"It's not about last year or who's here or who's isn't here," says your head coach. "It's about getting out here and competing and seeing who is here, and that's where we're gonna go."
Senior-to-be tailback Justice Hayes is seeking greener pastures:
The four years I have spent at this institution have brought some great memories that I will cherish forever. The fact that I will be graduating from the University of Michigan in April will be meritorious. I have earned team captain on numerous occasions, won respect from coaches and players, and most importantly played my heart out every Saturday. I truly appreciate the offer from Coach Harbaugh to allow me to return for my 5th year, but I have decided that I will choose another college to play football as a graduate student.
Hayes was a touted recruit who stuck with Michigan after Rich Rodriguez's departure despite being regarded as a spread back in the mold of a Theo Riddick. He was subsequently buried on the depth chart as the Hoke staff systematically ignored any tailback smaller than a moose.
Hayes never really got an opportunity despite the thoroughly mediocre performances of Michigan's tailbacks over the past couple years and probably doesn't see much more opportunity now what with Harbaugh's desire to manball all the live long day. It'll be interesting to see if he blows up in a fashion similar to Mike Cox and Thomas Rawls (when eligible) in a place that is not the purgatory of Brady Hoke offenses.
Michigan has three juniors-to-be (De'Veon Smith, Derrick Green, and Drake Johnson) on the roster plus USC transfer Ty Isaac, so they'll probably be fine this year. This shouldn't change recruiting approaches.
It does open up another slot. Michigan now has 13 or 14 depending on the status of Joe Kerridge—I have to assume both Glasgows are on scholarship now—and seems to be recruiting for 16, maybe 17 spots*. Hoke mentioned a few pending departures before his own exit, so I would expect Michigan to announce three or four more departures that are already known to them in the near future.
*[They have 9 and appear to be looking for two DEs, two CBs, and two TE/FB types plus a wildcard or two extra.]
Doug, one more game this season. The offense…was it what you expected? Are you disappointed? Can you talk about the progress of the offense and what your expectations were at the beginning of the season and now heading into Ohio State, where you guys are 13th of 14 in total offense?
“Obviously our expectations are a lot higher than where we’re at right now. As I’ve touched on throughout the season you talk about individual improvement [and it] hasn’t necessarily led to total group improvement. Do feel good about the things that we’re progressing in. You talk about the ability to run the football. I believe in the last three we’re averaging like 207 yards a game or something like that rushing in the last three games. Really feel like that line’s starting to gel together. You talk about protection and the fact that we gave up two this week; one was an assignment error and we gave up one true sack on a zero blitz. We got caught by surprise. We’ve got to have a better plan down there as far as getting the ball out of our hands, and then a week ago we didn’t give up any sacks. The week before we had one coverage sack, so you talk about protection [and] I believe we’re substantially better there in the things that we’re doing.
“Talk about individual accomplishments and the development of Amara Darboh. I think [he’s] a guy that you look at what he’s done over the course of the season. A true left tackle, Mason Cole [and] his individual growth. We lose Derrick Green and see DeVeon step up and Drake step and what they’ve been able to [do]. Jake Butt coming off the injury has been limited a little bit in what he can and can’t do, but you go across the board you see a lot of individual accomplishments. Guys that are getting better, groups that are getting better. We still need to bring it all together and get to a complete game. We haven’t had that yet.”
What about point production, because it’s been a couple weeks since Devin’s had a touchdown pass?
“Well, I wouldn’t look at you’ve got to have a touchdown pass to say you’re successful. That, to me, is not defining success. Obviously throwing touchdown passes is a part of the game but if we’re going to run it we’re going to run it. You look at- like you said, we’d like to score more points. We need to score more points.”
What are the toughest venues in which you’ve ever taken a team to run an offense, because most would say Ohio State sees Michigan coming in and that’s going to be one of them?
“Well, obviously to go to the Horseshow to play in this football game is something special. Any time you play on the road and in situations where it’s going to be loud, where you know it’s going to be a hostile environment you’ve got to be prepared very well and you’ve got to be focused in and you’ve got to execute, and everybody’s got to be on the same page. There’s no margin for error.”
After the game Brady Hoke mentioned it was the first time Devin’s been healthy in more than a month. At this point is he still getting healthier, or in what ways can you use him differently now that you can run?
“You get to this point in the season and I don’t know that anybody gets healthier at this point in the season, and that’s one of the hardest things about playing this sport is that when you play at this level and type of conference we have here in the Big Ten and week in and week out have to go out and do it every week against the physical style of play we see it’s challenging mentally. And then like coach said Devin from the standpoint of his physical health had some ailments there, and we’ve gotten him relatively healthy. Obviously I don’t think anybody’s as fresh as they are week 1 of the season.”
[More after THE JUMP]
FORMATION NOTES: Michigan debuted a Stanford-esque formation on which the entire world lined up across the front:
This had three tight ends (Williams, Kerridge, and Erik Magnuson, usually) and Funchess. I called it "Ace Errybody" because I feel we've forgotten about Antoine Dodson's raconteur status.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: OL as per usual, with Magnuson donning 81 to moonlight as a blocking tight end. Bo Dever got some late run at WR, seemingly after Norfleet was injured. RB actually started out with Hayes and then mixed Smith in; when both Hayes and Smith ended up dinged Johnson got his shot.
[After THE JUMP: precisely calibrating how fast our Drake Johnson roll should be.]
What’s it like seeing this rivalry from the other side? Obviously you’ve coached at Michigan State. What’s the view when you had never been a part of it before [at Michigan]?
“Well, it’s one of the classic rivalries in all of college football and I’m very excited to get the opportunity to be a part of it and I know our kids are very, very excited about the opportunity.”
When you were at Michigan State what was it like?
“Any time you play in a game, whether it be an in-state rivalry game or a conference rivalry game and some of them are out-of-conference rivalry games, the important thing is the focus on the game itself and you can get caught up and lost in the things that surround the game. Any time you’re on either side it’s about the players preparing. It’s about preparing them the best you possibly can and giving them the opportunity to be in the right situations to play well.”
Any of those games stick out to you from when you were there?
“I think any time you’re a part of these games they all stick out to you. Obviously probably the one that was played right here [Ed.- he’s referring to Braylonfest] was one that goes down as a great, great football game. Really was.”
They obviously play pretty good defense. Without giving away what you want to do, what are the key things that they do that you have to combat?
“Well, I think when you look at them they’re an outstanding defensive football team. They do a really good job of stopping the run and they get guys and they commit to the box and they do a really good job of tackling. They tackle well. You don’t see a lot of missed tackles. And then when you do have a play you see their ability to make an adjustment and take that play away, so I think that the biggest thing about the game is we have to understand the plan very well. We have to understand how they’re going to line up in the different blitzes and things that they’re going to try and approach us with, and then we have to execute.”
In the past Michigan has had a problem with Michigan State bringing linebackers through the A gap. I wonder if there’s a standard way of dealing with that or is that a pre-snap read the quarterback has to make or-
“Well, when you look at their base defense that’s one of their base blitzes that they run against everybody that they play against. One of the things it does [is] it creates obviously pressure on the interior of your line and pressure within the quarterback’s line of vision. A lot of people that run that- I don’t know their exact philosophy but it’s to create problems and pressure in the quarterback’s lap so he doesn’t feel like he has a real pocket to step up into so obviously it’s a blitz that’s part of their base package and something that we’ll prepare for.”
[After THE JUMP: Why were the MSU coaches covered in glass after the ‘04 game and some strategy talk]
FORMATION NOTES: Another very gun-heavy outing for Michigan, with nothing particularly unusual about the way they lined up. Penn State spent most of the game in a straight 4-3 of various varieties. Late they went to an eagle front for a couple plays:
Note that Miller has guys to both sides of him. That erases any chance Michigan can double on the interior and exposed Miller to a DT he could not deal with physically. Michigan responded to this with a pin and pull that worked on the next play.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: No Magnuson still, so line still Cole/Glasgow/Miller/Kalis/Braden. Jake Butt seems to be getting as much time as he would have without the knee injury by now; Williams still hanging on to quite a bit of PT in Hill's absence.
At RB it was all Hayes/Smith with Green sidelined; WRs were as per usual with a little bit of Canteen.
[After THE JUMP: struggling forward.]
file, but he had the same pullover on so not really
Can you talk about the loss of Derrick Green a little bit and how it impacts you? He looked like he had one of his best games. Two really good carries and then the clavicle injury.
“Well, obviously disappointing to lose Derrick and it was one of his better games. Felt like he was really dialed in focused, ran extremely hard. So we’ve got great expectations for the other guys. DeVeon’s done an outstanding job all season, as has Justice. Some other guys have got to step up. Drake’s got to step up and we’ll continue to move forward and we’ll feel good about those guys moving forward.”
When you look at Devin, what were the changes that you saw from, I guess, the benching until Saturday? Were there dramatic improvements in his play?
“The biggest thing I think, Devin- I’ve talked about it all season. His preparation has been second to none. He’s done an outstanding job each and every week of preparing himself to play, and I felt like he played extremely fast in this game. Made some really good decisions. Obviously he had the one interception, but other than that- and that was a matter of circumstance more than anything else, but he played I thought extremely fast and effective.”
With Drake and Justice, can you talk about- you’ve seen them a lot more than any of us. Talk about what they bring to the field when they’re on the field.
“Well, I think you’ve seen Justice has played a lot for us in third-down type situations to date. Outstanding protector. Really understands defense. Understands how to see blitzes, recognize, and does a really outstanding job in protection.
“Drake has done a really good job in practice, so it’s just been more a matter of numbers than anything for him. He’s a slashing-type back. Has really good vision, and looking forward to having an opportunity to get him out there.”
With DeVeon, he hasn’t ever had more than 10 carries in a game. With this opportunity, how do you see him taking that on his back. Can he be a 25, 30 carries a game guy?
“Well he’s been preparing to carry it as many times as need be all season long, and just a matter of circumstance at times. Derrick’s done a really nice job and he hasn’t gotten as many touches, but if you look at the productivity in his touches it’s been really good.”
I know that we talked about Devin’s health and you guys want to keep him health obviously, but at what point do you make it a priority to sort of get him more on the move and sort of let him do things with his legs? Is that something you look at here going forward?
“Well, I think I’ve said it all along. You never want to take the caliber of player that Devin is with his athletic ability and really restrict that. Tried to, from an offensive standpoint, let him let the system work for him, and then when things aren’t there make plays with his feet but obviously any time you can use the quarterback as an effective running weapon it creates another dimension the defense has to defend. On the same side of that you’ve also got to be conscious of protecting the quarterback and making sure he’s not taking undue shots.”
[After THE JUMP: the Cheshire Cat’s response to the Darboh catch]