DEPARTURES IN ORDER OF SIGNIFICANCE.
- CB Jourdan Lewis. Two-time All-American has case for second-best cover corner in school history. Various excellent stats, none better than this: over his last two years throwing it in the dirt and throwing at Jourdan Lewis were equally productive in terms of QB rating.
- DE Taco Charlton. Rampant in the second half of the season against both run and pass and destined for the first round of the draft. Charlton was the rare WDE to play at 280 pounds and gave Michigan's run defense oomph it will miss even if his replacement keeps up the pass rush productivity.
- SAM Jabrill Peppers. Massively overrated nonentity will be mysteriously drafted in first round this April and have decade-long NFL career. Absence in bowl game went completely unnoticed and did not pave the way for almost all of Dalvin Cook's yards.
- NT Ryan Glasgow. Robot Viking finally started getting appropriately rated as a senior, when he was again an excellent penetrator and disruptor of all things run and pass.
- SDE Chris Wormley. TE obliterator and utterly steady; maybe a hair less than explosive. Pass rush not a huge strength, but that went unnoticed since everyone else was picking QB out of their teeth. Elite run defender capable of playing inside or out.
- CB Channing Stribling. Outstanding year in coverage; if he was any easier to hit with a completion than Lewis it was a narrow thing indeed. Run support an Area For Improvement, as they say. Should still go early in the NFL draft, as he's a legit 6-foot.
- Safeties Delano Hill and Dymonte Thomas. Close to interchangeable, so addressed together: capable of deep zones and slot coverage, these two kept Jabrill Peppers out of coverage almost all year. Tremendous luxury to be able to do that and flip 'em on motion. Thomas did bust a few times for big plays (most prominently against UCF and FSU), but as safety tandems go this might be tops in recent Michigan history.
- ILB Ben Gedeon. Sideline to sideline ILB who couldn't carry wheel routes downfield. Consistent tackler who showed up in the right spot almost every time; took on blocks with aplomb and shed them with authority. Lack of playing time early in career got more inexplicable every game.
- DT Matt Godin. Played well enough early in the season, when Hurst was laid up with a minor injury, to maintain that status for the duration. Was solid in his role; provided little pass rush but effective run defender. Least productive rotation DL by some distance but still meaningfully positive per PFF.
get in his belly [Fuller]
- DT Maurice Hurst. Technically not a starter but whatever man. Per PFF, the most productive interior pass rusher in the nation. Huge grades to both them and this sites UFR; with serious uptick in snaps should have breakout senior year and contend for AA status.
- ILB Mike McCray. Resurrected career after long-term injury threatened it and was about 80% revelation. Superior blitzer, tough customer on the inside. Struggled to contain edge runs for much of the year; late improvement in that department.
- CB Jeremy Clark. Injured in game four and Michigan will try to get a sixth year for him. If that comes through Clark is a bolt of experience in a secondary that will otherwise have almost none. Lost his starting job to Stribling but started anyway since Lewis was out for the first three games; has a year of solid starts under his belt and should be a draftable guy.
- DE Rashan Gary. Snaps limited by guys in front of him; impressive and productive when he did get on the field. Physical potential limitless, and should take The Leap as a sophomore.
- DE Chase Winovich. Crazy productive pass rusher who'd show up for a handful of snaps in big-time games and come away with a sack anyway. Per PFF had 27 pressure events in 277 snaps, which is almost precisely the same rate at which Charlton racked them up. Run D occasionally wobbly. Potential breakout player.
- DT Bryan Mone. Second straight injury-plagued year. As a result barely got over the 100-snap threshold that we're using to distinguish "new" from "what's left." Struggled when he did get snaps much of the year, hopefully because he was not 100%. Flashed ability against OSU.
- FS Tyree Kinnel. Promising safety candidate was dimeback for much of the year and did well in that role. Had a couple of Kovacsian TFLs where he'd fly up from outside the picture to kill a guy dead. Coverage, which was reputed to be a strength when he was a recruit, didn't get tested.
- CB Brandon Watson. Nickel corner was beat with some regularity when tested. Doesn't seem to have much upside.
WHAT'S NEW, OR CLOSE ENOUGH, ANYWAY
dread level: rising [Patrick Barron]
Everything! Almost everything, anyway. The DL has some guys who have established a certain level of performance, to the point where only one of them is even sort of "new," that a redshirt junior who would be old except for terrible injury luck.
Dudes flanking McCray. Devin Bush figures to draw into the starting lineup next to McCray since he was the clear #3 ILB last year. That should push the bulkier McCray to MLB and give Bush WLB. Hopefully that would allow McCray to focus more on getting vertical instead of lateral. Bush is very much a spread ILB.
Meanwhile at SAM/Viper(!!!), many different things could happen. Josh Metellus and Jordan Glasgow got Don Brown praise for their work at Viper(!!!) during bowl practices; Noah Furbush is a more traditional LB option at the spot; Khaleke Hudson still seems like a perfect fit as an emphatically box safety; if Michigan can get Willie Gay, recruiting types report that he is an instant impact player.
Either all of the secondary or all but one guy in the secondary. Michigan has a ton of cornerback talent pushing through at a spot where you can get by decently on athleticism. Safety has guys with scattered snaps a year ago and really needs a couple of players to come through.
WHAT'S ROD STEWART 1977
omar comin' [Fuller]
Still the defensive line. Michigan graduates all four starters but this is very much a reload situation, not a rebuild. Michigan figures to start:
- Maurice Hurst, who produced just as much as last year's top starters in 60-70% of their snaps. He is going to be elite.
- Rashan Gary, who was +13 in about 300 snaps as a true freshman and is a holy lock to be real good as the #1 recruit in the country.
- Chase Winovich, who would be coming off a double-digit sack season if he had as many snaps as Charlton, in his first year as a WDE.
- Bryan Mone, who had a series of injury struggles the last two years but flashed his ability on a critical third and short stop against the Buckeyes.
Those guys are very much in contention for the best line in the conference.
Probably cornerback? If Michigan gets Clark back that's a veteran who will be of interest to the NFL as a Sherman-type jumbo CB; I thought he was a B+ guy in 2015 and should get better if allowed to return. Surely Michigan can find Lewis 2.0 from the pile of recruits in shiny wrapping paper they've accumulated.
Don Dang Brown. Brown lived up to the hype and then some. Michigan LBs totaled 43 TFLs as he solved problems with aggression; Michigan is at or near the top of any defensive metric you care to look at. While the copious talent had a lot to do with that, those guys were around last year and Brown still just about halved S&P+'s expected points allowed metric from 13.7 to 7.7.
While there's going to be some regression, Brown's defenses tend to take a year before kicking in to high gear. Increased familiarity with the system should help mitigate the personnel losses.
WHAT'S ROD STEWART 2017
Is Kemp ready to play? Is anyone? [Fuller]
Defensive line depth. Seven different guys saw 250+ snaps last year, with Bryan Mone getting 117 of his own. Four of those guys are gone. There is a shortage of gentlemen ready to step in. This site constantly says that nose tackle is a spot with two starters. Starter #2 at NT is...?
DE is probably fine. Between Reuben Jones, Carlo Kemp, Lawrence Marshall, and Ron Johnson Michigan can find a couple guys to spell the starters. The only DT on the roster other than the projected starters is Mike Dwumfour, a middling three star coming off an injury redshirt. Michigan's bringing in a ton of DT types in this recruiting class but even if they get a top guy like Jay Tufele or Aubrey Solomon, relying on a true freshman in the two deep is alarming. Michigan might have no choice but to move Gary to DT.
Going from Peppers to Not Peppers. The silver lining of his absence almost certainly costing Michigan the Orange Bowl is that I don't have to spend much time explaining why Peppers's departure will be costly. Yes, he tended to go on a ride when he got blocked. Michigan was delighted to take that tradeoff if it meant that you could not outrun Michigan's front seven with Usain Bolt.
WHAT'S HEISENBERG ROD STEWART UNCERTAINTY
Safety. You know, I'm almost sanguine about safety these days. After a solid decade of safeties topping out at "eh, he hasn't set his head on fire" and frequently dipping into "welp, he set his head on fire again," Michigan's on a run of guys who are actual positives. It is at this moment that we must have maximum vigilance, for this is when Angry Michigan Safety Hating God loves to strike.
Michigan clearly likes Kinnel. Unfortunately they have few alternatives; it looks like both Hudson and Metellus are tracking towards hits, but are both of those guys box safeties who you don't want to see in deep coverage? I dunno. Mental issues for a couple of true sophomores could pop up as well.
Outside linebackering. Bush will probably be at least all right and could verge on good by the end of the season. SAM/Viper(!!!) could see just about any level of performance and it wouldn't be much of a surprise.
MANDATORY WILD ASS GUESS
What looks like another excellent starting DL and cornerbacks that should pick up the departed's mantle without too much trouble is a good baseline to work from. And while the unit is going to be young—just three seniors are currently projected in the starting lineup—it isn't going to be troublingly so. The only spots at which freshmen are likely to contend are backup DT and maybe somewhere in the secondary.
So while they aren't going to be this year's outfit, which was neck and neck with Alabama for the nation's best, neither are they going to drop off to average. Unfortunately, this is not a fully Harbaugh-ized program so there are some sore spots at which one injury could radically reshape the outlook—someone please wrap the DL starters in cotton until fall—so I reserve the right to repeal the prediction if the wrong guy goes down, but this should be a top 15 S&P+ defense and top 20-ish in YPP and the like.
WOOP [Eric Upchurch]
Exit Shane Morris. Per Tom Van Haaren, Shane Morris will pursue a graduate transfer. CMU is the most likely destination.
Morris never lived up to the titanic hype that his arm strength generated when he was a high school junior. First, a bout of mono his senior year put him behind the development curve; second, Al Borges finished the job. An inexplicable start against Minnesota in 2014 resulted in a probable mild concussion, setting off a firestorm of controversy Dave Brandon's incompetence stoked until it resulted in both his and Brady Hoke's firing.
Morris will, but shouldn't be, remembered mostly for that. He was a Michigan kid through and through, to the point where he played slot receiver in the spring and was happily a lead blocker on sweeps. It didn't work out at M; here's hoping he goes Thomas Rawls at CMU.
We were already banking on Morris's departure in our recruiting calculations, so that won't affect the size of the class.
PFF's All Big Ten team. Michigan folks:
- Offense: Amara Darboh ("highest-graded run blocker among Big Ten receivers ... 2.65 yards per route run average ranks second in the conference"), Khalid Hill, Erik Magnuson (2nd), Mason Cole (2nd).
- Defense: Taco Charlton ("absolutely dominant force in Big Ten play"), Ryan Glasgow("posted four sacks and 14 total pressures to go with nine total defensive stops" in final four games), Maurice Hurst(2nd), Mike McCray("24 total pressures on just 77 reps"), Jourdan Lewis, Channing Stribling (2nd), Jabrill Peppers (as a slot corner), Delano Hill(2nd).
Peppers was obviously the punt returner; Jordan Glasgow was their All Big Ten special-teamer. Entertainingly, OSU punter Cameron Johnston was the ABT punter and was graded out at –13.8 before the Michigan game. PFF hates specialists, like any red-blooded American.
You'll notice a few omissions: Mackey winner Jake Butt, Chris Wormley, and Ben Gedeon. Wormley scored around +31(!), basically level with Charlton and Hurst and a hair behind Glasgow. He got left out because of Jake Replogle's existence and some guy named Steven Richardson from Minnesota. Butt got a bunch of pass blocking minuses(?!) and didn't have the same kind of receiving impact he did a year ago. (If we're being honest, he should have won the Mackey last year; getting it this year is a bit of a lifetime achievement award.) Gedeon was +12, so he was on the verge. There were a ton of good linebackers in the league.
So you're saying there's a chance. Jabrill Peppers made an appearance on the Dan Patrick show ("THAT'S RIDICULOUS," exclaim Ohio State fans, "MALIK HOOKER SHOULD HAVE MADE AN APPEARANCE ON THE DAN PATRICK SHOW"), and on that show he denied that he'd made an NFL decision:
During an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show, Patrick asked Peppers -- who is eligible for the NFL Draft this year -- why he would stay at Michigan?
"To get a degree, to try to finish some unfinished things here, to keep getting better at my craft," Peppers said. "I don't know, man. I've got a tough decision to make."
I... no. I am not taking this seriously, but I appreciate Peppers making it sound like a hard choice. FWIW, Peppers also said he'd vote for Deshaun Watson for Heisman.
This is probably fine. Buried at the end of an Ole Miss press release about Hugh Freeze dumping his offensive coordinator:
Ole Miss announces OC/QB coach Dan Werner will not return. Also, at the end of the release, Asst. AD Barney Farrar no longer part of staff.
— Ralph D. Russo (@ralphDrussoAP) December 8, 2016
No word about the "assistant athletic director for football operations," John Miller, who directed Tunsil to talk to Farrar about getting some more money.
I throw many shades at uniformz so only fair to acknowledge the flipside. These are gorgeous.
— Nanooks Hockey Blog (@NanookHockey) December 7, 2016
I miss playing Alaska-Fairbanks, for the 8-0 wins Friday and inexplicable 2-1 losses Saturday, and for the two free games Michigan got whenever they went up there. Also I cannot figure out how to buy this jersey.
Knives out for Butch Jones. 247's Travis Haney has a feature article featuring an absolute ton of people slamming Butch Jones as not up for it:
“You talk about the time and place to say something like that - and that is not what our fans wanted to hear,” one Tennessee administrative source told 247Sports, referring to the “champions of life” comment. “That will never go away. That soundbite will never go away.” ...
“It’s like he doesn’t think he should be there,” [another] source said. “It’s like he doesn’t think he belongs. And that permeates through the program. Everyone feels that.” ...
“The culture is a disaster,” said someone who works in the football building.
There are many more quotes from different people; even the supportive folk on the record are mostly talking about how Jones's accomplishments, such as they are, have not been fully appreciated. Add in Jalen Hurd's highly unusual midseason transfer and it looks grim for the future of the Jones regime. Regardless of the veracity of the claims in the article the number of people saying those things, even anonymously, for publication gives off a strong Rich Rodriguez vibe. He has problems of his own making, and now that he's down in a hole the rest of the program is digging for him.
This is of tangential interest to Michigan fans because of two things: Marcus Ray's bizarre insistence that Jones should have been the man instead of Harbaugh and Jones topping that hot take by hiring Michigan Olympic sports administrator Mike DeBord as his offensive coordinator. The parallels between Tennessee's breakdown of culture and discipline and those of the late Carr era are obvious.
More Butch Jones. Tennessee just got a commit from Trey Smith. Depending on who you listen to Smith is the top OL and possibly the top player in the country. Tennessee's sales pitch?
— Rhiannon Potkey (@TennesseeBeat) December 6, 2016
As Get The Picture points out, their real sales pitch was "we will give your sister money to be executive assistant to the head coach." At least Michigan hires actual football coaches.
Also knives out for someone you may know. Also in bad-idea coordinator hires:
Wow. The Oregon president is out here taking shots, says the only advice he can give is to "Go out and find a great defensive coordinator."
— Chantel Jennings (@ChantelJennings) December 8, 2016
I confess that I thought hiring Brady Hoke might not have been the worst idea in the world—look at his track record with under-recruited Michigan DL. It turned out to be... unhelpful. At least. It's possible that he took over a unit so far away from competence that he was doomed either way; it is extremely unlikely anyone will take that chance. Tell you what, though, whoever hires him as a DL coach is not wrong.
The Counterfactual. The #1 alternate universe of the past ten years in college football: what if RichRod takes the Alabama job? Nick Saban goes... somewhere. Michigan hires... somebody. He probably still fails extensively. John Talty looks back at one of the most fascinating coaching searches in CFB history.
Etc.: Excellent scouting report on Will Lockwood, one of the bright spots on the hockey team. A major reason Willie Taggart got the Oregon job: Jim Harbaugh. Lane Kiffin still the frontrunner for the Houston job. Me, I'd just hire their DC. Assistant salaries skyrocket, they have the money to pay players, etc.
Chris Wormley, Ryan Glasgow, Wilton Speight
Wilton, what are your thoughts on Florida State and playing them?
“Yeah, pretty cool. I saw that the last team, the last Michigan team, to go to the Orange Bowl was Tom Brady’s team that went to overtime with Alabama, so that was a cool little piece of history that I saw. Really athletic team in Florida State. Lot of studs on that team and real well coached by Coach Fisher, so I’m excited to hit the film with Coach Fisch and figure out the gameplan for what we’re going to do.”
What was the rollercoaster of emotions today? Did you wake up feeling you still had a chance to get into the playoff and when you found out, how did you guys cope with that, deal with that, move forward from that?
WS: “I think we all woke up hoping something might still happen. We knew Clemson or Washington had to lose for us to really have a solid chance, but it’s not done by computer; it’s done by people with brains and emotions and thoughts, so we thought there was still a chance. But we put ourselves in this position to leave it up to other people. Four points away from sitting here up in front of you guys undefeated. It’s tough, but at the same time we’ve got a lot to prove. We can really make a statement in Miami.”
RG: “Yeah, I agree with Wilton. I think that this game in Miami is going to be a statement game. We want to leave this program on top and [with] a step in the right direction. Chris and I are leaving, but Wilton has two more years here to lead this team. So yeah, we want to make it a statement game. We want to show that we’re in the top four teams in college football.”
CW: “I agree.”
Wilton, how’s the shoulder, collarbone, whatever’s going on? How healthy were you last Saturday?
“I was healthy enough to play, to be able to try and make as many plays as I could for the team. This week off has helped. We didn’t practice this past week; coaches were out recruiting. We’ll start back up on Tuesday. Not sure the extent of how hard we’ll go this first week, but the week off definitely helped. I’m getting healthier every day.”
[After THE JUMP: “I think we’re gonna be hungry, we’re gonna be angry, and we’re gonna want to take it out on a team, and Florida State’s the next team up.”]
Mike McCray and Chris Wormley
Chris, what was your view of the spot?
“Looked like he was short, but I guess the refs saw something different. We have to play through those types of calls, that type of adversity.”
Through the first three quarters you guys kind of bottled them up. What did they do differently in the fourth quarter?
CW: “We were just playing lights-out the first three and a half quarters. They got some plays and they have good players. They go to Ohio State, they’ve got good players. If we made a few plays at the end the outcome probably would have been different, but I thought we played pretty well for most of the game.”
Chris, do you guys still believe that you’re a playoff team?
“I think so. They’re saying Wisconsin can do that if they win next week and we beat that team. So, there’s probably some things that have to go our way, some people that have to be on our side on the committee or however that works, but we’ve played good football all year. We’re keeping our fingers crossed and we’re excited for whatever happens.”
With the regular season ending, how do you guys view these last 12 games and the final result today?
CW: “I think you look back and we had a great run. This is the most fun I’ve ever had playing football, with Mike, the rest of the defense, the offense. I think you look back and you can see what you did poorly, did well, and build off of the things that you did well and take that into the bowl game and prepare for that as best you can.”
MM: “Like Chris said, had a great season throughout the regular season. Didn’t get the outcome that we wanted--to go to the Big Ten championship--but like he said before, you’ve got to get ready for the bowl game and see what we did right throughout the season, see what we did wrong, and improve on it.”
[Hit THE JUMP for more]
SPONSOR NOTES: Yeah man, rate hike. Rate hikes are bad for you unless you get in before them, which you should. I know rate hikes are like streetcars and seem hopelessly outdated, but it could be a thing.
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: By far Michigan's most common approach:
4-3 even with Peppers as a SAM; press coverage with one high safety. Very, very Durkin. Remains to be seen if they maintain this with a running QB threat. Survey says "no": against most spread teams they've been two high, with one of those guys inserting in the box unpredictably.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: More rotation this week after things got very constricted against Iowa. Charlton led all DL with 58 of 67 snaps. Wormley and Glasgow got 47 and 45; Hurst and Godin got slightly over 30 each; Gary and Mone got around 20; Winovich got 10.
Gedeon, McCray, Peppers, and Stribling did not leave the field. PFF has Jourdan Lewis out for two snaps, but I don't remember what those snaps were; Hill and Thomas both lost a couple snaps to Kinnel, who got 7. There were rumors we'd see more of a few different players; he was the only one to even get on the field.
Brandon Watson was the only other player to appear; he got three snaps.
[After THE JUMP: the usual, and then snow]
Erik Magnuson, Kyle Kalis, Jake Butt, and Chris Wormley
For the Ohio guys especially, is this the biggest game you’ve ever played in your career to date?
CW: “I think so. It’s #2 versus #3. It’s for a Big Ten championship berth. Big game.”
JB: “I second that.”
EM: “I’m not from Ohio.”
Pretty well documented the struggles the program’s had against OSU in the past 10 or 12 years. How important is it for you guys to end that and get Michigan [?]?
JB: “It’s not as important to win this game for what’s been going on in the past, what’s been going on the past 11, 12 years. Really, we just need to win this game for what we have in front of us right now, and that’s all we’re focused on is we have an unbelievable opportunity to go on the road and compete against a really good team. Everything’s on the line right now. Our whole entire season’s on the line, so we need to win the game for that reason.”
I have a similar question: to be a great rivalry both teams have to win, and that hasn’t happened. How much do you guys need to win not only for yourselves but knowing Michigan has lost 11 out of 12?
KK: “Again, I don’t think you can focus that much on the past, especially when it’s this type of game coming up. It’ll be a big game. We’re definitely going to put in the work this week to prepare ourselves for it. I can’t wait to go out there and just play with all the guys. It’ll be the last time we play together as a team in a regular season game against Ohio State, so it’s gonna be a lot of fun.”
[Guy identifies himself as being from a Columbus newspaper] The Jim Harbaugh we see, that we just saw about five minutes ago, would you guys know that side? How is that different from the Jim Harbaugh you see?
CW: “Compared to what you guys see?
EM: “Michigan reporters only.”
KK: “Yeah, no comment.”
EM: “I’m sorry, I’m just kidding. I think he’s probably very similar to what you guys see. He’s as real as they come. The media kind of paints a bad picture of him sometimes because of his antics like going after referees and stuff like that, but he’ll fight to the death for his players. He’s a player’s coach in that aspect and he’s somebody that you’d run through a wall for, but he’s pretty similar to what you see. In everyday life, that’s who he is.”
[Hit THE JUMP for a good Jabrill story and a lot on the personalities of great coaches]