"Jim's a tough guy and you can see his personality is all over this football team," Fitzgerald said.
News bullets and other items:
There’s no timetable for Jourdan Lewis’s return (though he was listed as a starter on the depth chart provided to the media today)
Chase Winovich, Ty Wheatley Jr., Mike McCray, and Wyatt Shallman are all injured, though three of those four could return to practice today.
Joe Kerridge was injured Saturday. Harbaugh said they’ll get more information on the injury today.
Redshirting Shane Morris is “a consideration.”
Tom Strobel switched to TE in the spring, then back to defense, then back to offense about a week ago. Harbaugh thinks he’ll stay on offense, but considers him a two-way player.
Jourdan [Lewis] exited the game with what was diagnosed as a concussion. Do you have an update on him, and how long do you think he’ll be out?
“I don’t know. Uh…never really gotten into the business of predicting, especially when it comes to concussions. He’ll be evaluated by the doctors.”
There’s been a lot of talk about progression from game one to game two. After you watched the film, what jumped out the most to you as far as steps taken between those two games?
“It was a positive step in a lot of areas. Biggest one was got the satisfaction of a win. Lot of hard work put in, and that will continue this week.”
Do you expect to have Jourdan on Saturday?
“Again, I’m just not in the…uh…predicting of that. Not my area.”
You mentioned Chris Wormley on Saturday as a guy you wanted to single out. He’s had kind of a breakout first couple games of the year. What’s been the big difference for him flipping the switch or whatever to get him where he is now?
“I think he’s a very talented player that’s, you know, improving and getting better every day. Very graphic on Saturday. Thought he played a tremendous game. Probably our best defensive performance was Chris Wormley.”
[After THE JUMP: The nervous system wages war on the body]
|STRONGSIDE LB||Yr.||MIDDLE LB||Yr.||WEAKSIDE LB||Yr.|
|James Ross||Sr.||Desmond Morgan||Sr.*||Joe Bolden||Sr.|
|Allen Gant||Jr.*||Ben Gedeon||Jr.||Jared Wangler||Fr.*|
|Jabrill Peppers||Fr.*||Mike McCray||So.*||Noah Furbush||So.*|
This is music to a new defensive coordinator's ear: Michigan sports an all-senior linebacker corps. All have started for multiple years, give or take a hand injury or benching here and there. They've even got a high-quality backup. Senior leadership is out of control, man!
Approximately the fourth-best* thing to happen to the 2015 team's chances over the last year was DESMOND MORGAN breaking his hand after the first game of the season. That didn't have much impact on where 2014 went; it gives this year's team a three-year starter to slot in the Jake Ryan-shaped hole at middle linebacker.
By this point you're probably tired of me extolling Morgan's virtues, and since he didn't do much last year other than fall behind Joe Bolden just long enough for me to eat a lemon this is going to be a rehash.
Morgan is a heady, athletic enough, stick-em tackler who's been yelling at the rest of the front seven to get in the correct spot for a few years now. He is your proverbial quarterback of the defense. That role will probably be lessened this year since the entire front seven consists of upperclassmen, but expect him to thwack Lawrence Marshall and maybe Mo Hurst should the need arise. Mike Spath got a great quote about Morgan's ability in that department:
On U-M's linebackers: "We played them two years ago and the guy that everyone seemed to listen to was [Desmond] Morgan. Those guys are invaluable. Everyone respects them.
"Last year, you didn't hear a lot of talk from the middle linebacker. I don't think Jake Ryan was a talker. He just wanted to do his own thing. He was very good at it, but he wasn't that guy in the middle of a defense that was taking care of the other 10 guys on the field."
When called into duty to make a tackle, he brings the wood.
During the 2014 Minnesota game he uncorked this ridiculous thing where he flew in on a blitz, had to leap over a guy, kept his feet, held up two blockers, and helped stuff a third and short.
When he's not making eye-popping plays he's keeping things going down-to-down. The one glimpse at him we got last year was enough for me to bring out a Picture Pages about Morgan's LB instincts.
Morgan found himself in a bad stop here, taking on a free releasing lineman in a bunch of space. He popped that OL back; the RB ran into said OL, and Michigan saved some yards.
When Jake Ryan faced the exact same situation later on that drive, he tried to make a spectacular play. His attempt to teleport around that OL was an instinct that served him well as a chaos-sowing SAM linebacker; when moved to MLB that instinct meant he didn't delay the back at all. Instead of six yards, Michigan gave up 11.
That's Morgan in a nutshell. He will hit guys hard and funnel back to his help and drop into his zone. He'll make it difficult for a QB to get a completion on him; he'll make it difficult for a running back to get YAC on him; he'll make it difficult for an OL to stay attached to him. He's not going to turn in Ryan's Tarzan plays, but you don't have to do that to be a great middle linebacker.
As David Harris demonstrated, MLB is a thinking man's spot. Harris was just about flawless with his reads, and his understanding of the game extended to ways to get off blocks without even taking them—one of his trademarks was in effect juking OL by momentarily fighting to one side of a block and then cutting back once the OL took a false step. Morgan had some moments like that a year ago:
Do that consistently and you get to be David Harris too.
Morgan's coverage is good. Very rarely does he vacate big tracts of land, as both Ryan and Bolden were prone to last year. He of course saved Michigan's bacon in the 2013 UConn game (for all the good that did them in the long run) with a leaping spear of an interception. Add it up and you get a 2013 UFR in extended, trying circumstances that looks like a guy who is on the verge of stardom:
|1||CMU||4||0.5||3.5||Crunch crunch bang bang|
|2||Notre Dame||7.5||4.5||3||Coped pretty well in coverage. Responsible for both EZ deflections.|
|3||Akron||6||3.5||2.5||Negative coverage number should be factored in here.|
|4||UConn||6.5||3.5||3||Saved the game.|
|5||Minnesota||11||3||8||First real test this year passed easily.|
|6||Penn State||9.5||4||4.5||Rough start, strong finish.|
|9||Nebraska||5||4.5||0.5||Blew one TFL big. Otherwise solid.|
|10||Northwestern||6||5||1||Drawn in by some misdirection.|
|11||Iowa||1||-||1||Pulled early with injury.|
UFR is tough on linebackers, so anything above zero is good. To consistently go over it over the course of a season, generally on heavy usage is very difficult.
The main drawback here is explosiveness. Morgan doesn't rack up TFLs and sacks; he's not great at getting to the quarterback on blitzes. (Run blitzes, on the other hand, he is excellent at, especially on short yardage.) He is not the kind of athlete that is going to make the NFL salivate.
But there are few guys I'd rather have on third and one. Morgan should reprise his 2013 with some incremental improvements. That would make him an All Big Ten level guy even if the lack of fancy stats prevents that from happening in real life.
*[Your top three are Dave Brandon late night email sessions, Harbaugh, and Jake Rudock's transfer.]
[After THE JUMP: seniors are made of leadership]
Media Day photos. Via Eric Upchurch:
Events! Upcoming things:
- TONIGHT, Ann Arbor: we have an HTTV thing at Literati at 7 PM.
- August 11th, Washington DC: Season preview. Intimately titled.
- August 12th, New York: Season preview. Seventh(!) annual. Wow. Do not attend both, they will be the same thing.
- September 1st, Ann Arbor: John U Bacon discusses BRANDON'S LASTING LESSONS at Rackham.
Events this year with the Chicago and Philly clubs did not come off, but Philly has an event with half a dozen lettermen on the 29th.
Trollin' trollin' trollin' trollin'. Jim Harbaugh took questions from adorable children.
Great question to start Coach Harbaugh's press conference from this 1st Grader! pic.twitter.com/euskP0lsXY
— Zach Eisendrath (@zeisendrath) August 6, 2015
Moments later he said Michigan was about to go in a "submarine" and that you wouldn't hear from them for a while. Media members in attendance snapped their pencils in dismay.
Except this one. Drew Sharp, everybody!
— Jeff Moss (@JeffMossDSR) August 7, 2015
Wear some damn socks.
Simplified, maize-r. Michigan wore last year's jerseys at Media Day but even so there was a clear change to the uniforms this year:
players r wearing last years' game jerseys. I believe the darker toned pants are the 2015 edition. pic.twitter.com/0BVhsdDRc5
— MVictors (@MVictors) August 6, 2015
This naturally leads to a discussion about lighting and camera stuff but multiple reports from media day report that the maize is darker. Also: Harbaugh was probably so incensed by uniform clutter he sewed the flaps that cover up the superfluous block M himself.
Fewer seats. Michigan loses 2,300 seats, mostly for ADA compliance reasons:
The most noticeable changes to Stadium seating relate to ADA accessibility, as seats had to be eliminated in order to widen aisles and install hand railings around the entire bowl with the exception of the student seating section.
Michigan still has the largest capacity in the country, and they will actually fill it this year. Also:
J. Ira and Nikki Harris Head Football Coach Jim Harbaugh
Did they drop the "Family" from the still-very-unwieldy endowment there?
Sounds un-good. Linebacker Mike McCray told Mike Spath that he's going to miss a chunk of this season with an undisclosed injury. The way he talked about it seemed a bit ominous for his recovery prospects, as well. McCray on Durkin:
"He told me they're not giving up on me, and to keep fighting to get back, so I've been coming out to 7-on-7s and doing everything I can to stay part of the team, and my teammates have been helping me out with that a lot too."
If we don't see him at all this year he would be in Chris Fox territory, wherein everyone is waiting for the news he's transitioned to a student assistant. Hopefully it doesn't come to that and we at least see him on special teams some.
Okay then. Harbaugh had a direct answer to the minor fifth year kerfuffle caused by Keith Heitzman's comments to the Columbus Dispatch:
"The fifth year has to be a mutual decision," he said. "Nothing is guaranteed except the opportunity to take that spot. Do you want to come back for a fifth year and does the football team want you back?"
Apparently some guys were put on the "impress me" block and some were not. FWIW, I've heard that Countess was not one of those guys—they expected him to stay and were expecting to play him a lot.
Somebody didn't read BRANDON'S LASTING LESSONS. Minnesota's AD has resigned because he started drunk-sexting colleagues late at night. Athletic directors: typing anything after 9 PM is like feeding Gizmo after midnight.
Battle bracket. Basketball's tourney has a bracket:
UConn first, then one of Syracuse/Charlotte. Looks like we get to find out what "AXS" is and if anyone in the state gets it, as the opener is on it.
UConn was 20-15 in the American last year and bounced from the first round of the NIT; they lose Ryan Boatright, their highest-usage player, but return everyone else. Syracuse was 18-13 and 9-9 in the ACC; they did not have a postseason because they took the ever-popular midseason NCAA sanctions after Jim Boeheim got nailed for all manner of malfeasance. They lose C Rakeem Christmas but return everyone else. Charlotte was 14-18 last year and looks pretty bad.
Shooting is shooting. Brendan Quinn profiles Duncan Robinson:
The thought of Robinson playing for Beilein -- "He's born to play the system," Maker says -- made too much sense, so a phone call was made and film was sent.
Trusting Maker, Beilein called Robinson before watching the game film. He reached out as a courtesy to tell Robinson that Michigan might be interest in him as a preferred walk-on.
Robinson was flattered, but not interested. Plenty of Division I programs were offering scholarships now.
Then, one week later, a second phone call was made.
"OK, I saw you play," Beilein told Robinson. "Forget the walk-on stuff. We're talking about a scholarship. I want to get you here for an official visit."
Excellent piece; go read it.
One return. Zach Werenski will return to Yost:
Werenski confirmed for NHL.com that he will return to the University of Michigan for his sophomore year.There was speculation that the 6-foot-2, 221-pound left-handed shot would play for London of the Ontario Hockey League in 2015-16. London selected Werenski in the second round (No. 24) of the 2013 OHL draft.
Losing him would have been very, very bad on top of the Copp and Larkin departures.
Etc.: Hiring NFL people to coach college offenses is usually a disaster. Lawnmower men. The Ferry Field gate. BYU loses its starting running back. The Big Ten's new scheduling rules are also about money.
things were bad all around when Bump was doing his best
Bad times man
Could this year be the first year that all three major sports missed the post season?
I tried to look it up but realized I was wasting too much time doing so.
Thanks for the leg work. Sorry for bringing it up, though.
This isn't actually that hard to do. Michigan had a 30-some year bowl streak starting with Bo and a 22-year tourney streak starting early in the Red era. Basketball made the tournament the last two years, so we start with 1974 and go back from there. So:
- Hockey had a tourney drought from 1965 to 1976(!)
- Basketball made it in '74, reaching the Elite Eight, but hadn't made the tourney since 1966 previously.
- It was Rose or nothing for football back then, and nothing happened in 1974 and 1973
So, 1973. Meanwhile, the late sixties were not much fun to be a Michigan fan, with no postseason appearances from the big three from 66 to the 1970 Rose Bowl.
Hockey still has a shot to avoid the trifecta. Also HARBAUGH
Why in the world does a coach as good as Beilein continually pull the autobench? Which is basically taking the penalty for a crime you haven't committed yet. Also, what's the team's +/- in the last 5 minutes of the first half this season? That seems like when the autobench would be hurting us. Thanks.
Funny you should ask that, I was just about to—
BAH GAWD THAT'S ZACH JONES'S MUSIC
Given the discussion via both the website and Twitter today railing against the autobench, I put together the attached file to see what's actually going on. Thought you might be interested in the results. Dan Dakich said something interesting during the broadcast about people not talking enough about the importance of the time at the end of the first half on the outcome of a game. I've always thought this, as well, so I also put in a +/- on Michigan's performance from the final media timeout of the first half to halftime [in both autobench and non-autobench situations].
The document is here if you want to look at the details. The summary data follows.
The first column is Michigan's overall margin at the end of the game. The second is Michigan's performance in the last four minutes of the first half in all games; the third is Michigan's margin in autobench situations.
parens means negative numbers
The conclusion seems to be that John Beilein has not adapted his autobench policy to the injuries of Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton, and is still coaching like he has solid depth. This is emphatically not true, as the result of the autobench today put Andrew Dakich and Sean Lonergan on the floor for extended time.
Anyway, like I said, I thought you might find this interesting.
This was pre-Northwestern but with the only autobench in NW coming from Kam Chatman it's still accurate. Most of Michigan's deficit in Big Ten play post-injuries has come in autobench situations.
Autobench was a reasonable strategy earlier in the year when the guy coming off the bench was usually Spike (or Spike was the autobench subject). Lately it has gone very un-well.
These are tiny sample sizes that you can't draw any statistically significant conclusions from, but they do confirm the eyeball test. Michigan scored once in ten possessions at the end of the first half when Irvin and MAAR were benched, and that was the difference. MAAR's absence in the MSU game corresponded with a huge MSU run that put that game out of reach.
It's one thing to bring Dawkins or MAAR or Spike into the game because one of your guys has a couple fouls. It's another to have a lineup with Lonergan and Dakich on the floor.
The other recent controversy.
I watch the multiple M games with my Michigan grad neighbor and occasionally we get into battles about Michigan coaching strategy. This came into fruition during the NW game in both the regular time and the OT. I have always held the strategy: if it is under the shot clock (35 seconds left ) with a lead of over 2 points you should foul with the ball under ½ court with the opposing player in no act of shooting. This holds true especially in the 1-and-1 and with a timeout (to escape the trap by calling timeout). My theory is that you give the opposing team no chance to tie the game on their possession. Add to that if the ball is brought up court by a poor free throw shooter, to miss the 1-and-1 reduces dramatically to the 2 points awarded. I also have a time out to call in the event of an inbounds trap. The net is you give up 2 points max up by one with an out of bounds pass and a timeout. You inbounds the pass up by one shooting a 1:1 probably immediately fouled.
My neighbor argues that playing good defense is a valid strategy, citing the NW player stepping out of bounds giving Michigan the ball.
We would have won the game at Northwestern if we deployed this strategy in both the regular time and/or the overtime. We let them win by two miracle Trey Burke shots to tie that never should have happened. Please convince me by math that I am not insane that the “prevent” defense in college basketball is not better than in the NFL and insanely underutilized.
I am #teamfoul all the way, but any discussion of this has to point out the most extensive study of this decision on the college level was done by Ken Pomeroy and it didn't show what you think it might:
W L OT Win% Cases Foul 122 5 11 92.0 138 Defend 598 2 76 93.5 676
(That post was spurred by Ben Brust's DEATH TO BACKBOARDS heave, because of course.)
Now: fouling does prevent OT. 13% of "defend" instances made it to an extra five minutes. 8% of "foul" instances did. The increased chance of an insta-loss offset that in a sample size that's suggestive but not definitive.
So. Despite being #teamfoul, this is the kind of game theory noodling that is way less significant than anything that gets you a single extra point over the course of 40 minutes. There are some game theory noodles that are worth exploring (fourth down decisions in football, calling your f-ing timeouts when the opponent has first and goal). This one appears to be marginal.
The more important thing is what the hell Bielfeldt was thinking when Olah set a screen for Demps in that situation. There is no way Demps should have been that open.
[After THE JUMP: Mary Sue Coleman's role in Brandongate, Mike McCray deployment, #harbaugheffect]
and thus ended a really stupid debate about jersey number deservedness
I keep trying to put words here but the GIF is just looping endlessly in the editor and I no longer feel words are really necessary.
Gleeful cackling, on the other hand, seems totally appropriate. The rest of the ASU game in GIFs, which I swear isn't entirely devoted to Devin Funchess, is after the jump.
[JUMP, but probably not over two defenders because that's really hard unless, well, you're Devin Funchess.]
|STRONGSIDE LB||Yr.||MIDDLE LB||Yr.||WEAKSIDE LB||Yr.|
|Cam Gordon||Sr.*||Desmond Morgan||Jr.||James Ross||So.|
|Jake Ryan||Jr.*||Joe Bolden||So.||Royce Jenkins-Stone||So.|
|Brennen Beyer||Jr.||Mike McCray||Fr.||Ben Gedeon||Fr.|
Stupid ACL injuries wrecking everything… well… some things. Michigan loses Kenny Demens to graduation and Jake Ryan to cruel fate, but returns everyone else, adds Brennen Beyer from the stacked WDE spot, and welcomes two freshmen. They have a decent amount of experience, a decent amount of depth, and a ton of promise. James Ross figures to blow up; Desmond Morgan's improvement will be more incremental but now he's at a more comfortable position. Joe Bolden gives both a quality backup.
Even at the depleted SAM spot you've got a fifth year senior and true junior who Greg Mattison says are both playing like starters, and then Ryan is supposed to be back by mid-October… or sooner. Could be pretty good here.
These previews had previously split out the middle and weakside linebackers into their own sections, but the obvious interchangeability of the two spots (Desmond Morgan moves from one to the other, Bolden played both last year, supposed MLB Kenny Demens took the bulk of the TE-seam responsibilities) we're combining the two into an inside LB spot. Differences between the two spots exist, but are thin—according to Mattison, "inside is inside."
Morgan will hit ya [Upchurch/MGoBlue.com]
|hit and shed|
|gets in, gets upfield|
|sheds block, slows Bell|
|no more forward for you|
|comes from backside to tackle|
|kind of Ryan-like here|
|lost on counter|
|accepts a block|
|slashed to the ground|
|cut like a mofo|
|read and react|
|nerfs counter draw|
|takes on two blockers|
|sidles all the way|
|shuts down Martinez draw|
DESMOND MORGAN enters his third year as a starter by moving over from the weakside to the middle, as predicted by everyone in the world including myself. This is partly because James Ross demands entry into the starting lineup and partly because Morgan's skillset—thumpin'—was always more suited to the mike. Even when he was at WLB, it was Kenny Demens tasked with following tight ends down the seam. Morgan isn't quite a Sam Sword two-downs-and-out guy, but between he and Ross there's no question who you want dropping into coverage and who you want taking on fullbacks.
The best part of Morgan's game is how running backs stop when he contacts them. Morgan emerged into a bang-you're-dead tackler over the course of the year. Here he takes on a block, sheds it, gets an arm on LeVeon Bell(!), and robs him of most of his momentum:
Michigan would boot State off the field on the ensuing third and short. Having guys like Morgan around makes every first down a battle. Morgan also robbed a Minnesota power back of most of his momentum, amongst other events. Click play and HEAR FOOTBALL!
The guy is a brick.
After his first year this space criticized Morgan's hesitancy (mildly since he was a freshman), something that lasted through the first portion of last season. Michigan would slant the line and get gashed and I eventually pieced together a theory that the linebackers were uncomfortable predicting what would happen on that slant and late to the hole.
As the year progressed (and Washington and Campbell got more reliable with their angles), that tendency receded:
The linebackers are generally more decisive. The Demens see-gap-hit-gap-eat-soul is one part of it; also you can sense Morgan feeling the play behind that. He eases to the playside a bit to give him an edge on someone who might be releasing backside. He's reading the play through, and he shows up to help at the right spot. There's an air of "I am no longer a confused freshman" to him.
Morgan put a lot of previous worries about athleticism to bed last year as he got sideline to sideline effectively and made plays in space against tough customers like Taylor Martinez. Watching his read-and-explode is at times reminiscent of Jake Ryan. At times.
The UFR chart is reflective of this:
|Alabama||5.5||10||-4.5||And this was the best ILB play!|
|Air Force||8||10||-2||Faded late after strong start, thus setting up allfrosh.|
|Notre Dame||5||2||3||Solid tackling day, looked pretty athletic.|
|Purdue||5.5||3.5||2||Overshadowed with +2, is this real life?|
|Illinois||7.5||4.5||3||This is relatively bad!|
|MSU||9||2||7||Remember the athleticism worries with him?|
|Nebraska||11||4||7||Hit Y on leaping bat that became INT.|
|Minnesota||11||5.5||5.5||You stop when he hits you.|
|Northwestern||4||9.5||-5.5||Rough outing with blown assignments; Ross out there on critical last two drives speaks for itself.|
OSU not done, sorry. South Carolina not listed because it was impossible to tell who was who between Morgan and Bolden, and South Carolina ran the tailback five times anyway.
For inside linebackers, anything above zero is generally good. After getting 'Bama'd and having issues against Air Force's triple option, Morgan started a run of six straight positive games—some very much so.
Of course, a couple games after I proclaimed him a star in the Nebraska UFR he got edged and outran all day by Northwestern. Hey, he's just not the best guy to take on Venric Mark. It happens. Moving him to the middle should mitigate those issues.
In year three, Mattison believes that Morgan has the mental and physical ability to be top notch as long as he fixes one issue:
"He's so smart. He can make the checks, and he's strong. That allows him to be able to strike a blow, punch and get off blocks. One thing our linebackers have to work extremely hard on that was a negative for us was there were too many times they ran into blockers and didn't disengage. That's been a big emphasis."
Morgan got consistently better at this as the year rolled along. He's too much of a blue-collar guy to get the sexy TFL stats to be All Big Ten (also, Max Bullough exists) but he should be a consistently plus player who fends off Joe Bolden all year. He will be an asset.
[After THE JUMP: James Ross! Depth! Jake Ryan as Loki! Cam Gordon! More depth!]