NOPE [Bryan Fuller]
[New bolded player rules: not necessarily returning starter, but someone we've seen enough of that I'm no longer talking about their recruiting profile. Extant contributor.]
|FEATURE BACK||Yr.||SHORT YARDAGE||Yr.||3RD DOWN||YR.||SPREAD H||YR.|
|De'Veon Smith||Sr.||De'Veon Smith||Sr.||De'Veon Smith||Sr.||Jabrill Peppers||So.*|
|Ty Isaac||Jr.*||Kingston Davis||Fr.||Drake Johnson||Sr.*||Chris Evans||Fr.|
|Drake Johnson||Sr.*||Ty Isaac||Jr.*||Karan Higdon||So.||Drake Johnson||Sr.*|
|Jabrill Peppers||So.*||Kareem Walker||Fr.||Ty Isaac||Jr.*||Ty Isaac||Jr.*|
Last year was more of the same from a Michigan running back corps that had slowly devolved since the moment Mike Hart left. Upticks from Brandon Minor and Fitz Toussaint were more than offset by yards eschewed, random running, that year Toussaint couldn't pass block a soul, and a steady stream of Michigan discards who blew up as soon as they landed on another team.
Large sections of your author's time were spent fighting with people about how bad it was or was not, so here's Dane Brugler on De'Veon Smith:
His vision and run instincts tend to run hot/cold, leading to questionable decisions, and with his lack of explosive traits, Smith needs to be more decisive and trust what he sees. He tends to leave you wanting more due to his marginal burst and instincts, but there is a place at the next level for Smith due to his power, ball skills and upside as a blocker.
It was pretty bad… and then it got better. Smith's outstanding Citrus Bowl was the exclamation point on a mid-season turnaround that looks a lot like those Chesson and Rudock experienced. It wasn't as dramatic, but it was there. I'm going to whisper the next sentence: it almost kind of looked like someone had figured something out.
Running back coaching matters? I want to believe.
THE MAN THE MAN THE MAN
After consecutive years where this preview listed options at all three roles above in an almost but not quite entirely arbitrary fashion, Michigan enters the season knowing who their first-choice back is: DE'VEON SMITH. They know who their short-yardage back is: De'Veon Smith. They know who their third-down back is: De'Veon Smith. They think he's good enough to put him in the bin with Amara Darboh and Jourdan Lewis and all the other veterans who don't need spring contact.
Survey says... eh, maybe. Smith's bravura Citrus Bowl against some tough, if potentially disinterested, customers was the exclamation point to a rollercoaster season. If you don't want to read the rest of this section here it is in 15 seconds:
Smith abandoned his pulling guard, disappeared into a pile of bodies, was still upright seven yards later, got caught from behind, shook off a defensive back, got caught by the same guy again, and shrugged him off once more like so much lint on his varsity jacket. Few sixty yard touchdowns in the history of Michigan football have been as likely to cause the coaching box to exclaim "what are you DOING?" the instant before the breakthrough.
That was Smith's 2015. For every shattered defensive back left trembling in a puddle of his own making...
...there was a truck lane ignored.
Last year's UFRs invariably contained a book-length subsection on the running backs and the yards they made or, more often, set on fire. As the lead back Smith came in for the plurality of the discussion. Depending on the week this discussion was either generally positive and hopeful...
/spittle shields at 70% and dropping
Actually… I got nothing this week. I thought the backs did well. I complained about a lead zone run last week. Michigan didn't block it well; Smith mechanically ran into the gap he should go in if they in fact did block it well. He ate a DT for minimal yardage. I didn't care if Smith actually got anything on the play, I just wanted to see him see what was going on in front of him and put a foot in the ground to give himself a chance.
He did that on this one:
That cutback doesn't look like it'll amount to much when he makes it but Michigan gets on some blocks and Smith runs through some guys and it's a nice gain. If he'd gotten swallowed by an unblocked LB back there it's still the right cut.
...or blackly grim:
I feel like this is going to lead into another running back diatribe.
Are they really diatribes?
Large portions of last year's preview focused on Smith's tendency to run at random, which outlets other than the Michigan obsessive bits of the internet picked up on:
The hope was Harbaugh and Wheatley could get Smith moving in the right direction more often, and for most of the season that was dashed.
But the frustration I experienced was not limited to Smith. Everyone who took more than a dozen or so carries made at least one mindbogglingly bad cut, from Drake Johnson to Ty Isaac to Derrick Green to Sione Houma. That's widespread enough to seem like a coaching issue, and Smith's trajectory confirms:
[UFR charting for ballcarriers is another spot where zero is bad. Zero means you got what was blocked and nothing else.]
|1||Utah||5.5||7||-1.5||0||Cuts late let M down.|
|2||Oregon State||15.5||4||11.5||0||4||Brutal Legend|
|3||UNLV||2||8||-6||0||Two very bad plays and not much to make up for it.|
|6||Northwestern||7.5||1.5||6||0||On just 8 carries.|
|7||MSU||5||5||0||0||2||Grinder; a bit frustrating with the cuts again.|
|10||Indiana||4.5||2||2.5||2||2||Frustratingly slow sometimes but made up for it with power.|
|11||PSU||9.5||4||5.5||3||+2 blocking, +2 on catches, and then +3 late, which fits a pattern discussed below.|
|12||OSU||7.5||7.5||0||1||Made a significant number of yards himself. Zero pass pro minuses.|
|13||Florida||15||2||13||0||1||I be like dang|
That is a veritable late-season surge. Smith came in for some clucking after the PSU game since I didn't care for three of his 13 carries, but in the context of the last five games that's the outlier and being good at running is the trend.
This was clearest in the bowl game. Smith probed for holes, showed off a Mike Hart-level backfield stutter, and fired off a decisive backside cut on his first three carries. The stutter's probably the most impressive but the cut is the most important:
That's vision, and I was floored as it continued for an entire game against the #5 S&P run defense:
And this continued! Presented with a DL penetrating almost to the handoff point Smith cut off his OL's back and blew through an arm tackle. On the three, Smith turned negative two yards into two by juking two dudes and running through a couple tackles. Even on certain runs where it looked like he'd screwed up, the tape revealed he was trying to make the best of a bad situation only to find that there was no relief elsewhere. It took me a couple takes to realize that this was Smith avoiding a wholly unblocked LB in the hole:
As I said in the table above, he's probably better off running right at the guy for a few yards but I prefer Smith seeing trouble and adjusting even if it doesn't work out. Early in the second half Smith cut to the backside of the line and got hewed down early because a safety blitz prevented Darboh from getting to the guy. That's an RPS minus; without the playcall Smith is ripping off another backside cut. Even with it if Cole had cut off penetration a little better Smith can attack the S head-on, and that usually ends badly for the DB.
At that point I hadn't done the OSU game and wondered if that was a one-off; now that the entire picture is in view it's obviously not. I mean… it's kind of a Rudock trajectory. It wasn't quite as obvious since Michigan tried its hardest to avoid the defensive lines of PSU and OSU, but it's there. That's why Smith was placed amongst the revered elders during spring.
So. The dude remains a nuclear-powered icebreaker. The number of tackles he blew through was truly impressive, and even when he was in fact being tackled piles had a tendency to lurch two or three yards towards the endzone:
I have literally dozens of these clipped:
Smith grinds out yards after contact better than any back I've seen at Michigan. Yeah, he's slow. Yeah, he's not going to juke a guy in the open field. But in the right situation he can be a killer. That situation is surrounded by very good blocking that delivers him three yards downfield on a consistent basis. Smith will turn that into five or eight or eleven yards better than anyone not named Fournette. Is he going to have that this year? Maybe, maybe not. Michigan should get closer to it.
Smith's peripherals are unambiguously positive. He fumbled just once last year. He was also a strangely effective third-down back, to the point where I called him "King Hippo Vincent Smith." This is mostly because of his consistently excellent pass blocking:
Smith has the oomph to stand up linebackers like nobody since Mike Hart. This was a point of discussion after Penn State, a game in which Smith only got eight carries and still managed to stick out as an asset:
Smith has power and agility and can pick guys up. Even big guys. … Then in this game he added a couple of dumpoffs on which he displayed that fun Smith-vs-defensive backs stuff. On back to back plays at the end of the first half he turned nothing into something, first getting a few when Rudock got nailed, and then plastering a DB across his windshield for a first down:
This is something you can work with.
His eight protection minuses on the season are only twice what Ty Isaac managed to acquire in scattered snaps against Oregon State, and there was a distinct lack of the "team" minuses I hand out when I'm not sure who screwed up. 13 over the course of the season is a really low number and off the top of my head I'd guess that two-thirds could not be on Smith.
As a bonus, Smith is a solid outlet option because of this SAT analogy:
De'Veon Smith : defensive back :: windshield : insect
In limited opportunities he's shown that he's also an asset as a run blocker:
After that game I described him as a "low-to-the-ground 230-pound brick"; after the pass block above I broke my longstanding commitment to pooh-pooh all motivation/effort talk:
I usually assume everyone's going all out all the time and dismiss motivation stuff, but this week I got frustrated with a couple players for a lack of want-to. Smith never lacks that. Smith wants to end you. Even if he's slow and his vision is lacking, that's something.
He's the kind of guy willing to play through just about anything, and that's something Harbaugh has noticed.
Smith is a good bet to be Michigan's first 1,000 yard back since Fitz Toussaint. He's got a half-season of being pretty good and has more upside than you'd expect because so many of his issues stemmed from an unfamiliarity with the offense and running back basics. Wheatley:
"(Now we're trying to) get guys like De'Veon and Ty Isaac (and Drake Johnson) to what I call a mastery level. Progressing past the things we did last year."
It says here that Smith's 2015 is a better version of his second half. Michigan will rotate him a bunch to keep him as healthy as possible—his pounding style is tough on him and caused him to miss chunks of multiple games—and this will keep his counting numbers from attracting national attention, but his YPC should take a big step forward along with his reputation amongst Michigan fans.
[After THE JUMP: Jabrill Peppers! And other guys, but also Peppers!]
REMINDER A THING IS HAPPENING. I totally biffed this the first time by linking to last year's event. There is a Football Eve from Homesure this year:
First beer is on Matt, there will be a Q&A and… trivia? I think? We're asking people to RSVP because space is limited. Hit the link to do so.
Oh yes, this is going to get a lot of use. Via EDSBS:
The gif you now need in your life:
— Ace Anbender (@AceAnbender) August 25, 2016
For life. Harbaugh on his future plans:
Speaking in a taped interview with SiriusXM Radio on Wednesday, Harbaugh was asked by a host if he can "legitimately" see himself coaching at Michigan "forever" -- meaning does he think he'll be at Michigan 20-25 years down the road.
Harbaugh's answer came quickly.
"Yeah I think that way," Harbaugh said. "I think, God willing and the creek don't rise, that'll happen. I love coaching, I love football and I love the University of Michigan."
Never say never and all that.
Yes, lots and lots of talent. CBS's Dane Brugler provides an extensive breakdown of Michigan's NFL draft prospects, of which there are many. Unlike ESPN he picks up on Ryan Glasgow as a thing:
Glasgow bursts off the snap and finishes each rep with the same fire. He has the grip strength to stack and dispose of single blockers, using push-pull technique to regain his momentum and penetrate the pocket. Glasgow lowers his head and attacks like a battering ram, but often loses sight of the ball and takes himself out of plays. Although his motor is always running, he is more of a one-speed athlete and lacks the closing burst to finish some plays in the backfield. Glasgow would benefit from improved discipline, but his hustle, mentality and strength are why he is a valuable member of Michigan's defensive line rotation. And also why several scouts grade him as a top-10 senior at his position.
The tenth DT in the 2016 draft was off the board at the beginning of the third round, albeit with a bunch of juniors in those spots. That feels about right. Mike Martin was a third round pick as well.
The rest of that article is a preview of what I'm going to say about a bunch of Michigan players in the season preview, down to a Manningham-Chesson comparison and questions about De'Veon Smith's ability to see things:
Smith makes it a chore on defenders to finish him off as linebackers have to him cleanly and finish or he refuses to go down. His vision and run instincts tend to run hot/cold, leading to questionable decisions, and with his lack of explosive traits, Smith needs to be more decisive and trust what he sees. He tends to leave you wanting more due to his marginal burst and instincts, but there is a place at the next level for Smith due to his power, ball skills and upside as a blocker.
Brugler's higher on Erik Magnuson than I am and doesn't mention Darboh or anyone in the secondary other than Lewis—though the latter might be because there were so many people to get to ahead of those gents—in a report that is otherwise extensive and right on point with both strengths and weaknesses. Read the whole thing.
This Peppers thing isn't even slightly weird. Peppers as SAM is part of a trend that is sweeping football at all levels, including the NFL. The Ringer has a piece on the continued evolution of NFL linebackers into 220 pound safety types:
NFL coaches say the change in thinking about linebackers started five or six years ago. Spread offenses were dominating college football, and the task for defensive coaches at that level was to find linebackers who could cover and tackle in the space created by this new, wide-open approach. “We started looking for guys who played skill positions or safety, and those were guys we actually looked to see if we could turn into linebackers,” says Cardinals defensive coordinator James Bettcher, who served as a graduate assistant at North Carolina from 2007 to 2009.
Michigan was not doing this; they were running Jake Ryan out as a SAM. They continued to suffer against spread teams; Don Brown is really the first guy in the history of Michigan football with any positive track record against spread rushing offenses.
The article above focuses on Deone Bucannon of the Cardinals, who's actually a more extreme manifestation of the tiny linebacker trend than Peppers since he plays on a team with Tyrann Mathieu—he's not a "star" or walkout linebacker or nickelback, Bucannon is actually a 210 pound inside linebacker. This is actually a situation where the NFL is more spread than college. Michigan is unlikely to follow suit with safety-sized ILBs because of the nature of their opposition. The NFL is a passing league; Ohio State is a running team.
PFF ABT. Pro Football Focus's All Big Ten team has a number of Michigan guys on it, as you might imagine:
- First team: Jehu Chesson, Maurice Hurst, Jabrill Peppers, Jourdan Lewis
- Second team: Jake Butt, Mason Cole, Erik Magnuson, Taco Charlton, Chris Wormley, Delano Hill
That's a lot of guys. PFF projects almost half of Michigan's starters as ABT players. We already knew that Hurst was a fave-rave of PFFs and that they like George Kittle of Iowa better than Butt because of his blocking ability. The most interesting item there is the inclusion of Delano Hill as a second team safety. That would be very nice if it came to pass.
PFF on JT Barrett. Barrett is the single-most important opposition player on Michigan's schedule, the last tentpole from the last couple years of Ohio State teams. He had a weird 2015, seeing his passing production dip radically. Which guy is it? PFF:
Intermediate and deep accuracy have been consistent issues for Barrett both seasons. On throws longer than 10 yards in the air in 2014, Barrett completed just 44 of 111 attempts, and in 2015, he was 20 of 45.
Barrett’s passes traveling 10+ yards in the air during 2014 season
Barrett’s passes traveling 10+ yards in the air during 2015 season
Keeping in mind the fact that he was throwing to the likes of Michael Thomas, Jalin Marshall, Devin Smith, Braxton Miller, Jeff Heuerman, and Nick Vannett, all of them currently playing in the NFL, it’s difficult to expect his consistency to improve on deeper passes with newer, less experienced receivers and tight ends.
Barrett's not great against pressure, either, but OSU's system sometimes makes that hard to apply. He's an outstanding runner and there's always the chance of a leap forward, but he's a guy who has some limitations that Don Brown might be able to exploit.
Good luck with that. Per Pat Forde, the NCAA is expanding its Ole Miss probe:
NCAA Enforcement representatives have visited Auburn and Mississippi State, and perhaps at least one more SEC Western Division school, this summer to speak with players who were recruited by Ole Miss. The players were granted immunity from potential NCAA sanctions in exchange for truthful accounts of their recruitment, sources said.
If these guys are all telling the same story about 500 dollar handshakes on visits that could get really ugly for Ole Miss. They're already facing down a suite of Level 1 violations. I'm beginning to believe this could be an actual hammering, the first since USC that didn't involve… you know what at Penn State.
Hinton rates everything. Matt Hinton has done his usual preseason data-jam, evaluating every D-I school on their recent performance, crootin, experience, and projected competency. 17 categories go in the blender, and this is what comes out for the top 40:
Nebraska is relatively high; MSU relatively low. PSU, Iowa, and Wisconsin are all in the 8-4, 7-5 range. This will no doubt enrage highly enrageable Iowa fans.
Etc.: NLRB reverses an earlier decision that was relevant to the Northwestern unionization push. A reason to hate every Big Ten school. Just because someone else is getting paid to abuse our national namespace doesn't mean you have to participate. Herky The Hawkeye is too angry for one Iowa professor. Hank Aaron will honorarily captainize a game this fall.
Lot of talent, lot of talent. CBS draft analyst Dane Brugler:
I've been watching #Michigan tape all morning and I'm not even halfway through the roster. Should have double-digit draft picks next spring.
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) August 22, 2016
Per NFL scouts, Butt and Charlton(!) could be high first round picks:
I asked 6 NFL scouts for their top senior NFL prospect:
DL Jonathan Allen (2 votes), TE Jake Butt (2), DL Taco Charlton, CB Desmond King.
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) August 23, 2016
Juniors will pile in, of course, but if that holds to draft day both those guys would go in the top 15. I can't imagine it would—QBs and various other players at positions the NFL drafts higher than TE will emerge—but I be like dang anyway.
Todd McShay has Michigan third on his list of teams with the most NFL talent, and while having no idea what happened in the draft last year…
Last year, QB Jake Rudock (sixth round) was the lone Wolverine selected
…is not a great look for a draft analyst, ESPN currently projects seven players to be off the board by the end of the third round:
- #31 Jake Butt: "Has very good natural combination of size and speed to create mismatches. Adept at playing in-line (Y), flexed out (F) and split out wide. Very fluid for his size. … Gets overmatched physically at the point of attack by bigger defensive linemen."
- #33 Jabrill Peppers: "Good cover skills for a safety. Has lots of experience playing man-coverage both in the slot and on perimeter. At his best in man-coverage. Lacks elite fluidity in hips, but has quick feet and good burst. … Willing but could also be more aggressive at times. [ed: ?!?!?]"
- #39 Jourdan Lewis: "was in the hip pocket of Michigan State WR Aaron Burbridge (6th round pick, 49ers) hip pocket the entire 2015 game (stats are deceiving). Displays excellent body control and balance. Shows good deep speed on tape."
- #46 Jehu Chesson: "Very good speed for size and can threaten vertically. Gets from 0-to-60 miles per hour in a hurry. Has length and tracking ability to create matchup problems for average-to-smaller cornerbacks on 50-50 balls…. Excellent effort as a blocker. … Love watching this guy play the game."
- #56 Chris Wormley: "Excellent size and good overall strength. Shows snap in his hands and flashes ability to press offensive linemen into their backfield. … Tied for team-lead with 6.5 sacks in 2015 but 4.5 of those sacks came versus marginal offensive lines (Oregon State, Penn State and Rutgers) and his sack versus Michigan State was a protection breakdown."
- #69 Taco Charlton: "Power-based bass rusher that does a good job of using his long arms and explosive power to get into offensive linemen's pads, and then grinds through contact. … Good but not elite first-step quickness. Solid lateral agility and redirect skills for size."
- #77 Mason Cole: "Better suited for pass pro inside. … Takes good angles and has very good range. At his best as a run blocker when on the move. Has the feet to consistently win battle for initial positioning. Lacks heavy hands and is erratic with hand placement."
In addition, De'Veon Smith and Kyle Kalis(!) are ranked as fifth-rounders. Smith has no scouting and Kalis's ("Good angles. Knows assignments. Solid job locating assignments in space.") appears to be about a different person.
You'll note the omission of Amara Darboh and Maurice Hurst from these rankings. Both those guys will be draftable by the end of the year. I'd be another member or two of the secondary get there as well.
Drake Johnson is the guy you should hit with a forklift. I mean, if it's absolutely necessary. Please don't run Drake Johnson over. Or anyone, really. Do not run people over with forklifts. Yes, fine, Hitler. In that unusual case where a zombie nazi is threatening children or whatever, go ahead. Even in that situation, are we really calling a reanimated corpse "people"? I think that's not people.
Sorry, no politics.
"The world could be falling apart, and doomsday could be happening, and I'd be like, oh, look, there's a nice flower on the ground," he says.
If it were anyone other than Johnson, such positivity would feel contrived and feigned. But then Johnson waves his arms, talking with his hands like a grand raconteur, and says something like, "There's always something good in every situation," and, dammit, you've got to believe him.
If I was Drake Johnson I would get business cards with "Grand Raconteur" on them posthaste, while looking very carefully for lurking forklifts.
Around the league. Things happening in opponent camps:
- Penn State seems set to replace Carl Nassib with a couple of older guys who had 1.5 sacks between them a year ago. You'd think that would be a dropoff, but Nassib came out of nowhere a year ago.
- PSU is considering starting true freshman Michael Menet, a five star guard type.
- Rutgers QB Chris Laviano "edged" a grad transfer brought in to compete with him. I mostly mention this because I had no idea this went down last year: "Laviano will have a chance to win over Rutgers fans who had no love for him last season when he went five straight games without a touchdown pass and lost his cool by blasting them on social media after interpreting boos meant for then-coach Kyle Flood at his own show of toughness in the middle of a career-best game."
- MSU has five "co-starters" on the DL. One of them is a 275-pound DT who grad-transferred from Nebraska, a second is a redshirt freshman, and a third is a senior DE with eight career tackles. If that doesn't presage a major dropoff despite the presence of Malik McDowell I'm going to throw a shoe.
- Per Urban Meyer, H-back Curtis Samuel is OSU's "number one playmaker on offense." Mike Weber is "close" to being named the starting RB; after Brionte Dunn was booted his competition is "nah" and "???." Malik Hooker and Damon Webb are leading to start at safety; sounds like Webb is still a little combustible.
- OSU may start true freshman Michael Jordan at guard. Jordan was a well regarded recruit but not so well regarded that you shouldn't expect Michigan to wreck that dude.
This was cool:
It didn't really work; Ohio State's NFL-bound defenders reacted quickly and beat their blocks, but I'm still drawing it up because it was a cool way to mess with the Quarters defense that our two biggest rivals, Ohio State and Rutgers (and Michigan State) run as a base.
Step 1: Play-Action Power
The first thing here is the power pull by the left guard, Braden (#71). That little bit of play-action is meant to get the linebackers reacting to pull, particularly the Sam, or "Star" in OSU's terminology (#43 Darron Lee), and the Mike (#5 Raekwan McMillan). These were two of the quickest linebackers (or in Lee's case hybrids) in the country last year, and the play's success depends foremost on flanking those two with offensive linemen, so getting them to take a false step to the their left is a big deal.
Peppers is set up a bit closer to the line of scrimmage than the QB, which is a key for the defense that Peppers will be coming across (not down), and threatening an outside run (or pass blocking but I think they knew he doesn't do that). His first step indeed is down and in, like he might do that. Then he holds up, at the same moment that Speight pulls the ball back to pass.
Step 2: Show a Tunnel Screen
Let's take a snapshot and see what the power did:
Not much. As soon as they read the pass the linebackers and DBs are all right back where they aligned. However the DL are aggressively getting upfield so they're playing along at least. Braden is set up to take the backside DT to wall off pursuit. The playside DE is allowed to come in free, another signal that the offense will try to run outside, and that holds that DE inside long enough that Peppers can outrun him to the slot.
As the ball goes to Darboh there, Ohio State's defenders start to react to what they're now reading as a screen that attacks the crease. This is a thing a lot of teams run against Quarters defenses because of how it messes with the 1-2 reads.
Remember how Quarters works:
One of the little confusing things you can do against quarters defenders is to stack your receivers or have them cross each other. The DBs have to read #2 to see if he's going vertical (play Cov 4) or horizontal (play Cov 2). Crossing receivers makes that read a little more difficult. Eventually the WRs separate and that's when the read determination is made, but it's still one more bit of analysis to cause paralysis.
The motion-to-stack-to-delay in the slot is messing with the quarters read, and true to form the CB and S stay back and read instead of attacking upfield.
Step 3: Swing out the Peppers
Meanwhile the linebackers are responsible for the RB—Peppers' outside release means the Star, Darron Lee ought to cover him. Michigan would like Darron Lee (the LB at the bottom of the screen) to try to make the play all by himself, meaning he's out of position and about to get walloped by Mason Cole, who's usually a really good downfield blocker. But Lee doesn't get fooled here either. When Darboh gets the ball, Lee races outside into the alley to be the force player.
But this is still fine—if Lee fights inside of Cole, the LB is dead. If Lee keeps leverage, Cole can still blast the much smaller player out of the lane. Glasgow meanwhile whooped past the nose tackle and may yet wall off McMillan.
The hope here is that in all the confusion, you'll catch the Buckeye defenders staying inside to squeeze down Darboh's running room. But they don't.
At the bottom-left you see Apple has defeated Grant's cut block. Lee is set up perfectly to force the run inside and not let Cole push him too far down to create space. Glasgow may be agile but McMillan is already past the hash and too quick to lose that matchup. However Glasgow did a good enough job to get out there that McMillan can't forget about him, which means there's still a lane to be had. And the playside DE, Lewis, has some agility—he checked Darboh then left him to keep pursuit hot—but he's not running down Peppers.
So Harbaugh's little tricky play has Peppers in space and able to pick the side of a Mason Cole vs. hybrid spacebacker block, with the MLB's pursuit too late squeeze down a hole. It's 6 yards before Apple's dodge of Perry fills. Had that block gone right, it'd be Peppers vs a safety who's coming down from the 50 yard line for a lot more.
It would have been fun to see this against a defense not of 2016 Ohio State's caliber. Anyway it's a good example of how Michigan's coaches were emptying the hat of ideas to find a few good matchups against a team they couldn't really play 11 on 11 with.
[I sat down shortly after the start of Mattison's roundtable.]
"Watching them this summer, you know, we're not allowed to be around them but I'm hearing what they've done and they've really taken care of business. They've worked really hard this summer, which shows that they have the same goals for their group as we do."
How many different places are you going to use Taco, or are you going to center in on one spot for him? And talk about what he brings to the table.
"The entire group of guys by their positions, tackle and nose, end is called 'end' or 'anchor', those are the two outside guys, they know that they have to know both positions. The reason for that is teams that trade the tight end, when you're an end you become an anchor, anchor becomes an end, that kind of thing, nose and tackle—and it helps us with our rotation. We've found this out over the years and it's happened more and more—teams that run spread offense, really one of the reasons they do that is if you have a really good defensive line or experienced defensive line, they try to wear them out, they try to get that defensive line to not have the impact that it would have in a game by taking a little bit of their gas away. So we want to have the ability to plug a lot of guys into different positions.
"Also I think whenever you are at a position and you know the other positions, you know better how to play it. I think the days are over where 'I am a this position and that's all I do,' and you're going to get in trouble doing that because all of a sudden somebody goes down or gets nicked up and you need to take the next-best guy and put him in somewhere. Experience helps you with that. These kids have heard the same techniques, the same expectations for three and four years, it's easy for them to slip into another position."
And then Taco, talk about...
"Taco will start out—he played both the anchor and the end, but we'll play him more as the open-side end this year. With him playing that position will be Chase Winovich. Chase has showed some great things this spring, having never played the position, but he's a young man that we're looking for—he's got a lot of things going for him. He's very aggressive, very fast for his size, he's gotten bigger, and that gives us the two that you're looking for, at least, at that position."
And Taco, talk about his contributions, speed and size, what he brings...
"Taco's got great leverage. He's a six-foot-five guy, so he's got long leverage, which allows you to keep separation. He plays very physical. He can run. He's an athlete, he was an outstanding basketball player. And he's got great experience now. He's played a lot of football since he's been here and now I think he really feels about about—you know, he's ready to really go."
[Hit THE JUMP for Mattison answering many questions that aren't Taco talk-abouts.]
SPONSOR NOTES: Again, chances of this existing without Matt are somewhat less. I like to think this would be a thing in the world without the prod from Homesure Lending, but you never know. Matt's sponsoring another Football Eve this year, albeit on Thursday so it's Football Eve Eve. September 1st, 7:30,
Ashley's, first beer's on him.
[UPDATE: We've moved it to WOLVERINE STATE BREWING at 2019 West Stadium to accomodate more people]
FORMATION NOTES: I'm ready to give up on naming these things. A couple of attempts to clarify the lingo below:
This was a Peppers sweep to all the dudes. Michigan has six OL in the game and Cole is in a two point stance to the bottom of the line. This was "ace quad tight bunch" even though that doesn't encapsulate all the weirdness.
Here Michigan has two TEs and two WRs on the field, with Butt lined up in a two point stance and Chesson an inline TE:
I'm calling this "WR hide." If you see it below there's an "inline TE" named Darboh or Chesson or both.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Rudock, starting OL, and the starting WRs the whole way. Isaac did not play and Drake Johnson was limited to scattered snaps as Smith and Peppers took the large bulk of the RB snaps. Peppers also lined up in the slot, at H-back and as a wildcat QB. AJ Williams didn't get much time.
[After THE JUMP: one very big problem M tried to work around.]