Ace: We're halfway through the season, and I'm in no mood to ask the standard "how is the team doing compared to expectations?" for obvious reasons. Instead, for a more positive outlook, let's keep our eyes on the future: Which player on each side of the ball has exceeded your expectations for them heading into the year? Has anyone, in your opinion, gone from question mark to potential star?
Seth: There has been so little good news from the offense that Jack Miller's play has gone largely unnoticed. I was ready to write him off after last year to the point where I was writing off the entire OL because Miller still had a job on it. Mea culpa; there's no whiff of Rimington in his future, but it appears the dude can ball.
|Miller seems to be involved in much of the offense's little bursts of running competence. [Fuller]|
We haven't had a UFR for awhile, but when those do come out I bet you'll find the run game's quiet progress can be largely attributed to Miller pulling off the occasional block in a gap nobody but Molk has any business getting to. Even earlier in the season there were Miller-generated holes that the RBs just missed. Did you hear me, People of Earth Who Lived Through the Neg-Two and 27 for 27? THERE WERE HOLES! Upperclassmen are nice, and also a nice reminder that most OL take a long time to develop.
On defense it's Ryan Glasgow, with Jourdan Lewis running a close second. Remember what you thought when you first heard Glasgow was atop the depth chart? You thought "Oh dear, Pipkins is still damaged and a walk-on is ahead of everyone else." That seems like forever ago; it was six weeks ago.
It took just a few games for Glasgow to earn the Order of St. Kovacs, his asterisks packed away for his eventual NFL destination to do human interest stories. I remind you even the Great and Mighty Kovacs spent a season as the opposite of Ed Reed (and went out, miserably, on a play that reminded us how much he wasn't Ed Reed). Some decent run outfits haven't been able to get anywhere against Michigan except when Glasgow rotates out, and there have even been a few GRrraaaarrr plays of brute strength to hint at a higher ceiling.
His game could use some pass rush, but has exceeded expectations to the point that I want Adam to ask the coaches where was guy this last year when they were playing Jibreel Black at nose? I'll say this for Brady Hoke: when he's gone, I suspect I will dearly miss the Heininger Certainty Principle.
[jump for people saying positive things about offensive players, perhaps]
FORMATION NOTES: Not much of note. M was in a 4-3 over most of the day with few deviations. Miami did do some of that late-model RR/Baylor stuff by putting their WRs way far away from everything. I called this Shotgun 4-wide far. (This looks like pistol but the QB is 5 yards deep and the RB will pick a side/position presnap.)
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Line starters were the usual. Backups saw some changes, though. The backup ends were still Charlton and Ojemudia; the second 3Tech was Godin—I don't think Wormley even played—and Hurst got in for some snaps that had previously gone to Pipkins. Again, don't think Pipkins played.
Linebacker was all Ross/Bolden/Ryan, and Michigan spent a big hunk of the game in a 4-3 playing zone so Ross got a fair share of time. When Michigan went nickel they slid Countess inside with Peppers and Lewis on the edge, and then Peppers disappeared and they stopped playing nickel. Hollowell didn't get on the field.
Safety was Jeremy Clark the whole way and Hill; then Hill left and Thomas came in.
APOLOGY NOTE: I used a different video file format and my conversion process balked at it, so the audio is messed up on the clips. I just didn't execute. Sorry guys.
[After THE JUMP: this went well.]
I got a pile of email, so this is really long and still leaves out a number of missives. Apologies if yours wasn't selected.
A fairly comprehensive coaching-firing email.
I got a lot, obviously. This one touches all of the bases.
I'm currently operating under the following two assumptions:
1) Brady Hoke is done unless Michigan at least wins at least the Big Ten East with wins over both rivals on the road, which currently seems about as likely as two nuclear missiles turning into a sperm whale and a bowl of petunias and one of them telling our coaching staff how to coach offensive football before they plummet to earth.
I don't think it is that cut and dried yet. If Michigan goes 7-1 in the Big Ten with a loss to MSU and ends up 9-3 and going to the Citrus Bowl or something, that is a weird way to get to what people expected before the season. I think any 8-4 record is a hard sell that might induce a decision that we all hate and 7-5 is 100% dumped. (This is not what I'd do; unless he runs the table before the OSU game I would give him the Earl Bruce pre-Game firm handshake. This is what I'm guessing the athletic director would do.)
But yeah, going 7-1 in the Big Ten seems about as likely as the bowl of petunias thing. I am thinking "oh no, not again," tho—we solved it! The bowl of petunias is a Michigan fan.
2) That Dave Brandon will make a comically inept hire of either a warmed over retread with a tenuous connection to the past (Cam Cameron!), a mediocre young coordinator with a tenuous connection to the past (Scott Loeffler!), or a flashy idiot who must be great in interviews even though he's a moron coaching a football team (Lane Kiffin!)
Given that, how long would it take to set up and execute a reasonable search committee for a new athletic director? And is there any chance at all the university leadership acts decisively to remove the fundamental problem? It seems like the answer to those questions are too long and no at the moment.
The timing is bad. Schlissel just got in and has no frame of reference, so is he going to make a serious move? Does he even care about it, or is it something that's 11d on the agenda at a random meeting? And is he going to do it now-now-now, like he'd probably have to?
The answers to these questions are probably no. I think we're stuck with Brandon. If Michigan did make a move now there are a number of obvious candidates: Jeff Long is Arkansas's AD, Brad Bates is Boston College's, Warde Manuel is UConn's.
Long hired Bobby Petrino when Petrino bugged out on the Falcons, and then replaced him with Bret Bielema. Both are impressive hires from a football perspective and odious from a "you want me to root for THIS guy?" perspective. Manuel hired Turner Gill at Buffalo, was handed interim basketball coach Kevin Ollie (who then hired himself by winning a lot), and executed a logical search when UConn replaced Paul Pasqualoni, first trying to grab Pat Narduzzi and then going with Notre Dame DC Bob Diaco.
And while we're contemplating the fundamental horror of being Notre Dame, is Hoke Davie, Willingham, or Weis? Seems to me he recruits like Weis and coaches like Willingham, which is somehow worse than either of those guys. Or at least more frustrating.
Davie. His recruiting is better than Willingham and he's not a deliberately offensive, off-putting goon. Davie was an amiable man who couldn't organize a footbaw team.
Of course the real problem is that there really doesn't seem to be an upwardly mobile candidate at the right level to actually go after. I mean obviously you'd take a shot at Sumlin, but no way A&M doesn't match that offer. Which sort of leaves you hoping the Ravens' front office semi-criminal dickishness makes John Harbaugh quit and then you hope you can outbid like 15 NFL teams who would immediately jump at the shot to hire him. Not a great situations. Only name I can maybe come up with at a realistic level is Craig Bohl, who is unfortunately 56 and in the first year of his new job at Wyoming. That juggernaut he built on North Dakota State is impressive though.
Basically I think we're doomed. Are we doomed?
It looks fairly doomy, but we were all laughing about Ohio State's coaching search when they settled on the previously-obscure Jim Tressel. There are guys out there. You mention Bohl, who I have also wikipedia-stalked to my disappointment. Michigan may as well take a run at Sumlin types, but realistically any SEC school is going to match the money, and if you're crushing it in the SEC what is the motivation to move?
There is a name out there that I think might work: Dan Mullen. He made a previously awful team competitive in the brutal SEC. Nobody's been able to win much of anything at Mississippi State in 20 years—Jackie Sherrill had one ten-win season in 1999 and was otherwise bouncing between 8 and 3 wins. The Bulldogs have gone from winning a quarter of their SEC games under Sylvester Croom to winning 42%, and they've gone to four straight bowls for the first time ever. That's a James Franklin-like resume.
Mullen grew up in Pennsylvania, so he'll have some useful recruiting contact, he's 42—good long term upside if he works out—and he was Urban Meyer's OC for Florida's run of dominance there. He just beat LSU on the road. If Mississippi State goes 9-3 or better this year he'll be a very attractive candidate.
The problem is that Florida is going to be looking as well and I have bad feels about competing with them given our current situation and Florida's proximity to bounteous talent.
[After THE JUMP: more stuff like this, and an Ondre Pipkins Q.]
9/20/2014 – Michigan 10, Utah 26 – 2-2
[GIF via Ace]
We have a grainy screenshot that symbolizes the demise of the Carr era. It's a zone stretch against Ohio State on which every Buckeye has slashed through the Michigan line.
Michigan would trundle to fewer than 100 yards of total offense. Chad Henne's shoulder was separated and he was still the best available option because the only other was a freshman version of Ryan Mallett who fumbled 20% of the under-center snaps he took and got in screaming matches on the sideline. That's because the quarterbacks recruited after Chad Henne were Jason Forcier and David Cone.
By the time that Ohio State game rolled around Michigan had desperately talked Alex Mitchell out of retirement so they could start him. In that context that shot is barely surprising. And then Carr went out and beat Tim Tebow, because nobody got off the mat like Lloyd Carr.
We have just received the grainy screenshot that will symbolize the demise of the Hoke era.
As you've no doubt screamed into a pillow about already, there are ten men on the field as Utah returns a punt for a touchdown. I'm not sure that even matters since two of them are within 30 yards of the guy when he catches the ball.
This site has been complaining about the punting since Hoke's hire, and it has cost Michigan dearly in two losses—Ace Sanders also returned a punt for a touchdown in South Carolina's last-gasp Outback win—and seen Michigan dawdle at the bottom of punt return yards ceded the last two years.
Worse than the yards given up has been Brady Hoke's approach when challenged about it. Never has he given a justification that's even remotely plausible. Once he said he wasn't comfortable with it. At the time I said this was a crappy answer, and it remains a crappy answer:
MGoFollowup: What’s your opinion of the spread punt formation vs. the traditional punt formation?
“Uh, we don’t use it.”
MGoFollowup: Is there a rationale for that?
“I think, you know … I’m more comfortable with what we use. That’s the rationale.”
When pressed a couple weeks ago he said "I don't want to talk about it."
As we get more data about Brady Hoke's tenure that seems less like an isolated crappy answer than the whole damn thing. Anybody with a spreadsheet and an ability to tell up from down could have put compelling evidence of the spread punt's efficacy in front of Hoke's face. Maybe they did.
It wouldn't have mattered. Brady Hoke isn't defending it, so you can't argue back. "We don't do it because we don't do it" is an unassailable position. It is not a rationale.
So it goes. Michigan has settled into a pattern of doing nonsense things, from everything on offense last year to the punting to their continuing, shocking inability to go faster than a waddle. That stat from last week about how Michigan was faster than only Army amongst D-I teams is astounding. Michigan had spent an entire half down three scores, and their tempo was still nationally worst. These things all come from the head coach.
When Michigan goes down by ten, it's over. Lloyd Carr isn't walking through that door. You want to talk leadership and toughness? Leadership turns a mob into an army. And Michigan is no army.
The worst thing is I don't really feel that bad. My main problem at the moment is the fact that I have to write this column, and then somehow eight more, and analyze a team that is unlikely to go anywhere and talk about a coach who is 95% dead man walking. I bet you can't wait for "Yup, Almost Certainly Still Fired: Episode VI". Here is the otter.
HENRI THE OTTER OF ENNUI: this does not break the record for earliest appearance
I fired off some hot takes in the stands, as did large numbers of the people around me, but once I was out of the stadium it was like "okay, now I can go do something else."
I even watched football after! A Michigan loss is supposed to be a weekend-ruining event that makes the idea of watching more football an impossibility. Now it's not a big deal, possibly because I don't recognize whatever Michigan is doing as football. I cannot be reminded of Michigan when turning on Clemson-FSU because Clemson and FSU aren't playing sludgefart.
I know this isn't an aging and maturing thing because 1) obviously and 2) I almost died just a few months ago when Kentucky hit that three-pointer. There's just nothing there to care about. So you show up, and you shrug, and you get annoyed, and then you go home. Sometimes you get wet. Meh.
It was appropriate that Hoke's downfall came amidst a biblical deluge. The Hoke era started with one against Western Michigan. The game was over when the lightning came, but I stayed. A bunch of students did, too, roaring and chanting. When the game was over the stadium was still half-full.
There was no thought of that Saturday. Everyone except the players' parents, Utah fans, and the clinically insane cleared out as soon as the stoppage was announced. Maybe half of them had already exited before the lightning hit.
When Michigan returned to play in front of the obligated and deranged, it looked like the future had finally been created.
Take the cosmic hint.
When Can We Fire This Guy Section
There is still a small (very small) chance that Michigan pulls its collective head from its collective rear and gets to 9-3, at which point a transition is probably not happening. Anything short of that and it's goodbye. Hoke is at the point where you extend or fire him and you can't extend a guy who went 8-4 in the worst Big Ten ever, presumably went 0-3 against major rivals, had at least two humiliating blowouts starring coaching incompetence.
But please don't bring up a midseason canning. Those are reserved for severe breakdowns of authority. Most importantly, firing Hoke now erases any chance there's a new athletic director by the time Michigan embarks on a coaching search.
John Beilein Being Good At Coaching Points Of The Week.
#1 Jourdan Lewis had an outstanding game, chasing things down that other people screwed up and hunting Utah wide receivers like they were weakened alpacas.
#2 Willie Henry scored Michigan's only touchdown and was part of a forceful Michigan defensive line.
#3 Devin Funchess powered through an obvious injury to bring in a number of spectacular catches and would have had an even more impactful game if Gardner was not having one of the worst games of his career.
Honorable mention: Ryan Glasgow, Frank Clark, Brennen Beyer.
Epic Double Point Standings.
7: Devin Funchess (#1, APP, #1 ND, #3 UT)
5: Jourdan Lewis (#2 MIA, #1 UT)
4: Willie Henry(#2 ND, #2 UT)
3: Derrick Green(#1 MIA)
2: Devin Gardner (#2, APP)
1: Ryan Glasgow (#3, ND), Brennen Beyer(#3 MIA)
0.5: Kyle Kalis (T3, APP), Ben Braden (T3, APP)
Trey Burke Against Kansas Of The Week.
For the single individual best moment.
FAT GUY TOUCHDOWN
mr henry this is an internet meme it's not my fault please don't destroy me [Fuller]
For all the good it did. ESPN briefly gave Michigan 12 points they were so astounded, which should be the FAT GUY TD rule.
Honorable mention: Nope!
Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.
AppSt: Derrick Green rumbles for 60 yards.
MIA: Derrick Green scores a goal line touchdown without being so much as touched.
Utah: Willie Henry FAT GUY TOUCHDOWN.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
Worst. Event. Ever. This Week.
Miami takes back a punt 66 yards after Michigan obliges with a line drive punt and two gunners. Oh, and they only put ten guys on the field.
Honorable mention: Interceptions. Fumbles. Hellacious rain. Everything.
AppSt: Devin Gardner dares to throw an incomplete pass.
ND: Countess nowhere to be found on fourth and three.
Miami: You did what to Funchess now when?
Utah: lol ask Brady about punt formations again
[After the JUMP: woo! naw just kiddin'.]
FORMATION NOTES: Michigan actually played their SAM linebacker extensively for the first time this year. Behold:
That is Jenkins-Stone over the slot. This mostly indicated zone coverage; almost everything indicated zone coverage, with the exception of that rolled-up boundary corner, who was often nose to nose with his man. More discussion of this in a bit.
On short yardage Michigan had this press man okie-ish look with one LB back: I called this "Okie one robber," FWIW.
Nickel packages were saved for passing downs for the most part.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Rotation has whittled down to an obvious starting front seven-ish with mostly obvious backups. The line is Clark/Henry/Glasgow/Beyer with Bolden/Ryan behind them and Jenkins-Stone as the SAM when they have a SAM. The primary backups are Ojemudia/Wormley/Mone/Charlton with Godin and Pipkins also fighting at the two DT spots.
The backup ILBs don't play and probably won't until Morgan gets back; Ross does spot RJS regularly.
They are still working through injury and uncertainty in the secondary, and this is a spot that will develop over time. Once Wilson is back it seems like Jeremy Clark is going to be his partner; he's gotten the most playing time of anyone so far and he seemed to be out there while Hill and Thomas rotated. Corner is still in flux but a dollar says Peppers is a boundary corner the rest of the year with Lewis your top field corner option and Countess preferred at nickel; Taylor is likely to spot Lewis and Peppers, or Lewis will spot Taylor and Peppers, to the point where calling two guys starters and one a backup is semantics.
EDITORIAL POLICY: I'm calling Frank Clark just "Clark" and Jeremy Clark "JClark." Jeremy can be just Clark next year.
[After THE JUMP: derp and darts from Miami, mostly derp.]
“Alright, let’s get going on this next one. Go ahead, start it right out.”
As far as pass rushing, your guys are getting there. Like Frank [Clark] said last week, they’re not always finishing the job but what’s your outlook on the pass rushing so far?
“Well, you know, I’m happy with their effort. I look at practice. I look at practice all the time and I believe that what you see in practice is what you’re going to see in games and, you know, the ball gets out quick a lot of times. You can’t judge a pass rush based on whether you get sacks or not. The thing that you want to look at is how many times were you hitting the quarterback and how many times are you getting to him. I was happy with how our kids worked. When I look at the film, one of the biggest things I always look for is effort. The effort and the technique that they’re being taught and I think in that game those kids up front worked very, very hard the whole game. Late in the game they were running to the football like they should. Late in the game they were going as hard as they could on the pass rush.
“There’s a couple times the ball got outside of us on a pass rush. The first thing that somebody always wants to say is, ‘Oh, he lost contain.’ You start having guys just run up the field outside to make sure the quarterback doesn’t get outside, you’ll never have a pass rush. That happened to be a quarterback that did a nice job of using his feet when a pass rusher was engaged in a blocker so to answer your question we’re getting better. We’re getting better at it and we’ll continually get better at it.”
You talk about effort and technique on film. What did you see out of Jabrill Peppers at cornerback along those lines?
“I think our entire secondary made strides this past week and I think they have a lot of pride and I think they didn’t enjoy what they saw the week before. We’re all about trying to fix it, make sure we’re competing every day and then get the guys out there that are going to compete and go after it. I think Jabrill showed during the week that he was working really hard at it and he did the same thing during the game.”
With Jeremy Clark, Brady touched on that he’s learned that the physical skills that will get you by in high school won’t work up here and getting his technique and fundamentals down. What have you seen from this year that’s sort of taken him to the level where he’s become a starter?
“Well, the thing- you said it exactly right. He has a lot of physical talent. He’s a great looking young man that can run, that plays hard, that’s a great kid. When you’re out there at safety in our defense things happen real fast, and you have to make sure you’re making the right checks. If you don’t, if you aren’t where you’re supposed to be you’re asking for something bad to happen to 10 other guys so I think that this is a learning process that he’s had to learn from. Jarrod Wilson has done a great job of showing him what he’s supposed to do and how he’s supposed to do it and I think he’s listened. He’s worked very hard at it and he’s just touching it right now. He’s not even close. He’s got time yet and I’m very pleased with how hard he’s working.”
[After THE JUMP: Mattison’s three keys to a good defense]