things go poorly
Offensive line from the start of fall camp to now: where’s it come and in what ways have you seen it grow?
“I think the biggest growth’s been in the communication. I see our guys on a day-to-day basis getting more comfortable and getting better at communicating. We’ve talked about it still as a point of emphasis. I think it always will be. I think you see that in really good football teams. If you watch the line play, if you just watch the trenches and you watch an offensive line play for a really good offensive team you’ll see both the verbal communication that goes on and then all the stuff that happens after the snap with the nonverbal stuff and how they pass games [Ed: I think that’s what he said] and all that type of stuff. But pleased with where we’re at as far as our focus and where we need to go. Once again, consistency.”
As far as focus goes offensively moving the ball, are you frustrated? Sometimes it looks like you’re moving the ball well. There’s other times you’re not moving it at all. There’s other times where not moving it well at all is an understatement. Is there a level of frustration for you right now? Is this offense coming together as planned or is it behind schedule?
“I don’t—I guess that’s kind of a difficult question to ask. I don’t really understand.”
Are you frustrated? Is this offense where it should be in your eyes?
“No, I’m not frustrated at all. Shoot, you look out there at the field at times- I look out there during the game and when you don’t have Funch out there and you have Amara Darboh catching his first touchdown, Da’Mario Jones comes in and catches his first pass [which was a] big third-down conversion, you look at a true freshman left tackle, Devin in his third game in a new system, at times we’re playing Khalid [Hill] at tight end. You just look at the youth out there [and] there is going to be a growth process. Our kids have worked extremely hard and take great pride in doing things right. Now, has it been perfect? No. And do we have a long way to go? Yes. But the attention is there, the focus is there, the want-to is there and we’ve just got to continue to improve.”
Last week you mentioned infancy stages. For another baby analogy, would you say it’s crawling now?
“Well, we took another step. We took a step in the right direction. Still we know as a group the consistency’s got to be better but at times you see us do some things very, very well.”
[After the THE JUMP: Nussmeier summarizes the offensive strategy against Miami and gives his thoughts on tempo]
Can you talk about some of the positives you took away after watching the film?
“Well, you know, I think when you look at the football game and you say, ‘Okay, what were the things that we can take out of this game?’ I thought we were prepare to play. I talked to our guys about [how] the preparation was right. We were prepared. You look at the first drive, we move the ball down the field the first two drives and unfortunately were unable to convert but the preparation was right. We’ve talked a lot about what we’re doing to prepare for games and right now we’ve just got to play smarter, we’ve got to play more disciplined and we’ve got to execute better.”
What does this offense need to do to regain the consistency and solidity it had against Appalachian State and what did Notre Dame do to break down what you built up in the season opener?
“Well, I wouldn’t say that anything got broke down. The same thing I talked about a week ago; we’re still in the infancy stages. We’re still learning to play consistently and I’ll continue to hit on that because, like I said before, we play well in stretches and it showed in that game. You could see where we’d get movement, we’d create things, we’d move the ball and then we’d lack that consistency and that’s going to be a growth process and it’s something that we work every day in practice on and we continue to talk about it’s about eleven guys on every play doing the right thing. You just can’t play, when you play a quality opponent like Notre Dame- if it’s ten guys doing the right thing and one guy doing the wrong thing you’re doomed so we’ve got to get eleven guys on every play doing the right thing.”
Can you talk about what you’ve seen out of Devin Funchess in the first couple of games, but beyond that the production you’re expecting from those other guys when Devin gets the attention that he inevitably will.
“Sure. Devin’s done an outstanding job. I talked about that before. We moved him around and his ability to process the information, to move into the slot, to move back out by himself, then to have the tight end with him, that’s a lot of information. People don’t realize how difficult that is and that should tell you a little bit about his mental makeup and the other side of Devin Funchess, not just the athletic side that you see. He’s done an outstanding job with that.
“That being said, you could see in the game that there are other guys on this team that can make plays. Dennis Norfleet did a nice job for us, made some plays for us. Amara Darboh, Jehu Chesson. We’re still looking at some young guys to stand up and develop. Freddy Canteen, we’re trying to get Freddy going a little bit so we’re trying to not only let Devin do what Devin does but also develop that corps around him.”
[After THE JUMP: generating explosive plays, evaluating the offense’s progress, and a bunch of Devin Gardner questions]
file because I need to remember to shoot landscape
A number of players commented on the offensive side about how they enjoy having you on the sideline being able to communicate during the game. How did you think that went? Just talk in general about the pluses and minuses of being there.
“Well, you know, one of the biggest things when you’re down on the field you get a much better feel for the players, their state of mind. You can look them right in the eyes and get a feel for where you think you’re at from a mental standpoint and one of the things you do lose, you don’t get the visual effects you can see from upstairs. So, it is important and great communication from the guys in the box. Our staff did a great job, and that was something we talked about going in to the game and went back and talk about it yesterday. How we can do things better, what we did well just as far as a communication standpoint from the field to the box and vice versa.”
Against Appalachian State in the second quarter you’re already up by 35. Knowing that Notre Dame’s coming up do you kind of limit the playbook a little bit to save things for this week?
“As with any game we go in with a game plan and go in to execute the game plan as best we possibly can. Obviously we weren’t going to reinvent the wheel or do anything we hadn’t planned or talked about doing so we stuck with the game plan throughout.”
With coach VanGorder, you’ve gone against him before, you were at Alabama and he was at Auburn. Talk about that and obviously the personnel is different but how you might both be inside each other’s heads a little more than typical.
“Brian’s an outstanding coach. I have a great deal of respect for him. If you look at his track record and what he’s done throughout his career he’s an outstanding football coach sp obviously he presents a lot of challenges for you and that’s why we’ve been in the film room buried all day trying to find a nugget here or there to give us an advantage.”
What were your thoughts on the new look offensive line and especially Mason Cole and how he took his first college game in stride?
“I thought Mason did a nice job. Talked about it a little bit last week, nothing’s too big for him. He’s a young player and we knew that going into the game there were going to be some things that happened and obviously the one sack that occurred, but it’s not about the sack, it’s how you react to it. We talk to our guys a lot about ‘play the next play’ and it’s not about whether the play before was a great play or a bad play because it really doesn’t matter. It’s irrelevant now. Thought he did an outstanding job, very focused, very level-headed. Played a good football game.”
Brady said he wanted a little more precision out of the offense going into the Notre Dame game. What does need to be fine tuned or improved going into this weekend?
“What doesn’t need to be improved, I guess, would be the question. We’ve got a long way to go. I hit on it a little bit last week. Consistency in performance. Our ability to perform at a high level each and every day. We’re not there yet. We play well in stretches and at times we don’ do things the way we need to do them so we’ll get back to the practice field tomorrow and it’s important that we have another great work of practice and get better each and every time we go out.”
There was some talk in the preseason about maybe the defense holding things up while the offense developed. You didn’t want to hear that. Did you use that for motivation, and was the first game important in terms of your guys proving a point about being able to move the football on the ground?
“Every game’s important. Every play’s important. It’s about our players and we talked about our youth. Every time we go out it’s important that we focus and get better. I said it last week, we’re doing things better and some days it doesn’t look like it and you say, ‘wow, that was a tough practice’ or ‘that wasn’t the way we wanted things to go’ and then you go in and evaluate and you say ‘we did get better in this area.’ I talked about it, it’s going to be about us continuing to grow and developing that consistency to do it well on a day-to-day basis.”
[After THE JUMP: Devin Funchess hyperbole or just Devin Funchess eeeeeeeeee?]
Videos now working.
Megatron—the Decepticon, not the Detroit Lion—is definitely the most interesting robot in the Transformer pantheon. Classic Megatron had the most clearly defined mission—pillage Earth's energy resources to power Cybertron—of any imaginary bad guy leader, but still possessed all the classic bad guy traits: narcissism, obsession with power, mistrust.
That last gave the character a rich irony, since in order to provide his greatest contribution in a fight, Megatron had to transform into a weapon wielded by someone else—usually that was Starscream, Megatron's primary rival for power. Nobody seemed to mind the physics of a transformer equal in size to Optimus Prime—a truck cab—transforming into a handheld blaster.
The thing Carr said when he gave Braylon the number is it's going to make you a target—the defense will always be accounting for #1. But there's no point in having such a powerful bad guy if you don't give him plenty of his own screen time. Somehow, Nussmeier managed to get Funchess open all over the field this week, and I wanted to know how.
Catch 1: Quick WR Screen
How to read these diagrams: Black lines are blocks, blue are routes, red denotes the hot read (as best as I could tell) and dotted lines are pre-snap motion. Click for bigger.
Michigan has just spent an offseason talking about how they're going to be an inside zone team. So Nussmeier chooses the best possible debut: a totally spread "quick screen" to the guy in #1, with an extra block courtesy of putting the U-back, Khalid Hill, in motion. Hill goes flat to kick out whoever appears, Norfleet starts downfield then latches on to the guy over him creating space for Funchess to get the ball and turn downfield.
Why it worked: Like Megatron, Funchess may be big but he's also got the acceleration and wiggle of a much smaller guy, and the screen gets those qualities in space against small defensive backs. Because he's a such a downfield threat the defense has to give him that space at the snap (even MSU did that last year). To stop this the defense needed to react super-fast and/or beat a block.
Such a quick pass also saved the OL from having to make long or difficult blocks, so there was no need to have a perfect protection scheme—the backside routes were both outlets in case the CB on Funchess was jumping the route or something.
How it helps the offense: This play punishes App State's space linebacker (#88 in the videos, denoted as WLB in the diagrams for simplicity's sake) for coming down into the box, something opponents did a ton of to us last year. That guy is responsible for the edge if the offense is running to his side, so forcing him to book it outside on the first play really messes with how that guy can react to things the rest of the day.
Downsides? This is highly coordinated play that had to have taken a lot of practice time to execute. That practice time was only worth it because it directly punishes the defense for playing sound against the rest of the offense.
[The other seven, after the jump]
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!]
1. It can't get any worse, can it?
It can always, always get worse.
1A. But it's not likely to, right?
good night sweet prince [Heiko Yang]
No, it's not. Yes, even though Michigan lost both starting tackles to the NFL. It takes a special kind of panicked incompetence to end up with results like last year's Michigan. Al Borges's final D-I offense ran outside zone, then it ran power, and then it ran inside zone. It heaped all of the possible base plays you can run on an offensive line that had zero upperclassmen on the interior. It wasted essentially a month of practice time on the "tackle over" gimmick that was ruthlessly exposed by the first opponent that knew it was coming.
Michigan had 13 plays on which a tackle lined up next to another tackle. These plays were 11 runs that gained 8 yards (more than all of them on Toussaint's long run of the day, a 12-yarder), a seven-yard sack given up by Williams, and a scramble that gained eight yards. That is the product of three weeks of practice time and the futility there was only stopped by Lewan's injury.
Many of these plays could not be blocked by anybody, because Penn State was so aggressively overplaying run that they were in the gaps before Michigan could do anything about it.
Three guys for two blockers with the WLB meeting Bryant a yard in the backfield. If Kalis tries to pursue #40, the MLB, he blocks no one instead of an irrelevant guy. On second and one, a great PA down that a lot of DCs will just give you.
They got to the line of scrimmage with under ten seconds on the clock most of the time.
GET OUT OF THE HUDDLE.
Yes. In addition to all the things previously discussed, Michigan's offensive line is looking at Gardner with two seconds on the playclock. Michigan snaps it with zero already showing—probably not actually a penalty because there is a natural delay before the ump looks at the ball to see if it's still there—and slides their line against a four man rush with no tailback to pick up the DE:
That turnover is a tangible cost of Michigan's inability to get to the line with 20 seconds on the clock consistently.
It moved linemen around almost literally every game after the first four. It was dumb.
How did this happen to a guy who was rather successful at San Diego State? Panic strangled reason in multiple ways. Michigan is stuck on this picture of itself as its 1990s self, and Al Borges was openly contemptuous of the spread both in press conferences and off the record (not to me, but to multiple people who covered the program over the last few years).
So they played a tight end who couldn't block. I'm not talking about Devin Funchess, who was eventually thrust outside. I'm talking about AJ Williams, who had one catch for two yards a year ago and was no better at blocking than Funchess. They had to know this. It jumped off the screen to me, an amateur. But instead of doing something about it they just kept plugging along with him on the field, to the point where people trying to evaluate Taylor Lewan got frustrated:
…why in the HELL did Michigan keep a tight end to Lewan's side so damn much? He obviously didn't need the help. The quarterback was right-handed anyway (with bootlegs you like for the tight end to be lined up to the side of the quarterback's throwing hand), and they could have potentially had a wide receiver there instead of a tight end. It would've increased the chances of success on passing downs as well as run downs if you get the opposing defenses to spread themselves out. But is that what Michigan did?
Here is the scenario I saw time and time again. So you have a tight end helping before he goes out into his route. Lewan, who doesn't need the help any damn way, blocks the hell out of the edge rusher. But the rest of Lewan's buddies on the Michigan O-line aren't quite as, well, good as he is, so the quarterback is under pressure and ends up sacked.
I mean. This is a guy who said he "didn't want to get in a chess match" last year. They're playing chess anyway, man. If you want to try to win with checkers, you're gonna have a bad time. Yes, even if you've got 75 different colors. The full results were detailed after Borges's firing. It just did not work.
[After THE JUMP: Nussmeier the savior(?), offensive line the achilles heel, Gardner the legend(?), stupid predictions.]