"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."
Personnel notes: Leach started the game and got pulled after he busted an assignment on a third-and-five TE cross that turned into 56 yards and a backbreaking touchdown. Ezeh replaced him for the remainder of the game. Mouton started the game and got pulled after he busted an assignment on the first Purdue touchdown. Fitzgerald replaced him until he took a bad angle on a Bolden touchdown, at which point he was replaced by Mouton.
You might sense a theme here. It will be addressed later.
Other than that it was the usual: zero rotation in the secondary, Brown in on every play, regular rotation on the DL. Banks was out so Campbell was Martin's backup. I don't know if I saw RVB ever leave the game.
Formation notes: That thing where Michigan drops the MLB to safety depth, or near it, returned again. I'm calling this "Tampa Nickel":
The dude in the deep middle is Kevin Leach; you can see Kovacs just off the edge of the screen at the 35. My best guess here is that this is an attempt to replicate a Tampa 2 defense with a walk-on linebacker or Obi Ezeh, which necessitates starting him well back of where a middle linebacker would normally end up.
Michigan's also running some even fronts—I think:
Look at the alignment of the two DTs relative to the DTs in the shot above. In this defense, Brown acts as a nickelback and Michigan plays, or at least shows, two-deep with the safeties.
AAARGH Notes: argh.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||Shotgun trips||Tampa Nickel(?)||Pass||Jailbreak screen||--||9|
|What the hell? [Ed: see above] Michigan has five guys in the box with Brown split out over to the trips side and Williams walked up outside of Mouton, who's lined up over the tackle. Leach is playing nine yards deep. Kovacs is 15 yards deep. Purdue throws a jailbreak screen on which Roh, who's dropping into coverage, reacts to. With both DTs sucking upfield Michigan has no one else in the area because Leach is 10 yards downfield. Leach recovers to tackle—barely—after making up the ground he gave presnap. The way this aligned Michigan had little chance to defend it. (RPS -1)|
|O21||2||1||Shotgun trips TE||4-3 under man||Run||Power O||--||30|
|Roh again dropping into coverage so he falls off the line of scrimmage attempting to cover the TE, who's moving out to block Leach. Leach is reading the play and manages to keep his feet as the TE dives at them, but is slowed and as a result the pulling guard gets an easy block on him. There's no one else on the corner. WTF? (RPS -1, Roh -1, as this must be some screwup on his part.) BTN says Troy Woolfolk is from “Suger Land, TX.” Really? Suger Land?|
|M49||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Hitch||Woolfolk||14|
|Woolfolk(-1) is backing out into a deep zone and reacts slowly to the short hitch Purdue is going for. He then overruns the play and turns this from five yards into 14. (Cover –1, tackling -1)|
|Mouton(-4) is in man on the tailback and decides man coverage is for losers. (Cover -4) I assume this is his bust because he got yanked; Mike Williams was also coming up on the TE Mouton decided to cover, and cover pretty well, actually.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-7, 13 min 1st Q. Somehow they won't score more than a FG for the rest of the half.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O23||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||4-3 under zone||Run||Power O||Fitzgerald||1|
|Michigan has flipped the line to the short side of the field, which happens to be the open side of the field, and is in zone coverage with Warren lined up over the TE. Purdue runs basically the same play they did on the last drive except with only one pulling guard. They double and down-block Graham. Warren hops out for contain and draws the pulling guard; Fitzgerald(+1) reads the play and shoots into the hole, tackling(+1) for a minimal gain.|
|O24||2||9||Shotgun Twins Twin TE||4-3 under man||Pass||Hitch||Leach||Inc|
|Yikes: looks to be a coverage bust with no one going with the TE hitting it up into the seam, but Elliot's already decided to come short. Ball is dropped; would have been six and an immediate tackle if caught.|
|O24||3||9||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Jailbreak screen||Fitzgerald||17|
|Fitzgerald and Williams do a great job of reading the play and attacking the LOS, giving Purdue no chance to block them. WR heads inside, right into Fitzgerald, who's just coming through a block and has his hands down; they collide and the RB runs through the contact. (-1, tackling -1); Roh(-1) can't make a diving ankle tackle attempt despite the slowdown and Purdue makes an unlikely third down conversion.|
|O41||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Fade||Woolfolk||30|
|Cover two and Purdue runs a play that attacks it with an out underneath holding Woolfolk(-1) as a receiver goes over the top; Williams(-1) can't get over in time. Ball is well underthrown, which gives Michigan a chance to make a play on the ball; they don't. (Cover -1)|
|M29||1||10||Shotgun trips||4-3 under||Run||Draw||Leach||4|
|Leach in a tough spot because RVB(-1) is stood up by the RG and eventually driven back, conceding holes to both sides of him. Leach picks one that he thinks Bolden is hitting it up into and gets it right; Bolden has to cut, and Leach(+1) manages to trip him as he runs by. Bolden falls forward for a bunch after contact but Leach did well in a lot of space in a tough situation.|
|M25||2||6||Shotgun trips||Tampa Nickel||Pass||Out||Woolfolk||Inc|
|This... thing again. Quick out open in front of Woolfolk(cover -1); dropped.|
|M25||3||6||Shotgun trips||3-3-5 stack||Pass||Scramble||Graham||1|
|Michigan shows a 3-man front with threatened blitzes from the linebackers, then drops out of it. Graham(+2) immediately pwns the RT and forces the QB up in the pocket; good coverage(+1) from the eight guys downfield allows Graham to come around from the back and tackle, though it doesn't go down as a sack because Graham hits him across the LOS. (Pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: FG(41), 7-10, 7 min 1st Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O19||1||10||I-Form Twins||4-3 under||Run||Down G||Leach||13 + 15 pen|
|Heininger doubled and removed from the play, leaving a pulling G and the FB on Leach and Brown. Brown heads outside for contain. Leach(-1) badly overruns the play, providing a quick cut-up for the RB when he could have slowed up, let Brown cut off the outside, and slowed the play down. I'm not sure what to make of Fitzgerald here, who might be a step slow, might have stumbled, but took on a block and shed it, but then couldn't make a tough tackle attempt at about five yards. This penalty is probably a bad one but definitely stupid... Williams(-1) knows he's right at the sideline and there's zero upside to hitting a guy who's running OOB.|
|O48||1||10||I-Form||4-4 under||Run||Rollout something||Brown||-4|
|This looks like a busted play as Elliott rolls out with a couple of lead blockers and his receiver goes to block some guys. Unless this is just a called bootleg run for Elliot without so much as a fake, which I find hard to believe. Brown(+1) does to a good job of containing, and Fitzgerald comes to tackle.|
|O44||2||14||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||Dig||Brown||13|
|Brown(+1, cover +1) right there on the play and has a swat at the ball but misses it. He's still there to make a tackle, though the receiver drags him for a few yards. Excellent coverage; Michigan made it tough this time. Graham did tear through late, but this is a pressure -1... Elliot could stand and fire.|
|M43||3||1||Shotgun trips TE||Nickel even||Pass||Bubble screen||Woolfolk||6|
|Tough to stop on third and one with Michigan loading the box and with only two guys on the edge here. Brown does a decent job getting out; Woolfolk(-0.5) was late reacting after the guy was clearly stalk-blocking him off the line; he does shed and force the player out of bounds.|
|M37||1||10||I-Form||4-4 under||Run||Draw||Van Bergen||4|
|Campbell in; Michigan stunts through the line(RPS +1), with Van Bergen(-1) coming through clean only to overrun the play and let Bolden through the hole he just came through. Bolden ends up tripping over the guy blocking Campbell.|
|M33||2||6||Shotgun empty 2TE||4-3 under||Pass||TE Out||Brown||3 (Pen -5)|
|Caught; Brown(+1, cover +1), in a cover-2 zone, lights up the TE as soon as he catches it. Illegal motion brings it back.|
|M38||2||11||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Wobbler||Leach||Int|
|Michigan gets a gift as Elliot gets time (pressure -1) against a three-man rush and finds someone to fire to. The ball flutters at it leaves his hand and is reeled in by Leach(+1).|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 10-10, 2 min 1st Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O39||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||4-3 under||Run||Pin and pull zone||Graham||5|
|What? See the Smart Football link. Basically any covered OL blocks down and anyone else pulls around. Graham(+1) shucks his blocker and gets playside of him, shooting into the hole and delaying the running back. And I thought I was going to give a big minus to one of the linebackers here but it turns out that JB Fitzgerald is held by a Purdue OL—like the guy grabs him from behind, this one is no question—and thus can't get out to the corner. That turns this from zero to five.|
|O44||2||5||Shotgun 2-back||Base 4-3||Run||Triple option keeper||Graham||1|
|Refs miss a Purdue false start. Elliott pulls it out when he doesn't like the dive fake, but Graham(+1) is not crashing and gets out on Elliott, forcing him back inside; Graham and Fitzgerald combine to tackle(+1) for minimal gain. Pitch guy was covered too, so Elliott didn't make the worst read possible.|
|O45||3||4||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Corner||Brown||6|
|Line shifted as per usual but the LBs are off the line and tucked in; weird. Michigan blitzes; Graham tears around the corner and beats one blocker, forcing another to come out on him. Purdue is clearly trying to pick Warren and get the slant as a result; Warren(+1) does a fantastic job of coming under the pick and having this blanketed. Holding? Maybe, but not called. Brown(-1), however, reacts to that route when he's in man on the slot guy and leaves his little corner route open, so Elliot has another option other than “die because of Graham.” Tough leaping catch from the WR.|
|M49||1||10||Shotgun Twins Twin TE||4-4 under||Run||Zone read stretch||Leach||6|
|Unfortunate for Michigan as Purdue gets an inadvertent chop on Graham, who they tried to double but did not seal, because the guy coming off Graham dives to cut Leach(-1) and Graham trips over the mess, opening up a crease just before the play reaches the sideline. Leach went down hard and heavy to the cut block, allowing his blocker to take out two guys.|
|M43||2||4||I-Form||4-4 under||Run||Inside zone||Roh||-2|
|Michigan's got a line slant on that murders this dead(RPS +1), as Roh(+1) is unblocked on the backside and blitzes right into the path of the tailback before the offset fullback has a chance to do anything about it.|
|M45||3||6||Shotgun empty||4-3 under split||Pass||Jailbreak screen||Roh||Inc|
|Roh(+1) is either spying on this or reads it because he does not pursue the QB but rather holds up and occupies the LT, which prevents him from getting out and allows Fitzgerald(+1) to flow unimpeded to the receiver. Ball is dropped anyway. (RPS +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 17-10, 11 min 3rd Q. What is this “punt” you speak of?|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O24||1||10||Shotgun trips bunch||Nickel under||Pass||Swing||Brown||3|
|Trips bunch set takes Brown out to them and he plays head-up on the guy on the LOS. Michigan drops into a zone; Purdue receivers attempt to run it off and hit the swing pass underneath; Brown(+1, tackling +1) makes a good open-field tackle to turn this into a meh play.|
|O27||2||7||I-Form Twins||4-4 under||Pass||Rollout||Woolfolk||16|
|This will be annoying for the rest of the game. Michigan in what looks like man on the outside receivers, playing pretty far off. It's not man, as Warren drops off into a deep zone and Woolfolk(-1) is supposed to have an outside zone. He ends up getting run off and leaves a 15-yard out wide open(cover -1). Roh was chasing Elliott down but fell as he tried to avoid a desperate cut from an OL, so there's no pressure(-1) on this.|
|O41||1||10||I-Form||4-4 under||Run||Power O||Martin||0|
|Martin(+2) darts between the center and an attempted down-block from the RG, coming under the pulling LG to tackle Bolden in the backfield with no help from anyone else. Bolden coughs the ball up but it falls right to him.|
|O41||2||10||Shotgun trips||Tampa Nickel||Pass||Hitch||Brown||5|
|Brown(cover +1, +1) is again right in the receiver's grill as he makes the catch and has a swipe at the ball for a PBU, but can't make it. He does tackle(+1) with help.|
|O46||3||5||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||TE cross||Roh||Int|
|Warren spends the run up to this play leaping up and down trying to get other secondary members' attention. He does. Michigan runs a crazy zone blitz with both Roh and RVB dropping off the right side of the line into short zones; this gets Brown, blitzing off the corner, in clean (pressure +1, RPS +1). The zone drops from the DT end up covering(+1) the short options but Elliott gets a crazy accurate pass off that manages to find his tight end despite the tight end taking a detour around Roh after the ball was thrown. Tight end gets his head around late to find the ball almost there already and can't bring it in; Warren(+1) picks off the deflection.|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 24-10, 6 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O18||1||10||I-Form Twins||4-4 under||Pass||Rollout deep hitch||Leach?||12|
|Part II of rollout extravaganza. No pressure(-1) on the corner and this seems like it's got to be a coverage bust from one of the linebackers because both Leach and Fitzgerald tear after the rollout, opening a lane for Elliott when Williams heads out for his flat zone. (Cover -1)|
|O30||1||10||Shotgun 2-back Twins||4-4 under||Pass||Bubble screen||Warren||3|
|Michigan man up on the corners and Warren(+0.5, cover +1) reacts to the bubble very quickly, getting in on it basically as the catch is made. Unfortunately he gets stiffarmed(tackling -1). Roh also overruns the guy as he cuts inside of Warren but the delays mean there are now five other Wolverines in the area and he can only get three.|
|O33||2||7||Ace Twins Twin TE||4-4 under||Pass||Rollout TE Out||Williams||7|
|TE pulls across with presnap motion and Purdue runs him into the flat, where he catches the ball in front of Williams for near first down yardage (cover -1, pressure -1, RPS -1).|
|O40||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Hitch||Warren||9|
|Warren is bailing out into cover-three and Elliott finds the hitch his coverage leaves open (cover -1).|
|O49||2||1||I-Form Twins||4-4 under||Pass||Rollout scramble||Brown||3|
|Still no one on the edge here (pressure -1) on the fourth rollout of the day. Leach does get a good chuck on the TE; he's covered; Brown has a guy in the flat(cover +1) so Elliot is forced to scramble up for the first down.|
|M48||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||Fly||Warren||Inc|
|Warren(+1, cover +1) in great position. Ball is high and short so Warren doesn't have a play on the ball; leaping WR can only get one hand on it and it falls incomplete.|
|M48||2||10||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 under||Run||Trap||Roh||3|
|Roh(+1) responsible enough here to not fly upfield as Purdue leaves him unblocked and pulls two OL around attempting to trap Michigan up the middle. He gets into a blocker and when Bolden cuts up—Leach(+0.5) had contain—Roh fights playside of the blocker, gets held pretty badly, and sort of tackles Bolden with his back. Help came from RVB and Graham.|
|M45||3||7||Shotgun empty||3-3-5 stack||Penalty||False start||--||-5|
|50||3||12||Shotgun 2-back||3-3-5 stack||Penalty||Delay||--||-5|
|Oops. Why does the clock keep running after penalties like this?|
|O45||3||17||Shotgun 2-back||Tampa Nickel||Pass||Hitch||Warren||6|
|Whatever. (Cover +1)|
|Drive Notes: EOH, 24-10.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M19||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||Power off tackle||Brown||19|
|Ugh. Center actually pulls here as two guys double Roh and Purdue goes for the outside. Roh(-1) gets sealed really quickly and is both out of the play and not occupying a double. Brown(-1) comes down too far inside and gives up the corner; Leach(-1) is sliced to the ground by the TE coming off Roh, Williams(-1) overruns the play as it nears the sticks and turns it into a touchdown.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 24-17, 13 min 3rd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O9||1||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel under||Pass||Hitch||--||8|
|Weird LB/secondary config. Purdue runs a three-step drop that finds a hole in the zone(cover -1) between Williams and Leach. Fitz got a free run, but it didn't matter. (Pressure +1)|
|O17||2||2||Ace Twins||4-4 under||Pass||Rollout throwaway||Graham||Inc|
|Graham(+1) tears through the line and is fast enough to get in on Elliott, forcing a throwaway. Good flat coverage from Brown(+1, cover +1)|
|O17||3||2||Shotgun Twins Twin TE||4-4 under||Pass||Hitch||Fitzgerald||6|
|Guy comes open underneath a zone and Elliott hits him quickly; immediate tackle. Excellent catch on a poorly thrown ball by the TE.|
|O23||1||10||Ace||4-3 under||Pass||Rollout hitch||Warren||6|
|Quick throw, not a long rollout, and Warren is there to escort out of bounds immediately. I'm not negging these quick throws with immediate tackles but I am getting cranky.|
|O29||2||4||Shotgun 2-back TE||4-4 under||Run||Zone read stretch||Martin||-2|
|Martin(+1) blows the center back, forcing Bolden to delay a bit to get around the disruption. Graham(+1) blows into the backfield as well, cutting off the outside and taking out two blockers. and Fitzgerald(+1, tackling +1) uses the delay and the lack of blockers to dart into the backfield and make a solid TFL.|
|O27||3||6||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Hitch||Fitzgerald||9|
|Four man rush is stoned (pressure -1) to the point where Elliot doesn't even have to worry about any issues, and Fitzgerald(-1, cover -1) sucks out of his zone, opening up a slant. Leach had the slot receiver; Fitz is busting a coverage here.|
|O38||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||Zone read stretch||Brown||16|
|Purdue motions in a slot WR to act as a second TE and Michigan does not react (RPS -1); Brown(-1) fails to get outside the slot guy and gives up the corner; Roh(-1) ends up spinning inside of the OT despite this run obviously going outside; Leach(-1) is indecisive and ends up getting blocked into oblivion. Bolden gets the corner and a bunch of yards.|
|M46||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||Rollout corner||Kovacs||Inc|
|Kovacs(-1, cover -2, RPS -1) in man on this and that is a terrible matchup against a good Purdue receiver lined up in the slot. Elliott has the guy for at least 20 but throws it too far in front of him and the receiver can't make a tough catch.|
|M46||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel under||Pass||Rollout deep hitch||--||14|
|This is more of a half-roll and there's max protect, but Michigan is still not getting anywhere near this guy (pressure -2) on a deep drop. Elliott has plenty of time to come to a second receiver, wait for him to get open, and fire in a pass to a tight window in front of Brown. Lot of time, still pretty covered receiver, no cover minuses. These rollouts are killing me.|
|M32||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Quick out||Brown||8|
|Brown(-1) has the flat here and instead attempts to cover a TE that is running into Leach's zone; Warren has a deep half and is not responsible. (Cover -1)|
|M24||2||2||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 under||Run||Zone read keeper||Herron||6|
|Herron(-1) dives too far inside and gives up the corner. Pretty sure this isn't a scrape exchange; if it was Herron would not even think about responsibility.|
|M18||1||10||Ace Twins Twin TE||4-3 under||Run||Draw||Leach||3|
|Plays off the rollout stuff with it looking like a rollout and then the counter draw coming. Martin seems like he's about to come around his guy and make a tackle at the LOS but a hold prevents him; OL then gives the “I ain't doin' nothing” hands up thing and lets him go, preventing a penalty. Borderline; can see letting it go. Leach(+0.5) slices between a couple OL to make a diving, face-first, sketchy tackle attempt; Roh(+0.5) loops around on what is probably a stunt to provide enough Michigan jersey to cut off the hole.|
|M15||2||7||I-Form||4-3 under||Pass||Rollout FB Flat||Williams||5|
|Williams takes a step inside, biting on the run fake, but then gets out quickly to cover and tackle the FB flat immediately. No plus, no minus, eh.|
|M10||3||2||Shotgun trips TE||4-3 under||Run||Zone read stretch||Fitzgerald||10|
|Ugh. This is a game-losing play. Martin(+1) does great, slanting from the backside and taking two blockers directly into the path of Bolden. This play has to be dead now; a guy has occupied two blockers and delayed the RB. It's over, except Fitzgerald(-2) takes an angle way too far upfield and can only make a diving arm-tackle attempt on Bolden, which misses (tackle -1). Roh's stunted himself out of the area and the resulting mess prevents RVB from flowing; Ditto Kovacs, so Bolden gets into the endzone. Really, really should have been a TFL and a FG attempt.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 30-24, 5 min 3rd Q. Onside kick gives it right back to Purdue. Spectacular execution by the kicker.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O46||1||10||Shotgun trips||Tampa Nickel||Pass||Fly||Kovacs||54|
|Four man rush, a zone blitz, gets nowhere near Elliott (pressure -2) and so he can half-roll a bit and look deep, where Kovacs(-4) has completely busted on the only deep receiver on his side of the field; guy is so wide open that even a terribly underthrown pass doesn't prevent him from scoring. (Cover -4). Enormous bust. Walk-on freshman safety.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, FML, 30-31, 5 min 3rd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O42||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||4-4 under||Pass||Bubble screen||Woolfolk||6|
|Michigan in a zone; Woolfolk(-0.5) is unblocked but reads it a little late and almost misses a tackle, allowing the receiver to make some YAC.|
|O48||2||4||I-Form Twins||4-3 under||Run||Pitch sweep||Graham||-3|
|Graham(+1) slants inside, meeting the playside G a couple yards in the backfield as he pulls; he drives the G back, forcing Bolden outside. Graham gets stiffarmed but his interior play has allowed Brown(+1) to finish the TFL after he got outside his blocker effectively.|
|O45||3||7||Shotgun empty||3-3-5 split||Pass||Hitch||Graham||Inc|
|Graham(+1) tears around the RT, flushing Elliott up into the pocket on a three-man rush (pressure +1) and forcing him to throw as he knows Graham is coming up for EXTREME VENGANCE behind him. Mouton(-1, cover –1) vacates his zone to chase Elliott, opening up a receiver for a first down; RVB(+1) is looping around and bats it down.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 30-31, 1 min 3rd Q. You can tell what the coaches' reaction was to that Bolden touchdown: Fitzgerald out, Mouton in.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O31||1||10||Shotgun trips||4-3 under||Pass||Jailbreak screen||Roh||1|
|Kind of a similar deal to a failed Michigan version of this earlier: Roh(+1) actually hooks the playside tackle, which prevents him from getting out to get a block; three Wolverines, including Roh, come in to crush the play. (RPS +1)|
|O32||2||9||Shotgun empty||Tampa Nickel||Pass||Scramble||Brown||4|
|Fake bubble to the slant Michigan likes to run except Brown(+1, cover +1) is not biting and Elliott has to look elsewhere, at which point Graham(+1) tears through on a three man rush and flushes him out of the pocket. Coverage remains good downfield so Elliot has to scramble; lot of short routes mean no one can peel off until he crosses the LOS. (Cover +1)|
|O36||3||5||Shotgun 2TE||Base 4-3||Pass||TE cross||Leach||56|
|Michigan sends six and plays man behind it; Leach(-4) is looking in the backfield and covering the wrong tight end because he's playing zone. This opens the tight end up wide open, and he grabs a short cross and turns it up for a huge gain. (Cover -4)|
I'm not sure why this lane opens up. Martin is slanting and slants from one side of the line to the left, coming around as if he's the DE on the opposite side of the line and dragging the RG with him; Graham does his usual tear-upfield-speed rush thing. Roh and RVB are slanting away from Martin; this results in a big pocket opening up and a major cutback lane no one is in because they're trying to cover receivers. I think Roh -1, RVB -1. Maybe Martin. Not sure. BTN analyst calls out Mouton, but he's in pass coverage on a guy who would otherwise be open, right? I dunno.
Hmmm. Official call: minus halves for the DLs, minus one for Mouton. Help here?
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 30-38, 10 min 4th Q. Aaand exeunt Leach.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O11||1||10||Shotgun trips||4-3 under||Run||Zone read inside||Roh||4|
|Martin(+0.5) holds up decently well, which causes a slowdown and allows Roh(+0.5), who's crashing from the backside, to come from behind and snuff this out. Pile then falls way forward. Martin holds up a little better and this can be 0.|
|O15||2||6||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Dumpoff||--||Inc|
|Graham(+1) starts the tear-around-corner-business and it looks like Elliott can step up into a pocket but I think he's spooked and decides to dump it off to the releasing RB, who drops an iffy pass. (pressure +1)|
|O15||3||6||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 split||Pass||Hitch||Warren||5|
|Wow, close to a chop block as a guy Martin isn't expecting gets into his knees. C was not engaged but it was close. The chop indicates a pass that must get thrown immediately and indeed, Elliott chucks it in between Kovacs(+1) and Warren(+1)—very dangerous. Cover +1. Ball is caught but the TE is falling back upfield because of the tight coverage and ends up short of the first down.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 30-38, 7 min 4th Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O18||1||10||Shotgun Twins 2TE||4-4 under||Penalty||False start||--||-5|
|O13||1||15||Shotgun Twins 2TE||4-4 under||Run||Down G||Graham||4 (Pen -7)|
|Graham(+2) tears through a TE trying to down-block him and heads out to the edge, where he gets into both pulling blockers and is tackled to the ground, drawing a holding call. The result is a strung out play that Ezeh and Brown end up overrunning, allowing Bolden to pick up a few.|
|O6||1||22||I-Form Twins||4-3 under||Pass||Rollout comeback||Woolfolk||Inc|
|Elliott wants to go to the TE but Brown(+1, cover +1) has him covered and Elliott keeps rolling and rolling. He's late; as he reaches the sideline he chucks it to the other receiver, who Woolfolk(+1) has under control and makes a pass breakup on. (Pressure -1, cover +1)|
|O6||2||22||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 under||Run||Trap||Roh||4|
|Roh(+1) slants inside the attempted trap block and gets in the lane, meeting the RB at the LOS. Bolden powers through for a decent gain, though... Roh needs some more weight.|
|Tape does not have this play. Abbreviated replay shows RVB(+1) the beneficiary of a coverage sack(cover +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 30-38, 3 min 4th Q. Final drive for Purdue is not charted since it's an extreme run situation and not representative.|
How's the ichor?
Don't I ask the questions?
Just talk before I dispel you.
The ichor is dry and rubbery. If I attempt to stroke my luxurious goatee it comes off in little gooey balls that are faintly warm to the touch and smell like an oil slick with an otter drowning in it.
Dude, you are evil.
Not as evil as Michigan's linebackers. ZING!
Sigh. How about a special mailbag question?
Sure, what the hell, I just want to talk Cowherd.
Brian,Defensively, I don't understand. My biggest concern is not the big plays, but how they look. I understand we have three walk-ons playing significant time, as well as a freshman D-lineman. Mistakes will happen. What I am worried about is the ease of which we are beaten. I don't have a problem with Kovacs being outrun or Leach getting blocked. That is expected. I have a problem with completely blown assignments. To get beat on a fly pattern by a guy who is faster - acceptable. To get beat on a fly pattern because you were tackling the fullback when the wideout was your responsibility - unacceptable. That is where we are. It can't all be Rock-Paper-Scissors playcalling. It is coaching. They have got to get these kids in the right position. Williams total disregard for Juice responsibility is a perfect example. The coaches have got to figure a way to get through to him. Then if Juice breaks his tackle or fakes him out of his shoes, good job Juice. We don't even challenge our opponent to out execute us.In a nutshell, I can be patient with the offense. Improvement, youth, blah blah blah. I can't be patient with this defense, and I believe it is on the staff. Coach Rod will have some tough decisions to make this offseason. Don't know if Gerg is the answer, but position coaches should be feeling the heat.Just needed to vent. I want Rod here 5 years minimum. I hope his delegation of defensive authority doesn't doom him sooner.Go Blue!Jim Cunningham
I SORT OF TALK… like CAPTAIN KIRK… if he had DOWN'S SYNDROME.
|Graham||12||-||12||Killed all runs to his side; somewhat culpable for poor pressure metric but those were rollouts.|
|Heininger||-||-||-||Didn't record anything.|
|Roh||6||4.5||1.5||Extensive discussion below.|
|Herron||-||1||-1||Only contribution was blowing contain once.|
|Martin||4.5||0.5||4||Relatively quiet; not getting much pass rush this year.|
|Van Bergen||2||2||0||Not a major factor.|
|Banks||-||-||-||DNP, I think.|
|Sagesse||-||-||-||Also DNP, I think.|
|Campbell||-||-||-||Didn't do anything of note but did play.|
|TOTAL||24.5||8||16.5||Step back from usual effort, especially given the pressure metric below.|
|Ezeh||-||-||-||Nothing particularly good or bad on late cameo.|
|Mouton||-||6||-6||Did this in like a quarter of playing time.|
|Brown||9||4||5||Built to play his position against a team like Purdue.|
|Fitzgerald||3||4||-1||I am actually encouraged by his play.|
|Leach||3||8||-5||Basically even except for the monster bust.|
|TOTAL||15||22||-7||Is it a positive that this is positive but for the –8 on huge coverage busts? No?|
|Warren||4.5||-||4.5||The NFL wants you to stay in school.|
|Woolfolk||-||4||-4||Rough day in zones.|
|Williams||-||3||-3||I'll take it.|
|Kovacs||1||5||-4||Enormous bust #3.|
|TOTAL||5.5||12||-6.5||Better than against Illinois, I guess.|
|Coverage||15||24||-9||Did a good job when they remembered at all where they were supposed to be.|
|Tackling||5||5||0||I really need to definite this more precisely.|
|RPS||5||5||0||Still working on this, too.|
[A reminder: RPS is "rock, paper, scissors." Michigan gets a + when they call a play that makes it very easy for them to defend the opponent, like getting a free blitzer. They get a – when they call a play that makes it very difficult for them to defend the opponent, like showing a seven-man blitz and having Penn State get easy touchdowns twice.]
It's basically the usual: pretty decent on the DL, Graham destroys, Brown does well or okay, other linebackers and people in the secondary who aren't Warren make graves. Hidden in the raw numbers is the distribution: –12 in coverage and the above numbers goes to three separate enormous busts. If Michigan does not make those busts it seems reasonable to assume they hold Purdue to something like 10-14 fewer points. If they don't bust, there is the talent, it seems, to have an average defensive performance against Purdue.
The emailer is correct that it's the busted coverages and disaster that makes this defense a disastrous disaster of disastrous proportions. Is this "acceptable"? Well… let's rephrase that into something that's less vague and standoffish. How much of this is a reflection on poor coaching by position coaches on up to Rodriguez? How much should this deflate expectations about how well this team can play on defense going forward?
I can point you to any number of metrics that suggest there are plenty of reasons that Michigan sucks on defense for reasons other than coaching. Here's a new one:
Comparing Michigan's defensive upperclassmen [ed: 3rd, 4th, 5th year players; RVB counts] not only to Ohio State, Penn State, and Notre Dame, but to the rest of the conference as well...
Ohio State - 22
Northwestern - 21
Indiana - 19
Illinois - 19
Michigan State - 19
Penn State - 19
Iowa - 18
Wisconsin - 18
Minnesota - 17
Purdue - 15
Notre Dame - 15
Michigan - 12
The rest of the Big Ten averages 50% more upperclassmen on defense. We are dead last in the conference by a wide margin in terms of experienced defensive players.
Then you add in the defensive coordinator carousel—three in three years—and the wholesale changeover of position coaches last year and, like, doy: this just about has to be a bad defense. If it was even average it would be a miracle. The emailer dismisses the idea of youth being a factor; again, I have no idea how you can do that. The raw numbers defy you.
So it's bad and it should be bad. Is it worse than it should be considering the incredible paucity of not even talent but mere bodies on the team? I don't know. Assuming that a busted coverage is necessarily on a coach not getting his guys to go to the right spots is dodgy. It could just be that the guys they have to start are either not ready or just not that bright when it comes to football and would be mediocre backups on another team. Sometimes people just can't hack the mental side of the game no matter what.
So maybe it's on the coaches. That is a blindingly obvious possibility. But there are plenty of mitigating factors that suggest it is not necessarily the case. The only way we will find out is with more time. They've got to be a lot better next year or things will get ugly.
[Note: the criticism that Rodriguez forced various kids to get R-U-N-N-O-F-T is another show. Presumably, attrition will be normal in the future. Rodriguez's previous stop did not experience undue attrition after his transition. Going forward, Michigan can expect to get its numbers back into the pack here.]
On to specifics, maybe?
So what was with the rollouts?
Purdue was very clever. Remember this thirty-yard run?
That's run directly at Roh and RVB and linebackers because Michigan's aligning based on the hash these days and not the formation. So they've got a lot of open space if they can blow Roh off the line, which is pretty easy right now because he's a 220-230 pound true freshman. Here he's not blown off the line, he's tasked with coverage. and gives up the corner. Okay, that's not going to work. RPS –1 was born for this.
Later Michigan flips the line so that Graham is to the open side of the field:
That play picks up one because two guys have to take on Graham and Michigan is using someone else. On the first play of Purdue's third drive they run an outside zone like the 30-yarder to start, and Graham tears through it; a hold from Purdue gives them five yards but the play is basically blown up. Purdue picks up a big run later with Heininger in in an I-Form twins; it's clear that BG is the only thing keeping Purdue away from major gains outside the tackle. So it's the strong side for him.
Now Graham is away from the receiver side of the field on the formations above and the rollouts can take advantage of Roh not being Brandon Graham; the one rollout on which Michigan did get pressure was from Graham. Later in the game, Roh gets sealed away on a 19-yard touchdown by Bolden when Michigan puts Graham on the weakside and gets another excellent run when Roh comes inside a TE. (Plenty other folk—three—picked up minuses on that play but if that's run at Graham they are not likely to have much success.) Purdue made Michigan pick its poison.
Roh did some good stuff on slants and was responsible when he had an opportunity to overrun plays, which gives him that modest positive score above, but big minuses in pressure fall mostly on the shoulders of the DEs and when one of the DEs is Brandon Graham they fall mostly on the shoulders of the DE who isn't Brandon Graham. So if you apply a chunk of that pressure metric to Roh, you get a solidly negative day. I think that's a realistic take on is game and am going to incredible lengths to justify that assessment because apparently Roh's dad reads UFR, which is something I'd really rather not know. The eyebrow furrowing!
I THINK THAT'S TOTALLY FAIR
Shut up, imaginary Cowherd. Anyway, Purdue did a really good job of exploiting the true freshman defensive end in this game. I think Danny Hope has shown that he was an excellent choice for Purdue's coaching transition; he will be a success. Probably.
I know, man. Mouton busts huge on the first drive and gets yanked. Ezeh has already been yanked and so you've got a couple sophomores out there and you're thinking 'hey, maybe this is where they show their mettle, they're gamers' and then by the end of the game they've both busted huge and the nominal starters are back in and if you go back and chalk up the number of Purdue points that came directly from the linebackers not knowing WTF they are supposed to do you get something like 14. They are terrible, and it's all mental.
This is one spot on the field where I lean towards the torch and pitchfork crowd. It could just be a couple busts and no depth with any experience, but Mouton was better last year and the vast improvement from Stevie Brown stands in stark contrast… since he's coached by Greg Robinson.
Brandon Graham remains Brandon Graham. Also, Stevie Brown's short coverage was excellent all day and though he missed on a couple opportunities to get PBUs he made it very tough and was a sure tackler. I'm so happy we blew his redshirt on kickoff coverage.
Warren also turned in a good day; I know it looked like he was leaving a lot of guys open during the game but I am pretty confident that those were not his issues because he was a deep half in cover-two.
Pick an enormous busty guy: Mouton, Kovacs, Leach. And as discussed above, Purdue's game plan other than "hey throw it to that wide open guy" was focused on exploiting Roh's lack of size and experience.
What does it mean for Wisconsin and beyond?
Despite the re-insertion of the nominal starting linebackers at the end of the game I assume that the linebacker question is an open one for Saturday and probably until the UConn game next fall. I graded Fitzgerald out at a –1 despite the crippling poor angle on that Bolden run and he looked physically capable; I'm pulling for him because he's younger, seems less prone to implode, and hasn't made me want to die more than once or twice.
At middle linebacker, I think Leach is seriously mediocre at this instant but so is Ezeh; there are no good options there. He, too, is a sophomore with a lack of on-field experience, so he seems more likely to have a light go on than Ezeh.
At this point the line is basically status quo, as is the secondary. I thought Williams did okay after a monstrously poor day against Illinois. So there's that.
Note: video from last year is lightboxed; previous years will take you off the page.
A note before we start: this preview relies heavily on the defensive UFRs of last year, even more so than the offense did, because there’s a convenient numerical system that does a decent job of summing up a defensive player’s contributions. One caveat: the system is generous to defensive linemen and harsh to defensive backs, especially cornerbacks. A +4 for a defensive end is just okay; for a cornerback it’s outstanding.
|Jonas Mouton||Jr.*||Obi Ezeh||Jr.*||Stevie Brown||Sr.|
|Kenny Demens||Fr.*||JB Fitzgerald||So.*||Mike Jones||Fr.|
|Kevin Leach||So.*||Brandon Smith||Fr.*||Brandin Hawthorne||Fr.|
Here's where we have to start talking about the changes Greg Robinson hath wrought. In this defense there's a large distinction between the outside linebackers—"spinner" and deathbacker—and the inside linebackers. In this way it's more of a 3-4. Jay Hopson doesn't even coach the guys on the outside, he only gets the WLBs and MLBs. These guys will be operating off the line of scrimmage at all times and acting like conventional linebackers.
The outside guys are the hybrids, with the deathbacker somewhere between a defensive end and a linebacker and the "spinner"—a term that Greg Robinson claims does not exist—somewhere between a linebacker and a safety. On any particular play they could be tight to the line of scrimmage or dropped off. This helpful screenshot from diarist remdies should help clarify:
There's been a lot of debate on the blog about whether the base D is a 4-3 under or not; this alignment, for one, is pure 4-3 under. In any case, you can see the spinner and deathbacker at or near the line of scrimmage; Brown, if called to do so, can drop off onto the slot receiver. That's why he's on the strongside: to cover. I assume this will be the base formation against spreads, with adjustments for pounders.
Going into last year, Obi Ezeh was the Steve Schilling of the defense. Oh, hell, let me quote myself:
Sophomore middle linebacker Obi Ezeh was the Steve Schilling of the defense in 2007: a redshirt freshman pressed into the starting lineup before his time, he was unprepared and often bad. Now he’s the “veteran” anchor of a shaky unit, counted upon to improve massively.
Going into this year, Obi Ezeh is still the Steve Schilling of the defense: a two-year starter entering his redshirt junior year without having done much to distinguish himself and rapidly running out of upside. Schilling's got a fresh start and bonus round of practice hype based on his position switch, but Ezeh's not been so lucky. Though he's been showing up on some preseason All Big Ten lists, that's strictly a Matt Lentz phenomenon. Lentz entered his third year as a Michigan starting guard in 2005 with a ton of accolades; he left without even getting drafted. Winged helmet momentum sometimes carries meh players to lofty preseaon heights; Ezeh appears to be one of these folk.
There's a theme in the videos at right: the good ones usually involve Ezeh shooting towards the line of scrimmage on a blitz. The bad ones see him getting lost: see "hesitant, booted" or "suckered by PA" or "WHERE ARE YOU GOING"; the theme is clear here.
A lot of Ezeh's issues at right came in the Illinois game so let's check that game's UFR:
The first of Williams's crazy ninja ballfakes. This one suckers an unblocked Ezeh(-2) despite the fact Mouton is racing up into the same hole, beating a blocker to tackle the guy. … Ezeh(-1) fails to read this, hesitating long enough for the C to get out on him on the second level. … Ezeh(-2) took an upfield angle around a blocker [on a 57-yard screen touchdown]. … Problem: Ezeh(-2) overruns the WR as he cuts back since Mouton has forced him back upfield. He whiffs a tackle, allowing Illinois to convert. … Ezeh(-1.5) completely overruns the play, turning two yards into first and goal.
Now, Ezeh did have +8.5 scattered across that game but it was outweighed by a –12.5, which whoah. Most of the plusses came when Ezeh was permitted to attack the line of scrimmage immediately on a blitz or Illinois decided not to go with misdirection; you have to set people up sometimes, right? When they weren't doing that, they confused Ezeh. A lot.
Part of that was uncertainty about just what the hell he was doing. After I slammed Johnny Thompson for his performance in the Notre Dame game, high school coach and excellent diarist Steve Sharik came to his defense by way of blamin' Obi:
The mistake was by Obi Ezeh. By design, Ezeh is supposed to fast flow over the top and be outside of Thompson. If the back sees this and cuts back, he does so into the waiting arms of Terrance Taylor. Ezeh's used to the old way--which was played as you suggested. If you re-examine "bad iso 3," Ezeh is flat-footed instead of screaming over the top, which is what the scheme calls for. And that's why Thompson spilled the block again on the next play. The bad part is that Ezeh messed it up again.
It's not like Ezeh was the only one who had no idea what he was doing last year, but as the middle linebacker it's just way more apparent when you get lost because you're reading and reacting on every play.
Will it be better? Michigan, after all, has just switched schemes again. That will depend on Ezeh's increased experience giving him added flexibility and how much better Greg Robinson is compared to Scott Shafer at, you know, teaching people things. Everyone knows he's not David Harris but Harris didn't start until he was a redshirt junior; Ezeh will be one this fall. If he can just get his head on straight he should be average or slightly better.
will pop your lid
|Play action fail|
|Chasing down end around|
|Frowns: poor zone cover|
|Stands up FB, tackles|
|Stands up G, tackles|
|Improved coverage late|
|Destroys triple option|
The other starting spot is technically an outside linebacker position but the two spots are far more similar than WLB is to spinner/SLB so I'll slot Jonas Mouton here. Mouton's star was fading rapidly after he arrived out of California a top-50 recruit. Despite Chris Graham's persistent mediocrity, Mouton never threatened to start after moving from safety. And when Michigan opened last season, Mouton was behind two-star recruit Marell Evans.
Evans fell by the wayside when Michigan revamped its linebacker corps after the Utah un derneath coverage fiasco, paving the way for Mouton to chip in a +7 in his first extended game action against Miami Of Ohio (Not That Miami Of Ohio). Ah, but not so fast my friend:
Mouton was overrated by the numbers, IMO. I gave him credit for blitzing up into the heart of Miami plays over and over again; that credit should probably fall to Shafer and not Mouton. Overall, though, I did think he played well and was a major upgrade over Evans.
That he was. Evans fell into the background and hardly saw a defensive snap the rest of the season; Mouton dropped off from his dynamite debut into a series of performances that were only okay but promised better once Mouton found his feet. That he did. Amongst the debris of the Purdue disaster his "continued good play" was about the only positive I could find
The praise Mouton started picking up late last year in UFR is echoed by Hopson. No, scratch that. It is amplified considerably (further quotes in this piece from Hopson are all from this link):
I’ve been really pleased with Jonas. Jonas is a kid that has worked extremely hard. He’s a kid that’s an explosive player. He’s a kid…he’s my kind of guy. Jonas is a tough guy. He’s physical and we expect Jonas to make some plays for us. … I think he’s ready to have a big year. … I think he’s an NFL player all the way. I’ll sell him to anybody. I just love him.
This dedicated amateur concurs. Mouton's uptake last year was swift and by the end of the season he was easily Michigan's best linebacker. Chart? Chart.
|Wisconsin||6||4.5||1.5||Had a tough time against Wisconsin's mondo players and is still learning; potential is there.|
|Illinois||5||2.5||2.5||Was better suited to defend this offense than the more lumbering guys. BONUS: “solid day”|
|Penn State||7||6||1||Still terrible in coverage; turning into a good blitzer.|
|Michigan State||5.5||3||2.5||Stood up MSU's fullback time and again, clearly surprising MSU. ... pleasantly surprised by both OLBs in this game.|
|Purdue||5.5||3.5||2||The closest thing M has to a player in the back seven right now.|
|Minnesota||2||5.5||-3.5||Off day from him; was culpable on one of the GDCDs.|
|Northwestern||9.5||1.5||8||Monster day, best of his career. Really got freed up to attack and constantly shot past guys trying to block him.|
I could go through more of it but it's all the same in the comments: Mouton's an excellent, explosive blitzer and surprisingly stout when it comes to taking on fullbacks and even guards at the point of attack. He's still vulnerable to misdirection some and has coverage issues—though they weren't as severe as Ezeh's. He's got the athleticism to be a pass-rush threat and should get more capable in coverage this year. He'll be drawing easier assignments, for one, as Stevie Brown replaces Johnny Thompson in the lineup.
Mouton is poised for a breakout.
Backups and Whatnot
This is about the only spot on defense where there is reasonable depth. Two second-year players back up Ezeh and Mouton. Ezeh's primary backup is JB Fitzgerald, a sophomore who got special teams time a year ago. As a recruit, Fitzgerald was just outside the top 100 on the recruiting sites and has gotten the sporadic positive mention in practice reports and coach recaps. Hopson recently said that Fitzgerald is "really in a battle" for a starting job, and though that may be optimistic about his chances it says something about him that he's not just shoved into the background.
More from Hopson:
JB … knows both positions. JB is smart. He’s also very much like Obi. He is mentally sharp. He’s physical and JB is a competitor. He’s not going to give in. JB wants a job too. He’s going to work hard and I’m fortunate to have guys like that. … He might be a little bit further ahead at MIKE right now, but I probably practice him a lot more at MIKE right now.
He should be reasonably prepared should he be called upon, and his talent level seems high. He's probably the player outside the starting eleven you should be least terrified to see on the field.
Kenny Demens is a classmate of Fitzgerald's but got an injury redshirt last year after appearing on special teams in the first couple games. He wasn't a huge recruit or anything, but the practice buzz has been positive. He'll be Mouton's primary backup.
There is also converted safety Brandon Smith. Smith was a big recruit—about on par with Mouton, actually—who stayed at safety his first year mostly because Michigan had few other options. When it became clear he didn't have the speed to stay there in spring, he was moved to linebacker.
Hopson is very positive about him:
They have to have an awareness. … That’s the one thing that has impressed me about Brandon Smith, moving from defensive back. When you’re far away from the ball sometimes you have time and distant on your side, you have a little bit more time to decipher. Brandon came in and in two days, okay this kid has that ability. He can see right now. A lot of players are big, physical and fast, but they can't see all the stuff that a linebacker has to see. It is truly that natural instinct.
Question: Is Brandon Smith catching up?
Jay Hopson: “Yes, he really is. He is a kid that’s worked extremely hard. I see him making one more step every day."
Even so, it will take at least a year for Smith to get comfortable enough to be a viable option. If we see him this year the linebacking corps will look like a MASH unit. Look for Smith to idle away on the bench until Mouton and Ezeh graduate, then battle for a starting job as a redshirt junior. He should be a special teams mainstay.
|The Horror Begins|
|Frowns: Utah overrrun|
|PBU leads to int|
|Blanket in man|
|FROWNS: Blown post|
|FROWNS: Slant = TD|
|FROWNS: tackle whiff|
|FROWNS: flat fail|
|Actually appears to be a safety here|
I don't remember where I read this but it sounds like the sort of quote that must have been on a message board somewhere, penned by one of those insider-type folks. Wherever it was, it lodged in my head and won't leave. Here's a possibly apocryphal quote about Stevie Brown from Greg Robinson: "he's a hell of a lot better player where he is now."
For the love of God, let that be true. A brief tour of Stevie Brown's 2008 can be found at right, or you can just read this in-depth scouting report: ack.
Brown … seems hopeless. He was quiet for a few games, then returned with a vengeance in this one. Some guys just can't figure out how to play, and at this point it would be shocking if the light ever went on.
Oh and the Northwestern one:
that's quintessential Brown: poor angles and poor awareness of the situation on the field.
And some others but you get the point. Brown was a horror show at safety.
But he's no longer a safety and if you look at the few highlights at right that don't start with the word "frowns" you'll find the athleticism that made Brown a big recruit out of high school and some good examples of man coverage. If he's not the last line of defense and he's in a lot of man against tight ends or tailbacks coming out of the back and maybe a slot receiver or three, maybe this could be okay? It certainly addresses one of the dumbest traits of Scott Shafer's tenure as defensive coordinator: leaving dinosaur MLB Johnny Thompson on the field against spread teams and asking him to cover… well, anyone. At the very least, Brown is more suited for modern football than a guy with a neck roll. Who covered slot receivers. Argh! That's another post, though, and one for tomorrow.
Brown, for one, thinks his move is a good one:
“It’s been going well. It was a little different for me at camp having to actually hit the O-lineman and tight ends all day, every day. Thus far, it’s been fine. I’ve been able to adjust to it very well. Coach Robinson does a good job teaching it and I think it’s going to work out very well for me.”
I do too, but man that incident in the spring game where the Coner juked him out of his jock, combined with, you know, everything else in his history, makes me leery. I do think he'll be in position to make a lot of plays, and I love the flexibility and common sense of putting a virtual safety in a spot where he can blitz, play zone, or man up. I like putting him behind deathbeast Brandon Graham, which should make it harder for defenses to exploit his lack of size. And people get better as they age. Michigan's put Brown in a spot to maximize his assets and minimize his downside, and I kind of sort of think it will work out.
Backups and Whatnot
None with experience. Michigan brought in three safety/linebacker hybrid freshmen, though. No one's heard much about Isaiah Bell (recruiting profile) so far because IIRC he's been injured. Mike Jones (recruiting profile)is second on the depth chart after enrolling early; Brandin Hawthorne (recruiting profile) also enrolled early but is, for now, behind a walk-on. Jones will play in an effort to get someone ready for the spot once Brown graduates; Hawthorne and Bell are likely to redshirt.
|Youngstown, Ohio - 6'2" 190|
|Scout||3*, #25 WLB|
|Rivals||4*, #21 OLB, Rivals 250|
|ESPN||75, #70 OLB|
|Other Suitors||Oklahoma, LSU, Michigan State, Pitt|
|Taylor Hill Commits?|
|Notes||Glenville-Mooney scrimmage video,|
If you want to add Taylor Hill to the snake-oil bonanza, feel free. At one time Hill was committed to Oklahoma, and he had just committed to Rodriguez at West Virginia when Rodriguez left for Michigan. So he's a quasi-decommit. Even odder: Hill committed to Oklahoma before visiting the campus and didn't meet Bob Stoops until October. He promptly decommitted. (Joking!)
It's hard to decipher the split between Hill's offers and his ranking. He originally decided in June between the four suitors listed above, which means he had early offers from both LSU and Oklahoma. Normally when LSU and Oklahoma offer a kid from Ohio that's a strong indicator he's elite. In this case, both Bob Stoops and Bo Pelini are both Cardinal Mooney alums who had reason to know about Hill's existence, and when Hill told Oklahoma he was going to look around they yanked his offer. They weren't exactly desperate to hang on to him.
After Oklahoma and Hill parted ways, Hill verbaled to Rich Rodriguez two days before he took the Michigan job. He decommitted again, promising to open things up. A visit to Michigan State later, he committed to Michigan. So... do we believe the early LSU and Oklahoma offers or his second-wave recruitment, during which the big candidates were second-tier schools like West Virginia and Michigan State? Two of three gurus say the latter; Rivals is more optimistic.
What does Michigan have in Hill? The comparison above, Larry Foote, is a strong one. Like Foote, Hill is an undersized WLB who played his high school ball as a defensive end and specialized in getting into the backfield. A Scout.com report from Mooney's game against Pennsylvania power Gateway:
Taylor Hill is another player that helped change the game early on. He got a ton of pressure on the Gateway quarterback off of the edge. The Gators just never could get it going offensively due to the fact they could not establish a passing attack, and Hill played a huge role in the disruption.
His athletic director echoes the thought in a piece from late in Hill's junior year:
While several other Cardinal defenders have got a lot of attention this year â€” specifically, junior linebacker Michael Zordich and senior defensive tackle Ishmaai'ly Kitchen â€” junior defensive end Taylor Hill has flown under the radar despite a terrific season.
"This kid causes a lot of havoc," said legendary Mooney coach Don Bucci, now the school's athletic director. "When you talk about that junior class, people always name the big three of McCarthy, Zordich and [running back Brandon Beachum], but he's in their class as far as an athlete."
A local columnist summed up Hill's season after Mooney's one-point loss to Coldwater in the state championship game: "Coldwater's game plan in the state finals was, basically, to get rid of the ball so quickly it wouldn't have to block Hill."
On the other hand, ESPN's scouting report notes that he's playing out of position and has some praise for his athleticism but spends most of its length saying things like "can be undisciplined" and "can run, but needs to improve instincts and feel for the game." It's an uncommonly negative piece for ESPN. Unsurprisingly, their rating of Hill is significantly lower than that of either Scout or Rivals.
Guru Reliability: Moderate. High profile player, but playing out of position.
General Excitement Level: Moderate. A project that requires a lot of development both mentally and physically before he's ready to play, but Oklahoma and LSU offers are Oklahoma and LSU offers. High upside, high bust factor.
Projection: Obvious redshirt candidate what with the position switch and being 180 or 190 pounds and all. After that will try to find a role as a blitzing linebacker a la Foote or Shawn Crable.
|Absecon, New Jersey - 6'2" 210|
|Scout||4*, #14 WLB, #212 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #20 OLB|
|ESPN||80, #23 OLB|
|Others||#91 overall to Takkle|
|Other Suitors||Rutgers, Tennessee|
By the time Marcus Witherspoon committed in early June, I had a couple articles in which he claimed offers from BC, Florida, Georgia, Notre Dame, and 25 others... unfortunately, those have evaporated and I think maybe a couple of those are iffy. In any case, when Carr retired and Rodriguez was hired there was a minor panic as Witherspoon re-opened his recruiting, seriously considered Tennessee, and seemed headed there for a moment or two before re-committing.
Witherspoon was rated and recruited as a linebacker, but with no defensive ends in this class and just one in the previous year's, someone's likely to move. Witherspoon seems a likely candidate. Check it:
The Michigan commit definitely looks like a top DI prospect physically. Although he's listed as a linebacker, he spent most of the day at defensive end, and used an assortment of moves to harass the Immaculata quarterback and running g ame. He'll likely start off as a linebacker with the Wolverines, but don't be surprised if he grows out of that position after a year or two in their strength and conditioning program.
Witherspoon in the wild:
Last year Witherspoon racked up 27 sacks as his team went undefeated, winning the state championship as Witherspoon wreaked havoc on the edge. Witherspoon's coach before his junior season:
"We still consider him raw, so this (season) is going to be interesting," Holy Spirit coach Bill Walsh said. "At the high school level, he has the ability to take things into his own hands. We're looking forward to see what's going to happen this season. He's one of the special ones that make everyone else better.
"His first three steps are explosive and for a kid that big to run a legit 4.5 (seconds in the 40-yard dash), there are not too many kids who have his weight and size that run that legit speed. When you watch him on tape, he gets after it. But he still has a lot of growth."
An explosive edge rusher who's probably too small to be a fulltime defensive end in college? Add four inches and some chicken legs and that sounds like Shawn Crable, who actually spent quite a bit of time as a defensive end anyway. ESPN's scouting report reinforces that belief:
Natural pass rusher, who possesses the quick first step and lean to effectively get by offensive lineman. This excellent, vertical attacking ability is also evident in the run game. Very difficult to block him when trying to get the edge.
Concerns are expressed about Witherspoon being the product of an "attack-style defense" who might need some serious technique and responsibility work as a collegian... again, Crable.
Guru Reliability: High. They're all in the same ballpark; no sleeper marks.
General Excitement Level: Moderate++. Michigan's probably better off if Witherspoon doesn't see serious time for a year or two and then develops into a weakside defensive end. He won't have to be an enormous guy if VanBergen, a much larger guy who projects on the strongside, works out.
Projection: Obviously, this blog is projecting a move to DE. Or, rather, a non-move from DE.
|Princeton Junction, New Jersey - 6'3" 225|
|Scout||4*, #10 SLB, #152 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #18 OLB, #145 overall|
|ESPN||80, #14 OLB, #141 overall|
|Other Suitors||Florida, Rutgers|
|Notes||Greg Schiano followed this dude around in a helicopter.|
Only CB Boubacar Cissoko has a set of guru ratings as consistent as JB Fitzgerald's: three separate services have Fitz from around the 140th to 150th-best player in the country, and all say he's an outside linebacker. Despite that the tentative plan is to play Fitzgerald in the middle.
Fitzgerald picked Michigan over Rutgers and a legit Florida offer in late August, then picked Michigan over Rutgers again on Signing Day. Other offers came from Cal, Virginia Tech, Virginia, Georgia Tech, and a wide variety of other school.
Why did he get those offers? Well, you know what they say about a guy with huge hands...
"Coach Smith had told me that at the end of his sophomore year, he took J.B.'s hand and put it on a photocopier machine," said David Fitzgerald, J.B.'s father. "He mailed it out to all these schools."
..."boy, those guys make good linebackers." And lo, the offers flowed. ESPN($):
Possesses the flat-out speed to turn and chase down backs to the sideline, rare and very impressive for size ... His overall read-and-reaction skills need improvement. We have yet to see great reactive athleticism and a good initial jump to the football. He is such a good short-range athlete that these weaknesses are often masked.
So he's a bit raw as a linebacker, but nowhere near as raw as either Hill or Witherspoon. In marked contrast to the sack-heavy statlines of Michigan's other linebacker recruits, Fitzgerald's numbers actually look like those of a linebacker: 125 tackles, six forced fumbles, two interceptions, and two sacks. He was picked the Gatorade player of the year and Newark Star-Ledger defensive player of the year in New Jersey over OMG shirtless Florida recruit Will Hill. (Side note: the "hands" article is enormous and enlightening.)
You'd think there would be more out there on Fitzgerald, but unfortunately that's all the info I could dig up. At least it's positive.
Guru Reliability: High. Not much of a position move, three-year starter, no injury concerns, consistent rankings.
General Excitement Level: High. A good bet to be a multi-year starter.
Projection: Gives Johnny Thompson a run for his playing time in the fall; ends up a frequently-used backup and is groomed for a starting spot starting his sophomore year. Ezeh will probably head out to SLB.
|Beverly Hills, Michigan - 6'1" 220|
|Scout||3*, #23 WLB|
|Rivals||4*, #23 OLB|
|ESPN||78, #35 ATH|
|Other Suitors||Michigan State, Nebraska|
|Notes||The only youtube hit for "Kenny Demens" is so awesome. And Scandanavian. Commitment presser.|
The high school teammate of top-ranked instate running back Jonas Gray, Kenny Demens found himself similarly ignored by Michigan for the first half of the recruiting year. By June he had picked up offers from West Virginia, Nebraska, and most of the Big Ten outside of Penn State and Ohio State.
Michigan didn't get serious about offering until Demens attended their summer camp and put in an impressive performance; the late-developing interest had them temporarily behind Nebraska and Michigan State.
ESPN spends much of its scouting report discussing his potential as a fullback; when they finally get around to the idea of Demens as a linebacker they note that his short-range closing speed "can match most of the elite linebackers in this 2008 class" -- it's too bad none of Demens' film was released into the free areas of the internet, because it's mostly him laying wood to people -- and that he has some trouble moving through the muck but is a "tough, physical tackling machine" before referencing his lack of ideal measurables and giving him about the same grade everyone else does: on the three-four star borderline.
Chris Graham may not be the most appealing comparison, but the elements are all there: a little undersized (I am of the belief the 6'1" frequently thrown around as his height is overstated), has difficulting getting through traffic, praised for his short range burst and thumping tackling. Graham never figured out how to play in control or get to the right place at the right time and was thus a disappointing starter; if Demens can play smarter he could be anything from a decent starter to a borderline all Big Ten pick.
Guru Reliability: High; they all agree and there's no reason he'd be particularly underrated.
General Excitement Level: Moderate--. Offers and ratings are pretty much in agreement; Demens is a low upside sort.
Projection: Think he's a little less likely to contribute than any of the other linebackers in the class, but not by much. It'll depend on how smart he is about maximizing his abilities.
|Novi, Michigan - 6'1" 285|
|Scout||4*, #12 DT, #196 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #16 DT|
|ESPN||80, #8 DT|
|Other Suitors||MSU, PSU, Notre Dame|
|Say Hello to Mike Martin, Crabman|
|Notes||Don't blame me. ESPN said it.|
Martin committed in early June, about a month after picking up his Michigan offer. By that time Penn State, Michigan State, Purdue, and a dozen other schools had offered, but there weren't any heavyweights on his list. IIRC, he was a late-emerging sort that no one mentioned until around April or May, at which point people began to catch on. Notre Dame offered and attempted to sway Martin after the coaching change, but Martin canceled a planned visit and stuck with his commitment.
In Martin, Michigan appears to have a player almost identical to current NT Terrance Taylor. Both are mildly undersized nose tackles who were terrifying heavyweight wrestlers and powerlifters with multiple state records to their credit. Taylor was generally ranked higher (IIRC, anywhere from around #60 to the tail end of top 100 lists) and entered college much larger.
Martin doesn't look much like your stereotypical pot-bellied defensive tackle; check this video of a Martin wrestling match:
That is a slab of muscle Mike Barwis would be mildly impressed with.
This extensive highlight reel covers Martin's senior season; it often features him running ballcarriers down like he's Shawn Crable (you might want to skip the first minute, which is all still shots):
Martin is the platonic opposite of Gabe Watson, a penetrator reminiscent of USC terror Sedrick Ellis. Ellis was an All-American because he can do the sort of things Martin does in the clips above at 305 pounds and hold up at the point of attack when doubled. Martin's usually listed at 280 and is obviously way more advanced in the tao of weightroom than 99% of high schoolers: there's a chance he's just not going to get any bigger.
Guru Reliability: High.
General Excitement Level: High. The highlight reel is totally impressive, there are zero questions about work ethic or how in shape he is, and he's got pretty good guru rankings.
Projection: Will play in the DT rotation immediately, and will probably leap past Ferrara, Kates (if Kates remains on the team), et al to claim a starting spot once Taylor and Johnson graduate.
Linebacker: B+. Michigan picked up its share of athletes and did well in an area they had to after a disappointing 2007 class with just two sleepers, but some immediate impact sorts were needed and other than maybe Fitzgerald there doesn't appear to be a guy who can compete for serious playing time as a freshman.
Defensive Line: C-. I really like Martin and think he's very likely to be a productive starter and eventually an All Big Ten sort. But... uh... that's it. A year after picking up just one DE, Michigan got zero; the position now looms as the far and away #2 area of need for the 2008 class (quarterback, obviously, is #1 ). Losing Nick Perry hurt badly on a Signing Day otherwise full of pleasant surprises.
We'll see if Witherspoon or Koger or both end up at DE, but given the way the class was announced this is the biggest issue with the class outside of the understandable QB fiasco.