so much for that
Long. Splitting into halves.
It's a trend: Michigan spring games have returned to their sleepy past, meaning little and failing to reveal Savior Quarterback Who Will Save Us. This is a good thing, since the titanic importance of spring games under Rodriguez was symptomatic of a program drunkenly staggering from one rickety support to another.
It would be nice if Michigan could put together an actual game like you see at OSU, ND, and many SEC schools. Maybe next year.
Anyway, highlights to remind you of some of the things chattered about below:
The most important thing that happened yesterday was Hoke muttering something about Jake Ryan's return timeframe:
"I'm not a doctor, but possibly middle of October. Some people react differently."
That would be excellent. The critical bit of Michigan's schedule is… well, all of November, when they play State, Nebraska, Northwestern, Iowa and OSU, ie: the top half of their division, Iowa, and The Game. The only games before November that look competitive are against Notre Dame and Penn State, and Penn State should start dropping off what with their sanctions.
Ryan may even be back for that one, which is on the 12th. Indiana and a bye week follow, so Ryan may not just be back by the important bits of the schedule but established. As far as devastating season-ending ACL injuries to your best player on defense go, I like this one more than I expected I would.
Meanwhile, Blake Countess and Fitzgerald Toussaint both warmed up like nothing untoward had happened to them. (Neither was taking contact.) Countess's injury is far enough in the past that it's reasonable to expect that. Seeing Toussaint out there was a moment of shock for me. He didn't take any contact but if he's out there running five months before the season he will certainly be available in fall, which is when those soccer players who had the same injury came back anyway.
Devin Gardner Looked Good
this picture feels goooood (Eric Upchurch)
If Denard Robinson hadn't gotten hurt, this would have in fact been a Big Deal, as Gardner would be an heir apparent with no track record except his performance in the three previous spring games: awful, awful, and awful. With five starts dwarfing all spring data in importance, it's not a big deal. It is nice. Precisely nice.
In this one he did throw his traditional pick six to a linebacker he doesn't see coming underneath a receiver (Desmond Morgan dropped this one); aside from that he was 11 of 15 for about 140 yards, picking up where he left off in the fall. That's a very large jump from last year, when Gardner's performance had everyone buzzing about how Russell Bellomy looked like a plausible backup and let's just move Gardner to wide receiver already.
Here's the part you'll see about six more times before the opener about how if you extrapolate Gardner's statistics out to a full season you get some crazy numbers: 60% completion percentage, 9.7 YPA, 29:13 TD:INT, and nearly 3200 yards passing. That would be a Michigan record for TDs and brush up against John Navarre's 2003 season for yards. It would also vie for the best YPA season in the era when offenses throw the ball more than ten times a game—Jim Harbaugh hit 9.9 in 1986*.
Those numbers are a touch flattering since they include the bail-out against Northwestern and a couple of long touchdowns generated more by the defense screwing up than Gardner doing anything amazing—thinking primarily of Roundtree against OSU here. But then again we're talking about a guy who had been playing most receiver before being thrust into the starting job against Minnesota and a statline assembled against a set of defenses that were collectively pretty good. Pass efficiency Ds for the five Gardner opponents: 23rd (Minnesota), 33rd (Northwestern), 75th (Iowa), 29th (OSU), and 34th (South Carolina). At most one of those is a flailing patsy, and even the dismal Iowa defense was a far cry from MAC snacks not named Central Michigan.
Anyway: Gardner's calm demeanor and accuracy is another chunk of evidence to put on the pile. Maybe a small one, sure.
*[Rick Leach had a whopping 11 YPA in 1979, but only threw the ball 130 times. Yes, he only threw 130 times when he had Anthony Carter as an option. Football has changed.]
Running Backs: Wait Until Fall
With Fitzgerald Toussaint now certainly on the list of running backs not participating on Saturday who will be major threats for playing time, any conclusions drawn here are likely to be about the guy getting two carries a game behind Fitz and Derrick Green or DeVeon Smith. But it is spring, when we display our most colorful obsessions in an attempt to win mates. Let us proceed.
Going by the substitution patterns it seemed like Justice Hayes was tentatively your starter. He took advantage of this situation to average 0.5 YPC on two carries. Drake Johnson picked up less than a YPC himself, leaving Thomas Rawls and Dennis Norfleet to pick up the only real gains of the day by a tailback.
Both of those backs were going up against primarily backups. Usefulness: not assured. I mean, in one of the longish Rawls runs above he breaks a tackle from Terry Richardson, who's still about a buck fifty soaking wet. In the other a walk-on SAM gets crushed inside and the corner is open for days.
It will surprise no one that I thought Norfleet looked good. In the run featured at 2:10 in the highlight video he's behind mostly walk-ons and facing mostly starters. Black beats up Blake Bars and forces Norfleet away from blocking. Norfleet slips behind that block so fast that RJS has no shot at him, then he jukes Jeremy Clark out of his jock—and this is important for any coach but especially one Brady Hoke—to go north-south. On his other quality run (sadly not included in the highlights) he did the same thing: threaten outside so he could cut north-south and finish his run.
(@ right: Upchurch)
They did include the blown up zone stretch, and on that one you can see he just doesn't have a chance as Keith Heitzman rips through a block and forces Norfleet outside into Cam Gordon. He probably should have just eaten a two yard loss instead of testing Gordon.
Here's the thing though: Michigan didn't show a snap of pistol or much of anything, really. You know Al Borges loves his throwback screens, especially when he's got a guy as mobile as Gardner threatening the other side of the field. Who do you want grabbing those? Obviously Norfleet. Okay maybe Hayes, but we haven't really seen anything from him in that regard yet. Whoever gets that role has got to be plausible enough as an inside runner and blocker to not be a flashing throwback screen signal. I think we saw a couple things from Norfleet that bode well in that regard.
It's harder to get excited about Rawls given what we saw from him last season. Norfleet has the advantage of being a new toy, at least when it comes to getting carries in the backfield.
Receivers: Are They Supposed To Be A Problem?
Jeremy Gallon is going to catch a billion passes this fall, lots of them hitches, some of them hitch and go, some of them comeback screens. It's not so much the frequency with which Gardner targeted him on Saturday that makes me say this but the ease of the connection. When Gardner's throwing at Gallon it just seems easy.
Gallon reminds me of that moment after Braylon's departure when Michigan tried to establish Breaston as a deep threat. This was a rousing success until the moment Breaston had to bring in a ball over his head. IIRC he dropped it literally every time. But by God he was open.
Gallon is like that. His change of direction is elite, and Michigan is going to go hitch hitch hitch seeya this fall. By God, Gallon will be open. The difference: Gallon can actually catch downfield. His stature always makes him a tough target—see that corner route Gardner zinged well over his head—but we've seen him make a bunch of tough catches. Hell, he's even effective on fade routes in the endzone, a development that is still mindblowing even months afterwards.
Upshot: don't care if he's small, Gallon is a legit #1. Hell, he was fourth in the league in receiving yards last year despite operating in a Denard-centered offense for most of it. Let's have more Fun With Extrapolation: Gallon's hypothetical stats if Gardner was QB all year: 81 catches, 1330 yards.
Meanwhile, the guys surrounding Gallon will be fine. Drew Dileo didn't do much in the spring game but we've established who he is: a sure-handed slot guy who will find the foot of space he needs to convert on third and six. Devin Funchess should be a much bigger factor in year two. This is a proverbial weapon:
Darboh looked good finding a 30-yard fade on the first play from scrimmage; Jeremy Jackson made some plays. They'll have 4-5 solid options to go with a great #1. As points for concern go, this one doesn't register with me.
As for the second-year guys, Darboh seems a bit ahead of Chesson; both will play. You can see why Chesson redshirted last year when you get him next to Darboh, as Bryan Fuller did:
Still a bit of a Caris LeVert vibe from Chesson. They might have to protect him against jams by having him off the line, that sort of thing. Darboh looks like that won't be a problem.
I can't tell you I noticed a lot of details live, but one thing did jump out: Graham Glasgow seems to be making a serious push for playing time. He got plenty of snaps with the ones at both guard spots and center. He was the nominal starter at left guard over Ben Braden; at the very least it seems like he'll be the first interior lineman off the bench in the event a starter is hurt. He's their utility infielder.
The rest of the line seems set, with Kyle Kalis taking a large majority of the first team RG snaps and Jack Miller the same number at center. It is vaguely possible the arrival of Patrick Kugler or emergence of someone down the depth chart upsets the order of things, but I think that's your interior line: Glasgow OR Braden, Miller, Kalis. Joey Burzynski seems to have dropped back from the group with serious playing time prospects. Chris Bryant was well down the depth chart but did get on the field some. He could emerge if the injury is still holding him back.
Performance was a mixed bag. Michigan seems to want to pull Kalis to Lewan on a lot of plays. Good in theory; not entirely executed in practice. For example, at 1:10 in the highlights above you get a replay of last year's MLB misidentification: Michigan wants to run power behind Lewan with Kalis pulling; Michigan blitzes the A-gaps; Miller doesn't read this and sets up to block nobody; an unblocked Ross meets Johnson in the backfield, with Morgan unblocked right behind. Braden got smoked by Black for a sack a bit later.
Michigan yanked Lewan relatively early. Michigan put Erik Magnuson out there, and he did just okay. Pass rush was a lot easier to get with Lewan out of there (surprise!). Given the push Braden is making at guard I bet that any Lewan injury—knock on wood—sees Schofield flip to LT with Braden moving to RT and Glasgow drawing in at guard, if he's not already on the field. Michigan prefers a best-five-guys approach over any specific positional backup.
Defense in a bit.
Lloyd Carr approves of this quote in the Michigan locker room. Via Rittenberg
A long time ago there was a thing called foot-ball that was so important we'd spend a month or two talking about foot-ball team practice that happened months before the foot-ball team played a foot-ball game. This was called "spring" no matter what happened to be happening out your windows.
I have just been informed by other parts of my brain that the "spring game" will be held tomorrow, and will still be called that despite a forecast of 43 degrees and a 22 mile per hour wind. This will be the last opportunity to get data on foot-ball until fall, whereupon excitement will descend upon the land again.
Here's everything I threw in a post because I was too busy with the Final Four run to do them any justice, and just in time.
The Peel Down The Fingers Of Michigan To Create An Obscene Gesture Offense
It's a working title. Shut up.
Denard Robinson has graduated. This is a terrible event for a lot of people, but probably not Al Borges. Borges can now stop jamming his brain into a spread coach's and do what he wants to do without everyone getting mad at him (until it doesn't work once). Lewan:
"I feel like (offensive coordinator Al) Borges is much more comfortable running this kind of offense than he’s been running for the last however many years."
What this will look like is still unknown even after Devin Gardner's five-game run as the starter, because…
- Michigan had spent most of the last two years focusing on Denard's unique talents and deficiencies
- They still had those talents for three of those five games and ended up running an even weirder hybrid offense than the weird hybrid created by matching Denard and Borges
- The NFL just started running this stuff so now it's cool with NFL bros.
Earlier in spring, Borges referenced the innovative stuff they were doing at places like San Francisco and Seattle—yes in fact just like that annoying NFL fan you know who dismisses the read option as gimmickry.
“You have to look at some of the stuff that [the NFL is] doing. Particularly because it’s pro football and running quarterbacks by design has not been a really popular thing to do in pro football over the years."
The upshot of this is scattered bouts of read option, a lot of it on the playside (ie: inverted veer), and a pistol package that could be anything from a quickly-discarded experiment to essentially the base offense depending on how well it works. There will also be fullbacks. : /
Andy Staples visited Ann Arbor and came back with an excellent article on the transition process that started immediately after last year's Nebraska game. It is unfortunately light on details.
We do know that Al Borges knows chick dig the long ball, and that Gardner is quite adept at unleashing the dragon.
"I kind of know sometimes what they're doin' before they do it," Gardner said of the defense. "I don't think (defensive coordinator Greg) Mattison's very happy about that."
Safety Thomas Gordon affirmed Gardner's take, saying the quarterback has had his way with Michigan's secondary at times -- a secondary that ranked fifth against the pass last year.
"Devin, he'll let that thing fly," Gordon said. "With him back there, he can throw it, he can roll out. He can do everything. You never know with Devin, so you always have to be on your P's and Q's.
"He can pick you apart. He's been testing us so far this spring, and (secondary coach Curt) Mallory has been on the DBs' heads."
It's going to be a Tyler Bray kind of thing out there.
Interior Line: Mustachioed. Nicknamed. Mean?
talking with Jack Miller
Michigan returns both tackles, who will be great. They replace the three other guys on the line. Since that portion of the line was so bad a year ago—try to gain a yard, anyone not named Denard Robinson, moohaha—no one's freaked out about this. But it would be nice if the new guys were better.
If facial hair is any help, by God they will be.
They're calling themselves "The Muzzy Maulers". And they're building chemistry one mustache at a time.
"What are we calling this?," Miller shouted to fifth-year senior left tackle Taylor Lewan, who like an older brother was watching his young center take on his first media pack of the spring. "The 'Muzzy Maulers'. That's kind of the new nickname. There's a mustache thing going on and Taylor's already taking advantage of it. I haven't yet because I have a boy mustache."
Jack Miller is picking up both the hirsuteness baton and the quote machine baton, which bodes well. In that article he notes that a bunch of the offensive linemen have gone so far as to live together in an effort to operate as one mind, describes Kyle Kalis as "a man" for his mustache-growing ability, and contains multitudes in an answer to the question "what did you learn from David Molk?"
"What did I learn from David Molk?," Miller laughs at the question.
Let me fix that for you, Mr. Miller.
What did I learn from David Molk that I can repeat to a reporter without causing Brady Hoke to explode?
And then there's… oh hell just read the whole article, I can't blockquote everything interesting that Miller says. The upshot is that Miller is larger and 70% as mean as David Molk on a scale ranging from Molk to Mealer. It sounds like he has a strong grip on the job, which is what I was hoping for with just walk-ons and incoming freshman Patrick Kugler backing him up:
Talked with offensive line coach Darrell Funk this morning about his group, which has to replace three starters in the middle. He mentioned that Jack Miller has been the most consistent interior lineman so far this spring, but he's being pushed by Joey Burzynski and Graham Glasgow. He said redshirt freshmen Kyle Kalis and Ben Braden have come a long way. And it sounds like it's a little easier to have youth inside than at tackle.
The buzz has been within in the sunnily positive range:
"This is by far the best spring start (they've had) since I've been here," fourth-year quarterback Devin Gardner said.
As of two weeks ago, Joey Burzynski was still running with the ones—that'll be something to watch for at the Spring Game. No offense to Burzynski, but I think everyone's hoping Kyle Kalis locks onto the right guard job with the jaws of death.
Meanwhile, the other guard spot is Ben Braden's to lose.
It’s hard to get a read on the young interior linemen right now, but one name that’s constantly floated by coaches and players is Ben Braden.
"He's going to be a hell of a guy to get around when he's coming downhill at you," Lewan said.
Lewan said he's excited about Michigan's offensive line looking more like the lines of old.
"The tradition of mauling people up and down the field is really cool, and it's fun to see people give up on the other side of the ball, not us," Lewan said. "Everybody's got a nasty streak. These guys really get it."
While I don't think anyone's making an explicit comparison to last year's collection of nice guys who had trouble consistently identifying the middle linebacker, my mind immediately goes there. "It's fun to see people give up on the other side of the ball, not us" is kind of a brutal shot at last year's interior line, right? Am I crazy?
In any case, the meanness here and the options at the guard spots should provide Michigan more consistent production, and by that I mean "any production."
Catchists Of Size
Michigan's got a couple of good receivers in Drew Dileo and Jeremy Gallon; they'll need a couple more to fill out Gardner's targeting array. With a zero-receiver class in Hoke's first year and a collection of sleepers in year three, the onus falls heavily on second-year guys Amarah Darboh (a sophomore) and Jehu Chesson (a redshirt freshman). Both have come in for considerable buzz. Darboh is in the Avant mold; Chesson in the Edwards mold.
"Jehu, in one-on-ones, he’s just flying by people with his speed. Doing all these amazing things. You can tell he’s learning." -- Receiver Jeremy Gallon
Chesson also made a ridiculous diving catch in the scrimmage video (at about 2 minutes):
Chesson looks like the football team's Caris LeVert—earlier in that video he gets a ball he should catch raked out by a defensive back. He's probably not going to be too good at getting off jams or dealing with bump and run yet, but that's what stacked formations are for.
Meanwhile, the siziest catchist, Devin Funchess, is calling himself a "pretty boy." In a negative way, not like he's a parrot:
"I was like a pretty boy that didn't want to get hit," he humbly admitted on Thursday. "Now I know that I have to change many aspects of my game, change my mindset. Now I just go in there and stick my head in as much as possible.
"I believe I wasn't ready for the Big Ten because it was a tougher game."
While everyone else was staring at the box score, circling his lack of receptions and wondering why he wasn't being targeted more, Funchess and the coaching staff were more concerned about his blocking.
"I have to help the team win," Funchess said of his offseason reprograming. "I learned that because at the end of last year I missed some blocks, some key blocks. And it hurt the team."
That is accurate. I am a bit concerned that he hasn't added any weight—seems like Michigan would like him at 250 if he is going to be a Y TE. It doesn't matter how good of a blocker you are at 230 pounds, you are just an oversized wide receiver.
"I hang out with all of them, but I can't hang out with the lineman too much because I can't grow facial hair," Funchess said. "I'm just a young lad; can't really grow it."
Unleash The… Dangit James Ross You Don't Fit With "Unleash The"
This site has been hyping up James Ross since midway through last year when every time I'd look at tape, Ross would be getting to the right spot at the right time. Sometimes he had issues despite that, as in the Iowa game when Mark Weisman ran over a perfectly-positioned Ross repeatedly.
a history of nonviolence
If Ross can just go from the above to wrecking people, he'll be all-conference. At least. What's that, Devin Gardner? You've decided to put some practice clips of Ross wrecking people on the internet?
I'll be peering at him for hints of the above tomorrow—and this site's breakout player prediction is no secret. Michigan is moving Desmond Morgan to MLB for a reason. Ross has to start.
Freak Clark To The Rescue
Lo and it came to pass that there was a man who had not really done much so far in his career who entered spring practice a different man and was called exciting things.
Both [starting tackles], asked open-endedly which defensive lineman provides the most difficult matchup in practice, offered the same answer: Frank Clark.
"He’s just so quick. He’s got such a quick step, it's hard to handle him. He's a freak," said Schofield, who wasn't the only Michigan player to invoke the F-word.
Added senior defensive lineman Jibreel Black: "Ever since Frank came in here, he's been a freak athlete. It's just a matter of putting it all together."
And this always worked out and never did not work out. Amen.
Jake Ryan's ACL tear makes finding some more pass rush—already priority one for a defense that was pretty good in all other aspects—absolutely critical. Fortunately, hulked-up WDE Frank Clark is far and away your Grady Brooks Memorial Spring Hype Award winner. Por ejemplo:
What they're saying: "I feel like he’s more focused, just to become our No. 1 pass rusher. I feel like he’s definitely proven he can do that. I think he’s realizing he’s older now, and wants to step up, especially now with Brennen moving. He’s among the quickest defensive linemen I’ve ever faced, and he’s got a nice little bull-rush too. He can mix it up on you." -- Right tackle Michael Schofield
I've heard that Lewan and Clark have a nice little practice rivalry going. To have one of those means you're evenly matched, or at least close. Lewan is hyping and hyping:
"I think, no doubt in my mind, he's an All-Big Ten player -- if not more," Lewan said Tuesday of the weak-side defensive end. …
Clark claims he's gotten the best of Lewan in practice.
"Perception is reality," Lewan countered. "If he wants to perceive it that way, then yeah."
He's seen his share of pass rushers, from Tom Gholston to Jadeveon Clowney. Michigan would like Clark to end up closer to the Clowney end of things, though obviously not particularly close because holy pants that guy.
Grady Brooks didn't do anything at all after his spring hype; guys like Breaston did. Let's go Breaston.
In other pass-rush hope, early-enrollee Taco Charlton came in at 6'6", 265 and is getting buzz of his own. Gardner:
He's huge to begin with. He comes in big enough to play. He's fitting in. He doesn't look like a freshman. He knows what he's doing out there.
Mario Ojemudia is in there too, though he's by far the smallest of the available WDEs and may be restricted to nickel rush duties.
Wherefore Art Binkie
Jordan Kovacs is gone. While Marvin Robinson still seems to be taking most of the first-team snaps, if you made me guess I'd say Jarrod Wilson would push past him to start. Wilson enrolled early and was the third safety a year ago. He knows what was the most important part of the tao of Kovacs:
Even with all the extra work he puts in, Wilson might consider himself first and foremost a student of Kovacs.
The former captain has been in and out of Ann Arbor this winter, dropping by Schembechler Hall periodically for workouts, and though Wilson really hasn’t had the opportunity to pick Kovacs’s brain, the year he spent observing Kovacs while on reserve has given him insight into the kind of safety he’s striving to be.
“His instincts and what to expect even before the play has even started,” Wilson said of what he’s picked up by watching Kovacs. “He could come out and tell you what the offense was going to run due to line splits, wide-receiver splits, quarterback and everything. I pretty much learned pre-snap reads from him.”
That reminds me to put Kovacs on my future Michigan coach wish-list. Oh hell yes.
This article was based off a dumping-ground where I put ever article that flipped past me during Michigan's tourney run, and as I finish it I notice that certain things are absent. Quick take time.
Running back. A murky mess with no clear leader. Drake Johnson has come in for some coach hype; I've heard Justice Hayes is looking good; everyone's waiting for Derrick Green and DeVeon Smith to rumble into camp in fall. Biggest thing might be seeing whether Hayes or Norfleet can lock down the third down back role.
Tight ends. Can AJ Williams block now? Is he a downfield threat after the weight loss? I don't know.
Defensive line. Are they really going to roll with 276-pound Jibreel Black as the starting three-tech? How's Pipkins doing? Who will start at SDE?
Linebacker. Cam Gordon, please be good.
Cornerback. Countess is still limited so some uncertainty is still there even though the top three spots appear to be taken by quality players.
Sorry to interrupt your day of madness with more football right now, but since the Spring rosters were recently published it's time for that annual MGo-Tradition of way overanalyzing weights and numbers and stuff...which Brian just informed me he's working on too [ED: this was written on Monday] after I got most of this written so figure this is Part II to that. By request the Depth Chart by Class received a major overhaul. Clicking on a name will bring up their MGoRecruiting profiles, hovering over a name gives you the current height, weight, and the player he'd most resemble if everything works out.
Before we get to the new faces, let's pick through that video. Non-bullets:
Offensive Line-Up: Miller seems to be the #1 center. The first clip shows him snapping the ball to Gardner, who hands off to Justice Hayes. Later while Lewan is talking we see two snaps (both of them pulls to Schofield's side) where the 1st team goes and the second team steps up in order behind them. Screen grab:
Starters at the moment appear to be Schofield-Burzynski-Miller-Braden-Lewan. Second team is Gunderson-Kalis-Glasgow-Bars-Mateus. Magnuson (at RT), Ben Pliska (at C) and Bosch (at LG) are the guys walking up behind them. Chris Bryant appears to not be doing these things yet; I don't know where LTT is, nor preferred walk-on Dan Gibbs. I'm not so worried about Kalis since the coaches still love him and it's early enough in spring that you'd expect a freshman to be behind last year's first backup. That Braden's practicing with the ones ahead of the 5-star, and he's the guy pulling, seem to bode very nice things for him—like potential star things. I am worried that there may not be enough guys in the picture above to make two teams for a real spring game.
Thomas Gordon interview. He says this year's defense is much faster. Let's qualify that; here's our current expectations for new starters vs. the departures:
- Kovacs to winner of safety free-for-all: Thomas Gordon appears to be sliding down to strong safety but the other spot could be any of Jarrod Wilson, Josh Furman, Marvin Robinson, Dymonte Thomas, Jeremy Clark, Allen Gant or Delano Hill, and if anything can be gleaned from Hoke's comments that list is a pick 'em through Thomas right now. Unless it's Clark or Gant the safeties are gaining a lot of speed, though that's overrated next to Kovac's intuitiveness.
- Demens/Morgan/Ross/Bolden to Morgan/Ross/Bolden. Ross and Bolden are the faster dudes, though apparent speed at linebacker is more instinctual than athletic. We're trading Demens's underrated coverage and size for a sizeable jump in response time, which should work out to better run defense offsetting the loss in pass pro.
- Roh/Campbell to Wormley/Heitzman/Black. But don't totally discount Godin, who's the guy in the video providing the requisite attack on a sled. I've got Wormley hype in my shopping cart and need just one more positive review to buy. It may seem weird that the coaches are still saying the 290-lb. redshirt freshman is an SDE while Jibreel Black, holding steady at 276, is the presumed DT, but remember they did the same with Heininger at 3T and RVB at 5T much of 2011. They're pretty interchangeable.
- JT Floyd to Blake Countess. An upgrade.
A more accurate description would be the further you get from the line the greater the intensity of a general shift from greater experience to greater talent. It's hard to say if the net will be a better defense until we see what kind of sophomore leap we got out of the Class of 2011.
Welcome, early enrollees and your numbers:
|Name||No.||Pos.||Ht.||Wt. (R/S/ESPN)||# Previously worn by|
|Kyle Bosch||65||OL||6'5||307 (285/280/311)||Patrick Omameh, Leo Henige|
|Jake Butt||88||TE||6'6||231 (230/220/231)||Jim Mandich, Mark Campbell|
|Taco Charlton||33||DE||6'6||265 (240/235/249)||Mike Taylor (LB), Carl Russ|
|Ross Douglas||7||DB||5'10||176 (180/180/181)||Alfie Burch, Mark Jacoby|
|Dymonte Thomas||25||DB||6'2||187 (175/180/180)||Ernest Shazor|
|Logan Tuley-Tillman||72||OL||6'7||285 (321/295/314)||Dan Dierdorf, Jumbo Elliott|
The one that stands out obviously is Taco Charlton, whose camp measurements had him at linebacker size while his spring weight puts him already well within the bell curve for starting WDEs. Woodley and Jibreel Black are the only rush ends in recent memory to arrive over 260 but they're a lot shorter guys. The closer comparison is Glen Steele, who was 6'5/255 as a freshman in '93, redshirted, and got into the rotation in '94 at about 270. Before we were thinking Taco would be either redshirted or deployed as a kind of situational Shawn Crable while the coaches waited for him to grow into a regular down player, but if he's large enough already to stand up to OTs, that puts him squarely in competition with Beyer/Clark/Ojemudia.
The other guy significantly off from the services' numbers is LTT, who's down 36 lbs. from what Rivals said. We were rooting for this! Scouts said he put on some bad weight last summer and he's a project recruit who like Long/Lewan before him needs a redshirt to learn technique no matter what the OT depth chart looks like right now.
Dymonte Thomas is also 1 or 2 inches taller than the sites pegged him.
Somebody's an early '70s fan. That 33 for Taco stands out; I'm sure he'll have an explanation that isn't "Let me give you a history lesson." But if you blinked at a non-back wearing that number, you could use a little refresher on early '70s linebackers. Michael Taylor (NNMT) survived Bo's weeding out process to become an All-American inside linebacker, tallying 132 tackles his senior year. The number was immediately inherited by Carl Russ (right), who walked on to the '71 team and starred on the '73 and '74 defenses, two of Bo's best. Both 33s had short NFL careers.
As for Rick Leach's digit going to a defensive back, considering all the recruiting profiles of 6'2" corners you'll be seeing here this summer you might as well read up now on Alfie Burch, the early '90s prototype for big boy boundary cornerbacks who can stand up to blocks on the edge and neutralize tall/rangy receivers. Course Ross Douglas isn't that—he's more of a nickel type. In the '70s it was worn by Mark Jacoby, Bo's "Wolf" who played kind of a Shawn Crable role from what's technically the same field position (SAM) that the nickel corner plays.
There is also a new crop of walk-ons. Hello new walk-ons!
|Name||No.||Pos.||Ht.||Wt.||Elig.||Hometown (High School)|
|Brad Anlauf||49||WR||6'4||187||RS FR||Hinsdale, Ill. (Hinsdale Central)|
|Shaun Austin||15||QB||6'1||204||RS FR||Plymouth, MI (Plymouth)|
|Clark Grace||46||TE||6'3||228||RS FR||Tecumseh, Ontario (L'essor)|
|Bobby Henderson||51||RB||5'11||226||RS FR||Hopewell Junction, NY (John Jay)|
|Michael Jocz||95||TE||6'4||213||RS FR||Novi, Mich. (Novi)|
|Dan Liesman||66||LB||6'2||220||RS FR||Lansing, MI (Lansing Catholic)|
|AJ Pearson||36||DB||6'0||199||RS FR||Johns Creek, Ga. (Northview)|
Alex Mitropoulos-Rundus was on the roster last year as David. Internet search pulls up an interview with a really girlie site called Michigan: Her Campus where he's asked questions about what he looks for in a girl.
"I don't ever really think about a list of things that girls must have, I'm more of the type of guy that just knows when it's right or not. We all have that gut feeling."
Gals don't even know when they've been Sam Webb'd.
Position Changes: Only ones of note are Wormley is listed as a "DL" (was a "DE" last year) and Matthew Godin was a "DT", is now a "DE". Safeties Allen Gant and Jeremy Clark are back to the nebulous "DB" which means nothing. Interestingly redshirt junior Anthony Capatina, listed as a kicker last year, is now a "DB". Matt Wile is listed as a "PK" and preferred walk-on Kenny Allen is a "K/P" so Hagerup remains the only designated punter on the roster. Read into that what you will.
Non-Returning Walk-ons: You've heard of some of them but from last year's roster we're missing receivers Steve Wilson and Devon Micou, tight ends Nate Allspach and Chris Eddins, safeties Charlie Zeller and Andrew Offerdahl, and cornerback Chris Maye. Walk-ons who didn't return for a 5th year are onetime rotation Seth Broekhuizen, injured Nate Brink, and long snapper Curt Graman.
Number changes: None so far that I've seen.
Weight Gain 2013: Brian covered on Tuesday.
Recently, Brady Hoke sat down with ESPN and answered questions posed to him about the football team he's in charge of. This business resulted a bunch of personnel questions, and the responses were quite a bit less vague than they might have been.
Offensive line stuffs. The thing that leaps off the page:
Well, I think the interior of both lines, there's going to be a lot of competition. We've got to find a center, and that's between [Jack] Miller and [Graham] Glasgow, and Joey Burzynski will try to figure that out a little bit, too. At the guard positions, Ben Braden is going to move down inside and start out at the left guard, but he'll have a lot of competition because Burzynski is back and so is Blake Bars. Kyle Kalis will move into the right side, and it will be interesting again with [Kyle] Bosch and some of the guys who have been here a little bit. I think it will be a really good competition at all three of those inside positions.
- Kyle Kalis was at left guard and is flipping to the right for some reason.
- He and Ben Braden sound like your tenuous leaders at the guard spots.
- Graham Glasgow is your #2-ish center at this instant.
- Chris Bryant does not get mentioned, probably because he's still recovering from injury.
The Braden move puts him on the same path Michael Schofield took to the starting right tackle job: an apprenticeship at LG and then lockdown at RT. Braden's listed an inch shorter than Schofield on the official site, if you're worried about guys getting under him and blowing him up. FWIW, Hoke also talks up Schofield extensively ("really good winter" … "real bright spots" last year, "special deployed").
I'm not sure why Michigan would flip Kalis, but for whatever reason it seems like they prefer future right tackles getting their first playing time to hang out at left guard instead of right. Maybe it's about spatial orientation: when a left guard pulls he ends up on the right side of the line, and if that pull turns into pass protection it's more natural for Once and Future Right Tackle to execute that. Or maybe it's about having Kalis pull to Lewan's side of the line, a prospect that Hoke must be drooling about after a couple years of having the (relatively) slight and inexperienced (at pulling, anyway) Patrick Omameh as the guard pulling to Lewan on power plays to the left.
Hoke also acknowledges that the three tech and SDE spots are close to interchangeable:
The other Glasgow is thrown in there, yes; Hoke also brings up Strobel and Heitzman separately; Ondre Pipkins is oddly in this heap of guys. Implication: they will give him a shot to win the three-tech job and if it happens they'll find a backup for Quinton Washington somehow (Ash or Henry, probably). If I was betting I'd put my money on Wormley with Pipkins getting extensive time behind Washington or both guys.
norfleet obsession: still poppin' (Melanie Maxwell, MLive)
Keeping Derrick Green's seat warm. Norfleet is at running back, as you know, and Drake Johnson is building on a bit of bowl practice hype. Then there's this telling sentence:
Thomas Rawls is coming back, and I think he learned a lot last year about the vision he needs to play with, and I like how he's competed through the [winter].
He's the third back mentioned, behind Norfleet and the redshirted Johnson. I'd say he'd still have a role as a short-yardage back, but 1) he wasn't any good at that last year and 2) DeVeon Smith and Derrick Green, especially Green.
Exit? At linebacker it's just a bunch of names, but should we read something between the lines when Hoke brings up Kaleb Ringer returning from injury but not Antonio Poole? Michigan is currently at 87 players. Due to Big Ten rules they've already had to explain to the league where those two scholarships are coming from, so it's just a matter of announcing it.
Dollars to donuts we get the announcement of a couple of departures/medical scholarships Thursday, when the Hoke has his first presser. One guy apparently not on that list: fifth-year-to-be Mike Jones, to-date little used and previously seen to be a candidate for a firm handshake. Hoke brought him up in the linebacker procession of names.
Other stuff. Rittenberg asks about the other position groups as well, but nothing there is particularly surprising. I think Hoke mentions literally every scholarship DB on the roster save Delonte Hollowell*; linebacker is obvious to all; Blake Countess will do "some things" this spring, so his injury is still hampering him. The first WRs up after the senior slots are Darboh and Chesson, and then this is a little worrying:
And I think Jeremy Jackson has had a very good winter; we're very excited about some of the progress he's made. Joe Reynolds is a guy who walked on here, and he's done a very nice job. And Bo Dever, his dad played here and he walked on.
Options other than those two guys include two walk-ons and Jeremy Jackson. Really could have used an instant impact WR guy in this class. Obvious sentence is obvious.
*[Which you might read something into if you were so inclined. Michigan was clearly petrified of putting either Hollowell or Richardson on the field in the bowl game despite the fact that South Carolina's receivers were the best matchup possible for them (ie, short). Richardson can say he's a true freshman. Hollowell not so much. Greener pastures may beckon.]
it worked out okay for everyone in the end
Position battles: exciting instead of terrifying?
Way too early 2013 depth charts are beginning to pop-up. It’s looking like the battle at linebacker this year will be a good one (and both lines in future years). What was the last position battle that got you excited? 2 plus players going for one spot or, like the LBs, 3 plus players going for 2 spots. There have been positional battles the last few years, but those have been between average, at best, players.
Mike in Ohio
I'm not sure if excited is the right word, but the last position battle I remember being pretty "whatever" about was Henne vs Richard vs Gutierrez at QB in 2004. In some order those were the #3, #4, and #5 QBs in their respective years, so I figured Michigan was going to be just fine no matter who ended up starting.
The Gutierrez injury threw that all out of whack, of course, and we had Henne starting as a freshman, but he had Braylon to throw to so that worked out just fine.
It's tough to remember any others. The age of roster hyper-awareness was just dawning in 2004*, and Michigan hasn't exactly had an embarrassment of riches since. The linebackers this year should be a preview of coming years when Michigan is choosing between something like Wormley/Hurst/Poggi/Godin at three-tech and I'm all like "confidence, it is something I have."
*[I remember Tim Biakabutuka's first carries of Michigan being met with general merriment at his last name. If that happened now, the extent to which it did would be greatly reduced since about 40% of the people in the stadium would be like "four star recruit out of Canada, tailback, 6'0", born in Zaire, did well at Army Bowl. BOOM KIPER'D."]
obligatory (The Wolverine/Tim Sullivan)
With Taylor Lewan returning for his 5th year, I've read quite a few message board commenters suggesting that Schofield move back to LG and Braden or Magnuson take over at RT.
My question is this: for sheer upside, wouldn't it make more sense to move Braden inside for 2013 than Schofield? Just looking at their body types, it seems to me that Braden is more suited to the power run blocking Michigan needs than Schofield is. I'd enjoy your perspective on what you would like to see happen with the OL and what you think will actually happen with the OL.
Thanks, and Go Blue!
It depends more on Braden's ability to pull than anything else. We've had some indication that Schofield is capable of it despite his tackle-like size, since he played guard effectively and Michigan spent chunks of the year pulling tackles on that sprint counter and an occasional sweep. In the event that Braden forces his way into the lineup, is he going to have that same ability? I don't know.
A point in your favor: with Lewan back Michigan gets plenty of power run blocking from one of their tackles. They can probably afford to have a non-devastating drive blocker at RT if he brings more pass protection to the table, and Schofield does bring a lot of pass pro. Remember that both of South Carolina's defensive ends are damn good and neither did that much in the bowl when they weren't ending Vincent Smith on a busted stunt pickup. By the end of the year, Schofield was pretty good.
What I think will happen and what I'd like to see happen are the same, and it's basically the five-guy lineup I posted yesterday: Lewan-Kalis-Miller-InsertGuardHere-Schofield. I assume Kalis and Miller are locks (though if you heard my segment on WTKA yesterday you heard Sam Webb rhapsodize about Patrick Kugler's ability to start early). The fifth guy is up in the air; I would prefer that guy to be a guard simply because it provides less uncertainty, and I worry less about guards getting the QB murdered.
As I'm sure we all were, I was quite pleasantly surprised by Lewan's decision to return next year. However, it seems like all non-Michigan sources (and I'm not talking about rival fan sites like 11W) have done nothing but trash his decision. Analysts at ESPN, some of the pay sites, Yahoo and others have all said he's making a terrible decision...given the insurance policy he will take out and other factors, what gives? Many of the sources are saying there's much more risk than Jake Long took, but given the new rookie pay scale, I actually think there's less. What say you?
Lewan didn't come back because it was the most profitable thing to do, so analyses of whether it's the most profitable thing to do miss the point. They do so very badly, so badly that I assume Darren Rovell has been cloned a thousand times and sent to draft chattering class.
Anyone trashing the decision doesn't understand that there things other than money that might be important.
"You'll never play for a team again. You'll play for a contract."
It's a risk. But it's an opportunity as well.
but but but oversigning
Throughout the lead-up and aftermath of the BCS National Championship Game, we have been subject to overwhelming Bama praise. “How much better are they than everybody else?” “Is this a dynasty?” “How many years until Michigan can compete on that level?” My constant mental response to this is: but, but, but…OVERSIGNING!
The morning following the Bama beatdown, there was an interesting blogger exchange on Twitter. Basically, a B1G blogger alludes to oversigning as a competitive advantage, then an SEC blogger trivializes oversigning’s competitive impact. Looking back, I see our friend Ramzy once called oversigning an “almost insurmountable competitive advantage.”
What say you? Are B1G fans making too much of oversigning by using it as an excuse for its poor brand of football? Are SEC fans ignoring it in order to maximize pride in their conference? What’s the best quantitative analysis out there that attempts to truly measure the impact?
It's an advantage, but it's only a small part of the reason that the Big Ten has fallen behind the college football world. Florida and Georgia don't do it, and they have been okay at playing football recently. Ole Miss seems to do nothing but, and they suck every year.
- Sucky management of the Big Ten's elite programs. Michigan has been wobbly at best since 2006 largely due to coaching and the program's remarkable ability to punch itself in the face. Penn State was operating essentially without a head coach for the past decade and has now been nuked by the NCAA. Ohio State has largely escaped these doldrums but was stripped of various key players last year en route to a .500 season and banned from postseason play this year. No other Big Ten team can really pick up the slack, except somewhat Nebraska, and this is only the second year they've been in the league. Of course the league is going to be bad when OSU and PSU can't play in bowl games and Michigan's sixth offensive lineman is a walk-on.
- Talent distribution. Not sure this is a huge-huge factor in the Big Ten's sudden decline since demographic trends are very gradual, but population shifts aren't helping. Notice that the powerhouse basketball conference is hugely dependent on basketball-mad Indiana. You have the in-state schools, of course, and then the best player on OSU (Thomas) and second-best on MSU (Gary Harris, and he may be better than Appling) are from Indiana along with the backbone of Michigan's resurgence—Novak, Douglass, Robinson, Albrecht, and incoming Irvin and Donnal. Michigan has one player from outside the Big Ten footprint—Hardaway. Indiana is the Florida of high school basketball. Wisconsin is a great program… for a bunch of guys from Wisconsin and Ohio leftovers.
- Sucky management of every Big Ten program. Bielema flees Wisconsin for an SEC also-ran. Why? I guess more resources. What's the difference between Wisconsin and Arkansas's revenue? Zero. Tim Brewster. Danny Hope. Ron Zook. Tim Beckman. Purdue just hired Darrell Hazell, a guy with two years of MAC head coaching experience. Again, compare that to basketball hires: Crean, Beilein, Tubby, and Matta had all run programs that established themselves perennial ranked teams in major conferences before getting snapped up by the Big Ten. That's not happening in football. Instead Bielema gets sucked away.
- Yeah, oversigning and whatnot. "Whatnot" == jamming a kid full of fake classes to get him eligible and keeping him eligible with the Tarheel curriculum. JUCOs and such. It's a factor. How much? It's not nearly as big a deal as the first bullet here.
That's good news. If Michigan can recruit at a level with Georgia and Florida and Stanford, they can play at that level. That's probably not enough to go up against an all-time dynasty like Alabama that cuts ALL THE CORNERS, but those things collapse eventually, and they can compete with just about anything else.
My thing with oversigning is not that it explains the gap between the conferences, but rather it's the ultimate dick move and should be stopped if the NCAA wants to consider themselves a snow-white organization with pure motives. The Big Ten has plenty of problems, most of which stem from the leadership of the conference (leaders and legends) and trickle their incompetence down from there.
I'm not even sure how you would be able to quantify the impact. But the fix is so, so easy: remove scholarship caps in favor of per-year caps. Move from a system that encourages attrition to keep costs down to one that isn't about athletes going pro in transferring to Kenesaw State.
Notre Dame == Michigan?
Is there any validity to an assertion that Michigan and Notre Dame were basically the same teams this year but for Notre Dame has an offensive coordinator that knows the spread and how to use a spread qb?
No. Notre Dame's defense was a significant cut above Michigan's until it got eviscerated by the Tide, and remains so: 7th in total D, second in scoring D. While their secondary was not good, neither was Michigan's, and while Michigan's front seven was surprisingly capable, Notre Dame's contains many highly touted recruits on their way to long NFL careers.
ND's offense was only slightly better than Michigan's. Moreover, it was much different. Gholson had just under 300 rushing yards on the year. It's a passing spread that keeps a little bit of QB run threat involved; it's not a spread 'n' shred. I could have given you partial credit if you'd said "an offensive coordinator more comfortable with his personnel," but again the ND line was nowhere near as problematic as Michigan's. Mark it zero, dude.
Now that Kovacs has graduated, we need a new #11. I say we give it to Desmond Morgan. That would leave us without somebody for #48, but the problem could be solved by giving BOTH numbers to Morgan. He could wear 11 on the front side and 48 on the back, or possibly reverse the order week to week.
This violates NCAA rules, you say? I have thought this objection through. The answer is to give him a special jersey where the numbers are the same color as the rest of the jersey -- dark blue numerals at home, white numerals on the road -- so the number is completely invisible. The officials will never find out.
Never let it be said that the Outback Bowl jerseys were a bad thing if ideas like this flow freely after seeing them.
|Taylor Lewan||Jr.*||Elliott Mealer||Sr.*||Ricky Barnum||Sr.*||Patrick Omameh||Sr.*||Michael Schofield||Jr.*|
|Erik Magnuson||Fr.||Joey Burzynski||So.*||Jack Miller||Fr.*||Kyle Kalis||Fr.||Ben Braden||Fr.|
This again. One year after Michigan's offensive line looked pretty shiny as long as you did not consider the cliff after guy #6, Michigan's offensive line looks really shiny… as long as you don't consider the cliff after guy #5. Or maybe guy #4. In a best case scenario, still guy #6.
Last year, Michigan had Michael Schofield to step into the lineup, and needed him to. This year any injury will see a walk-on or freshman—probably a true freshman—hit the field. Yipes.
But let's not think about that. As long as the starting five stays intact, the line should be quality. Taylor Lewan is projected as a first-round NFL draft pick, Patrick Omameh is in his fourth year as a starter, Michael Schofield started most of last year and moves to a more natural position, and the other two guys are redshirt seniors. Michigan should have a better line this year even without David Molk.
That first step's a doozy, though.
Rating: 5 of 5, not considering depth
Guralnick/Greilick, Detroit News
At this point, "Taylor Lewan is the next Jake Long" is not hope or hype or projection but just a (pretty much) true thing. Lewan may not go first overall in the NFL draft but he's already being projected in the top half of the first round next year, should he choose to depart.
After a promising but penalty-filled freshman year, Lewan cut out the holding calls and stoned opposing pass rushers, snap in, snap out. The primary reason ultra-hyped MSU DE Will Gholston started playing judo chop with various Lewan limbs was that he had no hope of impacting the game in any other fashion:
|AGILITY TO PULL|
|gets outside on p&p|
|another sprint counter|
|donkey some guy|
|nice seal on Worthy|
|stands up Binns|
|gets Toussaint edge|
|fails to cut on screen|
In a game where the Michigan OL was overwhelmed, blitz or not (Mark Huyge got 7 protection minuses), Lewan had a measly +1. Across twelve games of fending off the opposition's best pass rusher he racked up a total of four protection minuses. Two of those were for not cutting a guy on a screen; a third was not getting out on a corner on an attempted double pass. The fourth is somewhere in that video above, and I'm not even sure what that was. Even counting that there was literally one QB hurry going one-on-one with Lewan last year, to say nothing of actual sacks. There is a reason he is getting the NFL hype.
(Note that when blitzes cause confusion not localizable to one or two players that sends in free rushers I file that under "team." Lewan's no doubt responsible for some of those. When he identifies a guy to block, it's over.)
The black lining in our silver cloud was Lewan's lack of impact in the run game. He started off well, with three games around +10 in the UFR run chart and a 7-3-+4 against ND in limited opportunities—Michigan did jack before eviscerating Gary Gray in the fourth quarter. This was noted.
how often have you thought about Taylor Lewan this year? Not often, right? Mostly when he takes some donkey and punches it so hard in the nose shards of cartilage come out the back of its donkeyhelmet, right? (In a non-personal-foul acquiring way, of course.)
After that, he struggled to register on the run chart until late. His Big Ten season:
|5||MINN||5.5||6||-0.5||Yeah, surprised me too: had a couple busts and one bad whiff.|
|6||NW||4.5||2||2.5||Why so low, numbers? Discussion later.|
|7||MSU||6||5||1||Lucky to have both arms in his shoulder sockets.|
|8||PU||7||1||6||Would like to see him more involved somehow.|
|10||Illinois||8||5||3||Had some mistakes in space.|
|11||Nebraska||9||-||9||Finally some productive donkey hatred. Belly helps him produce; also got Toussaint the edge on a play that would have gone badly otherwise.|
|12||OSU||9.5||1||8||Effective against DTs, mostly, also getting to the second level.|
There's a certain amount of busting plays that is part and parcel of being an offensive lineman, especially one learning a new offense. That doesn't bother me. What does is the overall lack of positives until the tail end of the season. Heavily involved linemen will be putting up twice the positives and negatives as the above—Omameh had eight games where his positives were above ten and five where they were 13 or greater. Lewan didn't get there, and I think this was because of Omameh, ironically:
What is with those Lewan numbers?
The system doesn't try to judge blocks that are far away from the play and often declares an easy thing done okay to be a zero, so backside tackles and down-blocking guys a gap away from the play rarely register. Lewan rarely registered and this week's picture pages were examples of Schofield pulling, Schofield pulling, and Schofield pulling. Why is Michigan pulling the converted tackle backup and running away from their donkey-hating first round tackle?
The only conclusion that makes sense is they hate pulling Omameh. When they did pull left, they pulled Molk or Schofield and Molk, only rarely trying Omameh.
We'll talk about that when we get to the right guard, but Omameh came on in those last three games in which Lewan finally got some traction. Once they could pull the right guard, the left tackle got to express his donkey hatred.
With Omameh figuring it out and another year of experience for both, Michigan figures to be more left-handed on the ground; combine that with the pass blocking mentioned above and factor the injuries Lewan dragged around all year and the projections for his 2012 should be sky-high. He should be an All-American, or at least play like one.
[hit THE JUMP to find out about the other starters, but probably not the backups.]