“The player development is the main thing I like (about Michigan),” Williams said. “You can see that they develop their players. They get them in the gym and they work them hard. And their hard work pays off.”
In HTTV last year we made a strange assertion: that given the relative drop-off to their replacements, Kovacs would probably be missed more than Denard Robinson. I thought I'd pose the question now concerning this year's seniors, except there's one guy who could have gone 1st overall in the NFL draft LAST YEAR, and he's being replaced by either a member of the worst interior offensive line in Michigan memory or a guy who couldn't beat out one of those guys for playing time.
|Actually, #2 Taylor Lewan's twosie and #3 Taylor Lewan's pet pig are also out of the running. [Upchurch]|
So, OTHER than that guy,
Which senior will Michigan miss most next season?
Ace: I'll leave a couple very strong candidates aside—namely, Jeremy Gallon and Thomas Gordon—and go to the other bookend of the offensive line, Michael Schofield. Michigan already needs to get much (much) better play out of the interior of the line next year, not to mention a major step up in blocking from the backs and tight ends. Losing not just one, but two NFL-quality tackles means the Wolverines once again head into a new season with major uncertainty up front.
I expect the interior line to be better, especially since some of the true freshmen who weren't viable options this season—especially Patrick Kugler and David Dawson—should at least be ready to compete for a spot on the two-deep. Losing Schofield along with Lewan, however, means that there's almost no margin for error with the new tackles; Michigan needs to find two decent starters out of Ben Braden, Erik Magnuson, and... that's about it.
I guess Dawson could play right tackle, as could Kyle Kalis, but both are more natural fits inside. Chris Fox, coming off a major knee injury that delayed his freshman progress, and Logan Tuley-Tillman, a raw-upside prospect with a heavy emphasis on raw, probably won't be ready to step in and be very effective.
Losing Lewan hurts the most, of course; that's compounded by the absence of Schofield—who really came into his own this year—leaving Michigan with, at best, four relatively unproven players competing for two open tackle spots while the interior of the line is still very much a question mark.
[After the jump: Pining for (Scho)fields]
Watch the birdie.
In my day freshmen appeared on the scene knocking down Bobby Hoying passes, shutting down Terry Glenn, and cleaving Eddie George. Then they'd switch to offense and fold Mike Vrabel in twain. What's the matter with kids today? The cast today:
- Ann-Margret as Brian Cook
- Dick Van Dyke as Seth Fisher
- Bobby Rydell as Ace Anbender
- Jesse Pearson as Brandon "Birdie" Brown
|Of the young linebackers, we've seen a lot of Bolden but not much from him. [Upchurch]|
It's an expectation (or a conceit) at Michigan that recruits follow a "track" of progression that should see them all-conference and worth drafting after four years in the program. Of the 2012 class and the few '13 guys who've seen action, who do you see as ahead of schedule, or worryingly behind?
Ace: I'm not even going to bother with the 2013 class because it's beyond too early to discuss their progression versus expectations; frankly, that's the case for the 2012 class as well, but they at least have a handful of guys who have broken through and seen extensive time.
Three players who are clearly ahead of schedule are Devin Funchess, James Ross, and Willie Henry. Funchess has gone from dangerous-but-terrible-at-blocking tight end to dangerous-and-oh-god-so-dangerous wide receiver, and he's got an NFL future even if his blocking never develops as much as we'd hope. Ross has had an up-and-down year but still has a stranglehold on the weakside LB starting job; he's a future all-conference player once he adds a little more weight to take on blocks—his instincts are already there. Henry's initial expectations weren't as high as the other two, nor has he played at their level consistently, but he's easily exceeded expectations for a late three-star pickup just by seeing the field and holding his own.
[Jump like a Funchess]
Molk/Definitely Not Molk [Heiko]
We waited to pass judgment on this offensive line until they weren't freshmen or true freshmen. We waited for the end of spring and and the end of fall and until we saw them play actual football, and do so against actual NFL-bound defensive linemen. We waited after Akron because everybody was getting a mulligan. We waited until after the UConn game was UFR'd. While nobody among the struggling is so old that their careers are discountable, the evidence is clear that Michigan, so far, hasn't had five guys who can credibly block at a collegiate level.
So…depth chart today:
LT: Brian Cook—turned down NFL to write about college
LG: Ace Anbender—Good find, should be multi-year starter, moonlighted at first as a…
C: Coach Brown—Recipient of much internet scorn lately. A good sport about it.
RG: Blue in South Bend—Top young prospect, struggles with moderation.
RT: Seth Fisher—Been here forever, appreciated but consensus is he's not a star like Brian
|First rule of position group panic: anyone on the depth chart with a plausible excuse for not playing yet is a god. [Upchurch]|
And the question:
The OL complaints have had a few weeks now to percolate through reality and drip a little possibility of personnel changes into our cups. How do we feel about this? How much improvement would you expect out of an assumed Bryant->LG, Glasgow->Center, Miller->Bench plan, and what's the catch? Any other moves you'd consider?
Brian: There are two catches with the proposed Bryant insertion:
Bryant is liable to catch on fire at any moment. He's injury-prone. This is often an overblown thing better attributable to bad luck than anything else, but with very large offensive linemen it's a real thing, especially ones coming off a leg injury who end up getting their knee drained just before the season.
A position switch for Glagsow may limit his effectiveness. Can he snap? Can he get the line calls right? Will he have the requisite agility? That move seems like a recipe for more of the same when it comes to mental errors unless Glasgow is even more of a player than I think he is after four games.
Those issues are not enough to keep Miller on the field after consecutive rough outings against low-level competition against both pass and run. If they're going to continue with the stretch, the center is probably the single most important guy on your OL and Miller is busting too often both mentally and physically not to attempt a change. How effective your stretch is going to be when Chris Bryant is trying to move laterally remains unknown. Add that to the pile of issues, I guess. Here:
Does a Bryant/Kalis guard pairing throw away your offseason prep? Michigan wants to run the stretch for some reason. Their guards don't seem like good fits. Can you run inside zone now? Power?
I feel not good about midseason switches; I still feel that there will be improvement; there is no other move to consider except prepping Bosch or Kugler to enter the lineup in the event Bryant gets hurt or doesn't perform.
[More responses after the jump.]
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.
|Taylor Lewan||Sr.*||Graham Glasgow||So.*||Jack Miller||So.*||Kyle Kalis||Fr.*||Michael Schofield||Sr.*|
|Ben Braden||Fr.*||Chris Bryant||So.*||Joey Burzynski||Jr.*||Alex Bars||Fr.*||Erik Magnuson||Fr.*|
There's nothing in-between for this offensive line. Either it's the tackles, both redshirt seniors who will get drafted next April, or it's the interior, all new starters in flux. While things almost literally can't be worse…
A single zero yard run was –6?
I try to keep two things in balance: the same blocks get the same scores and a zero yard run adds up to about the same thing as any other zero yard run, but when three blocks get whiffed and any of them would have been sufficient to blow up the play, well, here we are. Thinking of that picture from the 2007 OSU game.
…Michigan can't tread water here and expect to tread water overall. Denard Robinson's 7.2 YPC is out the door.
The way this went down gives some reason for concern. Not at right guard, where Kalis was the anointed from day one, at the other two spots.It's clear Michigan wanted Ben Braden to lock down the left guard job, and clear that Braden just could not, for whatever reason. His move outside totally withdraws him from the competition on the interior and leaves Michigan starting at least one player by default. Michigan saw what "by default" can lead to last year. While that isn't likely to recur, neither does the situation promise an amazing one-year turnaround.
Rating: 5 of 5
|donkeys end to other T|
|does it again|
|go away DT|
|able to pull|
|well that'll happen|
You know, you hear a guy comparing some high school kid from Arizona to the best left tackle in the history of the program and you get a little excited but in the back of your head you think of Kevin Grady and countless other hype machines that turned to dust and you try to keep your head on straight. And then the guy shows up and is basically Jake Long, down to his decision to return for a senior year the NFL deems entirely unnecessary.
Yes: TAYLOR LEWAN is back for one last crack at a Big Ten championship. His last outing in a winged helmet was a titanic matchup with Jadeveon Clowney in which he held Clowney to three tackles (unfortunately one of them was a crushing TFL on which Clowney beat him straight up, see right) and no quarterback pressure.
Lewan is a returning All-American who kept Clowney quiet until he turned Vincent Smith into mist. (Smith immediately reassembled himself, T1000-style, and jogged off the field. Vincent Smith is from Pahokee.) In fact, you and I can both remember the only time last year when a pass rusher got the best of Lewan for a sack: it was Adolphus Washington in the Ohio State game. So… pretty much the worst time to give it up, but we'll take it.
FWIW, Lewan accumulated a total of –10 across 13 games in pass protection. This was significantly higher than his –4 last year, but 2011 Taylor Lewan didn't take on Alabama, suddenly great Notre Dame, and South Carolina. Adjusted for quality of competition, Lewan was on par with his sophomore year. The NFL liked it enough to project him around 10th in the draft.
But wait, there's more! While Clowney did secretly beat up on Lewan on the ground, he was far and away Michigan's best run blocker a year ago:
|Air Force||8||-||8||Blew some guys off the ball; locked out edge guys.|
|UMass||7.5||1||6.5||Dominating in this game.|
|Notre Dame||8.5||2||6.5||Got quality motion.|
|Purdue||10.5||4||6.5||Best drive blocker on the line.|
|Illinois||5.5||4||1.5||Would have been fine but pulled on a spring counter going his way.|
|MSU||6.5||4||2.5||Busted huge on one 6 yard loss, otherwise good.|
|Nebraska||2||2||0||They aren't really running any plays on which his blocking is relevant. That is bizarre.|
|Minnesota||8||1||7||Iso counter and sprint counter got tackles more involved.|
|Northwestern||5.5||2||3.5||Okay for him.|
|Iowa||7||1.5||5.5||More involved. Like it when he is involved.|
|South Carolina||4.5||9||-4.5||Clowney is like the endboss of Donkey Kong.|
He picked up some big minuses for busts; other than that he was impeccable. So why are those numbers topping out at +8 when a guy like David Molk regularly got into the mid-teens?
It's the same story from last year: pulling folks was futile. For whatever reason, Patrick Omameh was able to get out to the second level on zone plays like a mofo but never got the hang of pulling. Canonical example:
When the right guard does that on the regular, it's difficult to get your face-mashing left tackle involved. Darryl Funk inadvertently sums up the entire problem with Michigan's ground game in one painful joke:
I was kidding actually Taylor about this the other day. Every year we kind of recycle some pictures in the line room and I’ll get some action shots. I told Taylor, geez, ‘Schofield is in every one of these pictures and where are you?’ (Laughter).
That's too close to home, too near the bone, man.
Lewan's lack of impact in the run game is a problem with the offense, not Lewan, and it's one Michigan has to fix. You cannot have an All-American tackle that you can't use in the run game and be any good. Meanwhile if they can do that, the run game instantly becomes credible.
Lewan is likely to repeat as an All-American for a lot of reasons: talent, momentum, media profile after the Clowney matchup. He should be close to the same player he was in 2012, but with fewer mental mistakes and hopefully more involvement. Everything else should be about the same but the UFR chart, which should have consistent double-digit positive performances as long as Kyle Kalis is what he's cracked up to be.
[After THE JUMP: Schofield, Kalis, and then doubt. Plus backups, tons of 'em! Eventually!]
- Taylor Lewan, Courtney Avery, Jake Ryan, and Cam Gordon are your captains.
- Joe Reynolds, Graham Glasgow, and Joe Kerridge now have scholarships.
- Courtney Avery is out with orthoscopic [MGoI'mGoingToDoSoWellAsAnM3: ARTHROSCOPIC] surgery for some cartilage in his knee. Playing time and experience would say that Jarrod Wilson is the next guy in, but there's probably a three-way battle between him, Josh Furman, and Dymonte Thomas.
- Derrick Green and Deveon Smith made the traveling depth chart, and they will be expected to contribute either as backup running backs or special teamers. Their redshirts are toast.
- Starting offensive line is Lewan, Glasgow, Miller, Kalis, and Schofield.
- Blake Countess is starting cornerback and starting nickel. Next guy off the bench is probably Hollowell, but both Channing Stribling and Jourdan Lewis made it onto the depth chart, so there may be some competition there.
- Dennis Norfleet is handling all return duties.
"Okay let's get started. Thanks for coming out. We're five days away now. It is game week, and it's exciting. Our players, our staff, everybody involved has worked very hard since January to get to this point. We're excited about the opportunity to see where this team is, and we talk about never getting a second chance to make a first impression, so it's going to be exciting on Saturday.
"We voted our captains yesterday, and I think the four guys: Taylor Lewan, Courtney Avery, Jake Ryan, and Cam Gordon, are very deserving. At the same time I'll tell you that whole class has done a tremendous job as far as leadership and teaching and helping to help coach young football players. As you all know we are a young football team. We also had an opportunity last night to award three scholarships to guys that have walked onto the program and have set a standard for work ethic and set a standard for their toughness. Their love for their teammates and their love for Michigan. Joe Reynolds, Graham Glasgow, and Joe Kerridge were three guys most deserving. When you have an opportunity to do that as a coach, you always feel good because it obviously is helping their families out. More than that, the guys have earned it.
"Courtney Avery had arthroscopic surgery Thursday night. Cartilage. It should be a two-week setback, but everything went well. He is in great spirits and he'll be back on the field soon."