To never see Josh Furman on the field on defense ....Special Teams ok but Defense NO THANKS
This Week's Obsession: Filling Shoes
In HTTV last year we made a strange assertion: that given the relative drop-off to their replacements, Kovacs would probably be missed more than Denard Robinson. I thought I'd pose the question now concerning this year's seniors, except there's one guy who could have gone 1st overall in the NFL draft LAST YEAR, and he's being replaced by either a member of the worst interior offensive line in Michigan memory or a guy who couldn't beat out one of those guys for playing time.
|Actually, #2 Taylor Lewan's twosie and #3 Taylor Lewan's pet pig are also out of the running. [Upchurch]|
So, OTHER than that guy,
Which senior will Michigan miss most next season?
Ace: I'll leave a couple very strong candidates aside—namely, Jeremy Gallon and Thomas Gordon—and go to the other bookend of the offensive line, Michael Schofield. Michigan already needs to get much (much) better play out of the interior of the line next year, not to mention a major step up in blocking from the backs and tight ends. Losing not just one, but two NFL-quality tackles means the Wolverines once again head into a new season with major uncertainty up front.
I expect the interior line to be better, especially since some of the true freshmen who weren't viable options this season—especially Patrick Kugler and David Dawson—should at least be ready to compete for a spot on the two-deep. Losing Schofield along with Lewan, however, means that there's almost no margin for error with the new tackles; Michigan needs to find two decent starters out of Ben Braden, Erik Magnuson, and... that's about it.
I guess Dawson could play right tackle, as could Kyle Kalis, but both are more natural fits inside. Chris Fox, coming off a major knee injury that delayed his freshman progress, and Logan Tuley-Tillman, a raw-upside prospect with a heavy emphasis on raw, probably won't be ready to step in and be very effective.
Losing Lewan hurts the most, of course; that's compounded by the absence of Schofield—who really came into his own this year—leaving Michigan with, at best, four relatively unproven players competing for two open tackle spots while the interior of the line is still very much a question mark.
[After the jump: Pining for (Scho)fields]
Mathlete: My ranking of which seniors will be missed the most in 2014 (as ranked by projected drop off from position due to their loss, accounting for replacement).
- Taylor Lewan. Not much to add here, All American tackles don't grow on trees, even at Michigan.
- Jeremy Gallon. My research continually points to wide receiver experience as the most underrated predictor of offensive success. I think a big case could be made to have him at the top of this list.
Michigan must replace the most ninja holder ever as well as the guy who kicked it. [Upchurch]
- Quinton Washington. A quietly strong season and with Pipkins injury, no backups with quality experience
- Michael Schofield. Losing a pair of NFL tackles is bad, but it can't be as bad as this year, right? Please tell me it can't be worse.
- Thomas Gordon. Can Jordan Kovacs come back and pretend to be a 20 year old walk-on again?
- Jibreel Black. A solid piece of a solid defense. Not impossible to replace but will be missed.
- Drew Dileo. Do we know if Norfleet can slide into holder's position on the fire drill field goal, or does he just teleport? That's a silly question, of course he teleports.
- Brendan Gibbons The kicker you know is always better than the kicker you don't. Unless you're Alabama.
- Fitzgerald Toussaint. This isn't a knock of Poor Damn Toussaint or a total vote of confidence in Derrick Green, but all but the best of running backs are virtually interchangeable.
- Cam Gordon. I always liked watching him play and was glad to see him stay on the field after Jake Ryan's return.
- Courtney Avery. It's weird having a captain this low, but never was able to generate much in the way of on-field production.
- Jeremy Jackson. Wanted: Blocking wide receiver for running plays, I mean any play, it could be run or pass, you'll never know which one it is until it's too late
Brian: I'm with Ace: Schofield. Doubly lost in the shuffle because everyone goes eeee about Lewan and oooo about the offensive line as a whole, Schofield quietly rounded into an All Big Ten caliber tackle his senior year. I didn't have a minus for him in the wasteland that was the Michigan State game--think about that. And when's the last time some dude ran past Schofield for a pressure that wasn't caused by miscommunication on a protection? It's honestly hard to think of one. Yeah, Mel Kiper's hair but most of what he talks about now he's getting from NFL scouts and teams and he's now talking up Schofield as a second or third round pick. That would not surprise me; at the very least he will go in the middle rounds.
Meanwhile, Michigan's offensive line recruiting has been good but is short on sure things at tackle. Assume Magnuson plugs in at left tackle and your battle is between redshirt sophomore Ben Braden and a trio of redshirt freshmen: David Dawson, who is short for a tackle, Logan Tuley-Tillman, who is raw raw raw, and Chris Fox, who was listed at 338 on the roster and was coming of a catastrophic knee injury.
|The book on Ben Braden is he's not a guard, is why you didn't see much of him this year. That leaves hope that he's still ahead of the rest of the young OL. [Upchurch]|
There are going to be a lot more times that you miss Schofield next year than anyone departing on the defense, and with Funchess around the sting from losing Gallon will be mitigated by the receivers playing very well.
Ace: Just to add to this from a recruiting perspective, the 2014 class is very strong at receiver: Drake Harris, Moe Ways, and Freddy Canteen all have the ability to step in and play early, and they each bring something different. Harris has great speed and jump-ball skills on the outside, Canteen is a lethal route-runner who could turn into an oversized slot ninja, and Ways is an all-around possession receiver—I strongly urge you to check out his senior highlights, which are way better than his junior film. With Amara Darboh returning from injury and the emergence of Funchess, the wide receiver corps should be strong next year even without Gallon, especially if one or two of the 2013 freshmen—Jaron Dukes, Da'Mario Jones, and Csont'e York—can contribute.
At safety, Gordon's absence should be mitigated by a healthy Jarrod Wilson, and then Michigan just needs one more safety to emerge from a talented group that includes Dymonte Thomas, Jeremy Clark, Delano Hill, and Josh Furman—plus potentially Jabrill Peppers if the coaches decide he'll contribute the most from that spot. Hopefully one of Hurst/Poggi/Wormley/Ash will emerge alongside Henry—that's four bullets in the chamber before we get to a potentially healthy Pipkins and incoming freshman Bryan Mone, who's certainly got the size to see the field early.
|Yeah, Jarrod Wilson will be fine at one safety position, but Furman immediately reminded us how bad safety had been until Gordon took the starting job in 2011. Dymonte Thomas's hype: please come to the realization aisle. [Upchurch]|
While Michigan has a pair of solid offensive linemen in the fold for 2014 in Mason Cole and Juwann Bushell-Beatty, we all know that true freshmen competing on the offensive line is a bad, bad sign.
BiSB: Since everyone else took my actual answer (Schofield), I'll say Thomas Gordon. Gordon wasn't spectacular, but he was solid and reliable at position that (a) has limited depth, and (b) has a sizable learning curve. Beyond Jarrod Wilson and (presumably) Dymonte Thomas, depth gets dicey in a hurry. Jeremy Clark has shown flashes, but against weak competition. Delano Hill is a freshman and Jabrill Peppers will only have a couple of months on campus by the time Appalachian State rolls into town (editorial note: /vomits). At this point Josh Furman is what he is, and the thing that he is doesn't fill me with great confidence. Maybe Blake Countess pulls a Marlin Jackson and plays some safety? I dunno. It's scary. Never Forget, ya know?
But seriously, Schofield. Lost in the shuffle of the interior line's... uh... shuffling, the tackles were remarkably consistent in both production and health. Excluding the Penn State game in which Lewan went down for a half, AJ Williams probably had the third-most snaps at tackle because REMEMBER TACKLE OVER? Even if Magnuson and Braden win their respective spots and are really really good, assuming they'll stay healthy for 12 games is begging to be kicked in the dangly bits, especially when redshirt freshmen are on the two-deep. An injury at tackle might even screw up the interior if they have to bump Bosch or Dawson outside.
Seth: Stribling is another 'oh shit' candidate at safety. My hope is Dymonte Thomas is ready to play strong by next fall, and that's not a hard hope. Both he and Hill are burned redshirts I think we'll be upset about down the road; I never saw much from Jeremy Clark except he's Shazor-sized.
Anyway, I wrote the question with Schofield in mind. Reading your answers I've kinda started to wonder something else: Who do we miss most from last year? I'm sure I would have said Jordan Kovacs, and today I'd feel stupid because as much as I love Gardner, obviously Denard. Or maybe...Patrick Omameh?
So I'm going to be the guy who says Gallon will be missed more. To whit:
1. He may be the best blocker of anyone with receiver eligibility. The bubble screen game was just about the only vanilla thing Michigan's been able to do on offense this year, and it works because Gallon has been excellent at that pick block. When the best part of the offense was that inverted veer, a secret reason it was so effective at generating long Gardner lopes was Gallon consistently burying himself under the cornerback who should have been out harassing it.
|Attempt at Gallon praise 314: greatest player in the history of Michigan football to resemble a character in a cop drama since that guy who looks like NCIS's Mark Harmon.|
2. He keeps Funchess clean. Michigan had Gallon--size be damned--lining up as the X receiver, i.e. the one on the line. His ability to consistently fight off press coverage is uncanny, and I think it's the reason Borges never feared to use stack formations so often, since you can trust Gallon will get into his route cleanly and not slow up the other guys' routes. Who's on the line now? Funchess has a size advantage but he tends to get jammed. Chesson probably.
3. He can get open many ways. Funchess's game is pretty straightforward: that good ol' fashioned size and speed combo that allows you to play above defenders' heads (needs to not drop so many balls). But Gallon is Inspector Gadget. He's got the little bugger's quicks to beat coverage on underneath routes--why he's open so often on hitches and out routes--but he can also go up and get a fade or catch a fly route or go across the middle. The ability to turn himself invisible against teams from Indiana has been especially useful. There is one corner I've ever seen do a fair job of covering all the things Gallon can do to you, and that's Bradley Roby last year.
4. He's a running threat while still being a deep threat. The motion stuff with him works where it might not with, say, Norfleet.
5. Nobody else has played except Funchess and Chesson. A massive difference between your receiver's talent and that of the guy covering him is one of those things college offenses can exploit like a well. But if you don' t have that talent gap, the learned skills become paramount, and Michigan is graduating four out of the six receivers who've seen snaps. Dileo leaves, and while they weren't very effective receivers it's well to note that Joe Reynolds and Jeremy Jackson were the 5th and 4th receivers this year.
Drake Harris is the closest to a freak of the incoming/redshirting crowd; he's not going to out-talent MSU though. Darboh will need some time to get comfortable. The other guys I wouldn't expect to be better than Jackson was this year. But somebody other than Funchess will have to be a mismatch or else the defense will be able to key on him. In an offense predicated on winning 1-on-1 talent matchups at the skill positions, Michigan's offense is going to be short one we've had for awhile.
Nothing against Schofield, and not underplaying how much he'll be missed (though some coach types think the UFR's have been a bit confirmation-biased in not knocking Schofield for communication issues). But Gallon is easily one of the greatest football players we've had at Michigan in the last few decades, and losing a player that far ahead of regular Big Ten competition is a big deal.
P.S. Defensively I'm saying Jibreel Black. He, not Q, was Michigan's most productive defensive lineman. We said playing a 280 guy at 3-tech wouldn't go very well unless that dude was getting into the backfield with freakish regularity. Well, he was doing so enough that he played a bunch at nose once Willie Henry was ready.
So I have a question. Why would you not always have your backup QB be your holder? It seems like not a very difficult skill to learn and would open up your fake options big time so Jareth Glanda doesn't have to catch deflected passes. At least have Cleary replace Dileo there or something.
I would guess practice, practice, practice. Specialists have nothing to do in practice but kick, punt, and work on long snaps. While holding itself isn't very difficult, I'm sure some kickers would tell you there are a lot of subtle things that a holder does to make his life better. Sebastian Janikowski was pretty vocal early in the year that he hadn't developed the required chemistry yet with his new holder after having the same guy for most of his career.
There must be some value in having a guy who can get all those practice reps in, otherwise coaches wouldn't sacrifice a potential playmaker at the position. Is the benefit worth the cost? Who knows. Coaches obviously disagree since you see a huge variety of guys as the holder, from punter all the way up to occasionally your starting QB.
Because 98% of plays (and 100% this year) that guy's job is to accept a snap and quickly have it down right before the kicker arrives. That's hard to learn, and Michigan's backup quarterback this year is a freshman whose time is better spent learning the offense. Last year the backup quarterback was a receiver.
Why not Cleary (or last year: Bellomy?) Because Dileo asked for the job and was good at it, and those guys were just trying to move up the QB depth chart.
I think most teams have a QB in there not because you really need a guy to be a passing threat, but because you need a guy with large, good hands and a sure temperment to not screw up holds, and that's a lot like a quarterback. FG fakes should get a guy wide open out of surprise, since it's a terrible formation to pass out of if the other team is expecting that. And finally you'd be surprised how many of the other guys can actually throw pretty accurately--they are major athletes after all--even if they've never developed the ability to read defenses, etc. This isn't a play where you need to read a coverage and pick apart a defense; it's one where you need to lob it to a tight end.
Michigan probably doesn't do much fake field goal-ing because their edge blockers aren't big receiving threats. If Jake Butt wins a job on the field goal team maybe we'll do that more, but this year the eligible receivers in our field goal formation are Joe Bolden, AJ Williams, and Brennan Beyer (the last edge guy is Schofield, who's ineligible by number). None are going to quickly out-run a safety or be particularly likely to catch the ball even if they're open.
By the way, if Dileo wasn't the holder they never would have gotten that play off at Northwestern. He was the far side receiver, and that was important because he only had to run half the field instead of all of it.
Dileo also ran for some first downs. I think his sixe was an advantage here, because he could easily get lost in the scuffle and was nimble enough to get through or around the defense. I'd take another Dileo-Gibbons type holder/kicker duo anytime.
I'm not totally sure about your last point. If Morris had been the holder he'd have probably been in position - it was on the near hash and he was right there on the sideline. There's no doubt that Dileo made a clutch hold though.
I wonder if players have ever run to the opposing sideline in cases like that, just to get off the field. Would that be legal?
I downloaded the rulebook. On page 58 there is this http://imgur.com/V0qUaz1 look at bullet c.
Also to help you find it Rule 3-Section 5-Article 2-Bullet c-Sub bullet 1
TL;DR, it is illegal for a player to go to the opposing sideline. I would assume it would be a deadball foul for illegal substitution reading below at the penalty section.
Jareth Glanda didn't have to catch a pass because the holder was a WR.
He had to catch a pass because most of the unit didn't get the fake call.
But maybe you're on to something. Why not always make a WR or TE the long snapper? Can't be that hard to learn.
and with the tougher schedule I easily see another five loss season (including the bowl game). In other words we are looking at a decade in which Michigan lost 5 or more games 7 times.
I hate sports right now.
the potential issues already discussed for next year's OLine...but the defense should be good to great as we return almost everyone from the 2 deep. As bitter as it tastes to type, fundamentally sound and experienced defenses like MSU's are gonna win you a lot of games.
Safety is a big concern. Wilson should be solid but you need to good safeties. A decent offense can set up plays to take advantage of the weak safety. See South Carolina in the bowl game last year when Wilson wasn't ready, and OSU last weekend when Furman/Avery played in place of Wilson.
To be a great defense the dline is going to have to take a pretty big step forward. We've had 2 years now where the pass from the 3 or 4 dlineman has been pretty medicore.
I wouldn't call it a BIG concern. The logical breakdown is that Mattison will do the same thing next year with different talent. That won't happen; Mattison adjusts the scheme to the defense's strength. 2011 had a good D-line so he moved Mike Martin around to make plays and take pressure off his outgunned back 7. In 2012 he had two excellent safeties in Kovacs and Gordon so he called games like nothing was going to go for more than 10 yards (and that damn near worked the whole season). This season the linebackers were the strength, so while they rushed four the scheme played out more like a 3-4 where the linebackers were expected to make plays. We got in trouble when the D-line let a blocker in RJ3's face.
Next season it's hard to predict what Mattison will do because it depends on the off-season progress of an almost laughably young team, but I think we'll feature the talented cornerbacks. If Peppers can hold his own at nickel against run plays and screens with Wilson cleaning up his rookie mistakes, JMFR can focus less on contain and attack the QB instead. The safeties will be vulnerable to busts, but if the corners can handle their assignments it'll be more like an aggressive quarters in spirit if not actual scheme.
Mattison is not going to march a raw safety out there to be burned down after down. He'll focus on getting them ready, but if he can't find a reliable second safety after Wilson, he'll simplify the assignment. We may go with a conventional one-deep look where the SS aggressively attacks the run while the FS brackets the deep threat. I predict Wilson will be the FS as his decision-making will be tested with various routes. The other guy can act as a hybrid fourth linebacker (read the play like a safety but when in doubt attack the ball so you at least have a hope of making a play if you're confused) while getting up to speed. It's a risky strategy but one that would make the most of a defense featuring talented corners.
I wish I could upvote this post. It is excellent.
Man that Moe Ways Highlight film has a lot of cowbell. Looks good but had to turn mute on.
I will miss Gallon the most. I remember when he was a freshman and he was getting hyped for his punt returns. Oh how times changed!
I don't want to come across as knocking Schofield, but it is hard for me to defend anyone on this OL for their dismal play - including Lewan. I thought both tackles were good, but far from great. And communication issues are a HUGE part of OL play. We'll miss Schofield for sure, but I think his performance was overstated by most of you guys. On the other hand, I'm terrified of our safety play. Wilson SEEMS good, but yet he couldn't claim a consistent starting job with the coaches. Now he's the guy we're counting on and we're going to pair him with.....with......who? Either Furman, last seen picking up his jock on the field or someone that's NEVER PLAYED before. At least this year we knew that Wilson had some experience and Avery, for all his faults, was a senior with lots of PT. Asking Clark, Thomas, Furman, or Hill to be a major improvement is scary. As much as I fear this idea, I wouldn't be shocked if one of the corners (Countess/Taylor/Stribling) moves to that spot given their experience and Peppers being able to step in at a deeper position.
Last year people were just as frightened about Wilson because he'd struggled so much against South Carolina. Josh is older, but this year is still the first time he's gotten any action. And both times the other starter was out of the lineup as well.
He has the athletic ability to be successful and now he finally has some experience. With an offseason as potentially the guy, a steady partner in Wilson (who probably allows Furman to play closer to the line of scrimmage), and loads of experience in front of him at LB, I'm not nearly as worried about that spot as I am about the OL.
I'm also less worried about safety because we've got dudes. If Wilson is one of them, you have Clark, Furman Thomas and Hill to pick from for the other spot, and one of them will be good. And that's if one of the corners or Peppers doesn't move to safety.
Good next year or down the road? The last couple of years the times UM has had to plug in a second stringer to spell an injured starter at safety, the results haven't been very good. Maybe it's just me but expecting someone who hasn't played on Saturdays to step into one of the starting safety positions and be good right away, especially a younger guy, seems like a little bit of a stretch.
I know this is off-topic however, I just watched a recap of the M-OSU game and the final play-the 2 point conversion bucky had M line up with 2 recievers on the right and one on the left and the reciever on the left went in motion then bucky called a timeout. It appears that the very same play was called by M following the timeout and the OSU D then showed a different defensive alignment. Why would M call the very same play knowing that bucky has adjusted their D to better defend what they see based on the M aligment? Why wouldn't M call a differnet play in that case knowing that bucky would likely make a predictable adjustment to what they saw from M in the first alignment prior to the timeout? I would like someone with some more expertise than I (which is none) explain that one to me please...
Because doing the same thing we've done the last 18 times in a row is so insane it's the absolute LAST thing they'll expect us to do!
I got nuthin' man. Sometimes our offense does things that are really stupid.
There's also a school of thought that believes in running your best play on the most important play of the game. I don't like the call either (I didn't even really like the decision to go for 2), but being dismissive and calling things stupid isn't my style.
West2, that 2 point play call was criminally stupid.
And by that logic Reader71, we should have been in a lone set back formation and thrown a throwback screen, even that close to the goal line.
It was inferred.
So it was bad coaching according to that school of thought (which is incredibly simple-minded) because that wasn't our best play?
Many of us are asking that. Not sure I remember a game when the offense shows its formation in a situation like that, the other team takes a timeout to dicuss that formation, then the offense comes back with the exact same formation.
It was the same formation.
You don't have any idea if it was the same play.
I would go with Lewan for coming back and never hanging his head or sitting down through all of the criticism and on-field trouble.
this underscores why Borges has to go, and now. yeah, maybe it isn't Xs and Os, but jimmys and joes, but wouldn't it be nice to have both? we're losing lewan, schofield and gallon, three incredibly important players that we can't paper over immediately with replacements. but you know what hides weaknesses while those weaknesses improves? Xs and Os, not asking your players to do what they can't do and keeping things simple by forcing a defense to react to your play rather than relying on your players to have perfect execution. does this sound like borges or the complete opposite of borges?
The other side of that is the one thing that makes replacing stars more difficult is to then make everyone learn a new offense.
To Fire Borges, or not to Fire Borges? WolvinLA2 is right about the potential downside for firing him. We've seen how continuity (or the perceived lack thereof) can hurt a program: see Jabrill Peppers etc. The question is, will Borgesball work 1-2 years down the line AND will we be a dominant offense even then? I'm not convinced that ole Al is worth another year of hair-pulling. IMHO, I think we need to cut our losses and pay an OC a gaudy amount of moolah to call plays and get a dedicated QB coach.
I think most people underestimate how disruptive a OC change would be. Whoever comes in will have a different system they will need to teach the players and position coaches below them. Even if they get another WCO disciple, there will still be a transition. Little things like terminology may seem trivial, but taken in aggregate with all the other little things that have to change, it becomes a big deal. Recruiting will almost certainly be impacted. With a defensive minded/CEO type head coach like Brady, the loss of continuity will be on par with a head coaching change, just on one side of the ball.
Sorry but that is crap IMHO. Did you watch Texas this year?
Also, your whole theory rests on continuity, but we haven't had any of that in three years despite the fact that we've had the same OC.
I get it, you want Al to stay, you've been saying it for ages. But if it's for continuity sake you should look back at the grab bag of an offence he has been running the last three years. There has been no continuity at all.
Finally, personally I think many of you OVERestimate the importance of of continuity, especially when what is continuing is the subpar coaching we've witnessed the past few years. Not only do many coordinator hires occur seemlessly, but they actually improve the product on the field.
I know we've had bad luck in the past with these things, but they were a result of poor hires, and shouldn't be considered an indictment of the practice of firing poor coaches to hire better ones.
I agree we haven't had continuity, which is part of why this year has been so rough. In addtion to breaking in new guys, we're running things differently than we have. I just don't think we want to do that again and throw whatever comfort level and experience the young guys got from this year out the window and start all over again. The learning curve is steepest at the beginning.
But what have we consistently done under Al? There hasn't been anything consistent about his offence for three years. Not in the blocking schemes, offensive formations, play calling....that fear of a hiring a new coach because it would impact continuity in this case is mitigated by the fact that there hasn't been any continuity even with the same coach for three years.
I agree wholeheartedly. I would take it a step further to say that it's MUCH more about the o line than it is the running back as far as how the running game goes.
In 2011 out OL was pretty darn good and we had 2 1000 yard rushers. In 2010 it was basically 2011 plus Schilling and before that OL was never brought up as an issue. It's an issue now because the RR era basically produced 2 OL in 3 years and while people hate when we still bring up his name in year 3 of Hoke we wouldn't be if this was any other position bc young guys could have come in and contributed but OL take 3 years to mature in most cases so the guys that should have been playing guard this year don't exist and we can't blame that on Hoke, Borges or Funk. OL is the one position you can't fuck around with cause if you mess up everything else doesn't matter and it will set you back years. Unlike skill positions where you can bring in a talented freshman and patch up problems quickly
Boy does Ways's highlight tape look good. He's going to be the best WR in this class, book it. He looks like Marquise Walker out there.
And I wouldn't call him a possession receiver. Dude can run. He's a bona fide deep threat.
I was thinking Walker, too. If he's half the player Walker was as an upperclassmen, he'll be damn good.
There's no doubt about that.
I feel like Ways could be a guy who shoots up recruiting rankings after that video makes its way around. Maybe not, because the services don't do that to too many guys (like Stribling last year who should have as well) but he just looks like a star. Huge, fast, hands, everthing.
Perhaps lost in the shuffle is the fact that Fitz was basically the #3 receiver on this year's team. Even if somebody can pick up that slack, the team will lose something in terms of versatility if that guy isn't also someone we actually might hand the ball to.
The more analysis I see of our roster, the more I feel that we are still far from where we want to be. Look at our team for next season:
QB should be fine. Returning senior with a ton of upside looking to make a leap as a second full year starter. RB will be fine as well with 2 returning sophomores who showed a ton of promise. And I will actually go with TE being fine as well. Butt will be 20 pounds bigger and stronger and will have had time to work on his blocking. Ditto funch when he plays at that stop. And both are awesome receivers.
But that's it. Our OL looks like it will be a project at best and a shit show at worst. Two new starters and three returning players that are still going to be young. I don't see much hope there. And at WR, we have chesson, Darboh and a bunch of freshman. All may have upside but they will all be raw as hell.
On defense, I am less worried. We return just about the whole secondary, and seem to be building quality and depth up front. We may not have the most dominant pass rush, but our defense will be fine.
Ok, as I wrote that post, I actually somewhat talked myself off the ledge. Glass half full view would be that we are as good or better than this season at just about every defense position and only drop off at WR on offense. O-line should be a push.
"O-line should be a push."
Is push a good thing? Serious question. This was perhaps the worst O-line in the country. Maybe Florida Atlantic had a worse O-line I guess. But seriously in the BCS conferences I cannot imagine anyone close other than Purdue.
- 2012 the reasoning was they were Rich Rod's old players without much talent ex Lewan and Schofield.
- 2013 the reasoning was young bucks ex Lewan and Schofield, so can't be worse.
- 2014 reasoning is less young bucks on the interior at least, so can't be worse.
Not very comforting.
My dismay about the OL was not what it looked like vs ND and even Akron/UConn. It was how it looked later in the year. When we all looked at last year's schedule we thought it played out perfectly for a young UM team. It would give the OL time to gel; it would still be young in November vs September but those guys would have 6-7 games under their belt when the season entered the heart of danger. Instead there was almost no progress. This is what worries me about 2014. It being competent at any point is reliant on individual improvement and development - things we did not see in 2013.
"This is what worries me about 2014. It being competent at any point is reliant on individual improvement and development - things we did not see in 2013."
I see why you would say this, but I disagree a bit. The OL is a unique position where individual development comes along with development of the line as a whole and building chemistry. So much of what one OL player does is dependent upon knowing what others on the OL will do on any given play. Unfortunately, the mid-season shift in the OL (as well as the late-season shift back to Kalis) never allowed the line to develop any chemistry. So, if the coaches can get the same 5 guys practicing as a unit for the whole spring, we may see some chemistry develop over the course of the season.
As to individual development, there is a reason that freshmen, even the most highly touted, rarely start on the OL. The position takes a ton of time to adjust to at the college level. Also, starting freshmen is asking an 18-19 year old kid to oftentimes block a 22-23 year old man. While these guys are all huge specimins, there is just a difference in brute strength between a freshman and a senior. (This is also the problem with asking Butt to play so much at TE - he has the receiving skills, but has not developed the "man strength" to effectively block.
I expect that with another 16 bowl practices, a full season of S&C and a full spring knowing that they are the starting line, guys like Mags, Kalis and Glasgow are going to look like completely different players from what we saw last year. If Mags can put on 20 pounds - not much for a man of his size, provided he puts in the requisite effort, he will be in the 300 range, and should be a very competent replacement at LT.
Final optimistic point is that there was some post on this blog last week (I think that it was Mathlete) in which the conclusion was that having an experienced interior line was more important that having experienced or dominant tackles.
Look, I expect that OL will continue to be a weakness next year, but I think that the level to which it hurts us will be far less than this year.
Teams loaded up with double A-gap blitz not just because they knew the interior line was young; they also knew nothing was getting past the tackles unless the guards busted, so defenses drew up schemes to deliberately confuse the O-line. Well, they do in general, but my point is that defenses focused on taking the tackles out of the game. Tackle over was meant to counter that.
A lot of Lewan's and Schofield's experience was left on the shelf. Toward the end of the season they were doing slide protections because that was all the interior line could handle. What's the benefit of having Taylor Lewan execute an NFL-style combo block if he can't pass off his guy to the LG? None, but if you're asking Lewan to just donkey his assignment to dumb things down for the LG, all you've got is an above-average LT. It's not like a "skill" (heh, as if blocking isn't a skill) position where Gallon terrifying the secondary frees up Funchess; on the O-line, the weak link brings the whole unit down. At times Lewan was blocking air and fans threw up their hands saying even he's broken. Uh, guys? That was the point. Defenses were running away from the first-round NFL pick and flooding the interior because hey, what would YOU do if you were a DC? I don't buy the 18-vs.-23 argument; the boys weren't getting blown back. The problem is the vast difference between brute strength and focused strength. 300 pounds doesn't amount to a couple cashews and a stale macadamia nut if the inside linebacker literally runs past the lineman.
Point is, we are losing two NFL tackles but I don't think the overall O-line drop-off will be as bad partly because my brain short-circuited trying to imagine worse, but also because the interior line being SO bad almost completely neutralized the relevance of having two good tackles to begin with.
Our OL will be young but they should grow together and talent wise, they may be the most talented line in the B1G. Though I still see 3 or 4 losses next season but I think the team will improve progressively through the season, unlike this season, or until the last game against OSU.
Hopefully the fans will not be too upset! 2015 should be much better season.
For "most talented" read "most recruiting stars".
I also LOLed at that. But the line will be better. One new starter is better than three. And the interior shouldn't be as weak, which means fewer immediately dead plays. I expect to be around the middle of the country in TFLs, not the bottom. That will improve our offense tremendously, as we'll have fewer awful D&Ds.