(click the little pics for previous entries)
We're talking about these seniors. And I figure now's as good a time as any to specify exactly what we're thankful for. It's not simply loyalty to an institution: that for its own sake can lead to otherwise good institutions looking the other way when their members do awful things (see: MSU, OSU, PSU, SEC). Except for an extremely abstract and debatable conceptualization of Michigan as a "good guys" program, what our seniors have done by sticking through the "least rewarding Michigan careers in decades" is not a good because of a higher universal cause it served.
Whom it served was themselves (for they did get degrees), their fellow teammates who stayed, and most importantly for our purposes, us. We thank them for this because Michigan football, for reasons we can't quite articulate without sounding at least a little bit foolish, is massively, massively important to us. And while you can debate whether Michigan's football is—relatively or absolutely—a beacon of morality, or whether caring this much about the athletic derring do's of 22-year-olds is a healthy thing, what nobody is debating is that this thing called Michigan could have become something much less than it is today, and that these seniors, these seniors, saved it.
JUNIOR-JUNIOR JUNIOR JR.
Kenneth Earl "Junior" Hemingway had his own personal angry X–hating god. Services were split on him, depending on whether leaping (tremendous) or speed (sub-mendous) was the high school scout's attribute of choice. Part of that disagreement was, as you probably guessed, because of an injury his junior season. At times in his Michigan career Junior was sidelined with a bum shoulder, sometimes mononucleosis, sometimes a pulled hamstring, sometimes a sprained ankle, sometimes a sprained knee, sometimes an "abrasion," and sometimes another bum shoulder. And sometimes…
The mono struck shortly after that tantalizing catch in '08. Hemingway wasn't allowed to go near his teammates, except his roommate Mike Williams, and even then they had to label their videogame controllers so as not to spread the Junior juju. That was Junior's low point, but the resulting medical redshirt did give him this season (he played as a depth guy in '07).
A National Honor Society member and academic achievement winner, as the story goes (I haven't confirmed this but it matches most students' experiences including mine) he earned enough credits before the end of the '08 season to qualify for "junior standing," meaning Junior spent three years (academically, chronologically, redshirt-) as a junior, which I find fascinating. Possessed of remarkable body control, when Hemingway was available he was Michigan's go-to possession receiver who got tons of YAC, some inexplicable, some simply inconceivable:
"Junior always wants to make big plays," [Denard] Robinson said. "I think he's one of the best receivers in the country."
The same year Hemingway arrived, Michigan's offense transitioned to a zone running scheme. While MANBALL likes centers with enough mass to move massive nose tackles out of the hole, the perfect zone center is a guy who's really strong but also really nimble and really smart. A zone center who can get playside of a DT who's lined up playside of him, and seal that guy off—this is called a reach block—has pretty much created an instant 6 yards for the offense. It is also the hardest block for any offensive lineman to make. I learned this in October of 2008, when somebody first said that David Molk is the best offensive player on the team.
I have a thing for short people. My wife is a generous 5'0. Desmond Howard made me a Michigan fan. When Mike Hart graduated I never thought another player could ever displace him as all-time favorite Wolverine. Because football is weird the guy who would was already on the sidelines.
At one point Molk was a 5'6, 175-lb high school freshman. Then he discovered the weight room and it was love at first lift. Whereas most of Michigan's on-hand interior guys were a terrible fit for Rich Rodriguez's spread 'n shred and Barwis's legendary weight room, this hit-loving, high-motor, high-attitude, high-academic, low-elevation lineman was born for it.
In 2008 Molk never missed a single offensive play. The ones where he reached some dude and Brandon Minor went RAGE-ing into the secondary were interspersed with plays where the whittle guy got tossed into the backfield by various Ogbu monsters and inadvertently kicking Sheridan in the dong (3&O). Molk responded by getting stronger, winning the Iron Wolverine Award as the best-conditioned Michigan lineman. By his sophomore year he was a Lombardi and Rimington candidate and Michigan's offense came alive. Then he broke a foot against EMU, Moosman moved to center, and the offense wasn't as good. Molk came back from the foot (and surgery) for the first series against Penn State and Michigan went 70 yards in the opening scoring drive that consisted almost entirely of 7-yard gains. During that drive Molk tore a ligament in his knee, God canceled Christmas, and all things that ever happened again were the bad things.
If you are concerned that Molk's impending graduation means the dong-punching will start again, this is not an unreasonable fear.
Molk did return in '10—said he: "It's been almost eleven months. Somebody is going to pay."—and was a Rimington finalist and First Team All Big Ten, leading the way for Denard Robinson's Heisman candidate year despite more injuries that Molk refused to talk about. The one we knew knocked him out in the 3rd play versus Iowa. That hurt the rest of the year, though you'd never hear that from Molk. Here's a snapshot of Molk from half-time of the Wisconsin game:
David Molk decided to pull himself up, and he wanted his teammates to come up with him. They were slumped in their stalls, ready to concede, when he stood up and marched around the room. "Hey, Michigan! Are we fucking scared? Because we're playing like it! We are all on our fucking heels. ALL OF US!
"We gotta drop our fucking nuts and MAN UP! We are NOT lying down! We are NOT scared! We will fight! We will FIGHT! And we will GET AFTER THEM!
"Everyone STAND UP! Stretch out! I mean it!"
"Get up!" Van Bergen said, and they did.
"We're gonna hit 'em in the fucking face," Molk said, "and they'll cry! They'll bleed! NOW LET'S GO!"
The offence went out and played the best half against the Badgers that Wisconsin saw all year. But the defense played the worst and Michigan lost 45-28.
Then Rodriguez was fired. Despite the accolades Molk's stature and the NFL's style didn't make a jump to the pro's likely. Not that Molk ever thought about it…
"A lot of thigns had to happen to go 3-9—not because of the coach, but because of the transition. Every guy who had a chance to leave, left. That tore our team apart. We lost starters, backups, you name it. There were only half of us left.
"We're a family. I love all you guys. No matter how much shit I give you—I love you. If we don't' stay together, we'll never make it. This program stays together. I don't want to see anyone leaving. If you do, we'll be crappy for three more years.
"I love Coad Rod. He did everything he could. But now it rests on us."
JUST JUMP ALREADY … (after the jump)
THING OF THE WEEK. No thing. :(
Formation Notes: So here's this:
See that guy way at the top of the screen? That's Hopkins. WTF? I don't know. Michigan showed a half-dozen snaps with this formation, often motioning the RB (sometimes it was McColgan) out of the backfield to his position on the edge of forever. They didn't seem to use this for anything.
As for SDSU, I gave this a passing mention in the Toussaint picture pages and here it is again: this was not what I expected the 3-3-5 to be. As you can see above, SDSU would often align in a four-man front—the above is over-shifted—by using one of their teeny linebackers as a standup DE. Only rarely did they deploy a true stack:
They did blitz off this to create different fronts, but mostly it was an array of standard fronts run with really small guys. I was disappointed—I wanted to see what this thing was all about.
Michigan didn't bust out much else worth noting.
Substitution Notes: Nothing out of the ordinary save Watson supplanting Moore at the second TE spot. Not good for next year—he's a senior. Smith and Toussaint got the vast bulk of the RB snaps, with Hopkins getting a few. Hopkins also saw a little time at FB. Schofield came in for Barnum after he got injured.
At WR it was the usual.
|M39||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||3-3-5 man||Run||Zone read dive||Toussaint||2|
|Late shift by SDSU sees backside end slide towards the C and a linebacker come down over Koger. Seems like a D meant to defend ZRD and it does. Backside LB scrapes over to take Robinson; handoff. Late-shifted DE has an advantage on Huyge on the backside; Omameh(-1) should have paused to offer a scoop there but thought he was uncovered, which he was until the late shift. Huyge(-0.5) could have done better here, too. RPS -1. RUN-: Omameh, Huyge(0.5)|
|M41||2||8||Shotgun trips TE||2||1||2||3-3-5 man||Run||QB power||Robinson||3|
|First of a number of plays that sees a second tailback, this time Hopkins, flare out into a WR position. Michigan never makes this relevant, so its purpose remains a mystery. Man... there are eight guys in the box here and no one deeper than five(!) yards save a corner way out over Hopkins. Robinson checks, flipping Toussaint, and runs power at the overloaded side of the formation. I'm not sure what he thought he saw. Koger(-1) gets beat up by the playside DE, forcing an early cutback from Robinson. Lewan and Barnum(+1) blow the NT up; Lewan does not peel fast enough to take out a linebacker. Molk(+1) seals away the other DT, leaving a cutback lane for Robinson. He takes it; it's filled by the extra guy in the box pursuing down the line and the LB Lewan did not get out on. RPS -1.|
|RUN+: Barnum, Molk||RUN-: Koger|
|M44||3||5||Shotgun trips||1||1||3||3-3-5 two deep||Run||QB draw||Robinson||19|
|I thought this was a scramble live but the receivers aren't running routes. Also, Huyge goes after a LB after it's clear he's dropping into a short zone. SDSU blitzes up the middle; Michigan picks it up thanks to Barnum(+2) shoving one guy past where Molk(+1) can pick him up, then popping out on one of the blitzers to shove him past Robinson. Smith(+1) blows up the blitzer to the other side. Robinson(+1) is through the gap Barnum provided. He makes a linebacker miss and is into the secondary. As he's angling away from a pursuing safety one of the linebackers comes back to trip him.|
|RUN+: Robinson, Barnum(2), Molk, Smith||RUN-:|
|O37||1||10||I-Form||2||1||2||3-3-5 man||Pass||Waggle WR flat||Odoms||Inc|
|Open but well overthrown. Not even much pressure on him. (IN, 0, protection N/A, RPS +1)|
|O37||2||10||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||3-3-5 man||Run||Zone read dive||Smith||32|
|God, I want Michigan to run QB oh noes to the RB on a streak right up the middle here. Maybe later. SDSU has seven in the box against five blockers, M runs anyway. Backside LB running right at Robinson; handoff. Molk(+2) takes a hit from a lineman and bounces down the line as Omameh(+1) pancakes said DL. Molk shoves a blitzer past Smith. Omameh's blocked a dude with his back as Huyge shoves a man down the line; Lewan(+1) fends off a DE for a long time. Barnum pops out to the second level after letting that LB Molk picked off run by him and does wall off a pursuing LB but no plus since that was easy and he might have screwed up. All this is is just enough for Smith(+3) to have a tiny, tiny crease that he stumbles through inexplicably. Nice thing about getting through seven guys in the box is there is no second level; he runs a long way. RPS -1|
|RUN+: Molk(2), Lewan, Omameh, Smith(3)||RUN-:|
|O5||1||G||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||3-3-5 under||Run||QB power||Robinson||5|
|More of an under look with 3-3-5 personnel. Michigan runs at the 250-pound DE pretending to be a three tech and crushes him. Huyge(+2) gets under the guy and starts crushing him towards the endzone. Omameh(+1) helped, then popped off to steamroll a linebacker. Barnum(+1) pulls around to do the same to another linebacker; Molk(+1) and Watson(+1) kick out their guys to make this easy.|
|RUN+: Huyge(2), Barnum, Omameh, Watson, Molk||RUN-:|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-0, 10 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M39||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||3-3-5 man||Pass||Fade||Roundtree||Inc|
|Tough to complete this with very good coverage from the Aztec corner. Denard floats it up in a decent spot; Roundtree comes underneath the coverage to get a one-handed stab at the ball. Shouldn't they be throwing this to Hemingway, not Roundtree? There are better ways to test this cover zero look. (CA, 1, protection 2/2) BWS picture paged this, though I disagree with the conclusion. More later.|
|M39||2||10||I-Form Big||2||2||1||3-3-5 two deep||Pass||Throwback screen||Gallon||8|
|Not a tunnel screen since this play goes well outside the tackle box. Lewan is flaring out to help; Barnum is supposed to get out there too but gets hung up at the line. Linebackers are gone and Denard hits the easy screen; Lewan can't actually block the corner but does delay him enough for Gallon to scoot upfield for a good chunk. (CA, 3, screen, RPS +1)|
|M47||2||2||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||3-4 tight||Run||Speed option||Robinson||53|
|Outside zone blocking. I'm just saying? I'm just saying. Huyge(+1) and Omameh(+1) execute a beauty scoop block that seals the playside DE and gets Huyge out on the weakside LB. That plus a good block from Koger(+1) on the edge plus two San Diego State guys taking the pitchman means that when Robinson cuts upfield he is one on one with some grass for a touchdown. Credit to Watson(+1), the backside TE, for getting out on the backside safety to remove all doubt. RPS +3.|
|RUN+: Huyge, Omameh, Watson, Koger, Robinson||RUN-:|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-0, 6 min 1st Q. Lloyd Brady sighting.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M30||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||3-3-5 under||Pass||Oh noes hitch||Roundtree||10|
|Draw fake into a ten-yard hitch. Robinson nails it this time; had Hemingway screamingly wide open but his first read is there, so no complaints. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|M40||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||1||1||3||3-3-5 under||Run||Zone read dive||Smith||6|
|This should have been a bigger gainer, but Smith made a bad cut. He makes it because Barnum(+1) pancaked the NT and he thinks he can cut back for a big gain. He ends up running into the fallen Barnum and slowing down; doesn't matter too much because Omameh(+1) destroyed the playside G with help from Molk; Huyge(+1) out on the playside LB. Without the delay by Smith(-1) he's out on the corner nearing a first down before being angled OOB. With it the MLB has time to shuck Molk's block and the playside DE has time to recover after getting way upfield.|
|RUN+: Molk, Barnum, Omameh, Huyge||RUN-: Smith|
|M46||2||4||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||3-3-5 under||Pass||PA slant||Roundtree||Inc (Pen +15)|
|Zone read fake to patterns that SDSU have covered pretty well. Robinson is getting pressure and has to get rid of it. He picks the most open of the routes—still not very open—which is Roundtree's slant and throws a ball that looks like it is sailing high. It's close enough that Roundtree being interfered with matters, though, and Michigan picks up a flag. Not charted since I can't really tell if this is accurate or not. (N/A, 0, protection N/A)|
|O39||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||3-3-5 even||Run||QB iso||Robinson||4|
|Playside DT holds up well enough against a double from Barnum and Molk. They can't seal him away. They do get some push. Outside blitz eliminates one linebacker, leaving two for Smith and the peeling Barnum; they both get blocks. SDSU maintains leverage, forcing it back inside, where the DT makes the tackle. Adequate all around.|
|O35||2||6||Ace 3TE||1||3||1||3-3-5 under||Pass||PA dumpoff||Smith||8|
|Gallon lined up as a TE. This does not sucker SDSU: the safeties are moving backwards at the snap. The two guys in the route go deep; Gallon has like three guys surrounding him. No one takes Smith as he leaks out of the backfield, so Robinson checks down when the deep stuff is uber covered. Smith shoots for a first down, then fumbles. (CA, 3, protection 2/2, Smith -3)|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 14-0, 1 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M29||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||3-3-5 under||Run||Zone read dive||Smith||4 (Pen -10)|
|Late shift inside by the playside DE; he goes straight upfield at Barnum. Barnum seems to throw him to the ground with his strength but picks up a holding call. I guess he's got his arm around the guy's shoulder but he's not pulling it; this seems pretty weak to me. Smith still has to cut upfield behind Barnum's block, which puts him in a bunch of traffic. Omameh(+1) got a good seal on a guy playside of him, which allows Smith(+1) to pick his way for a couple yards. Barnum -1 for allowing the penetration and picking up the flag. On replay this is a really bad penalty. He's not holding the dude, he's pushing him. Refs -2.|
|RUN+: Omameh, Smith||RUN-: Barnum|
|M19||1||20||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||5-3 stack||Pass||Quick hitch||Roundtree||5|
|Quick three step strike to Roundtree. Fine on first and ten. First and twenty, though? (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|M24||2||15||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||5-3 stack||Pass||PA quick seam||Koger||Inc|
|Zone read PA gets Koger and Hemingway wide open in the short seams. Robinson takes the easier throw to Koger, nailing him in the numbers. Dropped. If caught a certain first down and maybe more. (CA+, 3, protection N/A, RPS +2)|
|SDSU stunt gets Barnum blocking no one and almost gets Denard sacked; Molk comes off his guy and manages to hand him to Omameh at the last second to prevent total chaos. Team minus there but pretty decent work by those two. Denard has a lane thanks to a Smith pickup and comes up through the pocket, where a couple spies are. He's got no one open so he takes off. Maybe he had Gallon on an out but not seeing that is no surprise given the heavy pressure. (PR, N/A, protection 1/3, team -2, RPS -1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-0, 14 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M19||1||10||Shotgun 2TE twins||1||2||2||3-3-5 even||Run||Zone read dive||Toussaint||6|
|Lewan and Watson momentarily double the playside DE-type substance (actually a LB), with Lewan chucking him upfield and Watson(+1) sealing. Molk(+1) controls the center well, so there's a crease frontside for Toussaint. Lewan(+1) and Omameh(+1) get good second level blocks; Barnum(-1) gets shoved off balance by his guy, forcing Toussaint to slow up and cut outside of him, where an aggressive safety is there after just a few yards.|
|RUN+: Lewan, Watson, Molk, Omameh||RUN-: Barnum|
|M25||2||4||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||3-3-5 stack||Run||Speed option||Toussaint||5|
|Barnum hurt; Schofield in. Toussaint motions to the option from the opposite side just before the snap. SDSU blitzes into this; Denard(+1) makes sure to suck up the edge guy before pitching. Toussaint(+1) has to dodge the charging safety, which he does; QB guy then gets stiffarmed; pursuit now tackles the slowed Toussaint. Two broken tackles for five yards = RPS -1.|
|RUN+: Toussaint, Robinson||RUN-:|
|M30||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||3-3-5 stack||Run||QB iso||Robinson||3|
|Oh, man, Robinson misses a huge cutback lane. SLB moves to the line late and blitzes upfield; Koger(+1) kicks him out way out of the picture. SDSU line slants playside, beating Molk(-1) to the point where Smith has to hit this guy on the LOS. Lewan(+1) has managed to get playside of his guy and wall him off, allowing a cutback lane. Robinson(-1) begins to take it but instead of exploding outside into open space he inexplicably bowls over the guy Lewan's blocking.|
|RUN+: Koger, Lewan||RUN-: Molk, Robinson|
|M33||2||7||Shotgun 2TE twins||1||2||2||3-3-5 stack||Run||Zone read dive||Toussaint||7|
|Denard misses a keep read. Play still works as Schofield(+1) gets enough of the NT to give Toussaint(+1) a crease he hits speedily; Omameh(+1) kicked out a blitzing LB and Molk nailed the MLB. Safety comes up to hit at the sticks.|
|RUN+: Schofield, Toussaint, Molk, Omameh||RUN-: Robinson|
|M40||1||10||I-Form||2||1||2||3-3-5 stack||Run||Busted play||Robinson||-1|
|Robinson tries to hand off but Smith thinks it's a pitch. Robinson manages to get somewhere near the LOS.|
|M39||2||11||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||3-3-5 stack||Pass||PA RB flat||Smith||Inc|
|Blitz gets two guys in Robinson's face immediately and he just dumps it off to the flat thinking that will be open; it's not. This is actually a good throw considering—he's under a lot of pressure and the coverage is there; he places it in a spot where Smith can get it and pick up some YAC if the LB doesn't make the diving PBU, which he does. Instant pressure plus coverage on the hot route == RPS -1. (CA, 0, protection N/A)|
|M39||3||11||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||3-3-5 under||Pass||Out||Hemingway||9|
|Half roll does nothing to prevent pressure; Smith does not cut an edge blitzer and Molk(-1) lets another guy through to block no one. Robinson gets lit up. He throws just before that, hitting Hemingway in front of tight coverage. It's a bit high but not so much that Hemingway can't go up and get it. (CA+, 2, protection 0/3, Smith, Schofield, Molk)|
|M48||4||2||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||3-3-5 stack||Run||Speed option||Robinson||7|
|NT goes right by Omameh but is not flat enough to make that count. Molk(+1) slides down the line, finds no one to block, and sets up. He never actually impacts the LB twisting from the inside but delays him with his presence. Lewan(+2) hates the playside donkey, donkeying him into the donkeyground. Koger(+1) kicks out the LB on the end; Robinson slashes up for the first.|
|RUN+: Lewan(2), Molk, Robinson, Koger.||RUN-:|
|O45||1||10||Shotgun twin TE twins||1||2||2||3-3-5 over||Run||QB power||Robinson||34|
|Robinson sees something he likes and checks. This flips the RB to the strongside; Michigan runs power over there. SDSU twisting, I think. Barnum(+1) adjusts to the twisting DL over him, kicking him down the line and into the guy next to him. That erases both. Lewan(+1), Koger(+1), and Watson(+1) are two on three on guys on the strongside POA and blow those two off the ball. The combination is a cavernous cutback lane for Robinson(+2) that he takes. Molk(+1) has wandered out to the first down line, where he takes out a safety; Robison accelerates behind and is again angling away from the last man when someone trips him from behind.|
|RUN+: Molk, Barnum(2), Lewan, Koger, Watson, Robinson(2)||RUN-:|
|O11||1||10||I-Form Big||2||2||1||3-3-5 over||Run||Power off tackle||Toussaint||9|
|SDSU misaligns and does not adjust to TE motion. Lewan(+2) annihilates and pancakes the playside DE. McColgan(+1) kicks out EMLOS. Koger(-1) releases into the MLB and actually gets his butt kicked, falling backwards. This is fortunate as it impedes the progress of the backside DE, who Molk(-1) bumped but did not seriously delay. Toussaint(+1) zips into the hole, steps through an arm tackle, accelerates once clear, and nears the goal line.|
|RUN+: Lewan(2), McColgan, Toussaint||RUN-: Koger, Molk|
|O2||2||1||Goal line||2||3||0||Goal line||Run||Power off tackle||Toussaint||1|
|SDSU guesses right and gets linemen into the backfield by diving; not much you can do there. This could still make it if Barnum(-1), the puller, doesn't whiff between two linebackers. Toussaint's following him and manages to split those two guys for a moment before they rope him down. Run-: Barnum|
|O1||1||G||Goal line||2||3||0||Goal line||Run||Naked boot||Robinson||1|
|Does not fool two guys on the edge; fools everyone else. Schofield(+1) is left standing, realizes what's happening, and gets out to wall off the interior guy who knows what's going on.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-0, EOH|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M20||1||10||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||3-4 tight||Run||Zone read dive||Smith||0|
|No safeties. A 3-4 front and man on the WRs. They twist two DL, getting a guy in to roar down the line like an unblocked EMLOS on a scrape. They also have a linebacker forcing the handoff. Schofield(-1) is beaten badly by the playside DE. DE is in the hole ready to tackle; Smith(-1) should have cut it up behind that block, but realistically that's not much better. Too many guys when you've got five blockers against seven defenders. RPS -2. RUN-: Schofield, Smith|
|M20||2||10||Shotgun 2TE twins||1||2||2||3-4 base||Run||QB power||Robinson||8|
|Huge hole as Koger(+1) and Huyge(+0.5) cave in the playside DE; blitzing LB comes outside and is kicked out by Smith(+0.5). Robinson hits it straight up. Schofield(+1) was pulling and got a downfield block that buries a DL; Koger gets his extra half-point by moving out into the second level. RPS +1; this was wide open.|
|RUN+: Koger, Huyge(0.5), Schofield, Smith(0.5)||RUN-:|
|M28||3||2||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||3-4 tight||Run||QB inside zone||Robinson||7|
|Twist stunt by the playside DE and NT. Schofield(+1) manages to adjust, pushing the DE past the play and giving a last lunge once on his knees that gets that guy to the ground; Molk(+1) rides the twisting NT way out of the play; Denard(+1) sees the crease and hits it. Huyge(+1) got a great driving block on the backside DE; Koger(-0.5) lost the backside LB; Omameh got a decent shove on the MLB. Denard has room for the first and can grab some extra yards before Koger's guy makes an ankle tackle.|
|RUN+: Schofield, Molk, Huyge, Robinson||RUN-: Koger(0,5)|
|M35||1||10||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||3-4 tight||Run||Zone read keeper||Robinson||-3|
|Major error by Robinson(-3), who was definitely covered and should have given. Toussaint looked like he had a lane for either some yards or a very large number of yards. He manages to pop outside and looks like he will be able to run to the corner but then compounds his error by stopping and trying to cut back against the grain. No sale. Just run to the corner, man, it's not like this SDSU DE is going to catch you. RUN-: Robinson(3)|
|M32||2||13||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||3-4 base||Pass||Rollout curl||Jackson||Int|
|Rolling the pocket. I don't know why. This is "smash," which is similar to a curl-flat concept with the outside receiver running a circle route and the inside guy running a corner, but it's against man and Denard stares it down, allowing the underneath guy to sink into the route. It's picked off. It didn't help that the rolling pocket cuts off his reads, makes it harder to find spaces to run, and exposes both backs to cut blocks they miss, pressuring Denard. Stop rolling the pocket, fergodsakes. (BR, 0, protection 1/3, Toussaint, Smith, RPS -2... this route got no receivers open and got Denard pressured.)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 21-0, 12 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M24||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||3-3-5 over||Run||QB power||Robinson||4|
|Lewan(+2) obliterates the playside DE. He is not slanting and he ends up on his chest yards away from where he started. His block is so good it's a problem for Schofield, who gets clipped by the donkey Lewan is hating and can't get out on the MLB. File under one of those things. Omameh(-2) should be there to pick up the slack but even though it looks like he looks right at him he moves on to someone else. Instead of hitting a crease up the middle Denard has to bounce away from the MLB, robbing Hopkins of his angle on the other LB. Koger(+1) got a good driving kickout that put a guy on his butt, too.|
|RUN+: Lewan(2), Koger(2)||RUN-: Omameh(2)|
|M28||2||6||Shotgun twins twin TE||1||2||2||3-3-5 under||Pass||PA FB flat||Koger||Inc|
|Playside LB gets straight upfield, pressuring Denard. This opens up the FB flat for probably first down yardage; Denard misses entirely. (IN, 0, protection N/A)|
|M28||3||6||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||3-3-5 even||Pass||TE Hitch||Koger||Int|
|Roundtree starts in the backfield before motioning out. SDSU sends three; they get picked up and provide a lane upfield. RUN! You don't run. Y U NO RUN. He throws it to a covered Koger and I believe the DB does bat this skyward; he had Dileo coming open on a not covered hitch and he's DENARD ROBINSON RUN. (BR, 0, protection 3/3)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 21-0, 10 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M7||1||10||I-Form Big||2||2||1||3-3-5 under||Run||Power off tackle||Toussaint||5|
|Hopkins at FB. Koger(+1) blasts the playside LB/DE well inside. Watson(+1) kicks out the safety type guy outside. Molk(+1) seals one DT; Schofield momentarily does the same to the other but lets him spin off. Hopkins bashes into a LB a couple yards downfield as Lewan(+1) blows out a LB. Omameh(-1) is pulling around into this cavernous space and runs directly into Hopkins. If he pulls inside of Hopkins he gets a block and Toussaint can hit it up for seven or eight. As it is he bumps Hopkins and Toussaint bumps him. Toussaint has to bounce outside, which Omameh also does; this is where Lewan has kicked his linebacker . Buncha dudes converge.|
|RUN+: Koger, Molk, Lewan, Watson||RUN-: Omameh, Schofield|
|M12||2||5||Shotgun twin TE twins||1||2||2||3-3-5 under||Run||QB power||Robinson||6|
|Same check that led to the post-fourth-and-two touchdown earlier, with Smith flipping sides and Michigan running at the heavy side. Lewan(+1) and Schofield double the playside DT, eventually depositing him three yards downfield in a heap. Watson(+1) scoops the playside DE-ish person with Koger, getting him sealed. Koger eventually passes him off; Omameh(+0.5) does whack him on his pull. Still not getting out into the second level there but he blocked someone. Molk(+1) has sealed away the backside DT so Robinson can just run up the backs of his OL until he nears the first down and jump over them to get it.|
|RUN+: Lewan, Schofield, Watson, Omameh(0.5), Molk||RUN-:|
|M18||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||3-4 base||Run||Zone read keeper||Robinson||0|
|This is probably a good keep since Toussaint gets annihilated but Koger(-2) just fans out, blocking no one. This leaves a DE unblocked and a twist stunt gets another guy free to contain from the inside and Denard has little choice but to go down near the LOS. RPS -2... defense had this beaten up even without the Koger fan. RUN-: Koger(2), Huyge|
|M18||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||3-3-5 under||Run||QB iso||Robinson||3|
|Another twist stunt is handled better, with Molk(+1) and Schofield(+1) blowing one twistee down the line and Omameh(+1) picking off the other one. It looks like Robinson is about to burst through the small crease provided when he's hacked down from behind by a guy who got upfield of Lewan(-3), beat him, got up, and tackled. That should never happen.|
|RUN+: Omameh, Molk, Schofield||RUN-: Lewan(3)|
|M21||3||7||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||3-3-5 stack||Pass||Screen||Smith||32|
|SDSU sends five and they all suck upfield. Grady's in the slot and has press man over him; he takes that guy away from the play and blocks the spying MLB. That's seven defenders gone. Denard dumps it off to Smith and he's got a convoy with nothing to do. I guess I would like Smith to maybe set up his blocks a little better here but you never know when you're going to get cut down from behind. (CA, 3, screen, RPS +3)|
|O47||1||10||I-Form||2||1||2||3-3-5 stack||Run||Power off tackle||Smith||0|
|SDSU plays to spill, shooting the playside LB down the line and blowing up McColgan(-2), who topples backwards. Koger(-1) ran past the first threat, and those guys tackle. RUN-: McColgan(2), Koger|
|O47||2||10||Shotgun trips TE||1||1||3||3-3-5 stack||Pass||PA quick seam||Dileo||18|
|Zone fake to the quick seam, ain't no linebackers, nails Dileo, catch, first down. (CA+, 3, protection N/A, RPS +2)|
|O29||1||10||I-Form||2||1||2||3-3-5 under||Run||Dive fake to pitch||Smith||1|
|We never run the dive, LB gets out on it, Smith doesn't do anything but run OOB, grumble grumble this play.|
|O28||2||9||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||3-3-5 under||Run||Zone read dive||Smith||2|
|Twist stunt dominates Schofield(-2), who gets shoved back into Smith after a correct handoff Smith(+1) manages to get past the LOS after keeping his balance on the bump and accelerating into the gap left by the stunt.|
|RUN+: Smith||RUN-: Schofield(2)|
|O26||3||7||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||3-3-5 even||Run||Speed option||Robinson||3|
|This is not a great check to the short side of the field on third and seven, but it's also a missed cut from Robinson as Schofield(+1) and Lewan(+1) had comboed the backside DT and Denard had a huge cutback lane he does not see. Instead he goes playside, where Watson(-1) couldn't do much with his man; he gets out on the edge and allows one of the LBs to flow up on Robinson without opening the pitch. Denard does cut up, but late, and guys come off now-bad blocking angles when he has to go behind because of the safety charging on him.|
|RUN+: Schofield, Lewan||RUN-: Robinson, Watson|
|Drive Notes: Missed FG(40), 3 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M30||1||10||I-Form Big||2||2||1||3-3-5 stack||Run||Power off tackle||Hopkins||8|
|No twist stunt and M still runs the same thing; with Watson's motion and little reaction from SDSU they are misaligned and have little chance to stop this. (RPS +1) Watson kicks out the EMLOS as Lewan and Schofield double on the pinched-in DT. Easy all around. Koger(-0.5) gets a free release and does a crappy job blocking the playside LB but that's okay because McColgan(+1) and Omameh are there to help on this one dude. Hopkins runs up dudes' backs before taking a stiff shot from a filling safety and fumbling.|
|RUN+: McColgan||RUN-: Koger, Hopkins(3)|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 21-0, 2 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M20||1||10||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||3-4 tight||Run||Zone read dive||Smith||-2|
|Twist stunt screws Michigan. Schofield(-1) gets knocked back by his guy and Molk can't do anything about the guy disengaging over the top; no cutback with a guy slanting behind and a player for Denard. Smith is nailed by the twister. RPS -2. RUN-: Schofield|
|M18||2||12||Ace twins||1||2||2||3-3-5 even||Pass||PA Deep post||Roundtree||Inc|
|Play action. Both safeties are bailing at the snap because it's second and twelve but somehow they manage to let Roundtree behind them. Robinson lets it go over the top but is just long. (IN, 0, protection ½, Toussaint)|
|M18||3||12||Shotgun trips||1||1||3||3-3-5 stack||Pass||Dumpoff||Smith||5|
|Plenty of time; Robinson can find no one open. Robinson thinks about running but he's about to get tackled so he slings a dumpoff to Smith. He's immediately tackled. (TA, 3, protection 3/3)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 21-7, 14 min 4th Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M8||1||10||I-Form Big||2||2||1||3-3-5 under||Run||Power off tackle||Toussaint||11|
|So the hidden reason this play works: Watson holds a dude who beat him badly. Refs +2. Anyway, same thing as earlier Hopkins power that worked: motion Watson to the strong side, watch SDSU fail to react, run power at it. Koger(-1) gets slanted under and his guy bangs Omameh, who goes backwards and bangs Toussaint. Watson(-2) is beaten by his LB and flings him to the ground without a call, otherwise this ends two yards in the backfield. The hold gives Toussaint a bounce, which he takes. It should be noted that if this play managed to go where it was supposed to, Lewan(+1), McColgan(+1), and Schofield(+1) had all gotten great blocks.|
|RUN+: Lewan, Schofield, McColgan||RUN-: Watson(2), Koger|
|M19||1||10||I-Form Big||2||2||1||3-3-5 under||Run||Power off tackle||Toussaint||-1|
|This time they just line up with Watson over Koger, no motion, and the same LB who just got held shoots into the backfield past McColgan(-1) as a twist stunt gets a lineman past Huyge(-1) and the pulling Omameh(-1) and the MLB runs past Lewan(-1). Three unblocked guys meet Toussaint in the backfield. RPS -2. RUN-: McColgan, Lewan, Huyge,|
|M18||2||11||I-Form||2||1||2||3-3-5 stack||Run||Power off tackle||Smith||0|
|Playside DE slides outside when he sees the downblock, avoiding Huyge(-1) entirely. Koger(-1) has to take him and doesn't do well with it; since two OL are now blocking no one there are two LBs for the single pulling Schofield since McColgan had to kick a dude out. RUN-: Koger, Huyge|
|M18||3||11||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||3-3-5 stack||Pass||Dig||Roundtree||Inc|
|Denard has a very tight, NFL-style window he can fit it in over a level in a zone here and wings it high. Chad Henne could make this throw... some of the time. It would be a DO if complete, and he did find the one small window in which he could hope to pick up the first here. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 21-7, 10 min 4th Q. Boy do I hate this drive. So, so hard. On the next SDSU drive the announcers will complain about not running any time off the clock. But... but... they used power?|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M43||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||3-4 base||Run||QB iso||Robinson||30|
|Twist stunt. Schofield(+1) initially has trouble with it, giving ground, but does lock out the DT and eventually pancake him Molk(+1) tracks and kicks the guy coming around. That combo means cutback. This is possible because Koger(+1) kicked out the backside EMLOS. Huyge(+2) dominates his DE, and Omameh(+2) pops out on a MLB. By the time Robinson cuts back behind the twist stunt Huyge and Omameh are essentially carrying their guys downfield. He has an absolute cavern. By the time these guys stop moving backwards they're almost at the first down line! Robinson into the secondary where I give him a token +1 for being fast as hell.|
|RUN+: Schofield, Molk, Koger, Huyge(2), Omameh(2), Robinson||RUN-:|
|O27||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||3-3-5 even||Run||Zone read counter||Toussaint||11|
|RR-era play with the H-back peeling backside to pick off EMLOS and the RB hitting the hole that leaves hard. Schofield(+1) blocks the playside DE inside. Koger(+1) kicks out EMLOS; Lewan(+1) donkeys a linebacker, Toussaint(+1) makes one hard cut and is free.|
|O16||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||3-3-5 stack||Run||Zone read counter||Toussaint||9|
|Different D means blocking doesn't work nearly as well. Huyge(-1) has a guy right over him and releases downfield; this means that guy is creeping down the LOS. Koger(-1) probably should block him but goes for the kickout on the contain guy on Robinson. There is nowhere to go for Toussaint(+2) until he takes a lovely jab step into the unblocked DE. DE slows a bit to form for a tackle. More importantly, the NT—who Omameh(+1) is blocking well but blocking to the wrong side now that everything is all futzed—sees it and fights outside. Toussaint then starts running back towards the nominal playside, where Molk(+0.5) and Schofield(+0.5) took on a blitzing LB, stalled his momentum, and start driving him downfield. Toussaint runs up their backs until the pile stops.|
|O7||2||1||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||3-3-5 stack||Run||Zone read counter||Smith||7|
|This is what a 3-3-5 is supposed to be: three man front, late arriving fourth from unpredictable direction. This time MLB is 3 tech, and he zooms upfield of Omameh(+1); Omameh kicks him out admirably. Blitzer is shooting the gap behind a slanting NT, expecting Smith will end up there. He thinks about it, then sees Omameh's block on the MLB, bouncing past a diving tackle attempt impressively. Another guy is coming at him, bro, and he stops on a dime, running through his arm tackle, stumbling. The last guy has gone to his knees to take him down; Smith powers through him for the final two yards. Bad. Ass.|
|RUN+: Smith(3), Omameh(2)||RUN-:|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 28-7, 6 min 4th Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M33||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||3-3-5 over||Run||Zone read counter||Toussaint||6|
|Opens right up; Molk(+2) takes on a DT and plows him back. Huyge(+1) gets a reach on the other DT, though he was slanting to him. Omameh(+1) shoots out on a linebacker; Toussaint(-1) misses the cut behind and runs into an unblocked LB.|
|RUN+: Molk(2), Omameh, Huyge||RUN-: Toussaint|
|M39||2||4||I-Form Big||2||2||1||3-4 base||Run||Power off tackle||Toussaint||-4|
|LB shoots into McColgan(-2) who again buckles backwards, causing a pile that sucks in the puller. Toussaint bounces but is tackled. I mean, really, if power loses yards in this situation... RUN-: McColgan(2)|
|M35||3||8||Shotgun twins twin TE||1||2||2||3-3-5 under||Run||QB power||Robinson||2|
|Okay, I'm not going to nail people for a meaningless run here. I will mention that Miles Burris was very impressive and I bet he gets drafted in the mid rounds at least. Huyge whiffs on him here, robbing Denard of a possible cutback.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 28-7, 2 min 4th Q|
That was okay.
Weekly run game breakdown. Hit me.
I cut out two goal-line carries from the one as distorting and didn't count one broken play out of the I (it lost a yard), leaving the following:
- Eight power plays from the I: 3.5 YPC
- One dive-fake-to-pitch: 1 yard
- 1 QB draw: 19 yards
- 1 QB inside zone: 7 yards
- 4 QB iso: 10 YPC
- 7 QB power: 8.8 YPC
- 4 speed option: 17 YPC
- 4 zone read counter: 8.3 YPC
- 11 inside zone read plays: 5.5 YPC
Under center YPC: 3.2.
Shotgun YPC: 8.8
None of the power plays were in short yardage situations. Five were on first and ten, one was on second and eleven, one was on second and four. Five of the seven were "big" formations with two TEs and one WR.
Running power under center sucks, full stop. It sucks against a terrible run defense on first and ten. It sucks even more when Michigan puts two tight ends on the field. There is no reason to do it—any theories about wearing the defense down have to account for the fact that when you run for 3.2 YPC you do not wear the defense down because it is not on the field. This is not just because you can run Denard a lot better from the shotgun: RBs averaged 6.9 YPC on carries from it.
And the under center numbers would have looked even worse if Watson was flagged for a blatant hold on Toussaint's bounce-off-the-OL 11-yarder.
people don't go that way by themselves
I cringe every time a fullback hits the field.
That's depressingly consistent.
Speaking of depressingly consistent, let's talk about inconsistency.
Don't do this to me.
[Hover over column headers for explanation of abbreviation.]
|2009, All Of It||1||7||6(2)||3(1)||4||4||-||-||?||44%|
|Notre Dame '11||6||7(1)||1||6(1)||5||1||1||1||-||50%|
Four games and we have a trend: a 15% reduction in Denard's DSR despite laying a lower caliber of competition than the common opponents we winnowed last year down to. Michigan called 42 passes in last year's ND game, a number that is completely incomprehensible this year. The regression: it's real, it's depressing, it's got to get fixed in the next two weeks if we're going to capitalize on the Big Ten sucking more than a sucky bunch of sucks have ever sucked before.
Just the one drop, but it was a drag: the Koger quick seam that was going for 20 if caught.
For the OL, keep in mind that Michigan had 44 carries that averaged 7.3 yards an attempt. Numbers ho.
|Lewan||15||4||11||MOST EXTREME DONKEY ELIMINATION|
|Barnum||6||3||3||Only played about half the game.|
|Molk||16.5||2||14.5||I guess that stuff about no big plus days from him does not apply to tiny teams who are tiny.|
|Omameh||14.5||5||9.5||Ditto him: his lack of POWER was irrelevant because the guys over him were like 250, tops.|
|Huyge||9.5||3.5||6||Surprising amount of power run over him.|
|Schofield||10.5||5||5.5||Erratic but not a huge dropoff.|
|Watson||7||2||5||Did surprisingly well; will it hold up outside of the Lollipop Guild?|
|Koger||10||8||2||Too many misses.|
|TOTAL||79||32.5||46.5||+41 last week against EMU, FWIW. Expect something similar this weekend.|
|Robinson||8||6||2||I should probably just give him +10 to start for being ridiculously fast.|
|Toussaint||6||1||5||Darting runs for nice yardage. Same YPC as Smith w/ long of 11 instead of 32.|
|Smith||8.5||5||3.5||Big chunk of the minus his fumble.|
|McColgan||3||5||-2||Got rocked on two separate power plays.|
|TOTAL||31||9||22||Contributions from non-Denards: can they last?|
|Protection||16||8||66%||Team 2, Smith 2, Toussaint 2, Schofield 1, Molk 1|
|RPS||13||15||-2||Twist stunts were a problem.|
So: epic thumping delivered by that offensive line, as you would expect given the size of the opposition. Michigan's problems came on a lot of twist stunts. Denard had 200 yards on 21 carries and I give him a +2, which is laughable even to me. I gave him a –3 for one bad keep read that he compounded by not getting to the corner with his speed; instead he held up and got tackled for a three yard loss. He also missed a couple of gaping cuts and some of the holes he had to run in were ridiculous. Like this one:
He did get a +1 for the cut but by the end of this play Huyge and Omameh will deposit their guys on the first down line. So… yeah. Give it up for the OL.
I thought they were totally overrated?
They suck out loud at running power from the I, if that's what you're asking, and might suck out loud running it from the shotgun against bigger teams, but you don't rush for 320 yards with a bad offensive line. When permitted to do what they do they do it well. When asked to do what they don't do they don't do it well. SCIENCE!
Meanwhile: how often have you thought about Taylor Lewan this year? Not often, right? Mostly when he takes some donkey and punches it so hard in the nose shards of cartilage come out the back of its donkeyhelmet, right? (In a non-personal-foul acquiring way, of course.) That is the mark of a great left tackle. There hasn't been a whisper of pressure from the left side all year.
Power! We use power.
You know the drill: we can sort of do it from the shotgun with the extra blocker/more spread out environment, but going big, as we do frequently and inexplicably, is a recipe for second and long. Even when it works it's not exactly because we're dominating guys. This was the setup on the last carry Hopkins is going to get for a while, an eight-yard power:
They ran off the right side of the line. Notice that Steve Watson has motioned to the strong side, where there are three SDSU players to the five on the weak side. SDSU does not slant. With the fullback that gives Michigan five blockers on three guys. Even our wack power running game can make that work.
If they are going to give up the free yards we can take the free yards. If they aren't… eh… not so much, and I'm talking like one yard not so much, not the four yard not so much that is the version of Denard not so much.
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tTSAPFTILS DOES NOT ROLL OFF THE TONGUE
What happened to the zone read?
As was expected/feared, the momentary light of day Denard saw does seem to be an effect of facing spread derp defensive coordinators. If Denard got a pull read on Saturday it happened maybe once; the two times he did pull he got zero and negative three yards. Tweaks are required to keep it going.
Weekly inquisitiveness about what's wrong with Denard.
There are infinite theories, all of which have some validity. Here's one from that BWS picture pages referenced earlier:
In Rodriguez's option offense, the focus was always to pick up yards and stay ahead of the down and distance. Any time they did take a shot downfield, it was the QB Oh Noes that were wide open. In this pro style offense, the coaching staff expects Michigan's players to simply out perform the defense, rather than keeping them guessing with simple routes and reads that would produce 5-6 yard gains and possible yards after catch*.
There's nothing wrong with this style of offense if you have the players to do it (the Chad Hennes and Braylon Edwards of the world). Michigan. however, is loaded with players that aren't necessarily able to out perform their counterparts, rather, they're able to make something out of nothing. Denard needs to recognize the cushion that the weakside defenders are giving Dileo and Hemingway and pass on the single coverage against Roundtree, who isn't much of a leaper.
I sort of agree but don't think the fault is on Robinson. The coverage matchup is exactly what Michigan expects and Robinson can't know how Roundtree will do with it by the time he throws the ball. You don't check away from a fade against one-on-one press coverage. You check to it. Denard threw a decent ball and the corner played it well. That's life when you are taking low-percentage shots down the sideline at Roy Roundtree.
Why you'd throw this at Roundtree is something of a mystery, but Borges is used to having pro-style receivers, not Purdue++ guys, on the outside. I don't like the playcall, don't like having Roundtree on the outside—it's killing his production—and don't like using Henne+Edwards plays when your assets are elsewhere. To me this kind of thing is on Borges. To his credit, Borges seems to acknowledge this:
Can you talk about Denard’s progress as a passer? “Well, it’s a work in progress with our offense. That’s the thing … because it’s different. Now part of that, too -- and I’m going to take the rap for that a little bit. I’ve got to get him some better throws. I’ve got to put him in position to complete some more balls so he can gain some confidence and gain some rhythm. Get in a little bit of a zone. He’s a capable passer, you know, but as a playcaller you have to consider everything we’re calling in terms of the passing game. This kid really threw the ball well in two-a-days and threw the ball well in spring. He did. All his numbers were better numbers than now. I think game situations are different. As he learns about how to do this, you’ll see progress. Because he does have a good arm, and he has an accurate arm when he’s comfortable. But part of that has to be my responsibility to get him in better situations to complete some throws.”
He's still getting his head around an offense where you don't need to seek out big deep chunks as aggressively because just you can stay on the field with your 6+ YPC running game.
Pick an offensive lineman, special commendation to Lewan and Molk. Also the collective tailback.
Air Denard again, I-form power.
What does it mean for Minnesota and the future?
Michigan's going to plow the Gophers like they did the last two opponents. That's not that interesting.
Down the road, the Denard conundrum continues. Is he injured? Incapable of throwing these new routes? Uncomfortable? Was last year just a mirage? The answer to that series of fragments is the difference between contending for the division and contending for a middling bowl game. We just don't know, dude. I'm still clinging to the hope that there's something wrong with him physically.
Against Minnesota I'm hoping to see some dinkier routes Denard can hit in rhythm and no new wrinkles in the run game—none should be necessary. Can Michigan break 4 YPC running from under center against a tire fire of a team? Let's hope not!
|Junior Hemingway||Sr.*||Martavious Odoms||Sr.||Roy Roundtree||Jr.*||Kevin Koger||Sr.|
|Jeremy Jackson||So.||Jeremy Gallon||So.*||Kelvin Grady||Sr.*||Brandon Moore||Jr.*|
|Drew Dileo||So.||Jerald Robinson||Fr.*||Terrance Robinson||Jr.*||Steve Watson||Sr.*|
Yeah, I know the depth chart lists a fullback and crams the wideouts into two spots, but Al Borges keeps saying shotgun and wideouts and even Lloyd Carr rocked three-wide for much of his later period. The slot lives here, for at least another year or two. The slot lives on like whoah, actually: six of the nine guys on that depth chart can't get on the rides at Cedar Point, and one of the exceptions is the returning starter in the… slot.
So they're going to be short. And you should take the above depth chart with as much of a grain of salt as I did the official one and its lack of a slot and placement of Martavious Odoms on the third string. Any of these guys could pop up anywhere save Hemingway, Jackson, and Robinson, who are outside guys exclusively. It sounds like everyone is an outside guy now:
"The difference in this offense is there aren't really slot receivers as much as outside receivers — they play everywhere on the field and we move them around," Hecklinski said. "The switch is big because of all the little things asked of them - they have to convert routes, pick up checks and route changes and coverages."
That is a lot more complicated than what they did last year when the entire passing game was a constraint play. This is necessary to move the offensive forward. I'll discuss it more in the quarterback section, but when Denard's legs were removed from the equation on passing downs YPC dropped to an ugly 5.7—not much better than the 2008 disaster.
There are downsides to this. For example, in the two minute drill stuff after the punting demo Jeremy Gallon twice broke off option routes only to see the quarterbacks chuck it deep. There's going to be an adjustment period here. Roundtree:
“You have to have the timing down in this offense because if the timing is off, then the quarterback is off,” junior receiver Roy Roundtree said. “Our receivers want the ball, so we got to get open and keep the timing good for Denard.
Where is that timing at now?
“We’re getting there,” he said. “We still have two more weeks to get ready.”
Timing's always important and in the long term this passing offense will be more robust. I just hope we get plenty of last year's stuff in appropriate situations.
|like Marquise Walker|
|we totally planned this|
|drags a toe|
|also totally planned this|
|a back-shoulder leap|
|little high, no problem|
|cover zero in the alps|
|inexplicable yac knack|
|Purdue orbit step|
|Illinois Houdini act TD|
|tough to tackle|
|yac knack attack|
|not a replay of YKA|
Over the summer Junior Hemingway ventured into the heart of a South American jungle to perform an arcane rite that would free him of the injury jinx that's plagued him since his arrival Ann Arbor. It worked. It wrought a price on Martavious Odoms, but it worked. Hemingway hasn't been laid up with mono, an ankle sprain, a shoulder problem, or the Black Death in quite a long while.
If he can manage that through the season he's going to end the year with a ton of catches. Even if the Michigan offense doesn't go full MANBALL right away continued development from Denard Robinson will make difficult pro-style throws that frequently target outside wide receivers more feasible; Borges's offense will make them more frequent. Combine that with Hemingway's main skill and there will be jump balls for the taking.
That's convenient. That main skill is being enormous and jumpy. As the table says, he's like Marquise Walker. He's not a guy who's going to blaze past the secondary. There's going to be a corner in the vicinity. If it's going well they're going to watch Hemingway make the catch anyway. What you see at right emphasizes that theme: there's always a guy around, but he's often six inches too short to do anything about it.
A number of the catches are back-shoulder throws that don't necessarily seem intentional. If they aren't they might become so as Borges emphasizes a more sophisticated, they-tried-to-man-up-Crab passing offense.
The canonical example follows.
It might be a mirage conjured by playing next to Darryl Stonum for the last three years, but Hemingway does adjust to the ball in the air pretty well. He doesn't get a ton of separation, but his leaping/box-out ability is top shelf. He does do a good job of finding the ball and bringing it in.
He's also got this strange knack for picking up yards after the catch. He's a 230 pound monster who should get tackled on the catch every time, but this fails to happen with some consistency. There was that ridiculous touchdown against Illinois, for one. The highlights above have a few more examples.
Put the inexplicable YAC knack with his ability to snag downfield jump balls and good enough hands (he had four routine drops on 27 opportunities last year—not good—but snagged 3/5 circus attempts—very good) and you've got a solid Big Ten receiver. He'll see his production increase significantly. If he can maintain his 18.5 YPC he'll challenge Roundtree for the most receiving yards on the team. Expect a bit under 1,000 yards from him.
|quicks way past safety|
|will headbutt you|
|extended screen block|
|opens the corner|
|comes back to ball|
|wide open downfield|
|guy on his back no problem|
Martavious Odoms showed up way down the depth chart a few days ago. I'm not buying that. Hoke wants experience, toughness and blocking, and Odoms provides that. He's going to have to put a third wideout on the field, and Odoms is going to be #3 in snaps after Hemingway and Roundtree. So he's a quasi-starter.
He's probably way down the depth chart because his injury thing is becoming a problem. He missed the second half of last year with a broken foot, spent a big chunk of fall camp sporting a cast, showed up with his shoulder in a sling in a CTK episode, and apparently has another cast on now. In context it seems like his depth chart demotion is a health issue and he'll bubble up (HA!) when and if that gets resolved.
When on the field Odoms has been a reliable, unthrilling option. Odoms is from Pahokee, so he's small and would headbutt a goat if he thought it would get him two yards. His elusiveness is just okay—Roundtree and Hemingway probably have better YAC stats. His hands are good. Over the past two years he's 26/27 on routine catches, 7/10 on somewhat difficult ones, and 2/4 on very difficult ones. On the downside, his lack of height makes him a tougher target. Sometimes balls that Hemingway would grab zing way over his head.
The total package is a useful player but not one that's going to show up in the opposing team's gameplan. If healthy he'll at least double his 16 catches from last year; 45 is the guess here.
Jackson; Robinson (not that Robinson, or that one, or that one)
Since we've shuffled Roundtree off to his old position, there's only two guys bigger than a breadbox left. Jeremy Jackson is the one you've seen. The son of running backs coach and hyperbole enthusiast Fred, Jackson is a lanky, "lumbering" possession receiver who seems like the cream of the four-person WR recruiting class of two years ago. That's not a big hill to climb since DJ Williamson transferred, Ricardo Miller moved to tight end, and Jerald Robinson can't get on the depth chart.
He only managed four catches last year but at least they were all against Wisconsin and Ohio State. He'll see his involvement rise as Michigan spreads Stonum's catches around; 15 catches is as good a guess as any. Hope for reliable hands and an ability to get open thanks to his sizeable frame—a poor man's Avant is the goal.
Jerald Robinson also exists, but not on the depth chart. His recruiting profile makes him out to be a rangy leaper with good hands and some upside on deep balls. His omission from the depth chart was a surprise after the coaches and teammates had spent time talking him up:
“I feel like he’s going to get time,” Roundtree said. “I talked to him the other day, like, ‘Look man, this camp, you got to stay focused, don’t get down because your legs are sore. That’s supposed to happen.’ Jerald’s been having a great camp because he wants to learn and he wants to get better. He can play.” …
“Jerald doesn’t know how good Jerald can be,” wide receivers coach Jeff Hecklinski said. “There’s a lot of times where he’s really, really come along. It goes back to this is just a process.
“There’s some things he looks really, really good at, and there’s some things that we’re going to continue to work with him on.”
There were reports that Robinson did not Get It and may be in the process of doing so, FWIW. Hecklinski evidently thinks he has not fully acquired It and will wait to put him on the field until he has safely done so. He's a guy to look at for next year. Borges says "he seems like he has a future here," which is not a present here. He's just a redshirt freshman, after all.
Though the short guys are probably going to play outside as much as they do inside I'll cover them in the slot section.
Roy Roundtree is an eventful dude whether he's hand-wavingly wide open for a touchdown or dooming Michigan to turn the ball over by dropping the ball. Thanks to a massive game in the insane triple-OT Illinois thriller he finished as the Big Ten's second-leading receiver.
A large chunk of that is thanks to Denard's legs. There's a certain theme running through many of Roundtree's long receptions: desolation. When Denard catches the safety the resulting throw looks like post-apocalyptic football. Where is everyone? They're dead. Let's run through this tumbleweed-infested secondary.
That did not take a ton of skill on Roundtree's part.
But there is a reason he leapt off the bench during the 2009 Michigan State game and has been the favorite target of whoever's at QB since. For one, he's more slippery than you'd think. Michigan's recruited a horde of 5'9" YAC guys but it's Roundtree who gets targeted on bubbles. It's easy to see why:
|the worst waldo|
|blindingly wide open|
|Indiana oh noes|
|breaks wide open|
|safety just barely gets him|
|fourth down TD|
|gets crushed; hangs on|
|20 against UW|
|guy on his back|
|over the shoulder|
|jukes two different guys|
|smokes him on a juke|
|shakes CB for TD|
Odoms doesn't have much like that on his resume and Gallon is just a rumor. Roundtree's only competition is Hemingway's inexplicable YAC knack.
And his hands are pretty good despite the drops—four in 41 opportunities in the first 11 games last year. He gets targeted a lot. They could be better, sure, but I think everyone remembers them more because instead of converting a first down after Roundtree drops a ball Michigan immediately turned the ball over on three separate occasions. Those tend to burn themselves into your head. Hemingway had the same number of drops in 27 opportunities last year but you only hear about Roundtree's fumblefingers moments. Not that they don't rankle. It's just that I think our subjective memories are not 100% reliable in this matter.
If they move him outside he'll lose his spot as the designated hand-wavingly-open dude jetting past safeties. I think that would be a mistake since he's an easier target to hit than any the other options. When things opened up for the slot last year they often opened so wide that the only things that mattered were 1) how easy is it for Denard to hit him and 2) being faster than a tight end so no one catches him. Roundtree fit on both counts.
Meanwhile, moving outside may make him vulnerable to getting jammed at the line. As a slight guy who hasn't had to deal with that much in his career I can see that going poorly. A corner can get into him—under him—and disrupt his business. He's probably still the second best option out there in those circumstances; he's just not going to be as effective.
Roundtree's production will drop this year as Michigan tries to get Hemingway and Koger more involved. He can't expect set the single-game receiving record every year. He'll still run neck and neck with Hemingway fro the most receiving yards on the team.
If there's one thing that is a must-recycle from last year's preview it's this stunning Kelvin Grady wallpaper:
DOWNLOAD NOW INSTALL NOW KEEP FOREVERRRR
|over the shoulder|
|gets nailed but hangs on|
|a bullet he snags|
|spins to catch it|
|lit up and hangs on|
|designated reverse guy|
|an alley outside|
|just outruns dudes|
I have no memory where that came from, unfortunately. I would like to find this person and see if they have excessively dramatic wallpapers for Nate Brink yet. I bet the text reads "on the BRINK of a REVOLUTION."
Anyway: Grady. He moved over from the basketball team and dropped a lot of balls two years ago, whereupon he was dropped from the lineup when Roy Roundtree burst onto the scene. When Odoms moved outside last year he got another shot and did surprisingly well with it. The hands issues disappeared—while he did have one routine drop on nine attempts he was six of six on more difficult stuff—as he became the designated reverse guy. By the end of the year it was a litte disappointing they hadn't used him more.
Entering his final season Grady's best shot at extensive playing time is based on 1) a lot of three wide and 2) Roundtree playing mostly on the outside. In that situation he's the established veteran. He'd get a crack at screens and seams and whatnot en route to a breakout mini-'Tree year. More likely is a moderately increased role as Roundtree bounces inside and out with around 30 catches.
It could go sour for Grady if Jeremy Gallon translates chatter into playing time. Gallon came to Michigan with a ton of hype and a stunning resemblance to The Wire's Snoop…
Normally this would spell another year on the bench making people wonder what the big deal was all about. Stonum's suspension and the injury curse migrating to Odoms gives him an opening. If you listen to the coaches he seems to be taking advantage of the opportunity.
As a result he passed Odoms on the official depth chart, though this preview assumes that's because of injury. Perhaps more interesting is surging ahead of Jackson and Robinson, who are closer to the strapping downfield leapers the pro-style offense generally prefers. Gallon had seemingly fallen behind Jackson in particular late last year.
(Gallon's special teams contributions are covered in a separate section.)
Sophomore Drew Dileo is basically Wes Welker, of course. He had one catch for three yards a year ago and will probably have to wait another year for some of the small guy logjam to clear before he gets significant time. I can't understand why he's not returning punts since that's supposedly what he was recruited to do and Gallon has been maddening, but there are now two coaching staffs who have come to the same conclusion about the depth chart there.
Finally, Terrance Robinson's still around. He's been conspicuously absent from both press conference chatter and the depth chart. He's been passed by younger guys in Dileo, Gallon, and Jackson. He's probably not going to see time. Here's this catch he had last year, though.
Kevin Koger can't go twenty minutes without someone asking him if he's excited for an increased role in the offense as if he or Martell Webb weren't on the field for 80% of Michigan's snaps last year. The conventional wisdom holds that blocking ain't playin', apparently.
Koger did a lot of that last year and was effective but not stellar. Webb was clearly a superior blocker and was the preferred choice when Michigan got close to the goal line and things got hairy. While Koger was preferred in the passing game, it wasn't by much. His 14 catches were nine more than Webb's five.
Is that going to change this year? If they run the I-form a lot, maybe. That takes the slot off the field and makes the tight end the natural target in the seam areas that are so deliciously open because of Denard's running. I'm not sure how you get opponents to vacate those when you're under center (fake QB draws?), but if anyone can do it it's Denard. When Michigan's in the shotgun he'll have competition from Roundtree, et al., in those zones and it's clear Denard's comfort level is higher with 'Tree.
Koger's lack of participation in the passing game may be his own doing. Two years ago he started the season by making a series of ridiculous catches, then blew all that goodwill and more by catching just 7 of 11 routine opportunities. He was 9/9 last year on those, which helps but still gets him to 16 of 20 all-time— still worse than anyone on the team last year. If he's dropping stuff in practice the lack of attention is not related to the spread. I know there was that one year that Tim Massaqoui broke his hand and Mike DeBord kept throwing to him, but I choose to believe that little wrinkle was unique to The Avalanche.
Koger's role will be up to him. He'll be somewhere between a B- and B+ blocker and will have opportunities to establish himself a major part of the passing game. Our sample size on his hands is still very small and the bad part is now two years removed and he's quite an athlete—his upside is high. I can't help but think he's been held back by things other than Rich Rodriguez's preferences, though. I'm betting on a good but unmemorable senior year.
Moore; weird guy with weird hat and Watson
There are a couple scholarship options behind Koger but they're not particularly encouraging. Despite being a big time recruit, redshirt junior Brandon Moore has hardly been seen on the field outside of baby seal clubbings. Even if he did have a couple of quality options ahead of him on the depth chart, the third tight end should see snaps here and there if he's quality.
More ominous yet has been the total lack of buzz surrounding him in fall. Borges's only mention of the guys behind Koger was when he was directly asked about TEs other than the starter. The result:
I think Brandon Moore has done a nice job. He is still climbing if you know what I mean. He is getting better every single day and Steve Watson is a solid player. I think we’re pretty deep there. I think we’re pretty deep. Because Kog got hurt in the spring, those other guys got a lot of reps.
That seems to be something to file under coachspeak. We'll see; given Moore's physical talents he could surprise.
And then there's Steve Watson, who came in as a tight end, got moved to DE, linebacker, TE again, and then started playing FB—he appears on both depth charts. I imagine he'll get some time near the goal line as a threat out of the backfield and out of necessity when Borges feels the need for a big set. At this point it's hard to think he'll do much with it.
Ricardo Miller's the lone other TE on the roster. After moving from WR he's up to 234 pounds, which is far too little to see the field unless the roof caves in.
Everywhere you go. A reader sends along this BBC news piece on goings-on in Libya featuring this guy at prayer:
CCHA champs and rid of Qaddafi in the same week*—everything's coming up Milhouse!
BONUS: random Mississippi State sweatshirt in different protest. The 2011 Gator Bowl is coming for you, Qadddafi.
*[Michigan hockey guy lives in the liberated east; Qaddafi's still hanging on in the west.]
Vada latest. Vada Murray is home after radiation treatments:
We have never, ever, in our lives felt so scared. We also have never felt so loved. Thank you for the cards, emails, text messages, phone calls & messages on this website; thank you for your continued expressions of love & support. Thank you to the Ann Arbor Police Department for their unwavering love. They give true meaning to the phrase, "Whatever you need, whenever you need it." Thank you for understanding if we don't personally return your message. We both want you to know, we love you back.
Moves. Touch The Banner relates that Rivals relates a couple of position switches: Steve Watson has moved back to tight end and Will Campbell to the defensive line. You're probably thinking "meh" and "duh," but there's an interesting wrinkle:
But unlike Rodriguez and his clunky defensive staff, Campbell will actually be playing the 3-tech defensive tackle position. I can't imagine the conversations in the former defensive staff's meeting rooms. "Well, we've got this 6'5" behemoth with loads of talent, but his one problem is that he can't stay low and get leverage. We just can't figure out what to do with him."
There wasn't a three-tech DT in the 3-3-5 and Campbell wasn't going to play DE, so since he's not so good at NT it's off to offense. I'm not entirely sure this is as much of a slam dunk as TTB does—Campbell has fallen prey to single blocks plenty—but it's at least worth a shot. I'd rather he became an awesome NT but I think it's far more likely he becomes an acceptable three-tech, and either one of those allows Ryan Van Bergen to be the SDE I think Michigan needs him to be if their defensive line is going to be good against the run.
FWIW, Campbell was pretty effective in the goal line set when he could just plow into the backfield. He'll have to do a bit more than get under a guy and drive him back as he falls down if he's going to be an effective player in the other 98 yards of field, though.
Well, yes. It's natural for people to explode when your floppy-haired gritmonster makes two enormous plays that turn a probable loss into a certain win. As the morning's post indicated in the "elsewhere" section, if you don't have a post extolling Zack Novak today you probably don't have a Michigan blog. The Wolverine Blog says "what about the awesome guys?"
Tim Hardaway, Jr. locked up his third straight Big Ten Freshman of the Week honor — no small feat in a conference featuring Jared Sullinger — with a first-half outburst of “en fuego” proportions: four three-pointers in the first five minutes gave Michigan an early cushion that would allow them to weather a big Minnesota run and still enter halftime with a 35-33 lead. Hardaway finished the game leading all scorers with 22 points on 7-11 shooting (5-8 from three) …
It was Michigan’s other difference-maker, Darius Morris, who came through with 11 second-half points — continually finding his way into the paint among Minnesota’s massive front line and finding a way to create baskets — en route to a 17-point, 8-15 shooting, 7-assist performance while committing just one lone turnover.
That's ridiculously efficient and very efficient with ridiculous assist-to-turnover; Morris is also ~60% responsible for Jordan Morgan leading all D-I players in FG% in the last five games. I hesitate when TWB calls Novak a "role player"—Vogrich is a role player—but he's not one of the two lights-out stars that keep Michigan around so Novak can declare winnin' time.
Hardaway's stats are now gross. In his last five games he's made 60% of his threes. Okay, that's a hot streak. It's more than that: since January 9th he's pulled his eFG% up from 42% to 52%. In that stretch of 14 games he's made 48% of his threes. Even if you chuck out the last five games in the other nine he's hit 42%. Over essentially half of Michigan's season—the tough half—Hardaway is hitting half his threes.
30 for 30 on black socks. Jalen Rose tweets this:
That is an ESPN documentary on the Fab Five smack dab in he middle of March. Prepare to be massively conflicted.
God, the Penn State game. That's when it all came crashing down. After a somewhat encouraging performance against Iowa—at least it was encouraging on the ground—Michigan hits the bye week, dumps the mostly 4-3/3-4 sets they'd been using, and comes out in a 3-3-5 that Penn State gashes all day. Before that game PSU couldn't run if you spotted them two guys and three yards, and in the aftermath I blew up. UFR tags included "fffffffuuuuuuuuuuuu," "fire coach x," "greg robinson," "i want a staple gun," "i've got a feeling i'm going to punch the black eyed peas," and "idiocracy."
This bit was particularly painful:
|Line||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M1||1||G||Goal line||3-3-5 stack||Run||Dive||?||1|
|Whatever. This isn't even M's to-date successful goal line package. RPS -1.|
That's right: Michigan ran a stack on first and goal from the one. I bring it up because a reader hit up a coaching clinic featuring PSU's Mike McQueary and reports back:
He used Michigan as an example of the importance of finding a few things as a coach that you can connect with your players on re: scheme, rather than trying to run every kind of scheme with minimal understanding (Less is better).
The hardest thing to watch was a near-goal line stand where PSU ran a Fullback draw into a 3-man front and barely needed any blocking to get the TD. He referred to that as "some knuckleheaded goal-line defense".
I still can't believe RR screwed up his defense enough to get fired. I mean, of all the epic fails in the history of epic fails. All they had to be was mediocre in year three. This is painful:
"This clip makes me feel a little sad for Coach Rodriguez. His offense is nearly impossible to gameplan for, but the defense couldn't get it done"
Etc.: The Wolverine Blog rebuts the Rodriguez-attrition meme. I think the truth lies somewhere in between it and the MNB piece. The problem was that Michigan needed to have a run of below-average attrition after late Carr-era departures and didn't get it. Robocop speaks to the city of Detroit: statue yes. Denard Robinson was a clue on Jeopardy.
Actually. I may be excessively paranoid about Michigan's chances to make the tournament. Joe Sheehan of Basketball Prospects may be a whinging prat about the Big Ten, but I like his ordering of the bubble:
San Diego State
Temple …(and so on and so forth)
Leaving aside the idea that it's preposterous to put Auburn, which has done nothing in the nonconference except lose to Mercer and plays in an almost literally unbelievably bad SEC, ahead of Minnesota and its neutral court win over Louisville: Michigan in front of all those teams bodes well. That is lock-even-with-Iowa-loss right there.
But we have to return to the whinging. This is an incredibly stupid argument:
The middle of this conference is larded with mediocrity, not parity, with records inflated by the 1-17 team at the bottom (of the muddled middle, only Michigan was denied two free wins over the marginally Division I team)
…when combined with this argument:
I can't put excessive weight on the head-to-head matchup because of the lack of a return game. Hey, Big 11, here's an idea: instead of everyone playing two Horizon/MAC teams, play a full round-robin.
Every conference has a bottom feeder or three and the Big Ten's records aren't "inflated" any more than the Pac-10 records are by teams in Oregon or Big East records are by St Johns and Depaul and so forth and so on. Also, how can you bitch about the Big Ten's lack of a full round robin every power conference save the Pac-10 lacks one? The SEC and Big 12 don't even play 18 games! If you want to argue against the conference, fine, but please bring at least one non-idiotic reason. So suffice it to say I'm not putting a huge amount of stock into that ordering.
File under "duh": Cornell, ETSU, UNI, Radford, Morehead St., Siena, VCU, UT-Chattanooga, UNC, Duke, Wake Forest, Clemson, Florida St., Boston College, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas A&M, Texas, Oklahoma St., Michigan St., Illinois, Purdue, Ohio St., Wisconsin, Michigan, Washington, UCLA, Cal, Arizona St., UConn, Pitt, Louisville, 'Nova, Marquette, Syracuse, West Virginia, LSU, Tennessee, Xavier, Dayton, Memphis, Gonzaga, Butler, Utah, BYU.
That's 46 teams. A couple of these teams could conceivably miss (the Ohio St./Wisconsin loser, Michigan, maaaaaaaybe Dayton) but regardless I don't see any way Auburn "passes" any of them.
So that's good. Also, Western Kentucky did secure the Sun Belt autobid and remove their remote at-large hopes from relevance. Bad: Cleveland State took out Butler last night and secured themselves what appears to be a 13 seed. The bubble has shrunk by one team; from the sounds of it right now that's St Mary's spot. The spot of St Mary's. Attempting to turn a possessive into a possessive argh.
On the (slightly relieving) side of things, both Cincinnati and Georgetown saw their tourney aspirations die with thudding losses against Big East doormats. Notre Dame scraped by Rutgers, keeping their remote hopes alive.
Tonight's games of relevance, with your new favorite team bolded:
- DePaul vs Providence, noon. DePaul sucks and went 0-18 in the league this year, but they took out Cinci yesterday and would put a stake through the heart of any Providence at-large hopes if they could pull another upset.
- Baylor vs Nebraska, 12:30 PM. Epke Udoh will enjoy a view from the bench of a 5-11 Big 12 team; M would like Nebraska's faint at-large hopes to flatline.
- West Virginia vs Notre Dame, 7 PM ESPN. The Nonconference Teams Who Hate Michigan Bowl tips at 7; Notre Dame's tourney hopes would go from flatline to vaguely-possible-with-one-more if they pull the upset.
- Iowa State vs Oklahoma State, 7 PM. Eh… Oklahoma State is likely in but if they blow it here they could be in trouble.
Most of your mojo thoughts should be dedicated to a Notre Dame loss. I guess Providence imploding versus DePaul would be the most helpful, but your weird juju rituals are more likely* to swing the result of the ND game.
Tomorrow all this becomes almost totally irrelevant or very, very relevant indeed; if it stays relevant 1) want a blankie and possibly a gun and 2) there are a ton of relevant games.
*(and by this I mean, of course, "not more likely," or at least I did until Sri Lanka happened. Now I believe in everything. Aaargh! What's that! I don't know, but I'm terrified of it!)
Presserizing. Michigan's about to start spring practice and there have been a few injuries and roster adjustments:
Rodriguez confirmed the injuries reported recently — Jonas Mouton (shoulder) and Michael Shaw (sports hernia) — will miss the spring. Offensive lineman Ricky Barnum will play through a wrist problem. … Rodriguez said tight end Steve Watson is switching to defensive end.
No offense to Watson, but that sounds like the death knell for his future as a potential contributor. He's a longshot to ever see meaningful playing time, a la Quintin Patilla, fullback.
Rodriguez said he’s thinking about trying to break the national attendance record for a spring game. Alabama reportedly had about 92,000 two years ago.
That would require… I don't know what. An actual game, for one. And good weather. And pretty much a 180 degree flip from the way the Spring Game was promoted and marketed under Carr, and by "promoted and marketed" I mean "detested and ignored."
Other news from the press conference concerned medical redshirts: Junior Hemingway has his, which we knew, and they applied for redshirts for Kenny Demens and Adam Patterson but haven't heard back yet. Those things are mostly a formality, AFAIK; that would make Demens a freshman and Patterson a junior. There have been rumors Patterson will move inside given the lack of depth at DT, but there's a similar lack of depth at DE. Also:
Vince Helmuth could move from DT to DE if he gets in shape — playing DT gave him “the free reign to eat,” and he “went overboard.”
Also, there is a "noticeable difference" in the size and strength of the guys on the OL according to Barwis. Eeee. Liveblogging at the Daily for more details.