Alex Cook: UP: Watching the game live, I thought Chris Wormley stood out to me far more than I'd expected: even with the loss of Bryan Mone, the defensive line was projected to be a strength, but I was surprised to see that Wormley was often leading the charge and anchoring a stout run defense. With Brady Hoke and Greg Mattison's history of coaching up defensive linemen -- as well as their tendency to rotate them in and out of the game -- it was easy to figure that there could be a breakout star in that group. Preseason predictions were often in favor of Willie Henry becoming that guy, but Wormley is definitely a contender to really shine under Durkin this year.
DOWN: A lot of national attention focused on Jake Rudock's three interceptions (and rightfully so, as the pick-six wound up eventually becoming the margin of victory), but the run game was the big disappointment of the evening. Even though the offensive line held up fine in pass protection, Michigan's inability to run the ball was a problem that can't really be pinned on one guy. Maybe Utah's front is really good. In any case, I thought De'Veon Smith didn't play as well as I'd hoped. After seizing the job in practice, he got the lion's share of touches, but didn't make the most of them. It was going to be hard sledding with the OL playing like it did, but Smith didn't help himself out as much as he could've, in my opinion.
[After the jump: everyone agrees with Ace]
1. I bet you're mad because this isn't a spread offense amirite?
I am a spread zealot, it's true. However, I am not crazy. Therefore I am happy that Jim Harbaugh is the coach at Michigan no matter what offense he wants to run.
Meanwhile, the Harbauffense is not a spread but neither is it the old style "expectation is for the position" offense. Harbaugh's offense has a certain reputation…
…and it does live up to that. It goes beyond that. Whereas the late Carr offenses tended to drive one thing into the ground over and over until it settled into a 3.4 YPC groove, Harbaugh loves to troll defenses with constant motion, trap blocking, and—yep—spread elements.
The Sugar Bowl demolition of a Virginia Tech team that a year later would hold Brady Hoke's first team under 200 yards of offense is the canonical example of the motion. Stanford shifted, and shifted some more, and continued shifting until grand cracks developed in VT's run fits.
That relies on the opponent screwing up because of your shifts and is not always going to happen… but it does sometimes. After Stanford had blown it open, Harbaugh deployed a play that I've used at various MGoEvents over the past few months. At each it plays like stand-up comedy:
They practiced that, and then used it as a middle finger.
[After THE JUMP: building Rome, explosions, Rudock]
[I jumped in mid-answer]
“We’ve got two coaches who love to hit. With coach Drevno the O-line is real tough this year. On the D-line we've had a lot of guys step up and play real hard, so it’s been a real hard-hitting camp.”
Talk about yourself and where you’ve made progress since the end of last season.
“I think Coach Mattison has helped me with my technique a lot and also coach [Will] Carr has helped me and Mo [Hurst] with our technique a lot. He's helped us out a lot. As far as technique, I feel like our effort has always been there but we haven't always been the sharpest technique-wise, but I think that’s been a lot better since last year.”
What makes coach Mattison such a good coach?
“I think it’s experience of coaching. He’s coached every type of line.”
And guys like Ray Lewis.
“Yeah, he’s coached every type of guy. He knows how to get to it with coaching. He’s not going to coach everyone the same. He knows how to push buttons in the right way, and he has really constructive criticism and I think that’s what makes him a good coach.”
Last year you did have a scholarship. Are you still technically a walk-on? Have you heard anything about a scholarship?
“No, I actually got one last year after the season.”
[After THE JUMP: Chesson, Rudock, and Bolden]
[NOTE! This section uses the UFR catch chart. Passes are rated on a three point scale for catchability. 3: routine. 2: moderate. 1: difficult. There's also a zero for times when the player was thrown to without any chance of a reception.]
|Amara Darboh||Jr.*||Jehu Chesson||Jr.*||Grant Perry||Fr.||Jake Butt||Jr.|
|Moe Ways||Fr.*||Drake Harris||Fr.*||Brian Cole||Fr.||Ian Bunting||Fr.*|
|Jaron Dukes||So.*||Da'Mario Jones||Jr.||Jabrill Peppers||Fr.*||Khalid Hill||So.*|
[NOTE: though flex tight ends are listed above since they will fill some of the WR snaps they are addressed in the TE & Friends post, not here.]
Last year's WR corps was a bit like the famous Braylon/Avant/Breaston trio if those guys had been coached by a potato and inserted into a disaster of an offense and gradually lost their will to live and halfway through the season they accidentally left Breaston in Piscataway and Breaston had to fend off a pair of cartoonishly dumb burglars with a series of elaborate traps.
artist's impression via Seth
This year's WR corps is down the Braylon and Breaston equivalent-type-substances, leaving only a substantially more unproven version of Avant, Jehu Chesson, and a bunch of guys who have seen maybe six snaps between them.
But Drake Harris maybe? Shh. You'll spook the hamstring. Let's be nice to the hamstring. Good hamstring. Does hamstring want a treat? Yes it does. Nice hamstring.
As soon as Devin Funchess declared for the NFL draft, AMARA DARBOH became this year's presumptive #1 wide receiver. Normally that would be met with mild optimism since Darboh is a touted recruit entering his redshirt junior year with decent production. Also he did this:
But in the crater left after last year's offense got done with our brains it's hard to be positive about anything in the micro. (The macro, of course: HARBAUGH.)
In the tortured analogy above, Darboh is our substantially more unproven Avant. Avant was of course a quality possession receiver and slant merchant who is not much of a threat to take the top off a defense. When Darboh had a catchable ball come his way, he looked fairly similar:
He is not likely to be as good as Avant because Avant is 100 out of 100 in certain skills. Darboh might be very good and still a standard deviation below that level of performance.
[After THE JUMP: DON'T ALARM THE HAMSTRING]
“Nice to see everybody. I just spent a nice 45 minutes over at the Weber’s with the M Club of Ann Arbor. Now I get to be here with you to follow that up. It doesn’t get any better!”
What have you seen from your offense so far, and what do you like about the competition?
“What I love about the competition is that…oh, where you talking about offense?”
“It’s been good. Intense competition, which it always is on a football team. There’s a great deal of honor and satisfaction to be one of the 11- a starter. Competition for those roles has been intense, as you would expect. Offensively, defensively, and on special teams.”
Any updates on the quarterbacks?
“I was informed that our competition for Thursday night’s ball game, Utah, would be sending us their official depth chart Monday, and in the interest of fair and healthy competition we will also send our official depth chart on Monday as well.”
Does that mean you’ll have made up your mind by Monday, or are you still hashing it out?
“Like a lot of positions there are some that are very close, some are closer than others, some are still being competed for, and some positions there’s individuals that are ahead. To give you an example, the kicking position is very tight right now and still playing out. At some positions it might continue into the ball game itself. Yeah. I think we’re getting a good idea of things, whether it’s even, close, or someone’s ahead at this point.”
Is it important for you to tell your QBs or team who that is so they can rally behind that one guy?
“To the team? Yeah, I think that’s something that’s been ongoing and that takes place.”
I don’t know if you-
“And they do. They do. It’s been a tight, close competition. Especially at that position.”
[After THE JUMP: “You can also say we really enjoyed each other’s company in a football fashion”]
Drake Harris is ready to put on the pads and play. [Fuller]
Redshirt freshman wide receiver Drake Harris hasn't seen game action for the better part of two years because of hamstring injuries, but the talented Grand Rapids native says he's healthy and ready to contribute this fall. This was part of a scrum, so only a few of these were MGoQuestions, and there's a little bit of overlap with injury questions.
[walked in partway through question] …do you know you’re ready?
Oh yeah. We ran 40s, that’s sprinting. We had one-on-ones, seven-on-sevens basically every day during the spring and summer, so I was basically sprinting and running every day, working.
So you’re ready to go, you think?
Oh yeah. I’m good. … I feel great. This is the best I’ve felt in I don’t know how many years. Running 40s and everything, I feel good.
So you’re planning on being a starter?
(Laughs.) I mean, that’s the goal for me, to start. I just have to take it day by day and take it from there.
Are you playing anything outside of wide receiver? Punt returns? Kick returns?
They had me playing a little bit of corner in the spring, but my primary position is wide receiver.
What’s it been like working with Jedd Fisch coming in with all the experience he has at the professional level?
It’s been great. Like you said, he’s worked at the professional level, so he’s worked with great wide receivers like Brandon Marshall. I’m learning different drills from him, different techniques, it’s helped me out a lot being a wide receiver and growing.
What’s been the biggest difference in terms of what you guys are doing in practice versus previous years?
We have four-hour practices, basically, so they’re long practices. It’s not really that much different. It’s more up-tempo, very up-tempo, all the practices. They split teams so you get a lot more reps, like for younger players, so it’s good for all of us.
It’s pretty wide open with the receivers this year. Do you think that’s helped with the competition, getting more reps in?
Yeah, for sure. Being able to get more reps and learning the plays and throwing with all the different quarterbacks, it’s good. It’s good for all of us.
I know you’re sick of getting asked about it, but how’s the hamstring feeling?
It’s good. This is the best I’ve felt in I don’t know how long. I haven’t had any problems with it for the last six months, I’d say. I’ve put on some weight and I think that’s helped a lot with it.
What are you up to?
You mentioned playing corner a little bit in the spring. It seems to be a pretty common thing with this team. What was that experience like?
It was a learning experience. I’ve never really played corner. I played it a little bit in high school but I never thought I was going to play it in college, but my primary position is still receiver. I think they were just trying me out at corner a little bit because I have length and me playing basketball, those skills translate to playing corner. It was a learning experience for sure.