A note on the defensive formations below: I'm just trying to generally describe what kind of front Minnesota is in. I don't have any idea who is who on Minnesota's team and on TV they never tell you about substitutions, so I have little idea if Minnesota actually had, say, four linebackers on the field when they aligned in a 4-4. I suspect they just had the same guys out there all the time and moved them around.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M34||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||4-4x||Pass||Bubble screen||Odoms||6|
|Minnesota in a dedicated eight-man front with four DL and four LB. One or two of them are probably safeties but they're lined up as LBs. This means there's no one lined up directly over Odoms; Michigan goes to the bubble. Minnesota reacts quickly enough; Stonum gets a good block on one guy but there's another coming from the outside and Odoms is tackled after a decent gain. (CA, 3, screen)|
|The usual QB sweep featured in Picture Pages lo so many weeks ago. Good scoop from Ferrara and Molk gets the playside DT sealed and Ferrara out on one of the LBs, but Ortmann(-1) has been driven back considerably, closing the hole and forcing Minor to bounce it out, where Minnesota linebackers and whatnot converge.|
|M41||3||5||Shotgun trips||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Fly||Mathews||28|
|Sheridan drops back and just chucks one downfield. Mathews gets no separation—unsurprising since this is a really obvious playcall—forcing Sheridan's throw to be perfect for Mathews to have any shot. It is; Mathews makes a spectacular one-handed diving grab. (DO, 1, protection 2/2) DO, 1 is something I don't think I've ever written before, FWIW.|
|O33||1||10||Shotgun trips||4-4x||Run||Zone read dive||Minor||1|
|Molk(-1) lets Minnesota time the snap on this one and gets beaten by the NT lined up directly over him, which forces the usual cutback into unblocked guys. Minnesota was blitzing two OLB sorts and had four DL and two MLB, so, yeah, this probably wasn't going anywhere anyway.|
|Okay, the eighth guy in the box is a safety they're walking up to the line every play. They actually back him out this time but send six at the snap; the DEs time the snap. Michigan manages to hold off the first wave; a delayed blitz from the Minnesota LB gets him in untouched and Sheridan has to chuck it, hitting Stonum on a hideously looping out that Stonum drops. Actually, it appears the DB knocked it away. (MA, 1, protection 2/2)|
|O32||3||9||Shotgun trips||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Hitch||Koger||Inc (Pen+5)|
|A Minnesota LB doesn't even wait for Molk's head to come up to jump across the line of scrimmage. Sheridan ends up rolling out and throwing an errant one-yard hitch to a covered Koger which he can't bring in. (MA, 2, protection N/A)|
|O27||3||4||Shotgun 2-back||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Post||Stonum||Inc|
|The safety reads it, as Sheridan is staring this down the whole way, jumping the route and nearly picking the ball off. (BR, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: FG(44), 3-0, 11 min 1st Q. This drive gave me the heebie-jeebies re: Sheridan.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M29||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read counter||Minor||2|
|Sort of on the 4-3, anyway, with a guy lined up directly over Odoms and a safety rolled up; always many in the box. Michigan breaks out the play with Moundros diving backside to block the DE that worked well last week but the DE has crashed inside, forcing Minor outside, where the guy lined up over Odoms—not covering the bubble—tackles. I have this insane idea that Michigan could have a play like this where the QB hands off to the RB, then turns into a potential option pitchman(!).|
|M31||2||8||Shotgun empty 2TE||Base 4-3||Pass||Slant||Savoy||Inc|
|A wobbler that's well behind Savoy and incomplete. May have been tipped at the line, hard to tell. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|M31||3||8||Shotgun 2-back||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||QB draw||Sheridan||5|
|Sheridan provides a flare screen pump fake, then takes off upfield. It opens up for a few yards but Minnesota is close enough to the LOS that a couple guys get to Sheridan before the sticks.|
|Zoltan does his rugby roll, realizes there's no one to the side of the field he's rolling to, and outruns the one guy rushing him to that side for a first down. Space.|
|M43||1||10||Shotgun trips||3-4x||Pass||Long handoff||Mathews||3|
|Three down linemen with a guy on the corner creeping up at the snap after Minnesota started off with a man look. Sheridan chucks a long handoff; Mathews gets a few. (CA, 3, screen)|
|M46||2||7||Shotgun trips||3-4x||Run||Zone read dive||Minor||40|
|Same deal from Minnesota. They've got their two DTs pinched in real tight and the one DE they do have lined up in normal outside position; I've never seen anything like this before. On this they blitz a guy off a corner, send one LB on the bubble route, and then have the other two guys start stalking outside. Michigan, though, is going right up the middle. Schilling and Moosman have a miscommunication or something and let the backside DT split them, but he slips or gets grabbed or something and falls, sending Minor into the secondary for a major gain—no linebackers. On replay, it looks like Moosman inadvertently tripped the guy.|
|O14||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||3-4x||Run||Zone read stretch||Minor||2|
|Minnesota's DL are shooting upfield, not stepping left to match the Michigan OL, and as such both Moosman and Schilling get their guys cut and out of the play as Molk heads to the second level, where he misses his block because the playside DE has caused Minor to cut up more abruptly than I think the usual intent is. Minor spins out of that guy's tackle; Gophers converge.|
|O12||2||8||Shotgun diamond||3-4x||Pass||Diamond screen||Odoms||-3|
|Man, Stonum(-2) really messes this up, getting off the snap late and letting his guy in on Odoms. If he gets a block, this looks like a touchdown. Instead Odoms gets tackled behind the LOS, fumbling and turning the ball over. (CA, 3, screen)|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 3-0, 6 min 1st Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O49||1||10||Shotgun 2-back trips||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read stretch||Shaw||7|
|They run this to a very crowded short side of the field, FWIW. Molk gets a great reach block on the playside DT, creasing the line, and Shaw scoots through it with Moosman and Minor leading the way; unfortunately Ferrara's downfield block on the MLB is pretty meh and Shaw runs into the pair about three yards downfield. He continues plowing his way downfield, getting tackled from behind.|
|O42||2||3||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||Bubble screen||Odoms||9|
|A man free look, sort of, with three linebackers right in the box and one deep safety. This provides a numerical mismatch on the trips receivers side; Michigan throws the bubble. This one isn't as upfield as it should be, allowing the Minnesota defenders some time to fend off their blocks, but Odoms still has plenty of room to scoot for the first down. (CA, 3, screen)|
|O33||1||10||Shotgun trips||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read keeper||Sheridan||8|
|Sheridan keeps it this time, getting outside of a crashing defensive end and cutting up smartly for good yards.|
|O25||2||2||Shotgun empty||4-4x||Run||QB off tackle||Sheridan||1|
|A tight formation with Moundros and Minor lined up as h-backs. I never understand the blocking on these where the lead back on the stretch or on this play doesn't attempt to slam up between the G and T or C and G but instead heads outside the T. That guy never blocks anyone. Anyway, there's a crease here as Moosman does get the playside DT sealed but it's Moosman, right, not Molk, so there's no one in the hole blocking the WLB/safety guy lined up over Odoms in the slot, and that guy hits Sheridan hard.|
|Minnesota's DTs get an excellent slant into the path of the play—lucky call—and take Michigan's guards into the backfield, falling; Minor has to cut back and meets the unblocked guys on the backside. Just short of the line.|
|O23||4||In||Ace||Goal line||Run||QB sneak||Sheridan||1|
|O22||1||10||Shotgun empty 2TE||3-4x||Run||QB off tackle||Sheridan||5 (Pen+5)|
|Minnesota DT jumps the snap again, drawing a flag—I bet Michigan sent in a bunch of tape from the MSU game and said “dude, WTF”—as Michigan runs the QB zone stretch thing again; Molk somehow manages to prevent his guy from closing down the hole despite the snap jump and Sheridan squeezes through; that DT does trip him up as he passes.|
|O17||1||5||Shotgun 2-back||3-4x||Pass||Bubble screen||Odoms||Inc|
|Odoms drops this, possibly because he's trying to figure out how not to get killed by a charging safety who has this dead to rights. (CA, 3, screen) Even though you can hear the whistles going for a good four seconds, a Minnesota player rams into Odoms' knees and doesn't get called.|
|O17||2||5||Shotgun 2-back||3-4x||Pass||Rollout – FB flat||Moundros||Inc|
|The play action counter play that opponents seem to have figured out. Sheridan gets a guy in his face and ends up throwing short to Moundros, who should have 3-4 if he catches it. He doesn't. (CA, 3, protection NA)|
|This is accurate-ish but I think Mathews is running to the near corner of the endzone and is open. Sheridan is throwing it further back; this allows a Minnesota defender to recover and make a nice play on the ball. (MA, 1, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: FG(34), 6-0, EO1Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M20||1||10||Shotgun trips 2TE||4-4x||Run||Zone read stretch||Minor||2|
|Molk gets the seal on the reach again, creasing the Minnesota line, but Ortmann's attempt to cut the backside DE—flowing down the line as Minnesota has a LB on contain—fails and that guy flows down the line to tackle. Well blocked otherwise.|
|A fly route that Stonum looks open by a step or two on, and the ball is right there, but it's either dropped or raked away by the defensive back or something and dropped. On replay: yeah, Stonum starts letting up on the gas as he tracks the ball, which allows a beaten DB to recover and defend on the catch. Still, this is a ball in Stonum's hands and one he could have come up with. Maybe he needs to be stronger. (CA, 2, protection 2/2)|
|M22||3||8||Shotgun 2-back||Base 4-3||Pass||Post||Odoms||Inc|
|Sheridan with a ton of time—max protect—and finds Odoms as he clears the second level in the zone. I think the linebacker Odoms is clearing actually might get a fingertip on this as it passes, as the ball seems to die just as it passes him, causing Odoms to slide to his knees and extend. He fails to bring it in. Again: not exactly a routine catch but a makeable one. (CA, 2, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 6-0, 13 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M21||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Run||ISQD||Feagin||4|
|Since we only have the one Incredibly Surprising play at this moment, Minnesota is all over this, shooting a safety upfield and forcing a cutback. An attempted scoop by Ferrara and Ortmann doesn't go so well as Ortmann can't get down the line fast enough to seal the backside DT; he tackles on the Feagin cutback.|
|M25||2||6||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||Wheel||McGuffie||39|
|Sheridan looks left at first at either Odoms or Mathews, finding nothing to his liking. Michigan is using a slide protection, which ends up with Minor attempting to take on a DE, which is not a long term solution, so Sheridan decides to roll out. He chucks it as he breaks the pocket, finding McGuffie wide open on a wheel route for major yards. It's again short, allowing Minnesota to recover, but still a great play. On replay, though, you can see that if this ball is ten yards further downfield it's a touchdown. McGuffie was gone, man. (CA, 2, protection 2/2)|
|O36||1||10||Shotgun trips||4-4x||Pass||Bubble screen||Clemons||20|
|An excellent bubble screen, as Minnesota is blitzing the guy nominally lined up over the slot guy and there are again just two defenders downfield for M to deal with; Clemons splits them and does a good job of making more YAC. (CA, 3, screen)|
|O16||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||Bubble screen||Clemons||7|
|LB nominally lined up on Clemons bites on the dive fake, so Clemons is virtually guaranteed yardage with two defenders well back and a blocker on the closer one. Stonum does a decent job on the corner and Michigan nears another first down. (CA, 3, screen)|
|O9||2||3||Shotgun 3-wide||3-4x||Run||Zone read dive||Minor||0|
|This three man line is pinched in, making it tough for Ortmann and Ferrara to get the scoop on the playside DE; they end up failing to and that DE is sitting right in the hole. With Moosman beaten on the other side Minor has one option, to cut behind Ortmann. An unblocked linebacker is waiting.|
|O9||3||3||Shotgun empty 2TE||Base 4-3||Pass||Post||Clemons||Inc|
|Sheridan stares this down all the way and draws the defender right to it; defender jumps the route and nearly intercepts. (BR, 0, protection 1/1)|
|Drive Notes: FG(28), 9-0, 8 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M23||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Bubble screen||Odoms||3|
|This throw is a little too far upfield, which slightly delays Odoms. Rogers(-1) whiffs his block downfield, and a safety comes flying up quickly as we've been running this quite a bit. Odoms is hemmed in by the two defensive backs and corralled after a small gain. (MA, 3, screen)|
|M26||2||7||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||Triple option dive||Minor||4|
|Michigan really should have an advantage here as the Minnesota DT jumped the snap, then got back just as M snapped the ball. He's not ready. But the other DT is slanting right into that hole and Minor ends up taking it right at the backside DE, who is crashing down all the way. Minor does well to power through his tackle for decent yardage.|
|It's not like Minnesota isn't expecting this all the way: they've got eight guys in the box and no deep safety, manning up on the receivers outside. But it doesn't matter as the backside DE and DT get cut just enough for Feagin to hit a crease between them and the doubled playside DT. David Molk is getting a great, sustained downfield block on the MLB, and Koger cuts another LB to provide a second-level crease; Feagin bursts into the secondary.|
|Same thing again; Michigan trying to catch Minnesota off guard by getting to the line and snapping it as soon as the play is blown ready. A DT shoots upfield; Ferrara manages to escort him up past Feagin but he does force a cutback. There's a crease where the vacated DT came from but Koger and Ortmann are both trying to block the DE and Minor is heading outside as per usual, so there's an unblocked linebacker in the hole where Feagin cuts up.|
|O35||2||9||Shotgun 2-back||Base 4-3||Run||Triple option keeper||Sheridan||1|
|Minnesota all over this, with plenty of guys containing the ball after the fake dive. Sheridan cuts up and gets back to the line of scrimmage.|
|O34||3||8||Shotgun 2-back||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Rollout – hitch||Odoms||11|
|The “noooooo!” rollout throwback featured in the Monday column this week, a dart to Odoms on a hitch route in between four defenders. At this point Sheridan is downgraded to SEVERE ILLNESS. (DO, 3, protection NA)|
|O23||1||10||Shotgun trips||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Bubble screen||Odoms||-4 (Pen+15)|
|I think this is supposed to be our bubble variant where Odoms comes to a stop and shoots into what should be open space after the tight corner has freaked out in an effort to get outside of his blocker. We saw that a couple times against Purdue. On this, eh, not so much, as a safety is charging Odoms at the snap and tackles as the ball arrives. Minnesota needs to be threatened with a deep ball here and there, methinks. (CA, 3, screen) Michigan lucks out, as Minnesota picks up a facemask personal foul.|
|O11||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||Minor||-1|
|Molk and Ferrara try to scoop the NT and fail; Molk does slow the guy up and Ferrara attempts to cut him; the NT stays on his feet, flows down the line, and meets Minor at the LOS. Good play from him; Ferrara might need to work on his cut technique.|
|O12||2||11||Shotgun empty||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||ISQD||Feagin||4|
|Scoop on the NT again; this time Moosman gets enough of a cut to delay him. Ferrara stalemates the DE to the playside and ends up pancaking him, though I think he tripped. Feagin hurdles the prone duo and looks about ready to head for the first down when Moundros's LB manages to dive and make a shoestring tackle.|
|O8||3||7||Shotgun trips||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Slant||Mathews||8|
|Sheridan takes one or two steps as if he's going to roll right, which gets the robber safety moving that way; Minnesota's CB gives up inside position right away and this slant is an easy pitch and catch for at touchdown. (CA+, 3, protection 1/1)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 16-0, 2 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M47||1||10||Shotgun trips||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||Zone read dive||Minor||0|
|Okay, I've been a major Molk proponent so far but on this one he(-2) gets smoked by the NT, who proceeds to blow up an otherwise promising play.|
|M47||2||10||Shotgun 2-back||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Seam||Odoms||Inc|
|Oh, man, this one is behind Odoms just as he broke past the Minnesota linebackers. If accurate, this is a major gainer. Reading Odoms body language after the play, it is plain as day he says something short and jovially expletive-y. "Damn," maybe. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|M47||3||10||Shotgun 2-back||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||Minor||3|
|Give up and go to half.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 16-0, EO1H.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M36||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||3-4x||Pass||Bubble screen||Odoms||15|
|Another variant where the bubble isn't going as wide as you might expect; this time Stonum's guy tries to shoot inside of him and make a spectacular play in the backfield instead of doing his job and cutting off the outside; Stonum gets just enough of him to prevent Odoms from getting lit up; Odoms' quicks get him outside. There he jukes a linebacker and shoots for a first down. Slippery little bastard. (CA, 3, screen)|
|O49||1||10||Shotgun trips||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Improv||Stonum||10|
|I'm surprised Minnesota didn't fall for this: Michigan fakes the bubble and tries to go deep; it must be covered as Sheridan doesn't chuck it. This is after a bubble flood in the first half and a successful bubble to open the second half. I'm surprised Minnesota's safeties aren't having a campfire around Odoms. Anyway, Sheridan hesitates and then scrambles out of the pocket when his timer goes off, chucking a looping out to a wide open Stonum for a first down. So maybe they did fall for it a bit. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2)|
|O39||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||Zone read counter||Minor||1|
|Well, Ferrara(-1) doesn't seal his guy on this and it's a pretty easy block to make with the DT lined up inside of him while the play is supposed to go behind him. Compounding the difficulty: Ortmann(-1) ran right by the Minnesota linebacker. Three Gophers crush minor at the line.|
|O38||2||9||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||ISQD||Feagin||0|
|Odoms comes on a fake reverse, which does cause a couple of guys on the backside to cease their pursuit, but Feagin's heading outside and all that does is remove a blocker from the area. Minor(-1), the lead blocker, whiffs on a safety coming up the LOS and Feagin gets swarmed.|
|O38||3||9||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Hitch||Mathews||7|
|Minnesota protecting the sticks so this is open; immediate tackle from the DB prevents Mathews from reaching the first down. At this spot on the field you're either going or it or setting up a reasonable field goal attempt so I don't mind the short throw that sets up a fourth and short. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|Drive Notes: FG(48), 19-0, 12 min 3rd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M9||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read dive||Minor||0|
|Moosman(-1) beat badly by the Minnesota DT, driven back a yard or two and then discarded; the backside DE is crashing down on the run as well and there's a double on the other DT, allowing a linebacker in unblocked. Minor is gang-tackled by three guys, then bounces off it and tries to get outside; he's run down.|
|Eh, a little swing that's open for a few. I think if Shaw cuts back hard here the Minnesota players are overrunning it and he can break for a first down. Instead he just puts his head down and gets what he can. (CA, 3, protection NA)|
|M14||3||5||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||Rollout – hitch||Mathews||10|
|Sheridan rolls out and finds Mathews wide open (which would infuriate me if I was a Minnesota fan) on a hitch just past the sticks. Mathews turns it up for a few more after the play. (CA, 3, protection 1/1). Good cut from Minor opens up the outside and gives Sheridan the time to make the throw.|
|M24||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||Zone read dive||Minor||-1|
|Minnesota blitzes a WLB right into this and he clocks Minor in the backfield. I'm not sure what Michigan could have done with this playcall against thiers.|
|M23||2||11||Shotgun trips||3-3-5 Nickel||Penalty||False Start||Moosman||-5|
|Nein, Moosman, nein.|
|M18||2||16||Shotgun empty||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Hitch||Mathews||23|
|Huge play on this drive as Sheridan completes a little five yard hitch, which would prepare M for third and long and a probable punt except that Mathews(+1) spins out of the tackle and lopes downfield for first down yardage. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|M41||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||Shaw||48|
|Minnesota lines up in a vulnerable position here with a DT over the backside guard and the NT shaded to the backside of the play, leaving just one DE—who's standing up—on the other side of the line. Scooping the NT is thus pretty easy and Moosman gets a free release into the second level; Molk cuts off one linebacker; Koger and Moosman get to double(!) a linebacker, blasting him back; Shaw zips into the secondary. He ends up cutting back at around the 35 when I think he might be able to just blaze upfield for a touchdown; tough to tell. +1 Odoms for trying to get a block downfield.|
|Man, if Michigan went play action here I have a hard time not seeing one of the TEs wide open in the endzone. Minnesota stuffs nine guys in the box. Michigan actually blocks this very well despite the overloaded box; Koger plows a LB backwards (his blocking is much improved this game) and Schilling gets a downfield block as a double ends up sealing the playside DE. It's Moundros(-1) who doesn't get his guy, allowing him to close down from the outside as Feagin nears the LOS, slowing stuff down.|
|O8||2||7||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Run||ISQD||Feagin||2|
|Big cutback lane opens up as the playside DT crashes to the playside and Moosman clocks the WLB; Feagin sees it and cuts up... into the arms of the backside DT, who Schilling(-1) couldn't cut effectively.|
|O6||3||5||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Rollout – out||Odoms||Inc|
|Rollout; Sheridan chucks it in the general direction of Odoms but the ball is well short. (IN, 0, protection 1/1)|
|Drive Notes: FG(23), 22-3, 2 min 3rd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M31||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read stretch||McGuffie||-1|
|On this one Molk(-1) loses the playside DT behind him, allowing him through and right into the would-be crease. McGuffie gets buried.|
|M30||2||11||Shotgun trips||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read stretch||McGuffie||3|
|Much better from Molk; they get the DT sealed this time and McGuffie has a crease through the line; Schilling's attempt to cut the MLB is avoided, though, and he meets McGuffie a few yards downfield.|
|M33||3||8||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Throwaway||--||Inc|
|Some initial time, then Schilling(-1) gets beaten to the outside, forcing Sheridan to step up. He gets hit on the arm and decides chucking is the better part of valor. (TA, 0, protection 1/2, Schilling -1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 22-6, 10 min 4th Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M47||1||10||I-form twins||Base 4-3||Run||Pitch sweep||Shaw||3|
|Minnesota blitzes a corner into this; Moundros peels off to take him out. This forces Shaw upfield. Line is getting good push on the Gophers so there's no one in his face immediately but the backside defensive end is closing in; Shaw ends up cutting back behind everyone and taking on an unblocked WLB headfirst; small gain. Shaw looks like he's had “north-south” beaten into his head, FWIW.|
|50||2||7||Shotgun 4-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||Bubble screen||Odoms||4|
|Weak blocking by Savoy on the perimeter. (CA, 3, screen)|
|O46||3||3||Shotgun diamond||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||QB draw||Sheridan||5|
|No idea why Minnesota is in a three-man line this late, especially on third and three, but they are. Crease opens up in the middle, as you might expect, and Sheridan uses McAvoy as a shield downfield, picking up the first.|
|O41||1||10||I-form twins||Base 3-4||Run||Iso||McGuffie||14|
|Moosman's quick step to the right gets the playside DE sealed away; Koger kicks out the OLB. Schilling releases downfield and basically misses the MLB, allowing him to shoot through; Moundros pops him and McGuffie squeezes through a little crease, bouncing off a defender and then popping outside for a good gain.|
|O27||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||Base 3-4||Run||Zone read stretch||Shaw||5|
|Camera angle on this is pretty wide so it's hard to tell what's going on; looks like Molk and McAvoy execute a scoop on the NT, creasing the line and getting Shaw through to the linebackers. A charging safety chops him down after a moderate gain; Minnesota is obviously selling out on the run now.|
|O22||2||5||Shotgun 2-back||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read stretch||Shaw||2|
|Minnesota turns this upfield; the backside DT has evaded McAvoy's attempted cut and closes Shaw down at the LOS.|
|O20||3||3||Shotgun 4-wide||Base 4-3||Run||QB off tackle||Sheridan||7|
|Sheridan actually ends up cutting behind Molk's block this time as Minnesota is selling out on the playside; the backside DT got pushed by Moosman and the sort of cut by Schilling and is delayed enough for Sheridan to skip by and pick up the first.|
|O13||1||10||Shotgun trips||Base 3-4||Run||Zone read dive||Shaw||3|
|Minnesota ends up forcing this back to the unblocked defensive end; he tackles.|
|O10||2||7||Shotgun 4-wide||Base 4-3||Run||QB off tackle||Sheridan||3|
|The playside DT has been slanting hard to the playside on these the last couple times, forcing Michigan to double him; this has lead to that guy getting blown down field a couple yards and the runner coming up behind it as unblocked linebackers come around to tackle.|
|O7||3||4||I-form twins||Base 3-4||Run||Iso||Shaw||4|
|Shaw finds a small crease between about four Gophers, picking up about two, then is fortunate to get tackled in such a way he picks up the extra couple yards for the first down.|
|O3||1||G||I-form twins||Goal line||Run||FB smash||Moundros||3|
|Hooray fullback touchdown.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 29-6, EOG. For any RUTS complainers, this drive is nine runs and a bubble screen: STFU.|
Five field goal attempts is sort of annoying, but we broke 400 yards!
Last week you said this:
I'd like to see the run game function for two consecutive games before I start raining praise on it.
What say you now?
What's the deal, weird bolded fictional question-asking alter ego? Now you're digging into old posts and bringing their contents back into the light? Et tu?
Are you going to answer or what?
Fine. The run game did indeed function for two consecutive games and, as a live blog commenter noted, I finally got something right in a game preview: Minnesota's defense was ridiculously aggressive and Michigan alternated negative or 0-yard runs with big heaps of yards gained when they cracked through the line and there were no linebackers in the vicinity.
This seems like real progress. Over the last two weeks, Michigan has 76 carries for 430 yards. Though they haven't been taking on the 1970s Steelers, that's 5.7 YPC against a vast array of eight- and sometimes even nine-man fronts with a rag-tag offensive line, a banged up set of running backs, and quarterbacks close to the platonic opposite of Pat White.
Caution is still advisable, as Purdue is the country's #90 rush defense and Minnesota is #65. Northwestern, remarkably, will be a step up. They come in with the #45 rush defense and I'm sure most of you remember the specter of Northwestern DT John Gill slashing into Mike Hart over and over again last year in Evanston. I expect a step back against the Wildcats and for Ohio State to completely crush the run; if Michigan can pump out something similar to the last couple weeks against the Wildcats and look sort of vaguely okay against Ohio State, I will be thrilled with the direction of the run offense going into 2009. If expectations bear (stupid) fruit I'll still be mildly encouraged.
Digging out Sheridan's old charts seems pointless since there's so little data in them because M never threw and he got pulled, but here's his Minnesota game in comparison:
Before we get too carried away: 11 CAs and one MA were screens, and both BRs were horrible decisions that should have been intercepted. Okay. Now: caveats aside we still have a downfield good/bad ratio of 11-6. That's beyond acceptable; that's downright good.
I don't think Sheridan has a prayer in hell of doing that against someone like Ohio State, and even Northwestern has a sort of respectable defense this year (58 in total yardage, 38 scoring, 49 pass efficiency D… but that is not DEATH.
As for the receivers:
(remember: 0 is uncatchable, 1 is a circus catch, 2 is a somewhat difficult one, and 3 is a routine one)
Receivers could have helped out Sheridan a few times on long balls that were in their hands but could not be reeled in: Odoms and Stonum both missed opportunities. Also note that Mathews is the only guy to have hauled in any "1s" so far this year (other than Butler, who no longer plays offense); he's the guy with the hands.
And I saved the best for last:
PROTECTION METRIC: 19/20, Schilling –1. Okay, you can see how heavily Michigan screwed with its gameplan to make Sheridan functional here: a "20" for the entire game is a record low. But 19/20 is a great ratio against anyone.
Pick an offensive lineman; that was the best performance they've had all year. And, yes, Nick Sheridan, take a bow.
There was a liveblog poll that asked "are you concerned about Darryl Stonum's hands" that was mostly answered in the affirmative (though "Coner!" ran a strong second) and, yeah… I am a little concerned about Stonum's hands.
Also: Angry Michigan Running Back Hating God, could you lighten up? So far this year:
- Carlos Brown explodes a finger during spring practice
- Kevin Grady has some sort of injury that holds him out of spring
- Grady gets a DUI for being so drunk he's dead
- Brown has nagging injuries in fall
- Minor has nagging injuries in fall, costing him practice time and the starting job early in the year
- Michael Shaw can't catch kickoffs
- Shaw pulls his groin
- Brown breaks something in his foot
- McGuffie is concussed
- Minor wrist issue against Purdue
- Minor has shoulder and rib issues and is doubtful for Northwestern
Holy hotpants. We get it, AMRBHG. WE GET IT.
What does it mean for 2009?
One thing it doesn't do is prolong Nick Sheridan's shelf life as a viable starter. Though his work in this game was shocking, efficient, and inspiring to any 5'10" kid in Model United Nations who wants to play Division I football, Sheridan's vast deficiency in arm strength was on display even as he completed three different deep passes. He's just too limited physically to be a long-term option.
As to things it does do: that was an excellent performance by the offensive line. If you've followed this blog over the past few months you know it's been a consistent proponent of undersized but nimble center David Molk, the one real OL prospect Michigan picked up after they decided to switch their blocking schemes to zone. Early in the year he was getting his butt kicked by various large mean men who would pick him up and escort him bodily into the ball carrier but you could see his agility serve him well whenever he wasn't going up against Samoans or Wisconsin's beef machine. He is just a redshirt freshman and should continue gaining strength under Barwis; he should also maintain his agility. I think you're looking at a four-year starter in the making, and a good one. Now if he can just switch up the snap counts more consistently…
As for the rest of the line: I still have reservations about the tackles in pass protection despite their showing Saturday, and it's clear Tim McAvoy is someone the coaching staff would like to replace (he did play at least some portion of the second half last week, FWIW). I think in an ideal world some magic redshirt freshman will emerge at tackle and Steve Schilling will take up residence at guard, giving you something like this: Ortmann/Dorrestein-Schilling-Molk-Moosman-Magic Freshman. I also think we're likely to go into next year without that magic freshman; if we do get one it's likely to be Ricky Barnum stepping in at left guard.
Minor is obviously the starter at RB as long as he can stay healthy; Mathews, Stonum, and Odoms are obviously the starters at receiver as long as they're healthy.
The last time Michigan's quarterback situation appeared so dire it was 1995, Lloyd Carr's first year, and the quarterbacks were true freshman Scott Dreisbach and walk-on Brian Griese. Michigan was playing in the "Kickoff Classic" that year against Virginia. Michigan Stadium baked, Dreisbach started, and the team sucked. Down 17-0 at the half, Michigan looked lifeless.
One of the weirdly vivid memories of my life is listening to an affable Virginia fan tell us Michigan was not going to win the game if they kept letting that freshman throw the ball. We nodded in rueful agreement.
He would turn out to be wrong by one Mercury Hayes toe. Dreisbach finished with 374 yards on 52 attempts,* Michigan won, and all that quarterback stuff was quickly forgotten until the next week and the week after and especially when Dreisbach got injured and Brian Griese was called forth from obscurity and inserted into the starting lineup. This was good in the long term. In the short term, it was brutal:
Michigan quarterbacks combined for 16 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, completed about 53% of their passes, and struggled to crack seven yards per attempt with an All-Star cast of future NFL receivers: Amani Toomer, Jay Reimersma, Mercury Hayes.
So none of that was particularly good but the team didn’t exactly implode. Tim Biakabutuka ran and ran and ran and then ran some more in a 31-23 win over Ohio State and Michigan went 9-4. Not a nuclear waste site by any stretch of the imagination. So… there’s a chance.
This year, your nominal starter is the walk-on and the freshmen appear set to wait in line. Nick Sheridan (left) is the walk-on. He’s the son of Bill Sheridan, currently the linebackers coach for the Giants and for three years a defensive position coach under Lloyd Carr. He was honorable mention all conference in high school. He’s about six foot, maybe six one, supposedly more mobile than the competition but more limited in terms of arm strength. And that’s all anyone knows about him.
What limited intelligence we have from practice reports indicates Sheridan is a typical Northwestern quarterback, noodle-armed but bright and mobile-ish. He’s been more consistent than the competition, throws well on the run, and contrary to rumor can heave the ball farther than five yards, as this video of the “Beanie Bowl” indicates. He could be a non-liability who successfully keeps the heat off the other skill position players, and how’s that for Backhanded Compliment Of The Year?
Sheridan’s main competitor is redshirt freshman Steven Threet (right), who enrolled early at Georgia Tech only to bolt for Michigan when Jason Forcier saw the writing on the wall and transferred. In January the writing reformed itself to read “please come back Jason,” but what can you do? Hypothetical newspaper-bearing time travel guy should stop screwing with Michigan fans and tell Forcier to stick it out.
Threet is a classic dropback artillery piece in the Navarre/Mallett/Grbac mold, 6’5” and ponderous. He was a well-respected recruit, getting four stars from the gurus and landing in the top ten pro-style quarterbacks, but reports from practice have him tentative, erratic, and slow both mentally and physically. In the winter he was lauded as an emerging leader who the team actually liked, unlike that Mallett guy; this has not translated to the field. Sheridan’s likely to struggle at some point and Rodriguez keeps saying he wants “two guys he can win with,” so Threet will see the field at some point. He’s reputed to have a bigger arm and more big-play potential… for both teams.
Freshman Justin Feagin talks a great game. He’s got the meaningless puff quote down cold. See this on Pryor:
"What if he does go to Michigan? Shame on me if I sit back and think he's better than me. If he wants to play quarterback, we'll have to fight each other for the job. If I win the job, then I'll know I beat out the No. 1 quarterback in the nation."
He’s also a heck of an athlete, the small-school player of the year in Florida last year and third in their Mr. Football voting. LSU and Miami offered him as a WR/DB.
Unfortunately, he does not appear to be much of a quarterback at this point. Rodriguez claimed Feagin would “have to make an impression in the first two weeks” if he was going to be a serious candidate for playing time; a recent curtailment of his snaps indicates this impression has not been made. A week or so ago, Rodriguez made it clear he was not an option early: “He's not close to being ready.”
I do have some inside baseball indicating that the coaching staff expects to work him in at some point during the season just to see what he can do; the most likely outcome is a few drives here and there that end poorly and a position swap once Beaver and Newsome hit campus in January.
If David Cone sees the field something has gone very wrong.
Running Back & Fullback
|Brandon Minor||Jr.||Mark Moundros||Jr.*|
|Carlos Brown||Jr.||Vince Helmuth||So.|
|Sam McGuffie||Fr.||Kevin Grady||Jr.*|
Like quarterback, Michigan loses a four-year starter and program icon here. Unlike quarterback, there are six options of at least moderate viability and chances are some player or combination of players emerges into a strong Big Ten starter. Four players were listed as co-starters on the first depth chart; they’re discussed here.
|State's too easy|
|Zone during The Horror|
|ND’s too easy|
|MN is too easy|
Brandon Minor is your nominal starter. After a few exciting glimpses his freshman year, Minor proved to be just okay in the more extended audition granted by Hart's ankle problems. Minor was healthy during the spring while Brown was not and is reputed by all to be a demonic worker, so he is the first back in practice. For whatever reason, though, I remain skeptical of his ability. I went back and scoured the UFRs, finding these comments:
Minor is an obvious step down [from Mike Hart].
Brandon Minor missed an obvious read on one of the carries I charted above; I think the running back job is going to be wide open next year. Minor runs really upright and seems perpetually on the verge of getting his clock cleaned; he also clearly lacks Hart's ability to pick through traffic. The spin move on Zbikowski was sweet, though.
Both Brown and Minor showed some indication they will be decent to good Big Ten runners next year.
Minor, I thought, was the better of the backs, consistently running with power and picking up YAC.
That's not entirely helpful when I'm trying to make the case for someone else to start.
Numbers might be: he averaged 4.3 yards a carry, eight tenths of a yard off both Hart and Carlos Brown's 5.1. Even if you hack Brown's 85 yard touchdown against Minnesota down to Minor's long of 46 yards (also picked up against Minnesota), Brown holds a significant edge in YPC.
Minor runs too upright and stiff for my tastes. He's clearly slower than Brown and the fleet freshmen, has little wiggle, and tends to plow over and through defenders instead of trying to avoid them. Sometimes this ends with Minor spectacularly trucking someone; sometimes it ends with Minor taking a wicked shot from a headhunting linebacker or safety.
In the best case, Barwis gives Minor the half-step he needs to get the corner and he’s a poor man’s version of Darren McFadden. In the worst case he’s David Underwood. He must be physically dominant to be effective because he's not going to make people miss much and he doesn't have Hart's remarkable balance. IMO, he gets his fair share of carries throughout the year but is clearly less effective than at least one other tailback and possibly two.
|Loping vs Purdue|
|Tripping over Leman|
|Nice first down|
Carlos Brown has a knack for picking up annoying hand injuries. Last year Brown busted his hand in fall practice and missed the early portion of the season; in spring he cut or broke his finger or something in a “freak weightlifting accident.” I suspect Barwis bit it off and spent the summer growing a replacement in a jar.
He was also the more impressive non-Hart tailback in 2007, deploying his speed to good effect and, as noted, coming out of last season with a Hart-matching 5.1 YPC thanks to the exceptional generosity of Minnesota’s defense.
After his first extended action I summarized him like so:
He seems like the exact opposite of Hart: a guy with questionable vision and little in the way of moves who has the speed to jet into the endzone if you give him a crease (and he sees it). The questionable vision could be due to inexperience -- he spent the spring at defensive back, then broke his hand -- and might develop in the future; Hart-like moves are not likely to. His two slashing touchdown runs were encouraging and he seems much less likely to get decapitated by a charging safety than Minor; he'll have a shot at the job next year. We're likely to see a four- or even five-headed rotation early.
Brown's been moonlighting at quarterback in what must feel like a reprise of his high school career, when he was a quarterback in name only tasked with using his extraordinary athleticism to take Incredibly Surprising Quarterback Draws further than they had any right to go. If Brown does take live snaps at QB, it will be part of a Wildcat (or wild mustelidae) package; he's little threat to throw the ball except as a diversion.
Brown was a big recruit and has the sort of outside speed that Steve Slaton did; I think he’ll end up with the slight edge.
Sam McGuffie needs no introduction. Mixtape ho:
He flips over people for fun. People leap over him for fun. When he leaps over people for fun and there is no fun because people tackle him they post it on Youtube like it’s a big deal. He is an internet phenomenon. If you try to bring any of these things up to him he will scowl at you. His teammates call him “Vanilla Ice,” which no doubt also draws scowls.
I’m on record expecting McGuffie to kick ass:
I'm not one of those who scoffs at recruiting rankings, but their [Rivals’] continued skepticism about McGuffie is puzzling. He has the offers (Michigan, Florida, USC amongst a host of others), the stats at perhaps the highest level of competition available in high school football, and reel after reel of jaw-dropping highlights. He has the fourth-highest SPARQ rating in the history of whatever the hell a SPARQ rating is because he showed up at a combine before his junior year of high school and ripped off a 4.32 40, a 3.83 shuttle -- I'm not exactly sure if my calculations are correct, but I believe this means he finished the shuttle before he started it -- and a 41' vertical leap.
He's a little small, and his his disappointing senior season was injury-wracked to the point where his nationally televised showcase game saw him spinning 180 degrees before contacting tacklers and driving meekly at the feet of oncoming blitzers, but even the skeptical Rivals named him last year's best running back in space and publicly wondered why he was heading for Michigan instead of a school that would spread him all over the field like Wes Welker—white guy, natch—and take advantage of his crazy speed and cutting ability.
Uh, check. He’s nominally first on the depth chart already, and will see time all over the field. It begins.
A second freshman, Ohioan Michael Shaw (video), was listed as a wide receiver on the fall roster but features as a tailback on the depth chart. He was a running back in high school; he figures to spend quite a bit of time motioning to and from the slot.
The hype is building on Shaw because he chose the right time to juke a couple defenders and plow slot-sized freshman cornerback Boubacar Cissoko. The media was there doling out oohs and aahs as appropriate and a practice legend is born.
There’s more to Shaw than proficiency in the “Michigan drill,” though. He hovered just outside the recruiting sites’ top 100 lists and spent the spring tearing up the track until he was banned for transfer-related shenanigans. He is fast. And he is fast. And he is fast. At the Penn Relays, Shaw won the 200 meters and anchored his team’s winning 4x100 and 4x200 relays, causing his coach to break down in tears:
“I’ve been coaching since the ‘60’s,” Coach Waggoner said of his 46.4 anchor, Mike Shaw, “and I’ve coached a lot of guys, but he’s one of the best.”
He is fast.
He is also other things. McGuffie's not the only guy drawing superlative praise from Fred Jackson. Jackson on the nagging injuries picked up by the starters:
"Those two guys right there, I PROMISE you that you stay nicked up too long, it's going to hurt you tremendously,'' Jackson said.
Because Shaw and McGuffie can play right now, he said.
Shaw and McGuffie are two of the most exciting freshmen he has ever coached at Michigan, he continued.
They're Justin Fargas fast, but can cut better.
Fargas-who-can-cut is this program’s Loch Ness monster.
Avery Horn is fast as hell but redshirted last year because he wasn't ready to play in college. He ripped off a couple impressive runs in what passed for the spring game but has received little mention in the fall and seems far down the depth chart. Michigan picked freshman Mike Cox over top-100 instate back Jonas Gray when both attended the Michigan camp; he was a middling recruit with offers from Maryland and BC and will probably redshirt.
Both players who saw time return, but the position has changed significantly. Under Lloyd Carr the fullback was a thick-necked ogre tasked with smashing his face into linebackers. He was the target of maybe three or four passes a year and never, ever got to take a handoff (no, BJ Askew doesn’t count).
At West Virginia, Rodriguez deployed a thick-necked ogre who ripped off a 50-some yard touchdown against Oklahoma. Owen Schmitt was the hammer on option dives and an important outlet in the passing game; he touched the ball 59 times last year. Michigan fullbacks, as a unit, had three catches for eleven yards, all of them no doubt on third and long. This is why Rodriguez doesn’t actually have a “fullback.” Rather, he’s got an “MX” back, and he’s got to block and catch and run.
This is a projection based on some practice reports and common sense, but once Kevin Grady manages to process the copious amounts of alcohol no doubt still flowing through his veins, he might be the guy here. Grady doesn’t really fit in with the new offense except as a downhill runner and blocker and now that the "fullback" is a guy who is actually an important cog in the offense he might be amenable to a move, especially if/when it becomes clear that players quicker than he have a death grip on all the tailback carries.
Mark Moundros and Vince Helmuth are the more traditional options. You can find reasons either has an advantage over the other: Moundros is older and was the starter last year; Helmuth was more highly rated, should improve more quickly, and operated as a battering ram tailback at Saline High. I lean towards Helmuth.
Wide Receivers & Tight Ends
|Greg Mathews||Jr.||Toney Clemons||So.||Martavious Odoms||Fr.||Carson Butler||Jr.*|
|Junior Hemingway||So.||Darryl Stonum||Fr.||Terrence Robinson||Fr.||Mike Massey||Sr.*|
|James Rogers||So.||LaTerryal Savoy||Jr.*||Mike Shaw||Fr.||Kevin Koger||Fr.|
Despite the early departures of Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington to the NFL, Michigan has stockpiled a considerable amount of talent at wide receiver and tight end and the dropoff shouldn’t be severe. There will be a dropoff, though, as no one on the roster save maybe Darryl Stonum can hope to replicate Manningham’s explosive deep routes, and Stonum is just a freshman.
|Easy ND score|
|Pride comes before the fall|
Junior Greg Mathews is the most experienced returning player. As a sophomore he was Michigan’s third receiver, catching 39 passes for 366 yards. A YPC under 10 always signals possession receiver and that’s Mathews’ rep going into his first year as Michigan’s primary target. The upside here is Jason Avant, a reliable guy on a variety of short routes with outstanding hands and the strength to get off a jam. (We haven't actually seen the outstanding hands, yet, as Mathews has been reliable but unspectacular in the catching-stuff category, but Avant's reliability was only a theory before Braylon left.)
Mathews is unlikely to be much of a vertical threat, however, and a credible deep threat will be important when it comes to keeping safeties from breathing down Sheridan's neck.
Past Mathews things are uncertain. Four or five players vie for one and a half spots. Sophomore Toney Clemons spent the spring working out of the slot because the only other alternative was walk-on Jim Potempa, a player so obscure that the Michigan Stadium public address announcer messed up his name more than once during his half-dozen garbage time carries last year. With the arrival of the impressive, tiny duo of Martavious Odoms and Terrence Robinson, Clemons is likely to move back to the outside where he belongs... eventually. Robinson's "tweaked" knee, about which more later, leaves Michigan with one credible slot option and that's a true freshman. Expect Clemons to move inside and out regularly; his long term home should be on the outside.
Junior Hemingway suffered a severe ankle sprain in the fall and remained limited by it throughout fall camp. Though recruiting guru opinions on him varied wildly, Hemingway had a ton of early offers from national powers and turned in a productive senior year. He seemed ahead of Clemons when the two were freshmen, but the new coaching staff hasn't seen him healthy. He may not make a contribution until midseason. The impression I got from the limited time he saw last year and all the recruiting info I gathered is that Hemingway was a version of Marquise Walker, a spectacular leaper and potential jump-ball threat that lacked something in top-end speed.
One player not lacking in top end speed, Darryl Stonum, was Michigan’s highest-rated recruit in the 2008 class. An NFL prototype wide receiver out of Houston, Stonum picked Michigan over USC, Florida, and everyone else. He’s a candidate for immediate playing time after enrolling early and participating in spring practices, and has a top-end ceiling on par with any of Michigan’s terror wide receivers from years past.
Normally the most optimistic projection for Stonum’s freshman year would be something similar to that turned in by Mario Manningham—27 catches, 433 yards, 6 touchdowns—but the early enrollment should help him see the field earlier and more frequently. Forty or even fifty catches is not out of the question.
Stonum’s listed as a co-starter at one outside receiver position with surprise LaTerryal Savoy, who’s seen almost no time in his three years in the program to date. Savoy was a sleeper out of Louisiana with no other major offers and seemed destined for a career of total obscurity until the moment the depth chart came out with his name atop the list. It’s doubtful Savoy’s suddenly become a much better receiver, so the bet here is that once Hemingway’s injury and Stonum’s inexperience subside so will Savoy’s prominence on the depth chart. He could be a Tyrece Butler sort who hauls in 10-12 catches.
Those five will be your main targets on the outside. If there is a severe need Michigan could strip the redshirt off freshman Roy Roundtree, the kid who decommitted from Purdue and set off the whole snake oil brouhaha. He’s gotten a few approving mentions from Rodriguez during his hourly press conferences, but Roundtree is about 6’3” and weighs as much as slot ninjas a half-foot shorter than him. A redshirt seems advisable.
Zion Babb and James Rogers are in hot competition for the title of most egregiously wasted redshirt of 2007; both bounced to and from the secondary, seeing meaningless snaps that did little to prepare them for roles they’re not going to have this year anyway. Neither was big recruit. Rogers was a high school running back plucked from obscurity at Michigan’s camp; Babb was a middling recruit out of California. Rodriguez hasn’t mentioned either of them this fall and playing time is likely to be sparing. Rogers is reputed to be ahead of Babb.
The arrival of Rich Rodriguez brings with it a smurfy new position: slot receiver. In the spread ‘n shred these guys are the targets of all manner of different things that aim to get a little electron-sized bastard in open space against a linebacker or safety: option pitches, bubble screens, reverses, etc. This is all terribly exciting, as Michigan now threatens to have four or five Steve Breastons on the roster at all times. This should be a great boon in the return game; in the context of the offense it provides a ton of YAC opportunities that reduce the burden placed on the quarterbacks.
Michigan had none of these guys on the roster, or even in the recruiting class, until Rodriguez came aboard, but in the brief time allotted him he filled the position with authority. Martavious Odoms is from small-school Florida powerhouse Pahokee. His recruitment was extremely strange. He picked up an early offer from Notre Dame, and some months later he had a truly impressive collection for a 5’8” guy: Iowa, Rutgers, South Carolina, LSU, Oregon, Alabama, Tennessee, Auburn, and Rodriguez’s then-home of West Virginia.
Odoms’ reaction to all this was to sit around doing nothing in particular as most of those schools filled up their classes. There was a cursory visit to Auburn, some discussion of USF and a grayshirt offer from Miami—by then so jammed with players they were trying to get Odoms to campus as a track athlete—and then signing day came and Odoms... did nothing. He ended up signing a few days later, and Michigan fans scrambled to find out just who the heck this kid was.
He's small to the point where he only exists on alternate Tuesdays but he's been playing on Pahokee's varsity since he was 14 (he was an eighth grader at the time) and was smoking guys in the state championship game by the time he was a sophomore. Unlike many guys Odoms' size, he's always been a receiver, and few players can claim to have the extensive in-game experience he has. Practice reports have been universally positive, praising his hands, toughness, silky-smooth moves and ability to make the first tackler miss. I go back to what a Floridian high school football veteran and Friend of Blog told me unprompted when Odoms committed:
He's a tough SOB. Small cat, really tough, will remind you of Steve Smith. Very, very fast. I'm a huge Martavious Odoms fan, you'll love him.
Watch out for him; this is one of those guys you see named “Moss” playing for Miami and think to yourself "goddamn why can't we ever have kids like that?" Practice reports are very encouraging; he sounds like a Steve Breaston if Breaston had been a natural-born receiver. He’s listed as the starter in the slot for Utah. You will see plenty of him.
Meanwhile, Terrence Robinson’s recruitment got off to a slow start because a junior-year transfer forced him to sit out 2006; when he saw the field for Klein Oak in 2007 he outrushed, outplayed, and outshone top-100 Texas commit DeShaun Hales. He also did this:
Odoms spent five years at Pahokee smoking opponents and winning state championships while Robinson sat out with a transfer and played quarterback and running back and such; even if Robinson hadn’t “tweaked” his knee Odoms would be the odds on favorite to start in the slot. Robinson will be out for a few weeks and then work his way into the lineup.
|Iowa cross #2|
|Very bad block|
Rich Rodriguez is going to have to use his tight ends a lot more than he did at West Virginia, because he’s got six of them and one has the potential to be ridiculously good as long as he’s not asked to block anyone ever. That fellow is Carson Butler, who came back from Lloyd Carr purgatory to claim the starting tight end spot after Mike Massey’s season-ending knee injury against Northwestern. Butler is the combination of freakish athletic gifts and frustrating mental errors that always gets dubbed “enigmatic” and this preview will be no exception: Carson Butler is one enigmatic mofo.
His promise is obvious. In the Citrus Bowl, he took a tight end screen and loped 65 yards downfield (skip to 2:00) with the bulk of the Florida secondary in pursuit; no one on the Florida team could make up ground and it took a safety with an angle to force him out inside the ten. That is a very fast man in an improperly large body. Properly deployed, he could be an All-American.
Butler’s drawbacks were equally severe, though. He false-starts with frustrating regularity. Asking him to block a pass rusher is asking for a helmet in your quarterback’s ribs. This outing against Michigan State was a typical performance:
Ugly, ugly, ugly, especially on the part of Butler, not only complete fail in pass protection but also the culprit on several run plays that went nowhere and the recipient of two critical penalties, one a stupid personal foul and the other a comically inept holding call on Michigan's final drive.
Is it much of a mismatch when your super-athletic tight end blocks like a 180 pound wide receiver? Not really. Evidently Rodriguez agrees since Butler is listed as an OR with not only Mike Massey but freshman Kevin Koger.
I have no idea what to expect out of Butler this year. He could be an All-American caliber performer (he’s unlikely to get enough catches to be an actual All-American) in a contract year for him. He could lose his job in week two.
Mike Massey, meanwhile, returns from that knee injury. In three years of sporadic onfield action, Massey hasn’t done much except almost make a couple of spectacular catches. He was the tentative starter last year until the injury in the Northwestern game. He seems totally average, a guy who will catch the balls he should and make most of the blocks he should but excel in no way whatsoever.
Freshman Kevin Koger picked Michigan over Ohio State and has been mentioned as someone who could see playing time this fall; he is the third co-starter on the depth chart. The most likely outcome is a smattering of snaps in preparation for a starting job next year.
Martell Webb was Butler’s backup once Massey went down and sometimes the temporary starter when Butler had seriously pissed off the coaching staff; he made no catches and drew no notice in UFRs. He did have an excellent block against Minnesota, for whatever that’s worth. Webb was a nobody recruit when he committed to Michigan, but ended up a four-star to both Scout and Rivals; he’s also that 6’5” basketball player that’s all the rage at TE. He could be pretty good if given the opportunity. Given the surfeit of tight ends on the roster and some reported issues with drops in practice he probably won’t get that opportunity until 2009.
Steve Watson redshirted last year and seems to be way down the depth chart. Sparing playing time at best for him; watch for a potential move to the OL. Brandon Moore has an imposing frame at 6’6” and had been offered by a who’s who of college football programs by the time he committed to Michigan, but has gone totally unremarked upon this fall and seems a likely redshirt. If he fills out like whoah a move to tackle might be a possibility, but in high school he was regarded as a no-block TE with excellent hands.
|Mark Ortmann||Jr.*||Tim McAvoy||Jr.*||David Molk||Fr.*||David Moosman||So.*||Steve Schilling||So.*|
|Perry Dorrestein||So.*||Ricky Barnum||Fr.*||Rocko Khoury||Fr.||John Ferrara||So.*||Dann O'Neill||Fr.|
Perhaps the saddest indicator of the potential looming tragedy that is the Michigan offensive line is this: last year this depth chart went three deep. There’s no one but freshmen unlisted this year and, uh… four freshmen in the actual two-deep as hypothesized above.
The line took a hit it could not afford to sustain when certain starter and once upon a time touted recruit Cory Zirbel went down with a knee injury, forcing either David Molk or hastily converted defensive lineman John Ferrara into the starting lineup. Michigan is now one injury away from serious issues indeed.
Steve Schilling is the only returning starter on the line. Unfortunately for Michigan, last year he was frankly bad. There are a ton of mitigating factors—a freshman-year bout with mononucleosis was followed by a shoulder injury that spring, so he was basically being thrown on the field as a true freshman—but bad is bad. Vernon Gholston shattered him into little bits in the OSU game, which saw Shilling rack up a record –12 in pass protection. After the Illinois game he came in for a bit of criticism:
The problems in pass protection have been matched with frequent issues in the run game. One sack and a dangerously batted pass were on him as he failed to contain Illinois DE Doug Pilcher. At the moment, the great hope of the 2007 offensive line, that Schilling and Boren would turn out to be better than the departed Bihl/Riley combo, has not come to fruition. It looks highly unlikely to get there any time this year.
There is the potential for massive improvement here. Practice observers have indicated that Schilling now looks like a bonafide collegiate lineman after being far too small last year. As a freshman starter and former five-star recruit the expectation is he takes a major leap forward. He’d better.
Mark Ortmann draws the unenviable task of attempting to replace the #1 pick in the NFL draft. This is his fourth year in the program and practice reports had him on the verge of starting for the last two seasons, but there was presumably a reason he was stuck behind the uninspiring Schilling last year. This year he’s Michigan’s starting left tackle virtually by default, as there is one other non-freshman tackle on the roster. He could be okay. He could be really bad. We have no indicators either way.
David Moosman slides into Zirbel’s spot at right guard. He’s not from Wisconsin despite this blog’s repeated insistence that he is. He’s from Illinois, and I have inside info that he’s very nice to his GSIs. Moosman was a four-star recruit who picked Michigan over Wisconsin and is entering his third year in a college program, so he could be good.
Dave Molk is a feisty, undersized center from Illinois who was one of only two offensive line recruits in Lloyd Carr’s final Michigan class. He fits much better in this system than Carr’s, as it emphasizes his mobility and places a much smaller premium on size, but Rodriguez made it clear he was battling John Ferrara for a starting job. Two weeks ago Ferrara was a defensive lineman. Crap.
Tim McAvoy saw sporadic time last year at both guard spots due to injury and general lethargy on the part of others. Like Ortmann, he nas stuck behind an extremely uninspiring starter (Alex Mitchell) and doesn’t have much in the way of recruiting hype to fall back on. He’s been a defacto starter since the departure of Mr. Plow; lord knows if he’s going to be any good.
There are virtually no backups as long as Cory Zirbel's knee injury persists, and the word from Rodriguez is that could be the entire season. Mark Huyge exists, I guess, but he’s a redshirt freshman Michigan snatched away from the MAC. He’s unlikely to be ready. He’s also got a high ankle sprain and will miss a chunk of the season. As mentioned, John Ferrara was whiling his time away at defensive tackle until the Zirbel injury forced a position switch. Ferrara’s never blocked in his life. He may start.
At tackle, Perry Dorrestein is most famous for having his one-point-something GPA outed by the Ann Arbor News; insider buzz has been totally silent on him. He was a decent recruit.
It’s down to true freshmen, then. Rodriguez has specifically said these guys are not ready to play but the situation might demand it of them. Guard Ricky Barnum is the least unprepared. He was a highly-rated Florida commit until Rodriguez wandered by with his snake oil cart and has gotten some public praise; he’s probably the second guy off the bench in the event of issues with the interior line. Rocko Khoury has been garnering praise as a center and will start the season in the two deep.
God willing, four other freshmen will redshirt. Tackle Dann O’Neill was a top-100 recruit and has great upside but is not prepared to play this year. Kurt Wermers and Patrick Omameh would never, ever see the field in a normal year but this is not a normal year and they could wander onto the field if things get dire. Elliot Mealer is out with a shoulder injury suffered in the tragic Christmas Eve crash that killed his father and girlfriend.