SPONSOR NOTES: Rutgers's total yardage is like Matt's rates: absurdly low! Their general organization is like Matt's competition: disorganized beyond belief! Your pants after watching the Peppers punt return are like your pants when applying for a mortgage with Matt: optional but discouraged!
In addition to being a gentleman replete with Michigan tickets, Matt is also a good man to know if you need a mortgage. It's striking that we actually get non-astroturfed comments about positive experiences with Matt not infrequently.
If you're buying a home or refinancing, he's the right guy to call.
FORMATION NOTES: Rutgers was all gun and mostly three-wide. Michigan responded with two different approaches. One was their conventional 4-2-5. Here Thomas and Peppers are over the slot receivers with out of the picture as the free safety.
The other was a 3-3-5 package; since I consider Peppers a safety those were listed as 3-2-6. Similar packages with Furbush were labeled as a 3-3-5.
Michigan had this setup, which is close to a stack. They had others where a safety crept down to an OLB spot that were kind of a 3-4; I called those "faux 3-4." They had some 5-1 lineups with two LBs on the end of the LOS and the DL folded inside. This package comes in for much more discussion after the jump.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Obviously there was a massive pile of it. The starting line only got about 20 snaps each, with Hurst getting 26 to lead all DL. Gary, Charlton, Wormley, Winovich, and Glasgow all got around 20. Godin got just 12. Jones, Onwenu, and Kemp also got late snaps. Lawrence Marshall did not play and did not travel.
Starting LBs went the whole way until the starting D got lifted; backups were as expected with Furbush at SAM and Bush and Wroblewski at ILB. Wangler got in very late, as did Mbem-Bosse.
Secondary as per usual. Metellus, Hudson, and Kinnel split snaps at S with Kinnel getting more time since he plays on passing downs with the regular D. David Long got far fewer snaps than Lavert Hill... still affected by that injury?
[After the JUMP: oh man]
So far the train’s on time. [Bryan Fuller]
As is tradition, we go long for the midpoint.
1. Most pleasant surprise?
2. Biggest downer?
3. Most improved player?
4. Guy who will emerge in the second half of the season?
5. Expectations relative to preseason outlook?
6. Biggest surprise in the conference?
7. Ditto, except national?
8. Predict three stats, individual or team, that will be by year's end.
1. Most pleasant surprise?
Linebackers have not been a problem [Bryan Fuller]
Adam: The linebackers. What seemed like a weak point heading into the season has been anything but a liability. Ben Gedeon and Mike McCray have been great in the run game and good in coverage, and their athleticism has not gone unnoticed by us or by the stat sheet; Gedeon's second on the team with 7.5 TFLs and has 3.0 sacks, while McCray has 4.5 TFLs, 2.5 sacks, and 3 PBUs. Peppers has been generating earnest Heisman hype this week in part because of his 32 tackles, 10 TFLs, and 2.5 sacks (and also because he's so good that his head coach has to go back to the early 20th century to find a comparable athlete), and including him with the linebackers leaves a position group sans concerns.
Seth: Agree on Ben Gedeon and Mike McCray. Also it's fun to have blitzing from that position again: Adam mentioned that Gedeon already has 7.5 TFLs—that means he’s on pace to beat the 14 that Bolden (6.5), Morgan (2), and Ross (5.5) had combined in 2015.
David: Karan Higdon. He got like 5-10 snaps last year, looked ok-ish, then disappeared. With Walker and Evans coming in (and potentially other big names in 2017), I was wondering if he would get passed by. NOPE!
Brian: Matt Godin. He got lucky with some injury issues for Hurst and Mone but both guys are back now and Godin's playing time isn't budging. He's been productive beyond expectations, and here I should remind you that I was advocating for a role for him in the season preview since he's always been a solid... SDE.
That he's playing DT and mostly holding up to double teams is a leap in performance I could not project. Hurst has been the more dynamic player and I do expect him to suck up more snaps as the season goes on, but Godin may have even played himself into late-round NFL drat chatter.
Ace: I’ll go with the most Harbaugh answer here and say Khalid Hill. Some of what he’s done has been expected; we knew coming out of high school that he was a skilled receiver, and that’s translated over to fullback, where he’s made a habit of picking throws off his shoestrings in the flat and still turning upfield for extra yardage. The surprising parts have been his blocking, which has been solid between the tackles and often spectacular in the open field, and his knack for converting goal-to-go situations. I mean, he dubbed himself the Hammering Panda, and we’re going to not only let the self-nicknaming slide—we’re running with it ourselves.
[Hit THE JUMP for the other seven]
What are your thoughts about this week’s game?
“Well, it’s a big game, obviously. It’s the next game. It’s a very well coached, good football team. Got a big offensive line. They take pride in running the football. They’re, like I said, well coached and good running back and quarterback’s done very well, the freshman—redshirt freshman. They’ve got a number of tight ends that are all good football players, so this’ll be a big test.”
MGoQuestion: Wisconsin’s offensive style is fairly different from what you’ve faced the last few weeks. How does that impact your line rotation, if at all?
“Well, we’ll always rotate, you know, because the guys have earned the right to rotate, and we feel like they’re playing to be able to go in there. It always helps if you’re fresh. You always can benefit from what one guy tells you when he comes off, how they’re blocking you. But it is, you’re right, it is different. The fast pace of spread offense and then go from that to this style of offense is totally different.”
Your thoughts on getting Taco back and how he looked?
“It’s great to have him back. I’m very, very proud of him. I’m proud of our training staff. I mean, he worked so hard at getting back. Spent countless hours in the training room and you could see out there it was good to have him back.
“He’s had a good week of practice and he’s a senior now. He’s got things to prove and that’s what he’s working for. I was really proud of how much time and how much effort he did to get himself back. That tells you how important it is.”
How do you look at Rashan Gary as far as his progression over the first four weeks?
“He’s getting better every game. He’s getting better. He’s working really hard. And again, I mentioned this once before but one of the key things with Rashan is to have role models like Chris Wormley and Taco. He sees them do it right, and if he doesn’t—not that he doesn’t—but if he doesn’t do it he sees, okay, this is how it’s supposed to be. It’s not having to pull up a highlight tape or something like that to show him. He’s working very hard, and I’m very proud of him also because he knows how important this is for the seniors and the kids ahead of him and he’s doing everything he can to help this team.”
[After THE JUMP: Bryan Mone is practicing,Chase Winovich sneaks into the weight room, and Jourdan Lewis is Jourdan Lewis]
As per usual the edition of UV right after preview week is a catchup one with some old stuff I wasn't able to get to for obvious reasons.
The very latest on injuries. Per UMBig11:
Already some good news this morning. Mone (crutches), initial return to the field was looking like week 6. That is moving up to week 5 and possibly sooner. Taco (no cast, no boot, no crutches), maybe sitting one week and at most two.
I got some conflicting information about Mone but I'm not sure what the latest is. Either way it sounds like he should be good to go for the home stretch. Everyone else except Noah Furbush has a short-term ding that is a week tops.
Also, Denard Robinson Cook dropped the spout of a French press full of tea on my now very blue toe. I am day to day.
Speight profiled. Dan Murphy talks to Wilton Speight's high school coach and somewhat infamous QB guru Steve Clarkson; Clarkson reveals that Speight was on the verge of exiting:
“There was a time when he was contemplating leaving,” Clarkson said. “He had a conversation with Coach Harbaugh and Coach just said, ‘Hell, why are you thinking of leaving? You didn’t even get a chance to compete all spring. That essentially gave him confidence that he just needed to show what he can do. Since that conversation Wilton has taken that to heart and he sort of ran with it.”
There was a period in there where I was expecting that news any moment; good for both him and Michigan that it never came.
Manuel gameday. Max Bultman follows Michigan's AD around on game day. With permission. Probably. Anyway:
Manuel is a large, swaggering man, and he’s very easy to recognize. Fans holler to Manuel and frequently ask for pictures. Usually, he hollers back, sometimes in kind, others with a “Go Blue!” He poses for a lot of photos.
At the intersection of Main and West Stadium, Manuel greets a police officer. He does this many times on game day, and it stands out. He even asks one about his wife and kids. Later, Manuel explains that he got to know the force through the late Vada Murray, a police officer and Manuel’s best friend. He doesn’t have much spare time today, but he still stops when he can, nearly always with a charismatic greeting.
That’s the nature of his Saturday: so little time, so many hands to shake and so many people to catch up with.
Manuel is described as a personable man.
Artfully phrased. PFF looks at "How Michigan State can reload its defense," which is in fact a sneaky way to deliver a pile of bad news. Topics:
- Malik McDowell is real good.
- None of the other five returning DL had a positive pass rush grade; Demetrius Cooper's Big Ten season consisted of just eight pressures.
- Linebackers Riley Bullough and Jon Reschke missed a ton of tackles, with Bullough –12.7 on the ground.
- The three starters back in the secondary, well: "In 2015, the above trio combined to give up eight touchdowns compared to 11 total passes defended, and each of the three gave up completion rates of at least 62 percent. To put this in perspective, the top player returning in the secondaries of Ohio State, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, Minnesota and Northwestern all defended at least seven passes on their own and gave up completion percentages of under 51 percent last year."
Jury's still out on improvements after MSU's struggle against a 4-7 FCS team, but improvements will have to be had if MSU's D is going to keep pace with recent performance.
Also in this department is an interesting if slightly overlong breakdown of Tyler O'Connor's performance in the MSU opener from an MSU fan:
A reader summarizes this guy's take if you don't have time to wade through that:
1) The first and biggest observation is that not once all game did O'Connor look to his 2nd read in the passing game. And I don't mean that he didn't throw to him. On literally every pass in the 2 videos (which I'm pretty sure was every throw O'Connor had), O'Connor did not turn his head away from his first target. …
2) This is probably a result of the first issue, but O'Connor held onto the ball way too long. I will say that I think the video creator was being a little too harsh on O'Connor at times, especially on some of the play action passes as it looked like O'Connor got the ball out as soon his feet were set.
First game jitters maybe, but that'll be something to look for against Notre Dame to see if there's improvement.
One-upping Brady Hoke. Never talk to me or my son again about how Les Miles would have been a good choice.
LSU had nine men on the field on a punt return vs. Wisconsin. This is the second time I’ve witnessed this phenomenon in the Les Miles era.
— Jeff Duncan (@JeffDuncan_) September 4, 2016
The Hat is very entertaining but his offense has always been a trundling wreck.
It's aggressive, but…. It's not this aggressive:
"I'd say, like, 90 percent," Stribling said.
Yes, he estimated that Michigan blitzed on 90 percent of its defensive play calls against the woebegone Rainbow Warriors.
But then Stribling kept thinking, and, man, maybe it was actually more than that.
"I don't think any play was not a blitz, besides a cover-2," he said. "And we blitzed out of that, too."
Michigan rushed four about half the time in the first half per my charting. There was some run blitzing, but it's not that maniacal. It's only fairly maniacal.
The freshman-only locker room is an odd Harbaugh thing. Another tweak like split squad practices:
Starting in camp, and lasting throughout the duration of the season, Harbaugh has his first-year players surround themselves with their peers. For a variety of reasons.
A year ago, it worked for both Newsome and Perry. In 2016, that number has taken a lift.
"It really allows you to bond as a class. You can really focus on getting better and improving your skills without having to worry about being in the older locker room and trying to compare yourself to those guys," Newsome, now a sophomore starter at left tackle, said Monday. "It really allows you to just focus on becoming a class."
There will never be tangible evidence this is good or bad. It is an interesting team morale thing.
Wisconsin has our attention. But the one downer from the weekend was an injury to starting LB Chris Orr that will knock him out for the year. That happened very early and didn't seem to have much negative impact on a very good LB corps:
Aside from a couple of miscues in which the defense allowed RB Leonard Fournette to break contain, the linebackers did a fine job of containing the Heisman candidate. OLB T.J. Watt led the way with a team-high five stops, but OLB Vince Biegel was right behind him with four. They held Fournette to only 2.7 yards after contact per rush, and that happened only three times all of last season.
I'm a little more skeptical about PFF's take on UW corner Derrick Tindal, who did indeed break up a number of (late, inaccurate) passes in the vicinity of Malachi Dupre. He looked overmatched and fortunate to me; we'll see if his performance carries over.
Etc.: How the world changed around Nebraska. Ed Davis still waiting. Phil Brabbs doing thangs. Tennessee blogs worry how much they should worry about Mike DeBord, and this was before the Appalachian State game. If you would like to know all that there is to know about Illinois football, Illini Board is the place. Xavier Simpson profiled.
|STRONG DE||Yr.||NOSE TACKLE||Yr.||3-TECH||Yr.||WEAK DE||Yr.|
|Rashan Gary||Fr.||Ryan Glasgow||Sr.*||Chris Wormley||Sr.*||Taco Charlton||Sr.|
|Lawrence Marshall||So.*||Bryan Mone||So.*||Maurice Hurst||Jr.*||Chase Winovich||So.*|
|Carlo Kemp||Fr.||Michael Dwumfour||Fr.||Matt Godin||Sr.*||Reuben Jones||Fr.*|
Holy pants, you guys. This is bar-none the best situation Michigan's had at defensive tackle since… I don't know. Probably since scholarship limits came into effect. Michigan has three guys who should go in the top few rounds of the NFL draft, plus a Tongan who was generating more hype than any of them before an injury robbed him of his 2015 season. And on top of that they've got a fifth-year senior who's been productive and would be a strong rotation contributor on any Michigan DL of the last ten years.
Just stay healthy. Knock on all available wood, ladies and gentlemen, that Michigan will get to the Ohio State game without having to unearth Michael Dwumfour.
NOSE TACKLE: DAMMIT IF YOU DOUBT A GLASGOW YOU HAVE ONLY YOURSELF TO BLAME
No. Shut up. Stop it. I know Harbaugh said that thing. I still insist that you cease flapping your mandibles about in some misguided attempt to denigrate the play of Ryan Glasgow, who yes was a walk-on upon his arrival but is no longer. Glasgow was long ago awarded the Order of St. Kovacs and if you insist on talking about Bryan Mone even an instant longer I will have no alternative but to unlock his cage. A cage for robot Vikings.
You still doubt, sir? Reap the pointy-helmeted whirlwind:
Glasgow was good as a sophomore, when he ascended to the top of the depth chart in front of former five-star Ondre Pipkins. Pipkins was coming off an injury, so people assumed that was a temporary thing. It was not. Glasgow held up in the run game excellently but provided close to zero pass rush, and that was fine with Frank Clark coming off the edge a ton. Michigan used Glasgow as a screen or draw spy frequently of the time, and coped with the fact that he wasn't having much impact in that department.
Then Glasgow got better, DJ Durkin deployed a ton of stunts, and dude blew up.
|1||Utah||7.5||2||5.5||Added interior pass rush.|
|2||Oregon State||6||2||4||Partially culpable on first big run, otherwise good.|
|3||UNLV||11||11||Two very impressive TFLs.|
|4||BYU||13||13||Just wrecked BYU's C.|
|5||Maryland||7.5||3||4.5||Slightly off day.|
|6||Northwestern||15||1||14||This poor damn center.|
|7||MSU||8.5||2||6.5||Blown out once, otherwise Glasgow.|
|8||Minnesota||17||1.5||15.5||This will be a trend.|
|9||Rutgers||2.5||2.5||Injured relatively early.|
Glasgow alternated solid performances with center-wrecking exhibitions until leaving for good on a harmless-looking tackle early in the Rutgers game. The previously nonexistent pass rush showed up in a major way. Against Utah he ripped his way past their center more than once, and by Northwestern he'd started deploying a deeply unfair technique scouting sorts call "push-pull" where you blast the dude in front of you as hard as you can, then grab his jersey and rip him forward.
Glasgow wasn't quite dominant enough to rack up a ton of counting stats; no longer was he sitting back and waiting for screens. He forced a lot of scrambles and helped other guys get their numbers, especially as a dangerous man in Michigan's stunt game. Despite the lack of stats PFF had him the #18 pass rush DT in the country a year ago, a huge step up.
Meanwhile he was a rock as a run defender. He's explosive and he's smart as hell. After he and Hurst spearheaded the goal line stand against Minnesota, Adam got a brief one-on-one with him. Michigan won that game largely because Glasgow read the Gophers' intentions on the last two plays:
I really want to talk about isn’t the last play but the second to last. When they motioned what were you thinking, and did you expect that to happen?
“I mean, you can kind of tell by an offensive lineman’s demeanor what kind of play to expect, and they were all in loaded stances the whole game when they were coming off a run and they were sitting back. I was kind of confused at first when they were in their tight bunch set and everyone’s like really close splits but didn’t look like they were ready to fire out."
Over the course of the year guys will vacate their gaps or a rush lane and open it up for the opposition; I don't have a single clip from last year in which a Glasgow mental error was worth noting. Like his brother, Glasgow thinks the game at an advanced level.
While he's not 330 and occasionally succumbed to a double team his terrific technique allowed him to stack and shed most single blocking. Guys got hurled to the turf:
And not just jabronis from Minnesota:
With his stamina and lightning quick penetration I started comparing him to a star nose tackle of recent vintage. After BYU I compared him to Mike Martin thanks to plays like this:
I was chided for this take, and now I will have my revenge. Glasgow's Martin vibe only got stronger as the year went on and he blasted through and knifed past OL after OL. After Maryland:
Meanwhile, Glasgow did not have a day that was spectacular statistically (just one tackle) but contributed to the general defenestration of the Maryland offensive line. We talked about his crazy ability to pursue on that Delano Hill TFL. There was a also a screen on which he made a tackle outside the numbers after getting knocked over. His range and endurance are major assets.
The first play linked in that section is worth an embed:
That is simply absurd mobility from a 300-pound nose tackle. The only other guy I've seen play the spot and regularly involve himself with plays outside the hash marks was, yes, Mike Martin.
By midseason UFRs had a section in which Glasgow was praised in ever more fulsome terms. Oregon State:
Right now not so much. Glasgow has built on a promising first year as a starter and is now a highly consistent, disruptive interior DL. He's got a great feel for the game. Here he catches a downblock and rips through it almost automatically:
I don't think he even bothered to look at that guy.
Glasgow is capable of blowing guys up with raw power as well…He has terrific endurance and has even added a little pass rush this year. Michigan is lucky to have him.
Dude is elite. … He is playing out of his damn mind. Last year he'd flash talent and battle most of the time; this year he is violently discarding anyone put in front of him.
Like Hurst, his explosive upfield motion was occasionally used against him, but as you can see in the chart above minuses for him were close to nonexistent.
Glasgow was the linchpin of a ridiculous run defense, and it drove off a cliff immediately after his injury. Michigan gave up 864 rushing yards in nine games with him and 725 in four games without him; their yards per carry plummeted from third nationally to 26th. That's partially on Durkin's inability to deal with spreads and is still a stark reminder of just how important Glasgow was to last year's team.
Goals for Glasgow this year include "stay healthy," which is 1-100, and then to get that increment better so that his rushes that were previously effective at making the quarterback uncomfortable become rushes that deposit Glasgow's helmet into the quarterback's midsection. He'll be elite against the run. I'm loathe to project postseason accolades for a position that often gets overlooked so people can throw four DEs on the All Big Ten team, but Glasgow will absolutely deserve them on his way to the second or third round of the draft.
[After the JUMP: four more potential/extant dudes. And Jabrill Peppers! Really! He's the very next thing!]
[I walked into the scrum mid-answer.] “Camp’s really been fun lately. I’m actually enjoying camp. You know, getting to spend time with the boys playing football. It’s crazy because usually different teams go do activities, but we just wake up, come down to Schembechler and practice. And that’s fun, to spend time with the boys.”
Do you think losing last year to injury changed your perspective on that, wanting to be back around and involved?
“Yeah. One thing that my injury taught me is just to be thankful. There’s people that can’t walk. I’m just grateful, grateful to play football.”
Obviously a lot of talent on the defensive line; you guys showed it last year. Do you ever think about if you were healthy, what it could have been?
“Yeah, I wish I’d be out there to be with the boys, but everything happens for a reason.”
With you back in the mix, can you talk about that depth a little bit?
“It’s really good. Coach calls it like he doesn’t really have starters, he has a two-deep group and everybody—basically anybody could play if [inaudible].”
Is it the depth that stands out most about the defensive line or is there something else that stands out to you?
“What do you mean by that?”
What stands out about the group?
“What stands out? We have a lot of veterans back, that’s what really stands out. We have so much leadership from the defensive line, and what’s really positive about the D-line is all the old heads we have.”
Why is that important? We know about the physical part of the defensive line, but the mental part.
“Mental part? Sorry, I’m lost.”
The leadership: why is that important as opposed to all the guys coming back?
“Oh, leadership! Because we have so many young guys—a lot of young guys. It’s good to have that leadership because it shows the younger boys what to do, and the vets throughout the whole thing have just been good leaders and everyone’s been backing them up.”
What’s Don Brown like to play for?
“Oh man, I love it. Coach Brown, he’s a fun coach you want to play for. I don’t know. Coach Brown, he’s just a great ol’ guy.”
What does he do that you like?
“He just brings the juice to every practice. In practices and in meetings he always has his juice. So much energy from Coach Brown.”
You talked about being thankful and you talked about the old heads a little bit. Do you find yourself in a position where you’re talking to the younger guys like, ‘Hey, don’t take this for granted.’?
“Oh yeah, definitely. Yeah, I talk to mostly all the freshmen. I took them in under my wing and just told them to be grateful because there’s no other place like Michigan. Everybody just likes and enjoys the struggle of being out there.”
[More after THE JUMP]