i refuse to even consider this a possibility
First, a little feelingsball
Spring games are notorious for being a little data amidst an ocean of noise, so as always take everything here with a grain of salt. And this section isn't even a concrete observation about a player, so doubly so here. But… my favorite thing that happened on Friday wasn't a play.
It was the aftermath of the two-point conversion, when the white team poured onto the field like they'd just won the Super Bowl and blue team coach Chris Partridge roared off the sideline to have a Harbaugh-level conniption fit at the ref.
A couple other coaches reacted similarly, if not as dramatically, as Partridge; the white team organized at midfield for a photo. Wyatt Shallman headbanged like there was no tomorrow. Drake Johnson collapsed in a heap.
Drake Johnson collapses on the field after his team gets stopped on a potential game-winning 2-pt. conversion. pic.twitter.com/Beyur1LaIW
— Dan Murphy (@DanMurphyESPN) April 4, 2016
I tweeted to Ace that he should title the recap "Controversial finish mars Spring Game ending,"* because that was funny. It's only funny because it's kind of true.
This is a different thing now. Last year's team was good but it was still caught between being a program that apologizes for a tent stake and a program whose DGAF levels are off the charts. Judging from the reactions of everyone involved on both sides, the all-competition-all-the-time ethos has sunk in. That more than anything else makes me anticipate the upcoming season.
This concludes your feelingsball portion of the program.
*[He did not, and I was all like ಠ_ಠ.]
[After THE JUMP: position by position breakdowns of what we learned on offense]
Where have you seen the biggest growth in your offense over the last couple of weeks?
“I just think that people understand the concepts. Really the passing game’s come along with the precision and timing. You know, making corrections. People understand what you’re trying to correct and they’re fixing it the next day you come out.”
Coach Harbaugh said that his quarterbacks were making ‘one big mistake’ per day right now. Is that still—I mean, what do you need to see from them this week and then going through the summer?
“I think just, you know, in terms of where they need to go with the ball, the progressions of their reads, when there’s no play to be made make a play. And that goes for any type of quarterback in any system. That’s not just this particular system here. That’s what you’re looking for.”
Have you seen a difference between John [O’Korn] being in his first year being in a competitive situation and the other two guys, Shane [Morris] and Wilton [Speight]?
“I think John’s a real competitor. I don’t think if he’s a redshirt it doesn’t matter to him. He’s a guy who comes out, wants to compete every day, and wants to be at his best.”
How do you distinguish between making a play when there isn’t one and trying to do too much? Where’s the line that gets drawn between those two?
“I think those guys just kind of naturally have it. They know when to make a play. They know when to step up and find a spot in the pocket. They know when to scramble. They know when to get rid of the ball not to take a sack. You know, I think it’s just kind of part of their DNA. It’s in there, you’ve just got to get it out of them.”
Was moving Mason [Cole] more about the importance of that center position or just getting the top five on the field?
“You know, you just really want to get the top five in however you do that. We’re still evaluating if that’s the best position for him. He’s done a very, very nice job this spring. That’s a hard thing to do is stand there with the ball in your hand and you’ve got a 300-pound guy breathing down your neck and you’ve got to snap it, you know. He’s really handled it beautifully. He’s done a really, really nice job with it.”
Do you guys feel like Newsome’s ready to start if need be?
“Yeah! When we played him last year as a true freshman we believed that he’s ready to do that if that’s how it all pans out.”
What’s different about him? You’ve talked about football lenses opening. Was his already a little more open than most?
“He’s very intelligent. He gets it. He can make a correction once [and] he can fix it. He understands what you’re talking about when you talk to him in the room. The screen doesn’t got fuzzy with him. He stays with you in a conversation.”
[After THE JUMP: Others in the OL rotation, Ty Isaac’s spring, and what Don Brown’s scheme does for the O-line]
X spring tidbit so far that has you unreasonably excited about Y?
Brian: Well obviously I'm going to go with Ian Bunting making waves as an enormous skillet-handed dude. This is true to the spirit of this question because all we have is one tweet. But I like the tweet.
Bunting just snagged a fastball on skinny post with one hand. took it to the house. Drew raves from his teammates. Nice ball from malzone
— Sam Webb (@SamWebb77) March 1, 2016
Rivals recently had some team tidbits that oddly and explicitly trashed Bunting's ability. If that's accurate that makes me almost as much of a sad panda as Michigan ditching the spread punt, but it's unclear what that is even based on given the timing. Last year's offseason chatter—Morris is a real contender, watch out for Lawrence Marshall, this time Joe Bolden has put it together—had very little relationship with reality, so I'm hoping that gets put in the Big Bin Of Some Anonymous Guy Is Wrong.
I'm not even expecting Bunting to have a huge impact this year since he's a flex guy and one Jake Butt is still around, but I am hoping that we see him emerge into a clear heir apparent in preparation for a two-year run as an upperclassman. There isn't a tight end on the roster with quite the receiving upside of Bunting. I mean, maybe Gentry. But you know me and Ol' Skillet Hands.
[After the JUMP: more tweets that we treat as confirmation bias of good things]
11/7/2015 – Michigan 49, Rutgers 16 – 7-2, 4-1 Big Ten
This was never much of a game; it was never expected to be much of one. The line rose to a whopping 24 points before kickoff. Michigan hit that number early in the third quarter. For big chunks of the first half Rutgers had 55 yards of offense from one run on which Joe Bolden was held rather blatantly and literally nothing else. This was a walkover.
So there's not much emotional impact to be drawn from this one. Other than the sudden appearance of Good Iowa Rudock pretty much everything went as expected. Back in the day I'm pretty sure I shrugged at these games, wrote a couple paragraphs about how this wasn't really a thing, and moved on to gleaning what could be gleaned from an uncompetitive game. More recently that kind of column has been reserved for dismal contests in which a moribund Michigan team gacked it up against, oh, say, Rutgers.
There will come a day in the next couple years when Michigan takes on the dregs of its division and drops the hammer and I say that there's no point in a column. This is not that day. Because last year Gary Nova threw for 400 yards against this defense. Because last year Michigan did the classy thing and apologized for putting a piece of metal in Michigan State's field. We are not yet far enough removed from that to simply shrug.
So at halftime, Rutgers did something dumb. They poked the bear.
"They were just saying things like, 'Oh, it's our time this second half,' 'We the comeback kids,' 'These guys can't really finish games,'" safety Jabrill Peppers said, kind of rolling his eyes at the last remark.
"That's pretty much all I heard."
I'm impressed they hadn't checked out entirely, but it does not do to poke the bear.
"They were excited. They were down, what, 19, and Coach didn't like that they were celebrating," Lewis said. "(He said), 'Put the foot on the gas, finish these guys off.'"
Those were his exact words?
"I don't want to use those words out here," Lewis said, with a laugh.
Many, many opposing fans are going to complain about Harbaugh the jerk, Harbaugh the sociopath, Harbaugh the serial killer who kept stabbing our face long after we were dead. I perused a good number of these comments after this game… for some reason. Wilton Speight played most of the fourth quarter and Michigan put up just 14 points in the second half.
Even so the Rutgers beatwriters are really stretching to make something out of Harbaugh's two-point conversion:
Is there a beef between Rutgers coach Kyle Flood and Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh?
Evidence cited: a two point conversion with 26 minutes left in the game and a couple of coachspeak comments from Flood that could be spun into a veiled shot if, say, you were desperate for anything to talk about after a 49-16 loss. Steve Politi, the guy who wrote that column about Harbaugh being a phony compared to the real Kyle Flood, is trying to stoke the flames by citing the sneaky Jake Butt play—which happened in the first half!—Jake Rudock throwing in the third quarter, and Jabrill Peppers fair-catching punts.
I guess when you cover Rutgers you're on the cutting edge of "not in the face!" research. But it's clear Harbaugh is taking heat here solely because of his reputation.
I am fine with this. At Stanford he told his players to "win with character, win with cruelty." This is what I want a football program to do.
I want it to be angry up 35-16 at halftime. I want it to step on available throats within the rules of the game (except for certain substitution rules). I don't care if someone's feelings are hurt by a justified two-point conversion, or an unjustified one. I endorse all fourth-quarter passes against teams five scores down. I look forward to a point in the future when an apology will not be forthcoming.
this is both #1 and #2 [Fuller]
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 Jake Rudock had 13.5 yards an attempt despite two drops from his receivers. Even against an atrocious pass defense, that'll do. Rudock also escaped the pocket and tiptoed the sideline for a touchdown and scrambled for the two point conversion.
#2 Jake Butt had 104 of those receiving yards on four catches. Rudock is now hitting the high window where Butt can show off his height and leaping ability. I have him with zero drops on the year. Butt has 418 receiving yards on the year, almost 150 clear of his nearest competitor… that Minnesota TE who was delivered a couple gifts last week.
#3 Chris Wormley re-asserted himself after a few relatively quiet weeks with two sacks, one on a stunt Rutgers didn't pick up, the other just a straight up pass rush around the corner. Wormley also helped Michigan's rush defense to another dominant day.
Honorable mention: Jourdan Lewis set the single season Michigan PBU record. Jarrod Wilson wasn't hit in coverage and had a pretty spectacular interception. Mason Cole was probably pretty good.
9: Jourdan Lewis (#1 UNLV, #1 Northwestern, #1 MSU), Jabrill Peppers(#2 BYU, #2 Northwestern, #2 MSU, #1 Minnesota)
6: Chris Wormley(#2 Utah, #1 Oregon State, #3 Rutgers)
5: Jake Butt(#1 Utah, #2 Rutgers)
4: Maurice Hurst (#2 Maryland, #2 Minnesota), Jake Rudock (#3 Northwestern, #1 Rutgers)
3: De'Veon Smith(#2 Oregon State, #3 BYU), Ryan Glasgow (#1 BYU), Desmond Morgan (#1 Maryland),
2: Ty Isaac(#2 UNLV), Willie Henry(#3 Utah, #3 MSU).
1: AJ Williams (#3 Oregon State), Channing Stribling(#3 UNLV), Blake O'Neill(#3 Maryland), Drake Johnson(#3 Minnesota)
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
This week's best thing ever.
Jabrill Peppers does his Denard-vs-WMU impression.
That acceleration after he dodges the tackle is ridiculous.
Honorable mention: any number of pinpoint midrange Rudock passes but we'll go with the 50-yard catch and run to Butt; Jarrod Wilson's un-boring interception; Smith rips off a big run late on a textbook power play; Harbaugh goes for two for Reasons.
Utah: Crazy #buttdown.
Oregon State: #tacopunts.
UNLV: Ty Isaac's 76 yard touchdown.
BYU: De'Veon Smith's illicit teleporter run.
Maryland: Jehu Chesson jet sweeps past you.
Northwestern: Chesson opening KO TD.
MSU: the bit where they won until they didn't.
Minnesota: form a f-ing wall.
Rutgers: Peppers as Denard.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
This week's worst thing ever.
A weirdly short kickoff from Kenny Allen is returned for a touchdown.
Honorable mention: Targeting overturned; Rutgers rips off a 55-yard run thanks in large part a pretty obvious hold on Joe Bolden; Michigan struggles to run yet again.
Utah: circle route pick six.
Oregon State: Rudock fumbles after blitz bust.
UNLV: Rudock matches 2014 INT total in game 3.
BYU: BYU manages to get to triple digit yards in the last minutes of the game.
Maryland: Slog extended by deflected interception at Houma.
Northwestern: KLINSMANN OUT
Minnesota: The bit where the lost it until they didn't.
Rutgers: KO return given up.
[After THE JUMP: no ghosts this week, tiniest band ever, screens, defense hole-seeking]
Everyone’s talking about Jabrill this week, so what’s it like for you having him on offense? What does he do for you?
“Well, he’s very explosive. You can see when he gets the ball he explodes and it’s a great option to have to be able to work him into the offense and an opportunity for a few plays on the offensive side of the ball. If he does or doesn’t, it’s nice to have that club in your bag.”
I know you don’t get a ton of time with him, but is he special in the way that he can not spend a whole lot of time with the offense and still pick things up?
“Yeah. I mean, he’s a football player, so he’s got that DNA that you can kind of tell once he fixes a problem- just special. Great football awareness.
“It’s really- dealing with him is like dealing with a pro football player. He just kind of looks you in the eye and takes what you’re telling him, understands it, and then puts it into action. He’s just got great football awareness and great football savvy. He’s a football player. I’ve said that before, so it’s exciting to have him.”
Do you customize the playcalling based on whether Drake Johnson or De’Veon Smith’s in the game?
“No, we don’t. No, we don’t. We feel like they all have strengths and weaknesses, but we just call the game as we call it and put those guys in the best opportunity up front and the receivers and the quarterback so no, we don’t like specifically say, ‘Hey, do this, do that.’”
What’s Jake’s [Rudock] status at this point?
“He was good yesterday. He threw the ball around, breaking the huddle. He looked good. Looked good to me.”
You expect him to play?
“Yeah, absolutely, yes. Really do.”
[After THE JUMP: “We’re changing this thing, and it’s going in the right direction and we’re really pleased with where we are.”]
Upon Further Review still has a sponsor. You should really listen to the radio show because Matt has an ad with his kids now where it sounds like they have been dragooned into talk about daddy's business that never fails to crack me up. They just want to play Madden.
FORMATION NOTES: I did an inconsistent job of it this week but I plan on denoting all 6 OL setups with "heavy" going forward. You can deduce which snaps were 6 OL when there are only four skill players listed this week, although I might have missed a couple.
The new things this week were mostly Peppers related. This was "Ace twin TE Peppers H":
This was "Emory Tight":
As a reminder, "Pistol" implies a tailback and a TE so Pistol FB is this:
As far as Minnesota goes they generally went with a 4-3 even or over. The most notable thing about their D was the MLB, who lined up a yard or two deeper than the other guys, as you can see in the above shot.
Also Minnesota's goal line formation was goofy. Just four guys on the line.
I still called this "goal line."
PERSONNEL NOTES: Line per usual with the exception of Grant Newsome, who had several snaps as a sixth OL. Poggi didn't play; he was left home with pneumonia; stay away from Ricky Doyle please. As a result Michigan played largely without an H-back, instead going with a lot of two inline TE sets.
WR was per usual except DaMario Jones got in briefly with Drake Harris out. Ways got a target on the first drive but then was absent; Chesson and Darboh got almost all the PT, with Perry the third guy in three WR sets.
Isaac and Higdon did not play at RB, where it was mostly Smith early and mostly Johnson late with some Derrick Green in the first half.
[After THE JUMP: here is Speight to save the day / no he shouldn't be the starter]