"It's a lot easier being a drug dealer than an AAU coach" - this guy. Tell me something I don't know. I mean, don't think but have never tried either.
On Saturday the Michigan football team had it's annual media day. Bryan Fuller and I (Eric Upchurch) had the privilege of attending. Here are some photos and galleries from the event.
Yes indeed Taylor..
Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson
Big Jon Falk
Here is a combined gallery of selected photos from Saturday.
Here are links to our individual galleries if you would like to see all of the photos that we shot.
Green redshirt? Er?
one dude is not enough
I was wondering what your take on Green getting a redshirt would be.
I know it's an unusual concept to redshirt a blue chip running back, or
an uncommon practice. But with Fitz Tousaint at 100%, who has proven his
abilities as a top tier back, and Michigan having a fully loaded stable of
RB's, is it a better practice to allow a player that is already this good
another year to develop before he is unleashed on the world for mayhem and destruction?
Is Michigan in THAT much need of another RB that Green should play immediately, or is offering him the redshirt the way to go? Will
offering him a redshirt cause atrophy in the competition between the backs
for the starting spot? Also, would Derrick Green transfer if he was
redshirted? Any insight you could give would be appreciated.
Even if Fitzgerald Toussaint is 100% healthy, someone else is going to get a lot of carries. Michigan ran 502 times last year, and even carry-magnet LeVeon Bell only scooped up 382 for Michigan State. Meanwhile, Toussaint has 130 and 187 carries the last two years. There are going to be 200 to 300 carries, minimum, handed out to other players, and with the situation at quarterback only a handful will be Devin Gardner's.
So someone's got to play. If Green is the second-best back on the roster it should be him, because:
- Michigan has a very legit shot to win their division
- Green is likely to start next year if he is the #2 back on the roster
- blue-chip freshman like to go places they play early
- with De'Veon Smith and Damien Harris waiting in the wings Michigan won't miss a hypothetical fifth year from Green much, and…
- if Green ends up being of interest to the NFL he will almost certainly not be around for year #5. Tailbacks have short shelf lives, especially when they're moosebacks.
Add in the uncertainty generated by Toussaint's miserable year and injury and there is absolutely no case to redshirt Derrick Green unless De'Veon Smith is obviously better.
What goes down at running back generally?
With all of the weapons that Hoke is stockpiling, I was wondering if you guys know the plan going forward at the running back position.
Running back seems the most interesting to me with Borges' pro style making a big return. That said, how will the staff balance Fitz and Derrick Green? Has Rawls proven to the staff he can be a 3rd down bruiser that can get the 1 yard when we need it? Are there roles for Justice Hayes, Drake Johnson, and Norfleet in the backfield this season? With the full stable back there is there any chance any of them convert to other positions?
I've been dying to know anything about the running backs and would love some insight.
These are many questions. The last one is the easiest: yes. Dennis Norfleet has apparently already been moved to slot receiver, which is fine by me as long as they use him.
Hayes, too, is likely to end up in the slot at some point. That's not insider information, it's just a guy looking at the depth chart, thinking about what Michigan clearly wants to do, and extrapolating. Hayes was regarded a guy who could move to wideout coming out of high school, and Michigan is about to be short on slots. Johnson is pretty much RB-or-bust; he'll stay where he is.
Answering the last question answers the second to last: not really. Hayes was nominally at the top of the depth chart after spring and Johnson was getting some practice hype, but I expect both to be marginalized. Third down back is up for grabs—my advice to those guys is to get really good at pass blocking.
Apparently I'm going backwards: no, Rawls has not proven he can be a third down bruiser. If anything he's proven the opposite, repeatedly going down on contact on short yardage plays. It's likely that not only Derrick Green but De'Veon Smith, Wyatt Shallman, and Sione Houma are better options for short yardage this season.
The first question is pretty much the thing. I expect Green to immediately take over short yardage duties, where his power is welcome and his potentially iffy pass blocking (freshman) is not relevant. Fitz should be fully healthy and he is a damn good back when he gets a little blocking, so the bet here is he starts the year getting the plurality of the carries. As things move along Green should come more and more into the offense, like TJ Yeldon last year, until they're about splitting carries evenly.
Making elite players elite… uh… players?
Graham and Martin were indisputably elite.
I was wondering about Michigan and player development. I completely understand the Heininger Certainty Principle, and how Mattison can take a average player and make him good. I also know that they can take a good player and make him great.
However, with getting Peppers and the possibility of getting Hand, is there any recent evidence from Mattison or Hoke that they can mold elite recruits into elite players. Or should I change my definition of elite from first round draft and successful NFL career.
That's a pretty high bar to clear. Mike Martin was indisputably elite in his senior season but does not meet the criteria as a third round pick. After one year he's being touted as a potential breakout player by people who have obviously never seen Martin play. But is it on Mattison and Hoke that NFL teams are sometimes dumb? I say it is not.
The thing about evidence that Hoke and Mattison can take a guy like Hand and make him into an elite player is that I know for a fact Hoke has never had a Hand-level guy to mold. Mattison did have a number of five stars to deal with at Florida, and we'll get into that.
First, Hoke. He was Michigan's defensive line coach from 1995 to 2002. During that period Michigan had the following players drafted from the DL:
- Will Carr (7th round, 1997)
- Glen Steele (4th round, 1998)
- Rob Renes (7th round, 2000)
- Josh Williams (4th round, 2000)
That, uh, isn't great. But how much of that was on Hoke and how much was on the fact that Michigan was recruiting and playing guys like Dan Rumishek, Norman Heuer, and Shawn Lazarus in 2001? While those guys were all quality pluggers, Hoke wasn't exactly working with Brandon Graham and Lamarr Woodley there.
Michigan's defensive philosophy in the late 90s and early aughts was to hold up offensive linemen with RVB types and let their athletic linebackers wreak havoc. They recruited NFL linebackers and put many of them in the league for long periods of time: Dhani Jones, Ian Gold, Larry Foote, and Victor Hobson all launched long NFL careers in a four-year span in the early aughts. They recruited blue-collar guys out of the Midwest on the line without regard to their rush abilities or hugeness: all three of the DL mentioned above were 6'4" and around 290. No matter how technically adept they were, the NFL wasn't going to be interested because they don't fit anywhere in an NFL 4-3 under.
The much-traveled Greg Mattison had a similar track record until he tapped into a geyser of talent:
- Renaldo Wynn (1st round, 1997, ND)
- Anthony Weaver (2nd round, 2002, ND)
- Justin Tuck (3rd round, 2005, which was the year Mattison left for Florida but he's worth mentioning.)
- Joe Cohen (4th round, 2007, Florida)
- Marcus Thomas (4th round, 2007, Florida)
- Ray McDonald (3rd round, 2007, Florida)
- Jarvis Moss (1st round, 2007, Florida)
- Derrick Harvey (1st round, 2008, again Mattison had departed)
At Florida it went: nothing, nothing, entire defensive line off the board before the fourth round ended. That tells you that the level of talent he was working with took off—he's pretty much the same coach at that point. Instead of coaching up blue-collar pluggers he was teaching explosive large versions of same to do the same things the blue collar guys did. And lo, they wrecked things.
Despite the rankings, Michigan has very rarely brought in the kind of top-tier guys they have lined up the next couple years, and when they did sometimes they were crazy. The touted Germany/McKinney/Slocum/Taylor recruiting class turned out to have three guys in it that couldn't stay enrolled for whatever reason. But other than that, Michigan's track record with five-star-ish defensive linemen has been good: Woodley, Graham, Branch, and Taylor were all quality college players and high NFL draft picks. Gabe Watson, popularly derided a guy as who never lived up to the hype, was still two-time All Big Ten and a mid-round pick. Pure talent busts are limited to Will Campbell, who should have been an offensive lineman all along… and still got drafted.
Player development is inherently difficult. Every year half of the first round of the NFL draft is comprised of relatively unheralded players. Busts are inevitable, talent is talent, and you just have to get piles of it to have a Florida-type DL. Michigan is going to approach that level of talent in the next few years.
Derrick Green is a large man.
As per the title. This year's batch of impressions is pretty interesting. As always, organized by topic and translated from the twitterese. Standard disclaimer: this is one practice that's not even in pads, so a lot of position groups are basically impossible to evaluate. In particular I'd take the OL stuff with a grain of salt.
Dienhart has a full article on the experience; it doesn't appear that Howard Griffith was there this year, and he gave an interesting glimpse into the depth chart:
Here is who was running with the “ones” on defense today: Line, Tom Strobel; Chris Wormley (who is a specimen); Quinton Washington; Frank Clark. Linebackers, Joe Bolden; James Ross; Secondary, Blake Countess; Thomas Gordon; Jarrod Wilson; Courtney Avery; Raymon Taylor.
So 1), that's a nickel package, 2) Dymonte Thomas wasn't at the top of the depth chart, 3) Strobel and Wormley were your Day X starters at SDE and three-tech, respectively, and 4) Bolden was ahead of Morgan. That's so many changes from expectation that I'm betting that rotation is more experiment than depth chart indicator.
Even so you do get an indicator of who is not being challenged for a starting spot at present: Clark, Washington, Ross, the safeties, and Countess. Anyway, more things:
Devin Gardner looked great - in total command of the offense. He needs to stay healthy more than any player in B1G - Morris struggled a bit. Morris has a live arm and runs well too - just seemed a step behind - late on a number of throws. Will be very, very good in time. –Dave Revsine [part 2]
As mentioned in Morris's recruiting profile, early struggles are expected.
Al Borges told me Devin Gardner loves to study film more than Denard Robinson did. Borges says Gardner is more athletic than Jason Campbell. –Dienhart
Was Denard a noted film guy? I don't recall that being part of the things people said about him except when he was being compared to Tate. The Campbell thing is obvious. Campbell could move around a little bit but was almost strictly a pocket passer. Rushing yards by year at Auburn: 72, 206, 1, 30.
Derrick Green was dressed but not taking reps, FWIW.
Borges also said he needs a "war daddy" at RB, given that the run game now features the TB rather than QB. Not clear he has one yet. –Revsine
Fitz Toussaint showed no effects from his injury. Great burst through the line. –Revsine
Wyatt Shallman also got a lot of carries as a TB. Unclear if that's because Green wasn't involved in the reps. –Revsine
Heyward got huge in the NFL—like, may have pushed 300 pounds—but in college he was 240-260 and quite good at running: 1800 yards and a Heisman finalists from Pitt as a junior and a departure to the first round of the NFL draft.
Darboh impressed in a major way.
Da'Mario Jones had a nice one-handed catch as well. Lots of good young WR talent. Darboh has taken a particularly large leap. –Revsine
WR Amara Darboh looks primed for a breakout. Big, fast and physical –Dienhart
Funchess is fantastic - serious match-up issue. They will use him well. –Revsine
Q: Who do you think will be the number one receiver for Gardner?
A: Gallon - but Darboh & Funchess right there. –Revsine
As mentioned, a grain of salt here. There were no warning flags from this visit last year.
Little bit of a battle going on at C. Always give the caveat of it was just 1 practice on 1 day - but Glasgow delivered first snap. –Revsine
I asked Brady Hoke about interior of o-line; he told me all spots are still open. Lots of bodies. I have to think Kalis will get one spot. –Dienhart
Lewan is a very clear leader. Most of his leadership 2day was keeping young guys focused and loose. I observed a good exhange with DeVeon Smith –Revsine
Q: Does the interior of the OL look more athletic? Will the Gs be able to pull efficiently? [ed: almost certainly an mgoreader, right?]
A: Yes - OL looked good. –Revsine
Taylor Lewan is really fun to be around - one of my favorite B1G interviews. He said Frank Clark reminds him of Clowney. As in Jadeveon. –Revsine
Fun to see Brady interact with DL (for me - not necessarily for DL) - really worked Ondre Pipkins hard. Clear they are counting on him. –Revsine
Q: Frank Clark warrant the off season hype?
A: Hard to say - they weren't in full pads. Teammates were raving, though. –Revsine
If there is a more impressive true freshman DE in the nation than Taco Charlton, I want to see him. Can't wait to see him in a year. –Dienhart
Chris Kiffin, the brother of Lane and Ole Miss defensive line coach/booster payment organizer, upheld the family honor by responding to this tweet with "Lol."
Nothing of note. Linebacker is another spot where no-pads means evaluation is hard, if not impossible. Bolden nominally running with the ones is interesting, but unless he's made a lot of progress at hitting people I don't think he's going to displace Morgan. Spell him for a few drives a game, sure. Start, no.
Mattison mentioned that Thomas Gordon has really emerged as a leader in the absence of Kovacs. –Revsine
Defensive team can really run. I would say the validity of recruiting rankings was alive and well in AA today. –DiNardo
One of the most interesting things about the Chicago panel with myself, Sam Webb, and DiNardo was how DiNardo dismissed the usual coachspeak muttering about recruiting rankings. Instead he emphasized their importance and how the Big Ten's lag in that department was reflected on the field.
I love this coaching staff. There is a ton of teaching that goes on at their practices - giving constructive feedback after nearly ever rep. –Revsine
Assistant coaches do as good a job as anyone teaching technique. No music constantly playing helps staff teach. –DiNardo
Once again got to watch one the the best D Line drills in college football. –DiNardo
I don't think he's referring to this one, but he might be?
Greg Mattison is really pleased with his defensive depth. Said there are several positions where he feels good going three deep. –Revsine
Um… WDE, SDE, CB(ish), maybe if you look at ILBs jointly.
Much like Ohio State, many of Michigan's freshmen look physically ready to play right now. Taco Charlton would be Exhibit A. Other true freshmen that stood out - De'Veon Smith, Dymonte Thomas, and Jourdan Lewis. Thomas had a nice diving pick, Lewis good PBU in the endzone. –Revsine. [Part 2]
I asked Hoke after practice which true freshmen who weren’t here in the spring who could impact. He mentioned Delano Hill and Jourdan Lewis in the secondary; Patrick Kugler on the o-line; Maurice Hurst on the d-line; Mike McCray at linebacker, among others. –Dienhart.
A little surprised it wasn't all-lifting, all-running Ben Gedeon that got a mention there instead of McCray. Also, Hurst is a bit of a surprise given how his weight has fluctuated (at least on paper): if he's really 270 instead of 302 I find it hard to believe he's going to push through to see playing time.
Q: The way UM/OSU have recruited, are you seeing a separation in talent?
A: Need to see everyone - but trending that way. –Revsine
- Brennen Beyer and Derrick Green have boo boos. They sound minor and are expected back as early as Saturday.
- Allen Gant's move to SAM has been confirmed.
- MGoLeadingQuestion reveals that Devin Gardner loves the pistol formation and that they are running read options out of it still.
"Day four, shoulder pads and helmets for the second day. Full pads tomorrow. Not doing any tackling or anything like that, but a lot of good competition. Hasn't changed much. Guys are competing, learning the system a little more, especially when you've got some guys who have only been here a year, so they're going through that process. Things happen fast, so they have to adjust. When you have to adjust on both sides, tracking the line of scrimmage as an offensive lineman, we have to do a better job of. Defensively, we have to make sure we're putting ourselves in position to feed the defense and leverage the defense. It's pretty easy against barrels when you do that, but when you start doing it with live bodies, we have to do a better job of that and not give up any big plays. I think all the guys are competing very well. It's really been physical. We'll be in full pads tomorrow. The first doubles on Saturday will be good for us."
<More after the jump>
"Is that salmon?"
"Canteloupe? We use that as an audible color. How you guys doing?"
"It's been a while. Can't tell you how much I've missed you. You guys kind of sensed a hint of sarcasm, didn't you? Heiko! I made you a hero. Unbelievable."
Thoughts on Devin's maturity?
"Yeah, he's doing a nice job. When you know that you've done it so long -- he's always been a pretty confident kid anyway, but now that he has a chance to kind of be the guy, I think he's taken the next step."
What's it like having two experienced tackles?
"Yeah, you know, when Taylor said he was coming back, that was a great, great day for Michigan and for our offense because breaking in a new left tackle is never fun. I don't care what level it is. But Mike Schofield, who doesn't get talked about as much but is really a good athlete. He can move. He was a hurdler in high school. He's got a lot of talent. Mike's played a lot. He's played guard, he's played tackle. I think he's kind of fit into a comfort zone a little bit with tackle, not to where he's complacent, but he's comfortable in the position now. He kind of had to relearn the position a little bit. He's been in the offense. He's been pretty consistent the first couple days and in the spring."
<Falsehoods galore after the jump>
UPDATE: NOW WITH 100% MORE BRANDON BROWN ANSWERS
It's that freshman you've all be waiting for. Michigan's new 5-star back was the highlight of this week's padless practice video. There are plenty more exciting carries to come, but just how many this year, and what's the expectation for sharing with the current starter? We try to tackle that. The backfield:
- Brian "Mike Hart except tall and hairy and into emo" Cook
- Seth "Anthony Thomas except more like a high-speed monorail" Fisher
- Ace "Tim Biakabutuka except better against Ohio State" Anbender
- Heiko "Dennis Norfleet except more Norfleet" Yang
- Blue "Brandon Minor in an alternate universe where he was forced to kick his way out of Charlie Weis's stomach" in South Bend
- Math- "Tom Harmon except more perspicacious" –lete , and introducing:
- Brandon "Like Jamie Morris if interviewed the linebackers as he ran by them" Brown
And the question:
Let's all make stupid predictions about running back carries this year. How many are there to go around? How many go to Toussaint, Green, guys down the batting order? Base expectations for YPC? Anybody cracking 1,000 yards this year? How about 10 TDs?
Seth: I believe Toussaint and the coaches that the senior RB who's proven he can torch defenses when given a reasonable amount of blocking will get the majority of carries this season. If I put us on a crappy graph (how do I make non-crappy graphs?) I'd be near the bullish Toussaint extreme and bearish on Green's yardage totals:
|Safe Prediction: Brian's YMRMFSPA for
Deveon Smith will be Brandon Minor
|2013 Seth's prediction:|
If the Green prediction in the above sound familiar you've been getting into the Chris Perry's freshman stats again. That year A-Train had a ludicrous 319 carries for 1733 yards and 18 TDs and Perry came on in the second half of the season as Thomas's No. 2 guy. They both got 5.4 YPC behind the best offensive line of my lifetime. No, this line won't be anywhere near that good; at best they're the 2000 line in 1997. That'll mean less to the No. 2 guy who gets the benefit of a softened defense and more trash time.
Regardless I'm going for a yard per carry better than last year thanks in part to more forgiving defenses, and a lot more attempts as QB carries (218 for 1455 yards with sacks removed last year) are halved in the world after Denard. When it's done Toussaint will emerge with a small majority of RB carries as he did last year, and increase his YPC to something under 5 but not that much.
I think Green will get more carries as the year progresses and he's worked into more two-back sets. In fact given the tight ends are still a developing thing, and Green's already 240 with reportedly advanced blocking techniques, and the fullbacks aren't anything special, why not make two-RB sets a regular feature in the Great Borgesian formation extravaganza? I was predicting something like that before Stephen Hopkins decided to
transfer [edit: give up football] and it didn't look so bad when it happened. I digress.
Green will severely eat into Rawls's opportunities, and unless they plan to redshirt Deveon Smith, last year's No. 2 back will have a tough battle to repeat half of last year's 57 carries. I'm of the mind that running backs don't change all that much (compared to other positions) over years in the program, and that Rawls won't suddenly develop the vision he didn't have last year. He remains what he is: Kevin Grady 2.0, albeit minus two stars of hype and any whiff of misbehavior. Having seen what we have in him, I'd like to see Smith pass him, since that would say nice things about Smith and set Michigan up nicely for the future.
I expect Justice Hayes will move into that 3rd down back role evacuated by Vincent Smith's graduation, and act as designated recipient of those fun throwback screens Borges loves. Obligatory Drake Johnson is on the roster note goes here. Maybe one of you guys know different but exactly zero hype on him from this spring made it my ears to corroborate the pre-bowl practice murmurs. Until I hear otherwise I'm figuring him for a non-factor.
Brian: Dennis Norfleet 500 carries for 5000 yards.
[After the jump: RB opinions from people like bloggers except more interesting]