TO THE HOT TAKE CANNON
2012 michigan state
Pictured: Will Gholston; Not pictured: Will Gholston making a play
I'm apparently a blogger of the self-hating variety, as yesterday I re-watched last weekend's Michigan State-Iowa opposite-of-a-barnburner and even sat through both overtimes. The things I do for you people (and a paycheck, I guess).
You probably know the story from this one; MSU couldn't hold on to two different ten-point leads or muster much of anything on offense, improbably losing to a Hawkeye team that averaged 3.7 yards per play after Andrew Maxwell tossed an interception in the second overtime. While this contest was fun for rivalry purposes, it was absolutely terrible for the game of football.
Let's move on to the breakdown while I still have the will to live.
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Largely pro-style. State operates from under center on almost all standard downs, only going to the shotgun when they need to put the ball in the air.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? MSU runs a largely zone-heavy rushing attack, though they'll mix in a heavy dose of POWER and a few isos.
Hurry it up or grind it out? State managed a 42.8% adj. pace last year when they featured an actual passing offense. My guess is that figure will be even lower after this year, becausezzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz*criesinsleep*zzzzzzzzzzz.
Quarterback Dilithium Level (Scale: 1 [Navarre] to 10 [Denard]): Andrew Maxwell does not attempt to scramble or really move outside of the pocket. There's a reason for this. Here's a possibly-generous 3.
Dangerman: I was going to save this for the play breakdown, but whateva I do what I want:
That's LeVeon Bell, obviously, who's rushed for 916 yards and eight touchdowns on 200(!) carries this season. No other player on the Spartans has more than 16 carries. I think they call those "bellhorses" or "workcows" but it's early in the morning so I may be wrong here.
Anyway, the above is a prime example of why Bell is so dangerous. He's very adept at seeing the hole in a zone run and cutting to the backside, as he does above, and his combination of power and athleticism often allows him to make State's rather ineffective blocking irrelevant. Watch the center and right guard on that play; they pull off an effective double of the nose guard, but RG #62—Chris McDonald, reputedly their best lineman—fails to get off the block and chip anyone at the second level—you can see him make a desperation dive for MLB James Morris (#44) far after he has any chance to make a block.
But LeVeon Bell is very, very good, and simply adjusts by juking two linebackers out of their shoes and carrying two defensive backs into the end zone. He will make something out of nothing, and that something will be the majority of the MSU offense.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown, including the reincarnation of John L. and more evidence that William Gholston is the most overrated player in the Big Ten, and possibly the country.]
- Elliott Mealer mentioned that the scout team does something "extra" for motivation. Hoke, unsurprisingly, does not reveal what that is.
- UPDATE: It is THIS. [h/t indyeagle]
- Drake Johnson is playing running back for the scout team. So is Norfleet.
- This was the shortest presser ever, so there is no jump.
“Good practice yesterday I think on both sides of the ball. I liked how we competed with each other. Thought that, you know, when you put in the plan and sometimes Tuesday’s a little more thinking, I thought we reacted well and I thought we had a good tempo and were playing fast.”
You’ve practiced well in previous weeks, but is the focus more intense during a rivalry week?
“Well I think it’s been a continuation, but I also would agree that when you play in a rivalry game, there’s always a little more intensity to it.”
Did you do anything different in practice?
“Not really. I mean, uh … no.”
On the scout team?
“They … know their role, so they practice hard.”
How has the scout team been this year?
“I think, you know, it probably would have been a little better if we didn’t have some of those guys dinged up, like Wormley or Chris Bryant. Whether they’d be up or down, just your ability with depth and those things. But I think they’ve worked hard. We give an award out every week to guys on each side of the ball, and who in the kicking game does a great job, giving looks, so. I think they’re doing a good job. I think they’re motivated. Our young coaches, our GA’s do a good job of prepping them each week with watching film and mechanics and all that stuff.”
Do you have them wearing green during the week?
“Uh, you know, sometimes you do.”
With the way Le’Veon Bell is size-wise, do you have a particular guy on the scout team mimic him?
“No. You know, Drake Johnson gets most of the heavy lifting. Fleet gets down there to run some, but we don’t have anybody that size that you would use for that.”
Would you say Taylor Lewan has lived up to the expectations for him this season?
“I think he’s played pretty solid.”
The secondary is ranked third in the nation in pass defense. Is that because they’re playing that well or have they just not been tested enough?
“Well, I don’t know if we’ve been tested, you know. We haven’t had balls thrown down the field vertically in the pass game. I think this will -- since early in the year …”
You mentioned how --
“… really Alabama, to be honest with you. So I think that’s all part of it, where we’re playing a lot of spread teams that want to use the bubbles and want to use those things. I think that’s a fair assessment. I think we haven’t been tested yet.”
Are you interested in seeing how they stack up against a downfield passing team?
“Oh sure. Sure. I mean, I don’t know. I like the bubble screens and stuff like that.”
Does it speak at least a little bit to how your safeties have been playing?
“That’s a big deal. It’s made all the time. We want to be inside and in front. It’s a big part of whether you’re playing two-deep or playing single high, you have to do a good job of if you’re the guy, you have to keep your depth and be the last one to the party. I think those two guys have been a catalyst, and I think J.T. has improved every week.”
Are any of the ACL injury guys close to practicing?
Are they in rehab?
“Rehab. They’re doing fine. Some of them are at different levels.”
Do you think any of those guys will be able to practice by the end of the year?
Assessment of Michigan State’s defensive line without Jerel Worthy?
“Well I think they’ve filled it in pretty well. I think they’re very aggressive. I think Ted Gill, their D-line coach, who was one of my coaches at Ball State in college, has done a nice job of developing that group. That style defense is such that it’s an aggressive defense.”
You mentioned you have some guys wearing green…
“At times there is green out there … We have grass. Field turf.”
MGo: Not much.
MGoActually: I have a technical question.
MGoAwComeOn: Would you rather me ask it now or later.
“You’re going to ask it one way or another, so ... shoot the moon.”
MGoQuestion: That play where the tight end blocks down and the two linemen pull and go outside of him. What’s that play called?
“… Oh. It’s just a horn scheme. Down and around type deal.”
MGoFollowup: Is there an advantage to doing that vs. running a zone stretch?
“Um, yeah, it’s just two different looks to give the defense based on how they’re playing, you know. They could be playing one style, and that’s a better way to block it. A lot of it is personnel, too. How well does your tight end handle the down blocks? If they’re playing another scheme you’re better off zoning. You really -- I’ve learned over the years you kind of have to have both. We have both. We have the ability ability to do both. In certain games one’s more prominent than the other.”
MGoThankYouThatWasAGreatAnswerBrianWillBePleasedButHereIsOneMore: Who would you say is your best blocker at tight end?
“I think they’re all pretty good at this point. I think Devin Funchess has improved the most. I don’t have any reservations about doing it with any of them. Now to be honest with you, that was a concern at the beginning, but I don’t know if I’d favor one over the other at this point.”
“This is the week you look for. This is a big week for us, and you know, I know our guys are going to prepare that way. I think as a football program, we’re very very excited about this challenge.”
Can you talk about the emphasis on physicality this week?
“There’s no question about it. I think last year if you look back, that’s something that kind of sticks with us the entire year. They took it to us. You can cut it any way you want. They lined up, ran the football, and knocked us off the football and we don’t like that. We don’t believe in that at Michigan. It’s going to be that kind of game. It’s going to be a very physical football game.”
Do you feel like that game motivated your defense the rest of the way?
“Oh no. I don’t think -- any time you don’t play well, I hope you don’t use that for motivation. I think if anything, it emphasized that each and every week you must play physical. You can’t go out there anytime and think we’re Michigan, we’re going to play. In this league, against the people we play each and every week, you have to bring your a game.”
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I got lunch with Shashi Mara to talk about an advertising relationship and was impressed with the risk he was taking. He dumped a nice job for a pair of crampons he wandered around Switzerland in, finding wizened old men with amazing dexterity and inch-thick glasses to create an exclusive line of officially-licensed watches. He did this with absolutely no idea how it would work out, and still doesn't, but he was clearly thrilled just to have the things he'd set out to make. His attention to detail resonated with me, as did his desire to create something of his own.
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You can feel the Bo emanating from the walls.This one is from the hockey locker room:
Also, hello, I am six years old in a library.
Patrick Omameh a nice guy. He was one of 11 players on this year's Good Works team:
"I was in the room, and it was my first time meeting the kid," Kovacs said. "And then Patrick walks in. It's this kid's 13th birthday. And as soon as Pat walks in, this kid's face just lights up.
"It's just unreal, the spark in the room. It was a special moment."
Click through for awwww picture.
MSU injury checkup. Dion Sims is still not on the MSU depth chart, which generally means he won't play. I don't think we'll know until MSU's first offensive snap what his real status is; it seems doubtful he can return from what seems like a high ankle sprain in two weeks. In lieu of Sims MSU went with a lot of three-wide I-form against Iowa, FWIW.
Also, MSU starting safety Jarius Jones didn't dress against the Hawkeyes; guard Blake Treadwell only saw a snap when Chris McDonald's helmet popped off. Either could be available this week. Jones is listed as Lewis's backup; Treadwell is behind Jack Allen at LG.
Michigan is fully healthy save Countess and a couple backup DL, knock on wood.
Nebraskethockey. Corn Nation discusses the possibility of a Cornpack hockey team after an AP writer suggested it was going to happen:
After hearing Eichorst give nod to Mark Johnson, I predict#Huskers will play B1G hockey within next 6-8 years
Opinions are split down the middle. The situation at Nebraska is fairly attractive, though. Lincoln already has the USHL's Stars, who lead that league in attendance with a respectable 3,900 fans a game. They'd have a natural in-state rival in UNO, would get to join the Big Ten, are in the heart of USHL country, and could use the Stars' rink. A major gift has already been made for a couple of rinks near campus, and while those are not D-I ready a push from the athletic department could alter the course of that development. A new downtown arena has put in piping for ice facilities, as well.
If the Huskers became competitive—and if UNO can do it there's no reason UNL can't—they'd be an attendance success, I'm betting. We'll see what Eichorst wants to do—if he can find the money (and everyone has ALL THE MONEY these days) I bet he goes for it.
Lewan rising. Plz no leave think of the Jake Long?
Taylor Lewan*/T/Michigan: Lewan is the first of three offensive linemen rising up draft boards and an underclassman who continues to impress scouts. He looked outstanding in all areas against the athletic Illinois defense. His skills in pass protection were outstanding as Lewan had no problem controlling defensive ends or oncoming blitzers. Watching the big left tackle easily move down the field blocking in motion was especially impressive. There's a very good chance Lewan will be the first offensive tackle selected if he enters the 2013 NFL Draft.
Levert right now? Rothstein on Caris Levert:
4. Expect at least one surprise
With this much talent on the roster, there is bound to be a surprise one way or another. So in that vein, pay attention in exhibition games to freshman Caris LeVert. His teammates raved about him during media day, and it did not sound like empty hype. Instead, it has been a consistent theme throughout the summer -- Michigan's final piece to its five-man recruiting class has a chance to be really, really good. He has already put weight on his thin frame since arriving at Michigan and while he might not make an immediate impact, he could be a surprise for the Wolverines sooner than later.
Zack Novak followed that up with a tweet: "I'll go ahead and ruin the surprise on 4. The kid can play." Michigan did essentially dump a ready-to-commit Amadeo Della Valle for Levert, and ADV ended up at OSU so they weren't tossing a scrub aside. Levert also won an Ohio player of the year award with a pretty nice track record:
JJHuddle Players of the Year
2012: Caris Levert, Pickerington Central (Ohio)
2011: Trey Burke, Northland (Michigan)
2010: Jared Sullinger, Northland (Ohio State)
2009: Jared Sullinger, Northland (Ohio State)
2008: William Buford, Toledo Libbey (Ohio State) & B.J. Mullens, Canal Winchester (Ohio State/Charlotte Bobcats)
2007: Jon Diebler, Upper Sandusky (Ohio State)
I'll take two, thanks.
Dumb punt of the week. BONUS: I reminded the Mathlete of the Dumb Punt of the Week, which I missed dearly, and he promised to revive it. Last week's—as in games on the sixth:
Midway through the first quarter Akron faced a daunting 4th and 3 from the Bowling Green 32 and elected to punt the ball away.
Special note goes to Randy Edsall who punted from the 48 on 4th and 2 trailing by 1 in the 4th quarter. They later went on to score and go up 5 with about 5 minutes left and then kicked the extra point, to protect against two Wake Forest field goals in the final 5 minutes. Of course Maryland missed the PAT.
These make me feel wonderful about Brady Hoke.
inigomontoya.jpg. Fuggin' Walverines:
In Ann Arbor now, f'ing hate these &$¥+&&. Such arrogant snobs
A-maize-ing. Every idiot is wearing their colors today and the nurses and docs that know I'm a huge MSU alum/fan are all consoling me over the weekends games.... They're all like. ... Well this weeks game will be close.... Blah blah blah... We're not that good.... Maxwell is the next Cousins...... Illinois is horrible.... Blah blah blah
[After the JUMP: Josh Furman's gonna kill that poor woman, Walter.]
Past Jake Ryan, hopefully not future MSU
Snap jumping. Not again?
Please address Sparty jumping the snap. What can be done to prevent it or even use it to the Wolverines' advantage?
Please, please, please use all your influence to prevent Sparty snap jumping from successfully occurring this Saturday. This is an important key to Michigan's offensive success.
I AM USING ALL MY INFLUENCE MAN YOU JUST DON'T KNOW. Unfortunately, that influence consists of squinting really hard and making "wahwahwahwah" noises to project psychic sound waves about me. I have no influence.
I do think that we will see that snap jumping significantly reduced in frequency, possibly almost eliminated. One of the hidden transition costs last year was a coaching staff that had not endured Jerel Worthy's sometimes-offside-but-usually-just-eating-your-heart dance party and did not spend big chunks off the offseason fuming about it and scheming themselves a plan to defeat it. This year everyone is well aware that snap timing blew up the Michigan offense in all different ways and that changes must be made. We have seen Michigan vary their snap counts—they did it last week—and with a home game Michigan should be able to use audible signals if they want. Meanwhile, Worthy is gone and I haven't seen the Spartan replacements be able to replicate that maddening skill of his.
Unfortunately, this prediction about the snap jumping has reached the status of turnovers under Rich Rodriguez: logic says it can't happen again, and then it happens again. At this point I'll have to see a Michigan coaching staff enter a Michigan State game as prepared to play as the Spartans are before I believe it.
If not this year, though, when? Michigan State's coming off three straight nail-biters that required them to dump everything they had on the field in an effort to win the game. Michigan's coming off a bye and two laughers. MSU is shuffling guys on their OL, has benched a senior captain LB, and is trying to find two tight ends to rub together.
They don't have the depth to do much other than what they've done already. They don't have a changeup like Baker they can go to; they don't have the tight end depth that threw Michigan off; they are trying to find anyone who can catch a ball. Please, Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God, yea the most powerful of all fictional supernatural football deities, hear our plea.
Bellomy on the goal line.
I am a little confused by the play calling after Denard went out with his "boo-boo".
1) Why is Toussaint in the "jumbo" (unsure if package name is correct)? Rawls just seems to have the short yardage figured out a little bit better i.e. size and running style: see 6:35 Q2. (I know my example comes after and did not have 6/7 on the line and all 11 within 5 of the LOS and inside the tackles but still). Was Rawls insertion later a sign that he may now have the short yardage job?
You've got me on this one. I have two theories, neither of which seems that convincing.
Theory one: Fitz is in a funk and rusty and getting flack from people and some cheap touchdowns will help his morale, maybe get him driving harder at the goal line.
Theory two: Rawls is fumbling a lot in practice or going BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE.
Pick one or make one up yourself; I think either explanation is going to quickly fall by the wayside as Rawls becomes a preferred option inside the five. He probably would have scored on one of the two attempts. I do think the BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE theory has some credibility behind it since I just watched Rawls look at this…
…and decide to bounce that outside the TE instead of slam it up at the gaping cutback lane like he was born to do. Amazingly, the guy seems to have some Michael Shaw to him. Go north-south, young moose.
2) Why the vanilla play calls? It was clear later that they trust Bellomy with some measure of the offense that is clearly larger than watching the RB run into some ineffective down-blocks. With the alignment of weak-side DE, LB, and FS, why not run a PA boot with the TE rubbing off and going all Funchey in the back of the end zone? Is this just a manball fundamental that we must live with this year while the donkey punchers are being groomed?
There's a big difference between trusting Bellomy to run around and fling stuff once you're up a billion points and having him take his first meaningful snaps in a rainstorm in a game that could still go either way.
Personally, I wanted him to hand off come hell or high water—when you're the silverback you want to lower variance, and having Bellomy think about all the stuff he's going to do after the snap could lead to bad news. Bellomy fumbled a snap later, after all, and Michigan doesn't want to open the door for anything cheap for the Illini because that's the only way they lose.
In general I don't think there's much to criticize either way about goal line playcalling. The defense is selling out one way, you pick one or the other and succeed or don't.
[After THE JUMP: clock management, Afghanistan face-off, Legends logistics, Jake Ryan of the past.]