chance of bowl: 13.6%
News bullets and other items:
Hoke expects Devin Gardner to start against MSU, with Shane Morris now healthy enough to be his backup
Hoke identified zone coverage, the run game, and creating big plays as areas for improvement over the final five games of the season
Kyle Bosch will re-join the team in January after taking a leave of absence for personal reasons
Willie Henry could have played against Penn State if it was necessary
Hoke alluded to being past the point of making a decision regarding Desmond Morgan redshirting and was evasive when asked if he’d miss the rest of the season
The coaches go over negative highlights from around college football each week in team meetings
If you’re wondering why there were no MGoQuestions it’s because they were all about MSU, and I decided to save them for Monday since Hoke said the coaches are only in the preliminary stages of gameplanning
“Number one, thanks for coming out today. It was good to get a win. Obviously winning's an important aspect of what you do when you compete. The atmosphere, I think, in Michigan Stadium was unbelievable and I know our kids, the energy, they feed off that and it was through the whole game. It was loud when it needed to be loud [from] our students and our fans so we really appreciate that.
“Yesterday we had a shortened practice. We'll go a little longer today. Just fundamentals and techniques being the main emphasis. A little bit on our next opponent, Michigan State, but a lot of fundamental work because we've got some young guys who want to continue to grow and continue to get them as many reps as we can, and then you've got some older guys who've played a lot of football in seven games [over] seven weeks so you want to get them some rest when you can but at the same time try and get some of the early game planning stuff. And with byes, to get physically healthy is an important part of it as much as you can; you're never going to be all the way. And then we've got a great rivalry game with Michigan State.
‘So the other thing we’ll use the bye week for is recruiting. The other part of it will be for us to– for us as a staff to do some self scout with where you're at and what you've done so far and where you might want to change some details up and I think that's one thing Michigan State did – not Michigan State, Penn State, the other night when you look at some of the down and distance and formation things in the first half from an offensive standpoint. They had the bye week and I think they went in seeing that they needed to change up a little bit and I think they did that.”
Do you expect Devin [Gardner] to start at Michigan State?
“Yeah, I would. I think having Shane back and healthy also is a big part of it and as much as we are going to talk about injuries yeah, we expect Devin to be there.”
You've touched on this in the past, but what would you say is the biggest area of improvement in Devin since you've known him?
“I'd say as much as anything I think [it’s] his leadership. I think nowadays kids, not a lot of them have that natural leadership. And a lot of that is, and this is an opinion, I haven't studied this but they play so much AAU now. It used to be you go in a backyard or churchyard and you’d say [to] 10 guys, ‘Okay you're the captain of this team and you’re [the captain] of this,’ then pick. Now we have adults making decisions that I don't believe kids get to make and it doesn't help them grow and so that's just part of what I think. So it's a little tougher at times to help kids grow in that department.”
[After THE JUMP: more details on stuff summarized in the bullets]
A BYE WEEK TRADITION. UFRs Thursday and Friday on a bye week.
Compliance with the Dennis Norfleet Atomic Dog act of 2560.
Michigan WR Dennis Norfleet I'm gonna Be Your Dog forever! WOOF... http://t.co/z4acd4vtVX
— George Clinton (@george_clinton) October 14, 2014
I'M A BONAFIDE ATTENDER
At least let people prove they're bonafide. Michigan oversold basketball season tickets again. This time the sheer extent is lesser, as they've only sold 3250 tickets for 3000 seats instead of the 4500 last year, but they've again announced the rules after the tickets were bought… and you wonder if last year's policy reduced the number of people willing to buy this year. It's not like the team outlook is a whole lot different—Michigan was not expected to rampage through the Big Ten a year ago and looked a lot like a bubble team early.
IMPROVEMENTS FOR 2014-15 INCLUDE:
Fewer claim periods (only three vs. six last season)
Missed claimed game penalties will only affect the ability to claim in the 3rd and final claim period (vs. penalties in each claim period last season)
Students will have the ability to return up to three (3) claimed games up to 24 hours before a game to account for last minute plans (not available last season)
Electronic tracking of scanned tickets for confirmation of attendance (not available last season)
I get that attendance is an issue; this is all stick, no carrot, though. There's a core of attendees who were at every game last year. They should get to just have normal tickets since they've proved their bonafides.
OSU is facing a ton of cover zero. They are rushing for 4.9 YPC anyway.
Well… more time isn't going to fix things. Not that you need convincing of this but here are the boggling numbers Ohio State is putting up minus Braxton Miller:
Ohio State ranks second in the Big Ten and 12th nationally in total offense at 523.6 yards per game. The Buckeyes' 44.6 points per game are second in the Big Ten and fifth in the country. And redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett ranks third in all of college football in passing efficiency.
And that's with the one-off collapse against Virginia Tech when Bud Foster reached deep into the playbook to bring out Buddy Ryan's old bear fronts. Opponents are trying to replicate that success weekly now, and Ohio State has adapted quickly.
OSU's line is mostly new and a bit more experienced than Michigan's, but it's the smallest possible gap. Michigan has two fourth year players, two third year players, and a freshman for a total of 10 years already on campus. OSU is at 11. They've only got one senior. Meanwhile, their backfield consists of all second year players: JT Barrett, Ezekiel Elliott, Dontre Wilson, and Jalin Marshall are all sophomores or redshirt freshmen.
If you know what you're doing you can put together some killer offenses without piles of experience these days; the coaching gap between Michigan and Ohio State is vast.
Upcoming quarterbacks. Nate Sudfeld is out for the year for Indiana, which is a huge blow for them after both Cam Coffman and Tre Roberson left the program this summer. Indiana went from one of the most solid situations in the league to auditioning true freshmen they hoped to redshirt. Unless they catch lightning in a bottle that's looking like a win. Indiana's defense is so permeable even Michigan will go up and down the field on them. Iowa scored consecutive 60-plus-yard TDs. I mean.
Northwestern is also having some issues with Trevor Siemian:
Siemian went down against Northern Illinois and needed to be taken out of the game without putting any pressure on his leg. It turns out it was an ankle injury. It was clear that if there was a game the next week, he would not have played. He healed during the bye week, and although he was not 100 percent, he played against Western Illinois.
It appeared the injury was improving, but this week, Siemian was limping at times, and he had a massive ball of tape on his ankles.
Northwestern's policy is that Pat Fitzgerald will not discuss injuries in-depth. He will get as specific as "upper body" or "lower body."
Maryland has CJ Brown back after a wrist injury, FWIW.
Redshirts? Michigan won't talk injuries but a lot of people are reading bad things into this statement from Hoke's teleconference yesterday:
With five games remaining for the Wolverines (3-4 overall, 1-2 Big Ten), Hoke was asked if it is time to consider looking at a redshirt for Peppers.
"We would handle that when the time would come," Hoke said.
I'm not sure how he's supposed to answer that question with the usual level of vagueness without implying that a medical redshirt is possible, so I don't read too much into that. I have heard that the injury is severe enough that it's certainly on the table. How much does that mean if Peppers is still likely to be a three-and-out guy? Maybe not much.
Meanwhile, Desmond Morgan is also eligible for a medical redshirt if he does not return and that was broached:
"I don't think there's any difference (between Morgan and Peppers), it just depends on how guys progress," Hoke said. "Us not doing anything or doing something with (Morgan), yeah (we could)."
Is there a cutoff point you have to get to in order to make that decision?
"I think we're kind of by it, in some way," Hoke said. "I didn't say (he'd miss the season), (but) I think there's a lot of possibilities."
That would make sense, as Michigan's not doing anything this year and Morgan might prefer another crack at being a senior… especially if he thinks he's got a shot at the NFL.
The Orsoning. He came, he saw, he cackled madly like he was Walter White in Crawl Space while looking almost exactly like Walter White in Crawl Space, and he writes about it:
The normal Michigan crankiness involves the complaints that all fanbases spanning a wide age range involve: that they do not run the ball enough, that the stadium speakers play music too loudly and too frequently now, that someone's knees stick into your back in the cramped stands, even with the rows of empty seats visible here and there. We don't run the ball enough. Bo, sainted Bo Schembechler, would never, ever have let a team not run the ball like this.
Those are normal complaints, the kind of ideological complaints any fanbase has in variation. See "Any older portion of the fanbase wondering why they're playing hip-hop where there are children," or "Team raised on fierce offense and naked aggression gets saddled with a dullard defensive coach." That might be me talking about Florida, because it is. The point is that every fanbase is unhappy in its own unique key. When Alabama fans are unhappy, it is because a linebacker has just missed a tackle or because someone has unleashed the horror of a passing touchdown on them. When Michigan is unhappy, it is cold, someone is edging onto your seat cushion, and someone has just done something deeply unSchembechler-ish.
The abnormal grievances, the ones indicative of a real theological schism in the church of Michigan, come from the older gentleman standing up when Michigan takes a timeout -- with one second left on the clock in the first half and Penn State leaving for the locker rooms -- and yelling:
"HOKE! YOU IDIOTTTTTTTT!"
Grievances of that severity can't hide.
He did not mention a guy at Marlin Jackson's Go Blue Bowl tailgate asking Roy Roundtree to do his Donald Duck impression, but he got everything else.
Etc.: Orson talks Ann Arbor at about the ten minute mark in the latest Shutdown Fullcast. Everything is dappled, he says. Will Leitch on how Todd Gurley may as well GTFO without taking more hits before he can get paid.
Ryan under the microscope [Eric Upchurch]
Hello. As per usual, a game against a tomato can causes me to dig up something negative because I figure that the bad things that happen against weak teams are more likely to recur than the good ones. I'm not being negative, I'm being useful!
After this opening paragraph it may not surprise you that I didn't think Ryan had a particularly good game as Michigan's MLB. There were a couple of opportunities to contrast him with Desmond Morgan on similar plays that didn't come out well for Ryan. To the stillmobile!
Taking on blockers
App State had one drive of any consequence before Michigan started throwing third stringers on the field. That was a 75-yard march on which they ran an old Rodriguez staple, the "belly," repeatedly for good yardage.
Belly is designed to attack the soft underbelly of the backside of a defense facing inside zone. The end gets optioned off and then the goal of the defense is to use the backside DT's natural desire to shoot the gap to the playside against him. This usually sees the backside tackle get a free release on a linebacker on a quick-hitting play. (A quick google search indicates that this is Rodriguez-exclusive terminology, so your local guru's verbiage will vary.)
This was tough for Michigan to defend as aligned because the backside DT saw zone action and went GRRAAAH at it, driving himself way out of the play because he's Willie Henry and he is 1) strong and 2) not yet super disciplined. This put linebackers in bad spots, facing free OL while trying to shut down a ton of space.
Here's Morgan in that situation:
It feels like Michigan is a little misaligned here, with the linebacker shaded to one side against a formation that has no TE.
On the snap Beyer is let go and must respect the keep, so he flows upfield. Henry will get his own momentum used against him and get way out of the play, which I have designated by putting a frown at the end of his line. Morgan has an OT coming at him and a problem.
Beyer plays the mesh point well, inducing a give but forming up near the LOS so he can respond to a handoff. Henry is about to leave.
Here is the the key thing for Morgan on this play: he takes the contact. He in fact initiates the contact despite not having much forward momentum (which it is hard to get on a quick hitting play like belly). He impacts the OL and rocks him back:
Note that the guy next to him is Henry, who is trying to fight back to the play by giving ground. Also note that if Henry was anywhere near where the line would like him to be, Beyer is tackling as people wall up.
The back actually bounces off the OL…
And then a bunch of guys tackle him after six yards.
This is not a good result and I think Morgan's original alignment had something to do with that. He ends up taking the block to the inside instead of square and that gives the back room to the outside when otherwise this could have been a third down coming up. But: tough job in a lot of space. I gave him a half point for slowing down what could otherwise have been bad.
[After the JUMP: Jake Ryan tries his hand.]
Not like this [Bryan Fuller]
This is still in the not-gospel category but it looks like Desmond Morgan is going to be on the shelf a while.
This morning, the internet started rumoring about a linebacker out injured. This was vaguely confirmed (no name, no timetable) by Sam Webb. Now there are reports that Desmond Morgan has been spotted on campus with a cast on one arm. This confirms a report from our message board that I think is legit; I've followed up with the poster to get more detail.
Someone is hurt, and two different reports that it's Morgan, one eyewitness. I expect that he will be out for a bit; six weeks is the internet timetable, but I wouldn't put a ton of stock in that.
In Morgan's absence expect to see more James Ross. ND's offensive scheme will put Michigan in the nickel for most snaps, all but eliminating the WLB spot that Ross and RJS are occupying at the moment. Ross got some time at ILB against App State when Mattison was displeased with the starters. Michigan is going to need an option there if either starter doesn't live up to offseason hype.
8/30/2014 – Michigan 52, Appalachian State 14 – 1-0
NOBODY TOLD US WE WERE SUPPOSED TO GO THAT WAY LAST YEAR [Fuller]
I watched a lot of football on Saturday. I did not watch Magnolia because my then-girlfriend and current wife thought that her coping mechanism for sadness, which is apparently suffusing yourself in it until your fingers look like you've been in a pool of despair for hours, was applicable to humans. I mean:
That's what I did seven years ago. I had to turn it off because Magnolia is a movie that is unrelentingly miserable. I did not need additional resources in this department at that time.
I didn't turn anything off on Saturday. I watched twelve hours of football after getting back from Michigan Stadium. The only mention of Michigan's game before insomniac time was one dismissive sentence from Rece Davis, something about how there will not be "another seminal college football moment" this weekend. They didn't even take the opportunity to put gratuitous Funchess on the screen.
The only difference between this game and Michigan's opening-weekend romp over CMU last year: a nation's hope Michigan would blow it again. Once it became clear this would not be the case, a nation forgot the game happened before it had even ended. This was the best possible outcome.
So 1) hooray for the best possible outcome and 2) don't let that change your opinion about whether this was the dumbest scheduling decision in the history of scheduling decisions. The nation knew this about Michigan before Saturday: lol Appalachian State. This is what they know today: lol Appalachian State. On College Football Final their brief treatment of the game gave more time to 2007 than 2013. We are experiencing the maximum possible upside from this game, which is everyone immediately forgetting about it like Michigan was thumping a MAC opponent.
And thank God for that. Michigan eased out to a 21 point lead, and then it was suddenly 42, and at no point did Appalachian State look anything like a secret powerhouse; at no point did Michigan look so utterly clueless that they might blow their immense physical advantages. At no point did I wish I had a cyanide capsule handy.
The one thing worth noting here is that Michigan does seem prepared to deal with the football reality of 2014. Greg Mattison's defense played in the face of the opposition all game long, featuring nickel and dime packages frequently. They shot a safety into the box on most plays. They've got the personnel they need to deal with the spread. Possibly two at once.
Contrast this to 2007, when Johnny Sears started at cornerback in the Horror, with a patently unprepared Stevie Brown at safety. The linebackers available outside of Shawn Crable were Obi Ezeh, Chris Graham, and John Thompson. Michigan spent the entire day with two safeties twelve yards deep like they were playing Peyton Manning, and were surprised when the numbers didn't work out. Their linebackers were two-down thumpers for whom space is a cold vacuum in which death awaits. They barely had one cornerback, let alone a chorus line of them.
A big chunk of my spread zealotry has been the fact that Michigan has made it look unstoppable from the drop. They validated the entire idea against Northwestern and set their program on fire in the Horror and the Post-Apocalyptic Oregon game that followed. Put a running quarterback in front of them and they will die explosively. It's happened far too often the last 15 years for it to be a coincidence.
My primary worry about Brady Hoke is that he's stuck on a vision of 1990s Michigan in a world that's evolved past that. There was no sign of that Saturday. The defense's radical makeover paired with what was not the cram-the-box cro-magnon ball it certainly could have been against this opponent felt a tiny bit like John Beilein overhauling his program to be a man-defense, ball-screen offense juggernaut.
I'm not looking for a juggernaut this year. This is the punch-the-cow-for-butter year in which any yellow semi-solid will do. I proclaim this semi-solid yellow, and thank God for that.
Now let us immediately forget this game ever happened, like everyone else.
Parkinggod's usual Michigan-centric one:
And if ten minutes isn't enough here are 20:
Also a guy noticed an eerie parallel between Blake Countess's LOS stick and one from Charles Woodson:
Brady Hoke Epic Double Points Of The Week. Yes, points. We're moving this to a hockey-like three stars system.
Michigan racked up 350 first half yards while holding App St to 60 en route to a 35-0 first half lead, so there are many, many candidates. It says here that Devin Funchess gets #1, because good Lord that is an unstoppable freak show.
#2 is Devin Gardner, who was on point with every throw except one, flashed that athletic ability, and stepped up (up!) in the pocket when suffering edge pressure
#3 is split between Kyle Kalis and Ben Braden. Michigan started gashing App St when Kalis replaced Joey Burzynski, with big runs repeatedly coming over the right side of the line.
Honorable mention: Basically the entire defense. There were no particular standouts, though.
Epic Double Point Standings.
3: Devin Funchess (#1, APP)
2: Devin Gardner (#2, APP)
0.5: Kyle Kalis (T3, APP), Ben Braden (T3, APP)
Brady Hoke Epic Double Fist-Pump Of The Week.
For the single individual best moment.
Michigan had gotten a couple of solid 10-20 yard runs from Smith and Green already when Green took the snap on an outside zone and shot downfield untouched by man or beast until 60 yards had elapsed. Runs. We may have them.
Honorable mention: They threw a screen to Norfleet! Any of the variously unstoppable Funchess touchdowns. Hellacious Stiffarm wins by a nose over LOL I'm Tall. Tacosack, hopefully the awesome thumping cousin of Tacopants.
Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.
AppSt: Derrick Green rumbles for 60 yards.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK. That one time Devin Gardner threw way behind a blitheringly open Devin Funchess to prevent him from going 14/14.
Honorable mention: That one drive where the Mountaineers drove the ball on the ground against the second team.
AppSt: Devin Gardner dares to throw an incomplete pass.
[After the JUMP: Funchess! Holes! Teddy KGB!]
|STRONGSIDE LB||Yr.||MIDDLE LB||Yr.||WEAKSIDE LB||Yr.|
|James Ross||Jr.||Jake Ryan||Sr.*||Joe Bolden||Jr.|
|Royce Jenkins-Stone||Jr.||Desmond Morgan||Sr.||Desmond Morgan||Sr.|
|Allen Gant||So.*||Mike McCray||Fr.*||Ben Gedeon||So.|
Despite the move to a 4-3 over we're going to keep the convention we've had in previous years where two of the linebackers are designated "inside" and addressed together while the third gets separate mention. In both cases the WLB and the MLB are designated "inside" and the strongside backer is addressed separately. In the under it's because the SAM is half DE; in the over it's because he's half DB.
Michigan returns their entire linebacking corps save backup-ish SAM Cam Gordon, and they now have a healthy Jake Ryan instead of one fresh off an ACL tear midseason. This is good. Better still is their depth: no freshmen on this three-deep and one guy getting praised to the moon when a very solid returning starter is available. If the DL improves these guys are going to seem shockingly better.
There's just that thing about moving that guy to a place…
INSIDE LINEBACKER: CONAN IN A STRANGE LAND
please be this guy again somehow [Eric Upchurch]
Man, I do now know what to expect from JAKE RYAN this year. He was every bit the flaming meteorite your memory suggests he was in 2012. We've been talking up Willie Henry and Frank Clark based on UFR scores that were consistently positive and encouraging. Make no mistake, though: those are not star-level performances. Jake Ryan's 2012 is the last time a member of the Michigan front seven turned one of those in:
|Alabama||4.5||3.5||1||I may have not picked up some things he was doing that were bad.|
|Air Force||13||2.5||10.5||Ran up the score with +4 on final three plays. Option blame fell elsewhere.|
|UMass||8.5||-||8.5||Essentially a DE in this game.|
|Notre Dame||8.5||3||5.5||Great tackle on screen.|
|Purdue||10||-||10||I call him mini Clay Matthews.|
|Illinois||14||3||11||I call Clay Matthews mini Jake Ryan.|
|MSU||17.5||3||14.5||I AM THE ONE WHO KNOCKS|
|Nebraska||10||7.5||2.5||Got edged a lot; Nebraska used his aggression against him successfully.|
|Minnesota||14||6||8||JMFR; did get edged a couple times.|
|Northwestern||8.5||4||4.5||A bit of a quiet day, only 4 tackles, no TFLs.|
|Iowa||5.5||-||5.5||Nearly had an explosive sack.|
That is a star, and that is a guy on the verge of writing his name in sloppy red ink across college football. That's the kind of season before the season that Brandon Graham had as a senior, that Mike Martin had as a senior. Screw you, ACLs. Because that Ryan was not this Ryan:
|6||Penn State||3.5||2||1.5||…this gentleman.|
|7||Indiana||5||2||3||Coming on a bit.|
|8||MSU||6||3||3||Good until ARGH RYAN on final play, still doesn't seem all the way back.|
|9||Nebraska||4||1||3||One RYAN BACK play, but not every-down impactful yet.|
|10||Northwestern||6||3||3||Showing that crazy redirect a little more often.|
|11||Iowa||6.5||-||6.5||Created free touchdown.|
And while that's still a respectable player, I'm not into Jake Ryan because he's really respectful and mom likes him, you know? I would prefer Jake Ryan to mount his Harley and run roughshod across the league wearing a thirty-inch skull on his back. And maybe his forehead. As many skulls as possible, really. I mean, I didn't feel this quote from a 2012 Big Ten OL in 2013:
"We were watching film and our coach stopped it and said, 'Where's he at?' And it took you a second to realize he was lined up at defensive end. Then he hits the play button, and it's like the guy gets shot out of a cannon. He has speed, and he just has this ability to know where the football is and he attacks it. "
So there's that. And now he's a middle linebacker. Hooray?
Look… I can't tell you this is a great idea. The way Ryan plays is 80% chaos, 20% hair metal, and he's kind of tall and weird-shaped for middle linebacker. It's easy to envision a guard getting under his pads and taking him for a ride. And it's easy to envision him failing to funnel to his help, because at SAM your help is always very easy to figure out: inside. Chaos!
Chaos is probably not great for a MLB.
But it might not be a bad one. Ryan has taken on a lot of blocks in his time and even if he has to invent and patent ways to get rid of them, he generally does. The guy does not stay blocked.
When Michigan had problems with wide receiver screens a couple years ago they slid Ryan over the slot; problem solved. That combination of tackling and the ability to get to the productive side of a block is encouraging. It's going to be a bigger project against OL instead of TEs, but he's been a defensive end an awful lot—he's not going to be surprised.
The concern at MLB is that his tendency to shed at all costs will put him on the wrong side of a blocker. That concern is considerably less urgent than the prospect of lining up a 256-pound strongside end, but your evaluation should be in that context: this is a move about what is best for the defense as a whole, not necessarily Jake Ryan's individual fit.
That said… healthy Jake Ryan.
Healthy Jake Ryan is a menace shot out of a cannon who impacts you fiercely and rocks you back and then runs really fast at the guy with the ball. While middle linebacker may be an awkward fit, there are not many Jake Ryans out there, and when the guy is sent on a blitz, opponents are going to feel it.
It is not going to feel good.
[After THE JUMP: the Bolden Question, the Morgan Binkie, the Ross Explanation]