maybe i should have had greg howard write the brandon obit.
jourdan lewis makes good with gypsy
Ace: We're halfway through the season, and I'm in no mood to ask the standard "how is the team doing compared to expectations?" for obvious reasons. Instead, for a more positive outlook, let's keep our eyes on the future: Which player on each side of the ball has exceeded your expectations for them heading into the year? Has anyone, in your opinion, gone from question mark to potential star?
Seth: There has been so little good news from the offense that Jack Miller's play has gone largely unnoticed. I was ready to write him off after last year to the point where I was writing off the entire OL because Miller still had a job on it. Mea culpa; there's no whiff of Rimington in his future, but it appears the dude can ball.
|Miller seems to be involved in much of the offense's little bursts of running competence. [Fuller]|
We haven't had a UFR for awhile, but when those do come out I bet you'll find the run game's quiet progress can be largely attributed to Miller pulling off the occasional block in a gap nobody but Molk has any business getting to. Even earlier in the season there were Miller-generated holes that the RBs just missed. Did you hear me, People of Earth Who Lived Through the Neg-Two and 27 for 27? THERE WERE HOLES! Upperclassmen are nice, and also a nice reminder that most OL take a long time to develop.
On defense it's Ryan Glasgow, with Jourdan Lewis running a close second. Remember what you thought when you first heard Glasgow was atop the depth chart? You thought "Oh dear, Pipkins is still damaged and a walk-on is ahead of everyone else." That seems like forever ago; it was six weeks ago.
It took just a few games for Glasgow to earn the Order of St. Kovacs, his asterisks packed away for his eventual NFL destination to do human interest stories. I remind you even the Great and Mighty Kovacs spent a season as the opposite of Ed Reed (and went out, miserably, on a play that reminded us how much he wasn't Ed Reed). Some decent run outfits haven't been able to get anywhere against Michigan except when Glasgow rotates out, and there have even been a few GRrraaaarrr plays of brute strength to hint at a higher ceiling.
His game could use some pass rush, but has exceeded expectations to the point that I want Adam to ask the coaches where was guy this last year when they were playing Jibreel Black at nose? I'll say this for Brady Hoke: when he's gone, I suspect I will dearly miss the Heininger Certainty Principle.
[jump for people saying positive things about offensive players, perhaps]
“Hello, everybody. I almost didn’t make it today. I was kind of busy over there trying to get ready for this next one. Somebody had to tell me to come but it’s good to see everybody. Go ahead.”
Greg, the run defense remains a strength. I know that the secondary needs some work, though. Overall, what’s your assessment of your defense through four games?
“I don’t look at four games. I always look at the last game. We didn’t win. There’s a point when you become- and that’s our goal, to become a great defense, is you do whatever you have to to win. You do whatever you have to. And that in a lot of places means don’t even let them get in the end zone in any way. Am I proud of these guys? I’ve told you from day one I really like these guys. I mean, I like how they work. I like what they bring to the meeting room every day. I like what they bring to the practice field. I like how they compete. Do we do it perfect all the time [and] have we? No. And do we have to keep working to do that? Yes. Until we do whatever we possibly have to do to get the win then we haven’t totally reached the mark.”
Coach, I’ll have you comment on a couple of things. One, the breakthrough on producing a score on defense, but then the drive that they had coming out of the second half.
“Getting the score, that’s a guy playing hard in practice every day. That’s a guy doing the things [he needs to]. That’s a guy improving, Willie Henry. That was a guy making a play that he had to make a play and we’ve talked about him, too, [and] what he’s done since the day he got here. His improvement. Becoming mature, practice habits, all that and that’s great to see that happen for him. Same thing for Frank [Clark]. That sack he got was a big league sack. Those things happen because you work hard and you practice hard.
“Coming out in the second half at half time…they got us on two plays that were corrected immediately after that happened. It’s a shame that I didn’t see it quicker. It’s a shame that I didn’t do something after the first time to eliminate- it was the exact same play that scored a touchdown on it and that’s where maybe I need to see that quicker from what happened and stop that one touchdown and, again, that’s my job. But they adjusted then and that’s how they got there. That’s what happened after [the] half.”
Jake Ryan had a career-high 13 tackles. He has an unorthodox way of doing things sometimes but gets the job done. Talk about the essence of Jake Ryan as a defensive force.
“Well, Jake and Joe [Bolden]. I’ll put them together. Your linebackers in this defense have got to make a lot of plays because you’re getting very good play out of the front in front of them. When the front demands double teams and when the front does what they’ve been doing then there are so many times when a linebacker, if he does what he’s supposed to do with his footwork, with his keys, with his recognition, is there with nobody blocking him. Now make the tackle. And their effort, Joe and Jake, their effort, their toughness, their playing what I consider linebacker, that’s been good and we’ve got to keep getting better.”
But Jake in particular. I touched on his unorthodox manner sometimes in getting the job done. Can you talk about him in particular?
“I don’t know what unorthodox is. To me, it’s when the ball carrier has the football and you tackle him, you’re playing linebacker. Sometimes they’re not picture-perfect tackles. Sometimes you may not be perfect with your footwork, stepping down and all of a sudden coming back. Jake’s been unorthodox since the day he got here. You know, that’s Jake and that’s why I love him but I can’t say it enough: Joe being in there with him, Joe doing what he’s doing- I mean, I don’t know what you had him for tackles but I had him the same way with pretty close. And we’ve just got to keep them both doing what they’re doing and it’s the front that’s helping them do that.”
[After THE JUMP: playing euchre, wrestling Hoke, and other tales of a 30-year friendship]
Thank you, Jourdan Lewis, for picking this ball off in front of the home sideline, and more specifically mere feet away from the eminantly GIF-able Will Hagerup.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the Miami game in GIFs.]
The spring game-type-substance maintained its downward importance trajectory, but as it's the last glimpse of one of the big three sports we'll have until fall we'll talk about it all the same. This year's edition further expanded the punting-drills-and-standing-around section of the practice, so observations are necessarily light on the ground.
It's bad when Doug Karsch can't keep the sarcasm out of his voice.
This video is in Michigan's traditional zoom-o-vision, so you can't actually tell what Lewis did to get in the position he's in for the first interception.
The tone. Last year's "I like this team" has been replaced.
“We’re doing a lot of good things, but we’re not near good enough as a team to win games in the fourth quarter, which we didn’t do (last season), and play on the road,” said Hoke, entering his fourth season. “We’re a long way from being any good."
That reflects the reality of the program.
Depth chart grain of salt reminder. Spring is a season for motivational devices and experiments and therefore places on the depth chart should be regarded as vague indicators more than anything else. Case in point: Graham Glasgow was your second-team right tackle.
Lewis is in your grill yo [Bryan Fuller]
Very aggressive /teddyKGB. Every offseason for a team without an elite defense features coaches promising increased aggression, whereupon most of them quietly drop that promise when the season rolls around and it turns out that for Defense X being super aggressive is a good way to give up quick touchdowns. The cycle repeats the next offseason.
Michigan is promising aggression, and Mattison is putting his cornerbacks where his mouth is. Lewis:
“It’s huge, just getting hands on guys and trying to intimidate them," Lewis said. "That’s our key point right there -- being physical. That’s what (defensive coordinator Greg) Mattison is always talking about, being a physical defense.”
They spent most of the scrimmage session in the grills of Michigan wide receivers, playing MSU-style bump and clutch and grab and run. Word from the coaching clinic is that Michigan is adjusting to the way the game has been called of late. Lewis again:
“He said ‘be physical’,” Lewis said. “But he doesn’t care if it’s great defense and we get a penalty.”
This was highly effective when not drawing two flags on Lewis—the second a dubious one—or that one time the offense got Freddy Canteen lost on a deep corner route. Everything else was contested, and when the ball got to the receiver the corners were making a play on it.
Lewis looked terrific after a spring in which inside practice buzz has heralded him as a major comer; hell, he looked terrific most of last year except for the bit where the opposing quarterback regularly put the ball in the six-inch window perfect coverage provides. In this game he had two interceptions and two flags along with other instances where his presence forced drops or tough catches. The first interception came on the first play of the scrimmage (0:45 above).
The video doesn't do it justice since it kind of looks like Lewis is coming over from a zone. That was pure press man coverage on which he did the one thing the gypsy promised him he'd never do: make a play on the ball after achieving his position.
Is he supplanting? I don't know, man. Usually two returning starters who had the number of excellent interceptions Taylor and Countess did have impregnable positions on the depth chart. This situation is not usual, though, as those guys didn't have impregnable positions even as they were doing that—Taylor was yanked from the starting lineup briefly, even. And the last impression Michigan's coaches have is both guys getting smoked by Tyler Lockett, an impression that Countess might have reinforced when Canteen beat him over the top Manningham-style. (Gardner left the throw short and Countess recovered.)
At the very least the competition here is a real one, unlike, say, quarterback. And corner is a position at which a lot of players will see the field. Lewis has at least claimed a spot in Michigan's nickel package, which is half your snaps these days. Even when not in nickel, Michigan rotated last year and they'll rotate this year. It's likely that Lewis gets as many snaps as the starters whether he is one on paper or not, and then you've got Stribling and Peppers. Delonte Hollowell is hanging around, delivering the occasional hard shot on the unsuspecting.
If the spring game indicates one thing, it's that cornerback is better-stocked than it's been in a long-time. Michigan doesn't have a Woodson (at least until fall, anyway), but I can say without hesitation that I'm more comfortable with Michigan's fifth corner than I usually am with their third. Remember Football Armageddon, when Michigan decided covering a first-round NFL draft pick with Chris Graham was their best option? Yeah. Not so much this year.
Wilson got over the top on a late throw [Bryan Fuller]
Aaaand safety. Much less clarity there, and very little to go on from the game-type section. Michigan spent much of the day rolling whoever wasn't Jarrod Wilson to the line of scrimmage to further their aggression goals, whereupon he would cover a fullback or something or watch as a run play did not get to him.
Wilson did have one nice PBU on a looping ball over the top. The ball was late thanks to some pressure that forced Gardner to roll around in the pocket, but that's the kind of ball a safety can make a play on and the play was made.
As far as depth chart stuff goes there was zero clarity. If you put a gun to my head I'd say Delano Hill was slightly preferred. And then I would say "but…" and you would shoot me. Let's not do this gun to the head thing when talking about Michigan's safeties.
The Jake Ryan experiment. First off, the admittedly not-particularly-meaningful spring depth chart gives me the willies. Ryan at MLB, Morgan second-string behind him, Bolden starting, Ross running on the second team at new tinySAM. I am full of the willies.
It's hard to tell much about linebackers in spring, harder yet when the offensive line they're up against is barely releasing to the second level*. On plays where I watched Jake Ryan he looked okay. He's kind of a long, upright guy, so when blockers get into him he tends to let them under him. On the edge he would just juke a guy and explode past him; in the middle you have to take the block on because picking the wrong side of the guy means you just blew your run fit.
I'm not sure where he fits in an over defense, though, so if you're going to make a shift he has to go somewhere.
Meanwhile, Joe Bolden's ample playing time has been mysterious to me. Linebacker remains the hardest position for me to have a Serious Opinion about because there's just so much that goes into it, but the things that Bolden seemed to be screwing up were really obvious things like not being anywhere near your pass drop. Meanwhile when it comes to hitting people in the face and making them stop going forward there is no comparison between Bolden, who has been a drag-you-down tackler to date, and Desmond Morgan, who thumps you and then you stop moving. Michigan's head coach says "toughness" every other word, and Morgan is much closer to that on the field than Bolden.
As a result I've promised to eat a lemon on the internet if Bolden starts the opener over Morgan. The rules: Morgan has to be healthy, Bolden has to start, and Morgan cannot start.
*[Michigan had a great deal of uninspiring runs of 1-3 yards but few TFLs except that one time they put Henry in against the third team OL. This was in large part because the offensive line was doing its damndest to not repeat the mistakes of last year. Instead of popping off opposing DL immediately, they were maintaining doubles longer than you really should. This made life at LB relatively easy and thus many plays where a tailback crosses the line of scrimmage and encounters a pile of men.]
Poggi SDE, Hurst 3-tech, Henry nose on a second or third unit
Line ups and downs. Here the limitations of spring practice overwhelm. Michigan's first-team offensive line read Cole-Bosch-Miller-Kalis-Braden; the second team featured a left tackle with an enormous cast on his hand. Grain of salt, grain of salt, grain of salt.
Anyway, Michigan had a few guys that looked impressive: Bryan Mone entered the backfield with regularity and Maurice Hurst Jr flashed the first step that was the bulk of his recruiting profile. That they've pushed Henry down the depth chart is an excellent sign even if that particular arrangement is clearly motivational after Henry established himself a legit Big Ten player a year ago. Brennen Beyer displayed an excellent ability to discard… uh… true freshman Mason Cole on a number of snaps. Beyer has always been an active hands guy; the question with him is his ability to hold up against 330 pound trucks. A matchup with Cole is not going to answer that.
Michigan got push up the middle of the pocket for large chunks of the scrimmages and while they weren't penetrating on run plays with regularity, see the aside above. When Michigan's options were limited in the half-line drills, they ended up in the backfield more often than not. It seemed like 80% of those runs cut back behind the center, which is a win for the DL in that drill.
As for guys who had bad snaps we will extrapolate much more from than is reasonable: at 2:55 in the video above Derrick Green gets one of Michigan's better runs on the day by bouncing outside; that is there because Glasgow locked up with and drove Henry Poggi well off the ball. Tom Strobel got easily handled on a successful Hayes power play at 2:25; a linebacker wearing a number in the 40s also picked the wrong hole. Also… does anyone know where Chris Wormley was? I don't recall seeing him; I googled to see if anyone had mentioned anything was up with him and came up empty, so I assume he was there but rather anonymous.
I have to punt on other defensive end observations, as I was focusing on the linebackers and secondary for much of the day.
- They're trying to make good on the promise to be aggressive.
- The cornerback depth is terrific and the top end should be quite good.
- Michigan has a solid young core at DT; DE is more uncertain.
- Linebackers… ask again later.