I thought that myself when I read that article that talked about a Data Scientist(tm)
Undoubtedly one of the bright spots from the Brady Hoke era at Michigan was recruiting, at least until the ND-Utah-Minnesota triple whammy knocked the wheels fully off. After a respectable finish to his initial 2011 recruiting class, Hoke stocked the roster with top-10 classes in 2012 and 2013, followed by another strong—if small—class in 2014.
Notably, a decisive majority of Hoke’s recruits have come from within the B1G footprint. As prior studies have concluded, recruiting players from within the footprint is important because those players would likely otherwise sign with conference opponents. Hence, successfully recruiting a local both adds talent to your own team and denies that talent to conference opponents.
Nevertheless, to build a truly elite roster likely requires being able to pull recruits from across the nation. And while Hoke did manage to sign a handful of recruits from distant places like California, Utah, and Florida, on the whole Hoke’s recruiting classes were distinctly local. Only 16 of the 88 players Hoke signed came from states outside the “B1G footprint,” by which I mean states in which a B1G school is located. And of those 16, four came from “border states”—i.e., states that border on states within the footprint.
Looking at the backgrounds of Hoke’s staff, it is not surprising they were able to recruit the Midwest well—or that they were relatively unsuccessful in recruiting outside the Midwest:
Seasons Coached Midwest
Seasons Coached Outside Midwest
8 (Oregon St., San Diego St.)
12 (Cornell, Navy, Texas A&M, Florida, Ravens)
2 (San Diego State)
12 (Colorado State, Rhode Island, Mesa State (CO), San Diego St.)
3 (Navy, S. Carolina, Vanderbilt)
7 (Arizona, Fort Scott CC (KS), Cent. Missouri St., San Diego St.)
28 (San Diego St., Cal, Oregon, USC, Oregon St., Pacific, San Francisco St.)
Edit: Al Borges also coached 5 years in the Midwest (2 years at Indiana, 3 years at Michigan) and 33 years on the west coast (Cal, UCLA, Diable Valley CC, Portland St., Boise St., Oregon, Auburn, San Diego St.).
Not only did Hoke’s staff have relatively little experience coaching outside the Midwest, but of the coaches with significant experience in other parts of the country only Ferrigno (and Borges, who appeared to have a very limited role in recruiting at M) coached for a prolonged period of time in a talent-rich region (Mattison’s stints at Florida and Texas A&M lasted just three years each).
Jim Harbaugh still has yet to fully announce his roster of assistants. But already, his staff looks to have significant experience coaching in talent-rich states outside the B1G footprint:
Seasons Coached Midwest
Seasons Coached Outside Midwest
13 (San Diego, Stanford, 49ers)
7 (Stanford, Florida)
24 (Cal State Fullerton, Montana St., UNLV, Stanford, USC, San Jose St., San Diego, 49ers)
9 (PK Younge Developmental Research School (D.C.), New Jersey Red Dogs, Florida Gators, Texans, Ravens, Broncos, Seahawks, Miami Hurricanes, Jaguars)
5 (Syracuse, Bills)
27 (Arizona, Tulane, Maryland, Maine, USC, Fresno St.)
11 (Idaho, Louisiana-Monroe, Tulane, 49ers)
12 (Cornell, Navy, Texas A&M, Florida, Ravens)
Roy Manning (probable)
(Harbaugh's staff is also noticeable younger overall).
Obviously, Jim Harbaugh is a big name coach with a resume that speaks loud & clear to recruits already. But with a staff that has significant (and recent) experience in recruiting hotbeds like California, Louisiana, and Florida, there is even more reason to believe that M will be better able to pull in elite talent from across the US.
The one notable omission from the Harbaugh staff chart is the state of Texas. Mattison coached for three years there (1989-91) under R.C. Slocum, and Fisch was briefly a pro assistant with the Houston Texans (2001-2003).
There have been a number of threads asking, essentially, “Now that Jim Harbaugh is our coach, what kind of recruiting class can we expect in 2015?” The most common answer has been “we should do okay in 2015 and then kill it in 2016.” That seems like a fairly safe assumption, but because we are all in “we got JH let’s party” mode, I figured I would take a look at how some other rock-star coaching hires have improved their teams’ recruiting in the recent past. I will use the Rivals database primarily since that seems to be the most popular and goes back sufficiently far.
1. Nick Saban – Alabama
Nick Saban became the 27th head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide on January 3, 2007, and thus had roughly the same amount of time (actually, several days less) to assemble his inaugural 2007 recruiting class that Jim Harbaugh will have before NSD 2015.
At the time he signed, Alabama’s ’07 class had nine recruits with an average star rating of 3.33 (four 4-stars). Saban added 15 additional recruits to that class, including six 4-stars, to finish with the nation’s #10 class. This was Alabama’s best class yet in the Rivals era; in the five years preceding Saban’s arrival, Alabama had averaged a 24.4 recruiting class ranking.
Even so, Saban’s 2007 class would hardly compare to his 2008 harvest. With 32 overall signees at a 3.72 star average, Alabama signed the nation’s #1 recruiting class in 2008—headlined by 5-star WR Julio Jones. That 2008 class featured two other 5-stars (OL Tyler Love, ATH Burton Scott) and nineteen 4-stars (including eventual Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, Jr.). Nick Saban’s performance at Alabama is, accordingly, “Exhibit A” for the suggestion that Harbaugh will help Michigan land a solid 2015 class, and a potentially great class in 2016.
2. Urban Meyer – Ohio State
Ohio State hired Urban Meyer around November 28, 2011, inheriting the machine from which Jim Tressel had departed earlier that year in disgrace. Fueled in part by free tattoos and extended “test drives,” as well as a prolonged period of Big Ten domination, Tressel’s recruiting classes had averaged #11.6 nationally in the five years preceding Meyer—including top-4 classes in 2008 and 2009.
Meyer, at most slightly handicapped by Tressel-related sanctions that would make the Buckeyes ineligible for post-season play in 2012, had significantly more time to assemble his first recruiting class than Saban had (or than JH will have). He used that time well, proceeding to land the nation’s #4-ranked class in 2012. That 25-member class included 5-stars Adolphus Washington and Noah Spence, fourteen 4-stars, and an overall 3.72 star average. His 2013 class was just as good (arguably better, though there isn’t much room to improve from #4) ranked #2 in the nation and featuring two more 5-stars (Vonn Bell and Mike Mitchell), sixteen 4-stars, and an overall 3.83 star average. Meyer has maintained this level of recruiting in 2014 (finishing #3 overall) and 2015 (sitting at #3 headed into NSD).
3. Steve Spurrier – South Carolina
Steve Spurrier became the Head Ball Coach at South Carolina on November 23, 2004, after Lou Holtz retired. The Gamecocks had been a league whipping boy since joining the SEC in 1991, but Holtz brought them to some measure of respectability by going 8-4 in 2000 and 9-3 in 2001. That success had begun to translate into recruiting, with South Carolina landing the nation’s #11 class in 2002 and the #8 class in 2003. But by 2004, Holtz’s Gamecocks were mired in mediocrity and their recruiting dipped back to historical levels (the team Spurrier took over had gone 6-5 in 2004, after signing the nation’s #38 recruiting class that spring).
Like Meyer, Spurrier had almost three full months to sign his first recruiting class—and with that time was able to sign the nation’s #23 class with six 4-stars and 28 overall players (2.96 star average). Spurrier signed a similar class in 2006: the #24 unit nationally, with six 4-stars, 24 total players, and a 3.08 star average. But in his third season (2007), Spurrier pulled in the nation’s #6 class—headlined by 5-star WR Chris Culliver and joined by fourteen 4-stars, 31 total players, and a 3.42 star average. Whether this 2007 class was Spurrier cashing-in on his rockstar status after a bit of delay and his 2005 SEC Coach of the Year award, or whether the modest 2006 class as a response to an NCAA investigation (through which South Carolina wound up on 3-year probation for violations that occurred under Holtz), or some combination thereof, is unclear. But since then, Spurrier has been able to maintain South Carolina’s recruiting at a high level—averaging #18.1 in the nation over the past seven cycles.
4. Bobby Petrino – Arkansas
Journeyman Bobby Petrino famously resigned from the Atlanta Falcons with three games remaining in their 2007 season to become head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks in December 10, 2007. Like Urban Meyer, Petrino took over a strong program from a successful former coach—in this case, Houston Nutt, who’d bolted Fayetteville for Oxford, Mississippi.
Under Nutt, the Razorbacks had steadily recruited just inside the nation’s top-30 programs, finishing no worse than #31 and no better than #24 over the six preceding cycles (#27.2 average national ranking). Petrino’s first class (2008) ranked #36 nationally, however, Arkansas’ worst finish in the Rivals era. But Petrino’s second class, headlined by 5-star Darius Winston (and, though not counted, transfer Ryan Mallett coming off his sit-out year) ranked #16; with 31 players and an overall star average of 3.26, the 2009 class was far and away Arkansas’s best of the Rivals era. Interestingly, though, Petrino was the one rockstar coach who proved unable to sustain his recruiting success beyond the second year; Arkansas plummeted back to #49 in the 2010 cycle, and continued to recruit outside the top-30 for the remainder of Petrino’s tenure.
5. Bobby Petrino – Louisville (2)
Petrino was fired from the Arkansas job in April 2012 after a motorcycle accident led to the revelation of his adulterous affair with a colleague. He remained out of work until December of that year, when Western Kentucky hired him to replace Willie Taggart. He coached the Hilltoppers for a season, but then thriving Louisville head coach Charlie Strong took the head job at Texas. That left a vacancy at Petrino’s old program, and he promptly returned to the Cardinals for 2014.
Louisville announced Petrino on January 9, 2014, leaving him only about five weeks before national signing day. He still managed to sign thirteen recruits, to finish with 25 overall players and the nation’s #40 class (2.82 overall star average). While #40 may not sound impressive at first blush, Louisville averaged a #49.6 ranking in the five previous cycles (2009-2013), finishing inside the top-30 only once (#29 in 2011). And Louisville’s current recruiting class is ranked #27, which would make for a nice second-year bump if it holds up through NSD.
6. Pete Carroll – Southern Cal
Though arguably not really a rockstar at the time, I am including Pete Carroll anyway because any study of modern recruiting needs to include Pete Carroll. He took over the USC Trojans on December 15, 2000—meaning (i) he had about two more weeks to assemble his first recruiting class than JH will have, and (ii) that first class was assembled before the Rivals era.
The 2001 USC Trojans recruiting class featured only sixteen student-athletes—but among them were key contributors like Shaun Cody and Matt Leinert. Most of the sixteen were Paul Hackett recruits that Carroll locked-down after coming on board. The overall quality of the class is a matter of some disagreement, with Tom Lemming ranking it #9 nationally while SuperPrep ranked the USC class outside the national top-10 and behind both Washington and UCLA in the Pac-10.
Carroll signed the nation’s #13 class in 2002, with 20 overall recruits and fifteen 4-stars among them (3.1 overall star average). While that was undoubtedly a strong class, it was the following season when Carroll’s recruiting success really took off: the 2003 class featured two 5-stars (Reggie Bush and ATH Whitney Thomas), ten 4-stars, and 26 players (averaging 3.43 stars), good for #3 in the country. USC would finish with the nation’s #1-ranked recruiting classes in each of the next three years (before dropping to #2 in 2007).
Of the six cases of “rockstar coach hires” studied herein, three were able to improve upon their schools’ recent recruiting performances in the first cycle. But in two of those three instances, the incoming coach was taking over a strong program whose prior coach had left for greener pastures (Petrino, replacing Strong) or for reasons unrelated to failure on the field (Meyer, replacing Luke Fickell after Tressel). Most of the coaches were able to make a dramatic improvement in recruiting by year 2, however—and all of them by year 3. Only Petrino (at Arkansas) was unable to sustain that high-level recruiting beyond their second or third-year increases.
So, what does this mean for Harbaugh? I am no statistician, but I highly doubt there is enough of a sample size here for the numbers to mean anything. But for what it’s worth, the few existing examples suggest that Harbaugh should enable Michigan to sign a top-30ish class for 2015 (Michigan finished no worse than #31 in the past five recruiting cycles), improve significantly upon that with his second-year leap in 2016, and land top-10 (maybe top-5, comparable to Meyer/Saban/Carroll) classes consistently thereafter.
Or maybe he'll just kick everybody's asses from day one.
Unfortunately Michigan still has seven more games to play this season, including one tonight at Rutgers. For some reason I am previewing this one (probably because I wrote half of this before the Minnesota game, back when I considered it realistic that M might turn the ship around, and don’t want that work to go to waste). Out of a coping mechanism I’m only going to DVR the game, and will spend the afternoon picking Asian pears in the Cascade foothills; then I’ll decide whether to actually watch the thing when I get home. Anyway, I am going to have to cut this intro short on account of a screaming child and the fact that I’m not sure anyone really cares this week anyway.
Well, Go Blue.
When Michigan has the ball…
Run and hide and close your eyes.
1. Inside Zone
With Magnuson injured, Michigan moved Graham Glasgow to LG last week and inserted Kalis. Nobody really noticed because the problems on the field seemed to be the least of M’s problems. Anyway, usually when a team is constantly getting its ass kicked, it’s best to stick to basics (c.f. Al Borges; sigh).
Rutgers runs a 4-3 Under front and usually gets decent penetration with their undersized guys.
LT Mason Cole: Covered; block DE David MIlewski
LG Graham Glasgow: Covered; block DT Darius Hamilton
C Jack Miller: Uncovered; chip DT Hamilton or NT Kenneth Kirksey, block WLB Steve Longa
RG Kyle Kalis: Covered; block NT Kenneth Kirksey
RT Ben Braden: Uncovered; chip DE Djwany Mera, block MLB L.J. LIston
TE Jake Butt: Covered; block DE Djwany Mera
RB – Derrick Green: Receive handoff and head for B-gap outside LG; make one cut and turn N/S
Probably gonna be ugly.
Though Michigan isn’t likely to enjoy much success on the ground against Rutgers, it could be a different story through the air if Devin Funchess is healthy enough to play. Rutgers likes to run Cover 2, which is designed to ensure that corners get help over the top on deep routes. But plays like the Post-Wheel can beat Cover 2 by pairing an inside-breaking route (to occupy the safety) with a deep sideline route (which the corner or other man defender must play one-on-one).
XWR Devin Funchess: Run post route vs. BCB Nadir Barnwell, FS Andre Hunt
RB Derrick Green: Run wheel route against SLB Quentin Gause
LT Mason Cole: Pass protect vs. SDE David Milewski
LG Graham Glasgow: Pass protect vs. DT Kenneth Kirksey
C Jack Miller: Pass protect vs. NT Darius Hamilton
RG Kyle Kalis: Pass Protect vs. NT Kenneth Kirksey
RT Ben Braden: Pass protect vs. WDE Djwany Mera
UTE Jake Butt: Pass protect vs. WDE Djwany Mera, then release to flat
YWR Dennis Norfleet: Run wheel route vs. NCB Anthony Cioffi
ZWR Jehu Chesson: Run post route vs. FCB Gareef Glashen
QB Devin Gardner: 3-step drop from SG; read is on free safety; the post should hold him to the middle of the field—if so, then look for YWR to come open on wheel; if FS widens to pick up wheel route, then XWR should come open on post. If covered, check down to TE in flat.
Funchess & Co. have to like their chances against a Rutgers secondary that’s been banged-up and may have a freshman backup playing FS, but Rutgers has a strong pass rush and has to be equally excited to face the rickety Michigan offensive line. As always, the X-factor is Devin Gardner: if he’s on, M could put up 300+ yards on this D and win going away, if he’s off, well, you’ve seen what happens when he’s off.
When Rutgers has the ball…
3. Outside Zone
Smart Football broke down Kyle Flood’s Outside Zone play in detail before the 2012 Russell Athletic Bowl, in which a 6-6 Virginia Tech team squeezed out a 13-10 victory over 9-2 Rutgers.
Yes, Rutgers really does leave the backside DE unblocked on its Outside Zone play. I don’t know how common this is, but here’s an example of Rutgers running it against Arkansas from a few years back. Guess who makes the tackle? That Arkansas DE looked a lot bigger and slower than Frank Clark; I wouldn’t be surprised if they do things a little differently against M.
WDE Frank Clark: backside pursuit of RB Desmon Peoples
NT Ryan Glasgow: defend backside A-gap
3T Willie Henry: defend playside B-gap
SDE Brennan Beyer: defend playside C-gap
WLB Joe Bolden: defend backside B-gap
MLB Jake Ryan: defend playside A-gap
SLB James Ross: defend playside D-gap (outside TE); set edge (2 yards wide, 2 yards deep) to force run back in, or spill to sideline
I’d probably call this even (or, after last week, maybe even advantage Rutgers) if Paul James was still at RB, but unfortunately he tore his ACL a couple weeks ago and won’t be available. Kyle Flood is a respected OL coach and I expect his guys to play with good technique, but M has a pretty serious edge in raw talent.
4. Smash Corner Flat
The smash-corner concept is ordinarily thought of as a way to hi-low a cornerback against a Cover 2 scheme: the corner route will put a receiver under the safety help, so the CB must decide whether to “sink” and take away the corner route (leaving a receiver open in the flat) or play tight on the flat receiver (opening up space for the QB to hit the corner route). But as Jimbo Fisher explained in a tidy little article , the smash-corner becomes an effective concept against practically any coverage scheme if the slot receiver is able to adjust his route based on how the defense is playing him.
In their last game (against Tulane), Rutgers ran a smash-corner concept off play-action; they caught Tulane in a blitz, and Nova hit the back in the flat for a big gainer. The diagram above shows the same play, as defended by Michigan in its "Quarter-Quarter-Half" scheme (Cover 4 to the field side, Cover 2 to boundary).
BCB Jabrill Peppers: Man coverage vs. WR Janarion Grant
WDE Frank Clark: Pass rush vs. LT Keith Lumpkin
3T Willie Henry: Pass rush vs. RG Chris Muller
NT Ryan Glasgow: Pass rush vs. C Betim Bujari
SDE Brennan Beyer: Pass rush vs. RT Taj Alexander
WLB Joe Bolden: Defend curl/flat zone on weak side
MLB Jake Ryan: Defend underneath middle zone
SLB James Ross: Defend curl/flat zone on strong side vs. RB Desmon Peoples
FS Jerrod Wilson: Cover deep ½ zone vs. WR Janarion Grant
SS Jeremy Clark: Man coverage vs. TE Tyler Kroft
FCB Jourdan Lewis: Man coverage vs. WR Leonte Carroo
Say what you want about Michigan’s defense not quite living up to expectations, but from what I’ve seen the corners are the real deal. A better QB than Nova (such as Mitch Leidner, groan) might be able to pick on Michigan’s LBs and safeties, but with Nova I expect a few balls to wind up being caught by guys in yellow pants.
Okay, here is my contribution...
Dan Quinn is currently the defensive coordinator for Pete Carroll and the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. He’s known for being flexible with scheme and looking for ways to feature the talents of his best players. Interestingly, in a 2013 article on NFL.com, Quinn and two other NFL assistants (Mel Tucker and Greg Roman) were named by anonymous NFL executives as being the most likely NFL assistants to make great college coaches.
PROBLEM IS... Quinn is one of the most highly-regarded assistants in the NFL right now, and was apparently a top candidate for the Cleveland Browns job last off-season (but the Browns hired a different coach while the Seahawks were still playing en route to the Super Bowl). He was also a finalist for the Minnesota Vikings job and reportedly considered for other NFL vacancies as well.
From: Morristown, N.J.
College: Salisbury Steak, er, State (1993)
William & Mary (DL)
Other coaches he has worked for/with include:
· Kyle Flood (with Hoftsra)
· Nick Saban (with Miami Dolphins)
· Pete Carroll (with Seattle Seahawks)
· Will Muschamp (with Florida Gators)
· Recent major college experience as DC with Florida
· Super Bowl ring
· Flexible and acquainted with modern schemes
· May be difficult to sign (or keep for long), given demand from NFL teams
· No HC experience at any level
Yeah, so, I wrote this today:
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Scene: a futuristic computer room, ringed with terminals and transparent screens. A single, long-haired blogger dude stands in the midst, wearing an electric glove, wired with electrodes, and manipulating data. Suddenly the man stops, and waits. A small, coral-colored ball emerges from a tube in the ceiling, bearing a cryptic imprinted message:
Scene: an outdoor dining table behind a palatial country club. A fifty-ish man in corporate chic [DAVE BRANDON] snaps a slice of Negihama roll from the hip of a nude prostitute, prompting a giggle.
PROSTITUTE: Are you ready for me, Ralph?
DAVE BRANDON: Actually, you can just call me “Dave.”
The shadow of approaching guest [RICH RODRIGUEZ] darkens the foreground.
DAVE BRANDON: What now? Rodriguez. And what, may I ask, is it I can do for you today?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: Well as you know, our defense ain’t been ‘zacly what people expect.
DAVE BRANDON: You don’t say. And this is my problem becauzzzz? [exchanges glances with sushi-bearing prostitute]
RICH RODRIGUEZ: I’s just hopin’ maybe, if I could get a little bit-a more money--
DAVE BRANDON: More money? MORE money?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, well, see, there’s this guy I know, Jeff Casteel—
DAVE BRANDON: I see. So you want ME to give YOU more money so you can hire “some guy you know.” [making air quotes] Great plan, southern man.
RICH RODRIGUEZ: That’s basically the gist of it. But we was top ten at West Virginia.
DAVE BRANDON: Okay. But you gotta ask me nicely. [Prostitute smiles again.]
RICH RODRIGUEZ: Say what?
DAVE BRANDON: You gotta ask me nicely. You come here, asking me for more money to spend on your spread offense and your ‘traditional’ white road uniforms. You gotta ask me nicely.
RICH RODRIGUEZ: Alright then. Pretty please, can I have money to hire Jeff Casteel?
DAVE BRANDON: Ha ha. Let me give you a little advice, so you know. In times of economic uncertainty, never, ever fuck with another man's livelihood. Go have fun, now? You know fun, time of your life? And don’t ever come back here. [Brandon and prostitute laugh diabolically}
Scene: a rural linebacker farm in the rolling Virginia hills, west of Baltimore. The aging proprietor [GREG MATTISON] stares excitedly as the beak of a new hatchling pokes through its shell. Above the incubator, a strip of masking tape says “Hybrid Space Player.” Suddenly, the barn door swings open, to reveal a lone figure [BRADY HOKE]—corpulent, with bare arms in winter.
GREG MATTISON: No, no, no, no sir. Can’t use him, don’t want him, couldn’t afford him if I did.
The figure [BRADY HOKE] approaches.
GREG MATTISON: I heard all about you and Dave Brandon. Me though, I’m retired, don’t want none of that. But you’re welcome to come in, have a beer, and play some euchre.
Scene moves to dim living room. A flickering old CRT televisions set murmurs in the background, children sleep among cookie crumbs and empty soda bottles. Two men [GREG MATTISON and BRADY HOKE] slide the coffee table against a wall.
GREG MATTISON: You sure you want to do this? I was All-American, remember?
BRADY HOKE: [slurred] I’m taking you down this time, biy-atch.
The men begin wrestling. Much furniture is smashed. Camera pans around to capture championship trophies from the Florida Gators, Baltimore Ravens, Michigan Wolverines. GREG MATTISON eventually gains the upper hand.
GREG MATTISON: You coach that team, Brady, and you’ll FAIL! You’ll fail, god dammit! Dave Brandon is no particular friend. He’d put you in the wall today if he could get Harbaugh tomorrow.
BRADY HOKE: [Out of breath] But I need this, Greg. I haven’t got anything else.
Scene: The Big House, Ann Arbor, Michigan--a roaring football stadium at night, fans waving yellow pom-poms and chanting along to piped-in techno music. Down on the field, DEVIN GARDNER confidently steps into the Michigan huddle. A voice [AL BORGES] crackles on his helmet mic.
AL BORGES: Maverick, this is Ghost Rider. Take angels 10-left-three-zero.
DEVIN GARDNER: Roger.
Looks up at teammates
DEVIN GARDNER: Angels 10-left-three-zero. Jeremy, you got him?
JEREMY GALLON: Roger.
DEVIN GARDNER: Okay—you hook’em. Jehu will clean’em and fry’em.
Players line up in a shotgun formation.
DEVIN GARDNER: Contact, 20 left at 30! Nine hundred! Nine Hundred! Set, hut!
Players begin running, pads begin popping, Gardner throws a pass to Jeremy Gallon. Gallon catches it, spins off two defenders, and scores. Crowd goes absolutely wild. Meanwhile, Jehu Chesson blocks three defenders into a pile, then stands over them.
JEHU CHESSON: “Watch the birdie!”
Snaps a Polaroid. Scene fades
Scene: Jubilant locker room. Sweaty Michigan football players gather around Head Coach BRADY HOKE, clap and sing “The Victors.”
BRADY HOKE: I’m really proud of the way this team practiced, this team executed. Enjoy this one. But we’ve still got ten more to play—
Hoke pauses momentarily, as a grinning DAVE BRANDON shuffles through the crowd
BRADY HOKE: So yeah, I want’chall enjoy this one, then we’ll be right back to work tomorrow morning.
A cheer goes up from the players, who begin turning away…
DAVE BRANDON: One more thing, well done, gentlemen. You really kicked some ass tonight.
Slight sighs are heard from the annoyed players.
DAVE BRANDON: In this big game that we play, life, it's not what you hope for, it's not what you deserve, it's what you take. I'm Dave muthaf*kin Brandon, a master of the muffin and author of the “Avoid the Noid” advertising campaign for Domino’s Pizza. No I wasn’t an All-American when I played here for Bo Schembechler. But I was able to become an All-American at business, because I learned one thing: Respect the cock! And tame the cunt! Tame it! Take it on headfirst with the skills that I will teach you at work and say no! You will not control me! No! You will not take my soul! No!
You will not win this game! Because it's a game, guys. You want to think it's not, huh? You want to think it's not? Go back to the schoolyard and you have that crush on big-titted Mary Jane. Respect the cock. You are embedding this thought. I am the one who's in charge. I am the one who says yes! No! Now! Here! Because it's universal, man. It is evolutional. It is anthropological. It is biological. It is animal. We... are... men!
Players stand in stunned silence.
Scene: Michigan LSA student SAGAR LATHIA enters the Arcade Barbershop and takes a seat in an empty barber’s chair as the door creaks shut behind him.
SAGAR LATHIA: How's it going, Luther?
LUTHER: Another day, another dollar, captain.
SAGAR LATHIA: You gotta play them as they lay.
LUTHER: What goes around comes around.
SAGAR LATHIA: Can't beat 'em, join 'em.
LUTHER: At least I got my health.
SAGAR LATHIA: Well, then you got everything... See you tomorrow, Luther.
LUTHER: Not if I see you first.
SAGAR LATHIA: Sometimes you gotta say, "what the fuck." Make your move. Luther, every now and then, saying "what the fuck?" brings freedom. Freedom brings opportunity, opportunity makes your future.
Scene: Big House for early game vs. Akron. Quiet hum from crowd as Michigan offense breaks huddle.
DEVIN GARDNER: Red 90! Red 90! Hike!
Gardner receives shotgun snap, drops back to pass. Pressure comes up middle. Gardner retreats, spins, reverses field, and is blind-sided by an Akron player. Gardner throws ball—but the wobbly duck lands right in the chest of an Akron player and is run into the end zone for a TD. Gardner lies on turf, mystified.
Scene: luxury suite above Michigan Stadium. DAVE BRANDON grabs telephone receiver and lifts to ear.
Scene: Michigan sideline. A phone rings. A team manager answers and bring the phone to BRADY HOKE.
BRADY HOKE: Consider yourself in Contempt!
GREG MATTISON: [standing beside BRADY HOKE] You don’t have to answer that question.
BRADY HOKE: I'll answer the question! [Into phone] You want answers?!
Scene cuts back to Brandon’s luxury box
DAVE BRANDON: I think I’m entitled!
Back to sideline
BRADY HOKE: You want answers?
Back to Brandon’s luxury box
DAVE BRANDON: I want the truth!
Back to sideline
BRADY HOKE: You can’t handle the truth!
Scene: a classroom in Mason Hall on University of Michigan campus. A female professor jots information on the white-board, then looks up.
PROFESSOR: Excuse me, Mr. Lathia, is there something wrong?
SAGAR LATHIA: Yes ma'am, the data on the coaching search is inaccurate.
PROFESSOR: How's that, Mr. Lathia?
SAGAR LATHIA: Well, I just happened to read Dave Brandon’s actual itinerary from “The Process,” and he never actually met with Miles. Never offered Harbaugh the job.
PROFESSOR: Where did you see this?
SAGAR LATHIA: Got it from John U. Bacon.
PROFESSOR: From who?
SAGAR LATHIA: John U. Bacon. I would introduce you to him, but then Dave Brandon would have you fired.
Scene: Road game at Penn State. White-out, fans yelling hostile obscenities. Michigan trailing on the scoreboard. Nervous-looking DEVIN GARDNER approaches the huddle.
DEVIN GARDNER: Twenty-one right Bogey on three.
JEREMY GALLON: What? Again? It hasn’t worked the first twenty-six times we’ve run it.
DEVIN GARDNER: It’s what the man said. Twenty-one right Bogey on three. Readee-break!
Michigan offense steps to line against Penn State defense, which has inserted extra defensive tackles. The wall of defensive humanity nearly blocks out the lighting.
DEVIN GARDNER: Set…hut! Hut! Ready….hut!
[DEVIN GARDNER] takes snap, retreats into backfield, shoves ball into running back’s arms. The back is promptly swallowed by several tacklers before reaching the line of scrimmage. Dispirited Michigan players walk back to the huddle.
AL BORGES: Dang-it. Okay, Maverick, let’s go Angels 10-left-three-zero.
DEVIN GARDNER: Roger that.
Gardner faces offensive teammates, gives play. Unit lines up in shotgun formation.
DEVIN GARDNER: Red 90! Red 90! Hut!
Slo-mo shot as shotgun snap approaches. DEVIN GARDNER catches snap. Heavy breaths and foot-falls. DEVIN GARDNER retreats one step, camera pans to primary read. JEREMY GALLON is open in seam.
DEVIN GARDNER: It’s no good.
Camera closes-in on [JEREMY GALLON]
JEREMY GALLON: God dammit Maverick!
Camera follows Gardner’s eyes as he moves to secondary read. DEVIN FUNCHESS is open on sideline.
DEVIN GARDNER: It’s no good!
DEVIN FUNCHESS: God dammit!
Penn State defenders arrive. Gardner slammed to turf, ball comes out. Penn State players rejoice as crowd erupts into frenzy. A crumpled Gardner sits motionless on the field.
Scene: an austere, tropical barracks. Banana rats scurry as hooded figures slip into a darkened room. Inside, a rotund figure of a snoring man [AL BORGES] heaves upon the bunk. Suddenly, the figures pull a blanket tight over the man’s chest; a pure grey bar of soap is shoved into his mouth, and the man is pummeled repeatedly with oversized macaroni noodles.
AL BORGES: Whaahhh—[choking sounds as soap enters mouth]
The beating continues for several seconds
HOODED FIGURE: Get an identity, fat man!
The figures rush out of the room as AL BORGES passes out.
Scene: anti-septic military-style interrogation room. Young lawyer [SAGAR LATHIA] in dress uniform enters the room. five hulking men, each wearing a jump-suit marked with a non-eligible number, immediately rise and salute.
SAGAR LATHIA: [timidly] At ease?
The men sit. SAGAR LATHIA sits at folding chair across the table.
SAGAR LATHIA: So, can we start with what happened?
TAYLOR LEWAN: Sir! What happened when, sir!?
SAGAR LATHIA: Well, I understand the five of you beat a guy with noodles—
TAYLOR LEWAN: Sir! It was a ‘miscommunication,’ sir!
SAGAR LATHIA: A miscommunication?
TAYLOR LEWAN: Sir! That’s what we call it. A ‘miscommunication,’ sir!
SAGAR LATHIA: Well, I’m just trying to understand—
TAYLOR LEWAN: Sir! Must protect the brand, sir!
SAGAR LATHIA: The brand?
TAYLOR LEWAN: Sir! Yes, sir! Must protect the brand. That’s our code, sir!
SAGAR LATHIA: Who put you up to this?
TAYLOR LEWAN: Sir?
SAGAR LATHIA: You better tell me. I’m the only friend you’ve got.
TAYLOR LEWAN: Sir! I am on specific orders not to disclose that my commanding officer, Dave Brandon, instructed me to perform the miscommunication, sir!
SAGAR LATHIA: …
Scene: DEVIN GARDNER meets with BRADY HOKE on an isolated path along the Huron River.
BRADY HOKE: What I’m about to tell you is classified—could end my career. I loved coaching that Denard, even if he wasn’t a pocket-passer. You're a lot like he was. Only better... and worse. He was a natural heroic son of a bitch that one.
DEVIN GARDNER: So he did do it right.
BRADY HOKE: Yeah, he did it right... Is that why you play the way you do? Trying to prove something? Yeah, Denard did it right. We were in a rebuilding phase. There were walk-ons and freshmen like fireflies all over the roster. His ulnar nerve was hit, and he was wounded—he could have not dressed. But he stayed in it, won three games before Nebraska got him.
DEVIN GARDNER: How come I never heard that before?
BRADY HOKE: Well, that's not something the Athletic Department tells fans when a player belongs in a spread offense, isn’t ‘Manball’ enough.
DEVIN GARDNER: So you get it?
BRADY HOKE: I get it. What's on your mind?
DEVIN GARDNER: My options, sir.
BRADY HOKE: Simple. You've already acquired an undergraduate degree. You can soldier on in our pathetic offense, or you can quit. There'd be no disgrace. Last year’s offensive line was hell, it would've shook me up.
DEVIN GARDNER: So you think I should quit?
BRADY HOKE: I didn't say that. The simple fact is you feel responsible for Notre Dame and you have a confidence problem. Now I'm not gonna sit here and blow sunshine up your ass. A good quarterback is compelled to evaluate what's happened, so he can apply what he's learned. On the field there, we gotta push it. That's our job. It's your option, Devin. All yours.
DEVIN GARDNER: Sorry to bother you on a Sunday, sir, but thank you very much for your time.
BRADY HOKE: No problem. Good luck.
* * * * *
Scene: a ceiling panel slides open in a bright, institutional storage closet. Motion-detecting lasers criss-cross the room at odd angles, and alarmed panels cover the floor. A lone computer terminal sits unoccupied at a desk built into the wall. Suddenly, SAGAR LATHIA drops from the ceiling. He almost strikes the floor, but spreads-eagle inches above it. SAGAR LATHIA moves through the air to the computer terminal, pulls up a screen that says “COCA-COLA TICKET PROMOTION,” and inserts a USB drive to download the data. A lengthy status bar appears on the screen while the data is slowly copied.
Meanwhile, outside the room, DAVE BRANDON speaks with [ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT WORKER].
DAVE BRANDON: How many tickets have you sold today?
ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT WORKER: Fourteen hundred, sir.
DAVE BRANDON: Very good. How much is that?
ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT WORKER: Well, with the Coca-Cola promotion, that’s twenty-eight hundred dollars. More importantly, we can keep our streak of 100,000 fans alive.
DAVE BRANDON: Whatever. You know what I say? If it ain’t broke, break it—that’s what I say. So go ahead and break that streak.
ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT WORKER: Whatever you say, sir. Don’t want to be fired like every other person I used to work with.
DAVE BRANDON: Yeah. Hey, didn’t those skywriters give us a half-off coupon for our next purchase? I think $2,800 ought to cover it.
ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT WORKER: I think the coupon is in the storage room, sir.
DAVE BRANDON: Well don’t just sit there. Bring me skywriting coupon!
Camera returns to storage room. SAGAR LATHIA finishes downloading marketing plan data and is pulled back through ceiling, just as ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT WORKER opens the door.
Scene: Ornate banquet room at Detroit’s Downtown Athletic Club, for annual Michigan Football Bust. Team, dressed in suits, has finished its meal and is looking to podium. Camera pans room to see several players carrying or wearing medical equipment, DEVIN GARDNER in full-body cast with oxygen tank. BRADY HOKE exits podium to moderate applause, as DAVE BRANDON steps to podium.
DAVE BRANDON: And I just want to thank Brady for the wonderful job he’s done. Really, really wonderful job. But you know, 7-5 really is not Michigan Football. I mean, let’s face it: you men are shit. What? Yes: you men... are... shit. Horrible, heinous, *heinous*, terrible football players. That’s you. Fuck this bullshit. What is it that we need? We need Michigan Men! You see what I'm getting at? What’s your problem, anyway? “Mommy wouldn't let me play soccer... and Daddy, he hit me, so that's who I am, that's why I do what I do?” We will not apologize for who we are. Michigan will not apologize for what it needs. I will not apologize for what I want! And that’s why I’d like to introduce the new head coach of the Michigan Wolverines—
Just then, SAGAR LATHIA and JOHN U. BACON rush into the room
JOHN U. BACON: Stop!
DAVE BRANDON: What the hell is this?
JOHN U. BACON: Stop, this man [points to SAGAR LATHIA] has something to say.
DAVE BRANDON: I’m outta here.
GREG MATTISON: [rises from the back of the room]: You're not going anywhere, Brandon. DTs, guard the Athletic Director.
DAVE BRANDON: Am I being charged with a crime? Is that what this is? I'm being charged with a crime? This is funny. That's what this is.
SAGAR LATHIA: You brought in Special K and left the band at home. You paid pilots to skywrite “Go Blue” over an empty Spartan Stadium. You masterminded the general admission fiasco. You undermined Rich Rod and botched the hire of Brady Hoke.
DAVE BRANDON: Son, we live in a world that has college football, and college football has to be played by men wearing uniformz. Who's gonna do it? You? You, hockey boy? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for our tradition, and you curse the rawk muzak. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That the loss of Michigan tradition, while tragic, probably won games. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, wins games. You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me in that luxury box, you need me on in that luxury box. We use words like brand identity, brand equity, sub-brand, and brand loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent marketing something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very revenue that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a pom-pom, and wave it to piped-in techno. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to.
SAGAR LATHIA: Did you order the miscommunication?
DAVE BRANDON: You’re goddamn right I did!
Audible gasp arises from the team and boosters in attendance
DAVE BRANDON: I'm gonna rip the eyes out of your head and puke into your dead skull, you messed with the wrong AD!
BRADY HOKE: I think you’re in deep shit, Brandon, I guaran-damn-tee you.
DAVE BRANDON: You have no idea how to run an athletic department. All you did was weaken The Team today, Lathia. That's all you did. You put Rose Bowl berths in danger. Sweet dreams, son.
SAGAR LATHIA: Don't call me son. I'm a Michigan student, and an officer in the LS&A student government. And you're fired, you son of a bitch.
Scene: Schembechler Hall. Square-jawed John Harbaugh stands at a podium, beside an academic-looking man [BRAD BATES] in a muted blazer. Cameras flash as BRAD BATES steps to the microphone bank.
BRAD BATES: I’d like to announce some exciting new changes for Michigan Football. We thank Brady Hoke for his distinguished service as the head coach; he’ll be staying on with the athletic department as an advisor and assistant euchre and wrestling coach. We’d like to welcome John Harbaugh, most recently of the Baltimore Ravens and the son of former Michigan assistant Jack Harbaugh, as our new head coach. And we’d like to extend our congratulations to Devin Gardner, who has made a full recovery from his injuries and was drafted 199th overall by the New England Patriots. Thank you, and Go Blue!
Four Plays – Utah @ Michigan 2014
I’ve always respected Kyle Whittingham’s Utah program. Whenever I watched his teams play in the past, they impressed me as tough, physical squads that got the most out of their talent. The Utes took down BYU on the road last season and followed that up with a stunning upset against Stanford, so they've shown the ability to compete with anyone. Even so, I wasn’t particularly worried about this game heading into the season. The Utes ended up 5-7 the past two years and haven’t finished in the AP top-25 since 2009.
That changed a bit after I read up on ths year's Utes. Utah’s quarterback, Travis Wilson, is a 6’7” (!) dual-threat (386 rushing yards in 2013) coming back from an intra-cranial artery issue. They have talent at WR and RB, and in the off-season landed spread guru Dan Christiansen--i.e., the guy who ran Mizzou’s offense in the Chase Daniel era--as their offensive coordinator. They've already put up 115 points in their first two games, plus they have a serious playmaker on defense in DE Nate Orchard.
But while Utah looked pretty formidable on paper, I was a bit less impressed after watching some of their game against Idaho State on video. The Utes really are not stout against the run, and while they have a few outstanding playmakers I just didn’t see the usual physicality that I associate with vintage Utah teams. This game should be a good all-around challenge, and Michigan isn’t going to win with a -4 turnover margin performance--but I’m still pretty confident Michigan gets the win so long as they take care of the ball and find a way to cope with Nate Orchard.
Now, let’s look at some matchups.
When Michigan has the ball…
1. 26 Power
Somewhat ironically, Michigan’s best running play this season (not counting the jet sweeps to Norfleet) has arguably been not Inside Zone, but the play Michigan could never really get off the ground despite years of trying under Al Borges: good ol’ Power O. Maybe it has something to do with catching opponents by surprise, maybe all the years of practice are finally paying off, who knows? But the play is easier (mentally) on the running backs and Magnuson has looked good pulling this season, so hopefully the success continues.
Shown here from an offset I formation against Utah’s base 4-3 Under, Power O attacks the “6-hole” between offensive tackle and TE. Key features of the play include: (i) the RT and TE will double-team the opposing SDE at the point-of-attack; (ii) the LG pulls and leads the tailback through the hole; (iii) the tailback cuts off of the LG’s block. Note that Utah runs a 4-3 Under front and calls its strongside LB the “Stud” and the weakside LB the “Rover.”
LT Mason Cole: Down-block WDE Nate Orchard
LG Erik Magnuson: Pull and lead through hole; block first defender (likely MLB Jason Whittingham)
C Jack Miller: Down-block 3T Sese Ianu
RG Graham Glasgow: Down-block NT Clint Shepherd
RT Ben Braden: Block SDE Hunter Dimick (try to seal him inside)
TE Jake Butt: Double-team SDE Hunter Dimick; then pop-off and progress to second-level
FB Joe Kerridge: Kick-out block on “Stud” LB Uaea Masina
RB – Derrick Green: Counter step, then receive handoff and aim for 6-hole outside RT, cut off of Magnuson’s block
While Michigan’s running game remains a work in progress, Utah (i.e., Nate Orchard) has 21 TFLs and a nation-leading 11 sacks through just two games. Despite the impressive statistics, however, the Utes’ interior DL looked soft against FCS Idaho State. With Jake Butt taking another step toward a full return, Kerridge off to a strong start, Magnuson exceeding expectations, and Green starting to live up to his billing, I am cautiously optimistic here. Orchard is a beast though, and Michigan’s young line still makes too many mistakes to warrant the advantage.
2. Shallow Cross
As even the most casual football fans can tell you, there are few better ways of attacking man coverage than with crossing routes. And when it comes to crossing routes, there are few better concepts than the shallow cross—a quick-developing, safe play with an easy triangle read for the QB. So it’s no surprise that the shallow cross is among the most popular passing plays in football, and reportedly a long-time staple of Doug Nussmeier’s playbook.
Shown here from a shotgun look, the TE and flanker will cross on the right side of the formation, while the slot receiver runs a “choice” route in between them (the choice route is a fade, which the receiver converts into a comeback route if he can’t get over the top). This route combination promises to generate a massive amount of traffic in one spot on the field, which will hopefully catch up at least one defender.
XWR Amara Darboh: Run post (7) route vs. BCB Eric Rowe
RB Derrick Green: Run flat route covered by Rover LB Jared Norris (or, help Cole pass protect vs. WDE Nate Orchard, then release to flat)
LT Mason Cole: Pass protect vs. WDE Nate Orchard
LG Erik Magnuson: Pass protect vs. 3T Sese Ianu
C Jack Miller: Pass protect vs. NT Clint Shepherd
RG Graham Glasgow: Pass protect vs. NT Clint Shepherd
RT Ben Braden: Pass protect vs. SDE Hunter Dimick
UTE Jake Butt: Run flat route, covered by MLB Jason Whittingham
YWR Dennis Norfleet: Run choice route vs. NB Justin Thomas
ZWR Jehu Chesson: Run 5-yard in route vs. FCB Davion Orphey
QB Devin Gardner: 1-step drop; read “inside-out” from Z to Y to Y; if Z open, throw as back foot hits on pass drop; if covered, hitch and throw to Y if open; if covered, hitch and throw to U if open.
Utah is reportedly strong at safety, but its corners and LBs are suspect. A play like this matches Michigan’s quality receivers against that weakness. The primary reads come open under the safeties, and as a quick-developing play it limits Orchard’s chances of getting home on a pass rush.
When Utah has the ball…
3. Inside Zone Read
Still probably the quintessential play of the Chip Kelley/Urban Meyer axis of spread offense, the Inside Zone Read works just like the regular Inside Zone, but buys the offense an extra blocker by using the QB run threat to option-off the backside DE. That means covered linemen will block the defenders lined up across from them, while uncovered linemen will head to the second level.
The general rule in defending zone read plays is to make sure the ball winds up in the hands of the less-dangerous threat. In Utah’s case, the backs (Devontae Booker and Bubba Poole) are considerably better runners, so Michigan will want QB Travis Wilson to keep. The simplest way to accomplish that is to have the WDE, who is normally responsible for defending the C-gap (outside the LT), exchange gaps with the WLB, who is normally responsible for the B-gap (between the LG and LT). That way, the WDE can crash down on the running back—and when the QB pulls and attacks the C-gap, the WLB will be there waiting for him (in theory, anyway).
WDE Frank Clark: Gap-exchange with WLB Joe Bolden; backside pursuit of RB Devontae Booker
NT Ryan Glasgow: Defend backside A-gap against LG Junior Salt
DT Willie Henry: Defend playside B-gap against RG Isaac Asiata, constrict playside A-gap
SDE Brennan Beyer: Defend playside D-gap (outside TE) vs. TE Westlee Tonga; backside pursuit if QB keeps, set edge point and force run back inside if QB gives
WLB Joe Bolden: Gap-exchange with WDE Frank Clark; defend backside C-gap vs. LT Jeremiah Poutasi, set edge point and force back inside if QB keeps, backside pursuit if QB gives
MLB Jake Ryan: Defend playside A-gap vs. C Siaosi Aiono
SLB James Ross: Defend playside C-gap vs. RT J.J. Dielman
This is the first of two games that will tell us whether Michigan’s stout run defense is the real thing or just fool’s gold. Both of Utah’s featured RBs have big-play speed, and can beat you both between the tackles and on the edge, so it’s a true matchup of strength vs. strength.
4. All Curls
Different teams run All Curls different ways, but the basic concept is to attack Cover 3 by having four receivers occupy the four underneath defenders, then stress one of the flat defenders by sending a fifth receiver (i.e., the running back) into the pattern. Of course, that means the play is not particularly effective against man coverage or even against zone schemes that leave five underneath defenders (e.g., Cover 2 Zone). But Utah ran All Curls to good effect against Idaho State, using the play to stretch the Idaho State defense horizontally and create one-on-one match-ups for the Utes’ superior athletes.
As Space Coyote explained in the comments to the Miami UFR, Michigan ran Cover 4 as its base scheme against the Red Hawks. All Curls is not a particularly good call against Cover 4, because the CBs stay in man coverage on the outside WRs and the WILL picks up the RB releasing into the flat. But the only other downfield Utah pass play I was able to discern from Pac-12 Network’s broadcast looked like a version of Levels, and that play isn’t particularly effective against Cover 4 either. So, FWIW, here is Utah’s All Curls play against the Cover 3 scheme we hope to see Michigan run very little of.
Before the snap, the QB chooses one side of the field to attack (based on the defensive alignment). At the snap, each receiver runs a 5-10 yard curl, attempting to sell the vertical routes before settling into open areas. The quarterback reads outside-in, and has an outlet to the releasing RB in the flat.
BCB Jabrill Peppers: Drop to cover deep 1/3 zone (sideline to hash on weakside)
NCB Blake Countess: Cover weakside flat vs. WR Dres Anderson, RB Devontae Booker
WDE Frank Clark: Pass rush vs. LT Jeremiah Poutasi
3T Willie Henry: Pass rush vs. LG Junior Salt
NT Ryan Glasgow: Pass rush vs. C Siaosi Aiono
SDE Brennan Beyer: Pass rush vs. RT J.J. Dielman
WLB Joe Bolden: Cover hook/curl zone on weakside vs. WR Kaelin Clay
MLB Jake Ryan: Cover hook/curl zone on strongside vs. TE Westlee Tonga
FS Jerrod Wilson: Cover deep middle 1/3 zone
SS Jeremy Clark: Cover deep 1/3 zone (sideline to hash on strongside)
FCB Jourdan Lewis: Cover strong side flat vs. WR Kenneth Scott
The Michigan secondary has the talent to stick with Utah’s receivers and Travis Wilson is not an overly-impressive passer. But Michigan’s pass rush still can’t seem to get home, and that same vaunted secondary had a rough outing in South Bend and now face an at least comparable set of receivers in Dres Anderson and Kaelin Clay. Deep-down I think M really has the advantage here, but I’m calling this even until the young DBs prove they can perform up to their talent level in a big game.