"Northwestern fans can be both heartened and disheartened by the loss to Minnesota just like how nineteenth-century resurrectionists were heartened when they pried a heart from a freshly-buried corpse and then disheartened it when they sold it to a disreputable anatomist."
Nice job picking a QB, Ace. Here's your reward.
While re-watching the M-PSU punt-fest my brother made an interesting comment: "It's amazing what's happened to two of the best quarterbacks in the conference." If you ever again need to point to something to show that the offense means more than the quarterback, this Big Ten season has that in spades. What it doesn't have is an answer to the question: who IS the best QB in the conference?
I have no idea. Of guys I expected big things from, Braxton Miller (injury) and Tre Roberson (transfer) didn't make it out of the preseason, Gardner played his way behind a true sophomore who obviously couldn't play, Hackenberg's been a tackling dummy, and when I got down to Cook my Sparty slappy brother shook his head and declined the nomination.
Lower down, Sudfeld is now out for the season but he wasn't world-beating before. C.J. Brown, true to form, has been keeping pace just behind Gardner; a wrist injury against Indiana has ceded snaps to Caleb Rowe. Nebraska and Iowa aren't getting anything more than mediocre from their 2nd year guys. Trevor Siemian is not a throw deity of any sort. Etling hasn't been good enough for Boiler fans to stop mentioning that Michigan stole Bellomy(!). Wisconsin's QB situation has been awful. Illinois thought they had something when transfer Wes Lunt was picking apart bad defenses, but he broke his leg, which is apparently 4-6 weeks these days.
Everybody's played only a few real opponents, and everybody's been a product of his offense so stats are only a little useful. Last year ESPN's Dean Oliver rolled out his "QBR" metric which is based on Mathlete-like expected points on a 100-level scale; 50 is average. Mouseover the headers for clarification (explanation here):
|PLAYER||Pass EPA||RUN EPA||SACK EPA||PEN EPA||TOTAL EPA||ACT PLAYS||RAW QBR||TOTAL QBR|
I pulled the raw QBR in each game to plot it against Football Outsiders' S&P+ so you can see the individual performances in context. Gardner's games are labeled and Michigan's remaining opponents are shown.
[after the jump: trends, discussion]
It says somethin' about somethin' that Michigan had even the barest semblance of a Quarterback Controversy this offseason. It's not so much that Brady Hoke was going around saying it to people—football coaches' public statement are 95% motivational lies. It's more that a lot of people wanted it to be true.
By the midst of spring practice it seemed like half of the Michigan fanbase had an I WANT TO BELIEVE poster they'd adorned with Shane Morris's head in their room. Beat writers sent out a never-ending stream of WHAT ABOUT THE QUARTERBACK CONTROVERSY articles that message boards passed around, nodding sagely about, until yrs truly was twitching every time I checked twitter. Finally, the dam broke:
WHEN IS THE LAST TIME MICHIGAN REPLACED A FIFTH YEAR SENIOR QUARTERBACK WITH AN UNDERCLASSMAN VOLUNTARILY
DON'T LOOK IT UP I'LL TELL YOU NEVER
WHAT WAS IT ABOUT SHANE MORRIS'S PERFORMANCE IN THE BOWL GAME THAT CONVINCES YOU HE'S THE GUY, EXACTLY
THAT ONE SCREEN PASS HE THREW THAT WENT A LONG WAY
OR THAT OTHER SCREEN PASS HE THREW THAT WENT A LONG WAY
OR THAT END AROUND THAT TECHNICALLY COUNTS AS A PASS
THE DUDE AVERAGED 5.2 YPA, WHICH IS THREET/SHERIDAN PRODUCTION
HE THREW AN INTERCEPTION THE INSTANT MICHIGAN LET HIM THROW DOWNFIELD
MICHIGAN SCORED SIX MEANINGFUL POINTS
DEVIN GARDNER WAS 80% DEAD MOST OF THIS YEAR AND STILL HAD 8.6 YPA
That about sums it up. The moment passed, people were yelled at to take their posters down, and Hoke named Gardner the starter in the middle of fall camp. But the discontent still lingers.
[After THE JUMP: SURROUNDED BY THE ENEMY STOP OUR LINES ARE BROKEN STOP SEND LOVE TO MY WIFE STOP]
About three weeks ago I posted an article about which 2015 signal callers could be next in line for an offer. With no game to prepare for this week the coaching staff decided to travel the country checking in on recruits and I decided to do the same thing (from the comfort of my couch) with a focus on the quarterbacks.
I originally created a list of seven prospects consisting of Kevin Dillman, Nick Johns, Sheriron Jones, Kyle Kearns, Alex Malzone, Riley Neal, and Brady White. After a visit to the Indiana game I think Tyree Jackson could also be thrown into the mix at this point.
I was able to talk to each young man this weekend and see how often the coaches have been in contact with them, and try to gauge the interest level from the coaches, as well as from the recruits. In doing so I think I’ve identified a top tier of four targets on the quarterback big board.
Kevin Dillman – La Mirada High School – La Mirada, CA: The coaches have not been in contact with Dillman at all recently which is a bit surprising during a bye week that included traveling across the country as well as social media communication. He appears to be down the list as a secondary target.
Tyree Jackson – Mona Shores High School – Muskegon, MI: Jackson visited Ann Arbor for his first game experience against Indiana and had a great time which I reported here, but since his visit he has had zero contact with the coaching staff. He will continue to be a name to watch, but he also appears to be down the list a bit.
Nick Johns – Gonzaga High School – Washington D.C.: Johns told me that he speaks with Coach Mallory almost every day on Facebook. With so much contact I was curious as to what was discussed when they chat. “He just asks me what kind of team we are playing that week and what kind of defense they run. He tells me to try and identify our strengths and weaknesses against that team. He just tries to assess my football IQ.” Johns told me that Coach Mallory hasn’t exactly mentioned an offer yet, but Nick seems to feel pretty wanted based on how often they communicate. He did say that he would love to have an offer from such a great school like Michigan. I believe Johns is one of the top tier targets at this point.
Sheriron Jones – Rancho Verde High School – Moreno Valley, CA: Jones has not had any recent contact with the coaching staff at all and he even said that when he tries to call them, they never answer. That tells me that he is not a top priority at this time.
Kyle Kearns – Foothill High School – Pleasanton, CA: Kearns had a legitimate talk with Coach Borges on Wednesday evening that tentatively set up a “Wilton-Speight-like” visit in the Spring. “Coach Borges said that he plans to make it out this Spring to check me out. He talked about how they’ve only offered one guy and I’m a guy that he really likes. I see myself fitting in really well in his offensive scheme from what he told me.” I asked Kearns how he’d feel if an offer did eventually come and he simply said, “It would be huge!” He even flirted with the idea of committing on the spot if that did happen. “I can’t say I’d commit on the spot just yet. There are some other schools that I’ve built a strong relationship with and I don’t want to put the cart in front of the horse.” (He actually used that phrase. I like this kid.) Kearns talked about how attractive Michigan is with George Campbell and Damien Harris already in the fold for the 2015 class. “With Michigan getting a top running back and wide receiver for 2015 it makes the decision that much easier. Couple that with world class academics and the biggest stadium in football…man.” After talking with Kearns and hearing his very obvious interest and discussing his regular talks with Coach Borges I now believe he may be the front-runner for the next quarterback offer.
Alex Malzone – Brother Rice High School – Bloomfield Hills, MI: Malzone has set up a regular communication schedule with Coach Borges that involves him calling the offensive coordinator every Thursday night between 9 and 9:30 pm. Borges also made it very clear to Alex that he is in the top tier of quarterbacks being evaluated. With Malzone being right in Michigan’s backyard and understanding what it means to be the quarterback at Michigan, he is a very real possibility to receive an offer. I believe Malzone will continue to be evaluated and being a Michigander is an advantage that has helped him land in the top tier.
Riley Neal – Yorktown High School – Yorktown, IN: Neal has already been talking to Coach Borges quite regularly, also on Thursdays, for a few weeks now. They usually talk about his film, each other’s seasons, and just the general recruiting process. Neal and I talked about some other quarterbacks getting attention from Michigan and he was very informed about the entire situation. He knew of Dillman, Malzone, and Kearns and also that the coaching staff was evaluating his position right now, which tells me he is interested and intuitive when it comes to the process. He is in the top tier.
Brady White – Hart High School – Newhall, CA: From what most here have expressed about Brady White this will be an unfortunate update, but he has not been hearing from the coaching staff at all lately and didn’t once during the bye week. His interest in Michigan seems legitimate but he may be tough to lure from the west coast.
In conclusion I feel like the top tier of four targets consists of Nick Johns, Kyle Kearns, Alex Malzone, and Riley Neal. These four quarterbacks are in regular contact with the coaching staff and all express sincere interest in being recruited by Michigan. At first glance I thought Dillman, Jones, and White all hadn’t heard from the coaches simply due to the fact that they are all California kids, which can be problematic due to the time difference and the fact that those kids just don’t leave their geographic area too often. That notion is of course debunked by the fact that fellow California native Kyle Kearns may be atop the big board right now. After this week my list does, in fact, put Kearns at the top and looks like this (last time's ranking in parentheses):
- Kyle Kearns (2)
- Riley Neal (3)
- Alex Malzone (7)
- Nick Johns (6)
Others: Dillman (1), White (5), Jones (4), Jackson (NR)
This is not necessarily my wish list, this is just how I feel the big board may look somewhere in Schembechler Hall, based on frequency of contact, expressed interest from both sides, and skill-set for Borges’ system. It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out over the next couple of months.
Michigan has only offered one quarterback in the 2015 class in Josh Rosen, and he will not be a Wolverine. He told me that he’s already got a pretty good idea of where he wants to play his college ball, and that Michigan is too cold for him. That being said, which signal-callers could be on deck for a Michigan offer?
|Dual-threat Dillman is probably Michigan's top target for the class.|
Kevin Dillman (La Mirada HS – La Mirada, CA) Kevin Dillman is an interesting recruit as he was born in Sweden and has only lived in the United States for about three years. In his short time playing football in America he has garnered a ton of attention and is rated as a 5-star quarterback on some recruiting services. He recently named a top two of Nebraska and Michigan and he looks like the next best bet to receive an offer. He also hasn’t been shy and has openly expressed his affinity for the Wolverines and might be the most likely to commit from this list. Dillman has double-digit offers already from Nebraska, Clemson, Florida State, Louisville, UCLA and more. Couple that with his prototypical size-- 6’4”, 225--and he’s worthy of his 5-star status.
He possesses elite athleticism, playing wide receiver, kick returner, and safety for his high school squad. This is not your typical pretty-boy QB; he’s physical, tough, and looks natural running the ball or dropping back and setting his feet when letting it fly. He has some of the more impressive film out there for 2015 QBs.
I think it is a question of when rather than if he receives a Michigan offer. Dillman told me that he’s taking his recruitment slowly right now to focus on his season but his knowledge for the Wolverines is always growing.
I actually don’t know much about Michigan history and stuff right now but I like the fact that they’re moving back to a more pro-style offense. The reason Michigan has been standing out for me is because growing up in Sweden I always looked up to and tried to learn from Tom Brady. The fact that he went to Michigan is the reason why I’ve had my eyes open for Michigan.
Dillman currently lives with a host family in California and tells me that distance will be a non-issue for him as he has already went through the “moving out of the house” transition. He wouldn’t quite name Michigan his favorite, but he said they are definitely up there for him and he plans to get more questions answered about his recruitment at the end of his season.
More targets after the jump.
SOON. Via Maize and Blue Nation.
The biggest debate in Michigan fandom when Devin Gardner started taking warmup snaps at Gopher Stadium was whether to cut down, or across. Denard Robinson was incapacitated for God knows how long—it would turn out to be the duration of his career, at least as far as throwing was concerned—and Russell Bellomy was fresh off a 3/16, 38-yard, 3 INT performance in the second half of the Nebraska game. Doomy doom spread its doomy fingers across the land.
"Down" was winning handily through the first quarter as Michigan went three-and-out, two-and-out (an interception) and three-and-out in the first quarter. Then…
BOOM QUARTERBACK OUT OF NOWHERE
|opposite hash no problem|
|can't step in no problem|
|opposite hash again|
|zip in zone|
|slippery NW TD|
|third and eleven ok|
|very accurate deep|
|late but accurate|
|brilliant short flick throws|
|Funchess up high|
|toying with the defense|
|pass run pass TD|
|inaccurate when feet not set|
|TD, but way inside|
|corner way short|
|some bad INTs|
|misreads cover three|
Okay, we'll go with "across." For now.
Things got better from there. Gardner completed 47 yard passes to Gallon and Roundtree and even a 22-yarder to Jerald Robinson. (Yeah, remember that guy? I tell you, you think you know everything about Michigan football and then you're shocked when Jerald Robinson shows up on a box score not even a year old.)
Gardner executed a gameplan that was conservative in run/pass breakdown (only 18 attempts for Gardner versus 41 runs) but not in type of pass called (Gardner averaged 13 yards an attempt) as Michigan gradually blew out the Gophers.
And lo, your author gazed upon it and said…
I still find myself way on the conservative end of reaction to Gardner's performance. … Gardner had plenty of wide open dudes, and his throws were erratic. On the one hand, there was the picture-perfect bomb to Gallon; on the other, Dileo and Roundtree bailed Gardner out hardcore on the touchdown drive that put the game out of reach. The Dileo catch was a circus catch all the way, one that could have been made much easier.
Roundtree == Gardner TARP. MVictors
Meanwhile Roundtree broke open by yards and would have had an easy touchdown if Gardner had gotten the ball to the endzone on the opposite hash. As it was he had to circus Michigan out of an interception.
The commenters descended upon the author in their wrath.
The UFR basically bore this out. Here's Gardner's chart for the season:
note: moved one SC IN to BA based on a UFR correction from Space Coyote.
64% is solidly in the "meh" range, though it doesn't take those four scrambles into account. Add those in and it's a B, B+ performance. Also, low sample size and an offensive coordinator seemingly determined to keep things on the ground. I was leery that the things that didn't seem repeatable from the WRs would not repeat, and Michigan would be in trouble.
The next two weeks were wow experiences. Gardner was lethal against Northwestern…
a monster day, especially when you consider those five scrambles included a touchdown on second and goal from the eight and a third and eleven conversion. …
If Gardner can be as consistently accurate on deep balls as he has been so far, four verts is going to be an absolute bitch to defend—zone up and get outnumbered deep or play man and turn your back on this guy:
…Four-fifths of the time Gardner dropped back to pass something good happened, without the aid of an even halfway-credible running game. … there was exactly one inaccurate ball, that an out in the endzone to Gallon that glanced off his fingertips.
…and Iowa, though Iowa was barely trying at that point:
Unstoppable Throw-God Trevor Siemian is like "nice throw bud." It's just ten yards but it is also from a hash to the opposite sideline, there is no coverage in the world that stops it, and given all the other throws Gardner is made that doesn't seem like luck, it just seems like what Gardner does.
The hype was just about to kick in for serious if Michigan could take out Ohio State, but a bad thing happened at a bad time.
[after THE JUMP: accuracy issues, silly numbers from everywhere, redzone efficiency, speed of thought, stand up comedy, and Mr. Burns.]