How much further along is your defense right now than when you started four weeks ago?
“We’ve come a long way. We are obviously 14 practices in. Starting from scratch really in essence for the third year in a row, so the challenges were there, you know, and obviously my hat’s off to our guys. I thought they approached it in a positive manner. I think they’ve got a pretty good handle on what we’re doing. We’ve got a number of pressures in. The bulk of our coverage concepts are in, and I was able to kind of at least get all the concepts in. Not all the patterns and so forth that accompany those, but there will be nothing now that’s brand new to the guys. It’ll be a concept that they can relate to as we move forward.”
Guys were talking about how most of the stuff’s the same [and] there’s just the one new coverage. Whatever new changes you are bringing to the system, how do you think they’re adjusting to them?
“Well, you know, one of those concepts is pretty involved and there’s a lot of moving pieces and the players have a lot of accountability because they have to handle all the checks and so forth, and I think we’ve done a really good job of handling the responsibility and accountability piece of it as well as functioning from a concept standpoint. So yeah, I’m pretty pleased. And it’s really—you know, football’s football. The reality is football’s football. But, you know, that concept’s pretty different and I think the guys have handled it really well.”
You talked about the linebackers earlier in Florida about some new guys and guys who hadn’t proven themselves. How have they progressed over the course of the month?
“Well, you know, I think Noah Furbush has done a good job at Sam. Obviously we’re doing a lot with Jabrill and he’s logging some minutes there and doing a very good job. Ben Gedeon has had an extremely positive spring, so I’m excited about his progress and where he’s at. Mike McCray has stayed healthy and continued to take steps moving forward, as has true freshman Devin Bush. And Mike Wroblewski, we moved him from defensive end to linebacker earlier on in the spring practice period and it seems to have been a good move for us. He’s still got some work ahead of him, but he’s doing a very, very good job.”
How much of Jabrill’s time is now spent at linebacker? How much are you dividing it?
“Eh, he’s probably 70/30, but he’s doing a lot of things. You won’t see it on display Friday, that’s for sure, but he’s doing enough stuff that keeps his plate full. There’s no question about that.”
Seventy [%] linebacker, thirty [%] other stuff?
“Yeah, I would say about that. But, you know, it’s not gonna stay that way. It’ll end up increasing as we move forward as we’re trying to do things package-wise to offset the other people.”
[After THE JUMP: D-line rotation, Jabrill, the art of the mustache. One of those things may not have actually come up.]
When he’s doing that and he’s at that position—you said you had a player last year that did the same thing. Can you see him pick it up that quickly?
“Yeah, he’s already picked it up. He’s playing at a high level there, so I’m happy with him. From a coverage standpoint it’s everything we expected. I think he’s picked up the linebacker pieces pretty well as well. So, you know, making good progress, but like everybody else he needs more time, more reps.”
Are you able to do more creative things or different things than what you’ve done in the past with a player like Jabrill?
“Yeah, we’ll be able to do some stuff but, you know, that position’s always been occupied—you know, the last three guys are all in the NFL that I’ve coached that have played that position so it’s a pretty—you expect a lot at that spot. We’re gonna get what we expect. There’s no question.”
Who else plays that spot? Is there another guy who can do what Jabrill does?
“We’re playing Noah there, Noah Furbush. He can’t do some of those things, but there’s a number of those things he can do and we can function as a defense with him being there if we had to.”
Will Devin Bush see the field this fall?
“Uh, yeah, I’m not really looking at—I mean, obviously that still remains to be seen, but I’m very happy with his progress at Will linebacker.”
Do you have a term for that position that Jabrill and Noah are playing?
Jim said the quarterbacks will be live on Friday. What do you want to see from your defensive line now that they can hit them?
“Well, you know, we gotta rush the passer. The reality is you gotta get better against the same color jerseys. That’s the reality. We’ve done a good job, and obviously there’ll be some limitations from what we’re gonna be able to do from a defensive perspective. Which is fine, because you wanna find out who can win the one-on-ones and those kind of things. Gotta go get ‘em!”
MGoQuestion: With guys like Winovich and Kemp, do you see them sticking at End or do think they could also play a little bit at Backer* or Sam?
“I think Winovich and Kemp are both in the right spot. Obviously Carlo’s been here for a short period of time. We fooled around with him standing up a little bit. I think he’s in the right position now. Now it’s just a matter of, you know, like every other freshman he’s got to get his feet wet. He’s got to go through the learning process, and, you know, we’ll let that run its course.
Winovich is playing well at End. Obviously techniques, fundamentals he needs to get better at but we think we got him in the right spot.”
We’ve seen a lot in the last couple years about the defensive line and rotating because they said that they had depth and then by the end of last year there wasn’t as much. How many guys do you trust in that defensive line to rotate?
“Well, we’d like to be seven or eight guys. I mean, you certainly want to be a pair and a spare. You’d like to be up to seven or eight guys, eight if possible.”
What are you at now do you think? That you trust.
“You know, I think we’re approaching that number. I really do. Once we get through summer workouts and get everybody back healthy there plus the influx of the young guys, I think we’ll be just fine.”
Good to work with Brian [Smith] again?
“Yeah, Brian’s a great guy. He was a tremendous player, tremendous leader. Won a national championship as a player and helped me coach a team that went to the national championship game. I still lay awake thinking of Armanti Edwards from App State on occasion [Ed-A: same], but I’m glad to be back with him. He’s a great dude.”
Two quick mailbag questions for you during this recruiting season.
1 - How would you describe Harbaugh's recruiting philosophy?
I think Hoke's was pretty easy to understand. If you got an offer from Hoke, it was a commit-able offer. If you wanted to take visits after accepting an offer, then you were no longer considered committed and they would consider you just a recruit competing for a spot in the class.
Rodriguez was somewhat similar to Harbaugh i think, but there are some subtle differences. Rodriguez would fire off a ton of offers and sort out how "official" they were as they learned more about grades, etc. I think he had less consideration for class distribution by position and that may have gotten him in trouble, but he also chased some of the top players regardless of fit.
Harbaugh seems to be something along the lines of this:
-- An offer is conditional upon certain requirements (curious your opinion on those)
-- If you commit, that doesn't mean that either you or Michigan is married to another. Visits are still allowed and Michigan may still explore options for your spot.
-- Until you sign the LOI or enroll, consider things a soft commitment.
Harbaugh sends out "offers." Hoke did not do that. If you had an offer from Michigan under Hoke you could commit to it. Harbaugh does the thing most people do these days and fires out offers in name only. To date he's been less than circumspect when it comes to allowing kids to commit to those offers (though sometimes that's not his call; some kids announce commitments to uncommitable offers).
A commitment is still mostly a commitment. Of the guys who left Michigan's class only two, Swenson and Weaver, were instances where Michigan flat out didn't want a guy because of their perception of his talent level. It's been more or less directly stated by guys like Steve Wiltfong that other players who decommitted had academic benchmarks they didn't reach or were 100% the player's choice. And Swenson was a unique situation since he was a highly-rated commit who was offered before his sophomore year by Brady Hoke. Michigan evidently made it clear they wanted to see him in action to confirm but didn't make it CLEAR, if you know what I mean. That's an error Harbaugh admitted to and hopefully won't be as much of a thing going forward.
I expect that Michigan will continue to have a few speculative commits who may or may not end up in the class for reasons academic and otherwise. Their offers will continue to keep pace with the state of the art in mangling the English langauge for marketing purposes. Some guys will take those offers. Michigan will make things clear to them, and some of them will end up in the class while others either use their status as a springboard, as Weaver did, or end up where they were going to end up anyway.
[After the JUMP: a graph, 2017 DL worries, 2016 LB worries, and HOW INSANE WAS THIS COACHING HIRE]
This would not go over well.
After the injury to Ryan Glasgow Michigan has struggled to stop zone running. Indiana and Penn State tore the defense to shreds on stretch or outside zone, until Penn State decided the thing that got them two huge gains in three attempts wasn't worth using again (please keep James Franklin forever kthx). I drew that up last week and found Michigan was still trying to defend runs by shooting the DL upfield and dominating one-on-one matchups up front, as opposed to soundly preventing guards from releasing onto the linebackers.
With Urban Meyer, one of a few true masters of modern running attacks, doing the planning for the Game, we knew Michigan's defensive coaches would have to pull something out of our butts to stop it. Here's what we found in our butts:
Michigan broke out a 3-3-5 defense with an "even" front. Offensive coaches have different names for fronts but the basics are:
- Under: NT on the center, shaded to strong. DT on a guard. (aka Weak, 50)
- Over: NT on the center, shaded to weak. DT on a guard. (aka Strong)
- Even: DL are lined up over guards, none over the center. (aka Split)
- Okie: Center is covered, guards are not. (aka 30)
- Bear: Center and guards all covered. (aka 46, Eagle, Double Eagle)
These can be split into "Odd" (under/over) and "Even" (Even, Okie, Bear). It is usual for just about any defense to come out in multiple fronts over the course of a game, though Bear and Okie are more rare than the other three.
Anyway that's what that means. By putting guys over the guards it makes it tougher for them to release to the next level. Michigan State used to love their even fronts back when Bullough was their best run defender, and that tells you something about the design of this defense. Tweaking your defense is about making life hard on your better players so things are easier for the rest of your players. "Even" makes life hard on the MLB, since that center is getting a free release unto him.
There's nothing 100% unsound about this defense. Depending on the offense's play, one LB is likely to get a center on him but the other is often a free hitter. If your LB eating the block is good at beating those consistently, or your free hitter is a ninja who sniffs out the play and attacks ferociously, or your unblocked guy is coached to play aggressively against an option you can defeat a basic run play regularly.
[After the JUMP, we totally can't]
“How ‘bout those Cubs, huh? Is there a real Cub fan in here? I wore No. 14 growin’ up. I mean, Ernie Banks is the greatest player ever! How ‘bout those Cubs! What do you think? What’s up? What can I help you with?”
Talk about Ryan Glasgow as a pass rusher and how he’s stepped up into that role this year.
“Well, I think all the guys up front have tried very hard to use their technique to do what fits them, you know? A lot of people when they talk about pass rush, they see all the fancy type things the NFL uses and all these different type of moves. Well, some people aren’t built for that, and what these guys have embraced is moving the pocket [and] doing what’s best for them and what’s best for the defense.
“And sometimes to be a good pass rusher you have to be selfish, where you don’t really care about rush lanes and things and you kind of just say, ‘Man, I’ve got to get to the quarterback cuz getting to a sack is everything.’ But there aren’t many sacks, so the big thing is you’ve got to stay in your rush lanes and try to get to the quarterback or put stress on the quarterback another way, and I think our kids have all tried to embrace that philosophy.”
These kids developed right along, but are even you surprised at three straight shutouts?
“I don’t look at shutouts. I think what you look at is you try to play the best defense you can and do what you’re supposed to do and everybody be on the same page, and then good things will happen. Sometimes shutouts go hand in hand with special teams, hand in hand with offense and it’s not always just the defense that gets that shutout, it’s the team. There’s been some great things done special teams-wise and offense-wise that’s allowed us to play defense and play what we have to do.
“We just go out every game trying to play as hard as we can with great effort, try to eliminate big plays, and try to make sure that we play with great effort and I think that’s what our kids are trying to do.”
Connor Cook’s been pressured but he’s only been sacked four times. Is he getting rid of the ball quickly? What’s the key to getting to him?
“Yeah, he’s a very good quarterback. He gets rid of the ball quick. He sees who the receiver should be by the coverage very well, and I think that’s a lot of him as a quarterback getting rid of the football.”
[After THE JUMP: Breaking down Glasgow’s sack, talking stunts, and Jake Arrieta: defensive end?]
|STRONG DE||Yr.||NOSE TACKLE||Yr.||3-TECH||Yr.||WEAK DE||Yr.|
|Chris Wormley||Jr.*||Ryan Glasgow||Jr.*||Willie Henry||Jr.*||Mario Ojemudia||Sr.|
|Taco Charlton||Jr.||Maurice Hurst||So.*||Matt Godin||Jr.*||Lawrence Marshall||Fr.*|
|Tom Strobel||Jr.*||Bryan Mone||So.||Jabrill Peppers||Fr.*||Royce Jenkins-Stone||Sr.|
Depth chart shows everybody just because.
The loss of Bryan Mone to injury hurts a depth chart that was looking quite excellent. They've still got a very solid two deep featuring two returning starters, the breakout guy from the spring game, and Matt Godin. With limited exceptions, those two starters were very good a year ago until Willie Henry got laid up with injury; this year they could be excellent.
The one catch here is because of Mone's absence. Without him, Michigan does not have a planetoid-style DT. Henry is a big dude but more of an explodes-in-either-direction kind of a guy; everyone else is decidedly a one-gap style of player. Michigan is going to have to play a lot of games when the backups are in, and might have some issues holding up against power that is powerful.
NOSE TACKLE: THAT'S SIR GLASGOW TO YOU
Glasgow, right, exceeded all expectation [Bryan Fuller]
This got a 3 last year despite the fact that a walk-on had apparently locked the job down; that might have been pessimistic. By midseason RYAN GLASGOW had been awarded the Order Of St. Kovacs, indicating that his former walk-on status should no longer factor into any projections of his ability. Hell, by game two I was proclaiming him a major factor in Notre Dame's 53 yards rushing:
Glasgow was a penetrating, disruptive presence. Here he rips to the hole on a goal line play and just about gets a TFL:
That deserved better than a 1.5 yard gain after he nearly brought the back down in the backfield. Here he slants to the backfield effectively, forcing the back into traffic:Here he's got a full on double the whole play and puts it in the backfield, forcing a cutback.
Watching Glasgow clips from last year, his ability to zip through a gap and then actually do something jumps out. He's at his best when he's popping up in an unexpected gap.
A lot of nose tackles can get into that gap when the center goes to the second level without a bump; not many get all the way around the guard to make the tackle themselves.
Glasgow was also good at standing up single blocks. Sometimes it was at the line; sometimes he got a yard or two of depth to prevent cutbacks. He was adept at swatting his way through attempted momentary combos:
Consistently disruptive and hard to keep blocked, Glasgow was probably the most important part of Michigan's excellent run defense a year ago. I know the above clip is Indiana and thus prone to dismissal, but remember that Tevin Coleman guy? Yeah, Indiana could run the ball a bit last year.
One thing Glasgow is not is a pure 3-4 nose tackle. When opponents doubled him, one of two things generally happened: 1) he ripped one guy away and shot through a gap because it wasn't an extended double or 2) they both latched on and got motion on him.
Asking him to play a zero tech isn't going to go so well. Not many teams Michigan faced were able to take advantage of the fact Glasgow isn't a 330 pound man-mountain, but the two that did were kind of important: MSU and OSU. Glasgow in fact got yanked from big chunks of the MSU game because he just could not hold up against the Spartans mean and very good interior OL.
The other main issue with Glasgow's game seems fixable and was partially scheme-based anyway: pass rush. A lot of teams will leave their nose tackle on screen duty. He'll occupy a blocker or two with a token rush that keeps him near the line of scrimmage in case it's a trap. Glasgow got some of that duty a year ago. He also had a bunch of plays on which he attempted to get to the QB, and the results there weren't great. Glasgow wasn't so much as credited with half a sack last year. I know he got at least one because he had a sack/strip/recovery against Indiana (Michigan hasn't issued sacks for forced fumbles for a couple years now); one is still not many. Literally.
Given Glasgow's ability to warp past OL the lack of pass rush is a bit of a puzzle; that has undoubtedly been an offseason focus for him. If the 2015 edition of Ryan Glasgow can add a reasonable amount of that to his repertoire he'll go from Michigan fan's best-kept secret to a man of wider renown.
[After THE JUMP: Ogre, take two]
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.*||Bryan Mone||Fr.||Maurice Hurst||Fr.*||Lawrence Marshall||Fr.|
It is time for Michigan to kick some ass on defense, and if they are going to do so it starts here: Michigan has two veteran, quality seniors playing defensive end spots they can hack this year. Both can really play; neither has broken through such that many people believe this.
It is go time for these gentlemen. Victory or death!
WEAKSIDE DEFENSIVE END
BEFORE PSU AFTER
hell yes I'm recycling this joke, because it was also Frank Clark's season
One of the more broadly correct bits of last year's preview was this section, which asked everyone to pump the breaks on the FRANK CLARK hype train:
The distance from Frank Clark 2012 to what he's supposed to be this year is immense. Too immense. I have to concede significant improvement to the chatter, but something along the lines of Tim Jamison (as a junior: 10 TFL, 5.5 sacks) would be a massive step forward.
Clark racked up 12 TFLs and 4.5 sacks. Self high five. I was broadly correct.
But though the stats and overall Tim Jamison-esque B+ season were accurate, the shape of that season is really promising. Clark started the year making little impact against MAC teams; he ended it by straight-up whipping Brandon Scherff and CJ Fiedorowicz en route to his second career game with a double-digit positive UFR score. He was a C at best to start; by the end he was an A-.
[After the JUMP: Frank Clark beasts up, fitting Beyer into the front, DEATH STARE 2014]