|WHAT||Michigan at Penn State|
|WHERE||Beaver Stadium, Happy Valley, PA|
|WHEN||8:00 Eastern, October 30th 2010|
|THE LINE||Michigan -3|
|TELEVISION||National on ESPN|
Run Offense vs Penn State
This is hard to get a read on due to key injuries on both sides. Michigan expects that David Molk, Denard Robinson, and Michael Shaw will be ready to go after the bye week. Any could still be nursing injuries that make them less effective. Penn State's situation is considerably murkier. We know FS Nick Sukay and DE Eric Latimore are out. The following players are all somewhere between questionable and probable:
- LBs Khairi Fortt (stinger, DNP Minnesota), Gerald Hodges (broken leg; played against Minnesota and got two tackles), Bani Gbadyu (played vs Minnesota), LB Michael Mauti (played vs Minnesota)
- DEs Jack Crawford (DNP Minnesota) and Sean Stanley (situational pass rush, not actually injured but in the JoePa doghouse).
All but Crawford (who is very doubtful) are likely to play. At what level is unknown.
The DE issues have been so severe that 310 pound freshman DT Jordan Hill started outside against Minnesota and played most of the game. He was not good, providing zero pass rush and looking like a train trying to double back when the Gophers ran misdirection against him. If he plays much against Michigan he'll be crazy vulnerable on the read option. Penn State is experimenting with freshman Fortt as a standup DE, but he's 230 pounds and should be crazy vulnerable to getting donkeyed by Lewan or Dorrestein. Absent Crawford, Penn State is picking its poison.
The other DE is usually Pete Massaro, a redshirt sophomore who missed last year with an ACL tear. He's a thousand times better than anyone else PSU played against Minnesota, but he's just a guy at the moment.
The interior line is still very good. Ollie Ogbu, who you may remember stuffing DeBord stretches in the 2007 Penn State game, is now a Brooks Bollinger Memorial Eighth Year Senior; Devon Still was a touted recruit and is now entering his upperclass years. They have consistently penetrated opposing offensive lines and are usually the guys responsible for PSU shutting down a run play—Ogbu has 29 tackles and 5.5 TFLs already; Still has 5.5 TFL, three of those sacks. They're thin past the starters, however. Backup DTs have one solo tackle between them.
The linebackers have not lived up to expectations. Don't take my word for it:
Penn State has decided to rent out the "Linebacker U" moniker this season to just about any other team not named Penn State. The group of linebackers are not playing the way we have come to expect our linebackers to play. I'm not sure if it is just this group of guys, or if we were spoiled by having such amazing linebackers (Dan Connor, Sean Lee, Paul Posluszny) with great instincts that we just have come to expect all of our LBs to read and react to plays as quick as that trio did. …We need this group to play better if there is any chance we are going to upset Michigan.
In the Penn State games I've watched Colasanti and Mauti have eaten a lot of blocks. PSU fans like Mauti better than their other guys, so I may just have caught him on an off day or coming off an injury. Colasanti is slow of foot and if a blocker gets out to him he's done. PSU is rotating heavily so Hodges, Gbadyu (right), Nate Stupar, and possibly Fortt are likely to see snaps. Fortt and Hodges are athletic but mistake-prone; Gbadyu and Stupar are veterans no one thinks much of—Gbadyu seems like an Ezeh-level whipping boy for PSU fans.
From this come the numbers:
That's three bad performances and a decent one against Iowa. Minnesota is not good at football. Against beleaguered Purdue the week before they managed 4.3 a carry. It is not good when your run defense is marginally ahead of this year's Boilers.
After a bye week Michigan is seventh nationally in rushing offense, averaging 6.5 YPC. Iowa and Michigan State slowed the Denard Robinson train down, and "slowed" may not be the right word. Robinson still averaged 5.8 YPC against Iowa and the team as a whole put out 196 yards on 41 carries against what was the #2 rushing defense in the country and is currently #8. If Michigan hadn't ended up in a big hole thanks to turnovers and its defense they could have put up truly epic numbers given the competition. At this point questions are dispersed: this is a for real rushing attack with a for real offensive line and the explosive Robinson.
Michigan's wild card here is Michael Shaw. He was splitting carries with Vincent Smith approximately down the middle before an injury sidelined him for Indiana and limited him to just seven carries against Michigan State and Iowa; he's got the breakaway speed Smith lacks and if healthy could provide a secondary run threat with the potential to test Penn State's battered safety corps.
Key Matchup: Denard Robinson against DE Not Named Massaro. With Crawford out and the delicious possibility of lumbering freshman DT in space, Michigan should be able to put its most explosive player in advantageous positions with the zone read. If it's Fortt, Robinson should be running off tackle at him frequently. Either way that's the place to attack.
Pass Offense vs Penn State
nickelback was a receiver last year
Penn State's results to date:
Not so good. You've got the two game manager types that saw their teams run out to insurmountable leads of two touchdowns in the first half and put the passing in the garage, Nathan Scheelhaase, and Adam Weber, and three of the four put up impressive passer efficiency ratings. The Mathlete has them 37th but a lot of that was built in games against Kent State and Temple; Iowa and Alabama offset with Illinois being hugely negative and Minnesota positive but not enough to offset the Illinois game.
Penn State's pass rush is weak. They're 97th in sacks; as discussed in the previous section they are getting very little from the injury-wracked DEs. Whenever Hill or Latham is out there Michigan is going to be able to single block without trouble; Penn State's best bet may be to throw that guy against Lewan in the hopes that Massaro or Stanley can generate something against Dorrestein. In passing situations Stanley or Fortt should come in to replace the guy who's essentially a DT, which will provide more of a challenge.
The PSU secondary is also thin and young after Sukay's injury. They've moved Drew Astorino to the free safety position and he sounds like a faster combination of Kovacs and Cam Gordon—small, iffy tackler, questionable angles. The differences are in speed and experience. He's returning starter who was honorable mention ABT last year and has returned some punts. The second guy may be freshman Malcolm Willis, who was forced into the lineup after third safety Andrew Dailey had some minor injury problems of his own. Willis tackled well and had more of an impact on the game than either of the starters.
The corners aren't much deeper. D'Anton Lynn is a league-average corner who Penn State fans are very much in favor of for the same reason Troy Woolfolk's injury caused the rending of garments in Ann Arbor. The other guy, Stephen Morris, came in for a beating after the Minnesota game for sloppy coverage and horrible tackling. There are rumors that Chaz Powell might leap into the starting lineup or at least see significant time. This would be risky, since Powell has taken the same "you're a corner, I mean WR, I mean corner, I mean WR, I mean corner" career path that James Rogers has.
That lack of depth means it's going to be another boring week on the UFR D formation chart. Expect nothing but 4-3 unless Michigan gets in third and a billion.
This should be a much easier matchup for Michigan than Iowa and (sigh) Michigan State were. PSU is scrambling to get any sort of pass rush and their linebackers drag out of position a ton in zone; all the rotation makes it likely that no one player will have the consistency in drops either the Iowa or MSU linebackers (who never come off the field) did.
Key Matchup: Roundtree and Gallon vs Lynn and Morris (Powell?) on the bubble. Michigan's most effective passing attacks come from threatening the bubble against teams that can't handle it, then exploiting their over-reaction to it after it works the first few times. With dodgy tackling cornerbacks and injury issues at safety, Michigan should be able to give Denard some easy throws and go from there.
Run Defense vs Penn State
This is going to be slightly hard to believe but this should be… advantage… Michigan?
If Mike Martin is 100%, yes, serious. Penn State against BCS opponents and Minnesota:
Okay, so no one's going to mistake Michigan's D with Alabama, Iowa, or (sigh) Illinois any time soon but the throbbing danger sign for the Penn State rushing game isn't so much the YPC numbers but the distribution. On the road against Alabama in Robert Bolden's second start the run/pass breakdown was 50-50. Against Iowa, Penn State called 43 passes and 21 runs. With a freshman quarterback! In Iowa City! Minnesota even did a somewhat respectable job one week after giving up 126 yards on 12 carries to Dan Dierking. Northern Illinois put up 297 rushing yards on them. Penn State couldn't do much of anything before inserting Silas Redd late.
What's wrong with the Penn State rush offense? Pick a problem. The top two tight ends are out for the year, leaving Penn State with a true freshman or WR Brett Brackett—they literally cannot field a reasonable "big" package. Their fullback is a converted linebacker who can lay the wood but is really erratic. And the offensive line is a shambles. They've got one guy—guard Stefen Wisnewski—who's okay to good and four guys who are turrible. The tackles are 6'3" and 6'4" and can't move. When Penn State tries stretch plays they get slanted past like they're not there. The interior line cannot get a push on anyone. Royster apparently showed up to camp overweight and lacks the je ne sais quoi that will see him break PSU's all time rushing record sometime Saturday.
The many limitations of the blockers have seen Penn State totally shelve the stretch, which has been the play most deadly against Michigan's combination of mediocre/freshman defensive ends and overrun-happy linebackers. They're also limited in their ability to pull linemen—about all they can do with consistent(-ish) success is do inside zone stuff and drive block.
The lone bright spot has been freshman Redd, a darting runner with outstanding balance and the quickness to turn a broken play into something positive. Though he occasionally does that freshman thing where you try to bounce everything outside because you think it's still high school, he's PSU's version of Hopkins—fans are clamoring for more of him. Stepfon Green, who you may remember from such plays as "Gratuitous 80 Yard Screen Touchdown," is still around; he's a north-south runner with excellent top end speed but not a lot of wiggle—i.e. just the kind of guy Michigan desperately needs but Penn State can't use much because a busted block is a two yard gain with him.
On the other side of the ball, Michigan may have found a middle linebacker in Kenny Demens. If they have found such a thing and he's actually the guy he seemed like against Iowa, Michigan's run defense could (should?) improve from meh to somewhat respectable. We'll probably see some holes in his game against a team that's had an opportunity to scout him, but those will probably show up in the passing game. Penn State is not at the point where they can do much other than the basics.
Mike Martin has been proclaimed 100% after the bye week; if that's accurate Penn State isn't going to get much in the A gaps this week and will have to head further outside, where Roh can be contained and Banks/Black beat up. The DEs versus the tackles will be a matchup of twin weaknesses and could provide Penn State what running game they're going to have.
A bold prediction: Michigan holds PSU under 4.0 YPC.
Key matchup: Banks/Kovacs/Mouton keeping contain on runs that threaten to go outside the tackle. PSU isn't going to get much up the middle if Martin is healthy and Demens for real, but Iowa made a lot of hay on the outside.
Pass Defense vs Penn State
There are three entirely different balls of wax here depending on who actually plays for Penn State. Kevin Newsome is the easy one. He'll run a wildcat offense that will throw only when absolutely necessary and will be super bad at it. It doesn't sound like Robert Bolden is going to play but if he does he will be able to cut apart Michigan's secondary if given time.
gunslinger w/ gunslinger beard
The most likely opponent tomorrow, though, is walk-on Matt McGloin. McGloin came on in relief of Bolden and went 6 of 13 for 76 yards, two beautiful touchdowns, and one awful interception. Apparently he fancies himself a Favre-ian gunslinger; he reminded me of a walk-on version of Forcier. He's capable of almost anything down to down. The two touchdowns to Derek Moye could not have been better throws, especially the second—a picture-perfect fade against great coverage. His interception was a Sheridan special, a vastly underthrown ball chucked into double coverage. Several other incompletions were no-hopers to Tacopants. And that's all we know. Those thirteen passes are McGloin's career to date.
Penn State's receivers are huge or tiny with little in between. The two outside guys are 6'5" Derek Moye and 6'3" Justin Brown, with 6'5" quasi-TE Brett Bracket playing a lot in the slot and sometimes moving down to be a highly ineffective inline blocker. 5'7" Devon Smith is the slot waterbug du jour; Graham Zug also gets time but has been a drop machine this fall and finds himself marginalized. No one in this unit, even the tiny guy, is likely to shake many tackles. They are not YAC guys.
This will no doubt bring thunder down from the sky and see McGloin put up 500 yards, but the PSU receiving corps might actually be a good matchup for the Michigan secondary. James Rogers may not be able to change directions without going BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP but he is 6'1" with good leaping ability; JT Floyd isn't quite as big but he's a decent-sized corner too. Remember how Michigan neutralized Michael Floyd? Yeah, that could happen.
Michigan could also see a reprise of that weird 2008 game where Sheridan owned the Metrodome. McGloin may be a walk-on but so is the best player in Michigan's secondary. I have no doubt guys will be open and coverages busted as Penn State mounts some number of legitimate scoring drives between 2 and n.
On passing downs Michigan will probably drop eight, count on Martin, Roh, and Van Bergen to slice through PSU's all-guard offensive line, and wait for bad throws and decisions. There should be enough of those for Michigan fans to feel as good about their defense as they did after the first half of the Notre Dame game.
Key matchup: Demens, Mouton, Rotating Spur, and Kovacs against Brackett and Smith underneath. McGloin is going to be throwing a bunch of short routes and Michigan's going to have to cover them so McGloin can go out there and just have some fun in his Wrangler jeans by throwing several horrific interceptions.
Massive Penn State advantage because of one thing: the kicker. Colin Wagner is 14 of 17 on the year. Michigan's rotation is 2 of 8. The punt and punt return units are basically a wash, with Michigan looking a little less awesome in raw yardage but not enough that it seems like it will be a difference.
Kickoffs will be advantage Penn State, as M decommit Anthony Fera is getting them to the endzone and Michigan's kickers are getting them to the eight. Penn State has a big advantage in kick return yardage but since that's mostly from a touchdown against Youngstown State its relevance is questionable.
Key Matchup: STOP KICKING THE DAMN BALL
- The Anointed Kenny Demens reverts to The Enigmatic.
- Denard's throwing is still goofy even after the bye week.
- Martin does not look 100%.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Penn State actually rolls with Freshman DT as a contain guy on the zone read.
- The Hopkins is unleashed.
- Penn State has to bring a safety into the box.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 4 (Baseline 5; +1 for Road Night Game In Happy Valley, –1 for Against A Walk-On With Inadvisable Beard, –1 for Behind An Offensive Line Equivalent To Michigan's 2008 Edition, –1 for Versus A Defensive Line Choosing Between A DT And A LB At The Contain Denard Position, +1 for General Overconfidence Check, +1 for We Make The Turnovers Real Good, –1 for But Seriously Kenny Demens.)
Desperate need to win level: 10 (Baseline 5; +1 for Penn State Is Not Good, +1 for Bowl Eligibility, +1 for Margin Of Error Is Out The Window, +1 for If You Lose To This Shambles Of A Team And Their Walk-On Quarterback It's Curtains, +1 for And Who Wants To Draw The Curtain Over Denard?)
Loss will cause me to... spend the next four weeks talking about Harbaugh.
Win will cause me to... exhale.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
If Bolden does not play, Penn State will require several acts of God to win. Here is why in a statistic: Michigan's rushing defense is giving up 4.0 YPC. Penn State's rushing defense is giving up 4.0 YPC. They are equivalent. Michigan's rush offense is ripping foes for 6.5 YPC; Penn State is trundling along at… 4.0 YPC. This holds up even when you get all fancy. By the Mathlete's reckoning, the #2 Michigan rush offense is going up against the #53 Penn State rush defense. The inverse matchup is an evenly matched pillow fight that sees #93 take on #96. And most of this went down before Kenny Demens supplanted Ezeh and Penn State started scrambling for real at defensive end and safety.
If Penn State is going to win this game it's going to be by shredding a very shreddable Michigan secondary. If Bolden is slinging it around like he did against Minnesota, Penn State can keep within striking distance and all it will take is an all-too-predictable pile of Michigan mistakes to lose the game. If it's some combination of McGloin and Newsome the punts and picks will be too frequent for Penn State deal with, mistakes or no.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Hopkins gets more carries than any other back.
- Robinson hits 150 yards rushing and 200 passing.
- Special teams costs Michigan something between 3 and 7 points.
- Michigan, 31-21.
Right: Marvin Robinson moves from safety to
No surprises, and no Denard:
University of Michigan Football Injury Report
Thursday, Oct. 28, vs. Penn State
OUT (0% PLAY)
Jones, Mike Leg
Odoms, Martavious Foot
Toussaint, Fitzgerald Shoulder
Van Slyke, Jared Clavicle
Williams, Mike Head
Woolfolk, Troy Ankle
More interestingly, Rodriguez dropped some science about position switches on his coaches show that is either earth-shaking or wildly misinterpreted by the internet. These are the supposed moves via the somewhat confused twitter feed of Angelique Chengelis:
- Marvin Robinson to linebacker. I have a source who tipped me off about this a few days ago, so that's for real. Robinson's likely to compete at WLB for the job Mouton vacates after the year.
- Will Campbell(OG) and Quinton Washington(DT) are sticking at their new positions. Since these moves had already been confirmed, that's legit, too. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but there's some insider hype about Washington being a "beast" on Rivals. So we've got that going for us. Not likely to impact anything until next year unless Washington is a miraculously fast learner.
- Cam Gordon to "both safety spots" and Ray Vinopal to "deep safety". Since Vinopal is already a free safety this position switch is more a depth chart thing. There have been rumors floating around about Vinopal playing with the ones and either starting (fanciful) or getting real playing time (apparently likely) on Saturday. These are confirmed now; the source also dropped that Vinopal was getting a serious look at deep safety. The Cam Gordon bit there presages a move closer to the LOS, whether it's spur or bandit, eventually. (ATTENTION BYRON MOORE: duuuude. Seriously.)
- They "moved defensive linemen." Vague but the only thing that makes sense here is putting Sagesse back inside at NT and moving Patterson to a backup DE position.
Also, Rodriguez promised more carries for ham fiend Stephen Hopkins and said Teric Jones(!) would see the field. I looked for podcasts on WTKA's site but couldn't find them; maybe MVictors will be able to dig out exactly what was said so we can parse that into molecules. He's clutch like that.
This was the one beacon of hope on the defense, provided mostly 4s. The preview was extremely high on one Mike Martin:
… it's time for Martin to make the same leap Brandon Graham did between his junior and senior years. I can't offer anything more powerful than this wonderfully ungrammatical assessment from Jibreel Black:
You look at the rest of this defensive line and there’s a lot of talent there, but is there anyone in particular that you look at and say, ‘wow man this dude is better than I thought he was? ‘
“Not necessarily better than I thought he was, because I know all of them are good, but when I see some plays that Mike (Martin) makes in practice, I be like dang. His explosiveness, his technique that he uses. You can tell the work that he put in with it.”
I hope to be like dang for large sections of the season. … I'm not sure if Martin will be on All Big Ten teams after the year, especially at a position at which statistics don't always tell the tale, but I'm confident in asserting he should be on them.
The preview misidentified the Banks/Sagesse combination as the other defensive tackle when it's primarily been Banks on the field and he's always a defensive end when Michigan goes to its four man front. The two were regarded as meh interchangeable pieces on par with Rondell Biggs, the Other Guy on Michigan's ridiculous '06 line. In sum:
Michigan's formations will go some way to determining which player gets more time. In three-man lines Sagesse is clearly going to be a pass-rush liability as a defensive end, but when Michigan goes to four (or brings in the "double eagle" package with the DEs lined up over the opposition guards) Sagesse's got more heft. I wouldn't be surprised to see both lifted for Jibreel Black or maybe Craig Roh on passing downs.
Take your pick of adjectives: workmanlike, yeoman, gritty, etc. Expect something okay here; the upside is low, but so is the downside.
Backups were not encouraging: "Everyone is worried" about Will Campbell's ability to stick after getting lit up in limited time as a freshman and falling behind Adam Patterson on the depth chart. Patterson was not projected to be good:
He'll play; I don't think he'll be much good. The dropoff after Martin will be similar to that Michigan experienced when Graham came off the field, though less severe since Martin won't be Graham and the backup is at least a senior.
Ryan Van Bergen and Craig Roh were treated as defensive ends, something that's been true for them about 50% of the time. When Michigan goes to a four-man line Roh is the weakside DE; he's a linebacker otherwise. When they're in a three man line Van Bergen is the strongside DE; he's still a three-tech DT otherwise. RVB in a nutshell:
Van Bergen knows the position [DE], was recruited to play it, and is entering his fourth year on campus with a season as a solid starter under his belt. Least useful phrase ever: he's not going to be Brandon Graham. Mitigating phrase: but he should be solid. At a spot more amenable to pass rush and with more experience, RVB should brush up against double-digit sacks and see his UFRs climb into the consistently good realm inhabited by, say, Tim Jamison as a senior.
Roh was given a 3 as the deathbacker and dubbed "the Denard Robinson of the defense," which was true last year but cannot be true this year since Roh hasn't decapitated three opponents.
The catch in the Craig Roh explosion is this niggling move to the 3-3-5, where he's a strongside linebacker. …No one's sure how much Michigan will be running a three man line this fall but it will be some, which will give Roh the ability to attack from surprising angles and use his vertical speed to get into the backfield. It will also expose him to play action, counters, and other plays he's not used to dealing with much that can take advantage of the inability to change direction that had everyone projecting him as a defensive end despite being linebacker size. Now, you could just say he'll blitz all the time but that would get predictable; it would also impinge on Jonas Mouton's ability to do the same thing, and Mouton's a guy who has the exact same strengths Roh does. They'll have to split the fun bits where they tear into the backfield.
All this makes it difficult to project what Roh will do this season. A guess: doubling his 7.5 TFLs and significantly adding to his two sacks is a good bet. I don't think he'll be a crazy star just yet, but I expect to be saying the same things about him next year that I'm saying about Mike Martin this year.
Fast forward to NOW!
I be like dang about Mike Martin. Fears about turning him into a mediocre nose tackle proved unfounded. The move to the 3-3-5 has actually freed him up to slant past offensive linemen and splatter running plays or unleash thumping pass rush up the middle. Despite essentially missing the Iowa game he's amongst the team leaders in TFLs with 5.5 and has 2.5 sacks. He's got 23 tackles, as well, an impressive 16 of those solos. He went into beast mode against Notre Dame, racking up an 11.5 and proving himself too quick for one guy to do anything with:
He followed that up with an +8.5 in his toughest matchup to date against Michigan State:
At the end of that game he got hit with a cheap block and sprained an ankle that saw him play like a ghost of himself in the Iowa game. He eventually missed the second half.
Van Bergen has also checked in around expectations. He wouldn't look out of place on Michigan defensive lines of yore when the defense was actually good. He's not making a ton of tackles (just twelve) but has two sacks and four of Michigan's eleven QB hurries on the season. He's been hovering around the +4/+5 area that's a decent to good day for a 4-3 DE, and since he's not a 4-3 DE those numbers point towards an above-average player. He was even an impact player against MSU with a drive-killing sack and solid play against the run. He tied Martin's numbers on the day.
The Banks/Sagesse combination has disappointed. Sagesse hardly sees the field. Moving him to the outside when he seemed like a functional DT last year is and was a strange move. It's hard to imagine he'd be less effective than Patterson, and with Michigan moving towards four-man lines against pro style offenses he could have reprised his role from last year as an okay backup to Martin. Though Banks leads the team in sacks that's because Ricky Stanzi inexplicably ran out of bounds, Indiana busted a protection, and one of the nonconference snackycakes was a nonconference snackycakes. He delivers no pass rush and often finds himself single-blocked effectively. Michigan's been trying to get freshman Jibreel Black more playing time in response; they're finding it hard to keep him on the field because right now he's horrendous against the run.
Finally, Craig Roh has not made the hoped for leap in production. This is largely not his fault. He's not a linebacker, he's a weakside defensive end, and when you put him in space he makes a lot of bad zone drops and is often beaten in one-on-one situations by far more agile receivers. He's okay in man coverage against a tight end, but he's hovering around 250 pounds—he is the wrong kind of mismatch against a WR.
Michigan put his hand on the ground against Notre Dame to good effect…
…until Brandon Herron went out with injury and Michigan felt forced to put him at linebacker. Roh had a +11 on the day; Herron hasn't seen the field since and Roh's been stuck at LB in Michigan's 3-3-5. As a result, he ended up solidly negative against Indiana. The pro-style attacks of MSU and Iowa saw him put his hand on the ground 70-80% of the time; Roh ended up in the +4/+5 RVB zone after both games.
Fast forward to LATER!
At this point it's obvious that Will Campbell is not going to have an impact on the defense this year, so things are settled and relatively static at three positions.
Martin's ankle is 90% of the variance in future performances from the Michigan defensive line. Since he was healthy enough to at least try against Iowa and has had a bye week the assumption/hope is that he's shaken it off and can resume his backfield-terrorizing ways. He should continue to perform at an all conference level; his numbers will probably come up short because no one can cover long enough for Michigan to get sacks.
Roh and Van Bergen are a level of play down from Martin; at this point in their careers they're both good Big Ten players but not stars. Roh should be improving more quickly than anyone else on the line because of his relative youth. Hopefully by the end of the year he can make more impact in the pass rush and Michigan can reliably get pressure with four.
The strongside DE spot currently manned by Banks could see a late switch as Michigan coaches keep trying to get Black playing time. Unfortunately, he's an obvious liability in the run game and opponents will have scouted this by now. They've already installed a run/pass platoon there, so all that's left is to throw Black in the game and hope.
Prediction accuracy to date: Complicated by the error when it comes to positions. RVB is about a 4, as is the combination of Martin and Banks. Roh is about a 3. If I'm ranking them by actual position the strongside DE is a weak 2, the DTs a 5, and Roh still a 3.
Level of play relative to prediction: About right; main error was being too optimistic about the Banks/Sagesse combo.
Expected level of play for remainder of season: No change unless Michigan manages to get Herron back and decides to roll with Roh as a 3-3-5 DE, something that will only be relevant against Purdue and maybe Illinois.
Dear people of the internet who without fail suggest that they will contain Michigan's offense by having a linebacker or safety "spy" Denard Robinson,
Please stop saying this.
A player placed in a spying role drops into a short zone on a pass play and is tasked with running down the quarterback if he breaks contain or starts scrambling. Denard Robinson doesn't really scramble. He prefers launching deep balls into whatever coverage you've got handy. You can put a guy in a spying role if you want but it won't do much other than make your defense more predictable on passing downs.
It will not do anything to slow the Michigan run game. When Michigan runs the ball with Denard your spy is just going to be playing run defense. This is hard against Denard, I know. However, telling one of your linebackers that he should watch for potential scrambles on pass plays does not help him on non-pass plays. Michigan runs the ball over 60% of the time. Denard Robinson scrambles maybe 3% of the time.
When you post on a message board or leave a comment on a blog that says "we should spy Robinson" like you're the second friggin' guy to ever think of this—your defensive coordinator is evidently the first—you should know that God throws a six-inch-tall Japanese schoolgirl with enormous glistening innocent eyes and a Hello Kitty lunchbox into a wood chipper.
Thank you for your attention.
Podcasting. No podcast this week due to a fiasco involving a flight to Ireland out of Chicago and the MGoFiancee's unwise decision to leave her passport in Ann Arbor, but I do appear on the latest edition of the Solid Verbal. My bit is at around the 23 minute mark.
Blood Battle. Michigan's annual contest against Ohio State to see which school can donate more pints of blood* is awwwwn. Hit up their website for details. Michigan won 2449-2350 last year—I should put up a ticker that says 1343 DAYS SINCE OHIO STATE BEAT MICHIGAN AT BLEEDING. Ain't got no other tickers to put up.
BONUS: There's an organ donor challenge going on too, and Michigan is winning that too.
*(Attention OSU fans: cutting yourself with a broken bottle in a bar fight and oozing all over your Busch Light totally counts this year.)
Penn State past. MGoVideo's put together every snap videos from the '97 Judgment Day demolition:
There's also the 2006 defense. WARNING: watching these videos may make you powerfully nostalgic for defenses that have people on them who play football.
Lack of Cox explained. If you've been wondering why Michael Cox can't get a snap this helps explain it:
Rodriguez disclosed Wednesday that running back Michael Cox has had “a knee issue” for the past few weeks, and that his growth and practice has been limited.
He probably won't play much the rest of the year since he was a guy who really needed the practice reps for mental sharpness—Rodriguez said something about him needing to know the whole playbook before he sees the field. Also there are three guys in front of him. With Mike Shaw healthy and Stephen Hopkins easing into more playing time snaps are going to be fought for tooth and nail.
Also, Devin Gardner's back injury is still hampering him but they will bring him to Penn State in case there is an emergency.
Bolden yes no question? Robert Bolden was go, then he was no go, and now he's go?
Penn State freshman starting quarterback Rob Bolden has passed his Wednesday test intended to determine whether he is over effects from an apparent concussion suffered on Saturday at Minnesota.
Probably not. Penn State insider types (and Bolden's dad) are saying that Bolden has not practiced since the Minnesota game. There's little chance a guy who can't practice Wednesday will be ready to go Saturday, or prepared even if he is. Bolden's mom:
"He really wants to play against Michigan -- his heart is just going to be really broken since he can't," Williams said from her home in the Detroit suburb of Southfield, Mich. "He failed that concussion test Sunday, which is not good.
"I think it's best for him if they sit him down this week. Hopefully, he can play next week [Nov. 6 against Northwestern]."
Beating Penn State without Bolden would cheapen the victory but right now the program needs a win of any variety, cheap or not. Also, did I mention that DE Jack Crawford is still out? That leaves Penn State starting either that freshman DT or a really bad veteran or stuffing lightweight pass rusher and doghouse resident Sean Stanley into the starting lineup. If Penn State goes with the DT Michigan should tell Robinson to keep it every time he tries to keep contain.
At least one thing has not gone horribly disastrously wrong. FO's Brian Fremeau has finally done the thing that I always thought should be done with punting stats: measured the average result of punts from every yard line on the field and ranked teams by how much above or below they are that break-even line. Michigan's standing in that advanced measure:
|Punt Efficiency Top-10||Punt Return Efficiency Top-10|
|5||Florida State||-.129||22||5||Michigan State||.270||37|
|10||South Carolina||-.095||19||10||Fresno State||.233||33|
Fremeau doesn't provide a link to a list of all I-A teams so we can't find out exactly how terrible the punt returns have been but… dang. Fourth nationally is a huge difference from the conventional net yardage measure, in which M has dragged itself up to 44th after starting the year in triple digits thanks to Will Hagerup's nervy start.
I wish Fremeau would provide an alternate measure that assumed an average number of punts per game and approximated how many points per game being 13% better than average is worth—my slightly educated guess is it's around a field goal. Net punting average is about 37 yards. 13% of 37 yards is about five yards, and this Advanced NFL Stats post estimates that a season-long four yard advantage in field position is worth 2.8 points per game. Michigan's yardage difference is bigger but punts are less frequent, so… yeah. Will Hagerup is worth two or three points a game.
Meanwhile, Michigan is a shiny 120th in field goal efficiency, which is bad.
Ufer. A couple days ago was the anniversary of Bob Ufer's death in 1981.
Etc.: If you need a photo of the band, or six billion of them, there is an official site dedicated to doing so. Hey, Michigan Hockey Scheduler guy: don't put a home hockey game smack dab in the middle of a football game, thanks. This MZone post about college fooball coaches's Halloween costumes is horrifying. MNB compares Michigan players to characters in the Wire. Demerit: somehow gives Snoop to someone other than Jeremy Gallon. Merit: members of the secondary are Namond, Randy, Michael, and Dookie.
Sleeper in-state linebacker Desmond Morgan (6'1", 225 lbs, three star) was offered by Michigan a few days ago. I got in touch to get his reaction to his first big offer and hear about his decision timeline, but first the film:
TOM: Congrats on the offer. Was it kind of unexpected for you?
DESMOND: Yeah, you could say it kind of came out of nowhere. I took a visit for the UMass game, gave my film to the recruiting coordinator, and then I hadn't heard from him in awhile. I got a call from Coach Magee, and he said someone wanted to talk to me. He handed the phone to Rich Rodriguez, and coach said I had an offer.
TOM: That had to have been exciting for you and your family.
DESMOND: Yeah, we're all Michigan fans, so it was definitely exciting. When I told my dad he gave me a big hug, and you could tell he was just really excited. Getting an offer from such a prestigious school, I think that's what shocked him. It was exciting.
TOM: You said this came as somewhat of a surprise. Are you expecting any other offers to come in, or are any schools like MSU talking to you?
DESMOND: There's nothing I'm counting on or expecting, if it happens it happens. Northwestern and Cincinnati have showed me some interest. MSU was early on, and I took a visit in February, but the communication kind of died off from there. That's really it for now though.
TOM: I think a lot of people have seen your film in the last two days. There's some good evidence there of why you were offered, but what did the coaches say they like about you?
DESMOND: They said they're looking for kids that knew how to hit, and that aren't afraid to get after it. They want guys that have a nose for the ball, and smart kids. I learn from my coaches, and I give 110% no matter what. Even if I'm doing something wrong, I'm going to go 100 MPH doing it.
TOM: You mentioned smart kids. You have a pretty high GPA yourself. Is it a 4.0?
DESMOND: Well, my unweighted GPA is a 3.97, and my weighted GPA with my honors courses is a 4.1.
DESMOND: No, before the recruiting process started my dad and I said that we were going to take our time with everything, and just let it play out. We still want to stick to that game plan, and just see how it goes. I don't have a specific date that I want to commit by, or anything.
TOM: What are your plans from here though? What does taking your time mean to you?
DESMOND: We want to go up to Michigan, probably after my season, and meet with the coaches, see the facilities, and everything that Michigan has to offer. I want to make sure I feel comfortable with everything, and not just make a rash decision. There's nothing in the nation that compares to the Big House, so it could just take one visit to know that I'm in love with it, or it could maybe take a couple. I'm not looking to prolong the matter, but I don't want to rush into anything. My decision will most likely be after the season.
Lewan moving. Complaints here are always less strenuous, likely because it's way easier to tell what everyone's supposed to be doing. A few commenters noted that Lewan's been moving early, Jerel Worthy-style, for chunks of the year. Kilgore Trout:
From my vantage point on the east side of the stadium, it looked like he pretty clearly moved early. I think he was doing it a lot against MSU and not getting called. Either he's got considerably faster reflexes than everyone else on UM's O-Line or MSU and Iowa's D-Lines, or he moves early a decent amount. To be honest, I think he's lucky to only have had two false starts called on him.
In retrospect I do remember Lewan getting a slight jump on the opponent; it's possible refs are now watching for this and Lewan got nailed.
Denard's accuracy. FWIW, this seemed interesting:
Looking at replays of his throws, he is not stepping into them. His front foot is stepping to the side, causing him to open up his body when he throws. This is causing him to be less accurate and also neutralizing his arm-strength.
All the passes where he throws the ball just short or one-hops the ball to the receiver is a function of not stepping into the throw.
He obviously looks great otherwise.
There was the usual war about Vincent Smith in the comments, but I've said my bit on that.
Demens defense. Most complaints center on the
enigmatic anointed Kenny Demens, his +8, and the assertion that Demens is a clear upgrade over Ezeh worthy of a "wow." The general theory from His Dudeness:
I know you watch a TON more game video than I do and that you have a TON more experience grading out players than I do, but I have to fear that sometimes you overrate guys based on a single game. I do hope Demens turns into a great MLB, but to say he is going to be a quality MLB from here on out until he graduates may be setting the bar a little high based on one game? I certainly hope you are correct in your assessment, but I will hold off on my expectations that he will be our MLB savior Christ child. I like to expect nothing and be pleasantly surprised by what I get though, so that's my thing.
That's fair; I've tried to assert that Demens's performance was not necessarily replicable against teams that have seen him play and can identify some weaknesses. But he's a clear upgrade on Ezeh. Magnus suggests that Demens pluses would be Ezeh minuses:
I remember Ezeh being dinged for taking on blocks rather than getting around them somehow to make the tackle. Now it seems that we're celebrating the fact that Demens took on a block from a lineman, even though he was pancaked after he plugged.
This is probably in reference to this play featured in part of the OMG Demens section:
As a couple responders said, the difference between Demens running up into an offensive guard here and eventually getting pancaked and Ezeh getting whacked while motionless is self evident from the result of the play. This was my thought process here:
- This is a zero yard run without an obvious Iowa error so the net should be somewhere around +2.
- There are no creases in the line. Why are there no creases? Well, the three guys on the frontside all stand up to blocks at the LOS but don't disengage so that's half-points for Kovacs, Banks, and Mouton.
- On this one Patterson is done instantly and the G has almost a free release at Demens; there should be a gap. There isn't because Demens hits the G right at the LOS. –1 Patterson, +1 Demens.
- Floyd comes up and contains unblocked. Half-point.
Net is +2. On a play where Ezeh consumes a block with gusto and the opponent gets a big gain the play is going to net out at –2 or –3 and he's going to take some of the blame. Iowa had almost no success running between the tackles, so plays on which Demens was involved in were usually + plays and usually he got a share of the +.
On the other hand, BWS took another look at the National Lampoon's Zone Vacation picture pages and suggested the blame was largely on Demens:
I disagree somewhat. Asking a middle linebacker to cover a receiver moving into the flat is either an incoherent defense that will get you killed long term or one of those pattern reading systems that require a ton of drilling. By appearances (and necessity) Michigan does not run fancy stuff; this was three-deep zone with four underneath defenders, except one of them was way, way out of his zone. One of them was somewhat out of his zone.
Avery needs to re-route the slot guy but once he does that he has to get back out into the flat, whereupon the WR gets forced back into Demens and Iowa kicks a field goal and Michigan has a chance to win the game at the end. BWS says "Avery wasn't in great position here, but he also wasn't in terrible position. If he hadn't fallen, he might've had a chance to make the play." The reason he fell is he was playing with his back to the quarterback and running at full speed inside in an attempt to cover a receiver he has no prayer of helping on. Physics is relentless.
It is likely that Demens wasn't supposed to re-route the TE because he wasn't going vertical, and he did drag out of his zone. The reason that's a fifteen-yard error instead of five isn't on him. I should have given him a –1; Avery still is the primary culprit IME.
Black to the future. An email on Black:
I was really surprised by your rating of Black's play. I've watched the every defensive snap footage a few times, and to me it looks like Black is out there on about half the snaps, not barely playing as you indicated in the UFR. I also felt like he was a major culprit on a few of the big running plays. I feel like you may have mis-attributed some negatives to either Banks or Sagesse that were on Black. I don't think Sagesse really played at all except in a few relief appearances for Patterson in the second half. I'm not a coach or anything, but I played DL (and OL) in high school, and I'm fairly sure that Black had a fairly negative day. Looks to me like he only knows how to pass rush, and gets killed on run plays.
Thanks for all the hard work, as always.
I don't think I've mis-identified Black much; 55 is sufficiently different from 92 that I feel aware when he's in. Sagesse has not played much and I believe I've said that. But I agree that Black is a liability against the run. Michigan State glided down the field on a series of cutbacks he was on the ground for and a couple of runs that Iowa busted outside were partially (possibly largely) his responsibility.
Mouton defense disagreed with. Mouton came in for criticism on a number of runs outside the tackles including a Picture Pages dedicated to Iowa's fourth touchdown, and that criticism was criticized by people who sound like they know what they're talking about. MightAndMainWeCheer on the Iowa TD:
Banks gets hooked by the tackle (which is understandable considering he was lined up a shade inside of the tackle). The tackle then executes a scoop with the guard; the tackle then releases and blocks Mouton. Again, Mouton can't bail to the outside at the snap of the ball because there is a huge cutback lane between the B gap. Kovacs is blitzing but predictably gets kicked out by the FB; in this case cutting the FB and making a pile in the backfield would have been useful in getting the RB to cut up in side or take the ball wider to the outside thus allowing help to arrive. Again, Mouton is flowing down the line but gets blocked by a tackle (you can see a good view of it from the behind-the-offense replay in the youtube cutup). Also Demens does a good job of escaping the wash at the beginning of the play but he doesn't take a very good angle to the ballcarrier at the end.
I totally disagree. I missed Kovacs's blitz getting picked off by the fullback and hadn't considered whether he should get minused there; I'm not convinced but I can see the argument. However, defending Mouton not getting outside the tackle just doesn't fly. Mouton knows Kovacs is gone. Banks is in front of him getting shoved inside. He knows he has no help to the outside, so his first priority must be to funnel the ball inside. If he doesn't it's an auto touchdown. He doesn't, auto touchdown. There is a big damn B gap, true, but his choice is between doing what he did and hoping Robinson doesn't run into the wide open field outside or keeping contain and hoping help comes. Also, criticizing Demens because he didn't take a good angle to the ballcarrier seems insane to me. He hit it up in the hole to get a third down stop and the play went outside.
There's another guy saying similar things on the Picture Pages post itself but Bo Schembechler himself could call down from heaven to say Mouton was innocent and I wouldn't believe him. He expected to have to do it all himself, tried to, failed, and gave up many yards. He has done this throughout his career. There are other problems on the play—Banks did get a minus—but thanks to Sagesse taking two blockers and Demens getting to the hole Mouton is the most obvious reason the play blew up.
I'm slightly more receptive to the idea that I should have been harsher on Black on the other run outside the tackle, as Mouton was given a difficult task:
Black got crushed but Patterson actually stayed playside of his attempted double and is flowing down the line into a gap that Mouton also attacks. Mouton running up into that gap doesn't help; if he flows down the line the gain is held down. Kovacs didn't make a heroic play but I'm not sure what he's supposed to do there. I give minuses to linebackers who hit already filled gaps, and Mouton hit one and let a guy outside again.
Part the First in a preview series for Michigan Men's Basketball
The first part of Media Day was a role reversal of sorts, as Michigan's coaches put reporters through a typical (though abbreviated) workout for the Wolverines. Yours truly is pictured at right (photo by Julian Gonzales of the Free Press) being laughed at by John Beilein.
The workout was fairly light aside from a couple of the exercises that were designed to get our hearts working. It wasn't that tough - unsurprising considering most of the participants were middle-aged, and I'm not. One thing that surprised me was how much of the workout was devoted to injury prevention.
For more on the workout, Mike Rothstein of AnnArbor.com, Rod Beard of the Detroit News, and Joe White of iSportsweb all covered it. iSportsweb also has video, so you can make fun of how hilariously unathletic we writers are:
Player Notes & Quotes
Stu Douglass - The Europe trip helped the process of integrating new guys into the team, and they're poised despite their lack of experience. Guys are willing to put in the work to build something from this team, and to win. There is no making up for the personnel losses from last year's team, they're just looking at this as an entirely new squad.
Zack Novak - The lack of expectations will help motivate the team, and maybe sneak up on some people: "We like the position we're in right now." The goal of the team is to get better and grow each day, not necessarily any win totals. It's on the team leaders to help guide the younger guys toward that goal, and keep them on an even keel - not getting too high or too low. The young guys are going to be able to step up, too. Matt Vogrich "hasn't missed a shot in weeks" and the big guys are working hard - "I can go to battle with someone that's been working like they have."
Evan Smotrycz - The goal for Michigan is to improve to a level where they can compete with Michigan State and other top team in the country on a nightly basis. With no proven talent in the frontcourt, there's pressure for the young guys to perform, but there's also an opportunity for them to grow. The team's leaders have developed and guided the team in the Europe trip, in open gyms, and in workouts. The goal for every college team is to get to the NCAA tournament, but the Wolverines are more concerned with getting better every day and helping the team win.
Matt Vogrich - Novak is the most vocal player on the team, emphasizing toughness both physically and mentally. There are going to be ups and downs over the course of the season, so the players need to be able to play through them and not let their play be affected. Matt isn't necessarily gunning for a starting role, but whatever the team needs from him. He just wants to get enough minutes to prove he's a play that can help the team succeed.
Jordan Morgan - Jordan is finally 100% healthy. He's struggled with a couple different injuries since arriving at Michigan, and he's excited for the opportunity to be healthy. With no game experience in the frontcourt, there's pressure and opportunity to perform.
Coaches need to adapt to twists and turns during the season, but Coach Beilein likes where they're starting the year. There's a competitive spirit within the team, and expects the players to step up, particularly shooting the ball: "We don't have 1/6 nights from three." He urged everyone to look next door to Michigan Stadium if they don't believe this team can improve, saying "Just look at what Denard has done this year." If anybody on Michigan's team makes a similar leap, they'll surprise some opponents this year.
The rotation should be more inclusive this year, featuring 9 or 10 guys. More on Beilein's comments about individual players in the personnel preview coming later this week.
There are still a couple bugs in the system but this is basically right:
The most important bit is Auburn at #2 over Boise State, which holds that spot in the other two major polls. If the season ended today those polls would try and fail to send Boise to the national championship game—they'd be overruled by the computers. The BlogPoll folk look at wins over #13, #17, #20, and #21 and tell the Broncos to talk to the hand.
Writeup on SBNation; Tim's draft ballot was the same as his final this week so it's omitted in order to avoid redundancy.
2007: The Disaster
I was scanning some message board or another and came across a statement about the '07 recruiting class and how it was dooming Michigan this year, so I took a look. The conclusion: holy pants, what a disaster. Here they are by position group they'd are or would be playing on this year's team, with available players bolded.
QB: Ryan Mallett is doing well… at Arkansas.
RB: Vince Helmuth transferred to Miami(Not That Miami), where he has zero carries. Avery Horn left school and was at Reedley CC in California last year. He's not there this year, but he's not anywhere else, either.
WR: Junior Hemingway is a starter. Zion Babb landed at a JUCO after getting the boot and was supposed to transfer to Colorado but didn't make it. Toney Clemons did make it to CU; he's their second-leading receiver with 18 catches for 219 yards.
OL: David Molk is going to be a four-year starter. Mark Huyge is the first guy off the bench at either tackle position and started all of last year.
TE: Martell Webb is a co-starter with Kevin Koger and has been a four-year contributor but not a star.
DL: Ryan Van Bergen is an above-average Big Ten player. Renaldo Sagesse is a backup who gets spot snaps. Steve Watson moved from TE to DE and is this year's David Cone.
LB: JUCO Austin Panter is out of eligibility. Marell Evans transferred to I-AA Hampton. Brandon Herron is Craig Roh's backup when he's healthy.
DB: James Rogers is a very bad starter. Donovan Warren was a multi-year starter who made a bad decision to leave for the NFL. Michael Williams is buried on the depth chart and headed for a medical hardship because of concussions. Artis Chambers transferred to Ball State but is not on the roster. Troy Woolfolk's ankle exploded.
Total contributors from the redshirt junior/senior class
WR: 1, Hemingway.
OL: 2, Molk and Huyge.
TE: 1, Webb.
DL: 2, Van Bergen and Sagesse.
LB: 1, Herron.
DB: 1, Rogers. (Woolfolk was a success but would displace Rogers from this list if healthy.)
Of the guys who are gone, exactly two contribute to a I-A team: Mallett and Clemons. That's like six genuinely good football players out of 20 (Mallett, Hemingway, Molk, RVB, Warren, Woolfolk). That is not a successful recruiting class.
2008: The Divide
2008, divided into Rodriguez and Carr sections. JT Floyd and Brandon Smith committed post-RR but had Michigan as their leader for so long before that they are categorized as Carr guys. The two decommits aren't considered, but Wienke is a third-stringer at Iowa and TE Christian Wilson has eight catches in his career at UNC.
The Rodriguez dossier
QB: Justin "Win At All Costs" Feagin got in trouble and is gone.
RB: Michael Shaw is probably the starting tailback if healthy.
WR: Terrence Robinson is a marginal contributor. Martavious Odoms and Roy Roundtree are productive starters when healthy.
OL: Patrick Omameh is starting as a redshirt sophomore. Ricky Barnum is the primary backup at guard and should be a two-year starter.
LB: Taylor Hill transferred two weeks after arriving. He is a productive player at I-AA Youngstown State.
Six of eight guys are still around with five of them looking like successes, pending Barnum moving into the lineup next year.
The Carr dossier
RB: Mike Cox is fourth string behind Shaw and younger folks. Sam McGuffie got concussed three times in his freshman year and transferred to Rice, where he's their leading rusher.
WR: Darryl Stonum is a starter.
TE: Kevin Koger is a co-starter with Webb; Brandon Moore is still on the team but has not seen meaningful snaps.
OL: Dann O'Neill transferred to WMU, where he is a starter. Kurt Wermers transferred to Ball State after flunking out and complaining about how RR was bringing in people who "weren't his kind of crowd." Rocko Khoury is Molk's backup and did okay against Iowa. Elliot Mealer looks like a career backup at guard.
DL: Mike Martin is awesome.
LB: Marcus Witherspoon never enrolled because of a Clearinghouse issue. Kenny Demens just got his first start and looked pretty good. JB Fitzgerald has been buried behind Mouton and then Roh.
DB: Brandon Smith was too slow to play DB, didn't want to play linebacker, transferred to Temple, and promptly washed out. Boubacar Cissoko got pulled from the starting lineup for performance reasons, was kicked off the team, and saw his life spiral out of control. JT Floyd is in the starting lineup by necessity.
Ten of sixteen guys are still around with… uh. Stonum, Koger, and Martin are obvious successes. Demens and Floyd are contributors. Fitzgerald, Cox, Moore, Khoury and Mealer are looking like either career backups or meh senior starters on par with Greg Banks, though in Khoury's case he's locked behind a very good player.
This isn't a Yet Another Defense Of Rich Rodriguez post, it's Yet Another Roster Implosion Explanation post. (All right: some of both.)
In retrospect the #12 2007 class was overrated. Vastly so.
At the time the line was about the two hyped five stars and the "high upside" guys behind them who were underrated by the services and so forth and so on. The two five stars mostly lived up to that hype, but Mallett did it at Arkansas because of the coaching transition* and Warren took off for the NFL because he thought he was still that good. Meanwhile, the high upside guys mostly can't play football. Even if everyone from the class was still around Michigan would be suffering. Save Mallett, no one who left would see the field. Maybe Artis Chambers would provide some help in the secondary, but he moved to linebacker before his transfer and washed out at Ball State—it's hard to see him displacing Kovacs.
It should have been obvious that recruiting was going in the toilet when Michigan made two desperate reaches at linebacker, grabbing a JUCO guy and a two-star with one other offer(Temple), then made a desperate reach to get a second offensive lineman in the class. But three different groups are proving that subscription models can work on the internet because hope is impervious to reason.
Michigan bounced back in 2008, but a lot of that was the late Rodriguez additions. One man's listing of the top ten recruits in that class, Rodriguez guys bolded:
- Mike Martin
- Patrick Omameh
- Roy Roundtree
- Martavious Odoms
- Kevin Koger
- Michael Shaw
- Darryl Stonum
- Kenny Demens
- Ricky Barnum
- Rocko Khoury
RR's strike rate on 2008 recruits was considerably higher than Carr's, as Michigan seemed like a magnet for overrated guys. Witherspoon, Cissoko, Smith, O'Neill, McGuffie, Fitzgerald, Moore, and Stonum have all under-performed relative to expectations, with only Martin exceeding them. You can make a case that coaching has something to do with it but I believe evaluations are a major factor. From time to time a guy who knows an NFL scout relays his impressions (this year's theme: "Michigan has nothing on defense except for Martin. Who is this Rogers guy?") and from day one this guy said O'Neill was way too stiff and would not work out. Similarly, it's hard to imagine just what position Brandon Smith was going to play in the Big Ten.
Class of 2008 departures who might see the field this year are… well… Cissoko? Definite nos: Wermers, O'Neill, Feagin. Very probable nos: Hill (OLB; would not beat out Mouton or Roh), Witherspoon (could not find the field at Rutgers and washed out), and Smith (like Cam Gordon except worse).
So. Michigan's 2007 class was a disaster and attrition from it did not matter save Warren's early NFL entry. The two thirds of Michigan's 2008 class acquired by Carr was appreciably better but still not so good; Rodriguez's late additions brought it up to something approximating an average Michigan recruiting class when it comes to on-field success.
(By the way: Rodriguez's second class is looking divergent as hell. Massive nuclear strikes at QB and OL, yet another disaster of a DB class—Witty, Emilien, and Turner are all gone and Mike Jones is a linebacker.)