DEPARTURES IN ORDER OF SIGNIFICANCE.
- CB Jourdan Lewis. Two-time All-American has case for second-best cover corner in school history. Various excellent stats, none better than this: over his last two years throwing it in the dirt and throwing at Jourdan Lewis were equally productive in terms of QB rating.
- DE Taco Charlton. Rampant in the second half of the season against both run and pass and destined for the first round of the draft. Charlton was the rare WDE to play at 280 pounds and gave Michigan's run defense oomph it will miss even if his replacement keeps up the pass rush productivity.
- SAM Jabrill Peppers. Massively overrated nonentity will be mysteriously drafted in first round this April and have decade-long NFL career. Absence in bowl game went completely unnoticed and did not pave the way for almost all of Dalvin Cook's yards.
- NT Ryan Glasgow. Robot Viking finally started getting appropriately rated as a senior, when he was again an excellent penetrator and disruptor of all things run and pass.
- SDE Chris Wormley. TE obliterator and utterly steady; maybe a hair less than explosive. Pass rush not a huge strength, but that went unnoticed since everyone else was picking QB out of their teeth. Elite run defender capable of playing inside or out.
- CB Channing Stribling. Outstanding year in coverage; if he was any easier to hit with a completion than Lewis it was a narrow thing indeed. Run support an Area For Improvement, as they say. Should still go early in the NFL draft, as he's a legit 6-foot.
- Safeties Delano Hill and Dymonte Thomas. Close to interchangeable, so addressed together: capable of deep zones and slot coverage, these two kept Jabrill Peppers out of coverage almost all year. Tremendous luxury to be able to do that and flip 'em on motion. Thomas did bust a few times for big plays (most prominently against UCF and FSU), but as safety tandems go this might be tops in recent Michigan history.
- ILB Ben Gedeon. Sideline to sideline ILB who couldn't carry wheel routes downfield. Consistent tackler who showed up in the right spot almost every time; took on blocks with aplomb and shed them with authority. Lack of playing time early in career got more inexplicable every game.
- DT Matt Godin. Played well enough early in the season, when Hurst was laid up with a minor injury, to maintain that status for the duration. Was solid in his role; provided little pass rush but effective run defender. Least productive rotation DL by some distance but still meaningfully positive per PFF.
get in his belly [Fuller]
- DT Maurice Hurst. Technically not a starter but whatever man. Per PFF, the most productive interior pass rusher in the nation. Huge grades to both them and this sites UFR; with serious uptick in snaps should have breakout senior year and contend for AA status.
- ILB Mike McCray. Resurrected career after long-term injury threatened it and was about 80% revelation. Superior blitzer, tough customer on the inside. Struggled to contain edge runs for much of the year; late improvement in that department.
- CB Jeremy Clark. Injured in game four and Michigan will try to get a sixth year for him. If that comes through Clark is a bolt of experience in a secondary that will otherwise have almost none. Lost his starting job to Stribling but started anyway since Lewis was out for the first three games; has a year of solid starts under his belt and should be a draftable guy.
- DE Rashan Gary. Snaps limited by guys in front of him; impressive and productive when he did get on the field. Physical potential limitless, and should take The Leap as a sophomore.
- DE Chase Winovich. Crazy productive pass rusher who'd show up for a handful of snaps in big-time games and come away with a sack anyway. Per PFF had 27 pressure events in 277 snaps, which is almost precisely the same rate at which Charlton racked them up. Run D occasionally wobbly. Potential breakout player.
- DT Bryan Mone. Second straight injury-plagued year. As a result barely got over the 100-snap threshold that we're using to distinguish "new" from "what's left." Struggled when he did get snaps much of the year, hopefully because he was not 100%. Flashed ability against OSU.
- FS Tyree Kinnel. Promising safety candidate was dimeback for much of the year and did well in that role. Had a couple of Kovacsian TFLs where he'd fly up from outside the picture to kill a guy dead. Coverage, which was reputed to be a strength when he was a recruit, didn't get tested.
- CB Brandon Watson. Nickel corner was beat with some regularity when tested. Doesn't seem to have much upside.
WHAT'S NEW, OR CLOSE ENOUGH, ANYWAY
dread level: rising [Patrick Barron]
Everything! Almost everything, anyway. The DL has some guys who have established a certain level of performance, to the point where only one of them is even sort of "new," that a redshirt junior who would be old except for terrible injury luck.
Dudes flanking McCray. Devin Bush figures to draw into the starting lineup next to McCray since he was the clear #3 ILB last year. That should push the bulkier McCray to MLB and give Bush WLB. Hopefully that would allow McCray to focus more on getting vertical instead of lateral. Bush is very much a spread ILB.
Meanwhile at SAM/Viper(!!!), many different things could happen. Josh Metellus and Jordan Glasgow got Don Brown praise for their work at Viper(!!!) during bowl practices; Noah Furbush is a more traditional LB option at the spot; Khaleke Hudson still seems like a perfect fit as an emphatically box safety; if Michigan can get Willie Gay, recruiting types report that he is an instant impact player.
Either all of the secondary or all but one guy in the secondary. Michigan has a ton of cornerback talent pushing through at a spot where you can get by decently on athleticism. Safety has guys with scattered snaps a year ago and really needs a couple of players to come through.
WHAT'S ROD STEWART 1977
omar comin' [Fuller]
Still the defensive line. Michigan graduates all four starters but this is very much a reload situation, not a rebuild. Michigan figures to start:
- Maurice Hurst, who produced just as much as last year's top starters in 60-70% of their snaps. He is going to be elite.
- Rashan Gary, who was +13 in about 300 snaps as a true freshman and is a holy lock to be real good as the #1 recruit in the country.
- Chase Winovich, who would be coming off a double-digit sack season if he had as many snaps as Charlton, in his first year as a WDE.
- Bryan Mone, who had a series of injury struggles the last two years but flashed his ability on a critical third and short stop against the Buckeyes.
Those guys are very much in contention for the best line in the conference.
Probably cornerback? If Michigan gets Clark back that's a veteran who will be of interest to the NFL as a Sherman-type jumbo CB; I thought he was a B+ guy in 2015 and should get better if allowed to return. Surely Michigan can find Lewis 2.0 from the pile of recruits in shiny wrapping paper they've accumulated.
Don Dang Brown. Brown lived up to the hype and then some. Michigan LBs totaled 43 TFLs as he solved problems with aggression; Michigan is at or near the top of any defensive metric you care to look at. While the copious talent had a lot to do with that, those guys were around last year and Brown still just about halved S&P+'s expected points allowed metric from 13.7 to 7.7.
While there's going to be some regression, Brown's defenses tend to take a year before kicking in to high gear. Increased familiarity with the system should help mitigate the personnel losses.
WHAT'S ROD STEWART 2017
Is Kemp ready to play? Is anyone? [Fuller]
Defensive line depth. Seven different guys saw 250+ snaps last year, with Bryan Mone getting 117 of his own. Four of those guys are gone. There is a shortage of gentlemen ready to step in. This site constantly says that nose tackle is a spot with two starters. Starter #2 at NT is...?
DE is probably fine. Between Reuben Jones, Carlo Kemp, Lawrence Marshall, and Ron Johnson Michigan can find a couple guys to spell the starters. The only DT on the roster other than the projected starters is Mike Dwumfour, a middling three star coming off an injury redshirt. Michigan's bringing in a ton of DT types in this recruiting class but even if they get a top guy like Jay Tufele or Aubrey Solomon, relying on a true freshman in the two deep is alarming. Michigan might have no choice but to move Gary to DT.
Going from Peppers to Not Peppers. The silver lining of his absence almost certainly costing Michigan the Orange Bowl is that I don't have to spend much time explaining why Peppers's departure will be costly. Yes, he tended to go on a ride when he got blocked. Michigan was delighted to take that tradeoff if it meant that you could not outrun Michigan's front seven with Usain Bolt.
WHAT'S HEISENBERG ROD STEWART UNCERTAINTY
Safety. You know, I'm almost sanguine about safety these days. After a solid decade of safeties topping out at "eh, he hasn't set his head on fire" and frequently dipping into "welp, he set his head on fire again," Michigan's on a run of guys who are actual positives. It is at this moment that we must have maximum vigilance, for this is when Angry Michigan Safety Hating God loves to strike.
Michigan clearly likes Kinnel. Unfortunately they have few alternatives; it looks like both Hudson and Metellus are tracking towards hits, but are both of those guys box safeties who you don't want to see in deep coverage? I dunno. Mental issues for a couple of true sophomores could pop up as well.
Outside linebackering. Bush will probably be at least all right and could verge on good by the end of the season. SAM/Viper(!!!) could see just about any level of performance and it wouldn't be much of a surprise.
MANDATORY WILD ASS GUESS
What looks like another excellent starting DL and cornerbacks that should pick up the departed's mantle without too much trouble is a good baseline to work from. And while the unit is going to be young—just three seniors are currently projected in the starting lineup—it isn't going to be troublingly so. The only spots at which freshmen are likely to contend are backup DT and maybe somewhere in the secondary.
So while they aren't going to be this year's outfit, which was neck and neck with Alabama for the nation's best, neither are they going to drop off to average. Unfortunately, this is not a fully Harbaugh-ized program so there are some sore spots at which one injury could radically reshape the outlook—someone please wrap the DL starters in cotton until fall—so I reserve the right to repeal the prediction if the wrong guy goes down, but this should be a top 15 S&P+ defense and top 20-ish in YPP and the like.
A massively important piece for the 2017 Wolverines will stick around:
Maurice Hurst: "I've decided I'm going to come back for my 5th year." pic.twitter.com/LCMdbLLx1e
— Sam Webb (@SamWebb77) December 21, 2016
Hurst was a rotation piece this year who did not start but played in crunch time next to Matt Godin; in about half of Michigan's snaps he had massive production in both UFR and PFF metrics. With the entire starting line off to the NFL draft, Hurst will start and get the lion's share of playing time as a three-tech next to Bryan Mone. They'll be flanked by Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich; that line project to be about as good as this one.
Depth remains an issue, which is why Hurst's return was so mission-critical.
Bust items. Michigan's annual football bust was last night. The most important thing arising from it was either Harbaugh emphatically stating he was not leaving Michigan and that three "jive turkeys" were spreading rumors to damage the program...
Harbaugh says talk of him leaving is coming from "enemies," namely three coaches who he calls "jive turkeys"
— Adam Schnepp (@aeschnepp) December 14, 2016
...or this photobomb.
— Ace Anbender (@AceAnbender) December 14, 2016
Better men than me will have to parse a winner between those two items. I mean.
I did a GIF search for jive turkey and was not disappointed pic.twitter.com/gEHQxeqekz
— Joe (@joefedewa) December 14, 2016
Split those hairs, if you will.
Other bits and pieces:
- John O'Korn's status is up in the air: you "may see him back here next year."
- Also in fifth year limbo: Wyatt Shallman, Patrick Kugler, David Dawson. We've been assuming Shallman gets a firm handshake since RB and FB are both full of guys and he hasn't been able to stay healthy. Michigan will probably need the OL depth Kugler and Dawson provide. It wouldn't be much of a surprise to see one or both start, but last year Michigan went into spring camp over 85 and without various exits the axe could have fallen on a guy like Matt Godin.
- Maurice Hurst was not present—some guys had class commitments—and Harbaugh urged people to @ him to encourage him to return. Hurst's publicly stated he is leaning towards a return. Obviously that decision is not made yet.
- Harbaugh further stumped for a sixth year for Jeremy Clark.
It is possible to take recruiting rankings too seriously. We take them seriously around here, but not this seriously:
FSU has the talent advantage in the game at every position except the offensive line.
That's a Tallahassee Democrat article titled "It's Experience versus Talent" in the Orange Bowl, which, uh
Because of the Michigan offensive line, the Michigan offense has a higher average recruiting ranking than the Seminoles despite the Seminoles having the edge at the skill positions and quarterback.
So not really. Also Michigan's defense has a walk-on at nose tackle... a walk-on who will be a mid-round draft pick. The moral of the article is that the recruiting rankings are close to a wash and Michigan is a bunch older, which helps explain why Michigan is a touchdown favorite.
Harbaugh's fourth down decisions analyzed. Long piece on Harbaugh's punt or go-for-it decision from Big House Analytics finds that somewhere between 60 and 80 percent of the time Harbaugh agrees with math dorks:
Ultimately, we have a 77.8% “success rate” here, if you will — out of Michigan’s 45 non-garbage-time punts and their nine non-garbage-time fourth-down conversion attempts, Harbaugh’s decision to punt or go was Romer-approved or at least defensible given the complexion of the game (in my opinion) 77.8% of the time. If you want to go by the book (meaning the punts I deemed as defensible but not Romer-approved counting against our success rate instead of for it), our score is 59.3%.
This analysis doesn't get into anything team specific, so Michigan's iffy running game and killer defense don't factor in. Both of those argue for a more conservative tack. Only a couple of Harbaugh's decisions stood out to me as poor: punting on fourth and five from the OSU 36 early was pretty bad. On the other hand, that set up a first half where OSU was constantly pinned back and Michigan eventually cracked their D for a TD. It was very Ten Year War, and you could see why people tended to play that way back in the day.
Meanwhile on that FSU OL. Sometime OL starter Wilson Bell was arrested for failure to appear after a hit-and-run on property. No word yet on whether that affects his availability for the bowl game. I'd guess that it doesn't since no announcement has been made yet.
Hitching your revenue model to the cable bundle was foolish. It's going to take some time, but not as much as some people thought it would. ESPN is already becoming a bit of a boat anchor for Disney:
ESPN was thrust into the spotlight in November when the ratings company Nielsen predicted the sports juggernaut would lose 621,000 cable subscribers that month. Nielsen estimated the sports network would lose another 555,000 subscribers in December.
The cable bundle is going to dissolve. That is inevitable. I sure as hell wouldn't have cable if I didn't watch sports, and about 100% of people younger than me have the same opinion. Since sports is by far the most expensive thing in the cable bundle, grandmas who just want to watch HGTV will bolt and we'll be the only ones left. At that point you don't get to put your hand in New York's pocket just because you added Rutgers, and then Rutgers is a barnacle on the Big Ten.
Maybe they can just eject them like the Big East ejected Temple? That's the ticket?
Draft split. Todd McShay's first mock draft has Peppers 4th; he fell out of PFF's first round mock. I'd split the difference there: Peppers obviously has some things to work on, but no athlete as outrageous as he is will fall to the second round.
McShay also has Taco Charlton(24th) and Jourdan Lewis(28th) in his first round. Hopefully Charlton does go in the first round, because then I will be less peeved about his lack of a redshirt. Also he deserves it.
Also of note for Michigan fans: McShay has OSU CB Marshon Lattimore and UW OT Ryan Ramczyk in his first round. Both guys could return to school; Michigan would obviously prefer it if they did not.
Russell Wilson part 2? 247 reports that Wisconsin is looking like the landing spot for ND grad transfer QB Malik Zaire. Zaire has about 100 career attempts to his name over the last three years and brings Devin Gardner-esque athleticism. He's not a slam dunk, but he's looked better than Alex Hornibrook. Would give Wisconsin another element.
The life of an analyst. Fascinating article on the guys who get their foot in the door for Bill Belichick:
Daboll was well prepared. He had spent two years as a grad assistant at Michigan State under Saban, so could speak semi-comfortably about scheme, self-scout, all that. Then Scarnecchia asked him about salary.
What do you think you should make?
Daboll had researched this, too. He had made calls to colleagues, and had dug up salary surveys from the NFL Coaches Association. He believed the average annual salary was around $65,000. He also thought, having worked for Saban, that he was a tad better than average.
"So I say 70," Daboll recalled. "And Brad Seely leans over and says, 'Would you take 15?' I go, 'Yessir.'"
NFL teams lowballing QC types like they're newspapers out here. Article also has a bunch of details on what breaking into football coaching is actually like. It is a ton of yes/no game charting.
Etc.: Carol Hutchins wins the inaugural Pat Summitt award. Well deserved. Minnesota suspends ten(!) players indefinitely. They decline to say why because of "privacy restrictions relating to student educational data," which tells you why. [UPDATE: Nevermind. Very bad.]
Peppers and mom in NYC. Some Don Brown twist stuff. Will Lockwood will be out for some time thanks to an obvious boarding incident that went uncalled but still separated his shoulder. "Christmas camp." Sounds fun!
Jake Butt, Maurice Hurst, and Matt Godin
Talk about how your team still has its destiny in its hands in terms of winning out to get where you want even though you lost.
JB: “Yeah, obviously it’s a tough loss. It’s a game we could have won, so that’s gonna sting a little bit. But we reminded ourselves and each other that what we set out for at the beginning of the season is still right in front of us. We’re going to learn from this loss and become tougher and better because of it. We control our own destiny, so as long as we keep handling business we’re not worried about what anyone else is doing. We’ve just got to handle our own business and the rest will take care of itself.”
Matt, what were some of the problems up front against the run, especially on first down, on Saturday night?
“First of all, give credit to them. They had a great seam going in the run game, but we just weren’t fitting some of the things right in the run game, obviously. We’re gonna have to take a look at it in film today, but we’ll get it fixed.”
Jake, what were some of the things that guys were saying to each other yesterday, a day removed from that? Was there encouragement needed? Was anybody having to say anything, or did you all just realize how you had to move forward?
“Thankfully, we’ve got a veteran team, a lot of older guys that have seen a lot of different things in their career here, and a lot of mature younger guys, too, that can follow some of the older guys’ lead, [and] a great coaching staff that has seen a lot of things, too. It’s a tough game. We were going to face adversity this season. We wish we would have come out on top in that game, but we understand—there’s no panic button. We’re not gonna let one loss turn into two. We’re just going to continue the same mentality of get back to work today and move forward.”
[More after THE JUMP]
On Speight. Yesterday we reported he'd be out for the regular season; someone asked Harbaugh if he was out for the season and he said no. Those aren't the same thing, obviously. You should still expect O'Korn for the next two weeks. Beyond that we'll see. There are conflicting reports about the exact nature of the injury. I've gotten some additional reports that it's a shoulder issue, not the collarbone. The upshot is the same.
Whenever we report something that comes into question our policy is to reveal as much as possible so you can judge for yourself, but there's not much I can say here. Best I can figure is that a person close to the situation got some preliminary or garbled information, which is why ESPN and the Free Press were both able to issue confirmations, with the Free Press citing the same injury. I can't say we'd do anything differently given the provenance of the information. These days we sit on anything not impeccably sourced because the downside of an incorrect report is greater than the upside, so of course.
Other dings. 247 reports that both Channing Stribling and Delano Hill should be good to go this weekend. Stribling had some issues getting off the field after his interception and Hill was replaced by Tyree Kinnel just after halftime when Hill went down with what looked like a cramp to me, but must have been at least a bit more serious. Steve Lorenz say Hill might be held out as a precaution.
PFF on Iowa. For one, Wadley is good against many teams, not just Michigan.
Iowa HB Akrum Wadley averaged 4.3 yards AFTER contact per carry -- best of any Big Ten back with 100+ carries. pic.twitter.com/ypKpiob0rW
— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) November 15, 2016
(I assume "averaged" is supposed to be "averages"; former implies they're just talking about the Michigan game but the 100+ carries indicates they're talking about the entire season.) Wadley's utilization remains a mystery. Michigan missed 11 tackles on him; prior to MSU, when the missed tackle explosion began, they had just 19 on the season.
Meanwhile the offensive grades are grim. De'Veon Smith made PFF's top five with a 55.5 grade, which is the kind of thing you see when Michigan's D plays a really bad offense. The other four, all of whom got solidly positive marks in the mid-to-high 70s, are Bredeson, Cole, Magnuson, and Butt—blockers. Michigan's skill guys disappointed.
Defense was more of the same with missed tackles hurting the LB grades. Mo Hurst again graded out excellently; per PFF he's the top interior pass rusher in the country. I'm a bit surprised he hasn't moved into the starting lineup as Godin comes back to performances that are more in line with his junior year.
FWIW, Hurst says he is leaning towards a return next year.
"It'll be just about how (me and my family) feel about it, we'll talk through it, I'll talk with coach (Jim) Harbaugh about it," Hurst said. "I think (I'm leaning toward) wanting to stay for a fifth year and pursue a Master's degree. That's something that (could be a factor).
"The degree and just the chance to come back. I love playing here. It's been everything I've imagined, especially these last two years. The atmosphere on campus. The coaches are great and they've done a great job and I know I've gotten a lot better."
That is obviously a huge deal for Michigan, which would be replacing him in the starting lineup with... Michael Dwumfour? There's a reason Michigan looks set to take 8 DL in this recruiting class.
The outlier. S&P+'s been updated and it shows just how out of nowhere Michigan's offensive performance was on Saturday. S&P+ tracks "percentile performances" on both sides of the ball. Michigan's worst outing this year against Wisconsin was at 70%; they had just one other performance under 80, that a 78% against MSU.
Against Iowa: 11%. That game alone saw Michigan's offense drop from 8th to 25th in Bill's rankings. Again I would like to shake my fist and ask why does anything happen if it's not going to be predictive.
Occam's Razor. Folks who cover OSU are in a never-ending search for red meat for the ravenous masses. See anything Bill Kurelic's ever written. Cleveland.com gets in on the act with an in-depth look at how Pioneer LB Antjuan Simmons ended up committing to OSU. Which of these approaches seems more like Harbaugh?
There are only two things that can explain Michigan's approach: Either Harbaugh never prioritized Simmons on his recruiting board or the Wolverines completely blew it with how they recruited the 6-foot-1, 215-pound prospect.
Maybe Simmons will be great at OSU but there's no story here other than sometimes people disagree on a recruit.
A nasty lawsuit in a surprising locale. A former basketball player at a Power 5 school has filed an antitrust lawsuit alleging various attempts to boot him off his scholarship. That school is... Northwestern?
The suit describes a variety of measures the program and athletic department used to free up Vassar’s scholarship, which was eventually transferred from athletic grant-in-aid to an academic scholarship. The University, the complaint alleges, went so far as to offer Vassar a cash payment in March of 2016 so he would “go away.”
The suit also alleges that Northwestern placed the three-star recruit in an “internship” so he could retain his athletic scholarship. The program, called the “Wildcat Internship Program” involved him working in a janitorial capacity. It also claims that Northwestern tried to falsify Vassar’s timesheets during the internship “in an effort to create grounds for revoking [Vassar’s] guaranteed athletic scholarship.”
The suit also attacks the NCAA and its transfer rules and is part of a larger lawsuit put forth by Hagens Berman against the NCAA in 2012.
I did not expect Northwestern basketball to be accused of cutthroat behavior this day.
The larger lawsuit is an attempt to bash down various NCAA transfer restrictions in a class action and goes hard in the paint on Bo Ryan:
123. To call Ryan a hypocrite would be an insult to hypocrisy.
(Because he blocked Jared Uthoff's transfer to Iowa after moving up to Wisconsin despite a contract with UWM.)
Etc.: settings –> options –> mute "tuddy". This article on responding to motion is very technical but may be of interest to actual coaches and football nerds. Inside the FEI rankings. Tom Brady and Brandon Graham make PFF's midseason All-Pro team.
SPONSOR NOTES: A gentleman named Matt passes this along:
Just picked up the UFR and saw your note about non-astroturfed comments.
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'Thank you' to you and your fellow bloggists for turning my wife and I on to his company.
This guy said bloggists so you know he's a real person.
In addition to being a gentleman replete with Michigan tickets, Matt is also a good man to know if you need a mortgage. It's striking that we actually get non-astroturfed comments about positive experiences with Matt not infrequently.
If you're buying a home or refinancing, he's the right guy to call.
FORMATION NOTES: Maryland was mostly a rote spread team; they did spend a big chunk of the day in this Rich-Rod-esque super wide formation. There are two WRs barely on-screen to the bottom, and you can see the two guys lined up outside the numbers.
This was an effort to clear the box and limit the things Michigan could do; it was reasonably successful.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: 60 snaps before Maryland's final uncharted drive, and as per usual the starting secondary—including Peppers—got all 60. Gedeon missed one snap.
After that there was a lot of rotation. Mike McCray only got 36 snaps due to a minor injury and some iffy play; Devin Bush got 28 in his stead. Michigan eased off first team DL snaps: Charlton, Glasgow, Wormley, Hurst, Mone, and Godin all got between a third and a half of available snaps; Winovich was your DL leader with 40 and Rashan Gary was close behind with 36.
One item of note in the secondary: Lavert Hill got 17 snaps, more than Watson(14) and that competition appears to be on. Kinnel, Metellus, and Hudson all got around ten snaps, with Kinnel the guy getting PT during non-garbage time, insofar as that existed in this game.
[After THE JUMP: edge edge edge edge edge edge.]