in town for free camps
- Sione Houma had a procedure done and will be recovering over the spring. He’s expected to be back for summer conditioning and fall camp.
- Khalid Hill and Drake Johnson are also injured and not participating in spring practices.
- The first practice went well; Harbaugh thought the whole day was great “with a capital G.”
- The coaching staff is still in the process of asking questions themselves; how to get better, what scheme fits the personnel, what players fit what position, etc.
- Harbaugh said nothing has been determined as far as players switching positions, so take the initial depth chart with a massive grain of salt.
- Harbaugh declined to comment on freshman ineligibility
“I have no opening statement. I wasn’t expecting a press conference. If anybody has any questions I’d be glad to attempt to answer them.”
How’d it go?
“Good. You know, it’s good to start. Feel like when you start you have- you can lay down a benchmark of where you are and it gives you a place to go forward from. It gives you a place to improve from [and] things to get better at.”
Talk about how you go about building competition in practice with some of the things you implement.
“Uh…some of the things we do to build competition? I mean, it’s football. It’s a very competitive sport.”
Are there things you do to encourage guys to…
“I’m sure there are. I’m sure there are. I don’t really have that list in front of me right now.”
You said you wanted to find out what their intent was in winter conditioning. Were you pleased with some of the results?
“Yes. Team’s in very good shape. Kevin Tolbert and his staff did a very nice job and the fellas did a nice job. You could see that throughout practice that the team’s in good condition and that gives us a fighting chance.”
Do you know how much of an install you want to do this spring versus just evaluating the guys and getting a feel for the team? Do you know how you’re going to balance that at this point?
“We’ll do both.”
How long is the evaluation process going to be?
“Daily. Every day there’ll be an evaluation process on every player in every drill. That’s on-going. That’s always.”
[After THE JUMP: the first day of spring practice, or New ThanksBirthMas]
Unlike other UFRs you may have read, this one comes with about 20x the NORFLEET! Michigan kickoffs were on Tuesday. Here's kick returns.
Michigan's deep set is usually Gedeon, Houma and Rawls then Dileo as a lead blocker (sets up opposite side of the field in case it goes there), and Norfleet returning. Houma and Rawls double the first guy to arrive while Gedeon's job is to wall off the second arrival so there's a hole between them. Up high it's like everybody else: four guys start just past the 50, two on the 40. Their job is to run downfield, then find somebody to hit and sustain that block. I'm sure Space Coyote is going to have a name for this but here's what it looks like:
After his injury Drake Johnson was replaced by Ross (vs ND) or Furman (elsewise). They change it up a lot up front. When Funchess was hurt Jackson folded back there. Hayes and Chesson rotated in at times.
Ball arrives after the...
So I kind of misunderstood a direction by Brian when I said I wanted to address special teams—he wanted stats on dinosaur punting and I thought he meant UFR all the things he doesn't.
What sparked my interest was coffin corner kicking. NCAA moved the kickoff spot to the 35 and made touchbacks start on the 25 as in incentive to cut down on kickoff return (and ensuing concussions). Inadvertently (or maybe not) they took away the advantage gained by teams with big-legged touchback machines. To regain that advantage, schools that can recruit kickers are teaching them to put the ball higher and in a spot where returners have to field it but are likely to be swallowed short of the 25 after they do.
Against CMU I noticed Wile seemed particularly good at placing balls right in that deep left corner, the same thing I've done on every football videogame ever once I mastered the timing of the kickoff bar. This seems very hard to do in real life: you need to put the ball high enough to let your coverage get there but not deep enough that they let it go through the end zone, and far enough from the sideline that it won't go out of bounds, but far enough inside of the hash that you can use the sideline as a force defender. Do it well consistently and that's perhaps 50 yards of field position a game.
It's my first time UFR'ing these so gonna have to set some ground rules:
Points: Number of points given out reflects where the play ended up, figuring 1 point roughly equals 5 yards of field position, baseline: 25 yard line.
Glossary: The "From" column is where the kick originated, given as yard line then horizontal position ("L"=left hash, etc.). "Rtn" (return) is how far the returner ran it, "Rlt" (result) is where the ball's placed. "Tchbk" (touchback) means it's on the 25. "Corner L" means they kicked it from the left hash and try to have it come down near the goal line and relatively near the sideline; "Deep L" means they just kicked it deep along the hash mark. "Center" means they kick it toward the middle and come down the same.
Things: Note that Michigan typically kicks off from the left hash despite their right-footed kicker.
Okay, got a UFR macro reverse-engineered in Xcel. Got some torrents. Got a…oh, bolded, chart-demanding subconscious, you there?
Okay let's do this.
[After the jump]
I'll miss you, #19.
|Joe Kerridge||So.*||Khalid Hill||Fr.||AJ Williams||So.||Devin Funchess||So.|
|Sione Houma||So.||Wyatt Shallman||Fr.||Jordan Paskorz||Jr.*||Jake Butt||Fr.|
Al Borges necessitates a change in season preview strategies. Previously folded into the wide receiver section, tight ends and close relatives have become so prevalent and diverse that they demand their own post and elaborate delineation of responsibilities. I have also snatched the fullbacks away from the tailback section to give a full spectrum of guys who aren't tailbacks or receivers who will see the field for Michigan this fall.
Your author's attempt to distill all the things he's heard about the guys listed above and put them into categories:
- FULLBACK: a man with a steel plated head runs into linebackers, gets two carries in his career, and has six catches. See: Kevin Dudley.
- U-BACK: A "move" tight end that motions all about, rarely lines up on the actual line of scrimmage, often goes from fullback to a flared spot or vice versa, and operates as more of a receiver than the fullback. Must be a credible threat to LBs; ends career with 40 catches. See: Aaron Shea.
- TIGHT END: Larger that the U-back, the tight end is a tight end who is actually tight to the end of the line. He comes out, lines up next to a tackle, helps him win blocks, and clobberates linebackers at the second level. He goes out into patterns as well, and may end his career with 40 catches himself. See: Tyler Ecker.
- FLEX: Sort of like the U-back in that he rarely lines up on the line of scrimmage itself, but if he motions away from his spot near the line, it's not to fullback but wide receiver. They get a billion catches and break Jim Mandich's record eventually. See: Devin Funchess is the only flex guy I can think of recently.
Complicating matters is the fact that many of the players listed above bleed into other positions: Houma, Rawls, and Shallman could be tailback-ish, Funchess and Butt will have their share of time with their hand in the dirt, tight to the end, and may even motion to fullback on occasion. In a Borges offense, things are not as they appear!
/tosses smoke bomb
Fullback is a spot where walk-ons are prevalent; Dudley mentioned above was both a walk-on and Michigan's finest linebacker eraser in the past 20 years, with only Chris Floyd offering competition. This year is no exception, as JOE KERRIDGE eased past converted tailback Stephen Hopkins last year to acquire a strong hold on the job. Judging from one of the sudden legion of shirtless photos players put on Instagram, if you encounter Joe Kerridge in the wild you should walk away slowly and hope you don't smell like salmon:
L to R: Sione Houma, Bobby Henderson, Joe Kerridge.
That plus the whole returning-starter bit should see Kerridge retain his role as Michigan's first choice when something absolutely has to die. In year one he was a little tentative, as you might expect, and there were a number of plays on which I though he was not reacting to the situation in front of him quickly enough to make an effective block. I'm still not clear on whether some of the suboptimal blocking on spread plays was because Michigan wasn't using newfangled arc blocking (ie: using your fullback or tight end to take out an exchanging linebacker and give your edge guy the edge) or because a freshman wasn't executing, but with the move away from spread elements, the job will be simpler: see man, make man wish he had taken up lawn darts.
Kerridge has a ton of potential. When he makes solid contact with guys, you can hear football:
That linebacker set up outside, Toussaint cut outside, and all the LB could do was fall over. He can bring the pain.
Kerridge had his inconsistencies. After three consecutive +3 games and a monster +6.5 against Illinois…
And Kerridge is racking up big numbers.
I may be giving him too much credit for standing up linebackers but to my eyes he really appears to be whacking them and providing the impetus for an improved under center run game. Those isos and such are
…he fell off into a bunch of games where he hung around 1 point. A large part of that was the Gardner transition; he also lost some playing time to Stephen Hopkins, who came back from injury and was given a shot to displace Kerridge. Kerridge did whiff some blocks. He got smoked for a sack in the bowl game, for one. And this inverted veer against State is something an experienced guy might decide to block the end on because otherwise there's no one else he can hit.
For a redshirt freshman it was a promising season. In year two the goal is to cut his failure rate in half and catch five passes. He'll be an interesting guy to watch in UFR. If Michigan really commits to MANBALL he could see some big numbers.
[After THE JUMP: Funchess, Williams, U-backs, we've got it all. Except upperclassmen.]
“What are you shaking your head about? Don’t start this like that. I want positive karma out of you. Hi. How you guys doin’? Heiko, what’s happenin?”
MGo: Not much.
“Always good to see you.”
MGo: It’s good to see you, too.
“You didn’t mean that.”
MGo: I’m really sad that you didn’t run any pistol formations.
“We don’t have any pistol formations. How could we run it? But if you’d like us to put them in we’ll be happy to do so just to make you happy.”
MGo: That would be great.
“Because my life revolves around your happiness if you haven’t figured that out by now.”
The first play from scrimmage was a 30-yard pass down the sideline to Amara Darboh. Was that to show people that they don’t need to worry about the wide receivers?
“Heh. No. That wasn’t what I was thinking. No, we were just thinking -- it’s always a good idea every so often in coming out on offense to try and take a ball deep. Our defense isn’t necessarily like this, but a lot of defenses will get a little reckless, you know? They’ll try and create a safety or whatever. A deep ball sometimes is a pretty good deal so we just decided at least once we were going to try and do that. That’s the reason for it.”
Previously: S Jeremy Clark, S Allen Gant, S Jarrod Wilson, CB Terry Richardson, LB James Ross, LB Royce Jenkins-Stone, LB Kaleb Ringer, LB Joe Bolden, DE Chris Wormley, DE Tom Strobel, DE Mario Ojemudia, DT Matt Godin, DT Willie Henry, DT Ondre Pipkins, OL Ben Braden, OL Erik Magnuson, OL Blake Bars, OL Kyle Kalis, TE AJ Williams, TE Devin Funchess, WR Jehu Chesson, and WR Amara Darboh.
|Salt Lake City, UT – 6'0", 227|
|Scout||3*, #5 FB|
|Rivals||3*, #5 FB|
|ESPN||2*, #4 FB|
|24/7||3*, #6 FB|
|Other Suitors||Utah, Washington|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Tim. JeepinBen writes on the new role of fullbacks, comparing Houma's future role to that of Jacob "Not Devin" Hester.|
|Notes||Tongan, not Samoan. Plays the ukelele(!)|
Sione Houma was pigeonholed as a fullback and came out of lightly-recruited Utah, so there isn't much out there about him aside from the occasional basic scouting report and one pretty fanciful comparison($) to Stanley Havili, the former USC fullback who specialized in turning basic wheel routes into touchdowns in the era when Trojan opponents were going 11-on-1 versus Reggie Bush. That:
…reminds me of former USC fullback Stanley Havili, who also is from the Salt Lake City, Utah, area. Houma has great hands catching passes out of the backfield and enough speed to get the corner. He has a great frame to add weight to as well.
Havili had offers from USC, Oregon, Nebraska, and others, a four-star ranking from most places, and was universally the top guy in Utah that year. Houma's down the list, and didn't have any other offers from power-type programs. So probably not Havili.
That's not to say Houma is just another roughneck who moves like a dump truck when he gets the ball. His high school team ran a flexbone triple option in which Houma was the A-back—the guy who plunges up the middle over and over again. He got the plurality of carries in that offense, and he has the potential to be a ball carrier if things break that way. Hey, let's hear from Fred Jackson!
"He is the real deal. He can run the football. He is powerful. He is going to be a very good football player. he is very physical for a guy his size," Jackson said. "And you know he is around 220 (pounds). He is a very physical and has great skill. He is really a half-back on film, but he will play fullback."
"…and he can transform into a Dairy Queen."
ESPN does think he's got the ability to pick up those little chunks of yards($) as long as he's not asked to dodge someone:
Houma is a tweener fullback/tailback prospect …durable and tough but will need to add bulk to adjust if recruited to play fullback. Has better burst than top-end speed but is just fast enough at the high school level to not get caught from behind on long runs. … lacks great cutback vision and patience. … Quickly gains north-south momentum through the hole; little hesitation. … Physical downhill runner with good lower-body power and balance. Breaks through consistent first contact. …Minimal elusiveness in the openfield. … Will not be a perimeter threat at the major college level. …brings valued versatility to a two-back offense.
His coach is more positive, as is the way of things. He also makes Houma out to be a potentially useful ballcarrier:
"Just from what I have seen from last year to this year, he's got some speed, quickness and niftiness to him that it would not surprise me to see him in a bigger tailback spot where maybe they need to pound a little bit. I think he could fit that role as well."
"I think he could be 235 in a heartbeat and still retain a lot of that speed and quickness," Benson said. "I've seen him increase [his speed] just over the past year and he's gained 10-12 pounds in that time."
Elsewhere his coach notes "great hands" and the fact that he's a "good blocker" before mentioning this:
"Like when he runs, he keeps his feet moving, and that's always key; he lowers his pad level and will really hit you."
His coach told Sam Webb something similar:
"…a real nifty runner as far as being as big as he is, but he can also just lower his shoulder and run right over the top of you. He has got some power, some agility, definitely got some quickness and speed to him.
…what makes him so tough in our offense is that he does hit north and south and once he gets his shoulders turned, people have a hard time stopping him.”
Offer: explained. Rawls may have that sort of pile-pushing, leg churning short-yardage power but no one else on the roster is that kind of burrower and Michigan would like a guy that can do that and block and catch besides.
I'm serious about this Whipsaw Offense stuff. Houma is another piece, and one that Borges has proven he'll use in the past if it seems like a good idea($):
The fullback in Borges' previous offense at San Diego State accounted for the most fourth rushing yards and third most receiving yards on the team in 2010.
And that was the good SDSU year under Hoke, so that wasn't an "oh crap toss it short" thing. A guy like Houma is a viable target when you're flippin' your jibbers. TTB strikes on his real appeal to the coaches:
He's not huge and he's not particularly fast, but he's got a little bit of this and a little bit of that. He shows an ability to adjust to the ball in the air on short passes, he has a little bit of vision, he breaks away for an occasional long run, and he breaks some tackles in the process. …runs with a great forward lean when going through traffic. Since he's not particularly tall, that means anybody who hits him in the shoulder pads is bound to go backwards. …probably doesn't have the speed to break 50-yard runs or receptions, but he does have the ability to outrun linebackers and turn a 4-yard swing pass into a 10- or 15-yard swing passes.
Each of these guys covered in the big athlete category is a slightly different big athlete doing slightly different things, and we're about to hit Dennis Norfleet, who is by no means a "big athlete" but also promises to be a guy who does slightly different things than anyone else on the roster. Then next year you've got Butt and Hill coming in to add to the fun. Whipsaw, yo.
Etc.: Trades spring break time for service. Random quote:
"I just said thank you for your service. I think that is the ultimate sacrifice," said senior Izzy Washburn. "I also drew a giraffe. Everybody likes giraffes."
Houma, resembles a muscle car: It gains momentum as it accelerates, but with handling capable of diverting contact and racing to the end zone.
Why Matt Asiata? I don't keep a close eye on fullbacks around the world and there is no real comparable I can think of at Michigan. He's not at all BJ Askew-sized, he should be more than a Dudley-esque thumper, he's more likely to beat a linebacker on a wheel than Hopkins, and Aaron Shea is all wrong, too. (Also I'm saving Shea for Khalid Hill.) I thought about Brandon Minor, who's about the same size, but "great forward lean" and Brandon Minor are diametrically opposed concepts.
I do remember a squat, thick dude who went up the middle over and over again at Michigan Stadium a few years back… it's just that he was playing for Utah. Matt Asiata was a crunching FB/RB for the Utes and gashed Michigan for almost six yards a carry in that 2008 game just by running through tackles. I thought it was a little dubious to pull him up since I remember him being enormous, but apparently he was 5'11", 220. If Houma ends up contributing at a max level for M it'll be as a short-yardage, grinding change of pace back and thumping blocker, like Asiata.
If we really want to get crazy with the whole Whipsaw Offense thing, Asiata saw a ton of his carries as a wildcat QB.
Guru Reliability: Moderate. Agreement, but fullback from Utah.
Variance: Moderate. Realistically will be a role player, but has pretty-important-role-player upside.
Ceiling: Low-plus. Role player of some variety, possibly important
General Excitement Level: Low-plus. Fullback, but a guy who they recruited to do more than dump truck people. While I generally hate fullback offers I can understand this one as part of Michigan assembling a Swiss Army Knife roster for Borges to do diabolical things with.
Projection: With Hopkins and redshirt freshman Joe Kerridge around, a redshirt beckons. After that it's another year behind Hopkins before sort of battling for the job as a redshirt sophomore. I say "sort of" because there's probably two slightly different roles for fullbacks in the new Michigan offense, one a traditional walk-on cruncher who leaves "two inches shorter than they came in" as Brady Hoke requested on Signing Day, the other more of a Shea/Havili/Asiata versatile H-back type who can take on a linebacker in the hole or flare out, etc. He's likely to play 15-30% of Michigan's snaps for his final three years, may end up a short yardage back, and will be a redzone option on play action.