So in improvement week, how’d the guys do?
“Really good. It was a great week. Guys really worked hard, got better fundamentally. Just, I mean, great to go out and play the game of football and get better at it, you know? Really, we’re working hard trying to get better. Really had great focus, want-to. Really pleased with the young guys.”
Do you like the future of this offensive line?
“I do. I really do. It’s only going to get better. How do you get better at football? You play football. We do that here.”
Speaking of getting better, can you talk about the jump that you’ve seen Juwann Bushell-Beatty take in the time that he’s been in here?
“He’s done a great job. It really started with Juwann in the weight room with Kevin Tolbert and his staff. He’s really changed his body, and it’s really important to him. He takes pride in his work to be good. He’s really got good foot-turnover speed. He’s playing with strength, and that comes from the weight room work that he’s had. He’s just done a really, really nice job. Progressed very nicely. Juwann is a very good person that wants to be good at whatever he puts his hands on, so he’s got a great attitude.”
What do you see players that are playing at this level for the first time and really getting thrown in there, where do they gain the most the soonest?
“Just, as I mentioned earlier before, just getting game reps and practice reps. As many reps as you can get playing the game of football and seeing different looks and being quick on your feet, you really become a better football player.”
Did you see a jump from getting thrown into the Wisconsin game to how he played in almost a full Rutgers game?
“Yeah, when he came off the bench against Wisconsin there was not a big letdown. Your concern, you know, first time stepping in in a game, but he did an outstanding job coming off the bench, and then he did better in the Rutgers game. He just keeps progressing, keeps getting better, which is really nice.”
[After THE JUMP: keeping backs fresh, the ways the offense doesn’t change when Peppers is in, and a young-guys update]
Previously: Offense Part I.
SEASON PREVIEW TAKE: Jehu Chesson was given top billing as the preview went with on-field production and Chesson's trajectory over Amara Darboh's offseason hype, but both guys were declared real real good. Chesson was expected to be a complete WR and off the board in the first couple of rounds of the draft; I was skeptical about Darboh's ability to get deep on folks.
Grant Perry was projected to be a solid third option, and nobody knew anything about who would emerge from the backups. Eddie McDoom was given a shout.
NUMBERS AT THE HALFWAY MARK: A pile of blowouts and profusion of tight ends has made for uninspiring numbers. Seventeen different Wolverines have caught passes, including three different fullbacks and five different TEs. Meanwhile the starters have been on the bench for most of the second half in each outing.
Darboh has indeed emerged as the top wideout with 25 catches for 400 yards; his 9.5 yards per target is an impressive number, and he's on the end of a quarter of Speight's passes. Chesson has 15 catches for 231 yards and has had some iffy plays on balls downfield, though he's been hurt by bad throws. Chesson's also got seven carries for 44 yards.
Here ends significant WR contributions. Perry has six catches, McDoom three, and Kekoa Crawford one. McDoom's been a frequent jet sweep runner.
FEELINGSBALL: This is what happens when you're hammering almost all your opposition and your quarterback is struggling mightily in the two games (Colorado and Wisconsin) in which second-half passing won't be interpreted as a slap in the face. The wide receivers have been hamstrung by the situation.
It has been a mild disappointment that both starters have failed to high-point a number of passes that weren't perfect but were good enough to force a PI or result in a spectacular catch. On the other hand, WR blocking has been excellent on Michigan's many crack sweeps.
UP OR DOWN OR EH: This unit gets an incomplete.
SEASON PREVIEW TAKE: Jake Butt is the best receiving tight end in the country, Ian Bunting is set for a breakout, and look out for the Kaiju brothers, Ty Wheatley Jr and Devin Asiasi... but probably next year. Since we also cover all blocky/catchy types in that post, fullbacks Henry Poggi and Khalid Hill were both mentioned as potential X factors since they obviously had a lot of potential as blockers but had targeting or technique issues.
NUMBERS AT THE HALFWAY MARK: Butt had two inexplicable drops early and has since been Jake Butt. He's since recovered to post a 71% catch rate per S&P+, which is excellent, and 8.3 yards per target, also excellent for a tight end. His blocking was alarming to start but has settled in at "decent," which is a minor upgrade on last year. Bunting was playing a bunch but had not been featured; he's missed the last couple games with an undisclosed injury.
Meanwhile Hill and Poggi have grabbed the rest of the targets here. Hill's caught all eight balls thrown his way and is averaging the same 8.3 yards per target that Butt is. While some of that is scheme, Hill has made a couple of difficult catches.
FEELINGSBALL: Meanwhile in things that don't pick up numbers: blocking. Butt is a bit better than last year, and the fullbacks have improved a great deal. Hill has had a few spectacular blocks where he blows through a linebacker without slowing and then gets to a third level player; these don't show up except in UFR and PFF, where Hill is clearly preferred by both metrics. I've been more enthused about Poggi than PFF; he's cut out most of the targeting issues that plagued him last year.
Meanwhile, Asiasi has emerged over the last few games. Against Rutgers most big runs featured Asiasi moving a DL and then popping out to blast a LB or DB. He's got a combination of power and agility that make him effective against just about anyone a defense fields, and at nearly 290 pounds his upside in this department is considerable.
UP OR DOWN OR EH: Asiasi's emergence over the last few games as a plus blocker—as a blocker who could be a difference-maker—is the main reason this spot feels like an upgrade over expectations. Khalid Hill whacking guys has also been an unexpected positive. Butt's been about what you expect.
SEASON PREVIEW TAKE: Meh. Mason Cole was projected to be a very good player. Grant Newsome was fretted over, largely because Ben Bredeson was pushing him for the job. Ben Braden and Erik Magnuson were declared acceptable offensive linemen with little upside. Kyle Kalis was an infinitely frustrating mauler who blew assignments all the time, but was declared an X factor because if he could just figure things out...
NUMBERS AT THE HALFWAY MARK: OL don't have numbers.
FEELINGSBALL: The line has been acceptable. Newsome, the projected weak link, was exactly that before the knee injury that ended his season. He had some pass protection issues but was not a revolving door; on the ground he was an able puller and decent enough at the point of attack. Magnuson has somewhat exceeded expectations as he's combined with Kalis to be a powerful right side of the line. Pass protection issues have lingered for him, though. He's somewhere between some preseason NFL scouting, which saw him as a potential high pick, and my "eh, undrafted FA" take from the preview.
The interior has been about as good as expected but the star has been Kalis, not Cole. Kalis did indeed cut out the vast majority of the mental errors and round into the mauling five-star guard everyone wanted him to be immediately out of high school. Cole, however, has struggled against zero-tech nose tackles. (Michigan has played an inordinate number of 3-4s early in the year.) While I think Colorado's Josh Tupou is just that good, Cole's impact has been muted at C.
Braden has clearly and vastly outperformed Bredeson at LG to the point where the only explanation for Bredeson's playing time is injury.
UP OR DOWN OR EH: The guys who started the season were actually a slight upgrade on expectations because Newsome was not a problem. However, Juwann Bushell-Beatty has been shaky in relief. He's been beat on edge rushes a ton; he's taken holding calls; he's been iffy on the ground. He looms as a potential issue down the road, so this is a sad injury downgrade.
Graham Glasgow started for the Lions. Did you see that, and is there some kind of a similarity between him and Jordan [Glasgow] in terms of temperament; he was just Special Teams Player of the Week.
“Yeah, I mean, they’re brothers. Similar. Very similar, yeah. Similar parents.”
In terms of their temperament and the way they approach the game, is there something there?
“Yeah. All three brothers are really smart guys, good guys, good teammates, good football players. Breed ‘em well in the Glasgow family.”
You guys had the knee braces on the offensive line. Did you guys have a talk about that after Grant [Newsome] got injured or what led to that?
“Yeah, yeah. No longer optional. All linemen are wearing knee braces.”
What is Grant’s status now? Is he out of the hospital and what’s his prognosis at this stage?
“Um…there’s been good progress and he still has more surgeries to go.”
Without specifics, can you talk about your recruiting trips and how you got involved with the chain gain and the homecoming announcement?
“Yeah, I was asked to announce the winner at the homecoming game, and Tatiana Mendez was the winner. It was great to be a part of the activity. Then the chain gang, we needed a guy and was promised a tri-tip steak sandwich at halftime. That was all I needed to hear. That was a lot of fun.”
Can you assess the play of Kalis and the right side of the line?
“He’s really--somebody asked last week how is his intensity and that’s really what he does. That’s his forte. He’s—he brings to the whole offense a great amount of intensity and good physical play. Strength. The lost art of toughness in football. Also, the valuable talent that is toughness and strength. It’s a respected quality.”
[Hit THE JUMP for more]
News bullets and other items:
Grant Newsome is done for the year. Harbaugh wasn’t sure whether it was a career-threatening injury; it’s too early to tell.
Bushell-Beatty at LT is probably happening, but Harbaugh said Cole and Braden could move there.
If Cole moves back to LT, Kugler will be the center.
Karan Higdon’s lack of carries was not due to injury
Quinn Nordin’s been healing and might be a part of the kicking competition this week; it’s too early to tell as they haven’t practiced yet this week
Seemed like Kyle [Kalis] really brought some intensity Saturday. Can you talk about how he played?
“Yeah, Kyle always brings intensity. Kyle Kalis?”
“Yeah, always. Practice, games, weight room, meetings.”
Was that one of the better games you’ve seen him play this year?
“Yeah. I thought he played extremely well. He’s been doing that consistently good his entire career here at Michigan. Strong. He’s strong. Kalis Strong.”
How important is it to win games differently? You’ve won with offense, you’ve won with special teams, Saturday you win defensively. How important is that in the coaches’ room?
“I don’t know exactly how much or how important. There’s an importance to winning, importance in being successful, winning on gameday. To your specific question, how important, I don’t have the answer to that.”
Did you get specific news on Grant Newsome and whether he’s going to be done for the year or not?
“Yeah. Yeah, he had a serious knee injury and he’ll be out for the year. It’ll be a tough couple weeks for him. It’s a reminder of just how tough the game of football is, just how serious injuries can be in the game of football.
“What I do know is, as far as character, human being character, football character, nobody’s ever come through here, this football team or this university, that I know of with more of it than Grant Newsome. Leon and Kim Newsome, they should write a book on raising kids. Grant is the finest, and just praying for him right now. It’s not a good feeling today at all. But just being with him at the hospital, everybody’s he’s come in contact with, nurses and doctors, it’s ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ It’s amazing. He is an amazing, amazing young man.
“And he’s strong as they come, and I know that all things are possible with Grant Newsome. But keep him in your prayers, as he is in ours. It’s going to be—got some things to work through right now, but he’s handling it like a champ. I know he’s got pain, but he’s…watching him up there, he’s as tough as a two-dollar steak. It’s unbelievable.”
[Hit THE JUMP like Wisconsin’s linebackers hit their run-throughs]
News bullets and other items:
- Grant Newsome’s injury will likely require surgery
- Quinn Nordin is injured
- There will be a kicking competition this week, and Ryan Tice will have the chance to lessen the burden on Kenny Allen; Harbaugh said he always thought it was too much to have to use Kenny for field goal, punt, and kickoff duties.
- The defense got an A++
- Speight’s decision making got an A
- A couple of the penalties came from Wisconsin simulating the offensive and punt team cadence, which you’re not allowed to do.
You guys left a lot of points on the board with the three missed field goals. You guys also kind of uncharacteristically had a mistake filled game with a lot of penalties. I was wondering, was that a source of frustration for you and what message did you give your team to get them back on track?
“Well, first of all, talking to the team, we were celebrating a win. Great win for our team. Thought there was a lot of things we did really well. Obviously we left nine points off the scoreboard. You've got to put those points on the board. Points on the board really matter. So, we'll have a little kicking competition this week, and it'll be an opportunity for Ryan Tice. And, uh, yeah. See if we can't make them next time.”
Can you talk about your perspective on Jourdan Lewis’ interception? Ever seen anything quite like that?
“Yeah, I've seen Odell Beckham Junior do that. Looked like that kind of play. Really, most impressive thing about it was, you know, he jumped a little early and I was a little nervous that he was going to come down and the ball was just going to go over his fingertips but he was able to hang in the air and he made a spectacular play. Then I was thinking, well, it was fourth down. Probably would have been better had he not intercepted it. I'm really glad he did. It was a spectacular, spectacular football play, Athletic play. Really unbelievable.
“I thought Channing Stribling did a great job as well. And Jourdan had a tremendous tackle in the open field. Thought the secondary was really good. Our defensive line was lights out. It was a game-ball for Don Brown kind of a game. Very impressed with our defense, our defense of coaches, and the character of our defense of players and their talents. A++.”
First off, what was your vantage point on Wilton's downfield throw for the touchdown? Looked right on the money. And also, are you itching to get this team a good road test next week?
“Yeah, we were under center, play action pass, really the play is designed to go to Jake Butt, but then I saw Wilton wheel and throw it to Amara and I saw Amara had a step on him or two. Just kind of hold your breath through the last split seconds of the play to see that it doesn't get deflected, but I really felt good when the ball was in the air.
“Wilton has been extremely good throwing the deep ball, extremely accurate throwing the deep ball, so we all have a lot of confidence. And he has a lot of confidence in throwing it and it was a tremendous play. The slant a couple plays before that, also to Amara, was another excellent throw. We didn't get Wilton the pass protection today that we would like and he deserves, But when he had protection and was able to set his feet and throw the football, I thought he did it very effectively.”
[After THE JUMP: ice cream time!]
Asiasi-asi! Oy! Oy! Oy! [Bryan Fuller]
Our weekly roundtable.
How are our pre-season predictions on new starters and heavy rotation guys holding up? Eligible players are anyone getting significantly more snaps this year than last.
I looked back through the last few defensive UFRs and he received increasingly more snaps, hovering around +1 while being relevant on only a few plays. After Clark got hurt Kinnel seemed to be the DB of choice to take his spot and shift others around as necessary. Kinnel has also been used on special teams and blocked a kick. While he's not going to be a starter just yet (hopefully), his work load should increase, and for the moment it looks like that will come without a drop-off. I'm not thinking that anyone ever has serious doubts about whether he could contribute on this team, but he's at least met expectations so far.
On the other end of the secondary spectrum appears to be Brandon Watson. He hasn't played a ton, but he definitely saw his snaps go up for the Hawaii and Colorado games. In the UFR he was -2 and -3, respectively, for those games. He was put in the slot against Colorado for the first couple of quarters and definitely looked overmatched. He's always been a guy who could potentially succeed if he got a good jam on a WR...however, when that does not happen, he looks lost in space. With Michigan's current and future set of CBs, its not looking like Watson will see too much extra time in close games, or not on defense anyway. It looks as if he could be destined for special teams duty for the long term.
[Hit THE JUMP for MGoBlog contributors trying very hard to find something that hasn’t gone right so far.]