Peppers at 10, which seems low.
Media days takes. Harbaugh showed at a place and said things. In response the media writes somewhat overheated things in response, because Harbaugh. The Sporting News refers to Michigan's "magical, millennial, marketable machine" in an alliteration explosion that engulfed their office:
“Harbaugh to my knowledge has taken no classes in marketing, never mentions the word,” Bacon said. “Yet who has marketed Michigan better then he has in the last year and a half? Not everyone likes it, but as far as getting and the name and the flag up the flag pole … Harbaugh has spread the "M" all over America — and to American Samoa — for crying out loud.”
According to Michigan associate athletic director Kurt Svoboda, the university increased its season ticket sales in 2015 to 89,875, the highest total since 2012. Of those, 72,076 were non-student tickets, the highest total since 2009. Student ticket sales increased from 11,597 in 2014 to 17,899 in 2015. …
"You can say he's 52 going on 25 in some ways,” Bacon said. “He's got more energy than almost anybody. He's in a rap video. As a rapper he's an excellent football coach, but you know the kids love it."
Looks like Bacon just put himself on the list of Uptight White People for the 57th time.
Harbaugh's ability to be the center of attention at all times arises naturally from the fact that he's got no filter and genuinely doesn't care what people say about him. So he'll climb a tree or dab for a recruit or schedule a month-long whirlwind of satellite camps, mostly because he wants to do these things, to win at various things of little to no importance. The marketing aspect is a side effect. It's not quite an accident, but it's not the primary thing.
The primary thing:
To that point, Harbaugh said almost every practice is mapped out for the upcoming season, mapped out on his computer. Fall camp will include a lot more four-hour practices, another concept Butt said might be foreign in an age where less contact is encouraged. Butt even told former Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy about those practices this summer.
McElroy’s response? “You lost me at the four-hour practices.”
Harbaugh goes harder and his guys are willing to do the same given his example. Along the way articles are written.
Also this. Harbaugh's just way more interesting than coaches primarily focused on escaping media appearances without saying anything that means anything. Literally. Brian Hamilton:
Around 1:30 p.m. on Monday, James Joseph Harbaugh took the stage and an otherwise lobotomized first day of Big Ten media day festivities got interesting. All he had to do was wear the baseball cap, really: Michigan’s coach later explained his accessorizing was the product of going five weeks without a haircut and his affinity for the skinny ‘M’ logo.
He signed a fan's bicep with a Sharpie, then told the fan to come back for another try Tuesday because he didn't like the way his skin signature looked.
Of his appearance in a recent rap video, Harbaugh insisted that only "uptight white people" didn't like it. He even claimed to have written one of the song's lyrics ("Roughest team in the B-I-G!). At another point, Harbaugh used the word "meritocracy," briefly wondered if he had just invented it, then looked disappointed when he learned it already existed.
He is one of few college football coaches clearly operating his own twitter feed, because he's got something to say on it. Something like "I am Uncle Rico and The Georgia Coach is barking up the wrong tree."
Knock on wood. Harbaugh says Michigan is healthy headed into fall camp:
"There's nothing to report," Harbaugh said of player injuries. "We're pretty darn healthy. We came out of spring ball pretty darn healthy. We didn't get any of the long-term kind, six month injuries. There's always things that people are dealing with and working with. Our goal is to get the healthiest, most in-shape and strongest team we can on August 8th and then we'll take our shot."
Rumors about Chesson's availability have persisted through the offseason; he should be fine:
Asked specifically about All-Big Ten receiver Jehu Chesson, Harbaugh didn't give a definitive answer but did say he thinks he'll be good to go.
"Yes, I believe he will," Harbaugh said.
The only other player who had a long-term injury at the end of spring practice was Moe Ways, who has reportedly been running routes with the QBs for weeks now. Per Webb, Ryan Glasgow put up some impressive bench press numbers himself recently. Since his injury was to his pectoral that is plenty of evidence he's all the way back.
Recruiting is for gentlemen only. James Franklin's comments about negative recruiting from a while back are predictably a hot topic at Big Ten media days, but they're apparently based on an unrepresentative quote:
"All I said was that every kid that we're recruiting is also being recruited by Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Notre Dame and that they don't have the same challenges that we have now," Franklin said. "Then, in a separate quote, I mentioned that right now we're (dealing) with negative recruiting. It was two separate quotes, though, over a 35-minute interview.
"I never said that any of those schools are the ones doing the negative recruiting against us. They're not. There is one other particular school, but I didn't name who that was."
"…although it is blindingly obvious to you and everyone who reads this quote that it is Pitt."
Negative recruiting hubbub is always pretty ridiculous since things as innocuous as pointing out your relatively friendly depth chart will be twisted into "School X is in ISIS" by the time someone mutters about it on the internet. This seems a bit more ridiculous than most.
The Bill C preview. Bill Connelly's big Michigan preview hit SBNation yesterday. Happily, Bill saw through Michigan's roster subterfuge and knows that they get back most of their offense.
S&P+ projects Michigan to win 9.6 games:
If that sounds pessimistic MSU was at 7.8 a few days ago. Combinatorial math is harsh when you add these things up: Michigan has just three games they're not 75%+ to win and yet they're tiny favorites to end up with double digit wins. 9.6 is pretty good in this context.
There are a couple issues of the sort that are inevitable if you have to write 128 of these over the course of the offseason. Connelly strangely tabs the departure of Mario Ojemudia as the beginning of the defense's late slide and worries over the least worrisome bit of the entire team:
Things fell apart for the line right around the time of Mario Ojemudia's injury. There was still play-making potential on the edge, but it seemed to be a tough blow for Michigan's tenuous depth. Ryan Glasgow going down was the knockout punch.
Depth might not be any better this year. When you were only comfortable with seven guys, and two are gone, improvement isn't guaranteed. But when you've got reinforcements like all-world freshman Rashan Gary, it's hard to worry too much.
Ojemudia went down early in the Maryland game, a shutout. The next week they shut out Northwestern, and then they gave up some points. Against MSU and Minnesota they were mostly secondary issues; Rutgers scored just 16 in Glasgow's last game. Ojemudia was playing well but Royce Jenkins-Stone wasn't a huge dropoff. Glasgow was for a ton of reasons.
Anyway. Bryan Mone hype understandably eludes Connelly's take here, as does the somewhat more questionable emergence of Winovich and Marshall.
Peppers scouted. By NFL.com:
He is fluid in his turn, and he has excellent recovery speed down the field. He is instinctive and aware in underneath coverage. He jumped a bubble screen for a near interception in the Minnesota game. He is outstanding as a run defender. He fights through blocks and is a very reliable tackler in space. He shows timing and burst as a blitzer.
Yep. Concerns include an awkwardness in off coverage and a certain grabbiness that he's gotten away with for the most part. It was clear at the beginning of the year that he had a lot of things to work on in coverage; the good news is that he improved a great deal over the course of the year and should continue to do so.
PFF talks Ohio State. Their offense is an enigma now with just a few starters returning and JT Barrett's downfield ability in question:
The passing game is much more of a question mark, as Barrett has not had nearly the same success through the air as he has on the ground. He earned an average passing grade last season after performing marginally better than that in 2014, and he struggled the most on intermediate throws: On passes thrown 10 to 19 yards downfield, Barrett was just 12 of 25 for 211 yards, 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, earning a negative grade in that area of the field.
On the other hand he was their #2 running QB last year behind Houston's Greg Ward. MSU shut down the OSU run game and they foundered, as they did for much of the season. (Remember the NIU game?) Michigan did not do anything of the sort and got ripped. Don Brown versus and Urban Meyer offense is going to be the most intriguing tactical matchup of the season.
Etc.: Tough talk about the ACC Network's ability to get carriage. Ann Arbor is the most educated city in the country by a mile. Ian Boyd on Minnesota's three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust offense. The Black Heart Gold Pants crew is on the move. Barton Simmons catches on to Harbaugh's crazy QB coaching record.
Harbaugh as Uncle Rico. He's the least Uncle Rico person of all time, except in his mind:
— Coach Harbaugh (@CoachJim4UM) July 24, 2016
— Coach Harbaugh (@CoachJim4UM) July 25, 2016
No, not really. Maybe if we…
— Noah Neidlinger (@candor_for_sale) July 25, 2016
There we go.
WE ARE KIND OF EXCITED. Take it from a man selling a preseason magazine: Michigan fans are throwing their money at the upcoming season because they have an enthusiasm too rare over the past ten years. News that more bets are being placed on Michigan to win the national title than any other team should be interpreted in that light.
PFF evaluates that take, mostly rehashing things they've published before—Wormley, Glasgow, Hurst, and Charlton are all real good, literally everyone in the secondary graded out positively—but offering some new insights into their 2015 rankings:
They are bringing back a solid receiving corps led by WR Jehu Chesson (who earned the third-highest WR rating among returning wideouts at 127.9) and TE Jake Butt (who is the top returning tight end in receiving grade, after catching 51 of 70 targets for 653 yards and three touchdowns). They have a productive running back in De’Veon Smith, who broke 52 tackles combined last season.
There's been a lot of NFL and All Big Ten hype around Chesson, a guy who came on late but didn't exactly put up Braylon numbers; that helps confirm the late season surge. (Also Florida UFR is this week, and Chesson was insanely good in that game even if you look past the two long strikes against Hargreaves.) Butt being the top receiving WR is no surprise; Smith being "productive" kind of is.
Also, Jake Rudock surge:
Jake Rudock came on strong at the end of 2015, but for the first nine weeks of the season, he ranked 98th among 101 qualifying quarterbacks in PFF grades – and the Wolverines were still a top-10 team entering the final week of the regular season.
If Rudock had transferred fast enough to get in for spring practice that would have been something.
Still gets no respect. BTN put out a list of the top 100 players in the league that's mostly notable for their bonkers #takes on various players, like definition-of-just-a-guy Justin Jackson at #11. Jackson is Northwestern running back on a team with some sort of sea mammal trying to use his flippers to get the ball downfield, so his carry numbers are inflated. He got the ball a whopping 312 times last year, and was fine. He did nothing to defy Northwestern's fate against Michigan, Iowa, and Nebraska—25, 30, and 40 yards, respectively—and mostly ran over teams that were not good. He had a couple moments; he was fine. He got to 139 yards against Wisconsin without cracking 4 YPC. You could put him somewhere in the second half of this list if you wanted; 11 is bizarre.
But the reason this section exists is because the list completely omits Ryan Glasgow. Ryan Glasgow, the guy who got hurt just before Michigan's run defense fell off a cliff; Ryan Glasgow, the guy PFF ranked a top 20 DL in all of college football last year. No matter what he does on the field, because he is 1) a former walk-on and 2) a nose tackle someone is always willing to ignore him in favor of Bryan Mone or a completely average running back. Or #32 Montae Nicholson a guy who got pulled over and over again last year because he kept giving up big plays. Or #60 Wes Lunt. Or #100 Michael Geiger, a kicker hitting 63% the last two years. There's an obvious mandate to diversify the schools involved here but that's nonsensical.
Anyway. Get your chips hot, Glasgow.
The media days, they begin. If news comes out of them that'll be newsworthy. Best item so far is that MSU appears to be moving Kodi Kieler to center:
MSU also released a preseason depth chart: Kieler now listed as starter at center, Brian Allen at LG, Dennis Finley/Miguel Machado at RT
— Kyle Austin (@kylebaustin) July 25, 2016
I said there wasn't much news. JUCO transfer Machado was real bad last year as Kieler struggled to stay ambulatory; Finley was hurt the whole year.
Dytarious may return. Dytarious Johnson didn't sign a letter of intent this fall and then enrolled in prep school; per Johnson Michigan is still in pursuit and will enroll him this January. That's still dependent on a number of things, including Johnson getting his grades right and how Michigan's scholarship situation shapes up. A lot of these plans end up changing along the way.
More unit rankings. Sports On Earth declares Michigan's DL the third-best in the land and their secondary fifth-best, and if that actually strikes you as pessimistic, well, placing the OL #5 in the country more than makes up for that.
Etc.: Iowa defensive tackle Faith Ekakitie had four guns pulled on him because he was mistaken for a bank robber 100 pounds lighter than him. Peppers gets a prestigious award. Eric Upchurch talks MGoPhotography with MGoFish. Remembering 1976.
Two more gentlemen are good. PFF extended its list of the top X players in the country by ten and hit on another two Wolverines. Taco Charlton:
- Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
The Wolverines’ defensive line is absolutely loaded for 2016. Taco Charlton provides them with pass rush production from either defensive end position. Charlton generated 41 total pressures on 213 snaps in 2015 and his 15.1 pass rushing productivity rating ranks No. 1 among all returning FBS 4-3 defensive ends.
I did not realize Charlton's snap count was that limited. I mean, I knew it was limited because of Wormley, but that count is barely more than a third of Wormley's snap count, half of Hurst's, and about 33% lower than Glasgow, who got knocked out for the year against Rutgers. If Charlton 1) gets a bunch more snaps, 2) gets even a little better, and 3) gets most of his snaps at the WDE spot that is the glory position for most 4-3 defenses, he's going to blow up.
Butt is one of the premier pass-catching tight ends in college football. Butt showed in 2015 that he could line up in the backfield, in the slot or in-line and still get open. Butt’s +10.1 receiving grade ranks No.1 among returning FBS tight ends.
You'll note the lack of mention of Butt's blocking prowess. IIRC he came out negatively for the year, albeit slightly. I don't expect that to improve much since adding much more weight to his frame will detract from his killer receiving ability.
Meanwhile PFF surveys the state of Big Ten quarterbacking:
- C.J. Beathard, Iowa
C.J. Beathard is the only returning Big Ten signal-caller with a positive passing grade from last season.
Woooooooooof. Wes Lunt and Mitch Leidner are #4 and #5 on this list. Michigan's quarterback situation is already better than the vast majority of the league simply by virtue of having Jim Harbaugh.
It does look like Charlton will flip back to the weakside. Baumgardner profiles Charlton and gets some interesting quotes about this year's defense versus last year's:
"Last year we played in the 3-4 and (I was at a) tackle-type position. Now I'm back outside in a 4-3 defense doing what I'm more comfortable doing. Now I can get back to rushing that passer on the outside and using my speed a little bit more."
That doesn't fit with what my conception of a 3-4 is but whatever. Here Charlton seems to confirm the Sam Webb report that Michigan's starting DL is likely to read Gary/Glasgow/Wormley/Charlton from strongside end to weak; Charlton spent the spring at SDE with Chase Winovich trying to display his qualities on the weakside.
More defensive line praise. Bruce Feldman kicks off a list of the country's top DLs and leads it off with Michigan. Ryan Glasgow comes in for some praise, described as "pretty salty" by a Big Ten OL coach, and the addition of Don Brown veritably looms:
"What he does from a schematic standpoint because he's so outside the box with the way that he packages his pressures where they're bringing five, six every snap trying to get ready for all that stuff in one week's time is a bitch," one veteran offensive line coach said. "The scheme will definitely help their production."
OSU comes in tenth despite some questions at DT; MSU is an honorable mention largely because of Malik McDowell.
This bad thing is actually a good thing probably, but the good thing is a bad thing maybe. ESPN evaluates reasons Michigan will make the playoff, and I'm a little dubious about where a couple of them are classified. Michigan's schedule is not particularly hard:
Easier path to the playoff: Based on FPI, Michigan has the second-easiest schedule of any Power-5 team. (Oklahoma has the easiest.) The Wolverines will leave the state only once prior to Nov. 6, and that’s to take on Rutgers in New Jersey. Their three non-conference opponents -- Hawaii, UCF, Colorado -- went a combined 7-31 last season. That’s not to say the schedule is without challenges, but those challenges appear to be the exception. That’s why Michigan is expected to have some of the most blowout wins in the country based on ESPN analytics.
This is judged a good thing, and it is for Michigan's chances of getting through the season undefeated. It's not a good thing once the hairs start to get split amongst one-loss teams. It's not hard to see one-loss teams from virtually every other conference jumping Michigan in the queue if M is 12-1.
Meanwhile this bad thing is not necessarily a bad thing:
Wrong side of the turnover battle: Last season, only Notre Dame fared worse than Michigan in the turnover battle while still pulling off double-digit wins. Neither team was very good in that department. On offense, the Wolverines turned the ball over 16 times -- but the defense forced just 12 turnovers. Michigan ranked No. 92 nationally in turnover differential (minus-4) and ranked No. 117 in turnovers gained. Defensive coordinator Don Brown is banking on a more aggressive unit to increase those numbers, but a new quarterback also has the potential to cancel out any defensive gain. At any rate, it’s rare for a playoff team to wind up on the wrong side of the turnover battle. That’s something Michigan needs to correct.
Michigan's lack of turnovers was freakish for a defense as proficient as the 2015 unit. Michigan only forced five fumbles all of last year, 123rd nationally, despite finishing well above average in sacks. (They recovered two.) Judging from PFF's take on Michigan's DL they were probably even better at getting pressures. QB pressure is the single most important factor in forcing turnovers. Sacked QBs fumble; pressured QBs throw passes where they shouldn't. Michigan should be quite good at getting to the QB again, and should do much better in TOs acquired.
Going from DJ Durkin to Don Brown is promising as well. Durkin was content throwing an absolute buttload of man coverage at opponents. Brown will mix that up with various zones that have the potential to put people in places the QB does not expect them to go, and blitzes that promise to up the chaos factor even further.
This is so dumb but it might help recruiting. Every year there is a new batch of articles featuring NFL coaches complaining about spread offenses. SI has one as part of a series on developing quarterbacks. Its lead example? Marcus Mariota:
…in the months leading up to the draft, Mariota faced questions over his viability as a pro passer. The main gripe—from the perspective of TV analyst X, anonymous scout Y and a parade of others weighing in on that year's collection of quarterbacks—was that Mariota may have difficulty transitioning to the NFL because of his history playing in Oregon's spread offense as opposed to a pro-style attack. The criticism didn't just obscure Mariota's illustrious college track record, but the top-line speed and improvisational playmaking that made him such a highly regarded prospect.
All of it must have felt like a wake-up call for the growing number of college coaches who hope to attract elite high school quarterbacks to run their spread offenses.
Mariota evaporates from the article at this point, which is a shame because the skepticism directed his way was a perfect example of how overblown this chatter is. Mariota completed 62% of his passes for 7.6 YPA as a rookie. His QBR was 61, indicating he was an above-average NFL QB as a rookie coming out of a the most spread system in the land.
A lot of quarterbacks bust for a lot of reasons. NFL people say it's college's fault because their jobs are at stake, but there's little relation to reality there. Even so their complaining helps places like Michigan, Stanford, and Georgia:
Clemson co-offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach Jeff Scott, who helped lead the Tigers to the national title game last season, says he has heard a similar line trotted out. "Just guys that say, 'You don't want to go play in that offense because it's a spread, gimmick offense, and it's not going to prepare you for the NFL.'"
There are increasingly few programs that can sell NFL-shaped QBs that they are the best place for them. Michigan is one of them. They're already two thirds of the way through a QB recruiting triptych matched only once in the star era of recruiting. Michigan pulled in Clayton Richard, Matt Gutierrez, and Chad Henne back to back to back in the early aughts. If Michigan grabs one of the guys they're in on early in the 2018 class they'll match that, and then they'll probably continue going. Lloyd Carr did not: his next two QBs after those three were Jason Forcier and David Cone.
The first rule of Draftageddon is "you must complain about Draftageddon." The second is "the four people drafting assemble teams of Big Ten players in an effort to seem the best at drafting."
Previously on Draftageddon:
Two Michigan guys go before the one good quarterback and our tight end goes 5th overall. Homers much?
ACE: Round 3, Pick 1: Jehu Chesson, WR, Michigan
OFFENSE: RB Saquon Barkley, WEAPON Jabrill Peppers, WR Jehu Chesson
DEFENSE: OLB/NICKEL Jabrill Peppers
SPECIAL TEAMS: KR Jabrill Peppers, PR Jabrill Peppers
Chesson, as you’re well aware, had more close-but-not-quite moments than I care to recall in the first nine games of his junior year as he incrementally improved while waiting for Jake Rudock to calibrate his deep ball. The final four games, post-calibration, were a Wow Experience.
Indiana is bad and should feel bad, but those last two games came against a pair of first-round cornerbacks in Eli Apple and Vernon Hargreaves—the latter is still waiting for that hitch:
I’d be more wary of basing this pick on a small-sample breakout if it hadn’t been so easy to see coming in the first place. CBSSports agrees: Chesson is their top-ranked senior receiver in the country.
In addition to his downfield receiving prowess, he also provides big-play ability on end-arounds (8 rushes for 155 yards and 2 TDs last year) and kickoff returns, as well as great blocking for a receiver. Again, this pick is also a reflection of the other available talent; the next-best receiver on the board is probably one of PSU’s Chris Godwin, Nebraska’s Jordan Westerkamp, or Amara Darboh.
[After THE JUMP: We take the linemen Pro Football Focus tells us to. Not our fault if their helmets have wings]
Inclusions and omissions. PFF lists its top 101 players going into 2016 and Michigan's defense is well represented:
- #7 Jourdan Lewis
- #16 Jabrill Peppers
- #27 Maurice Hurst
- #31 Chris Wormley
- #72 Ryan Glasgow
We knew most of this already since Hurst was projected as a first round pick by PFF and Glasgow came in for mention as a top-20 DL a year ago. This is some more detail on Glasgow:
Another standout performer on the Michigan defensive line, Glasgow played only 332 snaps before going down to injury in Week 10. He posted a dominant +17.6 grade against the run to go with a +9.0 pass rush grade and his overall grade ranked 19th in the nation at the time of the injury.
Losing him was a crushing blow to the run D.
PFFs omissions are illuminating and one jumps out: Jake Butt. This might point to a hole in PFF's methodology. Their list doesn't have a single TE on it. IIRC when they mentioned Butt in the past they had negative grades for his blocking, which is reasonable since he was very much a finesse guy a year ago. It seems like TE blocking should probably be graded on a curve since a guy like Butt helps out the run game in other ways due to his threat as a pass catcher.
Anyway, there are three Michigan DL amongst the best in the country… and one of them probably isn't going to start. Add in Charlton, Mone, and Gary and this line is set to be an all-timer.
Speaking of Glasgow. He tells Nick Baumgardner he's almost all the way back:
Glasgow -- who posted 25 tackles (5 for a loss) -- says about 95 percent of his shoulder strength has returned. And if Michigan were to start fall camp tomorrow -- it'll begin Aug. 8 -- then Glasgow would be full-go without any limitations.
"There might be some rust with technique and stuff. But (I'd be healthy and ready)," Glasgow added. "Being out on the field is amazing. I definitely took it for granted before and I never will ever again now. That injury definitely sobers you up to the fact that football does have an end date. Which is unfortunate.
"But it makes you appreciate the game."
If Glasgow does get displaced by Mone I'll be shocked. Not lemon-eating shocked. But shocked.
Oakland is not in play. "Off to NFL in three years" futures are cratering:
“Happy, happy—10 out of 10 happy,” he says. He juggles a pair of camps and time with a number of recruits here on unofficial visits. “And then I get to walk over to the stadium and do the offensive and defensive linemen too! You’re like a pig in slop out here. That’s how I feel. Drawing the long straw today.”
Purdue 1980. Via Dr. Sap:
Better than nothing. John O'Korn hit up the Manning passing camp and came away with a prestigious award:
Southern Mississippi’s Nick Mullens and Michigan’s John O’Korn were crowned co-champions of the Air-it-Out Quarterback Challenge after neither could separate themselves after five rounds of competition at Nicholls State University's stadium. …
During the passing challenge, the quarterbacks had to hit three golf carts traveling across the field at 15 yards, 25 yards and up the sidelines. This was a change from previous years, when the first two carts traveled 10 and 20 yards. Quarterbacks needed to hit all three carts to advance.
A prestigious award based on approximately a dozen throws, so don't print up your O'HEISMAN 2016 t-shirts just yet. Like the increasingly farcical Elite 11—which had 24 QBs at it this year—the more QBs that get thrown in a passing camp bucket, the less reliable the outcomes are. Still, as the bold bit says, better than nothing.
Fulton on OSU. You won't find a better primer on the Buckeyes than that delivered by Ross Fulton. This part is especially relevant to Michigan fans because M will run the same style of front-seven defense:
Ohio State features a Mike, Will, and Sam linebacker. But what does that mean? It is helpful to think of Ohio State using two inside linebacker and one outside linebackers.
The Mike and Will are the inside linebackers. They are primarily responsible for an inside run gap to their side of the formation. The Mike plays to the field, with the Will to the boundary. There are slight differences. The Will must be rangier because he more often has boundary flat coverage responsibilities. The Mike is a more traditional downhill inside linebacker.
But the Mike and Will are more interchangeable than the Sam. The Sam – or Walkout –linebacker is a hybrid linebacker/safety. As the name suggests, the walkout linebacker often plays outside the tackle box, generally aligning over the number 2 or slot receiver. Playing in space, he is responsible for setting the edge to the field, meaning he must be able to defeat blocks and force the football inside.
Practically speaking, this means the position is responsible for limiting the horizontal screen and run game that feature prominently in spread offenses. But he must also be comfortable playing in the tackle box against pro-style formations. In short, the position requires perhaps the most versatile player in the Ohio State defense.
The SAM is obviously Peppers and the stuff he'll be asked to do isn't too much different than his job last year. Brown will incorporate a lot more blitzing and zone coverage into the Peppers role; he'll still be Michigan's screen obliterator.
Got some guys this year. NFL.com is releasing lists of the top ten players to watch at various positions. Michigan guys are popping up with frequency. Jehu Chesson is the #2(!) WR:
2. Jehu Chesson, Michigan
Some receivers just carry themselves like a natural-born WR1 and Chesson is one of those guys. There is a level of confidence and toughness that comes through when you watch him play, and he is as fearless a wide receiver when working in traffic as any you will find, taking shot after shot while securing the catch. Stat scouts won't fall in love with Chesson based on his production last season (50 catches for 764 yards and 9 TDs), but NFL scouts love his ability to adjust to throws and work all three levels of the field. He won't have many "Wow!" highlights that have you jumping out of your seat, but his size, toughness and consistency put him near the top of this list.
MSU gets a sixth year. OL Brandon Clemons got his sixth year:
Michigan State OL Brandon Clemons got his sixth year approved by the NCAA today. Expected, but needed boost of experience nonetheless.
— Dan Murphy (@DanMurphyESPN) June 21, 2016
Some guy on the internet went back and checked dress lists, finding that Clemons was in street clothes by the end of the year and may actually have a case. Ed Davis almost certainly does not:
He dressed in every game, including road games where the travel team is limited. There's no way he didn't take a voluntary redshirt.
Next year's NHL draft prospects. Michigan didn't have a player selected in the first round despite a banner year for NCAA hockey, especially a BU team that will be loaded when it comes to Yost this fall. That should change next year. Chris Dilks's initial rankings for 2017 feature three Wolverines-to-be: #15 Michael Pastujov, #25 Josh Norris, and #28 Luke Martin. Martin is arriving this fall, so Michigan kind of sort of maybe has a first rounder in this recruiting class.
What are you doing, MSU hockey? They just don't care.
Also on the agenda are the renewals/extensions of contracts for Athletic Director Mark Hollis through the 2020-21 school year and three of his major-sport coaches – men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo (2022-23), women’s basketball coach Suzy Merchant (2020-21) and hockey coach Tom Anastos (2019-20).
A hockey coach's buyout is chump change for a Big Ten athletic department but I'm just like… why? Why are you the way you are?
Etc.: Basketball recruiting is ridiculous.
We're in this thing. Proudbox is carrying HTTV in its initial… uh… box, if you haven't already ordered a copy. In addition to HTTV the thing comes with a pile of other unique Michigan items, including a Harbaugh bobblehead that tweets trash talk at SEC coaches*. They're working with the university itself so each box comes with one piece of officially licensed merch and various other goodies like stuff from Shinola, Zingermans baked goods, special publications from The Michigan Daily, Michigan Marching Band music or "something really amazing," like a Jim Harbaugh bobblehead that tweets trash talk at SEC coaches***.
They've got an introductory deal for MGoBlog persons, and five percent of the proceeds go to the U or various charities like Mott. Check them out.
*[it does not do this**]
**[but maybe it does!]
***[again, it does not do this****]
****[unless it does!]
— Mike Kaye (@mike_e_kaye) June 15, 2016
Jarrod Wilson doing well. He was an undrafted free agent since he was so boring at Michigan, but it seems like he might make the Jaguars:
In just two minicamp practices, Wilson has collected two interceptions. While he is playing against third-string talent, it is hard to ignore his clear playmaking ability.
“It’s amazing, he’s very sharp," defensive coordinator Todd Wash said on Wednesday. "He comes in, he learns the package really well, and he puts himself in position to make a lot of plays out of the middle field. It’s good to see. Up until today he was what we called our 'ball aware player' who was leading the team so far here. We’re excited about his progress so far.”
…veteran free safety and high-profile free agent addition, Tashaun Gipson, sees a little bit of himself in the rookie.
"I've been truly impressed with Jarrod," Gipson said. "He's truly one of those guys, he reminds me of myself, I made most of my noise around this time [as a rookie] heading into training camp. Like him I was undrafted."
Those two interceptions are half of his career total at Michigan, where he would not have been described as a "playmaker"; he was more an underappreciated security blanket. Maybe that was more an artifact of his deployment than his skills.
Harbaugh in Tennessee. His camp stop in Murfreesboro draws a long, good article from SEC Country because it's more interesting than looking at an empty field. I like Harbaugh talking like he's in Fargo:
Harbaugh then asks, “Is there anywhere else you’d rather be?”
Players (halfheartedly): “No.”
Harbaugh: “Anywhere at all?”
The players grunt.
Harbaugh: “Heck no! Ya like football!”
At some point a little kid watching from the sidelines gets bonked:
A tiny grade schooler on the other side of the fence is struck in the mouth with a wayward pigskin. “Oooooh,” say the people nearby.
The child, outfitted in a No. 4 Michigan jersey, is crumpled on the ground as his parents tend to him. No crying. Just shock.
Harbaugh notices the commotion.
“Everything OK?” He yells from the practice field.
The child is still lying face down on the ground. Several adults give thumbs up.
Good start for that kid. Demonstrating toughness. Later, Harbaugh catches up with him:
Before Harbaugh can escape (he’s not trying too hard), the parents of a little boy approach him. Their kid is the one who got clocked by an errant football earlier in the night.
“That was you?” Harbaugh asks, bending down to get on the kid’s level.
The kid nods. The coach imparts his wisdom.
“That would’ve killed a lesser man,” Harbaugh said. “A lesser man would’ve been dead.”
Whole thing is recommended.
Say what? Athlon's All Big Ten team goes four deep and looks pretty reasonable to me with a couple exceptions. One is the inclusion of Bryan Mone, who probably isn't even going to start over Ryan Glasgow. Glasgow isn't included despite the fact that he should be second-team at worst. Ryan Glasgow is good, and nobody seems to want to acknowledge this.
I went in to WTKA today to talk about the USA soccer match to night and along the way we got to talking about Glasgow because Sam posted what he's hearing about the configuration of the defensive line*; he had the temerity to list Glasgow as a starter. This caused a lot of people to groan about how that must mean Mone isn't going to live up to the hype. I read this thread. It was boggling. Nobody appreciates Ryan Glasgow. Read the dang UFRs!
*[Which is that the starters will be read Gary/Glasgow/Wormley/Charlton and backed up by Marshall/Mone/Hurst/Winovich.]
The second thing:
I literally went "bwa hwa wha?!" when I saw Nicholson, who couldn't stay in the starting lineup of an abject MSU secondary last year. People improve, etc.; having Nicholson that high on your list is asking for a truly spectacular one-year turnaround.
BTW, Michigan guys on the list:
- First team: Jehu Chesson, Jake Butt, Mason Cole, Jabrill Peppers, Jourdan Lewis, Chris Wormley.
- Second team: Taco Charlton, Erik Magnuson, Amara Darboh
- Fourth team: Kyle Kalis, Bryan Mone, Peppers(PR), Lewis(KR).
Magnuson and Kalis are a bit high and leaving off Glasgow is goofy, but it's reasonable. I'd bet that Michigan's QB is better than Tommy Armstrong and Wes Lunt but since you don't have any idea who that's going to be it's hard to put them on a list. I applaud their bravery in leaving De'Veon Smith entirely off a list of Big Ten RBs that goes eight deep.
This guy again. OSU WR coach Zach Smith is really mad at Nebraska for some reason. It's a thing. This manifests publicly on Smith's twitter account, which is kind of like Harbaugh's if Harbaugh had the intellect of a cabbage:
The scare quotes around "claim" really make this one. Quotes in previous sentence not scare quotes but actual quotes since they were used to quote the tweet. Anyway.
Lotta starts coming back. Michigan has one of the most experienced OLs in the country:
That and a cup of acid thrown at a district attorney's face gets you legendary Batman villain Two-Face, but it's better than the alternative.