One of these coordinators is not like the other. A few days ago Athlon talked about Don Brown in one of those anonymous coach quote articles:
“BC’s defense last year was the biggest pain for us to prepare for because they did so many things, especially on third down. The fronts they lined up in, the pressures they came with were unique, and they had some big, physical players. They were legit.”
Yesterday was the Big Ten's turn and DJ Durkin came up in the Michigan section:
“They were pretty bland from a defensive standpoint. They’ll be very different schematically than with [D.J.] Durkin, but Don Brown is really good at what he does. Brown does a bunch of different things, but they wouldn’t let you throw posts last year in a league where people have thrown posts for 25 or 30 years, and I don’t think that will change.”
Durkin persisted in the no-posts D even when the opposition wasn't inclined to throw them and was very good at other things; my issue with the late slide last year was that Michigan didn't have a backup plan when one-high man free wasn't working. Brown will run a lot of the same stuff Durkin does. He likes man coverage, he runs a bunch of plays with one high safety. But he also runs a ton of cover two. That'll give Michigan a larger base from which to pick and choose when they get yo-yoed from an Iowa offense to OSU or Indiana.
As we talked about a bit in yesterday's mailbag, there are costs involved with the added complexity. There does appear to be an adjustment period for Brown—his year one defenses didn't improve much from their baselines. The hope is that those costs are borne against teams that don't football good and that Michigan's defense can reach a level above where they were last year by the time the MSU/Iowa/OSU road games come along.
The rest of that article will not surprise. Greg Mattison and Jourdan Lewis are good; Harbaugh is intense:
“They were a good team last year, but what they really did well is they played really hard and had a lot of pride. There’s a little (bit) of coach speak in that, but when you watched them on the field, how they lined up and communicated and the intensity they had on the sideline, it was really impressive.”
Maybe don't put the coachspeak bit in your noncoachspeak article, but there is a point in there about sideline organization.
I have good news for whichever coach said this about MSU:
“Offensively they’ll be fine. Connor Cook was good, but those receivers — they were unbelievable. They made contested catch after contested catch and attacked the football.”
The only WR with more than seven catches who returns is RJ Shelton, who is not Aaron Burbridge.
And this just emphasizes how bizarre the Mike Riley hire was:
“It’s not really a rebuild, it’s more of a teardown. They’re playing one style with players who were recruited for a totally different offense, so it’s just how many steps backward they have to take before they go forward.”
Riley is 63. If they even manage to make this transition he'll be done the moment it is. Yeah, maybe I am bitter because versions of Nebraska that don't rely on a running quarterback feel weird and wrong to me. But, I mean, cumong man.
Baylor again. Events in Waco continue to verge on the unbelievable:
Baylor offensive lineman Rami Hammad -- arrested on felony stalking charges Monday -- was accused last fall of sexually assaulting a student and violating a university-issued no-contact order after confronting the woman, Outside the Lines has learned.
Hammad is facing felony stalking charges after his former girlfriend reported several instances from March to July in which he tracked her down, harassed her and twice physically assaulted her, including once at Baylor's athletic facilities on campus.
Much of this occurred after Art Briles's firing and Ken Starr's resignation; if Baylor was ever going to take this stuff seriously it would be in the immediate aftermath of a huge public scandal. Survey says "nope." It took a literal felony arrest for a suspension to occur here.
Speaking of Baylor. Outgoing Cofopoff committee members explicitly state that Ohio State's epic beatdown of Wisconsin was the deciding factor when it came time to choose between OSU, TCU and Baylor in 2015:
Mike Tranghese: Without question, yes. That was the debate for the last five weeks of the year. We probably spent more time just discussing Baylor and TCU but then in the end, Ohio State just played very well at the end, and the way they dominated Wisconsin in the end, the championship game really took the pressure of making that decision out of our hands.
Osborne: That was a difficult one. I think the thing that was, as was mentioned many times, when you have a team that plays that 13th game against a supposedly good opponent and you win 59-0, decisively, then not having that championship game certainly was a factor to be considered. No question TCU and Baylor were really good teams and it was close, but it's hard to turn your back on somebody that wins their conference championship by 59-0.
If Michigan should be so fortunate to be in a position to run up the score in Jim Harbaugh's tenure, any questions about that approach should be fielded with a link to this article. Harbaugh should literally say "www dot espn dot com slash college dash football slash story slash underscore slash id slash one seven one seven two six one nine slash college dash football dash playoff dash committee dash members dash takeaways dash their dash first dash two dash years" if challenged.
Remember the name. Walk-on OL Andrew Vastardis has been repeatedly mentioned by Steve Lorenz as a guy to keep an eye on as a potential contributor down the road. He's certainly got the size; here he's standing next to Ben Bredeson:
Too fresh〽️ pic.twitter.com/wkGd7lMEXd
— Andrew Vastardis (@AndrewV68) August 3, 2016
That is a large gentleman.
Football coaches, man. Tom Herman on specific cultural reasons why going for it on fourth down is frowned upon by football coaches:
"You'd be surprised how many staffs I've been on or seen where the head coach will tell the offensive coordinator to go for it on fourth and 4 or from the 11, and they don't get it," Herman said, "and the defensive coordinator's over there mother-fuckin' em or cussin' 'em out."
I am a Big Ten football fan. I would not be surprised, sir. Not surprised at all.
Etc.: ESPN ranks Jabrill Peppers the #9 player in CFB and Jourdan Lewis #19. Jake Butt is #54. Lewis, Peppers, and Butt are 6, 7, and 9 in the Big Ten per ESPN. No Michigan DL make it because this is a journalist's list that's counting numbers or bust. Croots like Jordan. Beilein recruits like a Werther's Orginal: slow and sweet.
Mikey likes it. Sound the greatest horn in the deepest valley and bring all the counts, earls, and dukes to the castle. I have no complaints about a uniform thing. Yea, it is true. I was worried about the matte helmets, but in sunlight they look great:
Still Iconic. pic.twitter.com/SMTquow5vq
— Michigan Equipment (@HailEquipment) August 2, 2016
There's matte like Michigan wore in the no-numbers bowl and there's that. Still some sheen, but not shiny. Dark dark blue. Maize. It looks like the most Michigan version of Michigan. It looks precise and focused and traditional.
It's mildly fussed the Uni Watch guy because he doesn't have things to say...
Nike's characteristic hype notwithstanding, there's nothing to get particularly excited about here, because so little has changed, but there's nothing to complain about either. Carry on.
...and it's caused an ESPN headline that's precisely wrong:
— Kurt Svoboda (@ksvoboda) August 3, 2016
The only thing about these jerseys is nuance, and they aced every one. The logos are tastefully small and distributed symmetrically. The colors are right, the road whites are still so crisp, and the one weird thing has deep Michigan roots*. It feels like Michigan told Nike to do stuff and Nike killing it. This is in marked contrast to how these things go much of the time: wear this ridiculous looking thing that various other schools are also wearing.
*[The diversity angle is a major stretch. Having Gerald Ford's 4 is still cool.]
Senioritis prohibited. Michigan's Jordan-littered offer letters were all over the internet yesterday. An example:
— S A U C Y ™ (@_OverCees) August 2, 2016
Nick Baumgardner highlights a slightly unusual bit that I'm pretty sure is new this year:
The final bullet point reads: "We expect you to continue to strive for excellence as a student and as an athlete: this scholarship should serve as motivation towards continued growth, not an excuse to become complacent."
Pre-Swenson incident offer letters warned kids to keep their grades up and away from the local constabulary, as had offers dating back to the Rodriguez era. Specifically noting that offers are contingent on continued progress is a Harbaugh thing, and means we can expect more decommit kerfuffles going forward.
Both sides are boggling now. Anonymous coach takes on ACC teams have something to say about Don Brown:
“BC’s defense last year was the biggest pain for us to prepare for because they did so many things, especially on third down. The fronts they lined up in, the pressures they came with were unique, and they had some big, physical players. They were legit.”
“[New BC DC Jim] Reid played a base defense when he was at Virginia, and on third down you get maybe one or two different pressures, so it’s like one end of the spectrum to the other. It’ll be interesting to see what they do.”
Michigan is in the opposite situation. DJ Durkin was a Reid type of guy content to run fairly simple defenses. Michigan did have a big stunt package; blitzes were not particularly common and usually just a five man pressure.
Is this Ryan Glasgow's nickname? This is an amazing nickname for an older brother to bestow on his younger sibling:
Ayyy young toothless https://t.co/Tuxy1Djlnk
— Graham Glasgow (@gglasgow61) August 2, 2016
Always wanted a guy named Biff around. Biff Poggi, father of Henry, has at various times been headed to Ann Arbor or another high school head coaching gig after his odd and unceremonious dismissal from Gilman. He is officially a Wolverine:
"When you've been doing something for 30 years, I just went back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, and I learned that habits are a hard thing to break," Poggi said. "I love coaching high school kids, but this was such an opportunity."
Poggi's youngest son Henry is a Wolverines fullback with two years of eligibility remaining and his daughter Mellie is also at Michigan.
"I felt like if I was ever going to do it, this is like the sun, the moon and the stars have lined up and I really am very comfortable with Jim and the coaching staff," Poggi said.
Poggi's job will be to advise Harbaugh on strategy and organizational structure. His position does not count as a coaching position and he won't be coaching the players, coaching the team or recruiting, according to the Michigan job description.
It's another analyst role. It sounds like it's a short term thing until Poggi gets the itch to return to high school, where he appears to have a job waiting for him at St. Francis. I wouldn't be surprised if Poggi spent a couple years with his son and then went back.
One interesting side note is that Poggi has some recruiting hoops to jump through because of his generosity and persnickety NCAA rules:
Another issue for Poggi was that he played a large part in funding the St. Frances program from the beginning and that he also paid tuition for a number of young men at Gilman and at other schools. As a coach in the NCAA, he could no longer pay for those things.
"I had to hire a lot of lawyers and go through the complete compliance check to where I have to follow and obey exactly the rules," he said. "For example, I just can't go watch a high school football game which I've done for 30 years. I can't call a kid on the phone. I know all these kids, the Gilman kids and other kids, too. I just can't go, 'Hey, how you doing?' I can't text them. I have to be careful how I reply to a text from them. My life is completely different than how I lived it over the last 30 years."
Good news is that Poggi can slide into their DMs without consequence and retweet them until the sun grows cold and dim, because NCAA communication regulations are all over the place.
PFF previews Michigan. They've kind of done this several times over the offseason already and every time they publish a thing we grab it here and prize it apart for any insight into their database, so there's not a ton that will be new to readers of this space. Their main concern is at QB:
QB is the biggest question on the entire roster, as 2015 starter Jake Rudock is also now with the Lions. John O’Korn (who transferred from Houston after being benched in 2014 by the new regime looking for a more athletic option) and Wilton Speight (64 snaps last season) will compete for the starting position throughout this month and while the winner will be afforded some margin of error with what appears to be a relatively easy schedule early, if the Wolverines expect to win big road games at Michigan State, Iowa and Ohio State, they will need quality play from the new signal caller.
There's no disputing that. Harbaugh's track record helps in this regard; it's nice to have one of the biggest questions you can have seem like no big deal because of the head coach.
Elsewhere some confirmation that the linebackers were eh a year ago...
While the LB corps was turned over completely due to graduation, none of last year’s crew graded overwhelmingly positively and this year’s version of course has the benefit of playing behind likely the best defensive line in the country.
...and the usual praise for Peppers, Lewis, Wormley, Hurst, Glasgow, and company. The chaser: "while many schools may have just one true superstar, Michigan has at least six on the defensive side alone."
Meanwhile in the league. Rashan Gary and Taco Charlton are gonna eat:
Can someone in the tackle class pass block?
With Ohio State’s Taylor Decker moving on to the NFL and Michigan’s Mason Cole kicking inside to center this year, no returning offensive tackle in the [Big Ten] had a positive pass blocking grade in 2015. In fact, Nebraska’s Nick Gates is the only tackle to grade positively on run blocks last year. Offensive line is the unit we typically see the most variance and improvement in from year to year, but with the entire conference literally having nothing but subpar or first-year starters, this could be another rough year against the uber-talented EDGE players littered throughout the Big Ten.
Cole had a positive pass pro grade; Magnuson did not; the rest of the league is going to curl up and die when presented with Michigan's DL (and Jabrill Peppers).
Etc.: Butt, Peppers, and Lewis make SI's preseason All-America team.
Event reminder. We're having a Hail To The Victors kickoff party/thing on Friday at Circus Bar. Hopefully it will be as crazy as last night.
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) August 1, 2016
About last night. I don't get WOO NIKE. I have no strong feelings about clothing brands, except insofar as I would like them to put the sports teams I like in uniforms that 1) stay in one piece, 2) are legible from distance, and 3) don't make me envy the dead. I'm in the same realm of bafflement Dan Murphy was last night:
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- They lined up for T-shirts.
All day, Michigan fans stood in line for T-shirts. And when the sun went down they chanted and painted their faces and counted down the last few seconds like it was New Year’s Eve for T-shirts, ones with a tiny lopsided parabola in the corner instead of a striped triangle. ...
“I’ve lived 52 years, a lot of them right here in Ann Arbor,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said into a sea of fans recording on their cell phones. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”
LIST OF SHIRTS I WOULD STAND IN LINE TO BUY
1. if it was the 12th century and they sold indulgences on shirts
— mgoblog (@mgoblog) August 1, 2016
But I'm happy you're happy, and happy that recruits and players are bonkers for the stuff. There are many many variations of this on Michigan player twitter:
— Moe Ways (@MoeWays) August 1, 2016
It's probably better that Michigan's back with marketing folks who can inspire the kind of devotion that results in a walk-on basketball player crowdsurfing like he's 1992 Eddie Vedder. The gap between the Only Incompetent Germans and that 190-proof blast of capitalism is obvious. While the headline number* on Michigan's apparel contract has been beaten by a few different schools since it was signed a year ago, Jumpman exclusivity looks like a big deal for players and recruits—you know, the people who help you win on the field.
I have one hope, and that's a football version of Jumpman. Pick one of Desmond or Woodson:
A permanent logo swap ain't happening, but if Nike wants to do a special edition thing that will sell a lot of merch and not piss off traditionalists this would be killer. (I think? I obviously have no idea what I'm talking about in this department. Later today I will advise rappists on the finest iambic pentameters. The very best.)
I have one concern. The hockey jerseys look weird and wrong.
Mismatched blues, a weird sheen on top, really not digging the jersey with one maize stripe across the top and nothing else anywhere. A closeup of the hockey jersey does seem into indicate it's regular jersey material and not, like, shimmery. I'll reserve final judgment until I see them in the wild, but I'm not hopeful.
*[I say "headline number" here because it looks like various other schools have structured their contracts such that theirs is the "biggest ever" to the press but not in reality. For example, OSU's "biggest ever" deal with Nike is actually worth $13 million less in cash than Michigan's over the same timeframe. They just pad it out with more gear at an inflated price. I haven't looked into the details of UCLA and Texas but it's possible—probable in UCLA's case—that the same thing is going on there.]
This is completely rational. I retract my tweet at Nick Baumgardner yesterday:
"I definitely think its symbolic, it's a new age for Michigan," Gozdor said. "A lot of my friends are saying they're going to burn their Adidas gear and forget the whole entire thing ever happened."
He was right.
Jeremy Gallon finally gets to be taller than some people. An alert reader points out that the Nojima Sagamihara Rise, a team in Japan's "X-League," is currently listing Devin Gardner and Jeremy Gallon on their roster. (Also included is former Illinois safety Earnest Thomas III.) Thorough research* reveals that only two foreign players are allowed to be on the field at any one time; the Rise must be planning on Gardner to Gallon for 50% of their plays. This is a good plan.
[Update: now there is an article on this occurrence:
“Everybody here is so respectful, so nice. It’s almost like a compete 180 from in America,” said Gardner, who made 27 starts at quarterback for the Wolverines, with a smile. “They (the Americans) are nice people but I’ve never been to a place where everybody is so kind and so respectful, and it’s just part of the way everyone is here. It’s pure refreshing to get a chance to experience it.”
No Michigan State or Ohio State fans in Japan, I take it.]
*[googling the league's wikipedia page]
I'd be happy to be wrong here. Erik Magnuson doesn't strike me as a guy who the NFL will consider drafting early unless he takes a big step forward as a senior, but CBS's Dane Brugler disagrees with that take, naming him one of the top ten senior OTs in the country and saying he "played like a legitimate NFL prospect":
...moves with a smooth shuffle and wide base, transferring his weight well in his kickslide to mirror edge rushers. He stays low off the snap and prefers to use his hands to control the point of attack to out-leverage and out-power defenders. Magnuson is able to secure downblocks and anchor at shallow depth, driving his legs to finish in the Wolverines' power offense. He has also been praised by the coaching staff for his leadership and consistency during the week.
Although hustle and effort aren't an issue, Magnuson has sloppy tendencies with a bad habit of lowering his head and losing sight of his target, ending up on the ground. He tends to be a waist bender and lacks ideal length to compensate, which allows savvy rushers to get him off balance and leaning. While powerful when squared to defenders, Magnuson will struggle to recover once defenders attack his shoulder.
I thought Magnuson was okay, and only that, a year ago. I get the vibe that PFF agrees with me since they haven't posted anything about him, or the rest of the Michigan OL not named Mason Cole. They tend to have an "if you can't say anything nice..." policy.
I'd be happy to be right here. Ryan Glasgow makes ESPN's list of the top 25 Big Ten players... at #25, which I'm sure I'll find is an outrage once they get around to putting a punter at 16 or whatever. Even so, thank you, ESPN, for not consigning Glasgow to a Wally Pipp role just yet. PFF also names Glasgow their #3 breakout player this year, though they do admit that's a bit of an injury-induced slam dunk:
2016 grade: 84.8 | 2015 snaps: 332 | PFF College 101 rank: 72
The argument could be made that Glasgow has already broken out as he boasted the nation’s No. 19 run-stopping grade before going down to injury last season, but since he only played 332 snaps, he still qualifies as a breakout candidate. He’s seen the field for 753 snaps the last two seasons, posting a strong +32.7 grade against the run, and last year he improved his pass rush grade to +9.0 on the strength of a sack, four QB hits, and 12 hurries on 179 rushes.
Taco Charlton shows up at #7 for the same reasons we're hyped about him around here: a lot of production in under 400 snaps. There are scattered Big Ten players to round out the list plus a couple of old names for recrutniks: both Cal RB Vic Enwere and Arizona State RB Kalen Ballage make the tail end of the list.
Spreading the wealth. Michigan probably has four guys on that aforementioned top 25 B10 players list (Lewis, Peppers and Butt are probably locks and Glasgow snuck in) so it's not exactly crazy that these gents missed it...
Michigan DL Chris Wormley and receivers Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson: Wormley is one of the more versatile defensive linemen in the league, with the ability to move between end and tackle, and he had 14.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks in 2015. Some of us argued for his inclusion, though we ultimately went with a different player in his position group. As for Darboh and Chesson, they are clearly two of the better wideouts in the league. Yet neither had huge numbers last season, and even Jim Harbaugh will tell you it's a coin flip on who is the better player. They sort of canceled out each other for purposes of this list.
...but since two of those guys are seniors getting first round draft hype it is a little bit crazy. Also:
— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) August 1, 2016
Meanwhile Feldman named Michigan's receiving corps the #3 unit in the country. Michigan could be all right this fall.
Etc.: Peppers gets votes from current Big Ten football players as the Big Ten's best defensive player... and its best offensive player. PSU fans expect a punter to be their biggest impact freshman... and they're probably right. Y'all probably don't know how bad PSU punting has been the last few years. TV networks not a big fan of the Big 12's naked cash grab. Always weird when some guy you remember as like 15 is now writing for the Daily. I'm old and DEATH DEATH DEATH. ND contract details.
Media days takes. Harbaugh showed at a place and said things. In response the media writes somewhat overheated things in response, because Harbaugh. The Sporting News refers to Michigan's "magical, millennial, marketable machine" in an alliteration explosion that engulfed their office:
“Harbaugh to my knowledge has taken no classes in marketing, never mentions the word,” Bacon said. “Yet who has marketed Michigan better then he has in the last year and a half? Not everyone likes it, but as far as getting and the name and the flag up the flag pole … Harbaugh has spread the "M" all over America — and to American Samoa — for crying out loud.”
According to Michigan associate athletic director Kurt Svoboda, the university increased its season ticket sales in 2015 to 89,875, the highest total since 2012. Of those, 72,076 were non-student tickets, the highest total since 2009. Student ticket sales increased from 11,597 in 2014 to 17,899 in 2015. …
"You can say he's 52 going on 25 in some ways,” Bacon said. “He's got more energy than almost anybody. He's in a rap video. As a rapper he's an excellent football coach, but you know the kids love it."
Looks like Bacon just put himself on the list of Uptight White People for the 57th time.
Harbaugh's ability to be the center of attention at all times arises naturally from the fact that he's got no filter and genuinely doesn't care what people say about him. So he'll climb a tree or dab for a recruit or schedule a month-long whirlwind of satellite camps, mostly because he wants to do these things, to win at various things of little to no importance. The marketing aspect is a side effect. It's not quite an accident, but it's not the primary thing.
The primary thing:
To that point, Harbaugh said almost every practice is mapped out for the upcoming season, mapped out on his computer. Fall camp will include a lot more four-hour practices, another concept Butt said might be foreign in an age where less contact is encouraged. Butt even told former Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy about those practices this summer.
McElroy’s response? “You lost me at the four-hour practices.”
Harbaugh goes harder and his guys are willing to do the same given his example. Along the way articles are written.
Also this. Harbaugh's just way more interesting than coaches primarily focused on escaping media appearances without saying anything that means anything. Literally. Brian Hamilton:
Around 1:30 p.m. on Monday, James Joseph Harbaugh took the stage and an otherwise lobotomized first day of Big Ten media day festivities got interesting. All he had to do was wear the baseball cap, really: Michigan’s coach later explained his accessorizing was the product of going five weeks without a haircut and his affinity for the skinny ‘M’ logo.
He signed a fan's bicep with a Sharpie, then told the fan to come back for another try Tuesday because he didn't like the way his skin signature looked.
Of his appearance in a recent rap video, Harbaugh insisted that only "uptight white people" didn't like it. He even claimed to have written one of the song's lyrics ("Roughest team in the B-I-G!). At another point, Harbaugh used the word "meritocracy," briefly wondered if he had just invented it, then looked disappointed when he learned it already existed.
He is one of few college football coaches clearly operating his own twitter feed, because he's got something to say on it. Something like "I am Uncle Rico and The Georgia Coach is barking up the wrong tree."
Knock on wood. Harbaugh says Michigan is healthy headed into fall camp:
"There's nothing to report," Harbaugh said of player injuries. "We're pretty darn healthy. We came out of spring ball pretty darn healthy. We didn't get any of the long-term kind, six month injuries. There's always things that people are dealing with and working with. Our goal is to get the healthiest, most in-shape and strongest team we can on August 8th and then we'll take our shot."
Rumors about Chesson's availability have persisted through the offseason; he should be fine:
Asked specifically about All-Big Ten receiver Jehu Chesson, Harbaugh didn't give a definitive answer but did say he thinks he'll be good to go.
"Yes, I believe he will," Harbaugh said.
The only other player who had a long-term injury at the end of spring practice was Moe Ways, who has reportedly been running routes with the QBs for weeks now. Per Webb, Ryan Glasgow put up some impressive bench press numbers himself recently. Since his injury was to his pectoral that is plenty of evidence he's all the way back.
Recruiting is for gentlemen only. James Franklin's comments about negative recruiting from a while back are predictably a hot topic at Big Ten media days, but they're apparently based on an unrepresentative quote:
"All I said was that every kid that we're recruiting is also being recruited by Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Notre Dame and that they don't have the same challenges that we have now," Franklin said. "Then, in a separate quote, I mentioned that right now we're (dealing) with negative recruiting. It was two separate quotes, though, over a 35-minute interview.
"I never said that any of those schools are the ones doing the negative recruiting against us. They're not. There is one other particular school, but I didn't name who that was."
"…although it is blindingly obvious to you and everyone who reads this quote that it is Pitt."
Negative recruiting hubbub is always pretty ridiculous since things as innocuous as pointing out your relatively friendly depth chart will be twisted into "School X is in ISIS" by the time someone mutters about it on the internet. This seems a bit more ridiculous than most.
The Bill C preview. Bill Connelly's big Michigan preview hit SBNation yesterday. Happily, Bill saw through Michigan's roster subterfuge and knows that they get back most of their offense.
S&P+ projects Michigan to win 9.6 games:
If that sounds pessimistic MSU was at 7.8 a few days ago. Combinatorial math is harsh when you add these things up: Michigan has just three games they're not 75%+ to win and yet they're tiny favorites to end up with double digit wins. 9.6 is pretty good in this context.
There are a couple issues of the sort that are inevitable if you have to write 128 of these over the course of the offseason. Connelly strangely tabs the departure of Mario Ojemudia as the beginning of the defense's late slide and worries over the least worrisome bit of the entire team:
Things fell apart for the line right around the time of Mario Ojemudia's injury. There was still play-making potential on the edge, but it seemed to be a tough blow for Michigan's tenuous depth. Ryan Glasgow going down was the knockout punch.
Depth might not be any better this year. When you were only comfortable with seven guys, and two are gone, improvement isn't guaranteed. But when you've got reinforcements like all-world freshman Rashan Gary, it's hard to worry too much.
Ojemudia went down early in the Maryland game, a shutout. The next week they shut out Northwestern, and then they gave up some points. Against MSU and Minnesota they were mostly secondary issues; Rutgers scored just 16 in Glasgow's last game. Ojemudia was playing well but Royce Jenkins-Stone wasn't a huge dropoff. Glasgow was for a ton of reasons.
Anyway. Bryan Mone hype understandably eludes Connelly's take here, as does the somewhat more questionable emergence of Winovich and Marshall.
Peppers scouted. By NFL.com:
He is fluid in his turn, and he has excellent recovery speed down the field. He is instinctive and aware in underneath coverage. He jumped a bubble screen for a near interception in the Minnesota game. He is outstanding as a run defender. He fights through blocks and is a very reliable tackler in space. He shows timing and burst as a blitzer.
Yep. Concerns include an awkwardness in off coverage and a certain grabbiness that he's gotten away with for the most part. It was clear at the beginning of the year that he had a lot of things to work on in coverage; the good news is that he improved a great deal over the course of the year and should continue to do so.
PFF talks Ohio State. Their offense is an enigma now with just a few starters returning and JT Barrett's downfield ability in question:
The passing game is much more of a question mark, as Barrett has not had nearly the same success through the air as he has on the ground. He earned an average passing grade last season after performing marginally better than that in 2014, and he struggled the most on intermediate throws: On passes thrown 10 to 19 yards downfield, Barrett was just 12 of 25 for 211 yards, 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, earning a negative grade in that area of the field.
On the other hand he was their #2 running QB last year behind Houston's Greg Ward. MSU shut down the OSU run game and they foundered, as they did for much of the season. (Remember the NIU game?) Michigan did not do anything of the sort and got ripped. Don Brown versus and Urban Meyer offense is going to be the most intriguing tactical matchup of the season.
Etc.: Tough talk about the ACC Network's ability to get carriage. Ann Arbor is the most educated city in the country by a mile. Ian Boyd on Minnesota's three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust offense. The Black Heart Gold Pants crew is on the move. Barton Simmons catches on to Harbaugh's crazy QB coaching record.
Harbaugh as Uncle Rico. He's the least Uncle Rico person of all time, except in his mind:
— Coach Harbaugh (@CoachJim4UM) July 24, 2016
— Coach Harbaugh (@CoachJim4UM) July 25, 2016
No, not really. Maybe if we…
— Noah Neidlinger (@candor_for_sale) July 25, 2016
There we go.
WE ARE KIND OF EXCITED. Take it from a man selling a preseason magazine: Michigan fans are throwing their money at the upcoming season because they have an enthusiasm too rare over the past ten years. News that more bets are being placed on Michigan to win the national title than any other team should be interpreted in that light.
PFF evaluates that take, mostly rehashing things they've published before—Wormley, Glasgow, Hurst, and Charlton are all real good, literally everyone in the secondary graded out positively—but offering some new insights into their 2015 rankings:
They are bringing back a solid receiving corps led by WR Jehu Chesson (who earned the third-highest WR rating among returning wideouts at 127.9) and TE Jake Butt (who is the top returning tight end in receiving grade, after catching 51 of 70 targets for 653 yards and three touchdowns). They have a productive running back in De’Veon Smith, who broke 52 tackles combined last season.
There's been a lot of NFL and All Big Ten hype around Chesson, a guy who came on late but didn't exactly put up Braylon numbers; that helps confirm the late season surge. (Also Florida UFR is this week, and Chesson was insanely good in that game even if you look past the two long strikes against Hargreaves.) Butt being the top receiving WR is no surprise; Smith being "productive" kind of is.
Also, Jake Rudock surge:
Jake Rudock came on strong at the end of 2015, but for the first nine weeks of the season, he ranked 98th among 101 qualifying quarterbacks in PFF grades – and the Wolverines were still a top-10 team entering the final week of the regular season.
If Rudock had transferred fast enough to get in for spring practice that would have been something.
Still gets no respect. BTN put out a list of the top 100 players in the league that's mostly notable for their bonkers #takes on various players, like definition-of-just-a-guy Justin Jackson at #11. Jackson is Northwestern running back on a team with some sort of sea mammal trying to use his flippers to get the ball downfield, so his carry numbers are inflated. He got the ball a whopping 312 times last year, and was fine. He did nothing to defy Northwestern's fate against Michigan, Iowa, and Nebraska—25, 30, and 40 yards, respectively—and mostly ran over teams that were not good. He had a couple moments; he was fine. He got to 139 yards against Wisconsin without cracking 4 YPC. You could put him somewhere in the second half of this list if you wanted; 11 is bizarre.
But the reason this section exists is because the list completely omits Ryan Glasgow. Ryan Glasgow, the guy who got hurt just before Michigan's run defense fell off a cliff; Ryan Glasgow, the guy PFF ranked a top 20 DL in all of college football last year. No matter what he does on the field, because he is 1) a former walk-on and 2) a nose tackle someone is always willing to ignore him in favor of Bryan Mone or a completely average running back. Or #32 Montae Nicholson a guy who got pulled over and over again last year because he kept giving up big plays. Or #60 Wes Lunt. Or #100 Michael Geiger, a kicker hitting 63% the last two years. There's an obvious mandate to diversify the schools involved here but that's nonsensical.
Anyway. Get your chips hot, Glasgow.
The media days, they begin. If news comes out of them that'll be newsworthy. Best item so far is that MSU appears to be moving Kodi Kieler to center:
MSU also released a preseason depth chart: Kieler now listed as starter at center, Brian Allen at LG, Dennis Finley/Miguel Machado at RT
— Kyle Austin (@kylebaustin) July 25, 2016
I said there wasn't much news. JUCO transfer Machado was real bad last year as Kieler struggled to stay ambulatory; Finley was hurt the whole year.
Dytarious may return. Dytarious Johnson didn't sign a letter of intent this fall and then enrolled in prep school; per Johnson Michigan is still in pursuit and will enroll him this January. That's still dependent on a number of things, including Johnson getting his grades right and how Michigan's scholarship situation shapes up. A lot of these plans end up changing along the way.
More unit rankings. Sports On Earth declares Michigan's DL the third-best in the land and their secondary fifth-best, and if that actually strikes you as pessimistic, well, placing the OL #5 in the country more than makes up for that.
Etc.: Iowa defensive tackle Faith Ekakitie had four guns pulled on him because he was mistaken for a bank robber 100 pounds lighter than him. Peppers gets a prestigious award. Eric Upchurch talks MGoPhotography with MGoFish. Remembering 1976.
What are you doing? As part of their deal with the devil, once a year Notre Dame has to abandon their classic blue and gold for colors that don't even exist:
Nothing is any of those colors except the helmet: urine when you're dehydrated. The helmet comes nowhere near anything else on the uniform. They've got as many design elements as you put on your rad-ass logo the first time you ever opened up your pirated copy of photoshop in seventh grade. Also:
2. "Authentic Irish Pub" in suburban upstate New York lookin' ass font. Guy who has never left his hometown but never shuts up about how Irish he is ass font. This font is so dumb, if you let your eyes lose focus, the letters automatically rearrange into "You know, the Guinness they have in Ireland is different and much better than here in the US."
These are the worst things Under Armour does annually.
I hesitate to suggest that Michigan won't do similar things under Harbaugh because not even he can stand against the tide by himself, but so far so good. Last year's all-white road uniforms were sharp and we haven't had uniformz announced or even rumored. It is possible. Texas, Alabama, and USC have largely or even entirely avoided uniforms that look like a wrestler's entrance video.
Harbaugh uptick. MLive covers how Michigan and MSU spend their money, albeit with poorly-axis'd graphs. The most interesting bit is a clear Harbaugh surge in spending on support staff:
This is spending on guys like Erik Campbell, TJ Weist, Bam Richards, Devin Bush Sr, etc. Michigan almost doubled its spending on support staff in Harbaugh's first year, hitting 2.7 million. The number they landed on doesn't seem like a coincidence:
In its 2013-14 NCAA financial report, Alabama reported spending $2.7 million on football support staff. … Clemson reported spending $2.5 million on football support staff in 2013-14, up from $480,000 about a decade ago.
Harbaugh asked and got the same budget as the two teams who played for the national title this year.
Michigan's recruiting expenses also saw an uptick, but I don't know if these numbers account for Satellite Camp World Tour 1.0 or not; either way the financial impact of those tours is going to be a slight increase in a number best described as "piddling."
Michigan was good at kickoffs. Michigan was 17th nationally in opponent drives following a kickoff that started at the 25 or worse and 16th when they tried to return kickoffs past the 25 themselves. That success rate was only 57% despite ranking in the top 20—so much of the value in a kick return is the 50 yards at the end that almost never happen but sometimes do.
I think they'll be good in both departments this year. Kenny Allen got good hang time and a lot of touchbacks, and whoever Michigan opts for as a returner is going to be fast and mean.
More expansion, hooray. If the Big 12 is going to expand they should just take BYU and Houston and be done with it. Houston doesn't make a whole lot of sense for the same reason Pitt was never seriously considered by the Big Ten—footprint rules everything around me—but when the other options are Cincinnati, Memphis, UConn, and directional Floridas, Houston starts to look mighty appealing anyway. So of course a former president of CBS sports recommends UConn:
For that reason, Pilson advised the Big 12 to take a page from the Big Ten’s playbook. Much as the Big Ten, a traditionally Midwestern league, recently added Rutgers and Maryland to plant its flag near several East Coast population centers, the Big 12, whose members reside in Great Plains states and Texas (and West Virginia), ought to invite Connecticut to join, Pilson said.
“Having Texas and Oklahoma and the other major Big 12 schools playing in the Northeast would create additional revenue opportunities and make it a more attractive conference in terms of new sponsors and a better linear television deal,” Pilson said.
That seems nuts to me. The Big 12 does not have a network and won't have one unless Texas gives the LHN up, which no. If Texas really wants exposure in a different part of the country they'll blow the Big 12 up.
Invite Purdue and Rutgers to join the Big 12 conference.
Yep, you heard me. Purdue University and Rutgers University would be great fits for your fledgling conference, since they really round out and diversify what the conference needs most. And to help you out, I even made a pro/con list for each school and why they'd work in the Big 12. …
- There are no drawbacks to this move whatsoever
A compelling case from the Crimson Quarry.
There is a Big Ten angle here. 247's Bobby Burton notes that the Big 12 has a grant of rights agreement through 2025 and Texas is seriously considering an exit at that point:
The only assurance Texas, or any school for that matter, could truly give to any newcomer is the "grant of rights" to the league that is currently in place. That grant for Texas and all of teams of the Big 12 extends to 2025.
Yet I don't see an extension of the grant of rights occurring based on my discussion with a high-ranking Texas official this morning.
"I do not like any of the choices," the official said. "(I) want to watch to see if there is a move to extend the grant of TV rights. I will fight that tooth and nail."
Per Burton, Texas's president and chancellor both prefer the Big Ten to the Pac-12 or SEC. Oddly, he says "expect Texas to ask for an annual trip to Chicago and to either of the East Coast markets," which almost certainly can't happen without making the division structure insane. Chicago they can manage since the West division in that event is going to be Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Texas, Northwestern, Illinois, and whichever other Big 12 refugee hypothetically comes along.
By the way, at that point you're back down to playing the other division 25% of the time even with nine conference games. Hooray expansion.
Persons profiled. Angelique profiles Mo Hurst…
Hurst has been on the Uber clock this summer, logging miles and earning money, in addition to interning at Blue Lion Fitness in Ann Arbor.
“I’ve just done it for extra cash, pretty much that’s it,” the affable 6-foot-2, 282-pound lineman said. “I definitely like the flexibility. I can work whenever, which helps with my schedule with (football) workouts and working at Blue Lion Fitness.”
Once camp begins Aug. 8, however, Hurst’s Uber days will be over. But he’s enjoyed the experience, especially longer trips to the airport which net $22.
…and Dymonte Thomas:
“Jake [Butt] is a character. We talk trash every day. He likes to get better. He knows in the NFL there are going to be DBs who are quick and fast and strong, kind of like me, who are going to cover him, and he’s going to have to get open. That’s why he likes the competition. He’ll go against the linebacker, but he knows if he can get open on a DB, he can get open on a linebacker, so Jake and I go at it every day.”
Thomas offered a Butt scouting report as well:
“Jake’s going to be probably a first-round pick,” Thomas said. “Jake has got strides. It’s not like he’s super fast, but he has long strides that make him fast. He’s really good with his double moves and he’s really good at sticking, stopping and going. If you don’t slow him down, he will leave you. He’s sneaky fast.”
Etc.: This Harbaugh conspiracy theory is just crazy enough to consider. My take on the new apparel: it's definitely a shirt. Jordan Poole playing well in AAU. Fixing the schedule needs 7 B10 ADs to approve. Hugh Freeze has a future in politics. Moritz Wagner profiled.