What are your thoughts about this week’s game?
“Well, it’s a big game, obviously. It’s the next game. It’s a very well coached, good football team. Got a big offensive line. They take pride in running the football. They’re, like I said, well coached and good running back and quarterback’s done very well, the freshman—redshirt freshman. They’ve got a number of tight ends that are all good football players, so this’ll be a big test.”
MGoQuestion: Wisconsin’s offensive style is fairly different from what you’ve faced the last few weeks. How does that impact your line rotation, if at all?
“Well, we’ll always rotate, you know, because the guys have earned the right to rotate, and we feel like they’re playing to be able to go in there. It always helps if you’re fresh. You always can benefit from what one guy tells you when he comes off, how they’re blocking you. But it is, you’re right, it is different. The fast pace of spread offense and then go from that to this style of offense is totally different.”
Your thoughts on getting Taco back and how he looked?
“It’s great to have him back. I’m very, very proud of him. I’m proud of our training staff. I mean, he worked so hard at getting back. Spent countless hours in the training room and you could see out there it was good to have him back.
“He’s had a good week of practice and he’s a senior now. He’s got things to prove and that’s what he’s working for. I was really proud of how much time and how much effort he did to get himself back. That tells you how important it is.”
How do you look at Rashan Gary as far as his progression over the first four weeks?
“He’s getting better every game. He’s getting better. He’s working really hard. And again, I mentioned this once before but one of the key things with Rashan is to have role models like Chris Wormley and Taco. He sees them do it right, and if he doesn’t—not that he doesn’t—but if he doesn’t do it he sees, okay, this is how it’s supposed to be. It’s not having to pull up a highlight tape or something like that to show him. He’s working very hard, and I’m very proud of him also because he knows how important this is for the seniors and the kids ahead of him and he’s doing everything he can to help this team.”
[After THE JUMP: Bryan Mone is practicing,Chase Winovich sneaks into the weight room, and Jourdan Lewis is Jourdan Lewis]
9/24/2016 – Michigan 49, Penn State 10 – 4-0, 1-0 Big Ten
Two years ago this game featured Dennis Norfleet dancing, a lot of bad football, and a series of increasingly boggling in-game decisions. Brady Hoke and James Franklin engaged in bad decision tennis, lobbing ever more ludicrous balls over the net and daring the opposition to top it. There was no winner—there is never a winner in bad decision tennis—but Michigan did not lose. They won the game, and the tennis match was called on account of forgetting to breathe sometimes.
Fast forward two years and things are a little different for one of these teams. Jim Harbaugh's taking timeout in case Jabrill Peppers can get a punt return in and asking to review a legitimately dodgy fourth-down spot despite being up a gorillion; James Franklin sees a fourth and goal from the two down 28-0 and decides on a field goal... wait, no, he's taking a timeout because he realizes that is a terrible decision. And now he's sending out...
Still the field goal team.
So this is a dumb fake—nope they kicked it.
Now they are down four scores, which is a notable improvement from being down four scores. James Franklin has lobbed this one good and high. This is an Eschaton-worthy parabola.
After they kicked it the camera cut to Jim Harbaugh on the sidelines, looking equal parts perplexed and offended on behalf of the game of football:
I had a similar look on my face. This is not good hard friendly competition. This was turtling. Signaled by their coach, Penn State promptly laid down. According to Wilton Speight, Michigan ran the same play eight consecutive times at one point Saturday. While that doesn't seem 100% accurate—there was a sweep in there—the bit in the box score where Penn State lays itself on the altar and hands the squiggly knife to Harbaugh is obvious:
Franklin told them to quit and they quit. I'm not surprised. One year ago this column was all about how pleasant it was to watch a Penn State game and not be stupefied by the things occurring in front of my face, and Penn State's held up its end of the bargain in that department over the last few years.
But I am also kind of surprised that James Franklin, who made Vanderbilt decent, would just roll over and die. You'd think that the kind of person who could stare the history of Vandy football in the face and make the Commodores one of the feistiest teams in the country would at least spit in his executioner's eye, for what little that would help him. Not today, and thus Michigan entered to the "win with cruelty" portion of the proceedings.
And, lo, it was cruel. Michigan acquired 13 tackles for loss and six sacks; they ran for over 300 yards with a carousel of running backs. Michigan threw to Eddie McDoom with less than half the fourth quarter to go, because a rep is a rep is a rep. It's not that Michigan was trying to embarrass or humiliate Penn State; it's just that they didn't care if that happened. Lo, it did. Meanwhile across the country in Autzen Stadium, a Colorado quarterback who was 0/7 with –4 rushing yards last week was spearheading a stunning upset by accounting for 500 yards of offense by himself.
Remember spinning around in circles about this defense last week? You should continue doing that, but for the opposite reason. Lost in the piles of viscera that are all that remain of the Penn State offense: PSU was an efficient, prolific offensive team headed into this game, with 39 and 34 points the last two weeks. It was even one seemingly well-suited to mitigate Michigan's advantages, with Trace McSorley throwing a ton of passes close to the line of scrimmage and completing 80% of them.
It didn't matter. Nothing mattered. James Franklin woke up this morning in a Cure shirt and eyeliner, because halfway through a game against Michigan he decided life wasn't worth living anymore. Just, like, whatever, man. Three points, seven points. It all leads to one place: the grave. First, Arby's. Then the grave.
MGoVideo has some other highlight reels if you don't have time for the above.
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
It was this kind of game:
#1 (tie) Chris Wormley, Maurice Hurst, and Taco Charlton nose ahead of everyone else on a defensive line that set the tone early and never let up, racking up six sacks and a trajillion TFLs. Hurst turned in the most impressive individual play of the day when he came from a nose tackle spot all the way around a guard and got in McSorley's business for a sack; Wormley was the most consistent entrant into the backfield, and Charlton's return helped seal the rush lanes that UCF exploited shut. Also he got a sack and a half. Welcome back.
#2 (tie) De'Veon Smith and Ty Isaac and Karan Higdon and Chris Evans were all between good an excellent as they combined for 40 carries for 318 yards, with seemingly nobody getting consecutive carries. Each guy ripped off a 20+ yard run; each guy made big chunks of yards for himself with good vision or broken tackles. Easy sledding but Michigan maximized their opportunities in ways that had not always been the case early this year.
#3 Ben Gedeon was the closest thing to a one on one matchup Michigan had with Saquon Barkley and that went all right. Gedeon tracked PSU RBs in space repeatedly, had a couple of impressive sideline-to-sideline tackles, and got in the backfield for 1.5 TFLs amongst his 11 total tackles. Barkley got his yards mostly on screens and shovels and the like, a couple of them on Gedeon. This was still a win against one of the top backs in the country.
Honorable mention: The right side of the offensive line was the main area Michigan attacked on the ground. Khalid Hill had another solid all-round FB performance. Channing Stribling and Jourdan Lewis helped shut down the PSU receivers on the rare occasions PSU managed to target them.
5: Jabrill Peppers(T2, Hawaii; #3 UCF, #1 Colorado).
3: Mike McCray(#1, Hawaii), Wilton Speight (#1 UCF).
2: Ryan Glasgow(#2 UCF), Jake Butt(#2 Colorado), Ben Gedeon(#3 Colorado, #3 PSU).
1: Delano Hill (T2, Hawaii), Chris Evans (T3, Hawaii, four-way T2, PSU), Chris Wormley (three-way T1, PSU), Maurice Hurst (three-way T1, PSU), Taco Charlton(three-way T1, PSU).
0.5: Mason Cole(T3, Hawaii), De'Veon Smith (four-way T2, PSU), Ty Isaac (four-way T2, PSU), Karan Higdon(four-way T2, PSU).
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
This week's best thing ever.
Taco Charlton and Chris Worley combine to sack Trace McSorley on the third play from scrimmage:
That set up the ensuing Peppers punt return and was an emphatic declaration of the way the game was going to go.
Honorable mention: Karan Higdon rips off an offset draw touchdown; Peppers decoy sends Smith into the secondary, where he goes stomp. Any one of Michigan's 12(!!!) other TFLs. Peppers returns a punt and windmills down to the nine.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
This week's worst thing ever.
Jeremy Clark ends a kickoff return on the ground, writhing, and is almost certainly lost for the year.
Honorable mention: Michigan fails to gain every yard available to them when Jehu Chesson drops a ball on fourth and two.
PREVIOUS EPIC DOUBLE BIRDs
Hawaii: Not Mone again.
UCF: Uh, Dymonte, you may want to either tackle or at least lightly brush that guy.
Colorado: Speight blindsided.
PSU: Clark's noncontact ACL injury.
[After THE JUMP: Speight is still on his fourth-down scramble.]
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]