finally people are complaining about us
Shooting for the "most times a single GIF hits the front page" record.
Michigan lost one of the most genuinely enjoyable players to watch in recent memory with the graduation of Jeremy Gallon, and unfortunately, I don't think we'll be seeing a 5'8" dude with rocket boots and a cloaking device breaking school receiving records again anytime soon.
That said, the Wolverines don't lack players that can make your jaw drop. Inspired by this Matt Hinton piece on college football's most exciting players, here's my list of the Wolverines who should provide the most entertainment this season. Take note: this isn't a rundown of the best players, but a subjective list of who I think will be the most fun to watch—it's ordered by position, since what constitutes "fun to watch" varies wildly from person to person.
QB Devin Gardner
An obvious choice, especially since some of Gardner's bad habits—namely, reversing field when under pressure—can still produce spectacular results. He's an electric runner even when not at full health. He's got a heck of an arm; this throw against Notre Dame last year simply defies explanation. He continued the grand tradition of Michigan quarterbacks hilariously punking Tanner Miller. His ability to improvise has bailed out the offense on many occasions. Yes, this sometimes gets him into trouble—I know another throw from that otherwise amazing Notre Dame performance is going through your head right now—but it also poses a threat to opponents that is extremely difficult to defend, and it's sure fun to watch when everything clicks.
WR Devin Funchess
Again, an obvious choice is obvious, as evidenced by the GIF that graces the top of this post—and that wasn't the first time Funchess leaped over an oncoming defender:
The whole "hurdles defensive backs on the run" thing is pretty great, but that's just a small part of what makes Funchess so remarkable. He's a 6'5", 230-pound former tight end with legitimate top-end speed; his movements bear the grace of a much smaller player. Even when he slips, he seamlessly recovers, and the average defensive back is going to have a very difficult time contending with his ball skills or bringing him down once he makes the catch. Oh, and having oven-mitt-sized hands allows for him to make catches like this while on a dead sprint.
If Funchess isn't on the team in 2015, it'll be because he turned in a monster year and justifiably went pro, and I don't think anybody could begrudge him that move.
[Hit THE JUMP for eight exciting players not named Devin.]
News bullets and other items:
- Jabrill Peppers at corner looks like it’s happening. For now he’s at nickel, but all evidence points to him eventually usurping one of the corner’s spots.
- Boo-boo watch: Kyle Kalis [back] and Ty Isaac [stinger] should be back Monday
- Derrick Green was the #1 running back heading into the scrimmage
- Expect to see lots of two (or more) tight end sets from the offense this season. /sighs
- Hoke was again impressed by Mason Cole
- The defense is ahead of the offense, which Hoke says is typically the case
- Starters on both sides of the ball should be figured out by Wednesday or Thursday
- Brady Hoke “Well, …” count: 11
"Number one, thanks for coming out. Thought it was a good atmosphere for our team to be in front of, environment, I think that's important. We probably went a little longer than I thought we would but I knew my math and plays and play count, I knew we'd go a little over and I think we did. There were some negative plays in there that we've got to still clean up. Some of it is up front and I really think some of it today- we've got to have better vision in the back and so from that standpoint offensively. From a defensive standpoint I thought they got after it. Too many penalties. The PI rules are going to be called, probably, a little closer in this league. We had a little bit too much, where a guy got grabbed too much or didn't move his feet well enough, those kind of things. But that's why you do what we did. Some negative plays with some penalties breaks your rhythm a little bit and you don't like that but we need to coach off of it, teach off of it, educate off of it and keep working forward. Can't complain about what these guys have done to this point, and we know we've got two weeks. This will be good to learn from for everybody and we'll start really focusing in Wednesday with Appalachian State."
You mentioned just getting them out there and getting them reps. How big do you think it is just for the freshman? They see the environment, they're here, was that kind of the main...
"Well, that's important. Then there are guys who are redshirt freshman or third-year sophomores who haven't played a lot but to get out, come down the tunnel – most of those guys, the only time they've been down the tunnel was on their visit or for games when they came as visitors and so going out there with that winged helmet on, going out there to have a big stake in what we're trying to get done I think is pretty significant. I think that helps."
Defense seemed to get the better of the offense in the running game. Have you seen more progress in the running game then we saw tonight?
"Yeah, yeah. The other night we ran the ball pretty well. Again, you can't play well one Saturday and not as well the next so there's another lesson of consistency there. Yeah, the defense I thought – and to be honest with you, they should. There's more veterans over there, more guys with game experience. I think defense always, to some degree, gets always a little ahead of the offense and it's been like that forever but we need to catch up offensively pretty fast."
You mentioned the vision of the backs you want improved but offensive line-wise, can you think of anything that's kind of keeping them from turning a corner?
"No, I don't think you can pinpoint anything particular. You've got to play with good leverage, you've got to be positive with your footwork, your hips have got to get down the field, and you've got to face blocks. I mean, it sounds easy but when you've got a defense that- we move a lot, we blitz a lot, it puts a little more pressure on them."
You mentioned on Sunday your primary depth chart at running back at that point without [Justice] Hayes. How's he been doing out there or how'd he do this week?
"Well, I think he's had a good week. Again, I don't know if any of them tonight in my opinion – again, this is without watching the tape but I think we've got to keep improving there and keep seeing things a little better."
You have two weeks to go. Your level of concern with the offensive line and the running game?
"Well, let me say this. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't concerned about all of our football team. You know, that's just being a coach. Do we need to improve still? There's no question about it. I think the running game, like I said, the other day we ran the ball pretty well."
[After THE JUMP: evaluations of the running backs, secondary, and more, and all the Jabrill Peppers talk that’s probably the reason you’re reading this in the first place]
Cole and Clark impressed [Bryan Fuller]
Our annual attempt to glean useful things from the Big Ten's visit to fall camp is here. BTN analysts have a slight bias towards the positive, as Gerry DiNardo demonstrated before last season…
"When I saw them in the spring it was like a war at the line of scrimmage," BTN analyst Gerry DiNardo said. "It was what you imagine it looks like at Alabama and all the downhill teams."
…so take overall tenor with a grain of salt. As per usual, I've translated these from twitterese. This year only DiNardo and Dienhart are reporting; Howard Griffith is there but just hangin' out yo. Dienhart has an article and everything. If there's no link, it's from the article.
"Much like last year a team with more talent than most teams in the B1G. Recruiting rankings are accurate in most cases." –Dinardo
"Long hard physical practice—they got a ton of reps, often times splitting staff and team in half to get more reps." –Dinardo
Rep rep rep is good news, as when Michigan does show bits of practice the pace is often not inspiring. Anything that seems to be oriented towards making Michigan competent at speed is welcome.
"Like a lot of places offensive scheme is starting to be blend of more than one offensive philosophy." –Dinardo
As long as that's running a lot of inside zone from shotgun and under center, okay.
"Jumped out: Gardner, Norfleet, Charlton, Poggi, Speight, Cole, Ojemudia, Pipkins, Clark, Henry, Mone, Glasgow." –DiNardo
That's a pretty long list of guys to jump out at you. Speight's inclusion is a little weird since in another tweet he says that Morris and Speight are pretty even for the backup QB job. Mone is the only freshman mentioned. (Peppers had to miss this practice for class.)
[AFTER the JUMP: shortin' out and dyin', De'Veon Smith credit plea, naggers.]
If only coach Mattison knew how to FaceTime. pic.twitter.com/uG1JwVwnlv
— Frank Clark (@UMclark57) July 10, 2014
First, the mandatory comment about charge: good charge, Frank Clark. Way to keep on top of that.
Then: this is hilarious but it is also just, like, art, man. Yeah.
CLARK: coach you gotta point the phone at you
MATTISON: I am pointing it at me
CLARK: coach you are probably not a cloud or the sky or the rays of the sun
MATTISON: but I could be
CLARK: yeah but you're not, you're a bald guy, I've seen
MATTISON: but I could be the sky and the sun and a bald crown
CLARK: ok coach
Welcome. Orson wrote a terrific thing about the Brazil kid weeping so hard he was trying to shove a cup through his face in case that would help:
I have nothing for you. Maybe it's worse when your team is good, and there is the hope of winning. If you'll notice, fans of desolate, perpetually forlorn carrion wagons like Kentucky football or tragedians like Ole Miss fans don't hold up cups to their faces, clutch their eyes, and try to literally vomit their sorrow into a Coke cup after losing by six goals on their home turf. Brazil fans do, because shame has a prerequisite: the standard, or the notion that you will be somewhere that is not crying so hard you have to compress yourself into some kind of ball to keep from shattering into a thousand tiny pieces.
Intermittent reinforcement is apparently the way to get obedience: sometimes you get the thing. Other times you do not get the thing. Sports is very intermittent reinforcement. So congrats, kid! If you haven't sworn off soccer forever already, you are the proud recipient of a lifetime mania that will probably work out just fine because you're Brazilian.
Brutal! Mark Emmert showed for a congressional hearing that went even worse than the court thing did.
McCaskill offered some of the sharpest criticism of Emmert, questioning why his role exists if he can’t shape reform or prevent athletic departments from investigating sexual assaults.
“I can’t tell if you’re in charge or a minion” to the schools, McCaskill said. “If you’re merely a monetary pass-through, why should you exist?”
"I'm a good cartel," Emmert said under his breath. "A good one." New Jersey's Corey Booker:
"When they can lord over you the removal of your scholarship - because it does still happen, athletes are still exploited, that if they blow out their knee, if they somehow don't meet the mandates of a coach, they lose their scholarship, they don't get their degree -- to me, this is plain and simple the dark side of the NCAA, where athletes are being exploited," Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) later said, noting that some issues he dealt with as a college athlete 20 years ago are still being dealt with by athletes today.
If the NCAA thinks they're going to get antitrust help from Congress, that hearing was some cold water. I know Democrats and Republicans and whatnot, but this may be an organization with a worse public image than Congress itself… not exactly baseball in 1910 or whatever.
Thornton tearing things up. Beilein and Calipari were jowl to jowl watching Derryck Thornton, and they were treated to a show:
(Thornton) picked up right where he left off after standing out at the Steph Curry Camp to start the month. Thornton was a true floor general, in complete control every time he stepped on the court and able to impact the game in a variety of different ways. He handles the ball on a string and excels at making a variety of different reads off the pick and roll. He holds his dribble going through the lane as well as anyone in the field, just waiting on the defense to break down and reveal open receivers. He even shot the ball well here, making a series of pull-ups as well as rhythm 3s. Thornton took unofficial visits to both Kentucky and Michigan last month and was followed by both Kentucky’s John Calipari and Michigan’s John Beilein here.
Thornton's done taking visits this summer after heading to Michigan and Kentucky, both of which he plans on visiting again this fall. It appears this is a head to head battle.
Adapting to reality. Mark Richt is adapting to life in the fast lane.
"One of the big things for us is football is now becoming a very high up-tempo game,” UGA coach Mark Richt explained recently. “It used to be 30, 40 seconds between a play. Now it could be as short as 10-to-18 seconds between plays. So you’re exerting and then resting for a short period of time. So now, even in the weight room, we want to go hard, rest a short time, then go ahead. A quicker recovery time. We’re not going to run the longer distances anymore. We’re going to run the shorter distance.”
After last year's Indiana game, I'm hoping there's some sort of similar soul searching within the Michigan program. You'd figure so, but… if anyone was going to not give it as much time as they should it would be Michigan. They've been just so, so bad with anything related to tempo under Hoke, whether it's defending it or trying to go fast themselves.
In honor of our annual right there -----> which I expect will get Kickstarted a third year in a row today, I thought I'd share a little sneak peak from it. Brian asked me to create these for the linebackers page:
Click to big. Right-click to open in a separate window so you can reference it as you go.
That's a side by side comparison of Michigan's prohibitive starters this year before and after the "shift" to a 4-3 over and accompanying position changes were announced. Seeing it you can start to appreciate how all of those announcements make sense.
For the lay, what you're looking at are alignments of the front seven. The "under" shifts the defensive line away from the strength of the defense and the linebackers swing the opposite way to compensate. The result is very much like a 3-4 (picture the WDE in the photo above as yellow) and plays like it. In this alignment the strong side is the left because there's a TE there. Michigan would often align this to the hash rather than the offense, shifting the DL toward the sideline.
The "over" shifts the line the opposite way, but not to such an extreme. The linebackers wind up centered over the ball, and the DL spread across the formation. There is nothing 3-4 about it except the nose tackle.
Let's run through the positions to appreciate what's changed and what will be expected of them.
Weakside Defensive End (Frank Clark/Mario Ojemudia)
Ojemudia lined up as a 7-tech in the under [Fuller]
In the Under: The WDE is the leading pass rusher. He lines up so far outside of the backside offensive tackle that he'll wind up getting a 1-on-1 battle with that guy all day. The tradeoff was being further from the point of a attack in the run game. The WDE is further from the run game but in position to drop into coverage, a thing he was tasked to do quite often as the DE-like linebacker opposite him charged into the backfield. Much of the good done by the over shift is it creates double teams elsewhere to preserve the WDE's ability to attack upfield.
In the Over: The weakside end is still outside the offensive tackle, but shaded in a "5 technique," i.e. over the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle.
If you remember your 5-techs from 4-3 under school, you'll get the difference, though unlike your Ryan Van Bergens the weakside end usually doesn't have a tight end lined up to his side (ace even, H-backs and the like do happen) so he needn't be a double-team-eating anchor. The new WDE's biggest change is he's not dropping into coverage all the time. He has to control that OT in the run game, and often he has to cover the B gap. The linebackerity of the position has been removed; this man is a defensive lineman, and not necessarily a flashy one—Michigan State's been plugging their workhorse DE Marcus Rush in this spot for four years while various SDEs make the highlight reels.
The fit: Clark showed signs of being a pretty good player by the latter half of last season and now up near 260 he is large enough to not get kicked by OTs. As a pass rusher he's only like fifth or sixth in the conference, partly because the interior DL couldn't push the pocket very often, and partly because he wasn't great at closing when he beat his guy. Ojemudia and true freshman Lawrence Marshall aren't large men in your memory, but both claim to be up to 250 now. They're all better full-time defensive ends than 3-4 OLBs.
[Jump for the rest of the DL—LBs coming up in Part II]
WHAT IS THE POINT OF DRAFTAGEDDON
This has been asked by some readers.
What is the point of anything? We're all just moths in a tornado, trying to hold on for one more rotation before our wings are torn from us and we still continue ascending in violation of all expectation. A grapefruit on a bicycle rises through the dust and says "I'll get you, my pretty HAHAHAHA."
In non-existential terms, the point of Draftageddon is to assemble a football team from available players in the Big Ten this year. At the end, the winner is the team that seems the most impressive, as judged by people who want to vote on these things. All participants are winners in their own mind, especially Heiko.
The point of Draftageddon is also to preview the Big Ten. By the time we're done we have a grasp of the various high points of the Rutgers defensive line and Maryland receiving corps that would not happen otherwise; after it is done we do a roundtable post about what we've learned about the upcoming Big Ten season.
ROUND 7 - PICK 1: DE Frank Clark, Michigan
O: QB Braxton Miller (OSU), RB Melvin Gordon (UW), WR Stefon Diggs (MD), OT Rob Havenstein(WI)
D: DE Frank Clark(MI), DT Carl Davis(IA), CB Trae Waynes (MSU)
BRIAN: One of the reasons I was rather lackadaisical about getting a DE is the fact that the Big Ten just has them in spades this year. I did make note of Cockran because I love grabbing Minnesota DL I can taunt you with for decades, but there is another, older, more established guy available. Despite four DEs going off the board already I'm able to select Frank Clark, who was second-team All Big Ten a year ago with 12 TFLs and 4.5 sacks.
He's poised to break out again as a senior, as his numbers don't quite reflect how well he was playing once the light went on midseason. I watched him develop from looks-like-Tarzan-plays-like-Jane into a legit plus player over the course of last year. By late his combination of power and agility allowed him to make certain tackles look downright silly.
He still has plenty of ceiling left to reach at 270 pounds; incrementally better performance over the course of the year should see him hit the mid-teens in TFLs, 8 or so sacks, and get drafted somewhat high by the NFL. The gap between Clark and the guys already off the board is not that big.
ROUND 7 - PICK 2: Andre Monroe, DE/DT, Maryland
O: RB Ameer Abdullah (NE), WR Devin Funchess (U-M), TE Maxx Williams (MN), LT Brandon Scherff (IA)
D: DE Shilique Calhoun (MSU), DE/DT Andre Monroe (MD), LB Chi Chi Ariguzo (NW)
ST: KR/PR Ameer Adbullah (NE)
ACE: I've been thinking about making this pick since the fourth round, but I waited, banking on the fact that he plays for Maryland and has generated zero draft hype to cause him to fall. I can't wait any longer.
Andre Monroe is a senior who's played nose tackle and five-tech DE in Maryland's 3-4 scheme, but he's moving to the edge as a senior. There's good reason for this: he was by far the best player on a solid D-line, tallying 42 tackles (23 solo), 17 TFLs, 9.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles last season after missing all of 2012 with a knee injury. In 2011, he earned freshman All-American honors with five sacks in just nine games. He's not just capable of standing up to double teams; he's an accomplished pass rusher.
Those stats weren't just compiled against the dregs of the ACC, either; he had 3 TFLs with a sack against Florida State and 3 sacks against Virginia Tech in 2013. The VT game shows off his diverse pass-rushing arsenal. Here's an outrageously quick swim move to the inside that momentarily paralyzes the left guard. Here he uses his hands nicely to get off the line clean before one-arm power-rushing the left tackle into the quarterback. Here a straight bull-rush off the edge does the trick. Here the video inexplicably starts a half-second after the snap, but whatever the hell he did left the LG performing a befuddled pirouette.
Okay, VT's line wasn't very good last year, but... I be like dang anyway. If you're not convinced, here he is as a nose guard sacking Jameis Winstonafter blasting the center off the line. If you're still not convinced, here's a video of him showing off some surprisingly nimble dance moves at a fundraising event.
I assume you're convinced by now.
So why isn't he getting draft hype? Simple. He's 5'11", 275 pounds. An NFL scout takes one look at those measurements, bugs out his eyes, and moves on to a prospect with a remotely decent fit in a pro defense. This is college, however, and Monroe has proven he can be productive at two different spots on the defensive line, and his pass rushing ability gives me little doubt he'll succeed this year as a destructive rush linebacker. He can provide a great deal of versatility in any defense.
As for where he'll fit on my team, we'll see—I could use him as a disruptive, undersized three-tech or let him blow up double teams and use his edge-rushing skills as an SDE. (Given the lack of top-end linebackers, a 3-4 isn't something I'm really considering.) Either way, I know this: as a solid run defender and consistent backfield presence, he's the ideal complement for Shilique Calhoun.
I can't snark here, both because I'm shedding a tear for the lost reuniting of the Aceconsin Cheesebenders and I'm hopeful this is the year Frank Clark puts it all together.
[AFTER THE JUMP: everyone takes my guys because they're jeeeeeeerks.]