things go poorly
Note 2: I provide +/- for offensive players here but don't track it like I do for defenders. I'm thinking about trying that again—didn't work so great the first time—but right now they're just indications of things I thought were good or bad plays from the players in question.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M9||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Pass||Zone read bubble(?)||Mathews||7|
|Safety comes up late to provide a third guy in the box; Michigan runs the zone read and Threet keeps it as he sees the DE crashing down. Playside LB is Crum, unblocked; when he comes up to tackle Threet throws to Mathews. Mathews(+1) does a good job of picking up significant yards after contact. (CA, 3, screen) Not sure what to term this because it's not really a bubble screen since there's no one to block.|
|M16||2||3||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||McGuffie||5|
|Molk and Moosman double the playside DT; Schilling(+1) does a good job reading the DE's upfield flight and shoving him up and out of the play. With Crum shooting backside to contain Michigan just has to deal with one LB and a filling safety; McGuffie just runs outside the LB; Butler(-1) whiffs on the safety, forcing McGuffie to head outside and into the traffic caused by two wide receivers blocking two corners. Odoms(+1) did a good job with his larger opponent, FWIW.|
|M21||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||Zone read dive||McGuffie||11|
|This time the non-Crum LB is lined up to the zone read rollout side; he blitzes. ND appears to be expecting a stretch, as it moves a safety up in the box; Michigan runs it up the gut. Good blocks by the entire left side of the line (+1 for all!) move the LOS downfield a yard or two and give McGuffie the ability to smoothly cut into the outside lane. Meanwhile, the nickel corner is busy defending the bubble screen fake and McGuffie has acres. If he can make Bruton miss he's gone; he can't.|
Odoms coming around in motion as a potential pitchman. Clear screwup by the OL here as Molk immediately heads to the second level and Moosman allows the DT to slant inside, as he expects Molk to pick him up. IMO, the idea is for Moosman to shove the DT over to Molk. As it is, the unblocked DT is into the backfield and McGuffie slips trying to cut.
Evidence of the screwup: after the play, Moosman barks at Molk.
|M30||2||12||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Pass||Stop||Butler||5 (Pen -15)|
|Threet comes down to Butler, and Rodriguez is totally correct about this play: the guard was not engaged whatsoever with the ND player. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|The disastrous swing pass fumble. 1) it makes no sense to me that this play would be designed to be a lateral. The risk is obvious and the upside is zero. IMO: execution error by Threet to throw it so soon; Minor would be ahead of him if he waited an extra second. 2) It's a little high and a little behind Minor, but dude he gets both hands on it in a pretty easy position. (IN, 3, screen)|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 0-0, 12 min 1st Q. If we didn't suck we'd be good!|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M14||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||Zone read dive||Schilling||-2|
|Kuntz is lined up slightly to the playside of Schilling(-1) and burrows inside him, directly into the path of McGuffie. Moosman help expected? Doesn't look like it.|
|Looks like they're trying to stretch ND horizontally as five guys run little stop routes. Threet picks McGuffie's flare; the corner comes up too fast for him to make anything out of it. Had to get rid of the ball because an unblocked blitzer was on the way. (CA, 3, protection 0/1, team -1)|
|M11||3||11||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Skinny post||Mathews||16|
|Minor's flare route momentarily gets the LB to freak out, providing a small window in which this skinny post can fit; Threet gets it over the linebacker and into Matthews. (DO, 2, protection 2/2) Quality throw into a tight spot.|
|M27||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||McGuffie||11|
|Michigan is wiping out the backside LB and DE here just with the zone read stuff, which allows Molk and Moosman to again double the playside DT. Schilling(+1) shoves the DE upfield again and McGuffie heads through the same hole he did before. Now he slows up a bit, allowing the double to gain more ground and engulf the linebacker; Carson Butler(+1) does get a thumping block on a safety, eventually pancaking him. McGuffie into the secondary again where Bruton is the last man.|
|M38||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||McGuffie||4|
|Very similar to the last play except Butler takes the DE as Schilling heads downfield. The DE holds his ground and discards Butler(-1), closing down an otherwise gaping hole as the same double(+1 Mo&Mo) on the NT again swept up a linebacker; Schilling(-1) whiffed his block on the safety, too.|
|Zone read fake and they get a corner blitzing right off the intended receiver. Threet stands in and hits his guy, though he stared him down and drew the safety right to him, making this a tough catch for Stonum. Note: McGuffie was tasked with cutting an unblocked defensive end, which... yeesh. He is not a good pass blocker at this point. Note2: You send Butler on a seam here and it's major yardage except for the dodgy McGuffie blocking. Maybe something to return to in the future with Minor. (CA, 2, protection 1/2, McGuffie -1)|
|M47||3||1||I-Form Twins||Nickel||Run||Inside zone||McGuffie||-1|
|Molk(-1) blown into the backfield immediately. Dorrestein(-1) knocked back, too; McGuffie(-1) makes a bad cut; players converge because the blocking angles are all screwed up.|
|M46||3||2||Spread Punt||Punt Return||Run||Rugby fake||Zoltan||13|
|He is from space.|
|O41||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||McGuffie||2|
|Slightly different with Schilling and Butler doubling the DE and only a momentary double on the NT before Moosman(+1) peels into the second level. Molk gets driven back and McGuffie has to step through a diving tackle attempt; once he's through he's got a gaping cavernous hole to the outside that he misses, instead shooting upfield into a pursuing DT that McAvoy(-1) delayed but did not fully cut.|
|O43||2||8||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Pass||PA Fly||Mathews||Inc|
|M knows they've got one on one coverage outside and they go after it. Mathews has like half a step on his guy – no Manningham he – but does a spectacular job of tracking it over his shoulder and making a diving grab. It does appear the nose of the ball impacts the ground, but this is so close it was going to stand either way. If you put a gun to my head I'd say it's incomplete. (CA+, 1, protection 2/2)|
|O43||3||8||Shotgun Empty||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Jailbreak screen||McGuffie||2|
|Looks like ND's got the right play on here and Crum's looking for this from the snap. He's out to McGuffie too fast to be avoided. I wonder if this should be run further inside? Michigan's linemen have no shot at getting out on this. (CA, 3, screen.)|
|O41||3||6||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Wheel||Odoms||Inc|
|Ugh: Butler is a million years wide open on a simple dumpoff after faking a pass block and releasing. Instead, Threet goes for the Odoms wheel, on which he's open by a good step and a half; it's underthrown badly and Odoms can't make the adjustment. (IN, 1, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 0-14, 5 min 1st Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|ND walks a safety up; Schilling can't get out on the linebacker and he takes out Minor; Brown is forced to cut up; can we just abandon this until we can run something else out of this formation?|
|Threet misses the linebacker and rifles a ball he needed to float over the guy; he drops the interception. (BR, 0, protection 2/2)|
|M25||3||10||Shotgun 4-wide||3-2-6 Dime||Pass||Comeback||Mathews||16|
|Moosman gives a bit too much ground and Threet ends up stepping into him, which makes the throw a bit inaccurate; Mathews(+1) drove off his guy to get separation, then makes an excellent diving catch to keep the drive alive. (CA, 1, protection 1/2, Moosman -1)|
|M41||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||Minor||9|
|Moosman(+1) bursts into the DT, knocking him back by himself and eventually pancaking him. Schilling(-1) is essentially beaten by the ND DE, but Minor(+1) runs through his tackle and into the secondary. Diving tackle from the LB brings him to a halt eventually.|
|50||2||1||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Pass||Bubble screen||Odoms||14|
|Michigan knows they have this with the nickelback lined up inside of Odoms and well inside of Butler. Butler(+1) and Savoy(+1) get a couple of good downfield blocks and move the chains. (CA, 3, screen)|
|O36||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||Minor||-4|
|ND blitzes Bruton—well timed—and McGuffie(-1) whiffs his block. Not a huge fan of having Minor and McGuffie in there with McGuffie a lead blocker.|
|O40||2||14||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel||Pass||Flare screen||McGuffie||40|
|Not sure what to call this one either: McGuffie goes in motion just before M snaps the ball, which makes this playcall seem pretty obvious. It's too late for ND to back out of their call, though, which his a zone blitz that sees the nickel corner and the LB nearest McGuffie blitz themselves out of the play. Odoms gets a good block, as does Schilling. Crum had to overrun the play to get the ball back inside and does; McGuffie cuts past one linebacker and picks up a convoy of blockers ten yards downfield. He spins off one of his own linemen and sort of jogs into the endzone. (CA, 3, screen)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-21, 2 min 1st Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M27||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||McGuffie||29 + 15|
|For a while this looks like it's not going to develop but at the last moment just enough of a crease opens up between Molk(+1) and McAvoy, single blocking the playside DE and DT. Meanwhile, Dorrestein(+1) has plowed Crum out of the play. Once McGuffie is through the crease he's jetting. Bruton again shoves him out. Notre Dame picks up a weak personal foul well after the play.|
|O29||1||10||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Pass||Bubble screen||Odoms||-9|
|The ND corner reads this and jumps it before Michigan even throws it. Good play from him; risky if we fake it. Odoms actually spins out of the tackle attempt, but only manages to lose five more yards as a result (CA, 3, screen)|
|O38||2||19||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||McGuffie||10|
|Grady in as the other RB and used as a lead blocker. ND blitzes a linebacker who gets picked up by Molk(+1) and as the play stretches to the sideline McGuffie just squeezes through the small crease between Moosman and Schilling; McGuffie runs through the tackle of the backside DT. Once Molk picked up the blitzing LB and that crease showed up there was no one between McGuffie and the secondary.|
|Both backs stay in; Threet can't find anyone open downfield but notices that there's no one between him and the goal line and takes off on a Navarre-esque buffalo ramble. (TA, N/A)|
|O6||1||G||Shotgun 2-back||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read stretch||McGuffie||0|
|McGuffie forced to cut back as there's obviously not going to be a crease on the frontside; Moosman(-1) helps Molk shove the backside DT downfield on a momentary double, but then, weirdly, peels back to try to block the backside DE, who's already been cut to the ground by Schilling. When Molk passes off his guy to block Crum he becomes unblocked instead of having Moosman in his face and McGuffie's cutback ends with a faceful of DT. Moosman doesn't peel back here and this is probably McGuffie heading to the corner for a TD.|
|O6||2||G||I-Form Big||Base 4-3||Pass||Waggle||Butler||Inc|
|Iso fake into a waggle rollout and Threet has two guys in his face immediately. Not a fan of this playcall as it's a pretty obvious one. Threet chucks one off his back foot to Butler, who is sort of open if he can put it in the right place; he can't. Tough throw. (IN, 0, protection N/A)|
|O6||3||G||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Pass||Jailbreak screen||Babb||0|
|Good playcall for the situation as ND is blitzing and all Michigan has to do is pick off one guy with Moosman and it's an easy touchdown. Unfortunately, Threet throws this too far outside, forcing Babb to come to a stop and robbing Moosman of the angle he needs to block the guy. Babb needs to be moving when he catches this ball. (IN, 3, screen)|
|Drive Notes: FG(23), 10-21, 12 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M40||1||10||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Pass||Bubble screen seam||Stonum||20|
|M fakes the bubble screen to exploit the over-aggressive ND corners; this gets Stonum a window of opportunity down the sideline as both corners bite on it. Stonum ends up having to dive for this ball but I think it's actually perfectly thrown and it was only a Stonum stumble when he made the fake block on the DB that makes this a difficult, diving catch. (DO, 2, protection 2/2)|
|O40||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel||Pass||Zone read bubble||Odoms||7|
|Threet goes with a zone read keeper for a bit, again deciding to toss it out to Odoms on the perimeter when he gets shut down. The ball is actually significantly behind Odoms and he has to make a leaping catch, then pirouette. He's one-on-one with a corner and nearly beats him before being tackled by his armband. (CA-, 2, screen)|
|O33||2||3||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||McGuffie||6|
|DE shoots inside on this one, driving McAvoy back a bit but stumbling, at which point McAvoy buries him. This naturally leaves a sizeable crease; Molk's guy gets playside of him but the backside pursuit ran upfield at the snap and out of the play. McGuffie into the secondary, where McCarthy brings him down.|
|O27||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel||Run||Triple option dive||Grady||1|
|Good stunt gets a DE into the hole unblocked; Schilling(-1) beaten by his guy, and Grady has nowhere to go as the two converge.|
|O26||2||9||Shotgun 2-back||3-2-6 Dime||Pass||Slant||Stonum||10|
|Odoms runs a bubble screen route, which gets the short zone defender to come up on it and opens up a window for this slant. Threet is a little out in front of this one, again taking Stonum off his feet. (CA-, 2, protection 2/2)|
|O16||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||McGuffie||-1 (Pen + 8)|
|McGuffie tackled by his facemask, which draws no flag from the side judge staring right the F at him. An umpire finally throws the flag. If not for the facemask this probably gets 2-4 yards; hard to tell.|
|O8||1||G||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||McGuffie||2|
|Safety comes up late and blitzes hard, taking out Grady and forcing McGuffie to head outside. Dorrestein doesn't have an angle on the LB and Odoms isn't prepared for the play to break outside so McGuffie has two guys to deal with. It looks like he's trying to stutter-step and head outside the corner when the LB closes him down.|
|O6||2||G||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel||Run||Triple option dive||Grady||6|
|Triple option fake holds the unblocked playside DE and blitzing safety outside; Dorrestein(+1) blows up Crum and McAvoy has an easy angle to block the playside DT. Then it's just up to Grady(+2), and he impressively carries the other ND LB into the endzone.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 17-28, 5 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M26||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||McGuffie||11|
|McAvoy(+1) and Molk(+1) double the playside DT, driving him back, and the playside DE gets upfield. Big holes. Problem: backside DT was not effectively blocked, as Moosman just sort of pushed the guy a bit, then moved downfield, as Schilling(-1) fails to cut him. McGuffie runs through his arm tackle and is into the secondary.|
|M37||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||McGuffie||0|
|Playside DE manages to slice between McAvoy and Dorrestein this time, forcing a cutback. With the DT being wrestled to the ground by Molk – holding for sure – there's a gap, except that Schilling's(-1) guy has come around the outside of him and tackles. Schilling needs to hold that block just a little longer.|
|M37||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Pass||Yakety Sax||Threet||-8|
|Fumbles as he tries to throw. Not charted.|
|Not exactly the world's most shocking throw with a freshman QB on third and 18, so the DB is running the WR's route for him. Mathews is more defender than receiver. (BR, 1, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 17-28, 2 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M10||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||McGuffie||3|
|Massive cutback lane momentarily looks available as the WLB has kept contain on the zone read and the weakside DE got cut; unfortunately, McAvoy(-1) can't control Williams, so he can't take it. The frontside looks jammed up until the Moosman-Molk double begins blowing guys off the ball; McGuffie appears to have a lane until Williams tracks him down.|
|M13||2||7||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||McGuffie||17|
|ND sends a safety late and there are two guys flying upfield at Threet at the snap; he hands off. Dorrestein(+1) blows his DE downfield, opening up a massive cutback lane McGuffie takes into the secondary. Good vision from McGuffie.|
|M30||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||Zone read dive||McGuffie||6|
|Decent-to-good one-on-one block from McAvoy on the interior; the ND DT takes a wrong step, allowing Schilling to seal him off; McGuffie sets up his blockers and then shoots into a gap for a decent gain. A little bit better block from McAvoy and maybe he's more comfortable cutting it to Moosman, who's getting a second level block, and into the secondary.|
|M36||2||4||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||Grady||-2|
|One of the rare times Michigan's consistent double-teaming of the playside DT doesn't end up with that DT well downfield; this time he gets good push on Moosman(-1). Ethan Johnson shoots inside of Molk(-1), too; Grady(-1) looks at all this and decides to cut back instead of head outside like he should; all this slicing up had left the outside wide open and that's where his lead blocker was going.|
|Excellent blitz pickup and protection from the line. Threet finds an open receiver and throws an ugly duck out to him—rain. Mathews flat drops it. There was a DB making it a little tough and the aforementioned rain, but this is a drop. (CA, 2, protection 3/3)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 17-28, 10 min 3rd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M20||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||McGuffie||-1|
|Playside DT is not effectively doubled this time as McAvoy(-1) just sort of glides along and Molk attempts to hold his man off. Molk gets shoved back into McGuffie; Grady(-1) is being used as a lead blocker and uselessly starts futzing with the DE instead of trying to deal with Bruton, brought up as another man in the box.|
|M19||2||11||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||Throwback screen||Mathews||8|
|Looks like the McGuffie flare again until Threet whips around and tosses a throwback screen to Mathews. Weakside LB was responsible and tracks Mathews down but not before a sizable chunk. (CA, 3, screen)|
|Odoms gets a step on his pressing defender; Threet lays it in beautifully. (Odoms is down on this, BTW, you can see his knee skidding on the turf.) (DO, 2, protection 2/2)|
|O39||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||Zone read dive||McGuffie||13|
|One DT is slanting to what would be the playside of a stretch and erases himself. McAvoy is dealing with the other; looks like he falls or something. Molk(-1) does not effectively block the MLB; he misses the tackle and McGuffie is into the secondary. Scary, certain injury tackle is miraculously non-damaging.|
|O26||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||Shaw||3|
|Playside DE ends up stunting behind both DTs and holy cow Shaw should shoot this outside for mondo yardage. He does not, choosing to cut up, and I can't fault that too much because Johnson's been shot backwards and it looks like a sizable gap before the backside DT closes it down. Need just a little better blocking from McAvoy(-1).|
|O23||2||7||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||Shaw||2|
|MLB shoots into the gap between the DTs; frontside again doubled and backside is cut; this is dangerous but ND rolled up a safety to act as a third linebacker. The charging MLB causes Grady to peel back and get a block-ish thing on him, but not really. Shaw hesitates in a sort of stutter-step which does nothing but give the MLB time to close. If Shaw just takes it hard outside he might be able to get past the guy. Slowed by the arm tackle, a couple players converge to tackle Shaw.|
|O21||3||5||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Pass||Wheel||Odoms||Inc (Pen +15)|
|Same play we saw earlier in the drive. Odoms again has a step; this time Threet throws it way, way too far inside. Fortunately, the DB gets one of those PI penalties when the receiver is trying to adjust to the ball and the DB runs him over. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|O6||1||G||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||1|
|McAvoy fails to cut the backside DT and Notre Dame is, of course, crashing hard on this. Your standard double is blowing back one DT and Grady(+1) gets a good block on the MLB; it looks like there's a crease for McGuffie to cut into. Maybe the backside DT flowing down the line convinces him to head outside; he gets strung out.|
|O5||2||G||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||Zone read dive||Grady||2|
|I'm not even mad about this fumble. It's perhaps the most understandable of his career. He's wrapped up by three different guys, his forward progress has been stopped for like three seconds, and he's got both hands on a soaking wet ball. It gets ripped out. That's life.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 17-28, 3 min 3rd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M47||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Pass||Yakety Sax||--||--|
|Well, that's not good.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble(TD return), 17-35, 14 min 4th Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M30||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||McGuffie||-1|
|Notre Dame all over this as they blitz a corner; this allows the rest of the line to slant against the grain and into the backfield without losing outside contain. The corner comes up and tackles.|
|Good blitz pickup from the line; Threet finds Odoms running wide open as Stonum's run the coverage off. He throws a high-trajectory duck—bet it slipped—that Odoms tracks to the sideline. It goes right through his hands. (CA-, 3, protection /2/2)|
|M29||3||11||Shotgun 4-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||QB Draw||Threet||9|
|Play basically works but this is Steven Threet and he's not likely to make the safety miss.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 17-35, 13 min 4th Q. For the record, you can't punt here on fourth and two down three scores.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|Sheridan in. Competent enough pitch and catch; ND tackles immediately. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|Zion Babb?!? I guess. Excellent throw and catch; Babb, of course, fumbles, but he stepped OOB first. (DO, 2, protection 2/2)|
|O20||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||McGuffie||4|
|Dorrestein(-1) blown back and controlled by the DE; DE's diving tackle attempt on McGuffie is stepped through. McGuffie steps through another tackle attempt, spins through a third tackle, and almost spins through a forth. Whee!|
|McCarthy on this immediately. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|This is on Butler, IMO, who doesn't run his route quickly enough and lets the ball go through his hands. Sheridan did throw it too high, I guess. (CA-, 2, protection 1/1)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 17-35, 7 min 4th Q. The only thing left is the ridiculous Sheridan INT: BR, 0, protection 2/2) EOChart.|
So that looked like a functional offense.
Yeah, how about that? Despite throwing away six separate drives Michigan managed to rack up 350 yards in a game that was half monsoon. McGuffie consistently gashed the ND defense and it was only David Bruton and Kyle McCarthy—who were both excellent—preventing Michigan from ripping off some huge runs.
Hey, how about that Threet guy?
First we must look at Chart.
As always, the Threetsheridammit chart legend.
Remember the infinitely depressing chart of throws past the line of scrimmage from the Miami game? It got better. Threet downfield:
This isn't Chad Henne at his best or anything—one of those BRs should have been a terrible interception—but it could have been Chad Henne on a mediocre day, which seemed an impossible dream two weeks ago.
HOWEVA, the numbers in the chart obscure some miscues:
- Threet fumbled twice without being touched by a Notre Dame player. He fumbled in similar fashion against Miami and now has three in about two games of action, only one of which occurred in a monsoon. This is still likely to be a fluky coincidence, but last year at this time we were telling ourselves that Ryan Mallett would surely figure out how to take a snap from under center.
- There were two major issues on screens. The Minor swing pass was obviously one; the other was the third-and-five jailbreak screen to Babb that was thrown way too far outside. If Threet makes that simple throw, Schilling whacks the safety and Babb walks in.
Add those in and the performance weakens considerably.
Even so, that was a massive step forward from Threet, a performance virtually any freshman would be pleased with. Threet was confident, mostly accurate, and mostly right. Mental mistakes were limited to a couple of open receivers he passed up for more difficult throws and that one pass that should have been intercepted. (The other BR was a fly route on third and long which would have been a punt if intercepted.) He looked like a viable quarterback now and for the future.
Your protection metric is impressive: 33/36. Team –1, McGuffie –1, Moosman –1.
The –1s didn't result in a throwaway—the one pass labeled TA was actually a 23-yard Threet scramble—or PR or sack; Threet was hardly touched all day on 16 downfield attempts.
This probably says more about Notre Dame's defense than the offensive line, unfortunately.
A pretty good day from the receivers in a pounding rain, with balls dug out by Stonum and Mathews—Mathews would have been 2/3 on circus catches if that razor-thin review had gone the other way—and only a couple drops.
Clemons is getting killed by the lack of depth in the slot and Odoms' emergence; Mathews appears to be the #1 outside receiver with Stonum just behind him.
We seem to be getting some stuff added to the offense.
A number of plays made their Michigan debut and look like solid additions:
- The zone read keeper that turns into a long handoff WR screen as Threet approaches the line. This is a clear reaction to Threet's lack of wiggle; he now has the option to chuck it if the opponent has kept contain.
- Martavious Odoms was sent on wheel routes three times with good results: one 34-yard completion, one pass interference call, and one fourth-and-two incompletion. On all of them, he was open. If Threet can throw this more consistently it could be a money play.
- A bubble screen fake that morphs into a slant from the outside receiver. Michigan ran this twice and completed both passes for decent yardage.
Yes, McGuffie, but also the offensive line. Michigan had great success with the zone stretch and occasional dive because Molk and either McAvoy or Moosman spent the day crushing the playside DT downfield. With good kickouts from the tackles and Notre Dame defenders keeping contain on Threet, McGuffie got into the secondary time and again.
Back to Karate Dynamite: McGuffie's most impressive trait against Notre Dame was his vision. When there was a cutback, he took it. When he needed to be patient and wait for the crease to open up, he waited. When he needed to spin around and stuff, he did that, sometimes multiple times on one play.
You could see the difference when Shaw came in: on both of his rushes Shaw had the opportunity to make more yards if he made decisive cuts outside. Instead he cut up or hesitated and had to settle for minor gains.
Molk, Moosman, and McAvoy consistently blew up the interior of the Notre Dame defense. McGuffie, of course, and Threet.
Also Threet, as he provided Notre Dame with a short field and a free touchdown. Butler missed a few blocks (but also made a few) and didn't get his head around quickly enough on Sheridan's first interception.
There wasn't much disappointment to go around. The offense could have been better but everyone performed pretty well.
What does it mean for Wisconsin?
It means we've got a shot. I'm skeptical about the Notre Dame defense but they did a decent job against Javon Ringer until a back-breaking 63-yard run late in the fourth quarter that wouldn't have happened if the ND defense wasn't forced into a hyper-aggressive stance because of the dwindling time. Even with that long, academic drive at the end, Michigan State ended up gaining approximately what Michigan did. They did that at home in dry conditions.
Wisconsin's defense is probably much better than Notre Dame's but they did give up 350 yards to and get outgained by Fresno State. I know Bruce Ciskie's got a lot of concerns about the team, which we'll explore further in a Vicious Electronic Questioning.
Who are these guys?
No, seriously. What the hell is going on? Where's Henne? Hart? Long? Is that a running back taking snaps? Do they know you're allowed to take a snap from under center? Who stole my football team and replaced them with Valdosta State?
Exciting new kids in order of projected use this year:
- Martavious Odoms. He’s the only healthy slot receiver and is the Chad Henne of WRs: a starter from day one in high school. He’s ready-ish to play and will be counted on heavily; may return kicks.
- Darryl Stonum. Michigan needs someone to put the fear of God into opposing safeties and Stonum’s the guy with that rep. Early enrollment means he’s not as clueless as your average freshman; hell, he’s got just as much time in this system as anyone on the team.
- Michael Shaw. Slightly ahead of McGuffie because I think they’ll use him in th slot a bit.
- Sam McGuffie. Run, annoyed man. Run.
- Terrence Robinson. Injury sets him back, obviously, but once he’s back he’ll rotate into the slot.
It is possible this ends well. Michigan will surround Sheridan with a deep and varied set of receiving targets, and the spread ‘n shred can turn a wobbly-armed but heady passer into Zak Kustok or Bret Basanez. It doesn’t demand the precision howitzer Carr’s pro-style system did. The physical limitations (and senior year injury) that forced Sheridan to walk-on somewhere don’t have to be fatal.
But if we’re being honest with ourselves there’s little chance it starts well. The note of distress coming from practice observers and press conferences is clear, and the scary thing is a lot of the reported problems are things like “throws bubble screens backwards.” (Michigan fans are going to find out how spoiled Chad Henne’s unerring accuracy on screens made them.)
Though practice reports got less alarmed as fall camp progressed—there was even video evidence of Sheridan completing passes farther than six yards downfield—Michigan's best hope here is for something functional, a guy who can throw a bunch of screens and keep the offense moving.
This offensive line can’t be as bad as Notre Dame’s, can it?
This was going to be a “definitely not” until the Zirbel injury and John Ferrara’s move from defensive tackle to potential starter. Now it’s just “probably not.”
There’s a fair quantity of talent slated to start. Schilling, of course, was an OMG shirtless recruit waylaid by injury. He should be much better this year. Moosman and Molk were both four-star sorts. That’s three of your starters with guru approval, and the guys who didn’t get it are both redshirt juniors who’ve seen a series here and there.
Plenty of teams have gotten away with worse outfits. Georgia and Auburn both started multiple freshmen last year and that worked out pretty okay; just because the nearest and dearest line to go through a painful youth movement became Most Extreme Epic Disaster Challenge does not mean this is Michigan’s fate. Whenever it’s dark out and your thoughts turn to Notre Dame’s 2007 season replicated in winged helmets, just remember that Charlie Weis spent fall camp installing a spread option look for one game against Georgia Tech and neglected things like technique or pads. It was coaching malpractice on an unprecedented scale; Michigan won’t go down the same road.
HOWEVA, there are some major concerns. We know these things about Mark Ortmann:
- He was not a big time recruit.
- The coaching staff thought he was clearly worse than a guy (Schilling) who was not ready to play last year.
- He’s the starting left tackle virtually by default.
Unless we’re lacking some critical piece of information like an undisclosed, lingering injury or Ortmann’s sudden improvement, that looks a lot like a recipe for blindside hits galore assuming Michigan ever tries a pass longer than ten yards. Which they may not. But that’s another question.
And then there’s Zirbel injury, which puts Michigan one ligament away from starting a true freshman or a guy who was playing defensive tackle two weeks ago. Even if the line stays miraculously healthy, the lack of confidence in Molk is troubling.
If a couple of guys don’t pan out or, worse, get injured, darkness threatens to warsh over the dude at quarterback.
Will Rich Rodriguez and Calvin Magee be inherently better than Carr and Debord?
Michigan fans have complained for years on end about the predictability of Michigan’s offense. Whenever Michigan replaced its starting receivers, it was a guaranteed run. Whenever a tight end lined up at fullback, it was a guaranteed pass. Fullback shuffles were 90% runs to the side of the shuffle, and the few times it wasn’t didn’t justify the expense in yards and downs expended to launch the surprise.
This differentiates them from zero fanbases nationwide. Hell, West Virginia fans had a field day decrying the “predictable” offense Rich Rodriguez ran after his departure. Seriously:
“i will be glad whenever mcgee is officially gone. his 'i will only call 4 different plays' mentality can suck up in michigan right now for all i care.”
In a way, it was predictable: you run 70% of the time and a hefty chunk of the passes are bubble screens. In another way it obviously wasn’t. Touchdowns don’t score themselves.
Anyone who’s read this blog for a while knows my opinion, and it was best summed up in the aftermath of the Horror:
If every Michigan fan can tell you certain things obviously tip Michigan's plays, what are the chances opposing coaches don't know this? Zero. Everyone knows what Michigan is going to do. This is something we've heard every time a bowl opponent is asked about us for the past half-decade and probably longer. It's an arrogant waste of expectation because you expect that you won't need to fool the other team. It's like playing poker without ever bluffing.
This opinion is apparently shared by many, including current members of the team. This is perhaps the most damning quote I’ve ever read on the topic, and it comes from Brandon Graham:
“Everybody knew exactly what we were going to do. That was like the arrogance of being at Michigan. ‘Our players are better than yours.’ That’s how it was. That kind of got to (players) when it stopped working. The big games, like Ohio State, we would want to show them something we didn’t do during the season. But we’d go out there and do the same thing.”
This thinking is ancient, dating back to Bo and the days of unlimited scholarships. Michigan assumed it was inherently better than its opponents and every game was an exercise choking out the variance so that superiority could show.
It is also the complete antithesis of Rich Rodriguez. This was an opinion expressed earlier:
Rodriguez comes from a wholly different background than Carr, coming up through the ranks at NAIA schools and Tulane and Clemson and West Virginia. Until Pat White showed up he never had a significant talent advantage against the vast majority of opponents. He never, ever had the luxury of lying back and thinking to himself "if we out-execute the opponent we will win," and it shows. He invented a whole new offense and used it to exploit inefficiencies in recruiting. To seal the Sugar Bowl against Georgia he called a fake punt, exploiting inefficiencies in fourth-down playcalling. For the past seven years he has played Moneyball at West Virginia.
To me, the exciting thing about Rodriguez is not necessarily his system but his mindset. He's looking to squeeze out every ounce of expectation, make every resource stretch as far as he can, and now he's been provided resources few other coaches have.
This is the Coal Spoon theory, and it answers this question simply: yes.
You know, I get emails from time to time complaining about how negative I’m being, but not in a “you’re just incorrigible” way. They mostly complain about the depression induced.
What can I say? For the first time, Michigan is violating several of the preview heuristics: don’t switch a guy at the last second and give him playing time. Don’t completely change your system—not that the change is bad, but it will be painful in the short term. Don’t start a walk-on at quarterback. Have something other than crippled goats backing up your offensive line.
These things are nigh insurmountable obstacles in the quest for a non-ugly offense. There’s just too much that can go wrong (or already has) for the offense to function at an aesthetically pleasing level.
It shouldn’t get anywhere close to the radioactive mess Notre Dame was, or even be the worst offense in the league. The Rodriguez system doesn’t demand that much out of either of the shaky position groups. It does demand that the skill position players be able to beat their guys one-on-one in the open field, and Michigan should have the athletes to do this with regularity.
I think we’ll see an offensive of extremes this year: good or better against teams with shaky athleticism, bad or worse against A-level opponents. Scanning the schedule I see only three or four of those.
One major caveat: the situation at quarterback and on the offensive line is extremely fragile. If a guy goes down or just doesn’t pan out the dropoff as you go back is severe; there is a small chance a couple guys implode and the offense makes a short trip off a cliff.
- People are very excited about Martavious Odoms going into 2009, like Steve Breaston excited.
- Sheridan starts off the starting quarterback, is replaced at some point, but ends the season as the guy.
- Junior Hemingway establishes himself a starter midseason.
- The running back situation involves a mess of players; Minor, Brown, McGuffie, and Shaw all see 100 carries. Brown has the best YPC.
- Michigan has a better offense in-conference than they did last year. (Ninth.)
- Ricky Barnum ends up starting five or six games.
- Michigan is around 50th in yardage.
The last time Michigan's quarterback situation appeared so dire it was 1995, Lloyd Carr's first year, and the quarterbacks were true freshman Scott Dreisbach and walk-on Brian Griese. Michigan was playing in the "Kickoff Classic" that year against Virginia. Michigan Stadium baked, Dreisbach started, and the team sucked. Down 17-0 at the half, Michigan looked lifeless.
One of the weirdly vivid memories of my life is listening to an affable Virginia fan tell us Michigan was not going to win the game if they kept letting that freshman throw the ball. We nodded in rueful agreement.
He would turn out to be wrong by one Mercury Hayes toe. Dreisbach finished with 374 yards on 52 attempts,* Michigan won, and all that quarterback stuff was quickly forgotten until the next week and the week after and especially when Dreisbach got injured and Brian Griese was called forth from obscurity and inserted into the starting lineup. This was good in the long term. In the short term, it was brutal:
Michigan quarterbacks combined for 16 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, completed about 53% of their passes, and struggled to crack seven yards per attempt with an All-Star cast of future NFL receivers: Amani Toomer, Jay Reimersma, Mercury Hayes.
So none of that was particularly good but the team didn’t exactly implode. Tim Biakabutuka ran and ran and ran and then ran some more in a 31-23 win over Ohio State and Michigan went 9-4. Not a nuclear waste site by any stretch of the imagination. So… there’s a chance.
This year, your nominal starter is the walk-on and the freshmen appear set to wait in line. Nick Sheridan (left) is the walk-on. He’s the son of Bill Sheridan, currently the linebackers coach for the Giants and for three years a defensive position coach under Lloyd Carr. He was honorable mention all conference in high school. He’s about six foot, maybe six one, supposedly more mobile than the competition but more limited in terms of arm strength. And that’s all anyone knows about him.
What limited intelligence we have from practice reports indicates Sheridan is a typical Northwestern quarterback, noodle-armed but bright and mobile-ish. He’s been more consistent than the competition, throws well on the run, and contrary to rumor can heave the ball farther than five yards, as this video of the “Beanie Bowl” indicates. He could be a non-liability who successfully keeps the heat off the other skill position players, and how’s that for Backhanded Compliment Of The Year?
Sheridan’s main competitor is redshirt freshman Steven Threet (right), who enrolled early at Georgia Tech only to bolt for Michigan when Jason Forcier saw the writing on the wall and transferred. In January the writing reformed itself to read “please come back Jason,” but what can you do? Hypothetical newspaper-bearing time travel guy should stop screwing with Michigan fans and tell Forcier to stick it out.
Threet is a classic dropback artillery piece in the Navarre/Mallett/Grbac mold, 6’5” and ponderous. He was a well-respected recruit, getting four stars from the gurus and landing in the top ten pro-style quarterbacks, but reports from practice have him tentative, erratic, and slow both mentally and physically. In the winter he was lauded as an emerging leader who the team actually liked, unlike that Mallett guy; this has not translated to the field. Sheridan’s likely to struggle at some point and Rodriguez keeps saying he wants “two guys he can win with,” so Threet will see the field at some point. He’s reputed to have a bigger arm and more big-play potential… for both teams.
Freshman Justin Feagin talks a great game. He’s got the meaningless puff quote down cold. See this on Pryor:
"What if he does go to Michigan? Shame on me if I sit back and think he's better than me. If he wants to play quarterback, we'll have to fight each other for the job. If I win the job, then I'll know I beat out the No. 1 quarterback in the nation."
He’s also a heck of an athlete, the small-school player of the year in Florida last year and third in their Mr. Football voting. LSU and Miami offered him as a WR/DB.
Unfortunately, he does not appear to be much of a quarterback at this point. Rodriguez claimed Feagin would “have to make an impression in the first two weeks” if he was going to be a serious candidate for playing time; a recent curtailment of his snaps indicates this impression has not been made. A week or so ago, Rodriguez made it clear he was not an option early: “He's not close to being ready.”
I do have some inside baseball indicating that the coaching staff expects to work him in at some point during the season just to see what he can do; the most likely outcome is a few drives here and there that end poorly and a position swap once Beaver and Newsome hit campus in January.
If David Cone sees the field something has gone very wrong.
Running Back & Fullback
|Brandon Minor||Jr.||Mark Moundros||Jr.*|
|Carlos Brown||Jr.||Vince Helmuth||So.|
|Sam McGuffie||Fr.||Kevin Grady||Jr.*|
Like quarterback, Michigan loses a four-year starter and program icon here. Unlike quarterback, there are six options of at least moderate viability and chances are some player or combination of players emerges into a strong Big Ten starter. Four players were listed as co-starters on the first depth chart; they’re discussed here.
|State's too easy|
|Zone during The Horror|
|ND’s too easy|
|MN is too easy|
Brandon Minor is your nominal starter. After a few exciting glimpses his freshman year, Minor proved to be just okay in the more extended audition granted by Hart's ankle problems. Minor was healthy during the spring while Brown was not and is reputed by all to be a demonic worker, so he is the first back in practice. For whatever reason, though, I remain skeptical of his ability. I went back and scoured the UFRs, finding these comments:
Minor is an obvious step down [from Mike Hart].
Brandon Minor missed an obvious read on one of the carries I charted above; I think the running back job is going to be wide open next year. Minor runs really upright and seems perpetually on the verge of getting his clock cleaned; he also clearly lacks Hart's ability to pick through traffic. The spin move on Zbikowski was sweet, though.
Both Brown and Minor showed some indication they will be decent to good Big Ten runners next year.
Minor, I thought, was the better of the backs, consistently running with power and picking up YAC.
That's not entirely helpful when I'm trying to make the case for someone else to start.
Numbers might be: he averaged 4.3 yards a carry, eight tenths of a yard off both Hart and Carlos Brown's 5.1. Even if you hack Brown's 85 yard touchdown against Minnesota down to Minor's long of 46 yards (also picked up against Minnesota), Brown holds a significant edge in YPC.
Minor runs too upright and stiff for my tastes. He's clearly slower than Brown and the fleet freshmen, has little wiggle, and tends to plow over and through defenders instead of trying to avoid them. Sometimes this ends with Minor spectacularly trucking someone; sometimes it ends with Minor taking a wicked shot from a headhunting linebacker or safety.
In the best case, Barwis gives Minor the half-step he needs to get the corner and he’s a poor man’s version of Darren McFadden. In the worst case he’s David Underwood. He must be physically dominant to be effective because he's not going to make people miss much and he doesn't have Hart's remarkable balance. IMO, he gets his fair share of carries throughout the year but is clearly less effective than at least one other tailback and possibly two.
|Loping vs Purdue|
|Tripping over Leman|
|Nice first down|
Carlos Brown has a knack for picking up annoying hand injuries. Last year Brown busted his hand in fall practice and missed the early portion of the season; in spring he cut or broke his finger or something in a “freak weightlifting accident.” I suspect Barwis bit it off and spent the summer growing a replacement in a jar.
He was also the more impressive non-Hart tailback in 2007, deploying his speed to good effect and, as noted, coming out of last season with a Hart-matching 5.1 YPC thanks to the exceptional generosity of Minnesota’s defense.
After his first extended action I summarized him like so:
He seems like the exact opposite of Hart: a guy with questionable vision and little in the way of moves who has the speed to jet into the endzone if you give him a crease (and he sees it). The questionable vision could be due to inexperience -- he spent the spring at defensive back, then broke his hand -- and might develop in the future; Hart-like moves are not likely to. His two slashing touchdown runs were encouraging and he seems much less likely to get decapitated by a charging safety than Minor; he'll have a shot at the job next year. We're likely to see a four- or even five-headed rotation early.
Brown's been moonlighting at quarterback in what must feel like a reprise of his high school career, when he was a quarterback in name only tasked with using his extraordinary athleticism to take Incredibly Surprising Quarterback Draws further than they had any right to go. If Brown does take live snaps at QB, it will be part of a Wildcat (or wild mustelidae) package; he's little threat to throw the ball except as a diversion.
Brown was a big recruit and has the sort of outside speed that Steve Slaton did; I think he’ll end up with the slight edge.
Sam McGuffie needs no introduction. Mixtape ho:
He flips over people for fun. People leap over him for fun. When he leaps over people for fun and there is no fun because people tackle him they post it on Youtube like it’s a big deal. He is an internet phenomenon. If you try to bring any of these things up to him he will scowl at you. His teammates call him “Vanilla Ice,” which no doubt also draws scowls.
I’m on record expecting McGuffie to kick ass:
I'm not one of those who scoffs at recruiting rankings, but their [Rivals’] continued skepticism about McGuffie is puzzling. He has the offers (Michigan, Florida, USC amongst a host of others), the stats at perhaps the highest level of competition available in high school football, and reel after reel of jaw-dropping highlights. He has the fourth-highest SPARQ rating in the history of whatever the hell a SPARQ rating is because he showed up at a combine before his junior year of high school and ripped off a 4.32 40, a 3.83 shuttle -- I'm not exactly sure if my calculations are correct, but I believe this means he finished the shuttle before he started it -- and a 41' vertical leap.
He's a little small, and his his disappointing senior season was injury-wracked to the point where his nationally televised showcase game saw him spinning 180 degrees before contacting tacklers and driving meekly at the feet of oncoming blitzers, but even the skeptical Rivals named him last year's best running back in space and publicly wondered why he was heading for Michigan instead of a school that would spread him all over the field like Wes Welker—white guy, natch—and take advantage of his crazy speed and cutting ability.
Uh, check. He’s nominally first on the depth chart already, and will see time all over the field. It begins.
A second freshman, Ohioan Michael Shaw (video), was listed as a wide receiver on the fall roster but features as a tailback on the depth chart. He was a running back in high school; he figures to spend quite a bit of time motioning to and from the slot.
The hype is building on Shaw because he chose the right time to juke a couple defenders and plow slot-sized freshman cornerback Boubacar Cissoko. The media was there doling out oohs and aahs as appropriate and a practice legend is born.
There’s more to Shaw than proficiency in the “Michigan drill,” though. He hovered just outside the recruiting sites’ top 100 lists and spent the spring tearing up the track until he was banned for transfer-related shenanigans. He is fast. And he is fast. And he is fast. At the Penn Relays, Shaw won the 200 meters and anchored his team’s winning 4x100 and 4x200 relays, causing his coach to break down in tears:
“I’ve been coaching since the ‘60’s,” Coach Waggoner said of his 46.4 anchor, Mike Shaw, “and I’ve coached a lot of guys, but he’s one of the best.”
He is fast.
He is also other things. McGuffie's not the only guy drawing superlative praise from Fred Jackson. Jackson on the nagging injuries picked up by the starters:
"Those two guys right there, I PROMISE you that you stay nicked up too long, it's going to hurt you tremendously,'' Jackson said.
Because Shaw and McGuffie can play right now, he said.
Shaw and McGuffie are two of the most exciting freshmen he has ever coached at Michigan, he continued.
They're Justin Fargas fast, but can cut better.
Fargas-who-can-cut is this program’s Loch Ness monster.
Avery Horn is fast as hell but redshirted last year because he wasn't ready to play in college. He ripped off a couple impressive runs in what passed for the spring game but has received little mention in the fall and seems far down the depth chart. Michigan picked freshman Mike Cox over top-100 instate back Jonas Gray when both attended the Michigan camp; he was a middling recruit with offers from Maryland and BC and will probably redshirt.
Both players who saw time return, but the position has changed significantly. Under Lloyd Carr the fullback was a thick-necked ogre tasked with smashing his face into linebackers. He was the target of maybe three or four passes a year and never, ever got to take a handoff (no, BJ Askew doesn’t count).
At West Virginia, Rodriguez deployed a thick-necked ogre who ripped off a 50-some yard touchdown against Oklahoma. Owen Schmitt was the hammer on option dives and an important outlet in the passing game; he touched the ball 59 times last year. Michigan fullbacks, as a unit, had three catches for eleven yards, all of them no doubt on third and long. This is why Rodriguez doesn’t actually have a “fullback.” Rather, he’s got an “MX” back, and he’s got to block and catch and run.
This is a projection based on some practice reports and common sense, but once Kevin Grady manages to process the copious amounts of alcohol no doubt still flowing through his veins, he might be the guy here. Grady doesn’t really fit in with the new offense except as a downhill runner and blocker and now that the "fullback" is a guy who is actually an important cog in the offense he might be amenable to a move, especially if/when it becomes clear that players quicker than he have a death grip on all the tailback carries.
Mark Moundros and Vince Helmuth are the more traditional options. You can find reasons either has an advantage over the other: Moundros is older and was the starter last year; Helmuth was more highly rated, should improve more quickly, and operated as a battering ram tailback at Saline High. I lean towards Helmuth.
Wide Receivers & Tight Ends
|Greg Mathews||Jr.||Toney Clemons||So.||Martavious Odoms||Fr.||Carson Butler||Jr.*|
|Junior Hemingway||So.||Darryl Stonum||Fr.||Terrence Robinson||Fr.||Mike Massey||Sr.*|
|James Rogers||So.||LaTerryal Savoy||Jr.*||Mike Shaw||Fr.||Kevin Koger||Fr.|
Despite the early departures of Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington to the NFL, Michigan has stockpiled a considerable amount of talent at wide receiver and tight end and the dropoff shouldn’t be severe. There will be a dropoff, though, as no one on the roster save maybe Darryl Stonum can hope to replicate Manningham’s explosive deep routes, and Stonum is just a freshman.
|Easy ND score|
|Pride comes before the fall|
Junior Greg Mathews is the most experienced returning player. As a sophomore he was Michigan’s third receiver, catching 39 passes for 366 yards. A YPC under 10 always signals possession receiver and that’s Mathews’ rep going into his first year as Michigan’s primary target. The upside here is Jason Avant, a reliable guy on a variety of short routes with outstanding hands and the strength to get off a jam. (We haven't actually seen the outstanding hands, yet, as Mathews has been reliable but unspectacular in the catching-stuff category, but Avant's reliability was only a theory before Braylon left.)
Mathews is unlikely to be much of a vertical threat, however, and a credible deep threat will be important when it comes to keeping safeties from breathing down Sheridan's neck.
Past Mathews things are uncertain. Four or five players vie for one and a half spots. Sophomore Toney Clemons spent the spring working out of the slot because the only other alternative was walk-on Jim Potempa, a player so obscure that the Michigan Stadium public address announcer messed up his name more than once during his half-dozen garbage time carries last year. With the arrival of the impressive, tiny duo of Martavious Odoms and Terrence Robinson, Clemons is likely to move back to the outside where he belongs... eventually. Robinson's "tweaked" knee, about which more later, leaves Michigan with one credible slot option and that's a true freshman. Expect Clemons to move inside and out regularly; his long term home should be on the outside.
Junior Hemingway suffered a severe ankle sprain in the fall and remained limited by it throughout fall camp. Though recruiting guru opinions on him varied wildly, Hemingway had a ton of early offers from national powers and turned in a productive senior year. He seemed ahead of Clemons when the two were freshmen, but the new coaching staff hasn't seen him healthy. He may not make a contribution until midseason. The impression I got from the limited time he saw last year and all the recruiting info I gathered is that Hemingway was a version of Marquise Walker, a spectacular leaper and potential jump-ball threat that lacked something in top-end speed.
One player not lacking in top end speed, Darryl Stonum, was Michigan’s highest-rated recruit in the 2008 class. An NFL prototype wide receiver out of Houston, Stonum picked Michigan over USC, Florida, and everyone else. He’s a candidate for immediate playing time after enrolling early and participating in spring practices, and has a top-end ceiling on par with any of Michigan’s terror wide receivers from years past.
Normally the most optimistic projection for Stonum’s freshman year would be something similar to that turned in by Mario Manningham—27 catches, 433 yards, 6 touchdowns—but the early enrollment should help him see the field earlier and more frequently. Forty or even fifty catches is not out of the question.
Stonum’s listed as a co-starter at one outside receiver position with surprise LaTerryal Savoy, who’s seen almost no time in his three years in the program to date. Savoy was a sleeper out of Louisiana with no other major offers and seemed destined for a career of total obscurity until the moment the depth chart came out with his name atop the list. It’s doubtful Savoy’s suddenly become a much better receiver, so the bet here is that once Hemingway’s injury and Stonum’s inexperience subside so will Savoy’s prominence on the depth chart. He could be a Tyrece Butler sort who hauls in 10-12 catches.
Those five will be your main targets on the outside. If there is a severe need Michigan could strip the redshirt off freshman Roy Roundtree, the kid who decommitted from Purdue and set off the whole snake oil brouhaha. He’s gotten a few approving mentions from Rodriguez during his hourly press conferences, but Roundtree is about 6’3” and weighs as much as slot ninjas a half-foot shorter than him. A redshirt seems advisable.
Zion Babb and James Rogers are in hot competition for the title of most egregiously wasted redshirt of 2007; both bounced to and from the secondary, seeing meaningless snaps that did little to prepare them for roles they’re not going to have this year anyway. Neither was big recruit. Rogers was a high school running back plucked from obscurity at Michigan’s camp; Babb was a middling recruit out of California. Rodriguez hasn’t mentioned either of them this fall and playing time is likely to be sparing. Rogers is reputed to be ahead of Babb.
The arrival of Rich Rodriguez brings with it a smurfy new position: slot receiver. In the spread ‘n shred these guys are the targets of all manner of different things that aim to get a little electron-sized bastard in open space against a linebacker or safety: option pitches, bubble screens, reverses, etc. This is all terribly exciting, as Michigan now threatens to have four or five Steve Breastons on the roster at all times. This should be a great boon in the return game; in the context of the offense it provides a ton of YAC opportunities that reduce the burden placed on the quarterbacks.
Michigan had none of these guys on the roster, or even in the recruiting class, until Rodriguez came aboard, but in the brief time allotted him he filled the position with authority. Martavious Odoms is from small-school Florida powerhouse Pahokee. His recruitment was extremely strange. He picked up an early offer from Notre Dame, and some months later he had a truly impressive collection for a 5’8” guy: Iowa, Rutgers, South Carolina, LSU, Oregon, Alabama, Tennessee, Auburn, and Rodriguez’s then-home of West Virginia.
Odoms’ reaction to all this was to sit around doing nothing in particular as most of those schools filled up their classes. There was a cursory visit to Auburn, some discussion of USF and a grayshirt offer from Miami—by then so jammed with players they were trying to get Odoms to campus as a track athlete—and then signing day came and Odoms... did nothing. He ended up signing a few days later, and Michigan fans scrambled to find out just who the heck this kid was.
He's small to the point where he only exists on alternate Tuesdays but he's been playing on Pahokee's varsity since he was 14 (he was an eighth grader at the time) and was smoking guys in the state championship game by the time he was a sophomore. Unlike many guys Odoms' size, he's always been a receiver, and few players can claim to have the extensive in-game experience he has. Practice reports have been universally positive, praising his hands, toughness, silky-smooth moves and ability to make the first tackler miss. I go back to what a Floridian high school football veteran and Friend of Blog told me unprompted when Odoms committed:
He's a tough SOB. Small cat, really tough, will remind you of Steve Smith. Very, very fast. I'm a huge Martavious Odoms fan, you'll love him.
Watch out for him; this is one of those guys you see named “Moss” playing for Miami and think to yourself "goddamn why can't we ever have kids like that?" Practice reports are very encouraging; he sounds like a Steve Breaston if Breaston had been a natural-born receiver. He’s listed as the starter in the slot for Utah. You will see plenty of him.
Meanwhile, Terrence Robinson’s recruitment got off to a slow start because a junior-year transfer forced him to sit out 2006; when he saw the field for Klein Oak in 2007 he outrushed, outplayed, and outshone top-100 Texas commit DeShaun Hales. He also did this:
Odoms spent five years at Pahokee smoking opponents and winning state championships while Robinson sat out with a transfer and played quarterback and running back and such; even if Robinson hadn’t “tweaked” his knee Odoms would be the odds on favorite to start in the slot. Robinson will be out for a few weeks and then work his way into the lineup.
|Iowa cross #2|
|Very bad block|
Rich Rodriguez is going to have to use his tight ends a lot more than he did at West Virginia, because he’s got six of them and one has the potential to be ridiculously good as long as he’s not asked to block anyone ever. That fellow is Carson Butler, who came back from Lloyd Carr purgatory to claim the starting tight end spot after Mike Massey’s season-ending knee injury against Northwestern. Butler is the combination of freakish athletic gifts and frustrating mental errors that always gets dubbed “enigmatic” and this preview will be no exception: Carson Butler is one enigmatic mofo.
His promise is obvious. In the Citrus Bowl, he took a tight end screen and loped 65 yards downfield (skip to 2:00) with the bulk of the Florida secondary in pursuit; no one on the Florida team could make up ground and it took a safety with an angle to force him out inside the ten. That is a very fast man in an improperly large body. Properly deployed, he could be an All-American.
Butler’s drawbacks were equally severe, though. He false-starts with frustrating regularity. Asking him to block a pass rusher is asking for a helmet in your quarterback’s ribs. This outing against Michigan State was a typical performance:
Ugly, ugly, ugly, especially on the part of Butler, not only complete fail in pass protection but also the culprit on several run plays that went nowhere and the recipient of two critical penalties, one a stupid personal foul and the other a comically inept holding call on Michigan's final drive.
Is it much of a mismatch when your super-athletic tight end blocks like a 180 pound wide receiver? Not really. Evidently Rodriguez agrees since Butler is listed as an OR with not only Mike Massey but freshman Kevin Koger.
I have no idea what to expect out of Butler this year. He could be an All-American caliber performer (he’s unlikely to get enough catches to be an actual All-American) in a contract year for him. He could lose his job in week two.
Mike Massey, meanwhile, returns from that knee injury. In three years of sporadic onfield action, Massey hasn’t done much except almost make a couple of spectacular catches. He was the tentative starter last year until the injury in the Northwestern game. He seems totally average, a guy who will catch the balls he should and make most of the blocks he should but excel in no way whatsoever.
Freshman Kevin Koger picked Michigan over Ohio State and has been mentioned as someone who could see playing time this fall; he is the third co-starter on the depth chart. The most likely outcome is a smattering of snaps in preparation for a starting job next year.
Martell Webb was Butler’s backup once Massey went down and sometimes the temporary starter when Butler had seriously pissed off the coaching staff; he made no catches and drew no notice in UFRs. He did have an excellent block against Minnesota, for whatever that’s worth. Webb was a nobody recruit when he committed to Michigan, but ended up a four-star to both Scout and Rivals; he’s also that 6’5” basketball player that’s all the rage at TE. He could be pretty good if given the opportunity. Given the surfeit of tight ends on the roster and some reported issues with drops in practice he probably won’t get that opportunity until 2009.
Steve Watson redshirted last year and seems to be way down the depth chart. Sparing playing time at best for him; watch for a potential move to the OL. Brandon Moore has an imposing frame at 6’6” and had been offered by a who’s who of college football programs by the time he committed to Michigan, but has gone totally unremarked upon this fall and seems a likely redshirt. If he fills out like whoah a move to tackle might be a possibility, but in high school he was regarded as a no-block TE with excellent hands.
|Mark Ortmann||Jr.*||Tim McAvoy||Jr.*||David Molk||Fr.*||David Moosman||So.*||Steve Schilling||So.*|
|Perry Dorrestein||So.*||Ricky Barnum||Fr.*||Rocko Khoury||Fr.||John Ferrara||So.*||Dann O'Neill||Fr.|
Perhaps the saddest indicator of the potential looming tragedy that is the Michigan offensive line is this: last year this depth chart went three deep. There’s no one but freshmen unlisted this year and, uh… four freshmen in the actual two-deep as hypothesized above.
The line took a hit it could not afford to sustain when certain starter and once upon a time touted recruit Cory Zirbel went down with a knee injury, forcing either David Molk or hastily converted defensive lineman John Ferrara into the starting lineup. Michigan is now one injury away from serious issues indeed.
Steve Schilling is the only returning starter on the line. Unfortunately for Michigan, last year he was frankly bad. There are a ton of mitigating factors—a freshman-year bout with mononucleosis was followed by a shoulder injury that spring, so he was basically being thrown on the field as a true freshman—but bad is bad. Vernon Gholston shattered him into little bits in the OSU game, which saw Shilling rack up a record –12 in pass protection. After the Illinois game he came in for a bit of criticism:
The problems in pass protection have been matched with frequent issues in the run game. One sack and a dangerously batted pass were on him as he failed to contain Illinois DE Doug Pilcher. At the moment, the great hope of the 2007 offensive line, that Schilling and Boren would turn out to be better than the departed Bihl/Riley combo, has not come to fruition. It looks highly unlikely to get there any time this year.
There is the potential for massive improvement here. Practice observers have indicated that Schilling now looks like a bonafide collegiate lineman after being far too small last year. As a freshman starter and former five-star recruit the expectation is he takes a major leap forward. He’d better.
Mark Ortmann draws the unenviable task of attempting to replace the #1 pick in the NFL draft. This is his fourth year in the program and practice reports had him on the verge of starting for the last two seasons, but there was presumably a reason he was stuck behind the uninspiring Schilling last year. This year he’s Michigan’s starting left tackle virtually by default, as there is one other non-freshman tackle on the roster. He could be okay. He could be really bad. We have no indicators either way.
David Moosman slides into Zirbel’s spot at right guard. He’s not from Wisconsin despite this blog’s repeated insistence that he is. He’s from Illinois, and I have inside info that he’s very nice to his GSIs. Moosman was a four-star recruit who picked Michigan over Wisconsin and is entering his third year in a college program, so he could be good.
Dave Molk is a feisty, undersized center from Illinois who was one of only two offensive line recruits in Lloyd Carr’s final Michigan class. He fits much better in this system than Carr’s, as it emphasizes his mobility and places a much smaller premium on size, but Rodriguez made it clear he was battling John Ferrara for a starting job. Two weeks ago Ferrara was a defensive lineman. Crap.
Tim McAvoy saw sporadic time last year at both guard spots due to injury and general lethargy on the part of others. Like Ortmann, he nas stuck behind an extremely uninspiring starter (Alex Mitchell) and doesn’t have much in the way of recruiting hype to fall back on. He’s been a defacto starter since the departure of Mr. Plow; lord knows if he’s going to be any good.
There are virtually no backups as long as Cory Zirbel's knee injury persists, and the word from Rodriguez is that could be the entire season. Mark Huyge exists, I guess, but he’s a redshirt freshman Michigan snatched away from the MAC. He’s unlikely to be ready. He’s also got a high ankle sprain and will miss a chunk of the season. As mentioned, John Ferrara was whiling his time away at defensive tackle until the Zirbel injury forced a position switch. Ferrara’s never blocked in his life. He may start.
At tackle, Perry Dorrestein is most famous for having his one-point-something GPA outed by the Ann Arbor News; insider buzz has been totally silent on him. He was a decent recruit.
It’s down to true freshmen, then. Rodriguez has specifically said these guys are not ready to play but the situation might demand it of them. Guard Ricky Barnum is the least unprepared. He was a highly-rated Florida commit until Rodriguez wandered by with his snake oil cart and has gotten some public praise; he’s probably the second guy off the bench in the event of issues with the interior line. Rocko Khoury has been garnering praise as a center and will start the season in the two deep.
God willing, four other freshmen will redshirt. Tackle Dann O’Neill was a top-100 recruit and has great upside but is not prepared to play this year. Kurt Wermers and Patrick Omameh would never, ever see the field in a normal year but this is not a normal year and they could wander onto the field if things get dire. Elliot Mealer is out with a shoulder injury suffered in the tragic Christmas Eve crash that killed his father and girlfriend.
Just one observation turned daunting question. While reading the position breakdowns and the subsequent 2008 recruiting class analysis [in Hail To The Victors 2008], I found myself wondering, "what about Sam McGuffie?" You referred to him in the Running Back section of the breakdown as a potential contributor, and highlighted his infamous mix tape we have all come to love, but you did not provide the recruiting breakdown that you did to others (though you said you failed to do so with some due to earlier coverage provided, but you did not mention him in this instance).
All I am really wondering is what kind of impact will McGuffie have on the immediate impact of the team? As you pointed out, athletes are the life-blood of the Rich Rodriguez system, and he has a good amount (many true freshman) at his disposal. Still, as highly touted a recruit as he was, and the buzz that he has created along the way, I would love to see him have an impact as soon as possible.
Is he ready?
Fall practice hasn't started yet, so no one really knows. There are reports floating around claiming him to be like this awesome unstoppable squirrel-man, but what context is this in? At Big Ten Media Days, Rodriguez mentioned getting reports from seven-on-seven sessions that the players are evidently running of their own volition. (College football summer workouts have a very complex idea of free will.) If the Squirrel Man reports have any basis in reality, they're coming from pad-free skeleton passing drills in which finding "empty grass" is as easy as stepping on the field. This is also known as McGuffie Heaven.
If McGuffie wasn't tearing up seven-on-seven drills it would bode unwell; killing them is a necessary but not sufficient prerequisite to the dominance we all envision. Unfortunately, I can't find this in the archives but last year I came across video from one of McGuffie's playoff games in which he looked small, man. Like 164 pounds small, which was what he was listed at when he put up the 4.32 40 that put him on the map even before his junior year explosion. Mixtape goes here:
The skeptical insiders, few that they may be, usually cite his overwhelming tininess as a reason it'll be a while before he sees the field, and they'd definitely have a point if Lloyd Carr was still the sheriff in this town. But he's not. The Rodriguez offense doesn't care if you can move the pile or scratch out a third-and-three or even pass block much. It just wants you to find the aforementioned empty grass, then run a long way. It's kind of a glorified seven-on-seven drill.
With Kevin Grady in the doghouse and Michael Shaw listed as a wide receiver on the preliminary fall roster, McGuffie's path to the field is now significantly clearer. I doubt he'll pass either Minor or Brown, who've proven themselves far more capable than David Underwood had, but I think a year in the Noel Devine role is forthcoming. Further rationale can be had in the 2008 recruiting recap of McGuffie.
OK, so I found another question you should have asked at the Big Ten meetings...Looking through the weekly release there are four "Quality Control" coaches listed. What the hell does *that* mean?Keep up the good work,Mike
Brian,You've mentioned some of the things you'd like to ask (TE's in the new offense... OK, so thing, singular). And expressed your - and I assume everyone's - exasperation with the lack of new/serious questions coming from the traditional media. If you were gifted a sit-down with Rodriguez what would be on your list of questions, trying as much as possible to remain and football related and tilling the ground for non-redundant information?I know there's rules pertaining to talking about specific recruits, but asking about how he judges the "Southern Strategy" so far, and time/effort allocation as far as that goes, the general DE situation, how one jumps in to sell a school he himself is still learning about and how he sees those pitches changing as he gets into the job. Maybe the initial reaction he sees to the changing level of openness not usually associated with the Football program. Or posing the same question you've been getting: Can you make me not afraid about this season?
Anyway, I was wondering more what *you* had in mind as you camp out in Chicago. Granted an interview (30 min., an hour, something of decent length) what would you ask?-Colin
These are the things I had written down to ask if I got a chance:
"You have six tight ends on the roster and an offense that hasn't thrown a pass to a tight end in seven years. What are you going to do with these guys?" [asked, got a vague answer.]
"How did you initially strike upon Scott Shafer as a defensive coordinator? Were you aware of his rampant blitzing tendencies? Do you think the higher risk balances out with sacks and turnovers?" [first part asked by Tom Dienhart; exploration of how Rodriguez understands applied football mathematics left untouched.]
"You've run more than 70% of the time in the last few years at West Virginia; this has generally worked out well but when the offense bogs down it doesn't seem to have a backup option. In your ideal offense, what's the run-pass split? Is your dream quarterback more Pat White or Donovan McNabb?" [this came up quite a bit and rodriguez answered it thoroughly]
"There are three minutes left in the game and your opponent is out of time outs. You're up two. You have the ball on your opponent's 34; this is outside of your kicker's field goal range. It's fourth and four. What do you do?"
"Have you heard of David Romer? (If not, explain David Romer.) Do you think that makes sense? Do you like David Romer? Please tell me you like David Romer."
"Your recruiting has a much more Southern bent than Michigan's had previously. What's the rationale behind that? Does southern speed actually, like, exist, in your opinion? Does it worry you that Michigan's going to be picking the leftovers from instate schools?"
"Why the hell is it so hard to convince kids to leave Mississippi?" [Seriously. I want to know this.]
"If you call all the offensive plays, what's Calvin Magee's role as your offensive coordinator?"
"Are you concerned that the proliferation of the spread offense will blunt its efficiency? Do you think it's just plain superior to other offenses or is it something you'd discard if the game shifted to it too hard?'
"It's been reported that Michigan is moving to a spread punt formation. What's the advantage of that, and why have so many teams moved to it?"
"How has your recruiting changed since you've arrived at Michigan? Have you aimed at a different sort of player? Most of West Virginia's high-rated recruits had legal or academic issues; was that a product of necessity? Is there any advantage in taking guys hanging by a thread?"
"Are some high profile recruits turned off by Mike Barwis and his general promise to work you like a dog? Do you prefer a guy with a high athletic ceiling or one with crazy work ethic?"
"In last year's Rutgers game Greg Schiano consistently stunted the backside DE into a gap and blitzed off the corner. Have you seen this sort of defense before? What does it do to the spread and how do you combat it?"
"How does your offense change when the defense doesn't have to respect the QB keeper on the zone read?"
Many of these would draw vague responses designed to sort of answer the question without really answering anything, unfortunately. I think the Rutgers one might get a point-blank "no," but if it got answered that would be extremely interesting. I think the key is to ask about specific incidents or strategies and avoid the 10,000 foot view; make it as hard as possible for them to slip into generalities. That's is something that would be much easier in the immediate aftermath of games.
A couple of weeks back, you made the following comment: "And Steven Threet is not necessarily chopped liver. He was Rivals' #8 QB prospect two years ago, a four-star with a number of attractive offers. In an alternate universe where Carr is still the coach and Mallett is still around, I bet he's still your odds-on favorite to start this fall."
I found this to be a very provocative statement (about Threet potentially starting over Mallett) -- do you have anything to back this up, or was it just a hunch?
Thanks and Go Blue!
If by "anything to back this up" you mean anything more than the avalanche of insider rumblings and tips that came in over the course of the fall, no. I wrote this in February and still believe it to be true:
About every week I got an email from someone on campus who had seen the kid getting high or trashed. Some talked to him; all who did came away with the opinion that the guy didn't care about anything. Sources inside the program confirmed multiple times that Mallett had a major attitude problem, something that was so pervasive that it even worked it way into one of the local newspapers. The dissent was evident on the sidelines during the disastrous Wisconsin game, when Mario Manningham bitched him out on the sidelines, or during Mallett's disastrous stint in the Illinois game, when Carr bitched him out for two solid minutes.
In October I wrote this based on multiple sources:
The situation here is precarious; without a major attitude adjustment things could be very sketchy at quarterback next year.
I have heard it far and wide and so many times from so many sources that the conclusion is indisputable: Ryan Mallett is the reason Ryan Mallett transferred, no matter what Ryan Mallett's mom -- no doubt the least biased source around -- says.
Mallett was in such deep conflict with Carr and his performance onfield was so miserable that the "experience" gained was a net deficit. Barring a 180 wherein Mallett got "on the same page" with Carr -- always a possibility when you're dealing with a 18-year old kid -- is he going to go with the kid he hates and doesn't play well or the kid he likes and hasn't, like, thrown a ball backwards to Carson Butler?