well that's just, like, your opinion, man
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."
Previously on Draftageddon:
Two Michigan guys go before the one good quarterback and our tight end goes 5th overall. Homers much?
ACE: Round 3, Pick 1: Jehu Chesson, WR, Michigan
OFFENSE: RB Saquon Barkley, WEAPON Jabrill Peppers, WR Jehu Chesson
DEFENSE: OLB/NICKEL Jabrill Peppers
SPECIAL TEAMS: KR Jabrill Peppers, PR Jabrill Peppers
Chesson, as you’re well aware, had more close-but-not-quite moments than I care to recall in the first nine games of his junior year as he incrementally improved while waiting for Jake Rudock to calibrate his deep ball. The final four games, post-calibration, were a Wow Experience.
Indiana is bad and should feel bad, but those last two games came against a pair of first-round cornerbacks in Eli Apple and Vernon Hargreaves—the latter is still waiting for that hitch:
I’d be more wary of basing this pick on a small-sample breakout if it hadn’t been so easy to see coming in the first place. CBSSports agrees: Chesson is their top-ranked senior receiver in the country.
In addition to his downfield receiving prowess, he also provides big-play ability on end-arounds (8 rushes for 155 yards and 2 TDs last year) and kickoff returns, as well as great blocking for a receiver. Again, this pick is also a reflection of the other available talent; the next-best receiver on the board is probably one of PSU’s Chris Godwin, Nebraska’s Jordan Westerkamp, or Amara Darboh.
[After THE JUMP: We take the linemen Pro Football Focus tells us to. Not our fault if their helmets have wings]
Michigan can't afford to lose their best back you say? [Upchurch]
Following a good laugh over one of those offseason #content lists where they name random skill position players at recognizable schools, we thought maybe a real answer might be good for, you know, an offseason #content list. So:
So who IS Michigan's most irreplaceable starter?*
David: In most years, I think there would be a few clear-cut, shining star answers. And while Michigan’s ceiling would not be as high without some of its premiere talent, I’m not sure those particular players are the most irreplaceable. Let’s try a Top 3, this time…
1. Mason Cole. He’s played LT for 2 years and has done a very solid job despite not being ideally-sized for that position. Now, it appears he will be starting at center, which just tells you how much smart of a player he is. Michigan basically has four proven OL starters, one highly-rated probably starter, and a couple of depth guys that no one really knows how they’ll turn out. Losing Cole would mean that everyone more-or-less has to be a hit in their respective positions. That COULD happen…but will it? Ehhhhh…I don’t know. Losing anyone else on the OL and Cole can move if it would allow M to put its best five on the field.
2. John O’Korn. Ok, this miiiiiiight be a reach, but I’m going off of some potential and I get to be the guy on the staff that goes rogue sometimes. I do think that JOK has the highest ceiling on the team in a position that does not quite have the depth…yet. I think we still need one more season of injury-luck in this department before the options absolutely explode. There is still some uncertainty with him, obviously, but he’s shown the physical [in]tangibles to have some backing for what he can do…in addition to belief in QB development under Harbaugh. Plus, like mobility, etc. Perhaps Speight would be adequate –or even successful- enough, but I’m personally not sold, yet.
3. Jabrill Peppers. I’ve been arguing with a buddy about this spot for a while, now. What it came down to for me is that Peppers is the backup everything on this team. I actually believe if he had to play guard or weak-side end for a couple plays, he would hold his own. Seriously though, in addition to Peppers playing his 5 positions on the field where you know he’ll line up and be awesome, he could potentially take over a starting role at 3-4 of them and there would be very little drop off from the nominal starter. On most teams, Peppers would be the cornerstone of any defense. And while he is certainly important, this defense is SO deep that he do almost whatever is needed and not be depended on to do one certain responsibility…in addition to being to handle most single-position responsibilities. Get it?
[After the JUMP: offseason #content, plus Rashan Gary's hudl highlights are embedded again]
Spring games are mostly useless because there are so many weird guys on the field. Most of the freshmen haven’t arrived yet, guys with injuries are held out, and those who’ve earned starting jobs appear briefly if at all.
But we did get to see one matchup all game that is of some interest: new starting center (probably) Mason Cole vs. returned from the dead NT Bryan Mone. Both are expected to be very good this year, but Cole is moving down from two years of playing left tackle, while Mone lost all of 2015 to injury. So I thought we might take a trip through the spring game, focusing solely on plays when they went at each other.
Please don’t take this as a UFR—Brian has his own system for that, and I’m not trying to recreate it here. We’re not looking at what Mone does to JBB or walk-ons, but who scored points against each other.
|Q||Time||Type||Mone's Job||Cole's Job||Winner|
|1||0:50||Run||Left A||Pull & seal||Mone|
|Cole is pulling around the left guard (JBB), whom Mone put on skates at the snap. Cole correctly IDs that he has to deal with that and uses up his block, which means this play is about to be dead. Mone wins the point by pushing Cole backwards to cut off even the hope of a cutback, then tossing Cole to the side to close in on the back, leaving Godin totally free. Monster start for Mone.
|Mone shows great hands as he works from a 2-tech (over the LG) to the A gap on the other side and remains clean. He doesn't pressure but the offense is using up 3 blockers, meaning the rest of the protection is 1-on-1 (including Isaac vs. Godin). That creates pressure and Speight's throw downfield is a bit too far OOB. Cole did his part though so this round has no victor, except Don Brown.|
|2||8:00||Run||Left A||Step & seal backside||Tie|
|On a power play like this Cole is starting playside and just has to block down and seal, a job he is put in an advantageous position to do. We will see this a lot so I’m establishing a precedent that Cole doesn’t get a “win” for this even though he successfully blocked Mone. If Mone gets blocked down and beats it he gets double points. If Mone pushes Cole enough to bother the pulling guard, Mone gets a point. Here Mone tried to push Cole backwards to cut off running room but Cole stalemated him.|
|2||6:17||Run||Left A||Mone m2m||Cole|
|The Isaac run I broke down last week. Mone burrowed inside at the snap and delayed JBB's release while working Cole back, but Cole got the last little shove downfield that allowed Isaac to escape downfield so Cole FTW.|
|2||5:34||Pass||Left A||Protect left A||Cole|
|Cole got some help from JBB but didn't need it, keeping Mone at arm's length and giving Speight a pretty pocket to throw the Butt TD.|
|Q||Time||Type||Mone's Job||Cole's Job||Winner|
|3rd and 10 and they're one on one. Cole absorbed the first punch then Mone tossed him aside. Cole did well to spin around and regain position between Mone and Speight, but by then the center's in the QB's knees.|
|2||2:03||Pass||Left A||Protect left A||Cole|
|Cole wins the arm war this time and keeps Mone at bay without help, leaving Peters a nice pocket to step into if he chooses.|
|2||2:00||Run||Left A||Step & seal backside||Cole|
|They're running power away from Mone again so Cole just has to block down. He erases Mone and then releases downfield, nearly taking out a linebacker and setting up to cut off pursuit. Point Cole.|
|2||1:50||Pass||2-gap||Protect left A||Mone|
|This pass (the one Wheatley dropped) got off, but Cole got shoved deep into the pocket by Mone before handing the NT off to Pliska and picking up another rusher. No pocket equals point Mone.|
Standings are at 4-3-2 in favor of Cole at this point. Obviously the white/maize team was game-planning to run at Godin (at 3-tech) instead of Mone.
[The second half, after the jump]
First, a little feelingsball
Spring games are notorious for being a little data amidst an ocean of noise, so as always take everything here with a grain of salt. And this section isn't even a concrete observation about a player, so doubly so here. But… my favorite thing that happened on Friday wasn't a play.
It was the aftermath of the two-point conversion, when the white team poured onto the field like they'd just won the Super Bowl and blue team coach Chris Partridge roared off the sideline to have a Harbaugh-level conniption fit at the ref.
A couple other coaches reacted similarly, if not as dramatically, as Partridge; the white team organized at midfield for a photo. Wyatt Shallman headbanged like there was no tomorrow. Drake Johnson collapsed in a heap.
Drake Johnson collapses on the field after his team gets stopped on a potential game-winning 2-pt. conversion. pic.twitter.com/Beyur1LaIW
— Dan Murphy (@DanMurphyESPN) April 4, 2016
I tweeted to Ace that he should title the recap "Controversial finish mars Spring Game ending,"* because that was funny. It's only funny because it's kind of true.
This is a different thing now. Last year's team was good but it was still caught between being a program that apologizes for a tent stake and a program whose DGAF levels are off the charts. Judging from the reactions of everyone involved on both sides, the all-competition-all-the-time ethos has sunk in. That more than anything else makes me anticipate the upcoming season.
This concludes your feelingsball portion of the program.
*[He did not, and I was all like ಠ_ಠ.]
[After THE JUMP: position by position breakdowns of what we learned on offense]
Where have you seen the biggest growth in your offense over the last couple of weeks?
“I just think that people understand the concepts. Really the passing game’s come along with the precision and timing. You know, making corrections. People understand what you’re trying to correct and they’re fixing it the next day you come out.”
Coach Harbaugh said that his quarterbacks were making ‘one big mistake’ per day right now. Is that still—I mean, what do you need to see from them this week and then going through the summer?
“I think just, you know, in terms of where they need to go with the ball, the progressions of their reads, when there’s no play to be made make a play. And that goes for any type of quarterback in any system. That’s not just this particular system here. That’s what you’re looking for.”
Have you seen a difference between John [O’Korn] being in his first year being in a competitive situation and the other two guys, Shane [Morris] and Wilton [Speight]?
“I think John’s a real competitor. I don’t think if he’s a redshirt it doesn’t matter to him. He’s a guy who comes out, wants to compete every day, and wants to be at his best.”
How do you distinguish between making a play when there isn’t one and trying to do too much? Where’s the line that gets drawn between those two?
“I think those guys just kind of naturally have it. They know when to make a play. They know when to step up and find a spot in the pocket. They know when to scramble. They know when to get rid of the ball not to take a sack. You know, I think it’s just kind of part of their DNA. It’s in there, you’ve just got to get it out of them.”
Was moving Mason [Cole] more about the importance of that center position or just getting the top five on the field?
“You know, you just really want to get the top five in however you do that. We’re still evaluating if that’s the best position for him. He’s done a very, very nice job this spring. That’s a hard thing to do is stand there with the ball in your hand and you’ve got a 300-pound guy breathing down your neck and you’ve got to snap it, you know. He’s really handled it beautifully. He’s done a really, really nice job with it.”
Do you guys feel like Newsome’s ready to start if need be?
“Yeah! When we played him last year as a true freshman we believed that he’s ready to do that if that’s how it all pans out.”
What’s different about him? You’ve talked about football lenses opening. Was his already a little more open than most?
“He’s very intelligent. He gets it. He can make a correction once [and] he can fix it. He understands what you’re talking about when you talk to him in the room. The screen doesn’t got fuzzy with him. He stays with you in a conversation.”
[After THE JUMP: Others in the OL rotation, Ty Isaac’s spring, and what Don Brown’s scheme does for the O-line]
DEPARTURES IN ORDER OF SIGNIFICANCE.
- QB Jake Rudock. Iowa transfer was a jittery mess for the first half and Andrew Luck Jr for the second. Cracked 3,000 passing yards with good efficiency and a solid TD/INT ratio; ended year by dicing up three top-ten pass defenses. Will be missed unless Harbaugh just Harbaughs himself another excellent QB, which is Harbaugh likely.
- C Graham Glasgow. Three year starter was always good even if it was near-impossible to tell without going into UFR-level depth. Stepped up as a senior and was, IMO, an All Big Ten-level performer. Michigan has a couple promising options to replace him; don't underrate his loss.
- TE AJ Williams. Went from symbol of the flaccid Hoke era to symbol of the player development Jim Harbaugh brings to the table. Improved his blocking immensely, quadrupled career receiving stats, was no longer a one-dimensional tight end who did not actually deliver on that dimension, blew guys off ball with consistency. I don't think I've ever seen a senior get that much better since… Bennie Joppru? Probably Bennie Joppru.
- FBs Sione Houma and Joe Kerridge. Treated as a unit. Solid to excellent blockers both with Kerridge a capable receiver and captain and Houma a promising mooseback capable of juking Florida linebackers. Normally a position met with a shrug these days, it's a much bigger deal under Harbaugh. Henry Poggi returns but hasn't touched a ball in anger yet.
- As of yet unknown attrition. Departures are on the way. Some of those will undoubtedly be on offense. Guys not playing at WR, RB, and QB are likely to be amongst the departures. None project to have significant 2016 roles unless the wild Rivals rumor about a starting OL not being asked back pans out. I'm skeptical about that.
- TE Jake Butt. 654 receiving yards a year ago with two-count-em-two drops all year. Blocking was finesse but relatively effective. Smoked touted Florida CB on route in bowl game. Should be nation's top receiving tight end and get that Mackey award he was inexplicably denied this year. A bit more oomph on the ground would be nice.
- OL Mason Cole. Emerged into a top-shelf run blocker in year two. Pass blocking was generally good but there were struggles against elite edge rushers like Yannick Ngakoue and Joey Bosa. Smart, technical player could get moved inside if Grant Newsome is Michigan's #5 OL.
- WR Jehu Chesson. Comparisons went from Stonum to Breaston to Manningham over the course of the season. Multi-use threat effective as a runner, blocker, and increasingly as a receiver. 764 yards and 9 TDs despite being chronically missed for the first half of the season, plus a KOR TD and a number of jet sweeps that went a long way. Has his shit together.
- WR Amara Darboh. Avant comparisons were on point, as he amply demonstrated on that catch. You know. That one. Solid intermediate threat with excellent hands and a large catching radius. Avant-esque. Like Avant. Reminiscent of Avant.
- RB De'Veon Smith. Nuclear-powered icebreaker back was frustrating much of the year but great against the Gators. If proverbial click has clicked and he knows where to go most of the time can be prototypical Harbaugh back. Superior blocker; may get drafted at fullback part-time a la BJ Askew.
- OLs Erik Magnuson, Kyle Kalis, and Ben Braden. All thrown into the same lump because they were more or less the same guy. All had their struggles, particularly the guards; all had their successes. All are likely to get incrementally better as senior returning starters, but it wouldn't be out of the question for one of them to get knocked out of the lineup if Kugler and Newsome emerge or Michigan picks up Texas grad transfer Jake Raulerson.
- FB/TE Henry Poggi. Last year's version of early AJ Williams. Had one catch for two yards, did not carry the ball, was a blocker and only a blocker. As a blocker he was generally effective when he made contact with a person. He failed to accomplish this with understandable frequency since he was flipped from the DL in spring. Should improve significantly in that department but must be more of a threat to have the ball.
- RB Drake Johnson. Michigan's quickest back by far but career has been limited by injury.
- RB/WR Jabrill Peppers. Oh right that guy. In year two under Harbaugh should emerge as a guy who gets ten touches a game on a variety of screens, sweeps, and straight-up runs and throws.
WHAT'S NEW, OR CLOSE ENOUGH, ANYWAY
O'Korn is generally considered the leader at QB [Fuller]
Probably John O'Korn. Michigan's QB derby is currently a five-way battle that will add a sixth contender in Brandon Peters and maybe a seventh if Harbaugh goes back to the grad-transfer well, but after a season of scout-team hype anyone other than Houston transfer O'Korn would be a moderate surprise.
O'Korn is the platonic opposite of Jake Rudock. He is Ryan Mallett, more or less, capable of throwing for 3,000 yards as a true freshman and equally capable of going full Hackenberg on WR screens in an increasingly frustrating situation and getting deservedly benched as a sophomore. He is a big, strapping fellow with good wheels who can uncork pinpoint 40-yard passes on the run. He threw an array of insane interceptions and made other mistakes in bunches at Houston, but given a year of understudy under Harbaugh both the natural maturation process and the coaching upgrade promise big things.
Half the running back rotation. This space projects that De'Veon Smith ends up absorbing most of the carries from the fullback spot and plays enough RB to remain Michigan's leading rusher. That will leave about half the total carries available. Peppers, Karan Higdon, Ty Isaac, and freshmen Kareem Walker and Kingston Davis figure to scrap over the remainder.
Only Peppers is a lock to get a bunch of touches, because he is Peppers. The rest could go anywhere; Michigan fans are hoping the freshmen step up immediately. It could happen.
An offensive lineman, maybe two. Grant Newsome is a heavy favorite to be the fifth starter on the offensive line after Michigan burned his redshirt midseason so he could be a sixth OL in heavy packages. Newsome is an ideal left tackle, though, and Michigan has an incumbent. Look for Mason Cole to move inside, as his run blocking is considerably ahead of his pass protection.
It is possible that Michigan could mix things up more extensively if they feel their best five includes Patrick Kugler or Raulerson, potentially bumping Mason Cole to guard instead of center. If that happens it's probably a good thing.
Receivers and blocky/catchy types past the Big Three. We're filing Grant Perry as "new" since he made little impact last year except in the first and last games. In the former case that impact was massively negative; in the latter a pleasant surprise. Perry, Drake Harris, Moe Ways, and tight ends Ian Bunting and Khalid Hill will compete to fill snaps vacated by Williams and the departing fullbacks.
Unless there's an injury none will emerge into prime targets; the goal there is for Michigan to have guys ready to step in when Darboh, Chesson, and Butt all depart after next year.
WHAT'S ROD STEWART 1976
The peripheral nature of most of the previous section's bullet points. Michigan needs to find a QB, an OL, and half a running back. They have less to replace than 95% of D-I programs.
Three Amigos 2016. Butt, Darboh, and Chesson are a receiving trio that might be on par with the famous Braylon/Avant/Breaston set. If Chesson continues his development he is a legit #1; Butt probably would have been the second tight end off the board if he announced for the NFL draft; Darboh is a circus-catch wizard and burly possession guy to move the chains. Nobody in the league is going to have a set of pass-catchers like that.
Continuity. Hey look Michigan has the same coaching staff for the second consecutive year, running the same offense. They have the same players running it, for the most part. This has been a rare treasure of late.
Experience. Michigan projects to have seniors start at eight of eleven positions, and one of the exceptions is Mason Cole.
WHAT'S ROD STEWART 2016
how much better can these gentlemen get? [Upchurch]
Blocking upside. I thought Michigan had two very good offensive linemen and three guys who were meh. One of the very good guys is gone; the three meh guys are all going to be redshirt seniors. I'm not sure how much any of them will improve. I mean, they should improve, but the kind of leap Cole took last year from meh to very good is unlikely.
Similarly, I don't think Jake Butt is suddenly going to be a murderous blocker. This doesn't feel like a run game that gets amazing unless it was really all targeting issues.
WHAT'S HEISENBERG ROD STEWART UNCERTAINTY
The O'Kornininging, or Speightininging, or Whoeverining. New quarterback is always a worry, albeit less so when Jim Harbaugh is his quarterback coach. O'Korn has all the tools you could want and seemingly went to Houston because he was wild and unrefined. He could be Ryan Mallett or he could be Ryan Mallett, if you get my drift.
Will the tailbacks be any good? I'd give that position group a D for the year. Kareem Walker may not be the quick fix everyone was vaguely hoping for when they heard the #1 back in the country was going to decommit from OSU and flip to Michigan. Recruiting consensus on Walker has dipped to the point where he's a good, not great prospect. (This might actually be good for Michigan given the track record of five-star backs in Ann Arbor.)
Smith and Johnson gave a glimmer of hope in the bowl game, enough to bump this from bad to dunno.
MANDATORY WILD ASS GUESS
It all hinges on INSERT QB HERE. If he comes in hot and we get a year of Late Rudock production this should be an offense that takes a major step forward. Whoever does get the job is going to have a terrific receiving corps, solid or better pass protection, and Jabrill Peppers hanging around.
The run game is a bit of a question mark still. Michigan has no slam-dunk back and probably won't see their OL take a quantum leap forward. Real improvement is likely, though. Michigan gets four OL back and will have continuity, plus both returning tailbacks who played in the bowl showed major improvement.
For context, Michigan finished 30th in offensive S&P+ this year, 43rd on the ground and 8th(!!!) in the air. They should be able to push the ground number up 10 to 20 spots, and if O'Korn hits the ground running and maintains that passing number—somewhat tough but he'll be operating in a friendly environment—Michigan should get into the top 20 teams statistically.
I'd say maintaining the passing production is unlikely, but a quick glance at Jim Harbaugh's track record with quarterbacks suggests it is anything but.