We are drafting Big Ten teams because "Top 100 players in the Big Ten" content wouldn't make us hate each other nearly as much.
Previously on Draftageddon:
Rounds 1-2: A Heisman candidate QB and the reigning Thorpe winner go after two members of Michigan's secondary. (M players: Peppers, Lewis, Butt)
Rounds 3-4: An underwhelming first swing through receivers, and lots of linemen. (Chesson, Cole, Wormley, Glasgow)
Rounds 5-6: A Michigan second-teamer goes before Purdue J.J. Watt. (Charlton, Hurst)
Rounds 7-8: Hodor. (Taco, Hurst)
Rounds 9-11: We go on a mini Iowa binge, and Brian takes a true freshman (YTTF).
Rounds 12-14: A grueling three-rounder with safeties, RBs, and MSU legacies flexing. (O'Korn, Braden).
How things stand:
We ran three rounds again last time, which was probably too much. Just trying to get these all out before the season; would you rather very long Draftageddons or multiple Draftageddons per week?
ACE: Round 15, Pick 1: Brandon Bell, linebacker, Penn State
OFFENSE: QB CJ Beathard (IA), RB Saquon Barkley (PSU), WR Jehu Chesson (M), SLOT Curtis Samuel (OSU), TE George Kittle (IA), OT Nick Gates (NE), OG Jacob Bailey (IU), WEAPON Jabrill Peppers (M)
DEFENSE: NT Ryan Glasgow (M), DT Jake Replogle (PU), DE Sam Hubbard (OSU), MLB Josey Jewell (IA), OLB Brandon Bell (PSU), OLB/NICKEL Jabrill Peppers (M), CB Jalen Myrick (MN), S Nate Gerry (NE)
SPECIAL TEAMS: KR Jabrill Peppers (M), PR Jabrill Peppers (M)
Seth, our resident PSU fan, chose Nyeem Wartman-White in the sixth round of this draft. Even when fully healthy, however, he’s not PSU’s best linebacker—that honor goes to Brandon Bell. Here is eight minutes of Bell doing every damn thing you’d want from a linebacker:
Bell is a prototype walkout linebacker, and at 6’1”, 231, he’s strong enough to play on the inside as well—there are several impressive snaps above where he lines up at WILL and makes a play between the tackles. In 11 games, he tallied 67 tackles, 12.5 TFLs, 5.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, and an interception. He did all of this while playing much of the season injured:
That's because the New Jersey native played most of the season injured. A shoulder injury was obvious, and the defensive coordinator said there were lower body issues, as well.
"You look back at the year Brandon Bell had, despite missing a couple of games, playing with two bad wheels, a shoulder that kept popping out; when I go back and watch the cutups from the fall, just really impressed with the way Brandon plays," Pry said.
I’ll happily take Bell over the relatively interchangeable MIKEs who’ve gone off the board in the last couple rounds, especially since there are still a couple quality ILBs left on the board if I want to reconfigure my defense. For now, I’ll take a linebacker trio of Bell-Jewell-Peppers that will murder anything on the outside, provide great coverage, and allow my hypothetical squad to avoid having to substitute much against spread teams.
Seth: I would argue except "Well most Penn State fans think..." is the Alabama of bad ways to begin an argument.
Brian: You'd think Ace would know that after drafting nothing but PSU TEs for skill positions last year.
Ace: I’ve made some regrettable choices. Meanwhile, Wartman-White is in a battle just to get his MIKE spot back. Jason Cabinda is good, but nobody’s touched him yet in a draft heavy on ILBs.
Seth: That battle is the mother of offseason pablum. NWW will play wherever they want him, and Cabinda is more Desmond Morgan than Larry Foote.
Ace: They’re all going to start, but it’s tough to spin “ripped up his knee, is _still_ not fully healthy, might not be the QB of the defense anymore” as anything but a negative. I certainly don’t think he should’ve gone in the 6th round of a draft in which Jermaine Carter lasted until the 14th.
Brian: Yeah i mean how likely is it NWW is better than guys like Jewell and Carter? Possible, but not that likely. And the downside is kind of severe.
Ace: And Bell is a more versatile player than Jewell/Carter/NWW/Bullough. Figured someone would grab him as a spacebacker much earlier. I only waited this long because I already had Peppers.
Seth: When i did the Googling for that guy I had to sift through a Draftageddon's worth of articles from last year where teammates bemoaned his loss. It must have been a weekly feature. Meanwhile the list of guys I can watch live and immediately pick out that they're special is quite short. That meant a lot to me in choosing a linebacker, since draft rankings and all-X lists barely look past number of tackles.
And I was waiting to draft Bell because everybody had an outside linebacker already.
Ace: You say that like the rest of us haven’t watched film, too.
Seth: Live-live. Like you can see it from section 18. This is more explanation than argument. I develop sentimental attachments to players I personally identified
Ace: I rest my case, then.
Seth: There are also the guys I read about then watch tape and see just a guy *cough* Hardy Nickerson. (Also *cough* sometimes that guy is Jordan Howard *cough myself*)
Adam: Hey don't try to drag me into your mess. I waited until the 13th round to make my feelingsball-based reach.
Seth: Like I said, I gave up this fight when I realized the credibility of my source killed it before I got to the first predicate.
[After the jump: more self-refuting sentences involving Penn State]
SDE Charlton has been tough to handle [Eric Upchurch]
The most interesting thing about the configuration of the defense thus far is the weakside end. I thought they'd shift Taco Charlton over there and go with a very large and very fierce unit; instead Charlton looks set to start on the strongside and Chase Winovich is a tentative leader on the weakside. Chris Wormley spent most snaps I saw from him at three-tech.
While there's a chance that Michigan reconfigures once Ryan Glasgow gets re-added to the mix, right now it looks like Michigan will have a line that looks a lot like a traditional 4-3 under line instead of the mondo unit they could have had. One man's current guess at what a depth chart looks like in fall:
- SDE: Charlton, Gary
- NT: Glasgow, Mone, Hurst
- 3T: Wormley, Godin
- WDE: Winovich, Marshall
If they can get production out of Winovich that's an incredibly deep, veteran, and proven defensive line. If Winovich doesn't work out you can slide Charlton over and still have a great two-deep at the bigger spots, but this is Don Brown's first draft.
So… Winovich. After a rather wasted year spent at h-back he returned to defense, now bulked up to 245 pounds. That's light, but if he can get up to 250 or 255 by fall—reasonable—it's not eye-poppingly so. And WDE does fit his talents. As a recruit he was reputed to be Jake Ryan 2.0, and weakside end is a spot Ryan definitely could have played. Winovich has started gathering some hype himself:
Chase Winovich had himself a day at defensive end. We’d said all week that he was a bigger, stronger version of his former self. Grant Newsome definitely learned that Friday. Winovich won their one on one match-up, and was one of the best edge rushers on the day. On one play he literally flattened Newsome with a bull rush to get into the backfield.
Whether that's hooray Winovich or a collar pull about Newsome is in the eye of the beholder. On the downside from that report: on "more than one occasion" Winovich got edged and lost contain. (Yes, just like Jake Ryan.) He's going to have to cause a lot of havoc to make up for what projects to be a serious downgrade in run efficacy from the much larger and more experienced Charlton.
Meanwhile, apparently all that irrational Bryan Mone hype last year was shared by the coaching staff:
"He was one of our top players last year," Mone said. "We ranked the team going into training camp from one to 125 and Mone was three."
I have many questions about that assertion. They will never be answered.
Mone seems to have picked up where he left off before his injury, but to be honest I didn't see much from him in either practice I observed. I wasn't looking for him much since nose tackle is just about dead last on my list of concerns for 2016; even so last year you saw Maurice Hurst blow through an assortment of players, including Graham Glasgow, en route to spring hype and a very productive season. Mone didn't deliver that when in front of fans. He did draw a tough matchup against Mason Cole, to be fair. I'm still waiting for him to indicate that he's going to be better than Glasgow was a year ago.
That said, Mone was very impressive in Florida:
He was rarely blocked one-on-one, and managed to still be effective against the double team. Twice in the early portion of 11-on-11 action he engaged Ben Braden, tossed the 322 lb. offensive lineman to the side with relative ease, and then got in on the play in the backfield. On another play he split Braden and Mason Cole with great off-snap quickness and nailed Ty Isaac in the backfield.
I'd have liked to see that myself; it's good that someone did.
Godin's playing time might get squeezed [Upchurch]
Chris Wormley is still Chris Wormley. He'll probably be incrementally stronger and better and this will be a very good thing indeed. Matt Godin had an impressive spring game, blowing through a number of second-string OL. I thought he'd be a better fit at SDE, where he was on relatively level footing with Wormley early last season, than three-tech but Michigan looks set to play him on the interior. That might make it tough for him to get a lot of time—he is not likely to pass any of the other four DTs. The current Taco/Winovich DE setup steps on his toes more than anyone else.
Carlo Kemp and Reuben Jones played a lot as DEs on the white team and mostly got beat up. That's not a huge surprise since Kemp is a freshman and Jones is still listed at 222 pounds on the (possibly outdated) roster. I wouldn't expect either to break through this year.
McCray is a thumper [Upchurch]
Mike McCray is obviously the story of the spring here, and it was appropriate that he was one of the main reasons his team stuffed Henry Poggi on the goal line to end the Spring Game. McCray brings a load. At Ford Field he hammered a number of lead blocks like James Ross playing a Penn State OL. He is a tough customer.
What remains to be seen is whether he's a two-down backer or if he's fast enough to be an asset in coverage. Noises coming out of practice are positive. Per Lorenz Michigan is "quietly excited and optimistic"; Webb observed him have a lights out practice down in Florida:
Early in 11-on-11 action he met Ty Isaac in the hole and brought him down for no gain. A few plays later he showed nice feel in coverage and would have de-cleated Jack Wangler on a crossing pattern. His best play came later on in the practice when he timed a blitz perfectly and tagged Kareem Walker in the backfield.
While McCray ended up chasing a lot of completed mesh routes in the spring game I wouldn't read too much into that: mesh is designed to hang up man-to-man defenders trying to cover those drag routes. It did so with McCray. I'm assuming Michigan has better answers for mesh that they declined to show the public.
McCray did get juked by O'Korn on the final touchdown, but he was in a ton of space and did force the play back to his help. That help did not arrive in time. Ideally you get an open-field tackle like those Delano Hill turned in a couple times last year, but failing that McCray at least mitigated damage insofar as that was possible.
Ben Gedeon remains just as much of a default starter as he was before the spring. Harbaugh is saying all the right things about him, calling him a "stud" amongst other praise. When you've got a guy who hasn't quite established himself but will start because there are no other options save freshmen your floor can be very low—Johnny Sears is the canonical example. There was never going to be a way for Gedeon to disprove that this spring.
At least we have seen enough of Gedeon to estimate that he'll be all right—he was more or less a starter for a game in the middle of the season when Michigan was suffering through their ridiculous targeting call period, and he did fine. As long as he doesn't run upfield of blocks I'm good.
McCray's emergence allows the Devin Bush Jr project to have a more reasonable timeframe. Going into spring everyone was assuming he'd end up starting out of necessity; exiting it he's probably in the same position Gedeon was last year: a rotation player who spots both starters. That's still not ideal, but neither is it starting a freshman. Bush didn't generate a ton of buzz other than the occasional mention of a big hit and he didn't leap out at me. He was of course victimized by Ty Wheatley on that one play, but when you force a one-handed attempt to catch a pass you've done your job.
Noah Furbush did not play in the spring game, which is unfortunate since he came in for a reasonable amount of hype himself as Jabrill Peppers's main competition at SAM. Sam related that Harbaugh "loves" Furbush's attitude and general guy-ness, and he did have a number of impressive special teams plays a year ago. Obviously Furbush and Peppers are not particularly similar players—Furbush coming into his own would allow Michigan to move Peppers around.
Jared Wangler was out with a meniscus injury.
Thomas is fast [Bryan Fuller]
Another reason I wouldn't read too much into the crossing routes that were wide open all day: somehow the top six defensive backs* all ended up on the white team, and after the opening series we saw little of Lewis and Stribling. Victims on the crossing routes were often walk-ons.
Most downfield passes were attempted against guys who don't project to see the field much this year. Ken Stross was this year's version of Norfleet: a converted WR who gets bombed all day.
There were a couple of plays of note for projected contributors, this one the most impressive:
Dymonte Thomas came from the dead center of the field to get over the top of a reasonably well-thrown ball near the back corner of the endzone. He took off as soon as Morris committed to one side of the field, which is encouraging.
Jarrod Wilson, blessed be his boring name, is not making that play. I can't imagine many people do. If Thomas can reliably execute his assignments he has the potential to be something Michigan hasn't seen since Marcus Ray**: a bonafide playmaking safety.
The other play of note was discussed yesterday when we talked about Drake Harris and can be seen briefly at the 52 second mark of the above highlights: Jeremy Clark with fantastic coverage on Harris. I don't doubt that Channing Stribling's had an impressive spring, especially since he got the sure-starter yoink on Friday and this vote of confidence from Harbaugh…
“Channing Stribling. He’s a starter. It’s cold. It’s in stone.:"
…but at Ford Field and the Spring Game it's been Jeremy Clark who looks like the guy.
Per Webb, down in Florida it was the other way, with Stribling on fire:
Channing Stribling was given the game ball by Jim Harbaugh after practice #4 and with good reason. … His route recognition led to numerous plays including two interceptions. His first pick came while covering Drake Harris and seemed to run the pattern better than his offensive counterpart before jumping it and intercepting the ball. He nearly picked off another pass… a deep out to Harris… where he also seem to run that route better than Harris also before knocking it away. His second interception occurred when the Sean McKeon beat Noah Furbush down the seam and Stribling slid over the top to help, skied for the ball, and picked it off.
I expect that competition to be hot and heavy this fall. TBH I'd be perfectly happy with another year just like the one Clark turned in, minus some of the absurdly bad luck he suffered. For Stribling to surge past is a potentially excellent sign.
Kinnel is hugely important for 2017 [Upchurch]
Tyree Kinnel was the other name of note. He turned in a pick-six at Ford Field and looked very comfortable in a box safety role in the spring game. Despite that, Harbaugh made it clear that the two starters have "nobody really pushing them right now."
*[minus Peppers, if he's more of a linebacker.]
**[Ernest Shazor's candidacy here was rejected since he made as many plays for the opposition as his own team. ]
Michigan didn't run any full-go, but there was the occasional thing of note:
- At Ford Field it looked like Michigan was trying to find folks other than Peppers to take kickoffs back. They can get similar production from some of their other fast guys and lighten the load on their two-way star.
- They did practice both NFL and spread punting; in the game they went entirely spread.
- Kenny Allen had a booming conventional punt. This does not surprise since he's been blasting them in practice for years. It is unlikely he has the precision that Blake O'Neill did but if Michigan needs to send it 60 yards he's more than capable.
- Andrew David has been tasked with rugby punting. He had a pooch punt that was relatively effective.
- Can't judge return units since nothing was full contact.
- Chris Partridge appears to be the main guy on special teams, with little help from other people, at least on the practice field.
- David was shaky on field goals.
I expect Allen to take the large bulk of the kicking jobs. Surprise!
So Jay, how’s your new house? I saw you bought a house on Twitter.
“Uh, I have no heat. Gas got shut off even though I tried to not have it shut off, so I haven’t slept there yet. No heat. It’s about 35 degrees in there. Not great.”
MGoQuestion: Are you guys still going to use the shield punt formation this year?
“We’re going to have a bunch of different things. Shield will be one of the things that we do. I think we’re going to be kind of hybrid—a little bit of everything.”
MGoFollowUp: What led to that decision?
“To basically change it up?”
MGoWe’reOnTheSamePage: To switch it up, yeah.
“I think when you look at what teams are doing nationally I think out of 120 teams probably 75 or so, maybe 65-75 that are some variation of hybrid, meaning they’re not really pro-style, they’re not really shield, they kind of go back and forth; it’s a little harder to identify. Those are the teams that generally have the most success, so probably go that route.”
We saw a lot of Wheatley working with Butt and that first group when we were in Florida. How has that evolved? Is he still among those fighting for that other spot?
“Yeah. I mean, we traveled six guys to all the games so there’s really no other spot to be won. There’s certain jobs to be won, maybe, in terms of, ‘Hey, you’re going to do this role on this play’ but I wouldn’t think of it like that in terms of ‘Hey, this guy’s fighting for that third tight end spot.’
“We want to put guys in positions to do things that they’re good at anyway, but he is doing well and he’s one of that group of guys that kind of rotates with the ones. There’s really four or five of them, though.”
With a guy like Jake, as good as he is and experienced, how much of a comfort is he for whoever emerges at quarterback to know that Jake’s probably going to be open and he’s probably going to catch the ball?
“I would imagine it’s pretty nice. I don’t know for sure but I’d imagine that’s a pretty great thing to have him and Amara and then eventually Jehu out there. That’s got to make you feel really good throwing the ball.”
Can Kenny [Allen] punt and kick field goals if needed?
“Certainly. Yeah, Kenny’s very good and he has a very good sense of how much he can handle physically and he’s not going to wear himself out, so he can certainly do it all.”
Doesn’t seem like an ideal situation though, is it?
“Mm, no. Ideally yeah, you’d have a different person for everything but the really ideal thing is to have the best guy at each spot. If he happens to be the best guy at each spot then we’re good with that, but there’s still a long ways to go. And those guys, that’s one position where you can really develop quite a bit in the offseason more so than some other spots where it’s more just strength and conditioning. Specialists can actually improve their craft more than some other spots, I think.”
Have you had a chance to do many returns yet, and are there any different guys mixing in than what we saw last fall?
“I wouldn’t say different expect for new guys like Kareem [Walker]. But Jehu and Jourdan Lewis, Jabrill, Dymonte [Thomas], Kareem. I mean, I think that group as a whole is really, really good. I’d be surprised if there’s a better group as a whole in the country. All those guys are pretty dangerous.”
You mentioned four or five other tight ends. Who’s in that group, and is it a little deeper than it was last year, would you say?
“Umm, it probably is. I mean, at one point or another this spring we’ve had Jake [Butt], Ian [Bunting], TJ [Wheatley], and Sean McKeon and Gentry with the ones obviously doing different things. I’d like to put everyone in a position to succeed. TJ can do things different than Gentry; just naturally they’re very different body types and they have different strengths and weaknesses at this point. But yeah, at one point or another each of those guys has been with the ones.”
[After THE JUMP: Jake Butt, best tight end in America; recruiting a dominant trait; why Gentry moved to TE; Ol’ Skillet Hands hype]
10/17/2015 – Michigan 23, Michigan State 27 – 5-2, 2-1 Big Ten
So I was trying to come up with a clever thing for this post and started Googling "Act of God." Folks in contracts who are beset by improbable occurrences regularly petition the courts for forgiveness since, you know, things. And stuff. I mean, seriously. That thing, that was a pretty unlikely thing. Cumong man.
The courts have generally gone along with this. If you are beset by a plague of locusts and boils and rivers of blood and the like, the courts are generally like "God's bad, yo" and then they let you go.
Anyway. I'm scanning, scanning, trying to find something apropos, and then
I AM NOT ON THIS LIST
NOR ARE THE HUNDRED THOUSAND STRUCK DOWN JUST THIS SATURDAY
WHAT KIND OF RATIONAL WIKI DO YOU PURPORT TO BE
IF SERIOUSLY I MEAN I AM NOT ON THIS LIST, NOR IS MY UNCLE OR MY COUSINS OR VARIOUS STUDENTS AND ALSO JIM HACKETT AND JIM HARBAUGH AND PROBABLY LIKE 1500 OTHER JIMS IN THE STADIUM
OH I'M NOT RATIONAL, RATIONALWIKI?!?!? IIIIIIIII'M NOT RATIONAL?
Fine. Okay. Yeah. Okay. You're right. It's cool, RationalWiki. Keep on being mean to anti-vaxxers. It's cool. I am perfectly calm, RationalWiki. Calmer than you are.
This is the section inspired by the brain above. It's a pretty impressive brain, all up in some parentheses that probably mean something to people who took their discrete math class seriously instead of asking my friend to drop off my homework because 8:30 on North Campus just wasn't happening, man.
So. In about 10 months Jim Harbaugh erased the physical gap between Michigan and Michigan State. Michigan didn't run roughshod; both teams struggled to get yard one on the ground. Injury whinging is out of the question: both teams were down one starter on the line when MSU was on the field.
In the absence of a physical advantage either way, the game came down to the fact that Michigan State spawned a generational quarterback from a three-star recruit at the same time they had disastrous special teams. Michigan's special teams were amazing until they were… not amazing, and Brady Hoke hired an offensive coordinator whose 30-year career has seen one quarterback he recruited ever—everrrrrrr—start. (That guy was Indiana's QB as a sophomore; the next year he was a tight end.) Jake Rudock is a smart dude who I am grateful is at Michigan; he is not a guy who Harbaugh has chosen and developed.
When Cook had an opportunity to hit a receiver who'd gotten over the top of Jeremy Clark, he did so. He nestled the ball in there with the care and precision of a watchmaker. If there was a job where you had to throw babies at titanium bassinets inside a volcano, I would be comfortable giving Connor Cook that job. Rudock hit some intermediate passes but he did not take advantage of his opportunities to hit touchdowns.
Thus a game that was close enough for God to do some serious smitin'.
So, that sucks. It sucks that happened. It sucks that the kind of trash program that would run all the way across the field to taunt the Michigan student section after being handed a gift gets to feel like they earned something this morning. They're planning on nicknaming it, as if they earned something. That is why Michigan State will always be Michigan State. That is why "little brother" stuck: because it is the truest thing ever said about the attitude of that program.
But I've seen worse. I've felt worse. I have a big ol' callus. It's clear the direction this is going, and it's not a loss to Rutgers. The juggalos will get theirs as soon as Harbaugh flips the QB matchup. That's the undercurrent of their relief. They're already celebrating like underdogs who fluked it out.
See you next year.
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 Jourdan Lewis had 6 PBUs, wasn't beaten clean without offensive pass interference, and shut down Burbridge enough that MSU was behind despite a monster game from their QB.
#2 Jabrill Peppers had three excellent returns, was important in limiting the MSU ground game, caused MSU to freak out and burn consecutive timeouts late in the first half, and set up a Michigan touchdown with an end-around.
#3 Willie Henry had two sacks and was in MSU's backfield for most of the fourth quarter.
Honorable mention: rest of the front seven, Kenny Allen.
9: Jourdan Lewis (#1 UNLV, #1 Northwestern, #1 MSU)
6: Jabrill Peppers(#2 BYU, #2 Northwestern, #2 MSU)
5: Chris Wormley(#2 Utah, #1 Oregon State)
3: Jake Butt (#1 Utah), De'Veon Smith(#2 Oregon State, #3 BYU), Ryan Glasgow (#1 BYU), Desmond Morgan (#1 Maryland),
2: Ty Isaac(#2 UNLV), Maurice Hurst (#2 Maryland), Willie Henry(#3 Utah, #3 MSU).
1: AJ Williams (#3 Oregon State), Channing Stribling(#3 UNLV), Blake O'Neill(#3 Maryland), Jake Rudock(#3 Northwestern)
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
This week's best thing ever.
Michigan's defense boots MSU off the field on fourth and nineteen to win the game, until they did not win.
Honorable mention: 80 yard punt. Peppers on the loose.
Utah: Crazy #buttdown.
Oregon State: #tacopunts.
UNLV: Ty Isaac's 76 yard touchdown.
BYU: De'Veon Smith's illicit teleporter run.
Maryland: Jehu Chesson jet sweeps past you.
Northwestern: Chesson opening KO TD.
MSU: the bit where they won until they didn't.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
This week's worst thing ever.
Honorable mention: N/A
Utah: circle route pick six.
Oregon State: Rudock fumbles after blitz bust.
UNLV: Rudock matches 2014 INT total in game 3.
BYU: BYU manages to get to triple digit yards in the last minutes of the game.
Maryland: Slog extended by deflected interception at Houma.
Northwestern: KLINSMANN OUT
[After THE JUMP: Jourdan Lewis targeted again. It goes okay to well.]
After a finish like that, what do you tell your guys in the locker room?
“They played their guts out. Played winning football. Overcame so much, and we messed up a play at the end. Have resolve, put steel in the spine, and we’ll move forward.”
Given the fact that your team played so well until the end, is this something that you can use as…I don’t want to say motivation, because that’s the wrong word, but something you can use as a good building point?
“Yeah. There’s so many- so much good, you know. Our guys played big in a big game…overcame so much- calls that were made, calls that weren’t made. Just kept fighting and overcame so much in the ball game and ultimately played winning football. What do you say about the last play? It was unfortunate. Didn’t get the result.”
Why was this the game for Jabrill to see the field offensively and how do you think he did in terms of impacting in all three facets today.
“He did good. He did great in all phases. Big time player, plays really big in the game as he does so often. He played great.”
As you said, you guys played winning football minus one last play that could have gone any way. You guys were in control most of the game- led or tied. How do you talk to your players about the fact that it’s a process, it’s more than one game, it’s even more than one season [as] it’s about building a program?
“Have resolve. Have steel in our spine. Gotta move forward.”
What happened on that last play?
“The snap was low, just below the knees. He didn’t field it cleanly, and looked like then he bobbled it again and kind of kicked it a little bit. Looked like he was trying to kick it while he was in traffic. I mean, you saw it. That about the way you saw it? Very unfortunate.”
[After THE JUMP: “We’re gonna put steel in our spine.”]
What goes into deciding whether to go punt block or punt return when you’ve got such an explosive return man in Jabrill?
“Uh…same thing that goes into when you throw a fastball or the curve. You know, you’ve got to pressure- the ability to pressure a punter keeps people in protection, sets up the ability to return. The ability to return a punt sets up the ability to pressure, and it’s really not unlike making calls of any kind in the game of football. You do all your work and you crunch all your numbers but you coach the game by feel, and it pretty much is that.”
How pleased are you with that unit? Does that unit still have more to give?
“The punt return unit?”
And punt block.
“I’ll tell ya, I’m really pleased, actually, with the punt return. The amazing thing is we’ve had 51 reps of it in five games now. Somebody needs to go back far and see how many times there’s 51 reps in five games. Obviously it’s because we’re playing amazing defense and what have you, but if you really look at what the unit has done, there’ve been three returnable balls kicked to us out of 51, okay? Obviously we had a round robin with all the Australian rugby punters against each other in the first four games, and everybody found out it’s really hard to return one of those. Three returnable balls, and we’ve- you know, the baseball analogy is we’ve hit the ball hard but unfortunately we’ve knocked it off the wall for doubles and triples. We haven’t had a home run yet.
“I think the thing that goes unsaid is Jabrill’s amazing decision-making back there [and] unselfishness to not risk balls that shouldn’t be touched or should be on the ground, protecting his teammates, those kinds of things. Besides being explosive the punt returner needs to be a great decision-maker and really needs to handle the ball well because one of the things we always say is if you have the ball you have the team, and you need to take care of the team. It’s been effective. I wish we could get more returnable balls, but I’m not in control of that.”
[After THE JUMP: Baxter is the Yogi Berra of this coaching staff]