this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
Noooobody expects a Drake Johnson! [Uphchurch]
Scheduling note: Yeah we had one on Monday; that was last week's, pushed back by all the commitments.
Seth: Every year there's at least one guy from down the depth chart who emerges as a major contributor even though we barely talk about him in the season previews. Who's the surprise guy this year?
Ace: Provided he's healthy when the season starts, and it appears he's on track, I'll go with Khalid Hill. Michigan is going to need a second tight end option after Jake Butt in Jim Harbaugh's offense, and Hill flashed potential last year before he tore his ACL in October. Known as a smooth route-runner with good hands coming out of high school, Hill showed off a somewhat unexpected aspect of his game—bowling over defenders in the running game:
Hill is limited by his size—he's a pure H-back at this point—but he should still prove quite useful as a reliable receiver and very willing blocker.
Alex: I would go with somebody on the defensive line. I'm not sure if Durkin will be as liberal with his defensive line rotations as Hoke/Mattison were (and I don't know if Mattison will be given the leeway to rotate again, which seems like a good bet) but if he is, I think that we could certainly have some breakthrough candidates on the defensive line. There's plenty of opportunity at the end spots—Ojemudia hasn't gotten big enough to be a consistent performer and Charlton still hasn't approached his level of recruiting hype (and potential, theoretically). Glasgow has one DT spot locked down, and Willie Henry seems to have a stranglehold on the other.
But if he can get on the field, my surprise performer is Maurice Hurst. He has a lightning-quick first step for a man his size and if we can get him to generate pass rush from the DT position, that will allay one of our biggest prospective weaknesses on that side of the ball. Mone, Wormley, and Poggi (who's a SDE) could all also be huge surprises as well.
Adam: I also think we're going to be surprised by one of the tight ends, but my choice is Ian Bunting. We know about Harbaugh's affinity for blocky/catchy guys, and Bunting's well on his way to being one. He put on 16 pounds over the winter, bringing him to a respectable (and much more in line with the rest of his position group) 243 pounds. At that weight he should be able to line up, put a hand in the dirt, and not tip off a pass play.
The catching part of being a blocky/catchy guy was never going to be a problem for a dude who has opposable skillets attached to his arms. Blocking was always going to be the issue for a nominal tight end who spent most of his high school career lining up outside, and even then it was simply a matter of size rather than willingness; Bunting posted separate highlight film of his blocking on his Hudl page. Now that he's in the range of plausible weights for a D-I tight end I'm expecting him to be the kind of matchup nightmare the Harbaughfense thrives on.
Seth: Brian wrote in HTTV that James Ross III had plateaued from the incisive freshman we were so excited about. One implication of being a base nickel with Peppers as a strongside slot space monster is that lifts a linebacker. Or did last year, cutting heavily into Ross's snaps. I find this sufficient underratement to justify defining him as a "surprise" star on this year's defense.
The loss of snaps to nickels may not be such a big deal this year, depending on how much of the Florida defense is ported to the new platform. There Durkin loved a lean, mean attack piece. His SAM last year was Neiron Ball, now with the Raiders. For Florida Ball was a Ross-like object consistently deployed as field side LB, whether that was technically MLB, or a nickel, a meat-raw version of the aggressive safety in the other slot. Given Michigan's uncertain DE depth, that surfeit of 30 (three DL) fronts would be a welcome wrinkle in Ann Arbor, drawing Ross back into the lineup instead of an end.
I also think he's still a better player than Bolden—that gap seems to narrow when Bolden faces Michigan's own offense because knowing the plays lets him match the effect of Ross's intuitiveness. Ross came on later last year as Michigan left him in as a hybrid spacebacker, and while that job is now Peppers's, any configuration that takes Ross off the field seems worse than the +Ross option. Add a bit of havoc from the aggressive stuff and sharing a side with Peppers and Taco, and there's plenty of opportunity for Ross to build his NFL highlight reel this year.
Brian: My surprise contributor this year is Dennis Norflee—dammit.
My surprise contributor this year is Delano Hill. He is officially a backup at safety, but in practice my hunch is that we see an awful lot of him. Jabrill Peppers is all-time nickel and he's going to be at or near the LOS at all times. Michigan faces a number of spread teams; Hill will be a de facto starter against them. He will also play extensively in regular manball games, because those also feature lots of passing downs—especially against a run defense that should be very good. He will play, a lot.
When he does Michigan will have a very fast, hopefully instinctive safety. Marcus Ray has been pumping him up as the best guy there, and he's a dude who knows safety play. I've been impressed in limited snippets so far as well; the bet here is that he eats into linebacker snaps on the regular.
News bullets and other items
Delano Hill served a one-game suspension against Maryland and will return against OSU
The vulnerability to a fake punt was something the coaches spotted on film, and Joe Kerridge had the ability to call it off if necessary
The problems with the passing game are “multiple”
Hoke used one timeout in the third quarter to avoid having 12 men on the field and another to try and slow the game down for the defense
"Obviously we're really, really disappointed and disappointed in the – cuz our seniors, the 12 guys we're graduating, the 12 guys who played their last game [at Michigan Stadium]. We always talk about playing for them and coaching for them and we just couldn't execute at times [when] we had opportunities and at times we did [execute]. I also think that we had some mistakes in the kicking game that obviously hurt us as a football team, and some of those are very aggressive mistakes and you appreciate that kind of effort and that kind of aggression but at the same point we've got to be a little smarter, if that's the right word for it. The one thing is in our locker room there's a lot of disappointment and there's also a lot of pride that these guys have in how they've practiced and how they've done things all year and obviously we've got the greatest rivalry game in college football, in my opinion, coming up and that's what we're going to focus on."
You alluded to it but this hasn't been a very penalized team this year. Can you talk about the punt return and the play on the field goal with the field-goal kicker?
"Yeah, some of this is all subjective and what do you think it is and not. Not seeing the whole thing from the angles that you all get I'll have to look and see, especially on the block in the back. On the field goal, the guy was trying to make a play and he was a guy who was supposed to be coming hard off the edge and I guess he hit him hard enough for a 15-yard personal foul."
Can you take us through the time out and the decision to go for it on fourth down instead of just kick?
"Yeah, on fourth and seven?"
"Number one, it was going to be a long field goal and I believe there was some wind coming out of the south. Matt… could have kicked the opportunity. Punting it, thought pooch it there. Little worried about Will getting too much on it. Thought our defense was playing very well at that time. Was playing very well. Believed in the call, believed in what the kids could do. Still."
Did you take the timeout to make the decision?
"Yeah, in my mind I wanted to be sure. I wanted to make sure I talked to Doug also and how he felt about it also and having the right play, and I felt very good about it."
A big punt [fake] to start the game, a couple fourth downs; did you call this game a little more aggressively?
"You know, I don't know if it was more aggressively. We had seen on film that we could take advantage of the fake. We were- we go for it on fourth-and-one and we had the penalty, so that knocks it back. When you look at different punt teams and you look at different zone of the field, what they like to do, or punt return teams and what they like to do and what they like to be in and we got exactly what we wanted. Joe has the ability, Joe Kerridge, to call it off. He's a really intelligent guy football-wise and so it was there and we went with it."
The difficulty stopping the run in the third and fourth quarters; what did you see there?
"I think they got a little bit up-tempo. I think we lost some of our discipline a little bit in some of those things. I thought we missed a couple tackles in there that we needed to- I think we tackle better than that. I think that as much as anything hurt us a little bit. And I'll give them credit too. I want to give- CJ Brown I think he's one of those quarterbacks who's a little but of a gunslinger and does a nice job with running that football team and he's a good athlete."
[After THE JUMP: more words that are strung together into mostly complete sentences]
Brady talked about the defensive line at the point of attack and stopping the running game. What things will you hone in on this week, because Indiana obviously runs it pretty well, too?
“State did a good job of bringing in an extra tackle, having two tight ends, and really in general they put a lot of beef out there. What happened is some of our kids didn’t hold the point like they wanted to and from that point on they ended up coming out onto our linebackers and it all has an effect [on[ down. We weren’t happy with how we played the run. We felt like that was something we’ve done most of they year and we had to do it this game. All that being said, you see how close you are because you’re right in it. We’re starting on the fifty yard line or starting wherever or doing whatever and you’re right in it until you give up the big play. And that’s bit us this year. That happened, and that’s me because I’m going to try any way I can to put your thumb in that hole, and whenever you do that there’s a chance of something happening and that happened here. Corner blitz and it was covered, it was covered, it was covered and then it wasn’t covered.
“The one that upset me more than anything was the goal line run down there in the first half. They came out- it was a good job by them. They came out in tempo. They hadn’t shown any tempo. I was looking to make a call and all of a sudden I look up and they’re on the line of scrimmage and that’s me, that’s not them. I felt really bad about that because our kids, they don’t deserve that. They work so hard. They really were into this game and they really wanted to show supposedly what kind of defense they are and not that.”
Brady was asked about what was left to accomplish this year just given the way things are and what’s left, maybe a bowl. When you talk to your guys about what’s left what are those [things you] focus [on]?
“Become as good as they can be. Go out every day and do what we started the season out to do, and that was one of the things we talked about watching the tape. We’re going to coach as hard or harder than we have all year and expect them to play as hard as they have and I still expect good things will happen for them and there’ll be no let down. That’s not the way our kids are, and it’s definitely not the way we are or I am and I have all the confidence in the world that our kids are going to come out and play their butts off because that’s who they are. We’ve got to go one game at a time.
“This next one is going to be, defensively, a real challenge. You’re going against a great running back. You saw what they did last year. They put some points up so this is the next one. This is a big test for our kids because you get all this not having success like you’ve worked to have and can you bounce back? Can you bounce back? And I believe they will. I really believe that this group will.”
[After THE JUMP: It’s a Joe Bolden/Jake Ryan/Delano Hill hype party and you’re all invited]
file because I need to remember to shoot landscape next time
News bullets and other items:
- Jabrill Peppers was held out of the second half to immediately receive treatment
- Yet it was not classified as a boo-boo
- Delano Hill, Graham Glasgow, and Peppers are all expected to be available against Notre Dame
- Kyle Kalis’ back is fine
- Hoke said Ray Taylor may have played his best game at Michigan against Appalachian State
- Hoke took Devin Funchess off special teams. Funchess got mad, so Hoke put him back on
- Hoke said there’s a plan for how to use Glasgow
- All of the coaches mentioned a plan. Hoke said it’ll be a good one. No one cared to share what it was.
“Number one, thanks for coming out. It was good to get the win last week. I think one thing was, part of that was that the crowd was into it. I think there was a lot of energy. The students, I know our guys feed off that so it was a great energy throughout the whole game. That always helps you as a football team.
“We need to build off of what we did on Saturday and continue to get better and improve offensively, defensively, and in the kicking game. Offensively, we have to be more precise in the precision in our passing game. That’s one thing that coming out that the offensive coaches and Doug [Nussmeier] really felt that the precision needed to be better. That’s mechanics, route running, the spacing that you need to have.
“The interior of the defensive front needs to be better. They got some yardage in there as far as through the middle of the defense. Some of it’s just fits, some of it’s not getting off blocks. That’s going to be a real emphasis and needs to be. And then winning the fourth quarter’s always huge and we didn’t do that as a team when you look at points in the fourth quarter. Those things we’ve got to do a better job. Turnover battle- we turned the one over, didn’t get any turnovers. You know, you don’t want to play football that way. You want to be on the plus side of that if you’ve got a chance to win so that being said those are things we need to do. We’ve moved to a new opponent, obviously. It’s one of the great rivalries in football and we’re excited about it.”
Can you talk about how the offensive line graded out on film and will we see any changes this week?
“Well, the guys up front all did some real good things and did some things they’ve got to do a better job of. We’ll have a plan for what we want to do this week.”
With Jabrill [Peppers], it didn’t look like he came out in the second half. What was the reason for that and this week are you going to limit him at all?
“He’s been in there all morning getting treatment. We haven’t started school yet. We decided- I made a decision at half time because they could start treating it right then not to come out in the second half. You know, [instead of being] in a boot on the sideline start the process of healing. So we’re excited and we’ll evaluate every day but he’s working hard to get better.”
You mentioned interior defense. Have you guys had a chance to look at Notre Dame’s running backs at all?
“Yeah. We started that yesterday, yeah. I think that they rushed the ball pretty well against Utah State. I think that have two backs that are a little bit similar and one that’s a bigger bruiser guy and they ran the ball pretty well.”
So with Jabrill would you say he’s a question mark for Saturday?
“I don’t think it’ll be a question mark. I think he’ll be ready to play.”
Did he go yesterday with you guys?
You mentioned the offensive line. Where does Graham [Glasgow] settle in here?
“Well, we’ve got a plan for it and we’ll go through the week.”
Do you want to divulge what that is?
[After THE JUMP: evaluating the defense, scouting Notre Dame, and the inevitable Nussmeier-on-the-sidelines questions]
|Free Safety||Yr.||Strong Safety||Yr.||Nickelback||Yr.|
|Jarrod Wilson||Jr.||Delano Hill||So.*||Jabrill Peppers||So.*|
|Jeremy Clark||So.*||Dymonte Thomas||So.||Blake Countess||Jr.*|
|Reon Dawson||Fr.*||Brandon Watson||Fr.||Dymonte Thomas||So.|
[* = player has taken redshirt. # = walk-on]
So, JARROD WILSON…
Okay, okay, Jarrod Wilson after the jump. Now…
ok, you're out of shoes, right
I've been talking about hybrid space players for years now, projecting that Michigan would acquire one of these important gentlemen since about a year after that, and resigning myself to yet another repurposed 5'9" corner four games into every season since. Two years ago:
The thing that kept me from playing nickel a lot last year – the nickel has to be able to blitz. He has to be able to change the math … some guys can blitz and some can’t.
Michigan didn't have that guy, and their defense was solid, but conservative.
Now… now Michigan has a hybrid space player. Sound the trumpets. Unfurl the banners. Roll the carpet forth unto the unworthy ground so that our prince can walk upon maize and blue! Fetch… fetch the Woodson comparison. Yes, from the vaults.
ATTACK OF THE CLONES [Fuller]
And so forth and so on. As to why Michigan is deploying its most hyped recruit ever at a spot historically reserved for a not-quite-starting cornerback on passing downs, let's revisit last year's preview:
The ideal nickelback is a corner/safety/linebacker hybrid who can cover slot receivers, blitz like a mofo, and fend off blockers to make tackles in space, and in the increasingly spread-oriented world of football they are essentially starters. This does not just apply to college football:
NFL offenses are identifying the nickel corner as a key part of any defense. “This varies from defense to defense, but the amount of your sub package that you play nowadays — because we’re seeing more three wide receivers on the field — your inside player is going to play as many, if not more plays,” Capers says. “You could be in some form of your sub defense two-thirds [of the time].” The number Hayward throws out is 75 percent; Whitt says 80. No matter the math, the point is that the nickel cornerback is as much a “starter” as any other spot in the defensive backfield.
The QED here: that's an article on second-year player Casey Hayward, who replaced Charles friggin' Woodson as the Packers' nickel. In his time at that spot, Woodson picked up a Defensive Player of the Year award. The best nickels double as outside corners when teams are in a base package; others are just really important fifth defensive backs.
SI followed that Grantland article up with one this year asserting that the nickelback has risen in prominence as the NFL's "key battles move to the slot":
Teams ran base (with four defensive backs) 48 percent of the time in 2011, 45 percent in '12 and 40 percent in '13. Nickel sets increased from 40 to 44 to 49 percent over that same three-year span.
College is gradually following a similar pattern. One of the main reasons Michigan is moving to the over defense is that they were in it like half the time last year anyway, because that's how you have to respond to spread offenses. However, the motivations are somewhat different. In college if you get spread out there's a better than even chance they are spreading to run, an innovation still mostly on the sidelines in a league where you can pick the 30 most accurate passers in the world and whoever the Browns have this year.
But the idea remains the same: triple threat.
"To play nickel now? I think it's really hard. You have to play the two-way go [option routes in which the receiver can turn inside or outside based on coverage] inside the numbers, you have to be able to tackle, and you have to be able to blitz. And blitz is a technique, just like playing man-to-man or running routes. You need practice at that. You can't run in there straight up and down like a pencil, or you'll get decapitated. Because as the nickel, sometimes you blitz, and the tackle is set up on you. How do you beat him? You've got to get him back on his heels -- you set him up, almost like a basketball player driving to the hole.
You have to cover, you have to play the run, and you have to murder the quarterback. Come on down, JABRILL PEPPERS [recruiting profile].
Since Peppers is a true freshman, and since he is Jabrill Peppers, I can't tell you anything you don't already know if you've read that profile. Selected, mouth-watering highlights:
"Peppers is a rare athlete with potential to be great at the next level. He is one of the most talented players I have ever seen at the high school level. At 6-foot-1, and 205-pounds, Peppers has college ready size to go with un-matched speed and explosiveness."
This one is particularly apt given Peppers's spot in the defense:
"…could play four to five different positions and excel at them. He is a strong running back. He is as fluid as a good corner. He hits like a linebacker. He could play safety. You could honestly take him and put him in an outside linebacker position and he would flourish.
USC coach: "Holy s---, that's him? I've only seen two players in high school with a body like that and both of them are named Peterson [Adrian and Patrick]."
Scout's Scott Kennedy gets a gold star for his player comparison:
"I think his impact on the game [would be maximized by] letting him roam around a little bit and freelance and let him play – an Eric Berry style of safety where they would walk him up. I mean, Eric Berry had 15 tackles for loss. He is that kind of a player. Eric Berry, I thought, was maybe the best player in college football a couple of years ago.”
Eric Berry was a nickel in college. People didn't quite know it at the time because everyone was just inventing the idea of putting your most badass guy there, but he was a nickel. He's a nickel in the NFL, acquiring 3.5 sacks in 2013 and going to the Pro Bowl every time he's been healthy.
That is the mission. Be Eric Berry. Or All Pro Charles Woodson, of course.
Can Peppers do it right away? I'm supposed to equivocate about freshmen here. I won't. He's got the size, he's got the speed, and he's blazed his way to the starting lineup essentially on day one. Sam Webb:
I know the Jabrill Peppers is hyped enough already but the word he is the real deal. You saw the pictures so you know where he is physically. But it’s the non-stop motor and tenacity that just put him on another level from most freshmen. … It’s often hard to keep expectations of freshmen subdued, but it’s especially hard when they’ve been as good as advertised in practice. They all say he is young and has a lot to learn, but also say he is as good as advertised.
I'm sure there will be some busts as he gets situated in the defense. That should be the primary issues. Go time: now.
[After the JUMP: the actual safeties, you shoe-throwing maniac.]
File. Today was a blue polo day.
News bullets and other items:
Kyle Kalis’ back is fine, but Hoke cautioned that it could always flare up again
Jake Butt and Delano Hill will not play Saturday. Hill will likely be back next week.
Drake Harris and Ian Bunting could be redshirted
Ty Isaac’s hardship waiver was denied; Michigan appealed the decision last week
"Okay, everybody ready? You ready? Thanks for coming. We have 72 hours until we kick it off. We’re excited about that and I think that’s something that every team in this country -- you've been practicing against each other, you've been doing things against each other. Our preparation has been good. I think there's a couple of things we are trying to teach every day are the good habits that you want from a fundamental and technique standpoint and so that's a goal for us. A goal for us [is] to play fast and play physical every Saturday with consistency.
“Yesterday we had to come inside which we didn't really want to, but that storm kind of came through and put us back inside but we had a good practice. We have continually, and Nuss[meier] has done this, done wet ball drills every week even when we've been outside so if we can get in those conditions, which we have a good chance to all the time in the fall. But mental errors, we had a little bit too many of those. We want to make sure we clean those up today but it was a good physical practice. We've got to clean up some areas though when you look at some of the mental errors on both sides of the ball."
Are all openers special no matter who the opponent is?
"Yeah, I think anytime [because] you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Also, as you go out there you want to see what kind of team and where you're at. I think it's important that every week you get improvement from your team and so this will be a starting point obviously that we'll have this weekend."
Are Delano [Hill] and Jake [Butt] the only ones that you're still worried about from an injury standpoint?
"Jake definitely will not play. Delano won't play. I think he'll be ready next week."
What's Drake Harris' status?
"He won't play. He's back in practice now and he's missed a lot of football so there's a good chance he'll be a redshirt this year."
What's your timetable for naming captains for this game and how will you inform them?
"Well, I'm going to meet with the seniors again and [the] leadership group and we’ll name them sometime before the game."
Maurice wasn't on the depth chart…
"He's on there. He's got a good chance of playing for us. It's just, how many guys do you want to list?"
Talk about what you plan to do with the rotation there. Is it going to be quite a bit?
"Well, we're going to start with the guys who are out there, the guys who are first up on the list unless they absolutely don't practice like they need to. I'm assuming that won't happen. Then we'll really just take it how the game goes. There's a good chance that if you're looking at certain positions, especially the interior of our front, I think all those guys are going to play some football for us."
[After THE JUMP: Kyle Kalis’ injury, tight ends, and a Ty Isaac waiver update]