Mike Lantry, 1972
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.
This will not be a surprise to BWS readers, but dangit I also have my veer package and I'm going to run it. Because so there.
NOMENCLATURE NOTE. This from Chris Brown on nomenclature complaints:
Also I saw your note on whether the play should be labeled an "inverted veer." Others may disagree, but to me the fact that there's a guard pull doesn't make it not a "veer" -- you can have a veer play with all kinds of block schemes ("down" schemes, inside zone schemes but leaving a guy unblocked). The regular veer is just where the RB and QB go to the same side and you leave a defender unblocked. I may be responsible for the "inverted veer" name from naming it that a couple of years ago but I hear coaches call it that all the time now. "Dash read" is the other way to call it but that's not all that descriptive.
I put up a post on the scheme from this year. I note in there that you can run the play with either power blocking and a guard pull or zone blocking; I know teams that do both. Just depends how you want to deal with the second level.
I've been calling it inverted veer for a long time and it's not wrong-wrong—"veer" generally means leaving a playside DE unblocked, which the play does. I'll keep calling it that and note when it does not feature a pulling G.
Show show. Michigan finally—finally—made the inverted veer a primary part of their offense, fulfilling a desire I've had ever since Smart Football posted on the thing way back when. It worked really well, from Denard's 41 yard touchdown to open the scoring to Denard's six yard touchdown to continue the scoring, to… yeah. You get it.
The veer was perhaps the core play of an offense that did this to Ohio State:
- three and out
- 47-yard touchdown drive
- 52-yard touchdown drive
- three and out
- Michigan gets a first down, whereupon Denard fumbles
- 80-yard touchdown drive
- 80-yard touchdown drive
- 40-yard drive from own nine followed by punt disaster
- 75-yard touchdown drive
- 80-yard touchdown drive that morphs into 54-yard field goal drive thanks to replay incompetence and penaltyfest
Without looking it up I guarantee you that is Michigan's best-ever offensive performance against the Great Satan in the modern era. That is a short game and 38 legitimately acquired points. Ten real drives, six touchdowns, four of them 75 yards or longer, two three and outs. An average of 46 yards a drive. As weird and disappointing as Michigan's defensive performance was, the offense made up for it in spades.
And the thing is, I'm not sure Michigan is even running the veer that well. You know how Denard had to juke that guy on his 41-yard touchdown? He shouldn't have had to. Omameh blocked the guy the play options off:
With a lead blocker taking the corner you can see the read is Shazier here. Shazier indicates he's flaring out (or Denard just pulls because that seems to be the default on the veer). The pull is a good default since Shazier has a nasty tendency to have no idea where the ball is on plays like this, a major reason Penn State tore up the Buckeye run D. (It's worth noting that for all the panting about Shazier once Sweat went out OSU opponents ran for 6.1 (PSU) and 6.2 YPC (Michigan).)
Here the mesh has already transpired, Denard has pulled, Shazier is still charging at Toussaint, and Denard is going to get a bunch of yards once Omameh blocks MLB Sabino.
SPOILER ALERT: Omameh is not going to block Sabino.
WOOP WOOP WOOP
Now, Omameh does latch on to Shazier. And Shazier has no momentum since he held up and started going backwards; Omameh Te'o's the dude back into a safety with a little help from an improvising Toussaint. I'm a ol' softie so I gave him a plus one despite a missed assignment.
Denard sees grass. Denard runs. Some dude waves a pompom in front of his kneel, which is frustrating but apropos.
This is what pom poms are for: to block vision.
Items of Interest
That is not how they draw it up. They draw it up with Omameh blocking Sabino and Denard jetting past Shazier directly upfield. Here it works out well, but the other play I hate BWS for beating me to had a sadface outcome:
Schofield did the exact same thing Omameh did on this play, blocking the guy who the play options off. The guy way behind the LOS who isn't John Simon? Dude ran himself there because he had no idea who had the ball. Schofield should be moving to the second level to pick off S Orhian Johnson.
This time Denard makes the wrong cut and gets two yards.
As BWS says:
For me, this isn't quite as frustrating as when Michigan fails to run from under center. This seems like a repetition issue. Neither Omameh or Schofield have practiced this blocking scheme as much as they probably should, and pulling across the formation and finding the right defender to block is probably one of those things that just takes getting used to.
That said ARGHHH. Block the right guy. I wonder what goes through Denard's mind during a play like this. "Yes, yes, got'em. Remember, take a knee. Troll Tebow. Chest bump. Hoke Point." Tackled.
This wasn't an issue on the six-yard Denard TD, on which the optioned guy was the way-upfield DE and Hopkins ran outside, taking Shazier with him before blocking him. Denard ended up cutting behind Huyge, who released downfield; Schofield pulled and got a block on Johnson.
BTW, the above-picture play was part of Michigan's second (and last!) three and out. Borges uber alles.
Even with that! Okay, the above is frustrating, but, God, look at all that space. How many times do you think Denard gets corralled there? And what is the payoff when he isn't?
Borges's wonky little adjustment from earlier in the season here is using a lead blocker for the sweep action, which pulls a second defender outside—one evidently unprepared to make this read since nobody ever thinks Denard has it—and makes the pull even more dangerous because of hockey power play analogy*. The veer forces that safety into the box and still works.
[You have a bigger advantage 4 on 3 than 5 on 4; here equal numbers with Denard in space is basically a power play.]
ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED: MOUNTAIN GOAT. Where is the safety? Jeremy Gallon turned him into a smoking heap of scrap metal.
And he knows it.
BAM BAM BAM BAM
I don't know what it is about five-eight guys from Florida. Their agility helps them in open space, for one, and their height means they are unusually able to get into the chests of opposing defensive backs. And there's some mountain goat in those boys somewhere.
Rep that, rep that, rep that. There are things other than "pulling guard doesn't block the optioned guy" that seemed like they could be coached up: on one play that ended up a give John Simon split the difference between the two potential ballcarriers and managed to spin Toussaint around at the LOS.
Denard could/should be riding the mesh point a little longer to force that DE to commit when it's not obvious. Maybe not; that is a great play by a great player and sometimes that's just going to happen. I just remember Juice Williams holding that thing forever, until the DE freaked out and took off for the tailback, and then being a 500-foot-tall robot.
Play action lack frustrating. Michigan went to a play action look off of this that turned into a five yard scramble instead of a potentially huge play because there were two unblocked guys on the edge and one blocker (who didn't block anyone). This has been a consistent frustration going back to the last couple years of the Rodriguez era: Michigan struggles to effectively run deep play action because the nature of their shotgun run game often leaves players unblocked and forces quick throws.
Rodriguez avoided this with QB Oh Noes pop passes on which Denard faked his iso and then dropped to pass. No pulling linemen, no edge issues, no guys who must be left alone for the play to seem convincing. I'm hoping Borges works something out to get big plays off counters to this over the offseason.
Hemingway slot business.
As I understand it, you use smaller, quicker WR's in the slot because they are matched up against lumbering LB's who can't keep up. You then use bigger, stronger WR's on the outside against the smaller CB's. It seems like we use Hemmingway in the slot quite often with Gallon or Odoms on the outside. Am I missing something here? I just don't understand why Hemmingway is in the slot so much. It's not like he is Floyd or Calvin Johnson, and they are trying to move him all over the field to keep defenses question because they are so freaked out about Hemmingway.
If you're not going to screen with those slots or use them as runners, there's not a whole lot of point to making those slot dudes little buggers. Putting your top WR there does get you some advantages.
One: it's hard to jam the guy since he's starting off the line of scrimmage and many defenses don't feature a guy directly over the slot. Two: you're essentially preventing the opponent's top corner from covering the guy man to man. If that's not the case you're forcing a nickel package on the field and forcing that corner away from his regular spot. This can have negative impacts on run fills from both members of the secondary. Three: hypothetically your big guy is a relatively good blocker and having him in the slot can help you attack the edge. This works better when we're talking about Floyd or BJ Cunningham.
Just because Hemingway isn't Floyd or Megatron doesn't mean he's not the closest thing Michigan has available, and since the Michigan offense involves zero quick throws to the slot, putting him there doesn't cost you anything.
A timely response on next year's OL.
Despite the awesome win at Illinois this week I still felt like Omameh had a rough day as I saw him get beat on a few occasions. Here's a question for you - based on the outlook for 2012, do you think the coaches might consider moving him to RT and keeping Schofield and Barnum as the two guards? Maybe Omameh just isn't cut out for mauling large DT or pulling, which is what the guard needs to do in this offense.
I think that's a possibility, but one that will depend on how quickly Chris Bryant progresses and how ready to play Kyle Kalis is more than Schofield.
I bet a dollar Schofield is the starting right tackle next year. He was neck and neck with Huyge for the starting job there before Barnum went down; Omameh has not played tackle in two or three years; there are no other tackles on the dang roster. If Schofield isn't the second-best pass protector on the team next year I'll be shocked. So he goes outside.
That means Omameh moving to tackle makes him a backup. Is that a realistic possibility for a would-be three year starter competing with freshmen, one of them a true freshman? Normally the answer there would be "no way" but watching him get chucked to the ground by Illinois (and everybody else) and seeing Omameh's inexperience pulling makes you wonder. He's been hurt more than anyone else on the offense by the coaching change and it's not a huge stretch to see a 340-pound mauler displace him, no matter the experience difference.
That might not be a bad thing. Omameh as the #6 lineman means there is a #6 lineman. Right now that looks far from guaranteed.
MGoBlog ruins relationships.
I've been dating an LSU alum for almost 3 months. In the week leading up to their big game I made the mistake of explaining (unsolicited) the ethical shortcomings of oversigning and the significant competitive advantage that it promotes. She follows CFB sparingly and didn't have much to say about the topic, but at her friends' game party on Saturday night she made sure to have the LSU contingent confront me. The return arguments went something like "you're jealous", "it's a numbers game", and "my friend's cousin plays for the team, he's not very good and he hasn't been cut", etc.
I'm no longer concerned with proving my point but rather with the chasm that oversigning has created in our relationship. Needless to say, she didn't agree with me and said that she just wanted me to be an LSU fan with her. Naturally, I want her to follow Michigan, too. I'm conflicted because I can't reconcile supporting Les Miles or the SEC with my own values. What's a man to do?
If your girlfriend is following LSU only sparingly she will not be able to tell the difference between your mild affection for the Hat's grass-eating insanity and a genuine desire for LSU to win. That will get you through games against the SEC West's collection of robot mercenary Bible salesmen. LSU is the lesser evil in their division if only because Miles is Loki incarnate.
Past that I can't help you. LSU had an assistant coach fired for arranging illicit benefits for a recruit. LSU's oversigning practices are just short of Alabama's for overall odiousness. LSU is mixed up in the Lyles scouting thing. If they were exposed to the same level of scrutiny OSU just went through, Baton Rouge would be a smoking, deliciously-scented crater. They're fun, I guess. I hate fun.
It kind of sounds like this girl is not a winner, anyway. Having her friends dogpile on you to offer sports talk radio opinions about oversigning is not a good sign. "Hey, I know what my boyfriend will like: being berated by a room full of people." Find a nice Texas alum so you can accuse the Longhorns of destroying college football, preferably at a Mack Brown house party.
[ED-S: Pro-tip: don't take relationship advice from Brian unless your relationship is based on an incomparable understanding of college football]
Coaching: it matters.
this year; last year
There's been a long line of assertions about college football being highly dependent on unusually gifted/determined athletes (It's not about X's and O's; it's about Jimmies and Joes comes to mind), and that coaching is more an area where the game can be lost and talent squandered (Ron Zook) or the marginal advantages in the same team strategy add up to wins over equally talented teams (Jim Tressel).
While it seems that some players excel regardless of coaching (Brandon Graham, Jordan Kovacs), the turnaround of Michigan's defense seems to be as good a test case as any for how coaching affects performance. They improved dramatically, but they did it opposite an offense that was similarly potent and returned almost everyone from a year ago, played similar caliber teams if not the same teams, and employed youth effectively in the secondary in stark contrast to previous years.
In light of this, all things being equal, how big a difference do you think having great versus "just good" coaching makes in college football (Like if Michigan had hired anyone who had the misfortune of not being born a Raven's defensive coordinator), setting aside that it only needs to be one point better in each game for the win?
The only thing Greg Mattison and Greg Robinson have in common other than first names—I'm pretty sure they're not even the same species—is their ability to mutter "scheme is overrated" when asked a question they don't really feel like answering. But if this year's Michigan defense has taught anyone anything it's that yes, scheme matters a lot. So does technique coaching.
Michigan did not go from 108th in the country to top 20 by replacing their players. They did it by playing a defense that made sense, delivering remarkably effective zone blitzes, and making certain total scrubs a lot better at football.
Scheme matters. So does everything else. Acquiring your pieces is a third of the game. Developing them into football players is a third. And deploying them effectively is a third.
GRADES AT THESE THINGS FOR VARIOUS THINGS
- Acquire: C-
- Develop: F
- Deploy: F
2011 Michigan defense
- Acquire: C+
- Develop: A
- Deploy: A-
- Acquire: B+
- Develop: B+
- Deploy: A
- Acquire: A-
- Develop: A-
- Deploy: C
Jim Tressel regime
- Acquire: A*
- Develop: A-
- Deploy: A-
Brady Hoke so far (tenuous)
- Acquire: A
- Develop: A-
- Deploy: B+ (provisional)
Fight over the niggling half-grades if you must. To answer the guy's question, the difference between great and "just good" schematic coaching in college football is not a massive difference in win percentage—it's not going to win you three games a year—but when you're at the level Michigan expects to be, edging out an extra half-win per year has a massive impact on the overall prestige of your program. The difference between 6-6 and 7-5 is nothing. The difference between 10-2 and 11-1 is immense, as Wisconsin and their omission from national title discussion have found out.
*[Illicit or no.]
Spread: we wants it forever.
A question that I would love to hear Borges asked is, given the fact that he has run a lot of spread this year, for really the first time in his career because of Denard, has it influenced his offensive philosophy? How he will approach game planning in future?
He always talks about how he's changed over the years and added things to his concepts, and I would love to hear him talk about that. I have a hope that we actually do not move completely away from the spread once Denard is gone--I would love it if we retained some of that concept and retained the ability to run the ball from the QB position. I think it really complicates defensive planning to have a dual threat guy back there (no offense Shane Morris). Is it possible to have Heiko ask a question of that sort?
No one can be certain, but since your question conjured forth an image of Heiko trudging to a press conference with "Taps" playing in the background… eh… I'm guessing not so much. When these guys came in they told everyone in no uncertain terms that Michigan football was running power down your throat, and they kept trying to do that from time to time no matter how spectacularly ineffective it had proven.
Is the Denard Robinson experience going to change that? Probably not. Borges has been an offensive coordinator for decades. Two years of Denard are just a couple additional logs on an already raging fire of this metaphor makes no sense. When he's gone Borges will have Gardner, Bellomy, Shane Morris, and a clobberating OL of Lewan, Barnum, Miller, Kalis, and Schofield with Chris Bryant and others waiting in the wings. He might (should?) have Bri'onte Dunn. Even if he's learned some cool stuff over the past couple years there's not much he'll be able to carry over with the personnel he'll have. While Gardner's pretty fast he's nowhere near the runner Denard is. (Rodriguez's disastrous OL recruiting helps smooth this transition: all the underclass Omamehs are air.)
Maybe we'll see a zone read or two, an inverted veer here and there, but even now it's obvious what Borges wants to do despite not being able to do it even a little.
I do find this a little depressing, but only a little. If Michigan puts together a pro-style offense with personnel like they had through most of the aughts and actually lets it rip that promises to be fun, especially with Ohio State transitioning to an offense that wants different things than Michigan will. I'd still like them to take runs at QBs like Braxton Miller and Devin Gardner, but I think they will—they took Bellomy, who is a mobile guy with the ability to develop into a thrower.