Say AAAAAAHHH! [Fuller]
Guess who's back? Back again. Jake is back. We hope he's back. Hope he's back. Hope he's back, hope he's back hope he's back hope he's back…
|Look at these eyes, baby blue, baby just like yourself, if they were brown, Shady lose, Shady sits on the shelf, but Shady's cute, Shady knew, Shady's dimple's would help.
Slim Shady: Ace Anbender
The Real Slim Shady: Coach Brown
Almost Famous: Brian Cook
Big Weenie: Seth Fisher
Bad Meets Evil: Blue in South Bend
The Most Shady: Heiko Yang
Let's talk the return of Jake M.F. Ryan. Does it get us a pass rush? Do we give him a few weeks to regain his edge? What happens to the not-Ryans?
Mathlete: I think when JMFR comes back, we should play him both ways, solves the pass rush and the interior line issues at the same time. He doesn't even have to be a freakish hybrid. This coaching stuff is easy.
The key question for his return is whether or not we are getting the old Jake Ryan back. It seems like there are fewer and fewer cases every year of players who are coming back at less than their previous player. If he comes back at or near his previous level, there is no doubt he will be a big boost for the defense. Right now the defense is really good at one thing, not allowing plays down field. Michigan is allowing an average of 95 yards beyond the sticks a game, which is 15th best in the country. What the defense has lacked to date is much of a legitimate play making threat, and that is exactly what made Jake Ryan into JMFR. If Ryan can even generate a portion of the game changing activity he previously did, it would be a huge surge to a defense that could use a little jolt.
As to the non-Ryans, I think this moves Cam Gordon from the Recycle Bin to permanently deleted. His relationship with Coach Mattison and how good he actually was will be one of life's great mysteries. Brennen Beyer's work in Ryan's absence should earn him the right to stay on the field. Initially, I would imagine they will bring Ryan along slowly and share snaps between the two of them. Once Ryan gets up to speed, it wouldn't surprise me to see Beyer get some reps on the line to maximize Ryan's impact on the game.
The biggest story though is that we are approaching best case scenario for the injury. We have survived his absence bruised but unbeaten and his presence is exactly the thing missing from the defense heading into serious Big Ten opponents. Coming into the season, the biggest concerns for many were the safeties and big plays which are not too high on the list right now. It will be much easier for Ryan to play SAM and guard as opposed to SAM and free safety.
BiSB: I know we're probably going to see Jake Ryan this week and next, but I doubt we see JMFR until after the bye week. The next couple of weeks he'll get some run to get his legs back under him and to get in game shape. We'll probably even see flashes of the civilization-destroying monster we remember. But despite his Jake Ryan-ness, he's still at least part human. He'll need to get comfortable trusting his knee at game speed. Give him a few more weeks of live-action rehab, though, it seems plausible that he'll be back to something approximating the doom-bringer we remember.
I doubt Ryan's return will SOLVE the pass rush problem, though it certainly can't hurt. He's what military types call a force multiplier and football types call a War Daddy; he makes the rest of the defense more effective and frees up personnel because you can give him more responsibility on a given play. Don't be surprised if Ryan's return coincides with a resurgence of some organic pass rush as Mattison will have a little more flexibility knowing Ryan has the edge. One other thing it will do is that it'll add some disruptiveness in both the pass rush and run defense. Ryan was the guy who could singlehandedly turn an RPS- into a loss of three yards by throwing a quarterback at a ball carrier on a reverse:
Guys like that allow Mattison to throw rock and still get teams behind the chains. It's much harder for offenses that rely on stringing together minimal gains (see: Sparty) when you can occasionally knock them back to 2nd and 13 without gambling.
I'm with the Mathemagic Man* on Beyer. He's been too good to take off the field. I see him sliding down to the WDE spot, as he's been lining up with a hand in the dirt plenty as it is. I also don't see much of an every down role for Cam Gordon. He's got a great skill set for special teams, so I think that's where he'll spend most of his time for the rest of the year.
*I do question the Ryan-to-Guard move though. We need tight ends, man. #JMFR4TE
Brian: These days clean ACL tears, as Ryan's must have been to get him back so early, are not the kind of things that do any sort of long-term damage, so it's about defining "long term" here. Ryan will probably not be quite what he was from the drop, but he's been working out since a month after his injury and running two months after; he's been doing everything except contact since the start of fall camp. I don't think he'll be great against Penn State, if he plays, but the trajectory set since spring--play against Indiana, bye week, pillage November schedule--is still on pace to be accurate.
|Beyer to DE instead of Clark makes a certain kind of sense. That kind is called "total." [Upchurch]
So, yes, it provides pass rush approximately equivalent to what Michigan got from him last year, which was a lot of hurries but not quite as many sacks as you might think--4.5. He did have a lot of TFLs.
I'm with Brett on Brennen Beyer, but I think it's Frank Clark who will be taking the biggest hit in terms of playing time. It was back to the who-dat salt mines for Clark after one shining moment against UConn's backup right tackle, and a couple times Clark got out of rush lanes to open up scrambles for Leidner. Beyer is already playing a lot of nickel end and is a better run defender than Clark--always has been--so the easy answer to what to do with non-Ryans is move Beyer back to WDE most of the time. What do you do with Clark then? Ojemudia? Consign them to backup and be happy about depth.
One thing I can't see happening is Ryan or any other SAM sort playing either ILB spot, as has been rumored by some of the premium sites and panted for by some of the more... let's say optimistic message board types. For one, Morgan and Ross are playing well. If they are not plunging into record TFL stats, well, four dink and dunk passing spreads and not a lot of nose tackle on the field, plus a weakness at three-tech, at least against the run. For two, we got a glimpse into what happens when you place a vertical attacking type in the middle of the field and ask him to read and react to run fits when Beyer got formationed into that responsibility by the Huskies: your vertical attacking type has no idea what to do and stands still as someone runs by him. ILB and SAM are totally different; SAM literally turns into WDE on many Michigan defensive calls.
If Ryan plays any sort of ILB it'll be a passing-down thing only: a 3-3-5 featuring Beyer, Clark, Black, and a roving Jake Ryan.
Hear me out: Frank Clark for tight end.
Seth: I will subscribe to Frank Clark to tight end if you promise not to make Carson Butler comparisons when it turns out blocking bores him. As for Jake not being ready to go…
I too worry about rust, but he couldn't be coming back at a more perfect time. Penn State likes to deploy their tight ends in the slot (or wherever) then run screens behind them to take advantage of the nickelish people who tend to end up out there. Jake Ryan: not a nicklish person. The pass rush groove may take some time to get back into, but I'm doubling down on his Dhani Jonesness being just fine.
Last year he was also our greatest source of pass rush, either from his SAM position or with his hand down in the nickel, not necessarily because he was the first guy in, but because once another guy broke through Ryan has an uncanny knack for breaking off his block and closing down the escape route. How badly do we need that right now? All the badly.
For the rest of this year I'm a strong vote for Beyer to be moved back to DE, where I haven't been impressed with Clark/Ojemudia/promises of Taco. Brian mentioned letting Leidner (and Akron's QB) break the pocket; when that's Braxton Miller or Kain Colter or either of Nebraska's guys you are ceding 15 yards or a touchdown.
|It's not you, Frank, it's the guy who's supposed to be in your lane. [Upchurch]
I agree Cam at WLB isn't in the cards; that is an entirely different kind of coverage than he's been playing since his 2010 move to Spur (which is basically SAM). Where I do think he can be useful is in providing a spread-proof 4-3 look where they roll Ryan down to WDE eventually. When those teams try to go swiss-army on us with their personnel, Gordon's one of those hybrid guys it won't matter to. Might be something to look for against Northwestern.
Anyhoo, downside is he's a B+ at a position that was giving us B; upside is his pass rush gives Michigan the nearest thing to a drop-in panacea for all of the defense's problems.
Ace: Just about everything regarding Ryan's return has been covered above—I'll be quick and say I agree with most everything said, especially regarding a Beyer move back to full-time WDE. Beyer has been the lone edge-rusher who's consistently generated penetration, and the fact that it usually takes two players to force a sack has been discussed in this space and on the podcast; what I'm getting at is that the nickel package should generate much more of a rush if Beyer and Ryan are the two ends, since both are players who actually beat blocks. A Beyer-Black-Henry-Ryan line in passing situations might actually have the Right To Rush Four™; adding that to a solid but unspectacular defense could help not only the pass rush, but the coverage as well—this isn't groundbreaking stuff, but the corners will get beat less and the linebackers less prone to having passes lobbed over their heads if the quarterback is eating turf.