Devin, I'm sorry about Funchess. Everybody liked him. I'm sorry.
Red or Blue. A week after a program-shattering loss turns fandom into an election year, with wins taking the place of electoral votes. This year's ballot has close races in quarterback, head coach, and AD, as well as referendums on blocking style, tempo, and punt formations.
On Saturday night those races appeared decided when everybody departed with eight minutes left of a two-score game against an opponent Michigan was outgaining. They'd seen the jewel of Rich Rodriguez's recruiting wasting an NCAA gift of a senior year in a new offense that still treated him like Tom Brady, so shell-shocked by years of abuse that any peripheral motion triggered desperation.
Then Shane, and the interception came, followed by the rain, and you could count the Hoke supporters by picking out the few hundred dots of blue or yellow between the blob of red. Everybody else looked at the scoreboard, looked at the radar, and recalled Michigan huddling—huddling!!!!—and calculated the obvious move. The 98,000 empty seats were a consensus: Hoke probably has to go, and Dave Brandon absolutely has to go first. The moment was stark, but it couldn't last, because stupid hope and the will to support your team is stronger than your brain's ability to store information it doesn't want.
The fanbase needs to have this conversation, and the diaries did just that. ST3 posted a curtailed Inside the Boxscore wherein his kid's quotes provided the subheads:
"Another huddle? Really?"
* Seriously, my son actually said that. I don't think he reads MGoBlog, and I hadn't said anything about tempo or huddling. So if a 9-year old can watch Utah succeeding with pace, watch Michigan plodding along, and gets exasperated at the huddling, why can't Brady figure this out?
Jhackney got home and thought about spiritual cleansings and what kind of coach doesn't wear a headset:
Dave Brandon is a whiz at marketing and salesmanship and Hoke is a whiz at clapping his hands while keeping his ears the same color tan of his face and running a clean program. There needs to be a coach that is involved in at least one side of the ball. Saban would mutilate your skull with his championship rings if you tried taking his head set away.
Every coach has inherent flaws—Nick Saban is an offensive dinosaur and doesn't care about his players beyond what they can do for him. It's whether the good things overcome those flaws. Hoke makes his program worse by willfully ignoring fundamental developments like the spread offense, tempo, the shield punt, and game theory. He and Mattison make it better by running it clean, recruiting excellent players and people, and building a strong defense. Like with political candidates, everybody's flawed; it's whether their angels or demons will come out ahead.
Best and Worst saw the fruit of Hoke's demonic seeds:
No, what killed my optimism about this team and this staff, about this program as it is currently stumbling through another shitty year, is how absolutely true-to-form it is to the dreams of the men in charge.
[…lights out on the Titanic.gif]
Ron Utah made the obvious comparison: we are experiencing a reverse Rich Rod. I'll add Bill Martin reversed to Dave Brandon and liken it to the classic two-party problem. Martin and Rodriguez alienated the crucial top of the fan pyramid with their Whiggish football ways, an inability to commit to a defensive faith resulting in total bedlam. Brandon went the other way; his Tory pandering alienated the students (SaddestTailgateEver on another little hoarded thing) and entitled alumni (dnak438 on his noodle exchange with Brandon) while Hoke's offense and special teams have repeatedly been derailed by dogma trumping sense.
Given most of the week to calm down, jmdblue wrote that he'd rather give Brady one more term to work things out while the upstarts drown themselves in their own corruptions. Unless someone can convince Colin Powell to run.
Etc. Alum96 reviewed the 2012 recruiting class to see if there was a development issue. If you don't compare against other schools though it means nothing, since most recruits don't play to their star rankings. Average size of each B1G team's offensive line starters. GIF about punting. Regular stats make M look good (see: outgained ND and Utah).
9/20/2014 – Michigan 10, Utah 26 – 2-2
[GIF via Ace]
We have a grainy screenshot that symbolizes the demise of the Carr era. It's a zone stretch against Ohio State on which every Buckeye has slashed through the Michigan line.
Michigan would trundle to fewer than 100 yards of total offense. Chad Henne's shoulder was separated and he was still the best available option because the only other was a freshman version of Ryan Mallett who fumbled 20% of the under-center snaps he took and got in screaming matches on the sideline. That's because the quarterbacks recruited after Chad Henne were Jason Forcier and David Cone.
By the time that Ohio State game rolled around Michigan had desperately talked Alex Mitchell out of retirement so they could start him. In that context that shot is barely surprising. And then Carr went out and beat Tim Tebow, because nobody got off the mat like Lloyd Carr.
We have just received the grainy screenshot that will symbolize the demise of the Hoke era.
As you've no doubt screamed into a pillow about already, there are ten men on the field as Utah returns a punt for a touchdown. I'm not sure that even matters since two of them are within 30 yards of the guy when he catches the ball.
This site has been complaining about the punting since Hoke's hire, and it has cost Michigan dearly in two losses—Ace Sanders also returned a punt for a touchdown in South Carolina's last-gasp Outback win—and seen Michigan dawdle at the bottom of punt return yards ceded the last two years.
Worse than the yards given up has been Brady Hoke's approach when challenged about it. Never has he given a justification that's even remotely plausible. Once he said he wasn't comfortable with it. At the time I said this was a crappy answer, and it remains a crappy answer:
MGoFollowup: What’s your opinion of the spread punt formation vs. the traditional punt formation?
“Uh, we don’t use it.”
MGoFollowup: Is there a rationale for that?
“I think, you know … I’m more comfortable with what we use. That’s the rationale.”
When pressed a couple weeks ago he said "I don't want to talk about it."
As we get more data about Brady Hoke's tenure that seems less like an isolated crappy answer than the whole damn thing. Anybody with a spreadsheet and an ability to tell up from down could have put compelling evidence of the spread punt's efficacy in front of Hoke's face. Maybe they did.
It wouldn't have mattered. Brady Hoke isn't defending it, so you can't argue back. "We don't do it because we don't do it" is an unassailable position. It is not a rationale.
So it goes. Michigan has settled into a pattern of doing nonsense things, from everything on offense last year to the punting to their continuing, shocking inability to go faster than a waddle. That stat from last week about how Michigan was faster than only Army amongst D-I teams is astounding. Michigan had spent an entire half down three scores, and their tempo was still nationally worst. These things all come from the head coach.
When Michigan goes down by ten, it's over. Lloyd Carr isn't walking through that door. You want to talk leadership and toughness? Leadership turns a mob into an army. And Michigan is no army.
The worst thing is I don't really feel that bad. My main problem at the moment is the fact that I have to write this column, and then somehow eight more, and analyze a team that is unlikely to go anywhere and talk about a coach who is 95% dead man walking. I bet you can't wait for "Yup, Almost Certainly Still Fired: Episode VI". Here is the otter.
HENRI THE OTTER OF ENNUI: this does not break the record for earliest appearance
I fired off some hot takes in the stands, as did large numbers of the people around me, but once I was out of the stadium it was like "okay, now I can go do something else."
I even watched football after! A Michigan loss is supposed to be a weekend-ruining event that makes the idea of watching more football an impossibility. Now it's not a big deal, possibly because I don't recognize whatever Michigan is doing as football. I cannot be reminded of Michigan when turning on Clemson-FSU because Clemson and FSU aren't playing sludgefart.
I know this isn't an aging and maturing thing because 1) obviously and 2) I almost died just a few months ago when Kentucky hit that three-pointer. There's just nothing there to care about. So you show up, and you shrug, and you get annoyed, and then you go home. Sometimes you get wet. Meh.
It was appropriate that Hoke's downfall came amidst a biblical deluge. The Hoke era started with one against Western Michigan. The game was over when the lightning came, but I stayed. A bunch of students did, too, roaring and chanting. When the game was over the stadium was still half-full.
There was no thought of that Saturday. Everyone except the players' parents, Utah fans, and the clinically insane cleared out as soon as the stoppage was announced. Maybe half of them had already exited before the lightning hit.
When Michigan returned to play in front of the obligated and deranged, it looked like the future had finally been created.
Take the cosmic hint.
When Can We Fire This Guy Section
There is still a small (very small) chance that Michigan pulls its collective head from its collective rear and gets to 9-3, at which point a transition is probably not happening. Anything short of that and it's goodbye. Hoke is at the point where you extend or fire him and you can't extend a guy who went 8-4 in the worst Big Ten ever, presumably went 0-3 against major rivals, had at least two humiliating blowouts starring coaching incompetence.
But please don't bring up a midseason canning. Those are reserved for severe breakdowns of authority. Most importantly, firing Hoke now erases any chance there's a new athletic director by the time Michigan embarks on a coaching search.
John Beilein Being Good At Coaching Points Of The Week.
#1 Jourdan Lewis had an outstanding game, chasing things down that other people screwed up and hunting Utah wide receivers like they were weakened alpacas.
#2 Willie Henry scored Michigan's only touchdown and was part of a forceful Michigan defensive line.
#3 Devin Funchess powered through an obvious injury to bring in a number of spectacular catches and would have had an even more impactful game if Gardner was not having one of the worst games of his career.
Honorable mention: Ryan Glasgow, Frank Clark, Brennen Beyer.
Epic Double Point Standings.
7: Devin Funchess (#1, APP, #1 ND, #3 UT)
5: Jourdan Lewis (#2 MIA, #1 UT)
4: Willie Henry(#2 ND, #2 UT)
3: Derrick Green(#1 MIA)
2: Devin Gardner (#2, APP)
1: Ryan Glasgow (#3, ND), Brennen Beyer(#3 MIA)
0.5: Kyle Kalis (T3, APP), Ben Braden (T3, APP)
Trey Burke Against Kansas Of The Week.
For the single individual best moment.
FAT GUY TOUCHDOWN
mr henry this is an internet meme it's not my fault please don't destroy me [Fuller]
For all the good it did. ESPN briefly gave Michigan 12 points they were so astounded, which should be the FAT GUY TD rule.
Honorable mention: Nope!
Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.
AppSt: Derrick Green rumbles for 60 yards.
MIA: Derrick Green scores a goal line touchdown without being so much as touched.
Utah: Willie Henry FAT GUY TOUCHDOWN.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
Worst. Event. Ever. This Week.
Miami takes back a punt 66 yards after Michigan obliges with a line drive punt and two gunners. Oh, and they only put ten guys on the field.
Honorable mention: Interceptions. Fumbles. Hellacious rain. Everything.
AppSt: Devin Gardner dares to throw an incomplete pass.
ND: Countess nowhere to be found on fourth and three.
Miami: You did what to Funchess now when?
Utah: lol ask Brady about punt formations again
[After the JUMP: woo! naw just kiddin'.]
Extremely important fainting goat update. The conversation did not quite go as asserted yesterday, but it's pretty great anyway:
“He told me the play of the week, the special teams funky deal, was a fake punt – the Fainting Goat,” Mays said. “In my mind, I was like, ‘What’s that?’”
Said Paschall: “Book, you’re going to be the goat.”
“I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ What is he saying?” Mays said.
“I was talking to the guy across from me, saying, ‘Wow, there is some thick air down here in Miami,” Mays said.
God bless Arkansas State.
BEAT THE DRUM EVERYBODY. Ineligible man downfield complainin' is welcome wherever I find it. Pete Roussel notes an egregious event in the Alabama-USM game:
yes the penalty is called when the ball is thrown but not caught; still geez
Remember last year when Taylor Lewan engaged a guy about three yards behind the line and drove him so far downfield he got a penalty and everyone clucked at him about how he had to know better? Why would he have to know better? I think he would not have to.
Offenses are brutally effective already without adding blocking linebackers ten yards downfield on pass plays to their docket.
BEAT THE DRUM PART 2. Yes, we are going to beat this dead horse until it sends seven guys downfield on the snap. "Shield" punting, which we've called "spread" around here because I'm sure you can figure it out*, has taken over college football. Michigan is an exception, and apparently so is Texas. They ate a 45-yard punt return before UCLA's winning drive after lining up like so:
This is actually a little more spread-ish than Michigan, but eight Longhorns are behind the LOS when the ball is kicked.
Like Michigan, the bad way stats are kept somewhat conceals the issue here. Not only does Texas give up a lot of yards per return, they give up a lot of returns, period:
UT’s 10.3-yard-per-punt-return average allowed isn’t miserable — although it ranks 88th out of 128 FBS teams — but the Longhorns are allowing a greater number of punt return chances under Vaughn, and as the UCLA punt shows, a reason could be because his players are late getting downfield. The nine punt returns against UT this year is tied for fourth-most nationally while the Longhorns’ 93 total punt return yards allowed puts them tied for 115th.
Strong used a spread punt at Louisville to good effect; no idea why he's not doing the same thing at Texas.
*[Bizarrely, coaches keep telling me that it is Michigan's NFL-style punt game that they know as "spread." I reject that lingo and all its works. You don't get to call it that. That makes no sense. Unlike coaches who don't want to use seven gunners, I insist on making sense.]
Also in Texas but better? Four minutes left is a weird amount of time to have in a game. If you're leading and on offense, you need a first down at all costs. If you're leading and on defense you want to prevent the other team from scoring, but if they're going to score you want them to do it quickly, not after 3:58 has left the clock. The paramount thing is to get (or keep) the ball.
So a lot of offenses will grunt their way to a third and seven and then take their shot. Strong elected for a different path:
When Texas got the ball at 4:17 with a four point lead and chose to go "tempo", the ensuing three and out and minimal clock burn was widely panned on the web and in the traditional media. Of course, it didn't matter. UCLA scored in about nine seconds on a punt return followed by a good play call against tendency.
Texas had just scored to go ahead with the aid of a hurry-up no huddle; a UCLA player misaligned on a 30-yard run. They continued that with the lead and 4:17 left, and that's… odd. But if you think that's the best way to get a first down, that's at least defensible. Of course, when you lose five yards on a run up the gut you're not going to be bleeding much of anything.
Upshot: coaches don't place enough emphasis on having the ball last when they're in a one-possession game. They're willing to bleed down the field for an opposition four-minute drill instead of being aggressive, and they place minimally useful timeout-sapping over a greater chance of getting a first down.
A stupid reason but okay. We're now talking about revoking the NFL's non-profit status because of "Redskins"?
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) announced Tuesday that she will introduce legislation to eliminate the NFL’s tax-exempt status because of its refusal to address the name of the Washington Redskins.
While I also find the name distasteful, why don't we revoke the NFL's non-profit status because it in no way fits the definition of a nonprofit enterprise? The idea that the NFL can skate on millions of dollars in taxes because [no reason given] is equally offensive. Possibly more so, because one situation is a private enterprise being offensive and the other is the government being idiotic.
I mean, if there's one class of industries you can tax the living hell out of without seeing them move their labor force, it's pro sports.
It's profile o-clock. Jeremy Clark:
"Of course everyone wants to play, but (last year) I was still learning the process and there were guys in front of me who knew the calls and everything, so you can't get mad if you don't know what you're supposed to be doing out there," Clark said. "This year, I feel like I'm learning it well."
“The thing you realize quickly about Bryan is the genuine concern he shows for everyone he comes in contact with,” said Benson, Mone's prep coach at Highland High School in Salt Lake City. "And it's genuine. He truly cares about everyone around him. I don't know if I've met a kid with a bigger heart.
"He's one of a kind. Truly one of a kind."
"My brother has always been my motivation, because growing up he couldn’t really feed himself or do all types of stuff, so I had to grow up soon enough to help out my mom and my sister,” said Mone, who had another older brother who died from leukemia.
Mone began caring for his brother in earnest in sixth grade, but didn’t feel comfortable with all his responsibilities until a few years later.
“I started getting used to it in junior high,” he said. “I knew what I had to do to take care of him.”
Designated official site softball-tosser on Jack Miller:
Jack Miller is many things.
He's best known as the starting center and anchor of the offensive line for the University of Michigan football team. But he's also a political science major, and thinks he might someday become a lawyer or run for public office.
He's a music lover -- especially Dave Matthews and jam bands -- and takes aim during deer and duck hunting seasons.
Miller also is the great-nephew of former Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who texts him after every game and remains a huge inspiration.
Spence suspended further. Noah Spence's ecstasy suspension was three games, and now it's at least four after he failed a test before Kent State. If Ohio State follows the usual policy here he would be out for the year, as most teams go 1) nothing, 2) one game, 3) quarter of a season, 4) whole season for failed drug tests. Spence has apparently entered rehab.
But you have a legitimate reason! I don't understand why Brady Hoke keeps saying things like "I don't feel like it" and this latest…
Brady Hoke: “You can say something about (injuries) and you’ll be wrong.” Hence his silence on them.
— Alejandro Zúñiga (@ByAZuniga) September 17, 2014
…when asked about injuries. He has a legit reason. He can just say "I don't want to help Utah prepare for our game by telling them which personnel we'll have available." This is 1) the truth and 2) not insulting to the intelligence of anyone coming across his answer.
It is not good when your contempt for the media gets in the way of obviously better and more honest answers. See: Gibbons, Brendan.
Etc.: Tip times set times set for a number of basketball games. Article on how Michigan sticking by Devin Gardner despite "fans' pleas" for Shane Morris cites no fans pleading for Shane Morris. In fact cites reporter's question about Shane Morris indirectly by including Nussmeier answer to it.
Takeaway: offenses were so potent by the 1950s that teams would punt on normal downs to gain field position, and the opponent wouldn’t have a guy ready for this.
Michigan’s outmoded punt formation is a horse we’ve been beating since Hoke’s first year despite it being about as dead as, well, NFL-style punt formations in college football. In light of last week’s punt-o-rama first half I got a question from a reader asking if we’d actually explain what the difference is between them and why one is better than the other.
So yeah, let’s do that, with the foreknowledge that Hoke isn’t going to change no matter what we say or prove; this is so you’ll know what you’re seeing only.
Here’s the punt formation that Michigan uses:
Like all things in football there’s a hundred different names and minor variations on it but the gist has remained the same since a time before the word “pattern” was replaced with “formation.” It follows the same rules as normal downs: seven men on the line of scrimmage, four in the backfield, with the backs plus ends on the line counted as eligible receivers. Since the snapper has to concentrate on that he typically doesn’t figure into the punt protection scheme except as a bonus dude to get in the way or cover a lane. The O-line does the front-line blocking, with a couple of wingbacks to protect against an edge rush and an up-back on the “leg” (…of the punter) side to catch anything that comes through, like an RB in pass pro, reading inside-out.
This protection scheme has worked for two generations and remains pretty safe from all kinds of punt blocking attacks unless a block is blown. It packs guys in the middle and on the outside the blockers mostly just have to keep rushers from getting inside before the punt is off. The two “ends” (wide receivers, really) are gunners, releasing downfield on the snap to attack the returner before the ball arrives and he can set up his blocking.
The NFL still uses this formation because they have to:
During a kick from scrimmage, only the end men, as eligible receivers on the line of scrimmage at the time of the snap, are permitted to go beyond the line before the ball is kicked.
Exception: An eligible receiver who, at the snap, is aligned or in motion behind the line and more than one yard outside the end man on his side of the line, clearly making him the outside receiver, replaces that end man as the player eligible to go downfield after the snap. All other members of the kicking team must remain at the line of scrimmage until the ball has been kicked.
Translation: only the two outside guys can be gunners; everyone else on the punting team can’t release downfield until ball leaves foot. This was an attempt to cut down on injuries, figuring it’s best to keep as many collisions between high-speed NFL bodies to short range meetings in the backfield.
[After the jump: niche opportunity leads to adaptation]
- Boo boo watch: Courtney Avery and AJ Williams are back at practice. This is not a drill.
- Boo boo watch part 2: Taylor Lewan didn't practice yesterday but will today. He's fine. Mario Ojemudia will be the most limited of the boo boo watchees. I don't know if he'll play.
- The offensive line is in an introspective phase. Changes might occur as early as this week. However, the bye week presents a much better opportunity to shake things up.
"Good practice yesterday. Thought we came out and competed very hard, which you expect every day. But I thought we physically were getting after each other, and we'll do the same thing today. We've got to play the run better, run the ball better, same old stuff you always hear, but it's the truth and it is what it is. I liked how we came out and competed with each other."
Noticeably different from last week?
"On a Tuesday? Probably a little bit."
A lot players said last Tuesday was lackluster. Can you tell that?
"They would know best if they felt that way. Maybe it's an individual thing, too."
Can you talk about UConn's defensive front?
"Yeah they're a big front. Not quite Notre Dame big in some ways, but they're a big front. Active in the linebackers. I think Smallwood is a guy who is their main bellcow when it comes to tackling and getting the ball on the ground. Just reading some of the comments Paul has made, I know they want to play better against the run also. I'm sure they've worked their tails off like we are."
Did Taylor Lewan practice?
"He didn't do anything yesterday. He did some alternate conditioning stuff, but he'll practice today. He's fine."
|Kicker||Yr||Punter||Yr||Kickoffs||Yr||Punt return||Yr||Kick return||Yr|
|Brendan Gibbons||Sr*||Matt Wile||Jr||Matt Wile||Jr||Dennis Norfleet||So||Dennis Norfleet||So|
|Matt Wile||Jr||Kenny Allen||Fr*||Brendan Gibbons||Sr*||Drew Dileo||Sr||Drew Dileo||Sr|
Oh man. Despite the season-long suspension of Will Hagerup, Michigan has depth at both kicker spots and moves Dennis Norfleet into both return jobs. Brendan Gibbons will aim for a top five spot in the history of Michigan kicker accuracy; Matt Wile has established himself as a consistent B+ punter (at least), and Wile's being pushed by a freshman who's been booming them since spring practice.
This could be good. As long as they cover someone and block someone. Right. That bit.
Gibbons year by year
If BRENDAN GIBBONS continues his meteoric rise at the same rate he's improved over the last two seasons he'll be 6/6 on 60+ field goals and win the Heisman. This… is not likely. But a Groza finalist spot actually is, or would be except for the fact that Brady Hoke hates field goals. (Woo!)
Let's review: as a redshirt freshman, Gibbons was 1/5 on mostly chip-shot kicks, paving the way for other kickers to be about as bad. Michigan all but abandoned the idea of kicking field goals longer than 30 yards, and when Hoke was hired the first thing on many people's minds is "they HAVE to get a kicker, right?"
Brady Hoke gave Gibbons a hearty back-slap, transferring a millionth of a percent of his confidence to the beleaguered freshman, and lo, the next season he was 13/17 with his clutch kick winning the Sugar Bowl. As a junior, his range improved and he hit 16 of 18 field goals, including a 52-yarder. In terms of basic accuracy his 2012 was the third-best in Michigan history, behind only John Carlson in 1989 and Kicking Competency Lopata in 2007—and Lopata's long that year was 42. (MGoBlue doesn't have a long for Carlson.)
In terms of advanced stats, Michigan's field goal efficiency was 12th nationally. (Matt Wile did help out by hitting 2 of 3 long ones.) That's even more impressive when you consider that it was held down by Brady Hoke's tendency to scoff at long field goals, pull out a slab of meat, tear off a chunk, and scream "GIVE ME A FIRST DOWN OR GIVE ME DEATH!"
I may be excessively enthusiastic about Brady Hoke's aggressiveness.
Anyway, Gibbons is all but automatic now. He's tied for ninth all-time in FG% at M despite the awful start; the Hoke version of Gibbons would be a solid #1 at 83%. He should press into the upper reaches of the record book with a season similar to 2012, except that kickers are weird and can implode at any time. Brady Hoke emanates calm, though, so that is not likely to happen.
And Michigan has a great backup option in MATT WILE, who nailed a 52-yarder himself in the bowl game. He's the starting punter and kickoff guy—he can just kick things, often a great distance. Even if Gibbons shorts out Michigan will be turning to a guy who they can expect success from. So yeah, I'm breaking out the 5 even if this means I'll be building a moat if things go wrong this fall. YOLO.
[After THE JUMP: Norfleet! Norfleet! Norfleet! (Matt Wile. Terrible punt coverage.)]