"This is really important to be here," Lewan said. "I'm here to give back and help out my teammate."
ryan van bergen
Notes from Brady Hoke's final press conference before the Spring Game. Photo from file.
Spring game - not enough depth to have a draft "and that would be what we'd wanna do, have the seniors draft." 1s will go against 1s, 2s against 2s. "We'll keep a score of some sort, but there's no scoreboard anyway." Winners get steaks, loser get hot dogs. The teams tied last Saturday. Scrimmage - "It will go until I think we've done enough plays."
Offense and defense will both be on the field the whole time. Al will coach the offense, Greg defense. "So that they can get the mechanics of gameday and getting the plays and personnel in and all that," Borges has been away from the field in the last couple practices.
Alumni returning - "It's great to have all these guys back. I think they've got close to 85 for the flag game they're gonna play. We've got over 300 coming in Friday night for a team meeting."
Team meeting: "We're gonna have a conversation. You know. We're just gonna talk about Michigan football." Introduce the new staff to the former players, and talk about how they're accountable. Current players will not be present.
Held out Saturday - Woolfolk, Floyd, Lewan, Demens, that's about it. Shaw and Molk are both back. Woolfolk has done very little. "He's done some individual drills and stuff like that. He maybe has taken a few snaps in 1-on-1 and a few snaps in 7-on-7." Floyd is behind in his recovery compared to where Woolfolk is.
Hoke always participates in hands-on coaching "I couldn't just walk around and watch stuff."
"We're heading down the home stretch of spring, obviously. We've got two days left to keep evaluating." Mindset, mentality, etc. will still be evaluated in the final two days. "We've made some progress in some of those areas but we're a long way from being the football team we want to be in the fall."
Koger, Herron, RVB leaders. Hard for Molk to assert himself since he's been out so much. "Your definition of a leader can vary. It doesn't have to be a vocal guy."
There's better communication, especially on defense, at this point than there was at the beginning of spring. It starts with communicating changed fronts. "I think that there's a pride that those guys are starting to feel as a defense." Defensive communication - "I think Ryan [Van Bergen] has done a really good job. I think he gets it." Cam Gordon and JB Fitzgerald, Kovacs, Carvin Johnson have been vocal out there.
Defensive coaching chemistry: "It's great. It's like they've coached together forever... As soon as recruiting was over, we started those meetings, how you wanna coach it, how you coach it."
"I think we're OK" with how much they've gotten done this spring. Really depends on how the next two practice days go. "I usually like to compete in 2 minute offense/defense] 3 or 4 times throughout the spring." They'll work that in earlier in fall camp to make sure they get it done.
Individual evaluations with every player, with Hoke and their coordinator and their position coach. "Expectations, where they're at, what they need to do. Where their weight needs to be when they report. What their role right now will be in the fall... The evaluations at the end, believe me, they'll be very specific."
Freshmen contributing this fall: "Really haven't thought about it much yet." Depth concern at OL and DL might provide some opportunities, but it's too early to say. Corner? "Maybe. We'll see. Greg Brown's really, in the last week and a half he's really stepped up." Courtney Avery has stepped up as well.
Lloyd Carr - "He's been over. Hasn't been to a practice, but he's been in and we've talked a little bit. Coach Moeller has been around a little bit, and Coach Hanlon is here every day [laughing]."
Denard and Devin: "I think Devin is a very talented guy and I think he's learned the offense well. I think he's got a good handle on it. There's some consistency we've gotta coach better with." QBs will organize 7-on-7s in the summer. What will Denard take into the summer to work on? Footwork issues, ball mechanics, play action game. He needs to settle his feet on dropbacks. "The mental aspect of getting you in the right plays" based on safety alingment, defensive fronts, etc.
Running back - "I think Hop's had a pretty good spring... Toussaint's been pretty steady." Mike Cox hasn't practiced as much because he has a class during Tuesday practice time "so that doesn't help him." Smith has played well. Incoming freshmen will have a chance to step in. "Hopkins is a guy right now who has been probably the most consistent." He can also line up at FB and do some things there.
Tight ends - they have the guys to run what they want. Koger was out early in spring "but he didn't miss much." He's been good on the line, Ricardo's more of a "move guy" right now. "I think the 4 guys you mentioned [Moore and Watson] all have done a good job in the offense, and that will be an important part of what we do offensively."
Molk - "He's been doing some individual, and then yesterday he did more of some of the team stuff." With Lewan out, Huyge has played both tackle positions, Schofield has been good, Ricky Barnum has been kicked out to tackle a few times. "You have 7 or 8 guys who will form kinda the nucleus of the group."
Rocko Khoury has gotten a lot of good snaps. Omameh has taken most RG snaps, played a little bit at RT. "A guy like David who's played a lot of football, sometimes you need to give snaps to more of those other guys."
Barnum: "I tell ya, Ricky's a good football player. He's a tough kid, he's a smart kid, he plays with good technique. That's why he's a good football player." He's been as consistent as any player up front this spring.
Defensive Linemen: Mike Martin - "He's done a good job. We're doing a couple different things with him." "I think think Will Campbell has made strides, but the consistency has to be there. You know Quinton, I think he's going to be a good football payer here at Michigan."Jibreel Black "Jibreel is a guy that, as his body composition changes a little bit, he's gonna be a good football player. I think him and Craig at the rush have had pretty good springs." Roh has progressed better than they thought this spring.
Linebackers - "Marell's done a pretty good job. We moved Brandon Herron back to a Mike." Mike Jones and Brandin Hawthorne at Will. "Cam Gordon's getting better, and I think Cam will have a very good summer." Jake Ryan also at Sam. Those six plus JB Fitzgerlad who "has started to come along a little bit."
Safety situation is fluid. "Carvin Jonhson, I would say of anybody, and Kovacs" know the defense best. Marvin Robinson has also come in and made plays, along with Thomas Gordon.
Kicking game: "I think it's a work in progress." Everything from snapping, to punting, etc. needs to continue improving. Long snappers are competing. Placekicking is a "huge competition with 4 guys in there." Seth Broekhuizen, Kris Pauloski, Jeremy Ross, and Brendan Gibbons. They kicked 14 or 15 times during last week's competition at the stadium. "They haven't been there probably as much as we'd like for them to." The field is the same indoors, the elements are the only difference. "We've got a lot of work to do in that area of it." Wile will get a chance to compete when he comes in. [Author's note: those two statements weren't said back-to-back, so don't read too much into it. Hoke said every freshman has a chance to compete for playing time].
Oh, I'm an idiot. WCBN's fundraising drive lasts until March 20th, which is… um… four days ago. I said I'd give them a plug. This is it. Their online donation form is still up, though, so this isn't completely useless.
Pads! OH MY GOD IT'S SPRING PRACTICE VIDEO
Excellent savvy on the part of the athletic department to defuse any panic about Michigan wearing white pants this fall. Someone in the department has learned about the internet.
The Wolverine Blog has some spring practice content up, with five guys with the most to lose and most to gain. Maize and Blue Nation has had "whispers come across his desk" that may be random unreliable internet stuff but include reassuring comments like "Craig Roh three point stance" and "Thomas Gordon seeming competent at safety."
Think about that bit: Thomas Gordon seems like the most likely of what will be three or four moved linebackers to be a competent free safety due to his size, speed, and high school position. He was a strongside linebacker last year. Cam Gordon is a strapping guy headed for 230 pounds everyone thought would play linebacker even when he was a receiver. He started at free safety. This year we might (will probably?) see those guys switch positions.
/shakes fist at sky
The second-dumbest thing. Apparently I'm not done with people who say stupid things about Jalen Rose, but what am I supposed to do when Jason Whitlock writes this?
And if it’s clear Rose and Jimmy King were speaking in past tense, there would’ve been no need for Rose to send Hill and Jay Williams tweets before the documentary aired explaining that’s how the Fab Five felt 20 years ago.
Or it was clear but since it was not explicit Rose made it so before the damn thing ever came out, for all the good that did. Whitlock then goes on with his usual condescending What Ails Black Folk crusade because that's what he does. Here's Dave Zirin at the Nation—high up on the list of websites I never thought I'd have cause to link to on MGoBlog—annihilating Whitlock*.
Meanwhile, Frank Beckmann should drop the "mann" from his last name:
I love that Jack Sharp looks like he could be Purdue's head coach. I don't love that a guy closely associated with the University is essentially Glenn Beck.
*[This is not an endorsement of the Nation's opinion on anything other than Jason Whitlock. I still remember that back in the day the most ludicrously communist Daily columnist during my time as an undergrad got a coveted internship there that he used to write more ludicrously communist pieces. It is a silly place.]
Bah, Burlon. Brandon Burlon's strep infection/bad reaction to antibiotics is probably going to knock him out for the entire weekend. Red's already said playing Friday is out of the question and this doesn't sound like he's going to be able to go at all:
Burlon — out of the lineup for both games this past weekend at Joe Louis Arena — has been plagued by an “inflamed esophagus,” according to Michigan coach Red Berenson.
The junior defenseman has been in and out of the hospital since last Monday when he came down with strep throat. He’s had trouble eating solid food and has lost about 15 pounds over the past week.
Also in that article: Shawn Hunwick is having a mid-life crisis because he never wants to leave Michigan. His first action is taking a fifth year. Suggestion: master's degree. It worked for me.
Gotta collect 'em all. Ray Vinopal's transfer destination is Pitt, which is indeed closer to home—it's about an hour—and also features a bunch of Michigan's former coaches, including his position coach. Because this is a Michigan safety we're talking about he will become an All-American now that he's free from the clutches of Angry Michigan Safety-Hating God.
Guh. You don't even need to know what SDPI is to know this is true:
/shakes fist at Greg Robinson hire
/also 3-3-5 installation
/actually hasn't stopped shaking fist since January 2nd
Even more hockey recruiting. The United States of Hockey checked out a recent NTDP game and reports back on goalie John Gibson, amongst others:
John Gibson: The big goaltender looks like a pro goalie when he plays. He takes up so much net whether he’s standing up or on his knees. During the shootout, when he came out to challenge, I think the net basically disappeared. When I say the moves Gaudreau and Girgensons put on Gibson were nasty, I mean… just filthy. The big guy made 35 saves, including several key stops late.
I asked one of the team staffers if Gibson was excited about his season and his commitment to Michigan. The reply, “Gibby doesn’t get excited about much of anything.”
So Gibson is the exact opposite of Shawn Hunwick. Warning: don't read the bits on Rocco Grimaldi. They will make you sad he is headed for North Dakota.
Kenpom is the bible. Pete Thamel's NYT article on how accepted Kenpom is amongst college basketball coaches makes me wonder what it will take for halftime statistics to feature offensive rebounding percentage. The brilliant/frustrating thing about tempo-free numbers is that they're stupidly easy to explain (with the admittedly vast exception of "offensive rating"): we took this number, and then we divided it by something. This allows coaches to say things like this:
“I’m not a math geek,” said the George Mason assistant coach Chris Caputo, who does all of the team’s scouting reports. “But it gives me a quick statistical synopsis of who they are before we watch tape and personnel. What do they do well? What are their strengths and weaknesses? Where do their points come from? It’s a snapshot of relevant statistics.”
No football or baseball coach that confesses he looks at advanced metrics would start off his statement "I'm not a math geek," or at least they'd obviously be lying. With Kenpom it's plausible Caputo just knows how to divide.
The frustrating part about all this is how stubborn the broadcasting establishment is about incorporating this stuff. I'm tired of seeing "FG%" next to "three pointers" and trying to figure out on the fly what each team's percentage on twos is.
Ain't nobody there. Mmmm fluffy headline:
Brady Hoke reaffirms Wolverines' love for recruiting from Detroit
I'll take that over "Darius Morris can't be sure he's returning to Michigan State" any day, though. The Hoke Media 180 continues unabated. Let's hope it's as important as the media thinks it is.
Etc.: Northwestern won't be adding D-I hockey either. Notre Dame seems to be preparing for life without Michael Floyd. Minnesota and Wisconsin nonconference schedule issues. Derek Dooley gets a "year zero," which seems fair but makes me think about Nick Sheridan. The Hoover Street Rag has fired up its annual hockey tournament preview. Yost Built on the BTHC—FWIW, I doubt that both Alaska schools will end up in the same conference because I don't think you can exempt four games up there, thus depriving them of their main enticement.
The 4-3 is back, like it never sort of left and then really really left against Purdue and then came back and then altered into a slightly different version of itself and then mutated into a bizarre thing that was like the thing against Purdue but wasn't really because the person doing the mutating spent all his time watching his "Best of Just For Men Commercials" DVD. It will not suddenly be replaced by things that start with the number 3 and end with razorblades and pain. In the long term, this is delightful.
In the short term… eh… there might be some issues. This series is an attempt to fit Michigan's noses, ends, spurs, bandits, spinners, deathbackers, doombackers, dipbackers and frosting-covered gnomes into their new homes.
We start with the defensive line.
What we were forced to watch last year
Michigan stemmed into four man fronts occasionally but spent most of its time with a three man front featuring a traditional nose tackle who lined up directly over the center and two defensive ends. It was unclear to me if these defensive ends were intended to slant one way or the other at the snap—an aggressive "one gap" system—or if they were reading and reacting—a "two gap" system—because of the massive confusion surrounding them. It was hard to tell if Greg Banks was trying to cover two gaps unsuccessfully or just getting single blocked all the time.
They did typically line up slightly outside (lingo: "shaded outside") the tackles, indicating that it was probably the former:
You'd have to be the sort of idiot that would have Craig Roh play linebacker to play Craig Roh as a two-gap DE at 235 pounds, but… yeah.
At other times Michigan would switch to a four-man front in which their linebackers did things that made no goddamn sense at all, like on this soon-to-be 61-yard-touchdown…
…but that's another show. I bring it up to point out that in this situation you see Greg Banks as the weakside(!) defensive end, Craig Roh as the strongside guy, and Ryan Van Bergen folded inside to be the three-tech defensive tackle. This is a shifted line rather than an 'even' line, but more about that later.
What we were forced to watch the year before
Michigan ran mostly four-man lines and while they varied they usually put Brandon Graham on the weakside-ish of the formation. Here Illinois presents a balanced line with two TEs but you can see Martin lined up over the nose tackle and Graham to the bottom of the screen with a big gap between the two. Banks and Roh are to the top of the screen:
The linebacker walks down to the LOS in an effort to prevent Graham and Martin from getting double-teamed. When there is no TE on the weakside teams had a choice between singling Graham or Martin, which is why Graham got to eat the universe so often.
Sometimes they would line up differently. Here's another play on which Graham is on the weakside, well outside of the tackle as Martin lines up directly over the guard:
This is actually an "even" look where Michigan's not shifted. The DTs are over the guards, the ends line up outside the shoulder of the tackles.
They did occasionally stem into 3-3-5-ish looks, but note here that the defensive "ends" are lined up inside the tackles—this defense is designed to push runs to the outside.
Michigan ran this front most of the day against Ohio State and had success against their traditional I-form game, but struggled when the Buckeyes went to unbalanced spread sets. USC ran this quite a bit in the last few years of the Carroll regime; they called it "double eagle".
What can't possibly be quite as bad next year
My assumption is the defense is going to look a lot like the 2009 one did. That was a 4-3 under. I was going to go dig up old Michigan rosters featuring the "rush linebacker" to demonstrate that Michigan's old school defense also tended to have a guy hanging out on the edge made of menace and sacks while the other guy enjoyed fighting off tight ends but then I remembered Hoke obviated the need for circumstantial evidence:
“We’re going to be a four-three defense, either an over or under front.”
Those sound like two totally different things but they're not. This from above is an "over" front:
This is an "under" front:
And you're probably like "that's the same damn thing except Craig Roh is standing up." You're right. The difference in the pictures is the offense. In the MSU still there are more DL to the side with the TE and FB; in the Western still there are more DL away from the side of the formation with more dudes. Both have a one-technique DT and a three-technique DT. Both leave a big gap between the one-tech DT and the DT to his side. They're just mirror images of each other. A couple of helpful graphs from Shakin' The Southland to clarify. Michigan's overshifted line in the State image:
And the undershifted line against WMU:
The only player that ends up aligning differently is the strongside DE; it's really just flipping the tackles over.
That's still a useful distinction Hoke made for us, though, because a team that is under/over is going to have different requirements than a team that aligns even like Michigan did on that Iowa play above. We get to keep our terminology from two years ago when we talked about the three-tech DT and the one-tech DT.
Every team is "multiple" these days and will run under/over/even fronts as changeups. Also, the generally accepted theory is that under is better against pro-style teams that will bang your head and over is better against spread teams that will take your strongside linebacker into the slot. So when Hoke says "under/over" he probably means Michigan is going to run both depending on situation, not that they'll pick one when they figure out their personnel a bit better.
What you need at each spot
From right to left in the second graph above:
- The weakside defensive end is going to get a one-on-one matchup with the tackle most of the time and needs to turn that opportunity into plays. Think Shawn Crable, Pierre Woods, etc.
- The three-tech DT also usually gets a one-on-one matchup with the guard. He should be a penetrator that gets into the backfield with regularity. NFL DTs you've heard of (Warren Sapp is the canonical one) who aren't barely mobile piles of goo are probably three-techs.
- The one-tech DT is going to experience a ton of double teams as the offense attempts to attack the "bubble" in the front the defense leaves but not putting someone over the other guard. You know all those successful zone running plays the site has explained over the years that start with a guard blocking some DT and end with that guard plugging a linebacker as someone else slides over to finish the job on the NT? That's what you don't want your nose tackle giving up.
- The strongside DE should be Brandon Graham. Failing that, he should be a big, strong guy who's good against the run and can add some pass rush here and there.
A post from Battle Red Blog provides more detail on what your 4-3 under requires—at least on an NFL level—if you're interested.
Who goes where
Craig Roh is the weakside defensive end and will be backed up by Herron/Paskorz/Beyer/Heitzman. Attempts to move Roh elsewhere will be thwarted by a plucky band of kids and their dog ripping the Mattison mask off of a dastardly Greg Robinson.
There are two scenarios for the rest of the line. In the happy fairy dance scenario, Mattison, Hoke, and Beyonce are so much better than Bruce Tall and Greg Robinson that they transform the platoon of Will Campbell, Quinton Washington, and Richard Ash into a functional one-tech DT. Here's what happens if they don't and they move Martin:
Yeeargh. I'll believe Will Campbell can play D when I see it but Ash and Washington got some praise last year so you've got three bullets. It's possible this happens, if not probable.
If you can assemble a frankentackle in the middle then you can slide Mike Martin out to the three-tech spot he doesn't know he's been coveting for years. Imagine senior Martin getting single blocked on most plays. Tingling is normal when contemplating this scenario.
As a bonus, successfully moving Martin to the three tech allows you to leave Ryan Van Bergen at DE, where he is the kind of solid run defender you need on the strongside. He'll chip in a half-dozen sacks and be the B+ version of a strongside defensive end and that will be fine.
The realistic-thing-that-will-be-called-pessimistic-in-the-comments scenario is that Campbell/Washington/Ash produce a guy or two worth platooning but actually running those guys out as starters is asking to be smashed. This strands Mike Martin at the one-tech and essentially forces them to move Van Bergen back to the three-tech spot he occupied in 2009. Redshirt freshman Terrance Talbott is the only other three-tech on the roster until fall. Neither of these things are necessarily bad. RVB graded out decently in UFRs a couple years ago and picked up six sacks; Martin is good enough to play either spot.
What is bad is what that does to the strongside defensive end spot, where Jibreel Black would be an all-but-certain starter as a true sophomore. Black had some promising moments last year… as a pass rusher. He had many more in which his terrible run defense hurt Michigan, and while he'll get better it seems doubtful he'll get better fast enough to be an asset. The only other option at SDE is redshirt freshman Ken Wilkins.
It is possible that in this scenario they put Roh on the strongside since he'll be a junior and he's been less prone to crippling mistakes against the run. His main problem has been a lack of size that the offseason should come close to erasing. That would take a guy who's presumably going to be Michigan's best pass rusher and put him in a position to get doubled lots, though.
Awkwardness Rating On A One To Rodriguez-Interviews-Hoke Scale
Depends on scenario but this shouldn't be too bad. In the happy fairy scenario Michigan's personnel fits a shifted line like a glove. You've got three battleship type NTs, two guys on the weakside who will wreak havoc, a solid guy at SDE, and a scattering of decent backups.
Even in the regular non-fairy scenario you've got good personnel at three spots. SDE would probably be an issue. Either way it's way better than trying to use Craig Roh as a LB or three-man-line DE.
Ankles are both good: "I'm at the health that I want to be right now." The week of rest has helped, and no hitting for a couple weeks should also do him some good. He expects to be 100% by bowl time. It's frustrating being injured, because you put in the work to be ready, "you got 12 opportunities a year... you're not able to play those minutes and those plays, it's rough." Getting to full strength is his priority. A lot of guys who were banged up have been getting a lot of treatment in the week off. "There's a very good chance for me to be feeling great for the bowl."
More practices will help the young team improve: "You improve any time you can get some work in. Whenever we get into practice or anything, we always make sure we're ready to work and get better."
Excited to play an SEC team. "It's big for me, it's big for the guys that I came in with that haven't gone to a bowl yet." It's rare for a junior to not have gone to a bowl game yet. Older players are excited to get back there. Michigan has a lot of contenders to win an eating contest, if there is one. Mike doesn't think he'd be one of them.
Mouton and Denard predicted wins at the banquet: "I would say that's just excitement." Everybody is just excited and anxious to practice, and to play in the bowl. "Jonas and Denard, probably just pure excitement. Just wanting to get down there."
Rodriguez job limbo: "That's not something I can control, or anyone on the team can control." The players are just worried about playing, and controlling what they can. "Whatever pans out, we're worried about the game."
Roh's move: "I know he feels a lot more comfortable being on the line." He played DE in high school, and wasn't as comfortable at linebacker. He's able to just play his game at DL instead of over-thinking.
Reaction of team to playing Mississippi State? "We was all pretty happy." Playing in a January 1 bowl game is exciting. "We're all happy with the Gator Bowl."
Playing an SEC team: "You always hear about the SEC speed, and the Big Ten is like slow and big muscle guys and SEC is the fast, athletic guys. In 2008 Michigan did a great job against Florida." Eager to prove that Michigan will be able to beat a good SEC team.
Exciting to play in his first bowl game. "Hopefully we can keep this going, keep the bowl game streak going, and get Michigan back to where it's supposed to be."
Taking the time in between the end of the season to heal up. "You don't want to go too hard." Worried more about sharpening skills than hitting each other. They know the whole playbook, they need to make sure they'll be able to execute well, "getting ready mentally more than physically."
Ankle is "pretty good," but he's still getting treatment. Should be 100% by bowl game. Against OSU "it was pretty tough. They tried to tape it up and do all kind of things." He was going to gut it out for the seniors no matter how much it hurt.
Denard deserved the MVP honor (though Darryl joked that he tried to vote for Troy Woolfolk). "Especially for a sophomore, so he's only going to get better. We're looking for big things from him his junior year, and big things in the bowl game" Denard should still be in the Heisman race.
In the bowl game, "I think you'll see how everybody played in the first few games," because they'll be much healthier. Everybody's rehabbing and should be fresh. "We'll be ready to go."
"No need to beat ourselves up. Might as well save it to beat up Mississippi State."
"Denard. Denard Robinson." for team MVP. Mike Shaw voted for himself as a joke, because he knew Denard was going to win it. "Everybody knew who was going to win it because of all the hard work he put in all season." There's still more room for improvement.
Denard's very humble every day. Always trying to learn something, trying to improve his game and his teammates. Even when he was getting mentioned for the Heisman, he was more worried about working on his game.
"I felt like I played great all year, but at times, lack of focus on the football." He knows he can play better than he showed in the last four games. He's only a sophomore, so he has the offseason to work hard toward a good junior year. "Trying to take off without the ball in my hands. Drops: I had several drops in this last game." Doesn't lack confidence, just needs to practice to fix it. "That's easily corrected. It's just up to me to really maintain that."
The team will work out to stay focused in the layoff. "When we do have practice, I'm sure pretty Coach Rod's gonna have us ready." It's helping people heal up.
It's nice to finally be playing in the postseason. "Watching bowl games? You know that really sucked bad. You really couldn't do nothing about it because of the season we had. Finally getting out there, getting ready to play Mississippi State, come January first, it's gonna be great. It's SEC vs. Big Ten and we're just getting ready to go in there and give it our all."
Chris Spielman's comments on how Jordan isn't good enough for Michigan: "I heard about it. It's nothing that I haven't heard before. Obviously it motivates me." Every player - especially walkons - motivated by outside comments.
Against OSU, the front 7 played pretty well "eventually I guess their running game just wore us down." They played hard though, and if they can continue that, the defense will be fine going forward.
Never been to a Michigan bowl game, even though he was a fan growing up. Remembers the Capital One bowl a few years back. Jordan was 1 year old last time Michigan was in the Gator Bowl.
His roommate spoiled the surprise yesterday by telling him it was the Gator Bowl. Excited to play an SEC team because they're supposed to be the best conf. All 4 of MSU's losses are to top-16 teams in the SEC.
"The first couple weeks, I think you've really gotta heal up, because it's been a long regular season." After a couple weeks of workouts, they'll start practicing, then preparing for Mississippi State specifically. "We can get back to fundamental football. We don't have to focus on Mississippi State as much right away." Can work on getting back to Michigan football and understanding team goals and individual roles, then worry about the opponent later.
Banged up a bit during football seaosn, because that happens to everyone. "We had a lift this morning, and I feel pretty fresh." Hit his high weight of the season, so a week off can help you heal up.
Ryan Van Bergen
"I voted for Mr. Shoelaces as well. He obviously deserved it, he broke all the records." He was unstoppable until he got injured. "He wasn't able to showcase how really spectacular he can be" at the end of the season.
Junior Hemingway made big plays against Indiana and Illinois, and could have been MVP. Roy Roundtree had a great Illinois game and a couple other fantastic games, but Denard was the guy who got the ball when they needed a play all year, so he's the MVP.
4-man front worked well against Ohio State: "I think that the 4-man front, we completely thwarted them the first half." He would guess that they run some 4-man fronts in the bowl.
Used to watch a lot of hockey, Red Wings v. Avalanche, excited for the Big Chill game. "I'm excited. I've never been in the student section at Michigan before. But I'll be there in the student section at the Big House, watching a hockey game."
Big Ten v. SEC: "I don't know if they're the conference to beat, but they're the conference that I'd definitely want to play against" to get the best test. SEC, Big Ten, maybe a bit of Pac 10 are the best conferences. Regardless of when it's played, those two conferences in a bowl are a big deal.
Nobody needs to worry too much about MSU yet. Focus on self, healing injuries, get in better shape, focus on fundamentals, and then 4 weeks in, you finally start worrying about the gameplan for Mississippi State. "If you focus on the opponent that long, you're just going to overlook self-improvement."
Media circulating talking about RR: "There's always something out there." RVB is in support of Coach Rod. Somebody around the program as long as Van Bergen has has, he's excited to get back to a bowl. "I would like to say that I want to be with Coach Rodriguez for the rest of my career."
"All people see is the stuff that goes on camera, that goes out to the television sets, and you can't understand what goes on at Schembechler Hall." RR is hard-working, and cares about his players "as much as any other coach in college football cares about his players." Wants them to succeed. "He's just a great guy, and when you recognize somebody that has those leadership qualities, that's somebody that you're going to wanna follow, and I think the whole team takes that attitude."
Voted for Denard as team MVP. "When he handed out the ballots, in my head I was saying 'do we even really need to vote?'" Denard getting hit hard every game, tough to keep that up. He persevered and was never out for extended time. "He's been through it, he's felt it, and next year it will be a little more natural to him."
OL MVP award: "It's a huge honor, definitely. To be rewarded for consistent play over three years is an honor." Proud to be a 3-time winner.
Really excited to be in a New Year's Day bowl game. Glad that OSU disappointment isn't his last game. Glad to get back to a bowl game for the seniors and want to start a new streak.
Feels like the Capital One bowl was a long time ago, but sometimes it seems like yesterday. Getting to a bowl game as a freshman helped him improve: "I think it was huge. Towards the end of my freshman year, I was struggling a bit." Having time off and able to worked on fundamentals and confidence helped him grow a lot as a young player. They can regroup mentally coming off a couple losses.
There's a long time between games, can't worry about MSU too early. First two practices are just getting back to fundamentals. Worry about the gameplan later, then "you go out there to win the game."
Big Ten and SEC are two of the top conferences. "It'll be fun to see how the two conferences compare" in the bowl matchups.
A few young offensive linemen will be ready to step up once Schilling graduates. Ricky Barnum got in a few plays at tackle against Ohio State "He's more fit at guard." Mealer's been playing a lot. Will Campbell has improved a bunch in the past couple weeks, and the bowl and spring practices might allow him to challenge for the job.
So… Greg Robinson doesn't know how to run a 3-3-5. For whatever reason, Michigan is running a 3-3-5. This results in situations like this first quarter run for the Badgers that echoes several themes from the This Is Not A Stack post: by lining up his MLB just behind his nose tackle he dooms that guy to take one step to the playside, whereupon he is eaten by a guard who has no one lined up over him. Even if Michigan successfully plugs that hole they are crazy vulnerable to cutbacks and counters.
It's second and three on Wisconsin's second drive of the day. they come out in an I-form with twins to the field side. Michigan aligns in its stack formation with Jordan Kovacs—supposedly the bandit—aligned to the strong side of the formation, with Cam Gordon hovering over the wide receiver stack to the outside:
Wisconsin's going to run a simple iso play that's designed to go off the right side of the line. You can see in shot two Demens's alignment just three yards off the LOS:
Martin's getting momentarily doubled in the shot below but the G peels off quickly to block the rolled-up Demens. On the backside Ryan Van Bergen has gotten kicked out and Mouton is staring down a free release from the backside G:
Demens is swallowed. I think the idea here is to force Wisconsin to come off their double of Martin quickly, allowing him to run free and eat people, but don't quote me on that. Ezeh is attacking the FB, and there's nothing on the frontside:
Because Martin has slanted past the center and Van Bergen has gotten kicked out there's a big cutback lane. Mouton is in a bad situation, essentially standing still as a guard comes out on him. Demens is getting blocked; the OG has his arm around his back. This never gets called holding but he's being held:
Mouton gets blasted three yards downfield and gives up the inside. Courtney Avery was filling from his overhang spot and could have maybe held this under three yards but once Mouton gets hit in that position the RB cut past him and it's up to Demens and/or Martin to spin of blocks and close it down.
They can't. Vinopal is forced to tackle ten yards downfield.
Object lesson type objects:
- Theory as to the deployment of Kenny Demens two feet from his NT. Demens threatens to shoot into the backfield immediately on plays like this, which seriously reduces the time Wisconsin guards have to double Mike Martin. This allows Martin to use his quickness to slant under the center, get to the playside, and close off holes.
- Problem with the deployment of Kenny Demens two feet from his NT. Once you're engaged with an OL he is going to grab you and delay you and let go before he gets a flag, so you can attempt to get off him and close down the massive cutback hole you've opened up by shooting both your MLB and NT to the playside but you're probably not going to make it.
- Second problem with the deployment. I imagine it has something to do with opponents' consistent ability to hit balls over the linebackers and in front of the safeties; having your linebackers five yards off the LOS gives them more time to reduce throwing windows. I've charted basically all of Tolzein's throws and three or four could have been shut down if the linebackers had been a yard or three deeper.
- WTF Van Bergen? When Michigan is aligned in this fashion the overhang guy—in this case Courtney Avery—is in great position to shut down anything that bounces all the way outside to the short side. With both Demens and Martin headed playside RVB should be flowing down the line, relying on Kovacs to bounce anything that gets behind him and Avery to clean up. Instead he gets upfield and seals himself, basically, leaving Mouton in acres of space with a guard bubbled over him.
- Mouton could do better here, too. It's never good when you're taking on an OL three yards downfield and that OL is moving while you're not.
Ironically, I think this MLB deployment would have worked out okay for Ezeh, who's a big guy with some pop but terribly indecisive. Here there's not much of a decision. Line goes one way, you pound the playside guard ASAP. It seems like a waste for Demens, who has displayed good read and react skills in his brief career as a starter.
I was looking for an adjustment here where Michigan would defense something like this by not having Demens right at the LOS but haven't found it yet. I've seen a lot of small guys getting battered and crappy pursuit angles. I'm not sure if my haziness on what the appropriate play is is my fault or the defense's fault; it seems like Michigan players are making basic errors but it could be a shifting scheme in which a guy like JB Fitzgerald's attempt to defeat a downblock sees him go from the LOS at the snap to six yards off the LOS outside the hashmarks.
More than anything this seems like another example where the scheme is either incoherent or the players don't know what they're doing. Van Bergen getting upfield is the killer here and makes no sense given the alignment of the D.
This game means a lot to the seniors, but also the last couple classes that never got the chance to beat OSU. "If we could put a stop to that streak too, maybe start our own streak of beating them" would be a big deal to the team. "It's not really a rivalry when one team wins every year. We've gotta get back in the win column."
"These last few years have been a little different Michigan, I guess, than the previous years." This win would be huge. "In a way, it could help rectify the four losses we've had. Obviously, it doesn't make up for them."
Never played in Columbus - he was injured 2 years ago. "It seems like a fun place to play." Jealous he didn't play last time.
Shown progression last three years, doesn't think about playing for Coach Rod's job this season.
The team has been trying to play catch-up in all four losses. Want to try for an early lead, maybe run some clock "especially in Columbus."
"We definitely think we have the ability to play with anybody when we're playing at our best."
Different intensity in Schembechler this week. "Put some band-aids on your wounds and get after it. Leave it all out there this Saturday."
The many good DL they've faced lately bring different skills to the table. "Arguably the top 4 defensive ends in the country play in our league." Heyward's great, played since he was a freshman. He has the whole package, and will be a big-time NFL prospect.
Don't want to see turnovers, protection from the OL has to help avoid it.
Denard has played well, set some records, but the team has struggled at times. Schilling doesn't worry about whether Denard is B10 player of the year. Denard's always got a positive attitude, no matter what's going on in the game. He loves playing football, always smiling. "You can tell he loves to play the game, and it's exciting to be able to block for a guy like that."
"Obviously my blood always ran Blue. My dad walked on here." Exciting rivalry, surreal to be a part of it. He was at the game the last time Michigan beat OSU. Sitting in section 27 with his parents and brother. Been to several games in Columbus, 2002 Game. Several M-OSU games. Didn't go to 2006, but that was the first one he missed.
Converted a couple buddies to M fans, some of them are still diehard Buckeye fans. "I do have some friends who go to Ohio State, and we're excited to go down there." Expects to hear from his buddies, win or lose. "Hopefully I can shut them up for a year, but we'll see."
Thrown in the mix early last year, gradually has become more comfortable with the defense. One of the more veteran guys on the defense already. Excited about the development of the young guys.
Pryor - "He's very versatile. He's a big guy... he can run and throw." The offense has a lot of different packages. They should be a great challenge.
"Anytime that you can make an offense one-dimensional, you've got a good chance of playing some good defense. If we can stop them on first and second down and put them in third-and-long, obviously we can create turnovers that way. But that's much easier said than done, and we've struggled with that so far."
Lost to Dane Sanzenbacher both times they played in HS. "I'm still looking for my first victory against him." He's not a big-name guy, but makes huge plays for the Buckeyes. "I wouldn't say that he does anything great, but he does a lot of things very well."
"We know we're going to have to play a flawless game." Guys are looking forward to getting into the film room. "We're confident. We're excited about this challenge."
"I'm playing this week, no matter what." Had "a little head trauma," wasn't cleared to play in the second half. "It doesn't matter for this week, because I'm going to be playing."
Defensive players draw confidence from each other, looking at each other's work ethic, etc. Defensive struggles are a mixture of several factors, but everyone on D is working as hard as they can to fix what they can contorl.
"Our defensive goals each week are six 3-and-outs, three turnovers." If they can pull that off, the team will have a pretty good chance of winning.
Didn't know too much about Michigan or Ohio State in 2003. "I was just in Arizona, you know, chillin'." Can't take M-OSU rivalry away from college football. Glad they'll still play when the B10 goes to divisions.
The mentality of each guy on the team shows how important the OSU week is. Everything encompassed into one is what makes this game so important.
Has only heard about going into Columbus from a fan's perspective "I'm expecting the worst, and it's going to be exciting."
On the stuffed whatever: "Are you saying there's an animal on the sidelines? Next question."
Playing for RR's job? "No. We're playing for each other... It would be a great win for Rich Rod, for the team in general."
"I love Rich Rod as a coach. He's just a tough working guy." Has a positive attitude, despite what he's been through. That positivity wears off on guys.
Ryan Van Bergen
"I don't remember that one. I would have been 14." Probably just playing BBall and chasing girls in 8th grade. Charles Woodson with the Rose in his mouth is one of his first Michigan memories.
From the West side of the state, his mom is always heckled by MSU fans. This week, people are coming in to offer her encouragement. She's now realizing their ulterior motives, as Michigan can help send State to the Rose Bowl.
"A lot of the guys in my class, it's their last year. One of the big things for seniors is you never want to leave this program without beating Ohio State." Guys who have left say there's a feeling of emptiness. When you come to Michigan, you know your performances against Ohio State will make your reputation. "If you come out against Ohio State and have your best game, a lot can be forgiven."
Some criticism of the team is unjustified: they've been able to play with some of the top teams in the league. "For some reason, we haven't gotten that attitude to come out on the first play." Need to be able to come together and do that throughout the full game. Older guys, RVB included, need to help motivate everyone.
The defense's performance against Wisconsin - "Most of it was schematic. I mean, They schemed us really well. They had a play where they pull the tackle and a guard and the tight end blocks down. They scored 2 or 3 touchdowns on that one play. All of those were explosive plays." It's not a good thing, but there were positives to take from it, some guys played with a physical edge. "We can adjust our scheme and be ready for Ohio State X-and-O-wise. I think we can definitely play with them."
Terrelle Pryor, canon for an arm, fast, big, has a bunch of talented, fundamental WRs, good running backs. "They're a very dangerous and explosive offense, but I wouldn't want it any other way."
Team and program are making some big strides. "I think that next year, the guys we return, there's definitely going to be a chance that we're gonna be big-time contenders."
Mike Martin - Aggressive, relentless. Off the field, he's... "cuddly."
"Lot of time in the training room and rehab. I've been struggling a lot with my ankles this season, which is a pain." Trying to play through it, doing as much as he can. Tough to push off with his ankles. Big mental thing, trying to play through it. "Hopefully that adrenaline kicks in, you know?" Only one of them is a problem at this point. Trying to be a leader when he's been unable to make an impact on the field. Adam Patterson has stepped up well in Mike's absence.
"It's tough, obviously, being on the team and being a fan. Any fan doesn't like that." Doing whatever they can to reverse OSU's dominance. No matter what each team's season is like, they'll both fight hard.
Has talked to guys who played in the 50s and 60s about the game. "We're just gonna play as hard as we can and make those guys proud."
Would feel really good to stop he streak. Overcome a lot this season, trying to improve each week. Anything is possible. "It's not about Ohio State, it's about us and what we do." Not looking to be spoilers, looking to win for themselves. "We're gonna control what we can control."
"It's gonna start with us down in the trenches." Need to force Pryor to move his feet, get him off-rhythm. Need to get pressure, wreak some havoc.
"I think they hate us, we hate them. That's just how it is, that's what it is." That leads to getting each team's best shot, no matter what. Different sense of intensity in the air this week. "You don't really need a motivational speech to get excited for it."
"We're not gonna get ran off the field. That's not gonna happen." They'll play hard to the final whistle. "That's not us, that's not our team, and we won't allow that to happen at all."
OSU might have a couple tricks up their sleeve, but this game is more about going straight at each other.
Not worried about what their impact is on MSU, just want to win for themselves.
Stuffed animal - "That's the defense's thing. We're not gonna talk about that."
"I don't really remember the game" last time M beat Ohio State.
Gave OSU a serious look in high school, but felt right in Ann Arbor. Talks to Roundtree about it. OSU wanted him on either side of the ball. His dad was a Michigan fan, that played a role in his decision.
Split in Toledo between OSU and M fans among his friends. Hears "I'm an Ohio State fan but I'm also a Kevin Koger fan" from most people he knows.
Have to take care of the ball to have a chance to win. Can't turn it over 5 times against OSU and still win. Need to pay attention to details. "It's not anything the coaches can do. It's definitely on us."
"It'd definitely mean a lot to us. Every game means a lot but this one means a little more."
Rivalry hasn't lost its luster even though OSU has won a lot. Streak is a bit embarrassing "It's on us to stop it."
"Hate? That's such a strong word." Respects, but does not like them.
"I guess I have to agree with Koger. Got respect for them, but don't like them." Wasn't aware of the rivalry that much in HS. Looked at the FSU-Miami rivalry, and heard that M-OSU was a bigger deal. "You expect a physical team, a great coached team, and a great team." against OSU. You have to be even more prepared than past games.
Knew last year's game would be intense when he saw Shaw's altercation with an OSU player going into the tunnel. He's also seen video of the famous Woodson/Boston battle. "It's a big game. It's still a football game. Still a game."
1500 rush yards: "That's a great accomplishment, but I don't know what to say about it."
It would be a big deal to get invited to NY for the Heisman ceemony, but can't worry about it while there are still games to play.
"We can't come out flat like we did against Wisconsin. We've gotta perform all four quarters." Need to protect "the program" the ball. They've been making a few more mistakes lately, and that can't continue.
"I think our defense is one of the best defenses in the nation. I don't care what nobody say. We face them every day, and they just help us get better."
Pryor reminds Denard of Devin Gardner. Big, and he can run and pass.
He's going to ask Falk about the 'Shoe once he gets the chance. Iowa and Penn State were also tough environments.
Felt fairly healthy the past month. "90%, pretty good." Doesn't know when he got dinged up, but he's healthy enough to be as fast now as he was in the first few games. "I thought I was gonna break a couple of them, and I just fell" against Wisconsin.