Formation notes: Nothing unusual. Here's a kitten in some marshmallows.
Substitution notes: On the line we got a ton of people: the starting four (Roh-Campbell-Washington-Black), Ash, Pipkins, Beyer, and Brink. James Ross rotated through both MLB and WLB, replacing Demens or Morgan on about half the drives. Cam Gordon saw a few snaps in place of Ryan.
In the secondary, Michigan first moved Gordon down to nickel and brought in Jarrod Wilson. After the long touchdown on Avery they brought in Raymon Taylor as a one for one replacement for Countess.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O25||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Morgan||1|
|Michigan comes out with their nickel, moving Kovacs down into the box. Line is Ryan-Campbell-Roh-Beyer. Campbell(-1) and Roh(-1) get blown a yard or two off the ball Demens(+2) and Morgan(+2) have to flow very hard very fast; they do so, meeting linemen near the LOS before they can fully disengage. Demens gets outside his man and forces it back to Morgan; Campbell is also there.|
|Ryan (+0.5, RPS +1, pressure +2) gets a free run off the edge. McCarron has to throw immediately and does to Lacy; dropped. Floyd looked like he was in okay coverage.|
|O26||3||9||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel even||Pass||4||Throwaway||Ryan||Inc|
|Morgan shows blitz, backs out. Michigan stunts; Ryan(+2) ducks inside the LT and runs through a crappy chip from the RB, getting pressure(+2) right up the middle as Black(+0.5) comes around the outside to contain. McCarron chucks it away.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O39||1||10||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Counter Iso||Demens||9|
|Countess gone now. Kovacs rolled up for an eighth guy. The second TE is lined up as an h-back on the boundary and roars up in a gap. Demens(-2) eats him two yards downfield and lets him outside; Morgan(-1) gets lost on the counter action. Roh(+0.5) had disengaged and tackles; could have tackled near the LOS if Demens hadn't gotten blown up.|
|O48||2||1||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Demens||2|
|Michigan slants away from the play, sending Ryan as they pull Black off the LOS. Roh(+1) ends up slanting into a double and gets buried, but holds up okay and does not allow anyone to get on the LBs. Demens(+1) flows into the hole next to Roh and gets a diving tackle on Lacy as he leaps; Morgan(-1) gets caught up in Roh's trash and cannot help. Otherwise this could be no gain.|
|50||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5?||Waggle hitch||Avery||7|
|I think this was a blitz the PA screwed up. There is no one on the edge(pressure -1) as McCarron turns, and it's an easy pitch and catch for him. Avery in coverage, not that close, does tackle on the catch.|
|M43||2||3||Ace||4-3 under||Penalty||--||False start||--||-5|
|you gonna die now kid saban's gonna eat you|
|M48||3||8||Ace 4-wide||4-3 even||Pass||5||Seam||Floyd||19|
|Ryan gets dragged way out in to the slot. Play goes to the other side anyway. Michigan sends both LBs, dropping off Black short. Kovacs(-2, cover -2) goes for a chuck on the interior WR and doesn't get much; the routes are all past Black's little drop-off and the blitz is slow (Demens -0.5, Morgan -0.5, pressure -1); McCarron sees the big gap in the middle of the defense and hits it. Floyd tackles; he really had no choice here but to split the two WRs running in his zone and tackle. Kovacs has to get depth here as his man goes vertical. RPS -1.|
|M29||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Lead zone||Demens||14|
|Floyd rolled up. Michigan slants away from the playside again, which means the line gets sealed inside. The LBs have to be hauling ass. Demens(-1) gets caught up in a lineman who is falling as he releases, but is releasing on the snap so that is tough. Have to have some DL make a play. . Morgan is trying to reach but wasn't done any favors by his DL; Roh(-2) and Ryan(-2) end up getting blown back two yards by single blocks and Morgan ends up in a pile of bodies. Gordon comes up to keep leverage and is kicked by the FB; thanks to Demens there is no one Gordon is funneling to. Kovacs(+1, tackling +1) comes up to make a nice openfield tackle to prevent a TD. RPS -1; slant made things tough.|
|M15||1||10||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Lead zone||Roh||5|
|Morgan(-1) rushes at the LOS on some sort of blitz and gets chopped to the ground again. Roh(-1) gets blown out of his lane by his blocker. Brink(-1) also chopped to the ground on the backside. Washington(+0.5) actually gets some push and forces Yeldon into a relatively small hole. Demens is one on one with a guard and can't do much more than a helpless dive at feet. Gordon(+0.5, tackling +1) fills well.|
|M10||2||5||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Ash||5|
|Ash at NT. He's blown up(-2); Morgan(-1) is thumped backwards by the FB. Demens had no chance thanks to Ash getting blown up so fast.. They comboed him like it was nothing.|
|M5||1||G||I-Form Big||Goal line||Run||N/A||Lead zone||Heitzman||3|
|Michigan just chucking guys out there, anybody. Heitzman(-2) hurled to the ground and pancaked. This is the gap. Demens(+0.5) gets a good thwack on the FB at the LOS and forces it back inside, would be a no gain if that DE could just not die immediately. Guy who hurls Heitzman to ground then gets out on Morgan(-0.5); Black actually makes the tackle near the goal line.|
|M2||2||G||I-Form Big||Goal line||Pass||N/A||PA TE corner||Ryan||2|
|Ryan(-1, cover -1), loses the TE on the PA, but you can't blame him much.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-7, 7 min 1st Q. Ugh, turn out the lights. Pick a DL, he got his ass kicked.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O33||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||PA throwaway||Gordon?||Inc|
|Ross has already replaced Morgan. Wilson playing FS. So much for no freshmen. Coverage(+2) is good off the PA; McCarron can't find anyone, at which point Ryan and Beyer are getting some pressure. He backs out and throws it away.|
|O33||2||10||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Demens||16|
|Morgan back. M slants again. This gets the two DL past their blockers; Morgan(+1) flows hard to the cutback lane these guys just vacated. Center comes out on him but he's at the LOS already and has funneled. Demens(-2) sits and waits for the ball, getting blocked by a fullback three gaps away from the play. Campbell(-2) didn't help by getting pushed past the play.|
|O49||1||10||I-Form||4-3 even||Pass||5||PA fly||Avery||51|
|Play action. All day for McCarron (pressure -2); Avery (-3, cover -3) falls on the double move and guy is wide open.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-14, 5 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|M17||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Fly||Floyd||Inc|
|Overthrown and OOB. Floyd might have had a play.|
|M17||2||10||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Campbell||8|
|Pipkins in. Roh(+0.5) does a nice job to fight upfield of his guy at the numbers and force it back. Michigan has slanted to the boundary; Campbell's(-2) quickness gets him past his guy, and then he takes a terrible angle that is not along the LOS, so when the RB cuts back he's got a lane. Linebackers nowhere near the cutback, which I don't get since the line is slanting. They get swallowed.|
|M9||3||2||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Roh||9|
|Demens(+1) thunders into the FB at the LOS and forces a cut. There is one because Roh(-2) fought out of his gap and got shoved back; Floyd(-1, tackling -1) whiffs on Lacy afterwards. Mattison: "One of the touchdowns, for example, where Floyd missed the tackle in the hole, which would have been a two-yard gain, and he got a touchdown on it. Craig Roh just tried to make the play inside and should have stayed outside."|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-21, 1 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O34||1||10||Ace twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Ross||50|
|Nobody takes the C gap to the field. The line again slants to the boundary, and get under their guys. Penetration. Black is containing to the outside. Neither linebacker goes to the hole the line is funneling them to. Ross(-3), Morgan(-2), Kovacs(-0.5, tackling -1) for missing a tough tackle but not keeping leverage, Gordon(-1, tackling -1) for whiffing as he comes up, Taylor (-1, tackling -1) for whiffing, Ryan(-0.5, tackling -1) why am I doing this|
|M31||1||15||Ace 3-wide||Okie||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Morgan||-3|
|M seven across the front, and they send six with Ross dropping off to clean up. Ryan gets upfield and forces it back, but he's way upfield, I don't think that's ideal. Beyer(+1) gets a little penetration and cuts off a cutoff lane the RB thinks about. Morgan(+2) beats a block and surges upfield as RB tries to break outside the tackles. RPS +1|
|M34||2||18||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||4||Scramble||Roh||15 – 15 pen|
|Roh(+1) fights inside the tackle and his held, but no call; hold makes him fall. This spooks McCarron and Beyer(+1) coming around the outside flushes him totally. Contain is broken and McCarron gets a bunch of yards, but the missed hold probably made that possible. Bama guy gets a PF for hitting Floyd in the head at the end of the play. Refs -1.|
|M34||3||18||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Screen||--||26|
|Michigan gets RPSed hard(-3), sending everyone to the same side they blitz on. Yeldon has a free first down.|
|M8||1||G||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Lead zone||Morgan||4|
|Again the slant, again LBs not flowing. Ross(+0.5) at least tears ass. Into a blocker, but okay. He pushes some guys back and makes the hole smaller. Kovacs cuts off the lead blocker and maintains leverage; Morgan(-1) slows up inexplicably and can only make contact from the side. Gordon(+0.5, tackling +1) meets him at the same time, preventing this from getting to the two.|
|M4||2||G||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Fade||Avery||Inc|
|Michigan sends the house and gets free rushers(pressure +2, RPS +1). McCarron chucks it away. This should be grounding, as he's in the pocket.|
|Drive Notes: FG, 0-24, 10 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O47||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Cross||N/A||Inc|
|No pressure (-2); decent coverage(+2) and a checkdown. With Ryan coming up probably a 4-6 yard gain if caught; dropped.|
|O47||2||10||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Counter||Ross||7|
|Big gap on the backside as the line slides towards the TEs. Alabama pulls one to the back, which neither LB reads, and kicks Black. Brink(-1) is blown up. Ross(-1) and Demens(-1) are gone. Kovacs is nominally in the box and comes down to tackle(+0.5, +1) as Hart breaks into the second level.|
|M46||3||3||Shotgun empty||4-3 under||Pass||5||Sack||Ryan||-6|
|TE standing up a yard or two outside the line points Ryan out but no one picks him up. Ross is sent; Beyer backs out. Ryan(+1) flushes McCarron up into the pocket, where Ross(+0.5) and Roh(+0.5) combine to sack.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 5 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O25||1||10||Ace twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Zone counter||Kovacs||-2|
|Not sure what to call this. Looks like standard inside zone blocking; QB flips the handoff around and gives it to the back going to the other side and he's headed backside from the start. Michigan is totally screwed on this with Beyer(-2) fighting inside and losing outside contain but for Kovacs(+2, tackling +1) shooting up past an attempted WR block and making a TFL.|
|O23||2||12||I-Form twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Ryan||3|
|Ryan (+1) gets into the FB at the LOS to the inside and clogs up the hole; Roh(+1) also fights through a block and ends up taking the pulling guard as well. Lacy slows up, confused, and shows why he'll lose his job to TJ Yeldon by not shooting outside immediately. Michigan should have had a guy there but Demens(-1), unblocked, is just sitting behind the line. The delay allows an unblocked Beyer(+0.5) to tackle near the LOS.|
|We're watching a close-up of JT Floyd for this whole play.|
|O35||1||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||4||Quick out||Demens||13|
|A five yard hitch turns into more as Demens(-1, cover -1) overruns the play.|
|O48||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Out||Floyd||12|
|No pressure(-2), WR wide open for about 15 (Floyd –1, cover -1). Easy.|
|M40||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Dumpoff||Roh||11|
|Roh stunts with Beyer and gets into the LT, knocking him back on his heels. LT then tackles him. No call. because Bama needs that kind of help. McCarron scrambles out and dumps it off to Lacy. (Pressure +1, Roh +1, Refs -2) Lacy gets a first down but runs out the clock as he does so. Fumble pops out, because this is when we really need a turnover.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 7-31, EOH|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 under||Pass||4||Waggle out||Gordon||28|
|Coverage is fine here with Gordon prepped to make a tackle after this guy catches it three yards downfield; Gordon(-2, tackling -2) whiffs, turning this into big yards. Morgan(-1, tackling -1) compounds matters.|
|O48||1||10||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Pipkins||5|
|Pipkins in at NT. He gets good push(+1), driving the C back a couple yards and constricting any frontside hole. RB has to slow up awkwardly and cut back. Roh(-2) has taken a cut and gets up, then tries to do what he did on the earlier TD by over pursuing and getting out of his lane, opening up the backside. If he's more responsible likely TFL. Ryan then brings Yeldon down after he slices back upfield.|
|M47||2||5||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Campbell||15|
|Campbell(-2) ends up shoved two yards downfield and well down the line, opening up a big cutback lane. Pipkins(-1) took an angle too far upfield and helped open it up, too. Demens(+1) does a good job to dodge an attempted cut block and tackles as Yeldon shoots upfield; this is probably a touchdown-saving play.|
|O38||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Pass||5||PA sack||Campbell||-16|
|Coverage(+2) is good, causing McCarron to hesitate. He spooks. Campbell(+2) has blasted the OL's hands down and starts coming around the edge. He has to go even further around as Black is now bull-rushing his guy back, but manages to get all the way around that and run the QB down for a sack. Impressive. (Pressure +2) Washington(+1) also beat a guy and forced a RB up; that's probably the reason for the McCarron spook.|
|M46||2||26||Ace||Nickel even||Pass||4||PA scramble||--||4|
|McCarron has nothing (coverage +2) and despite not getting any pressure just decides to take off. He gets a few.|
|50||3||22||Shotgun empty||Nickel even||Pass||4||Tunnel screen||Kovacs||15|
|Despite only sending four this gets dangerous. The LB to that side is sent and Michigan sends Beyer and Demens to the field; this goes to the boundary. Kovacs attacks this fantastically, getting past an attempted blocker, and... misses the tackle. He does delay the WR considerably, which helps the D rally. I'll give him a pass as this was a tough play. Gordon comes into tackle after a big gain, RPS -2; without that Kovacs play this could have been six. Bama has our screen number in this game.|
|Drive Notes: Missed FG(52), 7-31, 7 min 3rd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O47||1||10||Ace twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Zone counter||Beyer||12|
|Again the backside DE here fails to keep contain. Beyer(-2) is the culprit. Kovacs is in man coverage and is not very useful; Michigan blitzed Morgan so there is no playside LB (RPS -1). Gordon(-0.5, tackling -1) comes up and misses a tackle but at least slows the guy and keeps leverage. Brink(-1) ended up on the ground, so even if Beyer contains there's a big hole to exploit.|
|M41||1||10||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Demens||8|
|Brink(-1) is instantly doubled away and sealed; quick G release on Morgan. Morgan(+0.5) gets to the G about a yard downfield and does get outside of him, funneling back; Demens(-2) is slow to the hole and then misses the tackle(-1). Kovacs(-1, tackling -1) also there and spun through.|
|M33||2||2||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Ash||0|
|Ash(+2) beats a block by swimming under it and coming back behind the OL so that he's still in the hole. He takes on the lead blocker and forces Lacy to slow up. Demens(+0.5) is free and comes up to hit. Campbell(+0.5) helped out, too.|
|M33||3||2||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Pass||N/A||Waggle flare||--||Inc|
|McCarron doesn't have it long(cover +1) and tries to flip it to the back leaking out but biffs it. Hard to tell if this makes it.|
|Drive Notes: FG(51), 7-34, 2 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O25||1||10||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Lead zone||Kovacs||8|
|M does not adjust to motion (RPS -1) and Black gets sealed inside by the TE. Demens(-2) runs up in that same gap and is sealed by same TE, so it's Kovacs(-1, tackling -1) on the outside with a blocker and a ton of space. Kovacs damn near makes an awesome play but doesn't and loses leverage, so the minus. Black(+0.5) was actually in position to tackle if Kovacs forces it back.|
|O33||2||2||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Campbell||18|
|Campbell(-2) drives his man back, but his angle is way too far directly upfield and then he gets cut, falling over. Morgan(-1) and Ross(-1) both got blown up. Black(-1) ran way too far upfield and opened this gap up even further. I screenshotted this. It's turrible by everyone relevant. Long way to go. Long way.|
|M49||1||10||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Lead zone||Ross||5|
|Michigan gets flanked a la MSU last year. Ross(-2) runs straight upfield, eliminating himself. The TE in position doesn't even have to block him, Kovacs gets walled off a bit but does come up to tackle once Floyd provides leverage at the numbers.|
|M44||2||5||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Pipkins||7|
|Pipkins(-2) blown up. Ross(-2) runs into his own OL instead of the FB.|
|M37||1||10||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Ross||0|
|Ross(+1) pops the FB at the LOS and shucks inside. Washington(+1) sheds his block around the LOS and provides a guy in the hole. Cam Gordon comes from behind to help out.|
|M37||2||10||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Pass||N/A||PA TE corner||Taylor||Inc|
|Roh(+1, pressure +1) is unblocked and dodges an RB block to get some token pressure that may see McCarron miss long on his TE; Taylor(-1, cover -1) had gotten sucked up on PA and this was open, but not mega-open.|
|Press coverage, Avery playing inside leverage, gets no chuck, lets slot have a step. Overthrown. Ryan and Roh got decent pressure from the edge, but it's a push.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-34, 12 min 4th Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O43||1||10||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Campbell||3|
|Washington(+0.5) holds up to a double decently; Campbell(+1) gives ground on a double at first but comes through it after the second guy releases to block Ross(+0.5), who is trying to shoot the gap and at least a little aggressive. Black comes through a block but I'm not sure if I like this or not because if the back is aware enough to cut outside of this it could break big. Back doesn't, instead grinding for a few yards.|
|O46||2||7||Ace twin TE||4-3 under||Pass||5||Waggle TE out||Gordon||16|
|Gordon(-2, cover -2) bites hard on the play action, opening up not only the catch but a ton of YAC. RPS -1.|
|O38||1||10||Ace twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Campbell||11|
|Campbell(-2) gets clubbed to the ground by a double, which is a super quick release on Ross as a result. Kovacs(+0.5) attacks hard this time—makes me think he has not being doing well all game previous—and gets in for a tackle attempt at the LOS. He misses but at least forces the back away from the gaping hole Campbell left. Ash(-1) also got kicked pretty badly. Campbell could make a tackle now if he wasn't on the ground. Ross fights through his block and... misses a tackle(-1). Taylor comes in from the side to finish it.|
|O27||1||10||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Ash||6|
|Ash(-2) blown three yards off the ball by a single block from the center. Morgan comes up hard and takes on a G near the LOS, forcing it back, but Ash getting blown up doesn't make that relevant. Ross(-1) also got chopped. If he remains up he could make a tackle at about three yards. Pursuit catches up after a few more.|
|O21||2||4||I-Form twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Power||Brink||-1|
|Brink(+2) manages to shoot between the gap left by the pulling guard, aided by the OT's odd decision to flare out on Beyer. He's falling but a couple yards oin the backfield, and tackles(+1) at his feet. Looked well defended otherwise. Heitzman(+0.5) and Washington(+0.5) but like whatevers.|
|O22||3||5||Shotgun trips TE||Okie||Pass||6||Fly||Floyd||Inc (Pen+15)|
|Mattison's zone blitz gets Roh(+1, pressure +2, RPS +1) in unblocked, forcing McCarron to chuck a hopeful one off his back foot. It is of course dead accurate. Floyd(-2, cover -2) is in good position but just gets outrun and ends up hooking the WR's arm, drawing a legit flag.|
|O7||1||G||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Ross||6|
|Ross(-1) is sent on a blitz and shoots the gap between two blockers. He goes to the inside, gets shoved, and thus vacates his gap. RB hits gap. Kovacs(-1, tackling -1) gets run over at the five; Morgan has impressively leapt a cut block and manages to get him down before the goal line.|
|O1||2||G||Goal line||Goal line||Run||N/A||Iso||--||1|
|They get it.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-41, 5 min 4th Q. Backups for both teams on the next two drives, charting ceases.|
why are you doing this to me
WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME
i'm not doing anything
YES YOU ARE
just leave me alone
|Roh||7.5||8||-0.5||Surprised he came out this well.|
|Campbell||3.5||11||-7.5||Minor downgrade at this position.|
|Brink||2||4||-2||Blown up a couple times.|
|Morgan||5.5||10||-4.5||And this was the best ILB play!|
|Demens||6||12.5||-6.5||Seemed marginally worse than Morgan.|
|Ryan||4.5||3.5||1||I may have not picked up some things he was doing that were bad.|
|C. Gordon||-||-||-||Nothing of note.|
|Ross||2.5||11||-8.5||Welcome to college.|
|Floyd||-||4||-4||Bad PI extended Bama TD drive.|
|Avery||-||3||-3||Big TD on his fall.|
|Taylor||-||3||-3||One long TD on him.|
|Kovacs||4||5.5||-1.5||Poor day by his standards.|
|T. Gordon||1||5.5||-4.5||Missed tackles a plague.|
|Wilson||-||-||-||Did not chart.|
|TOTAL||13.5||26.5||-13||Thanks for being inaccurate, Miller.|
|Pressure||12||8||4||Do I hear bright spot?|
|Coverage||9||13||-4||Could have been worse.|
|Tackling||5||14||26%||This probably could not have been worse.|
|RPS||3||8||-5||Blitzes exploited a couple times.|
So that's a demolition, too. If you want to sanity-check those numbers, Alabama averaged 6.2 YPC while running two-thirds of the time. Other than the Avery fall, Michigan kept the Alabama passing game in decent check, but it doesn't matter when you get crushed that badly on the ground.
I'm shocked that Washington didn't pick up any negatives and can't vouch for that. It may be that there were just other places to run all the time. We'll see what happens this week.
Yeah. He flashed impressive closing speed to track down McCarron on his sack but unfortunately also vacated lanes like whoah. By the time Yeldon hits this hole, he is behind Desmond Morgan, like literally directly behind him on the field:
And, like… come on, man:
The last-second switch on the defensive line seemed ominous when it was made and even considering the opposition I think that disquiet is confirmed now.
So it was all on the line?
The numbers say no but I have to admit this was hard sledding for me as I tried to figure out what was going wrong. On last year's defense, it was usually a single thing, maybe two things. On certain plays against Alabama it became extremely difficult to pinpoint what was wrong because it seemed like everything was.
So take this Yeldon run.
Michigan is slanting away from the playside blocking, which is going to leave a gap to the outside. Alabama has a lead blocker who kicks a charging Gordon, which is fine for Gordon, as he's turning it upfield at the hash.
Everything else is broken. Three Michigan defenders are on the backside of the play with two Alabama blockers. Then there is a cavern. Roh and Ryan are both clubbed off the ball by single blocks. As a result Demens is slashed to the ground because the OL assigned to him doesn't even have to provide a token double. Morgan is trying to flow to the hole but has to jump over Demens because the lineblob has gotten back to him. Once Yeldon reaches the LOS there is no one to even slow him. He hits the secondary, where Kovacs makes an impressive touchdown-saving tackle on a guy who wasn't even touched before he passed the sticks.
Who is at fault here? That side of the line, definitely. Demens? I mean, he's trying to read in the backfield and he's already got a guy in his legs before the ball is handed off. Morgan? He probably could have taken a more conservative angle… and tried to tackle where Kovacs got him. Trying to judge linebackers under these conditions is trying to find out who's the best guy at reattaching limbs in a field hospital stocked only with Elmer's Glue and old copies of Guns and Ammo. When they just single-block the entire line and roar out on you on the snap, life as a linebacker is a sad, sad existence.
BWS said the linebackers were hesitant.
Yeah, he's right. I'm not saying the linebackers were good—they got hammered numerically—and hesitancy is the main problem to my eyes as well. Here's a very similar defensive call on which the line gets excellent penetration:
This leapt off the screen to both myself and Chris, who focused on it in the above-linked post.
Here your slant closes off most of the holes. Campbell gets shoved past his ideal location, and that's a problem, but watch Morgan and Demens mostly. Morgan is aggressive, getting to the hole at around the LOS and funneling to his defensive partner. Demens then gets blocked by an h-back(!) three gaps away from where the play is. Morgan's at the LOS; Demens is two yards behind it. Is Campbell at fault here? Yes, if he is in the right spot there is no gap in the line.
Did Demens screw up? I think so, but this happened with enough consistency that in an ideal world Michigan wants that to happen so Demens can track down that RB when he has to slow up and awkwardly pick a hole.
Here there isn't going to be one so you need to slam hard into that big gap. How do you know this? You probably don't. Your peripheral vision picks it up and you go, because you have instincts. Or don't, as in this case.
These are what James Ross are supposed to have, yes?
Reportedly, yes. It didn't take him long to leap Joe Bolden and become the #3 LB on the depth chart. He rotated in at both MLB and WLB and did a bunch of stuff wrong but at least was damned decisive about it. Here's a replica of the first play above, the lead zone. This one is still a lost down (four yards on first and goal from the eight) but the differences between Ross and Demens are notable:
WOOOOOO IMMA GET ON MY HORSE AND GOOOOOOOOOO
Ross pounds into the guys at the line and gets himself sealed, but at least the POA is still at the LOS and there isn't a huge body in the way of Morgan. Morgan then takes a false step and can't get to the hole despite this being Yet Another Slant on which cutbacks should be doomed. Watch Morgan slow up as the blocker reaches him despite Campbell being obviously unblocked directly in front of his face. Blocker gets into him a bit and instead of meeting the tailback in that hole, he does it three yards downfield from the side.
So what's the point of all the slanting?
This is one of those things that I still need coaching up on, but IME executing that slant where you pick a gap and get in it is designed to force the tailback into a specific gap your DL are not covering by design. This gap is ideally one-person-sized and can be filled by the nearest LB plugging a FB or leading guard at the LOS. This allows the other LB to play it a little cooler. When the gap is big enough that the back can pick either side of the block the fullback laid down then you need that second linebacker to haul ass, beat the block (which is almost always coming from a difficult angle for the offense to get you on the slant), and finish as a free hitter.
Michigan was getting large gaps without free hitters. Is this on the DL? Or LB? Or both? Hand me the glue and the March 1987 edition—you know, the one with that guy using an AK47 on a bear.
Because, man, the linebackers seem clueless. Michigan slants left on this play, leaving Black as backside contain. the linebackers go… left. so you've got a huge hole you were planning on putting there and honey linebackers don't care.
Long, long way to go. For everybody.
Was not a step up or down in this environment. Is that good? If you want it to be, I guess. He did force a cutback by getting good push, something we didn't see much else of:
In general, ask again later.
Any unrelated complaints recycled from last year?
Spread punt plz.
I know Hagerup's kicking the dickens out of the ball, but that's all the more reason to get those interior guys gone on the snap. Most of college football probably isn't wrong about this.
Nobody. I don't trust my Washington number.
Oh hell let's just move on.
What does it mean for Air Force and beyond?
This made me feel much worse than the offense. Denard flashed greatly improved accuracy, we didn't have Fitz, Alabama is Alabama, etc. Here it's just a complete crapfest. You expect to lose the battle against this OL with Michigan's DL but they got so comprehensively owned that I'm worried this ends up being a harbinger.
Campbell was bad. Campbell is playing because Michigan has no other choice. Campbell can remain bad and not get pulled off the field. There is no reason to think Campbell will ever be not bad, etc. I'm expecting the DL causes Michigan to get gashed by Air Force—like, a lot—and we have an uncomfortable outing Saturday.
|Jake Ryan||So.*||Kenny Demens||Sr.*||Desmond Morgan||So.|
|Cam Gordon||Jr.*||Joe Bolden||Fr.||Brandin Hawthorne||Sr.|
|Royce Jenkins-Stone||Fr.||Mike Jones||Jr.*||James Ross||Fr.|
It's step-up time for the linebacking corps. They return every contributor from a year ago and get freshman-to-sophomore transitions from Jake Ryan and Desmond Morgan. Kenny Demens, Cam Gordon, and Brandin Hawthorne are entering their second consecutive years in a sane defense for the first time in their careers and could/should see larger than average leaps in performance.
They will need to be much better. Mike Martin isn't going to bail them out on six plays a game anymore. Ryan Van Bergen isn't walking through that door. Ryan has to become an elite pass rush threat; Demens and Morgan need to take on blockers and funnel to help far more consistently than they did a year ago.
This is well within reach. Now about getting there.
|SLOWER THAN BLOCKS|
|eats MSU cut|
|eats OSU TE|
|eats him again|
|FASTER THAN BLOCKS|
|flow hard son|
|GOT SOME THUMP|
|Iowa FB denied|
|No Coker part 1|
|line to seam PBU|
In 2010, Kenny Demens was not Obi Ezeh, and this was enough. Expectations were sky-high for Demens in 2011 if only because he seemed so much better than Michigan's incumbent that he had to be pretty good. In retrospect, his somewhat disappointing output was always the likely outcome. Like almost everyone else on the defense, Demens had experienced position-coaching chaos and shifted from system to system on a semiannual basis.
Stepping into an entirely different coaching regime naturally meant hesitation, and hesitation was what we got. I put up this extremely scientific pie chart after Eastern Michigan put up 4.5 YPC despite throwing six times:
We'll talk about the Jake Ryan edge allowance below; here we're fixated on the big red thing labeled "hesitant linebacker play." This was the week after I'd watched Notre Dame's linebackers tear ass after anything that moved, so I may have had a view of proper linebacker play improperly biased towards running your balls off as soon as a guard gives you a direction.
I don't think so, though, as Michigan linebackers were exploited on the edge for much of the year. Blue Seoul captured a Kain Colter option TD in With Pics(!), and while I suppose Carvin Johnson, who Seoul criticizes, could have been more Kovacs-y on the play, he did follow the golden rule of leverage by keeping Colter well inside of him. It's just that there was no one to clean up afterwards:
Johnson's mistake should have been worth a few yards, but not enough for Northwestern to convert. Earlier he was unable to shut down an outside run that got turned up at the numbers:
He's even with Hawthorne, who was the backside LB, and well behind nose tackle Mike Martin in his attempt to shut the play down. This is because he took an angle upfield of a blocker on a perimeter run, which is one of those "you better make the damn play" decisions. Demens wasn't close.
Demens got a –4 in that game and was negative the next week against MSU as the Spartans pounded the edges and found Michigan LBs a step slow. Too often Demens did not do what Johnson is managing above, like on this Ed Baker run against MSU. Watch him eat a block and let Baker to the edge:
I know this is not an edge play, but it's symptomatic of the main issue.
You want edge biff? Edge biff.
State couldn't get out to the second level on Hawthorne and he is free. This is a quintessential example of what you hear about the WLB in the under: he often ends up the free hitter because of the configuration of the DL whereas the MLB has to take on a block. Demens takes on a block, loses leverage, does not funnel to his partner, and off Baker goes. This was 60-70% of all the complaining I did about the linebackers last year and my A-#1 bitch about Jonas Mouton. Michigan linebackers aren't good about keeping leverage. (Yet.)
Before and after that, Demens was pretty good between the tackles. He pounded ND for twelve tackles and a +8.5 and was consistently above average late in the year, picking up three straight +4s against Iowa, Illinois, and Nebraska before falling back towards zero in the OSU game. Late he started playing faster. His third-and-one stick of Marcus Coker was hands down Michigan's tackle of the year:
Yeah, Kovacs collapsed Alex Carder's lung. He did not stop that truck dead in its tracks. Demens was also the second key on that Braxton Miller rollout against OSU, tracking him to the edge and forming up at the right spot to allow Black to come from behind.
For Demens, it's about playing fast and going hard. Last year Mattison literally played him at nose tackle because he'd rather have Mike Martin blitz; Demens needs to go when he goes, and decide to go more quickly. That should be in reach. He'll be a solid run defender and decent down the seam, but a lack of raw athleticism probably sees him top out at a bit above average.
[hit THE JUMP for Bolden as Samson, Jake Ryan(!), and Desmond Morgan]
Programming note: Due to a poorly timed (but awesome) vacation, I was in California for the last several days. That's why Ace had to cover for me at Media Day and why *Jedi handwave* there was no coordinator presser on Tuesday. I'm back to provide uninterrupted coverage from here on out, though, so feel free to get off your tenterhooks.
News bullets and other important things:
- Just completed 14th practice; did some scrimmaging.
- Ben Braden, Erik Magnuson, and Erik Gunderson are all practicing at tackle.
- No decision yet on Fitz Toussaint.
- Roundtree's chances of returning for Alabama are "good."
- Matt Wile currently holds a slight edge for the punting job over Will Hagerup and Kenny Allen.
- Chris Wormley has not yet undergone surgery but will; as expected, will likely miss the entire season.
Football was being played.
“Thanks for coming. 14th practice, midway point, did some good things, did some things -- playing with a little better speed. I think the fundamentals and techniques that you always go back to. I think the guys are doing a pretty good job with that. I think we have to be more physical on both fronts. That’s not nearly solved yet for how we need to play, but for the 14th day, this is really grind right now and it should be because of the schedule that they’ve been on. You have to see how they respond. They responded pretty well to some situational things this afternoon, but as far as being ready for September 1st, we have a long way to go.”
By situational, do you mean scrimmage?
“It’s a little bit situations. You know, just give as many -- not a lot of plays, but enough to hear some football and those kinds of things.”
When do you plan to have a full scrimmage?
“Not until Saturday.”
Just wanted to ask about a couple Alabama guys: their QB McCarron and nose guard Williams. Thoughts?
“Well I mean, I think McCarron’s done a great job leading their football team. National championship quarterback. Plays with a lot of poise. The run game, he gets them in and out of the right places. They run the ball. He’s a very good leader. He seems to be on the field for them. Williams is a guy who’s disruptive. Somebody will have to contend with [him]. They have 10 teammates on each side of the ball, so they’re really part of a very good football team.”
Have you identified any backup tackles to Lewan and Schofield?
“You know, I don’t know. All those guys -- Ben Braden’s taken some snaps, Gunderson’s taken some snaps, Erik Magnuson’s taken some snaps. I don’t know I’d identify anybody who was it, I’d be honest with you, yet.”
Is it concerning that you have true freshmen at those positions?
“Yeah, always is. But it’s always -- those guys have to grow up fast. All of them are smart guys, and they’re coachable, so they’ll be okay.”
How many freshmen do you anticipate having in the two-deep on the offensive line?
“On the line? Oh maybe three. Maybe four.”
You didn’t get to spend much time with the freshmen earlier because they were in classes. What about now?
“Well they got out on Tuesday and today’s Thursday, so you still, from a learning and being comfortable with the terminology and what they’re asked to do, I think that part of it’s still early. I think they get through this week and into next week a little bit. You have a better idea. Can they play fast? Can they play with poise? Can they play with great technique? All those things are a part of it.”
Does anyone catch your attention in a positive way?
“Uh, you know, I would probably say they’re all -- I think they’re all working hard. I think they’re all eager. I think the talent level, the athleticism stuff is kind of what we’re looking at -- I don’t know. Not yet.”
Has Desmond Morgan made a leap this fall?
“Yeah, I think he did from spring and I think he has in the fall. I think he had a very good summer. He’s a driven, young man. And a very competitive person. I think the improvement of how he reacts -- he’s pretty instinctive. That’s why Yyu play as a freshman, because you’re an instinctive person and football player. And he’s pretty instinctive. I think the strength gains that he’s made, he’s a more powerful football player, linebacker.”
When do you make decisions on walk-ons getting scholarships?
“No we haven’t done that. It depends sometime before school starts if we’re thinking about that or if we have the scholarships.”
Are you thinking about it this year?
“Sometime before school starts.”
How has Fitz looked, and are you closer to making a decision on him yet?
“I have not, and he’s out there like the others running around.”
How do you plan to build cohesion as an offensive line while rotating three guys at left guard?
“What we’ll do is take a big part of scrimmage, practice situations, and keep playing a guy there so that there’s a comfort level between the left tackle and the center. I think Taylor can play basically with anybody because of his experience, and he knows more what to do. So that part of it, he’s pretty good so he doesn’t have to worry about himself as much as he does that guard.”
Has he been sort of an on-the-field coach?
“Yeah, he’s done a nice job. He’s done a nice job.”
When would you like to identify a starting offensive line?
“Oh, ten -- ten days before probably.”
Is that a rough guess? Why ten days?
“I think, you know, some continuity that we try to build consistently, but I think that’s part of it.”
Chris Wormley tore his ACL.
Has he had/will he have surgery?
“No. He has not and he will.”
“Sometime in the near future.”
How did he sustain the injury?
“Just playing football.”
Any plans to redshirt him?
“Most likely he’ll miss the year.”
You have three guys competing for the punting job. Has anyone stood out yet?
“You know, not really. I would give right now -- probably Wile had the better day. But we’ve got to be consistent day in and day out. Today I thought Matt stroked it pretty well. I didn’t think Will was as consistent, but he was better than he has been. Both of those guys were a little bit behind because they didn’t get as many reps during the summer, so I think they’re catching up.”
How confident are you with playing an inexperienced guy like Jerald Robinson, who has reportedly been standing out at the receiver position, on September 1st?
“I think we’ve got to put enough pressure on him and get him out of his comfort zone that you test them as best you can, and he’s got to go out there and do it. I mean there’s no other way besides going out there on that stage and doing it. We can put him on situations and test him and make him uncomfortable and see how he reacts. But at the same time, he’s just got to do it.”
What would you do to get him out of his comfort zone?
“Well you give him a lot of reps. You see how he reacts when he gets tired. You do some things coverage wise to beat him up at the line of scrimmage. Just trying to get him a little bit out of the comfort level.”
How is Roundtree doing, and what are his chances of playing the first week?
“He’s doing great.”
“I think they’re good.”
What is the clearing process for him to get back on the field?
“Him feeling better and the doctor feeling good and comfortable about it.”
Do you check up on him every day?
“Yeah he’s with a rehab specialist every day. We obviously communicate.”
What’s he doing physically at this point?
“With the rehab -- ”
Has JT Floyd progressed since last season, and how has his chemistry with Blake Countess developed?
“Well I think there’s a chemistry before JT and Blake. I think they push each other. I think the consistency is always something that we’ve got to keep having out there. That’s kind of a position where you’re on the island, everybody sees it when you falter, but I think they both improved. I think they both worked very hard.”
How do Blake and JT differ?
“That’s a good question. JT’s a little rangier, a little longer-armed, a little taller. I would say Blake’s probably a little more physical, you know, of the two. I think JT showed some physicalness a year ago, too. ”
Do you think that they feed off each other?
“Yeah I think so. I think that and Tom Gordon and Kovacs. Kovacs [is] kind of the field general, and it’s part of being a safety. I think they feed really well [off] each other.”
Can you get a sense for what kind of team you are 14 practices in?
Can you characterize anything about it so far?
“You know, we’ve got a lot we need to improve on.”
Do you like what you’re getting out of the seniors?
“They’re doing a good job.”
----------------BONUS PARAPHRASED PLAYER INTERVIEWS!----------------
- Likes his new position, prefers it to OLB.
- Technique-wise working on bull rush and a couple other moves.
- Says defense's strength is "technique." Weakness is "toughness." Needs to be "tougher."
- Father is a high school coach -- used to give him a bunch of pointers on technique, but now just watches the games as a fan.
- Family attends every game.
- Second year in defense, is picking up visual cues faster and therefore playing faster.
- Fitz's absence and return didn't affect running back practice. Fitz basically picked up where he left off.
- No sense of cutthroat competition between running backs -- they're all brothers and support each other.
- Loves watching film. Craziest place to watch film? In the shower. Did it multiple times last season.
I brought up the fact that he had only allowed one touchdown to opposing teams' No. 1 receivers all last season.
Floyd: "Which one? I just want to test you."
Me: "The Iowa guy? McNutt? It was either him or DeVier Posey." [I didn't remember exactly, but it was Posey.]
Floyd: "McNutt didn't score a touchdown on me!"
Background image by mgouser hillhaus
A thing I noticed this offseason while going over the depth and usage of various Michigan defenders is that Mattison used a lot more nickel than we gave him credit for. One thing Ace noted was that we're (finally) recruiting more cornerbacks. We shrugged a bit while losing two more CBs to playing time transferitis this fall, but I don't think we should be shrugging so much.
A little background (skip this if you already know personnel terminology and usage): Defensive coaches tend to match their personnel to the types of players on the field for the offense, NOT the formation. In general the number of backs and tight ends will be matched by linebackers, and the more that come out for receivers the more DBs the defense will send out. Three wide receivers generally means five defensive backs (i.e. nickel), two wide receivers equals four DBs (e.g. 4-3 or 3-4), etc.
The classic personnel shift is on 3rd and long, when the steady rock-pounders make way for the seven-yards-or-bust fellas. But it happens so often despite the situation that it's more accurate to see the game of matching personnel as another strategic aspect of the master's football game.
The offensive personnel is usually expressed in three digits meaning # of RBs, # of tight ends, and # of receivers, respectively. So 113 means 1 RB, 1 TE, and three WRs. Sometimes they'll call that same "eleven" personnel, referring to the first two digits. Examples below; click embiggerates.
How the matching up occurs is up to the coach. You could, for example, play a run-first OLB whenever a fullback is in, and sub him for a more rangy linebacker when the the fullback runs off the field for a tight end who's a known receiving threat. This happens all the time, but it's hard to track the defenses' reactions since we can't tell one linebacker in a formation from another in UFR. We do have data from which we can determine how many receivers were out there at any given time, and it's clear from these data that the more receivers the more defensive backs.
|WRs in Game||DL||LBs||DBs|
The last row is important because it shows Michigan left its base 4-3 Under set for an extra defensive back far more often than otherwise, usually at the expense of a linebacker. We didn't go to a nickel every time three receivers stepped on the field, in fact there were 22 plays charted where Mattison put his 4-3 personnel against four-wide (mostly against Northwestern and Purdue). But the charts not only say that Michigan was forced out of its base 4-3 set often; it says we played more Nickel downs than 4-3.
|Receivers in Formation|
If I remove 4th quarters and all plays that occurred when Michigan was up by more than one score, the 4-3 just barely edges the Nickel, 147 to 140. This isn't opponents trying to play catch-up. It's two things: the personnel that Mattison inherited, and the spread offense forcing Michigan to adapt to it.
Why all the nickel and diming? The first part is a story about outside linebacker. Early in the 2011 season Michigan played Brandon Herron and Brandin Hawthorne at WILL, while at SAM we lost Cam Gordon to injury and his backup was a redshirt freshman. That freshman, Jake Ryan, was earning his way toward more playing time, but in the meantime we still had Carvin Johnson taking snaps at free safety while Thomas Gordon was in at the nickel role. Watch what happened at about mid-season:
That is Gordon moving to free safety and splitting time with Woolfolk, while the freshmen linebackers had their usages increase. Greater faith in Jake and Des explains some of the variance, however the real story is matching personnel:
|San Diego State||2.51||4.38||1.88||43.21%||44.44%||6.17%||6.17%|
I pointed out the two extremes on the schedule with boldation: Northwestern used about twice as many receivers in their formations as Iowa did, but there was a limit to how many defensive backs Michigan would counter with. The nickel served as well for 4 WR as for 3, yet accounted for 4 in 5 plays. However when the opposition went to 2 WR (Iowa), Mattison could spend a majority of the game in the 4-3.
When Michigan's on offense. Nothing is out of the ordinary yet, but when we turn the tables and show how defenses have reacted to Michigan's personnel it gets interesting:
|Season||Avg. Receivers in Formation||Avg. DBs in Formation||Difference|
This is not including anything when Michigan was more than a score down, but the season averages counting everything say about the same thing. I went through the plays and even a few youtubes and yes, in 2010 they played one-high against us despite spreading the field to pass as much as Purdue. Michigan went bigger in 2011, and got more defensive backs, which is counterintuitive except for one factor: opponents in 2010 really really really feared the running game, and tempted Michigan to pass.
Okie dokie. | Greg Shamus via ESPN
One more table to break this down by Michigan's opponents last year, 4th quarters and two-plus-score leads excised:
|Opponent||WRs in formation||DBs in formation||Difference|
|San Diego State||2.44||4.89||2.4|
Nothing really jumps out except perhaps more spread in close games, and SD State's apparent paucity of linebackers (weird—didn't they just have that guy who recruits lots of linebackers there?) Actually that's Charlie Strong's 3-3-5, and the GERG numbers from 2010 are similar due to the same effect.
What it means for this year. Alabama and Air Force aren't going to be spread it out—their challenges are elsewhere. However the Big Ten schedule is spread-heavy, with Ohio State joining the ranks of the many-receivered. Due to recent attrition, Michigan goes into 2012 with just six scholarship cornerbacks for three positions that will be filled half the time. It's a good thing the coaching staff has four guys coming in at corner to replace the one expected departure. These days, in order to keep up with the Joneses, that nickelback position has to be considered as much of a starter as, well, a third receiver.
This goes out to all those young linebackers out there who have given me your letters of intent:
♪ There was Bell, and a Hill, but I never saw them playing
No I never saw depth at all, 'till there was you.
There were safeties who gained weight, and a JUCO straight from Butler
But they were no Obianna Ezeh, 'till there was you.
Oh there were walk-ons, and converted fullbacks, they tell me,
And sweet freshman "Spinners," and Roh at "Quick"…
There was Ken-ny Demens, and a plush-toy Castor face-wash,
But no other linebackers at all, 'till there was you.
Till there was you! ♫
Linebacker depth: EXTANT!
This is Part III of the thing where I go over the depth chart and predict what will happen if the starter at any given position is hurt for an extended period of time in 2012: Who goes in?, What's the dropoff?, How do things shuffle?
And this time, there's goods here. There's depth in the SAMs and the WILLs and the MIKEs and the macks and the rovers. Whatayatalk whatayatalk: Where'd-we-get-it? With a Greg who knows the territory! With the jacks from the buckeyes, and the bucks from the mitten, and ROLBs from the overlooked, redshirted, 3-star, buck- and spart-passed over huckleberry bin. Whatayatalk, whatayatalk. Ya can talk, ya can talk, ya can bicker ya can talk, ya can bicker, bicker, bicker, ya can talk all ya want, but it's different than it was!
Quickly again. Photos are all by Upchurch unless otherwise noted. Ratings are given in Saturn-punting Zoltans. Think of them like stars except more heavenly. Five is an all-conference-type player (Denard to Kovacs); four is a guy you'd call "solid" (RVB to Demens); three is an average B1G player (Morgan to Hawthorne); two is a guy with a big hole in his game (freshman Kovacs); one is trouble with a capital T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for Poole.
SAM (Strongside Linebacker):
In case of emergency: Jake was a revelation last year as a redshirt freshman who as the season progressed kept giving the coaches less and less excuse to yank him. The nature of his position, which rotates often, and the nature of his cavalier game make it hard to quantify the effective difference of an injury here. By design he's the most replaceable guy on the defense; by the magnitude of his effect when he's in the game, there are few, if any, guys on the team who you'd less like to lose. He was far from perfect—his problems holding the edge led to some ugly things in the Northwestern-Michigan State part of the year—however there were also those times when a "running" quarterback would see this crazy freshman coming inside the edge blocker and think to himself "oh I'm so going around that idiot," only to end up flat on his back 20 yards in the backfield. Nothing was more satisfying to a fan base recovering from Passive 3-3-5 syndrome than seeing this crazed high-necked Viking bellowing something unintelligible at fast-retreating Logan Thomas.
Heiko took this
Cam Gordon is the nominal backup, and since the freshman who played ahead of him last year (Beyer) has made the move to WDE, you would imagine the onetime receiver, onetime epitome of ethereal spring optimism at free safety, and onetime 3-3-5 spinner will have finally settled into a useful something. He spent most of last year with a back injury that gives us precious little information on what he might become. So is C.Gordon a junior stunted by position switches, bad fundamental coaching and injury who's now ready to erupt, or a guy with bad fundamentals doomed to be remembered for that one time he was badly cast in the hero role of a box office flop?
What you want are his credentials for a position that rotates like a train of traveling salesmen; what I've got for you is a barbershop quartet of coaches singing songs about him. One thing they don't say is "platoon." Despite his safety pedigree and safety frame versus Jake Ryan's oft hand-down deployment, the coaches haven't indicated Gordon is a situational backup. The SLB in this defense is supposed to be more like a WDE than the other two linebacker spots, and Cam is not that. On the other hand he seems tailor-made for the side-job of the SLB: covering the guy in the slot.
So I'm saying if Ryan goes down, Michigan probably goes with Gordon and eases off the gas a bit, leaning less on pressure and more on coverage from the position. The real drop-off won't be too severe, as there are other guys who can blitz if the SLB becomes more coverage-oriented, and there are rush options extant. The apparent drop-off will feel like when we lost Marcus Ray—the defense is still the defense but that sense that somebody's about to lose an important body organ will be appreciably depreciated. You'll see Gordon plenty either way.
In case of dire emergency: Well like I said this position rotates. Don't know what will happen with Clark, but if he's in at WDE that means Brennan Beyer can easily reprise his 2011 role over here. Mario Ojemudia could be pressed into service. And any of the freshmen linebackers could end up here. Of the four, I picked Royce Jenkins-Stone as the SAM since Bolden already seems to be the two-deep man at Mike, and Ringer was here for spring practice at Mike, and scouting reports say Ross is a coverage-y WLB-type, while RJS has been described as a raw, blitz-loving knife. That's an SLB. It'd be best if he redshirts to learn how to be the second-most aggressive guy on the defense (WDE is the first) while holding the edge.
MIKE (Middle Linebacker):
In case of emergency: Responding to my size chart in last week's article, TSS started a thread about how Demens, who's listed at 248 on the spring roster (which is a copy of last fall's), has significantly more beef than the rest of the linebacking crew. The image above seems to reject the notion that he's the Carl Diggs among the Brackinses; the variability charts for the 2012 linebackers say he's huge (right, via TSS). So I checked the average listed size for a Michigan contributing linebacker since 1993, and it says he made big:
|2nd (Sophomore or RS Fr)||236||228|
|3rd (Junior or RS Soph)||246||232|
|4th (Senior or RS Junior)||248||233|
|5th year Senior||252||238|
Most of our starters played over 240 in their 4th or 5th years. Over 230 is where it seems the contributors need to be. And when you look at the depth chart for 2012 there are exactly three dudes who seem likely to fit that description:
|Kenny Demens||248||Jake Ryan||230||Desmond Morgan||220|
|Joe Bolden||230||Cam Gordon||222||Brandin Hawthorne||214|
|Mike Jones||224||Royce Jenkins-Stone||215||Antonio Poole||212|
|Kaleb Ringer||219||James Ross||209|
Knock-knock … Orange … yada yada … you have Joe Bolden, the 2012 recruit I am most giggity about, and for good reason. He had the kind of performance as the starter (Demens was wearing that club you see above) in the spring game that makes even the cautious prognosticators say "I think we have something here." Then they pull out the David Harris comparisons.
There's nothing I can really add to the recruiting profile or the lofty expectations except to focus on what he brings to the table right now. That is a guy with freshman-grade Kovacsian play-diagnosis skills that must be tempered by "is a true freshman," plus a lot of range and athleticism that must be tempered by "is probably not strong enough yet to get off blocks." I don't think Demens should be worried about losing his job this year unless he's banged up, however in that eventuality Michigan has something between what Desmond Morgan was last year and a freshman Manti Te'o on hand, and should be just fine. Orange you glad!
In case of dire emergency: The phrase "Who? MIKE JONES!" had a very short meme life on the MGoBoards, and it is the considered hope of every Michigan fan that it should never become the headline of an MGoInjury Roundup or uttered without irony inside Michigan Stadium ever. Before the injury that ruined his 2009 coaches were suggesting he might displace Mouton; alas that seems to have been motivational spring hokum. More hype/hokum was Mattison saying he's an unstoppable speed rusher. We saw Jones a bit while Michigan was killing clock against Minnesota and he looked, um, safety-ish. There is a job for a safety-ish linebacker in this defense—the Will—but there are so many other slight LBs on this roster that tripping the 220-something wire puts you into the mix at middle. I would think before we see Jones start, Morgan would slide down to MLB and Hawthorne become the full-time WLB. While time is running out for Jones, he's not ignorable.
WILL (Weakside Linebacker):
In case of emergency: You can argue about the stars being low for a sophomore whom I already said was at 3 stars when starting as a true freshman—that was at the end of last year and I expect Des should still be improving exponentially as this season goes on. I also predict this year you'll start seeing more Jake Ryan in him, since everyone from recruiting analysts to coaches have raved about grittiness, something we haven't had the opportunity to see much of just yet. If our next Eckstein McGritsalot loses that opportunity, the safety net is the the safety-like Brandin Hawthorne.
If you have the opportunity to give the coaches one suggestion for 2012, please join the MGoCrusade to have Hawthorne deployed as the WLB when Michigan goes to nickel. Until Morgan emerged in the second half of last year, Hawthorne had lain tenuous claim to defense's most open position. Brandon Herron, the beefy Yang to Brandin's Yin, dropped out of the race after the double-fumble touchdown rally and has graduated. Hawthorne was excellent in coverage, knifed into the backfield for a key stop against Notre Dame, and displayed Pahokeeian speed to all parts of the field … except when a blocker came near.
For you Tiger fans, Hawthorne is the Ramon Santiago of this defense. He is great at what he does, but playing him every down is going to expose his weakness against the run. So what does happen if Des goes down? It's probably Joe Bolden, but with more Hawthorne appearances.
In case of dire emergency: Trouble with capital T, rhymes with P, stands for…oh actually we don't know what we have in Antonio Poole except his name lends itself well to the Music Man theme. Really he's a redshirt freshman who was ignored by Rodriguez but picked up quickly by Hoke. His recruiting profile lists abilities of play diagnosis, tackling, and translating of the Facebook pages of CRex's in-laws. Third on the depth chart is where you'd want a redshirt freshman to be. Anyway if you see Poole that means he's better than expected, or that "dire emergency" includes the MLB depth chart too. Same goes for James Ross, who was at one point the highest rated linebacker of the 2012 uber-haul, and may yet have a long career beside Bolden (Orange!), however he's listed in the vicinity of 200 lbs. and would probably benefit from a redshirt more than Ringer, who was here for Spring ball. Since redshirting a consensus high 4-star is a luxury we haven't had around the linebacking parts in some time, I suggest we take advantage of it.
Vastly underrated; properly rated
Previously: The Offense
My look back at Brian's epic 2011 football preview continues with the defense. This one got a lot more interesting than the offense, because despite all the warm fuzzies we felt from the GERG-to-Greg transition*, expecting a jump from the #110 total defense to #17 would have been outrageous. As in get-this-man-a-straitjacket outrageous.
Thankfully, the performance of the defense exceeded all reasonable expectations, and even most of the unreasonable ones. Let's peep last year's predictions, shall we?
*Not to mention the Tony-Gibson-to-Anyone-But-Tony-Gibson transition.
The move to three-tech won't be an issue [for Ryan Van Bergen]. He played it two years ago and when Michigan went to a four man front last year they stuck him back inside. He's now 290, a three year starter, and a senior. He's a good bet to crack double-digit TFLs and get some All Big Ten mention.
RVB actually ended up at strongside DE, which probably helped him lead the team with 12.5 TFLs. He ended up earning All-Big Ten honorable mention from both the coaches and media and graduating as one of the most beloved Wolverines in recent memory.
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.
A year after inexplicably having to move past not just Obi Ezeh, but converted fullback Mark Moundros, on the depth chart at middle linebacker despite subsequently making it painfully obvious that he should've been the starter all along, Demens had his breakout season. He led the team with 94 tackles—second was Jordan Kovacs at 75—and saw his TFLs jump to a respectable five. Like Van Bergen, Demens was an all-conference honorable mention.
Even so, [Kovacs's] season was a step forward from obvious liability to "certainly not a liability." Even if he's a walk-on and even if he's obviously small and slow, he should continue improving. He'll be a little less small and slow with another year of conditioning. Being in a coherent defensive system should help put him in positions to make plays. His redshirt year was not spent on the team so he's not as close to his ceiling as your average redshirt junior.
He's not going to be Reggie Nelson. That won't keep him from becoming the first Michigan safety you only hate a little tiny bit since Jamar Adams.
This may still be underselling Kovacs, who took to competent coaching even better than expected and became the team's rock in the secondary, covering for his athletic limitations with usually-impeccable positioning. No, he's not Reggie Nelson, but I don't think you can find a remotely rational Michigan fan who harbors even the tiniest bit of ill will towards Kovacs. Michigan's shocking lack of big plays allowed—both against the pass and the run—can largely be attributed to his play; despite missing a game, Kovacs led the team with 51 solo tackles. He also notched 8 TFLs. All hail Kovacs.
I have the same optimism about this Johnson/Gordon combo that I had last year. This, of course, terrifies me. It seems unnatural to think an unproven Michigan safety could be competent. I like Gordon's agility and tackling, though, and while there will be rough spots early by midseason he should settle into that midlevel safety range like Englemon or Barringer.
This time around, the optimism regarding the free safety position was justified. Thomas Gordon had his share of struggles, especially late in the season, but for the most part he was quite competent. Around here, safety competence is a luxury on par with consistent placekicking.
Sacks almost double from 1.4 per game to 2.4. That would be a move from 98th to around 30th.
Michigan finished with 2.3 sacks per game. That put them at... 29th. Tip o' the cap.
Turnovers forced go from 19 to 27.
Brian's continued insistence that turnover luck would someday go Michigan's way finally paid off; the Wolverines forced 29 turnovers. It also helped that this defense actually tackled people.
EVERYTHING SEEMS WONDERFUL
YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW RIGHT THIS WOULD BE.
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.
No full credit simply because Mike Jones was projected as the starter at WLB, a fact I had completely forgotten about until I looked back at the preview. Morgan ended up playing in 12 games, starting seven (the first being in week two against ND), and finished fifth on the team in tackles.
If [J.T. Floyd] gets a lot better this year it's time to take the Gibson chatter seriously.
This wasn't really a prediction, but... yeah. Tony Gibson minus all of the points.
Beyond Talbott it's true freshmen, but at least there's a horde of them. Maryland's Blake Countess arrives with the most hype and should be the biggest threat to play. (Caveat: last year Cullen Christian arrived with the most hype.)
Points for mentioning Countess as the most likely freshman to see the field. No points for giving him one sentence when he took over the starting job by midseason, especially considering the Christian caveat. As you'll see, the hype that should've surrounded Countess went—justifiably, in the preseason—to Courtney Avery.
Not So Much
Healthy again and less abandoned in the middle of the defense, Martin's numbers should soar. Before the sprain Martin was on pace for 11 TFLs and 4 sacks; after it he got just a half TFL the rest of the year. While the front of the schedule is a bit easier, Martin had 8.5 TFLs and 51 tackles a year ago. Reasonable progression should have gotten him to 11. Add in further progression plus three DL coaches plus a bit more help on the line plus a free-roaming QB attack role and 15 to 18 TFLs plus a little more QB terror should be within reach. He should be All Big Ten. He might be better.
I hate that I have to put this prediction in this category, but here it is. While Martin was the best player on the defense, his numbers were hampered by having to play the nose; he finished with six TFLs and 3.5 sacks. Despite the lack of statistical production, Martin's efforts were recognized with second-team All-Big Ten honors. He also forced a pitch on a speed option. See you on Sundays, MM.
"Experience" was why [Will Heininger] got the nod; that experience consists of backing Brandon Graham up. In is time on the field he rarely did anything wrong; he rarely did anything right, either. He was a non-factor. As a guy spotting Graham from time to time that's cool, but as a starter or a guy rotating with another equally obscure walk-on that's a recipe for zero production out of a spot that should see its fair share of plays. If this spot averages out as a zero next year that's probably good—and that's not good.
The biggest swing-and-a-miss on the list. Heininger swapped spots with RVB and started all 12 regular-season games at five-tech DT before missing the Sugar Bowl with a foot injury. He exceeded all expectations of a walk-on raised in the shadow of the Big House, proving he could hold his own against Big Ten competition and be a positive force on the interior. After the season, Brian ranked him as the third most siginificant departure on the defense, behind only Martin and Van Bergen. While part of that is due to the remaining depth along the defensive line, I don't think anyone thought Heininger's absence would be felt in such a way.
Brink will play. After mentioning Heininger's experience he said Brink has "practiced very well, played well, been productive" and promised to rotate six guys on the line. Six is a weird number because it means one of Black, Campbell, or Brink is on the fringe. Given the lineups Campbell seems the most likely even though that seems unlikely.
If you're saying "who?" you're probably not alone (though you read this blog, so you probably aren't saying "who?"). Walk-on Nathan Brink was penciled in as the starting SDE at one point in the fall, earning much preseason praise for his unlikely rise up the depth chart. After garnering all that hype, however, he made almost no impact, recording just one tackle while barely seeing the field. He's a prime example of why you must take all offseason practice hype with a grain of salt, especially when said hype involves previously-unknown walk-ons.
We've yet to see the much of the pass-rushing skill that made Roh a top 50 recruit. He's displayed hints of the ability to zip past tackles before they know what hits them when suffered to rush the passer—there's a chance that when he puts hand to ground and is told to let it rip that he goes bonkers. Roh is the biggest X factor on the team. He could end up with anywhere from a half-dozen to twelve sacks.
Playing his third position in three seasons, Roh didn't quite go bonkers, tallying four sacks and eight TFLs. Roh's play still markedly improved from his previous two seasons, but he still hasn't lived up to the sky-high recruiting hype. Much of the blame for that can fall upon the shoulders of Greg Robinson and Co., and we'll see if one last position switch, this time to SDE, finally results in Roh producing double-digit sacks.
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.
Ryan became a pleasant early-season surprise when he started against Western Michigan and made his presence felt by batting an Alex Carder pass that Brandon Herron would intercept and return 94 yards to the house. While certainly more of an asset against the pass than the run—his balls-to-the-wall approach was great on blitzes, but not always sound when keeping contain—Ryan proved that he was by far the best option on the strong side. Just one year later, all-conference honors are very much in play.
Assuming he's healthy, another year to learn the position and get bigger should see him improve on his previous form. There is a nonzero chance his earlier performances were not representative of his ability, but the smart money is on Woolfolk being at least average. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him go at the tail end of next year's NFL draft.
Troy Woolfolk's return from the exploding ankle of doom wasn't as triumphant as we all hoped. While he started ten games—six at corner and four at safety—Woolfolk never looked fully comfortable on the field and was supplanted at each position by a younger player (Countess at corner, Gordon at safety). It would be quite a surprise to see him taken in this week's NFL draft.
Courtney Avery busts out. Going into next year people are talking about him as an All Big Ten performer.
After showing much promise as a true freshman, Avery was the obvious candidate to grow into a big-time role as the team's top corner of the present and future. Instead, he started the first two games, then ceded that role to J.T. Floyd, Woolfolk, and eventually Countess. Avery was a solid nickel corner, and should reprise that role in 2012, but his progression wasn't as great as expected.
Craig Roh leads the team in sacks with eight.
Nein. Despite Michigan's impressive rise in team sacks, they were spread pretty evenly across both the D-line and the back seven thanks to Mattison's blitz-happy approach. Ryan Van Bergen paced the team with 5.5, with Jordan Kovacs actually tying Roh for second with four.
Michigan noses just above average in yardage allowed. Advanced metrics have them about 50th.
I know Brian has no complaints about being so hilariously wrong on this one. As noted above, the Wolverines finished 17th in yardage allowed, and they also shot up to sixth (faints) in points allowed. Football Outsiders's FEI metric ranked them as the #16 defense in the country. Despite watching every second of the 2011 season (usually twice), I still have a hard time not believing I'm the victim of an elaborate hoax or a drug experiment gone horribly awry. If you see me waking up in a gutter and GERG is still the defensive coordinator, please do me a favor and run me over with an SUV. Make sure to double-tap, please.