Extremely important fainting goat update. The conversation did not quite go as asserted yesterday, but it's pretty great anyway:
“He told me the play of the week, the special teams funky deal, was a fake punt – the Fainting Goat,” Mays said. “In my mind, I was like, ‘What’s that?’”
Said Paschall: “Book, you’re going to be the goat.”
“I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ What is he saying?” Mays said.
“I was talking to the guy across from me, saying, ‘Wow, there is some thick air down here in Miami,” Mays said.
God bless Arkansas State.
BEAT THE DRUM EVERYBODY. Ineligible man downfield complainin' is welcome wherever I find it. Pete Roussel notes an egregious event in the Alabama-USM game:
yes the penalty is called when the ball is thrown but not caught; still geez
Remember last year when Taylor Lewan engaged a guy about three yards behind the line and drove him so far downfield he got a penalty and everyone clucked at him about how he had to know better? Why would he have to know better? I think he would not have to.
Offenses are brutally effective already without adding blocking linebackers ten yards downfield on pass plays to their docket.
BEAT THE DRUM PART 2. Yes, we are going to beat this dead horse until it sends seven guys downfield on the snap. "Shield" punting, which we've called "spread" around here because I'm sure you can figure it out*, has taken over college football. Michigan is an exception, and apparently so is Texas. They ate a 45-yard punt return before UCLA's winning drive after lining up like so:
This is actually a little more spread-ish than Michigan, but eight Longhorns are behind the LOS when the ball is kicked.
Like Michigan, the bad way stats are kept somewhat conceals the issue here. Not only does Texas give up a lot of yards per return, they give up a lot of returns, period:
UT’s 10.3-yard-per-punt-return average allowed isn’t miserable — although it ranks 88th out of 128 FBS teams — but the Longhorns are allowing a greater number of punt return chances under Vaughn, and as the UCLA punt shows, a reason could be because his players are late getting downfield. The nine punt returns against UT this year is tied for fourth-most nationally while the Longhorns’ 93 total punt return yards allowed puts them tied for 115th.
Strong used a spread punt at Louisville to good effect; no idea why he's not doing the same thing at Texas.
*[Bizarrely, coaches keep telling me that it is Michigan's NFL-style punt game that they know as "spread." I reject that lingo and all its works. You don't get to call it that. That makes no sense. Unlike coaches who don't want to use seven gunners, I insist on making sense.]
Also in Texas but better? Four minutes left is a weird amount of time to have in a game. If you're leading and on offense, you need a first down at all costs. If you're leading and on defense you want to prevent the other team from scoring, but if they're going to score you want them to do it quickly, not after 3:58 has left the clock. The paramount thing is to get (or keep) the ball.
So a lot of offenses will grunt their way to a third and seven and then take their shot. Strong elected for a different path:
When Texas got the ball at 4:17 with a four point lead and chose to go "tempo", the ensuing three and out and minimal clock burn was widely panned on the web and in the traditional media. Of course, it didn't matter. UCLA scored in about nine seconds on a punt return followed by a good play call against tendency.
Texas had just scored to go ahead with the aid of a hurry-up no huddle; a UCLA player misaligned on a 30-yard run. They continued that with the lead and 4:17 left, and that's… odd. But if you think that's the best way to get a first down, that's at least defensible. Of course, when you lose five yards on a run up the gut you're not going to be bleeding much of anything.
Upshot: coaches don't place enough emphasis on having the ball last when they're in a one-possession game. They're willing to bleed down the field for an opposition four-minute drill instead of being aggressive, and they place minimally useful timeout-sapping over a greater chance of getting a first down.
A stupid reason but okay. We're now talking about revoking the NFL's non-profit status because of "Redskins"?
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) announced Tuesday that she will introduce legislation to eliminate the NFL’s tax-exempt status because of its refusal to address the name of the Washington Redskins.
While I also find the name distasteful, why don't we revoke the NFL's non-profit status because it in no way fits the definition of a nonprofit enterprise? The idea that the NFL can skate on millions of dollars in taxes because [no reason given] is equally offensive. Possibly more so, because one situation is a private enterprise being offensive and the other is the government being idiotic.
I mean, if there's one class of industries you can tax the living hell out of without seeing them move their labor force, it's pro sports.
It's profile o-clock. Jeremy Clark:
"Of course everyone wants to play, but (last year) I was still learning the process and there were guys in front of me who knew the calls and everything, so you can't get mad if you don't know what you're supposed to be doing out there," Clark said. "This year, I feel like I'm learning it well."
“The thing you realize quickly about Bryan is the genuine concern he shows for everyone he comes in contact with,” said Benson, Mone's prep coach at Highland High School in Salt Lake City. "And it's genuine. He truly cares about everyone around him. I don't know if I've met a kid with a bigger heart.
"He's one of a kind. Truly one of a kind."
"My brother has always been my motivation, because growing up he couldn’t really feed himself or do all types of stuff, so I had to grow up soon enough to help out my mom and my sister,” said Mone, who had another older brother who died from leukemia.
Mone began caring for his brother in earnest in sixth grade, but didn’t feel comfortable with all his responsibilities until a few years later.
“I started getting used to it in junior high,” he said. “I knew what I had to do to take care of him.”
Designated official site softball-tosser on Jack Miller:
Jack Miller is many things.
He's best known as the starting center and anchor of the offensive line for the University of Michigan football team. But he's also a political science major, and thinks he might someday become a lawyer or run for public office.
He's a music lover -- especially Dave Matthews and jam bands -- and takes aim during deer and duck hunting seasons.
Miller also is the great-nephew of former Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who texts him after every game and remains a huge inspiration.
Spence suspended further. Noah Spence's ecstasy suspension was three games, and now it's at least four after he failed a test before Kent State. If Ohio State follows the usual policy here he would be out for the year, as most teams go 1) nothing, 2) one game, 3) quarter of a season, 4) whole season for failed drug tests. Spence has apparently entered rehab.
But you have a legitimate reason! I don't understand why Brady Hoke keeps saying things like "I don't feel like it" and this latest…
Brady Hoke: “You can say something about (injuries) and you’ll be wrong.” Hence his silence on them.
— Alejandro Zúñiga (@ByAZuniga) September 17, 2014
…when asked about injuries. He has a legit reason. He can just say "I don't want to help Utah prepare for our game by telling them which personnel we'll have available." This is 1) the truth and 2) not insulting to the intelligence of anyone coming across his answer.
It is not good when your contempt for the media gets in the way of obviously better and more honest answers. See: Gibbons, Brendan.
Etc.: Tip times set times set for a number of basketball games. Article on how Michigan sticking by Devin Gardner despite "fans' pleas" for Shane Morris cites no fans pleading for Shane Morris. In fact cites reporter's question about Shane Morris indirectly by including Nussmeier answer to it.
FORMATION NOTES: They promised it all offseason and they delivered on it:
In your face bro. Note that this was an example of something I started calling "30 slide"*, as the linemen are basically head up on the tackles and center with Frank Clark as a sort of standup end/SAM.
*[The idea being this is a 30 front (three linemen head up on tackles and the center like a 3-4) with three linebackers slid as if they are in an under.]
Another example is even clearer:
Note that in both of these shots, the three-tech is in fact to the bottom of the screen instead of between Clark and the nose as you might expect. I had not seen this before, because Michigan doesn't run it and they weren't spread enough last year for anyone to do it against them but since Appalachian State also ran it…
this was in fact their base D probably
…and they are right in the heart of spread on spread warfare I figure it is the latest fad when you need to account for the QB in the run game. I'll get Adam to ask Mattison about it next week—unfortunately, they moved the coordinator pressers up a day so I was not educated on anything before that time came. I'll try to accelerate my UFRing process, something that is now feasible with fast downloads and the lack of TWIS on my plate.
They also of course ran a lot of standard nickel:
Michigan also debuted a weird 3-3-5-ish package with Frank Clark at "MLB":
This happened twice. On both plays Clark was running at the frontside guard on the snap, impacted him, blew him back, forced a cutback, and then no one was there. More on that later.
Michigan also played some bonafide dime snaps:
These had three DL, two linebackers, and six DBs. Generally it was Delonte Holowell getting the extra nickel snaps but that's more in the…
PERSONNEL NOTES: Deep breath. On the line it was Beyer-Henry-Glasgow-Clark to start with copious substitution. Your nominal second string based on playing time was Charlton-Wormley-???-Ojemudia, with the NT ??? a combination of Pipkins, Mone, and Hurst. Pipkins looked by far the best of those guys; I expect that NT rotation to quickly settle down into Glasgow and Pip alternating with scattered snaps elsewhere. Godin got some real PT early at 3-tech.
At linebacker, Ryan, Bolden, and Morgan seemed to get about equivalent PT. Ross got a number of snaps as the game went along as an ILB. IIRC, Jenkins-Stone only saw snaps as a nickel DE late. Gedeon and McCray got in for the last drive.
Michigan played nickel on I think literally every snap they weren't playing dime. That was Peppers spotted by Hollowell and then Hollowell after Peppers got dinged. Taylor and Countess got starters' minutes at outside CB with Lewis coming in frequently; Stribling did not see time until heavy substitution began in the third quarter. Richardson got in there too.
Starting safeties were Wilson and Clark; Thomas got quite a lot of PT starting in the second quarter, with walk-on AJ Pearson seeing the field on ASU's interminable second scoring drive.
And hamburgers: I thought I was done calling people CGordon and TGordon and just realized we have two Clarks. I tried to clarify who was who below; I imagine you can figure it out if I missed a couple.
[After the JUMP: a big table! and some other stuff.]
|Free Safety||Yr.||Strong Safety||Yr.||Nickelback||Yr.|
|Jarrod Wilson||Jr.||Delano Hill||So.*||Jabrill Peppers||So.*|
|Jeremy Clark||So.*||Dymonte Thomas||So.||Blake Countess||Jr.*|
|Reon Dawson||Fr.*||Brandon Watson||Fr.||Dymonte Thomas||So.|
[* = player has taken redshirt. # = walk-on]
So, JARROD WILSON…
Okay, okay, Jarrod Wilson after the jump. Now…
ok, you're out of shoes, right
I've been talking about hybrid space players for years now, projecting that Michigan would acquire one of these important gentlemen since about a year after that, and resigning myself to yet another repurposed 5'9" corner four games into every season since. Two years ago:
The thing that kept me from playing nickel a lot last year – the nickel has to be able to blitz. He has to be able to change the math … some guys can blitz and some can’t.
Michigan didn't have that guy, and their defense was solid, but conservative.
Now… now Michigan has a hybrid space player. Sound the trumpets. Unfurl the banners. Roll the carpet forth unto the unworthy ground so that our prince can walk upon maize and blue! Fetch… fetch the Woodson comparison. Yes, from the vaults.
ATTACK OF THE CLONES [Fuller]
And so forth and so on. As to why Michigan is deploying its most hyped recruit ever at a spot historically reserved for a not-quite-starting cornerback on passing downs, let's revisit last year's preview:
The ideal nickelback is a corner/safety/linebacker hybrid who can cover slot receivers, blitz like a mofo, and fend off blockers to make tackles in space, and in the increasingly spread-oriented world of football they are essentially starters. This does not just apply to college football:
NFL offenses are identifying the nickel corner as a key part of any defense. “This varies from defense to defense, but the amount of your sub package that you play nowadays — because we’re seeing more three wide receivers on the field — your inside player is going to play as many, if not more plays,” Capers says. “You could be in some form of your sub defense two-thirds [of the time].” The number Hayward throws out is 75 percent; Whitt says 80. No matter the math, the point is that the nickel cornerback is as much a “starter” as any other spot in the defensive backfield.
The QED here: that's an article on second-year player Casey Hayward, who replaced Charles friggin' Woodson as the Packers' nickel. In his time at that spot, Woodson picked up a Defensive Player of the Year award. The best nickels double as outside corners when teams are in a base package; others are just really important fifth defensive backs.
SI followed that Grantland article up with one this year asserting that the nickelback has risen in prominence as the NFL's "key battles move to the slot":
Teams ran base (with four defensive backs) 48 percent of the time in 2011, 45 percent in '12 and 40 percent in '13. Nickel sets increased from 40 to 44 to 49 percent over that same three-year span.
College is gradually following a similar pattern. One of the main reasons Michigan is moving to the over defense is that they were in it like half the time last year anyway, because that's how you have to respond to spread offenses. However, the motivations are somewhat different. In college if you get spread out there's a better than even chance they are spreading to run, an innovation still mostly on the sidelines in a league where you can pick the 30 most accurate passers in the world and whoever the Browns have this year.
But the idea remains the same: triple threat.
"To play nickel now? I think it's really hard. You have to play the two-way go [option routes in which the receiver can turn inside or outside based on coverage] inside the numbers, you have to be able to tackle, and you have to be able to blitz. And blitz is a technique, just like playing man-to-man or running routes. You need practice at that. You can't run in there straight up and down like a pencil, or you'll get decapitated. Because as the nickel, sometimes you blitz, and the tackle is set up on you. How do you beat him? You've got to get him back on his heels -- you set him up, almost like a basketball player driving to the hole.
You have to cover, you have to play the run, and you have to murder the quarterback. Come on down, JABRILL PEPPERS [recruiting profile].
Since Peppers is a true freshman, and since he is Jabrill Peppers, I can't tell you anything you don't already know if you've read that profile. Selected, mouth-watering highlights:
"Peppers is a rare athlete with potential to be great at the next level. He is one of the most talented players I have ever seen at the high school level. At 6-foot-1, and 205-pounds, Peppers has college ready size to go with un-matched speed and explosiveness."
This one is particularly apt given Peppers's spot in the defense:
"…could play four to five different positions and excel at them. He is a strong running back. He is as fluid as a good corner. He hits like a linebacker. He could play safety. You could honestly take him and put him in an outside linebacker position and he would flourish.
USC coach: "Holy s---, that's him? I've only seen two players in high school with a body like that and both of them are named Peterson [Adrian and Patrick]."
Scout's Scott Kennedy gets a gold star for his player comparison:
"I think his impact on the game [would be maximized by] letting him roam around a little bit and freelance and let him play – an Eric Berry style of safety where they would walk him up. I mean, Eric Berry had 15 tackles for loss. He is that kind of a player. Eric Berry, I thought, was maybe the best player in college football a couple of years ago.”
Eric Berry was a nickel in college. People didn't quite know it at the time because everyone was just inventing the idea of putting your most badass guy there, but he was a nickel. He's a nickel in the NFL, acquiring 3.5 sacks in 2013 and going to the Pro Bowl every time he's been healthy.
That is the mission. Be Eric Berry. Or All Pro Charles Woodson, of course.
Can Peppers do it right away? I'm supposed to equivocate about freshmen here. I won't. He's got the size, he's got the speed, and he's blazed his way to the starting lineup essentially on day one. Sam Webb:
I know the Jabrill Peppers is hyped enough already but the word he is the real deal. You saw the pictures so you know where he is physically. But it’s the non-stop motor and tenacity that just put him on another level from most freshmen. … It’s often hard to keep expectations of freshmen subdued, but it’s especially hard when they’ve been as good as advertised in practice. They all say he is young and has a lot to learn, but also say he is as good as advertised.
I'm sure there will be some busts as he gets situated in the defense. That should be the primary issues. Go time: now.
[After the JUMP: the actual safeties, you shoe-throwing maniac.]
News bullets and other items:
- Jabrill Peppers at corner looks like it’s happening. For now he’s at nickel, but all evidence points to him eventually usurping one of the corner’s spots.
- Boo-boo watch: Kyle Kalis [back] and Ty Isaac [stinger] should be back Monday
- Derrick Green was the #1 running back heading into the scrimmage
- Expect to see lots of two (or more) tight end sets from the offense this season. /sighs
- Hoke was again impressed by Mason Cole
- The defense is ahead of the offense, which Hoke says is typically the case
- Starters on both sides of the ball should be figured out by Wednesday or Thursday
- Brady Hoke “Well, …” count: 11
"Number one, thanks for coming out. Thought it was a good atmosphere for our team to be in front of, environment, I think that's important. We probably went a little longer than I thought we would but I knew my math and plays and play count, I knew we'd go a little over and I think we did. There were some negative plays in there that we've got to still clean up. Some of it is up front and I really think some of it today- we've got to have better vision in the back and so from that standpoint offensively. From a defensive standpoint I thought they got after it. Too many penalties. The PI rules are going to be called, probably, a little closer in this league. We had a little bit too much, where a guy got grabbed too much or didn't move his feet well enough, those kind of things. But that's why you do what we did. Some negative plays with some penalties breaks your rhythm a little bit and you don't like that but we need to coach off of it, teach off of it, educate off of it and keep working forward. Can't complain about what these guys have done to this point, and we know we've got two weeks. This will be good to learn from for everybody and we'll start really focusing in Wednesday with Appalachian State."
You mentioned just getting them out there and getting them reps. How big do you think it is just for the freshman? They see the environment, they're here, was that kind of the main...
"Well, that's important. Then there are guys who are redshirt freshman or third-year sophomores who haven't played a lot but to get out, come down the tunnel – most of those guys, the only time they've been down the tunnel was on their visit or for games when they came as visitors and so going out there with that winged helmet on, going out there to have a big stake in what we're trying to get done I think is pretty significant. I think that helps."
Defense seemed to get the better of the offense in the running game. Have you seen more progress in the running game then we saw tonight?
"Yeah, yeah. The other night we ran the ball pretty well. Again, you can't play well one Saturday and not as well the next so there's another lesson of consistency there. Yeah, the defense I thought – and to be honest with you, they should. There's more veterans over there, more guys with game experience. I think defense always, to some degree, gets always a little ahead of the offense and it's been like that forever but we need to catch up offensively pretty fast."
You mentioned the vision of the backs you want improved but offensive line-wise, can you think of anything that's kind of keeping them from turning a corner?
"No, I don't think you can pinpoint anything particular. You've got to play with good leverage, you've got to be positive with your footwork, your hips have got to get down the field, and you've got to face blocks. I mean, it sounds easy but when you've got a defense that- we move a lot, we blitz a lot, it puts a little more pressure on them."
You mentioned on Sunday your primary depth chart at running back at that point without [Justice] Hayes. How's he been doing out there or how'd he do this week?
"Well, I think he's had a good week. Again, I don't know if any of them tonight in my opinion – again, this is without watching the tape but I think we've got to keep improving there and keep seeing things a little better."
You have two weeks to go. Your level of concern with the offensive line and the running game?
"Well, let me say this. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't concerned about all of our football team. You know, that's just being a coach. Do we need to improve still? There's no question about it. I think the running game, like I said, the other day we ran the ball pretty well."
[After THE JUMP: evaluations of the running backs, secondary, and more, and all the Jabrill Peppers talk that’s probably the reason you’re reading this in the first place]
Joe Bolden hype comes in both unapproved and approved forms.
We had the fortune to get a practice report from a deeply anonymous person who wormed their way Inside The Fort, and here is what he or she or it reported, in my words:
Jabrill Peppers is mostly a nickel back but they are giving him a few experimental snaps at safety. While it seems like they are going to start him out there, as the season develops he may get more playing time when Michigan has four DBs on the field by taking that SS spot. Delano Hill's absence complicates things. He was leading at SS before he injured his jaw.
The alarming O-Line lineup tweeted out was at least temporarily a real thing. FWIW, that was Cole-Magnuson-Miller-Dawson/Glasgow-Braden. Kalis was not repping much with the first team. The slash-Dawson in that line above should be taken with a grain of salt—he looked another year or two away in one-on-ones.
That unit was not looking great even by early fall practice standards, so maybe they switch it up. Hoke told the assembled horde at Media Day that they hoped to settle on a top five by next week. They're still in experiment mode.
Jeremy Clark is your leader at SS with Hill sidelined. Brandon Watson is apparently #3 there until Hill gets back. Thomas did not get a mention.
Sigh… Joe Bolden seems to be for real. This is not bad for Michigan in general. It is bad for me because if Bolden starts the opener over a healthy Desmond Morgan I eat a lemon on the internet. But he's continued to get more time than Morgan. Jenkins-Stone is also getting a lot of time, but for whatever reason Ross was held out of this practice so that may be more about his absence than anything else.
Jourdan Lewis may be your best corner. He will push Taylor heavily; they're already splitting reps down the middle and Lewis is outperforming not only him but Countess.
Norfleet looked "f---ing great" and is the #1 slot. No, the insider is not me. I swear. Canteen is practicing both inside and out as they try to figure out their best configuration.
DeVeon Smith is the #1 back. Green and Hayes seemed running neck and neck for #2, with Drake Johnson the last serious competitor behind them. Hoke announced at media day that Johnson was 1b to Smith's 1a, so maybe they're seeing subtler things. Or Green is still on the motivation train.
While Ty Isaac looked pretty good, they're mostly running him with/against scrubs. That seems like an indicator they don't expect to get a waiver for him.
There is some zone read. FWIW. They ran zone read drills under Borges, too.
The defense is "crazy aggressive." They are serious about it, deploying a ton of press—just like the spring game—and using Peppers as a freelance sower of destruction on blitzes. Linemen are shifting frequently, giving the offensive line issues with pickups.
The defensive line should have good depth. Hurst and Wormley were both mentioned as seeming like starter-quality players, and the just-returned Pipkins was praised for his agility. He dominated one-on-one sessions and made some spin moves that seemed "impossible" for a guy his size. OL caveats apply.
Expect a lot of screens. Screens are the way you deal with a wobbly OL.
In HTTV last year we made a strange assertion: that given the relative drop-off to their replacements, Kovacs would probably be missed more than Denard Robinson. I thought I'd pose the question now concerning this year's seniors, except there's one guy who could have gone 1st overall in the NFL draft LAST YEAR, and he's being replaced by either a member of the worst interior offensive line in Michigan memory or a guy who couldn't beat out one of those guys for playing time.
|Actually, #2 Taylor Lewan's twosie and #3 Taylor Lewan's pet pig are also out of the running. [Upchurch]|
So, OTHER than that guy,
Which senior will Michigan miss most next season?
Ace: I'll leave a couple very strong candidates aside—namely, Jeremy Gallon and Thomas Gordon—and go to the other bookend of the offensive line, Michael Schofield. Michigan already needs to get much (much) better play out of the interior of the line next year, not to mention a major step up in blocking from the backs and tight ends. Losing not just one, but two NFL-quality tackles means the Wolverines once again head into a new season with major uncertainty up front.
I expect the interior line to be better, especially since some of the true freshmen who weren't viable options this season—especially Patrick Kugler and David Dawson—should at least be ready to compete for a spot on the two-deep. Losing Schofield along with Lewan, however, means that there's almost no margin for error with the new tackles; Michigan needs to find two decent starters out of Ben Braden, Erik Magnuson, and... that's about it.
I guess Dawson could play right tackle, as could Kyle Kalis, but both are more natural fits inside. Chris Fox, coming off a major knee injury that delayed his freshman progress, and Logan Tuley-Tillman, a raw-upside prospect with a heavy emphasis on raw, probably won't be ready to step in and be very effective.
Losing Lewan hurts the most, of course; that's compounded by the absence of Schofield—who really came into his own this year—leaving Michigan with, at best, four relatively unproven players competing for two open tackle spots while the interior of the line is still very much a question mark.
[After the jump: Pining for (Scho)fields]