to play football, not to play trumpet
Hello. This is an excerpt from "ENDZONE: The Rise, Fall, And Return of Michigan Football" that John Bacon allowed us to run if I would once more refer to the book by its actual name instead of "Brandon's Lasting Lessons." I have now discharged that obligation.
We pick up the story the day after the Minnesota game. Shane Morris has been hit on the head, Devin Gardner lost his helmet and Morris re-entered, and the world waits for an explanation of what's going on…
At 11 a.m. Sunday, after every football game, the medical staff completes its routine postgame interactions with the coaching staff, including Brady Hoke, to apprise them of the status of all the players—something I’ve witnessed dozens of times. In addition, head trainer Paul Schmidt talked with Hoke once on Saturday, three times on Sunday, and once on Monday, giving him the complete information Dr. Kutcher and the staff had gathered on Shane Morris’s condition at each stage.
In short, there was no lack of communication between the medical staff and the coaching staff—nor within the medical staff itself, a group I’ve seen exhibit mutual respect, personally and professionally.
The Big Ten also called Michigan Sunday morning to let the coaching staff know the referee who had told Hoke, after Devin Gardner’s helmet had popped off, that calling a time-out would not allow him to put Gardner back on the field was, in fact, incorrect, and Hoke was right. It’s not that often the Big Ten office admits it was wrong, but they told the staff, not the media, so no one outside Schembechler Hall knew about it.
Finally sensing that a national story was rising around them, the department sent out a press release from Brady Hoke Sunday evening. It said, in part, “. . . Shane Morris was removed from yesterday’s game against Minnesota after further aggravating an injury to his leg that he sustained earlier in the contest . . . The University of Michigan has a distinguished group of Certified Athletic Trainers and team physicians who are responsible for determining whether or not a player is physically able to play. Our coaches have no influence or authority to make determinations if or when an injured player returns to competition . . .”
The release addressed some important points—that Morris had been pulled for his ankle, not the hit to his helmet, and that the coaches have no authority over the medical staff—but failed to answer the most pressing question: Did Morris have a concussion or not? If he did, why did he go back in the game?
Needless to say, instead of bringing closure to the story, this half-baked attempt would only raise more questions.
To withstand these slings and arrows, Brandon needed the Michigan family to band together like never before: the students, the alumni, the fans, faculty and lettermen, not to mention his own staff. But when he looked up, he found the family had already scattered. They had resigned, they’d been fired, they’d been angered, they’d been estranged. Some had simply become fed up with the whole thing, and walked away from something they thought they would love their whole lives.
Brandon would be on his own.
When the athletic director, his leadership team, his coaches, and the players woke up Monday morning, they found a pile of bad news on their doorstep. The football team was off to a disastrous 2–3 start. The department was still getting lambasted for the Cokes-for-tickets “retail activation,” and the stadium was showing large bands of empty seats—and that was all topped by the op-ed headline in the Michigan Daily: “Brady Hoke Must Be Fired.”
[After THE JUMP: nothing good happens in a 17 hour meeting]
this does not seem functional for several reasons I will now elucidate
For a while there it looked like Harbaugh had taken the Big Ten Network guys' phones and given them the Tom Brady treatment, but Dave Revsine must have a backup, because he's providing a rare glimpse inside Blue October.
In past years this has been something more than a post-length manual retweet of one guy; Gerry DiNardo and Howard Griffith also gave their thoughts. So far this is the only thing we've gotten from them:
— Derek Shaw (@Derek_Shaw) August 19, 2015
[Graham] Glasgow also told me he is living with his grandmother for the semester. A good way to focus.
That is one way to make sure you don't trip up on your probation.
Following blockquotes are from Revsine's twitter feed unless otherwise noted. BTN will broadcast their react from Michigan practice at 6 PM.
Tom Dienhart had some general thoughts on twitter:
A very business-like practice at Michigan today. No music blared. A classroom environment with lots of teaching. Nobody walked or lingered.
Dressed in his uniform of a blue “M” cap, long-sleeve shirt and—what else?—khakis, Harbaugh spent most of time with QBs. Always instructing.
Staffers describe the Michigan camp as a “submarine.” It is all business with no distractions.
Glad to hear they got rid of the lingering. Hate lingering. Almost as bad as loitering. By the way, if you want to find lingerers and loiterers just check the replies to any Dienhart tweet.
Some non-position-specific stuff from Revsine:
Harbaugh is incredibly involved in the passing game at practice - gives a lot of feedback - very hands-on with that group
It's obvious they're really, really well coached. Practice was all business, drills were efficient, feedback was great
Much like in the past few years team has more talent than most B1G teams they play except for the 2 best.
As always starts w O/D lines no lack of talent in either area They've recruited well in both areas & r good enough
I would not be surprised if both QB played in opener against Utah. Game play sometimes is best way to decide
Defense very solid good depth & has good young players that will have time 2 develop. Off needs more dynamic skill
QB - Morris consistently took 1st snap in drills - but no idea if that means anything - it does at some places, it doesn't at others
QB - if I had to guess, I'd say both Morris and Rudock would play against Utah - not sure there's clear separation
It's tough to say - both had their moments. Morris has a great arm. Rudock doesn't make many mistakes. Tough call
Asked about Morris:
His arm - he can really spin it. Issue will obviously be TO's - have to be dramatically better there as a team
Dienhart was more decisive about the QB battle:
1. Jake Rudock figures to win the quarterback spot. The Iowa senior transfer is the one signal-caller who gives Michigan the best chance to win out of the gate. … Rudock threw the ball well today and worked with the top units along with junior lefty Shane Morris. Rudock is a savvy vet with lots of starting experience.
FWIW. I'm betting that the quarterback battle will legitimately go until the day before the Utah game and that Rudock wins it decisively.
Zach Gentry looked "tall"; a fan asking about him was advised that this was a two-man race.
Other obvious trouble spot LY was OL. I think that group will be vastly improved.They have always had talent there - evident again 2day
No real surprises on OL - looked like Cole, Braden, Glasgow, Kalis, Magnuson. Drevno singled Blake Bars out as having had good camp
Even if we're nervous about Braden at guard, I'd be more nervous about guys flipping everywhere like we've seen the last few years.
They are really well coached on the OL - constant constructive feedback. Would be shocked if they're not better
Easy call to make with 5-ish returning starters and Tim Drevno running the show.
Dienhart noted the second team line:
The second unit had junior Logan Tuley-Tillman at left tackle; junior David Dawson at left guard; junior Patrick Kugler at center; sophomore Juwann Bushell-Beatty at right guard; senior Blake Bars at right tackle.
That's as expected until you get to JBB at guard and Bars at tackle.
On the starter:
Hard to tell - I did notice Smith a few times. Guess would be by committee at 1st & see if someone emerges
RB - lots of good well-known options here - again, I think difference in OL will help immensely.
Big - man he has great size for a RB. Because of the structure of practice, I didn't come away w great feel for RBs
Dienhart gave Smith the slight edge; Ross Taylor-Douglass is apparently a tailback this week.
WIDE RECEIVER & TIGHT END
Revsine literally shouted out everyone on the roster who was practicing at TE.
TE could be a real area of strength - obviously we know about Jake Butt, but Poggi, Winovich, Williams (nice TD grab) all look solid
Did I mention Hill and Bunting? They're good too. Lot of interesting options there.
Wheatley is probably on the shelf for a bit, so that's everybody. Apparently Hill is back at it?
I still think big-play explosiveness will be an issue for this team - no one totally jumps out on that front
Yeah. That contradicts this…
WR looks to be about what it was a year ago - issue will be whether a deep threat can emerge. Better OL play could obviously help there
…because last year they had one Devin Funchess, for all the good that did them. Remember when they just punted it to Funchess like six times a game because their offense was real bad and that was a good idea? I don't either.
The Grant Perry hype train continues unabated:
I'd be surprised if Grant Perry doesn't contribute some at WR. Tough to tell on Brian Cole - kind of up and down
Some nice options at wideout, with senior Jehu Chesson and senior Amara Darboh. Freshman Brian Cole was running with the second unit. I like the kid. Sophomore Maurice Ways also saw lots of action. Grant Perry was another freshman who was active.
Drake Harris was a "young guy who could help"; Peppers did not get snaps on offense, but as Revsine points out that's a thing they would likely keep under wraps when BTN visits.
DEFENSE & SPECIAL TEAMS
Relatively little here. On the DL:
Good group - rotated a lot of guys through. I think they'll once again have a very solid defense
On the secondary:
A lot of known commodities, obviously, on defense. Looks like Lyons will definitely help in secondary.
DE Taco Charlton was leading post-practice sprint drills among linemen. He is an impressive specimen.
Dienhart also provided looks at the two deep at linebacker…
The linebackers look good. One unit had senior James Ross; senior Desmond Morgan; senior Joe Bolden. Another had junior Ben Gedeon; sophomore Jared Wangler; senior Allen Gant.
One front lined up thusly today: Wormley at end; senior Ryan Glasgow at tackle; senior Willie Henry at tackle; Ojemudia at end. The other unit combo was Charlton at end; senior Tom Strobel; junior Maurice Hurst; senior Royce Jenkins-Stone, listed as a LB on the roster.
So Charlton is an SDE, which makes sense since all the other candidates to back up Wormley got moved to TE. Strobel lining up at nose(?!) would be a very, very strange thing. Would expect Godin to be the #4 DT without Mone. No mention of Marshall is odd.
Meanwhile, the secondary:
Stanford grad transfer Wayne Lyons could be a proverbial “cut-above.” The top unit today was Lewis and Clark on the edges with Peppers and Wilson at safety. The other unit had junior Channing Stribling and freshman Tyree Kinnel on the corners with junior Dymonte Thomas and Lyons at safety.
No Delano Hill or Watson mentioned; Clark pushing for the boundary spot will give me the heebie-jeebies until it doesn't.
Potential punt returners and some Peppers hype:
PR looks like it'll be Peppers and Chesson. Peppers looked great overall today and DJ Durkin said he's had an outstanding camp
PK remains up in the air - still doesn't look like an area of strength. Aussie P Blake O'Neill got off some boomers – impressive
This from Dienhart on the three PK options:
Three kickers took turns at the uprights: freshman Andrew David; sophomore Kyle Seychel; senior Kenneth Allen.
They don't know what kind of marsupial it is.
The internet helpfully pointed out that keeping wildlife, uh, a gravid marsupial, for uh, you know, domestic…
…ain't legal. Also, Mariaklots is correct. That thing is a wallaby. Shane Morris had zoobooks and knows.
— Shane Morris (@ShaneMorris_7) June 26, 2015
No word on the ferret, or which of the many splendiferous names I offered up was eventually chosen. (I have money on Ferret Bo Jackson.)
That is a man who realizes he's home, at long last. The score may only be 7-0 in the waning moments of the game, the stadium may only be half-full, this whole thing may only be an exhibition, but it's impossible to repress that smile.
[Hit THE JUMP for the spring game in GIFs, and, yes, more Harbaugh.]
Podcast? Yes. We couldn't record it yesterday because of Easter obligations. We will tape it this evening. It should go up tomorrow.
Missed it? It's on the tubes.
Ours got more attention than normal because it was so early.
The Michigan offense in one picture [Patrick Barron]
Rome was not rebuilt from atomized dust in a day. It was not good, obviously. People will tell you that the defense is supposed to be in front of the offense at this juncture… but not that far in front. When they say that they mean something like "it was a little ugly and they only ran for like three yards a carry." They mean that the final score was 17-10 or thereabouts.
They do not mean that the only offense of the day will be Amara Darboh catching fades against Poor Damn Dennis Norfleet, a 5'7" guy who hadn't played defense in college until being tested there this spring. The overall feel was reminiscent of the legendarily terrible 2008 spring game, which I didn't even go to because it was held at a high school to facilitate Michigan Stadium's renovations and still remember as the first "oh shiiiii" moment in the Rodriguez era.
To some extent this was all expected. Michigan fans have been debating between a true freshman, a guy who had 3.2 YPA last year, and a redshirt freshman who did not play. They were going up against a defense that has been pretty good the last couple years (until collapsing in exhaustion at the end of games). It was never going to be pretty.
But did it have to be that ugly? Bler!
Quarterbacks: come on down Joliet Jake. Morris was anointed the #1 QB coming out of spring by none other than Harbaugh himself, and that seemed about right after the spring game. That it did so after Morris went 11 of 24 for 5.6 YPA would have me purchasing bags of dehydrated food, water purifiers, and shotguns if not for the 99% official transfer of Iowa starter Jake Rudock to Michigan. Rudock may not be a conquering hero… but he will probably feel like one.
Malzone, the great (if vague) hope going into spring, did not look ready to challenge for the throne. I'm not on board with the arm strength complaints just yet, as those seemed to be generated by a wide receiver screen Lewis tried to jump but did not, giving up a first down on 2nd and 19 (in this game the equivalent of 2nd and Canada).
I may come around in the near future. The constant short stuff was disappointing: even his attempt at a game-saving two minute drill featured five yard hitch after five yard hitch. He did have one nice dart downfield that Chase Winovich dropped…
a linebacker linebacks even when he tight ends [Bryan Fuller]
…but that stands out as just about the only attempt Malzone made to get the ball down the field. There were a lot of doomed WR screens in there. And that two minute drill… oy. They got about 20 yards before time ran out. This is a tradition I would like to leave in the past.
One thing I'll say in Morris's favor. He's got that fade down pat. One got intercepted because Darboh didn't wall off and extend away from a defensive back and a couple more got dropped; the rest save one were completions, and I think Morris ended up leaving that one short because he got hit. The rest were on the money, in that space outside the numbers and inside the sideline where the receiver has space to play with and can detach from the DB.
That's a good location to have down, by the way. It's tough to throw and thus tough to get to for a lot of defenses. Deep outs, smash routes, corners, and those fades all end up in that general area. It's the location on the field that is the reason NFL teams go cuckoo for cocoa puffs when they find a Mallett type. Morris can buy himself a lot of leeway if that throw is as consistently accurate as it felt like on Saturday.
a lot of this [Eric Upchurch]
Run game: I don't know. Ty Isaac was all but out (he's credited for one carry I don't remember), so the Malzone team's tailback was Wyatt Shallman (12 carries, 22 yards) with spot duty from Ross Taylor-Douglas*. Shallman is more of an H-back in college and it showed.
Meanwhile, both Ace and I assumed that Derrick Green had been mostly held out with an injury of his own only to find out that he and De'Veon Smith apparently split carries down the middle. It's just that Green's 7 went for 8 yards and Smith's 7 went for 50.
Smith had a sequence early in the second half where he ran tough and his offense started getting some actual time on the field. That ended with a fumbled exchange, because of course it did. Smith never fumbled in high school and hasn't done so in college yet so that issue is probably a freshman-QB thing more than anything Smith did wrong.
If Michigan knew Isaac was going to be limited they should have swapped Green over to the Blue team to get a better feel for the competition between those guys. Either way it was a good day for Drake Johnson.
*[who has now completed his tour of all the positions you can play on a football field and can turn in his punch card for a free bag of Combos.]
The one good run. Cole gets a good push on Henry, Kugler seals away, RJS and AJ Williams battle to a stalemate, Cole gets to the second level, and Smith makes a nice out-in cut to put the other linebacker on the wrong side of the hole:
gif via Ace
If Michigan develops holes on the regular I think Smith has an advantage because his ability to grind out another two or three yards will be valuable in the Harbaughffense.
L to R: back, under threat, trying out [Bryan Fuller]
OL depth chart hints. Glasgow was back and playing center as if he had not violated his probation; the program said he'd gotten through whatever punishment the program had deployed for him. If he keeps his nose clean that should clear him to resume playing center this fall.
Meanwhile Michigan tried out Logan Tuley-Tillman as the left tackle on the blue team, bumping Ben Braden inside to guard. LTT picked up three legit holding calls; even so that implies that he's getting a serious look and Braden may move or lose his job. Erik Magnuson playing right tackle for the Maize team is another indication that the tackle jobs are not secure.
A scholarship guy who might be looking at some writing on the wall is Dan Samuelson, who was healthy enough to make the roster but IIRC did not play much, if at all. With a couple walk-ons seemingly ahead of them they might be down for the count. Bars (who I omitted from the rosters post by accident did play, at guard:
He is 62 next to Kugler [Fuller]
If you made me guess right now I'd say that Erik Magnuson is Michigan's starting right tackle this fall and that guard slot opened up by the various line shifts is the most heated competition out there. But that's firmly in wild guess territory.
Wide receivers: do we have a problem? There were a number of ugly drops, none more so than Jaron Dukes batting a ball in his facemask directly skyward for an interception. Morris zinged it with unnecessary force, yes. That's still a worst case scenario for a receiver. Dukes had another sorta drop later and doesn't seem like he'll be pushing past the established guys this year.
Elsewhere: Darboh had a drop and a fade wrested away from him but recovered late to be the Blue team offense. Going up against Dennis Norfleet significantly compromises that accomplishment, especially since most of the plays were "throw it over that guy's head," but Darboh did display strong hands and an ability to track the ball in flight in a difficult situation. Some people can do that (Junior Hemingway), and some cannot (Darryl Stonum). Darboh is in the former category. Can he get separation from the likes of Jourdan Lewis? I don't know—one downside of this format.
Receivers other than Dukes and Darboh were playing with Malzone and barely got targeted on anything notable. This year's spring hype machine, Brian Cole, was not a factor until deep into the second half; Freddy Canteen made a couple of nice catches on balls outside the frame of his body. There was not a whole lot else to talk about.
There was a notable lack of separation for receivers going up against actual defensive backs. That could be bad; it could be an indicator that the secondary is going to be as lights out as we all hope. As per usual, we'll find out abruptly in fall.
Poor Damn Norfleet. In the aftermath Harbaugh talked Norfleet up as a guy who could contribute in all three phases. Nope. The act of moving a guy his size to cornerback is waving a white flag on his career.
I mean… maybe not. Harbaugh is weird and one of the specific ways in which he is weird is his predilection for flipping guys from one side of the ball to the other. This could be a Harbaugh whim that doesn't mean much about playing time down the line. But it probably means that Norfleet is kaput. We'll always have that
punt return touchdown to seal the Maryland game inane irrelevant block in the back by someone far away from you.
BEARD. This is not Elliott, right? This is some other spectacular beard just hanging out on the sideline?
This is one Brady Hoke tradition I'm glad we're keeping.