chance of bowl: 13.6%
HEALTHING UP WOO
Jake Ryan came back before he was injured. Are we moving Jake Ryan's timetable up? I… maybe?
There are rumblings about the first Big Ten game, which would be crazy.
When you have two quarterbacks, you have no quarterbacks. When you have four, math implodes. Michigan State's nominal starter put up 4.1 YPA in their latest closed scrimmage and their true freshman went 10 of 14 for 240 yards, so a two-way quarterback battle is now a four-way one:
"At the beginning of the scrimmage it was a three-horse race," Dantonio said Monday. "And at the end of the scrimmage, it was a four-horse race."
While you are fretting about uncertainty at guard and safety at least Michigan's quarterback battle is "who wants to get Devin Gardner sandwiches?" Also, Michigan is starting Taylor Lewan at left tackle instead of a former walk-on. LeVeon Bell ain't walking through that door.
Related: in weird news, Hoke told the Michigan insider that Shane Morris was held out of Saturday's scrimmage because they wanted to rest him. Uh?
Meanwhile in Iowa. An open practice(!) leads BHGP to conclude that redshirt sophomore Jake Rudock is likely to throw two-yard hitches on third and seven for the Hawkeyes. Rudock was a three-star out of star-studded Florida powerhouse St Thomas Aquinas a couple years back.
Other bits from Iowa City:
- Sounds like depth is at a low ebb on defense.
- Greg Davis has spent most of the offseason smoking opium and drinking absinthe, so Iowa's now a no-huddle shotgun team.
- True freshman tailback LeShun Daniels is going to play, because he is an Iowa tailback. He is scheduled to be raptured up midseason. Weisman and Damon Bullock also return.
From the comments:
"It looked like a modern-day college football offense."
This… wait, so… but… I can’t… so wait, you mean…. but that’s…. that’s just…. um…. but…. I don’t…. wait, what?
In West Lafayette. Rob Henry is named Purdue's starter, which is amazing because he's a redshirt senior. I don't know if I've ever experienced the opposite of the Brooks Bollinger Eighth Year Memorial Season effect, but it seems like Henry should be much younger. Playing at Purdue == premature aging. Thus all the ACL tears.
In South Bend. The Irish lose Danny Spond to migrane issues. He was a returning starter at the Irish equivalent of SAM.
Another angle. Gardner posted his slant touchdown to Joe Reynolds to instagram:
Johnson is young for his grade, and you know Beilein keeps an eye on that stuff. His coach reports that now that Johnson has "shown a lot of maturity" in the classroom that Michigan is getting more interested. His mom used to play at Wisconsin, but other than that connection it seems Michigan is the local favorite:
“I’ve really got to dissect the program and the way they play (more), but I love Michigan. I’m from Michigan and any time I turn the TV on, if Wisconsin is not playing and Michigan is, I’m rooting for Michigan. It is just a matter if it is going to be a fit for Jay. (It’ll be about) where I feel that Jay is going to get the most development, the most growth, (and has) the people who are going to get on board with Jaylen’s dream, as well as him being an asset to the program.”
Johnson's going to take all five officials, but probably won't use one on Michigan because he's, like, 10 minutes away. Iowa State, Louisville, and Oregon have been scheduled already.
Old school. Newsreels from mgovideo. This, the 1943 Brown Jug game:
This from the 1964 Purdue game, narrated by a very, very boring man.
There's also a half-hour of the 1936 Minnesota game.
It just had to happen to us. This Football Study Hall piece attempts to rank coaching performance relative to recruiting success by taking star average and comparing it to F+, one of those fancy holistic statistical measures that tries to smooth out schedule strength and takes MOV into account. Your #1 recruiting outperformer is the 2012 Kansas State Wildcats.
Of local interest: #2 is… 2007 West Virginia. 2006 West Virginia is 10th. Michigan hires that guy, and that guy turns in the 19th-worst performance of the decade. Cumong, man. No other coach appears in the top and bottom 40. The only other coaches with multiple years in the top 40 are Nick Saban, Bobby Petrino, and Brian Kelly, with Chip Kelly an honorable mention since he was the OC for Mike Belloti.
BONUS: this study makes Rick Neuheisel look like the worst coach of the past ten years. Three of his four UCLA teams finished 12th through 14th-worst, and many of those below him are outfits like Washington State and Colorado, teams whose recruiting profile doesn't really cover how terrible they are.
Etc.: "Forecast: Good." Not so good: David Terrell's situation. More Darboh stuff. I'm not sure if this is the best acronym for a college basketball team right now. IN SG James Blackmon Jr. on Michigan. On the 1977 OSU game.
"First one of the year, huh? Here we go."
Here we go.
"Well it seems like we've been practicing for two months already and we've only had three. I don't know if that's a sign of old age or just the intensity of how we're going, but it's really good to be out here. It's good to be practicing again."
There hasn't been a whole lot of yelling. It's a lot more instructing. Do the kids seem to be on message?
"Well our style of coaching is teaching. And I think if you compare our staff -- I don't think a lot of times you have to do a lot of yelling. This team that we have right now is trying to do it right in every way. When a team's trying to do that, whether they're really young or making mistakes because they're young, as long as they're showing the effort that they are, there's really no reason to yell at them. You just have to correct them. When you have a young team, you have to be a great teacher. That's what our staff is really working hard to do."
So the effort is there?
"Yes. I've been really pleased. Now we don't have pads on yet obviously, and a lot of times what happens with programs, when pads come on, sometimes some programs slow down. I don't think that's going to happen with this team. This team seems to really really embrace and has bought into 'we must play as hard as we can on every play, and we have to get 11 bodies to the football.' When you watch practice with not pads on, we're getting 11 bodies to the football. We're getting really really good effort, so that's been positive."
<No pads. Nothing to see after the jump.>
Video via 247.
Big Ten Media Days are under way in Chicago, and if you've been watching on the BTN you've already had your fill of questions about Ohio State's discipline and WHY ARE YOU TALKING SO LOUD, TIM BECKMAN. (Beckman: "Huh?")
Anyway, here are the important points from today's breakout session, culled together from the Twitters:
- As posted earlier, LB Antonio Poole's career is over due to injury. He'll be a student assistant this year.
- According to Brady Hoke, all of this year's freshmen have qualified, and aside from Poole all of the returning players are on track to be eligible for fall practice.
- Injury updates: Fitz Toussaint "continues to improve," but still isn't cleared for practice, though they're meeting about that on Monday. Blake Countess, on the other hand, has the green light to practice, and Hoke expects his medical redshirt to be official before the season.
- Taylor Lewan called Ben Braden the "most physically gifted athlete" he's ever seen, and claims that Braden is up to 322 pounds with just 12% body fat, which... yowza.
- As for Lewan himself, he's on a 5,600-calorie diet, with 1,000 calories per day from olive oil — per Chris Balas, he looks to be in the best shape of his life.
- Devin Gardner plans to room with Shane Morris during fall camp and help him deal with the hype and the process of waiting his turn.
- Hoke stands by his comments about Notre Dame "chickening out" of the series, saying, "I know Brian (Kelly) didn't make that decision, and neither did the players on the team."
And here's the full presser transcript from Hoke's turn at the podium, courtesy of the Big Ten and asapsports.com:
THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by Brady Hoke.
COACH HOKE: First off, I know we’re all excited that you’re all here and you took the opportunity to travel up here and it’s really an honor and a privilege to represent the University of Michigan and the team 134.
We’ve got 12 days until fall camp, look forward to it. We’ve had some good things throughout the summer and since we got back from the game with South Carolina a year ago. Not a year ago, but in January.
We’re a young team. We’ve got to replace some guys who have been very important to Michigan football. But with that youth comes a lot of competition, and that competition is always good.
And the expectations, though, never change. And that’s to win Big Ten championships.
A year ago we were 8 and 5, and that’s unacceptable. It’s unacceptable at Michigan. It’s unacceptable for us.
And in those five losses, we had 18 turnovers. So it tells you a little something that we need to be a little more diligent in taking care of the football. We need to be a little more diligent in making better decisions. And those are things that we’ve talked about and we’ve had through spring ball, had a good spring.
I like our football team. I usually don’t say that. I said it after the spring. I will continue to say it because I like how they’ve handled themselves on the field and off the field so far this summer. I like their work ethic, and I like how they’ve represented Michigan in a lot of ways.
Me liking them doesn’t guarantee us anything, because we have a lot of work ahead of us still. And at the same time we’ve gotta do a job as coaches to make sure that we are doing everything capable to help our kids perform at a high level.
We’re excited about the season, the challenges that lay ahead. Questions now?
[Hit THE JUMP for the full transcript.]
Long. Splitting into halves.
It's a trend: Michigan spring games have returned to their sleepy past, meaning little and failing to reveal Savior Quarterback Who Will Save Us. This is a good thing, since the titanic importance of spring games under Rodriguez was symptomatic of a program drunkenly staggering from one rickety support to another.
It would be nice if Michigan could put together an actual game like you see at OSU, ND, and many SEC schools. Maybe next year.
Anyway, highlights to remind you of some of the things chattered about below:
The most important thing that happened yesterday was Hoke muttering something about Jake Ryan's return timeframe:
"I'm not a doctor, but possibly middle of October. Some people react differently."
That would be excellent. The critical bit of Michigan's schedule is… well, all of November, when they play State, Nebraska, Northwestern, Iowa and OSU, ie: the top half of their division, Iowa, and The Game. The only games before November that look competitive are against Notre Dame and Penn State, and Penn State should start dropping off what with their sanctions.
Ryan may even be back for that one, which is on the 12th. Indiana and a bye week follow, so Ryan may not just be back by the important bits of the schedule but established. As far as devastating season-ending ACL injuries to your best player on defense go, I like this one more than I expected I would.
Meanwhile, Blake Countess and Fitzgerald Toussaint both warmed up like nothing untoward had happened to them. (Neither was taking contact.) Countess's injury is far enough in the past that it's reasonable to expect that. Seeing Toussaint out there was a moment of shock for me. He didn't take any contact but if he's out there running five months before the season he will certainly be available in fall, which is when those soccer players who had the same injury came back anyway.
Devin Gardner Looked Good
this picture feels goooood (Eric Upchurch)
If Denard Robinson hadn't gotten hurt, this would have in fact been a Big Deal, as Gardner would be an heir apparent with no track record except his performance in the three previous spring games: awful, awful, and awful. With five starts dwarfing all spring data in importance, it's not a big deal. It is nice. Precisely nice.
In this one he did throw his traditional pick six to a linebacker he doesn't see coming underneath a receiver (Desmond Morgan dropped this one); aside from that he was 11 of 15 for about 140 yards, picking up where he left off in the fall. That's a very large jump from last year, when Gardner's performance had everyone buzzing about how Russell Bellomy looked like a plausible backup and let's just move Gardner to wide receiver already.
Here's the part you'll see about six more times before the opener about how if you extrapolate Gardner's statistics out to a full season you get some crazy numbers: 60% completion percentage, 9.7 YPA, 29:13 TD:INT, and nearly 3200 yards passing. That would be a Michigan record for TDs and brush up against John Navarre's 2003 season for yards. It would also vie for the best YPA season in the era when offenses throw the ball more than ten times a game—Jim Harbaugh hit 9.9 in 1986*.
Those numbers are a touch flattering since they include the bail-out against Northwestern and a couple of long touchdowns generated more by the defense screwing up than Gardner doing anything amazing—thinking primarily of Roundtree against OSU here. But then again we're talking about a guy who had been playing most receiver before being thrust into the starting job against Minnesota and a statline assembled against a set of defenses that were collectively pretty good. Pass efficiency Ds for the five Gardner opponents: 23rd (Minnesota), 33rd (Northwestern), 75th (Iowa), 29th (OSU), and 34th (South Carolina). At most one of those is a flailing patsy, and even the dismal Iowa defense was a far cry from MAC snacks not named Central Michigan.
Anyway: Gardner's calm demeanor and accuracy is another chunk of evidence to put on the pile. Maybe a small one, sure.
*[Rick Leach had a whopping 11 YPA in 1979, but only threw the ball 130 times. Yes, he only threw 130 times when he had Anthony Carter as an option. Football has changed.]
Running Backs: Wait Until Fall
With Fitzgerald Toussaint now certainly on the list of running backs not participating on Saturday who will be major threats for playing time, any conclusions drawn here are likely to be about the guy getting two carries a game behind Fitz and Derrick Green or DeVeon Smith. But it is spring, when we display our most colorful obsessions in an attempt to win mates. Let us proceed.
Going by the substitution patterns it seemed like Justice Hayes was tentatively your starter. He took advantage of this situation to average 0.5 YPC on two carries. Drake Johnson picked up less than a YPC himself, leaving Thomas Rawls and Dennis Norfleet to pick up the only real gains of the day by a tailback.
Both of those backs were going up against primarily backups. Usefulness: not assured. I mean, in one of the longish Rawls runs above he breaks a tackle from Terry Richardson, who's still about a buck fifty soaking wet. In the other a walk-on SAM gets crushed inside and the corner is open for days.
It will surprise no one that I thought Norfleet looked good. In the run featured at 2:10 in the highlight video he's behind mostly walk-ons and facing mostly starters. Black beats up Blake Bars and forces Norfleet away from blocking. Norfleet slips behind that block so fast that RJS has no shot at him, then he jukes Jeremy Clark out of his jock—and this is important for any coach but especially one Brady Hoke—to go north-south. On his other quality run (sadly not included in the highlights) he did the same thing: threaten outside so he could cut north-south and finish his run.
(@ right: Upchurch)
They did include the blown up zone stretch, and on that one you can see he just doesn't have a chance as Keith Heitzman rips through a block and forces Norfleet outside into Cam Gordon. He probably should have just eaten a two yard loss instead of testing Gordon.
Here's the thing though: Michigan didn't show a snap of pistol or much of anything, really. You know Al Borges loves his throwback screens, especially when he's got a guy as mobile as Gardner threatening the other side of the field. Who do you want grabbing those? Obviously Norfleet. Okay maybe Hayes, but we haven't really seen anything from him in that regard yet. Whoever gets that role has got to be plausible enough as an inside runner and blocker to not be a flashing throwback screen signal. I think we saw a couple things from Norfleet that bode well in that regard.
It's harder to get excited about Rawls given what we saw from him last season. Norfleet has the advantage of being a new toy, at least when it comes to getting carries in the backfield.
Receivers: Are They Supposed To Be A Problem?
Jeremy Gallon is going to catch a billion passes this fall, lots of them hitches, some of them hitch and go, some of them comeback screens. It's not so much the frequency with which Gardner targeted him on Saturday that makes me say this but the ease of the connection. When Gardner's throwing at Gallon it just seems easy.
Gallon reminds me of that moment after Braylon's departure when Michigan tried to establish Breaston as a deep threat. This was a rousing success until the moment Breaston had to bring in a ball over his head. IIRC he dropped it literally every time. But by God he was open.
Gallon is like that. His change of direction is elite, and Michigan is going to go hitch hitch hitch seeya this fall. By God, Gallon will be open. The difference: Gallon can actually catch downfield. His stature always makes him a tough target—see that corner route Gardner zinged well over his head—but we've seen him make a bunch of tough catches. Hell, he's even effective on fade routes in the endzone, a development that is still mindblowing even months afterwards.
Upshot: don't care if he's small, Gallon is a legit #1. Hell, he was fourth in the league in receiving yards last year despite operating in a Denard-centered offense for most of it. Let's have more Fun With Extrapolation: Gallon's hypothetical stats if Gardner was QB all year: 81 catches, 1330 yards.
Meanwhile, the guys surrounding Gallon will be fine. Drew Dileo didn't do much in the spring game but we've established who he is: a sure-handed slot guy who will find the foot of space he needs to convert on third and six. Devin Funchess should be a much bigger factor in year two. This is a proverbial weapon:
Darboh looked good finding a 30-yard fade on the first play from scrimmage; Jeremy Jackson made some plays. They'll have 4-5 solid options to go with a great #1. As points for concern go, this one doesn't register with me.
As for the second-year guys, Darboh seems a bit ahead of Chesson; both will play. You can see why Chesson redshirted last year when you get him next to Darboh, as Bryan Fuller did:
Still a bit of a Caris LeVert vibe from Chesson. They might have to protect him against jams by having him off the line, that sort of thing. Darboh looks like that won't be a problem.
I can't tell you I noticed a lot of details live, but one thing did jump out: Graham Glasgow seems to be making a serious push for playing time. He got plenty of snaps with the ones at both guard spots and center. He was the nominal starter at left guard over Ben Braden; at the very least it seems like he'll be the first interior lineman off the bench in the event a starter is hurt. He's their utility infielder.
The rest of the line seems set, with Kyle Kalis taking a large majority of the first team RG snaps and Jack Miller the same number at center. It is vaguely possible the arrival of Patrick Kugler or emergence of someone down the depth chart upsets the order of things, but I think that's your interior line: Glasgow OR Braden, Miller, Kalis. Joey Burzynski seems to have dropped back from the group with serious playing time prospects. Chris Bryant was well down the depth chart but did get on the field some. He could emerge if the injury is still holding him back.
Performance was a mixed bag. Michigan seems to want to pull Kalis to Lewan on a lot of plays. Good in theory; not entirely executed in practice. For example, at 1:10 in the highlights above you get a replay of last year's MLB misidentification: Michigan wants to run power behind Lewan with Kalis pulling; Michigan blitzes the A-gaps; Miller doesn't read this and sets up to block nobody; an unblocked Ross meets Johnson in the backfield, with Morgan unblocked right behind. Braden got smoked by Black for a sack a bit later.
Michigan yanked Lewan relatively early. Michigan put Erik Magnuson out there, and he did just okay. Pass rush was a lot easier to get with Lewan out of there (surprise!). Given the push Braden is making at guard I bet that any Lewan injury—knock on wood—sees Schofield flip to LT with Braden moving to RT and Glasgow drawing in at guard, if he's not already on the field. Michigan prefers a best-five-guys approach over any specific positional backup.
Defense in a bit.
- Blake Countess and Fitz Toussaint should be back for the season opener.
- Jake Ryan could be available as early as mid-October.
- Devin Funchess got dinged up during the game but should be fine.
My nice camera is broken, so here is a high-res iPhone shot. Note the bling.
“I think we got 65, 66 plays in, which is about where we wanted to be. We got some situational work that I wanted to get done. We need to really get a lot of the young guys up front on both sides of the ball. We want to continue to improve some of the fundamentals on both sides of the ball. Running the football is one of them, and playing the run and getting off blocks -- we have to do a little bit of that. We got to do a little bit of red zone. That’s one area that we need to continue to work on on both sides of the ball. The guys went out there, it’s the first day we’ve been outside, which is unusual. But we got done what we wanted to get done.”
That was the first time you practiced outside all spring?
Talk about Devin’s first long completion, and some of the passes he threw today in this weather?
“Well, Devin naturally throws a tight ball. When you throw a tight ball, and he’s got good arm strength -- he has good velocity on it. He can cut through the wind pretty well. He’s always thrown a long ball pretty well. He had a pretty good day.”
Talk about Jack Miller at center and Chris Wormley’s return?
“You know, I think Jack has really -- there’s great competition, him and Graham Glasgow at the center position. I think Jack has really grown as a player. Again, so much of this is about the fact that he’s made some real strides in his accountability and about being the bell cow when you look at the offensive line. Chris was a little tentative early in the spring, but I think he’s had a good spring. His recovery, confidence and those things [are good].”
“I think the young guys and Jeremy Jackson -- I think Jeremy’s really having his best spring. You look at Jehu [Chesson] and Amara [Darboh], I think both those guys have really come a long way. They both are very talented and do a lot of different things. Joe Reynolds. I think Joe keeps pushing everybody. Joe’s a guy that’s played a lot of positions, and that’s real positive.”
What about Graham Glasgow makes him able to rotate through all three positions?
“Smart, number one. Very intellient. He’s tough, which you need to be, physically and mentally. He has a real passion for the game.”
Talk about your pass rush -- looked like Taco got to the quarterback a couple times and actually hit him …
Was that something that you saw consistently throughout the spring?
“Well I think we’ve grown. I think we’ve got some young kids who have some ability. With Greg and his passion with how he teaches rushing the passer, the work that’s been put in … and the guys are excited about it. They know what we want to do. We’ve worked on it. We’re not near what we can be and will be, but I think we’re a little better at it.”
Thoughts on Blake Countess’s spring and the secondary in general?
“Well, Blake, he’s healthy. Kept him out of contact. Same with Fitz [Toussaint]. I think that’s just the best way to go about it. They both played a number of snaps. The secondary, the competition level at a core position -- you want it there. You can say the same thing about the safeties. Jeremy Clark is a guy who’s a pretty good player. Marvin [Robinson] has shown great glimpses through his career here. Thomas is having a real solid, real good spring. He’s been very much the leader. And then Jarrod played quite a bit a year ago, but he’s come along.”
What was your evaluation of the backup quarterbacks today?
“I think with Brian [Cleary] and [Alex] Swieca, it was good to give them snaps with people here. People in the stadium, playing in this stadium. Both of them handled themselves well. We put the ball on the ground on a snap, which we can’t afford to do. Whose fault was it, I’m not sure. But we need to do a better job with that. As far as the growth that they both have made, it’s been positive.”
James Ross was in the middle of a lot of plays today. Have you been seeing that from him all spring?
“Yeah James has had a pretty good spring. He’s a good football player. Very instinctive. He’s got a burst, movement to the football. He’s not the biggest guy, but he’s not afraid to take on blocks.”
Are Ross’s instincts unorthodox similar to Jake Ryan?
“No. No he’s not unorthodox. He’s going to be a little more of a technician, but it’s still football instincts.”
What are your thoughts on the transtion to pro-style offense?
“I think it’s gone very well. I think I’d be shocked if we didn’t show a whole lot of anything today as far as scheme and all those things. That’s what we’ve run before we came here. We still have elements -- you can still tell from the play-action game standpoint how comfortable Devin is and how good he can be.”
Offensive line was up and down today. How big of a focus is improving the interior line going to be moving forward?
“Look, we’re going to focus on all of it, what we do from here on as a team and what they do together, the seniors and all that. Objectively there were some good plays offensively and there were some good plays defensively.”
How likely is it that you bring in a JUCO transfer at quarterback?
“I -- I don’t know. It could happen. It couldn’t happen.”
Looked like something happened to Funchess …
“He’ll be all right.”
Any update on Hagerup’s status?
What would you need to see from a JUCO transfer in order to take him?
“He’d better be pretty good. That’d be the first and what would fit what we want to do with the scheme and what we want in a quarterback. ”
Talk about Fitz’s progress? Other running backs?
“Fitz, he’s made really good strides. He probably could have done a little more, but I think his progress is pretty good. I think Thomas [Rawls] made a nice run in there today, had a really nice cut. [Dennis] Norfleet made a guy miss in the hole. I think Drake [Johnson] ran hard, and Justice [Hayes] protected well a couple times there, but we’re a work in progress. Has there been any separation? I don’t think so yet. We’ll go through some of it in the fall.”
What kind of clarity did today provide as fars as your No. 2 quarterback?
“Well I think Brian is [No. 2].”
Is that your ’97 championship ring there?
Any significance to bringing that out today?
“Uh, I usually don’t wear it, so … just had it on.”
Just felt like putting it on today?
“Yeah. Went with my … shoes.”
Would you expect Fitz and Blake to be back for the opener?
“I don’t think there’s any doubt.”
What is the likely timetable for Jake Ryan?
“You know, I’m not a doctor. But. Possibly middle of October. Some people react differently.”
Impact of Taylor Lewan on offensive line?
“Taylor’s done a great job with those guys. That’s one reason why he wanted to come back. Physicalness that they need to play with, targeting, all those things that go with that. He’s taken that really personally. I think the group of them, and the competition will really -- it’s been great. They’ll be impactful.”
How much of a strength will the tight end position be, and what kind of role will Jake Butt have?
“Well I think Jake being here has made it a stronger position. He’s a guy who can catch the ball in space, run well, but he’s also a guy that blocks well at the line of scrimmage for a guy who’s been here since January. We’re excited about what he brings added to the guys we have here.”
- Jake Ryan had his surgery on Thursday.
- "No update" on Will Hagerup's suspension.
“We’re going to get after it pretty good tomorrow. I thought we had a good practice. I think it was practice eight. I think we’ve done a nice job of competing. I think a lot of the young guys are really doing a good job in the competition area and also how they’re grasping the things that we’re doing offensively and defensively.”
Has Jake Ryan had surgery yet?
Do you have any sense of his recovery timeline is?
“No. I think everybody’s different, so I think -- nine months, 12 months some people say. Some people say six to nine. I think it just depends on the individual.”