"Rodrick Williams Jr.'s 10-month old, 2-foot-long savannah monitor named "Kill" gets the RB some strange looks when they go for walks together."
IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE THREE *YARDS* AND A CLOUD OF DUST
-This preview, two years ago
IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE ANYTHING POSITIVE AND A CLOUD OF NOT EBOLA
-This preview, last year
IT PUTS THE FOOTBALL IN THE GAP OR IT GETS THE HOSE AGAIN
|FEATURE BACK||Yr.||SHORT YARDAGE||Yr.||3RD DOWN||YR.|
|De'Veon Smith||Jr.||De'Veon Smith||Jr.||Ty Isaac||So.*|
|Ty Isaac||So.*||Derrick Green||Jr.||Drake Johnson||Jr.*|
|Drake Johnson||Jr.*||Ty Isaac||So.*||Karan Higdon||Fr.|
This was a straight-up mess for much of last year. De'Veon Smith and Derrick Green had little idea of what functional blocking looked like (understandable after 2013) and a tendency to run at random. If—and this is entirely hypothetical—you were to rewatch some of these runs in detail you may—again, entirely hypothetically—find yourself reduced to screaming Happy Gilmore quotes about being too good for your home and then self-abasing because Happy Gilmore is a very bad movie enjoyed only by children and Ace. Hypothetically.
Late in the year Michigan tried out Drake Johnson and Justice Hayes and that went better, particularly with Johnson. Over the last four games of the season—Indiana, Northwestern, Maryland, and Ohio State—Johnson got the plurality of the carries and averaged 6.0 yards a carry to Smith's 4.7. Johnson had a reasonable day even against Ohio State, with 15 carries for 76 yards… and then he tore his ACL. Again. Sam Webb reported he only got fully cleared on Monday.
So it's back to those other guys, oh and Ty Isaac. Let's try it again, this time with coaching.
ARBITRARILY ORDERED TAILBACK CANDIDATE #1
HAIR ZOOM 2015 [Fuller]
My Bayesian estimation is that Smith has a tiny lead that wouldn't even be worth mentioning except for the fact that I have to talk about someone first.
This year: ditto.
The first arbitrarily ordered running back is DE'VEON SMITH. Your author does admit that the order of this list may contain some meaning. He is of the opinion that Smith is the most Harbaugh-friendly of the guys currently on the roster.
At his best, Smith is a beefier version of Mike Hart. He's got great balance and generally feels like a nuclear-powered icebreaker.
If you're in an offense where the line consistently delivers you three yards, Smith's ability to bash out another two or three with his balance and power is hugely powerful. That turns third and medium into third and short or a first down. It radically changes the percentages you're working with. This is the kind of gentleman Harbaugh made some headway with at Stanford. Going over all my Smith clips from last year is an exercise in YAC YAC YAC, to the point where the times he doesn't scrape out something after contact come as a shock.
[After THE JUMP: Smith downsides and three other arbitrarily ordered guys.]
The saddest legend. Is Toys R Us headquartered in North Carolina?
— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) August 17, 2015
Why stop there, NC State? You've honored a gentleman you chased off your campus for playing baseball who finished his Wolfpack career with 7.2 yards per attempt. Once you've broken down the walls between that gentleman and a legends patch there are no barriers left.
Who's wearing 23 for you? He's now the Michael Jordan memorial (probably) tailback. He played somewhat near your school, after all. Jordan Spieth—certainly a carbon-based lifeform—does not have a number, so you can put a patch for him on all your jerseys. Dr. Manhattan may be fictional, but that doesn't have to stop you, NC State. Six words: NC State legend Dr. Manhattan cosplay.
Boom. You just got wow experienced. That will be one million dollars for consulting. Make the check out to Boom Wow Experienced Dot Org Net Inc.
On Samuelson's exit. Dan Samuelson was extremely candid with Nick Baumgardner in the aftermath:
"It had been a tough two years, not seeing the field and really not ever hitting the two-deep spot," Samuelson said Saturday. "I just realized, this is my third season, my chances of playing still aren't very good. I decided it was time to make a change and head somewhere where my chances were a little better.
"I just felt like it wasn't the best fit for me anymore."
Samuelson says he was third string throughout the spring and summer, and was told to focus on gaining more weight this offseason by Michigan's coaching staff -- something he says he accomplished after wrapping spring ball at 6-foot-5, 289 pounds.
But once camp began, Samuelson says he began to realize he wasn't making any progress when it came to Michigan's depth chart.
These days it's tough to play at less than 300, and Samuelson struggling to get up to 290 in his third year means the writing's on the wall. Samuelson made no bones about it.
Injury scares. While it seems Bryan Mone is going to be laid up for a long time with the broken ankle everyone says he's got, rumors that two more players were down for the count seem overblown.
The way this generally goes is several sites report the same thing without names, but with each one using a different set of parameters to indicate who it is (offensive freshman expected to contribute, etc.) people can deduce who the players in question were. Then the sites are like "right, those two guys" in follow-ups. It's a quality system. I enjoy it.
Anyway, in this case the two injured gents were TJ Wheatley and Wyatt Shallman. Steve Lorenz reported that Wheatley had a knee thing that was just a strain, not torn ligaments; Sam Webb reported that Shallman has a strained calf. Both are missing practice time and may miss a game or two but should be back early in the season.
This is a bad article. There are many bad articles. I don't often point them out these days, but this one is special. It is a column in Psychology Today titled "Obesely Speaking" about something something Harbaugh intermittent reinforcement SCIENCE:
We are also drawn to Harbaugh because we are a social species, and instinctually we know that we are only as strong as our weakest, as healthy as our sickest, as wealthy as our poorest – though we’ve lost sight of that. Hence, his many humanitarian deeds add yet another level of appeal. I asked several Internet social media groups, such as Michigan Football HQ, The University of Michigan M Club, Michigan Proud and True, Big Ten Talk etc. why they liked Jim Harbaugh. U of M alumnus, Bruce Laing, encapsulates the majority opinion: He will instill toughness and accountability in the athletes, posted Laing in the University of Michigan M Club. Our children's futures are vital, so we embrace the importance of education, accountability and toughness because they galvanize that future; yet another reason Americans are drawn to Harbaugh.
Woof. The saddest part of this article is that it has 80(!) references to scientific papers at the end of it. Hopefully the guy just writes his columns such that all those papers are always at the end and he just C&Ps it. As good an explanation as any.
Well done. EDSBS commentariat member Tim Hodgson undertook an experiment:
Undertake your experiment today!
No union for (just) you. The National Labor Relations Board turned down Northwestern's attempt to unionize yesterday with a ruling reminiscent of Kirk Ferentz facing fourth and two in the opponent's territory:
"In the decision, the Board held that asserting jurisdiction would not promote labor stability due to the nature and structure of NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS)," the NLRB wrote in its decision. "By statute the Board does not have jurisdiction over state-run colleges and universities, which constitute 108 of the roughly 125 FBS teams.
"In addition, every school in the Big Ten, except Northwestern, is a state-run institution. As the NCAA and conference maintain substantial control over individual teams, the Board held that asserting jurisdiction over a single team would not promote stability in labor relations across the league.
"This decision is narrowly focused to apply only to the players in this case and does not preclude reconsideration of this issue in the future."
They punted. That's disappointing and a bit nonsensical. Matt Hinton points out that this is a federal agency explicitly concerned with a "level playing field" that does not exist and never will. By shooting down this case, the NRLB forces any unionization effort to be held over at least all private schools and probably something even wider than that.
There is short term relief here for the NCAA; in the longer term this is going down in court.
Etc.: Wheatley profiled. 1981 SI piece on Bo is gold. The first-ever sports team at Michigan. Do not read, Gary Danielsn. Also do not read, Gary Danielson. Here is a week old piece on Kevin Tolbert I meant to link earlier.
The flow is strong with this one. [Upchurch]
Versatile redshirt sophomore Wyatt Shallman has garnered attention for both his potential fit in Harbaugh's offense and his unusual taste in pets. We covered both topics in a one-on-one from last week's Media Day.
What are you playing this year?
I’m playing running back.
How comfortable are you at the position and how do you feel you fit in with the offense this year?
I feel I fit in great. You need a stable of running backs and can fit in that stable real well. I’m real comfortable with it. They lay out the offense pretty well for us so it’s easy to learn, easy to understand, so you’ve just gotta make sure you’re paying attention when you’re in meetings and stuff.
Word is practice is pretty intense. How would you compare the style from this spring to previous years?
Football is football, so it’s not too different. Obviously every coach is going to have a different format, but we got out there and competed this spring, and it’s the same with other coaching staffs around college, you just get out there and compete and play football.
What would you say is the biggest shift for you guys so far from an offensive philosophy standpoint? Is there anything that’s markedly different with the offense right now?
There’s going to be [a] difference as soon as you get a new coach. We’re really priding ourselves on running the ball, we did a lot of that this spring. Our fullbacks and our other running backs, they pride themselves on getting yardage. That’s kind of our mindset, just getting those yards and getting the yards after contact, too.
It’s the first year in forever that Fred Jackson isn’t the running backs coach. How’s the transition going from him to Tyrone Wheatley?
It’s been great. Coach Jackson was a great coach. I’m going to miss him. He’s a great man too, he taught me a lot. Coach Wheatley, he’s a great coach, and I’m not taking anything away from Coach J but he brings his own little style, and it’s fun to learn everyone else’s little style.
Has he been showing you guys his highlights?
Not really, but he still lets us know that he can play. His cuts… he likes to get into drills and do a little bit of showing the drills fast, so he still shows us a little bit of that, that he can still move the way he does.
So he can still move pretty well?
What was stranger: having the police show up at your front door about a wallaby or seeing your head coach shirtless at a camp in Prattville?
Probably the shirtless head coach. I got a couple other housemates that might be more at fault about the wallaby, so that wasn’t that crazy of a situation. But, yeah, seeing Coach Harbaugh shirtless was kinda wild.
As a team, how do you guys react to seeing a coach that’s way more in the news than Hoke ever was?
It’s just interesting. The personality that you see outside of everything here is the personality we see all day, so he’s not putting on a show. Coach Harbaugh is who he is. He’s an interesting dude. He’s intense.
I’ve gotta bring it back to the wallaby. You guys have a real live Australian now on your football team. What was Blake’s reaction to that whole thing?
He basically said wallabies are like varmint in Australia, pretty comparable to squirrels, so I don’t know why everyone was freaking out about that. People like to get any story they can have and hold onto it so how about a couple college kids with a wallaby. It was not even smart to have everyone freaking out about that. It wasn’t a big deal.
What’s the goal for the team this year, and for you personally, what’s your mindset heading into the season?
Personally it’s just to help the team any way I can. I think that’s everyone’s mindset. If you’ve got everyone working towards the same goal you’re more likely to achieve it. So we’re just working to get better and to get this team better, just doing the things we need to do.
They don't know what kind of marsupial it is.
The internet helpfully pointed out that keeping wildlife, uh, a gravid marsupial, for uh, you know, domestic…
…ain't legal. Also, Mariaklots is correct. That thing is a wallaby. Shane Morris had zoobooks and knows.
— Shane Morris (@ShaneMorris_7) June 26, 2015
No word on the ferret, or which of the many splendiferous names I offered up was eventually chosen. (I have money on Ferret Bo Jackson.)
We might have to have a Twitter of the Year bracket if things keep going in this direction. First, Jack Wangler helps out Justice Hayes!
— jack wangler (@J_Wangler16) June 17, 2015
And then there's Jourdan Lewis with his best Marshawn Lynch impression.
— Jourdan Lewis (@JourdanJD) June 18, 2015
I would support Lewis extending this impression to all media interactions, getting everyone all furious at him, and then dropping the charade in the middle of a press conference for seemingly no reason.
Also, this post reminded me that Wyatt Shallman bought a ferret. This has been the best offseason.
Yea, and we shall block things
Ace: Which returning player do you expect to have the biggest breakout season under Jim Harbaugh? Who benefits the most from the coaching change? To keep us from all answering the same thing, first responder gets to take Butt/Bunting.
Adam Schnepp: Butt/Bunting or whoever lines up at Y/TE are obvious (and very merited) choices, but I think that the returning player most likely to have a breakout season under Harbaugh is the guy who ends up being the starting quarterback. That may seem like a strange pick considering that there isn't actually a specific player whom I can definitely name here, but there's pretty solid circumstantial evidence to back up my prediction.
|Beeeeeee goooooooooood. [Fuller]|
Harbaugh's long had a reputation as a quarterback guru, and for good reason: he developed Andrew Luck and Colin Kaepernick while helping resuscitate Alex Smith's career. Smith had a career completion percentage of 57.1% and threw for 6.2 yards per attempt in the five seasons before Harbaugh arrived. In two years under his tutelage, Harbaugh simplified the offense and Smith's stats benefited for it; his completion percentage in those two years rose to 64.3% while his yards per attempt rose to 7.4.
After years of suffering through Brady Hoke and his offensive staff trying to slam a round peg into a square hole over (Denard) and over (Devin) and over (Shane) again, it's going to be a breath of fresh air to watch Harbaugh implement an offense that's supposed to work to a quarterback's advantage. In the Smart Football article linked above Chris Brown discusses how Harbaugh erased sight adjustments from his offense so that the quarterback didn't have to hesitate when the defense presented coverages that shifted post snap. Instead there were built-in hot routes in every play that didn't require the quarterback to hope the receiver reacted the same way to the coverage they were presented with.
If the past is any indication of the future then whoever wins the quarterback battle is going to have a firm grasp of progressions as well, because Harbaugh tries to make this as simple for the quarterback to rapidly work through as he can (more on that here and here). I expect Harbaugh to implement similar concepts at Michigan, where the power running game should open up options for the quarterback to create the type of big plays that we didn't see last season.
[After the jump: someone will take Butt/Bunting. Eventually.]