Frank Clark, Jake Ryan, Dennis Norfleet
Could you guys talk about the receivers as a group beyond Devin Funchess and what you guys feel like you can give to this team?
Dennis Norfleet: “We’ve become one. Everybody expects everything from one another. We do things as a group so when one makes a play we all make a play. That’s how coach Heck[linski]’s got us and that’s how we’re going to remain throughout the year.”
Dennis, what’s your perception on how people perceive you? Is it as a big play guy, someone who can score at a moment’s notice or are you much more than an explosive player? What else can you bring to the table other than that lightning quickness?
DN: “My role on the team…I know that I’m a guy that can bring spark and that makes everybody happy so I’m just being the teammate that can get everybody going [and] to bring fire. That’s what I do. So if I can continue on doing that to get everybody to be happy and to let them know that the game can go our way at any time then that’s what I can do.”
Frank or Jake, you guys seemed to find more success stopping the run as opposed to getting to the pass. Is that just something that Golson might have been doing differently or that you guys were more prepared for with the run?
Jake Ryan: “That’s just something that we’ve got to work on, the pass game, more. Creating havoc for the quarterback. The run game we played pretty well but we’ve also got to focus on the pass game. Getting more blitzes in and getting more guys to the quarterback is really going to create a different atmosphere for him and create havoc for him.”
[More after THE JUMP]
FORMATION NOTES: They promised it all offseason and they delivered on it:
In your face bro. Note that this was an example of something I started calling "30 slide"*, as the linemen are basically head up on the tackles and center with Frank Clark as a sort of standup end/SAM.
*[The idea being this is a 30 front (three linemen head up on tackles and the center like a 3-4) with three linebackers slid as if they are in an under.]
Another example is even clearer:
Note that in both of these shots, the three-tech is in fact to the bottom of the screen instead of between Clark and the nose as you might expect. I had not seen this before, because Michigan doesn't run it and they weren't spread enough last year for anyone to do it against them but since Appalachian State also ran it…
this was in fact their base D probably
…and they are right in the heart of spread on spread warfare I figure it is the latest fad when you need to account for the QB in the run game. I'll get Adam to ask Mattison about it next week—unfortunately, they moved the coordinator pressers up a day so I was not educated on anything before that time came. I'll try to accelerate my UFRing process, something that is now feasible with fast downloads and the lack of TWIS on my plate.
They also of course ran a lot of standard nickel:
Michigan also debuted a weird 3-3-5-ish package with Frank Clark at "MLB":
This happened twice. On both plays Clark was running at the frontside guard on the snap, impacted him, blew him back, forced a cutback, and then no one was there. More on that later.
Michigan also played some bonafide dime snaps:
These had three DL, two linebackers, and six DBs. Generally it was Delonte Holowell getting the extra nickel snaps but that's more in the…
PERSONNEL NOTES: Deep breath. On the line it was Beyer-Henry-Glasgow-Clark to start with copious substitution. Your nominal second string based on playing time was Charlton-Wormley-???-Ojemudia, with the NT ??? a combination of Pipkins, Mone, and Hurst. Pipkins looked by far the best of those guys; I expect that NT rotation to quickly settle down into Glasgow and Pip alternating with scattered snaps elsewhere. Godin got some real PT early at 3-tech.
At linebacker, Ryan, Bolden, and Morgan seemed to get about equivalent PT. Ross got a number of snaps as the game went along as an ILB. IIRC, Jenkins-Stone only saw snaps as a nickel DE late. Gedeon and McCray got in for the last drive.
Michigan played nickel on I think literally every snap they weren't playing dime. That was Peppers spotted by Hollowell and then Hollowell after Peppers got dinged. Taylor and Countess got starters' minutes at outside CB with Lewis coming in frequently; Stribling did not see time until heavy substitution began in the third quarter. Richardson got in there too.
Starting safeties were Wilson and Clark; Thomas got quite a lot of PT starting in the second quarter, with walk-on AJ Pearson seeing the field on ASU's interminable second scoring drive.
And hamburgers: I thought I was done calling people CGordon and TGordon and just realized we have two Clarks. I tried to clarify who was who below; I imagine you can figure it out if I missed a couple.
[After the JUMP: a big table! and some other stuff.]
Ryan under the microscope [Eric Upchurch]
Hello. As per usual, a game against a tomato can causes me to dig up something negative because I figure that the bad things that happen against weak teams are more likely to recur than the good ones. I'm not being negative, I'm being useful!
After this opening paragraph it may not surprise you that I didn't think Ryan had a particularly good game as Michigan's MLB. There were a couple of opportunities to contrast him with Desmond Morgan on similar plays that didn't come out well for Ryan. To the stillmobile!
Taking on blockers
App State had one drive of any consequence before Michigan started throwing third stringers on the field. That was a 75-yard march on which they ran an old Rodriguez staple, the "belly," repeatedly for good yardage.
Belly is designed to attack the soft underbelly of the backside of a defense facing inside zone. The end gets optioned off and then the goal of the defense is to use the backside DT's natural desire to shoot the gap to the playside against him. This usually sees the backside tackle get a free release on a linebacker on a quick-hitting play. (A quick google search indicates that this is Rodriguez-exclusive terminology, so your local guru's verbiage will vary.)
This was tough for Michigan to defend as aligned because the backside DT saw zone action and went GRRAAAH at it, driving himself way out of the play because he's Willie Henry and he is 1) strong and 2) not yet super disciplined. This put linebackers in bad spots, facing free OL while trying to shut down a ton of space.
Here's Morgan in that situation:
It feels like Michigan is a little misaligned here, with the linebacker shaded to one side against a formation that has no TE.
On the snap Beyer is let go and must respect the keep, so he flows upfield. Henry will get his own momentum used against him and get way out of the play, which I have designated by putting a frown at the end of his line. Morgan has an OT coming at him and a problem.
Beyer plays the mesh point well, inducing a give but forming up near the LOS so he can respond to a handoff. Henry is about to leave.
Here is the the key thing for Morgan on this play: he takes the contact. He in fact initiates the contact despite not having much forward momentum (which it is hard to get on a quick hitting play like belly). He impacts the OL and rocks him back:
Note that the guy next to him is Henry, who is trying to fight back to the play by giving ground. Also note that if Henry was anywhere near where the line would like him to be, Beyer is tackling as people wall up.
The back actually bounces off the OL…
And then a bunch of guys tackle him after six yards.
This is not a good result and I think Morgan's original alignment had something to do with that. He ends up taking the block to the inside instead of square and that gives the back room to the outside when otherwise this could have been a third down coming up. But: tough job in a lot of space. I gave him a half point for slowing down what could otherwise have been bad.
[After the JUMP: Jake Ryan tries his hand.]
“Well, we’re obviously very excited about the next challenge.I know we have a lot of things that we can get better at and our guys will work very, very hard to do that but we’re also very excited about some of the things we saw Saturday out there on that field but now we’ve got to move on to the next one.”
Coach [Hoke] talked about guys getting off blocks and then fits. How much was it of each in the run game when you guys were giving up some yards in the middle?
“Yeah. I’m going to be honest with you like I always am. Some of those runs were on me. There was a situation that was happening where we were walked out and the backer was coming back inside and we had an adjustment and the adjustment that I should have made with them would have been a little different and we did that later and it changed it. I’m not going to put that on our players. That’s something that I should have seen a little quicker and it wouldn’t have been a problem at all.
“A lot of good things from that, though. It shows that we have to get off blocks. One of the biggest things is we have to be able to communicate what’s happening. And I try to tell the guys, not that I haven’t been able to before, but I really trust these guys. I really trust them. But I know that when they’re out there they’re doing everything that they should be doing but if something isn’t happening perfectly then communicate and we’ll get it switched. When I’m thinking maybe this is happening it wasn’t that but we got it squared away.”
Have you guys had a chance to watch any film on Tarean Folston and Notre Dame’s running backs?
“Yeah, we’ve had a chance to watch film on all of them. We’ve spent since that game was really over until just two minutes ago when I came over here we’ve been watching Notre Dame. They have a very, very good football team, like they always do. They’ve got a lot of speed, they’ve got good running backs. They’ve got an outstanding quarterback. [Everett] Golson, he’s a really, really good quarterback and they’ve got good linemen and receivers to go with him so we’re going to get a real test, like you should. Like you should when you play this game.”
I asked Devin about playing against your defense last year in practice and playing against your defense now and asked how was the defense different and he said they were faster and more aggressive. Talk about that comment and are they faster mentally or faster with foot speed?
“I mentioned this and why I’m so excited is these were young babies we had playing two years ago. Nobody cared. Nobody cared who you were playing when you’re playing a redshirt freshman who’s 275 pounds or 215 pounds where two years later now he’s 235 pounds or 300 [pounds] and they’re men now. They play faster when you have experience. When you’ve been out there under the bullets and under the everything that goes on. When you’re a young man playing for the University of Michigan and you’re out there playing in front of 115,000 you better be a man. When you do that at a young age you won’t always do the exact right things on the football field, but every year that you play and every year that you buy in to what coach Hoke and this program is all about you get better and that’s why they play faster and they play stronger. We look forward to them doing that every week that way because it’s going to be another game of experience and that’s why I’m excited about these kids because they have stuck with it and they’ve kept improving and it’s just the beginning. They’re just starting right now and every week will be a huge challenge that way.”
[More after THE JUMP]
8/30/2014 – Michigan 52, Appalachian State 14 – 1-0
NOBODY TOLD US WE WERE SUPPOSED TO GO THAT WAY LAST YEAR [Fuller]
I watched a lot of football on Saturday. I did not watch Magnolia because my then-girlfriend and current wife thought that her coping mechanism for sadness, which is apparently suffusing yourself in it until your fingers look like you've been in a pool of despair for hours, was applicable to humans. I mean:
That's what I did seven years ago. I had to turn it off because Magnolia is a movie that is unrelentingly miserable. I did not need additional resources in this department at that time.
I didn't turn anything off on Saturday. I watched twelve hours of football after getting back from Michigan Stadium. The only mention of Michigan's game before insomniac time was one dismissive sentence from Rece Davis, something about how there will not be "another seminal college football moment" this weekend. They didn't even take the opportunity to put gratuitous Funchess on the screen.
The only difference between this game and Michigan's opening-weekend romp over CMU last year: a nation's hope Michigan would blow it again. Once it became clear this would not be the case, a nation forgot the game happened before it had even ended. This was the best possible outcome.
So 1) hooray for the best possible outcome and 2) don't let that change your opinion about whether this was the dumbest scheduling decision in the history of scheduling decisions. The nation knew this about Michigan before Saturday: lol Appalachian State. This is what they know today: lol Appalachian State. On College Football Final their brief treatment of the game gave more time to 2007 than 2013. We are experiencing the maximum possible upside from this game, which is everyone immediately forgetting about it like Michigan was thumping a MAC opponent.
And thank God for that. Michigan eased out to a 21 point lead, and then it was suddenly 42, and at no point did Appalachian State look anything like a secret powerhouse; at no point did Michigan look so utterly clueless that they might blow their immense physical advantages. At no point did I wish I had a cyanide capsule handy.
The one thing worth noting here is that Michigan does seem prepared to deal with the football reality of 2014. Greg Mattison's defense played in the face of the opposition all game long, featuring nickel and dime packages frequently. They shot a safety into the box on most plays. They've got the personnel they need to deal with the spread. Possibly two at once.
Contrast this to 2007, when Johnny Sears started at cornerback in the Horror, with a patently unprepared Stevie Brown at safety. The linebackers available outside of Shawn Crable were Obi Ezeh, Chris Graham, and John Thompson. Michigan spent the entire day with two safeties twelve yards deep like they were playing Peyton Manning, and were surprised when the numbers didn't work out. Their linebackers were two-down thumpers for whom space is a cold vacuum in which death awaits. They barely had one cornerback, let alone a chorus line of them.
A big chunk of my spread zealotry has been the fact that Michigan has made it look unstoppable from the drop. They validated the entire idea against Northwestern and set their program on fire in the Horror and the Post-Apocalyptic Oregon game that followed. Put a running quarterback in front of them and they will die explosively. It's happened far too often the last 15 years for it to be a coincidence.
My primary worry about Brady Hoke is that he's stuck on a vision of 1990s Michigan in a world that's evolved past that. There was no sign of that Saturday. The defense's radical makeover paired with what was not the cram-the-box cro-magnon ball it certainly could have been against this opponent felt a tiny bit like John Beilein overhauling his program to be a man-defense, ball-screen offense juggernaut.
I'm not looking for a juggernaut this year. This is the punch-the-cow-for-butter year in which any yellow semi-solid will do. I proclaim this semi-solid yellow, and thank God for that.
Now let us immediately forget this game ever happened, like everyone else.
Parkinggod's usual Michigan-centric one:
And if ten minutes isn't enough here are 20:
Also a guy noticed an eerie parallel between Blake Countess's LOS stick and one from Charles Woodson:
Brady Hoke Epic Double Points Of The Week. Yes, points. We're moving this to a hockey-like three stars system.
Michigan racked up 350 first half yards while holding App St to 60 en route to a 35-0 first half lead, so there are many, many candidates. It says here that Devin Funchess gets #1, because good Lord that is an unstoppable freak show.
#2 is Devin Gardner, who was on point with every throw except one, flashed that athletic ability, and stepped up (up!) in the pocket when suffering edge pressure
#3 is split between Kyle Kalis and Ben Braden. Michigan started gashing App St when Kalis replaced Joey Burzynski, with big runs repeatedly coming over the right side of the line.
Honorable mention: Basically the entire defense. There were no particular standouts, though.
Epic Double Point Standings.
3: Devin Funchess (#1, APP)
2: Devin Gardner (#2, APP)
0.5: Kyle Kalis (T3, APP), Ben Braden (T3, APP)
Brady Hoke Epic Double Fist-Pump Of The Week.
For the single individual best moment.
Michigan had gotten a couple of solid 10-20 yard runs from Smith and Green already when Green took the snap on an outside zone and shot downfield untouched by man or beast until 60 yards had elapsed. Runs. We may have them.
Honorable mention: They threw a screen to Norfleet! Any of the variously unstoppable Funchess touchdowns. Hellacious Stiffarm wins by a nose over LOL I'm Tall. Tacosack, hopefully the awesome thumping cousin of Tacopants.
Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.
AppSt: Derrick Green rumbles for 60 yards.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK. That one time Devin Gardner threw way behind a blitheringly open Devin Funchess to prevent him from going 14/14.
Honorable mention: That one drive where the Mountaineers drove the ball on the ground against the second team.
AppSt: Devin Gardner dares to throw an incomplete pass.
[After the JUMP: Funchess! Holes! Teddy KGB!]
|STRONGSIDE LB||Yr.||MIDDLE LB||Yr.||WEAKSIDE LB||Yr.|
|James Ross||Jr.||Jake Ryan||Sr.*||Joe Bolden||Jr.|
|Royce Jenkins-Stone||Jr.||Desmond Morgan||Sr.||Desmond Morgan||Sr.|
|Allen Gant||So.*||Mike McCray||Fr.*||Ben Gedeon||So.|
Despite the move to a 4-3 over we're going to keep the convention we've had in previous years where two of the linebackers are designated "inside" and addressed together while the third gets separate mention. In both cases the WLB and the MLB are designated "inside" and the strongside backer is addressed separately. In the under it's because the SAM is half DE; in the over it's because he's half DB.
Michigan returns their entire linebacking corps save backup-ish SAM Cam Gordon, and they now have a healthy Jake Ryan instead of one fresh off an ACL tear midseason. This is good. Better still is their depth: no freshmen on this three-deep and one guy getting praised to the moon when a very solid returning starter is available. If the DL improves these guys are going to seem shockingly better.
There's just that thing about moving that guy to a place…
INSIDE LINEBACKER: CONAN IN A STRANGE LAND
please be this guy again somehow [Eric Upchurch]
Man, I do now know what to expect from JAKE RYAN this year. He was every bit the flaming meteorite your memory suggests he was in 2012. We've been talking up Willie Henry and Frank Clark based on UFR scores that were consistently positive and encouraging. Make no mistake, though: those are not star-level performances. Jake Ryan's 2012 is the last time a member of the Michigan front seven turned one of those in:
|Alabama||4.5||3.5||1||I may have not picked up some things he was doing that were bad.|
|Air Force||13||2.5||10.5||Ran up the score with +4 on final three plays. Option blame fell elsewhere.|
|UMass||8.5||-||8.5||Essentially a DE in this game.|
|Notre Dame||8.5||3||5.5||Great tackle on screen.|
|Purdue||10||-||10||I call him mini Clay Matthews.|
|Illinois||14||3||11||I call Clay Matthews mini Jake Ryan.|
|MSU||17.5||3||14.5||I AM THE ONE WHO KNOCKS|
|Nebraska||10||7.5||2.5||Got edged a lot; Nebraska used his aggression against him successfully.|
|Minnesota||14||6||8||JMFR; did get edged a couple times.|
|Northwestern||8.5||4||4.5||A bit of a quiet day, only 4 tackles, no TFLs.|
|Iowa||5.5||-||5.5||Nearly had an explosive sack.|
That is a star, and that is a guy on the verge of writing his name in sloppy red ink across college football. That's the kind of season before the season that Brandon Graham had as a senior, that Mike Martin had as a senior. Screw you, ACLs. Because that Ryan was not this Ryan:
|6||Penn State||3.5||2||1.5||…this gentleman.|
|7||Indiana||5||2||3||Coming on a bit.|
|8||MSU||6||3||3||Good until ARGH RYAN on final play, still doesn't seem all the way back.|
|9||Nebraska||4||1||3||One RYAN BACK play, but not every-down impactful yet.|
|10||Northwestern||6||3||3||Showing that crazy redirect a little more often.|
|11||Iowa||6.5||-||6.5||Created free touchdown.|
And while that's still a respectable player, I'm not into Jake Ryan because he's really respectful and mom likes him, you know? I would prefer Jake Ryan to mount his Harley and run roughshod across the league wearing a thirty-inch skull on his back. And maybe his forehead. As many skulls as possible, really. I mean, I didn't feel this quote from a 2012 Big Ten OL in 2013:
"We were watching film and our coach stopped it and said, 'Where's he at?' And it took you a second to realize he was lined up at defensive end. Then he hits the play button, and it's like the guy gets shot out of a cannon. He has speed, and he just has this ability to know where the football is and he attacks it. "
So there's that. And now he's a middle linebacker. Hooray?
Look… I can't tell you this is a great idea. The way Ryan plays is 80% chaos, 20% hair metal, and he's kind of tall and weird-shaped for middle linebacker. It's easy to envision a guard getting under his pads and taking him for a ride. And it's easy to envision him failing to funnel to his help, because at SAM your help is always very easy to figure out: inside. Chaos!
Chaos is probably not great for a MLB.
But it might not be a bad one. Ryan has taken on a lot of blocks in his time and even if he has to invent and patent ways to get rid of them, he generally does. The guy does not stay blocked.
When Michigan had problems with wide receiver screens a couple years ago they slid Ryan over the slot; problem solved. That combination of tackling and the ability to get to the productive side of a block is encouraging. It's going to be a bigger project against OL instead of TEs, but he's been a defensive end an awful lot—he's not going to be surprised.
The concern at MLB is that his tendency to shed at all costs will put him on the wrong side of a blocker. That concern is considerably less urgent than the prospect of lining up a 256-pound strongside end, but your evaluation should be in that context: this is a move about what is best for the defense as a whole, not necessarily Jake Ryan's individual fit.
That said… healthy Jake Ryan.
Healthy Jake Ryan is a menace shot out of a cannon who impacts you fiercely and rocks you back and then runs really fast at the guy with the ball. While middle linebacker may be an awkward fit, there are not many Jake Ryans out there, and when the guy is sent on a blitz, opponents are going to feel it.
It is not going to feel good.
[After THE JUMP: the Bolden Question, the Morgan Binkie, the Ross Explanation]