(pic via Dawg Day Afternoon; need help finding the artist)
This week I saw a photo of Jerryworld with its floor removed in preparation for 2013 tourney games, and I was reminded of the horrific things that must be buried in that dirt: the blood from a terrible Indian battle, bits and pieces of Woodson's collarbone (Superbowl XLV) and Denard Robinson's shoulder dislodged by Dee Milliner, perhaps the remains of five hookers.
Among various banners this basketball team has been asked to carry, one is a flag of redemption for Michigan's other sports. Given the site and the stage, sure why not the Alabama game too? The last trip to the Dallas/Ft. Worth/Arlington parking lot from hell dismantled every shred of hope and excitement for the last year of Denard. Now another former Big Ten coach who moved South and built a pro factory of mauling blue chips could end our association with Burke. ClearEyesFullHart starts with Bill Self's Illinois teams to preview tonight's Sweet 16 matchup with Kansas.
If this trip doesn't work, there may be an opportunity in 2015.
Excelius in'dome'ine. Say hello to stopthewnba, who received a points advance so he could post another attempt to get all statistical about the "domes hurt shooting" meme. This is of course super-relevant to Michigan in Jerryworld tonight since we're very much the shootier squad. The data haven't gotten any larger, however there's knowledge gained:
In four of the past five seasons, among Sweet Sixteen teams, one of the top two teams that increase their scoring average in the tournament over their regular season average made the Final Four. Similarly interesting is that in four of the past five seasons, one of the bottom two teams who score LESS in the tournament than their regular season average also made the Final Four:
I think I found the sampling bias in that: the further you go in the tournament the tougher defenses you will happen upon. The teams who score way above their normal rates those who "got hot" and they of course will go further, but good teams who are playing at the same level they did all year should see their scoring rate dip both due to the improved quality of defenses, and the fact that defenders are more rested thanks to all the advertising breaks. What sold this diary to me was the Excel sheet he attached, which gives me an opportunity to try out my new embedding plug-in:
That work? Sweet.
Pipkins Dominates the Michigan Drill. This was on the boards but it' the diary of the week, easy. Michael Scarn took the "Michigan Drill" I referenced last week and broke down how Ondre Pipkins did it right. The drill heavily favors the offense: a defender has to beat a blocker and contact the runner. A snippet:
As he makes contact with Bosch, Pipkins has already driven off his right foot as well, generating more power and force into Bosch. His hands have shot inside very quickly and, as we'll see, will allow him to control Bosch.
When I watched this earlier I didn't want to over-emphasize because I thought Bosch probably true freshman'd something. He did, but Pipkins was able to use his technique mastery to take advantage of that. Read this if you want to know what Hoke is talking about when he gets defensive liney.
Goal by goal. Relive the wonderful Saturday and ultimately disheartening conclusion to hockey's last-ditch CCHA run via your last goal-by-goal analysis until probably sometime next year (hopefully MGoBlueline will start in November). Lost with the championship game was the glory of the semifinal against Miami (NTM), which itself can be a pleasant memory to keep from an otherwise unpleasant season.
You should hold a hat ceremony too! I gave The Michigan Men's Football Experience the recruiting profile treatment:
If you are participating I highly encourage you to take the opportunity to mock the recruiting system as well.
Etc. LSAClassof2000 calculated the chances of various matchups occurring in this tourney, and you can follow the charts as games get decided; Ohio State's victory last night raised the likelihood of Michigan facing them in a championship to…I can't tell but it's like 5% or something. Sweet 16 Wallpaper by jonvalk. Blockhams uses a semicolon incorrectly.
[The Best of the Board, after the jump]
- Chris Wormley has been cleared to do everything.
- Brennen Beyer is temporarily moving to SAM until Jake Ryan returns.
- Dymonte Thomas is practicing at corner and nickel.
“Well, how about our basketball team, huh? Golly.”
Are you happy they recruited Mitch McGary?
“Yes. No question about it. I already promised him he’d be a five-technique right away, and we’d get him a lot of sacks. No question about it. I love him. It’s funny -- I saw him one time the team was going to eat somewhere, I just happened to run into him when my wife and I were out. I had never stood next to him, and I just looked at him and all I kept thinking was ‘Wow, would he be good as a five-technique.’ ”
Beilein's time out management. In light of almost blowing it at the end of MSU, he did the same thing on Sunday and it cost us. The first one in the second half,, the trey on the floor one, and the the THJ in bounds at the end (even though he jumped the gun a few sec early) were all legitimate but the other was a total waste and should have been banked.
Also, do you think having a t.o at the end, w 10 sec left, would have really mattered? or is the quality of the look Trey and Jordan had high enough to negate whatever impact the t.o would have had?
DB [ed: not that DB]
Not having timeouts at the end of a couple of close games doesn't move my coaching-issue needle. UMHoops just posted some data on baseline out of bounds and sideline out of bounds plays; Michigan is tops in the league at those two combined at 0.95 points a possession. They score 0.96 in their generic half court sets—there is no difference. After a timeout they score 0.93, and given the rarity of timeouts relative to other possessions that's probably just sample size.
Having a timeout for the last possession would have given Michigan a sideline OOB throw in with six or seven seconds left, at which point Trey would have probably done the exact same thing he did without one. The defense would have been at least as set, and possibly better prepared to challenge. Michigan got a meh look for Burke that came paired with a high chance of a Kobe assist since Zeller abandoned Morgan. It's hard to criticize that outcome anecdotally, and if the numbers show any trend it's towards timeouts being slightly advantageous to the defense.
You mention that Michigan's lack of timeouts nearly cost them against State when Michigan was stuck inbounding to 44% FT shooter Mitch McGary. That's true, but it cut the other way in that one when Tom Izzo called timeout on MSU's last possession. That turned a transition opportunity into a set defense and set up a Trey Burke steal when a prepped Michigan team denied a screen for Harris and trapped him on the perimeter.
Basketball coaches call timeouts to give themselves the illusion of agency late. It's their equivalent of pushing the "close door" button on an elevator that doesn't have it hooked up.
Another emailer had a similar complaint about the timeouts, which I omitted. Here is a second potential issue:
Why put in McGary at the 8 minute mark? I thought this was a huge mistake
when it happened and it ended up allowing Zeller a couple of easy inside
buckets for fear of foul trouble. At this point Morgan still had 2 to give
and I felt he should have been the one on the court with 8 minutes to go.
Then, Indiana subs Zeller out at 5 mins and Morgan goes in.
Personally, I feel like this should have gone the other way. Zeller has an uncanny ability to have things go his way in a basketball game so I don't think sending someone with 4 fouls onto the court against him with 8 minutes left was the best move.
Thanks for your time. Go Blue!
I've always been a play 'em zealot since in some sense fouls you don't use are wasted resources. If McGary has four fouls and his mean time to fouling out is six minutes, you might as well throw him in there at eight minutes if you think he can help.
The thing that destroys those assumptions is the fact that basketball players like staying on the floor and once they get in foul trouble it affects their game negatively. Did that happen with McGary? Not to my mind. McGary stuck his chest in for a charge, got Zeller to turn it over once more, and did fairly well against a guy who was pretty rampant against Morgan, too. The PBP shows this Zeller/McGary related stuff starting at eight minutes:
- Zeller turnover
- McGary missed layup
- Zeller layup
- McGary OREB
- McGary missed layup
- McGary OREB (of own miss)
- McGary layup
- Zeller missed jumper
…and then Morgan is back in. Except insofar as everyone on the floor was hurting Michigan by not acquiring offensive rebounds, it doesn't look like McGary's entry at 8 minutes was detrimental.
Generally I'm in favor of playing guys. The worst thing that happens is they foul out, and by putting them on the bench for huge stretches of the game you're kind of fouling them out yourself. Now, in McGary's case the frequency he was racking up whistles demanded he hit the bench. When it's Burke or Stauskas or whoever, benching them drives me nuts.
Any chance that Michigan starts Pipkins and Washington in a similar way that they used Washington and Campbell this year?
Today, after I posted on that possibility yesterday:
Just sayin... haha
FINE DANIEL HERE WE GO
I've been skeptical that Pipkins will start at the three tech* for a couple reasons. One is that Pipkins was pretty far away from being a quality option last year and he would have to make a major leap to go from meh backup to starter quality in an offseason. It is possible; if I had to bet I'd guess he ends up behind someone else, and at that point you may as well have him back up the nose.
The second is that defensive tackles rotate so extensively that the second nose is going to get up to 40% of the snaps if he's good. Pipkins is the only non-freshman available to back Washington up unless you think Richard Ash is going to surge to playing time. At this point, that's unlikely, so moving Pipkins away from the nose damages your depth chart at that spot more than it helps at a fairly well-stocked three-tech.
If Pipkins does play the three that's probably good since it means Ash or Willie Henry is pretty good and/or you can't keep Ondre off the field. It just seems unlikely either of those things is true just yet. Wait until 2014.
*[I assume Washington, having established himself a quality Big Ten NT, will stay there; Hoke certainly made it seem like he was a given. ]
The Borges difference
Howdy Brian -
Man, when it comes to gutshots, Michigan's b-ball games against Wisconsin and IU have got to be in the top 5. A missed lay-up here, a missed free throw (or five) here and we're talking smack on a grand scale to our midwestern friends. Ah well. Beer.
Anyway, I randomly came across this today:
[ed: The Garden of Forking Paths is a Jorge Luis Borges short story inside several other short stories that… well…
Borges conceives of "a labyrinth that folds back upon itself in infinite regression", asking the reader to "become aware of all the possible choices we might make."… You "create, in this way, diverse futures, diverse times which themselves also proliferate and fork".
Borges (not that Borges) was a weird guy, brilliant guy.]
I challenge you to work that into a blog post, what with the author clearly being a long lost distant relative of Big Al Borges. Or maybe make Lorne do it. Call it initiation or something. :)
Hope all is well. Go blue!
Oh man. I would if I could but Borges (not that Borges) was a genius and any imitation would be terribly pale. It is exactly right though, and I wish I had thought of it when trying to talk about the infinite opportunities for brooding that basketball provides when it goes awry. Fork not that many paths this year and Michigan is your outright Big Ten champs. Makes you appreciate last year all the more, as that team was well below the other two co-champs in efficiency margin and still managed to pull it off.
Can I tell you about my unfinished screenplay that's an adaptation of the Library of Babel in which two Rosencrantz-and-Guildenstern-type figures wander the library in search of the book that tells them how to get out of the library? I'm titling it "Michigan State Rose Bowl." This concludes today's Jorge Luis Borges joke festival.
Left: Walsh. Right: Wormley by Upchurch
A few weeks ago I stumbled onto a 1997 article by Bill Walsh where he explained how he evaluates talent at each position. I then applied those evaluations to Michigan’s offensive personnel, because Borges is supposedly transitioning us to Walsh’s WCO. People requested a defensive version so here you go.
It’s probably not as useful because the closest NFL comparison to the Mattison ideal is the Greg Mattison Ravens. But then when you read about the history of Mattison’s 4-3 under defense, you find (49ers DC under Walsh) George Seifert’s ideas peppered all over. And there’s a reason for that:
Offensive evolution doesn’t matter so much when you’re talking about going back to the offense that dominated 1997. The 4-3 under defense—or whatever you call what Michigan does by shifting the line toward the nearest sideline—is more akin to a 3-4 than the 46 defense Walsh used to deploy against the run-heavy offenses of his day, or the Tampa 2 stuff that owned the period which that article was written.
Walsh’s defensive opinions are geared toward a 3-4, and that’s perfect for our purposes, since the 4-3 under is similar in personnel. When you see it you can see why:
So in we go again. I'm moving right now so I can't do it all in one again. Here's the interior DL and I'll cover linebackers and defensive backs in later weeks.
Dana Stubblefield / Rob Renes / Pipkins via Upchurch
Walsh Says: 6’2, 290. As discussed in the article when I made all the DL recruits into Wii avatars, the NT should have his mass low; a pyramid is more difficult to move than a cube. Like Mattison, Walsh puts the hands at the very top:
Quick, strong hands to grab and pull are critical. This is common with the great tackles. The hands, the arms, the upper body strength and then the quick feet to take advantage of a moving man, just getting him off balance.
The Walsh ideal doesn’t necessarily have to take on doubles. What he looks for is the strength to not get knocked backwards, and the ability to move laterally without giving ground. The best can burrow forward and push a guard into the pocket.
Note that Walsh is inadvertently describing a 4-3 DT more than a 3-4 NT—he’s not asking for a two-gapper who sucks up doubles but a one-gapper who can’t be budged. However the first step to beating spread teams is an NT who requires doubles, since the spread 'n shred's base dive play is most dangerous when an interior OL is releasing into the linebackers.
Walsh's Favorite Wolverine: Rob Renes. NFL scouts want everyone to be Wilfork, but active, stout, and sound come first.
What to look for in a Scouting Report: "Crab person" a la Mike Martin, i.e. he plays low and with great leverage. Strength—opponents can't move him. “Has excellent hands.” Athleticism: Walsh didn’t mention this but guys who are ranked basketball recruits as well seem to have a high success rate; that's obviously a mark of quickness/agility being important.
What you can learn on film: Nose tackle recruits are often so much bigger than the competition that they can terrify offenses without technique. You can learn more from the plays where he flows down the line of scrimmage then makes the play. Leverage. Hands maybe but this seems to be something most will learn in college. It's paywalled (and there's a lot that's 3-techy about him) but if you have a Rivals account go watch Ndamukong Suh's high school film and how he uses his arms to dominate guys off the ball.
What could signal bust potential: We’ve seen our share of planetary objects who get lots of hype because they’re 320-pound creatures who pop average teen OL like so many zits. This is an effort position that scales dramatically with the transition from high school to Big Ten. An athletic man-child has a massive ceiling but is as likely to follow the career path of Richard Ash as that of Johnathan Hankins.
How our guys compare: The expectation here is for Quinton Washington (above-right/Upchurch) to reprise his role at Nose with Ondre Pipkins figuring in as a rotation starter and making appearances at the 3-tech spot as well. Q came to Michigan as a spread-style offensive guard highly sought after by all the right people. His switch to the defensive line was initially a swap with Will Campbell, except Washington stuck with it. It was a painful year and change waiting for him to catch up, made worth it last year when he was a pleasant surprise at nose. Listed at 6'4-300 he's on the plus side of the size curve but not to the degree Campbell was (Suh as a senior was listed at the same size). Where this project is concerned, Hoke seems to have had success in every facet except his stated goal of making Quinton two inches shorter; I like to mention that one of my favorite DTs to watch is Kawaan Short, who was listed at 6'5 as a recruit and 6'3 as a draft prospect. That upper body strength that Walsh covets in his NTs is what made Washington stand out as a recruit and contributes to the success he's had across the line.
left: Q.Wash's UFR totals for 2012. right: Pipkins's. Clicking bigs them.
Ondre Pipkins arrived looking pretty much exactly like an NFL nose tackle—6'3-340—and played pretty much exactly like a true freshman, as you can make out from the UFR chart above. That's technique (i.e. hands) talking—he got minuses for getting scooped and buried and eating doubles, and plus'ed for flashes of mobility.
Richard Ash has two years of eligibility left so you can't write him off yet but he came in a non-mobile planet and had to lose a lot of weight to uncover his playing body. The Walsh measureables are not favorable, at least not yet. The freshman pegged for NT (though either could play either) is probably Maurice Hurst, since he checks nearly every one of Bill's boxes, right down to a listed height-weight of 6'2-290. Mike Farrell on Hurst:
"He has a nice frame that can still add weight but what really stands out about him is his quickness off the ball and his light feet. Hurst beat most of his opponents with his first step and he was able to win the leverage game most of the time as well."
Watching his film you can see the hands (start at 0:48). The knocks are he needs to get lower (on film you immediately see that butt sticking out) and I don't see strength mentioned much. He played running back for his high school and wasn't so big that he could get by on size so Hurst probably appreciates technique. I would guess he needs some time to put on muscle before he can contribute.
[After the jump, moving down the line]
DEPARTURES IN ORDER OF SIGNIFICANCE
- S Jordan Kovacs. Long time safety blanket specialized in open-field tackles, especially on fourth down, and was rarely victimized by his brain. Speed exposed by speedy South Carolina receivers, but you'll miss him early when someone screws up and you remember what it's like to have a safety biff a tackle and turn not much into lots.
- SDE Craig Roh. Journeyman switched positions every year, finally finding a home at SDE. Four sacks were second on the team to Jake Ryan; did a lot of non-boxscore stuff. Quality player; never quite panned out into the QB terror he was purported to be. Production should be replaceable.
- MLB Kenny Demens. Started every game, finished second on team with 82 tackles, 50 of them solo. Surprisingly quality in coverage; never great; guy you can win with.
- DT Will Campbell. Long-time disappointment got serious in 2012 and turned in adequate, blocker-absorbing season. Not an impact player—1.5 TFLs on the year. May go late in NFL draft thanks to sheer size.
- CB JT Floyd. Three-year starter turned career around after debacle of 2010, but was always kind of a sore spot as teams went after him and his lack of speed over and over again. Rarely cracked; had to be covered for at times. Iffy run defender. NFL FA type.
- WLB Brandin Hawthorne. Nonfactor.
Ryan, Ross, QWASH
- SLB Jake Ryan. Barbarian was Michigan's sole impact player on defense; shut down screens consistently, explosive rusher led team with 16 TFLs and four forced fumbles. Remember that thing he did? Yeah.
- MLB Desmond Morgan [probably]. With James Ross champing at the bit to enter the starting lineup, the stout Morgan is likely to move over to middle linebacker, allowing Ross to flow freely. Morgan was third on the team in tackles last year—M's linebackers were 1-2-3 like nature intended, with Gordon and Kovacs next—and displayed tackling prowess. He'll get pushed; he'll have to be forcibly unseated.
- NT Quinton Washington. Season surprise turned nose tackle from looming liability to actually kind of a strength. Not a Martin-type penetrator but ended up powerful and difficult to block. Range spans from merely okay to All Big Ten. Has future as wrestler named QWASH if football doesn't work out.
- CB Blake Countess. Freshman starter was hyped up as next great Michigan corner before being hewed down in the first game covering a punt. Will likely return to the field corner spot he locked down in the offseason.
- CB Raymon Taylor. Stepped in for Countess after Courtney Avery didn't seem up to the task and held his own for the most part. Teams mostly went after Floyd, leaving him alone. Did get burned for a touchdown in the bowl game. Tendency to get lost on zones should attenuate; has better size than any other experienced corner and will probably end up at boundary with Floyd's departure.
- WLB James Ross III. Bloodhound as a true freshman but too slight to take on blockers and big tailbacks effectively. With a season in the weight room should go from promising to excellent. 2012 : Jake Ryan :: 2013 : James Ross.
- FS Thomas Gordon. Unsung counterpart to Kovacs has not made as many flashy TFLs but is part of the Michigan defense's remarkable ability to prevent big plays over the last couple years. Probably takes over Kovacs's frequent blitzes.
- MLB Joe Bolden. Played a lot as a true freshman and will push Morgan and Ross equally. Survey says he loses the starting job but gets so much time he's essentially a third ILB starter. Needs to get a little meaner, work on pass drops, all that freshman business. Will be quality.
- Nickelback Courtney Avery. Diminutive but quality underneath cover guy; PBU and INT sealed OSU game; also a crappy edge tackler; fine option as a third corner.
- DT Jibreel Black. Spotted Roh, could not take his job; may be a candidate to move to SDE if he can put on the weight; emergence of Frank Clark threatens to cut into playing time.
- WDE Brennen Beyer. Best of the three WDEs at run D; nonfactor getting to the QB. Let's all focus our Heininger Certainty Principle at him.
- WDE Frank Clark. Co-starter at WDE made more plays behind the line (9 TFLs) and batted down a lot of passes, but had trouble beating blocks—thus all the batted passes—and still blows contain responsibility on the read option a maddening amount. Up or out for him.
- SDE Keith Heitzman. Redshirt freshman flashed a couple things in the spring game and came on as a rotation guy about halfway through the year, grading out okay. Could emerge into SDE starter or could maintain that rotation thing another year.
- NT Ondre Pipkins. Massively hyped recruit was rotation partner with Washington. Got knocked over by a running back once; did bull his way into the backfield impressively a couple times. DTs need time; Pipkins should make a leap in the offseason.
- WDE Mario Ojemudia. Hilariously undersized high school DT promised to be mini-Martin… still working on that. Needed size, technique; may burst past WDE competitors with strong offseason.
WHAT'S NEW, OR CLOSE ENOUGH, ANYWAY
A couple guys on the DL. Last season this post focused on the three departures from the line, found only Washington and Campbell and what seemed like a woefully undersized Roh, and was pushing any button available whether it was marked "PANIC" or not. A year later, Roh was good, Washington dang good, Campbell at least serviceable, and we're all like COME AT ME ATTRITION BRO.
The problems here are insignificant compared to last year. Michigan gets Matt Godin, Willie Henry, Chris Wormley, and Tom Strobel off redshirts. They'll add an early-enrollee in Taco Charlton plus a couple of guys who just showed very well at their respective all star games in Maurice Hurst and Henry Poggi. They return Washington, Pipkins, Black, Heitzman, and three guys who saw time at WDE. They will find folks to fill in the gaps.
They do have to figure that out. First up: dollars to donuts Black moves to SDE. It's a better fit with his size, he spent that fateful final drive of the Outback Bowl running around the South Carolina left tackle, and even if it's a horde of redshirt freshmen who would hypothetically replace him, there is a horde.
At the now-vacated three-tech spot, pick from Wormley, Henry, and Godin. I bet Wormley is the winner there. There will be rotation, and improvement, and you will feel fuzzily positive about this in September.
Lineback—nevermind. Demens was missed in said bowl game, but with another offseason behind Morgan, Bolden, and Ross the ILBs should actually get better next year.
Not having an utterly reliable tiny linebacker at safety bailing your ass out for four years. Miss you, small guy xoxo.
WHAT'S THE FIRST FOUR SEASONS OF BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
Keith Heitzman is like a living breathing miracle of having a two deep
DEPTH DEPTH DEPTH DEPTH DEPTH DEPTH DEPTH WOOOOO! We covered the line. Each positions has a two-deep of non-true freshmen, many of them proven or hyped. At linebacker there are three quasi-starters plus a solid rotation at SLB. The secondary is a bit dodgier but Terry Richardson should be serviceable as a sophomore.
Experience. Michigan loses five starters, yeah, but that's almost literally all they lose. Mike Jones may or may not return for another season of staring from the bench, other than that the only player they lose is Brandin Hawthorne, who was exclusively special teams as a senior. They return 16 heavy contributors to the D, 17 if you count Jarrod Wilson.
Linebackers. Ryan, of course, and then you've got Ross/Bolden/Morgan returning in the middle. Many people will pine for Michigan's linebacking corps next year.
My difficulty in thinking about bullets for the following two sections. Only got two in each.
WHAT'S THE LAST SEASON OF BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
looks good; was Mattison getting a free rusher at Miller's backside
Getting to the quarterback. Mattison generates lots of free blitzers with his schemes; other than that the only guy to consistently generate pass rush was Ryan. WDE, the glamor spot in a 4-3 under, barely produced. Three guys had three sacks between them last year. All of those guys are back, and Charlton gets added in. The time for someone to step up is now.
Matters should be a bit better on the interior, as whoever replaces Campbell is going to be a leaner, quicker guy who can get more penetration than he did.
A lack of outright stars. You've got Ryan, and I think Ross will get there next year, and then… maybe Countess, but that's asking for a lot after an injury like he had, and… dot dot dot.
WHAT'S INEXPLICABLE JIMI HENDRIX
Will not having Jordan Kovacs doom Michigan to a Yards After Safety kind of life? I don't think so but the parade of incompetents (and Jamar Adams) before him makes me leery.
Can anyone step in right away and be a QB terror? Looking at you, Taco Charlton. He and Ojemudia seem like the best bets for a truly fearsome edge rusher—we've seen a lot of Frank Clark this year and he just hasn't done much.
MANDATORY WILD-ASS GUESS
I was worried about a backslide last year. If there was one, it was exceedingly minor. In 2011 Michigan was 17th in yardage, 6th in scoring defense, 36th in pass efficiency D, and 39th in rushing D. Last year those numbers were 13th/20th/50th/51st, and if you'd added Blake Countess for the whole year, well…
I tend to trust the poorer numbers there since Michigan moves at such a slow pace and their YPC average allowed—3.8—is pretty meh. Pre-Outback Bowl, FEI has them 20th, and that feels about right.
Michigan is probably still a year away from being capital E elite, but you could see how they get there ahead of schedule. It requires three things:
Countess comes back and is a "war daddy," to use super secret football lingo.
Someone emerges as as serious pass rush threat at WDE.
Kovacs, peace be unto him, is adequately replaced by Jarrod Wilson.
#1 is possible. #2 seems doubtful, and #3… I hesitate to predict anything about that because it will blow up all over.
Anyway. Michigan tightens up its run D, moving from around 3.8 YPC allowed to under 3.5. The pass defense looks worse superficially because the Big Ten isn't as terrible at throwing the ball next year (right?) but is actually better since neither starting corner spends the entire year getting balls thrown over his head. The D moves up to around tenth in the advanced stats, stays static in yardage and improves pass D efficiency.
Reading your 11/26 post about "The Game", I noticed you made mention of the question of whether huddling is necessary anymore. As a high school coach and former small college player who has used both the huddle and the no-huddle, my first reaction is to disagree with your point that the huddle is archaic and a bit of a dinosaur. But I am also intrigued.
My overall response would be that there are obvious advantages to both. Points and tempo are the obvious gains, but tempo is also a negative from the no huddle (as we learned circa 2009-2011) when an offense has too many three and outs and a team's defense bears the brunt of it all. In short, it's hard to praise a defense, especially an overachieving bunch like our boys, while touting an offensive style that so often seems to lead to a loss in defensive production.
In short, what data is out there to suggest that the no huddle would not obliterate our defensive gains?
There are two issues here being conflated here. Not huddling is not necessarily synonymous with going at a high speed. Ohio State runs the same no-huddle style as Oregon but does not push the pedal down nearly as much:
|Team||Offensive Plays||Defensive Plays||Total||% Plays on offense|
Oregon games had 24% more plays in them than Michigan games; Ohio State games had just 10% more, and I'm guessing the difference there is more Michigan being exceptionally slow than Ohio State being fast: decidedly MANBALL Wisconsin games featured a little over 1600 plays this year. If OSU is over the national average for plays run it's not by much.
The benefits of getting to the line immediately are the same whether you're going fast or slow: the defense is hampered in its ability to substitute and you can see how they align as you make your playcall. You can sprinkle in tempo plays when you have an advantage without cracking the whip up and down the field.
The other issue is how a high tempo affects your defense. This is the reason people invented tempo-free basketball statistics: how fast you go can distort how your offense and defense look. A high-tempo approach artificially inflates the former and deflates the latter.
Take the most extreme possible example: Oregon. The Ducks are are decent but essentially mediocre in yardage statistics. They're 47th in rushing, 60th in passing, and 46th in total D. But they faced 915 plays. Michigan's defense faced 791, and in there is a large part of the gap between the two defenses. Michigan is still better on a yards-per-play basis, but there's no question that Oregon played more good offenses.
Advanced stats that try to account for tempo look a lot more favorably on Oregon's defense than conventional ones. The Ducks are eighth in FEI*, one spot in front of Alabama. They're 21st in S&P, which I don't like as much because it's play-focused instead of drive-focused.
As this year's Michigan team proved against Nebraska and OSU, a three and out is a three and out and you're in trouble no matter what if that's what your offense is doing. In games you can win, the price you're extracting from your defense is going to be similar to the price you extract from the opposition.
And, like, I don't think it would have mattered if a Greg Robinson defense played opposite the Lombardi Packers. They were cooked.
*[A note on FEI: that ranking looked pretty strange on offense last year; this year it passes any sanity test you want to give it with Florida/ND/Stanford/MSU as the top 4. It seems to be overrating some small schools but that's inevitable.]
Are we running the Air Raid next year? Taking out Denard, Michigan had a pretty atrocious rushing offense this year. It's obviously going to look different next season without a primarily rushing QB but even still, with a starting RB coming off a serious leg injury, and replacing 3 or 4 offensive lineman, this looks bleak right?
Look on the bright side: at least Borges has shown to be more willing to adapt to a throw-first mentality than Carr-era coordinators. And the interior line literally cannot be worse! Woo!
It does look bleak. Michigan has to hope that Mike Schofield can hold up at left tackle (I think he can against non-elite pass-rushers and will probably be a Stenavich-level player) and then fill in the rest of the line with n00bs. There are some assets:
- Extremely fast QB.
- "College-ready" five star Kyle Kalis at guard.
- Guy who has played center all the way, Jack Miller, at center, presumably making much better line calls.
- Enormous guy Chris Bryant
- Enormous guy Ben Braden
It… yeah, it looks grim-ish. While any of the above could work out Michigan is still working through the disastrous RR OL recruiting and will have a similar problem to the one they had this year: few, if any options to turn to if the starters are not performing. Things are little better at tackle, where Erik Magnuson is available to back up instead of nobody, but on the interior you've got a redshirt freshman on the 3/4 star borderline (Bars) and Joey Burzynski, who is still 6'1".
But there's a bunch of hype for the freshman class and Bryant was reported looking good before the leg injury. Michigan may have to go with more Gardner running than they might want. I certainly hope they don't ditch the veer, for one.
First of all, I'm very surprised by Hoke's prediction that Devin's redshirt will go through, given his history of never saying anything specific, ever.
With that in mind, do you think Devin is a good fit for Borges' style of West Coast offense? Or will we still be "making due" with some Frankenoffense for the next two years, give or take, until Shane is ready?
Like most fans, I've been pleasantly surprised by Devin over the past month, but I don't know enough about Borges' dream offense to know how well his QB skills translate.
I was surprised, too, and assume he was told by the people who had talked to the Big Ten that they would get it. Which hurray, one less argument about how dumb Rich Rodriguez is and extra year for starting QB.
Gardner is clearly a better fit for what Borges wants to do than Denard was. He's tall, he can stand in the pocket, and he has an excellent deep ball when he's not being asked to throw it on the run for some strange reason. He also tends to run when he should run, thus rescuing various plays that aren't going so well.
I am actually hoping for something of a Frankenoffense, though. Running big epic "play action" from an I-form that is really just a max-protect setup doesn't use Gardner's legs particularly effectively, and we've seen that when you get a guy who can run and throw trying to stop both is super hard. Hell, run-and-kinda-throw is pretty hard. I'd like Michigan to still run most of its offense from the shotgun and use Gardner's legs to mitigate some of the problems that will arise on the offensive line. With Morris backing Gardner up you won't have to be as overcautious as it seemed Michigan was this year.
Maybe the OL will surprise and DeVeon Smith or Derrick Green will show up as a grinder and it will work. If a traditional manball running game isn't in the cards, though, the Frankenoffense may be the best one available.
Do you think Hopkins gets a long look in the spring back at tailback with Fitz's status up in the air?
Seems like they have some depth now at fullback with Kerridge and Houma. I know he has ball security issues so maybe he has to walk around campus all spring, summer and fall carrying a football. Could he have the potential to be a Leroy Hoard-type in 1988, '89 as a featured, ball-carrying back?
While that's a possibility I doubt it will amount to much if they do try it. Hopkins may be marginally better than Rawls if he doesn't fumble, he has. Rawls hasn't done much but he also has not fumbled.
A Hoard-back requires Hoard-blocking, and more speed than Hopkins brings to the table. If Derrick Green ends up committing he's the early favorite to get a plurality of carries.
Any chance that Michigan starts Pipkins and Washington in a similar way that they used Washington and Campbell this year?
Probably not. Nose tackle is a draining position staffed by enormous men and requires that two people play it. Michigan probably wanted to use Pipkins more than they did a year ago; they couldn't because he wasn't very good. Michigan will probably stick with him as the backup nose in preparation for a two year starting run. Big guys take some time.