"He makes it really easy on you as a coach because he has tremendous football instincts," Michigan tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh said. "Things come really naturally to him. He doesn't have to see things too many times. He has a good sense for how things should look and feel, and he's a tough, physical guy."
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FORMATION NOTES: Hello dime package. Michigan spent most of the day in it. This was probably the most common setup:
30 dime slide
Michigan has three guys in a three-point stance along the line with Ojemudia flanking them as a standup end; behind are Desmond Morgan and Jabrill Peppers. Most of the time Peppers went into coverage and left the front five to win one on one matchups, which they almost universally did.
The other very common formation was one that's pretty similar but again has the "buck" lined up just off the nose tackle.
Michigan would insert Ojemudia or RJS at various places along the line.
I called formations on which Michigan was clearly going into man coverage with another player while Peppers was added to the box "nickel 3-4."
Yes, those are two actual LBs. When BYU added their fullback Bolden would come in.
This with nobody backing the line on the snap was "5-0 dime":
I think that about covers it. Oh: I didn't get a shot but that first snap I dubbed "3-1-7" because Ojemudia is over the slot and there are legit 4 people in the box. About which more later.
PERSONNEL NOTES: Michigan spent almost the whole game in a dime package featuring all three corners plus Peppers, Hill, and Wilson. Morgan played the entire game except for the final drive; the DL rotation was the usual eight guys in the usual doses. If you ask me the starting lineup now includes Matt Godin instead of Willie Henry but that's a fine distinction.
Bolden got the few bonus LB snaps. These all came when BYU added an H-back to the equation. Ross was healthy after all: he got in at the end of the game.
[After THE JUMP: hhhyarrrrr it had eleven mouths and no bottom]
9/19/2015 – Michigan 28, UNLV 7 – 2-1
This is our concern, Dude [Patrick Barron]
It didn't take long for Jim Harbaugh to shift from cheerfully and convincingly explaining why Jake Rudock's play was better than it looked against Utah to… not doing that. After UNLV, a couple of post-game questions clearly designed to fill already-written stories about Rudock's grim day with quotes raised Harbaugh's ire. He deflected a couple with boilerplate ("his job is to win football games") and assertions about a swirling wind, but when a third came:
Um, I guess I’m not as concerned with statistics as you two seem to be.
I hesitate to side with the Talk About types, but I'm concerned. I'm concerned with both the statistics (123 yards against UNLV, probably half of which came on "smoke" screens) and the overall level of play the statistics crystallize.
We're working with small sample sizes, of course, but that's all we've got to project with. The projections are not ideal.
I am not buying the wind conditions being a problem. I was in that stadium. I have been in it for many games. I once had a life and death fight with a poorly designed poncho. I have seen and endured all kinds of weather, and at no point on Saturday did the wind rise to a level where it felt like a serious factor. It blew a bit; I have seen many quarterbacks deal with that and much worse.
Those quarterbacks include one Jake Rudock. Kinnick Stadium juts out of a vast unbroken expanse of plains extending to the Rocky Mountains. In February I had occasion to drive through virtually the entire state of Iowa during a blizzard; I went at highway speeds because the snow was blown over the roads in an ever-streaming mass, never settling. Only the odd copse of trees huddled around a farmhouse provided enough of a windbreak to allow snow a temporary home, and even that was more refugee shelter than citizenship.
That drive reminded me of a David Foster Wallace essay about his youth tennis career that necessarily focused on one of the overriding concerns outdoor sportsmen have when the nearest bump in the terrain is thousands of miles to the west:
The biggest single factor in Central Illinois' quality of outdoor life is wind. There are more local jokes than I can summon about bent weather vanes and leaning barns, more downstate sobriquets for kinds of wind than there are in Malamut for snow. The wind had a personality, a (poor) temper, and, apparently, agendas. The wind blew autumn leaves into intercalated lines and arcs of force so regular you could photograph them for a textbook on Cramer's Rule and the cross-products of curves in 3-space. It molded winter snow into blinding truncheons that buried stalled cars and required citizens to shovel out not only driveways but the sides of homes; a Central Illinois "blizzard" starts only when the snowfall stops and the wind begins. Most people in Philo didn't comb their hair because why bother.
Of all the things that might explain why Jake Rudock could not hit Drake Johnson on a five-yard swing pass, wind is the least believable.
So. Let us calibrate our panic. It is the first year of a new head coach handed a terrible QB situation making do; that head coach has been massively successful anywhere he's laid his head. Macro panic: nil.
Micro panic: measurable. The Big Ten looks like a bunch of goobers plus MSU and OSU and I guess maybe Northwestern is good. A team that has Michigan's salty defense and a steady, boring offense is going to win a healthy number of games. Michigan's offense has been boring; it has only managed to be steady against Oregon State.
The offense Michigan fielded on Saturday loses games Michigan fans are currently filing in the win column. While that's cause for a shrug long term thanks to the state of the QB roster, it does dent Harbaugh's early momentum. Does that matter much? The recent trajectories of high-level coaches and… well… Brady Hoke say not particularly.
But it is nice to win things. I'm busy downgrading my expectations about as fast as I'm downgrading my expectations for the rest of Michigan's schedule, which is fine, I guess. I expect a bumpy ride and then as soon as anything goes smoothly I exclaim THIS IS IT FOREVER, because I am irrational.
We've gone from hoping that we should dump Rudock's career at Iowa from our expectations to hoping it's still valid to add those games in; it probably is. The upside of escaping Greg Davis, where Iowa fans are going nuts about a guy whose completions are five yards downfield or shorter 80% of the time feels gone. We would like to lock in the low-turnover game manager if that is still available.
wear Jourdan Lewis #brand jackets [Patrick Barron]
Yet To Be Named Harbaugh-Themed Guys Who Did Good Award.
you're the man now, dog
#1 Jourdan Lewis had 4(!) PBUs on the day, and those were mostly as he covered the very legit Devonte Boyd. Playing as well as any Michigan DB since… Leon Hall?
#2 Ty Isaac ripped off the 76-yard touchdown that made things comfortable at halftime. On that play he made a swift cut upfield, broke a tackle, and put on the jets. He looked solid on his other seven runs as well.
#3 Channing Stribling picked off a pass, defended another, and was able to stick to the receiver any time he was tested.
Honorable mention: Blake O'Neill probably would have snagged the first-ever punter mention in this section if he hadn't shanked that one. Any member of the front seven—Michigan spread 8 TFLs among 9 players. Jehu Chesson did go grab a rushing touchdown.
5: Chris Wormley(#2 Utah, #1 Oregon State)
3: Jake Butt (#1 Utah), Jourdan Lewis (#1 UNLV)
2: De'Veon Smith(#2 Oregon State), Ty Isaac(#2 UNLV)
1: Willie Henry (#3 Utah), AJ Williams (#3 Oregon State), Channing Stribling(#3 UNLV)
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
Honorable mention: Picks from Clark and Stribling. Glasgow's thunderous TFL. Blake O'Neill essentially passing the ball down to the 3, and hitting a 59-yarder without a return.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
The general sentiment was to keep double bird. That was my inclination as well.
This week's worst thing ever.
Jake Rudock matches his 2014 interception total in game three by throwing one that hits a linebacker in both hands. The linebacker deflected it to a defensive back, but that was not bad luck.
Honorable mention: Rudock misses a flare route by yards. Any number of interior rushes that didn't get much. Those two Decker passes towards the end that seriously compromised Michigan's quest to keep UNLV under 200 yards.
Utah: circle route pick six.
Oregon State: Rudock fumbles after blitz bust.
UNLV: Rudock matches 2014 INT total in game 3.
I am sensing an unfortunate theme.
[After THE JUMP: corners making plays, DL emerging, run game woes explained, YIP YIP YIP YIP]
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FORMATION NOTES: Michigan spent the entire game in nickel save for scattered snaps in a dime package with three safeties (Hill, Thomas, Wilson) on it. Their first drive they came out in an odd front featuring the buck as a standup end:
Either they weren't happy with the play there or it was just a stunt, because after the first drive Michigan spent most of the rest of the day with an even four-man front:
On occasion they'd do this or something similar with a standup end; this pinched formation saw a hard line slant that got Wormley through for one of his impressive penetration plays:
And that was about it. Michigan spent the entire game with one very deep safety—generally 15 or more yards off the LOS; sometimes they'd offer a two high look but they always came down with one or the other presnap.
PERSONNEL NOTES: Line was mostly Henry/Glasgow/Wormley/Ojemudia. Matt Godin got the most time of any backup, spotting both Wormley and Henry frequently and pretty effectively. Charlton played a reasonable number of snaps behind Henry as well. Maurice Hurst was mostly a passing down sub for Glasgow; he did get a few standard down snaps. RJS saw a little bit of time.
At linebacker it was mostly Morgan and Bolden. Gedeon got a drive; Ross got a couple. Secondary was Lewis/Peppers/Wilson/Hill 100% of the time and a mix of Stribling and Clark at the last spot. Thomas got some snaps in the dime package.
[After THE JUMP: battling a very spread out spread]
Jake Butt and Amara Darboh
When did you know going into the game that you were going to have an opportunity to really have a big production day?
JB: “I mean, I think with the way our offense is set up it’s not just going to- each play isn’t just designed to just get one guy the ball. Really, anyone can get the ball on any given play. I knew there’d be opportunities and plays called where I’d have a chance to get open so I was just trying to catch the balls that were thrown my way.”
Talk a little bit about the process of a new quarterback and receivers getting to know each other and the little things that make the difference in a pass route or a football game.
JB: “The process started really the day Jake [Rudock] got here. His locker’s next to mine in the players’ locker room and we started just playing catch, and all summer we’d do our player-led practices, 7-on-7 and 1-on-1s and just running routes and we started to build the chemistry there. Jake’s had some success at other schools and stuff, so he knows how to get it done.”
AD: “Yeah, true. We were just trying to get the timing down throughout camp and summer, like Jake said. Just tying to get a feel and he tries to get a feel for where we’re going to be at and put the ball in the right spot.”
What did you see out of Grant Perry in preseason camp to know that he was going to be able to help you, and after the game- Coach Harbaugh just said there were a couple routes he didn’t run very precisely that led to interceptions- what do you say to him to make sure he doesn’t get down on himself?
AD: “With the first question, he was a guy who was very focused. He would always ask questions and took good notes and he was a guy that you could tell he understood football even though he was a freshman. And then with the mistakes and stuff, I told him after the game just go out there and pay attention to details and try to do the routes that you did in practice and don’t let the crowd or the atmosphere change the way you play.”
[After THE JUMP: Jourdan Lewis and Willie Henry]
9/3/2015 – Michigan 17, Utah 24 – 0-1
I feel like I wrote this column already. In 2008, Michigan played a Utah team people expected would be pretty good. (They ended up very good, going undefeated, beating 'Bama in a bowl game, and finishing #2.) Michigan lost a somewhat close game. After, I used the then-skeletal luxury boxes as a metaphor for the team: under construction.
Michigan is still under construction. It has been under construction for going on eight years now. We brought in one company that insisted on turning half the building into pudding storage, and then it was a snake museum, and then a sand silo. Eventually the thing looked like the world's most totally rad Porsche hooked up to a pile of pudding, snakes, and quicksand. The next company fixed that at the same time they turned the rad Porsche into a Yugo full of clowns and if NEITHER OF THESE THINGS SOUNDS AT ALL LIKE A BUILDING YOU MAY BE ON TO SOMETHING THERE.
I also feel like I wrote this column already. Last year Michigan played Utah relatively even down to down, in fact outgaining the Utes, and lost because they were minus three in turnovers. This year they played Utah relatively even, outgained the Utes, and lost because they were (functionally) minus three in turnovers. Oh look, it's the game we play against Utah.
That there is a game we play against Utah that is a loss in which Michigan's offense spends much of its time armpit farting says a lot about the state of the program now, but you can go two paragraphs up if you'd like to relive that some more. You might. You're a Michigan fan. By now you must be into some pretty weird stuff.
The game wasn't quite the same as those other two. This one was less depressing. The first featured a walk-on at quarterback; afterwards it was clear that Michigan was going to struggle to maintain their bowl streak.
Last year was this game:
You know, the one with the downpour that everyone left during that was the end of Brady Hoke before THE END OF BRADY HOKE against Minnesota. The one with the ten-man punt return. The one with the column titled "By This Grainy Screenshot We Will Curse Thy Name."
So it wasn't that. Neither was it the grand debut of a Stanfordized Michigan. Despite the occasional media doofus retcon about Michigan fans being brought back to reality, nobody actually expected that in year one, and especially not game one.
I will admit was hoping they'd have a run longer than seven yards.
Not so much. Utah's burly front straight up whipped the Michigan offensive line. One replay of a failed third-and-short sneak featured Ben Braden getting moonwalked back into the quarterback. Mason Cole specialized in second-level whiffs. Kyle Kalis got dumped on his ass in the first half. Large creases were virtually nonexistent. Other than De'Veon Smith missing a cutback lane on second and three in the second half, lanes eschewed weren't obvious enough to induce groans.
They just could not cope with the defensive line, and that sounds like the most familiar thing of all. So we reset expectations again. Once more they have an offensive line working towards competency in a new system, and this will hold them back until such time as it doesn't anymore.
I wish I knew when that was going to be. It should be coming, as it always seems to for Harbaugh. It's hard not to be impatient when you've seen this all before. I have, and it's fine, I guess. I have faith that Jim Harbaugh is going to get there and everything will be wonderful and full of sprinkles topped with sprinkles. Yes, the struggle to the top is critical to the reward at the end. I would still like to fast forward to that bit.
Yet To Be Named Harbaugh-Themed Guys Who Did Good Award. #1 Jake Butt quickly established himself one of those WR/TEs that is basically Ertz/Fleener Voltron.
#2 Chris Wormley tore through the Utah line like it was made of tissue paper several times in the first half; by the second Utah had just about given up on trying to run Booker inside.
#3 Willie Henry also thundered his way through the line with frequency, pressuring Wilson and dissuading
Honorable mention: Amara Darboh had a bunch of catches and one unfortunately critical drop; De'Veon Smith looked like a guy who will be a nightmare if he gets gaps consistently; Jourdan Lewis shut his guy off; Jabrill Peppers erased screens.
3: Jake Butt (#1, Utah)
2: Chris Wormley (#2, Utah)
1: Willie Henry (#3, Utah)
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
For the single individual best moment.
Jake Butt skies over two defensive backs to bring in a spectacular #buttdown.
Honorable mention: Blake O'Neill drops a delayed punt at the two yard line. Wormley storms through the center of the line for a TFL.
Utah: Crazy #buttdown.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
This week's worst thing ever.
Rudock throws a pick six in the general direction of Grant Perry, who was in the general direction of Rudock's two other picks.
Honorable mention: The two other picks. That 74 yard Utah punt. That Utah fumble that bounced directly to the only other Ute in a six-block radius.
Utah: circle route pick six.
[After THE JUMP: a much shorter bullets section than normal because usually I have an extra day to pull this all together, Thursday games are stupid]
Via a Utah beat writer. I put it in a table. Returning starters are bolded.
|QB||Jake Rudock OR
|Alex Malzone OR
|RB||De'Veon Smith||Derrick Green OR
|Karan Higdon OR
|FB||Joe Kerridge||Sione Houma OR
|TE||Jake Butt||Khalid Hill OR
|WR||Amara Darboh OR
|WR||Jehu Chesson OR
|LT||Mason Cole||Logan Tuley-Tillman|
|LG||Ben Braden||David Dawson|
|C||Graham Glasgow||Patrick Kugler||Ben Pliska|
|RG||Kyle Kalis||Juwan Bushell-Beatty|
|RT||Eric Magnuson||Blake Bars|
|DE||Willie Henry||Taco Charlton|
|NT||Ryan Glasgow||Maurice Hurst|
|DT||Chris Wormley OR
|BUCK||Mario Ojemudia||Royce Jenkins-Stone||Lawrence Marshall|
|ILB||Desmond Morgan||Ben Gedeon||Mike McCray|
|ILB||Joe Bolden||James Ross|
|OLB||James Ross||Allen Gant|
|CB||Jourdan Lewis||Jeremy Clark|
|CB||Channing Stribling||Brandon Watson|
|FS||Jarrod Wilson||Delano Hill|
|SS||Jabrill Peppers||Dymonte Thomas OR
|K||Kenny Allen OR
|P||Kenny Allen OR
|LS||Scott Sypniewski||Andrew Robinson|
|H||Blake O'Neill OR
|KO||Kenny Allen OR
|KR||Jehu Chesson OR
|PR||Jehu Chesson OR
Uh, what? Part one. Willie Henry, strongside end, with Wormley back at DT. On the one hand, Henry has a lot of grrr arrgh pass rush upside. On the other, I thought he was better suited on the interior than Wormley for the reasons I posted today.
Uh, what? Part two. Channing Stribling is listed as the starter opposite Jourdan Lewis. This is odd for a number of reasons. One: Stribling didn't get a call last year even when Gary Nova was going off on Blake Countess. Two: we have heard nothing about him in about a year. Three: they moved Jeremy Clark to corner, and the assumption was that maybe that was not so much a good sign for Stribling.
If this is real, and all depth charts have to be looked at somewhat skeptically, I'm actually rather happy. Stribling looked about as good as Lewis as a freshman before evaporating.
Okay dot gif. The OR at QB. On the other hand, Smith had enough of the starting RB job that they didn't give him one at one of the most OR-tastic spots on the roster.
Poggi at FB. Weird. 266, reputed to be an inline blocking TE. Expected Hill and Poggi to be flipped. Good that Hill's done enough this fall to catch Harbaugh's eye.
No Drake Johnson. Still recovering from injury.
Grant Perry realness check. Good sign for his jitter and reliability that he's an option on returns.
The sweetest or. OR Drake Harris. I want to believe.
Ross an ILB backup and OLB starter. An indication that he will get snaps in the nickel.