a terrible blight on our fine country
Note: the confusion about if Michigan is actually running a 3-3-5 this fall or if it's more of the 4-3 with deathbacker hybrid, or if it's "multiple" or whatever leaves the previewer at a loss when attempting to slot players into familiar roles. I've decided to take Greg Robinson and Rich Rodriguez at their word and will treat Craig Roh like a defensive lineman who frequently fakes playing linebacker and occasionally (or more than occassionally) does. This may be off.
|Craig Roh||So.||Mike Martin||Jr.||Greg Banks||Sr.*||Ryan Van Bergen||Jr.*|
|Brandon Herron||Jr.*||Will Campbell||So.||Renaldo Sagesse||Sr.*||Jibreel Black||Fr.|
|JB Fitzgerald||Jr.*||Richard Ash||Fr.||Terry Talbott||Fr.||Anthony LaLota||Fr.*|
|GET IN THE CAR|
|splits a double team|
|blows past the down-block attempt|
|zips around the center|
|SLASHING PAST OL|
|deep into the backfield|
|darts past attempted down-block|
|does attack on this one|
|drives blockers backwards|
|drives the opposing center back|
Martin blew up against Wisconsin, not that it ended up mattering.
Mike Martin was a promising freshman backup and promising sophomore starter. Now entering his true junior season, it's time for Martin to shed the promise and become the beast he has to be if Michigan's defense is going to tread water this season. With a position switch starter behind him at linebacker and Brandon Graham elsewhere, he goes from sidekick to superhero.
As you can see at right, Mike Martin is at his best using his agility and strength to zip past opposing offensive linemen and do mean things to ballcarriers in the backfield. The clips have a distinct lack of Watson-esque offensive lineman crushing; similarly, much of Martin's high school highlight video features him zipping around, not through overmatched kids. Though he can fight through opposition blockers from time to time and doesn't get blown back often, deploying him as a one-technique nose tackle exposes him to a ton of double teams—most of the highlights above feature him splitting two guys trying to zone him—and limits what he's able to accomplish. A switch to more of a 3-3-5, if that actually happens, will either mitigate this or provide outside linebackers windows to exploit; Martin's iron grip on the NT job is an indication that could be the plan. (More scheme discussion will take place later in the week.)
A quick survey of his UFR results from last year shows a guy who doesn't often end up in the minus column but also doesn't consistently produce like the star he has to be if Michigan's defensive line is going to maintain their productivity of a year ago:
|WMU||5.5||1||4.5||Two great pass rush moves on the interior are most of those points.|
|Notre Dame||2.5||-||2.5||Decent tracking down the run but zero pass rush.|
|EMU||7||1.5||5.5||Much better job getting off blocks this week and more active; this is probably because of the competition. Still, he's promising. Probably needs another year before he's truly an anchor.|
|Indiana||4.5||-||4.5||Indiana could not move him.|
|Michigan State||7||5.5||1.5||Mental issues on the Cousins run and the final Caper run.|
|Iowa||9||4.5||4.5||Demonstrated great agility several times and had a couple good pass rush moves but got crushed off the ball four times, too.|
|Penn State||2.5||2.5||0||Off day.|
|Illinois||7||1||6||No frontside creases all day; too bad about the linebackers.|
|Purdue||4.5||0.5||4||Relatively quiet; not getting much pass rush this year.|
|Wisconsin||12.5||2||10.5||Huge day, especially early.|
This, and the brief snippets of talent from Martin's freshman year when he was a backup to Will Johnson (after he snuffed out Wisconsin's second two-point attempt in 2008 I said he was "already kind of great" as a pass rusher), has seen this blog suggest/push/plead for Martin to slide to the three-tech spot made famous by Warren Sapp and occupied by backfield inhabitants Ryan Van Bergen and Alan Branch recently. In his third year in a college program, Martin has the potential to put up serious numbers if he can find himself one-on-one with sluggish guards. This requires a move away from the nose. It's also not going to happen, so you can put away your fancy dreams about Martin going all Babineaux on the Big Ten and dropping 28 TFLs.
Even so, it's time for Martin to make the same leap Brandon Graham did between his junior and senior years. I can't offer anything more powerful than this wonderfully ungrammatical assessment from Jibreel Black:
You look at the rest of this defensive line and there’s a lot of talent there, but is there anyone in particular that you look at and say, ‘wow man this dude is better than I thought he was? ‘
“Not necessarily better than I thought he was, because I know all of them are good, but when I see some plays that Mike (Martin) makes in practice, I be like dang. His explosiveness, his technique that he uses. You can tell the work that he put in with it.”
I hope to be like dang for large sections of the season.
Martin's reached the point where he's being held out of hitting because he's Mike Martin…
“Defensively, Mike Martin has had a tremendous camp. We limited him yesterday because we know what he can. He has been really good and probably our most consistent defensive player since camp started.”
…he's in good enough shape to crush the rest of his position group when Michigan does post-practice runs, he's an upperclassman with a year of starting experience under his belt… now is the time. I'm not sure if Martin will be on All Big Ten teams after the year, especially at a position at which statistics don't always tell the tale, but I'm confident in asserting he should be on them.
Banks left; Sagesse right
|burst past blockers|
|knifed through the line|
|cuts under his blocker|
The other tackle spot will be manned by the two seniors. Michigan lists Greg Banks first on its UConn depth chart but moved 289-pound Renaldo Sagesse away from the nose tackle spot he played decently at a year ago to back him up; to me this signals an intent to wear Martin out and keep the three-tech/DE spot fresh with constant platooning. We'll address the two as co-starters.
Sagesse and Banks are like senior versions of the two 5'10 freshman corners. They were middling recruits; they've established themselves solid but uninspiring Big Ten players. The closest comparison I can think of in the recent history of Michigan linemen is Rondell Biggs, the other guy on the ridiculous 2006 line.
|blasts the LT back|
|forcing a cutback|
|shoots past the center's block|
|both blow into the backfield|
Last year Sagesse was a "mysterious entity locked on the bench" after arriving at Michigan from the wild hinterlands of Quebec pegged to provide "functional depth." He actually did a bit better than that, as the clip reel shows: nothing negative enough to be worthy of pulling off, a few impressive plays, albeit against lower-level competition. The worst thing I've seen Sagesse do to date is get sealed and pancaked by Patrick Omameh in the spring game but we'll just chalk that up to Omameh being wicked sweet.
I was openly campaigning for Sagesse to get more playing time:
So this Sagesse guy is okay?
He hasn't seen much time but I have him down for +5 in that time with no minuses. Given the depth situation at DE and RVB's seeming inability to hold up—not surprising at 6'5" 270 something—doesn't it make sense to try Sagesse out as a starting NT and slide Martin over to the 3-tech? RVB can then back up the 3-tech and Graham. The line adds 30-40 pounds and doesn't have to roll out a walk-on when Graham needs a blow.
Van Bergen found his footing on the interior and that never came to fruition, but I remained on Sagesse's side to the point where I was campaigning for him to start this year, again so Martin could slide out.
Last year both started out well, with Sagesse picking up a total of 9.5 to the good against just one minus in the three nonconference games before Indiana; Banks had plus 6.5 and minus 0.5 in the same timespan. But from there both went radio silent, playing regularly but getting little in the way of up or down recognition. Sample reactions from the Big Ten schedule: "quiet," "meh," "played little," "also played little," and "one nice play for naught."
This isn't a terrible thing for a sparely-used defensive tackle, especially the nose spot Sagesse was at. Ideally you'd like some plays from the interior, but if Mike Martin is going to provide those you can deal with the other spot being functional. On the '06 Line of Doom, sophomore Terrance Taylor wasn't a star and that worked out okay. It is concerning that I didn't see either play in the Purdue game and Sagesse remained totally absent for Wisconsin.
Michigan's formations will go some way to determining which player gets more time. In three-man lines Sagesse is clearly going to be a pass-rush liability as a defensive end, but when Michigan goes to four (or brings in the "double eagle" package with the DEs lined up over the opposition guards) Sagesse's got more heft. I wouldn't be surprised to see both lifted for Jibreel Black or maybe Craig Roh on passing downs.
Take your pick of adjectives: workmanlike, yeoman, gritty, etc. Expect something okay here; the upside is low, but so is the downside.
And now everyone's worried about Will Campbell since his '09 cameos were unimpressive and he's stuck behind Adam Patterson on the depth chart. He's back on the upswing with his weight after losing a ton between the end of his senior year and fall camp, adding 15 pounds from '09 to '10. He now checks in at 333, the heaviest guy on the roster.
That could be good as Michigan starts putting good weight back on Campbell after his freshman year slim-down. It could be bad. Rodriguez complained about the conditioning of a "small handful," and Campbell seemed like an obvious candidate for the wingless doghouse. He wasn't in it, but that doesn't mean Rodriguez is pleased with his conditioning:
"He got a lot of reps in the spring with Mike Martin [out], and I think he got better. he's still got some things to work on, but he's a big, strong guy. Depending on what kind of shape he's in when we start will determine how quickly he can battle for that job.
"If he's in great shape when we come in, he can battle to start. If he's not, he'll struggle until he gets in shape."
On the field, Campbell lived up to his reputation as a very large guy in need of serious technique work. I've seen a lot of zone stretches by now and rarely has a nose tackle eaten it like he did against Iowa:
I'm not at the point where I can tell you the ten different things Campbell did to get blown four yards downfield, but I can blather on about pad level: man, pad level. Am I right?
That happened about midway through the year and Campbell virtually disappeared after it; the only other clip I've got on him is what seems in retrospect to be an excessively harsh evaluation of a big Baby Seal U run on which Vlad Emilien got pancaked and Kevin Leach blasted out of the play, too. But even so he did get sealed by the BSU center all too easily. There wasn't a lot of buzz about Campbell coming out of spring, and he failed to live up to this blog's expectation of a regular job in the rotation with an "an eye on maybe starting when Michigan goes bulky for games against ground-pounders like Michigan State and Wisconsin." As the Iowa cameo showed, that would have been a bad idea.
HOWEVA, planet-spanning defensive tackles take time, as West Texas Blue demonstrated in a diary running down the fates of Campbell's DT classmates. None of them did anything save OU's Jamarcus McFarland and (sigh) Arkansas's Dequinta Jones. Most redshirted, like Campbell should have. Since he's third team right now don't expect much more than short-yardage duty early in the year, with the hope being he can emerge into a competent Martin backup by midseason,
Meanwhile, Adam Patterson's odd Michigan career has taken another turn in his fifth and final year: he's now a nose tackle. An easy top-100 recruit out of South Carolina whose selection of Michigan was almost as surprising as Carlos Brown's, Patterson's been locked on the bench his entire career. My assumption was that the nose move ended any chance he had at regular playing time, but he's now second on the depth chart at a position that sees a lot of rotation. He'll play; I don't think he'll be much good. The dropoff after Martin will be similar to that Michigan experienced when Graham came off the field, though less severe since Martin won't be Graham and the backup is at least a senior.
There are a couple freshmen, about whom we know nothing that hasn't been covered by their recruiting profiles. Pahokee native Richard Ash went from 263 pounds about a year ago to 320 on the fall roster; with concerns about his fitness and drive dogging his recruitment he is a guaranteed redshirt as Barwis attempts to whittle him down to something approximating the player who briefly had Florida and USC offers before the weight got too sloppy. Everything the blog compiled on Ash is located at his recruiting profile.
Finally, Terry Talbott is a three-tech in the making. He's got the inverse issue: listed at 248 on Michigan's roster, he'll need a year and 20 pounds before he's viable. Neither appeared on the UConn depth chart; redshirts beckon.
Strongside Defensive End
RYAN VAN BERGEN
|DRIVING BACK OTHERS|
|blows the RG back,|
|gets under Stewart|
|gets playside of his guy|
|tearing around the corner|
|drives LG three yards back|
|blows into the RG|
|blasts into the backfield|
|CRUSHED BACK HIMSELF|
|drives RVB out of the hole|
|Tackle blocks down on RVB|
|Ezeh(?!?!) follows him|
|trouble holding up|
|AGILITY FOR DE? POSSIBLE|
|deep into the backfield|
|slices through two blockers|
|again through the line|
|splits a double team|
|gets playside of his guy|
|tackling(+1) at the LOS|
Brandon Graham is currently racking up defensive rookie of the year hype in Philadelphia, but the position is seemingly in good hands. Redshirt junior Ryan Van Bergen slides outside after a year starting at the three-tech defensive tackle spot. He was productive there, acquiring 40 tackles, 6.5 TFLs, and five sacks in his first year as a starter. He even tacked on four pass breakups, presumably on bat-downs at the line of scrimmage.
His season in UFR was okay for a DT:
|WMU||5||0.5||4.5||More effective on review; did not give ground, albeit against a MAC team.|
|Notre Dame||2.5||3||-0.5||Looked a lot like an out of position DE.|
|EMU||1||2.5||-1.5||Not holding up very well against doubles.|
|Indiana||8||1||7||Did virtually nothing until the 85-yard run, then single-handedly killed the next drive.|
|Michigan State||9||4.5||4.5||Great day against an MSU OL that planned to turn him into dust and could not, but irresponsible pass rushing cost Michigan more than once.|
|Iowa||5||-||5||Very competent against a day of single blocking, which got him a lot of half points.|
|Penn State||4||3||1||Also not a great day.|
|Illinois||2||-||2||Not a major factor. [here this just becomes true so i say it again]|
|Purdue||2||2||0||Not a major factor.|
|Wisconsin||1||1||0||Not a major factor.|
Disclaimers about UFR being a DL-friendly grading system apply; even so, that's pretty good for a redshirt sophomore entering the lineup for the first time. The drive after Indiana's "doomed from the start" 85-yard touchdown you may have seen on the sidebar when Jordan Kovacs or JT Floyd was discussed was probably my favorite series in last year's UFR process. Michigan desperately needed a stop and RVB provided:
Do you know what I did when Indiana had that 85 yard run?
I thought to myself "I bet Ryan Van Bergen missed a check and will spend the rest of the game personally destroying the Indiana offense."
No. I threw the cat at the TV and vowed to find Jim Herrmann and find a way to blame it on him.
His hulk up after that play continued through Michigan State (when he was "going from a non-entity to a guy who's making plays") and Iowa, when he "only got a +5" because of an array of half-points. Unfortunatley it evaporated on a meh day against Penn State and for the rest of the year Van Bergen was hovering around the zero that is not a good day for a DL. I think some of that has to do with the rest of the defense: Illinois just kept going outside and Wisconsin passing over the middle, leaving few opportunities for him to make plays.
The move outside is a complicating factor, though it remains to be seen just how much of one it is. In the clips at left there's a section in which RVB gets MASSEY'D back; understandable since at 6'6", 271 there's only so much you can do to avoid getting blown back on every play. The ratio of good to bad there is encouraging, but more encouraging for his future as a defensive end is the section on agility and those five sacks. As a bonus, before he slid into the starting lineup he was Graham's backup.
Van Bergen knows the position, was recruited to play it, and is entering his fourth year on campus with a season as a solid starter under his belt. Least useful phrase ever: he's not going to be Brandon Graham. Mitigating phrase: but he should be solid. At a spot more amenable to pass rush and with more experience, RVB should brush up against double-digit sacks and see his UFRs climb into the consistently good realm inhabited by, say, Tim Jamison as a senior.
Here's a change: instead of massive attrition and injury bringing a walk-on into play, at this spot a walk-on's unavailability is a problem. Will Heininger tore his knee up in spring practice and will miss the season, leaving Van Bergen backed up by… some guys… I guess.
The guy who most prominent in the fall practice was true freshman Jibreel Black, a stocky 6'1" 262 pound pass-rush specialist who was issued the just-vacated 55 and has a special section in his recruiting profile in which people either say things that sound like Brandon Graham or just flat-out compare him to probably the best defensive end ever to play at Michigan. Here's Rodriguez:
“He wears No. 55 and looks a little like BG at times. But he’s got a burst and some natural athletic ability. I’ve been really pleased with his progress.”
No pressure, kid.
Rodriguez further called out Black as "the freshman lineman most likely to have a chance to play." Black won't be much of a factor as a true freshman; hope for a year in which he holds his own when RVB needs a breather and maybe makes a couple of MAC offensive tackles look silly.
Redshirt freshman Anthony LaLota is also in the mix for playing time behind Van Bergen; he was a high four-star to the recruiting sites (recruiting profile) before a disappointing week at the Army game saw his rankings take a significant hit. He still checked in as a Rivals 250 guy and was just outside the Scout 100, so it wasn't too bad. Unfortunately, his height and weight were significantly overstated by the same sites and when he hit campus two inches and 30 pounds short of expectations, he was destined for a redshirt. He got that redshirt, got up to 256 by fall of last year, and is now listed at 270—possibly time to play, possibly in need of another 15 pounds since he's a couple inches taller than Black. The coaches have been radio silent on LaLota (a Google news search turns up zero, whereas Black is getting some pub), so it might be the latter.
Former tight end Steve Watson is also here, but he's pretty much David Cone on defense. I imagine if push comes to shove LaLota will see the field before he does despite the initial depth chart. That seems like a nod to seniority.
|IRRESPONSIBLE BUT EFFECTIVE|
|blows up WMU draw|
|making an ankle tackle|
|JUST THE FORMER|
|dropping into coverage|
|spinning inside of the OT|
|Incredibly open dig/seam|
|hit Cousins as he throws|
|excellent on the stunt here|
|murders this dead|
|reads the pull|
|gets outside and avoids a cut|
|two guys double Roh|
Roh against Purdue.
Craig Roh is the Denard Robinson of the defense: a highly touted recruit that should have spent his freshman year redshirting and sucking up Breaston-level practice hype before debuting as a promising but still so raw redshirt freshman in 2010. Since it's the Age of Doom, Roh had to start as a 225 pound defensive end in the Big Ten.
The results were mixed, trending towards negative. When opponents got a solid block on him he was done, something Michigan tried to prevent by slanting him extensively. That worked well enough, but since there's only so much you can do with a defensive end that small his pass rush repertoire shrunk from the Swiss Army Knife set that saw Roh rise to become a top 50 prospect on at least one site to the hope he could run around guys.
There was one major positive the clips at right don't show: he was seemingly better in coverage than Michigan veteran linebackers, able to track tight ends up to 20 yards downfield and surprisingly capable of doing something about it if and when the ball arrived. The hope at linebacker is that Roh's advanced coverage skills were Greg Robinson's doing.
But without further adieu, Roh's '09 numbers, keeping in mind that UFRs are slanted towards defensive ends and getting a small positive is treading water there:
|WMU||5.5||1||4.5||Pretty good debut; showed a variety of pass-rush moves including a sick spin.|
|Notre Dame||2||3||-1||Drew a key hold but mostly neutralized. Looked like a freshman.|
|EMU||6.5||3||3.5||A couple of nice plays when EMU put him on the edge and tried to fool or read him. Athleticism should be an asset against zone read teams.|
|Indiana||3||1||2||Not really in on much.|
|Michigan State||4.5||0.5||4||Not getting as much pressure as you'd like, though.|
|Iowa||5.5||1||4.5||Had a couple hurries, used his athleticism well from the backside on a couple runs.|
|Penn State||4||1||3||Got a sack against the real side of the PSU D.|
|Illinois||7||2.5||4.5||Effective slanting all day; not great in pass rush yet.|
|Purdue||6||4.5||1.5||Extensive discussion below.|
|Wisconsin||4||6||-2||Wisconsin was always going to be the team to own him.|
The Purdue game exposed Roh's limitations more obviously than any other. The Boilers lined up in an array of 3x1 sets and got big gains by running right at Roh when he lined up to the open side of the field:
Michigan flipped Graham to that side of the field and Purdue started rolling away from him to the receiver-heavy side of the field, completing a bunch of wide open passes. Michigan flipped back and Roh was again unable to fight through blockers to maintain his edge:
As the UFR made clear, there are a lot of reasons Michigan's defense was so porous last year but running out a freshman defensive end was one of them. The end result:
Roh did some good stuff on slants and was responsible when he had an opportunity to overrun plays, which gives him that modest positive score above, but big minuses in pressure fall mostly on the shoulders of the DEs and when one of the DEs is Brandon Graham they fall mostly on the shoulders of the DE who isn't Brandon Graham. So if you apply a chunk of that pressure metric to Roh, you get a solidly negative day.
This year Roh is better prepared for the rigors of the Big Ten. Rodriguez:
“He played last year at about 225 as a true freshman and did a good job. Now, he is probably closer to 240 to 245 and running just as well if not better. I think that and the experience that he has been out there before, you can see. He’s guy that we want to move around a little bit. Craig is a very active, high-motor player and being able 245-250 pounds is going to let him hold up…especially with those big physical team, starting with the first game.”
Going from 225 to 245 and from freshman to sophomore means Roh should make a greater leap than anyone else on the defense. He came to Michigan with a mountain of recruiting hype based on his diabolical array of pass rush moves and dominating Under Armor Game performance. He's got the hype; he's got the weight; he's got the experience…
Sort of! The catch in the Craig Roh explosion is this niggling move to the 3-3-5, where he's a strongside linebacker:
As Michigan's defense worked more in the 3-3-5 set during spring ball, Roh divided his time between linebacker and defensive line.
"There’s some changes," he said. "I’ve never been in a linebacker [position], second-level, setting up there. Some guys are playing basically the same position they played last year. For me, this is something new and different.
"[Defensive coordinator Greg Robinson] is helping me a lot with the learning curve."
No one's sure how much Michigan will be running a three man line this fall but it will be some, which will give Roh the ability to attack from surprising angles and use his vertical speed to get into the backfield. It will also expose him to play action, counters, and other plays he's not used to dealing with much that can take advantage of the inability to change direction that had everyone projecting him as a defensive end despite being linebacker size. Now, you could just say he'll blitz all the time but that would get predictable; it would also impinge on Jonas Mouton's ability to do the same thing, and Mouton's a guy who has the exact same strengths Roh does. They'll have to split the fun bits where they tear into the backfield.
All this makes it difficult to project what Roh will do this season. A guess: doubling his 7.5 TFLs and significantly adding to his two sacks is a good bet. I don't think he'll be a crazy star just yet, but I expect to be saying the same things about him next year that I'm saying about Mike Martin this year.
It's here more than anywhere else that confusion about exactly how "multiple" the defense is going to be wreaks havoc with position projections. One man's guess at the setup here: Roh will be able to flip from linebacker to defensive end with some aplomb, but his backups are likely to be one or the other.
The defensive-end-ish backup will probably be redshirt junior Brandon Herron, Roh's backup last year. Though he lost his job to the touted freshman he got a regular shift like Sagesse or Banks; unlike Sagesse or Banks his performance didn't register even the brief slices of notability the aforementioned seniors managed. The only clip I got that involves him is a single passing play against Indiana on which he successfully walls off a TE seam, and his UFR notes read "did make one good tackle," "eh," "some good run defense," "nonfactor," "meh," and "eh, ok." You get the idea.
That's not good because of Herron's position, which is supposed to be a source of big plays. As long as a guy like Sagesse holds the fort at his position things are pretty much good. If Herron does nothing positive or negative that's a much greater opportunity spurned. Gradual improvement is likely; Herron will remain a guy Michigan kills time with until Roh can get back in there.
While Herron was out in spring and Michigan was running something approximating a 3-3-5, JB Fitzgerald acted as Roh's backup. The linebacker preview already addressed his shaky '09 performance. As a backup here I imagine Michigan will always be in a three-man line so Fitzgerald can play linebacker; he's never played DE. His best shot at playing time is if Michigan has a passing-down package that sees Roh put his hand down.
Notes from Coach Rod's Wednesday presser.
The QB battle is close. The coaches haven't been able to taper down who gets snaps. As long as they get better every day, you can be pleased with the progress. Everybody is too worried about who the starting QB is. The second team gets almost as many reps as the first team.
Any of the three are capable of starting right now, but he wants them to play at a high level. "If they're able to do that and execute the offense, then all three will play." Will keep QB choice quiet for competitive reasons. QBs will know Friday night (before game). Nobody else will know until kickoff at 3:36 Saturday.
No particular RB (or two) has stepped to the forefront. The position gets banged up in camp, which limits development. "We have some talent there, we'll be OK." The top 2-3 guys will play. Certain guys run certain plays better, so they'll get in the game for that play.
Fitzgerald Toussaint practiced yesterday, but not today. He's had a neck stinger, now his knee is sore. He'll be banged up a couple days, but might practice friday. Michael Shaw is still taking "the class," working hard at it. He's been spending half of his time practicing, and half of his time studying.
The offensive line is "not set as far as starters, but I think set as far as, you know who the 8-9-10 guys that are gonna be in the rotation will be." RR feels better about up front than the past couple years. He would like to play at least 8 offensive linemen (5 starters, backup C, G, T), depending on how they're performing and the tempo of the game. He would love to have two whole groups at line.
Improvement on defense has to come from several places. One guy can't replace Brandon Graham by himself. "The thing I probably feel the best about our defense is that we have a bigger pool of guys I think are going to be playing. That's going to allow us to have a little more depth, do a few more things defensively." If a couple guys (Mike Martin, Jonas Mouton, and JT Floyd in particular) have a big year, it'll offset some of the losses.
Will Campbell wasn't in great shape when camp started. He's been playing himself into shape. Mike Martin and Adam Patterson are at NG, "if he wants to play he's gotta compete." Rodriguez wants senior Sagesse, Banks, and Patterson, to have their best years. They're having good camps. "Of course you've got Mike Martin up front too who's had an outstanding camp. I think he can have a great year at noseguard for us."
Moundros may be the starter at middle linebacker. Right now he's taking a lot of reps. Mark has at least seen the field, which gives him experience (even if it's at a different position). He has intangibles. He needs to learn technique and system, but he was able to do that mostly in the spring. He's made very few mental errors for being new to the position.
There are some potential answers in the secondary. "Coming from freshman class. "It's kind of scary when you think about true freshmen playing in the secondary, but there's some talent there." They're progressing well now that summer class is over and they can focus on football. 4-5 true freshman DBs will play this year.
Cam Gordon - "He didn't play as well as he had played in any other practice in the scrimmage," but he's had a good camp and the staff feels good about him.
JT Floyd will start at corner on one side. Other corner might be Jame Rogers, "this is the best football he's played," or young guys. Have to keep it simple for the youngsters.
Nothing's new at kicker; it's inconsistent day-to-day. Most days have been encouraging - yesterday was not one of those days. They've been practicing on the new turf in the stadium. It's unlikely that different kickers will be used depending on distance of the kick.
Yesterday was a scrimmage. The last three quarters of practice, only players, officials, and Rodriguez were on the field. Did every special team and offense v. defense. "Glad we did it, but we've gotta do it again." They'll do it again friday, less intense, and maybe a little tomorrow. "With so many young guys, especially on defense playing, we've gotta try to get them used to what it's going to be like in a game where there aren't coaches standing behind them or on the side of them telling them what to do." It's a different atmosphere then practice, with signaling plays, etc.
Troy Woolfolk had surgery yesterday. "Everything went well with the surgery. Certainly it looks like he's lost for the season." No reason why he can't be 100% next year, and Rodriguez thinks he wants to come back for a 5th year. "It's his decision, of course, but Troy loves football."
Have a good grasp on what the team can do. "Certainly offensively, we have a pretty good idea of where our strengths are. And I think defensively too, even with the young guys, it probably takes them a little bit longer to determine a young guy because they have not done it in a game." Some guys plays better in a game, some play too nervous.
Started installing for UConn at the beginning of camp. "Starting really yesterday, and certainly today, and a lot tomorrow and Friday, will be a lot of UConn installation in all three phases."
Learn from the master. Not to be outdone by some twit in a hat, Nick Saban dropped the boom on two players on the eve of fall camp. One learned he'd "failed a physical" and is either going to be medially disqualified by Alabama's doctors and placed on a scammy hardship scholarship (someone should figure out how many kids have been placed on medical scholarships since Saban arrived; I'm willing to bet it's triple the rate of a sampling of representative schools) or transfer. The other was just straight up deferred because the wrong number of kids got eligible. The usual goes here.
Something unusual: it looks like we're at a turning point as far as media attention goes to this stuff. In the last week both SI's Andy Staples and CBS screedmaster Gregg Doyel have taken up the baton. If you've ever read a Doyel piece you can Mad Libs the nouns between the bombast but at least this time he's struck on something worthy of some portion of the usual outrage. The thrust of his piece is actually too kind since he focuses on exceeding the 25 player limit, which these days you can only do by three, instead of the disparity between some incoming recruiting classes and the number of scholarships available for them. Those can hit double-digits. In LSU's case, they had 27 signees and two early enrollees so they could have gotten everyone on campus if not for the 85 cap. I'll take any attention this issue gets but Doyel's got a lot of his facts wrong.
Meanwhile, Staples has been SI's main recruiting reporter for a few years now. He knows the field, and I'm not just saying that because he's on board with the idea that you shouldn't be able to sign a player unless you can show where the scholarship is coming from. A note on that—Staples says:
Yahoo!'s Matt Hinton and MGoBlog's Brian Cook, two people who have written thoughtfully on this subject in the past, had a brilliant suggestion so simple that even a heavy-handed bureaucracy should be able to bring it to fruition: Make a rule that requires schools to give an actual scholarship to every player they sign to a letter-of-intent.
Cook even suggested raising scholarship limits if necessary. I disagree. If a school has 22 slots on Feb. 2, 2011, it should sign 22 players. If three of those players don't qualify, that's the coach's fault for not recruiting more academically sound prospects. He can play the season with 82 players on scholarship and sign more next year.
I don't think I was clear enough when I suggested the same thing I always suggest. Two scenarios I think would be good for college football:
- LOIs are binding both ways for one year. If you sign a player and he does not qualify or you can't fulfill the promise made, you don't get to use that scholarship the next year.
- LOIs are actually binding for two years. If you lose a player like above, you can't use the scholarship for the next two recruiting classes. Since this one is more punitive I'd give schools the leeway of an extra scholarship or two.
Either one is fine by me; in scenario 1 I don't think you need more scholarships.
As this gets on the radar of more reporters, coaches across the country will have to start justifying departures from their program, and maybe in a year or two the noise will be enough to force the NCAA to take action. Coaches will caterwaul, but what are they going to do, quit?
(HT: Doc Sat.)
Captains. I forewent retweeting the RR tweet announcing your 2010 permanent captains because if I had it eight times in my feed chances are everyone else had it at least twice already. For those opposed to societal ADD, the guys are Steve Schilling and Mark Moundros. Moundros is representing the defense. The official site's much less horrible video page has reactions from Schilling and Moundros on the honor; Michigan will still pick two additional game captains throughout the season.
This is undoubtedly overreacting to a tiny slice of information, but it's the day after the first fall football practice. If there's a national day of Overreacting To Tiny Slices of Information, it's today. So: guuuuh linebackers. Michigan's got a couple of fifth-year multi-year starters and they get squeezed out of the official captaincy by a walk-on who was a fullback until spring practice. This is the most circumstantial of evidence but since we have three years of direct evidence that the linebackers aren't very good, it does not make me feel awesome.
Who wants to bet that someone at a newspaper or in sports radio declares this a repudiation of Rodriguez? We should start a pool. I've got Jeff DeFran.
Elsewhere in grunting. This is not so good:
“We have quite a few guys in very good shape, a handful who are in OK shape and a small handful not ready to play Division I football,” he said.
Rodriguez specifically omitted freshmen from his crap list, so Richard Ash—listed at a flabby 320 on the fall roster—is not one of those guys. I'm afraid he might be making a pointed statement directed at Will Campbell, who is the biggest guy on the team at 333 (mark of the half-beast!). This would crush my dream of having a Sagesse/Campbell rotation at the nose free Mike Martin to wreak havoc as a 3-tech DT/5-tech 3-3-5 DE.
Graham is destroying. A steady stream of articles declaring Brandon Graham the next Dwight Freeney, except better, have hit the sidebar, and now here's some main column action:
"I look at him as another (Dwight) Freeney deal," said Cole, referring to the Colts' five-time Pro Bowler. "He's a great player and just keep watching because he's going to be pretty good."
Also Andy Reid dropped a quote that may lend some credence to both EEEE Barwis and a hopefully burgeoning EEEE Bruce Tall contingent:
"He's done very well with that," said Reid. "He's very strong in the lower body; he's very strong in the upper body, too. His lower body, he's got a nice anchor there and good core strength and understands how to use his hands and arms and plays with separation on the linemen."
If we see Roh and Van Bergen do this consistently this year, Tall will enter the pantheon of assistant coaches Michigan fans can't bitch about currently inhabited by Greg Frey, Calvin Magee, and maybe Rod Smith.
Etc.: Ron English says he doesn't want to recruit kids without father figures. Detroit head coach says "that's insane" because "what he's asking for, we don't have." This makes me terribly sad for Detroit. Chad Henne has one vote for Tate. Tom Dienhart's extensive season preview has just two M players (Molk and Schilling) on his all Big Ten first- and second-teams (Stonum is the second-team kick returner), but manages to slot Michigan fifth despite this.
Continued from yesterday's extended look at the offense.
Scheme vs. Fundamentals: Fight
If you ask about the 3-3-5 and pull the string on a Michigan coach, this is what you get:
"Too much has been made out of it, scheme-wise," Rodriguez tells Ryan Terpstra on ESPN 96.1. "I mean, a lot of people are saying we're doing this or that, but basically, what we're doing this spring more than anything else is fundamentally trying to get better – trying to tackle better, trying to be able to react to the ball better so we get more people around the ball."
Greg Robinson said much the same thing to Adam Rittenberg and reiterated that to the folks at the coaches' clinic: "The fundamentals of leverage and angle and how a player uses his eyes and hands is more important than any scheme." I'm sure if you bugged any of Michigan's position coaches they would robotically intone a similar paean to fundamentals.
To this I say: 50% bollocks! It's not that fundamentals aren't important. Anyone who saw the performance of Craig Roh and Stevie Brown relative to expectations last year knows that how you tackle, cover, and read the opponent is a huge part of a football team's suck or lack thereof. You can ask Florida State about that. But I interpret "too much has been made out of it, scheme-wise" as "I would not like to talk about the details here; let's focus on platitudes." Certain defenses have strengths and weaknesses and fit other players better or worse, and while a defense that is robotically efficient is probably going to be decent that will depend on how well the players fit into the scheme.
The line should be the strength of the defense again. Will Campbell is rounding into a load, a true NT who requires a double team and holds up against it most of the time. At other times he gets too high, but they're working on that and by fall they hope he can be an anchor in there. Van Bergen is a redshirt junior who played well in a tough spot as a starter last year and is at a more natural position where he's doing well. No one's 100% sure that Mike Martin is going to be the other DE—the coaches will try him at both spots in fall—but Campbell "needs to be on the field" and Martin is likely to be Michigan's best defensive lineman, so that's the logical spot.
Michigan would like to get Campbell down another 10 pounds or so.
At end, Banks is starting in Martin's absence. Rodriguez mentioned yesterday that they've moved Adam Patterson to the nose, which 1) just about spells the end of Patterson as a potential contributor and 2) hints that Martin is going to start in the spot Banks currently occupies. I can't imagine a 272 pound senior is going to get substantial playing time as a zero-tech NT. He may be a situation substitution in pass-rush situations, but I kind of thought they might move Martin back inside and let Banks or even Roh take a crack at a speed rush when that happened.
The backups here are pretty sketchy without the freshman reinforcements, but Anthony Lalota was a regular entrant into the backfield against the second-string offensive line. He's RVB's backup with Heininger out.
There were some concerns about Craig Roh, who's a great athlete going directly upfield but doesn't have the lateral mobility to shuffle a step or two one way and then re-route his body in time to avoid blocking angles or get a proper zone drop. He'll be blitzing a ton; Michigan will be vulnerable when the opposition is running misdirection and Roh is being asked to execute linebacker responsibilities. Think waggles, counters, reverses, that sort of thing. He has displayed an aptitude in one-on-one coverage, though. He tracked a Michigan State tight end down and raked a ball free last year in a matchup that you'd think heavily favors the receiver; there were a couple other instances where his ability to cover a guy downfield was a surprising bonus.
There didn't seem to be a whole lot of progress with Ezeh and Mouton, though it's hard to tell with the move to the new system. Their responsibilities have changed and there's a learning curve that anyone would have. Moving to the 3-3-5 should allow Mouton to blitz almost as frequently as Roh; this is Mouton's main strength.
A surging Kenny Demens has been held out the last few days.
Observer A is a major believer in Robinson, though, citing that Roh play and a few others as an example of Robinson's ability to coach up players in a short amount of time. He was in charge of Roh and Brown last year; this year he's got all three linebackers. Robinson himself believes Mouton could be a breakout player. Here is a classic Robinson-ism that will make Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician delighted: "We just need to get him to slow down to play faster." Mouton overruns plays because he's "too instinctive" and doesn't always follows his keys, as anyone who remembers his 5-minus 8-minus 3 lines in UFR can tell you.
I've been pretty positive about the idea of running Jordan Kovacs out as a box safety since he was a heady kid and solid tackler and in the 3-3-5 DVD I have that is no longer a wasted purchase, Jeff Casteel repeatedly emphasizes that those characteristics are by far the most important when it comes to spurs and bandits. As a bonus, as the weakside guy Kovacs has the luxury of playing in space (usually) unblocked, so his size won't be a major hindrance.
HOWEVA, discussions with Observer A made it clear that running a 1-high defense* constantly is a recipe for getting four verticals in your face time and again and that teams could force Michigan into a two-deep alignment by formation or playcall. Jordan Kovacs being a walk-on sort of guy, they will do this constantly until Michigan proves they can deal with it.
Why not just deposit Marvin Robinson or Josh Furman at this spot in fall? Think about it: the bandit has to roll up to the line of scrimmage and act as a force player in the 3-3-5. Force players are important. It's their job to funnel everything inside of them. (This is often called "leveraging the football.") If they screw up, the runner is outside everyone and loping for a first down. In pass coverage they have to read and drop into flat zones, play something called "flat buzz" that I'm not quite clear on yet, and generally act as a cover two corner would. So there's all that. Then the bandit will have to rotate back into a two-deep on occasion, play a deep third when they switch up coverages, blitz, respond to motion, etc etc etc. It's probably the most complicated position on the defense. Throwing a freshman in there is asking for it.
Kovacs is Michigan's best option at the bandit, but that doesn't necessarily mean he's a good option.
Spur is also sketchy. Mike Williams has plummeted down the depth chart and is now behind both walk-on Floyd Simmons and redshirt freshman (and scholarship possessor!) Thomas Gordon. Williams is healthy, FWIW. Gordon did get some daps/love/props from observers who thought he was aware and athletic enough to deal with the coverages he'll be asked to run—a "pleasant surprise"—but he's safety-sized and is going to be asked to play over a tight end. He's also a redshirt freshman. Simmons also made a few plays and might be an okay option as a backup.
Observer A evaluated this group of eight players as "slow, small, inexperienced, or injured." He didn't add "pick three," but my brain did. Michigan's got a couple of fantastic prospects for the future in Josh Furman and Marvin Robinson (plus Carvin Johnson), but a couple of painful years beckon before Michigan has any chance of getting a guy who has both athleticism and a clue on the field.
The combination of cluelessness and lack of crazy athleticism led to a couple plays were Michigan just ran a tight end straight down the seam without a bump and gave up 30-yard plays. Michigan has an adjustment they want to install, but they haven't done it yet.
*(A one-high defense has one safety in the middle of the field and is usually cover 1 or cover 3 unless the defense is playing a disguised coverage. A two high defense has two safeties approximately on the hashes and usually suggests cover 2 or 4.)
The three members of the secondary proper actually didn't scare Observer A very much. Woolfolk is pretty good, Floyd is improved—though he shared my skepticism he would ever be above average because of his speed deficiencies—and Turner, while rougher in drills, got the proverbial "just makes plays" endorsement. It's tough to tell a kid's playmaking rate based on limited observation, but the general impression I got was that Turner should be okay eventually. It seems logical that when the freshmen arrive, there might be some reshuffling with the spurs and safeties. Observer B also thought Turner "was OK."
James Rogers seemed to be doing well in drills, too. He's "beginning to learn the position," which is a sad thing to say about a
fifth year senior who's bounced around so much.
Cam Gordon is the guy at free safety, but you knew that.
Robinson's entire session at the coaches' clinic was on his tackling system, which is unusual in a couple ways: it uses different aiming points than conventional systems and doesn't ask the player to break down and wait for the ball carrier to arrive; you "shimmy" to the ballcarrier. It's also unusual because Robinson picked it up from a high school coach, something the old regime "wouldn't be caught dead" doing. Michigan's current group of guys seems far more likely to pick up an innovation being run by high schools or lower division schools than the old guys, who talked to the NFL and only the NFL, which is probably why they couldn't defend the option worth a damn for almost a decade.
Here's how Greg Robinson explains Braithwaite's hire:
Robinson used the new coach, Braithwhite as a demonstrator of technique. He said the “best demonstration” coach he ever saw in his life was Jim Colletto but he says that AB is every bit as good. The impression they give is that this guy was hired because a) he knows what he is doing and (b) he is great at demonstrating techniques to the players.
Observer B notes a difference between the offensive and defensive coaches: the offensive guys are "tireless" explaining and drawing their schemes, but it's hard to get anything out of Robinson. Where Robinson gets expansive is when it comes to the aforementioned fundamentals. There was a chalk talk in which Robinson spent a good deal of time illustrating the right way to do a "dip and rip"; Bruce Tall was also in the midst of an animated technique discussion that lasted two hours.
One of the best things about having a hybrid-laden defense is it minimizes situational substitutions in today's fast-paced modern football environment. You should be able to respond to whatever the offense throws at you without having crazy packages where non-starters get pushed into the lineup, and can adjust to bizarre formations (wildcat) on the fly.
Defense In Toto
I got a vastly different perspective from defensively-oriented observer than was provided by the posters here over the weekend. We're going to have to score some points. I think in objective "this is Michigan" terms the defense is going to be bad, but one of the main confusions batting about the internet at the moment is someone asking "is this defense going to be (as) bad (as last year)?" and someone answering "(in terms of what I have come to expect from years of watching Michigan play and taking that as a baseline) yes."
I had this same sort of foreboding Q&A with Observer A, but when I asked point-blank "will they be better" I got a pretty solid "yes," albeit with the caveat that the same guy thought they'd be considerably better than they were last year.
That doesn't mean the defense is in a spot where it will remind anyone of 2006, or even 2005. In the Saturday scrimmage the defense did well on the first couple series but "after that the carnage was brutal," with the offense moving the ball "almost regardless of what unit was facing what unit." You can get a hint of that in the quarterback stats provided by MGoBlue in the most recent Inside Michigan Football, which are 9/11, 9/12, 100 yards rushing, made a pony sort of things.
There aren't any walk-on punters who are serious threats to play; the best guys they currently have are averaging in the 30 to 35 yard range. This is Will Hagerup's job as soon as he steps on campus.
Placekicking will be an adventure. Brendan Gibbons has a big leg but is "erratic at best." Walk-on Justin Meram was the other kicker who participated in the scrimmage; he seemed accurate on short stuff but his range might top out at 40 yards on a good day.
Roh is certain. Everything else is chaos.
This is going to be extensive. It would be much, much quicker to rattle off a list of positions we know are set this fall:
- Craig Roh at quick defensive end.
That is literally all. We do know that a few other guys are guaranteed starters, but Ryan Van Bergen, Mike Martin, and Troy Woolfolk could all switch positions. I should have thought of that before I did the offense. Now I'm stuck with this format.
Anyway. On with show:
Not Brandon Graham
Three defensive line starters return, but the best defensive lineman in the country does not. Normally you'd be looking at Brandon Graham's platoon of ready-to-go backups for an inadequate but functional replacement. Since this is the 2009 Michigan defense we're talking about that platoon is walk-on Will Heininger. The other options at his spot are freshmen.
So it's time to get creative, maybe…
Count me amongst the chorus suggesting that Ryan Van Bergen might move outside. Dubbing this position "Not Brandon Graham" is a clever way to not write "Ryan Van Bergen might move" at three different spots.
Michigan has three veteran backups at defensive tackle in sophomore Will Campbell and seniors Renaldo Sagesse and Greg Banks. All played last year, the latter two decently. Campbell was raw as hell but was one of them OMG SHIRTLESS recruits and can be expected to make a major jump his sophomore year. Putting one of those guys in the starting lineup seems less likely to result in disaster than dropping an underweight freshman into the starting lineup. Craig Roh did okay last year, but Michigan isn't bringing in anyone as touted as Roh was this time around. Also, Mike Martin is more of a penetrating three-technique tackle than a leviathan space-eater and moving him to RVB's old spot figures to get more production out of him.
If RVB doesn't move, then you're going to choose from Heininger, redshirt junior Brandon Herron,—Roh's backup at quick last year—redshirt freshman Anthony LaLota, or true freshmen. Herron was a linebacker a year ago and is likely to still be undersized and LaLota showed up two inches and thirty pounds lighter than people expected him to. He probably needs another year.
The thing to watch for this spring is the RVB move. Past that, the developmental paths of Campbell, Roh, and LaLota are the main points of interest.
Hoping for… as the guy that is not Brandon Graham? Will Campbell. This assumes RVB ends up at DE and Martin moves over to RVBs spot. Moving RVB gets a bunch of veterans and a five-star sophomore more playing time. It puts Mike Martin in a position to be seriously disruptive. And it doesn't force a freshman into the starting lineup. So this is a hope for the move and a hope for Campbell to explode.
Expecting… RVB moves, Sagesse and Campbell platoon. I was puzzled by Michigan's periodic attempts to give Campbell playing time over Sagesse last year. Campbell got sealed on a number of successful runs against Iowa; Sagesse wasn't Alan Branch but usually ended up with a +1 in UFR. I assume Campbell will show considerable progress but I'm also betting that Sagesse is basically a co-starter.
Over the course of a year, Stevie Brown went from whipping boy to reliable outpost on a defense of chaos. Was it a position move? Greg Robinson's Just For Men magic?
They're young but they're not totally green. Michigan got both Brandin Hawthorne and Mike Jones in early last year and put them through their paces; by the UConn game next year they'll have been on campus for almost two years. Both saw special teams action only. Hawthorne will apply for a medical redshirt. Jones played too much for one. That's him burning his redshirt on the right.
Those two will be the main competitors in spring since I believe Isaiah Bell, who redshirted, is moving inside to ROL. This fall brings crazy athletic Josh Furman into the mix. He of the 4.3 electronic 40 is probably even faster than Brown and could press for playing time later in the season if Hawthorne and Jones aren't working out. He's unlikely to win the job outright immediately.
Hoping for… Hawthorne or Jones doesn't seem like it makes a difference since they have near-identical recruiting profiles and experience. I guess I'm pulling for Hawthorne since he's got a redshirt on him and I like the Pahokee kids.
Expecting… Again, Hawthorne and Jones have almost nothing separating them. One of those guys.
Regular Ol' Linebacker
These two positions are here despite featuring two fifth-year seniors returning for their third years of starting because both Obi Ezeh and Jonas Mouton were yanked for performance reasons late last season. Indecision ruled the day:
Mouton was pulled for JB Fitzgerald, a touted recruit entering his third year in the program. Ezeh was pulled for Kevin Leach, another walk-on. Both eventually won their jobs back when the replacements weren't much better.
Jay Hopson left to become the defensive coordinator at Memphis, and whether it was voluntary or not it's welcome. Ezeh went nowhere in two years under Hopson's tutelage and Mouton went backwards. If Greg Robinson can pull the same career revival magic he did with Stevie Brown on the two inside guys, he'll put to rest a large chunk of the skepticism at his hire and go a long way towards making the defense respectable again.
If he can't, then Fitzgerald and Leach will figure into the plans again, with potential assists from Kenny Demens and various freshmen. Demens hasn't gotten off special teams in his time at Michigan and got passed by a walk-on. That seems like a kiss of death there.
Ezeh and Mouton will be the main focus here.
Hoping for… I'd like Fitzgerald to emerge as a starter but in the place of Ezeh; last year the guy replacing Ezeh was Leach. Really I'd just like whoever plays at linebacker to look like he's got a clue. Obi-Wan Greg Robinson, you're our only hope.
Expecting… Ezeh and Mouton. They'll be better. Linebackers are the guys most screwed by Michigan's revolving door of defensive coordinators because they are almost always reading a play and executing a complicated assignment based on that. Also they've got a new coach who happens to be the defensive coordinator and thus knows exactly what he wants the guys to be doing.
Donovan Warren took his budding skills and five-star hype to the middle rounds of the NFL draft. Boubacar Cissoko couldn't keep it together off the field and is no longer on the team.
I'm assuming both spots are open because of the possibility Troy Woolfolk moves back to deep safety in spring. The defense started imploding for serious once he was moved to corner and Michigan's safety tandem became Kovacs and Williams
Outside of Woolfolk, the one guy with any experience is JT Floyd. Floyd was the guy the coaching staff turned to to replace Cissoko when he proved dreadful early in the year. He wasn't much better and Woolfolk eventually had to move despite the other options at safety being a freshman student-body walk-on and Mike Williams. In his brief time as a starter, Floyd played ten yards off wide receivers and looked totally overmatched. Maybe that's a mental thing, but he seemed just too slow for the Big Ten.
So… yeah. It's more freshmen, then. Super-hyped recruit Justin Turner got in late because of some difficulties with the Ohio Graduation Test and ended up out of shape and unprepared to play. He redshirted. Even if he came in looking like Will Campbell, if Turner couldn't play in that secondary by the end of the year people are right to be at least slightly concerned he may not pan out.
And then there's the flood of true freshmen. With Demar Dorsey starting out at corner, Michigan has four in the 2010 class: Dorsey, Courtney Avery, Cullen Christian, and Terry Talbott. None enrolled early—unfortunately, all of Michigan's early enrollees were on the offensive side of the ball—and they will be just rumors this spring.
We won't get a read on this position at all unless walk-on Floyd Simmons is ahead of someone on the depth chart. We will get a first look at Turner, the team's most important redshirt freshman.
Hoping for… Justin Turner and either Dorsey or Christian. No Woolfolk == considerably reduced panic at safety. One freshman is as good as any other at the other spot, I guess, but I'd rather have the higher-rated guys off to fast starts. No offense to Floyd, but he obviously wasn't ready last year and I'd be surprised if he was this year. Maybe 2011.
Expecting… Turner and Woolfolk.
Brandon Smith transferred to Temple.
It's clear that this is going to be another hybrid safety/LB type player. Early in the year, it was Mike Williams. A little later it was Jordan Kovacs. When Woolfolk moved to corner it was Williams again, and when Williams played poorly Michigan moved Brandon Smith and threw him in the starting lineup; Smith liked it so much he immediately transferred.
Of the two returners, Kovacs was by far the superior option despite being a walk-on. He's got the proverbial nose for the ball and was the only guy at the spot last year to turn in enough good plays to offset his poor ones. And he did this as a freshman walk-on. (He was technically a redshirt freshman but since he was not on the team last year he is much closer to a true freshman.) He showed himself way too slow to play deep safety, but the grit fantastic he is possession of should keep him in the mix despite a couple of athletes pushing him hard.
Athlete the first is incoming freshman Marvin Robinson, who everyone thinks is destined for linebacker except Robinson. At Michigan he may be a linebacker in spirit if not in name. This is a spot he's a superior fit for athletically but it may require some adjustment.
Athlete the second is hypothetical, but Rodriguez mentioned in a Signing Day press conference: they're looking at moving wide receiver Cam Gordon to defense, but to safety. [Update: YEAH THAT HAPPENED.] That's another indicator that Michigan's base set is going to be an eight-man front, as Gordon is a strapping 6'2" fellow who everyone expected would end up at… wait for it… linebacker. If Gordon makes the move it will give Kovacs and Williams some competition from an NFL-sized guy right away.
This is also where Carvin Johnson goes, but I'm guessing he'll redshirt.
Hoping for… I don't really know, actually. I guess I'd like Robinson to win the starting job, but a true freshman over Kovacs and Gordon could bode unwell for immediate production. Maybe Kovacs to start and eventually giving way to Robinson.
Expecting… I have no idea. Truly.
As discussed above, if this is Kovacs Michigan is at least kind of screwed. I mean no offense to the guy, but…
…he is not a deep safety*. In an ideal world, two of the young corners would establish themselves quickly enough for Michigan to boot Troy Woolfolk back here. That world is much easier to envision if any of those guys had enrolled early.
If Woolfolk doesn't make the move back, Michigan has a couple options not fresh off the turnip truck. Vlad Emilien and Thomas Gordon are redshirt freshmen who will be given a shot at the job. Emilien was more highly touted and actually held the starting free safety job in spring until late, when Woolfolk took over and he was relegated to backup duty. He saw some special teams time in fall but will apply for an injury redshirt. Gordon was primarily a high school quarterback at Cass Tech—he only started playing DB as a senior-year audition for a Michigan scholarship—and never threatened to see the field last year.
Freshman Ray Vinopal will reinforce in fall, but as the lowest-rated player in the class he will probably redshirt.
Hoping for… Woolfolk. I'd rather have the freshmen playing at corner, where Woolfolk can tackle their mistakes.
Expecting… Emilien. I'm a little hesitant about him since he enrolled early last year and still wasn't good enough to crack last year's secondary, but maybe he had a lingering injury issue.
*(RVB owned up to a botched line check on that touchdown but it was a lack of footspeed from Kovacs and, more disturbingly, Floyd, that turned that play from 20 yards into 90.)
What others? Apparently Teric Jones might stick on defense, apparently at box safety. I think I've mentioned every other scholarship defensive player on campus except Steve Watson and James Rogers.
Video note: This week's torrent is in a format I can't figure out how to clip, so I'm converting it to something I know works. This process is currently scheduled to complete at around 9 PM. So no video today, unfortunately. I'll add it later. [UPDATE: Video added.]
Goofy new complicated metric note: I was convinced to try out a "Rock-Paper-Scissors" metric and tried but it didn't really work because I forgot about it 80% of the time. I will try again next week. Those will be the "RPS" +/- below; the general concept is that when Michigan's coaches get owned by someone else's playcall they get a minus and vice versa; Moeaki Disaster I, when Iowa released their TE into the seam after duping Williams into a blitz, was the inspiration for this.
Personnel notes: Woolfolk moved to corner and Williams re-entered the starting lineup as a safety; Kovacs was usually the guy in the box and Woolfolk the deep guy, but sometimes they switched. Michigan's rotation on the defensive line continued, but Will Campbell replaced Renaldo Sagesse as Mike Martin's primary backup. Not sure why, because Campbell proved he was not ready.
Michigan broke out a flat, aggressive package like so:
I think this is something USC runs from time to time called "double eagle".
You can see the NT head-up on the center and the two DTs in tight against a standard ace formation. Each guy is flanked by two linebacker-type players, Michigan is in man on the outside (see Woolfolk following the receiver in motion), and they're going to slant into the backfield. Suggestions as to what to call this welcome.
On with the show:
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O34||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Run||Zone left||Mouton||1|
|RVB gets walled off by a double team but this was a double from a playside guy and there was no chance he was going to run through that. This allows LBs to flow to the hole unimpeded. Roh(+0.5) shoves a guy away and ends up off balance but in the hole and he delays the tailback with a missed tackle attempt. Meanwhile, it looks like Mouton has done something disastrous by heading inside of the tackle that was blocking Roh; Ezeh follows because that's his hole, and once the tailback escapes he's got a lot of green in front of him; he's thwarted by a desperate diving tackle from Mouton. Very, very fortunate. I can't minus Mouton here but I want to.|
|O35||2||9||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Yakety Sax||Warren||Int|
|Stanziball! I have no idea what the hell this was supposed to be, but it's chucked right at Warren(+1), who's not particularly near any Iowa receviers, and returned for a touchdown. Woo? Can I even cover + 1 this? I guess so.|
|Drive Notes: Defensive touchdown, 7-0, 14 min 1st Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O43||1||10||Ace Twin TE Twins||4-3 under||Run||Zone right||Martin||5|
|Note that for most of the game Michigan will run press man on the corners, something I bet they've wanted to do all year but could not. Here Martin(-0.5) gets sealed by a scoop block that gets a blocker with a great angle out on Mouton; this would be a -1 but for Martin fighting through the remaining blocker to tackle the RB as he shoots through the hole Martin ceded.|
|O48||2||5||I-Form||4-3 under||Run||Zone left||Ezeh||0|
|Michigan slanting away from the play, which sees Roh shoot inside the OT upfield, dragging the tackle out of the play and leaving a pretty big hole occupied by Michigan's ILBs, the Iowa FB, and Wegher. Ezeh(+1) gets outside of the fullback, forcing the play back into Mouton(+0.5), who tackles(+1) at the LOS with help from a good fill from Kovacs(+0.5).|
|O48||3||5||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Hitch||Warren||9|
|Warren is communicating something to Kovacs at the snap, which might make him flatfooted to start the play. In any case, Stanzi has plenty of time (pressure -1) to step and fire to a wide open McNutt on a simple hitch for the first (cover -1, Warren -1)|
|Iowa trying to burn Warren on a stop and go, but a blitz from Williams(+1) shoves a tailback into Stanzi, forcing him to start scrambling(pressure +1). Graham then tears through the line, knocking everyone over except Stanzi; Ezeh misses to the outside (tackling –1) and as he and Martin converge Stanzi manages to get it away.|
|M43||2||10||Ace Twin TE||4-3 under||Run||Zone left||Brown||7|
|Stross motions in to make this a 3 TE look. This play appears to be meant to go inside from the RB's initial angle; he bounces it out as Martin(+1) tears through a double and can't be sealed. Brown(-1), however, is, giving up the edge for a big gain. He's getting held like hell, but even so he should not be a yard behind the LOS and unable to get outside to contain this. Kovacs makes a good fill tackle(+1).|
|M36||3||3||Ace(?) Empty||Base 3-4||Pass||Hitch||--||4|
|Hitch finds a little spot in the zone and picks up the first down. Immediate tackle. Question mark in the formation is because this is an empty set from under center and therefore not an "ace"—1 RB—set, but I don't know what to call it. Whatever.|
|M32||1||10||I-Form||Base 4-3||Pass||PA Cross||Williams||Inc|
|The first enormous bust of the night on this play action. Warren is headed forward at the snap so I assume this is a blitz with a zone behind it; Ezeh(-1), Williams(-1), and Mouton(-1) all bite like hell on the play action, opening this receiver up by yards and yards (cover -2). Possible touchdown, but a terrible throw and, eventually, an incompletion.|
|M32||2||10||Ace||4-3 under||Run||Inside zone||Van Bergen||-2|
|RVB(+0.5) gets playside of his guy and Martin(+0.5) does the same, so the RB goes for a cutback, which goes directly into Graham(+1), who avoided a cut and provides a thumping TFL.|
|M34||3||12||Ace 3-wide||Base 3-4||Pass||TE Short Seam||Williams||34|
|Michigan sends the house; Williams(-3) is tasked with man coverage on Moeaki and when Moeaki looks like he's going to block he blitzes; Moeaki then passes his guy off and is wide open for a killer touchdown. (RPS -2, cover -3)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-7, 9 min 1st Q. Defended pretty well, one missed hold, one missed opportunity to sack, and one huge disaster where Williams blew it and Iowa smoked a playcall.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M19||1||10||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Out||Brown||3|
|Michigan playing a zone; Brown fakes a blitz and then drops into the flat. The blitz fake does get the slot guy open, but a quick close from Warren(+0.5) and Brown(+0.5) prevents any YAC (cover +1, tackling +1)|
|M16||2||7||Ace Twins||4-3 under||Pass||TE Flat||--||5|
|Attacking that same area of the field; the WRs run off the corners and Stanzi uses the space to hit his TE releasing into the flat. Throw's a little off and the TE is clunky, so Michigan is able to react without much in the way of YAC.|
|M11||3||2||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Fade||Warren||Inc|
|Iowa's first attempt at the fade they'll run a lot. Warren(+1, cover +1) runs to it, watches the receiver take the ball in, and rakes it out.|
|Drive Notes: FG(28), 7-10, 6 min 1st Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O35||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Pass||Waggle hitch||Warren||Inc|
|Dude, Michigan's linebackers blow this spectacularly, too, leaving guys wide open on crossing routes; Stanzi only looks for the outside receiver and ends up turfing it. Decent coverage by Warren. Good job by Heininger(+0.5) to get outside the edge blocker, cutting off the outside and forcing an awkward throw.|
|O35||2||10||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Scramble||Mouton||5|
|Stanzi's looking for an out or a slant to the top of the screen and can't find it (cover +1). As he tries to come down to another receiver, Heininger(+1) splits two blockers and harasses him(pressure +1) into rolling out and scrambling. Mouton's got the contain and DL are charging back from inside; he blows it(-1) by clobbering himself into a blocker, allowing Stanzi outside of him and turning zero yards into five.|
|O40||3||5||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Sack||Graham||-7|
|Slot slant is covered(+1), giving Graham(+2) time to go right around Bulaga and crush Stanzi for a sack. Martin(+1) and Roh(+1) were also bursting through, preventing any attempt to move up in the pocket (pressure +2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-10, EO1Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M46||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Deep slant||Mouton||22|
|Miscommunication of some variety as Williams flies out into the flat in a zone—it's cover three with both cornerbacks laying off and Mouton(-2) also zooming out into the flat, apparently in man on the tailback, on a play where everyone else is in zone. The vacated area is huge and it's an easy throw for Stanzi to a receiver breaking wide open. (Cover -2).|
|M24||1||10||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Out||Brown||Inc|
|Trying the out that they used a lot in an attempt to exploit our lack of a third corner; Brown is in decent position and can probably tackle on the catch if there is one; there isn't because of Stanzi's inaccuracy. (Cover +1)|
|M24||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Wheel||Williams||Inc|
|Stanzi gets some momentary time on a dropback until Graham(+0.5) pushes through to get late pressure and force a back-foot throw. Stanzi pumps and looks for a wheel route that's well covered by Williams (+1, cover +1) but way underthrown. If this was Texas Tech it would be an intentional back-shoulder throw they drill all the time; IMO, this is just plain lucky. Ball is too far underthrown to be caught despite a valiant attempt by the RB.|
|M24||3||10||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Slant||Warren||Inc|
|Michigan again sends the house, forcing a quick throw; it's a slant that Warren(+1, cover +1) gets up on and maybe helps be incomplete. More helpful was a high and hard throw. A catch was going to be a couple yards short of the first, anyway.|
|Drive Notes: FG(41), 14-13, 12 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O22||1||10||Ace Twin TE Twins||4-3 under||Run||Zone right||Ezeh||2|
|Ezeh(+1) is running downhill from the snap, busting into the backfield and forcing a cutback; RVB(+0.5) has avoided a cut and flows down the line to tackle (+1).|
|O24||2||8||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||Draw||Martin||2|
|This looks like it's about to open up nicely as Martin has blasted to the left of the center, leaving a big gap between himself and Graham outside the tackle. Michigan has also blitzed to the outside, leaving no support downfield until you get to Kovacs. This looks dangerous, but Martin's(+1) terrific agility allows him to come around the C and tackle(+1) the RB as he crosses the LOS.|
|O26||3||6||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Slant & Go||Warren||33|
|Again they're going after Warren on a double move; Warren recovers and is in great position on this but Stanzi chucks it anyway and just happens to get it in the only place it can go, allowing Stross to lay out to make a diving catch. Indefensible, a DO+ 1 from the opposition, and a (cover +1, Warren +1) from Michigan. What's more is Stanzi threw this with Williams in his face. Just one of those plays where you tip your cap.|
|M41||1||10||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Dumpoff||Mouton||Inc|
|They again go after Warren on a slant and go, this stuff is crazy. I mean, its not like Warren has been weak the last few times he's been tested. It looks like Iowa went into this game with some sort of crazy gameplan to attack Warren. RVB(+0.5) and Graham push the line back, causing Stanzi to decide to roll out once he finds no one open (cover +1). He then throws across his body to a tailback on a little dumpoff route that Mouton(+1, cover +1) breaks on and breaks up; another step and he can intercept. Stanziball.|
|M41||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||Yakety Sax||--||-14|
|Snap over the head.|
|O45||3||24||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Post||Williams||47|
Aaaaargggggghghghgh. One: it's third and twenty-four, the safeties should not be ten yards deep. They should be 15-20 or whatever. Two: there's not even anyone running sort of in between on Williams(-3), who has no excuse for not giving Warren the deep safety help he expects (cover -3); this is just a huge bust. Robinson on third and twenty-five:
|M8||1||G||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||Zone right||Campbell||5|
|Campbell(-1) in and showing why he's not playing more: he gets blown three yards off the ball and sealed by the center in a way that Martin just does not. [Editor's note: actually, Martin will get sealed like this a few times in the second half.] This opens it up, leaving the safeties to clean up.|
|M3||2||G||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Scramble||--||2|
|Stanzi looking for a slant that isn't there as M drops into a zone (cover +1); no pressure(-1) , though, and Stanzi gets outside of Heininger, breaking for the endzone. Mouton and Williams stop him just short. Herbstreit is right that the reason this opens up is Williams(-1) getting irresponsible and sinking inside to run with a receiver instead of passing him off to Mouton; this should be no gain or a loss but for that.|
|M1||3||G||Goal line||Goal line||Run||Power off tackle||--||1|
|Not enough penetration, so Wegher can leap in.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-20, 5 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|Graham slides inside slightly with Williams outside of him; Williams blitzes, absorbing the TE. Graham(+3) smokes the tackle to the inside—shift!—and comes up the middle to sack Stanzi before any of his receivers can break open. (Pressure +2.)|
|O24||2||19||I-Form||4-3 under||Run||Zone right||Graham||3|
|Martin(-1) gets scooped and sealed by a double, allowing Iowa OL downfield to seal Mouton. Graham(+0.5) bursts upfield to cut off the outside and makes a lunging tackle attempt at the RB that's unsuccessful, but it does slow the RB up enough for Roh(+0.5) to come from the backside and tackle as he nears the LOS. Without that contribution from the DEs this could be a big gainer. Kovacs was coming up but that was asking for a pretty good open-field tackle there.|
|O27||3||16||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Screen||Ezeh||6|
|Mouton(+0.5) attempts to shoot up into this when he reads it but cannot because both OL releasing downfield come together to seal him off. He's out of the play but the attention he's drawn allows Ezeh(+0.5) to come unblocked, form up, and tackle with help from RVB. (Cover +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-20, 2 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O31||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Run||Zone left||Ezeh||-2|
|Big crease opens up as Roh(-1) gets sealed inside by Bulaga but Iowa can't get anyone through the line into the linebackers, for which credit goes to RVB(+0.5). Ezeh(+1) zooms up into the hole and crushes the fullback backwards, forcing the RB back inside to Mouton(+1, tackle +1), who meets the guy in the backfield for a loss. Excellent play by both linebackers; their eagerness to get to the hole will be something Iowa exploits later.|
|O29||2||12||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||Iso||Ezeh||2|
|Bit of a counter here as the line slides as if it's another zone play; Ezeh(+1) takes a couple shuffle steps to the right and then reads the fullback coming backside. He charges downhill, meeting the FB at the LOS and standing him up, which allows Graham(+0.5) to come around the outside and tackle(+1).|
|This is just way too easy; Iowa drags a receiver across the formation and Woolfolk goes with him, but is playing soft(-1, cover -1) and way too far off to make a tackle before the sticks. Michigan only had one deep safety on third and ten? Were they expecting another run?|
|O42||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||RB flat||Williams||9|
|Michigan dropping off into deep zones, and Iowa runs off the guy underneath to one side and then throws a safe little pass in the flat that beats the coverage (cover -1, RPS -1)|
|M49||2||1||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Scramble||Martin||1|
|Same deep zone, eight guys this time. Stanzi will have his tailback releasing for a few but for Martin(+2, pressure +2) splitting a double team, flushing Stanzi, and tracking him down as he attempts to scramble out of the pocket. He actually hurls him forward for the first down, unfortunately.|
|M48||1||10||Shotgun Trips||4-3 under||Pass||Dumpoff||--||14|
|Again Michigan drops very, very deep; by the time Stanzi rolls out of the pocket seven guys are ten or more yards downfield and dropping. This opens up plenty of room for Wegher's little dumpoff. (Cover -1). Roh(+0.5) was coming around the edge, forcing the throw.|
|Drive Notes: Missed FG(53), 14-20, EOH. I think the TO on third down here is a justifiable decision, but one with low upside.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O14||1||10||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Fade||Woolfolk||Inc|
|Iowa's going after Michigan's press man here, throwing a fade that Woolfolk(+1, cover +1) runs stride-for-stride with and breaks up as the ball arrives. Good play for a guy who's been playing safety all year.|
|O14||2||10||Ace Twin TE||4-3 under||Run||Zone right||Kovacs||19|
|Martin(-1) gets scooped again, which ends up catching Mouton in the wash; Ezeh's responsibility is outside and he runs out of the play. Kovacs makes a great read and comes up to tackle for what would be a 3-4 yard gain, but misses it (-1, tackling -1), opening up a big gainer.|
|O33||1||10||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||TE Out||Mouton||11|
|Man coverage(-1) that Mouton(-1) just gets beat on, and so badly that he can't make a tackle on the catch, turning this from five to ten.|
|O44||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Scramble||Graham||12|
|Backup DTs in, and they don't do well. Campbell ends up basically sitting at the LOS doing nothing. Graham(-1) is attempting to pass rush inside but gets stoned; he keeps running inside, giving up contain and allowing Stanzi plenty of room to run after he can't find anyone downfield (cover +1, pressure -2)|
|M44||1||10||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||Zone right||Campbell||15|
|Campbell(-2) is single-blocked and blown four yards downfield, opening up a cavernous cutback lane when RVB flows down the line as he's supposed to. No LB help because of a blitz from Mouton; wouldn't have helped much anyway.|
|M29||1||10||Ace Twin TE Twins||4-3 under||Run||Zone right||Martin||6|
|Starting DTs back in, but Martin(-1) is again effectively scooped by Iowa. Mouton(-1) takes a cut block hard, going to the turf and getting blown out of the play; Kovacs(+1) is the last guy and makes a good open field tackle(+1).|
|M23||2||4||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Out||Brown||Inc|
|Brown(-1) appears to bust an assignment, dropping way too straight upfield to be any problem for an out route to Stross that's wide, wide open (cover -1). Stanzi's throw is errant.|
|M23||3||4||Ace 3-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||Corner||Brown||Inc|
|Outside receiver sort of fakes a post and then goes to the corner, which may be covered OK by Kovacs. We'll never know because Stanzi left it way, way short, so short that Brown almost intercepts it. Roh(+1) gets the credit for spinning past Bulaga and hurrying a throw that came off Stanzi's back foot (pressure +1).|
|Drive Notes: FG(40), 14-23, 10 min 3rd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O15||1||10||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Fade||Woolfolk||Inc|
|Again going after Woolfolk in man press; Woolfolk in decent, not unbeatable position. The throw is outside and long, glancing off Stross's fingertips.|
|O15||2||10||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||TE Out||Martin||Inc|
|Stanzi gets quick pressure from Martin(+1, pressure +1), who zipped past the center and threatened to sack. A Williams stumble gets the TE open with some potential to turn it up for YAC but the pressured Stanzi throw is high and incomplete.|
|O15||3||10||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||TE Out||Warren||Inc|
|This out is going to get swallowed up for like five yards as Warren comes up in cover 2 (cover +1) but Stanzi way overthrows it, basically throwing it to Warren. Warren drops it.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-23, 8 min 3rd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O28||1||10||Ace Twin TE||4-3 under||Run||Zone left||Mouton||5|
|Michigan slanting away from the play and sending the linebackers to fill the holes that open up. Mouton(+1) gets around the releasing TE and has an opportunity to tackle but cannot because he's being extremely blatantly held, but there's no call. As result, Robinson can bounce off Mouton's one-armed tackle attempt and spin inside. Martin meets him after about three yards and a big pile of folks falls forward.|
|O33||2||5||Ace Twin TE||4-3 under||Run||Zone right||Martin||8|
|Martin(-1) scooped a third time and blown out of the hole. Mouton has to deal with a guy coming off of Martin and ends up pushed past the play; Kovacs fills and makes an okay tackle, but one that gives up some YAC.|
|O41||1||10||Ace Twin TE||4-3 under||Pass||In||Woolfolk||4|
|Think Woolfolk is playing this too soft as the timing on this is off for Iowa and McNutt's sort of waiting for the ball for a second or two. However, general policy is not to ding corners for short routes on which there's no YAC and Woolfolk does come up quickly enough to grab McNutt and spin him around. This doesn't actually tackle him but it does stop him and set him up for a Graham killshot.|
|O45||2||6||Ace Twin TE||4-3 under||Run||Zone left||Van Bergen||1|
|Van Bergen(+1) drives the LG three yards back, opening up attack lanes for Mouton and forcing the play outside, where Michigan strings it out; Ezeh(+1) also avoided a blocker who'd released straight onto him and flew upfield to help the stringing-out process, though he couldn't tackle. On this play Martin does avoid a scoop and helps in the backfield.|
|O46||3||5||Shotgun empty||4-3 under||Pass||TE Out||Kovacs||4|
|Brown comes free on a blitz (RPS +1, pressure +1), forcing an immediate throw. TE is open as he cuts to an out but Kovacs(+1, cover +1, tackle +1) reads it and is there to tackle as soon as the ball arrives, preventing the extra yard that makes this a conversion.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 21-23, 1 min 3rd Q. Mathews fumbles the punt and the D has to go right back on the field.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M16||1||10||Ace Twin TE Twins||4-3 under||Pass||Waggle TE Cross||Brown||10|
|Brown(-1) gets beat in man-to-man by Moeaki, and there's no contain at Mouton(-1) gets sucked inside by the playfake, leaving Stanzi plenty of time to survey and find the open guy. (Pressure -1, cover -1)|
|M6||1||G||Ace Twins||Double Eagle?||Pass||Rollout out||Herron||Inc|
|Herron(-1) gets a free run at Stanzi (RPS +1), who's rolling out directly at him, and whiffs on a tackle(-1, pressure +1). This isn't even PA so it seems like either an Iowa bust, possibly because Michigan went with an unusual formation. Stanzi does get almost tackled by Herron and then another DL is closing in so he must throw, but it's to a guy standing OOB.|
|M6||2||G||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||RB flat||Ezeh||3|
|A little play in the flat that seems designed to exploit the same coverage deficiencies as Michigan experienced on the last drive of the half. Ezeh(+1) gets out on this, tackling as the ball arrives and holding it down about as well as anyone can expect. (Tackling +1, cover +1.)|
|M3||3||G||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||Zone right||Van Bergen||1|
|RVB(+1) blows into the RG, shoving him back a couple yards and forcing the tailback inside of him, where Martin(+0.5 ) has disengaged from a double. Wegher ducks/spins under Martin, at which point three players converge to stop him.|
|M2||4||G||Goal line||Goal line||Pass||PA TE corner||Brown||Inc|
|Really selling out here to dupe Michigan, as Stanzi is given one and only one option; everyone else stays in to sell the run fake. Brown(+2) does not bite and gets out on the tight end, nearly intercepting. (Cover +1). Ezeh(+1) read the play and shot out on Stanzi, as well; he had a pulling tackle coming around to provide a run option that Ezeh erased.|
|Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 21-23, 14 min 4th Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M42||1||10||Ace Twin TE||4-3 under||Pass||PA TE Cross||EVERYONE||42|
|Well.... I don't know. Both ILBs and Kovacs freak out about the run fake as Williams pulls up to the line, leaving both tight ends wide, wide open. If Stanzi didn't throw it to Moeaki the other guy had a TD, too. Mouton -2, Ezeh -2, Brown -2, Kovacs -2, Cover -6.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-30, 12 min 4th Q. You know, if we didn't do this twice a game this would be a good defense.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O24||1||10||Ace Twins||4-3 under||Pass||Rollout out||Woolfolk||4|
|Kind of a weird way to start here but ok. Stross is slightly in front of Woolfolk and is escorted OOB immediately.|
|O28||2||6||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Hitch||Woolfolk||5|
|Ezeh gets through on a twisting blitz, forcing a throw (pressure +1). Woolfolk(-0.5) is playing off a bit too far to do anything about this, but a low throw prevents any YAC.|
|O33||3||1||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||QB sneak||--||2|
|They get it.|
|O35||1||10||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||Zone left||Graham||9 (Pen -10)|
|Michigan looks misaligned, with Graham too far inside to reasonably keep contain, and indeed he gets doubled and shoved inside and this hops outside the tackles. Martin(+1) has busted into the backfield against single blocking, though, and is held all the way downfield, finally drawing the flag Iowa's avoided a few times tonight. Graham -1 for opening up the outside; this was obvious from the snap.|
|O25||1||20||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||Zone counter dive||Graham||15|
|An under-center version of the play we've run to good effect a lot; Graham(-2) attempts to go outside of the crackback TE block and ends up ceding a big hole; Ezeh(-1) ran himself out of the play anticipating a stretch and fell down when he tried to come back.|
|O40||2||5||Ace 3-wide||Double Eagle?||Run||Zone left||Van Bergen||-3|
|Odd-man front this time with the three DL aligned up directly over the tackles/center. RVB(+1) blasts the sliding guard into the backfield; Martin(+1) does the same with the other guard, cutting off the play in the backfield and killing it for a loss.|
|O37||3||8||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Hitch||Woolfolk||Inc|
|Woolfolk in the area and might have a play on the ball if it's accurately thrown; it is not and he definitely has a play on the ball because it's coming right to him. The receiver goes for it too, the two guys knock into each other, and the ball falls harmlessly to the turf. Em... (+1, cover +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 21-30, 7 min 4th Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M45||1||10||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||Inside zone||Roh||2|
|Roh(+1) slants inside, bursting into the intended path of the runner and forcing a cutback. That cutback threatens to zip past Graham, crashing inside, and Woolfolk, blitzing form the outside, when Roh(+1 again) makes a diving shoestring tackle. Yeeek. (Tackling +1)|
|M43||2||8||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Pass||Scramble||Graham||4|
|They run a waggle that Graham(+1, pressure +1) gets out on by crushing the tight end back. He can't make a tackle and Stanzi escapes, rolling out to run after the close call. Want to minus one of Woolfolk or Williams for running the same coverage on not coming up on Stanzi but won't.|
|M39||3||4||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||Zone left||Mouton||-1|
|ILBs, as they've been most of the game, are screaming downhill at this; both of them zip through the line and their intended blockers, with Mouton(+2) crushing Robinson in the backfield. +1 for Ezeh and tackling, as well.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 28-30, 2 min 4th Q.|
So… they did okay?
Yeah, they did okay. They faced 15 possessions, all of which were meaningful—though one was the time-compressed drive at the end of the first half and the last couple were more concerned with killing the clock than scoring—and gave up 23 net points. Iowa started drives at the Michigan 19 and 16 and came away with 3 points from those drives. By the Mathlete's reckoning, the day was a positive one:
An average team given Iowa's field position would have averaged 37 points given where Iowa started on the day. That's a +7 for the defense to go with a pick 6.
Of course, that pick six was decidedly unforced, as were an array of other Stanzi misthrows. Michigan was the recipient of a number of unforced errors. Not as many as Iowa was on the other side of the ball, but here we're just evaluating how the defense did against a pretty mediocre offense. They did a mediocre job.
What about that timeout?
The one right before the half.
I liked it at the time but in retrospect the upside there was very low, since there were 27 seconds left and Iowa was on its 31. Even an incompletion followed by a punt leaves Michigan with 15-17 seconds and probably 40 yards to go for a long field goal attempt. And you know Michigan's not going to get a great return. About the only thing Michigan can hope for is a punt block.
Still, if you asked me to choose between that sort of error and the ones Carr made more regularly I'd go with that one. The instinct to wring another possession out of the first half is right, and usually Rodriguez is going to be calling that timeout with 1:30 or 2:00 on the clock, in which case the risk you take is more than offset by the strong possibility you'll get the ball back.
What about the other timeout?
That was on offense.
I'm asking about it now.
Fine: obviously you want that timeout a lot more than the half-yard you save by expending it but it's really hard to expect players to break years of training and not call it when the play-clock ticks down.
You want me to say chart—
|Graham||8.5||4||4.5||Had a couple issues on the ground and UFR is newly tough on vacating your lane when the QB scrambles out for good yardage, so those are the minuses. Still had two sacks.|
|Heininger||1.5||-||1.5||Split a double that contained Bulaga!|
|Roh||5.5||1||4.5||Had a couple hurries, used his athleticism well from the backside on a couple runs.|
|Herron||-||1||-1||Did little except run by Stanzi once..|
|Martin||9||4.5||4.5||Demonstrated great agility several times and had a couple good pass rush moves but got crushed off the ball four times, too.|
|Van Bergen||5||-||5||Very competent against a day of single blocking, which got him a lot of half points.|
|Sagesse||-||-||-||Also played little.|
|Campbell||-||3||-3||At least people will stop asking about him now.|
|TOTAL||29.5||14.5||15||NT collectively got blown off the ball six times and the rushing stats were still pretty good.|
|Ezeh||8.5||4||4.5||This looks like progress… now about play action?|
|Mouton||6||9||-3||Three weeks in a row: alternates great plays with killer mistakes.|
|Brown||3.5||5||-1.5||Some issues in coverage, took some of the hit for the second Moeaki TD.|
|TOTAL||18||18||0||Run filling = very good. Pass defense = very bad.|
|Warren||3.5||1||2.5||Busy day; can't blame him for either long reception.|
|Woolfolk||2||1.5||0.5||Major win relative to the other guys Michigan's thrown out there. Why hasn't he been a corner all year?|
|Kovacs||2.5||3||-0.5||Missed one tackle, made another few, good downhill box safety.|
|TOTAL||10||13.5||-3.5||Ah, disastrous safeties. How I did not miss you.|
|Pressure||12||4||8||Three sacks and a lot of harassment.|
|Coverage||19||23||-4||Actually very good except for the three disaster plays that totaled -13.|
|Tackling||12||3||9||Another good day. Wish I had English numbers to compare it against; missed tackles do seem rare, don't they?|
A step back from the DL, which was almost +30 against MSU. A step forward for the linebackers, albeit only to mediocrity, and a step back from the secondary mostly because of the return of safety doom.
So… um… delicately phrased question about Mike Williams?
Very tactful. It's hard to blame Williams for the first disastrous Moeaki touchdown. He was obviously coached to see if the TE was staying in to block and attack the QB if he did. When Moeaki set up and he reacted and Moeaki released, that was just Ken O'Keefe owning Robinson. That play caused the email that spurred the obviously goofy addition of RPS this week; these things are always goofy because I forget to track it 80% of the time I try something new. When these things occur it's not 100% on the player in question. O'Keefe noticed the tendency to blitz vast numbers sometimes (seven happened several times against MSU) and killed it dead.
I still gave him a –3, yeah. But I'm not 100% mad about it.
Third and twenty-five is a different story, there is the Robinson quote above and this still I grabbed:
You can see the TE bugging out to the sidelines and Kovacs in a deep seam zone with Warren in cover-three to the outside; Williams absolutely has to get deeper than this. There is nothing threatening him short and it's third and twenty-four. It was a huge mistake from a guy who was thrust into a new-ish position—Woolfolk was always the deep centerfield guy before—and speaks to why Michigan needed to move Woolfolk in the first place despite the evident lack of a second cornerback.
Michigan has two defensive backs and one feisty walk-on mini-linebacker. It's pick your poison.
But moving Woolfolk seemed to work out, right?
Yeah. He was tested a couple times on fade routes, breaking one up and seeing the other one glance off the WR's fingertips because his coverage was good. There were a couple errors on outs. Despite that, it was by far the best performance Michigan's gotten out of that spot all year. The Woolfolk move allowed Michigan to play the press cover man Robinson said he wanted to play in August for the first time all year, and they played it well. Michigan's going to have to hope Williams makes a quick adjustment because Woolfolk isn't moving back.
And how about Will Campbell?
Campbell got crushed backwards on two separate zone plays and basically sat at the LOS on a passing down. He was poor, and I assume we'll see Sagesse again next week. Campbell was not ready to play.
You gave a collective –8 and a cover –6 on the second Moeaki TD. Overreact much?
Hey, man, Stanzi had his choice of two different tight ends wide open for easy touchdowns. –6 coverage each, and –4 for one disastrously open receiver x 2 = –8. It's time to get serious about big negative plays. UFR is going tough love. Or something.
So I really wish I had the video for this and will revisit it tomorrow when I do. For now I'll just have to use my words: Michigan appears to have changed their style here. Early in the year, linebackers were sitting back and waiting for stuff to develop. Here's Ezeh and Mouton sitting, waiting, sitting, waiting, against Notre Dame:
Against Iowa the linebackers were screaming downhill at the first sign of zone blocking, which accounts for the +2s and TFLs and times that Ezeh smashed a FB at the LOS and closed down a hole for no gain. I think it also accounts for a large number of wide open waggle plays, amongst them Moeaki Disaster II. I'll come back to this when I have more evidence.
Delicately phrased comment about Mike Williams. Also: Mouton's got to stop making big errors. Will Campbell was extremely ineffective in limited time. Mike Martin showed a propensity to get blown back for the first time all year.
A first: I won't mention Warren or Graham first. Ryan Van Bergen's crazy hulk up after the 85-yard Indiana touchdown has now extended itself to three games. Hes only got a +5 above but when you don't get to the QB much and end up with a bunch of half-points, +5 from a DT is a good day. I no longer think of him as a weakness on the line.
Elsewhere, yes, Graham had two sacks and though he was less beastly than usual he is still a beast. And the two corners had a good day.
What does it mean for
Delaware Penn State and beyond?
Michigan's new glaring hole to attack again and again is free safety, which says things about Woolfolk and the fellows trying to replace Woolfolk. The corner play should be improved; Williams should just start playing afraid of letting anything behind him forever.
The defensive line continued being functional to good, but the disturbing ability of Iowa to blow NTs off the ball on their zone stretch plays was a new development. By my count it happened six times and was the only reason Iowa got more than 2 YPC on the ground. Penn State's shambles of an offensive line has really struggled with the stretch play this year—Iowa eviscerated them, and Michigan's just-ok OL did very well—and probably won't be able to duplicate that, but if they do look out. Royster remains dangerous when he can get past the LOS. Which he cannot regularly. That matchup will be one to watch early.
I've been saying this for a few weeks now: if Michigan can just stop making huge freaking errors this defense can be okay. They made some huge freaking errors against Iowa and were still okay, but Iowa's offense was a participant in that. Penn State and Ohio State look to also be participating-type offenses, though, and Illinois definitely is. It'll be hairy. On the podcast this week I called the defense "competition-invariant": they have talent and do well when they use it but when they make an error is so huge that even Indiana can exploit it ruthlessly, so the defense kind of plays the same against everyone.