Hockey pet peeve: "when a teammate tips a puck in on you, which is exactly how my first collegiate goal against happened. Thanks, Copper."
Pelini forever. The day that Bo Pelini ceases being a Big Ten coach is going to be a sad one.
He screams like a lunatic, he makes jokes about his cat, he wears… that… and looks like he believes the camera is taking a piece of his soul with it. Joke's on you, camera! Ain't got no soul, he thinks. Oh and his offense is kind of a looney tunes spread triple option thing that is both modern and very Nebraska. I only wish he was still in our football conference.
Always the best thing out of media days. Mike Spath's anonymous chatter articles are quality as always and the defense one is free. An opponent on the tao of Countess:
"I thought Blake Countess was tough to play against. He's not real physical but he's one of those guys that knows what he does well and what he doesn't. And he sort of lulled us to sleep. We kept thinking that we could go at him and I think that's what he wanted because he stepped in front of two balls, picked one, and we didn't throw at him very much after that."
Countess had INTs against Minnesota, Iowa, and OSU last year, FWIW. The offense is paywalled, but I have to quote this bit:
"They were one of those teams that were tough to prepare for and not tough at the same time because they did so many different things. We had a lot of guys watching a lot more film the week before because they could run 75 different plays in the same game, but I think what stood out was that they didn't have an identity and they never had go-to plays so if you just played sound, technique-strong football, you were OK."
And that had a lot to do with Michigan's ups and downs. OSU did not play anything approximating sound football in their secondary last year and Michigan ate them up; Iowa is nothing but sound cover two and Michigan could do nothing.
The overall theme of that latter one is that opposing teams have a hell of a lot of respect for Devin Gardner since he did not die last year.
You could knock me down with a feather right now. Shock and alarm at unexpected news:
"Going in (to camp, there will be competition between Devin Gardner and Shane Morris)," Hoke said during his appearance on "Numbers Never Lie." "We've got great competition. (But) if we opened the season today, Devin would start for the Wolverines."
I will personally fight anyone* who sends me an email about whether Morris should start.
*[Offer not valid unless you are Ellen Degeneres.]
Ready to go. Ondre Pipkins is cleared and even more importantly, is apparently fit.
"He's done a nice job, he's made a lot of progress and he's passed the conditioning test and all those things," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said this week. "We'll probably be smart with him as we move forward, you know, especially on two-a-days.
"We'll (watch his) reps and those things. But he's cleared and ready to go."
Figuratively and literally massive for the defense. Article notes that Willie Henry is slated to compete with Pipkins at nose, but I'm hoping they figure out that they can start both those guys. We'll see.
'96 Colorado. I missed this game; remember sitting in a car listening to the end of it just terrified about the Hail Mary.
Well, no. No we do not. Hoke on the opener:
Brady Hoke says he gets some grief from alumni about having App State on the schedule. No one wants to see those highlights, he says
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) July 31, 2014
He didn't do it.
LEMON UPDATE. Aw man I am going to have to find like a video crew and a roaring fireplace.
Junior linebacker Joe Bolden was named the 2014 Meyer Morton Award winner. The Morton Award is given to the player who "shows the greatest development and most promise as a result of the annual spring practice."
Jarrod Wilson and Chris Wormley also pulled in awards.
The plan. After experimenting with Graham Glasgow at tackle it seems like Michigan is going to leave him at center:
When fall camp opens Sunday, though, Hoke says Glasgow -- who is suspended for the season-opener against Appalachian State due to an offseason drunken driving arrest -- will begin where he ended last year. At center, and likely with the first team.
"I would say he could (be with the starters at center) early in camp but then you’ve got to develop others," Hoke said this week at Big Ten media days in Chicago. "This is why, when you make decisions that don’t help the team, you find out how you hurt the team.”
If Glasgow does move that says more about Ben Braden than anyone else. That is an outcome I don't want to see, as that would be a major strike against a player who was hyped up as a physical marvel by many people a year ago.
It also sounds like the current plan is to leave Cole at left tackle for this year to provide a backup there. Tuley-Tillman and Fox are both likely to need another year before putting them on the field would be anything other than a major problem.
The rehab. Ondre Pipkins is cleared to practice at the start of fall camp
It could be worse, everyone! Man, Illinois fans are grasping at straws:
Tim Beckman came into this morning's press conference after a long bowl game-less winter and a 4-8 season record with only one conference win. But something was noticeably different about his speech this time. He finally seemed comfortable and confident at the podium.
… he hardly pauses or stumbles for the right words. His "uhs" and "ums" are fewer and farther between than in the past. He came off as a true leader and respectable speaker.
Well, I know that our coach starts every sentence with "well" and is not exactly Steve Spurrier. But there's going to be a post this year on an Illinois blog that says "we may have lost by sixty points but it seems like Tim Beckmann's dressing himself these days, so things are really coming along for us."
Unfortunate for Northwestern. Projected starting corner Daniel Jones is forced to retire thanks to injuries. Corner being the Wildcats' achilles heel since it ceased being "the whole team," that bodes unwell for the Wildcats and better for Michigan. Jones was lost for the year in the opener, so this is more Northwestern not getting that guy back than anything else.
The Daily makes the Daily show. You gotta put it in your click hole, nerds.
The most correct thing. This isn't relevant to anything but it is the most correct thing that's ever been said:
I spent five days in Las Vegas by myself earlier this month. If that sounds like your idea of paradise, let me stop you right there, because you’re wrong. Even though I know nothing about you, I’m fairly certain that five days alone in Vegas is enough to make anybody rethink their life. Five days in Vegas with friends or family is still probably four days too many, but being alone in Vegas is like finding out halfway through a party that you were invited by mistake. Everyone is having the time of their lives around you, and even though you were excited when you arrived, you’re just off to the side wondering what you’re doing there.
As someone who spent a week in Vegas by myself*, this is so accurate. I eventually just spent the money for wifi (this was back when wifi still cost money at hotels) and sat in my hotel room because being alone by yourself is so much more tolerable than being alone around everyone. Vegas by yourself: horrible.
The rest of this article is an entertaining Mark Titus piece on attending an NBA scout "school" and finding out just how horrible that job is. So it's sports! On topic! (Not on topic.)
*[Qualified for the WSOP during the heyday of online poker and couldn't hector any of my friends into railbirding me. WSOP was very large that year so there were four separate Day 1s for a quarter of the field and two Day 2s.]
Etc.: Arian Foster gives classic 'Sheed interview. 1985 Big Ten commercial might as well be from 1685. BHGP sent a horse to Big Ten Media Days. This is legit you guys. Hooray Michelle Beadle. Michigan unranked in opening coaches' poll.
Big Ten coaches really like the word "think." Derrick Walton transitioning away from being just a shooter. I found the only Penn State fan that doesn't loathe us with the fury of a thousand suns.
The day has (mostly) come. Expect a post at about 3:35 today, as Michigan has called a press conference featuring Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III at 3:30 wherein they will either announce their NBA draft futures or talk about their favorite things to put on hamburgers. Here's hoping it's the latter.
I don't think there's a huge amount of suspense with either of those two guys. Michigan is bringing in Muhammed Ali Abdur-Rahkman for an official this weekend, and now there are multiple reports that Robinson has signed with an agent or hasn't signed but is entering the draft anyway.
The suspense is with Mitch McGary, who is not announcing:
McGary's father, Tim McGary, told MLive on Monday night that his son has no intentions to partake in the press conference and is still undecided on whether he return to U-M or not.
"He's still back and forth on it," Tim McGary said.
So he's not gone; neither is he necessarily back. He has until the 27th to make that decision; the NCAA's deadline is an entirely artificial one.
The fact that he's still debating things is obviously good. It is not as good as McGary being ready to announce a return would be; it is still good. Scout's Brian Snow has reported a shift of opinion($) in the Indiana recruiting circles he pings regularly that is positive for Michigan, so there's that. Sam Webb confirmed, insofar as it is possible to confirm an opinion on a decision that clearly hasn't been made yet.
Abdur-Rahkman, 40 in white
ha no but man wouldn't that be something
he's the guy with the ball
not that I had to tell you that
Meanwhile, MAAR. If Michigan does settle on Abdur-Rahkman as a spring take I'll be satisfied; Beilein and company have proved they can ID a diamond in the rough and, like… MAAR for four years. Misspelled Smiths tie in acronym: yes please.
MAAR currently has a slate of mid-major offers after a senior season in which he averaged nearly 24 points a game for Central Catholic. Joe Stapleton's article linked above indicates the seriousness of Michigan's interest—Beilein calls him "at least three times a week"*—despite the fact that he is not just a shooter because he's not, in fact, a shooter:
Abdur-Rahkman would be a slight departure from the prototypical Michigan recruit in that he isn’t known for his shooting. In fact, the graduating senior said that while his shot has improved, he made his living getting to the rim and playing great man-to-man defense.
A defensive stopper type would be welcome, and shooting can develop. If Michigan was to offer it doesn't seem like it'll take a whole lot of thought from MAAR:
“(Michigan is) definitely the top school.”
Abdur-Rahkman also deviates from the Beilein model in that he's old for his class. In fact, he is literally as old as you can be and still play high school basketball in Pennsylvania:
Abdur-Rahkman turned 16 on Sept. 1 at the start of his freshman year, which means, of course, he turned 19 on Sept. 1 of this past year. The cutoff date for meeting the PIAA's age requirement is Sept. 1, meaning that had Muhammad been born on Aug. 31, he would have had to be part of the 2013 graduating class.
He'll be 20 by the time he arrives on campus. Good for immediate readiness, bad for upside. Kind of like grabbing a hockey player after a couple years of JUCO.
*[They deregulated phone calls in men's basketball, if that sounds like a violation to you. Kelvin Sampson sighs heavily at home about this.]
WELP. Here's this draft evaluation of Taylor Lewan from SBNation that discusses Taylor Lewan, who is of interest to us as a Michigan alum who is likely to go in the top half of the first round of the draft.
What a shitty offense
So I wanted to focus this breakdown on Taylor Lewan, not the severe annoyance I had with the way Michigan used him. But since it was the one thing that stood out to me the most while watching Lewan play, I am going to go ahead and address it right off the bat.
Now look, I don't profess to be some kind of expert on offenses, but some things about football I just feel like should be common sense. For instance, if you have a superior blocker at left tackle, most of your help from tight ends and running backs, whether it be run blocking or pass blocking, should go to the other four guys. It should also allow you to design plays built around his athleticism to help get your skill position players free out in space. Stuff like smoke screens (WR takes one step forward then one step back to catch the ball while his blockers lead up in front of him) or really any kind of screens, counter plays (where you pull the offensive guard and tackle from one side of the center to the other side of the center) and any number of sweep plays (runs designed to get wide outside of the offensive tackle).
I didn't see much of that in the five games that I watched. Furthermore, why in the HELL did Michigan keep a tight end to Lewan's side so damn much? He obviously didn't need the help. The quarterback was right handed anyway (with bootlegs you like for the tight end to be lined up to the side of the quarterback's throwing hand), and they could have potentially had a wide receiver there instead of a tight end. It would've increased the chances of success on passing downs as well as run downs if you get the opposing defenses spread themselves out. But is that what Michigan did?
This very long blockquote is not the end of former NFL DE Stephen White's evisceration of last year's Michigan offense, despite it being a very long blockquote. I expect that White will be getting some very stern comments from the folks around here who fought the rearguard action for Team Borges with such heroic ferocity last season when I made statements like "this is stupid," "this makes no sense," and "it is bad when your tailbacks run 27 times for 27 yards."
Michigan protected Taylor Lewan with a tight end so often that it made it hard for this draft evaluator to, you know, evaluate Taylor Lewan. Meanwhile, the interior of the line was a highway to Devin Gardner's ribs. And the kicker is: the tight ends couldn't even block. Michigan was tossing away its main advantage on the line—dang good tackles—because of their philosophy about manballin' it. That's alarming, because that seems like it comes from the top. It's all well and good to be Stanford or Alabama if you can be that, but when you're on your way to dead last TFLs… probably not.
We'll see. Rubber hits the road in September.
Oh, good. Putting Chad Lindsay on 27 tickets turns out to be premature, as the Alabama transfer is getting his woo on. After his visit to Michigan he hit up Louisville and Oklahoma; this week he's headed to Cal and… Ohio State. Oh goody.
OSU lost four seniors off last year's line and can pitch Lindsay playing time, and you know there's nothing in the world Urban would like more than grabbing Lindsay away from Michigan even if he ends up sitting on the bench the whole year. Especially if he ends up sitting on the bench the whole year.
Get out of there while you still can, Chad.
This will help you feel better about the previous section. Someone's really into Amir Williams saying coach be all over his di—
For pants sake, lady, can you see a camera without reflexively extending your tongue and squinting? I submit that you cannot.
Mascot of the week. The El Paso Chihuahuas' Chico has been hanging with Eight Ball the Tiger:
Mascots should be as frightening as possible. I approve.
YUP. It's almost like arguments against a college football playoff weren't particularly good ones.
40 bowl games next year. Man, I am old enough to remember when the worthless suits who run CFB said a playoff would kill all the bowl games
— jamie mac (@justcoverblog) April 15, 2014
Our worthless suit overlords think so little of us they kept the guy who was issuing these proclamations around to issue the exact opposite proclamations.
The Michigan Difference. Michigan PhD grad makes joke about Darren Rovell on twitter.
— neilla (@_neillam) April 8, 2014
1) "Wait, so who is this guy? Is
@darrenrovell actually famous?"
2) "What did he think we were going to do? Take away your diploma?"
/sings fight song, waves tiny block M flag
I am always very careful about how I mis-state the word rapper. Ace informs me that this gentleman with Devin Gardner is noted rappist "Two Chains," but I say balderdash, I say!
COUNT THE CHAINS, "TWO CHAINS." His real name is Excessive Watches IV. He goes home and takes off all of that, sits down with a Forbes, and looks exactly like Carlton. Fact. E-fact. Also his rap song just cannot compete with the Charleston.
This has been Brian pretends he's more out of touch than he is to forestall accusations of being out of touch theater. Thank you.
Thanks, bro. Horford opens up about his decision to leave to MLive; it turns out his zen does not extend to the rest of his family:
"(Transferring) is something that my family has been trying to persuade me to do for four years," Horford said. "So I guess naturally it's always been inevitable -- when people are telling you something all the time."
I get the feeling that Horford's support system regards Horford's abilities with… uh… enthusiasm not necessarily in line with reality. The reason his playing time dropped late in the season is that he wasn't playing well. I mean… when Morgan went out I was always like WHEN CAN WE GET MORGAN BACK IN. Play better and you get more time. Or wait for Morgan to graduate and go get it like he did.
Please please please let me get what I want (fewer timeouts) this time. Timeouts are a scourge upon basketball, not only turning 60 seconds of clock time into a writhing eternity of nothingness but also reducing the chaos factor that a trailing team attempts to insert into the game late. On four seconds trying to inbound the ball? Timeout. Trapped in the corner? Timeout. Want to get your defense set? Timeout. Timeouts are used to prevent turnovers, keep the leading team in the lead, and let over-coaching guys in suits maintain as much control as possible. They result in two and a half hour games that mean you have to stream the first ten minutes of your game on ESPN3. They are miserable and should be almost entirely removed.
They won't be, but at least the misery of them is a thing that has reached the people who can do something about it:
Everyone agreed that one of the biggest detractions of the current game is the eternity it takes to end a close one. That is largely due to the number of timeouts granted to each team, both officially (five per team per game) and unofficially (coaches are given a minute to substitute when a player fouls out). Replay reviews are viewed as a necessary evil in the quest for the right calls, but they also add to the length of an endgame situation. Coaches cherish their control of the game and thus will be loath to surrender timeouts, but fans everywhere would embrace fewer stoppages in play – especially late in a game. The NCAA said it will begin tracking the length of games next year, as it does in football.
"Length is becoming a concern," said David Worlock, NCAA associate director of men's basketball.
You're going to begin tracking games? And you don't think there's anything wrong with the current replay setup? Argh. But yes, please, shoot timeouts into the sun. One per team per game.
An elimination of live-ball timeouts, or at least limiting those calls to players instead of coaches. This would be a move toward FIBA international rules, which allow no live-ball timeouts.
Reducing the shot clock to either 30 or 24 seconds. Brey said he is in favor, and there seems to be fairly wide support for a reduction of some kind – although there also is a concern about college hoops becoming an NBA copycat league. (Interestingly, Byrd said his Belmont team occasionally uses a 12-second shot clock in practice to force tempo and enhance conditioning.)
With zone defenses viable and the skill level generally reduced, shortening the shot clock just results in more ugly shots. 45 to 35 was necessary, but in college 35 is fine.
happier times with Heiko
Al Borges is gone from Michigan after three years. And I'm… relieved. Yes. I think that's right.
Not exactly happy, of course. A dude just got fired. This site had a bizarre frenemies relationship (see: all the tags on this post) with Borges that started with prodding about constraint plays from Heiko by my request. This developed into a press conference Odd Couple thing where Heiko would get crap from Borges and give a little bit of it back, all the while trying to gently ask about the latest debacle. The results were the most entertaining transcripts not involving Steve Spurrier ever.
Then last winter Heiko started agitating me about getting an interview with him. I thought it was a cockamamie idea that would never get past the gatekeepers. This take would have been accurate except for one thing: Borges wanted to do it. So Heiko eventually crept his way past the border guards, was promised 15 minutes, and got 45. The resulting interview ran on the site last summer and was a fantastic glimpse into the day to day experience of being Michigan's offensive coordinator.
Why is nobody else in mourning right now?
— Heiko Yang (@Heiko25) January 9, 2014
I also know that friend of the site Craig Ross did what he always does with Michigan coaches, which is badger them with paper until they are forced to respond. I don't know how he does this, but he does, and he dumped articles and questions on Borges until he eventually got a phone call one morning with Borges on the other end. A debate/harangue sort of thing occurred until Craig—Craig!—had to say goodbye because he had a mediation to oversee (the conversation made it into last year's book).
Personally, I took in Borges's session at the Glazier Clinic in Detroit a couple years ago and came away impressed by his command of the material and ability to communicate concepts.
Al Borges was not a bad guy, and helped us out. That he did so seemingly because Heiko's badgering amused him is the mark of a guy who can take some heat.
It's just that his goddamned offense didn't work.
THINGS STARTED INAUSPICIOUSLY, as Michigan found itself down 24-7 to Notre Dame three quarters into the first night game at Michigan Stadium. Michigan had 141 yards of offense nearing the end of the third quarter when the delirium kicked in. Robinson threw off his back foot just before getting sacked, Junior Hemingway skied for balls between two defenders, Gary Gray refused to acknowledge the existence of footballs, Jeremy Gallon engaged his cloaking device, and when the dust cleared Michigan had squeezed out one of the most bonkers wins in their history.
In the aftermath, things felt ramshackle, and I said as much. Michigan returned nine starters from Rich Rodriguez's final offense, the one that had seen Robinson set records, and this was not that:
This isn't to blame anyone—it seems that coaches are who they are and as much as I want to, you can't hire a guy based on the two years left you've got with Denard. But I hope I'm not the only one who felt a sense of foreboding in the midst of the joy and relief. We've seen this script the last two years, and never has it been as rickety.
Michigan has to fix some stuff—lots of stuff—by the Big Ten season. The stakes are only Denard's career, everyone's faith in the Ethical Les Miles theory of Hoke's success, and the very survival of pandas in the wild. I'll take the escape. I wonder what happens when the drugs wear off and real life reasserts itself.
The drugs did not really wear off for a while as the horseshoe stuck in Brady Hoke's posterior saw them through some rough spots.
Things only came to a screeching halt when Borges unleashed the first of his incredibly terrible gameplans at Michigan State. Faced with a howling maelstrom of trash and in possession of Denard Robinson, Borges featured a gameplan consisting mostly of deep throws as he alternated between Robinson and Devin Gardner. After a stirring opening drive, Michigan went nowhere. They did eat double A gap blitz after double A gap blitz thanks to the fact that their center was telling the entire world the exact moment he'd snap the ball, which he'd done the year before to similar effect. Had any of Michigan's new staff even watched the previous year's game?
Actually, here's a better question: were any of them watching this one?
For the game Michigan tried to pass at least 41 times*, averaging 2.8 yards per attempt and giving up a defensive touchdown.
TWO POINT EIGHT YARDS
RUN THE FOOTBALL!!!!
Michigan tried to run the ball 26 times and averaged… oh, Jesus… 5.2 yards per carry. Fitzgerald Toussaint got two carries, Denard twelve.
That was and is flabbergastingly stupid, but Borges managed to top that just a few weeks later when he ditched the spread entirely against Iowa, running a "pro-style" offense because that's what he wanted to do. This was tantamount to forfeiting.
When Iowa punched in their final touchdown on Saturday the clock read 10:42 and Michigan had acquired 166 yards of offense. Forced into a hurry-up shotgun on their final three drives, Michigan matched their production from the first 50 minutes in the last ten.
A chastened Borges went back to the spread for the duration of the season as Michigan scored 31, 45, and 40 to finish the regular season. The 40, against Ohio State, was amongst the best performances Michigan's ever had against the Buckeyes, with Robinson ripping off inverted veer runs for big gains, including the iconic touchdown run to open things.
Michigan had just gutted Ohio State for 300 rushing yards while throwing 17 times. They did this despite running the veer wrong, blocking the guy who teams that actually know how to run the spread would option. It didn't matter. All they had to do was put Robinson in space against the guy they should be blocking, and magic resulted. That, and only that, concealed the rapid erosion of Michigan's ability to run the football. And when the bowl game rolled around, Virginia Tech knew how to defend a half-ass spread. Michigan managed to win that game thanks to the horseshoe; the offense played no part, acquiring under 200 yards of offense for the first time in the Borges era.
It would not be the last time.
ROBINSON HAD SHED THE MANTLE OF INVINCIBILITY acquired over the course of 2010, when he crushed records as a still-raw true sophomore. His interception rate skyrocketed, he lost a half-yard per passing attempt and a whopping 1.3 yards per rushing attempt. That was nothing compared to what awaited the next year.
Setting aside the Alabama debacle as a game Michigan entered with no intention of winning, Borges again reverted to 1990s-style offense completely unsuited for his personnel on the infamous series of plays on which Robinson threw interception after interception.
This is where I deviate from old school hardliners who foist the blame for Robinson's panicked throws on the quarterback who'd been brilliant and efficient two years ago in that very stadium, running the stuff he was good at running. Borges had him run waggles on which not one but two Notre Dame defenders came roaring up at the 5'11" Robinson. He made the results as bad as possible; Borges created a range of results that went only from interception to second and twenty. By that point watching Borges try to utilize Denard Robinson was like watching an otter try to bash open a clam with a shoe.
Michigan did not throw a pass before third down on their two grinding second-half drives before the hurry-up was called for. Do that for the next eight games and run play action off plays you actually run and then Denard might get back to the things he was doing in an offense that was not trying to jam him into a hole he clearly does not fit. I thought maybe we'd learned that lesson after Iowa, but apparently not.
When stressed, people making decisions find it very hard to move away from habit. Everyone reverts to their comfort zone unless they are making a concerted effort to get away from it. Even then, you fall back into old patterns. Lloyd punted. Rodriguez installed a 3-3-5 defense. Borges starts calling plays from a long-ago offense helmed by a guy who was a better passer than runner. Denard throws the ball somewhere, anywhere.
Robinson would go down with his elbow injury midseason, paving the way for Devin Gardner's insertion. This went better than anyone expected—including the coaches who had privately all but given up on him as a quarterback—and eventually Denard returned to the lineup as a slash player, which worked really well for about a game and a half until Ohio State figured out that Robinson at QB always meant run and played like it.
If you've poked around the flaming wreckage of the Michigan internet in the aftermath of Saturday, you have undoubtedly heard the wailing and gnashing of teeth because of that. But the thing is so stark it has to be marveled at again: when Denard Robinson entered the game against Ohio State, every play but one was Denard Robinson doing something. Once it was fail to chip Ryan Shazier and try to get out for a screen; all other times it was run the ball, sometimes with a pitch included. The fakeout was a six-yard completion to Mike Kwiatkowski in the first quarter, and there ended any attempt at deception.
Devin Gardner was at quarterback for three of these plays. Michigan held up a sign that said RUN or PASS, and didn't even try the token fakeout where Robinson goes over the top when the safeties suck up. Gardner ran three times. Denard passed zero. Ohio State figured it out. Surprise!
Most of the time the two quarterbacks weren't even on the field together.
Have I mentioned that Michigan's non-Denard running game was so bad we assumed it couldn't possibly be worse this year?
four DTs and an SDE
two turntables and a microphone
And then, this year. While the unacceptably stupid gameplans based around distaste for the only thing you can get your team to do right evaporated, that was only because Michigan could no longer do anything right at all. After the de rigueur exciting offensive performance against a Notre Dame team that got everyone's hopes high enough to crush Michigan settled into a pattern of ineptitude so vast as to be unbelievable.
Personnel issues contributed, but when the reaction to those issues was the looney-tunes decision to put Michigan's two best offensive linemen next to each other even if they both happened to be tackles, it was over. Michigan put it on film against Minnesota, wasted their bye week repping the never-before-seen tackle over offense, and proceeded to have their tailback rush for 27 yards on 27 carries. The tackle over was quickly dumped, but only after wasting three critical weeks of in-season development for a painfully young offensive line.
That that offensive line had been asked to run first the stretch and then a bunch of power before finally seeming to settle on inside zone—ie, run the full gamut of modern blocking schemes—compounded matters immensely. Borges treated a collection of pups barely out of high school like they were the 1998 Denver Broncos and reaped the whirlwind.
Except the Broncos did one thing and did it very well. Michigan did everything and in the in the end, Michigan did nothing. Two years after a broken version of the inverted veer performed well enough to put 40 points on Ohio State, Michigan had been forced away from it because the only play they could pair with it was a moderately successful QB counter. Not once in Borges's final two years could he run play action off that look, and teams eventually boa constrictored it out of the Michigan playbook.
That was emblematic of the offense as a whole: tiny unconnected packages unrelated to each other, all of which could have worked if Michigan would just execute that one thing they practiced three times last month. When things worked they worked briefly and then were held on to long after the opponent had adjusted, because Michigan never had enough in its arsenal to sustain a full game of production without its quarterback playing out of his mind.
As the tackles for loss mounted and the press conferences got shorter, "we didn't execute" became Borges's self-damning mantra. Michigan could not expect to execute. There is your firing in a sentence.
The firing of offensive coordinator Al Borges obviously shook things up among Michigan fans as Twitter and MGoBlog almost exploded once the news dropped. Then all that happened was a pluck-job of Alabama’s offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier. Again, the Michigan universe went into a frenzy. How is all of this affecting recruits? I was able to touch base with a few just to get an idea of how the decision is sitting with people who will and might wear the Maize and Blue.
2014 TE commit Ian Bunting
The Fire: Coach Borges did help recruit me so it’s obviously not the ideal situation but I trust that the staff is only making decisions that are in the best interest of the team. I’m still set on Michigan though! I have no idea who the replacement could or should be. Someone who likes to pass a lot, especially to the tight ends. Maybe the New England Patriots OC? (Laughs)
The Hire: It’s awesome! The OC from Bama? It’s sweet. It’s definitely encouraging. I just hope he likes throwing to his tight ends. I do know that he likes winning.
2014 RB offeree Vic Enwere
The Fire: Coach Borges getting fired changes things for me a little bit. It’s just going to take more time now to understand the new offensive approach. Coach Borges and I had a great talk when I went up there and a little bit before that too. We haven’t really talked since my last visit. I’m not sure if the words “hurt Michigan’s chances” are accurate but it does make it a bit tougher. Uncertainty just makes it tough.
The Hire: I honestly never heard his name before but I am familiar with his style. Being the offensive coordinator from Alabama definitely means something though.
2015 OL offeree Sterling Jenkins
The Fire: I definitely respect Coach Borges as a person but I hope I get to meet the new OC and I hope no one else from the staff goes. On my visit I mostly talked to Coach Borges and Coach Funk so we for sure had a relationship. Him being fired won’t really affect me. That has been happening all over the country. Michigan won’t hire someone who’s not up for the job. I think they’ll be okay, if not better from this move.
The Hire: I am looking forward to meeting him. He definitely has a good track record coming from Bama.
2015 WR offeree Christian Kirk
The Fire: I never got a chance to talk to Coach Borges during the bowl practice so I don’t really have a thought on him being fired. It doesn’t change anything for me in regards to Michigan.
The Hire: Interesting! We will see what he brings to Michigan! It helps Michigan’s case in my mind because I’m interested to see if he can turn it around. If he decides to come in contact with me it definitely helps Michigan’s chances.
2015 QB offeree David Sills:
The Fire: I’ve actually never talked to Coach Borges but I heard he was a great coach. He wasn’t personally involved with me and my offer. I’m not sure if I’m going to visit Michigan or not. Having two teammates up there means Michigan will always be an option. Right now though I am still with USC.
The Hire: I’m sure he will do great at Michigan. Michigan has always been attractive to me and always will be, so no real change.
2015 QB target Jimmy Fitzgerald:
The Fire: I just heard about Coach Borges being fired. I haven’t ever talked to him too much, Coach Mallory is my main contact. It doesn’t really change my view on Michigan. It’s not exactly the news I’d like to hear but Michigan is still a very attractive school both academically and athletically.
The Hire: That’s big time!
2015 QB target Kyle Kearns:
The Fire: Wow, I didn’t know anything about Coach Borges getting fired. I probably talked to him maybe 2 or more weeks ago. I’m still very interested in Michigan though, I’ll make sure to talk Coach Ferrigno about it the next time we talk.
The Hire: It’s awesome. I am really good friends with Coach Nuss. I have been in contact with him since last year.
2015 QB target Riley Neal:
The Fire: I had no idea they were thinking about firing him. I talked to Coach Borges maybe a week or two ago, but it’s crazy that he’s fired. Him getting fired doesn’t really change my view on Michigan. I liked Coach Borges but I still like the program they have at Michigan. I’m interested to see who they hire. I plan on calling one of the GA’s here soon to see if he knows anything.
The Hire: I think it’s a good hire for them. It should help Michigan in my eyes because he has won national championships and that’s always the goal so he brings that experience in with him.
2015 QB target Nick Johns:
The Fire: I heard about Coach Borges getting fired while I was at school. Now I’ll just wait and see who they hire. It doesn’t change anything for me right now. It’s been a long time since I’ve talked with Coach Borges. I kind of assumed he might be let go since he stopped talking to me. Hopefully Michigan will hire someone good.
The Hire: That’s a great move of power on Michigan’s part. It absolutely helps their cause in my eyes.
2015 QB target Alex Malzone:
The Fire: Man, I had no idea Coach Borges would be fired. I have always stayed in touch with Dan Ifft and then Coach Singletary a little bit so we’ll see who is brought in next. Obviously I’ve started to build a relationship with Coach Borges but it’s still Michigan football and they will bring in the right guy. I haven’t talked to Coach Borges since my Ohio State visit. I’m anxious to see who they hire.
The Hire: It’s a great hire, I’m excited about it. I’ve always been high on Michigan but it is a boost in my interest. I plan on calling Coach Ifft today to see what’s going on.
2015 QB target Zach Gentry
The Hire: (I didn’t hear back from Zach until news had surfaced that Nussmeier would be the replacement so we discussed only that) I think it’s a really solid hire! He balances the running and passing game well and he makes the system easy on the quarterback. I’d say it definitely helps Michigan in my eyes. I think it’s important that they have a really balanced attack. they seem to have the right players coming in that can help plus solid returning offensive guys. I’m still highly interested in Michigan. Coaching changes are going to happen everywhere. It doesn’t take anything away from Michigan and their tradition. I think I’ll probably try to reach out and get in touch with Coach Nussmeier and get established with him.
When you have success at the level that Alabama has, it carries a lot of weight and the reactions from commits and targets is clear evidence of that. The hiring of Nussmeier has already sent a shot of rejuvenation into the Michigan fanbase as well as potential Michigan players.
It is going to be really interesting to see how this hire affects recruiting as well. I’m very curious to see how the 2015 quarterback situation shakes out now, as Borges sort of ran the show on that evaluation. #1 2015 QB Ricky Town was recruited to Alabama by Nussmeier and while I don’t see him bailing on Bama, I’m sure Nuss will get in touch with him. Intrigue all around with a splash hire like this.
Per the Athletic Department, offensive coordinator Al Borges has been fired. Here's the entirety of the press release:
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- University of Michigan head football coach Brady Hoke announced today (Wednesday, Jan. 8) that offensive coordinator Al Borges will not be retained for the 2014 season.
"Decisions like these are never easy," said Hoke. "I have a great amount of respect for Al as a football coach and, more importantly, as a person. I appreciate everything he has done for Michigan Football for the past three seasons."
Prior to joining U-M in 2011, Borges was a member of Hoke's staff at San Diego State in 2009 and '10.
The Wolverines will begin spring practice on Feb. 25 and finish with the annual Spring Game on Saturday, April 5, at Michigan Stadium.
The fallout will be covered in exhaustive detail in the coming days. One interesting candidate—coincidentally, from Borges' former school—is rumored to have been contacted by Brady Hoke regarding the now-open position, according to coachingsearch.com:
A source tells me that Brady Hoke has reached out to UCLA offensive coordinator / quarterbacks coach Noel Mazzone and at least one NFL assistant, though Mazzone isn't likely to leave for Ann Arbor.
Mazzone runs an "uptempo no-huddle spread," according to Chris Brown (Smart Football); even if he's not interested in the job, moving in that direction would certainly please the people who write for this here blog. As for recruiting, it's unlikely the class of 2014 will be affected much, if at all, and there's plenty of time to make up any lost ground in the 2015 class. Again, we'll have much, much more on this in the coming days.
Brian Sipe and Al Borges did not see eye to eye
Nope. When Borges arrived someone asked him about having a QB coach, and he said that he wasn't a fan of the setup they had at SDSU, where Brian Sipe was hired as a dedicated QB coach. That relationship was strained, it seems, and Borges now handles all that himself.
My google-fu has failed me in an effort to find this quote, but a couple years back there was a direct statement from Borges that he prefers to work with the QBs himself, alone.
UPDATE: a commenter comes through.
“I’m sure there were times I was driving Brian nuts, because I was being driven nuts. Coaching quarterbacks is more my M.O.”
What is the argument for Borges?
What is the argument for Borges?
Watching bowl games and I'm jealous of Iowa and their dinosaur coaching staff occasionally running up tempo offense.
Al Borges has either had the game pass him by or hasn't trusted his QBs at michigan one bit. They don't/can't run tempo, don't/can't get out of the huddle in time to gather any info on the defensive alignment pre-snap and don't/can't commit to any spread concepts that put playmakers in space and pressure defenders to make one on one plays in space.
Michigan's offense doesn't take advantage of ANY of the benefits of modern college offenses.
The argument in his favor is that he does tend to have high YPA offenses when he has decent quarterbacks, and in YPA is generally regarded as the stat most predictive of victory. If you've heard the roundtable on WTKA this year you've heard Craig bring this up weekly, at which point I shoot him down because Michigan's running game is just so so bad this year. Then he brings it up the next week because his pet YPA stat was actually pretty accurate, and we repeat the cycle.
Anyway. In year two at SDSU, Ryan Lindley had a 9.1 YPA, which is near-great. In three years at Michigan:
- Denard 2011: 8.4
- Denard 2012: 7.9
- Devin 2012: 9.7(!)
- Devin 2013: 8.6
Things at Auburn were great, then increasingly grimmer. Jason Campbell cracked the 10 YPA mark in year one, then Brandon Cox went from 7.6 to 8.1 to 6.6, whereupon Borges got fired in favor of that Franklin spread guy who got fired midseason the next year, leading to Borges's current pathological worldview.
I'm not even sure how much of the Cox degradation I blame on Borges. I saw Cox live and in person in his senior year, and by that time his arm strength had degraded to Russell Bellomy-against-Nebraska levels. Meanwhile Tommy Tuberville's staff was a collection of Just In Charge Of Something For No Reasons that undermined the next guy and got fired as a unit as a result—they were Rodriguez's defensive assistants and Borges was Scott Shafer.
This year's actually-quite-good YPA stat (23rd nationally) is impressive in context. I think you can make a case that with a functional running game, Borges can pilot an effective offense. The program is pretty dinosaur all around, but at least Borges has shown that he is looking for the knockout punch.
I've read and heard a lot about our miserable offensive line and how Coach Borges's hands are somewhat tied with such an incapable unit. But it seems to me that the larger problem is the predictability of his play calling. I don't study tape or rewatch games the way our opponents must, but even I feel like I know exactly when he's going to run the ball and when he isn't. The Nebraska players said as much after they completely shut us down. The only game that I can remember saying to myself "I didn't expect that" with regard to our ground game was against OSU, and in that match-up our O line suddenly looked average/competent against a good Buckeye unit. I feel like Borges is a guy that really believes that as long as everyone "executes", it doesn't matter if the opposing defense has an idea of what's coming. I'd like to hear your thoughts on this.
Thanks again for your hard work.
When one half of your offense is totally incapable of picking up yard one in most games you do tend to get predictable. Defenses figure out the thing that you are trying to do and shut it down because they aren't worried about the other thing. The Kansas State game was a great example of that: once the Wildcats figured out what Michigan was doing and adapted to stop it there wasn't much else Michigan could execute so they had to keep doing the one thing they could do.
This pattern is familiar from 2008, when Rodriguez would insert various tweaks and folds into his rushing offense that would work great for about a half and then die in a heap. Remember the 2008 Penn State game that was 17-14 at halftime and then ended something like 80-17 Penn State? Same thing: unleash something unexpected that really works (in that case it was MINOR RAGE), then have bupkis when opponent adjusts.
Predictability is a hallmark of crappy offenses, but it's more a symptom than a disease.
The Jerry Montgomery effect?
I see a lot of Michigan fans saying they will give the defensive staff a pass for this season's defensive performance because this is the same staff responsible for vast improvements seen in the first year under Brady Hoke. But, this isn't the same staff. We lost Jerry Montgomery to Oklahoma last offseason. Our d-line was definitely disappointing this year. Could you please comment on whether Montgomery leaving was a bigger blow than anticipated? Also, could you please comment on Roy Manning's performance as the linebacker coach?
Thanks and Go Blue!
How disappointing was it, though?
Our impressions are always colored by the most recent thing to happen and those two things were eviscerations by OSU and Kansas State, but the overall picture is less than awful. Michigan finished 35th in raw YPC without an imposing pass rush and without a whole lot of blitzing or load-the-box safety help. Their YPC allowed (3.81) was identical to last year's number, when Montgomery was around.
On an individual level, by the time the Ohio State game rolled around Ondre Pipkins had torn his ACL and Michigan's first choice nose tackle was 285 pound Jibreel Black, which went about as well as you might expect against what was by far the nation's top rushing offense. That is a huge and obvious personnel issue caused by injury—I continue to assume that something was just not right with Quinton Washington because otherwise his deployment makes no goddamn sense at all—and youth.
On an individual level, Michigan got strong upward ticks from everyone on the line:
- Frank Clark went from hype bust of the offseason to a solid, Tim Jamison-as-senior effort.
- Willie Henry went from obscure rotation guy to solid starter and potential future star.
- Black was considerably better than he was as a junior, though completely overmatched because of his size at certain points.
- Brennen Beyer… actually went backwards a bit, okay. But again this was Michigan's first choice SDE against OSU, a 250-pound dude.
The lack of imposing pass rush is an issue that needs to be addressed, yes. I don't think this season was necessarily that disappointing when you look at the roster at the three interior DL spots (SDE counts as one in my book). There is a gap akin to the interior OL on the roster.
Remove injured Pipkins and your non-freshman options at three interior DL spots that really need about six guys to rotate through are Black (285 pounds), Washington (inexplicable lack of PT), Ash (never played meaningful snaps in his life before OSU), and Heitzman (dumped from rotation in favor of 250-pound SAM). All things considered they were doing really well to hold up like they did before the season-ending collapse.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma was 53rd in rushing D, giving up a third of a yard per attempt more than M. I don't think Montgomery was a huge blow.
As for Manning, he's got the outside linebackers, which means SAM and only SAM. Michigan got quality play from first Beyer and then Cam Gordon; Jake Ryan was not as impactful this year but with the injury that's understandable. Tentative thumbs up in year one.
It wasn't too long ago that you were ready to cut someone about something something
EMO QUESTION OF THE WEEK OF THE YEAR
Is there a point for you at which fanhood of Michigan football is so disappointing because of things besides kids trying their best (e.g., Borges/Hoke insanity, almost everything Dave Brandon) that stop...like, really, at least sort of? As we as a fanbase get to consider your experience of being a fan and weigh it against our own, you shared some, I don't know, despondency or something at times this season, usually in appropriate situations. And in a time in my life when I am thinking of getting ready for my marriage, and getting something resembling a career going, and God help me I'll be a father in a few years...this football stuff just seems like a waste of time when everything besides the kids gets me as worked up as [REDACTED TOPIC OF CHOICE] does.
Honestly, larger than the blog, which I could see continuing in a hundred ways, is there a "this far and no further" point in your tolerance of extraneous bullshit for the sake of the joy or whatever it is that's so incredible when the kids on the field do amazing things?
I mean, after the 2009 Illinois game, I locked myself in a dorm and turned off my phone and didn't talk to anyone until late Sunday. As crazy and immature as that was, nothing about the disappointment of a loss has ever made me feel like I should stop following the team. But now I read about BWW Bowls and Jerryworld II and I'm like...whatever, man.
This is a natural consequence of aging and putting things in your life other than football that poop all over themselves when you would rather they not do that. Eventually, this will be you, wishing you weren't pooping all over yourself while watching Michigan poop all over itself in a hologram.
Anyway. It is an annual rite for person X on message board Y to declare that they just don't have the steam in them any more. I get it. To be blunt, I've been struggling with motivation issues since about midseason and understand anyone who flips the TV off and goes bowling*.
But, again, it is a human tendency to project most recent thing as thing that happens forever. It is not so. It was just last April that I was in the Georgia Dome, panicking about a Ke$ha song (probably, anyway; getting to the point where I can't necessarily discern which pop ingénues is which) because it was the thing going on before the national championship game. If they had played The Final Countdown I literally would have grabbed my buddy and gone AHHHH AHHHH AHHHH until he slapped me.
This season has been particularly enervating because of not only the suckiness of the team but its total unwatchability. As I mentioned in the post-bowl column, the 3-9 outfit was a worse team but they came by their awfulness honestly. Not that these folk didn't, but there is a special pain in rushing for negative yards consecutive weeks. It is transmitted direct to your eyeballs.
When this is not the case, you will discover the terror of your attachment again. Probably.
In your specific case, I've tied my career to this and don't have the option, so I don't know man. I tend to think I might get fed up, but I'm still getting hockey tickets and no one really cares if I go to hockey. Maybe I would just complain about feeling like a sucker and continue acting like a sucker.
*[I finally broke down and played Skyrim. Do not do this. Skyrim is the kind of awful that only reveals itself after you've set 60 hours of your life on fire listening to boring conversations and dully hacking things in the face. Their open world is beautiful and soulless, shiny on the outside but hollow in the center. Bethesda's mechanics are hopelessly broken in every single game they make, and while being able to jump across a continent in Morrowind was charmingly broken, Skyrim's mechanics invite you to a dull, iron-dagger-laden trudge through one moronically designed UI after another.
I just played the computer version of Michigan's 2013 football season. I DID IT TO MYSELF. AGAIN.]
Obviously changes need to be made, and probably already have for all I know. I posed this idea to some friends this morning and got intrigued responses but it was ultimately dismissed as unrealistic: Michigan should hire Pat Narduzzi as head coach right now.
He's obviously ready for a move, would clearly help Michigan's defense tremendously (and bring in a new OC who could only be an upgrade), and this would really hurt one of our division rivals who is on the verge of becoming a regular contender. I would say this move would be on par with hiring Bo (who, at the time, was an Ohio State guy, even though he was at Miami). Getting Narduzzi now is no different, except skipping the middle step of him coaching elsewhere first. Has anyone suggested this idea yet, and what do you think from the perspective of is it possible as well as is it a good move?
IT HAPPENED, JV
IT HAPPENED RIGHT NOW WITH EVERYONE WATCHING