"Well, here we are again. I might as well answer it before you ask. What about the pass rush? You're going to ask that question and the answer I'm going to give you is one, they kept backs in a little bit more in passing situations than we expected. And the other thing I’m going to tell you is I have to coach it better. Our guys are working hard at it, and I’ll put that on me. We just have to get better at it. And we know that. We started working on it on Sunday already but we will be able to rush, and we’re going to do that.”
MGoQuestion: We haven't seen a lot of the nose tackles the last couple weeks. What's the reasoning behind that?
"Well we were in sub a lot. Some guys are better at playing the run and some guys are maybe better at playing able to play the run as well as rush the passer. We feel like those two guys are 300-and-some pound guys that might not give us quite the movement we’re looking for in pass rush.”
|Boundary Corner||Yr.||Field Corner||Yr.||Nickelback||Yr.|
|Blake Countess||So.*||Raymon Taylor||Jr.||Blake Countess||So.*|
|Channing Stribling||Fr.||Delonte Hollowell||Jr.||Dymonte Thomas||Fr.|
|Terry Richardson||So.||Jourdan Lewis||Fr.||Courtney Avery||Sr.|
The headliner here is the headliner last year, frozen in carbonite: BLAKE COUNTESS. Countess was Mattison's prophesied War Daddy at field corner, and then he got blocked on a punt return in the first game. That blew up his ACL and ended his year.
A year later, Countess is back to full health—he could have gone in spring if it wasn't, you know, spring—and ready to fulfill the promise he had a year ago. But that doesn't mean I've got anything on Countess that I didn't a year ago, save the occasional coach quote.
What I had last year: Countess started on the traditional Michigan Star Corner track, getting into the second game as a reserve corner and emerging as a starter halfway through the season. In six starts, Countess had six PBUs; he was named to various freshman All-American teams. As a freshman he manned up on Marvin McNutt pretty well:
The downside was the Ohio State game in which he was no match for Devier Posey on one of OSU's three long touchdowns. That'll happen when you're a freshman.
Despite that, even then he was Michigan's best corner. Anonymous Big Ten receiver:
On the cornerbacks: "Two years ago, they had a kid [Blake Countess] that was different. He played with a swagger and just seemed to attack every ball thrown his way. Last year, he wasn't out there, and it made my job a lot easier because I could use both sides of the field. Their corners were good, but they didn't go after the ball. They just wanted to stay between our receivers and the big play."
Countess seems to have had no problem reclaiming his starting spot and should resume the star corner track he was on before injury intervened.
[After THE JUMP: Taylor! Depth! Special Nickelback section!]
Let's talk about the guys we haven't talked enough about yet. The breakout kids. The unexpected boons. Our pantheon of heroes:
- Capt'n Seth of the Comma Police
- An Bender, Flyin' Ace
- The Heiko Kid
- The Blue Creature from the Bend
- Brett Thiessen (secret identity remains hidden)
- Coach Unpossible
Casey Stengel used to do this thing with the media where every year he'd point to a player on his team who wasn't already an established star (Gardner, Gallon, Lewan, Norfleet) and say "that guy is a lot better than people think." And that guy would have a really big year. Mentally (or mathematically if you're Mathlete) subtract John Q. MGoReader's expectation for the guys from your expectation for the guys this year, and tell us who's going to be surprisingly good?
BiSB: I'm on Team ACL this year. On the "breakout star" front, I'll go with BLAKE COUNTESS. I think a lot of people are expecting, or even hoping, that he'll come back
|Rev up the Countess hype again | Fuller|
approximately as he was as a freshman (which would still be pretty good), thinking his injury would offset whatever gains he has otherwise made. But we live in a world in which ACLs are repaired with unicorn dreams (or at least that's how Heiko explained it to me) and heal in six to nine months. Jake Ryan tore his five months ago, and is already running and doing lateral stuff. Countess is a full year removed, which in modern ACL years is "what, me worry?" I think on the conservative side we're going to get the Blake Countess we would have gotten in 2012, and on the upside we're looking at a guy who will compete with Bradley Roby and Darqueze "You Spelled Denard Wrong" Dennard for first team All B1G.
My "breakout contributor" guy is CHRIS WORMLEY, who also tore his ACL about a year ago. Heitzman is the starter at SDE, but Wormley can be a difference-maker. He's bigger and stronger than Heitzman, and already has a year in the system under his belt (even if a lot of that year was on an exercise bike). He'll get plenty of snaps anyway because of the depth at SDE and Mattison's love of DL rotation. He may never take over the starter label because Michigan doesn't really do the whole "roster update" thing, but I think by the end of the year he's the most effective guy at the position, and he'll be getting ~40% of the snaps.
Also, Norfleet will be the new Steve Breaston, by which I mean at some point a tight end will maddeningly refuse to pitch him the ball and as a result you will scream terrible terrible things to no one in particular.
Seth: NORFLEET IS ALREADY ESTABLISHED (else everyone would pick him)
[After the jump: NOT NORFLEET]
left: Bryan Fuller
Earlier this offseason I stumbled onto an old article where Bill Walsh wrote what qualities he looks for when drafting various positions. Meant to be a one-off on the offense, I took requests for a defensive version and broke it up into D-Line, linebackers, and now, finally, the defensive backs. The idea is since the coaching staff is building a "pro-style" team with principles more akin to the Walsh ideal that dominates the pros than the collegiate evaluations made on scouting sites and the like, we shall re-scout the 2013 roster for Walsh-approved attributes.
Since coverages have changed the most since Walsh's day—a reaction to the spread—this is probably the least valuable of the series. To bring it back on point, I've gone off the page a little bit to note some of the attributes that NFL defensive coaches are looking for nowadays, and what those changes mean.
Plankamalu / Shazorvacs/ M-Rob if all quarterbacks were Brian Cleary
Walsh Says: 6'3/215. Now hold your horses before going all "SHAZOR?!?" on me—I'm making a point: The type of player you have at safety depends on the type of system you want to run and the type of player you have everywhere else. If you're going to be playing more odd coverages (cover 1, cover 3) then you want your strong safety to be more of a run support guy, in many ways a fourth linebacker. If your base coverage is even (cover 2, cover 4) the strong and weak safeties will be more similar:
"There are other systems of defense where both safeties play a two-deep coverage and only occasionally come out of the middle to support the run. They basically play the ball in the air, the middle of the field and the sidelines. When you do that, then the stress is on the cornerback to be the support man.
So you must keep in mind these various philosophies when considering what types of cornerbacks and safeties you want to put together in forming a defensive secondary."
The attributes of your defensive backs should be complementary. Here's what Walsh is getting at: your backfield has to be able to defend the pass first and the run second. And here's the key: the more you can trust one player to handle coverage without help, the more you can stock up on extra run defense with the other guys. If your backfield already has plenty of coverage, you can have a strong man:
"The strong safety is historically the support man. He must have some of the traits you look for in a linebacker. In fact there have been some hybrid players in that position. Cincinnati had David Fulcher [right], who was as big as some linebackers but could function also as a safety. The Bengals moved him weak and strong, inside and outside and he became that extra man that the offensive run game had to account for but often could not block.
"But the typical strong safety is someone who can hit and stop people and respond spontaneously and go to the ball. Naturally, the more coverage talent the man has the more you can line him up on anybody."
Today, defensive coordinators sit on porches, remember when you could play a guy like Fulcher, and say "those were the days." The epitome of this type of safety is former Buckeye Doug Plank, who defined his position to such a degree that the defensive system itself was named for his number (46).
It's also called the "Bear" defense because it was the Bears
This defense was at the height of its popularity when Walsh joined the 49ers in 1979, and it was this defense his model passing concepts shredded. The defense played to Plank's strengths as an overly aggressive, hard-hitting run stopper with some coverage skills. The SAM linebacker in today's anti-spread sets (e.g. the 3-3-5's "Spur") is a closer analogue to the Plank-style player than the modern strong safety, with the key difference being that, as a safety, you couldn't put a blocker on a 46 without removing one from a lineman or linebacker, meaning the SS could flow cleanly to the point of attack and wrack up ridiculous tackle numbers.
College teams loved this, since passing quarterbacks were hard to come by and the big boys were running three yards and a cloud of dust (and later the option). A lot of cool names for linebacker-safeties were passed down from this period, such as the "Wolf" on Bo's teams, or the "Star" (names which today are coming out of retirement for the nickel-SAM hybrid position in base 4-2-5 anti-spread defenses).
Walsh's Favorite Wolverine: Why does a mid-'70s response to off-tackle NFL running games matter to a collegiate defense in 2013? Well because we have a really good free safety, and play tight end-heavy outfits this year in UConn (T.J. Weist, a rare member of the Gary Moeller coaching tree, is taking over there), Penn State, Michigan State, and Iowa, with the outside possibility of a Wisconsin if we make it to the conference championship. Also because the coaches have been subtly putting safety-like objects (Woolfolk, Gordon, and now Dymonte Thomas) at nickel, and recruiting a few linebacker-sized safeties.
I don't know what he'd think of Kovacs. We loved him, but Jordan had two weaknesses: 1) his lack of overall athleticism made exploitable if left in wide coverage (see: his abusing by Ace Sanders on the last play of the Outback Bowl, and the utter disaster that was GERG's attempt to play Kovacs as the free safety in 2009), and 2) his lack of size made him blockable if a lead blocker could get to him (see: bad things happening whenever Mouton abandoned contain).
He would have loved Ernest Shazor, a knife blade listed at 6'4/226 with a scatback's acceleration who loved nothing better than demonstrating the force equation. Brian calls Shazor "the most overrated Michigan player of the decade" because he has to live with the bolded subconscious of UFR, and nothing pisses off a figment of a blogger's imagination like a safety who gives up a big play in coverage.
Here's the point: the ideal safety would be a dude with the size and stopping power to pop a lead blocker and make the tackle or lay out a guy like Shazor, read and react like Kovacs, and cover like Charles Woodson. That human doesn't exist. A combo of epic athleticism with plus headiness and serviceable tackling and size equals Ed Reed or Sean Taylor. Epic headiness with plus size and serviceable everything else nets you Doug Plank, with plus athleticism: Ronnie Lott, Troy Polamalu or Rodney Harrison. The trick is to have epic everything between your safeties; for strongside then it's not Ernest Shazor or Jordan Kovacs; it's SHAZORVACS!
What to look for in a Scouting Report: At either safety position, instincts rate highly and speed after that (less so for the strongside). You're looking to first make sure you have enough coverage in the entire backfield, and once you do you can use this position to stock up on linebacker traits: tackling, size, taking on blockers, personal contribution to local seismic activity, that sort of stuff.
What you can learn on film: Everyone loves those bone-jarring hits and coaches are more than happy to put them in a recruiting video, but not all hits are created equal. Sometimes they're generated by another defender cutting off the lead blocker, other times it's your guy reading the play so early he can go all-out on the hit. More important is what happens to the ballcarrier: he needs to go down. Safeties are going to be left in space, and making that tackle is more important than making the offensive player wish he'd never met this oblong brown thing.
What could signal bust potential: Remember you want a safety, not a horse, i.e. overrating the secondary, linebacker-y attributes and expecting the rest to come along. Adequate coverage and good instincts need to be there or else this guy is just a platoon player. "May be a linebacker on the next level" is a red flag, unless he actually becomes a linebacker. Brandon Smith's recruiting profile is instructive.
It's usually good policy to discount ESPN's opinion when it's in wild disagreement with the other services, but here I tend to give their rip job ($, "he's not a fast-twitch athlete and lacks explosive quickness and speed"; "Takes too long to reach top speed"; "He can be late, takes false steps and doesn't see things happen quickly enough") some credence. Reasons:
- Rivals started off very high on him, ranking him around #50, but steadily dropped him as the year progressed despite his status as a high-profile uncommitted player.
- Despite all the guru accolades Michigan's main competitors were Rutgers and South Carolina; other offers came from Maryland, NC State, Wisconsin and West Virginia. He wanted offers from Florida and Ohio State which never came.
- You always risk looking like a tool when you rely on your super awesome scouting skills and six plays on youtube to discern a kid's fate, but... yeah, I didn't think he was all that.
The guy left in a huff after they tried to wring the last bit of value out of him as a Doug Plank-like extra linebacker vs. Wisconsin, and Wisconsin ground us to dust, but then Smith was a high school quarterback whose development as a defender had to come almost entirely from the Rodriguez-era coaching staff. Anyway you've seen this again and again: rave reviews for the guy's "frame" and a profundity of attributes that would make him seem a really nice horse, combined with not nearly enough "makes plays." First have all of the safety stuff: can read and react, cover, and tackle in space. Then care about the size.
How our guys compare: Jarrod Wilson (6'2/196) remains my favorite to start at this spot because he is adequate (not yet plus) in coverage and the other guys aren't. Like the Jamar Adams he reminds me of, Wilson doesn't stand out in any category but doesn't have any major holes in his game other than being young.
The other leading candidate is Marvin Robinson who scares the hell out of me. He was a big-time recruit early in the process thanks to apparently having an early growth spurt, and his profile was filled with horsey metaphors. The same player still hangs on that frame (he arrived at 203 and never deviated more than 3 lbs from that) and hopes for him hang on the comparative competence in coaching plus the fact that being behind Jordan Kovacs is a perfectly reasonable excuse for not seeing the field earlier.
The redshirt freshmen at this position are stiff and linebacker-ish with instincts, more Plank than Polamalu. Jeremy Clark is all of 6'4/201 and did an okay job against the run in the Spring Game I covered in this space a few weeks ago, but lacks speed. Allen Gant also had instincts praised as a recruit, but also lacks the kind of athleticism and would at best develop into a slightly bigger and less heady Kovacs. If going forward Michigan can develop a superstar at the other safety spot or with a corner, they might be able to Plank it with one of these guys—when Woodson gave us that opportunity in '97, Daydrion Taylor and Tommy Hendricks went ham.
Thomas Gordon is super-instinctive and would be a perfect fit here except he's needed at the more important free position he's been playing.
[The rest, after the leap.]
I'm ignoring this Boston business. Should I have to mention this? Probably not. Rest assured that when the zombie apocalypse comes I'll be here speculating about how it affects Michigan's roster when the starting quarterback bites his center.
Fritz Crisler's advice to Walter. Eat plenty of ruffage, young man.
This is apparently a new find from user Messenger Puppet. The message board sleuths have identified "Walter" as a
missing Brown student Walter Freihofer, who had quite a life. The timing fits: he graduated high school in 1940 and died about a year ago; the letter was probably uncovered as someone was going through his things.
Yes, Wilton. Wilton Speight provides MLive with a picture of him hellaciously stiffarming a hapless fool who dares approach Speight's aura:
That's in an article about Speight's high ranking on ESPN. I was not aware that he'd reclassified after a serious collarbone injury in the first game of his junior season. In general that's a good thing—experience is everything for quarterbacks, who don't approach their ceilings until they're 35.
I should mention that I missed MO LB Kyron Watson in my rundown of Michigan targets in the ESPN 150. He's 100th.
Hated Chad Ford, man, you just don't get it. Hated Chad Ford is mostly a joke about how Chad Ford is all like taking my peoples from me, but come on man:
"His decision to return, considering his age (he turns 21 before the draft) and high draft stock at the moment, is a puzzling one -- I'm not sure his draft stock will ever be higher. A potential first-round pick in 2014."
There are things other than draft stock in life, like being the man on a very good college basketball team.
2014 looms. It appears that Michigan's got a one-year reprieve here from GRIII and McGary. Paste these two items together…
"We're like brothers," McGary said. "Coach says we're joined at the hip, I don't think it's that serious. But (part of my decision relied on) what he was doing.
"We just kind of wanted to come back together, make a run at it and play the way we play."
"It was 50-50," McGary said. "I might have been leaning a little bit toward (leaving at first), but I talked it over with my family, and I thought this was what was best.
"I kind of want to be a kid for one more year."
...and you get both guys planning on leaving after next year. This is fine. It gives Michigan time to replace them. It does mean that the 2014 recruiting class will burgeon to at least 5 players, more if there is a transfer or Stauskas blows up into a lottery pick. Or Spike, I guess.
In any case, Michigan's next basketball recruiting class is huge for the continued program upswing. It currently consists of Florida big man Ricky Doyle and Indiana wing Austin Hatch, if Hatch can get back on the court. That's kind of a big if; it seems likely Michigan signs the guy and puts him on a medical scholarship. They'll probably add four additional players: another post-ish guy who will be around (Michigan will have just Doyle, Donnal, and Bielfeldt in 2015), a couple wings, and then a wild card.
Michigan's caught the eye of Milwaukee five-star Kevon Looney:
In an interview with ChicagoHoops.com earlier this week, Looney listed Michigan as one of a handful of schools firmly on his radar.
Looney, who said his recruitment was still "pretty wide open," also listed Michigan State, Tennessee, Florida, Duke, Georgetown and Wisconsin as schools he's hearing the most from.
At 6'9", Looney is a Kevin Durant-style wing with range.
Putting him at the four in Beilein's system would be almost unfair. Let's hope that "Michigan" coming out of his mouth first means something down the road. One and done? Uh… probably. Don't tell Beilein.
Meanwhile, Sam Webb told his WTKA audience this morning that if Trevon Bluiett and Vincent Edwards were to pick today, they would both be headed elsewhere. (I'd guess those destinations would be Butler and Purdue.) That wasn't a lock or anything, but just a feeling from a connected guy. They seem to be leading for Devin Booker despite heavy attention from powers, but Booker isn't rushing towards a decision.
Michigan's going to see their options expand; this AAU circuit will see a half-dozen new prospects on the radar. The three guys mentioned in the previous paragraph are their only current offerees right now. That'll change in the next few months. UMHoops has some additional information on who they might offer.
While Beilein wasn't gung-ho about the possibility after Trey's departure…
"I don’t think we’re in a position where we have to use (Trey’s scholarship)," Beilein said. "But if there’s the right situation – last year Caris was more of a redshirt, was going to be."
…they could take a swing at a 2013 kid if one they like pops up. They've got two scholarships available. Assuming GRIII and McGary are gone after this year, if you can get a guy who you think you can be a four-year contributor more along the lines of Caris LeVert than Colton Christian that's a move you may want to make. There's a shaky rumor about Michigan reaching out to former Hofstra commitment Gabe Levin, so they're poking around a bit.
Okay, not just me. I was wondering if what I saw from Delonte Hollowell in the spring game was a hallucination or wishful thinking. Apparently not:
Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison indicated there's more to it than that -- that Hollowell had a terrific spring, and could force his way into the rotation come fall.
“I think you probably thought it was rhetoric when we first got here and you heard me say it before -- you’re evaluated every day in practice," Mattison said when asked about Hollowell's start. "The thing that Brady (Hoke) does such a good job of is that we have competitions in practice. Competition means it’s a game.
"How you react in that competition is going to decide who’s going to earn the right to play the next day and be where they are the next day in the depth chart. So that depth chart can change day to day."
Hollowell played in 11 games last season, but mostly on special teams. He played in three games as a reserve defensive back, recording one tackle.
I brought this up on 'TKA yesterday tentatively and got the same vibe from Sam. While Hollowell isn't going to start over Taylor or Countess, hopefully they'll be comfortable enough to put a third cornerback on the field this fall if someone goes down. Now someone get him tweeting again.
Amara to the rescue. Another guy pushing his way up the depth chart is a key one for Michigan's next couple years, what with the receiver depth looking shaky. He's Amara Darboh:
"I knew Darboh was going to catch the ball," Gardner said. "We knew what was going to happen. We were planning to call that play (the day before the game), and Coach Borges just said get it up and give him a chance.
"That's what I did. He performed." …
"He can do everything well," Gardner said. "He can shake guys in the short-range game, and he can go deep."
That bomb was quality: Darboh got a release that gave him space to the outside and adjusted to a less than perfect ball comfortably. That takes skill.
We're Texas. That means our administrators specialize in sounding like twits. Multi-year scholarships are now legal, but the baton is being picked up slowly despite those press conferences in the immediate aftermath of that rule's passage where every coach in the country said they would offer four-year rides. Full numbers are hidden behind a paywall, but the Chronicle of Higher Ed reports that multi-year deals are rare:
Nearly two-thirds of the 56 most powerful Division I public universities now offer multiyear awards, according to a Chronicle review of public records. Yet few of those institutions do so for more than a handful of athletes.
Among the holdouts are some of the wealthiest programs, including the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Oregon, and Texas A&M. At the University of Arizona, Georgia Tech, and the University of Louisville, this year's NCAA men's basketball champions, you can count the multiyear beneficiaries on one hand.
Here's the bit where someone from Texas sounds like a twit:
"Who gets a four-year, $120K deal guaranteed at age 17?" Christine A. Plonsky, women's athletic director at the University of Texas, wrote in an e-mail to The Chronicle. "The last thing young people need right now is more entitlement."
This is an athletic department that has an entirely separate athletic director for their womens' teams talking about how young people are entitled. I wish I had a magic poverty wand I could wave at people.
Christine A. Plonsky finds herself in the kitchen of Taco Bell. She somehow knows her car is now a 1979 Yugo, her home a double-wide, her husband a machinist. She still makes more than 30k a damn year.
Sing to me, o fate, a tale of entitlement—
Shut up and make me 12 soft tacos.
Anyway. John Infante argues that this sort of inconsistent application of the new multi-year rule is actually a good thing. First, a few numbers he pulled out:
But even colleges that have moved toward the longer agreements have done so modestly. Six institutions signed at least two dozen multiyear agreements this academic year. They include the University of Florida (60), Ohio State University (47), North Carolina State University (40), Michigan State University (30), Arizona State University (27), and Auburn University (27).
But multiyear awards still account for less than one-tenth of all athletic scholarships at most of those institutions.
IIRC OSU and MSU were amongst the schools that promised all of their football folks would be on multi-year scholarships, which clearly isn't happening. Meanwhile, Michigan doesn't even appear on this list of moderate adopters. On the other hand, Infante mentions that Illinois is giving out multi-year deals to virtually everybody.
Recruits are beginning to understand their power in the negotiation as well as the tools they can use to get the best deal. Hopefully as the market in recruiting and athletic scholarships continues to mature, more recruits and schools will understand their bargaining positions. This encourages the best situation for athletes: when the agreement they sign is the same one that both they and their coach intend and understand.
Contrast this with setting scholarships at any one length. Under the old one-year maximum, coaches were flat out lying to prospects and their families. They would say that a one-year agreement was really for four years, and that as long as the athlete stayed eligible and out of trouble, the scholarship would be renewed. Then when the athlete was injured or did not live up to expectations, the grant-in-aid would be nonrenewed.
Requiring four- or five-year scholarships creates a similar situation. The coach assures the athlete that they have a four-year agreement, because look, there it is in a written contract. Then when the athlete does not pan out, the coach begins looking for ways to get out from under the commitment. That leads to deliberately confusing scholarship agreements and team/department rules which are inconsistently enforced.
As long as the guarantee remains in place—and the roster spot occupied—even when a guy is booted, that's about all they can do. But it'll be interesting to see if recruiting reporters start asking kids about the details of their "offers." Is Illinois explicitly using a longer-term promise as an incentive? Is, say, Western Michigan guaranteeing four-star commit Chance Stewart four years, and is that why he's headed for the MAC instead of the Illini? Shouldn't Da'Shawn Hand demand any school he signs with guarantee him four years?
It feels like a lot of stakeholders in the recruiting game are trying to downplay the existence of the multi-year rule. That can't last, and then things get interesting.
“You guys get me McGary yet?”
Isn’t that your job?
“Heh, no. I’m done with recruiting.”
How consistent was your four-man rush this spring and what’s the potential?
“Well we worked very very hard on it. We made a definite [goal]: ‘We’re going to do that.’ We worked hard all spring on it. The thing about pass rush that makes it something that you can achieve is that’s a phase of football you can work on all summer. That’s something like catching passes, like throwing passes. You can’t go out and hit a guy one on one, you can’t do all that in a summer, but you can improve pass rush technique better than anything else. And with our belief of that being important and our kids believing that, I think that’s something we’ll just continue. They did show some signs in there, but they also showed why you have to be a technician when you do it, and everybody’s got to be on the same page. We’re kind of in the growing stages of it, but we’re growing in the right direction.”