It's tied in the first quarter, but these people have seen some things.
I thought I was past this. Then came the bowl matchup.
Florida's zone melange mustered only 3.3 yards per play and no points in their 27-2 loss to Florida State to end the regular season. Since UF has undergone several personnel changes, I wanted to choose a late-season game against a team with a pulse, and the other option that fit the criteria was Alabama. There was no good choice.
Anyway, Florida's offense is bad, not fun to watch, and reminiscent of a team I've attempted to drink out of existence.
Personnel. Seth's diagram [click to embiggen]:
An inexperienced group got even worse in that regard when right tackle Mason Halter was ruled ineligible for the bowl game, opening up the potential for as many as three true freshmen to start on the line; in addition to year-long starter Marcus Ivey and Halter's replacement, Fred Johnson, Tyler Jordan could slide into the lineup at right guard—where he started the last two games—and bump senior Trip Thurman to center.
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Spread, in that Florida took almost every snap from the gun.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? Florida is about as zone-heavy as it gets. They run a ton of inside zone, often with the slot receiver going in fly sweep motion, though they rarely utilized that option. They'll mix in the occasional power but for the most part it's inside zone and some zone stretch.
Hurry it up or grind it out? Florida is 114th in adjusted pace, which should surprise nobody who watched Michigan last year.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]
Hey, these are relevant again
— Rivals Camp Series (@RivalsCamp) December 29, 2015
Rashan Gary falling on things
The UA and Army All-Star games immediately follow the New Year's Day bowl binge, and thanks to Harbaugh's roll-with-it recruiting Michigan has a lot of commits and targets involved. MGoUser "Tate"—who does not have a Forcier avatar for some reason—helpfully collects the various attendees and announcements coming over the next week:
Under Armour All American Game - Saturday Jan 2, 2016 @ noon (ESPN2)
- Kareem Walker, RB
- Ben Bredeson, OL
- Devin Bush, LB
- Rashan Gary, DL
- Jean DeLance, OL - Announcing
- Terrance Davis, OL - Announcing
- Dontavious Jackson, LB
- Jacob Mathis, TE
Semper Fidelis All American Bowl - Sunday Jan 3 @ 9 pm (FS1)
- Brad Hawkins, WR
- Ron Johnson, DE
- Khaleke Hudson, ATH
Army All American Game - Saturday Jan 9 @ 1 pm (NBC)
- Jordan Fuller, DB
- Mecole Hardman, ATH
- Isaac Nauta, TE - Announcing
- Jordan Elliott, DL
- Michael Onwenu, OL
- Brandon Peters, QB
- Donnie Corley, WR
- Dylan Crawford, WR - Announcing
- Lavert Hill, DB
- David Long, DB
That's about a third of Michigan's current class plus the bulk of the gentlemen still on the board. IIRC, last year Michigan had just Brian Cole in the two main games (Semper Fi is notably behind the others in attention and prominence). This year it's a bit different. Prepare for all the vines and twitter videos of DL/OL drills:
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) December 29, 2015
Eh, I'd take him.
Gary seems likely to maintain his status as the top recruit in the country, so the guy I'm most interested to see evaluated on an All-Star stage is NJ RB commit Kareem Walker. Walker highlight tapes have been few and far between. He is not a slam dunk like Leonard Fournette. Michigan has had terrible luck with five-star-ish tailback recruits—Justin Fargas, Kevin Grady, Derrick Green, and Ty Isaac is the list, and it is not great, Bob. Rivals took his fifth star away…
Walker recently lost his fifth star and has gone from a decisive, one-cut brute at running back to a bit of an indecisive runner who questions his instincts and dances a bit too much. Ball security is also an issue so he will need to have a fumble free week and catch the ball effectively as well.
…and I can see why even if the more likely explanation is "we were wrong" instead of "Walker got a lot worse." This will be a week that can confirm or dis-confirm Walker's move down on some sites and relatively low ranking on others. 247 has him as a guy to watch:
RB, Kareem Walker (247Sports No. 118/247Sports Composite No. 39) – We've taken some heat in the past for having Walker ranked low, particularly from the Ohio State fan base when he was committed there. While we still like Walker, we still don't see him as a rare back but more of an effective college starter. A strong Under Armour week could change our mind.
I'd take "effective college starter" given Michigan's luck with five-star types previously.
So about those decisions
Michigan's two remaining OL targets will be announcing within minutes of each other. MD OL Terrance Davis has seen a Maryland surge on his Crystal Ball with most of the heavy hitters flipping their prediction from M to the Terps. These flips do not appear to be guesses, as Steve Wiltfong reports that Davis has already told the coaches at the various schools.
Wiltfong also reports that as Davis continued to hold out, Michigan began to view him as a luxury. If anyone on that staff has followed Michigan recruiting prior to the last couple years they probably got that Laquon Treadwell vibe—you lead too long for a guy without a commit and you're just a placeholder until he figures out where he actually wants to go.
There will be some blah blah about Durkin but like whatever man. Sometimes recruits want to stay home.
Delance and Keanu Reeves saved the future with music
Speaking of recruits who may or may not want to stay home, TX OL Jean Delance has been the staff's main priority for a fifth OL for months now because they view him as a tackle, and they want a tackle. Intel on Delance is all over the board. First, he brings good tidings:
Michigan: "Coach (Jim) Harbaugh. They treat me like family. They already have that No. 1 class. They have that set up. It's what they are going to need. There are still three or four four-star guys on the board that they are going to get that I know of. So I mean I just trust it's going to be a No. 1 class and they are going to be back on top next year (and be a) playoff team."
That article contains quotes from Delance on LSU and Texas that seem less enthralled, which continues a theme that caused us to ballz Delance to Michigan last week.
But that's an educated guess on a guy who could end up at any of his three finalists without it being a shock. The 247 Texas guy still maintains that mom wants him at home, and another quote from that article in which Delance says he's going to "duke it out" with his family seems to confirm that… while also confirming that Delance isn't eager to sign up for RichRod Year 3: Texas Edition. Wiltfong and the LSU 247 just batted a bunch of contradictory and alarming information around that I was going to summarize but since Lorenz just ballz'd Delance to Michigan let's ignore all that and concentrate on the good vibes.
To sum up: we think Michigan is the pick there but a late swerve is definitely possible.
The news is much more certain with CA WR Dylan Crawford. Reports from Oregon folks that the Ducks had run out of room for him have continued, with all the relevant parties flipping their ballz back to Michigan. There's been zero noise about schools other than Oregon and Michigan for months now, and it looks like Crawford's hat dance will be purely for show.
Finally, GA TE Isaac Nauta is the longest shot, with zero optimism coming from anywhere and Georgia people feelin' real nice.
I learned to spell this so let's make it count
TX DE Levi Onwuzurike cancelled plans to visit Arizona State and is down to Michigan, Baylor, and Washington. He remains mysterious:
He has seen all three other schools; Michigan, Washington, and Baylor, and had also indicated he might be making an announcement on January 20th, but this could come literally any day.
"All three schools have good academics", Onwuzurike said, "Distance is[n't] any factor -- and my parents have said it's up to me."
Onwuzurike has given nobody any indication as to where he's leaning at any point in the process. Lorenz says that Baylor is trailing, so Michigan appears to be top two.
Also in DEs
Alabama offered AZ DE Connor Murphy on Christmas Eve, because of course Alabama offers people on Christmas Eve. His January visit list is big time:
Murphy has already visited Oregon and has three official visits set up in January. He says, "I am going to USC on January 15th, then to Michigan the next weekend and then Alabama the weekend after that."
Murphy has a Harbaugh connection since his brother went to Stanford, and does not appear to be leaning anywhere in particular. Michigan probably does not have room for him of Onwuzurike drops; Murphy's schedule will allow Michigan to know if he's a major priority without an offputting "hey… maybe you want to wait."
Another commit who's not hearing much from the staff
MD CB commit Sir Patrick Scott told Rivals that he hasn't been in constant, or even intermittent, contact with Michigan's staff:
“Unfortunately I haven’t heard from the staff about the new coach,” Scott said. “I know nothing about him so I guess I’ll have to do my own research on his résumé to see how good everyone says he is.”
Uh. Scott says he isn't visiting anywhere and isn't planning on a decommit. Nonetheless the lack of an official visit and the lack of contact mean we should keep an eye on Scott's status as Signing Day approaches. There are a number of academic hoops you have to jump through to get approved for an official. A prospect who doesn't take any officials may not check all those boxes. Scott has not taken any officials.
Meanwhile, NJ DE Ron Johnson on Don Brown:
Johnson got the chance to briefly chat with him for the first time recently and is eager to begin playing under him.
”Yes, I did,” said Johnson. “He messaged me on Twitter right before the holiday introducing himself and talking to me about the future. He just said he couldn’t wait till I get there, so we can get to work. I believer he is a great hire.”
It would not surprise if Scott ended up decommitting.
Jones on Signing Day
FL LB Jonathan Jones tells the ND Rivals site that he will announce on Signing Day. He may commit privately before then. That silent commit will be meaningful since he's waiting for Signing Day to do a thing at his school but might want to reserve a spot before ND or M fills up.
Vibes with NJ DE Rashan Gary remain steady. Rivals is a little salty at "other media outlets" for playing up schools like Ole Miss and Ohio State:
Despite his camp not coming out and saying it and team reporters at other media outlets writing stories slanted toward their audiences, Michigan is far and away the leader for Gary. At points earlier in his recruitment Clemson, Georgia, Auburn, LSU and Ole Miss challenged Michigan for the top spot on Gary's list but his relationships with the recruiting class, staff and players in Ann Arbor will be too much for any team to overcome.
If Ole Miss is running #2 Michigan is in a very good spot—Gary's mom had a run-in with a rentacop on that visit, which ended early. Meanwhile, there was a brief surge in Ohio State noise after OSU hired Greg Schiano as their DC. That didn't seem to last:
No. 1 Rashan Gary said Michigan, Ole Miss, Auburn, Clemson, LSU, USC, Georgia the top schools still in consideration. Florida FSU outside
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) December 29, 2015
He has one visit left and is considering Clemson, LSU, Georgia, Florida, or FSU for it.
Scout ranks MD OL Devery Hamilton the #9 OT in the country. Delance is fifth. Happy trails to CA S Lamar Jackson, who named a top four without Michigan. M led for a minute after his official visit but apparently they dropped him shortly after. TX LB Dontavious Jackson tells Mike Farrell that his top three is ITT Tech, Everest, and University of Phoenix. Crushing blow to Davenport's recruiting there.
[Bumped to Diary - LSA]
[Bumped to Front Page -Seth]
[Karan Higdon on his visit | Bryan Fuller]
Someone was asking about the recruiting process, so I thought I would offer up the little bit I know, since we are all waiting on recruits, and it is a slow week on the board…because despite the tagline on the Mgo header, the staff seem to inexplicably observing a major holiday.
I will preface this by saying: I was never recruited. I went to a high school with a lot of big time recruits, I know guys that played at a few schools including M during the Carr/RR years, and I have a close friend who is an up and coming coach in Virginia. I have been on a few visits and I have heard about a lot more…most of the ACC, Big 10, SEC, and Big 12.
First, visits during games are not ideal. There isn't enough time for coaches to spend with recruits because of game day. Keep in mind, most games are at noon or 3:30, so the kid will be lucky to talk to the coach more than 5 or 10 minutes pre-game. Teams are up early in the morning to eat, have walk-throughs and head to the stadium. Coaches are finalizing game plans and generally stick with the team during the entire pre-game process. During the 2012 UM/OSU game, we were allowed to go to the coaches locker room with Urban for about 5 minutes, while the other recruits were eating. (Our group also included the #1 player in the country, so that is unusual.) During the meal, the position coaches mingle with parents and recruits. At UTL II, (if you remember was a monster recruiting weekend) we had a nice meal, they showed a slideshow and we had a few quick words from coaches. I spoke with Chris Perry, who attended my high school, but he was ushered out because of compliance.
The recruits are assigned a coordinator, who leads everyone on to the field pre-game. On the way there, a lot of kids (and adults..smh) were asking for autographs, which was immediately attended to because this was right after the Johnny Manziel fiasco. (Sorry, the Johnny Manziel AUTOGRAPH fiasco, not any of the other fiascos he’s been associated with.) The recruits get to stand on the sidelines as everyone warms up. Most will remember a fantastic picture I took of Da’Shawn with the Maize and Blue crowd in the background.
At OSU, I wore a highlighter yellow “HAIL” shirt as I walked in front of the student section. They did not approve. Being on the field allows players to get a feel for the gameday atmosphere, because that’s exactly where they would be for every gameday. It’s wild looking up at the audience, and witnessing 100,000 plus…the anticipation is moving through the air. Right before the band comes out, recruits are ushered to their seats, usually in the first 5-6 rows, in between the 40’s. My UTL II seats were 4th row. At OSU, we sat in the 6th row. Maryland we were in the 2nd row. I am a family friend of a former player who is not well –regarded around these parts, but every time I went with his family, we were between rows 8 and 14.
After the game, the recruits leave together, and meet up in the athletic center to wait for coaches and players. Coaches will sneak in and say hi if they can. Once the players are dressed and done for the night, they take out or hang out with recruits.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest]
If you’ve been reading the site for a long time you’ll remember Seth’s “Decimated Defense” series, an excellent set of posts that painstakingly detailed why Michigan’s defense was so awful circa 2009. If you’ve been watching hockey the past few seasons, something similar may have crossed your mind.
David Nasternak is our jack-of-all-trades behind the scenes, and he’s also a huge hockey fan. He asked if I’d be interested in some data he was pulling together on power play goals against, odd-man rushes, and turnovers that led directly to goals. Naturally I was; Michigan’s defense isn’t quite Decimated Defense-level bad, but I could probably write a series of posts about the past four years and no one would bat an eye if I titled them “Disappointing Defense.”
The eye test, beloved by scouts for generations, tells us that Michigan’s defense has again been lacking in 2015-16. Thanks to the data David has compiled and some additional team-level stats from College Hockey Inc. we can try and see where the breakdowns are coming from on an otherwise solid team.
[After THE JUMP: it wouldn’t be MGoBlog without charts]
[Scheduling note: Probably no posts tomorrow; Adam will have a hockey thing later this afternoon and then we're off to celebrate various saviors. Have a Merry Christmas, and a very happy It Is Happening anniversary]
Earlier this week I started reviewing the Clemson-Boston College game to see how Don Brown's defense plays against a hurry-up spread offense. The idea wasn't to just see how they played when they got a zone-read run; I wanted to see how they lined up for a drive, and what tweaks he would have down-to-down, and most of all try to pick out the thought processes behind the defensive gameplan.
The first taught us only that BC came out in a very Michigan-like Cover 1, with the free safety playing too far back to do much more than bracket a receiver, usually that being the guy at the bottom of the screen. Here's the next drive.
Play 1: Zone read vs. Dog Blitz — And here's our first wrinkle, and here's where I betray my lack of knowledge because I don't know what to call this except a backside run blitz:
With the offense backed up against their own goal line Brown decided to play some paper against Clemson's rock. The DL is in an under but the SAM is the slot defender and the strong safety is rolled up like an under SAM. Nobody's got the slot receiver until the free safety, who once again is set up way deep. Since the frontside B gap is covered by the cornerback this is a nine-man front.
The WDE goes right upfield, the MLB heads for the open A gap off the snap while the WLB twists behind him and the SAM comes into that same backside C gap, an interesting take on scrape exchanging (I bet you the WLB has the running back and the SAM has the TE if it goes pass).
Anyway it's a simple handoff going to other side so we're back to player on player. Up front that's a win; the the NT stood up to a double-team and pushed it into the backfield to force the back to stop his forward momentum and take hard bounce to the next gap, which the CB is coming down to get. However the SS jumped inside to that same B gap, thus giving up the edge and 5 yards. I don't like BC's safeties.
Good thing there wasn't a slot read/packaged play here since the bubble is wide open. With the FS deep over the twin receivers BC's got a free 1st down in the pot, but they're not exactly all in.
[After the JUMP: the rest of this drive]
That went as expected.
The last time Bryant played at Michigan, the Wolverines rained in a school record 16 three-pointers in a blowout victory. This time around, Michigan one-upped their previous performance, tallying their 17th triple when Kam Chatman beat the shot clock and the final buzzer from right in front of the bench.
Any other drama had long since passed. Michigan tore apart Bryant's matchup and 2-3 zones in the first half, recording 12 of their threes in the first 20 minutes and tallying assists on 17 of their 21 first-half field goals. Even though the defense had a sub-par half, Michigan went into the tunnel with a 22-point lead. The going wasn't quite as easy when the Bulldogs went man-to-man for much of the second, but by that point it hardly mattered.
What did matter, from Michigan's perspective, was seeing Zak Irvin get off the schneid; he connected on 2/4 triples after heading into the game with a 3/19 in the month of December.
"It was a huge weight off my back," said a visibly relieved Irvin after the game.
Irvin was one of several beneficaries of great ball movement by Michigan, led by Caris LeVert (8 assists), Duncan Robinson (6), and Derrick Walton (5). The Wolverines passed up open jumpers for even more open jumpers, and that opened up the paint, especially once Bryant switched to man; Michigan made 20 of 28 two-pointers in addition to their record-setting night from beyond the arc.
LeVert paced the team with 19 points, followed by Irvin with 16, and three others finished in double figures.
At long last, Michigan has made their way through non-conference play, and they'll carry a 10-3 record—with no bad losses—into the conference opener at Illinois on December 30th. The fans aren't the only ones who are relieved to see stiffer competition.
"I want to get on with the Big Ten and play," said John Beilein. Amen to that.
Michigan (9-3) vs
Ann Arbor, Michigan
|WHEN||7 pm ET, Wednesday|
|LINE||Michigan -23 (KenPom)|
PBP: Jeff Levering
Analyst: Stephen Bardo
Right: If Bryant doesn't bring Tupper to tonight's game they deserve to lose by 50. [Photo: Tupper's Twitter]
DJ Wilson made a surprise appearance in garbage time against Youngstown State, so aside from the loss of Spike Albrecht this team is back at full strength.
Despite the injury issues, the rotation has taken shape over the course of the last few weeks, and tonight's final tune-up before Big Ten play should provide a preview of how John Beilein will utilize the bench even though another blowout is expected.
Meanwhile, Albrecht's father is quoted in a report from the Post-Tribune saying Spike will pursue a medical redshirt and he "think(s) he'll play" next season. While that opens the door for a return to Michigan, the Wolverines are currently oversigned by one player for 2016-17; transferring elsewhere for a grad year is a more likely option. MLive's Brendan Quinn caught up with the elder Albrecht to get further details:
According to Chuck Albrecht, there has been no conversation with Beilein about scholarships or the future — the issues that stirred a small sea of speculation on Tuesday night.
"No, we haven't talked, but we know the facts," Chuck Albrecht said. "We know they're over one scholarship. We know these things and we follow these things. We know there's a top point guard (Xavier Simpson) going in there next year. Those are facts that we know.
"But no, Spike hasn't sat down with coach Beilein, but I'm sure that'll happen sometime."
Another year at Michigan hasn't been ruled out, even if it appears unlikely; neither has a grad transfer or even playing pro ball overseas.
Michigan has beaten three opponents by 50+ points this season. As the #329 team on KenPom, and one that runs a lot of 2-3 zone, Bryant may very well be the fourth.
Senior point guard Shane McLaughlin is the team's primary distributor with 44 assists, 30 more than any other Bulldog, but his 33 turnovers are a serious issue. Shooting splits of 50/29/38 (yes, that's 38% from the line) aren't helping much, either.
Fellow starting guards Hunter Ware and Nisre Zouzoua both stand at 6'2" and take a little under half their shots from outside the arc, shooting 32% and 34% on three-pointers, respectively. Ware is the team's leading scorer by virtue of being much more efficient on two-pointers (48% to 36%), while Zouzoua is more likely to get to the line. Incredibly, Zouzoua (83% FT) is the only Bulldog to make more than two-thirds of his free throws, and one of just two regulars to crack 60%.
6'6", 215-pound starting four Dan Garvin is an good rebounder and shot-blocker; he also serves as the team's highest-usage offensive option. That latter bit hasn't gone so well. He's shooting 40% on twos, hit one of eight threes, and is languishing at 55% from the line.
Starting in the middle is 6'5", 250-pound true freshman Marcel Pettway; that height/weight listing is not a typo. Despite being quite undersized, Pettway has managed to make an impact on the boards, and he even posted a 15-point, 12-rebound effort against Georgetown, albeit in a game the Hoyas won by 30. Pettway has only four blocks this season despite manning the middle of a 2-3 zone; Michigan should be able to attack the basket without too much resistance.
Bryant's sixth man is 6'7" wing Bosko Kostur, who takes over half his shots from downtown while connecting on 25% of them. The primary backup big, Gus Riley, is a stretch-four type also making only 25% of his threes while posting a paltry 8.5% mark on the defensive boards; that should explain why a 6'5" freshman starts in the post.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
[Editor's Note: We consider the Harbaugh introductory press conference as the beginning of the photo year. We know that it happened in December 2014. Close enough. The Harbaugh presser will be eligible next year, too.
Also: all of our photos are Creative Commons (Attribution/Noncommercial) Licensed. That means that you can use them if 1) you mention where the photo is from and 2) don't sell them. We are delighted for you to use them. We spot them in fire dot emoji edits on the regular.]
For those of you that don’t know, I’m Eric Upchurch. I started covering games for MGoBlog during the 2011 football season. Bryan Fuller joined us in 2012. This past season we added former Daily photographer Patrick Barron as a regular. Here is the only photo that I’m aware of that includes all of us.
Patrick Barron, top, Bryan Fuller, left, Eric Upchurch, right
Photo of the year
Fuller's shot of Amara Darboh's amazing catch against BYU.
This photo is now in Schembechler Hall.
— Aaron Bills (@AaronBDesigns) December 16, 2015
On top of having a photo in Schembechler hall, MGoBlog photographers contributed more photos to John U Bacon's Endzone: The Rise, Fall, and Return of Michigan Football than anybody else. We’re also responsible for Jim Harbaugh’s wikipedia photo.
We don’t get to say it much, but we wanted to thank the readership of MGoBlog for all of your support. Those of you that follow us on twitter and retweet and share our photos are a #blessing. We are very grateful for it. Bryan, Patrick and myself all have full time jobs outside of photographing Michigan athletics. We cover these games in our spare time and we love every minute of it. On a typical gameday, we arrive 3 hours prior to kickoff and we leave around 1-2 hours after the game ends. They are very long days. I live closest to the stadium out of any of our photographers and I’m 50 miles away in Sylvania, OH. Bryan drives in on gamedays from Kalamazoo. When Patrick covers a game for us, he’s travelling in from Appleton, WI. We take our work seriously and we are thankful that all of you support us.
It should be noted that this is the first season that MGoBlog has had a photographer at every regular season football game. Thanks to Patrick for putting this collage together.
Alright, now let’s show some photos.
The introductory press conference was like no other presser that I’ve ever attended. They are typically low key. This one was like a party. It was great. I was honored to be there. It appears as though Coach Harbaugh is looking directly at me. I think it was because I was standing on a chair right behind the TV cameras. He probably was wondering who the 8ft tall photographer was in the back of the room.
This photo is one that I try to get every season. This is one of my favorite moments before the team comes out of the tunnel.
This one is from Fuller... sometimes a photographer is in the right place at the right time.
This photo got a ton of use; Harbaugh at his first spring game as the head coach.
This from Barron communicates the importance of the Little Brown Jug better than anything else I've seen.
Another from Patrick that I loved. I didn’t even see this on TV. Even on replay. This may have been a facemask.
We cover more than just football and basketball games. Here are some photos from Bryan’s coverage of the softball team.
Patrick also covered some hockey for us.
We shot thousands of photos this season. It’s very hard to narrow it down to a few that we’d like to feature. Here are complete galleries of our favorite photos from 2015. Be sure to follow us on twitter for live photo updates during games. Eric Upchurch (@eupchurchphoto) Bryan Fuller (@fulloftwitt) Patrick Barron (@MGoDrone). Thanks again from all of us and Go Blue!
This looks familiar
Maybe this is a bit of an overreaction to the last thing that happened, but when Michigan was thrust into a D.C. search after one year of D.J. Durkin, Brian's not the only guy who immediately thought "I really hope we get a guy who can take down the spread!"
So can Brown? Well we haven't had that many opportunities to see. While you'd think the spread would be ubiquitous in college football now, there actually aren't as many teams who are dedicated to it as you'd think. Bill Connelly has a helpful (though far from perfect) list of offenses by how spread they were in 2014. Just three BC's FBS opponents this year were in the top 25 of spread-i-ness last year—Syracuse (2nd), Clemson (11th), and Louisville (23rd). Florida State, which spends most of its 1st down snaps under center, was 26th, just to give you a baseline. And Syracuse transitioned out of the gun-and-read offense this season.
So: Clemson. They're a lot like Ohio State. They line up in the gun with a slot receiver nearly always, hurry up, read-option as the basis of their running game, throw deep to keep safeties away from that, and work in a lot of power blocking. They also have access to way more talent than Boston College. So let's watch a quarter of that together and see how BC played it.
Play 1: Go route vs. Man 1 — The slot receiver comes in motion and that drags the nickel across the formation while the SS walks down. The free safety is lined up 13 yards from the line of scrimmage so he's not going to be able to help much against a run.
Michigan fans should recognize the coverage since it's exactly what we ran all year. Only thing is the free safety was bracketing the receiver at the bottom of the screen so this one has pure man. He has a step but the ball's overthrown.
Play 2: Read option vs Man 1 — Same look again with the backside safety walking down and the free safety playing way high. But this time they're blitzing the WLB. The DE forms up to make it handoff, and everybody has their gaps. The playside DE shoved the RT upfield so there's nowhere to go, but the backside DE whiffs when closing in. It looks dangerous for a second and then the free safety has arrived.
Play 3: Go route vs Man 1—We get a glimpse of why this was such a good pass defense. They come out in the Okie:
(free safety is way deep)
With the RB staying in the MLB came on a delayed blitz. Slot got separation downfield but the ball went over his head. FS is trailing way behind like he was bracketing the other side again.
Things: So far this is a lot like Michigan's defense. Clemson had two chances for an 80-yard TD against man coverage that they missed, and one running play that went for a loss because the SDE made a great play.
I think the free safety is helping out with a particularly dangerous receiver and Clemson is using that to target the other side. A safety who can range sideline to sideline is a luxury beyond the means of B.C. and they were living dangerously because of it.
But like Michigan their down linemen are good with their hands and can handle soloing gaps. I would be interested to see the Okie come back—some of the fun 2011 defense things we had to do to glue that thing back together are worth trotting out still even if the main thing is sound.
Then again it's been three plays and other than the little variations this is the same defense Michigan had all year.
I'll get into another drive or two tomorrow.
As always, click the links/stills to open each GIF in a lightbox.
I attended my first Michigan game in 1994, at the tender age of six. One year later, Charles Woodson made his debut in Maize and Blue.
Yesterday, Woodson announced his impending retirement. In the interim, he put together arguably the greatest career by a defensive player in football history. Those of us lucky enough to watch him at Michigan are hardly surprised.
I could talk about how Woodson changed the game of football at the college and NFL level, how he became the archetype and the prototype of a spread-killing defensive back. Today, though, I'd rather remember how he changed the games in my backyard. In my first couple years in Michigan, I'd run through the yard as Tyrone Wheatley or Tim Biakabutuka, scoring touchdowns against imaginary defenders. After seeing so many athletic feats of this ilk, however...
...I spent much more time crouching down, backpedaling, and jumping imaginary hitch routes. Woodson made defense cool. How could you not want to be this guy?
As Woodson's Michigan career wore on, imitating his greatest moments required an increasingly versatile imagination. Doing so also had some unintended consequences. My mother always wondered why we had so much trouble growing a patch-free lawn in the backyard. My attempts to replicate cuts like this didn't help the cause.
Then, of course, there was his most famous moment as a Wolverine.
Throw the ball as high as you can, catch it clean, take off towards the fence, cut up towards the house, cut back to the fence, then make sure not to trample the garden/bench while sprinting up the imaginary sideline. I did that more times than I could count.
With Woodson, though, some moments transcended imitation even by the most imaginative of grade-schoolers. I could not fly 15 feet in the air, so I didn't attempt his Michigan State interception. I could not float for an eternity, so I was content to leave his final collegiate pick as a memory.
20 years after he first arrived in Ann Arbor, Woodson is still making awe-inspiring plays. Just two days ago, the 39-year-old met 220-pound James Starks—ten years his junior—in the open field; while Starks had a full head of steam, Woodson's perfectly placed shoulder jarred the ball loose. I watched the play unfold on my television, and while I didn't head to the nearest park to replay it, the thought crossed my mind.
As I write this, I'm sitting on the couch in my parents' house, the same I house from which I walked to the Big House with my dad on so many football Saturdays growing up, with the very backyard in which I tried with all my might to be Charles Woodson. We're sitting down to dinner soon. While sports are rarely the foremost topic of conversation in the Anbender household, there's no doubt Woodson's retirement will come up; the only question is how long we'll swap stories once it does.
Perhaps, once the food has settled, I'll sprint aside that fence one more time.