the season has truly begun now
The big one. With Braxton Miller out for the year, Ohio State needs a new quarterback. It looks like it is going to be JT Barrett, a well-regarded but not elite recruit out of Texas. His OC talked about him when he was declared the #2 recently:
"Gets the ball out quickly. Very efficient. Smooth release. Very accurate. Extremely cerebral. Very magnetic leader. I think the kids kind of gravitate towards him."
"We've got to work on strengthening his arm. He's a distant third to Braxton and Cardale in terms of just rearing back and trying to throw it through a wall. But he makes up for it in his anticipation and his accuracy and all that. You don't have to have a howitzer to be successful in college football. I'm very pleased with his continuing growth."
He has sort of won the job by default, though. OSU has had surprising issues recruiting QBs. Cardale "I ain't come to play SCHOOL" Jones and middling true freshman Stephen Collier are OSU's other options.
Shaky QB play has not prevented OSU from beating Michigan lots in the recent past, unfortunately, and Meyer runs a system that's pretty forgiving to young guys because big chunks of it are "you: run".
Frank Clark profiled. Clark's background is highly improbable:
Frank Clark can't provide a last known address in Los Angeles. He and [his mother] Teneka, along with his two older siblings, were nomadic. They rambled around town, sleeping in a shelter one night, in a random friend’s house another night. Teneka had drug problems, Frank explains, and this was the fallout.
“I’d walk for hours with my mother, wondering where we were going next, what we were going to do next,” Clark said.
He was handed a plane ticket in 2003 and deposited with relatives in Cleveland, whereupon he grew large and went to Glenville:
“Frank wanted to do everything except what I wanted him to do,” Ginn said.
Ginn wanted Clark to play defensive end and the two locked horns.
“So I fought with Frank from his sophomore year to his senior year,” Ginn said. “In his senior year, he finally decided to listen.”
That is the flip side to Csont'e York. Clark had issues even at Michigan, stealing a laptop and getting a year of probation after being put in a diversionary program, but has come through them and stands on the verge of a Michigan degree and an NFL career. That is how you want it to work when you draw the NCAA up.
Making it work. The NFL has gone from dismissing Chip Kelly to imitating him, says Chris Brown at Grantland, and interestingly for Michigan fans he specifically cites a number of tackle over formations the Eagles went with a year ago as part of Kelly's success:
Why is this a component of Kelly's offensive genius and Borges's failure? Tempo. The Eagles run a high-paced no huddle system that only allows the defense to substitute when they do. The defense is under constant pressure to recognize and adjust to new formations on the fly. In this and another example the end result of going tackle over is confusion and blown assignments because of the pressure Philly's tempo puts on the opponents. Brown's key insight:
This breakdown occurred not because Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers doesn’t know how to match up against an unbalanced set. (He does. I think.) It happened because, against Kelly’s offense, it doesn’t matter what the other coaches know. The 11 defenders on the field need to be able to identify the unbalanced set and call the right adjustments, on the fly, at a super-fast tempo, while worrying about 50 other things.
When you go at Borges tempo, you get a different result:
4 DTs and an SDE with PSU's best player (Jones) lined up over your tackle over. Penn State did this only three or four times in that game but that they were able to do it at all is a condemnation; meanwhile there was absolutely no way that PSU was going to blow an assignment when Michigan was barely getting the play off before the clock expired.
High tempo takes defensive coordinators out of the game and puts the responsibilities they generally have on the players on the field—a big advantage at the NFL level and and even bigger one in college.
Meanwhile you hear dinosaur coach types talk about how the spread makes your defense soft, but you never hear them talk about how living at walking pace makes your defense unprepared to face teams like Indiana.
All of the shirts all of the shirts. Jared Shanker takes a look at how many kids redshirt at last year's conference champions, and comes back with the startling news that over the last three years all of seven MSU recruits have played as freshman—12%. Alabama and FSU are at 45%, with Oklahoma and Oregon at 33 and 35%, respectively. Other powers are closer to the FSU/Bama numbers than anything else, with only South Carolina coming anywhere near MSU—they play only a quarter of their freshmen.
A lot of this has to do with recruiting rankings. FSU and Bama tend to get freshmen who are physically ready to compete right away, and Bama in particular tends to toss guys out the door if they're not panning out. MSU has limited access* to high-level players and is trying to get the most out of each one. They've done so successfully.
What about Michigan? I went back and checked:
- 2011: 8 out of 20 played in the Hoke/RR emergency transition class by the standards of this study, but circumstances conspired to hew this class down before it even reached the opener. Three players (Kellen Jones, Chris Barnett, and Tony Posada) didn't even make it to game one; Greg Brown transferred midseason.
- 2012: 12 out of 25 played, with Terry Richardson and Amara Darboh redshirting their second years.
- 2013: 13 out of 26 played. (I'm not counting long snapper Scott Sypniewski for this purpose).
Michigan's numbers are skewed by the disastrous 2010 and sort of disastrous 2011 recruiting classes, but seriously about a third of those burned redshirts the last couple years were questionable at best: Dymonte Thomas, Da'Mario Jones, Csont'e York, Ben Gedeon, and Taco Charlton contributed little in 2013; Joe Bolden, Amara Darboh, Sione Houma, Royce Jenkins-Stone, and Terry Richardson did little in 2012.
How much of that is down to recruiting promises is unknown, but it just seems silly not to give yourself a fifth year option. Hopefully Michigan can start upping their redshirt percentage now that they have stabilized the roster.
*[This is changing somewhat this year, but for the period covered in this study it was certainly true.]
They had a competition, and now they don't. Utah names Travis Wilson its starting QB. Wilson had a rocky 2013, throwing 16 interceptions to 16 touchdowns and losing his job after a 6 for 21 performance against Arizona State. He did have a nice YPA for the year (7.7), but he also threw a Demetrius Brown-like six interceptions in a 34-27 loss to UCLA. Woof.
Wilson beat out Oklahoma transfer Kendal Thompson, FWIW, so maybe he's improved.
I can't do better. Get The Picture nails the headline on this quote:
The NCAA has reached the point on unfavorable legal rulings that retiring University System of Maryland chancellor William Kirwan, co-chair of the reform-minded Knight Commission, said he now views Congress as “our last, best hope for getting anything right with intercollegiate athletics.”
Oh god the tedious Knight Commission, constantly seeking ways to divert the surplus of revenue athletes to the academic side of colleges, go away.
Etc.: Michigan's student advisory council rejection letter ain't come to play school either. Here's to hope, says the Hoover Street Rag. High school QBs now planning to graduate in three years so they can transfer without penalty if it doesn't work out at school #1. MSU loses OG Connor Kruse for a significant period of time, one that probably does not eliminate him from the M game.
Michigan crushes another Italian team.
We’ve heard you’re going to be a tougher defense. How will we see that on the field in the fall?
“Hopefully you see the aggressiveness in base defense as well as when we do pressure. And I think the way you see that, you’re going to see guys—it’s easier right now for our guys to run to the football than it has been in the past. In other words they understand that that’s how they’re going to play. The aggressive part of it is like, everybody kind of wants to get in on hits instead of saying you’re supposed to get over there on hits. The pressure, the way our secondary’s playing, they’re more aggressive, they’re trying to get on guys a little tighter, I think all those kind of things.”
Is this more the kind of defense you’ve always envisioned when you came to Michigan?
“Yeah, it definitely is. Offenses have made it difficult because they spread you out all over the place. If you’re going to sit and just let them take shots and take shots they’re going to have their success. On offense it’s just keep the ball moving, keep the ball moving but on defense I think you’ve got to change the math sometimes and you’ve got to say it’s not going to be, maybe, like it was in practice for you.”
Are you more comfortable with this defense than you have been maybe- is the transition finally over?
“No question. No question. The guys that are playing in this defense are ours. You know, I really respect the first group and the groups that we came in with. Anytime you come in and demand what we demand it’s hard, but these kids that are here now are all the ones that we brought in here. They’re the ones that we’re with every day of their lives. I mean, we spend so much time with these kids. You really are excited about their attitude. You’re excited about—you can coach them really, really hard and you don’t have to worry about, ‘Well, now do I have to go put my arm around them?’ No, they know that you are for them all the way. And I think our coaches have done a great job, and Brady from the top has done that where we’re going to coach you now, we’re going to make sure you do it the right way and sometimes it isn’t going to be pretty but the next play is the next play.”
What do you know about Jabrill [Peppers] today that you didn’t know seven days ago?
“I know that he’s a real good football player. Here’s what I didn’t know because you don’t know this because you’re not with him: he loves to play football. That’s what you didn’t know. You saw him in games be very, very aggressive and very talented but now that we’re with him, he just really loves to be out there playing and he brings it every play. He’s got to gain some maturity. You know, when you’re a guy who’s been as successful as he has I think you never, ever have heard someone say, ‘That’s wrong. You can’t do that.’ His coach is a tremendous high school coach, but he just brings a lot of fire.”
[Regarding Peppers] What went into the decision to finally settle on nickelback?
“Because the way offenses are nowadays you’ve got to play nickel so much more. The nickel position is a very, very important position on the defense now compared to what it was maybe five to ten years ago. You have to have a guy in there now that’s going to be playing a whole bunch in that game. If you put a guy at safety and then you need him at nickel he’s going to play two positions and he may not become as good as he could be at that time as a youngster.”
Brady has talked about talking to him [Peppers] about not getting wrapped up in how much attention he gets and all that stuff. What do you say to him about that and how do you think he’s handled it?
“I haven’t had to say a thing to him about that because we coach him really, really hard. There’s no pampering. You’re just a guy in our defense. Obviously, with what his success was in high school he’ll probably get attention. He’s been very mature about it. He understands it’s Michigan now. When you’re at Michigan you’re just one of the team and you’re responsible to do what the team’s asking you to do and that’s what he’s done.”
[After THE JUMP: more Peppers, improvement in the linebackers, and defensive philosophy]
In the half-hour we spent on the field talking to players at Sunday's Media Day, the theme of this offseason and fall camp was clear: change is here. For the offense, that means a change in coordinators, and with that a significant difference in how they practice. The tempo is being pushed like never before in Brady Hoke's tenure at Michigan, and that also affects the defense, which is dealing with change of their own, as the coaching staff on that side shifts roles while the defense moves from a 4-3 under to a 4-3 over.
I caught up with Dennis Norfleet, Jake Ryan, and Wyatt Shallman to discuss these changes and more, including Ryan saying he feels fully recovered from the ACL tear that limited him to just five starts in 2013. Tomorrow, I'll have further player interviews with the significant portion of the team that hails from Cass Tech.
You're getting work in the slot now pretty much exclusively, it sounds like. How comfortable are you at that position right now?
I'm getting a lot better. The wide receiving crew is really helping me out a lot. Coach Hecklinski is a great coach, he's getting me to feel comfortable when I get in there and getting me comfortable with my plays, so I'm doing pretty well.
What's been the biggest difference with the new offensive coordinator, the biggest change between last year and this year?
The biggest change is we're moving faster, up-tempo. We're a lot better as an offensive crew, we're more than a team, we're a family, so that's what makes a big difference to us now.
With that big increase in tempo, it sounds like you guys are getting more reps in. How much of a difference has that made in terms of getting more comfortable in the offense?
It's a making a lot of difference. It's a big difference because we have a lot of rotation, everybody gets to know their plays, nobody's going out there not knowing what they're doing, and if they don't they have people to tell them if they go wrong. That's a big difference.
How do you see your role being this year? Obviously you're playing the slot, but there's a lot you can do, so how do you see yourself being utilized in the offense this year?
I'm just doing my job, you know. If I get open space, I do what I do best, you know. I'm also being a role model for the younger players that came in. We're basically working as a team in everything that we do.
At returner, you obviously have a lot of experience there. Coach Hoke said you're getting a lot of the reps there but that there are a couple freshmen who are also coming in and making a push. How do you feel at returner right now, and is that a place you feel you can make a really big impact?
Kick returning has always been something that I go into the game and everything, you know, willing that I want to return a kick [for a score] every game. We've been rotating a lot, we've got a lot of players that are competing, spots that's not really set out for who starts where, so we're just having fun in camp right now and competing.
It sounds like both at slot and returner that you're working a lot with Freddy Canteen. What have you seen out of him in the spring and fall so far?
Canteen's becoming a better young man, not just a football player, just in life. He's been looking up to the older receivers, like Devin Funchess, me, [redshirt senior walk-on Anthony] Capatina. It's just a lot of people he can look up to, to become a better person, both in our lives and football.
You keep mentioning how you guys have come together as a team. What's been the biggest change since last year, and do you feel like as an upperclassman now you're really grown into a leadership role?
When I came in, I did things that upperclassmen always told me was wrong that I didn't think were wrong, but now that I'm older I can see what they were talking about. You know, it's more than just a game. We're trying to win a championship, the Big Ten, so as we go along that's the focus of our days. That's what we're ready for.
[Hit THE JUMP for Jake Ryan discussing his transition to middle linebacker and his full recovery from the ACL tear, and Wyatt Shallman talking about his role in the offense and the changes in style under Doug Nussmeier.]
Cole and Clark impressed [Bryan Fuller]
Our annual attempt to glean useful things from the Big Ten's visit to fall camp is here. BTN analysts have a slight bias towards the positive, as Gerry DiNardo demonstrated before last season…
"When I saw them in the spring it was like a war at the line of scrimmage," BTN analyst Gerry DiNardo said. "It was what you imagine it looks like at Alabama and all the downhill teams."
…so take overall tenor with a grain of salt. As per usual, I've translated these from twitterese. This year only DiNardo and Dienhart are reporting; Howard Griffith is there but just hangin' out yo. Dienhart has an article and everything. If there's no link, it's from the article.
"Much like last year a team with more talent than most teams in the B1G. Recruiting rankings are accurate in most cases." –Dinardo
"Long hard physical practice—they got a ton of reps, often times splitting staff and team in half to get more reps." –Dinardo
Rep rep rep is good news, as when Michigan does show bits of practice the pace is often not inspiring. Anything that seems to be oriented towards making Michigan competent at speed is welcome.
"Like a lot of places offensive scheme is starting to be blend of more than one offensive philosophy." –Dinardo
As long as that's running a lot of inside zone from shotgun and under center, okay.
"Jumped out: Gardner, Norfleet, Charlton, Poggi, Speight, Cole, Ojemudia, Pipkins, Clark, Henry, Mone, Glasgow." –DiNardo
That's a pretty long list of guys to jump out at you. Speight's inclusion is a little weird since in another tweet he says that Morris and Speight are pretty even for the backup QB job. Mone is the only freshman mentioned. (Peppers had to miss this practice for class.)
[AFTER the JUMP: shortin' out and dyin', De'Veon Smith credit plea, naggers.]
If only coach Mattison knew how to FaceTime. pic.twitter.com/uG1JwVwnlv
— Frank Clark (@UMclark57) July 10, 2014
First, the mandatory comment about charge: good charge, Frank Clark. Way to keep on top of that.
Then: this is hilarious but it is also just, like, art, man. Yeah.
CLARK: coach you gotta point the phone at you
MATTISON: I am pointing it at me
CLARK: coach you are probably not a cloud or the sky or the rays of the sun
MATTISON: but I could be
CLARK: yeah but you're not, you're a bald guy, I've seen
MATTISON: but I could be the sky and the sun and a bald crown
CLARK: ok coach
Welcome. Orson wrote a terrific thing about the Brazil kid weeping so hard he was trying to shove a cup through his face in case that would help:
I have nothing for you. Maybe it's worse when your team is good, and there is the hope of winning. If you'll notice, fans of desolate, perpetually forlorn carrion wagons like Kentucky football or tragedians like Ole Miss fans don't hold up cups to their faces, clutch their eyes, and try to literally vomit their sorrow into a Coke cup after losing by six goals on their home turf. Brazil fans do, because shame has a prerequisite: the standard, or the notion that you will be somewhere that is not crying so hard you have to compress yourself into some kind of ball to keep from shattering into a thousand tiny pieces.
Intermittent reinforcement is apparently the way to get obedience: sometimes you get the thing. Other times you do not get the thing. Sports is very intermittent reinforcement. So congrats, kid! If you haven't sworn off soccer forever already, you are the proud recipient of a lifetime mania that will probably work out just fine because you're Brazilian.
Brutal! Mark Emmert showed for a congressional hearing that went even worse than the court thing did.
McCaskill offered some of the sharpest criticism of Emmert, questioning why his role exists if he can’t shape reform or prevent athletic departments from investigating sexual assaults.
“I can’t tell if you’re in charge or a minion” to the schools, McCaskill said. “If you’re merely a monetary pass-through, why should you exist?”
"I'm a good cartel," Emmert said under his breath. "A good one." New Jersey's Corey Booker:
"When they can lord over you the removal of your scholarship - because it does still happen, athletes are still exploited, that if they blow out their knee, if they somehow don't meet the mandates of a coach, they lose their scholarship, they don't get their degree -- to me, this is plain and simple the dark side of the NCAA, where athletes are being exploited," Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) later said, noting that some issues he dealt with as a college athlete 20 years ago are still being dealt with by athletes today.
If the NCAA thinks they're going to get antitrust help from Congress, that hearing was some cold water. I know Democrats and Republicans and whatnot, but this may be an organization with a worse public image than Congress itself… not exactly baseball in 1910 or whatever.
Thornton tearing things up. Beilein and Calipari were jowl to jowl watching Derryck Thornton, and they were treated to a show:
(Thornton) picked up right where he left off after standing out at the Steph Curry Camp to start the month. Thornton was a true floor general, in complete control every time he stepped on the court and able to impact the game in a variety of different ways. He handles the ball on a string and excels at making a variety of different reads off the pick and roll. He holds his dribble going through the lane as well as anyone in the field, just waiting on the defense to break down and reveal open receivers. He even shot the ball well here, making a series of pull-ups as well as rhythm 3s. Thornton took unofficial visits to both Kentucky and Michigan last month and was followed by both Kentucky’s John Calipari and Michigan’s John Beilein here.
Thornton's done taking visits this summer after heading to Michigan and Kentucky, both of which he plans on visiting again this fall. It appears this is a head to head battle.
Adapting to reality. Mark Richt is adapting to life in the fast lane.
"One of the big things for us is football is now becoming a very high up-tempo game,” UGA coach Mark Richt explained recently. “It used to be 30, 40 seconds between a play. Now it could be as short as 10-to-18 seconds between plays. So you’re exerting and then resting for a short period of time. So now, even in the weight room, we want to go hard, rest a short time, then go ahead. A quicker recovery time. We’re not going to run the longer distances anymore. We’re going to run the shorter distance.”
After last year's Indiana game, I'm hoping there's some sort of similar soul searching within the Michigan program. You'd figure so, but… if anyone was going to not give it as much time as they should it would be Michigan. They've been just so, so bad with anything related to tempo under Hoke, whether it's defending it or trying to go fast themselves.
Praise to all available deities. I know it's 50/50 whether this is real or "we want to be aggressive" annual offseason pablum, but I'm storing my cynicism because I need it to be the former. Devin Gardner:
"Practices are really fast, we get a lot of reps. This was probably the fastest practice I've ever been a part of ... I feel like, right now, there's a lot of energy in practice. I'm happy with it. ... Coach Nuss definitely pushes tempo, makes sure we get to the ball fast, get the calls out, do everything you need to do and then get the ball hiked. He's pushing that a lot. And sometimes we just go hurry-up to get more reps."
It was as if a million botched two-minute drills cried out, and then were silent. [Ed-S: ...were suddently silenced! ARGH YOU ALWAYS DO THIS!] If you have not wandered on to this site straight from the maternity ward of the local hospital still covered in amniotic goo you are aware of the author's tendency to engage in spittle-flecked rants when it comes to the idea that you must slow down your offense to protect your defense.
(I MEAN WHAT DOES THAT IMPLY ABOUT THE EFFECTIVENESS OF TEMPO?! YOU'RE FLAT OUT STATING THAT TEMPO IS DIFFICULT TO DEAL AND INSTEAD OF COMING TO GRIPS WITH IT YOU PREFER TO JUST NOT THINK ABOUT IT ARRRRRGH. I put this in parens so that you can't blame me for this spittle-flecked rant. I am invulnerable in here.)
So. More tempo means more reps, means more ability to go fast without sacrificing your ability to go slow, means the defense is better prepared to deal with teams that go fast, means less shoe-throwing as Michigan spends the last two minutes of the half imitating a newly-hatched sea turtle trundling towards the sea. All praise to modern football thinking.
…but I don't believe you for a second. While it appears that coaches are talking to the press when they talk to the press, they are in fact talking to their players. This one insight explains every bit of coachspeak ever: they speak in motivational parables designed to get people to try hard no matter how tenuous their relationship to something interesting or accurate.
So, when asked how he's evaluating his quarterbacks at this point, his answer was hardly surprising.
"We're going to evaluate everything, just like every other position on our offense," Nussmeier said. "We want to create competition, we want guys to go out and compete."
Articles about the "spring QB race" result. This space already had a spittle-flecked rant on this subject, so let me just reiterate that I will consume a rack of hats if Devin Gardner is not the clear starting quarterback.
Perpetually entertaining. If the Ed O'Bannon case does nothing other than bring to light internal NCAA emails that plainly admit that the NCAA is profiting off the likeness of their players, it will still be a worthwhile endeavor. (And it seems likely it'll do much more than that.) The latest quotes would be astounding if they weren't part of an ever-expanding genre:
Leeland Zeller writes back to the LSU official that an NCAA rules interpretation "clearly addresses" and prohibits "the use of the DVD as 'premium' in conjunction with a subscription. ... Regardless, SI does this every year. If the school asks about it, they are advised to send a cease and desist letter, which preserves the eligibility of the student-athletes. SI ignores the letter and we all go on about our business."
In other news, it was not a coincidence that the play by play guy could pronounce "Tebow," and EA was trying to weasel the names and faces of players into NCAA because it was just like television.
What was that? Episode two in "Brian crams Big Ten basketball talking into his UV because his other platform was stolen": what the hell was Iowa doing last night? They ended up losing 93 to 86 in a wild 83 possession game at Indiana.
Everyone knows Iowa likes to run and that's fine as it goes, but Iowa played directly into the hands of the Hoosiers by employing a half-assed 1-2-2 pressure that turned Indiana possessions into transition possessions, which is the last thing in the world you would ever want to do. And then several times they just did not run back on defense, leading to a parade of Will Sheehey layups. I was shocked that the combustible Fran McCaffery didn't throttle various players. It was thoroughly gross.
This one probably doesn't end like the Dr. V putter story. Everyone on twitter recommends this profile of Caris LeVert, because LeVert just put this out there in a press conference:
“Caris, have there been any defining moments in your life?”
He looks around an empty room, considering the question and the door it leads to.
“Well, on Easter of sophomore year of high school, me and my brother found my dad dead on our living room floor.”
Wow. Read the whole thing, as they say.
Help wanted. Hockey picks up a commitment from NAHL defenseman Sam Piazza, who had an interesting path to his commitment. It's not often you see a guy who was committed to Boston College for 2012 end up in the NAHL two years later. In Piazza's case a severe concussion held him out for at least five months in what was expected to be his final season of junior. Hockey DB shows just 18 games played for Piazza from 2010-12; BC deferred him, reasonably, and he ended up playing 25 games for Chicago before dropping to the NAHL level.
“Michigan had called me about two weeks before the Top Prospects Tournament, so I knew they would be watching,” the defenseman said. “After Top Prospects, they invited me to tour the campus. I was not expecting much, but they wound up offering right there.”
…so there's more expectation for success here than there would be with your usual 20-year-old late NAHL skater pickup. And this is of course excellent because Michigan needs defensemen badly. Coach quote:
“Sam is a powerful skater with great on-ice vision and stick skills. In the years I have been coaching junior hockey, I have not seen anyone with his vision on defense. When you couple that vision with his high-end stick skills, that is a tremendous combination for a hockey player,” Baxter said.
Center Ice has more.
Etc.: Joba Chamberlain scar smiley face zoom in. Needs "SOON" in last panel.