At press time, Harbaugh had sent Michigan’s athletic department an envelope containing a heavily annotated seating chart, a list of the 63,000 seat views he had found unsatisfactory, and a glowing 70-page report on section 25, row 12, seat 9, which he claimed is “exactly what the great sport of football is all about.”
Podcast? Yes. We couldn't record it yesterday because of Easter obligations. We will tape it this evening. It should go up tomorrow.
Missed it? It's on the tubes.
Ours got more attention than normal because it was so early.
The Michigan offense in one picture [Patrick Barron]
Rome was not rebuilt from atomized dust in a day. It was not good, obviously. People will tell you that the defense is supposed to be in front of the offense at this juncture… but not that far in front. When they say that they mean something like "it was a little ugly and they only ran for like three yards a carry." They mean that the final score was 17-10 or thereabouts.
They do not mean that the only offense of the day will be Amara Darboh catching fades against Poor Damn Dennis Norfleet, a 5'7" guy who hadn't played defense in college until being tested there this spring. The overall feel was reminiscent of the legendarily terrible 2008 spring game, which I didn't even go to because it was held at a high school to facilitate Michigan Stadium's renovations and still remember as the first "oh shiiiii" moment in the Rodriguez era.
To some extent this was all expected. Michigan fans have been debating between a true freshman, a guy who had 3.2 YPA last year, and a redshirt freshman who did not play. They were going up against a defense that has been pretty good the last couple years (until collapsing in exhaustion at the end of games). It was never going to be pretty.
But did it have to be that ugly? Bler!
Quarterbacks: come on down Joliet Jake. Morris was anointed the #1 QB coming out of spring by none other than Harbaugh himself, and that seemed about right after the spring game. That it did so after Morris went 11 of 24 for 5.6 YPA would have me purchasing bags of dehydrated food, water purifiers, and shotguns if not for the 99% official transfer of Iowa starter Jake Rudock to Michigan. Rudock may not be a conquering hero… but he will probably feel like one.
Malzone, the great (if vague) hope going into spring, did not look ready to challenge for the throne. I'm not on board with the arm strength complaints just yet, as those seemed to be generated by a wide receiver screen Lewis tried to jump but did not, giving up a first down on 2nd and 19 (in this game the equivalent of 2nd and Canada).
I may come around in the near future. The constant short stuff was disappointing: even his attempt at a game-saving two minute drill featured five yard hitch after five yard hitch. He did have one nice dart downfield that Chase Winovich dropped…
a linebacker linebacks even when he tight ends [Bryan Fuller]
…but that stands out as just about the only attempt Malzone made to get the ball down the field. There were a lot of doomed WR screens in there. And that two minute drill… oy. They got about 20 yards before time ran out. This is a tradition I would like to leave in the past.
One thing I'll say in Morris's favor. He's got that fade down pat. One got intercepted because Darboh didn't wall off and extend away from a defensive back and a couple more got dropped; the rest save one were completions, and I think Morris ended up leaving that one short because he got hit. The rest were on the money, in that space outside the numbers and inside the sideline where the receiver has space to play with and can detach from the DB.
That's a good location to have down, by the way. It's tough to throw and thus tough to get to for a lot of defenses. Deep outs, smash routes, corners, and those fades all end up in that general area. It's the location on the field that is the reason NFL teams go cuckoo for cocoa puffs when they find a Mallett type. Morris can buy himself a lot of leeway if that throw is as consistently accurate as it felt like on Saturday.
a lot of this [Eric Upchurch]
Run game: I don't know. Ty Isaac was all but out (he's credited for one carry I don't remember), so the Malzone team's tailback was Wyatt Shallman (12 carries, 22 yards) with spot duty from Ross Taylor-Douglas*. Shallman is more of an H-back in college and it showed.
Meanwhile, both Ace and I assumed that Derrick Green had been mostly held out with an injury of his own only to find out that he and De'Veon Smith apparently split carries down the middle. It's just that Green's 7 went for 8 yards and Smith's 7 went for 50.
Smith had a sequence early in the second half where he ran tough and his offense started getting some actual time on the field. That ended with a fumbled exchange, because of course it did. Smith never fumbled in high school and hasn't done so in college yet so that issue is probably a freshman-QB thing more than anything Smith did wrong.
If Michigan knew Isaac was going to be limited they should have swapped Green over to the Blue team to get a better feel for the competition between those guys. Either way it was a good day for Drake Johnson.
*[who has now completed his tour of all the positions you can play on a football field and can turn in his punch card for a free bag of Combos.]
The one good run. Cole gets a good push on Henry, Kugler seals away, RJS and AJ Williams battle to a stalemate, Cole gets to the second level, and Smith makes a nice out-in cut to put the other linebacker on the wrong side of the hole:
gif via Ace
If Michigan develops holes on the regular I think Smith has an advantage because his ability to grind out another two or three yards will be valuable in the Harbaughffense.
L to R: back, under threat, trying out [Bryan Fuller]
OL depth chart hints. Glasgow was back and playing center as if he had not violated his probation; the program said he'd gotten through whatever punishment the program had deployed for him. If he keeps his nose clean that should clear him to resume playing center this fall.
Meanwhile Michigan tried out Logan Tuley-Tillman as the left tackle on the blue team, bumping Ben Braden inside to guard. LTT picked up three legit holding calls; even so that implies that he's getting a serious look and Braden may move or lose his job. Erik Magnuson playing right tackle for the Maize team is another indication that the tackle jobs are not secure.
A scholarship guy who might be looking at some writing on the wall is Dan Samuelson, who was healthy enough to make the roster but IIRC did not play much, if at all. With a couple walk-ons seemingly ahead of them they might be down for the count. Bars (who I omitted from the rosters post by accident did play, at guard:
He is 62 next to Kugler [Fuller]
If you made me guess right now I'd say that Erik Magnuson is Michigan's starting right tackle this fall and that guard slot opened up by the various line shifts is the most heated competition out there. But that's firmly in wild guess territory.
Wide receivers: do we have a problem? There were a number of ugly drops, none more so than Jaron Dukes batting a ball in his facemask directly skyward for an interception. Morris zinged it with unnecessary force, yes. That's still a worst case scenario for a receiver. Dukes had another sorta drop later and doesn't seem like he'll be pushing past the established guys this year.
Elsewhere: Darboh had a drop and a fade wrested away from him but recovered late to be the Blue team offense. Going up against Dennis Norfleet significantly compromises that accomplishment, especially since most of the plays were "throw it over that guy's head," but Darboh did display strong hands and an ability to track the ball in flight in a difficult situation. Some people can do that (Junior Hemingway), and some cannot (Darryl Stonum). Darboh is in the former category. Can he get separation from the likes of Jourdan Lewis? I don't know—one downside of this format.
Receivers other than Dukes and Darboh were playing with Malzone and barely got targeted on anything notable. This year's spring hype machine, Brian Cole, was not a factor until deep into the second half; Freddy Canteen made a couple of nice catches on balls outside the frame of his body. There was not a whole lot else to talk about.
There was a notable lack of separation for receivers going up against actual defensive backs. That could be bad; it could be an indicator that the secondary is going to be as lights out as we all hope. As per usual, we'll find out abruptly in fall.
Poor Damn Norfleet. In the aftermath Harbaugh talked Norfleet up as a guy who could contribute in all three phases. Nope. The act of moving a guy his size to cornerback is waving a white flag on his career.
I mean… maybe not. Harbaugh is weird and one of the specific ways in which he is weird is his predilection for flipping guys from one side of the ball to the other. This could be a Harbaugh whim that doesn't mean much about playing time down the line. But it probably means that Norfleet is kaput. We'll always have that
punt return touchdown to seal the Maryland game inane irrelevant block in the back by someone far away from you.
BEARD. This is not Elliott, right? This is some other spectacular beard just hanging out on the sideline?
This is one Brady Hoke tradition I'm glad we're keeping.
News bullets and other items:
Hoke found out from Brandon that he would be resigning on Friday
Hoke will have a meeting with Hackett “sooner than later”
Peppers is getting better but isn’t where he needs to be, and Hoke said he’d “…have something soon” on the situation. Read between the lines and it doesn’t look good for Peppers returning to the field this season
Erik Magnuson “could” stay at TE, but he’s also first in at LT, LG, or RT if needed
Hoke referred to a Devin Funchess toe injury when talking about Darboh getting increased opportunities, so if you’re reading this congratulations, the universe somehow hasn’t collapsed into itself yet!
Hoke isn’t worried about his job. He says if you worry about it then you get distracted from the job itself, and that he’s never been worried about employment
“Thanks for coming. Number one, sorry I was late. I hate to keep you waiting. It was good to win last week. It's always good to win. That’s kind of redundant and obvious but for really how these guys of practice, how they prepare it's always good to be on the right side of the scoreboard when they do that. I thought when you look at how from both sides of the ball they played together it was truly a team win because we came over a little adversity. Defensively really thought guys played well up front. Tackles for loss I think we had 12 so the negative plays, that helped. Offensively 184 yards rushing, which is 5.3 I think it was per rush. Nice to see to be able to end the game to be able to possess the ball. They only had 53 or 54 defensive plays so opportunities weren't there because of time of possession. We did set up some short fields with the two fumble recoveries and that was very positive, but like anything else it's nice that you’re balanced and that's what we were but we've got another game on Saturday with Northwestern. We look forward to that. Came in and got some things done yesterday when you look at it more from a health standpoint but it's exciting to go to Chicago and play Northwestern.”
Has Erik Magnuson’s role change on an ongoing basis or was that something you did for one game because you were short?
“No, I think that something that we could stay with. Obviously it was we were short a little bit but he's a good athlete as far as a left tackle what he can do some things and I thought we put him in No. 81.”
Can you talk about the progression of your guards and how they’ve kind of gotten better as the year’s gone on?
“I think that’s- I think Kyle Kalis. A little concerned early in camp because he had a back issue that flared up and we were a little concerned about that but I think because a lot of it is his toughness and how he loves to play the game. I’ve been happy with him. He's going to get us a false start once a game it seems like, where we’ve got to do a better job and he's got to do a better job and he is, but the physicalness he’s played with has been good. I think Graham [Glasgow] over on the left side I think has been very good for us. I just think the development of all those guys has improved and Graham's played center a little bit at times.”
What is your reaction to Dave Brandon stepping down?
“Well, I think the one thing is I have a lot of respect for Dave and from a reaction standpoint he did a lot of good things for the University and now I'm really excited to work with Jim [Hackett].”
Have you met with Jim?
“I saw him after the game briefly. Just briefly.”
Did he talk to you about-
“No, it was just happy with the homecoming win, all that kind of stuff.”
Coaches are often tied to an AD. Does this make you any more concerned?
“You know, I've never been concerned about a job and I never will be because if I get concerned about a job then you get distracted from it. I threw brake drums on the assembly line for Dayton-Walther during the summer and I was never concerned because I knew I was going to outwork everybody. For this if I get distracted then I'm not being fair to those kids who haven't been distracted, so I've never, ever worried about employment.”
[After THE JUMP: bristling at player (under)development accusations and an ominous Peppers progress report you probably guessed weeks ago]
FORMATION NOTES: Hello tiny TEs. Michigan used a lot of formations where they would bring a wide receiver tight to the line to act as a blocker. Here's Chesson in what I called "pistol biggish," because it's only big-ish.
For its part, Miami ran an under front whenever presented with seven blockers for the opposition, and about 90% of the time brought a safety down late or just lined him up in the box.
This press look was not common.
Miami would roll that safety down before this snap, FWIW.
Michigan used a lot more under center stuff in this game. Under center stuff was approximately 55% of the offense after being maybe 20% against ND, and there were a lot of tight ends. Only about 40% of Michigan's snaps had 3 WRs, again way down from ND.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Line static: Cole/Magnuson/Miller/Glasgow/Braden. I saw Kalis in for the last drive, and I thought I saw him earlier in the game live but either I missed it in the film review or my mind was playing tricks on me. 61/67 are not easy to distinguish. Burzynski got in at the tail end at left guard.
Gardner QB; RB mostly Green, with less Smith and Hayes relegated to third down duties and some late stuff. Johnson did not appear. Mo Hurst(!) got a goal line FB snap. Showy, but a dollar says Kerridge is more effective. At TE, Butt got a little bit more time but it was still mostly Williams and Hill, with Heitzman again appearing sporadically.
Without Funchess, Darboh and Chesson were the main guys at WR, with Norfleet marginalized with a ton of 2TE sets. Damario Jones got about as much playing time than Canteen, making the first catch of the game.
[After THE JUMP: yards, eventually, and yet more infinite RB discussion.]
FORMATION NOTES: Not a whole lot that was unusual. Michigan has changed the alignment of their backs in some shotgun sets:
I called this "shotgun deep" since the QB is still at 5 yards but the back is behind instead of parallel. I imagine they did this for the same reason the pistol exists: to give the back downhill momentum when he takes a handoff.
Conventional shotgun sets were frequent as well, as were split TEs. This is the first snap of the game and features Hill motioning from an H-back spot to the slot; he'll block for Funchess on a successful flanker screen.
Michigan would occasionally scrape up an I-Form out of whatever was laying around, like when Chesson motioned in here. This actually cut behind Chesson's force block to pick up 15.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: OL was Cole-Magnuson-Miller-Burzynski/Kalis-Braden the whole way. Gardner obviously QB until garbage time; he got pulled a couple drives before Michigan did much non-WR substitution.
Feature backs were Green and Smith with Hayes apparently a third down option; Drake Johnson only saw garbage carries and should no longer be considered a playing time contender going forward.
At WR it was Funchess, Chesson, Darboh, and Norfleet rotating approximately equally; Canteen did not get on until late. Bo Dever is your backup slot, apparently. Tight end was mostly Hill and Williams with a bit less Heitzman sprinkled in.
[After THE JUMP: all things discussed.]
|Mason Cole||Fr.||Erik Magnuson||So.*||Graham Glasgow||Jr.*||Kyle Kalis||So.*||Ben Braden||So.*|
|Logan Tuley-Tillman||Fr.*||Kyle Bosch||So.||Jack Miller||Jr.*||Joey Burzynski||Jr.*||David Dawson||Fr.*|
starters arbitrarily decided to be people who started at least 7 games
I apologize. Last year's edition of this post started with an assertion that "things almost literally can't be worse." It wasn't sunshine…
The way this went down gives some reason for concern. … Michigan [will be] starting at least one player by default. Michigan saw what "by default" can lead to last year. While that isn't likely to recur, neither does the situation promise an amazing one-year turnaround.
…but I didn't recommend that you find a bunker and stock up on pudding pops. Last year did not recur. It went the other direction, hard.
In 2012, Michigan decided to flip their left guard to center on the eve of the season. In 2013, they got four games in before making the switch. Things were already bad. That switch made them worse, not so much because of what was happening at center—Graham Glasgow established himself a pretty good player over the course of the year—but what was happening everywhere else.
Specifically, what was happening around him. The Bentley Library lists starters through the years and one glimpse at left guard shows you the chaos:
A 6'1" walk-on got a start. A true freshman got three. A guy who retired after the season because he couldn't get breakfast without injuring himself got two. A 285-pound redshirt freshman got the other three. Reality mowed them all down, and by the end of the year the pile of skulls around the OL was not the enemy but Michigan itself.
Then their starting tackles went in the first three rounds of the NFL draft. Have fun storming the castle!
Rating: 1 of 5
I mean, maybe it'll work out. Maybe this rating will seem very silly at the end of the year, an overreaction to past events that was not a good prognostication of the future. I dearly hope this is the case. Gardner claimed he'd been sacked once during fall camp. It could happen!
Unfortunately, I can't make a reasonable case that you should expect much other than problems. Michigan has zero (ZERO) upperclassmen. The projected left tackle is a true freshman. The projected right tackle was supposed to be the starter at left guard last year but got pulled from the lineup after spring practice. He was not an option during the anarchy when literally every other OL on the roster was. Backing these guys up are two redshirt freshman who were huge projects and are still that. Oh, and the starting guards.
Maybe it will all work out. These guys are universally touted recruits, after all. If only that meant very much on the OL.
He blocked Clark! Probably! It's a still shot! [Bryan Fuller]
Might as well start with the big flashing DANGER sign: MASON COLE [recruiting profile], true freshman, is your starting left tackle. This was all fun and games in spring when Erik Magnuson was out, but things got very real very fast this fall and the guy hasn't moved from LT since his arrival and campus and Brady Hoke is just like…
"Who knows what will happen. You ask me today? Yeah, he would start. We're not at Aug. 30 yet. But he's more ready than most freshmen are."
…so he's the guy.
Since he's a true freshman I don't have anything more on him than exists in the recruiting profile published about a month ago, which notes that 1) the entire world offered him early, 2) he was possibly the most polished guy at the UA game…
it was clear that the Michigan commit was one of the most polished and skilled offensive line prospects on the East squad. The 6-foot-4, 280-pound Cole projects as an offensive guard long-term, but we aren’t so sure he could not be an excellent tackle in Ann Arbor during his college career.
…3) that he has the requisite athleticism and knee bend to be effective on the edge:
He is very athletic and plays with a lot of energy. Cole is able to bend and play low, giving him the leverage advantage over most opponents, though he needs to do so more consistently.
Cole is quick out of his stance and climbs to the second level using good angles. His feet allow him to play with good balance, which helps him not overextend for defenders.
All of this is great and Cole's trajectory is great; beating Magnuson inside authoritatively when Michigan seems to have a ton of guard bullets is impressive and there has been zero waver in any of this from day one. This is the profile of a guy who is going to be a draft pick very easily. We can discard the usual caveats about high school OL profiles because he has blown past all expectations immediately. Hooray for the long term.
This year? I don't know man. Let's check out
A RECENT HISTORY OF TRUE FRESHMAN TACKLES
Well, here's a thing: mighty Alabama is putting freshman Cameron Robinson out as their starter this fall. The slight difference: Robinson is a Peppers-level prospect, in fact ranked one spot ahead of him on the 247 composite. At 323 he's less of a size question than Cole.
In terms of guys who did play:
- Oregon State started Sean Harlow at right tackle. The Beavers were middling in pass protection… and 109th in YPC.
- Virginia played Eric Smith, also at right tackle. UVA was also middling in pass protection… and 91st in YPC.
- Maryland managed to start true freshman left tackles in consecutive years(!). Mike Madaras left abruptly after his first year, paving the way for Moise Larose to get four starts before a foot injury ended his year. Larose is now suspended for 2014. Feel the Terpitude. The 2012 Terps were completely terrible in all line-related stats; last year they were okay at pass protection.
- Virginia Tech started Jonathan McLaughlin all last year, and I don't even have to look their stats up to know they were a tire fire. Aaand yup: 99th and worse.
- Ole Miss started Laremy Tunsil, a Robinson-level five star. Mississippi was… okay! 42nd in YPC, 74th in sacks allowed.
So… that's not at all encouraging. Cole was a much more highly touted prospect than all of those guys save Tunsil, at least, and he 1) enrolled early and 2) came from one of those super serious Florida high schools that are almost college programs in their own right. Also the way he was the LT starter from about a week into spring without challenge is a hopeful sign.
The occasional freshman tackle can cope. I think Cole is one of those guys. But is he going to blow a guy off the ball and provide a big ol' lane at 292 pounds? Probably not. Our hope here is that Cole is a solid, agile pass protector in year one who is a meh run blocker. Chances are he has a wake-up call or two coming.
[After THE JUMP: large men, vague hope]
News bullets and other items:
- Kalis [back] and Funchess were held out of Wednesday's scrimmage
- Hoke is looking for guys along the defensive line to separate themselves
- Your tentative starting offensive line (after Glasgow returns from suspension) is Mason Cole-LT; Erik Magnuson-LG; Jack Miller-C; Graham Glasgow-RG; Ben Braden-RT
- Kalis would likely be a starter if he wasn't injured
- Drake Harris' hamstring injury is taking longer to recover than expected
- The coaching staff is emphasizing putting the players in stressful, game-like situations
"Thanks for coming. We had a good scrimmage yesterday. Got about 140 plays in. It was about 55 for the ones and twos and about 35 for the threes so it was good. We got a lot of work and a lot of different situations of football, I think, that are important. Really thought that we had a lot of energy. Liked how they approached playing in the Big House. Today we did a lot of trying to – some of those guys, because of GPS and all the tracking, played a game and a half, you know, yesterday. We took today – did a lot of walk-throughs, a lot of meetings, a lot of film done, a lot of teaching from that perspective. Think we're in good shape right now. Held a couple guys out: Kalis we held out, Funchess we held out– gosh, I've got to remember who all we held out. Delano Hill, even though he's coming back right now, with no contact status. He's doing more drill work. And then Drake Harris and Jake Butt but everybody else participated, everybody else got a number of plays so was good for evaluations and, you know, you look at those decisions and you see where you're at and, again, Saturday night obviously we're going to go out again. Obviously probably not the same kind of play count but it will be probably 30-30-20 if you look at it which will end up being 40-40-25 most likely. But to get out and play under the lights a little bit will be a good experience for our guys to be with people there. The one thing that we've really talked about a lot of keeping stress on the players. Because there's some youth in there in a few positions, but just overall because of the mechanics of the offense, the mechanics of the defense, the communication process that we need to make sure we have on every play."
You say you wanted to keep stress on them. What kind of stress?
"Well, you know, I think that's a good question because you can do it with crowd noise, music, making where they've really got to focus in and lock in that they're hearing the calls from the guy next to them. I think in the different situations, you know- you put an offense in third-and-10, third-and-8, there's some stress there to pick up first downs and you put a defense in a situation where you're going heavy fronts, half yard line you put some stress on them that way so that's a lot of it, tempo's a lot of it. You know, I don't know which day it was. What day's today? Today's Thursday? It was Tuesday we wanted to get a little tempo for both sides of it. We were going to run what we call racks of 4-4-4 for each group and ended up instead of 12 plays it was a 44 play segment because we wanted to keep the stress on them and the tempo, Get them tired. See how they play tired, see how they think at the same time we had music – we were in Glick that day and in Glick the music can be pretty loud."
Couple things. Drake Harris- how concerned are you about that injury now at this point?
"Well, you know, obviously would like to have back. Obviously it's going probably longer than he wants and we want. I think he's getting closer to getting back out on the field we just have to keep working through it, rehabbing through it. It's not the same hamstring that he heard before and what happens with guys – and this is some of the data that I think is pretty interesting. We're getting in to GPS monitoring and what all that does and believe me, I'm not the expert. There's guys, Aaron Wellman's one of those...how much is a guy, from a symmetry standpoint, pushing off one leg than the other? Monitors all that and guys like Jake Butt, you know, he's using his other leg a lot more than he is but those numbers are coming down where he's getting a little more balance which is part of good news for him and for us. So I think for Drake's case, because he had the one, I think fatigue and some of those things because kids want to compete and that's the thing you love- that part of it and how it effects the other one."
And could you talk about how the defensive line's coming together?
"Yeah. I think as a group they're coming together pretty good. I think this thing that we're looking for, you know, because we've got- Frank has had a good fall camp, Brennen Beyer's had a real good fall camp, inside I think Willie Henry and Chris Wormley have had good fall camps. I think Matt Godin's a good player, then Willie Henry, Bryan Mone, Ryan Glasgow and [Maurice] Hurst have all- they're competing like heck out there, which is great. What I'm really looking for is some separation. You know, they're all talented and have some attributes that are all positive but we've got to look for a little more separation."
You mentioned Delano Hill coming back and participating in some drills. How close is he to participating in contact drills and how is the competition going at safety until he gets back?
"Well, I think that Dymonte Thomas has been competing with Jarrod [Wilson] and Jeremy Clark. I would say when Delano gets back that's another talented athlete that we'll be excited about. How much longer? You know, it could be three weeks, it could be two weeks. I can't really tell you. That's a doctor's deal and, you know, I think we're happy with where he is right now as far as the recovery and how the surgery went and all that but we'll see."
[After THE JUMP: piecing together an offensive line and the competition at linebacker and corner]