|Ben Bredeson||Fr.||Ben Braden||Sr.*||Mason Cole||Jr.||Kyle Kalis||Sr.*||Erik Magnuson||Sr.*|
|Grant Newsome||So.||David Dawson||Jr.*||Patrick Kugler||Jr.*||Michael Onwenu||Fr.||Nolan Ulizio||Fr.*|
Michigan's line took a quantum leap in 2014, going from a flaccid crew of confused gibbons to pleasingly mediocre. Last year's edition of this post positively marveled at the fact that these gentlemen got in the way of the opposition frequently enough to be average-ish:
It got better. It really did. The OL nadir is in the past. We can come out of the bunker and rebuild society now.
That assertion was based both on my charting and a bunch of stats, many of them of the advanced line variety. Advanced line stats make total guesses about assigning credit and blame between tailback and line but they're worth peeking at in case they tell a story. Michigan's 2015 stats are mostly about treading water:
|Year||Adj Line Yards||Opportunity Rate||Power Success||Stuff Rate||Adj Sack Rate|
Michigan was less likely to get tackled for loss and less likely to get the 5+ yard carries that opportunity rate tracks. Those were a wash as Michigan's line yards stayed static. Contrary to your memories of the OSU game, pass protection took a big leap forward.
A certain level of treading water is expected when a new coach with a new, complicated system arrives. With four starters back and Mason Cole moving to his natural position, a step forward is likely. It's just that fifth guy who gives pause…
An Editor's Note About Charts
With four returning starters you're going to see a bunch of charts derived from last year's UFRs. Here's how to read them:
|Game||Opponent||+||-||TOT||Pass -||Error Rate||Comment|
|1||Utah||5||8||-3||5||8%||Guy did X|
Game and opponent are self-explanatory. The +, –, and TOT columns are my evaluations of how the player did when run blocking. Keep in mind that zero is not good, or even average. It is the nature of the beast that any successful run has many successful blocks; many unsuccessful ones are submarined by a single error. We're looking for a 2:1 positive-negative ratio to be decently successful. A future pro might be more like 3:1 or 4:1.
"Pass –" is derived from the protection minuses in UFR. Two protection minuses are approximately equivalent to one sack or severe hurry. "Error rate" is the number of protection minuses divided by the number of available protection points. The above line is Ben Braden's from the Utah game, in which he was almost 1:2 in run plus/minus and had protection errors on 8% of snaps. That's terrible; the good news is that Braden got better.
TACKLE: JUST A GUY WOULD BE FINE THANKS
present, he said [Brian Fuller]
Senior ERIK MAGNUSON was thrust into the lineup too early as one the umpteen guys tossed into the maelstrom of the 2013 offensive line. He was a guard then; the next year he played some there and, after an injury cost him his job, as a blocking tight end. Last year he got flipped out to tackle.
There he... well, he was there. He was neither forceful nor overrun. He didn't shut down elite pass rushers or get blown through by mediocre ones. His UFR chart from last year is decidedly sparse when compared to Cole's:
|2||Oregon State||5||0.5||4.5||0||0%||Not as involved as others but got his job done.|
|3||UNLV||6||6||0||0%||Clean positive sweep from the OL.|
|4||BYU||2.5||3||-0.5||0||0%||M clearly left-handed when it wants to rely on tackles.|
|5||Maryland||4||4||0||2||4%||Clear left handed bias again.|
|6||Northwestern||6.5||1||5.5||4||10%||End of game was pretty.|
|7||MSU||3||2||1||3||7%||A little frustrated with his second level blocking.|
|8||Minnesota||5||1.5||3.5||1||2%||Good day for him although M is clearly left-handed.|
|9||Rutgers||3||4.5||-1.5||0||0%||Not real good on perimeter.|
|11||PSU||3||3||4||6%||Also took advantage of weak edge.|
|TOTALS||55||29||26||24||4%||65% run blocking|
It's not so much that Magnuson didn't execute, it's that he wasn't called on to do much. He's right around our run-blocking Mendoza line thanks to some good days against the overmatched bit of the nonconference schedule. 24 pass protection minuses over the course of a season isn't anything to write home about, but Cole's maturation and Magnuson's move to tackle are the top two reasons Michigan's pass blocking got a lot better a year ago. When I started to talk about the OL individually in the middle of last year this was the conclusion:
Magnuson is [just a guy] right now. He's okay at blocking. They don't run to him very much. There are not many plays on which he has a big role and that seems to be about half Cole and half Magnuson. He is the Jarrod Wilson of the offensive line.
He's boring. We appreciate this immensely, because we are well aware of the alternatives to boring after the past half-decade.
It's maybe a little disappointing that Magnuson seems to be topping out at boring. I usually pick out the particularly good or bad plays to embed in these previews; Magnuson doesn't have anything to embed either way. On the ground I had him for zero +2 blocks a year ago and one –2 block. Part of the reason he doesn't have a lot of magnitude in that chart above is that he usually does something completely adequate and not that notable. When he does score a plus it's frequently for excellent awareness. Here he reads a blitz and manages to redirect enough to hit the linebacker who would otherwise be burying Smith in the backfield:
When Magnuson does move a guy it's usually because the guy is already moving. He was good at reading and staying attached on slants in Michigan's zone game; a bunch of cutbacks opened up last year because he was able to shove a guy past his intended destination.
This is a power play but it's the same principle and from a camera angle that makes it very clear:
The other times Magnuson moves a guy is because he's already engaged with Kalis:
Magnuson was effective at doubling a guy and popping out to the second level.
These are all real assets. They are offset by what I described as a "lack of oomph" after the Indiana game. Magnuson is not likely to get drive in a one-on-one block, and occasionally he ends up looking a bit… finesse.
That play was an outlier but I don't have anything in the way of a one-on-one drive block in an entire season of clips. This is an area he should get incrementally better in since he's got another year of weight training behind him; the time for big leaps forward is likely past.
Not everyone is as indifferent as this space was. CBS NFL draft analyst Dane Brugler called him a "legitimate NFL prospect" and "one of the top ten senior offensive tackles in the country."
...moves with a smooth shuffle and wide base, transferring his weight well in his kickslide to mirror edge rushers. He stays low off the snap and prefers to use his hands to control the point of attack to out-leverage and out-power defenders. Magnuson is able to secure downblocks and anchor at shallow depth, driving his legs to finish in the Wolverines' power offense.
I disagree with this take, but it's out there. NFL.com's Chad Reuter told Mike Spath that Magnuson could work his way into the first or second round with a good 2016; I disagree with that take as well… but it's out there.
Magnuson was relatively advanced mentally a year ago and will benefit less than some of his compatriots from increasing familiarity with the offense. Improvement should be clear but not transformative; a good goal is for Magnuson to move beyond Just A Guy status, get on the All Big Ten team in a very down year for the tackle spot conference-wide, and get drafted late.
[After the JUMP: the biggest question mark on the team. And Jabrill Peppers! (Not really. But maybe!)]
This is a new series I've begun to serve as an ad hoc glossary of specific football concepts/terminology that get thrown around in our articles. The plan is to discuss as they come up and then (probably forget to) link them when we're talking about this stuff down the road.
REACH BLOCK DEFINED
When an offensive lineman blocks a defensive player who's lined up playside of him. For example on this play Mason Cole is going to block this guy:
…on a play going to the right of him. In other words this play is going to the defender's left, and it's Mason Cole's job is to be in the way of that defender going left.
HOW DO YOU DO THAT?
There are lots of O-line technique videos out there but here's the simplest:
The reaching blocker takes a short (that's key) step at an angle toward the defender's opposite shoulder. That puts him in a stance sort of like that of an Olympic sprinter, so his next step can launch him across that defender and get your helmet across the defender's torso. Lock in that victory by putting the inside arm into the defender's outside number, and pivot around to seal. The key is quick feet and a wide stance to not get off-balance—remember the defender is also fighting.
IS THAT HARD?
Yuh huh. The lineman has a fraction of a second between when the ball is snapped and the defense starts to read the blocking to get around that guy, get leverage, and seal the dude being blocked before dude can put a stop to this. It is the hardest of blocks.
Coaches emphasize different talking points but the basics are a short first step toward the outside shoulder, get your arms into him and your head across to seal, all the while keeping your feet apart so don't get knocked off.
Back when (IU OL coach) Greg Frey was at Michigan under Rich Rod, Michigan would try this a handful of times a game, and Molk was better at this than just about anyone I've watched closely. In fact Brian had a Picture Pages in 2008 to show Molk getting a guy lined up outside the guard.
Michigan tried a bunch in 2007, when they were a zone stretch team. This had varying results: Jake Long and (former tight end) Adam Kraus could pull it off occasionally; Justin Boren, Jeremy Ciulla, Alex Mitchell and Reuben Riley were comically bad at it. Against FBS competition it takes a very agile player.
[After THE JUMP: running it, and defending it]
Lot of talent, lot of talent. CBS draft analyst Dane Brugler:
I've been watching #Michigan tape all morning and I'm not even halfway through the roster. Should have double-digit draft picks next spring.
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) August 22, 2016
Per NFL scouts, Butt and Charlton(!) could be high first round picks:
I asked 6 NFL scouts for their top senior NFL prospect:
DL Jonathan Allen (2 votes), TE Jake Butt (2), DL Taco Charlton, CB Desmond King.
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) August 23, 2016
Juniors will pile in, of course, but if that holds to draft day both those guys would go in the top 15. I can't imagine it would—QBs and various other players at positions the NFL drafts higher than TE will emerge—but I be like dang anyway.
Todd McShay has Michigan third on his list of teams with the most NFL talent, and while having no idea what happened in the draft last year…
Last year, QB Jake Rudock (sixth round) was the lone Wolverine selected
…is not a great look for a draft analyst, ESPN currently projects seven players to be off the board by the end of the third round:
- #31 Jake Butt: "Has very good natural combination of size and speed to create mismatches. Adept at playing in-line (Y), flexed out (F) and split out wide. Very fluid for his size. … Gets overmatched physically at the point of attack by bigger defensive linemen."
- #33 Jabrill Peppers: "Good cover skills for a safety. Has lots of experience playing man-coverage both in the slot and on perimeter. At his best in man-coverage. Lacks elite fluidity in hips, but has quick feet and good burst. … Willing but could also be more aggressive at times. [ed: ?!?!?]"
- #39 Jourdan Lewis: "was in the hip pocket of Michigan State WR Aaron Burbridge (6th round pick, 49ers) hip pocket the entire 2015 game (stats are deceiving). Displays excellent body control and balance. Shows good deep speed on tape."
- #46 Jehu Chesson: "Very good speed for size and can threaten vertically. Gets from 0-to-60 miles per hour in a hurry. Has length and tracking ability to create matchup problems for average-to-smaller cornerbacks on 50-50 balls…. Excellent effort as a blocker. … Love watching this guy play the game."
- #56 Chris Wormley: "Excellent size and good overall strength. Shows snap in his hands and flashes ability to press offensive linemen into their backfield. … Tied for team-lead with 6.5 sacks in 2015 but 4.5 of those sacks came versus marginal offensive lines (Oregon State, Penn State and Rutgers) and his sack versus Michigan State was a protection breakdown."
- #69 Taco Charlton: "Power-based bass rusher that does a good job of using his long arms and explosive power to get into offensive linemen's pads, and then grinds through contact. … Good but not elite first-step quickness. Solid lateral agility and redirect skills for size."
- #77 Mason Cole: "Better suited for pass pro inside. … Takes good angles and has very good range. At his best as a run blocker when on the move. Has the feet to consistently win battle for initial positioning. Lacks heavy hands and is erratic with hand placement."
In addition, De'Veon Smith and Kyle Kalis(!) are ranked as fifth-rounders. Smith has no scouting and Kalis's ("Good angles. Knows assignments. Solid job locating assignments in space.") appears to be about a different person.
You'll note the omission of Amara Darboh and Maurice Hurst from these rankings. Both those guys will be draftable by the end of the year. I'd be another member or two of the secondary get there as well.
Drake Johnson is the guy you should hit with a forklift. I mean, if it's absolutely necessary. Please don't run Drake Johnson over. Or anyone, really. Do not run people over with forklifts. Yes, fine, Hitler. In that unusual case where a zombie nazi is threatening children or whatever, go ahead. Even in that situation, are we really calling a reanimated corpse "people"? I think that's not people.
Sorry, no politics.
"The world could be falling apart, and doomsday could be happening, and I'd be like, oh, look, there's a nice flower on the ground," he says.
If it were anyone other than Johnson, such positivity would feel contrived and feigned. But then Johnson waves his arms, talking with his hands like a grand raconteur, and says something like, "There's always something good in every situation," and, dammit, you've got to believe him.
If I was Drake Johnson I would get business cards with "Grand Raconteur" on them posthaste, while looking very carefully for lurking forklifts.
Around the league. Things happening in opponent camps:
- Penn State seems set to replace Carl Nassib with a couple of older guys who had 1.5 sacks between them a year ago. You'd think that would be a dropoff, but Nassib came out of nowhere a year ago.
- PSU is considering starting true freshman Michael Menet, a five star guard type.
- Rutgers QB Chris Laviano "edged" a grad transfer brought in to compete with him. I mostly mention this because I had no idea this went down last year: "Laviano will have a chance to win over Rutgers fans who had no love for him last season when he went five straight games without a touchdown pass and lost his cool by blasting them on social media after interpreting boos meant for then-coach Kyle Flood at his own show of toughness in the middle of a career-best game."
- MSU has five "co-starters" on the DL. One of them is a 275-pound DT who grad-transferred from Nebraska, a second is a redshirt freshman, and a third is a senior DE with eight career tackles. If that doesn't presage a major dropoff despite the presence of Malik McDowell I'm going to throw a shoe.
- Per Urban Meyer, H-back Curtis Samuel is OSU's "number one playmaker on offense." Mike Weber is "close" to being named the starting RB; after Brionte Dunn was booted his competition is "nah" and "???." Malik Hooker and Damon Webb are leading to start at safety; sounds like Webb is still a little combustible.
- OSU may start true freshman Michael Jordan at guard. Jordan was a well regarded recruit but not so well regarded that you shouldn't expect Michigan to wreck that dude.
SPONSOR NOTES: Again, chances of this existing without Matt are somewhat less. I like to think this would be a thing in the world without the prod from Homesure Lending, but you never know. Matt's sponsoring another Football Eve this year, albeit on Thursday so it's Football Eve Eve. September 1st, 7:30,
Ashley's, first beer's on him.
[UPDATE: We've moved it to WOLVERINE STATE BREWING at 2019 West Stadium to accomodate more people]
FORMATION NOTES: I'm ready to give up on naming these things. A couple of attempts to clarify the lingo below:
This was a Peppers sweep to all the dudes. Michigan has six OL in the game and Cole is in a two point stance to the bottom of the line. This was "ace quad tight bunch" even though that doesn't encapsulate all the weirdness.
Here Michigan has two TEs and two WRs on the field, with Butt lined up in a two point stance and Chesson an inline TE:
I'm calling this "WR hide." If you see it below there's an "inline TE" named Darboh or Chesson or both.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Rudock, starting OL, and the starting WRs the whole way. Isaac did not play and Drake Johnson was limited to scattered snaps as Smith and Peppers took the large bulk of the RB snaps. Peppers also lined up in the slot, at H-back and as a wildcat QB. AJ Williams didn't get much time.
[After THE JUMP: one very big problem M tried to work around.]
If you listened to The Michigan Insider Tuesday morning you heard interviews with some of Michigan’s assistant coaches, including Tim Drevno. We thought you, our beloved readers, might like to read a transcript of what coach Drevno had to say. When you finish reading you should head to The Michigan Insider’s channel on Audioboom and listen to the rest of what Sam and Ira discussed. After all, the cool people like it.
How about that left tackle/Grant Newsome situation? Can you talk about his development and how vital he is to that O-line?
“Yeah, Kevin Tolbert’s done a nice job with him and his staff in the weight room. He’s really put on a lot of weight. He’s over 300 pounds. Has done a nice job all summer with workouts. You can see the maturity level in his eyes, and has done everything we’ve asked him to do. He’ll be ready to tackle that position.”
Still think that Mason Cole’s at center?
“If we started a game today yeah, Mason Cole would be the center. I mean, the next three weeks we’ll flip-flop guys around and see what the best fit is and what’s best for the team.”
You stayed essentially with those five, they played almost every snap last year. Is that the idea or do you want with seniors in there and stuff do you want more rotation through the year?
“You know, you’re always looking for the sixth, seventh, eighth offensive lineman. You want depth and you want good players and good depth to back guys up. We’re always kind of tweaking it and kind of seeing and feeling who’s the best guys for these positions.”
You mentioned flipping guys around a little bit, experimenting to see where everybody fits best. How quickly do you want to get a final five where you know--
“I don’t want to make that decision too soon because I want to make sure we’re making the right decision. We’ll see as we progress through training camp and see how the days go. We’ll come to a conclusion, Coach and I, with it and see what’s best.”
Can you talk about Kyle Kalis and his development? A lot of attention early on in his career and people are wondering when’s that going to blossom for him.
“He’s really at a blossoming point right now. I mean, Kyle had his best spring since I’ve been here. I’ve been through only two springs with him but he did an outstanding job. He’s really understanding the game of football. His football awareness, his lens is opening. He’s really becoming a student of the game and the importance of the fine details of it, so he’s really doing a really nice job.”
With Newsome, is there sort of a list of things you have for him to work on other than getting bigger?
“I mean, his biggest thing is really just being able to get stronger, you know. That was really important that he does that just because coming in as a freshman from high school strength issues and not playing with his cleats, flexibility. But he has the measurables and the smarts to do it. I think the biggest thing is just gaining strength.”
We’ve heard you say you played freshmen before--
But is that something that…it’s kind of unusual to have a few years in a row here with a freshman playing.
“Yeah, no, I’m not—I don’t refer to them as freshmen. I just refer to them as a player and an offensive lineman and we’ve got to do what’s best for the team. I think initially doing it when I was at a former employer I started three true freshmen on the offensive line. If it works, we’re going to do it. It’s nice. It’s nice to have, especially when you have those years with them.”
Is there anyone in this class that you think could play that kind of role that Grant played?
“We’ll see. We’ll see. You’ve got three guys that are here—Michael Onwenu, Stephen Spanellis, Ben Bredeson—I mean, all of them are capable of doing it. It’ll be exciting to go to practice and see how it all works out.”
Spanellis and Onwenu are large, just big human beings. Is that just their body type or did they come in too large?
“You can’t coach big. I mean, this is a big, girthy game and I think at a lot of levels being able to move somebody off the ball, being able to get by somebody, it’s nice. The lower body girth is very important. And also just for injury prevention. I mean, they last longer. The more games you play your body will last longer.”
So you like guys to be big, your linemen. Some of them, a lot of them, gained weight from the spring.
“Yeah. We all went through it with Kevin and Fergus Connolly, where we wanted their weights and things. They did a nice job of getting where they need to be.”
[More after THE JUMP]
It lives! When Homesure Lending sponsored these posts, Matt admonished me that his sponsorship was contingent on me actually doing all of them. So, yeah, next time you see him buy him a beer and get a mortgage. Matt just pinged me in case a refi made sense, demonstrating that 1) he's always on the lookout if he can save you money and 2) rates must be even more absurdly low than they were a couple years ago.
Formation notes: I'm not sure if we've seen this before at M:
There are three tight ends to the right side of the formation. "Ace trip TE."
This mess was "tight FB big" and went about how you'd expect:
And this is an example of how Florida spent a big chunk of the first half. Check out the defensive line. That is a huge split between the nose tackle and the defensive end to the bottom of your screen. Michigan had a hard time dealing with it for a couple snaps and then blasted it until UF abandoned it.
Substitution notes: As expected. Rudock, the starting OL, and the FB/RB corps all went the distance. Smith, Houma, and Johnson were your only RBs—no Higdon, no Isaac. I don't think Newsome got any 6th OL time. WR/TE was all Darboh/Chesson/Perry/Butt/Williams until the game was salted away. Michigan put in Ways and Harris in place of the outside WRs, continued playing Perry, and gave Ian Bunting some run.
[After The JUMP: rather big JUMPS forward for a half-dozen guys.]