Can you talk about the kind of depth you were building on Saturday with all the guys that got in the game?
“Well, first, to start with, many players played and played well. Tremendous for morale. Guys that worked extremely hard all along just got to contribute, so it was good for our team.”
Along those same lines, in the past few years before you arrived the ‘wait until they get experience’ thing was kind of a common theme. Seventeen guys play Saturday. What has been the difference when you look at the ability to play young guys when you look at a few years ago and those young guys weren’t really getting a lot of reps?
“I can’t comment specifically about a couple years ago. Probably as you know, we talked about it. It’s a meritocracy in who plays. By your effort, by your talent you will be known. Positions on the depth chart when you go in the game, what the roles are, are based on that.”
The team struggled a little bit, maybe the first series and half, to run the football. What changed for you guys? It just seemed like all of sudden once Wilton completed that one third-down pass things just started clicking for the offensive line and clicking for the blockers on the outside. What was the difference?
“Uh…the third down, the fourth play of the game?”
Yeah, he connected on the pass but it seemed like as soon as that happened everything started working for the running game, too.
“Yeah, that was the fourth play of the game.”
Do you have any updates on Bryan Mone and Taco Charlton and if they’re going to be available this week?
“I don’t think either one will be available this week.”
If they’re not available, how does the defensive line need to regroup depth-wise and get ready for this game?
“I think Mo Hurst will return to action. Ryan Glasgow played very well in the football game. So did Chris Wormley. There’s talented players at that position. I don’t think that Bryan Mone and Taco will be out…it’s hard to say at this point. I don’t have an update on how long they’ll be out, but I don’t anticipate them playing this weekend.”
With that, you guys had Onwenu play a little bit of offense and a little bit of defense. With a couple guys out, do you think he’ll get more on defense at this point?
[After THE JUMP: even more injury updates, and Jim Harbaugh verbally assassinates a character assassin]
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starts at 1:00
Highly anticipated season begins with highly anticipated Harbaugh fireup beating, highly anticipated Wilton Speight bad moment, highly anticipated awful ESPN announcers, highly anticipated Hawaii is awful, highly unanticipated Shane Morris rocket, highly anticipated McDOOOOOOOM cheer, highly worthy credit given to performance by Carl Grapentine, highly unanticipated Kugler start at left guard.
starts at 23:35
Already half the way to 2015's backfield chaos stats: Don Brown is a dude. Jabrill Peppers's teleportation block avoidance system seems operable. Delano Hill as HSP is a good fit. Clark was ignored; picking on Stribling worked until it didn't. Please please baby football jeebus return our defensive linemen safety by Big Ten season.
Also special teams: Boooooooooo 55-yard-kicking kicker/punter.
Redshirt Lightning Round
starts at 44:18
Really, Sean McKeon is the one you choose to start with? The rest are either obvious or necessitated by the injury situation.
Talking Big Ten w/ Jamie Mac
starts at 52:38
Wisconsin over LSU was the most impressive early season Big Ten victory since…Michigan over Notre Dame in Bo's days? We remembered Northwestern/Stanford last year and IU/Mizzou 2014 right after we finished recording so don't @ us. Good weekend in general for Big Ten teams against good competition, except that one team that looked pretty bad against Furman.
"I'm a Werewolf, Baby" — The Tragically Hip
"The Next Movement" — The Roots
"Walking on a Dream" — Empire of the Sun
"Across 110th Street"
THE USUAL LINKS
9/3/2016 – Michigan 63, Hawaii 3 – 1-0
this elevator goes all the way up buddy [Bryan Fuller]
I wonder if Michael Jordan has an internal insincerity meter for crowd reactions he gets. It's 50/50. Jordan is the kind of transcendent athlete who could legitimately go through life thinking that 100,000 nearly random people would burst into rapture at his mere presence. But to get to that level you have to be completely unstinting in your self-evaluations. To be Michael Jordan you cannot have anything but an infinitely precise vision of yourself in your head.
Anyone who went to North Carolina and was once pictured four feet tall next to Joe Dumars on a Sports Illustrated cover cannot have many misconceptions about the general feeling of southeast Michigan towards his person. So I wonder if Michael Jordan got thrown up on the big screen at Michigan Stadium and heard what the reaction was and thought to himself "I don't know what these people are one thousand percent rabid about, but it ain't me."
Because that happened. Michigan put Michael Jordan on the big board and people went nuts and if Michael Jeffery Jordan was any part of that you'd have to get down to the third derivative, where damn near everything is in the +c. Happy to have you and all that, but if you're not down with being an emblem for a bunch of other stuff we cannot help you. Emblem you are.
Same thing with all the Jumpman stuff a few weeks ago. Part of that may be genuine excitement that a different company is making tubes with holes for your arms, but most of it is because it's a place to put your enthusiasm. It is a tangible thing you can do
I mean, the students showed up on time.
Let us consider the situation. It is noon. Michigan is playing Hawaii, a 42-point underdog. The sun is unfettered in the sky, at maximum hangover-beatdown wattage. It is Welcome Week. And despite being the same age as Will Smith's kids, the students are in their section at kickoff.
Anywhere you look you'll find evidence that Michigan fans are amped for this season, including this here blog that predicted 12-0 like an idiot and sold out of its season preview magazine. I don't think anything can top assembling nearly 30,000 students in 2016. As a reminder, this is what MSU's stadium looked like at halftime of a Big Ten game last year:
MSU fans. They gone. pic.twitter.com/X8c8Fh9e9i
— Tony Paul (@TonyPaul1984) October 3, 2015
Harbaugh's got a shot at canonization now, after The Miracle Of The Full Student Section At Noon During Welcome Week 2016.
The team did their best to keep the party going. Even Wilton Speight's interception gave the defense another three plays on which to establish that Hawaii was going nowhere, and tack on stats when Michigan got the ball back. Like when you're running punts back to the one in NCAA football so you can make your absurd numbers even more absurd.
Michigan did not punt, scored seven touchdowns on offense, and would have won this game by two scores if none of those counted. It took Hawaii 25 minutes to get a first down and about that long to scrape above zero yards of offense. Jabrill Peppers jumped over a guy for fun. The only time anyone booed was when Hawaii broke the shutout with an audacious 55-yard field goal.
There wasn't anything they could do against Hawaii that would change opinions positively; they held serve.
This allowed the crowd to continue losing their mind for flyovers and Charles Woodson and Lamarr Woodley and Jim Hackett, who got the biggest cheer of anyone they introduced because he did one thing very well. Never in the history of interim athletic directors has one been greeted so rapturously.
And even that was kind of cheering at something because it's there, not for something. The yelling in Michigan Stadium was about things yet to happen. It's on the way.
HIGHLIGHTS & SUCH
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 Mike McCray led the way with 3.5 TFLs, two of them sacks, and a total of nine tackles. His impact is even a little understated by those numbers, as he also picked up a holding call on a play that still ended with the QB buried under a pile.
#2(tie) Delano Hill and Jabrill Peppers. Hill had a pick six, a nice PBU on a deep ball, and a TFL on which he displayed his trademark open-field tackling. Peppers had two TFLs, a sack, and an absurd punt return ending in a hurdle of a dude damn near standing up. I also think he was shorted a TFL on the first play of the game, as that went (very slightly) backward.
#3(tie) Chris Evans and Mason Cole. Evans cracked 100 yards on just 8 carries. Cole helped spring a big chunk of those with a lovely reach block and looked like a very good center indeed.
Honorable mention: Eddie McDooom; Ben Gedeon; Ryan Glasgow; all persons living and dead.
3: Mike McCray(#1, Hawaii)
1: Delano Hill (T2, Hawaii), Jabrill Peppers (T2, Hawaii).
0.5: Chris Evans (T3, Hawaii), Mason Cole(T3, Hawaii).
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
This week's best thing ever.
No I don't care that this was called back.
Any GIF requests? As always, noting the time is helpful if possible. This one's covered. pic.twitter.com/xGiOubHLJ4
— Ace Anbender (@AceAnbender) September 4, 2016
Honorable mention: Evans bursts down the sideline; Evans bursts up the middle; various blitzes on which the only response was HALP; pick six; other pick six; Carl Grapentine pronouncing "McDoom"; Grant Perry's sinuous corner route; Michigan introducing Jim Hackett to thunderous approval as someone else plots a corporate Facebook page response.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
This week's worst thing ever.
Another Bryan Mone injury of some severity is the worst both for him and Michigan's DT depth.
Honorable mention: Wilton Speight momentarily panics everyone with a pick on his first snap; that one drive when Stribling was getting the business a bit; jerko Hawaii kicker ruins the shutout with a 55-yard FG.
PREVIOUS EPIC DOUBLE BIRDs
Hawaii: Not Mone again.
[After THE JUMP: and introducing Chris Evans]
Wilton Speight and Mike McCray
WIlton, obviously things didn’t start off the way they were supposed to with the interception. Was there anything in particular that Harbaugh said that made you snap into it or was it just instincts?
“Yeah, obviously wasn’t the start I was imagining, but I was kind of rolling to our sideline anyway and my momentum just kind of carried me right into Coach and he just grabbed me and hugged me and was kind of laughing and was like, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll get it next drive. Don’t sweat about that.’ And I was able to do that.”
How much did it help you to have the balance that you did in terms of a running game and some receivers and tight ends?
“Yeah, so anytime the quarterback has a run threat it helps them a lot, it helps the passing game a lot. To have that balance and then have guys like Jehu and Amara and Jake Butt, Moe Ways, Drake Harris--the list could go on and on, just weapons after weapons--makes my job a lot easier.”
Mike, we heard so much about Don Brown’s defense and blitzing. You personally had a great game and the defense overall did so well, especially in the first half. What was it like to get out there in a new scheme and show what you guys could do on the greatest stage?
“It felt really good. We talked about it all week just going out there and showing everybody what we’re about. We had a great defense last year and we want to be better than we were last year. I thought we made a good statement coming out.”
Wilton, can you take us through the process of you getting acclimated? You’re comfortable in the system but the gameday environment and taking it step by step and putting it together, what was that like?
“I knew the gameplan front and back, and once I saw my first completion to Jehu on that slant I felt completely settled in and kind of like a weight was lifted off my shoulders and I was able to get comfortable and just fire some shots in the pocket.”
Was there a particular player that you felt like kind of boosted you?
“They were all really helpful. Jake Butt was in my ear a lot; De’Veon last night and this morning. But yeah, everyone was real cool.”
Coach said ‘We’ll get them back and everything will be okay’ and you started at the two-yard line. Talk about the momentum that you guys got on that drive and how you finished it off.
“Starting that deep, it’s just an opportunity to march down the whole field and that was what we were able to do. I was able to complete a few passes, the offensive line was able to hold all their blocks really well, and the running game was outstanding. To be able to march down the field 98 yards and fire a shot in to Grant [Perry] in the corner of the end zone was a good feeling.”
[Hit THE JUMP for more]
|STRONGSIDE LB||Yr.||MIDDLE LB||Yr.||WEAKSIDE LB||Yr.|
|Jabrill Peppers||So.*||Ben Gedeon||Sr.||Mike McCray||Jr.*|
|Noah Furbush||So.*||Mike Wroblewski||Jr.*||Devin Bush||Fr.|
|Josh Uche||Fr.||Elysee Mbem-Bosse||Fr.||Jared Wangler||So.*|
The old guard had been around forever—Desmond Morgan started as a freshman and had an injury redshirt in there—and is now gone. In their stead there is… well, a guy. Michigan's linebacker recruiting in the Hoke era was a major failing, so after one guy they've mishandled and one guy who narrowly evaded a career-ending injury there's freshmen and the only non-Order-of-St.-Kovacs walk-on on the two deep.
Could get hairy if anyone can get to these guys on the ground or protect their quarterback long enough to get 'em in the air. So probably not that hairy. Still, along with the offensive line and quarterback, linebacker stands out as a position at which things could go pear-shaped.
On the other hand, Peppers. He's actually in this post!
STRONGSIDE LB: HYBRID SPACE ASSASSIN
WOOOO! [Bryan Fuller]
Oh hey, it's JABRILL PEPPERS again. He's taken the baton from Jake Butt when it comes to posting shirtless jugs machine exploits:
Seen this on IG.. Had to try it lol harder than I thought pic.twitter.com/ZvLZRjfLhM
— JP5 (@JabrillPeppers) August 6, 2016
And this year he hopes to refine his immense talent into a TFL and PBU machine.
One part of his game is already flawless and has been so from the drop. He was a bonafide hybrid space player from his first snaps against Utah. Any sort of swing, flare, or screen to the wide side of the field was going to die horribly. Peppers was truly, literally unblockable in space. He'd slow up, pick his moment, and just explode past the wide receiver who drew the short straw:
Three times in this game Peppers destroyed plays that attacked the wide open spaces he is set to patrol. If Michigan can rely on that, those passes across the middle that open up because of bubble fakes get removed along with the screens; it's kind of a big deal to be able to do that.
The utter consistency with which this happened became a defensive bellwether. I eagerly awaited the moment when the offensive coordinator got fed up with having zero access to a big chunk of his playbook and said "screw it." One snap later the OC was reminded why he wasn't doing this:
There was an internet item purporting to show that Peppers missed 20% of his tackle attempts; you can mostly ignore that. A Peppers missed tackle was often something a lesser player wouldn't even get an attempt in on.
Blocking someone with his explosiveness on the edge is a futile task. This is a screen that he turns in barely outside the hash and still gets a tackle in on, because he can wait until the proper moment and just explode past the guy who drew the short straw:
Peppers gets places fast and brings a pop when he gets there. Sometimes he makes the play himself and sometimes he allows others to rally to make it, because he's constricting space that other guys cannot.
I say "mostly" because Peppers does need to refine a few things. He has a bit of Brandon Harrison disease wherein he gets going so dang fast that he overruns his target, and his tackling form could use some work. But even when he missed a tackle last year he funneled things back to his teammates.
As Peppers moves inside more often this ability will serve him well. There was a spate of tiny linebacker articles over this offseason, and this one from The Ringer highlights that Peppers evasion thing:
The key to smaller linebackers surviving in a land of 330-pound giants isn’t taking them on in single combat; it’s anticipating movements to avoid combat altogether.
“Those guys seem to make their living not by getting off blocks, but by never getting blocked,” Snead says. “They’ve got to read things quickly so they can use their deficiency to their advantage.”
There was the occasional indicator that Peppers would be able to continue his uncanny ability to blow past blockers even as space gets constricted. Here he reads the play and simply redirects past a fullback assigned to him:
His explosion is such that he can dart around blockers to the "wrong" side so fast that he makes it right. He makes all that Joe Bolden stuff work, and that'll be key when he is faced with much larger opposition.
We have some evidence what Peppers will look like as a linebacker. He was in the box on scattered snaps. He was kept clean, for the most part, and Peppers showed an ability to read and react. This isn't hard, but we don't have much else to go on:
Against UNLV he lined up as a Jake Ryan-style SAM on the line of scrimmage and did a good job to push the play back inside.
He was used as a blitzer very occasionally, and looked much like he did whilst erasing screen games nationwide. He's fast and brings a load and often comes in too hot to get a clean shot.
If he does get a free run at a blindside target an Oregon State receiver can tell you what the likely outcome is:
Peppers has the potential to force a ton of fumbles.
When Peppers is an actual SAM linebacker and not reprising his hybrid space player role, Plan A is keeping Peppers clean by demanding double teams for the SDE; Plan B is Peppers blowing the minds of linemen and blocky/catchy guys with his ability to do make something conventionally understood to be wrong work for him.
Peppers's coverage is still somewhat in question. He had issues early trying to defend horizontal double moves. That first impression lingered, and then the big bad thing against Penn State hammered it home for a lot of folks:
Peppers was rough early, no question. He was much better at playing press man as an outside corner, where he could set up to the inside and just run with his dude.
He developed over the course of the year. By midseason he was racking up some physical PBUs, usually when he was allowed to set up in press:
He was still a bit iffy in the slot but started making it difficult for guys to get in their routes, and he started making the occasional play in off man. The Penn State debacle is evidence enough that his coverage is still a work in progress, but in this case we really do mean "work in progress" instead of "permanent problem" as people so often do when they deploy that phrase. His improvement should be obvious. He won't be perfect but slot receivers aren't going to get the best of him for much longer.
Peppers also has upside as a safety. He's obviously kind of a big deal in run defense, and his speed allows him to get over the top of deep routes even when he lines up close to the line of scrimmage.
Peppers can and will do a half-dozen different things on D. You'll see him as a SAM, as a nickel, as a strong safety, as a boundary corner as Michigan tries to put out fires and exploit mismatches. Boston College SAM Matt Milano is a good baseline: 60 tackles, 17.5 TFLs, 6.5 sacks, and 3 PBUs a year ago. Peppers is around the same size and much more athletic. (I have no idea how athletic Matt Milano is and I'm sticking with that assertion.) I'd expect more pass defense stats and not so many TFLs since the DL will eat up their share, but as I said on the other side of the ball his omnipresence should lead to a bunch of stats both ways and a Heisman finalist slot.
[After the JUMP: Jabrill Peppers! Probably!]
Young Toothless in repose [Fuller/MGoBlog]
What’s it like for you to be back in the mix?
“It’s great. I really missed playing football. Mostly I just missed the camaraderie, I feel like. When you’re hurt, you’re not playing, you have to sit out. You don’t get to play with your friends—these guys are your best friends, your teammates, guys you work all year with to achieve your goals, and not being a part of that really hurts.”
How much did it bother you down the stretch last season to watch and not be a part of it?
“It…the thing that bothered me was I felt like I was hanging my teammates out to dry. I know we played a lot of up-tempo teams and you need depth against those teams. You can’t expect four or five guys to go out there and play every snap against a team that’s snapping the ball every 15 seconds. So, I felt like I could have done more. I felt like I was kind of hanging them out to dry, for lack of a better term, out there, so that kind of hurt pretty bad.”
You were saying at the linemen camp that you felt you were healthy and ready to go. Are you able to assess it better now that you’re actually going against people?
“Yeah. I mean, there’s no substitute for a 300-pound man trying to block you. So, it took a couple days to get back in the swing of things but I feel great. I feel 100%. Feel like I’m in the best shape of my life. Everything’s going great.”
How about the depth as it stands now? They’re talking about rolling lines.
“I’ll let Coach Mattison and Coach Harbaugh talk about the depth chart. It’s not really my place to talk about it.”
Harbaugh was saying that Michael Onwenu is possibly his favorite player on the team—or favorite of the freshmen, that he’s going both ways. So are you going against him and working with him?
“Yeah, he’s a mountain of a man. He’s a big guy. He was playing defense and giving us looks as an offensive guard in individual, you’re just like, ‘This kid is huge.’ And he picks up on everything really quickly. If you can play offensive and defensive line both as a true freshman or you’re rolling through depending on the day, whichever side of the ball they want you to play, that’s pretty impressive.”
If you had to guess, how much would you say he actually weighs?
“Um…I think the most recent weigh-in was about 375, so I think that’s the heaviest on the team by about 50 pounds. That’s a pretty wide margin on a college football team.”
But he still can move well at that size?
“Yeah! He moves extremely well for a guy who [inaudible].”
You felt earlier you could have done more last November. Medically, you weren’t allowed to play, right?
“No, I wasn’t. It’s just the feeling like I was I was out there with my guys. Maybe that’s just me. I don’t know. It was just a weird feeling sitting at home. I’ve been traveling basically every game since my redshirt year, and so watching on the couch instead of being there, it was just a little strange.”
Does that make you reassess things, not coming back by the end of the season?
“Yeah, it’s just like this game does end and having it taken away so abruptly—like, if I was a true senior or something that could have been my last game, [the game] against Rutgers. It kind of makes you take every day and cherish it and not take it for granted.”
What was the rehabilitation period like for you and the recover period like for you?
“I spent six weeks in an immobilizer. Just a little wedge thing right here to keep it still to let it heal. But our strength training staff and our athletic training staff was great, especially Jason Williams, a Michigan grad. He took probably about an hour out of his day every day to work with me for God knows how long. Probably like two weeks straight. So, that was great and I really appreciate the strength staff and the athletic training staff for that.”
What’s your reaction to the new boss on defense?
“He’s the man. He’s awesome. It’s a little different being coached by him. He’s not as big of a screamer as our past defensive coordinator but he gets the point across. He’s a great guy. His defense is awesome and we’re excited to play in it this year.”
[After THE JUMP: the origin story of Young Toothless and a little technique talk with McCray]