This is maaaaybe premature there, ESPN. Maryland #1 FWIW.
in the wild
As speculated yesterday, the opening of spring practice brought with it news of departures. None are significant in terms of playing time, as they consist of a couple walk-ons and the uber-buried, but one guy was a scholarship player: Kenny Wilkins.
The writing had been on the wall in regards to Wilkins for a long time. He was left off the fall camp roster last year in favor of walk-ons*; my only memory of him is that one time he got destroyed by walk-on OL in Brady Hoke's first spring game, paving the way for the one offensive play of any significance. He was slated to be a redshirt junior this year.
This does open up a scholarship slot. Michigan is currently at 86 players, and may be at 85 depending on just which of the kickers/snappers have scholarship slots this year.
As a recruit, Wilkins was 3/4 star tweener regarded as an athlete that didn't really know how to play football. His recruiting post prediction is not too wince inducing:
General Excitement Level: Moderate. It will take a lot of development to get Wilkins up to a playing weight, and his lack of technique could hold him back. He's a boom or bust (or meh) sort of guy.
At least he gives us another opportunity to regard the wreckage that was Rich Rodriguez's disastrous 2010 recruiting class. Hard hats required for next paragraph entry.
GONE: Cullen Christian, Kenny Wilkins, Demar Dorsey, Austin White, Carvin Johnson, Terry Talbott, Terrence Talbott, Christian Pace, Davion Rogers, Jerald Robinson, Ricardo Miller, Conelius Jones, Stephen Hopkins, DJ Williamson, Antonio Kinard, Ray Vinopal.
HANGING BY THREAD: Will Hagerup
ON TEAM, <10 MEANINGFUL SNAPS: Jordan Paskorz, Josh Furman, Marvin Robinson, Richard Ash
GUYS WHO HAVE PLAYED SOME FOOTBALL: Devin Gardner, Jake Ryan, Jeremy Jackson, Jibreel Black. UPDATE: Courtney Avery and Drew Dileo as well.
Four Six guys out of 27. Good gravy.
*[You are limited to 105 players, IIRC. Obviously not being in the top 105 players is not a great sign for your viability.]
♪ Well a whole season played with the first string guy is usually quite lucky.
And a squad who plays with the second team out can be anything but fussy.
But a team whose seen an important guy down—head concussed, knee on the ground!
If they ain't got depth around, then all goes to poopie.
To poopie, to poopie, to poopie, but depth is hard to get!
To poopie, to poopie, to poopie, but we can get there yet! /♫
This is a continuation from last week when I went through the expected offensive depth chart and tried to predict what would happen—what's the dropoff? how do we react?—if each starter is injured for an extended time. Now, I'm not here trying to roll into town and stir up trouble, see? I'm a purveyor of portents and hedger of predictions only. What I seek to do is prepare us for any one of these dings, so that if one occurs we can say something intelligent like "it hurts to lose Roh but Black is probably the less replaceable!"
Why not all defense? Things slow down from here because the defense has a lot of intermeshing parts, and because there actually is depth in places to speak of.
Mattison's er Michigan's defense has been characterized by interchangeable positions but really each spot is more of a sliding scale from NT to field corner where each one overlaps the things on either side of it. The listed spring/recruiting weights play this out (click e-bigitates):
Quickly again. Photos are all by Upchurch unless otherwise noted. Ratings are given in Saturn-punting Zoltans. Think of them like stars except more heavenly. Five is an all-conference-type player (Denard to Kovacs); four is a guy you'd call "solid" (RVB to Demens); three is an average B1G player (Morgan to Hawthorne); two is a guy with a big hole in his game (freshman Kovacs); one is trouble with a capital T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for Poole.
Nose Tackle (Avengers)
Geeks / O. Ryan Hussain|TheWolverine / 247 Sports
In case of emergency: I'll be honest; this one is impossible to call straight. The 4-3 under is like the 3-4 in that it leans on the nose to suck up double teams and create mismatches elsewhere. The ideal is a superhero, and for the last few years we've had one of the best (by Ghost of Bo).
Hulk is gone but the franchise must go on, and for now that means we are 100% committed to making Thor work.
If the old 5-star takes up the hammer he's the pivot point of a great defense. If he doesn't then one of two mystery men could be anything from serviceable to disasters, and most things in between.
The upside on all three of Michigan's nose tackles is mighty. Weirdly, we think we know more about the true freshman, Ondre Pipkins, than the redshirt sophomore. Pipkins was a 4 or 5 star whose huge, squat, Tongan frame and jovial, Hoke-impersonating character made him and Michigan's need for nose tackle a cosmic destiny. If he's got the goods we'll see Pipkins early in spells of Campbell. True freshmen (Martin, Gabe Watson) of his caliber have fared well enough in rotational duty. The later this season goes, the more comfortable you can feel about Pipkins when he's called upon. Caveat: until he's called upon you have no idea if he can hack it, and for every huge dude you can name who could play right away (Marcus Thomas, Suh, Ngata, [sigh] Johnathan Hankins, DeQuinta Jones) there's 30 who need to spend a year as Ben Grimm before being The Thing. /metaphor used up.
In case of dire emergency: …break glass on Richard Ash. Nobody knows on this guy, who was recruited by Rodriguez as the last Pahokeeian project for Barwis to tear down and rebuild. The tear-down went unnoticed through 2010 and '11 and we caught a glimpse of possible rebuild when, 20 lbs. svelter, he made a few plays nice in the backfield. Ash could be anything from ahead of Pipkins to Adam Patterson. If that's where we are I could see Quinton Washington sliding down.
Rush Tackle (3-Tech)
Right: Dell Callihan|UMGoBlog
In case of emergency: The coaches have made it clear that Jibreel Black can play, and moving him two slots down the size/speed slide chart of defensive positions means they want him on the field, and that they want 5-tech-ish skills at the 3-tech. This being a swing position means the backups could be different things.
Quinton Washington is a big dude who was an offensive guard until he and Will Campbell were swapped for each other in that experiment. He still looks like a guard, and has yet show much at tackle besides easily dismissible coach hokum right after the move in 2010 so it wouldn't look like Rodriguez was throwing substances at surfaces to see what sticks.
Q stuck although the OL he left is now about as leaky as the DL he came to save. That the coaches moved Roh and Black down the line tells you something about their faith that Washington is ready, and going into his redshirt junior year that might mean he'll never be. He's seen time on goal line situations and is likely to again. Early in the year I wouldn't be surprised if he or Ash—whichever wins—is backing up both interior line spots, and that later on we see some Pipkins and Campbell together time.
In case of dire emergency: Ken Wilkins has been absent enough from chatter that people email me asking if he's still on team. Yes he is on the damn team, and he's still just a RS sophomore, but yeah, there's room for true freshmen on the three deep. Those two seem to be Godin and Henry, the lesser heralded of the heralded class, both of whom would benefit from redshirts. Henry is the larger. Chris Wormley, whom I rate at 5-tech, seems a more likely backup.
Strongside End (5-Tech)
In case of emergency: Craig Roh has to be the hardest four-year starter to project in history, thanks to many different careers as too-small WDE in a 4-3, a miscast OLB in the 3-3-5, then as the edge rushing WDE in Mattison's 4-3 under. Now he moves to RVB's old spot.
The backup here is almost assuredly Nate Brink, whom the coaches love but the fans hardly know because he's been hurt (he missed Spring because of it). When the coaches talk about the one-time walk-on they make sure to hit all of the Ecksteinian points: "coachable", "hard worker", "toughness", "great technique", "great motor." To that I might add he's 6'5 and 263, which is normal for the position. He's not Heininger (who as a sophomore backed up Brandon Graham), except in that he's some of the things you wrongly thought about Heininger. Then again I remember Brady Hoke making all sorts of guys into effect tech linemen.
If you'd rather see stars, Keith Heitzman is your guy. The beneficiary of the spring time Brink missed, the redshirt fresham was rated higher at tight end out of high school yet apparently good enough at SDE that the coaches moved Jordan Paskorz instead of him. Either this was a promise made at the time of his last-minute recruitment—likely since Tim reacted strongly when I say him and the TE depth chart together—or an endorsement by Hoke that he can play, or both. Best guess is it's both.
In case of dire emergency: Any of the freshmen linemen but Pipkins and Ojemudia are ready built for 5-tech. Of these Chris Wormley was a longtime high school star, which tells me he is probably physically ahead of the other guys right now. Tom Strobel is the other proto-RVB here. One day I expect we'll see the two of them playing next to each other at 3- and 5- respectively.
Backups: Mario Ojemudia ???, plus 5-techs
In case of emergency: Well if one goes down the other starts. Following a trend, both Clark and Beyer were OLBs last season, while this spot was rotated between Black and Roh. Though technically a unit change, the job they did last year—outside rusher—and what they'll be called on to do this year are not all that dissimilar. It speaks well to both that they played as true freshmen ahead of once-touted Cam Gordon. Read less into that, since Gordon was hurt to give them the opening and their skillsets are different from his.
They're also different from each other. Beyer was the more highly regarded and will get called "solid" more often because he's less eventful than Clark. Clark has the greater athleticism (see: interception in Sugar Bowl) though has been convicted of multiple accounts of giving up the edge, a freshman mistake repeated in spring. The rest of the D-line by design is meant to free these guys up for sacks, thus I see both rotating. If one goes down we lose the rotation.
The only other designated WDE is freshman Ojemudia, who is about 200 lbs. right now and would be 2009 Craig Roh'ed by most of the OTs and TEs on our schedule. Far more likely, in the event we lose one of the sophomores, we'll see one of the 5-techs or SLBs move in before the shirt is lifted from Mario. Craig Roh has played WDE more than any other spot, and Brink has the coaches' trust to fill in at 5-tech.
In case of dire emergency: Packaging still covers but there's Ojemudia if you need him. Packaging means in pass situations you just put Jake Ryan here and have Cam Gordon or Brandin Hawthorne or a nickel corner come in; otherwise go "big" (for a certain definition of such) with Roh back to wide and whichever backup DT/SDE in the game instead.
Already strong desire to see Amedeo Della Valle wearing Michigan electric banana yellow: incremented. Also, here's 6'7" Bo Zeigler.
What to do with the extra options.
I'm curious what you think Michigan should do with their suddenly available basketball scholarships. I realize it is impossible to predict specific names since you don't know who is really out there or how they look outside their highlight films. But from a position stand-point, what do you think?
I ask because I've had a debate with Dylan at UMHoops the past few days about it. He's of the opinion that a combo guard like Della Valle would be the best choice because we don't need a true PG with Burke and Walton. My opinion is that the end of the bench is designed for people who fit a very specific role and are comfortable being a developmental prospect so I think we need a true PG who can back up Burke and Walton and be available in case of emergency.
I think Travis Trice (MSU) and Stilman White (UNC) are perfect examples of the type of player you want to provide depth. They were both undersized, low-ranked recruits coming into a full roster with many more heralded players but both played critical back-up roles for their teams when needed. To me, that is the first priority with these available scholarships and the second priority is either a combo guard with a lot of upside or a pure shooter to groom into the Vogrich role.
Michigan could take both a PG and a combo now and a third guy besides if he's a grad-year transfer. I think the ideal situation is a grad-year PG, Della Valle, and a full-court press on Bo Zeigler and Monte Morris as Michigan tries to add to its 2013 class.
If there isn't a suitable grad-year guy out there, then it comes down to what you think of your available point guard options. Michigan does need a second point guard at some point. Do you think Della Valle and/or Stauskas can give you backup minutes if Burke stays? Do you think Spike Albrecht or other random unsigned guy can play? How do you feel about your shot at doubling up with Walton and Morris in 2013? What is your contingency plan if Burke goes pro?
I can't answer any of those questions, but I don't think you want to take a guy just to take a guy. Christian was an example of that. He was going to Tulane and had little interest outside of that before Michigan swooped in. He ended up sitting on the bench before departing, and the limited utility he provided in his sparse minutes probably could have been handled by Corey Person without much problem.
Albrecht is a walking question mark right now. There's a big difference between Travis Trice—who had offers from Minnesota, Northwestern, Dayton, and Butler—and Albrecht, who doesn't even have profile at the major sites and has Vermont fans on the fence about taking him. Meanwhile, White had a BYU offer. I can't find a confirmed Albrecht offer from anyone—his profile is a lot closer to Christian than either of your four-year examples.
Unless you think Albrecht is the sort of guy who can give you ten minutes now and could start as a senior, I wouldn't take him. If he's as good as Dave Sobolewski, the guy Sam Webb compared him to, I would. But even a low profile guy like Sobocop got three stars from Rivals and shows a number of quality mid-major offers like Harvard, Northern Iowa, and Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
In contrast, we know Della Valle has high-level suitors. If Michigan gets him they'll beat out Texas A&M, Arizona, Gonzaga, and others for him (AFAIK he does not have an official OSU offer). That's a guy you'd take any time.
This is my point guard decision matrix:
- If you can get a grad-year guy, take him.
- Otherwise, if you think Albrecht or other guy is as good as Sobolewski, take him.
- Otherwise, if Trey Burke stays just deal with 5-10 minutes a game with Stauskas or hopefully Della Valle at the point.
- If Trey Burke leaves, panic. Then reach for someone, anyone.
FWIW, A Trey Zeigler transfer—which doesn't seem to be on the table—doesn't fit well with Michigan's needs. They need another guard next year, when Zeigler won't be eligible, and he's probably more of a shooting guard. If you can get Della Valle he's preferable since he's available now.
Mmmm, roster fantasy.
I don't think it's possible...but we just think about the possibility of Burke and Hardaway staying for not one, but TWO years!?! How good could that team be assuming all the incoming freshmen stay?
[ED: This email came in before the attrition and the Burke news.]
Sure it's possible, but I'm not sure we want that to happen. If Hardaway has another year like his most recent one and Burke doesn't improve significantly they'll again be in that range of second-round-to-undrafted prospects and the calculus will dictate a return. I'd rather have Hardaway turn into a lottery pick both for roster reasons and, hey, NBA lottery pick driving team forward.
A hypothetical 2013-14 squad featuring everyone from the current roster and the next two incoming classes would be one-seed good even without Smotrycz. It would probably mean the upcoming season was a disappointment, though. I'd rather have a breakout year and deal with the consequences.
It's in the past.
So with the partnership between the B1G and PAC12 coming up in a few years to do some cross conference games some of the teams are getting a slight jump (i.e. Northwestern playing Stanford and Cal, as well as the recent announcement of Michigan State and Oregon). While I would love to see a home and home with USC, isn’t the most intriguing matchup with Arizona? It might be a lose-lose situation for us where if we win we were expected to win and if we lose then Rich Rod will have his moment of glory.
Who would you like to see?
Intriguing, yes. Annoying, God yes. I would like Michigan to stay away from any rehash of the Rodriguez era. This desire is on par with Michigan making a Rose Bowl: let us never speak of that again. Playing Arizona is like scheduling a rematch with Appalachian…
Oh, right. That.
If they zipper future matchups like they do for the Big Ten/ACC challenge (though I assume they'll do home-and-homes in this Pac-10 alliance), Michigan might not have a choice. It's hard to see the near future of both conferences panning out in such a way as to dictate the Arizona-Michigan matchup unless TV wants to get cute. I'd expect USC, Oregon, Stanford, etc. Arizona's been down forever for a reason.
On the philosophical shortcomings of the program expressed via the lens of running back recruiting.
The recent commit of Deveon Smith, which possibly excludes Ty Isaac, brought to the forefront an interesting inner debate I've had for a while. You have said that the Ohio State game is a microcosm of UM's season. I similarly have thought that Mike Hart was a microcosm of UM football in not only the late Carr years, but also the Bo years. (Disclaimer: do not read further if you think of the Bo years as the pinnacle of a college football program).
Anyway, Hart was so very good but just not quite fast enough to take it to the house after he hit the second level; often getting caught from behind. Similarly, the late Carr years, as well as Bo's years, resulted in very good teams which just couldn't reach an NC (or a very good bowl record). Obviously the leading all-time rusher in UM history is not to blame for UM's failure to win NC's, but rather a microcosm; just doesn't have that last little burst to become elite.
I see the same in Smith vs Isaac: one a more sure-fire prospect, but lacks the elite higher ceiling that great break-away speed gives (Smith), or a bigger risk in waiting for that elite size/speed combo (Isaac). I'm honestly not sure where I stand in the inner debate of whether I would rather risk a higher level ceiling (in prospects and program), or go a safer route, but with a lower ceiling that results in conference championships but not the elite national championships. I was curious to know your thoughts on the subject.
The tension here was on display in Hoke's first press conference when Drew Sharp managed to break away from the gentle grape-peeling-and-feeding session to ask a typically nasty question about Hoke's focus on winning the Big Ten, and how it wasn't a focus on winning national championships, and doesn't that make you some sort of jerk, Brady, and don't even think I'm projecting my failures on to you and everyone I write about I HAVE A VERY IMPORTANT JOB AT A NEWSPAPER.
Hoke looked at Sharp like his cool leather jacket was made out of baby skin—which, unbeknownst to him, it was—and mumbled something about how that opportunity would be there if they won the league. Sharp tried to press the point, but Hoke had already moved on to recruiting the 2015 class.
The idea that Michigan plays it safe was something I've felt as I watched good teams play in fear of what could go wrong instead of pressing their advantages and fall apart against teams they have no business doing so against. That was pretty much the only thing I thought when Hoke was hired: oh God this again, even further removed from the time period in which it was a good idea.
Hoke then set about annihilating that expectation, on and off the field. He hired Greg Mattison and brought along an honest-to-God offensive coordinator, he went for it—a lot—and told the media not to expect him to change after it didn't work out that one time against Illinois. And of course the recruiting. Brady Hoke's answer to Smith vs Isaac is "why not both?" I gingerly suggest that will also be his approach to Big Ten title vs National title. Hoke likes to win games, and tries to win all of them, and is recruiting at a level that will allow him to do so.
Wilson is needed at safety because Josh Furman's hair may be too spectacular for him to see the field.
Some Spring FB questions that so far I have not seen much about:
1) With the additions of Wilson and Clark as Free Safeties (and Dymonte in 2013) it would seem that moving Tamari Carter back to his HS position of CB would be logical given his size and our depth chart. I know there is talk of trying Wilson at CB but I don't buy it.
I haven't heard anything about Wilson at CB; I'd be surprised if he was not a safety all the way. As far as Carter goes, I'm looking at the depth chart and it seems like Michigan has three solid veterans plus a couple of true sophomore backups they liked enough to play last year. That seems like a position of less uncertainty than safety, partially because Marvin Robinson…
2) Any word on whether Marvin Robinson will get a medical red shirt for last year and also if that minor X Box spat has been cleared up? I still see Marvin as #2 on the depth chart and heir apparent to Kovacs at SS, so an extra year of eligibility would be nice. In other Red Shirt News I know it is futile to ask why we can't get a straight answer about Devin's possible wasted Freshman year... a riddle wrapped in a conundrum.
…does not seem like he's going to be a factor this year. I've gotten a report that he has not looked in shape at early spring practices. Obviously a lot of time left before fall; still not a good sign. If he's not in line for playing time Carter is one of only two guys with a year under his belt at safety. The other is Josh Furman, who has reportedly been absent for a few practices. Even if that's benign (class conflict?) it's not a good sign for potential Furman playing time. Things could go wrong a lot more quickly there than corner.
I don't know about Gardner. I've heard the opposite about the likelihood he ends up getting the extra year—e.g., it is a formality. I don't know what to believe there.
3) Is there any buzz at all about Ken Wilkins? He seems like a great possibility at SDE but I am starting to feel "Adam Patterson Syndrome" with regard to Mr. Wilkins.
Jerry In Ibiza
There hasn't been much buzz about Wilkins and the move of not one but two WDEs inside to positions he might play is not a good sign for him when it comes to seeing the field. The last we saw Wilkins he was getting annihilated by a walk-on as an undersized three-tech in the spring game; he did not surface at all last season even when the defensive line depth was whittled down to nothing in the Sugar Bowl.
He's got a shot at the rotation this year whether it's behind Black or Roh; if he doesn't do it now chances are he won't ever. If Patterson was on the sort of roster Wilkins will be as a fourth year player, he would have been buried.
Denser than a neutron star. SI's draft profile of Jonas Mouton:
That is a very dense 239-pound human, or it's Terrence Robinson. I'm just amazed someone took a picture of Robinson holding the ball—he's got one career catch.
Not so much. According to GBW's Bret Osburn, hockey forward Jacob Fallon won't return to the team next year($). We haven't seen confirmation anywhere else but the addition of Sinelli could be construed like a kind of a "whoah, we need a guy" thing. He'd be Michigan's 14th forward if Fallon does come back, and while you want a couple extra guys around forward #14 can probably come from the club team. (Krikor Arman say what.) More than next year it's the jam adding Sinelli creates in the next two years that make his addition seem kind of like an either/or with Fallon.
The most convincing possible argument against the BCS. Everyone likes Andy Staples. He writes interesting things, thinks advanced stats might have some merit, and is willing to get in twitter fights with SBN bloggers without being condescending to them. But there is no greater reason to like Andy Staples than his admittedly half-cocked BCS implosion scenario. Specifically, this bit:
The Fiesta, after missing out on Big Ten No. 2, takes Pac-10 No. 2 and matches it against Notre Dame. Every year. Because Notre Dame equals ratings and sellouts.
That's right, Notre Dame: "after missing out on Big Ten No. 2". /Degeneration X entrance in your face
The mouths of babes part XXI. In a Sam Webb article on OH LB Joe Bolden, Bolden drops some super secret future plans:
"They are definitely up there on the list," Bolden said of the Wolverines. "The facilities are impressive. Both indoor fields are as long as the outdoor grass and outdoor turf fields. Then you just walk into the Big House and look from side to side — 115,000 people are screaming for you on a Saturday. There is probably no feeling like it. They told me that they were going to add about 6,000 seats. That's definitely an impressive thing."
Those would presumably be more rows in the endzone, but how that works with new scoreboards is undetermined. Do they flank the scoreboards? Would they move their grand spanking new boards? Do they set one back or something? Someone interview another recruit so we can find out.
The past! Um… was anyone allowed at Wisconsin's spring game? This is a somewhat sincere question. They won the Big Ten, the weather was nice, and most of the shots in this video feature zero (0) spectators:
While you can see some people in the endzones they could be parents or something.
In other news, zero touchdowns were scored, all of Wisconsin's quarterbacks are terrible and they'll spend the next four years going 3-10,000 because they don't play Michigan. Sorry, Wisconsin. We don't make the schedule, we just doom everyone who doesn't play us. We don't like it either.
Tatgate warp. I guess the NCAA has been working on OSU's case since at least December but even so they've pounded out a Notice of Allegations against Tressel & co in record time. When Michigan got their version of that during the Jihad I did an email interview with the Bylaw Blog that tried to get a sense of how final all this was. The answer was "pretty final":
A major violation case, once it gets to this point, rarely is argued back down to a secondary infraction. To get to a Notice of Allegations, especially in this case, the enforcement staff and Committee on Infractions would have worked very closely to decide if there were major violations, ultimately the COI's decision.
Individual major violations are sometimes downgraded to secondary violations during the response and hearing. In the Kelvin Sampson case at IU, one of the original five major violations--that Sampson and assistant coach Jeff Meyer gave Derek Elston a backpack and t-shirt and recruited him during a camp--was found to be only a secondary violation. Of course, the COI can add too, like the failure to monitor charge that came after the committee hearing.
Expect all or almost all of the allegations in the NOA to stick. They are:
- Seven different players sold or exchanged memorabilia.
- Tressel "knew or should have known" two of these players were ineligible but played them anyway.
- Jim Tressel lied about this—the dread almost-certain-firing bylaw 10.1 violation.
…and that's it. So much for delicious rumors of point shaving/something much worse/Ohio nuclear apocalypse, at least for now.
Not that the above doesn't constitute something close to Ohio nuclear apocalypse. The Dispatch's article has some raw numbers that are alarming for OSU fans: 13,385, 500, and 6000. The former is the amount of money the seven players got. The latter are the amounts Troy Smith and a basketball recruit got in the recent past. The first is pretty big; the second two expose OSU to repeat violator status. While Michigan was technically a repeat violator when the Jihad started, their eventual infractions were major in name only and had nothing to do with Ed Martin; here this seems like the continuation of a pattern.
As far as Tressel himself goes, the email trail is even more damning than previously known. The Dispatch:
After Ohio State University football coach Jim Tressel was alerted that some of his players had traded memorabilia for free tattoos from a suspected drug dealer, he exchanged numerous emails, phone calls and text messages with the tipster, his star quarterback Terrelle Pryor and Pryor's mentors.
Documents obtained by The Dispatch also show Tressel called an FBI agent within days of getting the first email warning the coach of the potential NCAA rules violation and a federal drug investigation.
But OSU records don't show a single call or email from Tressel to the Ohio State compliance office in which he could have reported his players' apparent violations of NCAA regulations.
(Some OSU spokesman claims the dozen extra emails between Tressel and Sarniak were "inadvertently omitted" from previous document releases.) Michigan fan disclaimers and all that but I can't see how anyone can construe that as anything other than a deliberate decision to not suspend players known to be ineligible. The text of that email to Sarniak:
"This guy, Chris Cicero, is a criminal lawyer in town. He played here when I was an assistant coach in the early 1980s. He has always looked out for us. jt"
If anything justifies a we-have-to-fire-you show cause it's this case*. I mean, right? I'm betting OSU vacates last season, gets a bowl ban for this one, and gets a show-cause on Tressel. Scholarship penalties could be in the offing but I'm guessing they won't be severe unless the NCAA justifies it with that "repeat offender" status.
*[Um… other than trying to frame a murdered player of yours as a drug dealer.]
Spring extrapolations. Magnus picture-pages the Cox touchdown from the spring game and comes away with some conclusions: no Wilkins this year (he was obliterated by two walk-ons), not so much on Herron, Marvin Robinson is highly inconsistent.
Etc.: Rodriguez says going to Michigan wasn't the best decision he's ever made, which… yeah. Depressing headline. Pete Bigelow claims Cullen Christian's exit doesn't "make for another cornerback crisis," and he's right: it continues and deepens a secondary-wide crisis that has been raging at various levels for going on ten years. Soon pirates will start appearing off the coast of the Michigan secondary. UMHoops scouts a bunch of 2013 targets. Christian transfers to—surprise!—Pitt. Someone owes me ten million dollars. Penn State's first coach is Guy Gadowsky, previously of Princeton.
The 4-3 is back, like it never sort of left and then really really left against Purdue and then came back and then altered into a slightly different version of itself and then mutated into a bizarre thing that was like the thing against Purdue but wasn't really because the person doing the mutating spent all his time watching his "Best of Just For Men Commercials" DVD. It will not suddenly be replaced by things that start with the number 3 and end with razorblades and pain. In the long term, this is delightful.
In the short term… eh… there might be some issues. This series is an attempt to fit Michigan's noses, ends, spurs, bandits, spinners, deathbackers, doombackers, dipbackers and frosting-covered gnomes into their new homes.
We start with the defensive line.
What we were forced to watch last year
Michigan stemmed into four man fronts occasionally but spent most of its time with a three man front featuring a traditional nose tackle who lined up directly over the center and two defensive ends. It was unclear to me if these defensive ends were intended to slant one way or the other at the snap—an aggressive "one gap" system—or if they were reading and reacting—a "two gap" system—because of the massive confusion surrounding them. It was hard to tell if Greg Banks was trying to cover two gaps unsuccessfully or just getting single blocked all the time.
They did typically line up slightly outside (lingo: "shaded outside") the tackles, indicating that it was probably the former:
You'd have to be the sort of idiot that would have Craig Roh play linebacker to play Craig Roh as a two-gap DE at 235 pounds, but… yeah.
At other times Michigan would switch to a four-man front in which their linebackers did things that made no goddamn sense at all, like on this soon-to-be 61-yard-touchdown…
…but that's another show. I bring it up to point out that in this situation you see Greg Banks as the weakside(!) defensive end, Craig Roh as the strongside guy, and Ryan Van Bergen folded inside to be the three-tech defensive tackle. This is a shifted line rather than an 'even' line, but more about that later.
What we were forced to watch the year before
Michigan ran mostly four-man lines and while they varied they usually put Brandon Graham on the weakside-ish of the formation. Here Illinois presents a balanced line with two TEs but you can see Martin lined up over the nose tackle and Graham to the bottom of the screen with a big gap between the two. Banks and Roh are to the top of the screen:
The linebacker walks down to the LOS in an effort to prevent Graham and Martin from getting double-teamed. When there is no TE on the weakside teams had a choice between singling Graham or Martin, which is why Graham got to eat the universe so often.
Sometimes they would line up differently. Here's another play on which Graham is on the weakside, well outside of the tackle as Martin lines up directly over the guard:
This is actually an "even" look where Michigan's not shifted. The DTs are over the guards, the ends line up outside the shoulder of the tackles.
They did occasionally stem into 3-3-5-ish looks, but note here that the defensive "ends" are lined up inside the tackles—this defense is designed to push runs to the outside.
Michigan ran this front most of the day against Ohio State and had success against their traditional I-form game, but struggled when the Buckeyes went to unbalanced spread sets. USC ran this quite a bit in the last few years of the Carroll regime; they called it "double eagle".
What can't possibly be quite as bad next year
My assumption is the defense is going to look a lot like the 2009 one did. That was a 4-3 under. I was going to go dig up old Michigan rosters featuring the "rush linebacker" to demonstrate that Michigan's old school defense also tended to have a guy hanging out on the edge made of menace and sacks while the other guy enjoyed fighting off tight ends but then I remembered Hoke obviated the need for circumstantial evidence:
“We’re going to be a four-three defense, either an over or under front.”
Those sound like two totally different things but they're not. This from above is an "over" front:
This is an "under" front:
And you're probably like "that's the same damn thing except Craig Roh is standing up." You're right. The difference in the pictures is the offense. In the MSU still there are more DL to the side with the TE and FB; in the Western still there are more DL away from the side of the formation with more dudes. Both have a one-technique DT and a three-technique DT. Both leave a big gap between the one-tech DT and the DT to his side. They're just mirror images of each other. A couple of helpful graphs from Shakin' The Southland to clarify. Michigan's overshifted line in the State image:
And the undershifted line against WMU:
The only player that ends up aligning differently is the strongside DE; it's really just flipping the tackles over.
That's still a useful distinction Hoke made for us, though, because a team that is under/over is going to have different requirements than a team that aligns even like Michigan did on that Iowa play above. We get to keep our terminology from two years ago when we talked about the three-tech DT and the one-tech DT.
Every team is "multiple" these days and will run under/over/even fronts as changeups. Also, the generally accepted theory is that under is better against pro-style teams that will bang your head and over is better against spread teams that will take your strongside linebacker into the slot. So when Hoke says "under/over" he probably means Michigan is going to run both depending on situation, not that they'll pick one when they figure out their personnel a bit better.
What you need at each spot
From right to left in the second graph above:
- The weakside defensive end is going to get a one-on-one matchup with the tackle most of the time and needs to turn that opportunity into plays. Think Shawn Crable, Pierre Woods, etc.
- The three-tech DT also usually gets a one-on-one matchup with the guard. He should be a penetrator that gets into the backfield with regularity. NFL DTs you've heard of (Warren Sapp is the canonical one) who aren't barely mobile piles of goo are probably three-techs.
- The one-tech DT is going to experience a ton of double teams as the offense attempts to attack the "bubble" in the front the defense leaves but not putting someone over the other guard. You know all those successful zone running plays the site has explained over the years that start with a guard blocking some DT and end with that guard plugging a linebacker as someone else slides over to finish the job on the NT? That's what you don't want your nose tackle giving up.
- The strongside DE should be Brandon Graham. Failing that, he should be a big, strong guy who's good against the run and can add some pass rush here and there.
A post from Battle Red Blog provides more detail on what your 4-3 under requires—at least on an NFL level—if you're interested.
Who goes where
Craig Roh is the weakside defensive end and will be backed up by Herron/Paskorz/Beyer/Heitzman. Attempts to move Roh elsewhere will be thwarted by a plucky band of kids and their dog ripping the Mattison mask off of a dastardly Greg Robinson.
There are two scenarios for the rest of the line. In the happy fairy dance scenario, Mattison, Hoke, and Beyonce are so much better than Bruce Tall and Greg Robinson that they transform the platoon of Will Campbell, Quinton Washington, and Richard Ash into a functional one-tech DT. Here's what happens if they don't and they move Martin:
Yeeargh. I'll believe Will Campbell can play D when I see it but Ash and Washington got some praise last year so you've got three bullets. It's possible this happens, if not probable.
If you can assemble a frankentackle in the middle then you can slide Mike Martin out to the three-tech spot he doesn't know he's been coveting for years. Imagine senior Martin getting single blocked on most plays. Tingling is normal when contemplating this scenario.
As a bonus, successfully moving Martin to the three tech allows you to leave Ryan Van Bergen at DE, where he is the kind of solid run defender you need on the strongside. He'll chip in a half-dozen sacks and be the B+ version of a strongside defensive end and that will be fine.
The realistic-thing-that-will-be-called-pessimistic-in-the-comments scenario is that Campbell/Washington/Ash produce a guy or two worth platooning but actually running those guys out as starters is asking to be smashed. This strands Mike Martin at the one-tech and essentially forces them to move Van Bergen back to the three-tech spot he occupied in 2009. Redshirt freshman Terrance Talbott is the only other three-tech on the roster until fall. Neither of these things are necessarily bad. RVB graded out decently in UFRs a couple years ago and picked up six sacks; Martin is good enough to play either spot.
What is bad is what that does to the strongside defensive end spot, where Jibreel Black would be an all-but-certain starter as a true sophomore. Black had some promising moments last year… as a pass rusher. He had many more in which his terrible run defense hurt Michigan, and while he'll get better it seems doubtful he'll get better fast enough to be an asset. The only other option at SDE is redshirt freshman Ken Wilkins.
It is possible that in this scenario they put Roh on the strongside since he'll be a junior and he's been less prone to crippling mistakes against the run. His main problem has been a lack of size that the offseason should come close to erasing. That would take a guy who's presumably going to be Michigan's best pass rusher and put him in a position to get doubled lots, though.
Awkwardness Rating On A One To Rodriguez-Interviews-Hoke Scale
Depends on scenario but this shouldn't be too bad. In the happy fairy scenario Michigan's personnel fits a shifted line like a glove. You've got three battleship type NTs, two guys on the weakside who will wreak havoc, a solid guy at SDE, and a scattering of decent backups.
Even in the regular non-fairy scenario you've got good personnel at three spots. SDE would probably be an issue. Either way it's way better than trying to use Craig Roh as a LB or three-man-line DE.
Previously: S Carvin Johnson, S Ray Vinopal, S Marvin Robinson, CB Courtney Avery, CB Terrence Talbott, CB Cullen Christian, CB Demar Dorsey, LB Jake Ryan, LB Davion Rogers, LB Josh Furman, DE Jordan Paskorz, DE Jibreel Black, DT Terry Talbott, DT Richard Ash, C Christian Pace, and WR Drew Dileo.
|Washington, PA - 6'3" 240|
|Scout||3*, #63 DE|
|Rivals||4*, #15 WDE, #9 PA|
|ESPN||3*, 77, #42 OLB|
|Other Suitors||Wisconsin, North Carolina, Pitt, West Virginia|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Commitment post. Tom's interview with Wilkins, and one after he committed.|
I managed to forget about Kenny Wilkins, who should have shown up sometime before Christian Pace signaled a shift of this series to the offensive side of the ball, but that doesn't mean you should in your fevered explanations of how this recruiting class is not a defense-free debacle that will inevitably doom Rich Rodriguez. Kenny Wilkins exists and should be heeded.
Here's as good a reason as any why, a quote from his coach:
"He is an unbelievable physical talent," Dalton said. "And he is only going to get better. I have had some great players here, but nothing like Ken physically. I am not saying he is going to be better than [Mike] Yancich and [Andrew] Sweat, but he is the most physically talented player I've had."
With Yancich and Sweat waiting in the wings at Penn State and Ohio State, respectively, that is praise with some heft behind it. Here's some more for good measure:
"The sky is the limit for him," Dalton said of Wilkins. "He's one of the most phenomenal, naturally gifted athletes I've ever been around. He was born with gifts that a lot of people couldn't imagine having." …
"His only downside is his consistency," Dalton said. "He has to push himself to a higher level. He has a great motor but he needs to go at full speed every play and he knows that."
The picture painted is clear: freakish physical talent that needs serious molding.
Also, like many of Michigan's DL recruits this year, Wilkins is a guy with an uncertain position. Wilkins is listed at anywhere from 220 to 250 pounds by the articles on Gooogle, and that's not necessarily time-lapse stuff. The above article with the coach raves says he's "6-4, 245 pounds" despite only being a junior, but ESPN's positive combine report ("striking … physically one of the most impressive-looking athletes … definitely passes the eyeball test") lists him at 220 despite occurring a couple months later. The Pittsburgh Sports Report listed him at 225 twice, though they did say he had "the frame to add a lot of good weight." This profile goes with the official site's numbers, which are 6'3" and 240.
Whatever he is now, he will be large in the future. Multiple reports that evaluate him as a linebacker complain about "stiffness." Scout's Bob Lichtenfels says he's excellent going North and South but needs to be "more athletic when changing directions." Here's PSR again:
Lean, 6'3" 225 pounder with a good physique, though he will need to get even stronger at the next level. He has good speed and athleticism. Many schools are looking at him as a linebacker, but he may ultimately be too stiff there, so there's a good chance that if he can gain the weight, he will eventually end up at end. … Looks better in combines than on film, but he is a good athlete that could prosper in the right conditions.
Their other evaluation describes him as a "rangy and productive end who plays sideline to sideline," invoking Jeff Casteel's magic word ("rangy") when it comes to what West Virginia looks for in their defensive ends.
ESPN, meanwhile, evaluates him mostly as a linebacker($), causing those complaints to pop up again:
Not real fluid overall as a defensive prospect, but doesn't stay blocked for long when scraping and supporting the outside run. Loses some in transition opening to turn and run but flashes good range and acceleration making plays sideline-to-sideline which sometimes surprises you with his stout frame and good physicality he shows on the line of scrimmage. However, he is susceptible to getting sealed off on the edge; is not real reactive or quick/agile pursuing laterally. Opens his whole body up to the cutoff block and while he has the strength to consistently shed at the high school level, he could potentially get engulfed at the major college level. Coverage skills and overall hip-fluidity when needing to breakdown and mirror in space are marginal and do not project well if asked to play in space. … Stock would be higher if had better hips and change-of-direction skill.
This is a bizarre place to evaluate him given his strengths:
At his best playing in a phone booth; demonstrates good short-area power and burst as well as strong hand technique locking out blockers and shedding quickly and violently. Really uses his hands well at the point of attack and is difficult to turn out of the hole with his strong base and above average leverage. Strong tackler who shows good explosiveness from his hips and equally impressive upper-body strength tossing down backs for minimal second efforts. Very active and disruptive as a vertical attacker. Has deceptive quickness off the ball and utilize his long arms and hand strong hand technique to work the edge.
Sounds like a DE to me, especially since they mention he has "a lot of experience playing on the line of scrimmage" and that his "tall, well-built frame" has room to pack on more pounds. Theory: the evaluation was written after the combine at which he weighed in at 220, causing the evaluator to dismiss the possibility he'd play DE despite it being totally obvious given the evaluations. At least ESPN can take solace in the fact that they weren't the service with the most peculiar projection for Wilkins's position: Tom Lemming evaluated him mostly as a tight end, though he did say he "shows great burst and closing speed" as a DE.
All that was enough for virtually every BCS school within 1000 miles to offer. He got quick ones from Pitt, Maryland, Illinois, and similar schools, and by the time of his commitment he'd just picked up #27 from UConn to go with WVU, Virginia, Wisconsin, North Carolina, NC State, and others. Ohio State was continually on the verge of an offer, but never actually came through with one. Penn State found itself in a similar situation. Once Michigan came in, though, Wilkins was ready to get things over with, committing before his senior season started.
Finally, what does Kenny Wilkins have in common with a sorority girl? Lots.
"I get paranoid if I do miss a single workout," Wilkins said. "I'm in the gym three or four times a week, sometimes five." …
"He's an unbelievable physical talent," Trinity coach Ed Dalton said. "He's very muscular, and he has a 28-inch waist. He looks like an NFL player today. He's not going to take a year in college to get that physical look. He already has it. He's blessed physically."
Why Tim Jamison? Jamison had a considerably higher recruiting profile than Wilkins did after an explosive senior year saw him leap from so-so to top 100 lists, but other than that the fit is pretty tight. Jamison was listed at 6'3", 240 as a recruit, eventually getting to 270 by the end of his career. He was something of a LB/DE tweener with explosive athleticism rushing the passer but never really reached the potential implied by his rankings because his play remained inconsistent, just like Wilkins's coach warns above. By the end of his career he was a solid Big Ten DE (ten TFLs, 5.5 sacks) but not a star.
Guru Reliability: Moderate. They got to see him in person and ranked him as they will, but the split in opinion is considerable and the confusion about his position brings the ESPN evaluation into serious question.
General Excitement Level: Moderate. It will take a lot of development to get Wilkins up to a playing weight, and his lack of technique could hold him back. He's a boom or bust (or meh) sort of guy.
Projection: Should redshirt as Anthony LaLota and Jibreel Black are more ready to play than he is amongst the new crop of defensive ends. With the DE positions set for 2011, too, he'll probably be a backup until 2012, at which point he will be in a battle to establish himself.