1. Is Michigan about to be on the wrong side of history?
When Rich Rodriguez was hired at Michigan, Gary Danielson infamously predicted Michigan would be the last major program to move to a spread offense. Five years later, Michigan is shedding the spread as the NFL adopts it en masse. I am a spread zealot, no foolies, and while I may be influenced by factors like…
- Associating pro-style offenses with Mike DeBord, "the expectation is for the position," and opponents saying they knew exactly what was coming game after game.
- Psychic scarring from things like Donovan McNabb, Carlyle Holiday, The Horror, The Post-Apocalyptic Oregon Game, Northwestern 2001, and even Braylonfest.
- Denard Robinson!
…I've also watched an awful lot of football over the past eight years and there seems to be no substitute for the defense-wrecking ability to run with a guy who can throw, and give him the ability to make that decision after the defense commits.
'bout to get yards'd
These days the thing that's all the rage is packaged plays that give the quarterback the ability to pick from a number of simple options based on the alignment of a couple players, and not just on the college level: Doug Marrone and company got scooped back up by the NFL largely because they ditched a complicated pro-style offense for quick decisions that make the defense wrong every time. Tavon Austin is a 5'8" wide receiver who went 8th overall in the NFL draft. The Great Satan in Columbus has Denard but tall at quarterback.
Meanwhile, the idea that Michigan needs to run a rough-and-tumble offense to cope with the rough-and-tumble Big Ten is total horseshit. If you haven't noticed, the Big Ten sucks at football, Michigan is recruiting a billion times better than anyone except Ohio State, and Ohio State is a spread option team. If we accept the fact that you have to run power to defend power, isn't the corollary there you have to run the spread to defend the spread? Clueless spread outing after clueless spread outing through Carr's career certainly suggests that. I mean, Michigan was fortunate to escape a home game against Northwestern last year because they gave up 248 rushing yards and 10 YPA.
Add in Michigan's stubborn adherence to the increasingly archaic huddle and it does seem like there's a little bit of dinosaur in the program even if Brady Hoke is hip to Romer. Arguments in favor of the huddle include feelingsball arguments like "it helps your quarterback be a leader"; arguments against include Nebraska lining up with 25 seconds on the play clock and checking into an RPS +3 play once they saw Michigan in a man to man alignment:
Where did they get that call?
From the sideline after they got lined up with 25 seconds on the clock and Michigan showed man coverage with one high safety. That was not aww shucks luck. It's using the extra information the defense gives you to exploit it. Michigan, meanwhile, is usually still in the huddle with 18 seconds on the playclock and often scrambles to the line with no other option than running what's called no matter what the D shows.
It kind of sucks that Michigan doesn't seem to want to do similar things. You'd think every coach would love the opportunity to get whatever information they can before making a decision.
Michigan's not using these newfangled offensive innovations. They suck so much at varying tempo that you, reader, have screamed "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" more than once in two-minute drills the last two years.
I love everything about Brady Hoke, but this is the one thing that makes me fret at night when I forget about Jabrill Peppers.
[After THE JUMP: DeBord is not Borges, Borges is not DeBord. Gardner confirm. Interior line muttering.]
Season prediction by computers
I'm sure you've seen Brian Fremeau's FEI projections already. If I remember correctly, they had us at 8 wins last year...
This year it's 7 wins. :( To tell you the truth, there have been so many positive comments about Gardner, I was starting to get confirmation bias. Your thoughts?
Statistical preseason rankings are often lagging indicators since in an effort to be at all reflective of reality they have to not only take data from the previous year but the previous few. This means they predict what has happened before will happen again. Fremeau's Program FEI rankings look at the last five years. For Michigan that includes the entire Rodriguez era.
They are therefore useless in this case except insofar as the 2010 recruiting class is still with us. Or not with us, as the case may be. I don't put a ton of stock into computer projections, and in Michigan's specific case it's barely any.
Reading the Braden/Bryant tea leaves
What do you/MGoBlog staff think about Braden being shifted to back-up OT?
1. Braden couldn't pull or otherwise do the things they want from their their guards?
2. Bryant has proven himself as a potential starter/legit back-up?
3. Some of both,
4. Completely unclear
I lean towards 1 with a bit of 3. It's clear they wanted Braden to be the guy, clear that Braden is a physical monster who demands you try to start him as soon as he's off a redshirt, and also clear that he's not really a guard. Or at least it became clear. Otherwise he would still be competing there, and Glasgow would be competing at center, and the possibility that Bryant's radiator goes out midseason would be covered by the prospect of playing Braden.
HOWEVA, I do think Bryant has legitimately emerged as an option. For one, chatter. For two, they moved Braden back outside, seemingly permanently.
Legends patches. Merph.
19 coulda been a contendah
As three more players get their numbers exchanged for Legends jerseys this year, I shake my head and pine for what #19 could have meant for Michigan fans in three years. My buddy's #10 jersey is now Just Another Brady. Are the jerseys taking away from the chance for new players to carve out their own place in Michigan history?
One man's solution: Assign Legends jerseys (and maybe even some retired numbers?) on one game a year. Homecoming is an obvious choice- the alumni presence will appreciate the old numbers more. Let the players assert, through the first half of the season, who deserves to wear a Legends number, and since it's only one game a year, they don't have to give up their own. Thoughts?
Yes, they are taking away the ability for players to carve out their own number legacy. I was looking forward to seeing #19 on the field and thinking about Funchess, having tight ends want the #19, having a Funchess patch on #19, etc. Now that's not happening. Funchess can annihilate TE receiving records and go zeroth in the NFL draft and no patch. Ditto Gallon: guy was #10, and now he's just the latest guy to wear #21 for one year. (I actually mind the Avery move less, since he's not likely to be a guy you remember forever and sigh about. Rewarding a senior captain who isn't an out-and-out star with the fancy patch is a good thing.)
While your suggestion is an upgrade on the current situation, they should just issue legends jerseys like normal numbers to incoming freshmen. Maybe hold them out and hand them out to promising sophomores—Jake Ryan getting 47 early in his sophomore year is much different than switching a guy burned into your head as some other number. But just hand them out to kids who want them when they show up.
Getting overly precious about numbers is blowing them up, as can be seen with the effectively-retired #1. Players should get numbers and never change those numbers, and I miss handlebar mustaches and gangrene.
Ohio State: what to do?
Now that you've looked at some of the OSU game (and I assume managed to stomach some of the run plays again as well), what are your impressions of Borges's second half game plan.
My feelings have been, after watching it a couple times, that the game plan wasn't nearly as much an issue as execution. While some of the play calls didn't lend when to Michigan's abilities, basic execution (such as the interior OL managing to make an effective double at the point of attack so Michigan could pick up a single yard) far out-weighed the possibly poor play calling aspects of the game. Even Lewan struggled to execute regularly in this game IMO.
Again, while I freely admit the game plan and play calling was far from perfect, as with most cases, I think 9 out of 10 times it's execution that is the issue more so than what most fans see as an OC screwing it up with play calling. IMO, if there is any issue, it was the offensive coaches not getting the players up to a point where they could execute fairly simple tasks regularly. What's your take on the situation.
While execution was a major issue, Michigan had to know that was going to be a problem. The OL had been flailing since at least the Nebraska game. OSU had a front seven laden with players who were always going to overwhelm Michigan's interior line. So I was on-board with the three first-half running back carries. More than doubling that in the second half was foolish.
Also foolish: expecting that Ohio State would not cotton on to the fact that Denard could not throw. The third-down speed option was doomed since the free safety was plunging down at the slot. Meanwhile, Borges called a ton of pointless rollouts (remember that John Simon was out) that ended up as inaccurate passes as Gardner couldn't set his feet.
The argument about execution always gets my dander up, because you as a coordinator are responsible for putting your players in a position to succeed. Their ability to execute opens up some possibilities and closes off others, but—for instance—asking Denard Robinson to execute on naked bootlegs on which a player will always be in his face the instant he turns around is on you, the coordinator. You have to execute as well.
I think Borges's options were limited, but three things stand out:
- Refusing to run Gardner. He had three attempts. Michigan could have used the extra blocker on short yardage badly.
- Telegraphing second-half run plays with Robinson. You had to know that 19 of the 20 minutes at halftime were spent saying "DENARD CANNOT THROW".
- Incessant rollouts.
(And he got super lucky on Michigan's final drive of the first half, as he'd managed to turn a two minute drill into a 30 second drill in two plays… and then Denard stayed up.)
I've detailed why I think Borges's gameplans in three games in particular were atrocious (2011 Iowa, 2011 Michigan State, and 2012 Notre Dame) because they asked players to do things they weren't good, over and over again.
Borges's philosophy is about as opposed to Rodriguez's as can be, and that's fine. He has track records of very efficient offenses in his past. He will have them in the future. But his desire to do Borges things with players ill-suited to do them cost Michigan a couple games over the past couple years. The Ohio State game is probably not in that category… but it's debatable.
"How we doin'?"
Great. Are you game ready yet?
"Getting there, yeah. We're getting there. Now that we've kind of shaved it down to the guys that we think are going to participate in a game, that's always kind of when you start making a little bit more progress. You're not working with your third team guys all the time. You're working with the guys that are actually going to play in the game. You can start getting a little chemistry, and it starts going better."
You have six running backs on the depth chart. How many do you think will actually get carries?
"Who knows? I don't know. Fitz [Toussaint] is going to be our starting running back, and we're going to play it by ear. I don't have an answer to that question because Fitz is going to be the running back and we'll just see how things go."
Have you ever listed six guys at running back before?
"I think so. At one point I did. It may not have been at running back. Yeah, I'm sure I have, yeah. At some place I've been. That's a lot, though. I will say that."
"These high chairs are not really built for me. Hrnggh. How's my hair look?"
Great. Bad news about Amara Darboh. How do you compensate for that?
"Well, fortunately we have some pretty good kids that can fill in, but I feel probably worse for him than anybody. The kid had an excellent spring ball and capped it off with a fabulous two-a-days. He was playing good. I feel bad because I really feel like this was going to be a big, almost maybe even a coming-out season for him. But he's got a redshirt, so I guess there's a silver lining, but I just feel bad for the kid."
Does this maybe put a little more pressure on Jehu Chesson?
"Well Jehu would do it. Joe Reynolds will be out there. Jeremy Jackson. We have some capable replacements, thank goodness. All those guys, not just Jehu, but everybody."
Will you consider any position changes to try to get some depth?
"Oh I don't think so. I think we're still okay. We can't lose too many more."
Are any of the freshmen capable at this point?
"No. No. Not really."
"No. Not yet. But we're not completing eliminating them, either. Not yet, anyway."
"Heiko, what's up? How's it going?"
MGo: Not bad. How are you?
"Good ... I'm supposed to give a shout out to Devin Gardner. Don't ask me what that's about. So I did it, okay?"
"Well this is pretty easy."
How comfortable has Devin Gardner looked in practice?
"Pretty comfortable, yeah. Like I said last time, he's pretty confident in nature. He's been in the system now for a while. Understands what we want. For the quarterback, if he thinks like the coaches, which I think he's doing more and more of, it really gives him a chance."
Have you seen specific elements that he improved on over the summer?
"Oh yeah. Yes. Just understanding route structure, decision-making. All that comes when you play more, obviously, but there's a big difference in terms of just knowing where to go with the ball, timing of the cuts, how we work ... we work a lot on improv stuff because he's athletic, but we would do this with any quarterback. We work a lot on when we break contain or push the pocket, when something doesn't happen by structure and he has to make something happen. So we work more and more on that kind of stuff. We work on the receivers and where they're supposed to be and all that stuff. He's getting a really good understanding of that, too."
"Is that salmon?"
"Canteloupe? We use that as an audible color. How you guys doing?"
"It's been a while. Can't tell you how much I've missed you. You guys kind of sensed a hint of sarcasm, didn't you? Heiko! I made you a hero. Unbelievable."
Thoughts on Devin's maturity?
"Yeah, he's doing a nice job. When you know that you've done it so long -- he's always been a pretty confident kid anyway, but now that he has a chance to kind of be the guy, I think he's taken the next step."
What's it like having two experienced tackles?
"Yeah, you know, when Taylor said he was coming back, that was a great, great day for Michigan and for our offense because breaking in a new left tackle is never fun. I don't care what level it is. But Mike Schofield, who doesn't get talked about as much but is really a good athlete. He can move. He was a hurdler in high school. He's got a lot of talent. Mike's played a lot. He's played guard, he's played tackle. I think he's kind of fit into a comfort zone a little bit with tackle, not to where he's complacent, but he's comfortable in the position now. He kind of had to relearn the position a little bit. He's been in the offense. He's been pretty consistent the first couple days and in the spring."
<Falsehoods galore after the jump>