this may be of some local interest
channing stribling needs to remain in this dimension
[photo: Bryan Fuller.]
What are you watching for in the Spring Game? What is there to learn?
David: Brian and Ace did a good job during the Podcast of pointing out some of the main things to watch for on Friday night. Here are some additional battles/guys that will grab my eyes:
|No no the one on the right. [Fuller]|
Not De'Veon Smith running backs. At this point, we know who Smith is and what he can do. After him, there is quite a race happening. Isaac has been hyped a little, but he was last year, as well. Kareem Walker is a big recruit, but as of a couple weeks ago, he was still with the Maize group. Also, I guess Joe Hewlett has gotten some nice run.
Bobby Henderson at fullback. He's the only returning true fullback. They've moved a couple other guys (Hill and Poggi) back there, but I'm curious to see if Henderson will fend them off and be able to earn PT just because he will be more familiar with the position.
Dymonte Thomas and Tyree Kinnel at safety. Thomas blew up towards the end of 2015 and earned his spot on the field. He's a crazy athlete and a little more practice time could turn him into a dynamic deep safety. Tyree Kinnel is a guy I still wish they would have red-shirted, but he is also a guy to keep an eye on for not only next season but for the future. There's not a whole lot behind these guys. *We've seen Delano Hill before and mostly know what we'll get from him.
The rest of the tight ends. Jake Butt is YAY! There are also some interesting guys after him. Bunting, Wheatley, Jocz, and Gentry are all different kinds of players and each can create his own matchup problem. Seeing Wheatley slip out, Jocz block (ha), and Bunting/Gentry use their size against smaller DBs will be some things to keep an eye on that could get them on the field in the Fall...and very much diversify Michigan's tight end arsenal.
[Hit THE JUMP to find out who the coaches' thought their #3 overall player was at this time last year. Hint: he didn't play.]
Upon Further Review has not yet lost its sponsor.
While you are not wearing pants you can just call Matt at Homesure Lending. You'll have his number. So if you are unsure about something or need something you can just call him up. Probably don't mention the pants, because that's weird.
FORMATION NOTES: Hello dime package. Michigan spent most of the day in it. This was probably the most common setup:
30 dime slide
Michigan has three guys in a three-point stance along the line with Ojemudia flanking them as a standup end; behind are Desmond Morgan and Jabrill Peppers. Most of the time Peppers went into coverage and left the front five to win one on one matchups, which they almost universally did.
The other very common formation was one that's pretty similar but again has the "buck" lined up just off the nose tackle.
Michigan would insert Ojemudia or RJS at various places along the line.
I called formations on which Michigan was clearly going into man coverage with another player while Peppers was added to the box "nickel 3-4."
Yes, those are two actual LBs. When BYU added their fullback Bolden would come in.
This with nobody backing the line on the snap was "5-0 dime":
I think that about covers it. Oh: I didn't get a shot but that first snap I dubbed "3-1-7" because Ojemudia is over the slot and there are legit 4 people in the box. About which more later.
PERSONNEL NOTES: Michigan spent almost the whole game in a dime package featuring all three corners plus Peppers, Hill, and Wilson. Morgan played the entire game except for the final drive; the DL rotation was the usual eight guys in the usual doses. If you ask me the starting lineup now includes Matt Godin instead of Willie Henry but that's a fine distinction.
Bolden got the few bonus LB snaps. These all came when BYU added an H-back to the equation. Ross was healthy after all: he got in at the end of the game.
[After THE JUMP: hhhyarrrrr it had eleven mouths and no bottom]
9/26/2015 – Michigan 31, BYU 0 – 3-1
HALP [Eric Upchurch]
"We were dominated in every facet, their defense over our offense. Every guy, every play. That thing was a shellshock, from the first snap right though the last."
–BYU offensive coordinator Robert Anae, 2015
"If you put a pit bull in a ring with a chihuahua, don't expect the chihuahua to win."
-former PSU WR Chafie Fields, 2006
The last time something like this happened, Alan Branch sent Anthony Morelli to the sidelines muttering about pudding. The year was 2006; Michigan's defense was a flamethrower of a thing. Dudes from it still litter NFL rosters: Branch, Lamarr Woodley, David Harris, Leon Hall, hell, Ryan Mundy. Each level of the defense had an NFL Pro Bowler on it. Lloyd Carr had finally, agonizingly made a switch from Jim Herrmann to Ron English, and things took off.
This was right after 2005, the 7-5 year one idiot Michigan fan dubbed "the year of infinite pain" because the worst thing that had ever happened to him as a sports fan was a light pillow buffeting followed by off-brand ice cream. That year Michigan had coughed up all manner of leads in all manner of ways, culminating in the infamous punt from the Ohio State 34 and the nigh-effortless OSU drive to win that followed. That was a jarring thing, the first gray hair emerging from the program's ear.
Adapting to the reality of the 2006 defense's otherworldliness was gradual, and then sudden. The Penn State game was the seventh that season, and only then was it crystal clear that what was going on was not the usual. It took just four games this season to start wondering about a repeat.
It's hard not to when BYU's coaches are wandering around wondering what blew their clothes off, when their quarterback comes to regard the pocket like it's the Mines of Moria. Here there be Balrogs. A full two-deep of them.
Here's the numbers stuff. Michigan's third in the country in yards per play allowed, behind
- a Boston College team that started the season off with Florida State… and Howard, Maine, and Northern Illinois
- a Kent State team that's only in the conversation because it held Delaware State (remember them?) to –33 yards.
Michigan hasn't given up more than 337 yards in a game; two teams barely crested 100 yards and a third used a fourth-quarter drive to get over 200. The one team that moved the ball a bit on them, Utah, just atomized Oregon. S&P has Michigan fourth. (FEI does not update until week seven.) Michigan's already acquired 32 TFLs, 8th nationally on a per-play basis. Again they are mostly behind teams who scheduled Random Assemblage Of Ants In Helmets State. By any measure Michigan has established itself one of the nation's top defenses a month into the season.
A month is not a year. A number is just a number. But these numbers reflect what we've seen when Michigan has rolled out onto the field. They go seven deep on the defensive line. They have an All-American corner and two more guys coming on, and oh also Jabrill Peppers.
Aside from some blips in coverage against Oregon State none of the results have felt at all fortunate. In fact big chunks of the yards acquired have been batted passes still caught or sacks miraculously spun out of, with a side of NFL throws made under extreme duress. This level of performance is not sustainable, but only because we are currently peeved when the opponent scrapes into triple digits.
Any reasonably sane projection we're in on. We will also consider slightly insane ones.
That 2006 defense sprung leaks. We got a taste of it a couple weeks before Football Armageddon when Michigan ran out to a big lead against Ball State and rested the starters. Johnny Sears fell over a lot, Ball State scored, and scored again, and soon the starters were in desperately trying to prevent a potential tying touchdown in the waning moments.
That was Akron before Akron, and if you want to point a finger to the exact moment when a paranoid observer would have started building a bomb shelter, that was it. The soon-to-be 2007 secondary faced a jankety MAC spread and collapsed.
A couple weeks alter Michigan would go the whole game against soon-to-be Heisman winner Troy Smith with a 4-3 on the field against a spread offense. Chris Graham tried to cover Tony Gonzalez, a future first round draft pick at wide receiver. It went poorly. Michigan gave up 42 points. A couple months later Michigan shut down USC for a half; in the locker room Pete Carroll told his offensive coordinator to stop running the damn ball. USC ripped off 29 second-half points.
2006's Achilles heel—they had one great cornerback, one okay one, and nothing else—was in retrospect obvious but it took a long time to find anyway.
One may be on the way here, but it's hard to figure out what it might be. The spread ineptness that haunted Michigan's manball administrations for a decade and a half is emphatically out the door. If the thing you're exploiting against this secondary is the third and fourth corners on fly routes down the sideline, good luck. If there's an ACHILLES OUT OF NOWHERE here it's probably the sudden degradation of the defensive line if and when they face elite opposition. Even the occasionally iffy linebacker play will probably be fine against the kind of team that seeks to test Michigan there.
And I can't see that happening. We head back to precedents in an attempt to communicate how something feels. It is possible we're not going quite far enough back for this one.
And from the BYU perspective:
Come back here young man who is older than me [Upchurch]
Yet To Be Named Harbaugh-Themed Guys Who Did Good Award.
you're the man now, dog
#1 Ryan Glasgow has somehow not featured on these lists yet. It says all you need to know about Michigan's faith in him that they decided to spend most of the day in dime with 5 or 6 guys in the box. Glasgow collected his usual TFL or two and was the linchpin of a 2.0 YPC performance in the most attractive circumstances possible for a rushing offense.
#2 Jabrill Peppers had his usual TFL, threw a BYU receiver to the ground with authority at the end of the first half, was not beaten in coverage, played (sort of) tiny WLB much of the day, spooked Tanner Mangum into a fumble on one particular blitz, and had two near-electric punt returns. Also, fair catches.
#3 De'Veon Smith ripped off this week's Who's Got It Better Than Us and thundered over 100 yards in the first half. It feels sort of wrong to put any offensive player on this list after that D performance, but I mean… yeah.
Honorable mention: All defensive persons. Darboh.
5: Chris Wormley(#2 Utah, #1 Oregon State)
3: Jake Butt (#1 Utah), Jourdan Lewis (#1 UNLV), De'Veon Smith(#2 Oregon State, #3 BYU), Ryan Glasgow (#1 BYU).
2: Ty Isaac(#2 UNLV), Jabrill Peppers(#2 BYU).
1: Willie Henry (#3 Utah), AJ Williams (#3 Oregon State), Channing Stribling(#3 UNLV)
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
This week's best thing ever.
Absolutely brutal decision this week but have to go with De'Veon Smith teleporting through a pile of players and then posterizing the same defensive back twice.
Honorable mention: Amara Darboh's OBJ impression. Every defensive snap save approximately three of them.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
This week's worst thing ever.
BYU scrapes over 100 total yards on their last drive.
Honorable mention: Rudock doesn't see the fact that Jehu Chesson's guy has fallen down on the first snap. Michigan gets stuffed on a fourth down in the second half. Blake O'Neill goes rogue on a 4th and 16 punt fake.
Utah: circle route pick six.
Oregon State: Rudock fumbles after blitz bust.
UNLV: Rudock matches 2014 INT total in game 3.
BYU: BYU manages to get to triple digit yards in the last minutes of the game.
[After the JUMP: I AM FEELING QUITE POSITIVE THIS WEEK YES SIR]
This is how Brady Hoke sees an 'M'. [Upchurch]
Recruits: if you are reading this, do not believe the man in the red/crimson track suit telling you that criticism of Brady Hoke or his staff means Michigan is going to lose him anytime soon. Those are very bad men who are likely to have you downsized to Southern Alabama or regularly featured in photographs and articles that highlight how bad you are at tackling. You also should pay no attention to bloggers who suggest you should ride pine until 2016 and that your future coach needs to win X amount of games until then to even be his coach. Also I shouldn't be talking to you.
Fifth-year seniors >>>>>>> freshmen on special teams. That's why I strongly disagree with the conclusions of AC1997's assessment of this year's redshirting, while appreciating the hell out of the diary (quick read, too). The only one he's mad about is Da'Mario Jones, while Bosch and York are "questionable." I know we did this recently in a roundtable but my take is different:
- Obviously play him: Smith, Butt, Gedeon. All were effective and needed.
- Not mad but needed a shirt: Shane—we've discussed this. Green but you kind of have to play five-stars. Bosch but chances are good there's still two decent 2017 starting guards out of Samuelson, Dawson, and Mason Cole and other 2014/15 recruits.
Me in 2017 is (probably) very upset about this. [Fuller]
- Mad: The safeties and receivers and here's our big disagreement. Dymonte Thomas and Delano Hill are perfect examples of the reason we have a tag about burning redshirts on special teams. Jones & York—Mathlete keeps telling us that returning experience at receiver is a strong indicator of a good offense and vice versa, and unless a receiver has a massive talent lead on the DBs trying to cover him WR effectiveness is about route running and blocking and reps reps reps.
- Pick ONE cursed freshman corner: Both Jourdan Lewis and Channing Stribling played, both were pretty good for freshmen, one was needed. Theory: Uber recruits tend to cast a shadow on recruiting their positions, so it's important to have good stocks ahead of them (see: Russell Bellomy/Shane Morris situation). Peppers doesn't fill a depth chart by himself, and if he really is Woodson reincarnate* he'll be gone to the NFL after winning the 2016 Heisman and then we're left with Whitley and Howard.**
At the risk of sounding like every NFL columnist who thinks every franchise needs to adopt the strategy of whichever team just won the Superbowl, the reason Michigan State and Wisconsin have been to Indianapolis twice apiece, despite recruiting classes that top out like our (mediocre-for-Michigan) 2011 haul, is because they redshirt almost everybody and keep them around.
It's a luxury of stable programs, and Michigan is still paying for not being one of those for the latter half of the 2000s. Denard would have been nice to have this year, obviously. How badly did you wish for Vincent Smith when the RBs were getting Gardner killed? How's Michigan's pass rush if you add fifth years from Roh and Campbell to it? Brandin Hawthorne could have let you put a shirt on Gedeon. Developed talent is good. Fifth year seniors are good. Leastways they're better than a marginal improvement in kickoff coverage for a team that rarely scores touchdowns.
*[Nobody is Woodson reincarnate. The thing about the greatest players in the history of the game is they don't grow on trees.]
** [I mean who wants 1998 Todd Howard starting? He's a true freshman. He's short. He doesn't know how to press yet. He's…he's right behind me isn't he?
Nope, he's over there by Brian.]
That's not what I expected. Okay, reader. Zoom out, cock your head sideways, and tell me with just a glance what you think this diary was about:
Turnover analysis? A deep look inside offensive stats? An estimated timetable for improvement? Nope: try a "when do we fire this guy" post.
Deep, statistical analysis to answer rhetorical fan questions that have simple answers not requiring statistics (Michigan isn't firing Brady Hoke anytime soon): these are my readers tag activated. Really it's a case of bad title—what he's doing is comparing Hoke's coaching stops to those of the most successful coaches in recent history, concluding that Michigan needs to win 20 games in the next two seasons (and probably a national championship) to have his name placed among that pantheon. Expectations are probably around 17, with the fanbase getting mighty grumpy if that number dips below 16.
Your regular etc. LSA tackles (ha!) the defense, which straddled the B+/A- line all year until it faced Miller-Hyde without its middle linebackers.
[After the jump: a very meta board]
“Obviously we’re not – I’m not – happy with the amount of points given up. The big plays, that’s not our defense. We’ve got some things we’ve got to get corrected. A lot of that is on me. That’s – any time something like that happens, you have to look at yourself, you have to look at the game plan, you have to look at what you had in. I think there are some things we could have done different. But we’ll get it corrected.”
Brady said guys were in position but didn’t execute. How much of it was scheme, and how much of it was execution?
“That’s always the case, but your job as a coordinator is you get guys in the right positions and they make plays. Either we haven’t practiced them enough – obviously that offense, the thing I was proud of and we made a really big deal of not getting our defense all out of whack because of the speed of it, and the speed of it was unbelievable. You had to be there to feel that.
"Throughout the game, if you watched and you saw, our guys were lined up and our guys knew where to be. You see other people play that and they’re running all over trying to get set and it looks like a circus sometimes. One of the touchdowns, the first one, the corner didn’t get the call. That’s what we stressed all week that that’s why they run that offense. To get just one guy to not get the call or to be sure of the call and they take advantage of it. That was one of them. Another one of the big plays, we’re right in position again, and it’s an interception, it’s no question it’s an interception, it turns into a touchdown. That I blame myself for. We have to work harder running to the football. We should have had five more guys around the football. We’ll get that corrected. There’s going to be plays like that that are going to happen. That’s where a Michigan defense runs to the football and stops it for a gain and you have another chance to play.
"For the most part I thought our kids, they hung in there. I think what they did at the end of that game shows that they believed. I mean, you’ve all been around teams before that folded in that kind of situation, but they didn’t. Thank goodness for the offense, which you knew was going to be your advantage against their defense -- our offense did a tremendous job of bailing us out, and that’s what happened.”
10/19/2013 – Michigan 63, Indiana 47 – 6-1, 2-1 Big Ten
Jake Butt's block gets Devin Funchess cupcake dog eyes. [Eric Upchurch]
Chris Tucker! Jackie Chan!
YET MORE EXPLOSIONS!
EVERY ATOM IS RAPIDLY RECEDING FROM EVERY OTHER ATOM WITH FLAAAAAMES!
Someone mentions that 67-65 Illinois game!
And he gets thwacked!
This is Michigan!
I have confirmed this with people who do not care about Michigan football that much: that was not a collective fever dream brought on by the stress of the Penn State game. It happened, because Indiana is #1 in Big Ten offense and #546th in total defense. A team that put up 42 on them last week waddled towards their first and only offensive touchdown halfway through the fourth quarter of a game against Purdue. They gave up 35 to Indiana State while torching those guys for 70 points. They walloped Penn State by 20. Adam Jacobi has taken to calling the Hoosiers #CHAOSTEAM because at any moment they will break you or be broken themselves, leaving seven points and a flaming wagon wheel in their wake.
Pick literally any stat about offense you want and laugh. Indiana first downs: 28! Michigan's average gain: 9.0 yards! Indiana time of possession in a third quarter in which they scored 23 points: six minutes! Devin Gardner YPA: 17.3! Number of Indiana receivers with catches of at least 20 yards: 5!
This purports to be the same sport that Michigan played against Minnesota. I say it is not. I say it was a test pilot for TV executives from a dystopian future looking for something that will distract the masses from their slave-like drudgery in the fur mines. It was wildly successful. I barely remember anything about my day to day life in the fur mines.
In the aftermath, no one knows if anything means anything. Our ears are still ringing, shrapnel still falling, ham fragments scattered in the front yard. One of the children is walking with a limp and tilting his head funny in a way that seems worryingly permanent. The oil derrick is on fire.
In these situations it's hard to tease out judgments, especially when last week your offense was a few deep balls to Funchess and pain and your defense seemed rather good. A week later, Michigan's setting program records for total offense and getting eviscerated on the other side of the ball.
We had this debate last week about Raymon Taylor and now it's writ large: can any part of this team decide whether it sucks or it is awesome? Lewan and Gallon excepted, it seems like everything Michigan does is prone to insane swings. On the player level, hey look it's Devin Gardner, who explodes in all directions. Or Taylor, who was repeatedly roasted one game after having an awesome interception and was the primary hand in shutting down Allen Robinson for 3.99 quarters. Or Dennis Norfleet, who had an electric juke-you-out-of-your jock kickoff return and an electric reverse-field-twice-and-get-tackled-at-the-nine kickoff return. Even previously consistent Brendan Gibbons is now two for his last five with two line-drive blocks.
On the unit level, the defense waxes between perforated against Akron to crushing against UConn and Minnesota and most of the Penn State game. The offense nukes Notre Dame, nukes itself against Akron and UConn, reconfigures itself into a dump truck to out-dump-truck Minnesota, is bombs and turnovers and pain against Penn State, and then rewrites the record book this weekend. On a team level… well, you saw the Akron and UConn games. Michigan's quite a CHAOSTEAM itself.
Meanwhile, the opponent. In the second half, Michigan's game plan seemed to be max-protect pass after max-protect pass on which Funchess and Gallon would wander out in different variations of deep routes. Indiana would cover Funchess; Gallon would engage his cloaking device to become improbably open, then catch a ball and run for many yards. At some point in the second half, Gallon had already broken the Big Ten all-time receiving mark and one of these two man routes found him open by literally twenty yards.
Jeremy Gallon has three hundred receiving yards and the defense is blowing a coverage on him.
Blow a coverage on everybody else! Penn State intentionally blew a coverage and got an interception out of it! Are you recent immigrants from Malaysia? Do you think this is… Malaysiaball? I need Michigan to score a touchdown here and I am still slightly angry at you, Indiana. Incompetence so vast is a thing to behold, but how are you supposed to take this performance and extrapolate anything from it? It exists in a different world from football; it is for dystopian future distractions.
I probably shouldn't be looking for life lessons after that in any case. It's my natural inclination to search for What It Means For The Future after playing Indiana, since for my entire life as a Michigan fan Indiana games have been speed bumps on route to games Michigan might actually lose. This is a bad instinct after a game that will be That Indiana Game for the rest of time.
Here we should set those things aside and align ourselves in repose. Whatever just happened has no bearing on the future. Lay back, let your feet flop open, and breathe. Our neck muscles and inner ears could use the rest.
I'M FINISHED [Upchurch]
Brady Hoke Epic Double Point Of The Week. That Jeremy Gallon's epic, Michigan and Big Ten record-setting performance has the whisper of a challenge here is testament to the ridiculousness of this game. Even though Devin Gardner set some Michigan records of his own, Gallon's the guy.
Honorable mention: Gardner, obviously. Thomas Gordon's interception was the biggest defensive play of the day, by some distance. The line kept Gardner clean for long stretches.
Epic Double Point Standings.
2.0: Jeremy Gallon (ND, Indiana)
1.0: Devin Gardner (ND), Desmond Morgan(UConn), Devin Funchess(Minnesota), Frank Clark(PSU)
0.5: Cam Gordon (CMU), Brennen Beyer (CMU)
Brady Hoke Epic Double Fist-Pump Of The Week. After a couple weeks during which it was a stretch to pick anything, here the problem is paring it down form an explosion symphony to a quartet. Or singlet. Whatever. Music things!
But there is a pretty obvious item: Thomas Gordon undercutting a badly-thrown deep ball to intercept moments after Devin Gardner had fumbled a snap on the two yard line. Indiana got to the line instantly, caught Raymon Taylor off guard, seemingly had burned him for yet another immense touchdown, and Sudfeld left it short. A catch and return later, Michigan was once again in position to regain possession of the two-possession lead that was the only thing between Michigan fans and mass chaos. More mass chaos, anyway.
Honorable mention: Gallon catches ball, Gallon catches ball, Gallon catches ball, Gallon catches ball. Etc. Gardner scrambles, gets flipped into the endzone. Funchess leaps damn near out of the stadium to near the endzone in the second half.
Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.
8/31/2013: Dymonte Thomas introduces himself by blocking a punt.
9/7/2013: Jeremy Gallon spins through four Notre Dame defenders for a 61-yard touchdown.
9/14/2013: Michigan does not lose to Akron. Thanks, Thomas Gordon.
9/21/2013: Desmond Morgan's leaping one-handed spear INT saves Michigan's bacon against UConn.
10/5/2013: Fitzgerald Toussaint runs for ten yards, gets touchdown rather easily.
10/12/2013: Devin Funchess shoots up the middle of the field to catch a 40 yard touchdown, staking Michigan to a ten-point lead they wouldn't relinquish. (Right?)
10/19/2013: Thomas Gordon picks off an Indiana pass to end the Hoosiers' last drive that could have taken the lead.
[After THE JUMP: Gallon catches ball, Gallon catches ball, Gallon catches ball.]