At press time, Harbaugh had sent Michigan’s athletic department an envelope containing a heavily annotated seating chart, a list of the 63,000 seat views he had found unsatisfactory, and a glowing 70-page report on section 25, row 12, seat 9, which he claimed is “exactly what the great sport of football is all about.”
It's apparently that arbitrary down time in the offseason when I take a look back at Brian's recruiting profiles for the class that just finished their time at Michigan. In this case, that class is the infamous 2010 group, the last full class brought in by Rich Rodriguez during his time at Michigan.
So, uh, you've been forewarned.
I'll start with the nine offensive players in the class, five of whom were wide receivers. If that sounds like a strange and dangerous way to contruct a roster, you may be a longtime reader of this here blog. Or maybe you just watched the offensive line the last few years. Either/or, really.
We're Really Sorry About The Coaching Thing
As a Pioneer grad, I have no idea how Pioneer won this game.
By the time Brian wrote up Devin Gardner's profile, he'd already enrolled at Michigan and participated in the spring game. The comparison that came up the most in his profile—and, really, the most reasonable one to make at the time—is a pretty good indication of the level of expectation for Gardner's college career:
Why Vince Young? The combination of size, speed, a wonky throwing motion, and the multiple comparisons from gurus tips the balance over to Young, who redshirted despite being the top prospect in the country and didn't come into his own as a passer until he played Michigan in the Rose Bowl—awesome timing!
Guru Reliability: High. Ton of exposure to him. Elite 11 camp, UA game, all that stuff.
General Excitement Level: Towering. Vast. Expansive.
Gardner, of course, stayed on track—except for the cameo at wide receiver—by looking like a future star when he took the reins after Denard Robinson's injury in 2012, and while he had some disappointing outings in 2013, those were largely chalked up to the O-line and playcalling. It came off the rails last year for a host of reasons covered so thoroughly they're not worth bringing up again. Needless to say, reading through his profile leaves one with serious what-could've-been feels.
[Hit THE JUMP for Dramatic Cupcake Hopkins and, well, mostly disappointment.]
- The team will focus on fundamentals in practice over the next week or so.
- Team will leave for Tampa on the 23rd.
- The NFL discussion with Taylor Lewan will continue after the bowl.
- Devin Gardner had an ankle issue after the OSU game (was spotted walking around in a boot). Otherwise no new boo boos.
“You know, we’re obviously thrilled to be heaing to the Outback Bowl our fifth time. The bowl itself, the organization, the volunteers, they’ve always been gracious hosts. The city of Tampa and Clearwater do a tremendous job of embracing the bowl, making it a great event for both teams. It’s an opportunity to play a very good football team in South Carolina. 10-2, Coach Spurrier is one of the iconic coaches in this country. Laid a great foundation and has done a great job at South Carolina, really did a great job at Florida when he was the head ball coach down there. So it’s going to be a great football game, one that we’re excited to be a part of against a great opponent.”
How much do you know at this point about South Carolina?
“I know they have a really good front from a defensive perspective. I think they gave up 17 points a game. Very athletic. Lost at Florida and at LSU, so their two losses were on the road against two very good football teams. I think offensively the quarterback has done a nice job. I think the coach is a hard guy to please at that position. Lattimore won’t play obviously, and that’s a shame, because he’s one of the great football players in the country, but from that standpoint, you just start breaking them down.”
Your brother coached with Steve Spurrier. Were you able to get to know him and form a relationship as a result?
“You know, a little bit. Not a huge one, but Jon was there, my brother was there three years, Steve’s last three, as his defensive coordinator. Steve and his wife are really nice people. They treated my brother well. Him and Jon talk back and forth, but it’ll be a fun football game to be a part of.”
How much will the time off help Denard recover and do more than he was doing at the end of the regular season?
“Well, I think we hope for all of them -- they go through the grind. It’s good for all of them to heal up a little bit. We’ll start practicing at the end of the week on Friday and Saturday. They’ll do some lifting and running this week. But to get them away from the pounding a little bit helps them all.”
Any injuries resulting from the OSU game?
“No. Not really. Devin had a little bit of an ankle, but he’ll be fine by the time we get started on Friday.”
How do you improve your ability to run the ball and limiting turnovers for this game?
“Well I think we always work hard on running the football. That’s not going to change. We always preach and teach the mindset of running the football and finishing at the line of scrimmage and backs finishing on safeties and the ninth man or eighth man that people want to get in the box. But I think you just keep plowing through it going forward, and your demands and your expectations have to be met.”
How much emphasis will be put on developing younger players?
“Yeah, we’ll start going Friday, Saturday this weekend, and then Friday, Saturday next weekend. We have finals coming up and all those kinds of things, so those will be more of just the fundamentals and the basics, kind of getting back to it for everyone. We’ll use a lot of that time to help develop the young guys. And then as we go through the bowl practices, we’ll devote some time to those young guys and what we want to get accomplished.”
When do you leave for Tampa? And what’s your philosophy on working your players too hard vs. not enough?
“That’s always the fine line, to be honest with you. We’re going to leave on the 23rd and practice when we get down there, kind of get acclimated to where we’ll be and all those things, which I don’t completely know yet. Mike Vollmer and Bob Lopez are down there now securing the sites, but we’ll go down the 23rd. Most game planning should be all done by the time we leave, so that’s always a positive. We’ll kind of judge where we’re at from health, from the mindset of where we are and what we’ll do.”
Why has Hopkins left the team?
“You’d have to ask him. I know we already discussed it.”
When did he let you know?
“He let me know.”
The Big Ten has struggled against the SEC. Do you feel like you’re playing for the conference?
“I think you always are. I think you’re playing for Michigan and your seniors first, but we’re proud to be in the Big Ten. Why we wouldn’t want to represent and have that be part of our focus, it’d be really bad for us not to feel that way about the Big Ten.”
What do you want to see from Devin?
“Continued growth as a quarterback. His development is just like some of those guys, you know, Willie Henry’s growth -- only it’s a little different because he’s a quarterback. Willie Henry’s a nose tackle or a three-technique. So Willie’s not touching the ball a whole lot, right? So I think his continued growth to playing in big football games and environments not in Michigan Stadium.”
How has playing a tough schedule prepared you for the level of talent you’ll face in the bowl game?
“I think there’s always a benefit. When you play good football teams, and whether you win or lose, you learn how you have to play. You learn that you have to do a better job taking care of the football. You have to run the football better. You have to get the ball back for your offense at the end of the game to give them the opportunity to score. Those are all the things you take out of the last game that we didn’t do.”
How important is it to win this bowl game?
“I think as we would look at it, for our seniors, that ninth win -- you always want 10 when you’re here. It’s kind of an expectation. But sending them out in a real positive fashion and I think you build some momentum going into winter conditioning.”
Is it harder to vote in the coaches’ poll knowing that your choices are made public?
“Yeah, I don’t know if it’s -- you know, I think you vote your conscience. I don’t know if I would have voted any differently than I did.”
Why did you have Michigan 15th?
“Becaue I think we’re a good team. You look at the opponents that we played compared to other schedules that are out there. It would be easy to play a lesser schedule, but I think this has helped us grow as a program and as a team.”
You met with Taylor this last week?
Any words of wisdom?
“You know that I don’t have a whole lot of words of wisdom, but we’ll talk after the bowl game. We’ll do our due diligence and trying to get him as much information as we can.”
When do you expect to hear back from the advisory committee?
“I don’t know.”
What kind of a test will it be for him to go up against Jadaveon Clowney?
“Well I haven’t talked to him since we found out who we were playing. But if you’re truly a competitor, I think it would be a tremendous, fun opportunity.”
What are the tangible rewards of playing a tough schedule? Seems like teams aren’t really rewarded for it.
“Well I don’t think you are, but I think for us and this program and the future of the program, I think it’s a real positive. Playing in a kickoff classic in Arlington, everything that goes along with it and how you prepare, it’s kind of a big stage. So I think that all helps.”
Is there anyone you’ve coached or coached against that you can compare to Jadaveon Clowney?
“Mm mm. He’s pretty good.”
What’s your feeling about Te’O and the Heisman? Brian Kelly said if Te’O doesn’t win it, why not just make it an offensive award?
“I think if I were Brian Kelly, I’d say the same thing. You know, my thoughts on it? I think everyone’s going to have an opinion, every voter’s going to have an opinion on does he do enough? But no one really knows what he does for that team. I think he’s worthy of it. But I don’t know if Johnny Manziel’s not worthy of it. And I don’t know if it’s just Johnny Manziel. I don’t even know who’s up for it. But Te’O, being a defensive guy, I’m kind of in his corner.”
Thoughts on the MAC getting their first BCS bowl?
“I think it’s great for that league. The MAC’s a great league.”
Why did you invite Hagerup to camp even though he was suspended for four games? He said it meant a lot to him.
“Well I thought it was important for him to be around his teammates. There were some mistakes that were made that we’ve all made -- some of you maybe haven’t -- but it’s nice for a kid to be around his teammates.”
Fullback Stephen Hopkins has left the team, according to all of twitter. That's unexpected. Hopkins had some injury issues early this season and was on the verge of getting Wally Pipped by Joe Kerridge but had seemingly fought his way back to starting before a pretty terrible outing against Ohio State. Seems like that was a breaking point but that's just speculation.
With Paul Gyarmati graduating, that leaves Kerridge and freshman Sione Houma the main options at fullback, which is fine. Kerridge seemed to be a better blocker than Hopkins anyway. Houma has played on special teams for whatever reason and seems like more of a run/catch threat from the spot if and when he sees playing time. In addition to those two guys Michigan is also bringing in Khalid Hill and Wyatt Shallman as H-back sorts*, so they're fine at the spot.
Hopkins leaving opens up a 24th scholarship in the class, with more attrition pending. Given the flurry of offers Michigan has issued in the past few weeks it's clear they're looking for another linebacker, preferably a SAM type**, and I would guess they go above 25 if they find enough players they like.
*[FWIW I bet a dollar Shallman is on defense by the end of his freshman year.]
**[I don't think this has anything to do with Cam Gordon or Jake Ryan. It's more about the freshman class. If Royce Jenkins-Stone isn't going to be a SAM, and it doesn't look like he will, then there is no one younger than Ryan on the roster who can play the spot. Even if they make the logical move and slide Mario Ojemudia over, they could still use another guy there before Michael Ferns arrives in 2014.]
Reading your 11/26 post about "The Game", I noticed you made mention of the question of whether huddling is necessary anymore. As a high school coach and former small college player who has used both the huddle and the no-huddle, my first reaction is to disagree with your point that the huddle is archaic and a bit of a dinosaur. But I am also intrigued.
My overall response would be that there are obvious advantages to both. Points and tempo are the obvious gains, but tempo is also a negative from the no huddle (as we learned circa 2009-2011) when an offense has too many three and outs and a team's defense bears the brunt of it all. In short, it's hard to praise a defense, especially an overachieving bunch like our boys, while touting an offensive style that so often seems to lead to a loss in defensive production.
In short, what data is out there to suggest that the no huddle would not obliterate our defensive gains?
There are two issues here being conflated here. Not huddling is not necessarily synonymous with going at a high speed. Ohio State runs the same no-huddle style as Oregon but does not push the pedal down nearly as much:
|Team||Offensive Plays||Defensive Plays||Total||% Plays on offense|
Oregon games had 24% more plays in them than Michigan games; Ohio State games had just 10% more, and I'm guessing the difference there is more Michigan being exceptionally slow than Ohio State being fast: decidedly MANBALL Wisconsin games featured a little over 1600 plays this year. If OSU is over the national average for plays run it's not by much.
The benefits of getting to the line immediately are the same whether you're going fast or slow: the defense is hampered in its ability to substitute and you can see how they align as you make your playcall. You can sprinkle in tempo plays when you have an advantage without cracking the whip up and down the field.
The other issue is how a high tempo affects your defense. This is the reason people invented tempo-free basketball statistics: how fast you go can distort how your offense and defense look. A high-tempo approach artificially inflates the former and deflates the latter.
Take the most extreme possible example: Oregon. The Ducks are are decent but essentially mediocre in yardage statistics. They're 47th in rushing, 60th in passing, and 46th in total D. But they faced 915 plays. Michigan's defense faced 791, and in there is a large part of the gap between the two defenses. Michigan is still better on a yards-per-play basis, but there's no question that Oregon played more good offenses.
Advanced stats that try to account for tempo look a lot more favorably on Oregon's defense than conventional ones. The Ducks are eighth in FEI*, one spot in front of Alabama. They're 21st in S&P, which I don't like as much because it's play-focused instead of drive-focused.
As this year's Michigan team proved against Nebraska and OSU, a three and out is a three and out and you're in trouble no matter what if that's what your offense is doing. In games you can win, the price you're extracting from your defense is going to be similar to the price you extract from the opposition.
And, like, I don't think it would have mattered if a Greg Robinson defense played opposite the Lombardi Packers. They were cooked.
*[A note on FEI: that ranking looked pretty strange on offense last year; this year it passes any sanity test you want to give it with Florida/ND/Stanford/MSU as the top 4. It seems to be overrating some small schools but that's inevitable.]
Are we running the Air Raid next year? Taking out Denard, Michigan had a pretty atrocious rushing offense this year. It's obviously going to look different next season without a primarily rushing QB but even still, with a starting RB coming off a serious leg injury, and replacing 3 or 4 offensive lineman, this looks bleak right?
Look on the bright side: at least Borges has shown to be more willing to adapt to a throw-first mentality than Carr-era coordinators. And the interior line literally cannot be worse! Woo!
It does look bleak. Michigan has to hope that Mike Schofield can hold up at left tackle (I think he can against non-elite pass-rushers and will probably be a Stenavich-level player) and then fill in the rest of the line with n00bs. There are some assets:
- Extremely fast QB.
- "College-ready" five star Kyle Kalis at guard.
- Guy who has played center all the way, Jack Miller, at center, presumably making much better line calls.
- Enormous guy Chris Bryant
- Enormous guy Ben Braden
It… yeah, it looks grim-ish. While any of the above could work out Michigan is still working through the disastrous RR OL recruiting and will have a similar problem to the one they had this year: few, if any options to turn to if the starters are not performing. Things are little better at tackle, where Erik Magnuson is available to back up instead of nobody, but on the interior you've got a redshirt freshman on the 3/4 star borderline (Bars) and Joey Burzynski, who is still 6'1".
But there's a bunch of hype for the freshman class and Bryant was reported looking good before the leg injury. Michigan may have to go with more Gardner running than they might want. I certainly hope they don't ditch the veer, for one.
First of all, I'm very surprised by Hoke's prediction that Devin's redshirt will go through, given his history of never saying anything specific, ever.
With that in mind, do you think Devin is a good fit for Borges' style of West Coast offense? Or will we still be "making due" with some Frankenoffense for the next two years, give or take, until Shane is ready?
Like most fans, I've been pleasantly surprised by Devin over the past month, but I don't know enough about Borges' dream offense to know how well his QB skills translate.
I was surprised, too, and assume he was told by the people who had talked to the Big Ten that they would get it. Which hurray, one less argument about how dumb Rich Rodriguez is and extra year for starting QB.
Gardner is clearly a better fit for what Borges wants to do than Denard was. He's tall, he can stand in the pocket, and he has an excellent deep ball when he's not being asked to throw it on the run for some strange reason. He also tends to run when he should run, thus rescuing various plays that aren't going so well.
I am actually hoping for something of a Frankenoffense, though. Running big epic "play action" from an I-form that is really just a max-protect setup doesn't use Gardner's legs particularly effectively, and we've seen that when you get a guy who can run and throw trying to stop both is super hard. Hell, run-and-kinda-throw is pretty hard. I'd like Michigan to still run most of its offense from the shotgun and use Gardner's legs to mitigate some of the problems that will arise on the offensive line. With Morris backing Gardner up you won't have to be as overcautious as it seemed Michigan was this year.
Maybe the OL will surprise and DeVeon Smith or Derrick Green will show up as a grinder and it will work. If a traditional manball running game isn't in the cards, though, the Frankenoffense may be the best one available.
Do you think Hopkins gets a long look in the spring back at tailback with Fitz's status up in the air?
Seems like they have some depth now at fullback with Kerridge and Houma. I know he has ball security issues so maybe he has to walk around campus all spring, summer and fall carrying a football. Could he have the potential to be a Leroy Hoard-type in 1988, '89 as a featured, ball-carrying back?
While that's a possibility I doubt it will amount to much if they do try it. Hopkins may be marginally better than Rawls if he doesn't fumble, he has. Rawls hasn't done much but he also has not fumbled.
A Hoard-back requires Hoard-blocking, and more speed than Hopkins brings to the table. If Derrick Green ends up committing he's the early favorite to get a plurality of carries.
Any chance that Michigan starts Pipkins and Washington in a similar way that they used Washington and Campbell this year?
Probably not. Nose tackle is a draining position staffed by enormous men and requires that two people play it. Michigan probably wanted to use Pipkins more than they did a year ago; they couldn't because he wasn't very good. Michigan will probably stick with him as the backup nose in preparation for a two year starting run. Big guys take some time.
- Anthony Capatino is running the scout team at quarterback, but they still go against Denard like they usually do.
- Joe Reynolds is not just a blocking receiver.
- Stephen Hopkins has been available for the last two weeks but hasn't played. Kerridge appears to have usurped his spot on the depth chart.
- Re: Not resetting the clock after review, the Big Ten didn't see an issue with it.
“Very physical football game we’re going to play. Tough environment. Good practice yesterday. Have to finish that up with a good work day today. They present some problems with the dual threat of the quarterback and his improvement -- I think he’s 67 percent or so completions -- stable of running backs that do a nice job within their offense, and executing defensively. Negative plays. That’s something that they’ve been very good at to sacks and tackles for loss, try and get you off schedule that way. I think for us, the environment, we have to handle that. I think we’ve been in enough of those situations and mature enough to do that, but we can’t have any confusion at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Confusion in the huddle or those things, so it takes a real focus and concentration to be able to do that.”
Bullets of informative information:
- Michigan State. This is a rivalry game. Rivalries are important.
- Vincent Smith getting held out for his hamstring was precautionary. May be back this week. Maybe not.
- Hopkins is "back."
- Frank Clark's decreased playing time was due to rotation, not due to injury.
- Denard is fine.
“You know, obviously it was a great team win the other night. Played well as a team. Played together. Probably our most complete game when you look at the offense and defense. In the kicking game I thought we did some very good things. Had some penalties that we don’t want to have when you look at hitting the returner late and we had two defensive offsides penalties that we need to be a little more poised and a little more composed about that. A couple dropped passes. I think we were 9 of 14 on third downs, probably could have been 11 of 14. Missed assignments, I think we had 10 of them on offense. Defensively, early in the game I thought they ran the ball a little too well, so we have to do a better job with the integrity of gaps and getting off blocks. Best we’ve played, but a long way from playing championship football, so we have a lot of work to do. We’ll go back to work.
"This is a great week because it’s a rivalry game and those are always special, always fun. At the same time it’s another championship game, which we’ve started that run two weeks ago. We have to prepare like we have, and I think we will because we’ve done a nice job to this point and the maturity of our team – I think we are maturing, so we just have to keep going forward.”