it's a major award
News bullets and other items:
Ty Isaac’s appeal was unsuccessful, which means he has three years of eligibility beginning next fall
He currently is able to participate on the scout team
“Thanks for coming. It was good to get back on the field on Tuesday. Those practices, it was very physical. Had a great effort. It was another day for us to go out and compete and challenge with each other and prepare for a very good Utah team. It’s going to be great playing at home. You know, that always gets your players and coaches and everybody else, it gets them excited in the support that we’ve had, and we’re looking for that on Saturday.
“We’re not going to talk about injuries and I might as well bring that out now. And some of that is because you can say something about something and then you’re wrong. Everybody heals a little differently, and the other thing is for our kids. I want to make sure we’re doing a good job protecting them.”
Coach, what would you consider some of the biggest keys to beating Utah?
“Well, I think number one I think they’re third in the county in points scored. I mean, they’re explosive offensively. Good skill players. The two backs are kind of interchangeable in there. For the style of offense I think they really do a nice job of seeing holes. Travis Wilson has done a tremendous job when look nationally where he’s at. He’s second in pass efficiency. Gets the ball out of his hands pretty quickly.
“From the defensive side, I think they’re, depending on how they calculate it NCAA-wise, first in sacks and first in tackles for loss. Knowing Kyle [Whittingham] and Dave Christensen from [my] Mountain West time they both like to be aggressive defensively and then also on the offensive side of the ball.
“So for us, number one, we’ve got to improve. We’ve got to keep getting better every day we go on the field. I think from a defensive perspective keeping the ball inside and in front of the defense, making sure on those money downs, those third downs, [that] we can get off the field. Offensively, got to keep the sticks, got to be able to run the football, and also when you take shots you’ve got to execute.”
As someone who’s a guru in defensive line performance, is their defensive line- is it scheme? Is it the individual players that they’re so productive?
“Yeah, you know, Nate Orchard is one guy they’re using in a lot of different ways. As an outside linebacker, sometimes as a defensive end. I think from his athleticism that he has, he can cause you problems and then obviously he’s a playmaker for them so they’re putting him in some positions to make plays. I think up front they’ve got a quickness to them, and that’s something that can give you some problems. They spike a three-technique into an A gap, which is a coach’s nightmare but if you’re quick enough can be effective.”
[After THE JUMP: lots of tempo talk]
Extremely important fainting goat update. The conversation did not quite go as asserted yesterday, but it's pretty great anyway:
“He told me the play of the week, the special teams funky deal, was a fake punt – the Fainting Goat,” Mays said. “In my mind, I was like, ‘What’s that?’”
Said Paschall: “Book, you’re going to be the goat.”
“I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ What is he saying?” Mays said.
“I was talking to the guy across from me, saying, ‘Wow, there is some thick air down here in Miami,” Mays said.
God bless Arkansas State.
BEAT THE DRUM EVERYBODY. Ineligible man downfield complainin' is welcome wherever I find it. Pete Roussel notes an egregious event in the Alabama-USM game:
yes the penalty is called when the ball is thrown but not caught; still geez
Remember last year when Taylor Lewan engaged a guy about three yards behind the line and drove him so far downfield he got a penalty and everyone clucked at him about how he had to know better? Why would he have to know better? I think he would not have to.
Offenses are brutally effective already without adding blocking linebackers ten yards downfield on pass plays to their docket.
BEAT THE DRUM PART 2. Yes, we are going to beat this dead horse until it sends seven guys downfield on the snap. "Shield" punting, which we've called "spread" around here because I'm sure you can figure it out*, has taken over college football. Michigan is an exception, and apparently so is Texas. They ate a 45-yard punt return before UCLA's winning drive after lining up like so:
This is actually a little more spread-ish than Michigan, but eight Longhorns are behind the LOS when the ball is kicked.
Like Michigan, the bad way stats are kept somewhat conceals the issue here. Not only does Texas give up a lot of yards per return, they give up a lot of returns, period:
UT’s 10.3-yard-per-punt-return average allowed isn’t miserable — although it ranks 88th out of 128 FBS teams — but the Longhorns are allowing a greater number of punt return chances under Vaughn, and as the UCLA punt shows, a reason could be because his players are late getting downfield. The nine punt returns against UT this year is tied for fourth-most nationally while the Longhorns’ 93 total punt return yards allowed puts them tied for 115th.
Strong used a spread punt at Louisville to good effect; no idea why he's not doing the same thing at Texas.
*[Bizarrely, coaches keep telling me that it is Michigan's NFL-style punt game that they know as "spread." I reject that lingo and all its works. You don't get to call it that. That makes no sense. Unlike coaches who don't want to use seven gunners, I insist on making sense.]
Also in Texas but better? Four minutes left is a weird amount of time to have in a game. If you're leading and on offense, you need a first down at all costs. If you're leading and on defense you want to prevent the other team from scoring, but if they're going to score you want them to do it quickly, not after 3:58 has left the clock. The paramount thing is to get (or keep) the ball.
So a lot of offenses will grunt their way to a third and seven and then take their shot. Strong elected for a different path:
When Texas got the ball at 4:17 with a four point lead and chose to go "tempo", the ensuing three and out and minimal clock burn was widely panned on the web and in the traditional media. Of course, it didn't matter. UCLA scored in about nine seconds on a punt return followed by a good play call against tendency.
Texas had just scored to go ahead with the aid of a hurry-up no huddle; a UCLA player misaligned on a 30-yard run. They continued that with the lead and 4:17 left, and that's… odd. But if you think that's the best way to get a first down, that's at least defensible. Of course, when you lose five yards on a run up the gut you're not going to be bleeding much of anything.
Upshot: coaches don't place enough emphasis on having the ball last when they're in a one-possession game. They're willing to bleed down the field for an opposition four-minute drill instead of being aggressive, and they place minimally useful timeout-sapping over a greater chance of getting a first down.
A stupid reason but okay. We're now talking about revoking the NFL's non-profit status because of "Redskins"?
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) announced Tuesday that she will introduce legislation to eliminate the NFL’s tax-exempt status because of its refusal to address the name of the Washington Redskins.
While I also find the name distasteful, why don't we revoke the NFL's non-profit status because it in no way fits the definition of a nonprofit enterprise? The idea that the NFL can skate on millions of dollars in taxes because [no reason given] is equally offensive. Possibly more so, because one situation is a private enterprise being offensive and the other is the government being idiotic.
I mean, if there's one class of industries you can tax the living hell out of without seeing them move their labor force, it's pro sports.
It's profile o-clock. Jeremy Clark:
"Of course everyone wants to play, but (last year) I was still learning the process and there were guys in front of me who knew the calls and everything, so you can't get mad if you don't know what you're supposed to be doing out there," Clark said. "This year, I feel like I'm learning it well."
“The thing you realize quickly about Bryan is the genuine concern he shows for everyone he comes in contact with,” said Benson, Mone's prep coach at Highland High School in Salt Lake City. "And it's genuine. He truly cares about everyone around him. I don't know if I've met a kid with a bigger heart.
"He's one of a kind. Truly one of a kind."
"My brother has always been my motivation, because growing up he couldn’t really feed himself or do all types of stuff, so I had to grow up soon enough to help out my mom and my sister,” said Mone, who had another older brother who died from leukemia.
Mone began caring for his brother in earnest in sixth grade, but didn’t feel comfortable with all his responsibilities until a few years later.
“I started getting used to it in junior high,” he said. “I knew what I had to do to take care of him.”
Designated official site softball-tosser on Jack Miller:
Jack Miller is many things.
He's best known as the starting center and anchor of the offensive line for the University of Michigan football team. But he's also a political science major, and thinks he might someday become a lawyer or run for public office.
He's a music lover -- especially Dave Matthews and jam bands -- and takes aim during deer and duck hunting seasons.
Miller also is the great-nephew of former Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who texts him after every game and remains a huge inspiration.
Spence suspended further. Noah Spence's ecstasy suspension was three games, and now it's at least four after he failed a test before Kent State. If Ohio State follows the usual policy here he would be out for the year, as most teams go 1) nothing, 2) one game, 3) quarter of a season, 4) whole season for failed drug tests. Spence has apparently entered rehab.
But you have a legitimate reason! I don't understand why Brady Hoke keeps saying things like "I don't feel like it" and this latest…
Brady Hoke: “You can say something about (injuries) and you’ll be wrong.” Hence his silence on them.
— Alejandro Zúñiga (@ByAZuniga) September 17, 2014
…when asked about injuries. He has a legit reason. He can just say "I don't want to help Utah prepare for our game by telling them which personnel we'll have available." This is 1) the truth and 2) not insulting to the intelligence of anyone coming across his answer.
It is not good when your contempt for the media gets in the way of obviously better and more honest answers. See: Gibbons, Brendan.
Etc.: Tip times set times set for a number of basketball games. Article on how Michigan sticking by Devin Gardner despite "fans' pleas" for Shane Morris cites no fans pleading for Shane Morris. In fact cites reporter's question about Shane Morris indirectly by including Nussmeier answer to it.
“Alright, let’s get going on this next one. Go ahead, start it right out.”
As far as pass rushing, your guys are getting there. Like Frank [Clark] said last week, they’re not always finishing the job but what’s your outlook on the pass rushing so far?
“Well, you know, I’m happy with their effort. I look at practice. I look at practice all the time and I believe that what you see in practice is what you’re going to see in games and, you know, the ball gets out quick a lot of times. You can’t judge a pass rush based on whether you get sacks or not. The thing that you want to look at is how many times were you hitting the quarterback and how many times are you getting to him. I was happy with how our kids worked. When I look at the film, one of the biggest things I always look for is effort. The effort and the technique that they’re being taught and I think in that game those kids up front worked very, very hard the whole game. Late in the game they were running to the football like they should. Late in the game they were going as hard as they could on the pass rush.
“There’s a couple times the ball got outside of us on a pass rush. The first thing that somebody always wants to say is, ‘Oh, he lost contain.’ You start having guys just run up the field outside to make sure the quarterback doesn’t get outside, you’ll never have a pass rush. That happened to be a quarterback that did a nice job of using his feet when a pass rusher was engaged in a blocker so to answer your question we’re getting better. We’re getting better at it and we’ll continually get better at it.”
You talk about effort and technique on film. What did you see out of Jabrill Peppers at cornerback along those lines?
“I think our entire secondary made strides this past week and I think they have a lot of pride and I think they didn’t enjoy what they saw the week before. We’re all about trying to fix it, make sure we’re competing every day and then get the guys out there that are going to compete and go after it. I think Jabrill showed during the week that he was working really hard at it and he did the same thing during the game.”
With Jeremy Clark, Brady touched on that he’s learned that the physical skills that will get you by in high school won’t work up here and getting his technique and fundamentals down. What have you seen from this year that’s sort of taken him to the level where he’s become a starter?
“Well, the thing- you said it exactly right. He has a lot of physical talent. He’s a great looking young man that can run, that plays hard, that’s a great kid. When you’re out there at safety in our defense things happen real fast, and you have to make sure you’re making the right checks. If you don’t, if you aren’t where you’re supposed to be you’re asking for something bad to happen to 10 other guys so I think that this is a learning process that he’s had to learn from. Jarrod Wilson has done a great job of showing him what he’s supposed to do and how he’s supposed to do it and I think he’s listened. He’s worked very hard at it and he’s just touching it right now. He’s not even close. He’s got time yet and I’m very pleased with how hard he’s working.”
[After THE JUMP: Mattison’s three keys to a good defense]
A note before we start: this preview relies heavily on the defensive UFRs of last year because there’s a convenient numerical system that does a decent job of summing up a defensive player’s contributions. One caveat: the system is generous to defensive linemen and harsh to defensive backs, especially cornerbacks. A +4 for a defensive end is just okay; for a cornerback it’s outstanding.
|STRONG DE||Yr.||NOSE TACKLE||Yr.||3-TECH||Yr.||WEAK DE||Yr.|
|Brennen Beyer||Sr.||Ryan Glasgow||So.*#||Willie Henry||So.*||Frank Clark||Sr.|
|Taco Charlton||So.||Ondre Pipkins||Jr.||Chris Wormley||So.*||Mario Ojemudia||Jr.|
|Henry Poggi||Fr.*||Maurice Hurst||Fr.*||Matt Godin||So.*||Lawrence Marshall||Fr.|
Depth chart shows everybody just because.
What looked like a sure strength at the beginning of the season degraded gradually and then suddenly; by the end a 285-pound Jibreel Black was trying to hold up against the best rushing attack in the country in the Ohio State game. That could have gone better.
With both projected interior starters gone, that might be time to panic, but actually… Michigan has options here, and talent. Injury and and inexplicable absence contributed heavily to the issues last year. Ondre Pipkins suffered a midseason ACL tear; Quinton Washington was left on the bench for most of the after a breakout turn his junior year, and then didn't play well when he was in the game. Thus the amount of talent they actually have on the field is just about what they had last year plus a year of experience for everyone and the additions of Pipkins and early-enrolling freshman Bryan Mone.
NOSE TACKLE: HOUSE OF GLASGOWS
Glasgow (left) and Mone, one of the many men chasing him.
I'm not exactly sure what we expected at this position. I can guarantee it was not RYAN GLASGOW, he of the rootinest, tootinest clan of walk-ons to ever wander onto Michigan's roster and lock down starting spots down the spine of the team as sophomores. Yes, Glasgow is related to Glasgow and has essentially the same origin story: they were enormous dudes who didn't play football until their last year of high school, and now they're starters.
In Ryan's case this may be nominal and temporary. Nose tackle sees a ton of rotation even in adverse circumstances, and as we're about to detail there are a pile of guys pushing from behind here. And then there is the Pipkins thing: Glasgow may be in front of Pipkins only because it takes a long time for big guys to recover from major injuries.
But he's here. And… uh… he is here. There is obviously no recruiting profile for him. And Glasgow only got sparing snaps a year ago as a redshirt freshman. He didn't do much in those snaps; the only clips I got for him were a couple of times when he got blown up a bit, once dropping to a knee against Akron, once taking the brunt of a Notre Dame double team.
Now, this is not actually out of nowhere. Two years ago this preview specifically noted Glasgow's existence:
And here's a weird one: I've heard that Michigan thinks they have something in walk-on Ryan Glasgow. … It would be a longshot for him to see the field this year, obviously, but he's listed at 294 already and is a guy to keep an eye out for in case that pans out.
As his brother's proven, these guys come with the requisite size and strength for the major level of competition. Meanwhile Glasgow is ahead of a ravenous pack behind. (One that could also include Willie Henry if the coaches were uncertain about nose tackle—Chris Wormley would cope just fine as a starter.) This is a situation in which having the walk-on on top of the depth chart is probably fine. Onfield issues last year don't mean much more than he was a freshman DT. Even the most highly touted guys often struggle their first couple years as their conditioning and technique catch up.
Also positive Sam Webb talked with Mark Smith, his position coach, and Smith went out of his way to bring Glasgow up:
During one interview he interjected with a mention of Glasgow’s name. At the end he said, "(Glasgow) had an outstanding spring and will compete for a lot of time."
Well Glasgow has continued that strong play from what I hear. He is without question one of the strongest players in the program (I believe only Pipkins tested out stronger during the spring), he’s huge, Smith described him as a technician, and he has a non-stop motor. Don’t confuse this with the Nate Brink talk of a few years ago.
Webb's not going to prompt a guy to talk about a walk-on; that's something a coach has to know and think about and make an effort to bring up. Mattison did something similar last year:
Who's pushing Jibreel Black and Quinton Washington?
"Watching the tape, and you look, and all of a sudden Ryan Glasgow, from the three-technique position, makes two tackles on the line of scrimmage all the way down the line the other way. When we stopped it and showed our guys and said, 'Look, this is Glasgow making this play. This is a heck of a job.'"
Webb did mention that part of the reason Glasgow is in front is because Michigan is making every effort to be careful with Pipkins as he returns from ACL surgery, so it may not last. Playing time will; nose has two starters essentially.
So it's fine. If he doesn't perform, he will get yanked. Michigan has…
[After THE JUMP: everybody into the pile! Pipkins deployment, MEAAAAT, OGRE, and more pile.]
|Salt Lake City, UT – 6'4", 315|
||Scout||4*, #88 overall
#6 DT, #1 Utah
|Rivals||3*, NR overall
#23 DT, #4 Utah
|ESPN||4*, #91 overall
#7 DT, #1 Utah
|24/7||4*, #83 overall
#9 DT, #1 Utah
|Other Suitors||BYU, Wisconsin, Utah, UCLA|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Ace breaks down a Mone game. Hello post. Brief interview.|
|Notes||Highland (Sione Houma). Believe it is pronounced mon-AY|
The guy profiled most recently in this series may have a problem becoming big enough to contribute in college. Bryan Mone will not have this problem. Mone's final couple years of high school saw him go from an almost slender kid sites projected as an SDE to a monster suited for the middle. One reason why: MEAAAAAAAAAAAT.
Coach Hoke had a nice feast with the Mone family last night for his in-home visit. pic.twitter.com/DaKu7m8S0q
— Steve Lorenz (@TremendousUM) December 4, 2013
MEAT. Also meat.
Mone went from 245 to over 300 in a couple years, and then kept going. At some point he went too far, with 247 listing him at a whopping 338 up until Signing Day, though that was probably outdated. When Mone committed he told Sam Webb that he was at 340 with a goal of getting down to 315, and after his early enrollment that's the weight he is listed at on Michigan's roster.
So while he's still got a ways to go before he's a Mike-Martin-esque slab of beef, he's on his way. When he gets there he should be a quality player, if you're not Rivals. Scout's Brandon Huffman:
Mone is exactly how you draw it up when you're looking for an impact college tackle. He has a great frame, plays with good pad level, has plus level quickness and is relentless in pursuit. He does a great job getting off blocks, uses his hands very well and plays with a motor. He has the ability to fit in with a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme and could see the field early in college.
This probably isn't the first time I've ever seen a high school defensive lineman praised for his pad level, but it feels like it. Colleague Scott Kennedy is probably the most positive of anyone:
Huge, active defensive line prospect who is incredibly quick for his size. Actually played some defensive end in his high school's 3-4 formation at well over 300 pounds. Uses a club-like rip and swim move to knock tackles off balance. Wicked punch off snap. Changes directions well in space to adjust to backs trying to avoid him in the backfield. Gets tremendous leverage even though he's taller than most high school linemen he faced.
…very athletic for his size. Mone is very quick off the ball and can use his athleticism to swim around offensive lineman or use his size to bull-rush. One of Mone’s biggest assets is his hands. On film, Mone shows violent hands and uses them to gain proper leverage in the trenches. …nimble on his feet for a 300-pound athlete, showing great change of direction and the ability to avoid lineman when needed.
They list pad level as an improvement, because of course they do. Pad level. Meat.
ESPN is a little more reticent, but still positive:
…flashes of a very good initial burst off the ball but you would like to see little more consistency from him there. …when he fires out low, brings his hands and uncoils at contact he is more than capable of putting a blocker on his heels and holding his ground. When he brings his hands he displays the upper-body and hand strength to extend and shed, but he needs to be more consistent with his pad level and hand usage. …needs to more consistently utilize his size and power. … Has good lateral mobility.
They also mention that his violent hands give him some upside as an interior pass rusher.
"He uses his hands very well and he has real good feet for a big guy. He changes directions really well. "
The overall picture here is that Mone is a big, explosive guy with hands that are either great or in need of improvement, depending on your point of view and whether you're comparing him to the average high schooler or a finished product.
And then there's Rivals. Rivals was always down on Mone for whatever reason—he was 180th there despite being 76th on the 247 composite in September—and took the opportunity presented by the UA game to club him down to the generic three star range. No one else did. Most thought he basically justified his rating. 247:
… stout at the line of scrimmage and couldn’t be moved around by opposing offensive lineman. Mone has violent hands and good swim move, with the ability to play multiple shades along the defensive front. Mone was in on several tackles behind the line of scrimmage and looks college-ready from a physical standpoint.
Rivals's Mike Farrell seems to be the main skeptic, listing Mone amongst droppers:
… lacked the athleticism and quickness at the snap needed to be the No. 185 player in the country. He struggled more than any other defensive tackle short of three-star Lamont Gaillard and three-star O.J. Smith.
Nothing else suggests a major drop on their site. But then a Rivals guy who was more focused on the Michigan guys provides a potential explanation:
…Mone's main drawback at this time is in his conditioning and body composition. On some days at practice, Mone looked unbelievable for several reps before starting to run out of gas. While those were his better days (on others, he was having trouble adjusting to the quality of competition), the fact that his better performances featured an obvious weak point is a negative. Fortunately, he shone on gameday.
Hell, Rivals even named him one of his team's top performers:
10. DT BRYAN MONE, SALT LAKE CITY (UTAH) HIGHLAND
Mone was very active during the third practice. The Michigan commit was quicker off the ball today and more aggressive with his arms. When he combined those violent arms and his great lower body strength, Mone was able to generate a lot of push in the middle on the defensive line. During pass-rushing drills, Mone was able to make the offensive guards open their hips and finish where the quarterback would be.
With Mone's quick emergence this seems more like an overreaction to limited reps by a guy who doesn't really know much about the prospect. It's Junior Hemingway again. Hemingway is now an NFL wide receiver; Rivals bashed him down to three stars because someone saw him bad at an all star game. Farrell gonna Farrell.
Mone enrolled early and this has paid off for him. He emerged as contender on the line. While he has the potential to be a nose tackle at his size, Michigan sees him as a three tech:
The 3-tech is where Michigan will play the Salt Lake City (UT) Highland native next season.
"That's where they want me to play," he said. "I can use my power, which is what I am best at. Michigan wants me to get down to somewhere a little over 300 pounds, so I have some work to do there, but I can get it."
That was at the UA game, where he said he was 326. Michigan played him at the three this spring; he and Maurice Hurst Jr were both impressive enough to blast Willie Henry, who flashed buckets of promise during the second half of last year, down to third string. Motivational or not (clearly motivational), that's a good sign. Collectively the freshmen seemed to have cleaned out the three-tech depth chart. In the spring pratice thing he "flashed into the backfield regularly," sayeth this site.
Mone should be able to hit his weight goal by fall, as his balloon period was more a function of a lack of experience being huge than anything to do with his work ethic. Coach quote:
“The kid never comes off the field. To be 300 lbs. and yet be able to do that, it says a lot about him as a player and his work ethic. He works his guts out in the weight room and does a real good job for us. He is big, strong, powerful, and tenacious. He flat gets after it."
Why Alan Branch? Branch was another guy who was unnaturally agile for a guy his size; like Mone he was able to get into the backfield with regularity from a three-tech spot. Branch's height seemed like it might be a problem for the ol' pad level but in practice he was just too enormously strong for it to make much difference.
Bonuses: Branch was ranked in approximately the same place by most services, and came from a relatively obscure Western state (in his case, New Mexico).
Guru Reliability: Moderate. Near consensus except for Rivals, All Star appearance. Weight fluctuation makes things a bit difficult and Farrell gonna Farrell.
Variance: Low. Already college-sized and pushing for playing time, Mone's floor is a legit four-year contributor.
Ceiling: High. Easy to see him going high in the NFL draft as a 315 pound guy who can run.
General Excitement Level: High. Serious breakout potential either this year or next. College sized already, great work ethic and smarts, just needs to reshape his body a little bit and then it's time to come out and play.
Projection: Will play this year, and I won't even complain. Will be part of the three-tech rotation with Hurst and Wormley unless he gets sucked over to nose tackle. That's unlikely unless Pipkins does not recover well from his injury.
Longer term, Mone and Hurst should combine to shove Wormley over to SDE next year, especially if Michigan does go back to the under. Those two will fight tooth and nail for the starting three-tech job for the next four years—whoever comes out on top is likely to be real good. And substituted frequently.
The spring game-type-substance maintained its downward importance trajectory, but as it's the last glimpse of one of the big three sports we'll have until fall we'll talk about it all the same. This year's edition further expanded the punting-drills-and-standing-around section of the practice, so observations are necessarily light on the ground.
It's bad when Doug Karsch can't keep the sarcasm out of his voice.
This video is in Michigan's traditional zoom-o-vision, so you can't actually tell what Lewis did to get in the position he's in for the first interception.
The tone. Last year's "I like this team" has been replaced.
“We’re doing a lot of good things, but we’re not near good enough as a team to win games in the fourth quarter, which we didn’t do (last season), and play on the road,” said Hoke, entering his fourth season. “We’re a long way from being any good."
That reflects the reality of the program.
Depth chart grain of salt reminder. Spring is a season for motivational devices and experiments and therefore places on the depth chart should be regarded as vague indicators more than anything else. Case in point: Graham Glasgow was your second-team right tackle.
Lewis is in your grill yo [Bryan Fuller]
Very aggressive /teddyKGB. Every offseason for a team without an elite defense features coaches promising increased aggression, whereupon most of them quietly drop that promise when the season rolls around and it turns out that for Defense X being super aggressive is a good way to give up quick touchdowns. The cycle repeats the next offseason.
Michigan is promising aggression, and Mattison is putting his cornerbacks where his mouth is. Lewis:
“It’s huge, just getting hands on guys and trying to intimidate them," Lewis said. "That’s our key point right there -- being physical. That’s what (defensive coordinator Greg) Mattison is always talking about, being a physical defense.”
They spent most of the scrimmage session in the grills of Michigan wide receivers, playing MSU-style bump and clutch and grab and run. Word from the coaching clinic is that Michigan is adjusting to the way the game has been called of late. Lewis again:
“He said ‘be physical’,” Lewis said. “But he doesn’t care if it’s great defense and we get a penalty.”
This was highly effective when not drawing two flags on Lewis—the second a dubious one—or that one time the offense got Freddy Canteen lost on a deep corner route. Everything else was contested, and when the ball got to the receiver the corners were making a play on it.
Lewis looked terrific after a spring in which inside practice buzz has heralded him as a major comer; hell, he looked terrific most of last year except for the bit where the opposing quarterback regularly put the ball in the six-inch window perfect coverage provides. In this game he had two interceptions and two flags along with other instances where his presence forced drops or tough catches. The first interception came on the first play of the scrimmage (0:45 above).
The video doesn't do it justice since it kind of looks like Lewis is coming over from a zone. That was pure press man coverage on which he did the one thing the gypsy promised him he'd never do: make a play on the ball after achieving his position.
Is he supplanting? I don't know, man. Usually two returning starters who had the number of excellent interceptions Taylor and Countess did have impregnable positions on the depth chart. This situation is not usual, though, as those guys didn't have impregnable positions even as they were doing that—Taylor was yanked from the starting lineup briefly, even. And the last impression Michigan's coaches have is both guys getting smoked by Tyler Lockett, an impression that Countess might have reinforced when Canteen beat him over the top Manningham-style. (Gardner left the throw short and Countess recovered.)
At the very least the competition here is a real one, unlike, say, quarterback. And corner is a position at which a lot of players will see the field. Lewis has at least claimed a spot in Michigan's nickel package, which is half your snaps these days. Even when not in nickel, Michigan rotated last year and they'll rotate this year. It's likely that Lewis gets as many snaps as the starters whether he is one on paper or not, and then you've got Stribling and Peppers. Delonte Hollowell is hanging around, delivering the occasional hard shot on the unsuspecting.
If the spring game indicates one thing, it's that cornerback is better-stocked than it's been in a long-time. Michigan doesn't have a Woodson (at least until fall, anyway), but I can say without hesitation that I'm more comfortable with Michigan's fifth corner than I usually am with their third. Remember Football Armageddon, when Michigan decided covering a first-round NFL draft pick with Chris Graham was their best option? Yeah. Not so much this year.
Wilson got over the top on a late throw [Bryan Fuller]
Aaaand safety. Much less clarity there, and very little to go on from the game-type section. Michigan spent much of the day rolling whoever wasn't Jarrod Wilson to the line of scrimmage to further their aggression goals, whereupon he would cover a fullback or something or watch as a run play did not get to him.
Wilson did have one nice PBU on a looping ball over the top. The ball was late thanks to some pressure that forced Gardner to roll around in the pocket, but that's the kind of ball a safety can make a play on and the play was made.
As far as depth chart stuff goes there was zero clarity. If you put a gun to my head I'd say Delano Hill was slightly preferred. And then I would say "but…" and you would shoot me. Let's not do this gun to the head thing when talking about Michigan's safeties.
The Jake Ryan experiment. First off, the admittedly not-particularly-meaningful spring depth chart gives me the willies. Ryan at MLB, Morgan second-string behind him, Bolden starting, Ross running on the second team at new tinySAM. I am full of the willies.
It's hard to tell much about linebackers in spring, harder yet when the offensive line they're up against is barely releasing to the second level*. On plays where I watched Jake Ryan he looked okay. He's kind of a long, upright guy, so when blockers get into him he tends to let them under him. On the edge he would just juke a guy and explode past him; in the middle you have to take the block on because picking the wrong side of the guy means you just blew your run fit.
I'm not sure where he fits in an over defense, though, so if you're going to make a shift he has to go somewhere.
Meanwhile, Joe Bolden's ample playing time has been mysterious to me. Linebacker remains the hardest position for me to have a Serious Opinion about because there's just so much that goes into it, but the things that Bolden seemed to be screwing up were really obvious things like not being anywhere near your pass drop. Meanwhile when it comes to hitting people in the face and making them stop going forward there is no comparison between Bolden, who has been a drag-you-down tackler to date, and Desmond Morgan, who thumps you and then you stop moving. Michigan's head coach says "toughness" every other word, and Morgan is much closer to that on the field than Bolden.
As a result I've promised to eat a lemon on the internet if Bolden starts the opener over Morgan. The rules: Morgan has to be healthy, Bolden has to start, and Morgan cannot start.
*[Michigan had a great deal of uninspiring runs of 1-3 yards but few TFLs except that one time they put Henry in against the third team OL. This was in large part because the offensive line was doing its damndest to not repeat the mistakes of last year. Instead of popping off opposing DL immediately, they were maintaining doubles longer than you really should. This made life at LB relatively easy and thus many plays where a tailback crosses the line of scrimmage and encounters a pile of men.]
Poggi SDE, Hurst 3-tech, Henry nose on a second or third unit
Line ups and downs. Here the limitations of spring practice overwhelm. Michigan's first-team offensive line read Cole-Bosch-Miller-Kalis-Braden; the second team featured a left tackle with an enormous cast on his hand. Grain of salt, grain of salt, grain of salt.
Anyway, Michigan had a few guys that looked impressive: Bryan Mone entered the backfield with regularity and Maurice Hurst Jr flashed the first step that was the bulk of his recruiting profile. That they've pushed Henry down the depth chart is an excellent sign even if that particular arrangement is clearly motivational after Henry established himself a legit Big Ten player a year ago. Brennen Beyer displayed an excellent ability to discard… uh… true freshman Mason Cole on a number of snaps. Beyer has always been an active hands guy; the question with him is his ability to hold up against 330 pound trucks. A matchup with Cole is not going to answer that.
Michigan got push up the middle of the pocket for large chunks of the scrimmages and while they weren't penetrating on run plays with regularity, see the aside above. When Michigan's options were limited in the half-line drills, they ended up in the backfield more often than not. It seemed like 80% of those runs cut back behind the center, which is a win for the DL in that drill.
As for guys who had bad snaps we will extrapolate much more from than is reasonable: at 2:55 in the video above Derrick Green gets one of Michigan's better runs on the day by bouncing outside; that is there because Glasgow locked up with and drove Henry Poggi well off the ball. Tom Strobel got easily handled on a successful Hayes power play at 2:25; a linebacker wearing a number in the 40s also picked the wrong hole. Also… does anyone know where Chris Wormley was? I don't recall seeing him; I googled to see if anyone had mentioned anything was up with him and came up empty, so I assume he was there but rather anonymous.
I have to punt on other defensive end observations, as I was focusing on the linebackers and secondary for much of the day.
- They're trying to make good on the promise to be aggressive.
- The cornerback depth is terrific and the top end should be quite good.
- Michigan has a solid young core at DT; DE is more uncertain.
- Linebackers… ask again later.