that's unfortunate, but at least the interest is there on both sides
Notes from today's morning press conference. To get live updates from these events, you can follow me on Twitter @varsityblue.
- Tate Forcier's shoulder is bruised, but he will play this weekend. Denard Robinson might play a slightly larger role as his comfort with the offense improves. The quarterbacks need to be smart about taking unnecessary hits. They're running a little more than Rodriguez might like, and he'd prefer to see 5-6 rushes a game.
- Moosman's snapping issues cost the team about 70 offensive yards, but Moosman is a smart, hard worker, so he'll work with Coach Frey to correct the issues. The quick snap to catch guys offsides resulted in fumbles a lot because Tate (and Denard) and Moosman don't have the comfort level with each other yet.
- The first road game being a rivalry makes it a little tougher, especially for the young guys who have never played on the road yet.
- Though the depth chart lists Cissoko ahead of Floyd and Turner, the competition at the second corner spot will be more open this week. Hopefully, someone will seize that opportunity and step up to win the starting role.
- The media will not be able to watch practice this week. Part of that is just paranoia from the coaches, and the rest of it is to make sure the players can maintain their focus in preparation.
- The Michigan/Michigan State game is a big rivalry, so fans get whipped up into a frenzy. Sometimes they get ahold of the opposing quarterback's phone number and bother him all week, etc. Rodriguez has a good relationship with Mark Dantonio: "I'm friendly with everybody. I'm a nice guy." The two have known each other from Dantonio's days at Cincinnati, and they've come across each other a few times a year since then.
- Kevin's favorite Michigan/MSU moment was watching Chris Perry run the ball 51 times against the Spartans (for 219 yards in 2003).
- Grady knows State fans at home, and even says "I have family members who are unfortunately state fans," including his grandmother. She doesn't talk a lot of trash, but both Kevin and Kelvin know where her loyalties lie.
- The team has to run the ball well in order to beat MSU (the team that rushed for more yardage has won 37 of the last 41 games between the teams). This, like every game, is just another opportunity to prove themselves.
- Kevin doesn't think Tate will falter on the road. If he's able to play in front of 100,000 at home, playing in Spartan Stadium shouldn't be a problem.
- Carlos, echoing his coach, doesn't think that spread teams are necessarily any less physical than I-formation teams: "We can line up and do exactly what they do."
- Coming from Georgia, the Michigan/Michigan State rivalry reminds him of the UGa/Georgia Tech battles. Whichever team wins is the state champion for a year.
- Tate should play well against State. He's a great quarterback, and the supporting cast is going to do what they can to get the win.
- The in-state guys really value the rivalry with Michigan State. Its a chance to win a trophy game, and get back the in-state bragging rights. The Ohio State rivalry might be bigger in the grand scheme of things, but this one means something special, particularly for the guys from Michigan. The team wants to show that last year's loss was more of a fluke than anything.
- Obi is from an area of Grand Rapids that is a little more Spartan-centric than where Kevin Grady comes from. He has 5 or 6 neighbors that fly Spartan flags, and he joked that he's going to sneak out in the night and take them down.
- He definitely avoids wearing Green and White this week - but that wasn't the case when he went to Michigan's summer camp as a high schooler. He was wearing an MSU Engineering shirt, and Lloyd Carr gave him the evil eye. Without Carr saying a word, Obi knew it was probably better off if he didn't wear the shirt.
- Coming from out of state, Donovan wasn't aware of Michigan's rivalry with the Spartans (all he really knew about Michigan was that he could watch them when he woke up at 9am on Saturdays). In his freshman year, seniors like Shawn Crable, Jamar Adams, and Brandent Englemon taught him about the rivalry.
- State might come out desperate to avoid a 1-4 start to their season, but the Wolverines will be able to match their intensity: "It's not a 1-3 team, it's Michigan State."
- MSU has 3 great receivers in White, Dell, and Cunningham, and they can all be big-play guys. The defense will need to communicate better to avoid giving up big plays.
- If the defense plays well enough to win, it doesn't matter if the game is something of a shootout. It's the final result that counts.
A couple of notes: Michigan spent the entire game in its base formation and never once substituted at linebacker or in the secondary except when forced to by Mike Williams's injury. They rotated along the defensive line, with eight players (starters plus Heininger, Sagesse, Banks, and Herron) seeing time. The 4-3 under is just the base defense now and there's not a whole lot of surprise in what they're doing. The 30 front is a pass D 90% of the time. I think when you saw it on run plays it was actually what USC calls "double eagle" and was more of a 5-2, but I'm still a little rough on that.
Notre Dame went back to its 3-wide personnel as a base set and used Rudolph a lot like M uses Koger.
Also, make sure to check out Steve Sharik's defensive analysis. I haven't read it yet, so these opinions are not mingled with his.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||Ace 4-wide||4-3 under||Run||Zone stretch||Martin||0|
|This appears to be targeted at the gap between Graham and Martin, but Martin(+0.5) slashes past the center and Graham(+0.5) holds up against a double team, forcing Allen to bounce it to Brown, who's held up on the outside(+0.5) and tackles with safety help.|
|O20||2||10||Ace 4-wide||4-3 under||Run||Draw||RVB||25|
|Yikes, terrible play from two players opens up a huge hole. One: Van Bergen(-2) tries a cute pass-rush move around the RG and gets crushed; the guard gets under his pads and just drives him out of the hole. Two: Ezeh(-2) fails to read this or the direction of the play and actually moves into a block he didn't have to take. The center of the field is wide open.|
|O45||1||10||Shotgun Empty||4-3 under||Pass||TE Bubble screen||Brown||6|
|Tough to defend for Michigan from the snap because they've only got two defenders in the area plus deep safeties shaded over. Brown(+1) actually does a good job to avoid a cut block and track down Rudolph, slowing him until help can arrive. (Cover -1)|
|M49||2||4||I-Form||Base 4-3||Pass||TE Post||Woolfolk||Inc|
|Clausen has all day(pressure -2) and finds an open Rudolph as he streaks past Woolfolk (cover -1); he throws it long. Both backs stayed in to help; Roh's guy has his hands way outside his shoulder pads but doesn't make a spin sort of move in an attempt to draw a hold, instead he just bull rushes to nowhere.|
|M49||3||4||Shotgun Empty||30 front||Pass||Slant||Ezeh||24|
|I don't know if this is a bust or what but Michigan sends five and leaves the short middle wide open, so Rudolph runs a little slant that's wide, wide open (cover -2). Michigan, bizarrely, had Ezeh 10 yards off the LOS—safety depth—on third and four, which explains the wide open section of the field. WTF? Ezeh(-1) misses a tackle, turning ten yards into 25. Fail.|
|M25||1||10||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Bubble screen||--||10|
|Another bubble that's wide open from the snap, something that ND can apparently adjust to in ways OSU can't. With Brown pulled up to the LOS—Michigan is basically in an eight-man front against three-wide, this has no chance of not working. (Cover -2)|
|M15||1||10||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||Pitch sweep||Brown||5|
|Michigan's linebacker alignment makes no sense here, with Ezeh and Mouton lined up almost on top of each other and Brown on the edge. Brown(+1) manages to get to the outside of Kamara and valiantly strings the play out, but with no linebackers in any spot to track Allen down he manages to fall forward as Mouton trips him from behind.|
|M10||2||5||Ace Twin TE||4-3 under||Pass||PA corner||Williams||Inc|
|Williams(-1) blitzes off the corner into the running back, who doesn't have the ball, and ends up getting blocked by that guy. Clausen drops back about nine yards and has a ton of time (pressure -2) with the rest of the defense playing the run; he wings it wide of a sort of open Tate.|
|M10||3||5||Shotgun Empty||4-3 under||Run||QB draw||Graham||0|
|Graham(+2) owns his guy to the inside and tackles Clausen for no gain despite having an ND OL's arm wrapped around his neck. Missed holding call #1.|
|Drive Notes: Missed FG (28), 0-0, 10 min 1st Q. A lot of structural deficiencies in the defense on this one: both bubbles were basically indefensible and the Rudolph slant was a WTF formation. Ezeh off to a poor, poor start.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O28||1||10||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Comeback||Warren||5|
|Pressure(-2) is stoned and Clausen has a ton of time; downfield coverage(+1) is good and Clausen comes back to a short comeback route that Warren is in front on. Cissoko(-1) had totally lost Floyd on a dig, though, and if Clausen had seen it Floyd would have had 20 or 30 yards.|
|O33||2||5||Ace Twin TE||4-3 under||Run||Zone stretch||Graham||3|
|Defensive line does a great job on this, but the linebackers are nowhere. Graham(+1) drives his guy back, forcing a cutback, and Martin discards his blocker and just can quite tackle for loss. Mouton avoids a block but it slows him up and it's actually Van Bergen(+0.5) coming from behind who makes this play. I'm not sure if the linebackers should have done this better.|
|O36||3||2||Ace 3TE||30 front bear||Pass||PA Fly||Williams||Inc|
|Who saw this playcall coming? The entire stadium? Okay then. Williams(+2), on a blitz, shoots through two blockers and makes a bee-line to Clausen (pressure +2), who chucks it off his back foot and OOB. Inside the tackle box, this is intentional grounding, but it isn't called. Warren(-2), by the way, had gotten smoked by Floyd(cover -2) and without the pressure this was going to be a touchdown.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 8 min 1st Q. Dodged a bullet.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|Michigan is pretty much boned on this from the snap as the defensive line slants away from a quick-hitting play and it's Stevie Brown and Ezeh trying to deal with a monster hole. Ezeh(-2) is pancaked by Rudolph, who sucked as a blocker against Nevada, and there's a huge hole into the secondary. Williams and Cissoko just barely keep this from being a long touchdown. I mean, this sucks from Ezeh. Michigan has a chance if he gets outside Rudolph and funnels the play back inside; he does not and it's very nearly six points.|
|O40||1||10||Ace Twin TE Empty||4-3 under||Pass||Hitch||Cissoko||15|
|Ugh. This is painfully, bizarrely open as Cissoko(-2) spends his time staring at the QB instead of the receiver, leaves this wide open(-1), and misses a tackle to compound everything and give Notre Dame eight extra yards.|
|Martin(+1) stands up to a double team and would hold this to no or little gain until Graham(-1) starts giving way against single blocking and a crease opens up. Mouton avoids a tackler and manages to wrap up but Ezeh(-0.5) has run himself into another blocker and can't help, thus allowing Allen to fall forward.|
|M40||2||5||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Screen||--||18|
|The overturned touchdown. This is just Michigan sending the house and getting caught. And yes, he's out of bounds, and they got it right.|
|M22||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Run||Pitch sweep||Mouton||1|
|Williams at the line and gets picked off by Rudolph, leaving a fullback and a pulling guard against the Michigan linebacking corps on the edge. Mouton(+1) blazes out to the corner and submarines the fullback, forcing it back inside where Brown(+0.5) tackles.|
|M23||2||9||Ace Twin TE||4-3 under||Pass||Checkdown||Warren||4|
|Four-man rush against max pro is 7-on-4 and doesn't get much of anywhere (pressure -1), but the coverage is good (+1) and Clausen is forced to check down to Allen; Warren(+0.5) makes a solid tackle on the catch.|
|M18||3||5||Ace Twin TE Twins||4-3 under||Pass||Throwaway||Graham||Inc|
|Max pro again; three man rush. Graham(+1, pressure +1) is threatening to burst through (and is blatantly held) so Clausen decides to just chuck it because that's what he always does. Well out of the endzone. Cissoko(+1) gets praise from Millen for the coverage so OK. (Cover +1)|
|Drive Notes: FG (34), 7-3, 1 min 1st Q. Ensuing kickoff is returned for a touchdown. This is good. It's seven points. But it also throws the defense right back on the field after they've been out for a seven play drive. What stoutness existed, which wasn't much, gets very wobbly for the rest of the half. For instance: Graham is out for most of this drive, replaced by walk-on Will Heiniger.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O24||1||10||Wildcat||4-3 under||Run||End around||Mouton||5|
|Jeez... ND overloads the short side and has two extra blockers over there, something Michigan does not react to. Mouton(-1) is ridiculously hesitant and gets blocked out of the play, leaving the safeties to come up and tackle after a good gain.|
|Unsurprisingly, they run right at Heininger, who gives ground(-0.5). Ezeh(+0.5) does come up to cut off the outside and take out one of the doublers, allowing Heininger and Mike Martin to tackle slightly short of the sticks.|
|O33||3||1||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||Pitch sweep||Ezeh|
|It's third and one and ND runs a no-deception pitch sweep and ND's no block tight end ends up blocking Ezeh six yards downfield. -2. Brown(-1) jumped inside on the snap and gave up the corner, too, but Roh's ability to get outside forced an Allen cut that might have been no gain if our MLB wasn't six yards away from the play facing 180 degrees in the wrong direction.|
|Ugh. Nothing at all from the line not named Graham and Graham is doubled by a FB and stalemated (pressure -2). Clausen has his choice of wide open receivers (cover -2) as neither linebacker(-1 each) bothers to get a pass drop and cover Rudolph and Cissoko(-1) gets no help over the top and gets burned badly by Floyd. Result is an easy long completion.|
|Max pro again but why bother when neither of your RBs has to bother picking anyone up? No one gets within five yards of Clausen (pressure -2) and Clausen has forever to find Tate on a dig; Williams tackles immediately. Can't blame the secondary here.|
|M10||1||G||Ace Twin TE||4-3 under||Run||Inside zone||Ezeh||6|
|Eight man front. Sagesse(+1) does a great job of driving the center, who's playside of him, back into the play and forcing a cutback. Tailback now has two gaps, one of which is filled by a charging Mouton, the other filled with... air because Obi Ezeh(-1) has also hit that gap. Gaaaah. Allen slams up into the hole and three guys are now shoving Roh and the pile moves; Allen does a good job of squirting for some extra yards but this should have been no gain.|
|M4||2||G||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Out||Cissoko||4|
|Terrible coverage from Cissoko(-1, cover -1) makes this super easy. You're on the four, man.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-10, 12 min 2nd Q. Ezeh is killing us in the ground game and no one on the line can get any pressure.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O31||1||10||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Screen||--||13 (Pen -10)|
|Young gets a holding call for tackling Graham(+1) as he attempts to get to the QB. Notre Dame is constantly doing this. Stupid play on a screen. ND sets this up well and gets Ezeh blocked and a cutback safeties come up to tackle.|
|O21||1||20||Shotgun Empty||30 front||Penalty||Delay of Game||--||Pen -5|
|Well, that's one way to get out of first and twenty five. Again max protect again a four-man rush, again Graham gets doubled and the rest of the line does nothing, and Cissoko is on an island against Floyd and can't do anything about it. (Cover –2, pressure -1) It seems insane that Michigan is shading the safeties over Warren and selling Cissoko out to dry.|
|O49||1||10||Ace Twin TE||4-3 under||Pass||Fly||Warren||Inc|
|Superior deep coverage as ND loads up and goes after Warren(+2, cover +1) this time one-on-one with Tate. Warren is a half-step behind and rakes the ball away as it arrives. No pressure(-2) at all again.|
|O49||2||10||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||Zone stretch||Brown||11|
|Ezeh(+0.5) actually does a good job of cutting off one inside gap and gets to the right side of a blocker to do so. Graham's flowed down the line and can make a tackle if this gets slowed at all but Brown(-1) attempts to cut back into a gap that's not his and falls, opening a lane for Allen.|
|M40||1||10||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||Inside zone||Herron||4|
|Kamara motions in to make this sort of a 2TE look. ND doubles and easily seals Herron(-1), opening up the outside, and with Brown trying to get inside of Kamara really what Gray should do is shoot it outside into huge space; he doesn't, instead cutting it up because of Brown's aggression. +0.5, I guess, for results-based charting. Ezeh's got sort of a tough job because Rudolph got a quick release, but he just sort of shoulder-blasts Rudolph and ends up on the wrong side of the play and Gray's error goes from zero yards to four. –0.5.|
|M36||2||6||Ace 3-wide||30 front||Pass||Out||Cissoko||11 + 12 Pen|
|Michigan in a 3-4 look and what the hell is Herron doing? He's just sort of hopping around the LOS, not rushing or dropping. Screen protection? Michigan gets Ezeh in on a delayed blitz but it's too late as Tate comes open on a deep hitch against Warren, again on an island. (Cover -1) Rouging the passer on Ezeh(-2) provides 12 more.|
|M12||1||10||Ace Twin TE||4-3 under||Run||Zone stretch||Sagesse||1|
|Michigan stunting and Sagesse(+1) comes from the interior to the outside, shoving his guy back, holding his ground, and delaying the tailback long enough for a slashing Mouton(+1) blitz to come home. What... a positive play?|
|M11||2||9||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Fade||Warren||11|
|This is pretty close to indefensible. Cover -1, I guess.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-17, 7 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O42||1||10||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||Delay||Mouton||15|
|Terrible, terrible from Mouton(-3), who just turns his back and heads into a pass drop on a play that has a pulling guard. Hey... maybe that's a run. Yep. Meanwhile, Herron(-1) gets sealed inside and Allen has an easy time of getting to the secondary.|
|O27||1||10||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||Delay||Graham||-1|
|Same play. Michigan's flipped their formation, though, and has Graham(+2) on the side the run goes to. He shucks a blocker, darts through the line and crushes the run with help from an aggressive Warren(+0.5). This time Mouton decides to see what the play is before reacting.|
|O28||2||11||Ace 3-wide||30 front||Run||Off tackle||Woolfolk||1|
|Same play from an earlier drive with Kamara motioning in for the 2TE look. Michigan is in a man look, as Woolfolk moves with Kamara, and this allows him to attack as soon as he sees Kamara set up to run block. The quick reaction gets Woolfolk(+1) in; he sets up outside, forces the play back to help, and tackles on the cut. No one blocked Ezeh, so he helps out. That was because Graham(+0.5) took two blockers.|
|O27||3||10||Ace 3-wide||30 front||Pass||Screen||Brown||18 (Pen -5)|
|This is a three man rush, and a screen gets Notre Dame down to the nine. Ugh. Brown(-2) and Ezeh(-1) are late reacting. Flags help out, though. Michigan turns down a downfield hold and accepts an illegal shift.|
|O32||3||15||Shotgun 3-wide||30 front||Pass||Dumpoff||Roh||7|
|Another three man rush works, forcing Clausen to check down(cover +1) and get within reasonable field goal range.|
|Drive Notes: FG(42), 14-20, 3 min 2nd Q. Very fortunate, again.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Pass||Scramble||Graham||6 (Pen -10)|
|Williams rolled up for 8 in the box. Notre Dame goes play action and Graham(+1) is about to burst through until he gets collared by the LG, drawing a holding flag. Clausen scrambles out for a few yards. (Pressure +1)|
|O10||1||20||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Long handoff||Cissoko||9|
|Cissoko, petrified, is ten yards deep and moving backwards at the snap; “duh” read for ND. (Cover -1, Cissoko -1)|
|O19||2||11||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Slant||Warren||12|
|Michigan sends five and drops into what looks like a very deep zone, opening up Floyd(cover -2) underneath for big yardage. This kind of looks a tiny bit like man but it's hard to tell; if so that would be a minus for Warren. Graham was closing here so no minus on the pressure.|
|O31||1||10||Ace 4-wide||4-3 under||Run||Draw||Brown||-5|
|Another five man rush gets Brown(+1) in unblocked; he reads the play correctly and attacks the tailback, which doesn't actually make the guy fumble—he just fumbled—but does prevent him from getting it back. Mouton(+1) recovers.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 17-20, 9 min 3rd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|Eight in the box. This seems like a screwed up read from Allen because Roh flies upfield and both linebackers get swallowed up, leaving a big lane to bounce outside in. Instead, Allen runs into the back of one of his OL so hard he falls over. +0.5 for RVB and Martin for holding up and preventing creases. After the bounce, Brown(+1) disengages from Rudolph and tracks Allen down for loss with help from Warren.|
|M46||2||11||Shotgun Empty||30 front||Pass||Throwaway||Ezeh||Inc|
|Michigan sends six against five blockers and math says they get someone through (pressure +1). They actually get two, one of whom is Ezeh(+0.5) and Clausen just wings it because that's what Clausen does immediately whenever anyone comes within five feet of him. Not that we have a whole lot of evidence for that assertion in this game.|
|M46||3||11||Shotgun 3-wide||30 front||Pass||Screen||RVB||Inc|
|Three man rush, which I hate except it ND throws a screen so we win RPS. RVB(+1), stunting, reads this and starts tracking Allen, slashing past a blocker, and Warren(+1) also attacks the ball effectively, causing Clausen to turf it. (Cover +2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 24-20, 6 min 3rd Q. Big stop after a long KO return from ND.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O4||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Pass||Fly||Cissoko||Inc (Pen +15)|
|Who's surprised by this call? No one. Roh's held in the endzone, but no call, and Cissoko is running with Tate along the sideline, looking for the ball. It falls incomplete, and the guy staring right at it says incomplete. Five seconds later the back judge, who was 30 yards away, throws a flag. This is super ticky-tack, because Cissoko is arm-fighting with Tate. But I guess if you whine all day about it the backjudge gets misty. Results-based here (Cover -1, Cissoko -1)|
|O19||1||10||Ace Twin TE||4-3 under||Pass||PA Out||Williams||71 (Pen -10)|
|Lot of eight man fronts in this half. On this one, ND runs play action that sucks the entire linebacking corps way up, leaving Rudolph unbelievably wide open ten yards downfield with no one even near him (cover -3, -1 Ezeh, -1 Wiliams). Woolfolk(-2) then misses a tackle 40 yards downfield and gives him the rest. Holding brings it back, as Young locked his arms into Roh's and wrestled him to the ground with another hand outside his shoulder pad. “Pancake blocks” don't happen on pass protection. Roh gets a +1. (Pressure +1)|
|O9||1||20||I-Form||4-3 under||Pass||PA Out||Cissoko||12|
|I still fail to see why the coverage is shaded towards Warren all day and Cissoko is just left to rot against Floyd. This is way open but it's hard to blame a guy on an island with Mike Floyd. (Cover -1)|
|O21||2||8||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Bubble screen||Inc|
|Dropped by Kamara. It seems like Woolfolk(+1) reacted quickly and would hold this down anyway. (Cover +1)|
|O21||3||8||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Throwaway||Graham||Inc|
|Wow, Michigan loads up and sends seven(!), which gets Graham(+1), through unblocked (pressure +2) and Clausen, as always, just chucks it.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 24-20, 2 min 3rd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Bubble screen||Woolfolk||6|
|Woolfolk(+0.5) reacts immediately, takes a blocker, and bounces off to tackle but Warren(-0.5) seems to react much more slowly, allowing Kamara five instead of just a couple.|
|O26||2||4||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||Zone stretch||Mouton||5|
|Excellent push from Martin(+0.5) and Graham(+0.5) forces a cutback but Mouton(-1) is tardy, and gets blocked downfield and cannot help Roh, who's crashing down from the backside to tackle. With nothing from the linebackers, everyone falls forward.|
|O31||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Deep hitch||Graham||Inc|
|Graham(+1), finally single-blocked, smokes the RT and hits Clausen as he's throwing (pressure +1) to Tate, blanketed by Warren(+1, cover +1)|
|Michigan sends five; their big halftime adjustment to this point is to get more aggressive. Ezeh(+0.5) eventually splits two blockers and forces Clausen to launch at Tate, covered by Warren(+1), who recovers and rakes the ball away. This is not a drop. It's a PBU. (Cover +1)|
|O31||3||10||Shotgun 3-wide||30 front||Pass||Dig||--||14|
|Argh backing out into a zone and rushing three here. Clausen, accordingly, has all day (pressure -2) and can even roll out at a leisurely pace and find Floyd cutting across the field. I absolutely do not understand a call like this when you can hardly stop these guys except when you get pressure. If you're worried about a screen leave a spy in. Mouton(-1) vacated his zone, opening up the throw.|
|O45||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Slant||Woolfolk||12|
|Kovacs is in the game now... they never showed Williams go out, but he will play the rest of the fourth quarter. This was thrown in front of Woolfolk(-1, cover -1), and neither he or Ezeh can tackle immediately, giving up another five.|
|M43||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Slant||Cissoko||Inc|
|This appears to be on Floyd for being a wuss, as Michigan drops Mouton into a zone over the slant and he just pulls up on it instead of take a chance of getting lit up. As a result, it goes directly to Cissoko, who drops it. I won't minus him but here's a stern look. (Cover +1)|
|M43||2||10||Shotgun 4-wide||30 front||Penalty||Delay||--||-5|
|This batty formation with Ezeh at safety depth, but it's delay of game.|
|M48||2||15||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Comeback||Cissoko||10|
|Well-executed in front of Cissoko and behind Herron in what looks like zone. (Cover -1) This is the “headless Graham” play, which does not get flagged. CONSPIRACY|
|M38||3||5||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||Pitch sweep||Mouton||6|
|Michigan appears to be blitzing Ezeh away from the direction of the play, which makes this tough to stop. But what is Mouton(-1) doing? He's flowing down the line and is determined to get outside when he's the only linebacker to the inside and this is a third and five. So he cedes ground voluntarily, actually ending up seven yards downfield, before finally cutting up when he sees that Graham(+0.5) has forced a cut up. Martin tackles from behind but again: with no linebacker help the tailback just heads forward. This has been a constant theme over the last two weeks.|
|M32||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Fly||Cissoko||Inc|
|Just a straight fly Cissoko(-2, cover -2) gets smoked on. Tate catches it but it pops out when he hits the ground for an incompletion. Roh(+1) would have gotten to Clausen on the backside if not for the LT holding him around the corner. On replay it looks like Cissoko may have had some small impact on the drop so I'll bump him up to -1, -1.|
|M32||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||30 front||Pass||Hitch||Cissoko||8|
|Easy pitch and catch in front of that guy again(cover -1, Cissoko -1), and this time it's not even one of the big stars, it's a freshman. Blitz came but Clausen was clean (pressure -1)|
|M24||3||2||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||Delay||Roh||2|
|This is actually a play from Ezeh(+2), who slashes up into the backfield, takes on the outside shoulder of a blocker, and delays Allen, almost tackling him for loss. He gets no help, though, with Roh(-1) blasted off the ball and Cissoko in press against Floyd, and Allen manages to get the corner... sort of. He's pushed OOB about a half yard shy of the first.|
|M22||4||In||Ace||4-3 under||Run||QB sneak||--||1|
|They get it.|
|M21||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Hitch||Cissoko||21|
|All, all, all day as Michigan rushes three and drops a couple DEs, including Graham, into coverage. Doesn't matter. Tate gets Cissoko to turn his hips and then breaks off a hitch just past the sticks; Cissoko recovers and actually makes his best break on the ball of the day, coming an inch away from getting a PBU. He doesn't, and he doesn't make a tackle, and Tate walks into the endzone. (Cover -1, Cissoko -1.) Results-based charting but hey, at least he had a shot at it this time. Pressure -2, by the way.|
|M3||2pt||2pt||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Rollout flat||Brown||Inc|
|Allen is offset, which tips no run and indicates a rollout, which happens. Michigan covers everyone(+1) and Kovacs(+1!) zips through the line on a blitz, forcing Clausen to get rid of the ball earlier than he might otherwise. Pass is broken up. (Pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown (2pt failed), 31-26, 9 min 4th Q. At this point I just don't understand not blitzing the hell out of Clausen. He's just going to torch the secondary if no one gets to him and when someone's gotten to him he hasn't made one play. He just chucks it.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M36||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||TE out||Rudolph||8|
|Supposed to be a quick pass as ND chops all the linemen, and Rudolph comes open as ND high-lows a zone. (Cover -1)|
|M28||2||2||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Fly||Cissoko||Inc|
|Just chuckin' it deep on Cissoko again; this time he's actually got good position and can get himself between Floyd and his route, which he does... and then flagrantly bumps him, drawing a flag (-1, cover -1) that's deserved, then waved off because the throw was yards out of bounds. Michigan sent a blitz and this is another Jimmah chuck special. (Pressure +1)|
|M28||3||2||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||Draw||Ezeh||3|
|Martin slices through the line and could be in line for a plus here but doesn't make his tackle attempt, or even slow Allen down, so nothing. Ezeh(+1), on the other hand, reads, sets up the downfield blocker, and then slashes past him to tackle, though not before Allen picks up a first. Good play; tough to stop a third and two run when you have six guys in the box.|
|M25||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Fly||Cissoko||Inc|
|Blitz gets Ezeh through clean and Graham(+1) beats his guy. Jimmah: chuck. (Pressure +1). Cissoko is in good position (+1, cover +1); the ball drags Floyd out of the endzone with help from Cissoko. We should just be sending guys in waves.|
|M25||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Hitch||Warren||8|
|Sending the house again (seven), no one clean through but Clausen has to fire quick. Warren(-1) gets turned and allows an eight-yard hitch(cover -1).|
|M17||3||2||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||Zone stretch||Graham||9|
|Graham(-2) does not maintain outside contain, moving inside and getting sealed by the ND LT, which provides a massive cutback lane no one can do anything about. Martin actually tracks him down from behind, saving a touchdown. For now.|
|M8||1||G||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||Zone stretch||RVB||8|
|Same play flipped. RVB(-1) gets crushed out of the hole; Martin avoids a cut but cannot close down the hole because RVB's been so hammered and Ezeh(-1) just sort of waits for the play to come to him. It does. In the endzone.|
|M3||2pt||2pt||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||Statue of liberty||--||3|
|Michigan is sending the house and just runs by it.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown (2pt), 31-34, 5 min 4th Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O16||1||10||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||Zone stretch||Ezeh||13|
|Michigan draws up and blitzes from the string side of the field, away from where the run goes. Roh(-2) just sets up way too deep, giving Ezeh a choice between trying to fill a hole between he and RVB or bouncing outside; he picks inside and lets it bounce. Wrong answer(-1 Ezeh). Allen just jets outside for a first down. Roh is dragged to the ground on a hold... sort of.|
|O29||1||10||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||Zone stretch||RVB||0|
|RVB(+1) gets under Stewart and blows him back, forcing a cutback that's swarmed by Graham, Ezeh, and Kovacs. +0.5 for Ezeh for taking on a block and cutting off the gap; the other guys were pursuit.|
|O29||2||10||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Fly||Warren||Inc|
|Hey, that's a good idea. Warren(+2) running stride for stride with Tate, looks for the ball, and has an equal chance of getting this. (Cover +2). If this is interference, DBs have no right to the ball ever.|
|O29||3||10||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Hitch||Cissoko||Inc|
|Bring the house and Clausen throws it wide. This one, I think, is on Jimmah. (Pressure +1) Cissoko(-1, cover -1) beat... on third and ten in this situation when you know Michigan is bringing the house. That's just dumb.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 31-34, 2 min 4th Q. Final play is academic and not charted.|
Wow, so you really want to start the UFR with a downer this week, eh?
It's time to get your pie-in-the-sky ideas about winning the conference out of your head, bolded alter-ego.
Who says I have those?
That bad, was it?
Yes, basically. I was hoping that the tape would show a huge array of awesome plays by Notre Dame that valiant Michigan defenders just could not stop because Tate and Floyd are future NFL receivers and Rudolph is awesome and so forth and so on. I didn't, really, especially in the run game, I just saw a ton of horrible play by Michigan.
Sounds like something you'd explain with a chart?
|Graham||12||3||9||Generous, IMO, since a few pluses came when he came free when Michigan sent the house, but he was the main source of pressure and was doubled on almost every play..|
|Heininger||-||0.5||-0.5||His play responsible for a big chunk of the negative pressures in the second half.|
|Roh||2||3||-1||Drew a key hold but mostly neutralized. Looked like a freshman.|
|Martin||2.5||-||2.5||Decent tracking down the run but zero pass rush.|
|Van Bergen||2.5||3||-0.5||Looked a lot like an out of position DE.|
|Sagesse||2||-||2||Actually did pretty well. I wonder if Michigan might think of moving Martin over and starting Sagesse? That would also give Graham a backup.|
|TOTAL||20||11.5||8.5||Seriously mitigated by the –8 pressure number; front four could not get to the QB. Poor overall performance.|
|Ezeh||5.5||14||-8.5||That is the biggest number in the minus column in UFR history.|
|Mouton||3||8||-5||Major regression from last year; often went into pass drops without bothering to see if it was a run.|
|Brown||4.5||4||0.5||One eyed man in the land of no tackles.|
|Demens||-||-||-||Don't think he played.|
|TOTAL||13||26||-13||An outright disaster.|
|Warren||8||1.5||6.5||Excellent day against tough customers. Good run support.|
|Cissoko||2||12||-10||The biggest negative day from a DB in UFR history.|
|Woolfolk||2||3.5||-1.5||Was not tested often with M in cover one much of the day.|
|TOTAL||13||19||-6||Warren, and then nothing, coverage to compound.|
|Pressure||11||19||-8||No pressure from front four, blitzes in second half got M its few stops.|
Recall that as you move away from the ball UFR tends towards negative numbers, so the worst position group on the day were the linebackers, who were a disaster, and that the DL's mildly positive performance is nothing to get excited about. No one other than Graham, Warren, and the rotating NT had anything approximating a decent day.
Aaaaaargh aaargh my eyes.
Words cannot describe how bad Obi Ezeh was in this game. It was a disaster, and this is a guy who's in his third year starting. Maybe the double switch of defensive coordinators has him behind the times for a third-year starter but that doesn't go much towards explaining a –8.5 that would have been worse if he hadn't been turned loose on a couple blitzes. Meanwhile, Jonas Mouton has been negative in both games so far after a promising finish to last year.
Is it Ezeh? Is it Mouton? A lack of depth? A scheme change? I know none of these things, but I look at Stevie Brown, who also switched positions and schemes, in his case more severely than either of the inside linebackers. He's doing okay. He came out of this game slightly positive, which made him the third-best player on the field. He is the property of Greg Robinson.
Mouton and Ezeh belong to Jay Hopson, and the inside backers are the only guys who belong to Jay Hopson, and they're playing terribly. As far as recruiting goes, Hopson got shut out of Mississippi last year and was the guy responsible for recruiting both defensive tackles who bolted on Signing Day. Michigan got shut out, and I don't recall any recruit mentioning Hopson this year. This blog's even got a tag about Mississippi because of it, and this year Michigan has shifted its focus away from all the places Hopson has connections. The number of kids they're recruiting in Mississippi is zero, and I can't recall anyone they're seriously involved with who's in the deep south.
Unless the two inside guys get radically better over the rest of the season, I wouldn't be surprised if Hopson was replaced.
Cissoko: the second coming of Markus Curry?
Man, he was bad, but on review I saw some of the things people were talking about. Michigan appeared to play field/boundary with Warren the boundary guy—ie, the guy who lines up to the short side of the field—and Cissoko the field guy. Then they shaded the safeties over Warren. So Warren got a good bit of help and Cissoko was often just one-on-one with death receivers.
This was really weird to me since Warren is the veteran at full health you'd expect to get stuck on an island and Cissoko the dinged n00b dwarf attempting to check Mike Floyd. That went horribly. And it can't be blamed entirely on Cissoko. But… yeah, it went horribly and there were flags and many, many completions and Cissoko looked like a guy who's going to get picked on all year. And there's nothing M can do about it, probably, with the corner depth as impossibly low as it is.
So this Sagesse guy is okay?
He hasn't seen much time but I have him down for +5 in that time with no minuses. Given the depth situation at DE and RVB's seeming inability to hold up—not surprising at 6'5" 270 something—doesn't it make sense to try Sagesse out as a starting NT and slide Martin over to the 3-tech? RVB can then back up the 3-tech and Graham. The line adds 30-40 pounds and doesn't have to roll out a walk-on when Graham needs a blow.
This is dependent on Sagesse's play not being a mirage based on small sample size, but he's looked at least functional to date, and as Will Campbell comes on line there will be some depth at DT.
Man you were wrong about Notre Dame, weren't you?
In some ways, yes. I underestimated how competent their offensive line was badly, and in retrospect expecting Notre Dame to forge ahead with I-form sets when Michigan basically can't go to a nickel and the starting fullback is out was idiotic. But, man, every time Clausen got the slightest bit of pressure he just chucked the ball, usually off his back foot, and never accurately. Future ND opponents should spy for screens and send the house again and again.
I do have some questions about what the hell Michigan was doing schematically. No help for Cissoko, a lot of cover one that made those fly routes available, erratic blitzing that didn't really get in gear until the second half… at least they adjusted somewhat, but I think Robinson had a subpar game. Not that he was working with gold here.
Brandon Graham and Donovan Warren performed like the 1st or 2nd round NFL draft picks they're likely to be. After two games you should feel free to upgrade your opinion of Warren to near-lockdown corner. Brandon Graham should remain Brandon Graham in your estimation.
Basically everyone else. But Ezeh, Cissoko, and Mouton come in for special approbation.
What does it mean for Eastern Michigan and the future?
This is not a good defense even at full health. I don't think anyone on the schedule will be able to take advantage of its specific deficiencies quite as easily as Notre Dame did, but much of ND's day was just easy. The lack of depth on the defensive line will be a constant problem as Michigan will be rotating to walk-ons and poor replacements. The inside linebackers look completely lost. And power running teams are probably going to be able to blast Michigan off the ball. And I don't think Cissoko is any good, injured shoulder or not.
Michigan had better hope that Notre Dame's defensive line has gone from subpar to outstanding with the OL coach switch, because if the DL's performance looks more like the ND game than the Western game going forward Michigan is going to be in a lot of shootouts.
He will pull off your arm and beat you to death with it and then settle down for a meal, it will be just like "Alive" down to the sexy 70's hair. Dex's latest at the WLA is pretty great all around but possibly best for highlighting this Vernon Gholston-esque gun show photo:
So that's where the rest of Tate Forcier's biceps went. (reference)
Diaries jihad! With the advent of the season I am moving things from diary to board with extreme prejudice. Consider whether your diary has the same level of value as a typical jamiemac post or this thorough research from BlueSeoul (who you may remember as Odoms hater from the season preview…
…but he's contrite):
1st Stat Category: Yards per thrown at
This stat is better than yards per catch because it includes a penalty for players who drop the ball or loaf it on a play and don't get open. Yes they are penalized for having a bad QB but that would affect all the numbers across the board.
C. Brown 13
Stonum, Webb, Cox, Shaw, 0
I'm not so sure about including plays on which a guy is bracketed and the quarterback is just chucking the ball away in the general direction of the player, but that's an interesting metric to track throughout the season.
Back to the larger point: please read the guidelines before posting up a diary (they're right above the text entry area), and let's try to keep that area of the site extremely high-value. I'm moving anything that seems like it was dashed off in ten minutes without thought. FWIW.
Speaking of high-value diaries. Steve Sharik's got an initial defensive analysis:
Obi Ezeh made a very nice tackle on a WR screen, but he still has a ways to go. His reaction time needs to improve. Example, 2nd play of the game, the B gap window opens right in front of him and there is no lead blocker. This is LB 101. Open window = hit it. He should have hit the RB behind the LOS for, at worst, no gain and probably a 1-yard loss. Instead, he hit the RB at 2 yards and they ended up with a 3-yard gain.
I noticed this too and did not deploy a minus, but maybe I should go back and at least provide a –0.5. Sharik also mentions that Ezeh spent some time "catching" blockers, which is great lingo I will immediately imbibe for a frustratingly commonplace occurrence in the Life of Obi.
Stevie Brown is an OLB. He is not a hybrid player. The true hybrid player is the strong safety, Mike Williams. Sometimes he was at the LOS (line of scrimmage), and sometimes he was a deep safety.
No, Stevie Brown hasn't been playing anything except outside linebacker in anything I've gotten to in UFR, but one of the themes of the offseason was the multifaceted use of the word "hybrid" and how confusing everything got when you were trying to deploy it yourself. Brown's a hybrid in one sense because he's a tiny OLB who can reasonably cover a slot receiver, as he did on Western's first third-down attempt in the game, not because his position is particularly innovative. Maybe we can just call him a "mammal" instead, as opposed to ponderous, hibernation-prone dinosaur Johnny Thompson. (No offense meant to Thompson; he was just born 20 years too late to be an outside linebacker.)
Mwa ha ha ha. Yes, I am a sucker for teaching your children that the guy in the other uniform is evil and should be poisoned and then putting them on the internet in a fashion that will ruin their first dates for all time. Yes, doing this will get your video on MGoBlog:
You, out there with the kid: cute violence == pub.
Refutin'. More parents chime in on The Article In Question:
"Personally, knowing Coach Rod, I don't think there's any truth to it, I don't think there's any merit in it," Michael [Shaw, father of Mike Shaw] said.
Aand Carletta Moore, mother of redshirt freshman TE Brandon, FTW:
"First of all, it's wrong, because I went straight to the source -- I went straight to Brandon -- and it's a rumor," Carletta said. "My thought on it -- the devil has a job to do, too, you know? That's just the way I see things. I don't think there's truth to that story at all. Coming from my son, there's no truth to that story."
Hey, I didn't say it.
The Wolverines are carrying nine defensemen on the roster right now: Chris Summers, Steve Kampfer, Brandon Burlon, Chad Langlais, Tristin Llewellyn, Scooter Vaughan, Greg Pateryn, Lee Moffie, and Eric Elmblad. The first four are locks to be in the lineup every night, barring injury. There are fewer games to go around (at least in theory) for the third-pairing defensemen since Kampfer and Burlon are healthy after missing a combined 24 games a year ago.
Wow. Vaughn's been dogged with persistent rumors of a move to forward, but they could hypothetically redshirt Moffie if he wanted to be redshirted. (Moffie wasn't drafted by the NHL, FWIW, so he might be amenable to that in an effort to get more playing time overall.) The upshot is that Bryan Hogan is the hockey team's Brandon Graham—he cannot get injured—and that the team looks like it should own again, though hopefully with better luck in the tournament this time.
Michigan Monday is always more fun after Michigan does not soil itself:
True freshman Tate Forcier got the start at quarterback and looked…well…he looked…okay, I’ll just come out and say it, he looked really, really good. There, I said it. He finished the game 13-20 for 179 yards and three touchdowns. He also carried the ball 11 times for 37 yards. Forcier looked completely comfortable throughout the entire game. He was poised and knew where to go with the ball just about every time.
Whole thing worth a read; skepticism expressed at what happens when Michigan gets "punched in the mouth" next week, which is fine metaphorically except for the fact that Notre Dame is not really a punch-you-in-the-mouth sort of team unless we get a –then-run-away-and-hide appended to it.
If you follow me on Twitter (@varsityblue), you probably got most of the info yesterday, but for those who don't, or who want it in a convenient format, here are the notes from yesterday's postgame press conference.
- The drama of the week heading into the game brought the team together as a family more than they already had been.
- Rodriguez told Tate that he didn't need to do too much himself. He's surrounded by athletes on the team, just get them the ball and let them make the plays.
- Tate's never gotten nervous for a game - "and I don't think I ever will."
- Tate has no Denard jealousy - in fact, playing two QBs substantially makes the Michigan team much harder for opponents to defend.
- Tate wasn't impressed by Denard's touchdown run - "I've seen him do it so many times in practice... it's typical for him to do that."
- Tate was surprised by the offense's big plays. He thought the offense would move it down the field - not get it all in one play.
- The first game against D-1 athletes didn't faze Denard. He's practiced against the guys on his own team, and knew what to expect
- Denard's athleticism makes it much harder for the opposing teams to prepare. There's even the potential to get both QBs on the field at the same time for some crazy stuff (see: Denard lined up at slot in second drive).
- Denard said college is a lot different from high school. On top of actual gameplay, the crowd was really loud.
- There's velcro on the inside of Denard's shoes to keep them on despite the lack of laces.
- As far as the QB competition, Robinson isn't too worried about who starts. He came here to compete for playing time at quarterback, and he'll continue to compete for playing time at quarterback.
- The coaches try to put a lot of pressure on the kids in practice, so that they won't get overwhelmed in games. (Hmm, sounds a bit like one Glenn Schembechler).
- There were a couple execution errors offensively, as well as too many penalties. Once those get worked out, hopefully the offensive will be able to move more consistently.
- The biggest key for Michigan's coaches in preparing for the season was to eliminate negative-yardage plays and turnovers. They did that for the most part, and they'll try to work on the penalties (which they aren't happy with, either).
- Rodriguez is still concerned with defensive depth. However, the defense looked pretty good in the first half.
- Rodriguez thanked the fans for supporting the team. In true Michigan coach fashion, he dropped the word "tremendous" about 5 times. As far as fans chanting his name, "They can say my name, but really, they're cheering for Michigan."
- Brandon Minor looked OK in warmups. He hopes Brandon can play next week, and he's confident that Junior Hemingway and Boubacar Cissoko will also be fine for next week. (Notes: From the sounds of it, Minor could have gone if the team really needed him. I think he was held out mostly as a precaution. If Cissoko isn't healthy for next week, God Help Us against Notre Dame).
- Craig Roh has a lot of talent, and should really contribute to the team this year.
- All 3 quarterbacks will continue to play (Note: I would say it's pretty clear who 1a, 1b, and 2 are at this point, though).
- The coaches knew Junior Hemingway could be this good. He showed it last year, but then got hurt and couldn't play most of the year.
- It was tough giving up the shutout in the fourth quarter. It would have sent a big statement in week 1.
- The team's been hungry all off-season to erase the bad taste from last year. The drama of the past week didn't change that, it only amplified it.
- Obi has seen Denard making crazy runs in practice, and it's good to see him do it against actual opposition. "It's not just me" that Denard can make look foolish.
- Notre Dame has a good QB and good offensive threats. Though most of the focus in practice to this point has been on Western, they'll jump straight into Notre Dame prep. The coaches will have a good gameplan against the Irish.
- It feels good to be healthy. It almost feels weird, like he's starting over again. It feels good to be out there with the team.
- It feels good to start the year putting the team's best foot forward.
- The offense is much better this year, because everyone is on the same page, and everyone knows what to do now.
- Hemingway himself says he could have played in the second half if needed. Sitting in the second frame was precautionary, and he'll be fine to go against Notre Dame.
Note: video from last year is lightboxed; previous years will take you off the page.
A note before we start: this preview relies heavily on the defensive UFRs of last year, even more so than the offense did, because there’s a convenient numerical system that does a decent job of summing up a defensive player’s contributions. One caveat: the system is generous to defensive linemen and harsh to defensive backs, especially cornerbacks. A +4 for a defensive end is just okay; for a cornerback it’s outstanding.
|Jonas Mouton||Jr.*||Obi Ezeh||Jr.*||Stevie Brown||Sr.|
|Kenny Demens||Fr.*||JB Fitzgerald||So.*||Mike Jones||Fr.|
|Kevin Leach||So.*||Brandon Smith||Fr.*||Brandin Hawthorne||Fr.|
Here's where we have to start talking about the changes Greg Robinson hath wrought. In this defense there's a large distinction between the outside linebackers—"spinner" and deathbacker—and the inside linebackers. In this way it's more of a 3-4. Jay Hopson doesn't even coach the guys on the outside, he only gets the WLBs and MLBs. These guys will be operating off the line of scrimmage at all times and acting like conventional linebackers.
The outside guys are the hybrids, with the deathbacker somewhere between a defensive end and a linebacker and the "spinner"—a term that Greg Robinson claims does not exist—somewhere between a linebacker and a safety. On any particular play they could be tight to the line of scrimmage or dropped off. This helpful screenshot from diarist remdies should help clarify:
There's been a lot of debate on the blog about whether the base D is a 4-3 under or not; this alignment, for one, is pure 4-3 under. In any case, you can see the spinner and deathbacker at or near the line of scrimmage; Brown, if called to do so, can drop off onto the slot receiver. That's why he's on the strongside: to cover. I assume this will be the base formation against spreads, with adjustments for pounders.
Going into last year, Obi Ezeh was the Steve Schilling of the defense. Oh, hell, let me quote myself:
Sophomore middle linebacker Obi Ezeh was the Steve Schilling of the defense in 2007: a redshirt freshman pressed into the starting lineup before his time, he was unprepared and often bad. Now he’s the “veteran” anchor of a shaky unit, counted upon to improve massively.
Going into this year, Obi Ezeh is still the Steve Schilling of the defense: a two-year starter entering his redshirt junior year without having done much to distinguish himself and rapidly running out of upside. Schilling's got a fresh start and bonus round of practice hype based on his position switch, but Ezeh's not been so lucky. Though he's been showing up on some preseason All Big Ten lists, that's strictly a Matt Lentz phenomenon. Lentz entered his third year as a Michigan starting guard in 2005 with a ton of accolades; he left without even getting drafted. Winged helmet momentum sometimes carries meh players to lofty preseaon heights; Ezeh appears to be one of these folk.
There's a theme in the videos at right: the good ones usually involve Ezeh shooting towards the line of scrimmage on a blitz. The bad ones see him getting lost: see "hesitant, booted" or "suckered by PA" or "WHERE ARE YOU GOING"; the theme is clear here.
A lot of Ezeh's issues at right came in the Illinois game so let's check that game's UFR:
The first of Williams's crazy ninja ballfakes. This one suckers an unblocked Ezeh(-2) despite the fact Mouton is racing up into the same hole, beating a blocker to tackle the guy. … Ezeh(-1) fails to read this, hesitating long enough for the C to get out on him on the second level. … Ezeh(-2) took an upfield angle around a blocker [on a 57-yard screen touchdown]. … Problem: Ezeh(-2) overruns the WR as he cuts back since Mouton has forced him back upfield. He whiffs a tackle, allowing Illinois to convert. … Ezeh(-1.5) completely overruns the play, turning two yards into first and goal.
Now, Ezeh did have +8.5 scattered across that game but it was outweighed by a –12.5, which whoah. Most of the plusses came when Ezeh was permitted to attack the line of scrimmage immediately on a blitz or Illinois decided not to go with misdirection; you have to set people up sometimes, right? When they weren't doing that, they confused Ezeh. A lot.
Part of that was uncertainty about just what the hell he was doing. After I slammed Johnny Thompson for his performance in the Notre Dame game, high school coach and excellent diarist Steve Sharik came to his defense by way of blamin' Obi:
The mistake was by Obi Ezeh. By design, Ezeh is supposed to fast flow over the top and be outside of Thompson. If the back sees this and cuts back, he does so into the waiting arms of Terrance Taylor. Ezeh's used to the old way--which was played as you suggested. If you re-examine "bad iso 3," Ezeh is flat-footed instead of screaming over the top, which is what the scheme calls for. And that's why Thompson spilled the block again on the next play. The bad part is that Ezeh messed it up again.
It's not like Ezeh was the only one who had no idea what he was doing last year, but as the middle linebacker it's just way more apparent when you get lost because you're reading and reacting on every play.
Will it be better? Michigan, after all, has just switched schemes again. That will depend on Ezeh's increased experience giving him added flexibility and how much better Greg Robinson is compared to Scott Shafer at, you know, teaching people things. Everyone knows he's not David Harris but Harris didn't start until he was a redshirt junior; Ezeh will be one this fall. If he can just get his head on straight he should be average or slightly better.
will pop your lid
|Play action fail|
|Chasing down end around|
|Frowns: poor zone cover|
|Stands up FB, tackles|
|Stands up G, tackles|
|Improved coverage late|
|Destroys triple option|
The other starting spot is technically an outside linebacker position but the two spots are far more similar than WLB is to spinner/SLB so I'll slot Jonas Mouton here. Mouton's star was fading rapidly after he arrived out of California a top-50 recruit. Despite Chris Graham's persistent mediocrity, Mouton never threatened to start after moving from safety. And when Michigan opened last season, Mouton was behind two-star recruit Marell Evans.
Evans fell by the wayside when Michigan revamped its linebacker corps after the Utah un derneath coverage fiasco, paving the way for Mouton to chip in a +7 in his first extended game action against Miami Of Ohio (Not That Miami Of Ohio). Ah, but not so fast my friend:
Mouton was overrated by the numbers, IMO. I gave him credit for blitzing up into the heart of Miami plays over and over again; that credit should probably fall to Shafer and not Mouton. Overall, though, I did think he played well and was a major upgrade over Evans.
That he was. Evans fell into the background and hardly saw a defensive snap the rest of the season; Mouton dropped off from his dynamite debut into a series of performances that were only okay but promised better once Mouton found his feet. That he did. Amongst the debris of the Purdue disaster his "continued good play" was about the only positive I could find
The praise Mouton started picking up late last year in UFR is echoed by Hopson. No, scratch that. It is amplified considerably (further quotes in this piece from Hopson are all from this link):
I’ve been really pleased with Jonas. Jonas is a kid that has worked extremely hard. He’s a kid that’s an explosive player. He’s a kid…he’s my kind of guy. Jonas is a tough guy. He’s physical and we expect Jonas to make some plays for us. … I think he’s ready to have a big year. … I think he’s an NFL player all the way. I’ll sell him to anybody. I just love him.
This dedicated amateur concurs. Mouton's uptake last year was swift and by the end of the season he was easily Michigan's best linebacker. Chart? Chart.
|Wisconsin||6||4.5||1.5||Had a tough time against Wisconsin's mondo players and is still learning; potential is there.|
|Illinois||5||2.5||2.5||Was better suited to defend this offense than the more lumbering guys. BONUS: “solid day”|
|Penn State||7||6||1||Still terrible in coverage; turning into a good blitzer.|
|Michigan State||5.5||3||2.5||Stood up MSU's fullback time and again, clearly surprising MSU. ... pleasantly surprised by both OLBs in this game.|
|Purdue||5.5||3.5||2||The closest thing M has to a player in the back seven right now.|
|Minnesota||2||5.5||-3.5||Off day from him; was culpable on one of the GDCDs.|
|Northwestern||9.5||1.5||8||Monster day, best of his career. Really got freed up to attack and constantly shot past guys trying to block him.|
I could go through more of it but it's all the same in the comments: Mouton's an excellent, explosive blitzer and surprisingly stout when it comes to taking on fullbacks and even guards at the point of attack. He's still vulnerable to misdirection some and has coverage issues—though they weren't as severe as Ezeh's. He's got the athleticism to be a pass-rush threat and should get more capable in coverage this year. He'll be drawing easier assignments, for one, as Stevie Brown replaces Johnny Thompson in the lineup.
Mouton is poised for a breakout.
Backups and Whatnot
This is about the only spot on defense where there is reasonable depth. Two second-year players back up Ezeh and Mouton. Ezeh's primary backup is JB Fitzgerald, a sophomore who got special teams time a year ago. As a recruit, Fitzgerald was just outside the top 100 on the recruiting sites and has gotten the sporadic positive mention in practice reports and coach recaps. Hopson recently said that Fitzgerald is "really in a battle" for a starting job, and though that may be optimistic about his chances it says something about him that he's not just shoved into the background.
More from Hopson:
JB … knows both positions. JB is smart. He’s also very much like Obi. He is mentally sharp. He’s physical and JB is a competitor. He’s not going to give in. JB wants a job too. He’s going to work hard and I’m fortunate to have guys like that. … He might be a little bit further ahead at MIKE right now, but I probably practice him a lot more at MIKE right now.
He should be reasonably prepared should he be called upon, and his talent level seems high. He's probably the player outside the starting eleven you should be least terrified to see on the field.
Kenny Demens is a classmate of Fitzgerald's but got an injury redshirt last year after appearing on special teams in the first couple games. He wasn't a huge recruit or anything, but the practice buzz has been positive. He'll be Mouton's primary backup.
There is also converted safety Brandon Smith. Smith was a big recruit—about on par with Mouton, actually—who stayed at safety his first year mostly because Michigan had few other options. When it became clear he didn't have the speed to stay there in spring, he was moved to linebacker.
Hopson is very positive about him:
They have to have an awareness. … That’s the one thing that has impressed me about Brandon Smith, moving from defensive back. When you’re far away from the ball sometimes you have time and distant on your side, you have a little bit more time to decipher. Brandon came in and in two days, okay this kid has that ability. He can see right now. A lot of players are big, physical and fast, but they can't see all the stuff that a linebacker has to see. It is truly that natural instinct.
Question: Is Brandon Smith catching up?
Jay Hopson: “Yes, he really is. He is a kid that’s worked extremely hard. I see him making one more step every day."
Even so, it will take at least a year for Smith to get comfortable enough to be a viable option. If we see him this year the linebacking corps will look like a MASH unit. Look for Smith to idle away on the bench until Mouton and Ezeh graduate, then battle for a starting job as a redshirt junior. He should be a special teams mainstay.
|The Horror Begins|
|Frowns: Utah overrrun|
|PBU leads to int|
|Blanket in man|
|FROWNS: Blown post|
|FROWNS: Slant = TD|
|FROWNS: tackle whiff|
|FROWNS: flat fail|
|Actually appears to be a safety here|
I don't remember where I read this but it sounds like the sort of quote that must have been on a message board somewhere, penned by one of those insider-type folks. Wherever it was, it lodged in my head and won't leave. Here's a possibly apocryphal quote about Stevie Brown from Greg Robinson: "he's a hell of a lot better player where he is now."
For the love of God, let that be true. A brief tour of Stevie Brown's 2008 can be found at right, or you can just read this in-depth scouting report: ack.
Brown … seems hopeless. He was quiet for a few games, then returned with a vengeance in this one. Some guys just can't figure out how to play, and at this point it would be shocking if the light ever went on.
Oh and the Northwestern one:
that's quintessential Brown: poor angles and poor awareness of the situation on the field.
And some others but you get the point. Brown was a horror show at safety.
But he's no longer a safety and if you look at the few highlights at right that don't start with the word "frowns" you'll find the athleticism that made Brown a big recruit out of high school and some good examples of man coverage. If he's not the last line of defense and he's in a lot of man against tight ends or tailbacks coming out of the back and maybe a slot receiver or three, maybe this could be okay? It certainly addresses one of the dumbest traits of Scott Shafer's tenure as defensive coordinator: leaving dinosaur MLB Johnny Thompson on the field against spread teams and asking him to cover… well, anyone. At the very least, Brown is more suited for modern football than a guy with a neck roll. Who covered slot receivers. Argh! That's another post, though, and one for tomorrow.
Brown, for one, thinks his move is a good one:
“It’s been going well. It was a little different for me at camp having to actually hit the O-lineman and tight ends all day, every day. Thus far, it’s been fine. I’ve been able to adjust to it very well. Coach Robinson does a good job teaching it and I think it’s going to work out very well for me.”
I do too, but man that incident in the spring game where the Coner juked him out of his jock, combined with, you know, everything else in his history, makes me leery. I do think he'll be in position to make a lot of plays, and I love the flexibility and common sense of putting a virtual safety in a spot where he can blitz, play zone, or man up. I like putting him behind deathbeast Brandon Graham, which should make it harder for defenses to exploit his lack of size. And people get better as they age. Michigan's put Brown in a spot to maximize his assets and minimize his downside, and I kind of sort of think it will work out.
Backups and Whatnot
None with experience. Michigan brought in three safety/linebacker hybrid freshmen, though. No one's heard much about Isaiah Bell (recruiting profile) so far because IIRC he's been injured. Mike Jones (recruiting profile)is second on the depth chart after enrolling early; Brandin Hawthorne (recruiting profile) also enrolled early but is, for now, behind a walk-on. Jones will play in an effort to get someone ready for the spot once Brown graduates; Hawthorne and Bell are likely to redshirt.
Jihad-relevant snippets from today's press conference.