further adventures in Jed York being unsuited for his position
Formation notes: At this point it's less about looking at all the new stuff like the offense and more about figuring out what Mattison does with his base against various formations.
Mostly it's "bring in the nickelback," but not always. Here's Jake Ryan flared out over the slot:
This will not be a surprise since you've seen a zillion Big Ten cover-two-always teams run this against M's spread the past few years. Michigan uses the stack over the slot to spring some surprises:
That's basically the same thing; Ryan blitzed off the edge here. Tipoff is the depth of the FS, but not by much.
This is slightly more novel:
That's a pass-rush set with a couple standup ends and just one guy truly in the box with a couple guys hanging out over the slot. Guy truly in the box: Mike Martin.
This is Purdue's long touchdown as Michigan sent the world and left the middle even more open than it looks now. They shelved this for the rest of the day.
Substitution notes: DL was about how you expect with a little bit more Brink and a little less Black. Maybe a little less Campbell, too.
At LB, Morgan played the whole game until Hawthorne came in for garbage time. Demens was out for a series or two in favor of Fitzgerald; in the presser this week this sounded like a desire to get Demens some rest but Michigan hadn't been on the field much when he came in. Maybe it was part of a plan or something. Ryan played most of the game at SLB; Beyer did get some playing time early and did okay.
In the secondary it was Countess, Floyd, Woolfolk, and Gordon the whole way. Avery was the nickelback. These guys didn't really come out even in garbage time. Thin, thin, thin.
|O33||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Reverse||Roh||7|
|I don't see many reverses and am not sure what the issue is here. I don't think it's reasonable to expect Morgan to deal with this; by the time the second handoff is made he's way out of position and heading the wrong way. Roh(-1) could do better here; he's crashing down the line and ends up getting blocked by the QB. If he reads the reverse and gets upfield he's got a shot at a big play; instead the guy gets outside without delay. Floyd is out on the edge; he gets blocked inside by the WR who was initially running him out of the play, which gives up the edge. Gordon escorts the WR out of bounds after a decent gain.|
|O40||2||3||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 under||Pass||4||WR screen||Floyd||12|
|This is the shot above, w Ryan off the line and the line shifted to the short side (boundary). Purdue throws a quick screen to the outside receiver; Roh(-1) is dropping off into the play as Ryan blitzes. He starts chasing it down; I think he gets ambitious and goes too far upfield. The bigger problem is Floyd(-2) getting chopped to the ground and giving up the outside, allowing the WR to dance down the sidelines for a big gain. RPS+1; this was two guys on one and should have been killed dead. With pics'd.|
|M48||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Martin||0|
|Ryan flanked over the slot, not on the line, despite a TE. Purdue runs a zone that I think they want to get outside since they have a numbers advantage on the line but Martin(+2) drives his man into the backfield, forcing a cutback, and pushes back to tackle himself. Heininger(+0.5) also came through to help after the guy doubling him released. With pics'd.|
|M48||2||10||Shotgun 2-back||Base 4-3||Pass||4||Quick out||Floyd||Inc|
|This is open for about five; WR drops it. Coverage is a push: short route, probably no YAC.|
|M48||3||10||Shotgun empty||Split 4-3||Pass||5||Tunnel screen||--||48|
|Michigan splits out over the slots so there are only five or six in the box with Woolfolk a single deep safety. They then blitz Martin, who was laying back a couple yards off the LOS as a quasi-linebacker. The five guys in the box are gone. And that's all she wrote. Countess can't beat a cut block to make a diving tackle; he comes close. Avery and Gordon are buried by OL. I do think Gordon(-1) needs to realize he's not going to run through this OL and take a deeper angle. Floyd(-1) takes an angle too shallow and is outrun to the endzone; Woolfolk had to take on an OL block and keep leverage just to give Floyd a shot. He avoids the cut and starts pursuing but can't catch up in time to tackle. RPS -3. Blitz + alignment = dead. With pics'd.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-7, 13 min 1st Q. Goodbye, Purdue offense.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|Brink in at SDE for RVB. Martin is doubled; Brink(-0.5) single blocked effectively. Demens(-1) gets pounded in the hole by the FB and spills the play outside instead of allowing Morgan to be a free hitter. Beyer(+0.5) peels to tackle.|
|O25||2||5||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 under||Pass||N/A||WR screen||Roh||0|
|Michigan still getting set when the ball is snapped, which fortuitously gets Roh running straight at the WR screen here. WR decides to duck inside of the charging Roh; Roh(+0.5) forms up and tackles with help from Morgan(+0.5). The RPS meter just exploded. Call it zero. With pics'd.|
|O25||3||5||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Inverted veer||Ryan||-4|
|Wildcat type formation with Siller at QB; Michigan runs a play that seems specifically designed to crush the inverted veer. Morgan flares out along the LOS and blitzes from the outside as Ryan(+1) stunts around Martin, showing up in the hole Siller thinks he has because there's no WLB filling it. He pulls, Ryan is there, RVB(+1) beats a block to provide more pressure, and then everything caves in. Ryan(+1 again) gets another plus for making an excellent tackle(+1) in the backfield. RPS+2.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 6 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O38||1||10||Shotgun 2TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Jet sweep||Gordon||4|
|Gordon starts creeping down when Purdue motions a TE to the wide side. He comes up further on the jet sweep action and bursts upfield to cut off the outside(+1). Ryan(+1) has held the edge, taking on a double and holding up enough allowing both LBs to flow unimpeded to the ball. Demens's tackle was a thump he fell off of. The tailback manages to fall forward for a decent gain.|
|O42||2||6||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 under||Pass||4||Quick out||Floyd||4|
|Floyd(+1, cover +1) is in good enough position to make a play on the ball if it's not low and to the outside, which it is. Receiver makes the catch; no YAC.|
|O46||3||2||I-Form||4-3 under||Run||N/A||FB Dive||Martin||0|
|Martin(+1) shoves the center back into the intended path of the RB, forcing a cutback into Roh(+0.5), who tackles for no gain. Heininger(+0.5) held up to a block at the LOS and provides the restricted space that prevents Crank from falling forward.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 1 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|Martin(+3) drives the LG back, chucks him, starts driving into TerBush, gets a holding call, facemasks a little, and ends up safetying the dude. Pressure +2.|
|Drive Notes: Safety, 9-7, 14 min 2nd Q. Is this a missed call or the sort of flag they got rid of when they got rid of the five yarders? I don't know.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O28||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Pass||5||Waggle out||Ryan||15 + 15 pen|
|Marve in for Purdue. Ryan(-2) sent on a blitz right at this (RPS +2). He's in, Marve's not that mobile, this should be doom. Unfortunately Ryan goes for a pump fake and leaps. His hand comes down, grabbing the face mask, and he still misses the tackle. Marve is now outside the pocket and lofts one to a wide open tight end. Not sure who this is on, but it is either Countess or Woolfolk. Guessing Countess. (Cover -2, Pressure +1, Countess -1).|
|M42||1||10||I-Form||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Demens||6|
|Ryan off the LOS as the WLB, Roh SDE, etc. They're flipped from normal. Roh(+1) drives the TE back, making the FB useless; Morgan(+0.5) takes on the outside shoulder of the fullback, funneling to the unblocked Demens in the hole. Demens(-1, tackling -1) has this lined up for a nothing play and glances off the tailback, allowing him to fall forward for a significant gain. Heininger(-1) blown off the ball by a single block didn't help but this is an easy play for Demens that didn't get made.|
|Tape does not have this play.|
|M36||3||4||Shotgun trips bunch||Nickel under||Pass||4||Scramble||--||6|
|I'm probably supposed to ding a DL or two for opening up a lane right in front of the QB, so minus half points for Martin and RVB for getting too far upfield in their pass rush. Morgan does a fairly impressive job of tracking Marve down but it's not enough.|
|M30||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Trap||Heininger||14|
|Martin(-1) gets upfield aggressively and is trap-blocked as the RG pulls around into Heininger(-1), who was similarly too aggressive. This kicks both DTs out and gives Crank a lot of room. Both LBs have OL to deal with; they set up to one side and force the play back into... nothing. Beyer(-1) ran uselessly upfield and got sealed off by a slot receiver. Yerk.|
|M16||1||10||Shotgun trips bunch||4-3 under||Pass||4||Hitch||Floyd||Inc|
|Hitch opposite the bunch. Floyd(+0.5, cover +1) is there to tackle on the catch after about four but it's dropped.|
|M16||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Throwaway||Demens||Inc|
|They roll the pocket. Roh(-0.5) gets cut to the ground; Demens(+1, pressure +1) reads the roll and shoots outside into it. Marve has nowhere to go because good coverage(+2) from Avery(+1) and Countess(+1) and chucks it OOB.|
|M15||3||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Tunnel screen||Avery||INT|
|Michigan much better prepared. Avery(+3) not only splits the two defenders coming out on him and is in position to tackle if this is complete but manages to make a tough diving grab on the ball when the receiver bats the poorly-thrown screen up. Roh(+0.5) and Martin(+0.5) were flowing out from the line to deal with this as well; it was going nowhere. RPS +1.|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 12-7, 8 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||I-Form||4-3 over||Pass||4||PA FB Flat||Floyd||4|
|Fitzgerald in for Demens. Campbell and Brink also playing a bit on this drive. Waggle action and Marve has to take a checkdown(cover+1). Floyd is there to tackle after about two and gives up a couple more by almost missing.|
|O24||2||6||Shotgun 2-back TE||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Martin||4|
|Martin(+1) drives the playside G back; RB has to wait up as he is in the path. No help coming though with Campbell(-1) blown up and Fitzgerald(-1) doing the sit and wait; Ryan(+1) is over the slot, reads the handoff, and has time to get to the hole between Martin and Brink to hold the gain down.|
|O28||3||2||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Down G||Roh||5 (Pen -10)|
|M shows man free and blitzes Fitzgerald(-1) up the middle; he trips over a guy who ducked to cut Martin. Martin stays up; guy who's not even getting blocked goes down. Once that happens it's tough for M to do anything on the edge because they don't have any LBs flowing. Roh(+1) fights through the TE's down block and is held; flag. Gordon(+1) gets into a block and comes through it to the outside as Bolden passes the first down marker. He can't tackle but he forces Bolden into two other defenders. He had a tough job and did it well.|
|O18||3||12||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Sack||Martin||-2|
|Roh(+1) gets enough of a speed rush to spook Marve up into the pocket, whereupon Martin(+1) beats the center and blows back a tailback to complete the sack. (Pressure +2) Covered in With Pics(!).|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 19-7, 3 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|Doh. Martin -1.|
|O6||1||5||I-Form||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Morgan||2|
|Michigan appears to be slanting away from the POA. RVB(+0.5) gets under a tackle and ends up taking a puller. They may be trying to go A gap here. Ryan(+0.5) quickly gets into the FB and cuts off the outside; there is a crease because RVB got hit and Martin is slanting away from the gap. An OL has released downfield into Morgan(+1) but doesn't have much of an angle because of the RB hitting a gap that is farther inside than Purdue wanted; Morgan plays off it, shoving the OL away and making a solid tackle(+1)|
|O8||2||3||Shotgun 2-back||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Ryan||3|
|Ryan blitzes late, timing it excellently. He gave nothing away before the snap. As a result the lead back runs right by him. Ryan(-1) then runs right by Crank, missing an arm tackle(-1). He does knock Crank off balance but that was a free run for a loss (RPS +1) RVB(+1) slants under the tackle and forces the RB backside, another reason Ryan should have killed this dead. This allows Morgan(+0.5) to run away from a block and scrape to the new POA; Gordon(+0.5) also came up well to restrict space.|
|O11||1||10||I-Form||4-3 over||Pass||4||Waggle out||Woolfolk||Inc (Pen +5)|
|RVB(-1) jumps offside. Play continues. Purdue runs a waggle with a TE running an out at about the sticks. Terbush comes up to fire at him; pass is accurate but Woolfolk(+2, cover +2) is there to put his helmet in the TE's chest and dislodge the ball.|
|O16||1||5||I-Form twins||4-3 over||Run||N/A||Iso||Heininger||0|
|No one gets out to the second level; Campbell(+0.5) does an all right job with his double and Heininger(+1) drives his man back a yard or two, which ends up absorbing the fullback and forcing a cutback. Demens(+1) does have an OL releasing into him late; he is too quick for that guy to get anything useful and tackle(+1) in the hole effectively.|
|O16||2||5||I-Form 3-wide||4-3 over||Pass||4||Out||Floyd||Inc|
|Quick out—too quick—against Floyd as a hard cover two corner. Floyd(+2, cover +2) jumps the route and may have a shot at a pick if the ball isn't thrown way too high. As it is he gets a PBU.|
|O16||3||5||Shotgun trips bunch||Nickel even||Pass||4||Drag||Morgan||18|
|Roh(+1, pressure +1) gets a speed rush around the RT and nearly has a sack; he ends up flushing TerBush up into the pocket. Morgan(-1, cover -1) ends up in the same spot as Demens on their zone drops because he's looking in the backfield; this opens up a three yard drag Siller can turn up for big yards. Gordon(-1, tackling -1) whiffs a tackle after about six yards; Morgan(-1, tackling -1) whiffs another tackle; finally Siller goes down as multiple M players, including both DTs, track him down.|
|O34||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Trap||Van Bergen||1|
|Both DTs remain responsible, diving inside on the snap and eliminating the hole; they both get inside of the guys trying to trap them as they rush upfield. RVB, Martin +1. Morgan(+0.5); he did a good job of getting to the hole to help tackle.|
|O35||2||9||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel even||Pass||4||Hitch||Gordon||12|
|Simple zone blitz gets Morgan(+0.5, pressure +1) in unblocked but someone screws up their zone and allows the hitch right over Morgan to come open. This looks like Gordon(-1, cover -1)|
|O47||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel 4-3||Run||N/A||Iso||Morgan||4|
|Gordon walks down as an extra LB as M goes one high. DTs Campbell(+0.5) and Heininger(+0.5) do a good job of constricting this hole, forcing the RBs to dance through it gingerly. Morgan(-1) pops to the wrong side of the FB—he's at MLB in this formation and probably doesn't know where his hitter is—which allows Edison to dart through a small gap between the FB and Campbell.|
|M49||2||6||Shotgun trips bunch||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Pin and pull zone||Heininger||0|
|Heininger(+2) does not get sealed; he does one better than that by chucking the OL blocking him to the inside and popping up into the hole, taking out a second blocker and forcing the RB to slow. With Beyer(+0.5) holding the edge the cutback is the only thing left; Ryan(+0.5) has that handled in pursuit.|
|M49||3||6||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Hitch||Campbell||Inc|
|Zone blitz from Demens and Avery doesn't have time to get home; TerBush throws a quick hitch in the middle of the field that Campbell(+1, pressure +1) bats down. Woolfolk(+1, cover +1) was going to be there on the catch to make this tough.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 22-7, 5 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O26||1||10||Diamond screen||Nickel even||Pass||4||Transcontinental||Floyd||18|
|Double pass with two options, one a TE running deep that Gordon(+1) covers. The other is the transcontinental, which is the only real option because linemen are releasing downfield. Floyd(-2) doesn't realize this and comes up late, then lets Siller outside of him without even touching him (tackling -1), turning a first down into a big gain. RPS -1.|
|M46||1||10||Shotgun trips||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Zone read dive||Gordon||3|
|Beyer forms up on the QB; handoff. Nothing playside with RVB(+0.5) driving his guy in to the play and ditto Heininger(+0.5); the cutback is there until Gordon(+1, tackling +1) comes up to make an excellent open field tackle as the RB cuts back behind everyone.|
|M43||2||7||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 even||Pass||4||Throwaway||Roh||Inc|
|Roh(+1, pressure +1) beats the right tackle, and though it looks like TerBush can step up he bugs out for the corner. Martin(+0.5) is pursuing out there and TerBush has to chuck it OOB.|
|M43||3||7||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||4||Scramble||--||2|
|More double pass stuff; Michigan covers(+1) the first read and then Siller starts running around aimlessly, picking up a few yards. RPS +1.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 29-7, 1 min 3rd Q. Clark, Hawthorne, and other backups start rotating in after M scores to go up 36-7. Seriousness: declining.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O30||1||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||5||PA Quick seam||Demens||23|
|Oh noes is less fun when it happens to you. Avery is over the slot; he blitzes. Demens(-1, cover -1) is dropping off in response, it seems, and is staring down the QB but not getting sufficient depth on his drop. The seam opens up. Woolfolk's tackle is a dodgy one but he does rope him down after a few extra yards given up. Call it a push.|
|M47||1||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone read keeper||Clark||41|
|Michigan in man free with Woolfolk as the deep guy, except he's not so deep, he's moving forward at the snap less than ten yards off the LOS. This becomes a problem when Clark(-2) ignores the QB contain, causing a pull. Everyone else is headed to the playside and Floyd(-1) moves up too quickly, allowing Terbush to run by him before he can angle him into the help that doesn't really seem to be coming. Woolfolk(-1) never figures out the pull and ends up going derp on the playside; Floyd eventually runs it down.|
|M6||1||G||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone read dive||Marin||1|
|Martin(+1) passes off the RG and gets into the center in the backfield, forcing the same cutback he forced a few times earlier. Van Bergen(+1) holds up against a double well, so no hole; Clark(+0.5) comes down to tackle on the cutback.|
|M5||2||G||I-Form||4-3 under||Penalty||N/A||False start||--||-5|
|M10||2||G||I-Form||46 bear||Run||N/A||Pitch sweep||Ryan||-5|
|Late move to the line by Morgan into the bear spot. Ryan is sent to fly off the edge. He's past the TE before he can get out on him, submarines the FB, and sends the tailback flailing skyward with a diving arm tackle. +3. Even if he whiffs here—a strong possibility—he's gotten a two-for-one on the FB and TE and Morgan should be able to force it back into unblocked help.|
|M15||3||G||Shotgun empty||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||3||Quick post||Morgan||12|
|Michigan drops eight, and I think it's either Ryan (who doesn't get over to the center of the zone fast enough, instead dropping too far into a post route in the center of the field that Gordon has) or Morgan (who's lined up over the guy and gives him inside position despite starting with inside leverage). Given the way the play looks—it appears to be man with three deep behind it—I think it's Morgan (-1, cover -1)|
|M3||4||G||Shotgun trips 2-back||Goal line||Run||N/A||Yakety sax||Demens||2|
|Slot covered, so pretty obvious run. What that run was supposed to be we'll never know because the two tailbacks run into each other. TerBush tries to improvise but gets chopped down short of the goal line by Demens(+1), who did beat a block to get to this quasi-hole. Ryan(+0.5) scraped way over to help, too.|
|Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 36-7, 9 min 4th Q. It's total scrub mode from this point on. Charting ceases.|
"Total scrub mode?" A bunch of starters were out there!
"Total scrub mode if Michigan had available scrubs they weren't trying to redshirt," then.
What about Talbott? Taylor? Robinson (Marvin Edition)? Furman?
Hmmm. Taylor's hurt, I think. Meanwhile I'm guessing they're in maximum-snap-acquirement mode for freshman Countess. I'm not sure about the other guys.
But anyway I'm not charting that stuff. It is not representative of the football game. You know how I know?
I ask the questions?
Because Purdue acquired yards. On the ground.
At least give me that I exclaim chart!
You exclaim chart!
[Note: with Purdue unable to stay on the field and the last 13 plays excised for uselessness, this is only 43 snaps. IE: less than half some performance-type-substances from last year. Adjust expectations accordingly by multiplying by ~1.6 to get relatively normalized numbers.
You can also look at the +/- ratio, which is hovering around 3:1 for the DL (dirty) and 60% for the DBs (quality), with the linebackers hovering around planet okay.]
|Van Bergen||5||1.5||3.5||Somewhat quiet day.|
|Martin||11||2.5||8.5||Two sacks and a number of plays he forced away from blocking.|
|Roh||6.5||2.5||4||Got some useful speed rush; half sack in uncharted time.|
|Heininger||5||2||3||Played pretty well; seems to turn in a play or two per week.|
|Campbell||2||1||1||Not getting a ton of push.|
|TOTAL||29.5||10||19.5||Clark also –1.5. Solid performance from the starters.|
|Demens||3||3||0||Not much got to him thanks to Martin.|
|Ryan||8.5||3||5.5||No argh moments, a couple wow experiences.|
|Fitzgerald||-||2||-2||Behind Demens for a reason.|
|Beyer||0.5||1.5||-1||Michigan working in their depth a bit more.|
|Hawthorne||-||-||-||Only garbage time.|
|Morgan||3.5||3||0.5||An improvement on Hawthorne, but still a work in progress.|
|TOTAL||15.5||12.5||3||Decent play from most, no real standout plays save Ryan's.|
|Floyd||3.5||6||-2.5||Best cover guy now so keep that in mind; tackling struggles do not outweigh his contribution to the cover metric below.|
|Avery||4||-||4||Mostly the INT.|
|Woolfolk||4||-||4||Played well at safety. Not as solid a tackler as Kovacs but good in coverage.|
|Kovacs||-||-||-||Come back soon.|
|T. Gordon||4.5||3||1.5||Solid tackling day.|
|Countess||1||2||-1||No one was really tested back here.|
|TOTAL||17||11||6||Very good save Floyd's tackling issues.|
|Pressure||9||1||8||Most of this a four man rush.|
|Coverage||11||6||5||Excellent number given the ratio.|
|Tackling||4||4||50%||Floyd on the edge can be not so good.|
|RPS||8||4||4||Didn't give up much schematically after the first drive.|
That is a quality day from the secondary, albeit one racked up in limited opportunities against a team that hardly goes deep, if they ever do. I didn't chart the final two drives, during which the Boilers were 6/9 for 47 yards. The drive before that was also pretty whatever and it featured two completions for 35 yards, both of them seemingly on the linebackers.
In time that can be described as meaningful, Michigan gave up 140 yards on 16 attempts, 48 of those on the screen. That's 6.1 YPA on the other 15 attempts. Aside from Floyd missing some tackles they did a good job. I wouldn't take too much out of it since Purdue is the most relentlessly dinky opponent Michigan will face.
More impressive than that was the rush defense, which gave up essentially nothing until Clark blew his contain on the zone read. Removing four sacks for 20 yards and Purdue still had just 109, 41 of those in garbage time thanks to a true freshman who's got two guys in front of him on the depth chart. Bolden averaged 2 YPC. Runs that don't heavily feature Clark making a mistake he won't get to make in a real game were barely better at 2.8.
Mike Martin is back!
Yeah, after getting blown out on a number of doubles against MSU Martin rebounded with a strong performance both statistically and when it came to the sorts of things that Don't Show Up In The Box Score. A large portion of the Bolden futility was Purdue trying to single block Martin and getting their angles blown up in return:
Forcing the cutback is 80% of the battle there; coming off to tackle yourself is just a bonus. You try running a fullback dive when the center is two yards in the backfield.
You are aware that Martin essentially threw the left guard into TerBush for a safety, but it remains a good example of his day:
This is what I like to see from my Mike Martin. That and rag-dolling a tailback like he is not present.
If he can do this against Iowa Coker will have a hard time. Dude is surprisingly agile for a truck but cutting in the backfield is doom for anyone his size. I imagine Iowa will do more doubling of him—Purdue wanted to get out on the linebackers so quickly they never really gave anyone help on Martin. Even Heininger got in on some of the single-blocked action.
Jake Ryan is living up to the promise implied by Sixteen Candles!
I do think we should slow our roll a little bit here. At this rate Ryan is going to be hyped to the moon over the offseason and when he's only pretty good as a sophomore everyone's going to be disappointed. He is learning, he is destructive, I still want to see him put on another 20 pounds and absorb Ryan Van Bergen's tao of weeble-wobbling before I start penciling him on the next three All Big Ten teams. One of his big plays was manufactured by Mattison, after all.
The other was not, though:
That is MAKING PLAYS. That's a +3 all the way, what with beating a tackle and submarining another blocker and tackling the dude in the backfield.
I dislike JT Floyd!
I've seen a couple of the educated football folk in the blogosphere and my twitter stream grouse about JT Floyd this week, and the numbers above do back that up. Getting chopped to the ground by an outside WR on a bubble is pretty bad, and Floyd's eh speed will always be an issue.
HOWEVA, I still think he's the best corner Michigan has right now. I base this off plays when opponents run twinned routes and I can see a Woolfolk or Countess cover the same slant on the same call; almost invariably Floyd is hugging the receiver tighter. This is not the best example because the QB set him up for this one but whether it's in man or zone Floyd seems to get more plays on the ball than anyone else in the secondary:
Meanwhile, count the long receptions Floyd's given up this year… I've got one, an undefendable Michael Floyd fade on which he had a rake at the ball. When they go after Michigan deep it was Woolfolk and Countess getting most of the exposure. That's good enough for me when trying to figure out who's good in an area of the field you only see when someone hasn't been good (or one of Michigan's quarterbacks has decided they're tired of being on the field).
Floyd's not going to go down as a great or probably even get drafted; he's still Michigan's best corner until Countess takes that mantle from him.
Morgan is the WLB forever!
I think he's the long-term solution on most downs. I like it when linebackers can shed and form tackle, even if it's on a kickoff:
I still see a place for Hawthorne on the defense in a nickel package. Many of his plusses this year have been in tight, instant-tackle coverage on third and medium. Morgan had a not-so-much moment over the weekend:
Froshbits that will get better with time, yes. I still think if you've got a safety/LB hybrid who's shown an aptitude for playing underneath coverage on medium-length third downs there's a place for that guy on your D. When the run you're worried about is a draw I wouldn't mind seeing Hawthorne out there.
How plausible is this? Well, BWS caught a nickel blitz late that again showed Mattison's desire to have one of his linebackers bug out to an unexpected place on a zone blitz. Check #7:
They tried this earlier in the year with Herron and it didn't go well. They didn't bring it out until Hawthorne came in against the Boilers, and it seems like if there's anyone on the roster who can run like an NFL linebacker in coverage it's him. I wouldn't put it past Mattison to start using Hawthorne like a dimeback to give his zone blitz schemes a little more terror. He's an interesting player.
Martin in particular but the rest of the line as well—constant harassment of the QBs and the opponent had no running game at the same time your MLB had one solo tackle.
Floyd's edge tackling was a source of problems. Pretty much the only one except a bad playcall on the first drive.
What does it mean for Iowa and the future?
I stole my own thunder above talking about Coker, but to reiterate: the key in the ground game will be to get the penetration they were getting today and slow Coker in the backfield. He takes time to get up to speed and is a one-cut-and-go type guy. If Martin/RVB can make him a one-cut-and-stop type guy they'll go a long way towards… uh… holding most of his runs to like four yards because you can't stop the guy from falling forward. I don't have faith in Michigan's linebackers to be able to stop that guy in his tracks. Kovacs's health will be important here—the downgrade in tackling from him to Woolfolk is obvious.
As for Iowa's passing game, prepare for a stiff test. Michigan hasn't faced a player of McNutt's quality in an environment that will allow for throwing instead of hoping since Notre Dame, and they escaped from that mess by the skin of their teeth. McNutt isn't on that level… quite.
LT Reilly Reiff, hyped up as a possible first rounder, struggled alarmingly with Minnesota DEs; if Michigan can get the same kind of pressure with their front four Iowa fans have been bitching all year about a certain deer-in-the-headlights quality to Vandenberg when he gets pressure.
News bullets and other important information:
- Kovacs ran around last night. Hoke says he's day to day. Van Bergen said Kovacs is expected back for Iowa. Who knows.
- Barnum injured his other ankle and is now "day to day."
- Lewan practiced. Has a knee injury on top of the ankle injury. Might get fewer reps in practice this week.
- Fitz Toussaint is -- surprise -- the number one running back.
- Desmond Morgan would have played more earlier but had a hamstring injury at the beginning of the season.
- McColgan is healthy but has been surpassed by Hopkins at fullback for those of you who were wondering. (Just me probably.)
Opening remarks: “Obviously we have a great challenge in going to Iowa City and play a very good Iowa team. Undefeated at home. That seems to be the way this conference is to some degree right now. They play awfully well and they’re a very well coached football team and have been for many many years. It will be the most physical game to this point for us as a team. When you watch them, personnel wise you look at Coker and what he’s done leading the league in rushing, and Vandenberg has done a tremendous job in there at quarterback. They have a great set of wideouts, but McNutt obviously gets a lot of the exposure because of what he’s done out there on the field. It’s going to be a great challenge for us and you play these last four, and when you get in November, you play for championships in the Big Ten conference, and that’s kind of how it’s been for many years. We look forward to it, we’re going to have a great week of preparation, and it’s going to be fun.”
How did the defense respond to the coaching during the off week, and where do you think you are on that side of the ball? “I think they responded well. When you look at it and you grade it and you look at it position by position, I thought up front the gap integrity that goes along with playing team defense and the appraoch that the guys played with and the demeanor they played with -- Mike, no question, was a factor in the game, not just in the middle but with his making plays down the field and those kind of things. Linebacker wise I thought we played downhill. I thought Desmond really did a nice job. I thought Kenny, I could feel those guys out there. Jake Ryan made some plays. Sometimes they’re unorthodox, but he’s a football player. In the back end, the two corners -- J.T. had the one penalty late that hurt us a little bit on that last drive, which was disappointing for us, but I think those two guys are settling in. Courtney’s done a nice job at nickel. Troy, for his first start back at the safety position, did some good things. I think there’s more that we can get from him there. I thought Thomas Gordon played up from where he did two weeks ago.”
What’s the status of Jordan Kovacs? “Day to day. He ran around, did some stuff last night, so we’ll see.”
How much of an adjustment did you have to make without Kovacs? “We didn’t do anything different without him to be honest with you. I think there’s some leadership there that he brings. I think there’s some football instinctiveness that he brings that is something that I don’t know if you ever make up for, whoever’s in there. He ran around and did things last night, so I was pleased with him.”
(mehr nach dem Absprung.)
So it's been seven games and it's a bye week so TACO PARTY—
this is a thing you can purchase at "Fine Art America"
or steal from your crazy Aunt Betty in Pensacola
—also generic bullety midseason-type post.
BEST DEVELOPMENT. Confirmation of the offseason's Greg >>> GERG theory.
he's like defensive coordinator Zooey Deschanel.
There are still obvious weaknesses and no obvious stars past a slightly disappointing Mike Martin, but it turns out having a coherent defensive philosophy is a lot better than running around screaming "we're all gonna die but at least my hair is fantastic!!!"
Pick a metric, advanced or not, and the improvement is incredible. The advanced ones are even more enthusiastic than the regular ones: Michigan is actually a top-20 FEI defense. Top 20! They were 108th last year! Excuse me, I have to go list this pool of razorblades, despair, and misery on Craigslist! Where an Ohio State blogger will purchase it to talk about their offense!
You can apply every massively-deserved caveat you can think of and the author will nod sagely about how that is a concern and the end result is still something that should approximate giddiness. When the turnovers stop coming in droves and a smaller percentage of games are played in a trash tornado, Michigan will backslide. But, like… backslide into the 40s or something. IE: the offseason's best-case scenario that didn't involve installing robots from the future at key spots.
RUNNER-UP, BEST DEVELOPMENT. Jordan Kovacs ending the debate about Jordan Kovacs.
If you strain your memory you can think back to a time where it was very warm and people had heated debates about whether Jordan Kovacs was any good or not. This was summer, and it was a silly time. A major reason the defense is scraping the ceiling of the ceiling above its best-case scenario is the near-total absence of big plays. Michigan still hasn't given up anything over 40 yards. Kovacs and (to a lesser extent) Thomas Gordon are primarily responsible for shutting down the Wolverine Free Touchdown Factory and shipping it to Thailand. WOO OUTSOURCING JOKE
WORST DEVELOPMENT. Denard's inability to hit Charlie Weis in three tries.
Even if you ascribe to the theory that Denard's passing success last year was largely a mirage when it came to Actual Big Ten Defenses*, his numbers against the two actual-seeming defenses on the schedule thus far have been horrendous. At least half of that can be ascribed to Denard just missing dudes.
Even running in place would have been disappointing after the quantum leap it seemed he made last year. He was still raw as sushi and could still be expected to move more towards quarterback-dom than a guy who'd had the slightest amount of polish. Instead the Al Borges-Denard Fusion Cuisine has shoved him back to being that guy who heaved it up against Iowa when he had a wide open Odoms running underneath. I didn't like that guy as much as the one from last year, warts and all.
*[Which I don't, FWIW. I UFR this stuff for a reason, and that reason is "so I can do something more than wave my hands in the air and say 'nuh-uh' when I would like to dispute someone else's assertion." I charted all of Denard's throws before the dismal end of the RR regime and there's a definite backslide.]
RUNNER-UP, WORST DEVELOPMENT. What happened, offensive line?
Last year you were all like blocking your way to an insane YPC and hardly giving up anything on the ground and this year you can't pull to save your life; the impregnable wall of no sacks was punched into smithereens by Michigan State. Now it's hard not to look at next year without a sense of panic.
MOST MIDDLING DEVELOPMENT. The tailbacks. It's still Vincent Smith and increasingly less Fitzgerald Toussaint (for reasons that are opaque to me). They're not awful. I still covet any tailback who wanders by to break a tackle or two.
MOST MISLEADING DEVELOPMENT. The defense's turnover-fu. It is not sustainable. Repeat this in your head a thousand times in a futile effort for its lack to be tolerable.
MOST DEVELOPING DEVELOPMENT. Special teams. They've been bad so far but the sample size is small. Brendan Gibbons made three(!) field goals against Minnesota and is 4/6 on the year. His two misses were both blocked. He might be serviceable. He might be benefiting from a bunch of chip shots—he still hasn't made one past 40 yards.
Meanwhile, the starting punter was suspended for the first four games and is averaging under 34 yards a kick because he was a nonfactor against Minnesota and Northwestern and seven of his punts came in a howling windstorm, six(!) of those from the Michigan State half of the field.
They can't cover kicks and can't return them, either. So… yeah. The jury is still out.
OFFENSE: FOCUS: OFFENSE
100% PURE COLOMBIAN AWESOME. Jeremy Gallon cloaking device engagement.
The play that followed it was pretty sweet, too, but that thing took Michigan from dead in the water to fightin' chance in The First Night Game Evar.
100% WORST THING EVER. Fourth and inches play action pass from the nine against Michigan State. I assume this needs no explanation.
THING THEY DO THE MOST. Run inside zone.
THING THEY DO WAY TOO MUCH. Throw deep.
THING THEY DON'T DO ENOUGH. Use stretch blocking and deploy the quick screen with the wide receivers to force a third defender to live outside the tackles. Michigan hasn't attacked the outside enough, allowing Michigan State's double-A-gap blitzes to be ludicrously effective.
BEST PLAYER. Well… Denard, despite obvious issues.
SECOND-BEST PLAYER. Taylor Lewan. Lewan has been near-flawless in pass protection, and has generally done well when the run game has come his way, which hasn't been often given their inability to pull left.
PLAYER WHO MIGHT WANT TO WORK ON SOME THINGS. Michigan hasn't been able to pull left largely because Patrick Omameh can't get to the hole before the tailback, which is not so good.
GUY WHO JUST IS WHO HE IS. Vincent Smith. He's a third down back and useful player who's not a guy you want to give 20 carries.
GUY WHO MIGHT GET A LOT BETTER IN THE LAST FIVE GAMES. Denard. Please, baby, please.
DEFENSE: FOCUS: DEFENSE
100% PURE COLOMBIAN AWESOME. Jordan Kovacs depositing his head into a ball Alex Carder happened to be carrying.
That sack is like the awful Nick Sheridan interception that kicked off the Rodriguez era and made its way into the Worst Plays of the Decade more for what it symbolized than the actual impact of the play. It heralds a sea change in Michigan's fortunes.
Caveats, caveats, caveats: Michigan is now deploying a zone-blitz heavy 4-3 under that will draw valid NFL comparisons and will hopefully start playing like Michigan defenses of old, and by "Michigan defenses of old" I mean "Michigan defenses of very old or more recent Ohio State outfits."
100% WORST THING EVER. It's a tribute to Michigan's safeties and Greg Mattison that the only long-ish touchdown they've given up was the no-safeties formation that handed Notre Dame a freebie right before the Gallon cloaking device play. But, man… that was kind of not good right there.
THING THEY DO THE MOST. Zone blitz.
THING THEY DO WAY TOO MUCH. Let guys outside the tackles.
THING THEY DON'T DO ENOUGH. Uh… you got me. /shakes fist at format established by himself
BEST PLAYER. Ryan Van Bergen, I think. It's close between RVB, Martin, and Kovacs, but Martin had a tough outing against Michigan State. Van Bergen played well. Kovacs had a storming game the first time out and is a major reason for the lack of long touchdown but has not has as much down to down impact. Maybe that's just the nature of being a safety. If Michigan gets through the rest of the year without getting bombed deep he'll win by default.
SECOND-BEST PLAYER. Kovacs. I don't hate Michigan's safeties except from time to time when Johnson is missing tackles.
PLAYER WHO MIGHT WANT TO WORK ON SOME THINGS. Weakside linebacker du jour. Woolfolk hasn't been good but that's obviously an injury thing. I've been leery about Jake Ryan from time to time but he's turning in enough good plays with his bad ones to nose above even most days.
But whoever's been at weakside linebacker has had issues. Brandon Herron started the year, had two defensive touchdowns, and got benched. Brandin Hawthorne came in for him, played okay for a bit, made some mistakes, and has rotated in and out with true freshman Desmond Morgan the past couple weeks.
GUY WHO JUST IS WHO HE IS. Will Heininger. Heininger hasn't been a disaster or anything but he is single blocked often, rarely makes plays, and is pretty much what you'd expect a walk-on to be at defensive tackle.
GUY WHO MIGHT GET A LOT BETTER IN THE LAST FIVE GAMES. There are two: Jake Ryan and Blake Countess. Both are freshman starters* turning in promising plays amongst the youthful head-vs-wall moments. Ryan in particular has cut down his blatant errors to getting cut to the ground a few times per game.
*[Countess is not technically starting. He is getting the bulk of the playing time.]
THE BIG TEN
THE WORST. Minnesota. We have a GopherQuest dedicated to their badness.
THE SECOND-WORST. Everyone else. This league is not so good. The team leading the East division starts Matt McGloin at quarterback and is coached by a guy without a headset who isn't on the sideline. The team leading the West division is Michigan State. There are no undefeated teams, no national powers, and it's inevitable that the league's bowl record is going to be 2-6.
FUTURE OPPONENTS IN ORDER OF CONCERN.
- @ Iowa
- Ohio State
- @ Illinois
BALLPARK RECORD AGAINST THOSE FOLKS. 3-2.
WHO'D TAKE 9-3. That's everyone.
WHO'D WHIMPER AND HIDE AT THE BOWL OPPONENT IN THAT EVENT. Also everyone. Okay, not you, message board hero who spent the last week calling Michigan fans whiners. You will say unreasonable things about the prospect of beating…
Wait. There are only two good SEC teams this year. Am I going to tremble at the sight of Arkansas or Georgia or South Carolina? No. Nevermind.
FIVE GUYS WHO SEEM PRETTY GOOD WHOM INSUFFICIENT DISCUSSION IS HAD ABOUT.
Bryce McNaul, Northwestern LB. (Heady, quick the hole, part of Northwestern's good run defense, injured too much, can do nothing about the nonexistent Wildcat secondary.)
Marcus Rush, MSU DE. (Rush has been overshadowed by the Gholston controversy but is actually a better player. Gholston does nothing once he is blocked; Rush will shed guys. Gholston would be on the bench if Tyler Hoover was healthy.)
Devon Still, PSU DT. (Still may be a reach since he is reaching tongue-bath levels but I was all about Still last year.)
Kawaan Short, Purdue DT.
Da'Jon McKnight, Minnesota WR. (Winner: most futile B1G existence.)
Does this game feel different for you because it’s SDSU? “Well, looking at that part of it, I guess is different. We’re obviously more familiar with this team because we just coached the team. It’s nothing to do with any of that stuff. It’s about San Diego State against Michigan. Anything else is just smoke and mirrors.”
Rocky Long said you have advantage because you know the SDSU players and their signals. How much does that come into play? “No. I really don’t get caught up in that too much. Signals and all that stuff, it’s overrated. Way overrated. There are 17 teams in the NFL that run the same offense. They use the same terms. Nobody changes -- they may change a little bit here and there, but not significantly enough to where it scares people.” Do you use the same signals here at Michigan as you did when you were at SDSU? “No we don’t. A lot of ours is sent in on wristband calls anyway, so it’s difficult for anybody to get what we’re doing because they’d have to have the wristband.”
Were you involved in recruiting Ronnie Hillman? “Hillman was already committed when we got there. Our job was really just hanging onto him.” Did he look good back then? “Oh yeah. The kids that we kept, we thought were pretty good players.”
Are you surprised by how prolific they are offensively? “No. No. Not at all. Not even a little bit.” Does that make you feel good? “No. We have to play them. Made me feel great last year. They’re a good team and they deserve respect, and we’re going to give it to them. Our kids are well aware of what they’re dealing with here. We’ve made it clear that this is going to be a tough contest. We better come ready to play.”
(more after the jump)
HEY TOMMY REES
CHECK IT OUT I'M ALL GONNA BLITZ YO
LOL LOOK HOW CLOSE I AM TO THE LINE
WHY IS EVERYONE LOOKING AT YOU?
HEY MAN… I'M NOT BLITZING BE COOL
LOL JK YES I AM. HEY… THAT GUY IS OPEN
IF I WAS NOT BLITZING I MAY HAVE BEEN IN THIS AREA
TOMMY REES IS A JERK
I HOPE HE THROWS A BALL BACKWARDS FOR NO REASON LATER
This happened a lot. Michigan would line up, show something unsound, and Rees would check into something that would punish the defense. Blue Seoul highlighted another instance where Michigan tipped its blitz:
Also a result:
Michigan would line up in its okie package on plausible running downs like third and five, which caused Rees to check to runs up the middle. With no linebackers and Mike Martin dropping into coverage these went for about 20 yards.
Hell, even when good things happened this was going on. Look at this dude on Kovacs's interception:
That is a 65-yard touchdown waiting to happen if Rees's brain isn't going FLOYDFLOYDFLOYDFLOYDFLOYDFLOYD. The difference between a great call and an idiotic call is Rees not being a true sophomore in his fifth start with deep man love for Michael Floyd.
Seriously. Michigan's defensive RPS is going to have huge numbers because Mattison is doing all sorts of crazy stuff. This defense is the philosophical opposite of the bland 4-3 cover twos of Iowa, Michigan State, and Wisconsin.
They show a bunch of different fronts, blitz from everywhere, don't bother to cover guys in the seam when there are no safeties… it's a freak show out there. Sometimes it works. When it doesn't it's ugly. ND's last touchdown is especially galling because Michigan had to know ND would see this massive bust on the Kovacs INT and check into "free seam touchdown" when Michigan checked to cover zero. In this instance there was at least a guy vaguely in the area, but they've got a lot to work on.
Blitzing is not such a good idea when you wave your hand and say "sir: I am blitzing." In the first half Michigan tipped their blitzes a lot. Matters improved when Hawthorne came in—I watched him blitz without so much as taking those anxious shuffle steps, let alone going LOL I'M AT THE LINE—but it's disconcerting to watch the Michigan defense freak out on a QB handclap so consistently. They should know by now that the clap often leads to a check, because the offense did that a ton last year.
So… where is Michigan's check after ND checks? You can't check all the time because then ND's check will be "let's change their play without changing ours" but you have to check some of the time, particularly early.
Avery could have done better here. He's beaten to the inside too easily and can't tackle on the catch. He is not capable of dealing with Mike Floyd. Not many are, but predictions in this space of a bust-out year are not off to a good start. It's early yet.
Not that it would have mattered: Avery can run his slant for Floyd and Eifert is still hand-wavingly wide open. Dude could have gone for 150 against us if Tommy Rees's brain wasn't going FLOYDFLOYDFLOYDFLOYD.
Another reason for worry. This defense is unsound. Does Mattison want it to be unsound because it makes Kovacs pop up for turnovers or does he have little choice in the matter because he's starting a walk-on (Heininger—Kovacs has graduated), a couple freshmen, and only 2.5 non-walkon seniors (RVB, Martin—Woolfolk is the half)?
I don't know, but I'm betting it's the latter. I am glad they've got a week to practice not leaving guys wide open all day. They're busting coverages every other play.
A note before we start: this preview relies heavily on the defensive UFRs of last year because there’s a convenient numerical system that does a decent job of summing up a defensive player’s contributions. One caveat: the system is generous to defensive linemen and harsh to defensive backs, especially cornerbacks. A +4 for a defensive end is just okay; for a cornerback it’s outstanding.
Well… they're gone. For better or worse the two linebacking stalwarts of the Rodriguez era are out the door, destined for San Diego or the real world. Though no one's going to memorialize Obi Ezeh and Jonas Mouton in song, they endured the transition from Ron English to Scot Shafer to Greg Robinson to Dr. Vorax, the stuffed wolverine Robinson insisted was the real coordinator of the insane 3-3-5 Rodriguez demanded. If anyone can feel hard done by the Rodriguez era it's them.
HOWEVA, Dr. Vorax and other assorted coaching indignities cannot explain away much of the horror Michigan suffered at their hands. Mouton was linebacker Janus, singlehandedly crushing fullbacks and even pulling guards en route to TFLs a few plays before losing contain yet a-goddamn-gain against opponents as meek as UMass.
Ezeh, for his part, was first amongst equals as this blog's whipping boy the last couple years until the Penn State game, when Greg Robinson became public enemy #1. His trademark move was sitting completely still until an offensive lineman screwed him into the ground.
Midyear, former Michigan linebackers were dropping the word "inexcusable." A fresh start is called for.
|Cam Gordon||So.*||Kenny Demens||Jr.*||Mike Jones||So.*|
|Jake Ryan||Fr.*||Marell Evans||Sr.*||Brandin Hawthorne||Jr.|
|Brennen Beyer||Fr.||JB Fitzgerald||Sr.||Desmond Morgan||Fr.|
Right: Demens hangin' with Doctor Vorax
MICHIGAN PROVIDES THAT with three relatively new starters. The most established new blood is redshirt junior Kenny Demens, the man who inexplicably languished behind not only Ezeh but walk-on and converted fullback Mark Moundros at the start of last year. That seemed like plenty of evidence to write the kid off, so this blog did:
The enigmatic Kenny Demens is third string in the middle; after a seemingly productive spring he dropped off the map and has generated zero fall mentions as Moundros climbs the depth chart. He played sparingly in the fall scrimmage; last year he was passed over for walk-on Kevin Leach when it came time to replace Ezeh temporarily. He's spinning his wheels, seemingly on track to watch this year. Next year both of the guys above him will be gone and he'll get one last chance to step forward; the tea leaves are not encouraging at the moment.
Demens then watched as Ezeh played at his usual level until the Iowa game. Desperate for anything after being gashed by Michigan State, Robinson finally put Demens on the field. We finally saw what was keeping him from playing time:
Only the machinations of the traitorous Vorax. That's not a play Ray Lewis is going to have on his hall of fame reel but it stood out to me after years of watching Ezeh try to clunk his way through traffic. Demens steps to the right as Iowa runs a counter but reads it, steps around traffic, and is there to tackle once Mouton forces it inside. Demens did that on a consistent basis against all opposition (except Purdue, oddly). The sumptuous conversation about him after the Iowa game was excited:
Yeah. Watching the game live I thought that he was an obvious upgrade over Ezeh but expected that when I went over the game in detail I'd find he was at fault for some of the longer Iowa runs or third down conversions, or had messed up in some way that had gone unexploited. I didn't. I found little things that I thought were good plays I hadn't seen live …
How many times did Iowa RBs find themselves facing a line with no penetration and no holes in it? Several. How many times did previous Michigan opponents face this? Essentially never. Good DL play with crappy linebacker play yields a lot of penetration and a lot of lanes where the DL aren't. Crappy DL play with good LB play is this, a bunch of bodies on the line with no windows to squeeze through.
At least, he did when he was not subject to further machinations. Vorax saw his nemesis had escaped confinement and immediately upped his insanity level further. Below are Michigan's alignments in the first and second halves of the Penn State game two weeks later:
left: first half. right: second half.
After getting annihilated by a terrible run offense in the first half Demens actually had to ask the coaches to move him more than a yard away from the nose tackle's rear. He struggled, but who wouldn't when the only thing between you and two guards is Adam Patterson and far too little space?
Demens recovered from that to register as one of the "heroes" of the Illinois game—he managed a +8, leading to cries of Anyone But Ezeh favoritism from readers—before registering his first clunker against Purdue. Demens got hooked pretty badly on a play that, in retrospect, I should have been harsher to the DL on since Dan Dierking roared through a truck-sized hole. Later he got lost and let Rob Henry rip off a big gain. He was one of few Michigan defenders to come out of the Wisconsin game with something approximating dignity.
|plays in space|
|quick but under control|
|make a leaping PBU|
|killshot shakes the ball loose|
|tackle on the catch|
|jars the ball free|
|picking through trash|
|goal line gap shoot|
|slants past the tackle|
|reads and fills|
|scraping, waiting, tackling|
|not quite harris|
|runs to the backside|
|pulls an Ezeh and sits|
When everything was over Demens had racked up 82 tackles despite playing sparingly in the first five games. If he'd gotten the whole season he would have had numbers like that random Northwestern linebacker who ends up with 130 tackles at the end of the season because he's the guy roping down tailbacks after they pick up six yards.
It's clear by the rating above that I'm a Demens believer. I liked what I saw last year and I've seen MLBs who are pretty good to compare him to. David Harris, for one. He's not Harris but I think Demens is closer to him than Ezeh already. He just has a knack for getting to where the play is going. Though his coverage still needs some work he was decently effective in short zones last year. As a bonus, one of the few things practice reports have been consistent in is their Demens praise.
Demens will benefit from the move to back to the 4-3 under more than anyone save Craig Roh. With RVB and Martin shielding him from linemen he won't be in nearly as many hopeless situations where he's one-on-one with a guard He should be the team's leading tackler by a healthy margin and see his TFLs skyrocket from the measly 1.5 he managed a year ago.
Michigan's defense will probably be too bad to warrant much All Big Ten consideration, but honorable mention seems reasonable.
I can't believe we had commemorative spring game jerseys
Also: Evans left, Fitzgerald right
Prodigal son Marell Evans returned from exile at I-AA Hampton to rejoin the team for his fifth and final year of eligibility. He probably wasn't expecting to see too much time after doing so, but there he was in the spring game, starting in Demens's stead. How well he did was in the eye of the beholder; around these parts I was "extremely leery" of the depth but offered up no reason as to why.
If forced into action Evans will be a wildcard. He hardly played at Hampton because of injury and hardly played at Michigan because of youth. He's probably not going to be that good. Over the course of the last month I received a couple of practice reports that slammed him pretty hard. Those aren't gospel, but that and his vagabond career to date are all we have to go on.
Fellow senior JB Fitzgerald is also hanging around this area of the depth chart, though no one knows exactly what linebacker spot he's backing up. It's never good when you've been around for four years and no one knows where you're supposed to play.
At least Fitzgerald is used to it by now. He's been kicked around since he arrived. On occasion he's even been drafted to play DE terribly when Greg Robinson runs out of ideas. When he pops up in UFRs doing something well, as he's done from time to time for years, I get all excited he might be finally breaking through. Then he never does. Fitzgerald's about out of time and there's no reason to think he's suddenly going to get it. He was passed by Evans as soon as he arrived; Jake Ryan emerged to back up Cam Gordon in spring; Michigan has a vicious melee for the WLB spot that Fitzgerald isn't even involved in. Without a plague of injuries he'll spend most of his final year providing leadership on special teams.
less deep half, more linebacker plz
Cam Gordon has finally found a home. He can buy a new couch and maybe a speaker system that attaches to the walls and everything. That it took this long is another symptom of the madness on defense last year. Gordon is linebacker sized and plays like a linebacker, except he was playing receiver as a freshman and thus tackled people in the same way a coke machine would: by running your bulk into a dude and hoping he falls over.
This was Michigan's last line of defense, and they paid for it many times over, starting against Michigan State:
His shoulder-block style of tackling was something he got away with before he faced Michigan State but against MSU he was bouncing off ballcarriers because they were big and strong enough to take the blow. Then he would try to drag them to the ground, which only worked sometimes and always gave up YAC.
Worse yet were Gordon's angles, which alternated between vastly too aggressive…
…and vastly too conservative…
…depending on which flaw he had just spent the week getting chewed out about in practice. And then there was that rainbow thing. I'm embarrassed to have pumped him up a bit after the Indiana game, though to be fair he did have an interception.
Gordon got shuffled to spur, a position roughly analogous to the strongside linebacker in a 4-3 under, for the Penn State game. Thrown into the fire at yet another position he had only the barest clue how to play, he struggled there as well. He was emblematic of that game's defensive implosion:
It's symbolic that this is the play where it all went to hell.
Demens has that dead to rights if he can just get some gang tackling help. Marvin Robinson whiffs, Cam Gordon vacates the only area Royster can go, and Royster makes a terrific play to spin outside for the first down. Great play, but you can't spin past three guys without something having gone horribly wrong. That's a true freshman and a redshirt freshman who was a wide receiver last year and a safety last week. FFFUUUUUUUU.
|whiffs but gets lucky|
|takes a horrible angle on the pass|
|lost in coverage|
|too far off|
|some good stuff|
|delivers a nice hit|
Cam Gordon had a rough freshman year. Worse for our purposes is how useless it is for projecting his future. With half of his season spent at a position he'll never play again and the other half spent in an incoherent defense at a spot he'd learned for literally two weeks, his UFR chart isn't even worth looking at.
If you insist, it's not pretty even after he moved to linebacker. He managed to stay on the positive side against Illinois by blitzing a ton. I did note that "Gordon brings a physical intimidation factor the other two spurs don't." He didn't do much other than scoop up a fumble and run a long way against Purdue. Against Wisconsin he failed to register even a positive half-point and picked up this note: "Not involved much and didn't do well when he was." After that the malaise took over. He did have some TFLs in the final two games.
That doesn't mean much, though. Bounced from position to position and ill-served by the coaching of Greg Robinson and Adam Braithwaite, Gordon was put in a position to fail. He did.
Now he's at a spot that makes sense being coached by people who make sense. Since he wasted a redshirt year playing offense and his freshman year trying to play safety he'll be farther behind the curve than an average third-year player. He's also pretty light for a strongside linebacker at 224. That will serve him well when he's asked to drop into coverage but will make fending off tight ends a struggle. A reasonable level of development gets him to a bit below average this year.
There is one. The spring game was a dreary, depressing thing mostly notable for the various ways in which the quarterbacks looked awful, but one of the certifiable bright spots was the rampaging play of redshirt freshman Jake Ryan. Ryan had a pick-six, sacked Devin Gardner at least a couple times—hard to tell exactly what would have happened if they were live—and generally gave second-string OT Kristian Mateus more than he could handle. Mateus is a walk-on and all spring impressions come with free grains of salt, but as of the moment Ryan Rob Lytle-ed his helmet in spring, the hype train has left the station and will build up steam until such time as there's another guy to get hyped about.
In high school, Ryan was an outside linebacker in an actual 3-3-5. As such, he spent a lot of time screaming at the quarterback from angles designed to make life hard for offensive linemen. That's not far off his job in the 4-3 under but it comes with a lot more run responsibility—the SLB has to take on blockers in just the right spot so that he neither lets the play escape contain nor gives him a lane inside too big to shut down. Expect to see him on passing downs but only passing downs this fall.
Third on the depth chart is true freshman Brennen Beyer, one of the most highly touted recruits in this year's class. His recruiting profile has the goods: excellent speed and lateral mobility on a frame that needs and can put on a lot of weight. He was expected to play WDE and flipped to SLB after Frank Clark showed very well in fall. He was 100% lineman in high school and will need some time to adjust to new responsibilities. Hopefully they can get a redshirt on him this year.
it's tough to find shots of Jones and Herron in the wild
This is the most uncertain thing about the defense. Mouton left no ready heir apparent thanks to an injury that forced Mike Jones out for the entirety of 2009. Top competition Brandon Herron also missed a big chunk of last year. When he returned he mostly sat.
Jones returns atop the depth chart out of little more than momentum. Michigan fans haven't seen much out of him other than a few redshirt-burning tackles on kickoff coverage, so his recruiting profile will have to stand in for actual knowledge.
For what it's worth he does seem well suited to be one of those blitzer guys Greg Mattison promises will exist this year:
Exceptional edge blitzer that has great timing and quickness; speed rushes by the offensive tackle before he can get set. Offensive backs can't or won't block him when blitzing off the edge; really creates havoc in the backfield. Does a great job of using his hands to shed blockers in order to get to the ball carrier.
As a bonus, he's beefed up from 208 to 224, which is reasonable WLB size. Folks were talking him up as a "playmaker" during spring practice last time around. Little's been heard since. That goes for all of his competitors as well.
That position and again I hate to ever say anything positive, I love how those guys are playing at times. At times, they are playing with such energy and such speed and such explosiveness. One day one of them, I’ll go wow that’s what we’re looking for and the next day he may have not as good a day and the other guy will step up. I think that one is a battle. That one is a battle right now and it is kind of a good battle to have.
Reality or Johnny Sears airy pump-up? We won't know that for a while. There are three experienced scholarship options. Whoever ends up winning the job might be bad; they probably won't be awful. There are three upperclass options before we dig up a freshman.
The second guy on the depth chart is fifth-year senior Brandon Herron, who's bounced all over the front seven in his time in Ann Arbor without managing to see the field much. He's got thirty-four tackles to his name, many of them in garbage time or on special teams.
Just when it looked like he might have a role in the 3-3-5 he came down with an injury and forced Roh to move back to LB. As a recruit he was middle-of-the-road, reputed to be a raw athlete. He'll probably see some time and not do anything spectacular with it.
Junior Brandin Hawthorne and true freshman Desmond Morgan also feature on the depth chart. Hawthorne is one of the Pahokee crew. He was a hilariously undersized high school player and has been bouncing between linebacker and safety the past couple years. He's happy to be back in the front seven:
"I was actually recruited as a linebacker so to be back feels really natural to me," said Hawthorne. "This is the position I played my whole life until I got to Michigan so it's nothing new, but I've had to learn the system, my responsibilities, and that takes time." …
"I'm not a real physical player - I'm more finesse - but I'm fast and smart," he said. "You need a brain on defense and I'm smart enough to recognize formations, and help move guys around. And I think I'm pretty good at making plays. I know I'm not going to overpower someone but I'm pretty good at slipping through the cracks."
Now up to 214 pounds, Hawthorne was getting some time with the first team during the select plays the media was allowed to watch. If his self-scouting is accurate he may be more of an option against spread teams. The weakside linebacker does get protected in the 4-3, so if he's got the speed and smarts Michigan might deal with the size.
The Big Ten Network was told to watch out for Morgan when their tour hit Ann Arbor, so they did. Viewers were treated to a shot of Morgan getting plowed over and over again as Gerry DiNardo tried to convince them he was the new hotness on the weakside.
Hoke has been talking him up. When asked about the linebacker situation outside of Demens Hoke went to Morgan first:
I think Desmond Morgan is a guy who we think is going to play some football for us. Mike Jones, we’ve played a little bit of MIKE and a little bit of WILL. Marrell Evans is playing some in there.
That was just a few days ago. Morgan was the MGoBlog Sleeper of the Year based on a wide array of scouting reports that praise his instincts, lateral mobility, and toughnosed hard gritty gritness. I thought he'd have to cool his heels behind Demens for a couple years, but he may get on the field quicker than anyone expected.