Jack Miller, Brennen Beyer, Derrick Green
Jack, you guys had so much attention on the offensive line coming in to the year. Through three games can you kind of rate how you guys have done and do you think it’s kind of stabilized?
JM: “Yeah, I think we’ve done a pretty good job. There’s been a couple bumps in the road but overall so far I think the group’s done a good job coming together and playing pretty well.”
Why do you think that is? What’s the reason you guys have made this leap?
JM: “I think the work that we put in in the offseason. We worked extremely hard and did extra work for offensive line-type stuff and I think that’s paying off for us.”
This is for Jack as well. I asked Nussmeier what the biggest different is from the start of fall camp to now in terms of improvement and he mentioned communication. How much does that have to, I guess, adjust on a game-by-game basis depending on what you’re seeing or is it a constant thing that you can make the same according to your offense?
JM: “Well, I think that’s why you have three practices a week and you watch a lot of film and those types of things so you’re not surprised come gameday with the types of looks and those types of things that you’ll get. The calls and the communication, while necessary, can be kind of a backup things because everyone should know what’s going on and what to do and those types of things so just the practice and the film work and those types of things really help that become an easier process come gameday.”
Jack, this is also for you. What have you seen from Mason Cole? He was thrusted into a starting position as a freshman, but how have you seen him kind of take on the transition?
JM: “You know, I’ve been very impressed with Mason since he first came in. The poise that he has for an 18-year-old kid playing offensive line is remarkable, and he’s got maybe the best attribute to have as an offensive lineman which is just being consistent play-in and play-out. He knows his job, he’s a smart kid, and he goes out and plays hard and tries to get it done and whether he does a good job or a bad job he’s on to the next play. And like I said, his poise and demeanor is pretty exceptional for such a young kid.”
[Hit THE JUMP for more]
Michigan's run game started out with a thud, with a series of short gains and even the occasional Dread Pirate TFL rearing its ugly head. As with the Notre Dame game, the problems due to were a mélange of errors from lots of people. And as you might expect against Miami, most of them were mental issues.
People have asserted that Miami was dropping an eighth guy in the box and that guy was blowing up the Michigan run game. That's simplistic; these days spread-oriented offenses are looking at one or zero deep safeties on every play. The eight man box is something you have to deal with as a coach, and anyway when you're playing Miami it shouldn't matter.
Michigan's issues were largely assignment-based, with the occasional bad block thrown in; the tailbacks were better but still had issues. The nice thing is that as the game went along we saw Michigan correct some of those those problems and start moving forward. Mason Cole in particular was evolving right on the field, hampering two plays with errors and then executing in near-identical situations just a few minutes later. One was mostly executing a block; this one was about IDing the guy he needs to address.
Which Guy Needs Help? Not That One.
This is actually the first play of the game. It comes from the 50 after the least interesting successful Dennis Norfleet kick return ever (run to the right until the kicker stops you), and Michigan comes out in an ace set. Miami has a 4-3 under on the field (sort of; their SAM is 190-pound Lo Wood) and will roll a safety down for guy #8.
Michigan's going to run inside zone and things are going to go pretty well all over the field with the exception of Mason Cole and AJ Williams trying to handle the backside DE.
This is your presnap setup:
There's a one-technique NT and a five-tech SDE. The SDE is splitting Cole and Williams down the middle, and the play is going to the top of the screen. It is very hard for backside blockers to do anything with a guy who is 1) lined up playside of him when 2) they get no help. This is about to happen to Williams.
I'm not entirely sure why this guy is free to fly down the line and blow this play up. The other DL are handled by Michigan's OL driving guys lined up a half-step to the playside of them. It seems like he figures that the OLB is going to be there to clean up anything that breaks behind him, so gap integrity is for suckers. (Michigan will get a bunch of waggles off this tendency, as Miami isn't using that OLB to contain hard upfield.)
On the snap Magnuson hops over a half-gap to get the nose; Cole goes to his zone a gap over without touching anyone and then starts helping on Magnuson's block. Williams is going for this DE:
Williams does not get the DE even a little bit, and with Miami DL set up to the outside on the frontside of the play Green is correctly going right up the gut, something that looks promising as Michigan gets movement on the DL.
Williams was put in a tough spot here; even so this feels substandard. Annoying the guy, pushing him so that he's on the correct side of the LOS, maybe cutting him: all of these things are better than escorting him to the RB.
A yard later it's clear that Michigan has cleaned out the DL; one linebacker shot a gap and is going to help tackle here but without the space constriction provided by the Williams block-type substance shooting that gap is a dangerous game to play that is 50/50 to put the tailback one on one with the safety for all the yards.
Green falls forward for two as Magnuson finishes pancaking the NT. Cole ended up not really doing much of anything on the play.
And the slow version:
[After THE JUMP: something that goes better]
Offensive line from the start of fall camp to now: where’s it come and in what ways have you seen it grow?
“I think the biggest growth’s been in the communication. I see our guys on a day-to-day basis getting more comfortable and getting better at communicating. We’ve talked about it still as a point of emphasis. I think it always will be. I think you see that in really good football teams. If you watch the line play, if you just watch the trenches and you watch an offensive line play for a really good offensive team you’ll see both the verbal communication that goes on and then all the stuff that happens after the snap with the nonverbal stuff and how they pass games [Ed: I think that’s what he said] and all that type of stuff. But pleased with where we’re at as far as our focus and where we need to go. Once again, consistency.”
As far as focus goes offensively moving the ball, are you frustrated? Sometimes it looks like you’re moving the ball well. There’s other times you’re not moving it at all. There’s other times where not moving it well at all is an understatement. Is there a level of frustration for you right now? Is this offense coming together as planned or is it behind schedule?
“I don’t—I guess that’s kind of a difficult question to ask. I don’t really understand.”
Are you frustrated? Is this offense where it should be in your eyes?
“No, I’m not frustrated at all. Shoot, you look out there at the field at times- I look out there during the game and when you don’t have Funch out there and you have Amara Darboh catching his first touchdown, Da’Mario Jones comes in and catches his first pass [which was a] big third-down conversion, you look at a true freshman left tackle, Devin in his third game in a new system, at times we’re playing Khalid [Hill] at tight end. You just look at the youth out there [and] there is going to be a growth process. Our kids have worked extremely hard and take great pride in doing things right. Now, has it been perfect? No. And do we have a long way to go? Yes. But the attention is there, the focus is there, the want-to is there and we’ve just got to continue to improve.”
Last week you mentioned infancy stages. For another baby analogy, would you say it’s crawling now?
“Well, we took another step. We took a step in the right direction. Still we know as a group the consistency’s got to be better but at times you see us do some things very, very well.”
[After the THE JUMP: Nussmeier summarizes the offensive strategy against Miami and gives his thoughts on tempo]
News bullets and other items:
- There were no injury updates, because we aren’t going to talk about guys that didn’t play. Essentially, the word “injury” has been scrubbed from Hoke’s vocabulary.
- Matt Wile will be your short yardage punter, essentially because Will Hagerup kicks too hard.
- Ryan Glasgow had one of the best practice weeks Hoke has had from a nose tackle in a long time last week.
- Derrick Green had his best practice week last week.
- Jake Butt was held to a predetermined play count last week.
“Thanks for coming out. Saturday it was good to get back on the field and compete. It was good to win. The effort was very good from our team. We certainly always have things that we have to do better and we will do better but the hard-working aspect of it – thought some guys who stepped in to some critical spots gained some valuable experience and confidence. Excited for what they did.
“We had five minutes in the second quarter that would be five minutes we wouldn't like to have but I think coming through the adversity, coming out in the second half [the] defense shut them out. Offensively, I think we rushed for 7.9 yards per carry in the second half which is something that you want to do. I think from playing at home and the crowd, in the beginning of the fourth quarter their series that they had, it really had an impact. They had to call timeout. It's a fourth-down situation. They come back out, they false start, and then on the fourth-down play we get good get-off from our guys up front and get pressure and the ball is thrown out of bounds. But I think you can attribute that to the impact that it got a little louder. I'm on the field and I know you all aren’t and you could hear it so it was good and it made an impact.
”We've got Utah coming in this weekend. They are undefeated. Bye week last week. I think their second in the country in scoring offense. I think they average 309 throwing the ball, 268 running the football. Second or first in the country in tackles for loss and similar there in sacks. I think they have 11 in two games.
“I would say one thing we have to do a better job with in coaching it and executing it is the turnovers. We had a chance on Saturday to come up with three turnovers defensively. We got the one interception. We started fast as a team. First two drives on offense scored. First time defense was out on the field we got the interception but we had two other opportunities we need to capitalize on and then obviously communication on the pop kick. We need to do a better job from a standpoint of coaching it, the little things. Justice told me that he yelled ‘mine, mine, mine’ and Wyatt it just didn't hear him on that and that's something we've got to keep emphasizing as coaches. When you look at Devin’s interception, the ball was tipped at the line of scrimmage and that made it flow a little higher so it was outs of Jehu’s reach and then obviously Darboh makes a great catch, gets the first down and as he is putting the ball away and trying to secure it the guy knocks the ball out. But those three turnovers in a quick period of time you don't want to have but I think the way the kids and the team handled it was very positive. That's probably the longest opening statement in the history of college football right there."
A lot of people who focus just on the offensive line think that your guys are targeting better this year. Can you talk about that and just what you've seen?
"Yeah, I think that's one way of putting it. There were a couple plays where we didn't target as well that could have been huge plays. That's one thing, watching the film with the offensive staff and Doug and talking about it, I think the target areas are better. I think the leverage is more consistent. Not where we want it when you talk about pad level and then on a couple of the outside zone plays we for some reason a couple times targeted them as inside zone. Now, you get your MIKE counts, you get a lot of things going on and either the communication didn't come all the way out or we just had bad target areas."
[More after THE JUMP]
Thank you, Jourdan Lewis, for picking this ball off in front of the home sideline, and more specifically mere feet away from the eminantly GIF-able Will Hagerup.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the Miami game in GIFs.]
9/13/2014 – Michigan 34, Miami (Not That Miami) 10 – 2-1
Jake Ryan did a good job of not blowing up Hendrix for penalties [Eric Upchurch]
Michigan Stadium was a roomy place on Saturday, somewhat full of cranky people waiting for an opportunity to vent their ire. They held their fire after a Gardner interception; they held their fire when Michigan was tied 10-10 with a team that hadn't won a game since 2012 midway through the second quarter.
This was a bit of a surprise. Hell, the 1997 team(!) got booed at halftime of their game against Iowa when they went into the locker room down 21-7. (This was definitely performance-related, exacerbated by a late Tim Dwight punt return touchdown. The tenor of the boo was WE KNOW YOU ARE BETTER THAN THIS LET'S GOOOO and when they came out of the locker room the corresponding cheer was much louder than it usually is. But damn we used to have some expectations.)
In 2014, after seven years of mostly unrelenting failure, on the heels of a humiliating shutout in the Last Notre Dame Game, I was expecting more audible grumbles. Michigan fans held off, possibly too stunned by last week to do anything but meekly absorb events in front of them.
Then Michigan took a delay of game penalty (after a timeout!) and decided to punt from the Miami 37 with a minute left in the half. This was pure coaching malpractice that reminded a grumbly Michigan Stadium of last year's Penn State game. The boos rained down. It was loud. It was grumbly. It was statistically accurate.
As the game rolled along and Michigan proved themselves about as superior as you'd think they should be, this game receded from the hateful constellation of lower-level matchups that turned into stomach-churning wins or even losses.
When you end up giving up fewer than 200 yards to an opposing offense you've established that they are very bad and you are not. Eventually Michigan's ground game kicked in and put up similar YOU ARE BAD numbers. Erase some pretty random turnovers (deflected pass at the line, redshirt freshman pop-up kickoff fumble) and this is 45-0 or thereabouts.
I know you don't believe turnovers are random, person on the internet who I am anticipating a "LOL" comment from, but even you have to admit that when a throw goes from probably on target to directly in the chest of an opposing player because it glances off a fingertip that's just life giving you the middle finger, and not—oh you just said MAKE PLAYS in seriousness on the radio nevermind this sentence. Players make plays. Etc.
Anyway: in retrospect I am not stressing about this game.
I was in the second quarter, like everyone else, and while I didn't actually boo—I am in the too-shocked-to-do-anything club—I agreed with it. What's more, I deeply appreciated that the people still mad enough to let someone know about it waited for the perfect moment.
When Pat Fitzgerald was asked about Northwestern fans being upset in the aftermath of the Wildcats' 0-2 start, he responded thusly.
This is a press conference answer to get behind. It is brief, quotable, and addresses the situation. Fitzgerald is not surprised that fans are upset; he is upset (he called the team "an embarrassment to anyone that ever put on the purple and white"); fans should be too.
When Brady Hoke was asked an open-ended question about his message to the fans, he said this:
As far as the fans that watch from the outside and see some of the similar issues that they saw last season, what would you say to them and how concerning is it as a coaching staff?
"If they’re truly fans they'll believe in these kids and what they've done and the hard work that they've put in. If they’re not, they won't."
To the great misfortune of someone whose words are repeated verbatim on the internet, he would later claim to be misquoted. At least he has been told that knocking the fans who pay his salary and are currently leaning towards "tar and feather" over "put FOR SALE signs on front lawn" is not great, Bob.
But he has succumbed to the post-9/11 Godwin's Law: eventually someone in charge of the troops is going to tell you to support the troops, because he thinks that's the best argument he's got left. You think knocking over tinpot dictators halfway across the world with no real hope of installing anything that won't collapse the minute you leave is a bad idea? Support the troops, buddy. Why don't you support the troops?
So kudos to Michigan Stadium for holding its fire until the guy on the sideline with the timeout blundered his way into a fourth and eleven punt that went into the endzone on the fly. It was 1000% clear who was and was not supported at that moment.
Michigan is at least tolerant of the troops even when they're struggling against Not That Miami. Michigan is pissed off at the guys in charge. No amount of deflection will hide that fact.
Brady Hoke Epic Double Points Of The Week. #1 is Derrick Green, who was often the recipient of gaping holes but hit them and even made some yards himself.
#2 is Jourdan Lewis, who turned in excellent coverage all day and came up with an excellent interception.
#3 is Brennen Beyer, because it is impossible to really distinguish between the various guys whipping up on Miami's OL but Beyer got a sack.
Epic Double Point Standings.
6: Devin Funchess (#1, APP, #1 ND)
3: Derrick Green(#1 MIA)
2: Devin Gardner (#2, APP), Willie Henry (#2 ND), Jourdan Lewis (#2 MIA)
1: Ryan Glasgow (#3, ND), Brennen Beyer(#3 MIA)
0.5: Kyle Kalis (T3, APP), Ben Braden (T3, APP)
Brady Hoke Epic Double Fist-Pump Of The Week.
For the single individual best moment.
This was a one yard run but let us sit and savor the fact that even against a terrible defense Michigan had a touchdown that looked like this.
Honorable mention: Jake Butt shakes free for a fake screen(!) touchdown, something we haven't seen since Hoke's arrival. Jourdan Lewis runs a guy's fade for him, picks off a ball thrown too far inside. Dennis Norfleet and the KO unit execute a right-sided return on a kick to the left out to the 50. Derrick Green breaks backside and breaks a tackle for a 20-yard gain.
Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.
AppSt: Derrick Green rumbles for 60 yards.
MIA: Derrick Green scores a goal line touchdown without being so much as touched.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
Worst. Event. Ever. This Week.
Devin Funchess standing on the sideline because Michigan threw him a bubble screen halfway through the fourth quarter of a 31-0 game.
Honorable mention: Delay of game ack ack ack, Gardner interception (deflected, FWIW), kickoff mishap, Darboh fumble, various early runs that didn't go anywhere.
AppSt: Devin Gardner dares to throw an incomplete pass.
ND: Countess nowhere to be found on fourth and three.
Miami: You did what to Funchess now when?
[After the JUMP: getting it together, strangling the opposing offense, and goodbye gun.]