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]
News bullets and other items:
Derrick Green broke his clavicle and is out for the season
No update on Jabrill Peppers or Desmond Morgan, which only means they haven’t been ruled out for the rest of the year /waves world’s tiniest flag
The coaches spoke to the Big Ten about Amara Darboh’s catch that was ruled an incompletion. Hoke doesn’t seem to agree with what they were told, but said there’s no reason to dwell on what can’t be changed
Shane Morris is practicing
“Alright, thanks for coming out. Number one, on Saturday I thought our guys were united. I thought they played hard together. I thought they fought, and sometimes that doesn't guarantee you anything but their effort as a team was something I was proud of, and I was proud of those kids. I know I said that on Saturday, but that hasn't changed. Sometimes fighting alone doesn't get a victory, but I think we need to change those results and execute a little better, coach a little better. It always starts with me and us. There was some good progress that was made and we want to really emphasize those things.
“Yesterday we didn't practice and that was already determined we weren't going to. We got back at– I don't know. I got home at 4:15 so I'm sure they got home late. We wanted to give them rest because rest will help you heal. We had good meetings yesterday. I think from the standpoint of corrections and emphasizing the things we want to see repeated I think were important.
“You know I don't talk about injuries unless a guy is going to miss the year, and unfortunately that's what Derrick Green – he broke his clavicle late in the football game. Nice run on our sidelines, but Derrick's attitude is very good. He knows there’s an expectation of him to help coach those young guys and coach guys and be integral and what we’re trying to get done. And so we are going to miss him, but DeVeon and Justice Hayes and Drake Johnson are three guys who need to step up, and two of them are guys that have a lot of game experience and played a lot of plays, so [we] feel good about that. And we’ll miss Derrick, but this is like anything else in competition in sports; the next man's got to stand up.”
[After THE JUMP: try to read the tea leaves]
[DATELINE: THE BURNED OUT HULK THAT USED TO BE ANN ARBOR.]
CONNECTION SHAKY. MASS PANIC AND RIOTS. WHOLE FOODS RAIDED. SINGLE ENDIVE LEAF ALL THAT REMAINS. ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT BUNKERED IN WHAT IS LITERALLY FORT SCHEMBECHLER NOW. TAKING POTSHOTS AT PASSERS-BY THEY CLAIM ARE ZOMBIES. SOME ARE. SOME.
SEND DVDS OF 1997 SEASON. ALSO WATER.
IF… IF I DON'T MAKE IT TELL CHARLES WOODSON I LOVE HIM.
I kid you not, GIS for "looting" and this guy in an off-brand Michigan jersey shows up
Let me know when I should start panicking. I am ready at your command.
Okay this is where I'm at. I've got a go bag ready. Passports, about 10k in cash, various fake mustaches and sunglasses. I'm up do date on all my vaccines. Are you up to date on your vaccines? I can be in Laos in 15 hours, never to be seen again. Rumors of the white tiger of the jungle will flourish. I will become known only in song and legend.
BUT: note that I am not already in Laos. I am sticking around to see what this season has in store, because weird things happen against Notre Dame and—and bear with me here—this game actually felt much less bad than some hammerings from last year. There are some obvious problems at cornerback and Gardner has to play better but when things went wrong it was mostly one thing going wrong, not eight. So it might get fixed. There is no reason to demand a coaching change right now. Let the season play out and see what happens. If Michigan does catch fire in the crappy Big Ten this game will be a footnote.
Meanwhile, there's no reason to assume a coaching change is coming unless you're literally 75% of my inbox…
A true Michigan Man keeps his promises about the Austro-Hungarian Empire circa July 1914.
You may recall that I said I would never write to you about Michigan football again after the BW3 Bowl and my comparison of Michigan football to the Austro-Hungarian Empire circa July 1914. Since the last part is still true, I won’t make this long. But your entry today about coaching prospects caused me to think about my second school (the Syracuse Orange).
Here are a LOT of assumptions, but (a) assuming the tire fire rages, (b) Hoke is fired, (c) none of the few big names worth watching (i.e., Miles, the Harbros) is/are available, and (d) Syracuse goes 8-5 or better again this year with a mid to late-December victory, what about a guy like Scott Schafer? He’s in his mid-40s. He runs an attacking style defense. He’s from the Midwest. He favors an up-tempo offense. He has to coach against Clemson, FSU, Louisville (and ND this year). He picked up the pieces after Doug Marrone ran off to the NFL with half of his coaching staff last year.
Might he be someone to watch? I know the experience as Rich Rod’s DC did not work out. But given his success running the defense at SU (particularly following GROB), that seems like it was more an issue of Rodriguez trying to make him run a defense he didn’t want to run. He left with grace and took the blame that may not have been 100% his.
Just a thought – I’m grasping at straws . . .
Syr. Law ‘88
I don't think Shafer has a track record to get excited about. He did improve the Syracuse defense upon his arrival but he hit a ceiling pretty quick. FEI rankings for his defenses at 'Cuse:
2013: 65th (as head coach)
In FEI there are a lot of schedule adjustments so 39th isn't nearly as good as it is in straight yardage rankings. Meanwhile he'd have two years of head coaching experience, the first a 7-6 season, and the second an 8-5 one. I liked Shafer and know for a fact he got a raw deal from Rodriguez's defensive assistants, and then Rodriguez himself. But even if you don't hold that against him his resume is thin.
He is a guy to track, since he is a poachable head coach not in the MAC. That he's worth tracking is a good summation of the available talent this year.
[After The JUMP: I REGRET TO INFORM YOU YOU WILL NOT STOP DRINKING.]
News bullets and other items:
Captains will be voted on after the Ohio State game, with seniors representing the team at each coin toss
The depth chart was released prior to the presser. Read Ace’s take on it here.
Injury update: Kyle Kalis is fully healthy, while Delano Hill is meeting with doctors this afternoon to determine whether he can play Saturday
Hoke raved about Devin Gardner’s progression on the field and as a team leader
Ty Isaac’s status is still uncertain; they’re waiting to hear back about the appeal
The freshman and sophomore classes have an edge to them. Hoke does not know that he has said edge.
Brady Hoke “Well,…” count: 12
[After THE JUMP: a mini scouting report on Appalachian State, Devin Gardner’s development, and the captain situation (or lack thereof) explained]
IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE THREE *YARDS* AND A CLOUD OF DUST
-This Preview, Last Year
IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE ANYTHING POSITIVE AND A CLOUD OF NOT EBOLA
|FEATURE BACK||Yr.||SHORT YARDAGE||Yr.||3RD DOWN||YR.|
|De'Veon Smith||So.||Derrick Green||So.||Drake Johnson||So.*|
|Derrick Green||So.||De'Veon Smith||So.||Justice Hayes||Jr.*|
|Drake Johnson||So.*||Wyatt Shallman||Fr.*||De'Veon Smith||So.|
How did Michigan's current tailbacks do last year? I don't know and they don't either. The situation on the line and Fitzgerald Toussaint sucking up a bunch of carries left Michigan relatively short on snaps to give anyone still around, and then when they got those snaps they were immediately drowned in a pile of opposition bodies.
This was especially bad since Michigan has almost exclusively recruited guys with tree-trunk legs who aren't going to put a Hart move on you. An anonymous opponent talks to Michael Spath at Big Ten Media Days:
"They needed to have a really quick, change-of-direction back, kind of like [Nebraska's] Ameer [Abdullah], but they had two guys that were similar size that were more like the big, physical type. Like Carlos Hyde, but they weren't as fast as Carlos, they didn't have the holes to run through, and they didn't have the vision."
Or that vision was wall-to-wall doom. The jury is emphatically out.
THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER-TYPE SUBSTANCE
Unless Ty Isaac gets his NCAA waiver, something that does not seem likely, Michigan only has four-ish tailbacks on the roster after Ross Douglas's sensible move to slot receiver. Three of those have drawn heavy mention through fall camp, and one seems to be the very tentative #1 back. (Or at least he did until they released the depth chart this morning, but Rome wasn't written in a day, people.)
HAIR ZOOM 2014 [Fuller. Nice resolution, bro!]
That is DE'VEON SMITH [recruiting profile], a ball of muscle Michigan won in a head-to-head battle with Ohio State. Smith had a bit of a Braylon Edwards in him last year… the Braylon who was infamously Not On The Same Page with Lloyd Carr early in his career. Smith was left off the travel roster in early November for obscure reasons—Hoke gruffly explained that "De’Veon didn’t travel because I took him off the travel team"—that turned out to be some major friction about playing time. Smith couldn't understand why he didn't have all of it and had a rep for expressing that point of view… let's say passionately.
It seems like that friction is in the past now. Reports have varied as to who is at the top of the tailback depth chart, but they have varied in who, if anyone, is 1B to Smith's 1A. The BTN guys said Smith was at the top when they visited practice; our insider thought Smith was clearly at the top of the depth chart; Hoke told the assembled media that Smith and Drake Johnson were the top two guys. Then he said Green was the top guy with Smith just behind, and then they were neck and neck. so… yeah. My Bayesian estimation is that Smith has a tiny lead that wouldn't even be worth mentioning except for the fact that I have to talk about someone first.
Given Brady Hoke's favorite word other than "well" and its total lack of applicability to the last couple editions of the Michigan ground game, these presser statements are almost a coronation:
"The one thing I know about De’Veon is he’s probably as tough a guy as I’ve been around. His identity is toughness. The way he practices, he’s a guy who can get dinged up but he’s still going to go, and he’s going to go, and he’s going to go."
I'm totally fine with this. I predicted Smith would emerge as the #2 back last year; I preferred him when asked in a mailbag after the season.
I am bullish on him because people complain about his speed, and I like Mike Hart. Speed is an overrated quality for tailbacks because 90% of the time they never approach their top end, and Smith brings a lot of Hart-like qualities to the table.
One is the fact that if you used a giant claw to extract De'Veon Smith from the tumbling melee of a football game, his legs would keep going. Turn him over: still going. Etc. From the Northwestern game:
I liked Smith's "leg churn," as faux NFL draft analysts like to say. He seems to have a knack for keeping his thighs moving as the pile forms around him.
That ability to keep his stride when being harassed was key for his big run against OSU, when he ran through two tackles without even acknowledging their existence.
And since Smith barely got a carry with any room to do anything last year the GIF I asked Ace to pull from Smith's highlight film is still a good representation of his assets:
The man has uncanny balance and the ability to run through tackles. In addition, Smith had a Hart-like aversion to fumbling through his high school career and didn't put one on the turf in his freshman year.
What Smith didn't show in year one was anything approximating Hart's ability to ghost out of tackles he had no right to avoid. Smith needs more help than Hart did and hopes to make it up by being bigger and more powerful once he gets going. That was a major problem last year and might be one again.
The broken record bit: any attempts to predict production here are seriously compromised by the massive question mark on the offensive line. I'm guessing Smith and Green platoon just about down the middle, with neither really emerging into a star; both are decent, and just decent.
[After THE JUMP: Mega-recruit now mega-hulk, the pass-pro brothers, God willing, and a belated appreciation of Vincent Smith.]
Hoke says Michigan really didn't find its top five offensive linemen this spring. And really isn't close to finding them either.
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) April 5, 2014
WELP. In a word, Michigan's offense was ominous. It was ominous—worse than that—in Hoke's first year, though, and that worked out okay as long as Al Borges wasn't trying to make Denard Robinson into a pocket passer. Standard disclaimer about information value of spring.
That stated, yeesh. We knew the situation at tackle was going to be iffy, especially with Magnuson out. Having Mason Cole as the first option at the most important spot on the line was beyond those expectations. Meanwhile, Michigan is prepping the only remaining guy who started every game last year (Graham Glasgow) at right tackle, which they'll say is just precautionary but speaks of some trepidation about Ben Braden. I do not want there to be trepidation about Ben Braden.
Hoke did not mince words when asked if they thought they'd found their best five:
"I don't know if we can say that, honestly," Hoke said. "I know I can't.
"So, I guess the answer is no."
Are the Wolverines even close, really, to identifying the best five?
"No," Hoke said. "Not yet."
That was apparent on the field, where runs generally got to the line of scrimmage (hooray!) and no further (mutter). Pass protection was close to nonexistent. It was what everyone expected, which was bad. They've got five months to figure it out, whereupon they probably won't figure it out. Digging out of a hole as big as Michigan dug last year is a two-year operation.
Quarterbacking. Gardner was just two of ten, but Morris was hardly better. Gardner's interception was at least at his receiver; Morris threw one directly into Lewis's chest. In the aftermath there were the usual quotes about how it's an open competition, but, yeah, when the Big Ten Network's main Morris highlight is a pass thrown behind the line of scrimmage that guy isn't displacing a quarterback who averaged 8.6 YPA last year and can run.
Neither quarterback was helped by the pass protection, which forced them to move around and let Michigan's secondary recover. Gardner's move and re-set on one throw allowed Jarrod Wilson to get over to Canteen on a corner route, for example. We have a ton of Gardner data from a year and a half as the starting quarterback. One spring outing isn't going to move the needle.
Speight didn't do much; Bellomy didn't look better than he did against Nebraska.
Hayes should be a legit option. [Fuller]
Tailbacking. On the few runs on which tailbacks had an opportunity to do something notable it was usually Justice Hayes doing the notable thing. He had a couple of quality cuts in tight areas that got him a nice chunk. Derrick Green had one bounce outside on which he seemed quicker than last year but still not particularly quick; De'Veon Smith also turned in a leg-churning run.
They're all about even, it seems. Michigan will cycle through them looking for one to break out. That's a tough ask given the line. It's platoon time. Michigan still seems to insist that anyone who does not resemble a moose must be relegated to third downs:
"Right now, if we're not in a third down situation, it's De'Veon and Derrick. And then Justice if we get into third down."
There's no reason that Hayes shouldn't be given a look as the feature back after last year's lack of production all around and his evident ability. He was no slouch as a recruit, and being able to pick through traffic is a nice skill to have. You get the impression that Hoke would ride David Underwood for years before even considering Mike Hart. Size isn't everything. Ask the Kansas State team that just eviscerated you with a 5'8" tailback and 5'11" wide receiver.
It's also time for Fred Jackson to preach the simplicity line and throw shade on Al Borges:
"Guys are more consistent now with their reads, going from point A to point B with protections," Michigan running backs coach Fred Jackson said last week on WTKA-AM in Ann Arbor. "By not having a ton of protections and a ton of different runs, it allows the guys to be more consistent in what they're doing."
/waves tiny flag
Of course, the main problem with the blitz pickups last year was not so much the tailback going to the wrong spot but what happened when he met the blitzer. That's on Jackson, not Borges. The thing about not doing every possible thing is great—I've heard that Michigan had 13 different protection schemes last year. 13!
MOS EISLEY FTW [Eric Upchurch]
Something about a wretched hive of scum and villainy I can't quite figure out. Freddy Canteen went from freshman to Manningham in the space of 15 practices, starting the day opposite Devin Funchess, making the one deep catch of the scrimmage session, and smoking Blake Countess over the top on another pass that Gardner threw short. Countess caught up; it was still reminiscent of 86.
Also reminiscent of 86, at least as a freshman: people screaming at Canteen about where to line up pre-snap. There was one memorable play in Manningham's freshman year where Fred Jackson was having a conniption fit on the sideline trying to get Manningham to relocate himself; Manningham did not and scored a touchdown anyway. Canteen dredged that memory up on Saturday.
Spring depth etc., but passing Jehu Chesson after a promising freshman year from him is a real thing. The tea leaves here suggest Canteen is the real deal—Michigan does not need a WR savior and has a veritable avalanche of bodies they can put on the outside. Canteen rocketed past last year's WR class and Chesson in 15 practices. It would be easy for Michigan to talk him up and throw him in the slot; instead they appear to be prepping him for a major role on the outside.
"I've been at slot and outside receiver, (I'm comfortable) at both, but I'll play probably more outside," Canteen said. "(I want to be a playmaker), to be honest. I just want to make plays."
Darboh and Chesson will also figure in; with Funchess that gives Michigan four guys with production or hype or both to their name. They're suddenly flush. With York and Dukes—who made a nice diving catch—also available, it seems like Drake Harris and Moe Ways should redshirt.
Let's think about the guy like a football player instead of a traveling circus. I can only assume the light deployment of Dennis Norfleet was for cackling-about-your-mad-plan-in-your-underground-lair reasons. It was encouraging to see them throw an actual route his way, a wheel on which Jourdan Lewis took an unnecessary pass interference flag on an overthrown ball. I support the integration of Dennis Norfleet into the base offense instead of having a completely separate Norfleet offense that always results in him getting the ball going laterally.
Hooray for efficiency. One of the most disconcerting things about Michigan's spring activity is how much standing around there is. For many, they're setting a countable hour on fire. This is apparently not how it works behind closed doors:
"Practices are really fast, we get a lot of reps," Gardner said. "This was probably the fastest practice I've ever been a part of."
There's been plenty of talk about the overall pace Nussmeier -- Michigan's first-year offensive coordinator -- works with in practice, and the overall level of tempo he chooses to play with during games.
Practices are quick. When a play ends, the next group -- according to players -- is expected to be out of the huddle and ready to snap the ball for the next rep. That concept is a simple one: It creates more reps, and for a young team, the more reps the better.
For any team, really. And that should serve Michigan well when they want to change the tempo, something Borges teams were mind-bendingly awful at. Here's a manna from heaven quote:
"I think the biggest thing, you always want to be able to control the tempo on offense -- whether that's to speed the game up or slow the game down," Nussmeier said during an interview with WTKA-AM 1050 in Ann Arbor on Thursday. "We practice at a fast tempo for a lot of reasons. One, it forces our guys to play fast and focus and always concentrate.
"And it also allows us to pick the tempo of the game up (if we need to)."
Random Mone quote I missed yesterday. This is an epic nonquote.
"I'm just having fun, being blessed," he said. "Just having fun playing the game is what I think my teammates have noticed. My enthusiasm is the main thing I bring to the field."
Our THREE weapons are having fun, being blessed, and having enthusiasm!
WE MUST MAN THE BARRICADES OR OUR FATE IS SEALED
The experience of being at the spring game was not a pleasant one. Brandon further pushed the limits of his promise not to put advertising in Michigan Stadium (a promise he's already broken in a dozen different ways) with large videoboard ads for Comcast and Allstate. There was also some dude kicking a field goal sponsored by PNC. Dude is just itching to turn Michigan's gameday experience into OSU or MSU where the scoreboard looks like a NASCAR driver's jumpsuit and each play is brought to you by Depends Adult Undergarments.
More maddening was the constant—and I mean constant—wedding DJ music, which only dropped out for brief periods in which the band was suffered to play. By the end of the day it appeared like the band just said "screw it, we're playing" and went about fifteen minutes straight. This was a merciful relief.
The music combined with the punting drill section of the day was typical Michigan at this point: we'll be shitty to you, fans, but here is this awesome guitar riff! Hunter Lochmann apparently believes that any deficit can be obscured by music. If things go poorly this season expect them to try two songs at once for the entirety of the Penn State game. One of them will be Phil Collins, because that's the soul of football.
The contrast between the NCAA tournament regional the week before and the spring game could not have been greater. The tournament is a great event the NCAA gets out of the way of. Michigan has a crappy event they try to dress up. Hoke's disregard for the fanbase hurts their ability to make it a non-crappy event, of course. Michigan remain focused on one thing and one thing only: strip-mining revenue from the banks of fan loyalty like it is an infinite resource.
Any things they do that are actually fan-friendly, like bringing in a slightly less rank standard of nonconference opponent, are because they have reached the limit of their ability to strip-mine. Michigan reminded fans in attendance to renew their season tickets—an announcement that never needed to be made before.
It would be one thing if the people making these decisions did anything but ape whoever their counterparts are in the ECHL. They have no concept of forming an identity to rally around. They just have spreadsheets.