The nutty Michigan coverage isn't so much about Harbaugh as it is a signal to the Big Ten that Fox wants to party.
A note before we start: this preview relies heavily on the defensive UFRs of last year 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.
|STRONG DE||Yr.||NOSE TACKLE||Yr.||3-TECH||Yr.||WEAK DE||Yr.|
|Brennen Beyer||Sr.||Ryan Glasgow||So.*#||Willie Henry||So.*||Frank Clark||Sr.|
|Taco Charlton||So.||Ondre Pipkins||Jr.||Chris Wormley||So.*||Mario Ojemudia||Jr.|
|Henry Poggi||Fr.*||Bryan Mone||Fr.||Maurice Hurst||Fr.*||Lawrence Marshall||Fr.|
It is time for Michigan to kick some ass on defense, and if they are going to do so it starts here: Michigan has two veteran, quality seniors playing defensive end spots they can hack this year. Both can really play; neither has broken through such that many people believe this.
It is go time for these gentlemen. Victory or death!
WEAKSIDE DEFENSIVE END
BEFORE PSU AFTER
hell yes I'm recycling this joke, because it was also Frank Clark's season
One of the more broadly correct bits of last year's preview was this section, which asked everyone to pump the breaks on the FRANK CLARK hype train:
The distance from Frank Clark 2012 to what he's supposed to be this year is immense. Too immense. I have to concede significant improvement to the chatter, but something along the lines of Tim Jamison (as a junior: 10 TFL, 5.5 sacks) would be a massive step forward.
Clark racked up 12 TFLs and 4.5 sacks. Self high five. I was broadly correct.
But though the stats and overall Tim Jamison-esque B+ season were accurate, the shape of that season is really promising. Clark started the year making little impact against MAC teams; he ended it by straight-up whipping Brandon Scherff and CJ Fiedorowicz en route to his second career game with a double-digit positive UFR score. He was a C at best to start; by the end he was an A-.
[After the JUMP: Frank Clark beasts up, fitting Beyer into the front, DEATH STARE 2014]
News bullets and other important items:
- Blake Countess (groin) and Mario Ojemudia (ankle) were held out of practice but should return by Monday
- Drake Harris injured his other hamstring and has been limited to doing rehab reps
- The offensive line could change from morning practice to afternoon practice until they find a combination they like. Don’t shoot the messenger.
- The open scrimmage on the 16th was Hoke’s idea and will feature…football. They’re going to play football.
“Thanks for coming. Number one, it’s always good to get in the pads for the first day. You know, even though you've been in short pads and helmets it was good to get out in full pads. It was good that the energy that we've had all week has been really positive, how the guys have reacted to some adversity that we put them under. Today we did a little crowd noise and certain situational football setting and you could see we've got a lot of work to do. So we'll continue to put a bunch of pressure on our team. You know, Blake [Countess], he's got a little bit of a groin so we held him out today. Mario's [Ojemudia] got a little bit of an ankle, he's in a boot, but talking to him he said that he feels better every day and I think he'll be okay. Blake and Mario, they should be by Monday ready to go so we're excited about that. We've had good practices but we've got a long way to go when you look at where we need to be.”
What would you say, in just the five days of practice, you've seen the most improvement of and where would you say 'we've got to get this better pretty quick?'
“Well, I guess the biggest thing is how they came into camp. From conditioning and all, the kind of shape we're in, to football IQ and where that's at, and that's why we’ve got to continue to put a lot of stress on them. You know, that way things become a little more reactive and automatic when you're looking at it. That's probably in how they're competing with each other, you know, we get a couple scuffles now and then, and most of that is guys just going. And they're going hard.”
Could you talk about the enthusiasm? They were jacked up at the beginning today.
“Well, they were jacked up at the beginning. It was great they were jacked up at the beginning and it was great they were jacked up at the end. I mean, you need both. You can always start fast but you've got to finish. I thought they've come out every day that way, so they've been excited about football. Obviously tomorrow we'll go two practices and that will be a little bit more challenging in some ways. I think we've got a really good plan when you look at the health and wellness and getting them off their feet and trying to get them as much sleep as we can. That's a little different than years past and I think that's a testament a little bit to how they've gone about their team business.”
About the freshman; are all of them participating?
“All of them are participating. Some of them have to leave a little early depending on what they have on the academic schedule.”
They're all qualified?
“Oh yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, yes. I didn't know you were talking about that. They're all qualified, they're all here.”
With being unsure whether Ty [Issac] is going to be given the opportunity to play or not, how do you decide how many reps to get him in case he can play or in case he doesn’t and you don’ want to take away from somebody else
“Right, right. And I think the one thing we’ve done is we are getting a ton of reps. How we practice—so there’s enough reps there. I think as we get closer, a week from now, when you start really game planning—because he really needs to take some reps to learn what the offense is.I think luckily he’s played at a Division I university and there’s a lot of similarities always but I think this has been beneficial for him and I think everyone’s kind of gotten what we need.
Would you be surprised if Devin [Gardner] wasn’t the guy in week 1?
“I would think he’s had a really good fall camp so far. You know, it’s five days. He’s right now the guy taking most of the reps with the ones but we’re splitting them up a little bit at times and if he’s not playing well, you know, Shane [Morris]—Doug’s not hesitant in practice to make that change and so they both are taking reps with the ones. Devin’s getting the majority of them.
You talked a little bit about multiple running backs. Could you see early in the season, let’s say Devin’s the starter, trying to get Shane in there earlier than later and getting him some playing time?
“You know, we haven’t really talked about what kind of contingency plan or plan to try and get him, if he isn’t the starter, reps yet in that first game, second game, third game, fourth game, whatever it might be.”
You talked before about staying away from ‘I like this team,’ but do you have a sense of this team’s identity yet?
“No, not yet but we talk about it every day, their identity and what they want to make it. It’s things that you do repeatedly and they can be good or bad.”
And what’s the response you get?
“Well, I think from a physical standpoint it’s been real positive. I think from a competitive standpoint it’s been real positive.”
In terms of freshmen getting in the mix, Freddy [Canteen] especially…
“I think Freddy. I think Mason Cole. Mason Cole’s a good football player. I think I said that in the spring. He’s a little different than most freshmen offensive linemen in some ways. I think [Bryan] Mone, Mone’s a little different. Him being here was a big plus. Wilton Speight’s taken some good reps. Drake Harris is the other guy. He’s got a little bit of a ham, hammy, hamstring and so he’s a guy that hasn’t—he’s taken some limited reps but not like we’d like to get with him.
Was that something that he re-hurt this week?
“Yeah. He re-hurt it early in the week. Different hamstring.”
Did you guys think about shutting him down for a while?
“He has been shut down.”
You said he’s been doing limited reps…
“Limited, yeah. And most of those are rehab reps.”
You were in pads for the first time today. Do you know when you’ll have your first scrimmage?
“Yeah I do but I don’t know if I remember right now. Sometime next week, but I couldn’t tell you when it is. I kind of go by it daily.”
Blake’s injury is, you said, a groin. Is that related to the core [injury that caused him to have offseason surgery]?
“No. No, no, no. He’ll be fine.”
Is this just a brief thing with Drake here?
“You know, I’m not a doctor so it’s hard for me to really analyze that. I think it’s something that we’re very weary about. I think Coach Wellman, Strength and Conditioning—I think the rehab that we’ve done, I think Paul Schmidt and the trainers have all handled it very well. You know, is it a nagging thing? Maybe. Some people have those things so we have to think what can we do to help besides this rest and they know much better than I know.”
Who do you see mixing in besides Funchess among the wide receivers at the top spot?
“Jehu [Chesson]. Amara’s [Darboh] done well. Dennis [Norfleet] and Freddy [Canteen] right now have done a nice job. Bo Dever. Jack Wangler’s made some good plays but if I would look at that group I think Funch, Amarah, Jehu, Fleet and Canteen.”
Norfleet and Canteen are at slot?
“They’re at slot, yes.”
What kind of progress has Amara made after sitting out last year with injury?
“He really has come along real well. I think in the spring, probably the last two weeks, we could have put him in live stuff but we just decided not to. He’s done well.”
Where have you seen this week the impact of Coach Nussmeier’s new system on the offensive line?
“Well, I think there’s some things that we like more vertical. I think that the combination schemes that we want to be a little more heavy on the line of scrimmage. When you look at hands, you know, four hands on one man to initiate some movement on the line of scrimmage. I think the backs themselves, Drake Johnson, Derrick [Green] and De’Veon [Smith], they’re downhill guys so it’s punctured the line of scrimmage a little bit.
When it comes to the line right now, how do you balance moving guys around trying different things versus wanting to have one unit building cohesion playing alongside each other?
“How do you balance it? I think it can be tricky but I think it can be massaged very well. I think Darrell [Funk] has done a nice job with it and Nuss and who we’ve put in that first group and maybe that changes daily. I’m sure it will change from a morning practice to the afternoon at times until we really feel this is it with these guys. I think the competition there has been really good for us and I think they’ve come out every day very physical.”
So who was the first group today?
“Today it was Mason Cole at the left tackle position, Jack [Miller] was at the center position, Magnuson was at the left guard position for a little bit, Ben Braden was at right tackle, and the right guard was Graham [Glasgow] and David Dawson.”
Can I ask a question about the open scrimmage [on August 16th]?
“I’d love for you to.”
You talked about in the spring how you didn’t show your cards. Is this going to be the same kind of thing?
“That’s why you have to come.”
You could have opposing coaches come in, right?
“If they’re coming in during two-a-day…”
“Well, they could. Do you think they will?
Yeah, they could have a graduate assistant or somebody…
“Are you going to trust a graduate assistant right now?”
I think you were one once, right?
I don’t know your bio by heart.
“That’s okay. Yeah but what are you showing? We’re going to play football though.”
So you will keep your cards close to the vest.
“No, you said that. I didn’t say that. We’re going to play football.”
Whose idea was it?
You’ve got to put this thing together pretty quickly.
“I think it’s good. You know, the more you look at pro football and for a team that’s got some youth but experience I think it’s good for them to be in front of people. Just like crowd noise today, I want as many distractions as we can get. I also think it’s great for Michigan fans because we love them.”
Do you want to invite us more to distract the players?
“No, probably not. You don’t distract them. You may distract me.”
Playing at home hasn’t been a problem. Have you considered doing a scrimmage at an away stadium?
“You know, we’ve done that. We did that when we were going to Alabama, to Texas. I thought that was really good for us. I thought it would’ve been maybe better if we could’ve opened it up and had people in Ford Field. I think that would’ve been pretty cool but that’s pretty hard to negotiate when they have their security, their event staff, all those things.”
- Boo boo watch: Courtney Avery and AJ Williams are back at practice. This is not a drill.
- Boo boo watch part 2: Taylor Lewan didn't practice yesterday but will today. He's fine. Mario Ojemudia will be the most limited of the boo boo watchees. I don't know if he'll play.
- The offensive line is in an introspective phase. Changes might occur as early as this week. However, the bye week presents a much better opportunity to shake things up.
"Good practice yesterday. Thought we came out and competed very hard, which you expect every day. But I thought we physically were getting after each other, and we'll do the same thing today. We've got to play the run better, run the ball better, same old stuff you always hear, but it's the truth and it is what it is. I liked how we came out and competed with each other."
Noticeably different from last week?
"On a Tuesday? Probably a little bit."
A lot players said last Tuesday was lackluster. Can you tell that?
"They would know best if they felt that way. Maybe it's an individual thing, too."
Can you talk about UConn's defensive front?
"Yeah they're a big front. Not quite Notre Dame big in some ways, but they're a big front. Active in the linebackers. I think Smallwood is a guy who is their main bellcow when it comes to tackling and getting the ball on the ground. Just reading some of the comments Paul has made, I know they want to play better against the run also. I'm sure they've worked their tails off like we are."
Did Taylor Lewan practice?
"He didn't do anything yesterday. He did some alternate conditioning stuff, but he'll practice today. He's fine."
That's my compilation of all the Zips passing plays and check-downs. What you saw:
- Lots of quick, dinky-dunky passes (not on the DL)
- A handful of screens the DL didn't chase
- Black consistently getting into the backfield but nobody else.
The first complaint of many from the near-disaster on Saturday was the front four's continued inability to get any pass rush, with the bonus problem this time of no contain. Many observers noted, and the coaches confirmed, that part of the problem was the pass rushers were often chasing the quarterback instead of keeping him boxed in so the rest of the rush could arrive. Other culprits mentioned: Akron was doing a lot of max protect, a lot of uncalled holding, and of course the biggie: our DL getting completely owned.
So let's look at some Akron passing plays and see who to blame:
While the Zips are mostly a dinky-dunk offense, when they do go long they tend to leave the running backs in to help with pass pro. Max protect is generally a win for the DL already since spending seven (or eight!) guys on four DL gives the DBs an easy time. You usually want to call it against blitzes, since defensive linemen who don't have to worry about the run will break through eventually. (Unless they don't).
They did this a lot in the first half. On Akron's first drive there were two long pass calls on 2nd and 10 and 3rd and 10 that give us a baseline.
Michigan was in their base 4-3 under and rushed four. Akron had the RB and both TEs both stay in to block. Both back and the TE to the strong side help the RT block Heitzman; he's not going anywhere. Washington gets off slowly and is doubled by the right guard and center; he gets no push on the center and the guard only has to help a little while watching to see if Bolden comes.
Clark is doubled by the weakside TE and the LT—he tried to bull rush the TE, got stood up, then ripped around him and was in the middle of trying to split the two when the pass got off. Black gets the only single-team, but he tried to go inside of the LG who ran him right into Washington's mess; Black tried the other side and got held but that wouldn't have mattered since the pass is already gone.
Blame: Knock QWash for not even moving his center, and Clark and Heitzman can't split their double-teams.
"Well, we're ready to go out for the next one, I guess. That was an exciting game. The thing I'd say is that I was very proud of how hard our kids played and how they were very resilient. The biggest thing -- we've talked about it all since we've been in it, is red zone defense is critical. If you can keep teams from scoring seven down there, you're going to win. There were so many opportunities down there, which is not always a great thing or a good thing, but that happens when you play a good football team, and I was really proud of our kids, the way they played down there."
How much do you take into account how good Notre Dame's offensive line is when you judge your defensive line?
"They're very good. They're strong, they're big, they're experienced. But I still believe that we should win the battles we're supposed to win. A couple times we gave up yardage that we shouldn't have given up because guys got out of their gaps. Guys didn't play the technique. When you're a young player, you have to play great technique. That's the only chance you have. I think a couple times we didn't do that. We weren't gap-sound a couple times as far as fitting our gaps. When you look at our tape, you're sitting there going, 'This should have been a hit.' I go back to the fact that they all stuck together, though, and they all played so hard during the game. Now it's time to move on to the next one."
FORMATION NOTES: Michigan played this one vanilla, opting for either their traditional 4-3 under…
…or a 4-2-5 nickel package…
Furman is offscreen on the right hash.
…with the occasional insertion of a 3-3-5 on passing downs. There was no okie stuff with seven guys at the line of scrimmage, and it was very rare to see a safety walk down. With the line ripping through Central's pass protection there was little need to do anything else. If Michigan could manage that against a tough opponent that would be nice.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: ALL OF THE SUBSTITUTIONS
Right. Seth has already covered this in exacting detail. In brief: the secondary was consistent, with Furman and Wilson at safety and Taylor and Countess the starting corners. When Michigan went to the nickel, Stribling and Hollowell were about even, with Stribling getting the first at-bats.
Inside linebacker was split almost evenly between Morgan, Ross, and Bolden, with Gedeon getting some reps later and RJS right at the end. SAM was about 50/50 Beyer/Gordon, except that a lot of that was at DE in nickel packages.
Okay. The line. Okay. Your nominal starters were Heitzman, Washington, Black, and Clark, except there was so much nickel that the nose was lifted half the time. Wormley, Pipkins, Glasgow, and Ojemudia got a large amount of time backing up the starters. Godin, Ash, Henry, and Charlton got in later. Godin actually split snaps almost equally with the other two SDEs; at the other three spots the third guy was definitively third.
[After THE JUMP: rotation, rotation, rotation. Pass rush! Safety assessments!]