...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
- Devin Gardner is still "beat up." He'll probably practice tomorrow, though.
- The offensive line is young. Reacted poorly to the environment and didn't play their technique well in pass protection.
- Running back needed to protect better, too. Fitz is the best pass protector on the team, so it looks like they're out of options. This-may-or-may-not-be-significant-alert: De'Veon Smith was removed from the travel squad for vague reasons.
- AJ Williams will be back Saturday. Drew Dileo should be back as well.
- Hoke doesn't think Taylor Lewan should be suspended for the facemask thing. Says it's "unacceptable" but if it were suspension-worthy he'd have suspended him already.
- Keith Heitzman injured his hand last week in practice, so he didn't travel. He may take a while to come back.
- Willie Henry played a good game. He'll probably get more playing time moving forward.
- The last two long busts were because of a mismatch in personnel, which got them run over.
“You know, coming off not the way you want to start the five-game stretch, the meat of your schedule, Saturday is something we’re all disappointed with and everything that we have to do from a coaching standpoint and a playing standpoint. Obviously it was evaluated and we all need to do a better job, and that’s just a part of it. We had some opportunities we didn’t take advantage of during the course of the football game, and that’s a credit to them. We’ve got to do a better job. Offensively, we have to get Devin a little more of an opportunity because there were plenty of them down the field. Execution’s a part of that. Always is. When you’re sliding protections or whatever it might be. Defensively, I think our defense kept us in the football game for a long time with bad field position. Needed to make some stops more in the second half. Didn’t get that accomplished. Some third downs. The score right before the half is never a good score. And then them taking the ball for six minutes or five minutes to start the second half even though they got the field goal. Again, it’s posessions. Trying to get possessions. We had a really good day yesterday, which is a really good thing. The attitude of our team, they came in and worked like heck on the evaluation part of it, and we’ll work like heck out in practice. That being said … ”
"You should have used a different game plan."
Your rushing offense –
“A lot of negative yardage plays. I thought there were some pretty good runs once in a while in there, but you snap the ball for a 20 yard loss, you get sacked I don’t know how many times, so your yardage part of it isn’t very good. You put yourself behind the 8-ball a little bit not executing, and then you’re forced into doing some things you don’t want to do the whole time.”
What does the offensive line need to do to protect Devin better and avoid sacks?
“It’s not just the line. There’s backs involved, there’s routes involved, there’s timing, all those issues are part of it. We have to get better.”
Did all the shuffling on the offensive line have something to do with it?
What’s Devin’s status? He sat out the last series.
“Yeah, he got pounded a little bit. He was a warrior out there that last drive before the interception at the end. He did a nice job getting us down the field, had taken a lot of shots early in the game. He just was a little bit worn out.”
Does he have an injury?
“No. I wouldn’t say he has an injury. I would say beat up. If that’s an injury, then that’s an injury.”
In the history of this game, the team that rushes for more yards wins. How critical was the rushing game today?
“Well it’s always critical.”
Why do you think there were so many negative yardage plays?
“We didn’t execute as well as they did.”
Taylor Lewan’s personal foul?
“I didn’t see that. I think that’s his frustration more than anything.”
You had a couple trips to the red zone in the first half. Did you think about taking a shot in the end zone at all?
“I think if we wanted to take a shot, we would have.”
There’s a lot of talk before the game about the toughness gap between the two teams.
“By … you guys?”
“From two years ago.”
Right. Did it disappoint you that the gap seems to have widened?
“I don’t think so. I think our kids played hard. I don’t think we executed very well. There’s eight to six plays in a game like this that make a difference. And if you go back and watch it again, you’ll see there’s eight to six plays that made a difference in the game from a standpoint of momentum, standpoint of confidence, and what you want to do. That’s part of it.”
How big was it to give up that touchdown before the half?
“That was a disappointing drive there at the end of the half. It drives you crazy. You give up points right at the end of the half, and it’s disappointing.”
How do you not allow a game like this to beat you next week?
“Well hopefully you do a great job as a group of leaders. Talk about coaches, senior captains, all those guys. Understanding where we are and what we need to do. I know they signed up for a guaranteed 12 games.”
With so much emphasis on a Big Ten title, what does this team have to play for?
“Still. It’s not in our hands. But you never know unless you’re forecasting for us now. Who knows?”
Does it surprise you that there was a lack of execution with the two weeks off?
“No. I think there’s more made out of that than anything else. Does it surprise me? Yeah. It surprises me. It has nothing to do with two weeks.”
Did you think you’d be further along?
“Well I was hoping.”
Is it coaching that you have to go back and look at?
“You always do.”
MGoQuestion: Going along with that, were you satisfied with the preparation and game plan?
“Yes. We wouldn’t have run the plays we ran unless we were satisfied.”
MGoFollowup: But considering the result …
“Hindsight’s always 20/20, right?”
What did you make of Michigan State’s defensive line and Shillique Calhoun?
“I think he’s a good football player. We’ve had a lot of respect for their defense all week going into this game, and I grabbed Max Bullough afterwards because he’s one of the guys I like watching play football. We have a lot of respect for them.”
Do you think the identity of this team is that it needs to get better in the trenches?
“That’s part of it. We haven’t played the way we like to every game.”
When Devin did have time, how did you think he played?
“I don’t know. Pretty good. But it would be nice to give him more time.”
What do you tell your fan base and alumni about dropping five of the last six games to Michigan State?
“Well, they’ve won five of the last six. Something like that. Well, we gotta keep working.”
Five of six is pretty significant. Do you think there’s that big of a gap?
“I don’t think there is a gap. I think they played awfully well, executed awfully well. I don’t think we did.”
60 minutes of unnecessary tenderness
“Michigan State week. Here we go.”
How has Michigan State’s offense improved?
“They seem like they throw the ball much better. I mean, this is a good football team. And it seems like their offensive line is blocking a lot more cohesively, and they’re very physical. This will be a tremendous challenge for us.”
[I'm behind on the Mattison presser transcript. It will be posted this evening.]
- Drew Dileo is still questionable to return this week.
- No turnovers.
- Stop the run.
- Be physical.
- Don't commit penalties.
“Good practices so far this week. Gonna have a really good one today. Got outside, did a little more crowd noise, trying to recreate the atmosphere, which you never can totally. You play on the road in this league, especially at certain places, it’s a hostile environment. Communication’s going to be particularly important on both sides of the ball.”
If you were granted a wish on both sides of the ball, what two things would they be?
“Taking care of the ball from an offensive perspective. That’s something high up there that is something that is important. You just look at games during the year, you look at NFL games, the turnover margin is so critical. Defensively, I think the transition – we’ve got to stop the run. Langford’s had three very good weeks. Overall with him and the other backs, they are 100-and-some yards a game. Might be close to 150 with the way they’ve been playing.”
What’s the secret to moving the ball against this Michigan State defense?
“Uh. Well, the first thing you have to make sure is you don’t give it to them. Same deal, because they’ve done a great job of feeding off turnovers, either creating opportunities for offense or literally scoring themselves, which is amazing how many times they’ve done that. So that’s the starting point. Take care of the football and minimizing the damage, if in fact there is damage. Making what could be a bad play not into a disaster. That’s number one. Number two is getting your bodies on their bodies, making sure your plays get started, so you give your skill guys a chance to do what they do best, whether it be in the open field or around the line of scrimmage. Those are really key points. If you’re getting hit in the backfield as soon as you hand the ball off, you’re not going anywhere, and they’ve done a lot of that.”
About three weeks ago I posted an article about which 2015 signal callers could be next in line for an offer. With no game to prepare for this week the coaching staff decided to travel the country checking in on recruits and I decided to do the same thing (from the comfort of my couch) with a focus on the quarterbacks.
I originally created a list of seven prospects consisting of Kevin Dillman, Nick Johns, Sheriron Jones, Kyle Kearns, Alex Malzone, Riley Neal, and Brady White. After a visit to the Indiana game I think Tyree Jackson could also be thrown into the mix at this point.
I was able to talk to each young man this weekend and see how often the coaches have been in contact with them, and try to gauge the interest level from the coaches, as well as from the recruits. In doing so I think I’ve identified a top tier of four targets on the quarterback big board.
Kevin Dillman – La Mirada High School – La Mirada, CA: The coaches have not been in contact with Dillman at all recently which is a bit surprising during a bye week that included traveling across the country as well as social media communication. He appears to be down the list as a secondary target.
Tyree Jackson – Mona Shores High School – Muskegon, MI: Jackson visited Ann Arbor for his first game experience against Indiana and had a great time which I reported here, but since his visit he has had zero contact with the coaching staff. He will continue to be a name to watch, but he also appears to be down the list a bit.
Nick Johns – Gonzaga High School – Washington D.C.: Johns told me that he speaks with Coach Mallory almost every day on Facebook. With so much contact I was curious as to what was discussed when they chat. “He just asks me what kind of team we are playing that week and what kind of defense they run. He tells me to try and identify our strengths and weaknesses against that team. He just tries to assess my football IQ.” Johns told me that Coach Mallory hasn’t exactly mentioned an offer yet, but Nick seems to feel pretty wanted based on how often they communicate. He did say that he would love to have an offer from such a great school like Michigan. I believe Johns is one of the top tier targets at this point.
Sheriron Jones – Rancho Verde High School – Moreno Valley, CA: Jones has not had any recent contact with the coaching staff at all and he even said that when he tries to call them, they never answer. That tells me that he is not a top priority at this time.
Kyle Kearns – Foothill High School – Pleasanton, CA: Kearns had a legitimate talk with Coach Borges on Wednesday evening that tentatively set up a “Wilton-Speight-like” visit in the Spring. “Coach Borges said that he plans to make it out this Spring to check me out. He talked about how they’ve only offered one guy and I’m a guy that he really likes. I see myself fitting in really well in his offensive scheme from what he told me.” I asked Kearns how he’d feel if an offer did eventually come and he simply said, “It would be huge!” He even flirted with the idea of committing on the spot if that did happen. “I can’t say I’d commit on the spot just yet. There are some other schools that I’ve built a strong relationship with and I don’t want to put the cart in front of the horse.” (He actually used that phrase. I like this kid.) Kearns talked about how attractive Michigan is with George Campbell and Damien Harris already in the fold for the 2015 class. “With Michigan getting a top running back and wide receiver for 2015 it makes the decision that much easier. Couple that with world class academics and the biggest stadium in football…man.” After talking with Kearns and hearing his very obvious interest and discussing his regular talks with Coach Borges I now believe he may be the front-runner for the next quarterback offer.
Alex Malzone – Brother Rice High School – Bloomfield Hills, MI: Malzone has set up a regular communication schedule with Coach Borges that involves him calling the offensive coordinator every Thursday night between 9 and 9:30 pm. Borges also made it very clear to Alex that he is in the top tier of quarterbacks being evaluated. With Malzone being right in Michigan’s backyard and understanding what it means to be the quarterback at Michigan, he is a very real possibility to receive an offer. I believe Malzone will continue to be evaluated and being a Michigander is an advantage that has helped him land in the top tier.
Riley Neal – Yorktown High School – Yorktown, IN: Neal has already been talking to Coach Borges quite regularly, also on Thursdays, for a few weeks now. They usually talk about his film, each other’s seasons, and just the general recruiting process. Neal and I talked about some other quarterbacks getting attention from Michigan and he was very informed about the entire situation. He knew of Dillman, Malzone, and Kearns and also that the coaching staff was evaluating his position right now, which tells me he is interested and intuitive when it comes to the process. He is in the top tier.
Brady White – Hart High School – Newhall, CA: From what most here have expressed about Brady White this will be an unfortunate update, but he has not been hearing from the coaching staff at all lately and didn’t once during the bye week. His interest in Michigan seems legitimate but he may be tough to lure from the west coast.
In conclusion I feel like the top tier of four targets consists of Nick Johns, Kyle Kearns, Alex Malzone, and Riley Neal. These four quarterbacks are in regular contact with the coaching staff and all express sincere interest in being recruited by Michigan. At first glance I thought Dillman, Jones, and White all hadn’t heard from the coaches simply due to the fact that they are all California kids, which can be problematic due to the time difference and the fact that those kids just don’t leave their geographic area too often. That notion is of course debunked by the fact that fellow California native Kyle Kearns may be atop the big board right now. After this week my list does, in fact, put Kearns at the top and looks like this (last time's ranking in parentheses):
- Kyle Kearns (2)
- Riley Neal (3)
- Alex Malzone (7)
- Nick Johns (6)
Others: Dillman (1), White (5), Jones (4), Jackson (NR)
This is not necessarily my wish list, this is just how I feel the big board may look somewhere in Schembechler Hall, based on frequency of contact, expressed interest from both sides, and skill-set for Borges’ system. It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out over the next couple of months.