Talk about the play last game of the corners. Those guys just seemed to be right on.
“Yeah, they’re playing well. They’re working hard in practice preparing themselves week in and week out and they just gotta continue, and it’s paying off in the games. So, we’ll keep on that same path and just try to keep building it.”
Lewis interception ranks where in the pick offs that you’ve seen?
“It’s insane. I mean, I haven’t seen anything like that from a defensive player. Seen a few guys offensively do it, but nothing like that defensively. That was a hell of a play.”
Besides that, the way that he’s closing in the run game and getting to the ball, just talk about how good he’s been.
“Yeah, he’s a complete player on the defensive side of the ball. The kid’s very competitive, very feisty, he’s very good at man-to-man coverage, very good at zone coverage when asked to drop, and he knows how to get off blocks and he knows how to make tackles. I mean, he can do it all. He’s a pretty good player.”
You’ve coached Jourdan now for a year and a half. How many times can you recall during a game where he made a technical mistake?
“Well, we all make mistakes and he has made a few. Even last week, him and Channing made a few technical mistakes that we’re trying to clear up and we will clear up. They’re few and far between with him. And the thing is, when he does it, he knows it and he gets pretty upset about it. He tries to figure it out real quick.”
Obviously not having Jeremy [Clark] you guys are kind of on thin ice with just two guys, even as good as they are. With the other two [freshmen], are they ready?
“I feel so bad for Jeremy. Really practiced so hard and played so well in the games he was in, and everybody’s talking about him and hoping the best for him. Brandon Watson had a hell of a camp. Really since spring. Played well in the spring, played well all through camp, and he’s going in, filling in just fine. Lavert Hill: extremely talented young man. He’s just got to grow and mature. He’s young. David Long, same way. His injury held him up a little bit, but now we’re starting to see some things out of him. It’s very unfortunate we lost Jeremy—you never want to lose a guy like that—but those guys, those three guys I think in time and if in need can fill in and play.”
[After THE JUMP: discussing soil conditions in the garden]
10/1/2016 – Michigan 14, Wisconsin 7 – 5-0, 2-0 Big Ten
I was scared once.
Let's dispense with the I ain't scurrred talk: football is terrifying and brings you to your knees and you can either admit this to yourself or embark on a life of chest-puffing Brandon stuff. Michigan hadn't won a game against a top ten team in 12 tries. When they're tied deep into the second half after spurning a pile of opportunities to make it a contest that's only kinda-sorta competitive you're goddamn right the idea they'd lose a game to a team that might as well have started drives on third and eight was bowel-shaking.
Anyway. Channing Stribling fell over and Alex Hornibrook heaved the ball at his receiver. It seemed long from the get go and turned out to be long, but you never know. As that mortar arched back towards earth my annoyance momentarily morphed into terror, because this was the kind of game where 7-7 is a war and 14-7 is a surrender. That ball clanged harmlessly to the turf. Wilton Speight's deep shot to Amara Darboh did not.
Hornibrook negotiated terms shortly thereafter, and hello it is October and it's hard to see a loss on Michigan's schedule until what's looking a lot like Football Armageddon II. Bill Connelly's fancystats have Michigan a two-touchdown favorite in every game before The Game, and it's not hard to see Vegas issuing double-digit spreads until then. This is the elite team it is supposed to be, even if someone needs to hit the field goal kickers with a frying pan until they remember to put it through the uprights.
This is because of the defense. Many expectations were piled upon it this offseason, and all have thus far been redeemed. You've seen it with your personal sensory organs. I have as well. I have seen other defenses, many of them, and the sense of serene calm when Michigan punts has only been matched by 1997 and 2006 in my experience. Michigan passes the eye test. They pass the scouting test. PFF has seven different Michigan DL with 100 snaps charted and a grade of 75 or above, which is bonkers.
And they pass the computer test. As of today Michigan is the #1 defense in S&P+ by a furlong and a half:
The gap between them and #2 Florida is bigger than the gap between Florida and #10 Washington. They are first or second in any capacity you'd like to name, and complaints about schedule strength start to ring hollow when Colorado is lighting up everyone they come across with a backup quarterback who netted –4 yards against Michigan and Wisconsin ends up with half the yards they did against LSU or MSU.
Michigan's supposed weakness on defense isn't one, and everything else is coming in at or above expectations. People used to say things like "punting is winning" and mean them as something other than shots at Kirk Ferentz. That's because football used to look a lot like Saturday's game: trench warfare punctuated with one or two seismic moments. I have an old feeling, and a good feeling, about this football team.
With Iowa playing competitive games against Rutgers and Indiana going toe-to-toe with Michigan State, thoughts inevitably turn to the roadblock at the end of the season. The team has to take things one game at a time. I don't. I can take them six or twenty at a time. I can know the names of a couple of large men in the 2019 class at Belleville, because it's never too early to think about 2023.
So. This defense and the great roadblock. One of those previous defenses had a fatal flaw. One did not. The 2006 defense had one and a half excellent cornerbacks and no nickel package. Leon Hall would go on to a long NFL career. Morgan Trent had a cup of coffee in the league. Michigan went up against an OSU spread offense with Chris Graham as their spacebacker. This was part poor roster construction and part horrendous gameplanning; Michigan was put to the sword by Troy Smith.
You'd think that's in the past now, but just last year a good, if depleted, Michigan defense entered the OSU game with a plan to do the exact same thing they'd done the rest of the year and got ripped for 300 yards on the ground, yet again. The failures linger and give you pause when you project down the road, especially since this does not seem like a rebuilding year for the Great Satan. Worry, worry, worry.
Still, Jabrill Peppers is not Chris Graham. Michigan just crushed a manball team without taking their 210 pound linebacker-type substance off the field. They are not running a defense that tells you which guy is not going to play the run presnap. They have survived the first five games with a just couple of injury scares on the defensive line. I am thinking Michigan might be able to punt a lot and win, even down in Columbus.
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 Ryan Glasgow forced Channing Stribling's second interception by hitting Hornibrook as he threw and spent the rest of the day tossing UW's poor center to the ground, whether it was run or pass. He didn't rack up many counting stats because of the nature of the Badger offense but he's in line for a big-ass UFR grade.
#2 Kyle Kalis was a pile-mover in a game that needed to move many piles. Michigan's run game was decidedly right-handed in this one, and Kalis didn't have the protection issues Magnuson did. The repeated zone reads with Peppers were an impressive demonstration of Michigan's ability to shoot a very good defense off the ball.
#3 Jourdan Lewis was only targeted twice. One was incomplete. One has been photoshopped into a nouveau Jumpman logo. In addition to those two incidents, Lewis had two excellent plays in run defense that shut down Wisconsin attempts to get to the edge.
Honorable mention: uh, everyone on defense. Amara Darboh was the main target on Michigan's second touchdown drive.
5: Jabrill Peppers(T2, Hawaii; #3 UCF, #1 Colorado), Ryan Glasgow(#2 UCF, #1 UW).
3: Mike McCray(#1, Hawaii), Wilton Speight (#1 UCF).
2: Jake Butt(#2 Colorado), Ben Gedeon(#3 Colorado, #3 PSU), Kyle Kalis (#2 UW).
1: Delano Hill (T2, Hawaii), Chris Evans (T3, Hawaii, four-way T2, PSU), Chris Wormley (three-way T1, PSU), Maurice Hurst (three-way T1, PSU), Taco Charlton(three-way T1, PSU), Jourdan Lewis (#3 UW).
0.5: Mason Cole(T3, Hawaii), De'Veon Smith (four-way T2, PSU), Ty Isaac (four-way T2, PSU), Karan Higdon(four-way T2, PSU).
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
This week's best thing ever.
Speight bombs one over the top to Darboh for the winning points.
Honorable mention: The Lewis interception.
Hawaii: Laughter-inducing Peppers punt return.
UCF: Speight opens his Rex Grossman account.
Colorado: Peppers cashes it in.
PSU: Wormley's sack establishes a theme.
UW: Darboh puts Michigan ahead for good.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
This week's worst thing ever.
For the second consecutive week this is a key piece being knocked out, probably for the season. Grant Newsome took a cut from a defensive back that resulted in a knee injury "as serious as a knee injury can be" and Michigan has to find out what they've got behind him now.
Honorable mention: Wisconsin scores an actual touchdown; any of three different makeable field goals go awry; Speight gets picked off; Michigan takes 34 consecutive penalties on special teams.
PREVIOUS EPIC DOUBLE BIRDs
Hawaii: Not Mone again.
UCF: Uh, Dymonte, you may want to either tackle or at least lightly brush that guy.
Colorado: Speight blindsided.
PSU: Clark's noncontact ACL injury.
UW: Newsome joins the ranks of the injured.
[After THE JUMP: one bushel of beets please]
News bullets and other items:
- Grant Newsome’s injury will likely require surgery
- Quinn Nordin is injured
- There will be a kicking competition this week, and Ryan Tice will have the chance to lessen the burden on Kenny Allen; Harbaugh said he always thought it was too much to have to use Kenny for field goal, punt, and kickoff duties.
- The defense got an A++
- Speight’s decision making got an A
- A couple of the penalties came from Wisconsin simulating the offensive and punt team cadence, which you’re not allowed to do.
You guys left a lot of points on the board with the three missed field goals. You guys also kind of uncharacteristically had a mistake filled game with a lot of penalties. I was wondering, was that a source of frustration for you and what message did you give your team to get them back on track?
“Well, first of all, talking to the team, we were celebrating a win. Great win for our team. Thought there was a lot of things we did really well. Obviously we left nine points off the scoreboard. You've got to put those points on the board. Points on the board really matter. So, we'll have a little kicking competition this week, and it'll be an opportunity for Ryan Tice. And, uh, yeah. See if we can't make them next time.”
Can you talk about your perspective on Jourdan Lewis’ interception? Ever seen anything quite like that?
“Yeah, I've seen Odell Beckham Junior do that. Looked like that kind of play. Really, most impressive thing about it was, you know, he jumped a little early and I was a little nervous that he was going to come down and the ball was just going to go over his fingertips but he was able to hang in the air and he made a spectacular play. Then I was thinking, well, it was fourth down. Probably would have been better had he not intercepted it. I'm really glad he did. It was a spectacular, spectacular football play, Athletic play. Really unbelievable.
“I thought Channing Stribling did a great job as well. And Jourdan had a tremendous tackle in the open field. Thought the secondary was really good. Our defensive line was lights out. It was a game-ball for Don Brown kind of a game. Very impressed with our defense, our defense of coaches, and the character of our defense of players and their talents. A++.”
First off, what was your vantage point on Wilton's downfield throw for the touchdown? Looked right on the money. And also, are you itching to get this team a good road test next week?
“Yeah, we were under center, play action pass, really the play is designed to go to Jake Butt, but then I saw Wilton wheel and throw it to Amara and I saw Amara had a step on him or two. Just kind of hold your breath through the last split seconds of the play to see that it doesn't get deflected, but I really felt good when the ball was in the air.
“Wilton has been extremely good throwing the deep ball, extremely accurate throwing the deep ball, so we all have a lot of confidence. And he has a lot of confidence in throwing it and it was a tremendous play. The slant a couple plays before that, also to Amara, was another excellent throw. We didn't get Wilton the pass protection today that we would like and he deserves, But when he had protection and was able to set his feet and throw the football, I thought he did it very effectively.”
[After THE JUMP: ice cream time!]
Thoughts on how your group’s played so far through four games?
“They’ve played well. They for the most part have done what they’ve been asked to do. More importantly than the games, I think, they’ve shown four weeks of improvement each in their own individual way in terms of what they needed to work on. I think we’re really in position to be playing our best football as a group getting into Big Ten play and then, as you’d like to, in October and November, so I’m excited about that.”
What was the point where you saw Devin Asiasi emerge? He’s obviously right there as one of your top guys so far.
“Uh, last January when I watched his junior high school tape, probably.”
What is it about him, is it that he’s physical?
“He’s a guy who plays fast, he’s physical, he’s capable of playing very nasty. He weighs somewhere around 270 pounds and still moves very well, so it’s a rare physical combination. Then he has a good football awareness about him and he learns well. Once I got a sense of the fact that he’d be able to pick things up fast enough to contribute it was kind of a no-brainer that he’d be part of the group.”
Speaking of playing nasty, it seemed like Tyrone [Wheatley Jr.] had that kind of week last week blocking. Is he becoming that kind of a mauler out there at that position?
“Yeah, certainly He’s definitely improving. Every week has been better than the previous, and looking for that to continue.”
Devin said that you had a big role in his recruitment and getting him here. I know for him it was a lot of last minute stuff and getting hot late in his recruitment. Can you touch a little on what it was like to build that relationship with him?
“Shoot, it was just kind of steady. He’s the kind of guy who could have gone wherever he wanted to go and it was just kind of always being there and building that relationship over a long period of time. I think he might have been the first guy I offered when I got the job here last January or February or whatever it was. Always loved him and it was just a long time, and luckily it paid off at the end.”
[After THE JUMP: pick your punt-return poison]
What are your thoughts about this week’s game?
“Well, it’s a big game, obviously. It’s the next game. It’s a very well coached, good football team. Got a big offensive line. They take pride in running the football. They’re, like I said, well coached and good running back and quarterback’s done very well, the freshman—redshirt freshman. They’ve got a number of tight ends that are all good football players, so this’ll be a big test.”
MGoQuestion: Wisconsin’s offensive style is fairly different from what you’ve faced the last few weeks. How does that impact your line rotation, if at all?
“Well, we’ll always rotate, you know, because the guys have earned the right to rotate, and we feel like they’re playing to be able to go in there. It always helps if you’re fresh. You always can benefit from what one guy tells you when he comes off, how they’re blocking you. But it is, you’re right, it is different. The fast pace of spread offense and then go from that to this style of offense is totally different.”
Your thoughts on getting Taco back and how he looked?
“It’s great to have him back. I’m very, very proud of him. I’m proud of our training staff. I mean, he worked so hard at getting back. Spent countless hours in the training room and you could see out there it was good to have him back.
“He’s had a good week of practice and he’s a senior now. He’s got things to prove and that’s what he’s working for. I was really proud of how much time and how much effort he did to get himself back. That tells you how important it is.”
How do you look at Rashan Gary as far as his progression over the first four weeks?
“He’s getting better every game. He’s getting better. He’s working really hard. And again, I mentioned this once before but one of the key things with Rashan is to have role models like Chris Wormley and Taco. He sees them do it right, and if he doesn’t—not that he doesn’t—but if he doesn’t do it he sees, okay, this is how it’s supposed to be. It’s not having to pull up a highlight tape or something like that to show him. He’s working very hard, and I’m very proud of him also because he knows how important this is for the seniors and the kids ahead of him and he’s doing everything he can to help this team.”
[After THE JUMP: Bryan Mone is practicing,Chase Winovich sneaks into the weight room, and Jourdan Lewis is Jourdan Lewis]
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FORMATION NOTES: Okay. Breaking things into front and cover look seems to be mostly functional. By "press" I mean that the two outside corners are in press. Usually the slots are still a number of yards off. This was a 4-2-5 package. The front is nickel over—Peppers is playing S and the line slides towards the run strength—and the cover look was press two high:
Goal line package was called 4-4 press zero:
When Michigan went to a dime package they had a couple of different approaches. This is a 3-man front like you'd see in a 3-4 with OLBs flanking it and just one ILB:
I called this front 3-3 split. They also did some wacky stuff, like putting all three DL to one side of the line:
"Heavy slide 3-3-5." Taco Charlton, the nominal nose tackle, will help tackle an outside run to the top of the field.
And as a reminder I'm lumping all fronts with a bunch of dudes at the LOS under "okie":
BTW, "half press" or "off" looks are usually zone so far.
PERSONNEL NOTES: Just 57 defensive snaps and a ton of rotation on the DL. Charlton seems all the way back and in fact took the most of any DL(39); Godin, Glasgow, Hurst, Wormley, and Gary all had around 30. Winovich got 22.
The two ILBs got every snap until the final drive; McCray was lifted a few times when Michigan went to passing down packages. Furbush debuted for the final two drives. Stribling, Hill, Peppers, Thomas, and Lewis were near-omnipresent. Clark got just 15 snaps before his exit; Kinnel got 23.
[After THE JUMP: this is turning into the usual Penn State game.]