"Jim's a tough guy and you can see his personality is all over this football team," Fitzgerald said.
2013 will be remembered as "The Season of Infinite Pain" for me, and for many others, I suspect. High expectations have a way of making even good seasons frustrating; 2013 has been well-below "good." Not only did we fail to compete for a B1G Championship, we had our expectations boosted after a magical performance against Notre Dame, only to be crushed by consecutive weeks of struggling to beat two of the worst programs in college football.
I was going to wait until after the bowl game to write this diary, but this lull is killing me and let's face it--the BWW Bowl isn't going to change much.
This series is something of a follow-up to my diary re-ranking players based on Rivals ratings. Reading the beginning of that diary will help explain the player's rankings (as well as the Rivals ranking system). Additionally, I've added letter grades, which are explained more thoroughly at the end of the post, so that we can get down to business with the first position group in the series:
Season Grade: C+ Overall, it was a less-than-stellar year on the defensive front. My pre-season predictions said the fate of our season rested on the offensive and defensive lines, and I believe that turned out to be the case. The D-Line produced just 13.5 sacks, and only one player on the line had more than 2.5. The "right to rush four" was never earned, and the season suffered because of it.
That said, there were some positive signs. Frank Clark showed marked improvement, and Willie Henry emerged as a viable option to replace either QWash or Black in 2014. Wormley started to emerge in limited snaps, and other young guns like Ojemudia and Charlton showed flashes.
Big things were expected of Frank Clark in 2013
Season Grade: B+ To say Frank Clark made a big jump this year would be an understatement: he had 17 more tackles, 3.5 more TFLs, and 3.0 more sacks than in 2012. More importantly, he played much more consistently and held down his job as the WDE all season. He led the team in TFLs by a whopping 5.0, and many of those came against some strong opposition (2.5 vs. Iowa, 2.5 vs. MSU).
That said, the off-season hype and reports of him besting Taylor Lewan in practice pushed expectations to a probably unreasonable level, and he did not come through. I predicted that we would need at least eight sacks from Frank Clark if our defense was going to get the requisite amount of pressure on opposing passers to make 2013 a successful (B1G Champs) season. Not only did he fall far short of that number, his five sacks all came in three games: UConn, Penn State, and Indiana. In hindsight, we sure needed those sacks against UConn and PSU, but they weren't enough to win the game. His pass-rushing was pretty quiet--even though he deserved a few more QBH's, he only finished the season with seven (which led the team), and had just three in B1G play.
2014 outlook: It says here (again) that without significant production from Frank Clark (or a surprise at WDE), the whole 2014 team's ceiling is limited. It is vital for every 4-3 team to be able to produce consistent pressure from their front four, and the WDE is the guy with the best opportunities in our system. If Clark can't get to eight sacks in '14, we'll once again find ourselves in the middle-of-the-pack (#67 nationally in 2013 with 23.0 total) in sacks. That is not a good place to be.
Jibreel Black will be missed
Season Grade: B Jibreel Black is the kind of player you like more every time you see him play. I believe he was our most consistent performer on the line this year, even plugging-in at NT despite his 278 lb. frame. Black, by far, produced the most pressure from the interior of the line, and probably produced the most consistent pass-rush of anyone on the team.
Unfortunately, it wasn't good enough. He was tied for second (Cam Gordon) on the team with 7.5 TFLs and third (Chris Wormley) with 2.5 sacks. On the defensive line, only Clark and Willie Henry had more tackles. Yes, he was a productive player, but this needs to be the baseline for DTs if we are going to achieve our potential as an elite program. For Jibreel Black, I see a guy who maxed his potential and deserves to be remembered for his worthy contribution. But I also see a guy who stood out more than he should have because of pretty poor production by the D-Line as a unit.
NFL draft outlook: Black is a fringe prospect, IMO, with a minimal chance of being a FA pick-up.
Quinton Washington's 2013 was a bit of a mystery
Season Grade: C+ I call shenanigans. QWash finished the 2012 season strong--he had ten tackles in our last three games and a sack in the Outback Bowl--and appeared poised to be one of the team's most important pieces in 2013. While no confirmed injuries were reported that I am aware of, I believe there were some physcial issues that held him back this year. But that's just speculation.
What is certain is that his season was just mediocre. We needed him to eat blocks and make a few plays each game; he didn't do enough of either, registered zero TFLs on the season and just five solo stops. Expectations probably hovered around 35 tackles, 8.0 TFLs, and 3.0 sacks; he was far short of all of those marks. Sure, part of it was that we frequently had smaller DL packages out there, but if QWash had been playing up to his potential, I don't think Mattison would have kept him on the sideline. He was serviceable while he was in, but that's about the best I can say.
NFL draft outlook: Not happening. He appeared poised to be a late-round pick after last year, but a completely lackluster senior season seems to have erased that possibility.
It's remarkable that we never established a starter at SDE. Keith Heitzman was the presumed and nominal guy, but only started seven times and didn't even play in one of our games. Brennen Beyer is currently listed as the starter at SDE, and he spent most of the season playing SLB with his 250 lb. frame. It is not good that he is our best option at that position. Chris Wormely showed signs that he can play up to his lofty potential, but did not produce consistently. Matt Godin was sometimes on the field.
Willie Henry figures to start at either DT or NT in 2014. Despite playing in only nine games (and missing stat-boosters CMU and Akron) and starting just five, Henry racked-up 28 tackles and 2.5 TFLs. 13 of those tackles came in the final three games. QWash's 2013 fade gives me pause, but I will go ahead and predict a big 2014 for Henry anyway, in the 40 tackle range with about 10 TFLs. Tom Strobel (whom I wrongly predicted would have a breakout 2013) will also figure into the rotation here, and perhaps Henry Poggi and Maurice Hurst.
Beyer is the presumed starter at SDE, and, as Brian says, will likely fulfill his Roh 2.0 destiny. He will add 20-30 lbs. in the off-seasn and be solid but not spectacular, just as he has been this year. He will be reviewed again in the LB wrap-up.
Ondre Pipkins will probably be our starting NT if he can get healthy; that is a big "if" for a 300-plus pounder who's had trouble staying in shape when his legs worked properly. If it's not him, please feel free to panic as Richard Ash is currently listed as the #2 option at NT. After that? Ryan Glasgow is the only other guy with the requisite size (and the aforementioned Henry, which requires plugging someone else in at DT) to play the position. Perhaps Hurst will become a NT; Bryan Mone will be a true freshman and is likely to get some snaps.
Mario Ojemudia and Taco Charlton represent what I believe to be the most talented group of back-ups on the roster, and I expect both to contribute. Charlton may very well be big enough to play SDE and even DT on passing downs, and I hope we find a combination of players that can get pressure on third down without blitzing, which may put Ojemudia at the SDE.
The line will lose its interior starters in Qwash and Black, but both are replaceable. Henry is likely to be an upgrade at either position, and in the other spot...well, we may miss Jibreel Black if someone doesn't step-up. At SDE, I expect Beyer to be an upgrade over the platoon this year. Even if he's not, I'd expect Wormley to be an upgrade.
To be an elite defensive front, we need our line to produce around 20 sacks. That's 50% more than this year's group could manage. While I believe Clark will take another step forward, Beyer will be solid, and I am excited about the future for Henry and Wormley, 2015 is when Hoke's recruiting will have the D-Line up to snuff. I expect a "B/B-" season in 2014...quite a bit better than this year, but not yet elite.
- A+ Consensus All-American. One of the best players in the country regardless of position.
- A Likely Second-tem All-American/First-team All-B1G. A hugely impactful player that affects every snap for which he is on the field and is one of the better players at his position in the country.
- A- Likely All-B1G selection. A play-maker that forces other teams to adjust their gameplan.
- B+ An impact player who is a big factor in the team's success.
- B "The expectation for the position." At Michigan, this means you are doing your job well enough to get us to at least 10 wins and to challege for the B1G title.
- B- Not quite up to par. A player who may start, but an upgrade would be helpful.
- C+ Significant snaps for a C+ player will hold the team back from achieving its goals: 10 wins and a B1G championship.
- C An average college football player on an average team. Picture an average starter at Washington State.
- C- A player that is consistently unproductive and should only be on the field in an emergency situation or for garbage time.
- D+ A player whose performance hurts the team.
- D A player that should not be on the field for any reason at Michigan.
- F Pure disaster.
Please note that these grades are NOT representative of what I believe to be a player's future potential. I am not assuming anyone with a low grade will turn out to be an unproductive player at Michigan.
Heading into the 2012 season there was much concern over the lack of size of the interior DL. Spring Practice has us convinced that undersized Jibreel Black and hopefully breakout player Will Campbell would be manning those spots and we would survive.
Cut to 2012 Fall Practice and seemingly out of nowhere Quinton Washington emerged as the surprise starter. He went on to have a very good season and hopefully will continue this trend for 2013.
So I pose the question Who will be the surprise breakout starter/contributor for the 2013 season? Here are the candidates:
RB Drake Johnson
Spring Practice was the time for another RB to emerge as Toussiant was still on the shelf and all of the practice reps and carries were there for the taking. Aside from Justice Hayes grabbing the 3rd Down RB spot it didn't seem like anyone else had separated themselves. I was expecting to see more "OR" in the RB depth chart but surprise we see Johnson has used Fall Practice to clearly pass Rawls and the freshman. Speaking of the freshman I think this spot at the depth chart doesn't represent contribution ability but rather the best utilization of eligibility years. Touissant is the clear starter and Hayes should take the majority of 3rd Down plays, leaving only "breather" and "garbage" carries for the other RBs. Better to use Johnson than Green or Smith until and unless either of them show they are ready to take primetime carries.
LG Graham Glasgow
Glasgow had been in a battle with Miller for the Center spot for the Spring Practice and it seemed most of Fall Practice. Only recently did we start hearing Chris Bryant was going to start and almost just as quickly that he had been passed Glasgow. Hopefully Bryant still troublesome knee was not the reason Glasgow took the spot, but rather that once Glasgow got consistent snaps at LG he beat the guy would could have started in 2012. Hopefully this is not similar to 2011 when Barnum was the starter at LG but was injured, making us believe he would be good in 2012.
SLB Brennan Beyer
We have continuously heard praise for Cam Gordon's athleticism and playmaking ability while the only think I remember reading about Beyer that he is a good run defender. Yet he started the Spring Game and remains the co-starter. Here's hoping he has shown significant improvement and all his "hype" has been swallowed up by Fort Schembechler.
My choice for the 2013 Surprise Fall Contributor is Graham Glasgow. Really the only knock against him was his underwhelming recruiting profile, which history has shown means little when dealing with lineman.He is a third year lineman with the size and strength to be a very good player at LG.
I finally got my video editing rig unborked, so now I can get back to making parkinggod highlights and Moving Picture Pages.
(update) My time off has made me sloppy. Wrong font, weird timings on the captions, forgot the Evil Space Magic trick to embed the video, didn't properly credit Brian (original analysis his, used with permission), didn't link back to the original http://mgoblog.com/content/picture-pages-short-yardage-slant, etc., etc. You'll have to excuse me for a bit while I go run the stadium steps.
by Burgeoning Wolverine Star (LINK).
Here's the video of the play in question:
Note that Quinton Washington pushes Purdue's
right left guard back so far that he takes out the pulling left right guard, forcing the RB outside into Jake Ryan and Kenny Demens.
"Will": A One-Down Play (w/ apologies to "Airplane!")
QUARTER 1, DOWN 1
ANNOUNCER: Welcome to the game, folks. The Michigan defense starts their work at the 22. Looks like the offense is in an unusual formation, trips plus tight end all on one side of the field. Split end goes into motion. . . to the strong side! Five guys on one side? I don't know if they're trying to confuse Mattison, but they're sure confusing me!
JORDAN KOVACS: Coverage Blue-18. . . Wait, it's not trips, guys! It's quints!
QUINTON WASHINGTON: Huh?
KENNY DEMENS: Denny, Will covers the slot, not the wideout!
WILL CAMPBELL: What?
DESMOND MORGAN: I'm on him! Coverage, Black-32!
JIBREEL BLACK: What?
JORDAN KOVACS: They can't all be on the line. They're forming a second row!
CRAIG ROH: Huh?
JAKE RYAN: Split your zone with Denny, Kenny!
KENNY DEMENS: Will do!
WILL CAMPBELL: What?
JAKE RYAN: Jordan, JT will cover the flanker, but can he stay with him?
WILL CAMPBELL: What?
KENNY DEMENS: Huh?
JORDAN KOVACS: Who?
I'm starting to feel better about NT depth after this year. Although Washington and Ash have not played much, each of them were mentioned by Brady Hoke in news conferences without being asked.
Last week, Brady was asked if he wanted to get Devin Gardner in the game, and Brady's answer was that he wanted to get a lot of people into the game, like Quinton Washington. This week, he was asked about morale and getting backups in. Brady's answer was about how good it was to get Ash into the game.
I also rewatched the end of the Minnesota game and Ash and Washington were in together. Nothing spectacular and it was Minnesota, but they seemed to do fine.
Not feeling as good about 3-tech and 5-tech, but that's probably why Brady went after Wormley, Godin and Strobel. I imagine two of these three will play next year behind Campbell.