It’s hard to pick out when it really came into focus. It might have been when I heard that the line to get in went from the front of M-Den to near Angell Hall. It could have been when I looked down State Street to see where the end of said line was and saw only a street so full of people that the line was indistinguishable and the people stretched as far back as I could see. Maybe it was when a group of five or six people dove to the sidewalk about three feet to my right, and what I thought was an insane overreaction to someone cutting the line was just a bunch of people willing to sustain concrete burns for their shot at grabbing the hat Jim Harbaugh threw into the crowd. The setting was familiar, the logos were familiar, but the environment was completely different than anything that Michigan fans have ever seen. This was no mere apparel release event. This was unmistakably a Harbaugh-led party.
Harbaugh’s a man who hates comparing people. If you ask him to compare players he just won’t do it, and his reasoning is solid: compare one person to another and one necessarily gets diminished. Yet there we were, on a humid summer evening in Ann Arbor weeks before students get back in town, crammed so close that you know whether someone’s wearing a fragrance or whether they’re just fragrant, listening to Jim Harbaugh talk about how this is what the street will look when Michigan wins a national title. At some point he must have surveyed the college football landscape and decided that it was fine to start talking about where he thinks his team stacks up relative to the rest of the country.
The program’s expectations are different now, and the fanbase’s zealousness reflects that. They’re as high as they’ve ever been; there’s a gap the size of Tacopants between expectations from a decade ago and expectations today. Events like last night’s reinforce what seems to be the program’s theme and carefully curated direction: on the surface, everything old is new again. Then there’s something extra beyond the old “everything” that’s momentarily disorienting and refreshingly different.
Created with flickr slideshow.
The last time Michigan switched apparel companies they had just hired a new head football coach whose spread offense gashed the most firmly held beliefs of some subsets of the fanbase as well as it did defenses. This time around Michigan’s new head football coach is in his second year on campus, and the freshest memory of his tenure is the saccharine success of Michigan in the Citrus Bowl. People didn’t line up last night just to buy new clothes. They lined up because this was an opportunity to get a free ticket for the 11:59 PM hype train.
Signing on with Nike and getting outfitted not just with the swoosh but in Jordan Brand apparel is new and different and plays to the soft spot of most people associated with Michigan. You don’t go to a school or become a fan of a school where you hear about the “Michigan Difference” every 20 minutes and walk away feeling like blending into the pack is a lovely place to be. People wanted something different, but they weren’t interested in change for the sake of change. The reason to switch could have been as straightforward as Harbaugh’s review of his appearance in a rap video: the cool kids liked it. But that wasn’t enough for Jim Hackett and company. They found a way to get Jordan Brand looped into the deal, and they found a way to take the Jumpman logo, a logo that resonated with people as being a cut above, and get that stitched onto Michigan’s football jerseys.
In isolation, the switch to Nike and Jordan may not have been enticing enough to start an honest to goodness block party, but the excitement certainly would have been high enough to get something of a line to form to buy the new stuff when it came out. Then Michigan won 10 games, including a demolition of an SEC team whose defense was supposed to be murderous. Then Harbaugh started talking about setting goals that are so high others will laugh at you. Then he stopped talking about the process of getting to know his team and started dropping “national championship” here and there.
Real, authentic excitement is easy to derive from the comfort of seeing things you’re used to while feeling a sense of optimism about what’s to come, a belief that familiarity doesn’t have to mean a stagnant future but can be an element of something entirely new. Harbaugh found a way to do what the old guard has wanted for over two decades: resurrect Schembechler football. Harbaugh being Harbaugh, he then took it and twisted it into something that only looked like the kind of football that was played on Tartan Turf but attacked in a different and complex way, a way that defensive coordinators really could have used all those years between Schembechler and Harbaugh to prepare for. He took what was the ceiling of the old guard’s aspirations--to win a Big Ten title--and tore the roof off. The new expectation is that Michigan can compete not only in their conference but with anyone across the country. That this is being hammered on publicly by the head coach puts Michigan in rarefied air. Everything looks and feels familiar but elevated, and on Sunday night people couldn’t wait to drape themselves in the zeitgeist.
[Ed—Seth: Every year, by tradition, Mike Spath (@MichaelSpath198), one of the best journalists on the Michigan beat and bar none the best source of Michigan hockey info, also generates the only content I ever care about from Big Ten Media Days, offering anonymity to opposing players in return for their unvarnished opinions on Michigan players.
Spath has departed The Wolverine, but he still went to Media Days and got those golden quotes. He was at WTKA this morning and shared some of them with Sam Webb. You can listen to the entire segment on WTKA's website here. With their permission, Adam and I transcribed the parts that were paraphrased from those players.
Note: "paraphrased." Note again: I SAID PARAPHRASED. On a lot of these Spath is combining several players' thoughts, and he was talking on the radio. Please don't construe that into misquotations that result in me being chased by a tall blond man who in turn is being chased by a Big Ten athlete.
If you want more Spath, he'll be contributing some at Badgerblitz.com, and is expected to become a regular contributor on WTKA.]
HOW THIS WORKS: So I’ve gotten some harsh feedback on Twitter saying “you know, if I was going to say something critical I’d put my name to it,” but that’s not the way that it goes. I don’t go up to them and say “Sam, I’m going to ask you a question and I want you to put your name on it.” I’ll say “Sam, I want to ask you some really honest feedback about Michigan football,” and the only way you’re going to give it to me is if I don’t quote you—if I don’t use your name.”
And so that’s how I do it and I would say this: if you’re a pretty smart person you can probably figure out that I went up to Indiana players, I went to Minnesota players, Rutgers players, Illinois players … and Northwestern.
So those are the five teams I was able to approach. It was a little more difficult this year—Sam you were there, and they didn’t go into roundtables where you have a lot more one-on-one times. So you really had to wait these guys out, and I waited until the last five minutes when they were completely empty, or I wasn’t afraid to—when a guy was getting up and leaving the podium when he’s done with his hour, or walking down the hallway with him. Because that’s when you’re gonna get the good stuff: when there’s nobody else around, and you have to really assure him: “I’m NOT gonna use your name.” You can see the light bulb going on in their head for that first second like: “I don’t know about this...do I really wanna do this?”
But eventually, and here’s the thing too, is that when you ask these questions—and I’ve seen other people try to do it—I think if you ask generic questions you get generic answers. If you ask specific questions, you get specific answers. And so a lot of the time what I’ve focused on is specific players.
“The player that they played against in November: we had six games of film on him from earlier in the season, and who was that player? This was a guy that caught everything, was a big play waiting to happen. There’s a play where he caught the ball in the middle of the field against us, and we had two guys right there, and we thought we had the angle on him, and he pulled away!”
“There’s track speed and there’s football speed, and this guy’s got football speed. I couldn’t believe how unbelievably fast this guy was, and how much of a difference he made over the course of the second half of the season.”
I posted some of these things to Twitter and there’s already this Jourdan Lewis thing that blew up big time:
Note from rival on @JourdanJD, even though they didn't complete much throwing at him, he didn't have many INTs so there was no fear factor.
— Michael Spath (@MichaelSpath198) July 26, 2016
One guy said that the reason they throw at Jourdan Lewis is there’s not a fear factor. And I immediately got jumped on and ripped on. I think when you read the whole quote it’s a little more understanding.
The guy was talking about how they didn’t complete much last year—they only completed 36% of their passes that they threw at him. But they did throw at him, because he had 90 targets according to Pro Football Focus, and that’s the tenth most at any specific defensive back in the country. So I mean you’re talking about 127 teams, talking about four defensive backs for the most part on every team, so you’re looking at 400 players and he’s the tenth-most thrown-at? That’s pretty crazy for a guy who’s only giving up a 36% completion. And the guy said to me:
“You know we didn’t complete much, but he didn’t get many interceptions.” So I asked him a little bit more—why did you keep throwing at him, and he said “What did he have interceptions-wise compared to Desmond King? Two or three?” (The answer’s two). “You weren’t going to complete many passes if you threw his way, but he wasn’t going to pick you off either. You didn’t have to fear the turnover if you threw it.”
And I said “So you didn’t fear him?”
And he’s like “We didn’t fear him: no.”
So when I’m trying to present this as “there wasn’t a fear factor” that’s not really how the quote comes off. [Sam and Spath talked a bit about man-to-man versus cover 2. Upshot: the difference with Desmond King is cover 2 cornerbacks are facing the ball the whole play.]
[Hit THE JUMP for Victims of Glasgow and Wormley Anonymous, Glasgows, Guards, and Peppers]
Large Human Favors Michigan
The BBQ at the Big House on August 6th is by far the biggest recruiting event of the summer for Michigan, and the list of potential visitors—and potential commits—is growing seemingly by the hour. The biggest news of the week, in both literal and figurative terms, is that three-star AL OT Toryque Bateman will take his second unofficial to Ann Arbor of the summer for the BBQ. The 6'8"(!), 305-pound tackle released a top five yesterday with Michigan on top, and he confirmed to Wolverine247 that the Wolverines indeed lead for him.
247's Isaiah Hole posted that Bateman is a take for the coaching staff and subsequently put in a Crystal Ball for Michigan; Steve Lorenz followed suit. If Bateman does in fact commit soon, that would bring M's O-line count for the class up to five with several top prospects still on the board. It looks like the coaches are willing to go up to seven OL for the class, and if the right prospects want to join in, we might even see a current commit be encouraged to look around. (To be clear, that last bit is speculation based on Harbaugh's recruiting style, not any concrete info, and I suspect he's learned from last year's Swenson fiasco.)
One such lineman could be four-star NY OT Isaiah Wilson, who will also be an attendance at the BBQ, as will four-star CA OT Aaron Banks, whose name hasn't come up much (distance will do that) despite his high interest in Michigan.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
It lives part II! When Homesure Lending sponsored these posts, Matt admonished me that his sponsorship was contingent on me actually doing all of them. So, yeah, next time you see him buy him a beer and get a mortgage. Matt just pinged me in case a refi made sense, demonstrating that 1) he's always on the lookout if he can save you money and 2) rates must be even more absurdly low than they were a couple years ago.
Formation notes: Michigan spent almost the entire game in nickel, as you would expect against a spread. There were only a few plays on which they deployed odd formations. Here RJS is a standup DT in a dime package on third and eleven:
This was "dime standup DT," because sometimes obvious is obvious. Michigan also had a couple plays where they walked out a bonafide linebacker over WR bunches:
But it was mostly standard stuff as Florida failed to threaten those formations.
Substitution notes: Peppers missed this game with a broken hand. Michigan moved Lewis inside and played Clark and Stribling on the outside. Thomas and Hill rotated at one safety spot next to Wilson. LB was the usual Morgan/Bolden pairing with both guys getting spotted by Gedeon.
DL was variable, with Wormley seeing time at three tech and SDE; Charlton was at WDE and SDE; RJS got a lot of WDE time. Hurst and Henry started at DT and got the bulk of the snaps. Marshall saw some snaps at WDE. Godin and Strobel saw scattered snaps on the interior. Brady Pallante even got a few plays in.
[After THE JUMP: way less data than the offense provided.]
Star Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield could lead the Sooners back to the playoff
I wrote about the Big 12 and its possible future expansion last week, and while that stuff is compelling in terms of the long-term impact on certain programs, the games themselves are why we follow the sport. Regardless of what may or may not happen with Houston, BYU, Cincinnati, etc., there’s still football to be played on the field, and thank goodness for that.
In 2015, Oklahoma withstood a bizarre upset at the hands of Texas and eventually won the conference outright, becoming the first Big 12 team to make the playoff in its brief history. TCU and Baylor had been expected to duel it out at the top again, but the injury bug struck both teams – Baylor was playing a WR as a wildcat QB because they didn’t have any left, TCU lost tons of players on the defensive side of the ball. Oklahoma State bounced back nicely from a down year and won their first ten games before losing their last three (which were their three toughest). Texas didn’t take a step forward and Charlie Strong now sits at 11-14 overall in Austin, squarely on the proverbial hot seat. The Dana Holgerson era in West Virginia might have already stalled as well.
The Big 12 is sort of expected to play out much like it did last year: Oklahoma is the favorite, returning quite a bit of a potent offense, while Oklahoma State, TCU, and Baylor are expected to challenge the Sooners – though Baylor has been thrown into turmoil because of unreported sexual assault claims (they already fired Art Briles, the only great football coach they’ve ever had because of his role in the scandal). Some team will probably surge forward from the middle of the pack, but each have unresolved questions that could submarine their seasons. Predicting history to repeat itself in a sport as volatile as college football is a fool’s errand, but that might be what it looks like on paper.
[Team previews after the JUMP]
This is about college football. The NFL list is "why are you the way you are" ten times.
10. Fumbles out of the endzone are treated like other fumbles.
Nonsense that a fumble that goes out at the one stays with the team that fumbled but one that brushes the pylon is a game-changing turnover. Way to emphasize the essentially arbitrary nature of both football and life, rule. You suck!
9. Count intentional grounding as a sack, and count sacks against pass yardage.
This doesn't do anything to help on-field things but hoooooo boy do I want to throttle whoever came up with these inane statistical quirks that I shake my fist at every week during the season. If I was a defensive end and saw the QB fling the ball moments before I engulfed him and then I didn't get credit for a sack I would send a sternly-worded letter to someone. You better believe that.
8. Actually enforce illegal man downfield rules.
that's two count-em two Air Force OL seven yards downfield on a pass
It's three yards in college and one in the NFL, except it's more like infinity yards in college since refs don't bother calling it*. The lack of enforcement here has created an indefensible subset of run/pass option plays. Those are fine, as long as they stay within the rules. If OL are allowed to go downfield and cut block linebackers, which I have seen multiple times in UFR, you might as well bury defensive coordinators alive. They'll enjoy it more than defending RPOs.
*[Except once when Taylor Lewan engaged a guy on a pass block and blocked him so dang good they ended up a few yards downfield. In the aftermath the announcers admonished him for not being aware enough of where he was on the field; I swore so hard at these gentlemen that an iceberg shaped like a middle finger broke off of Greenland.]
7. College overtime starts at the 35.
The 25 is so close that even a three-and-out gives the offense a reasonably makeable field goal. Moving the start back to the 35 would make each overtime period more likely to be decisive and help prevent 6 OT marathons.
6. Adopt NFL punt coverage rules.
Spread punting and its seven gunners have made the punt return an increasingly boring exercise in watching several people surround a ball until it ceases moving.
That percentage doesn't include balls that aren't fielded at all.
The NFL prohibits all but two people from leaving until the ball is gone; adopting similar rules in CFB would restore some of the drama when man kicks ball to Jabrill Peppers-type object.
6. Adopt MGoPlayoff and never change it.
In a nutshell: 6 team playoff with home games the first two rounds and the championship at the Rose Bowl. Six teams allows all reasonable contenders in almost every year without much if any filler. Byes for the top two and home games help preserve the importance of the regular season despite the slight expansion of the field. Having things at the Rose Bowl is just obvious man. All things should be at the Rose Bowl.
5. Change the scholarship cap to an annual one.
I'm ignoring Title IX and the absurd ways it funnels money from poor to rich here, so that objection is noted.
Virtually all of the problems with oversigning and medical redshirts and not-so-voluntary transfers go away if the incentives change. With an annual cap of new scholarship players instead of an overall one, schools are incentivized to keep everyone around in case they work out. I'd set it at 25 since there would be attrition still; you could tweak it if that ended up being insufficient.
4. Allow players to sign an early, non-binding LOI.
Moving Signing Day up is a dumb idea, but it's one that gets pushed on the regular because some people think the current "offer" environment is bad for player and program. They might have a point, but allowing people to sign mostly-binding LOIs before hiring and firing gets done just increases the chances that bad fits get locked in.
Instead, create a system where recruits can sign an early LOI. Parameters:
- The team must offer a scholarship on Signing Day.
- Team and recruit can have unlimited contact; other teams can have none.
- Recruit cannot take officials to other campuses; gets second to team he signs with.
- Recruit can withdraw NBLOI at any time until Signing Day.
A NBLOI offers more certainty for both player and program without the deleterious effects of locking players in early.
3. Add an FCS exhibition before the season. Other FCS games don't count.
Doesn't count against redshirts. Doesn't require players who are actually going to see the field to play. Adds another chunk of revenue with which schools can play more meaningful nonconference games. Prevents that week where everyone in the SEC plays Chattanooga at the same time.
2. Kickoffs that go through the uprights are worth a point.
Yeah buddy. Put some bite in those personal fouls after touchdowns.
1. Multiball allows you to score as many touchdowns as you need.
In the last two minutes you can snap as many balls as you please as long as they're all snapped at the same time. You get the outcome of the worst ball, but if you score with both you get two touchdowns.
It lives! When Homesure Lending sponsored these posts, Matt admonished me that his sponsorship was contingent on me actually doing all of them. So, yeah, next time you see him buy him a beer and get a mortgage. Matt just pinged me in case a refi made sense, demonstrating that 1) he's always on the lookout if he can save you money and 2) rates must be even more absurdly low than they were a couple years ago.
Formation notes: I'm not sure if we've seen this before at M:
There are three tight ends to the right side of the formation. "Ace trip TE."
This mess was "tight FB big" and went about how you'd expect:
And this is an example of how Florida spent a big chunk of the first half. Check out the defensive line. That is a huge split between the nose tackle and the defensive end to the bottom of your screen. Michigan had a hard time dealing with it for a couple snaps and then blasted it until UF abandoned it.
Substitution notes: As expected. Rudock, the starting OL, and the FB/RB corps all went the distance. Smith, Houma, and Johnson were your only RBs—no Higdon, no Isaac. I don't think Newsome got any 6th OL time. WR/TE was all Darboh/Chesson/Perry/Butt/Williams until the game was salted away. Michigan put in Ways and Harris in place of the outside WRs, continued playing Perry, and gave Ian Bunting some run.
[After The JUMP: rather big JUMPS forward for a half-dozen guys.]
(But don't fret, that's coming later this afternoon.)
In-State Squads Offer Livers
As anticipated, Michigan offered four-star 2017 Kalamazoo Central PF Isaiah Livers on Monday, one day after Michigan State came forth with their own offer. Livers visited Ann Arbor in June and had extremely high praise for the program in the aftermath, per Sam Webb:
"June 22nd was the day of the visit… it was on a Wednesday… it blew me away,” said Livers. “It was so far ahead of the other colleges I've been to. The University of Michigan was what you’d expect. It blew my mind, my dad was blown away. It just caught our attention, out of all the schools they're just ahead of everybody. They have the technology. What I like the most is the angle shooting (machine). You would shoot, and you would turn it on, and it would say what your angle was on the jump shot so you could fix it. It was really sweet. That school just blew me away. They’re academics of course are outstanding. It's just crazy. I'm going into business, so it kind of helps having a top ten school in the country."
Assistant coach Saadi Washington has recruited Livers dating back to his time at Oakland, and Livers said they have a strong relationship. Based on his size and this recent scouting report from Scout's Brian James, Livers sounds like a great fit for the four in Beilein's system:
Livers is a long 6-foot-8 player that has been working hard on his perimeter touch. He’s hit 37 plus percent from the arc in EYBL and against UBC the long forward sunk a trey in the corner and another at the top of the key. Livers is becoming a more confident shooter with his feet and his one-dribble pull-up jumper looks strong as well. Also had a passing lane jump that he pushed the other way moving through traffic and producing a finger roll.
Isaiah looks like a defender that can defend multiple positions. First off, Isaiah has really good length and he uses that length well. Players had trouble getting looks over the top of him and his hands up in the passing lanes led to three deflections. Also, this is a guy that seems to love to make strong box-out hits. Once a shot goes up Livers turns to locate, makes a stiff forearm contact, and then holds his man well after making the initial hit. Also does a very good job getting over in help to use that length.
While Livers had a great Michigan visit, he's far from a lock; he grew up a Michigan State fan and has made several visits to East Lansing. He told Scout last week that he'll visit MSU for a football game in the fall, and he's also looking to visit Michigan, Minnesota, and Cal; he plans to take all of his officials before making a decision.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
Media days takes. Harbaugh showed at a place and said things. In response the media writes somewhat overheated things in response, because Harbaugh. The Sporting News refers to Michigan's "magical, millennial, marketable machine" in an alliteration explosion that engulfed their office:
“Harbaugh to my knowledge has taken no classes in marketing, never mentions the word,” Bacon said. “Yet who has marketed Michigan better then he has in the last year and a half? Not everyone likes it, but as far as getting and the name and the flag up the flag pole … Harbaugh has spread the "M" all over America — and to American Samoa — for crying out loud.”
According to Michigan associate athletic director Kurt Svoboda, the university increased its season ticket sales in 2015 to 89,875, the highest total since 2012. Of those, 72,076 were non-student tickets, the highest total since 2009. Student ticket sales increased from 11,597 in 2014 to 17,899 in 2015. …
"You can say he's 52 going on 25 in some ways,” Bacon said. “He's got more energy than almost anybody. He's in a rap video. As a rapper he's an excellent football coach, but you know the kids love it."
Looks like Bacon just put himself on the list of Uptight White People for the 57th time.
Harbaugh's ability to be the center of attention at all times arises naturally from the fact that he's got no filter and genuinely doesn't care what people say about him. So he'll climb a tree or dab for a recruit or schedule a month-long whirlwind of satellite camps, mostly because he wants to do these things, to win at various things of little to no importance. The marketing aspect is a side effect. It's not quite an accident, but it's not the primary thing.
The primary thing:
To that point, Harbaugh said almost every practice is mapped out for the upcoming season, mapped out on his computer. Fall camp will include a lot more four-hour practices, another concept Butt said might be foreign in an age where less contact is encouraged. Butt even told former Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy about those practices this summer.
McElroy’s response? “You lost me at the four-hour practices.”
Harbaugh goes harder and his guys are willing to do the same given his example. Along the way articles are written.
Also this. Harbaugh's just way more interesting than coaches primarily focused on escaping media appearances without saying anything that means anything. Literally. Brian Hamilton:
Around 1:30 p.m. on Monday, James Joseph Harbaugh took the stage and an otherwise lobotomized first day of Big Ten media day festivities got interesting. All he had to do was wear the baseball cap, really: Michigan’s coach later explained his accessorizing was the product of going five weeks without a haircut and his affinity for the skinny ‘M’ logo.
He signed a fan's bicep with a Sharpie, then told the fan to come back for another try Tuesday because he didn't like the way his skin signature looked.
Of his appearance in a recent rap video, Harbaugh insisted that only "uptight white people" didn't like it. He even claimed to have written one of the song's lyrics ("Roughest team in the B-I-G!). At another point, Harbaugh used the word "meritocracy," briefly wondered if he had just invented it, then looked disappointed when he learned it already existed.
He is one of few college football coaches clearly operating his own twitter feed, because he's got something to say on it. Something like "I am Uncle Rico and The Georgia Coach is barking up the wrong tree."
Knock on wood. Harbaugh says Michigan is healthy headed into fall camp:
"There's nothing to report," Harbaugh said of player injuries. "We're pretty darn healthy. We came out of spring ball pretty darn healthy. We didn't get any of the long-term kind, six month injuries. There's always things that people are dealing with and working with. Our goal is to get the healthiest, most in-shape and strongest team we can on August 8th and then we'll take our shot."
Rumors about Chesson's availability have persisted through the offseason; he should be fine:
Asked specifically about All-Big Ten receiver Jehu Chesson, Harbaugh didn't give a definitive answer but did say he thinks he'll be good to go.
"Yes, I believe he will," Harbaugh said.
The only other player who had a long-term injury at the end of spring practice was Moe Ways, who has reportedly been running routes with the QBs for weeks now. Per Webb, Ryan Glasgow put up some impressive bench press numbers himself recently. Since his injury was to his pectoral that is plenty of evidence he's all the way back.
Recruiting is for gentlemen only. James Franklin's comments about negative recruiting from a while back are predictably a hot topic at Big Ten media days, but they're apparently based on an unrepresentative quote:
"All I said was that every kid that we're recruiting is also being recruited by Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Notre Dame and that they don't have the same challenges that we have now," Franklin said. "Then, in a separate quote, I mentioned that right now we're (dealing) with negative recruiting. It was two separate quotes, though, over a 35-minute interview.
"I never said that any of those schools are the ones doing the negative recruiting against us. They're not. There is one other particular school, but I didn't name who that was."
"…although it is blindingly obvious to you and everyone who reads this quote that it is Pitt."
Negative recruiting hubbub is always pretty ridiculous since things as innocuous as pointing out your relatively friendly depth chart will be twisted into "School X is in ISIS" by the time someone mutters about it on the internet. This seems a bit more ridiculous than most.
The Bill C preview. Bill Connelly's big Michigan preview hit SBNation yesterday. Happily, Bill saw through Michigan's roster subterfuge and knows that they get back most of their offense.
S&P+ projects Michigan to win 9.6 games:
If that sounds pessimistic MSU was at 7.8 a few days ago. Combinatorial math is harsh when you add these things up: Michigan has just three games they're not 75%+ to win and yet they're tiny favorites to end up with double digit wins. 9.6 is pretty good in this context.
There are a couple issues of the sort that are inevitable if you have to write 128 of these over the course of the offseason. Connelly strangely tabs the departure of Mario Ojemudia as the beginning of the defense's late slide and worries over the least worrisome bit of the entire team:
Things fell apart for the line right around the time of Mario Ojemudia's injury. There was still play-making potential on the edge, but it seemed to be a tough blow for Michigan's tenuous depth. Ryan Glasgow going down was the knockout punch.
Depth might not be any better this year. When you were only comfortable with seven guys, and two are gone, improvement isn't guaranteed. But when you've got reinforcements like all-world freshman Rashan Gary, it's hard to worry too much.
Ojemudia went down early in the Maryland game, a shutout. The next week they shut out Northwestern, and then they gave up some points. Against MSU and Minnesota they were mostly secondary issues; Rutgers scored just 16 in Glasgow's last game. Ojemudia was playing well but Royce Jenkins-Stone wasn't a huge dropoff. Glasgow was for a ton of reasons.
Anyway. Bryan Mone hype understandably eludes Connelly's take here, as does the somewhat more questionable emergence of Winovich and Marshall.
Peppers scouted. By NFL.com:
He is fluid in his turn, and he has excellent recovery speed down the field. He is instinctive and aware in underneath coverage. He jumped a bubble screen for a near interception in the Minnesota game. He is outstanding as a run defender. He fights through blocks and is a very reliable tackler in space. He shows timing and burst as a blitzer.
Yep. Concerns include an awkwardness in off coverage and a certain grabbiness that he's gotten away with for the most part. It was clear at the beginning of the year that he had a lot of things to work on in coverage; the good news is that he improved a great deal over the course of the year and should continue to do so.
PFF talks Ohio State. Their offense is an enigma now with just a few starters returning and JT Barrett's downfield ability in question:
The passing game is much more of a question mark, as Barrett has not had nearly the same success through the air as he has on the ground. He earned an average passing grade last season after performing marginally better than that in 2014, and he struggled the most on intermediate throws: On passes thrown 10 to 19 yards downfield, Barrett was just 12 of 25 for 211 yards, 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, earning a negative grade in that area of the field.
On the other hand he was their #2 running QB last year behind Houston's Greg Ward. MSU shut down the OSU run game and they foundered, as they did for much of the season. (Remember the NIU game?) Michigan did not do anything of the sort and got ripped. Don Brown versus and Urban Meyer offense is going to be the most intriguing tactical matchup of the season.
Etc.: Tough talk about the ACC Network's ability to get carriage. Ann Arbor is the most educated city in the country by a mile. Ian Boyd on Minnesota's three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust offense. The Black Heart Gold Pants crew is on the move. Barton Simmons catches on to Harbaugh's crazy QB coaching record.
We are drafting Big Ten teams because "Top 100 players in the Big Ten" #content wouldn't make us hate each other nearly as much.
Previously on Draftageddon:
Rounds 1-2: A Heisman candidate QB and the reigning Thorpe winner go after two members of Michigan's secondary. (M players: Peppers, Lewis, Butt)
Rounds 3-4: An underwhelming first swing through receivers, and lots of linemen. (Chesson, Cole, Wormley, Glasgow)
Rounds 5-6: A Michigan second-teamer goes before Purdue J.J. Watt. (Charlton, Hurst)
Rounds 7-8: Hodor. (Taco, Hurst)
Rounds 9-11: We go on a mini Iowa binge, and Brian takes a true freshman (YTTF).
How things stand:
We ran three rounds last time so now Brian gets to kick off.
BRIAN: Round 12, Pick 1: RB LJ Scott, MSU
Dude's gonna be a handful for awhile.
O: RB LJ Scott(MSU), TE Jake Butt(M), WR Jordan Westerkamp (NEB), OL Cole Croston(IA)
D: DE Tyquan Lewis(OSU), DE Rashan Gary(M), DT Chris Wormley(M), DT Malik McDowell(MSU). LB Raekwon McMillan (OSU), LB Anthony Walker (NW), CB Gareon Conley(OSU), CB Will Likely (MD).
Everyone else already has a tailback but I know these crafty bastards and can't wait any longer before one of them spite-picks Scott as a wildcard. Everything you need to know about Scott in two clips. Clip one:
(start it at 2:28)
Scott is half dump truck, half ballerina, and he's going to blow up in year two. Scott averaged almost 5 YPC last year as a true freshman behind MSU's M.A.S.H. unit of an offensive line, leading MSU in rushing yards with nearly 700. I'm a little leery that Gerald Holmes and Madre London will continue to siphon carries away from him, but since neither of those guys holds a candle to Scott he should easily surpass 200 carries—I mean, it's not like MSU is going to be throwing much this year.
Scott's drawing Le'Veon Bell comparisons and... yeah. I can see that. Dude is 240. PFF doesn't have much on him but did note that after three weeks he was averaging a very Bell-like 3.5 yards after contact. He's going to make the person who took Justin Jackson again feel bad, just like every time someone takes Justin Jackson.
[After THE JUMP: Spartan family dynasties. And let the Nate Gerry argument begin.]