further adventures in Jed York being unsuited for his position
Brian Seymour is a CMU alum and one of the minds behind the madness at the Sports Frog. We trapped him in a room and grilled him until he cracked; the results are below. Many Bothan spies died for this information.
So Central Michigan's competitive now. That must be weird, huh?
Yeah, the jury's still out of course (a 6-5 season and seven-point loss to a middle-tier ACC team at home does not a mid-major juggernaut make) but things are finally looking up. As a Central fan, the most positive sign is that there is now talent on both sides of the ball.
In some cases, somewhat young and raw talent and certainly not necessarily Big Ten caliber , but mixed with the right offensive and defensive system and some solid coaching, the kind of players who could get you to the cusp of the Top 25, knocking off a mid-level BCS conference opponent every now and then and in the mix for a bowl bid. Basically, all you can realistically aspire to as a fan of a MAC school.
Could you describe the Brian Kelly offense for us?
It resembles in many ways the "classic" spread offense that Michigan fans see several times a year against Michigan State, Purdue and Northwestern, but it is much, much more uptempo and frenetic (a term I've seen you use a few times, but which is apt). It would be uncommon to see less than 10 or even 15 seconds on the play clock by the time the ball is snapped on offense. The idea with the speed of the offense is to catch defenses off-guard on occasion and wear down opponents for later in the game.
Speaking of things Michigan fans see a lot of, CMU will run a lot of wide receiver screens and quick outs to its receivers, of course a staple of the spread offense. The running game was more or less forgotten until the fourth quarter of the Boston College game for some reason, but when running the ball, CMU will run a lot of draw and misdirection type plays. Seeing the QB line up under center and/or give a straight handoff is generally only used in short yardage and should be relatively easy to read defensively.
Every now and then you will also see some kind of crazy formation or bizarre play call that you likely haven't seen before. Kelly is not averse to pushing the limits of what constitutes a legal formation.
How would you describe the offensive line? Is it experienced? Good? Likely to be overrun by Woodley and company?
The offensive line is very solid and is somewhat atypical of offensive lines in spread offenses in that they can be physical at times if the situation calls for it (this is probably the last remaining legacy of the Mike DeBord Era at Central).
Still, it works because even the bruisers on the line, namely Joe Staley and Drew Mormino, are so athletic. Staley didn't give up a sack last year and will likely be an early-to-mid round draft pick in the NFL next year and Mormino is in his fourth year as a starter. Four of the five linemen return from last year.
All that said, they're not much of a match for the front seven of Michigan, though they will probably offer more resistance than Vanderbilt's OL did.
Where did Dan Bazuin come from? How did he slip through the cracks to Central Michigan (no offense)?
I wish I knew. I'd leave my day job and become an assistant coach/recruiter for a big-time program. When you're a fan of a mid-major program every so often you're blessed by the jocks missing out on one of the prettiest girls in the school to use a forced and fairly disturbing analogy. I don't even think Bazuin was injured in high school, which allows better-than-average prospects to make their way to the MAC from time to time.
As far as I know, it's part coaching and part luck (OK, mostly luck) that one of the best defensive players in the country ended up in Mount Pleasant.
How do you feel about the rest of your defense? How would you attack it if you were an opposing offensive coordinator?
The rest of the front seven is quite good actually. Some of that is because offenses are often so preoccupied with Bazuin and some of it is because there's more talent than your typical mid-major at those positions. There are four really solid linebackers who rotate in and out of the game, which means the defense is usually pretty fresh in the second half. It is not easy to run on Central, though I think you'll see Michigan have success doing it for the most part because of Michigan's superior athletes. As good as the front seven is, they're usually good for a couple of maddening big running plays a game and I don't expect this week to be any different.
Attacking the defense is easy -- throw, throw and throw. The further downfield the better. That was what Boston College did to good effect and I don't think Michigan will be any different. The only thing that is likely to get Michigan into any trouble moving the ball through the air would be Chad Henne completely misfiring downfield, but he should generally have enough time in the pocket where those throws will be few and far between. The defensive backfield is a source of continual frustration and it doesn't look like they're any better this year.
What's the *!ing craziest thing Kelly's ever done?
If you saw the Boston College game, you saw it. He's always been good for a couple "WTF?" moments in most games where he trots out some bizarre formation or gambles on fourth and two from midfield with a 7-point lead and 45 seconds left instead of punting. Still, that game-ending interception and going for it on fourth and eight from the Central 28 is pretty much beyond the pale, even for Kelly. It is exciting though, especially following Mike DeBord, who was about as exciting as vanilla pudding.
[I would have gone with "unflavored gelatin," myself. -ed]
Any thing else Michigan fans should know?
Based on what I've seen of Central in the last couple of years and what I saw of Vanderbilt the two or three times I've seen them the last couple of years, Central Michigan would probably beat Vanderbilt six or seven times out of 10 on a neutral field. What does that mean for Michigan fans? Eh, not much. But just like last week, don't be surprised if the Michigan offense and/or defense seems to struggle at times, even if the outcome of the game is probably never in doubt.
I don't know how useful of a warm-up Central will be for Notre Dame, but it should help Michigan considerably when it plays Michigan State and Northwestern.
Central's special teams are better than they've been in recent years, but a kickoff or punt return for a touchdown by Michigan would not surprise me. In fact, I'd probably bet on it. The coverage teams are sub-par, even if the kicking game is adequate by MAC standards.
Aaand some predictions:
Who wins, what's the score, etc?
Michigan, of course. Central would need everything (calls, bounces, Henne throwing 15 passes to Tacopants, Ron English morphing into Jim Herrmann, you name it) to break in its favor to be in a position to win. And even then might not be able to pull it out. I'll be optimistic and say Michigan wins, 38-17. That many points against what looks to be a very, very solid Michigan defense would be a not unacceptable result for Central fans.
How does Central's O do against the Michigan D?
I think Kelly is a good enough play caller and the talent decent enough that Central should be able to take advantage of Michigan's newfound aggressiveness from time to time. I don't necessary see any big scoring plays, but a typical Central touchdown drive is five or six plays for 65 yards in aro
und a minute and half. I think they might get two of those. Still, the QB (regardless of who plays) is raw and the OL will probably be quite mangled by the time the fourth quarter rolls around. I honestly just hope no one gets hurt since Central plays arguably its biggest MAC game of the season next week against Akron.
How does Central's D do against the Michigan O?
Mike Hart will rush for around 120, probably only on 16-19 carries. The Michigan rushing game will be effective, but not devastatingly so. Bazuin will make two or three plays that make you wonder if he was even being watched, much less blocked.
Henne should be able to do whatever he wants in the passing game though. The size of the beating Central takes in the final score will be directly indicative of his effectiveness. If he completes 70-75 percent of his passes, it'll probably be ugly (five touchdowns). If he struggles at times, it might only be two or three touchdowns. If he completely poops his pants for some reason that I can't imagine, Michigan might only win by 10 or so.
Does Brian Kelly bite anything's head off?
You know what -- the guy's batshit crazy calling a game, no question about it -- but he comes off as almost somnambulate in most press conferences and interviews in discussing his rationale for certain decisions. The BC game was pretty typical. Being asked at halftime more or less if he was on crack to go for it on 4th & 8 deep in his own territory, he actually sounded almost convincing that it was the right decision. I am in awe at his insanity and will defend the guy to the death. For now.
[Count MGoBlog on the Kelly bandwagon, too. -ed]
- GRIZZLY BEARS: after what happened in Neyland, bears are clearly no threat to anyone.
- FULMER CUP DOUCHEBAGS: Their 15 minutes are up. More pressing matters, er, press.
- STEVE BREASTON'S TRAITOROUS LEGS seem fine.
- STEVE BREASTON'S TRAITOROUS HANDS: Er... yeah.
- RULE 3-2-5-e: you steal football from us. I hate you.
- PASS PROTECTION: Abiamiri versus Riley? Erk.
There are now categories and a place for you to go for only-relevant (-ish) Fanhouse posts: the Michigan Fanhouse. RSS subscribers can point their readers here for what's sadly a partial feed -- such is the cost of selling out.
I will be posting in other bits of the site, but unless you're really interested in my opinions on SEC bottom feeders, Illinois, and Purdue you can probably skip it.
Notes: new additions for formation and brief here as well. New PR category for pass attempts = "pressure"; only used when Henne clearly has no time to throw. In cases where finding a receiver is plausible, TA applies when forced to scramble.
|M19||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Run||12||Hart||Off tackle|
|Ecker and Long cave in the left side of the line. The corner is walled off by a nice block from Tabb. Hart scoots off tackle with ease.|
|M31||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||2||Manningham||WR screen|
|First WR screen of the year. Ecker motions from his TE spot out to the right for an extra blocker. Manningham bobbles the screen; Breaston's block isn't very good and his man disrupts the timing. (CA)|
|M33||2||8||Ace 3-Wide||Run||2||Hart||Off tackle|
|Vandy blitzes a linebacker lined up over the slot receiver. He's into the backfield unblocked but Hart darts around him and turns a three yard loss into a two yard gain. Play was actually well blocked, but the delay forced by the blitzer allows Vandy's back seven to converge.|
|M35||3||6||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||6||Manningham||Short stop|
|Smooth drop and throw to Manningham, who spins and tries to move upfield but trips. Had he not fallen he probably picks up ten or twelve. (CA)|
|M41||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Run||5||Hart||Off tackle|
|Same as the first snap. This is supposed to be a double on the DE where Ecker helps Long seal him inside then moves to the second level, but Long never really engages with the DE, allowing him to scoot past. A linebacker comes up hard to fill outside; Hart slices up between him, unfortunately into the hands of the DE. No DE = Hart posterizes the LB and goes for big yardage.|
|DeBord trademark starts off well. Breaston gets his man turned around, then breaks his route off. When he does the ball is right there for him. Excellent timing. (DO)|
|O37||1||10||I-Form Twins||Run||11||Hart||Iso off tackle|
|Obi Oluigbo gets a nice pop on the LB in his first appearance. Hart again slices upfield, making the maximum out of the blocking.|
|Hey, that offseason rumor-mongering paid off! Looked like it would go for more â€“ maybe a bad cut.|
|O21||2||5||I-Form Twins||Run||2||Hart||Iso off tackle|
|Grumble, grumble, fullback shuffle. Line is clogged up and Hart plows for what he can get.|
|O19||3||3||Offset I, 2 TE||Run||19||Grady||Iso SMASH!|
|Very nice to see that from Grady. A decisive, run with one cut and the bounce outside that gets him to the endzone. Looks faster this year. The entire line crushes Vandy off the ball â€“ Jake Long ends up something like 10 yards downfield.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-0, 10 min 1Q. MIKE DEBORD IS WONDERFUL!!! ALL HAIL MIKE DEBORD!!! Er... nice drive. Waggle was set up by the gashing Hart off-tackle runs, the run block was generally good, and hey: 81 yards and a touchdown.|
|Hart cuts as far to the backside of the play as he can. If Manningham can get engaged with the safety or corner on that side he could go.|
|M31||1||10||I-Form Twins||Run||3||Hart||Iso off tackle|
|Seems relatively well blocked, but no real hole opens. FB shuffle again.|
|M34||2||7||I-Form Twins||Pass||-4||Breaston||WR Screen|
|Henne rifles it over Breaston's head. Shame, because this one was going to work.Breaston's man was too far away. (IN)|
|Found him open but couldn't hit him. Weird aside: a Vandy DE gets loose but forms up and seems like he's trying to keep contain instead of, you know, sacking the QB. (IN)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 5 min 1Q. Two Henne errors end the drive. Can't blame DeBord on this stuff. His calls worked.|
|Hart's hesitant as LB Goff is unblocked. His posterization attempt fails, and he gives the universal "My Bad" signal to the sideline when he rises.|
|"Incredibly Surprising Quarterback Draw," which for some reason always seems to work decently.|
|O29||3||5||Ace 3-Wide, Hart offset||Pass||7||Henne||Scramble|
|Both Riley and Mitchell get owned by a Vandy stunt on the right side. Both players come through the line, forcing Henne to bail out and prove that yes, he is faster than John Navarre. (PR)|
|O22||1||10||Weird Thing||Pass||Inc||Breaston||Quick Flat|
|I dunno what you call a formation with one tight end standing up at the end of the line and another a yard inside of him, two yards off the LOS. So we'll go with weird thing. Henne's pass to Breaston in the flat â€“ not a checkdown, the design of the play â€“ is very bad and gets him killed. (IN)|
|O22||2||10||Ace 3-Wide||Run||6||Hart||Off tackle|
|Hart makes the wrong cut here by going outside of Ecker, but makes up for it by dodging Vandy tacklers and making six yards from very little.|
|The play overturned by review. This is not close and should not have been overturned. Manningham secured the ball, had both feet hit, and then it was punched out. WTF? The play and throw are both very nice. (DO)|
|Drive Notes: FG, 10-0, 2 min 1Q. Not exactly an elegant drive, but one that should have ended in a touchdown.|
|M45||1||10||4-wide trips||Pass||3||Breaston||Slip screen|
|Tabb misses his block. (CA)|
|M48||2||7||Ace 3-Wide||Run||25||Minor||Off tackle|
|Great blocking all around; Minor darts up between Ecker and Long. Special credit to Arrington for excellent downfield blocking.|
|Massey's lined up at fullback on this play. He run a simple wheel, and find himself open, Manningham having run off the deep zone. Nice throw by Henne, though not in a position where you can entirely blame Massey for the drop. (CA)|
|O27||2||10||Ace 3-Wide||Run||3||Minor||Off tackle|
|Same play he just picked up 25 on. Not as well blocked this time.|
|Nails him right in the hands. Great throw. (DO).|
|Drive Notes: Blocked FG, 10-0, 14 min 2Q. Again... execution errors stop the drive, though these aren't on Henne.|
|Line blows Vandy off the ball and ends up five yards downfield, though they don't crease 'em.|
|M21||2||5||Ace 3-Wide||Run||5||Hart||Off tackle|
|Nice block by Ecker creates space off tackle. Nice job by Bihl, too.|
|Stop and go and stop and go and stop and go go go go(!) (CA)|
|Hart pops a blitzer after a play action fake, preventing Henne from getting killed, the goes out in his route. He slips on his cut, else would have gotten eight or ten. Second slip today. (CA)|
|O43||2||8||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||7||Arrington||WR Screen|
|Arrington spins through a tackle, gaining 7. (CA)|
|O36||3||1||Offset I, 2 TE||Run||6||Grady||Iso SMASH!|
|Grady's untouched until five yards past the LOS. Outstanding, grinding blocking.|
|A lot of penetration Hart manages to avoid to the outside.|
|Henne crushed. Miscommuncation between Long and Ecker causes this: Long disengages from the DE to pick up a stunting blitzer but Ecker does not pick him up. This was going to be a shot at the endzone without the whole sack business. (PR)|
|O35||3||15||Ace 3-Wide, Hart offset||Pass||3*||Henne||Scramble|
|Totally unblocked blitzer immediately forces Henne to scramble. Hart starts barking at the OL after this play, and since he is my tiny god I believe him: his offset position made it nearly impossible to pick up the blitzer coming from the inside. Alex Mitchell busts.|
|Drive Notes: FG, 13-7, 7 min 2Q. Everything was fine until the OL went brain-dead on back-to-back plays. Third drive killed by two mistakes from a single position group. First it was QB, then WR, then OL. Still no evidence that DeBord's playcalling is in any way deficient.|
|Does not find his man downfield and takes off without a Vandy player anywhere near him. Maybe everyone was covered, but we're breaking out the (BR) here anyway.|
|O40||2||6||Offset I (?)||Run||-1||Grady||Iso|
|Brian Thomspon does not get a good pop on his man. He bounces backwards, allowing Langford to crack Grady right at the line. Probably not going anywhere anyway, but still: bleah.|
|O41||3||7||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||19||Breaston||Shallow cross|
|Breaston wide open after the other Wrs run their men off. Nice throw allows Breaston to catch it in stride and tear upfield. (CA)|
|Grady's fumble. We shuffle and run the other way(!) for a few unimpressive yards. Aaaand Grady was almost down but that's probably the right call.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 13-7, 2 min 2Q.|
|M27||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||Inc||Breaston||Shallow cross|
|Basically the same play they ran on the previous drive but this time into a zone. Breaston was going to get hammered as soon as he caught it, but the pass was a bad one. This is either (BR) or (IN). Someone else had to be a better option. Filed under BR.|
|A lot of room up until about eight yards â€“ Hart pounds out the last two on leg drive alone.|
|M37||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Penalty||-5||Bihl||False Start|
|Vandy rushes four and no fewer than three of those guys get in on Henne, forcing the awkward throw to Hart. WTF, guys? (PR)|
|M27||2||15||Ace 3-Wide||Penalty||-5||Mitchell||False Start|
|Give up to end the half.|
|Drive Notes: EOH, 13-7. Anyone booing the draw call at the end of the half has to get real: second and twenty from your own 22 with 40 seconds?|
|Hart cuts back behind Jake Long, in front of ecker, gaining six. Spielman criticizes him for dancing too much and I'm all like what?|
|M33||2||4||Offset I||Run||13||Breaston||End-arou nd|
|Preceded by fake to Hart up the gut. Another benefit of the zone running game: Vandy's backside contain must remain vigilant about a potential Hart cutback, opening this up. I expect to see quite a few of these this year.|
|M46||1||10||Offset I||Run||7||Hart||Off tackle|
|Great blocks by Oluigbo and Ecker occupy the linebackers to the near side of the field. Hart has room to run, and only a hustling safety prevents a real big gain.|
|Stupid penalty by Riley, as he has the guy blocked well enough to let him go when Hart bounces outside.|
|This is either a bust or some blocking scheme I don't understand. The DE on Riley's side delays for a moment on the snap, possibly making it look like he's dropping into a zone. Riley doubles down on the DT. When the DE comes a moment later, Hart's left to block him. He ably chops him to the ground but Vandy is also blitzing a linebacker from that side. He's unblocked and forces Henne to scramble. My opinion: Riley screwed up. There was no possible threat of a blitz from the other side of the field.|
|M48||3||8||Ace 3-Wide||Penalty||-5||Tabb||False Start|
|Max protect and only three guys in the pattern. Plenty of protection, but Henne can't find anyone downfield and scrambles. Tenuous (BR), since it's possible everyone was covered.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 13-7, 9 min 2Q. Henne had no choice on the first scramble, but hell, if you bomb it downfield on third and long what's the worst thing that happens? It's a punt. More mental errors from Riley.|
|O41||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Run||6||Hart||Off tackle|
|Long momentarily doubles the DE then gets out to the linebacker; Hart has a nice hole that the Vandy safety fills quickly. Play action over the top would be nice if Riley would block someone.|
|Safety again fills the hole very quickly, forcing a Hart cutback. He runs up the backs of his linemen for a few yards.|
|O32||3||1||Offset I 2TE||Run||4*||Hart||Off tackle|
|Another nice block from Oluigbo blows up the linebacker and making the first down easy.|
|O28||1||10||Offset I 2TE||Pass||Inc||Butler||Waggle|
|Very catchable ball is plain dropped. Tough throw on the run, being pressured. (CA)|
|O28||2||10||Ace 3-Wide||Run||7||Hart||Off tackle|
|Excellent, driving blocks from the left side of the OL. Ecker walls of his linebacker; Hart slips past a filling safety four yards downfield for some extra yards.|
|Hart misses a big cutback lane, though to be fair the hole outside was equally tempting but for Adrian Arrington whiffing on the corner. Hart slips the corner's tackle, burrowing ahead for a couple.|
|O19||4||1||I-Form 2TE||Run||3||Grady||Iso SMASH!|
|Plows ahead. Important block by Oluigbo on a DT that didn't get chopped or pushed.|
|O16||1||10||Offset I Twins||Pass||Inc||Massey||Waggle|
|Tipoff: Massey lines up as the fullback. Formation predictability persists: we often put TE s in at fullback and these plays are almost always passes. By the time Henne turns around two Vandy players are in his face. He leaps to throw over them and the pass is too hard for Massey, only a couple yards downfield. Tenuous IN but could be classed PR.|
|Vandy blitzes right into it, forcing Manningham to take a wide angle around the charging linebacker and allowing the Commodores to close down his angle and deny the corner.|
|Touchdown. Throw is a bit high but well within Ecker's range. Excellent placement since he had to get it over the linebacker. (DO)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 20-7, 2 min 3Q. Hurray, points!|
|I can't decide whether Hart missed a cut to the backside or not. An unblocked linebacker cuts through the mess to get to Hart, but not before Jake Long has driven everyone four yards downfield.|
|Henne short hops a throw he should have made. Butler was open near the first down line. I don't think he set his feet... but don't take my word for it. (IN)|
|Riley screws up the protection, taking the DE and not the blitzing linebacker to the outside. Mitchell futilely attempts to cover for him, but can't. Henne is forced to take off. (PR)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 20-7, 13 min 3Q. Riley is the outstanding factor in all this pressure on Henne. It might not be his fault â€“ someone else could be screwing up protection calls or Mitchell could be missing stuff â€“ but I wonder if Mitchell's move to tackle was not just because Riley was dinged.|
|No blocking. Oluigbo runs past a linebacker, who tackles Hart.|
|Hart makes the right cut this time, shooting up in a crease.|
|M36||3||1||I-Form 2TE||Run||5||Hart||Off tackle|
|Long blocks two guys, opening up the left side for Hart and an easy conversion.|
|Ecker doesn't seal his guy, who chases Hart to the sideline.|
|Simple flat route to Ecker is thrown low. If accurate, this is good for 6 or 8. (IN)|
|Riley gets owned, holds, and still lets his guy in on Henne, whos scrambles out and makes a really bad throw that could have been a pick-six for Vandy. (BR)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 20-7, 6 min 4Q. Folks, we have a whipping boy.|
|They're crashing in against the run now. The three-wide stuff isn't going to be that effective now they aren't respecting the pass.|
|Missed a cut outside for more yards.|
|Thrown a bit behind Manningham; still caught. Tenuously (CA)... or maybe more so since if it was on target there was a linebacker ready to bat it down or pick it off.|
|Little room with Vandy crashing the line.|
|Long's man fires inside of him and gets penetration, disrupting the play.|
|Ees a touchdown. Superb throw from Henne. (DO).|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 27-7, 2 min 4Q. Ballgame.|
What did you like about the dawn of DeBord Era II?
Internet malcontents will be malcontents, but they did get a few of their wishes granted. Michigan's base formation was a three-wide set, something long desired by crabby message-boarders. The zone running game vastly reduced the prevalance of the fullback shuffle. The waggle re-emerged as a weapon.
Most important: the run game was great. We have to take it with a grain of salt -- just Vandy and all that -- but it was impossible to stop until Vandy sold out late in the fourth. The linemen were crushing their opponents off the ball.
And what didn't you like?
Well, the widespread bitching about the passing game is partially unwarranted. A few times Henne set up to go deep but was rudely interrupted by men in white jerseys. But would it kill Michigan to try a few posts and slants? Better to find out Henne can't read those coverages now than against Notre Dame.
While the play-tipping based on personnel was reduced it was not eliminated: when Michigan lines up with a "fullback" who is actually a tight end, it is a pass. Greg Mathews' presence in the game equals run. Carlos Brown is going to run an Incredibly Surprising Quarterback Draw. &c.
The Long-Kraus combination on the left side was dominant. Bihl also had a good day, showing excellent mobility getting to the second level. Mike Hart is Mike Hart.
Also, a word on Breaston: yes, he had a bobble on a punt and dropped a slant that could not have been more accurate. But the criticism he's received after the first game is excessive. I mean... did you watch this? Watch it again! Also, his downfield catch on the waggle required good footwork along the sideline. I'd rather he didn't drop that pass, but it was the one error in his day as a receiver. I was actually encouraged by his performance only to return to find out that the general opinion was "start Arrington!" I dunno. I don't get people sometimes.
I don't want to hammer on Rueben Riley too much, but he was the primary burr in the offense's giddyup. Alex Mitchell also "helped" in this regard. The two of them often miscommunicated on stunts or blitz pickups, allowing unblocked Commodores into the backfield and indirectly causing Internets teeth gashing about the lack of a deep passing game.
Henne was okay but missed a number of fairly easy passes.
Tyler Ecker was erratic with his blocking: sometimes great, sometimes awful.
Exciting new faces?
Brandon Minor obviously started his Michigan career with a bang. When I finally saw him in person I was flabbergasted. This was the guy recruiting gurus spent all year declaring a fullback? The guy who the coaches described as a sort of Leroy Hoard on rageohol? He looked more like a slot receiver than a fullback. And then he ran real far. Carr's spent the last week swearing up and down to anyone who will listen that Minor is going to get more carries in the coming weeks -- jeepers.
It might be odd to drop a fifth-year senior in this category, but fullback Obi Oluigbo, sparingly used to date, pounded Commodores all day. He lived up to the hyping given him by Hart and Carr and should help the short ground game that was one of Michigan's many fatal flaws a year ago.
If Carson Butler had caught anything he might go here; if we weren't witholding all positive judgement on the offensive line until ND Alex Mitchell might as well.
- DO: "dead on." Accurate, NFL-level throws that are either downfield, fit into a tight spot, or provide ample opportunities for YAC due to perfect placement.
- CA: "catchable." Run of the mill throws. Potentially slightly inaccurate. Screens and short, simple routes like outs and stops max out here.
- IN: "inaccurate." Poorly thrown balls. Some completions may end up here if they are complete as the result of an extraordinary effort by the wide receiver.
- BR: "bad read." A throw into coverage or throw-away when not under pressure... basically anything that's an obvious mental error.
- TA: "throw-away." Can't find a receiver and gets rid of it. BR's less malignant cousin.
- BA: "batted." Balls knocked down at the line of scrimmage.
- PR: "pressure." Instances where Henne is unable to complete a pass through no fault of his own, but because people are bearing down on him quicker than they have a right to.
Not particularly good, though a couple of marginal balls were placed in negative categories. Not particularly Henne's fault, though. He attempted to throw 27 times; approximately 7 of those times were either screens or three-step rhythm throws. 25% of the time when Henne attempted to throw something longer than a screen or short west coast pattern he had Vandy players in his face, usually unblocked after a stunt or a missed blitz pickup. Late in the game, he started expecting and fearing pressure, forgot his mechanics, and started short-hopping balls. It was reminiscent of last year's Notre Dame game with the exception of a grinding ground game and a kickin' D. Henne was fine at first. He was excellent on the opening drive, and at least good through much of the game. The stats don't show it because of the drops.
However, when he lost faith in his protection late he started scrambling unnecessarily, misfiring on simple passes, and generally reverting to the bad old days at the beginni ng of last season. Notre Dame has no doubt noticed this -- the first hint of it was against them, after all -- and will blitz and stunt extensively, hoping to get him rattled.
No doubt the coaches will be going nuts at the OL and TEs about the protection failures in this game, which were almost all schematic instead of physical. That's going to be the thing I look for most against Central: protection of Henne. The left side should be fine, and Bihl did a very good job his first game, but I worry extensively about Mitchell-Riley.
What does it mean for Central?
Assuming that inexplicably kickass Chippewa defensive end Dan Bazuin lines up opposite Riley, next week's game will either provide reassurance or Ebola-in-the-subway panic about the pass blocking heading into ND. Most of the problems against Vanderbilt were presumably fixable miscommunications -- there was only one instance of a Michigan lineman getting beaten one-on-one (Riley, natch) -- but, strangely, Central Michigan represents a higher level of opponent. Hold them out all day and I'll be feeling chipper for ND.
Central may also pose an interesting test for the rushing offense. Last year they were the top run defense in the MAC. They held Penn State's monster 2005 ground machine to 138 yards and crushed Northern Illinois, yielding only six yards rushing after sack yardage (though Garrett Wolfe apparently didn't play). They return the bulk of their front seven. There's a big, fat NSFMF, though: one of the reasons CMU's run defense was so good was their inept pass defense. Teams didn't bother to run because Central started Condoleeza Rice and a goat that was totally tripping, man, in the secondary. That PSU game? A 40-3 hammering in which Michael Robinson and Anthony Morelli combined to go 22 of 36 for 382 yards. CMU managed to lose that NIU game because the two Husky quarterbacks combined to go 31 of 43 for 435 yards.
We should win, but I wouldn't take the CMU defense for granted. If we can't block them when we try to pass we will be in for a longer day than anyone anticipated.
Hurray, that's the poll hurray. If you're interested, you can see all the individual ballots here.
Chaos reigns for another week. An influx of voters means more first place votes for everyone, including two for Tennessee. This marks the first time in poll history a team outside the top ten picked up first place votes. The irrationally exuberant are myself and SMQB. We'll no doubt hang our heads in shame after the Florida game, but for now we proclaim Cheesypoofs Sweatpants head of the greatest team of all time of the week.
The lone holdout with LSU at number one is 'Bama blogger JournoRock... we'll get to him later.
Fallers: Cal, obviously. Being out of your season opener midway through the third quarter tends to deflate expectations.
Risers: Tennessee, obviously.
BONUS Not-Moving-Anywhere Notes: BlogPollers weren't nearly as impressed with Michigan's victory over Vanderbilt as the AP was. In the BlogPoll, Michigan remained fixed at 14. In the AP they leapt to tenth. Also immobile: Louisville, fresh from a Brazilian waxing during the Kentucky game.
Wack Ballot Watchdog: Statistically Speaking is hanging on to Arkansas. Phil Steele was wrong, man. Let it go.
I'm not sure if this counts as wack or not, but Bruce Ciskie really hated the FSU-Miami game. Miami fell 12 spots after the loss; FSU also fell five.
Now on to the extracurriculars. First up are the teams which spur the most and least disagreement between voters as measured by standard deviation. Note that the standard deviation charts halt at #25 when looking for the lowest, otherwise teams that everyone agreed were terrible (say, Eastern Michigan) would all be at the top.
People are still divided on Tennessee's realness after their spanking of Cal. Their deviation is boosted by the schism between pollsters who vote with their eyes and those that vote with their expectations; to the former they're waaaay up there, to the latter not so much.
Oklahoma's close call against UAB made up no minds, either. The rest of this section is filled with teams that could be really good but could also be hideous frauds at year's end: Nebraska, Louisville, Oregon.
Ballot math: First up are "Mr. Bold" and "Mr. Numb Existence." The former goes to the voter with the ballot most divergent from the poll at large. The number you see is the average difference between a person's opinion of a team and the poll's opinion.
Mr. Bold is Sunday Morning Quarterback. Reasons:
- Tennessee at #1.
- FSU #3, presumably on the idea that Buster Davis is going to burrow his way into opposing quarterbacks' brains all year like those bugs from Wrath of Khan.
- UCLA, unranked in the poll at large, explodes all the way up to #9 after a resounding 31-10 win over Utah.
- Texas #10(!).
- Pitt #11(!)
- OSU down ten! To number #13!
- Florida, LSU, Michigan, Iowa all plummeting!!!
- Cats and dogs living together!
- Mass hysteria!
It all adds up to one of the most prodigiously BOLD ballots in the history of the poll. There's some method to the madness -- Matt's heavily, heavily weighted first week results to the exclusion of all speculation -- but can a brother get an explanatory post or something?
Mr. Numb Existence is BGSU's The DJL Zone. As per usual, this category is markedly less fun to talk about.
Next we have the Coulter/Krugman Award and the Straight Bangin' Award, which are again different sides of the same coin. The CKA and SBA go to the blogs with the highest and lowest bias rating, respectively. Bias rating is calculated by subtracting the blogger's vote for his own team from the poll-wide average. A high number indicates you are shameless homer. A low number indicates that you suffer from an abusive relationship with your football team.
The CK Award for oustanding bias in the name of making the poll look silly goes to Journalism Is For Rockstars, who features Alabama at #12. Hard on his heels is 50 Yard Lion, who put a team that managed 80 yards rushing -- half of that on a reverse -- against Akron #8 in the country. I'm just saying.
A note to potential over-raters: woe befell Rambling Racket and his first-week projection of Georgia Tech at #7. Do not tempt the football gods with your hubris.
Straight Bangin' Award returns to its rightful home this week over at, well, not Straight Bangin' but its SBNation incarnation Schembechler Hall. Also ote that you can change the Michigan blogger but not the pessimism: The MZone checks in third. Two SEC voters wary of the brutal road ahead also show.
Swing is essentially the total change in each ballot from last week to this week (obviously voters who didn't submit a ballot last week are not included). A high number means you are easily distracted by shiny things. A low number means that you're damn sure you're right no matter what reality says.
Mr. Manic-Depressive is, unsurprisingly, SMQB. When your memory ceases at last Thursday, you turn in wildly different polls. And try to drink bananas, probably.
(Don't get me wrong, I like voters in this category more than voters in this one:)
Mr. Stubborn PS
U blogger Black Shoe Diaries, who apparently saw nothing in the first week that changed his opinion about the upcoming season in any way at all until you hit team #18. Where are the wild swings? The nearly random opinions that make an interesting post? The evidence you watched anything this weekend? Ack!
It's like the BlogPoll except for people. It's like the Heisman except with no prestige. It's like Tom Selleck except without a mustache. It's... MaxwellPundit!
1. Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech
Obvs. That is one large, frightening man and if he wasn't saddled with a refugee from the Lollipop Guild at quarterback and a man more boring than Lloyd Carr as his coach he would probably break all sorts of records, not to mention the bones of those who feebly try to oppose him.
2. Garrett Wolfe, Northern Illinois
The size of an molecule and as hard to pin down as one, Wolfe racked up nigh 300 yards against Ohio State. Last year he ripped Michigan for 150 yards. MAC teams cower in fear when electron microscopes confirm his presence in-stadium. He is good. Nay, great. HEAR ME, UNCARING MAC-IGNORING HORDES.
3. Buster Davis, FSU
Sure, he waddles everywhere. There's some duck in his genetic heritage. But that is one enormously pissed-off duck. Kyle Wright can no longer watch Looney Tunes without wetting himself.
4. Lamarr Woodley, Michigan
Good god, y'all. He's been very good the past couple years. As the leader of an energized defense featuring Ron English being awesome, he could singlehandedly restore my faith in humanity. Manbearstudfreak.
5. Glenn Sharpe, Miami
Maybe I'm overrating a player who had the benefit of knowing what route ("hopeful jump ball") Jeff Bowden was going to call on every pass play, but when it looks like you're the one running the route half the time, you're good. The only completions on Sharpe were on horrifically misthrown balls, which fortunately for Florida State were not in short supply.
- A note: this year I'm not looking at past ballots at all when I put in new ones. This may lead to surprising moves, but whatever. I hate poll momentum and if I can't remember where I ranked a team the week before my opinion on it probably wasn't worth keeping.
- Er... definitely a first in the poll is Tennessee hopping from unranked to #1, though it's still a very shaky recommendation. They lost most of a vicious front seven but just got done rolling one of last year's top rushing attacks. A lot of their points came when the Cal secondary elected not to tackle UT wideouts on simple out routes, sure, but that game was 35-3 before Cal made it respectable towards the end.
Also: don't let anyone tell you the Pac10 isn't soft. This game stands as incontestable proof of that conference's inferiority. Prediction: within five years the Mountain West gets their BCS slot.
- Auburn didn't do anything against WSU to drop, but Michael's nonstop Tiger bashing convinced me that mayhaps I was being irrationally exuberant.
- Miami and Florida State looked like the same team to me and remain within huggling distance. Only time will tell whether those defenses are viciously unstoppable or if the offensive lines are just as crappy as they were a year ago. Survey says a little of both.
Side note: Mike Patrick had the line of the weekend discussing uber-recruit Myron Rolle. After mentioning his straight As since eighth grade, Patrick said "I can't even be complimentary about that. It just makes me angry." Maybe you had to be there.
- Okay, Penn State fans, I tenuously add you on Morelli's strong showing, but how many rushing yards was that again?
Caterwaul in the comments and I may change the ballot.
Games Seen: BC-CMU, South Carolina-MSU, bits of Fresno-Nevada, Michigan-Vanderbilt, bits of Akron-PSU and OSU-NIU, UT-Cal, GT-ND, Miami-FSU, most of the first half of Neb-LTU, aaand way too much of Baylor-TCU.
Update: Note that the Pac-10 stuff above was TIC. Cal will probably end up 8-4 or 9-3 and Tennessee decked them. I moved Iowa down a few spots since they didn't handle their I-AA tomato can nearly as efficiently as Auburn and USC did more respectable opponents. Louisville took a hit, but not that much because of the Bush situation -- they have replacements for him and will be fine. It was more because I'm pretty sure I was just searching for anyone to put in the top ten preseason. NIU is replaced with Pitt, because Pitt had a nice opener and mustache.
Note a couple additions: "formation" and "brief." The former is self explanatory. "Brief" is a two-word description of the play. All terminology in these new sections is lifted directly from NCAA Football, since that's the common vernacular. A selection of plays have accompanying WMV video; look for links in the "brief" column.
I welcome formatting suggestions. I sent the verbosity down to a second line because of the extra columns. Not sure if I like it, but also not sure what the alternative is.
Also new: a generic +/- for "coverage." Since I have no idea what's going on downfield when the QB hesitates and takes a coverage sack or exactly why that WR is wide open, it's hard to assign individual credit or responsibility. When I can I will, but whenever a reasonably catchable pass is thrown I'll try to evaluate how well the intended receiver was covered. This rating is separate from individual ratings and liable to change radically as I get used to it.
Update: Oh. An asterisk next to a yard count is a pass play that turned into a QB scramble.
|O34||1||10||Standard nickel||Pass||3||WR Screen|
|McDonough: "They had three candidates to take the place of Cutler, Nickson's the one." Hur hur hur. Crable(+1), reads, closes, fends off a block, and cuts off the outside with the help of Hall. Five Wolverines gang-tackle Bennett.|
|A blitz! On the second play of the game! Nickson just barely gets it off before being leveled by Crable(+1). Leon Hall was also coming from that side.|
|O42||3||2||3-3-5 Stack||Run||11||QB Draw|
|Only six guys in the box on this play and it appeared that Graham was supposed to blitz around a stunting Biggs, leaving a big hole in the middle. I don't like this play call on a fairly obvious QB draw down.|
|M47||1||10||Standard nickel||Run||2||Zone read handoff|
|Chris Graham(+1) sighting: faced with the prospect of one-on-one blocking with an OT he skips past him and converges along with Branch (+1, holding up well at the POA), and Biggs (who reads where the ball is going before closing down the RB).|
|M45||2||8||3-3-5 Stack||Run||2||Zone read keeper|
|Crable and Graham are blitzing. Crable cuts off the outside, forcing Nickson upfield. Graham pops up into the hole left between the guy attempting to block Crable and Biggs, who's stunting inside. Graham doesn't make the tackle but does force Nickson into the mush. Crable(+1) discards his blocker and recovers to make the tackle.|
|M43||3||6||Standard nickel||Pass||Inc||Wild scramble|
|Terrance Taylor(+2) goes through a double team to get immediate pressure on Nickson, who scrambles out to the left. Nickson gets a fairly accurate pass off but Chris Graham(+1) is in great coverage, knocking the ball down. I think Taylor's held here just enough to prevent him from sacking Nickson.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 7 min 1Q. Crable and Graham have great drives. Crable's outstanding speed is put to good use: he snuffs out a screen, crushes Nickson, then manages to tackle him after keeping containment. Containment? NO WAI.|
|Woodley(+1) gets upfield fast enough such that the pulling guard who's supposed to block him on this play-action pass can't get there in time, forcing Nickson to scramble up in the pocket. Graham(-1) overruns the play and slips when Nickson cuts, else this goes for zero yards. A pursuing Branch(+2) punches the ball out from behind.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 7-0, 5 min 1Q. Um, Branch just ran down that QB from behind.|
|Biggs' offensive lineman decides not to block him. Good coverage(+1) downfield forces Nickson to scramble up. Nickson was correctly ruled down on his fumble.|
|O32||2||6||Standard nickel||Run||-1||Zone read handoff|
|Really nice job by both Branch(+1) and Biggs(+1) to push into the backfield, allowing the defense to converge. Note: Mundy is in the game as the nickelback.|
|O31||3||7||Standard nickel||Pass||Inc||Deep cross|
|Bennett drops a great pass from Nickson. Zone had been busted wide open there (coverage -1), though if complete this play is coming back for illegal hands to the face on Woodley.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0 last min 1Q. Ron English looks a little like Denzel Washington.|
|O41||1||10||Standard nickel||Pass||Inc||Zone read fake screen|
|Nickson is heavily pressured by both Biggs(+1) and Woodley(+1), which causes him to panic and throw inaccurately.|
|Good coverage(+1) forces Nickson to check down to the fullback. Burgess(+1) is all over him and makes the tackle immediately.|
|O44||3||7||Standard nickel||Pass||15||Deep cross|
|No pressure, lots of room in the zone (coverage -1)|
|M41||1||10||Standard nickel||Pass||11||Short stop|
|Charles Stewart(-1) is playing way off in man as Michigan zone-blitzes, almost missing the tackle.|
|Postgame the coaches point at Stewart(-2).|
|Drive Notes: TD, 10-7, 12 min 2Q.|
|WR lined up in the neutral zone. Weird.|
|Attempted screen is snowed under. Will Johnson and Prescott Burgess(+1) are ready to crush the RB should he receive the ball, so Nickson doesn't throw it. A charging Rondell Biggs(+1) prevents him from throwing it away; Woodley(+1) cleans up.|
|O8||2||22||Standard nickel||Run||-3||QB Draw|
|Er... Woodley(+2) does blow this play up, but they ran thi s QB draw thing that fakes up inside then comes out to his side of the field, leaving only a running back to block him. Thees is no good idea.|
|O5||3||25||Standard nickel||Run||-2||Off tackle|
|They give up and run. Nice play by Harris(+1), but there was nowhere for him to go anyway.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 13-7, 4 min 2Q. DANG. Just... just dang. When was the last time Michigan punched an opponent off the field like that? Even a crappy one?|
|Woodley(+3) runs right around the tackle and crushes Nickson.|
|Burgess(+1) and Harris(+1) zoom right past potential blockers, meeting at the RB.|
|O11||3||18||Standard nickel||Run||15||QB Draw|
|Somewhat scary there, but they go away.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 13-7, 1 min 2Q.|
|Burgess(+1) jumps on the fullback out about five yards downfield, knocking the ball down.|
|O30||2||10||3-3-5 Stack||Run||9||QB Draw|
|Crable blitzes for a fourth rusher. Woodley tries an edge rush, opening up a big hole for the draw; Harris gets solidly blocked by the RB.|
|Safety blitz from Englemon at the last second; Biggs(+2) slices between the tackle, who's blocking down on Branch, and the tight end to stuff this play in the backfield.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 13-7, 13 min 3Q. Three and out on the first drive of the second half. Biggs gave no indication he could be this sort of playmaker a year ago, though he didn't get much time. And Jamison beat him out. Gooo Jamison!|
|O13||1||10||3-3-5 Stack||Run||-5||QB Draw|
|Vandy goes five wide. This is nominally a 3-3-5 but Crable(+1) is lined up with his hand down next to Woodley. Woodley and Crable stunt with Woodley(+1) crashing into the guard and Crable coming around him; it works beautifully; Crable is to the QB immediately; Biggs and Branch help clean up.|
|O8||2||15||3-3-5 Stack||Run||0||QB Draw|
|Again Crable lines up with his hand down, this time at DT, and stunts, this time around Branch. Woodley(+1) is the one in the backfield disrupting the draw, as he shoves off his man and cuts off Nickson's foray up the gut. Nickson's forced detour gives Crable(+1) and Harris(+1) enough time to converge on him at the LOS.|
|O8||3||15||3-3-5 Stack||Run||4||Zone read handoff|
|Nice play by Burgess(+1) to shove away the feeble block attempt by the WR and contain the RB.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 13-7, 7 min 3Q. Crable is a monster against these foofy spread rushing attacks. These last four drives are tingly.|
|O19||1||10||3-3-5 Stack||Run||1||Option keeper|
|Hall(+1) is sent on a blitz but correctly reads the option play and backs off to keep contain on the RB. He doesn't do that and it's a big play. Nickson cuts up inside; Jamar Adams and Harris hit him at the LOS.|
|O20||2||9||3-3-5 Stack||Run||1||Zone read handoff|
|Very nice job by Biggs(+1) to hold his position, then shuck the blocker when the RB reaches him to make the tackle. Crable set up outside, read the play, and then crashed in on the RB to make very sure he went away.|
|O21||3||8||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||Inc||Short post|
|Harris feints a blitz; Crable and Burgess actually come. The feint causes Vandy to shift its protection the wrong way, giving Burgess a free shot on Nickson. Despite the quick pressure, Nickson finds an open receiver and makes an accurate throw. Bennett drops it, partially because Jamar Adams(+1) arrives with the ball. (Coverage +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 20-7, 1 min 3Q. I love Ron English. Crable looks like a different player. Biggs is playing like Woodley II. We're aggressive on third and long. Please, Vandy game, mean something. Brown roughs the kicker, causing the next drive. I realize this isn't technically correct, but it is essentially.|
|O36||1||10||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||Inc||Short stop|
|Dropped by the Vandy receiver. I don't like how far Stewart has to play off this guy.|
|O36||2||10||3-3-5 Stack||Penalty||13||Pass interference|
|Jamar Adams is right there on the receiver when the ball gets there, leaping over him in an attempt to make a play on the ball. Call is for hooking the receiver with his arm when he went to go over the top, which was unnecessary. Adams was in position to make a play. (Um... -1 for Adams, though I hate to give it to him, and +1 for generic coverage.)|
|This looks like a screen but, uh... isn't. Four players, including Eugene Germany and Will Johnson, burst through the line. Nickson bails out, understandably, and throws it away. (Crable, Johnson, Germany +1)|
|O49||2||10||3-3-5 Stack||Run||7||Option pitch|
|Crable again blitzes, forcing the pitch immediately. It's impossible to see what happens downfield because of the camera angle, but Jamar Adams barely misses a tackle; Burgess can't quite get there, and Englemon doesn't wrap up.|
|M44||3||3||Standard nickel||Pass||Inc||TE Screen|
|Nickson's inaccurate on this screen, which would have worked. Michigan was sending the house.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 20-7, 15 min 4Q. A couple Vandy screwups terminate the closest thing they've had to a drive since the touchdown.|
|Leon Hall(-1) gives up outside contain on this screen, opening up a big gain.|
|Coverage(+1) sack. Biggs(+1) gets it; Crable's pressure made him think twice about the throw.|
|O47||2||14||3-3-5 Stack||Run||12||Option pitch|
|Crable levels Nickson on this play. I don't like how tentative Adams(-1) is here. He comes up into the box presnap but holds up, allowing himself to get blocked by the tight end and giving the (white!) Vandy RB a nice gain.|
|Vandy runs a combo against our zone coverage. The underneath receiver clears out space for a deeper one, who makes the reception. Nice read and throw from Nickson.|
|Speed option play action; Spielman accuses a WR of running the wrong route. In any case, Nickson hesitates and is buried by four Wolverines, primary amongst them Jamar Adams(+1).|
|M41||2||19||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||Inc||Bubble screen.|
|Dropped. Harris(+1) was going to crush him anyway.|
|Two blitzers don't get to the QB; Nickson makes a nice throw to Bennett. Stewart(+1) actually has pretty good coverage here, nearly knocking the ball loose. (Coverage +1)|
|Great coverage(+1). Nickson sits in the pocket looking for someone, can find nobody, and eventually hurls it to the back corner of the endzone. Crable(+1) eventually got the pressure.|
|Drive Notes: Turnover on Downs, 20-7, 9 min 4Q.|
|Pitch and catch.|
|O30||2||1||3-3-5 Stack||Run||-1||Off tackle|
|Man... Woodley(+2) shoots into the backfield, disrupting the play immediately. You would think he was unblocked, but he wasn't.|
|O29||3||2||3-3-5 Stack||Run||9||QB Draw|
|Crable(-1) overruns the QB draw, freeing Nickson. Englemon(+2) makes a textbook strip from behind to force a fumble and a turnover.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 20-7, 4 min 4Q.|
|Corner blitz! On one of these desperation drives! Hall(+2) gets chopped, gets up, and gets it done.|
|Nice throw from Nickson, but we had this stopped short of the first down if we get a tackle from Burgess or Englemaon|
|Hall(+1) blitzes again, crushing Nickson and forcing an errant pass.|
|Rattled, Nickson sails it wide.|
|Leon Hall blitzes again. Nickson just wants to get off the field.|
|Nickson errant again. We blitzed on almost every play on this drive.|
|Drive Notes: Turnover on Downs, EOG.|
(Thanks to reader Josh Houchin for much of the video.)
Care to offer some sort of grotesque sexual reference that clarifies your feelings about Ron English?
Well, no. Apparently relatives of mine read this. But it's really hard not to.
Other than everything?
It's the difference between confidence and arrogance.
- English is more deceptive. One of the most irritating things about Herrmann's defenses was their refusal to do simple things like align themselves in formations that don't give away the call. A year ago, Michigan positively refused to depart from its base 4-3-4 against three wide-receiver formations on first and second down. An outside linebacker would line up in the vague area of the wide reciever, indicating to any idiot that Michigan was in a zone. Vanderbilt spent the entire game save a few short yardage plays with at least three wideouts on the field; English was in either a standard nickel or a 3-3-5, allowing him to call a variety of defenses that don't come with giant blinking signs that say "VANILLA ZONE."
- English has a better grasp of the underlying game theory. Not that he sits around with a calculator and a statistics textbook, but on third and twenty he sits in an umbrella zone and blitzes instead of rushing four or even (ugh) three. On a hypothetical desperation drive, he blitzed the hell out of the opponent. He seems to have a more intuitive feel for the right sort of call in most situations. (Note that predictability is death and taken to an extreme the aforementioned tendencies would be negative. English seems to have his weighting right.)
- English molds his schemes to his talent instead of vice versa. Crable was deployed like a nuclear jack-in-the-box: he'd pop up randomly and bam, you're dead. Mundy featured heavily as the nickel back, taking advantage of his coverage ability without making him the last line of defense. No 6'8" proven liabilities played over guys who just made the Patriots. (Previous sentence assumes a move inside for Branch.)
- English's players look smart. Crable? WTF? Last year that guy played like he had an extra chromosome. Against Vandy he was responsibly violent. Burgess and Graham were both solid. There were vanishingly few mistakes -- Stewart's bite on the trick play is the only one that comes to mind.
- Swagger heart wanting it more blah blah blah. He's a better motivator.
- And the grand poobah: English coaches like he's got a talent advantage. He swarmed Vandy instead of sitting back, waiting for them to make an error. Bend-but-don't-break is a rube's game suited for weaklings. Take a look around the NCAA: the best defenses are all ravenous things featuring penetration galore, proactive schemes that force the offense to react. Sitting back yourself is a recipie for losses against teams with offenses that efficient when not pressured, and these days that's nearly everyone. English coaches like he's got a terrifying defensive line, which is nice, because we just might.
Whoah, tiger. It's just Vandy.
True. I'm no doubt getting ahead of myself. But I don't think Vandy's offense is all that bad. They returned most of their starters from a year ago and the big issue at quarterback was handled ably by Nickson, one of those athletic sorts who would gut us in days of yore no matter the crappiness of his teammates. When he managed to get a pass off it was almost always a good throw until the last drive, when he was clearly not interested in getting his ass kicked further. There wasn't much he could do given the Mongol horde in his face on every snap.
The Vandy offensive line is probably a mediocre unit but not a bad one. They return three starters from a line that allowed 24 sacks a year ago and was roundly criticized in scouting evaluations of Jay Cutler. Senior Brian Stamper was second-team All SEC a year ago, charged with zero of those 24 sacks. He gave up two to Lamarr Woodley.
Still: just Vandy. Disappointment probably coming. Easy to blitz the hell out of theoretical desperation drive when you're up three scores. Repeat until Notre Dame.
Er... everyone? Let's check the table:
|Woodley||12||12||Uh... yeah, good start. All American?|
|Biggs||6||6||We'll have to see how he does against a better team before declaring him the new hotness.|
|Taylor||2||2||Came out once the 3-3-5 came in.|
|Branch||4||4||Somewhat quiet as the only DT.|
|Crable||7||1||6||Still have worries about him against power rushing attacks, but against the spread? A monster.|
|Harris||4||4||Picked up where he left off.|
|Graham||2||1||1||Left midway through second with minor pull.|
|Hall||4||1||3||Note that the secondary had little to do most of the day.|
|"Coverage"||7||2||5||Usually on top of Vandy receivers even when there were completions.|
None, really. The closest thing to one would be Charles Stewart, who had a few instances of meh coverage and the bust on the trick play touchdown. No one else had more than one or two minor errors the whole way.
Exciting new faces?
thanks to reader Dave Dilks for the picture.
Do Rondell Biggs and Shawn Crable count? They looked like entirely different players. Stewart was a little rough -- something reflected in the new depth chart, which has his spot occupied by Charles Stewart OR Morgan Trent -- and no other newbies featured in anything more than spot duty.
What have we learned?
Nothing definitively; it is just Vandy. But indications:
- This is going to be an aggressive defense that attempts to force opponent mistakes with multiple fronts, stemming, and blitzes.
- Two of the big question marks on defense, SAM linebacker and DE-opposite-Woodley, appear to have been filled.
- I may have underestimated Woodley himself.
- All zone all the time? Gone. Corners are now permitted to approach the line of scrimmage.
What does it mean for Central Michigan?
No doubt we'll see more of the same against $#*!ing crazy Brian Kelly's spread offense, which I can't seem to go two sentences without referring to as "frenetic." Central was competitive against a probably-good Boston College team, gaining 354 yards despite giving away a few possessions with someone other than redshirt freshman Dan LeFevour -- already inspiring painful headlines -- under center. Unless Kelly goes really bats he'll stick with LeFevour after his impressive debut (22-37 for 221 yards and 74 yards rushing), which should make the Central offense even more efficient.
Against BC there was a ton of screening and misdirection. If Michigan isn't careful, Central could get some gashing plays against the new, hypothetically-aggressive D. The game still projects as an interesting learning exercise instead of a possible upset -- LeFevour is but a freshman, after all, and Central has to play defense -- but if the defense does anything comparable to what it did against Vandy it will be time to get excited.
Posting light today.
An excellent article in the News about the new coordinators from Angelique S. Chengelis has a lot of encouraging/infuriating quotes. Rondell Biggs on English:
"We get to perfect what we do," Biggs said. "Last year, we were always changing things up. Now we put in the base, so people know what we're doing. We don't have to think so much. We don't have to change up things. We know our calls, we know our responsibilities.
"We've got a lot less thinking, a lot less stuff on our plates. I remember last year, we were getting new stuff every week, and it was hard to get a good rhythm."
KISS. This has been the standard mantra for months, but framed by Biggs like so it reminds me of this Vince Young quote from a couple years ago:
"They are physical. They don't try and disguise anything. Whatever they are trying to do, if they are trying to blitz, you know they are blitzing. If they are trying to sit back and play coverage or play the run, you know what they are doing. They just try and get physical with you and go nose to nose with you for four quarters."
There's no right level of complexity in a defense. You can be successful with anything from Miami's all-cover-2-all-the-time to John Tenuta's blitz Cuisinart. But what complexity you have must have a payoff, right? Each thing you add to a defense must have some advantage. Otherwise you're just complicating things for you and not them. Jim Herrmann's final years were miraculous, wildly complex schemes that were dead easy to read. Merely discussing it makes my molars ache. How many times did you see members of the secondary pointing at each other and re-arranging themselves moments before the snap? How many times did befuddled linebackers pick the wrong place to go? How much of Michigan's conservatism was because an aggressive Herrmann defense would inevitably bust coverages at a rate better associated with the Wildcats? (Which Wildcats? Pick one.)
That Vince Young quote is ludicrous. All the substitutions, all the presnap motion, all the wild gesticulation: for nothing. Michigan was dead easy to read. Herrmann's brilliance did nothing but confuse Michigan defenders into inaction. If he comes within 50 miles of Michigan Stadium he should be tasered and shipped to Istanbul.
Speaking of shipping people to Istanbul, Mike DeBord makes a strong case for immediate deportation and brainwashing in the same article:
"Today with so much eight-man, nine-man football, you can run away from the eighth guy, and you don't have to block that guy. It allows you to be able to run the ball when you've got eight guys down in the box."
Ack ack ack.
But even though I don't like that quote I must (temporarily) defend DeBord. I'm only through the first half but in that half his playcalling was excellent, sabotaged entirely by execution errors. I know I will like it much less during the second half but it wasn't all bad. Also, his other quotes from that article discussing the shift to a zone running game are all true; it's an astute way to take advantage of Hart's particular strengths and and get away from some of the ugly predictability that makes Michigan so frustrating. (Not coincidentally, this sort of running game makes the waggle a much bigger threat. Before, Michigan's run game was mostly pulling, pitches, and isos up the gut. Actual runs to the outside that could suck defenders along were few and far between. Thus the demise of the waggle. Its return Saturday saw an embarrassment of open receivers.) Many fans grumbled about wanting a third wide receiver or second tight end in the game instead of a meh fullback, and that's what they got (at least in the first half): Michigan's base formation was three wideouts, a tight end, and a running back.
Now, about that aggressive passing game...
Sigh. I promised myself no more attention for goobers, but I enjoyed this sentence so much that it's only right I give him some pub. Amongst He Is Manpundit's "breakout" whatevers of the opening weekend:
--Running back Kevin Grady of Michigan. He is slimmed down and MUCH quicker this year. I think he will, at some point, replace Michael Hart as a starter.
He'll be here all week, folks. The point at which a healthy Hart is replaced as a starter is when he runs out of eligibility. But that's punditry for you.
This will remain @ the top until Monday and serve as a place for any and all impressions on the game. I would normally put in a warning to keep the gnashing of teeth to a minimum if bad things occur, but this is Vanderbilt so you go right ahead if disaster strikes.
While we wait, commenter WolverBean took the Christmas metaphor and extended it to its very maximum. Behold:
'Twas the night before Football, and through the Big House
Not a player was stirring, not even A. Kraus.
The fans were all nestled up snug in their beds,
While visions of touchdown drives danced in their heads;
And Lloyd in his polo, and Mike [DeBord] in his hat,
Had just settled down to plan this year's attack.
When out on the field there arose such a clatter,
We sprang from our tailgates to see what's the matter.
Away to the Big House! We flew there like flashes,
Poured in through the tunnels and down to the hashes.
When what, to my wondering eyes should appear.
But eighty-five warriors, dressed in their gear.
With a little old leader, so lively and coy,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Lloyd.
More rapid than eagles his players they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
"Now Henne! Now Breaston! Now Woodley and Crable!
"On Manningham, Hart, Stewart, Burgess and Grady!
"To the top of the conf'rence! To the top of the poll!
"Now block away! Catch away! Run away all!"
So out to the sidelines, the players they flew,
With a book full of plays, and St Lloyd the coach too.
And then, with keys jingling, I saw on the field,
Aggressive, fast defense was finally revealed!
As I threw up my hands, and was jumping around,
Down the near sideline Lloyd came with a bound.
He was dressed all in Nike, from cap to his shoes,
And his clothes were all colored with Maizes and Blues,
A headset and whistle were hung off his back
And he looked like a general planning attack.
His eyes â€“ how they twinkled! His jowls how set!
His team, how it danced like his marionette.
His hair chestnut brown and his eyebrows were bushy,
His look tough as nails, though his man-boobs were mushy,
A wink of his eye and a nod of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
All the refs knew to play fair or he'd go berserk.
Then waving his hand around over his head,
He signaled a play action pass to split end.
Henne rolled out, threw the ball, it came down
In the hands of The New Math! We all screamed "Touchdown!"
Then Lloyd turned to the stands, and announced to the ruckus,
"Happy Football to all! This year's boys are tremendous!"
Good Lord. The "commenter of the year" competition is getting mighty crowded these days.
Merry football, kids. I'll try to get something up late Saturday but can make no promises. Sunday, though. I'm going to bump UFR up this year... Monday/Tuesday might be ambitious but we'll see. Tuesday/Wednesday at the latest.