JUST RUN THE BALL
I know you've touched on this before, but why isn't Denard scrambling on at least 25 percent of our called pass plays? I mean, can't Borges just tell him, "If your first and second reads aren't immediately open, run"? It seems like a win-win situation. If guys are wide open, great. If not, the holes are likely to be bigger than on our usual designed QB keepers. I know Denard seems to have problems with this, but has Borges ever actually said this is a problem that they're actively working to remedy? I don't get it.
Nobody knows why, but it's just never happening. I'm sure they've attempted to remedy this in multiple ways, like:
screaming RUNNNNN at him in practice when he should scramble
screaming RUNNNNNN at him in games when he should scramble
calling him at 3 AM and screaming RUNNNNNN at him
popping out of oversized birthday cakes screaming RUNNNNNN [note: works on children]
plopping down with despair and saying "I give up and welcome the sweet oblivion soon to follow"
Ain't happening. E-fact.
Student section celebration thing: can we carbon date this?
Regarding the whole rushing the field debate I have a question about the reverse: when the team runs over to party with the student section. You gave a list of when people rushed the field, but when was the first time the players ran over to the student section? I was in the band at the turn of the century (Boom. Old-timed.) and I don't remember that ever occurring. The first time I remember it happening was the Manningham TD against Penn State. Was that the first? When else can you remember it happening?
I do not actually know. 2005 Penn State sounds pretty good as a plausible start for that but I have this feeling it was more something that started in the RR era. I throw it open to readers: when did Michigan going over to the student section after home wins become a thing?
Funchess at WR?
My cousin brought up a scenario during the MSU game that I haven't seen discussed much: could Funchess move to WR next year if no one proves to be an adequate replacement for Gardner? He has proven that he has great hands, leaping and size. Along with this, if the idea is to give matchup issues for the defense, I see no bigger matchup problem than a 5'10" CB covering him. If he has blocking trouble, I don't see the sense in Ricardo Miller-ing him, but obviously I'm no coach. What say you?
For a guy like Funchess that's kind of a distinction without a difference. He's already lining up at WR in a lot of sets, and I imagine he'll continue to do so throughout his career. He is a flex tight end.
But Michigan shouldn't and almost certainly won't try to keep pounds off of him so that he's more of a downfield threat/WR guy instead of a tight end. He's already too big to be a guy who threatens CBs and safeties over the top, and he'll still be too fast for linebacker sorts to reliably cover. Bulking him up to NFL flex TE size—250, 260—makes him a more credible blocker and gets him more open when he does go out to catch passes.
Besides, Michigan's got a slightly smaller Funchess coming in. His name is Jaron Dukes. If there's a role for that on the outside he or Jehu Chesson can fill it.
[AFTER THE JUMP! MORE THINGS! ABOUT STUFF! /bradyhokeinjuryreport'd]
Black at SDE?
REACH OUT AND TOUCH FACE
With Craig Roh gone after this year and Jibreel Black not really working out at DT; would it make sense to transition him now to SDE to be the starter at that position next year?
The 4-3 under has three positions that are pretty close to each other in terms of requirements and will often see guys flip from one to the other without adverse effect: the two ILB spots, WDE/SAM, and SDE/3-tech. There are differences between each, but the general techniques are the same. If Black needs to move next year it won't be a shocking transition for him—and Michigan's still trying for a Rose Bowl so anything that helps out more this year is well worth hypothetical future costs.
Black's current position is helping Michigan. They need him at three-tech more. Roh is approaching RVB-like ironman status, something Will Campbell is never going to. Roh's also got a plausible backup in Heitzman. The only guys behind Black at three-tech are true freshmen who are being redshirted.
I do think Black is better than 50/50 to move to SDE next year as Michigan lets Henry, Godin, and Wormley claw at each other for the starting three-tech spot, or maybe moves Washington or Pipkins over. But he'll be able to deal with that when the time comes.
Does Denard do a go od job of carrying out fakes on the read-option/inverted veers/zone-reads/etc ?
I feel like he doesn't make a hard run as if he has the ball after he gives on read-option type plays. Do you agree with that and if so, do you think that Denard could facilitate things for Toussaint if he would carry out the fakes?
I think he could (or almost certainly would) draw defenders away from the play. On the other hand I guess there is an injury risk where a linebacker may clean his clock if he thinks Denard has the ball. Maybe what leads me to this is that I had felt like the camera guy would get faked out by zone-reads a lot more frequently in the rich rod days.
Do you think there is anything to this idea?
Michigan didn't actually run much read option in 2010, and never tried the veer. I remember complaining about its absence with gusto. So any comparisons to the RR days are invalid—the kind of mesh point riding that you'll see on veer plays isn't really part of the plain old zone read. RR's Denard offense was heavy on called runs alternating downhill running (iso, Michigan's belly series) with stretch plays. The read element was relatively minor.
Denard does an okay job of running plays out, and as you say if you go extremely hard with those fakes you can get lit up—RBs often get tackled despite not having the ball in this offense. Meanwhile, if Denard has chosen to give he should already have gotten the relevant guy to commit to him.
His bigger issue is making the wrong decision. That's not necessarily unusual—Ross Fulton's breakdowns at 11 Warriors point out a heap of missed reads by Braxton Miller. It is a drag on an offense that already has quite a lot of drag.
I was just listening to the podcast [ed: the one
three four weeks ago. timely!] and heard you mention our linebackers, and their role in our defense; how our current and future nose tackles will be looking to eat blocks, as opposed to tearing through the o-line and forcing a pitch on a speed option, as you so aptly put it, and allow our linebackers to fill-in the holes and make plays at or near the line of scrimmage. Knowing this, and assuming this is something we're likely to see lots more of in the coming years, what observations might you make about our linebacker recruiting classes under Mattison?
Well, if Michigan can get its hands on Mike Martin again I think they'll take him. Pipkins was a five star because his upside as a guy who can play at 320 and still run to the sideline, so… yeah. Getting that disruption from the nose tackle is something you take if you can get it. What Michigan's doing now—occupying blockers—is probably plan B for a Mattison-style defense. Ideally they'd be getting more impact from that three-tech spot.
So I don't think it'll have much impact on how the linebackers recruit and play. It's still about diagnosing quickly and getting to a gap. When you've got occupiers in the middle the gaps are predictable and you flow fast to a hole. When you've got Martin types you have to hold up more for cutbacks, but either way you've got to read, shed blocks, and tackle.
"Don't go and be a scheme coach"
ILBs are just kind of ILBs.
I'm wondering if Denard's injury might cause Borges and Hoke to re-think their conservative approach to the offense?
I'm not a doctor but since it appears this is what caused him to come out of the Illinois game, it seems like UM is playing with a time bomb - one good hit or fall to the turf could re-aggravate the injury and cause UM to play the rest of the game with a back up QB. Do you think Hoke/Borges might open up the offense from the start to try and get as many points on the board early so that if Denard does have to come out, UM is playing with the lead rather than trying to stage a comeback with a back-up QB?
If anything I'd think it would be the opposite: more called runs to the tailback and passing, which bizarrely counts as conservative in this iteration of What To Do With Michigan's Offense since it is less likely to result in Denard's arm falling off because it got banged wrong.
Unfortunately, none of that crap works. But at least you've got a better shot at it when defenses have to respect the threat Denard poses. I'm guessing we see a lot of zone "read" type plays to Gallon and Toussaint against the Gophers and relatively few Denard runs unless there is crunch time. At this point you have to keep Denard upright at all costs, even if that means risking another interception festival. DAMN YOUR RAMBLIN' WAYS, TATE FORCIER.