i find this extremely interesting
Spring Game gifs? Oh, sure, I guess. This is the last post I'll have here until the 29th, as the next couple days are devoted to HTTV stuff and then I'm taking a little time off to recharge.
I'm continuing to tweak how I do gifs on here to hopefully make them more accessible for everyone—most of them are now dumbed down to 48 colors, which has greatly decreased file sizes. If you had trouble with them before, perhaps you'll give these posts another shot. Anyway, Dennis Norfleet:
This one was specifically requested by Brian, or at least that's how I interpreted the tween-at-a-Bieber-concert scream emanating from the stands when it happened. (Full run gif'd here, but I really wanted to slow-mo that juke.)
[Hit THE JUMP for fun with the names of a certain Pickerington-based duo.]
Long. Splitting into halves.
It's a trend: Michigan spring games have returned to their sleepy past, meaning little and failing to reveal Savior Quarterback Who Will Save Us. This is a good thing, since the titanic importance of spring games under Rodriguez was symptomatic of a program drunkenly staggering from one rickety support to another.
It would be nice if Michigan could put together an actual game like you see at OSU, ND, and many SEC schools. Maybe next year.
Anyway, highlights to remind you of some of the things chattered about below:
The most important thing that happened yesterday was Hoke muttering something about Jake Ryan's return timeframe:
"I'm not a doctor, but possibly middle of October. Some people react differently."
That would be excellent. The critical bit of Michigan's schedule is… well, all of November, when they play State, Nebraska, Northwestern, Iowa and OSU, ie: the top half of their division, Iowa, and The Game. The only games before November that look competitive are against Notre Dame and Penn State, and Penn State should start dropping off what with their sanctions.
Ryan may even be back for that one, which is on the 12th. Indiana and a bye week follow, so Ryan may not just be back by the important bits of the schedule but established. As far as devastating season-ending ACL injuries to your best player on defense go, I like this one more than I expected I would.
Meanwhile, Blake Countess and Fitzgerald Toussaint both warmed up like nothing untoward had happened to them. (Neither was taking contact.) Countess's injury is far enough in the past that it's reasonable to expect that. Seeing Toussaint out there was a moment of shock for me. He didn't take any contact but if he's out there running five months before the season he will certainly be available in fall, which is when those soccer players who had the same injury came back anyway.
Devin Gardner Looked Good
this picture feels goooood (Eric Upchurch)
If Denard Robinson hadn't gotten hurt, this would have in fact been a Big Deal, as Gardner would be an heir apparent with no track record except his performance in the three previous spring games: awful, awful, and awful. With five starts dwarfing all spring data in importance, it's not a big deal. It is nice. Precisely nice.
In this one he did throw his traditional pick six to a linebacker he doesn't see coming underneath a receiver (Desmond Morgan dropped this one); aside from that he was 11 of 15 for about 140 yards, picking up where he left off in the fall. That's a very large jump from last year, when Gardner's performance had everyone buzzing about how Russell Bellomy looked like a plausible backup and let's just move Gardner to wide receiver already.
Here's the part you'll see about six more times before the opener about how if you extrapolate Gardner's statistics out to a full season you get some crazy numbers: 60% completion percentage, 9.7 YPA, 29:13 TD:INT, and nearly 3200 yards passing. That would be a Michigan record for TDs and brush up against John Navarre's 2003 season for yards. It would also vie for the best YPA season in the era when offenses throw the ball more than ten times a game—Jim Harbaugh hit 9.9 in 1986*.
Those numbers are a touch flattering since they include the bail-out against Northwestern and a couple of long touchdowns generated more by the defense screwing up than Gardner doing anything amazing—thinking primarily of Roundtree against OSU here. But then again we're talking about a guy who had been playing most receiver before being thrust into the starting job against Minnesota and a statline assembled against a set of defenses that were collectively pretty good. Pass efficiency Ds for the five Gardner opponents: 23rd (Minnesota), 33rd (Northwestern), 75th (Iowa), 29th (OSU), and 34th (South Carolina). At most one of those is a flailing patsy, and even the dismal Iowa defense was a far cry from MAC snacks not named Central Michigan.
Anyway: Gardner's calm demeanor and accuracy is another chunk of evidence to put on the pile. Maybe a small one, sure.
*[Rick Leach had a whopping 11 YPA in 1979, but only threw the ball 130 times. Yes, he only threw 130 times when he had Anthony Carter as an option. Football has changed.]
Running Backs: Wait Until Fall
With Fitzgerald Toussaint now certainly on the list of running backs not participating on Saturday who will be major threats for playing time, any conclusions drawn here are likely to be about the guy getting two carries a game behind Fitz and Derrick Green or DeVeon Smith. But it is spring, when we display our most colorful obsessions in an attempt to win mates. Let us proceed.
Going by the substitution patterns it seemed like Justice Hayes was tentatively your starter. He took advantage of this situation to average 0.5 YPC on two carries. Drake Johnson picked up less than a YPC himself, leaving Thomas Rawls and Dennis Norfleet to pick up the only real gains of the day by a tailback.
Both of those backs were going up against primarily backups. Usefulness: not assured. I mean, in one of the longish Rawls runs above he breaks a tackle from Terry Richardson, who's still about a buck fifty soaking wet. In the other a walk-on SAM gets crushed inside and the corner is open for days.
It will surprise no one that I thought Norfleet looked good. In the run featured at 2:10 in the highlight video he's behind mostly walk-ons and facing mostly starters. Black beats up Blake Bars and forces Norfleet away from blocking. Norfleet slips behind that block so fast that RJS has no shot at him, then he jukes Jeremy Clark out of his jock—and this is important for any coach but especially one Brady Hoke—to go north-south. On his other quality run (sadly not included in the highlights) he did the same thing: threaten outside so he could cut north-south and finish his run.
(@ right: Upchurch)
They did include the blown up zone stretch, and on that one you can see he just doesn't have a chance as Keith Heitzman rips through a block and forces Norfleet outside into Cam Gordon. He probably should have just eaten a two yard loss instead of testing Gordon.
Here's the thing though: Michigan didn't show a snap of pistol or much of anything, really. You know Al Borges loves his throwback screens, especially when he's got a guy as mobile as Gardner threatening the other side of the field. Who do you want grabbing those? Obviously Norfleet. Okay maybe Hayes, but we haven't really seen anything from him in that regard yet. Whoever gets that role has got to be plausible enough as an inside runner and blocker to not be a flashing throwback screen signal. I think we saw a couple things from Norfleet that bode well in that regard.
It's harder to get excited about Rawls given what we saw from him last season. Norfleet has the advantage of being a new toy, at least when it comes to getting carries in the backfield.
Receivers: Are They Supposed To Be A Problem?
Jeremy Gallon is going to catch a billion passes this fall, lots of them hitches, some of them hitch and go, some of them comeback screens. It's not so much the frequency with which Gardner targeted him on Saturday that makes me say this but the ease of the connection. When Gardner's throwing at Gallon it just seems easy.
Gallon reminds me of that moment after Braylon's departure when Michigan tried to establish Breaston as a deep threat. This was a rousing success until the moment Breaston had to bring in a ball over his head. IIRC he dropped it literally every time. But by God he was open.
Gallon is like that. His change of direction is elite, and Michigan is going to go hitch hitch hitch seeya this fall. By God, Gallon will be open. The difference: Gallon can actually catch downfield. His stature always makes him a tough target—see that corner route Gardner zinged well over his head—but we've seen him make a bunch of tough catches. Hell, he's even effective on fade routes in the endzone, a development that is still mindblowing even months afterwards.
Upshot: don't care if he's small, Gallon is a legit #1. Hell, he was fourth in the league in receiving yards last year despite operating in a Denard-centered offense for most of it. Let's have more Fun With Extrapolation: Gallon's hypothetical stats if Gardner was QB all year: 81 catches, 1330 yards.
Meanwhile, the guys surrounding Gallon will be fine. Drew Dileo didn't do much in the spring game but we've established who he is: a sure-handed slot guy who will find the foot of space he needs to convert on third and six. Devin Funchess should be a much bigger factor in year two. This is a proverbial weapon:
Darboh looked good finding a 30-yard fade on the first play from scrimmage; Jeremy Jackson made some plays. They'll have 4-5 solid options to go with a great #1. As points for concern go, this one doesn't register with me.
As for the second-year guys, Darboh seems a bit ahead of Chesson; both will play. You can see why Chesson redshirted last year when you get him next to Darboh, as Bryan Fuller did:
Still a bit of a Caris LeVert vibe from Chesson. They might have to protect him against jams by having him off the line, that sort of thing. Darboh looks like that won't be a problem.
I can't tell you I noticed a lot of details live, but one thing did jump out: Graham Glasgow seems to be making a serious push for playing time. He got plenty of snaps with the ones at both guard spots and center. He was the nominal starter at left guard over Ben Braden; at the very least it seems like he'll be the first interior lineman off the bench in the event a starter is hurt. He's their utility infielder.
The rest of the line seems set, with Kyle Kalis taking a large majority of the first team RG snaps and Jack Miller the same number at center. It is vaguely possible the arrival of Patrick Kugler or emergence of someone down the depth chart upsets the order of things, but I think that's your interior line: Glasgow OR Braden, Miller, Kalis. Joey Burzynski seems to have dropped back from the group with serious playing time prospects. Chris Bryant was well down the depth chart but did get on the field some. He could emerge if the injury is still holding him back.
Performance was a mixed bag. Michigan seems to want to pull Kalis to Lewan on a lot of plays. Good in theory; not entirely executed in practice. For example, at 1:10 in the highlights above you get a replay of last year's MLB misidentification: Michigan wants to run power behind Lewan with Kalis pulling; Michigan blitzes the A-gaps; Miller doesn't read this and sets up to block nobody; an unblocked Ross meets Johnson in the backfield, with Morgan unblocked right behind. Braden got smoked by Black for a sack a bit later.
Michigan yanked Lewan relatively early. Michigan put Erik Magnuson out there, and he did just okay. Pass rush was a lot easier to get with Lewan out of there (surprise!). Given the push Braden is making at guard I bet that any Lewan injury—knock on wood—sees Schofield flip to LT with Braden moving to RT and Glasgow drawing in at guard, if he's not already on the field. Michigan prefers a best-five-guys approach over any specific positional backup.
Defense in a bit.
just win the job thx / just get touches thx
Michigan kicks off spring practice in ten days, whereupon they will hit each other and do things that are football related and not much of import will go down but we will suck it up with the world's largest straw anyway because that's just how we do. This is a welcome change from Rodriguez-era spring practices, where worlds rose and fell because of the quarterback situation. Michigan has that locked down thanks to Denard's elbow injury and Devin Gardner's play.
Still, there are things to look for in the insider buzz and coach-talkin' that we will start receiving soon. (Other schools are out there covering it in person, grumble.) Here are the things I hope we start hearing soon:
Dennis Norfleet is back on offense. Check($). Norfleet's coach told Mike Spath that Norfleet was moving back to a return/slot/change of pace role a couple weeks ago, which makes me go eeee. Speculation that Norfleet's move was related to JT Floyd's suspension appears to have been accurate:
"In the bowl, it was basically a situation where he wanted the chance to earn more playing time, the numbers were down, and they let him compete there, but it was never supposed to be a permanent move."
Next on the checklist is seeing Norfleet get some touches at a place other than kick return.
Devin Gardner has two years to play. Also check. High five your future self.
There are clear leaders for each of the interior line spots. Last year's late Barnum/Mealer flip presaged trouble, and trouble was received. Ideally Michigan will come out of spring practice with an offensive line two-deep written in ink—chiseled in stone is unfortunately out of the question.
In practice this means:
- Kyle Kalis locks down a guard spot.
- There are no whispers about serious competition for Jack Miller since Kugler is not on campus yet.
- Bars, Bosch, Braden, or Bryant becomes the clear leader at the other guard spot.
If the last one doesn't come to fruition that's okay, as Michigan will probably be able to figure out one guard spot in fall camp without much trouble. If either of the first two is false that's not so good. If it's Kalis, that's a five-star guy falling off a stardom track. Meanwhile Miller's current competition at center is…
well, a "tight-lipped" Darrell Funk didn't mention any position changes other than the fact that Joey Burzynski and Graham Glasgow will receive looks at center this spring. If Michigan's going to start a walk-on, center is the place that I'm most comfortable having that happen, especially since they've all got a decent amount of experience there…
"That'll be a really interesting battle," Funk said. "I would prefer not to have another center battle for the second consecutive year, but it is what it is and we've got some candidates. They've all repped it for a year and a half, or two years, and we'll see who the best guy is."
…but I'm with Funk. Someone please lock that job down ASAP.
If it's a walk-on that might be okay. Burzynski was actually ahead of Miller as a sixth lineman on the goal line last year; Glasgow has the size (listed at 6'6", 305), has received some hype and is one of the better twitter follows on the team*. If either wins the job the least we can expect is that the line calls are consistently right, right?
You know you're broke when you ask Kyle Kalis for money
— Graham Glasgow (@gglasgow61) March 1, 2013
needs moar this (Upchurch)
There's someone to throw to. I'd better damn well hear that after last year's Devin Funchess fade—little of it his fault since the guy caught everything they threw at him—that Devin Gardner is throwing to him on every play, often twice. I desire a low rumble of Breaston-level hype relating to Devin Funchess. Oh and I would also like him to be a credible blocker.
On the outside, it's time for Amarah Darboh or Jehu Chesson or hopefully both to start getting buzz as a possession magnet or deep ball specialist. Michigan is okay with Jeremy Gallon (suddenly rampant with Gardner at the helm) and Drew Dileo at two spots; they'd dearly like to acquire a large receiver for various purposes.
New-ish defensive lineman X is making The Leap. Prime candidates are Ondre Pipkins and either Frank Clark or Mario Ojemudia. Someone on that line should be getting way better right now, and while Pipkins isn't going to start this year Michigan is going to count on him heavily the next three years. He needs to be a guy who does not get knocked over by running backs one-on-one.
Then you've got a cavalcade of redshirt freshmen. Chris Wormley's ACL injury was 6 or 7 months ago so we probably won't get to hear much about him; it would be nice if Willie Henry, Matt Godin, or Tom Strobel started generating some buzz.
James Ross is beast. I'm not including either rising sophomore linebacker in the above discussion since we have already seen them in action plenty and they are marked for stardom. I still think Desmond Morgan is going to hold a job, leaving one of the two a frequent substitute rather than a starter. The preferred way for this to work out is for James Ross to put on 20 pounds and leave no doubt about who is Michigan's weakside linebacker for the next three years.
It's like nothing ever happened to Blake Countess. Obvious.
The loss of Jordan Kovacs, while inevitably painful, will be mitigated. Also obvious. The battle here is between Dymonte Thomas, who enrolled early, Jarrod Wilson, and little-used veterans Marvin Robinson and Josh Furman. Jeremy Clark may figure in as well.
I'm not sure how I want that to work out just yet but like center, it's for the best if someone grabs the job and sits on it. At least here seem to be a number of reasonable options.
Starting Beard is taken care of. Elliott Mealer is gone. Time to step it up, people. This town needs Vikings.
Legolas is cooler than Treebeard. Brian's taking a short vacation and left me to write UV today. That's too bad because he's missing the party after Spath heard from Norfleet's mentor/7-on-7 coach ($) that the MGoFavorite little bugger's defensive foray was a temporary thing:
"He's supposedly going back to offense," Blackwell said. "They will use him in the slot and in the return game, and some as a running back. Coach [Greg] Mattison is saying he can still use him on defense and is making an argument to keep him there, but Dennis' passion is for the offense. That's where he wants to play, and from talking to Dennis it appears that's where he's going to play.
Putting him with the other elves made some sense when the cornerback two-deep was the starters, and what carries he could siphon last year from Toussaint, Rawls and Hayes would now have to be defended from Drake Johnson and three highly rated incoming freshman. The rooting for Norfleet to take over Smith's role comes from simple fan interest: it's way more fun to hold your breath and watch this guy scamper around like a maniac than to plunge a tree into the enemy lines and watch him fall forward for the same result.
Contempt for compliance, not photos of Donna Shalala. The Miami (of course THAT Miami) case was to be the Austerlitz of the new and improved NCAA enforcement empire; instead it's going to be a summer of Waterloo metaphors and Shalala vs. Emmert lead images. SBNation's Robert Wheel's afore-linked take calls for Emmert's resignation, while admitting that won't do anything to fix the underlying problem:
If the NCAA were enforcing rules that didn't require a lot of investigation, then this lack of power would not be a problem. But as long as college sports remain a big time moneymaker with rich guys who want to circumvent the rulebook to see their teams win, said rich guys will find ways to try to outfox the rules. Unless we want to give the NCAA subpoena power (we really don't) then this will always be a losing battle. The NCAA will never have the ability or the resources to catch up to people breaking its rules.
In a real legal system the Canes could discredit the prosecution's only witness and get the case thrown out. This isn't a real legal system: schools don't get in trouble for breaking NCAA rules, they get in trouble by publicly reminding everybody that the NCAA can't really enforce them. USC tried this and got slapped down despite the evidence in hand being too weak for any court. Meanwhile investigators with bees up their butts couldn't prove what every 4-year-old knows in re: Ohio State gives players cars, or really much of anything in the original Tatgate story until the NFL forced Pryor to talk. For stonewalling so politely the extent of the Buckeyes' punishment was to end a 12-0 season with Meyer on their sidelines and Tressel on their shoulders. The dumbest thing Shalala could do is comply.* The second-dumbest thing she could do is say na-na-na-boo-boo to an organization that only slightly cares if it turned up doo doo.
The obvious answer is pay the players (FoxSports in re: Clowney and the risk of injury) and end the shadow ring where guys like Shapiro are the only people who can perform the otherwise perfectly legal function of paying adult U.S. citizens for the services they provide.
* There are a select few schools like Michigan who don't have a choice because our whole thing is being the good guys, and because we're among those who would benefit the most if tradition, competitiveness and the quality of education were the only factors in recruiting and retaining college football talent. Kind of like how Great Britain would prefer to settle everything with a sea battle.
Basketball on verge of spread revolution. Weinreb dug up a budding Mike Leach from a D-II school in West Virginia to highlight a story about how pacing in basketball has slowed way down while the smart guys beating up the lower ranks are going the other way. That coach's motto is "Don't do it unless you can rationalize why you're doing it." He's too old to end up in Ann Arbor, but apparently the Yost alleles for engineering-minded coaches are still going strong in Appalachia. Beilein small ball isn't speed ball, but this…
When Crutchfield recruits, he looks for kids who react quickly — "You can make up for a lot of quickness and speed if you react mentally," he says — and play with high intensity: If they get beat on defense and they don't D up even harder the next time down the floor, he starts to wonder if they might not fit into his system.
That's part of a discussion on how road game success can be a strong predictor of postseason performance. I've used it for predicting NBA and NHL playoff results, and March Madness would be right there with them if it wasn't such a crapshoot in general. HT again from the board: SoFlaWolverine.
Assistant Coaches like money too. There's a rumor that Oklahoma may be going after Jerry Montgomery (Meinke via Footballscoop). Cam Cameron you may have heard just joined Les Miles's staff, further evidence to my theory that LSU is the In a Mirror, Darkly evil twin of Michigan from another dimension.
Dark universe Les Miles is in his 5th season as head coach at Michigan, where he's been slowly rebuilding the school's reputation shredded by win-at-all-costs Evil Lloyd Carr
Cameron will be making $3.4 million over 3 years, and this has made internet people start buzzing about top assistants commanding the kind of salary you give the school president. /mind blown. /thinks about the difference between GERG and Greg. /mind unblown.
It's right because the internet said so. The NCAA cover vote on Facebook has moved to a semifinals where the S-E-C!!! vote has been split (to Eddie Lacy's doom and random A&M guy's benefit) and Denard now leads. Every time this appears on the board cynical-me goes to erase it because it's playing to somebody's marketing ploy, and enchanted-me says "But Denard on the cover would be a wonderful thing!" I wish Denard would be on the cover because he is the living symbol of what is singularly spectacular about NCAA football; I also wish they could have come to that conclusion without somebody "developing an engaging social media campaign" that might only settle on Robinson because a cat playing guitar hero wasn't allowed in the race. #AIRBHG2014
Etc. People of the East Coast, check your DVR schedule or wind up recording a Virginia-BC game. UMHoops takes on Michigan's defense, scores a bazillion points (ha!). Zoltan's foundation update. FAU's marketing department derps stadium sponsor, double-derps wikipedia entry. MGoAndroid App is updated, report bugs here. NFL logos if they were designed by British people.
- Jerald Robinson has left the team.
- Craig Roh had a bit of a "sore shoulder." Me too, although mine is from pipetting too much. Probably the same thing.
- Royce Jenkins-Stone is playing middle linebacker, not SAM.
- Dennis Norfleet is playing corner, not safety.
- None of the redshirting freshmen OL have practiced at center. Right now the heir apparent to Elliott Mealer is Jack Miller, followed by Graham Glasgow.
“Before I get started talking about what we’re doing and everything, I think our thoughts and prayers go out to those in Connecticut, with that tragedy that happened. It’s unfortunate, and we just want to have them in our prayers, those families that were affected, and the senselessness of what happened.
“With that being said, we got back after today, we had a good practice. This time of year it gets a little dicey because you’re juggling some finals. There’s some guys who had finals but not very many of them that couldn’t be there, so you go through all those kinds of things, and find the times that we can. We’ll go tomorrow morning, and then we’ll go Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. I like how they’ve come out. I know they’ve had good weeks with lifting and running and technique work and those things, so it’s all be real positive.”
Yesterday Jordan Kovacs casually tossed off something about helping out Dennis Norfleet—or dennisnorfleet, whichever—and other young safeties with minutiae, and then there's a clip of a 5'6" guy wearing 26 tackling someone else:
I hate this for lots of reasons.
The chance Dennis Norfleet becomes a good safety seems minimal. There's being small, and there's being Norfleet small. Bob Sanders is the go-to-comparison here and yes okay there has been one Norfleet-sized safety in the last ten years of college football who has been really good. I can think of plenty of mini-me running backs who have been somewhere between okay and great. Garrett Wolfe, Brian Calhoun, and Jacquizz Rodgers pop immediately to mind, a guy like Vincent Smith has provided Michigan value.
There would seem to be no need to make this move unless safety depth next year is just terrifying. With Gordon/Wilson the presumed starters, the very idea they'd need to move a kid like Norfleet to D says bad things about replacing Kovacs, or that neither Furman or Robinson is viable even as a backup.
Nickel corner? There's even less of a need there. Avery returns, Delonte Holowell is locked into nickel-or-nothing, and Terry Richardson is also a nickel sort. That they'd even try this seems to indicate a need in the secondary that can only be explained by attrition or inability to play.
We're really going to make this move before even trying the guy as a change of pace/third down back? He's clearly not needed to play S for the bowl game, but he may be needed to run the ball since Rawls isn't really getting it done and Norfleet—a guy who Hoke was pushing to get on the field on offense early this year—is just going to go by the wayside to not play safety? WTF?
I mean, if we're trying to win a bowl game here Norfleet has a much better chance of helping that cause on offense than the sideline watching Kovacs and Gordon play safety.
Hoke mentioned something about burning Drake Johnson's redshirt, which he probably won't actually do, but he has put it on the table:
He offered the proposal when asked about his running backs, who will take the field Jan. 1 against South Carolina in the Outback Bowl without starter Fitz Toussaint. Sophomore Thomas Rawls, redshirt freshman Justice Hayes and senior Vincent Smith are expected to be in the rotation.
That indicates Hoke would like to see true freshman Drake Johnson get some time against the Gamecocks. Johnson, who starred at nearby Ann Arbor Pioneer High School, is redshirting this year.
"Maybe," Hoke said. "We like what Drake's done to this point."
So instead of trying out the guy that Michigan thought was good enough to play on kickoffs they're thinking about burning a redshirt for a guy who only got an EMU offer before Fred Jackson swooped in.
This could mean Norfleet isn't good at running the ball to the point where it's not even worth trying him over Rawls. I find that hard to believe after watching his high school tape, but it is a hit on any expectations you may have for the kid as a runner. The nonsensical-seeming position switch is the first step on the road to obscurity.
But more likely it means he's not good at running through unblocked guys and that he might never get a shot running behind an offensive line that could get him some cracks.
Hopefully this is dismissed as a crazy bet Fred Jackson lost by Saturday.