...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
A few rows in front of me at the Western game was one of those guys who exasperatedly yells out a piece of football wisdom he's picked up over the years whenever he is affronted by its lack. His wisdom was "turn around for the ball," which he yelled at Herron a couple times and the cornerbacks a couple times.
I was with him, but then a funny thing happened: no one could complete a fly route on these mediocre corners. Here's everything I've got marked fly/go/fade (which I am totally inconsistent about) from the first two weeks:
|Opp||Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|WMU||M25||2||12||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel press||6||Fly||Floyd||Inc|
|Demens's delayed blitz gets him in free(pressure +1, RPS +1) but I wonder if he didn't time it quite right. Another step and Carder is seriously harried. As it is he gets off an accurate deep ball on Floyd's guy, who's got a step. Floyd runs his ass off, starts tugging jersey early, and... I'll be damned. He strips the ball loose(+2, cover +1). That was textbook. Gibson -1.|
|WMU||M19||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel Eff It||7||Fly||Avery||Inc|
|Sends: house. Obviously something gets through(pressure +1); Carder chucks it deep to a fly route Avery(+2, cover +1) has step for step. He's right in the WR's chest as he goes up for the ball. WR leaps, then reaches out and low in an attempt to stab the ball. Avery rakes it out. Gibson -2. Demens(+1) leveled Carder, BTW.|
|Opp||Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|ND||O36||2||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||5||Fade||Woolfolk||Inc|
|Hawthorne as a standup DE-ish thing and Ryan as an MLB. Blitz telegraphed? I don't remember this play. Survey says... yes. Ryan blitzes, Hawthorne drops into coverage, ND picks it up. Rees wants Floyd on a fade covered by Woolfolk. Woolfolk(+2) is step for step and uses his club to knock the ball away as it arrives. Robinson(+0.5) was there to whack him, too. (Cover +1)|
|ND||O44||1||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||4||Fade||Avery||Inc (Pen 15)|
|No question about this. Avery shoves Floyd OOB on a very catchable fade (-2, cover -1).|
|Floyd on Floyd action. Floyd(+1, cover +1) has excellent, blanketing coverage on Floyd but the back shoulder throw is perfect and his hand is a half-second late. Floyd stabs a foot down and Floyd can't do much other than ride him out of bounds. Sometimes you just have to tip your hat. This is one of those times. That is hard. That is why Floyd (not our Floyd) is going to be rich in about nine months.|
|ND||M21||2||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Okie||5||Fade||Van Bergen||Inc|
|They back out the MLBs this time and send the DL plus the OLBs. RVB(+1, pressure +2, RPS +2) is instantly past the G assigned to him because of a poor pickup; Rees chucks a ball off his back foot that's not catchable. Eifert gives it a go, though.|
|ND||M16||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||5||Fade||Floyd||Inc|
|Floyd(+2, cover +1) in press here and stays step-for-step with Floyd on the fade, breaking it up as it arrives. Fade is not well thrown, which helps.|
|ND||M22||2||2||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||5||Fade||Avery||Inc (Pen 15)|
|Kovacs rolls up; check. They take advantage of the man to man to take a shot at the endzone. Avery(+1, cover +1) is right in the WR's face as the ball comes in; it's low and to the outside and Avery can't do anything about the futile one-handed stab the WR makes, but it's a futile one-handed stab. Avery is hit with a terrible PI flag (refs -1)|
|ND||O39||1||10||Shotgun empty||Nickel even||5||Fade||Floyd||Inc (Pen 15)|
|Hawthorne(+1, pressure +1) gets a free run at Rees so he chucks it to Floyd, Floyd(-2, cover -2) is beaten instantly and starts yanking the jersey in a desperate bid to not be an instant goat.|
|Miscommunication between QB and receiver means pass is nowhere near anyone. Blitz was just getting home.|
Your score excluding the miscommunication: two legit pass interference penalties, one horsecrap call, one 26-yard completion to Michael Floyd, five incompletions. What's more, in each case save one pressure-forced incompletion and the two legit PI calls the corners are 1) there and 2) making a play on the ball.
That's seven out of nine legitimately good plays from the DBs on accurate deep balls. On all but one—the legit Avery PI—the corners were on an island as Mattison sent at least five. No bracket here. The Avery PI was a zone, the rest of it was man coverage, much of it press.
Michigan's press-ish coverage success in fly routes in 2011 including a game against Michael Floyd: 88%. The exception was virtually unstoppable and still drew a plus from the ol' softie who does these things. That's miraculous in last year's context. Hell, it's miraculous in a lot of contexts. How has this happened?
Michigan Press Coverage As Explained By Underpants Gnomes
STEP 1: Line up a yard off the LOS with inside leverage.
STEP 2: When receiver releases outside, turn hips and run with him real fast.
STEP 3: NOBODY CARES WHEN RECEIVER LOOKS FOR BALL
STEP 4: NOBODY CARES!
STEP 5: When receiver reaches up for ball, punch him in the face.
OPTIONAL: grab his jersey a bit and get away with it
OPTIONAL: scream SHORYUKEN.
STEP 6: Profit: arm-waving motions indicating that the pass was incomplete.
OPTIONAL: shake head to indicate "no."
OPTIONAL: pick up horsecrap pass interference call.
Floyd on Floyd action:
Avery on Jones action:
Why it works. That whole find-the-ball thing is hard. Todd Howard was coached to do it but always did it late, whipping his head around just in time to see the ball zing by. When you do that you've given yourself an even tougher job than the WR, who's been tracking the thing since it left the QB's hand. Lots can go wrong there. He can slow up and you bowl him over. He can slow up on a deliberately underthrown ball. He can slow, then extend a la Manningham. Or you can just not find the ball quickly enough.
In contrast, the shoryuken technique seems pretty easy. Focus on the WR's chest. When his arms go up, get your arms/head/body in between those arms. Faceguard the guy for bonus points. Net result: incompletion or spectacular Prothro-style catch. Mostly the former.
It's hard to get lost because you're following the WR's chest everywhere, and the only bomb you can't defend is the one that's just past your outstretched arms. That's hard to throw and hard to catch.
Gibson –8. Two games in I am a believer in Tony Gibson Was The Worst. These are the same guys as last year making these plays. Notre Dame clearly identified these fades as a weakness to exploit, especially in press coverage, but got little out of them. If you discount the Avery PI, on the eight fade attempts against press coverage opponents got 41 yards, just over five yards per attempt. Even if you count the Avery PI that hops up to 6.9 YPA—still worse than the NCAA average of 7.2 YPA.
Compare that to last year, when even doing something right meant you did something wrong:
Small sample size disclaimers apply, but Tony Gibson? The worst.
Downsides and low upsides. So this style of coverage seems pretty effective, obviously. There are two major downsides to my eyes:
- Low upside. Since you are never looking for the ball you are highly unlikely to intercept it.
- A tendency to pick up PI calls. Refs give you more leeway when you are looking for the ball. Bumping a guy with your back to the ball is always going to be an issue, but you can get away with "look and lean," as Spielman calls it.
I'm a little concerned about our corners' speed when asked to run real fast. Against Western Floyd gave up a yard or two of separation to a MAC receiver on his successful fly defense; in the second clip above it kind of feels like on a longer route Jones will pull away from Avery. Those are hypotheticals, though, and whatever limitations of Floyd and Avery have do not currently include a tendency to get burned deep.
This allows cool stuff. Michigan can press with one high safety because of this, which opens up the blitz possibilities that produce big plays. While the coverage style precludes big plays from the cornerbacks it allows them from other parts of the defense, and those big plays are bigger. What would you rather have, an interception 30 yards downfield or the quarterback fumbling the ball?
Tony Gibson. The worst!
Previously: The Story.
The existential crisis that was last year's secondary has been the subject of emo rehash and frequently-updated "Never Forget" banners in this space for going on a year now. In mid-August of 2010, Troy Woolfolk did something strange and painful to his ankle and I—and I assume a good chunk of the Michigan fanbase—decided ankle-exploding time was drankin' time. Twitter archived the results; read from the bottom.
The headache I had the next morning did not subside until Greg Mattison was hired.
Woolfolk wasn't going to cure last year's secondary issues by himself but he was going to be a decent returning starter in a secondary without any other than Jordan Kovacs. Without him this section of last year's preview started "What's the point of anything?" because everyone left was either a freshman, walk-on, or JT Floyd.
After a deceptively promising start courtesy of the vast incompetence of Zack Frazer and Notre Dame's backup quarterbacks, the doom took hold. Everyone who saw a snap last year contributed to it but if we have to pick a single moment that best represents Michigan's 2010 secondary it would have to be this:
JT Floyd picking up a –3 against Penn State
That is how Matt McGloin tears you up for 41 points on nine drives. Let's never speak of this again.
While this year's secondary won't bring back memories of Charles Woodson, improvement is almost a given. It could be vast, even. Every contributor returns save James Rogers. Woolfolk is back and healthy, and there's a small horde of freshmen.
If you believe the message board chatter about Tony Gibson's coaching acumen, Curt Mallory is a huge upgrade. My favorite apocryphal story is that when Scot Shafer resigned he told Rodriguez he would take all the blame publicly if Rodriguez admitted to Shafer that Gibson was "the worst secondary coach in the country." Shortly after his resignation, Shafer did pop up in the News stating it was all his fault. Poppycock? Probably, but you can't rule it out.
Things are looking up. They could be okay. Not okay for Michigan, but okay for a mediocre Big Ten defense. They've got a cap—like everywhere on this attrition-wracked team the depth is a little scary. The starters still include a walk-on and the talent level as measured by stars is strictly second-rate. They haven't disproved that on the field, so expectations should be kept in check.
That there are any except doom is pretty cool. Bohemian Crapsody begone.
|Corner #1||Yr.||Corner #2||Yr.|
|Troy Woolfolk||Sr.*||Courtney Avery||So.|
|JT Floyd||Jr.*||Tony Anderson||Sr.*#|
|Terrence Talbott||So.||Blake Countess||Fr.|
[* = player has taken redshirt. # = walk-on.]
Woolfolk in T-Woolf mode
Unless something very depressing happens in the near future I will not need any power tools this year. Troy Woolfolk is healthy, and while he's probably not going to be All Big Ten he's fast and steady enough to get good reviews a couple of years ago when he split time between safety and corner. There is empirical evidence for this, and how: Woolfolk's absence from the safety spot marked the point the 2009 defense went off a cliff. Michigan went from giving up 23 points per game with Woolfolk at safety to 37 without.
Those reviews have moved from potentially ignorant bloggers to the head coach. Woolfolk was one of three defensive Wolverines to be named a starter by Hoke weeks before the season (Kovacs and Martin were the others) and is conspicuously first when Hoke talks about his corners:
"(Woolfolk is) is a guy who I think, as a senior, has taken some ownership and he's done everything," Michigan coach Brady Hoke. "J.T. is fighting. Courtney Avery is fighting, Terrence Talbott, they're all fighting with each other to see who's going to be the guy."
Mattison joined in as well:
What are your impressions of Troy Woolfolk? "I'm really, really impressed with a senior -- with a new staff, with a new system -- with a guy that comes out every day and says 'I'm going to do what you tell me to do, I'm going to do it how you tell me to do it, and I'm going to try as hard as I can to do it.' ... I think his technique is improving."
That bit at the end about his improving technique is a little ominous. Woolfolk's injury and position switches may leave him vulnerable to Morgan Trent-like deficiencies. The two are similar players: very fast, rangy corners who are tough to beat on a fade but can struggle when opponents are changing direction rapidly. Woolfolk's main advantage over Trent is want-to. Trent spent his senior year raging against the new regime and saw his play suffer. Woolfolk should have no such issues.
Assuming he's healthy, another year to learn the position and get bigger should see him improve on his previous form. There is a nonzero chance his earlier performances were not representative of his ability, but the smart money is on Woolfolk being at least average. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him go at the tail end of next year's NFL draft.
|juuuuust evades the fingertips|
|jars the ball free|
|comes up too hard|
|pwns a UW guard!|
Opposite Woolfolk the battle is on between sophomore Courtney Avery and redshirt junior JT Floyd. The bet here is that Avery wins that battle. Avery drew into the starting lineup last year when Floyd exited with yet another injury and seemed to outplay the guy he was replacing.
What he brings to the table is still up in the air. He was seeing spot duty relieving Floyd and Rogers even before Floyd's injury; he also split time with Terry Talbott when Michigan went to nickel and dime packages. In that role he was erratic. He wasn't good, per se. But in the tire fire that was last year's secondary he showed a little spark. This spark allowed other portions of the tire fire to spew ever more pitch black tar smoke into the observers face, yes. The spark remained.
Here's an erratic UFR that might not mean that much because he's a corner and his playing time was highly variable:
Zone vacancy II.
|MSU||-||-||-||Didn't register. Yay?|
|Iowa||-||5.5||-5.5||The whiff, the zone vacation, etc.|
|PSU||-||-||-||DNP, I think.|
|Illinois||3.5||0.5||3||Two key tackles.|
|Purdue||3||6||-3||Gave up the big screen.|
|Wisconsin||2.5||3||-0.5||Could have been harsher on him.|
It's not great, though a big chunk of his Indiana negative might have been erroneously given. The blogosphere ferociously debated whether a particular frustrating Iowa touchdown was mostly on the head of Kenny Demens or Avery and eventually decided it was kind of both but maybe probably mostly Demens. The UFR still registers Avery as the victim.
Given the circumstances—tire fire—he did well to not get hammered on a consistent basis. Try to judge him as a freshman by comparing him to his classmates: the highly-touted Cullen Christian was a blinking "throw at me" sign whenever he was on the field. Terrance Talbott was clearly behind. His main issue was playing zone coverage too aggressively, vacating his zone as he chased receivers across the field.
His quickness and aggressiveness bodes well. This is just Bowling Green (see also: the brief blip of Ray Vinopal hope) but Michigan hasn't had a corner who's able to recover like this in a while:
Avery's two years younger than Floyd and was healthy through the entirety of last year and spring practice. He played quarterback in high school; nagging injuries scuppered plans to play him both ways as a senior. He was just learning the rudiments of playing corner when he was thrust onto the field last year. Even if Avery and Floyd were close a year ago—something that is generous to Floyd—Avery should improve much faster than his competition. Avery has never seemed to "transparently lack the speed to be a Big Ten cornerback."
With practice buzz generally talking up Avery, it would be a surprise if he was not the starter. If not now, then by the Big Ten season. He should make a big leap forward in year two.
The primary backup and presumed nickel/dimeback will be the loser of the Avery/Floyd battle. This preview presumes that will be JT Floyd. Our last glimpses of him were against Penn State, when he turned in the coverage-type substance at the top of this post and a few other howlers. Here's one:
The game before that, it was Floyd who gave up slant after slant on critical third downs against Iowa. Even before that this blog declared his coverage "only brushes up against adequate."
|Iowa||2.5||11||-8.5||Oh my god the slants.|
|PSU||3||12||-9||Awful, awful, awful.|
Floyd was so overmatched as a redshirt freshman that Rodriguez and Robinson pulled him off the field, moved Woolfolk from his duties as a fairly effective free safety, and inserted Mike Williams to disastrous effect. Yeah, that could be another symptom of the insanity that ruled decision-making on the D these last few years. But unlike Kenny Demens's debut, Floyd's return to the field didn't make anyone think his removal was a mistake.
As you can see at right, Floyd started off well enough against the incompetent quarterbacks of the nonconference schedule. A number of whiffed tackles and Mouton-like angles against UMass were cause for concern. That concern bloomed, then metastasized in the Big Ten schedule.
|Nate Montana gift|
|breaks on to break up|
|reads and attacks|
|boxed out by Rudolph|
|sucks up on drag|
|allows Willis to drag him 15 yards|
First he was amongst the many Wolverines who were too confused or too slow to keep those four-yard Indiana routes from becoming eight. While he wasn't a major factor in the Michigan State game, he imploded against Iowa and Penn State.
In context it seems like his relatively benign Michigan State game was because the Spartans had even easier prey elsewhere on the field. And maybe Michigan protected him in favor of that prey. Remember the sinfully easy 41-yard touchdown Cullen Christian yielded? Yeah:
Why the hell is Cullen Christian the guy in man coverage on a receiver running a fly route? Why isn't it Floyd? Christian(-3, cover –3, RPS -2) is smoked crispy as he bites on an out and up gives up the touchdown. Roh was about to hit Cousins but no matter.
After that it was the elevator straight down and the injury. If he gets a lot better this year it's time to take the Gibson chatter seriously.
If there are injuries, options past the top three are dicey. With Floyd and Woolfolk held out of spring practice the starting cornerbacks were Avery and Tony Anderson, who's one of many walk-ons threatening for playing time. Anderson played ahead of Cullen Christian and Terrance Talbott; Christian transferred soon after. Talbott remains.
The hope is that's motivational or Talbott can accelerate past Anderson's spot on the depth chart as his scholarship-having self surpasses Anderson's walk-on ceiling. Talbott got sporadic time last year and was okay for a freshman. He got lost on zone drops and was a weak tackler, etc. The book on him…
The book on Talbott: short, smart, agile, excellent in coverage but needs a year or two to bulk up for college.
…seemed pretty accurate. He can be a contributor down the road… if he sticks with football. There were widespread rumors Talbott was off the team, by choice, for a period this offseason.
Beyond Talbott it's true freshmen, but at least there's a horde of them. Maryland's Blake Countess arrives with the most hype and should be the biggest threat to play. (Caveat: last year Cullen Christian arrived with the most hype.) Greg Brown [recruiting profile] enrolled early and was decent in the spring game. Those two feature on the first depth chart. Talbott does not.
The rest of the n00bs: Raymon Taylor [recruiting profile] is speedy, might not have the greatest change of direction, and got a fourth star from Rivals. Delonte Hollowell [recruiting profile] is yet another smurfy Cass Tech corner who can't be put on outside receivers; he'll probably have to wait for time to open up at nickelback. He is rooting hard for Thomas Gordon to win the safety job opposite Kovacs. Finally, Tamani Carter [recruiting profile] is probably a safety; as a guy Michigan hijacked from Minnesota it will be a bad callback to Ray Vinopal if he doesn't redshirt.
That's five dudes instead of three; if it turns out some of the guys ahead of them on the depth chart can't play the one who emerges as a contributor will probably be better than Talbott and Avery were last year.
|Free Safety||Yr.||Strong Safety||Yr.|
|Jordan Kovacs||Jr.*#||Thomas Gordon||So.*|
|Marvin Robinson||So.||Carvin Johnson||So.|
[* = player has taken redshirt. # = walk-on, or former walk-on]
Is it possible that last year's Michigan defense actually one-upped the safety horror on display in 2009? Yes. It was actually worse than even the situation that gave rise to this in last year's preview:
Their [Kovacs and Mike Williams's] 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?"
While the situation two years ago was never good it didn't drop off a cliff until Michigan moved Troy Woolfolk to corner. First Mike Williams and then Jordan Kovacs leisurely escorted opponents into the endzone for the remainder of the year, sure. But last year Michigan started out with this…
…and then pulled a similar switch by moving Cam Gordon to spur and inserting true freshman two-star Ray Vinopal. Vinopal wasn't quite as likely to take a terrible angle. Instead he was a 160-pound object in the way of Wisconsin's various house-sized Katamaris.
Artist's impression of Vinopal tackling Montee Ball
He also took some terrible angles. Kovacs was better but still kind of eh—he has not yet found that Iowa zen where the slow small white guy is always in the right place—and Michigan never got competent play from the other spot. Survey says increase doom panic victory 2010. And there was much rejoicing.
It can't be that bad again, right? I'm seriously asking this. Please, someone tell me it can't be that bad again. If no one else is willing to stand in front of that howitzer I guess it's up to me: they can't be that bad again.
|blasted all over|
|fends off the RT|
|shoots the gap|
|instant tackle on WR|
|tackles in the backfield|
|leaking out into the flat|
|capable zone coverage|
|almost a 95-yard Rick Six|
|not so smrt|
|inexplicably slows up|
It was already a foregone conclusion, but Brady Hoke explicitly confirmed that Jordan Kovacs will start for a third year this fall. He did so almost before anyone asked. The man once mistaken for Matt Cavanaugh by Greg Robinson is on track to becoming the first four-year starter at safety since
Jamar Adams [Ed-M: Marcus Ray ('95-'98). Adams's RS Fr year was Shazor/Mundy]
Unfortunately, thanks to the defensive implosion of the last three years this does not necessarily mean he is any good. Whether he is or not is a subject of heated debate wherever Michigan's starting secondary is discussed. His freshman year he was solid as a box safety. His instincts and tackling made him an effective force player and blitzer. Then the whole Woolfolk-to-corner thing happened and he got switched into a deep half role. To say he struggled was an understatement. Some UFR comments from that portion of his freshman year:
Just can't play a deep half.
Again burned as a deep half safety.
Enormous bust #3.
So that didn't go so well.
Last year Michigan tried to move him back into the box by switching to a 3-3-5 in which he was the "bandit" (a strong safety that spends his time on or near the LOS), but then they spent a lot of time in a two deep shell that saw Kovacs's deep limitations tested again. He did not pass with flying colors but thanks to his awareness and solid tackling was not the flaming dump truck the rest of the secondary was. It's not a coincidence that the new coaching staff has been talking him up. Hoke:
"He's a guy that can get things lined up for you, and he's a tough guy, and he will go attack the football," Hoke said of the former walk-on. "He has a great deal of pride in his performance on a daily basis. He's one of those guys who has an urgency about getting to the football. I'm pleased with what he's done to this point. I would guess that he won't take a step backward."
Kovacs did improve last year, and significantly. Kovacs went from deep half dead meat to "the king of moderate-moderate-0". In three different games (ND, BGSU, and Indiana) he had plusses that exactly offset his minuses; in four more (UConn, UMass, Iowa, and Penn State) he was just above or below breaking even. He was excellent against MSU…
…may have had his best game at Michigan. He's so reliable; on a day when Michigan couldn't find a tackle it didn't want to miss, Kovacs twice dragged down TEs in space to boot MSU off the field. Only one counted, unfortunately.
…but he broke down late, picking up negative days against Illinois, Purdue, and Wisconsin.
Even so, his season was a step forward from obvious liability to "certainly not a liability." Even if he's a walk-on and even if he's obviously small and slow, he should continue improving. He'll be a little less small and slow with another year of conditioning. Being in a coherent defensive system should help put him in positions to make plays. His redshirt year was not spent on the team so he's not as close to his ceiling as your average redshirt junior.
He's not going to be Reggie Nelson. That won't keep him from becoming the first Michigan safety you only hate a little tiny bit since Jamar Adams.
Thomas Gordon: prison abs, manages to look badass on last year's D
|sends the house|
|makes a solid TFL in some space|
|get outside his blocker|
|moves up into the gap|
|not brandon harrison|
|search and destroy|
The spot next to Kovacs is second to only weakside linebacker when it comes to mystery on this year's team. One candidate is sophomore Carvin Johnson, who had a plentiful helping of hype early and started in the spring game. The other is redshirt sophomore Thomas Gordon.
These two are familiar with each other since they spent last year duking it out with each other. The twist: they were doing so at Spur; Cam Gordon had locked down free safety. This year they're swapped.
The smaller Gordon has the advantage. He played at nickelback in the spring, swapping with the WLB on passing downs and covering slot receivers. He seemed well-suited for that spot. Moving him to safety signals some discontent with the options there, and since the move practice scuttlebutt has talked him up a bit more than Johnson. When Countdown to Kickoff flagged down DBs coach Curt Mallory he described the situation at safety like this:
It starts with Jordan right now. … He's done a great job, had a good two-a-days. Then we've got some younger guys in there. Thomas Gordon, I've been really pleased with how he's improved. [pause] And then with the two other guys…
That sounds like Johnson had eleven days to displace Gordon for Western Michigan. As of publication there's been no indication that switch has happened. Gordon was just named a starter by the WMU depth chart.
Gordon's 2010 was abbreviated. He started the season thanks to an injury to Johnson and played pretty well. Particularly impressive was his ability to roar off the edge without pulling a Brandon Harrison by zooming right by the quarterback. Gordon showed a knack for coming in at the fastest possible speed that would allow him to rope the QB to the ground, which accounted for many of his plus plays last year. Here's a good one against Notre Dame:
Outside of that it was minus half points here and there for poor coverage or missed tackles. He and Johnson displayed a knack for finishing his day with around three positive points and two negative ones. The spur was not a high-impact position either way last year until Cam Gordon switched to it and promptly got himself lost on flat zones he'd never been asked to play before.
Like Avery above, Gordon's ability to not be the most spectacularly flaming tire is encouraging. He came in with bler recruiting rankings but—again like Avery—he was a high school quarterback who got a Michigan camp offer and then did not play in his high school's secondary because of injury. He's beaten out some actual scholarship players and drawn praise from the coaches for his play. When I clipped something he did last year it was usually something positive.
I have the same optimism about this Johnson/Gordon combo that I had last year. This, of course, terrifies me. It seems unnatural to think an unproven Michigan safety could be competent. I like Gordon's agility and tackling, though, and while there will be rough spots early by midseason he should settle into that midlevel safety range like Englemon or Barringer.
Carvin Johnson does not like losing.
Curt Mallory wants his safeties to be interchangeable, so this will probably be a situation like offensive line where there's a line behind the starters and whoever the top backup is will come off the bench no matter who exits. That is likely to be Carvin Johnson. Johnson shouldn't feel too down: what small tea leaves we've gotten from the defense suggest he will be the first defensive back off the bench when Michigan goes nickel—in the Saturday punting demo he was on the field plenty as Thomas Gordon played nickelback in Michigan's third down package.
His season was even more abbreviated than Gordon's due to injury. I clipped three events from him last year:
- A bad zone drop against UConn
- An Indiana touchdown on which he was playing some sort of weird ILB and got crushed.
- A nice open field tackle on Rob Henry.
#2 won't be an issue if he's playing a deep safety; #3 is an asset that was promised by his recruiting profile. One… maybe not so much. Though people talk him up Michigan felt it necessary to move Gordon back, whereupon he won the job. He's probably a little unreliable at the moment.
Past Johnson there are actual scholarship(!) players who weren't(!) in high school last year. One is Marvin Robinson [recruiting profile], he of the obligatory OMG shirtless pictures…
…and that thing he did in the spring game where he ran with a slant pattern while Mike Cox was waving at him en route to the endzone. Practice reports on Robinson alternate tales of massive here-comes-the-BOOM-type hits and equally massive touchdown-ceding errors. If you hit up that recruiting profile you'll see a lot of skepticism he can play safety; last year he spent a good chunk of his time at WLB. That may be his long term destination.
For now he's behind Kovacs. He seems to be the second guy in the pecking order; Michigan will try to avoid using him until he has that consistency thing every coach ever but especially Michigan's keep harping on.
The final scholarship guy is Josh Furman. Furman's a bit like Avery in that he was almost exclusively an offensive player in high school. (He put up some Rawls-like games in the Maryland state playoffs.) Michigan managed to redshirt him last year, so his recruiting profile is about all we know. He's reputed to be super athletic, like six FAKES out of five 40 athletic, and will have a role on special teams this year. When asked about the safeties for CTK, Mallory mentioned Kovacs, Gordon, Johnson, and Robinson but not Furman. He's still a year or two away from seeing the field on defense.
Newsbits of importance from Tom. Dark I'm-not-saying-I'm-just-saying rumors about Craig Roh and Demetrius Hart have been flying around the internets this week. Tom clarifies. On Craig Roh:
My source told me that Craig has been concerned with his position switch to linebacker, and believes he is much more effective as a defensive end.
Craig actually vocalized his concern about his position to the coaches after the Penn State game, and my source says that he has been playing much more on the defensive line during practice this week.
Roh's apparently been handed to Bruce Tall and will no longer be mostly a linebacker. This is both good and another instance of players coaching themselves. Meanwhile, Demetrius Hart decommit rumors are false:
There was a slight mix up with Demetrius' enrollment with Michigan, but it has been cleared up. That was the issue, it wasn't that anyone was recruiting him harder, or anything along those lines. Everything has been straightened out, and his mom says Demetrius will be at Michigan in January.
Insert the usual CYA boilerplate about how anything can happen, but you can focus your panic elsewhere.
Crowded. JT Floyd is officially out for the year with "freak" ligament damage in his ankle. Hooray.
The Never Forget banner guy has updated it, and if any further members of the secondary wish to make themselves unavailable they'd advised to do it quickly because we're running out of room:
New additions are Michael Williams (concussions), JT Floyd (ligament damage), Jared Van Slyke (leg injury), and Vlad Emilien (transfer). Available locations are limited to that patch of maize underneath the crying wolverine. Given the state of the secondary this is getting considerably more RR-fault-ridden as the year goes along. Justin Turner and Vlad Emilien's transfers are big deals with the free safety depth chart reading "Ray Vinopal" and the corner depth chart reading "Random Three Star Freshman Projects and James Rogers."
At least the Floyd injury has been a productive one for the legions of Michigan photoshoppers:
So we've got that going for us. Courtney Avery will draw into the lineup for Floyd.
Okay, a final final final word or two. It's unfortunate that Anchorman references are vastly overused because sometimes there's nothing you can say except…
…I'm not even mad, I'm impressed. That is amazing. I'm sitting on this pile of ninja corpses, covered in blood. As the sun rises over a scene of indescribable gore I laugh, because what else is there to do?
Probably not in the special section about how naughty Michigan's been:
the committee wrote that "though serious," the overage was "far less extensive than originally reported and that no student-athletes were substantially harmed."
Though this was obvious as soon as the smoke cleared last August because the piece was so shoddily written, it is now official. Hurrah for pyrrhic victories.
Watch this. The House Rock Built's "Stuffing The Passer" series is the best thing going in the CFB blogosphere right now:
If "Shit My Dad Says" is being made into a sitcom, Stuffing The Passer can't be far behind.
Elsewhere in coach grumbling. You've probably seen this but Brandon Graham has some depressing quotes that point towards the Those Meddling Kids theory:
I’m surprised they didn’t stick with what Coach Robinson was running,” Graham said of the 3-4 the team deployed in 2009, its first year under Robinson. … “Let Coach Robinson play his defense,” Graham said. “Let him do what he knows. He was thrown off, I would say. I know the 3-3-5 is what he (Rodriguez) has been doing for so long. He’s just got to adjust to the Big Ten.”
Michigan ran a 4-3 under last year but that's beside the point. Those quotes from a guy who was in the program last year indicate that no one who doesn't know a 3-3-5 like the back of his hand is ever going to be comfortable as a defensive coordinator at Michigan as long as the WVU guys are around saying things like "hey it's a bye week, I've got this great idea."
While everyone says "scheme is overrated," Michigan's offense puts the lie to that. It's not necessarily the 3-3-5 itself—this is not a BLANK can't work in the Big Ten argument—but attempting to run an exotic niche defense with a guy who doesn't know it (and evidence suggests is a terrible coach anyway).
I'm pretty sure this is as close as we'll get to an opinion from Angelique Chengelis, if that's actually what it is:
Hope for next year?
Much has been made about Michigan's defense, which is near the bottom of several national categories, including total defense. Illinois was in a similar spot last year, but has made strides under new defensive coordinator Vic Koenning:
Scoring defense: 30.2 (96th) in 2009, 16.8 (12th) in 2010
Total defense: 403.3 (91st) in 2009, 301.4 (15th) in 2010
Pass defense: 248.8 (100th) in 2009, 183.9 (19th) in 2010
Rush defense: 154.4 (76th) in 2009, 117.5 (26th) in 2010
That certainly reads like a "hint, hint."
Defensive antidote. Via Wolverine Historian:
Penn State jerkos. As an internet fanbase, Penn State has a remarkable knack for accusing others of pathologies they're displaying literally within the accusation itself. The latest example is a piece at Black Shoe Diaries the author probably thinks is Swiftian satire that takes a sentence from the game recap, some random comment I don't recognize and didn't make about the Terrence Talbott whiffed PBU that turned into 40 yards, a somewhat maudlin paragraph from Maize and Brew supporting Rodriguez, and a random quote from pissed off David Molk. It combines these to show how self-centered Michigan fans are… in a post whining that Michigan fans didn't give Penn State its proper respect.
BSD can talk about self-centered behavior when they do this:
Indiana has a legitimately very good pass offense. They had 41 opportunities to make catches and made 40. Chappell almost never went to the wrong guy and missed on maybe five of his 65 attempts. Their receivers are tall and fast and shifty. One dollar they're the most productive pass offense in the conference at the end of the year.
Michigan State has somehow acquired the without-question best stable of tailbacks in the league; Iowa's Adam Robinson isn't bad but he's not the equivalent of Baker/Bell/Caper, and there's only one of him.
Indiana imploded and Michigan State's run game is pretty mediocre. We tried the credit-the-opponent bit and then all of the opponents turned out to be much worse on offense than Michigan made them look. Doing it now against your gritty moxie ginger neckbeard quarterback would be delusional. Penn State sucks and Michigan is worse. But I said Ogbu is a beast, so your pathetic insecurities can be a tiny bit less pathetic. Let's hold hands.
Now go talk about how arrogant we are as you caress each other's soft places while whispering "what if Michigan never comes back" and we discuss whether we should keep Rich Rodriguez and worry about falling into a Notre Dame-like fallow period. Tim was right to describe BSD as a place utterly incapable of recognizing irony.
Etc.: Craig Roh's eyebrows, and the rest of Craig Roh, are attractive to some guy who ranks him the #13 "hottie" of the year in CFB. Yost Built has ten things to know about Alaska. Amani Toomer is running marathons now.
Formation notes: After two games in which Michigan deployed a lot of 4 man fronts and mixed in some 3-4 and 3-3-5 looks Michigan was almost exclusively stack against Penn State. They did move Demens (and Roh/Fitzgerald) back at halftime. First half:
Substitution notes: Martin played maybe the first two series before coming out, and didn't do anything in that time. He was replaced by a combination of Sagesse and Patterson. Black and Banks are now platooning regularly, with Banks still getting most of the snaps. RVB is the line's ironman. He never comes out.
At linebacker it was Demens and Mouton the whole way with Fitzerald getting a drive or three when Michigan thought Roh wasn't playing well. Cam Gordon and Thomas Gordon split time at spur. Rogers was replaced by Talbott for much of the game. Vinopal went the distance at FS.
On with it:
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O29||1||10||Ace trips||3-3-5 stack||Pass||3||PA Fly||Floyd||Inc|
|Play action bomb against three deep; McGloin sets up and throws deep to his tiny guy Smith. Ball is underthrown and Floyd is in decent position, though a long enough throw beats him. Floyd has a chance to intercept but doesn't look for the ball quickly enough and a throw that looks like it was to him hits the turf. Um. I have to: Floyd +1, cover +1, pressure -1.|
|O29||2||10||I-form twins||Base 4-3||Run||Off tackle||Banks||0|
|Banks(+2) gets immediately playside of the PSU RT and drives him into the backfield. Michigan's running some sort of stunt on the backside that looks pretty unsound and as a result Demens was swallowed by two OL; Mouton is walled off by another—none of this matters because Banks has driven into the path of the RB and tackled him at the LOS by himself. Bad omen for the future.|
|O29||3||10||Ace 3-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||3||Scramble||Demens||11|
|One DT drops off to chuck the RB, looking for a screen. Martin(-1) comes through to flush McGloin, but with only three guys rushing there's a gap to the other side of him and McGloin steps up, sees no one, and runs. Demens(-1) is the guy nearest to him and gave up the corner because he drifted too far inside on a TE crossing route. This is definitely his fault: C. Gordon is going with his guy all the way downfield. Martin gets the -1 for coming up the wrong side and giving up the lane.|
|O40||1||10||I-form 3-wide||3-3-5 stack||Pass||N/A||PA Throwaway||Van Bergen||Inc|
|RVB(+1, pressure +1) gets upfield of his blocker and immediately releases into McGloin, forcing him to toss it away.|
|O40||2||10||Ace 3-wide||3-3-5 stack||Pass||5||Slant||Floyd||16|
|Michigan shifts late to man coverage and Floyd(-2, cover -2) isn't even in the same zip code as Smith on a simple slant. He can't even make a tackle, giving up another eight yards after the catch.|
|M44||1||10||Ace 3-wide||3-3-5 stack||Run||Inside zone||Kovacs||4|
|Michigan moves late to a one-high by, sending Kovacs into the box, and the shift gets PSU in a bad playcall. Seems like a designed cutback and a really bizarre scheme: Demens is like a yard from Martin and gets hit by a tackle; Mouton is way back and is scraping to the nominal frontside of the play only to get blown up by the FB as he drags himself out of position. Kovacs(+0.5) is there in the hole as a result of the late move to tackle near the LOS but he grabs ankles and allows Royster to spin forward for a decent gain. I'm guessing I'm going to neg a lot of guys because of this weird setup but not yet. This was the "This Is Not A Stack" play.|
|M40||2||6||Shotgun 2-back TE||3-3-5 stack||Run||Pin and pull zone||C. Gordon||3|
|Completely bizarre play from C. Gordon(-0.5) here, who is the contain guy to this side. Instead of flowing down the line and keeping outside leverage somewhere near the LOS he takes a weird looping downfield angle that sees him five yards downfield by the time the RB gets outside; he also impeded Roh with his weird delayed move outside. RVB(+1) had driven his guy well upfield and forced an outside angle by the RB, which allowed Gordon time to recover and hold the gain down.|
|M37||3||3||I-form||Stack two deep||Pass||3||FB screen||Mouton||8|
|Three guys and still no one to sniff out the screen. Mouton(-1, cover -1) failed to read it and dropped very deep when he should have been staring right at it. Demens had a guy coming across his zone to drop into and then flows to tackle—without that this will go for a lot more. (RPS -1)|
|M29||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Stack two deep||Run||Power off tackle||Banks||5|
|Banks(-1) crushed two yards downfield by a double. Mouton comes up to hit a pulling guard and restricts the hole but there's nothing anyone can do to prevent Royster from burrowing behind his linemen for a decent gain.|
|M24||2||5||Ace trips||3-3-5 stack||Pass||3||Quick out||Banks||Inc|
|Banks(+1, pressure +1) knocks down the quick out at the LOS. Probably open for the first if not batted.|
|M24||3||5||Ace trips||Stack two deep||Pass||5||Flare||Roh?||7|
|Michigan sends five and RVB(+0.5) swims through an OG to get to McGloin, forcing a dumpoff that is so open I have no idea who I should even blame. Roh(-1) is the most likely suspect (cover -2, RPS -1)|
|Michigan covers(+1) McGloin's first read and then Black(+1) is one-on-one with the RB as PSU slides their protection. He gets cut but manages to stay up and threatening, forcing a rollout and a throwaway (pressure +1)|
|M17||2||10||I-form 3-wide||3-3-5 stack||Run||Counter||Mouton||14|
|Double shoves Martin out of the hole; he shoots up under it but to no avail. Demens takes a step to the playside and is then engulfed by two OL because he's too damn close to the LOS to do anything about it. There's a hole and one blocker for Mouton to deal with; he shoots past the guy and is on the verge of a +3 for a monster play when he lets Royster through his tackle(-1 Mouton, -1) and pick up a huge gain thanks to a missed tackle(-1) from Vinopal(-2). RPS -1.|
|M3||1||G||I-form big||3-3-5 stack||Run||Power off tackle||Banks||3|
|Banks(-1) destroyed by a single block and pancaked, giving the edge. Kovacs(-1) blocked and does not keep contain, giving up the edge for Royster as well.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-7, 7 min 1st Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O44||1||10||Ace||3-3-5 stack||Run||Inside zone||C. Gordon||20|
|Another huge cutback lane. I'm not entirely sure who this is on because depending on assignment it could be any of Roh, Cam Gordon, and Van Bergen. Van Bergen is upfield as the unblocked backside guy and is cut by a TE pulling to the backside. Roh is flowing to the frontside and seems too close to Demens for that to be a good idea; Cam Gordon is either way too far outside or properly setting up to catch any bounces outside. -2 Roh for filling the same hole as Demens and -1 Gordon for being the guy shot past. Mouton actually made a nice read and flowed from the frontside of the play but for naught; Vinopal comes up and forces Royster to cut outside, where Rogers tackles. (RPS –1)|
|M36||1||10||Ace 3-wide||3-3-5 stack||Pass||Sack||Mouton||-11|
|An end around pass ends badly as Michigan covers(+2) both available receivers well and Mouton(+2) reads the end-around, gets out on the edge, and attacks. He'd sack but the guy's falling to the ground as he gets there anyway. Pressure +1.|
|M47||2||21||I-form 3-wide||3-3-5 stack||Pass||Corner||Floyd||27|
|The underneath coverage on this is indeed a debacle but the super debacle is JT Floyd(-4, cover -4) getting so completely lost in three deep coverage on a guy in his zone that he's not even the tackler on an underthrown, softly-tossed lob thirty yards downfield. What the hell is Floyd doing on a hashmark, facing inside, in a three deep, on second and twenty one? YOU HAVE HELP INSIDE. BWS picture-paged this if you hate yourself.|
|M20||1||10||Ace twin TE||Stack two deep||Run||Inside zone||Demens||19|
|Michigan horrendously misaligned as Penn State motions a TE over to give them two to the short side of the field. Michigan hardly reacts at all. So there's five PSU blockers to the short side and three Michigan defenders. Compounding this, Michigan just screws up. Demens(-2) runs to the backside when he's got Vinopal walking down and Mouton filling a backside lane, leaving no one to fill the frontside gap that he should have; there's not even a counter here, he just runs to the wrong side of the line. Banks kicked out and Roh(-1) blown up by the inline TE, Roytser into the secondary like that. (RPS -1)|
|M1||1||G||Goal line||3-3-5 stack||Run||Dive||?||1|
|Whatever. This isn't even M's to-date successful goal line package. RPS -1.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-14, 1 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||Ace twin TE||3-3-5 stack||Run||Counter||T. Gordon||3|
|Cam pulled for Thomas as SURPRISE, moving a deep safety to linebacker makes him confused. M adjusts to the motion this time, and Penn State runs a counter at it expecting an overreaction. Demens, who's still a yard behind his NT, gets caught with a step and sealed as the NT is Patterson and he does the usual.. Michigan does have two guys in the hole versus one blocker thanks to good reads by the backside folk. Blocker runs by Gordon to get Roh(+0.5) so T. Gordon(+0.5) hits at the LOS; they fall forward because there's no help.|
|O23||2||7||Ace 3-wide||Stack two deep||Pass||Out||T. Gordon||Inc|
|McGloin throws a decently open out well wide of his receiver. Third and short in all likelihood if accurate.|
|O23||3||7||Ace 3-wide||3-3-5 stack||Pass||Middle screen||Demens||5|
|They throw another screen; this time Demens(+0.5) is tasked with the tailback. He doesn't tackle but he does get into the play enough to delay the guy as he has to cut back behind Demens and the guy blocking him. RVB(+0.5) takes this opportunity to peel back and make a diving tackle attempt that's spun through but does slow Redd; Mouton(+0.5) and Demens converge to tackle short of the sticks.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-14, 13 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O26||1||10||Ace||3-3-5 stack||Pass||PA TE flat||C. Gordon||20|
|Cam Gordon(-2, cover -2) sucks in way too far, not only giving up the pass on the corner but not being anywhere near enough to tackle after the catch. Why on earth did they pull Thomas off for this?|
|O46||1||10||Ace twins twin TE||3-3-5 stack||Run||Power off tackle||Kovacs||9|
|Michigan again hugely, vastly misaligned as PSU brings in their WR/TE guy to be a second TE to the short side of the field, where be Kovacs; said Kovacs(-1) is blasted five yards downfield and JT Floyd(-1), the overhang guy, is met and blocked seven yards downfield. When Royster has to bounce because Mouton and Demens have cut off the inside there's no one out there. Banks(-1) was also single blocked and couldn't even slow Royster as he broke outside. (RPS -1)|
|M45||2||1||Ace 3-wide||3-3-5 stack||Run||Inside zone||Banks||7|
|Another cutback opened up by Banks(-1) getting washed down the line. I think. We come to this play late and I'm not entirely sure what's going on.|
|M38||1||10||I-form 3-wide||3-3-5 stack||Pass||PA TE flat||Mouton||10|
|Another play where I can't tell who's screwing up on a wide open pass in the flat. It's either Mouton or Kovacs. Minuses for both. Cover -2.|
|M28||1||10||I-form||3-3-5 stack||Run||Inside zone||Van Bergen||3|
|Roh has been pulled for Fitzgerald. Woo 3-3-5. Here RVB(+0.5) beats a guy, forcing another cutback; Black(+0.5) has slanted under his guy to the point where it has to go behind him, giving Kovacs(+0.5) the ability to read the cutback and make a weak ankle tackle at the LOS that could be run through but for Sagesse(+0.5) fighting to the ball and finishing it.|
|M25||2||7||I-form 3-wide||3-3-5 stack||Pass||PA throwaway||Kovacs||Inc|
|No one open (cover +1) as I think they were looking to go to the FB on the throwback but Kovacs(+1) reads the play and sits back on it, causing McGloin to chuck it OOB. Decent but not immense time.|
|M25||3||7||Ace trips||3-3-5 stack||Pass||Cross||Demens||6|
|Completely mistimed blitz from Floyd(-1) on the overhang sees him both tip it and leave late, so it's easily picked up. No one anywhere near McGloin (pressure -2) and he has plenty of time to find a crossing route as it nears the sticks. Demens is in the area in pursuit and tackles short of the first down, but only a yard short.|
|M19||4||1||I-form big||3-3-5 stack||Run||Power off tackle||C. Gordon||2|
|Demens(+3) shoots the gap between the NT and DE at the snap, blasting into the guard pulling around to provide a lead block, shucking him, and meeting Royster a yard in the backfield. Monster play, and a dead drive if he can get some help. Marvin Robinson(-1) comes up and wraps up Royster's shoulders; Cam Gordon(-2) takes an angle upfield and comes too far inside, running himself out of the play when Royster spins free. This is an amazing play by Royster, but Michigan should never have let this happen.|
|M17||1||10||I-form 3-wide||3-3-5 stack||Run||Counter||Sagesse||13|
|Sagesse(-2) crumbles to the ground against single blocking before the handoff. Doom. Demens is again too close to the LOS to have any hope of scraping past releasing OL (RPS -2) and Roh can take the outside shoulder of the leading guard all he wants but that doesn't mean there's anyone coming to help.|
|M4||1||G||I-form big||3-3-5 stack||Run||Power off tackle||Banks||3|
|Banks(-1) easily sealed by a single block, which allows another OL to pop out on Mouton without delay; everyone plays this right but this is an I form big against something other than a goal line package from the 3 (RPS -1).|
|M1||2||G||Goal line||Goal line||Run||QB sneak||?||1|
|They get it.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 10-21, 3 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|M37||1||10||I-form 3-wide||3-3-5 stack||Pass||3||PA FB screen||Mouton||17|
|PSU just killing this coverage where Kovacs runs his ass off into a hole at the sideline 10-15 yards downfield. Michigan again rushes three and no one reads the screen, with Mouton(-1) the guy who's zone is closest; he compounds a deep drop by getting cut to the ground. Demens(-1) didn't read the direction of the releasing linemen and steps towards Royster, making certain he won't be able to track this down. Fitzgerald(-0.5, tackling -1) whiffs a tackle just past the sticks and gives up another six. (Cover -2, RPS -1)|
|M20||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Stack two deep||Run||Power off tackle||Banks||0|
|Banks(+1) takes on a double and holds at the LOS, eventually driving the OT over him back a bit and causing Royster to trip. Fitzgerald(+0.5) came down at a good angle to squeeze the hole tight. Royster seems to trip over legs that are there because Banks made a good play and Demens(+0.5) flows to the hole to finish the play at the LOS.|
|M20||2||10||Ace 3-wide||Stack two deep||Pass||3||Post||C. Gordon||Inc|
|Talbott now in at field corner, PSU goes after him and it does seem like he's got position—Talbott's at least on his back unlike certain other corners. Cam Gordon(+1, cover +1) gets a good drop and tips the pass, causing an incompletion.|
|M20||3||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||5||Corner||Vinopal||20|
|Guh. Michigan blitzes and C. Gordon(+1) sets up a blocker on the edge to the inside, juking by him to get a free run at McGloin, who tosses up a punt off his back foot. This punt is a slightly underthrown corner route. Ray Vinopal(-2, cover -2) is too far away from the receiver to make the slightly underthrown bit matter and waves helplessly at the ball as the receiver brings it in; they fall into the endzone. While McGloin's basically been handed scads of yardage by Michigan, he deserves some props here: his ridiculous back foot just having fun Wrangler Favre throw that should be easily intercepted is a fairly well thrown touchdown. FML.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 10-28, 1 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O24||1||10||Ace 3-wide||3-3-5 stack||Pass||4||PA Deep Hitch||Van Bergen||Inc|
|Roh blitzes into the interior and doesn't really get anywhere. Talbott(-2, cover -2) is beyond way off on this 15-yard deep hitch and this will be complete but RVB(+1, pressure +1) reads the play and closes in on McGloin, deflecting the ball and causing it to come up well short. Fortunate.|
|O24||2||10||I-form 3-wide||3-3-5 stack||Run||Inside zone||Patterson||1|
|Same play from PSU that was picture paged; here Michigan is again using Roh as an interior blitzer; his attack draws two blockers and allows Patterson(+0.5) the luxury of just one; he slants past that guy and forces a cutback from Royster. Mouton(+0.5) is now playing a regular linebacker thing, not whatever he was doing in the first half, and reads, meeting the FB at the LOS. He's cut to the ground but his body is in the right spot and Royster slows, at which point Kovacs(+0.5) grabs him and gang tackling happens.|
|O25||3||9||Ace 3-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||4||Deep hitch||Talbott||40|
|Michigan drops back into a zone coverage with C. Gordon escorting the slot guy deep. (I now agree with BWS totally: it was Demens responsible for the Iowa TD). Talbott's on Moye on the outside and is in great position to break up the pass or even intercept but he screws it all up, letting the ball through for the completion and missing a tackle, turning a three and out into many yards. Talbott -3, cover +1, pressure -2. Srs.|
|M35||1||10||I-form 3-wide||3-3-5 stack||Pass||Stop and go||Floyd||Inc|
|Roh out, Fitz in and they do the same thing again; this version of the 3-3-5 is mostly a 4-3 with one tiny DT. PSU runs a slant and go and Michigan is in three deep with Floyd(-3, cover +1) in what should be great position to make a play on the ball, but he again gets totally lost. He's running a yard away from the sideline, facing it, in a spot that no one would ever think useful. So instead of being in a spot to intercept on a bad decision he can only watch a receiver almost catch a poorly thrown ball he should be all over.|
|M35||2||10||Ace 3-wide||Base 4-3||Run||Power off tackle||Patterson||5|
|Patterson(-1) is doubled and gives a lot of ground quickly, eventually getting pancaked five yards downfield. However, the playside is jammed up because RVB(+1) drove his guy back and fought inside, closing off the running lane and forcing a cutback. Mouton responds as quickly as possible but with Patterson getting hammered like he does all he can do is hold the gain down.|
|M30||3||5||Ace 3-wide||Stack two deep||Pass||4||Rollout out||C. Gordon||7|
|Vastly too easy as C. Gordon(-1) does not react to the out fast enough and this is an easy pitch and catch (cover -1)|
|M23||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Stack two deep||Run||Down G||Floyd||4|
|Headed outside with the playside TE blocking down and the two guys inside of him pulling around. There's a WR/TE to that side, too. Kovacs(+0.5) is momentarily doubled and gets shoved out of the play, but does at least close off an interior cutback. Mouton charges up and gets cut but creates a pile; Floyd(+0.5) comes up hard to make a tackle. Royster tries to leap through it but doesn't make it.|
|M19||2||6||Ace 4-wide||Stack two deep||Pass||5||Out||Floyd||5|
|Floyd beaten on a quick out (cover -1) but is at least there to tackle.|
|M14||3||1||I-form big||Base 4-4||Run||Power off tackle||0|
|Michigan slants the line right and sends two linebackers into the gap right, which is exactly where PSU is going with the ball. DL get crushed out of the hole but that's what you expect; Mouton(+1) roars up into the hole to take on the outside shoulder of the pulling guard, which funnels the tailback to Demens(+0.5). Demens engages to tackle but it's 50-50 whether it's a first down or not until RVB(+1) comes in. RVB was well to the backside, shoved his blocker back, and shot through the same hole the linebackers hit to help. Nice job. (RPS +1)|
|Drive Notes: FG(31), 10-31, 10 min 3rd Q. This drive is basically good play and one 40-yard mistake by a freshman. If this is what was going on consistently I could live with it.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||I-form 3-wide||3-3-5 stack||Run||Power off tackle||Van Bergen||3|
|Trying to go outside it seems. Line blocks down on the two DL, leaving RVB(+1) alone. He reads the play and heads upfield at the back, absorbing the pulling G and lead FB, and forcing the RB inside. There the RB meets a heap of bodies; Demens(+0.5) was responsible for creating the lack of gaps in the line. The delay allows a bunch of players to tackle.|
|O23||2||7||I-form 3-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||N/A||PA FB screen||Demens||7|
|This again. Another very slow read by the LBs; this time Mouton is up to take a cut near the LOS and forces the ball inside but Demens(-1, cover -1) is nowhere to be found and there's a lane the FB hits for first down yardage.|
|O30||1||10||I-form twins||Base 4-3||Run||Down G||Black||12|
|It looks like M is trying a similar slant to the one that got them the third and one stop on the previous drive but then Demens runs right into the middle of the line and Black runs upfield so I guess it can't be. It's pretty weird, though. Black(-1) heads upfield and is not blocked but does not sit down in an effort to combat the run, he just runs upfield, takes a shove from some OL, and is gone. Big gap. Mouton(-1) needs to get outside the pulling tackle but does not. Kovacs does what he can to funnel it inside against a blocker, and then RVB(-1), who stunted and flowed down the line the whole way, overruns Royster and turns this from like six into 11.|
|O42||1||10||I-form twins||3-3-5 stack||Run||Down G||Floyd||6 (Pen +10)|
|So Floyd is rolled up to the LOS and Kovacs is overhang. Banks and Floyd to one side of the field? Let's run right at it. Floyd(-1) starts executing a pass drop before the handoff and gives up the corner on a play that otherwise could have been stopped near the LOS. Umpire calls Sagesse(-1) for grabbing the C and preventing him from getting out on a linebacker. Need to be more subtle about it, eh?|
|M48||1||10||Ace 3-wide||3-3-5 stack||Pass||N/A||PA rollout wheel||Christian?||34|
|PA gets McGloin a billion years as RVB(-2, pressure -3) sucks into the playfake and removes any and all pressure. McGloin has forever. PSU runs a post-wheel combo against Christian, Gordon, and Johnson, IE three freshman, two of whom are playing their positions for the first time ever. Gordon gets beat but I don't really blame him; Christian(-1, cover -3) was late getting over. (RPS -2)|
|M14||1||10||Ace twins twin TE||3-3-5 stack||Run||Inside zone||Sagesse||4|
|RVB(+0.5) squeezes down on the pulling TE and there should not be much in the way of holes, but Sagesse(-0.5) gets booted out of the center, opening up a small crease that creates a decent positive gain.|
|M10||2||6||Ace 3-wide||Base 4-3||Run||Off tackle||Roh||5|
|Roh(-2) gets hooked and gives up the corner easily. Michigan seems misaligned, too, as PSU OL have incredibly easy angles to block Michigan LBs. (RPS -1) Floyd comes off a guy to tackle at the sticks.|
|M5||3||1||I-form big||3-3-5 stack||Run||FB dive||Sagesse||5|
|Sagesee(-2) is crushed, erasing the MLB; Banks(-1) slants inside a TE but takes a way upfield angle and can't close down the resulting hole. Kovacs is pulled outside by a pitch fake and Mouton eats a free release from a tackle.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 17-38, 4 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O25||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Stack two deep||Run||Down G||Roh||5|
|Black(+0.5) does get sealed off but gives no ground and absorbs two blockers, leaving two on the edge against just one PSU guy. Roh(-1) is the outside guy and goes a little too far upfield, then gets chopped to the ground by the pulling guard. Demens is flowing from the inside and can't quite run Redd down as he breaks outside. Redd runs OOB after about five.|
|O30||2||5||I-form 3-wide||Stack two deep||Run||Inside zone||Black||1|
|Black(+2) comes underneath the RT and into the running lane. He forces the RB away from the gaping lane behind him caused by Patterson(-1) getting blown back three yards and forces Redd to leap into a cluster of bodies in an attempt to avoid Black's tackle. RVB(+0.5), who's shooting inside when unblocked now, helped knock him off balance.|
|O31||3||4||Ace 3-wide||Stack two deep||Pass||3||Rollout out||Talbott||5|
|Way too easy. No one within miles of McGloin (pressure -2) and the little out is open in front of Talbott(-1, cover -1)|
|O36||1||10||Ace twin TE||Base 3-4||Pass||PA sack||T. Gordon||-10|
|Michigan PA blitzing all the way with Thomas Gordon(+2, RPS +2) sent off the corner on a McGloin search and destroy mission. He gets upfield too quickly for McGloin to adjust and tackles solidly for a huge sack. (Pressure +3)|
|O26||2||20||I-form twins||Stack two deep||Run||Down G||Sagesse||6|
|Banks slants under his blocker and it takes a good adjustment from the pulling guard to wall him off. Sagesse(-1) is blown downfield immediately by the backside guard after getting scooped and the linebackers have to deal with a ton of blockers. Demens actually gets doubled, so he's doing well just to stand his ground. Fitzgerald(-0.5) overruns it, leaving Sagessse to come off his block seven yards downfield and tackle, which good for you but really the whole issue is that you're seven yards downfield.|
|O32||3||14||Ace 3-wide||Base 3-4||Pass||5||Corner||Floyd||Inc|
|Michigan sends blitzers and then sends a delayed LB once it's clear the TE is staying in. No one gets there (pressure -2). McGloin can throw a corner route; this one is well covered by Floyd(+1, cover +1) and the resulting throw is well high. Floyd was grabbing, but these days PI isn't PI unless it's called, same for holding. Rubbin's racin'.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 24-38, 13 min 4th Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|M49||1||10||I-form 3-wide||3-3-5 stack||Run||Zone stretch||Van Bergen||2|
|They run at RVB for the first time in what seems like forever; he gets a push on the two OL over him(+0.5) that allows Fitzgerald(+0.5) to flow hard to the outside, absorbing the playside tackle and leading FB, and cutting off the outside. Cutback forced. This time Banks(+0.5) is flowing properly and is there to tackle with help from Mouton(+0.5)|
|M47||2||8||I-form 3-wide||Stack two deep||Run||Counter||Fitzgerald||3|
|Michigan blitzing here; Fitz and C. Gordon come from the outside. RVB(+1) gets inside a tackle and takes out the pulling guard as this is supposed to go right up the middle of the field. Royster takes it a gap outside into the B where Fitzgerald(-1) is supposed to be; he runs too far upfield and gives up a gap between himself and the RVB mess. Demens(+1) was dropping into a zone to prevent any quick slants behind the blitz. When he reads run he comes up quickly and makes a solid tackle(+1) two yards downfield; Royster falls forward for two more. Plus for the Demens drop because I believe his pass pro responsibilities came first because of the Gordon blitz and he did react quickly enough to hold this down to 3.|
|M44||3||5||Ace 3-wide||Stack two deep||Pass||4||Rollout hitch||Kovacs||14|
|Michigan finally covers the out but in doing so they open up the hitch inside of it. Kovacs(-1) is nowhere to be seen on a play with no deep routes and a rollout in a situation where a first down is a serious threat of game over (cover -2). I'm not sure if Demens is doing the right thing here since he seems to have the tailback and moves up towards the LOS. If he stayed back that's where he'd be. Also this could be Floyd or Mouton since they both end up covering the out. Any of these folks could be at fault. Just don't know. Do know that this is a pretty insane call for the situation. Let's have two deep safeties twenty yards downfield.|
|M30||1||10||I-form twins||3-3-5 stack||Run||Down G||Mouton||0|
|Mouton(+1) flows, hits the pulling G at the LOS, gets outside of him, and stands there, eventually drawing the affections of the FB. Floyd(+0.5) comes up to hit the FB, too, cutting off all holes; Demens(+0.5) has scraped from the inside and delivers the tackle, though there's a bunch of bodies and a lot of falling so it wasn't a difficult one.|
|M30||2||10||Shotgun trips TE||Stack two deep||Pass||4||Scramble||Black||4|
|PSU slides its protection and lets Black(+0.5) in on a tailback; he gets cut but does convince McGloin to start scrambling around; no one open (cover +1), McGloin decides to take off. Four Wolverines converge after a few yards.|
|M26||3||6||Shotgun 3-wide||Stack two deep||Pass||3||Flare||?||Inc|
|No one open (cover +1) and McGloin does something I don't think we've seen all day: checks down. Sad face. This is dead meat if caught and is poorly thrown anyway.|
|Drive Notes: FG(42), 31-41, 5 min 4th Q. PSU's last drive is academic and not charted.|
|Van Bergen||10||3||7||The solitary player to have a good day.|
|Martin||-||1||-1||I'm going to throw myself off a bridge.|
|Banks||5||6||-1||I'm picking it out right now.|
|Sagesse||0.5||6.5||-6||Not high enough.|
|Black||6.5||1||5.5||Hey… wait, what? I guess so.|
|TOTAL||22.5||19.5||3||Lost out to a terrible OL.|
|Mouton||6||5||1||Very difficult day; made that one awful missed tackle on Royster.|
|Roh||0.5||7||-6.5||Is not a linebacker. Is not a linebacker. Is not a linebacker.|
|C. Gordon||2||6.5||-4.5||Doesn't know WTF he's doing. Clearly inferior to…|
|T. Gordon||2.5||-||2.5||…but Cam played more than a guy who'd established himself as decent.|
|Demens||6.5||5||1.5||Still picking guard out from his teeth.|
|Fitzgerald||1||2||-1||More PT because Roh is not a linebacker.|
|TOTAL||18.5||25.5||-7||Position moves a disaster.|
|Floyd||3||12||-9||Awful, awful, awful.|
|Rogers||-||-||-||Did he play at all?|
|Kovacs||3||4||-1||At least he's around zero.|
|Johnson||-||-||-||Did play a little but did not make an impact.|
|Talbott||-||6||-6||Played in place of Rogers.|
|Christian||-||1||-1||One exploitable play.|
|Avery||-||-||-||DNP, I think.|
|Ray Vinopal||-||4||-4||Obviously tiny.|
|Pressure||7||11||-4||No pressure on PA.|
|Coverage||11||27||-16||An utter debacle.|
|Tackling||1||3||-2||This counts as good.|
|RPS||3||13||-10||Let's align our MLB two inches from the nose tackle.|
[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'm going to dispense with the cute. This was a debacle. Michigan abandoned a defensive philosophy that hadn't exactly shone against Iowa but did put Michigan in a position where better play here or there from one player would have gotten redzone stops. They forced five three-and-outs and endured an avalanche of short fields and turnovers, looking sort of respectable against a veteran offense with solidly above average numbers. The Mathlete had their performance about three points worse than an average defense. They did this without Mike Martin.
Michigan gets a bye week. They play a team without a mobile quarterback running the same assortment of conventional power and inside zone plays they've faced. They:
- Install Ray Vinopal at FS.
- Move Cam Gordon to spur and displace the Johnson/Gordon combo.
- Install a bizarre three-man line package that's somewhat like a stack but not really a stack.
All of these moves fail. Cam is the worst spur we've had all year because he's been playing it for a week and a half. Vinopal is clearly overmatched whenever called upon. And the 3-3-5 sees Michigan give up 41 points to a team that was 82nd in yardage, 99th in scoring, and starting a backup walk-on quarterback. Penn State scores on all but two of nine real drives. 41 points on nine real drives. Without a single turnover.
Every single move made in the bye week is a detriment, and two people have now told me that at half time the adjustment made to Kenny Demens's alignment was a result of Demens himself asking for it. Michigan badly regressed after a panicked bye week adjustment that saw them slide to the 3-3-5 and fail at it, which is exactly what happened in 2008. This doesn't even cover it…
…because the chart doesn't know Robert Bolden was out.
Michigan needs to pick one thing and do it. Right now what are they? Are they a stack? Are they a 4-3? Are they a 3-4? The answer to all of these questions is "no."
You know who did this? You know what is going on here? Do you know the thing that is happening to Michigan's defense?
"They're going to have to learn about us, OK? Let them try to stop a pro-style [defense], which has multiple personnel groups and multiple formations. Let's see how they are going to do. They've had their advantage because I've come into recruiting late. Well, now it's Xs and Os time. Let's see who has the advantage now."
We've been Weis-ed. This is the equivalent of running a spread option against Georgia Tech and then abandoning it a quarter into the season. Michigan is running around with ten freshmen playing meaningful time and not one of them has any idea what they're supposed to be doing down to down. Greg Robinson has never had a successful college defense except for his one year at Texas where he just went with the flow before moving on, and his pedigree comes from the NFL. GERG E. Coyote, man.
So… your firing stance after the review of the game?
Even stronger. Michigan needs to get a proven collegiate defensive coordinator by paying ridiculous money and boot at least two and probably all of the other defensive assistants so he can bring in whoever he wants, and he needs an iron fist. There are two possibilities here: either GERG thought this stack was a good idea and needs to be fired, or GERG cannot maintain control over the gameplanning despite what happened in 2008 and needs to be fired along with everyone else.
Got a better example of the stack incoherence that got Kenny Demens eaten?
One step, he reads it, he tries to get back, he's way too close to the LOS and any release from an OL eats him.
How much brunt do the players bear?
Quite a bit, obviously. I mean:
JT Floyd had three instances of the worst coverage I've seen in my life. The one where he correctly read a stop-and-go only to run himself to the sideline five yards in front of the WR is even worse than this one, which is heroagagdddgsagasfying as is. In its glory:
McGloin threw about four terrible passes that a secondary with "players" "somewhat near" the "opponent" coulda/shoulda intercepted. On zero of them was the coverage within yards. Floyd's regressed badly and while Michigan's secondary was horrible with him they're not going to be much more horrible without him.
I won't get on anyone else too badly since we all knew the NT was death minus Martin and the other guys with big shiny negatives are freshmen who shouldn't see the field until they're redshirt juniors (Vinopal, Talbott) or second year players who've been jerked around into positions they aren't suited to and don't know very well (Roh, Cam Gordon). It's obvious why they're bad. This is Floyd's third year and he's not good.
It's symbolic that this is the play where it all went to hell:
Demens has that dead to rights if he can just get some gang tackling help. Marvin Robinson whiffs, Cam Gordon vacates the only area Royster can go, and Royster makes a terrific play to spin outside for the first down. Great play, but you can't spin past three guys without something having gone horribly wrong. That's a true freshman and a redshirt freshman who was a wide receiver last year and a safety last week. FFFUUUUUUUU.
Ryan Van Bergen.
Greg Robinson, everyone in the secondary, Not Mike Martin, and whoever decided Craig Roh should play linebacker.
What does it mean for blah blah blah?
Everyone will score every time they touch the ball this year and when Greg Robinson is fired after the season Michigan will hire a Tecmo Super Bowl cartridge to run their defense.
out of date
HAI GUYS I BET YOU LIKE GOOD NEWS. Troy Woolfolk's twitter:
Things just got worse for Michigan fans. Can't elaborate that's all I'm saying.
UMGoBlog's got a rumor that this is in reference to JT Floyd's ankle, supposedly in a nonfunctional state after practice today. Tom got an independently sourced email saying the same thing. Player on team saying bad news + two different sources with identical stories about what that bad news is == 99% true e-rumor.
So JT Floyd is probably done for the year. One of three freshman will start opposite James Rogers. I'm working my way through the Penn State game tape and am not sure how much this actually hurts but it's not good. Your available non-freshman cornerback on the roster is James Rogers. That is all.
UPDATE: Woolfolk is hurriedly backtracking, which may be CYA but may not. Downgrade your likelihood somewhat here. I probably wouldn't have posted this without that third bit but the two standing are melding with other stuff around the internets and this is still likely to be true.
UPDATE II: So the "out for year" bit seems unknown. Definitely out for Saturday, though.
Taking stock during the bye week.
People thought I was depressive when the secondary preview started "what's the point of anything?"
WHO'S DEPRESSIVE NOW!?!?! YEAHHHHH. Score one for cold-eyed realism. This could be the worst secondary in a BCS conference. It's definitely the worst in Michigan history.
Anyway, cornerback got a 1 and I thought about breaking the rules to go lower:
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.
Some vague hopes were offered for JT Floyd despite his ugly, brief tenure as the starter opposite Donovan Warren once Boubacar Cissoko went ham. These were based on constant positive reinforcement from the coaches and the occasional mysterious practice observer, with the latter given more credence because they didn't have an obvious ulterior motive. "Average" was the "best anyone could hope for," though.
Opposite Floyd I took a wild guess that Cullen Christian would end up starting—if not immediately by the time the Big Ten season hit—because he was the most highly-touted recruit and was not James Rogers. Avery and Talbott were regarded as basically identical recruits who needed a year and 20 pounds before seeing the field. They wouldn't be allowed that luxury.
At safety 2 was offered, "generously." Jordan Kovacs was said to be totally incapable of playing a deep half but "pretty good as a tiny linebacker." In sum:
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, Cam Gordon was named the Grady Brooks memorial King of Spring Hype. The usual accolades were relayed, the thing about how he should probably be a linebacker mentioned, and a projection of a sort offered:
As a redshirt freshman, a "big year" would be wrapping up his tackles and not letting anyone behind him for crippling long touchdowns. … Repeating [Brandon Englemon's] +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.
Fast forward to NOW!
nothing really matters… anyone can see… that nothing really matters to meeeeeeeeeee
Depressingly accurate overall even considering the original depression that was depressing. Michigan is 118th in pass defense and 94th in efficiency.
Maybe the corners have been slightly less atrocious than expected, but Michigan's been limited when they try to play man coverage because things like Iowa's last touchdown happen when they do. On that play, Michigan sent the house and JT Floyd gave up a slant despite starting with inside leverage. They make plays on occasion, but lord they're not good. Michigan's defense is limited in the same way their offense was in 2008—with deficiencies that severe man coverage is a dangerous gamble every time it's deployed.
Floyd is significantly improved, so there's that. He's still below average. He's not a total liability. On the other side, Michigan hasn't been able to displace Rogers despite his tendency to go into anaphylactic shock whenever he comes within five yards of an opponent wide receiver…
OH MY GOD WHAT DID YOU DO BATHE IN CAT HAIR
…because the freshmen have been playing like typical three-star true freshmen: badly. They first started rotating into the lineup against BG; since then
- Cullen Christian was burned twice against BG and gave up an easy long touchdown against Michigan State,
- Terrence Talbott was primarily responsible for turning third and fifteen into first and ten on Michigan State's second touchdown drive and gave Indiana their last touchdown by dragging out of his zone, and
- Courtney Avery was personally responsible for large chunks of Indiana yards, gave up a touchdown on third and ten against Iowa by dragging out of his zone, and turned what should have been another third and ten stop into a whiffed tackle, 20 yards, and the field goal that was the final nail in Michigan's coffin.
This is disappointing, especially Christian's failure to beat out not only Rogers but apparently his classmates. Talbott and Avery feature in the nickel and dime packages while Christian backed up the outside guy; he has apparently lost that job. too—Avery came in against Iowa when JT Floyd missed a few plays.
At safety, Kovacs has been Kovacs. He's small, he's not very fast, but he's probably the team's best tackler and he's been in the right spot more often than anyone on the defense. This has resulted in a bunch of UFRs where he's got several half-points in each direction and comes out at zero. He could be the fifth-best player on a good defense.
Cam Gordon has been rough, honestly little better than the mess Michigan threw out last year. He racked up a double-digit negative day against Notre Dame and followed that up with another one against Michigan State. His angles have been too aggressive or too conservative with little porridge in-between, and he's failed to shake a nasty habit of not wrapping up his tackles. He's pretty good running downhill, and that's about it. Preseason hype has given way to cold reality. Gordon is a redshirt freshman converted wide receiver who should probably be playing linebacker. He plays safety like he's a bowling ball: he goes fast in one direction and hopes to knock over the pins with momentum because he has no arms.
Fast forward to LATER!
What can we expect the rest of the year? Pain, but less of it.
Rodriguez made an offhand comment about maybe moving someone from one safety spot to another when discussing the possibility of a Will Campbell move, but that would either be Jordan Kovacs or Marvin Robinson. Kovacs's tenure at deep safety last year was hardly less disastrous than that of Mike William or Gordon; Marvin Robinson is yet another freshman who is likely to make the same sorts of mistakes.
Gordon's it unless Michigan wants to turn to true freshman two-star Ray Vinopal, who picked off a pass from a third-string Bowling Green walk-on and has therefore made the best play by a Michigan safety in the last ten years. I'm not sure if that's a joke.
Floyd's not very good, Rogers is what he is at this point, and the freshmen are clearly not instant impact types, except insofar as they give up an extra touchdown per game than a Michigan secondary featuring Troy Woolfolk. That is an impact, just not the one you're hoping for.
Your best hopes the rest of the year:
- Courtney Avery learns WTF a zone is and how to play it.
- Cam Gordon's angles and tackling improve marginally.
- JT Floyd progresses towards average and at least gets basic things right.
Actually, your best hope is this: Michigan did okay against the two rookies and/or flat bad quarterbacks they've faced to date. Zack Fraser didn't do anything. ND's three-headed QB was contained. Bowling Green couldn't do much of anything. Michigan's next three opponents all feature freshmen at QB; they're ranked 104th (PSU), 105th (Illinois), and 107th (Purdue) in passing efficiency. They're bound to be less effective than the last three guys, a senior returning starter, junior returning starter, and senior returning starter who are all in the top 30 in passer efficiency. Tolzien will shred, but who knows what Terrelle Pryor will do? (Probably shred, actually—he has no problems against awful Ds this year.)
By the end of the year Michigan's numbers will be slightly less grim as the schedule eases and the freshmen learn WTF a zone is. They will still be grim.