Mike Lantry, 1972
Site note: UFR is going to be late today, say five-ish. OT, yo.
You will get your podcasts erratic-style and you will like it.
This week's excuse about last week is that Tim was in State College and we now have a restricted window in which to get these done. This week we talk about whatever happened last weekend and the road ahead, with a little bit of talk about Penn State thrown in mostly to get our hairshirting done. Jamiemac of Just Cover stops by to talk about the Big Ten schedule coming up, albeit without the benefit of lines, and I ask Tim if he's a Buddhist. The EXCITING ANSWER lies within.
The usual links:
Notes from Rich Rodriguez's Monday meeting with the press.
Denard was suffering symptoms similar to a concussion, so they held him out Saturday. Trainers came to Rich and said Denard should be held out. He was tested yesterday and should be fine. Will be full-go this week. Might have been the helmet-to-helmet, not positive. Denard's arm "felt a whole lot better" against Illinois, the knee isn't 100%, but it's good. "I'm hoping he'll be feeling as good as he's felt in weeks this weekend."
Teric Jones has a torn ACL and is out for the rest of the season.
Mike Martin is better, Mouton is limited with a chest muscle issue. He might be held out of full-contact tomorrow. Not sure if Mouton will be available this weekend. "I'll know more tomorrow." He was able to play through it for part of the game, so it may not be that serious.
Will know today if Fitz Toussaint will be available this weekend.
Perry Dorrestein could have played against Illinois if they needed him. He's a lot better now than he was the past couple weeks.
JT Floyd had his surgery. Troy Woolfolk is out of his walking boot, working out upper body only. Mike Jones is good after his surgery. Tae Odoms "is fine after his surgery." Not sure if any of those guys will be able to go in spring practice, but they're doing well.
"I think Craig [Roh] - that move putting him at end is probably gonna stick." That's his better position, and he's more physically suited for it than he was last year with more bulk. "Playing him at end, especially at open-side end is better for him." JB Fitzgerald played pretty well in the same spot. "Obi's got some experience, Kevin Leach played a bit too." Mark Moundros should be in line for more playing time.
Illinois and Team
They rotate through the backs by feel. Vincent Smith is the most well-rounded, Michael Shaw has good burst, and Stephen Hopkins is the big guy. If a fourth guy steps up, they'd like to roll 4 backs in and out.
Roy Roundtree is a good athlete with great ball skills, and he's getting bigger. He has a good feel for getting open. "Roy's got kind of a natural feel for that." They saw that when he was in high school. #1 jersey - "I'm not touching no number things... Nobody's asking for it - it might be because they don't want to deal with all the drama either, I don't know." Roy likes #12, even if it's not a top seller in the stores.
Mark Huyge has done well in place of Perry. "We wouldn't hesitate at all to put Michael Schofield in there either. Michael Schofield can play too. He's just a redshirt freshman, but he's ready to play." Ricky Barnum and Rocko Khoury are also good young players on the OL.
Been good most of the year with not turning the ball over outside of a couple games, but they're disappointed in their inability to gain turnovers. "We're not quite creating turnovers, and we talked about that a lot with the defensive staff." Are they not in position to make plays, or not causing confusion for the opponent? There's no simple answer, but they're addressing it. Through the turnovers, the team managed to bounce back.
"The things that our guys kept doing was they kept competing." Didn't matter if they were down, up, after a turnover, etc. Young guys kept their poise, even though many of them should be redshirting in a perfect world. "There's a lot of growing lessons happening." There was no one particular thing that led to turnover problems. There was a great play by Illinois, poor ball security for Gallon, Tate coming off the bench cold, a couple missed reads. "It wasn't all just one thing."
In light of some of the inexperience the defense puts on the field (which really doesn't happen anywhere else), they competed well. Forced a few 3 and outs, 5 or 6 stops. The offense put the D in a couple bad spots with turnovers, and they responded well.
"Illinois is one of the most athletic teams in the league, and we frankly have to get more athletic." That comes through development - size too. Have to address it in recruiting as well. "Recruiting is going well, and our strength staff I think is the best in the country."
Not sure why the wheel routes were open - not same RB, not same coverage. "To be open is one thing, to be that wide open is another thing." A couple guys just made mistakes in coverage. "I would expect we'll probably see a play similar to that in every game going forward (laughs), so we'll be working on it quite a bit."
"I thought we tackled OK. we didn't tackle great." Didn't get off blocks well, especially on the perimeter on options. Part of that is Illinois's ability.
Not worried about offensive swagger "but our defense needed some." A defensive play won the game at the end, which will hopefully give them confidence going forward.
On the final 2-point conversion, Illinois was running a rub route, Michigan was bringing 7 rushers. "They got us rubbed off pretty good, but the pressure got to him first."
If you had veteran corners, you can blitz more. Michigan doesn't have that, so they have to be careful and pick their moments. "Nobody wants to sit there and die a slow death." Working a lot on mixing up defensive looks so opponent won't know coverage pre-snap.
"I'm the hardest one on our defensive coaches, because I think there's a certain standard we should be playing at." Playing this many freshmen and young guys is probably unprecedented. "It was a perfect storm of injuries and misfortune that got us here."
Quinton Washington played goal line and short yardage D. "I think that move may stay." Not sure how long it will take until he's ready to play in base defense. "Hopefully he'll get a little closer this week with that."
Kenny Demens - "He was really pretty consistent in the game Saturday. This was one of his better games." He was in the right spot and made some big tackles. He's not really experienced, but this is his first extended playing time.
Ray Vinopal is a young guy, so will make some mistakes. He was well-coached in high school, and is a smart football player. "We make all of our own judgments on our guys. These recruiting sites really do a pretty good job for the most part rating them, but we don't ever make our judgments based on what a recruiting site rates them."
Courtney Avery - "They got the one touchdown on him, and he wasn't that far out of position." He was nervous, but didn't show it. "I think he'll be able to grow from that, and I'm really excited about him." Getting quality experience will add depth when Troy and JT return too.
Worry about opponents' athleticism for kickoff coverage. "We had been pretty solid all year covering kicks, but we let a couple get out of there Saturday."
When there's not dropoff between 1st, 2nd, and 3rd teams, you'll be a good football team because you can handle injuries. "We're there at some positions this year, but most positions we're not." QB, RB, and OL to a degree. "Nowhere on defense are we there."
Winning an exciting game is maybe even more important than getting the 6th win from an emotion level in the post-game celebration. "The guys have been through a lot, they have been. That's why I've been so proud of the focus that they've kept." Even when they've faced adversity, they know that have to move past it. "If it helps them have a little enthusiasm and a little pep in their step, that's good" to get confidence, etc. after a win. Even if some people didn't play well, they'll be more confident after a win and that's positive going forward.
Hasn't had a conversation with Danny Hope about what happened last year. Have only briefly spoken during the conference meetings.
Motivation won't be an issue, especially with Purdue getting wins in the past two meetings. Purdue has had some QB injuries, fast skill guys, two good defensive ends. "I want our guys to feel good for a couple days" but that doesn't mean they'll overlook Purdue.
They match up in certain spots with Purdue, particularly at QB and WR, but Purdue is athletic up front on the OL. "Defensively, we have some athleticism, but not enough. Not enough speed yet."
Not yet sure which quarterbacks Purdue will have back this week - if Rob Henry will be available.
On getting to a bowl - "No question it was a sense of relief, not only for the staff and the players, but particularly for the seniors." They earned the chance to extend their college career for one more game, and they'll get another month as members of the team.
Important if you have a lot of young players to get those 15 bowl practices. "We have a lot of young players that they're going to have to develop and they'll have to get ready to help us, especially on defense." Early enrollees can't participate in bowl practices. RR thinks that's a good policy.
Not necessarily more injuries (across the country) now, just more public. Guys are getting bigger and faster, so maybe there are more injuries. FieldTurf has probably saved 25% of knee injuries vs. Astroturf.
Injury report - want it to be fair to the kids by being accurate from the source. Families know first, but don't want to have incorrect reports published.
Won all three times he's been in a triple OT game. Couldn't imagine how tough it would be to lose one. "We have a hard time sleeping anyway as coaches. I can imagine how many plays you'd replay in your head over at night... there's so many plays that can make a difference in the game, and if you win them, you think about them and move on." If they won a 10-7 overtime game, it would be a shock (to only score that much), but they'll take any win they can.
Wins help the players stay confident for the future, prevent spiraling. "Even though it might not have been a really good game for them individually, it was a good game for Michigan." The guys get to enjoy that moment.
Assistant coaches tell Coach Rod about negative recruiting stories they hear on the road. "I think we have enough positives here that we can accentuate the positive."
Has never had a non-kicker/punter have to attempt an extra point. Thought Suh's kick was going to be good, and he just barely missed it.
UFR note: The first torrent didn't go up until yesterday afternoon, so I haven't embarked on my usual journey of discovery yet. The UFRs will be a day late. So in lieu of figuring out the tao of Demens I took a look at a couple games featuring teams in this critical upcoming stretch…
Purdue (vs Toledo)
I picked the game they lost by 11 to a MAC team and haven't seen them beat Northwestern yet. This is probably the worst game they'll play all year. Even so…
Jesus. Jesus, they're bad.
QB. Marve went out like EMU's quarterback did last year—untouched. He was facing a totally unblocked DT up the middle, FWIW.
Rob Henry, the guy Michigan will face, is very erratic. Many of his throws were wildly off target and his interception was completely doomed. He stared at a guy on a hitch route, decided not to throw it, kept staring at him, and then finally let it rip. A linebacker met the receiver and took it away.
Henry's main assets are his legs. He's a decisive upfield runner with good speed. This will be the closest Michigan gets to playing Denard Robinson this year—not very close at all. (Pryor is an entirely different animal, a tank more concerned with its paint job than anything else.)
Skill position melange. With Smith and Bolden out they're just guys. Dierking is obviously a bottom-three tailback in the Big Ten and their receivers didn't do anything of note. Cortez Smith dropped a couple balls.
Offensive line. Terrible. Toledo stoned Purdue short yardage thanks to their DT getting underneath the 6'6" Boiler center and discarding him. When Purdue went to stretch plays the Toledo DTs always got playside of their guys and forced the play back inside. Also, Boiler OL could not find a second level block for the world. When there were creases in the line most of the time Toledo linebackers would run right by ponderous OL and tackle after a few yards.
A couple exceptions came on runs by WRs right up the gut on the inside zone where doubled Toledo DTs got blown way off the ball. I have no idea how Purdue managed 220 yards on the ground; they had trouble with Henry on the outside.
In pass protection things were a little better but on Purdue's final drive Toledo ripped into the backfield and sacked Henry on consecutive plays. Those were just straight-up four-man rushes on which Toledo DTs and DEs smoked Boiler OL.
DL. Ryan Kerrigan is really good. I've seen him be really good against real teams, too—this is just confirmation. Purdue doesn't have much else on the line.
LB. Lost. Toledo is a passing spread with some read-option elements, and their quarterback found guys shockingly open on simple drag routes all day. Purdue had a knack for vacating the area directly in front of the quarterback's face. Junior linebacker Joe Holland stood out as not very good, as it seemed like every attempted tackle from him was run through. His coverage was dismal, too.
Toledo got a long touchdown on a read option keeper when the contain guy didn't contain and the safety jumped the handoff.
Secondary. As mentioned, a deep safety went off schedule and turned a twenty-yard gain into a 58-yard touchdown on a simple option keeper. I didn't look too closely at this group but Toledo was finding wide open guys 15, 20 yards downfield with consistency.
Overall worry level: I'll withhold final judgment until I see a couple more games but Michigan should shred this team; Henry won't be able to throw enough to keep up unless he gets radically better. FWIW, Toledo ran the midline a few times with good success. Maybe this is where Hope got the idea.
Penn State (vs Illinois)
QB. Bolden rolled out for one eighty-yard touchdown pass to Derek Moye; he completed 7 of his other 20 attempts for 62 yards. Illinois's defense didn't give him anything easy and he responded with hopeless checkdowns and lots of inaccurate balls. Penn State's completely abandoned running the quarterback as long as Bolden's in the game, by the way. Strange since he's plenty fast enough to do some damage in space.
RB. Royster is Royster, but he's got problems in front of him. He did seem to lack some of his old Hart-like spark, FWIW. Penn State boards are flying with rumors about him having issues.
WR. PSU's got two enormous WRs that aren't going to beat you deep much. Bolden must not be able to throw a fade to save his life, though, because not once did Penn State try to use the fact that they're rolling out two 6'5" guys on the outside to their advantage. Slot guy Devon Smith is a quick little YAC guy who I can see doing some damage against an erratic Michigan LB corps.
OL. It's shocking that a stable program like Penn State can have such a pasted-together line. I know they lost their starting RT for the year but the four guys on the line who weren't pressed into the lineup because of injury weren't much better. An early fourth and one:
That's four OL on three DL getting no push. Martez Wilson, the MLB, will shoot into a gap unblocked and tackle at the LOS. Penn State tailbacks had 64 yards on 20 carries and weren't obviously leaving a bunch of yards on the field.
DL. While other bits of the Penn State defense may be suffering, the defensive tackles are up to the usual standard. Devon Still and Ollie Ogbu were in the backfield a lot, and if they'd gotten anything from the linebackers they may have made it a game. Tough to judge the defensive ends. They were so injury-wracked that a 309 pound true freshman DT played a big chunk of the game outside. I'm not sure how close to the starting lineup #44 Kevion Latham will be against Michigan but I was not impressed with him.
LB. MLB Chris Colasanti is not up to the usual standard. He's slow mentally and physically and while he'd be an upgrade at M he's just a guy. PSU fans are pushing for hyped recruit Khairi Fortt to play more but he's got the same freshman issues big chunks of Michigan's defense does. When he was in there he was vulnerable to cluelessness against run and pass. Same goes for Mike Yancich, who abandoned a flat zone on one of Illinois's long pass plays.
Underneath zone coverage was atrocious:
That second and fifteen drag went for 18 yards, Scheelhaase's second longest completion of the day. That's starting linebacker Nathan Stupar pulling the Courtney Avery by turning zone coverage into man there; Sukay could not get an angle on the guy before the sticks.
Here's the exact same thing on another 18 yard pass that would be the first Illinois touchdown:
That's a result of DE Pete Massaro and Fortt dropping into the same zone. Clueless youth, but maybe not clueless youth that's going to play against Michigan.
Secondary. Cornerbacks had the day off against Illinois. Safeties were hard to tell because Nick Sukay tore a pectoral muscle and won't be playing against Michigan; by the time he went out Illinois was cruising and content to run. Drew Astorino didn't stand out good or bad.
Overall worry level: This may not be a representative sample of what Michigan sees from Penn State on defense. The Nittany Lions were down to Talbott-equivalents all over the field and their errors opened up large chunks of Illinois yardage. Still, the complete ineptness of the offense is stunning—their line cannot block anyone. If Michigan plays bend but don't break against Penn State it should work because eventually Bolden's going to get stuck in long yardage and he's uncomfortable trying to fit throws in windows. Meanwhile, the defense is obviously a step down from previous editions. How much of one depends on their health level going into the game.
Illinois (vs Penn State)
Illinois is a triple option team. They run it from the pistol…
… but their offense is 60% old-school Nebraska with a modern twist:
Scheelhaase is about Henry's equivalent on the ground, maybe a bit faster.
QB. Scheelhaase's passing ability is primitive. He managed to go 15 of 19 for 151 yards against Penn State but save a swing pass to Leshoure that Yancich busted that went for 32 his long on the day was 18 yards. Literally all routes were little hitches or drags. I'm not even sure if Scheelhaase looks deep, ever. This post (on the far right) on the earlier drag route is about to be a billion yards open:
Sukay is already heading towards the TE who Stupar is getting out of position on.
Scheelhaase's three longest completions were three-yard passes taken for lots of yards after the catch. His other completions averaged 6.9 yards. The book is clear: sit in zones and tackle.
RB. Leshoure is Yet Another Big Ten Back I'd Kill For. He's got a good size-speed combination. He drags piles and hits the holes hard. He doesn't have much shimmy, though—think a poor man's Edwin Baker. Leshoure backup Jason Ford is also pretty good.
WR. AJ Jenkins is the main target in the passing game. His ability to pick up YAC is impressive, Penn State had a tendency to leave crossing routes in the middle of the field shockingly open. Obviously.
OL. Not sure about the OL, which seemed to allow a lot of penetration from the DTs but since Illinois was running at the DEs all day it didn't matter. The Illinois passing game is all short stuff so Penn State did not have time to get pressure.
Defense. Defensively, also hard to tell since Penn State is decimated. Martez Wilson finally has acquired a clue to go with his intimidating physical ability; he came on a blitz designed to blow up play action and showed up in Bolden's chest frighteningly quickly. On the line, Clay Nurse and Corey Liuget are legit playmakers.
Bolden's inaccuracy has something to do with the Illinois secondary. You can never tell about these things for sure but I think a reason he threw a lot of inaccurate passes were guys getting in the way of short routes and knocking off the timing—Bolden doesn't have the experience to adjust yet. Another set were deeper throws on which Bolden's first read was covered. His instinct seems to be "let's see if I can fit this in a tiny window and my receiver can make a spectacular catch."
Dreads. Illinois has fewer players with dreads but they make up for it by having the dreads guys have crazy Marley dreads that end up halfway down the kid's back.
Overall worry level: The Illinois offense moves the ball based on your mistakes only, which means Michigan will have a frustrating day but maybe not one that sees Illinois put up 30 points. Third and long will mean lots of guys in zone and checkdowns Michigan will have to tackle; getting them there will mean implanting Kovacs's brain into the rest of the D.
Defensively, I'm more alarmed by what the Illinois defense did to the MSU run game than anything that transpired here. There is no comparison between the Penn State OL and the Michigan OL. They're clearly good, though, and this should be the toughest game in the upcoming stretch.