Previously: S Jeremy Clark, S Allen Gant, S Jarrod Wilson, CB Terry Richardson, LB James Ross, LB Royce Jenkins-Stone, LB Kaleb Ringer, LB Joe Bolden, DE Chris Wormley, DE Tom Strobel, DE Mario Ojemudia, and DT Matt Godin.
|Cleveland, OH– 6'2",
|Scout||3*, #38 DT|
|Rivals||3*, NR DT, #59 OH|
|ESPN||3*, #97 DT|
|24/7||3*, #74 DT, #54 OH|
|Other Suitors||Illinois, Pitt, Syracuse|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace|
|Notes||Cleveland Glenville (Pierre Woods, Frank Clark)|
He also has a junior reel.
Willie Henry was probably the second-happiest guy in the world that Michigan struck out with its A-list targets down the stretch, with fellow late pickup Dennis Norfleet #1. Both guys got offers out of nowhere and are now at Michigan. But while Norfleet was on Michigan fans' radar as a guy everyone wished would get an offer, Henry was no more than a name when he popped up.
Recruiting sites weren't much more up on Henry than Michigan fans if the massive discrepancy between the weights they had for him (around 270 pounds) and the number he popped up on the roster with (302, then 314). Rankings and scouting reports are similarly sparse. ESPN's evaluation($) was chucked up at the end of November and lists him at 265(!) pounds:
…at times he shows a nice burst at other times he can be a beat late and needs strive to be more consistent in his get-off. He can tend to play high and needs to work to keep his pad level down. When he does work to stay low he can get overextended and needs to do a better job of playing with better bend and generating more power from his lower body when he engages blockers. … Displays marginal short-area change-of-direction skills. Henry shows flashes of being able to occupy blocks and at times be disruptive and we also would not be surprised to see him land on the offensive line in college, but either way he needs to keep improving and developing his technique to allow him to get the most out of his abilities.
They also really do not like him. The ellipses up there are constantly repeated questions about whether the guy knows how to play football. I think coaching types make way too big a deal about a player's technique in high school, especially at a place like Glenville that specializes in winning by massive talent acquisition, but the concerns expressed in that report are above and beyond the usual.
Meanwhile, Trieu knocks Henry's size and praises his quickness and skills…
Pass Rushing Skills
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
Henry is an athletic player who is light on his feet, has good coordination and closing speed. He is disruptive and gets good penetration because he has good get off. He shows a good motor and foot speed in pursuit. He has to add some bulk and strength to be able to anchor against the run, but he flashes, makes some big plays in the backfield and is a good interior pass rusher.
…and I'm just like "what's going on, man?"
It's possible ESPN was working off of junior film, when he wasn't doing that well:
"You watch his film and you go, 'why isn't he ranked higher?'" Trieu said. "You also go, 'Wow, why didn't he have a ton more offers?'" …
"He just didn’t play much, didn’t really make an impact as a junior, and that happens at talented schools like Glenville," Trieu added. "He was a kid who just completely stayed off the radar until late. But, once you saw him play, you could tell he can really play.
"Michigan's getting a very good player, even if he isn't ranked like it."
But since there apparently isn't much junior film, this may be just differing opinions about how much technique matters. It's worth noting that Scout was the highest on Henry by a large margin, too.
Other analysts agree with Trieu's take on Henry as a guy with some penetrating upside. Helmholdt:
“He’s a kid who can play the three-technique on U-M’s defensive line, and that’s important in their scheme,” rivals.com Midwest analyst Josh Helmholdt said. “They need to add depth there, with Mike Martin leaving and no clear heir apparent. [ed: obviously Martin was not a 3T] He’s from a great program at Cleveland Glenville and shows good potential with a quick first step. That’s the first thing you notice. If he’s as big as he’s listed, he’d be plenty big enough. It’s just whether he can add strength and bulk. [ed: bulk is checked off] But from everything I see on film, he could be really solid.”
The quick defensive tackle boasts a 4.78 forty yard dash, and that is indeed his biggest strength - speed. I'm particularly impressed with how quickly Henry gets off the ball and penetrates into the backfield. There are multiple highlights where he sprints downfield when blocking. Not only does that show his speed, but it also shows effort. You can't teach speed, and when you combine that with desire, it's hard to stop. I like how hard he works and the way he celebrates after making good plays. It's pure excitement, but not the "look at me" variety.
The downside is the technique again—"very raw"—and a lack of recognition. Local scouting service MRS Ohio echoes:
Listed at 6'3-270, he uses his athleticism and quickness to beat offensive linemen. Really like the way he uses his hands to separate. Plays pad under pad. Needs to improve his change of direction, but his closing speed on his pass rush is excellent. He agrees that his quickness is his strength. A weakness is that he feels that he must play hard every down. Going both ways on a high level program is hard. He wants to play hard every play. Conditioning and pacing himself is important. Honestly, evaluating him, he does not take many plays "off."
Again we get some conflicting information about technique, but eh… it's technique. Finally, here's a random OSU fan:
I've seen Willie Henry play. He can be really really quick off the snap of the ball. He can penetrate into the backfield and be disruptive. He would not be good if you want him to just stand up and tie up blockers. A DC must allow him to penetrate and get into the backfield since that is his strength as a DT.
Excellent quickness and very very good speed for a DT. He also has a good motor.
You get the idea.
Henry entered the year with a smattering of Big East offers of which Pitt was the most impressive and added an Illinois offer during his senior year when he got a lot better. Steve Wiltfong noted Henry was Glenville's "most dominant" DL at the Herbstreit thing last year as he notched nine tackles, two behind the line, and said OSU was "monitoring him." Nothing came of that thanks to Penn State imploding and the incredible bounty of DL in Ohio last year.
When Henry committed people assumed he'd be a three-technique since he seemed to be around 270 and had a reputation as a penetrator. That assumption changed when he was listed on the roster 45 pounds heavier than anyone expected. At this point he's probably going to lose weight over the rest of his career, maybe to the point where he will be a viable three-tech. But the roster almost demands he plays at the nose.
There is Pipkins, of course, but the only other nose tackle on the roster next year will be Richard Ash, a guy who hasn't seen more than a handful of snaps yet and may never. Quinton Washington might slide down if he gets a fifth year, and Maurice Hurst might end up at nose tackle. Even if all those things happen, the roster makes more sense with Henry at NT than fighting Heitzman/Wormley/Strobel/Godin/Poggi/Brink/Wilkins for one of the two fairly interchangeable SDE/3T spots.
"Henry is a five-star player. But the three-star thing is somebody else's opinion of the kid. He was a five-star player for me for three years. Nothing kept him under the radar for me as a coach. To me, he was rated just as high as [four-star Ohio State wide receiver commit] De'Van Bogard. The recruiting thing is somebody else's opinion, and that's not the opinion that I had here."
Uh… but you didn't play him?
"Well the thing is we were looking at our numbers . We would like to have another defensive lineman and we watched the tape on him. This guy right here is a young man that really developed. His film jumped off the screen to us. This is a guy we want. "
Uh… but you thought Tommy Schutt was awful or something?
Not relevant but weird: if you do a Google Image Search for "Willie Henry" you get a lot of mugshots. Like… an unbelievable number of mugshots. Enough mugshots to make me want to start a "name with the greatest percentage of GIS results that are mugshots" competition.
Why Rob Renes? Renes was a nose tackle who made a living off of his ability to penetrate with a quick first step but was never the kind of annihilating force Mike Martin got to—at least probably not, I have not UFRed his career—and that's the prototype for a guy like Henry, who's not a battleship but seems suited for the nose more than the three-tech spot.
Martin is another comparable, but he came into Michigan a slab of muscle and exited looking like the Hulk. Henry isn't that sort of freaky wrestler guy. Another guy who he might remind you of if he hits the tippy top of his potential: Jerel Worthy.
Guru Reliability: Low. Henry had no profile before his senior year and emerged late. Apparently no camps.
Variance: High. The recruiting sites don't seem to have a good grip on him, the weight is variable, and Ohio State fans have noticed that Glenville kids frequently flame out or dance on the edge of doing so. Michigan's had a similar experience with Pierre Woods, who barely held onto his scholarship after a standout sophomore year, and Frank Clark, who's currently in alleged limbo. While not fate, it's a trend that can't be ignored.
Ceiling: Moderate. Sounds like he's got more penetrating upside than a Godin, and he's more naturally suited to a position as a squat 310-pounder. Not impossible to see him hitting an all conference level if Michigan rolls a natural 20.
General Excitement Level: Low-plus. Clear plan B recruit, comes from a place with a poor record of preparing kids for the rigors of college, and the extra weight is probably not a good sign. "Plus" since it does seem like he's an athlete and Michigan might be able to morph anyone into a pretty good DL these days.
Projection: Should redshirt. It's unlikely much of that 50 pounds is good weight, and there are a couple freshmen who should be ahead of him on the freshmen playing time pecking order. Past that, he's got a tough road. It's hard to see him surpassing Pipkins at the nose, but it's hard to see him starting elsewhere because Michigan really needs someone to rotate in for Pipkins when he tires, and he's the only other underclassman on the roster who seems to fit a nose tackle profile.
That's not all bad, since it seems likely he'll be a rotation guy. 2013 commit Maurice Hurst may end up at nose but seems more like a three-tech right now, which would leave Henry as clearly the best option for times when Pipkins is huffing on the sideline. Henry's not likely to start until he's a senior, but he's got a good shot at being the second guy in for a big chunk of his career.
As first reported by TomVH, St. Clairsville (OH) linebacker Michael Ferns committed to Michigan on Wednesday, becoming their first commit in the class of 2014. Ferns had recently named a top three that also included Notre Dame and Penn State, and a very positive unofficial visit for the BBQ at the Big House likely pushed him to make a pledge.
|NR MLB||NR ILB||NR ILB||
4*, 93, #5 ILB,
Only 247Sports has released rankings for the class of 2014, so our lone national data point for Ferns has him pegged inside the top 100 prospects overall and top five at his position. All save ESPN list him at 6'3", 235 pounds—ESPN has him 20 pounds lighter, likely an outdated figure—which has him easily on track to be a college-sized strongside linebacker by the time he hits campus.
While the national services aside from 247 have not released rankings, OhioPreps already has a top 25 list for the class of 2014. Ferns is second, behind only fellow linebacker Dante Booker, and Marc Givler suggests that those two have separated themselves from the rest of the class.
Other information on Ferns is scarce, as he hasn't hit the camp circuit and St. Clairsville is a small school that hasn't produced much in the way of D-I talent*. We do get one player comparison courtesy of Scout's Dave Berk ($):
Standing 6-foot-3, 235-pounds, Ferns reminds some of current Irish inside linebacker Jarrett Grace, at least in terms of his physical stature. However, Ferns shows a unique skill set for a player of his size.
While St. Clairsville High School is far from one of Ohio’s top big-school programs, Ferns athletic ability could easily transfer to a bigger program as he shows on film the ability to play several positions on both sides of the ball.
Grace was a 2011 recruit on the 3/4-star borderline; at 6'3", 240 lbs., he's very comparable in terms of size. Grace's ESPN scouting report($) praised his athleticism and play recognition, and as you'll see in his film those are also two areas of Ferns's game that stand out.
Besides the above, most of the articles on Ferns focus on his intelligence both on and off the field. He's made it clear from the beginning of his recruitment that academics are the top priority—which he backed up with a top three of Michigan, Notre Dame, and Penn State, as well as an offer from Stanford—and he plans to study pre-med. 247's Steve Wiltfong details this side of Ferns in an article rather unfortunately titled "Ferns Is Freaky On & Off Field"($):
Growing up, Ferns always saw his parents on the computer messing around with this new sensation known as the internet. The two-year old didn’t want to be left out.
“He wanted to play on the computer so bad, and he’d keep asking us what words were,” the elder Ferns said. “It just got to the point where he taught himself how to read so he didn’t keep asking us. He was in diapers. We bought him reading programs for kids ages 4-5, and it wasn’t three weeks later we were buying the programs for ages 6-8. Over the course of a month, he was on the internet. At that time it was dial up, but he wanted to do it so bad.”
“I was always a little ahead of the time,” Ferns added. “I remember being in diapers on the computer. I’d say I was a little advanced back in day.”
Ferns has grown a bit since then, and now his intellect is paying dividends on the football field [emphasis mine]:
“He’s 6-3, 230-pounds and runs like a deer,” McClean said.
“Besides just his size advantage, he can do a lot of different things. We lined him up at three different positions on offense. On defense he’s an intellectual person, he can handle things a lot of people couldn’t do. He’s like a coach on the field from his linebacker spot.”
That astute play, when combined with impressive athleticism, could make Ferns a candidate for early playing time. According to Scout's Allen Trieu, who posted a scouting report on Ferns after his commitment, the only thing stopping Ferns could be Michigan's depth chart ($):
Upshot: He's going to come in college ready in terms of size and speed. If he adjusts to the speed of the game and learns the defense, he has the tools to play early. Not sure if the depth chart will allow that because there are so many linebackers, but he has what you look for in an early impact guy.
Trieu compares Ferns to freshman Joe Bolden, a 2012 Under Armour All-American who's already pushing for playing time at WLB, and says he's a "pretty safe bet" for four stars.
Magnus broke down Ferns's sophomore film and came away impressed:
I really like what I see on Ferns's film. He plays both ways for his high school team, although keep in mind as you watch that St. Clairsville is a small school with fewer than 700 students enrolled; the competition is not excellent. Ferns plays some fullback, tight end, wide receiver, and linebacker. He shows very good instincts as a linebacker. Ferns the younger plays downhill nicely, showing quick initial reads and stepping up into holes that open. He keeps his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage and is a very solid tackler. He also does a nice job of side-stepping blockers and using his hands to shed when necessary. His change-of-direction skills are also apparent as an offensive player, where he swivels his hips pretty well to slither past defenders.
So, while scouting on Ferns is still limited, what we see suggests he's got the size, athleticism, and instincts to excel at the collegiate level.
*The only other St. Clairsville player in the Rivals database (dating back to 2002) is 2013 3-star WR Dan Monteroso, a Boston College commit.
Ferns built up an impressive offer list for a junior-to-be, choosing Michigan over Notre Dame, Penn State, Boston College, Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Purdue, Stanford, Virginia, Wake Forest, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and a handful of MAC offers.
Ferns tallied 136 tackles as a sophomore while also chipping in 441 yards on 31(!) rushes and 301 yards on 15(!) catches. He had 88 tackles as a freshman in 2010.
FAKE 40 TIME
No 40 time is listed for Ferns on any of the four recruiting sites.
As you can see, there's little not to like in the film, though the lack of high-end competition is apparent.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
While Michigan has recruited extremely well at linebacker over the last couple classes, Ferns could have a relatively clear path to the two-deep if he lands at strongside linebacker. That spot is currently manned by Jake Ryan and Cam Gordon, and Ryan will be a senior (I know, right?) when Ferns steps on campus. Unless Royce Jenkins-Stone bulks up significantly, at that point Mike McCray will be the only player standing between Ferns and a spot in the rotation.
It's also possible that Ferns ends up at middle linebacker, a position where he can better show off his instincts. While Joe Bolden and potentially Jenkins-Stone stand in the way there, Ferns could get a three-year separation from those two if he takes a redshirt year (assuming Bolden and RJS play this year, a much safer assumption for the former).
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
At this early juncture, it looks like Michigan is in line for a relatively small class in 2014, but with a year-and-a-half before signing day a great deal can change. One thing we're pretty sure of is that the Wolverines can afford, once again, to be picky at linebacker; unless there's unexpected attrition, Ferns will likely be joined by one other linebacker recruit, likely a guy who projects to the middle.
Nice try, Jean de Valk, making the blue of your background a greenish gray, as if we wouldn't recognize le drapeau tricolore as anything but a call to arms against the Bourbons of college football.
Didn't realize the French national anthem was a bloody minded board rant did you?
This plus a wallpaper about the cheat-sheet gloves are available in the thread. Allons enfants de la Michigan, le jour de gloire est arrivé!
Every Time Michigan Loses, George Lucas Writes a Love Scene. The annual if:then prediction thread by L'oeil du tigre gives six different scenarios for the 2012 season rated from Empire to Jar Jar. I'm in agreement on the order of quality, but not that an 8-4 season, even with a fifth loss to MSU, could be as painful as Attack of the Clones. Go with me here. I could see 700, maybe even 800 more Michigan games in my lifetime, yet in all of human history we've had six Star Wars movies. And to wait for two decades of hype to get that… Argh. Honestly, if I was told I had a chance to go back and fix Star Wars Episode I or change the outcome of Football Armageddon '06, I don't know man…
…but I co-sign SO HARD on this, especially Anakin being a teen and a Vader-Padme-Obi Wan love triangle. And Mace Windu…I digress.
What Shall We Do With Fullbacks? A short but potent message by Renault en Ben: We should all start thinking about Hopkins and Houma and future fullbacks recruited by this staff as less like Kevin Dudley and more like Aaron Shea because Al Borges is a West Coast guy and West Coast offenses use their fullbacks as passing options in the flat. Sometimes they can run block too. Short-term I think Hopkins doesn't have the hands or the hop to be a scary passing threat like some TE-ish fullbacks, however he does have a running back's rushing skillz, so they'll use those. As for the future: eventually we'll have a U-Back to be that. Borges and Hoke say they like a low-altitude kind of player who can pop a guy low and get North-South quickly on the FB dive. Watch Houma's highlights—the second half is almost entirely dive runs. That's not necessarily a Dudley, but it's more LeRoy Hoard than Aaron Shea. Hoard was 5'11, built like a tank, and accelerated like a 1970 Boss 302 Mustang V8.
The Defenses are Back. The series that won Monsieur Couer-Vingt a DotW (plus the inaugural "hero" points) continued this week with the Returning Defense of 2012 Opponents part the first and second. He used blanket stats, which I think makes bad defenses look like they're returning more (Purdue & Minnesota) because it doesn't check for how many plays faced. Helpful user euh-tay-ah mille-vingt-deux notes Phil Steele does a similar analysis.
There was also a nice little diary by the same on Bama, ND, and Ohio State, and recent updates on those teams. I'd like something like this—better formatted—to continue throughout the season. You know, like a weekly around the opponents news thing to round up what their blogs are saying about them. Again, monsiuer couerVingt is your Diarist of the Week.
Elsewheres in analysis LSA class de deux-mille is goofing around with a spreadsheet of Big Ten player weights and heights. Part two is by position and I'm just linking to that one because the first doesn't break it up by contributors and thus will just call whichever team with the most lineman walk-ons the biggest.
Where Legends' Jockstraps Lie.
Thanks to phjhu89 (I can't translate that!). That's locker #21 in wood panels and there's a close-up of it and more in the diary (bumped from a thread). The special locker makes it all but certain they're not giving Legends jerseys to young players but using them to reward old ones. I'm with the people against this, but I'm sure it will look less weird when 11 and 48 etc. are all teaked out as well and if it's good for recruiting…
Preseason Polls Have Been Meaningless Since the Time of Louis VII. In 1149, the Associated Scribes submitted a poll claiming the Glorious Franks* would sweep the next season's European battles. Then a coalition of kings released their own poll claiming that no, it was the Holy Notre Dame Empire that would prevail by winterfell. So began pre-season polls. Actually they go back to 1950 and usually rate Michigan too high. Thou hast perform'd well in gathering us this parchment good Sir Dévot du Loup Glouton.
Etc. The Twin City socks mentioned in Three &Out are comfy, but to be honest they're less comfortable than my ski socks. Anyway I don't think the socks in the Northwestern photo are the TCs, but horray to Section Une for finding M's on socks of M history. And in things less important than socks: two meta articles on an MGOpoints system that isn't used anymore, because there is no such thing as data that our readers won't put in a spreadsheet.
* Yes "Franks." Louis's son Phil was the one who started calling it France.
Best of the Board
AARON SHEA PLUS ALL THE POINTS. UMdad wanted to find video of this one play where Aaron Shea blocked three guys at once…you know, that one:
"… But that's my job, to go out there and block a linebacker, or, you know, all of them."
The hero of the day is helpful reader Carcajous, who found not just the Daily excerpt above but the video too. I highly recommend poking around in the video to relive the setup before the triple-block run and Clarence Williams at his Clarence Williamsiest. I don't recommend poking around in that issue of the Daily because I was 18 and had only recently discovered the long dash.
BETTER NOT TO SHOW THE OPPONENTS
That day once a year when your season tickets come, and you get really excited and put them out on the kitchen table to stare at them until you realize the last four are the only ones you really give a damn about. Sigh, even years.
HELLO: MICHAEL FERNS!! HELLO: MICHAEL FERNS!! HELLO: MICHAEL FERNS!! HELLO! Before he (I'm guessing accidentally) somehow turned his account into a function that auto-posted Hello: Michael Ferns posts to the board every few minutes, user kaykay put together a "Projected Depth Chart for 2015" thing every fan base puts together in the depths of the offseason when every incoming freshman and recruit is going to reach all of their potential. I rescued the thread from that smoldering account to save my response, a Projected Depth Chart for 2012, as we thought it would be in 2009.
ETC. Lacrosse rules seem to favor more offense and less standing around, which as a casual fan who knows nothing about the sport I say thee yea.
Your Moment of Zen:
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O15||2||G||Offset I TE Twins||2||1||2||4-3-Over Plus||Run||Counter Sweep||Thomas||15|
|Badgers pressing with 3 LBs cheated to the eventual playside and a safety up for good measure. Michigan runs right into it (RPS -1). Line downblocks to seal three linemen while a double by Campbell and Jansen (+0.5 each) escorts the playside DE 5 yards downfield. However that safety plus three unblocked linebackers are set up and should have this play dead. The safety tries to leap into the backfield and gets helped by Hutchinson, leaving three LB versus Shea and Thomas. From here it's all Shea (+4) who reaches the first linebacker, then DETACHES TO TO BLOCK THE SECOND LB INTO THE 3RD!!!! (!!!!!) [breathe] (!!!!!!!!). Thomas walks into the end-zone wondering where everybody went. Barry Alvarez quits football.|
|RUN+: Campbell, Jansen (+0.5), Shea (+4)||RUN-:|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-7, 1 min 2nd Q. Since this is 1998 a 14-point lead means Wisconsin is cooked; everyone go back to reading the Kenneth Starr report.|
Sponsor note. You may have spotted the MGoPatio button on the left sidebar, and wondered "what is that"? If you're a guy with corporate events to plan or you want to host a killer personal event, it's a good idea. As you can see, it's located in the shadow of the Big House itself, and is fancy. The two-level space is heated/air conditioned, features a full bath, has multiple HDTV flat-screens and sound systems. It has grills, coolers, tables & chairs, and will let you store stuff the night before. It will impress people you want to impress, sometimes even before it exists. Sports Illustrated reserved it for the MSU game before it was even completed.
Get started on impressing people by:
- Hitting their Facebook page and liking MGoPatio, which 1) gets you $500 off a full rental and 2) lets you enter a sweepstakes to win one of two original 1927 California Redwood bench seats or one of two fiberglass bench covers from Michigan Stadium, added in 1965.
- Mentioning MGoBlog when enquiring at that Facebook page for $200 off a ground floor rental or $500 off a whole-site rental.
- Ask about the ticket option...but only if you want to sit on the 48-yard line with three friends.
- Contact MGoPatio through Facebook for reservation information.
The discounts expire next week, so reserve it fast. And invite me if you do book this thing. It sounds kind of awesome.
Four years. Phil Brabbs just celebrated four years of existence post-Multiple Myeloma. Here's to forty more.
New era: GTFO. UCF getting a single year of postseason ban for their lack of institution control was exhibit A, and now it seems like that the ever-expanding evidence that UNC football players were in fraudulent classes is not the NCAA's concern:
Going a step further, a report engineered by a faculty committee concluded -- though not yet fully endorsed by the university -- that academic counselors assigned to specific teams perhaps pushed athletes to those baloney classes.
And the NCAA apparently has no jurisdiction in this matter.
Which is why, dear folks in Indianapolis, people just don't get you sometimes.
It would seem to the layman that the intersection of athletics and academic dishonesty is exactly the right spot for the NCAA to step in.
Except, as of right now, there is no indication that the NCAA will revisit or re-examine the penalties it has already inflicted on UNC and its football team for violations related to improper benefits and academic misconduct involving a tutor.
This goes beyond clustering, but UNC is apparently not going to get anything tacked on to their now-standard single year of penance and slight hindrance in the future. Any hopes schools that egregiously break the rules would suffer consequences that would make them hesitate seems gone. Maybe when the new penalties come in, I guess.
Sirius bomb. SiriusXM was on campus a couple days ago and produced a bunch of podcasts for your delectation:
Rick Neuheisel asks some good questions, worth a listen.
Basketball preview things. Eamonn Brennan and Big Ten Wonk take to the pages of ESPN.com to say things about Big Ten basketball. Trey Burke (surprise!) is named Michigan's most important player. Brennan's worst case scenario is better than just about every team Michigan's fielded since the Fab Five:
Worst-case scenario: It's hard to see this team, which is indisputably more talented and almost certain to be more dynamic, somehow not being in Big Ten title contention by the end of next February. But if somehow the Wolverines are merely above average in 2012-13, it could be because they carry over last season's just-OK defensive effort (No. 60 in adjusted defensive efficiency). Or because they lack the breadth of reliable 3-point shooters (Evan Smotrycz transferred, while Zack Novak and Stu Douglass graduated) who have come to define coach John Beilein's two-guard front offense, which relies on 3-point shooting to stretch the floor. I think Beilein will make it work, and I think Michigan will be very tough to beat. But increased success is far from guaranteed.
Mr. Gasaway's bits are Insider'd Power Rankings($). Michigan checks in fourth behind the three teams you'd expect:
I may not be betting on a second consecutive Big Ten title for Michigan, but I love their chances to make it further in the NCAA tournament than they did last time around.
Hopefully that won't be hard. I think Gasaway is a little too down on Iowa, which adds a couple of touted freshmen to a solid core of White/Marble/Basabe and should find themselves breaking their NCAA tourney drought this year. He has them ninth; I'd put them sixth.
Oh, man. Fire Jerry Kill proposes more Penn State shirts produced by that awful "Smack" company responsible for the hur-hur-hur rivalry shirts favored by Larry the Cable Guy enthusiasts everywhere. This one may be based on actual threads from BWI:
I couldn't wear that ironically, but someone make this and I'll take a dozen:
Gendo is so getting sued by old Penn State lettermen.
BONUS: Gendo surveys the "#teamoutlaw" twitter phenomenon and comes up with ICP.
DOUBLE BONUS: are you in the market for some appalling comments about the various Penn State transfers? (The comments are in the comments.)
It was expensive while it lasted. Michigan announced a StubHub partnership last year to great fanfare; now, like the Pac 12-Big Ten scheduling accord, it appears we're never to speak of it again. Michigan's now showing up as a "past partner" on the hub:
Wonder what went wrong. I can't imagine the AD passing up a buck.
FWIW, the StubHub think always struck me as brilliantly nefarious. By giving you printed-out tickets that would invalidate the originally issued ones, they undermined all ticket markets that were not StubHub. If you bought a ticket you had no assurance it hadn't been sold already; if you sold a ticket you had no guarantee it wouldn't be resold twice and get you in hot water when someone complained and they traced it back to you, the person Michigan originally sold the ticket to. The only way to guarantee you got a valid ticket was to buy it off Stubhub. It was evil and brilliant and whoever came up with it got a promotion. Now: kaput. I wonder why.
"Zak was a hunter all summer long," Telep told AnnArbor.com via email Wednesday. "He looked fresh, hungry. He played to his size, looked like he improved his skill. Having said that, we've taken a flier on him.
"I don't think everyone would agree on him this high. We're rolling the dice and monitoring his senior year closely. Obviously we liked what we saw in the summer when compared to his peer group."
Derrick Walton made a smaller move from 40th to 32nd, but hopped over four point guards in the process. Mark Donnall slid but sticks in the top 100 at 97. Telep says Walton and Irvin are in the conversation to get in the McDonald's game.
That is all. Via EDSBS.
Orson on Wright Thompson on Meyer. Another part of the OSU PR offensive comes in an exclusive Wright Thompson sit-down with the Buckeyes' wooden but very, very successful head coach. Spencer Hall on that:
Wright Thompson got the full-access treatment to Urban Meyer, something he's never really granted anyone in a coaching situation, and pretty much nails the weirdass, ciphery personality of Meyer in his longform profile of him. One key point about Meyer is that he was never really likable as a head coach, so it's nice to see that Meyer doesn't even really seem to like himself a whole lot, and really never has.If that's a puff piece we disagree with your definition, but the last paragraph in particular is really, really interesting. <--arches eyebrows, invites literary discussion.
"He's gonna be different," Urban Meyer's wife says, and makes me preemptively sad for her.
Etc.: Michigan Stadium gets two and a half votes for "toughest place to play in the Big Ten." Beaver Stadium gets eight, so they'll be moving up in the 2016 version of this poll. Mark Mangino at OSU practice looks like just another OSU fan. Don't forget to tilt that head, though.
The Black and Blue producers tell the Willis Ward story in the News. The NCAA has to release financial documents to the Ed O'Bannon group. Maize and Go Blue looks at the freshmen numbers and their pasts. Part 1. Part 2.
PREVIOUSLY ON "MGOBLOG WRITERS DRAFT THEIR OWN BIG TEN TEAMS FOR A GIMMICKY PRESEASON SERIES OF POSTS"…
SETH got Denard, and therefore won. He also drafted a killer 1-2 DT punch.
ACE drafted all the Wisconsin players he could think of and screwed me by taking James Vandenberg too early.
HEIKO drafted two spread quarterbacks and was being egged on to take more.
BRIAN is going to need all the pass rush he can muster since Nathan Scheelhaase is his quarterback, but he's got a lot of that and Taylor Lewan.
SNARK was passed back and forth.
READERS are reminded that the goal of this thing is to assemble the most impressive-seeming full starting 22 plus a nickelback and FB/H-back type.
When we left our noble drafters, BRIAN had just cursed fate and time, taken Scheelhaase due to rules he himself implemented, and then nabbed Denicos Allen. Our scene set, we return to the WAR ROOM of the TOLEDO RAMADA INN. The SECOND PICK of ROUND FOUR is set to happen…
/moans incomprehensibly about his QB situation
PICK: Michael Buchanan (DE, Illinois)
CURRENT O: Braxton Miller (QB, OSU), Taylor Martinez (QB, UNL), Kyle Prater (WR, NW)
CURRENT D: Michael Buchanan (DE, Illinois)
BRIEF EXPLANATION: This 6-6, 240 lb terror is statistically the B1G's best returning DE not named Tom. He racked up 13.5 TFL and 7.5 sacks last season. Illinois has had a pretty good track record with defensive linemen over the past few years, so I'm with Ron Zook on this one.
OPTIONAL SNARK ABOUT PICKS MADE EARLIER: Sucks to whoever has to pick Tom.
PICK: Ricky Wagner (OL, Wisconsin)
CURRENT O: Montee Ball (RB, UW), James Vandenberg (QB, IA), Ricky Wagner (OL, UW)
CURRENT D: Chris Borland (LB, UW)
BRIEF EXPLANATION: Trenches. MANBALL. America. [ED: Also it turns out I was wrong about Lewan being the only elite LT in the conference this year—NFL types love them some Wagner.]
OPTIONAL SNARK ABOUT PICKS MADE EARLIER: Ignoring game theory + James Vandenbergy > Game theory + Nathan Scheelhaase. SCIENCE.
CURRENT O: Denard Robinson (QB, MICH), Michael Schofield (OT, MICH)
CURRENT D: Kawann Short (3T, PUR), Johnathan Hankins (NT, OSU), Jonathan Brown (MLB, ILL)
EXPLANATION: Ace can be the Badgers, my goal is to be the Wolverines on offense and the Lions on defense...the Detroit kind. That continues with the junior Brown at middle linebacker. He's 6-1/235, faster than Denicos Allen, more powerful than Chris Borland, and able to average 2 TFL PER GAME against Big Ten competition while just a sophomore. His positives are speed, tackling, play diagnosis, coverage, blitzing, picking through traffic, getting off blocks, and laying huge, fumble-inducing hits. His negatives are he once Karl Malone'd a Wildcat, which to the people who make Big Ten lists is the next worst thing to beating up a nun. Since Gunther Cunningham can't have him for two more years, I'm drafting Brown right here.
On Schofield: Okay so he's by far not the highest rated linemen left on the board and if he played for Northwestern I'd be saving him as a value pick, but there's a precipice from here on tackles who can move enough to fit the spread, and everyone but the Wisconsin Anbenders in this league is running a spread. So...Schofield, who thank-UFR has been as heavily scouted as any remaining tackle (for the year he was +97/-51.5/45.5, closer to Lewan than Huyge). Those reports, mostly from guard, say he's about as fleet-footed as 6-7/300 guys come. His best game last year was vs. Northwestern when Michigan started pulling with him; his only Kryptonite is Kawaan Short (and I have Short). There's a reason Rodriguez was hell-bent on getting Schofield and that's the same reason I'm reaching to make sure I have at least one spread tackle I'm absolutely sure of.
OPTIONAL SNARK ABOUT PICKS MADE EARLIER: Somebody make this into a graphic meme with the Brian photobomb: Spends year crediting interior DL for Gholston's sack numbers...drafts Denicos Allen.
CURRENT O: Montee Ball (RB, UW), James Vandenberg (QB, IA), Ricky Wagner (OL, UW)CURRENT D: Chris Borland (LB, UW), William Gholston (DE, MSU)
BRIEF EXPLANATION: I'm in desperate need of a pass-rusher, and with the available options dwindling I'm finding fewer and fewer reasons not to pick Gholston, the 6'7", 278-pound freak who's named to damn near every pre-season watch list out there. Gholston may not take on every block head-on, but he still managed to pick up 16 TFL and five sacks 2011, and that latter total should only increase this year. With 70 total tackles last season, 36 of them solo, he was no slouch against the run, either. If Gholston comes close to living up to his considerable hype this year, I just got the steal of the draft.
PREEMPTIVE SNARK ATTACK: Shut up, Heiko, and pick Robert Marve already.
CURRENT O: Braxton Miller (QB, OSU), Taylor Martinez (QB/RB, UNL), Kyle Prater (WR, NW), Devin Gardner (QB/WR, Michigan)
CURRENT D: Michael Buchanan (DE, ILL)
BRIEF EXPLANATION: The B1G doesn't have too many speedy downfield guys, so I wanted another jump ball threat to complement Prater. I'm taking Gardner. He's another unproven commodity, but let's be real. He's 6'4", 203 pounds, and was "instantly Michigan's best receiver" this spring. Did you know that he can throw, too? Maybe he's not the best at reading defenses, but he is the missing component to my Wildcat/Flea-flicker/Triple Pass/Quadruple Option offense. He won't get used too much in Borges's offense this season, but I'd like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that this isn't fantasy football (see rules/objective). Stats won't matter much. That inevitable instability in your knees when you picture Miller, Martinez, Prater, and Gardner simultaneously on the field terrorizing your 5'11 linebackers, however, does matter.
OPTIONAL SNARK ABOUT PICKS MADE EARLIER: If we were playing Settlers of Catan, this would be the equivalent of me taking all the ore. Except for the Denard ore. Seth got the Denard ore.
CURRENT O: Nathan Scheelhaase (QB, ILL), Jared Abbrederis (WR, UW), Taylor Lewan(LT, M)
CURRENT D: John Simon (DE, OSU), Denicos Allen (LB, MSU), Terry Hawthorne (CB, ILL)
BRIEF EXPLANATION: There is no way Abbrederis should still be here. He's the Big Ten's leading returning receiver with 933 yards and by far its best punt returner. He's a rising junior, too, and should improve more than guys entering their senior years. He's 6'2"! He's fast! He led the conference with a 17.0 YPC! Nick Toon is gone and Abbrederis is about to get rained on by Danny O'Brien! Look at all the trophies and trees he's got! He's still on the board here!
You guys are racists. Seriously, you need counseling. Even Aceconsin left Abbrederis on the board.
All the better for me since I need a guy for Scheelhaase to throw 80% of his passes at whether he's open or not.
Speaking of counseling, the second pick here is a guy who's faster than Roy Roundtree. Yes: that Terry Hawthorne. He's now a senior corner coming off a strong junior year who projects into the top half of the NFL draft and is the Big Ten's surest bet to be a lockdown corner in 2012. He's bigger than the other candidates and is so important to the Illini that he's going to get the Woodson role and double as a wide receiver. And now no one can take Roundtree.
Side note: Four Illini went in the top 48 picks of the most recent NFL draft and they're flying off the board here. It's almost like Ron Zook was a good recruiter, but not a very good football coach.
EVIDENTLY REQUIRED SNARK ABOUT PREVIOUS PICKS: Michael Buchanan had his jaw wired shut and will hit fall camp a fairy-like* 156 pounds. And that's Heiko's least insane pick. I blame medicine. Meanwhile, Ace picks MSU's second-best starting DE and Seth talks some ish he knows not wot of.
Let me rap at you, Seth: I said Gholston's production was almost entirely on pursuit and that his big plays were the product of other guys forcing plays back into him. Guys like Denicos Allen and his manic blitzing. WORD TO YOUR MOTHER. ALSO FOOTBALL GAMES ARE WON IN THE TRENCHES AND WITH SHUTDOWN CORNERBACKS AND A LACK OF RACISM, RACISTS.
*[actual fairy, with wings and dust and all that]
CURRENT O: Braxton Miller (QB, OSU), Taylor Martinez (QB/RB, UNL), Kyle Prater (WR, NW), Devin Gardner (QB/WR, Michigan), DeAnthony Arnett (WR, MSU)
CURRENT D: Michael Buchanan (DE, ILL)
BRIEF EXPLANATION: WHATEVA. I DO WHAT I WANT. And I want to add to my offensive star power with the selection of DeAnthony Arnett. Arnett is the quintessential "space player" in the Steve Breaston mold who has nice speed but more importantly ball skills and good wiggle after the catch. Even with Michigan State's recent glut of highly ranked receivers, I think Arnett is most likely to emerge as No. 1. I briefly considered Raheem Mostert for this duty, but I didn't like that he was lowly regarded as a receiver out of high school and barely contributed on offense last year despite clearly being the fastest guy on Purdue's offense. Someone else can have him.
SNARK: The funny thing is I also considered taking Abbrederis, but as I was google-scouting him, my search bar kept auto-completing to "Jared Abbrederis walk on." The guy's a (former) walk-on. Sure he's fast, but his production has been the result of other teams stacking up against Montee Ball and double-covering Nick Toon. Also, I personally checked up on Michael Buchanan in Chicago. His jaw was just fine.
CURRENT O: Montee Ball (RB, UW), James Vandenberg (QB, IA), Ricky Wagner (OL, UW)CURRENT D: Chris Borland (LB, UW), William Gholston (DE, MSU), Johnny Adams (CB, MSU)
BRIEF EXPLANATION: Adams can play either boundary or field corner for me, having started 11 games at field as a sophomore before switching to the boundary for all 13 games last season. While Adams isn't the biggest corner at 5'11", 177, he's a physical corner who plays big; he's recorded 50+ tackles in each of the last two seasons, and even added three sacks in 2011. The conference is short on elite cover corners, and while Adams doesn't fall into that category, he's solid against the pass (3 INT, 6 PBU LY) and gives my squad very solid run support from the secondary.
SNARK: Don't mind me, just drafting a team full of players who made the B1G title game last year. Meanwhile, Heiko's defense is comprised of stick figures and crushed dreams, but he's clearly unaffected by logic, reason, or even snark.
CURRENT O: Denard Robinson (QB, MICH), Michael Schofield (OT, MICH)
CURRENT D: Kawann Short (3T, PUR), Jonathan Hankins (NT, OSU), Marcus Rush (DE, MSU), Jonathan Brown (MLB, ILL), Micah Hyde (CB, IOWA)
BRIEF EXPLANATION: Elite defenses start up front, and the aptly named Marcus KILLQUARTERBACKSACK further feeds my craving for 3-and-out bloodsport. Last year he was one of the best ends in the conference with 58 tackles, 4 sacks, and 12 TFLs from a mostly the 5-tech position (against M they split him out a bit more). And all this as just a freshman, meaning this year he should be as much improved as anyone else in the conference. Evidence of that: in the MSU spring game they had to pull him out early after he wracked up five tackles and three sacks. He can play WDE or 5-tech for me. DL count is up to 178 tackles, 29 TFLs, and 12.5 sacks, just slightly better than the combined production of 2011 Roh/Martin/RVB/Heininger with just 75% of the spots filled.
And just in case one of Heiko's 800 quarterbacks thinks to do something as womanish as throwing the ball OVER my DL of DOOM (please nobody teach Scheelhaase how to do this; Ace at least I trust to honorably run power), I've grabbed the last of the conference's highly rated cornerbacks. Micah Hyde is Marlin Jackson, down to the moonlight season at free safety. He''s 1st team all-conference to everybody, is the best tackler among Big Ten CBs, and can be trusted to shut down any one good receiver for a game (which is the most any of these teams is going to have anyway) and arrives with 39 games of experience.
SNARK: All ye holders of unblocked Spartan sack leaders, call me when your guy beats Lewan.
CURRENT O: Montee Ball (RB, UW), James Vandenberg (QB, IA), Ricky Wagner (OL, UW), Keenan Davis (WR, IA)
CURRENT D: Chris Borland (LB, UW), William Gholston (DE, MSU), Johnny Adams (CB, MSU)
BRIEF EXPLANATION: Davis was Iowa's secondary option last year due to the presence of Marvin McNutt, and he's still the conference's returning leader in receptions per game after hauling in 50 passes over 12 games in 2011. At 6'3", 215, Davis gives Vandenberg a big target; while he doesn't have game-breaking athleticism, he's got good hands and jump-ball skills, making him both a reliable possession receiver and a viable downfield threat. A four-star talent out of high school, Davis earned an offer from Oklahoma, and he's got the potential to be the Big Ten's best receiver now that he's out from under McNutt's shadow.
SNARK: It's difficult to bring the snark with this pick when Seth is putting together a really strong team. Thankfully, that team features neither Taylor Lewan nor the conference's second-best tackle (Wagner), but I guess it's cute that he's talking smack on Brian's behalf.
CURRENT O: Braxton Miller (QB, OSU), Taylor Martinez (QB/RB, UNL), Kyle Prater (WR, NW), Devin Gardner (QB/WR, UM), DeAnthony Arnett (WR, MSU)
CURRENT D: Michael Buchanan (DE, ILL), Jordan Hill (DT, PSU)
BRIEF EXPLANATION: We're approaching a big drop-off in B1G interior defensive linemen, so I'm taking a hiatus from drafting quarterbacks to claim Hill before I'm left with some guys from Indiana. At 6-1, 300 lbs, Hill has good size and leverage. His measurables have a slight edge over those of Illinois DT Akeem Spence, who was also under consideration and also very good. Hill had 8.0 TFLs and 3.5 sacks from the 3-tech position, which earned him some All-B1G love. When teams ran at him (to avoid Devon Still), they didn't get very far, as he ending up leading the Penn State defensive line with 59 tackles. The Nittany Lions are verging on becoming a tire fire, so who knows how their defense will do this year, but in a bubble Hill still has the talent and the potential to be drafted -- like, actually drafted, by like, a real NFL team -- in 2013.
SNARK: Seth's defense is only worrisome because his players are liable to ragdoll Denard Robinson or knee people in the nuts. Since Seth has Denard Robinson, worrying about the former can be his prerogative. And come on, Ace. Have a little imagination. Picking Keenan Davis is like picking Jared Abbrederis. Both will spend the rest of their careers gluing glow-in-the-dark stars to their 8-foot ceilings.
Uh, guys… are we getting worried about the season yet? Denard and Lewan went off the board early, Gardner was picked at WR, and Seth reached for Schofield, and that's it as far as M players. Meanwhile we seem to be drafting most of MSU's defense and the entirety of hypothetical conference title game foe Wisconsin.
CURRENT O: Nathan Scheelhaase (QB, ILL), Jared Abbrederis (WR, UW), Taylor Lewan(LT, M)
CURRENT D: John Simon (DE, OSU), Akeem Spence (DT, Illinois), Jake Ryan (LB, M), Denicos Allen (LB, MSU), Terry Hawthorne (CB, ILL)
BRIEF EXPLANATION: I'll grab Spence, then, a guy who various folks are hyping up as a potential first or second round pick in next year's draft. Sixty-nine tackles is an impressive number for an interior lineman and Illinois's stout run defense was due in no small part to his contributions. Nine of those tackles came against Michigan, a team that kicked his ass the year previous. Three-tech: secured.
And then I will AMP my PASS RUSH with ELECTROLYTES. Whether it's at WDE or SLB, Jake Ryan is a guaranteed breakout player entering his sophomore year. He's got the defense down now, he's added 20 pounds, and he finished last year with a flourish--4 TFLs against Virginia Tech. He pairs with Allen and Simon to terrify your "quarterbacks," neutralizing any advantage...
/weeps in corner
EVIDENTLY REQUIRED SNARK ABOUT PREVIOUS PICKS: Dude, Abbrederis was Wisconsin's go-to-guy in their big games last year: 95 yards against Nebraska, 113 against OSU, 93 against PSU, 119 in the bowl game. And he averaged over 15 yards a punt return when Toon and Ball were on the sideline. Y'all be some Black Panthers up in here.
To be continued when Ace stops fighting the fact that he's slowly beginning to look like the unholy offspring of Dantonio and Bielema, Heiko finds moar quarterbacks to draft, Seth stops playing with his Denard action figure, and Brian talks himself into a "yeah, Nathan Scheelhaase… this could work!" narrative.
"Okay. Who’s going to break the ice?"
With Fitz out for a while, how quickly will you be able to identify your next No. 1 RB?
“Well we’re just going to the next guy. We’re not really changing anything. Thomas Rawls is going to be that next guy. Vince is going to do what he’s done, and on we go. I think the key to these situations from a game plan perspective is to try to make as little out of it, to make it as seamless as you can, and just go.”
What can you glean from the first few practices?
“Not much. I mean, what do you see? They’re just running around in shorts. Until somebody’s going to hit somebody and somebody’s going to do something, it’s really just kind of glorified aerobics in a lot of ways. I hate to put it that way, but you know, we have a few kids run pretty good. We’ll learn more today because we’re in half pads and we’ll learn even more towards the end of the week. To make any hard and fast assessments of where we are is really hard to do right now. It is. I’m not copping out, I’m just telling you this. We know more about the offense, but we kind of knew that before we even lined up. That part is better.”
Does that mean Vince is just a third down guy?
“No. Not necessarily. Vince is going to pretty much play the same role as he did a year ago, and that wasn’t always on third down. So he was in there sometimes to spell backs, and we’ll just see how it shakes out, but Thomas is going to get a good chance, and Vince is going to get a good chance. Justice Hayes is in the fold, too. So we’ll kind of see, and again these next few days -- not few days, but really this next week or so, when we start and the full contact takes hold, we’ll learn more about that situation.”
Have you talked much to Fitz?
“A little bit. As much as I ever do, ya know. ‘Hi Fitz, what’s going on, how ya feelin.’ Yeah, I mean. I talk to all offensive players at one time or another. But yeah, that’s about it.”
You’ve been around Rawls. What do you like about his style and what he brings to the table?
“He’s reckless. He runs with a demeanor that’s aggressive. Suffice to say, aggressive would be the best word -- he looks like he’s mad when he runs sometimes. But he’s a tough guy, and if you hit him you’re going to feel him, I promise you that. You are going to feel him, because there’s times when he’s just simply not interested in avoiding you.”
In your offense, how do you choose where to place your X and Z receivers? Does it make a difference?
“Yeah, it does make a difference, but optimal thing is you’d like to have a guy that plays the position. But the X receiver tends to draw a little more single coverage depending on the team. Some teams that’s not true, and he’s on the line of scrimmage most of the time, so he’s going to draw tighter press coverage, too, whereas the flanker’s not going to draw quite as much tight coverage. The X is a guy that’s got to be kind of rangy because he’s got to be able to get some jump balls. The Z does sometimes, too. The Z’s got to be a guy that moves around a lot more. He’s going to be in more formations than the X is, so he’s got to be on the ball with regard to that. But the skill set in terms of being able to catch, run, and jump, it’s very similar. But once we get them there we try and kind of fit the guys that look like they can handle those things I talked about better.”
What role do you envision Jeremy Gallon to be in?
“Pretty much more the same, with a little bit more seasoning, if that makes any sense. He’s a tough guy. He plays much bigger than his size. You just don’t see a lot of guys his height that can go up and get jump balls like he does. He’s a very good blocker. But what I’d say in answer to that question is that every phase of his game should be a little better simply because of his overall understanding of what we’re trying to do. But he’s a reliable kid, and the quarterbacks have faith in his ability to go get the ball. They know they’ll get his best effort every time he goes up. I would look for him as well as Roy, who’s really [had an outstanding spring] -- both of them have taken that next step. Now I hope we get some carryover once we start playing.”
How much do you think you can use Devin at receiver?
“Well, that’s going to be a lot by game plan, but we’re developing him at two different positions, and let me tell you that’s a challenge. For a kid to be an occasional player is one thing, but to be a guy that you’re really kind of splitting time with, that’s a challenge, but we’ll just see how that shakes out. That’s still kind of in the embryonic stages. As we go, we’ll decide how much of it we’re going to use.”
Do you expect to use him more at one position or another?
“He could -- it depends. I can’t commit to that because you don’t know. At the end of the day, maybe, but we’re trying to exploit every option at this point.”
Does the decision to play Devin at wide receiver mean you have more confidence in Russell Bellomy’s ability as a backup quarterback?
“Yeah. I have more confidence in all their abilities. Any way you cut it, Russell Bellomy’s going to have to take the next step, just like we’re asking everybody else to do. So yeah. I think that’s the key point. You have to develop three quarterbacks. At this point, anyway. Now once you get into the season and you decide how you distribute all that, you’re really working just with two quarterbacks, but we have to see how this whole thing shakes out. Right now we’re still an open book, but we do have some nice options, and right now that’s all you can ask for.”
Have you consulted any other coaches who have dealt with players splitting time between two positions?
“Uh, no not really. No, I tell you what we did do when I was at UCLA is we came here when [Michigan] had Charles Woodson. We came for a spring. Just curious because we had a kid there who we were talking about doing some of that stuff with. But that was different. It was a little different because Charles was playing in a defensive and offensive position. He had this completely different deal. You have to learn two different systems. But Devin’s … in the same system. Learning, hearing the same words all the time. But I can still remember doing that.”
Have you done this with many players in the past?
“A few. A couple over the years, yeah. One time or another you’re forced to do some of that. Sometimes you’re just short on depth, particularly when I coached lower levels when you didn’t have all the scholarships, you know. You had to have some kids that were versatile, so it was through necessity.”
“Oh god, I don’t even remember anymore. God I’d have to walk in the room -- I don’t remember.”
How hard is it for a kid to split time?
“It’s tough because there’s not that many reps. You get X amount of reps and you have to figure out how to get them those reps without killing them. It’s hard. It’s not easy to do.”
You said you’ll see “how it shakes out.” Can you determine that by the end of fall camp?
“Well we determine it before we get to a game situation because we have a game plan, right? You have to make some hard and fast decisions before you get to game time because you have to have a plan going into the game. You can’t do that experiment. And I will say this, too: once you get into the game, it better work out at least in part how you wanted it to, or you’re gonna have to make some adjustments, but at one point in time, we have to have an idea how many reps everybody’s going to play. You know what I mean? Not just him, but everybody -- where and when and what situations. That’s part of game planning.”
Does it help Devin that he’s practicing at two positions that have to work together so closely?
“I think so. Yeah I do.”
Are Devin and Bellomy 1A and 1B?
“No, Devin’s still the second quarterback. That part of it doesn’t change.”
Any impressions of the freshman receivers?
“Eh … nah. I ain’t doin’ it. Nah. I could [say], ‘This guy’s great, that guy’s great,’ then tomorrow you put pads on and go, ‘Oh my god.’ No. Ask me in a week and I’ll probably have a better assessment.”
Does Devin’s switch to receiver show off his athleticism more?
“Yeah. Yeah, and that’s why we did it. Some quarterbacks are quarterbacks and that’s all they are. We’re fortunate in that we have really a couple good quarterbacks that can probably play [receiver] … and he’s one of those guys. You know, he’s a big guy that can run and has good hands. So I mean it’d be bad coaching if he’d be standing next to me the whole game when you have a guy who can really help us. Last year we were pretty deep at that position so it wasn’t as critical, but I think this year he can play more of a part.”
Thoughts on offensive line chemistry?
“Eh, again, it’s just so hard to call, but I know that those kids worked their butts off in the offseason. They did. And they worked together as much as they could. I think that’s something that if it’s not there now, it’s going to come because I know how important it is to those kids.”
MGoQuestion: How do you evaluate the effectiveness of the deuce package, and will you consider using it again this season?
“Well I had my analyst do a -- I believe we were eight-point-something yards [per attempt]. I’m not sure exactly. I don’t have it in front of me, but it was good. And even the plays that weren’t good set up plays that were good. You know what I mean. There were guys we’d run a play that wouldn’t yield much, only to be set up by another play that did. It’s not always the play, sometimes It’s the residual effect of the initial play. So it was good. Now how much we use of it? I don’t know. That’s a game plan deal. As we get through the install and we see where we are, we’ll decide on that. But we’re not doing any of that stuff now. That’s not what we’re about right now. We’re about teaching the system and getting our valuations straight. And once we do that, then and only then will we start playing with some of the more I guess cute phases of our offense. I hate using that word. Why’d I say that.”
You mentioned starting Denard off a little too quickly with the pro-style concepts. How do you approach it this year?
“Well we have a lot better feel for what we are. You know what I mean. We knew Denard was a good spread quarterback. I mean, anybody could see that. It was a matter of how much he could do of what we’d done in the past -- because we were always going to have some of that in our offense. We decided that when we came here. We decided that when I took the job. So once we decided what percentages that was, then we could proceed accordingly. We have so much better feel for that now because we’ve been through a fall, a spring, we know basically how much we want to be of both. It’s different now. It’s different without a question.”
Can you make a determination on certain position battles -- like left guard -- by a certain date? Do you have a timetable?
“I would never put a date on it because it could change the day before the game, you know what I mean? But there is a point in time when you have to narrow the field down to how many kids you’re going to practice in scout teams. And that’ll be sometime within a couple weeks to the game -- within at least a week and a half to the game. We have not set that date yet, but at that time it’s fish or cut bait. You have to take the 18 to 20 players that you’re going to practice with every single day, then kind of go from there.”
1: pew pew pew 2: a man Al Borges isn't 3: an alternate universe
I think there is no way Mario O plays. A ton of guys could be put on field before him. Several combos could fill the WDE spot better, eg Ryan-Cam Gordon combo puts our best, or at least most experienced, backup on the field, Ryan-Avery is similar, or how about flip back Roh for a Roh-Brink/Heitzman/Wormley/Black(?) replacement. Given how important a redshirt could be to Mario, I would think coaches will be creative.
I agree with you philosophically. Ojemudia should get a redshirt. I get frustrated when certain players have theirs burned for what seems like no reason. I'm with you, man. But… I don't see how he doesn't get on the field if Clark's issues are severe.
The problem with the above scenarios is that they reduce Michigan's specialization by flipping guys around and they still leave Michigan an injury from putting Ojemudia on the field. Is that injury reasonably likely? Yeah. So it seems to make more sense to leave Ryan at SLB full time, where he is still getting a grasp on all the particulars, and Roh at SDE, where he needs every snap he can get to figure out how to deal with his size limitations. The immediate payoff here seems real, and given the way Michigan is recruiting they figure they will be able to insert a Taco Charlton or 2014 kid into the lineup when Ojemudia graduates without losing too much. Of course, Mattison just told everyone that he was comfortable with the idea of Ryan at WDE in practice and proclaimed his faith in Cam Gordon's ability, so what do I know?
But even with that move, you're still juggling just three players between two positions. That's not tenable. If the coaches know Clark is going to be back relatively promptly, then I can see holding Ojemudia out the first couple games and getting him the redshirt. If Clark's out until Notre Dame or later, I think you have to blood Ojemudia and worry about the consequences in the distant future.
This may be a non feasible idea, but why not kill two birds with one stone by creating a triple option package for Denard and company? Everyone says its really hard to prepare for Air Force, and we could prepare our defense while surprising the crap out of Alabama. Think about it, our RB, FB, QB combo are familiar with zone reads and are a lot better than any combo air force will ever have. We surprised Ohio with the inverted veer last year, and Bama's young defense won't know what hit 'em.
In addition, I can't help but think kicking and coverage teams, plus Denard's (hopefully) reduction in interceptions will make up for the fortunate 80% fumble recovery rate. The special teams will likely improve with the influx of talent and depth we are getting, or negated by rule changes. Either way its a net gain for Michigan in special teams.
Unfortunately I think we have to file that under "not feasible." Triple option is not something you can go into halfway. Hell, Michigan's speed option last year was mostly a Denard run off-tackle that had little if any chance of getting to the tailback. The one time Denard pitched it was a fumble caused when a blitzing linebacker met him after he'd taken one step playside. While it had the excellent benefit of keeping defenses honest and shooting Denard into secondaries, calling it an "option" is being generous.
Adding a true triple option and trying to get him to better understand Borges's West Coast passing attack is way too much to bite off in one fall camp. Since Borges is what he is, he's going to do what he does, and that's get Denard to throw more accurate balls that are less frequently intercepted.
The inverted veer is a different business because it's a handoff. The worst thing that happens there is you make the wrong decision and you eat some yardage. We almost saw the worst thing with the option last year, and that's the last thing an offense trying to cut down on turnovers needs.
IN RE: making up for fewer fumbles recovered. I'm not sure the special teams will be much better than last year except in the realm of punting. Gibbons is still Gibbons, kick returns just got nerfed, and it's damn hard to have an impact punt return game these days what with everyone spread-punting their way to seven gunners. Punting should be better because Hagerup will either get his foot on straight or a quick hook for the steady Wile, but we're talking a few yards a game.
The interceptions, sure. Denard's interception rate dropped over the tougher second half of the year and he should improve somewhere between noticeably and spectacularly in year two with Borges. That still leaves Michigan treading water even in the most optimistic turnover scenario, and the schedule has taken a turn for the bear-like.
pre-bama thought experiment. in december of 2006, alabama offers rich rodriguez their head coaching job. he accepts. what happens to both alabama and michigan from then on?
Well, let's start with Alabama. They struggle through an RR-at-WVU transition year probably a little bit worse than their initial 6-6 Saban year, with Star Jackson taking over for the Bama bangs QBs midseason. Jackson doesn't end up transferring to nowheresville and becomes something like Pat White but probably not as good. No one gives six hundredths of a crap about the academics of RR's incoming recruits or Rita's jaguar pants, but RR probably still makes his fatal "I don't need Casteel that badly" error. With a somewhat more secure powerbase and money-providing demons, he does not hire GERG on try #2 and cycles through one of the then-available proven SEC DCs (Jon Chavis, for example).
This plus the better fit with his recruiting makes his defense not the worst ever assembled at the school he's coaching. He gets his QB a year earlier and has considerably better talent than he inherited at Michigan. He's replacing a total loser, one of many such since Bear. He does at least okay, probably pulls off an SEC title game or two, maybe wins it once, and sees a BCS bid or two.
He's probably still at Alabama in a Pelini-esque state: decent success, the fanbase is relatively happy with him, but they'll start to sour after a subpar year and two means you're out, buddy.
Meanwhile, Michigan finds itself adrift in the middle of the Les Miles/Bill Martin boat thing without a seemingly A-list candidate willing to jump. At that point I have no idea what they do. At the time I was muttering about how Jim Grobe mutterings were just the worst. Ferentz was out, Schiano was out, Miles was out, and Tedford was seemingly uninterested. Michigan clearly had no idea where to go, whereupon Rodriguez fell into their lap.
If Rodriguez is not there… does it matter? I'm not sure it matters. Lloyd was not Bo but he did have an impressive winning percentage, a national title, and the continuation of a record bowl streak. Would a pro-style coach have been able to turn Threet/Sheridan/no OL/nobody at all into a bowl appearance? I don't think so. At that point you're working from behind the eight ball and you have to be really fantastic to pull yourself out of that tailspin. Would Hoke have survived that? I doubt it; at that point his resume was a bunch of .500 seasons at Ball State. Would any outsider Michigan could have acquired have managed to hang on? Maybe by another year or two.
Even if we have no clue about who takes the reins in RR's absence in 2008, we can hazard a guess at their fate: similar hammering by OSU, flameout in 3-5 years, replacement. That's the way of things whenever you replace a legend, and if Carr wasn't a legend (debatable) he was definitely the continuation of Bo. It would have taken a truly A-level coach to not bomb out with no quarterbacks and no safeties and no offensive line, and it didn't look like any were available.
In the end, both programs are probably happy with the way things turned out. Alabama's case: duh. Michigan's: Rodriguez was such a terrible fit that Michigan rejected it in three years, at which point Hoke was just plausible enough to show up and shock everyone by doing everything right for going on 18 months.
“Well. I can tell you this. It’s fun to be back out there. Do I look like I’m 25? Because I sure feel like it. Tell you what, it’s fun to be out there catching again. It’s fun. That’s what you do it for.”
How long do you hope to keep doing it?
“I don’t know, maybe 30 more years. Who knows? As long as Brady keeps me. Who knows, he might not want to keep me very long. Who knows. I tell you what, this part of the season is what you really really look forward to coach. This is the teaching time. This is the molding of your team. Wellman, he gets the lucky part. He has them more time than anybody now with the new rules. But we get to have them and get to coach them and get to be around them. Especially when you’ve got some great kids and you’ve got some guys who are fun to coach, and that’s how the first couple days have been.”
What can you glean from just a few practices?
“Nothing really other than they have worked hard in the offseason. You don’t know anything until the pads come on. I think on the defensive side of it, though, when you install the defenses, because there’s carry-over -- they’re a lot more alert. They understand it a lot better. Last year at this time it was probably like they were talking a foreign language. Now they kind of understand it. When that happens now you can get into the little things that make that defense better because they do understand it. I’ve been pleased with their awareness and their interest in learning.”
What do you mean by little things they pick up on?
“Well, like in every defense, for example, you can draw it up and you can say, ‘You have this gap, you have this responsibility, you should align like this,’ but when a guy really starts understanding what the whole defense is about, then you can say, ‘Okay, when they’re in this formation, I can expect this.’ Or ‘when they motion like this, beware of this.’ You’ll hear a corner, for example, yelling out on the motion to the linebacker now, ‘Get ready for the end.’ Well a year ago they’re just hoping they’re aligned right. And just kind of trying to play their responsibility. And those are the kinds of things that happen once you’ve had the same group for a couple years.”
Last year it took a little while for the defensive line to gel. Will it be quicker for this group?
“I don’t know. I don’t know, and I’m not trying to be vague. You never know about your team until the bullets start flying, until you start really really getting tired, getting banged up, hitting. How does a team react then? That’s something why Brady runs a very very physical camp, and that’s why that part of it is something you have to work through and you have to make sure you can handle it, because that’s what it is in the Big Ten conference, so we don’t know that.”
MGoQuestion: Have you bought into the philosophy of rotating defensive linemen?
“That’s always something I like to do. You have to find out who earns the right. It’s always been a deal that you earn the right to be on the field as a Michigan football player. I don’t care what the reason is or why there should be a guy going in there. You don’t go in there until you earn the right. In fact I’ve been at places before where the starter would get after the second team guy because he wasn’t doing well enough because he needed somebody to come in for him. If you’re a great football player, you need a little bit of a break every once in a while in a tough, physical game, but you don’t want somebody to go in there that can’t handle his responsibility and help that team win. That’s what this is all about, to find out who -- is it 15 guys? Is it 11? Is it 12 guys? Is it 20 guys? Who earns the right to be out there during the heat of a game.”
Have you had the chance to look at Jake Ryan as a rush end?
“No. We’ve only had two practices. That goes along with the same idea that you put your best 11 on the field wherever they are. Obviously if a guy’s used to playing one position and you have to move him, you may not be as good. But that other guy coming in, the combination of the two might make you just as good.”
How comfortable are you with the thought of him playing there?
“I can tell you this: any time Jake Ryan is on the field, I feel good. Based on how he has worked and -- now again, he has to go through this camp also, but Jake Ryan has really really worked extremely hard. I’ll be interested to see how he does because now it’s [not] new to him either. I don’t know what he gained. He had a very very good offseason as far as strength gains and weight gains and that sort of thing, too.”
Do you have enough confidence in Cam Gordon to move Jake Ryan down?
“Based on the spring and based on last year, I’d say yes. The key again -- everything starts all over today. That’s what everybody has to understand. It doesn’t matter that Craig Roh has started three years. Everything starts all over again every season. You expect a guy that has played three years to really be advanced in how he plays. Cam Gordon went from safety to SAM linebacker. That was a transition for him. He’s gained weight, he’s gotten stronger, now let’s see how he does when we start hitting, and then you’ll know.”
Has Thomas Gordon been able to pick up where he’s left off?
“Again, all I can go by is what Aaron says that they did in the offseason and two practices. Based on that, I’m very optimistic. Maybe a week from now. Maybe two weeks from now …”
You set statistical goals for your defense. When do you start talking about those as a team?
“We have set goals that we have written on a board, written on a wall -- that’s every year. Those goals are based on Michigan. Those goals are based on what is expected to be a winning defense. Those goals are set so that if you reach those, you’re playing Michigan defense. Every team that comes in has to get it to that level to be able to do that. We don’t lower our standard for what we see on the practice field. We have to raise the practice and the talent and the level and that kind of thing to get to that goal … Everything that you do in a practice: pursuit drill, running to the football, tackling, technique work, all of those are what allow a player to then get the numbers that make those goals. That’s our job as coaches and that’s their jobs as players is to work to get good enough to obtain those goals.”
What are some of those goals?
“Well the nubmer one goal is win. That’s the number one goal on our goal board. There’s a third down goal. I don’t know the numbers -- there’s a point goal. All those things. I don’t talk about those in public. They’re in our team, but they know exactly what the number of points you would love to hold them under to be successful.”
Are they realistic goals?
“Do you think I’d give an unrealistic goal? Let me just say this: I think last year, I think they probably obtained a number of those goals in a number of games. Again, I don’t mean to say anything -- all I’m saying is when you look at great football teams, and what it takes to win, you establish set parameters that you have to do. Third downs, red zone, turnovers, missed tackles, all those kinds of things, and then you set what you have to do to be successful in NCAA football. And they know they have to achieve that. If you achieve it you should win, and that’s what the bottom line is.”
Do those goals stiffen in your second year?
“No. You don’t put the goals to what you [or] somebody perceives as your talent level. You put the goals of whoever is playing defensive football has to do to be successful. I would imagine, out of 124 NCAA teams, a lot of them would have the exact same goals. That is kind of what is the formula for winning on defense. So you, as a coach, you have to make sure your players are doing what they have to do to achieve those goals.”
How much more responsibility does Frank’s absence put on Brennen Beyer?
“I think you always have to have -- no matter who it is -- you always have to have a plan B. You always have to have that, and you never go in there with the idea of, ‘Okay, I got a good guy here. I hope he stays healthy.’ No matter what, you always have to have two and you’d like to have three deep of guys -- and they’re always competing. When you have a great defense, then that guy that’s number two or number one, he might want to look over his shoulder, because there’s always somebody that’s going to be there to take the position. I think you always have to go in with that idea.”
MGoQuestion: How has Brennen Beyer’s weight gain (20-30 lbs from spring) affected his speed?
“In the first two practices, again, no pads -- the biggest thing is probably he feels very comfortable at that position now. So he’s had a whole spring going from the SAM linebacker standing up to have his hand on the ground all the time. I don’t think it was 20-some pounds. I think he was like 10 pounds and he got a lot stronger. He just seems more and more comfortable there. That’s what he played in high school, and I think he really feels good about that position.”
The players say they’re more comfortable with you. Are you more comfortable with them?
“I don’t know if you’re more comfortable. I like these guys, I can tell you that. I like these guys because all I do is watch them from when the season was over with through the winter conditioning through summer conditioning, in two practices -- you know what, these are our kind of guys. Whenever you had good people that work really hard and try to be Michigan, then all you can do as a coach is try to do everything you can so that they can feel like Mike and Ryan and those guys did when they walked off the field that last game. You do everything you can so that they can be successful. They’ve been very alert. They’re a fun group to be around. I told them today when [I walked] in there, I said, ‘God, the greatest time of the day is this meeting,’ because you see all those guys and they’re attentive and all that.”
What have you seen from Alabama’s offensive line on film?
“No question. I’m with Brady 100% on that. Watched a lot of film on them. We studied them all offseason. You watch them and they’re very very talented. They’re very physical, and they’re very big, and they’re very experienced. They’re a very very good offensive line.”
What kind of reports have you gotten from Aaron Wellman on Ondre Pipkins?
“It’s so early, you know. You have a guy who a month ago he’s in a class somewhere in high school, and then all of a sudden he’s at the University of Michigan. It’s just too early.”
Has Kenny Demens stepped up to his leadership role as senior middle linebacker?
“So far Kenny’s been like the other backers -- he’s doing what the’s supposed to be doing. Again, when the pads come on and we start hitting, and you’re in the dog days and everything like that, now you can kind of label a guy a leader. That’s where you earn it. These two practices right here, that’s just coming out and doing what you’re supposed to do. It’s not really where you measure anybody. ”
When will you hit for the first time?
“I don’t know. Is it Friday? Friday, full pads. I thought we were hitting the last two days -- I wasn’t sure, ya know, we were … That’s the other thing that Brady’s done a great job of. When you get a more mature team or a team that’s been around the same system, they learn how to practice. Nobody on the ground. And you can get a pretty physical, pretty aggressive practice with no pads on because they protect each other but still go really hard. That’s what you see if you watch an NFL practice. In the rules, they don’t even allow them to wear pads most of the time. They still get some really good practices. And that’s the same thing that we’ll try to do more, too.”
How do you explain last years’ turnover success?
“The one reason is because in our system, we strip in every phase of practice. So any time a ball carrier is running with the football, our defense is trying to get that ball out. When you're not doing live tackling, we’re doing strip--you’re always tugging at that football. The biggest reason--the biggest reason why we had more success on turnovers is because guys ran to the football. The reason you get turnovers is because guys are around the ball. Think of how many times you’ve seen a game where a guy fumbles and the ball’s just lying there and you're going, ‘Come on, somebody get on it!’ Well a huge part of our defense is effort and running to the football because when you do that, you’re going to have more success tackling and you’re going to have a chance to get turnovers, and that’s big for us.”
And is that something you have to teach the freshmen?
“Definitely. We’ll do circuits in practice with that where we’ll practice that, and they see it real clear. Our upperclassmen have done a great job of trying to pseed up the freshmen on what is expected. So much as where you’re watching the tape and something goes on, a senior may say to them, ‘You don’t do it that way. This is Michigan.’”
Previously: S Jeremy Clark, S Allen Gant, S Jarrod Wilson, CB Terry Richardson, LB James Ross, LB Royce Jenkins-Stone, LB Kaleb Ringer, LB Joe Bolden, DE Chris Wormley, DE Tom Strobel, and DE Mario Ojemudia.
|Novi, MI – 6'6", 270|
|Scout||3*, #31 DT|
|Rivals||3*, #26 DT, #10 MI|
|ESPN||3*, #32 DT, #8 MI|
|24/7||4*, #17 SDE, #11 MI|
|Other Suitors||Michigan State, Wisconsin, Missouri, Illinois… and Duke!|
|YMRMFSPA||Tyler Hoover/Will Heininger|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Tim. Visit reaction from Tom. Ace checks out DCC versus Inkster.|
|Notes||Detroit Catholic Central (Mike Martin)|
He also has a junior reel.
Matt Godin is a 6-5-ish, 270-pound-ish defensive lineman who will end up hovering around 300 pounds and clogging up the middle next to Ondre Pipkins, which makes him the third one of those covered in this series after Tom Strobel and Chris Wormley. Chances are one will end up being really good, one will be pretty good, and the other will be okay to meh. By the rankings, Godin would be the latter guy.
Rankings are not destiny of course. I do get a little leery when I hear things like this…
Godin is a 6-6, 270-pound defensive end prospect, who will likely stay at that position in college despite having the size of an offensive tackle. Godin still looks lean at 270 pounds, though he towers over his fellow defensive ends.
…because they make me think of Pat Massey getting tossed downfield. This assessment was echoed by Josh Helmholdt when he reported on Michigan's 2010 camp:
Godin won almost every rep that was not against [former Michigan commit and projected Oregon starter Jake] Fisher, but he is not the fast-twitch type of player you normally see at defensive end. His body makeup actually suggests offensive tackle, and he has the athleticism and skill set that would fit well at that position in college.
Godin did play both ways for CC but Michigan is about to be flush with tackles, and not so flush with SDE/3-tech types, especially since they rotate.
Meanwhile, ESPN's evaluation is par for a blue-collar course($):
He has a solid get-off, but is not an explosive one-gap penetrating type defender. He is more of a physical run stuffer type. He comes out of his stance and displays the ability to play with some leverage. He will shoot his hands and does a good job of being able to keep blockers off of him and maintain some separation. He can seem to really deliver a pop when he takes on blockers and displays a real physical nature at the point of attack. Flashes the ability to be able to hold his ground and shed and make a play on the ball. … He seems like he may be best suited as he adds size to be an early down run defender.
Trieu's evaluation contradicted this, FWIW, stating he's "more of a finesse inside-outside guy than a true interior prospect" and asking him to "get stronger and improve his hand work."
The Obligatory Coach Quote reinforces this picture of Godin as a large blue collar guy who will punch the clock, so to speak:
“In practice, he demonstrates his abilities very well — playing the game of football, that’s the No. 1 criteria. You have to be able to mix it up,” said Mack. “That’s a quality of a great football player. He does a great job of focusing in on what his assignment is. He exhibits a lot of mental toughness in the game. I think his mental toughness is a key element.
“I think he directs himself very well as far as getting the job done.”
Brady Hoke and Lloyd Carr nod in approval of that coach quote. Tremendous™ work, Tom Mack. Tremendous™ work.
Anyway, yeah, okay. Teams need guys like that. Not everyone can be a star and Michigan would have been in a lot of trouble last year if Will Heininger, another 6'6" who's not going to blow by a guard, hadn't developed into a steady option at three-tech.
There is some upside. Ace caught CC's game against Inkster last year and came away impressed. Previous posts in this series should dissuade you from thinking Ace says this kind of stuff about everyone:
Matt Godin: Godin had a phenomenal performance, playing nearly every snap in the first half at either defensive tackle or offensive tackle. …
The senior had a relentless motor, pushing his way into the Viking backfield on almost every snap … Godin showed a nice variety of moves as he made a living in the opposing backfield. He was very quick off the snap and did a great job of staying low and getting his hands right into the chest of the offensive linemen tasked with blocking him—his bull-rush was his most effective move, as he was able to maintain leverage despite having a distinct height advantage over his Inkster counterparts.
…When single-blocked, he overpowered his man every time, and when he commanded a double-team (which was often) he still managed to get a push that opened things up for his teammates—I counted at least three plays in which Godin collapsed the pocket and either fed the quarterback into a DCC sack or forced him to throw the ball away.
… He holds up well against multiple blockers, shows a well-developed variety of moves on the pass rush, and tracks running backs well. While the competition in this game was lacking, Godin did everything you could realistically ask of him.
The above evaluations were from before his senior year, when Ace saw him good and his stats surged. Godin had 28 TFLs as a senior on 70 tackles; his nine sacks were significantly up from the two he had as a junior. That surge offers hope Godin might do more than punch the clock as that other guy on the line who is important but not a star.
Even if that doesn't happen, Brady Hoke loves lunch-pail riveters from the wrong side of the tracks (even if they're from the right side of the tracks) who punch themselves in the mouth just to taste blood, and large people. Godin is that, and seems assured of some sort of role on the defensive line simply by virtue of being a Brady Hoke kind of guy.
You may be looking at Chris Wormley and Tom Strobel and thinking "what's the difference?" I can't tell you there's much of one. Trieu above says SDE, Godin says SDE($)…
"Wormley committed and he's the same position as me, but what they told me is, we just battle it out and we both can play. We're just going to rotate. That sounds good to me."
…and 24/7 ranks him there. I'm just sayin', man. I'm sayin' that Michigan needs some guys to play the three-tech, that they're close to interchangeable, and that it doesn't really matter but I have to guess. And Godin's on the roster as a DT. So I'm sayin'.
“They didn’t want any of it in the second half," Godin said. "You could see it in their eyes. Their offensive line didn’t want to hit.”
Why Tyler Hoover/Will Heininger? If you're not familiar with Hoover, he's a fifth year senior for Michigan State who was a three/four star tweener—trending towards three—when he came out of Novi High School a few years back. He's the same sort of run-defense DE/DT that Godin projects at: in 2010 he started nine games and played in all 13, which returned just three sacks and thirty-six tackles. He's also maybe too tall to be an ideal interior lineman at 6'7".
So not thrilling, but an important contributor on a good defense. MSU's probably going to start him at nose tackle this year, which… uh… good luck with that. Hopefully Michigan doesn't have to do that with Godin.
Meanwhile, Heininger is a walk-on version of Godin, a 6'6" guy around 300 pounds who was a solid run defender once Mattison, Hoke, and Jerry Montgomery whacked him on his helmet sufficiently. His dynamic play quotient stayed stuck on one or two per game even at his apex, but when he was gone for the Sugar Bowl Michigan felt it.
Guru Reliability: Pretty high. 247 is higher than others; but the rest are in a very tight range. Healthy and well-known, but it doesn't seem like he hit any camps.
Variance: Moderate. Ceiling doesn't seem that high and the height could be a problem, so being a good starter is not assured. I may be excessively leery about tall DTs.
Ceiling: Low. He's got the size to be a good run defender but no one thinks he's going to be a pocket-crushing force or QB-leveling interior defender.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-minus. Program guy who is one of the various extremely large men who will keep Michigan's rushing defense stout in the next four or five years, but not likely to be a star.
Projection: Could be thrust into the fray immediately if Ken Wilkins and Quinton Washington are immediately surpassed, but likely to redshirt since one of those two guys will probably be better than a 270-pound freshman. After probable redshirt, Godin will spend another year as Black's backup and a rotation guy.
In 2014 Black will graduate and Godin will be in an as-of-yet murky battle for the starting job at three-tech. Will Chris Wormley slide down to the three? Will Willie Henry be a nose tackle or what? Ask again later. Meanwhile, anyone at that spot will be pressed from behind by Maurice Hurst and Henry Poggi, then presumably coming off redshirts. Whoever emerges from that fray will be pretty good and backed up by someone pretty good. Godin figures to be one of the two.
So my favorite way to learn things is to start an argument with someone who knows more than I do about that subject and see if my take can take the onslaught. On Sunday Magnus put an interesting question to the board about the current MGoTake on Kenny Demens:
I've seen many references to this in recent times, including when I was reading HTTV. There seems to be some sentiment around here that Kenny Demens is better than Obi Ezeh but he won't make anyone forget about David Harris. I'm kind of confused why people are down on Demens in that way. He's not Ray Lewis, but David Harris wasn't Ray Lewis, either.
As a junior, David Harris had 88 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, .5 sacks, 3 pass breakups, 1 fumble recovery, and 2 forced fumbles.
In a comparison of junior seasons, Kenny Demens had 94 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, and 2 pass breakups.
Those are pretty similar statistics, and while Harris did more in the turnover department, I'm not sure why people are insisting that David Harris was so much better. Demens still has a year to get to that level. He may or may not get there, but I don't think it's really a fair argument to compare the two careers right now.
Harris is special to Brian because he was the first great player uncovered in UFR. He's special to me because when I crossed that line between being someone who knows Michigan football and is truly
informed obsessed about Michigan football, I began going around telling people that David Harris (not Henne, Hart, Manningham or Long) was the most important guy on the team. In both cases that was in 2005, about the same time in his career that Demens was getting his unit dinged (vs. MSU et al.) for not being reactive enough. This has resulted in a bit of a bias on these pages from Brian and those principally informed by Brian to speak of Harris in near-Woodsonian terms. Whether you regard that as a weakness in our coverage, it fortunately leaves plenty of room for Demens to be both "worse than David Harris" and "a damn good Big Ten linebacker."
Here's the part of Brian's summation on Demens from HTTV that I am almost certain Magnus is responding to:
We got some clarity in 2011, when Demens was just okay. While he led the team in tackles, he managed just two TFLs against running plays. He barely beat blocks and was such a mediocre blitzer that Greg Mattison started playing him at nose tackle so he could send Mike Martin at the quarterback. On the plus side of the ledger, Demens was a surpisingly high-quality cover guy, sticking with players well down seams he didn't have much business covering.
First let's clarify that nobody's suggesting Demens is an average of 45s. The Unofficial MGoBlog Harris-Ezeh Scale of Linebackeritude...
...sees Demens firmly on the Harris end of the ledger.
That is a comedown from post-2010, when this site fell in love with Demens for being not-Ezeh and because most of his struggles were schematically blameable on GERG (plus the threat of a Dr. Vorax the Stuffed Beaver facewash if he did something good). He is a pretty good tackler. He stands up well to blocks. And he is one of the guys who helped make us stout in short situations last year. We like him.
Let's compare that to the feeling on David Harris going into 2006:
Harris was a player. He led the team in tackles, making a fair number of them near or behind the line of scrimmage. He was tasked with spying Drew Stanton during the Michigan State game and flashed his speed against Penn State when he tracked down Derrick F-ing Williams on an end around. His UFR number was +8 that game, a monster. Though Harris tailed off towards the end of the year, he's established himself as one of the Big Ten's better linebackers and certainly the best Michigan has.
Over the course of his senior season Harris went from a budding star that bloggers were into before it was cool, to a player of the decade who could diagnose the blocking assignments of a given play before people in the huddle did:
The difference I find is the instincts. Harris was great because he could read a play, make his decision, and shoot to where he needed to be. Having rewatched the late '90s games with new eyes I can see Dhani Jones had this to set him apart as well. Kovacs is the obvious modern example.
Ironically, "good in coverage, needs to be more instinctive" is the opposite of what we said in the 2011 preview:
It's clear by the rating above that I'm a Demens believer. I liked what I saw last year and I've seen MLBs who are pretty good to compare him to. David Harris, for one. He's not Harris but I think Demens is closer to him than Ezeh already. He just has a knack for getting to where the play is going. Though his coverage still needs some work he was decently effective in short zones last year.
There's no direct post-sophomore comparison for Harris because he had a knee injury that took two seasons to return from. Before that, freshman versions of Harris were the recipients of an a-normal amount of positive chatter. Spring chatter is just that and not worth putting that much stock into, however there's too many old copies of The Wolverine gushing about him to discount entirely. As soon as Harris was healthy he displaced the returning starter (McClintock) and never came off the field.
Demens before Iowa 2010 is equally hard to pin down. There was some trouble for which the entirety of Demen's culpability essentially came down to "is bad at choosing roommates." When he dropped behind Ezeh and position switching Moundros early his RS sophomore year the expectations were downgraded, only to be rekindled when it turned out this was just the work of the nefarious Dr. Vorax.
As for their respective junior seasons, the basis of the claim that Demens=Harris is in the tackling stats. Because the team can face radically different numbers of plays I like to use % of team tackles for this; though it doesn't change the point Magnus was making:
|2005 Season||52||36||88||2011 Season||49||45||94|
|TEAM 2005||539||269||808||TEAM 2011||481||380||861|
|% of 2005||9.6%||13.4%||10.9%||% of 2011||10.2%||11.8%||10.9%|
On the surface this seems to support your assertion that their respective RS Jr seasons were pretty comparable. Harris had a greater % of his tackles solo because the team was less into gang-tackling.
My memory said Michigan faced more passing offenses in 2005 than this year. However the stats say that 2005 and 2011 were almost identical in number of live plays:
|Live Defensive Plays||2005||2011|
|Opp. Rushing Attempts||430||429|
|Opp. Pass Completions||223||221|
The biggest difference seems to be the cornerbacks and LaMarr Woodley made the tackles that Kovacs and T.Gordon took for 2011. If you take the view that tackles missed by linebackers go to the safeties then:
|W. Barringer||10||29||14||Jordan Kovacs||12||51||24|
|Brandent Englemon||11||26||16||Thomas Gordon||13||41||26|
|Jamar Adams||12||21||6||Courtney Avery||13||17||9|
|B. Harrison||12||15||9||Carvin Johnson||8||9||5|
(I included Courtney Avery because some of Harrison's season was at nickel and it's hard to separate that.)
There's also a moderate difference in rushing yards/attempt between the seasons that you have to imagine the leading tackler had something to do with: Opponents in 2005 were held to 3.8 YPA; in 2011 it was 4.0 YPA. However this is a very flimsy statistical case. Magnus is correct that the numbers do not show a major difference between Demens and Harris's junior seasons.
For that we have to go to the realm of the individual games and plays. Here's the UFR comparison of their respective junior seasons:
|Notre Dame||5||1||4||Night and day from McClintock.|
|Eastern Michigan||5||0||5||Reading and reacting in the short zone.|
|Wisconsin||4||3||1||Reading and reacting in the short zone.|
|Michigan State||6||0||6||Playing very, very well. Entrusted with spying Stanton all day; shows the faith they have in him.|
|Minnesota||8||2||6||Well, we've got one linebacker.|
|Penn State||9||1||8||Biggest scrub to star transformation since...?|
|Northwestern||4||1||3||Unbelievably deep drops in coverage.|
|Iowa||3||3||0||Worst game since he became a starter. Still did okay.|
|Western Michigan||7.5||5||2.5||Kind of a rough start but played in odd conditions.|
|Notre Dame||13||4.5||8.5||Twelve tackles and few errors.|
|Eastern Michigan||3.5||4.5||-1||Slow to diagnose some things.|
|San Diego State||9.5||2.5||7||Not sure what to do with his Howard-esque coverage but I liked it.|
|Minnesota||4.5||2.5||2||Not many plays even got to him.|
|Northwestern||5.5||9.5||-4||Did not get outside even on speed options.|
|Michigan State||4.5||6.5||-2||Michigan's linebackers are not nearly as reactive as MSU/ND, even Northwestern, and it costs them.|
|Purdue||3||3||0||Not much got to him thanks to Martin.|
|Iowa||10||6||4||Stuck Coker cold a half yard from a critical third down conversion. I be like dang.|
|Illinois||7.5||3.5||4||Second consecutive solid game. Pretty good in coverage.|
|Nebraska||9.5||5.5||4||Three straight +4s. Surprisingly good in coverage for MLB.|
|Ohio State||5.5||4||1.5||Ate some blocks.|
Harris 2005: +35 in nine games (+3.9/game)
Demens 2011: +26.5 in twelve games (+2.2/game)
[EDIT: A copy error from 2005 screwed up my arithmetic. It is corrected now]
Now I realize UFR has changed a bit since then and that opportunities might be different and etc. etc. etc. etc. this is not scientific at all. What I'm really going by is the record in the comments. So those numbers probably don't mean anything.
What does mean things are the notes. In Demens you see "slow to diagnose some things" and "Michigan's linebackers are not nearly as reactive as MSU/ND, even Northwestern, and it costs them," and "Ate some blocks." Is it a weakness? I'm sure the coaching carousel Demens has had in his career is a big part of that. I'm also sure that among the most important attributes for a defensive player, perhaps even more important than his size or his speed or his tackling technique (though all matter a lot), is how many micro-seconds it takes him to react correctly to the play. In this Harris as a junior was outstanding, and Demens as a junior was "area for improvement."
Does this constitute a low ceiling for Demens? If you put a gun to my head: yes, I'd say he's RVB to David Harris's Mike Martin.