landing spot. will be interesting to see how he does.
Yeah… so the site was a little goofy for a while. Why did this happen? I don't know. I put up Tim's press conference recap and then did nothing. I come back and I've got 30 panicked emails. Drupal is very sorry about that.
I did bad.
If it happens again the fix is "click this button" so it shouldn't take nearly as long now that I know what the magic words are.
UPDATE: Okay, maybe panic a little. This has happened a couple times today and evidently I'm going to have to find a more permanent solution.
- Brandon Minor practiced a little bit yesterday, and they're hoping he can go today. Minor is day-to-day with a shoulder injury from the Purdue game. Playing can't do any more damage, but he needs to get practice reps in order to see the field Saturday.
- Carlos Brown should be fully healthy for this week.
- Junior Hemingway is day-to-day with a back issue.
- Martavious Odoms is still day-to-day with his knee injury.
- David Molk's knee surgery will take place tomorrow.
- The coaches are still looking for linebackers that they can trust to play downhill. They aren't sure whether Obi Ezeh or Kevin Leach will start against Wisconsin. Both guys will probably play a lot. At 200 pounds, Leach is more the speed guy.
- More backups will probably get in this week because they're playing a physical opponent. It can destroy a young guy's confidence for the future to go in before he's ready.
- William Campbell got increased reps the other day. He still has a lot of technique to work on, but should be a very good player down the road. He's got the size that Michigan's defense needs.
- Patrick Omameh has won the right guard job. Mark Huyge and Perry Dorrestein will compete for the right tackle spot.
- The coaches wish they had been able to redshirt both Denard and Tate, as with all freshman quarterbacks. Denard is improving each week.
- The Wisconsin offense is different than Michigan has seen this year. They have big linemen, tight ends, and backs. They'll be a challenge for Michigan's smaller lineup.
- Michigan's troubles covering tight ends have been different issues each time. Wisconsin has 3 good tight ends, and they'll be a challenge.
- The team needs to move on from the last game, and just worry about this one.
- Players practice well, but sometimes they don't take that solid play from the practice field to the game. The coaches just have to keep on coaching them to fix this.
Personnel notes: Leach started the game and got pulled after he busted an assignment on a third-and-five TE cross that turned into 56 yards and a backbreaking touchdown. Ezeh replaced him for the remainder of the game. Mouton started the game and got pulled after he busted an assignment on the first Purdue touchdown. Fitzgerald replaced him until he took a bad angle on a Bolden touchdown, at which point he was replaced by Mouton.
You might sense a theme here. It will be addressed later.
Other than that it was the usual: zero rotation in the secondary, Brown in on every play, regular rotation on the DL. Banks was out so Campbell was Martin's backup. I don't know if I saw RVB ever leave the game.
Formation notes: That thing where Michigan drops the MLB to safety depth, or near it, returned again. I'm calling this "Tampa Nickel":
The dude in the deep middle is Kevin Leach; you can see Kovacs just off the edge of the screen at the 35. My best guess here is that this is an attempt to replicate a Tampa 2 defense with a walk-on linebacker or Obi Ezeh, which necessitates starting him well back of where a middle linebacker would normally end up.
Michigan's also running some even fronts—I think:
Look at the alignment of the two DTs relative to the DTs in the shot above. In this defense, Brown acts as a nickelback and Michigan plays, or at least shows, two-deep with the safeties.
AAARGH Notes: argh.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||Shotgun trips||Tampa Nickel(?)||Pass||Jailbreak screen||--||9|
|What the hell? [Ed: see above] Michigan has five guys in the box with Brown split out over to the trips side and Williams walked up outside of Mouton, who's lined up over the tackle. Leach is playing nine yards deep. Kovacs is 15 yards deep. Purdue throws a jailbreak screen on which Roh, who's dropping into coverage, reacts to. With both DTs sucking upfield Michigan has no one else in the area because Leach is 10 yards downfield. Leach recovers to tackle—barely—after making up the ground he gave presnap. The way this aligned Michigan had little chance to defend it. (RPS -1)|
|O21||2||1||Shotgun trips TE||4-3 under man||Run||Power O||--||30|
|Roh again dropping into coverage so he falls off the line of scrimmage attempting to cover the TE, who's moving out to block Leach. Leach is reading the play and manages to keep his feet as the TE dives at them, but is slowed and as a result the pulling guard gets an easy block on him. There's no one else on the corner. WTF? (RPS -1, Roh -1, as this must be some screwup on his part.) BTN says Troy Woolfolk is from “Suger Land, TX.” Really? Suger Land?|
|M49||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Hitch||Woolfolk||14|
|Woolfolk(-1) is backing out into a deep zone and reacts slowly to the short hitch Purdue is going for. He then overruns the play and turns this from five yards into 14. (Cover –1, tackling -1)|
|Mouton(-4) is in man on the tailback and decides man coverage is for losers. (Cover -4) I assume this is his bust because he got yanked; Mike Williams was also coming up on the TE Mouton decided to cover, and cover pretty well, actually.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-7, 13 min 1st Q. Somehow they won't score more than a FG for the rest of the half.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O23||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||4-3 under zone||Run||Power O||Fitzgerald||1|
|Michigan has flipped the line to the short side of the field, which happens to be the open side of the field, and is in zone coverage with Warren lined up over the TE. Purdue runs basically the same play they did on the last drive except with only one pulling guard. They double and down-block Graham. Warren hops out for contain and draws the pulling guard; Fitzgerald(+1) reads the play and shoots into the hole, tackling(+1) for a minimal gain.|
|O24||2||9||Shotgun Twins Twin TE||4-3 under man||Pass||Hitch||Leach||Inc|
|Yikes: looks to be a coverage bust with no one going with the TE hitting it up into the seam, but Elliot's already decided to come short. Ball is dropped; would have been six and an immediate tackle if caught.|
|O24||3||9||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Jailbreak screen||Fitzgerald||17|
|Fitzgerald and Williams do a great job of reading the play and attacking the LOS, giving Purdue no chance to block them. WR heads inside, right into Fitzgerald, who's just coming through a block and has his hands down; they collide and the RB runs through the contact. (-1, tackling -1); Roh(-1) can't make a diving ankle tackle attempt despite the slowdown and Purdue makes an unlikely third down conversion.|
|O41||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Fade||Woolfolk||30|
|Cover two and Purdue runs a play that attacks it with an out underneath holding Woolfolk(-1) as a receiver goes over the top; Williams(-1) can't get over in time. Ball is well underthrown, which gives Michigan a chance to make a play on the ball; they don't. (Cover -1)|
|M29||1||10||Shotgun trips||4-3 under||Run||Draw||Leach||4|
|Leach in a tough spot because RVB(-1) is stood up by the RG and eventually driven back, conceding holes to both sides of him. Leach picks one that he thinks Bolden is hitting it up into and gets it right; Bolden has to cut, and Leach(+1) manages to trip him as he runs by. Bolden falls forward for a bunch after contact but Leach did well in a lot of space in a tough situation.|
|M25||2||6||Shotgun trips||Tampa Nickel||Pass||Out||Woolfolk||Inc|
|This... thing again. Quick out open in front of Woolfolk(cover -1); dropped.|
|M25||3||6||Shotgun trips||3-3-5 stack||Pass||Scramble||Graham||1|
|Michigan shows a 3-man front with threatened blitzes from the linebackers, then drops out of it. Graham(+2) immediately pwns the RT and forces the QB up in the pocket; good coverage(+1) from the eight guys downfield allows Graham to come around from the back and tackle, though it doesn't go down as a sack because Graham hits him across the LOS. (Pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: FG(41), 7-10, 7 min 1st Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O19||1||10||I-Form Twins||4-3 under||Run||Down G||Leach||13 + 15 pen|
|Heininger doubled and removed from the play, leaving a pulling G and the FB on Leach and Brown. Brown heads outside for contain. Leach(-1) badly overruns the play, providing a quick cut-up for the RB when he could have slowed up, let Brown cut off the outside, and slowed the play down. I'm not sure what to make of Fitzgerald here, who might be a step slow, might have stumbled, but took on a block and shed it, but then couldn't make a tough tackle attempt at about five yards. This penalty is probably a bad one but definitely stupid... Williams(-1) knows he's right at the sideline and there's zero upside to hitting a guy who's running OOB.|
|O48||1||10||I-Form||4-4 under||Run||Rollout something||Brown||-4|
|This looks like a busted play as Elliott rolls out with a couple of lead blockers and his receiver goes to block some guys. Unless this is just a called bootleg run for Elliot without so much as a fake, which I find hard to believe. Brown(+1) does to a good job of containing, and Fitzgerald comes to tackle.|
|O44||2||14||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||Dig||Brown||13|
|Brown(+1, cover +1) right there on the play and has a swat at the ball but misses it. He's still there to make a tackle, though the receiver drags him for a few yards. Excellent coverage; Michigan made it tough this time. Graham did tear through late, but this is a pressure -1... Elliot could stand and fire.|
|M43||3||1||Shotgun trips TE||Nickel even||Pass||Bubble screen||Woolfolk||6|
|Tough to stop on third and one with Michigan loading the box and with only two guys on the edge here. Brown does a decent job getting out; Woolfolk(-0.5) was late reacting after the guy was clearly stalk-blocking him off the line; he does shed and force the player out of bounds.|
|M37||1||10||I-Form||4-4 under||Run||Draw||Van Bergen||4|
|Campbell in; Michigan stunts through the line(RPS +1), with Van Bergen(-1) coming through clean only to overrun the play and let Bolden through the hole he just came through. Bolden ends up tripping over the guy blocking Campbell.|
|M33||2||6||Shotgun empty 2TE||4-3 under||Pass||TE Out||Brown||3 (Pen -5)|
|Caught; Brown(+1, cover +1), in a cover-2 zone, lights up the TE as soon as he catches it. Illegal motion brings it back.|
|M38||2||11||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Wobbler||Leach||Int|
|Michigan gets a gift as Elliot gets time (pressure -1) against a three-man rush and finds someone to fire to. The ball flutters at it leaves his hand and is reeled in by Leach(+1).|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 10-10, 2 min 1st Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O39||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||4-3 under||Run||Pin and pull zone||Graham||5|
|What? See the Smart Football link. Basically any covered OL blocks down and anyone else pulls around. Graham(+1) shucks his blocker and gets playside of him, shooting into the hole and delaying the running back. And I thought I was going to give a big minus to one of the linebackers here but it turns out that JB Fitzgerald is held by a Purdue OL—like the guy grabs him from behind, this one is no question—and thus can't get out to the corner. That turns this from zero to five.|
|O44||2||5||Shotgun 2-back||Base 4-3||Run||Triple option keeper||Graham||1|
|Refs miss a Purdue false start. Elliott pulls it out when he doesn't like the dive fake, but Graham(+1) is not crashing and gets out on Elliott, forcing him back inside; Graham and Fitzgerald combine to tackle(+1) for minimal gain. Pitch guy was covered too, so Elliott didn't make the worst read possible.|
|O45||3||4||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Corner||Brown||6|
|Line shifted as per usual but the LBs are off the line and tucked in; weird. Michigan blitzes; Graham tears around the corner and beats one blocker, forcing another to come out on him. Purdue is clearly trying to pick Warren and get the slant as a result; Warren(+1) does a fantastic job of coming under the pick and having this blanketed. Holding? Maybe, but not called. Brown(-1), however, reacts to that route when he's in man on the slot guy and leaves his little corner route open, so Elliot has another option other than “die because of Graham.” Tough leaping catch from the WR.|
|M49||1||10||Shotgun Twins Twin TE||4-4 under||Run||Zone read stretch||Leach||6|
|Unfortunate for Michigan as Purdue gets an inadvertent chop on Graham, who they tried to double but did not seal, because the guy coming off Graham dives to cut Leach(-1) and Graham trips over the mess, opening up a crease just before the play reaches the sideline. Leach went down hard and heavy to the cut block, allowing his blocker to take out two guys.|
|M43||2||4||I-Form||4-4 under||Run||Inside zone||Roh||-2|
|Michigan's got a line slant on that murders this dead(RPS +1), as Roh(+1) is unblocked on the backside and blitzes right into the path of the tailback before the offset fullback has a chance to do anything about it.|
|M45||3||6||Shotgun empty||4-3 under split||Pass||Jailbreak screen||Roh||Inc|
|Roh(+1) is either spying on this or reads it because he does not pursue the QB but rather holds up and occupies the LT, which prevents him from getting out and allows Fitzgerald(+1) to flow unimpeded to the receiver. Ball is dropped anyway. (RPS +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 17-10, 11 min 3rd Q. What is this “punt” you speak of?|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O24||1||10||Shotgun trips bunch||Nickel under||Pass||Swing||Brown||3|
|Trips bunch set takes Brown out to them and he plays head-up on the guy on the LOS. Michigan drops into a zone; Purdue receivers attempt to run it off and hit the swing pass underneath; Brown(+1, tackling +1) makes a good open-field tackle to turn this into a meh play.|
|O27||2||7||I-Form Twins||4-4 under||Pass||Rollout||Woolfolk||16|
|This will be annoying for the rest of the game. Michigan in what looks like man on the outside receivers, playing pretty far off. It's not man, as Warren drops off into a deep zone and Woolfolk(-1) is supposed to have an outside zone. He ends up getting run off and leaves a 15-yard out wide open(cover -1). Roh was chasing Elliott down but fell as he tried to avoid a desperate cut from an OL, so there's no pressure(-1) on this.|
|O41||1||10||I-Form||4-4 under||Run||Power O||Martin||0|
|Martin(+2) darts between the center and an attempted down-block from the RG, coming under the pulling LG to tackle Bolden in the backfield with no help from anyone else. Bolden coughs the ball up but it falls right to him.|
|O41||2||10||Shotgun trips||Tampa Nickel||Pass||Hitch||Brown||5|
|Brown(cover +1, +1) is again right in the receiver's grill as he makes the catch and has a swipe at the ball for a PBU, but can't make it. He does tackle(+1) with help.|
|O46||3||5||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||TE cross||Roh||Int|
|Warren spends the run up to this play leaping up and down trying to get other secondary members' attention. He does. Michigan runs a crazy zone blitz with both Roh and RVB dropping off the right side of the line into short zones; this gets Brown, blitzing off the corner, in clean (pressure +1, RPS +1). The zone drops from the DT end up covering(+1) the short options but Elliott gets a crazy accurate pass off that manages to find his tight end despite the tight end taking a detour around Roh after the ball was thrown. Tight end gets his head around late to find the ball almost there already and can't bring it in; Warren(+1) picks off the deflection.|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 24-10, 6 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O18||1||10||I-Form Twins||4-4 under||Pass||Rollout deep hitch||Leach?||12|
|Part II of rollout extravaganza. No pressure(-1) on the corner and this seems like it's got to be a coverage bust from one of the linebackers because both Leach and Fitzgerald tear after the rollout, opening a lane for Elliott when Williams heads out for his flat zone. (Cover -1)|
|O30||1||10||Shotgun 2-back Twins||4-4 under||Pass||Bubble screen||Warren||3|
|Michigan man up on the corners and Warren(+0.5, cover +1) reacts to the bubble very quickly, getting in on it basically as the catch is made. Unfortunately he gets stiffarmed(tackling -1). Roh also overruns the guy as he cuts inside of Warren but the delays mean there are now five other Wolverines in the area and he can only get three.|
|O33||2||7||Ace Twins Twin TE||4-4 under||Pass||Rollout TE Out||Williams||7|
|TE pulls across with presnap motion and Purdue runs him into the flat, where he catches the ball in front of Williams for near first down yardage (cover -1, pressure -1, RPS -1).|
|O40||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Hitch||Warren||9|
|Warren is bailing out into cover-three and Elliott finds the hitch his coverage leaves open (cover -1).|
|O49||2||1||I-Form Twins||4-4 under||Pass||Rollout scramble||Brown||3|
|Still no one on the edge here (pressure -1) on the fourth rollout of the day. Leach does get a good chuck on the TE; he's covered; Brown has a guy in the flat(cover +1) so Elliot is forced to scramble up for the first down.|
|M48||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||Fly||Warren||Inc|
|Warren(+1, cover +1) in great position. Ball is high and short so Warren doesn't have a play on the ball; leaping WR can only get one hand on it and it falls incomplete.|
|M48||2||10||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 under||Run||Trap||Roh||3|
|Roh(+1) responsible enough here to not fly upfield as Purdue leaves him unblocked and pulls two OL around attempting to trap Michigan up the middle. He gets into a blocker and when Bolden cuts up—Leach(+0.5) had contain—Roh fights playside of the blocker, gets held pretty badly, and sort of tackles Bolden with his back. Help came from RVB and Graham.|
|M45||3||7||Shotgun empty||3-3-5 stack||Penalty||False start||--||-5|
|50||3||12||Shotgun 2-back||3-3-5 stack||Penalty||Delay||--||-5|
|Oops. Why does the clock keep running after penalties like this?|
|O45||3||17||Shotgun 2-back||Tampa Nickel||Pass||Hitch||Warren||6|
|Whatever. (Cover +1)|
|Drive Notes: EOH, 24-10.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M19||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||Power off tackle||Brown||19|
|Ugh. Center actually pulls here as two guys double Roh and Purdue goes for the outside. Roh(-1) gets sealed really quickly and is both out of the play and not occupying a double. Brown(-1) comes down too far inside and gives up the corner; Leach(-1) is sliced to the ground by the TE coming off Roh, Williams(-1) overruns the play as it nears the sticks and turns it into a touchdown.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 24-17, 13 min 3rd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O9||1||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel under||Pass||Hitch||--||8|
|Weird LB/secondary config. Purdue runs a three-step drop that finds a hole in the zone(cover -1) between Williams and Leach. Fitz got a free run, but it didn't matter. (Pressure +1)|
|O17||2||2||Ace Twins||4-4 under||Pass||Rollout throwaway||Graham||Inc|
|Graham(+1) tears through the line and is fast enough to get in on Elliott, forcing a throwaway. Good flat coverage from Brown(+1, cover +1)|
|O17||3||2||Shotgun Twins Twin TE||4-4 under||Pass||Hitch||Fitzgerald||6|
|Guy comes open underneath a zone and Elliott hits him quickly; immediate tackle. Excellent catch on a poorly thrown ball by the TE.|
|O23||1||10||Ace||4-3 under||Pass||Rollout hitch||Warren||6|
|Quick throw, not a long rollout, and Warren is there to escort out of bounds immediately. I'm not negging these quick throws with immediate tackles but I am getting cranky.|
|O29||2||4||Shotgun 2-back TE||4-4 under||Run||Zone read stretch||Martin||-2|
|Martin(+1) blows the center back, forcing Bolden to delay a bit to get around the disruption. Graham(+1) blows into the backfield as well, cutting off the outside and taking out two blockers. and Fitzgerald(+1, tackling +1) uses the delay and the lack of blockers to dart into the backfield and make a solid TFL.|
|O27||3||6||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Hitch||Fitzgerald||9|
|Four man rush is stoned (pressure -1) to the point where Elliot doesn't even have to worry about any issues, and Fitzgerald(-1, cover -1) sucks out of his zone, opening up a slant. Leach had the slot receiver; Fitz is busting a coverage here.|
|O38||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||Zone read stretch||Brown||16|
|Purdue motions in a slot WR to act as a second TE and Michigan does not react (RPS -1); Brown(-1) fails to get outside the slot guy and gives up the corner; Roh(-1) ends up spinning inside of the OT despite this run obviously going outside; Leach(-1) is indecisive and ends up getting blocked into oblivion. Bolden gets the corner and a bunch of yards.|
|M46||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||Rollout corner||Kovacs||Inc|
|Kovacs(-1, cover -2, RPS -1) in man on this and that is a terrible matchup against a good Purdue receiver lined up in the slot. Elliott has the guy for at least 20 but throws it too far in front of him and the receiver can't make a tough catch.|
|M46||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel under||Pass||Rollout deep hitch||--||14|
|This is more of a half-roll and there's max protect, but Michigan is still not getting anywhere near this guy (pressure -2) on a deep drop. Elliott has plenty of time to come to a second receiver, wait for him to get open, and fire in a pass to a tight window in front of Brown. Lot of time, still pretty covered receiver, no cover minuses. These rollouts are killing me.|
|M32||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Quick out||Brown||8|
|Brown(-1) has the flat here and instead attempts to cover a TE that is running into Leach's zone; Warren has a deep half and is not responsible. (Cover -1)|
|M24||2||2||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 under||Run||Zone read keeper||Herron||6|
|Herron(-1) dives too far inside and gives up the corner. Pretty sure this isn't a scrape exchange; if it was Herron would not even think about responsibility.|
|M18||1||10||Ace Twins Twin TE||4-3 under||Run||Draw||Leach||3|
|Plays off the rollout stuff with it looking like a rollout and then the counter draw coming. Martin seems like he's about to come around his guy and make a tackle at the LOS but a hold prevents him; OL then gives the “I ain't doin' nothing” hands up thing and lets him go, preventing a penalty. Borderline; can see letting it go. Leach(+0.5) slices between a couple OL to make a diving, face-first, sketchy tackle attempt; Roh(+0.5) loops around on what is probably a stunt to provide enough Michigan jersey to cut off the hole.|
|M15||2||7||I-Form||4-3 under||Pass||Rollout FB Flat||Williams||5|
|Williams takes a step inside, biting on the run fake, but then gets out quickly to cover and tackle the FB flat immediately. No plus, no minus, eh.|
|M10||3||2||Shotgun trips TE||4-3 under||Run||Zone read stretch||Fitzgerald||10|
|Ugh. This is a game-losing play. Martin(+1) does great, slanting from the backside and taking two blockers directly into the path of Bolden. This play has to be dead now; a guy has occupied two blockers and delayed the RB. It's over, except Fitzgerald(-2) takes an angle way too far upfield and can only make a diving arm-tackle attempt on Bolden, which misses (tackle -1). Roh's stunted himself out of the area and the resulting mess prevents RVB from flowing; Ditto Kovacs, so Bolden gets into the endzone. Really, really should have been a TFL and a FG attempt.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 30-24, 5 min 3rd Q. Onside kick gives it right back to Purdue. Spectacular execution by the kicker.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O46||1||10||Shotgun trips||Tampa Nickel||Pass||Fly||Kovacs||54|
|Four man rush, a zone blitz, gets nowhere near Elliott (pressure -2) and so he can half-roll a bit and look deep, where Kovacs(-4) has completely busted on the only deep receiver on his side of the field; guy is so wide open that even a terribly underthrown pass doesn't prevent him from scoring. (Cover -4). Enormous bust. Walk-on freshman safety.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, FML, 30-31, 5 min 3rd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O42||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||4-4 under||Pass||Bubble screen||Woolfolk||6|
|Michigan in a zone; Woolfolk(-0.5) is unblocked but reads it a little late and almost misses a tackle, allowing the receiver to make some YAC.|
|O48||2||4||I-Form Twins||4-3 under||Run||Pitch sweep||Graham||-3|
|Graham(+1) slants inside, meeting the playside G a couple yards in the backfield as he pulls; he drives the G back, forcing Bolden outside. Graham gets stiffarmed but his interior play has allowed Brown(+1) to finish the TFL after he got outside his blocker effectively.|
|O45||3||7||Shotgun empty||3-3-5 split||Pass||Hitch||Graham||Inc|
|Graham(+1) tears around the RT, flushing Elliott up into the pocket on a three-man rush (pressure +1) and forcing him to throw as he knows Graham is coming up for EXTREME VENGANCE behind him. Mouton(-1, cover –1) vacates his zone to chase Elliott, opening up a receiver for a first down; RVB(+1) is looping around and bats it down.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 30-31, 1 min 3rd Q. You can tell what the coaches' reaction was to that Bolden touchdown: Fitzgerald out, Mouton in.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O31||1||10||Shotgun trips||4-3 under||Pass||Jailbreak screen||Roh||1|
|Kind of a similar deal to a failed Michigan version of this earlier: Roh(+1) actually hooks the playside tackle, which prevents him from getting out to get a block; three Wolverines, including Roh, come in to crush the play. (RPS +1)|
|O32||2||9||Shotgun empty||Tampa Nickel||Pass||Scramble||Brown||4|
|Fake bubble to the slant Michigan likes to run except Brown(+1, cover +1) is not biting and Elliott has to look elsewhere, at which point Graham(+1) tears through on a three man rush and flushes him out of the pocket. Coverage remains good downfield so Elliot has to scramble; lot of short routes mean no one can peel off until he crosses the LOS. (Cover +1)|
|O36||3||5||Shotgun 2TE||Base 4-3||Pass||TE cross||Leach||56|
|Michigan sends six and plays man behind it; Leach(-4) is looking in the backfield and covering the wrong tight end because he's playing zone. This opens the tight end up wide open, and he grabs a short cross and turns it up for a huge gain. (Cover -4)|
I'm not sure why this lane opens up. Martin is slanting and slants from one side of the line to the left, coming around as if he's the DE on the opposite side of the line and dragging the RG with him; Graham does his usual tear-upfield-speed rush thing. Roh and RVB are slanting away from Martin; this results in a big pocket opening up and a major cutback lane no one is in because they're trying to cover receivers. I think Roh -1, RVB -1. Maybe Martin. Not sure. BTN analyst calls out Mouton, but he's in pass coverage on a guy who would otherwise be open, right? I dunno.
Hmmm. Official call: minus halves for the DLs, minus one for Mouton. Help here?
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 30-38, 10 min 4th Q. Aaand exeunt Leach.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O11||1||10||Shotgun trips||4-3 under||Run||Zone read inside||Roh||4|
|Martin(+0.5) holds up decently well, which causes a slowdown and allows Roh(+0.5), who's crashing from the backside, to come from behind and snuff this out. Pile then falls way forward. Martin holds up a little better and this can be 0.|
|O15||2||6||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Dumpoff||--||Inc|
|Graham(+1) starts the tear-around-corner-business and it looks like Elliott can step up into a pocket but I think he's spooked and decides to dump it off to the releasing RB, who drops an iffy pass. (pressure +1)|
|O15||3||6||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 split||Pass||Hitch||Warren||5|
|Wow, close to a chop block as a guy Martin isn't expecting gets into his knees. C was not engaged but it was close. The chop indicates a pass that must get thrown immediately and indeed, Elliott chucks it in between Kovacs(+1) and Warren(+1)—very dangerous. Cover +1. Ball is caught but the TE is falling back upfield because of the tight coverage and ends up short of the first down.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 30-38, 7 min 4th Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O18||1||10||Shotgun Twins 2TE||4-4 under||Penalty||False start||--||-5|
|O13||1||15||Shotgun Twins 2TE||4-4 under||Run||Down G||Graham||4 (Pen -7)|
|Graham(+2) tears through a TE trying to down-block him and heads out to the edge, where he gets into both pulling blockers and is tackled to the ground, drawing a holding call. The result is a strung out play that Ezeh and Brown end up overrunning, allowing Bolden to pick up a few.|
|O6||1||22||I-Form Twins||4-3 under||Pass||Rollout comeback||Woolfolk||Inc|
|Elliott wants to go to the TE but Brown(+1, cover +1) has him covered and Elliott keeps rolling and rolling. He's late; as he reaches the sideline he chucks it to the other receiver, who Woolfolk(+1) has under control and makes a pass breakup on. (Pressure -1, cover +1)|
|O6||2||22||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 under||Run||Trap||Roh||4|
|Roh(+1) slants inside the attempted trap block and gets in the lane, meeting the RB at the LOS. Bolden powers through for a decent gain, though... Roh needs some more weight.|
|Tape does not have this play. Abbreviated replay shows RVB(+1) the beneficiary of a coverage sack(cover +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 30-38, 3 min 4th Q. Final drive for Purdue is not charted since it's an extreme run situation and not representative.|
How's the ichor?
Don't I ask the questions?
Just talk before I dispel you.
The ichor is dry and rubbery. If I attempt to stroke my luxurious goatee it comes off in little gooey balls that are faintly warm to the touch and smell like an oil slick with an otter drowning in it.
Dude, you are evil.
Not as evil as Michigan's linebackers. ZING!
Sigh. How about a special mailbag question?
Sure, what the hell, I just want to talk Cowherd.
Brian,Defensively, I don't understand. My biggest concern is not the big plays, but how they look. I understand we have three walk-ons playing significant time, as well as a freshman D-lineman. Mistakes will happen. What I am worried about is the ease of which we are beaten. I don't have a problem with Kovacs being outrun or Leach getting blocked. That is expected. I have a problem with completely blown assignments. To get beat on a fly pattern by a guy who is faster - acceptable. To get beat on a fly pattern because you were tackling the fullback when the wideout was your responsibility - unacceptable. That is where we are. It can't all be Rock-Paper-Scissors playcalling. It is coaching. They have got to get these kids in the right position. Williams total disregard for Juice responsibility is a perfect example. The coaches have got to figure a way to get through to him. Then if Juice breaks his tackle or fakes him out of his shoes, good job Juice. We don't even challenge our opponent to out execute us.In a nutshell, I can be patient with the offense. Improvement, youth, blah blah blah. I can't be patient with this defense, and I believe it is on the staff. Coach Rod will have some tough decisions to make this offseason. Don't know if Gerg is the answer, but position coaches should be feeling the heat.Just needed to vent. I want Rod here 5 years minimum. I hope his delegation of defensive authority doesn't doom him sooner.Go Blue!Jim Cunningham
I SORT OF TALK… like CAPTAIN KIRK… if he had DOWN'S SYNDROME.
|Graham||12||-||12||Killed all runs to his side; somewhat culpable for poor pressure metric but those were rollouts.|
|Heininger||-||-||-||Didn't record anything.|
|Roh||6||4.5||1.5||Extensive discussion below.|
|Herron||-||1||-1||Only contribution was blowing contain once.|
|Martin||4.5||0.5||4||Relatively quiet; not getting much pass rush this year.|
|Van Bergen||2||2||0||Not a major factor.|
|Banks||-||-||-||DNP, I think.|
|Sagesse||-||-||-||Also DNP, I think.|
|Campbell||-||-||-||Didn't do anything of note but did play.|
|TOTAL||24.5||8||16.5||Step back from usual effort, especially given the pressure metric below.|
|Ezeh||-||-||-||Nothing particularly good or bad on late cameo.|
|Mouton||-||6||-6||Did this in like a quarter of playing time.|
|Brown||9||4||5||Built to play his position against a team like Purdue.|
|Fitzgerald||3||4||-1||I am actually encouraged by his play.|
|Leach||3||8||-5||Basically even except for the monster bust.|
|TOTAL||15||22||-7||Is it a positive that this is positive but for the –8 on huge coverage busts? No?|
|Warren||4.5||-||4.5||The NFL wants you to stay in school.|
|Woolfolk||-||4||-4||Rough day in zones.|
|Williams||-||3||-3||I'll take it.|
|Kovacs||1||5||-4||Enormous bust #3.|
|TOTAL||5.5||12||-6.5||Better than against Illinois, I guess.|
|Coverage||15||24||-9||Did a good job when they remembered at all where they were supposed to be.|
|Tackling||5||5||0||I really need to definite this more precisely.|
|RPS||5||5||0||Still working on this, too.|
[A reminder: RPS is "rock, paper, scissors." Michigan gets a + when they call a play that makes it very easy for them to defend the opponent, like getting a free blitzer. They get a – when they call a play that makes it very difficult for them to defend the opponent, like showing a seven-man blitz and having Penn State get easy touchdowns twice.]
It's basically the usual: pretty decent on the DL, Graham destroys, Brown does well or okay, other linebackers and people in the secondary who aren't Warren make graves. Hidden in the raw numbers is the distribution: –12 in coverage and the above numbers goes to three separate enormous busts. If Michigan does not make those busts it seems reasonable to assume they hold Purdue to something like 10-14 fewer points. If they don't bust, there is the talent, it seems, to have an average defensive performance against Purdue.
The emailer is correct that it's the busted coverages and disaster that makes this defense a disastrous disaster of disastrous proportions. Is this "acceptable"? Well… let's rephrase that into something that's less vague and standoffish. How much of this is a reflection on poor coaching by position coaches on up to Rodriguez? How much should this deflate expectations about how well this team can play on defense going forward?
I can point you to any number of metrics that suggest there are plenty of reasons that Michigan sucks on defense for reasons other than coaching. Here's a new one:
Comparing Michigan's defensive upperclassmen [ed: 3rd, 4th, 5th year players; RVB counts] not only to Ohio State, Penn State, and Notre Dame, but to the rest of the conference as well...
Ohio State - 22
Northwestern - 21
Indiana - 19
Illinois - 19
Michigan State - 19
Penn State - 19
Iowa - 18
Wisconsin - 18
Minnesota - 17
Purdue - 15
Notre Dame - 15
Michigan - 12
The rest of the Big Ten averages 50% more upperclassmen on defense. We are dead last in the conference by a wide margin in terms of experienced defensive players.
Then you add in the defensive coordinator carousel—three in three years—and the wholesale changeover of position coaches last year and, like, doy: this just about has to be a bad defense. If it was even average it would be a miracle. The emailer dismisses the idea of youth being a factor; again, I have no idea how you can do that. The raw numbers defy you.
So it's bad and it should be bad. Is it worse than it should be considering the incredible paucity of not even talent but mere bodies on the team? I don't know. Assuming that a busted coverage is necessarily on a coach not getting his guys to go to the right spots is dodgy. It could just be that the guys they have to start are either not ready or just not that bright when it comes to football and would be mediocre backups on another team. Sometimes people just can't hack the mental side of the game no matter what.
So maybe it's on the coaches. That is a blindingly obvious possibility. But there are plenty of mitigating factors that suggest it is not necessarily the case. The only way we will find out is with more time. They've got to be a lot better next year or things will get ugly.
[Note: the criticism that Rodriguez forced various kids to get R-U-N-N-O-F-T is another show. Presumably, attrition will be normal in the future. Rodriguez's previous stop did not experience undue attrition after his transition. Going forward, Michigan can expect to get its numbers back into the pack here.]
On to specifics, maybe?
So what was with the rollouts?
Purdue was very clever. Remember this thirty-yard run?
That's run directly at Roh and RVB and linebackers because Michigan's aligning based on the hash these days and not the formation. So they've got a lot of open space if they can blow Roh off the line, which is pretty easy right now because he's a 220-230 pound true freshman. Here he's not blown off the line, he's tasked with coverage. and gives up the corner. Okay, that's not going to work. RPS –1 was born for this.
Later Michigan flips the line so that Graham is to the open side of the field:
That play picks up one because two guys have to take on Graham and Michigan is using someone else. On the first play of Purdue's third drive they run an outside zone like the 30-yarder to start, and Graham tears through it; a hold from Purdue gives them five yards but the play is basically blown up. Purdue picks up a big run later with Heininger in in an I-Form twins; it's clear that BG is the only thing keeping Purdue away from major gains outside the tackle. So it's the strong side for him.
Now Graham is away from the receiver side of the field on the formations above and the rollouts can take advantage of Roh not being Brandon Graham; the one rollout on which Michigan did get pressure was from Graham. Later in the game, Roh gets sealed away on a 19-yard touchdown by Bolden when Michigan puts Graham on the weakside and gets another excellent run when Roh comes inside a TE. (Plenty other folk—three—picked up minuses on that play but if that's run at Graham they are not likely to have much success.) Purdue made Michigan pick its poison.
Roh did some good stuff on slants and was responsible when he had an opportunity to overrun plays, which gives him that modest positive score above, but big minuses in pressure fall mostly on the shoulders of the DEs and when one of the DEs is Brandon Graham they fall mostly on the shoulders of the DE who isn't Brandon Graham. So if you apply a chunk of that pressure metric to Roh, you get a solidly negative day. I think that's a realistic take on is game and am going to incredible lengths to justify that assessment because apparently Roh's dad reads UFR, which is something I'd really rather not know. The eyebrow furrowing!
I THINK THAT'S TOTALLY FAIR
Shut up, imaginary Cowherd. Anyway, Purdue did a really good job of exploiting the true freshman defensive end in this game. I think Danny Hope has shown that he was an excellent choice for Purdue's coaching transition; he will be a success. Probably.
I know, man. Mouton busts huge on the first drive and gets yanked. Ezeh has already been yanked and so you've got a couple sophomores out there and you're thinking 'hey, maybe this is where they show their mettle, they're gamers' and then by the end of the game they've both busted huge and the nominal starters are back in and if you go back and chalk up the number of Purdue points that came directly from the linebackers not knowing WTF they are supposed to do you get something like 14. They are terrible, and it's all mental.
This is one spot on the field where I lean towards the torch and pitchfork crowd. It could just be a couple busts and no depth with any experience, but Mouton was better last year and the vast improvement from Stevie Brown stands in stark contrast… since he's coached by Greg Robinson.
Brandon Graham remains Brandon Graham. Also, Stevie Brown's short coverage was excellent all day and though he missed on a couple opportunities to get PBUs he made it very tough and was a sure tackler. I'm so happy we blew his redshirt on kickoff coverage.
Warren also turned in a good day; I know it looked like he was leaving a lot of guys open during the game but I am pretty confident that those were not his issues because he was a deep half in cover-two.
Pick an enormous busty guy: Mouton, Kovacs, Leach. And as discussed above, Purdue's game plan other than "hey throw it to that wide open guy" was focused on exploiting Roh's lack of size and experience.
What does it mean for Wisconsin and beyond?
Despite the re-insertion of the nominal starting linebackers at the end of the game I assume that the linebacker question is an open one for Saturday and probably until the UConn game next fall. I graded Fitzgerald out at a –1 despite the crippling poor angle on that Bolden run and he looked physically capable; I'm pulling for him because he's younger, seems less prone to implode, and hasn't made me want to die more than once or twice.
At middle linebacker, I think Leach is seriously mediocre at this instant but so is Ezeh; there are no good options there. He, too, is a sophomore with a lack of on-field experience, so he seems more likely to have a light go on than Ezeh.
At this point the line is basically status quo, as is the secondary. I thought Williams did okay after a monstrously poor day against Illinois. So there's that.
Just Win, Babby?
Michigan fans have seen what impact a tough season can have on a recruiting class, as the terrible 2008 squad led to attrition from last year's class, and made this year's crop more difficult to pull in. With the Wolverines facing similar struggles in 2009, some recruits may be out of reach, but a few key guys see the team improving:
"It doesn't change anything," said Millersville (Md.) Old Mill linebacker Josh Furman, who officially visited Ann Arbor in September. "They are a young team and they need people at certain positions to play and be successful like they have been (in the past)."
While the losing streak has probably put the likes of MN OL Seantrel Henderson out of reach, Furman is an important recruit, as Michigan's linebackers have... struggled this year. The article also mentions that CA LB Tony Jefferson will visit for the Ohio State game (rescheduled from last weekend), despite MIchigan's trying season. More on visits a little later.
One Game to Sway Them All
As mentioned above, the Ohio State game looks to be an important one for recruiting. Aside from providing an opportunity to show that this ship is headed in the right direction (plz plz win), it's the biggest visit weekend of the year. The list will probably change over the course of the next week, but it's shaping up to be a blockbuster, per Josh Helmholdt in the Freep:
- FL CB Tony Grimes
- FL DE Clarence Murphy
- CA LB Tony Jefferson (as mentioned above)
- PA CB Cullen Christian
- FL RB Cassius McDowell
- FL S Rashad Knight
- FL S Commit Marvin Robinson
- 2009 FL CB Adrian Witty
- MI CB Dior Mathis
Aside from that article, GA LB Tyrone Cornelius has talked about visiting Michigan (as mentioned last week), but no word on whether it will be for the OSU game or post-season. CA WR Kenny Stills is in a similar situation. There are also a number of indications that some 2011 prospects will be in attendance, including FL RB Demetrius Hart, a possible commit if he really likes what he sees.
SC QB Commit Conelius Jones's Shrine Bowl profile is now available, and he's listed as a wide receiver, who will be a defensive back at Michigan. Obviously, we won't have full confirmation of his future position until Signing Day.
In other quarterbacking news, MI QB Devin Gardner comes in for a solid round of fluff from Sam Webb in the Detroit News. He's still looking at possibly enrolling early.
"He had a great junior year and has simply built upon that," said Scout.com Midwest regional manager Allen Trieu. "He is considered one of the top handful of quarterbacks in the country and is firmly entrenched as a five-star prospect. As far as upside goes, I don't see many quarterbacks that have his potential."
Rivals recently named Gardner the best scrambler among 2010 QBs, and the second-strongest arm, behind Penn State Commit Robert Bolden. At this time, I am obligated to grumble that I think Bolden is overrated.
LA QB Munchie LeGeaux committed to Colorado. Once Michigan took Conelius Jones, the writing was probably on the wall that LeGeaux was no longer an option.
Though CA CB Josh Shaw was talking as recently as last week about taking an official visit to Michigan for the Ohio State game, that's no longer a possibility. He will decide early next week between 5 schools that aren't Michigan: Florida, USC, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and LSU. I'ma be straight with you: one of those things is reallllly not like the others.
PA DT Shariff Floyd has been alternately not very interested in Michigan and not at all interested in Michigan, so the latest sign of no interest (he will fill his final official visit slot with North Carolina) isn't quite cause to remove him from the board. Michigan is totally not landing that kid, though.
VA LB Aramide Olaniyan was positively raving about Michigan following his unofficial visit in September, but now UCLA may have moved to the forefront. That does give him a reputation for falling in love with the most recent school he's visited, so don't read too much into it. Still, there's no mention of an official visit to Michigan in December, as there was immediately after his first trip.
Olaniyan said he plans to take two more visits in December and then make his decision.
"I have Duke set for (Dec. 4) and North Carolina (Dec. 11)," Olaniyan said. "I'll make my commitment right after those visits. If I get invited to an All-American game, I'll announce then in January but otherwise, I'll do it in mid-December after my last visit."
Yeah, so that probably means Michigan has really fallen off.
OH S/WR Bobby Swigert has selected Boston College.
Michigan's chance at TX DT Jatashun Beachum is "big" ($, info in header). Michigan offered MN DE Tobi Okuyemi... but he immediately committed to Nebraska. GA DT Mike Thornton has the Wolverines "in his thoughts" ($, info in header).
AnnArbor.com's basketball beat writer, Mike Rothstein, was kind enough to stop by and answer a few questions about the upcoming basketball season. If you want the opportunity to ask him some questions of your own, he'll be participating in a live chat on AnnArbor.com today at noon.
1) For the first time in recent history, the Michigan Men's basketball team probably has higher expectations than the football team. Is this Michigan basketball team capable of handling the pressure of expectations?
A: I think so. Having a freshman point guard concerns me, but Darius Morris seems to be pretty mature for his age. Plus, Beilein is pretty high on him overall and believes he'll pick up his systems quickly, so that shouldn't be too much of an issue. It's an interesting question because none of these guys have been in this situation before, at least not since high school. Not being picked in the top three of the Big Ten, as odd as it sounds, might have helped because that's one less preseason accolade around this group. But the way they shook off being No. 15 in the country – in some ways, it really seemed not to matter to them – sold me that they should be OK.
2) With a more talented roster than last year's team, is it Sweet 16 or bust for this squad?
A: Perhaps, but that's the thing when it comes to the NCAA tournament. Save for four to six teams, it really is all about the draw you receive. It's why a lot of times, upsets can be predicted – Winthrop over Notre Dame in 2007, Villanova over Clemson in 2008 and Western Kentucky over Illinois last year. Those are just three examples but it all comes down to how a team is playing at the end of the year and what the first-round opponent looks like. For instance, if Michigan were matched up in the first round with a team that had a 6-11, 6-10, 6-8 front line, that would probably be a bad thing. That said, this team is certainly capable – from both talent and coaching standpoints – to make a serious run. But when it comes to March, look at that draw. The worst possible scenario for any team is to see a veteran mid-major or low major team that has been to the tournament the year before and put a scare into a high seed. Those teams often break through the next year.
3) Last year's team had vocal leadership from seniors CJ Lee and David Merritt. Those two are both gone, so is somebody going to be a vocal leader? Or is it more likely that somebody (i.e. Manny Harris and/or DeShawn Sims) simply leads by example?
A: It's funny you ask this because it was one of the first things I noticed about this team once I was around them for more than 10 minutes. Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims are the leaders on the court and will have to lead by example. Both are working on the vocal parts of being a leader and Harris told me he has gotten on guys in practice and in the summer workouts led by the players. But the guy who stands out to me as the vocal guy is Zack Novak. He has a lot of respect in Michigan's locker room and both Harris and Sims have said he's part of that leadership core. When I watched one of the track workouts before the season, Novak was literally encouraging almost everyone. He'd pick up Ben Cronin, who was still returning from injury, after a set and he'd cheer Anthony Wright – who was coming off his own injury – as he crossed the finish line. Sims and Harris will lead, but Novak is really a hidden key there.
4) Which players are expected to contribute this year that the average Michigan fan might not know from last year?
A: Tough to say since a year ago I was watching a highly-ranked team drop into the NIT (more on that Notre Dame team in one of the later questions). But I'm really high on Ben Cronin if for no other reason than should he put it together by midseason he gives Michigan a different look than the Wolverines have had, and that is a legitimate 7-footer. I think you're going to see great leaps in play from Novak and a more consistent effort from Laval Lucas-Perry now that he's had another summer in Ann Arbor. Also, Matt Vogrich is a deadly shooter. It might take him a little while to find his rhythm in college – he has to adjust to bigger, stronger defenders, a faster pace and a slightly deeper three-point line – but he's going to be an asset by season's end. Zack Gibson has also appeared to have more consistency so far. If he can even come close to resembling Kevin Pittsnogle – and that's not an easy thing to do – for this Michigan team, that could be really dangerous.
5) Which player that did play a big role last year is most-improved for this season?
A: I hinted at it earlier, but I really believe it is Novak. You could even argue Manny Harris here because pro scouts have really raved about him and he feels like he's more consistent, but Novak got rid of some of the excess bad weight he was carrying. He's a dirty-work player who can also shoot it well. In some ways, his game reminds me of Purdue's Chris Kramer in how he does the little things and is a very good glue guy, although Kramer is a better defender. Darius Morris is the X-factor on this team, but if Novak becomes a consistent third scoring option behind Harris and Sims, that will bode well for Michigan.
6) John Beilein has never taken a team past the Elite Eight. Can a team running his system make it all the way?
A: That's a really, really good question. Some of his past teams, I think that answer would be no. But I think the Final Four is possible and then from there, you never know. Remember, that West Virginia team that went to the Elite Eight was probably a basket or two in regulation away from beating Louisville and heading to the Final Four. It wasn't like they ran out of gas until perhaps the overtime of the Elite Eight game. While I don't think Beilein would say this, I believe this team has the chance to be more athletic and versatile than that team. If Manny Harris can stay healthy, having him and Darius Morris driving to the basket will create holes for shooters. Defensively, as long as the combination of man-to-man and 1-3-1 is humming along they'll have a shot in most games. Beilein is a heck of a game-day coach and in the tournament, those types of coaches usually are the ones that end up in the Final Four.
7) Is Michigan poised to make a major run at Michigan State as the instate power?
A: Not yet. Not as long as Tom Izzo and Michigan State keep reaching Final Fours with relative consistency. The Spartans have been to more Final Fours recently than any program in the country. Recruits, until Michigan shows consistency with reaching and advancing in the NCAA tournament, want to play for Izzo. What Michigan can likely hope for in the next few years, if Beilein continues on his current trajectory, is a situation similar to what things look like in the states of Kentucky, North Carolina and at least until recently, Indiana. Two programs considered among the Top 15-20 in the country almost annually with alternating turns at the top. Michigan has a ways to go to reach that point again consistently still but it's not unheard of. The past tradition is there.
8) What needs to happen for Michigan to make a run at the conference title?
A: Going back to the previous question, I'm not sure that they have enough firepower or depth to get there. Michigan State is an awfully good team this year. I ranked them No. 2 on my AP ballot in the preseason. Purdue, while I'm reserving complete judgment until I see a healthy Robbie Hummel for a few games, is right on par with them. Barring injuries, those are likely your top two. No reason to think Michigan couldn't finish third. I have them as the third-highest Big Ten team on my AP ballot and I voted them third in the Big Ten media poll.
A third-place finish will garner an NCAA berth and considering the depth of the Big Ten this year, likely a pretty high seed. But to answer your question, I think they'd need to pretty much win out at home in the league and pick off a few of the tougher games (Wisconsin, Purdue, Michigan State, Ohio State, Minnesota) on the road. Staying healthy is also going to be key. Michigan, while they have a nine-to-10 man rotation, can't afford to have one of its Top 4 guys (Harris, Sims and Novak along with Morris being the likely point guard) go down. The depth just isn't completely there yet. When I did my preseason prognosticating, I said Michigan would be 11-7 in the Big Ten. While I don't think that'll be enough to win the league, it'll be enough for the tournament.
9) What circumstances would lead to Michigan missing the NCAA Tournament?
A: An long-term injury to a key player (Harris, Sims, Novak, Morris) would be a killer. But providing Michigan stays healthy, remember earlier when I said I'd discuss Notre Dame's season last year, this is where it goes. Notre Dame, if you remember, was tabbed to be a potential Final Four team in the preseason after a second-round showing in the NCAA tournament a year earlier. They were a veteran team, didn't really lose a lot (other than current NBA D-Leaguer Rob Kurz) and had two stars returning in Luke Harangody and Kyle McAlarney. This year's Michigan team is somewhat veteran, didn't lose a ton (although C.J. Lee and David Merritt were big from a leadership standpoint) and have two returning stars in Harris and Sims. But the Big East last year – like the Big Ten this year – was stacked with a ton of talent and depth. You knew going in there were going to be one or two teams in the Big East that got swallowed by the league. There ended up being two that were ranked in the Top 10 at some point in the year and ended up in the NIT. Notre Dame was one. Georgetown was the other.
I get the same feeling about the Big Ten this year, where one of the projected Top 7 or 8 will just get crushed by the power of the league. Michigan's non-conference schedule should be strong enough (Old Spice, at Utah, at Kansas, BC, UConn) where barring an epic collapse in the Big Ten the Wolverines should be in for sure if they win a couple of those games. But there's a stretch of games that could be a confidence killer (it's what happened to Notre Dame and to a lesser extent, Georgetown) in the midst of the conference slate. Notre Dame lost 7 straight (six to Top 25 teams) which killed NCAA tournament hopes. Starting with Indiana at home on Jan. 14, the Wolverines then have Connecticut at home followed by at Wisconsin and at Purdue. Then they come home to play Michigan State. Those five games, in that order, represent the toughest stretch of the season and one that could send most teams in the country spiraling. Get through that and Michigan should be OK. Go 0-fer and then it becomes a bit dicey.
Predict: Michigan's final record: 21-9 regular season, 11-7 Big Ten
Michigan's team MVP: Manny Harris (although it wouldn't stun me if DeShawn Sims won it)
Michigan's Post-season Result: No. 5 seed NCAA Tournament, Sweet 16
The Big Ten Champion: Michigan State (regular season); Purdue (conference tourney)
Number of Big Ten teams in the NCAA tournament: 7
The final score of Michigan's first game on Saturday: Michigan 82, Northern Michigan 61.
This is belated, but still relevant since I just saw Michigan run this play with Denard Robinson as the tailback in the Purdue game. This is a staple of the Illinois offense but it's something Michigan hasn't run yet in the Rodriguez era. I assume Michigan decided that the best way to practice it was to install it, and once it's installed you might as well run it.
It's Michigan's first drive of the day. The setup is a standard four-wide set on which Michigan is in a stretch setup with the quarterback behind the tailback:
On the snap it looks identical to the stretch in the backfield, with the running back coming across the quarterback's face to take a handoff, or not take a handoff. The line, however, is doing something completely different. They're blocking down:
On a stretch the line would be moving the same direction as the tailback and leaving the backside defensive end unblocked. On this play they block the opposite direction and leave the frontside DE unblocked. This is a veer.
Michigan's run a different sort of veer earlier that looks more like a traditional stretch with the tailback attacking upfield and the quarterback the player that needs to be contained. That touchdown against Purdue last year where Minor ran untouched into the endzone was a veer. On this play, the upfield threat is the QB and the RB needs to be contained.
On the exchange the Illinois line has slanted in anticipation of a stretch; they're reacting to the line. The backside DE is shuffling out and Koger is immediately releasing to the second level to pick up a block on the MLB:
Forcier keeps it. I think he keeps it incorrectly given the DE's reaction to the play:
Oops. If that DE had taken off for the tailback this is a good gain. Look at that crease up the middle. Since Forcier isn't Denard Robinson he probably gets tracked down by a safety—they're off the screen deep—but Illinois has gotten fooled by this play. Everyone except the DE, that is:
He cuts off that crease.
Forcier's a slippery bugger in space, though, and this DE is not nearly as agile as he is. As we've seen all year, dude can make you miss. He manages to get around the DE and to the outside. This delay has allowed opponents to converge, though:
Forcier gets down voluntarily:
It's four yards thanks to the mismatch between the DE and Forcier, but he had to make a guy miss to get it.
- Forcier's freshman status is much more pronounced on the zone read. Forcier's made a lot of poor decisions this year when it comes to handing the ball off or taking it. Most of the time his error is keeping the ball, but when Robinson came in to run the veer against Purdue he handed it off as the DE was running right out of the play and Robinson got nailed for a three-yard loss.
It's not just the passing game which should improve as Forcier gets more experience. Michigan's run game is being hampered by Forcier's youth as well. This is why the quarterback is even more important in Rodriguez's system than others.
- The veer is an excellent counter to Michigan's usual zone stuff… To the line it looks like a stretch and will draw stretch responses. As you can see in the frames above, the Illinois line has crashed itself out of the play, helping Michigan down-block it. There's a big damn crease if the DE heads out for the tailback. If the DE is on a scrape exchange and crashing for the QB, the handoff read is a potential big gain because the scraper is going to have to deal with a blocker and you have a tailback in a lot of space for cutbacks. Michigan tried it a couple times against Illinois; Illinois, unsurprisingly, reacted well to it. It's their base running play, IME. They've seen it.
- …but it requires far more precision on the read. Watching Juice Williams in detail the past couple years has given me an appreciation for how difficult it is to perceive the DE's intent and momentum, and how your fakes can drag him out of position. Williams gets low and extends the ball and holds it there almost impossibly long, then drags it out after the DE commits. Forcier does not have that patience yet.
This read is also more important to the success of the play. If the DE crashes down on a stretch he may get to the tailback if other people on the DT cut off creases. Fundamentally he's a cutback defender and a play can still work if the QB is not contained and gives it off. Here a missed read is probably going to be a loss, Forcier jukes notwithstanding.
Mike Cox is pretty. A reader who's way more familiar with the facial features of fifth-string running backs than even I am was taken aback by a Bivouac newsletter featuring a fellow who appears to be Mike Cox:
Cox's mgoblue mug shot:
That's the same dude, right?
Extremely important CORRECTION: The "death touch" cartoon referenced in the Monday column was not GI Joe but Batman: The Animated Series. A helpful reader provides details:
I believe this was the animated series of Batman. I very clearly remember an episode of this, but I think there was only one real "death touch", which Batman was able to find by feeling up the bad guy's sparring dummy. He then confronts the guy who hits him there!(!). BUT of course Batman is too smart for that and had armored that spot so he wouldn't die, and then pwns the fool.
Craig Flemingloss '07
I now remember this clear as day. Fools at the Ohio State game are going to get a swift jab that's a one-way ticket to hell. Or they're just going to get poked in the neck. 50-50.
CYA, chanter of CYA. I noticed this during the portion of the Saturday Miami game I didn't spend crossly drinking at home:
I was at the game for about 10 minutes, when after Miami (Ohio)’s first penalty, I participated in what has come to be known as the ‘C-Ya’ chant. …
Like usual, I said the same chant tons of times Friday night with thousands of other fans and nothing happened.
Saturday night, I got kicked out. Not cool, dude.
Two or three others in the immediate vicinity of one cranky usher also got the boot over the course of the game. I didn't see the guy the next section over executing similar justice, so I assume that these are the actions of one guy who's mad as hell and isn't going to take it anymore, not a Yost-wide thrust.
The uneven enforcement is annoying and will do nothing to stem the tide of that chant. That said, Michigan's been trying to erase or ease the cheer since I started attending games at Yost 11 years ago. In the long-long ago, Red Berenson even brought his adorable five-year old grandchild onto the ice to personally plead the student section to stop; no one did. They just added a sarcastic-seeming "we love you, Red" at the end of the thing. I thought that was pretty disgraceful: the only reason Yost is what it is today is Berenson, so if he wants you to stop doing something you should do it no questions asked.
Mostly, the chant's not clever. It's just a string of stuff that gets progressively further over the line every time something gets added. The things that used to get tacked on, like "Wildfong" in honor of a particularly annoying opponent or "Boren" for obvious reasons, are lost to history, replaced with generic swearing. I have been known to curse like a sailor from time to time; this is not mounting a high horse about vulgarity. The CYA chant is boring and embarrassing in the format currently served at Yost. It's not something worth fighting for when Red Berenson, who should be your God, wants it dead.
If the university actually wants traction on this, they should provide a carrot and stick to the entire student section in the form of ticket prices: higher if they continue, lower if they stop. Randomly tossing chickens* out of the game is just going to shame the Daily's editors even more than their humiliating defeat at the hands at a bunch of socially maladjusted engineers from the Every Three Weekly last weekend. It's not going to help, it's going to instill the Fight For Your Right To Party mentality that I saw after the Children of Red incident. The only thing that will work is a naked display of aggression on the part of the university. Either drop it or drop the bomb.
I will admit that I stood out from the other Children of Yost. I may or may not have had a megaphone. And I may or may not have been, ahem, dressed up — if you went to the game, you might have seen a six-foot chicken standing against the glass in section 18.
On a similar topic. I haven't ever heard Berenson tear his team a new orifice like he did in the aftermath of this weekend's pantsing at the hands of Miami. After the Redhawks scored to go up 4-1 on Saturday, the team started gooning at an alarming rate:
"I'm embarrassed," Berenson said. "We played like a bunch of spoiled brats, and we've gotta suck it up. When you're getting beat, you just keep working hard for the team. You don't take it out on the other team and take stupid penalties that are going to hurt your team even further. That's not the way we play hockey, and this team will learn that."
I wonder if this embarrassment extends to Tristin Llewellyn, whose spot on the depth chart opposite Chris Summers on what you assume is the #1 defensive pairing makes no sense to me. Llewellyn has been a dumb penalty factory ever since he arrived and makes a ton of chance-generating defensive mistakes. Putting him on the ice against top lines is asking for it; I don't get Berenson's faith in the guy when Kampfer is available.
On ice, but only metaphorically. Interesting bit from an AnnArbor.com piece on the freshmen getting redshirted:
Michigan has played 10 of 21 true freshmen this year, though linebacker Brandin Hawthorne has not seen the field since September and is in position to get his redshirt back.
…if Michigan has held him out because he is "injured," which I'm betting is the case. Michigan pulled medical redshirts for Adam Patterson, Junior Hemingway, and Kenny Demens last year and only Hemingway had injuries that were known to the public.
Mike Jones and Vlad Emilien continue to play on special teams but not on the defense, frustratingly, though I can understand why Emilien was put on the field given the situation at safety. Anything that can potentially get him ready sooner is more valuable than a hypothetical fifth year given Michigan's situation at the position.
The article also expands upon something Tim touched on in his press conference recap:
Rodriguez singled out cornerback J.T. Turner, safety Thomas Gordon and receivers Jeremy Gallon and Cam Gordon when asked what freshmen currently redshirting have caught his eye. He also said Michigan has "some really talented young offensive lineman" in Taylor Lewan, Quinton Washington and Michael Schofield.
I am terribly pleased that Gordon is one of the guys mentioned, just because of his position and his low recruiting profile. Gallon has a nice two-year gap between himself and Odoms now; if he lives up the recruiting hype Michigan should have a nice one-two punch at slot until Roundtree graduates. And one of the tackles—probably Lewan—stepping forward to claim a starting spot would be… well, probably not great. Next year's line is probably going to be something like Omameh-Schilling-Molk-Barnum-Dorrestein/Huyge, with Barnum potentially replaced by whoever's not the RT if he can't hack it yet. If one of the tackles is breaking through as a redshirt freshman that's probably a negative.
Advertisin' note. The M-Den, which is fantastic in all ways that an entity can be, has a holiday promotion running: orders over $100 come with a ten-dollar gift card.
Vote of confidence. Rote:
"He's not going anyplace," Martin said. "Rich is an outstanding coach. There is no question he's got my total support. I think the world of that guy. Is he perfect in every respect? Nobody is. But he works hard. He'll get it right."
Honey, I'm the AD. In the vein of "Let's FOIA 30-year-old grade records" and "Michigan coaches have loans from a bank the AD founded": Martin's embarrassment that was on all the premium sites yesterday afternoon appears to be shoving past some clueless DPS workers who don't know what the AD looks like. This never happens on sailboats. That's probably why he's retiring.
To me this is more interesting as an information-on-the-internet problem: I got a couple of freaked-out emails because premium sites were dropping dark hints about an "embarrassment" that was about to come out about Bill Martin. That embarrassment is stating "Honey, I'm the AD" and gently pushing someone out of his path. If anyone on the premium sites had just said that, or if the information was not locked behind a paywall and thus subject to wild speculation by people outside of it, the minor panic would not have happened. The perpetual non-information being purveyed on subscriber message boards is annoying both as a recipient and a competitor. My favorite part is when moderators elsewhere say "as we've been telling you for weeks (in one-way ciphered Navajo)" after this site says something newsworthy in explicit detail. You'll note that if this site has information it just tells you what the information is and the context it was received in.
Example! I've received some solid information that suggests Fred Jackson is probably going to move on after the season by his own choice. This should not affect the status of his son's commitment; Jackson's probably going to head to the NFL.
Given my opinion of how important a running backs coach is—not very—I don't think this is a big deal and hope the replacement is one of those young, energetic recruiter types. The first guy who leaps to mind is Ty Wheatley, now on Ron English's staff at EMU. With all the Rodriguez stuff—and the rumors as to where some of it is sourced—that may not be an option.
Etc.: Thanks to BWS I spent 20 minutes yesterday watching some guy play impossible Mario levels. Craig Roh's dad says recruits and their parents have the internet too. Big Ten Tour hits Michigan, runs into a guy who looks like Scott Steiner but says he's Hulk Hogan. Side note: I am 100% sure that I saw Scott Steiner wandering around before a game last year.
If you can help out finding articles on any of the commits, e-mail me, and I'll try to include your contribution.
New Commit LA S Carvin Johnson
Last week: Rummel knocks off Shaw 18-17.
Breaud was terrific, taking many huge hits, particularly from a human missile named Carvin Johnson and by linebacker Chris Randle. Johnson, who earlier this week committed to Michigan, returned a punt 69-yards for a score on a brilliant effort but the play was called back for a block in the back by Rummel.
This week: Rummel (10-0) v. Captain Shreve in Round 1 of the State Playoffs.
|Carvin Johnson 2009|
|East St. John||W 20-14|
|OP Walker||W 23-0||1|
|Brother Martin||W 13-7|
|St. Augustine||W 7-6||1|
|Archbishop Shaw||W 18-17|
MI QB Devin Gardner
Gardner was 6-of-11 passing for 120 yards and two touchdowns, and he ran 11 times for 120 yards and three more touchdowns.
"He played one of the better games of the year for me," Inkster coach Greg Carter said. "He took the game over. Every time Redford Thurston (8-3) would score, he would lead the team down to answer."
Paul was there (albeit a little late), so enjoy some video from the second quarter on:
CityBallers was also there, and they provide video as well.
This week: Inkster (7-3) @ Southgate Anderson in Round 3 of the State Playoffs.
|Devin Gardner 2009|
|East Kentwood||L 33-52||19||30||389||3||1||63.33||12.97||10||102||2||10.20|
|St. Edward||W 14-7|
|Highland Park||W 27-22||9||16||127||2||2||56.25||7.94||11||74||2||6.73|
|Bay City Central||W 27-20||7||13||132||1||0||53.85||10.15||15||95||1||6.33|
|Muskegon CC||W 34-19||4||9||110||0||0||44.44||12.22||99||1|
|St. Ignatius||L 20-49||1||0||1|
|Edsel Ford||W 51-19||4||7||51||2||0||57.14||7.29||6||98||2||16.33|
SC QB Conelius Jones
Last week: Spartanburg loses to Dorman 0-28. Jones passed 5/14 for 40 yards and a pick.
This week: Spartanburg (3-8) @ Rock Hill in Round 1 of the State Playoffs.
|Conelius Jones 2009|
|Boiling Springs||L 35-39||1||0||77||1|
MI RB Austin White
Last week: Stevenson falls to Detroit Catholic Central 0-38.
Senior Austin White, who has committed to play at the University of Michigan next season, finished the game with 75 yards on 10 carries for the Spartans, but was unable to use his speed to break a big run against the very solid Shamrocks defense.
...except for a 30-yarder, which I would call "big." I was there, so enjoy some video:
As you can see, Stevenson employed some direct-snap shotgun stuff for White, including throwing a pass. I hadn't seen them use that before this year, and I wonder if this was its debut. If so, I question the logic of installing something completely new for a big playoff game. I also question the logic of only giving your running back the ball 10 times when he averages 7.5 yards each carry, but whateva.
|Austin White 2009|
|South Lyon||W 37-0||8||173||3||21.63||0||0||0||-|
|South Lyon East||W 47-20||16||234||5||14.63||0||0||0||-|
|Catholic Central||L 0-38||10||75||0||7.50||0||0||0||-|
TX RB Tony Drake
Last week: Skyline pounds Sunset 56-0. Drake had just two carries, but they spanned 102 yards, and both made it into the end zone:
Tony Drake ran up the middle 79 yards untouched with 4:50 remaining to give Skyline a 7-0 lead. Drake scored on a 23-yard run on Skyline’s next play to make it 14-0 with 2:37 remaining.
Then he got taken out of the game and Skyline won the end.
This week: Skyline (10-0) v. Garland rowlett in Round 1 of the State Playoffs.
|Tony Drake 2009|
|Plano East||W 45-19||15||167||1||11.13||0||0||0||-|
|Lake Highlands||W 42-27||19||226||2||11.89||1||6||0||6.00|
|W.T. White||W 62-3||4||50||1||12.50||0||0||0||-|
TX RB Stephen Hopkins
Last week: Game preview:
Give me Marcus RB Stephen Hopkins to not want his spectacular career to come to an end just quite yet and a Marcus win. Prediction: Marcus 27, Hebron 23.
Marcus running back Stephen Hopkins, who entered the game needing 44 yards to set the school’s all-time rushing record, gained 171 yards with two touchdowns
“We’ve had a great offensive line since I have been here,” Hopkins said. “And coach Erwin always believed in me. Thanks to all of them I was able to get that done.”
“It was all guts,” Hopkins said. “We picked the right time to show it and I’m proud of the team for how we fought and won. We have to keep fighting and keep getting better every week,” Hopkins said. “We have to step it up on offense and on defense and we have a chance.”
This week: Marcus (6-3) v. Grapevine in Round 1 of the State Playoffs.
|Stephen Hopkins 2009|
|Plano West||W 35-25||28||128||3||4.57|
|Tyler Lee||W 17-7||22||118||1||5.36|
|Southlake Carroll||L 30-41||28||150||1||5.36|
|Flower Mound||W 63-39||21||217||2||10.33|
|Flower Mound||W 35-28||28||171||2||6.11|
LA Slot WR Drew Dileo
Last week: Game preview:
“I love playing at The Rock,” said Dileo, a Michigan football commitment who has scored 11 touchdowns this season. “The atmosphere is great. It’ll be a packed house and we’re playing for the district championship. It’s a great honor to be in this rivalry.”
It looked like the Wolves had Parkview stopped, but on fourth-and-3 at the PBS 47 the Eagles executed a fake punt, with Dileo running 24 yards for a first down.
Three plays later, Dileo scored on an option pitch around left end. Scott’s second PAT made it 17-7 with 9:39 left in the half.
Dileo later had a 41-yard punt return.
A 23-yard Wilson to Dileo pass helped key the drive that ended with a 2-yard TD run by Brandon Johnson.
This week: Parkview Baptist (8-1) v. Marksville in Round 1 of the State Playoffs.
|Drew Dileo 2009|
|Christian Life||W 60-14||1||50||1||50.00|
|Church Point||W 54-0||2||40||1||20.00|
|Port Allen||W 32-7||11||65||0||5.91||3||92||2||30.67|
|West Feliciana||W 23-7||50||1|
MI WR Ricardo Miller
But when Pioneer's Miles Sorise found Ricardo Miller on a 36-yard touchdown pass less than a minute into the second quarter to trim the deficit to a touchdown, it appeared Pioneer was ready to match Canton score for score.
This week: Pioneer (8-3) has been eliminated from the State Playoffs, and their season is over.
|Ricardo Miller 2009|
|Arthur Hill||W 58-20||1||20||0||20.00|
OH OL Christian Pace
Last week: Preview fluff:
“Pace has been on the line for all three years I’ve been at tailback,” Mansnerus said. “I have a lot of trust in him, but all of them are good friends. We have a close bond together as teammates.”
Avon Lake outguns Maumee, 56-35 in Round 1 of the State Playoffs.
This week: Avon Lake (8-3)
OH DT Terry Talbott
This week: Wayne (7-4) has been eliminated from the playoffs, and their season is over.
PA DE Ken Wilkins
"It's frustrating, but even moreso because I'm a senior," Wilkins said. "When you're a senior, any game can be your last game. You definitely want to get back and play."
When asked how he thought he has played this year, Wilkins said, "On defense, I wasn’t having as good of a year as I did last year. But I think some of that was due to a lot more people knowing who I was this year, and teams scheming more around me. I'm more involved in the offense this year, though. I was having an OK defensive year."
Trinity falls to Mars 0-17.
This week: Trinity (4-6) has been eliminated from the State Playoffs, and their season is over.
PA DE Jordan Paskorz
Last week: Hampton upsets Chartiers Valley 19-7 in Round 1 of the State playoffs.
This week: Hampton (6-4) @ Uniontown in Round 2 of the State Playoffs.
FL S Marvin Robinson
Last week: Lake Region falls to Bartow 7-45. Robinson is out for the year with an injury.
This week: Lake Region (0-8) v. East Ridge.
OH CB Terrence Talbott
This week: Wayne (7-4) has been eliminated from the playoffs, and their season is over.
MI WR Jeremy Jackson
Huron's (5-4) season ended without a playoff berth. Jackson finished with 43 catches for 573 yards.
OH WR Jerald Robinson
Canton South (3-7) missed the state playoffs, and its season is over.
OH WR DJ Williamson
Harding (6-3-1) will not make the State Playoffs, and its season has ended.
OH LB Antonio Kinard
Liberty (4-6) missed the State Playoffs, and its season is over.
OH CB Courtney Avery
Lexington (6-4) missed the State Playoffs, and their season is over.
WI P Will Hagerup
Whitefish Bay (5-5) has completed its season.
2011 OH CB Greg Brown
Ross (5-5) missed the State Playoffs, and its season is over.
|Greg Brown 2009|
|Benedictine||W 28-21 (OT)||6||99||1||16.50|
|Findlay||L 40-43 (3OT)||8||122||1||15.13||0||0||0||-|
|Marion Harding||L 0-21||0||0||0||-||4||13||0||3.25|
A very special mailbag, with just one question. This one has been asked, or implied by people sending me reasons the play of the team is definitely the fault of the coaches, by many, many people the past couple weeks. If you sent one, I read it. I'm not responding except here. Sorry. Usually I try to be better about it.
The platonic ideal:
Just talk me off the ledge...
Please explain what it would take for you to no longer support Rich Rod. What specifically has to happen? And then, please state not just what you expect to see from the program in the coming years, but how the team will improve? To me, that's why I just can't support Rich Rod anymore. Show me where are the underclassmen who will show improvement and how you actually see the coaches making them better.
I just don't see it. Instead, I see a mentally soft team, that while yes, has serious deficiencies, is currently losing to teams that also have serious deficiencies. Our players seem to be all over the place and just poorly coached in general.
Like I said, talk me off the ledge..
I get emails like this because I've been a supporter of Rodriguez throughout his tenure at Michigan and am moving much more slowly towards the conclusion that Rodriguez should be fired than the rest of the universe. The emailer asks for specifics. To set ground rules, here are the assumptions I am working with.
Virtually nothing that happened in 2008 was avoidable, and it was mostly not Rodriguez's fault. Michigan's program had already been gutted by attrition and poor motivation by the time Rodriguez made it to campus, and the exodus of offensive stars in the aftermath of his hiring was an inevitable consequence of the radical shift in offensive philosophy.
I have it from reliable sources Ryan Mallett was gone no matter who was the coach and that Manningham was headed for the NFL after three years from day one. Arrington left because Mallett left. Boren left because he was asked to put in the same amount of effort as the rest of the team and not given special exemptions to go be Mr. Plow. If you want to blame Rodriguez for Boren, fine. Add him to the team last year and you still have a disaster of an offense that starts Nick Sheridan most of the year.
Arguments that Rodriguez should have stuck with a pro-style offense he's never coached and forgo the installation of his system in order to get to 5-7 when hardly anyone on the roster has even played in a pro-style system have been discussed already; I think they are silly.
Rodriguez is not responsible for the enormous holes on the roster. Rodriguez has had a single full recruiting class and had a brief window in which to patch some spread-type players onto Carr's last class. The gaping holes on defense and the lack of talent at outside receiver and offensive line are almost entirely Lloyd Carr's doing. The freshmen quarterbacks are a combination of Carr putting every egg for three years in Mallett's basket and the radical shift in offensive philosophy.
This has been discussed elsewhere on the blog; I won't belabor the point.
Hiring Scott Shafer was a terrible mistake, and the other hires are questionable. At the very least it was a misjudge of the guy's ability to fit in on the staff. At worst, he allowed his DC to get submarined and saw the defense implode because of his assistants' impatience.
This may extend to Rodriguez's other hires as well: Jay Hopson has recruited very few players as Michigan withdrew entirely from Mississippi after last year's debacle; Hopson also secured the commitments of both defensive tackles who went elsewhere on signing day. His linebacking corps has regressed horribly.
And while the jury is still be out (very, very out) on Robinson given the players he has to work with, but his track record since his salad days with the Broncos is one of relentless failure with a single good-not-great year at Texas mixed in.
It is worth noting that the guys who can really be considered DeBord-style crony legacy folk are Magee, Tall, Smith, and Gibson. Dews is a vagabond who was a grad assistant at WVU for a few years before wandering around to Holy Cross, CMU, and UNLV. Frey was picked off from South Florida a year before Rodriguez left WVU and had no prior connection to Rodriguez. Hopson is obviously new. Fred Jackson was an enforced hire by the Michigan AD.
The crony guys are the offensive coordinator who everyone loves, the DL coach who is, IME, doing a very good job, the QB coach who helped Pat White be Pat White, and… well… Tony Gibson. At this point I'd rather see Rodriguez hire a guy he knows inside and out; the folk he brings in from the outside haven't done that well.
We are not at the point yet where the deficiencies in the team are clearly the doing of the coaches. It's pretty suggestive at linebacker, sure. But the secondary is just a disaster zone and would be a disaster zone if Monte Kiffin cloned himself eight times and had all eight players try to teach the safeties how to play football. The offense has improved greatly from year one to year two and has done so with true freshmen at quarterback. Since Rodriguez has a track record of success, he should be extended the benefit of the doubt.
They're not "soft." They don't play like mincing Frenchmen. They play like speed-addled kids with ADD. They are irresponsible and sometimes dumb. This is because they are terribly young or Michigan's linebackers. What does "soft" even mean? Jonas Mouton blowing coverages and cutback lanes game after game is not soft. Mike Williams overrunning everyone on Illinois is not soft. Michigan blowing assignments on the Illinois goal line stand is not soft.
It takes time to dig out.
Michigan was not a 3-9 team by accident; they had the talent of a 3-9 team. If you disagree with that, it's probably to suggest that Michigan was really a 5-7 or 4-8 team that Rodriguez screwed up into being a slightly more horrible team, right?
If you think that Michigan's downfall was entirely Rodriguez-made and you're pointing to the gutted recruiting classes that were in the top ten at their inception but have been ground down to dust, you can safely move on from this post since nothing in it will convince you. My opinion is that a combination of poor late stewardship from Carr and the wrenching transition to the opposite of Lloyd Carr in so many ways is what doomed us to this transition.
I expect Rodriguez to provide continual improvement until Michigan is back to being Michigan. That's my baseline. I'm not exactly thrilled with what's gone on this year but I think it's understandable. Given the roster situation and the chaos at DC—which Rodriguez is responsible for—this Michigan team is within the range in which Rich Rodriguez is not an idiot who got lucky with Pat White and Steve Slaton. It's towards the lower end of the range but it is in the range. It takes time to dig out from the hole they were in.
Next year, Michigan must be better than they are this year. I have no idea where the emailer is getting the idea that Michigan can't be a better team when they return at least 16 starters on offense and defense, with Donovan Warren a potential 17th, some combination of Dorrestein and Omameh a potential 18th, and Darryl Stonum a functional 19th.
Additionally, the players on this team are still extremely young. There are 11 starters on the team who are sophomores or freshman by eligibility, and many of the guys with redshirts in there are guys like Hemingway, Huyge, and Molk who missed large chunks of time with injury. The quarterbacks should take huge leaps forward in their second year. The only spot at which Michigan should be appreciably worse next year, excepting special teams, is Brandon Graham. That will be a major loss; it won't offset improved play at every position on the field.
So, sure. If you really don't think Michigan is going to be better next year I can understand why you'd want to see Rodriguez fired. I also think you're completely nuts.
If they aren't obviously better, then Rodriguez should be fired. If they don't make a bowl game, if they aren't obviously moving away from the Big Ten cellar, if they don't approach yardage parity against BCS opponents, Rodriguez should be fired. I think all of those things are seriously unlikely, and am willing to invest a year to find out. Where it is in black and white: acts of God nonwithstanding, Michigan has to go 8-5 next year or Rodriguez should be cut loose. 7-6 might be okay if the bowl matchup is obviously bad.
This is the last I'll say about it until next year.