IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE THREE *YARDS* AND A CLOUD OF DUST
-This preview, two years ago
IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE ANYTHING POSITIVE AND A CLOUD OF NOT EBOLA
-This preview, last year
IT PUTS THE FOOTBALL IN THE GAP OR IT GETS THE HOSE AGAIN
|FEATURE BACK||Yr.||SHORT YARDAGE||Yr.||3RD DOWN||YR.|
|De'Veon Smith||Jr.||De'Veon Smith||Jr.||Ty Isaac||So.*|
|Ty Isaac||So.*||Derrick Green||Jr.||Drake Johnson||Jr.*|
|Drake Johnson||Jr.*||Ty Isaac||So.*||Karan Higdon||Fr.|
This was a straight-up mess for much of last year. De'Veon Smith and Derrick Green had little idea of what functional blocking looked like (understandable after 2013) and a tendency to run at random. If—and this is entirely hypothetical—you were to rewatch some of these runs in detail you may—again, entirely hypothetically—find yourself reduced to screaming Happy Gilmore quotes about being too good for your home and then self-abasing because Happy Gilmore is a very bad movie enjoyed only by children and Ace. Hypothetically.
Late in the year Michigan tried out Drake Johnson and Justice Hayes and that went better, particularly with Johnson. Over the last four games of the season—Indiana, Northwestern, Maryland, and Ohio State—Johnson got the plurality of the carries and averaged 6.0 yards a carry to Smith's 4.7. Johnson had a reasonable day even against Ohio State, with 15 carries for 76 yards… and then he tore his ACL. Again. Sam Webb reported he only got fully cleared on Monday.
So it's back to those other guys, oh and Ty Isaac. Let's try it again, this time with coaching.
ARBITRARILY ORDERED TAILBACK CANDIDATE #1
HAIR ZOOM 2015 [Fuller]
My Bayesian estimation is that Smith has a tiny lead that wouldn't even be worth mentioning except for the fact that I have to talk about someone first.
This year: ditto.
The first arbitrarily ordered running back is DE'VEON SMITH. Your author does admit that the order of this list may contain some meaning. He is of the opinion that Smith is the most Harbaugh-friendly of the guys currently on the roster.
At his best, Smith is a beefier version of Mike Hart. He's got great balance and generally feels like a nuclear-powered icebreaker.
If you're in an offense where the line consistently delivers you three yards, Smith's ability to bash out another two or three with his balance and power is hugely powerful. That turns third and medium into third and short or a first down. It radically changes the percentages you're working with. This is the kind of gentleman Harbaugh made some headway with at Stanford. Going over all my Smith clips from last year is an exercise in YAC YAC YAC, to the point where the times he doesn't scrape out something after contact come as a shock.
[After THE JUMP: Smith downsides and three other arbitrarily ordered guys.]
You May Remember These Running Backs from Such Players As…
Milksteak did the quarterbacks earlier, and now he's on to comparing running backs, taking their extant stats and seeing who projects into the same realm. I'm interested in what he comes up with for the receivers since I'm doing a similar study right now using Bill Connelly's receiver stats.
|Rudock vs Cook common opponents. Click takes you to the article.|
But that's getting ahead of ourselves. This one's on Green et al.:
Green's 5.7 Yds/Carry looks very similar to freshman Chris Perry's 5.4 average. Freshman Tyrone Wheatley's 6.4 Yds/Carry represents the top of the comparisons, and he was much more of a TD vulture than Green has been. Carlos Brown's sophomore campaign looks somewhat similar as well. Let's see how these running backs fared in their next year.
Chris Perry had the same surprising size/acceleration combo and couldn't find a hole unless he was escorted to it, but he also had some ridiculous balance. His magnificent senior season now overshadows the period when B.J. Askew was clearly a better option. Up until this point in Green's career, however, Perry was behind A-Train. The stat comparisons only tell you so much, for example De'Veon Smith is not Jamie Morris. Ed Davis maybe.
Going back to the QBs, Dawkins posted a board thing comparing Rudock to Connor Cook thus far. When Ace inevitably drafts Jake Rudock he'll appreciate this the thing at right. What it doesn't show is that MSU was extremely conservative with Cook until progressively taking him off apron strings at the end 2013. Then again, Rudock worked for Greg Davis so…
Also how do two quarterbacks in the same conference only have three common opponents? Oh right.
Alum96 has been previewing Michigan's opponents, and the rodentia are up. Other than that one team that got one of the most successful NFL coaches to come back to college, Oregon State pulled off the coup of the offseason when they stole Wisconsin's head coach. It would turn out to be de gras, as the beloved AD who engineered that, Bob De Carolis, retired into the Michigan Athletic Department he was long a part of (he was the softball coach who hired Hutchins).
All of that is only of small relevance to 2015 OSU (NTOSU), which returns only two defensive starters from a unit that wasn't very good. In case you're wondering, no, Wisconsin's excellent DC is still at Wisconsin.
Alum96's previews continue with Minnesota, which is still Minnesota except minus an excellent center, an excellent running back, some excellent members of the front seven, and an excellent Maxxx. Don't miss the SB Nation Study Hall article he links.
BOOKS I DEMAND YOU READ THIS SUMMER
1. Hail to the Victors 2015 by MGoBlog
1. Brandon's Lasting Lessons (alternate title: Endzone: The Something Something Dave Brandon Gets Trashed By Everyone He Ever Met Novel) (alternate-alternate title: Endzone: The Rise, Fall, and Return of Michigan Football), by John U. Bacon.
2. Armada by Ernest Cline (author of Ready Player One)
3. Hail to the Victors 2015 by MGoBlog
4. Stagg vs. Yost: The Birth of Cutthroat Football, by John Kryk
5. Forty Years in the Big House, by Jon Falk. eeeeeeee!
6. The Art of Smart Football, by Chris Brown. This is a collection of articles about the recent evolution of football chalk, not pictures from his blog. "Five Stories About the Spread Offense" is brilliant and depressing.
By the way I finally met both Kryk and Dr. Sap in person. They are what I would have been if I was born 20 years earlier. And in Canada. And if I was cool.
MICHIGAN VERSION OF THE FACEBOOK $15 THINGY
Seriously? Brady, Wheatley, AC, Woodson, Harbaugh, and you can keep the extra dollar.
BOOK CRAIG ROSS WOULD PREFER YOU NOT READ
1. The Search for the Unified Field Theory (Football Version), by Craig Ross
ETC. Vincent Smith updates what's going on with #EATING, particularly the Flint project we've been helping him raise the dough for. A reader claiming to know Dennis Norfleet says the thing we heard is official and the destination is Tuskegee; I have no other sources for this so take it FWIW. For some people it's not the difficulty level of saying "Hi, I'm a tight end," but the principle of the matter. Michigan has agreed to match other teams' offers to let David Reese think he's going to play linebacker.
Your Moment of Zen:
Wasn't anyone there to tell them the "Border Battle" is Wisconsin-Minnesota?
"That's ridiculous." –Larry/Gary "Money" Mohoney Gergich
“Everything’s great. Enjoying myself.”
What's caught your eye the most about your running backs?
“Talented group. Real talented. They haven't even scratched the surface. That's really what has caught my eye, so right now I'm kind of like an artist with a blank canvas. I can just have at it. That's really what it feels like.”
What's it been like for you to be back here as a coach?
“Haven't really thought about it to be honest, because my focus is Big Ten championship, national championship, 2000-yard rusher, so my days here haven't really – and I've been the type of person once I left here, I left here. I was onto better things, things that this place had catapulted me on to do. That's where my mindset was. But now I'm back for a totally different reason, so… you know, I'm a coach.”
We haven't talked with you since your son signed with the University of Michigan. Talk about that aspect of having him join you here.
“Well, it's a great thing. As a father you're always happy for your child and his success and the things that he's done, but once again, I'm just focused on the guys that are here right now and when he gets here he'll have his fair time. He'll have his time to get it, but right now my focus is on the guys that are here.”
Were you getting a little bit of a better feel for them today with them having the pads on?
“Not really. You can understand who they are even without the pads. The pads is just kind of one of the things a) that shows the physicality and b) if they are in hitting shape and that type of deal. As far as the feel, watching film of those guys and studying them I kind of already had a feel for who they were.”
We haven't had a chance to see Ty Isaac with him sitting out last year. What does he bring different than the other guys in terms of style and things like that?
“I don't think it's just Ty Isaac being different. Each guy brings a different aspect to the game. I’d just say that probably – I wouldn't say probably, he is the largest one out of the bunch. But in terms of difference, that would probably be it just about him being different – [he’s] bigger. He has great feet, good vision, he's a smooth runner but I wouldn't say he's any different than any other guy.”
[After THE JUMP: the characteristics of an ideal Tyrone Wheatley-coached back]
We get excited about certain things around these parts. Like fun-to-size ratios. And new official rosters with updated weights. We've had 24 hours to parse the Spring data, and with Brian on the road today it's up to me to see how they've grown:
Things of [a Certain Definition of] Interest:
- Brady Pallante is a fullback
- Ross Douglas is listed as Ross Taylor-Douglas, and is back at corner
- Ian Bunting is up to 6'7/243
- A.J. Williams is up to offensive tackle size (6'6/285)
Weight Gain/Loss 2000
A reminder of internet policy on weight changes: all weight gain is muscle fiber, all weight lost was fat, and all static weight means fat was replaced with muscle fiber. I've highlighted things discussed after.
|Player||'11||'12||'13||S'14||F'14||Sp'15||'11- '12||'12-'13||'13-'14||'14- 15|
Fullback & Tight End
|Maurice Hurst Jr.||270||277||282||281||12||-1|
[Hit the jump for discussion on this and other bits I could glean.]
News bullets and other items:
Derrick Green won’t be far enough along in his recovery from a broken collarbone to play against Ohio State
Hoke said that he has no idea whether a win over OSU would help him keep his job
He said he doesn’t worry about his job, because that would be a distraction and would detract from what he’s trying to do for his players
Someone asked Hoke how he would make the case to Jim Hackett that he should keep his job and he declined to make said case, saying that a press conference wasn’t the venue for that
The Game, mutual respect, rivalry, atmosphere, preparation, etc.
"Thanks for coming. This is one of those weeks where there's a lot of excitement and obviously with this rivalry, which I believe is the greatest one in sport and that obviously would make it the greatest one in college football, and so it's fun and it's fun to prepare. It's a game where the intensity level between both teams is always at its highest. I think we all want to play our best, and that's the goal, to play your best game that last Saturday in November. Very balanced team we're going to play when you look at what they do from [an] offense, defense, special-teams standpoint. There's a great deal of pride when you play in this game and coaching this game that's special, and you talk to the guys who've played in it and they can tell you how special it is.
"We've got to improve. We've got to improve every week, and that's one of the goals we've always had. At times we're making strides and at times we're not as good executing as we'd like to be, but this is a game that is like no other and we're excited about it."
So many people thought that Ohio State was going to be in big trouble when Braxton Miller went down. Can you talk about what their quarterback is done just filling in?
"Yeah, I think JT [Barrett], I think you look at the progression from the first start to going through the season and I think he's done a great job in how they manage and what he wants and has to do offensively. He's athletic obviously. I think the way he's thrown the ball, the precision on that – I know last week was one of those games where the way it started wasn't as good. I think he's overcome a lot when those things have happened and I think he's been a guy who's done a great job for them."
Given the nature of this rivalry, given the perceived disparity between these two teams, in what ways do you prepare differently for this weekend differently than past weeks if at all?
"I think it's always a little bit different preparation, number one, because of the game itself and being The Game that you both on both sides have a lot of passion for and those kind of things. In rivalry games I think the preparation that you put in, how hard you're going to play is a big part in what happens in it."
From your perspective having lived in Ohio, having coached in Ohio, even having coached across the nation what makes the Michigan – Ohio State rivalry unique compared to other national rivalries?
"Yeah, I think the intensity and the masses themselves. Buckeye graduates and Michigan graduates, I think that's huge is how they feel. The size of the stadiums they both have, the atmosphere in the stadiums, and the passion in the stadiums."
There's obviously some speculation about your own future. How do you handle that personally and professionally, especially this week when there seems to be more speculation?
"Well, you know, they can speculate and do all that. I honestly – if we get distracted, if I get distracted with what we're doing then that's not fair to those 115 kids, so from that piece alone, and I think I've said it, I've never been worried about a job. I worry about the job we do for those kids."
[After THE JUMP: Basically “can you explain why everything is so terrible?”]
News bullets and other items:
Dennis Norfleet will play against Maryland
Derrick Green may or may not be back against Maryland. He, like Devin Gardner and Jake Butt, are getting healthier every day
President Schlissel called Hoke to apologize for his comments regarding academics and athletics. Hoke said that they recruit kids that fit the Michigan blueprint and that it’s not for everyone
Hoke said the Northwestern game was the offensive line’s best of the season
Nussmeier and Fred Jackson make the decision on which RB has the “hot hand,” and the decision can be made as early as the third series
“Thanks for coming out. Number one, yesterday we had a good chance with the players to look at the Northwestern film [and] make the corrections we need to make, but really emphasize the good things because really that's what you want to see are the good things. We've got to keep emphasizing those things. We practiced and it wasn't long but there was a lot of energy and a lot of good timing, and the one thing when you talk about bye weeks a little bit is the timing. You don't want to lose that part of it or if you need to get a little better you need to get a little better, especially in the pass game and all those things, so that was really productive.
“Start a little bit on Maryland today. I think the most exciting part of it is we are going to scrimmage some of the young guys against some who have played a little bit and those who haven't. We'll do about 30 minutes, probably 25 to 28 plays. When we do that we have to make sure it's going to help the team because those are your look teams going into the next week so I think it will be very good for us.
“Bye week again gives us a chance to rest some guys. I think getting Dennis [Norfleet]back will be very good for us. He'll be healthy. I think the health of Devin keeps – Gardner keeps improving and so in a lot of those guys there's a lot of guys who're just beat up a little bit. That's the way it is in football.
“The other thing is the president made some comments and I've talked to him. He called and apologized for his comments and I'm not going to speak for him. He put out whatever statements or interpretations that he needed to. We have always believed that this is truly an academic University. I was here for eight years before, as you all know, and I think the one thing you know being a former player and a coach is you only play so long and that's what this degree, a Michigan degree, is all about. And being the truly academic institution that it is, that degree will last forever so we take it very seriously. We try and recruit the best football players, the best student-athletes, and people that fit the blueprint here at Michigan. It's not for everybody because it is demanding and that's the way it should be.”
You kind of had the incident with Jake Butt. How much is he a work in progress on and off the field in terms of what he can be?
“I think Jake, he – from an athletic standpoint and all those things he continues to get healthier. He's one of those guys who another week, if we continue to do the right things with him… and the double edge sword is the timing of the routes and all that because you do want to rest guys so that they get a little healthier. I think he’s always developing and we are happy with his development.”
Have you seen the jerseys that his family where is when they come to games?
“I have not.”
Papa butt and headbutt and stuff like that. Have you seen him embrace that? He talks about getting teased about his last name.
“Yeah, he gets teased but… he gets teased.”
[After THE JUMP: We are grinders. It is stupid. Also some academic stuff.]