"Rodrick Williams Jr.'s 10-month old, 2-foot-long savannah monitor named "Kill" gets the RB some strange looks when they go for walks together."
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]
Could you please identify yourself for those of us who don’t know you?
“Oh, okay. Greg Mattison. I’m the defensive coordinator.”
Coach, you were playing in your half of the field the entire third quarter. That drive right before the half: talk about in terms of what it did maybe getting the momentum-
“Well, I don’t think it changed anything when we went in at halftime. I was disappointed in that. The thing I was looking at there was that if we could stop them and had a timeout left we could possibly get the ball on a short field for our offense, and that’s my mistake. We didn’t get it done and whenever we don’t get it done I look at myself first, and as I looked at the tape- you know, third down…that’s why I don’t believe in stats a lot. Our third downs were adequate. They were adequate.
“There were some second downs we had to do better that we gave up some chunks of yardage [on], but to answer your question you’re exactly right. As I was making the calls, as that was happening I said to myself, ‘We’ve got to stop them here and get that ball for the offense. They’re going to have a heck of a shot at possibly having a short field.’ And then they hit the screen, which they did twice, which was just a very well-educated play and that comes down to one guy making a tackle and the guy made us miss.”
Greg, Joe Bolden after the game Saturday talked about kind of a lack of execution and said that was a big problem. [He] mentioned wrapping guys up with David Cobb. What can these guys learn from that? He was really the first guy to run over you guys this season?
“I don’t know if he ran over us but he did better against us than we want anybody to do. He’s a very good running back. I’ve already addressed that with our linebackers and with our defense. We’ve got to play a lot more physical. That was the first time that I felt that we weren’t the leaders in being physical against that offense, and it was guys not getting off blocks, it was guys punching and things that we’ve worked very hard on all camp and just not being physical. I didn’t feel we were as physical as we should be and have to be and we’re working on correcting that right now.”
Is that a defense-wide issue?
“Yeah. It’s total defense. Not just one position, it was total defense. I just didn’t think…you know, we take pride and have all year, take pride in being a very physical team on defense and I just don’t think we did as well as we should have there in that game.”
[After THE JUMP: Greg Mattison scouts Rutgers]
FORMATION NOTES: Not much of note. M was in a 4-3 over most of the day with few deviations. Miami did do some of that late-model RR/Baylor stuff by putting their WRs way far away from everything. I called this Shotgun 4-wide far. (This looks like pistol but the QB is 5 yards deep and the RB will pick a side/position presnap.)
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Line starters were the usual. Backups saw some changes, though. The backup ends were still Charlton and Ojemudia; the second 3Tech was Godin—I don't think Wormley even played—and Hurst got in for some snaps that had previously gone to Pipkins. Again, don't think Pipkins played.
Linebacker was all Ross/Bolden/Ryan, and Michigan spent a big hunk of the game in a 4-3 playing zone so Ross got a fair share of time. When Michigan went nickel they slid Countess inside with Peppers and Lewis on the edge, and then Peppers disappeared and they stopped playing nickel. Hollowell didn't get on the field.
Safety was Jeremy Clark the whole way and Hill; then Hill left and Thomas came in.
APOLOGY NOTE: I used a different video file format and my conversion process balked at it, so the audio is messed up on the clips. I just didn't execute. Sorry guys.
[After THE JUMP: this went well.]
Blake Countess, Jake Ryan, Jehu Chesson
Blake, earlier this season I remember talking to you about the secondary being a strength. Are you guys still confident that the talent’s there? I mean, you guys have given up some big plays now and then. Are you still as confident in the secondary as you were four or five weeks ago?
BC: “Oh, no doubt about it. We’re a group that’s growing just like the rest of the team and we definitely have the talent to do it. It’s just about getting better every week and proving it, but absolutely. My confidence in my secondary has not wavered at all.”
Coach Hoke has been taking a lot of heat, obviously. What do you guys talk about in the locker room? Do you guys rally around him a little bit at this point?
JR: “Yeah, I mean, we’re just trying to stick together as a team. You know, we can’t let last week affect us. We’ve got to hold our heads up and move on. It’s Big Ten season.”
[Ed. Totally inaudible, sorry]
JR: “You can’t listen to that. You know, you can’t be affected by that. You just have to block it out and, you know, these people don’t know what we’ve done behind the scenes. They don’t know what we’ve done in Schembechler Hall, but we’re just going to keep taking those necessary steps forward that we need to take to improve every single day.”
Does it tick you off, though? When you read the tweets or…
JR: “You can’t- I don’t go on the message boards and read all that stuff. You can’t do that. That’s just people’s opinions.”
[More after THE JUMP]
“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]
9/20/2014 – Michigan 10, Utah 26 – 2-2
[GIF via Ace]
We have a grainy screenshot that symbolizes the demise of the Carr era. It's a zone stretch against Ohio State on which every Buckeye has slashed through the Michigan line.
Michigan would trundle to fewer than 100 yards of total offense. Chad Henne's shoulder was separated and he was still the best available option because the only other was a freshman version of Ryan Mallett who fumbled 20% of the under-center snaps he took and got in screaming matches on the sideline. That's because the quarterbacks recruited after Chad Henne were Jason Forcier and David Cone.
By the time that Ohio State game rolled around Michigan had desperately talked Alex Mitchell out of retirement so they could start him. In that context that shot is barely surprising. And then Carr went out and beat Tim Tebow, because nobody got off the mat like Lloyd Carr.
We have just received the grainy screenshot that will symbolize the demise of the Hoke era.
As you've no doubt screamed into a pillow about already, there are ten men on the field as Utah returns a punt for a touchdown. I'm not sure that even matters since two of them are within 30 yards of the guy when he catches the ball.
This site has been complaining about the punting since Hoke's hire, and it has cost Michigan dearly in two losses—Ace Sanders also returned a punt for a touchdown in South Carolina's last-gasp Outback win—and seen Michigan dawdle at the bottom of punt return yards ceded the last two years.
Worse than the yards given up has been Brady Hoke's approach when challenged about it. Never has he given a justification that's even remotely plausible. Once he said he wasn't comfortable with it. At the time I said this was a crappy answer, and it remains a crappy answer:
MGoFollowup: What’s your opinion of the spread punt formation vs. the traditional punt formation?
“Uh, we don’t use it.”
MGoFollowup: Is there a rationale for that?
“I think, you know … I’m more comfortable with what we use. That’s the rationale.”
When pressed a couple weeks ago he said "I don't want to talk about it."
As we get more data about Brady Hoke's tenure that seems less like an isolated crappy answer than the whole damn thing. Anybody with a spreadsheet and an ability to tell up from down could have put compelling evidence of the spread punt's efficacy in front of Hoke's face. Maybe they did.
It wouldn't have mattered. Brady Hoke isn't defending it, so you can't argue back. "We don't do it because we don't do it" is an unassailable position. It is not a rationale.
So it goes. Michigan has settled into a pattern of doing nonsense things, from everything on offense last year to the punting to their continuing, shocking inability to go faster than a waddle. That stat from last week about how Michigan was faster than only Army amongst D-I teams is astounding. Michigan had spent an entire half down three scores, and their tempo was still nationally worst. These things all come from the head coach.
When Michigan goes down by ten, it's over. Lloyd Carr isn't walking through that door. You want to talk leadership and toughness? Leadership turns a mob into an army. And Michigan is no army.
The worst thing is I don't really feel that bad. My main problem at the moment is the fact that I have to write this column, and then somehow eight more, and analyze a team that is unlikely to go anywhere and talk about a coach who is 95% dead man walking. I bet you can't wait for "Yup, Almost Certainly Still Fired: Episode VI". Here is the otter.
HENRI THE OTTER OF ENNUI: this does not break the record for earliest appearance
I fired off some hot takes in the stands, as did large numbers of the people around me, but once I was out of the stadium it was like "okay, now I can go do something else."
I even watched football after! A Michigan loss is supposed to be a weekend-ruining event that makes the idea of watching more football an impossibility. Now it's not a big deal, possibly because I don't recognize whatever Michigan is doing as football. I cannot be reminded of Michigan when turning on Clemson-FSU because Clemson and FSU aren't playing sludgefart.
I know this isn't an aging and maturing thing because 1) obviously and 2) I almost died just a few months ago when Kentucky hit that three-pointer. There's just nothing there to care about. So you show up, and you shrug, and you get annoyed, and then you go home. Sometimes you get wet. Meh.
It was appropriate that Hoke's downfall came amidst a biblical deluge. The Hoke era started with one against Western Michigan. The game was over when the lightning came, but I stayed. A bunch of students did, too, roaring and chanting. When the game was over the stadium was still half-full.
There was no thought of that Saturday. Everyone except the players' parents, Utah fans, and the clinically insane cleared out as soon as the stoppage was announced. Maybe half of them had already exited before the lightning hit.
When Michigan returned to play in front of the obligated and deranged, it looked like the future had finally been created.
Take the cosmic hint.
When Can We Fire This Guy Section
There is still a small (very small) chance that Michigan pulls its collective head from its collective rear and gets to 9-3, at which point a transition is probably not happening. Anything short of that and it's goodbye. Hoke is at the point where you extend or fire him and you can't extend a guy who went 8-4 in the worst Big Ten ever, presumably went 0-3 against major rivals, had at least two humiliating blowouts starring coaching incompetence.
But please don't bring up a midseason canning. Those are reserved for severe breakdowns of authority. Most importantly, firing Hoke now erases any chance there's a new athletic director by the time Michigan embarks on a coaching search.
John Beilein Being Good At Coaching Points Of The Week.
#1 Jourdan Lewis had an outstanding game, chasing things down that other people screwed up and hunting Utah wide receivers like they were weakened alpacas.
#2 Willie Henry scored Michigan's only touchdown and was part of a forceful Michigan defensive line.
#3 Devin Funchess powered through an obvious injury to bring in a number of spectacular catches and would have had an even more impactful game if Gardner was not having one of the worst games of his career.
Honorable mention: Ryan Glasgow, Frank Clark, Brennen Beyer.
Epic Double Point Standings.
7: Devin Funchess (#1, APP, #1 ND, #3 UT)
5: Jourdan Lewis (#2 MIA, #1 UT)
4: Willie Henry(#2 ND, #2 UT)
3: Derrick Green(#1 MIA)
2: Devin Gardner (#2, APP)
1: Ryan Glasgow (#3, ND), Brennen Beyer(#3 MIA)
0.5: Kyle Kalis (T3, APP), Ben Braden (T3, APP)
Trey Burke Against Kansas Of The Week.
For the single individual best moment.
FAT GUY TOUCHDOWN
mr henry this is an internet meme it's not my fault please don't destroy me [Fuller]
For all the good it did. ESPN briefly gave Michigan 12 points they were so astounded, which should be the FAT GUY TD rule.
Honorable mention: Nope!
Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.
AppSt: Derrick Green rumbles for 60 yards.
MIA: Derrick Green scores a goal line touchdown without being so much as touched.
Utah: Willie Henry FAT GUY TOUCHDOWN.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
Worst. Event. Ever. This Week.
Miami takes back a punt 66 yards after Michigan obliges with a line drive punt and two gunners. Oh, and they only put ten guys on the field.
Honorable mention: Interceptions. Fumbles. Hellacious rain. Everything.
AppSt: Devin Gardner dares to throw an incomplete pass.
ND: Countess nowhere to be found on fourth and three.
Miami: You did what to Funchess now when?
Utah: lol ask Brady about punt formations again
[After the JUMP: woo! naw just kiddin'.]