FWIW. Michigan doesn't seem inclined to get re-involved.
2013 OL commits Logan Tuley-Tillman (left) and David Dawson
Yesterday's Adidas Sound Mind/Sound Body camp at Southfield High School featured some of the Midwest's best talent, including five of Michigan's 2013 commits (actually, six, but Csont'e York showed up late and I didn't get a good look at him). It also provided a rare chance for players to get instructed by coaches from Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, Eastern Michigan, and several other schools; U-M, OSU, and MSU each sent their full staff, save Mark Dantonio, who had a speaking engagement.
This was my first camp experience, so I mostly focused on the Michigan commits; at these camps, there's so much going on that it's difficult to focus on more than a handful of players. Here are my impressions of the Wolverine commits as well as a couple other standouts:
I didn't spend a ton of time watching Morris in the passing drills, mostly because I was more focused on the receivers and defensive backs, but he was excellent as usual on Wednesday. Morris threw harder than anyone else there, displayed great accuracy, and could make all of the throws. He's also improved from what I saw of him last fall in terms of knowing when to change up speeds and when to just unleash.
As you can see above, Al Borges kept a very close eye on Morris. UAB head coach Garrick McGee was running quarterback drills, but Borges made it clear that he would be the one coaching Morris. As Brian pointed out in today's UV, the running theme of the camp was coaches in disbelief that this was all legal; it was, thanks to SMSB's status as a charitable event.
Dawson was easily the most impressive lineman present, both from a physical and technical standpoint. He looks like he's in the 280-290 pound range but doesn't appear to be carrying much bad weight at all. He shows an advanced understanding of technique for a high school player; Coach Funk was presiding over the offensive line drills, and when he needed to give an example of what he was looking for, he had Dawson give the demonstration. Dawson displayed very quick feet, shuffled well in pass protection while keeping a solid base, and showed a very strong initial punch.
In one-on-ones, Dawson excelled in a drill that gives a clear edge to the pass-rusher. He got great depth with his initial step and had three or four pancakes (not all of his reps are on my film above). When Dawson did get beat, it was usually when he let the defender get into his body instead of keeping the rusher at bay with his arm punch. The proverbial mean streak was also on full display. On one rep, Dawson got beat off the edge, and the defender went back to his side screaming "Let's go!" and "I'm hungry!"* Dawson didn't appreciate the woofing, asked for an immediate rematch, and buried the guy into the turf.
Dawson is expected to end up at guard in college and after seeing him yesterday I think that's the best place for him. While his strength allows him to dominate high school competition, he isn't the longest lineman out there, which makes it harder to keep edge-rushers at bay. As you can see above, when Dawson slid inside to take a rep at guard, he dispatched his man with ease.
Tuley-Tillman didn't quite perform at Dawson's level but still showed off the potential that earned him an offer in the first place. When I talked to Logan, he told me he weighs about 315 pounds, a 15-pound drop from where he was at the Columbus NFTC last month. He's still carrying bad weight, however, and is going to have to turn a significant amount of fat into muscle before he's ready to play at the next level.
I was initially down on Tuley-Tillman when watching the one-on-ones, but after watching the tape he did better than I thought. When he gets his hands on a guy it's tough to escape and he finishes his blocks with authority. He did struggle some against the speed rush; Funk pulled LTT aside during drills to work on getting better depth in his drop when pass blocking, and there's still work to be done there. When he got his footwork right, defenders had little chance of getting past him.
Despite the technique issues, Tuley-Tillman has great feet; when he's coached up, he should have every opportunity to play tackle at the Big Ten level. He's definitely got some conditioning work to do, though it sounds like he's on the right track. Multiple experts who saw Tuley-Tillman in Columbus, where he reportedly struggled significantly, said his performance yesterday was a vast improvement.
Lewis continues to look impressive on both sides of the ball. While I thought he looked better at corner when playing for Cass Tech last fall, there may be a battle royale between the offensive and defensive coaches over where he'll play at Michigan; the offensive coaches have made it clear that they covet Lewis as a wide receiver. They'll have to fight Greg Mattison for him, however, and that may be a losing battle.
Lewis is never going to wow you from a purely physical standpoint—he's 5'11" and pretty skinny—but his athleticism is just a notch below elite. He showed off great closing speed at cornerback, though he sometimes relies too much on his ability to recover; he's not quite at his 2012 teammate Terry Richardson's level when it comes to staying in a receiver's hip pocket. His ball skills, however, are exemplary; he tracks the ball in the air extremely well and knows exactly when to go for the catch. If a quarterback threw a 50-50 ball in his direction, whether on offense or defense, he came down with it or at least broke up the pass.
At receiver, Lewis put those ball skills to good use, coming up with a couple of spectacular catches including one diving effort against 2014 Cass Tech teammate Damon Webb (much more on him below). I still like Lewis's upside more at corner, where his size plays better, but he's convinced me that he could contribute on either side of the ball at the next level.
Hill looked very good in the reps I saw him taking, running crisp routes and catching almost everything thrown his way, including the pass pictured above. He nearly pulled in a ridiculous one-hander early in the morning session, but couldn't quite haul it on; otherwise, any pass in his direction resulted in a catch. Hill isn't the fastest tight end out there, nor the biggest, but he finds a way to get space from defenders and then shield them off with his body.
Given that he's being recruited for a very specific, not-always-used position—H-back—he's got a more limited ceiling than most of the commits; at around 6'2", he doesn't have the size to play much on the line. That said, if he can run routes and catch like he did yesterday, he could be a solid piece to the offensive puzzle.
DAMON WEBB (2014)
Webb turned heads a couple weeks ago when he blanketed Laquon Treadwell at the IMG 7-on-7 and he built on that with an MVP-worthy performance yesterday. Despite being a year younger, Webb has more bulk on his 5'11" frame than his teammate Jourdan Lewis, and like Lewis he's an outstanding athlete.
Also like Lewis, Webb can play either wide receiver or cornerback at the next level, though his size suggests that corner is his optimal position. He was fantastic playing corner in the one-on-one drills, staying step-for-step with Lewis—though Jourdan managed to bring in a diving catch—and 2013 Notre Dame commit James Onwualu, who was torching the less-heralded prospects. Webb faced Onwualu three times, and aside from slipping on a hitch route, he came out on top. Webb doesn't rely as much on recovery speed as Lewis, instead playing a more physical style; he's not at all afraid to come up and jam the receiver, and he flips his hips well when transitioning from his backpedal.
Allen Trieu reported this afternoon that Webb earned a Michigan offer, which comes as little surprise after he performed so well in front of the entire staff. While they're targeting him as an athlete for now, I'm guessing he'll be the next in a long line of Cass Tech corners to play at the BCS level. The Wolverines appear to be his clear leader at the moment and there's a chance his recruitment wraps up early. He'll be in Ann Arbor next week for Michigan's camp.
*"I'm hungry" guy was one of the highlights of the camp, as he repeatedly—and loudly—proclaimed his hunger after just about every rep. When Hoke spoke to the campers after the morning session, he singled the kid out for his enthusiasm, then had this exchange:
Hoke: "Did you have lunch yet?"
I'm Hungry Kid: "Yes, sir."
Hoke: "Well, I guess you're not hungry anymore."
- 2014 MI DE Malik McDowell wasn't listed on the roster—he wasn't alone in that regard—and only took a couple reps in the morning, so I didn't get a chance to evaluate him. I did head over to where the linemen were gathered in the afternoon, however, and I can say he certainly passes the eye test. That is one huge rising junior.
- Two other 2014 kids who caught my eye were Cass Tech linebackers William White and Gary Hosey, who both stood out physically among the linebackers. White appeared to have an inch or two on Hosey, but both looked solidly built with the frame to add more bulk. I was busy watching the linemen while they were going through drills, however, so I'll have to catch them play another time.
- A friend who was helping instuct the linebackers at the camp raved about Michigan State linebacker commit Jon Reschke. I thought Reschke was a no-brainer four-star when I saw him play against Farmington Hills Harrison in the playoffs last year; State got a good one there.
- Urban Meyer, from the morning presser: "The problem with intercollegiate athletics is that it's almost anti-student-athlete." All the coaches talked about how great it was to be able to instruct recruits at an event outside the usual team camps. There was also discussion about finding ways for recruits to be able to take visits to campus without the cost becoming prohibitive; there definitely seems to be support for summer official visits if the NCAA decides to look in that direction.
- Yes, Brady Hoke uttered the words "Ohio" and "State" in succession during an impromptu on-field Q&A session with reporters. Yes, there was a subsequent race between the Michigan beat reporters to tweet that bit of news. I believe the winner was AnnArbor.com's Nick Baumgartner.
- Terry Richardson, James Ross, and Oregon CB (and former Cass Tech Technician) Dior Mathis all were present. Richardson was walking around eating ribs while the Michigan coaches teased him about getting his weight up.
- After watching them in a camp setting, it's very easy to see why Michigan's coaching staff has so much success both on the field and in recruiting. I kept forgetting to film the OL/DL one-on-ones because I was so intent on listening to Coach Funk give technique pointers to individual guys after their reps; I learned more about blocking technique in five minutes of standing near him than I have in the rest of my life put together. They're all great with the players, as well; you could tell the kids were hanging on every word of instruction.
- Former Michigan lineman and current EMU OL coach Kurt Anderson, who was running drills with Funk: "You're protecting your family, your food, your quarterback." [via Mike Rothstein]
Pictured coaches, in order of appearance, are UAB HC Garrick McGee, OSU HC Urban Meyer, MSU DC Pat Narduzzi, EMU HC Ron English, Hoke, Mattison, EMU's Mike Hart, Syracuse's Tyrone Wheatley, and Michigan's Darrell Funk and Jeff Hecklinski.
Jayru Campbell's hair did not disappoint:
Neither did Shane Morris's afternoon attire:
That's all for now. Interviews with Morris, Dawson, and Tuley-Tillman coming later this afternoon.
Half-shields look cooler. End of story.
Shields. College hockey's been moving towards the use of partial shields for a couple years now and it sounds like in the next couple years we could see that come to fruition. The hockey community is for it, but they have to convince the NCAA they're not going to cause a murder spree. Their attempt:
"When we first raised the issue with the Health and Safety Committee, they were very negative," Kelly said. "By the end of the meeting in November, the pendulum had swung significantly and they are far more open minded on the idea."
"Give credit, the folks in the room definitely listened," rules committee chair Ed McLaughlin, the athletic director at Niagara, said. "They said, 'Tell us why you believe this.' It was a huge hurdle we got over. Going in I thought, if it's not 'no' it's a major accomplishment."
Boston University's Parker has long been an outspoken critic of the NCAA's policy, even moreso since his player, Travis Roy, was paralyzed in an on-ice accident during the first shift of his college career, in 1995.
"Jack Parker was very effective," Kelly said.
"Jack was fantastic," McLaughlin said. "He had a real impact with the group that was there."
They have no data, but assert that going away from full masks can't make things worse for anything except your lips—mouthguards would be required—and that's less of a big deal than getting hit in the head. At least they don't have, like, anti-data:
"(Data) doesn't show substantially less concussions," McLaughlin said, "but you can't prove more either. There's more facial lacerations, but not exponentially. The USHL hasn't had any catastrophic eye injuries or neck injuries, and we've had some in college hockey."
I've always thought the argument that the full shields in college hockey made the game more violent was ridiculous. The things you can't do in the pros are still penalties in college. Maybe the (usual) lack of fighting does make people bolder, but I'm dubious about that as well. Violent acts like the Tropp incident are met with stiff suspensions. Hockey's violent. This doesn't do anything to help player safety. If you want to make an impact on that, you have to improve the refereeing.
It may help with the constant war with junior in a tiny way, and that's probably why this is going forward.
Good hands. When is the last time anyone could have made a list of best Big Ten assistants and grabbed both of Michigan's coordinators?
Offensive coordinator: Al Borges, Michigan. What more can be said about Borges? The guy has an unmatched resume that includes stops as coordinator at Indiana, Auburn, UCLA, Oregon, Cal and Boise State, among others. Borges has shown an ability to adapt his West Coast attack at Michigan to conform to the skills of quarterback Denard Robinson. Smart man. The result, an 11-2 season in 2011, as the Wolverines also produced two 1,000-yard rushers for the first time since 1975. Why isn’t this guy a head coach?
Others: Matt Canada, Wisconsin; Greg Davis, Iowa; Tom Herman, Ohio State; Matt Limegrover, Minnesota; Bill O’Brien, Penn State
Defensive coordinator: Greg Mattison, Michigan. The numbers speak for themselves. After spending three years in the NFL with the Baltimore Ravens, Mattison returned to Michigan. And his impact was deep and immediate. His unit ranked second in the Big Ten and sixth in nation in scoring defense (17.4 ppg). Remarkable numbers when you consider where the defense was before he arrived. Mattison has coached 18 NFL players and had seven of his protégés taken in the first three rounds of the draft and two first-round selections.
Others: Pat Narduzzi, Michigan State; Ted Roof, Penn State; Everett Withers, Ohio State.
When's the last time Michigan would have gotten even one on the list? 1997? Yeah. Probably 1997. Even if Borges probably would have finished second to Paul Chryst if he hadn't taken the Pitt job, it's been a long time since it seems like both sides of the ball were in good hands.
It's, like, interrelated, man, like the cosmos. The Only Colors discovers that the generally-applicable fact that passing efficiency is the stat best correlated with winning applies to the Big Ten, too:
Yeah, but that's all NFL stuff. And besides, the NFL formula is different than the NCAA formula. How do I know that those insights carry over, especially to the Big Ten?
Cause I got some mighty fine data. Spreadsheet time:
2011 Big Ten Season Teams Off PR Def PR Net Wins Wisconsin 186.2 120.45 65.75 11 Michigan State 144.29 113.24 31.05 11 Michigan 139.18 120.48 18.7 11 Northwestern 155.88 139.99 15.89 6 Illinois 123.52 117.91 5.61 7 Nebraska 125.78 120.42 5.36 9 Iowa 136.62 132.87 3.75 7 Ohio State 127.8 126.75 1.05 6 Purdue 122.81 126.05 -3.24 7 Penn State 101.95 107.2 -5.25 9 Minnesota 108.97 148.81 -39.84 3 Indiana 111.91 156.79 -44.88 1
-In the top tier, you have three teams who clearly separated themselves from the pack with their net ratings at 1, 2, and 3 (including the BTCCG participants at a clear 1-2), as well as an outlier at 4, Northwestern, who let several games slip away late.
-in the middle tier, you have the middle class of the Big Ten in 2011, plus Nebraska, all clumped within 4 net points of each other, very far away from the best and worst teams in the conference.
-then in the bottom tier, you have the only four teams with negative Passer Rating Differentials, with Purdue and Penn State (the other outlier) chilling a handful of points below zero, and the two obvious worst teams in the Big Ten, Minnesota and Indiana, both sporting truly terrible PRDs.
In all, in 2011, there was a very strong .85 correlation between a teams PRD and its total wins. Correlation is not causation and all that but still, .85 yo.
This is all true, but I don't think that tells you that passing is more important than running. Take last year's Michigan offense for an example of a team where running drives the bus to the point where it makes the passing offense look better than it really is. An even rawer Denard Robinson put up the 20th-best passer rating in the country, one ten points better than his 2011. But Michigan ran 60% of the time and put up 5.6 YPC. When Michigan lost some of that mojo last year, Robinson's efficiency dropped correspondingly.
The biggest advantage passer rating has in these correlations between various traditional stats and wins is the fact that it's an efficiency measure. Yards gained in X fashion is a measure of both how much you did something and how good you were at it. Efficiency measures suck the "how much" out of the equation.
Side note: Good Lord has Penn State been hosed the last few years by their QB situation. If they can keep that defense operating at its previous efficiency level and have an offense run by grown-ups, they will be in business.
Molk as Rimington finalist: check, plus. Kelvin Grady's 30 catches: not so much.
Spring football is over, meaning we're entering the darkest days of the offseason, the times when college football bloggers must get creative (aigh!) and come up with something, anything, to post while hoping nobody on the team gets arrested (usually as a product of being as bored with the offseason as us).
This is one of those posts.
Last year, Brian went HAM with his football preview, churning out so much content that I ended up previewing Western lest the first game pass without comment. Now I get to look back on all of Brian's hard work, use hindsight as a crutch to make me look intelligent, and critique his predictions. It's up to you to decide whether it's coincidence that I'm doing this while he's rather incapacitated.
This review will be posted in three parts. Today, I'll look at the offensive personnel. Later, I'll tackle the defense (ooh, role reversal), then finally look at special teams and Brian's "stupid predictions," (his term, not mine). This first post was less fun than I expected; outside of some inflated projections for the wide receivers, Brian kinda nailed it when it came to the offense. BOO.
Koger's role will be up to him. He'll be somewhere between a B- and B+ blocker and will have opportunities to establish himself a major part of the passing game. Our sample size on his hands is still very small and the bad part is now two years removed and he's quite an athlete—his upside is high. I can't help but think he's been held back by things other than Rich Rodriguez's preferences, though. I'm betting on a good but unmemorable senior year.
I have a difficult time coming up with a better description for Kevin Koger's final Michigan season. He was a solid, but unspectacular, blocker who recorded 23 catches for 244 yards and four touchdowns. That was more production than he'd had under Rodriguez, but I had to check MGoBlue to see if he even earned All-Big Ten honorable mention (he did). My lasting memories of Koger will remain the insane catch against Western in 2009 and his battles with the dropsies the next year, along with his "KogerNotKroger" Twitter handle.
The Mouton comparison is ominous since we just watched that guy start for three years without getting any better, but Lewan hasn't suffered at the hands of poor coaching yet and won't in the future. This should be the year he drops the crazy hot girl act and establishes himself as an All Big Ten left tackle. He'll still be a little penalty-prone but it will be worth it.
Taylor Lewan earned second-team All-B1G honors from the coaches, honorable mention from the media, and generally was the team's best non-Molk offensive lineman. He still took a few dumb penalties, but not as many as he did in 2010. Again, spot on, old chap.
That is admittedly me trying to find a concern. David Molk is great. You can never tell which interior linemen are going to be up for postseason awards but I'll be incensed if he's not All Big Ten after a healthy year. I think he'll be a Rimington finalist.
See: picture at top of post.
Al Borges is going to do his damndest to keep Denard productive, upright, and beaming.
Check, check, and of course, check.
He'll give Denard a more sophisticated offense that he won't execute as well as Borges needs him to; he'll use Denard's legs but not quite as effectively as Rodriguez would have. These guys are good because they've spent a lot of time specializing in ways that make them successful. There is a necessary lack of efficiency once they get outside their comfort zones.
It was a near-impossible task for Denard to replicate his 2010 rushing production under Borges, especially since the coaches explicitly stated that wasn't at all the goal. He still finished as the team's leading rusher, broke the 1,000-yard barrier, scored 16 rushing touchdowns, and averaged over five yards per carry. As for the execution of the offense as a whole: yup, there were some efficiency issues. Yards/attempt, completion percentage, and passing efficiency all dropped, while interceptions rose to an unsightly 15. This prediction didn't exactly go out on a limb, but that didn't make it any less right.
Yards per carry drop quite a bit but nose above 5.
2010 YPC: 5.58.
2011 YPC: 5.15.
If [Junior Hemingway] can manage [to stay healthy] through the season he's going to end the year with a ton of catches. Even if the Michigan offense doesn't go full MANBALL right away continued development from Denard Robinson will make difficult pro-style throws that frequently target outside wide receivers more feasible; Borges's offense will make them more frequent. Combine that with Hemingway's main skill and there will be jump balls for the taking.
ALL OF THE JUMP BALLS. This piece of prognostication would've made it into the above category if not for this next bit:
If he can maintain his 18.5 YPC he'll challenge Roundtree for the most receiving yards on the team. Expect a bit under 1,000 yards from him.
Hemingway actually averaged a tic above 20 YPC and still led the team in receptions, but leading the team meant catching 34 passes for 699 yards. Junior did manage to stay healthy, which was nice, and then stole all of our hearts during (and after) the Sugar Bowl. Y U NO PREDICT HE STEAL OUR HEARTS, BRIAN?
Huyge's flexibility will allow Michigan to flip Schofield onto the field if anyone other than Molk goes down. He's likely to start a few games in preparation for a full time role in 2011… unless he rips the job away from Huyge right now.
Given the way Huyge's career has gone and the general vibe coming from camp chatter and Funk's public statements, that's a strong possibility. Huyge's never been much of a pass blocker and Michigan's offense is going to require quite a bit more of that as Robinson starts making more and more five and seven step drops.
This was right on in that a non-Molk OL (Ricky Barnum) went down with an injury, and Michael Schofield was the man to replace him. What Brian didn't see coming—and I don't think anyone predicted this—is that Huyge would remain at tackle while Schofield filled in admirably at left guard, keeping the job even after Barnum returned.
Tousssaint [extra 's' there, boss] seems to have that jittery short-range quickness that allows little guys to survive, even thrive, as they pick their way through the chaos.
I'm hoping he emerges as the guy. If he beats out a healthy Shaw he'll be well on his way to translating that tape to college, and I could get used to a jump-cutting Houdini with sprinter's speed. Toussaint is the offense's Roh: the wildcard. Anything from Mike Hart (except crappy :( ) to Mike Hart (except fast!) is possible.
No full credit here what with the significant hedging and the fact that Brian had Michael Shaw listed as the (tenuous) starter, even though that's because Brady Hoke flat-out said so before the season. Instead, Toussaint was the man all year, rushing for 1,041 yards on 5.6 YPC and surpassing all reasonable expectations in the process. Fitz's speed turned out to be more of the sprinter's variety than what he showed in his previous, injury-plagued season, and the jump-cuts were plentiful. He wasn't quite Mike Hart (except fast!); Michigan didn't need that with Denard playing quarterback. The potential is there, however.
Michigan finishes around 15th in FEI and other advance metrics. By yardage they drop to about the same spot; scoring offense increases from 25th to match.
Brian actually underestimated the offense in terms of the advanced metrics—9th in FEI—though successfully predicted that it wouldn't quite match the #2 rank of the previous year. Yardage fell to 42nd in the country, and scoring offense was 26th. The larger point remained true—the offense was quite efficient, but not quite at the level of 2010's spread-and-shred—but the raw numbers didn't quite match up.
Not So Much
Roundtree's production will drop this year as Michigan tries to get Hemingway and Koger more involved. He can't expect set the single-game receiving record every year. He'll still run neck and neck with Hemingway fro [sic] the most receiving yards on the team. [Ed-S: hey, I remember that vacation--it was nice]
Roundtree's production did drop, just more significantly than expected. With QB OH NOES mostly gone from the offense (and Roundtree flat-out dropping the one such opportunity I recall), he finished with just 19 catches for 355 yards, well behind both Hemingway and Jeremy Gallon on the stat sheet. Speaking of Gallon...
Entering his final season [Kelvin] Grady's best shot at extensive playing time is based on 1) a lot of three wide and 2) Roundtree playing mostly on the outside. In that situation he's the established veteran. He'd get a crack at screens and seams and whatnot en route to a breakout mini-'Tree year. More likely is a moderately increased role as Roundtree bounces inside and out with around 30 catches.
First, a sadface— :( —for the lack of screens, not to mention blitheringly wide-open seams. Now, Grady's final stat line: five catches, 75 yards. Brian did recover with a nice hedge—"It could go sour for Grady if Jeremy Gallon translates chatter into playing time"—especially since Gallon produced Grady's projected stat line: 31 catches netting 453 yards. Still, swing and a miss on which player would produce said stat line, and I'm really reaching for stuff to critique here
Denard rushes for 1200 yards. His interception rate falls significantly but is still not great.
Shaw claims the starting job to himself in week four, gets injured shortly after, and Toussaint takes over. Both are much better than Smith at making extra yards. At the end of the year they've all got somewhere between 400 and 800 yards.
Toussaint's rapid rise wasn't foreseen by Brian, who expected more of a backfield-by-committee, especially in the early going. Shaw never captured the starting job, appeared in nine games, and finished with 199 yards on 31 carries. That made Shaw a more effective runner than Smith, who had 298 yards on 50 carries, but both were surprisingly effective (6.42 YPC for Shaw, 5.96 for Smith, though obviously in limited action for both).
Hopkins creates windows other backs don't. When three yards and a cloud of dust is a win, he'll be in there.
Or he'll continue putting the ball on the ground—see: Denard's immaculate rushing TD against Notre Dame—and get relegated to fullback.
“From an overall perspective, 15 days, I think we really had a nice spring offensively. We got a lot of questions answered, I think. Had a chance to do some experimenting, although we didn’t use any of it today, but we did some things and turned another page in our offensive approach. I think people we knew could play pretty much proved they could play, and we found a few guys along the way that I think are going to be contributors. We still have a ways to go. It’s still a typical spring game. The amount of times I’ve come out of a spring game and been happy I can count on two fingers in all the 26 years I’ve been coaching. That’s just kind of the way it is. But we got something done, and that’s what’s most important, is getting a chance in front of our fans to do some deals, do some things and I think we got something done, and that really was the goal for today.”
Can you talk about Ricky Barnum’s progress. Did he meet your expectations?
“Yeah Ricky’s come a long way for a position that he really hasn’t played very much. But I mentioned to you guys before, I think from a profile perspective, Ricky fits that position better than he probably does any other position. He’s a smart kid that plays with good leverage, knows how to use people around him. Now that he understands the calls and how to put everybody on the same page, that really makes a big difference at that position, because you’re not forced to block people one-on-one constantly. That’s the thing about playing center, is there’s a lot of that going on. He’s done a nice job. I’m really happy with Ricky.”
We didn’t see a whole lot from the receivers today. Who are some of the guys that can really step up and compete for playing time with Roy Roundtree and Jeremy Gallon?
“Well I think Jerald Robinson is one guy you’re going to see more and more of. He got banged up a little bit I think somewhere, I don’t know, but nothing serious. But I think he’s a guy you’re going to see step to the forefront because he’s been very prominent in our practices. Jeremy Jackson and Drew Dileo have also been very very active in our passing game. So I think those people and then if some of the freshmen come in and show up and aren’t awed by their surroundings, they may be able to contribute. I think we’re good at the position. We’d like to be deeper, but I think we’re pretty good.”
You gave most of the snaps to Devin Gardner and Russell Bellomy today …
“Yeah, that’s what we were trying to develop. We decided before we came in that we were only going to play Denard just a little tiny bit. We wanted to see these other kids.”
Thoughts on their springs overall?
“Yeah I think Devin in particular has had an outstanding spring. He’s really done some very nice things and has developed in the position more and more. Needs more time in situations like this where there’s a lot of people watching and the pressure’s on and all that, but he has really done a nice job. And Russ -- I said it last week and the week before -- Russ has been steady and solid and guys get open he hits them. He makes very few mistakes. He’s just one of those kinds of guys. He too is very athletic and can get himself out of some messes. He’s a solid guy. We have three quarterbacks who I think … I’m not sure when their major contributions are going to come -- two of them, anyway -- but I think there will be a point in time when they’ll make a major contribution. I’m happy with the position.”
Rawls had some nice runs. Can he potentially be the more physical back you’re looking for?
“Yeah. He’s a different kind of runner than Fitz and a differnet kind of runner than Vince and Justice Hayes too, in that he’s a battering ram type of guy. He goes in there and when Thomas hits you you’re going to feel him. He makes no concessions to the defense. He’s got a little bit of stop and go ability, but I would not say that’s his game. His game is running through people and making it very difficult to tackle, and following forward. He’s done that all spring. You only saw a little bit of it today. In the 14 days previous, we’ve seen quite a bit of it. He’s another guy that, you have to understand our appraoch was not to entertain today. Our approach was to find out more about our football team. He’s one of the guys we wanted to find out [about], and he was going to be featured. The players that we needed to know about were the guys we let play more, him being at the top of that list.”
What did Burzynski do to push his way into a starting spot than guys who have been there longer?
“Well he worked his butt off. He’s still not in the starting position but he’s competing for one certainly. He’s worked his butt off and he’s very coachable. He’s worked hard for Coach Wellman. He’s very attentive. He takes everything to heart. It’s very important to Joe that he improve, and a guy like that is going to improve if that’s your appraoch. When you’re a walk-on and you’re battling to get in that depth, you’ll never get in that depth until you get someone’s attention. He just did a good job. We’re not really deep at offensive line. He’s had opportunities, and he’s taken advantage of them.”
When did he get your attention?
“We saw some last year. More this spring, you know. Early on he became a factor and decided that he was going to step up and compete for the postiion, but I would say the first three or four days of spring football.”
What was he showing you?
“Good, explosive get-off, number one. Good hand placement. Good hat placement on his drive and zone blocks. Pretty solid pass protector. Had a good feel for playing games, working with the guy next to him. When you’re not the most gifted guy, you have to have something else that llows you to play. Joe’s not a bad athlete, but he’s probably not as athletic as some of the other guys. That means you have to study the game and play with awareness. And I think that’s what he’s done as much as anything to put himself in the position that he’s in.”
Did he show any of these signs last season?
“Yeah, some. Some. Because the depth was different, it wasn’t as critical that we have him step up. Well the depth’s not quite what it was, now there’s an opportunity there. We tell the players every time there is [and opportunity] to seize the moment. He’s seizing the moment.”
We heard more about Chris Bryant at the end of last season than this spring. What does he need to do to get better and get back on track to play?
“Just keep going the way he’s going. He’s been set back from being banged up a little bit, too. Nothing major. Chris Bryant’s going to be a good player. The one thing you have to understand about an offensive linemen: in my opinion, I think offensive line is the most developmental position on the entire football team. There are very very few that can step up on day one and be right with it. Now every so often you get a tailback. I know when I was at UCLA, I had DeShaun Foster. The day he stepped on campus he was the best tailback we had and we had to find a way to play him. But you don’t find many linemen like that. Usually they have to go through some growing pains, get a little stronger, get a little more aware, and do some of the things I’m talking about with Joe. Chris Bryant’s going to be a good player. He just needs a little more of that development.”
Denard said he only threw off his back foot one or two times this spring. Was that the major improvement he made? Are there other areas he’s improved?
“That was the biggest one. There are two things. And you didn’t see much of Denard today, but if you could have you would have appreciated this a little bit more -- and I want to see it [keep] going before I go on about it too much. I’d like to see some carryover, but the two things that have gone away in Denard’s game is falling off throws or throwing off your back foot as you say, and number two is indiscriminate decision making. He had very very few interceptions this spring. Very few. He had cut his interceptions from last spring to this spring four times. Four times [fewer] interceptions. And that’s not unusual now for a guy that didn’t understand the offense. I said that last year our passing game was a drastic disparity from what they had done in years past, and there’s going to be some growing pains. We have to take the step into the fall because it’s all irrelevant if you don’t, but our passing game is enhanced immeasurably.”
"I can sing, but I'm sure you don't want to hear that."
Have there been things that have surprised you since the last time you spoke to us?
“Uh, let me think about that question. No major surprises. I think things have followed suit pretty well. We’ve had a couple kids perform pretty well, maybe better than they have been. Joe Burzynski would be one. Joe’s had a nice spring. He’s done a good job. Elliott Mealer. The two of them are competing for the job, so that’s good. Those two come to mind right away. I’m sure there are others who would be subtle surprises, but those two have done a good job battling each other for that spot.”
How has Brandon Moore looked?
“Brandon Moore is playing right now better than he’s played since he’s been here. He is. He’s still got a little ways to go, but when he is technically sound, takes the right steps and comes off the ball with a little bit of an attitude, he’s a pretty good player. Brandon’s got some talent, but his consistency of play is a little erratic. In terms of understanding what we do, I don’t think there’s any issues there. He’s a smart kid. Now that he understands it, the paralysis through analysis should be gone and pretty much is. He’s as aggressive as I’ve seen him and has demonstrated a certain degree of consistency that’s shown improvement.”
What about the guys behind him?
“Ricardo Miller and Mike Kwiatkowski. Ricardo’s more kind of an H-back or what we call the U position. All of those guys still practice playing on the line of scrimmage, but Ricardo’s a pretty athletic kid. Runs better than any of our tight ends. Still has a ways to go as a blocker. And then Mike Kwiatkowski, if I had another surprise, he would probably be the next one that I mention. Mike’s always been a very good receiver. His only issue has been his ability to play on the line of scrimmage because of the bigger guys, but he’s improved that. He’s a strong kid, he has good power, but he’s done a pretty nice job. Those three are probably in the fold as much as anyone.
If you had to start today, how comfortable would you be with what you have at that position?
“Well I think we’d be fine. Yeah I think we’d be okay. We still need to improve. I’m not comfortable at any position right now game-ready wise. We will use our personnel accordingly. If we feel like that position isn’t as strong as other positions, we’ll find a way to play other positions. If that position gets up to speed and up to snuff, then we’ll let them play a little more. It’s up to them. It’s really not up to us. It’s up to them. We will totally evaluate and assess every player on the team. Playing time will be dictated by their productivity and nothing else.
Who’s stepping up at wide receiver this spring?
“The same cast of characters, you know, save Jerald Robinson, who’s really proven some toughness because he’s been a little banged up, but he’s not bad. He’s done a very nice job. I’ve been happy with Jerald. Jeremy and Roy are doing a nice job. They know what to do. That’s what’s really nice about it. Not just that position -- every position. But they know what to do. We get very few missed assignments now whereas last spring it would be a carnival of missed assignments. And it always is, it’s not their fault -- new system, that’s going to happen. But we just don’t get it anymore from those players that have played significantly. Drew Dileo, again, is consistent, smart, tough. Jeremy Jackson -- Jeremy’s been healthy, and because he’s been healthy, his game has taken another step. It’s good to have him because he gives us some range at the position that we lost in junior. I think those are the guys that have been the most prominent.”
How has the learning curve for the offensive line been like?
“They’re in the same situation, I think, as the receivers or anybody else. They’ve got a much better feel for what to do. You know what’s a significant advantage, and it’s an advantage that you gain -- and that’s playing in a bowl game. When you play in a bowl game and particularly a bowl game that’s in January, you get extra practices and that helps everybody and not least of which is the offensive linemen, particularly the kids that aren’t playing much. You don’t want to beat up the kids that are. That bowl practice was invaluable to some of those young players.”
Is that why Mealer and Burzynski have had a chance to step up this spring?
“You bet. Yes. Absolutely. Darrell had a chance to work with those kids. The issues we had during the season are preparing X amount of players -- usually around 18 guys -- the rest of the team was the scout team. Well other than individual drills, you just don’t get a lot of practical application of the offense, whereas when you get into bowl practices, you’ve got enough time now to go back and look at those kids run your offense, not running an offense off cards. Those reps running our offense for those kids are very valuable. It’s almost like having a second spring football.”
Are you feeling like the chemistry is developing well?
“Yeah, it’s starting to come. A lot of that now, you have to understand, is dictated by the center’s ability to be confident in his position. Ricky is a work in progress still, but as Ricky becomes more and more comfortable in there, it has an infectious effect on the rest of the players. They all kind of take his lead a little bit. Like I told you before, he kind of quarterbacks the offensive line. If he’s on the same page with everybody else, that chemistry tends to take.”
How has Fitz looked?
“He’s been good. Really good. Really good. We’re trying to be careful with him, because he’s kind of proven himself. Not that we’re ever -- a guy’s always going to work. We’re not going to give him an easy way out, but by the same token when we go live and such, he’s going to carry the ball so he keeps well oiled, but we’re not going to run him into the ground and get him banged up, but he’s had an outstanding spring.”
What areas specifically?
“Run the football, his blocking has improved, his receiving -- every area has improved. He’s become more complete, and that was our goal coming in. He’s still not a finished product, no, and I don’t think any of them are, but he’s a kid where as a coach, you’re always looking for a group of kids who you have complete confidence in their ability to do what you want them to do in a game. And I tell them, ‘If we don’t, we’re not going to put you in a game.’ But he’s probably reached that point.”
How much better is he at blocking?
“His biggest issue, and I’ve said it before, was his vision a year ago, but that’s gone away. I see no signs of that being around anymore. It’s just running the ball and seeing the holes and knowing where your help's coming from, but that’s really it. He had to improve his protection -- no issues with toughness, just understanding how to position yourself so you can get good leverage to throw the block. He’s done that. We’re throwing him more balls than we have. He’s a prideful kid, and football’s important to him, so those types of kids tend to get better, especially if they have a lot of skill.”
What have you seen from Thomas Rawls this spring?
“Thomas is a different kind of back. He’s more of a power back. He brings a load now, because he’s a thick, strong, solid player with good speed. He’s going to generally fall forward when he hits you, and there’s going to be some impact when he hits you. Whoever’s trying to tackle him, particuarly in the open field, is going to feel him. But he’s got some of the same issues that Fitz had last spring, but they’re starting to go away I’ve noticed, too. He’s starting to see the line of scrimmage better and make better cuts and not run into bodies. Thomas, when he came in coming out of high school, and a lot of the guys do this -- the power backs just tend to want to run straight ahead and run over guys because they can’t tackle them, and the scat backs tend to want to juke everybody and never get up the field. Well the perfect back is somewhere in between. They understand when to use their power and understand when to use their stop and go ability, and Thomas is now gotten to a point where he’s not simply trying to run over everybody every time he gets the ball.”
Do you think it helped that he watched Fitz’s development last season?
“I don’t think it hurt him any. I think those are good mental reps, I call them, where you can steal repetition from a guy who may not have done it right, and then not have to bull it yourself. Have the coach critique it. There’s nothing like doing. I’m a big believer in body learning. Body learning means physically going through the trial and error part of it so that you can fix the mistake yourself. Mental reps are great. You have to take them, but the body learning is even more important. I talk in coaching about two things really that are important for players: one is body learning, and that’s reptition and such, and functional intelligence. Functional intelligence simply is the ability to transfer what you learn in the film room or on the chalkboard or in the locker rooms and practically apply it to the game. The progression, of course, is practice first. But it’s really irrelevant what your IQ is when you take a test when in fact when it comes time to execute the responsibility you’re not able to do it. Those two things, being able to body learn it and being intelligent enough to execute it when it’s time to execute it.”
How do you like Rawls’ functional intelligence?
“Good, because he understands better. He is still going through a few growing pains with our protection, but it’s not because he doesn’t know it. He just needs to body learn it a bit more.”
What’s your philosophy on the spring game? What do you hope to get out of it?
“Same thing as everything else -- evaluation, system, that’s usually what spring’s all about. See if we can find another playmaker. See if somebody jumps to the forefront when everybody’s watching. That’s when it’s really the most critical is when the lights go on. Sometimes guys in practice are better than they are when it really counts. Freddie J has a name for it -- State Street players or Main Street players. We’re going to find out who the Main Street players are. Or at least, we hope to.”
With Devin, how much have you experimented with his role?
“A little bit here and there. A little bit. Part of spring is experimentation, but it’s not really the emphasis. What we want to do as coaches is install our offense, refine our offense. Because we’re constantly evolving and trying to professionally enrich ourselves, we take little bits and pieces that we’ve learned in the offseason and try to apply them in spring football and test them a little bit, but that’s a small percentage of what we’re doing. That’s basically testing schemes. We’re much more interested in seeing to it that these kids are developed within our system and we can evaluate their skill level so when it comes time to play we can decide who deserves to.”
Do you feel like you’ve found a role for Devin?
“Yeah, I think so. I think right now it’s quarterback. I think he’s going to be the No. 2 quarterback and we’ll see how things go. Our approach to Devin hasn’t changed much. We’re going to find a way to get him on the field because he’s got skills that go over and above your average quarterback.
Is he far and above Bellomy as the No. 2 QB?
“No. No. No one is far and above anybody right now that I can think of. Russ Bellomy’s made a -- he has people’s attention. Russ is another kid that's really athletic, can throw the ball. Good functional intelligence. He’s a kid that needed more body learning, more reps, but he’s had a pretty good spring, too. He probably doesn’t get mentioned as much as he should, but he’s a good player.”
Have you had the opportunity to identify any spots where you might have to play freshmen?
“Yeah, well first of all, the guys coming in, we have no idea who’s going to help us. Neither does anybody in the entire country regardles of what you told them in recruiting. No one does, because sometimes guys come in and simply -- they’re just not as good or they’re not ready. Either one of the two. I have no idea what going to happen with that. We recruit every kid assuming they’re going to play for us, and we’ll just go from there. But this isn’t about that. This is about trying to get a team ready in 15 days and find out do they know your system and who has got the best chance to play at that point. Now when we get into the first weekend in fall, we start all over again. You install your system, evaluate what you have, and see who’s got the best chance to play at that point. You have a new batch of players.”
Could you see yourself doing some tailback by committee this fall?
“No. I see no reason for that. Not at this point. Fitz is clearly our tailback. If he isn’t, I’m not very smart. We’re going to spell him occasionally. He’s not going to be in there every play, but our last five or six games, you saw what our appraoch wanted to be, and that’s pretty much how it’s going to stay until it isn’t productive.”
MGoQuestion: Speaking of experimentation, it looked like there may have been a couple bubble screens in the highlight videos from spring practice. Are you --
“I have no idea what you’re talking about. Next question.”
BURKE ACK. Everyone's on alert after Sam Webb—previously confident—walked that back significantly last night on the premium Scout board. Rivals almost immediately provided a positive counterpoint but I think we all know who's had the better information over the last year or so. Dylan has "strong rumors on both sides of the coin." I'm stocking my bomb shelter.
Burke should hear an official word from the NBA advisory committee in two days. I haven't heard any analyst say he's a first rounder and the strong rumor I got said Burke wouldn't leave unless that's where he was projected; if that's the case we could get an announcement of a return shortly after. Once that date passes April 29th is the deadline. The April 10th date is meaningless.
This is wasting time I could be using buying canned goods.
This is cultural relevance. Via Matt Norlander and Jerry Hinnen, a curiosity left behind in the Kentucky locker room in the aftermath of their national championship:
It was probably inevitable that the end result of the Fab Five is the apotheosis of the one-and-done. Whether that's good or bad is in the eye of the beholder.
I WATCHED ALL-STAR HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL AND SURVIVED. It was a near thing, but I made it. Over the weekend I took in Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III playing in separate games of the ESPN something something classic something, and wondered why I was doing it. I can tell you these things:
- Mitch McGary is tall, but not as tall as some other guys.
- Glenn Robinson III can dunk very well…
- …but had a rough day at the free throw line.
Click through for McGary, who didn't look as good of a prospect in a barely-organized meaningless quasi-scrimmage that even the announcers regularly talked trash about. Hurrah for information.
Robinson looks like he'll be tough to keep off the court. After the game Dave Telep asserted that he and Sam Dekker were overlooked for the McDonald's game. It'll be interesting to see how the minutes shake out. Robinson says he's being looked at for the 2 and 3…
As far as next season goes, Robinson says he's currently putting in extra time on his 3-point shooting and his ball handling. He said the Michigan staff would like to use him as both a small forward and shooting guard next season, meaning he could be relied on to attack the rim off the dribble, distribute and score from deep.
…but I'm betting we see Michigan go with Robinson at the four for at least 15 minutes a game. That will depend on how Hardaway and Stauskas are playing and how comfortable Beilein is with a four who can't shoot threes.
Also a chic pick. Indiana is getting a lot of hype in everyone's way-too-early previews. Someone else getting hype: Michigan. Andy Katz:
The Wolverines will be in the top 10 if Trey Burke returns to school. He should. He would join freshman stud Mitch McGary and Tim Hardaway Jr., and a loaded class that also includes ESPNU 100 recruits Glenn Robinson Jr., and Nik Stauskas. The Wolverines have had a few defections, and that has disrupted a bit of their flow. But John Beilein has figured out the Big Ten, so Michigan will once again be in the mix.
Not to be outdone is Terry Hutchens of the Indianapolis Star:
3. Michigan: Trey Burke is the big key here. If he stays in school, Michigan is loaded considering what it has back and the addition of players like Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III. If Burke leaves, I think Michigan slips a few notches here. Losing Douglass and Novak would be bigger if a guy like Burke doesn’t return.
CBS has Michigan #5. Yeesh. I know we're talking Big Expectations next year but a one-seed is not the peak of my personal expectations distribution.
Twosie, the story. The Daily tracks down the man who sold Taylor Lewan his tandem bike:
Hakken asks Lewan where the coeds are going to sit, as he rides around with his friends. Tandem bikes are, after all, romantic.
“No girls are going to ride my twosie,” Lewan says, incredulously, and Hakken laughs again. He's never heard anyone call a tandem that before, but he chooses not to correct Lewan, who makes it clear he’s serious about buying the bike.
It's a story for the ages. In 2055 the most prestigious college football award will be the Taylor Lewan's Twosie, given to the best pair of starting tackles in the country.
Flufftasm. Not Michigan Replay is all "BCS Sugar Bowl champions but that's in the past," and MGoVideo has restored the rightful music that is right:
Reader Matt Stone points out that there's a (smoked) bubble screen around 8:52. Either way that's good—Michigan couldn't defend it at all last year, and never ran it in an effort to loosen up defenses.
Check out the segment on Michigan replacing Molk and Martin if only to hear Ricky Barnum pronounce hungry "hawngry." #doyouspeakflorida.
Talking to Al. I watched about an hour of this at the Glazier Clinic I went to and could have happily done another four:
"He invited me into a room…"
"…the film room."
Ohhhh oh. Oh. Carry on. Michigan Replay should be an hour of this every week. Two.
Overcoming tragedy, he selected extra value meal #3. If Elliott Mealer does end up winning the left guard job, you can ink the inevitable Tom Rinaldi feature in double-underlined ink. I just wonder if he'd like to be Elliott Mealer at this point instead of Overcoming Tragedy Elliott Mealer. Example AA.com headline:
Elliott Mealer overcomes tragedy, becomes leading candidate for starting spot on Michigan's offensive line
Maybe Elliott Mealer wants to be Guy With Mountain Man Beard instead.
Meanwhile, Brock update:
He continues to work out with Barwis three times per week, commuting from Ohio to BarwisMethods in Plymouth, and can now take 23 steps without any kind of support -- canes included.
A weakness! A palpable weakness! Alabama is moving Australian JUCO transfer Jesse Williams from defensive end to nose tackle, where surely he'll be an exploitable liabilit—
Dammit. Why are we playing a team with an entire extra recruiting class to sift through again?
Etc.: If Derrick Nix misses one minute against a real opponent this year for getting arrested for pot I'll eat… well, I'll be surprised. Unless he's got a couple of secret strikes already this will blow over before fall.
M has acquired its Sugar Bowl bling. Point of order: Michigan fans aren't "misinterpreting" Advice Columnist Mark Hollis's Burke-directed tweet. We know it's harmless greeting-card advice. We are mocking Hollis for being a 12-year-old who likes Twilight.