10/16/2010 – Michigan 28, Iowa 38 – 5-2, 1-2 Big Ten
When Michigan needed a stop to get the ball back with a chance to tie and plenty of time on the clock they failed to get it, twice. The second time Michigan cut off Iowa's routes past the sticks, forcing a dumpoff to Adam Robinson. Courtney Avery was there.
Last year at this time Avery was in high school. He played quarterback, and basically only quarterback. Plans to have him play his college position were thwarted by an injury. In a presser earlier this year, Rich Rodriguez said in any situation short of the Bohemian Crapsody that is this secondary, the entire freshman defensive back class would redshirt. But File Not Found, man. File Not Found.
Avery did that thing you see above. It doesn't appear that he even touched Robinson, something Crapsody-projected starter Richard Nixon probably could have managed. My immediate thought was watching baseball highlights on Sportscenter during the Dan and Keith glory days. Dan Patrick's signature strikeout call: "the whiff."
And so Michigan football falls into that old incredibly fun debate for the next two weeks before the Penn State game quiets it, one way or the other. Rodriguez proponents point to the shocking lack of talent in the back four and say it's not his fault; Rodriguez opponents point to the same thing and say it's his fault.
They're both sort of right, sort of wrong. Boubacar Cissoko has 99 problems but what to do on a Friday night is no longer one of them. Troy Woolfolk was struck down by Angry Michigan Secondary Hating God. These are cosmically decreed absences from the secondary.
On the other hand, it's hard to look at the addled underclassmen out there with cornerback Nick Sheridan and not wish Rodriguez had sucked a little face to get Donovan Warren or Justin Turner or Vlad Emilien to stick around. Emilien departed the Michigan secondary in an effort to find playing time. Something is not quite right with your roster management when you lose the only non-freshman free safety on the roster.
As he left he said something along the lines of "I'm the best safety on the roster."* He probably isn't, but this is the point at which a desperate Michigan would give it a shot anyway. They did with Kenny Demens and found out that Obi Ezeh is not the best MLB at Michigan; maybe that would have happened with Emilien. Instead there is a walk-on-sized true freshman and air backing up Cam Gordon and Michigan will ride and die with another guy who obviously shouldn't be on the field this year.
This is what Michigan football is these days—trying to figure out which incredibly inexperienced player has the least business being on a Big Ten two deep, let alone field. My vote is for James Rogers, but I get it if you're arguing for any other member of the secondary not named Kovacs. Srsly. Pick one.
Of course, Avery's mistake was as far from an isolated an incident as possible. The reason it's emblematic of the game is that you could have picked a dozen other players if their incident had happened right at the end. Another field goal was blocked, with a bonus: team walks off field still featuring live ball, Iowa returns it a goodly distance. The Taylor Lewan Drive Killing Penalty and its sequels. Two(!) kickoffs sailing out of bounds. Facemask calls. A –4 turnover margin. It's all very grrraaarrgggh. The people on the internet who say "THAT'S COACHING" are saying "THAT'S COACHING."
Maybe it is, but how would anyone know when freshman quarterbacks are waving at Adam Robinson's feet? In one very limited way it would be nice if this was a Tim Brewster situation where galaxy-spanning incompetence met a total lack of a track record and firing the guy was obvious. That's not this. We have very good reasons to expect what is happening to happen but don't know if it's ever going to stop.
*(to someone in the media, but not to the public at large.)
To repeat. We've got five additional opportunities to find out whether or not the mistakes were just one (er… two) of those days or a systemic issue—or, more likely, a systemic issue less severe than it seems this instant—so no job talk. I will say that my position at the start of the year was that 7-5 was the expected result and that would be good enough for me since 2011 sets up as a perfect prove-it year, and that I don't see why that would change. If they can get a half-decent defense they should blow up.
Iowa's defense may have been something of a paper tiger but even so Michigan came up ten yards short of its season average against the #4 total defense in the country; they're now #3 in total offense. They have two seniors who start and three on the two-deep. As long as they don't tank the rest of the season that seems like a good enough reason to give it a shot in 2011.
Crap, I guess that's job talk.
Kenny! After two three-and-outs featuring Kenny Demens at middle linebacker, Obi Ezeh returned to the field to start the third drive. On his first play he was humiliatingly owned by an Iowa OL, getting pancaked as Robinson whizzed by for his first real gain of the day. I started complaining to everyone in the vicinity about Ezeh's presence as Iowa marched down the field; Demens returned as Iowa neared the redzone. Ezeh's Michigan career is for all intents and purposes over, and Demens is the new king of everything.
How did he do? I don't actually know yet, but if you take out the three Robinson runs (14, 8, 5) when Ezeh was in the game Robinson rushed for 116 yards on 28 carries, 4.2 per. That's not terrible and for the most part it was done without Mike Martin, who missed the entire second half and was not effective when he did play in the first.
Last I said I was rooting for an inexplicable personnel decision here and it looks like that's the case: Demens is considerably better than Ezeh. That's a nice boost for the rest of the season and the next couple years. If Demens was really Ezeh's equivalent or worse we'd be facing down MOTS or freshmen at MLB next year; instead it looks like we'll get the upperclass years of a decent recruit who's already an obvious upgrade.
Ezeh epilogue. I will remember him as that guy from Memento.
Khoury! The most encouraging part of the game was Michigan owning the Iowa DL despite playing most of the day without Molk and a chunk of it without Lewan. Michigan averaged 4.8 YPC on the ground despite not breaking a run longer than 15 yards, gave up just one sack, and saw its quarterbacks go 30/44.
The lack of long runs is a function of the Iowa gameplan, which left six-ish guys in the box most of the day and gave Michigan a numbers advantage, but Michigan took advantage of that against a massively hyped DL. They did it without their starting center. At this point they've established themselves one of the best units in the conference.
Tate! Hell of a relief appearance there, and more indication that keeping Forcier in the program is an important offseason task. Also: pretty sure they ran the midline option for their last touchdown.
Lewan sad face. It's a good thing that late false start was on Schilling; if it was on Lewan blood vessels would have burst all over Michigan Stadium. I don't have to remind you of the three crippling penalties that ended Michigan drives, because you were doing your very best not to unleash a torrent of boos at the kid.
On the upside, I hear that Clayborn did nothing when Lewan was in the game; if that proves true on tape you can ramp your Lewan==Long hype up to maximum.
Turnover damage metric. Tate's last desperate chuck on third and nineteen == 0. Not completing a pass in that situation is almost a turnover anyway.
Robinson's interception == 2. It was third and ten and he didn't have underneath options apparently; in that situation a deep INT is basically a punt. The problem was with how terrible the throw was. When the receiver can't even get over to tackle that's a problem.
Vincent Smith fumble, First Forcier interception == 8. Guh.
Hagerup. At least the punting issues have resolved themselves spectacularly. Hagerup averaged 50.3 yards a kick and yielded no return yards. Net punting is now above average. It's just everything else that's terrible.
Photo I was looking for found at Mets Maize, which focused in on that same moment as the tale of the game. BWS recap is a little down on RR's playcalling with Denard in the game; I just see third and okay turned into third and long by Lewan penalties. With Denard, Michigan is a team on a schedule, like option teams. Getting off that schedule is very bad. I should dig out my old third down code after the year so we can see the big red bits from third and seven out.
Meanwhile, In Rod We Trust kicks off its post like I wanted to:
Something, something, realistic expectations, something, something, glass half-full, something something, more experience needed, something, something, witch hunt commence, something something, life goes on. Something, something, not 2009.
While it could have ended there, it continues. Meanwhile in the News, John Niyo says "OMG 2009," something only a Penn State win will fix. The Ann Arbor News launches "moxie" to describe Forcier's day.
I hate it when he is sad, and not just because I feel the same way.
Substitution notes: Black got some more playing time this week, seeing passing downs. He also got an entire drive in the third quarter. It was MSU's last touchdown drive and he was a big reason it happened, unfortunately. The rest of the line was as normal, with Patterson sometimes spotting Martin and RVB a constant. Roh was more DE than LB this week and played most of the game; Fitzgerald had maybe half a dozen snaps. At linebacker it was Gordon, Ezeh, and Mouton the whole way.
In the secondary, Cullen Christian came in for Rogers when he went out with a cramp. After Christian gave up an easy long touchdown they replaced him with Talbott. Avery saw time in the nickel and dime packages.
Formation notes: A significant shift. After playing almost no four man fronts against Indiana they played mostly 4-4 against MSU. The defense looked a lot like last year's. Michigan went to a nickel package early, replacing Thomas Gordon with Avery, but later they just left Gordon out there.
MSU did this thing:
I called that "full house," FWIW. I'm pretty sure that's not right but whateva, I nomenclature how I want.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||Ace twins||Base 4-4||Run||?||Zone stretch||T. Gordon||4|
|Eight man front with a standard 4-3 even alignment for the LBs and Kovacs hanging out on the backside; MSU runs at Roh and Thomas Gordon. Some three guys sort of block RVB, getting slightly down the line and then popping a guy out on Ezeh. This leaves T. Gordon totally unblocked but he overruns the play(-1), allowing a cutback; Martin(+1) had avoided a cut and comes from behind to tackle as the RB crosses the LOS. They fall forward.|
|O24||2||6||Ace 3-wide||Nickel||Pass||N/A||Bubble screen||Rogers||7|
|Avery in for Gordon as MSU goes three wide; Michigan shows man coverage and one-high with Avery tracking the WR across the field when he goes in motion. Rogers is focused on his man so does not see the play developing and sucks inside on the WR until he blocks Avery, at which point he chases down Martin but not before the first down. (RPS -1, Rogers -0.5)|
|O33||1||10||Ace twins||Base 4-4||Run||?||Power off tackle||Roh||0|
|MSU pulls a TE across the formation to overload the short side. Dangerous as T. Gordon is going with the TE to that side in man coverage and he gets a block on Ezeh, effectively getting a 2 for 1. Roh(+2) takes on a block from the motioning TE and comes through it, grabbing the back at the LOS and tackling there; Mouton(+0.5) attacked the play and got his guy back far enough that there's no way for the RB to fall forward.|
|O33||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 stack||Pass||4||Out||Floyd||14|
|Okay, so Kovacs doesn't quite get out in the flat fast enough to prevent this throw from being completed but with Floyd in a cover three behind it this should be five yards and a third and medium. Floyd(-2, cover -2) instead starts chasing inside against a TE he has no shot at and opens this up for an easy first down.|
|O47||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Base 4-4||Run||?||Power off tackle||Ezeh||3|
|Er. This is dangerously close to breaking through the line because Ezeh(-1) reads the play wrong and ends up running right into the last lead blocker; Mouton had hopped out to close off a gap further outside. Banks(+0.5) had managed to fight through his double and caused some linemen to fall; Ezeh gets pancaked but the hole's narrow enough that the RB trips over a mess of bodies. Video clipped for Ezeh complaint complainers.|
|50||2||7||Ace||Base 4-4||Penalty||?||False start||?||-5|
|O45||2||12||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 stack||Run||Power off tackle||Mouton||-1|
|Michigan blitzes right into the run play, sending Banks on a slant past the playside T and blitzing Mouton and Kovacs from the backside. Martin(+1) zips past the center and bumps the pulling G, knocking him back into the RB and allowing Mouton(+0.5) and Kovacs(+0.5) to converge and tackle, though they do allow the RB to get two almost impossible yards. This is the kind of stuff our tailbacks have not done this year. (RPS +1)|
|O44||3||13||Shotgun trips bunch||3-2-6 dime||Pass||4||Throwaway||Martin||Inc|
|Michigan aided by Cousins momentarily fumbling the snap. Michigan uses Roh as a blitzer up the middle on a stunt, which gets Martin(+1, pressure +1, RPS +1) around the C. He then makes the back miss and forces Cousins to scramble and throw the ball away. Black(+0.5) also drew a holding flag, though it was more poor play from the MSU OL than dominance. BWS picture paged this.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 7 min 1st Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O28||1||10||Ace||3-3-5 stack||Pass||3||PA TE seam||C. Gordon||34|
|Plenty of time with the PA and a three man rush(pressure –2); Mouton(+1, cover +1) gets a really good drop that forces Cousins to toss a lob over his head and should set up a Cam Gordon INT or killshot; instead he takes a looping route too deep, allowing the TE to catch the ball just in front of Floyd. He hits Floyd, but Floyd(+0.5) does bang him to the ground, preventing a TD. Gordon gets -3. The coverage stays +1 since because of the good drop from Mouton this window was really tight and could have been nonexistent.|
|M38||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||Nickel||Run||?||PA power off tackle||Martin||3 (Pen -10)|
|M shows man. MSU fakes a bubble and runs an off tackle power play from the shotgun. Martin(+1) shoots into the backfield as there's no one blocking him—guard pulls—and he doesn't buy the fake. He shoves the G and forces the RB outside of the intended hole. Roh(+1) sets up outside and would be in position to do something about the bounce but is thrown to the ground, drawing a holding call. This opens up the corner. Ezeh is out there--not sure if this is good play or good fortune that the intended hole is gone because he gets blasted pretty good. He does force the RB inside where Martin cleans up from behind.|
|M48||1||20||Ace trips TE||Nickel||Pass||6||Sack||Van Bergen||-12|
|MSU goes play action and Cousins sets up deep in the pocket; Van Bergen(+3) beats an offensive tackle and shoots straight up the middle of said pocket, sacking Cousins for a huge loss. (Pressure +2)|
|PA rollout. Ezeh(+1) is in man coverage on the TE, I believe, and when Kovacs attacks upfield, drawing him inside, Ezeh attacks, forcing a quick throw (pressure +1). Rogers(+2, cover +2) is there to break it up.|
|O40||3||32||Shotgun 3-wide||3-2-6 dime||Pass||3||Slant||Mouton||11|
|Dangerous pass from Cousins just in front of Roh but on the money. It's ten yards downfield, though, so BFD. Mouton(+1, tackling +1) delivers a big hit to finish it.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 3-0, 14 min 2nd Q. What a quarter. I bet the rest of this game goes just as well.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O16||1||10||Ace twins twin TE||Base 4-3||Run||?||Zone stretch||Ezeh||8 + 15 pen|
|Triple guh on a stick. Roh(+0.5) and RVB(+0.5) do a good job of stringing this out; Ezeh is fast enough to prevent the C from sealing him. He takes a hit and stays on his feet, flowing down into the hole Baker is about to hit. If he just runs parallel to the LOS he has the guy or he has him cutting back into Mouton; instead he takes an upfield angle and whiffs a tackle, but not before he yanks the facemask(-2, tackling -1). C. Gordon(-0.5, tackling -1) comes up for a killshot after four yards but doesn't wrap up; Baker bounces off. The delay is enough for Kovacs and Rogers to combine to tackle; Baker drags the pile four yards. Michigan has just failed to convert on a third and one because Vincent Smith couldn't drag one guy one yard, FWIW. The difference here is stark.|
|O39||1||10||Ace twins twin TE||Base 4-4||Run||?||Zone stretch||Martin||61|
|Man, I don't know. Martin(-2) heads upfield, which allows MSU to easily scoop him and get a center out on Mouton unmolested. Mouton takes a shove from him, then another shove from a second OL who has messed up his assignment and is just pushing the nearest player. He gets shoved backwards and out of the play but this is not his fault at all. Banks(-3) is getting way too far upfield; on a stretch like this when you realize you are backside you flow down the LOS, disengaging from the OL and giving up ground if you have to so that on a cutback you are in position to make a tackle a few yards downfield. Banks does not do this, instead getting upfield and falling. Doom. Baker sees the unblocked guys on the frontside and slams it up in the hole Martin and Banks provided, and then he's gone. I guess I blame Gordon(-2) for not getting the cutback angle here but Baker got through a big hole immediately and is gone; he's not the main issue. (RPS –2; I'll explain later.)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 3-7, 11 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O22||1||10||Ace twins twin TE||Base 4-4||Run||?||Power off tackle||Van Bergen||3|
|MSU blocks down on RVB and tries to hit the gap by kicking out Roh and pulling the backside H-back around to pick off Gordon. RVB(+0.5) comes under a block and forces the back a little further outside, where T. Gordon(+0.5) has fended off the TE who was attempting to block down on no one and then peeled off on him, tackling as the back approaches the LOS.|
|O25||2||7||Shotgun trips||3-3-5 stack||Pass||3||Screen||Floyd||-3|
|Bell initially split out, then motions into the backfield. MSU runs a screen that JT Floyd(+2, tackling +1) reads and attacks, arriving as the ball does and tacking Bell down in the backfield. Martin(+0.5) was also there as he'd read it and flowed with the interior OL. (RPS +1, MSU was banking on man I think.)|
|O22||3||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Penalty||?||False start||?||-5|
|The false start on which Michigan sends the house and gets a dumpoff that Kovacs tackles on.|
|O17||3||15||Shotgun 3-wide||4-1-6 dime||Pass||4||Slant||Talbott||18|
|MSU throws a give-up-and-punt slant that MSU's Martin turns into a first down by cutting all the way across the field. I'm not sure who or what to blame. I guess Mouton(-1) gets too far downfield and allows the first cutback and then Talbott(-2) does the same thing but it's even more damaging because he's the outside guy and has to force Martin into his help. Once Martin goes around him upfield Kovacs is easy prey for blockers and Martin has room to pick up the first on the corner. Woo freshmen cornerbacks. (Tackling –2)|
|O35||1||10||Ace||Base 4-4||Pass||7||PA Fly||Rogers||Inc|
|Receiver with a step but Rogers(+1, cover +1) is in pretty good position so this ball has to be perfect. It's not. Michigan sent so many because they were in man free and two guys stayed in; T. Gordon(+0.5) took a good run at Cousins and may have caused the long throw. (Pressure +1)|
|O35||2||10||Shotgun trips TE||Base 4-4||Pass||N/A||Bubble screen||C. Gordon||11 + 15 pen|
|Rogers(+0.5) attacks this quickly and gets walled off by the receiver but his reaction has pulled the blocker upfield and created a lane for Cam Gordon to flow and finish the play. Gordon(-1, tackling -1) whiffs the tackle, turning 3-4 yards into a first down; Rogers then gets a facemask penalty on top of everything.|
|M39||1||10||I-form||Base 4-4||Run||?||Yakety sax||?||-2|
|Fumbled snap. MSU recovers.|
|M41||2||12||Ace 3-wide||Nickel||Run||?||Inside zone||Patterson||41|
|So on this play Fitzgerald is in for Roh at DE and Patterson in for Martin. RVB is between them. Patterson(-3) is completely obliterated, getting sealed and kicked down the line by a scoop block; Mouton is cut off by a guy who had an easy release at him. Ezeh is again shooting into the outside gap. He did that on the 61 yard run, the first snap of this drive, and on this. Alternatives: Ezeh is a total idiot who keeps doing something he's not supposed to do or this is the scheme because of man coverage. I know I called this clever when Martin was in but here you've got Adam Patterson, who is very liable to have this happen, in and it seems obvious that you should play this way more conservatively. RPS –3.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 10-14, 4 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O41||1||10||Ace||3-3-5 stack||Run||?||Power off tackle||Mouton||13|
|Banks(-1) blown out of the hole and does not require a double so a TE has an angle on Ezeh and blocks him. Kovacs and Mouton are on the edge and Mouton(-1) takes the wrong shoulder of his blocker; with Kovacs outside of him he needs to funnel the play to that guy instead of getting locked out of the play and giving MSU a crease. He's through into the secondary, bowling over guys for some YAC.|
|M46||1||10||Shotgun H-back||Base 4-3||Run||?||Counter off tackle||Mouton||2|
|Counter step from the back then they run a power play off the right side of the line. Banks(+1) reads the guy blocking down on someone else and gets into a pulling G, forcing the play outside. This time Mouton+(0.5) and Kovacs(+0.5) come on opposite sides of the lead blocker and give the RB nowhere to go, tackling him at the LOS.|
|M44||2||8||Ace twins twin TE||Base 4-4||Pass||4||TE flat||Kovacs||Inc|
|Three step drop pass to the TE in front of Kovacs in the flat; dropped. Probably turned up for five-ish if caught before Kovacs knocks him OOB.|
|First read is covered(+1) and then Black(+0.5) vaguely threatens Cousins, causing him to start moving around, at which point Martin is going to get to him so he has to dump it off to a covered(+1) RB. He's covered by Ezeh(-1, tackling -1) who misses a tackle at the LOS. Secondary converges to tackle short of the sticks, but the five yards given up allows MSU to go for it on fourth down.|
|M39||4||3||Shotgun 4-wide||3-3-5 stack||Pass||3||Hitch||Mouton||10|
|Mouton(-1, cover -1) gets too deep and opens up a quick hitch MSU takes. Kovacs was in the area but had to drop on the outside receiver.|
|M29||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 stack||Pass||4||Hitch||Kovacs||4|
|Hitch at the sidelines is open and complete. The receiver is taken OOB by the throw with Kovacs coming in to tackle. No +/- on four yard passes.|
|Martin(+2) blows through the center's attempted block and comes right up the middle just as Cousins tries a pump fake. Cousins has to roll out, at which point Roh(+2) comes around the tackle to sack. (Pressure +3)|
|M35||3||16||Shotgun empty||3-2-6 dime||Pass||3||Bubble screen||Rogers||14|
|Michigan playing way off to get the stop so plenty of room. This gets dangerously close to the first down because Rogers(-1) let Martin outside of him; could have been a longer field goal if this was played better|
|Drive Notes: FG(38), 10-17, 1 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O32||1||10||Ace||Base 4-4||Pass||6?||PA TE cross||Kovacs||15|
|Kovacs(+1, pressure +1) is blitzing off the edge to contain the QB and prevent play action from hitting deep. He does contain Cousins, forcing him to throw a looper off his back foot that's way high of the tight end. TE gets a hand on it and deflects it high enough for Keshawn Martin to catch the deflection on a ball that would have one-hopped to him. Rogers literally eight yards off of Martin as he catches it, but that was because of a cramp. Cullen Christian replaces him after the play.|
|O47||1||10||Full house||3-3-5 stack||Run||?||Counter off tackle||Roh||6|
|This is an I-formation with another tailback next to the FB; probably not what this is actually called. MSU fakes an outside pitch and pulls a guard around to run a conventional power play. Martin gets a good push but is momentarily sealed away from the ball; guard gets a free release on Ezeh and blocks him, though Ezeh's in pretty decent position. T. Gordon(+0.5) comes up and hits the outside shoulder of the lead blocker, leaving the tailback for Roh, except Roh(-1) got suckered by the fake and went the wrong way around Ezeh. C. Gordon comes up to make another tackle, this one somewhat iffy.|
|M47||2||4||Ace twins twin TE||Base 4-4||Run||?||Zone stretch||Ezeh||6|
|An aggressive RVB(-1) is cut to the ground on the backside, opening up a large cutback lane when nothing opens up on the frontside. This time Ezeh scrapes down the line gently and tackles the back. No plus since he's stationary and accepts a blow; he could have gotten more aggressive and held this down? I'm happy enough that he just makes a tackle, I guess.|
|M41||1||10||Ace twins twin TE||Base 4-4||Pass||N/A||Bubble screen||T. Gordon||0|
|T. Gordon(+2) is the slot LB as Michigan shows zone. He gets out on the WR at the LOS, tackling(+1) for no gain.|
|M41||2||10||Full house||Base 4-4||Pass||6||PA Fly||Christian||41|
|Why the hell is Cullen Christian the guy in man coverage on a receiver running a fly route? Why isn't it Floyd? Christian(-3, cover –3, RPS -2) is smoked crispy as he bites on an out and up gives up the touchdown. Roh was about to hit Cousins but no matter.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown,10-24, 12 min 3rd Q. For that matter, why is Christian in the game instead of Avery?|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O7||1||10||Ace twins||Base 4-4||Run||?||Zone stretch||Black||11|
|Another cutback lane opened up by the backside DE not flowing down the line properly. Black(-2) is playside of his blocker but instead of heading along or slightly off the LOS he heads a yard into the backfield and can only wave an arm at Bell. A yard downfield and he's forcing a cutback all the way behind the backside tackle into an unblocked Kovacs. Floyd keeps contain and forces the tailback into Gordon(+0.5), who makes a good tackle(+1).|
|O18||1||10||I-form twins||Base 4-4||Run||Zone stretch||Martin||4|
|MSU tries to scoop Martin again; this time he does not get sealed by the guard and flows down the line; the C pops out on Ezeh and cuts him. Martin(+0.5) is fast enough to tackle(+1) after a few yards. Black(-0.5) was unable to get off a block to help.|
|O22||2||6||Ace trips TE||Base 4-4||Run||Zone stretch||Martin||4|
|Martin(+2) owns the center and is going to blow this up in the backfield when he's tackled from behind. No call. As a result there's a gap. Mouton(+1) stands up a guard and sheds him to the playside, forcing the back into Floyd, who makes a tackle but gives up a yard or two after contact.|
|O26||3||2||Ace twins||Base 4-4||Run||Zone stretch||Black||4|
|Michigan completely crushes the frontside of this play with RVB(+0.5) and Martin(+0.5) getting playside of guys but Black(-2) is hurled to the ground on the backside, opening up yet another cutback lane. Mouton(+1) does a valiant job to shut it down but the RB has all the momentum and the pile falls forward.|
|O30||1||10||I-form unbalanced||Base 4-4||Pass||4||PA throwaway||Kovacs?||Inc|
|First option covered(+1) with M in zone. Kovacs, Ezeh, Roh all +0.5 for good drops. The DL then drives through the OL and gets to Cousins somewhat quickly, causing a throwaway.|
|O30||2||10||Ace||Base 4-4||Run||Zone stretch||Kovacs||8|
|RVB(+1) slants into the play, blowing it up and forcing a cutback. Black(-1) is yet again blocked to the ground, leaving a cutback lane; Kovacs(-1) still has an opportunity to make a tackle(-1) at the LOS but misses it. Bell then runs through another tackle from Floyd(-0.5, tackling -1), turning four into eight.|
|O38||3||2||Ace||Base 4-4||Run||Power off tackle||Ezeh||11|
|Ezeh guh. This is supposed to go the TE side of the line, MSU brings the other TE in motion for use as an H-back but RVB(+1) stands up the OL and comes through as Bell approaches the line, forcing a cutback that's there because Martin(-1) got pushed out of the hole. Still, because Black(+0.5) slanted into the backside and occupied two blockers no one is blocking Ezeh(-2) at all, but instead of running through the window in the line and meeting Bell at the LOS he does the Ezeh sit-and-wonder. He's so slow here that not only does he not prevent a first down, he doesn't even touch Bell as he shoots through a tiny gap on a cutback, leaving C. Gordon to make a desperate tackle in a ton of space against a tailback who wasn't even delayed when he shot upfield.|
|O49||1||10||Wildcat||Base 4-4||Pass||N/A||Reverse trickery||C. Gordon||42|
|Cam Gordon(-3, cover -3) sucks up despite the fact they're pitching a reverse to THE QUARTERBACK. Floyd(+0.5) does manage to track the guy down.|
|M9||1||G||I-form big||3-3-5 stack||Run||Power off tackle||Sagesse||2|
|Sagesse(+1) slants under the tackle and into the path of the play, absorbing a pulling blocker and still popping up in the hole. He causes a delay that Mouton(+0.5) picks through the wash to finish; Ezeh was also there but a step slower.|
|M7||2||G||I-form big||3-3-5 stack||Run||Power off tackle||Banks||7|
|Banks(-2) obliterated in one on one blocking by the Spartan RT. Ezeh(-0.5) accepts a block from the TE and doesn't come close to shedding it. C. Gordon(-1, tackling -1) makes contact at the four and his tackle is run through as he tries to drag Caper down.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 10-31, 4 min 3rd Q. This is totally demoralizing and almost entirely the fault of Black and Gordon, two freshmen.|
|O18||1||10||Ace twins||Base 4-4||Run||Zone stretch||Martin||-1|
|Hey, they adjust, probably after getting chewed out on the sideline. Martin(+1) slices through blockers and forces a cutback; T. Gordon(+1) also shot past a blocker and into a gap. Mouton(+0.5) and Banks(+0.5) have not been blocked into oblivion this time and converge to tackle.|
|O17||2||11||Full house||3-3-5 stack||Run||Zone stretch||Mouton?||2|
|No holes with Banks(+0.5) holding up to a double and Mouton(+0.5) slamming into the playside TE. No cutback available with RVB(+0.5) avoiding a cut and Roh hitting it up into the B gap; the play is strung all the way out to the sideline where Floyd boots the RB OOB.|
|O19||3||9||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Pass||6||TE slant||Kovacs||6|
|Replica of the play that Michigan got MSU off the field with except for a false start: M bring six, Cousins has to get rid of it, Kovacs(+1, tackling +1) allows the catch but tackles three yards short of the sticks. (Pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 10-31, 1 min 3rd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O24||1||10||Ace||3-3-5 stack||Pass||5||PA throwaway||Van Bergen||Inc|
|Van Bergen(+1) isn't buying the run fake and is instead heading directly upfield at Cousins. When he turns around he's got DE in his face and chucks it away. Could be grounding but there are receivers vaguely in the area. (RPS +1, pressure +1)|
|O24||2||10||I-form twins||3-3-5 stack||Run||Iso||Mouton||-1|
|Martin(+1) chucks past the center ridiculously fast and gets playside of a guard, driving into the play. Mouton(+2) defeats a block and shows up in the hole. Martin means no cutback and Mouton tackles with help from Kovacs and his man getting into the RB's legs.|
|O23||3||11||Shotgun trips||4-1-6 dime||Pass||Drag||Van Bergen||7|
|Michigan runs the same stunt they did earlier in the game with Roh attacking in the middle and Martin pulling around; this time Black is also rushing through the same gap and a bunch of feet get tangled and everyone falls. RVB(+1) is coming around the outside, though, and Cousins has to throw short because deep options are covered(+1); a dumpoff to Dell is tackled short by Avery and Talbott.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 17-31, 13 min 4th Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O27||1||10||I-form||Base 4-4||Run||End around||Mouton||15|
|Actually a great job by Kovacs(+1) to see the end-around fake coming and get upfield; he ends up taking both blockers out of the play. Mouton(-2) is running at the tailback and sees that he doesn't have the ball but for some reason steps inside and then comes up too fast, losing leverage and allowing Martin the gap that he hits. Gordon(-1) comes up and misses a tackle(-1); the secondary manages to stop it after another six yards.|
|O42||1||10||Ace twins twin TE||3-3-5 stack||Run||Power off tackle||Mouton||0|
|Michigan slanting away from the play so Banks gets shoved way down the line; Mouton(+2) is blitzing. He manages to slide under the attempted down block of the TE. He's into the backfield quickly enough to take on the inside shoulder of the second lead blocker and push him back into the RB's path. Mouton can't make the difficult tackle but the delay is substantial; Martin and Kovacs get him at the line.|
|O42||2||10||Full house||3-3-5 stack||Run||Counter||Ezeh?||8|
|Same play as earlier with the off tackle fake coupled with a counter coming underneath. T. Gordon(-1) is blitzing and takes off after the QB. I'm not sure what the LB responsibilities are but I think they're in man on their guys and Ezeh(-0.5) does not read the guy coming across the formation fast enough, getting blocked; Roh(-0.5) splits the minus because he's the LB to that side and is no faster despite not getting blocked. (RPS –1)|
|50||3||2||Ace||Base 4-4||Run||Power off tackle||Ezeh||3|
|They double Martin and neither guy gets out; RVB is the playside DT and gets blocked out of a small hole. Mouton, Roh, and Gordon are cutting off the frontside so there's just one hole to take. It is taken. Ezeh is there, meeting him after a yard… RB gets two more. This isn't exactly a bad play by anyone but this is the difference between a really good LB and a guy who's just a yard or two worse on a consistent basis. Michigan had this set up for a stop. They didn't get it.|
|M47||1||10||Ace twins||Base 4-4||Pass||6||PA Corner||C. Gordon||45|
|Motion drops Floyd back into a deep safety spot as C. Gordon comes up to the line. He and T. Gordon end up playing almost in the same spot because of? I don't know. I don't know what the coverage is supposed to be but it leaves a guy on a corner route wide open (cover -2). Could be Cam's fault or Terrance Talbott. Talbott(-1, tackling -1) whiffs a tackle to get this down to the two.|
|M2||1||G||Goal line||Goal line||Run||Zone stretch||Demens||1 (Pen -15)|
|RVB(+0.5) holds up to a double decently and is flowing down the line in the vicinity of the POA when the RB cuts up. Guy pops out on Ezeh, delaying him; Floyd is taking on the FB, so there's nowhere to go. Momentum and thudding power might get this into the endzone but Demens(+1) has come from his deep LB position in the goal line package, shooting through the gap between RVB and Campbell to tackle. Chop block brings it back anyway.|
|M17||1||G||I-form big||3-3-5 stack||Pass||6||Waggle||Kovacs||Inc|
|Kovacs(+1) reads the TE leaking out into the flat—similar play to the Webb touchdown—and covers it(+1); Cousins comes off his primary read. Ezeh(+1, cover +1) is all over the other TE; Cousins throws it high and basically away. (Pressure -1)|
|M17||2||G||Ace twins twin TE||Base 4-4||Run||Edge pitch||Kovacs||2|
|Kovacs(+1) avoids a cut and gets into Cunningham, which allows Floyd to run up hard to the outside and forces a cutback. A chasing Banks(+0.5) and Ezeh converge.|
|M15||3||G||Shotgun empty||3-2-6 dime||Pass||N/A||Bubble screen||Talbott||2|
|Give up and punt; Nichol actually at QB on this play for whatever reason. Talbott(+1) does a good job of stringing it out, FWIW.|
|Drive Notes: FG(34), 17-34. Final drive is after game is over and is not charted.|
Just look at the first quarter, man. Time ceased after that.
Let's just get this over with, then? Chart?
|Van Bergen||9.5||1||8.5||One impact sack, some additional pressure, solid against the run. Good player.|
|Martin||11.5||3||8.5||A good performance, but coming down from his ridiculous nonconference level.|
|Banks||3||6||-3||Didn't do well, pulled for Black, who did worse.|
|Sagesse||1||-||1||One good slant.|
|Patterson||-||3||-3||Killed to bits on second long TD for MSU.|
|Black||1.5||5.5||-4||Pancaked multiple times on drive where he got most of his PT.|
|Campbell||-||-||-||One goal line play.|
|TOTAL||26.5||18.5||8||This week Roh was mostly DE so his +4.5 factors in here. Story: two good players and not a lot of help.|
|Mouton||11||5||6||At least he's turned it around.|
|Roh||6||1.5||4.5||Wasn't a liability in the run game against a pounding team.|
|Johnson||-||-||-||DNP. Has apparently lost out to…|
|T. Gordon||4||2.5||1.5||Doing fine for a freshman.|
|Demens||1||-||1||Goal line only, again.|
|Fitzgerald||-||-||-||Did not get minus for long TD but I'm sure having him in couldn't have helped.|
|TOTAL||24||14.5||8.5||Actual LBs: Mouton good, Ezeh bad, Gordon neutral.|
|Rogers||3.5||1.5||2||Theory about displacement: fail.|
|Kovacs||6.5||1||5.5||Such a weird player.|
|C. Gordon||-||11.5||-11.5||Of course.|
|Talbott||1||3||-2||Martin third down conversion largely on him.|
|Avery||-||-||-||Didn't register. Yay?|
|TOTAL||13.5||23||-9.5||Less grim than the Chappellbombing. Still grim.|
|Pressure||11||5||6||Lot of max pro PA.|
|Coverage||10||11||-1||Big hits; underneath okay.|
|Tackling||6||13||-7||Very, very bad.|
[RPS is "rock, paper, scissors." Michigan gets a + when they call a play that makes it very easy for them to defend the opponent, like getting a free blitzer. They get a – when they call a play that makes it very difficult for them to defend the opponent, like showing a seven-man blitz and having Penn State get easy touchdowns twice.]
So. That's a major falloff from the defensive line. RVB and Martin acquired above-average days and Roh was decent. The other guys combined for –9, which is really really bad. I think this bore out in the substitution pattern, too: Banks wasn't playing well so they tried out Black, who played worse, so they went back to Banks.
At linebacker, the usual. Thomas Gordon continues to impress by not doing anything particularly wrong. If Carvin Johnson was really good enough to beat him out before the season Michigan should be set at spur for a long time.
In the secondary, Kovacs is good, and the starting corners weren't a disaster. Everyone else… ugh.
Aaaargh GERG ffffuuuuuuu?
I don't know. I don't think I'll know at all this year. If you look at how Michigan State gashed Michigan the thing that jumps out is the shocking youth of the offenders. By touchdown drive:
- Ezeh takes bad angle on first play, tacks on facemask. On second play Martin and Banks fail; Cam Gordon turns large gain into touchdown.
- Talbott lets Martin outside of him on third and fifteen to give up a conversion. Cam misses a tackle on a bubble screen, robbing Michigan of an opportunity at third and medium. Patterson is destroyed on a 41-yard touchdown with a bizarre scheme that sees Ezeh fly out of the middle of the field.
- Fluke tipped completion, two six yard runs veterans are responsible for, Cullen Christian burned deep after Rogers goes out.
- Jibreel Black is a cutback-conceding machine on the drive he plays every snap of. Ezeh does his sit-and-wonder on a run of moderate length. Cam sucks up on the trick play. MSU finishes the drive by blowing up Banks and shedding another Gordon tackle.
Gordon was also responsible for taking a bad angle on the TE seam on MSU's second drive. That should have been an interception but he overreacted to his error from the Notre Dame game and played the angle too conservatively. We have one usual suspect in Ezeh. The other players largely responsible for the touchdowns are two freshman cornerbacks, a freshman defensive end, and redshirt freshman and position switch starter Cam Gordon. Oh, and Adam Patterson, a fifth year senior who's never played before this year.
I do wonder what the hell this was supposed to accomplish:
I know I called it "clever" in the picture pages when Martin was in but that's the same scheme with Adam Patterson in the game. I thought it was clever because it was relying on your best defensive player not to make a major error—Martin did that one time and Michigan got burned, okay. Doing it with Adam Patterson in the game is asking to get touchdown in your face, and Michigan got touchdown it its face. This was not Ezeh's fault. I watched him do this all day; he did it on the first touchdown, then went to the sideline and did it two more times on the next drive. If he had screwed something up they would have corrected it or benched him, right?
Michigan went away from this later but here's why you just tell Ezeh to do something and hope it works:
Maybe that's a cutback he's not expecting but good lord, find the gap in the line and hit it. Even if you're slow an arm tackle slows the guy down. For him to not even touch the tailback there is dangerous, as Gordon has to come up fast and almost misses a tackle with his dodgy technique. Here, and often in this game, RBs were untouched into the secondary, though, and when that happens your safety is under enormous pressure.
Something in the same vein:
Michigan has that stopped. They have a third and two and have forced the tailback to run through a tiny window filled with an unblocked middle linebacker, but Ezeh is hesitant like always and catches the tailback. He never hits anyone.
Demens any different?
I have no idea. Here's your sum total of Demens hope:
His job in the goal line package is to come from way deep and flow to the hole. This is of interest because look how WVU aligned their linebackers back in the day:
That's way off the line. Michigan has not done this yet but it might be something to try since Demens has been doing that in the goal line package, and doing it well.
Other scheme complaints?
It was insane to put Cullen Christian on an island against BJ Cunningham in a one-receiver formation. JT Floyd was in overhang mode against a TE; why not put your non-true-freshman on the receiver?
So I'm not entirely happy with GERG. But I'm also not sure what the hell you're supposed to do when Rogers goes out and your five-man secondary reads freshman, freshman, freshman, sophomore, sophomore and your nickel and dime packages add in two more freshmen.
Didn't you just say you liked Cam Gordon?
Uh… yes. And then he was terrible against MSU. His shoulder-block style of tackling was something he got away with before he faced Michigan State but against MSU he was bouncing off ballcarriers because they were big and strong enough to take the blow. Then he would try to drag them to the ground, which only worked sometimes and always gave up YAC. He blew a chance to intercept that TE seam, or at least separate the guy from the ball. He took a very bad angle on the first touchdown and got burned on the trick play.
This is a guy who does not have confidence in his angles:
Too aggressive against Notre Dame, he was too conservative here; later he would get too aggressive again. This is what happens when you flop someone in spring practice and have him start at free safety. He has a long way to go. He was just as bad as Michigan's debacle at the spot last year, unfortunately, and while there are good reasons for that the fact he's stuck at free safety when he's linebacker size and linebacker fast is just another symptom of the roster explosion.
Is anyone, you know, developing?
Ryan Van Bergen appears to be emerging into a player who makes an impact. He had a slow start but two weeks in a row he's been basically on par with Martin as Michigan's highest-scoring DL. If he can do something similar against Iowa it'll be time to ramp up expectations for him to fringe All Big Ten.
Also, Kovacs may have had his best game at Michigan. He's so reliable; on a day when Michigan couldn't find a tackle it didn't want to miss, Kovacs twice dragged down TEs in space to boot MSU off the field. Only one counted, unfortunately.
Martin, Van Bergen, and Mouton are all guys who would start on nine Big Ten defenses, and they're playing like it. Kovacs is the complete opposite of the rest of the team.
Player retention, youth, the defensive end not named Roh (Banks and Black were collectively –7), Ezeh, the cornerback not named Floyd or Rogers (freshmen CBs collectively –5), and Cam Gordon.
What does it mean for Iowa and beyond?
Apparently that Kenny Demens is going to emerge from the boonies and try to tackle people instead of catch them. Keep telling yourself he's just a sophomore, try to ignore the redshirt bit or the Moundros dalliance, and tap your heels together. If Michigan can upgrade there they might have a chance to hold down the Iowa running game. Michigan State has somehow acquired the without-question best stable of tailbacks in the league; Iowa's Adam Robinson isn't bad but he's not the equivalent of Baker/Bell/Caper, and there's only one of him.
I'm not sure how meaningful Iowa's statistics are in this department. They had three games against totally overmatched opponents. A fourth against Penn State saw Iowa bash into the PSU line over and over because they correctly guessed that Robert Bolden was not going to score on the Iowa D. The fifth saw Iowa gaffe their way into a big hole and abandon the run game in the second half. But for the record, Iowa tailbacks had 17 carries for 35 yards against Arizona (which has a kickass run D) and 28 for 95 against Penn State (which has an okay run D). They could be sort of okay in this department.
That will likely mean Ricky Stanzi is called upon to rain fire on the Michigan secondary, which he will do with aplomb. The Rick Six is a thing of yesteryear, apparently. I have some vague hope that the MSU and Iowa passing games are about equivalent but the MSU run game is a lot better and Michigan can hold Iowa to like 24 points or something.
Power pellets. Denard as envisioned by BHGP:
They also envision a Pacman board with no pellets and something like 20 Hawkeyes, but they are #4 in total defense so they may be entitled to some cockiness. Also their version of Denard is gritty.
Trick or treat. Wolverine Historian has assembled a set of trick plays over the past 20 or so years:
I'm surprised that transcontinental worked as much as it did since Michigan ran it from the same goofy formation they never ran anything else from for 20 years.
The Demensing. It is apparently happening. Kenny Demens, who you could be forgiven for thinking had the first name "TheEnigmatic," is mere days away from actually playing:
"In the last game, we played quite a few in the secondary and a few guys up front, but we didn't rotate a lot of guys at linebacker, and that's something we have to look at this week."
Rodriguez said he expects to see Kenny Demens, J.B. Fitzgerald and Mark Moundros in the mix a bit more against the Hawkeyes.
"Particularly if they have a good week in practice," Rodriguez said. "Kenny Demens in particular has had some real good practices and has shown some pretty good things when he's had an opportunity out there. So it looks like they've warranted the opportunity to see what they can do in the game."
One of these two things will happen when Demens gets on the field:
- he is obviously better than Ezeh and everyone wonders WTF is with the Michigan coaches' talent identification skills, or
- he isn't obviously better and everyone wonders WTF is with the Michigan coaches' development skills.
I'll take option one, please. If Demens can come in and be person with clue at MLB Michigan might be able to bridge this gap between the currently devastated upperclass linebacking corps and the guys who will come in this year and next without resorting to true freshmen. A novel concept, yes.
FWIW, People have been talking up Demens's abilities in run defense and criticizing his coverage. I haven't seen much either way. The reports of excellent play in the spring game didn't come from me; even when I watched the tape I didn't see much good or bad from him.
In other bits from the RR teleconference, the chance that Odoms returns this year is "slim."
Basketball recruiting pointers. Alf goes here because Dom Pointer, a 6'5" 2011 wing who is Michigan's primary target to fill their last slot in the upcoming recruiting class, is coming in this weekend. He can dunk some. According to Sam Webb he's just dropped West Virginia, a rumored favorite, and will decide between Michigan and St. John's. His parents are in one corner:
"I really, really like the staff and the people of St. John's. I was really impressed with all of them, but they are not Michigan. Me and his mama — that's how we feel. But if he really feels that strongly about St. John's, I'm not going to kill him. I'm going to be mad at him, but I've got to stand next to him. The way he made the U-turn and changed his life, what can I say? Yeah, I'm a Michigan fan. I'm Michigan all day long, but if I got a kid that made a total U-turn with his whole life, I can't criticize him about making his choice if it's St. John's."
Webb's stopped short of offering up the gut feeling that indicates a silent commitment but Michigan is in a strong position here. With Trey Burke and Carlton Brundidge in the fold Michigan would have three consensus top 100 players if Pointer committed, with two of them brushing up against the top 50 in ESPN's rankings.
FWIW, ESPN was the service highest on Tim Hardaway, Jr., and that prediction looks like it will bear fruit as early as this year. Scuttlebutt from practice suggests he might be the team's best player, which is bad for this year but may be good down the road. This could be a good team in 2012. Yeah.
THIS MAN LIVES IN A HOUSE. What a country!
This person currently has a home. They may be borrowing it, or living with their parents, or squatting like Tyler Durden in Fight Club, but there is still something between him and rain. What recession? Srsly. Find me a recession after watching a guy sing
"You can get yourself drunk//you can tailgate//you can bring your daaaaate!"
on the internet. You can't anymore. Go America. Anywhere else, even Canada, and this guy would be used in a government-sponsored human beef jerky project.
Usual complaint about midline and lack thereof, backed by Smart Football highlight its effectiveness this weekend in the Purdue-Northwestern game, which Purdue won despite getting less than 50 yards passing from Rob Henry:
“We knew they were going to run the quarterback; how they were going to run him we had to adjust to,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “They changed up their scheme a little bit, and were reading our tackles as opposed to our defensive ends. There were times when we fit it very well, and there were times when we didn’t.”
It's not magic or anything but one of the things that Juice Williams murdered us on (other than everything) was the midline, and using it periodically should increase the effectiveness of the running game. If it can get Dayne Crist 20-yard gains what can Denard do with it?
The thing that makes me want to run it more than anything is that it prevents teams from doing what Michigan State did. They left a defensive end in contain all day, which should be a win for your offense but Michigan's tailbacks are not very dynamic. Our Helmets Have Wings notes that after the first three drives Michigan ran zone read plays twice(!). The game situation had something to do with that, but so did that Vincent Smith third and one stuff.
Here is an opportunity to eliminate a player with an option read and get Denard in space.
The audacity of lacrosse. Run, don't walk, to Patrick Hruby's Page 2 article on Mike Legg's famous lacrosse-style goal. It's as told by the participants, with Hruby mostly staying out of the way and allowing Legg, Morrison, Turco, Victimized Minnesota Goalie, Berenson, and Guy Legg Learned It From tell the story:
LEGG: "We're in the playoffs, so I had been telling myself, 'Don't even think about it. Get that crap out of your head. Don't do anything silly. If there's even a half-open player, try to get the puck to him.'"
MORRISON: "I was sneaking into the point."
LEGG: "I looked around and didn't really see anybody open."
MORRISON: "All of a sudden, Mike leaned down and scooped it."
BERENSON: "I thought, 'Oh my God, he's going to try it.' I saw him shoot it 100 times in practice, just fooling around. I hadn't coached him into it."
It's 5000 words. Turco says "it took a long time for Mike's party to mellow out" at one point. It's epic. I suggest you peruse it, because you will enjoy it or find out you are a robot. (HT: MGoUser Blueintheface.)
While we're on hockey, AnnArbor.com scored an excusive interview with Berenson in anticipation of the Frozen Four (where Miami got what was coming to them, BTW). Let's skip over the "argh we won" bits:
Q: Considering all the disappointment that surrounded Michigan's football and men's basketball teams, do you think your team provided some ray of hope this year?
A: That's what people are telling me and that's what the last month of the season did for Michigan. That helped carry the torch high and gave a lot of Michigan fans pride in Michigan sports. You never know how your season is going to end, but ours ended - up until that last goal - on such an up note. It wasn't just one weekend. It was four weekends and it just kept picking up and people got into it. I think it was great for Michigan.
It sounds like they'll platoon Hunwick and Hogan like they did with Sauer and Hogan a couple years ago.
Further detail. Michigan's made its coordinators available over the past couple weeks and during the brief segments when they aren't admonishing fans not to get caught up in a wholesale scheme change (or "tweak" according to Greg Robinson) they're throwing out a few guys who seem to be developing. Greg Robinson dropped a couple names to Rittenberg yesterday, and not just Cam Gordon:
The competition at middle linebacker is really heating up between Obi Ezeh and Kenny Demens, who has come on strong this spring. "This is a dogfight," Robinson said. "And I like it. It's amazing when you have competition, how much the improvement comes."
The other Gordon, JT Floyd, and Teric Jones also get positive mentions; Justin Turner remains worryingly unmentioned. It's weird that Demens goes from buried behind a walk-on to pushing for a starting job over the course of a couple months, but I'll take it. If Demens can develop into a contributor Michigan's linebacker depth chart looks considerably less frightening.
On the other side of the ball, Calvin Magee's press conference was bulleted in this space a couple days ago. Here's a transcript for the detail oriented. And here's a pull quote:
“Terrence is really playing well this spring … I mean, really well,” said Magee. “Having Jeremy Gallon off his redshirt year, too, we have a number of guys I feel real comfortable about.
“Terrence is interesting, because Year one it was a competition. He just happened to get injured. Year two it was another competition with Tay Odoms, and he got dinged up again and missed some time, allowing Roy Roundtree to show his stuff.”
A lot of people, including yours truly, had written Robinson off after a redshirt freshman year in which he did nothing. Magee repeatedly emphasizing his breakout bodes well. If the guy can catch he's got some crazy moves.
Leverage. When the NHL instituted a salary cap as part of a massive revamp of their collective bargaining agreement, the end result appeared to be very bad for college teams hoping to keep their seniors around. It appeared that the rookie cap and service-time-based arbitration would combine with near-instant free agency for college kids who play out their eligibility to give give both player and team powerful incentive to sign before the prospect's senior year.
It hasn't quite worked out like that. TJ Hensick, Kevin Porter, Chad Kolarik, and Chris Summers have all stuck around for four years and it looks like Michigan will retain its 2011 seniors as well (knock on wood). While players still regularly sign early, it's not epidemic.
Why? Oilers draftee Riley Nash, a late first rounder who just finished his junior year at Cornell, provides an interesting case study. One: I didn't know that an entry-level contract is three years if you sign before your senior year but two if you sign after. You have the same opportunity to become an RFA no matter when you sign. Two: a college player has crazy leverage because he can play his final year and become a free agent immediately afterwards.
The end result of this? Mo' money. Mudcrutch has assembled a chart showing the amount of money late first rounders have signed for recently* and color coded it for easy pattern recognition. Orange are kids in college, purple juniors, and blue euros. I make it small in order to hit you over the head with the conclusion:
College kids (and Euros) get better bonuses because they have attractive options other than signing. Junior kids just go back in the draft, where they invariably get taken lower and paid less. The difference even clearer if you remove goalies. Goalies almost never play in the NHL during their initial contract and the top two junior players on the list are goalies.
If you squint hard or click for big you'll note some familiar names: Mitera, Summers, Cogliano, and Pacioretty all appear on the list, with Mitera and Summers—both seniors with the option to become free agents—hovering near the top of the list. Cogliano (sophomore) is a bit farther down and Pacioretty (freshman) is the last blip of orange on the chart. The upshot: unless a college player sticks on an NHL roster they don't lose much if any money by sticking around because their increased bonus leverage makes up for the relatively paltry AHL salaries they'd be pulling down. Instead of being a death knell for college seniors, the CBA actually provides some incentive for collegians to stay in school until they are NHL-ready.
Question: Summers has a two-year deal, but Mitera signed for three. Both waited until after their seniors years to do so. Why are the contracts different lengths?
UPDATE: Contract length is based on age. Mitera signed at 21, Summers at 22. When you're 22 the entry-level contract is two years. Thanks to emailer Brendan Baker.
*(There is a rookie cap that all almost all these contracts reach, but NHL teams can offer a wide array of bonuses if the want that are easily achievable by someone playing in the NHL.)
The final revamp. AnnArbor.com caught a Brandon appearance in which he said a number of interesting things, amongst them some more detail on what they plan to do to Crisler in the relatively near future:
“And then the third phase will be absolutely a complete remodel of the facility where you would potentially bust out the concourses and you would create the bigger circulation space,” Brandon said. “More restrooms, capacity, more amenities, better food service, maybe some kind of club-seating opportunities for those who are interested in that experience. Really making it a modern arena for the purpose of big-time college basketball. And that’s ultimately where we’d love to go with Crisler Arena because the program deserves that.”
This cannot happen fast enough.
Etc.: Big Ten baseball teams are operating a serious disadvantage because of restricted oversigning. This is less "cram the academically questionable in" and more "scramble for leftovers after unexpected signings".
A roundup of Spring Practice happenings, all of which should be taken only somewhat seriously. Steve Breaston was "Black Jesus" before he even set foot on Michigan Stadium turf. Patrick Omameh was instantly the star of Michigan's six-member line class despite his status as the least-heralded of any of them. Meanwhile, the warnings about future Bronco Dann O'Neill were immediate. On the other hand, Grady Brooks was supposed to be a ninja and Kevin Grady a ball of knives. Practice rumblings seem to have the same predictive power as recruiting rankings: far from infallible but equally far from useless.
Erm, so… yeah. I will believe this two to three years after I see it but apparently Denard Robinson is running with the ones a lot and looks "radically improved," according to one emailer. Forcier seems to have struggled in comparison. I'm a little leery of spring practice reports at all times and that goes triple when it comes to using a few spring practices to overrule what we saw in twelve games last year. The improvement Robinson would have to undergo—and the lack thereof from Forcier—to be a viable threat to start is vast. I'm filing this under "motivational tactic" for now. Jon Chait is on the "it could happen" side of the fence.
By all accounts, Gardner is considerably behind the two sophomores. If Denard is a capable QB this year his redshirt seems assured.
BONUS: here is Robinson running a long way, albeit with aid from crappy walk-on tackling.
I don't usually do this, but when you've spent a lot of time extracting the superfluous bits from AnnArbor.com's SEO-friendly headlines, this brings out your inner thirteen year old:
running backMike Cox closely this spring
Past the middle school bits is the picture of an emerging running back in Michigan's five-way spring derby. His high school coach hints at some of the practice reports coming from the usual sources:
“He’s tough as nails,” Driscoll said. “He’s very tough and they’re going to have a hard time with him because he’s a big guy that’s really fast. That’s the trouble. He’ll hit you, too. He’s not going to back down from anybody.”
Everyone else comes in for sporadic praise and criticism. There's no consensus on who might be emerging as a tentative (and largely ceremonial starter). Probably the biggest news is a lack of all-encompassing Fitzgerald Toussaint hype.
Wide Receiver And Tight End
With Junior Hemingway and Je'Ron Stokes out there's not much on the outside and Roy Roundtree has moved there intermittently in sets with Martavious Odoms and Jeremy Gallon at slot. When the outside guys return, Michigan will have three or four slots they'd like to work into the lineup.
Here's Odoms answering some questions:
Odoms remains an endearingly terrible interview, but the mention of more two-slot formations is something to pay attention to. Tight ends, like Toussaint, have been largely absent from the spring buzz thus far.
Jerald Robinson has been the most impressive freshman so far, but the outside receivers have been plagued by drops. Kelvin Grady has evaporated, for what that's worth.
On the offensive line, Schilling and Molk stand out to AnnArbor.com, which is not something I feel spectacular about since 1) Schilling is an established quantity entering his fourth year as a starter and 2) Molk is injured and not practicing.
Patrick Omameh is staying at guard for now, though I'm still holding out hope they shift him outside and let Ricky Barnum and Quinton Washington fight to the death for the spot. Four guys competing at tackle, two of them redshirt freshman and two of them upperclassmen who struggled badly in pass protection last year, is a sketchy situation. That has not come to pass, nor has either freshman pushed through into the nominal starting lineup.
I'm a little leery of a strapping 6'3", 208 pound kid who spent the brief duration of his Michigan career to date at wide receiver being the starting deep safety, but with Vlad Emilien out with a minor injury it's Cam Gordon who is the front-runner in the 2010 Grady Brooks Memorial Spring Hype Award chase. He comes in for mention by Rodriguez during a speech at a local football coaches' convention:
"Defensively, guys that have been impressive the last week or so, Kenny Demens, Cam Gordon, Craig Roh’s had a couple good days. Renaldo Sagesse, we were teasing him, Thursday he had the best practice since I’ve been here. I asked him what he ate for breakfast. I didn’t know if it was Canadian bacon or something, but he’s had a terrific spring."
It has been Gordon this, Gordon that at deep safety. This may be largely due to a lack of bodies. Justin Turner is practicing at cornerback, Vlad Emilien is injured, and the three guys who played the spot last year are either box safeties (Williams, Kovacs) or corners (Woolfolk). It's gotten to the point where Brandin Hawthorne, who was a high school defensive end (albeit a tiny one), is splitting time back there.
On the defensive line there's been a consistent stream of positives about virtually everyone. Sagesse, Campbell, and Banks all came in for specific praise from Robinson at today's press conference. Even longtime non-entity Adam Patterson is getting some praise at the defensive end spot he and Greg Banks are keeping warm for Mike Martin. Perhaps the biggest news is the Sagesse praise. If Sagesse is a legit option at DT, Michigan doesn't have to think about sliding Martin inside to platoon with Campbell. I think he will be. I like him in UFRs last year.
Demens, meanwhile, has been the only linebacker to get a fair share of practice hype. Ezeh and Mouton have not been mentioned; Roh comes in for praise as a 250 pound outside linebacker but that's not a surprise. I'm not sure what to make of that: Demens was behind a walk-on last year and didn't see the field even when Michigan was rotating their linebackers so they could yell at them better. His only appearances were on special teams and Michigan's goal line package. Maybe he's a guy who is aided significantly by the move to the 3-3-5? If his issues were mental this defense allows you to do a lot of blitzing and play downhill.
And then there's corner, where Justin Turner still lags behind JT Floyd. No offense to Floyd, but I think that gives everyone hives. Even if Demar Dorsey comes in and is lights out as a true freshman, he's a true freshman and having a hyped guy like Turner struggle to break into the starting lineup in a secondary this chaotic is not a good sign.
Also, Craig Roh coughs and answers questions:
(Odoms, Roh HT: The Michigan Faithful.)
Note: video from last year is lightboxed; previous years will take you off the page.
A note before we start: this preview relies heavily on the defensive UFRs of last year, even more so than the offense did, because there’s a convenient numerical system that does a decent job of summing up a defensive player’s contributions. One caveat: the system is generous to defensive linemen and harsh to defensive backs, especially cornerbacks. A +4 for a defensive end is just okay; for a cornerback it’s outstanding.
|Jonas Mouton||Jr.*||Obi Ezeh||Jr.*||Stevie Brown||Sr.|
|Kenny Demens||Fr.*||JB Fitzgerald||So.*||Mike Jones||Fr.|
|Kevin Leach||So.*||Brandon Smith||Fr.*||Brandin Hawthorne||Fr.|
Here's where we have to start talking about the changes Greg Robinson hath wrought. In this defense there's a large distinction between the outside linebackers—"spinner" and deathbacker—and the inside linebackers. In this way it's more of a 3-4. Jay Hopson doesn't even coach the guys on the outside, he only gets the WLBs and MLBs. These guys will be operating off the line of scrimmage at all times and acting like conventional linebackers.
The outside guys are the hybrids, with the deathbacker somewhere between a defensive end and a linebacker and the "spinner"—a term that Greg Robinson claims does not exist—somewhere between a linebacker and a safety. On any particular play they could be tight to the line of scrimmage or dropped off. This helpful screenshot from diarist remdies should help clarify:
There's been a lot of debate on the blog about whether the base D is a 4-3 under or not; this alignment, for one, is pure 4-3 under. In any case, you can see the spinner and deathbacker at or near the line of scrimmage; Brown, if called to do so, can drop off onto the slot receiver. That's why he's on the strongside: to cover. I assume this will be the base formation against spreads, with adjustments for pounders.
Going into last year, Obi Ezeh was the Steve Schilling of the defense. Oh, hell, let me quote myself:
Sophomore middle linebacker Obi Ezeh was the Steve Schilling of the defense in 2007: a redshirt freshman pressed into the starting lineup before his time, he was unprepared and often bad. Now he’s the “veteran” anchor of a shaky unit, counted upon to improve massively.
Going into this year, Obi Ezeh is still the Steve Schilling of the defense: a two-year starter entering his redshirt junior year without having done much to distinguish himself and rapidly running out of upside. Schilling's got a fresh start and bonus round of practice hype based on his position switch, but Ezeh's not been so lucky. Though he's been showing up on some preseason All Big Ten lists, that's strictly a Matt Lentz phenomenon. Lentz entered his third year as a Michigan starting guard in 2005 with a ton of accolades; he left without even getting drafted. Winged helmet momentum sometimes carries meh players to lofty preseaon heights; Ezeh appears to be one of these folk.
There's a theme in the videos at right: the good ones usually involve Ezeh shooting towards the line of scrimmage on a blitz. The bad ones see him getting lost: see "hesitant, booted" or "suckered by PA" or "WHERE ARE YOU GOING"; the theme is clear here.
A lot of Ezeh's issues at right came in the Illinois game so let's check that game's UFR:
The first of Williams's crazy ninja ballfakes. This one suckers an unblocked Ezeh(-2) despite the fact Mouton is racing up into the same hole, beating a blocker to tackle the guy. … Ezeh(-1) fails to read this, hesitating long enough for the C to get out on him on the second level. … Ezeh(-2) took an upfield angle around a blocker [on a 57-yard screen touchdown]. … Problem: Ezeh(-2) overruns the WR as he cuts back since Mouton has forced him back upfield. He whiffs a tackle, allowing Illinois to convert. … Ezeh(-1.5) completely overruns the play, turning two yards into first and goal.
Now, Ezeh did have +8.5 scattered across that game but it was outweighed by a –12.5, which whoah. Most of the plusses came when Ezeh was permitted to attack the line of scrimmage immediately on a blitz or Illinois decided not to go with misdirection; you have to set people up sometimes, right? When they weren't doing that, they confused Ezeh. A lot.
Part of that was uncertainty about just what the hell he was doing. After I slammed Johnny Thompson for his performance in the Notre Dame game, high school coach and excellent diarist Steve Sharik came to his defense by way of blamin' Obi:
The mistake was by Obi Ezeh. By design, Ezeh is supposed to fast flow over the top and be outside of Thompson. If the back sees this and cuts back, he does so into the waiting arms of Terrance Taylor. Ezeh's used to the old way--which was played as you suggested. If you re-examine "bad iso 3," Ezeh is flat-footed instead of screaming over the top, which is what the scheme calls for. And that's why Thompson spilled the block again on the next play. The bad part is that Ezeh messed it up again.
It's not like Ezeh was the only one who had no idea what he was doing last year, but as the middle linebacker it's just way more apparent when you get lost because you're reading and reacting on every play.
Will it be better? Michigan, after all, has just switched schemes again. That will depend on Ezeh's increased experience giving him added flexibility and how much better Greg Robinson is compared to Scott Shafer at, you know, teaching people things. Everyone knows he's not David Harris but Harris didn't start until he was a redshirt junior; Ezeh will be one this fall. If he can just get his head on straight he should be average or slightly better.
will pop your lid
|Play action fail|
|Chasing down end around|
|Frowns: poor zone cover|
|Stands up FB, tackles|
|Stands up G, tackles|
|Improved coverage late|
|Destroys triple option|
The other starting spot is technically an outside linebacker position but the two spots are far more similar than WLB is to spinner/SLB so I'll slot Jonas Mouton here. Mouton's star was fading rapidly after he arrived out of California a top-50 recruit. Despite Chris Graham's persistent mediocrity, Mouton never threatened to start after moving from safety. And when Michigan opened last season, Mouton was behind two-star recruit Marell Evans.
Evans fell by the wayside when Michigan revamped its linebacker corps after the Utah un derneath coverage fiasco, paving the way for Mouton to chip in a +7 in his first extended game action against Miami Of Ohio (Not That Miami Of Ohio). Ah, but not so fast my friend:
Mouton was overrated by the numbers, IMO. I gave him credit for blitzing up into the heart of Miami plays over and over again; that credit should probably fall to Shafer and not Mouton. Overall, though, I did think he played well and was a major upgrade over Evans.
That he was. Evans fell into the background and hardly saw a defensive snap the rest of the season; Mouton dropped off from his dynamite debut into a series of performances that were only okay but promised better once Mouton found his feet. That he did. Amongst the debris of the Purdue disaster his "continued good play" was about the only positive I could find
The praise Mouton started picking up late last year in UFR is echoed by Hopson. No, scratch that. It is amplified considerably (further quotes in this piece from Hopson are all from this link):
I’ve been really pleased with Jonas. Jonas is a kid that has worked extremely hard. He’s a kid that’s an explosive player. He’s a kid…he’s my kind of guy. Jonas is a tough guy. He’s physical and we expect Jonas to make some plays for us. … I think he’s ready to have a big year. … I think he’s an NFL player all the way. I’ll sell him to anybody. I just love him.
This dedicated amateur concurs. Mouton's uptake last year was swift and by the end of the season he was easily Michigan's best linebacker. Chart? Chart.
|Wisconsin||6||4.5||1.5||Had a tough time against Wisconsin's mondo players and is still learning; potential is there.|
|Illinois||5||2.5||2.5||Was better suited to defend this offense than the more lumbering guys. BONUS: “solid day”|
|Penn State||7||6||1||Still terrible in coverage; turning into a good blitzer.|
|Michigan State||5.5||3||2.5||Stood up MSU's fullback time and again, clearly surprising MSU. ... pleasantly surprised by both OLBs in this game.|
|Purdue||5.5||3.5||2||The closest thing M has to a player in the back seven right now.|
|Minnesota||2||5.5||-3.5||Off day from him; was culpable on one of the GDCDs.|
|Northwestern||9.5||1.5||8||Monster day, best of his career. Really got freed up to attack and constantly shot past guys trying to block him.|
I could go through more of it but it's all the same in the comments: Mouton's an excellent, explosive blitzer and surprisingly stout when it comes to taking on fullbacks and even guards at the point of attack. He's still vulnerable to misdirection some and has coverage issues—though they weren't as severe as Ezeh's. He's got the athleticism to be a pass-rush threat and should get more capable in coverage this year. He'll be drawing easier assignments, for one, as Stevie Brown replaces Johnny Thompson in the lineup.
Mouton is poised for a breakout.
Backups and Whatnot
This is about the only spot on defense where there is reasonable depth. Two second-year players back up Ezeh and Mouton. Ezeh's primary backup is JB Fitzgerald, a sophomore who got special teams time a year ago. As a recruit, Fitzgerald was just outside the top 100 on the recruiting sites and has gotten the sporadic positive mention in practice reports and coach recaps. Hopson recently said that Fitzgerald is "really in a battle" for a starting job, and though that may be optimistic about his chances it says something about him that he's not just shoved into the background.
More from Hopson:
JB … knows both positions. JB is smart. He’s also very much like Obi. He is mentally sharp. He’s physical and JB is a competitor. He’s not going to give in. JB wants a job too. He’s going to work hard and I’m fortunate to have guys like that. … He might be a little bit further ahead at MIKE right now, but I probably practice him a lot more at MIKE right now.
He should be reasonably prepared should he be called upon, and his talent level seems high. He's probably the player outside the starting eleven you should be least terrified to see on the field.
Kenny Demens is a classmate of Fitzgerald's but got an injury redshirt last year after appearing on special teams in the first couple games. He wasn't a huge recruit or anything, but the practice buzz has been positive. He'll be Mouton's primary backup.
There is also converted safety Brandon Smith. Smith was a big recruit—about on par with Mouton, actually—who stayed at safety his first year mostly because Michigan had few other options. When it became clear he didn't have the speed to stay there in spring, he was moved to linebacker.
Hopson is very positive about him:
They have to have an awareness. … That’s the one thing that has impressed me about Brandon Smith, moving from defensive back. When you’re far away from the ball sometimes you have time and distant on your side, you have a little bit more time to decipher. Brandon came in and in two days, okay this kid has that ability. He can see right now. A lot of players are big, physical and fast, but they can't see all the stuff that a linebacker has to see. It is truly that natural instinct.
Question: Is Brandon Smith catching up?
Jay Hopson: “Yes, he really is. He is a kid that’s worked extremely hard. I see him making one more step every day."
Even so, it will take at least a year for Smith to get comfortable enough to be a viable option. If we see him this year the linebacking corps will look like a MASH unit. Look for Smith to idle away on the bench until Mouton and Ezeh graduate, then battle for a starting job as a redshirt junior. He should be a special teams mainstay.
|The Horror Begins|
|Frowns: Utah overrrun|
|PBU leads to int|
|Blanket in man|
|FROWNS: Blown post|
|FROWNS: Slant = TD|
|FROWNS: tackle whiff|
|FROWNS: flat fail|
|Actually appears to be a safety here|
I don't remember where I read this but it sounds like the sort of quote that must have been on a message board somewhere, penned by one of those insider-type folks. Wherever it was, it lodged in my head and won't leave. Here's a possibly apocryphal quote about Stevie Brown from Greg Robinson: "he's a hell of a lot better player where he is now."
For the love of God, let that be true. A brief tour of Stevie Brown's 2008 can be found at right, or you can just read this in-depth scouting report: ack.
Brown … seems hopeless. He was quiet for a few games, then returned with a vengeance in this one. Some guys just can't figure out how to play, and at this point it would be shocking if the light ever went on.
Oh and the Northwestern one:
that's quintessential Brown: poor angles and poor awareness of the situation on the field.
And some others but you get the point. Brown was a horror show at safety.
But he's no longer a safety and if you look at the few highlights at right that don't start with the word "frowns" you'll find the athleticism that made Brown a big recruit out of high school and some good examples of man coverage. If he's not the last line of defense and he's in a lot of man against tight ends or tailbacks coming out of the back and maybe a slot receiver or three, maybe this could be okay? It certainly addresses one of the dumbest traits of Scott Shafer's tenure as defensive coordinator: leaving dinosaur MLB Johnny Thompson on the field against spread teams and asking him to cover… well, anyone. At the very least, Brown is more suited for modern football than a guy with a neck roll. Who covered slot receivers. Argh! That's another post, though, and one for tomorrow.
Brown, for one, thinks his move is a good one:
“It’s been going well. It was a little different for me at camp having to actually hit the O-lineman and tight ends all day, every day. Thus far, it’s been fine. I’ve been able to adjust to it very well. Coach Robinson does a good job teaching it and I think it’s going to work out very well for me.”
I do too, but man that incident in the spring game where the Coner juked him out of his jock, combined with, you know, everything else in his history, makes me leery. I do think he'll be in position to make a lot of plays, and I love the flexibility and common sense of putting a virtual safety in a spot where he can blitz, play zone, or man up. I like putting him behind deathbeast Brandon Graham, which should make it harder for defenses to exploit his lack of size. And people get better as they age. Michigan's put Brown in a spot to maximize his assets and minimize his downside, and I kind of sort of think it will work out.
Backups and Whatnot
None with experience. Michigan brought in three safety/linebacker hybrid freshmen, though. No one's heard much about Isaiah Bell (recruiting profile) so far because IIRC he's been injured. Mike Jones (recruiting profile)is second on the depth chart after enrolling early; Brandin Hawthorne (recruiting profile) also enrolled early but is, for now, behind a walk-on. Jones will play in an effort to get someone ready for the spot once Brown graduates; Hawthorne and Bell are likely to redshirt.