Peppers at 10, which seems low.
[Ed—Seth: Every year, by tradition, Mike Spath (@MichaelSpath198), one of the best journalists on the Michigan beat and bar none the best source of Michigan hockey info, also generates the only content I ever care about from Big Ten Media Days, offering anonymity to opposing players in return for their unvarnished opinions on Michigan players.
Spath has departed The Wolverine, but he still went to Media Days and got those golden quotes. He was at WTKA this morning and shared some of them with Sam Webb. You can listen to the entire segment on WTKA's website here. With their permission, Adam and I transcribed the parts that were paraphrased from those players.
Note: "paraphrased." Note again: I SAID PARAPHRASED. On a lot of these Spath is combining several players' thoughts, and he was talking on the radio. Please don't construe that into misquotations that result in me being chased by a tall blond man who in turn is being chased by a Big Ten athlete.
If you want more Spath, he'll be contributing some at Badgerblitz.com, and is expected to become a regular contributor on WTKA.]
HOW THIS WORKS: So I’ve gotten some harsh feedback on Twitter saying “you know, if I was going to say something critical I’d put my name to it,” but that’s not the way that it goes. I don’t go up to them and say “Sam, I’m going to ask you a question and I want you to put your name on it.” I’ll say “Sam, I want to ask you some really honest feedback about Michigan football,” and the only way you’re going to give it to me is if I don’t quote you—if I don’t use your name.”
And so that’s how I do it and I would say this: if you’re a pretty smart person you can probably figure out that I went up to Indiana players, I went to Minnesota players, Rutgers players, Illinois players … and Northwestern.
So those are the five teams I was able to approach. It was a little more difficult this year—Sam you were there, and they didn’t go into roundtables where you have a lot more one-on-one times. So you really had to wait these guys out, and I waited until the last five minutes when they were completely empty, or I wasn’t afraid to—when a guy was getting up and leaving the podium when he’s done with his hour, or walking down the hallway with him. Because that’s when you’re gonna get the good stuff: when there’s nobody else around, and you have to really assure him: “I’m NOT gonna use your name.” You can see the light bulb going on in their head for that first second like: “I don’t know about this...do I really wanna do this?”
But eventually, and here’s the thing too, is that when you ask these questions—and I’ve seen other people try to do it—I think if you ask generic questions you get generic answers. If you ask specific questions, you get specific answers. And so a lot of the time what I’ve focused on is specific players.
“The player that they played against in November: we had six games of film on him from earlier in the season, and who was that player? This was a guy that caught everything, was a big play waiting to happen. There’s a play where he caught the ball in the middle of the field against us, and we had two guys right there, and we thought we had the angle on him, and he pulled away!”
“There’s track speed and there’s football speed, and this guy’s got football speed. I couldn’t believe how unbelievably fast this guy was, and how much of a difference he made over the course of the second half of the season.”
I posted some of these things to Twitter and there’s already this Jourdan Lewis thing that blew up big time:
Note from rival on @JourdanJD, even though they didn't complete much throwing at him, he didn't have many INTs so there was no fear factor.
— Michael Spath (@MichaelSpath198) July 26, 2016
One guy said that the reason they throw at Jourdan Lewis is there’s not a fear factor. And I immediately got jumped on and ripped on. I think when you read the whole quote it’s a little more understanding.
The guy was talking about how they didn’t complete much last year—they only completed 36% of their passes that they threw at him. But they did throw at him, because he had 90 targets according to Pro Football Focus, and that’s the tenth most at any specific defensive back in the country. So I mean you’re talking about 127 teams, talking about four defensive backs for the most part on every team, so you’re looking at 400 players and he’s the tenth-most thrown-at? That’s pretty crazy for a guy who’s only giving up a 36% completion. And the guy said to me:
“You know we didn’t complete much, but he didn’t get many interceptions.” So I asked him a little bit more—why did you keep throwing at him, and he said “What did he have interceptions-wise compared to Desmond King? Two or three?” (The answer’s two). “You weren’t going to complete many passes if you threw his way, but he wasn’t going to pick you off either. You didn’t have to fear the turnover if you threw it.”
And I said “So you didn’t fear him?”
And he’s like “We didn’t fear him: no.”
So when I’m trying to present this as “there wasn’t a fear factor” that’s not really how the quote comes off. [Sam and Spath talked a bit about man-to-man versus cover 2. Upshot: the difference with Desmond King is cover 2 cornerbacks are facing the ball the whole play.]
[Hit THE JUMP for Victims of Glasgow and Wormley Anonymous, Glasgows, Guards, and Peppers]
It lives part II! When Homesure Lending sponsored these posts, Matt admonished me that his sponsorship was contingent on me actually doing all of them. So, yeah, next time you see him buy him a beer and get a mortgage. Matt just pinged me in case a refi made sense, demonstrating that 1) he's always on the lookout if he can save you money and 2) rates must be even more absurdly low than they were a couple years ago.
Formation notes: Michigan spent almost the entire game in nickel, as you would expect against a spread. There were only a few plays on which they deployed odd formations. Here RJS is a standup DT in a dime package on third and eleven:
This was "dime standup DT," because sometimes obvious is obvious. Michigan also had a couple plays where they walked out a bonafide linebacker over WR bunches:
But it was mostly standard stuff as Florida failed to threaten those formations.
Substitution notes: Peppers missed this game with a broken hand. Michigan moved Lewis inside and played Clark and Stribling on the outside. Thomas and Hill rotated at one safety spot next to Wilson. LB was the usual Morgan/Bolden pairing with both guys getting spotted by Gedeon.
DL was variable, with Wormley seeing time at three tech and SDE; Charlton was at WDE and SDE; RJS got a lot of WDE time. Hurst and Henry started at DT and got the bulk of the snaps. Marshall saw some snaps at WDE. Godin and Strobel saw scattered snaps on the interior. Brady Pallante even got a few plays in.
[After THE JUMP: way less data than the offense provided.]
Scott Matzka has a very bad disease. Former Michigan hockey player Scott Matzka, who was a short-handed goal waiting to happen and took EECS 380 at the same time I did, has ALS. Please visit his site and help out if you can.
A Michigan Man does not jackknife powerbomb Kevin Nash.
— Henry Poggi (@The_Hank_Poggi) July 1, 2016
Apparent attrition. Brad Hawkins has not enrolled:
Hawkins' high school coach at Camden, Dwayne Savage, confirmed that Hawkins is not in school yet as he's still awaiting clearance from the NCAA Clearinghouse -- now known as the NCAA Eligibility Center. Savage said that Hawkins still plans on playing football at Michigan this season and hopes to have his clearance at some point toward the middle of July.
"He's not in school yet," Savage said. "I believe it's a Clearinghouse situation. Right now everything's still a go for Michigan. He just has to get everything cleared before he can step on campus."
This doesn't happen often with Michigan recruits so I don't have a feel for how likely it is that things get resolved by fall. Sam Webb is saying he doesn't have high hopes Hawkins will enroll this fall. Michigan might pick him back up after a prep semester.
If you've read the recent recruiting profiles, you know that in my opinion this is more of an issue for the safety depth chart than receiver because I really like the two sleeper-ish guys they took and have yet to get to Dylan Crawford.
Speaking of those sleeper-ish guys. PSU, OSU, and MSU are all using a ton of cover four, so this Ian Boyd article on the route slot receivers have to get down to bust these Ds is of considerable relevance:
For teams with QBs that have enough arm, against cover 4 defenses that like to bracket the single side receiver, this is a really popular way to attack the field safety:
Defenses that either want to bracket the single-side receiver in cover 2 or else drop the boundary safety down to stuff the run love to play this coverage against trips formations. The outside corner is in straight man coverage on the "X" receiver while the space-backer (S), middle linebacker (M), and field safety (F) are playing zone over the two slot receivers.
This is variously called "flag" or "seven" or a "corner" route. I go with the latter in UFR, FWIW.
Impact on the game
Perhaps the biggest response to cover 4 that has come into vogue around the game is the use of vertical routes from the slot receiver with which to attack the safeties. There are other good route combinations for attacking cover 4 that don't include seven routes but they all generally involve sending a slot receiver down the field to either attack the safety or occupy him so the offense can isolate a corner.
Teams that don't have receivers they can use in the slot to attack safeties down the field are at a major disadvantage in stopping cover 4 teams from successfully bringing numbers to stop both their outside receivers AND their running backs.
Perhaps the biggest winner in all of this is the "undersized" outside receiver who's excellent in running a variety of routes from different areas on the field. Three of the top four receivers in Big 12 play in 2015 (statistically) were Sterling Shepard (5'10" 195), Corey Coleman (5'11" 185), and Jakeem Grant (5'7" 168). Each of them were wildly effective in part because of the seven route and the way that opening up space outside allows smaller receivers to move inside and still have opportunities to run vertical routes.
Eddie McDoom, Nate Johnson, and Dylan Crawford are all this guy. (Crawford's not undersized but he's not huge either.) Michigan appears to have recruited this year's class with a major emphasis on winning vertical matchups from the slot.
This can't be rational. Kenpom puts together a graph of playing time for starters depending on how many fouls they have and comes back with a very Beilein approach:
Two fouls: The player with two fouls has his minutes severely restricted for the entirety of the first half. There is some leniency given with 4-6 minutes until halftime, but there is very little opportunity for the player with two fouls to see the floor in the first half. There is odd unanimity among coaches that a player with two fouls should be protected with 20:01 remaining and should not be protected with 20:00 left in the game. If you are of the mindset that coaches are too aggressive benching guys with two fouls, this is a good piece of evidence that a herd mentality exists.
I am of that mindset and even more of that mindset when it comes to John Beilein teams, which have historically been top ten in foul avoidance. I have zero hope that Beilein will suddenly change his behavior in this department, so let's at least hope that Billy Donlon makes the defense way more handsy so that first-half autobench is at least somewhat more justified.
Large men: present. Michigan's basketball roster just got a lot more beef on it. One, Mo Wagner is no longer a chopstick:
My man Moe Wagner came in at 6'11" 211lbs this time last year. #238.6lbs pic.twitter.com/9hEL6mma05
— Jon Sanderson (@CampSanderson) June 29, 2016
Two, both Jon Teske and Austin Davis are listed at 240+ on Michigan's just-released roster. Both are physically viable this year. This will be a nice change from last year, when Wagner couldn't get off the bench for big chunks of the season and Mark Donnal was the default.
More persons of NFL interest. A couple of "interior linemen" make another one of those NFL.com top tens. Scare quotes because:
3. Taco Charlton, Michigan
There might not be much mention of Charlton in the preseason considering he has started just four games headed into his senior season, but film doesn't lie, and NFL scouts have Charlton pegged squarely on their radar. At 6-6, 285 with long arms and a muscular build, Charlton has the perfect frame to play as a 3-4 defensive end. However, he could also serve as a 4-3 base end with the ability to bump inside on rushing downs in the NFL. Charlton had 33 pressures and 5.5 sacks despite playing just 43 percent of the Wolverines' defense snaps and those numbers are getting ready to make another jump. Charlton has freaky athletic traits and functional power to go with them.
This 285 pound dude is likely Michigan's starting weakside end, because the rest of the line is two-deep with very good veterans or Rashan Gary. Anyway, this is what I am talking about when I mention Charlton as a big breakout candidate. His production in limited time last year was really good. Michigan's depth means he might jump from the rotation guy with the least playing time to the one with the most. With Lawrence Marshall moving to the strongside, Chase Winovich is the main and only competition at WDE.
Wormley also made the list a few spots lower:
6. Chris Wormley, Michigan
Wormley Has the frame and athleticism to be considered as either an interior lineman or defensive end in a 4-3 or at defensive end for an odd front. Wormley is powerful and can plow through the edges of blockers. While some rushers are content to try and whip the man in front of them, Wormley is able to dart left and right to create doubt and uncertainty for blockers. He combines his strength and foot quickness to generate a pass rush that is very translatable on the next level. Wormley is generating a good deal of buzz in the scouting community and that buzz will get much louder this year.
Wormley is apparently headed for three-tech this year if things go to plan. Gary will have to obliterate the TEs.
Recruiting is important, part infinity. PFF released a list of the top 101 players in college football that we mentioned in this space because it has five different Michigan defenders on it. Some dude on 247 ran it through some statistical analysis. Results:
Minimum: 1 ~ 1.000
First Quartile: 31.5 ~ 98.40
Median: 238 ~ 90.90
Third Quartile: 1000 ~ 84.19
Over 25% of players listed in PPFs player rankings were rated as 5* players coming out of high school by the composite. Over 50% were rated as 4* players. While recruiting rankings aren't perfect they are a strong correlate of future success.
Five star players are approximately 1-3% of the pool and four-stars about 10%. This is in line with findings about the NFL draft; applying this analysis to PFF's rankings of college players based on their performance right now is even stronger evidence that recruiting rankings matter.
The first rule of Draftageddon is "you must complain about Draftageddon." The second is "the four people drafting assemble teams of Big Ten players in an effort to seem the best at drafting."
Previously on Draftageddon:
Two Michigan guys go before the one good quarterback and our tight end goes 5th overall. Homers much?
ACE: Round 3, Pick 1: Jehu Chesson, WR, Michigan
OFFENSE: RB Saquon Barkley, WEAPON Jabrill Peppers, WR Jehu Chesson
DEFENSE: OLB/NICKEL Jabrill Peppers
SPECIAL TEAMS: KR Jabrill Peppers, PR Jabrill Peppers
Chesson, as you’re well aware, had more close-but-not-quite moments than I care to recall in the first nine games of his junior year as he incrementally improved while waiting for Jake Rudock to calibrate his deep ball. The final four games, post-calibration, were a Wow Experience.
Indiana is bad and should feel bad, but those last two games came against a pair of first-round cornerbacks in Eli Apple and Vernon Hargreaves—the latter is still waiting for that hitch:
I’d be more wary of basing this pick on a small-sample breakout if it hadn’t been so easy to see coming in the first place. CBSSports agrees: Chesson is their top-ranked senior receiver in the country.
In addition to his downfield receiving prowess, he also provides big-play ability on end-arounds (8 rushes for 155 yards and 2 TDs last year) and kickoff returns, as well as great blocking for a receiver. Again, this pick is also a reflection of the other available talent; the next-best receiver on the board is probably one of PSU’s Chris Godwin, Nebraska’s Jordan Westerkamp, or Amara Darboh.
[After THE JUMP: We take the linemen Pro Football Focus tells us to. Not our fault if their helmets have wings]
Early entry tea leaves. In a welcome change, Michigan has a number of underclassmen good enough to consider entering the NFL draft. This, unfortunately, brings with it the possibility that some of these folks will actually enter said draft. A brief rundown:
- Jake Butt said he would definitely come back if he wasn't projected to go in the top three rounds. Mel Kiper has him the second tight end available and NFL Draft Scout just posted a mock in which he is a third rounder, which seems low. Butt told reporters that "it's 50/50" yesterday. More encouragingly, he listed many reasons for a return and a desire to talk to Harbaugh about what he should do. [UPDATE: Butt tweeted he'd be back.]
- After a confusing interval in which Chris Wormley deflected questions about not returning for a fifth year, he apparently told reporters he would "definitely" be back.
- Jourdan Lewis offered up another tweet indicating he would return next year. He is doing his homework. QED. And another after some radio person urged him to go—said radio person, Mike Sullivan, is the producer of Michigan's IMG pregame show. Excellent career move, Mike.
- Willie Henry has not been heard from on this front. He is currently under the radar to NFL draft sites but if he wants to go he will get drafted at some point. There have been some rumblings that he would look to go if he met a certain threshold in his draft projections.
Michigan has several other draft-eligible players with remaining eligibility but none seem like serious threats to leave. The O/U on departures is set at 1.
In other Jourdan Lewis news. He is a first-team All-American to USA Today, which I now like better than the Thorpe committee until the next time I have to evaluate my relative preference for things based on my pre-existing opinions.
We are hungry for things. Michigan sold out its bowl allotment in hours.
Our bowl tickets allotment is officially sold out. Thank YOU, fans, for doing your part! Can’t wait to see you down in Orlando! #GoBlue
— Michigan Football (@umichfootball) December 8, 2015
This is why they always get the top spot they could possibly get picked for. Michigan also implemented a system where fans could reserve bowl tickets for specific games and not others earlier this year, so they probably had a big head start on moving through those tickets. Even so… dang. I didn't know that was even a possibility any more.
Let's check in on Rutgers. The New York Times notices that Rutgers exists for a brief moment:
With the coach went the university’s athletic director, who never entirely recovered from suspicions that Rutgers had failed to vet her hiring two years ago. That was to replace the previous athletic director, who was fired along with the basketball coach after a video, looped repeatedly on national television, backed up allegations that the coach verbally and physically abused players — and that Rutgers had known about it.
And the bad news may not be over: The university is investigating whether the athletic department ignored its own policy requiring the dismissal of players who fail drug tests, as one told prosecutors after his arrest.
What a good organization to admit to the Big Ten. Rutgers doesn't get a full cut until 2021, which will be just in time for the league to kick them out in a world where the cable bundle has evaporated into countless disparate streams. Is there another article about that now?
No amount of wishing upon a star at the Disney offices in Burbank or the ESPN offices in Bristol, Connecticut, can hold back the forces of consumer choice that the Internet has unleashed. As a cable industry executive put it to Sports Business Daily recently, “The cost of goods is going up and sales are going down…that’s not a good trend.”
Every participant in the sports economy—franchise owners, athletes, programming networks, cable companies, and even the fans themselves—have benefitted from this broadband version of the hide-the-ball trick. That big fat $100 average household cable bill that everyone pays has served as a siphoning conduit of cash forcibly flowing from fan and uninterested non-fan alike.
The brazen economics of modern sports are being revealed and dismantled by the Internet, and the coming fumble-pile of desperate industry participants should make for some great viewing. That’ll be bad news for $30 million-a-year over-the-hill third basemen, the greater fools who pay them, and the unknowingly subsidized superfans who love them.
This is probably a good joke. I don't understand econ jargon, but those of you who do may enjoy this tweet.
(Ryan marrying our Econ stats teacher) Priest: Do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife? Ryan: I fail to reject
— Graham Glasgow (@gglasgow61) December 8, 2015
I hope this was a good tweet.
I was going to put this in the mailbag but it took so long to read this that I had to go have a lie down. A reader asked for an opinion on a very long meditation on "access" going the way of the passenger pigeon by John Herrmann of the Awl.
If you're unfamiliar with Herrmann, I mostly come across him when he writes exhaustingly nihilist pieces about the changes the internet is forcing on content providers. (He recognizes this: "The Content Wars is an occasional column intended to keep a majority of Content coverage in one easily avoidable place.") They are full of bloopers from robotics competitions repurposed into depressing metaphor gifs. Each accurately diagnoses something going on and collapses, like the robots, into a pile of loathing at the end. This one is no exception.
But, yes, access. It's difficult to find the summarizing quote to pull in a piece that's seemingly UFR length. I guess here's this bit on sports:
A world in which the NFL doesn’t need TV would be a world in which the NFL really doesn’t need a traditional outside press corps. To that end, perhaps, ACE is a new media company created by the NFL Players’ Association that hopes to succeed by “leveraging… exclusive group player rights and access to more than 1,800 active players to produce compelling sports-lifestyle content focused on athletes.” This month, a player for the Jets is suggesting to reporters, apropos of not very much, that reporters have too much access to players in the NFL, which is arguably the most restrictive league in professional sports. Also this month, when Kobe Bryant announced his retirement, he didn’t give an exclusive to a reporter who had covered him for years, or to Sports Illustrated, or to anyone. He published it as a personal post on the Player’s Tribune, a first-person platform for athletes founded by Derek Jeter and open to all major sports. (NASCAR? Sure!) The rest of the sports media, again, wrote its stories anyway.
A lot of the handwringing over loss of access strikes me as ludicrous. What's being removed is not really access but "access," that fiction in which a person of interest pretends to give something so a writer can pretend to critically evaluate the thing the person of interest said. When Rasheed Wallace blew that fiction up a lot of people got really mad:
And I guess if your job consists of surrounding the things that other people said with some sentences to link them together that would be a… actually, wait. "Both teams played hard" makes your job easy. Getting mad at that is not about whether your ability to do your job has been compromised, it's getting mad at Rasheed Wallace for yanking away the curtain on the City Animals presser you've been having for decades.
Back when MGoBlog stuck its toe into the access pool it felt like a trap. It still feels like a trap, because if someone gives you something they can take it away. Relying on access is like relying on Twitter's API—you can make the best third-party client in the world but Twitter's going to pick a winner and then you're going to die if you're not that winner. Then Twitter's going to buy that winner because if they're picking a winner, Twitter seems like a pretty good one.
So we have access, but we don't rely on it. Of late Adam's gotten some one on one time at media availabilities and used it to get some interesting stuff. We'd miss it if it was gone. But it wouldn't kill us.
If you are in business with someone who can kill you with no repercussions to themselves, you are on death row. Some people figure this out and go become lawyers. Some don't.
Michigan, and colleges in general, are less likely to cut people off like the NFL is definitely, definitely going to do in the near future. They are (mostly) public institutions with a point of view on press freedoms (sort of) subject to FOIA. But that doesn't change the fundamental law content in the internet age: be the quote, not the quoter.
Etc.: A list of all the weird and unfortunate things that happened while Cody Kessler was at USC is a very long list. Chad Catt looked pretty good in the second half of the Saturday Wisconsin game. Doyle is sweaty.
Graham Glasgow and Joe Bolden
Just thoughts on the bowl game and the Citrus Bowl and the matchup with Florida, generally speaking.
JB: “Florida’s a good team, solid team. I think their offense obviously hits plays and has hit plays this year. Haven’t been too deep into the film. Just watched a little bit of the SEC title game but I’ve seen their defense play, too, and they have a solid defense as well.”
What have you seen in their defense, Graham? Have you watched them?
“I watched a little bit of the SEC championship game like Joe, and they have a solid defense. Lot of big hitters, big plays, and I think that we’ll gameplan them well and we’ll be ready to go on…January 1st. Yeah, that’s when we play. All right, awesome.”
Coach Durkin was obviously a big part of what you guys did this year. Your thoughts on shifting gears to Greg Mattison this game?
JB: “It’s what we- some of us, it’s what we know better, I guess, in a way. I’ve played three of my four years under him. I love how he coached and how he coaches. Just excited to- you know, I came in and my first game was under him, and I’m going out and my last game’s going to be played with him calling the defense, too. So, it’s pretty exciting from my standpoint. I think defensively there’s not much…I mean, Durkin and Matty were together before Michigan, and there’s not a whole lot of I guess you could call it turnover if you want from one system to another or one guy to the next.”
What was DJ’s message to you when he told you he was going to take the Maryland job and what are your thoughts about him moving on to a head coaching position?
JB: “Yeah, I think everyone on the defense is excited for him. I think we all knew at some point he was going to be a head coach being only 37 years old and being the coach that he is. We’re all excited for him. Excited for him, but at the same time I guess for the guys next year, obviously they want to beat him.”
Any words of wisdom for Maryland players dealing with his ‘explosability’?
JB: “Yeah. [/laughs] Just soak it all in. Listen to him every time he speaks. He’s a younger guy with a lot of energy and he knows exactly what he’s talking about.”
[After THE JUMP: Chesson, Butt, and Wormley]