needs moar usage
I like Fitzgerald Toussaint. Think the kid has a bright future if his various limbs stay functional. Enjoy his running style. Get emails from time to time declaring "I don't know what you see in this kid." Sit and ponder these emails. Shake fist. Decide to write post about it. Fitzgerald. Toussaint.
So here's a reason I like Fitzgerald Toussaint: I think his vision and his shake are plus pitches, to borrow from another sport. Here's an example. It's first and ten on the SDSU 16 late in the fourth quarter with Michigan driving to clinch the game. On the next play Vincent Smith will jackrabbit his way into the endzone, but to set that up Michigan's going to Toussaint.
If this looks familiar, it should. This was one of the staple formations of the Rodriguez years. Here's Tate running it in the 2009 ND game:
Rodriguez would often send the TE backside to block the otherwise unblocked EMLOS as a counter to scrape exchanges. TE kicks out the guy coming down the line; WLB flies out to contain Robinson on the zone read, and viola:
[one of many examples that have been DMCAed by Thought Equity Motion.]
Michigan did this on the previous play. It was the first time they'd run it all game and it worked like a charm, opening up a huge lane for Toussaint to hit. He did so for eleven yards. When Michigan goes back to the well a second time things will be different.
SDSU's 3-3-5 was less dynamic than advertised. Instead of blitzing like mad from everywhere to mimic different fronts, it was mostly content to line up as very small 3-4s and 4-3s and run twist stunts from them. On this play they actually line up in the stack, which was rare.
On the snap the TE pulls backside as the mesh approaches.
Robinson sees the OLB headed upfield at him and hands off:
The problem is Koger is kicking out the QB contain guy:
This is very similar to problems Michigan had running this play against Illinois last year. When the scraper is hugging the backs of the OL TEs often miss him and head to the obvious guy on the outside. Once your pulling TE whacks the contain guy you've given up the advantage gained by optioning him off and are back to—horror—regular old 3.9 YPC running. When this happened against the Illini, Michigan gained a yard.
Since Huyge has released downfield there is an unblocked EMLOS tasked with the tailback on a play that usually tries to go backside. (This is a zone, but it is a zone with an idea of where it's going to end up.) Omameh is actually doing a good job on his guy since the play design nominally expects the ball to go behind him. Unfortunately, that means there's nowhere to go further playside. There is no room.
So Toussaint makes some. In the above frame you can see he's evaluated his situation and is about to take a critical step. This is what he does with it:
That's weird. It's easier to see on the video, but Toussaint takes this jab step outside and then bursts back upfield.
This little jab step… what is it? He slows for a half-beat and sticks that leg out as if he's going to veer outside, then shifts direction and heads away from the scraper. Is it just instinct, or is it a deliberate attempt to set up his block? Does Toussaint even know? This happened in a blink. This may be one of those things even the person doing it can't explain.
The result is most apparent on the guy Omameh is blocking:
In frame one the NT has already committed his momentum to the other side of Omameh's block because of the jab step; in frame two he's kindly GTFOed, giving Toussaint a lane as Schofield and Molk donkey a linebacker who blitzed into them. Toussaint set this up with the step, which convinced the NT he needed to fight to the other side of Omameh without slowing him down enough for the unblocked scraper to catch him.
Result: Toussaint runs up his OL's backs for nine yards.
Watch it twice. Watch the step, and then focus on Omameh and the guy he's blocking. See that yank that suddenly repositions the defender? That's the NT moving himself to where he thinks he needs to be.
Will this be consistent from Toussaint? This is a play SDSU RPSed that Toussaint made into nine yards almost by himself with that jab step. Is that a fair representation of his vision and his ability to make split-second decisions that get him lanes other guys don't, or was it getting lucky? I don't know, but I do know that the last couple weeks I've had occasion to use "lovely" more than once to describe a Toussaint run. Early returns are "not lucky."
Back to the well. Yeah, this wrinkle was a Rodriguez staple. It worked like you draw it up the first time. This time it worked like you don't draw it up; Smith would come in and run it a third time for a touchdown, but he'd have to weave his way through defenders to do so. I'm not sure whether running it three times in a row was a good idea—it worked but clearly SDSU adjusted to it. Against better run defenses this might end up going splat. To be fair, the third one was a second and one from the seven.
Coaching points with coach Rod. In the Illinois game Michigan adjusted to the Illinois adjustment by the end of the game, coaching that pulling TE to ID the scraper hiding behind the line and blocking him into the endzone for a touchdown. It'll be interesting to see whether Michigan makes that adjustment if necessary in future games.
Further wrinkles. So there was this, which was brought out right at the end of the game, and the speed option you've heard and read so much about, a speed option that seemed to use outside zone "basketball on grass" blocking. That's an encouraging echo of the Rodriguez ground game, when most games of import saw new features being deployed.
Denard Robinson and Vincent Smith
When you guys went exclusively to running in second half, how much of that was by design, and how much of that was your reads? Denard: “Reads. I mean, most of the time it was just reads, and that’s what happened.”
Why did that happen? How did this game turn into having to run the ball a lot in order to win the game? Denard: “We just go with the flow of the game, and what happens happened.” Smith: “The big guys up front, they did an excellent job of blocking, and we just took what the defense gave us. Eastern came out and played a good game of football.”
Vince, how many carries can you handle per game? Smith: “Whatever the team needs to win, I’m there. However many carries I need for my team to win, that’s how many carries I can handle.”
You had more than 100 yards rushing, which is usually really good for a running back. Is it intimidating that your quarterback has nearly twice that? Smith: “Not at all. We don’t even look at it that way. It’s whatever for the team. If we need the quarterback to score a touchdown [rather] than the running back -- we both compliment each other on the game.”
Can you comment on your slow start on offense and how important the 97-yard TD drive was? Denard: “We came out a little flat, but on the 97-yard drive, we picked up some momentum, and that kept us going the entire game.”
Does starting slow bother you? Denard: “We wanted to come out fast, and that’s what we’ve been focusing on everyday. Talking about coming out fast and getting off to a good start.”
Is there a reason? Denard: “No, there’s no reason. There’s no reason for it.”
Can you comment on Thomas Gordon’s 1-handed INT? Smith: “I saw it from the big screen. It was a great catch.” Denard: “When he first came in my freshman year I saw him do crazy stuff like that, so I knew he could do it.”
Can you breakdown the TD pass to Dileo, and can you talk about other throws today where you were off? Denard: “The pass to Drew Dileo. It’s a read, basically. I just read it out, and he came open and I gave it to him.”
Vince, do you feel like you have to prove you’re an every down back? Smith: “Just like I said, it’s all about the team. Whenever we needed a running back to step up when the game’s not going well, we feel like whatever for the team. Somebody’s going to step up and get the job done.”
How did you feel about your performance in passing game? Denard: “I mean, I always have time for improvement and room for improvement, so that’s the biggest room.”
Coach wanted to get tailbacks going. How big was it to get Vince going? Denard: “It was big, I mean, when he starts running well, they start crashing down on him, I can get the ball and read it out and get the ball and run some. When things like that start happening, it’s kind of hard for the defense to stop.”
What do you think you need to do better in passing game? Denard: “Come back on Sunday and come to work. Do everything coach tells me to do.”
Anything you want to address specifically? Denard: “We’ll see on film. Have to see the film first.”
Did you feel like you’re seeing the receivers and the passing lanes all right? Denard: “Oh yeah, oh yeah. We’ve been practicing for weeks, so I can see pretty good.” Looked to me like you were throwing behind guys a lot. “No. I don’t think -- no.”
Your numbers were like some games last year. Did you feel like last year or was it different? Denard: “I don’t know. I get caught up in the game, so whatever’s going on is going on.”
You had that one long run where you cut across the field. What did you see? Denard: “Which one are you talking about?” It was your longest run, I believe. It was 53-yarder or something? “I was kind of being patient. I thought ‘Tree was probably going to push the guy down or something. I should have just sped up and gotten up there and not taken the side.”
After the Notre Dame game, was it a little bit tough to get going in a noon game? Denard: “Everybody was just getting ready for the game. We had Kevin Koger in the locker room talking to us. We call him Hypeman86. We were just ready to go. We have another chance to play football, and that’s what we’ve been working on all summer.”
(more after the jump)
Let's all not panic. Uni-watch reports that the piping is dead:
(As per usual, do not be alarmed at the white pants.) I was never a piping fan—too West Virginia—so its removal is welcome.
(HT: the board's JeepinBen.)
Quote of win. Patrick Omameh on Denard Robinson speech patterns:
“He just has to do everything fast, and I don’t know why,” Omameh said. “I think we’ve kind of adapted to his … I guess, uh … method of speaking. We say he be speaking Florida.”
Yes, I'm a sucker for ungrammatical uses of "be." Also I find it hard to believe why Omameh thinks Denard Robinson doesn't have to do everything fast. He completed a Rubik's Cube before it was invented. He can't eat eggs. When he gets in a Ferrari the car tries to shift him. He's too fast for eggs! What does that even mean HE'S TOO FAST TO FIND OUT
“It’s just real fast,” Omameh said. “Everything is just super sped up. I’m like, ‘You know, you can slow down a little bit if you want us to run the play right. But, you don’t have to.’"
Even better quote. Manny Diaz on BYU's fullbacks:
They've got fullbacks that want to block your soul.
That is all.
More McGary. Sam Webb's latest article in the News is on Mitch McGary with more from McGary's (and Glenn Robinson's) tough-talking AAU coach Wayne Brumm:
"The post player is intimately and intricately involved in John Beilein's system," Brumm explained. "I don't know anybody who runs a better offensive system for a post player than Michigan. So I have to say, why not (Michigan as a possible destination)? Everybody else is (analyzing McGary's recruitment) like they're a friggin fan. We're trying to pick a school that is in Mitch's best interest."
Brumm added: "John Beilein can flat-out coach. The people I talk to and the coaches I talk to, I'll flat-out tell you — they are scared of John Beilein. They are worried about the day he starts getting the talent that they've got (at their schools). He's been at a bunch of places that he couldn't recruit high-major talent. Now he's at Michigan and it looks like he is making some headway there. When he starts with an even slate in terms of talent, look out! Look what he did last year. Look what he did with Darius Morris, Timmy Hardaway, and look what he has done with Jordan Morgan. My goodness, isn't anybody paying attention?"
That sounds like a guy who would like McGary to hit up Ann Arbor. On this morning's WTKA recruiting roundup, Webb delivered the "gut feeling" on McGary's top three: Michigan, Maryland, and Florida. No disrespect to those programs but that's a lot less of a mountain to hurdle than UK, UNC, and Duke, the other schools he plans to visit. I'm kind of thinking this is going well. Listen to the roundup—Webb won't say it (specifically disclaims it, actually) but it sounds like he believes this is happening.
Brumm also literally states that Bacari Alexander "gets it." WOO!
Mattison on the trail. Wolverine Nation—how is that URL even available?—has launched. They've put Tom behind a paywall and don't have an RSS feed, but here's this excellent article from Mike Rothstein on Greg Mattison's recruiting style:
"He didn't realize at the time just how expensive they were," former Texas A&M defensive coordinator Bob Davie said. "The business manager brought him in and they could have bought a new car with how much he spent on that mobile phone. I'll never forget that.
"That's just how he does it. He's going to work harder than anybody."
Rothstein hits up Mattison's head coach from back in the day when he was a D-line coach at Northwestern and various players from his Notre Dame days.
The other guy. ND DC Bob Diaco on Denard:
"Unfortunately it just is what it is," defensive coordinator Bob Diaco said. "We need to be perfect, because any little crease and it's over, he's gone. It's not like, somebody hits a crease and he rattles for eight, 10 yards and you get him on the ground. This guy hits the crease and he can punch a hole in the top of the defense like that." …
"It's just a monumental task defending a runner at quarterback in particular, that it almost gives you the feeling like they're playing with 12," Diaco said. "It's a problem."
This game will not only be the first real opportunity to see what Borges does with Denard, it will be a major hype-check on Diaco. After his defense gave up 35 in a humiliating loss to Navy that had option-savvy Middies in disbelief that anyone could be so incompetent:
Navy wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary. Kelly and Diaco just have absolutely no clue how the Navy offense works. …
If Diaco and Kelly hadn’t seen it before, then I have no idea what film they’ve been watching, or if they even watched any at all. That isn’t even hyperbole; they thought that Navy’s fullback ran through the A gap. And that was their plan– to send the inside linebackers crashing into the A gap that nobody was running through. That just made those LBs easier to block as either the fullback or quarterback ran right by them and into the secondary. …
What’s almost as incredible as this horrible game plan is the fact that despite Kelly’s assertion to the contrary, Notre Dame never adjusted. Those ILBs kept running into the A gap for the entire game. Once or twice Te’o scraped outside to make a play in the backfield, and I’d think,”OK, now we’ll see something else.” But we didn’t. Notre Dame would go right back to the same old thing on the next play, and the Mids would pick up a big gain.
Diaco appeared clueless in a media interview soon after. The next week his D gave up almost 400 yards and 28 points in a loss to Tulsa and people were screaming for his head. The next four games were all wins in which ND game up 17 or fewer points.
- Three points ceded to Utah, a mediocre offense.
- Three against Army, whatever.
- 16 against USC in a driving rainstorm slopfest in which the Trojans were helmed by Mitch Mustain.
- 17 against Miami in a game where Jacory Harris threw three picks on seven attempts and was yanked for Stephen Morris, who averaged 8.5 YPA but threw a pick of his own.
Last week USF only got 250 yards but BJ Daniels is horrible. Is the improvement real or a mirage? No idea.
I'm like what? Your game programs for ND are going to be electronical:
Each gameday program includes an audio file of "The Catch," Desmond Howard's famous touchdown against Notre Dame twenty years ago.
But it's not just the audio of the call, from the announcers that day — Frank Beckmann for the Michigan Sports Network and Brent Musburger for ABC — it also includes the play call from Michigan's head football coach at the time Gary Moeller and sound from Michigan quarterback Elvis Grbac in the huddle.
That's kind of cool. Fifteen bucks cool? I'll listen to yours.
BONUS: Darren Rovell suggests there is a person in this world whose "dream" was to "embed the audio file of a famous play into a gameday program." Reach for the stars.
Blog content. NKOTB From Hope There Is Glory is not a Notre Dame blog, but a Michigan blog sporting statistical breakdowns of the WMU game. Here's a section:
Passes attempted against
Passes completed against
Etc.: WMU stunt blitz picture pagin' from BWS. Vincent Smith picks it up. MVictors on Michigan's first night game. Jerry Palm projects us in the… Fiesta Bowl? Good lord. Very cool Mike Leach interview from a technically oriented football site. HT: Smart Football.
Sippin on Purple breaks down a That Goddamned Counter Draw the Wildcats ran against BC. Why don't we use this for good? Denard rollout will make this enormously successful.
|Taylor Lewan||So.*||Ricky Barnum||Jr.*||David Molk||Sr.*||Patrick Omameh||Jr.*||Mark Huyge||Sr.*|
|--||--||Chris Bryant||Fr.||Rocko Khoury||Jr.*||Elliot Mealer||Jr.*||Michael Schofield||So.*|
Readers are advised to follow the same procedure as they might for the defensive line: look at the soothing, soothing starters and not the precarious dropoff—this time including a true freshman and non-entity "Dash Dash"—immediately after them.
Here the fainting should be kept to a minimum. Michigan returns four starters, inserts a well-regarded redshirt junior into the open slot, and ran for a crapton of yards last year. And the depth isn't all that bad. At various times new offensive line coach Darrell Funk has expressed a desire for seven or eight guys who are ready to play. That's how many they have: seven or eight, depending on which way the wind is blowing about Elliot Mealer today.
While not having a backup at left tackle looks ominous, in the event Lewan is forced off the field Michigan will just rearrange some guys and pull Schofield onto the field. The coaches have proclaimed their faith in both Schofield and Khoury, so Michigan won't get to serious collar-puling time until the third injury/suspension/abduction. Even that would likely bring a redshirt junior out of mothballs.
They'll be okay this year. The depth bomb hits next year as Khoury and Schofield draw into the starting lineup, leaving just Mealer and a horde of redshirt or true freshman behind the starters, including zero (0) backup tackles who won't be going to prom in a few months. At least those backups are backed by panting recruiting rankings. But that's for another season preview.
This season preview is concerned with the above offensive line and how well it will transition to MANBALL downhill running. It's not that they don't know how to do this. Here's the line doing this:
This is the third time I've pulled a different gap-blocked play from last year to claim they can pull, so… yeah, they can pull. (FWIW, that is not Power O but Down G.) If you don't believe me, believe Mark Huyge:
"Last year, our primary play was outside zone, and this year it's coming at you. Really, they're not that much different. We ran the power last year, so we knew the footwork already, basically. [Offensive line coach Darrell] Funk tweaked us here and there a little bit. But it's just doing it more often."
Taylor Lewan also dismisses the idea the new offense incorporated anything he wasn't being taught a year ago:
"We have the same plays … Instead of an outside zone we might run a lead zone."
The issue is what happens when power goes from a constraint play designed to keep the defense honest to the bread and butter designed to make the defense cheat. The conventional wisdom is that power requires massive road graders a la the Wisconsin offense while the zone game requires guys who, while big compared to civilians, are less likely to annihilate a tackle one-on-one than dance their way into an advantageous position. Boy howdy can these guys do that.
They can do the other stuff when opponents are expecting an outside zone. Can they make it the base? And can they pass protect well enough to open up a full pro-style route tree? Well, we just don't know, Dude.
Rating: 4 of 5
Taylor Lewan started getting hyped up as the next Jake Long as soon as he committed. That hype never waned until Lewan managed to start his RS freshman year on the bench behind Mark Huyge.
That dip was brief. Lewan forced his way into the starting lineup by the second half of the UMass game and quickly established himself as a man who perceives men in other football uniforms as donkeys and himself as the last survivor of a species destroyed by donkeys. Result:
|hate you, donkey|
|donkeyed DT plus LB|
|caves in Clayborn|
|Ogbu through endzone|
|mobility matches Martez|
|enjoy 0 tackles Clayborn|
|goodbye PSU DE|
|reads scrape, adjusts(!)|
|not so good|
|gets QB pwned|
That was pretty exciting, and when he turned Adrian Clayborn off in the Iowa game the Jake Long hype hit fever pitch. Not even Long had started at left tackle as a freshman. Then Lewan took sixteen straight holding or false start penalties and harshed everyone's buzz good and proper.
This happened in the same game…
After the third Lewan penalty Michigan Stadium was ready to throttle the guy. It would have taken most of the stadium to do so, but the "AWWWWWWWWW" coming from the stands suggested it was possible.
He's good. The Clayborn line: one solo tackle, two assists, a half sack on the last desperate Michigan drive. Last year Clayborn had 70 tackles, 20 for loss, and 11.5 sacks. Against Penn State earlier this year Clayborn had ten tackles, three TFLs, and a sack. He's a holy lock first-rounder, and Taylor Lewan all but erased him. …
That was a star-making performance. Lewan == Long has gone from optimistic ceiling to serious possibility.
…and Lewan established himself as the Mouton of the offense. He continued to sabotage Michigan drives with false starts and holds the rest of the year; when he wasn't doing that he was all but impenetrable.
He's not dumb. He knows he's got one big thing to work on:
"Last year, I had a lot of penalties and that's one of the main things I've tried to work on," he said. "My biggest problem was the penalties, absolutely. Everybody saw that. My biggest thing is to focus on that, stay onsides, stay aggressive between the whistles and not after.
"(But) I'm not trying to tone down the aggressiveness, because the offensive line, I feel, should be one of the most aggressive on the field. Have a defensive mentality on the offensive line."
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.
|wipes out Lloyd|
|could do better on S|
|decent at POA|
|washes scraper out|
|again washes scraper out|
|pulls a bit|
|down G LB|
|can't maintain block|
Opposite Lewan, Mark Huyge is barely holding on for the third straight year. A who-dat recruit Michigan snatched away from the MAC in the first year of Mike DeBord's zone transition, Huyge's done well for himself to be a sort of kind of three year starter.
That hasn't prevented him from losing his job over and over. Two years ago it was a rotating cavalcade of missed blocks at right tackle as Huyge swapped with Perry Dorrestein and got sucked inside to play guard in David Molk's absence. Late in the year Patrick Omameh emerged at right guard and Huyge was finally exiled to the bench.
Last year it was Lewan bursting onto the scene. Huyge popped up from time to time when Lewan's penalties were too infuriating for Rodriguez and when Dorrestein's back injuries cropped up again. He was okay, his pass blocking issues covered up by the offense and Denard, his rushing numbers usually a little bit above zero.
This year he's in another "dogfight," this one with redshirt sophomore Michael Schofield and, oddly, Omameh. Funk:
“Mark’s played all over the place, been a starter at three different positions. He’s set himself up to have a great senior year,” Funk said. “He’s a great kid, great with the young kids. He defers to Dave [Molk] in the leadership role, but they are both seniors who are always both counted on to be leaders. He’s playing right guard and right tackle, has that flexibility that he could play left tackle if we need him.
“I’m happy with how Mark is doing. It’s a little dogfight between him and Patrick [Omameh] and Michael Schofield, who is doing a nice job."
I hope that's just a motivational device for Omameh, who needs to get better against elite DTs but… well… more on him later.
Huyge has the lead for now, so he goes here. I wouldn't be surprised if some pass blocking issues crop up and give Schofield a shot at the job—Huyge has never been able to hold off elite rushers. The difference between him and Lewan in that Iowa game was stark:
…the Huyge/Lewan battle [was] resolved in the exact same way the Demens/Ezeh battle was: by some Iowa guy running over the backup. In Ezeh's case this was Iowa OL Julian Vandevelde. In Huyge's it was Adrian Clayborn.
Huyge wasn't terrible but when you play a third of a game and you don't get a single +/- on the run chart you're being avoided to some extent and just doing okay at when you're not. He got a –4 in pass protection; Lewan has a –3 in twice the time. Lewan was +7 on the ground, tied with Denard for the best score.
He'll be better, and he'll be needed unless the line miraculously skates through the season without injury. I'm just not sure he'll be the first choice at tackle when the Big Ten schedule rolls around, because...
Schofield and… Schofield
The aforementioned Michael Schofield is it, man. Jake Fisher's post-firing defection to Oregon and Tony Posada's instant exit leave Schofield the only scholarship tackle on the roster who's not, like, starting, man. That's not good.
At least Schofield was a consensus four star who picked Michigan over Notre Dame back when all our OL recruits belonged to Weis. He's spent a couple years bulking up and is now the obvious #6 offensive lineman:
"Schofield would be a top back-up if we started today ... but he could easily be a starter. He’s playing most days at a starter level. His big deal is he’s inconsistent, and that’s the whole group. We’ve got go make sure we’re consistently good.”
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.
There's no one else thanks to Rodriguez's failures in the 2010 class and The Process. A discussion of the walk-on options would be pointless since in the event two tackles explode Michigan will flip Barnum (who played LT last year on the second team) or Omameh (who was widely regarded as the tackle of the future before he was needed as the guard of the present) outside and bring in Khoury.
Rating: 4.5 of 5.
This would be a five if Rich Rodriguez was still around. I've been badgering people about how awesome David Molk is since he was a redshirt freshman; Patrick Omameh's full-season debut was not quite spectacular but promised it right quick; Ricky Barnum is a touted recruit who's hitting the field as a redshirt junior. All were prepped to reach-block the living daylights out of opponents this year.
Now I'm not so sure. I think they'll still be pretty good, but worry that their strength is not their strength, if you know what I mean. I think they'll end up running a lot of zone blocking, whether it's by choice or hard lesson.
Your starting center for the fourth straight year is MGoBlog fave-rave David Molk. He drops f-bombs in press conferences, openly disdains stupid questions, and frequently makes the toughest block in football look easy. I love David Molk. This is what he does:
That was against freshman Akeem Spence but here's one of a few ass-kickings he handed veteran Penn State DT Ollie Ogbu:
|reach destroys you|
|a tough seal|
|a classic stretch|
|execute the scoop|
|another textbook scoop|
|lewanesque donkey hating|
|latches onto the NT|
Sometimes he joins Taylor Lewan in his donkey hating campaigns. He's getting a little All-America hype, and I think he could deserve more: CBS has him on the second team behind OSU's Mike Brewster. If my OSU blog interpretation is correct I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a Buckeye fan who wouldn't complain about the frustrating lack of dominance from their OL.
Molk is the perfect spread 'n' shred center, a major reason Michigan put up an unprecedented-this-millennium 5.6 YPC last year. If he's got weaknesses they apply to the transition he may or may not have to make.
While it's usually guards who end up pulling in gap-blocked rushing attacks, having a center who can do likewise is an asset. It opens up extra possibilities. Molk has the agility for that sort of thing but it seems like the act of pulling right after you've snapped the ball is one of those things you have to practice a ton to get right. Molk's spent his time doing other things. Additionally, when Molk takes on a DT with the intent of blowing him off the ball he's almost always doubling with an intent to peel off after a scoop. If he's asked to go one-on-one with bigger guys that might not go so well.
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.
in space, where he belongs
Returning next to Molk is redshirt junior Patrick Omameh. Omameh broke into the stating lineup at the tail end of his freshman year and immediately displayed an agility I'd never seen in a Michigan guard before. Last year he built on that. You know what I am about to embed, but are you sick of it? No, you are not sick of it.
|completely plows Te'o|
|finishes the job|
|seals and pancakes the DT|
|controls, then destroys DE|
|kicks out Reyes|
|dominates the playside DT|
|combo onto LB|
|Clayborn in space|
|Te'os a PSU LB|
That was no fluke. He did the same thing to the same epic linebacker later in the game, did it to Penn State, did it to Adrian Clayborn, did it to a lot of people. If you get Patrick Omameh to the second level he is liable to turn an opposing linebacker into a safety-destroying club.
His weakness was a lot more obvious than Molk's, though: he had a lot of trouble with beefy, high quality DTs. He actually picked up a negative in the opener against UConn due to his struggles with Kendall Reyes…
He didn't exactly lose out, but as the only guy on the line anywhere near even he stood out as a sophomore. UConn's Kendall Reyes was a problem all day, bursting into the backfield on the Shaw ten-yard loss and causing most of the bounce-outs. Sometimes this just happens. I remember Eastern Michigan's Jason Jones doing a lot of damage, pointing out how good he was, and hoping this was true both for credibility and what it said about Michigan's offensive line. Jones eventually went in the second round of the NFL draft. I both think and hope Reyes is really good, headed for All Big East recognition. If not, Omameh has a lot of work to do.
…and had a rough day against Corey Liuget ("when he did get Liuget he struggled … Many times Schilling or Omameh had not been able to keep pace with that spring into the backfield [that Molk did.]")
There are worse things. Reyes did end up first team All Big East. Liuget was a first-round pick over the summer and Reyes may be one next year. A lot of players have bad days against them. But that is a downside that will be relevant this year when Michigan sees Jared Crick and John Simon roll into town. It'll help out immensely if Omameh can stand up to them mano-a-mano. I'm not sure if that will happen unless the zero extra pounds he's credited with is gamesmanship, which has been rumored. That seems like an obvious rationalization to me.
Omameh's lack of out-and-out POWER to run POWER, his agility, and Lewan's donkey-hating ways mean that when Michigan does use POWER to run POWER they are going to be heavily left-handed. Remember when the first play of every game was zone left over Jake Long for two yards? I'm hoping Borges isn't as predictable as Mike "The Avalanche" DeBord, but the breakdown of left-right might be similar to 2007.
As for Omameh's performance, he should get towards the fringe of All Big Ten. They spread these things out amongst linemen and Lewan and Molk are ahead in the pecking order so he probably won't get it; I don't think he'll necessarily deserve it but he won't be far off.
Ricky Barnum is the line's only newcomer. He'll fill in for the departed Steve Schilling. As a backup offensive lineman we don't know much about him; his only appearances on the field to date have been in uncharted garbage time. We do know he was a touted recruit who backed out of a Florida commitment to follow Rich Rodriguez north—which, wow, dude, that's a hell of a decommit.
He's gotten good reviews from insidery types for the bulk of his career, and these have spread to his coaches and teammates as he prepares for the big stage:
Barnum, a junior, however has received rave reviews from Funk and his teammates. Funk described him as most improved from last spring, and Lewan said he's been playing like an experienced, fifth-year senior.
In classic offensive lineman form, Barnum laughed off the praise and spoke about the big picture.
"It's not what I've done," Barnum said. "It's what we do as a team. We worked really hard in the offseason, and we're dedicated. We want to get better as a group."
"Ricky keeps making tremendous strides," Huyge said. "The kid works really hard. I know in spring ball, he took a lot of reps, and that helps, and he's come a long way, as well."
Borges makes him sound a lot like the guy on the other side of the line:
On Barnum: "Ricky is as athletic as anyone on our line. Ricky is a tough guy." Biggest problem is that he's a little underweight, but he's gotten stronger, doesn't get pushed around, and "looks like a back out there sometimes when he runs."
"Underweight" in this case is 292; "looks like a back out there sometimes" is like looking in the Omameh mirror. File this under yet more evidence they're going to have to remain a primarily zone team the next couple years.
The only issue with his acquisition of the starting job is that he didn't have to fight too hard for it. Rocko Khoury and Elliot Mealer are the only plausible alternatives. While Khoury did an admirable job against Iowa, he's primarily a center. Beating out just one guy means you're necessarily more of a risk than someone who emerged from a thicket of a depth chart with a machete in his teeth.
The one thing that might hold him back early is injury. As of a couple weeks ago he was held out of the punting demo because of a knee issue. He still dressed, so it can't be too serious. He seems to have dumped the brace in recent photos; he'll probably be just fine.
Khoury against Iowa; Elliott with brother Brock
|doubles w/ Schilling|
|shoves on DT|
|not quite omameh|
|shed on second level|
There are only two before you get down to walk-ons and freshmen. Rocko Khoury is the only one who won't cause some hyperventilation. When Molk was knocked out for the Iowa game last year he stepped in and performed ably. Most of the clips at right are Khoury doubling DTs with Schilling, which isn't the toughest job in the world. He does display a bit of ability on the second level; he does not reach someone into oblivion.
If Khoury draws in it will be a downgrade since he's not likely to do any of the exciting Molkomamehwan things I embedded above. It won't be a disaster. Michigan averaged 4.5 YPC in his start against the #6 rush defense in the country, almost a yard and a half better than Iowa gave up against the rest of their schedule. They'll live if he plays.
Redshirt junior Elliot Mealer is the sole other non-freshman option. That qualifier is probably unnecessary since the freshmen are either 340 or 270 pounds—he's the last line of defense between Michigan and someone totally unprepared to play in the Big Ten. The coaches clearly have him behind Khoury and Schofield and while they do make encouraging noises about him from time to time…
Elliott Mealer and Rocko Khoury are vying for back-up positions on the interior line, ‘right on the cusp’ but depth guys right now, Funk added.
…the overall impression is that they'd like to avoid having him on the field just yet. He's still much better than the alternatives.
[Sorry about the delay. Internet issues this morning.]
To continue a theme on Michigan's suddenly mediocre run game: dude, it was all Purdue's cover zero approach. Here's a play that's beautifully blocked all around and still ends up with meh results. It's Michigan's final drive of the first half; the Wolverines have the ball first and ten on their own 43.
Standard three wide from Michigan; Purdue moves their nickelback over the slot receiver and has their safeties in that no-mans-land between deep and shallow:
By the snap they're still in that shallow range; the deeper guy is only seven yards off the LOS—that's where WVU's stack keeps its middle linebacker. Michigan's going to run a stretch:
As usual the key block is the one in the center of the field, where Schilling and Molk are working to seal the playside DT. you can see above that the playside DE is not slanting inside this time and will get kicked out. Michigan is doing something weird, though: they are blocking the backside end. They've done this a lot this year but in almost all cases they've done it on inside zone plays where a cutback is one of the main ways to gain yards. On a stretch this guy is usually set free to fruitlessly chase.
At the mesh point Robinson gets contain from the safety no jk lol linebacker and hands off. Molk has already gotten across the playside DT, who is dead:
That is a dead DT. With Lewan getting a kickout Smith will have a hole to cut into. Schilling releases downfield and gets a good block on the playside LB; Koger heads outside and pulls the other safety no jk lol lb with him. Hurray yards?
Yes, but issue in the middle of the field wearing #45:
This linebacker is the guy Huyge would have released into if he wasn't blocking Kerrigan. He's totally unblocked and can run down the line as Smith zooms past dead DT and Omameh drives the backside guy yards downfield; Schilling and Koger have picked up eliminating blocks on the other LBs.
Through the hole, Smith is one on one with the LB…
The end result is a play where all six Michigan offensive linemen get blocks between good and great… and Michigan gets six yards.
Object lesson type objects:
- Generic stretch stuff. This is another example of how the stretch usually works when it works: Molk seals that DT, Lewan kicks the DE, Schilling releases into a linebacker, a lead blocker takes another one outside, and running back hits a big gap.
- Cover zero problem reinforcement. In this particular instance blocking that backside end is a bad idea, but with eight guys in the box Michigan knows they'll leave contain to a safety and send Kerrigan tearing down the line. If Smith has to cut behind Molk he will be swallowed at the LOS. There's a nonzero chance Kerrigan manages to grab Smith from behind even if the blocking plays out like this. Michigan has a choice between leaving the MLB free or leaving a guy they know will crash down the LOS free. In this particular instance getting a block on the MLB, even a crappy-push-by-the-RB-forcing-a-cutback block, is a touchdown unless Smith gets run down from behind.
The fundamental math is still the same: there is going to be an unblocked guy in the box and Purdue can slant and shift its defense in an effort to get the ballcarrier to an unblocked guy. On the previous example Purdue did this effectively; here they hang on by the skin of their teeth but do get it done.
- Weather allows cover zero. BWS did a post on Michigan's only successful gotcha play, the fourth quarter completion to Kevin Koger that jump-started Michigan's final touchdown drive and was so wide open Denard could throw a wobbly underthrown duck and still have it easily complete. The pass on that play and about a dozen other hilariously misthrown balls by all four quarterbacks goes a long way towards justifying Michigan's resignation to pounding its head into the wall repeatedly. I'm sure Michigan won't do this again—not that they'll have an opportunity against Wisconsin and Ohio State, two teams that won't run cover zero much if at all.
Happy to get to a bowl game, but the job isn't done. Every win from here on out is to improve bowl standing. "I think that's added motivation for us... We love our teammates, and our seniors mean a lot to us." Glad to send the seniors out with a bowl game.
Doesn't care where the bowl game is "as long as it's warm."
Hopefully the team can get wins in all three remaining games.
Denard is harder to understand in the huddle than Tate. You have to go by the signals, because otherwise you won't hear the right play.
"After those turnovers, we picked each other up, we didn't hang our heads." Molk was saying that they had a full 60 minutes to play - maybe not counting on the extra time. Have to keep spirits up after mistakes, because you can't go back and change that.
"When Roy first got here, he was an outside receiver with us." That summer, he put in the work to get bigger in offseason workouts. "He's still working hard, he was in the weight room today working extremely hard."
"I didn't know [about setting a record] until after the game when Dave [Ablauf, UM Associate Athletic Director] pulled me aside and said I had broke the single-game record." It amazed him that he had done so much. "In high school I had one, it was a playoff game that went into overtime and we won that. I think I had 15 catches for 2-something... It ain't nothing like playing here and breaking the record."
When he talked to his cousin yesterday, it sunk in that he had outdone a bunch of Michigan's historic wideouts.
Both quarterbacks are leaders of the offense, it doesn't matter which one is in. "I don't know man, we exploisove everywhere, we got threats everywhere at every position. If we play like we can play, I don't think nobody can stop us." Denard was still involved in the game despite injury. "He just told us that we gotta keep going." Even though he wasn't in, he wanted to give encouragement.
"I try to play everybody like it's my last." No special feelings for Purdue. "I think every time we play throughtout our season gonna talk smack to throw you off." The fast tempo offense doesn't give them a lot of chances to say anything. Committed to Purdue as a junior. Told RR "I don't think I'm going to West Virginia." Once he came to Ann Arbor, it opened Roy's eyes. "I think I made the right choice."
Came in weighing 152 pounds, now 178. In his first year on scout team "I'm like 'Man, they just killin' me.'" In the offseason, he hit the weights, made it his "best friend." Wants to get up to 185-190 "I'll get there man." Really embraced the offseason to get faster. "I'm willing to get faster."
"I just try to block out everything" once he's at study table or practice, he manages to get focused.
"Man, Junior is a great football player, man." Receivers just want to be the best once they hit the field.
On the #1 jersey: "I mean hey, I still gotta work for it... When it's time, it's time. Oh yeah, I want it."
Sense of relief after the last play. "It was exciting, and my heart topped a couple times, but we pulled it off." Good feeling to win in overtime. "It's a lot more emotions involved, and there's more at stake because you're invested so much already." Crossed his mind what it would have been like to be on the losing end. "Of course it's not something that would be pleasant."
Good emotional boost to win. Need to carry that forward into the coming weeks. It's good to clinch a bowl game, but they need to continue winning to earn spots in a better bowl. Everybody showed lots of emotion after the game because of the circumstances, not necessarily because it clinched a bowl.
Offense wants to continue clicking, and minimize the times when they aren't quite on the same page.
"Running on the field, I wasn't even sure Denard was out yet." Didn't notice until the huddle, when Tate gave the play. Easier to understand because Denard talks really fast.
Will Campbell "Big guy, he's a strong guy." He's making progress, learning the ropes on the offensive side of the ball. "He could be somebody that could help us down the road."
"We were aware that the investigations had wrapped up, and we didn't fully understand everything that was going on, but we were confident in our coaches... When things turned out in our favor, we were jut glad to hear it."
Ryan Van Bergen
Everybody excited for the sixth win "A lot of pressure off a lot of guys' shoulders." They're confident after a win, and are motivated going into next week. Ryan feels pressure lifted from his shoulders to be a team leader that got the team back to a bowl game.
On the final 2-point conversion, Michigan was running the same defense against the same offensive play that Illinois used to convert for 2 in the first quarter. They executed better and were able to get the win.
Defense played 100 plays, and they were exhausted "I literally had no more gas left in the tank." Were glad to end the game.
Defense can't be excited about giving up 65 points, but they played well off turnovers and from bad field position. "There's some things we definitely could have cleaned up, but I would say as a leader of the defense, we made some tremoundous strides last week."
Only two Big Ten wins is not acceptable to them, they need to keep going. More excited to play Purdue than he has been to play in a long time. Defense finally has a bit of swagger and attitude.
Purdue has good size on OL, but so has the rest of the Big Ten so far. "just excited about an opportunity, moreso to prove ourselves."
Defensive line improved with Roh on it. More pressure off the edges forced at least three holding calls. Didn't register many sacks, but were able to pressure Scheelhasse. "I really like when Mike [Martin]'s in the game." It opens up 1-on-1s because teams have to worry about handling him inside.
"It's early to speculate about the future" but the young guys that are getting experience now will be great in the future. "Next year, or two years from now, these freshmen, all of them are going to be veterans."
Forcing more TOs. "Disguising our coverages a little bit... getting around the football a little bit more." Now that they're making solid tackles, they need to get at the ball.
3rd downs: "We were highly motivated on third down. We talked about it all week. Something we were embarrassed about against Penn State." 3rd downs were the reason they didn't beat the Nittany Lions.
Ndamukong Suh's missed extra point: "I know I would have made that. There's no way I would have missed an extra point." Kicked in high school - long of 46. "If I got called upon, I would make an extra point for this team, for sure."