FWIW. Michigan doesn't seem inclined to get re-involved.
I tried this last year but then dropped off, but I'll try it again: when you write 15k words about a football game people who know more than you are going to point out errors. This will be a collection of items people send me about stuff they think I got wrong; if I'm sticking to my guns I'll mention why, but this is all very complicated so reasonable people will disagree at times.
Chris Brown of Smart Football added some stuff that's not actually a disagreement but it would be a shame for it to molder in the inbox:
1. Michigan ran this play a few times with good success:
It was probably the best "dropback" pass I saw Denard run. I saw him throw both to the outside receiver and to the RB. In your description you called it a "slant" and the RB's route as a "screen," but the concept is called the "snag" concept (or triangle). I'd say it's currently the most popular route combination in the Big 10, as Ohio State, Purdue, Penn State and now Michigan all feature it as a staple play. I discussed it on Smart Football.
On the backside Michigan has some kind of fade/out combo but we'll see if he gives the QB freedom to go that way. It's a good play for Denard (and Terrelle Pryor, for that matter) because it's easily completed.
[Ed: this was the first instance of this route combo in the game; as the game progressed I got a handle on the combo and how frequently it's used. Good to know it's widespread and effective. Robinson completed each instance of the snag for good yardage except once when he threw the flare route when the LB was charging it down, opening up the slant bit.]
2. Denard's worst pass of the game was the bootleg where Roy Roundtree gets lit up. I think you were right that it should have been thrown to the outside receiver in the hole before the safety could get over.
3. The really encouraging thing though is that he followed it up with his best pass of the night [to Grady on third and eleven]. The long fake bubble pass was fun, but this was a college throw. The best part? The play was four verticals (I think you said it was a deep hitch). This wasn't exactly a "read" route but clearly the receiver had freedom to bend it and find the hole, and Denard threw it in the open window -- this wasn't where he was told to throw it, he reacted to the coverage. Great throw.
[Ed: Part of the disconnect here is I usually put down the route instead of the concept; that's something to work on.]
Genuinely Sarcastic's run chart is up and it's mostly in line with mine, though it appears toBrian is less inclined to give out pluses and minuses. He's higher on Molk than Schilling but still high on both, thought Koger was way better than Webb, and gave Omameh a solidly negative –6. Also Denard picks up a –2 but toBrian admits "this is where the metric is flawed." FWIW, I'm handing out pluses when the tailback does something that gains yards past what the blocking sets up.
Some complaints in the comments that I've been too harsh on Ezeh, and a response from Burgeoning Wolverine Star about the play specifically highlighted:
He picture-pages the play, highlighting Kovacs dropping into the deep middle and thus taking himself out of position to fill the hole on the interior.
Here, you can see that Kovacs is still backpedaling, now 4 yards deeper than he was pre-snap. Mouton is being hit by the playside slot receiver. UConn's left guard has now pulled across the formation and is in perfect position to block Ezeh. Ezeh's job here is to plug the hole that Todman is supposed to run through. He does this by hitting that pulling guard. It's then Kovacs' job to come into the play and make the tackle. Unfortunately, Kovacs isn't done backpedaling yet.
I don't know about this one. I pulled the play to highlight a trend I saw all day—Ezeh getting put on his butt—and wasn't really focused on the action of the deep safety. I think BWS is right that I should have minused Kovacs for a late read, which turned this from four or five yards into nine, but a linebacker in that situation needs to keep his feet and look to come off his blocker and tackle, which is something Ezeh managed on UConn's last meaningful(-ish) snap but didn't do the rest of the day. Whatever the responsibilities of the MLB in the 3-3-5, they include staying on your feet.
MGoUser AAL sent in some clarifications as well:
- On a 15-yard dumpoff to the FB (UConn drive 2, play 4), which I said "looked like a busted coverage" but could not tell who it was on: A misalignment and a bust. Michigan is playing Cover 3 behind a weakside zone blitz. First, Kovacs has the boundary third and is absolutely toasted if this ball gets thrown his way. (You can see he was busy trying to get untoasted, too, when Gordon arrives in the frame toward the end before he does.) The de facto OLBs should have curl-to-flat responsibilities and they both take initial curl drops. The curl zone is a greater threat because a pass to the flat takes longer to arrive and the defense can use the sideline to help. For some reason Ezeh is lined up over the center, then aborts his drop at the curl. Roh would be the hook-to-hole guy and takes a really poor drop which is probably due to lack of experience in pass coverage. The #1 receiver to strength runs a hitch, but given how long that ball would take to arrive there is enough time for the CB to recover and for the OLB to rally to the ball.
- On the next play, a 20 yard power run: I’d give Floyd more credit. If he allows himself to be reached, there’s one OL left to block Kovacs and the RB is going to the endzone. On the other hand Ezeh does everything wrong. One of the first things you learn as a LB is not to go underneath blocks. If you do, you have zero chance of making the play. There is a point where Ezeh sees the WR(!) coming to block him and makes that decision anyway. It cannot be more easily demonstrated than the WR doing nothing, but inviting him to go underneath and barely even touching him as he flails to the ground. By doing this, his chance of making the play went from 30% to near 0. [Ed: I did not minus Ezeh at all on this play.]
- On the next play, which was the post thrown to the goal line but low and not dug out: Gordon was very disciplined here. He has the deep middle third and has two verts coming up the hashes. He’s dead center and favoring either is certain death. For some reason Floyd had plenty of depth and doesn’t close down on the WR with the ball in the air. Could be mental/freshman/other mistake. Impossible to say. [Ed: I didn't neg the coverage or Floyd here; I did think Gordon was in position for a potential killshot if the ball was better thrown.
- First play of drive three, the first ball over Carvin Johnson's head, the dropped one: Another manipulation of Cover 3. UConn was using a levels concept into the sideline (deep/intermediate/shallow) to put the deep third and flat defender in a bind. Lots of time to come open when rushing 3. No idea what Gordon is doing. Also, more importantly this: when M was in Cover 3 vs. no width (TE only), Kovacs was playing up on the line and responsible only for running w/ the TE. He is absolutely toasted. [Ed: I gave a –2 to Johnson there; I've heard from other people that even if there's going to be a window there in cover 3, it shouldn't be as large.]
The overall impression is one of deep fear about Kovacs against Notre Dame, especially in his effort of cover Rudolph, though elsewhere AAL says he's not that impressed with ND's TE… when it comes to the NFL. Okay. Relevancy against Kovacs? Eh… not so much.
Elsewhere, the UConn blog takes a look at their first offensive snap, which didn't go well thanks to Cam Gordon.
Previously: The Story.
What's the point of anything?
I ask this question for reasons existential and practical. Earlier this summer Eleven Warriors pinged me for some help previewing Michigan's defense, so I talked about Mike Martin and the rest of the promising defensive line and mentioned the trouble at linebacker; the section on the secondary was simply this: "rank them last." At this point Justin Turner was still on the team and Troy Woolfolk's ankle was unaware of what Angry Michigan Secondary Hating God had in store for it.
When it, he, and we found out AMSHG's true power in mid-August I started drinking immediately, resulting in a night where I finally used twitter as God intended by blathering about having a power drill, burning my elbow on tea, coughing, not coughing, and finally drinking a horrible concoction of Cointreau with anything (the whiskey had been exhausted) and eating cold squash pakora with a slice of American cheese while mournfully contemplating everything from Mike Floyd to whatever 5'8" guy UMass will throw out there this year. The next day Henri the Otter of Ennui made his earliest-ever appearance on the blog (setting a record that will probably stand for all time) while I enumerated the options left at corner, mentioning Richard Nixon twice before a nominal first-string player at the semi-public fall scrimmage. Even if I've calmed down since, and I have a little bit, that's the existential chunk.
The practical chunk: the probable starters at corner, safety, and the safety-ish position that was called spinner (except when Greg Robinson was denying such a concept ever existed) and is now called spur are:
- at free safety, a redshirt freshman
- at spur, a true freshman (who will be treated as a linebacker, FWIW)
- at bandit, a redshirt sophomore walk-on
- at one corner, a redshirt sophomore pulled in favor of Mike Williams last year, and
- at the other corner, a true freshman.
Meanwhile, literally every backup except the aforementioned Williams has never played a meaningful snap at Michigan because they arrived two months ago or, in the case of James Rogers, was just one of those guys who seems like they're never going to play from day one. I could just point you to their recruiting profiles, tell you they'll be in the conversation for worst secondary in the league, and resume cowering in a closet. Previewing this position group is almost totally pointless: I've never really seen anyone play. They're probably going to be bad.
If this is an insufficient description of the situation, though, well, here's all this stuff.
|Corner #1||Yr.||Corner #2||Yr.|
|JT Floyd||So.*||Cullen Christian||Fr.|
|Courtney Avery||Fr.||James Rogers||Sr.*|
|Terrence Talbott||Fr.||Tony Anderson||Jr.*#|
[* = player has taken redshirt. # = walk-on.]
Technically, the position preview scale goes from one to five. Nothing has ever gotten a zero before even jokingly, not even the 2008 offensive line that consisted of seven guys who could plausibly play and actually started a defensive tackle who had been switched in the middle of fall camp. But I thought about it here. What Michigan has to offer at corner is going to be substandard unless a great miracle falls from the sky, and will probably be no better than last year's fare even before Woolfolk moved.
|SMOKED LIKE GANJA|
|The big touchdown.|
|doomed from the start|
|MADE A PLAY!|
|knocking it down|
The single person at this position who Michigan fans have seen on the field is redshirt sophomore JT Floyd. On the one hand, he was so overmatched last year that Michigan decided they should move Troy Woolfolk to his spot and unleash Mike Williams on the world; Williams promptly gave up a third-and-twenty-four conversion to Iowa and was subsequently swapped with freshman walk-on Jordan Kovacs, leaving a tiny, slow, inexperienced guy no one even recruited in the most critical spot on the defense. This went exactly as well as you might expect. The coaches thought this was preferable to having Floyd on the field.
For my part, the Indiana UFR waved a white flag even at 4-0:
Whatever lingering hopes you had that the corner spot opposite Warren could turn into a non-liability should be put in the corner and told to be quiet for a while. JT Floyd did better than I thought he did live but still remains a timid redshirt freshman who transparently lacks the speed to be an elite corner. Michigan is going to have to cover up for him.
So did the game column:
Seeing an Indiana freshman zip past not only the walk-on safety gamely pretending he doesn't run a 4.8 but the scholarship, potentially-starting cornerback not named Donovan Warren was alarming. If JT Floyd is going to play corner in the Big Ten he's going to do it ten yards off the line of scrimmage.
Floyd held onto his job for the Michigan State game, but that game saw Michigan adopt a fundamentally unsound formation featuring Floyd in the parking lot. State exploited this with a ton of virtually uncontested wide receiver screens:
They then countered those with the outside pitches that were the only consistently successful running plays Michigan State managed all day (QB scrambles were another story). Floyd may not have gotten smoked deep but it was only because he was playing Hail Mary defense all game. Seeing how untenable that situation was, Michigan's coaches made the move to Woolfolk at corner, thus opening up the already pretty much wide open floodgates. Except for sporadic plays and special teams duty, thus ended Floyd's participation in the 2009 season.
On the other hand, the coaches have been talking up his improvement since spring and have continued to do so through fall. Rodriguez 4/13: Floyd has "played well." Rodriguez 8/2: Floyd is coming off "a great spring." Also on 8/2: Rodriguez expresses "particular confidence" in Floyd and drops the t-bomb—"tremendous." Greg Robinson 8/11: Floyd is showing "a lot of progress." A spring practice source: Floyd is "vastly improved." And Robinson and Gibson on 8/25:
"J.T. Floyd may have been the guy that made the biggest jump from last season to the end of spring ball in so many ways," Robinson said on Sunday. "There's nothing any different - he's just worked really hard. J.T. just has a way about him - he leads well and his work habits - he's just a harder worker than he was at this time last year."
Gibson concurs. "He's done such a complete turnaround. You just take last year at this time, and he was just a guy really trying to work to the point that he’s at right now, and he’s done it."
|Indiana||4.5||8||-3.5||Tries hard. Clearly
|MSU||3||3||0||I'll take it.|
How meaningful is any of this? The fear is not very. This is replica of the Johnny Sears hype down to the sweet dreads: after being largely responsible for that heart-stopping moment when Ball State had a first and goal with a shot to tie Michigan in the '06 season, Johnny Sears was in line for a starting cornerback job after the graduation of Leon Hall. Sears was talked up all offseason, failed miserably during the Horror, was quickly yanked for true freshman Donovan Warren, and was off the team a month into the 2007 season. While that outcome is an negative outlier even with Angry Michigan Secondary-Hating God at full wroth, it goes to show that sometimes a coach praising a kid who's struggled and is being thrust into a prominent role is more hope than anything else. Our best hope may be that anonymous spring observer, who has no reason to pump up a kid in the hopes he'll keep it together.
Floyd was just a freshman last year and should improve significantly. The chatter's consistent enough and from enough sources that some of it is probably real. Average is about all anyone can hope for, though.
The other corner spot will probably (50.1%!) end up in the hands of freshman Cullen Christian. James Rogers had a tentative hold on the first string in the semi-public fall scrimmage that he maintained to the release of the fall depth chart, but since he hasn't played at all in his Michigan career—not even when the walls were falling in last year—he's likely to cede that by the time the season rolls around. If not by then, probably by the Big Ten season.
Christian gets the ultra-tentative nod here simply by virtue of his recruiting rankings, which were strong. He checked in a near five-star at Scout, a top 100 guy at Rivals, and hit three other top 100 lists. He's not a burner; his main assets are his size (6'1"), leaping ability, and excellent hips. ESPN praised his "coveted size, quickness, fluidity and savvy" and said he would enter college "ahead of the curve in terms of technique, understanding of coverages and size," and assessment basically echoed by Rivals and the rest of the chattering class. His main problem is tackling, at which he's pretty sucky.
How doomed is Michigan here? Still pretty doomed. But it is worth pointing out that if there's one spot on defense where a freshman can walk onto the field and not spoil everything, it's corner, where conservative play and safety help can mitigate the damage.
What, Me Backups?
The backups are unknowns or freshmen. The aforementioned James Rogers was a lanky high school tailback reputed to have great straight-line speed but no hips; Michigan took him as a flier recruit. He has not panned out, bouncing from wide receiver to cornerback for the duration of his career.
Rogers did come in for some fall fluff during Rodriguez's post-scrimmage presser:
James Rogers is a senior that has played over that position. He has had a really good camp. Some of the young freshman that are competing out there at that position … Again, James Rogers is a veteran. He has been around a little bit, so we have a little experience with James out there as well.
He has to play and may even get the bulk of the time early. The assumption here is that even if he's currently ahead of the freshmen he probably won't remain so for very long.
The two remaining freshmen are extremely similar. Terrence Talbott and Courtney Avery are middling three-star types from Ohio; Avery is probably the better athlete, since he was a star quarterback; Talbott is more polished since he's been a full-time corner but spent a lot of his high school career injured. Both approached but did not get four stars on one of the big three recruiting sites; both got "meh" from the other two; both are generously listed at 5'10" and truthfully listed at 165 pounds. They need 20 pounds before they're anything approximating Big Ten corners. Instead they get thrown into the fire immediately.
Talbott in a sentence:
The book on Talbott: short, smart, agile, excellent in coverage but needs a year or two to bulk up for college.
I don't have anything quite as neat on Avery but both Scout and ESPN praise his "exceptional athleticism" while calling him very, very small.
Reports out of fall camp have been conflicting, with certain folk claiming one or the other will play, possibly a lot, while the other is way too small and a guaranteed redshirt. There wasn't much to tell them apart during the scrimmage; whichever one does get drafted into playing this year is going to play a lot of conservative zone coverage and miss a lot of tackles.
There were rumors Kelvin Grady might get a shot at corner but with Martavious Odoms apparently moving outside full-time there's room for him to play at slot and he's been prominent this fall; if he does end up moving it will be a midseason panic thing. Teric Jones was moved back to offense after spending a year trying to learn cornerback, getting moved to safety, and then getting moved to cornerback again; obviously he's just not a D-I caliber player on D.
Rating: 2, generously
|Jordan Kovacs||So.*#||Cam Gordon||Fr.*|
|Marvin Robinson||Fr.||Jared Van Slyke||Jr.*#|
[* = player has taken redshirt. # = walk-on, or former walk-on]
Safety has been the positional bête noir of the Michigan fan for going on a decade now but things had never been as black or beastly as they were last year, when Boubacar Cissoko's epic flameout forced Michigan to go with the doomed Jordan Kovacs-Mike Williams combination. Williams was the most confused, least useful player I've ever broken down film of; Kovacs was just slow and small. Their powers combined in episodes like "Iowa tight ends are open by 15 yards," "We don't have a guy in the deep middle on third and twenty four," and "What would Juice Williams be like if he was an unstoppable 500-foot-tall robot?"
Williams has been shuffled off to third- or fourth-team spur to cover punts for all eternity, but the situation here is hardly less bleak than it was a year ago. Jordan Kovacs is now a sophomore walk-on and probable starter. Last year he debuted against Notre Dame, was one of two Michigan secondary members to be blazed on the infamous 85-yard Indiana touchdown, and then actually started making a name for himself as a solid box safety in the Michigan State game:
Jordan Kovacs registered a +4.5 and is single-handedly responsible for about half of the + tackles Michigan saw yesterday … Kovacs provided hard-nosed run defense that makes me think he'll be a positive contributor going forward.
Williams imploded in the next game, Michigan dropped Kovacs to free safety, and the walls caved in. The dividing line was clear as day in UFR:
|Notre Dame||1||-||1||Nice story.|
|EMU||2||1||1||Hasn't cost Michigan anything yet..|
|Indiana||3||4||-1||Hardy, but slow.|
|Michigan State||7.5||3||4.5||Some of these were just backside blitzes that he tackled on, but he did tackle. At other times he displayed a real knack for getting to ballcarriers.|
|Iowa||2.5||3||-0.5||Missed one tackle, made another few, good downhill box safety.|
|Penn State||1||6||-5||Just can't play a deep half.|
|Illinois||-||3||-3||Again burned as a deep half safety.|
|Purdue||1||5||-4||Enormous bust #3.|
|Wisconsin||4||4||0||Did pretty okay. No idea why they moved him to deep safety; he's pretty effective in the box.|
The Mike Williams bit is handled in the linebackers and has more on just how disastrous a switch this was, but the morals of the story: Kovacs cannot play free safety and is pretty effective as a tiny linebacker when he doesn't have to take on linemen.
|EFFECTIVE RUN BLITZER|
|jet past blockers|
|tackles Caper from behind|
|takes down the RB|
|WOULD BE A GREAT LB IF HE WAS 50% BIGGER|
|shoot up through a gaping hole|
|doesn't bite on the bubble fake|
|doomed from the start|
|bails and bails|
Michigan moves him back to tiny linebacker this fall, but it's not that easy. When Steve Sharik explained how you defend four verticals in the three-deep coverage Michigan would love to play all year if they can get away with it, he made it clear such a move was how you draw it up but not how it plays out much: frankly, three deep, one-high coverage sucks against four verticals. You know how a bunch of Michigan's passing plays in spring and fall came when the quarterbacks nailed the slot receivers in between levels in zone coverage? That's what happens, Larry, when you meet a stranger in the alps by playing exclusively one-high coverage.
So Kovacs is going to have to cover a deep half sometimes. This won't go very well, and Michigan's defense will be limited by it. On the other hand, the run defense shouldn't be nearly as bad with Kovacs filling the weakside alley; last year he racked up 75 tackles despite the late start. Marvin Robinson will press Kovacs for his job, but probably not take it. Iowa and Wisconsin have gotten away with players like him for years.
At free safety is this year's Grady Brooks memorial King of Spring Hype award: Cam Gordon. Though Gordon was recruited as a wide receiver, everyone on the planet expected he'd get his token chance at the position and then get flipped to defense, where Michigan desperately needed bodies and he projects better anyway.
This duly happened, except when Gordon and his 6'3" frame moved it was to free safety, not linebacker. This was pretty weird, and it got weirder still when the hype machine starter cranking out superlative after superlative. A sampling follows. Rodriguez:
“Cam Gordon has been really consistent all spring,” Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said. We’re “really getting some confidence with him.”
MGoBlog's own Tom Van Haaren reporting back from some conversations with players on the team:
Cameron Gordon is the most surprising for everyone. His name keeps coming up. I’ve heard that he tackles well and has really good coverage skills. The people I’ve talked to say he’s just a natural ball hawk. Good decision to move him to safety.
By the spring game he was the undisputed starter at free safety; he managed to get through that without anyone even noticing him. In the safety business this is a win.
Unfortunately, Gordon struggled in the fall scrimmage, failing to wrap up on a number of tackles. Rodriguez was sticking to his guns afterward:
"Yesterday was not his best day practice wise, but other than that, he has a really good camp. He is a very physical guy and the game is really important to him. Again, he has not played. He has not played in the big stage yet. There is going to be nerves and there are going to be some mistakes, but he has just got to limit them… we look for a big year for him even though he is a redshirt freshman.”
As a redshirt freshman, a "big year" would be wrapping up his tackles and not letting anyone behind him for crippling long touchdowns. With his lack of blazing speed and inexperience, actually making plays seems out of the question. Misopogon dedicated a couple of his epically researched posts to the safety play and found that Brandent Englemon's traditional 1-0-1 as a junior was actually the second best performance of any safety in the UFR era (with Jamar Adams obviously finishing first).
Repeating that +0.7 per game would go a very long way towards bringing Michigan's defense back from the dead. That's optimistic. Cam Gordon will chase more than a couple opponents into the endzone. But not on third and twenty-four.
Marvin Robinson is the most shirtless recruit in the world
If you've been watching the Countdown to Kickoff videos frequently, you've probably experienced the same sort of cognitive dissonance I have when #3 comes roaring in from somewhere else and whacks a guy to the ground authoritatively or picks off an errant pass. This is not the competent-to-good LB hybrid version of Stevie Brown, it's Marvin Robinson, Michigan's first great hope for bandit. As a true freshman, the book on Robinson is contained in his recruiting profile, but you're probably familiar with the general outline by now: hyped Florida recruit enamored with Michigan since a freshman trip to Michigan's summer camp, early offers from USC, Florida, and the rest of the world, precipitous fall in the rankings, still a highly regarded prospect with athleticism Jordan Kovacs can only dream of.
Robinson's early performance has him pushing Kovacs. Woofolk noticed him even before practice started, and Greg Robinson knows a lady-killer when he sees one:
"I know this: he walks around the building looking really good."
His performance in fall was highlight-heavy and caught the attention of his teammates. He finished second to Jonas Mouton when AnnArbor.com media day poll asked who the hardest hitter on the team was. Ricardo Miller was one vote:
"When he comes to hit, everyone knows it. I think he's cracked his helmet twice this camp, and if that doesn't show you enough that he can, I don't know what could."
Robinson has huge size and speed advantages on Kovacs and will certainly play this fall, possibly as a passing-down replacement, possibly as something more. In an ideal world he would be so good he would ease Kovacs out of his starting role by midseason. I don't think that's likely since the bandit position is extremely complicated, but I do expect some sort of platoon where Robinson gets ahold of some parts of the playbook he executes better than Kovacs and is brought in regularly.
At deep safety, Vlad Emilien still seems like the first option behind Gordon but his initial returns have been discouraging. He enrolled early—giving him just as much experience as Kovacs—and then never played, Turner-style, despite the debacle going down on the field. Word was that the senior-year knee injury that cost him almost all of his senior season and his Ohio State offer lingered through the year. With that almost two years in the past now that can no longer be an excuse—any damage still lingering is permanent.
There may be some, as it was Emilien who was left in the dust by Roy Roundtree on the 97-yard strike from Denard Robinson in the spring game; Teric Jones caught and passed Emilien en route. Getting instantly passed by a position-switching guy the same class as you is a bad indicator, as is ending up behind a walk-on on the depth chart.
That walk-on is Jared Van Slyke, about whom nothing is known except his father is really good at baseball. True freshman Ray Vinopal (recruiting profile) is also at free safety. Rodriguez did mention him as a guy who has "a chance" to play this fall, he didn't show up on the first depth chart and he's probably going to redshirt.
The deep safety situation is grim past Gordon; if he doesn't work out you're either starting two walk-ons, moving up Emilien, who doesn't seem ready, or shuffling Robinson and or Kovacs around.
Continued from yesterday's extended look at the offense.
Scheme vs. Fundamentals: Fight
If you ask about the 3-3-5 and pull the string on a Michigan coach, this is what you get:
"Too much has been made out of it, scheme-wise," Rodriguez tells Ryan Terpstra on ESPN 96.1. "I mean, a lot of people are saying we're doing this or that, but basically, what we're doing this spring more than anything else is fundamentally trying to get better – trying to tackle better, trying to be able to react to the ball better so we get more people around the ball."
Greg Robinson said much the same thing to Adam Rittenberg and reiterated that to the folks at the coaches' clinic: "The fundamentals of leverage and angle and how a player uses his eyes and hands is more important than any scheme." I'm sure if you bugged any of Michigan's position coaches they would robotically intone a similar paean to fundamentals.
To this I say: 50% bollocks! It's not that fundamentals aren't important. Anyone who saw the performance of Craig Roh and Stevie Brown relative to expectations last year knows that how you tackle, cover, and read the opponent is a huge part of a football team's suck or lack thereof. You can ask Florida State about that. But I interpret "too much has been made out of it, scheme-wise" as "I would not like to talk about the details here; let's focus on platitudes." Certain defenses have strengths and weaknesses and fit other players better or worse, and while a defense that is robotically efficient is probably going to be decent that will depend on how well the players fit into the scheme.
The line should be the strength of the defense again. Will Campbell is rounding into a load, a true NT who requires a double team and holds up against it most of the time. At other times he gets too high, but they're working on that and by fall they hope he can be an anchor in there. Van Bergen is a redshirt junior who played well in a tough spot as a starter last year and is at a more natural position where he's doing well. No one's 100% sure that Mike Martin is going to be the other DE—the coaches will try him at both spots in fall—but Campbell "needs to be on the field" and Martin is likely to be Michigan's best defensive lineman, so that's the logical spot.
Michigan would like to get Campbell down another 10 pounds or so.
At end, Banks is starting in Martin's absence. Rodriguez mentioned yesterday that they've moved Adam Patterson to the nose, which 1) just about spells the end of Patterson as a potential contributor and 2) hints that Martin is going to start in the spot Banks currently occupies. I can't imagine a 272 pound senior is going to get substantial playing time as a zero-tech NT. He may be a situation substitution in pass-rush situations, but I kind of thought they might move Martin back inside and let Banks or even Roh take a crack at a speed rush when that happened.
The backups here are pretty sketchy without the freshman reinforcements, but Anthony Lalota was a regular entrant into the backfield against the second-string offensive line. He's RVB's backup with Heininger out.
There were some concerns about Craig Roh, who's a great athlete going directly upfield but doesn't have the lateral mobility to shuffle a step or two one way and then re-route his body in time to avoid blocking angles or get a proper zone drop. He'll be blitzing a ton; Michigan will be vulnerable when the opposition is running misdirection and Roh is being asked to execute linebacker responsibilities. Think waggles, counters, reverses, that sort of thing. He has displayed an aptitude in one-on-one coverage, though. He tracked a Michigan State tight end down and raked a ball free last year in a matchup that you'd think heavily favors the receiver; there were a couple other instances where his ability to cover a guy downfield was a surprising bonus.
There didn't seem to be a whole lot of progress with Ezeh and Mouton, though it's hard to tell with the move to the new system. Their responsibilities have changed and there's a learning curve that anyone would have. Moving to the 3-3-5 should allow Mouton to blitz almost as frequently as Roh; this is Mouton's main strength.
A surging Kenny Demens has been held out the last few days.
Observer A is a major believer in Robinson, though, citing that Roh play and a few others as an example of Robinson's ability to coach up players in a short amount of time. He was in charge of Roh and Brown last year; this year he's got all three linebackers. Robinson himself believes Mouton could be a breakout player. Here is a classic Robinson-ism that will make Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician delighted: "We just need to get him to slow down to play faster." Mouton overruns plays because he's "too instinctive" and doesn't always follows his keys, as anyone who remembers his 5-minus 8-minus 3 lines in UFR can tell you.
I've been pretty positive about the idea of running Jordan Kovacs out as a box safety since he was a heady kid and solid tackler and in the 3-3-5 DVD I have that is no longer a wasted purchase, Jeff Casteel repeatedly emphasizes that those characteristics are by far the most important when it comes to spurs and bandits. As a bonus, as the weakside guy Kovacs has the luxury of playing in space (usually) unblocked, so his size won't be a major hindrance.
HOWEVA, discussions with Observer A made it clear that running a 1-high defense* constantly is a recipe for getting four verticals in your face time and again and that teams could force Michigan into a two-deep alignment by formation or playcall. Jordan Kovacs being a walk-on sort of guy, they will do this constantly until Michigan proves they can deal with it.
Why not just deposit Marvin Robinson or Josh Furman at this spot in fall? Think about it: the bandit has to roll up to the line of scrimmage and act as a force player in the 3-3-5. Force players are important. It's their job to funnel everything inside of them. (This is often called "leveraging the football.") If they screw up, the runner is outside everyone and loping for a first down. In pass coverage they have to read and drop into flat zones, play something called "flat buzz" that I'm not quite clear on yet, and generally act as a cover two corner would. So there's all that. Then the bandit will have to rotate back into a two-deep on occasion, play a deep third when they switch up coverages, blitz, respond to motion, etc etc etc. It's probably the most complicated position on the defense. Throwing a freshman in there is asking for it.
Kovacs is Michigan's best option at the bandit, but that doesn't necessarily mean he's a good option.
Spur is also sketchy. Mike Williams has plummeted down the depth chart and is now behind both walk-on Floyd Simmons and redshirt freshman (and scholarship possessor!) Thomas Gordon. Williams is healthy, FWIW. Gordon did get some daps/love/props from observers who thought he was aware and athletic enough to deal with the coverages he'll be asked to run—a "pleasant surprise"—but he's safety-sized and is going to be asked to play over a tight end. He's also a redshirt freshman. Simmons also made a few plays and might be an okay option as a backup.
Observer A evaluated this group of eight players as "slow, small, inexperienced, or injured." He didn't add "pick three," but my brain did. Michigan's got a couple of fantastic prospects for the future in Josh Furman and Marvin Robinson (plus Carvin Johnson), but a couple of painful years beckon before Michigan has any chance of getting a guy who has both athleticism and a clue on the field.
The combination of cluelessness and lack of crazy athleticism led to a couple plays were Michigan just ran a tight end straight down the seam without a bump and gave up 30-yard plays. Michigan has an adjustment they want to install, but they haven't done it yet.
*(A one-high defense has one safety in the middle of the field and is usually cover 1 or cover 3 unless the defense is playing a disguised coverage. A two high defense has two safeties approximately on the hashes and usually suggests cover 2 or 4.)
The three members of the secondary proper actually didn't scare Observer A very much. Woolfolk is pretty good, Floyd is improved—though he shared my skepticism he would ever be above average because of his speed deficiencies—and Turner, while rougher in drills, got the proverbial "just makes plays" endorsement. It's tough to tell a kid's playmaking rate based on limited observation, but the general impression I got was that Turner should be okay eventually. It seems logical that when the freshmen arrive, there might be some reshuffling with the spurs and safeties. Observer B also thought Turner "was OK."
James Rogers seemed to be doing well in drills, too. He's "beginning to learn the position," which is a sad thing to say about a
fifth year senior who's bounced around so much.
Cam Gordon is the guy at free safety, but you knew that.
Robinson's entire session at the coaches' clinic was on his tackling system, which is unusual in a couple ways: it uses different aiming points than conventional systems and doesn't ask the player to break down and wait for the ball carrier to arrive; you "shimmy" to the ballcarrier. It's also unusual because Robinson picked it up from a high school coach, something the old regime "wouldn't be caught dead" doing. Michigan's current group of guys seems far more likely to pick up an innovation being run by high schools or lower division schools than the old guys, who talked to the NFL and only the NFL, which is probably why they couldn't defend the option worth a damn for almost a decade.
Here's how Greg Robinson explains Braithwaite's hire:
Robinson used the new coach, Braithwhite as a demonstrator of technique. He said the “best demonstration” coach he ever saw in his life was Jim Colletto but he says that AB is every bit as good. The impression they give is that this guy was hired because a) he knows what he is doing and (b) he is great at demonstrating techniques to the players.
Observer B notes a difference between the offensive and defensive coaches: the offensive guys are "tireless" explaining and drawing their schemes, but it's hard to get anything out of Robinson. Where Robinson gets expansive is when it comes to the aforementioned fundamentals. There was a chalk talk in which Robinson spent a good deal of time illustrating the right way to do a "dip and rip"; Bruce Tall was also in the midst of an animated technique discussion that lasted two hours.
One of the best things about having a hybrid-laden defense is it minimizes situational substitutions in today's fast-paced modern football environment. You should be able to respond to whatever the offense throws at you without having crazy packages where non-starters get pushed into the lineup, and can adjust to bizarre formations (wildcat) on the fly.
Defense In Toto
I got a vastly different perspective from defensively-oriented observer than was provided by the posters here over the weekend. We're going to have to score some points. I think in objective "this is Michigan" terms the defense is going to be bad, but one of the main confusions batting about the internet at the moment is someone asking "is this defense going to be (as) bad (as last year)?" and someone answering "(in terms of what I have come to expect from years of watching Michigan play and taking that as a baseline) yes."
I had this same sort of foreboding Q&A with Observer A, but when I asked point-blank "will they be better" I got a pretty solid "yes," albeit with the caveat that the same guy thought they'd be considerably better than they were last year.
That doesn't mean the defense is in a spot where it will remind anyone of 2006, or even 2005. In the Saturday scrimmage the defense did well on the first couple series but "after that the carnage was brutal," with the offense moving the ball "almost regardless of what unit was facing what unit." You can get a hint of that in the quarterback stats provided by MGoBlue in the most recent Inside Michigan Football, which are 9/11, 9/12, 100 yards rushing, made a pony sort of things.
There aren't any walk-on punters who are serious threats to play; the best guys they currently have are averaging in the 30 to 35 yard range. This is Will Hagerup's job as soon as he steps on campus.
Placekicking will be an adventure. Brendan Gibbons has a big leg but is "erratic at best." Walk-on Justin Meram was the other kicker who participated in the scrimmage; he seemed accurate on short stuff but his range might top out at 40 yards on a good day.
Truth. From the message board: a post entitled "Jake Long is bigger than you" that is 100% truth.
The third guy in that line is a 6'1", 235 pound former D-III linebacker.
[David Chappelle racist white guy voice] "They have such animal passions." [/dcrwgv] One of the main tensions on the message boards around here is between people who reflexively attack people who write anything even slightly negative about Michigan and people who push back at them. I thought the latter group was more correct after the signing day press conference when Dave Birkett went into I Are Serious Reporter mode and latched onto Rodriguez's pant leg for a series of questions about Demar Dorsey.
Yeah, it was kind of a dick move, but if you're going to add every reporter who sees a piece of meat and goes after it to the enemies list there isn't going to be anyone left off that list in short order. QED: even Angelique Chengelis got knocked around after she said the Victors Rally was dumb. Birkett was one of the people pointing out that the ridiculous Freep story about Rodriguez invoking Hurricane Katrina left out that thing called context.
This from the latest chat on AnnArbor.com, however, is indefensible. Birkett is out and pops back in. He offers this apropos of nothing:
Dave Birkett: Sorry had to run for a more. A buddy came over to look at my home repair issue. I'm back.
Dave Birkett: If anyone needs any home improvement done, try Nelson Home Improvement. I've been using them for years.
Dave Birkett: And thanks Demar, I'll see you here shortly. No need to bring your crowbar.
There is absolutely no context for that. So… wow. Cheapshotting a kid who hasn't even enrolled, you've never talked to, and is trying to turn his life around. Classy. How about we wait for Dorsey to do something, maybe?
First in line. Due to a walk-on snafu, Michigan is only going to be able to enroll 26 of their 27 players this fall. This will leave at least one scholarship open, and the guy at the top of the list will surprise no one:
UM coach Rich Rodriguez maintained throughout the season that it's his intention to include Kovacs among his scholarship players. That process has seemingly progressed this offseason.
"He'll have the first one available in the fall, and it looks like one will be available," Rodriguez said. "I'm hoping it will be available for this summer because he's earned one."
I've seen a couple people react to this article as if Kovacs is now a full scholarship player, but that does not seem to be the case. If Michigan actually has 85 scholarship players on the roster in 2011, Kovacs will have to pay his way. Given the way Michigan recruits—not oversigning like a mother—that's not likely.
Also in that article is a rundown of the players who will be unavailable for spring: Brandon Herron, Mike Martin, Vincent Smith, and David Molk. Junior Hemingway has a minor injury and will miss a week or two.
No thanks. Chengelis suggests the spring game should be held at night. I'm not one of those guys who hates night games, but that seems like an epically bad idea. Reasons:
- In April it's often really nice out during the day and super cold at night. One of the main draws of the game is to have an excuse to sit outside in the spring sun after the traditional Michigan hibernation period.
- Attendance would be depressed since people aren't going to get a hotel room for the spring game.
- Michigan would have to shell out for portable lights.
- Any Michigan football game that starts after 3:30 is like feeding Gizmo after midnight. Do you want a zombie apocalypse?
I would like to see Michigan push the start time back to two or three so I can take the rare opportunity to tailgate properly.
In which you prove their point anyway. WLA tiff with the Buckeye Battle Cry, the new-ish SBNation Ohio State blog. In sum: WLA posts picture of Kevin from the Office on blog to imply that while the "writers" there are probably not handicapped that's something you would need careful examination and probably a DNA test to confirm. Kevin from the Office deletes, bans, and then contacts the poster's employer.
I'm not sure why SBN even has an Ohio State blog if that was the best one they could sign up. Talk about damaging your brand.
Etc.: Jimmy King interviewed by Lost Lettermen. New blog by a diarist around here is up: Wolverine Tactics opines on what to do with Denard. Discount tickets available for the CCHA Championships. Markus previews UConn. Yes, in March.
Roh is certain. Everything else is chaos.
This is going to be extensive. It would be much, much quicker to rattle off a list of positions we know are set this fall:
- Craig Roh at quick defensive end.
That is literally all. We do know that a few other guys are guaranteed starters, but Ryan Van Bergen, Mike Martin, and Troy Woolfolk could all switch positions. I should have thought of that before I did the offense. Now I'm stuck with this format.
Anyway. On with show:
Not Brandon Graham
Three defensive line starters return, but the best defensive lineman in the country does not. Normally you'd be looking at Brandon Graham's platoon of ready-to-go backups for an inadequate but functional replacement. Since this is the 2009 Michigan defense we're talking about that platoon is walk-on Will Heininger. The other options at his spot are freshmen.
So it's time to get creative, maybe…
Count me amongst the chorus suggesting that Ryan Van Bergen might move outside. Dubbing this position "Not Brandon Graham" is a clever way to not write "Ryan Van Bergen might move" at three different spots.
Michigan has three veteran backups at defensive tackle in sophomore Will Campbell and seniors Renaldo Sagesse and Greg Banks. All played last year, the latter two decently. Campbell was raw as hell but was one of them OMG SHIRTLESS recruits and can be expected to make a major jump his sophomore year. Putting one of those guys in the starting lineup seems less likely to result in disaster than dropping an underweight freshman into the starting lineup. Craig Roh did okay last year, but Michigan isn't bringing in anyone as touted as Roh was this time around. Also, Mike Martin is more of a penetrating three-technique tackle than a leviathan space-eater and moving him to RVB's old spot figures to get more production out of him.
If RVB doesn't move, then you're going to choose from Heininger, redshirt junior Brandon Herron,—Roh's backup at quick last year—redshirt freshman Anthony LaLota, or true freshmen. Herron was a linebacker a year ago and is likely to still be undersized and LaLota showed up two inches and thirty pounds lighter than people expected him to. He probably needs another year.
The thing to watch for this spring is the RVB move. Past that, the developmental paths of Campbell, Roh, and LaLota are the main points of interest.
Hoping for… as the guy that is not Brandon Graham? Will Campbell. This assumes RVB ends up at DE and Martin moves over to RVBs spot. Moving RVB gets a bunch of veterans and a five-star sophomore more playing time. It puts Mike Martin in a position to be seriously disruptive. And it doesn't force a freshman into the starting lineup. So this is a hope for the move and a hope for Campbell to explode.
Expecting… RVB moves, Sagesse and Campbell platoon. I was puzzled by Michigan's periodic attempts to give Campbell playing time over Sagesse last year. Campbell got sealed on a number of successful runs against Iowa; Sagesse wasn't Alan Branch but usually ended up with a +1 in UFR. I assume Campbell will show considerable progress but I'm also betting that Sagesse is basically a co-starter.
Over the course of a year, Stevie Brown went from whipping boy to reliable outpost on a defense of chaos. Was it a position move? Greg Robinson's Just For Men magic?
They're young but they're not totally green. Michigan got both Brandin Hawthorne and Mike Jones in early last year and put them through their paces; by the UConn game next year they'll have been on campus for almost two years. Both saw special teams action only. Hawthorne will apply for a medical redshirt. Jones played too much for one. That's him burning his redshirt on the right.
Those two will be the main competitors in spring since I believe Isaiah Bell, who redshirted, is moving inside to ROL. This fall brings crazy athletic Josh Furman into the mix. He of the 4.3 electronic 40 is probably even faster than Brown and could press for playing time later in the season if Hawthorne and Jones aren't working out. He's unlikely to win the job outright immediately.
Hoping for… Hawthorne or Jones doesn't seem like it makes a difference since they have near-identical recruiting profiles and experience. I guess I'm pulling for Hawthorne since he's got a redshirt on him and I like the Pahokee kids.
Expecting… Again, Hawthorne and Jones have almost nothing separating them. One of those guys.
Regular Ol' Linebacker
These two positions are here despite featuring two fifth-year seniors returning for their third years of starting because both Obi Ezeh and Jonas Mouton were yanked for performance reasons late last season. Indecision ruled the day:
Mouton was pulled for JB Fitzgerald, a touted recruit entering his third year in the program. Ezeh was pulled for Kevin Leach, another walk-on. Both eventually won their jobs back when the replacements weren't much better.
Jay Hopson left to become the defensive coordinator at Memphis, and whether it was voluntary or not it's welcome. Ezeh went nowhere in two years under Hopson's tutelage and Mouton went backwards. If Greg Robinson can pull the same career revival magic he did with Stevie Brown on the two inside guys, he'll put to rest a large chunk of the skepticism at his hire and go a long way towards making the defense respectable again.
If he can't, then Fitzgerald and Leach will figure into the plans again, with potential assists from Kenny Demens and various freshmen. Demens hasn't gotten off special teams in his time at Michigan and got passed by a walk-on. That seems like a kiss of death there.
Ezeh and Mouton will be the main focus here.
Hoping for… I'd like Fitzgerald to emerge as a starter but in the place of Ezeh; last year the guy replacing Ezeh was Leach. Really I'd just like whoever plays at linebacker to look like he's got a clue. Obi-Wan Greg Robinson, you're our only hope.
Expecting… Ezeh and Mouton. They'll be better. Linebackers are the guys most screwed by Michigan's revolving door of defensive coordinators because they are almost always reading a play and executing a complicated assignment based on that. Also they've got a new coach who happens to be the defensive coordinator and thus knows exactly what he wants the guys to be doing.
Donovan Warren took his budding skills and five-star hype to the middle rounds of the NFL draft. Boubacar Cissoko couldn't keep it together off the field and is no longer on the team.
I'm assuming both spots are open because of the possibility Troy Woolfolk moves back to deep safety in spring. The defense started imploding for serious once he was moved to corner and Michigan's safety tandem became Kovacs and Williams
Outside of Woolfolk, the one guy with any experience is JT Floyd. Floyd was the guy the coaching staff turned to to replace Cissoko when he proved dreadful early in the year. He wasn't much better and Woolfolk eventually had to move despite the other options at safety being a freshman student-body walk-on and Mike Williams. In his brief time as a starter, Floyd played ten yards off wide receivers and looked totally overmatched. Maybe that's a mental thing, but he seemed just too slow for the Big Ten.
So… yeah. It's more freshmen, then. Super-hyped recruit Justin Turner got in late because of some difficulties with the Ohio Graduation Test and ended up out of shape and unprepared to play. He redshirted. Even if he came in looking like Will Campbell, if Turner couldn't play in that secondary by the end of the year people are right to be at least slightly concerned he may not pan out.
And then there's the flood of true freshmen. With Demar Dorsey starting out at corner, Michigan has four in the 2010 class: Dorsey, Courtney Avery, Cullen Christian, and Terry Talbott. None enrolled early—unfortunately, all of Michigan's early enrollees were on the offensive side of the ball—and they will be just rumors this spring.
We won't get a read on this position at all unless walk-on Floyd Simmons is ahead of someone on the depth chart. We will get a first look at Turner, the team's most important redshirt freshman.
Hoping for… Justin Turner and either Dorsey or Christian. No Woolfolk == considerably reduced panic at safety. One freshman is as good as any other at the other spot, I guess, but I'd rather have the higher-rated guys off to fast starts. No offense to Floyd, but he obviously wasn't ready last year and I'd be surprised if he was this year. Maybe 2011.
Expecting… Turner and Woolfolk.
Brandon Smith transferred to Temple.
It's clear that this is going to be another hybrid safety/LB type player. Early in the year, it was Mike Williams. A little later it was Jordan Kovacs. When Woolfolk moved to corner it was Williams again, and when Williams played poorly Michigan moved Brandon Smith and threw him in the starting lineup; Smith liked it so much he immediately transferred.
Of the two returners, Kovacs was by far the superior option despite being a walk-on. He's got the proverbial nose for the ball and was the only guy at the spot last year to turn in enough good plays to offset his poor ones. And he did this as a freshman walk-on. (He was technically a redshirt freshman but since he was not on the team last year he is much closer to a true freshman.) He showed himself way too slow to play deep safety, but the grit fantastic he is possession of should keep him in the mix despite a couple of athletes pushing him hard.
Athlete the first is incoming freshman Marvin Robinson, who everyone thinks is destined for linebacker except Robinson. At Michigan he may be a linebacker in spirit if not in name. This is a spot he's a superior fit for athletically but it may require some adjustment.
Athlete the second is hypothetical, but Rodriguez mentioned in a Signing Day press conference: they're looking at moving wide receiver Cam Gordon to defense, but to safety. [Update: YEAH THAT HAPPENED.] That's another indicator that Michigan's base set is going to be an eight-man front, as Gordon is a strapping 6'2" fellow who everyone expected would end up at… wait for it… linebacker. If Gordon makes the move it will give Kovacs and Williams some competition from an NFL-sized guy right away.
This is also where Carvin Johnson goes, but I'm guessing he'll redshirt.
Hoping for… I don't really know, actually. I guess I'd like Robinson to win the starting job, but a true freshman over Kovacs and Gordon could bode unwell for immediate production. Maybe Kovacs to start and eventually giving way to Robinson.
Expecting… I have no idea. Truly.
As discussed above, if this is Kovacs Michigan is at least kind of screwed. I mean no offense to the guy, but…
…he is not a deep safety*. In an ideal world, two of the young corners would establish themselves quickly enough for Michigan to boot Troy Woolfolk back here. That world is much easier to envision if any of those guys had enrolled early.
If Woolfolk doesn't make the move back, Michigan has a couple options not fresh off the turnip truck. Vlad Emilien and Thomas Gordon are redshirt freshmen who will be given a shot at the job. Emilien was more highly touted and actually held the starting free safety job in spring until late, when Woolfolk took over and he was relegated to backup duty. He saw some special teams time in fall but will apply for an injury redshirt. Gordon was primarily a high school quarterback at Cass Tech—he only started playing DB as a senior-year audition for a Michigan scholarship—and never threatened to see the field last year.
Freshman Ray Vinopal will reinforce in fall, but as the lowest-rated player in the class he will probably redshirt.
Hoping for… Woolfolk. I'd rather have the freshmen playing at corner, where Woolfolk can tackle their mistakes.
Expecting… Emilien. I'm a little hesitant about him since he enrolled early last year and still wasn't good enough to crack last year's secondary, but maybe he had a lingering injury issue.
*(RVB owned up to a botched line check on that touchdown but it was a lack of footspeed from Kovacs and, more disturbingly, Floyd, that turned that play from 20 yards into 90.)
What others? Apparently Teric Jones might stick on defense, apparently at box safety. I think I've mentioned every other scholarship defensive player on campus except Steve Watson and James Rogers.
Personnel notes: As noted Monday, Michigan had an actual substitution package: on passing downs Williams would be replaced by Cissoko. For obvious reasons, that's unlikely to continue down the road. The rest of it was as usual, with the line rotating regularly and no one else coming out ever. One exception: late in the game Obi Ezeh was yanked twice, first for a play and then for the rest of a drive, in favor of Fitzgerald. Each time he got to the sidelines an exasperated Jay Hopson tried to explain something to him.
Formation notes. My lingo is probably all screwed up now but Michigan did this a lot:
I called this "4-4 under" but here I think this one is an over shift—the line is actually moved towards the TE side of the formation—and that Michigan was not playing this based on where Penn State was but where the ball was. Steve notes that Michigan shifted the line to "field"—the wide side—over 80% of the time in the first half. So under-over is not really the distinction. Michigan is lining up shifted to the wide side of the field with both the LBs and line, relying on the idea that Graham will obliterate Poti so badly that Penn State won't even try to run that direction. This was basically correct.
This eight-man front with Warren playing off allows Michigan to play man or zone with Warren part of your two-deep. This is an obvious response to Iowa's third and 24 conversion: freak out and try to get away with Warren as a part-time safety. This formation was the one in which all the ARGH long handoffs occurred. Burgeoning Wolverine Star picture-paged one of these happening and Steve noted it too: the responsibility on the long handoffs is Williams's, and he kept getting chewed out for the screwups here. On the play linked above Williams looks into the backfield instead of hauling ass for the receiver, but on later plays he just hauls ass and doesn't get there. Maybe this works if you're Taylor Mays, but Mike Williams was evidently incapable of pulling off this assignment. Steve blames Williams; as you'll see below I just think this is unworkable with the personnel Michigan has and go all RPS* –1 on Robinson.
Play ID note: a helpful high school coach illuminated the difference between the "Power O" and the "Down G"; on Power O a backside guard pulls around, usually into a hole between a kickout block from a tackle or TE and the interior down block. On Down G a playside guard pulls around and the play goes further outside, with the guy who's kicking out on a Power O down-blocking instead.
On with show.
*(Rock, Paper, Scissors.)
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O37||1||10||Ace 4-wide||4-3 over||Pass||PA deep hitch||Warren||14|
|Michigan actually shifted to the strength of the formation here. [ed: as noted above, it will become clear why only later.] PSU goes play action, sucking two guys (Mouton and Williams) up into Quarless, but it doesn't really matter since they're going to this comeback route against Warren, which is open(cover -1); immediate tackle afterwards. TE was wide open, too, with Ezeh trailing ineffectually (cover –1).|
|M49||1||10||Ace 4-wide||4-3 under||Run||Inside zone||Williams||41|
|Michigan shows a true two-deep, not the border-field alignment. Martin is doubled and shoved back on a play that's clearly designed to go inside, but he splits the double team(+1) after they push him back a couple yards, causing Royster to shift his tactics. Mouton(-1) has gotten way too far inside and given up a huge cutback lane that should never be there; Williams(-3) comes up way, way too far inside, losing “leverage” on the ball—i.e. letting the dude outside of him—and turning eight yards into 41. It is possible that Graham(-1) had the responsibility here on the outside and it wasn't Mouton's screwup on the first level.|
|Apparently a straight ahead, man-blocked run designed to go right off tackle. Graham(+1) blows through his blocker, forcing Royster outside; Mouton(+1) has shot into the hole and takes on the fullback two yards in the backfield, tumbling over him and tackling inadvertently; Ezeh(+1) avoided an OL and zooms up to make sure there's no way Royster can keep going if he keeps his feet.|
|M10||2||G||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under split||Pass||Corner||Brown||10|
|Michigan shows one deep safety and runs man coverage; this is the sort of thing that Clark was talking about when he said M didn't disguise coverages. No late shifts or anything, so this is really obvious that Brown is not going to be able to cover(-1) Zug on this, given his inside leverage on the guy. He's inside of the player, has no support, and is just going to lose this matchup no matter who he is. Very poor from Robinson(RPS -1).|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-7, 9 min 1st Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O35||1||10||Ace 3-wide||4-4 under||Pass||PA Out||Brown||17|
|Again going to the slot receiver, who is in man coverage against Kovacs(-2, cover -2). Kovacs just bails and bails and has no chance of coming up on this. Kovacs as a deep safety is just not going to work in this sort of coverage, but it's pick your poison. Ezeh(-0.5) could have helped but got sucked up by the play action. Martin(+1) had busted past his guy and clobbered Clark as he threw (pressure +1).|
|M48||1||10||Ace Twins Twin TE||4-3 under||Run||Inside zone||Graham||5|
|Graham(+1) slants inside the TE, beating both blocks and forcing a cutback behind; Mouton's run himself out of the play but that's understandable; Williams(-1) fills late despite having no responsibilities deep because both TEs are clearly blocking Graham, turning this cutback from zero into four.|
|Zone blitz sees Roh drop off as Ezeh and Brown come and Graham/Martin stunt around. This is sufficiently confusing to the OL that both guys get through, basically, but Ezeh(-1) has failed to get to the correct side of his blocker and thus does not maintain his rush lane, opening up an avenue for Clark to escape what would otherwise be a sure sack. I mean, Ezeh is clearly setting up to go around the other way as Graham stunts free behind him and then he just loses his mind, attempting to go up the same hole Graham does. Fail. Just fail. I've got this set up for a Picture Pages tomorrow.|
|M34||1||10||I-Form Twins||4-4 under||Run||Power O||Mouton||7|
|This is never going to be an I-form, with the two RBs lined up right next to each other. Michigan doesn't read it and when Royster motions out, Ezeh(?!?!) follows him instead of Brown, the obvious choice, after significant confusion. Van Bergen(-0.5) gets downblocked, opening up a hole. Brown is trying to take on a pulling guard and can't do much other than get blocked; Mouton(-0.5) failed to read the play until it was a bit too late and ends up making contact five yards downfield with a guy in his face; the pile falls the wrong way. Michigan got beat by the playcall here, fooled into sucking Ezeh out into space against Royster instead of sending Brown, the logical guy, out there. (RPS -1)|
|M27||2||3||Ace Twins Twin TE||4-3 under||Run||Down G||Mouton||4|
|Downblock on Graham(-1) by a tight end ends up pancaking him; Mouton(-1) accepts a block from Quarless and can't do anything to prevent this play from hitting it up for the first down.|
|M23||1||10||Ace||4-3 under||Run||Inside zone||Graham||-2|
|Graham(+2) slants right by Quarless on the snap, exploding into the backfield and crushing Royster without assistance from anyone else. RVB(+1) also beat his guy and was there to vaguely assist on the tackle.|
|M25||2||12||Shotgun 3-wide||4-4 under||Pass||Jailbreak screen||Warren||8|
|Royster motions out for an empty backfield. Well executed by Penn State, but Warren is playing ten yards off and wandering back at the snap, which means he meets Moye 6 yards downfield and gets bashed; the first instance of M just giving PSU yards at the snap. (Cover -1) Not sure if Warren or Williams deserves a ding here. –0.5 for both.|
|M17||3||4||Ace 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||Fade||Warren||Inc|
|Michigan sends both MLBs up the middle and don't get there; Michigan tips this, I think, with the position of the safeties, so Clark knows he has this over Warren, in press coverage. Moye has a step and the size to go over Warren if this is accurate, but Clark overthrows it. I won't cover -1 this, because it was okay. I thought about RPS -1 here, too.|
|Drive Notes: Field goal(34), 7-10, 3 min 1st Q. Penn State's kicker has an enormous head.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O37||1||10||I-Form||4-4 under||Pass||Long handoff||Warren||8|
|I don't know if this is Warren's fault or not, which I'll explain later. [ed: or earlier, as the case may be.] In any case, Warren's playing forever off (cover -1) and has no chance of holding this down. RPS -1. This was the first of these.|
|O45||2||2||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Bubble screen||--||8|
|Wide open from the start; don't know if Mouton has responsibility here or not but they've got bubbles on both sides and neither is really covered. (cover -1, RPS -1)|
|M47||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||4-4 under||Pass||PA Deep post||Warren||Inc|
|Play action zone read on which Clark keeps it, fakes the keeper, and then backs out to pass. Herron eventually looses himself after he realizes it's a pass and hits Clark as he throws; Clark had decent time. The eventual throw is into double coverage that Kovacs is in okay position on, but help from Warren(+1 cover +1) makes this covered; receiver falls of his own volition. Warren in a deep half here, you'll note, and in way better position to actually help on the play than Kovacs.|
|M47||2||10||Ace Twins Twin TE||4-3 under||Pass||Scramble||--||1|
|Clark looks for the bubble but the receiver is trying to block; busted play. Clark scrambles for a yard.|
|M46||3||9||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under split||Pass||Screen||Van Bergen||1|
|Michigan shows and brings the DEATH BLITZ of seven guys, except RVB and Martin back out, with RVB(+2) making a fantastic play by reading the screen, darting past two blockers and seeing the third take a futile stab at blocking him, and tackling(+1) at the LOS. Warren was coming up and this would have remained short even without the tackle from RVB since he'd killed the blocking, but he didn't even chance it. (RPS +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-10, 14 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O27||1||10||I-Form||4-4 under||Pass||Long handoff||--||8|
|I don't understand this. Warren is ten yards off, basically another safety, and Michigan expects to defend this by shooting Williams into the flat, which might work if Williams immediately runs out there, but he doesn't. (RPS -1, cover -1) Free yards. BWS picture-paged this.|
|O35||2||2||I-Form Twins||4-3 under||Pass||Fade||Kovacs||Inc|
|Royster motions out; this time it's zone so Warren moves out. Woolfolk(-1) jumps up on the little out route, which opens up a deeper fade route run by Moye. It's open(cover -1), but Moye falls down and the ball ends up hitting him in the foot.|
|TE pulls across the formation to act as a lead blocker; Williams is out there providing some contain but can do little but force the play inside. He does, where no one picks him up because Mouton(-2) sucked inside. It's bad when your linebackers' suckiness is part of the gameplan.|
|O46||1||10||Ace 4-wide||4-3 under||Run||Inside zone||--||4|
|Martin(-1) gets blown back by a double, allowing Royster to hit it up behind him; Ezeh(+0.5) reads the play and comes under the blocker attempting to get out on him, tackling with help from Mouton(+0.5) and making this an eh gain.|
|50||2||6||Ace||4-4 under||Run||Inside zone||Graham||-5|
|Michigan must have called the right thing to murder this play because Graham(+2, RPS +1) shoots into the backfield right by a PSU OL and Martin isn't far behind. Graham meets Royster four yards in the backfield; he escapes but Roh and Martin clean up.|
|O45||1||10||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Sack||Roh||-3|
|Roh(+2) is excellent on the stunt here, selling the outside move and then shooting inside with spectacular speed to dart through the gap Van Bergen(+1) makes. Roh is in on Clark and sacks him, albeit tenuously. If Clark escaped he was dead meat anyway with Martin closing in and linebackers close enough to prevent a long run. (Pressure +2.)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-10, 9 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M40||1||10||Ace Twins||4-3 under||Pass||Waggle comeback||Kovacs||Inc|
|Again working on Kovacs(-1), who gives the receiver a ton of time and space (cover -1) as Clark gets the edge without anyone in the vicinity (pressure -1). Clark leaves the throw short and the receiver can't dig out a semi-tough catch (a 2, if you're wondering).|
|M40||2||10||I-Form||4-4 under||Pass||Long handoff||--||7|
|Here Williams takes off to the short side of the field immediately and still doesn't close it down; I don't know WTF this scheme is supposed to be but it just doesn't work. (Cover -1, RPS -1). This was also picture-paged by BWS.|
|M33||3||3||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||Circle||--||Inc|
|Michigan rushes... two. This works, I guess, as the DTs drop off into the hitches(cover +1) and cause Clark to delay. The DEs are closing in, though Clark can just slip up in the pocket to buy more time and doesn't, causing a throw. It's a bit low and dropped as one of the hitches turns his route into a circle. Warren was drawing up to hit the receiver... maybe not a first down if completed. But maybe yes a first down. The third and final picture-paged play from BWS. (RPS +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt(!!!), 7-10, 5 min 2nd Q. I know it worked. That does not make it right. Penn State sucked out.|
|O40||1||10||Ace 3-wide||4-4 under||Pass||TE Seam||--||60|
|This is just a straight release downfield with Ezeh in man against a guy he can't cover. There is no safety help, because Michigan is in this weird split package they'd run all game that gets people open short for long handoffs and open deep for easy touchdowns. Things and people to blame: Herron –2 for not getting a chuck on the TE. This is something Michigan's done all year and this is just a bust. Ezeh –1 for getting smoked on the coverage. And Kovacs –2 for not getting into his deep half despite not having another deep threat anywhere. (Cover -3)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-19, 4 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O18||1||10||I-Form Twins||4-3 under||Penalty||False start||--||-5|
|Royster motions out; Warren out there on him. Not that it matters.|
|M13||1||15||I-Form||4-4 under||Run||Down G||Roh||1|
|Roh(+1) reads the pull and doesn't let the TE seal him, which forces the play outside; Ezeh(+1) blasts into the lead blockers, also forcing the play back inside; Royster's already tripping over Roh when Graham's pursuit engulfs him.|
|M14||2||14||I-Form||4-4 under||Penalty||False start||--||-5|
|Fake the long handoff then give it inside to Beachum; Graham(+1) has penetrated, shoving the OL back three yards and forcing Beachum to cut behind him, where a bunch of Michigan players, some drawn by the PA fake, converge.|
|M11||3||17||Ace 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||Delay||--||4|
|Give up and punt.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-19, 2 min 2nd Q. End of half, big kickoff return afterwards.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M43||1||10||I-Form Twins||4-3 under||Pass||Corner||Williams||31|
|I don't understand this coverage that gets Warren sucked up, covering no one in what appears to be man zero coverage. Quarless beats it easily to the outside, Clark finds him, and it's a big gain. (Cover -2, RPS -1).|
|M12||1||10||Ace Twins Twin TE||4-4 under||Run||Inside zone||Williams||0|
|Williams sent on a blitz that gets him through totally unblocked as Quarless, who motioned to one side, comes back to block the other. Royster runs right into him and this could be a four-yard loss, but Williams can't wrap up and Royster bounces to the original LOS. (RPS +1)|
|M12||2||10||Shotgun empty||4-3 under split||Run||QB draw||Graham||2|
|Mouton blitzing from the outside so Graham(+1) has a rush lane more inside of that; he reads the draw, beats the tackle to the inside, and tackles just as Clark reaches the line.|
|M10||3||8||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||Corner||--||10|
|Michigan brings the safeties up to the line, showing a blitz well before the snap; Clark checks and Michigan does not check in response. Zug just runs a rounded out in the endzone that Clark knows will be there. Brown, lined up inside, can't get there, and Clark hits him as Michigan blitzes seven (cover -2, RPS -2). Same play as the earlier TD.|
|M3||2pt||G||Shotgun empty||Nickel even||Pass||Slant||Banks||Inc|
|A zone blitz from Michigan sees both DTs drop into coverage again, which cuts off Clark's first read on the slant (cover +1). Blitz is about to get home so Clark chucks it anyway to a covered(+1) Moye; Woolfolk(+1) there.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown(2pt failed) 7-25, 12 min 3rd Q. Clark was right about the coverages. It's clear he knows exactly what Michigan is going to run before the snap and Michigan's personnel can't make up for it. All Zug has to do is run a really easy route against a guy lined up inside of him and woop touchdown.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O25||1||10||Ace 3-wide||4-4 under||Run||Inside zone||Graham||13|
|Starts off in Penn State's fake I-form with Royster motioning out, Ezeh goes with him. Failure (RPS -1). Graham(-2) runs himself upfield and out of the play when Williams is blitzing, which means two guys are just running past the backside and there's a huge cutback lane.|
|Clark has some time but not a ton before Graham and Martin get past blockers and start converging; with options downfield covered(+1) he comes to a checkdown; ball is dropped by the FB.|
|O38||2||10||Ace 3-wide||4-4 under||Pass||Slant||Ezeh||23|
|Fake I-form, again Ezeh(RPS -1) attempts to go out and cover. His coverage is terrible(-2), as you might expect, as he gives Royster so much room he's not there to tackle on the catch, and then he misses a tackle(-1, Ezeh -1); Kovacs(-1, tackle -1) then misses another one.|
|M39||1||10||Ace Twins Twin TE||4-3 over||Pass||Bubble screen||Woolfolk||Inc|
|Pass ends up dropped but Woolfolk(+1) had beaten his blocker cleanly and was probably going to tackle this for a minimal gain(cover +1).|
|M39||2||10||Ace||4-3 under||Run||Inside zone||Ezeh||2|
|Ezeh(+1) shoots into the backfield—blitzing—and gets in on Beachum; he misses the tackle(-1), turning a loss into a decent gain.|
|M39||3||8||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Sack||Graham||-8|
|Graham is lined up way, way outside of even the TE. TE releases, Graham(+3) bursts past the tackle's feeble attempt to block him, and sacks Clark with some help from Van Bergen. (Pressure +2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-25, 9 min 3rd Q.This is the dangerous play that should not happen.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M22||1||10||Ace Twins||4-4 under||Run||Down G||Brown||5|
|Center and playside guard pull around as PSU downblocks RVB and creases the line. Mouton(+1) does a good job of getting to one of the lead blockers and closing down the space but Brown(-1) is hesitant, perhaps expecting the TE to release—although he waits way too long after it's clear he won't—and provides a crease outside of Mouton, away from the pursuing Ezeh. Ezeh does continue to flow down the line and tackles(+1) well.|
|Warren(-1) in man coverage against Moye. He turns his hips upfield in anticipation of a fade, does it way too early, and leaves this wide open(-2) for a touchdown.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 10-32, 7 min 3rd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O25||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Run||Zone stretch||Ezeh||6|
|Banks(-1) gets sealed on this play but the LBs are both flowing down hill very quickly, which means Mouton(+1) doesn't get blocked by the first OL and absorbs the G releasing into the second level. He does a pretty decent job of avoiding the block and being a pest. Ezeh(-1), totally unblocked, sets up outside and lets Royster crease the two LBs. (Tackling -1)|
|O31||2||4||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||Power O||Heininger||1|
|Heininger(+2)(!) is slanting on this play and gets right past the backside tackle into the gap that the pulling guard has vacated. He slants right into Royster and tackles(+1) despite having an OT on his back. Another outside blitz from Williams plus a DE, this time Roh, getting too far upfield, would have given Royster plenty of room had Heininger not made this play.|
|O32||3||3||Ace 3-wide||Nickel under||Pass||Fade||Warren||Inc|
|Warren(+1) in excellent coverage(+1) so Penn State tries to throw it to the back shoulder of the WR, which is tough, especially when Moye's kind of clunky. Pass is well short and inside and incomplete. Six rushers on this play forced an early throw; Michigan fortunate PSU wasn't looking at a freakin' wide open Quarless on a little hitch.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 10-32, 5 min 3rd Q. Graham(+3) blocks a punt.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||Ace Twin TE||4-4 under||Run||Inside zone||Sagesse||7|
|Coupled with an end-around fake; DL does a decent job but Sagesse(-0.5) spins only half way, allowing Royster to hit it up in a small crease; Ezeh(-0.5) and Mouton(-0.5) passively accept blocks and aren't much help except as traffic cones.|
|O27||2||3||Ace 3-wide||4-4 under||Run||Power O||Graham||-2|
|Fake I-form; this time Mouton goes out on Royster. Finally. Ezeh has been yanked for Fitzgerald. Graham(+2) blasts into the backfield like a shot, dominating Poti and actually getting into a guard pulling away from him; he then attempts to tackle Royster with two guys draped on him. Can't quite do it but Brown is unblocked in the hole and happy to clean up.|
|Jebus, Graham(+1) is actually a guy they're trying to block and he still almost kills Clark on a screen. Michigan has made the DTs passive, so they're in position to absorb blockers; Mouton(+1), in a short zone, reads the play and forces it back into Martin. (RPS +1, cover +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 10-32, 2 min 3rd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||Ace Twins Twin TE||4-4 under||Pass||Waggle deep post||Kovacs||Inc|
|Play action rollout on which Roh(+1, pressure +1) gets to the outside on, forcing Clark to pull up and threatening to sack. Clark decides to bomb it deep into double coverage(+1), with Kovacs(+1) in better position to bring this in than the receiver.|
|O20||2||10||I-Form Twins||4-4 under||Run||Zone stretch(?)||Van Bergen||8|
|I don't recognize this blocking scheme. It appears the playside OT and C get to block players lined up away from them, which is like the opposite of a reach block, and get their guys. Graham avoids a cut on the backside and should kill any cutback but for Van Bergen(-1) getting seriously owned by the LG. Brown(-1) accepts a block, delaying everyone, and Mouton(-1) overruns the play, opening up a cutback lane for Royster. Graham(+0.5) does recover to tackle from behind.|
|O28||3||2||Ace Twin TE||4-4 under||Run||Inside zone||Graham||2|
|Graham(+1) again beats his blocker well to the inside and would crush this play if he wasn't tackled by the LT. Very frustrating. As it is, there's a couple guys on the ground where doom would have been otherwise and Royster manages to burrow through it and a couple other guys for a first down.|
|O30||1||10||I-Form Twins||4-3 under||Run||Down G||Williams||5|
|Graham(+1) beats a blocker and is into the backfield, forcing Beachum to delay as he passes. Mouton(-0.5) ends up cut by the fullback and passed by; Williams(-1) whiffs a tackle(-1) and turns two into five.|
|O35||2||5||Ace Twins Twin TE||4-4 under||Run||Inside zone||Van Bergen||11|
|Michigan really selling out on the front side of the play; Van Bergen(-1) is chopped to the ground and opens up a cutback lane. Ezeh(-1) has run himself out of the play after Brown went to cover the TE in motion, and is so out of position he can't even tackle after a gain. Beachum falls before Kovacs can attempt a tackle.|
|O46||1||10||I-Form||4-4 under||Pass||Long handoff||Warren||3|
|Warren(+1, tackling +1).|
|O49||2||7||Ace 4-wide||4-3 under split||Run||Delay||Roh||6|
|Not exactly sure who or what to blame here. Martin takes a scoop from the C and the backside G so I think this is supposed to go in a gap between Martin and Graham; Martin and Fitzgerald do a good job of closing that hole off, so it's Roh(-1) who fails to close down the backside gap, and Martin(-0.5) who gives a little too much ground, allowing Beachum to plow forward for near first-down yardage.|
|M45||3||1||I-Form||4-4 under||Run||Naked boot||--||12|
|Williams(-2) loses contain like whoah and there's no one else on third and short.. (RPS -1)|
|M33||1||10||Ace||4-4 under||Run||Delay||Sagesse||15 (Pen -10)|
|Sagesse(-1) runs upfield and ends up getting pancaked by a momentary double as the C hurls him to the ground. This draws a shaky holding call from the umpire that erases a big gain. Mouton was in the area but Ezeh(-1) ran himself out of position again, and gets yanked, again.|
|M43||1||20||Ace 3-wide||4-4 under||Pass||TE drag||Williams||Inc|
|Underneath receivers run the “mesh” play that TT likes so much and Michigan has had big problems with so far this year; here Williams(+1) stays home on the one crossing route and is in position to break up and sort of kind of nearly intercept (cover +1)|
|Looks like there's a crease of sorts but Royster delays, hitting it, possibly because Heininger(+1) has shoved the RT back and then come inside, getting he hell held out of him but at least making the hole look closed off. When Mouton hops outside (OMG contain!), Royster darts back in and because of the hold can pick for a few yards.|
|M39||3||16||Ace 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||Throwaway||--||Inc|
|Clark has plenty of time (pressure -1) but first and second options are open (cover +2) and a brief scramble results in Clark just chucking the ball OOB to avoid a sack.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, but a roughing call, 10-32, 9 min 4th Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M29||1||10||I-Form||4-4 under||Run||Zone stretch||Martin||4|
|Good job by all three playside DL, as Graham(+0.5) does pretty well against a double, Martin(+0.5) gets playside of his guy and beats him, and RVB avoids a cut and flows down the line. Williams blitzed, taking out the FB. He fights inside and gets a hit on Royster that should stop him and does; RVB(-0.5) then overruns it and allows Royster to spin behind—great play by him—and turn nothing into something.|
|M25||2||6||Ace Twins Twin TE||4-4 under||Run||Delay||Martin||5|
|Mouton does an excellent job to read the play, shoot past the guys doubling Martin(-1), who gets blown too far off the ball, and shoot past the pulling TE into the backfield, but he then overruns the play. So no plus as Royster's not that delayed. Williams(-0.5) stumbles coming to the line, preventing him from hitting Royster with force, and Martin can't stand up to him, allowing Royster to fall forward.|
|M20||3||1||I-Form Big||4-4 under||Run||QB sneak||--||1|
|They get it.|
|M19||1||10||Ace Twin TE||4-4 under||Run||Delay||Warren||3|
|TE motion ends up with Michigan over-shifted to the strong side of the formation. Herron(-1) runs upfield against what's likely to be a run play, opening up a cutback lane when Ezeh(+0.5) fills a small gap between RVB and Martin smartly. Warren(+1, tackling +1) comes up very well to tackle after a minimal gain, partially because Beachum makes a rookie mistake and tries to cut it outside instead of just slamming into a CB trying to tackle him.|
|Ezeh blitzes, absorbing the center and getting playside of him, forcing a cutback. Graham(+1) stunts directly into that, tackling for a minimal gain(+1, RPS +1).|
|M17||3||8||Ace Twin TE||4-4 under split||Run||Zone stretch||--||6|
|PSU clearly doesn't care, and okay whatever now it's FG time.|
|Drive Notes: Field goal(28), 10-35, 5 min 4th Q. End of charting.|
Aren't you Mr. Cranky Pants?
Well, maybe I am. Maybe I'm not. To determine that I think we need a—
|Graham||21||4||17||At some point in the second half I emailed Dr. Saturday that Brandon Graham was an All-American and the rest of the defense hated me.|
|Heininger||3||-||3||…though this suggests that Penn State's RT spot is something of an issue.|
|Roh||4||1||3||Got a sack against the real side of the PSU D.|
|Herron||-||3||-3||One of three culprits on the 60-yard TD.|
|Van Bergen||4||3||1||Also not a great day.|
|TOTAL||34.5||14||20.5||Pretty mediocre day outside of Graham.|
|Ezeh||4||7||-3||Iowa progress gives way to the disappointing usual.|
|Brown||-||2||-2||Zug TDs not really his fault.|
|Fitzgerald||-||-||-||Didn't do much.|
|TOTAL||8.5||17.5||-9||Run filling = very good. Pass defense = very bad.|
|Warren||4||2.5||1.5||Got burned on one TD.|
|Williams||1||5||-4||Plus more bad news if you think the long handoffs are on him.|
|Kovacs||1||6||-5||Just can't play a deep half.|
|TOTAL||7||14.5||-6.5||It gets worse.|
|Pressure||6||2||4||Even when PSU went deep Clark was about to get hammered when he threw most of those.|
|Coverage||13||23||-8||PSU exploited the safeties and the linebackers all day.|
|Tackling||5||5||0||First even tackling day; think that's bad.|
|RPS||6||13||-7||Robinson got pwned.|
[A reminder: RPS is "rock, paper, scissors." Michigan gets a + when they call a play that makes it very easy for them to defend the opponent, like getting a free blitzer. They get a – when they call a play that makes it very difficult for them to defend the opponent, like showing a seven-man blitz and having Penn State get easy touchdowns twice.]
I guess I am pretty cranky.
Why are you such a grump? Iowa put up 30 points and 367 yards of offense to Penn State's 35 and 396 , and Michigan managed to escape that game with way better numbers.
I think it was that all the stuff Penn State was doing came so easy. The Zug touchdowns, the Quarless touchdown, all the long handoffs: all of those plays required nothing more than Penn State not screwing up with wide open receivers. To Clark's credit, he hit all those guys. He then laughed about the primitive defense that Michigan was running, and on review I totally agree: Michigan telegraphed their now-predictable third and long redzone blitzes and got killed. They showed the long handoff was there and got killed. They put Obi Ezeh in man coverage on the edge against Evan Royster and got killed.
That's what the big minus in RPS is there for: I think Robinson got owned by Penn State's offensive brain trust (which is Galen Hall, not Jaypa). This game was slightly reminiscent of the Purdue game a year ago where Michigan switched to a new system and got their brains beaten in by it.
Also, Penn State spent ten minutes of the fourth quarter trying to kill the clock and went on a death march of a drive. It got helped out by a bad penalty on the punter, Penn State successfully strangled the clock. The PSU numbers are basically three quarters of action.
Well, what do you suggest we do?
I don't know. I am sort of mad at Robinson for making it easy by not breaking tendencies with two weeks to prepare. But when you've got Kovacs as your deep safety, what can you do? Kid's smart and can be an effective player in the box but obviously lacks the athleticism to be a deep safety in the Big Ten. This is not a surprise, he is a freshman walk-on. Michigan's not even rolling out third-option fifth-year senior walk-ons like Josh Hull and his Hullstache…
…we're rolling out first-option (IE: no one is injured) freshman walk-ons who are technically redshirt freshmen but didn't even get to be on the team last year because they had a knee injury and so are really just off-the-street hi-who-are-you-get-in-there-Cavanaugh-oops guys. Which makes for cute stories but not good defenses.
And he's obviously better than the other safety! Arrrrgh. I think I need to do me one of those "this is why we suck" lists that shows safety recruiting over the last five years.
Meanwhile, the linebackers remain a disaster and I still think it might be Hopson's fault. Those four spots on the defense are just killing Michigan. They can't cover TEs. They can't have sensible two-deep coverage. They regularly overrun plays on the ground that the DL has destroyed. Williams whiffs tackles and both safeties are totally unsuited for deep coverage to the point where Michigan is trying to use Warren as some sort of hybrid CB/S just so they can run two-deep without a guaranteed touchdown, just a high chance of touchdown.
I guess I suggest we wait and hope things are better next year because eight guys returning should make up for the loss of Graham.
The slightly poorer set of folks not named Graham: Greg Robinson, Mike Williams, Jordan Kovacs, and pick a linebacker.
What does it mean for Illinois and the rest of the season?
Well, Brandon Graham is going to do an awful lot to stop opposition offenses and he needs some help. Kovacs as a deep safety (oddly, in Michigan's system this is the "strong" safety) doesn't work, Williams as a deep safety doesn't work, Floyd as a cornerback doesn't work, Michigan has two Big Ten level secondary members and guys who might not start for a good MAC team elsewhere. There is no hope for that the rest of the season.
I've given up on the linebackers, and it sounds like the coaches are getting there, too. The line is actually pretty good, non-Graham off day against Penn State nonwithstanding.