"What (Michigan coaches) told me is that they're focusing on point guards right now, but if anything opens up, they'll definitely come back on and recruit me as hard as they were," said Towns
[why take a new picture when there’s perfection in your file?]
"What can I answer?"
Can you just tell us about the whole process of staying? There was some uncertainty there about what your future was going to be and then talking to Jim…
"Yeah. Whenever there's a changeover the head coach will always hire who he wants to hire and I feel very fortunate to be able to stay at Michigan. You know I love Michigan and I feel very strongly about the players coming back and the guys in this program and I feel very strongly about Coach Harbaugh. I've known that family for a long time. It's just great to be back. That's the thing I'll say."
Were you exploring other options in that interim?
"I had a number of offers. Some in the NFL and things like that, but I made up my mind that if I had the opportunity I'd love to stay and I did, so I stayed."
Talk about this defense. You were excited about it growing last year but obviously this year–
"Well, I'll tell you what. One thing: DJ Durkin is doing a tremendous job, and I think the defensive coaches– It's exciting because you see some of the things we're doing, some of the kids with experience, some of the kids picking it up and it's exciting to see it moving forward. It's exciting to see the kids getting really coached and wanting to get coached and it's good."
Do you have a preference between the defensive line and linebacker, because you've coached both?
"Yeah, I've coached defensive line my whole life. You know, I started out as a D-line coach and I coached the line, oh, I don't know, if you figure– I'd hate to say how many years because that'd give up how many years I've been coaching, but I do know I've coached defensive line probably a lot longer than linebackers and I really like the defensive line. It's a place where I think technique and teaching [are important] and you can get guys to be better. You can make improvements there through technique and hard work so I'm excited to coach the D-line."
There's been a lot of talk of running some 3-4 defense this year, which you haven't done a lot of. Is that different for the defensive linemen?
"You know, we're exploring everything. We did that last year. We ran that last year, but what we're kind of doing on defense [is] trying to see what scheme fits the players we have, so we're pretty broad with what we're doing."
What has your working relationship been like with DJ Durkin and how are you guys kind of feeding off each other?
"Well, Coach Durkin and I are very, very close friends. We coached together a long time ago at Notre Dame. I traveled down there two years ago back to Florida to talk to him about what they were doing and he's done a great job wherever he's been. I've known DJ for a long time and I've always felt that he's a tremendous football coach. Some of the things that he's done at a young age at Florida is remarkable and I knew that, and that's why it's exciting to work with him. It's fun because were not just coaches together, we're friends and that's – I've always liked to be a part of something like that."
[After THE JUMP: Position buzz and 2-gap talk]
Who are some of your pass rushers, and talk about the standup outside linebacker.
"We've had a number of guys get nicked up and guys are really working hard. Our numbers are down on the D-line and they just keep working through it. I'm not going to single out anybody because they're all working extremely hard, and we won't know until into the season who our pass rushers are. I hope every one of them are. I think the one position, if I did single one out, that I'm really, really pleased with is the noseguard position. I think Glasgow and Mone and Hurst are doing a really, really good job. And the other positions are working hard also, I just– that's the group that really seems like they've got a lot of experience."
Is Willie [Henry] playing the nose too?
"No, Willie will be playing tackle and end."
You have a good relationship with these guys on defense already. Have you served as a liaison between the players and the staff?
"No, I haven't needed to do that. I think somebody else asked me that one time. These coaches are so experienced and there's no liaison necessary. I think when the kids are in their meetings and they're being coached by them, players understand right away when a guy who's coaching them is really doing a great job and is really sharp and I think these kids knew right away. I mean, how could you help but not? I talked about DJ and you've got Mike Zordich and Greg Jackson, who played 12 years in the NFL. He coached at the highest level and both of them have coached in the NFL. They are very experienced, very good coaches."
How about from the other end? Have any coaches come to you and said, 'Hey, this guy responds this way' or 'This guy plays real well in this technique'?
"No, it hasn't been– we all speak so freely in our meeting room that if somebody would bring up something about a player and I've seen it before or I haven't seen it before I'll just say that. I kind of have the luxury of having been with them so I'll just say, 'This kid really is a good player, he really is doing a good job,' and I'll say, 'He had signs of showing that before,' that kind of thing. They've done such a good job, in my opinion, knowing what each player's strength is and each player, what he needs to work on so it hasn't been that kind of thing."
You were pretty adamant last season about the experienced youth on this team and that it was coming. You're here this spring now: Have you seen it?
"I have. Yeah, I have. I've seen these kids working hard. I've seen them be a lot more mature. I mean, these practices are tough practices, and if you're a young kid you kind of maybe fold. There's times sometimes where that happens. I've been real pleased with our guys as far as stepping forward and just keep going, keep going. That shows experience."
You talked about coming back to finish what you guys started. Is that the message from you to the guys you're coaching? I mean, you recruited a lot of those guys.
"Yeah, I don't know if it's to finish because when you finish you say it's over. I just wanted to stay a part of what Michigan is and what Michigan will be and what Michigan has been forever and I think that's coming. I just want to be a part of that and I'm fortunate to be a part of it."
You've worked for a lot of different guys at all different levels, including Jim's brother. What's it like working for Jim? What are his unique traits?
"Well, he's just a very, very, very sharp coach. He's really, really intelligent. He's demanding. He's very businesslike. Every day you're going to work to get better. He expects his coaches to work hard. He expects his coaches to do their job. You don't win 49 games in the NFL in three years and not be a great coach. And he's always been that; you don't do what he did at Stanford and not be a great coach. And everywhere he's been he's just done a great job."
There's a lot of guys on the staff with NFL experience, whether it's playing or coaching. How are you seeing details of that applied to this spring practice?
"I think the one thing when there's a lot of experience in a coaching staff [is] you can make adjustments very easy and be able to teach it. Sometimes what happens if you don't have a lot of experience and there's adjustments to be made [is] you have to teach the coaches first and then the coaches have to teach the players but this staff, they have so much experience that they've done that. They say, 'Oh yeah, we've done this. We can get this done' and it's easy to make adjustments that way."
What have you seen from Chris Wormley so far?
"Chris Wormley is working really, really hard. He seems every day to be taking another step toward being the Chris Wormley that we recruited and the Chris Wormley that you were really expecting to see before he had the knee [injury], and I'm really happy with the way he's been working. He's been very physical. He's totally into it. He's been a leader by example. I'm get pleased with what Chris has done."
MGoQuestion: Are there guys on this line that can play two gaps or are you not really looking at 2-gapping this season?
"Well, I think in every defense you have to 2-gap sometimes, so it's nothing different. But it remains to be seen. There's not a lot of people that do play 2-gap."
You've run the show here defensively for the last four seasons. How difficult is that transition to not be-
"Not at all. Not at all. Not at all because, as I said, I really respect the guy I'm working with and the guys I'm working with, and I've done that for so long that sometimes you say it's kind of enjoyable just to take these four guys and see how good they can be. And I knew that when Jim hired me, there's only one coordinator and what he says we do and once you get that you say, 'Okay, my job is to go coordinate the defensive line and to do a great job with that.' And I've done it so long, I've had so many opportunities to do it that it's really just about seeing how good we can get this team."
[Note: Mattison and Greg Jackson’s availability overlapped, so this transcript isn’t complete. I switched over to Jackson’s huddle at this point and missed 1-2 minutes of Mattison.]
FORMATION NOTES: Michigan spent almost every standard down in a 4-3 over with Ross as your SAM. Once Indiana managed to get Ross flipped way out to the sideline. He's the guy at the bottom of the screen here:
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: No Henry, so lots of Wormley and lesser amounts of Godin. Gedeon made the odd appearance when Michigan went to a 3-3-5. Countess didn't play much… pretty sure only nickel packages.
The rest was as per usual.
[After THE JUMP: shortest UFR in a long time, because Indiana.]
Drake Johnson, Ann Arbor native and dual-sport star at the unparalleled Pioneer High School, broke the century mark and scored two touchdowns on Saturday. His second trip to the end zone looked pretty dang cool:
Even cooler was seeing his mother, longtime M cheerleading coach Pam St. John, allowing herself a moment to admire the TD and let it all soak in:
This season—and Saturday's weather—may have turned warm hearts to icy stone, but that'll reverse the process in a hurry.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the Indiana game in GIFs.]
11/1/2014 – Michigan 34, Indiana 10 – 4-5, 2-3 Big Ten
This happened. The end. [Eric Upchurch]
Sometimes there's a game that does not have anything to say about it. This was that game. Michigan won 34-10, the same score they beat Miami (Not That Miami) by, and it felt a lot like a replay of that throwaway nonconference game.
The opposing offense wasn't going anywhere unless Michigan busted something. Michigan's running game alternated between frustrating lack of holes and lanes so open you could drive a truck through. The defensive backs could have spent the entire afternoon reading The Economist and sipping Kermit tea and nothing would have changed. Indiana had eight attempts. This game was almost literally none of their business.
Michigan thudded out to a 17-0 lead with the help of a couple fumbles that somehow benched Tevin Coleman, and then the game was over. Indiana turned a Gardner interception that ended up inside the Michigan ten into a doinked field goal. Thereupon a giant pig descended from the sky to proclaim the game state.
Brady Hoke knew it, so he ran the ball a couple times to end the first half instead of attempting to score.
I knew it, so I wasn't even a tiny bit peeved by that. Devin Gardner had just demonstrated the only way Indiana was going to get back in the game by not quite giftwrapping a pick six. Just before that Gardner had not quite giftwrapped another pick six. Michigan could have run the ball on every remaining down and won, and it was cold and I have to UFR these things. Run that clock down. Fine by me.
Everyone in the crowd knew it, so an awful lot of them left at halftime.
Non-student areas weren't a whole lot better. [Bryan Fuller]
At this point I'm not blaming anyone. It was cold, Michigan is playing for a berth in the kind of bowl where the gift bags include broken Swatches from 1985, and the game was already decided. I stayed because I write these columns and your soapbox is a little higher if you stayed like a True Fan™. I am enjoying the extra centimeter right now. Mighty fine view it's providing.
The game being what it was, about the only thing of interest over the weekend was a smattering of pissy comments from current and former players.
Desmond Howard decried Michigan's "mob mentality" on Gameday. Taylor Lewan called the Daily's Alejandro Zuniga a "moron" after Zuniga's appearance on BTN. Drew Dileo used air quotes around 'loyal' en route to stating that Dave Brandon and Brady Hoke weren't the problem—causing responders to respectfully ask what, then, the problem might be. Elliot Mealer referred to "the muggles that attend the University of Michigan" suddenly knowing something about the athletic department. Shane Morris provided a shout-out to the few students that made it to the end of the game and helpfully informed the ones who didn't that Michigan won.
It's like they went to bed and universal suffrage happened overnight.
INT. HOUSE OF COMMONS
A raucous scene, as a bill has just come up for vote. Enter AN ASSORTMENT OF LORDS.
EARL OF MEALER
Good heavens, what are they doing?
HOWARD, DUKE OF HEISMAN
They seem to be voicing their opinions.
MARQUIS DI LEO
EARL OF MEALER
Say, you, boy: what is all this ruckus?
The bill of attainder is up for vote; these are
final arguments before a decision is made.
Also, I don't think 'boy' is the preferred nomenclature.
HOWARD, DUKE OF HEISMAN
You have the vote? What nonsense!
MARQUIS DI LEO
/frantically dips snuff
EARL OF MEALER
Disaster! Woe! Surely we will topple like saplings in a typhoon!
HOWARD, DUKE OF HEISMAN
How long has… this been going on?
Approximately 600 years?
MARQUIS DI LEO
HOWARD, DUKE OF HEISMAN
WHY WEREN'T WE TOLD?!
We assumed you knew.
EARL OF MEALER
Our doom is at hand! Flee! I'll die on the squash courts if I can make it!
/exit MEALER, HOWARD
MARQUIS DI LEO
MARQUIS DI LEO
Michigan fans always had the vote; never before had they been pressed so hard as to think about using it. When there's an epic wait list you can find another team and the edifice doesn't notice. Not so much anymore.
The ironic thing about all of this is it's actually the students—sorry, "muggles"—leading the way towards positive change. Brandon implements the worst possible version of general admission; Mike Proppe's CSG negotiates a more sensible arrangement that provides better seats to better fans. Brandon blames the new policy for the drop in attendance instead of prices; Bobby Dishell's CSG negotiates a 40% slashing of ticket prices. El-Kilani's petition laid out the case against Brandon concisely and far more authoritatively than any defenses mounted by the House of Lords, which generally amount to "nuh-uh, you don't know."
It is true that we don't know the face Brandon showed to the student-athletes. I do know that one day he got in front of his department and quizzed them as to who their customers were. The answer: "student-athletes." So he probably acted like a human to them.
That's not enough when he is a six-foot phallus to everyone else. You just don't know that unless you're outside the program, looking at a 150-dollar ticket that you could have had for 20 bucks, watching grim quasi-football that means nothing in the freezing cold. Bon Jovi is playing, for some reason.
Here's the thing. This is a large group of people. Every large group of people is basically a bell curve. Michigan has pushed the prices up to the point where they're going to hit the downside of that bell curve without serious change.
That's a disaster that cannot be allowed to happen. Maybe it won't be for the people in the program right now, or the people who have been through it. It is one for the people who are thinking about 30 years from now, who are thinking about what it's going to be like for their kids.
Michigan, the program, can do little to change the group of people. They will remain the same people. They can only change themselves to fit the people. Step one is firing the coach, because the crushing blow to season ticket sales that results from his retention is unacceptable. Also he is not good at coaching.
Step two is not being dicks to people outside the program. I know y'all learned it from Brandon. Unlearn it. The next AD is going to be just as fantastic to increasingly pampered student-athletes without being loathed by everyone else on the planet. The Al Bundy patrol talking down to a fanbase on the edge of deserting in droves is hilariously out of touch. Michigan revenue vs Michigan performance. QED.
It's time to stop interpreting "The Team The Team The Team" as a moat between 115 players and 113,000 fans.
[After THE JUMP: hawt babes, and why are you trying to be a fey English twit]
The pride of Ann Arbor Pioneer High School. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
It's a new day. Sort of.
There was plenty to celebrate in the first Michigan game of the post-Brandon era. The Wolverines thoroughly dominated Indiana, more than doubling their total yardage and earning the team's first double-digit win since the Miami game.
Devin Gardner set a season high in passing yardage. Amara Darboh posted the best day of his career. So did Ann Arbor native Drake Johnson, who rushed for 122 yards and two scores in his first extended action at running back. The defense shut down the nation's leading rusher, IU's Tevin Coleman, and even forced a pair of turnovers.
There was plenty of bad that was familiar, too. Gardner tossed an ugly interception and narrowly avoided a pick-six when the game was still competitive. Brady Hoke bungled basic clock management at the end of the first half, robbing Michigan of a chance to score before the break. The Wolverines punted from the Indiana 43 on a fourth-and-short. And, of course, the entire game came with the caveat of facing an IU squad with a miserable defense and a depleted depth chart at quarterback.
Oh, and the announced attendance of 103,111 was met with a mixture of laughter and boos; perhaps the program sold that many tickets, but on a chilly afternoon in Ann Arbor, there certainly weren't that many seats filled.
On this day, though, the good should be the focus. With Jake Butt suspended for the game for a violation of team rules, reserve tight end Keith Heitzman was able to record his first career touchdown on an improvised shovel pass from Gardner (pictured above).
Injury also created opportunity in the backfield. With Derrick Green out for the season and De'Veon Smith in and out of the game with a dinged up ankle, Johnson got 16 carries—14 of them in the second half—and he salted away the game, playing kitty-corner from where he starred in high school at both football and track. Johnson, who'd seen mostly special teams duty in his time at Michigan, showed off that track-star speed by breaking multiple runs into the Indiana secondary.
Darboh broke the century mark on nine receptions, scoring from 12 yards on a hard-thrown post from Gardner to give Michgian a 17-0 lead that would stand as the halftime score. He and Devin Funchess combined to reel in 16 of Gardner's 22 completions; no other Wolverine had more than one.
The defense dominated an Indiana offense sorely missing injured quarterback Nate Sudfeld. They got some help from IU coach Kevin Wilson, as well. Wilson benched Tevin Coleman after he put the ball on the turf twice, losing the second on a recovery by freshman Bryan Mone. Indiana couldn't generate any offense without Coleman, who'd finish with a season-low 108 yards—must be nice—on 27 carries; his mark of four yards per carry was well below his season average of 8.8.
The Hoosiers also insisted on running much of their offense from the Wildcat, which Michigan had dead to rights for most of the game. Jake Ryan recorded 2.5 TFLs among his team-high 11 tackles; fellow linebacker Joe Bolden had two TFLs of his own as M repeatedly shot gaps into the IU backfield. Any hopes Indiana had of getting back into the game were dashed when Ryan Glasgow sacked IU QB Zander Diamont, stripped the ball, and came up with the recovery in the third quarter; Johnson got the corner for his first touchdown on the ensuing drive.
The final yardage read Michigan 404, Indiana 191.
Hoke refused to address questions about Dave Brandon's resignation in the aftermath of the game, and that felt right. Today was about the team on the field, and while the opponent wasn't a strong one, they were able to ignore this week's distractions and take care of business. That alone was an impressive feat.
FORMATION NOTES: Michigan introduced a true 3-3-5 package, not the standup Frank Clark stuff we've seen before. Here's a weird example with Godin, the guy who was usually the nose in this formation, shaded over a tackle. This was for hijinks; more of ten it just looked like a regular 3-3-5.
Other than that, standard.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: A shakeup on the line as Charlton started, as did Mone and Wormley. Henry was out with an injury (presumably one to his thumb); Glasgow was absent for most of the game but then came on late and played well. Super, super weird. Beyer reclaimed most of his PT by halftime; Mone and Wormley were spotted by Hurst and Godin, getting almost equal time.
LB was the usual, except when Michigan went to a new 3-3-5 package Gedeon was the third option instead of Ross.
Secondary was Lewis 100% of the time I think with Taylor getting more PT than Countess; Countess and Hollowell split nickel snaps. I think it was Clark and Wilson at safety with Thomas occasionally spotting Clark but given the way this played out the safeties weren't on the screen much.
[After THE JUMP: Penn State not so much.]