Harbaugh hanging out with Rich Eisen. 24 minutes:
Remarkable how much different Harbaugh is when he's talking with a person he's comfortable with.
Rashan hype. Jourdan Lewis is impressed:
“You should see Rashan move,” Lewis said this week. “He’s very, very light on his feet. He and (nose tackle) Bryan Mone, it’s crazy. You should see them on the ladder drills. Oh my goodness, it’s unbelievable. At that size, you can’t teach stuff like that. It’s mind-blowing.”
Mone is listed in the spring roster at 6-foot-4, 320 pounds, while Gary is 6-5 and pushing 300 pounds.
The ladder drill develops footwork and quickness.
“It’s about how clean you are, and they barely touch that ladder,” Lewis said. “They are really fast on the ladder, and it’s really crazy.”
Hooray for that. Also hooray for quotes in the offseason. What sorcery is this?
Zordich's impact. We heard a ton about Greg Jackson a year ago but no so much about Zordich. Lewis offers up some praise for Michigan's second-year DBs coach:
“When Coach Zordich got here, he really broke it down for us. We have to know every formation by name. He has specific names for formations and we’ve got to know them. That’s the standard. Technique always has to be precise, because that’s the difference between a pick and a reception. I had knowledge of the game and knew when I could do certain things. But when he came in and he showed us these different formations and tricks when you see different looks, it has really helped my game. He’s been a huge part of our development as players.”
Before Zordich and Jackson came in Michigan's DBs coaches were a linebackers coach and
Mike Curt Mallory, who Michigan wanted to get rid of but Hoke held onto because he was excessively nice.
I have a lot of problems with you people. The Michigan Scout board recently had a kerfuffle about ranking in the aftermath of Dylan McCaffrey dropping out of their top 100 in aftermath of the Opening. I shrug at that, like, opinion, man. I think whoever doubts a guy with the last name McCaffrey playing quarterback for Jim Harbaugh is eventually going to look real dumb, but it's just one dude.
I do have a thing that bugs me about Scout's rankings.
That is a map of NFL players by home state. Scout's Midwest region consists of Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Kentucky. Collectively those states provide 260 NFL players, 16% of the league's total membership. While college rankings aren't direct NFL projections, all the sites admit that it plays a large role since they're so often judged on their ability to project guys to the league. Meanwhile football players are generally good or not good; serious disagreements between spread-heavy colleges and the pros are mostly limited to 5'10" quarterbacks and slot receivers. For the other 95% of players NFL counts are an excellent proxy for ideal recruiting rankings.
Scout has a top 300; by NFL reckoning this means that approximately 48 players in the Midwest should make that list. This no longer happens. You have to go back to 2014 to get a representative sample of 47 Scout 300 members from their Midwest region. Since there has been a steady and unexplained decline. There were 39 Midwest Scout 300 players in 2015, 38 in 2016, 29 in 2017, and 27 in their early 2018 rankings. Scout has made no effort to explain why they believe the number of future NFL players in the Midwest has dropped 50% in just four years. Talent fluctuates year to year but that's not a fluctuation—it's four straight years of decline, a severe one in 2017 and 2018.
And while I'm on the subject of recruiting ranking things that bug me. Most every year sees 3-6 kickers and punters drafted. The top end guys should get four stars.
Other adventures in Michigan's turnover luck last year. Per LSU blog And The Valley Shook, PBUs convert into interceptions at a relatively reliable rate:
Interception rate is a lot more steady. Last year, defenses intercepted 19.14% of the passes they defended. The average team defended 63.07 passes and had 12.07 picks. The 2014 rate was 21.44%, so we're looking at a fairly constant twenty percent rate. Still, we'll use the 2015 average rate of 19.44%.
Michigan had 55 PBUs a year ago and ten interceptions so that's very close to on point. It's really the lack of fumbles forced that made Michigan's defense lag TO expectations a year ago.
Rule changes. There aren't many new rules this year. You've probably heard about coach ejections being a thing now. They're probably not an actual thing, though:
The NCAA Football Rules Committee has brought football in line with other intercollegiate sports and increased the accountability a coach has in maintaining decorum. Just as with a player, a coach is now disqualified if he collects two unsportsmanlike conduct fouls during a game.
IIRC Bo Pelini did get hit with two unsportsmanlike flags in one game. That's the only instance I can remember in which this rule would actually get deployed. Even the infamous Will Muschamp rage only resulted in a single flag.
The other change of interest to Michigan fans is a clarification of the rules on sliding to the ground:
Rules-makers continue to expand the scope of targeting. Now they will protect any ball carrier who slides feet-first, giving sliding players the kind of protection they've had in the NFL, as some have advocated. If a defender makes "forcible contact" to the head or neck of a runner who has "given himself up," the defender will incur a 15-yard penalty for his team and be disqualified for at least the remainder of the game.
Jake Rudock took two or three nasty head shots on feet-first slides a year ago. Harbaugh actually changed the way he taught sliding as a result, with Rudock falling forward a couple of times in the bowl game. This year anyone blowing up a QB who's going to the ground will get booted, which kind of sucks for defenders expecting to tackle a ball-carrier instead of a guy sliding into second. No word on whether getting blocked into the QB after a play is still an ejection.
I call it trips TE. MMQB breaks down the "Y-iso" formation. Y-iso isolates your pass-catching tight end:
That's Greg Olsen to the bottom of the screen, and he'll catch that corner route for a big chunk as Richard Sherman bails for the inside slot receiver's deep route.
Y-iso snaps have doubled in the last four years of the NFL and with Jake Butt on the roster and Harbaugh's million NFL contacts, not least his brother, there's a good chance you see a significant dose of this in 2016. The rationale given for the formation certainly applies:
“If a team played man, your tight end is gonna get a safety or a linebacker on him and all the corners are gonna go over there and match up on the receivers,” Smith explains. “The tight end has to be talented enough to win that. That has to be a match up you want, depending on the team you’re playing. There’s probably not many of those match-ups that we don’t look at as favorable with Kelce. He’s that kind of player.”
The number of players with the speed to keep up with Butt and the frame to challenge him on balls up high is vanishingly small.
FWIW, I don't think Michigan lined up with the TE split out like this last year; when they ran this it was Butt in a three-point stance.
Mostly right but when you're wrong whoah buddy. ESPN publishes an "all-century" team that cops out on QB by listing Denard Robinson as an all-purpose player. It's mostly right, though it does that annoying thing where you list two running backs, no fullbacks, and two wide receivers. Also they list three corners and one safety. Marlin Jackson is one of those corners and he did play safety as a junior so whatever man. Errors as I see them:
- Bennie Joppru over Jake Butt. Joppru did have a big senior season; Butt just about matched it last year and is set to shatter the all-time TE receiving mark held by Jim Mandich.
- Gabe Watson over Mike Martin. I defend Watson endlessly to people disappointed in his two-time All Big Ten first team career, but Martin was far more impactful. Watson occupied guys; Martin blew through them.
- Shawn Crable over David Harris. Harris is an all-timer MLB. Crable's nutty 28.5 TFL season in 2007 was as a defensive end, and I'm still taking Woodley and Graham over him.
- Ernest Shazor over most Michigan safeties in the past 16 years. Big play factory largely responsible for Braylonfest having to be Braylonfest. Did murder that Purdue WR, then fell off a cliff. Prefer Jarrod Wilson.
Etc.: Feldman names Michigan the #4 secondary in the country; no anonymous coach quotes this time. CU athletes refer to their academic center as "the Plantation" and CU's president is talking about why they do this and how to address their grievances. New letter jackets for female letterwinners have gone out. Jibreel Black doing a ton of volunteer work. "The Ballad of the Sloop John Belein."
Two more gentlemen are good. PFF extended its list of the top X players in the country by ten and hit on another two Wolverines. Taco Charlton:
- Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
The Wolverines’ defensive line is absolutely loaded for 2016. Taco Charlton provides them with pass rush production from either defensive end position. Charlton generated 41 total pressures on 213 snaps in 2015 and his 15.1 pass rushing productivity rating ranks No. 1 among all returning FBS 4-3 defensive ends.
I did not realize Charlton's snap count was that limited. I mean, I knew it was limited because of Wormley, but that count is barely more than a third of Wormley's snap count, half of Hurst's, and about 33% lower than Glasgow, who got knocked out for the year against Rutgers. If Charlton 1) gets a bunch more snaps, 2) gets even a little better, and 3) gets most of his snaps at the WDE spot that is the glory position for most 4-3 defenses, he's going to blow up.
Butt is one of the premier pass-catching tight ends in college football. Butt showed in 2015 that he could line up in the backfield, in the slot or in-line and still get open. Butt’s +10.1 receiving grade ranks No.1 among returning FBS tight ends.
You'll note the lack of mention of Butt's blocking prowess. IIRC he came out negatively for the year, albeit slightly. I don't expect that to improve much since adding much more weight to his frame will detract from his killer receiving ability.
Meanwhile PFF surveys the state of Big Ten quarterbacking:
- C.J. Beathard, Iowa
C.J. Beathard is the only returning Big Ten signal-caller with a positive passing grade from last season.
Woooooooooof. Wes Lunt and Mitch Leidner are #4 and #5 on this list. Michigan's quarterback situation is already better than the vast majority of the league simply by virtue of having Jim Harbaugh.
It does look like Charlton will flip back to the weakside. Baumgardner profiles Charlton and gets some interesting quotes about this year's defense versus last year's:
"Last year we played in the 3-4 and (I was at a) tackle-type position. Now I'm back outside in a 4-3 defense doing what I'm more comfortable doing. Now I can get back to rushing that passer on the outside and using my speed a little bit more."
That doesn't fit with what my conception of a 3-4 is but whatever. Here Charlton seems to confirm the Sam Webb report that Michigan's starting DL is likely to read Gary/Glasgow/Wormley/Charlton from strongside end to weak; Charlton spent the spring at SDE with Chase Winovich trying to display his qualities on the weakside.
More defensive line praise. Bruce Feldman kicks off a list of the country's top DLs and leads it off with Michigan. Ryan Glasgow comes in for some praise, described as "pretty salty" by a Big Ten OL coach, and the addition of Don Brown veritably looms:
"What he does from a schematic standpoint because he's so outside the box with the way that he packages his pressures where they're bringing five, six every snap trying to get ready for all that stuff in one week's time is a bitch," one veteran offensive line coach said. "The scheme will definitely help their production."
OSU comes in tenth despite some questions at DT; MSU is an honorable mention largely because of Malik McDowell.
This bad thing is actually a good thing probably, but the good thing is a bad thing maybe. ESPN evaluates reasons Michigan will make the playoff, and I'm a little dubious about where a couple of them are classified. Michigan's schedule is not particularly hard:
Easier path to the playoff: Based on FPI, Michigan has the second-easiest schedule of any Power-5 team. (Oklahoma has the easiest.) The Wolverines will leave the state only once prior to Nov. 6, and that’s to take on Rutgers in New Jersey. Their three non-conference opponents -- Hawaii, UCF, Colorado -- went a combined 7-31 last season. That’s not to say the schedule is without challenges, but those challenges appear to be the exception. That’s why Michigan is expected to have some of the most blowout wins in the country based on ESPN analytics.
This is judged a good thing, and it is for Michigan's chances of getting through the season undefeated. It's not a good thing once the hairs start to get split amongst one-loss teams. It's not hard to see one-loss teams from virtually every other conference jumping Michigan in the queue if M is 12-1.
Meanwhile this bad thing is not necessarily a bad thing:
Wrong side of the turnover battle: Last season, only Notre Dame fared worse than Michigan in the turnover battle while still pulling off double-digit wins. Neither team was very good in that department. On offense, the Wolverines turned the ball over 16 times -- but the defense forced just 12 turnovers. Michigan ranked No. 92 nationally in turnover differential (minus-4) and ranked No. 117 in turnovers gained. Defensive coordinator Don Brown is banking on a more aggressive unit to increase those numbers, but a new quarterback also has the potential to cancel out any defensive gain. At any rate, it’s rare for a playoff team to wind up on the wrong side of the turnover battle. That’s something Michigan needs to correct.
Michigan's lack of turnovers was freakish for a defense as proficient as the 2015 unit. Michigan only forced five fumbles all of last year, 123rd nationally, despite finishing well above average in sacks. (They recovered two.) Judging from PFF's take on Michigan's DL they were probably even better at getting pressures. QB pressure is the single most important factor in forcing turnovers. Sacked QBs fumble; pressured QBs throw passes where they shouldn't. Michigan should be quite good at getting to the QB again, and should do much better in TOs acquired.
Going from DJ Durkin to Don Brown is promising as well. Durkin was content throwing an absolute buttload of man coverage at opponents. Brown will mix that up with various zones that have the potential to put people in places the QB does not expect them to go, and blitzes that promise to up the chaos factor even further.
This is so dumb but it might help recruiting. Every year there is a new batch of articles featuring NFL coaches complaining about spread offenses. SI has one as part of a series on developing quarterbacks. Its lead example? Marcus Mariota:
…in the months leading up to the draft, Mariota faced questions over his viability as a pro passer. The main gripe—from the perspective of TV analyst X, anonymous scout Y and a parade of others weighing in on that year's collection of quarterbacks—was that Mariota may have difficulty transitioning to the NFL because of his history playing in Oregon's spread offense as opposed to a pro-style attack. The criticism didn't just obscure Mariota's illustrious college track record, but the top-line speed and improvisational playmaking that made him such a highly regarded prospect.
All of it must have felt like a wake-up call for the growing number of college coaches who hope to attract elite high school quarterbacks to run their spread offenses.
Mariota evaporates from the article at this point, which is a shame because the skepticism directed his way was a perfect example of how overblown this chatter is. Mariota completed 62% of his passes for 7.6 YPA as a rookie. His QBR was 61, indicating he was an above-average NFL QB as a rookie coming out of a the most spread system in the land.
A lot of quarterbacks bust for a lot of reasons. NFL people say it's college's fault because their jobs are at stake, but there's little relation to reality there. Even so their complaining helps places like Michigan, Stanford, and Georgia:
Clemson co-offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach Jeff Scott, who helped lead the Tigers to the national title game last season, says he has heard a similar line trotted out. "Just guys that say, 'You don't want to go play in that offense because it's a spread, gimmick offense, and it's not going to prepare you for the NFL.'"
There are increasingly few programs that can sell NFL-shaped QBs that they are the best place for them. Michigan is one of them. They're already two thirds of the way through a QB recruiting triptych matched only once in the star era of recruiting. Michigan pulled in Clayton Richard, Matt Gutierrez, and Chad Henne back to back to back in the early aughts. If Michigan grabs one of the guys they're in on early in the 2018 class they'll match that, and then they'll probably continue going. Lloyd Carr did not: his next two QBs after those three were Jason Forcier and David Cone.
Once again we are running our Big Ten preview with a fantasy draft gimmick. This serves three purposes: For you, it's a snarky, informative way to learn who's good in the conference; it cuts through bad hype and the murky waters of line play, and sets expectations for Michigan players against guys outside our biases.
For us the comments section never fails to be a sobering reminder that some of our wonky readership prefer having lives to infinite knowledge about Nebraska OL. For Brian, he gets to play Bo, turning his staff's natural competitiveness against each other to hone us into fine-tuned Big Ten football coverage machines. Summer vacation is for losers and Nick Saban.
Everyone drafts a team from available Big Ten players consisting of
- A QB, five OL, and six skill players on offense. Usually this breaks down in to a RB, three WR, a TE, and a wild card but things tend to get weird.
- 4 DL, 3 LB, 2 CB, 2 S and one wild card on defense.
- A punter and a kicker.
Standard serpentine fantasy draft.
Once three teams have filled a position group the final team must do so at most three rounds later. This is mostly intended to prevent someone from waiting on a QB until the end of the draft and occasionally results in hilarious things like "Nathan Scheelhaase goes in round 8".
Brian will make fun of me for taking a low-volume defensive player he will draft in the first round next year.
The winner will be the person with the most impressive team.
As randomly determined by RANDOM.ORG the order is
BiSB and Smoothitron are in the Slack thread to be spicy. Ace is on the clock.
Brian: JT Barrett is a much more reasonable selection this year.
BiSB: Over First Rounder Mitch Leidner?
Brian: I didn't say that.
BiSB: I mean, shit, sure… it's your funeral.
ACE: Round 1, Pick 1: Jabrill Peppers, Heisman Contender, Michigan
OFFENSE: WILDCAT Jabrill Peppers, RB Jabrill Peppers, WR Jabrill Peppers
DEFENSE: OLB Jabrill Peppers, CB Jabrill Peppers, NICKEL Jabrill Peppers, SS Jabrill Peppers
SPECIAL TEAMS: KR Jabrill Peppers, PR Jabrill Peppers
I strongly considered JT Barrett because of the dearth of proven quarterbacks, but…
…yeah, I’ll take the third-year, Don Brown-coached version of that guy.
[HEY READERS ARE YOU ENJOYING THIS SO FAR? SERIOUSLY. TRY THE JUMP IF YOU DON'T BELIEVE ME.]
"I think spring went really well for us. I think the goal was to improve as a team. I think we definitely did that in all areas, so we're just looking to build off that this offseason, get a little stronger, get some of these player-led practices and continue to build chemistry with each other and understand the offense and the defense a little bit better so we can hit the ground rolling come camp."
Jim just talked a little bit about Drake Johnson and the accident yesterday. I was wondering whether you've had a chance to speak to him and what are his spirits like right now?
"I haven't had a chance to speak with him directly or anything but I saw him post a snapchat yesterday and he seems to be in good spirits and everything like that. I'm sure just knowing the kind of guy Drake is he'll come out of this pretty strong."
Do you get a sense that the Big Ten or at least the East division is the most balanced it's been in 2016 as it's been in your career?
"You know, I haven't really been concerning myself too much with that. Really I'm just focusing on what we can do as a team to make our team as good as possible, and there's a lot of great teams in the Big Ten and in the country. What we've just got to focus on is not really what other people are doing but how can we make ourselves the best team that we possibly can be. So yeah, there's some very talented teams out there and we're going to work really hard to try to give ourselves the best chance when we come up against some of these great teams."
How confident are you that this is the best Michigan team that you've been on?
"I'm very confident in that. I think we have the talent, but really I say I'm confident because we have a mentality of just hard work and preparation and I think we've got great leadership from our coaches and from our players, so I think that's really where the confidence comes from."
I was just wondering not just you but Tyrone [Wheatley Jr.] and Ian [Bunting] were making some plays in the spring game as well. Just your impression of the guys behind you at your position group. You guys are pretty loaded at tight end.
"Absolutely, absolutely, and I think we've got a really talented group from top to bottom. And we've got a lot of great guys that are hungry, hungry looking for spots, looking for roles and just really hungry to learn and get better and I think that's a recipe for success right there. So, we've got a lot of guys that can do a bunch of different things. You know, wherever the role is for some guys it's going to go to whoever's the best at that specific role so guys are hungry and they're working hard to find a spot this fall."
In the past couple days you've really let your voice be heard on social media in the wake of the satellite camp decision. Why is it important for yourself and your teammates and other athletes to put your voice out there and state an opinion on this?
"Because I think sometimes we can get lost a little bit, but we do have a voice. We are, the athletes are, one of the driving forces that gets the NCAA to run. Sometimes I feel like we aren't heard as much as possible, especially with these satellite camps. I think it's stripping the opportunity from a lot of young kids that don't have the chance to get out there and see some of these programs and get one-on-one coaching with some of these coaches across the country. So, you know, I really looked at it as who is really winning in this situation? How does the student—if the NCAA is so much about [being] for the student-athletes where does the student-athlete win in this? That was my biggest question and I'm still looking for an answer for that one."
It seems like you and Jourdan [Lewis] and maybe some other guys are speaking out on topics a little bit more whether it's twitter or other places. Do you think part of that is you guys sort of adopting the personality and culture that coach Harbaugh brings in the way he addresses issues and speaks his mind?
"I think that's definitely part of it. Coach Harbaugh is our head coach and our leader so we're going to follow him but also this is moreso—this is something personal. I know a lot of guys on our team that participated in some of these camps and these camps opened up doors for them, some of their friends, some of my friends where you start taking this away…it's more personal. Like I said, we do have a voice and we want to speak out and make these changes positive, make changes in a positive way, so we can help these young recruits and young student-athletes down the line."
On that note of the camps, you as a player, your teammates, what's you guys' reaction when you see the claims that Jim Harbaugh has hijacked college football, that he's using these camps as a promo tool and not doing what the camps are designed for. How do you guys react to that negative kind of attacks on him?
"Yeah, honestly I think that's absolutely bizarre and there's no factual—there's no facts to back that claim up whatsoever. I can tell you from being a player of coach Harbaugh he is always looking for ways to help us out both as football players, as students, and as young men and he's always looking for ways—and he wasn't breaking any rules. He was out here trying to help this program but also help these student-athletes and help some of these smaller colleges.
"So, it's bigger than what we're doing here at Michigan with the ban on satellite camps. It's bigger than what's going on. It's really…we're looking to help student-athletes get their name out there and get recruited, and when you strip them of this opportunity it kind of sits [not] well. And maybe that's where some of the blame is being pushed. I don't know. This is a tough situation and I hope they can figure it out."
So Jay, how’s your new house? I saw you bought a house on Twitter.
“Uh, I have no heat. Gas got shut off even though I tried to not have it shut off, so I haven’t slept there yet. No heat. It’s about 35 degrees in there. Not great.”
MGoQuestion: Are you guys still going to use the shield punt formation this year?
“We’re going to have a bunch of different things. Shield will be one of the things that we do. I think we’re going to be kind of hybrid—a little bit of everything.”
MGoFollowUp: What led to that decision?
“To basically change it up?”
MGoWe’reOnTheSamePage: To switch it up, yeah.
“I think when you look at what teams are doing nationally I think out of 120 teams probably 75 or so, maybe 65-75 that are some variation of hybrid, meaning they’re not really pro-style, they’re not really shield, they kind of go back and forth; it’s a little harder to identify. Those are the teams that generally have the most success, so probably go that route.”
We saw a lot of Wheatley working with Butt and that first group when we were in Florida. How has that evolved? Is he still among those fighting for that other spot?
“Yeah. I mean, we traveled six guys to all the games so there’s really no other spot to be won. There’s certain jobs to be won, maybe, in terms of, ‘Hey, you’re going to do this role on this play’ but I wouldn’t think of it like that in terms of ‘Hey, this guy’s fighting for that third tight end spot.’
“We want to put guys in positions to do things that they’re good at anyway, but he is doing well and he’s one of that group of guys that kind of rotates with the ones. There’s really four or five of them, though.”
With a guy like Jake, as good as he is and experienced, how much of a comfort is he for whoever emerges at quarterback to know that Jake’s probably going to be open and he’s probably going to catch the ball?
“I would imagine it’s pretty nice. I don’t know for sure but I’d imagine that’s a pretty great thing to have him and Amara and then eventually Jehu out there. That’s got to make you feel really good throwing the ball.”
Can Kenny [Allen] punt and kick field goals if needed?
“Certainly. Yeah, Kenny’s very good and he has a very good sense of how much he can handle physically and he’s not going to wear himself out, so he can certainly do it all.”
Doesn’t seem like an ideal situation though, is it?
“Mm, no. Ideally yeah, you’d have a different person for everything but the really ideal thing is to have the best guy at each spot. If he happens to be the best guy at each spot then we’re good with that, but there’s still a long ways to go. And those guys, that’s one position where you can really develop quite a bit in the offseason more so than some other spots where it’s more just strength and conditioning. Specialists can actually improve their craft more than some other spots, I think.”
Have you had a chance to do many returns yet, and are there any different guys mixing in than what we saw last fall?
“I wouldn’t say different expect for new guys like Kareem [Walker]. But Jehu and Jourdan Lewis, Jabrill, Dymonte [Thomas], Kareem. I mean, I think that group as a whole is really, really good. I’d be surprised if there’s a better group as a whole in the country. All those guys are pretty dangerous.”
You mentioned four or five other tight ends. Who’s in that group, and is it a little deeper than it was last year, would you say?
“Umm, it probably is. I mean, at one point or another this spring we’ve had Jake [Butt], Ian [Bunting], TJ [Wheatley], and Sean McKeon and Gentry with the ones obviously doing different things. I’d like to put everyone in a position to succeed. TJ can do things different than Gentry; just naturally they’re very different body types and they have different strengths and weaknesses at this point. But yeah, at one point or another each of those guys has been with the ones.”
[After THE JUMP: Jake Butt, best tight end in America; recruiting a dominant trait; why Gentry moved to TE; Ol’ Skillet Hands hype]
In January I drew up two running plays from Harbaugh's masterful 1st quarter drive against Florida. In both plays Michigan found room to run despite the Gators scheming to attack inside runs, either by blitzing a linebacker or putting DTs in both "A" gaps (the gaps between the center and his guards).
Michigan also used its passing game to attack that defensive strategy, and true to Harbaugh, they did it with tight ends. Let's see how.
Rudock will call a play three plays in the huddle and pick one at the line. At that point Harbaugh quarterbacks will often decide where the ball is going by subtle things the defense does with its alignment. You can't trust a defense to attack the way they show, but they do betray some things. Apologies if this sounds like Dora (I work from home with a toddler, okay?!?) but can you spot what the defense is aligning for?
1. That DT isn't in a standard 3-tech position. Both DTs are in a 2i, i.e. lined up on a guard's shoulder. Again, Florida is srsly about taking away those inside runs.
2. The LBs are squeezed in, more evidence that they're selling out against interior runs, which isn't so bad of an idea given Michigan's got Houma and Smith—two runners who do most of their damage going north-south—in the backfield. Guessing who's got what gap isn't easy since the MLB doesn't seem to have one. On the other hand the SAM I'm pointing at here isn't really in position to defend a quick-releasing TE. Meaning the safety to that side is engaged either in a zone or man coverage over there (i.e. not free to roam). Good to know.
3. The ends are both playing 6i, off their respective tight ends' inside shoulders. This suggests some defensive backs have edge responsibility, with the MLB a free hitter. This is suggesting a 9-man front. Perhaps those ends are expected to engage and delay the release of their tight ends, but it's doubtful either would have more than flat coverage against the TEs on a pass play; if those tight ends do release downfield those same edge defenders hangout out on the wings become pass defenders.
Considering the things Michigan wants to do with its offense, this seems pretty sound. Is it accurate though?
[After the jump: there's always a crack]