"First one of the year, huh? Here we go."
Here we go.
"Well it seems like we've been practicing for two months already and we've only had three. I don't know if that's a sign of old age or just the intensity of how we're going, but it's really good to be out here. It's good to be practicing again."
There hasn't been a whole lot of yelling. It's a lot more instructing. Do the kids seem to be on message?
"Well our style of coaching is teaching. And I think if you compare our staff -- I don't think a lot of times you have to do a lot of yelling. This team that we have right now is trying to do it right in every way. When a team's trying to do that, whether they're really young or making mistakes because they're young, as long as they're showing the effort that they are, there's really no reason to yell at them. You just have to correct them. When you have a young team, you have to be a great teacher. That's what our staff is really working hard to do."
So the effort is there?
"Yes. I've been really pleased. Now we don't have pads on yet obviously, and a lot of times what happens with programs, when pads come on, sometimes some programs slow down. I don't think that's going to happen with this team. This team seems to really really embrace and has bought into 'we must play as hard as we can on every play, and we have to get 11 bodies to the football.' When you watch practice with not pads on, we're getting 11 bodies to the football. We're getting really really good effort, so that's been positive."
<No pads. Nothing to see after the jump.>
DEPARTURES IN ORDER OF SIGNIFICANCE
- S Jordan Kovacs. Long time safety blanket specialized in open-field tackles, especially on fourth down, and was rarely victimized by his brain. Speed exposed by speedy South Carolina receivers, but you'll miss him early when someone screws up and you remember what it's like to have a safety biff a tackle and turn not much into lots.
- SDE Craig Roh. Journeyman switched positions every year, finally finding a home at SDE. Four sacks were second on the team to Jake Ryan; did a lot of non-boxscore stuff. Quality player; never quite panned out into the QB terror he was purported to be. Production should be replaceable.
- MLB Kenny Demens. Started every game, finished second on team with 82 tackles, 50 of them solo. Surprisingly quality in coverage; never great; guy you can win with.
- DT Will Campbell. Long-time disappointment got serious in 2012 and turned in adequate, blocker-absorbing season. Not an impact player—1.5 TFLs on the year. May go late in NFL draft thanks to sheer size.
- CB JT Floyd. Three-year starter turned career around after debacle of 2010, but was always kind of a sore spot as teams went after him and his lack of speed over and over again. Rarely cracked; had to be covered for at times. Iffy run defender. NFL FA type.
- WLB Brandin Hawthorne. Nonfactor.
Ryan, Ross, QWASH
- SLB Jake Ryan. Barbarian was Michigan's sole impact player on defense; shut down screens consistently, explosive rusher led team with 16 TFLs and four forced fumbles. Remember that thing he did? Yeah.
- MLB Desmond Morgan [probably]. With James Ross champing at the bit to enter the starting lineup, the stout Morgan is likely to move over to middle linebacker, allowing Ross to flow freely. Morgan was third on the team in tackles last year—M's linebackers were 1-2-3 like nature intended, with Gordon and Kovacs next—and displayed tackling prowess. He'll get pushed; he'll have to be forcibly unseated.
- NT Quinton Washington. Season surprise turned nose tackle from looming liability to actually kind of a strength. Not a Martin-type penetrator but ended up powerful and difficult to block. Range spans from merely okay to All Big Ten. Has future as wrestler named QWASH if football doesn't work out.
- CB Blake Countess. Freshman starter was hyped up as next great Michigan corner before being hewed down in the first game covering a punt. Will likely return to the field corner spot he locked down in the offseason.
- CB Raymon Taylor. Stepped in for Countess after Courtney Avery didn't seem up to the task and held his own for the most part. Teams mostly went after Floyd, leaving him alone. Did get burned for a touchdown in the bowl game. Tendency to get lost on zones should attenuate; has better size than any other experienced corner and will probably end up at boundary with Floyd's departure.
- WLB James Ross III. Bloodhound as a true freshman but too slight to take on blockers and big tailbacks effectively. With a season in the weight room should go from promising to excellent. 2012 : Jake Ryan :: 2013 : James Ross.
- FS Thomas Gordon. Unsung counterpart to Kovacs has not made as many flashy TFLs but is part of the Michigan defense's remarkable ability to prevent big plays over the last couple years. Probably takes over Kovacs's frequent blitzes.
- MLB Joe Bolden. Played a lot as a true freshman and will push Morgan and Ross equally. Survey says he loses the starting job but gets so much time he's essentially a third ILB starter. Needs to get a little meaner, work on pass drops, all that freshman business. Will be quality.
- Nickelback Courtney Avery. Diminutive but quality underneath cover guy; PBU and INT sealed OSU game; also a crappy edge tackler; fine option as a third corner.
- DT Jibreel Black. Spotted Roh, could not take his job; may be a candidate to move to SDE if he can put on the weight; emergence of Frank Clark threatens to cut into playing time.
- WDE Brennen Beyer. Best of the three WDEs at run D; nonfactor getting to the QB. Let's all focus our Heininger Certainty Principle at him.
- WDE Frank Clark. Co-starter at WDE made more plays behind the line (9 TFLs) and batted down a lot of passes, but had trouble beating blocks—thus all the batted passes—and still blows contain responsibility on the read option a maddening amount. Up or out for him.
- SDE Keith Heitzman. Redshirt freshman flashed a couple things in the spring game and came on as a rotation guy about halfway through the year, grading out okay. Could emerge into SDE starter or could maintain that rotation thing another year.
- NT Ondre Pipkins. Massively hyped recruit was rotation partner with Washington. Got knocked over by a running back once; did bull his way into the backfield impressively a couple times. DTs need time; Pipkins should make a leap in the offseason.
- WDE Mario Ojemudia. Hilariously undersized high school DT promised to be mini-Martin… still working on that. Needed size, technique; may burst past WDE competitors with strong offseason.
WHAT'S NEW, OR CLOSE ENOUGH, ANYWAY
A couple guys on the DL. Last season this post focused on the three departures from the line, found only Washington and Campbell and what seemed like a woefully undersized Roh, and was pushing any button available whether it was marked "PANIC" or not. A year later, Roh was good, Washington dang good, Campbell at least serviceable, and we're all like COME AT ME ATTRITION BRO.
The problems here are insignificant compared to last year. Michigan gets Matt Godin, Willie Henry, Chris Wormley, and Tom Strobel off redshirts. They'll add an early-enrollee in Taco Charlton plus a couple of guys who just showed very well at their respective all star games in Maurice Hurst and Henry Poggi. They return Washington, Pipkins, Black, Heitzman, and three guys who saw time at WDE. They will find folks to fill in the gaps.
They do have to figure that out. First up: dollars to donuts Black moves to SDE. It's a better fit with his size, he spent that fateful final drive of the Outback Bowl running around the South Carolina left tackle, and even if it's a horde of redshirt freshmen who would hypothetically replace him, there is a horde.
At the now-vacated three-tech spot, pick from Wormley, Henry, and Godin. I bet Wormley is the winner there. There will be rotation, and improvement, and you will feel fuzzily positive about this in September.
Lineback—nevermind. Demens was missed in said bowl game, but with another offseason behind Morgan, Bolden, and Ross the ILBs should actually get better next year.
Not having an utterly reliable tiny linebacker at safety bailing your ass out for four years. Miss you, small guy xoxo.
WHAT'S THE FIRST FOUR SEASONS OF BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
Keith Heitzman is like a living breathing miracle of having a two deep
DEPTH DEPTH DEPTH DEPTH DEPTH DEPTH DEPTH WOOOOO! We covered the line. Each positions has a two-deep of non-true freshmen, many of them proven or hyped. At linebacker there are three quasi-starters plus a solid rotation at SLB. The secondary is a bit dodgier but Terry Richardson should be serviceable as a sophomore.
Experience. Michigan loses five starters, yeah, but that's almost literally all they lose. Mike Jones may or may not return for another season of staring from the bench, other than that the only player they lose is Brandin Hawthorne, who was exclusively special teams as a senior. They return 16 heavy contributors to the D, 17 if you count Jarrod Wilson.
Linebackers. Ryan, of course, and then you've got Ross/Bolden/Morgan returning in the middle. Many people will pine for Michigan's linebacking corps next year.
My difficulty in thinking about bullets for the following two sections. Only got two in each.
WHAT'S THE LAST SEASON OF BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
looks good; was Mattison getting a free rusher at Miller's backside
Getting to the quarterback. Mattison generates lots of free blitzers with his schemes; other than that the only guy to consistently generate pass rush was Ryan. WDE, the glamor spot in a 4-3 under, barely produced. Three guys had three sacks between them last year. All of those guys are back, and Charlton gets added in. The time for someone to step up is now.
Matters should be a bit better on the interior, as whoever replaces Campbell is going to be a leaner, quicker guy who can get more penetration than he did.
A lack of outright stars. You've got Ryan, and I think Ross will get there next year, and then… maybe Countess, but that's asking for a lot after an injury like he had, and… dot dot dot.
WHAT'S INEXPLICABLE JIMI HENDRIX
Will not having Jordan Kovacs doom Michigan to a Yards After Safety kind of life? I don't think so but the parade of incompetents (and Jamar Adams) before him makes me leery.
Can anyone step in right away and be a QB terror? Looking at you, Taco Charlton. He and Ojemudia seem like the best bets for a truly fearsome edge rusher—we've seen a lot of Frank Clark this year and he just hasn't done much.
MANDATORY WILD-ASS GUESS
I was worried about a backslide last year. If there was one, it was exceedingly minor. In 2011 Michigan was 17th in yardage, 6th in scoring defense, 36th in pass efficiency D, and 39th in rushing D. Last year those numbers were 13th/20th/50th/51st, and if you'd added Blake Countess for the whole year, well…
I tend to trust the poorer numbers there since Michigan moves at such a slow pace and their YPC average allowed—3.8—is pretty meh. Pre-Outback Bowl, FEI has them 20th, and that feels about right.
Michigan is probably still a year away from being capital E elite, but you could see how they get there ahead of schedule. It requires three things:
Countess comes back and is a "war daddy," to use super secret football lingo.
Someone emerges as as serious pass rush threat at WDE.
Kovacs, peace be unto him, is adequately replaced by Jarrod Wilson.
#1 is possible. #2 seems doubtful, and #3… I hesitate to predict anything about that because it will blow up all over.
Anyway. Michigan tightens up its run D, moving from around 3.8 YPC allowed to under 3.5. The pass defense looks worse superficially because the Big Ten isn't as terrible at throwing the ball next year (right?) but is actually better since neither starting corner spends the entire year getting balls thrown over his head. The D moves up to around tenth in the advanced stats, stays static in yardage and improves pass D efficiency.
- Hey hey what can I say, day to day day to day to day day.
“[We had a] good work day yesterday, [good] preparation. [Iowa is] one of the good football teams, especially a team that, capacity-wise, they’re playing well when you look at taking care of the football, turnovers, and the running game from an offensive line standpoint. They’re typical Iowa where they’re going to get on you and they’re going to do a great job in the zone schemes. Defensively they’re going to play very tight up front and let the linebackers flow. You see that. In the kicking game, they’ve got some real weapons in their kickoff return and their kick coverage and in the kickoff that they’ve done a nice job with. For us we had a good practice. Like I said, it was a good work day. Need another good work day today.”
- If Denard were a rapper his stage name would be Day2Day.
- Hoke says decision on Denard's status for Saturday will be made based on health, not sentiment.
- Mario Ojemudia is "coming along," which probably means he won't be ready for Saturday.
- Will Campbell "probably played his best football game" against Northwestern.
- Hoke did think about going for a touchdown instead of a field goal at the end of regulation but decided not to.
Whether Denard could play situationally even if he were unable to throw the ball is something Hoke may consider.(What does that even mean. Aye aye aye.) Take two: Hoke will talk to Denard about playing situationally or as a runner if he remains unable to throw the ball on Saturday. Maybe.
How are you doing?
“Better than the alternative.”
“Really proud of our football team. I’m proud of how they stuck together. I think I mentioned, I may not have -- they really stuck together the whole game. They believed in each other, believed in what we were trying to get accomplished. I thought there were some really smart decisions made by players and by some of the guys on the staff when the two returners at the end of the game on the punt, because of the way they tried to punt the ball, Gallon was able to get some real positive yardage and set up being able to get the ball to whatever yard line it was to try for the field goal to tie it. If you have one returner back and that ball bounces, you lose field position and those things. Kids executed it well.
“This week’s a special week. Number one, our seniors. Last time they get to play in the greatest stadium in this country. Get to wear that blue jersey here at home and so it’s really special for us as coaches and for those underclassmen who go out and play well. Iowa, as you know, they’re a very good football team. They’ve lost the last two games I think by a total of six points. Run the football well. I think they’ve had some nicked up people when you look at it earlier in the year, but I think they’re really coming together. James Vandenberg, I think, is a very good quarterback. We’ve got our work cut out for us, and we have a lot to do.”
- Denard is improving slowly.
- Russell Bellomy is suffering from Things and Stuff. Probably. Hoke wouldn't comment. Whatever it is should not be season-ending, however.
- Mario Ojemudia's status is up in the air because he has a Boo Boo.
- Jeremy Gallon is taking it easy with his ankle issue, but should be good to go on Saturday.
- The coaches have talked about bringing in Jack Miller or Joey Burzynski to address some of the interior offensive line issues.
“We all set? I was obviously pleased with the win on the road. Every week is a championship game, and we look at it that way, so going to Minneapolis and winning was important. Did we play our best? No. I don’t think we did. Kicking game and a lot of areas we have to do a better job -- kicking, covering, punting. We had two dumb penalties, the blocks in the back that obviously moves the ball back, puts you in a worse position. Defensively [I] thought we kept ourselves in the game and at the same time, we need to do a better job against the run. Didn’t think we did as well a job against the rush, but that being said, it kept us in the game offensively. We talked afterwards. I thought Devin did a nice job managing the offense. Thought he made some plays, extended some plays, and did a great job in that area. On the one pick, it was one that he’d like back, we’d all like back, but I think he learned from it. Took care of the football and did a nice job.
“This week we play a very good football team in Northwestern. Well coached, and I have a lot of respect for Pat. How he coaches and how his team plays. They have some threats, you know, offensively. Venric Mark is an extremely shifty, quick runner. Does a tremendous job. I think they’re blocking well up front. Defensively, overall as a team they’re plus six in turnover margin, which is a very good number, so from the defensive side, they’ve done a good job. They’ve only thrown three interceptions on the year. That’s with both quarterbacks in -- Colter and Siemian. So they’re doing a nice job managing that part of it. And Tyler Scott on the defensive side is a guy who’s very active. Leads the Big Ten in sacks and forced fumbles. We have our work cut out for us.”
- Be an organ donor. Beat Ohio. Save lives.
- Mario Ojemudia has a "thing" and "stuff." You think I'm making this up but I'm not.
- Denard has a tingly thingamaling that has not completely resolved itself yet.
"Sun came up on Sunday" / file
“I want to thank Wolverines for Life and the transplant center for all they do. To Tucker, who you heard from earlier. We’re glad to have you here and glad to be part of it. I know we have a couple guys who are pretty involved who were part of it. Thanks for that.
“As far as where we’re at right now football-wise, we need to do a better job from the perspective of a coaching standpoint, because it starts right there. It starts with me. We need to play better football. We need to play better in the red zone from an offensive standpoint. And part of that and most of that is you have to be able to run the football in the red zone. That’s an important place because in the throw game, it shrinks down there a little bit. Your verticalness of what you can do and being able to run the football is a big part of it. We didn’t do that well obviously the other night, but that’s something that will take a front seat and center during this week as we get ready to go to Minneapolis. It’s an important game for multiple reasons. Number one, it’s in our devision. It’s an opportunity that we get back out on the field, which we need to go to, and the Brown Jug is part of that great rivalry and tradition and trophy that we’d like to keep here in Ann Arbor.”