"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
Gratuitous video of the week: It's only appropriate that we lead off with some fullback SMASH.
THAT'S MANBALL YOU'RE PICKING OUT FROM YOUR SHATTERED TEETH, BRONCO WOOOOO
Reminder: dotted underline mean a video that will pop up for you when you click.
Formation notes: As noted by many, Michigan was about 70% shotgun in this game. They showed some I-form, a few ace sets, a few big sets, and one unbalanced line. I'm not sure breaking down the percentages is going to mean much given the paucity of snaps and big lead. We'll get a better picture of the offense in a pressure situation this week.
Substitution notes: Schofield played the entire game at left guard. Lewan had to come out for a couple snaps after losing a shoe; when that happened Mealer went in at RT and Huyge flipped to LT. Toussaint got the bulk of the work at RB with Shaw and Smith getting carries here and there.
Moore was the second TE and only one to play other than Koger; Hemingway, Roundtree, Gallon, Grady, and Dileo were receivers on passing downs. Jackson played but those were all runs IIRC.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M24||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||Down G||Robinson||11|
|Koger(+1) blocks down on the playside end as Lewan(+1) and Schofield(+1) pull around, both picking off linebackers. Toussaint(+1) leads the way for Robinson, hitting Schofield's guy as he threatens to break outside and driving the pair back into the last LB. Hemingway(-1) totally whiffs on his guy; Robinson can cut past him but slips to the ground just past the first down marker.|
|RUN+: Koger, Lewan, Schofield, Toussaint||RUN-: Hemingway|
|M35||1||10||Shotgun 2TE Twins||1||2||2||Base 3-4||Run||Zone read dive||Toussaint||4|
|The old Minor play where Robinson takes a step towards the LOS late and the RB attacks downhill. It's a little like the pistol. Schofield(+1) kicks out the playside DE; Molk and Omameh double the NT and there is a crease playside. It's getting filled by the S quickly but it's where Toussaint(-1) should go, probably. He cuts back. This puts him in the path of the NT, who is spinning backside; NT falls past the play. Toussaint is nimble enough to get behind him. This means he runs up the back of Molk and Omameh. That S and a few other guys make a pile.|
|RUN+: Schofield, Molk(0.5), Omameh(0.5)||RUN-: Toussaint(0.5)|
|M39||2||6||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||Base 3-4||Pass||Hitch||Roundtree||3|
|Simple pitch and catch as the CB bails at the snap. Defense reacts quickly and holds it down. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|M42||3||3||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||QB power off tackle||Robinson||4|
|Schofield pulls around. Huyge(-1) is blocking down and loses his slanting DE a bit. This isn't serious enough to get the DE in but the ground given up almost disrupts Schofield's pull. He does make it, though, kicking out a linebacker(+1). Omameh(+1) pancakes the other MLB; Toussaint(+1) kicks out the playside OLB. Safety is charging hard but can't get to Robinson before the first down.|
|RUN+: Schofield, Toussaint, Omameh||RUN-: Huyge|
|M46||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Tunnel screen||Gallon||1|
|Man, do I like the bubble way better here. The play action fake sucks the playside OLB up and if this was a bubble it would be one blocker, one defender, and Gallon—probably a good chunk. On the tunnel Gallon's coming inside just as the OLB reads the fake. He forces Gallon upfield and inside. Gallon does well to turn a two yard loss into a minimal gain. (CA, 3, screen, RPS -1)|
|M47||2||9||I-form||2||1||2||Base 4-3||Run||Power off tackle||Smith||4|
|Some third down back. Huyge(+1) gets a much better block this time, nailing his man inside and out of the gap. WMU is playing to spill this: the DE dives inside and an OLB scrapes over the top to catch bounce-outs. DE does a pretty good job, leaving Smith no choice but to hit it up behind Huyge's good block. In there Koger(-0.5) has only done a meh job on the MLB, who is sliding towards the LOS, where he trips Smith. I have an impulse to RPS -1 this that I know is bad.|
|O49||3||5||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||QB power off tackle||Robinson||10|
|Other side of the line so Omameh pulls. Lewan(+2) goes EPIC DONKEY, first blocking down on the DT with Schofield and sealing him, then peeling to pancake the playside LB. Omameh doesn't really have anyone to block; he's concentrating on the other LB but I'd like to see him read that and beeline for the safety. Those guys end up at a pile at the LOS; Robinson cuts behind it to avoid the safety and gets a few more.|
|RUN+: Robinson, Lewan(2)||RUN-:|
|O39||1||10||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||Base 4-4||Pass||PA TE Seam||Koger||11|
|Zone read fake draws up the linebackers and opens up Koger. Robinson zips it high, forcing Koger to extend to grab it. At the same time he gets lit up by the safety. He hangs on. Nice catch. (MA, 1, protection N/A)|
|O28||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read dive||Toussaint||5|
|Doubles on both DTs; the playside one sees Schofield shove the guy and move to the second level, where there is no one to block because the WMU LB has shot up through the gap to the inside. This is to no avail as Toussaint is already outside. He's got a lane. Molk is doing okay against the playside DT and the gap is narrow. That DT reaches out to arm-tackle. Toussaint hops through it and then has to leap over Lewan, who was chucked to the ground by the DE. He's then in no position to deal with the safety; he still gets decent yardage. I think half points for Lewan and Molk for creating the hole and a half point to Toussaint for getting what he can.|
|RUN+: Lewan(0.5), Molk(0.5), Toussaint(0.5)||RUN-:|
|O23||2||5||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||QB draw||Robinson||1|
|I'm not sure if this is anyone's fault or just an RPS. WMU line slants playside so the NT ends up impacting Omameh, not Molk. Omameh lets him outside, which means Robinson has to cut behind. This robs Toussaint of his angle on the MLB. I think I do blame Omameh(-1) because Schofield(+1) had the same problem and did better; Molk(-1) still had an MLB angle and whiffed. He tackles after a minimal gain.|
|RUN+: Schofield||RUN-: Molk, Omameh|
|O22||3||4||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Base 3-4||Pass||Speed out||Dileo||3|
|IE: cover zero. They send seven. Michigan runs speed outs with the slots and I think this is a missed read from the start since the safety is way off Grady on the other out and he's got an easier throw and obvious first down over there. As it is he does have Dileo and probably has a first down; he throws it upfield, forcing a diving catch that takes Dileo off his feet a yard short. (MA, 2, protection 1/1)|
|Straight up the middle with no lead blocker. Eh? Omameh(+1) latches onto the LB blitzing up the A gap and puts him on his ass. Molk(+1) gets under the NT and drives him back, and Huyge(+0.5) gets enough of the last LB. Toussaint slams it up.|
|RUN+: Omameh, Molk, Huyge(0.5)||RUN-:|
|O16||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||Zone read dive||Toussaint||-1|
|Lewan loses his shoe. Huyge flips to LT and Mealer comes in at RT. Blitz/slant from WMU. Blitzer cuts off the frontside of the play; on the backside Schofield(-1) and Huyge(-1) let the DE slant between them into the backfield. Schofield ends up running into Huyge behind the LOS. Mealer(-1) ends up blocking no one. Toussaint slows up and is lost. Run-: Mealer, Huyge, Schofield|
|O17||2||11||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Dig||Grady||15|
|PA stretch into the passing play where the TE leaks into the flat. WMU's WLB makes a great play; he's blitzing into the backside. He whacks Koger, then grabs him a bit and starts riding him downfield. First read closed. Robinson comes off it and hits Grady in the numbers just as he clears one linebacker in zone. Catch, first and goal. (CA+, 3, protection N/A)|
|O2||1||G||I-Form Big||2||2||1||Base 3-4||Run||Power off tackle||Toussaint||1|
|Actually blocked pretty well but just too many guys in the area. The safety who would normally be way downfield is at the LOS. Toussaint isn't big enough to plow him into the end zone. This is such a wad of bodies I hesitate to give anything out. No one seems to do anything wrong or exceptional. I guess Lewan gets a point for being the main thing that created the room down to the one.|
|Same play as the 4th and 1 and they get it. Again it seems like Lewan is the main reason, as he is playside of a tackle slanting into the gap and gets enough of him. But he also kind of gets annihilated. I'll abstain here.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-7, 14 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M21||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||TE Out||Koger||5|
|Meh gain that looks like a bad read. Slot is running the same pattern farther outside except the corner over there is being run off by a fly route. He could turn it up; Koger just gets chopped down by a linebacker. (CA, 3, protection 2/2, though Schofield had a little trouble.)|
|M26||2||5||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||QB lead draw||Robinson||2|
|Gets past the first level snappily as Schofield(+1) kicks out the playside DT. Omameh does okay with his guy but can't prevent him from getting playside when he starts giving ground. Still, he's through the hole. Molk contacts the MLB near the LOS and this spooks Robinson(-1) into the backside of the play, where the blocking is thin on the ground. It doesn't help that Hemingway(-1) was torn between two different guys and ends up blocking no one. The corner comes up hard; Denard jumps over him and looks like he just... might... fall over for two yards.|
|RUN+: Schofield||RUN-: Robinson, Hemingway|
|M28||3||3||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||TE Fly||Koger||Inc|
|WMU rushes four and gets stoned; Molk is driven back by a blitzer and then starts blowing that LB downfield. Robinson has a ton of time. He sees Koger breaking open downfield and decides to take a shot; the pass is long. Koger had good position on a DB but was step-for-step with him. Also it's third and three and you're Denard Robinson: run. (IN, 0, protection 3/3)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 11 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M26||1||10||Shotgun 2TE Twins||1||2||2||Base 4-4||Run||Pin and pull zone||Shaw||-1|
|This does not work at all. The idea is to pin a couple guys with down blocks and pull more and then have the RB work it out as he goes; nothing works here. Koger(-1), Omameh(-1), and Lewan(-1) get beaten on their down blocks. Huyge misses a hard-charging corner but that wouldn't be a problem if anyone else had made a block. Shaw(+1) manages to dodge that guy and a six-yard loss. Molk(-1) then runs by the guys flowing down the line before thinking better of it, giving him no cutback against the charging corner. This was a crapfest.|
|RUN+: Shaw||RUN-: Molk, Lewan, Koger(2), Omameh|
|This is a well-blocked play that gets held down because WMU is running cover zero and by the time Shaw crosses the LOS the FS is four yards away from him and charging. RPS -1. Molk and Omameh(+1 each) destroy a DT; Lewan and Schofield(+1 each) both kick out DL. McColgan kind of misses but not too badly; Shaw is one on one with a safety for a TD, but unfortunately this battle is going down three yards past the LOS.|
|RUN+: Molk, Omameh, Schofield, Lewan||RUN-:|
|M30||3||6||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Deep Hitch||Gallon||13|
|WMU sends five and gets picked up pretty well. WMU corner bails out early and Gallon cuts his route off; Denard zings it to him. Ball is a bit outside and upfield but nothing too bad; could argue he's keeping it away from defenders. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2)|
|M43||1||10||I-Form Big||2||2||1||Base 4-4||Pass||PA TE Cross||Moore||Inc (8 Pen)|
|Play action with a pulling guard suckers Western. Denard pulls up and floats one to Moore at about the sticks; he's tripped just as the ball gets there. On replay this looks like a pretty tough catch. (MA, N/A, protection 2/2)|
|O49||1||10||I-Form Big Unbalanced||2||2||1||Base 3-4||Run||Power off tackle||Smith||7|
|Moore at “RT”; Huyge on the left inside of Lewan. Huyge(+1)blocks the playside DE off the ball; Lewan(+1) gets a linebacker; McColgan(+2) blasts a linebacker back into a teammate, leaving no one for Omameh to block; Smith follows the blocks.|
|RUN+: Lewan, Huyge, McColgan(2)||RUN-:|
|Pitch and catch as a linebacker who might be able to cover this zooms into a flat with no one in it. Zone opens up. Denard zings it considerably behind Roundtree, who makes a tough spinning catch just as he's lit up. (MA, 1, protection 2/2)|
|O32||1||10||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||Base 3-4||Run||Zone read dive||Toussaint||10|
|Molk(+1) clubs the NT out of the hole. Lewan(+1) gets his helmet across the backside DE and then blocks him with his back; there's the crease. Toussaint(+1) hits it, then gets into the chest of a guy Schofield was trying to block, running through him for six yards.|
|RUN+: Lewan, Molk(2), Toussaint||RUN-:|
|Schofield(-2) smoked in pass pro, but the guy misses Robinson, and then another guy sort of inexplicably hits the ground. Missing Robinson means you are in trouble and he takes off on a weaving, darting run. By my count he slips three tackles and turns a six yard loss into a first down. (SCR, N/A, protection -2, Schofield)|
|O10||1||G||I-Form||2||1||2||Base 4-4||Run||Quick pitch||Shaw||5 + 2 pen|
|I kind of hate this play since it depends on suckering an unblocked guy or having your RB make a great play. Here WMU blitzes off the edge, suckering by default, and the CB is still totally unblocked. Huyge(+1) does a great job of sealing the playside LB; Roundtree(-2) runs at the same guy, leaving the corner to charge up unmolested. Shaw(+2) jukes him , gets five yards, and then gets hit OOB.|
|RUN+: Shaw(2), Huyge||RUN-: Roundtree(2)|
|O2||1||G||I-Form Big||2||2||1||Base 4-4||Run||Iso||Toussaint||2|
|Nothing on the frontside; Toussaint sees this and cuts behind Koger(+1), who's driving down-the-line block opened up a cutback lane.|
|RUN+: Toussaint, Koger||RUN-:|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown(blocked XP), 20-7, 1:50 2nd Q|
|Miss the play because of technical difficulties.|
|We come back just in time to see a scrambling Robinson nearly throw a pick in the direction of Moore. (BR, 0, protection ??)|
|M45||3||6||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Slant||Roundtree||Inc|
|Well defended; pass thrown in front of Roundtree anyway. Mitigating factor: it is now raining like mad. (IN, 0, protection 2/2, special commendation to Smith for a blitz pickup)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 20-10, 14 min 3rd Q|
|M13||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Nickel 4-3||Run||Zone read dive||Toussaint||43|
|For the first time all game that's not a passing down WMU removes a linebacker from the box and places him over the receivers. The WMU DE has to form up on the zone read; Huyge(+1) gets the MLB and Omameh(+1) shoves the NT well past the play; he slanted playside when Michigan stepped to a zone. Big cutback lane that Toussaint(+1) hits fast enough that he's by the last LB despite his angle not giving Molk an opportunity to block him. I guess that's RPS +2 if only because this was easy.|
|RUN+: Huyge, Omameh, Toussaint||RUN-:|
|O44||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Nickel 4-3||Pass||PA seam||Dileo||Inc|
|Zone read dive fake sucks up both linebackers and one safety, leaving Dileo open for six; Denard throws it well behind him. (IN, 1, protection 1/1, RPS +3|
|O44||2||10||Shotgun trips TE||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Run||Zone read dive||Shaw||44|
|This may be what was supposed to happen on the previous play, with both LBs hitting the backside hole after the line slants playside. Problem: two blockers there. Schofield(+2) and Lewan(+2) annihilate the linebackers; the DE is held outside by Robinson. Then the umpire(+2) picks off the safety. Good job ump. Shaw just has to run straight upfield. I guess that's +1? Also RPS+2? This is why the zone read is powerful. On both these plays it erased the DE, giving a numerical advantage.|
|RUN+: Schofield(2), Lewan(2), Shaw, Umpire(2)||RUN-:|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 34-10, 6 min 3rd Q|
|M25||1||10||I-Form||2||1||2||Base 4-3||Pass||PA post||Hemingway||37|
|Hemingway comes in motion inside and Michigan runs play action, pulling(!) the backside guard as if this is power. This sucks in both linebackers and one safety, who is five yards rom the LOS in a flash. Oops. Denard sets up and has Hemingway free on a post one on one with a corner. Denard puts it up. The ball is a bit short but I'd rather it's a little short and you give up five yards than missing long here; Hemingway posts up and brings it in. (CA, 2, protection 2/2, RPS+2)|
|O38||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Run||Zone read dive||Toussaint||3|
|WMU has flipped their formation and manages not to give up 40 yards on this. Michigan gets confused as to what they should do, as Omameh(-0.5) and Huyge(-0.5) end up doubling a DT without trying to scoop him and end up leaving the MLB unblocked. Toussaint(+1) swiftly cuts behind that block and gets out of that gap. WMU did run a scrape here; Huyge has pulled off to take on the crashing DE. The scraper read the handoff and is in position to tackle at the LOS. Here the ZR did not option off a defender. RPS -1|
|RUN+: Toussaint||RUN-: Omameh, Huyge|
|O35||2||7||Ace twin TE||1||2||2||Base 4-3||Run||Power off tackle||Toussaint||11|
|WMU slants under the down-block from Schofield(-1) to get a DT into the backfield; he delays the pulling Omameh. Koger(+1) is a lead blocker and bangs a linebacker who's sucked too far inside. The slant plus that equals just a morass of bodies; Toussaint(+2) bounces out like whoah, breaking contain and dodging a safety for good yardage. Lewan(+1) clubbed a linebacker to the ground as well.|
|RUN+: Toussaint(2), Koger, Lewan||RUN-: Schofield|
|O24||1||10||Shotgun twin TE||1||2||2||Base 4-4-||Run||QB power off tackle||Robinson||2|
|Cover zero in a driving rain storm means this run is overwhelmed and it's tough to block everyone. Charting this is pointless.|
|Drive Notes: EOG, 34-10.|
Well, Mr. Fear of MANBALL, don't you feel silly?
Um, well… I'm not sure yet. We had five and a half drives against a MAC team, some of which were in a pouring storm. The jury is still out. As far as the blocking schemes go… I have to admit I'm a little worried. After years of noting that Molk can get his helmet across damn near anyone if tasked with a reach block, he wasn't asked to try it once against Western. The play at the beginning I thought was a stretch was actually a Down G, which they did run last year. All this interior blocking minimizes the advantage Molk possesses that seems likely to get a relative shrimp like Molk a job in the NFL.
For the record, Michigan's run breakdown:
- Down G (gap): one for 11 yards on the first snap.
- Power (gap): three RB carries for 7.3 YPC. Three QB carries for 5.3 YPC.
- Draw: two QB draws for three yards.
- Quick pitch: one for five.
- Inside zone: seven for 15.4 YPC. Woo small sample size!
There were also four short yardage plays. Two were dives from a two TE ace formation with Toussaint lined up three yards from the LOS, a third was an iso out of an I-Form Big, and the last was a power from the same formation. The dives/iso got first downs or TDs; the power got a yard on first and goal from the two. These aren't included in the YPC numbers I'll be tracking since they'll unfairly ding under center carries that are successful if they get a yard.
Shotgun carries averaged 10.6 YPC. From under center they averaged 6.8. Zone/gap was split about evenly but there was no outside zone. Obviously these are massive sample sizes that should be taken with deathly seriousness.
SAY IT YOU SILLY PERSON
Hoke uber alles?
Indeed. Tell us about our sumptuous quarterback who is the awesomest.
Uh… he kind of sucked.
LIES UNLESS THERE'S A CHART ALSO PROBABLY EVEN IF THERE IS ONE YOU LYING CHARTMONGER CHART
Chart. I'll throw in last year for comparison:
|2009, All Of It||1||7||6(2)||3(1)||4||4||-||-||?||44%|
This is also a huge sample size not acquired in the process of herding animals into an ark and must be taken seriously.
But… yeah, when people were saying Robinson was a disappointment they were not wrong. That's his worst downfield day since he was a confused freshman and frankly some of those MAs could have been INs. I mean, Dileo touchdown easy biff sad. He didn't do much on the ground other than use his speed on the first play from scrimmage and dance around on that one scramble. In addition, two of those non-bad throws were bad reads where he had a better option. The weird nature of the game obviates a lot of that but if Denard does not go all Denard on Notre Dame there are going to be some nervous people around here.
I don't think much of it can be ascribed to operating from under center since he was missing plenty even when it was dry and he was operating from the shotgun. The throws he was asked to make didn't seem much different than what he was doing last year, but it's possible some of the inaccuracy was a timing issue. Saturday will be the first real test.
YOU SON OF A—
How about some more charts?
Receivers follow; I'll refrain from duplicating the first game totals. You can figure it out:
Very little to go on when there are 13 attempts but for what little action they got they did superbly, bailing out Robinson on two occasions and helping twice with no drops.
Finally, you can see the effect of the change in run offense on Molk's numbers:
|Omameh||4.5||2.5||2||Lot of pulling; bear with me as I adapt to the new style.|
|Huyge||4.5||2.5||2||All right, as per usual.|
|Schofield||8||2||6||Good debut; did get smoked on the Denard scramble.|
|Moore||-||-||-||Did some blocking but didn't register good or bad.|
|TOTAL||34.5||11||22.5||Solid; running does seem considerably left-handed.|
|Robinson||4||1||3||Most of this on the scramble.|
|Toussaint||8.5||0.5||8||I like him. May be a little exuberant though.|
|Shaw||4||-||4||Half of this on the quick pitch, another point for running fast on TD|
|Smith||-||-||-||Third down back my patootie.|
|McColgan||2||-||-||One slamming block.|
|TOTAL||18.5||1.5||17||We'll see if this holds up with more sample size.|
|TOTAL||0||4||-4||Not a good day on the outside. Held down a couple runs.|
That's a lot of plusses, but the numbers say they're warranted as Michigan ripped off 7.3 YPC and would have threatened 250 yards rushing if the game had been completed. Rushing is not a concern yet. Notre Dame looms.
Little enthusiastic about Toussaint there, aren't' you?
I admit that when the number came up I was like "oh, someone wants a good running back this year and has corrupted himself to get it." This was pretty sweet, though:
That bounce is super-quick and correct. Toussaint showed good vision all day and that is 11 yards from nothing.
Lewan was the best of the OL, Toussaint had a good debut, and the receivers as a unit were near flawless.
Er, Denard? Please don't pelt me with radioactive socks.
What does it mean for Notre Dame and beyond?
Man, I ain't extrapolating much from a few plays run in blistering heat or a driving rainstorm against a MAC opponent that got outscored by Michigan's defense. I think we'll see a multiple offense that leans on the shotgun in crunch time; I think Toussaint is for real and will be a B+ starter this year; I seriously hope they're not just going to shelve the stretch all year.
Against better teams I think the only way they get that safety in the box is by using Denard as that extra guy in the run game—the two long ones this week were zone reads where WMU did not scrape, providing Michigan a numerical advantage. Let's say it a third time: next week will be the test.
Rating: 3 of 5.
|Mike Shaw||Sr.||John McColgan||Sr.*|
|Fitzgerald Toussaint||So.*||Steve Watson||Sr.*|
|Vincent Smith||Jr.||Joe Kerridge||Fr.|
For some reason I feel real good about this group of guys.
The Tenuous Starter
|carlos brown fast…|
|just runs by the SLB|
|make a decisive cut|
|burst into the open field|
|cuts hard backside|
|…but doesn't fall over if you breathe on him|
|runs through three tackles|
|spins for YAC|
|keeps balance on goal line|
|always falls funny|
|just UMass but still|
|vision can be laughable|
|complete stop in hole|
After two years of injury, redshirt sophomore Fitzgerald Toussaint seemed on his way to Bolivia. Maybe that judgment was a bit hasty, but he was healthy for chunks of last year and couldn't push his way past a thoroughly mediocre group in front of him (he had eight carries), so the internet jumped to conclusions. That's what the internet does.
The internet has recently jumped to another conclusion based on rapturous scrimmage reports and Toussaint getting the Golden Carry in front of the media before they were abruptly ushered out of practice. Everyone else can go to Bolivia: we're going with Fitz.
The thing is this also happened last year. Toussaint redshirted due to a shoulder injury, then started building up the hype train. By the time last fall's preview rolled around, Fred Jackson had called him Mike Hart (except fast) and Chris Perry (except fast) and local insiders were saying he was a "clear #1" in the tailback derby.
Toussaint followed this surge in momentum up by damaging himself. An ankle injury took him down late in last year's fall camp. He was was listed as "out" on the injury report for UConn and Notre Dame and didn't play against UMass. When he got on the field against Bowling Green he ripped off a long run and a touchdown… and then immediately hurt his knee. He was then out for Iowa, MSU, Illinois, and Penn State. To date he's been china in a bull shop.
While the Jackson hype spotlight has moved on to the new freshman hotness, Hoke and Borges have focused on Toussaint. So have the papers, though when they focus on him they are lying like a boss:
"I wasn't as comfortable (last year) as I am in this offense," said Stephen Hopkins (6-0, 228).
Fitzgerald Toussaint, like Hopkins, is a bigger back — stronger and more physical, and this type of offense fits his style.
"I like this offense a little bit better," said Toussaint (5-10, 195). "It's smash-mouth football."
Guh? Toussaint is not large. He is a bigger back in the way Mike Hart is a bigger back: not at all (except fast!). All round knowledge must be reshaped to fit into the new square knowledge holes.
If Toussaint grabs the job he'll be closer to Hart than Shaw or Hopkins. I'm not sure if he is Except Fast—that long run above features BGSU players running him down from behind, but he was the 60M state champ in high school. Hopefully his injury issues were the cause.
Because of those issues, we have little more than the BGSU runs and his high school tape to go on. That tape again:
I like it. It makes me tingly. Tousssaint seems to have that jittery short-range quickness that allows little guys to survive, even thrive, as they pick their way through the chaos.
I'm hoping he emerges as the guy. If he beats out a healthy Shaw he'll be well on his way to translating that tape to college, and I could get used to a jump-cutting Houdini with sprinter's speed. Toussaint is the offense's Roh: the wildcard. Anything from Mike Hart (except crappy :( ) to Mike Hart (except fast!) is possible.
Third Down Back
|gets what you give him…|
|here's a free touchdown|
|Y U NO FAST|
|…and sometimes more|
|whiffed Purdue tackle|
|dancing past Huskies|
|slips through small holes|
|flare screen specialist|
|LB + Smith = easy slant|
|srsly about slant|
|still flare specialist|
|cuts charging slot LB|
|pops S pretty good|
When Al Borges said Michigan had settled on a third down back but he wouldn't tell the public who it was, the existence of the role was far more interesting than who it might be. It was bloody obvious who it was: Vincent Smith. He is 5'6" and the coaches have spent the fall gushing about his toughness. He played as a freshman because he was a better pass blocker than anyone else after Minor got too banged up to stay in if he wasn't running. If you need some one to leak out into the flat or annihilate a blitzer, he's your guy.
That's what they mean, right? They don't mean to run him on third and freaking one over and over again, do they? I'm not thinking about this possibility. Eat it, paranoid fears of irrational coaching decisions past.
Those taken care of, Smith has actually suffered a demotion by taking the new role. He was the only Michigan player to exceed 50% of Denard's carries last year. He didn't tear up the field with them, averaging a meh 4.5 YPC. The clips at right are not exactly "wow" moments. Smith seems to have a good sense for how his blocking will set up; he does not break many tackles or drag carriers for YAC, nor does he juke guys out of their jocks. He's just a guy.
The hope with Smith is that the ACL injury he sustained in the '09 Ohio State game was not entirely healed last year, or at least Smith had not recovered the jitterbug agility that caused me to attribute "top-end shiftiness" to him, channel my inner Fred Jackson by comparing Smith to Hart after he did this…
…and declare "I will not be dissuaded" that he would start next year (check) and be good (eh… not so much). This year will determine whether that was excessive enthusiams based on small sample size or the real, ACL-having Smith.
Smith's lack of rushing yards was one thing, but the weird thing was his lack of involvement in the passing game. After making ten catches in less than a game and a half at the end of his freshman year, he made only 15 during the entirety of 2010. That's quite a bit what less than the "30, 40, even 50" I predicted before the season. This year he'll probably get towards the 30 range; his rushing attempts will dip but not that much unless you believe the two guys in front of him are going to be super mega healthy, which would be a silly thing to believe. Like his Pahokee teammate Odoms, Smith is a useful piece opponents won't lose sleep over.
|massive short yardage overreaction|
|not Vincent Smith|
|can move laterally|
|good agility for beef machine|
|lead block for Denard|
|kicking out for Denard|
|great vision here|
|clubs PSU LB|
Now we descend into the woolly depths. Sophomore Stephen Hopkins is a surprise find down here. A big mooseback with no competition on the roster when it comes to being 230 pounds and capable of carrying a football, Hopkins was hailed as the obvious solution to the tailback issue once Hoke installed MANBALL. Hell, I was arguing that even sans manball Hopkins and his blocking heft were the best fit in a Denard-heavy running offense.
So of course Hopkins has been a virtual non-entity this fall. He did show up in a Media Day interview seeming chipper and vowing he hadn't played a snap at fullback; other than that he's been invisible save a couple of "oh and that guy" references from the coaches.
The insider chatter keeps mentioning the doghouse, and eagle-eyed observers of the season preview of Inside Michigan Football caught him doing something called "log rolling," which I thought was when you tried not to fall off a log into a lake. It turns out to also refer to a punitive activity people inflict on football players. Hopkins is doing it. So… yeah, he's in the doghouse. Since that doesn't seem to be a weight problem it's an off-field issue.
Whatever it is it will have to be serious if it's going to knock Hopkins off the field long term. He's the only guy on the roster with a plausible claim to being a short-yardage mauler, and we're all sick of watching Vincent Smith on third and one. He fills a role and fills it well; unless the Rawls hype is something other than the usual Fred Jackson stuff Hopkins will be the guy they call on when they want to MAN some BALLS in a VAN down by the FIRST DOWN MARKER.
I think he'll have a role elsewhere as well. That thump-thump section at right makes a good case that if you're trying to maximize Denard's effectiveness Hopkins is your guy. While Smith is the best pass blocker available, when he impacts a linebacker he's just trying to stall him. He does not do this:
Hopkins creates windows other backs don't. When three yards and a cloud of dust is a win, he'll be in there.
After Hopkins it's freshmen and obscurity. Thanks to the tireless efforts of the Jackson family the least obscure kid down here is Thomas Rawls. He's Mark Ingram except faster… or Kevin Grady not asked to run stretch plays. Even before he was laid up with a shoulder issue in fall camp he'd fallen behind the veterans. Catching up now is going to be difficult. If he's as difficult to tackle as the Jacksons say he could wrest the short yardage job from Hopkins while he's in the doghouse; more realistically he'll get a few carries here and there in preparation for more serious efforts in 2012 and beyond. Fellow freshman Justice Hayes [recruiting profile] looks like he'll redshirt. A move to receiver is a possibility.
Finally, redshirt junior Mike Cox finds himself buried on the depth chart even after the coaching change he celebrated with some unwise tweets. He can be the most physically talented running back on the roster all he wants. He's just about out of chances, and he's nowhere near the field. We'll always have long runs in garbage time, Mike.
We've seen very little from Michigan fullbacks since the advent of the Rodriguez era. When it came time to bulk up Rodriguez would just run Robinson at the line, bring in Webb and Koger at the same time, or use one of the tailbacks as a lead blocker.
Appearances by John McColgan were infrequent, too infrequent to draw conclusions. He did catch one of those two-yard touchdown passes fullbacks are always reeling in and whack Clayborn with help from Huyge on a third and short against Iowa.
He's a senior and should be all right. Moving Steve Watson to an H-back type spot suggests he won't be anything more than a specialist. I'm betting fullbacks are only more prevalent when Michigan is "imposing its will" on an opponent, and by "imposing its will" I mean "boring the hell out of everyone in the third quarter against a MAC opponent." Here is the mandatory fluff article about his increased role in MANBALL anyway.