"It's a lot easier being a drug dealer than an AAU coach" - this guy. Tell me something I don't know. I mean, don't think but have never tried either.
1. Troy Smith, OSU.
Like SMQB I find myself somewhat underwhelmed by Smith. It would be nice if the Ohio State defense would deign to give up 20 or 30 points with some consistency so we could witness Smith in something other than garbage time. His numbers remain impressive but somewhat underwhelming. He's been efficient, which is nice, but outside of a dancing, impossible touchdown throw against Penn State, Smith's Heisman campaign has been -- say it with me -- "workmanlike." Smith's top qualification is as the most senior and recognizable Buckeye, an avatar of dominance more than a proprietor thereof.
2. Lamarr Woodley, Michigan.
Two more sacks, an additional tackle for loss, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. Woodley's doing the avatar thing for the Michigan defense, yes, but he's got 11 sacks and is nigh guaranteed to shatter the Michigan single-season sack record. And let me assure you that his numbers are not hollow. I chart his contributions on a weekly basis. For each sack there are two hurries; for each TFL there are two tackles deposited in the backfield and two running plays strung out.
3. Reggie Nelson, Florida.
The image at right is a lie. Reggie Nelson does not smile. He only shows you his teeth so you can get a preview of the last thing your jugular is ever going to feel. I am resigned to the fact that I am a sucker for dreadlocked, trash-talking safeties who play 15 yards off the line of scrimmage and are clearly direct descendants of the Mongol Horde. Nelson's motto is "If it moves, hit it. If it's still moving, talk about its mom." He's got four interceptions, has caused a couple more, and has blown up countless other plays. Florida's cornerbacks are questionable but they have the fifth best passing efficiency defense in the country. Nelson, more than any other Gator, is responsible.
4. Marshawn Lynch, Cal
With the decline and fall of the Peterson empire, Lynch is very probably the best back in the country. Sure, sure, Steve Slaton and all that, but even though the Pac-10 is not exactly defense central it's certainly much better than clown colleges who have opposed WVU to date.
5. Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech
I dunno. I hate that Reggie Ball ignored him for the entire Clemson game. I wish he was on a team with a functional, non-Lollipop Guild quarterback and a reasonable offensive gameplan. He's still a force of nature and a guaranteed top five NFL draft pick. If a bionic receiver enters your life and there's no one around to throw him the ball, does he deserve a MaxwellPundit vote?
Yes, this one's really boring since Michigan is completely done on this side of the ball outside of the offensive line.
Since Last Update: Status quo.
Needs: Major. Only Jason Forcier and David Cone, two middling recruits, will be around when Henne leaves.
Commitments: Human catapult Ryan Mallett, who you must have heard about already.
Projection: We're done.
Panic: None. Michigan targeted Mallet for years; he fits perfectly into the offense; he was the coaches' first choice.
Since Last Update: Commitments from three-stars Marquis Maze and Avery Horn. Dropped by virtually everyone else.
Needs: With two recruits and two in the last class, Michigan is done.
Commitments: Maze's story is remarkably similar to that of Mike Hart: he is a tiny man playing for a tiny school and getting little in the way of attention. He gets around 15 touches a game and usually racks up something like 150 yards runnning around the same bewildered, tiny white guys who featured in Hart's high school highlight clips. Maze is smaller and quicker than Hart, more a dart than an inexplicable bull. A good comparison: minute but electric Brandon James, the lilliputian man you may have seen returning kicks for Florida this year. It's unlikely he's ever the feature back but should see a lot of time as a returner and trick play factory.
Avery Horn is another middling recruit, offered by much of the Pac-10 but not USC or Cal. Smallish (5'10") but fast and reported to have a bruising running style, Horn could be the next Jerome Jackson. There are worse things.
Prospects: Californian Curtis Shaw still lists Michigan but any further commitments are doubtful.
Projection: We're done.
Panic: None, though neither recruit seems on a track to stardom. I adore the idea of Marquis Maze in all his tiny, touchdown-creating wonder.
Since Last Update: Status Quo.
Needs: Would be nice to get a good one. Redshirt freshman Andre Criswell was a last second recruit who never played fullback before arriving at Michigan, and there's little else on the roster.
Commitments: For what it's worth, Vince Helmuth was offered on junior day, is busy running over Michigan high schools, and is ranked the #1 fullback in the country by most who bother to rank 'em. So we've got that going for us.
Projection: We're done.
Panic: None. Though fullback isn't the most critical position on the field, it's a nice little bonus to have an excellent one locked up.
Since Last Update: Taurian Washington committed to OSU; Michigan picked up Junior Hemingway and Toney Clemons.
Needs: Well... I didn't think they were huge since Michigan will have three wideouts with sophomore eligibility next year (Laterryal Savoy, Antonio Bass, and Greg Mathews) but evidently the coaches disagreed. Depending on how you define various players, Michigan could have as many as six WR commitments. Realistically that number is three, but still...
Commitments: James Rogers, Junior Hemingway, and Toney Clemons. (Marquis Maze is filed under RB, Martell Webb under TE, and Zion Babb at DB.) Rogers may be a sleeper, but Michigan has a good track record with kids they unearth at summer camp and his offer when Michigan had three or four high-profile targets leaning towards them bodes well. He's virtually guaranteed to redshirt -- he plays RB for his high school team -- but has the athletic ability to contribute. Hemingway and Clemons are reportedly near clones of each other: loping downfield threats with great leaping ability, body control, and hands. Clemons is also supposed to be raw; Hemingway more polished. Depending on who you listen to, they're incredibly great or just good. Time will tell.
Prospects: Marques Simas dropped us or we got full or whatever. In any case, he's no longer interested and we don't have the scholarship to offer him anyway.
Projection: We're done.
Panic: None. An excellent haul, especially since "polish" tends to be overrated for WRs, IMO, and no one in this class is going to be pressed into serious duty until they've been on campus for a couple years.
Since Last Update: Status quo.
Needs: Somewhere between moderate and major, depending on the suitability of the recently-moved Chris McLaurin and the academic status of Quintin Woods.
Commitments: Steve Watson from Colorado and Martell Webb from Michigan. Webb, like Carson Butler, plays WR for his high school team but at 6'5" and 210 pounds is probably going to end up a receiving tight end in college, but only after a redshirt year. Watson, the son of a former Broncos wide receiver and current assistant coach also named Steve Watson, is 240 and already a tight end for his team. He'll be more ready to play than Webb but according to the guru sites has a significantly lower ceiling.
Panic: None. Webb has a ton of potential and Watson is a nice backup plan or bookend. With Butler just a freshman they'll have time to develop.
Since Last Update: Lee Ziemba decided to stay in the south. Steve Wisnewski dropped us because we were too similar to Penn State -- except that losing three out of four years thing.
Needs: Three to five players just like every year.
Commitments: Center Dave Molk, slightly undersized but ranked highly by Scout despite that. Rivals is less sunny.
Prospects: John Elliot, a highly touted tackle from New York, has us on a list of seven teams that will be cut to four shortly. Matt Romine, equally touted but from Oklahoma, is deciding between Michigan, Notre Dame, and Oklahoma, but we're probably third in that group.
On the interior, the only name who's been mentioned as a visitor is Arizona's Jaivorio Burkes... who didn't actually visit. He needs a test score of some description -- I'm pretty sure he just needs a score, no matter what it is -- before he can take official visits. He'll come in at some point later.
Projection: I doubt we get Romine. Elliot's made some rumblings about staying closer to home. Burkes I don't know much about. Confidence level is low.
Panic: Major. Molk is nice but has size limitations that may cap his ceiling, though he would seem a good fit for the zone game if it sticks around that long. We have no commitments other than him and only a 50/50 shot of landing even one of Elliot/Rom
ine/Burkes. Yes, offensive line is a hard position to project, but there's a difference between low-rated guys Michigan picks out of the crowd early and the situation they find themselves in now with few players interested and fewer still likely to commit. Michigan's in damage control mode.
B+, down from A- earlier in the year. That A- assumed someone would come along on the offensive line; no one has. Still, Michigan filled the most important position in football with an OMG shirtless recruit well suited for their offense. They picked up a bevy of potential vertical threats to go with Mallett, an interesting jack of all trades who looks to be Breaston's heir apparent, and the closest thing to a blue-chip fullback you can have.
Still: one offensive line commitment and no others appear to be on the way. This... is not so good.
Further DVR issues mean a UFR delay; apologies. Tomorrow.
- RULE 3-2-5E: I was silently thankful for the rule changes during the Northwestern game; they may have prevented my feet from freezing solid and falling off.
- BRIAN HOYER: Making room for another.
- MARIO'S TRAITOROUS KNEE: Is getting less traitorous by the day. He's praticing and may return this weekend.
- TRAITOROUS WR LIMBS: In general: Mario's leg, Breaston's arms, Bass's leg, and if you'd like to throw in Ecker's leg, Massey's arm, and Arrington's head (not technically a "limb," though) go right ahead.
- RUNRUNRUNRUNRUN: It's dull, it hurts our offense, and it could break Mike Hart if we do it too much before OSU.
- OCTOBER: I'm fairly sure that the weather has been uniformly overcast and miserable for something like three weeks now.
- Uh... LSU's persistent reluctance to beat anybody at all keeps dropping them down. They're probably better than that, but who knows?
- Everything else is fairly rote, I guess. I'm surprised everything is basically what I thought last week updated with a few events, like Clemson getting crooshed and USC finally dropping the game they've threatened to all year.
- Didn't see much except the 3:30-7 window -- home football and (ugh) hockey.
10/28/2006 - Michigan 17-3 Northwestern - 9-0, 6-0
You would think a poncho is something you can't screw up. Take some flexible plastic, punch one to three holes in it, and enjoy a waterproof exterior when the 35-degree rain comes down. Is it possible to get a poncho wrong?
Unfortunately, I can testify that it is. Unearthed from ancient reserves, I donned something that can be described as a poncho but could be more accurately be titled "grounds for murder." Made of a thick, stiff plastic, the thing projected out from my shoulders at a ninety-degree angle for a few inches. Its sides were left entirely open, one half-inch-long nub of ratty velcro the only concession to the idea of closure. When the wind blew -- which was constantly -- the Grounds for Murder flapped wildly, protecting my grumpy person in no way whatsoever. I sat on the poncho. People in front of me stood; I stood. I sat again. Wind kicked up and Grounds for Murder flapped again. I watched dropped passes and fumbles and an offense seemingly unearthed from the 1920s. I sat in the dreary rain. I coughed and ejected mucus, leftover goo from my midweek near-death experience. I was cranky. No doubt the following has been colored by that -- fair warning.
Even though I wrote something along the lines of "this is going to be boring and frustrating and we'll run all day" the day before, I was still surprised and dismayed. Michigan fans have split into two warring groups, one running around declaring Mike DeBord to be the devil, the other dismissing the game as a meaningless blip. Personally? I'm torn.
Mike DeBord does have some pointy-horn qualities about him. The kind of contemptuous gameplan assembled today is one reason we generally lose to some team we shouldn't. Michigan's bizarre strategy when coming up against obviously inferior teams is to run as much as possible, reducing the number of possessions in a game, giving away much of our advantage on offense by being remarkably predictable, and getting ourselves locked in close games. While the strategy reduces the chances of disaster but increases the chances said disaster will be fatal instead of annoying. It's dumb.
And don't give me guff about hiding the playbook for Ohio State. The Rosetta Stone to our offense is not a first-down slant. Throwing one will not cause the scales to fall from Tressel's eyes. Also not something to provide guff-like substance about: Mike DeBord's record as offensive coordinator, now something like 41-5 (I cannot be bothered to look it up, since it's a crap stat). DeBord's been OC here for four years and has had the good fortune to coach opposite two of the finest defenses in Michigan history. He's a pitcher who gets 8 runs a game from his offense: his win-loss record is virtually meaningless. If he didn't have a gaudy record it would be conclusive proof that he is inept.
So all these things are true. One of the crosses Michigan fans must bear is the nasty, dull, too close for comfort win over clearly inferior competition. It's our version of the Spartan collapse. But Michigan does not play like this against opponents it respects. I would like to have my cake and eat it, too: I don't like DeBord but it won't matter against Ohio State, a team that even he has to take seriously. Michigan's gameplans are only expectation-scorning things against the Northwesterns of the world.
Also: no Riley, Manningham, Ecker, or Massey. Arrington with reduced playing time. Hart dinged up and Super Fumble Brothers replacing him. Miserable, miserable weather. Excuses a-plenty are available if you wish to use them. But, really: Michigan's playcalling put it in a situation much like last year where they were forced to make several third-down conversions per drive. With the weather, the missing personnel, and the execution errors, the offense on homecoming was indeed a blast from the past: 2005.
The defense of a more distant, more powerful vintage, and we'll ride it as far as it takes us.
Hopefully light on "aaaaargh."
There are few iron-clad rules when it comes to this blog, but here's one: when you make your entire post a pitch-perfect homage to Alton Brown, you get a link. In a really big font:
Why? Because Alton Brown is the kind of man who goes to the hardware store to make barbecue. That's why. Because his sort of do-it-yourself spirit is the cooking analog of blogging. And because when he makes fajitas he puts the meat directly on hot charcoal.
How do you know something is the grand-bull-moose of terrible ideas? Well, it's a start if both Dennis Dodd and Matt Zemek think it's clever. If calculus was the world's lamest nickname, one of these guys would be Lame Nickname Newton and the other Lame Nickname Leibnitz. Dodd:
They call them the "English Majors," even though there aren't any on the Michigan defense. The nickname is a tribute to new defensive coordinator Ron English.
No, "they" don't. No one calls them that. Are these the same they that wanted Lloyd Carr fired? The same they that are strenously against Michigan luxury boxes?
To Michigan fans: if you weren't Michigan fans or Big Ten fans, would you still rate the Penn State win as impressive? The Nittany Lions scored just one offensive touchdown against Illinois... the same amount of offensive touchdowns scored against your truly wonderful defense, which shall now be known as the "English Majors."
No, it shall not. Dude... dude... I've got this rad idea for a nickname for Michigan's offense: the "Hart Attack." OMG LOL. And then we could call Mario Manningham "Super Mario" OMG LOL. OMG. LOL.
And they start to turn. Weis E. Coyote is beginning to grate on members of the media. His pity party about Notre Dame's drop in the polls after miraculously escaping UCLA caught the attention of Stewart Mandel (who I've figured out, BTW: he's really irritating when he writes anything about a team you support; that same quality makes his articles about rivals gold, Jerry. Gold!):
How, he wonders, did the Irish get passed by both a Tennessee team that needed a last-minute rally itself to survive Alabama and a Florida team that didn't even play?
It's a valid question.
Then again, one could also ask another legitimate question in regards to the situation: How on earth were the Vols and Gators ranked behind Notre Dame in the first place?
Climbing on board the bash-wagon is DJ Gallo of Page 2:
Hey, care to know what befuddles me, Charlie? How the head coach of Notre Dame, a program which has consistently been overrated and ranked higher than it deserved to be for more than a decade -- and for most of the past century -- has the audacity to complain about polls. I mean ... wow! That more than befuddles me.
I notice far fewer articles about Weis healing the sick and turning a meal for five into one for five thousand (then eating that, natch) these days and more pointing out that Weis and big games go together like peanut butter and cancer.
If you'd like a horrfying image of Weis' face photoshopped onto a baby's body (probably -- it could just be a tabloid candid), the MZone has you covered. And you need therapy.
Etc.: Article on FB commit Vince Helmuth.
What? Oh, come on. You really want me to do this? I was going to leave it at "Northwestern sucks," but that tempts fate and makes me feel guilty after a week of crappy blogging. So an abbreviated preview but a preview.
Fair warning: next week's preview is going to be "Ball State sucks." And that's all. I'll spend the time assembling a recruiting update.
Run Offense vs. Northwestern
I expect a return to the early days of the season, where we plow mercilessly into stacked fronts against teams that can't handle it. Though the Northwestern rush defense is statistically only slightly worse than average, they were ripped for 249 yards by PJ Hill and 137 by Tony Hunt in the only two games they faced actual Big Ten rushing attacks. (Michigan State sort of had to abandon the run after that whole 38-3 thing.) I don't expect Michigan to replicate Hill's 7.1 YPC, but anything less than 4.5 would be a disappointment, especially since the Wildcats' leading tackler, Nick Roach, is out for the year.
This is essentially a MAC level defense and Michigan will probably treat them with the contempt they reserve for apparently inferior foes, running blindly into stacked fronts. It'll work, it'll be boring, and it'll be frustrating.
Key Matchup: Minor and Grady versus Competence. No doubt they'll get some early carries; hopefully they prove capable enough to give Hart a nice long breather.
Pass Offense vs. Northwestern
Manningham, Massey, and Ecker are all out. Adrian Arrington's legal situation makes his status for this game questionable. Rueben Riley may or may not play after suffering some sort of leg injury towards the end of the first half versus Iowa. Even when healthy and playing competition we think is dangerous to us we run lots. To date we've run about 2/3rds of the time.
So... yeah. This is probably going to end up one of those days where Henne throws something like 18 times and completes 14 of them. Without anything resembling a deep threat (if Arrington is out), he'll probably end up with 150 yards or so. Not that the Northwestern defense is much good -- 84th in pass efficiency D, 104th in yardage terms -- but we're not likely to throw unless we have to.
Key Matchup: Breaston versus His Traitorous Hands. Mostly dormant these last few weeks but even I, a staunch defender of the man, don't think a game with him as the #1 receiver appeals much.
Run Defense vs. Northwestern
This is the one thing the Wildcats are good at, 31st in the country. Tyrell Sutton is having a rougher time of it this year without Brett Basanez to take some heat off of him, but the Wildcats are managing against the weaker defenses on their schedule.
With the #1 ranked rushing defense in the country, Michigan does not qualify as "weaker" than anyone, however, and the results from Northwestern's games against two similar opponents, Penn State and Wisconsin, do not project well for NW. Strangely, Sutton only got eight carries in each game, totalling 58 yards between them. The quarterback ran (or fled quite a bit); backup Terrell Jordan also got some carries. The totals: 56 carries for 203 yards, or 3.6 per, or slightly more than the season averages yielded by the two. If Northwestern turns in a similar performance they'll probably beat the 1.5 YPC Michigan is ceding.
So they've got that going for them.
Key Matchup: Michigan perimeter defenders versus a relatively mobile quarterback. We reached this point in 2004 with a rushing defense almost as good as this one only to see it fall apart QB draw by QB draw. It's doubtful such a thing will repeat, but still possible.
Pass Defense vs. Northwestern
I actually taped the Northwestern-Penn State game to review it. What can I say? I have a disease. The lingering impression from that game was the Northwestern quarterback -- whoever it was -- running for his life constantly. The offensive line was a sieve against a defense that hasn't shown much in the way of consistent pass rush versus the pulse-bearing. With 12 sacks and three broken quarterbacks left in its wake the past two weeks, the Michigan defense does not look like a good matchup. In other news: man bites dog and you can't breathe in space.
Though the Northwestern offense managed to find something resembling a passing game for the first time all year against Michigan State, let's review: Michigan State. Michigan. Okay. There's a reason Northwestern is 107th in passing efficiency.
Key Matchup: CJ Bacher versus complete annhilation.
...will be irrelevant.
Key Matchup: As above.
Okay... I break many rules by posting this but I must anyway:
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Everyone remains healthy.
- Prescott Burgess is not tackled at midfield and arrested by the Ohio National Guard for stealing baseball cards when he was nine.
- We show up.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 0 out of 10. (Baseline 5; -1 for You Lost To Michigan State, -1 for And Did I Mention You Led That Game 38-3, -1 for You Lost To UNH And This Isn't Hockey, -1 for Seriously, They're I-AA, -1 for SERIOUSLY.).
Desperate need to win level: 10 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +5 for Eff It, We Must Go To Columbus Undefeated)
Loss will cause me to... look for the portal back into my home universe.
Win will cause me to... yawn.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict: We win by lots.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Breaston touchdown. I have to be right about this eventually.
- Ohio State loses to Minnesota by 80 points.
- 30-6, Michigan.
WR Toney Clemons has committed to Michigan. Hooray and stuff. Informative update coming.
Informative Update: So... yeah, there's this YouTube compliation video with grainy-field level footage of Clemons doing stuff. Sometimes it's running a route or waiting for a punt or, like, sitting down, but he's definitely doing stuff. One warning: if you're Mormon, at work, or just irritated by choruses that consist of "#*$& bitches, make money" repeated a dozen time you might want to mute your computer. Anyway:
There's remarkable consensus on Clemons for a total lack of consensus. Scout has him the #8 WR in the country, Rivals #20, and ESPN #37, but all say the same thing about him: he's peanut butter cookie dough, raw but so good.
Mmmm... peanut butter cookie dough.
Anyway, witness the remarkable consensus! Scout:
Clemons is fantastic in the air, showing great leaping ability, body control, aggressiveness, athletic ability and concentration. He'll attack the ball at the highest point and make an acrobatic catch with the defensive back draped all over him.
... but they list "route-running skills" as an area for improvement. (Also, Scout purports that this quote came from Clemons in re: his Michigan official visit: "It was bananas!" Did we take him to a speakeasy? Or just warp him into Pleasantville?)
He is explosive for his size and can get over the top of defensive backs in a hurry. He has very good hands and long arms. Can extend to snag balls thrown outside of his frame and shows outstanding body control on contested balls and jump ball match-ups. ... Huge red-zone threat because of height and strength. ... There is no questioning his tools, measurables and athleticism, but he is raw.
ESPN ends up rating him a 78, which doesn't match the "WR #37" ranking, since their 150 ends at players ranked 79, making a 78 a four-star equivalent. Weird.
Recently I asked a dozen high school and college coaches who they thought was the best prospect between Jon Ditto, Nick Sukay, and Toney Clemons. Six coaches thought Ditto was the best prospect while six thought Sukay was.
...As for Clemons, while none of the coaches considered him the best of the three, he did get a good amount of second place votes and was considered to be the receiver with the biggest potential. "If he ever puts it together, he could be tough," said one coach, "but he is the most raw of the three. You would be taking him on potential because he won't make the sudden impact that Ditto and Sukay would make".
(Odd, since Sukay and Ditto are not college WRs. Sukay is a safety, Ditto a TE. The high school coaches probably answered a different question than they were asked.)
Gateway HS coach (
the home of Steve Breaston, I believe the home of Justin King, that foolish man) Terry Smith:
"Clemons was the best of the bunch [at the Pitt Scout Combine]; when a defensive back gives you a cushion, the good ones you can always tell will eat that up, and he does," said Gateway football coach Terry Smith, who worked with wide receivers at the combine. "He is just a great athlete, he's not a polished receiver, but his natural ability is off the charts."
Clemons was named MVP of that combine, and after it it was widely presumed that the guy was a five-star lock when guru rankings came out. Obviously, that didn't happen.
In keeping with our upside-themed discussion, NFL Draft Showcase -- run by a guy who's somewhere between "random" and "guru", Allen Trieu, projects him as the #1 wide receiver prospect for the... uh... 2010 NFL draft:
Surprised? [That you rate HS seniors? Yes. -ed] Clemons may be a top 100 player in most books, but rarely is he rated in the top 5-10 at the position nationally. After watching him on tape, I'm blown away by his ability to go up and get the ball. He has a big frame (6'3, 190) and great athleticism. He was also a track (hurdles) champion, so you know he has the physical tools. He hasn't put up huge stats, but he has all the skills to blossom into a big time college receiver and he projects well to the NFL as well. This could be a player some of the national powers regret sleeping on.
So there you go. Raw. Described as a "track phenom," named an Army All-American, a combine MVP, has friends with horrendous taste in highlight compilation music. Sounds good.
There is a catch, though: what was the deal with his offers? Michigan beat out Pitt, WVU, Colorado, and MSU -- though mostly Pitt -- for his commitment. No offense to those schools, but that's not exactly USC, OSU, and Texas. Michigan was the only top-tier school to offer, which has to raise questions. Anyone as supposedly electric as Clemons should have at least token offers from the big schools, especially after that combine performance. I guess we'll see.
This is all very odd to me. How raw can a wide receiver be? Your job is to go out, run routes, and catch the damn ball. I can see how there might be an adjustment period if you were switching positions, as Steve Breaston did, but Clemons has played WR his entire high school career. Any inconsistencies in his technique or route-running will get worked through in his freshman year, especially given Michigan's apparently never-ending assembly line of terrifying wideouts. Either Clemons is not the remarkable athlete everyone says he is or a bunch of schools just made a major mistake.
Highlights from Dangerous Logic, per usual.
|M33||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Run||4||Hart||Zone left|
|Well blocked. Kraus gets to the second level and drives his man. There's a crease between Bihl, who gets a nice backside block, and the frontside of the line that Hart moves up into. He picks the wrong side of Bihl and turns what could have been eight into four, though.|
|We'll have to see if this holds up, but my theory on the run game is that Iowa slanted and jumped the hell out of all our zone plays, overpursuing like mad. At halftime, the coaches told Hart to cut everything way back, and voila: room. On this snap, Iowa is slanting left at the snap and thus gets penetration from virtually everyone. The backside's way open but Hart's not used to making this cut so soon. Iowa is jumping this play: a bad call from DeBord.|
|No reason for Henne to leave the pocket here, as it's held up beautifully. He starts scrambling but there's no way he's going to get the first. He had time to sit and find someone (Hart releasing into a checkdown that would have been open versus this man coverage) and pick up the first. (BR)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0,11 min 1st Q. First of a number of instances where Henne has time and decides to scramble out without being pressured. Second-down play was telegraphed.|
|Oluigbo in the game functioning as an H-back. He motions to the short side of the field, overloading it. Mitchell(-1) can't even bother the DT â€“ another one of these playside blocks â€“ forcing a Hart cutback into nothing.|
|This spot is a travesty. Breaston either has the first down or is inches away from it, but is bashed out of bounds by the defensive back. The ref on the sideline spots it where he goes out of bounds. (CA, 3) I'm livid about this spot. It's inexplicable. Why no review?|
|M37||3||2||Ace 3TE||Run||1||Hart||Zone right|
|Again with the slanting towards the strength of the formation. Kraus(-1) is blown into the backfield and is the main offender on the OL, but Mitchell(-1) didn't do much either.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 6 min 1st Q.|
|Open for a shortish gain. Arrington does well to make a quick turn and pick up a bunch of YAC. (CA, 3)|
|Plenty of time; Arrington comes open on a crossing route. Makes 7 or 8 after the catch. (CA, 3)|
|O36||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Run||-7||Hart||Zone left|
|Hold on Carson Butler(-1), and a deserved one. He tackled his dude, allowing Hart the corner. If he had just let go after getting the block, he probably would have given him the corner anyway.|
|Klikenborg is right there to make the tackle and remove any YAC possibilities. If Arrington keeps running instead of coming to a stop he might get the corner on the slow-ish linebacker. (CA, 3)|
|Plenty of time. Receivers that are visible are covered. Henne eventually does his rollout-into-defenders thing and throws the ball away. (TA)|
|Stupid penalty on the Iowa defender as he drives through Arrington well before the ball gets there, drawing an obvious flag. Don't mind the throw short of the sticks here because at this spot on the field nine or ten yards either gives you a field goal attempt or a makeable fourth down. (CA, N/A)|
|Missed blitz pickup. The corner comes on a blitz as Hart goes out on a pattern. Riley slides over to pick him up, but Mitchell continues double-teaming the DT with Bihl, leaving Mattison virtually unblocked. (PR)|
|O45||2||24||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||13||Butler||TE Cross|
|Good protection this time. Henne finds Butler and hits him in stride at a point where he has a chance to get some YAC. (CA, 3)|
|Henne again has plenty of time, then freaks out with the unnecessary running thing. He runs himself into a sack. Plenty of time and third and 11 from the 32: either throw it away or bomb it into coverage. (BR)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 13 min 2nd Q.|
|M43||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||17||Butler||TE Out|
|Well timed and thrown where Butler has room to turn upfield for a nice gain after the catch. Butler shows some agility tip-toeing down the sidelines. (CA, 3)|
|Somewhat in keeping with my theory: we line up in a balanced formation, not tipping what side the play will go to. We go right, away from Long, et al, and there's no penetration into the backfield this time. Hart finds a hole on the backside, gets five yards downfield, and then grinds for an impossible further three.|
|Jake Long comes down the line, managing to interfere with the penetrating DT enough for Hart to bounce outside between TEs and Riley.|
|Corner opposite Arrington blitzes right past him into the backfield, screwing up the play's timing.|
|O29||2||11||Ace 4-Wide||Pass||8||Breaston||Slip screen|
|Butler split out as a wideout to the top of the screen with another player. Breaston motions to the their side and takes the slip screen. Iowa forces it inside but there's no one in position to stop it â€“ no man coverage. (CA, 3)|
|Receivers bunched tightly just off right tackle, Butler lines up to the left. Mark Bihl(-2) is owned by Mattison. Henne manages to get a duck off to Mathews, who scoops the ball up and gets the first down. Ugly but effective from Henne. (CA, 2)|
|O16||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||Inc||Butler||TE Cross|
|A little behind Butler but still catchable... and if caught, Butler walks in to the endzone. (CA, 2)|
|O16||2||10||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||12||Butler||TE Cross|
|Exact same play, this time against man coverage instead of zone. Butler has a step on Humpel but not quite enough to get past him and into the endzone. (CA, 3)|
|Disappointing, since the left side of the ball really blew Iowa off the ball. Probably because two guys are blocking three and the third guy, a linebacker, is unblocked. Probably a Kraus or Bihl screwup.|
|Goddammit, this is a touchdown. He does bobble it but then he catches it and gets his toe in-bounds. No review? WTF. (CA, 2)|
|This one's really close and would have stood as called on the field no matter how it was originally called. (CA, 2)|
|Drive Notes: FG, 3-0, 7 min 2nd Q.|
|No room. Iowa is lined up in a 5-2, covering the wide-side tight end. We run there and get no push. Bihl(-1) goes backwards; Hart runs up into no hole.|
|M40||2||9||Five Wide||Pass||3||Breaston||Slip screen|
|Again they motion him to two WRs towards the top of the field and throw the slip screen. IMO: a ridiculously stupid call. Iowa's bringing guys up to stop the run whenever you threaten it, so the best way to run a slip screen is to empty the backfield? Where's the play action in this game? (CA, 3)|
|Godfrey is in nice coverage, but Henne puts this right on Breaston's fingertips, outside of the defender's reach. (DO, 3)|
|O47||1||10||I-Form||Pass||Inc / -10||Breaston||Bomb|
|Holding on Mitchell(-1)... really obvious call. Deep ball is to a covered Breaston and is winged long. Maybe TA, but filed as IN. (IN, 0)|
|Safety comes up just before the snap and convinces Hart to cut it back inside instead of heading out to open space... if he's a few yards back at the snap Hart pops this outside. Irritating that they can do this in first and twenty.|
|Okay: we have been running some play action, but they're always draw fakes on drop-back passes, like this play. We haven't run a draw all game. Anyway: this is what Henne needs to do instead of taking off on those ineffective scrambles of his. Everyone's covered downfield, so dump it down to Hart and let him run with the ball. (CA, 3)|
|Arrington open; Henne throws it wide. Griese claims that Arrington got out of his break late, but if it's a yard further inside he catches it. (IN, 0)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 3-0, 1 min 2nd Q.|
|Couldn't we get this on the last drive? (CA, 3)|
|M34||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||Inc||N/A||Hail Mary|
|Incomplete; not charted.|
|Drive Notes: EOH, 3-0, EOH.|
|I have no idea what happens because ABC does the field-level endzone thing again. Thanks, stupid director!|
|Easy throw and catch. (CA, 3)|
|Henne doing a better job with his reads and his time here, coming down to his third receiver, which is Hart on a swing pass. (CA, 3)|
|Safety fills a decent hole. You can see that the Iowa defense is reading these plays really quickly and attacking at the LOS instead of waiting in the backfield.|
|Hopefully he's just young and not going to keep doing this.|
|Mathews coming across the zone; ducks underneath a potential tackler and manages to get the first down. (CA, 3)|
|Riley comes back in the game and immediately lets Mattison go right around him and knock the ball loose. He recovers the resulting fumble. (PR)|
|Only a three-man rush. We've got a three-step drop; the pass is batted. (BA, 0)|
|Perhaps one of the reasons this ball was overthrowns was Butler being held for a good ten yards. I mean... seriously. Anyway... Henne drew the safety to the ball by staring it down, so this is a (BR), but there really should be a flag on this play. (BR, 0)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 3-0, 11 min 3rd Q.|
|Holding penalty on Arrington(-1) negates a 16-yard run. Brian Thompson kicks out a linebacker lined up on the LOS, providing a crease between himself and Long. Obi flows into the hole first, forcing the safety to try to go under him; this doesn't work. Holding call downfield is lame but technically accurate.|
|Deflected by Klinkenborg, who's dropped deep. (BR, 0)|
|We finally run this thing after having faked it four or five times. With only six guys in the box it works fairly well, but instead of a crease right up the middle a la Penn State, Hart' forced outside where a safety can disengage and eventually tackle.|
|Hey, he caught one. (CA, 3)|
|Massive cutback all the way outside the backside DE leaves him and Arrington two-on two with a safety and a corner; I don't know if this is miscommunication or what, but Hart takes a few yards instead of maybe getting more.|
|O20||2||6||Ace 3-Wide||Run||0||Hart||Zone right|
|No one gets blocked. Neither DT. Butler can't hold his on the edge. Boren can't hold off Klinkenborg. Etc.|
|Pitch and catch w/ draw fake. Draw fakes seem designed to hold the LB inside so they can't get out in the passing lanes, but this is man anyway. (CA, 3)|
|O9||1||G||I-Form Twins||Run||9||Hart||Zone left|
|Touchdown. One of the few times in the game where we run away from the strength of the formation. No penetration this time â€“ maybe because we go to the side they don't expect us to. With Iowa slanted towards the TE side everyone has to attack the frontside; the linebacker and DE on the backside are both useless, waiting for the play to come to them. Boren and Mitchell have one guy to block. Boren does an excellent job and Hart powers through the safety for the last three.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 10-3, 6 min 3rd Q.|
|M31||1||10||I-Form Twins||Run||10||Hart||Zone right|
|I think this play is actually designed to get to the backside. We run away from the the strenght of the formation but Oluigbo immediately heads to the backside to seal a linebacker. Hart breaks a tackle four yards downfield and powers for the last two or three.|
|M41||1||10||I-Form Twins||Run||9||Hart||Zone right|
|Confirms my suspicions about the last play, as the fullback heads right this time. Hart manages to squirt through a tiny crease, breaking a DL's tackle.|
|Another play away from the strongside, another cutback. Good job by Butler(+1) to kick the DE out and open up a big hole.|
|O43||1||10||I-Form Twins||Pass||4||Breaston||Slip screen|
|These have been well defended by Iowa all day. (CA, 3)|
|Easy throw and catch with Iowa playing off. (CA, 3)|
|O29||1||10||I-Form Twins||Run||4||Hart||Zone left|
|Play is extremely well blocked; think Hart needs to recognize this and get upfield faster. He's indecisive, changing his mind about whether he's going inside or outside of Long, allowing a couple Iowa defenders to disengage.|
|O25||2||6||I-Form Twins||Run||4||Hart||Zone right|
|Will Paul in at FB. He manages to kick out a charging safety. Hart's forced to cut up inside of him where there are a lot of bodies.|
|Well... Boren has one of these playside blocks... and it's a really playside block. All game Iowa's been lining up with defensive linemen directly over the three interior linemen and two guys split out wide: Boren's asked to block the guy lined up over Bihl. This he does not do. Hart cutback ends up with but a yard.|
|Drive Notes: FG, 13-6, 13 min 4th Q.|
|M41||1||10||I-Form Twins||Run||1||Hart||Zone left|
|Now an eighth guy in the box. Hart's cutback lane is filled with an unblocked linebacker.|
|Tackled immediately, but open underneath like he has been all day. (CA, 3)|
|No one open at first. Henne starts scrambling out. It looks like it's going to be another one of these plays where he scrambles uselessly and is eventually sacked. But this time he finds Arrington for first down yardage; it's only a great play by the Iowa defender that prevents a completion. (CA, 0)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 13-6, 10 min 4th Q.|
|Mathews in front of the zone; a checkdown. (CA, 3)|
|Hart cuts behind Oluigbo after finding a hole between Butler and Long. A DT grabs him and Hart starts hauling him forward before Merrick grabs his ankles.|
|O35||3||2||I-Form Twins||Run||2||Hart||Zone left|
|Controversial reversed fumble... well, not so controversial as he's obviously down. With Hart lean ing forward and his knee down around the 34 it's probably right-ish but generous. Either way Michigan was in sneak range on fourth down.|
|O33||1||10||I-Form Twins||Run||-1||Hart||Zone left|
|Jake Long(-1) defeated and pancaked by the defensive end. Looks like he tripped or something. Free DE makes the TFL.|
|Again: easy catch and throw. (CA, 3)|
|O22||1||10||I-Form Twins||Run||4||Hart||Zone left|
|Against strength of formation: cutback. Oluigbo heads straight upfield this time. Anyway: Butler kicks out the DE and everyone flowing down the line opens up a big hole back there. Hart tackes it. An excellent tackle from Fletcher keeps this gain down... if only Obi had cut all the way to the right.|
|O18||2||6||I-Form Twins||Run||7||Hart||Zone left|
|Obi heads out playside this time, blocking a charging safety. Hart cuts back behind a wall of Obi, Long, and Kraus. Reason there's a big hole? Outstanding playside block from Bihl, crushing his man backwards. Hesitancy to penetrate because of the cutback?|
|Obi playside. Almost a replay of the last play, except Mitchel (now at RT), can't prevent Mattison from flowing down the line and making the tackle at the LOS.|
|O10||2||9||I-Form||Run||10||Hart||Zone right (2, 3)|
|Touchdown. Away from strength of formation, Obi takes a couple steps playside then shoots out to the backside, cutting the last guy with a chance at Hart. A counter zone? We've done this too often for this to be improvisation. Chris of DL instructs me to "give the fullbacks some love." LOVE!|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 20-6, 4 min 4th Q.|
Charty Charty Chart Chart.
(Now with explanatory legend.)
You'll note a ton of additional throws filed under "CA". This is due in large part to Iowa's effective gameplan against our run game -- more on that later -- which allowed Iowa to keep its safeties ten yards off the LOS. Without Manningham or a favorable presnap situation, Michigan hardly went downfield. As a result, Henne threw a lot of outs and crosses and the like. With few deep throws, the chances of things other than "CA" were minimized. Henne was generally accurate but not inspiring.
One issue: a high number of BRs. Only one was a dangerous throw into coverage -- the interception on the seam route -- but a total of four is high. Henne started the game doing that scramble-into-danger thing when the pocket was holding, essentially sacking himself. That hesitancy has crept into his game in recent weeks; hopefully it's more a function of no Manningham than anything else.
- 0 = totally uncatchable
- 1 = difficult catch worthy of Avant.
- 2 = tough-ish catch.
- 3 = aaaaargh if dropped.
I just want to point out that since I started charting Breaston's dropped all of one "3". I know he had some early dodginess and Michigan's protecting him by not throwing him balls he's unlikely to catch (slants, anyone?) but I think concerns about his hands are overblown.
Mathews had a nice debut -- a functional debut, anyway, unless you want to count blocking -- and looks like he'll be a good #3 the next couple years.
Butler is developing into a weapon. A weapon good for a false start per game, sure, but he's just a freshman.
Hart had 27 yards at halftime and just under 100 after. WTF?
I gots a theory: Iowa, being well coached and familiar with zone running, figured out a way to deal with the Michigan run game: line up three penetrating interior linemen directly over the Michigan guards and centers with the remaining DE and a linebacker split wide, creating a five-man front. The linemen slanted heavily towards the strength of the formation at the snap, cutting off the outside, geting penetration, and bottling Hart up.
After halftime, Michigan frequently lined up in the I and ran against the strength of the formation, only to have Hart cut back to the cavernous -- and overloaded! -- backside. Occasionally, Oluigbo would even bolt out to the backside and crush the last man between Hart and an eight- or ten-yard gain. The best example of this was the last real offensive play of the game, when Oluigbo took a couple steps to the right, then radically changed direction and plowed the last guy with a chance to close down the massive backside/strongside hole. If we hadn't run him at the back of the formation a couple times already, you could assume it was a brilliant improvisation, but I think it was the playcall: a counter zone or something.
The side effect of all the backside/weakside stuff was to mute the quick penetration of the Iowa line since they couldn't be sure which way the play was going based on the formation. Not coincidentally, Hart's best run in the first half came when Michigan lined up in balanced two TE set and Iowa couldn't crash the strongside.
So... consider Riley exonerated and hold off on the Boren coronation.
What does it mean for Ohio State?
We have to be concerned that Iowa managed to bring our run game to a standstill for a half without committing an extra man to the box. Our second-half adjustment got us rolling, but how effective will it be when Ohio State has it on film and can plan for it?
The rest? MOTS, really. Occasional dodginess from the OL, Henne good but still a little prone to unforced errors, Breaston and Arrington still Breaston and Arrington, etc.