good luck with that
back back back back not back (but there's another guy also back) [Bryan Fuller]
|Mason Cole||So.||Ben Braden||Jr.*||Graham Glasgow||Sr.*||Kyle Kalis||Jr.*||Erik Magnuson||Jr.*|
|Logan Tuley-Tillman||So.*||David Dawson||So.*||Patrick Kugler||So.*||Blake Bars||Jr.*||Juwann Bushell-Beatty||Fr.*|
It got better. It really did. The OL nadir is in the past. We can come out of the bunker and rebuild society now.
By any reasonable metric it in fact got a lot better. Michigan's YPC leapt 1.3 yards, going from 11th in a 12-team league to 8th in a 14-team one. If you only look at Big Ten stats Michigan is still 8th, and that's in the division that had the MSU, OSU, and PSU defenses. Sacks allowed had a near-identical improvement, going from barely better than Purdue to a spot in the respectable midsection of the conference. Advanced stats saw something similar. Michigan finished 50th in adjusted line yards*, 32nd in power success rate, and 72nd in adjusted sack rate. And that's with the running backs going the wrong direction constantly.
None of these numbers stand out, but neither do they linger in the seedy parts of the list next to Temple and Penn State and Louisiana-Monroe. They were average-ish. Most of the time they felt average-ish.
That's not a bad place to be with zero seniors and just two upperclassmen. While the unexpected departure of Jack Miller puts a small dent in the front's depth, his likely replacement, Erik Magnuson, is a redshirt junior who came in as a touted recruit and has a season's worth of starts to his name already. If you're willing to fudge a bit, Michigan has five starters back from that okay line. They've replaced Brady Hoke with Jim Harbaugh and Darrell Funk with Tim Drevno.
Could they be… good?
*[A stat that weighs the first few yards you get heavily and discounts long runs in an attempt to get a feel for how the line is doing.]
Cole coped [Eric Upchurch]
Rating: 3 of 5
Last year I gave this a 1 because Michigan was staring down a starting lineup consisting of a true freshman and a third-year guy who didn't even get a sniff during the chaos of 2013. They seemed to acquire these positions almost by default since the only other tackles on the roster were freshmen (redshirt or true) regarded as huge projects. Or they were starting at guard.
The 2014 edition of this post took a quick gander at what happened when football teams started freshman tackles. It was almost universally ugly. The best case scenario was Ole Miss, which deployed ultra-blue-chip Laremy Tunsil as a true freshman and was middling in both YPC and sacks allowed. All others trundled their way to seasons that were more or less disastrous.
Michigan was not disastrous last year. In what is certainly a first for offensive line projections in recent history, that prediction was pessimistic. MASON COLE, the true freshman, just about hit the top end of reasonable projections, those being:
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.
Mason Cole coped. This is what that looks like in the run game according to UFR:
|App St||9.5||2||7.5||A fine debut|
|Notre Dame||4||2||2||Didn't seem overwhelmed at all.|
|Miami||8||5||3||Okay; also had one very bad pass pro.|
|Utah||3||2.5||0.5||Nice seal block ignored.|
|Rutgers||5||5||0||I'll take it.|
|Penn State||1.5||5||-3.5||Hull and Zettel bad matchup.|
|Minnesota||4.5||2.5||2||Overpowered a little but still okay day.|
|Indiana||3||0.5||2.5||Didn't mess anything up.|
It was rougher in pass protection, where I have had him for 16 protection minuses in 8 games. Those are worth about half a QB pressure/sack each. Otherwise things were pretty okay against non-elite defenses. Cole's debut season was… eh.
When it didn't go well, the usual reason was that Cole got blown backwards because he was a true freshman. These were the kind of things that were happening against Zettel and company:
This was a game in which Cole's inexperience and lack of big skrongness really hurt. Here Butt gets an excellent shoulder spear on Zettel, knocking him off balance. This should provide ample opportunity for Cole to step around and wall Zettel off, creating a crease Smith will hit trying to beat a safety for a big gainer. Instead Zettel comprehensively wins:
Cole got whipped on the Norfleet catch that put Michigan in position for the winning field goal; Michigan was fortunate that ball went to the WR instead of getting knocked anywhere.
Ennui prevented me from charting him against Joey Bosa, but I've gone back and rewatched the OSU game. Cole was okay. By the second half of The Game Ohio State decided that they should either blitz outside of Bosa and send him against the interior line (which only kind of worked) or have him go at Ben Braden (which very much worked). Don't get me wrong, Cole did get beat. It was a struggle; it was not one in which he was completely overwhelmed.
All of that is terrific for a true freshman. Cole grabbed the job, held the job all season, and played reasonably well. There has been not a whisper that he would go anywhere except for a blip during spring practice when he was playing center, that because Glasgow was suspended and Michigan was figuring out if he could play there a la Barrett Jones. All practice reports have held that he is a sure thing, greatly improved, etc. 247 heard this from multiple people in a 24-hour window:
Mason Cole has unsurprisingly established himself as a rock at the left tackle spot, and is primed to be the next great four-year starter to play the position.
Cole's added 13 pounds and should make a major leap in year two, what with the rare true-freshman-to-true-sophomore OL transition coupled with the general HARBAUGH.
That will probably still leave him short of dominant. Michigan's most recent really good left tackle, Taylor Lewan, took off in his third year. In year two Cole should slash the protection issues considerably and do okay against the better defensive ends in the league. A year like early Graham Glasgow—reliable, somewhat short on raw power—would set Cole up to be excellent as an upperclassman.
[After THE JUMP: four-ish additional returning starters who happen to be upperclassmen already]
The first rule of Draftageddon is "you must complain about Draftageddon." The second is "the four people drafting assemble teams of Big Ten players in an effort to seem the best at drafting."
THAT WHICH HAS COME BEFORE
Previously on Draftageddon:
- Adam takes a guy with a ~33% chance to start first overall! Joey Bosa lasts until pick 3! Seth is generally sensible! For him that counts as Heiko-ing, I think!
- Brian takes back to back QBs! Several additional Ohio State players go off the board! 24-12!
- Ace takes Braxton Miller as a QB and then shrugs expansively when he ends up a terrifying H-back!
THAT WHICH IS THE CURRENT SITUATION
THAT WHICH IS HAPPENING CURRENTLY
ACE: Round 12, Pick 2: Jake Rudock, actual quarterback, Michigan
OFFENSE: QB Jake Rudock (U-M), OW Braxton Miller (OSU), WR Michael Thomas (OSU), WR DaeSean Hamilton (PSU), OT Jack Conklin (MSU), OC Dan Voltz (UW)
DEFENSE: DE Joey Bosa (OSU), DT Darius Hamilton (RU), NT Austin Johnson (PSU), OLB Darron Lee (OSU), CB Eli Apple (OSU), S Tyvis Powell (OSU)
[ED: Since everyone else has QBs, Ace has to take one.]
Just after I submitted my last pick, SI's Pete Thamel broke the news: I have successfully gamed the system.
“For the most part, it’s going to be H-Back and punt return,” Miller said in a phone interview on Thursday night. “It’s a long process to get back totally to throwing and throwing every day. This is the smarter thing for right now, God blessed me with a lot of talent and different opportunities. I’m going to have fun with that and still score a lot of touchdowns and help the team out and be dominant at that.”
A reminder: H-back, in Urban Meyer's system, is the Percy Harvin position. Miller is as close to a Harvin-level athlete as Meyer has had since Harvin himself. While I'm forced to take a quarterback again here, the magnanimous Commissioner Brian offered the opportunity to release Miller back into the pool and take an additional compensatory selection; I will not be doing that, even with Jalin Marshall still on the board. Miller's potential in that role is too great for me to pass up on; it was one of the main reasons I drafted him in the first place.
So, anyway, an actual quarterback. Many would expect Indiana's Nate Sudfeld to go here, but I'm not convinced he can replicate his 2013 success. Sudfeld benefitted from both Kevin Wilson's wide open, lightning fast system and a great group of receivers (2014 2nd-rounder Cody Latimer, Kofi Hughes, Shane Wynn, Ted Bolser) that season. With Latimer, Hughes, and Bolser gone last year, Sudfeld had rough games against the two remotely viable defenses he faced—32/70, 378 yards (5.4 YPA), 1 TD, 1 INT combined vs. Mizzou and Maryland—before injuring his shoulder early on against Iowa. He had Tevin Coleman there to take a great deal of attention off of him and still didn't look all-conference caliber.
Jake Rudock, meanwhile, played for a program that considered Mark Weisman an acceptable three-year starter at running back. Brian's done the research legwork here. Rudock generally looked very good when afforded time and a reasonable gameplan despite working with a substandard group of receivers. He looked less good when victimized by a combination of coaching malpractice and a leaky offensive line. At the very least, Rudock should be efficient; even in a year when he eventually got benched, he posted the third-best passer efficiency in the Big Ten. If a lot of his perceived issues—namely, a propensity for checking down too often—were the product of his GERG-ian environment, he'll thrive under Jim Harbaugh. My guess is Rudock will serve as yet another reminder to Iowa fans that their coaching situation, um, sucks.
SETH: Round 12, Pick 3: Mason Cole, OL, Michigan
OFFENSE: QB Connor Cook (MSU), RB Corey Clement (WIS), WR Leonte Carroo (Rut), OC Jack Allen (MSU), OG Pat Elflein (OSU), OT Alex Lewis (Neb)
DEFENSE: Steve Longa (WLB), HSP Jabrill Peppers (Mich), DB Jordan Lucas (PSU), S Michael Caputo (Wis), CB Will Likely (Md)
Last year's offensive line preview gave Michigan a "1 of 5" for tackle, because in the history of true freshman tackles, the absolute ceiling is for some future superstar to be just okay. Brian even ran down the history of teams forced to put the blindside in the hands of an 18-year-old and found those who got to okay had a five-star recruit on the level of Peppers.
Mason Cole was okay.
Since competent true freshman LTs are so rare we're literally stuck with Laremy Tunsil as the only comparison, here is a list of Michigan redshirt freshman offensive lineman since the mid-'90s who were not obvious liabilities: Jansen, Hutchinson, Backus, Long, Molk, Lewan.
Cole's best years are still in the future, but I'll take last year plus the standard freshman-to-sophomore bump on my line any day.
ADAM: Round 12, Pick 4: Ed Davis, OLB, Michigan State
Round 13, Pick 1: Justin Jackson, RB, Northwestern
OFFENSE: QB J.T. Barrett (OSU), WR Jordan Westerkamp (Neb), OT Jason Spriggs, (IU), TE Jake Butt (UM), C Austin Blythe (Iowa), RB Justin Jackson (NW)
DEFENSE: DE Shilique Calhoun (MSU), DT Adolphus Washington (OSU), S Vonn Bell (OSU), CB Eric Murray (Minn), LB Raekwon McMillan (OSU), DE Drew Ott (Iowa), OLB Ed Davis (MSU)
My linebackers may not win the hearts of the Michigan faithful, but I couldn't pass up an opportunity to add a SAM with pass-rush ability. Davis had 58 tackles, 12.0 TFL, and 7.0 sacks in his first season as a starter; you may remember him from his 6 tackle, 2 TFL performance against Michigan.
In his Hail to the Victors preview, Seth described Davis as "...an attack piece who will rack up a lot of sacks and otherwise match up against tight ends he's more athletic than." If that's what my twelfth round pick can do then that's fine by me. What's most noticeable on film is his lateral quickness, which allows him to easily cover the flat or crash inside to stop the run. He's also fast enough to line up wide and make tackles look absolutely ridiculous.
His skill set lends itself to being a SAM in a 4-3 under, which was what I was looking for. In McMillan I have a player who was certainly productive as a true freshman but whom I drafted in part because of his potential (i.e. recruiting profile); in Davis I have a two-year starter and fifth-year senior who's a more known commodity.
My next pick played in the M00N game- on offense, no less. And I made this pick voluntarily! Easily snarkable, and yet a likely record for longest it's taken for a Northwestern player to go off the board. Jackson's not a big back (5'11", 195) but he's quick and his vision is excellent. He's also a reliable receiver, catching 78.6% of passes when he was targeted and averaging 7.2 yards per target.
In 2014 Jackson rushed for 1,187 yards on 4.8 yards per carry despite playing behind a line that ranked 83rd in adjusted line yards and 117th (!) in opportunity rate. He's also the second-leading returning rusher in the Big Ten, behind only Ezekiel Elliott (who understandably went 11 rounds earlier). He put up 162 rushing yards on 33 carries and 106 on 22 (plus 4 catches for 50 receiving yards) against Wisconsin and Minnesota, ranked 29th and 36th in Rushing S&P+, respectively. Those two games were part of his end of season tear, in which he rushed for 100+ yards in six of the season's last eight games.
I can't recreate OSU's offense, but if Barrett's going to be effective he needs a run threat to keep defenses honest. I'm happy to have this one in what looks like an otherwise arid wasteland of Big Ten backs.
[After THE JUMP: CERTAINLY WE ARE OUT OF OSU PLAYERS AT THIS JUNCTURE]
Remember that one run that maize Michigan had against blue Michigan? It'll come to you: it was the one when the offense gained yards by running the ball. I mean forward yards, not the sideways stretch things. You know the one on the very first snap of the Spring Game that Ace giffed:
There wasn't much else from the Spring Game to pull out so I thought it would be fun to pick this one apart as a very vanilla example of Harbaugh's Power offense, and Durkin's gap-attacking with speed defense, and where various players are in it.
I also disagree with Brian on what caused this to happen. He gave RJS credit for fighting A.J. Williams to a draw and blamed Desmond Morgan for biting the running back's initial outside cut. Those things happened, but in the context of Durkin's defense I think Jenkins-Stone is mostly at fault for not being aggressive enough. In 4-3 world a tie is a loss.
What the offense was thinking. Here's the design:
This is Power O, the most base play of Harbaughffense, from a base formation for running it. The first play of the game, there was nothing tricky about it—the offense lined up where they snapped except (off camera) Chesson went in motion. You may remember this play from such offenses as Stanford under Harbaugh, and what Borges and Hoke wanted to run with two years of eligibility left on Denard Robinson. Well-defended it ends however far down the field the offense's bodies managed to move the defense's bodies. This wasn't well defended, as we shall see after…
The program had its draft for the spring game over the weekend, right?
What kind of experience was it like for the coaches and the players seeing them all-
“Oh, it’s a great experience, yeah! It’s something that we’ve done in the past with coach Harbaugh so it’s an exciting time. You go through the roster and you pick out your strengths and weakness and you pick out your positions and you’re going through and strategizing as the draft goes on because you have to fill those positions and make sure you don’t lose out on somebody. Really as a coaching staff it makes you a better coach because you’re trying to build a team and build them to strength, so it was a fun time. Really fun.”
What was your draft strategy?
“Well, you’ll see that on Saturday.”
Is there going to be trash talk between you and DJ?
“No, we wouldn’t do that. Nah, we wouldn’t do that. DJ’s a good guy, but we’re competitive, which is fun.”
Where are you now with the offensive line, and Graham [Glasgow] is back practicing with the team?
“Yeah! Graham’s back, he’s back and glad he’s back, and the offensive line is- they’re doing good. They’ve taken another step forward, which we’ve foreseen them to do and they’re on track and I think finishing up the Thursday practice, Saturday practice, pushing into the strength and conditioning phase and then going into training camp, they’re right on track and they’re taking steps forward, which is really, really exciting.”
Did Graham missing time stunt the development there for those guys?
“No, it didn’t stunt [their growth]. If somebody’s not around somebody’s got to step in and that’s what we preach and it worked out just fine.”
Mason Cole was getting work at center-
“Yeah! We put Mason in there, which was good for Mason. He’s an athletic guy and did some really, really good things there so that’s good for Mason and it’s good for Michigan.”
[After THE JUMP: Jim Harbaugh, talent evaluator extraordinaire, and we circle back to the center]
Doug, one more game this season. The offense…was it what you expected? Are you disappointed? Can you talk about the progress of the offense and what your expectations were at the beginning of the season and now heading into Ohio State, where you guys are 13th of 14 in total offense?
“Obviously our expectations are a lot higher than where we’re at right now. As I’ve touched on throughout the season you talk about individual improvement [and it] hasn’t necessarily led to total group improvement. Do feel good about the things that we’re progressing in. You talk about the ability to run the football. I believe in the last three we’re averaging like 207 yards a game or something like that rushing in the last three games. Really feel like that line’s starting to gel together. You talk about protection and the fact that we gave up two this week; one was an assignment error and we gave up one true sack on a zero blitz. We got caught by surprise. We’ve got to have a better plan down there as far as getting the ball out of our hands, and then a week ago we didn’t give up any sacks. The week before we had one coverage sack, so you talk about protection [and] I believe we’re substantially better there in the things that we’re doing.
“Talk about individual accomplishments and the development of Amara Darboh. I think [he’s] a guy that you look at what he’s done over the course of the season. A true left tackle, Mason Cole [and] his individual growth. We lose Derrick Green and see DeVeon step up and Drake step and what they’ve been able to [do]. Jake Butt coming off the injury has been limited a little bit in what he can and can’t do, but you go across the board you see a lot of individual accomplishments. Guys that are getting better, groups that are getting better. We still need to bring it all together and get to a complete game. We haven’t had that yet.”
What about point production, because it’s been a couple weeks since Devin’s had a touchdown pass?
“Well, I wouldn’t look at you’ve got to have a touchdown pass to say you’re successful. That, to me, is not defining success. Obviously throwing touchdown passes is a part of the game but if we’re going to run it we’re going to run it. You look at- like you said, we’d like to score more points. We need to score more points.”
What are the toughest venues in which you’ve ever taken a team to run an offense, because most would say Ohio State sees Michigan coming in and that’s going to be one of them?
“Well, obviously to go to the Horseshow to play in this football game is something special. Any time you play on the road and in situations where it’s going to be loud, where you know it’s going to be a hostile environment you’ve got to be prepared very well and you’ve got to be focused in and you’ve got to execute, and everybody’s got to be on the same page. There’s no margin for error.”
After the game Brady Hoke mentioned it was the first time Devin’s been healthy in more than a month. At this point is he still getting healthier, or in what ways can you use him differently now that you can run?
“You get to this point in the season and I don’t know that anybody gets healthier at this point in the season, and that’s one of the hardest things about playing this sport is that when you play at this level and type of conference we have here in the Big Ten and week in and week out have to go out and do it every week against the physical style of play we see it’s challenging mentally. And then like coach said Devin from the standpoint of his physical health had some ailments there, and we’ve gotten him relatively healthy. Obviously I don’t think anybody’s as fresh as they are week 1 of the season.”
[More after THE JUMP]
FORMATION NOTES: Rutgers did some weird stuff. On a number of snaps they'd start off looking like an over, then move a LB down into a three-tech like spot while flaring a DE out. I called those under fronts, and since Rutgers is pretty small all over it was just a way to sow confusion. An example; Rutgers shifted from this:
There's a standup 3-tech and an "ILB" who is actually a cornerback. It's a bit weird.
They also ran some more conventional under looks.
For its part Michigan went back to a heavy dose of gun. Removing three goal line plays, Michigan had 42 shotgun snaps to 13 under center. (A couple of those were goal to go runs from the 5 and 2, respectively, FWIW). This was not a panacea but did happen to coincide with Michigan's best rushing output against a Power 5 team not named Indiana in a long time.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Line was Cole/Glasgow/Miller/Kalis/Braden the whole way. Green got the bulk of the RB snaps until he was knocked out; Smith and Hayes got the rest. WRs and TEs as usual, though Butt is working his way into considerably more playing time as the season progresses.
[After THE JUMP: torchclowns, multiple torchclowns]