"He's a hard worker, and he watched me and Tim (Hardaway Jr.) and Nik (Stauksas) put work in to become (first-round picks), and I'm just happy he's getting better," Burke said. "It's great for the program, too. It shows what type of program the University of Michigan is and the direction it continues to go in."
HEY KIDS: This is an overview of all of Michigan's passing plays against OSU, which is an important data point for Devin Gardner. I'm not doing the run offense, because it was Denard doing Denard things and Rawls doing Rawls things and no one getting blocked ever—ie, not relevant, really.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O35||1||10||I-Form 3-wide||2||0||3||Nickel over||Pass||Hitch||Gallon||7|
|A little longer than a quick pitch and catch as Gardner resets in the pocket and hits Gallon, who's covered pretty well. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|O24||1||10||Pistol Diamond||3||0||2||Nickel over||Pass||Throwback screen||Gallon||2|
|Backside DE forms up and threatens to bat the pass down; Gardner pumps and then lofts it. This takes a long time to develop and busts up the play's timing; Omameh(-0.5) and Schofield(-1) don't get blocks and Gallon has to dance to squeeze out anything. (CA, 3, screen)|
|Gallon runs this well and gets a couple yards of separation; Gardner steps up and fires but a little wide and high. Gallon can only get one hand on it. Protection was good off a blitz, though they held seven guys in. Borderline MA/IN. (IN, 1, protection 2/2)|
|O22||3||8||Shotgun double stack||1||1||3||3-3-5 nickel||Pass||Sack||N/A||-8|
|Gardner is just about to step into this and throw when Washington comes around the back to strip/sack as Lewan(-3) gets beat clean. (PR, N/A, protection 0/3, Lewan(-3). The worst thing is that Gallon was breaking open for a touchdown.|
|M17||1||10||Ace 3TE||1||3||1||4-3 even||Pass||Fly||Gallon||Inc|
|Max pro, two man route going deep. Gallon gets a step and Gardner fires it out there; the throw is absolutely perfect but the OSU safety reaches out and grabs Gallon by the back of the shoulder pads, slowing him a hair. Ball is now just past his oustretched fingertips. Outrageous no-call. (DO, 0, protection 2/2, refs -3)|
|M25||3||2||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||3-3-5 nickel||Pass||Rollout deep hitch||Roundtree||75|
|M gets the edge easily and Gardner can survey; Michigan high-lows the corner, who sucks up on a Gallon hitch for about five. Roundtree behind is open; Gardner hits him. That's about 15 yards, then the safety who just almost got burned (CJ Barnett) takes a horrendous angle to Roundtree and turns it into a huge touchdown. (CA+, 3, protection 1/1, RPS +1)|
|M30||1||10||I-Form twins||1||2||2||5-2 bear||Pass||PA comeback||Roundtree||12|
|Good protection but no one's really going for the QB because of play action, I guess. Gardner steps up and has a very strange no-step throw that floats a bit. Either terrible mechanics or a great improvisation to get it over a DE in the throwing lane who endeavors to bat the pass down. Accurate, though, and Roundtree can turn it up for a first down. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|M48||2||4||Offset I-Form||2||1||2||4-3 over||Pass||PA rollout Hitch||Reynolds||Inc|
|Counter PA to Kerridge does not hold the backside end because obviously. He gets out on the edge to harrass. Denard is underneath and covered. Gardner goes deeper to an also-covered Reynolds and misses, but Reynolds is off balance and may have stumbled out of his break or gotten interfered with. Can't tell and no replay. He probably should have gone to Kwiatkowski further inside but not possible with the pressure. So... I want to punt. (MA, 0, protection N/A, RPS -1)|
|M48||3||4||Shotgun double stack||1||1||3||Nickel even||Pass||Cross||Gallon||36 (Pen -15)|
|Initial protection is good but Smith(-1) doesn't perceive the late blitz coming and leaks out of the backfield; pocket opens up and Gardner steps forward just as the blitzer does. He's got little time but does have Gallon on a crossing route. It's time for an Uncannily Accurate Gardner Flick, which is off his back foot and has no impetus, but goes right to Gallon for big yards. (DO, 3, protection 1/2, Smith -1). It's wiped out by a dubious offensive PI on Roundtree. (Refs -3!)|
|M33||3||19||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||3-3-5 nickel||Pass||Rollout Fly||Dileo||Inc|
|Another rollout; edge rusher gets too far inside and Smith chops him down well. Gardner has a lot of time and finds Dileo, but doesn't step into this one either, and that's bad. Dileo has two steps to the endzone and the throw is way short and inside. (IN, 0, protection 2/2, RPS +2). I may be harsh here because there's a shot of Gardner talking to Dileo that seems to be Dileo saying my bad just from the body language, but it really looked like a bomb into the endzone was six.|
|O25||1||10||Shotgun 2-back TE||2||1||2||4-3 over||Pass||TE jailbreak screen||Kwiatkowski||6|
|Fake flare screen to Denard followed by a dumpoff inside to Kwiatkowski. Accurate, but Kwiatkowski got bumped off his route and away from his blockers and gets chopped down after a moderate gain. (CA, 3, screen)|
|O19||2||4||Shotgun double stack||1||1||3||3-3-5 nickel||Pass||Dig||Dileo||Inc (Pen +10)|
|Another delayed blitz bothers Gardner, who feels he can't step up in the pocket because a guy beat Omameh(-1) and can't step into the throw because there's a guy flying at Smith. Gardner has another back foot fling that's a bit wobbly and a little behind Dileo, but Dileo still gets both hands on it and drops it. (CA+, 3, protection ½, Omameh -1). Roughing the passer bails M out.|
|M13||1||10||Ace FB motion||1||2||2||4-3 over||Pass||Corner||Gallon||Inc|
|Gallon's got himself a window here and Gardner just misses by throwing it too far downfield. Good protection. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|M19||3||4||Shotgun double stack||1||1||3||3-3-5 nickel||Pass||Scramble||Gardner||4 +15 pen|
|A ton of time as OSU only rushes three. Finally flushed out, Gardner evades a charging LB and tiptoes down the sideline for the first down. (SCR, N/A, protection 2/2). Late hit adds on; it seems like they actually shorted Gardner a couple yards here, FWIW.|
|M38||1||10||Ace FB motion||1||2||2||Nickel over||Pass||Sack||N/A||-9|
|More max pro two man route stuff. OSU using delayed blitzes to get pressure after M OL commit. On this one Williams(-1) refuses to pass his guy off as he goes upfield and lets a LB in unmolested. However, this blitz is both delayed and slow, so Gardner should be able to do something. He pumps, hesitates, and is lost. (TA, N/A, protection ½, williams -1, RPS -1... both deep guys bracketed)|
|M29||2||19||I-Form||2||1||2||4-3 over||Pass||Waggle drag||Roundtree||5|
|Instant pressure as end man is thinking QB first. Gardner makes another awkward-looking but effective throw and Roundtree has a step on the LB, but a hard corner prevents any sort of large gain. (CA, 3, protection N/A)|
|M34||3||14||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||3-3-5 nickel||Pass||Sack||Smith||-9|
|Robinson at RB, releasing immediately, just brushes a LB blitzing. Smith(-2) doesn't get over to block that guy for some reason, and Gardner gets chased and sacked. (PR, N/A, protection 0/2, Smith -2)|
|M31||2||4||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||4-3 over||Pass||Hitch||Gallon||9|
|Gardner looks to Roundtree first and then goes to the other side of the field for a short hitch that Gallon turns into a comeback, evading tacklers and grabbing some YAC. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|M14||1||10||I-Form 3-wide||2||0||3||Nickel over||Pass||Post||Gallon||30|
|A perfect downfield strike to Gallon, who is a shoestring tackle away from a touchdown. (DO, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +2)|
|M23||2||8||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel even||Pass||Hitch||Dileo||6|
|All hitches; Gardner finds the right one. Throw is a little bit off, so Dileo can't get YAC, but not quite MA territory. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|OSU showing a three deep shell all the way so this is an easy pitch and catch. Gardner's throw is a little upfield and outside, safe, but if he didn't pull Gallon that far out he could have picked up the first. Still not quite an MA. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|M8||1||10||I-Form||2||1||2||4-4 over||Pass||PA hitch||Gallon||Inc (Pen +11)|
|OSU playing press and rolling safeties to the line for an aggressive look. Denard's looking for Gallon on a hitch and the ball ends up turfed in front of him... because Roby yanked Gallon all over the field before it got there. Looked like a good timing throw in the right spot without it. (CA, 0, protection 2/2)|
|M19||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 over||Pass||PA sack||N/A||-15|
|Inverted veer look into a pop pass. OSU stunts and catches this play perfectly. LB immediately in Gardner's face with no hope of any one blocking the guy. Gardner spins away from that guy and starts scrambling, but fumbles as he gets banged from the side. (PR, N/A, protection 0/3, team -3, RPS -3)|
|M31||1||10||Ace twin TE||1||2||2||4-3 even||Pass||PA crosss||Roundtree||Inc|
|Max pro, two man route, Gardner does have Roundtree if he leads him to the sideline but throws it inside and upfield, which is dangerously close to an interception. (IN, 0, protection 1/1)|
|Gardner misses Roundtree wide, wide open on a dig and goes for Gallon on a corner route that is bracketed. He might have a tiny window but to get it over the guy sagging and there fast enough to beat the safety is a near-impossible task. The ball is a little late, too, and Bryant breaks it up. (BR, 0, protection 2/2)|
|M31||3||10||Shotgun 4-wide||1||1||3||Nickel even||Pass||Hitch||Gallon||10|
|Just a simple hitch; coverage is a step off; Gardner fortunate that the Buckeye CB stumbled because he put this too far upfield and if not for that he would have had a play on the ball. Gallon grabs it and gets the first down. (MA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|M41||1||10||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||Nickel even||Pass||Scramble||Gardner||10 (Pen -10)|
|Schofield(-2) gets beat by an edge rusher and tackles the dude as he flies by, drawing a flag. Gardner gets flushed, notices a big lane, and takes off for near first down yardage that gets wiped out. (SCR, N/A, Protection 0/2, Schofield -2)|
|M31||1||20||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel over||Pass||Improv||Funchess||Inc|
|Blitz overloads the M edge and gets two guys through. Not much the linemen can do about this, the blocking scheme just got beat. Gardner spins out and gets the edge, then decides to chuck it up across his body way downfield to Funchess. That's way short and inside. He had the corner easy and would have picked up maybe ten yards if he took off. Frustrating. (BR, 0, protection 0/2, team -2)|
|M31||2||20||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel even||Pass||Rollout corner||Dileo||INT|
|Tough as he's a righty rolling to his left and can't get set here. He does have Dileo on a corner if he can get it to the sideline, but it's way, way inside and picked off (INX, 0, protection ½, team -1)|
Let's get to it.
|2011 through MSU||13||66(12)||11(1)||34(1)||17||2||3||10||4||55%|
|2011 after MSU||9||77(9)||7||17||9||6(1)||5(2)||9||5||69%|
|Ohio State (pending)||3||11(1)||2||5*||2||1||-||3||2||62%|
Like the South Carolina game, Gardner's accuracy let him down at points. This was mostly late, when Michigan was forced to abandon the run entirely with six minutes left in the game and Gardner was making deep throws outside the pocket by reason of rollout or pressure. It is rarely Gardner's mind that lets him down, but rather his feet. While his ability to get velocity and accuracy when he's not even stepping into throws is hugely useful in short-area flips, when his mechanics break down on deeper throws bad times result:
This was most apparent on the (eventually) game-ending interception, where a rollout to Gardner's left resulted in pressure and an awkward throw that sailed for days:
When Gardner does make a wrong read it usually results in a pass that's difficult to complete but not, say, a horrendous interception. In this one, he avoided serious mistakes entirely. This, however, was painful:
That was first and twenty and Gardner ended up trying to bomb it to Funchess way short and wide of the target. Runnnnn.
For 2013, it's all about getting set and throwing with good mechanics, because then this happens:
Gardner's relatively pedestrian numbers (11 of 20, ) are a bit harsh on his game. When you throw a perfect deep ball only for OSU's very crappy CJ Barnett to yank Gallon back the foot he needs to catch in stride, you have been robbed:
And when you have one of those little short-area flicks that turns into 36 yards but gets wiped out by a dubious penalty on the other side of the field, ditto:
That is the area where Gardner's ability to pull throws out of nowhere with terrible mechanics is a great asset. That broom-wielding chaos theory quarterback guru was probably like "whoah" about the guy, because when things break down he can get crazy throws off.
[Passes are rated by how tough they are to catch. 0 == impossible. 1 == wow he caught that, 2 == moderate difficulty, 3 == routine. The 0/X in all passes marked zero is implied.]
Feast or famine here, as Gardner either put it right where it needed to be or missed completely. Except for the third-down drop by Dileo that was repaired by a roughing the passer, the wideouts did as expected.
This is every pass worth charting this year now, and you can see that Gallon, Funchess, and Dileo are extremely reliable options who drop balls rarely and have an excellent bail-out rate on tough throws. In years previous to this one a 20% hit rate on 1s would maybe be the best on the team; the three main returners were at 41%. That is somewhat mitigated by Gallon and Dileo's stature, which tends to move throws into harder categories. There are passes that are zeroes if thrown at them that would be 3s to Funchess. On the other hand, the percentage of balls marked uncatchable to Gallon is much lower than those to Roundtree and Funchess. Gallon's quickness means hitch after hitch is open, and it's easy to hit those. The stature, it gives and takes.
Upshot: Michigan returns a sure-handed and potentially prolific wide receiver corps, even without Darboh potentially emerging to replace Roundtree. Chesson and Reynolds should be able to at least keep Michigan even at the 'Tree spot, and then the Big One And Little Two should all improve, Funchess vastly.
"These high chairs are not really built for me. Hrnggh. How's my hair look?"
Great. Bad news about Amara Darboh. How do you compensate for that?
"Well, fortunately we have some pretty good kids that can fill in, but I feel probably worse for him than anybody. The kid had an excellent spring ball and capped it off with a fabulous two-a-days. He was playing good. I feel bad because I really feel like this was going to be a big, almost maybe even a coming-out season for him. But he's got a redshirt, so I guess there's a silver lining, but I just feel bad for the kid."
Does this maybe put a little more pressure on Jehu Chesson?
"Well Jehu would do it. Joe Reynolds will be out there. Jeremy Jackson. We have some capable replacements, thank goodness. All those guys, not just Jehu, but everybody."
Will you consider any position changes to try to get some depth?
"Oh I don't think so. I think we're still okay. We can't lose too many more."
Are any of the freshmen capable at this point?
"No. No. Not really."
"No. Not yet. But we're not completing eliminating them, either. Not yet, anyway."
Hello and welcome to the second iteration of our new feature, where we ask the MGoStaff a question regarding whatever Michigan fans happen to be obsessing about. As before we appreciate any suggestions for future questions. Participation is at will since people occasionally have more important missions to attend to. The team:
Agent Brian Johnson: Team leader. Specialty: hair styling.
Agent Ace Johnson: Demolition expert
Agent Seth Johnson: Specialist in disguise
Agent Heiko Johnson: Deadliest man in the world with a knife. Also knows a zillion old jokes his grandfather, a vaudevillian, taught him.
Agent Mathlete Johnson: Master of Kung Fu
Agent Blue in South Johnson: Token redhead.
And this week's question:
How do you see the receiver group playing out this year? Where does Gallon fall among Big Ten/National guys, how much do you see the young guys contributing in '13, and what can we get out of seniors Dileo and Jackson?
BiSB: Before you answer this, Brian, check to make sure that Jehu Chesson isn't in the room.
Heiko: Don't worry I told him not to come this time.
Brian: There is no room, there is only Zuul. This is the internet, man, so we know that both Chesson and the NSA are all up in here. anthrax pants This useless discursion is over. terrorism sandwich
Gallon is going to be the best dang tiny receiver Michigan's ever had. He's shifty enough to attract screens, jumpy enough to bring in fades, and quick enough to get over the top of guys trying to rein in his YAC. It's a conundrum if Michigan puts him to the boundary side of the field consistently since most boundary guys aren't going to be able to keep up with him. I keep saying this, but extrapolate 5 games with Gardner against 4 pretty good pass efficiency defenses (and Iowa) and you get about 80 catches for about 1300 yards; he was already the #4 receiver in the league last year. That's probably a little optimistic, but he should crack 1000 yards and be All Big Ten in some capacity.
Past Gallon, it's about the redshirt freshmen. Darboh is the key. I like Chesson a lot but he needs one more year to pack on the muscle before he emerges. Darboh is ready now, and showed off his skill on the first play of spring practice. He should be a slant merchant, more of a possession threat. Ideally you'd like to wait another year on him, too, but it is what it is. Dileo will also be a useful piece; I want him to double his catches, because I don't think he dropped a pass last year and he has both a knack for crazy twisting catches and staying on his feet afterwards.
There is a slight lack of depth that I hope Funchess covers up for; other than that it should be a solid B+ unit. jihad bacon
Mathlete: If Gallon can put together a full season like he did in the Gardner starts at the end of last year. He should easily have a first team Big Ten caliber season and have an outside shot at some level of All American recognition. His five game averages would have been the second best receiving season at Michigan in the last decade (behind Braylon's Biletnikoff season). Whether that can continue remains to be seen, but at this point I think there is a high likelihood that Jeremy Gallon will slip into the Top 5 Career Receivers in Michigan history in both receptions and yards.
Beyond Gallon, Dileo is what he is. A dependable secondary receiver. The key question is whether anyone can step into a strong second spot. After 11 catches in three years, the evidence is against it being Jeremy Jackson. That leaves Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh as the most likely candidates. Assuming Gallons production holds up at all, solid production from either of those two would be enough to make Michigan's wide receivers a great group in 2013.
BiSB: We probably all agree that based on the last half of last year, the leading receiver will be OMG Rocket Boots Cloaking Device Don Criqui Soul Eating McShortguy. Thing is, he's going to make 95% of his catches either within 8 yards of the line of scrimmage or 30+ yards downfield; I believe Brian termed this "hitch, hitch, hitch, see ya." The key is going to be finding an intermediate guy other than Funchess, and I think Darboh is that guy, but that's based on almost nothing other than specs. He looks more physically ready than Chesson to take over the role, and I see Chesson as more of a deep threat.
Dileo will probably do the same thing as last year; he'll vanish for a while, and then he'll come up big with a billion catches in some gritty game where no one can find open space unless they're my height. He'll also probably have a good amount of success getting lost in the secondary when Gardner goes on one of his crazy adventures in the backfield. Jeremy Jackson seems destined to battle Joe Reynolds for the Carl Tabb Memorial Totally Unsurprising Running Play After Personnel Change Award winner. Either Dukes or York will probably burn a redshirt for no apparent reason, because that is protocol. And as a wild guess, I'm gonna predict that whether we see DaMario Jones will depend on what happens with Justice Hayes. If he wins the third-down back role, we may see the frosh, but if there aren't gonna be enough snaps for Hayes (given the embarrassment of running back riches), we may see him back up Dileo in the slot.
Ace: I'm on break from writing words so here's a GIF that fits the general tenor of this discussion:
Heiko: All I know is Borges is really excited about Darboh. Apparently Darboh got injured vs. Purdue last year (incidentally he was blocking on a bubble screen), so he wasn't able to show off his skillz the rest of the season.
BiSB: Bubble screens: weak-ass pansy Bieber-ball. Also WAY TOO DANGEROUS.
Brian: For what it's worth, I've heard that (former?) walk-on Joe Reynolds is a real option as an outside receiver. Last year he graduated from Designated Guy Who Tips Run plays to pick up a few targets on long handoffs and the like; this year I bet he is the third option as an outside receiver (ie, slot Dileo is the #3 overall). I know the coaches like his blocking, and he showed some quicks on those screens. He's not likely to get any first-option snaps with Gallon/Dileo/Darboh/Funchess filling hypothetical four-wide formations, but between him and a developing Chesson there's some depth. dirty cat bomb
Seth: The NSA agents want to know why everybody's overlooking Jeremy Jackson. As you've probably guessed, the NSA works for Fred. I guess we are a bit optimistic that the other guys have finally distanced themselves from him that we won't see that one pass a game going his way.
Last year Marty Couvillan from cfbstats posted a megaload of receiver data based on how often they were thrown at. Football Outsiders' Bill Connellly made it into an end stat called RYPR (Target Rate x Yards Per Target x Passing S&P+ x Pass Rate). In this measure Gallon in 2012 was 14th in the country and tops in the conference:
|Player||Targets||Catch Rate||RYPR||B1G Rank|
I've already made my bid for Gallon to wear the #1 jersey.
Since the middle of the offensive line is going to be really young this year it's unlikely Michigan will be able to get by mostly on its running game. There will be a lot more passes and three-or four-wide sets, and we're replacing not just Roundtree's underrated production but Gardner's. All told there's something between 150 and 200 targets to be given out after the returning starters repeat theirs, and while a chunk of them will go to Gallon, Darboh should get something like 75 passes thrown his way, and Chesson stands to get something like 50.
If those guys aren't bringing them in at a 50% clip or higher you'll start seeing Gallon's usage climb into Marquise Walker territory, and more frustrating balls going toward to too-covered Jackson. My prediction is Darboh becomes that Junior Hemingway we've been missing, and Funchess is split out to the slot and doubles his production from last year. Gallon will draw a lot of attention and a lot of balls, which will put him on top of the conference in the old stats but drop him back to 4th-ish in RYPR. I expect at least one of the incoming receivers to burn his redshirt but I'd really rather they not—Jones is the most ready but the least needed, and Dukes and York both are skinny leaping dudes who need to put on muscle. Whichever of those two can block better right now, I guess. Darboh eats up the passes that went to Roundtree and Gardner last year, with similar results. Chesson does some stuff that makes us get really excited for next year. And we head into 2014 predicting the group will look like Indiana's (that's a good thing). Anarchy echelon nuclear roswell Glock 26 Spetznaz hamburger
assasssi- asassinn- assassinna- kill a guy.
Spring Game gifs? Oh, sure, I guess. This is the last post I'll have here until the 29th, as the next couple days are devoted to HTTV stuff and then I'm taking a little time off to recharge.
I'm continuing to tweak how I do gifs on here to hopefully make them more accessible for everyone—most of them are now dumbed down to 48 colors, which has greatly decreased file sizes. If you had trouble with them before, perhaps you'll give these posts another shot. Anyway, Dennis Norfleet:
This one was specifically requested by Brian, or at least that's how I interpreted the tween-at-a-Bieber-concert scream emanating from the stands when it happened. (Full run gif'd here, but I really wanted to slow-mo that juke.)
[Hit THE JUMP for fun with the names of a certain Pickerington-based duo.]
“What are you shaking your head about? Don’t start this like that. I want positive karma out of you. Hi. How you guys doin’? Heiko, what’s happenin?”
MGo: Not much.
“Always good to see you.”
MGo: It’s good to see you, too.
“You didn’t mean that.”
MGo: I’m really sad that you didn’t run any pistol formations.
“We don’t have any pistol formations. How could we run it? But if you’d like us to put them in we’ll be happy to do so just to make you happy.”
MGo: That would be great.
“Because my life revolves around your happiness if you haven’t figured that out by now.”
The first play from scrimmage was a 30-yard pass down the sideline to Amara Darboh. Was that to show people that they don’t need to worry about the wide receivers?
“Heh. No. That wasn’t what I was thinking. No, we were just thinking -- it’s always a good idea every so often in coming out on offense to try and take a ball deep. Our defense isn’t necessarily like this, but a lot of defenses will get a little reckless, you know? They’ll try and create a safety or whatever. A deep ball sometimes is a pretty good deal so we just decided at least once we were going to try and do that. That’s the reason for it.”
Lloyd Carr approves of this quote in the Michigan locker room. Via Rittenberg
A long time ago there was a thing called foot-ball that was so important we'd spend a month or two talking about foot-ball team practice that happened months before the foot-ball team played a foot-ball game. This was called "spring" no matter what happened to be happening out your windows.
I have just been informed by other parts of my brain that the "spring game" will be held tomorrow, and will still be called that despite a forecast of 43 degrees and a 22 mile per hour wind. This will be the last opportunity to get data on foot-ball until fall, whereupon excitement will descend upon the land again.
Here's everything I threw in a post because I was too busy with the Final Four run to do them any justice, and just in time.
The Peel Down The Fingers Of Michigan To Create An Obscene Gesture Offense
It's a working title. Shut up.
Denard Robinson has graduated. This is a terrible event for a lot of people, but probably not Al Borges. Borges can now stop jamming his brain into a spread coach's and do what he wants to do without everyone getting mad at him (until it doesn't work once). Lewan:
"I feel like (offensive coordinator Al) Borges is much more comfortable running this kind of offense than he’s been running for the last however many years."
What this will look like is still unknown even after Devin Gardner's five-game run as the starter, because…
- Michigan had spent most of the last two years focusing on Denard's unique talents and deficiencies
- They still had those talents for three of those five games and ended up running an even weirder hybrid offense than the weird hybrid created by matching Denard and Borges
- The NFL just started running this stuff so now it's cool with NFL bros.
Earlier in spring, Borges referenced the innovative stuff they were doing at places like San Francisco and Seattle—yes in fact just like that annoying NFL fan you know who dismisses the read option as gimmickry.
“You have to look at some of the stuff that [the NFL is] doing. Particularly because it’s pro football and running quarterbacks by design has not been a really popular thing to do in pro football over the years."
The upshot of this is scattered bouts of read option, a lot of it on the playside (ie: inverted veer), and a pistol package that could be anything from a quickly-discarded experiment to essentially the base offense depending on how well it works. There will also be fullbacks. : /
Andy Staples visited Ann Arbor and came back with an excellent article on the transition process that started immediately after last year's Nebraska game. It is unfortunately light on details.
We do know that Al Borges knows chick dig the long ball, and that Gardner is quite adept at unleashing the dragon.
"I kind of know sometimes what they're doin' before they do it," Gardner said of the defense. "I don't think (defensive coordinator Greg) Mattison's very happy about that."
Safety Thomas Gordon affirmed Gardner's take, saying the quarterback has had his way with Michigan's secondary at times -- a secondary that ranked fifth against the pass last year.
"Devin, he'll let that thing fly," Gordon said. "With him back there, he can throw it, he can roll out. He can do everything. You never know with Devin, so you always have to be on your P's and Q's.
"He can pick you apart. He's been testing us so far this spring, and (secondary coach Curt) Mallory has been on the DBs' heads."
It's going to be a Tyler Bray kind of thing out there.
Interior Line: Mustachioed. Nicknamed. Mean?
talking with Jack Miller
Michigan returns both tackles, who will be great. They replace the three other guys on the line. Since that portion of the line was so bad a year ago—try to gain a yard, anyone not named Denard Robinson, moohaha—no one's freaked out about this. But it would be nice if the new guys were better.
If facial hair is any help, by God they will be.
They're calling themselves "The Muzzy Maulers". And they're building chemistry one mustache at a time.
"What are we calling this?," Miller shouted to fifth-year senior left tackle Taylor Lewan, who like an older brother was watching his young center take on his first media pack of the spring. "The 'Muzzy Maulers'. That's kind of the new nickname. There's a mustache thing going on and Taylor's already taking advantage of it. I haven't yet because I have a boy mustache."
Jack Miller is picking up both the hirsuteness baton and the quote machine baton, which bodes well. In that article he notes that a bunch of the offensive linemen have gone so far as to live together in an effort to operate as one mind, describes Kyle Kalis as "a man" for his mustache-growing ability, and contains multitudes in an answer to the question "what did you learn from David Molk?"
"What did I learn from David Molk?," Miller laughs at the question.
Let me fix that for you, Mr. Miller.
What did I learn from David Molk that I can repeat to a reporter without causing Brady Hoke to explode?
And then there's… oh hell just read the whole article, I can't blockquote everything interesting that Miller says. The upshot is that Miller is larger and 70% as mean as David Molk on a scale ranging from Molk to Mealer. It sounds like he has a strong grip on the job, which is what I was hoping for with just walk-ons and incoming freshman Patrick Kugler backing him up:
Talked with offensive line coach Darrell Funk this morning about his group, which has to replace three starters in the middle. He mentioned that Jack Miller has been the most consistent interior lineman so far this spring, but he's being pushed by Joey Burzynski and Graham Glasgow. He said redshirt freshmen Kyle Kalis and Ben Braden have come a long way. And it sounds like it's a little easier to have youth inside than at tackle.
The buzz has been within in the sunnily positive range:
"This is by far the best spring start (they've had) since I've been here," fourth-year quarterback Devin Gardner said.
As of two weeks ago, Joey Burzynski was still running with the ones—that'll be something to watch for at the Spring Game. No offense to Burzynski, but I think everyone's hoping Kyle Kalis locks onto the right guard job with the jaws of death.
Meanwhile, the other guard spot is Ben Braden's to lose.
It’s hard to get a read on the young interior linemen right now, but one name that’s constantly floated by coaches and players is Ben Braden.
"He's going to be a hell of a guy to get around when he's coming downhill at you," Lewan said.
Lewan said he's excited about Michigan's offensive line looking more like the lines of old.
"The tradition of mauling people up and down the field is really cool, and it's fun to see people give up on the other side of the ball, not us," Lewan said. "Everybody's got a nasty streak. These guys really get it."
While I don't think anyone's making an explicit comparison to last year's collection of nice guys who had trouble consistently identifying the middle linebacker, my mind immediately goes there. "It's fun to see people give up on the other side of the ball, not us" is kind of a brutal shot at last year's interior line, right? Am I crazy?
In any case, the meanness here and the options at the guard spots should provide Michigan more consistent production, and by that I mean "any production."
Catchists Of Size
Michigan's got a couple of good receivers in Drew Dileo and Jeremy Gallon; they'll need a couple more to fill out Gardner's targeting array. With a zero-receiver class in Hoke's first year and a collection of sleepers in year three, the onus falls heavily on second-year guys Amarah Darboh (a sophomore) and Jehu Chesson (a redshirt freshman). Both have come in for considerable buzz. Darboh is in the Avant mold; Chesson in the Edwards mold.
"Jehu, in one-on-ones, he’s just flying by people with his speed. Doing all these amazing things. You can tell he’s learning." -- Receiver Jeremy Gallon
Chesson also made a ridiculous diving catch in the scrimmage video (at about 2 minutes):
Chesson looks like the football team's Caris LeVert—earlier in that video he gets a ball he should catch raked out by a defensive back. He's probably not going to be too good at getting off jams or dealing with bump and run yet, but that's what stacked formations are for.
Meanwhile, the siziest catchist, Devin Funchess, is calling himself a "pretty boy." In a negative way, not like he's a parrot:
"I was like a pretty boy that didn't want to get hit," he humbly admitted on Thursday. "Now I know that I have to change many aspects of my game, change my mindset. Now I just go in there and stick my head in as much as possible.
"I believe I wasn't ready for the Big Ten because it was a tougher game."
While everyone else was staring at the box score, circling his lack of receptions and wondering why he wasn't being targeted more, Funchess and the coaching staff were more concerned about his blocking.
"I have to help the team win," Funchess said of his offseason reprograming. "I learned that because at the end of last year I missed some blocks, some key blocks. And it hurt the team."
That is accurate. I am a bit concerned that he hasn't added any weight—seems like Michigan would like him at 250 if he is going to be a Y TE. It doesn't matter how good of a blocker you are at 230 pounds, you are just an oversized wide receiver.
"I hang out with all of them, but I can't hang out with the lineman too much because I can't grow facial hair," Funchess said. "I'm just a young lad; can't really grow it."
Unleash The… Dangit James Ross You Don't Fit With "Unleash The"
This site has been hyping up James Ross since midway through last year when every time I'd look at tape, Ross would be getting to the right spot at the right time. Sometimes he had issues despite that, as in the Iowa game when Mark Weisman ran over a perfectly-positioned Ross repeatedly.
a history of nonviolence
If Ross can just go from the above to wrecking people, he'll be all-conference. At least. What's that, Devin Gardner? You've decided to put some practice clips of Ross wrecking people on the internet?
I'll be peering at him for hints of the above tomorrow—and this site's breakout player prediction is no secret. Michigan is moving Desmond Morgan to MLB for a reason. Ross has to start.
Freak Clark To The Rescue
Lo and it came to pass that there was a man who had not really done much so far in his career who entered spring practice a different man and was called exciting things.
Both [starting tackles], asked open-endedly which defensive lineman provides the most difficult matchup in practice, offered the same answer: Frank Clark.
"He’s just so quick. He’s got such a quick step, it's hard to handle him. He's a freak," said Schofield, who wasn't the only Michigan player to invoke the F-word.
Added senior defensive lineman Jibreel Black: "Ever since Frank came in here, he's been a freak athlete. It's just a matter of putting it all together."
And this always worked out and never did not work out. Amen.
Jake Ryan's ACL tear makes finding some more pass rush—already priority one for a defense that was pretty good in all other aspects—absolutely critical. Fortunately, hulked-up WDE Frank Clark is far and away your Grady Brooks Memorial Spring Hype Award winner. Por ejemplo:
What they're saying: "I feel like he’s more focused, just to become our No. 1 pass rusher. I feel like he’s definitely proven he can do that. I think he’s realizing he’s older now, and wants to step up, especially now with Brennen moving. He’s among the quickest defensive linemen I’ve ever faced, and he’s got a nice little bull-rush too. He can mix it up on you." -- Right tackle Michael Schofield
I've heard that Lewan and Clark have a nice little practice rivalry going. To have one of those means you're evenly matched, or at least close. Lewan is hyping and hyping:
"I think, no doubt in my mind, he's an All-Big Ten player -- if not more," Lewan said Tuesday of the weak-side defensive end. …
Clark claims he's gotten the best of Lewan in practice.
"Perception is reality," Lewan countered. "If he wants to perceive it that way, then yeah."
He's seen his share of pass rushers, from Tom Gholston to Jadeveon Clowney. Michigan would like Clark to end up closer to the Clowney end of things, though obviously not particularly close because holy pants that guy.
Grady Brooks didn't do anything at all after his spring hype; guys like Breaston did. Let's go Breaston.
In other pass-rush hope, early-enrollee Taco Charlton came in at 6'6", 265 and is getting buzz of his own. Gardner:
He's huge to begin with. He comes in big enough to play. He's fitting in. He doesn't look like a freshman. He knows what he's doing out there.
Mario Ojemudia is in there too, though he's by far the smallest of the available WDEs and may be restricted to nickel rush duties.
Wherefore Art Binkie
Jordan Kovacs is gone. While Marvin Robinson still seems to be taking most of the first-team snaps, if you made me guess I'd say Jarrod Wilson would push past him to start. Wilson enrolled early and was the third safety a year ago. He knows what was the most important part of the tao of Kovacs:
Even with all the extra work he puts in, Wilson might consider himself first and foremost a student of Kovacs.
The former captain has been in and out of Ann Arbor this winter, dropping by Schembechler Hall periodically for workouts, and though Wilson really hasn’t had the opportunity to pick Kovacs’s brain, the year he spent observing Kovacs while on reserve has given him insight into the kind of safety he’s striving to be.
“His instincts and what to expect even before the play has even started,” Wilson said of what he’s picked up by watching Kovacs. “He could come out and tell you what the offense was going to run due to line splits, wide-receiver splits, quarterback and everything. I pretty much learned pre-snap reads from him.”
That reminds me to put Kovacs on my future Michigan coach wish-list. Oh hell yes.
This article was based off a dumping-ground where I put ever article that flipped past me during Michigan's tourney run, and as I finish it I notice that certain things are absent. Quick take time.
Running back. A murky mess with no clear leader. Drake Johnson has come in for some coach hype; I've heard Justice Hayes is looking good; everyone's waiting for Derrick Green and DeVeon Smith to rumble into camp in fall. Biggest thing might be seeing whether Hayes or Norfleet can lock down the third down back role.
Tight ends. Can AJ Williams block now? Is he a downfield threat after the weight loss? I don't know.
Defensive line. Are they really going to roll with 276-pound Jibreel Black as the starting three-tech? How's Pipkins doing? Who will start at SDE?
Linebacker. Cam Gordon, please be good.
Cornerback. Countess is still limited so some uncertainty is still there even though the top three spots appear to be taken by quality players.