"How we doin'?"
Great. Are you game ready yet?
"Getting there, yeah. We're getting there. Now that we've kind of shaved it down to the guys that we think are going to participate in a game, that's always kind of when you start making a little bit more progress. You're not working with your third team guys all the time. You're working with the guys that are actually going to play in the game. You can start getting a little chemistry, and it starts going better."
You have six running backs on the depth chart. How many do you think will actually get carries?
"Who knows? I don't know. Fitz [Toussaint] is going to be our starting running back, and we're going to play it by ear. I don't have an answer to that question because Fitz is going to be the running back and we'll just see how things go."
Have you ever listed six guys at running back before?
"I think so. At one point I did. It may not have been at running back. Yeah, I'm sure I have, yeah. At some place I've been. That's a lot, though. I will say that."
I'll miss you, #19.
|Joe Kerridge||So.*||Khalid Hill||Fr.||AJ Williams||So.||Devin Funchess||So.|
|Sione Houma||So.||Wyatt Shallman||Fr.||Jordan Paskorz||Jr.*||Jake Butt||Fr.|
Al Borges necessitates a change in season preview strategies. Previously folded into the wide receiver section, tight ends and close relatives have become so prevalent and diverse that they demand their own post and elaborate delineation of responsibilities. I have also snatched the fullbacks away from the tailback section to give a full spectrum of guys who aren't tailbacks or receivers who will see the field for Michigan this fall.
Your author's attempt to distill all the things he's heard about the guys listed above and put them into categories:
- FULLBACK: a man with a steel plated head runs into linebackers, gets two carries in his career, and has six catches. See: Kevin Dudley.
- U-BACK: A "move" tight end that motions all about, rarely lines up on the actual line of scrimmage, often goes from fullback to a flared spot or vice versa, and operates as more of a receiver than the fullback. Must be a credible threat to LBs; ends career with 40 catches. See: Aaron Shea.
- TIGHT END: Larger that the U-back, the tight end is a tight end who is actually tight to the end of the line. He comes out, lines up next to a tackle, helps him win blocks, and clobberates linebackers at the second level. He goes out into patterns as well, and may end his career with 40 catches himself. See: Tyler Ecker.
- FLEX: Sort of like the U-back in that he rarely lines up on the line of scrimmage itself, but if he motions away from his spot near the line, it's not to fullback but wide receiver. They get a billion catches and break Jim Mandich's record eventually. See: Devin Funchess is the only flex guy I can think of recently.
Complicating matters is the fact that many of the players listed above bleed into other positions: Houma, Rawls, and Shallman could be tailback-ish, Funchess and Butt will have their share of time with their hand in the dirt, tight to the end, and may even motion to fullback on occasion. In a Borges offense, things are not as they appear!
/tosses smoke bomb
Fullback is a spot where walk-ons are prevalent; Dudley mentioned above was both a walk-on and Michigan's finest linebacker eraser in the past 20 years, with only Chris Floyd offering competition. This year is no exception, as JOE KERRIDGE eased past converted tailback Stephen Hopkins last year to acquire a strong hold on the job. Judging from one of the sudden legion of shirtless photos players put on Instagram, if you encounter Joe Kerridge in the wild you should walk away slowly and hope you don't smell like salmon:
L to R: Sione Houma, Bobby Henderson, Joe Kerridge.
That plus the whole returning-starter bit should see Kerridge retain his role as Michigan's first choice when something absolutely has to die. In year one he was a little tentative, as you might expect, and there were a number of plays on which I though he was not reacting to the situation in front of him quickly enough to make an effective block. I'm still not clear on whether some of the suboptimal blocking on spread plays was because Michigan wasn't using newfangled arc blocking (ie: using your fullback or tight end to take out an exchanging linebacker and give your edge guy the edge) or because a freshman wasn't executing, but with the move away from spread elements, the job will be simpler: see man, make man wish he had taken up lawn darts.
Kerridge has a ton of potential. When he makes solid contact with guys, you can hear football:
That linebacker set up outside, Toussaint cut outside, and all the LB could do was fall over. He can bring the pain.
Kerridge had his inconsistencies. After three consecutive +3 games and a monster +6.5 against Illinois…
And Kerridge is racking up big numbers.
I may be giving him too much credit for standing up linebackers but to my eyes he really appears to be whacking them and providing the impetus for an improved under center run game. Those isos and such are
…he fell off into a bunch of games where he hung around 1 point. A large part of that was the Gardner transition; he also lost some playing time to Stephen Hopkins, who came back from injury and was given a shot to displace Kerridge. Kerridge did whiff some blocks. He got smoked for a sack in the bowl game, for one. And this inverted veer against State is something an experienced guy might decide to block the end on because otherwise there's no one else he can hit.
For a redshirt freshman it was a promising season. In year two the goal is to cut his failure rate in half and catch five passes. He'll be an interesting guy to watch in UFR. If Michigan really commits to MANBALL he could see some big numbers.
[After THE JUMP: Funchess, Williams, U-backs, we've got it all. Except upperclassmen.]
"These high chairs are not really built for me. Hrnggh. How's my hair look?"
Great. Bad news about Amara Darboh. How do you compensate for that?
"Well, fortunately we have some pretty good kids that can fill in, but I feel probably worse for him than anybody. The kid had an excellent spring ball and capped it off with a fabulous two-a-days. He was playing good. I feel bad because I really feel like this was going to be a big, almost maybe even a coming-out season for him. But he's got a redshirt, so I guess there's a silver lining, but I just feel bad for the kid."
Does this maybe put a little more pressure on Jehu Chesson?
"Well Jehu would do it. Joe Reynolds will be out there. Jeremy Jackson. We have some capable replacements, thank goodness. All those guys, not just Jehu, but everybody."
Will you consider any position changes to try to get some depth?
"Oh I don't think so. I think we're still okay. We can't lose too many more."
Are any of the freshmen capable at this point?
"No. No. Not really."
"No. Not yet. But we're not completing eliminating them, either. Not yet, anyway."
Previously: CB Reon Dawson, CB Channing Stribling, S Delano Hill, S Dymonte Thomas, CB Ross Douglas, CB Jourdan Lewis, LB Ben Gedeon, LB Mike McCray, DE Taco Charlton, DT Maurice Hurst Jr., DT Henry Poggi, OL Patrick Kugler, OL David Dawson, OLLogan Tuley-Tillman, OL Kyle Bosch, OL Chris Fox, OL Dan Samuelson.
|Pickerington, OH – 6'6", 231|
4*, #145 overall
4*, #144 overall
4*, #179 overall
3*, NR overall
Stanford, UCLA, Wisconsin, NW, Tenn, Iowa, Notre Dame
|YMRMFSPA||Kyle Rudolph/Tyler Eifert|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post. Ace interviews him.|
Early enrollee. Army AA. Twitter.
Do you ever get the feeling that sometimes Al Borges sits in his basement watching film of the various tight ends and H-backs he's brought in and starts laughing maniacally? Dumb question. Better question: does Al Borges do anything but?
Yes. He goes to a lot of hockey games, for one. But anyway.
This site has proposed that Al Borges's goal as an offensive coordinator is to whipsaw defenses from one end of the spectrum to the other, and guys like Funchess and Jake Butt are key in this effort. You're a Michigan fan, so let me just mention the names Rudolph and Eifert. You get it. Tyler Eifert in particular was used as both a traditional tight end and a oh-god-I'm-5'9"-this-is-a-geological-feature-I'm-checking outside receiver in his last couple years at Notre Dame. Mismatch is the watchword here, and Michigan's going to keep bringing in and bulking up 6'6" guys until they get it. When Mark Porter needed a comparable, he went to the ND well:
“Jake reminds me a bit of Kyle Rudolph, who went to Notre Dame out of Cincinnati Elder. He’s long. He’s fast. He just needs to get into a college weight room and get bigger and stronger. He has the potential to be a great college tight end.”
In Butt Michigan has… well, that guy or Devin Funchess again. Scouting reports consistently praise his receiving skills before the end bit where they mention that he's a glorified wide receiver at the moment. ESPN:
…lean and will need to fill out his lengthy frame and add a good deal more mass. … He is not one of those receivers who just effortlessly plucks the ball from the air, but overall he does have a good pair of hands and will work to catch the ball away from his body when he can. … excellent arm length and demonstrates the ability to extend and catch the ball outside of his frame. He will do a good job of going up to get the ball and with his height he can be a tough matchup in jump ball situations. He displays above average straight-line speed, and while he needs to keep developing as a route runner he does display good movement skills in space. … will also need to contribute as an inline blocker and that will likely need some development in this area…. will need to continue to improve playing strength, lower pad level and work to deliver a pop with explosive hip roll on contact.
ESPN isn't as gushy as a couple other evaluators are about the receiving aspect to Butt's game. In an environment where erratic quarterback play can distort receiver stats extensively—especially for guys who make their living in the middle of the field, where interceptions lurk—Butt was crazy productive, with 68 catches for over 900 yards as a senior. While that's not quite Drake Harris carpet-bombing, I've been doing these a long time and usually tight end have stats like 15 catches for 200 yards because asking a high school quarterback to throw to a tight end is basically asking him to throw a pick-six.
Anyway, those stats come from a polished receiving package. Scout's eval notes body control, hands, and concentration as assets:
Has the height, athleticism and hands to be a real receiving threat from the tight end spot. Does a good job of tracking the ball in the air and can go up high to make grabs in traffic. Runs good routes and isn't afraid to run into traffic. Is a tough, aggressive and willing blocker who just needs to add some strength and bulk to improve in that department.
He earned an Opening invite off his performance at an NFTC in Champaign:
TE: Jake Butt, 6-6, 231, Pickerington North (Pickerington, Ohio)
Breakdown: Butt was unstoppable off the line and looked like a receiver in the open field. The Michigan commit is one of the most polished tight ends seen on the NFTC tour this year.
Rivals named him to their list of "Summer Standouts" after a "terrific" camp season and a performance at the Opening at which he "more than held his own."
Scout on the occasion of his Army selection:
He has excellent size and speed and shows the ability to run, showing excellent body control, concentration and field awareness. He has decent speed for a big receiver. Butt is dependable and showed at the The Opening that he can be a valuable target in the passing game.
Butt was picked for the Army game but missed most of the practice week and the event itself with a cartilage issue in his ankle. In the brief period of time he showed out, he impressed Helmholdt:
"He went Monday and looked outstanding, both in blocking drills and running patterns. He is so well rounded. He definitely has the ability to handle defensive ends from the tight end spot, blocking, then on pass patterns, he has great ability to go downfield and make catches.
"One time he was 40 yards downfield, and I swore the ball was overthrown. He never broke stride, caught it over his shoulder. He's going to be a very accomplished pass catcher."
247 was a voice of dissent, and since I don't think the national guys are crazy enough to let anyone from Bucknuts near their rankings (Butt dropped from 10th in their eyes to 21st over the course of that senior season in which he was putting up 900 receiving yards as a TE) I'm guessing that meh evaluation is based on this Todd Worly evaluation that evaluates him as a defensive player as much as an offensive one and knocks his "inconsistent" motor, which, like, come on: guy is on the field for every play. The tight end bit:
He wasn't forced to attempt any highlight-reel catches Friday night, but he clearly possesses reliable hands, as he's comfortable catching the ball outside his frame on a consistent basis.
Weaknesses: He is pretty raw at this point, and will need some time to develop in Ann Arbor. While he possesses the ability to bend, he doesn't consistently play with it.
…He is not a dominating blocker at the high school level because his get off isn't overly explosive, and he doesn't regularly play with the knee bend he's naturally capable of.
I didn't see anything else on their site to indicate why they were the outlier here. The focus there seems more on the blocking and his overall play, not his potential as a seam-stretching guy. FWIW.
Butt enrolled early and weighed in at around 230, so if Michigan deploys him this year that is suboptimal. As Funchess discovered last year, if you can't block a linebacker you're just a large, slow wide receiver instead of a matchup nightmare. Butt may find a role as the other tight end in certain sets. Let's let him explain it:
“They are going to play me at the “Y” and “U” positions on offense,” said Butt. “The “Y” is more like a traditional tight end on the line of scrimmage and the “U” position is more of a hybrid that can be moved around everywhere and even line up in the backfield. I’m really excited about it because that will give me a chance to show my versatility and also help out as a blocker.”
Michigan's tight ends on a continuum from Y to U: AJ Williams, Devin Funchess, Jake Butt, Khalid Hill. Insofar as the U position degenerates into a fullback-with-benefits situation you can add Shallman, Kerridge, and Houma to the U end of the list.
Early, Butt will moonlight as a passing-oriented U-TE, adding the capability to play inline as he moves into his upperclass years. Given the comments about his frame above, Funchess's surprisingly static weight, and Butt's trajectory…
"On offense, we use him as a tight end, we flex him out and use him in the backfield as an H-Back to block out counter plays," Phillips said. He's a terrific athlete. He's our starting outside linebacker as well, and we very rarely sub him out. He's in great shape. The thing about Jake is, he's only 16, he just turned 16. He's 225 pounds now, and he was 190 a year ago - he could easily be 245 a year from now."
…it won't be a surprise if Butt ends up being a bigger guy than Funchess as early as next year. That was February 2012; a year later Michigan listed him at 231, but get him in a college weight program and muscles expand.
"Jake is a tremendous worker, in the weight room and on the field," Phillips said. "I've coached numerous Division-I players and four guys that went to the NFL, and Jake is a harder worker than all of them."
Part of his production can be attributed to his natural athletic ability. Phillip adds that in his 25 years of coaching Phillips he has never had a player who works as hard.
"Jake competes every single play, every single practice," Phillips said. "From the stretches to the runs to the warmups to the drills to team sessions, he goes hard."
A pattern has ceased emerging and just sits there, impressing you with various aspects of its personality.
They really hoed me on NCAA! They made
@bigjakeyB_1 the same strength as me! Back to lifting tomorrow
I'm faster then
@TheSupremeTaco and stronger on NCAA guess we know who really ran picktown
I feel for the guys who didn't make it in at all though.
Why Rudolph/Eifert? Thought about Funchess, but we don't really know how that's going to end up yet, and Butt does not quite match Funchess's outrageous length.
For a better picture of what a guy like Butt might end up like, the ND guys are good comparables. Both came out of high school at 6'6", 220-230. Rudolph was an all-world recruit, Eifert a generic three-star. Split the difference and you get Butt. Both added 30 pounds over the course of their high school careers and went in the first couple rounds of the NFL draft.
Guru Reliability: High. Save the 247 outlier, basic consensus. Healthy, productive high school career, some camps, Army game performance was limited.
Variance: Moderate. Whenever you're talking about putting a bunch of pounds on a tight end you threaten to take away the receiving ability that would make him excellent.
Ceiling: High. NFL frame and athleticism.
General Excitement Level: High. Yup.
Projection: Is Al Borges tight-end mad enough to put Butt on the field this year? Survey says… maybe. If he wants a goal line blocker, a spare OL is going to be a better option; if he wants a Stanford-like package the problem with that is going to be similar to the problem Michigan had last year: dudes can't block well enough to put defenses in a bind. Meanwhile Borges has other options at that U spot and it would be nice to get another year of separation between Funchess and Funchess 2.0.
But the situation here is a bit like QB. With only two non-freshman TEs on the roster an injury would force a noob on the field, so you need to be prepared for that eventuality. I bet he plays.
Going forward he's always going to be battling with Funchess for the starting spot, but that's going to be a distinction without much of a difference as the two guys grow and become more complete players.
Spring Game gifs? Oh, sure, I guess. This is the last post I'll have here until the 29th, as the next couple days are devoted to HTTV stuff and then I'm taking a little time off to recharge.
I'm continuing to tweak how I do gifs on here to hopefully make them more accessible for everyone—most of them are now dumbed down to 48 colors, which has greatly decreased file sizes. If you had trouble with them before, perhaps you'll give these posts another shot. Anyway, Dennis Norfleet:
This one was specifically requested by Brian, or at least that's how I interpreted the tween-at-a-Bieber-concert scream emanating from the stands when it happened. (Full run gif'd here, but I really wanted to slow-mo that juke.)
[Hit THE JUMP for fun with the names of a certain Pickerington-based duo.]
“What are you shaking your head about? Don’t start this like that. I want positive karma out of you. Hi. How you guys doin’? Heiko, what’s happenin?”
MGo: Not much.
“Always good to see you.”
MGo: It’s good to see you, too.
“You didn’t mean that.”
MGo: I’m really sad that you didn’t run any pistol formations.
“We don’t have any pistol formations. How could we run it? But if you’d like us to put them in we’ll be happy to do so just to make you happy.”
MGo: That would be great.
“Because my life revolves around your happiness if you haven’t figured that out by now.”
The first play from scrimmage was a 30-yard pass down the sideline to Amara Darboh. Was that to show people that they don’t need to worry about the wide receivers?
“Heh. No. That wasn’t what I was thinking. No, we were just thinking -- it’s always a good idea every so often in coming out on offense to try and take a ball deep. Our defense isn’t necessarily like this, but a lot of defenses will get a little reckless, you know? They’ll try and create a safety or whatever. A deep ball sometimes is a pretty good deal so we just decided at least once we were going to try and do that. That’s the reason for it.”