As per usual the edition of UV right after preview week is a catchup one with some old stuff I wasn't able to get to for obvious reasons.
The very latest on injuries. Per UMBig11:
Already some good news this morning. Mone (crutches), initial return to the field was looking like week 6. That is moving up to week 5 and possibly sooner. Taco (no cast, no boot, no crutches), maybe sitting one week and at most two.
I got some conflicting information about Mone but I'm not sure what the latest is. Either way it sounds like he should be good to go for the home stretch. Everyone else except Noah Furbush has a short-term ding that is a week tops.
Also, Denard Robinson Cook dropped the spout of a French press full of tea on my now very blue toe. I am day to day.
Speight profiled. Dan Murphy talks to Wilton Speight's high school coach and somewhat infamous QB guru Steve Clarkson; Clarkson reveals that Speight was on the verge of exiting:
“There was a time when he was contemplating leaving,” Clarkson said. “He had a conversation with Coach Harbaugh and Coach just said, ‘Hell, why are you thinking of leaving? You didn’t even get a chance to compete all spring. That essentially gave him confidence that he just needed to show what he can do. Since that conversation Wilton has taken that to heart and he sort of ran with it.”
There was a period in there where I was expecting that news any moment; good for both him and Michigan that it never came.
Manuel gameday. Max Bultman follows Michigan's AD around on game day. With permission. Probably. Anyway:
Manuel is a large, swaggering man, and he’s very easy to recognize. Fans holler to Manuel and frequently ask for pictures. Usually, he hollers back, sometimes in kind, others with a “Go Blue!” He poses for a lot of photos.
At the intersection of Main and West Stadium, Manuel greets a police officer. He does this many times on game day, and it stands out. He even asks one about his wife and kids. Later, Manuel explains that he got to know the force through the late Vada Murray, a police officer and Manuel’s best friend. He doesn’t have much spare time today, but he still stops when he can, nearly always with a charismatic greeting.
That’s the nature of his Saturday: so little time, so many hands to shake and so many people to catch up with.
Manuel is described as a personable man.
Artfully phrased. PFF looks at "How Michigan State can reload its defense," which is in fact a sneaky way to deliver a pile of bad news. Topics:
- Malik McDowell is real good.
- None of the other five returning DL had a positive pass rush grade; Demetrius Cooper's Big Ten season consisted of just eight pressures.
- Linebackers Riley Bullough and Jon Reschke missed a ton of tackles, with Bullough –12.7 on the ground.
- The three starters back in the secondary, well: "In 2015, the above trio combined to give up eight touchdowns compared to 11 total passes defended, and each of the three gave up completion rates of at least 62 percent. To put this in perspective, the top player returning in the secondaries of Ohio State, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, Minnesota and Northwestern all defended at least seven passes on their own and gave up completion percentages of under 51 percent last year."
Jury's still out on improvements after MSU's struggle against a 4-7 FCS team, but improvements will have to be had if MSU's D is going to keep pace with recent performance.
Also in this department is an interesting if slightly overlong breakdown of Tyler O'Connor's performance in the MSU opener from an MSU fan:
A reader summarizes this guy's take if you don't have time to wade through that:
1) The first and biggest observation is that not once all game did O'Connor look to his 2nd read in the passing game. And I don't mean that he didn't throw to him. On literally every pass in the 2 videos (which I'm pretty sure was every throw O'Connor had), O'Connor did not turn his head away from his first target. …
2) This is probably a result of the first issue, but O'Connor held onto the ball way too long. I will say that I think the video creator was being a little too harsh on O'Connor at times, especially on some of the play action passes as it looked like O'Connor got the ball out as soon his feet were set.
First game jitters maybe, but that'll be something to look for against Notre Dame to see if there's improvement.
One-upping Brady Hoke. Never talk to me or my son again about how Les Miles would have been a good choice.
LSU had nine men on the field on a punt return vs. Wisconsin. This is the second time I’ve witnessed this phenomenon in the Les Miles era.
— Jeff Duncan (@JeffDuncan_) September 4, 2016
The Hat is very entertaining but his offense has always been a trundling wreck.
It's aggressive, but…. It's not this aggressive:
"I'd say, like, 90 percent," Stribling said.
Yes, he estimated that Michigan blitzed on 90 percent of its defensive play calls against the woebegone Rainbow Warriors.
But then Stribling kept thinking, and, man, maybe it was actually more than that.
"I don't think any play was not a blitz, besides a cover-2," he said. "And we blitzed out of that, too."
Michigan rushed four about half the time in the first half per my charting. There was some run blitzing, but it's not that maniacal. It's only fairly maniacal.
The freshman-only locker room is an odd Harbaugh thing. Another tweak like split squad practices:
Starting in camp, and lasting throughout the duration of the season, Harbaugh has his first-year players surround themselves with their peers. For a variety of reasons.
A year ago, it worked for both Newsome and Perry. In 2016, that number has taken a lift.
"It really allows you to bond as a class. You can really focus on getting better and improving your skills without having to worry about being in the older locker room and trying to compare yourself to those guys," Newsome, now a sophomore starter at left tackle, said Monday. "It really allows you to just focus on becoming a class."
There will never be tangible evidence this is good or bad. It is an interesting team morale thing.
Wisconsin has our attention. But the one downer from the weekend was an injury to starting LB Chris Orr that will knock him out for the year. That happened very early and didn't seem to have much negative impact on a very good LB corps:
Aside from a couple of miscues in which the defense allowed RB Leonard Fournette to break contain, the linebackers did a fine job of containing the Heisman candidate. OLB T.J. Watt led the way with a team-high five stops, but OLB Vince Biegel was right behind him with four. They held Fournette to only 2.7 yards after contact per rush, and that happened only three times all of last season.
I'm a little more skeptical about PFF's take on UW corner Derrick Tindal, who did indeed break up a number of (late, inaccurate) passes in the vicinity of Malachi Dupre. He looked overmatched and fortunate to me; we'll see if his performance carries over.
Etc.: How the world changed around Nebraska. Ed Davis still waiting. Phil Brabbs doing thangs. Tennessee blogs worry how much they should worry about Mike DeBord, and this was before the Appalachian State game. If you would like to know all that there is to know about Illinois football, Illini Board is the place. Xavier Simpson profiled.
Things discussed this week:
- Rolovich tells a joke media doesn't get.
- Cal-Hawaii: War of the meatball defenses.
- Taco Charlton has been Michigan's best DL via Sam. Nobody mentions this might have something to do with who's blocking.
- Speightmas: Playing within the offense is more important.
- Safety report: Khaleke Hudson is more memorable than your roommate
- Linebackers will be iffy to start; how much do they come along?
You can catch the entire episode on Michigan Insider's podcast stream on Audioboom.
THE USUAL LINKS
QB having a bad time [Bryan Fuller]
|STRONG DE||Yr.||NOSE TACKLE||Yr.||3-TECH||Yr.||WEAK DE||Yr.|
|Rashan Gary||Fr.||Ryan Glasgow||Sr.*||Chris Wormley||Sr.*||Taco Charlton||Sr.|
|Lawrence Marshall||So.*||Bryan Mone||So.*||Maurice Hurst||So.*||Chase Winovich||So.*|
|Carlo Kemp||Fr.||Michael Dwumfour||Fr.||Matt Godin||Sr.*||Reuben Jones||Fr.*|
Amongst other far more important things, DJ Durkin's departure means the end of the irritating "buck" terminology. Michigan spent all off-season talking about this crazy DE/LB hybrid who would do all sorts of things at the WDE spot. They tried that against Utah, discovered that Mario Ojemudia was as good a linebacker hybrid as Craig Roh, and settled into a completely standard 4-3 for the rest of the season. (Yes, Michigan was "multiple" as all defenses are; all non 4-3 sets were exotic changeups.)
Michigan will continue with a bog-standard 4-3 this year, especially after Taco Charlton officially moved to weakside end in fall camp. There's zero reason to drop any of Michigan's defensive ends into coverage except as a very rare curveball.
Because when they are in coverage they are not feasting on souls, as one does.
WEAKSIDE DEFENSIVE END: IN SOVIET RUSSIA, TACO EATS YOU
Ah, screw it.
a bad time [Eric Upchurch]
TACO CHARLTON doesn't have the kind of returning production that generally warrants a FIVE out of FIVE ranking in this here preview, but counting stats, man. Counting stats. Because of the "buck" dream, Charlton got locked behind Chris Wormley until late in the year despite performing excellently in limited opportunities. This persisted so deep into the season that James Ross was called on to play WDE against Minnesota. It went badly; Charlton finally got a run out at his destination this season in the aftermath.
So while Charlton acquired a modest 5.5 sacks and 8.5 TFLs, that was on just 43% of Michigan's snaps. A version of Charlton who gets 75% of Michigan's snaps instead of 43% has a 10 sack, 15 TFL season(!). And extrapolating those numbers linearly may actually understate his production: PFF has him the #1 returning end in pass-rush productivity. Number one. As in there are no better numbers to be:
After compiling only 11 pressures on 120 rushes in 2014, Charlton notched six sacks, nine QB hits, and 26 hurries (41 total pressures) on 229 rushes last season.
The #1 pass rush DE in the nation is almost certainly optimistic, but Charlton isn't an average player trying to get better. He's a very good player who is about to inherit a bunch more snaps.
In addition to already being pretty good, Charlton retains considerable upside. He didn't redshirt because reasons. He came to Michigan with a reputation as a sushi-raw moldable athlete, and despite making massive progress over the last three years the NFL still looks at him in the same way. Brugler:
Charlton certainly passes the eye test with a tall, long frame with a moldable body type to bulk up or slim down. … With his combination of strength, length and long-striding acceleration, there aren't many college offensive tackles who can control him, but scouts are looking for improved hand use at the top of his rush. Regardless, the traits make him a very attractive lump of clay that NFL teams will want to develop.
NFL.com listed Charlton amongst the top NFL prospects to watch going into this season because of his "freaky athletic traits and functional power to go with them".
Charlton can be capital-E Elite because his package of speed around the edge…
…and pocket-crushing strength…
…adds up to a tough handle for most OTs. Charlton's mostly a power rusher; the speed is more about getting to OL quickly and then using that power. He doesn't go around guys, but he's able to get upfield fast enough that a rip back inside is extremely viable.
He was also agile enough to deploy the occasional spin move in this situation. His combo of speed and power also made him a valuable bit of Michigan's stunt game a year ago. He was able to get to the point the drive man cleared out and power through an out of position OL with frequency. Charlton brings raw power not far off Hurst and Wormley; many of his rushes last year featured him pushing the pocket closed.
ESPN has a good summary:
Power-based bass rusher that does a good job of using his long arms and explosive power to get into offensive linemen's pads, and then grinds through contact. Shows above average torso flexibility and strength to work through blockers while engaged. Keeps his feet and hands moving throughout. Flashes a quick inside move to cross the OT's face. Developing an effective push-pull move late in 2015. Lacks elite speed off the edge but shows above average closing burst. … Has some shock in hands. Should continue to improve array of pass rush moves because he has the required violent hands.
Brugler says he can "convert his edge speed to power before blockers are able to sink and anchor" and praises his overall strength and power before critiquing his hand usage. You can't teach the former. You can teach the latter.
The flip side of Charlton's remaining potential is the fact that he's not quite there yet. When we get to Ryan Glasgow in a bit I'll note that I didn't clip anything resembling a mental error from him over the course of the season. The same cannot be said for Charlton. Here he's to the top of the Michigan DL and seems to forget that he's part of a stunt and needs to contain Hackenberg:
He would occasionally hesitate, unsure of what to do, and get blocked as a result. He wasn't great at keeping smaller guys away from his knees. He was more prone to pick up a minus than Wormley or Glasgow. ESPN's profile notes that Charlton "needs to be more disciplined with gap assignments" and is "occasionally late locating the ball," and both of those critiques are on point. When NFL guys note his rawness they're not wrong.
Or at least they were not wrong when talking about Charlton's junior year. After a spring where he was close to unblockable and a fall camp that generated torrents of hype, it's clear everyone around the program expects him to blow up. That includes Charlton himself:
When you’re rushing against [Bredeson], not to say that he gives you problems, but is there anything that he does that maybe is a challenge for you, specifically?
I don’t want you to dog a guy, but what is it he does that’s good?
“He’s a guy who has good hands, strong hands. Once he latches on to you he does cause problems getting off. But for me…”
Meanwhile the insiders are like dang. Lorenz says Charlton is "in line to blow up"; Webb has repeatedly referenced Charlton, not Wormley or Glasgow or Hurst or Mone, as Michigan's most impressive defensive lineman in fall camp. It's to the point where Webb is talking about Chris Wormley like this:
The newly crowned captain has taken his game up a notch, and after Charlton he has arguably been the top performing defensive lineman.
If Taco Charlton is better than Chris Wormley this year, quarterbacks might as well show up wearing a jersey that reads "MEAT PASTE."
It's tough to project Charlton's numbers since there are only so many counting stats to go around and Michigan's entire front seven will clamor for them. Really good DEs can get shut out through vagaries of circumstance—Bosa had just five sacks a year ago. Charlton should get a ton of pressures, many of which turn into numbers. Double digit sacks are a strong possibility, and those TFL numbers should easily crest double digits and approach 20. He won't last long in the draft.
[After THE JUMP: Some guy. Rashad? Something like that. ]
Is he [Rashan Gary] working on the same side as you?
“He mostly works with Worm at the Anchor side. I usually keep it to the End unless I go—I switch back and forth sometimes. Right now he’s working hard. He’s getting into film with us. He’s never scared of putting in extra work, also. He has that mindset where he wants to be good and he’s frustrated when he’s not dominating. I love seeing that out of the kid because it shows me that he wants to be great, just like I want to be great.”
What about you? How are you doing? Don Brown singled you out as one of the guys that was doing well.
“You know, it’s my senior year so—my goal is always to be the best of where I’m at, and my father always taught me never be second best to anybody. My goal’s always to be the best defensive end in the country right now, so that’s why I go out every practice and try to prove it. So far Coach Brown’s been loving it and hopefully every coach will. Like I said, I just go out there every day and practice with that mindset and hope it carries over to everybody else.”
How different is this defense with Don Brown as the coordinator, especially for the defensive line.
“We love him. We play hard for him. I think the whole defense does. He gets four of us on the field at the same time with the 4-3 defense and lets us attack, lets us play hard, lets us play aggressive and as a D-line that’s one thing you want to be able to do is play aggressive. Don’t have to worry about anything else, just out there and play and play hard, attack and make plays, and he allows us to do that.”
What’s the biggest difference for you? Is it just more knowledge and experience or are you stronger, faster, quicker?
“A little bit of all—I lost a little bit of weight, got my speed back. Got stronger in the offseason. Watched a lot of film of NFL guys. Got smarter. Met with a lot of coaches over the offseason. It’s just been a season I know I had to step up and I’ve done a pretty good job in practice doing that and being a leader on the defensive side of the ball, especially defensive line.”
Did you drop weight because you knew you were going to be on that edge and rushing again?
“Yeah, it was one of those things I got to talk to our coaches about and it’s something I really didn’t do myself. Met with Coach Mattison and Coach Brown, then I met with Coach Tolbert. Then we figured out what was that weight that was kind of in the middle—not too light, not too heavy, and it was perfect.”
What are you running now? What are your speed times?
“That I don’t know. I never was really—I was always one of the fast guys. Got a little faster.”
[More after THE JUMP]
Lot of talent, lot of talent. CBS draft analyst Dane Brugler:
I've been watching #Michigan tape all morning and I'm not even halfway through the roster. Should have double-digit draft picks next spring.
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) August 22, 2016
Per NFL scouts, Butt and Charlton(!) could be high first round picks:
I asked 6 NFL scouts for their top senior NFL prospect:
DL Jonathan Allen (2 votes), TE Jake Butt (2), DL Taco Charlton, CB Desmond King.
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) August 23, 2016
Juniors will pile in, of course, but if that holds to draft day both those guys would go in the top 15. I can't imagine it would—QBs and various other players at positions the NFL drafts higher than TE will emerge—but I be like dang anyway.
Todd McShay has Michigan third on his list of teams with the most NFL talent, and while having no idea what happened in the draft last year…
Last year, QB Jake Rudock (sixth round) was the lone Wolverine selected
…is not a great look for a draft analyst, ESPN currently projects seven players to be off the board by the end of the third round:
- #31 Jake Butt: "Has very good natural combination of size and speed to create mismatches. Adept at playing in-line (Y), flexed out (F) and split out wide. Very fluid for his size. … Gets overmatched physically at the point of attack by bigger defensive linemen."
- #33 Jabrill Peppers: "Good cover skills for a safety. Has lots of experience playing man-coverage both in the slot and on perimeter. At his best in man-coverage. Lacks elite fluidity in hips, but has quick feet and good burst. … Willing but could also be more aggressive at times. [ed: ?!?!?]"
- #39 Jourdan Lewis: "was in the hip pocket of Michigan State WR Aaron Burbridge (6th round pick, 49ers) hip pocket the entire 2015 game (stats are deceiving). Displays excellent body control and balance. Shows good deep speed on tape."
- #46 Jehu Chesson: "Very good speed for size and can threaten vertically. Gets from 0-to-60 miles per hour in a hurry. Has length and tracking ability to create matchup problems for average-to-smaller cornerbacks on 50-50 balls…. Excellent effort as a blocker. … Love watching this guy play the game."
- #56 Chris Wormley: "Excellent size and good overall strength. Shows snap in his hands and flashes ability to press offensive linemen into their backfield. … Tied for team-lead with 6.5 sacks in 2015 but 4.5 of those sacks came versus marginal offensive lines (Oregon State, Penn State and Rutgers) and his sack versus Michigan State was a protection breakdown."
- #69 Taco Charlton: "Power-based bass rusher that does a good job of using his long arms and explosive power to get into offensive linemen's pads, and then grinds through contact. … Good but not elite first-step quickness. Solid lateral agility and redirect skills for size."
- #77 Mason Cole: "Better suited for pass pro inside. … Takes good angles and has very good range. At his best as a run blocker when on the move. Has the feet to consistently win battle for initial positioning. Lacks heavy hands and is erratic with hand placement."
In addition, De'Veon Smith and Kyle Kalis(!) are ranked as fifth-rounders. Smith has no scouting and Kalis's ("Good angles. Knows assignments. Solid job locating assignments in space.") appears to be about a different person.
You'll note the omission of Amara Darboh and Maurice Hurst from these rankings. Both those guys will be draftable by the end of the year. I'd be another member or two of the secondary get there as well.
Drake Johnson is the guy you should hit with a forklift. I mean, if it's absolutely necessary. Please don't run Drake Johnson over. Or anyone, really. Do not run people over with forklifts. Yes, fine, Hitler. In that unusual case where a zombie nazi is threatening children or whatever, go ahead. Even in that situation, are we really calling a reanimated corpse "people"? I think that's not people.
Sorry, no politics.
"The world could be falling apart, and doomsday could be happening, and I'd be like, oh, look, there's a nice flower on the ground," he says.
If it were anyone other than Johnson, such positivity would feel contrived and feigned. But then Johnson waves his arms, talking with his hands like a grand raconteur, and says something like, "There's always something good in every situation," and, dammit, you've got to believe him.
If I was Drake Johnson I would get business cards with "Grand Raconteur" on them posthaste, while looking very carefully for lurking forklifts.
Around the league. Things happening in opponent camps:
- Penn State seems set to replace Carl Nassib with a couple of older guys who had 1.5 sacks between them a year ago. You'd think that would be a dropoff, but Nassib came out of nowhere a year ago.
- PSU is considering starting true freshman Michael Menet, a five star guard type.
- Rutgers QB Chris Laviano "edged" a grad transfer brought in to compete with him. I mostly mention this because I had no idea this went down last year: "Laviano will have a chance to win over Rutgers fans who had no love for him last season when he went five straight games without a touchdown pass and lost his cool by blasting them on social media after interpreting boos meant for then-coach Kyle Flood at his own show of toughness in the middle of a career-best game."
- MSU has five "co-starters" on the DL. One of them is a 275-pound DT who grad-transferred from Nebraska, a second is a redshirt freshman, and a third is a senior DE with eight career tackles. If that doesn't presage a major dropoff despite the presence of Malik McDowell I'm going to throw a shoe.
- Per Urban Meyer, H-back Curtis Samuel is OSU's "number one playmaker on offense." Mike Weber is "close" to being named the starting RB; after Brionte Dunn was booted his competition is "nah" and "???." Malik Hooker and Damon Webb are leading to start at safety; sounds like Webb is still a little combustible.
- OSU may start true freshman Michael Jordan at guard. Jordan was a well regarded recruit but not so well regarded that you shouldn't expect Michigan to wreck that dude.
[I sat down shortly after the start of Mattison's roundtable.]
"Watching them this summer, you know, we're not allowed to be around them but I'm hearing what they've done and they've really taken care of business. They've worked really hard this summer, which shows that they have the same goals for their group as we do."
How many different places are you going to use Taco, or are you going to center in on one spot for him? And talk about what he brings to the table.
"The entire group of guys by their positions, tackle and nose, end is called 'end' or 'anchor', those are the two outside guys, they know that they have to know both positions. The reason for that is teams that trade the tight end, when you're an end you become an anchor, anchor becomes an end, that kind of thing, nose and tackle—and it helps us with our rotation. We've found this out over the years and it's happened more and more—teams that run spread offense, really one of the reasons they do that is if you have a really good defensive line or experienced defensive line, they try to wear them out, they try to get that defensive line to not have the impact that it would have in a game by taking a little bit of their gas away. So we want to have the ability to plug a lot of guys into different positions.
"Also I think whenever you are at a position and you know the other positions, you know better how to play it. I think the days are over where 'I am a this position and that's all I do,' and you're going to get in trouble doing that because all of a sudden somebody goes down or gets nicked up and you need to take the next-best guy and put him in somewhere. Experience helps you with that. These kids have heard the same techniques, the same expectations for three and four years, it's easy for them to slip into another position."
And then Taco, talk about...
"Taco will start out—he played both the anchor and the end, but we'll play him more as the open-side end this year. With him playing that position will be Chase Winovich. Chase has showed some great things this spring, having never played the position, but he's a young man that we're looking for—he's got a lot of things going for him. He's very aggressive, very fast for his size, he's gotten bigger, and that gives us the two that you're looking for, at least, at that position."
And Taco, talk about his contributions, speed and size, what he brings...
"Taco's got great leverage. He's a six-foot-five guy, so he's got long leverage, which allows you to keep separation. He plays very physical. He can run. He's an athlete, he was an outstanding basketball player. And he's got great experience now. He's played a lot of football since he's been here and now I think he really feels about about—you know, he's ready to really go."
[Hit THE JUMP for Mattison answering many questions that aren't Taco talk-abouts.]