Mike Spath points out that doing an interview for the official site is a pretty good indicator he'll be back.
While I was chatting with Brian last week he happened to pull up the top 7 composite recruits from the 2013 season. I followed and…
Woof. Green has obvious vision problems and hasn't emerged from a pile of guys among whom the most statistically effective last year was Drake Johnson. Dymonte Thomas and Shane Morris are already juniors and to date still seem to be at least a year's worth of good coaching away from ready.
That leaves us the offensive line class. Kugler seems to be on track to start when Glasgow surrenders his job—I've heard the same suite of nice things you have. Bosch transferred after performing about how you'd expect a true freshman thrust into a Borges-coached OL would. Fox hasn't been mentioned since a staff ago. Dawson we have only a little more data, much of that getting owned by Maurice Hurst in the spring game (if Hurst does that against Utah's OL I'll happily rescind that as a criticism).
On the other hand we caution all the time about giving up on OL when they're too young.
So when do you know about an offensive lineman?
This is a question I've been interested in a long time, going back to an article one of my Daily colleagues did on OL recruiting to highlight the injuries plaguing the classes Michigan took while I was there. I could never find the article but in January 2013 I tried to recreate some of that information, plus a 12-year update. I did a thing about a year ago on growth tracks to reset expectations for those 2012 and 2013 line classes. Let's check in again, this time with columns.
The towers shrink because players currently on the roster are included in the data, and obviously our information on them is incomplete. "Not available" is a catch-all for transfers, dismissals, guys playing defense, injuries and medicals and whatnot. "Excellent" is basically all-conference-ish, "Solid" is that, "Liability" are guys who were starting but the fan consensus was they shouldn't be or wouldn't but for things like the 2008 depth chart or gross Borges incompetence.
This time I differentiated between "backups" and "two-deep" (an imperfect thing from memory and pouring through old Wolverine annuals). The former are guys buried on the depth chart and unlikely to play; the latter are only the top backups we are relatively certain would have played if they weren't behind an established starter. It's not about being technically on the two-deep, more like the first one or two guys in if an OL goes down—Erik Magnusson last year, or Leo Henige forever.
- Redshirting is overwhelmingly the normal thing to do as a freshman.
- Only a handful of players are capable of starting (shades of yellow) as redshirt freshmen. If you take the yellow chunk from there and size it against the 4th and 5th years you can see only about a third of the eventually useful players are demonstrably so at that age. Sing the praises of any 2014s already playing; don't give up on any who are not.
- By RS Soph there is a big yellow expansion. The mysterious "backups" region has shrunk considerably. You have a fairly good sense of who these guys are by the end of this year.
- There is very little difference—just a slight improvement—between RS Juniors and 5th year seniors. The backups disappear into unrenewed 5ths.
If you're using this imperfect data set of 82 players, many of whom didn't complete their careers for non-ability-related reasons, to get a feel for when to judge an offensive linemen, you could say it's a half-life. Don't judge a (redshirt) freshman unless he's already playing well, but after their third year in the program if he's not on the two-deep the chances of ever doing so decrease exponentially.
What this means for the 2012-'14 OL classes
Be excited for: Mason Cole.
Be extremely content with: Mags, Kalis and Braden if they seem to be playing well this year.
Keep an eye out for: Kugler, Logan Tuley-Tillman, and David Dawson. These are 2013 guys mentioned as probable two-deep contributors, though our current scouting has Kugler pretty much ready to play, LTT half-way there, and Dawson probably not ready yet. Further data received on them this year will speak volumes about their futures.
Be patient with: Juwann Bushell-Beatty. If he pops up this year he's probably going to be awesome; if he's buried there's plenty of time that this doesn't matter.
Getting late: Bars, Fox, Samuelson. With Bars at least we've heard past mentions of him competing, though he was always kind of the last guy in that 2012 class. He may be on the Huyge track; if he's not on the two-deep this (his redshirt junior) year it doesn't seem very likely he'll be a starter in 2016. Fox has been hurt so much in his career (just going off of game reports) if he's not medicaled he probably deserves some extra time to get caught up. Samuelson I've heard nothing about; even when I ask people with insider-y info I get nothing.
If you like manball there's no better guy to have as your offensive coordinator than Tim Drevno. As both a TE coach and OL coach, he was one of the main architects of the thumping Stanford lines that brought the Cardinal to their recently-elevated level. Afterwards Drevno transitioned to the NFL and got a plum job at USC. Now he rejoins Jim Harbaugh at Michigan.
After a small-school tenure as an offensive lineman, Drevno's coaching career started with a few years coaching TEs and RBs at smaller schools. In 1999 he transitioned to OL at San Jose State. Since then he's been exclusively an OL coach save for his first two years at Stanford, when he handled TEs. He also held the offensive coordinator title for Harbaugh's extremely successful San Diego teams. (Harbaugh in fact inherited Drevno from the previous administration.)
At Stanford, Drevno was a key part of the machine that actually got up and running in Harbaugh year two:
[Ranking out of about 120]
|YEAR||TEAM||DREVNO||Rush S&P||Overall S&P||Main back(s)||Results|
|220 rushes, 900 yards,3.8 YPC|
|280 rushes, 1150 yards, 4.1 YPC|
|330 rushes, 1850 yards, 5.6 YPC|
|2009||Stanford||OL||12||6||Gerhart||340 rushes, 1870 yards, 5.5 YPC|
|370 rushes, 1800 yards, 4.9YPC|
|370 rushes,2100 yards, 5.6 YPC|
It's hard to separate Drevno out from the general Harbaugh effect, but again the continued success of Stanford after coach X's departure bodes very well in this case. This wasn't Texas or Alabama when they were up and running. This was a program transformation that stuck; that Stanford continued to excel after Drevno left is pretty good since he was one of the major molders of guys like David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin.
Drevno went with Harbaugh to San Francisco, where he was the OL coach; oddly, NFL veteran Mike Solari was also the OL coach. The two guys had the same title. In any case, the San Francisco OL was up and down.
[rankings out of 32 teams]
|YEAR||TEAM||Rush DVOA||Line Yards||Power Success||Adj Sack Rate|
After a step back in year one, the 49ers had a terrific rushing offense in year two; they then took a major step back. At no point was their sack rate anything other than bad, but he did inherit that and quarterbacks do have a significant, often-unacknowledged hand in that. Kaepernick is a guy who prefers to extend plays even if that results in additional sacks because when it doesn't he frequently lopes downfield for thirty yards.
Despite those numbers, San Francisco sent two OL to the Pro Bowl in 2013 and had their entire line named as either a starter or an alternate in 2012. Margins in the NFL are razor thin.
L to R: true FR, redshirt FR, junior, true FR, redshirt SO
Last year, Drevno returned to college at USC, picking up a run game coordinator title and inheriting a line that thinks last year's Michigan line is impressively experienced. Three true freshman saw extensive time, with Toa Lobendahn moving to left tackle midseason when sophomore Chad Wheeler went down with injury. Redshirt sophomore Zach Banner moved into the starting RT job; Max Tuerk was the only upperclassman, and even he ended up moving to center.
This is like last year's Michigan line if you replaced the starting guards with freshmen instead of a redshirt junior and redshirt sophomore.
Despite that, the numbers were middling:
|Offense||Adj. LY||Rk||Opp. Rate||Rk||Power Success Rate||Rk||Adj Sack Rate||Rk|
USC was about average in line yards and adjusted sacks, a bit below that in "opportunity rate"—the percentage of run plays that go for five yards—and bad at short yardage. Top USC back Javorius Allen almost hit 1500 yards at 5.4 a carry. That's impressive for what must have been one of the youngest lines in the country.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Drevno has extensive Harbaugh experience and did very well considering the situation in his single year at USC; he was one of the primary guys driving the Stanford rushing renaissance whether it was as a TE coach or an OL coach. A lack of OC experience is not a problem since Harbaugh has a major role in coordinating his own offense, and Drevno worked with Harbaugh in that capacity at San Diego.
At 45, he's probably looking at this job as an opportunity to impress and get a head job. Given the history there that's not exactly a longshot.
UPSHOT FOR REST OF STAFF
Ain't no more upshot.
11/30/2014 – Michigan 28, OSU 42 – 5-7, 3-5 Big Ten
In one of last year's season preview posts I wondered if Michigan was going to end up on the wrong side of the war after Hoke's hire. I got piles of crap for this take from people waving Stanford anecdotes around. I think a lot of people read "pro style can't work" when what I'm saying is "it's clearly less likely to." I'm not going to turn my nose up at Jim Harbaugh no matter what he wants to run. Wing-T? Yes, sir.
Anyway: the crux of that argument was that if you think running a spread makes your defense soft when you have to play Wisconsin, the corollary to that is that if you're not preparing for spread elements daily you will struggle when you go up against them. For the most part this held true during the Hoke era (if I say "tempo" you will dive under a couch), and never more so than against OSU.
Statistically, Michigan has had a defense somewhere between good and terrific under Greg Mattison. Ohio State looks at that and says naw:
- 2011: 34 points, 376 yards, about two feet from another 70 yards and game-winning points.
- 2012: 26 points, 396 yards. A decent performance, year one of Meyer.
- 2013: 42 points, 526 yards. An obliteration.
- 2014: 42 points, 416 yards. Seven of those points are via a defensive TD.
These were all slow games featuring a lot of running and a lot of Michigan dawdling. This year's version of The Game had just nine OSU possessions, which is the practical minimum. Anything played at a Pac 12 pace would have been ugly.
Michigan had a vaguely acceptable performance once in four years, and two of those games featured freshman OSU quarterbacks who weren't even supposed to be the starter preseason. Hell, this game featured an eighty yard drive led by the third string QB.
The whole "Big Boy Football" thing is all the more galling since OSU has consistently ground Michigan into paste without bothering to throw the ball much. OSU QBs have thrown an average of 20.5 passes against Michigan in the Hoke era, and I'd guess about a half of those were screens and easy stuff in the flat. With most of the rest downfield bombs, OSU's offense avoids turnovers while simultaneously being lethally efficient. If the spread does get your QBs hurt more often—something that's been hard to confirm with numbers—that's not something that has affected Ohio State. Cardale Jones came in and sealed the game.
OSU is running twice as much as they're passing against Michigan and averaging 6.1 yards a carry. These are Rodriguez-at-WVU type stats, the kind that blew me away when I was looking at his track record after his hire.
The funny thing about the Danielsons of the world is that they're old school RUN THE DANG BALL types, but they manage to sidestep the fact that forcing the defense to account for a running quarterback is the best way to run the ball. I can think of no better way to make this point than a chart from back in 2008 that compared Michigan's YPC in year one of Rodriguez to the previous seven years of Lloyd Carr:
Threet and Sheridan and no linemen and they still ended up above average. Michigan would easily top 2006 from 2009 to 2012. Lloyd Carr could talk about running the ball. His teams couldn't do it, at least not well.
I want to run the ball. I want to run an offense that doesn't ask the QB to make complicated reads, but rather asks him to make a decision about one guy. Hoke was a mistake for a thousand reasons, but prime amongst them was his "we're gonna run power" crap after he'd never been able to do that anywhere else.
Michigan spent the 2011 game running the inverted veer wrong and they still put up 40; that this had no impact on his approach speaks volumes about Hoke's lack of quality as a coach. Bo made the shift to a modern passing offense when he had to. Saban is grudgingly moving in that direction: I was watching the Iron Bowl on Saturday and Herbstreit made multiple references to how Alabama was now a no-huddle team. They found themselves down multiple scores in the second half and ripped off five straight TDs in short order.
The game moves; move with it or die. Michigan chose hidebound traditionalism on the field and whiz-bang idiot modernism in the pageantry. The former is a natural reaction after you get burned. The latter is a natural consequence of hiring a pizza marketer.
But can we learn? I would like to learn. Rich Rodriguez blew it here, and he learned. He dumped his defensive staff, got Jeff Casteel back, and is headed to the Pac-12 championship game with a freshman QB after having beaten Oregon in back-to-back years. This is our opportunity to do something right this time.
Unfortunately, Michigan's current coaching staff is going on recruiting visits today when they should be taking a day with a bottle of scotch before polishing up the old resume. I have no idea what they're supposed to say on these visits.
RECRUIT: Aren't you guys getting fired?
COACH: Almost certainly.
RECRUIT: So why are you here?
COACH: I'm like a corpse still twitching. Held in this hellish no-place, I pine for my soul's release and reincarnation as the offensive coordinator at a D-II school.
COACH: You said it.
Florida knows what's going on; Tulsa knows what's going on; Illinois knows what's going on. Michigan doesn't. Comparisons to Nebraska are invalid. Michigan's not 9-3, and no one is going to be blindsided by Hoke getting axed.
Poke the Russia Today outlet in the Michigan e-sphere and you'll hear that it's about Doing Right By The Staff and that it's about Keeping The Pressure Off Harbaugh; neither of these explanations make any sense. That coach doesn't want to be on that visit. He wants to be looking for another job. Harbaugh speculation does not start with, or even focus on, Michigan in NFL circles.
I can't see a reason to drag it out, but here we are, dragging it out. The guy in charge may be competent but he has no track record. We're stuck here hoping this guy is actually qualified and that things turn out for the best. Maybe it will. Forgive me if I have a tendency to look on everything this department does as a mistake.
That's' going to be a tough habit to break, but here's a suggestion: act like a collection of people instead of a committee for once and acknowledge that there's no good way for this to go down. The first major Brandon warning sign was when he infamously took two days of meetings to fire Rich Rodriguez when that was a fait accompli.
[After THE JUMP: offensive line ups and downs, clock lol, etc.]
Kind of a big deal. As of 9 PM Wednesday, this was SI's college football front page:
That is the lead story—a scathing roundtable from three of SI's main CFB writers—and six of the eleven top stories on the sidebar either about the Morris incident or tangential concerns (the OSU attendance thing).
STAPLES: Did Brandon throw Hoke under the bus, run him over, back up and run him over again? Or did he run him over three times? …
RICKMAN: Everyone in a position of power here is most concerned with protecting themselves, so they're passing blame around. "I didn't see it." "We didn't have enough evidence." Hoke's trying to keep his job. Brandon's trying to keep his job. At the crux of it, this is a person we're talking about. A kid who has his whole life ahead of him. And the best we can get out of an athletic department at one of the most prestigious football programs in the country is, "We should have done better."
This is awful on all levels. …
SCHNELL: I’m not going to accuse a coach of knowingly putting a player in danger, but I will say this: People in charge do some desperate things when they think they’re close to losing their jobs. As for Brandon’s role, it’s his athletic department, and the buck stops with him. If he’s going to take responsibility, ultimately, then he needs to hold a press conference and allow questions, not email out a few paragraphs long after most people have gone to sleep. That’s a coward’s way out.
I was not kidding about "scathing."
Speaking of scathing. Stewart Mandel:
I was pretty surprised to wake up Monday morning and find that Brady Hoke hasn't been fired yet. The poor performances are bad enough, but the disregard (and flimsy excuses) for player safety should've been grounds for immediate dismissal. Is there any good reason for having him finish the season? The only thing I can think of is recruiting, but come on. Everyone in the nation knows he's gone after this year.
-- William Daniels, Mt. Morris, Michigan
Well then I can only imagine how surprised you were to wake up Tuesday morning and find out that Shane Morriswas diagnosed with a concussion on Sunday but no one thought to inform the head coach by the following day.
The Morris situation has provided a mind-numbing window into the level of dysfunction within the Michigan athletic department. Hoke’s days were already numbered due to the program’s on-field deterioration into a poster for offensive ineptitude. The only way Hoke’s team is going to a bowl game this year is if there aren’t enough eligible 6-6 teams. The Morris story only intensified the level of outrage surrounding Hoke.
Mandel goes on to say the stuff about 5-0 and we're defending the guy, and I mean… come on. If this happens to a successful coach it is a strike but not one that dooms a regime, and a sizeable majority of the anger in the Michigan fanbase right now is directed at the athletic director for the ham-handed mismanagement everyone is citing.
Additionally in scathing. They asked Don Canham's widow what she thought:
“I just think it’s gone way overboard with the crazy music and Beyonce and Eminem and that sort of thing,” Canham-Keeley said. “I guess he’s trying to cater to the students but it’s obviously not working. For me the pageantry of the football game is the band coming out on the field and the tradition of the drum major.”
“I’ve narrowed it down to fireworks, flyovers and empty seats,” she said.
“To me it’s become a circus, and that’s not what it should be. I’m born and raised in Ann Arbor. I grew up with Michigan football. That’s not—to me—Michigan football.”
She goes into the Beyonce/Eminem stuff and you're like "oh she's just old" and then she immediately cuts to how the students aren't buying it and you're like that's a fantastic point I forgot you were Don Friggin' Canham's wife.
Yet more in scathing. USA Today's Christine Brennan calls for firing everybody:
…at a Monday news conference, Hoke said Morris did not suffer a concussion. He also said that he and Brandon hadn't discussed it.
But, after midnight early Tuesday morning, Brandon released a statement in which he said that Morris had indeed suffered a "probable, mild concussion," whatever that is.
Brandon also said that he had met with "those who were directly involved" since Sunday, which clearly would include Hoke, who of course said he hadn't talked to Brandon about it.
So the two are either not telling the truth or simply incompetent. Or perhaps both.
For Students complaining about $295 season ticket prices, that's about 1/3 price of NFL tickets ... Even bad NFL teams w/ no tradition
They're not just complaining. They're not going. Yelling at them about that doesn't fix the problem. The customer is always right, right? You wanted customers. Now you've got 'em.
The oracle speaks. Detroit media jihadist Jeff Moss likes to get on Wojo for not having strong takes, but the more reasonable you are the more people pay attention to you when you come down from the mountain and say NOPE. Wojo has done so:
Brady Hoke's fate was sealed before Shane Morris wobbled on the field, before the clumsy statements and misstatements, before every media outlet in America leapt on a juicy controversy complete with compelling video.
This is on athletic director Dave Brandon now, and if Hoke should be fired, likely after the season, Brandon should be, too.
That speaks volumes.
Meta-protest. I would like to protest this from Wojo's article, though.
A few hundred fans actually marched onto the lawn of Schlissel's campus house Tuesday night chanting for Brandon's dismissal. There's a mob outrage to this, which is uncomfortable.
It's not a mob until it does something unreasonable. About a thousand people peaceably assembled, talked/shouted at each other, and then dispersed. They wanted to make a point the only way they could, and did.
Actually being there was fun. One guy nearby exclaimed "this is so much better than a home game," and I don't know that he was saying that just because he wasn't watching a football team get its jibblies kicked in at the time. Once a random hero decided to start us all in the direction of the president's house there was more passion on display than these students get to express when Michigan's blasting music at them during every lull.
After, a clearly skeptical media guy came up to me and asked me some nasty questions—"do you think this stunt will hurt Brandon's ability to hire a new coach?" was his leadoff. I was taken aback by "stunt." A stunt is something an organization does for attention. This was the opposite, a movement so grass roots it was literally unorganized.
We want our athletic department back. If it's a mob it's got the most articulated complaints of any mob in history.
Also that guy with a megaphone takes a badass picture. Apparently he's a public policy senior:
Just lookin' at that dude like that is more leadership than Brandon's shown this week. #ThisGuy4AD
I LIKE DAN DAKICH. He had me on his show yesterday after I tweeted something jerky out in frustration at things Mike and Mike and Colin Cowherd were saying, and I appreciate the opportunity for a half hour segment, which you can find here. A couple of clarifications and omissions:
- Dakich thought some of my other examples of Brandon errors were petty, and they were, but that was the point. The things the hypersensitive Michigan fans have been complaining about for the duration of his tenure have come home to roost in a major way. This is how they handle everything, and there's no reason to expect they'll change.
- I don't think I said the Dakich-Burke combo was creepy. I said I was "off to patent a system that turns all color commentary into Dan Dakich hitting on Doris Burke" once; a podcast demanded that "this happens over and over again. GET A ROOM! ON MY TELEVISION!" And I think that's it. For the record, she was totally into him.
- Apparently my level was quite a bit lower than Dakich, so when we talked over each other it was just him. Our conversation felt a lot more even to me on the phone; I thought it was a good back and forth—I've had radio appearances that I thought were unfair (cough **ALBOM** cough); this was not one of them.
- Dakich really is my favorite color guy other than maybe Jay Bilas right now. The reasons he's good at color can make him come off as abrasive, but I'll take that a thousand times over PRIME TIME PLAYER BAYBEEE blather. I mean, there was one time Michigan was playing K-State where Dakich called one of their post guys out for never passing the ball and he never passed the ball. Every time he got a touch we were on the edge of our seat. That's adding to a broadcast.
- I didn't much like the part of the interview that slid into the Guys Like Me From Gary Who Are Adults versus You Guys On The Internet Who Are Beta Males. I have a mortgage, man, and 2005-era blogger cracks are so dated.
Anyway, if he's interested I'll gladly go on any time.
Well… that's not good. Bill Connelly's updated projections foresee this:
- 8-4 or better: 2.1%
- Bowl eligible: 35%
- 4-8 or worse: 33%
Michigan is expected to go 5-7 when all possibilities are jammed together.
And half of this is based on the system that was ranking Michigan 19th before last weekend. It's possible that this is a little grim since we'll probably play Gardner the rest of the way but with Utah losing to WSU it's not like we can even claim the Utes are much good.
Upshot: buy a helmet, and put it on top of your existing helmet. Then dig a bunker under your bunker.
SIDE NOTE: The chance the West winner is 4-4 has dropped to 0.1%. Dagnabit.
Offensive line starts are not particularly indicative, unless you don't have any. Buried in a random Barking Carnival post:
While O-line starts does correlate with stronger offensive performance, it’s not everything. Ohio State is the only team with fewer than 30 O-line starts performing above-average, but they’re well above average, and you don’t have to go much higher before the scatterplot becomes a field of white noise and the trendline levels out.
That said, this chart doesn’t take into account that we’re on a new offensive system and we’ve lost our QB, so the fact that we’re not too far below the trendline for our number of O-line starts is an optimistic takeaway. But honestly it’s not much to hang one’s hat on. If we start playing better, it won’t be just because the players are getting more experience – it’ll be because they’re getting more experience in an effective offensive system.
(Horizontal axis: number of O-line starts at the beginning of the year (Texas is adjusted for current personnel); vertical axis: offensive S&P; and I’m using a power law trendline, to reflect that the difference between 0 & 30 starts should be more impactful than the difference between 90 & 120)
Looks like you're good or not good and OL starts are a very minor factor, what with the random scatter of the plot.
Etc.: The MZone has come back with what's undoubtedly the creepiest post I've ever featured in. Hypothetical AD Rich Rodriguez would have handled this better than Brandon did. I am dead serious about this.
This made Inside Higher Ed, which… okay. Are we in Cat Fancy? I think that's the last outlet that hasn't covered this.
1. It can't get any worse, can it?
It can always, always get worse.
1A. But it's not likely to, right?
good night sweet prince [Heiko Yang]
No, it's not. Yes, even though Michigan lost both starting tackles to the NFL. It takes a special kind of panicked incompetence to end up with results like last year's Michigan. Al Borges's final D-I offense ran outside zone, then it ran power, and then it ran inside zone. It heaped all of the possible base plays you can run on an offensive line that had zero upperclassmen on the interior. It wasted essentially a month of practice time on the "tackle over" gimmick that was ruthlessly exposed by the first opponent that knew it was coming.
Michigan had 13 plays on which a tackle lined up next to another tackle. These plays were 11 runs that gained 8 yards (more than all of them on Toussaint's long run of the day, a 12-yarder), a seven-yard sack given up by Williams, and a scramble that gained eight yards. That is the product of three weeks of practice time and the futility there was only stopped by Lewan's injury.
Many of these plays could not be blocked by anybody, because Penn State was so aggressively overplaying run that they were in the gaps before Michigan could do anything about it.
Three guys for two blockers with the WLB meeting Bryant a yard in the backfield. If Kalis tries to pursue #40, the MLB, he blocks no one instead of an irrelevant guy. On second and one, a great PA down that a lot of DCs will just give you.
They got to the line of scrimmage with under ten seconds on the clock most of the time.
GET OUT OF THE HUDDLE.
Yes. In addition to all the things previously discussed, Michigan's offensive line is looking at Gardner with two seconds on the playclock. Michigan snaps it with zero already showing—probably not actually a penalty because there is a natural delay before the ump looks at the ball to see if it's still there—and slides their line against a four man rush with no tailback to pick up the DE:
That turnover is a tangible cost of Michigan's inability to get to the line with 20 seconds on the clock consistently.
It moved linemen around almost literally every game after the first four. It was dumb.
How did this happen to a guy who was rather successful at San Diego State? Panic strangled reason in multiple ways. Michigan is stuck on this picture of itself as its 1990s self, and Al Borges was openly contemptuous of the spread both in press conferences and off the record (not to me, but to multiple people who covered the program over the last few years).
So they played a tight end who couldn't block. I'm not talking about Devin Funchess, who was eventually thrust outside. I'm talking about AJ Williams, who had one catch for two yards a year ago and was no better at blocking than Funchess. They had to know this. It jumped off the screen to me, an amateur. But instead of doing something about it they just kept plugging along with him on the field, to the point where people trying to evaluate Taylor Lewan got frustrated:
…why in the HELL did Michigan keep a tight end to Lewan's side so damn much? He obviously didn't need the help. The quarterback was right-handed anyway (with bootlegs you like for the tight end to be lined up to the side of the quarterback's throwing hand), and they could have potentially had a wide receiver there instead of a tight end. It would've increased the chances of success on passing downs as well as run downs if you get the opposing defenses to spread themselves out. But is that what Michigan did?
Here is the scenario I saw time and time again. So you have a tight end helping before he goes out into his route. Lewan, who doesn't need the help any damn way, blocks the hell out of the edge rusher. But the rest of Lewan's buddies on the Michigan O-line aren't quite as, well, good as he is, so the quarterback is under pressure and ends up sacked.
I mean. This is a guy who said he "didn't want to get in a chess match" last year. They're playing chess anyway, man. If you want to try to win with checkers, you're gonna have a bad time. Yes, even if you've got 75 different colors. The full results were detailed after Borges's firing. It just did not work.
[After THE JUMP: Nussmeier the savior(?), offensive line the achilles heel, Gardner the legend(?), stupid predictions.]
|Mason Cole||Fr.||Erik Magnuson||So.*||Graham Glasgow||Jr.*||Kyle Kalis||So.*||Ben Braden||So.*|
|Logan Tuley-Tillman||Fr.*||Kyle Bosch||So.||Jack Miller||Jr.*||Joey Burzynski||Jr.*||David Dawson||Fr.*|
starters arbitrarily decided to be people who started at least 7 games
I apologize. Last year's edition of this post started with an assertion that "things almost literally can't be worse." It wasn't sunshine…
The way this went down gives some reason for concern. … Michigan [will be] starting at least one player by default. Michigan saw what "by default" can lead to last year. While that isn't likely to recur, neither does the situation promise an amazing one-year turnaround.
…but I didn't recommend that you find a bunker and stock up on pudding pops. Last year did not recur. It went the other direction, hard.
In 2012, Michigan decided to flip their left guard to center on the eve of the season. In 2013, they got four games in before making the switch. Things were already bad. That switch made them worse, not so much because of what was happening at center—Graham Glasgow established himself a pretty good player over the course of the year—but what was happening everywhere else.
Specifically, what was happening around him. The Bentley Library lists starters through the years and one glimpse at left guard shows you the chaos:
A 6'1" walk-on got a start. A true freshman got three. A guy who retired after the season because he couldn't get breakfast without injuring himself got two. A 285-pound redshirt freshman got the other three. Reality mowed them all down, and by the end of the year the pile of skulls around the OL was not the enemy but Michigan itself.
Then their starting tackles went in the first three rounds of the NFL draft. Have fun storming the castle!
Rating: 1 of 5
I mean, maybe it'll work out. Maybe this rating will seem very silly at the end of the year, an overreaction to past events that was not a good prognostication of the future. I dearly hope this is the case. Gardner claimed he'd been sacked once during fall camp. It could happen!
Unfortunately, I can't make a reasonable case that you should expect much other than problems. Michigan has zero (ZERO) upperclassmen. The projected left tackle is a true freshman. The projected right tackle was supposed to be the starter at left guard last year but got pulled from the lineup after spring practice. He was not an option during the anarchy when literally every other OL on the roster was. Backing these guys up are two redshirt freshman who were huge projects and are still that. Oh, and the starting guards.
Maybe it will all work out. These guys are universally touted recruits, after all. If only that meant very much on the OL.
He blocked Clark! Probably! It's a still shot! [Bryan Fuller]
Might as well start with the big flashing DANGER sign: MASON COLE [recruiting profile], true freshman, is your starting left tackle. This was all fun and games in spring when Erik Magnuson was out, but things got very real very fast this fall and the guy hasn't moved from LT since his arrival and campus and Brady Hoke is just like…
"Who knows what will happen. You ask me today? Yeah, he would start. We're not at Aug. 30 yet. But he's more ready than most freshmen are."
…so he's the guy.
Since he's a true freshman I don't have anything more on him than exists in the recruiting profile published about a month ago, which notes that 1) the entire world offered him early, 2) he was possibly the most polished guy at the UA game…
it was clear that the Michigan commit was one of the most polished and skilled offensive line prospects on the East squad. The 6-foot-4, 280-pound Cole projects as an offensive guard long-term, but we aren’t so sure he could not be an excellent tackle in Ann Arbor during his college career.
…3) that he has the requisite athleticism and knee bend to be effective on the edge:
He is very athletic and plays with a lot of energy. Cole is able to bend and play low, giving him the leverage advantage over most opponents, though he needs to do so more consistently.
Cole is quick out of his stance and climbs to the second level using good angles. His feet allow him to play with good balance, which helps him not overextend for defenders.
All of this is great and Cole's trajectory is great; beating Magnuson inside authoritatively when Michigan seems to have a ton of guard bullets is impressive and there has been zero waver in any of this from day one. This is the profile of a guy who is going to be a draft pick very easily. We can discard the usual caveats about high school OL profiles because he has blown past all expectations immediately. Hooray for the long term.
This year? I don't know man. Let's check out
A RECENT HISTORY OF TRUE FRESHMAN TACKLES
Well, here's a thing: mighty Alabama is putting freshman Cameron Robinson out as their starter this fall. The slight difference: Robinson is a Peppers-level prospect, in fact ranked one spot ahead of him on the 247 composite. At 323 he's less of a size question than Cole.
In terms of guys who did play:
- Oregon State started Sean Harlow at right tackle. The Beavers were middling in pass protection… and 109th in YPC.
- Virginia played Eric Smith, also at right tackle. UVA was also middling in pass protection… and 91st in YPC.
- Maryland managed to start true freshman left tackles in consecutive years(!). Mike Madaras left abruptly after his first year, paving the way for Moise Larose to get four starts before a foot injury ended his year. Larose is now suspended for 2014. Feel the Terpitude. The 2012 Terps were completely terrible in all line-related stats; last year they were okay at pass protection.
- Virginia Tech started Jonathan McLaughlin all last year, and I don't even have to look their stats up to know they were a tire fire. Aaand yup: 99th and worse.
- Ole Miss started Laremy Tunsil, a Robinson-level five star. Mississippi was… okay! 42nd in YPC, 74th in sacks allowed.
So… that's not at all encouraging. Cole was a much more highly touted prospect than all of those guys save Tunsil, at least, and he 1) enrolled early and 2) came from one of those super serious Florida high schools that are almost college programs in their own right. Also the way he was the LT starter from about a week into spring without challenge is a hopeful sign.
The occasional freshman tackle can cope. I think Cole is one of those guys. But is he going to blow a guy off the ball and provide a big ol' lane at 292 pounds? Probably not. Our hope here is that Cole is a solid, agile pass protector in year one who is a meh run blocker. Chances are he has a wake-up call or two coming.
[After THE JUMP: large men, vague hope]