Another day in which I wish this comments section could handle grape emoji. We don't need the rest, just give us the grapes.
This Week’s Obsession: My Kingdom for a Tackle
So, next year’s offensive line/defensive line…any conce…why did you just run under the bed?
Seth: I ask this because I was playing with a depth chart for next year and I'm kind of more worried about DT than OT.
Ace: It’s an understandable concern, especially now that it looks more likely Michigan could whiff on Solomon/Tufele/Reitmaier. While I’m still more worried about the offensive line, the lack of depth after Mo Hurst and Bryan Mone—who hasn’t been able to stay healthy for anywhere close to a full season—is worrisome. A couple freshmen are going to get pressed into service early.
Seth: That's the thing: there aren't a lot of bullets in that chamber.
Ace: With the number of SDE/5-tech types Michigan is bringing in this class (Hudson, Jeter, Irving-Bey), I wouldn’t be surprised if Rashan Gary slides inside to help out with that.
In related news, it’d be really nice if Lawrence Marshall finally broke through.
Seth: I figure the starting four are locked: Gary at SDE (anchor), Hurst at DT, Mone at NT, Winovich at End. For passing downs they go with a 30 front, pulling Mone and having Gary and Hurst slide down. The top DL backup then is your backup anchor: Kemp, Reuben Jones, Marshall, whoever, who comes in for Gary when Gary is in for Hurst who may be in for Mone. But then Mone hasn't stayed healthy for a year yet. And if you lose any of them we're down to....Dwumfour?
Ace: Paea is the least college-ready of the incoming DTs; I still like him more at guard, to be honest. I think Dwumfour and Hudson are the best bets for those backup spots if Michigan can’t land Tufele. Practice reports from the Army Bowl have been pretty positive for Irving-Bey, as well, so perhaps he could get into the rotation.
Mone’s health is paramount, which is rather terrifying.
Seth: Yeah, none of those guys are likely going to be ready to play nose, and that would be a colossal waste of Hurst.
Ace: I don’t see many scenarios in which Hurst doesn’t see a fair amount of time at nose, unfortunately. He should be much better at it next year than he was in 2015, though.
Seth: The playbook has Hurst-style nose tricks, and I agree 305-pound senior Hurst >>> 275-pound sophomore Hurst. But when you put a guy with his skills over the center and leave him to doubles forever those glorious plays when he's in the backfield before the quarterback has pulled up his read buttons disappear.
Ace: You can still slide Gary inside on those snaps, insert one of the young guys at SDE, and have a pretty decent line out there, though.
[After the jump: we scrape the bottom of the snap stats for potential contributors, and then we do the OL.]
Seth: Super darkhorse candidate: Carl Myers, a preferred walk-on who turned down MAC offers and played against Hawaii (and was born the day I graduated high school). This concludes potential DTs on the roster.
Ace: That is the darkest of horses. I’d be shocked if walk-ons played over freshmen. These aren’t Glasgows.
Seth: Harbaugh's 2016 walk-ons aren't your normal walk-ons, though. I wouldn't peg any one non-Glasgow but there's enough interesting clay in that pile that I'd surprised if none of them end up contributors.
Adam: FWIW, Glasgow said Mattison likes to have a swing guy that can play both spots. He then said in the past it has typically been Hurst, though it ended up being Glasgow when fall camp broke last year because Hurst was dinged up and Mone was playing so well at nose. You have to be able to spell Mone, so I agree that we're going to see a fair amount of Hurst at nose.
Ace: Myers was listed at 268 pounds this year. While I don’t want to count out a kid, I’d be pretty damn concerned if he was in the rotation over James Hudson.
Seth: Oh that was just a major straw grasp.
Ace: Miller, for what it’s worth, was at 271, and he’s also an outgoing senior.
Seth: Yeah Miller's done. These guys were mentioned because we've literally reached the end of the list of players who got snaps this year. Unless Onwenu is the first 360-pound two-way player in history.
Ace: Let’s use that to transition to the O-line, because I’ve got Onwenu as pretty much a lock to start at guard. That almost certainly eliminates him from two-way contention outside of scattered situational snaps.
Seth: Mmmmm goal line grapes.
Adam: Where does Cole end up? Is Ruiz a plausible starting center or do you guys feel more comfortable leaving Cole there?
Ace: If anyone can step in and play center right away, it’s Ruiz, and the more I look at the potential OL combinations, the more I think that’s going to be necessary.
Seth: I'm strongly of the opinion that Cole should stay at center unless they're in a dire emergency at tackle.
Adam: I kinda feel like they're in a dire emergency at tackle.
Seth: I didn't say it was unlikely.
Ace: Even if you pencil in Grant Newsome at LT, which is not a certainty, it’s hard to figure out who takes the other tackle spot aside from Cole. Bushell-Beatty just didn’t look viable this year.
Ace: So then you’re deciding whether you want your freshman starter at tackle (Filiaga, perhaps) or center (Ruiz).
Seth: Unconfirmed practice reports did say Ulizio is viable.
Ace: Ulizio didn’t play over JBB, so I’m skeptical, to say the least. I know he’s younger but that’s still concerning.
Seth: I don't find it that concerning. RS freshman Taylor Lewan couldn't get Mark Huyge out of the lineup.
Ace: Huyge was a senior starter, though, IIRC. JBB was… not that.
Seth: Not saying either player is of the caliber of those guys but I would call it normal for a lineman to need two years of college practice before his talent can translate to the field.
Ace: That’s fair, but that’s also the concern. The two redshirt sophomores are Ulizio and Jon Runyan Jr., a late flier and a three-star legacy, respectively. This is why I’m more concerned about the O-line than the D-line. We can at least quite easily project a starting DL. The OL is way, way tougher to even do that.
Adam: I'm cautiously optimistic about a Newsome-Bredeson-Ruiz-Onwenu-Cole line. My optimism has quite a few caveats, though: Newsome healing quickly, Bredeson taking a step forward, Ruiz being what the scouting reports say he is, and the epic Onwenu v. Gary Christmas Camp battles being epic due to the competitiveness and not just the whole jeez-those-two-humans-are-built-like-supervillains factor.
Seth: Spanellis is another bullet in the chamber. Anything on him evaporated with his injury this year but he's a 6'6/335 Harbaugh recruit who reportedly can convert oxygen and carbohydrates into energy.
Ace: Spanellis was reputed to be more of an inside guy and they’re in greater need of a young tackle to emerge. I think one of the freshman OTs would see the field before him. The other combination I think is a good possibility if things break right: Newsome-Kugler-Cole-Onwenu-Bredeson. I know it’s not a certainty that Kugler even comes back. But he’s their only shot at not having a totally inexperienced guy (or JBB) in the starting lineup.
Seth: My thing on Cole is you really want your most experienced lineman at center. Ruiz isn't your typical center—usually anybody strong enough to play line in D-I ends up at tackle in high school—but even IMG doesn't come close to matching 38 starts at Michigan. I think if you're going to get away with two young guys on an offensive line, you need a grandpa in the middle telling them what to do.
Ace: Yeah, I generally agree with that, even if Ruiz is ahead of his years at the position. That’s why I want Kugler back or for Michigan to hit the grad transfer market. Which I’m starting to think is more and more of a possibility on both lines as we have this discussion.
Seth: Kugler does have a bona fide start to his name. But I could see a Newsome-Ruiz-Cole-Onwenu-Bredeson line, with Ruiz in an understudy role before sliding to center in 2018.
Ace: That could work out. Ruiz is a hefty dude. Now, do we dare broach the potential combinations if Newsome isn’t healthy enough to play?
Seth: I think we have to.
Adam: Bredeson-Ruiz-Cole-Onwenu-A Football Player?
Adam: Getting Filiaga would be nice.
Ace: He’s freakin’ massive, which is helpful. He’d still be a bit of a project and probably not great in pass protection, though.
Seth: I think it was Sam (via Brian, while talking to Steve in a podcast) who said there are two guys in high school who could play Power 5 tackle next year, and that's Leatherwood and Filiaga.
Ace: I really hope he’s right on that.
Adam: Cole-Kugler-Ruiz-Onwenu-Bredeson is another possibility if they don't get Filiaga.
Seth: They do have Asiasi and Wheatley around. Borges showed us how not to do it by having A.J. Williams line up as an all-time blocker (next to Lewan!!) but the concept of playing a blocky-first/catchy-some guy next to a right tackle who's more guard-like is as old as football. It's not ideal, but Wilton Speight's pocket presence could mitigate that enough to get away with it for a year.
Ace: Heck, based on the bowl game, that might be a good thing.
(It’s not a good thing.)
Seth: Yeah if Speight needs to get punched in the chest some to unlock Good Speight it should be administered in a controlled environment by Dr. Harbaugh.
/giphy dr harbaugh
Was hoping the actual Dr. Harbaugh GIF would show up but that one’s probably more appropriate for this discussion.
Seth: Please I don't ever want to see my doctor reacting that way.
Ace: So, yeah, the D-line depth worries me, but pretty much everything about the O-line worries me. (Except Onwenu. Grapes of Wrath forever.) And it’s much easier to patch up depth issues with freshmen on the D-line than the O-line.
Adam: Yeah, that's where I'm at. Slide some guys around and the D-line will be fine. Slide guys around, hope one gets healthy and one comes back, maybe grab a big recruit, then hope the ones you did land play ahead of their years and you'll field an O-line.
For instance, What happens when Mone goes down? Even if Dwumfor is ready, That would have Hurst playing lots of NT and Gary playing inside... which sounds fine, until you realize that 1) We;d have to play at least one guy inside and one guy outside that would be would be inexperienced at best and a total unknown at worst. I.... I don't like that.
As for the O-line, we just need someone to be functional. I guess I am pining my hopes on Bredeson-Cole-Onwenu being a decent foundation for an O-line, with Kugler, Ulizio, Spanellis, (Hopefully) Filiaga, and Ruiz as wild cards; it seems like not long ago we had less to work with. Plus, if Newsome can return at some point (a big iff) then it's no question where the problem area is.
I guess with this coaching staff, I'd rather give them more options to find the two or three options we'll need to get through the year, beacue I am confident they will find one. Even though I love me some Mattison, the cupboard is just BARE at D-tackle.
Of course, this could just be conditioning. I am used to Michigan struggling at O-line; I am also used to having some dynamos on the d-line.
If we have trouble finding a nose next year I expect Dr. Brown will solve this issue by bringing more blitzes and slanting the line more. We have a lot of intriguing bullets in the SDE and DT area. Using speed to jump gaps can be very effective if you don't have the size.
I think we're going to be ok there.
One thing that the Hoke era OL and corresponding UFR taught me is that all it takes is one blown assignment on the OL to destroy a play. So, while you're right that Cole-Bredeson-Onwewu is a solid foundation to build on, the sketchiness that is the rest of the OL corps is a legit cause for concern. I'm excited as much as the next Wolverine about Ruiz (and hopefully Filiaga), but even assuming best case scenarios from them leaves us desperately in need of Newsome recovering and other OL developing and/or executing (e.g. Ulizio, Kugler, JBB).
I find that the fretting over DL is overblown. Even if Mone goes down and Hurst and maybe others (i.e. Gary) have to fill in, we're talking about *effectiveness* of DL, not the possibility of them hamstringing the entire defense.
That's the difference to me. Even with a lot of things breaking right, OL is a concern, whereas if everything breaks right on DL, we're looking great.
I think we will get a NT even if we have to go down the food chain slightly (Juan Harris?)... And I think everyone is underestimating Carl Meyers. He is coming to camp next year as s 290 lb beast ready to step into the 3 deep
I'm good with both lines,
WDE- Winovich/ Johnson/ Vilain
DT- Hurst/ Gary (60/40)
NT- Mone/ Hurst/ Dwumfour (60/20/20)
SDE- Gary/ Marshall/ Kemp (40/50/10)
That's a legit 7 deep, all with experience and talent, and few other guys to fill in some gaps.
I'm sure out of those 8 or 9 guys the staff can come up with a good top 5, obviously having Newsome back would be huge
with experience and talent? Seems like you're double counting Gary and Hurst as backups, because other than the starting four, the only one with any experience is...Marshall?
And that list of OL includes a guy that almost certainly will not play, a couple true freshmen (one of which isn't even committed yet) and a couple of veterans who should have seen the field more already if they were going to pan out. It's a little concerning.
I think a lot of people use the term 'talent' to describe 4 and 5 star recruits. To me, the better description of a 4 and 5 star recruit with little experience is potential. IMO 'talent' shouldn't be used until the player proves it on Saturdays.
as "talented", we don't have seven with talent AND experience. My point was that it's more of a talent OR experience thing because you're absolutely right, until a player has shown on Saturday's that he actually has talent, he's still a huge question mark. And our DL has nothing but question marks after the top four - and even that is giving Winovich the benefit of the doubt as a guy that can play on running downs. He's only been a pass rush specialist at this point and is a question mark against the run game.
You guys covered a lot of them for the OL.
Let's hope the coaches can do some coaching this offseason.
Blindly, with 16 bodies and 5 spots there are 524160 permutations.
Assuming Cole, Bredeson, and Newsome will be in the lineup and will be the C, LG, and LT, respectively, and we pick up one more OL commitment. That gives us 13 bodies to find two more players, which has 156 permutations. We can probably throw out a lot of these immediately (like a Herbert+Honigford combo for RG and RT).
I'm not going to count them all out, but quite honestly the starting combination is likely among the possibilities Seth, Ace, and Adam discussed above, so again...let's hope they get coached up this spring and fall.
No need for an O-line, we got Najee locked up...wait whats that...(resumes running around in panic)
Gonna be a growth year for sure.
I cannot believe we failed to land any impact DT (its still possible we could get one).
...but I think James Hudson is an impact DT. His senior film is really impressive. More polished version of Willie Henry.
Well, here's to hoping Tufele comes to AA.
Folks around here forget that Willie Henry was something like the #985 national composite player. This is why I am not too worried about the D-Line--Mattison has turned nearly every DL recruit into a monster.
I am down here in Toledo where he is from and he was dominant and was NW Ohio defensive POY I think.
The hypothetical 2019 line of Filiaga-Bredeson-Ruiz-Onwenu-Stueber looks really good...hypothetically.
five stars we're going to sign next year and will be second year players in 2019. Also, it's possible Bredeson and/or Onwenu are gone by 2019. Hopefully they are because it'll mean they killed it in 2017 and 2018.
Will we get to 32 without unknown recruits? ( aka weird guys)
Where do you see 5 losses?
I think 7-5 is overly pessimistic, and your Delaney dig was silly, but your schedule analysis... isn't implausible. Those are all tough, tough games. And weird stuff happens, like Iowa this past season.
8-4 is probably the most likely record on the probability distribution with 9-3 probably next most likely and 7-5 after that. Shaping up to be a very tough schedule in what will be a rebuild season.
Expected wins in my completely unscientific analysis: 8.3.
Let's say we lose to Florida, @PSU, @WIS and home against OSU. I don't see a fiftth loss. I also listed the four toughest game, but who else do you have us losing to? @IU?
With a young team like this, something dumb is bound to happen. Hopefully it's a growth year with improvement throughout and a good bowl game. Time will tell.
Lost to a mediocre Iowa team this year. i know road night game but this will be a young team so another loss is always possible. Then again we could pickup an unexpected win. If I had to bet today I'd say 8-4
Cincinnati - not a pushover
Air Force - their option gives most teams fits
@Purdue - on the road, they may be improved
MSU - has had our number, should bounce back a bit
@Indiana - we usually struggle there, trap game between MSU and PSU
Minnesota - usually plays us close, often beats us
@Maryland - see Purdue
Ask me about any of these games individually, I think we win. But I'd be surprised if we sweep them. MSU, Indiana, and Minnesota look to be the most worrisome, and you can never sleep on Air Force.
I'd be surprised losing to any of the first three but not shocked. And the next four listed are a little more worrisome. Even though we should be favored in each game, it's probably better than a 50% chance that we lose one of those (which is the case if you assume we have an 83 percent or worse chance in each game).
If by "us" you mean Michigan, then you have an interesting defintion of "often." Michigan is 25-2 against Minnesota dating back to 1987.
At this point in time those 4 toughest looking games are toss up or 50/50. 2 losses is more probable than predicting all 4 as losses. But even that is a WAG
We have enough talent to win every game. The only team with more talent on paper is OSU. The question is how quickly will it be developed?
than PSU, given what we lose compared to them. They'll certainly be more experienced and at home in that game. At this point, we're an underdog there and at Wisconsin for the same reasons but to a lesser extent.
24/7 composite team rankings
Year. UM. PSU
2017. #4. #13
2016. #6. #20
2015. #37. #15
2014. #20. #24
2013. # 4. #33
We have more talent on paper especially if you consider Harbaugh's '16 and '17 as most important to next years team. PSU should have more experience but not talent.
at talent for next year. I'm basing my assertion on the talent that actually remains on each roster and how that talent has developed over time. They return just about everyone from a team that improved a great deal this year and ended up being very good. Them going into 2017 is like us going into 2016.
We lose a ton of guys and should be leaning heavily on those 2014 and 2015 classes, but obviously, those were pretty horrible classes. Yes, we have a lot of young talent, but young talent isn't preferred to proven quality players.
2013: Yes, this M class was ranked much higher in 2013. It was a great class for us and was the reason we were the better team this year. But they gone. We have literally three players left from that class: Two that will contribute in McCray and Hurst, one that might in Kugler. Based one remaining players, you'd have to give the edge to PSU here. Three of their DL starters are returning as 5th year guys from this class, and Hamilton is returning.
2014: These are the seniors and I'd give them the big advantage here based on returners. They have guys like McSorley (who was only a three star), their top WRs (Blacknall, Godwin, Thompkins) and TE (Gesicki), two starting DBs, two starting LBs, etc. They'll have a deep, good senior class. We lose Peppers and return...Cole. He's the only surefire starter we return. Speight is likely a starter and provides at least a solid floor at the position. Mone is likely solid contributor if he can stay healthy. Winovich and Bunting should start but have potential holes in their games (run stopping and blocking, respectively). That's the begninning and end of our likely fourth year contributors. It's not a strong senior class because it was small.
2015: Yikes. Don't have to look much further than the rankings here, but this is Barkley, their starting LT and LG (who both started this year as RS FR!!), etc. For us, this class is more disastrous than even the ranking would suggest. Cole is gone. Newsome likely not playing next year. Gentry and Malzone won't play. That's four of the top five guys that won't contribute from an already tiny class. Not great, Bob.
2016 and 2017: Yes, we have more talent in these classes but their contributions will be minimal or shaky aside from a few exceptions (Asiasi, Gary). Comparing these classes doesn't say much about the upcoming season. If you think these are the most important classes, I'm not sure you understand much about college football and the need for guys to develop for at least a couple years. They had a much better class in 2015 but it didn't matter in 2016 because the 2013 and 2014 classes are what mattered. Next year, the 2014 and 2015 classes will matter most. These 2016 and 2017 classes should put us in very good shape for 2018 and 2019 though.
Again, they'll have more returning, proven talent than we will. And this research made me depressed. Damnit, why did I do it?
But i still think you are confusing talent with starting experience.
There is no doubt Ohio State has the most talent in the Big 10, on paper. Michigan is number 2 in the Big 10. PSU is still not fully recovered from the scholarship reductions. If you don't believe Michigan has the 2nd most talent, ask any recruiting expert from Scout, Rivals,or 24/7.
We have so many guys that are supremely talented that have little to no starting experience like Bush, Hill, Long, Crawford, DPJ, McDoom, Mettellus, Onwenu, Gary, Wheatly, Bunting, Asiasi, Bredeson, Uche, and so many more 4 star guys, I can't name them all without looking at a list. 17' class might be our most talented ever.
By the way, Godwin is thankfully not returning to PSU next year. He has declared for the draft.
I don't think Newsome makes it back for next year. I'll consider it a success if he is dressing, but that knee injury was brutal. I have a suspcion that he will be getting a medical.
I hope and pray for the best for him, he obviously very much loves football.
But, from the severity of his injury, the fact that even the press and journalists immediately asked in the postgame press conference if it was "career threatening", and him being in the in-patient hospital for over 30 days, I think for the sake of productive analyses and conversation it would be much smarter to start with the assumption of him being a no-go in 2017 and "a bonus if he's back", rather than start with the assumption of him being back and "hopefully he's 100%."
Not that he can't comeback. Recovery from major catastrophic injuries are actually very unpredictable, as there's just not nearly as much medical data to form any statistically strong argument.
It's completely in the realm of possiblity for him to come back. But starting with that assumption is tenuous and bad practice.
A come to Jesus discussion about how our OT and DT recruiting has been underwhelming the past 3 years? We've missed some very important targets at both positions, and these are arguably the 2 positions on a team where freshmen are least able to contribute - so there's a good chance we're feeling these effects for 2-3 years, not just 2017.
I would honestly just like to get a perspective on why it's been so tough for Harbaugh to land top flight guys at those spots (Gary nothwithstanding, obvi).
Not a ton of high level guys at those positions and tons of competition for them with a lack of developing good backup plans when they whiff on the high level guys is what I think I'm seeing. I don't mind missing on the big fish if the backup plan is something other than air. For example where is the Mekhi Becton equivalent at D-Tackle?
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I think I have heard this year is relatively weak for DTs this year. I wonder if JH would have any qualms about trying to steal Reitmaier from his good buddy in Eugene?
pretty sure they did try to nab reitmaier - he visited, then confirmed hes going to oregon (which is unfortunate for m as hes a promising prospect)
I would like to add that there have been a dearth of high level bigs in state the past 3 years - we have snapped the best ones like Big Mike and J. Hall but the quantity hasn't been there. And it is always going to be a dog fight for the high level out of state guys.
The good news is that there is some depth in the upcoming classes, but it will be a good while befor that translates to the field
I agree. I really wonder why they didn't (apparently) hit those positions harder for the 2016 class. I'll give them a pass for 2015.
we took too many TEs and (to a lesser extent) RBs last year. Did we need three guys at both positions in one class when both positions were already pretty well stocked? Only two DTs and one (!!!) OT despite that OT being more of a OG in the whole class despite those being positions that require two guys on the field at all times and more depth.
And now we have no TEs in this class (thankfully) and four OTs and it's still not enough. I'm sure there were individually extenuating circumstances and I'm sure the staff didn't want it to end up like that, but this needs to be balanced better.
I completely agree. Ii have been particularly surprised with the lack of top OL recruits given the chance to come in and play early and coaches who know how to produce NFL talent.
OL is scary, mostly because when I look at Kugler, I see a capable starter, but there is chatter that he won't even get a 5th year. I feel like I'm taking crazy pills. He was good in the game he played, unless he was secretly missing all sorts of line calls. Seems unlikely.
I'm hoping for Newsome to get back healthy, but assuming he doesn't, I think the line will be Cole, Bredeson, Kugler, Onwenu, Ulizio.
I still like Onwenu much more on defense. I just can't believe he has the conditioning to play every snap on offense. Gotta believe 30 fresh reps on D would be worth more than 60 tired reps on O.
Best case solution - Runyan is ready to take the RG spot.
Kugler may decide he doesn't want to return. I hope he does but it's his life, not mine. But I refuse to believe the nonsense that Harbaugh and Drevno might not invite him to return. He is the only experienced backup at C. He has proven that he is a capable performer on the field - where it matters. JBB, Runyon and Ulizio haven't shown that they can handle the job during a real game. Until they do, you can't know if they are more than just "practice players."
Anyone who says H and D might not welcome Kugler back is saying H and D are stupid. I put this in the same category as the people who said Harbaugh might not be willing to bring O'Korn back. That was always O'Korn's decision. These coaches value experienced players who can deliver, even if they're not starters. And Kugler may be needed to start.
He graded out mediocre - the worst of all the O linemen - against a bad Hawaii team and then rode the pine behind a true freshman all year at OG and apparently wasn't capable enough at OC to allow Cole to plug the gaping hole we dealth with at LT.
I argree with you that it would seem insane for the staff not to give him a 5th year given the dire need for depth at OL, but he certainly hasn't proven to be anything but a body that can kind of sort of manage to at least know the calls in an emergency.
Re Kugler... they said the same crap last year about Kalis, that he may not get offered the upcoming year... was a motivational ploy, at best. I will be shocked if Kugler isn't on the team...at worst, he is the 6th man next year.
Will be....interesting. im not confident at all about the OL unless Onwenu, Bredeson and Ruiz all exceed expectations. DL I feel better about given the proven talent among the starters. Depth will be a concern though.
a three man front? Would be fun from a blitzing call.