i would find this more credible if it was about Tom Crean
Were you pleased with your defense during the scrimmage on Saturday?
"I think there were some good things. I think we started off doing some real good things in the different situations that Brady put us in. The black zone, coming out, moving the ball. And then we had a kicking break and we did a lot of the kicking. I wasn't real happy with how we came back. It may seem like a little thing to a lot of people, but I relate that to coming out of the locker room at halftime. When you're a young team, all of those things have got to be addressed. You can't assume -- a veteran team, you'd know, 'Okay, let's turn it up guys. Here's the switch coming out.' You can see when you have a young team, they do a couple things good at times and then all of a sudden, you have to make sure they're hungry and they have to understand how to do it. They have to make sure they do their job every time."
- Boo boos are the worst.
- Fitz Toussaint has been named the starter at tailback. Act surprised.
- Ryan Glasgow and Willie Henry are backing up Jibreel Black at 3-tech. Wormley is strictly a 5-tech, and Tom Strobel has fallen off the depth chart it would appear.
- Heitzman, Wormley, and Godin are rotating at the 5-tech.
- Blake Countess is the nickel corner for the nickel package. That tentatively means Michigan is experimenting with a nickel package of Raymon Taylor (CB), Delonte Hollowell (CB), Blake Countess (NB), Thomas Gordon (S), and Courtney Avery (S).
- Cam Gordon has been proclaimed the No. 1 guy at SAM. I've been strongly predicting Beyer to beat out Cam Gordon, but perhaps this will not be case. We'll see what happens once game day rolls around, but for now I'll concede that I was wrong.
- In things I'm not so willing to concede, Hoke says that Ben Braden has moved to tackle (he and Magnuson are third in the tackle pecking order) yet remains a guard. While Braden certainly has the ability to play guard (and took snaps there in the scrimmage when Bryant was out), he has not been taking practice reps there for two weeks now, suggesting that Michigan wants him at tackle. Ultimately, none of this matters. It's Bryant or busted assignments.
"We had our last two-a-day practice. I thought we ended that part of it, as far as the two practices a day, in pretty good shape. Did a lot this morning. Physical this morning, physical this afternoon. I like how the kids are coming out and how they're competing with each other. We have 11 days until we kick the ball off, so we have to make sure our timing, playing with speed, playing fast, playing physical like we want to -- we get all those things accomplished. I like the leadership and where we're at."
Do you wish the weather had been this warm earlier in camp?
"Yeah. It would have been nice if it had a little more heat, and I think we'll get some more this week, which will be good for us."
Have you made any personnel decisions yet? Center? SDE?
"Jack [Miller] and Graham [Glasgow], obviously. Chris [Bryant] didn't participate the other night, but he's back out there today. We played Graham at a lot of guard, so today we played them both in there at center a little bit more. I think we're getting closer."
"First one of the year, huh? Here we go."
Here we go.
"Well it seems like we've been practicing for two months already and we've only had three. I don't know if that's a sign of old age or just the intensity of how we're going, but it's really good to be out here. It's good to be practicing again."
There hasn't been a whole lot of yelling. It's a lot more instructing. Do the kids seem to be on message?
"Well our style of coaching is teaching. And I think if you compare our staff -- I don't think a lot of times you have to do a lot of yelling. This team that we have right now is trying to do it right in every way. When a team's trying to do that, whether they're really young or making mistakes because they're young, as long as they're showing the effort that they are, there's really no reason to yell at them. You just have to correct them. When you have a young team, you have to be a great teacher. That's what our staff is really working hard to do."
So the effort is there?
"Yes. I've been really pleased. Now we don't have pads on yet obviously, and a lot of times what happens with programs, when pads come on, sometimes some programs slow down. I don't think that's going to happen with this team. This team seems to really really embrace and has bought into 'we must play as hard as we can on every play, and we have to get 11 bodies to the football.' When you watch practice with not pads on, we're getting 11 bodies to the football. We're getting really really good effort, so that's been positive."
<No pads. Nothing to see after the jump.>
- Dennis Norfleet is now a slot receiver. God bless the broken road.
- Fitz Toussaint, Chris Wormley, and Blake Countess are full go.
- Jake Ryan spends most of practice running with trainers; no contact yet.
- Freshman participation will be spotty until next Tuesday due to classes.
- Most of this week will be limited contact (helmets and shoulder pads). First practice in full pads is on Friday.
- Channing Stribling and Jourdan Lewis are among the candidates for punt/kick returner.
- Fitz says that he will be the starting tailback for the season opener.
I call this the "cameraphone" filter. Is Instagram even cool anymore? Was it ever cool?
“Ahem. Excuse me. I don’t have a real good voice, and it’s only day one. But it’s good. It’s great. It’s great to be out there, it’s great to be with the kids again. I like the competitiveness, the energy, which is something you would think they would have starting fall camp. Hopefully we can continue that consistently all throughout fall camp. I thought we moved around real well. There was great competition on both sides of the ball. I think we’ve learned how to practice with no pads on in a manner that’s physical. It was a good day, good start. We’ve got a long way to go, as we all know.
“One position change was we took Dennis Norfleet and he’s playing receiver now for us in the slot position, which opens up some things for him when he gets the ball in his hands. He’s got a lot to learn still from a formation standpoint and routes and option routes and all that. I think it’s going to be a good position switch for him and us.”
Can you talk about how Blake Countess and Fitz Toussaint looked?
“They looked great, and you’ll get a chance to talk with both of them, but they both did everything that we’re doing. They both looked good running around, speed and cutting ability and all that stuff.”
How important was it to see both of those guys today in camp?
“Well, I think it was a great start. The one thing we’ll be wary of is the grind of camp and two-a-days and all those things. We’ll be conscious about are we getting them tired, are they starting to favor one leg or another, all those kinds of things. But it was good to see them out there. Their teammates like it when they’re both out on the field.”
What were you looking for today?
“I think some of the things about the difference in some of the bodies. Willie Henry and Taylor [Lewan] we’ve talked about, but a guy like Blake Bars and [Kyle] Kalis and Quinton Washington – the big guys and how much better they look, how much stronger they are. The body fat ratio and all that. It was good to get the freshmen and watch them a little bit. They’re the ones who are still in classes for another six days, seven days, so it’s hard to get them there full time, but we got a little bit at the end with those guys, so it was good to see them.”
Did you notice the seniors coaching up the freshmen?
“Yeah, and that’s one thing we tried to do since day one. Your seniors have got to do a tremendous job. We coaches can’t see everything. We can coach a guy, and when we do that, maybe they get tired of hearing our voice, so when it comes from somebody else, and somebody else who has that experience, I think it really helps our coaching ability, and it also helps those kids.”
Was practice fast?
“Yeah I liked the tempo, I liked the structure of it. I like how we went from drill to drill and how the offense broke the huddle and approached the line of scrimmage and defensively how the kids got on the field and off the field.”
How was Shane Morris?
“You know, he took snaps obviously. Had some good throws and then had some throws maybe you’d like to have a better decision. But he’s everything we thought he can be.”
“Derrick had a couple runs in there. Some of those get here late because of class, but he had really good vision on a power play and did a nice job.”
When do you get those guys full time?
“No. A week.”
Did you have Jake Ryan do anything other than watch?
“He runs with the trainers. I mean, he runs and he does some of our walk-through stuff. He’s acted like a really good coach when we’re doing some of the other stuff, but he’s running a lot with the trainers as they go through the rehab.”
How did Chris Wormley’s recovery go, and what are your expectations?
“Well, we have high expectations for Chris. He’s a great looking kid. I think he’s about 48 or 49 weeks from surgery, so it’s almost a year. At the end of spring he was doing everything. I think we’ve got a lot of great competition, and he’s part of that competition.”
How do Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson look at receiver?
“I thought they both looked pretty good. You have [Drew] Dileo and [Jeremy] Gallon and those two, and Jeremy Jackson and Joe Reynolds, but they both had a good day. No one’s perfect by any means; we weren’t perfect coaching, and we have to make sure we’re doing that, but I like the two lengthy, rangy wide receivers. They both run very well.”
Do you sense hunger from Cam Gordon?
“I would say that he’s really, since a year and a half ago, he’s really done a great job when you look at how he’s prepared himself, how he listens, how he pays attention to everything that’s going on. His leadership has been really good. His physicalness and his strength and what he looks like is a lot different than a year ago. He’s competitive and I think he’s done a really good job. Does he feel more pressure because Jake’s out? I don’t think so because he’s just such a competitive guy.”
Do you look back at the run of injuries last year and question whether it was something you did or whether it was just a freak thing?
“I think it’s kind of a freak thing. I think we hit as much and maybe more the year before, and we went all the way to the Sugar Bowl before we got anybody dinged up. I don’t think so, and I know how much Aaron [Wellman] does with the different preventative things that you do, which I’m not an expert on, so don’t ask me what those are. He’s always done a great job with it. Some years you have it and some years you don’t.”
Will Devin Gardner be hands off for all of camp?
“Yeah. And we pretty much have done that with quarterbacks since we’ve been here. Every once in a while you’ll get a guy get a little overanxious as a defensive player or he gets his hands up and the quarterback follows through or he’ll knock an offensive lineman back and the quarterback follows through, so we’ll try and be as cautious as we can with all of them.”
Does it help that he has the experience of getting hit, so he knows the physical side of it?
“And I think a year ago, playing receiver a little bit, that helped. He had to go down and block, take on safeties and linebackers and all those things, so that helps a little bit.”
Will you give Shane and Brian Cleary more snaps?
“Well, Shane’s got to continue to prove it and so does Brian, obviously, but we’ve got to give Devin the amount of snaps that he needs, and at the same time we’ve got to see who the second guy’s going to be, make sure we’re doing a great job evaluating and make sure we’re doing a great job getting them the snaps that can be evaluated.”
Has Devin picked up where he left off?
“Yeah I think so. It’s hard after one day, though. I’m just excited that we took the field and how they came out. They went through meetings all day yesterday on administrative things, and really came in this morning and got the football part of it. [I liked] how they came out in walkthroughs this morning and how they came out in practice this afternoon.”
When do you put pads on?
“I think Wednesday we’re shoulder pads and helmets. Thursday shoulder pads and helmets. Friday will be full pads.”
Keith Heitzman played as a redshirt freshman. How much will that experience help?
“Anytime you have experience, I think that helps, even if it’s not in-game playing experience, but he does have some of that now. I think that helps. But at the same time those younger guys that redshirted, I think it will be really good competition.”
How will you determine the center battle?
“Well Darryl [Funk] will do a nice job. He’s always done a nice job with how he puts together snaps for those guys in practice. He’ll have every snap counted. He’ll have every drill where it’s a fair assessment for both guys, depending on which quarterback you’re with, what guard you’re with, all those things. It’s a great competition. It’s going to be a lot of fun to watch and let them fight it out.”
MGoQuestion: At the end of spring, you had Delonte Hollowell and Courtney Avery take snaps with the first team and Raymon Taylor with the second team. Did that reflect the depth chart, and will that carry over into this fall?
“Well, I think the depth chart’s even more stacked now. Ross Douglas came in the spring, so he’s got some good work. I think [Channing] Stribling and Jourdan Lewis, those guys – you look in that room with coach Mallory and those first year guys, it’s a pretty interesting room. The competition will definitely be hot and heavy at the corner position. Having Blake back is something that’s good for us, good for our football team, but they all will do a great job of competing.”
We talked about targeting in Chicago. Will you go over which plays that will now be illegal?
“Yeah in fact we’ll see the NCAA officials, they make a DVD. It’s probably on flash or whatever it is you do on a computer. But it will be watched tonight, talked about tonight. We talked about it last night. Championship teams don’t hurt themselves with dumb penalties or dumb decisions. So we have to be cognizant of all of them.”
Do you sense that Blake and Fitz are comfortable? IS there any hesitancy?
“No I think they feel great. I haven’t seen any, and haven’t since the end of spring. I know how hard both of them worked to put themselves in position to be able to play.”
You seem to be a little thin at safety. Are any of your veteran corners practicing at safety at all?
“No. You know, there’s enough safeties in there, too. Dymonte [Thomas] plays nickel, but we’re playing him more at safety, which is more of a true position for him. I think our depth at both of those positions is pretty strong.”
Are you going to be able to try out any freshman in the return game?
“Well, we’ll work all the other fundamentals, and we’ll work the fundamentals with them. Usually we start practice with specialists. We end practice in one segment with specialists because they’re all here on Mondays, Wednesdays. They’ll all be here.”
Who are you looking at for returner?
“Well, Jourdan Lewis is a guy. Stribling’s a guy who’s had work at it. From a receiver perspective, Jehu and Darboh are guys that have done it before, and I know they’re not in that same class. We’re kind of working six guys on the team with punt returns and some of those guys are kickoff return guys.”
- "I will be the starting running back on August 31."
- Felt he was at 80-85% in spring. Now at 100%.
- Got tackled by the previously-broken leg and felt fine.
- Reputedly beat Gardner in agility drills.
- Still has sweet dance moves.
- Doesn't really anticipate a whole lot of new stuff from Greg Mattison with regard to the corner position, but "we'll see."
- Is playing at both "left" and "right" corner. So no real distinction between field and boundary at this point.
- Teammates have said that he looks "better than before the injury."
- Carries around a milk jug full of ... water. Drinks a gallon and a half a day apparently.
- Doesn't care that players from other teams say that Michigan's run-blocking was kind of crappy last year. Says it's a new offensive line, and it's unacceptable for them to be bad at any aspect of line play.
Cracks in Fort Schembechler
This week we got a couple of very short glimpses into the otherwise locked-down existence of Michigan football. Normally under the current regime, we don't hear or see much of anything between the end of Spring ball and the beginning of fall practice unless a player is hit by a meteor (i.e. "suffered some off-season setbacks"), gets arrested ("has some learning to do"), or gets frozen in carbonite ("has struggled to get in game shape"). So when you get six seconds of live-action footage, YOU TAKE IT.
Enter: Devin Gardner's Vine account.
THINGS WE LEARNED:
- Fitz still has two legs. Those legs can support the weight of a human being as that human being does various physical activities. MEDICAL SCIENCE: HOW DOES IT WORK?
- Fitz has some dance moves. I have no idea what kind of moves, mind you... but they are moves nonetheless.
- Jeremy Gallon hates shirts
- Gallon's cloaking device still works, and is so now effective that the coaches have insisted that he carry a bell around with him so he can't sneak up on people anymore.
THINGS WE LEARNED:
- If you hang around on State Street long enough, Blake Countess and Devin Gardner will entertain you.
- Countess can do a standing back-handspring back-tuck.
- When Countess does a standing back-handspring back-tuck, I try to spot him through the computer screen so he won’t get hurt.
- Most urgently, the only logical explanation for this video is that the surgeons must have botched Blake Countess's surgery. It's kinda like Rookie of the Year, except instead of gaining a wicked fastball, Countess has lost the ability to backpedal. The only way he can move backwards is through some combination of back handsprings and back tucks. And sure, that might work on short and intermediate routes, but what of the deep ball? Even if he gets back there, he'll be too dizzy to make a play on the ball. No, no, no, this is all wrong.
[Side note: Countess is not the first Michigan football player with some gymnastics skillz. Brandon Graham was once a guest judge for the UofM Women's Gymnastics team's intra-squad scrimmage, and as part of that event he put together a video of himself doing some legitimate tumbling. If anyone has this video, you are needed at the Youtube. Also, it confirms Bo's lesser-known mantra that Those Who Do Gymnastics Will Be Really Good Defensive Players]
[ED: Ace has located additional backflip footage of Kenny Demens and Brandon Graham from Mock Rock 2009, starting at 2:00
left: Bryan Fuller
Earlier this offseason I stumbled onto an old article where Bill Walsh wrote what qualities he looks for when drafting various positions. Meant to be a one-off on the offense, I took requests for a defensive version and broke it up into D-Line, linebackers, and now, finally, the defensive backs. The idea is since the coaching staff is building a "pro-style" team with principles more akin to the Walsh ideal that dominates the pros than the collegiate evaluations made on scouting sites and the like, we shall re-scout the 2013 roster for Walsh-approved attributes.
Since coverages have changed the most since Walsh's day—a reaction to the spread—this is probably the least valuable of the series. To bring it back on point, I've gone off the page a little bit to note some of the attributes that NFL defensive coaches are looking for nowadays, and what those changes mean.
Plankamalu / Shazorvacs/ M-Rob if all quarterbacks were Brian Cleary
Walsh Says: 6'3/215. Now hold your horses before going all "SHAZOR?!?" on me—I'm making a point: The type of player you have at safety depends on the type of system you want to run and the type of player you have everywhere else. If you're going to be playing more odd coverages (cover 1, cover 3) then you want your strong safety to be more of a run support guy, in many ways a fourth linebacker. If your base coverage is even (cover 2, cover 4) the strong and weak safeties will be more similar:
"There are other systems of defense where both safeties play a two-deep coverage and only occasionally come out of the middle to support the run. They basically play the ball in the air, the middle of the field and the sidelines. When you do that, then the stress is on the cornerback to be the support man.
So you must keep in mind these various philosophies when considering what types of cornerbacks and safeties you want to put together in forming a defensive secondary."
The attributes of your defensive backs should be complementary. Here's what Walsh is getting at: your backfield has to be able to defend the pass first and the run second. And here's the key: the more you can trust one player to handle coverage without help, the more you can stock up on extra run defense with the other guys. If your backfield already has plenty of coverage, you can have a strong man:
"The strong safety is historically the support man. He must have some of the traits you look for in a linebacker. In fact there have been some hybrid players in that position. Cincinnati had David Fulcher [right], who was as big as some linebackers but could function also as a safety. The Bengals moved him weak and strong, inside and outside and he became that extra man that the offensive run game had to account for but often could not block.
"But the typical strong safety is someone who can hit and stop people and respond spontaneously and go to the ball. Naturally, the more coverage talent the man has the more you can line him up on anybody."
Today, defensive coordinators sit on porches, remember when you could play a guy like Fulcher, and say "those were the days." The epitome of this type of safety is former Buckeye Doug Plank, who defined his position to such a degree that the defensive system itself was named for his number (46).
It's also called the "Bear" defense because it was the Bears
This defense was at the height of its popularity when Walsh joined the 49ers in 1979, and it was this defense his model passing concepts shredded. The defense played to Plank's strengths as an overly aggressive, hard-hitting run stopper with some coverage skills. The SAM linebacker in today's anti-spread sets (e.g. the 3-3-5's "Spur") is a closer analogue to the Plank-style player than the modern strong safety, with the key difference being that, as a safety, you couldn't put a blocker on a 46 without removing one from a lineman or linebacker, meaning the SS could flow cleanly to the point of attack and wrack up ridiculous tackle numbers.
College teams loved this, since passing quarterbacks were hard to come by and the big boys were running three yards and a cloud of dust (and later the option). A lot of cool names for linebacker-safeties were passed down from this period, such as the "Wolf" on Bo's teams, or the "Star" (names which today are coming out of retirement for the nickel-SAM hybrid position in base 4-2-5 anti-spread defenses).
Walsh's Favorite Wolverine: Why does a mid-'70s response to off-tackle NFL running games matter to a collegiate defense in 2013? Well because we have a really good free safety, and play tight end-heavy outfits this year in UConn (T.J. Weist, a rare member of the Gary Moeller coaching tree, is taking over there), Penn State, Michigan State, and Iowa, with the outside possibility of a Wisconsin if we make it to the conference championship. Also because the coaches have been subtly putting safety-like objects (Woolfolk, Gordon, and now Dymonte Thomas) at nickel, and recruiting a few linebacker-sized safeties.
I don't know what he'd think of Kovacs. We loved him, but Jordan had two weaknesses: 1) his lack of overall athleticism made exploitable if left in wide coverage (see: his abusing by Ace Sanders on the last play of the Outback Bowl, and the utter disaster that was GERG's attempt to play Kovacs as the free safety in 2009), and 2) his lack of size made him blockable if a lead blocker could get to him (see: bad things happening whenever Mouton abandoned contain).
He would have loved Ernest Shazor, a knife blade listed at 6'4/226 with a scatback's acceleration who loved nothing better than demonstrating the force equation. Brian calls Shazor "the most overrated Michigan player of the decade" because he has to live with the bolded subconscious of UFR, and nothing pisses off a figment of a blogger's imagination like a safety who gives up a big play in coverage.
Here's the point: the ideal safety would be a dude with the size and stopping power to pop a lead blocker and make the tackle or lay out a guy like Shazor, read and react like Kovacs, and cover like Charles Woodson. That human doesn't exist. A combo of epic athleticism with plus headiness and serviceable tackling and size equals Ed Reed or Sean Taylor. Epic headiness with plus size and serviceable everything else nets you Doug Plank, with plus athleticism: Ronnie Lott, Troy Polamalu or Rodney Harrison. The trick is to have epic everything between your safeties; for strongside then it's not Ernest Shazor or Jordan Kovacs; it's SHAZORVACS!
What to look for in a Scouting Report: At either safety position, instincts rate highly and speed after that (less so for the strongside). You're looking to first make sure you have enough coverage in the entire backfield, and once you do you can use this position to stock up on linebacker traits: tackling, size, taking on blockers, personal contribution to local seismic activity, that sort of stuff.
What you can learn on film: Everyone loves those bone-jarring hits and coaches are more than happy to put them in a recruiting video, but not all hits are created equal. Sometimes they're generated by another defender cutting off the lead blocker, other times it's your guy reading the play so early he can go all-out on the hit. More important is what happens to the ballcarrier: he needs to go down. Safeties are going to be left in space, and making that tackle is more important than making the offensive player wish he'd never met this oblong brown thing.
What could signal bust potential: Remember you want a safety, not a horse, i.e. overrating the secondary, linebacker-y attributes and expecting the rest to come along. Adequate coverage and good instincts need to be there or else this guy is just a platoon player. "May be a linebacker on the next level" is a red flag, unless he actually becomes a linebacker. Brandon Smith's recruiting profile is instructive.
It's usually good policy to discount ESPN's opinion when it's in wild disagreement with the other services, but here I tend to give their rip job ($, "he's not a fast-twitch athlete and lacks explosive quickness and speed"; "Takes too long to reach top speed"; "He can be late, takes false steps and doesn't see things happen quickly enough") some credence. Reasons:
- Rivals started off very high on him, ranking him around #50, but steadily dropped him as the year progressed despite his status as a high-profile uncommitted player.
- Despite all the guru accolades Michigan's main competitors were Rutgers and South Carolina; other offers came from Maryland, NC State, Wisconsin and West Virginia. He wanted offers from Florida and Ohio State which never came.
- You always risk looking like a tool when you rely on your super awesome scouting skills and six plays on youtube to discern a kid's fate, but... yeah, I didn't think he was all that.
The guy left in a huff after they tried to wring the last bit of value out of him as a Doug Plank-like extra linebacker vs. Wisconsin, and Wisconsin ground us to dust, but then Smith was a high school quarterback whose development as a defender had to come almost entirely from the Rodriguez-era coaching staff. Anyway you've seen this again and again: rave reviews for the guy's "frame" and a profundity of attributes that would make him seem a really nice horse, combined with not nearly enough "makes plays." First have all of the safety stuff: can read and react, cover, and tackle in space. Then care about the size.
How our guys compare: Jarrod Wilson (6'2/196) remains my favorite to start at this spot because he is adequate (not yet plus) in coverage and the other guys aren't. Like the Jamar Adams he reminds me of, Wilson doesn't stand out in any category but doesn't have any major holes in his game other than being young.
The other leading candidate is Marvin Robinson who scares the hell out of me. He was a big-time recruit early in the process thanks to apparently having an early growth spurt, and his profile was filled with horsey metaphors. The same player still hangs on that frame (he arrived at 203 and never deviated more than 3 lbs from that) and hopes for him hang on the comparative competence in coaching plus the fact that being behind Jordan Kovacs is a perfectly reasonable excuse for not seeing the field earlier.
The redshirt freshmen at this position are stiff and linebacker-ish with instincts, more Plank than Polamalu. Jeremy Clark is all of 6'4/201 and did an okay job against the run in the Spring Game I covered in this space a few weeks ago, but lacks speed. Allen Gant also had instincts praised as a recruit, but also lacks the kind of athleticism and would at best develop into a slightly bigger and less heady Kovacs. If going forward Michigan can develop a superstar at the other safety spot or with a corner, they might be able to Plank it with one of these guys—when Woodson gave us that opportunity in '97, Daydrion Taylor and Tommy Hendricks went ham.
Thomas Gordon is super-instinctive and would be a perfect fit here except he's needed at the more important free position he's been playing.
[The rest, after the leap.]