"Rodrick Williams Jr.'s 10-month old, 2-foot-long savannah monitor named "Kill" gets the RB some strange looks when they go for walks together."
Michigan's run game started out with a thud, with a series of short gains and even the occasional Dread Pirate TFL rearing its ugly head. As with the Notre Dame game, the problems due to were a mélange of errors from lots of people. And as you might expect against Miami, most of them were mental issues.
People have asserted that Miami was dropping an eighth guy in the box and that guy was blowing up the Michigan run game. That's simplistic; these days spread-oriented offenses are looking at one or zero deep safeties on every play. The eight man box is something you have to deal with as a coach, and anyway when you're playing Miami it shouldn't matter.
Michigan's issues were largely assignment-based, with the occasional bad block thrown in; the tailbacks were better but still had issues. The nice thing is that as the game went along we saw Michigan correct some of those those problems and start moving forward. Mason Cole in particular was evolving right on the field, hampering two plays with errors and then executing in near-identical situations just a few minutes later. One was mostly executing a block; this one was about IDing the guy he needs to address.
Which Guy Needs Help? Not That One.
This is actually the first play of the game. It comes from the 50 after the least interesting successful Dennis Norfleet kick return ever (run to the right until the kicker stops you), and Michigan comes out in an ace set. Miami has a 4-3 under on the field (sort of; their SAM is 190-pound Lo Wood) and will roll a safety down for guy #8.
Michigan's going to run inside zone and things are going to go pretty well all over the field with the exception of Mason Cole and AJ Williams trying to handle the backside DE.
This is your presnap setup:
There's a one-technique NT and a five-tech SDE. The SDE is splitting Cole and Williams down the middle, and the play is going to the top of the screen. It is very hard for backside blockers to do anything with a guy who is 1) lined up playside of him when 2) they get no help. This is about to happen to Williams.
I'm not entirely sure why this guy is free to fly down the line and blow this play up. The other DL are handled by Michigan's OL driving guys lined up a half-step to the playside of them. It seems like he figures that the OLB is going to be there to clean up anything that breaks behind him, so gap integrity is for suckers. (Michigan will get a bunch of waggles off this tendency, as Miami isn't using that OLB to contain hard upfield.)
On the snap Magnuson hops over a half-gap to get the nose; Cole goes to his zone a gap over without touching anyone and then starts helping on Magnuson's block. Williams is going for this DE:
Williams does not get the DE even a little bit, and with Miami DL set up to the outside on the frontside of the play Green is correctly going right up the gut, something that looks promising as Michigan gets movement on the DL.
Williams was put in a tough spot here; even so this feels substandard. Annoying the guy, pushing him so that he's on the correct side of the LOS, maybe cutting him: all of these things are better than escorting him to the RB.
A yard later it's clear that Michigan has cleaned out the DL; one linebacker shot a gap and is going to help tackle here but without the space constriction provided by the Williams block-type substance shooting that gap is a dangerous game to play that is 50/50 to put the tailback one on one with the safety for all the yards.
Green falls forward for two as Magnuson finishes pancaking the NT. Cole ended up not really doing much of anything on the play.
And the slow version:
[After THE JUMP: something that goes better]
FORMATION NOTES: Not a whole lot that was unusual. Michigan has changed the alignment of their backs in some shotgun sets:
I called this "shotgun deep" since the QB is still at 5 yards but the back is behind instead of parallel. I imagine they did this for the same reason the pistol exists: to give the back downhill momentum when he takes a handoff.
Conventional shotgun sets were frequent as well, as were split TEs. This is the first snap of the game and features Hill motioning from an H-back spot to the slot; he'll block for Funchess on a successful flanker screen.
Michigan would occasionally scrape up an I-Form out of whatever was laying around, like when Chesson motioned in here. This actually cut behind Chesson's force block to pick up 15.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: OL was Cole-Magnuson-Miller-Burzynski/Kalis-Braden the whole way. Gardner obviously QB until garbage time; he got pulled a couple drives before Michigan did much non-WR substitution.
Feature backs were Green and Smith with Hayes apparently a third down option; Drake Johnson only saw garbage carries and should no longer be considered a playing time contender going forward.
At WR it was Funchess, Chesson, Darboh, and Norfleet rotating approximately equally; Canteen did not get on until late. Bo Dever is your backup slot, apparently. Tight end was mostly Hill and Williams with a bit less Heitzman sprinkled in.
[After THE JUMP: all things discussed.]
8/30/2014 – Michigan 52, Appalachian State 14 – 1-0
NOBODY TOLD US WE WERE SUPPOSED TO GO THAT WAY LAST YEAR [Fuller]
I watched a lot of football on Saturday. I did not watch Magnolia because my then-girlfriend and current wife thought that her coping mechanism for sadness, which is apparently suffusing yourself in it until your fingers look like you've been in a pool of despair for hours, was applicable to humans. I mean:
That's what I did seven years ago. I had to turn it off because Magnolia is a movie that is unrelentingly miserable. I did not need additional resources in this department at that time.
I didn't turn anything off on Saturday. I watched twelve hours of football after getting back from Michigan Stadium. The only mention of Michigan's game before insomniac time was one dismissive sentence from Rece Davis, something about how there will not be "another seminal college football moment" this weekend. They didn't even take the opportunity to put gratuitous Funchess on the screen.
The only difference between this game and Michigan's opening-weekend romp over CMU last year: a nation's hope Michigan would blow it again. Once it became clear this would not be the case, a nation forgot the game happened before it had even ended. This was the best possible outcome.
So 1) hooray for the best possible outcome and 2) don't let that change your opinion about whether this was the dumbest scheduling decision in the history of scheduling decisions. The nation knew this about Michigan before Saturday: lol Appalachian State. This is what they know today: lol Appalachian State. On College Football Final their brief treatment of the game gave more time to 2007 than 2013. We are experiencing the maximum possible upside from this game, which is everyone immediately forgetting about it like Michigan was thumping a MAC opponent.
And thank God for that. Michigan eased out to a 21 point lead, and then it was suddenly 42, and at no point did Appalachian State look anything like a secret powerhouse; at no point did Michigan look so utterly clueless that they might blow their immense physical advantages. At no point did I wish I had a cyanide capsule handy.
The one thing worth noting here is that Michigan does seem prepared to deal with the football reality of 2014. Greg Mattison's defense played in the face of the opposition all game long, featuring nickel and dime packages frequently. They shot a safety into the box on most plays. They've got the personnel they need to deal with the spread. Possibly two at once.
Contrast this to 2007, when Johnny Sears started at cornerback in the Horror, with a patently unprepared Stevie Brown at safety. The linebackers available outside of Shawn Crable were Obi Ezeh, Chris Graham, and John Thompson. Michigan spent the entire day with two safeties twelve yards deep like they were playing Peyton Manning, and were surprised when the numbers didn't work out. Their linebackers were two-down thumpers for whom space is a cold vacuum in which death awaits. They barely had one cornerback, let alone a chorus line of them.
A big chunk of my spread zealotry has been the fact that Michigan has made it look unstoppable from the drop. They validated the entire idea against Northwestern and set their program on fire in the Horror and the Post-Apocalyptic Oregon game that followed. Put a running quarterback in front of them and they will die explosively. It's happened far too often the last 15 years for it to be a coincidence.
My primary worry about Brady Hoke is that he's stuck on a vision of 1990s Michigan in a world that's evolved past that. There was no sign of that Saturday. The defense's radical makeover paired with what was not the cram-the-box cro-magnon ball it certainly could have been against this opponent felt a tiny bit like John Beilein overhauling his program to be a man-defense, ball-screen offense juggernaut.
I'm not looking for a juggernaut this year. This is the punch-the-cow-for-butter year in which any yellow semi-solid will do. I proclaim this semi-solid yellow, and thank God for that.
Now let us immediately forget this game ever happened, like everyone else.
Parkinggod's usual Michigan-centric one:
And if ten minutes isn't enough here are 20:
Also a guy noticed an eerie parallel between Blake Countess's LOS stick and one from Charles Woodson:
Brady Hoke Epic Double Points Of The Week. Yes, points. We're moving this to a hockey-like three stars system.
Michigan racked up 350 first half yards while holding App St to 60 en route to a 35-0 first half lead, so there are many, many candidates. It says here that Devin Funchess gets #1, because good Lord that is an unstoppable freak show.
#2 is Devin Gardner, who was on point with every throw except one, flashed that athletic ability, and stepped up (up!) in the pocket when suffering edge pressure
#3 is split between Kyle Kalis and Ben Braden. Michigan started gashing App St when Kalis replaced Joey Burzynski, with big runs repeatedly coming over the right side of the line.
Honorable mention: Basically the entire defense. There were no particular standouts, though.
Epic Double Point Standings.
3: Devin Funchess (#1, APP)
2: Devin Gardner (#2, APP)
0.5: Kyle Kalis (T3, APP), Ben Braden (T3, APP)
Brady Hoke Epic Double Fist-Pump Of The Week.
For the single individual best moment.
Michigan had gotten a couple of solid 10-20 yard runs from Smith and Green already when Green took the snap on an outside zone and shot downfield untouched by man or beast until 60 yards had elapsed. Runs. We may have them.
Honorable mention: They threw a screen to Norfleet! Any of the variously unstoppable Funchess touchdowns. Hellacious Stiffarm wins by a nose over LOL I'm Tall. Tacosack, hopefully the awesome thumping cousin of Tacopants.
Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.
AppSt: Derrick Green rumbles for 60 yards.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK. That one time Devin Gardner threw way behind a blitheringly open Devin Funchess to prevent him from going 14/14.
Honorable mention: That one drive where the Mountaineers drove the ball on the ground against the second team.
AppSt: Devin Gardner dares to throw an incomplete pass.
[After the JUMP: Funchess! Holes! Teddy KGB!]
|Mason Cole||Fr.||Erik Magnuson||So.*||Graham Glasgow||Jr.*||Kyle Kalis||So.*||Ben Braden||So.*|
|Logan Tuley-Tillman||Fr.*||Kyle Bosch||So.||Jack Miller||Jr.*||Joey Burzynski||Jr.*||David Dawson||Fr.*|
starters arbitrarily decided to be people who started at least 7 games
I apologize. Last year's edition of this post started with an assertion that "things almost literally can't be worse." It wasn't sunshine…
The way this went down gives some reason for concern. … Michigan [will be] starting at least one player by default. Michigan saw what "by default" can lead to last year. While that isn't likely to recur, neither does the situation promise an amazing one-year turnaround.
…but I didn't recommend that you find a bunker and stock up on pudding pops. Last year did not recur. It went the other direction, hard.
In 2012, Michigan decided to flip their left guard to center on the eve of the season. In 2013, they got four games in before making the switch. Things were already bad. That switch made them worse, not so much because of what was happening at center—Graham Glasgow established himself a pretty good player over the course of the year—but what was happening everywhere else.
Specifically, what was happening around him. The Bentley Library lists starters through the years and one glimpse at left guard shows you the chaos:
A 6'1" walk-on got a start. A true freshman got three. A guy who retired after the season because he couldn't get breakfast without injuring himself got two. A 285-pound redshirt freshman got the other three. Reality mowed them all down, and by the end of the year the pile of skulls around the OL was not the enemy but Michigan itself.
Then their starting tackles went in the first three rounds of the NFL draft. Have fun storming the castle!
Rating: 1 of 5
I mean, maybe it'll work out. Maybe this rating will seem very silly at the end of the year, an overreaction to past events that was not a good prognostication of the future. I dearly hope this is the case. Gardner claimed he'd been sacked once during fall camp. It could happen!
Unfortunately, I can't make a reasonable case that you should expect much other than problems. Michigan has zero (ZERO) upperclassmen. The projected left tackle is a true freshman. The projected right tackle was supposed to be the starter at left guard last year but got pulled from the lineup after spring practice. He was not an option during the anarchy when literally every other OL on the roster was. Backing these guys up are two redshirt freshman who were huge projects and are still that. Oh, and the starting guards.
Maybe it will all work out. These guys are universally touted recruits, after all. If only that meant very much on the OL.
He blocked Clark! Probably! It's a still shot! [Bryan Fuller]
Might as well start with the big flashing DANGER sign: MASON COLE [recruiting profile], true freshman, is your starting left tackle. This was all fun and games in spring when Erik Magnuson was out, but things got very real very fast this fall and the guy hasn't moved from LT since his arrival and campus and Brady Hoke is just like…
"Who knows what will happen. You ask me today? Yeah, he would start. We're not at Aug. 30 yet. But he's more ready than most freshmen are."
…so he's the guy.
Since he's a true freshman I don't have anything more on him than exists in the recruiting profile published about a month ago, which notes that 1) the entire world offered him early, 2) he was possibly the most polished guy at the UA game…
it was clear that the Michigan commit was one of the most polished and skilled offensive line prospects on the East squad. The 6-foot-4, 280-pound Cole projects as an offensive guard long-term, but we aren’t so sure he could not be an excellent tackle in Ann Arbor during his college career.
…3) that he has the requisite athleticism and knee bend to be effective on the edge:
He is very athletic and plays with a lot of energy. Cole is able to bend and play low, giving him the leverage advantage over most opponents, though he needs to do so more consistently.
Cole is quick out of his stance and climbs to the second level using good angles. His feet allow him to play with good balance, which helps him not overextend for defenders.
All of this is great and Cole's trajectory is great; beating Magnuson inside authoritatively when Michigan seems to have a ton of guard bullets is impressive and there has been zero waver in any of this from day one. This is the profile of a guy who is going to be a draft pick very easily. We can discard the usual caveats about high school OL profiles because he has blown past all expectations immediately. Hooray for the long term.
This year? I don't know man. Let's check out
A RECENT HISTORY OF TRUE FRESHMAN TACKLES
Well, here's a thing: mighty Alabama is putting freshman Cameron Robinson out as their starter this fall. The slight difference: Robinson is a Peppers-level prospect, in fact ranked one spot ahead of him on the 247 composite. At 323 he's less of a size question than Cole.
In terms of guys who did play:
- Oregon State started Sean Harlow at right tackle. The Beavers were middling in pass protection… and 109th in YPC.
- Virginia played Eric Smith, also at right tackle. UVA was also middling in pass protection… and 91st in YPC.
- Maryland managed to start true freshman left tackles in consecutive years(!). Mike Madaras left abruptly after his first year, paving the way for Moise Larose to get four starts before a foot injury ended his year. Larose is now suspended for 2014. Feel the Terpitude. The 2012 Terps were completely terrible in all line-related stats; last year they were okay at pass protection.
- Virginia Tech started Jonathan McLaughlin all last year, and I don't even have to look their stats up to know they were a tire fire. Aaand yup: 99th and worse.
- Ole Miss started Laremy Tunsil, a Robinson-level five star. Mississippi was… okay! 42nd in YPC, 74th in sacks allowed.
So… that's not at all encouraging. Cole was a much more highly touted prospect than all of those guys save Tunsil, at least, and he 1) enrolled early and 2) came from one of those super serious Florida high schools that are almost college programs in their own right. Also the way he was the LT starter from about a week into spring without challenge is a hopeful sign.
The occasional freshman tackle can cope. I think Cole is one of those guys. But is he going to blow a guy off the ball and provide a big ol' lane at 292 pounds? Probably not. Our hope here is that Cole is a solid, agile pass protector in year one who is a meh run blocker. Chances are he has a wake-up call or two coming.
[After THE JUMP: large men, vague hope]
Obviously your first game is this week. Just your overall thoughts- the offensive line is always a topic and you guys have a lot of good competition at running back. Just your overall thoughts on what you’re expecting Saturday.
“Well, I think we’ve progressed. We talked about coming out of the spring and as we started fall camp it needed to be practice #16 for us and it was and we’ve gotten better each and every practice. Now, you’re not going to see it all of the time. We’re not where we need to be as a whole unit. We get it right in spurts. The biggest thing right now is to find consistency in performance across the board but like you said, the one thing we have been able to do is create competition across the board and we are getting better.”
Is there a spot where you see a lot of competition at? Or you said you guys have it in spurts, where are you guys lacking and where are you guys doing well?
“Well, I think across positions you can see it at every position and we find that we can do things very, very well when we do them well and we go in stretches where we play together and we play well together and then we’ll have either a unit or an individual break down and that’s the part about playing football and playing at a very, very high level. You’ve got to have consistency and everybody doing the right thing on every play.”
I don’t know if you’ve noticed but people are a little apprehensive of the offensive line and I wonder if your feeling from when you first got here until now, if that has changed and how much it’s changed because I assume you were somewhat apprehensive as well.
“Well, I’ve said it many times but there seems to be a focus on a unit on every team, a strength here or a weakness there. A lot of that’s perception, too. You talk about a quarterback position, for example. If a quarterback’s not being protected a lot of times it doesn’t look like he’s playing very well when at the end of the day it doesn’t really fall on the quarterback. When you look at an offensive line group there’s a lot of things that play into it. A lot of it has to do with the backs and the running game, making sure they hit the right hole, it has to do with the quarterback getting us into the right play so that we can get good angles for blocking schemes, it has to do with receivers winning at the line of scrimmage in press coverage so that the quarterback can get the ball out in time so that we’re not holding the ball so there’s a lot of factors that play into each and every group and that’s why it is a team game. Every unit we have takes pride in how they play and we all demand that each unit does their job and I wouldn’t expect anything less.”
We saw that Derrick Green is at the top of the running back depth chart. What did he do in the last week or two to put himself there and separate himself?
“I think it’s been the overall body of work through camp and everything we try to do. We tell the players there’s going to be evidence-based decisions by what you put on film and what you do on a day-to-day basis and Derrick continually progressed and he continues to progress. Like I said before, as an offense and even at that position we’re nowhere near where we need to be or where we want to be but as far as when you look at the process of getting better each and every day and how you approach the day and he’s just continued to get better each and every day. We’ve talked a lot about his weight as he came into camp and that’s been one of the biggest things. He looks like a different back.”
What are your thoughts about the wide receivers? It seems like that’s a position group of strength, a lot of depth there. Is there any particular guy that stood out to you or just your thoughts on the receivers?
“Well, obviously [Devin] Funch[ess], his production speaks for itself. Very, very talented player. Like we talked about, you want to create depth and competition at every position and we feel like we have a good talent base there. A lot of different guys that can do different things and the goal will be ultimately to keep guys fresh and put guys in the right position where they can make plays.”
[After THE JUMP: more on the running backs, Devin Gardner’s growth, and all aboard the Mason Cole hype train]
News bullets and other items:
Today’s starting offensive line would be Mason Cole- LT; Erik Magnuson- LG; Jack Miller- C; Burzynski/Bosch/Kalis- RG; Ben Braden- RT
Jabrill Peppers will start at nickel but has picked up the defense fast enough that he’s taking some snaps at boundary corner
Hoke can’t remember Devin Funchess dropping a single pass in fall camp which, like, eeeeee
Derrick Green and DeVeon Smith are considered the downhill backs, while Drake Johnson and Justice Hayes are the third-down backs
Preparation for that game on the 30th against that one team begins Thursday
Brady Hoke “Well,…” count: 6
"Thanks for coming out. I think we haven't spoken to each other since Saturday. We've had good practices, good energy, good competition. I think that's one thing we've talked about every time is to compete and challenge each other and I think this team has done that. I think there's leadership throughout the team in all classes which has been good to see. If you're good enough, you're old enough and that's been part of what we talked about. I think that's very good. Starting to get...we are starting to get prepared for Appalachian State here in the next couple days. We'll do some things with switch [?] teams and really have some good competition with that part of it and also keep the speed of how we want to play the game, so there will always be situational ones on ones, twos on twos. Tomorrow is Tuesday, the next day is Wednesday and Saturday is a Thursday how we look at it and next week we'll take Sunday and do some walk-throughs, get the tape reviewed. Next Tuesday will be a Tuesday, Wednesday will be a Wednesday, and Thursday will be Thursday so you've got to figure it out on my end sometimes. But it's been a good camp. I guess we'll break on Saturday morning – about 1 PM on Saturday after we go up to the stadium, have a good practice there. We'll do a lot of game rehearsal things, trying to put the players in situations that they will be in. I think that's important. So… excited. I think we're all excited. Are we ready? Not yet, so we have a lot of work ahead of us but at the same time I like how we go about our business every day."
You said this was the day you start preparing for App State. Do you have a set offensive line?
“Well, I think there's still some competition but I think Ben Braden has been a very steady performer at right tackle. I think Mason Cole has been very, very steady at the left tackle position. I always get asked – not just by you guys but Mason Cole, you don't notice him so you don't notice any mistakes. He's not a guy who's been a guy who killed plays and that's the kind of stuff… Jack will be the center, Kugler will back him up. We'll be without Graham as you all know. Mags will be the left guard if we were playing today and at the right guard I think there's good competition. Joe Burzynski, Kyle Bosch, Kalis is getting work at both guards, he's just getting back into things yesterday so I think we're still– I have an idea, but I don't think we're set at that right guard position right now.”
What did the film from Saturday show you as far as the offensive line goes?
“You know, there were some holes and there were some holes we have to take advantage of and there's also times where the back’s got to make it right, you know, quarterback drifting out of his ball handling knocks a back out of his A gap. We had some of those. Still not enough of them. We still got to move the line of scrimmage better and that's a constant that we'll have. I thought that yesterday the backs did a nice job. I think that Fred [Jackson] definitely had an effect on how they need to approach it and so I think we're making really good progress there.”
To clarify something from Saturday, did you say that in a 4-3 defense, your base, Jabrill [Peppers] would be a corner and then slide into the nickel spot?
“Yeah, I mean he would slide inside. We're going to really try and make sure that he’s set at the nickel before we get too far out there being a boundary corner. I mean, we played him at boundary corner some the other night with the first group. There's some things that are different when you're playing one-third than when you're playing a nickel position so right now, yes, he's playing some corner but we are going to focus in on nickel with him in there.”
You said that you wanted him just to be practicing in one position to get really comfortable there. What have you seen out of him that you feel comfortable, obviously, giving him more responsibility?
“Well, he's learned fast. I think the way he's engrossed himself in the playbook. I think from a fundamental/technique standpoint he's come a long way. Just think he's done a nice job overall.”
[After THE JUMP: sorting out the running back situation, Devin Gardner’s leadership, and my inaugural MGoQuestion]