A Thing About Denard And Tate
The new official picture of "Denard Robinson is made of dilithium." Via MVictors.
Yet more on the quarterback situation because that's all anyone is talking about: it seems to me like the correct stance to take in the aftermath of Denard going 9/11 for 191 yards and three touchdowns in the air is to declare Game On. But only that.
I've seen a ton about how Denard is just a better fit for Michigan's offense and Rodriguez has wanted Pat White 2.0 since he got here and Tate is doomed because of the zone read and basically disintegrated over the course of the season and is probably going to transfer as he is destined to by his genetic heritage. I've also seen a lot of people saying "now wait just a minute" to the Forcier doomsayers, and I'm with them:
- Forcier had a midseason lull but two of his best games of the season came against Purdue and Wisconsin. Against UW he was 20 for 26; against Purdue he was a lot closer to 50% but suffered a ton of drops. His trajectory is not straight down. He even looked good against Ohio State when not offering up one of his hair-pulling, soul-destroying turnovers.
- Forcier's main problem on the zone read was making good decisions or fakes. These were made more difficult by the defense focusing on the run game because Forcier's ability to make decisions in the pocket was limited. He pulled the ball way too much, didn't let the fake "ride" a la Juice Williams, and faced down a defensive end as a result. He then juked this guy 80% of the time and picked up positive yardage. If the defense is sufficiently focused on the tailback and Forcier develops his fakes as much as Denard develops his passing, he can be an effective zone read alternative.
- Last year's offensive line was very shaky on the right side, which led to a lot of justified scrambles.
Tate is not out of it by any means, and since the two quarterbacks are so different it looks like the backup will get a large number of snaps anyway.
What the spring game (and spring in general) did was stand the horse race on its nose. Robinson looked better on Saturday. He looked better in the clinic scrimmage, when he was live and splitting first team reps with Forcier. He looked better over the entirety of spring, which is the reason he was afforded the easy matchup Saturday. One 97-yard touchdown to Roy Roundtree might not mean much, but 15 practices does.
The ones-vs-twos is a big deal, but maybe not as big a deal as the few remaining Denard skeptics—still clinging tight to that Betamax stock—have made it. Last year Robinson was having a Man vs Himself battle. Seeing him develop to the point where you need to see a Man vs Man conflict is immense. Hopefully by this time next year we're sending him off to fight Icelandic volcanoes.
Running Backs Are Indeterminate
Another source of persistent unexpressed disagreement in the last couple days: a steady pessimism about Michigan's tailback situation. I haven't seen anyone say "hey how about that run defense"; the assumption is a lack of big runs from the tailbacks means Michigan is going to be putting out some crappy tailbacks next year. I don't think that's necessarily true. Vincent Smith had a tantalizing cameo last year, and he did nothing of note in the spring game. A few carries here or there isn't a whole lot to draw conclusions about, and even so there were a couple of nice runs from Cox.
Michigan isn't going to have the best back in the conference or anything but they've got enough of a stable to have a good running game. And what would a discussion of the tailbacks be without Fred Jackson proclaiming something the best ever?
“I think I’ve got the best blocking tandem, I didn’t say running back tandem, but best blocking tandem I’ve had,” Jackson said. “I’ve got three or four guys that based on the pictures and movies, how you want to see it done. It’s more than I’ve ever had at one time.”
Never change, Fred.
Hell I if know. I'm planning something resembling a UFR and will be able to tell you more after that, but probably not that much with Martin and Woolfolk out and the first-teamers going up against second-string offensive lineman and not blitzing and etc. etc. etc. It's clear this isn't going to be a vintage unit. Latest hint from Woolfolk:
"We're mostly just focusing on zones, which is easier than playing man," said Woolfolk. "But I would like to go back to doing more man coverage and stuff. It's easier, but pertaining to the players we have on defense, that probably makes it easier for us to play. Keeping it simple allows us to play more instead of thinking too much and slowing down. It allows us to react and get to the ball faster."
My hope for the defense is something relatively stout against the run and functional enough in the secondary to force opponents into long drives if they want to score. Average would be fine.
Video Of All Varieties
Highlights and errata:
Here's an ebullient Denard Robinson in the locker room:
"Ebullient" as defined by answers.com: "zestfully enthusiastic." There's plenty more in a diary from Boyz in the Pahokee. TYT has posted an SD torrent; MGoVideo is planning an HD one tomorrow. There is also a browser-crippling version of the latest Inside Michigan Football.
A zillion photographs
If you want more photographs than are crammed into this post, boy howdy are you in luck. AnnArbor.com has a flickr set, as does the Daily. MVictors and Maize and Blue Nation also file photoposts. MnBN found the letters from the top of the press box:
They're outside sections 2 and 44. It's too bad they couldn't find someplace a little more prominent, but at least they're still around. Also… isn't the S the wrong way?
Quarterback Stuff From Teammates
"He’s really been working on his technique," Roundtree said. "All the quarterbacks have, but Denard has really been working on his technique, his touch on the ball instead of throwing it so hard. And this year it shows so far what he did."
More Roundtreee on Robinson:
Roundtree said Saturday actually was Robinson's "second-best" practice of the spring.
"Last scrimmage (a week ago), he did really well," Roundtree said.
Thus both clinic observers giving the starting QB nod to Denard after that scrimmage. Of note: that was not a strictly ones-vs-twos setup like the spring game. In that scrimmage both Tate and Denard got extensive reps with the first team against various first and second team defenses, and Roundtree thought he did better than he did on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Van Bergen's full LAZERZ quote:
"I think Denard has probably made the most progression. I think he's developed a whole new aspect of his game as far as making great reads and making great throws.
"His throws are on lasers now. He's not throwing balls up for grabs. He's putting them right on receivers, and I think the fact he can scramble while looking downfield is really something that's helped him because last year when he pulled it down, he was going to run. But this year, he's got his eyes downfield, and they're making even bigger plays. He's dangerous. I think he's probably made the most progression, but I think they've all done really good things."
In the future, Denard Robinson will still be made of dilithium; his arm will be made of lasers.
There were plenty of folks who sat out Saturday with injuries of some varieties, including five or six possible starters. The good news is that only walk-on DE Will Heininger will see his injury last into the season. There had been some uncertainty about Vincent Smith but the latest on him is that he should be "fully recovered by preseason camp." If that holds up he's probably your opening-day starter barring a summer renaissance from the rest of the depth chart.
The rest of the injuries range from minor dings to stuff that happened a long time ago horrific bone breaks that just provide an opportunity to work on your standup. Troy Woolfolk's comedic alter-ego:
"I’m going to introduce you all to something," Woolfolk said. "Y’all know me, myself, Troy, but I have a split personality named T-Wolf. When I’m on the field, T-Wolf comes out. T-Wolf doesn’t know how to cry, that’s only a trait that Troy does. Right now, this is Troy. T-Wolf, he’s crazy and I can’t bring him out all the time, I only let him come out on the field. T-Wolf doesn’t have that ability to cry, so that would never happen."
Knock on wood and all that but sounds like everyone should be ready to go for summer conditioning. The most damaged Wolverine may actually be RB coach Fred Jackson, who got stepped on by Kevin Koger. Maybe:
"Supposedly, I'm the one who broke his foot - supposedly, though," Koger said. "It was a 86 on film, but there's no name on the back (of the jersey). So it could have been any 86."
Purdue's spring game saw the Boiler debut of Miami transfer and presumptive starting quarterback Robert Marve. Marve was meh:
Robert Marve talked about "putting on a show" for the fans. Quite simply, he didn't...But how could he with this format? He threw a couple of good balls (for instance, a long pump and go to Cortez Smith for the longest TD of the game), showed the burst of speed that Hope had bragged about...but never got into rhythm for multiple reasons...and just plain missed on quite a few throws. But, he does have an arm.
Iowa's spring game was a Carr special: sparsely attended and no different than a usual practice. Ohio State offensive line is in flux and Pryor didn't have a great day statistically but Buckeye Football Analysis is pretty sanguine about things.
A poster attempted to ferret out what's going on with UConn but didn't come up with much outside of the usual "is this good or bad" stuff.
As always: exploit your kid for youtube fame and I post.
Get used to it, Denard?
I'll try to figure out some more stuff after the replay at 8 but for now, things I noticed. They are mostly about offensive skill position players, because I'm a person.
Denard! Denard! Denard! Disclaimer: It was all ones versus twos and whatnot, so Denard took the starting offense against a motley collection of walk-ons and Tate took a bunch of freshmen up against the first team defense. The playing field was far from level.
That said, holy crap. Robinson looks like a quarterback now. A running quarterback with rudimentary passing abilities, but a quarterback. There were zone reads and screens and rollout passes and a number of zippy seams that hit players between the numbers. When the offense broke down, Robinson made the concept of "pursuit angles" humorous. Putting him on the edge, as suggested by the coaches' clinic tea leaves, puts the defense in a bind. His throws were all on a line but they were accurate aside from a couple mediocre bubble screens. There were multiple times where I was thinking "just run why don't youuuu runnnnn" and he zipped a pass in for a first down or touchdown.
How close to Forcier's passing does Robinson have to get if he's going to start? If Forcier can't set up in the pocket and throw on rhythm, how far apart are they now? It'll be an interesting summer for both guys. Right now it looks like edge Denard.
As for Forcier: Hemingway's absence and the sparing use of Stokes saddled Tate with a couple of true freshmen at wideout, so it's hard to tell whether or not the helter-skelter offense Tate was running was just Tate doing what he does or the receivers screwing up the rhythm of the offense. Wild guess: some of both. Tate also fumbled (again) and chucked a pass that Mike Jones should have picked off. Robinson didn't have anything close to a turnover.
Meanwhile, Devin Gardner looked raw as hell, fumbling snaps, scrambling into trouble, and reverting to that ugly shotput motion whenever he was forced to throw on the run. He looked like a freshman, which is okay because he is a freshman. However, the torrent of spring hype that suggested Gardner would probably not redshirt because he would be Michigan's best quarterback by UConn… eh, not so much. Maybe it was just a bad day. Even if it was an off day, Robinson showed enough to relegate Gardner to the bench for the first couple games and hopefully his whole freshman year.
Gardner did show the his deep touch on a third and long seam to Odoms that was laid in perfectly. Odoms dropped it.
Flipside of all those seams. The concerns about things like four verticals expressed in the Coaches' Clinic Tea Leaves were amply demonstrated. Virtually all of Michigan's big yardage plays that weren't Robinson teleporting from place to place came on seams right up the hashes. Michigan's got to get that fixed.
Vlad… em? Vlad Emilien was wearing a knee brace of some sort so it's likely he's not 100%, but he got dusted by Roy Roundtree (who we last saw getting tracked down on a similar play) on Robinson's 97-yard touchdown. Roundtree tacked on five yards by the time they hit the endzone. Meanwhile, Teric Jones made up most of the ground. Thankfully, not all of it. Roundtree getting tackled at the one on that would have been a dark omen.
Further adventures in Justin Turner worry. It's one thing to be behind JT Floyd, who did look considerably more confident on the short stuff Michigan was trying to his side, but with Woolfolk out with a minor injury it was James Rogers who moved up to the ones. A position move beckons.
Tailback clarity. Nil. There weren't a whole lot of big plays from the tailbacks. Mike Cox had a nice touchdown and Stephen Hopkins lived up to his rep as a thunderous runner who should find himself staring down third and short most of the year. Austin White is headed for a redshirt. Cox, Toussaint, and Shaw are all in a blender.
Defense thoughts. I did what everyone does and watched the ball more than anything, so I don't have a ton of useful stuff on the D yet. I thought Van Bergen looked like he'll be a pretty good defensive end, maybe all conference level. When Floyd came up on the short stuff he tackled solidly. Most of the stuff in the middle happened against the second team defense.
I did notice the bandit playing deep off the LOS frequently when Michigan went to the spread; Kovacs in deep coverage is going to be a scary issue all year.
We have field goal problems? I expected the placekicking to be a circus given the grim reports from spring, but other than a couple of misfires off of poor snaps from the backup longsnapper the two guys at the top of the depth chart looked solid.
Punter, meanwhile… it's Hagerup's job. If Hagerup tears an ACL it might be Tate Forcier's job. Spring started with speculation of a Robinson position move, but now it seems that Forcier moving (or, rather, pulling double duty) is a more realistic possibility. Not that either are particularly realistic.
Michigan just let in all manner of heathens to observe a couple practices, ping various coaches for information, and take in a Saturday scrimmage; naturally, this has created a ton of internet chatter. Also naturally, large portions of it conflict with other portions of it. There's a faction of super insiders on Rivals declaring Denard Robinson to be a complete disaster and one focused here proclaiming him to be Pat White—except fast! Tate Forcier is either looking like a "walk-on" or the obvious starter, and Devin Gardner is either a total n00b or Vince Young—except fast!
So… yeah. I don't know. Here's my contribution to the melee. First, a non-crippling version of the latest Inside Michigan Football featuring all quarterbacks doing something awesome:
Whenever I hear one of the freshmen speak I get annoyed at all the Dorsey stuff. Yeah, Michigan is totally turning into Jimmy Johnson's Miami.
Anyway, in addition to the posters who got bumped to the front page over the weekend, MGoBlog had a couple of sources who took in the activity late last week. Observations gleaned:
Terminology, or: The Quick And The Dead
One of the toughest things to do as a guy who tries to figure out football and communicate it as a layman is figure out what to call something. Every time I decide to call something X, well meaning folk tell me it should be Y or Z. I tend to apologetically ignore them just so things are relatively clear for readers.
However, if the coaches are all calling something one thing and it's not counter-intuitive I'll go with it. So:
- Michigan is calling the dual SS in the 3-3-5 "spur" (strongside) and "bandit" (weakside). Some 3-3-5 teams make no distinction between these guys, but it appears that Michigan will flip these guys strong and weak. This leaves the bandit as the guy who will be tested in the occasional deep half, about which more later.
- The coaches were actually calling the deep safety "strong" for a while but they've reverted to calling him "free." There are good football-related reasons for that weird nomenclature but since they're gone, whatever. I'll return to calling Cam Gordon and other guys who line up there free safeties.
- The north-south MINOR RAGE run that Michigan's used to good effect the past couple years is something I've been calling "veer," which has been the nomenclature that's drawn the most protests. Michigan calls this their "belly" series.
Spinner: dead. Quick: dead. With this jargon we will ascend to the pillars of knowledge.
My initial reaction to the Denard Robinson hype was the same as Doctor Saturday, who has lumped Tate-Denard-Devin into a list of "specious spring quarterback controversies," but both observers gave tentative, caveat-laden nods to Robinson as the starting quarterback. The difference between last year and this year is vast. That falls just short of incredible since Robinson arrived without any ability to even run the zone read. Many of his plays were Incredibly Surprising Quarterback Zone Stretches run from an empty backfield. Robinson's high school coaching amounted to nil, so it's obvious that he would have a bigger leap forward than Forcier and his years of intensive training.
Robinson is still light years away from Forcier as a passer—his ability to "see and understand the field remains limited"—but in the open field he is ludicrous and now that he's gotten the hang of the zone read he gets in that space frequently. Craig Roh on Robinson:
"I hate Denard on the football field," Roh said. "I love him outside of football, but on the football field, he's just such a nuisance. The quarterbacks here are too fast, and Denard, I just can't catch him. It's ridiculous."
Observer A, a defensively oriented guy, said "as a coordinator you watch him come around the corner on the naked boot and you say uh-oh." Another high school coach told observer B that Denard "runs into traffic just to make defenders look silly." Robinson's athleticism will force defenses to overplay that threat and open up other opportunities.
Tate Forcier remains Tate. One of Michigan's coaches praised Tate's "great strides" in his understanding of the playbook, but what you see is what you get with Forcier: accurate on the run, good scrambler, shortish, meh arm strength. Meanwhile, the undercurrent of coaching discontent with his dedication as a freshman has added another pebble:
"Maybe some of the things that happened early in the season happened a little easier for him," Rodriguez said. "It kind of felt right to him. At the end of the year, he played more like a true freshman at times. And he got banged up a little bit and his concentration wasn't as sharp.
"As coaches, it's our job to make sure he maintains that focus."
The most worrisome thing I hear about Forcier is actually a positive thing related about Gardner. Gardner sets in the pocket and has less of a tendency to start running around than either of the other two quarterbacks, which allows him to go deep more regularly. The offense is a lot of broken plays with both of the short guys. While that's obvious with Robinson, I was hoping Forcier would get more comfortable throwing in the pocket.
Despite that, it will be all but impossible to pull Forcier in favor of Robinson full time when their skill sets are so divergent; a platoon beckons.
As for Devin Gardner, raves about his "incredible feel for the game" from QB coach Rod Smith were relayed via both observers. Other spring hype: "huge," "covers ground without seeming to move" like Vince Young and Terrelle Pryor, and… wait for it… "well ahead of both at this stage." Gardner is a "gym rat" who will happily spend all day watching film. However, he's "nowhere near" having a grasp of the offense and his throwing is erratic. When he's good, he can make deep throws with touch unlike either of the other two, but his overall accuracy lags because of the mechanical issues. His delivery isn't consistent yet. This will not be an enormous surprise to anyone who saw the difference between Camp Devin and Degraded Devin over the course of this high school football season.
This position remains a mess that will not be resolved until UConn, and frankly I'd be surprised to see a single game this year where Michigan goes exclusively with one quarterback. With two polar opposites at the spot, the nominal starter may depend on the relative strength of the opposing defense.
That's just this year. The vibe I got was that Gardner is the future of the position. Maybe not this year, but all bets are off in 2011. The position was described as "loaded," albeit young.
Running Back Battle
Zero clarity here as well. As mentioned earlier, Stephen Hopkins was impressive to Observer B; A was pretty noncommital about the tailbacks. Mike Cox has slipped for whatever reason. Observer B on Hopkins:
The guy is just a freaking monster and he breaks tackles. Now, I can’t say he can block, or knows the offense or can catch the ball. Plus, he fumbled twice (once he was hit at the handoff, on the other instance it might have been the QB’s issue). But man is he a tough tackle on the belly if he can get (even) a yard of momentum.
Shaw and Toussaint seemed like better runners than Cox, as well. This is another spot that will lack clarity until deep into fall unless Vincent Smith (who is jogging but limping badly) comes back fully healthy and establishes himself as the guy.
At fullback, Mark Moundros is playing mostly at linebacker, leaving McColgan the starting FB. He seems okay. Made a couple catches, made a couple blocks. Fullback isn't a huge priority.
Still hard to tell much of anything with two of the top three guys on the outside missing and Michigan focusing on the short stuff, but the freshman making the most of his spring is Jerald Robinson, who is "rangy" and "knows how to get his body in position." That's similar to assessments coming out of his strong summer camp performance.
Jeremy Jackson is also on par with expectations: smart, good routes, great hands, approximately as fast as a tight end. Could this be the guy who actually warrants the incessant Jason Avant comparisons I make? Miller didn't impress in the brief window provided.
Meanwhile, the guys in the slot are reputed to be extremely slippery. Terrance Robinson and Jeremy Gallon are described as "better than a pretty good Big Ten player" in Odoms as long as they're catching the ball. This is not assured: Robinson's hands were the main reason he didn't see the field last year and Observer B praised Odoms's hands while complaining about too many drops in the slot. Coaches were talking up Robinson as a potential contributor, FWIW.
Offensive line being an esoteric position, I don't have much other than the general positivity even absent David Molk. Taylor Lewan could use another 15 pounds but is still holding down left tackle. Perry Dorrestein is nicked up, which may explain the move. More than likely this is an opportunity Lewan won't pass up and Dorrestein is going to have to battle for the right tackle spot. Insert now-default Jake Long comparisons here. Lewan's not likely to be the #1 pick in the NF L draft but his career trajectory is zipping along at the most optimistic level possible.
The most encouraging thing on the line is the depth. Even with Washington and Dorrestein nicked up there's almost a solid two-deep of players who Michigan could throw on the field without panic:
Getting Molk back will give Michigan a buffer of three or four competent backup offensive linemen.
Remember last year's complaint about Michigan potentially tipping their run plays based on the position of the quarterback? This was the setup position on a zone stretch…
…and this was Michigan's belly (which this blog called "veer") series:
From the sideline shot it's pretty obvious what's going on here. QB in front of RB: north-south. QB behind RB: east-west. I'm not entirely sure a defense is going to be aware enough to make an adjustment based on this—it's a lot easier to tell when you're way far away on a sideline—but it can't help.
The coaches apparently have the same concern. They've moved away from this paradigm in favor of something they believe will disguise their intent better. What it is I don't know. It sounds like at the very least the QB is going to move late, like a split second before the snap, if not after. This strikes me as something that Debord would never do.
(FWIW: They did try to mix it up some after practicing for Illinois' zone read veer—which I think is, like, really a veer until someone corrects me on it in the next 60 seconds—but that wasn't successful and was abandoned. I wouldn't write it off entirely, FWIW. It's possible a newly capable Denard Robinson makes that crazy effective.)
Assorted items of possibly dubious validity that have darkened my inbox about spring practice. Are these accurate? Useful? Worth reading? Possibly not. Will at least one player who these reports suggest will be a ninja spend his career doing nothing? Yes. Will you absorb the reports voraciously anyway? Absolutely!
I'm on the record as skeptical that Denard Robinson presents a serious threat to Tate Forcier, but multiple sources here and elsewhere keep saying it looks even, or even advantage Robinson, thus far. Robinson's got a zippy arm that bests Forcier when it comes to short-range oomph and has vastly improved his accuracy. This makes him a plausible quarterback. He remains ridiculously fast, and is actually running the read option now.
Areas for improvement: throwing on the run, reading defenses—when the D deviates from its vanilla schemes Robinson has a nasty tendency to throw it directly at defenders—and pocket awareness. On long throws he still has a tendency to throw ropes that give receivers little opportunity to adjust to inaccurate balls.
There has been little chatter about Forcier, with some observers theorizing he's still dealing with the after-effects of his shoulder injury and others claiming he's totally healthy and just not progressing as fast as Robinson. That latter makes some sense, as Forcier has been exposed to high-level coaching for years. He's a lot closer to his ceiling than Robinson.
Despite all the Robinson talk, most people are hesitant to suggest he would actually start. Michigan is installing the 3-3-5 and running vanilla coverages. There's a long way to go from seeming competent in spring to being the starting quarterback. More realistic is a continued timeshare with Robinson moonlighting at other skill positions when Tate is at the helm.
Devin Gardner, meanwhile, looks like a freshman. He needs work on his mechanics, doesn't know the offense that well, and is clearly behind the two sophomores. He's running a lot of those Incredibly Surprising Quarterback Zone Stretch plays that Robinson was relegated to last year. If Denard can establish himself a viable option Gardner seems headed for a redshirt. His long term potential remains totally sweet.
It sounds like Mike Cox is the tentative leader at this point. He alternates punishing Minor RAGE runs with mental mistakes that undoubtedly have Rodriguez throwing his hat and saying he's dang-diddly-anged disappointed in the young man. Cox has the best combination of size and speed, and that uncanny balance he flashed during some of his garbage-time runs is no fluke. Caveat: Vincent Smith is sometimes suggested as the probable starter. Cox is entering his third year in the program so the mental mistakes may be a long term issue, unfortunately.
Michael Shaw is next in the pecking order, less likely to break a tackle than Cox but more likely to take something a long way. He's also been mentioned as a player who needs to work on the mental side of the game some.
Stephen Hopkins is getting the sort of reviews you expect him to: he is a horse, a load, a freight train, a moose, etc. He will run straight ahead until he falls over or he burrows into the wall in the endzone. If Cox doesn't establish himself as a short yardage back, the duties will likely fall to Hopkins.
Toussaint comes in for cursory "looked good" praise but it seems like he's trailing the relative veterans. White is probably redshirting.
Wideouts and Tight Ends
Hard to tell anything with Hemingway and Stokes out; in their absence Roy Roundtree is practicing outside and drawing mixed reviews. Drops are supposed to be an issue with everyone, but Roundtree gets more stick for it than others.
Mixed reviews on Darryl Stonum, with a couple reports citing his obvious physical superiority to the rest of the WRs and projecting a strong season. Again, hard to tell absent his most serious competition.
Roundtree may stick outside even after the injured return because Odoms, Gallon, and Robinson are all having strong springs. Robinson and Grady are taking a number of snaps in the backfield—think Darius Reynaud—and doing well with it. Both were high school tailbacks. Robinson and Gallon seem to have the inside track on punt returns.
Tight ends are the same as they were last year. It sounds like they're focusing more on the slots this year.
The interior line remains as expected: Schilling, Molk Placeholder, Omameh, with both guards coming in for regular praise and the Placeholder (Khoury, mostly) having issues snapping the ball. That's supposedly getting better.
On the outside there's been some shuffling with Dorrestein and Huyge flopping left to right at times. This may be due to Taylor Lewan's (right) quick emergence. He's been called an "obvious future star" and "reminiscent of Jake Long." Reports are still conflicting on his readiness but all agree that his upside is as rapturous as the recruiting gurus promised; it seems like it's matter of time before he claims the left tackle spot. That timeframe may be September or it may be next year. The most recent move suggests the move may come sooner rather than later. Flipping Huyge to the right seems to be an effort to get Michigan's best five on the field. If I had to bet, I'd go with Lewan as the starting LT against UConn.
Washington (when healthy) and Schofield have also gotten good reviews; that whole class seems to be panning out so far. Huyge and Dorrestein haven't been the subject of much chatter good or bad. With the quarterbacks focusing on shorter routes the opportunities for serious pass protection have been intermittent.
Renaldo Sagesse continues to play well. Will Campbell is huge and still working on technique issues but much better both physically and mentally; it sounds like those two will be the NT platoon. I'm pretty confident they'll be a good one. That leaves Van Bergen and Martin outside with Banks and Patterson backing up. It's hard to tell how much of the praise for each of the senior backups is real, but given how Sagesse played last year I think he can hang. Patterson and Banks I don't know about.
Specific mentions of RVB have been few and far between. Banks and Patterson are getting talked up publicly but aren't drawing a ton of hype on background.
This comes with a "just spring" warning since he was buried all of last year, but Kenny Demens is getting a significant amount of buzz and is taking some of Ezeh's snaps with the first team. The scheme change may suit him: the Casteel-style 3-3-5 doesn't need a huge MLB, just a tough guy willing to plug his face on a guard and make the nose tackle right all the time. His speed and blitzing is a good fit for the new system. He's been laying his share of thumping hits.
Other than that, it's MOTS in the linebacking corps, with Mouton and Ezeh seeming like Mouton and Ezeh. If there have been any adjustment pains for Craig Roh they haven't made it into the wide world. He seems to be doing very well. Adding 20 pounds turns him from overmatched but promising into beast, apparently. From the inbox's lips to God's ears.
The Cam Gordon hype train continues unabated, with words like "excellent," "natural," and "seems vaguely like an actual safety" getting thrown around. (Latter praise invented by me to tamp own expectations down.) ESPN's Adam Rittenberg gets in on the act:
Safety Cameron Gordon, a converted wide receiver, drew praise from Rodriguez and several players I spoke with.
Most positive reports about receivers read "hauled in pass and was disemboweled by Gordon, but held on." Caveat: all the quarterback reports indicate that Michigan is working on short stuff incessantly, so opportunities to get dragged way out of position and give up, oh, I don't know, a third and thirty-seven conversion have been limited.
With Emilien out with another injury, Brandin Hawthorne is second-team at deep safety. Rodriguez has been wary about the lack of depth there.
Troy Woolfolk is about on par where he was last year: pretty good Big Ten corner, may have a bit more upside than that as a senior. Then there's JT Floyd. He is "vastly improved." I know. I'm skeptical, too. According to Rittenberg, Woolfolk had praise for Floyd as well.
The bad news: Justin Turner gets a universal "meh," with a couple of reports indicating that a 6'2", 210-pound corner is not likely to work out and a position move is in the cards once the quartet of freshman corners hits campus in fall. One talks up James Rogers, his teammate on the second team, in favor of him. Bleah. As of now the third string corners are walk-ons so Turner continues to labor at a position it seems he doesn't have the quicks for. With Gordon developing a death grip on deep safety, Turner's best shot at playing time in the near future may be as a spur or bandit.
As far as the hybrid SSs go: Jordan Kovacs has the weakside spot (bandit) locked down. This is no surprise for anyone who saw him play there as a freshman walk-on. That box safety thing is tailor made for him. The other side is a total mess, with Mike Williams giving way to a combination of redshirt freshman Thomas Gordon and walk-on Floyd Simmons. It's unclear whether the Williams demotion is a temporary thing due to injury (Williams is in green) or a long term move to other players, but it seems like it's closer to the latter. The Hawthorne move leaves a couple of marginal players duking it out at a spot that requires dealing with a lot of blocks. Reports have neither been positive or negative. They mostly confine themselves to who's playing where. Gordon has laid a couple pops, apparently.
I wouldn't be surprised to see someone move to the spur for fall; Carvin Johnson and Marvin Robinson will have opportunities to earn immediate starting jobs.
With Will Hagerup not enrolled yet, there's not much you can tell about the punters. On the Huge Show yesterday Rodriguez said he was the most likely freshman to start (surprise!), so it sounds like there isn't anyone in camp threatening to make an Olesnavage-like move.
Placekicking, on the other hand, has everyone it's going to have and the initial reviews are seriously negative. Brendan Gibbons is reputed to have a big leg but questionable accuracy. Field goals have been something of a fire drill so far. Here's a terror-inducing Rodriguez quote:
"The kicking game is a concern simply because we've been inconsistent in practice. I couldn't tell you who our starting kicker is. It changes in 15 minutes. I don't know if that's going to be resolved until the fall. Brendan Gibbons has a strong leg, but he's been back and forth. Other special teams, we've got athletes, but the kicking and punting is not at the point where we feel comfortable."
Hey, how about that labrum? File under "Lincoln hunts dinosaurs," probably, but yeah Tate Forcier's shoulder was a bit more exploded than anyone let on last year:
The shoulder injury Michigan quarterback Tate Forcier played through last season was a slightly torn right labrum, a person familiar with the injury said Friday.
Forcier was diagnosed with the injury when he underwent an MRI while home for Christmas break. He’s rehabbing the shoulder now and doesn’t need surgery, and he’s also recovering from a staph infection in his right knee, the person said.
Tate's older brother Jason said something to the effect of "Tate is hurt more than people let on," and this is evidently what he meant. Not that he knew that at the time. Tate did have good games against Purdue and Wisconsin late—even his Ohio State game was physically capable, if interception fraught—so it was probably healed up enough as November progressed.
Optimistic take: he should be better when healthy. Pessimistic take: what do you mean "when"?
Good decisions are for people taller than 5'6". Boubacar Cissoko got caught with pot and admitted to police he intended to sell the stuff. This closes the door on Cissoko's vaguely possible return to the team; Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher said said door is now "bolted on both sides."
Meanwhile… man, if you are going to make the life choice that finds you arrested for possession of marijuana you should probably make the life choice to tell the police it is for your personal consumption. Or better yet don't consent to a search of your car when it has pot in it. I don't get people sometimes.
Hopefully moot. So… yeah, Jim Harbaugh turned down overtures from the Raiders and Bills. Unless Mike Garrett is insane he also shot down USC before they went with Kiffin. (Other people Garrett called before placing his bets on Hello Kiffin: Chan Gailey, Shamwow Vince, myself, and the skeleton of a paleolithic deer.) Meanwhile around these parts, Rich Rodriguez is going to be under serious pressure to get to a bowl and have a winning record.
I have a Sporting Blog take on these developments, but in short: turning down the Raiders job merely means you have the will to live; turning down a functional, if somewhat moribund, Bills franchise kind of implies you're sticking around to see what opens up in the next couple years. If Rodriguez doesn't make it—which seems like a 50-50 proposition nowadays—there are going to be some hellacious internet fights about the forgivability of Harbaugh's shots at Michigan's academics.
We are very watched. The Big Ten's lasting television appeal—enough to have its own damn network—is something of a mystery. If the population drain in the Midwest is so severe and 94% (or whatever it actually is) of Alabamans identify themselves as foamingly rabid college football fans, how this?
Seriously: how this? I guess the SEC is hauled down by the fact that they managed to horn ten freakin' teams into bowls and they've got more lame games where Kentucky takes on East Albania State, but still. Also, DETROIT = RATINGS:
The most unusual rating may belong to the Little Caesars Bowl, previously known as the Motor City. Played the day after Christmas, Marshall-Ohio drew a 2.6. That beat four bowls featuring two BCS-conference teams: Independence (Georgia-Texas A&M), Music City (Kentucky-Clemson), [PizzaWebsite.com] (South Carolina-Connecticut) and Insight (Iowa State-Minnesota).
That's kind of what I'm saying, I guess: Kentucky Clemson and UConn-South Carolina should outdraw Marshall-Ohio. (Iowa State and Minnesota… not so much.)
Hockey recruiting news of a decidedly weird variety. So Michigan's got a boatload of kids coming in from the NTDP next year, except one of them isn't with the program any more and two are currently suspended. The suspended guys are Kevin Clare and John Merrill, both highly touted defensemen. The departure is Jacob Fallon, a forward, and it's unclear as to whether he's involved in the thing with the suspensions or not:
Jacob Fallon, a 5.10 forward who had committed to Michigan for next season has left the program. According to a USA Hockey official Fallon left the team and program voluntarily. I've read some scouting reports that have compared him to Patrick Kane, however most rankings I've seen have him as a mid 3rd rounder right now. Fallon, who hails from Texas, was listed by the Seattle Thunderbirds. Fallon was reportedly not suspended, but chose to leave the program after speaking with the coaching staff. I'm just guessing here but it sounds like this could be the Seattle Thunderbirds gain.
Ugh. Options here are either this guy is wrong and Fallon's departure from the program was less than voluntary—which was , in which case he's mixed up in seemingly serious team rules violations, or he's just taking off for the CHL. A later post says Seattle has been in contact with him but have not gotten a response.
Mike Spath of The Wolverine says that Michigan will not stop recruiting any of the kids; the issue for Fallon will be his patience. He can either sit out the rest of the season or play with Seattle right now.
In slightly more positive news, Mac Bennett is in the USHL All-Star game.
Etc.: Matt Hayes, yes, a man I once called "Horseface," has a sympathetic piece on Rodriguez with reference to stupid pills. Phil Brabbs talked with the football team a couple days ago. If you ever wanted an up-to-date breakdown of where NFL players come from, Drill provides a wall of text for you. This NSFW recounting of one guy's trip to the national championship-type game glories in paint and is awesome. MVictors interviews Sam Webb. UMHoops goes in depth on Zack Novak.
Personnel notes: nothing unusual. Dorrestein was the RT, Omameh the RG. Roundtree played as the slot the whole game.
Video note: some of the cut points are a little odd this week; I was using a different file and was having some issues actually getting it cut.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M40||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||Nickel||Run||Zone read veer (inverted)||Robinson||0|
|Robinson the tailback here. Schofield gets out on this lightning fast but the linebackers aren't reading the line and are also flowing down at the play so a Forcier keep is no good either. With Schofield standing up outside the tackle here I think this is a play Forcier needs to check out of. Just a freshman. Excellent play by Schofield, too.|
|M40||2||10||Shotgun trips||1||1||3||Nickel||Pass||Bubble screen||Roundtree||2|
|This is open and looks like it will go for good yardage but Forcier throws it high and hard, necessitating a tough catch from Roundtree. Roundtree brings it in but the tough catch has put him off balance and he stumbles to the ground untouched. (MA, 2, screen)|
|M42||3||8||Shotgun trips||1||1||3||Nickel||Run||QB draw||Forcier||-3|
|I don't know if this is miscommunication or a bust or just a poor block from Brown. Omameh passes the playside DT off to Brown to go get a downfield block and though Brown bumps him it's as if he wasn't expecting this; if this was planned it's a cut block, you have to think... so the tentative verdict is Omameh busted. Virtually unblocked DT tackles.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 13 min 1st Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M26||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Hitch||Mathews||6|
|Wisconsin sitting on this and the DB is there to try and make a play on the ball or rake it out; he can't quite make it but does tackle. Wisconsin making it tough so far. (CA, 2, protection 1/1)|
|M32||2||4||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read stretch||Minor||0|
|Dorrestein(-1) discarded by the DE and he closes a tiny hole down that wasn't big because a couple of Wisconsin DTs had closed down the hole and the MLB didn't get blocked because Koger had to take on an OLB before he could get to him. Minor buried at the line.|
|M32||3||4||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel||Run||Zone read veer||Minor||14|
|Michigan catches Wisconsin here despite really tipping their run with Forcier well in front of Minor. UW is shifted away from the backside, which makes the DL an easy seal; Huyge(+1) gets a crushing block on the OLB as the DE runs too far upfield to contain the handoff that Forcier correctly makes (ZR +1); Minor shoots into the secondary without anyone coming close to him.|
|M46||1||10||Shotgun trips||1||1||3||?||Run||Edge pitch||Brown||0|
|Schofield again reads this instantly and gets out on the edge, killing the play. I don't know if Michigan was trying to do this but if they were that calculation backfired a little bit, eh? I'm not sure what, if anything, Michigan could have done on this play since BTN gets to it late.|
|M46||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||Minor||2|
|Robinson at QB. Michigan seals the edge pretty well as the backside DE keeps contain and the playside DE spins inside, but Koger(-1) gets totally crushed by the OLB and Minor's forced inside for a minimal gain. Koger's blocking needs to improve.|
|M48||3||8||Shotgun trips bunch||1||1||3||Nickel||Pass||Rollout deep hitch||Mathews||17|
|Wisconsin anticipates this well, getting a guy on the edge and forcing Forcier upfield instead of letting him drift to the edge. Forcier finds Mathews open between about five guys and tosses it right as the LBs converge on him; the dart hits Mathews in the numbers for a first down. (DO, 3, protection 1/1)|
|O35||1||10||Shotgun trips||1||1||3||Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||Minor||-4|
|Really terrible blocking from the OL, just awful. Wisconsin has like 5.5 guys in the box. This should be a win. Instead Moosman(-1) gets cut under badly and Ortmann(-1) gets smoked by the DE to the outside. One of these breakdowns you can deal with. Both and the RB gets smoked in the backfield.|
|Weird. The three guys at the bottom of the screen are blocking a WR screen for Roundtree. Brown's running a wheel that's covered at first and that's where Forcier is looking. Forcier doesn't have time to wait for the play to develop because Ortmann(-2) got beat to the inside and Schilling(-1) to the outside on a stunt Michigan did not anticipate or pick up, so again there are two guys in on Forcier at the same time and that always ends in doom. (PR, 0, protection 0/3)|
|Michigan running a protection slide that sees Smith(-1) end up one-on-one with a DE; he attempts to cut the guy and gets bowled over. Odd that he's in on third and twenty-four, isn't it? Forcier(+1) sees the guy come inside and starts scrambling; Smith, to his credit, starts to get up and sort of trips the DE as Forcier rolls. This gives Forcier the edge, where he points Roundtree somewhere and hits him at the sticks; Roundtree brings in a tough pass and stumbles over the line. Wow. (DO, 2, protection 2/3, Smith -1)|
|O23||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read stretch||Smith||2|
|Michigan trying to scoop the playside DT, who is lined up nearly over Moosman, and just about does it thanks to Omameh(+1) making a spectacular play to overtake a guy not particularly delayed by Moosman(-1). This has forced Smith outside a bit, unfortunately, where Schilling(-1) can't get a block on an OLB and he tears through to tackle Smith. He manages to cut up behind Schilling to fall forward for a couple.|
|O21||2||8||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||Nickel||Pass||RB wheel||Smith||21|
|OLB in the flat on Smith delays a bit for reasons unknown, opening up the wheel; Forcier hits it right in stride, and Smith(+1) jukes a safety, keeping his feet into the endzone. Kid is pretty good. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-7, 6 min 1st Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O37||1||10||Shotgun trips||1||1||3||Nickel||Run||Zone read veer||Minor||3|
|Michigan should be able to kill on this as Wisconsin has only 5.5 in the box again. This time the DE stays home and Forcier should pull, but he gives it off and Minor runs right into said DE. (ZR -1)|
|O34||2||7||Shotgun 4-wide||1||1||3||Nickel||Pass||Flare screen||Smith||18|
|Dubbing this a screen because Roundtree is not running a route, he's blocking. Roundtree(+2), by the way, manages to get outside of a linebacker on this play, sealing him to the inside and giving Smith the edge. Great, great block. Smith has about eight yards until resistance, at which point Smith runs through a tackle, keeps his balance along the sideline, and zips for like ten bonus yards. (CA, 3, screen, RPS +1)|
|O16||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read inside||Smith||6|
|Looks like a stretch from the positioning of the tailbacks but the linemen head straight upfield and this is no stretch. Moosman(+1) blows the NT off the ball and two or three yards downfield and Omameh(+1) kicks out the other defensive tackle, giving Smith a big cutback lane. He makes that initial cut but his vision fails him as he should then cut it behind Koger to get himself past the linebacker level and possibly into the endzone. Instead he meets a linebacker who chucked Schilling to the ground.|
|O10||2||4||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read inside||Smith||3|
|Same exact play and it blocks the same way with Smith hitting it up between Moosman and Omameh. Smith should again cut it outside behind Roundtree's block but takes the sure yards; Moosman did not do quite as good a job on his guy this time and he comes free to tackle with help from the OLB.|
|O7||3||1||I-Form 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||QB sneak||Forcier||2|
|Bush-pushed forward by Grady.|
|O6||1||G||Shotgun 2-back 2TE||2||2||1||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read stretch||Minor||3|
|Moosman(-1) and Omameh cannot seal the Wisconsin NT on the scoop and he, along with a crashing OLB, meet Minor just past the LOS as he cuts up; Minor manages to fall forward. On plays like this I'd really prefer it if the lead blocker was told to bash that DT and leave Minor one on one with a linebacker or whatever.|
|O3||2||G||Shotgun 2-back 2TE||2||2||1||Goal line||Run||Zone read stretch||Minor||2|
|Um... the hell? Michigan runs the play where they fake the RB handoff while the FB heads into the flat that everyone's got scouted by now, except this time they hand it off. The NT is totally unblocked but running upfield so fast that Minor can run by him. This leaves four blockers on three DL near the goal line; Moosman and Schilling get split by the playside DT, and Koger(-1) got smoked by the DE, so guys meet Minor at the LOS and fall forward. Good playcall submarined by poor execution. (RPS +1)|
|O1||3||G||Shotgun 3TE||2||2||1||Goal line||Run||QB stretch||Forcier||-2|
|Really obvious playcall in this situation that Wisconsin consumes alive by slanting into the play. They've moved the LBs playside and are clearly anticipating this. No one has a chance to block their guys here. (RPS -1)|
|Drive Notes: Blocked FG(21), 7-7, 1 min 1st Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O25||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel||Run||Zone read veer||Minor||3|
|Backside DE is standing up and just waiting for this call; Forcier gives it off and I'm not sure if that's a good idea or not since Schofield can probably deal with either option. No ZR. Michigan's shoving the Wisconsin DL down the line and Minor has a little room to hit behind Ortmann but Schofield closes him down after a couple yards. After the first big run Michigan got off this they've adjusted.|
|Missed play #4; as we come back Forcier is throwing an out that's behind Roundtree; Roundtree can't adjust to make the catch. Maybe had something for a first down here if accurate; since the throw is behind Roundtree a safety is going to tackle immediately for just three even if caught. (MA, 2, protection 1/1)|
|I think this pressure is mostly on Forcier, who drops way back and sits there despite both DEs tearing around the edge and into him; if he was more aware he could step up into the pocket, which is big and clean. DE blowing past Grady(-1) makes contact as Forcier belatedly realizes his error and begins to sack, at which point Forcier flips the ball to Smith, turning a major loss into a meh gain. What the hell to file this as... CA? TA? PR? Um. (CA, 3, protection 1/2, Grady -1, screen)|
|Drive Notes: FG(36), 10-7, 14 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M23||1||10||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read inside||Brown||2|
|Webb(-1) doesn't block the DE, which okay, but also doesn't bother to block the WLB, instead heading outside as if he's expecting a stretch. It's not a stretch. Forcier correctly hands it off(ZR +1) as the DE is far enough outside that Brown can get by him, but that unblocked WLB is sort of there, causing problems.|
|M25||2||8||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel||Run||QB stretch||Robinson||0|
|Robinson in and this isn't going to work against Wisconsin. Moosman(-1) releases to the second level immediately, giving Omameh no chance to block the NT lined up way playside of him, and Schilling(-1) just flat-out loses against the playside DT. No room for Robinson.|
|Forcier with a deep drop and Michigan max-protects; plenty of time for Forcier and he nails Hemingway on a hitch; good timing. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2) Smith again the tailback in a pass-pro situation. I know Minor's hurt but that's weird. Hemingway's route was excellent.|
|M36||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||Shaw||-1|
|Good blocking from the line this time as Wisconsin gets sealed; UW OLB is blitzing into the gap, though, and the lead blocker, Grady, totally whiffs on him, leaving him right in Shaw's path. I wonder if Wisconsin is slanting one way and having their linebacker shoot the other way all the time when they see the line slants. I think this is what Michigan was doing against Iowa, to far less excellent effect.|
|M35||2||11||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||Nickel||Pass||Flare screen||Smith||8|
|Wisconsin's line pretty good about recognizing this and getting back but Smith's too much of a jackrabbit to be caught; he steps through some waving arms. Good block from Roundtree(+1) kicks out the OLB; Huyge(+1) and Omameh(+1) both get good-enough open-field cuts on their guys. Smith's one-on-one with a linebacker with lots of green in front of him and totally jukes the guy, leaping past him... and the guy gets an arm out, grabbing Smith's foot and tripping him mid-air. Rats. (CA, 3, screen)|
|M43||3||3||Shotgun trips bunch||1||1||3||Nickel||Pass||Out||Roundtree||5|
|Ends up wide open as Michigan's formation just beats the Wisconsin coverage; part of that was UW blitzing a linebacker off the edge. Forcier finds Roundtree and flips a weird, high-arcing ball that seems like trouble, but it's accurate enough and there's no coverage so it works out. (CA, 3, protection NA, RPS +1)|
|M48||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel||Run||Zone read inside||Smith||4|
|Eerily like what seemed like every Mike Hart run against Wisconsin in the Debord stretch era: totally unblocked mofo into the backfield, Smith jukes him out of his jock with a sweet spin, four yards out of nothing. Moosman(-1) and Omameh(-1) got split; the spin destroyed blocking angles and allowed linebackers to show up.|
|Deep drop and good protection; Mathews sails past a Wisconsin defensive back and Forcier chucks it. It's well outside; Mathews makes a great adjustment and reels it in but his front foot hits out of bounds microseconds before his back toe drags in bounds and it's ruled incomplete. Forcier had this if accurate, and Mathews did all he could. I want to give him credit for a 1 here, but can't. (IN, 1, protection 2/2)|
|Great protection but part of that is that Michigan is resorting to max-pro a lot and Forcier can't find anyone open since he's got three receivers against seven in coverage. He moves up in the pocket, then a linebacker starts running at him and he rolls out, where he gets sacked. He fumbles; Michigan falls on it. I don't mind the scramble and sack here; I'd rather take a chance at getting a first down here than have a throwaway that saves you eight yards on a Zoltan punt. Would like to see Smith slip out for a dumpoff, though. (TA, 0, protection 3/3)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 10-14, 4 min 2nd Q. Next drive happens with one minute left. They do try to score, so I'll chart it.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|Simple and something that Wisconsin does a good job of defending considering the situation; Mathews(+1) does a good job to get out of bounds. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|M26||2||4||Shotgun empty||1||1||3||Nickel||Pass||Short bubble||Roundtree||4|
|Big umbrella zone here so Michigan has an opportunity to take a screen for the first time today. They do so; Roundtree manages to pick up the first. (CA, 3, screen)|
|Hitches again; they're covered; what's with the short stuff? I don't know. Forcier takes off and makes what he can out of the play. Not charted. Protection 1/1.|
|Very tight spot here for both WR and QB; Roundtree does a good job of running to the open spot and Forcier hits him just as he gets there. These two are developing serious move-the-chains chemistry. (CA+, 2, protection 1/1)|
|Smith(-1) whiffs a cut block and his guy gets in on Forcier; Forcier does the flip thing to Smith again, with results not very thrilling since a linebacker is racing to cover Forcier and can adjust his flight path. (TA, 3, protection 1/2, Smith -1) Eventful play for Smith.|
|M43||2||9||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel||Pass||Rollout throwaway||--||Inc|
|Rollout gets Forcier some time until a guy Dorrestein(-1) inexplicably let around him without bothering to block heads out and forces Forcier to chuck it. (TA, 0, protection 1/2, Dorrestein -1)|
|M43||3||9||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel||Pass||Flare screen||Smith||2|
|Damn, O'Brien Schofield is good. This should just work given the situation but the dude recognizes the play and manages to track down jackrabbit Vincent Smith from behind just as he bursts upfield to pick up first down yardage and maybe more. (CA, 3, screen)|
|M45||4||7||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel||Pass||Hail Mary||--||Inc|
|Whatever. Robinson does throw this, and it is sad that Ortmann(-2) lets him get hit as he throws it. Not charted.|
|Drive Notes: EOH, 17-21.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M40||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||1||1||3||Nickel||Pass||PA short seam||Mathews||25|
|Zone read dive fake; Roundtree runs a bubble and Mathews heads upfield into the open space the bubble reaction creates. Forcier nails him. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|O35||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||1||1||3||Nickel||Pass||Flare screen||Smith||-1|
|Should be open but Roundtree(-1) fails to cut the LB lined up over him and Forcier's pass is a little behind Smith, forcing him to spin around and delay. Not much, because Vincent Smith pirouettes like a mofo. The Roundtree block was the real issue. (MA, 3, screen)|
|O36||2||11||Shotgun trips||1||1||3||Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||Smith||1|
|Dorrestein(-2) gets smoked inside and Smith has to cut back past Schofield, who is just a killer DE. He manages to cut back but Ortmann(-1) has also lost his backside DE—they blocked him, sort of—and Smith gets run down from the other side. Still... Smith does a lot with what he's given.|
|O35||3||10||Shotgun trips||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||Jailbreak screen||Roundtree||1|
|Excellent play call catches Wisconsin blitzing both MLBs and should work if Michigan can just get the last LB blocked. Schilling(-1) doesn't even whiff, he just runs in totally the wrong direction as Moosman(-1) got caught up blocking guys on the line for no reason. (CA, 3, screen, RPS +1)|
|O34||4||9||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Skinny post||Hemingway||14|
|Max protect and the line keeps Forcier totally clean. Excellent job. Forcier waits for Hemingway to clear the first level and then zings a pass in a seriously tight window that Hemingway leaps and hauls in in traffic. Henne-like throw, Avant-like catch. Coverage was very good and forced Michigan to make an excellent play to convert. (DO, 2, protection 2/2)|
|No stretch blocking here: Michigan blocks down and this works as the linemen's instinct is to flow; this leaves Smith and Grady with a good hole and one LB; Grady does okay on his block. Unfortunately, UW is run-blitzing a safety who shows in the hole right after and is there to pop Smith. Smith gets under him and manages to fall forward.|
|O16||2||6||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read inside||Smith||6|
|Non-Schofield DE slants inside of Ortmann but Ortmann(+1) goes with him and walls him off; good block. This opens up the edge a bit; Smith starts to go outside and draws that safety out there, then cuts up behind Koger's block on the LB. Koger's guy reads it and manages to hop inside to make a tough low tackle; Smith runs through it and picks up the first down. I really, really like this kid.|
|O10||1||G||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Bubble screen||Roundtree||10|
|Excellent read or playcall by whoever: all game UW has had a guy on the slot to prevent the bubble; now they roll the OLB inside and Michigan immediately hits them. Also note the adjustment on the blocking here: outside WR blocks down on the crashing safety, springing Roundtree for an easy touchdown. (CA, 3, screen, RPS +1)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 24-28, 7 min 3rd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|Excellent protection and Michigan goes deep. Mathews is inside the guy in coverage, but has no separation; Forcier throws it well long instead of at least giving Mathews a shot at a jump ball. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|M15||2||10||Shotgun trips TE||1||1||3||Nickel||Pass||Scramble||Forcier||1|
|Michigan goes with the PA bubble fake to a seam that Mathews picked up a bunch on earlier; Forcier doesn't throw it. It looks like it's open underneath but maybe a safety is jumping it or something. Forcier scrambles out and picks up a couple yards. Schilling lost his guy, robbing Forcier of the time needed. (TA, 0, protection 1/2, Schilling -1)|
|M16||3||9||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel||Pass||Scramble||Forcier||13 (Pen -8)|
|Smith(-1) chops he knees out from under a guy engaged with Dorrestein; call is totally legit. Omameh(-1) fails to pick up a stunt and lets a guy in on Forcier; Forcier jukes the guy and starts running around, picking up good downfield blocks from Omameh and Schilling en route to the first down. Penalty brings it back. (PR, 0, protection 0/2, Smith -1, Omameh -1)|
|Excellent protection and Wisconsin is letting guys deep, I guess, so Stonum has a step and some room to the sideline here, but Forcier waits a bit too long or doesn't have the arm strength to get there, or both, and his ball is short and to the inside. Still think Stonum could do a better job adjusting here but this is not a good throw, and it gets picked off. It's a 52 yard punt, though, so not exactly a disaster. (IN, 1, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 24-35, 1 min 3rd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
Bad combo of coverage and receiver here: ball has to be thrown high because of the good coverage and Forcier ends up overthrowing Smith when virtually anyone else on the team might have had a shot. I have to file this the way I do, though. (IN, 1, protection 1/1)
|M26||2||10||Ace 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||Zone stretch||Smith||2|
Impossible to tell anything with this wide shot.
Forcier's first read is covered and he bugs out upfield into linebackers. (TA, 0, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 24-42, 9 min 4th Q. No more charts.
Ah, let's just get to it. Charts?
[Hennechart legend; MA is "marginal", screen results are in parens.]
|Notre Dame||5||20 (6)||2||4||3||3||-||4|
|Eastern Michigan||1||8 (2)||1||1 (1)||1||4 (1)||-||-|
|Indiana||3||13 (3)||1 (1)||2||5||3||-||2|
|Michigan State||5||19 (3)||2||4||3||3||-||5|
|Delaware State||-||2 (1)||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|Penn State||3||9 (3)||-||4 (2)||4||2||1||1|
|Purdue||2||13 (6)||1||2||1||4||1 (1)||5|
The zone read metric was 2 – 1 = 1.
|Eastern Michigan||-||1||1 (1)||2 (1)||-||-||-||-|
Robinson did not throw. As far as Forcier goes: he had a good day against one of the better overall defenses in the big ten. His downfield success rate is 11 / 19 = 58%, which is better than okay and maybe a tiny bit worse than good, but if you drill a little further into the numbers there were no bad reads and four TAs, a couple of which were effective scrambles or flips to tailbacks as he was getting sacked. The huge, mind-destroying errors that plagued him against Ohio State did not exist against Wisconsin.
Most of Forcier's inaccurate throws were long: he drew Mathews out of bounds on a late bomb that Mathews almost caught. He wildly overthrew a covered Mathews on another. And the last was a ball to Stonum that was short and to the inside when Stonum had a step and plenty of room to the outside. It seems like he's not recognizing his coverages fast enough and getting the ball out to his deep receivers in time for his arm strength to get it there. There were a couple of similar instances against Ohio State, where a throw against cover-two was late enough for OSU to get a safety over for a pass breakup or interception. The lack of accuracy can be interpreted as another form of a BR where he makes the right read but too late and ends up leaving a ball short.
Another indicator of how well Forcier played in this game: there is but one ball filed uncatchable.
About the receivers themselves: an excellent day with only one ball filed less than "circus" not brought in. Vincent Smith had one game as the quasi-starter and was targeted more than any other player. Though two of those were accidental targets as Forcier looked to avoid a sack, it's clear that we can expect Smith to be considerably more involved in the passing game than any of the backs were this year except maybe Brown, and in this one game Smith ended up with eight attempts to get him the ball to Brown's season-long total of 13.
The tight ends are falling off after a strong start because they're dropping a lot of easy balls. Grady and the tight ends have 9 of Michigan's 12 routine drops between them and with Roundtree's emergence into a totally reliable option in the same general area of the field their usage has dropped considerably.
The one complaint I have about the receivers is the same old one about Stonum: on the deep bomb that was intercepted, he failed to make a play on the ball, got undercut, and allowed an interception that should have been an incompletion at worst. It would have been a difficult catch but that seemed like another example of Stonum not adjusting well to balls thrown deep downfield.
PROTECTION METRIC: 31/41, Ortmann –2, Schilling –2, Smith –3, Grady –1, Dorrestein –1, Omameh –1.
Probably the line's best day in a while given the level of competition they were going up against. 76% isn't great but four of the minuses go to tailbacks, three of them to tiny freshman Vincent Smith. The line did a pretty good job holding Schofield and company out of the backfield and the results were considerably improved passing from Forcier. Forcier still has to get used to the idea that the line will do this for him; there were a couple of instances where he had a big pocket to step into but did not.
And our RPS: 5 – 1 = +4. Good day strategically—
Then why couldn't we run?
The flipside of the better than usual pass blocking was Michigan getting owned in the run game by the Wisconsin line. That stretch gap that opens up between the playside tackle and center was never there as one of the best rushing defenses in the country refused to let themselves get sealed. Michigan was running a lot of inside zone, too, so what happened a lot was Moosman not getting enough of a delay on a DT and one of the guards futilely attempting to seal a guy who was slanting directly into the play; Michigan didn't have an effective counter to that with Minor's rage severely limited.
Talent, experience, and injury: though Michigan's ground game took a step forward this year it was clear that when it came up against truly excellent run defenses there was something lacking. That's probably talent since Minor was largely absent against Ohio State and Wisconsin and Molk missed the portion of the season in which the run game alternated between okay and poor.
Yeah, pretty much. The last time I broke out the Vincent Smith praise a commenter said he's not Mike Hart, but he might kind of be Mike Hart:
How many times did Hart do exactly that against Wisconsin to turn a three yard loss into a moderate gain? It seems like a thousand times. He will not grind piles forward like Hart did but I don't recall Hart having this sort of instant acceleration:
I will not be dissuaded on this: Smith performed pretty well in his first two quasi-starts against Wisconsin and Ohio State, scoring receiving touchdowns in each game and grinding out respectable YPC numbers against two of the country's best rushing defenses. He is probably going to start next year and he is going to be good.
Tangent: I think the threat of Smith on these screens and wheels may have had some impact on the line's ability to pass block. When there's a guy out there who can punish you for getting too far upfield, you adjust so that you are not useless when they screen it out.
Roundtree, Smith, and Forcier.
There were a lot of minuses in the interior line on run plays, and not a lot of positives.
What does it mean for 2010?
It's an encouraging day for Forcier, an indication that Roundtree has a death grip on one starting slot job and an invitation for the tight ends to step it up lest they be displaced by a Roundtree/Odoms pairing, and maybe a sobering look at the maximum talent level of the line. Omameh did play okay, showing outstanding mobility on a couple plays, but it seems clear that Schilling is not going to live up to the five-star hype and will top out at "decent"; the prospect of starting Dorrestein next year isn't horrifying or anything, but he also seems like a low ceiling sort.