"These high chairs are not really built for me. Hrnggh. How's my hair look?"
Great. Bad news about Amara Darboh. How do you compensate for that?
"Well, fortunately we have some pretty good kids that can fill in, but I feel probably worse for him than anybody. The kid had an excellent spring ball and capped it off with a fabulous two-a-days. He was playing good. I feel bad because I really feel like this was going to be a big, almost maybe even a coming-out season for him. But he's got a redshirt, so I guess there's a silver lining, but I just feel bad for the kid."
Does this maybe put a little more pressure on Jehu Chesson?
"Well Jehu would do it. Joe Reynolds will be out there. Jeremy Jackson. We have some capable replacements, thank goodness. All those guys, not just Jehu, but everybody."
Will you consider any position changes to try to get some depth?
"Oh I don't think so. I think we're still okay. We can't lose too many more."
Are any of the freshmen capable at this point?
"No. No. Not really."
"No. Not yet. But we're not completing eliminating them, either. Not yet, anyway."
Over the weekend Michigan had a scrimmage that simulated what they'll do for Notre Dame week. Michigan put some ULTRAZOOM highlights on the internet, some guy attempted to UFR them, Heiko attempted to forestall panic about what was contained therein to eagle-eyed watchers. First, let's examine the pore structure of various unidentified Michigan football players:
Graham Glasgow's playing left guard. More than that, Glasgow was playing left guard because Chris Bryant—not massively-hyped Ben Braden—was held out after having his knee drained. How do we feel about this?
On the one hand, Bryant is a massive human who is a natural guard, whereas Braden is a massive human who is maybe not the best fit on the inside. Having Bryant emerge as a contender at guard gives Michigan more line depth, and when he's been healthy he's drawn praise like this from Kenny Demens:
I’ve always been a fan of Chris Bryant. That has been my favorite offensive lineman since his freshman year. I remember his freshman year he was on scout team… whenever he pulled, I don’t care if you were Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen, myself, whoever… when Chris Bryant pulled, you were nervous. You were nervous! Chris Bryant brings the pain.
On the other, Braden is supposedly the most physically talented guy Taylor Lewan has ever seen and line shifts in camp remind you of last year, when the flippin' and the floppin' made the line like jello, Rudy. A steady hand is always better. Plus, Bryant spent all of last year injured to the point where he wasn't really doing much in spring. I'd heard he had some lingering pain issues from that even now, and he just got his knee drained. Also, Bryant was a decent recruit but not as hyped as you might remember. Only Rivals gave him four stars, and they were so up on his recruitment they ranked a 6'4", 340 pound guy at tackle.
Do we like it? Do we hate it? I don't know man. I think I'd rather hear that Bryant is seriously pushing Braden, who is locked in, instead of a position switch that undoes a position switch from spring. The flippin' and the floppin'. On the other hand, Bryant was not available then and is now. It could just be that he is pretty good.
Braden does get some snaps at that LG spot, BTW. He was off and on, apparently hasn't been practicing much at guard, and struggled some against interior quickness in the spring game. (He also seems to get beat by Willie Henry on a Rawls iso that goes nowhere in the above video.) So… I bet he is the #1 backup at tackle when the season starts and it's Bryant at guard. If that happens I'm going to decrement Braden expectations from "Jake Long 3.0" to "plus right tackle."
Toussaint looks like Toussaint. In a good way, not Poor Damn Toussaint of last year. No one else did much at tailback except Justice Hayes, who slips out of the backfield from a shotgun set and makes a touchdown catch after Gardner buys some time. Other running back events are Toussaint juking guys, running tough north and south, and picking up yardage. People other than Toussaint get consumed. Sample size qualifiers, obviously, but Toussaint is also getting external validation from insider types and the coaches.
It's one or two carries each for other challengers, thus indicating who has the lead in the race at RB and giving us no other information. Green gets bounced outside and swarmed, looking a little ponderous. Hayes gets to the hole and nailed on by Cam Gordon on a nice play; Ross grabs him in the hole on his next carry. Rawls picks up negative one yards and zero yards (the latter on a play from the two)—picking up where he left off. De'Veon Smith finishes that drive off.
Meanwhile, Hayes: he was reputed to be a spread-oriented back and excellent receiver. Michigan needs a third down back with the graduation of Vincent Smith. Of late I've been asserting that Toussaint should grab that job but if he's entering the season as the out-and-out feature back (which seems likely given his buzz and Green's injury) Michigan will want someone else to pick up linebackers and slip into the flat. Hayes would obviously be that guy. The other backs on the roster are young or bulky.
It does seem like he's locking down that spot. He was the back in all the shotgun snaps, with that touchdown catch and a screen that Dymonte Thomas engulfs.
The first snap is Kalis pulling to Lewan on a power play. Get used to that, kids.
Chesson and Reynolds are the receiving stars. Gallon was held out, probably because he doesn't have anything to prove at this point.
Also, guy who apparently gets injury information no one else gets says Darboh has picked up a boo boo. (Injury guy has since deleted the tweet, undoubtedly after a visit from Biff the Wolverine Enforcer.) He shows up in the first snap of the video as a blocker and then not again. Assumption: boo boo, held out, don't read too much into it. Injury Guy was right about Derrick Green, FWIW. Michigan was being a little coy with how much he was doing; the two-week estimate was not off base much, if at all. Darboh's thing is supposed to be a rolled ankle, so keep your hands off the panic button.
While you don't want to read too much into a hand-picked collection of pore videos, pencil Chesson and Reynolds in ahead of Jackson and any freshmen when it comes to the #3 and #4 outside receivers. Chesson's catch is pretty dang good, especially as it comes over Blake Countess.
Courtney Avery's playing free safety. This one is negative, I think. Avery's run support has never been a big positive, he's never played the position at Michigan, and it says some not great things about the guys backing up the presumed starters that a "five-eleven", 175 pound guy is getting a look.
One thing it probably doesn't mean: Jarrod Wilson is losing the job. Assumption here is that Michigan is experimenting in case something happens. If it is Wilson losing his job, uh, at least my prediction that we'll miss Jordan Kovacs will have been correct?
Cam Gordon is begging someone to photoshop this.
There is a lot of Cam Gordon in here. Cam Gordon pressures and chases Fitz Toussaint and hits guys and blitzes and whatnot. Beyer's supposed to be pushing Gordon quite a bit, but you can't tell that from this video, not only in terms of appearances but also in terms of Cam Gordon play. Since Beyer was not held out, that would seem to mean something.
There is also a lot of Willie Henry. The mountain wearing 69 is Henry, and he shows up on a bunch of snaps. Black was held out, but there are other guys—Strobel and Ryan Glasgow—who do not feature nearly as much. Most notably Henry helps bury the one Derrick Green carry and engulfs Rawls in the backfield. Something to note, maybe: on that play Richard Ash is also in, playing nose. Henry's at the three-tech. That makes sense with a quality nose rotation in place and a notable lack of size at three-tech. We might see him in a short yardage package instead of Black/Strobel.
It would be something if after this year we look back at ten years of recruiting and Glenville has provided Michigan with as many or even more plus players than Cass Tech.
Man I like that Dymonte Thomas play. Can't see much except Thomas flying up at lightning speed to beat a block and tackle, but me gusta.
[Also in CTK:
And Jibreel Black says things.]
Sensible ideas. From the hockey committee even. USCHO reports that the hockey rules committee is looking at ways to make the infamous TUC cliff in the pairwise less of a cliff and more of a gradation:
“We’re looking to see if there’s a way to reduce the variability that seems to happen as people watch that at the end of the year,” said committee chair Tom Nevala, senior associate athletic director at Notre Dame.
“It’s going to happen a lot early, but by the end of the year it seems like it should be a little bit more cut-and-dried. So we’re going to see if there’s some options there.”
This is a crew that still uses RPI, so don't expect anything too clever. Maybe they'd have a tier in which games count for your TUC record at half-weight, that sort of thing. While that still has cliff issues that turns it into more of a large step than a cliff.
In other news, the committee is going to ask future regional sites not to ask for 90 dollars for three hockey games featuring teams from across the country, which is an insignificant step in the right direction. Tom Nevala, an associate AD at Notre Dame, is still sounding a call for sanity:
“The fans who come and support us all year are in and around our campuses,” Nevala said. “Whether it’s east or west, at least I’m not satisfied looking at the numbers that have generally appeared at regionals.
“Whether we’ve considered some of the eastern regionals well-attended or not, I think you could still do better. And hopefully the ticket pricing and the things that they’re going to attempt to do in the next cycle will help. But I’m convinced that we would be better off on campus in general.”
Unfortunately, this is the last year Nevala is going to be on the committee. At least there's one guy saying the most obvious thing that would help college hockey.
At least it won't die. Some terrible person broke a chunk off Howard's Rock, which Clemson touches before each football game. This is why we can't have nice things.
I just… I mean. People.
Jamarco comin'. Whatever prevented Jamarco Jones from taking his planned weekend swing through his three finalists has been resolved, so he'll be on campus Saturday. This is good for Michigan, which is generally regarded as trailing but in possession of a puncher's chance. Mom's apparently in Michigan's corner, because obviously.
FREDS ON FREDS ON FREDS. Filing this under Fred Jackson hyperbole and thus yoinking it from recruiting roundup deployment: Fred Jackson on 2015 FL RB Jacques Patrick.
"I talked to Coach Jackson for about 45 minutes, I was in there for a while. He was telling me he's watched around 50 running backs and I'm one of the best he's seen," he said. "That means a lot, because he's been doing this for a while."
Yes, for all possible definitions of "this." FWIW, Patrick held FSU and UF as leaders before trips to OSU and M. He now says he's going to open things up some, but the smart money still has him staying in Florida.
I know a guy who thinks of ghosts. Denard will make you breakfast. He'll make you toast. He don't use butter, he don't use cheese. He uses?
[Eddie] Lacy - who's about to get his first taste of cold weather football as a Green Bay Packer - then asked what Robinson's method was for staying warm "up there in the snow".
"What I did was put vasoline on, a lot of vasoline," Robinson said showing Lacy how he used to coat his arms with the petroleum jelly.
"So the vasoline keeps you warm?," Lacy asked cynically.
"It keeps the heat inside your body," Robinson told him. "It closes your pores up, that's what it does."
I know a guy who goes to shows. Tim Hardaway Jr has cracked Hated Chad Ford's Big Board, coming in #30. His game does transition neatly to an NBA environment, so there's that. Meanwhile, Ford is muttering about Michael Carter-Williams still, which screams smokescreen to me but hey if Burke slips to the Pistons I get a free pro sports team to care about again.
I know a guy who's going down in a flaming barge made of flames. His name is Mark Emmert, recently buffeted in an SI article that made him look like a clueless twit:
In many interviews with NCAA officials about enforcement, the topic quickly shifted back to the leadership of Emmert, who is known internally at the NCAA as the "King Of The Press Conference." That's not a compliment.
With high-profile members of the enforcement committee fleeing for individual schools as fast as they can, this is the state of NCAA enforcement.
One ex-enforcement official told SI, "The time is ripe to cheat. There's no policing going on."
So why hasn't this guy gotten fired?
"If you force him out, you're essentially telling everyone he has failed," one NCAA president told Sporting News. "When you're dealing with (litigation), it's not prudent to admit failure at the highest office."
Lovely. People in charge of things are just in charge of them, often for no reason.
JESSE. WE'LL COOK IN THE ABANDONED NCAA ENFORCEMENT OFFICES.
Devin Gardner speaks, is spoken about. On Toussaint:
"I've been watching Fitzgerald Toussaint throughout his whole (leg) rehab and everything," Gardner said Tuesday during an appearance on SiriusXM radio. "He's running faster, he looks way stronger. Fitzgerald Toussaint is going to be our guy.
"But we have a young guy coming in (also)."
And an interesting listing of the receivers:
"Our receives are doing really well, catching the ball, running fast and they look stronger and bigger," Gardner said. "Amara Darboh, Jehu Chesson and obviously Jeremy Gallon (Michigan's leading receiver in 2012).
"I feel like we're in really good shape."
Darboh and Chesson in front of potential mentions of Jackson and Dileo.
Gardner also says people are almost pissed off.
"The finish we had in the (Outback Bowl loss against South Carolina on Jan. 1) was really beneficial for us even though we lost," Gardner said. "Because you've got a lot of guys that are hungry, almost pissed off, that it ended that way."
Gardner also mentioned the offense will be "more of a pro-style deal" with spread elements to take advantage of his athleticism.
Meanwhile, Borges has been taking Fred Jackson pointers and compares Gardner to RG3:
Q: Who does Devin Gardner remind you of?
A: He’s not really like anybody I have had. I’ve had so many prototype drop-back passers. He isn’t like (former Auburn quarterback) Jason Campbell, who was athletic but he really wasn’t a runner. I haven’t had a lot of real runners. He’s different. He’s hard to compare to someone else. He’s more like an RG3 type of guy. He’s a little taller than RG3 but plays a lot like him.
He also suggests he wants a 50/50 run/pass split perhaps a little biased towards the run; he, too, mentions Darboh and Chesson first when wide receivers come up (though he later flat-out states Gallon is their #1), then amazingly refers to Dileo and Jackson as "our two slots." Jeremy Jackson, slot receiver, Rich Rodriguez's head explodes.
Etc.: Attempting to explain Kentucky's recruiting (which isn't like fourth as the sites have it since they're out in front, but they will finish top 20, so still). 83% of SEC fans say the average fan has been priced out from attending games.
Hello and welcome to the second iteration of our new feature, where we ask the MGoStaff a question regarding whatever Michigan fans happen to be obsessing about. As before we appreciate any suggestions for future questions. Participation is at will since people occasionally have more important missions to attend to. The team:
Agent Brian Johnson: Team leader. Specialty: hair styling.
Agent Ace Johnson: Demolition expert
Agent Seth Johnson: Specialist in disguise
Agent Heiko Johnson: Deadliest man in the world with a knife. Also knows a zillion old jokes his grandfather, a vaudevillian, taught him.
Agent Mathlete Johnson: Master of Kung Fu
Agent Blue in South Johnson: Token redhead.
And this week's question:
How do you see the receiver group playing out this year? Where does Gallon fall among Big Ten/National guys, how much do you see the young guys contributing in '13, and what can we get out of seniors Dileo and Jackson?
BiSB: Before you answer this, Brian, check to make sure that Jehu Chesson isn't in the room.
Heiko: Don't worry I told him not to come this time.
Brian: There is no room, there is only Zuul. This is the internet, man, so we know that both Chesson and the NSA are all up in here. anthrax pants This useless discursion is over. terrorism sandwich
Gallon is going to be the best dang tiny receiver Michigan's ever had. He's shifty enough to attract screens, jumpy enough to bring in fades, and quick enough to get over the top of guys trying to rein in his YAC. It's a conundrum if Michigan puts him to the boundary side of the field consistently since most boundary guys aren't going to be able to keep up with him. I keep saying this, but extrapolate 5 games with Gardner against 4 pretty good pass efficiency defenses (and Iowa) and you get about 80 catches for about 1300 yards; he was already the #4 receiver in the league last year. That's probably a little optimistic, but he should crack 1000 yards and be All Big Ten in some capacity.
Past Gallon, it's about the redshirt freshmen. Darboh is the key. I like Chesson a lot but he needs one more year to pack on the muscle before he emerges. Darboh is ready now, and showed off his skill on the first play of spring practice. He should be a slant merchant, more of a possession threat. Ideally you'd like to wait another year on him, too, but it is what it is. Dileo will also be a useful piece; I want him to double his catches, because I don't think he dropped a pass last year and he has both a knack for crazy twisting catches and staying on his feet afterwards.
There is a slight lack of depth that I hope Funchess covers up for; other than that it should be a solid B+ unit. jihad bacon
Mathlete: If Gallon can put together a full season like he did in the Gardner starts at the end of last year. He should easily have a first team Big Ten caliber season and have an outside shot at some level of All American recognition. His five game averages would have been the second best receiving season at Michigan in the last decade (behind Braylon's Biletnikoff season). Whether that can continue remains to be seen, but at this point I think there is a high likelihood that Jeremy Gallon will slip into the Top 5 Career Receivers in Michigan history in both receptions and yards.
Beyond Gallon, Dileo is what he is. A dependable secondary receiver. The key question is whether anyone can step into a strong second spot. After 11 catches in three years, the evidence is against it being Jeremy Jackson. That leaves Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh as the most likely candidates. Assuming Gallons production holds up at all, solid production from either of those two would be enough to make Michigan's wide receivers a great group in 2013.
BiSB: We probably all agree that based on the last half of last year, the leading receiver will be OMG Rocket Boots Cloaking Device Don Criqui Soul Eating McShortguy. Thing is, he's going to make 95% of his catches either within 8 yards of the line of scrimmage or 30+ yards downfield; I believe Brian termed this "hitch, hitch, hitch, see ya." The key is going to be finding an intermediate guy other than Funchess, and I think Darboh is that guy, but that's based on almost nothing other than specs. He looks more physically ready than Chesson to take over the role, and I see Chesson as more of a deep threat.
Dileo will probably do the same thing as last year; he'll vanish for a while, and then he'll come up big with a billion catches in some gritty game where no one can find open space unless they're my height. He'll also probably have a good amount of success getting lost in the secondary when Gardner goes on one of his crazy adventures in the backfield. Jeremy Jackson seems destined to battle Joe Reynolds for the Carl Tabb Memorial Totally Unsurprising Running Play After Personnel Change Award winner. Either Dukes or York will probably burn a redshirt for no apparent reason, because that is protocol. And as a wild guess, I'm gonna predict that whether we see DaMario Jones will depend on what happens with Justice Hayes. If he wins the third-down back role, we may see the frosh, but if there aren't gonna be enough snaps for Hayes (given the embarrassment of running back riches), we may see him back up Dileo in the slot.
Ace: I'm on break from writing words so here's a GIF that fits the general tenor of this discussion:
Heiko: All I know is Borges is really excited about Darboh. Apparently Darboh got injured vs. Purdue last year (incidentally he was blocking on a bubble screen), so he wasn't able to show off his skillz the rest of the season.
BiSB: Bubble screens: weak-ass pansy Bieber-ball. Also WAY TOO DANGEROUS.
Brian: For what it's worth, I've heard that (former?) walk-on Joe Reynolds is a real option as an outside receiver. Last year he graduated from Designated Guy Who Tips Run plays to pick up a few targets on long handoffs and the like; this year I bet he is the third option as an outside receiver (ie, slot Dileo is the #3 overall). I know the coaches like his blocking, and he showed some quicks on those screens. He's not likely to get any first-option snaps with Gallon/Dileo/Darboh/Funchess filling hypothetical four-wide formations, but between him and a developing Chesson there's some depth. dirty cat bomb
Seth: The NSA agents want to know why everybody's overlooking Jeremy Jackson. As you've probably guessed, the NSA works for Fred. I guess we are a bit optimistic that the other guys have finally distanced themselves from him that we won't see that one pass a game going his way.
Last year Marty Couvillan from cfbstats posted a megaload of receiver data based on how often they were thrown at. Football Outsiders' Bill Connellly made it into an end stat called RYPR (Target Rate x Yards Per Target x Passing S&P+ x Pass Rate). In this measure Gallon in 2012 was 14th in the country and tops in the conference:
|Player||Targets||Catch Rate||RYPR||B1G Rank|
I've already made my bid for Gallon to wear the #1 jersey.
Since the middle of the offensive line is going to be really young this year it's unlikely Michigan will be able to get by mostly on its running game. There will be a lot more passes and three-or four-wide sets, and we're replacing not just Roundtree's underrated production but Gardner's. All told there's something between 150 and 200 targets to be given out after the returning starters repeat theirs, and while a chunk of them will go to Gallon, Darboh should get something like 75 passes thrown his way, and Chesson stands to get something like 50.
If those guys aren't bringing them in at a 50% clip or higher you'll start seeing Gallon's usage climb into Marquise Walker territory, and more frustrating balls going toward to too-covered Jackson. My prediction is Darboh becomes that Junior Hemingway we've been missing, and Funchess is split out to the slot and doubles his production from last year. Gallon will draw a lot of attention and a lot of balls, which will put him on top of the conference in the old stats but drop him back to 4th-ish in RYPR. I expect at least one of the incoming receivers to burn his redshirt but I'd really rather they not—Jones is the most ready but the least needed, and Dukes and York both are skinny leaping dudes who need to put on muscle. Whichever of those two can block better right now, I guess. Darboh eats up the passes that went to Roundtree and Gardner last year, with similar results. Chesson does some stuff that makes us get really excited for next year. And we head into 2014 predicting the group will look like Indiana's (that's a good thing). Anarchy echelon nuclear roswell Glock 26 Spetznaz hamburger
assasssi- asassinn- assassinna- kill a guy.
photoshoppers, start your GNUs
So we did the meet and greet Q&A thing, and other than the liveblog portion being pretty much a disaster, A+++ would do again. I couldn't type fast enough to keep up with all the good info in the Q&A so below I've written up those answers plus some we answered after the fact via email.
We're tentatively talking another one the Friday night before the Notre Dame game, so calendar that. If you're coming in from out of town, Jared of Sports Power Weekends, who sponsored this whole thing, mentioned he's putting together a trip for that weekend that includes tickets for the game and a private tour of the Big House before we do drinks and ALL THE SHANE MORRIS.
Some things went way better than expected and other things not so much. Didn't go well: We had no way to plug our mic into the speaker system, fortunately remembering just in time that bartenders have friends with guitar amplifiers. The other thing that could have gone better is we forgot to warn Brian that Jehu Chesson was in the audience before your favorite blogger launched into his heuristic reasoning as to why Amara Darboh would be more effective this year because Chesson is still a waif.
New heuristic: Chesson sitting = Heiko standing minus an inch.
Did go well: lots of luminaries showed up. Players current and former included Chesson, Countess, Donovan Warren, and John Duerr. An incomplete list of bloggers: Bryan Mac (aka BiSB), MGoPhotographers Eric Upchurch and Bryan Fuller, Burgeoning Wolverine Star, Lloyd Brady, M-Wolverine, Craig Ross, and LSAClassof2000. Epic shirts: Heiko's bubble screen smile, and a Branch-Morelli sweatshirt.
In things that surpassed all expectations, let me being with actual nicest guy in the universe Marlin Jackson himself. Walking out of the game to his car took about 25 minutes because he signed every hat, helmet, t-shirt or whatever thing put before him. We talked NBA decisions, how the Jake Butt TD was on Jarrod Wilson's as-yet-unadvanced field awareness, and that the biggest difference with this staff is they "teach football."
After being introduced by Brian as "the man who still has Reggie Williams in his back pocket," to kick off the Q&A Marlin talked about his Fight for Life Foundation. He was candid about his youth: Jackson grew up in the projects with a mother addicted to drugs and a father he never met. As you can imagine this isn't the best way to learn things like accountability, the value of an education, or even your own value and that of others. Marlin learned these things through Michigan; it's the goal of his foundation to give similarly underprivileged kids the opportunities he received because of his athletic talents.
Fight for Life runs three programs: Field of Dreams (link) is an in-school and after school program that basically helps get the kids back up to speed with their classmates. Seal the Deal (hyperlink) is a series of leagues and football camps for youth through high school with an educational/character-building component. R.A.P. (reach out and access your peers – url) is an SEL* program that gets kids to open up through, e.g. a discussion of their future aspirations or by presenting a paper on their favorite song lyrics. They need to raise about $200k per year to fund these programs.
* Social and Emotional Learning, the spread offense of education. Full context is linked above but you may cognate as learning that's the opposite of 'Another Brick in the Wall.'
We then talked about things like that one year the Colts paired Manning with a real defense, which receivers were the hardest to cover, and his impressions on the young defensive players at Michigan today. That after the jump. But first here's three generations of next-Woodsons:
Lloyd Carr approves of this quote in the Michigan locker room. Via Rittenberg
A long time ago there was a thing called foot-ball that was so important we'd spend a month or two talking about foot-ball team practice that happened months before the foot-ball team played a foot-ball game. This was called "spring" no matter what happened to be happening out your windows.
I have just been informed by other parts of my brain that the "spring game" will be held tomorrow, and will still be called that despite a forecast of 43 degrees and a 22 mile per hour wind. This will be the last opportunity to get data on foot-ball until fall, whereupon excitement will descend upon the land again.
Here's everything I threw in a post because I was too busy with the Final Four run to do them any justice, and just in time.
The Peel Down The Fingers Of Michigan To Create An Obscene Gesture Offense
It's a working title. Shut up.
Denard Robinson has graduated. This is a terrible event for a lot of people, but probably not Al Borges. Borges can now stop jamming his brain into a spread coach's and do what he wants to do without everyone getting mad at him (until it doesn't work once). Lewan:
"I feel like (offensive coordinator Al) Borges is much more comfortable running this kind of offense than he’s been running for the last however many years."
What this will look like is still unknown even after Devin Gardner's five-game run as the starter, because…
- Michigan had spent most of the last two years focusing on Denard's unique talents and deficiencies
- They still had those talents for three of those five games and ended up running an even weirder hybrid offense than the weird hybrid created by matching Denard and Borges
- The NFL just started running this stuff so now it's cool with NFL bros.
Earlier in spring, Borges referenced the innovative stuff they were doing at places like San Francisco and Seattle—yes in fact just like that annoying NFL fan you know who dismisses the read option as gimmickry.
“You have to look at some of the stuff that [the NFL is] doing. Particularly because it’s pro football and running quarterbacks by design has not been a really popular thing to do in pro football over the years."
The upshot of this is scattered bouts of read option, a lot of it on the playside (ie: inverted veer), and a pistol package that could be anything from a quickly-discarded experiment to essentially the base offense depending on how well it works. There will also be fullbacks. : /
Andy Staples visited Ann Arbor and came back with an excellent article on the transition process that started immediately after last year's Nebraska game. It is unfortunately light on details.
We do know that Al Borges knows chick dig the long ball, and that Gardner is quite adept at unleashing the dragon.
"I kind of know sometimes what they're doin' before they do it," Gardner said of the defense. "I don't think (defensive coordinator Greg) Mattison's very happy about that."
Safety Thomas Gordon affirmed Gardner's take, saying the quarterback has had his way with Michigan's secondary at times -- a secondary that ranked fifth against the pass last year.
"Devin, he'll let that thing fly," Gordon said. "With him back there, he can throw it, he can roll out. He can do everything. You never know with Devin, so you always have to be on your P's and Q's.
"He can pick you apart. He's been testing us so far this spring, and (secondary coach Curt) Mallory has been on the DBs' heads."
It's going to be a Tyler Bray kind of thing out there.
Interior Line: Mustachioed. Nicknamed. Mean?
talking with Jack Miller
Michigan returns both tackles, who will be great. They replace the three other guys on the line. Since that portion of the line was so bad a year ago—try to gain a yard, anyone not named Denard Robinson, moohaha—no one's freaked out about this. But it would be nice if the new guys were better.
If facial hair is any help, by God they will be.
They're calling themselves "The Muzzy Maulers". And they're building chemistry one mustache at a time.
"What are we calling this?," Miller shouted to fifth-year senior left tackle Taylor Lewan, who like an older brother was watching his young center take on his first media pack of the spring. "The 'Muzzy Maulers'. That's kind of the new nickname. There's a mustache thing going on and Taylor's already taking advantage of it. I haven't yet because I have a boy mustache."
Jack Miller is picking up both the hirsuteness baton and the quote machine baton, which bodes well. In that article he notes that a bunch of the offensive linemen have gone so far as to live together in an effort to operate as one mind, describes Kyle Kalis as "a man" for his mustache-growing ability, and contains multitudes in an answer to the question "what did you learn from David Molk?"
"What did I learn from David Molk?," Miller laughs at the question.
Let me fix that for you, Mr. Miller.
What did I learn from David Molk that I can repeat to a reporter without causing Brady Hoke to explode?
And then there's… oh hell just read the whole article, I can't blockquote everything interesting that Miller says. The upshot is that Miller is larger and 70% as mean as David Molk on a scale ranging from Molk to Mealer. It sounds like he has a strong grip on the job, which is what I was hoping for with just walk-ons and incoming freshman Patrick Kugler backing him up:
Talked with offensive line coach Darrell Funk this morning about his group, which has to replace three starters in the middle. He mentioned that Jack Miller has been the most consistent interior lineman so far this spring, but he's being pushed by Joey Burzynski and Graham Glasgow. He said redshirt freshmen Kyle Kalis and Ben Braden have come a long way. And it sounds like it's a little easier to have youth inside than at tackle.
The buzz has been within in the sunnily positive range:
"This is by far the best spring start (they've had) since I've been here," fourth-year quarterback Devin Gardner said.
As of two weeks ago, Joey Burzynski was still running with the ones—that'll be something to watch for at the Spring Game. No offense to Burzynski, but I think everyone's hoping Kyle Kalis locks onto the right guard job with the jaws of death.
Meanwhile, the other guard spot is Ben Braden's to lose.
It’s hard to get a read on the young interior linemen right now, but one name that’s constantly floated by coaches and players is Ben Braden.
"He's going to be a hell of a guy to get around when he's coming downhill at you," Lewan said.
Lewan said he's excited about Michigan's offensive line looking more like the lines of old.
"The tradition of mauling people up and down the field is really cool, and it's fun to see people give up on the other side of the ball, not us," Lewan said. "Everybody's got a nasty streak. These guys really get it."
While I don't think anyone's making an explicit comparison to last year's collection of nice guys who had trouble consistently identifying the middle linebacker, my mind immediately goes there. "It's fun to see people give up on the other side of the ball, not us" is kind of a brutal shot at last year's interior line, right? Am I crazy?
In any case, the meanness here and the options at the guard spots should provide Michigan more consistent production, and by that I mean "any production."
Catchists Of Size
Michigan's got a couple of good receivers in Drew Dileo and Jeremy Gallon; they'll need a couple more to fill out Gardner's targeting array. With a zero-receiver class in Hoke's first year and a collection of sleepers in year three, the onus falls heavily on second-year guys Amarah Darboh (a sophomore) and Jehu Chesson (a redshirt freshman). Both have come in for considerable buzz. Darboh is in the Avant mold; Chesson in the Edwards mold.
"Jehu, in one-on-ones, he’s just flying by people with his speed. Doing all these amazing things. You can tell he’s learning." -- Receiver Jeremy Gallon
Chesson also made a ridiculous diving catch in the scrimmage video (at about 2 minutes):
Chesson looks like the football team's Caris LeVert—earlier in that video he gets a ball he should catch raked out by a defensive back. He's probably not going to be too good at getting off jams or dealing with bump and run yet, but that's what stacked formations are for.
Meanwhile, the siziest catchist, Devin Funchess, is calling himself a "pretty boy." In a negative way, not like he's a parrot:
"I was like a pretty boy that didn't want to get hit," he humbly admitted on Thursday. "Now I know that I have to change many aspects of my game, change my mindset. Now I just go in there and stick my head in as much as possible.
"I believe I wasn't ready for the Big Ten because it was a tougher game."
While everyone else was staring at the box score, circling his lack of receptions and wondering why he wasn't being targeted more, Funchess and the coaching staff were more concerned about his blocking.
"I have to help the team win," Funchess said of his offseason reprograming. "I learned that because at the end of last year I missed some blocks, some key blocks. And it hurt the team."
That is accurate. I am a bit concerned that he hasn't added any weight—seems like Michigan would like him at 250 if he is going to be a Y TE. It doesn't matter how good of a blocker you are at 230 pounds, you are just an oversized wide receiver.
"I hang out with all of them, but I can't hang out with the lineman too much because I can't grow facial hair," Funchess said. "I'm just a young lad; can't really grow it."
Unleash The… Dangit James Ross You Don't Fit With "Unleash The"
This site has been hyping up James Ross since midway through last year when every time I'd look at tape, Ross would be getting to the right spot at the right time. Sometimes he had issues despite that, as in the Iowa game when Mark Weisman ran over a perfectly-positioned Ross repeatedly.
a history of nonviolence
If Ross can just go from the above to wrecking people, he'll be all-conference. At least. What's that, Devin Gardner? You've decided to put some practice clips of Ross wrecking people on the internet?
I'll be peering at him for hints of the above tomorrow—and this site's breakout player prediction is no secret. Michigan is moving Desmond Morgan to MLB for a reason. Ross has to start.
Freak Clark To The Rescue
Lo and it came to pass that there was a man who had not really done much so far in his career who entered spring practice a different man and was called exciting things.
Both [starting tackles], asked open-endedly which defensive lineman provides the most difficult matchup in practice, offered the same answer: Frank Clark.
"He’s just so quick. He’s got such a quick step, it's hard to handle him. He's a freak," said Schofield, who wasn't the only Michigan player to invoke the F-word.
Added senior defensive lineman Jibreel Black: "Ever since Frank came in here, he's been a freak athlete. It's just a matter of putting it all together."
And this always worked out and never did not work out. Amen.
Jake Ryan's ACL tear makes finding some more pass rush—already priority one for a defense that was pretty good in all other aspects—absolutely critical. Fortunately, hulked-up WDE Frank Clark is far and away your Grady Brooks Memorial Spring Hype Award winner. Por ejemplo:
What they're saying: "I feel like he’s more focused, just to become our No. 1 pass rusher. I feel like he’s definitely proven he can do that. I think he’s realizing he’s older now, and wants to step up, especially now with Brennen moving. He’s among the quickest defensive linemen I’ve ever faced, and he’s got a nice little bull-rush too. He can mix it up on you." -- Right tackle Michael Schofield
I've heard that Lewan and Clark have a nice little practice rivalry going. To have one of those means you're evenly matched, or at least close. Lewan is hyping and hyping:
"I think, no doubt in my mind, he's an All-Big Ten player -- if not more," Lewan said Tuesday of the weak-side defensive end. …
Clark claims he's gotten the best of Lewan in practice.
"Perception is reality," Lewan countered. "If he wants to perceive it that way, then yeah."
He's seen his share of pass rushers, from Tom Gholston to Jadeveon Clowney. Michigan would like Clark to end up closer to the Clowney end of things, though obviously not particularly close because holy pants that guy.
Grady Brooks didn't do anything at all after his spring hype; guys like Breaston did. Let's go Breaston.
In other pass-rush hope, early-enrollee Taco Charlton came in at 6'6", 265 and is getting buzz of his own. Gardner:
He's huge to begin with. He comes in big enough to play. He's fitting in. He doesn't look like a freshman. He knows what he's doing out there.
Mario Ojemudia is in there too, though he's by far the smallest of the available WDEs and may be restricted to nickel rush duties.
Wherefore Art Binkie
Jordan Kovacs is gone. While Marvin Robinson still seems to be taking most of the first-team snaps, if you made me guess I'd say Jarrod Wilson would push past him to start. Wilson enrolled early and was the third safety a year ago. He knows what was the most important part of the tao of Kovacs:
Even with all the extra work he puts in, Wilson might consider himself first and foremost a student of Kovacs.
The former captain has been in and out of Ann Arbor this winter, dropping by Schembechler Hall periodically for workouts, and though Wilson really hasn’t had the opportunity to pick Kovacs’s brain, the year he spent observing Kovacs while on reserve has given him insight into the kind of safety he’s striving to be.
“His instincts and what to expect even before the play has even started,” Wilson said of what he’s picked up by watching Kovacs. “He could come out and tell you what the offense was going to run due to line splits, wide-receiver splits, quarterback and everything. I pretty much learned pre-snap reads from him.”
That reminds me to put Kovacs on my future Michigan coach wish-list. Oh hell yes.
This article was based off a dumping-ground where I put ever article that flipped past me during Michigan's tourney run, and as I finish it I notice that certain things are absent. Quick take time.
Running back. A murky mess with no clear leader. Drake Johnson has come in for some coach hype; I've heard Justice Hayes is looking good; everyone's waiting for Derrick Green and DeVeon Smith to rumble into camp in fall. Biggest thing might be seeing whether Hayes or Norfleet can lock down the third down back role.
Tight ends. Can AJ Williams block now? Is he a downfield threat after the weight loss? I don't know.
Defensive line. Are they really going to roll with 276-pound Jibreel Black as the starting three-tech? How's Pipkins doing? Who will start at SDE?
Linebacker. Cam Gordon, please be good.
Cornerback. Countess is still limited so some uncertainty is still there even though the top three spots appear to be taken by quality players.