A note before we start: this preview relies heavily on the defensive UFRs of last year because there’s a convenient numerical system that does a decent job of summing up a defensive player’s contributions. One caveat: the system is generous to defensive linemen and harsh to defensive backs, especially cornerbacks. A +4 for a defensive end is just okay; for a cornerback it’s outstanding.
|STRONG DE||Yr.||NOSE TACKLE||Yr.||3-TECH||Yr.||WEAK DE||Yr.|
|Keith Heitzman||So.*||Quinton Washington||Sr.*||Jibreel Black||Sr.||Frank Clark||Jr.|
|Chris Wormley||Fr.*||Ondre Pipkins||So.||Willie Henry||Fr.*||Mario Ojemudia||So.|
|Matt Godin||Fr.*||Richard Ash||Jr.*||Ryan Glasgow||Fr.*#||Taco Charlton||Fr.|
Depth chart shows everybody just because.
Michigan has promise, depth, and even experience at defensive tackle that reaches three-deep. Greg Mattison's spent fall camp telling people that he feels he can rotate three-deep everywhere across the line, and I almost believe him. Aside from nose tackle, where it's doubtful Richard Ash gets a lot of playing time, Michigan does have three guys who can play.
At nose they just have an above-average returning starter and the sophomore year of five-star Ondre Pipkins. That'll be an okay platoon, I think. Three-tech is dodgier, with 280-pound Jibreel Black trying to hold up a year after 280-pound Jibreel Black was flipped out to end late so that Washington could make his way into the lineup. Even there they've got two guys they seem to like a lot behind Black.
It's weird, I know. Get used to it: this is a preview of what it's like when Hoke's recruiting classes finally take hold.
Instructed and instructor [unknown/Upchurch]
|slants for big TFL|
|painful looking tackle|
|and then SC never ran again|
|just UMass but still|
|pad level pt 2|
|refuses to get trapped|
|fights through scoop|
|sets up Ojemuda FF|
|pancaked vs ND|
|control and chuck|
|discards NEB OL|
|gets into the chest|
Will Heininger's progression from guy getting blown up against EMU to serious contributor and guy you worry a bit about replacing established this site's "Heininger Certainty Principle," which states that because of Will Heininger Michigan fans should have confidence that Brady Hoke and Greg Mattison will get every ounce of talent out of their charges. That hypothesis graduated to theory when QUINTON WASHINGTON chiseled it in stone over the course of last season.
Washington was a converted offensive lineman with maybe a half-dozen snaps to his name when he was suddenly (and perhaps accidentally) announced as the starter at nose tackle when the Big Ten Network visited Michigan's practice. This caused the usual round of animated emoticons running in circles and a big "I don't know" in last year's preview:
I have no idea how Washington will do. … Washington is a redshirt junior and former touted recruit, so this could work out. Totally. Maybe.
So of course he was one of the strengths of the defense. Heininger Certainty Principle, you guys.
Washington was flat good last year. When I went back to the UFRs I had nearly as many clips for him as I did Jake Ryan, and in approximately the same proportion of good to bad. He combined power with a fair amount of penetration, and while he wasn't Mike Martin in the UFR charts he was a consistently positive presence. He was the top performer on the defense in the Alabama game, was only negative against Air Force (weird option cutting business) and Nebraska (a –1), and usually ended up solidly positive. His Notre Dame performance was a revelation:
Washington in particular was impressive with his repeated penetration. He's probably as shocked as anyone about this, so he's continually overrunning things, but whatever, man, he's blowing up blocking. I told you this would happen after UMass!
In fact I said that Washington seemed to play well but would obviously not do that against Notre Dame.
While it wasn't a secret All Big Ten season, he was probably better than any nose tackle in the league other than Kawaan Short and Jonathan Hankins. (And maybe Penn State's Jordan Hill; I didn't UFR a Penn State game last year.) Not bad for a guy who caused people to twitch a little bit when he was named the starter.
Along the way he did a number of impressive things. Here he clobbers a Purdue guard into a puller, who ends up clobbering the running back. Unsatisfied, he tries to put the guy in the band:
He gets under guys, rocks them back, and then can rip through at the proper moment:
When he got negatives, they were usually for getting hacked to the ground or not being mobile on stretch plays. Given his plus-level penetration I don't think the latter issue is set in stone. The balance thing isn't a huge problem. He's okay, he's just not Ryan Van Bergen.
Incremental improvement as a senior should get Washington's performance level to All Big Ten. As a nose tackle he may not have the requisite stats to get there, but I'll be surprised if he's not amongst the top guys in the league and a mid-round NFL draftee.
[After THE JUMP: depth! Undersized Jibreel Black! More depth! Seriously!]
"Well, it's about time to start, isn't it? We're excited about it and can't wait to see what this defense plays like. I'm excited about how they've prepared, how they're working, and now we have to get that first game."
What has Channing Stribling done to put himself in position to play?
"Made plays in practice. Practiced very hard. Has picked up the defense quicker than a lot of freshmen. He's a very competitive young man. He's got good range. He's done very well."
He had good instincts in high school football. Have you seen that?
"The thing about him is he came from a very strong high school program. That high school program that he's from coaches like we coach. He understands that everything he does will be critiqued and coached and he moves onto the next one. That sometimes separates freshmen from when they play or don't play -- understanding the toughness and the scrutiny that they go under to make sure they're ready to play."
Let's talk about the guys we haven't talked enough about yet. The breakout kids. The unexpected boons. Our pantheon of heroes:
- Capt'n Seth of the Comma Police
- An Bender, Flyin' Ace
- The Heiko Kid
- The Blue Creature from the Bend
- Brett Thiessen (secret identity remains hidden)
- Coach Unpossible
Casey Stengel used to do this thing with the media where every year he'd point to a player on his team who wasn't already an established star (Gardner, Gallon, Lewan, Norfleet) and say "that guy is a lot better than people think." And that guy would have a really big year. Mentally (or mathematically if you're Mathlete) subtract John Q. MGoReader's expectation for the guys from your expectation for the guys this year, and tell us who's going to be surprisingly good?
BiSB: I'm on Team ACL this year. On the "breakout star" front, I'll go with BLAKE COUNTESS. I think a lot of people are expecting, or even hoping, that he'll come back
|Rev up the Countess hype again | Fuller|
approximately as he was as a freshman (which would still be pretty good), thinking his injury would offset whatever gains he has otherwise made. But we live in a world in which ACLs are repaired with unicorn dreams (or at least that's how Heiko explained it to me) and heal in six to nine months. Jake Ryan tore his five months ago, and is already running and doing lateral stuff. Countess is a full year removed, which in modern ACL years is "what, me worry?" I think on the conservative side we're going to get the Blake Countess we would have gotten in 2012, and on the upside we're looking at a guy who will compete with Bradley Roby and Darqueze "You Spelled Denard Wrong" Dennard for first team All B1G.
My "breakout contributor" guy is CHRIS WORMLEY, who also tore his ACL about a year ago. Heitzman is the starter at SDE, but Wormley can be a difference-maker. He's bigger and stronger than Heitzman, and already has a year in the system under his belt (even if a lot of that year was on an exercise bike). He'll get plenty of snaps anyway because of the depth at SDE and Mattison's love of DL rotation. He may never take over the starter label because Michigan doesn't really do the whole "roster update" thing, but I think by the end of the year he's the most effective guy at the position, and he'll be getting ~40% of the snaps.
Also, Norfleet will be the new Steve Breaston, by which I mean at some point a tight end will maddeningly refuse to pitch him the ball and as a result you will scream terrible terrible things to no one in particular.
Seth: NORFLEET IS ALREADY ESTABLISHED (else everyone would pick him)
[After the jump: NOT NORFLEET]
- Boo boos are the worst.
- Fitz Toussaint has been named the starter at tailback. Act surprised.
- Ryan Glasgow and Willie Henry are backing up Jibreel Black at 3-tech. Wormley is strictly a 5-tech, and Tom Strobel has fallen off the depth chart it would appear.
- Heitzman, Wormley, and Godin are rotating at the 5-tech.
- Blake Countess is the nickel corner for the nickel package. That tentatively means Michigan is experimenting with a nickel package of Raymon Taylor (CB), Delonte Hollowell (CB), Blake Countess (NB), Thomas Gordon (S), and Courtney Avery (S).
- Cam Gordon has been proclaimed the No. 1 guy at SAM. I've been strongly predicting Beyer to beat out Cam Gordon, but perhaps this will not be case. We'll see what happens once game day rolls around, but for now I'll concede that I was wrong.
- In things I'm not so willing to concede, Hoke says that Ben Braden has moved to tackle (he and Magnuson are third in the tackle pecking order) yet remains a guard. While Braden certainly has the ability to play guard (and took snaps there in the scrimmage when Bryant was out), he has not been taking practice reps there for two weeks now, suggesting that Michigan wants him at tackle. Ultimately, none of this matters. It's Bryant or busted assignments.
"We had our last two-a-day practice. I thought we ended that part of it, as far as the two practices a day, in pretty good shape. Did a lot this morning. Physical this morning, physical this afternoon. I like how the kids are coming out and how they're competing with each other. We have 11 days until we kick the ball off, so we have to make sure our timing, playing with speed, playing fast, playing physical like we want to -- we get all those things accomplished. I like the leadership and where we're at."
Do you wish the weather had been this warm earlier in camp?
"Yeah. It would have been nice if it had a little more heat, and I think we'll get some more this week, which will be good for us."
Have you made any personnel decisions yet? Center? SDE?
"Jack [Miller] and Graham [Glasgow], obviously. Chris [Bryant] didn't participate the other night, but he's back out there today. We played Graham at a lot of guard, so today we played them both in there at center a little bit more. I think we're getting closer."
Over the weekend Michigan had a scrimmage that simulated what they'll do for Notre Dame week. Michigan put some ULTRAZOOM highlights on the internet, some guy attempted to UFR them, Heiko attempted to forestall panic about what was contained therein to eagle-eyed watchers. First, let's examine the pore structure of various unidentified Michigan football players:
Graham Glasgow's playing left guard. More than that, Glasgow was playing left guard because Chris Bryant—not massively-hyped Ben Braden—was held out after having his knee drained. How do we feel about this?
On the one hand, Bryant is a massive human who is a natural guard, whereas Braden is a massive human who is maybe not the best fit on the inside. Having Bryant emerge as a contender at guard gives Michigan more line depth, and when he's been healthy he's drawn praise like this from Kenny Demens:
I’ve always been a fan of Chris Bryant. That has been my favorite offensive lineman since his freshman year. I remember his freshman year he was on scout team… whenever he pulled, I don’t care if you were Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen, myself, whoever… when Chris Bryant pulled, you were nervous. You were nervous! Chris Bryant brings the pain.
On the other, Braden is supposedly the most physically talented guy Taylor Lewan has ever seen and line shifts in camp remind you of last year, when the flippin' and the floppin' made the line like jello, Rudy. A steady hand is always better. Plus, Bryant spent all of last year injured to the point where he wasn't really doing much in spring. I'd heard he had some lingering pain issues from that even now, and he just got his knee drained. Also, Bryant was a decent recruit but not as hyped as you might remember. Only Rivals gave him four stars, and they were so up on his recruitment they ranked a 6'4", 340 pound guy at tackle.
Do we like it? Do we hate it? I don't know man. I think I'd rather hear that Bryant is seriously pushing Braden, who is locked in, instead of a position switch that undoes a position switch from spring. The flippin' and the floppin'. On the other hand, Bryant was not available then and is now. It could just be that he is pretty good.
Braden does get some snaps at that LG spot, BTW. He was off and on, apparently hasn't been practicing much at guard, and struggled some against interior quickness in the spring game. (He also seems to get beat by Willie Henry on a Rawls iso that goes nowhere in the above video.) So… I bet he is the #1 backup at tackle when the season starts and it's Bryant at guard. If that happens I'm going to decrement Braden expectations from "Jake Long 3.0" to "plus right tackle."
Toussaint looks like Toussaint. In a good way, not Poor Damn Toussaint of last year. No one else did much at tailback except Justice Hayes, who slips out of the backfield from a shotgun set and makes a touchdown catch after Gardner buys some time. Other running back events are Toussaint juking guys, running tough north and south, and picking up yardage. People other than Toussaint get consumed. Sample size qualifiers, obviously, but Toussaint is also getting external validation from insider types and the coaches.
It's one or two carries each for other challengers, thus indicating who has the lead in the race at RB and giving us no other information. Green gets bounced outside and swarmed, looking a little ponderous. Hayes gets to the hole and nailed on by Cam Gordon on a nice play; Ross grabs him in the hole on his next carry. Rawls picks up negative one yards and zero yards (the latter on a play from the two)—picking up where he left off. De'Veon Smith finishes that drive off.
Meanwhile, Hayes: he was reputed to be a spread-oriented back and excellent receiver. Michigan needs a third down back with the graduation of Vincent Smith. Of late I've been asserting that Toussaint should grab that job but if he's entering the season as the out-and-out feature back (which seems likely given his buzz and Green's injury) Michigan will want someone else to pick up linebackers and slip into the flat. Hayes would obviously be that guy. The other backs on the roster are young or bulky.
It does seem like he's locking down that spot. He was the back in all the shotgun snaps, with that touchdown catch and a screen that Dymonte Thomas engulfs.
The first snap is Kalis pulling to Lewan on a power play. Get used to that, kids.
Chesson and Reynolds are the receiving stars. Gallon was held out, probably because he doesn't have anything to prove at this point.
Also, guy who apparently gets injury information no one else gets says Darboh has picked up a boo boo. (Injury guy has since deleted the tweet, undoubtedly after a visit from Biff the Wolverine Enforcer.) He shows up in the first snap of the video as a blocker and then not again. Assumption: boo boo, held out, don't read too much into it. Injury Guy was right about Derrick Green, FWIW. Michigan was being a little coy with how much he was doing; the two-week estimate was not off base much, if at all. Darboh's thing is supposed to be a rolled ankle, so keep your hands off the panic button.
While you don't want to read too much into a hand-picked collection of pore videos, pencil Chesson and Reynolds in ahead of Jackson and any freshmen when it comes to the #3 and #4 outside receivers. Chesson's catch is pretty dang good, especially as it comes over Blake Countess.
Courtney Avery's playing free safety. This one is negative, I think. Avery's run support has never been a big positive, he's never played the position at Michigan, and it says some not great things about the guys backing up the presumed starters that a "five-eleven", 175 pound guy is getting a look.
One thing it probably doesn't mean: Jarrod Wilson is losing the job. Assumption here is that Michigan is experimenting in case something happens. If it is Wilson losing his job, uh, at least my prediction that we'll miss Jordan Kovacs will have been correct?
Cam Gordon is begging someone to photoshop this.
There is a lot of Cam Gordon in here. Cam Gordon pressures and chases Fitz Toussaint and hits guys and blitzes and whatnot. Beyer's supposed to be pushing Gordon quite a bit, but you can't tell that from this video, not only in terms of appearances but also in terms of Cam Gordon play. Since Beyer was not held out, that would seem to mean something.
There is also a lot of Willie Henry. The mountain wearing 69 is Henry, and he shows up on a bunch of snaps. Black was held out, but there are other guys—Strobel and Ryan Glasgow—who do not feature nearly as much. Most notably Henry helps bury the one Derrick Green carry and engulfs Rawls in the backfield. Something to note, maybe: on that play Richard Ash is also in, playing nose. Henry's at the three-tech. That makes sense with a quality nose rotation in place and a notable lack of size at three-tech. We might see him in a short yardage package instead of Black/Strobel.
It would be something if after this year we look back at ten years of recruiting and Glenville has provided Michigan with as many or even more plus players than Cass Tech.
Man I like that Dymonte Thomas play. Can't see much except Thomas flying up at lightning speed to beat a block and tackle, but me gusta.
[Also in CTK:
And Jibreel Black says things.]
Welcome to College Football Blood Bowl. Warhammer 40k is generally too dorky even for me, but if you're vaguely familiar with their science fiction orc-dwarf-elf-demon football spinoff "Blood Bowl"* something is probably nagging you about those CoFoPoff** logos. This is why:
Spikes coming out of a ball.
BONUS: is it bad that I wasn't sure which logo Seth was talking about when he said one of them looked like, er, the other end zone, if you know what I mean?
CONSPIRACY THEORY BONUS: all of their images are coming from ESPN's CDN.
*[Yeah, seriously. 40K is what happens when you put all science fiction and fantasy races/tropes into a blender. As I said: too dorky even for me.]
**[I can't call something "College Football Playoff" you guys.]
Surveyin'. Michael Rothstein annually polls the outgoing seniors about things both important and not so much*. Getting unvarnished opinions on breakout players and the like is always interesting. Your predicted breakout player is Gardner, with Gallon trailing some ways back. It sounds like they're doing everything possible to extend that insane 1300-yard pace($) Gallon was on with Gardner as his QB:
"I got two. Devin and Jeremy Gallon, by far. The way they came in during the offseason, they do things people probably wouldn't expect. The way Devin is throwing the ball now. I told Gallon, if you look at the stats, he [Gallon] had 100 [receiving yards] against Alabama, a hundred-something against South Carolina. Nobody in the Big Ten can stop you two next year."
"Jeremy Gallon and Devin Gardner. They are both hard workers. When we were sleeping during the summer on Saturdays, they were up, throwing the ball. They are a great combination together and both competitive and both smart players."
Meanwhile, Willie Henry is the surprise pick as your best redshirted freshmen, albeit more narrowly. Braden, Chesson, and Jeremy Clark follow. Henry also got a breakout player vote.
"This is going just off observation, but Willie Henry. He's a guy I went up against every day in practice, didn't get to play this year but a really, really talented kid. I'd venture to say as talented as some of the guys I played against this year. There is huge potential there and I feel he can have a great career at Michigan."
He's called "strong an ox" and "an animal." Motor is brought up as an issue. Henry certainly looked the part at the spring game, albeit mostly on the sidelines.
Part II is also interesting($). Anon on Funk:
"He's extremely thorough and he watches a play and throughout that play, he can see what all five offensive linemen did. It's crazy and I don't know how he can do it but just watching a play live, he understands and has the vision to see what happened the entire play. I don't know if he would be the best coach to manage all the bureaucratic stuff that comes with being a head coach, but he knows football as well as anybody."
*[The annual bitching about the liberals in Ann Arbor is hilarious. You can probably figure out which offensive linemen are the ones carrying that grudge.]
Bad pun. No, this isn't about Moe Ways, it's about Adreian Payne, who is still on the fence about his NBA decision two days before the deadline. I think he should go if only because I'm sick of always thinking I've misspelled his name and being correct about that 75% of the time. Also, without Payne MSU's frontcourt next year looks like this: Alex Guana, Kenny Kaminski, Matt Costello. His departure would be kind of a big deal.
The word from every source close to Payne is that it's "50-50" he returns to Michigan State.
MSU is amongst the favorites with him and in a second-tier pack without. I don't know, I look at a 6'10" guy who can jump as high as GRIII and has just found three point range and I'm taking him in the 20s. I mean, if Robinson was going to be #15 or whatever with an efficient 13% usage rate, Payne's at 20%, shoots 84/58/38 and boards extensively. Oh and he's four inches taller. GTFO! It's for your own good!
Mark Donnal talking. With UMHoops. Projected role:
What do the coaches have you working on this summer?
“I’ve been working on pick-and-pop. That’s one of the things they said me and Derrick would probably be doing — a lot of pick-and-roll, pick-and-pop sets like that. I’ve just been working on my mid-range jumpshot, my post moves, my hook shots both right and left. Those are the main things I’ve been working on.”
Donnal has some nice post skills and can shoot out to three point range. Athleticism is the main concern with him. Most people, including me, have been projecting a redshirt just because Michigan is pretty stocked at the 4 and 5 this season. Donnal is the sort of guy who probably won't be high on NBA radars no matter how good he is in college, so the idea of a fifth year there is appealing. But as we saw this year, if you've got a guy who can give you minutes as you go deep into the tournament you've got to play him.
Hello/goodbye Rutledge? Mike Spath reported that Jared Rutledge would take a year in the USHL for extra seasoning; Rutledge told the Daily he was sticking around; Spath said that was not the case. Yost Built has more details on an odd situation.
One guy who's not coming in for sure: Bryson Cianfrone. Spath reports($) he'll reclassify to 2014. Smart move for a guy who has talent but struggled with the level of competition in the USHL this year. Michigan has plenty of depth at forward this year, too.
Making friends. Winning hearts and minds. I actually agree with Mark Emmert when he says opposition to the recruiting deregulation he slammed through is the following:
“[The] counting of phone calls and text messages and emails … is frankly crazy,” Emmert told a group of bowl executives. “Literally, you have to hire someone to count your cell phone calls and to look at your phone records.”
… At least 75 Division I members had to weigh in by March 20 to force an override vote of the legislation. Emmert blamed football coaches for the pushback saying, “it's insane.”
It's just that maybe a guy invariably described as "embattled" should maybe seem a little less unhinged, is all. More hinges. Less waving around.
Etc.: Zak smack attack get back you don't want that. Pitt football players busted with 20 bags of heroin! That'll wrap up the Fulmer Cup in April. Dave Brandon says the idea he would run for Senate is "silly." SILLY LIKE A FOX.