Mike Spath points out that doing an interview for the official site is a pretty good indicator he'll be back.
We’ve heard you’re going to be a tougher defense. How will we see that on the field in the fall?
“Hopefully you see the aggressiveness in base defense as well as when we do pressure. And I think the way you see that, you’re going to see guys—it’s easier right now for our guys to run to the football than it has been in the past. In other words they understand that that’s how they’re going to play. The aggressive part of it is like, everybody kind of wants to get in on hits instead of saying you’re supposed to get over there on hits. The pressure, the way our secondary’s playing, they’re more aggressive, they’re trying to get on guys a little tighter, I think all those kind of things.”
Is this more the kind of defense you’ve always envisioned when you came to Michigan?
“Yeah, it definitely is. Offenses have made it difficult because they spread you out all over the place. If you’re going to sit and just let them take shots and take shots they’re going to have their success. On offense it’s just keep the ball moving, keep the ball moving but on defense I think you’ve got to change the math sometimes and you’ve got to say it’s not going to be, maybe, like it was in practice for you.”
Are you more comfortable with this defense than you have been maybe- is the transition finally over?
“No question. No question. The guys that are playing in this defense are ours. You know, I really respect the first group and the groups that we came in with. Anytime you come in and demand what we demand it’s hard, but these kids that are here now are all the ones that we brought in here. They’re the ones that we’re with every day of their lives. I mean, we spend so much time with these kids. You really are excited about their attitude. You’re excited about—you can coach them really, really hard and you don’t have to worry about, ‘Well, now do I have to go put my arm around them?’ No, they know that you are for them all the way. And I think our coaches have done a great job, and Brady from the top has done that where we’re going to coach you now, we’re going to make sure you do it the right way and sometimes it isn’t going to be pretty but the next play is the next play.”
What do you know about Jabrill [Peppers] today that you didn’t know seven days ago?
“I know that he’s a real good football player. Here’s what I didn’t know because you don’t know this because you’re not with him: he loves to play football. That’s what you didn’t know. You saw him in games be very, very aggressive and very talented but now that we’re with him, he just really loves to be out there playing and he brings it every play. He’s got to gain some maturity. You know, when you’re a guy who’s been as successful as he has I think you never, ever have heard someone say, ‘That’s wrong. You can’t do that.’ His coach is a tremendous high school coach, but he just brings a lot of fire.”
[Regarding Peppers] What went into the decision to finally settle on nickelback?
“Because the way offenses are nowadays you’ve got to play nickel so much more. The nickel position is a very, very important position on the defense now compared to what it was maybe five to ten years ago. You have to have a guy in there now that’s going to be playing a whole bunch in that game. If you put a guy at safety and then you need him at nickel he’s going to play two positions and he may not become as good as he could be at that time as a youngster.”
Brady has talked about talking to him [Peppers] about not getting wrapped up in how much attention he gets and all that stuff. What do you say to him about that and how do you think he’s handled it?
“I haven’t had to say a thing to him about that because we coach him really, really hard. There’s no pampering. You’re just a guy in our defense. Obviously, with what his success was in high school he’ll probably get attention. He’s been very mature about it. He understands it’s Michigan now. When you’re at Michigan you’re just one of the team and you’re responsible to do what the team’s asking you to do and that’s what he’s done.”
[After THE JUMP: more Peppers, improvement in the linebackers, and defensive philosophy]
Joe Bolden hype comes in both unapproved and approved forms.
We had the fortune to get a practice report from a deeply anonymous person who wormed their way Inside The Fort, and here is what he or she or it reported, in my words:
Jabrill Peppers is mostly a nickel back but they are giving him a few experimental snaps at safety. While it seems like they are going to start him out there, as the season develops he may get more playing time when Michigan has four DBs on the field by taking that SS spot. Delano Hill's absence complicates things. He was leading at SS before he injured his jaw.
The alarming O-Line lineup tweeted out was at least temporarily a real thing. FWIW, that was Cole-Magnuson-Miller-Dawson/Glasgow-Braden. Kalis was not repping much with the first team. The slash-Dawson in that line above should be taken with a grain of salt—he looked another year or two away in one-on-ones.
That unit was not looking great even by early fall practice standards, so maybe they switch it up. Hoke told the assembled horde at Media Day that they hoped to settle on a top five by next week. They're still in experiment mode.
Jeremy Clark is your leader at SS with Hill sidelined. Brandon Watson is apparently #3 there until Hill gets back. Thomas did not get a mention.
Sigh… Joe Bolden seems to be for real. This is not bad for Michigan in general. It is bad for me because if Bolden starts the opener over a healthy Desmond Morgan I eat a lemon on the internet. But he's continued to get more time than Morgan. Jenkins-Stone is also getting a lot of time, but for whatever reason Ross was held out of this practice so that may be more about his absence than anything else.
Jourdan Lewis may be your best corner. He will push Taylor heavily; they're already splitting reps down the middle and Lewis is outperforming not only him but Countess.
Norfleet looked "f---ing great" and is the #1 slot. No, the insider is not me. I swear. Canteen is practicing both inside and out as they try to figure out their best configuration.
DeVeon Smith is the #1 back. Green and Hayes seemed running neck and neck for #2, with Drake Johnson the last serious competitor behind them. Hoke announced at media day that Johnson was 1b to Smith's 1a, so maybe they're seeing subtler things. Or Green is still on the motivation train.
While Ty Isaac looked pretty good, they're mostly running him with/against scrubs. That seems like an indicator they don't expect to get a waiver for him.
There is some zone read. FWIW. They ran zone read drills under Borges, too.
The defense is "crazy aggressive." They are serious about it, deploying a ton of press—just like the spring game—and using Peppers as a freelance sower of destruction on blitzes. Linemen are shifting frequently, giving the offensive line issues with pickups.
The defensive line should have good depth. Hurst and Wormley were both mentioned as seeming like starter-quality players, and the just-returned Pipkins was praised for his agility. He dominated one-on-one sessions and made some spin moves that seemed "impossible" for a guy his size. OL caveats apply.
Expect a lot of screens. Screens are the way you deal with a wobbly OL.
Where to start, really? [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
In Brady Hoke's fourth year at the helm, Michigan heads into fall camp with far fewer questions about the starting lineup than we're used to hearing this time of year; even the offensive line looks pretty much set, though of course concerns about their ability will follow this team well into the season. Today I'm taking a look at the five players—some penciled in as starters, some not—whose emergence is critical to Michigan's success in 2014, either due to the depth at their position, their potential to become a real difference-maker, or both.
You'll be shocked to see that the list begins with an offensive lineman.
RT Ben Braden
Braden is #1 with a bullet for me. He replaces an NFL draft pick at a critical spot on a line in need of a whole lot of improvement, and the options behind him are very limited. Braden has great potential due to his Lewan-wowing combination of size (6'6", 322 lbs.) and athleticism, but there are also significant concerns—that same Lewan article, from last August, stated the starting left guard spot was Braden's to lose, but even in a season when the guards rotated with alarming frequency he played just two games, both as a reserve.
While it's far too early to say a lineman heading into his redshirt sophomore season has panned out or not, the fact that a true freshman and a 6'1" walk-on—Kyle Bosch and Joey Burzynski, respectively—saw the field over Braden last year is certainly worrisome. Adding to that concern is the depth at tackle this season. If Braden can't lock down his spot at right tackle, the first tackle off the bench looks likely to be another true freshman, Mason Cole, if the spring is any indication. A trio of redshirt freshmen provide depth, but none are close to sure things: Logan Tuley-Tillman likely needs at least another year of development, Chris Fox mostly spent last year rehabbing an ACL tear, and David Dawson seems more suited to guard.
It's true that any of Michigan's O-linemen could be on this list—in fact, there's another later—but Braden's spot in the lineup appears the least certain, and he just happens to be in a spot that could cause a complete reshuffling of the line if he can't hold the job.
NT Ondre Pipkins
There are really four interior defensive linemen that could go here; Willie Henry, Chris Wormley, and Maurice Hurst were under serious consideration, but Henry seems like he'll be at least a passable starter, and the three-tech spot—where Wormley and Hurst are slated to play—doesn't have the same importance as the nose (while boasting more depth on this roster). Also, only one of these guys was a five-star All-American out of high school, and it's Pee Wee Pipkins.
Pipkins is, rather shockingly, already a true junior, and his time to make that five-star impact is quickly running out after he blew out an ACL against Minnesota last year, just as he was showing signs of reaching his potential. He's reportedly fully recovered from that injury, though there's no telling how it'll affect him until he's back playing in actual games. If he's healthy, he could develop into some unholy combination of Gabe Watson and Alan Branch; he could also be the next Will Campbell, and that's without accounting for the potential that he's not fully comfortable on that knee.
While Michigan doesn't necessarily need Pipkins in the starting lineup—Henry can start at the nose next to a three-tech platoon of Wormley/Hurst/others—they need him to be healthy and productive enough to rotate in a good deal, unless Bryan Mone is remarkably ahead of the curve for a true freshman nose tackle. It'd also, of course, be really nice to see the affable Pipkins return to the how-the-hell-is-that-blob-chasing-down-Stefon Diggs form he showed in his standout Army AA Game performance a couple years ago.
WR Amara Darboh
|"Today in practice I witnessed the single greatest catch I've ever seen in person." — Devin Gardner|
We got a couple tantalizing looks at Darboh before he missed the 2013 season with a foot injury: the amazing catch from a 2012 Outback Bowl practice (right) and a nice deep sideline grab in the 2013 Spring Game. While Jehu Chesson did a solid job as the #3 receiver last year, Darboh was considered the clear leader for that role—really the #2 receiver role at the time, before everyone figured out Devin Funchess was a tight end in name only—and he also garnered more hype as a recruit.
This admittedly isn't an area of significant need for Michigan; Freddy Canteen, Moe Ways, Jaron Dukes, and DaMario Jones provide plenty of depth and talent at receiver.* None of those guys possess the combination of talent, physical development, and knowledge of the offense that Darboh has right now, however, and the capable-of-catching-anything aspect to Darboh's game is something I'd like to see on the field.
Having a sure-handed possession receiver across from Devin Funchess could make Michigan's passing game downright scary, and early in the season it could also help cover for the absence of a receiving threat at tight end while Jake Butt recovers from his ACL injury. Darboh, who's now listed at 6'2", 211 pounds, potentially fits that bill better than anyone on the roster.
*I'd include Drake Harris, too, but he's coming off a lost senior season of high school due to a hamstring injury and he needs to gain weight, so a redshirt hopefully beckons.
RG Kyle Kalis
This should probably be Jake Butt's spot, but I'm going with Kalis here, since he's a five-star talent on a line in need of that, and after one rough year it appears he's been written off by many. I mean, this was in Brian's post-spring 27 Tickets, when he (ever so jinxfully) assumed now-Buckeye Chad Lindsay would transfer from Alabama to Michigan and take over the center spot:
27. G Kyle Bosch, So. [Last time: 25]
Under assumption that Lindsay comes in, Glasgow displaces one of Braden/Bosch/Kalis. Random guess here is that it's Kalis because Bosch should improve more as younger guy but your guess is as good as mine. So is Hoke's.
Kalis was left out of the top 27.
While I realize Kalis underperformed last year, and not all of that can be chalked up to coaching ... well, you all saw the mess on the line, and assigning individual blame for that tire fire is a difficult, if not impossible, endeavor. Kalis was thrust into a starting job as a redshirt freshman, then moved in and out of the lineup as the coaches tried (and failed) to find something that would work—not exactly a recipe for success for a first-year starter regardless of talent.
And boy, does Kalis have talent. Offensive linemen are the toughest prospects to project with much accuracy, but he looked like the surest of sure things out of high school. Many of his issues last year appeared to stem from uncertainty about his assignment; given his freshmandom and the sheer number of schemes Michigan tried to run last year, that's understandable. The simplified, inside zone-centric offense under Doug Nussmeier should suit him well; if he's confident enough in his knowledge of the playbook to stop thinking and starting clobbering, we could see a huge step forward from him this fall.
NICKEL/S/CB Jabrill Peppers
Braden is the #1 X-factor, in my opinion, because of his importance to the team's success this year; if you think of X-factors as players who can make an impact in a number of ways, however, the obvious choice is Peppers. Obviously.
The coaches maintain that they'll start him out at nickel, and he could make a huge difference there as a prototype hybrid space player who's equally adept in coverage and run support. He could very well start from day one at strong safety, the only spot in the secondary with any real uncertainty, and the way Greg Mattison utilized that spot in the Spring Game—aggressively rolling the SS into the box often—is ideally suited for a player like Peppers. He could even challenge Raymon Taylor at boundary corner, though with the rise of Jourdan Lewis the need for Peppers at corner appears less than the two other defensive positions he could play this year.
Personally, I'm hoping that sooner or later he starts at strong safety, where he could bring a level of playmaking Michigan hasn't had back there since... uh... let's go with "a while ago." I don't believe the coaches will ask Peppers to make an impact on offense this year, but special teams is another story—his potential as a return man is massive, and I have a hard time believing the coaches won't try to get the ball in his hands one way or another.
The rosters are here! The rosters are here! The big news is Blake Countess will be #2 cause…
(artist: Ted Watts)
That’s got to be a new legends number, right? Nobody got 11 or 21, FWIW.
The incoming freshmen were all bequeathed their digits as well. I give them here with a few notables to have worn the digit at that position in the past. I’ve chosen to include the freshmen who were here in spring; a list of just the fall arrivals is here, courtesy Wolverine Devotee. Burn these into your memory so that it will hurt more when they’re changed to Legends numbers in a few years.
|Ian Bunting||94||TE||6'7"||223||Matt Studenski was the last TE. Massey, Horn.|
|Juwann Bushell-Beatty||76||OL||6'5"||295||Steve Hutchinson, and Brandstatter|
|Freddy Canteen||17||WR||6'1"||170||Forgotten great end (1930s version of WR) Ted Petoskey. Personal fav Carl Tabb.|
|Mason Cole||52||OL||6'5"||275||Rod Payne. Schilling.|
|Michael Ferns||51||LB||6'3"||233||John Duerr and a Brackins. (Everitt on offense)|
|Noah Furbush||59||LB||6'4"||229||89-90 linebacker Alex Marshall. The Sarantos my friend dated.|
|Drake Harris||14||WR||6'4"||180||Closest I can think of to a receiver getting PT is Andy Mignery.|
|Lawrence Marshall||93||DE||6'4"||230||Hoban and Jackson in the '70s. I see 93 I think Sam Sword.|
|Bryan Mone||90||DT||6'4"||315||Norm Heuer was a DT. Feazell, Jamison, DeFelice.|
|Brady Pallante||54||DT||6'1"||255||Donnie Warner. Imagine if Rudy actually become a really good starter, and was real.|
|Jabrill Peppers||5||DB||6'1"||210||Jersey manufacturers, start your presses. Coleman Wallace is the best CB, competition is Whitley. Think Jabrill will keep it all 4 years?|
|Wilton Speight||19||QB||6'6"||230||The other Forcier. And Harry Newman's backup.|
|Jared Wangler||19||LB||6'2"||215||Early '70s "Wolf" safety Darrell Truitt|
|Brandon Watson||28||DB||5'11"||185||Early '90s hard-hitter Deon Johnson.|
|Maurice Ways||85||WR||6'3"||192||Curt Stephenson and Marcus Knight|
|Chase Winovich||58||LB||6'3"||216||Dave Brandon Endowed This Position With His Own Name Not Kidding Cornerbacks Coach Roy Manning. Also '80s OLB Keith Cowan|
Please only give this number to tiny safeties and huge running backs from now on forever kthx.
Heitzman Expansion Principle
This is the corollary to the Heininger Certainty Principle: a person, once removed from Hoke’s defensive line, will apparently grow 1 or more inches in height as his body adjusts to the difference in pressure. Heitzman is now listed 6’4”, one inch taller than he was in spring.
Didn’t spot any. Weights haven’t been updated yet.
THE GOAL OF DRAFTAGEDDON
The goal of Draftageddon is YOU DO NOT TALK ABOUT DRAFTAGEDDON.
I'm hearing this is incorrect. I see. The goal of Draftageddon is to draft a team of Big Ten players that seems generally more impressive than that of your competitors. Along the way, we'll learn a lot of alarming things, like maybe Maryland is good? Full details are in the first post.
PREVIOUSLY ON DRAFTAGEDDON
- Everyone not grabbing dual-threat senior QBs grabs defensive linemen
- Seth takes Venric Mark in front of just about everyone
- Nothing terribly remarkable happens
- BISB takes all the guys I want
- A ridiculous amount of time is spent discussing the merits of one particular interior lineman from Rutgers
- WILDCARD TIME as Brian takes a quarterback despite already having a quarterback.
THE CURRENT SITUATION
ROUND 13 - PICK 2: Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State
O: QB Connor Cook (MSU), RB Ameer Abdullah (NE), WR Devin Funchess (U-M), TE Maxx Williams (MN), LT Brandon Scherff (IA), LG Kaleb Johnson (RU)
D: DE Shilique Calhoun (MSU), DE/DT Andre Monroe (MD), NT Darius Kilgo (MD), OLB Chi Chi Ariguzo (NW), OLB Matt Robinson (MD), CB Desmond King (IA), S John Lowdermilk (IA)
ST: KR/PR Ameer Adbullah (NE)
ACE: Heiko lives!
Brian's decision to draft a, uh, third-and-long quarterback put an end to the staring contest between me and Seth. I'd like a full-time starter, thanks, and not of the Rudock/Stave/Siemain caliber.
Oh, look, it's the Rose Bowl MVP.
Connor Cook took the reins of an offense so laughable it was being outscored by its own defense, took a couple games to settle in, and proceeded to make the Spartan O downright respectable. He put up excellent numbers for a redshirt sophomore, averaging 7.3 YPA with a 22:6 TD-to-INT ratio. Those numbers were in spite of a receiving corps that didn't feature anything resembling a true #1 receiver, and didn't have much quality from there, either. Using Seth's pet stat, RYPR, here's what Cook was working with in 2013:
His #1 receiver performed like an average #2. His #4 receiver averaged 3.8 yards per target. The rest of it isn't so great, either. Click over to Seth's post and look at Michigan's 2013 receiving corps. Even with their lack of production from the #3 spot, the Wolverines were far superior.
BISB: /Microphone... getting so hot... must... let... go...
ROUND 13 - PICK 3: Jabrill Peppers, CB (and S/RB/WR/Nickel/WILL/KR/PR/BMOC/GGTK), Michigan
he will fix everything
O: QB Devin Gardner (UM), RB Jeremy Langford (MSU) WR Kenny Bell (Neb), WR Shane Wynn (IU), OT Donovan Smith (PSU), C Austin Blythe (Iowa)
D: DE Joey Bosa (OSU), DE Noah Spence (OSU), LB Jake Ryan (UM), LB Mike Hull (PSU) CB Sojourn Shelton (Wisky), CB Jabrill Peppers (UM), S Kurtis Drummond (MSU)
BISB: I still needed a corner, a safety, a nickelback, a running back, and a wide receiver. So I took one.
Everyone is aware of the story of Jabrill Peppers. He is the highest ranked (and possibly the most highly-touted) recruit to hit a Big Ten campus in the last decade. If Sojourn Shelton is the prototypical field corner, Peppers is the archetypal boundary corner. Big for a corner at 6'1", 210 lbs, he hits like a linebacker but nevertheless shows sprinter speed and acceleration that translates to the football field. He's as quick-twitch of a human being as you'll ever find; he's basically Venric Mark. But after an 80's-style Rocky training montage. And five inches taller.
I know, I know. Recruiting hype stars don't matter never played a snap in college blah blah. Screw that. What are the usual concerns about freshmen? Physical preparedness, mental preparedness, and how the game translates to the next level. Physically, I'll defer to the unnamed assistant coach from USC:
"I've only seen two players in high school with a body like that," the USC coach says, "and both of them are named Peterson [Adrian and Patrick]."
As far as translating to the next level, watch the burst and acceleration in these two clips. Translation, my ass. I don't care what level of competition he's playing (though his competition is pretty good) or what kind of stuff doesn't show up on the highlight reels (though his full game cut-ups are equally impressive). This kid is basically a glitch in the physics engine. And sure, there's gonna be a mental transition, and sure both of my corners are young. Fortunately I have the best free safety in the Big Ten over the top to erase any youthful mistakes.
[AFTER THE JUMP: Seth drafts Troy Woolfolk, Ace with the Big Red Block.]
Let's feel good! Here's a danged good college football hype video that features Michigan a surprising amount:
YEAH LET'S GET HYPED FOR THE OPENER AGAINST [record SCRATCHHHHHHHH]
Well, that didn't last long. A casino has set an over/under for Michigan football wins next year…
At the moment, 5Dimes has Michigan's over/under for wins in 2014 set at 7 1/2. Presently, the money line is set at -170 on the over of 7 1/2 wins, which means most bettors are going with at least eight wins for the Wolverines in 2014.
…ugh. Not hitting that number would mean losing all three rivalry games and two more from the pu-pu platter that is the rest of the schedule.
Let's feel good again! Jabrill Peppers ran a 100 meter dash in 10.52 seconds, a veritably Denardian high-school-meet destruction.
He wiped out fellow touted corner recruit Minkah Fitzpatrick by a half-second.
Well, that didn't last long. Peppers is still slower than a robot velociraptor. Ugh.
Now you're just rubbing it in. ESPN gentlemen are trying to make college football better, and two of them say Michigan has to stop sucking. Thanks. We agree. And then there's this:
From the day that Bo Schembechler died in 2006, on the eve of No. 2 Michigan's 42-39 loss at its archrival, No. 1 Ohio State, the Wolverines have a record of 50-41 (.549). That's an average of 7-6, pretty much the definition of mediocrity.
Thank you for coming, now go away. Florida's president was trying to say something about how he doesn't like the graduate transfer rule and ended up saying something about his latest incoming graduate transfer:
"If they really wanted to transfer somewhere else, they should sit out a year,” Machen said Friday at the SEC spring meetings. “Why didn't Horford stay at Michigan another year? Because he had a free pass." …
“Go to grad school at Michigan," Machen said. "They have some pretty good grad schools. … It’s really just a way for a school to fill a void at the very last minute, or a player going to get more playing time without having to sit out.”
Is that bad? I mean, it's bad for Michigan. But the guy's already got a degree, which is the tenuous reason transfers are discouraged by forcing kids to a sit out a year.
I do think it's unfortunate that guys are now transferring upwards with frequency; that would really grind your gears as a low-level coach who developed this player for four years only to see him depart. Now you've got a bizarre incentive to not have your players graduate before their eligibility expires.
At least there's a trend. Florida's done playing FCS games, albeit for the same reason Michigan is. More interestingly, Nick Saban is hoping to cut out the lesser schools entirely:
Nick Saban wants Power 5 conferences to play only games against other P5 schools. “Better for fans & for players"
— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) May 27, 2014
It's better for Saban, too, as there will be fewer pretenders with shiny records to compete against for playoff spots. The difficulty there is that everyone needs their seven home games even if two of them are necessarily bad.
HELLO. South Carolina president Harris Pastides:
“I think we're holding the fort,” Pastides said. “If we allow this reform to fail, the obvious next step would be to give up amateurism.”
I'm pretty sure that was intended to be the rhetorical nuclear weapon that makes everyone gasp whilst Mark Emmert is fanned by the people near him, moaning "lawdy." But someone said it.
Incoming? USC transfer and former five-star Ty Isaac is on campus… uh, now. Isaac is seeking a hardship waiver to play immediately, which would make him a slightly awkward fit for Michigan for two reasons: 1) you need a waiver for your waiver if the school you pick is more than 100 miles from home and 2) that would put him in the same class as De'Veon Smith and Derrick Green.
So, if Isaac does get his waiver it's more likely he ends up at Northwestern or Illinois or Notre Dame, which was supposed to be restricted to him but may not be because of a paperwork error on USC's part. While Illinois and ND are technically outside of the 100-mile radius they're outside by a few miles and would probably get meta-waivers. Michigan would be a harder sell.
If Isaac doesn't end up getting a waiver then Michigan has an excellent shot—they finished second for Isaac. And they didn't bring in a tailback last year.
Ohio State is apparently trying to get involved, but they'd be in a similar situation with the waiver.
Etc.: Sherman built this system, now Sherman's going to burn it down. NCAA #2 is getting out of dodge. Congrats to Bruce Madej, who won a major award. Guess who's mad about harmless spicetweets from Alex Malzone.