landing spot. will be interesting to see how he does.
How are the young kids doing right now on the defensive front?
“They’re a work in progress. I think the one thing with our young kids -- we’ve given them a lot of reps, but they’ve only had one week. The problem with them is having the academics that they’ve had … the two weeks of that, we really haven’t had them as long as you would have at most places. We’ve tried to accelerate our freshmen. They probably have never gone through everything like this with a coach on every step they take. We put them in situations where they’re like a starter, and say get in there with the first unit. With that comes the mistakes that you have that you don’t have if you’ve been there for a long time. We’ve tried to accelerate them and get them as fast as they can to make up for that time.”
(Click "Read more" below to, well, read more.)
“Well. I can tell you this. It’s fun to be back out there. Do I look like I’m 25? Because I sure feel like it. Tell you what, it’s fun to be out there catching again. It’s fun. That’s what you do it for.”
How long do you hope to keep doing it?
“I don’t know, maybe 30 more years. Who knows? As long as Brady keeps me. Who knows, he might not want to keep me very long. Who knows. I tell you what, this part of the season is what you really really look forward to coach. This is the teaching time. This is the molding of your team. Wellman, he gets the lucky part. He has them more time than anybody now with the new rules. But we get to have them and get to coach them and get to be around them. Especially when you’ve got some great kids and you’ve got some guys who are fun to coach, and that’s how the first couple days have been.”
What can you glean from just a few practices?
“Nothing really other than they have worked hard in the offseason. You don’t know anything until the pads come on. I think on the defensive side of it, though, when you install the defenses, because there’s carry-over -- they’re a lot more alert. They understand it a lot better. Last year at this time it was probably like they were talking a foreign language. Now they kind of understand it. When that happens now you can get into the little things that make that defense better because they do understand it. I’ve been pleased with their awareness and their interest in learning.”
What do you mean by little things they pick up on?
“Well, like in every defense, for example, you can draw it up and you can say, ‘You have this gap, you have this responsibility, you should align like this,’ but when a guy really starts understanding what the whole defense is about, then you can say, ‘Okay, when they’re in this formation, I can expect this.’ Or ‘when they motion like this, beware of this.’ You’ll hear a corner, for example, yelling out on the motion to the linebacker now, ‘Get ready for the end.’ Well a year ago they’re just hoping they’re aligned right. And just kind of trying to play their responsibility. And those are the kinds of things that happen once you’ve had the same group for a couple years.”
Last year it took a little while for the defensive line to gel. Will it be quicker for this group?
“I don’t know. I don’t know, and I’m not trying to be vague. You never know about your team until the bullets start flying, until you start really really getting tired, getting banged up, hitting. How does a team react then? That’s something why Brady runs a very very physical camp, and that’s why that part of it is something you have to work through and you have to make sure you can handle it, because that’s what it is in the Big Ten conference, so we don’t know that.”
MGoQuestion: Have you bought into the philosophy of rotating defensive linemen?
“That’s always something I like to do. You have to find out who earns the right. It’s always been a deal that you earn the right to be on the field as a Michigan football player. I don’t care what the reason is or why there should be a guy going in there. You don’t go in there until you earn the right. In fact I’ve been at places before where the starter would get after the second team guy because he wasn’t doing well enough because he needed somebody to come in for him. If you’re a great football player, you need a little bit of a break every once in a while in a tough, physical game, but you don’t want somebody to go in there that can’t handle his responsibility and help that team win. That’s what this is all about, to find out who -- is it 15 guys? Is it 11? Is it 12 guys? Is it 20 guys? Who earns the right to be out there during the heat of a game.”
Have you had the chance to look at Jake Ryan as a rush end?
“No. We’ve only had two practices. That goes along with the same idea that you put your best 11 on the field wherever they are. Obviously if a guy’s used to playing one position and you have to move him, you may not be as good. But that other guy coming in, the combination of the two might make you just as good.”
How comfortable are you with the thought of him playing there?
“I can tell you this: any time Jake Ryan is on the field, I feel good. Based on how he has worked and -- now again, he has to go through this camp also, but Jake Ryan has really really worked extremely hard. I’ll be interested to see how he does because now it’s [not] new to him either. I don’t know what he gained. He had a very very good offseason as far as strength gains and weight gains and that sort of thing, too.”
Do you have enough confidence in Cam Gordon to move Jake Ryan down?
“Based on the spring and based on last year, I’d say yes. The key again -- everything starts all over today. That’s what everybody has to understand. It doesn’t matter that Craig Roh has started three years. Everything starts all over again every season. You expect a guy that has played three years to really be advanced in how he plays. Cam Gordon went from safety to SAM linebacker. That was a transition for him. He’s gained weight, he’s gotten stronger, now let’s see how he does when we start hitting, and then you’ll know.”
Has Thomas Gordon been able to pick up where he’s left off?
“Again, all I can go by is what Aaron says that they did in the offseason and two practices. Based on that, I’m very optimistic. Maybe a week from now. Maybe two weeks from now …”
You set statistical goals for your defense. When do you start talking about those as a team?
“We have set goals that we have written on a board, written on a wall -- that’s every year. Those goals are based on Michigan. Those goals are based on what is expected to be a winning defense. Those goals are set so that if you reach those, you’re playing Michigan defense. Every team that comes in has to get it to that level to be able to do that. We don’t lower our standard for what we see on the practice field. We have to raise the practice and the talent and the level and that kind of thing to get to that goal … Everything that you do in a practice: pursuit drill, running to the football, tackling, technique work, all of those are what allow a player to then get the numbers that make those goals. That’s our job as coaches and that’s their jobs as players is to work to get good enough to obtain those goals.”
What are some of those goals?
“Well the nubmer one goal is win. That’s the number one goal on our goal board. There’s a third down goal. I don’t know the numbers -- there’s a point goal. All those things. I don’t talk about those in public. They’re in our team, but they know exactly what the number of points you would love to hold them under to be successful.”
Are they realistic goals?
“Do you think I’d give an unrealistic goal? Let me just say this: I think last year, I think they probably obtained a number of those goals in a number of games. Again, I don’t mean to say anything -- all I’m saying is when you look at great football teams, and what it takes to win, you establish set parameters that you have to do. Third downs, red zone, turnovers, missed tackles, all those kinds of things, and then you set what you have to do to be successful in NCAA football. And they know they have to achieve that. If you achieve it you should win, and that’s what the bottom line is.”
Do those goals stiffen in your second year?
“No. You don’t put the goals to what you [or] somebody perceives as your talent level. You put the goals of whoever is playing defensive football has to do to be successful. I would imagine, out of 124 NCAA teams, a lot of them would have the exact same goals. That is kind of what is the formula for winning on defense. So you, as a coach, you have to make sure your players are doing what they have to do to achieve those goals.”
How much more responsibility does Frank’s absence put on Brennen Beyer?
“I think you always have to have -- no matter who it is -- you always have to have a plan B. You always have to have that, and you never go in there with the idea of, ‘Okay, I got a good guy here. I hope he stays healthy.’ No matter what, you always have to have two and you’d like to have three deep of guys -- and they’re always competing. When you have a great defense, then that guy that’s number two or number one, he might want to look over his shoulder, because there’s always somebody that’s going to be there to take the position. I think you always have to go in with that idea.”
MGoQuestion: How has Brennen Beyer’s weight gain (20-30 lbs from spring) affected his speed?
“In the first two practices, again, no pads -- the biggest thing is probably he feels very comfortable at that position now. So he’s had a whole spring going from the SAM linebacker standing up to have his hand on the ground all the time. I don’t think it was 20-some pounds. I think he was like 10 pounds and he got a lot stronger. He just seems more and more comfortable there. That’s what he played in high school, and I think he really feels good about that position.”
The players say they’re more comfortable with you. Are you more comfortable with them?
“I don’t know if you’re more comfortable. I like these guys, I can tell you that. I like these guys because all I do is watch them from when the season was over with through the winter conditioning through summer conditioning, in two practices -- you know what, these are our kind of guys. Whenever you had good people that work really hard and try to be Michigan, then all you can do as a coach is try to do everything you can so that they can feel like Mike and Ryan and those guys did when they walked off the field that last game. You do everything you can so that they can be successful. They’ve been very alert. They’re a fun group to be around. I told them today when [I walked] in there, I said, ‘God, the greatest time of the day is this meeting,’ because you see all those guys and they’re attentive and all that.”
What have you seen from Alabama’s offensive line on film?
“No question. I’m with Brady 100% on that. Watched a lot of film on them. We studied them all offseason. You watch them and they’re very very talented. They’re very physical, and they’re very big, and they’re very experienced. They’re a very very good offensive line.”
What kind of reports have you gotten from Aaron Wellman on Ondre Pipkins?
“It’s so early, you know. You have a guy who a month ago he’s in a class somewhere in high school, and then all of a sudden he’s at the University of Michigan. It’s just too early.”
Has Kenny Demens stepped up to his leadership role as senior middle linebacker?
“So far Kenny’s been like the other backers -- he’s doing what the’s supposed to be doing. Again, when the pads come on and we start hitting, and you’re in the dog days and everything like that, now you can kind of label a guy a leader. That’s where you earn it. These two practices right here, that’s just coming out and doing what you’re supposed to do. It’s not really where you measure anybody. ”
When will you hit for the first time?
“I don’t know. Is it Friday? Friday, full pads. I thought we were hitting the last two days -- I wasn’t sure, ya know, we were … That’s the other thing that Brady’s done a great job of. When you get a more mature team or a team that’s been around the same system, they learn how to practice. Nobody on the ground. And you can get a pretty physical, pretty aggressive practice with no pads on because they protect each other but still go really hard. That’s what you see if you watch an NFL practice. In the rules, they don’t even allow them to wear pads most of the time. They still get some really good practices. And that’s the same thing that we’ll try to do more, too.”
How do you explain last years’ turnover success?
“The one reason is because in our system, we strip in every phase of practice. So any time a ball carrier is running with the football, our defense is trying to get that ball out. When you're not doing live tackling, we’re doing strip--you’re always tugging at that football. The biggest reason--the biggest reason why we had more success on turnovers is because guys ran to the football. The reason you get turnovers is because guys are around the ball. Think of how many times you’ve seen a game where a guy fumbles and the ball’s just lying there and you're going, ‘Come on, somebody get on it!’ Well a huge part of our defense is effort and running to the football because when you do that, you’re going to have more success tackling and you’re going to have a chance to get turnovers, and that’s big for us.”
And is that something you have to teach the freshmen?
“Definitely. We’ll do circuits in practice with that where we’ll practice that, and they see it real clear. Our upperclassmen have done a great job of trying to pseed up the freshmen on what is expected. So much as where you’re watching the tape and something goes on, a senior may say to them, ‘You don’t do it that way. This is Michigan.’”
Sponsor note: SPORTS POWER WEEKENDS will get you to a road game with POWER. /Herbstreit
Check them out to help the blog.
Pro combat. Via Tremendous, freshman OL Erik Magnuson and Kyle Kalis in a dorm hallway:
Magnuson should wear that on gameday. DEs would speed rush the wrong way.
Liveblog status update. I've checked out the comments left on the Liveblog Conundrum post and things seem split 60-40 in favor of CIL, but a couple of misconceptions may have swung that. To clarify:
- The embedded twitter feed hypothesized in the previous post would not be unmoderated. We would not be relaying the results of a hashtag. We would create a separate gameday twitter feed that would be part of the list that would exclusively retweet comments sent to it, a la CIL. There would be a base set of feeds like Ace, Heiko, Seth, myself, and Grant Wahl that would be in the list, and then various people who wanted to contribute to the list as commenters would send tweets to the gameday account.
- Kickstarter requires a deliverable, so their platform doesn't work for raising money for a service like this. We could do a generic donation drive for these things, but… it's moderated chat software. Paying these sorts of prices seems insane. Various people have brought up the idea of spinning up our own version, and I agree that is an attractive long-term solution but it's August and that is not an option for 2012.
- I don't see the "I might annoy people following my feed" and "I might not be as anonymous as I would like to be" issues as real problems. If anything, that kind of drag on posting would be beneficial to the over-stressed moderators. If you'd ever been in a CIL trying to figure out what to give an approve to you'd know. Caring about that sort of thing seems like a benefit.
- A commenter mentioned P2, a wordpress theme that turns a front page into… well, SB Nation comments. This would be great. It does not have a Drupal equivalent. I could try to incorporate it as a subdomain (live.mgoblog.com) but again, it's August and at this point it's time to embed or die.
Does that change any opinions?
Mattison in for the medium haul. I don't think it's a surprise that Mattison is planning on retiring at Michigan…
"The good thing that happens when you're older and you've been a lot of places is, a lot of (coaches) want to win so they can move on," Mattison said. "Me? Hey, this is my last stop. I just want to win because it's Michigan."
…but maybe Borges saying the same thing is news:
"Now that I'm here, not really -- not like I did 10, 15 years ago," Borges said in a recent interview when asked if he still hoped to be a head coach. "I never say never, but by the same token, I don't go looking for them. Used to be I did, but I'm done hunting down head coaching jobs. I'm in a place where I'm very happy and I just want to make this job the best job I can make it.
"This is a great place to coach and to be, and for someone to leave here, you better be able to justify it. And I just don't see any scenarios that could justify me leaving the University of Michigan."
How long would these guys be in place? Well, Mattison is 62 and Borges 56. Norm Parker just packed it in at 69 due to health issues and Mattison says he'll keep going as long as those don't prevent him from doing his job:
"At first, I thought I might do this for a few years," he said. "But after this last season ... my wife, she said it me, 'What else are you going to do? You are going to go golfing for about two weeks, and then you're going to go crazy.'
"'I said, 'You're right. I'm going to coach, as long as my health holds up, and as long as they want me, and as long as I can still keep doing the job.' "
So this staff will probably hang together until someone gets poached to be a coordinator elsewhere or Mattison retires.
We're serious now you guys. Glad to see that John Infante, the Bylaw Blog guy, also had a problem with UCF's wrist-slap penalty for its athletic director paying a street agent(!) and that I'm not a bloodthirsty maniac. Or if I am I'm not a lone bloodthirsty maniac. Infante:
What UCF was accused of was, on its face, one of the worst packages of NCAA violations in recent memory. Not only were both of its revenue sports using a runner (among others) to help recruit athletes and that runner was providing benefits to student-athletes, but all of this was with the knowledge, encouragement, and even active participation of the athletic director.
For all that, UCF got off relatively light. Twin postseason bans, scholarship losses and major recruiting restrictions are not a slap on the wrist. But considering the conduct, it could and should have been much worse. The NCAA would have been justified in laying to waste both of UCF’s most prominent sports for the rest of the decade
Infante hypothesizes that the COI is waiting for the new enforcement structure coming down from on high before doing anything serious to someone. Well, it's here:
A program found to have made a "serious breach of conduct" with aggravating circumstances could face postseason bans of two to four years. In addition, the program may have to return money from specific events or a series of events or the amount of gross revenue generated by the sport during the years in which sanctions occurred - fines that could cost a school millions of dollars.
If this sounds familiar, it should. After the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal at Penn State, the NCAA barred Penn State from playing in a bowl game or the college football playoff until after the 2016 season and levied a $60 million fine - the rough equivalent to a year of gross revenue from the football program.
Coaches, too, would face new guidelines. They would be presumed responsible for any violations committed by their staffs. If they cannot prove they were unaware, the head coach could be suspended from 10 percent of the season to the full season.
The board also approved a provision that would publicly identify individuals responsible for the violations if there is a finding of lack of institutional control or failure to monitor.
It won't be real until October, but it should be real then. Hopefully UNC and Miami are first on the chopping block.
I can foresee no problems with this. This is part of a generally sensible move towards slashing out big chunks of NCAA rule minutia:
Boosters would be allowed to contribute directly to the compensation of coaches, potentially controlling more of the terms under which coaches are paid, if a new NCAA proposal is adopted.
Under the plan, described in a 12-page NCAA document obtained by The Chronicle,boosters could come up with their own bonuses instead of giving their money to the athletic department and hoping that they would have the influence to get it written into a coach’s contract, one NCAA rules expert says.
I'm not sure who thought the problem with booster influence was that it was too restricted. I would like to tell this person that they're not right. The rest of the proposal seems fine by me: removing a bunch of recruiting restrictions implemented to maintain a "level playing field," including the contact restrictions men's basketball has already dumped.
Here's a person who is sane:
“The playing field is not and has never been and never will be level,” said James F. Barker, president of Clemson University and chair of the NCAA working group that came up with the proposed changes. “To say the NCAA should try to create a level playing field is impossible and is not a wise path to take.”
Here's a person who is not:
“I do not know if the proverbial ‘level playing field’ can ever be had,” Bill Zack, head women’s rowing coach at the University of Portland and president of the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association, wrote to the working group through an NCAA feedback form. “But I think it is problematic to outright acknowledge that it is OK to have institutional financial advantage."
There's a place for that, and it's called DIII.
shooters are shooting in code
Irvin hype. Rod Beard checks in with 2013 basketball recruit Zak Irvin and in doing so touches on the most remarkable aspect of Beilein's recruiting thus far:
"Irvin is probably the most improved kid in the state this year. He had a great year in high school and he's carried it over to AAU. He can really shoot, he's athletic at 6-7 and he's a lot like Hardaway," said Dan Dakich, who coached at Indiana University and now coaches an AAU team in the state.
"He's a better shooter than Hardaway coming out, but he's got that kind of length and can handle the ball and is comfortable on the perimeter. Beilein likes length and shooting ability and certainly those two kids can do that. I think they got two really good ones."
Over at ESPN, a couple of analysts confirm Dakich's assessment($). Paul Biancardi votes for Irvin as the best player he saw across two dozen AAU events…
His long-range jumper is accurate and if a defender gets too close, he will drive to the basket with a long first step. Plus, he has the size to score over defenders in the painted area. … Overall, he is a clutch performer, arguably the best player in the state of Indiana and the best player who helped his team win I saw all summer.
…and John Stovall plugs him as the guy most likely to rise in ESPN's rankings:
The Michigan commit has improved to the point where he is the best player in Indiana and one of the very best in the Midwest. He can play either wing position (SF or SG) and is a solid athlete who is much better off the dribble now with his improved handle. He can create space off the dribble and hit shots from midrange all the way to 22 feet. He is also better as a defender. He has nice length and athletic ability. Irvin is easily a top 50 player now and should be ready to play immediately at Michigan.
Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway, Glenn Robinson III, and now Irvin have all seen surges after their commitments as they pass various players Beilein has not recruited. (Hardaway and Burke had to wait to arrive on campus before getting the bump.) That's quite a streak. Talent evaluation: Beilein has it.
BONUS: rumble has it that Scout, the lone remaining Irvin skeptic, is about to come around whenever they update their rankings next.
We'll be seeing you in Michigan Stadium this fall. Congrats to Tyler Clary, the former Michigan swimmer who nailed down a 200M backstroke gold medal by beating favored Ryan Lochte last night-ish, then live-tweeted the replay.
We might not be seeing you in Michigan Stadium this fall, at least not early. Frank Clark's pretrial date is September 11th, which is after the Alabama and Air Force games. If Hoke goes by the Josh Furman precedent Clark will be out at least that long, but hopefully he won't since having Furman sit out spring practice for a piddling offense that was eventually dismissed seems detrimental to everyone.
Requirement: three people should have this jersey. The Wisterts' #11 is back in circulation as a legends jersey. Don't give it to Kovacs. Or Denard.
Minor hockey rule changes. Hand passes are now illegal everywhere, and defensive zone hand passes are subject to a no-change rule similar to icing. Deflecting a puck into the net with your skates is now cool as long as it's not kicked. (This rule will be changed within five years, because it always changes.) And defensive players slightly dislodging the net will not cancel goals like Michigan's second against Cornell last year. Which, like, finally.
Thumbs up on all of these. I think they should move the kicked-puck rule to a bright line: if the skate stays on the ice for the whole process, it's legit. If it comes off, it's not.
BONUS thing: Canadian university Simon Fraser is the NCAA's first international member. They'll enter at DII and will hopefully wrangle themselves a DI hockey program as soon as possible.
Etc.: NCAA widens bowl eligibility to 5-7 teams if they have a top five APR, which, just… come on man. Every bowl that would ever consider taking such a team is stealing money from college football with ticket guarantees to games that will have no one at them. Countdown To Kickoff kicks off. Also counts down.
[Ed-H: Bump. There, I did it. No more Urban Meyer.]
I got a little busy at work during the winter, and then recruiting magic was happening, and then I figured it was too late for this post. But finally I got a day off, and it's raining, and I've had these screencaps online for 6 months, and I've got literally nothing better to do for a few hours on this sunday. So here is the Nebraska game wrap (with pics!)
That was kind of unexpected. AND AWESOME! It was without a doubt our best game of the year. Heck it was our best game IN YEARS. It was maybe the best team performance since the 1997 PSU game, although I'm probably forgetting some good ones in between.
During the game, I remember thinking the score was pretty close and anything could happen until the turnovers made it a laugher. But after watching it a few times since then, we really did dominate in all phases of the game.
By the end of the 3rd, the stat sheet was pretty one-sided. They really only had 2 great plays all game. (Two plays that I highlighted in the preview post.... so maybe I'm not completely stupid. Still, I did rag on MSU's O-line which gelled pretty strongly by mid-season. ooops.)
Defending the option
Like most of the Michigan fan base, I have huge man crush on Mattison. The things he and his staff are doing, and the performances they're getting from our players are out of this world. I would love to just sit at his feet, follow him around, and absorb as much football knowledge as possible.
If you've accomplished as much as this man, people won't make a big deal out of you using your moobs to signal the playcall. (This GA knowns that peripheral vision is sometimes a weird thing.)
Defending the option is so simple, yet so hard. You need your players to know their assignments and play with decisiveness.Here is Jake Ryan demonstrating the textbook definition of "forcing the pitch".
Nebraska has this play blocked pretty much as you would draw it up. Ryan is the 'optioned' man who is unblocked. Martinez doesn't see the whole open up on the backside, but he's running to where the play is called. He's supposed to read Ryan and "make him wrong".
Jake's first step is lateral as if he's going to squeeze the zone on the slot receiver. But when he sees the option motion coming towards him, he cuts upfield with authority. Martinez reads him correctly, and it looks like this should be a decent gain for the Huskers.
Meanwhile, Mike Martin has beaten his block and is pursuing to stop cutbacks, and the secondary is coming up in run support.
Ryan's change of direction is so fast that Martinez can't get a good pitch off with his left hand. Burkhead managed to fall on the loose ball, but if he hadn't we had two guys coming up quickly and there would have been no way for Martinez to get it with his face planted in the ground. The moral of the story is that one way to defend the option is to make those options keep the ball and get killed, or pitch the ball and get killed.
Another way to stop the option is to get an unexpected defender free. Nebraska comes out in a 4-wide set to try to get a good personnel matchup. But we just stay in our base 4-3 so it doesn't matter when the TE comes down to the line of scrimmage.
Mike Martin explodes through the line and forces the pitch FROM THE BACK SIDE. That's impressive.
Meanwhile, Kovacs is up in run support and all over his assignment as you would expect from a player of his intelligence. He reacts so quickly that the blocker whiffs on him. And the pursuit isn't giving Burkhead anywhere to go.
Getting a 5 yard TFL on first down against your opponent's bread and butter play ... that's a good a thing.
Getting off blocks
One of the stark differences between last year's defense and .... uh ... others... was how well they were getting off blocks and getting to the ball. I don't want to disparage former defensive coaches...BUT the improvement was remarkable.
We're in our zone blitz package with Martin dropping and Demens rushing. Demens gets doubled. That's a pretty big weight disadvantage for him.
So he squares up and gets some arm's length separation from the defenders, one of whom starts looking for someone else to block.
Martinez decides the coverage is too good and thinks he can squirt through that passing lane. But both Demens and Ryan see it, react to it, and clamp down on that hole.
Ryan slaps the ball out. Check out how far away from the ball Van Bergen is. But he's got his head up, he's disengaged from his blocker, and he's pursuing the ball.
One funny bounce later and it's in RVB's hands. Brian keeps saying that fumble recoveries are just luck and 50-50 propositions. I would disagree and say the fumble recovery percentage is more of a function of the number of each team's players near the ball when the fumble happens. In this case, we were a little lucky because Nebraska had more guys near the ball. But if RVB isn't hustling and getting off his blocker, our chances of getting that ball go from slim to none. So yes, luck plays a part, but I don't believe it's JUST luck or that it will always regress to the mean..
And lets not forget the good hustle and technique which caused the fumble in the first place. Strip that ball!
(The other 85% after the jump)
a place Michigan won't be going
Do you think the recent schedule announcements that have us playing more quality non conference opponents are in anticipation of the selection committee favoring teams with a quality strength of schedule?
To me it seems more like an economic thing than an attempt to gain a competitive advantage. One of the benefits of being squeezed hard—or at least having a subsection of the fanbase that is now dumping millions of dollars into club seats and suites—is those fans are now expecting more for their money. As the price you're asked to pay for tickets approaches its value to you, improvements in the product matter. Eight years ago it didn't matter who Michigan scheduled as long as it was a home game. That's no longer the case, or at least it's close enough that the AD doesn't want to take chances.
Combine that with rising rates for tomato cans and the importance of television and college football's economics are moving back towards having more real games.
That said, I do think a schedule like the 2015 slate is a good one if you're good enough to be in the playoff discussion. If that's the case you should be beating the two Pac-12 teams you've signed up, and that may give you the edge over a team from another conference that played East Nowhere. Brandon is due credit for the way he's set up the next few years of nonconference games. Hopefully he secures a home and home worth interrupting the Notre Dame series for in the near future.
Money gap == performance?
I’ve seen several of your entries over the months talk about the growing financial disparity between the B1G and the rest of the BCS conferences. By all accounts the BTN has been a success and helped put the B1G on very sound financial footing, and has kept the other BCS conferences scrambling to find a way to match revenue (realignment, renegotiated TV contracts, etc.)
I don’t have any numbers, but I’m guessing that the B1G is about to enter a brief period where their revenues will outshine everyone in the BCS conferences and that gap will grow. Do you think this financial advantage will ever lead to a competitive advantage in football? Could more revenues, funneled down to the league members, create some national championships?
FWIW, I spoke with my brother (U-M grad and fan) about this and his opinion is that this might show up more in the middle and bottom of the league than at the top. Basically he says that seedy coaches, even seedier alumni boosters, regional talent bases and an obsessive focus on football can trump the money advantage.
What’s your take?
If we're talking about the will to power here, don't you think we would have already seen some of that impact? Minnesota and Illinois aren't reaching deep into their pockets to hire a Mahlzahn or similar, they're making the same hires they always have when they're not hiring patently unqualified nutcases: guys who've done well in the MAC. Northwestern's married to Fitzgerald for a long time, Iowa's going with Ferentz, Bill O'Brien was not exactly a power move by Penn State (though he is recruiting well out of the gate in trying circumstances)… the easiest and most legal way to flex your dollars is by hiring big time coaches, and the middle and bottom of the Big Ten aren't doing that.
It's actually at the top where we're seeing that money spent in buckets. Michigan hired a did-well-at-lower-level type coach but paid him handsomely, and now they're giving both coordinators SEC-type money. Ohio State paid Urban Meyer a ton of money to rescue them from tatgate. The only middle-of-the-road program that is using money to its benefit is Michigan State, which is managing to hold onto its DC for another year or two by paying him mad money. And even the Spartans have seen big chunks of their coaching staff leave—it's one reason MSU hasn't been able to get a high profile instate guy without huge grade question marks since Hoke arrived.
Part of this is just the attractiveness of the job. Is Sexy Coach X confident he can make waves at Minnesota? Probably not. He's worried that his front teeth will start growing… and that he'll end up like Glen Mason in the best case scenario. There's only so much dollars can buy you when the alternative is almost as many dollars and a better shot at long term-dollars (and success).
I don't think the Big Ten's lead in money is going to make for a noticeable competitive advantage. The margins aren't that high. The SEC dumped $18.3 million on its member schools last year, the Big Ten $22.6. That gap narrows once third-tier rights—which Big Ten schools have signed over to the BTN and SEC schools do get some money out of—are considered, and narrows even further when you spread that bounty over two dozen sports that are all clamoring for something. The money advantage is washed away by having more local talent and more dudes willing to ply that local talent with other local talent.
My long term Big Ten dominance hope: global warming.
But seriously folks, the Big Ten is going to be better in the future. Penn State no longer has the Paterno millstone around their neck, OSU isn't going anywhere, and Michigan will in short order be This Is Michigan again. A large part of the conference's reduced standing in recent years has been because the big powers weren't pulling their weight, and it looks like that's coming to a close. Add in Nebraska and more equal footing is coming. Perfectly equal? Probably not.
Yes, I'm going to keep answering this until people stop asking me about it.
I was wondering if you could explain the advantages to using the 4-3 over the 3-4 this year. Although I understand the theory behind the different systems, it seems like Michigan's depth and more proven talent is at linebacker. Instead of having two unproven guys up the middle in Black/Washington and Campbell/Ash/Pipkins, why not line up with the best space-filler of the DT's, and then have Morgan, Demens, Bolden/Hawthorne/Gordon (the best of the three), and Ryan all lining up at LB. This would give us an option with fewer question marks and would allow Mattison to have some more fun with his blitz packages, which can generally be far more varied in 3-4 systems than in 4-3.
There are three main reasons Michigan's going with the 4-3 under this year.
ONE: IT IS GREG MATTISON'S DEAL, MAN. When I checked out Mattison's presentation at a Glazier Clinic earlier this year, he briefly paused at one point and said something along the lines of "if you think you can defend with three linemen, God bless you, but at Michigan we're using four. We'll be here for hours if you want to debate with me." Mattison's a 4-3 guy, especially on the college level. Asking him to run a 3-4 is not playing to his strengths. See: GERG 3-3-5.
TWO: IT IS THE SAME THING AS LAST YEAR. The last time Michigan went into a season with the same defensive coordinator running the same defense he ran the year before was 2007. That was forever ago, and we have felt the pain since. With most of the defense returning it makes sense to tell them to do the same things they were doing last year. Remember how much better Jake Ryan got at not screwing up as the year progressed? You're tossing some of that away by changing defenses.
THREE: IT DOESN'T ACTUALLY SOLVE ANY PERSONNEL PROBLEMS. The most obvious difference between the two systems is in what they ask the linemen to do. Michigan's one-gap 4-3 under generally asks defensive linemen to pick one spot between two linemen and attack it. Traditional 3-4s want all three defensive linemen to control the blocker opposite them and be able to come off on either side of the guy when the ballcarrier gets to them.
If that latter task sounds like it requires a big strong guy, yeah. The best example is Alabama's Jesse Williams, the Australian swamp beast who is moving to nose this year. This guy played DE for Alabama:
That is the kind of guy who occupies all three line slots in a 3-4.
Craig Roh is not a swamp beast. Nor is Jibreel Black. In a 3-4, those guys are either moving to outside linebacker or wandering Europe like a stateless refugee in WWII. They don't really have a role. Meanwhile, the WDEs all get drafted at OLB, leaving you with three spots to fill with tanks instead of one and a half.
The 3-4 is kind of an all or nothing setup, with 300+ pound guys who can squat dump trucks on the DL, Lamarr Woodley sorts at OLB, and traditional ILBs. In contrast the 4-3 under has a smooth size gradation from nose to three-tech to SDE to WDE to SLB to MLB to WLB. In a year when Michigan's not even sure if they've got one nose tackle, a 3-4 essentially asks them to have three.
2013 OL commits Logan Tuley-Tillman (left) and David Dawson
Yesterday's Adidas Sound Mind/Sound Body camp at Southfield High School featured some of the Midwest's best talent, including five of Michigan's 2013 commits (actually, six, but Csont'e York showed up late and I didn't get a good look at him). It also provided a rare chance for players to get instructed by coaches from Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, Eastern Michigan, and several other schools; U-M, OSU, and MSU each sent their full staff, save Mark Dantonio, who had a speaking engagement.
This was my first camp experience, so I mostly focused on the Michigan commits; at these camps, there's so much going on that it's difficult to focus on more than a handful of players. Here are my impressions of the Wolverine commits as well as a couple other standouts:
I didn't spend a ton of time watching Morris in the passing drills, mostly because I was more focused on the receivers and defensive backs, but he was excellent as usual on Wednesday. Morris threw harder than anyone else there, displayed great accuracy, and could make all of the throws. He's also improved from what I saw of him last fall in terms of knowing when to change up speeds and when to just unleash.
As you can see above, Al Borges kept a very close eye on Morris. UAB head coach Garrick McGee was running quarterback drills, but Borges made it clear that he would be the one coaching Morris. As Brian pointed out in today's UV, the running theme of the camp was coaches in disbelief that this was all legal; it was, thanks to SMSB's status as a charitable event.
Dawson was easily the most impressive lineman present, both from a physical and technical standpoint. He looks like he's in the 280-290 pound range but doesn't appear to be carrying much bad weight at all. He shows an advanced understanding of technique for a high school player; Coach Funk was presiding over the offensive line drills, and when he needed to give an example of what he was looking for, he had Dawson give the demonstration. Dawson displayed very quick feet, shuffled well in pass protection while keeping a solid base, and showed a very strong initial punch.
In one-on-ones, Dawson excelled in a drill that gives a clear edge to the pass-rusher. He got great depth with his initial step and had three or four pancakes (not all of his reps are on my film above). When Dawson did get beat, it was usually when he let the defender get into his body instead of keeping the rusher at bay with his arm punch. The proverbial mean streak was also on full display. On one rep, Dawson got beat off the edge, and the defender went back to his side screaming "Let's go!" and "I'm hungry!"* Dawson didn't appreciate the woofing, asked for an immediate rematch, and buried the guy into the turf.
Dawson is expected to end up at guard in college and after seeing him yesterday I think that's the best place for him. While his strength allows him to dominate high school competition, he isn't the longest lineman out there, which makes it harder to keep edge-rushers at bay. As you can see above, when Dawson slid inside to take a rep at guard, he dispatched his man with ease.
Tuley-Tillman didn't quite perform at Dawson's level but still showed off the potential that earned him an offer in the first place. When I talked to Logan, he told me he weighs about 315 pounds, a 15-pound drop from where he was at the Columbus NFTC last month. He's still carrying bad weight, however, and is going to have to turn a significant amount of fat into muscle before he's ready to play at the next level.
I was initially down on Tuley-Tillman when watching the one-on-ones, but after watching the tape he did better than I thought. When he gets his hands on a guy it's tough to escape and he finishes his blocks with authority. He did struggle some against the speed rush; Funk pulled LTT aside during drills to work on getting better depth in his drop when pass blocking, and there's still work to be done there. When he got his footwork right, defenders had little chance of getting past him.
Despite the technique issues, Tuley-Tillman has great feet; when he's coached up, he should have every opportunity to play tackle at the Big Ten level. He's definitely got some conditioning work to do, though it sounds like he's on the right track. Multiple experts who saw Tuley-Tillman in Columbus, where he reportedly struggled significantly, said his performance yesterday was a vast improvement.
Lewis continues to look impressive on both sides of the ball. While I thought he looked better at corner when playing for Cass Tech last fall, there may be a battle royale between the offensive and defensive coaches over where he'll play at Michigan; the offensive coaches have made it clear that they covet Lewis as a wide receiver. They'll have to fight Greg Mattison for him, however, and that may be a losing battle.
Lewis is never going to wow you from a purely physical standpoint—he's 5'11" and pretty skinny—but his athleticism is just a notch below elite. He showed off great closing speed at cornerback, though he sometimes relies too much on his ability to recover; he's not quite at his 2012 teammate Terry Richardson's level when it comes to staying in a receiver's hip pocket. His ball skills, however, are exemplary; he tracks the ball in the air extremely well and knows exactly when to go for the catch. If a quarterback threw a 50-50 ball in his direction, whether on offense or defense, he came down with it or at least broke up the pass.
At receiver, Lewis put those ball skills to good use, coming up with a couple of spectacular catches including one diving effort against 2014 Cass Tech teammate Damon Webb (much more on him below). I still like Lewis's upside more at corner, where his size plays better, but he's convinced me that he could contribute on either side of the ball at the next level.
Hill looked very good in the reps I saw him taking, running crisp routes and catching almost everything thrown his way, including the pass pictured above. He nearly pulled in a ridiculous one-hander early in the morning session, but couldn't quite haul it on; otherwise, any pass in his direction resulted in a catch. Hill isn't the fastest tight end out there, nor the biggest, but he finds a way to get space from defenders and then shield them off with his body.
Given that he's being recruited for a very specific, not-always-used position—H-back—he's got a more limited ceiling than most of the commits; at around 6'2", he doesn't have the size to play much on the line. That said, if he can run routes and catch like he did yesterday, he could be a solid piece to the offensive puzzle.
DAMON WEBB (2014)
Webb turned heads a couple weeks ago when he blanketed Laquon Treadwell at the IMG 7-on-7 and he built on that with an MVP-worthy performance yesterday. Despite being a year younger, Webb has more bulk on his 5'11" frame than his teammate Jourdan Lewis, and like Lewis he's an outstanding athlete.
Also like Lewis, Webb can play either wide receiver or cornerback at the next level, though his size suggests that corner is his optimal position. He was fantastic playing corner in the one-on-one drills, staying step-for-step with Lewis—though Jourdan managed to bring in a diving catch—and 2013 Notre Dame commit James Onwualu, who was torching the less-heralded prospects. Webb faced Onwualu three times, and aside from slipping on a hitch route, he came out on top. Webb doesn't rely as much on recovery speed as Lewis, instead playing a more physical style; he's not at all afraid to come up and jam the receiver, and he flips his hips well when transitioning from his backpedal.
Allen Trieu reported this afternoon that Webb earned a Michigan offer, which comes as little surprise after he performed so well in front of the entire staff. While they're targeting him as an athlete for now, I'm guessing he'll be the next in a long line of Cass Tech corners to play at the BCS level. The Wolverines appear to be his clear leader at the moment and there's a chance his recruitment wraps up early. He'll be in Ann Arbor next week for Michigan's camp.
*"I'm hungry" guy was one of the highlights of the camp, as he repeatedly—and loudly—proclaimed his hunger after just about every rep. When Hoke spoke to the campers after the morning session, he singled the kid out for his enthusiasm, then had this exchange:
Hoke: "Did you have lunch yet?"
I'm Hungry Kid: "Yes, sir."
Hoke: "Well, I guess you're not hungry anymore."
- 2014 MI DE Malik McDowell wasn't listed on the roster—he wasn't alone in that regard—and only took a couple reps in the morning, so I didn't get a chance to evaluate him. I did head over to where the linemen were gathered in the afternoon, however, and I can say he certainly passes the eye test. That is one huge rising junior.
- Two other 2014 kids who caught my eye were Cass Tech linebackers William White and Gary Hosey, who both stood out physically among the linebackers. White appeared to have an inch or two on Hosey, but both looked solidly built with the frame to add more bulk. I was busy watching the linemen while they were going through drills, however, so I'll have to catch them play another time.
- A friend who was helping instuct the linebackers at the camp raved about Michigan State linebacker commit Jon Reschke. I thought Reschke was a no-brainer four-star when I saw him play against Farmington Hills Harrison in the playoffs last year; State got a good one there.
- Urban Meyer, from the morning presser: "The problem with intercollegiate athletics is that it's almost anti-student-athlete." All the coaches talked about how great it was to be able to instruct recruits at an event outside the usual team camps. There was also discussion about finding ways for recruits to be able to take visits to campus without the cost becoming prohibitive; there definitely seems to be support for summer official visits if the NCAA decides to look in that direction.
- Yes, Brady Hoke uttered the words "Ohio" and "State" in succession during an impromptu on-field Q&A session with reporters. Yes, there was a subsequent race between the Michigan beat reporters to tweet that bit of news. I believe the winner was AnnArbor.com's Nick Baumgartner.
- Terry Richardson, James Ross, and Oregon CB (and former Cass Tech Technician) Dior Mathis all were present. Richardson was walking around eating ribs while the Michigan coaches teased him about getting his weight up.
- After watching them in a camp setting, it's very easy to see why Michigan's coaching staff has so much success both on the field and in recruiting. I kept forgetting to film the OL/DL one-on-ones because I was so intent on listening to Coach Funk give technique pointers to individual guys after their reps; I learned more about blocking technique in five minutes of standing near him than I have in the rest of my life put together. They're all great with the players, as well; you could tell the kids were hanging on every word of instruction.
- Former Michigan lineman and current EMU OL coach Kurt Anderson, who was running drills with Funk: "You're protecting your family, your food, your quarterback." [via Mike Rothstein]
Pictured coaches, in order of appearance, are UAB HC Garrick McGee, OSU HC Urban Meyer, MSU DC Pat Narduzzi, EMU HC Ron English, Hoke, Mattison, EMU's Mike Hart, Syracuse's Tyrone Wheatley, and Michigan's Darrell Funk and Jeff Hecklinski.
Jayru Campbell's hair did not disappoint:
Neither did Shane Morris's afternoon attire:
That's all for now. Interviews with Morris, Dawson, and Tuley-Tillman coming later this afternoon.