this may be of some local interest
per his twitter....
Whereupon I make a unique preseason prediction for your amusement: The 2016 offense will be different
Football's almost here, folks.
It's at the point where I wonder if anything more can be said about this team. MGoBlog is in a starved frenzy. Millions of words have been written about a team that has yet to play a down of the 2016 season. Preseason predictions are as lofty as an undefeated regular season and playoff berth. So this is either the best possible time to throw out some content, or the worst. I guess I'll just live with what comes out of this.
FWIW, I hate making W/L predictions, namely because something crazy tends to happen that defies all logic. Key B1G matchups were won last season on freakish factors, from bad officiating to bad weather. Predictions can be perfectly logical and still not matter. But I do get premonitions, and while they're sometimes "X will beat Y", sometimes they're oddly specific in a not-nearly-as-satisfying way. So I might get some "why bother" reactions for this, but we're at the point where little else can be said about this team (you've probably seen over dozen W-L predictions if you haven't been living under a rock), and it occurred to me that I did come across something that hasn't been said yet. So FWIW, I'll put it here just in case I'm on to something. Probably not but we'll see.
Let's start with the premise that's about to be challenged. Everyone here (and elsewhere) is taking for granted that this year's offense is going to be an overall upgraded version of last year's, maybe some positional downgrades, but plenty of MANBALL and 4TE sets and Smith running through a roughin' toughin' line (year 2 Drevno uber alles) with plenty of Harbaugh/Fisch hijinks to keep defenses off balance. Now, just because the Internet goes "what's nuance?" I guess I have to point out that I don't expect a wholesale abandonment of those concepts. Harbaugh's preferences are clear; he likes to ram the ball down your maw if he can do it. So he'll certainly try, but not to the extent of losing games in the name of principle (may 2011 Iowa never happen again). But for what it's worth, here's a prediction that I daresay hasn't been made. . .
The 2016 offense is going to look significantly different from 2015, strategically.
I get that that sounds like it's saying something without saying anything, but unfortunately I can't think of a better way to phrase it. I hate soundbites, anyway, so I'll try to explain. Let's look at the starters from early in the 2015 season, as they stood, but with some hindsight as to where they really were:
WR: Chesson, Darboh, Perry
TE: Butt, Williams
OL: Cole, Kalis, Glasgow, Braden, Magnuson
If you remember, it took Rudock a while to get going. Perry was a true freshman and practically single-handedly lost us the Utah game. Rudock couldn't hit Chesson with the deep ball, Peppers couldn't be unleashed yet (new coordinator for the D as well), and as a result pass defenses keyed on Butt. So Harbaugh had to get the most he could from the run game, even though guard play was iffy. I mean, he likes to run, but this was a need. So what we got for about half a season was a very left-handed run game with Cole and/or Glasgow often pulling, and extensive use of the fullbacks. We saw Chesson's speed utilized in end-arounds and then threatened with fakes once that was on tape. We saw FB dive come back like it was in style, and plenty of screens.
Harbaugh didn't do this just to mitigate damage. He gets the absolute most out of what he has and what he saw was hey, I have a fast blocking WR and two good fullbacks, and I'm gonna use them. Also, Cole is great in space and (we didn't know it at the time but) Williams was a completely different player last season. I bolded all these players above as run game assets and you can see why he went with a FB-heavy MANBALL approach. It never went away even after Rudock heated up, but it wasn't just tendency. Every chance he could, he had the players doing things they were good at, even if that was limited at the time.
So with that in mind, let's look at the projected starters as of today, 8/23 (subject to change!!):
WR: Chesson, Darboh, Perry
TE: Butt, Bunting
OL: Newsome, Kalis, Cole, Braden, Magnuson
I'm not making any crazy predictions here; this should be news to no one. A freshman might surprise (Wheatley is particulary intriguing) but they all have uphill climbs. Now, that thing that bothered me about the way the preseason predictions have been going. I've maintained that Harbaugh is the ultimate SunTzuball coach. Why is everyone assuming he'll try the same thing with no regard to roster change? They are the same guys, for the most part, but many of them are now different players.
What's he going to do this year? To figure that out, and this may hit some nerves, I italicized the possible run liabilities in the starters. (If Speight starts, he's marked as a "liability" in that he can't threaten with his legs.) Not necessarily disasters, but guys who will struggle with consistency. Again, not saying they're bad; this is about getting the most out of this unit. Harbaugh's going to put the players in a position to succeed instead of ordering them to head-butt their way through a brick wall. Anyway, if the FBs can't block consistently. . . they won't. Henderson might be an X-factor here but he's not Kerridge or Houma, and Harbaugh used those guys because of who they are. And even against Florida, UFR showed the run game was largely Smith making something of a checked-out Florida D. Year 2 Anno Drevno duly noted, but I'm not the only one openly wondering if the O-line's close to its ceiling. We'll still run the ball, but I don't see us relying on it like the start of last season, largely because. . .
We won't need to! I bolded the pass game assets above, and that's almost all of them. (That includes most of the OL because as a unit they overall graded very good in pass pro -- Bosa was just something else and he's gone). Both QBs have spent over a year doing wax-on, wax-off in the Harbaugh-fu dojo. Smith is an excellent pass blocker. Perry's got his head fixed, and Chesson's blowed up from a guy Harbaugh had to use creatively to a guy who roasted Vernon Hargreaves crispy. Butt is a velcro-covered black hole for balls thrown his way. Add in guys like O'Korn or Peppers and the picture doesn't really change (maybe more RPOs). Add in Jourdan Lewis, Ty Isaac or Drake Johnson and the picture's even more pass-happy.
So, what will the offense look like, at least to start the season? I think we'll see more West Coast-ish, one-back stuff than expected, with Wheatley next to Newsome to shore up the left side if necessary. Darboh, Chesson, Butt and Perry will wreak havoc on back 7s, which will spook linebackers and open up the run game. You may see some Isaac/Smith or Johnson/Smith backfields for wheel routes, Smith doing his blitz pick-up thing and maybe moonlighting as a fullback. But mostly, I'm predicting that this offense -- until/unless guys like Poggi and Kalis get their targeting issues fixed anyway -- will be a pass-first unit.
Some things I have to disclaim because the Internet goes "what's nuance?":
1) No, we are not going to be one-dimensional. That's the last thing Harbaugh will allow. We all know he's going to do a ton of crazy stuff beyond the scope of this entry.
2) We're not abandoning the run either. We'll still see MANBALL and plenty of FB play, especially with comfortable leads. In close games, though, the pass unit will support the run much in the way the situation was reversed to start last season.
3) This is subject to change based on player improvement. If Poggi and/or Hill vastly improve their blocking in the submarine then I'll look stupid and I'll be fine with that, because that's only good news.
4) This isn't saying Poggi and Hill are bad. Please don't insinuate I'm saying that. This is more, we have excellent receiving options to open up holes in the defense, vs. the excellent fullback options and passing game challenges Harbaugh had last season. Poggi and Hill aren't competing against each other so much as who we have at slot and TE and we have some great options there. They'll play, but if Harbaugh needs points you might see more 3-wide and 4-wide looks. With O'Korn he might run zone read.
5) Probably not against Hawaii or UCF. They're not good so if the pass-first approach gets us to 21-0 in the first quarter and the defense shuts the door, Harbaugh might be content to MANBALL for 3 quarters en route a 35-3 glorified scrimmage. This prediction is more about his "go-to" offensive set.
Harbaugh puts players in positions to succeed, puts the best 11 on the field and understands constraint concepts well. Again, the run game won't be bad. But looking at what he has as of today, the passing game is so compelling that I just don't see Harbaugh -- a former pro QB and SunTzuball extraordinaire -- go all Lloyd Carr on it. If rolling out a pass-happy one-back set gets him more TDs than doing what worked last year he'll do that, and he's certainly got the personnel for it.
...days until Jordan Kovacs sees the first of Michigan's many wins this season.
Jordan is a former walk-on turned scholarship athlete. He initially wore number 32, but changed to 11, which was a legends jersey (stupid idea thinking back). In 2012, Jordan was chosen as second team All-Big Ten and named a finalist for the Burlsworth Trophy. He was also named the team's MVP and earned Academic All-Big Ten. Jordan has seen time with the Dolphins, Chiefs, and Rams.
Just eleven days, folks.
With the news of Aubrey Solomon's decommitment after receiving a recruiting letter that spelled his name wrong, former Michigan linebacker Clint Copenhaver tweeted Angelique Chengelis a photo of a recruiting letter he got from Wisconsin in the early '90s.
Via Twitter, slightly NSFW:
"When you're afraid, close your eyes and count to four."
"What happens when you get to five?"