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.]
[I jumped into the scrum mid-answer] “…I was behind both Worm and Earl [Willie Henry] both playing those. They were both great players and both playing the same position so making sure when I got my time I was making plays, got the sacks, the hurries, everything like that. I contributed a lot against the pass and made sure I was stout against the run also in that 3-4 defense. As an end I made strides and as I got more playing time I contributed more and made more plays for the team. That was something I was able to do and I’ve been waiting to do for a while. As my snaps increase as a senior and going back to [being] a 4-3 end, I believe my production is only going to skyrocket, also.”
What do you think of these new threads?
“Oh, I like them a lot. I grew up wearing Jordans since I was a little kid. My mom had me as a baby wearing Jordans. I like the look of it. Jordan’s an icon not just in a football aspect but as a mogul, as himself, he’s somebody who you can go anywhere in the world and somebody will know he’s Michael Jordan. So to have this brand paired with Michigan, which to me is also a brand iconic in itself, I feel like it’s the perfect fit.”
It still means a lot after 10 or 12 years? All that still carries something to you?
“Oh yeah. I know Jordan hasn’t played in a while but at the end of the day he’s still an icon and not only is he the greatest player of all time to play the sport of basketball but I feel the Jordan brand is not just basketball. It expanded to baseball, golf, whatever it is and now football, but NFL players have been wearing it for a while. It’s a brand where, I heard Charles Woodson say ‘excellence.’ It’s a brand you can be a part of that—it’s a small group that’s a part of the Jordan brand because of that excellence and what he stands for.”
We asked Don Brown about your weight loss. How much have you lost?
“I’ve lost about 10 pounds. I was 285. Today I weighed in about 275, so I lost about 10 pounds from last year which was because we were in a 3-4 end and now we’ve switched over to a 4-3. I’m allowed to get my speed back, get that motor going, which I felt better this spring training. It wasn’t necessarily bad weight that I had on last year, but it was baggage that I didn’t need and it allowed me to be a lot faster off the edge and get that speed that we’ve worked at.”
He said ‘Would you rather be a slug or a bullet?’ Did he say that to you?
[laughs] “Nah, I haven’t heard anything.”
So you’d rather be a bullet?
“Of course, of course. I need that speed coming off the edge. It’s something that our team needs. He wants me to be that pass rusher that we need.”
[After THE JUMP: the “Jabrill Peppers decking people” tag is more versatile than we imagined.]
It's submarine time. Yea, the beat writers will rend their garments and republish articles about Clayton Richard from ten years ago. Insider rumblings of wildly varying utility will leak out in drips and drabs. Half of them will be outright falsehoods. A quarter will be somewhat true. A quarter will be very true.
As per usual, I enter this month of the season frantically assembling data for the season preview; fall camp chatter will factor in as it always does. Here are the things I'm hoping to hear, the things that I'm hoping are never said again, and ridiculous things I'll dismiss out of hand.
if Charlton had a Happy Days spinoff it would be called Taco Loves Tacos [Eric Upchurch]
STATUS: Our tentative expectation is that the starting spots are manned by Taco Charlton and Rashan Gary. If Gary isn't ready to go you may see Wormley bounce out—I mean, you will see Wormley bounce out no matter what. But Michigan could start Hurst if Gary isn't quite ready to fight a bear. Probably not though.
THING YOU WANT TO HEAR: Lawrence Marshall and Chase Winovich are going to get their fair share of time. That's right: I'm taking the starters for granted. One is Rashan Gary. The other is a near top-100 player as of last year per PFF and my own dang charting. For both this year and next it'll be real nice if the next generation is able to make their voices heard over that noise.
THING YOU DON'T WANT TO HEAR: "I'm taking my talents to Clemson." Yes I know this is a literal impossibility now. I'm still keeping the ol' eye peeled.
ACTUAL THING YOU DON'T WANT TO HEAR: Shelton Johnson's team picture absence ends up being about a thing that terminates his career.
THING I WILL DISMISS OUT OF HAND: Any assertion Charlton will play SDE, as he did this spring. Even if Chase Winovich is a revelation there's still no depth at WDE without Charlton. Also he dropped a bunch of weight. He's your WDE.
STATUS: Glasgow is back. Mone is back. Hurst is back. They're moving Wormley inside because they can. Michigan has a two deep of NFL players if Mone lives up to a quarter of the hype.
THING YOU WANT TO HEAR: Maurice Hurst has leveled up his run defense. We've already heard all the things you can hear about Bryan Mone and I both know and expect the final boss version of Ryan Glasgow this fall. Chris Wormley is pretty much Chris Wormley, too. That leaves Hurst as the remaining wildcard amongst persons with a chance to play a bunch. Last year he was great when not met with mashing doubles or over-penetrating on stretch plays. If he can fix those two items dude will live up to the first-round expectations PFF put on him.
THING YOU DON'T WANT TO HEAR: Both nose tackles are injured and they moved the OSU game to week one. A little sick of being down multiple DTs for the OSU game you guys. The injury thing is going to get a little repetitive in this post because Michigan has a lot of established guys. There's going to be little coming out of spring practices we don't already know or, in Bryan Mone's case, haven't heard before.
THING I WILL DISMISS OUT OF HAND: Mone will start over Glasgow. Going to hear it. Have been hearing it.
Listen to me now and believe me later: Ryan Glasgow is a goddamn robot Viking. Mone's probably real real good and is going to play this fall; Glasgow is proven beyond doubt. Except radio callers. And certain internet people.
STATUS: The two ILB starters graduate and this is an area of concern... for a given definition of concern. The likely starters are fourth-year players who were highly touted recruits. While that's not a guarantee they'll be good, this is not like previous episodes of Michigan roster concern like "James Rogers is a starting cornerback" or "converted fullback and walk-on Mark Moundros might start at linebacker."
THING YOU WANT TO HEAR: "Gotdang, Mike McCray can play." A continued resurgence from McCray is the most likely way the linebacker corps is pretty all right this year. Furbush is playing outside, likely in preparation for the Iowas and MSUs and Wisconsins of the world. Devin Bush Jr is a freshman. Nobody is talking about Jared Wangler. It's gotta be McCray.
THING YOU DON'T WANT TO HEAR: Any sort of injury rumor. Linebacker is another one of the spots on the team where there's a big drop from the projected starters to the backups.
THING I WILL DISMISS OUT OF HAND: Ben Gedeon hype. I am dreading this. Gedeon didn't beat out Joe Bolden, so I am worried he literally is Joe Bolden. Therefore people saying good things about Gedeon == annual overhyped Bolden offseason. (This is potentially irrational.) I'm not saying that Gedeon can't be good. I'm saying that I'll take all praise about him with a grain of salt because he's gotta play by default and he wasn't able to break through previously.
STATUS: Jourdan Lewis returns, not worth discussing, All-American. The other side is a fierce battle between seniors Jeremy Clark and Channing Stribling.
THING YOU WANT TO HEAR: Channing Stribling is in this dimension to stay. Stribling moved ahead in his position battle this spring and like quarterback the best thing to hear is that someone is grabbing the job with authority. Since I think Jeremy Clark is pretty good I won't be upset if it's a real battle; unless Michigan gets really lucky they're not going to have three elite corners.
THING YOU DON'T WANT TO HEAR: Anything about Brandon Watson playing corner or nickel or whatever. He spotted Peppers a bit last year; this year he won't be able to do that. Given the roster his best shot is at safety, where he should be moved posthaste.
THING I WILL DISMISS OUT OF HAND: I'm still tempted to scoff at Stribling's emergence as the second corner but Michigan seems very serious about that. He might start. What I don't believe is that there won't be a role for the third corner. They're close enough and good enough that both will play.
STATUS: Two seniors with a fair amount of playing time and then a very scary drop to not many underclassmen.
THING YOU WANT TO HEAR: Dymonte Thomas is Jarrod Wilson but fast. Wilson was a safety blanket for years; one of the few things that could disrupt what looks like a killer defense is a sudden vulnerability to big plays. If anyone can protect their quarterback long enough to test the safeties.
THING YOU DON'T WANT TO HEAR: The seniors are way way ahead of any pursuit. This was the case in spring despite the presence of Tyree Kinnel, a highly-regarded recruit who seems to fit the way Brown wants to play his safeties. Now Hudson and Metellus join the fray. Ideally someone comes through as a third option and penciled-in starter next year.
THING I WILL DISMISS OUT OF HAND: Khaleke Hudson didn't kill a guy.
STATUS: Kenny Allen's back. Punter is up in the air. Return units should be Peppers Peppers Peppers, but they moved him off kickoffs late last year.
THING YOU WANT TO HEAR: Allen is a Zoltan-level boomer as a punter. This is highly possible; as I've mentioned before I've seen more punts from Kenny Allen than anyone else has in the history of backup punters. They tend to go an enormously long way.
THING YOU DON'T WANT TO HEAR: Jourdan Lewis is returning kicks. He's good at it, sure, but there are other guys who should be in his league at a not-very-important job. Those guys are not also All-American corners. Give the job to David Long or Ty Isaac or whoever.
On the other hand, Peppers returning punts is totally worth it. He saved so many yards last year just by fair catching a bunch of punts most people would have had to let drop, and he's been a hair's breadth away from busting loose for touchdowns. The gap between Peppers and the next best punt return guy is huge compared to the gap between Michigan's various kick return options.
THING I WILL DISMISS OUT OF HAND: Any Andrew David chatter that doesn't involve him pooch-punting. David was behind two walk-ons a year ago and Michigan took the unusual step of recruiting kickers in consecutive years.
It lives part II! When Homesure Lending sponsored these posts, Matt admonished me that his sponsorship was contingent on me actually doing all of them. So, yeah, next time you see him buy him a beer and get a mortgage. Matt just pinged me in case a refi made sense, demonstrating that 1) he's always on the lookout if he can save you money and 2) rates must be even more absurdly low than they were a couple years ago.
Formation notes: Michigan spent almost the entire game in nickel, as you would expect against a spread. There were only a few plays on which they deployed odd formations. Here RJS is a standup DT in a dime package on third and eleven:
This was "dime standup DT," because sometimes obvious is obvious. Michigan also had a couple plays where they walked out a bonafide linebacker over WR bunches:
But it was mostly standard stuff as Florida failed to threaten those formations.
Substitution notes: Peppers missed this game with a broken hand. Michigan moved Lewis inside and played Clark and Stribling on the outside. Thomas and Hill rotated at one safety spot next to Wilson. LB was the usual Morgan/Bolden pairing with both guys getting spotted by Gedeon.
DL was variable, with Wormley seeing time at three tech and SDE; Charlton was at WDE and SDE; RJS got a lot of WDE time. Hurst and Henry started at DT and got the bulk of the snaps. Marshall saw some snaps at WDE. Godin and Strobel saw scattered snaps on the interior. Brady Pallante even got a few plays in.
[After THE JUMP: way less data than the offense provided.]