Peppers at 10, which seems low.
It lives! When Homesure Lending sponsored these posts, Matt admonished me that his sponsorship was contingent on me actually doing all of them. So, yeah, next time you see him buy him a beer and get a mortgage. Matt just pinged me in case a refi made sense, demonstrating that 1) he's always on the lookout if he can save you money and 2) rates must be even more absurdly low than they were a couple years ago.
Formation notes: I'm not sure if we've seen this before at M:
There are three tight ends to the right side of the formation. "Ace trip TE."
This mess was "tight FB big" and went about how you'd expect:
And this is an example of how Florida spent a big chunk of the first half. Check out the defensive line. That is a huge split between the nose tackle and the defensive end to the bottom of your screen. Michigan had a hard time dealing with it for a couple snaps and then blasted it until UF abandoned it.
Substitution notes: As expected. Rudock, the starting OL, and the FB/RB corps all went the distance. Smith, Houma, and Johnson were your only RBs—no Higdon, no Isaac. I don't think Newsome got any 6th OL time. WR/TE was all Darboh/Chesson/Perry/Butt/Williams until the game was salted away. Michigan put in Ways and Harris in place of the outside WRs, continued playing Perry, and gave Ian Bunting some run.
[After The JUMP: rather big JUMPS forward for a half-dozen guys.]
Harbaugh as Uncle Rico. He's the least Uncle Rico person of all time, except in his mind:
— Coach Harbaugh (@CoachJim4UM) July 24, 2016
— Coach Harbaugh (@CoachJim4UM) July 25, 2016
No, not really. Maybe if we…
— Noah Neidlinger (@candor_for_sale) July 25, 2016
There we go.
WE ARE KIND OF EXCITED. Take it from a man selling a preseason magazine: Michigan fans are throwing their money at the upcoming season because they have an enthusiasm too rare over the past ten years. News that more bets are being placed on Michigan to win the national title than any other team should be interpreted in that light.
PFF evaluates that take, mostly rehashing things they've published before—Wormley, Glasgow, Hurst, and Charlton are all real good, literally everyone in the secondary graded out positively—but offering some new insights into their 2015 rankings:
They are bringing back a solid receiving corps led by WR Jehu Chesson (who earned the third-highest WR rating among returning wideouts at 127.9) and TE Jake Butt (who is the top returning tight end in receiving grade, after catching 51 of 70 targets for 653 yards and three touchdowns). They have a productive running back in De’Veon Smith, who broke 52 tackles combined last season.
There's been a lot of NFL and All Big Ten hype around Chesson, a guy who came on late but didn't exactly put up Braylon numbers; that helps confirm the late season surge. (Also Florida UFR is this week, and Chesson was insanely good in that game even if you look past the two long strikes against Hargreaves.) Butt being the top receiving WR is no surprise; Smith being "productive" kind of is.
Also, Jake Rudock surge:
Jake Rudock came on strong at the end of 2015, but for the first nine weeks of the season, he ranked 98th among 101 qualifying quarterbacks in PFF grades – and the Wolverines were still a top-10 team entering the final week of the regular season.
If Rudock had transferred fast enough to get in for spring practice that would have been something.
Still gets no respect. BTN put out a list of the top 100 players in the league that's mostly notable for their bonkers #takes on various players, like definition-of-just-a-guy Justin Jackson at #11. Jackson is Northwestern running back on a team with some sort of sea mammal trying to use his flippers to get the ball downfield, so his carry numbers are inflated. He got the ball a whopping 312 times last year, and was fine. He did nothing to defy Northwestern's fate against Michigan, Iowa, and Nebraska—25, 30, and 40 yards, respectively—and mostly ran over teams that were not good. He had a couple moments; he was fine. He got to 139 yards against Wisconsin without cracking 4 YPC. You could put him somewhere in the second half of this list if you wanted; 11 is bizarre.
But the reason this section exists is because the list completely omits Ryan Glasgow. Ryan Glasgow, the guy who got hurt just before Michigan's run defense fell off a cliff; Ryan Glasgow, the guy PFF ranked a top 20 DL in all of college football last year. No matter what he does on the field, because he is 1) a former walk-on and 2) a nose tackle someone is always willing to ignore him in favor of Bryan Mone or a completely average running back. Or #32 Montae Nicholson a guy who got pulled over and over again last year because he kept giving up big plays. Or #60 Wes Lunt. Or #100 Michael Geiger, a kicker hitting 63% the last two years. There's an obvious mandate to diversify the schools involved here but that's nonsensical.
Anyway. Get your chips hot, Glasgow.
The media days, they begin. If news comes out of them that'll be newsworthy. Best item so far is that MSU appears to be moving Kodi Kieler to center:
MSU also released a preseason depth chart: Kieler now listed as starter at center, Brian Allen at LG, Dennis Finley/Miguel Machado at RT
— Kyle Austin (@kylebaustin) July 25, 2016
I said there wasn't much news. JUCO transfer Machado was real bad last year as Kieler struggled to stay ambulatory; Finley was hurt the whole year.
Dytarious may return. Dytarious Johnson didn't sign a letter of intent this fall and then enrolled in prep school; per Johnson Michigan is still in pursuit and will enroll him this January. That's still dependent on a number of things, including Johnson getting his grades right and how Michigan's scholarship situation shapes up. A lot of these plans end up changing along the way.
More unit rankings. Sports On Earth declares Michigan's DL the third-best in the land and their secondary fifth-best, and if that actually strikes you as pessimistic, well, placing the OL #5 in the country more than makes up for that.
Etc.: Iowa defensive tackle Faith Ekakitie had four guns pulled on him because he was mistaken for a bank robber 100 pounds lighter than him. Peppers gets a prestigious award. Eric Upchurch talks MGoPhotography with MGoFish. Remembering 1976.
The first rule of Draftageddon is "you must complain about Draftageddon." The second is "the four people drafting assemble teams of Big Ten players in an effort to seem the best at drafting."
Previously on Draftageddon:
Two Michigan guys go before the one good quarterback and our tight end goes 5th overall. Homers much?
ACE: Round 3, Pick 1: Jehu Chesson, WR, Michigan
OFFENSE: RB Saquon Barkley, WEAPON Jabrill Peppers, WR Jehu Chesson
DEFENSE: OLB/NICKEL Jabrill Peppers
SPECIAL TEAMS: KR Jabrill Peppers, PR Jabrill Peppers
Chesson, as you’re well aware, had more close-but-not-quite moments than I care to recall in the first nine games of his junior year as he incrementally improved while waiting for Jake Rudock to calibrate his deep ball. The final four games, post-calibration, were a Wow Experience.
Indiana is bad and should feel bad, but those last two games came against a pair of first-round cornerbacks in Eli Apple and Vernon Hargreaves—the latter is still waiting for that hitch:
I’d be more wary of basing this pick on a small-sample breakout if it hadn’t been so easy to see coming in the first place. CBSSports agrees: Chesson is their top-ranked senior receiver in the country.
In addition to his downfield receiving prowess, he also provides big-play ability on end-arounds (8 rushes for 155 yards and 2 TDs last year) and kickoff returns, as well as great blocking for a receiver. Again, this pick is also a reflection of the other available talent; the next-best receiver on the board is probably one of PSU’s Chris Godwin, Nebraska’s Jordan Westerkamp, or Amara Darboh.
[After THE JUMP: We take the linemen Pro Football Focus tells us to. Not our fault if their helmets have wings]
Inclusions and omissions. PFF lists its top 101 players going into 2016 and Michigan's defense is well represented:
- #7 Jourdan Lewis
- #16 Jabrill Peppers
- #27 Maurice Hurst
- #31 Chris Wormley
- #72 Ryan Glasgow
We knew most of this already since Hurst was projected as a first round pick by PFF and Glasgow came in for mention as a top-20 DL a year ago. This is some more detail on Glasgow:
Another standout performer on the Michigan defensive line, Glasgow played only 332 snaps before going down to injury in Week 10. He posted a dominant +17.6 grade against the run to go with a +9.0 pass rush grade and his overall grade ranked 19th in the nation at the time of the injury.
Losing him was a crushing blow to the run D.
PFFs omissions are illuminating and one jumps out: Jake Butt. This might point to a hole in PFF's methodology. Their list doesn't have a single TE on it. IIRC when they mentioned Butt in the past they had negative grades for his blocking, which is reasonable since he was very much a finesse guy a year ago. It seems like TE blocking should probably be graded on a curve since a guy like Butt helps out the run game in other ways due to his threat as a pass catcher.
Anyway, there are three Michigan DL amongst the best in the country… and one of them probably isn't going to start. Add in Charlton, Mone, and Gary and this line is set to be an all-timer.
Speaking of Glasgow. He tells Nick Baumgardner he's almost all the way back:
Glasgow -- who posted 25 tackles (5 for a loss) -- says about 95 percent of his shoulder strength has returned. And if Michigan were to start fall camp tomorrow -- it'll begin Aug. 8 -- then Glasgow would be full-go without any limitations.
"There might be some rust with technique and stuff. But (I'd be healthy and ready)," Glasgow added. "Being out on the field is amazing. I definitely took it for granted before and I never will ever again now. That injury definitely sobers you up to the fact that football does have an end date. Which is unfortunate.
"But it makes you appreciate the game."
If Glasgow does get displaced by Mone I'll be shocked. Not lemon-eating shocked. But shocked.
Oakland is not in play. "Off to NFL in three years" futures are cratering:
“Happy, happy—10 out of 10 happy,” he says. He juggles a pair of camps and time with a number of recruits here on unofficial visits. “And then I get to walk over to the stadium and do the offensive and defensive linemen too! You’re like a pig in slop out here. That’s how I feel. Drawing the long straw today.”
Purdue 1980. Via Dr. Sap:
Better than nothing. John O'Korn hit up the Manning passing camp and came away with a prestigious award:
Southern Mississippi’s Nick Mullens and Michigan’s John O’Korn were crowned co-champions of the Air-it-Out Quarterback Challenge after neither could separate themselves after five rounds of competition at Nicholls State University's stadium. …
During the passing challenge, the quarterbacks had to hit three golf carts traveling across the field at 15 yards, 25 yards and up the sidelines. This was a change from previous years, when the first two carts traveled 10 and 20 yards. Quarterbacks needed to hit all three carts to advance.
A prestigious award based on approximately a dozen throws, so don't print up your O'HEISMAN 2016 t-shirts just yet. Like the increasingly farcical Elite 11—which had 24 QBs at it this year—the more QBs that get thrown in a passing camp bucket, the less reliable the outcomes are. Still, as the bold bit says, better than nothing.
Fulton on OSU. You won't find a better primer on the Buckeyes than that delivered by Ross Fulton. This part is especially relevant to Michigan fans because M will run the same style of front-seven defense:
Ohio State features a Mike, Will, and Sam linebacker. But what does that mean? It is helpful to think of Ohio State using two inside linebacker and one outside linebackers.
The Mike and Will are the inside linebackers. They are primarily responsible for an inside run gap to their side of the formation. The Mike plays to the field, with the Will to the boundary. There are slight differences. The Will must be rangier because he more often has boundary flat coverage responsibilities. The Mike is a more traditional downhill inside linebacker.
But the Mike and Will are more interchangeable than the Sam. The Sam – or Walkout –linebacker is a hybrid linebacker/safety. As the name suggests, the walkout linebacker often plays outside the tackle box, generally aligning over the number 2 or slot receiver. Playing in space, he is responsible for setting the edge to the field, meaning he must be able to defeat blocks and force the football inside.
Practically speaking, this means the position is responsible for limiting the horizontal screen and run game that feature prominently in spread offenses. But he must also be comfortable playing in the tackle box against pro-style formations. In short, the position requires perhaps the most versatile player in the Ohio State defense.
The SAM is obviously Peppers and the stuff he'll be asked to do isn't too much different than his job last year. Brown will incorporate a lot more blitzing and zone coverage into the Peppers role; he'll still be Michigan's screen obliterator.
Got some guys this year. NFL.com is releasing lists of the top ten players to watch at various positions. Michigan guys are popping up with frequency. Jehu Chesson is the #2(!) WR:
2. Jehu Chesson, Michigan
Some receivers just carry themselves like a natural-born WR1 and Chesson is one of those guys. There is a level of confidence and toughness that comes through when you watch him play, and he is as fearless a wide receiver when working in traffic as any you will find, taking shot after shot while securing the catch. Stat scouts won't fall in love with Chesson based on his production last season (50 catches for 764 yards and 9 TDs), but NFL scouts love his ability to adjust to throws and work all three levels of the field. He won't have many "Wow!" highlights that have you jumping out of your seat, but his size, toughness and consistency put him near the top of this list.
MSU gets a sixth year. OL Brandon Clemons got his sixth year:
Michigan State OL Brandon Clemons got his sixth year approved by the NCAA today. Expected, but needed boost of experience nonetheless.
— Dan Murphy (@DanMurphyESPN) June 21, 2016
Some guy on the internet went back and checked dress lists, finding that Clemons was in street clothes by the end of the year and may actually have a case. Ed Davis almost certainly does not:
He dressed in every game, including road games where the travel team is limited. There's no way he didn't take a voluntary redshirt.
Next year's NHL draft prospects. Michigan didn't have a player selected in the first round despite a banner year for NCAA hockey, especially a BU team that will be loaded when it comes to Yost this fall. That should change next year. Chris Dilks's initial rankings for 2017 feature three Wolverines-to-be: #15 Michael Pastujov, #25 Josh Norris, and #28 Luke Martin. Martin is arriving this fall, so Michigan kind of sort of maybe has a first rounder in this recruiting class.
What are you doing, MSU hockey? They just don't care.
Also on the agenda are the renewals/extensions of contracts for Athletic Director Mark Hollis through the 2020-21 school year and three of his major-sport coaches – men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo (2022-23), women’s basketball coach Suzy Merchant (2020-21) and hockey coach Tom Anastos (2019-20).
A hockey coach's buyout is chump change for a Big Ten athletic department but I'm just like… why? Why are you the way you are?
Etc.: Basketball recruiting is ridiculous.
DEPARTURES IN ORDER OF SIGNIFICANCE.
- QB Jake Rudock. Iowa transfer was a jittery mess for the first half and Andrew Luck Jr for the second. Cracked 3,000 passing yards with good efficiency and a solid TD/INT ratio; ended year by dicing up three top-ten pass defenses. Will be missed unless Harbaugh just Harbaughs himself another excellent QB, which is Harbaugh likely.
- C Graham Glasgow. Three year starter was always good even if it was near-impossible to tell without going into UFR-level depth. Stepped up as a senior and was, IMO, an All Big Ten-level performer. Michigan has a couple promising options to replace him; don't underrate his loss.
- TE AJ Williams. Went from symbol of the flaccid Hoke era to symbol of the player development Jim Harbaugh brings to the table. Improved his blocking immensely, quadrupled career receiving stats, was no longer a one-dimensional tight end who did not actually deliver on that dimension, blew guys off ball with consistency. I don't think I've ever seen a senior get that much better since… Bennie Joppru? Probably Bennie Joppru.
- FBs Sione Houma and Joe Kerridge. Treated as a unit. Solid to excellent blockers both with Kerridge a capable receiver and captain and Houma a promising mooseback capable of juking Florida linebackers. Normally a position met with a shrug these days, it's a much bigger deal under Harbaugh. Henry Poggi returns but hasn't touched a ball in anger yet.
- As of yet unknown attrition. Departures are on the way. Some of those will undoubtedly be on offense. Guys not playing at WR, RB, and QB are likely to be amongst the departures. None project to have significant 2016 roles unless the wild Rivals rumor about a starting OL not being asked back pans out. I'm skeptical about that.
- TE Jake Butt. 654 receiving yards a year ago with two-count-em-two drops all year. Blocking was finesse but relatively effective. Smoked touted Florida CB on route in bowl game. Should be nation's top receiving tight end and get that Mackey award he was inexplicably denied this year. A bit more oomph on the ground would be nice.
- OL Mason Cole. Emerged into a top-shelf run blocker in year two. Pass blocking was generally good but there were struggles against elite edge rushers like Yannick Ngakoue and Joey Bosa. Smart, technical player could get moved inside if Grant Newsome is Michigan's #5 OL.
- WR Jehu Chesson. Comparisons went from Stonum to Breaston to Manningham over the course of the season. Multi-use threat effective as a runner, blocker, and increasingly as a receiver. 764 yards and 9 TDs despite being chronically missed for the first half of the season, plus a KOR TD and a number of jet sweeps that went a long way. Has his shit together.
- WR Amara Darboh. Avant comparisons were on point, as he amply demonstrated on that catch. You know. That one. Solid intermediate threat with excellent hands and a large catching radius. Avant-esque. Like Avant. Reminiscent of Avant.
- RB De'Veon Smith. Nuclear-powered icebreaker back was frustrating much of the year but great against the Gators. If proverbial click has clicked and he knows where to go most of the time can be prototypical Harbaugh back. Superior blocker; may get drafted at fullback part-time a la BJ Askew.
- OLs Erik Magnuson, Kyle Kalis, and Ben Braden. All thrown into the same lump because they were more or less the same guy. All had their struggles, particularly the guards; all had their successes. All are likely to get incrementally better as senior returning starters, but it wouldn't be out of the question for one of them to get knocked out of the lineup if Kugler and Newsome emerge or Michigan picks up Texas grad transfer Jake Raulerson.
- FB/TE Henry Poggi. Last year's version of early AJ Williams. Had one catch for two yards, did not carry the ball, was a blocker and only a blocker. As a blocker he was generally effective when he made contact with a person. He failed to accomplish this with understandable frequency since he was flipped from the DL in spring. Should improve significantly in that department but must be more of a threat to have the ball.
- RB Drake Johnson. Michigan's quickest back by far but career has been limited by injury.
- RB/WR Jabrill Peppers. Oh right that guy. In year two under Harbaugh should emerge as a guy who gets ten touches a game on a variety of screens, sweeps, and straight-up runs and throws.
WHAT'S NEW, OR CLOSE ENOUGH, ANYWAY
O'Korn is generally considered the leader at QB [Fuller]
Probably John O'Korn. Michigan's QB derby is currently a five-way battle that will add a sixth contender in Brandon Peters and maybe a seventh if Harbaugh goes back to the grad-transfer well, but after a season of scout-team hype anyone other than Houston transfer O'Korn would be a moderate surprise.
O'Korn is the platonic opposite of Jake Rudock. He is Ryan Mallett, more or less, capable of throwing for 3,000 yards as a true freshman and equally capable of going full Hackenberg on WR screens in an increasingly frustrating situation and getting deservedly benched as a sophomore. He is a big, strapping fellow with good wheels who can uncork pinpoint 40-yard passes on the run. He threw an array of insane interceptions and made other mistakes in bunches at Houston, but given a year of understudy under Harbaugh both the natural maturation process and the coaching upgrade promise big things.
Half the running back rotation. This space projects that De'Veon Smith ends up absorbing most of the carries from the fullback spot and plays enough RB to remain Michigan's leading rusher. That will leave about half the total carries available. Peppers, Karan Higdon, Ty Isaac, and freshmen Kareem Walker and Kingston Davis figure to scrap over the remainder.
Only Peppers is a lock to get a bunch of touches, because he is Peppers. The rest could go anywhere; Michigan fans are hoping the freshmen step up immediately. It could happen.
An offensive lineman, maybe two. Grant Newsome is a heavy favorite to be the fifth starter on the offensive line after Michigan burned his redshirt midseason so he could be a sixth OL in heavy packages. Newsome is an ideal left tackle, though, and Michigan has an incumbent. Look for Mason Cole to move inside, as his run blocking is considerably ahead of his pass protection.
It is possible that Michigan could mix things up more extensively if they feel their best five includes Patrick Kugler or Raulerson, potentially bumping Mason Cole to guard instead of center. If that happens it's probably a good thing.
Receivers and blocky/catchy types past the Big Three. We're filing Grant Perry as "new" since he made little impact last year except in the first and last games. In the former case that impact was massively negative; in the latter a pleasant surprise. Perry, Drake Harris, Moe Ways, and tight ends Ian Bunting and Khalid Hill will compete to fill snaps vacated by Williams and the departing fullbacks.
Unless there's an injury none will emerge into prime targets; the goal there is for Michigan to have guys ready to step in when Darboh, Chesson, and Butt all depart after next year.
WHAT'S ROD STEWART 1976
The peripheral nature of most of the previous section's bullet points. Michigan needs to find a QB, an OL, and half a running back. They have less to replace than 95% of D-I programs.
Three Amigos 2016. Butt, Darboh, and Chesson are a receiving trio that might be on par with the famous Braylon/Avant/Breaston set. If Chesson continues his development he is a legit #1; Butt probably would have been the second tight end off the board if he announced for the NFL draft; Darboh is a circus-catch wizard and burly possession guy to move the chains. Nobody in the league is going to have a set of pass-catchers like that.
Continuity. Hey look Michigan has the same coaching staff for the second consecutive year, running the same offense. They have the same players running it, for the most part. This has been a rare treasure of late.
Experience. Michigan projects to have seniors start at eight of eleven positions, and one of the exceptions is Mason Cole.
WHAT'S ROD STEWART 2016
how much better can these gentlemen get? [Upchurch]
Blocking upside. I thought Michigan had two very good offensive linemen and three guys who were meh. One of the very good guys is gone; the three meh guys are all going to be redshirt seniors. I'm not sure how much any of them will improve. I mean, they should improve, but the kind of leap Cole took last year from meh to very good is unlikely.
Similarly, I don't think Jake Butt is suddenly going to be a murderous blocker. This doesn't feel like a run game that gets amazing unless it was really all targeting issues.
WHAT'S HEISENBERG ROD STEWART UNCERTAINTY
The O'Kornininging, or Speightininging, or Whoeverining. New quarterback is always a worry, albeit less so when Jim Harbaugh is his quarterback coach. O'Korn has all the tools you could want and seemingly went to Houston because he was wild and unrefined. He could be Ryan Mallett or he could be Ryan Mallett, if you get my drift.
Will the tailbacks be any good? I'd give that position group a D for the year. Kareem Walker may not be the quick fix everyone was vaguely hoping for when they heard the #1 back in the country was going to decommit from OSU and flip to Michigan. Recruiting consensus on Walker has dipped to the point where he's a good, not great prospect. (This might actually be good for Michigan given the track record of five-star backs in Ann Arbor.)
Smith and Johnson gave a glimmer of hope in the bowl game, enough to bump this from bad to dunno.
MANDATORY WILD ASS GUESS
It all hinges on INSERT QB HERE. If he comes in hot and we get a year of Late Rudock production this should be an offense that takes a major step forward. Whoever does get the job is going to have a terrific receiving corps, solid or better pass protection, and Jabrill Peppers hanging around.
The run game is a bit of a question mark still. Michigan has no slam-dunk back and probably won't see their OL take a quantum leap forward. Real improvement is likely, though. Michigan gets four OL back and will have continuity, plus both returning tailbacks who played in the bowl showed major improvement.
For context, Michigan finished 30th in offensive S&P+ this year, 43rd on the ground and 8th(!!!) in the air. They should be able to push the ground number up 10 to 20 spots, and if O'Korn hits the ground running and maintains that passing number—somewhat tough but he'll be operating in a friendly environment—Michigan should get into the top 20 teams statistically.
I'd say maintaining the passing production is unlikely, but a quick glance at Jim Harbaugh's track record with quarterbacks suggests it is anything but.
Jim Harbaugh saved his best for last.
After a Florida defender committed an obvious facemask on Amara Darboh, Harbaugh sprinted down the sideline screaming for a call, gesticulating the whole way.
You may note a brave player—by the arm sleeve, I believe it's Jabrill Peppers—tried to get Harbaugh's attention when he reached the offical. Harbaugh, too deep into rage mode to notice, proceeded to scream "HEY, THEN CALL IT. YOU CALLED IT? YOU CALLED IT? WELL, OKAY."
Sealing this as my favorite Harbaugh GIF of the year is the scoreboard chyron showing that a flag was down the whole time.
[Hit THE JUMP for Dad Rudock, Jehu Chesson, heel clicks, and much more.]