"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
Jake Butt and Amara Darboh
When did you know going into the game that you were going to have an opportunity to really have a big production day?
JB: “I mean, I think with the way our offense is set up it’s not just going to- each play isn’t just designed to just get one guy the ball. Really, anyone can get the ball on any given play. I knew there’d be opportunities and plays called where I’d have a chance to get open so I was just trying to catch the balls that were thrown my way.”
Talk a little bit about the process of a new quarterback and receivers getting to know each other and the little things that make the difference in a pass route or a football game.
JB: “The process started really the day Jake [Rudock] got here. His locker’s next to mine in the players’ locker room and we started just playing catch, and all summer we’d do our player-led practices, 7-on-7 and 1-on-1s and just running routes and we started to build the chemistry there. Jake’s had some success at other schools and stuff, so he knows how to get it done.”
AD: “Yeah, true. We were just trying to get the timing down throughout camp and summer, like Jake said. Just tying to get a feel and he tries to get a feel for where we’re going to be at and put the ball in the right spot.”
What did you see out of Grant Perry in preseason camp to know that he was going to be able to help you, and after the game- Coach Harbaugh just said there were a couple routes he didn’t run very precisely that led to interceptions- what do you say to him to make sure he doesn’t get down on himself?
AD: “With the first question, he was a guy who was very focused. He would always ask questions and took good notes and he was a guy that you could tell he understood football even though he was a freshman. And then with the mistakes and stuff, I told him after the game just go out there and pay attention to details and try to do the routes that you did in practice and don’t let the crowd or the atmosphere change the way you play.”
[After THE JUMP: Jourdan Lewis and Willie Henry]
What did Grant Perry do in preseason practice to earn the opportunity he did and how do you evaluate his performance on Thursday?
“What Grant did was he consistently came in and practiced every day at a high level, especially for a true freshman who’s also picking up the offense. He was out there every single day getting better and better.
“His performance in the game was in some ways out standing and some not precise route running, so it was…I wouldn’t call it as consistent as we would like but I think he’ll improve from it. I think he showed signs of some really outstanding play in terms of catching the ball, route running, and blocking. He had some blocks that were things of beauty. So, it was a good first start. But a couple costly mistakes.”
Was that interception on him?
“You never say it’s totally on one player, but he did not run the correct route. It was not close to being precise. It was something he just made up. But, again, when it comes to playing the quarterback position you don’t have to throw the ball if someone doesn’t run the right route. So, there’s fingerprints on that first interception for Grant and Jake [Rudock].”
Drake Johnson was with the team, traveled, dressed, everything. You have any better feel on him this week?
“Yeah, we’re going to evaluate that as the week goes on. Drake’s in really good communication with the doctors [and] the doctors are in really good communication with him. Cautionsly feeling pretty good where we’re at right now and we’ll see what happens during the week.”
[After THE JUMP: “And he’s a football player. There’s a compliment that…you can’t give a better one.”]
There's so much going on here.
- Harbaugh discarding all his playsheets except the green one in a way that would seem exasperated except he looks completely calm the entire time.
- Harbaugh has a guy for this, and that guy is ready.
- The coaches behind Harbaugh are unfazed by all of this.
- Except, that is, for the guy holding the giant Tennessee Titans helmet placard, who's ready to spring into action and grab that wayward playsheet until Mr. B snags it. Strong situational awareness there.
- Oh, right, and then Harbaugh licks his fingers and smacks his own ass.
For the record, Green Ass Smack was a pass that very well might have worked except Michigan blew the protection.
[Hit THE JUMP for more Harbaugh, Peppers, and the best BUTTDOWN yet.]
9/3/2015 – Michigan 17, Utah 24 – 0-1
I feel like I wrote this column already. In 2008, Michigan played a Utah team people expected would be pretty good. (They ended up very good, going undefeated, beating 'Bama in a bowl game, and finishing #2.) Michigan lost a somewhat close game. After, I used the then-skeletal luxury boxes as a metaphor for the team: under construction.
Michigan is still under construction. It has been under construction for going on eight years now. We brought in one company that insisted on turning half the building into pudding storage, and then it was a snake museum, and then a sand silo. Eventually the thing looked like the world's most totally rad Porsche hooked up to a pile of pudding, snakes, and quicksand. The next company fixed that at the same time they turned the rad Porsche into a Yugo full of clowns and if NEITHER OF THESE THINGS SOUNDS AT ALL LIKE A BUILDING YOU MAY BE ON TO SOMETHING THERE.
I also feel like I wrote this column already. Last year Michigan played Utah relatively even down to down, in fact outgaining the Utes, and lost because they were minus three in turnovers. This year they played Utah relatively even, outgained the Utes, and lost because they were (functionally) minus three in turnovers. Oh look, it's the game we play against Utah.
That there is a game we play against Utah that is a loss in which Michigan's offense spends much of its time armpit farting says a lot about the state of the program now, but you can go two paragraphs up if you'd like to relive that some more. You might. You're a Michigan fan. By now you must be into some pretty weird stuff.
The game wasn't quite the same as those other two. This one was less depressing. The first featured a walk-on at quarterback; afterwards it was clear that Michigan was going to struggle to maintain their bowl streak.
Last year was this game:
You know, the one with the downpour that everyone left during that was the end of Brady Hoke before THE END OF BRADY HOKE against Minnesota. The one with the ten-man punt return. The one with the column titled "By This Grainy Screenshot We Will Curse Thy Name."
So it wasn't that. Neither was it the grand debut of a Stanfordized Michigan. Despite the occasional media doofus retcon about Michigan fans being brought back to reality, nobody actually expected that in year one, and especially not game one.
I will admit was hoping they'd have a run longer than seven yards.
Not so much. Utah's burly front straight up whipped the Michigan offensive line. One replay of a failed third-and-short sneak featured Ben Braden getting moonwalked back into the quarterback. Mason Cole specialized in second-level whiffs. Kyle Kalis got dumped on his ass in the first half. Large creases were virtually nonexistent. Other than De'Veon Smith missing a cutback lane on second and three in the second half, lanes eschewed weren't obvious enough to induce groans.
They just could not cope with the defensive line, and that sounds like the most familiar thing of all. So we reset expectations again. Once more they have an offensive line working towards competency in a new system, and this will hold them back until such time as it doesn't anymore.
I wish I knew when that was going to be. It should be coming, as it always seems to for Harbaugh. It's hard not to be impatient when you've seen this all before. I have, and it's fine, I guess. I have faith that Jim Harbaugh is going to get there and everything will be wonderful and full of sprinkles topped with sprinkles. Yes, the struggle to the top is critical to the reward at the end. I would still like to fast forward to that bit.
Yet To Be Named Harbaugh-Themed Guys Who Did Good Award. #1 Jake Butt quickly established himself one of those WR/TEs that is basically Ertz/Fleener Voltron.
#2 Chris Wormley tore through the Utah line like it was made of tissue paper several times in the first half; by the second Utah had just about given up on trying to run Booker inside.
#3 Willie Henry also thundered his way through the line with frequency, pressuring Wilson and dissuading
Honorable mention: Amara Darboh had a bunch of catches and one unfortunately critical drop; De'Veon Smith looked like a guy who will be a nightmare if he gets gaps consistently; Jourdan Lewis shut his guy off; Jabrill Peppers erased screens.
3: Jake Butt (#1, Utah)
2: Chris Wormley (#2, Utah)
1: Willie Henry (#3, Utah)
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
For the single individual best moment.
Jake Butt skies over two defensive backs to bring in a spectacular #buttdown.
Honorable mention: Blake O'Neill drops a delayed punt at the two yard line. Wormley storms through the center of the line for a TFL.
Utah: Crazy #buttdown.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
This week's worst thing ever.
Rudock throws a pick six in the general direction of Grant Perry, who was in the general direction of Rudock's two other picks.
Honorable mention: The two other picks. That 74 yard Utah punt. That Utah fumble that bounced directly to the only other Ute in a six-block radius.
Utah: circle route pick six.
[After THE JUMP: a much shorter bullets section than normal because usually I have an extra day to pull this all together, Thursday games are stupid]
|Joe Kerridge||Sr.*||Khalid Hill||So.*||AJ Williams||Sr.||Jake Butt||Jr.|
|Sione Houma||Sr.||Chase Winovich||So.*||Henry Poggi||So.*||Ian Bunting||Fr.*|
|Nick Volk||Fr.*||Ty Isaac||So.*||TJ Wheatley||Fr.||Jabrill Peppers||Fr.*|
"Tight End and Friends" debuted as a separate post in the preview a couple years ago when Al Borges started packing his roster with tons of slightly different blocky/catchy types; last year I went with it despite the OC changeover because there were a lot of dudes here anyway, and hooooo boy did that bet pay off when Harbaugh came into town.
Here is your now-annual reminder of what I mean by these various positions. (I've replaced the Borges-specific "U-back" terminology with the standard "H-back," FWIW.)
- FULLBACK: a man with a steel plated head who runs into linebackers, gets two carries in his career, and has six catches. See: Kevin Dudley.
- H-BACK: A "move" tight end who 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 than the H-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, Kevin Koger.
- FLEX: Big enough to play on the end of the line credibly. Agile enough to play H-back credibly. Not great at either. Capable of splitting out wide and threatening the secondary. Sacrifices some blocking for explosiveness. Can be a prime receiving threat. See: Tyler Eifert, Devin Funchess if he could block.
And of course many of these people bleed into other categories. Think of these position designations as Gaussian distributions in close proximity to each other.
TIGHT END AND FLEX
"Jake is as good a prospect as we've coached at the college level," Harbaugh said. "We've produced a lot of great players in college at the spot and it's vital to our success."
Not only did Jim Harbaugh bring out a Ross-Perot-sized chart that said "BUTT == ERTZ == FLEENER," he talked the like the gotdanged queen of England while doing so. And then emphasized that if you, kid, if you are not Ertz/Fleener Voltron that the whole gotdanged enterprise is liable to collapse 'pon itself.
JAKE BUTT is like… okay.
Butt recovered from an ACL tear suffered in 2014 spring practice to play in ten games and make 21 catches as a true sophomore. Now fully healthy in an offense without Devin Funchess and with Jim Harbaugh, every Michigan fan expects him to blow up.
This preview concurs. Butt is the kind of player Harbaugh has used to befuddle opposing defenses for years: the flex tight end. Michigan hasn't really had one since I've been paying attention. They tried to make Funchess one but gave up and made him a receiver. Michigan fans will be most familiar with the endless parade of Notre Dame flex TEs who were equally comfortable lining up in-line, outside, or in the slot. They were all named "Tyler" or "Chad" or "Austin" or something and they posed tough questions for cornerbacks they dwarfed and safeties and linebackers they could outrun.
That's Butt. He is a huge-radius target with a number of one-handed stabs to his credit already and the athleticism to blaze for 70 yards on a screen against Ohio State as a freshman. After his freshman year, Mike Spath got this quote from an anonymous opponent:
"We played them late in the year, and [Butt] was someone that was really tough to defend. He's incredibly athletic. He made a catch against us that not that many receivers even make, so he has great hands. There weren't a lot of great tight ends in our league last year, so he could be the best this season."
Sometimes he just hangs out on the ground catching footballs one handed and oh hey there ma'am I did not see you why yes I have been working out how nice of you to notice
A little work from today.. pic.twitter.com/jOmzgujgmg
— jake butt (@JBooty_88) July 9, 2015
Perhaps we could get some gelato.
[After THE JUMP: High expectations, lower expectations, and an endless parade of blocky/catchy.]
when in doubt, picture of Peppers [Upchurch]
Maybe 500 students gathered for an open-ish practice on Saturday. Approximately all of them were dragooned by local media. We got an inside report from MGoUser Crisler Spidey; the thread on the board has maybe a dozen different takes as well. Blockquotes without links in the rest of this post are snippets from Spidey*. He would like you to follow him on twitter.
If Jim Harbaugh's goal is to spawn the next generation of Michigan sports journalists, he's off to a good start.
*[Sometimes the combination of the internet, paranoid coaches, and football is just terrific.]
Ding dings and boo boos
Amara Darboh had his left pinky in a splint. Freddy Canteen had his right arm in a sling. Patrick Kugler was on crutches.
— Jake Lourim (@jakelourim) August 23, 2015
In order of concern: minor, middling, a bit worried. A finger issue should clear up by the Utah game and wouldn't prevent Darboh from playing in any case; a shoulder/arm thing could be something that heals quickly or not; crutches are generally not good.
- Jourdan Lewis was dressed but did not participate. With various dudes in injury-indicating red shirts I would assume that means Lewis is obviously a starter they'd rather try to find their second corner with live-fire reps.
- Tyrone Wheatley Jr was on crutches, but we knew that he had hurt himself already.
- Spidey* caught this subtle thing: "Brian Cole, Karan Higdon, and DaMario Jones were all in uniform, but wearing running shoes instead of cleats. They participated in some drills, but not the scrimmage."
- He also said Jarrod Wilson and Mike McCray were both in red no-contact jerseys but dressed.
- Drake Johnson didn't play.
I wouldn't freak about the rather long list of names here; this is the point in camp where they've just come off weeks of punishing two-a-days and are trying to get everyone in reasonable shape before Utah.
Rudock looked far and away the better player, hitting his receivers with consistency and even getting a good scramble from time to time. Morris looked like Morris, consistently bombing it over his receivers' heads.
Let me reiterate how much better Rudock was than Morris. This does not appear to be a very close race at all. Rudock was connecting with all of his receivers, especially Harris and Butt.
Rudock got the great majority of the snaps with the first unit. Described as more athletic than what might have been thought coming in.. "A guy who may not win the game but certainly won't lose it." Performed much better than Morris, especially when evaluated with regard to poise, delivery of ball to the right spots and working through progressions.
The difference must have leapt off the field to those in attendance, because many of these takes are emphatic. Most of the passing was quick rhythm WCO stuff, which plays into Rudock's strengths—he's very accurate.
Morris still has a rocket for an arm, and he overthrew senior wide receiver Jehu Chesson past the end zone and into the crowd.
"Same old stuff" was another take. Reports from camp have been more positive than those originating from Saturday's scrimmage, so it's possible the students just caught him on an off day.
Wilton Speight got time with the third team late.
Also, Zach Gentry is enormous. That is all.
De'Veon Smith was your tentative #1 with Ty Isaac rotating in behind him and Derrick Green getting time with the second unit. Ross Taylor-Douglas made a few appearances with the second team as well, so 1) that's what position he's playing today and 2) Drake Johnson does not seem full go yet.
Kerridge was the fullback; Chase Winovich was the second option there. Winovich lined up as an H-back in the spring game and would likely reprise that role; he's not going to be as effective as Kerridge is as a linebacker deterrent.
Wide receiver & tight end
With Darboh out Jehu Chesson and Drake Harris were the first team guys, which is an indicator that Harris is for real unless his hamstring betrays him again. It does not give us much insight into exactly how much hype we should buy into—if Darboh was playing and Harris was out there in front of Chesson that would be time to (gingerly, oh so gingerly) ring the cathedral bells.
The scrimmage also gave further confirmation that Grant Perry is the starting slot receiver and that Jake Butt is going to be relied upon heavily in the passing game. Moe Ways seems like the #4 guy at the moment.
Jake Butt and Ian Bunting were first team tight ends, and Khalid Hill and Henry Poggi were actually the second team tight ends.
No AJ Williams is notable since there weren't any reports he was injured. Also notable is that Bunting got a number of snaps in 2TE sets with the starters. If his ability as a receiver is enough to offset what I imagine is still some pretty iffy blocking at 245-ish, that is encouraging.
Asking anyone to interpret OL performance without the benefit of replay from field level is folly. Nobody tried. The one note of interest is that the OL was as expected (Cole-Braden-Glasgow-Kalis-Magnuson) the whole time until late, when Dawson replaced Braden for a bit. With Kugler out Dawson is likely your sixth OL no matter what… and Braden's the guy most under threat.
Spidey caught the second team OL, one with some switches from earlier:
2nd team O-Line was LTT-Dawson-Bars-Pliska-JBB.
Kugler was out, remember. Previously Bars had been repping at RT and Bushell-Beatty at RG.
1st team tackles were Ryan Glasgow and Matt Godin, with Mo Hurst coming in as well. Hurst played second team with Tom Strobel it appeared.
Interesting thing: seems to be that Willie Henry has moved to defensive end. He was playing opposite Mario Ojemudia. Chris Wormley also took snaps with the first team defensive ends. Second team was RJS and Taco Charlton.
That would be bonkers if that's long term. Godin received a reasonable amount of time and did pretty well with it in spots (he was disruptive against Northwestern), but moving guys away from defensive tackle after the Mone injury would be odd. Especially since that would boot Wormley to the second team. As experiments go this one doesn't seem likely to skip.
FWIW, it doesn't seem like the Henry move is indicative of an actual 3-4:
All even fronts on defense
— Zach Shaw (@_ZachShaw) August 23, 2015
We'll see how it shakes out. I do think Godin is a legit player. Strobel's presence on the two deep as a DT is a bit alarming since he's listed at 6'6", 270 and was recently bounced to tight end, which didn't take. For whatever reason he's played mostly DT at Michigan despite a build that strongly suggests SDE in an under, which is a spot at which Michigan could use some depth. Instead he's playing inside and they're goofing with Henry outside. I dunno man.
As expected: Ross, Morgan, Bolden. There were occasional dime packages on which Morgan was the only LB. Gedeon rotated in with the first team frequently.
With Lewis held out the starting corners were Channing Stribling and Jeremy Clark—possibly a reason that the passing game was much more effective than the run game. I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'. Max Bultman paid attention to Clark and thought he was all right:
Clark covered Chesson most of the night and looked solid. He was never beat deep, but with Darboh out, he wasn't covering a true No. 1 outside.
Disposition of Peppers was the same as it was in spring:
Jarrod Wilson and Jabrill Peppers were the safeties, and on nickel packages, they pushed Peppers to nickelback, with Delano Hill coming in as another safety.
Second team secondary saw Keith Washington and Brandon Watson at corner, Wayne Lyons playing safety with Dymonte Thomas, and Terry Richardson at nickel.
Losing Blake Countess is going to rankle if Lyons isn't even playing cornerback. No idea what that says about anything. If things aren't going well they do have the option of moving Peppers to boundary and using Hill as a full-time starter. They clearly do not want to do that.
Reports on the kicking game varied. (As per the spring game, there were no punts.) Freshman scholarship kicker Andrew David did not make an appearance; walk-ons Kyle Seychel and Kenny Allen were either wobbly or fine. Bultman:
Senior Kenny Allen and sophomore Kyle Seychel both took field goals, but neither was very consistent. Seychel appeared to have the bigger leg, but his misses were also by a wider distance than Allen's.
Sounds like the Harbaughffense:
Formations were mostly under center with singleback or I-form, shifting the fullbacks and tight ends all over the place. Slot receivers were usually just tight ends who motioned out the slot.
That might be a reason Bunting got significant time. He is a threat split out.