mesmerism! presidential assassinations! circuses on fire!
News bullets and other important things:
- The team started practicing in pads on Wednesday.
- Jack Miller has also been taking snaps at left guard along with presumed starter (at this point) Elliott Mealer.
- Brandon Moore has established himself as the current number one option at tight end.
“We’ve had four practices to this point, so we have a lot of work to do. We’ve got some positions obviously that need to be addressed. I like how we’ve come out to practice. I don’t know if I like how we’ve finished it completely. We have to do a better job of finishing. That’s a big part. You want to finish games. You want to finish the month of November. That’s something that we talk about, something that we need to do. The leadership’s been good. I like how our guys have worked together and the things that they’ve done. I think there’s some examples out there that guys are trying to show and trying to do a good job with. As far as that goes, I’m excited about being able to be out there in pads. We started that yesterday, and it was good to be out there and see some guys hit and be physical.”
Can you name some positions that you feel need to be addressed?
“I think they all [need to be addressed] as you know. But the front defensively, the front offensively -- that’s where the game’s played and that’s where we have to be more physical. I don’t think we’ve been as tough at the point of attack in the four days that we’ve had as we’d like to be, but I probably said the same thing last year at this time. I think the guys are working at it. I think Will [Campbell] is trying to step up as a leader. I think Ricky Barnum is. You see Taylor [Lewan] coming along as a leader, so I think guys are working together well. I think they understand the expectations.”
Do you feel like you need guys on the line to be team leaders?
“You know, I don’t know if it’s the most important thing, but I think if you have a guy who plays in the most physical part of the football team, I think that can make a difference to some degree. Defensively, Kovacs is a guy who shows a great deal of leadership. I think Craig Roh’s doing a great job with the position change. He’s been active. It’s going to pay off in the long run with that change. And then offensively Ricky’s a senior. Elliott’s doing a good job at the guard position. And then Taylor. So if you look at those up front guys, those guys are doing a good job, but it doesn’t necessarily [have to be them]. I think Denard is really working hard to be a good leader for us.”
What do you like specifically about Elliott Mealer at the left guard spot?
“Right now I like his work ethic and his demeanor. I think he’s got a bit more confidence than he had last year at this time.”
Mattison mentioned that Craig Roh is better suited on the strong side. Do you feel that way, too?
“We wouldn’t have moved him if we both wouldn’t have felt that way. He’s gained strength and the weight … that he’ll continue to do, but he has a burst in him and a good first time which gives you a little more speed and more of a guy who can give you a three-way move, which is important up front. We’d like for him to be 280-282. Boy don’t quote me on this, but he was 273 when we got started, so if he can maintain that and then gain a little more during spring ball, then during the summer he’ll be able to gain that weight. ”
How does the game change between being a weakside and strongside?
“You’ve got more combination blocks with the tight end and the tackle. If you’re on the open side then the tackle’s the primary guy who’s going to block you but you don’t have as many combinations.”
How is Ricky Barnum adjusting to the center position?
“I think he’s doing okay. We did so much with him a year ago. When we go to our quarterback snaps and all that, we have about five guys snapping. We’ve always done that part of it. He took some snaps in some live situations a year ago. I couldn’t count the number for you, but I think he’s doing okay.”
Have you seen consistency out of Will Campbell so far?
“Yeah, I wouldn’t say all the way yet. I think there’s so much more that we can get from him. What I like about it is his attitude towards it. We do some ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ every practice, and it pays to be a winner and losing -- there’s consequences. Defensively, we’ve had some consequences, and he’s done a great job of running the consequences.”
Who else is snapping besides Barnum and Jack Miller?
“It’s Jack, Joey Burzynski, and Ricky. Joey’s a guy that’s really grown into it pretty well.”
Has anything stood out at the left guard spot yet?
“No I think Elliot’s done a pretty good job with it at this point. And you’ve got that three-way rotation -- Ricky can bounce over there since he’s played it. Jack’s taken some snaps there. Joey’s taken some snaps there. If anything, we’re developing guys that have multiple skills who in the long run can help you.”
Can you see the comfort level in Denard that you may not have seen last fall?
“Yeah I would say so. Not watching the practice tape yet of what we just did, but from yesterday, there wasn’t any doubt that I thought there was marked improvement in some areas with throwing, decisiveness, good decision making, those things.”
What’s the most notable thing you’ve seen from him?
“Decisiveness with his throws.”
What are you looking for in the tight end position?
“Well we have to have a guy who can move the line of scrimmage first and foremost. Whether we run the power out of the one-back set, gun set, or if we’re running the power and the outside stretch play out of two-back. We’ve got to have a guy who can combination block the defensive end with the tackle and a guy who can handle what we call the 6-technique -- head up guys, defensive end -- if you want to try and get to the edge. That’s what you have to have. Koger was a guy who could do multiple things. I think Brandon Moore these couple of days has grown up a little bit. I like what he’s doing.”
Is Brandon Moore far and away the best one?
“I don’t know if it’s far and away, but he’s the best one at it so far. Most experience, too.”
How are your three freshmen holding up?
“Really well. Really well. I think they’re all three very willing. They all three have an athelticism to them. I think Joe and Kaleb are physical linebackers and they both run pretty well. Jarrod, he’s pretty good playing the ball and those things. At the same time he’s learning all this stuff -- this coverage is this, and when they motion this guy over, what do you do? And is it a zone, a fire, or a zone blitz, or is it man coverage? I mean, there’s a lot of things and it’s always hard at the safety position. Probably as hard as any within the defense because of the adjustments they have to make.”
Last year you coached the interior defensive line. Are you still doing that with guys like Will Campbell and Jibreel Black?
“Yeah. Jibreel at times, Jerry and I switch him back and forth, but Will and Quinton Washington and Richard Ash are the three guys I’ve got a great opportunity with.”
Does losing so many veterans change how you approach coaching the position?
“You know, I don’t know if it ever changes how you coach, because I think you make a real mistake -- and I did it here in 1998, having three returning starters back from the national championship team. I didn’t do a good job as coach with sticking with the basics and the progression that we want and the expectation that we need to have. I promised myself I wouldn’t do it again.”
Do you like Schofield’s move to right tackle?
“Yeah I do, and I think he’s playing with more confidence. I really like it. That always helps when you have all of the snaps that he has in big games. I’m real excited for him.”
How has level of physicality been now that you’re practicing in pads? Is it to your liking?
“Yes, no question about it. We will be as physical as we can possibly be.”
Do you expect Roy’s numbers to go up with his move to Junior Hemingway’s position?
“You know, I think the expectation has to come with how people want to defend you. I think that’s always a big part of it. Roy is a guy who I should have mentioend earlier as far as leadership and doing those things by example that I’ve been impressed with.”
What do you see from Jerald Robinson?
“Jerald’s got a chance. He’s got a huge chance to be a contributor. He’s shown more consistency. He’s caught the ball well. Gallon and him and Roy both, Drew to some extent, have done a good job. The receivers have been competing well.”
(I'll have some player transcripts up later today.)
Fifteen minutes of Bo yelling at officials. Wot it says on the tin:
Can't see Hoke doing this; am now imagining Bo's reaction after the Hagerup incident against OSU. It does not go well for the kid. I love the announcers' reactions, which are mostly bemused. Musberger as Bo charges about ten yards onto the field to protest a pass interference non-call: "That's why they give him an extension cord."
Hoke with Dave. This had slipped my mind until a helpful reader reminded me of it. After Hoke took Ball State to 12-0 in his final year, he showed up on Ball State alum David Letterman's Late Show to deliver a Top Ten. It is exactly as you might expect:
Is that a red tie? Horror!
The Devin To WR thing. The internet was abuzz with rumors that Devin Gardner spent his first spring practice at wide receiver to the point where actual reporters actually asked Al Borges about it. Via Heiko, the response:
Are you experimenting with Devin Gardner at other positions?
“We’re doing what we did a year ago, pretty much. We’re giong to play the best 11 guys. Devin’s the backup quarterback right now. He’s number two, and we’re going to do what we have to do to get the best 11 on the field. Nothing’s changed in that perspective, so we pretty much have the same mentality that we had.”
Are you looking at him at wide receiver?
“Yeah … the practices are closed for a reason.”
That gruffy, annoyed non-denial was taken as confirmation of the Gospel from on high by the internet, and… yeah, I'm with you guys. Michigan is at least gingerly exploring the possibility of throwing Devin Gardner on the field as a wide receiver. Whether that's for wacky trick plays or is a serious exploration of what Gardner brings to the field there is unknown probably even to the coaches.
Me, I hope it's the latter. Gardner's nearly 6'5", has huge hands and explosive leaping ability, and this old film of him screwing around at WR at some camps…
…reminds me of that Sports Science thing they did on Justin Blackmon in which it was explained that he could catch anything within a half-mile radius of him. If you've got enough faith in Russell Bellomy to spot Robinson when he gets his inevitable dings, I'd roll with a potentially elite talent at WR.
The obvious downside is what happens in the event of a serious Robinson injury and next year, when Gardner is the presumed starter at QB. It's not a move that doesn't come with risks. Hoke seems like a guy who looks at the upside of things more than the downside. If you think getting Gardner on the field helps you win this year you have to do it. Next year is next year.
You can't escape me. Cleveland State reveals that Michigan has home dates with Oakland and the Cleveland State/BGSU winner as part of their participation in the Preseason NIT. Unlike a lot of of tournaments, the preseason NIT actually gives a berth in the final to the winners of their preliminary rounds—as it should be.
This is good. Michigan should be scheduling decent mid-majors instead of total dreck as they seek to get that RPI up in a year when they could be a national contender. Even if Oakland and CSU aren't up to their previous standards they should still be a far cry from the SWAC. CSU was 22-11 last year and made the NIT. They lost to Stanford in the first round but still finished in the Kenpom top 100. They lose three starters and a key reserve but Gary Waters has led his team to 20 wins in four of the last five seasons. They'll be at least decent.
Oakland had an off year by their recent standards and loses a third of their usage with Reggie Hamilton's graduation; they return everyone else except Laval-Lucas Perry, though. BGSU was a middling MAC team. These are much better opponents for numbers purposes.
The rest of Michigan's nonconference schedule is still unannounced but we do know they'll be getting a home game from Arkansas, a home game in the Big Ten/ACC challenge, will travel to Bradley as part of a quid pro quo for Bradley hiring Beilein's son, and will play WVU in New York. If they reach the Preseason NIT finals they're likely to meet some combination of Pitt, Virginia, and an unknown team.
Michigan's also added Arizona for a home and home starting in 2013-14, when Sean Miller's monster recruiting class (four top 50 players including Nick Stauskas teammate Kaleb Tarczewski) will just be finding its feet. Those could be big time matchups.
Etc.: Dolla dolla bill extends to the students, who will be paying $205 for six home games this year. Denard interviewed by BTN. Inside Michigan Hockey profiles the team headed into the tournament. Bowls versus the tourney in terms of money headed to teams. Michigan's first black player was George Jewett in 1890; Michigan Today profiles him.
Oh herro prease. I'm back for spring practice. There will be two or three pressers every week leading up to the spring game, and I will be transcribing all of them. Huzzah!
News bullets and other important things:
- Ricky Barnum is practicing at center.
- Rocko Khoury, Terrence Robinson, Mike Cox, and George Morales are all graduating this spring and will not return for the 2012 season
- Justice Hayes is staying at running back but will be considered for kickoff return duties.
- The spring game will be a scrimmage due to lack of bodies on offensive and defensive line.
On wearing pants today: “I put them on just for you guys.”
“First, this is off-topic a little bit, but we had severe weather yesterday and the damage and all that was out there in Dexter, and I don’t know too many other places -- I think that was the worst hit, but our thoughts and prayers are with those folks who went through that. We had our guys here for training table and when the campus alert went out they were all in the locker room and it was one of those situations. Our thoughts and prayers really go out to those people who were affected by it.
“We also yesterday had our pro day, which is a part of your program that the guys who have given so much, the opportunity, the dream they may have about continuing after they get a great degree from Michigan and continuing to play the game of football. I thought they represented Michigan well, and we’re proud of them for that.
“As far as this team, Team 133, I think we have a lot of questions. I know I do from the perspective of who’s going to emerge as the leaders, who’s going to have the toughness to lead and the sacrifice to lead. I think we’ve had a good winter. You can see some guys developing, you can see some guys really working hard, but I think you put the pads on, spring football, those things, you learn a little bit more about your football team. Starting tomorrow morning we get to do that. It’s going to be fun because you get to wear shorts again, get out on the field … it’s going to be good.
"When you look at where we’re at, there’s some obvious holes that we need to fill from the standpoint of our defensive line with the three seniors graduating at the position who played a lot of snaps for us a year ago. When you look at our offensive line there’s some good competition, but at the same time we’ve got to see improvement from young guys like Chris Bryant. He’s done a good job with the weight room and that part of it, but how he continues and matures. And Ricky Barnum, we’re going to play him at center to start with and see where he ends up there. Elliott Mealer getting an opportunity at the guard position, and Schofield will go out to right tackle, and obviously Taylor will obviously be the left tackle. Really for us we were very fortunate from an injury (standpoint) on both sides nad both fronts when you look at the guys up front defensively who stayed relatively healthy until the bowl practices and the six guys who were really responsible for the front. Those were the obvious places. Obviously Junior, Odoms, and Kelvin Grady. There’s a rotation there, and Junior obviously having most [contribution] statistically and all those things. There’s heavy competition and there will be competition.
"That’s probably the longest I’ve ever spoke.”
On your defensive line, how big of a spring is this for Will Campbell?
“I think it’s big, but I think he’s made great progress [in] what he’s done from a physical standpoint how he looks and all those things. I think his leadership and that part of it, with Quinton Washington, Richard Ash, when you start looking at that nose position, the ability for Will to slide from the 3-technique to the nose position is important.”
What’s the biggest issue with moving a guy like Ricky from guard to center?
“I think number one, snapping the football is always a little different. Now we did quite a bit with Rick when he got back healthy last year, playing both. I think Darrell and Al both had that mindset, if we did get beat up somewhere else where we had to rotate those guys -- at the end of the day the best five guys have to play, however that rotation works out. But I think snapping the ball, the shot gun snaps, you’d like to see centers be able to snap and step at the same time.”
Is the reason you’re moving Ricky to center because you’re not confident in guys like Rocko Khoury or Jack Miller?
“Well …” (ominous pause) “… I think there’s some unknowns there. I think that’s the best way to put it.”
How has Craig Roh embraced the move to strongside and Jibreel Black with the move inside?
“I think they’ve really embraced it. I know when we had the conversation and Greg met with Craig after we discussed it staff-wise. It was like, okay. I get to eat a little more. If someone said that to me I’d be happy. He really has embraced it. They’ve done some senior drill work and all that where all those guys -- him and Jibreel both are really excited about it.”
Do you expect there to be greater competition on the offensive and defensive lines since a lot of positions are up for grabs?
“I think so. I think these guys have learned to compete more and more as far as what our perception of competition is and our expectation of competition. I think they understand what’s at stake and I think they also understand that September 1st is going to be here before we know it.”
Borges said on the radio that he wished he would have spent more time using the spread early on in the season before transitioning to the pro-style. Is there an opportunity to spend more time in the spread now?
“I think the more we get comfortable in this scheme, you may see a little more, but for us, I think Al when he’s talking about that, [he meant] maybe we could have had a little more success, but we were pretty good early. I think you could because of some things that we’ve looked at.”
How have the three early enrollees progressed through the winter?
“I think they’ve had a really great winter. The first thing you always look at is how they adjust from being away from home, mom not cooking, mom not doing your laundry. I think classes, and that responsibility -- I think Joe and Kaleb and Jarrod have all really done a good job. Talking to coach Wellman in the weight room and how their work ethic is, I think all three of them have done a tremendous job.
Have any of the three stood out in any way?
“I think they all have maybe not exceeded but have adjusted well.”
“Yeah, we’ve got some guys … George Morales is going to graduate. Rocko’s going to graduate. Terrence Robinson will graduate, and Mike Cox is graduating. I think that’s it.”
Is that this spring?
“Yeah. A couple of them have like six hours in the summer, because this is the winter quarter.”
So they will not be back in 2012?
“Hmm mm. (No.)”
Ws that their decision?
“I think it’s their decision.”
Could they take advantage of the post graduation transfer rule?
“Mm hmm. (Yes.)”
What do you expect out of Roy this season? Who do you have hope for at the receiver position to step up?
“I think the first guy you look at is always Roy. I think that Jeremy Gallon is a guy who has shown tremendous ability. You look at his year and he was pretty successful. You look at Jeremy Jackson and his development and his growth. Dileo is a really valuable guy to our team. Jerald Robinson is a guy -- he was down most of the year with us. He can be pretty productive. Joe Reynolds is a guy who’s worked awfully hard.”
What’s different going into the second spring here vs. a year ago?
“For us, I don’t know if you look at it a whole lot differently. I mean you’re always trying to meet expectations of competitiveness, toughness, leadership, development, discipline, and all those things. At the same time it’s probably a little -- I never want to say the word easier -- but they do know what certain terms mean now from an offensive schematic or defensive schematic in how we coach or how we call things.”
What’s the next step in leadership that you want to see Denard take?
“He’s done a really good job of leading this winter. He’s done a good job when you look at -- he’s always been an unselfish player, so that’s always something that his teammates have seen. But he’s always taken it and been a little more … you hear him a little more I guess. Holding guys accountable a little more.”
From a passing standpoint, how big is going back to the fundamentals and footwork?
“There’s no question. That’s an everyday thing, and that’s an everyday thing for every position. The fundamentals and techniques. Our guys do a lot of seven-on-seven in the offseason. Continually they work drills at every position, so that’s huge.”
Last year the defensive line set the tone for the defense. Do you set that kind of expectations for this group?
“No question about it. Your expectations don’t go down. They better increase because the bar is always going to be set high here at Michigan and should be. Those expectations are for the position, not the person who plays the position.”
How does their lack of experience change the way you approach that this season?
“It doesn’t. Maybe you are a little more patient when they don’t do it exactly like we want them to, so that might be part of it, but it really doesn’t.”
Do you anticipate growing pains with that group? What’s the kind of thing that will drive you crazy during spring practice?
“A guy not playing with toughness and a guy not running to the football. That will drive me crazy.”
How good do you feel about your back seven? All of them are returning.
“I think as a whole, as a unit, I feel good -- I feel good about the kids themselves. As a unit that’s going to play at the level we need to play, I don’t feel very good because we didn’t play as well as we needed to a year ago. I’m not a huge statistic guy, but you go in and you look at opportunities that we missed either in passes broken up or interceptions on that end or supporting the end, getting off a block and doing that, and you’re looking at your linebackers a little bit -- your inside guys, are they missing tackles or making tackles? I’ve always been from the school that we’re going to be really critical, so I like the guys who we have. I like the guys who are coming in. I think we’ll have great competition by the time September 1st gets here. That part of it’s good, and I like that. I like having guys how have had some experience. Now where can they take the next step with the fundamentals and schematically of what we’re trying to do so that we don’t get beaten by Michigan State or we don’t get beaten by Iowa or we don’t give up this many points against somebody.”
With the attrition, you seem to be pretty low in terms of numbers.
“Well we’ve been low in numbers for a while, especially at the offensive line position from a scholarship standpoint. I think last year we had eight guys. Usuaully that number is 14 to 16. From a defensive line standpoint, if you’re going to have a four-man front, you better have 14 to 16 scholarship guys. We weren’t even close.”
Are you happy about how 2013 recruiting is going?
“Well number one, this is not an exact science and you don’t really know what you get until they get here because this is a hard game to play and hard to be championship teams and play. I think our coaches have worked extremely hard. I think they do a tremendous job evaluating and we’ll see. That’s why there’s a signing date. First Wednesday in February. But we’ll see. We have a long way to go.”
Punting struggles with Will Hagerup?
“The punting situation is one that will be competitive. I think both guys are very capable. I think the consistency we need to have by whoever that guy is is going to be an important part.”
How do you see the running back situation shaping up since Fitz locked down the starting position last season?
“Well he’s going to compete. He’s going to compete there. I think I’ve said this since day one. There’s nothing sacred. There’s no position that’s given an entitlement. He ended the year doing a nice job for us. You have to love the kid -- I do -- because of his competitiveness. I think he grew up a lot during the course of the year with whatthe expectiations are for a Michigan back. But Thomas Rawls and Vince Smith and Hayes, you know, there’s guys there. He can’t have a bad day.”
You mentioned Justice Hayes. Are you keeping him at running back or moving him to another position?
“No, he’s a back. We’ll see how he transpires. The good thing about him, he does have that talent where he can go out and catch the ball and he’s got great explosion. Kickoff returns -- he’d be a guy we want to look at because he’s got a gear to him that’s a little different.”
Spring game format?
“It’ll probably be a lot like last year. We’d love to have a true spring game, there’s no doubt about it. I said some numbers earlier about your most physical two positions on your team, and our numbers aren’t where they need to be.”
Are you taking walk-ons this spring?
“We’ll wait more until the fall.”
Adult Swim does not like OSU. This is not the first shot they've taken in Columbus's direction in the past year:
Now you can experience the Hoke yourself. Here's 54 minutes of Hoke talking to the Ohio High School Football Coaches' Association:
Haven't had the opportunity to check it out yet but it was recommended to me by one of the guys in the room as a great example of why Michigan's having the success they are on the recruiting trail. If it's anything like the Glazier clinic I was at, I agree.
Senior night festivities. If you missed them:
Defending Aaron Craft's defense. I'm a big stats guy and everything but man, Aaron Craft is coming in for a beating after picking up the Big Ten's defensive player of the year award and when people try to justify this they are reaching for any blunt object in the vicinity. Here's Big Ten Geeks:
Aaron Craft is a very good defensive player. Let’s get that out of the way. Whatever you think of the next few paragraphs, remember that we all agree that Craft’s defense would improve just about any collegiate basketball team.
But the sophomore guard just earned some hardware that bestowed loftier praise than just being “very good.” Indeed, it is the opinion of Big Ten coaches that Craft is the conference’s best defensive player. At the risk of dismissing the opinions of 12 men who know a lot about basketball, I think they got this one wrong.
Measuring defense is not easy. Dean Oliver came up with the Stops metric which has some appeal in that it shows correlation with defensive efficiency year-over-year. The more Stops a team keeps, the better the defense holds up. If a bunch of Stops are lost to graduation or early-entry, the defense slides. That doesn’t make it the be-all, but it’s something.
And according to Stops, Aaron Craft isn’t in the conversation of the Big Ten’s best defensive player.
Stops == defensive rebounds plus blocked shots plus steals. Stops is a very, very rough metric, like all defensive stats. Defensive stats are useless on an individual level.
So you can argue with Craft, but most arguments boil down to "he's short." I don't think that should disqualify him. Ohio State finished #1 in overall defense at Kenpom and was top 30 in forcing turnovers. Craft's steal percentage was 15th nationally. It's not like giving him the award is crazy out there, especially since they weren't going to give both the POY and DPOY to the same guy.
The real complaint here is about the guy who won the conference without any all-conference players, with one top 100 recruit, and after being picked to finish outside the top three at the start of the year. That would be John Beilein, who is not your B10 coach of the year.
Braylon kerfuffle. Braylon being Braylon (tweets have been mildly de-tweeted for readability):
"I don't understand how my brother has the 8th (fastest) time in the country in the 60m, ran for 1800 yards last year and 20 and U of M won't call," Edwards tweeted around 8 p.m.
"Love my school and I played for coach (Hoke) but call my brother before its too late and you guys miss out like Lloyd would have if not for Soup."
At least… uh… Braylon Edwards always doesn't get how media works instead of only not getting it because he doesn't like the head coach? That's the ticket.
Obviously this would have been better suggested directly to Hoke, or not at all. For one, it is March. I know we have a slightly accelerated timetable these days, but it's March. Braylon didn't get his offer until midway through his high school season, IIRC. For two, it's still March. Camp, play your senior season, see what happens, don't throw a hissy because you expect better.
I'm guessing the Edwards clan is going to have to stew most of the year, if not all of it. Michigan's not going to have a lot of wildcard spots; those that exist look like they'll be ticketed for big time players.. They've already recruited Wyatt Shallman as a tailback, and are hot after Ty Isaac and DeVeon Smith. They've taken two third-down scatback types (Justice Hayes and Dennis Norfleet) the past two years. There is not a spot on the roster for a 5'8" tailback that does not knock out a four star player at a position of greater need.
If it was looking grim before, now Hoke has to consider the possibility that Braylon is going to go Craig James on him if he does end up offering Berkeley. Not a good move.
Building relationships, one coach at a time. Sounds like Trotwood's coach is a little peeved at OSU:
Trotwood-Madison High School football coach Maurice Douglass didn’t exactly say Ohio State fumbled the ball, but he didn’t have to.
“One man’s lump of coal is another man’s diamond,” Douglass said. “And Michigan got a diamond.” …
“They sent him a letter last Thursday telling him to hold on, that they were still evaluating linebackers,” Douglass said.
May this work out like Anthony Gonzalez did. Except backwards, obviously. Also, that last bit should assuage any concerns McCray would flip when the Great Meyer comes down from the mountain with a temporary, conditional, non-committable offer-ish non-offer (unless you want to take it). He was asked to cool his heels and flipped the bird instead.
As a result, it is time to RELEASE THE MCCRAYKEN
Someone photoshop some wings on to that thing.
Asshats. Roy Roundtree commits a meaningless secondary violation by mentioning the twitter handle of the McCrayken; Chatsports points this out because they are clickwhores who don't care if they're damaging people or programs. If you ever see James T Yoder in a public place please let him know that he's a bad person.
Etc.: ESPN the Magazine chronicles Rumeal Robinson's descent into madness. Does pointing at stuff make you seem smarter? Obviously. Going in depth on Michigan's offensive line present and future. Five Key Plays from PSU.
NOTE: it proved impossible to communicate what OL coaches were like without swearing more than I usually would in a post not about backboards in the immediate aftermath of last year's Wisconsin game. Keep children and the mad away from this post.
Faced with a difficult choice between seeing the head coach give his stump speech and talk about defensive line coaching and Al Borges talking about creating a play sheet and Michigan's passing concepts, I split the difference: one hour each. If I'd known I was going to get an excellent event recap from the Hoke presentation in my inbox that night I would have gone 100% Borges, but better to have it 3/4ths covered than half.
The emailer's notes follow. I was in the room for the first half of this and will interject some asides where appropriate; first a few general impressions from me.
loafs = bad; offensive line coaches, basically
My first exposure to the football coaching subculture was sometimes fascinating, sometimes boring, and full of swearing.
To a certain extent all football coaches emphasize the same things, and they tell you about these things every time. I get it: "loafs" are not tolerated. They are to you as scrubs are to TLC. [blank stares] I would like to move on from this because I have never tried to teach anyone and do not understand that without relentless consistency you do not get the results you want. Football coaches know you would like to move on but the relentless consistency is so ingrained in their nature that they can't help themselves.
Hoke was the most explicit example of this amongst the coaches I've seen over the past couple weeks. His presentation is on proper defensive line technique* and he says "I respect guys who just get into football and won't do all that philosophy stuff," he does a large section on philosophy stuff, and then sort of apologizes for it—only sort of because Hoke has a friendly bravado to him. Very few coaches can escape it.
Most of those guys are offensive line coaches. In a field of insane, profanity-prone sticklers for detail, OL coaches stand out. Collectively they have an air of weary acceptance. The best way to communicate this: a couple of the guys who presented in Grand Rapids have their own OL-specific clinic. Their logo is a mushroom because they're "kept in the dark and eat shit all day."
Funk was the first OL coach I took in so I didn't know how much of an exception he was. He may be the most businesslike individual I've ever perceived. No jokes, no swearing, just explanations.
What Funk shares with the other guys is an arcane language that's half signing, half jargon, half grunting, and I know that adds up to more than 100%. Jets consultant Jim McNally spent an hour talking about where a center's first step should be against a one-technique. He'd put his foot somewhere, say that was horseshit, put his foot somewhere else that you could just perceive was different, and tell you that this would prevent the motherfucker lined up across from you from putting you in a world of shit as long as you did six dozen other things right. But then some other motherfucker would put you in a world of shit some other way so you had to STEP [GRUNT] in this other particular way. A ballet eventually emerged in this quarter-full room as McNally scribbled his hieroglyphics on an overhead projector: step, grunt, swear. Step, grunt, swear. And so on.
So… yeah. Offensive line coaches.
*[Again it's worth mentioning here that Hoke is an outlier amongst head coaches. He still coaches a position. Meanwhile, he seems to have relatively little input on the coordinator-level duties. He is high and low and nowhere in between.]
Brady Hoke commands a room. I'd been in The Presence once before, when The UM Club of Ann Arbor invited me to be a panelist for their season kickoff Q&A. He started off with the same call and response he gives the team:
He then jovially mocks you for being meek little things and asks you to do it again. It's probably the oldest motivational/attention gathering technique in the history of man. He did it to the infinite coaches in the room by saying "GOOD EVENING" until the response was involved enough for him to continue. He does this with the team, obviously.
Over the course of the hour I took in he grabbed a half-dozen people out of the crowd to demonstrate certain things, told everyone to get up and actually get in a stance—this did not work well since the room was packed—and used a former Ball State player he called by a stereotypically defensive line nickname I forget as a proficient dummy. He got his points across, kept attention to him, and tossed off laugh lines with the casual air of a guy in complete control of a room. Which he was. As I noodled on my phone in certain other talks, Hoke's charisma became a more notable thing.
A couple days later eight four-star recruits would agree.
Now on to the email report.
Last night I had the opportunity to hear Coach Hoke speak for 2 hours at a Glazier Clinic in Grand Rapids. Hoke took the first five minutes to talk a little program philosophy and motivational stuff, he then launched into a very detailed 110 minute talk about D-Line rules/technique/drills/responsibilities. I thought I would share some various bullets from the night.
Roh move. Although already mentioned on the Blog, Craig Roh is definitely moving to the 5 tech! Coach hit on this a couple times while discussing drills. Seemed to hint at Beyer and possibly Ryan moving to WDE?! [Hint means he mentioned these guys as he was discussing WDE position...again nothing for sure, but just passing along info.]
[ED: I assume Ryan isn't moving to WDE. He probably gets mentioned amongst them because the SLB has a lot of responsibilities similar to the WDE. At the previous clinic Mattison mentioned that M has a defense in which the SLB and WDE essentially swap responsibilities that they ran 80 times last year. As always, SLB and WDE in the 4-3 under aren't that different. Also Ryan was a DE in the even-front nickel package last year.]
Campbell. Big Will came in for a little praise for his size and strength and it sounds like he is a "tremendous" individual, but Hoke didn't make you feel great about Will's chances to contribute at a high level.
Jake Ryan. Came in for some high praise as Coach Hoke called him "an unorthodox football player" and also said he will be a key to the success of the defense here at Michigan. They showed the clip from the Sugar Bowl where Wilson tries to bounce at the goal line and runs 20 yards backwards then Ryan cleans up.
This was one of two late-season plays on which Ryan's shocking upfield acceleration resulted in a big loss. A Taylor Martinez zone read keeper that ended up a TFL was the other.]
Hoke smiles and says, "That's just fun, isn't it?" Hoke went on to tell a story about a connection to the Ryan family and that Jake was interested in SDSU, but Hoke and his staff there never offered. He then said something to the sound of, "times like this make you feel like a fool, glad we got him now!"
Obviously. Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen came in for high praise as men who worked hard and set the tone as important Seniors on team #132. RVB was credited as one of the smartest players on the team, Hoke then said, "Mike is really strong!" That received a roar of laughs. (Quick side note: Hoke is a great comedian and has a natural feel for comedic timing. [ED: It's true. He called a guy up to the front of the room to get in a stance, started adjusting him, and then asked if his feet were square. The demonstrator said "more or less"; Hoke repeated it in just the right way and got a roaring laugh from the room. Comedy without a punchline is hard.])
Hoke talked specifically about Martin not getting enough push earlier in the year and how, once he was attacking more, he was unblockable.
Nathan Brink got a lot of love from Coach Hoke. He said, "he is a limited athlete, but a tough sucker." Maybe he can add some valuable depth?
Desmond Morgan received some high praise. However, every time they showed D-Line clips from game film, Des seemed to be out of place or getting killed! Coach Hoke talked about his smarts, strength, and instinct.
[ED: Morgan fared better in the clips from the Mattison session. I figure the bad bits are freshman being freshmen and they expect he'll be a lot better this year. Morgan will not go easily into the night what with the new kids around.]
Quinton Washington got some love from Coach. He talked about his strength and good feet. The only set back for Quinton is he is a "pincher bug!" Meaning he doesn't get his hands inside and get extension. With three D-Line coaches on staff, you have to get technique right or you will not see the field. He said "we need Quinton to get this right before September 1st!"
Stories and Comments
Cross is boss
The McNabb game. Coach Hoke talked about the 98' Syracuse game and mentioned that, "you guys know a guy by the name of Donovan McNabb? He is just a little bit of good!" He went on to say, "I told Coach Carr that I take all responsibility for the loss." Hoke talked about the fact that he didn't prepare his linemen properly and he let them down. Some of this is coach speak, but he is so effectual with his speaking that I felt like he let me down too. It was salt in the wounds man, salt in the wounds.
[ED: This was presented in the context of returning nine starters from the 1997 defense, which you may remember as pretty good. Hoke was discussing the algorithm he has his players go through to get to the ball and how he thought his guys had it down after '97; now he teaches it every year without fail. Again we got back to coaches repeating everything for a reason.
Jabs. Hoke kept throwing out light hearted jabs at his assistants. Gave you the feeling that these guys really like each other and work well together.
[ED: as I tweeted out, Borges was talking about how few people were in his clinic and Hoke was telling him "no one cares about offense" before they went on. In actuality both sessions were packed to the gills.]
T-Bone. I was surprised by how detailed he was in all the drills/technique portion. One of his GAs from Ball State was in attendance, so he had "T-Bone" come up and be his personal dummy for the night. Hoke repeatedly gave this guy huge shots on every demonstrated punch and extension. T-Bone was tough, but by the end, he was grimacing each time. I only include this to show how much Hoke is still a D-Line guy at heart. He can't hold back and was working up a sweat demonstrating this.
[ED: T-Bone. Of course.]
Ohio. Following the clinic someone was asking him a question about the "Akron State Golden Bobcats" and this gentleman used the full given name of that said team. Quickly Hoke corrected him and said, "You mean Ohio?" questioning which team the man meant. I know it might seem played up with the whole "Ohio" thing, but that little interaction made me a bit more proud that he is our coach.
Tremendous. Overall, there were 11 counts of "tremendous."
I was very much on the fence about Coach Hoke until his introductory press conference. Then I remained skeptical throughout the summer and even fall. After getting to witness this talk on a Thursday night in February with a bunch of overweight D-Line coaches, I am thankful that he is our coach. You can see why Mattison wanted to coach with him.
So that's Hoke.
So I hit up a Glazier Clinic last week. I'm not sure what the etiquette is about actually talking about this stuff since the atmosphere in the room was not at all similar to press conferences in which carefully evaluated non-statements are provided. For instance, at one point Greg Mattison said that "I've never seen such awful technique" than that of the defensive line upon his arrival.
Mattison didn't say anything offensive, but he was very blunt. If he knew someone would be posting about it on the internet he might not have spoken like that, which means I probably shouldn't be in the room. But being in the room was exceedingly useful for me as I try to figure out what people are supposed to be doing on the field. So here's a mostly paraphrased recap that I don't think anyone could possibly get mad at.
I also listened to an hour of Funk after Mattison was done; having missed two hours of table-setting and lingo I had a hard time grabbing anything that I could relate to you. FWIW, Funk's presentation was three hours of inside zone minutiae—I don't think we're dumping zone any time soon. Craig Ross took in the whole thing and provided a few notes that I'll post Friday.
Mattison. Very personable, obviously a veteran of the clinic circuit. At points reminded me of a folk singer in one and only one very specific way: after explaining this formation or this coverage or this defense, he would fire off some zingers, get everyone to laugh, and then continue with business. I can see why he's regarded as a great recruiter.
His interest in teaching was also clear. Occasionally it felt like it was a college class as Mattison asked the room what player X would be doing in a particular situation. That lent a lot of credence to his assertion that one of two primary reasons he came back to college was a desire to "influence young men—that's what we do." (Brady Hoke was the other.)
On message. Mattison kicked the session off with about 30 minutes describing Michigan's philosophy, goals, and motivational techniques before getting into Xs and Os. He started by talking about Hoke; that "the one thing Brady did was bring back what made Michigan what it is." Michigan hasn't been "one of those teams loaded with unbelievable stars" but plays fundamentally sound, tough defense with maximum effort. Etc.
There were then the usual bits about Hoke's "Years: 133, Championships: 42" call-and-response and a statement that the Sugar Bowl was "fine" but he would trade 100 of them for a Big Ten Championship. The rooms say "THE TEAM THE TEAM THE TEAM," of course. The program is on message.
Position switches. As I wrestled with how to handle this various coaches in the room told every-damn-body that Mattison said Brennen Beyer was moving to WDE and Craig Roh to SDE. This was explicitly stated. Adjust the wiki pages.
Helmets to the ball. A major theme: "loafs" are not tolerated and Mattison wants to see the jersey of 10 guys at the end of every play. When he catches a defensive lineman getting passed by another one he asks the kid how fast he is, and when they say "4.7" he says "well that guy must be a 4.3 then."
At the end of the session Mattison was discussing a corner blitz they didn't run much because the corners didn't come hard enough. One of the cut-ups was from the end of the third quarter against OSU. This play:
The coaches' film is a wider shot and emphasized the huge distance Floyd had to make up to catch Miller before the touchdown. Mattison took the opportunity to point out that this was an example of the corners not coming hard enough and gush over Floyd ("I love this kid") in general and specifically as an exemplar of the Michigan philosophy. Floyd's effort led to this:
And that led to a field goal.
Bonus: For those looking for a reason other than blind luck that Michigan recovered 80% of opponent fumbles this year, in practice all incompletions are live balls. Mattison credited this practice for getting players moving towards the ball at all times and being in position to scoop up live balls in actual play.
Technique a priority. This was a feature of both the general philosophical section and the chalk talk. Mattison did not select the cutups himself—that was delegated to a video coordinator—and didn't know exactly what would come up. This made for an interesting dynamic as he evaluated each play live. He repeatedly digressed from his main topic to note the footwork of his linemen: Van Bergen is getting distance with his first step. All of these guys have identical footwork. There was also a long discussion about why your rush end needs to start with his outside foot back when he gets a tight end to him*. Etc.
In the philosophical section he noted that Michigan was probably the only team in the country with a head coach who coaches a position, that nose guard. It was at this point he told the story about Hoke coming to him fuming, saying he "wasn't going to be one of those head coaches who just walk around" and demanding a position group. He took the nose. Zinger: "now… I question why he coached the best player on the team."
Here he also noted that everyone hits the sled every day and that this was not something the previous coaching staff did frequently, if ever. This is where the bit about "I've never seen such awful technique" came in. Pretty much the only thing negative Mattison said was about the state of the team he was handed. Everyone who's surprised raise their hand. That's no one.
The final bit on this: "don't go be a scheme coach, focus on technique."
*[The reason is the biggest threat to the rush end in this situation is getting reached and if the tight end flares out to do so that first step needs to be one that gains him distance, something you can't do while remaining square if your outside foot is to the LOS. Disagreement with this appeared to be a pet peeve of Mattison's.]
Big plays. Obviously a priority just from the play on the field. Section on this concentrated on the secondary, declared the biggest problem with big plays. Hates it when safeties "look like blitzing linebackers" when there is a pile. He wants a cup around the pile and safeties to make tackles at least six yards downfield.
Now, that doesn't mean Jordan Kovacs needs to make a tackle six yards downfield. In this context a safety is a player in a deep zone. This is most often the corners and Gordon/Woolfolk.
Rotation. This is a Hoke thing Mattison was skeptical about: Michigan rotates the entire defense on every play of practice. Run on—snap—run off. This is "not pretty" when your 21st and 22nd best defensive players are going up against the first team offense but builds conditioning and depth and was credited for "saving the team" in the Sugar Bowl when injuries whittled down available defensive linemen to dust. Think Martin and Van Bergen in the third quarter.
Goal line philosophy. To Mattison it's simple: one zone "you run perfectly" and an all-out pressure.
When they're backed up. Mattison asked the crowd to think of what they are thinking when they've got the other team backed up, and then said "how many of you are thinking 'don't give up a big play'?" Mattison's been there and tries to fight that. Now if you're backed up, "if we have a great run pressure, we're coming after your ass."
This goes here.
Not exactly a run pressure but Michigan is sending all five guys on the line there. "When you have a chance, when they're backed up, go after their ass."
Third down. "For us, we're gonna pressure." Mattison on the end of the Akron State game:
You saw the Ohio game, you probably thought 'this guy is the dumbest sonofabitch in the world' He turned a wide receiver loose against Ohio a couple minutes left in the game.
But we intercepted it on the next play. Did we win? Yes. So we were aggressive and we won. [laughter]
So they'll be aggressive come hell or high water, that's clear.
4-3 versus 3-4: THE FINAL WORD. "We'd be here for hours" if someone tried to argue him away from playing the 4-3 under. Said something along the lines of "if you've got that 330 pound nose tackle and your ends and your linebackers, okay, God bless you." I thought of Pipkins—what is Mattison going to do with a 330 pound nose?
Anyway, Greg Mattison will never run a 3-4. End of story.
4-3 under assertions from the man himself. These aren't too different than the things you'll hear about the under when you read up on it on the internet but just to confirm, the basis of the defense:
- Rush end: "The whole thing is predicated on the rush." Must be a great player, and athlete who can spill power (ie, get into a pulling guard and stop him in his tracks), drop into coverage, and win one-on-one battles with the tight end. All that and he's got to be a ferocious pass rusher. More similar to the SAM linebacker than the SAM is to the ILBs.
- SAM linebacker. Must not be outflanked either in the run or the pass game. Hugely important not to give himself up one for one on the edge. [Editor's aside: that's something we were talking about a ton early in the year. It got a lot better as the season progressed.]
- Inside linebackers. The usual: the mike has to be a little bigger, a little stronger, and the will has to be able to adjust to coverage outside of the box. An important difference between the two is the WLB has to be able to run vertically down the seam whereas the MLB can pass his guy off; IIRC this year the guy running down the seam was Demens, not Morgan. Adjustment based on Demens's surprising ability to stick with guys downfield?
- Nose tackle. Also hugely important. "You cannot win with a weak nose." We should start calling our incoming five star "No Pressure Pipkins" right now.
- Corners. "Corners are corners" but the field corner (Countess) is not involved with "heavy work" and usually just has to clean up plays that have been strung out. The boundary corner (Floyd) has to be a bigger guy better in run support. It's a seven man front; if you go eight you'd "better have a war daddy" at field corner because he's got to cover an outside receiver with little additional help.
Michigan does not align to strength but rather aligns to field—ie, if you're on the left hash the SAM will be to the wide side of the field and if you're on the right hash the SAM will be to the wide side of the field. You can flip your tight ends all around and Michigan won't flip in response. I assume the flipping from earlier in the year was a necessary evil as Michigan tried to get everyone up on the new system.
The most important thing. One of the line shifts Michigan runs is called "pirate technique."
Kyle Kalis. Mattison saw one of the St. Ed's guys and mentioned that Michigan had recruited a "real man" out that school, one that "may just maul some of our guys."
Jake Ryan. Mattison said Michigan was "blessed" at SAM linebacker—probably including Beyer in that assessment—and that Ryan was a major player. A major player they probably wished they didn't have to run out as a freshman, but a major player.
Mattison referenced a particular play against Nebraska on which he lined up on the wrong side of the field. I remember that but I don't think it was against Nebraska; there's no mention of it in the UFR. "Still a lot of coaching to do" with him but it's clear they think he has vast potential.
JT Floyd. As mentioned, Mattison seemed enamored with him. "Love that kid."
Desmond Morgan. Came up on a couple of clips where he ended up clubbing offensive linemen. Mattison said something along the lines of "think he'll hit you?" And "is that good or what? For a little freshman?" It is unknown whether he has ever said "freshman" without preceding it with "little."
Morgan tipped one of the blitzes they run; Mattison mentioned that he told Morgan he'd play three technique if he kept it up. This is a common threat, as…
Kenny Demens. …they literally did this with Demens, playing him at nose so they could have Martin run the blitzes he wasn't coming hard enough on. In contrast, the SAM (Ryan) was called out as a guy who does come hard.
Some secondhand reports that the implication was Demens's job is under threat have filtered out to premium message boards; I did not get that vibe.
Jordan Kovacs. Michigan's "down safety" or "close safety"—I'll stick with strong, FWIW—was "tremendous."
Departing DL. Heininger "really became a football player." Seems like they think they'll miss him. Van Bergen "really, really played" for M and Martin was of course the best player on the team.