This was posted, then it wasn't, then it's back.
The Countdown to Kickoff thread is still giving me an 'access denied' message.
[UPDATED 12:25p.m. Now with 100% more Ace]
The Q: Michigan graduated much of its 2013 receiver depth chart and did away with the fancy Borges stacks and routes. In this new world, after Funchess, who's going to be Gardner's favorite target this year? Who are we going to see more or less of among the receivers/tight ends?
Brian: 1. Amara Darboh. Darboh was going to start last year and the buzz there was palpable. He brings physicality against what I promise you will be the grabbiest set of Big Ten pass defenses you've ever seen—the MSU effect—and he's even got mutant muscles in his arms, which I assume will be the entirety of Ace's response. He should ease past Canteen for the starting job, at least to start, and Canteen will have a tough time catching up since he's not going to drop off the face of the earth.
2. Dennis Norfleet. This is an artifact of some assumptions about the rest of the offense. Namely, that they won't be able to run that well and the tight end situation is going to be suboptimal. With reports that Norfleet looks great in space and an offensive coordinator who's not afraid to throw to his WRs on the perimeter, Norfleet's catch volume should spike as Michigan looks to him for easy yards that get defenders out of the box.
3. Freddy Canteen. Yeah, he's probably Manningham again, but even Manningham had a bit of a slow start. It'll be close with Norfleet.
4. Jehu Chesson/Jake Butt. Your guess is as good as mine about relative frequency here. I have a hunch we're going to see tight ends stay in to block frequently this year what with the lack of NFL OTs, and Butt is going to miss at least a game or two after his ACL tear. But he's got a much clearer path to playing time than Chesson and already had more catches than Chesson did a year ago.
Everyone else gets scraps, maybe a dozen catches spread between AJ Williams, Keith Heitzman, Da'Mario Jones, and Jaron Dukes and another dozen to the tailbacks. I hope we don't see any of the true freshmen other than Canteen, because there's not much need either this year or next and all could use work.
[Jump for the rest of us twisting ourselves to not have the same responses]
BiSB: 1. Amara Darboh. Darboh was my HTTV breakout candidate (buy it, people, it's really good). He's got a certain "they forgot about Dre" quality after missing so much time, at least in the public eye, to that foot injury. He'll be on the field a great deal because in addition to his receiving skills he's the receiver most likely to be able to block a safety (yes, yes, Chesson Turkey notwithstanding). We're all rightfully excited about Canteen, but he's a true freshman. And while he was an early enrollee, he's also been moved around a bit (from outside to the slot), and he's still learning what to do and where to go. Darboh is in his third year in the program, and only Funchess and Norfleet have been there longer.
|Canteen's height is Big Ten-ready but he could still use a lot of filling out to be effective in outlet routes, and therefore constantly deployable. [Fuller]|
2. Freddy Canteen. Yeah, I know what I said. It'll take him some time to figure out which way is up. But he'll get plenty of run against Michigan's soft, blowout-rich early schedule (unless THAT happens again), and once he gets going, good luck with that. He'll spend some time outside as well as in the slot, and he's going to be really, really fun.
3. Jehu Chesson. He was fourth in catches last year, and that feels about right for this year too.
4. DeVeon Smith. When Nussmeier was at Alabama, one out of every six completions went to a running back. At Washington, it was more than one out of every five completions. With Michigan's potentially... uh, problematic.. offensive line situation and the likelihood they'll get blitzed to kingdom come, look for a buuuuuuunch of screens, both of the wide receiver variety and the running back variety. He might be higher if I could choose "whoever the hell becomes the regular running back" as a candidate on the list.
5. Dennis Norfleet. Norfleet has to share time in the slot with Canteen, and frankly I'm tired of Brian getting us all excited about NORFLEEEEEET and having the results be "NORFLEEEawwwww he almost had it that time." This is me being cautiously pessimistic
6. Jake Butt. Look, I love Jake Butt. And I know he's made of that stuff they make self-healing car tires out of. But my troglodyte, luddite brain refuses to believe that an ACL is really a six month injury from tear to gridiron. He may play within the first few weeks, and that is a miracle of modern science, but it will still take him several weeks to get back into the flow. The coaches are going to take it slow with him; they won't press it over the Utah/Minnesota/Rutgers portion of the schedule, so we're looking at Penn State and beyond for full deployment. Over the last half of the season he'll be one of the top 3 or 4 targeted receivers, but not overall.
Adam: 1. Amara Darboh. I'll let Devin Funchess explain this one for me. At Media Day he was asked what made Darboh unique and stated that it was the same freakish extra forearm muscle Brian alluded to. Funchess even said that the existence of the muscle had been proven by science. I won't argue with science, man. Also, when a 6'5 receiver who's known for VAULTING OTHER HUMANS is calling someone else a physical freak I'm pretty sure that player's capable of having a big season.
|Scouting reports say Darboh can actually catch passes on his forearms.|
2. Freddy Canteen. There has obviously been a tremendous amount of buzz about him coming out of camp (and since spring, really), but I'm listing him as Gardner's second favorite receiver in large part because of where I expect him to line up. The coaches have alluded to the competition at slot being between him and Norfleet, so I fully expect him to see the field a significant portion of the time. Add to that the fact that he has the route running ability to be moved outside and I like his chances not just at getting playing time but at raining death upon Big Ten secondaries.
3. Dennis Norfleet. I may be new here but I'm not stupid.
4. Jehu Chesson. We know that there's a competition between two slot guys, Funchess will likely hold down the X receiver role, and Darboh is your likely Z receiver. This leaves Chesson as something of the odd man out. Will he play? Of course. Do I like his chances of racking up a ton of catches with the state of the receiving corps being what it is? No, I don't.
5. Jake Butt. If we believe what Brady Hoke said in Wednesday's press conferences Butt won't be back for the first few games. Factoring that and the time it will take him to be up to true game speed even after he returns and I think it may be the the last third of the season before he starts to be an effective option for Gardner.
Seth: Literally everybody started their response with "1. Amara Darboh" and I can't argue. The scrimmage performance inked that. We haven't mentioned enough how Nussmeier's passing game differs from Borges's but it was definitely on display in the public scrimmage last weekend. The motion stuff is one, but intrinsic to Nuss's passing offense is there's always one or two quick outlet routes, and more often than not, an intermediate option meant to stretch the linebackers. Borges's passing plays worked like a symphony; Nuss is more often content to let a guy rock out.
To be successful the outlet needs to get off the line, run a very crisp route, and shield the ball from defenders with his body. When working against the linebackers, speed can be sacrificed for toughness. Note: every receiver will be running short, medium and long routes; my point is that they'll all have to be good at outlets and intermediate outlets. Jason Avant was the man at this, and that seems to be Darboh's game. In the limited reps the starters were given (all of the starting candidate receivers rotated with the 1's and there weren't all that many reps for the 1's) Darboh brought in several of these.
They're hard routes, but consistent execution takes a ton of pressure off the offense. Given the blitz-fest Michigan is likely to experience again from opponents taking advantage of the iffy blocking, outlets are going to be a big part of what works in Michigan's offense, and Darboh is the key to that.
2. Freddy Canteen. My expectation here is for more yards than Chesson or Norfleet on fewer targets. When you think of Canteen's skillset, yes his feet do indeed move faster than any current human video compression can capture. I also want you to think of this:
Did you catch the thing that guy did? Watch it again until you see it: the hip went in just a tiny bit as if he was going to cut inside; the corner stopped playing the go route, and just like that [pwuah] he's gone. Manningham indeed.
The trouble with Canteen is he's not very big yet, though he definitely has some height, and when a defender catches up the passes aren't as likely to be reeled in. I think Canteen will get some awesome touchdowns and be a constant threat; I don't think Michigan's running game or long passing game is good enough to get Canteen freed from safety help. He'll play a lot; don't expect 100 targets.
3. Jehu Chesson. Brian's got a point about WR screens and the like being a likely replacement for Michigan's lack of a running game, but I'll mentally give those passes to Norflleet after I see it; from what I've seen of Nuss's offense in the past he's more likely to have those go to Funchess. But there's another favorite type of route in Nuss's passing game that we haven't discussed as much: the drag. The outlet routes are mostly to protect against instant pressure; Cover 2 defenses contain those very well. With Gardner, those "it's been 3 seconds; now what?" plays might check down to "just run," but at Bama there was almost always a fast receiver coming across the formation.
Chesson was 4th in targets last year, when he was a redshirt freshman. I've said before that superstar receivers can show early but most receivers need development. Chesson is an important year further in his development now, and also about up to playing weight. This was kinda lucky…
…but also spectacular, and that guy is now a lot stronger.
Lastly, on Moe Ways, considering his size advantage on the guy covering him at the scrimmage, I really didn't away much from the success he had at that. Da'Mario Jones got open against the 2nd team—Channing Stribling et al.)—and dropped things; that might be as useful as the Ways stuff. I believe the Funchess-Darboh-Canteen-Chesson-Norfleet axis are your receiver mix.
Tight end: Ungh. I have a Hokepoints coming up on the movement and how they're doing some Penn State stuff with them, but I didn't see anything from Heitzman or A.J. Williams that made me think their blocking or receiving makes a mismatch against your standard Big Ten defenders, whatever level. I take Hoke's quotes about Butt to mean that he definitely doesn't figure in by Notre Dame, and will be more of a second-half-of-the-season help. Bunting will probably be used though I hope they get a redshirt on him. For the moment I see Wyatt Shallman emerging as a motional U-back and Heitzman/Williams rotating as a mostly-blocking Y until Butt shoves both out of the lineup. I'd much rather have Chesson on the field than them now.
1. Amara Darboh. Potentially an X-Man. Almost certainly a reliable possession receiver who can use his large frame to win battles against tight coverage—he caught a few slants in the scrimmage despite being practically wearing Jourdan Lewis as a cape. Darboh's also flashed tantalizing potential as a downfield threat in the brief moments we've seen him healthy. It seems like he and Gardner have a solid rapport.
|Seth and Ace are on the Chesson bandwagon. Or the Jehu track. Or, you know, we're Chesson fans. [Upchurch]|
2. Jehu Chesson. He was the third option last year, and unlike in the spring he played over Freddy Canteen for much of the scrimmage, working a lot with the ones. Much like with Darboh, Gardner looks comfortable working with him, and we know he'll be a plus as a blocker in the running game, too. That last part may not matter directly in terms of getting targets, but it'll get him on the field over less experienced players.
3. Dennis Norfleet. We have the practice reports, which indicate Norfleet is not only the starter at slot, but a potentially significant piece of the offense. His short-area quickness could make him extremely dangerous as a slant and screen merchant; guarding him one-on-one should prove difficult.
4. Jake Butt. Moved shockingly well in the drills before the scrimmage; the talk that he could be back by the Notre Dame game is much more realistic than I think anyone expected, including the coaches. Whenever he gets in the lineup, he'll ease some of the burden on Darboh to be the guy risking life and limb over the middle, and his ability to stay on the field every down will get him plenty of targets.
5. Freddy Canteen. I buy the hype. I really do. Canteen should make an impact both in the slot and on the outside. The problem is Michigan is so loaded with depth at receiver that the little things that often pose issues for freshmen—blocking, getting off the line clean, chemistry with the quarterback, etc.—might add up to be just enough to keep him behind the players above. If Canteen's route-running mitigates a lot of those issues, he could easily vault up this list.
6. Drake Johnson/Justice Hayes. I think one of these two will end up getting a lot of snaps on third down—likely whomever shows they're best at blitz pickup, given last year's issues and what appears to be a shaky O-line once again this year. Nussmeier should utilize the screen game plenty to combat opposing pass rushes; Hayes was recruited out of high school as a receiver by several schools—and got a nice chunk gain in the scrimmage on a slip screen—while Johnson has the straight-line track speed to make some big plays if he gets the ball in space.
This was posted, then it wasn't, then it's back.
The Countdown to Kickoff thread is still giving me an 'access denied' message.
Brian prepped an unverified voracity to post later and since he's working remotely he posted the thing instead of putting it in the hopper. That was at 10 so when I went to post the 10:30 article I saw the 10am post and removed the 10:30 one for half an hour.
This sportsbloggin thing sounds complicated. Maybe y'all aren't just hanging out in Mom's basement any more.
I don't believe we'll see that much out of Norfleet. Fingers crossed, but I don't see it.
Sooo... No Ace?
...was a little late to fill this one out this week.
EDIT: Seth re-added it, with a notable change. In related news, Seth is a jerk.
Embrace the avatar. It's awesome.
The Countdown segment on Darboh has me very pumped for this guy's potential. But they are calling him a Junior...doesn't he get a redshirt for last season?
Also, I think Chesson is being overlooked as a FOOTBALL player...guy was a great blocker last year in his first season and will only get better. Also a beast on special teams, again as a young guy. I like Chesson a lot.
Chesson's crazy aggressive and takes dudes on like he's five times their size. Watching him play makes me want to hit people, too.
I agree with Ace on the pumping of the breaks on Canteen. I noticed him having issues lining up correctly in the scrimmage still, including once where he nearly made the slot man ineligible. That sort of stuff gets a stern talking to from the coaches in practice, it gets you yanked from games. Throw in his less than optimal size/strength and probable liability in blocking and I think he's going to be eased in and featured a lot less than in scrimmage situations, at least for the first half of the season.
Interesting that Jones is not mentioned by anyone. Also Dukes. Think someone said Jones struggled in the scrimmage with some drops. Right now that class of 3 WRs - well now 2 - is not tracking very well. With Ways and Harris (and Cole) most likely the next wave in 2015 these guys need to begin making a move or they are going to be left behind.
How about the music in that wide receiver video?
It's amazing that such a small variation in the angle of a receiver's hips causes such a big reaction from the DB. I'm excited to see Freddy Footwork blossom.
Either the DB's coverage was terrible or, more likely, he was greatly exaggerating the reaction to demonstrate the desired result. When he fell down it struck me more as a dramatic performance -- that was on a single move FFS.
I did see Canteen make a few moves during the Spring Scrimmage highlights and it was like watching a Michael Jackson music video -- I had to rewatch several times just to figure out where the hell his feet went.
I think Canteen, and his diverse skill set, will separate him from Norfleet as the more consistent option. Perhaps pulling him up into a dead heat with Darboh? But let's hope that excellence across the receiving corps will make this a very tough call for all of us in a few weeks.
I think our RB's will see a bunch more passes than the last few years. Maybe we can even see the Lloyd Carr era FB slip out, I miss that.
Is the stacks. When the offense really got going, they worked really nicely, and were fun to watch.
I don't know enough about football to know whether they'd be compatible with what Nussmeier's doing, let alone whether he's likely to use them or any similar concepts.
Count me on the Freddy Footwork train, obviously. Norfleet's the nominal starter, I guess, but he might be passed by Canteen by B1G play.
Like I said in the "exciting players" thread, Norfleet is fun to watch, but I think he's a tad chaotic. He'll make isolated defenders look silly but at times also seems to run right into traffic or easily lose his balance, which I believe explains why he's yet to return a punt for a TD. Basically his quickness is unparalleled but his motion isn't terribly efficient. As critical as I've been of Borges, I think he used Norfleet only on jet sweeps for a reason. I think using one guy for only one type of play is phenomenally stupid (way to do the DC's job for him, Al), but I suspect it has more to do with why Norfleet hasn't seen the field in other plays -- his vision & balance are poor for an RB, and his bad footwork compromises his quickness in getting separation. At least with sweeps and punt returns he's just being asked to make the most of his happy feet.
Freddy Footwork lacks Norfleet's pure quickness and I have no idea about his vision (I for one don't think he'll be a returner), but as a receiver I think he more than makes up for it with fewer wasted steps. His footwork is on par with a professional dancer's. I predict what quickness he does have -- and he has plenty of it -- will translate more effectively into the defenders tripping over their own feet and tackling the air that we'd hoped to see from Norfleet, whose penchant for getting brought down by the shoelaces looks less and less like bad luck to me with each passing year.
If Canteen doesn't play in the first few games, it'll be because of freshman mistakes, but if he does, it'll be because he has the ability to get separation when the other receivers struggle. So Norfleet will probably start against the OOC slate but I predict Michigan will go with Funchess, Darboh, Butt and Canteen for the MSU game. For all the blocking they'll need in the run game (hence Butt), what'll really decide the game is an ability to punish their super-aggressive defense. Three receivers who are extremely dangerous against press man coverage will force a dilemma -- if MSU has to abandon their coverage scheme because their corners can't stop the receivers, anything can happen. If Michigan goes with Norfleet they will probably try to pancake him at the line.
And if anyone's going to say Canteen's not gonna see the field because of his size. . . hey now, you're really making the case that the #3 receiver is Chesson, not Norfleet.
"Borges's passing plays worked like a symphony; Nuss is more often content to let a guy rock out."
I think Chesson is going to be close to Darboh in terms of yards with Darboh perhaps leading the team in targets.
Yeah, a true freshman who didn't enroll early barely got playing time, while two seniors playing for a staff that very obviously favors upperclassmen got plenty of snaps.
The coaches constantly talk about Darboh (and did in 2013 as well) and he was clearly favored in the scrimmage. The rest of your points are between meh and reasonable, but 5 is just nuts.
You can't just take "the field" here and say someone else will surpass him. That's too easy. Which one?
These arguments are shallow and pedantic
is the difference maker this season between acquiring wins against MSU, OSU, and ND. We are going to need 10-15% of screen plays to keep defenses from blitzing the crap out of us. Hopefully the OL surprises us all, but I think that assessment alone might be the difference in making it to Indianapolis.
Here's a name that hasn't been mentioned yet. We have already seen Peppers master the nickelback position, then get moved to cb, then get named the starter over a veteran returning starter. The coaches are clearly seeing some very positive things with this kid, and he didn't even ee. He obviously won't be the #1 target (or even a starter on offense), but by midseason, I would put some money on him getting a few targets per game. I will put the over/under at 10 catches and 150 yards. Any takers?
...so apparently he is back at nickel, probably so he can focus more on learning his routes at WR. /s (still keeping my o/u at 10 and 150).