good track record with defensive linemen over the past few years, so I'm with Ron Zook on this one.
OPTIONAL SNARK ABOUT PICKS MADE EARLIER: Sucks to whoever has to pick Tom.
PICK: Ricky Wagner (OL, Wisconsin)
CURRENT O: Montee Ball (RB, UW), James Vandenberg (QB, IA), Ricky Wagner (OL, UW)
CURRENT D: Chris Borland (LB, UW)
BRIEF EXPLANATION: Trenches. MANBALL. America. [ED: Also it turns out I was wrong about Lewan being the only elite LT in the conference this year—NFL types love them some Wagner.]
OPTIONAL SNARK ABOUT PICKS MADE EARLIER: Ignoring game theory + James Vandenbergy > Game theory + Nathan Scheelhaase. SCIENCE.
CURRENT O: Denard Robinson (QB, MICH), Michael Schofield (OT, MICH)
CURRENT D: Kawann Short (3T, PUR), Johnathan Hankins (NT, OSU), Jonathan Brown (MLB, ILL)
EXPLANATION: Ace can be the Badgers, my goal is to be the Wolverines on offense and the Lions on defense...the Detroit kind. That continues with the junior Brown at middle linebacker. He's 6-1/235, faster than Denicos Allen, more powerful than Chris Borland, and able to average 2 TFL PER GAME against Big Ten competition while just a sophomore. His positives are speed, tackling, play diagnosis, coverage, blitzing, picking through traffic, getting off blocks, and laying huge, fumble-inducing hits. His negatives are he once Karl Malone'd a Wildcat, which to the people who make Big Ten lists is the next worst thing to beating up a nun. Since Gunther Cunningham can't have him for two more years, I'm drafting Brown right here.
On Schofield: Okay so he's by far not the highest rated linemen left on the board and if he played for Northwestern I'd be saving him as a value pick, but there's a precipice from here on tackles who can move enough to fit the spread, and everyone but the Wisconsin Anbenders in this league is running a spread. So...Schofield, who thank-UFR has been as heavily scouted as any remaining tackle (for the year he was +97/-51.5/45.5, closer to Lewan than Huyge). Those reports, mostly from guard, say he's about as fleet-footed as 6-7/300 guys come. His best game last year was vs. Northwestern when Michigan started pulling with him; his only Kryptonite is Kawaan Short (and I have Short). There's a reason Rodriguez was hell-bent on getting Schofield and that's the same reason I'm reaching to make sure I have at least one spread tackle I'm absolutely sure of.
OPTIONAL SNARK ABOUT PICKS MADE EARLIER: Somebody make this into a graphic meme with the Brian photobomb: Spends year crediting interior DL for Gholston's sack numbers...drafts Denicos Allen.
CURRENT O: Montee Ball (RB, UW), James Vandenberg (QB, IA), Ricky Wagner (OL, UW)CURRENT D: Chris Borland (LB, UW), William Gholston (DE, MSU)
BRIEF EXPLANATION: I'm in desperate need of a pass-rusher, and with the available options dwindling I'm finding fewer and fewer reasons not to pick Gholston, the 6'7", 278-pound freak who's named to damn near every pre-season watch list out there. Gholston may not take on every block head-on, but he still managed to pick up 16 TFL and five sacks 2011, and that latter total should only increase this year. With 70 total tackles last season, 36 of them solo, he was no slouch against the run, either. If Gholston comes close to living up to his considerable hype this year, I just got the steal of the draft.
PREEMPTIVE SNARK ATTACK: Shut up, Heiko, and pick Robert Marve already.
CURRENT O: Braxton Miller (QB, OSU), Taylor Martinez (QB/RB, UNL), Kyle Prater (WR, NW), Devin Gardner (QB/WR, Michigan)
CURRENT D: Michael Buchanan (DE, ILL)
BRIEF EXPLANATION: The B1G doesn't have too many speedy downfield guys, so I wanted another jump ball threat to complement Prater. I'm taking Gardner. He's another unproven commodity, but let's be real. He's 6'4", 203 pounds, and was "instantly Michigan's best receiver" this spring. Did you know that he can throw, too? Maybe he's not the best at reading defenses, but he is the missing component to my Wildcat/Flea-flicker/Triple Pass/Quadruple Option offense. He won't get used too much in Borges's offense this season, but I'd like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that this isn't fantasy football (see rules/objective). Stats won't matter much. That inevitable instability in your knees when you picture Miller, Martinez, Prater, and Gardner simultaneously on the field terrorizing your 5'11 linebackers, however, does matter.
OPTIONAL SNARK ABOUT PICKS MADE EARLIER: If we were playing Settlers of Catan, this would be the equivalent of me taking all the ore. Except for the Denard ore. Seth got the Denard ore.
CURRENT O: Nathan Scheelhaase (QB, ILL), Jared Abbrederis (WR, UW), Taylor Lewan(LT, M)
CURRENT D: John Simon (DE, OSU), Denicos Allen (LB, MSU), Terry Hawthorne (CB, ILL)
BRIEF EXPLANATION: There is no way Abbrederis should still be here. He's the Big Ten's leading returning receiver with 933 yards and by far its best punt returner. He's a rising junior, too, and should improve more than guys entering their senior years. He's 6'2"! He's fast! He led the conference with a 17.0 YPC! Nick Toon is gone and Abbrederis is about to get rained on by Danny O'Brien! Look at all the trophies and trees he's got! He's still on the board here!
You guys are racists. Seriously, you need counseling. Even Aceconsin left Abbrederis on the board.
All the better for me since I need a guy for Scheelhaase to throw 80% of his passes at whether he's open or not.
Speaking of counseling, the second pick here is a guy who's faster than Roy Roundtree. Yes: that Terry Hawthorne. He's now a senior corner coming off a strong junior year who projects into the top half of the NFL draft and is the Big Ten's surest bet to be a lockdown corner in 2012. He's bigger than the other candidates and is so important to the Illini that he's going to get the Woodson role and double as a wide receiver. And now no one can take Roundtree.
Side note: Four Illini went in the top 48 picks of the most recent NFL draft and they're flying off the board here. It's almost like Ron Zook was a good recruiter, but not a very good football coach.
EVIDENTLY REQUIRED SNARK ABOUT PREVIOUS PICKS: Michael Buchanan had his jaw wired shut and will hit fall camp a fairy-like* 156 pounds. And that's Heiko's least insane pick. I blame medicine. Meanwhile, Ace picks MSU's second-best starting DE and Seth talks some ish he knows not wot of.
Let me rap at you, Seth: I said Gholston's production was almost entirely on pursuit and that his big plays were the product of other guys forcing plays back into him. Guys like Denicos Allen and his manic blitzing. WORD TO YOUR MOTHER. ALSO FOOTBALL GAMES ARE WON IN THE TRENCHES AND WITH SHUTDOWN CORNERBACKS AND A LACK OF RACISM, RACISTS.
*[actual fairy, with wings and dust and all that]
CURRENT O: Braxton Miller (QB, OSU), Taylor Martinez (QB/RB, UNL), Kyle Prater (WR, NW), Devin Gardner (QB/WR, Michigan), DeAnthony Arnett (WR, MSU)
CURRENT D: Michael Buchanan (DE, ILL)
BRIEF EXPLANATION: WHATEVA. I DO WHAT I WANT. And I want to add to my offensive star power with the selection of DeAnthony Arnett. Arnett is the quintessential "space player" in the Steve Breaston mold who has nice speed but more importantly ball skills and good wiggle after the catch. Even with Michigan State's recent glut of highly ranked receivers, I think Arnett is most likely to emerge as No. 1. I briefly considered Raheem Mostert for this duty, but I didn't like that he was lowly regarded as a receiver out of high school and barely contributed on offense last year despite clearly being the fastest guy on Purdue's offense. Someone else can have him.
SNARK: The funny thing is I also considered taking Abbrederis, but as I was google-scouting him, my search bar kept auto-completing to "Jared Abbrederis walk on." The guy's a (former) walk-on. Sure he's fast, but his production has been the result of other teams stacking up against Montee Ball and double-covering Nick Toon. Also, I personally checked up on Michael Buchanan in Chicago. His jaw was just fine.
CURRENT O: Montee Ball (RB, UW), James Vandenberg (QB, IA), Ricky Wagner (OL, UW)CURRENT D: Chris Borland (LB, UW), William Gholston (DE, MSU), Johnny Adams (CB, MSU)
BRIEF EXPLANATION: Adams can play either boundary or field corner for me, having started 11 games at field as a sophomore before switching to the boundary for all 13 games last season. While Adams isn't the biggest corner at 5'11", 177, he's a physical corner who plays big; he's recorded 50+ tackles in each of the last two seasons, and even added three sacks in 2011. The conference is short on elite cover corners, and while Adams doesn't fall into that category, he's solid against the pass (3 INT, 6 PBU LY) and gives my squad very solid run support from the secondary.
SNARK: Don't mind me, just drafting a team full of players who made the B1G title game last year. Meanwhile, Heiko's defense is comprised of stick figures and crushed dreams, but he's clearly unaffected by logic, reason, or even snark.
CURRENT O: Denard Robinson (QB, MICH), Michael Schofield (OT, MICH)
CURRENT D: Kawann Short (3T, PUR), Jonathan Hankins (NT, OSU), Marcus Rush (DE, MSU), Jonathan Brown (MLB, ILL), Micah Hyde (CB, IOWA)
BRIEF EXPLANATION: Elite defenses start up front, and the aptly named Marcus KILLQUARTERBACKSACK further feeds my craving for 3-and-out bloodsport. Last year he was one of the best ends in the conference with 58 tackles, 4 sacks, and 12 TFLs from a mostly the 5-tech position (against M they split him out a bit more). And all this as just a freshman, meaning this year he should be as much improved as anyone else in the conference. Evidence of that: in the MSU spring game they had to pull him out early after he wracked up five tackles and three sacks. He can play WDE or 5-tech for me. DL count is up to 178 tackles, 29 TFLs, and 12.5 sacks, just slightly better than the combined production of 2011 Roh/Martin/RVB/Heininger with just 75% of the spots filled.
And just in case one of Heiko's 800 quarterbacks thinks to do something as womanish as throwing the ball OVER my DL of DOOM (please nobody teach Scheelhaase how to do this; Ace at least I trust to honorably run power), I've grabbed the last of the conference's highly rated cornerbacks. Micah Hyde is Marlin Jackson, down to the moonlight season at free safety. He''s 1st team all-conference to everybody, is the best tackler among Big Ten CBs, and can be trusted to shut down any one good receiver for a game (which is the most any of these teams is going to have anyway) and arrives with 39 games of experience.
SNARK: All ye holders of unblocked Spartan sack leaders, call me when your guy beats Lewan.
CURRENT O: Montee Ball (RB, UW), James Vandenberg (QB, IA), Ricky Wagner (OL, UW), Keenan Davis (WR, IA)
CURRENT D: Chris Borland (LB, UW), William Gholston (DE, MSU), Johnny Adams (CB, MSU)
BRIEF EXPLANATION: Davis was Iowa's secondary option last year due to the presence of Marvin McNutt, and he's still the conference's returning leader in receptions per game after hauling in 50 passes over 12 games in 2011. At 6'3", 215, Davis gives Vandenberg a big target; while he doesn't have game-breaking athleticism, he's got good hands and jump-ball skills, making him both a reliable possession receiver and a viable downfield threat. A four-star talent out of high school, Davis earned an offer from Oklahoma, and he's got the potential to be the Big Ten's best receiver now that he's out from under McNutt's shadow.
SNARK: It's difficult to bring the snark with this pick when Seth is putting together a really strong team. Thankfully, that team features neither Taylor Lewan nor the conference's second-best tackle (Wagner), but I guess it's cute that he's talking smack on Brian's behalf.
CURRENT O: Braxton Miller (QB, OSU), Taylor Martinez (QB/RB, UNL), Kyle Prater (WR, NW), Devin Gardner (QB/WR, UM), DeAnthony Arnett (WR, MSU)
CURRENT D: Michael Buchanan (DE, ILL), Jordan Hill (DT, PSU)
BRIEF EXPLANATION: We're approaching a big drop-off in B1G interior defensive linemen, so I'm taking a hiatus from drafting quarterbacks to claim Hill before I'm left with some guys from Indiana. At 6-1, 300 lbs, Hill has good size and leverage. His measurables have a slight edge over those of Illinois DT Akeem Spence, who was also under consideration and also very good. Hill had 8.0 TFLs and 3.5 sacks from the 3-tech position, which earned him some All-B1G love. When teams ran at him (to avoid Devon Still), they didn't get very far, as he ending up leading the Penn State defensive line with 59 tackles. The Nittany Lions are verging on becoming a tire fire, so who knows how their defense will do this year, but in a bubble Hill still has the talent and the potential to be drafted -- like, actually drafted, by like, a real NFL team -- in 2013.
SNARK: Seth's defense is only worrisome because his players are liable to ragdoll Denard Robinson or knee people in the nuts. Since Seth has Denard Robinson, worrying about the former can be his prerogative. And come on, Ace. Have a little imagination. Picking Keenan Davis is like picking Jared Abbrederis. Both will spend the rest of their careers gluing glow-in-the-dark stars to their 8-foot ceilings.
Uh, guys… are we getting worried about the season yet? Denard and Lewan went off the board early, Gardner was picked at WR, and Seth reached for Schofield, and that's it as far as M players. Meanwhile we seem to be drafting most of MSU's defense and the entirety of hypothetical conference title game foe Wisconsin.
CURRENT O: Nathan Scheelhaase (QB, ILL), Jared Abbrederis (WR, UW), Taylor Lewan(LT, M)
CURRENT D: John Simon (DE, OSU), Akeem Spence (DT, Illinois), Jake Ryan (LB, M), Denicos Allen (LB, MSU), Terry Hawthorne (CB, ILL)
BRIEF EXPLANATION: I'll grab Spence, then, a guy who various folks are hyping up as a potential first or second round pick in next year's draft. Sixty-nine tackles is an impressive number for an interior lineman and Illinois's stout run defense was due in no small part to his contributions. Nine of those tackles came against Michigan, a team that kicked his ass the year previous. Three-tech: secured.
And then I will AMP my PASS RUSH with ELECTROLYTES. Whether it's at WDE or SLB, Jake Ryan is a guaranteed breakout player entering his sophomore year. He's got the defense down now, he's added 20 pounds, and he finished last year with a flourish--4 TFLs against Virginia Tech. He pairs with Allen and Simon to terrify your "quarterbacks," neutralizing any advantage...
/weeps in corner
EVIDENTLY REQUIRED SNARK ABOUT PREVIOUS PICKS: Dude, Abbrederis was Wisconsin's go-to-guy in their big games last year: 95 yards against Nebraska, 113 against OSU, 93 against PSU, 119 in the bowl game. And he averaged over 15 yards a punt return when Toon and Ball were on the sideline. Y'all be some Black Panthers up in here.
To be continued when Ace stops fighting the fact that he's slowly beginning to look like the unholy offspring of Dantonio and Bielema, Heiko finds moar quarterbacks to draft, Seth stops playing with his Denard action figure, and Brian talks himself into a "yeah, Nathan Scheelhaase… this could work!" narrative.
Molk as Rimington finalist: check, plus. Kelvin Grady's 30 catches: not so much.
Spring football is over, meaning we're entering the darkest days of the offseason, the times when college football bloggers must get creative (aigh!) and come up with something, anything, to post while hoping nobody on the team gets arrested (usually as a product of being as bored with the offseason as us).
This is one of those posts.
Last year, Brian went HAM with his football preview, churning out so much content that I ended up previewing Western lest the first game pass without comment. Now I get to look back on all of Brian's hard work, use hindsight as a crutch to make me look intelligent, and critique his predictions. It's up to you to decide whether it's coincidence that I'm doing this while he's rather incapacitated.
This review will be posted in three parts. Today, I'll look at the offensive personnel. Later, I'll tackle the defense (ooh, role reversal), then finally look at special teams and Brian's "stupid predictions," (his term, not mine). This first post was less fun than I expected; outside of some inflated projections for the wide receivers, Brian kinda nailed it when it came to the offense. BOO.
Koger's role will be up to him. He'll be somewhere between a B- and B+ blocker and will have opportunities to establish himself a major part of the passing game. Our sample size on his hands is still very small and the bad part is now two years removed and he's quite an athlete—his upside is high. I can't help but think he's been held back by things other than Rich Rodriguez's preferences, though. I'm betting on a good but unmemorable senior year.
I have a difficult time coming up with a better description for Kevin Koger's final Michigan season. He was a solid, but unspectacular, blocker who recorded 23 catches for 244 yards and four touchdowns. That was more production than he'd had under Rodriguez, but I had to check MGoBlue to see if he even earned All-Big Ten honorable mention (he did). My lasting memories of Koger will remain the insane catch against Western in 2009 and his battles with the dropsies the next year, along with his "KogerNotKroger" Twitter handle.
The Mouton comparison is ominous since we just watched that guy start for three years without getting any better, but Lewan hasn't suffered at the hands of poor coaching yet and won't in the future. This should be the year he drops the crazy hot girl act and establishes himself as an All Big Ten left tackle. He'll still be a little penalty-prone but it will be worth it.
Taylor Lewan earned second-team All-B1G honors from the coaches, honorable mention from the media, and generally was the team's best non-Molk offensive lineman. He still took a few dumb penalties, but not as many as he did in 2010. Again, spot on, old chap.
That is admittedly me trying to find a concern. David Molk is great. You can never tell which interior linemen are going to be up for postseason awards but I'll be incensed if he's not All Big Ten after a healthy year. I think he'll be a Rimington finalist.
See: picture at top of post.
Al Borges is going to do his damndest to keep Denard productive, upright, and beaming.
Check, check, and of course, check.
He'll give Denard a more sophisticated offense that he won't execute as well as Borges needs him to; he'll use Denard's legs but not quite as effectively as Rodriguez would have. These guys are good because they've spent a lot of time specializing in ways that make them successful. There is a necessary lack of efficiency once they get outside their comfort zones.
It was a near-impossible task for Denard to replicate his 2010 rushing production under Borges, especially since the coaches explicitly stated that wasn't at all the goal. He still finished as the team's leading rusher, broke the 1,000-yard barrier, scored 16 rushing touchdowns, and averaged over five yards per carry. As for the execution of the offense as a whole: yup, there were some efficiency issues. Yards/attempt, completion percentage, and passing efficiency all dropped, while interceptions rose to an unsightly 15. This prediction didn't exactly go out on a limb, but that didn't make it any less right.
Yards per carry drop quite a bit but nose above 5.
2010 YPC: 5.58.
2011 YPC: 5.15.
If [Junior Hemingway] can manage [to stay healthy] through the season he's going to end the year with a ton of catches. Even if the Michigan offense doesn't go full MANBALL right away continued development from Denard Robinson will make difficult pro-style throws that frequently target outside wide receivers more feasible; Borges's offense will make them more frequent. Combine that with Hemingway's main skill and there will be jump balls for the taking.
ALL OF THE JUMP BALLS. This piece of prognostication would've made it into the above category if not for this next bit:
If he can maintain his 18.5 YPC he'll challenge Roundtree for the most receiving yards on the team. Expect a bit under 1,000 yards from him.
Hemingway actually averaged a tic above 20 YPC and still led the team in receptions, but leading the team meant catching 34 passes for 699 yards. Junior did manage to stay healthy, which was nice, and then stole all of our hearts during (and after) the Sugar Bowl. Y U NO PREDICT HE STEAL OUR HEARTS, BRIAN?
Huyge's flexibility will allow Michigan to flip Schofield onto the field if anyone other than Molk goes down. He's likely to start a few games in preparation for a full time role in 2011… unless he rips the job away from Huyge right now.
Given the way Huyge's career has gone and the general vibe coming from camp chatter and Funk's public statements, that's a strong possibility. Huyge's never been much of a pass blocker and Michigan's offense is going to require quite a bit more of that as Robinson starts making more and more five and seven step drops.
This was right on in that a non-Molk OL (Ricky Barnum) went down with an injury, and Michael Schofield was the man to replace him. What Brian didn't see coming—and I don't think anyone predicted this—is that Huyge would remain at tackle while Schofield filled in admirably at left guard, keeping the job even after Barnum returned.
Tousssaint [extra 's' there, boss] seems to have that jittery short-range quickness that allows little guys to survive, even thrive, as they pick their way through the chaos.
I'm hoping he emerges as the guy. If he beats out a healthy Shaw he'll be well on his way to translating that tape to college, and I could get used to a jump-cutting Houdini with sprinter's speed. Toussaint is the offense's Roh: the wildcard. Anything from Mike Hart (except crappy :( ) to Mike Hart (except fast!) is possible.
No full credit here what with the significant hedging and the fact that Brian had Michael Shaw listed as the (tenuous) starter, even though that's because Brady Hoke flat-out said so before the season. Instead, Toussaint was the man all year, rushing for 1,041 yards on 5.6 YPC and surpassing all reasonable expectations in the process. Fitz's speed turned out to be more of the sprinter's variety than what he showed in his previous, injury-plagued season, and the jump-cuts were plentiful. He wasn't quite Mike Hart (except fast!); Michigan didn't need that with Denard playing quarterback. The potential is there, however.
Michigan finishes around 15th in FEI and other advance metrics. By yardage they drop to about the same spot; scoring offense increases from 25th to match.
Brian actually underestimated the offense in terms of the advanced metrics—9th in FEI—though successfully predicted that it wouldn't quite match the #2 rank of the previous year. Yardage fell to 42nd in the country, and scoring offense was 26th. The larger point remained true—the offense was quite efficient, but not quite at the level of 2010's spread-and-shred—but the raw numbers didn't quite match up.
Not So Much
Roundtree's production will drop this year as Michigan tries to get Hemingway and Koger more involved. He can't expect set the single-game receiving record every year. He'll still run neck and neck with Hemingway fro [sic] the most receiving yards on the team. [Ed-S: hey, I remember that vacation--it was nice]
Roundtree's production did drop, just more significantly than expected. With QB OH NOES mostly gone from the offense (and Roundtree flat-out dropping the one such opportunity I recall), he finished with just 19 catches for 355 yards, well behind both Hemingway and Jeremy Gallon on the stat sheet. Speaking of Gallon...
Entering his final season [Kelvin] Grady's best shot at extensive playing time is based on 1) a lot of three wide and 2) Roundtree playing mostly on the outside. In that situation he's the established veteran. He'd get a crack at screens and seams and whatnot en route to a breakout mini-'Tree year. More likely is a moderately increased role as Roundtree bounces inside and out with around 30 catches.
First, a sadface— :( —for the lack of screens, not to mention blitheringly wide-open seams. Now, Grady's final stat line: five catches, 75 yards. Brian did recover with a nice hedge—"It could go sour for Grady if Jeremy Gallon translates chatter into playing time"—especially since Gallon produced Grady's projected stat line: 31 catches netting 453 yards. Still, swing and a miss on which player would produce said stat line, and I'm really reaching for stuff to critique here
Denard rushes for 1200 yards. His interception rate falls significantly but is still not great.
Shaw claims the starting job to himself in week four, gets injured shortly after, and Toussaint takes over. Both are much better than Smith at making extra yards. At the end of the year they've all got somewhere between 400 and 800 yards.
Toussaint's rapid rise wasn't foreseen by Brian, who expected more of a backfield-by-committee, especially in the early going. Shaw never captured the starting job, appeared in nine games, and finished with 199 yards on 31 carries. That made Shaw a more effective runner than Smith, who had 298 yards on 50 carries, but both were surprisingly effective (6.42 YPC for Shaw, 5.96 for Smith, though obviously in limited action for both).
Hopkins creates windows other backs don't. When three yards and a cloud of dust is a win, he'll be in there.
Or he'll continue putting the ball on the ground—see: Denard's immaculate rushing TD against Notre Dame—and get relegated to fullback.
it's always a good time for this picture
The start of spring practice is an annual opportunity to dust off the stuff you posted titled "2012 outlook" in the aftermath of the bowl game, slightly revise it, and post it again. AnnArbor.com has a series previewing every position group… which… like… basically it's all the same except a couple places. I won't go into that much detail but it does feel like time for some State of the Team bullets after they got a lot of detail from Hoke in an interview.
Offensive line reshuffling. All those moves you've been hearing about since Danny Coale's misery finally ended in early January are now official per the head man:
To shore up those issues, Hoke said he is making several personnel changes as the Wolverines kick off their 14-practice spring camp Saturday.
The most prominent of those moves impacts redshirt senior Ricky Barnum, the former starting left guard who now will receive the first crack at replacing the Rimington Award-winning Molk at center. …
Returning centers Rocko Khoury, a senior, and Jack Miller, a redshirt freshman, also will be given a shot to win the job.
Meantime, Hoke said junior Michael Schofield, who filled in for Barnum at left guard, will slide back to his natural position of right tackle. He can play anywhere but center on the line, but his 6-foot-7, 299-pound frame makes him an ideal fit at tackle.
It appears the most wide-open job could be the vacated left guard position. When asked who were candidates for it, Hoke first mentioned Elliott Mealer, a senior who has played sparingly in his career.
"His opportunity, his time has come," Hoke said.
Schofield to right tackle, testing Barnum at center: both very much expected. Just look at Schofield's arms and frame at right. Dude is built to pass block. I expect he'll be an upgrade on Mark Huyge.
Chris Bryant is Mealer's main competition at left guard, but Miller and Khoury will be an indirect threat. If either is better than the potential starter at left guard they'll shuffle Barnum back to guard and roll with it.
A prediction: Barnum spends all of spring at center but slides back to guard in fall as Miller proves himself the best option for the fifth guy on the line. I don't think they're wild about Khoury and want to give themselves more options at center. College-ready Kyle Kalis will probably be given a crash course at right tackle to give Michigan a scholarship option in the event of an injury to one of the starters.
Defensive tackle reshuffling. You also know about Michigan throwing its top two guys at WDE inside, paving the way for the quicker Clark/Beyer generation of pass rush terror. We have little clarity on what positions a lot of guys will be playing in there, and spring will be an opportunity to figure out just where the most terrifying hole is on the depth chart.
Roh is a strongside end now and Black a three-tech. Where do Campbell and Washington go? Are Wilkins, Ash, and Rock viable options? Is Keith Heitzman a guy who can provide some depth as a redshirt freshman?
Linebacker pressing. Jake Ryan is a lock atop the depth chart. Elsewhere there have been some rumors that Kenny Demens could find his job under threat. Meanwhile, Desmond Morgan is a hitter without a ton of athleticism who will get tested by redshirt freshman Antonio Poole and two of Michigan's three early enrollees, Joe Bolden and Kaleb Ringer. Bolden's probably an MLB in an ideal world and Ringer seems like a redshirt candidate, but once the pads go on those perceptions can change quickly.
Brandin Hawthorne's also around. He lost his job last year and it's clear Michigan thinks he's too small for the spot but I have this nagging feeling M is missing out on something by not incorporating him into the nickel package. His speed could be useful in coverage and on blitzes.
Wat? Let me untangle this bit of technical speak for you:
Hoke said linebacker Jordan Paskorz and defensive end Chris Eddins are moving to tight end "to get an on-the-line guy who can block a five-tech, or move a six-tech." Both could vie for time in the fall after the departure of starters Kevin Koger and Steve Watson.
A five tech is a strongside defensive end. He would be coming from the interior on an outside play and the TE can't get run over; on an inside play if the tight end is getting the five he's probably doing so as part of a double.
A six tech is what happens to a 4-3 under defense when the weakside end gets a tight end to him. In that case he has to bunker down and take on that tight end; if he gets sealed to the inside the corner is going to be there. Michigan wants a guy who can take a Clark or a Beyer or a Roh and get rid of him.
If you're reading the piles of players moving to tight end as a shot across the bow of the incumbents, you're probably right.
Scholarship clarity coming. Sounds like we might get another departure or two in the near future:
When asked if any players have left the program since the conclusion of last season, Hoke said he would "address that issue Friday" and declined further comment. His first news conference of spring camp is scheduled for noon Friday at Schembechler Hall.
He did say he doesn't expect to incur any academic problems.
A number of candidates bubble to mind but we'll find out in a couple days so no need to go speculating. If two scholarship guys exit before spring practice I'm bumping my projected class size to 24. Football teams don't go ten months without losing anyone. Also I like the idea of pushing this class to 24 a great deal. That's three WR, three LB, a couple DL, and a couple roving wild card supers unless Michigan goes ahead with that third TE.