After finishing 99th in offense S&P+ last year, Colorado needed a new approach, and they've found one after bringing in co-offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini, the former Buffs receiver who spent the last two years on the Texas Tech coaching staff. While the holdover at OC, Brian Lindgren, still calls the plays, Chiaverini's influence is obvious; some staple Texas Tech plays have becomes integral parts of the gameplan, and Colorado has gone from a high tempo team to a ludicrously high tempo team.
I watched/charted the first three quarters of their opener against Colorado State—it was 37-0 Colorado heading into the fourth—and I've got Pro Football Focus's full grades from CU's first two games to assist me in breaking down their offense.
Personnel. Seth's diagram [click to embiggen]:
Colorado is experienced at the skill positions, but not so much up front. We're not sure if Jourdan Lewis will be back this week; if he's held out, expect to see a lot of Tyree Kinnel.
[EDIT: Seth is on a plane and we didn't catch the errors in time; mentally remove a DL or ILB to get a legal, 11-man lineup for Michigan when they go dime. WR Bryce Bobo weighs 190 pounds; he is not a house on wheels.]
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Every non goal-line snap I charted was from the gun or, on a few occasions, the pistol. This team is about as spread as spread gets.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? Mostly zone with some gap blocking mixed in, most notably on QB powers that CU likes to run in short-yardage situations.
Hurry it up or grind it out? As mentioned above, Colorado is an extreme high-tempo team. They currently rank third in adjusted pace, per SBNation's Bill Connelly. Michigan's greatest challenge in this game will be avoiding busts/misalignments and keeping contain against a team that wants to move as fast as possible and get to the edge. Here's CU getting three plays off, resulting in two first downs, in a 40-second span:
The announcers mention that Colorado's tempo is a significant change even though they were 19th in adjusted pace in 2015; that may seem crazy, but it's correct.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]
The photo above may seem slightly larger than what we usually run at the top of a post. That happens when one attempts to keep all of their subject in the frame, and when said subject is a 6’5, 240 pound sophomore offensive tackle. The FBO crew travelled to Belleville High School last week to take in the Tigers’ game against Dearborn Fordson, and more specifically to take in four prospects. That set of four was headlined by left tackle Devontae Dobbs, who already holds a Michigan offer.
The complexion of the game changed rapidly, and as that happened so too did the complexion of our scouting. Patrick Lupro, a 2018 three-star CB, exited early due to injury. Kmare Carey, another CB, factored into none of the film we have because Fordson almost exclusively ran the ball, and when they did throw it wasn’t toward him. Julian Barnett, a 2019 WR to keep an eye on, had one nice catch over the middle on which he made two defenders miss before turning up the sideline and getting tackled. That left Dobbs as the prospect with the most film to sift through.
[After THE JUMP: video and scouting of Dobbs]
Gentlemen. We're two weeks in and the true cupcakes have been stomped. What is
1) the biggest pleasant surprise so far?
2) the biggest unpleasant surprise?
First responder gets Speight. Get to it.
Adam: 1) I had Wilton Speight resigned to the passenger's seat as recently as last month's Draftageddon, in which more rounds passed _between_ the selections of Speight and O'Korn (13) than passed before O'Korn went off the board (12). The ignorance is somewhat forgivable. Speight said yesterday that he basically learned his scout team assignment in 2014 and checked out. He got reamed in B-roll footage of a "Real Sports" piece on Harbaugh's arrival. He tore a groin and barely played in spring 2015. He got into a game against Minnesota later that year, and his performance was good enough to keep the Brown Jug but not good enough to unequivocally be anointed Rudock's successor. Fast forward to last Saturday, where it all ended on that first deep post completion to Chesson. With that one in the books, we'd seen enough throws of varying distances and degrees of difficulty to confidently assess Speight's ability to read the coverage and place the ball precisely where his receivers have a chance to reel it in while the DB does not. As it turns out, said ability is quite good. After 120 minutes as Michigan's starting QB, Speight looks very little like we expected him to, and that's been nothing short of a revelation.
2) Nitpicking is nitpicking, but the left guard platoon has been underwhelming. This was supposed to be a position manned by the more consistent of the two guards; Braden's return from injury against UCF didn't bear that out. He struggled, and though he has Bredeson to spell him it's hard to expect a true freshman OL to do much more than tread water. Braden's likely still recovering from injury, but I'll be nervously gnashing my teeth if the LG revolving door hasn't stopped spinning in two weeks.
[Hit THE JUMP for what we come up with besides “phew, so Quarterback’s alright.”]
[Sarah Phipps – The Oklahoman]
It might have been the worst week of matchups on paper, but in classic college football fashion, Week Two held some surprises in store for us: look no further than the game pictured above in which Central Michigan won on a controversial long hook-and-ladder type play with no time left to upset Oklahoma State, who was favored by three scores. In a weekend in which no two ranked teams faced each other, there obviously weren’t any high-stakes matchups, but college football always somehow manages to deliver some excitement if you’re willing to sit in front of a TV for long periods of time, tirelessly flipping through the channels to find it.
--- Firstly, we must salute our in-state brethren, the CMU Chippewas, for stunning OKLAHOMA STATE on what will surely prove to be one of the season-defining plays of 2016. After the game was extended due to an officiating error (Oklahoma State threw the ball away on fourth down as time expired and were called for intentional grounding, and the refs mistakenly gave Central an untimed down), Cooper Rush heaved the ball downfield to Jesse Kroll short of the end zone, who pitched the ball to Corey Willis, who reversed field and just barely got over the goal line to seal the 30-27 upset. It would have been a disappointing performance from the Cowboys even if they’d won (OSU had 1.9 yards per rush, and conceded four touchdowns and a ton of passing yards to Rush), but they lost in brutal fashion. Central joined its rival, Western Michigan, in upsetting a Power Five foe on the road who’d won ten games the year before. Oklahoma State looks to rebound next week against a pretty decent Pitt squad.
[more after the JUMP]
This play didn't crack the top five this week. I still want to talk about it, though. Not that you need to be told this, but watch Jabrill Peppers, who starts the play lined up on the block M.
The rest of the defense is caught flat-footed on this play. The D-line is slanting away from the running back. The force defender is nowhere to be found. The playside corner is caught in man coverage and has his back to the play. Peppers's first two steps are towards deep center, then he has to alter his path to avoid running into Delano Hill.
With a speedy running back around the edge unimpeded, this play looks destined for a first down. Peppers not only reads the play and covers a ton of ground to get to the back before the sticks, he cuts down the angle and finishes the play by literally throwing the RB out of bounds.
Savor every moment you get to watch this guy—excuse me, this Dude—play football. He is truly a once-in-a-generation athlete.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the UCF game in GIFs.]
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To prevent this, you can go to Defensive Drivers Group, take their online course, complete it as 99% of applicants do, and get the states of Michigan, California, and New Jersey to wipe your record clean. It's normally 39.95; five bucks off for responding to this ad, and no hidden fees.
No mercy. I'm completely fine with John O'Korn throwing garbage-time bombs into the endzone with Michigan up multiple scores:
— Colorado Buffaloes (@cubuffs) September 12, 2016
This is poking the bear. Colorado, consider the bears poked.
Meanwhile, the bear. PFF's early-season take on Michigan is off-the-charts optimistic. Notes from a meaty piece:
- Michigan is their top defense so far. The competition has not been great, obviously.
- The OL is second(!) in pass protection.
- Kyle Kalis was one of PFF's worst returning guards nationally. (I wonder what PFF would have thought about Michigan's 2013 line if Kalis's shaky 2015 was that bad in their eyes.) He's up to seventh nationally(!!!) in their grading. That's sure to slide backwards as Michigan's schedule gets tougher, but as I mentioned UCF actually has a player or two on their DL. If Kalis manages to hang onto a top 30 spot it's time to buy Tim Drevno an above-ground outdoor pool.
- Newsome's been great as a pass protector and okay on the ground; I'm seeing more or less the same thing. Newsome's having some mental issues on plays to the edge and he has a tendency to pull so deep that he runs himself out of any chance to block someone.
- Speight is well ahead of Early Season Jake Rudock, which is 1) not a surprise and 2) faint praise. OTOH, PFF has him accurate on 28 of 36 opportunities from the last game and I think they're grading as harshly as possible there—I wouldn't knock Speight for that attempted dumpoff to Evans that Evans couldn't get out on, for one.
- Speight's efficiency has gone through the floor when he gets pressure.
- In a separate article on their top 25 they note that Ryan Glasgow has posted bonkers 86 and 84 grades so far; they rank Glasgow as one of their top five NFL draft risers: “Glasgow’s consistently defeated one-on one blocks, and opponents haven’t been able to move him off the line of scrimmage on double teams. In addition to his dominant run play, he’s averaging a pressure once every seven pass rushes, an impressive ratio for a nose tackle.”
All of that is very positive, especially Kalis. In the season preview I mentioned that he was the one returning player on the line who could take a major step forward. Early indications are that he has, and again since so many of his problems last year were mental the kind of improvements he's made are ones that translate to tougher competition.
I'm not sure there's much to read into Speight's issues against pressure yet. I'd expect that he remains iffy in that department because he's not that mobile; eight attempts is not a sample size worth getting exercised over.
I'm over it. I'm mostly over it. Speight on the fading days of the Hoke era:
"When I came in during the winter (of 2014) and redshirted that season, I didn't know what was going on that year and not many people did. It was kind of a messy year, it didn't end well at all," Speight says. "I just kind of skated through that year without much discipline (with) football. It was kind of a rude awakening when (the new staff) came.
"I realized I needed to change some things."
While he tried to soften it…
Speight wants to make it clear. Brady Hoke -- the coach who recruited him to Michigan -- and his staff gave him plenty of coaching in 2014. He says he just wasn't in the mood to listen.
…I mean come on. It wasn't just Speight who wasn't in the mood to listen. It was team-wide. A couple weeks ago Kalis said something wistful about how he wished that he'd had five years under Drevno instead of two.
I'm a little surprised that guys are throwing the old staff under the bus in press conferences, but also… not surprised. I was there, and bitter. I can't imagine how bitter I'd be about the Hoke chaos if it was eating through my eligibility with nothing to show for it.
Anyway, Speight's starting now and good at throwing balls.
ALSO IN WILTON SPEIGHT TALKING.
“There was one UCF player who was trying to talk smack at me, and I just started dying laughing, because we heard him from the huddle. And there were other times that we’d be up on the line of scrimmage and I’d think something was funny.”
Speculation on what this laughter-inducing smack was:
- "Got my crampons on, gonna scale your ass"
- "I am going to camp out halfway up your surface."
- "Ed Davis got a sixth year"
- "I may be the size of a flying squirrel but sir, I propose to embark on a climbing expedition lo these many months. And yea, I will harvest your acorns. Mark these words. Acorns. Harvested. Eventually."
Now in something other than Speight talking. Rich Eisen talking:
— Rich Eisen Show (@RichEisenShow) September 12, 2016
Injuries. As near as I can tell:
- Probably back Saturday: David Long.
- Could be back Saturday, could be another week or two. Taco Charlton, Jourdan Lewis. Lewis's injury was described by Harbaugh as a "muscle strain" unrelated to the issue that kept him out of the opener. He "did some things" and ran around on Monday. Charlton had a slight limp after getting his ankle rolled. Michigan could keep both guys on the bench in a game they expect to win.
- Definitely another few weeks: Bryan Mone.
- Unknown but doesn't look great: Noah Furbush and Drake Johnson. Radio silence on Furbush's issue probably isn't good. Johnson has similarly been out of uniform without much in the way of explanation.
Etc.: Ross Fulton on OSU's early offensive struggles against Tulsa: didn't want to get the QB hit and Tulsa banked on this. Won't apply for M. Chase Winovich on his first start. Matt Godin on his last go-around. NCAA removes events from North Carolina. Colorado plays fast and has a good secondary. When you have two quarterbacks and one of them is a Purdue transfer, you have zero quarterbacks. Possibly negative one quarterbacks. Urban Meyer on his brain and how he fixed it.
“The more you tighten your grip, Governor Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.” –Princess Leia
It is one of the easiest ways to sound like a knowledgeable football watcher: The pass rush is closing in. The receivers are all covered. Then suddenly the quarterback is running through air. “Contain!” you yell with appropriate obviousness to the people who obviously aren’t paying attention. “You must keep contain!”
Contain is a concept put in every play design, a plan to be understood before every snap, and a mantra to keep in mind. “Contain” isn’t limited to pass rush; in fact it’s exactly what a Force Player is doing on any given run. Coaches don’t use this term so often—rather you’ll hear them talk about “lane integrity” or “leverage”.
Before the snap, every play is a running play, because that’s where the ball is. No matter the defense, the defenders will have gap responsibilities, sometimes more than one.
GAPS: Are usually labeled A to whatever. Brown doesn’t go beyond D (which he defines as off a tight end’s butt). The A gaps are between the center and the guards. B gaps are between the guards and tackles. C gaps are between the tackles and whatever tight ends or backfield material exists.
[Hit THE JUMP to solve the mystery]
Wilton Speight, Chase Winovich, and Matt Godin
Wilton, a lot of people speculate that you were the guy Jim Harbaugh was getting on in the HBO special. Remember that?
[laughs] “I do.”
Just talk about how your relationship with him has grown and how much you’ve learned since then.
“Yeah, obviously it’s come a long way since that HBO special, telling me to, I think it was ‘transfer somewhere else’ or ‘go somewhere else.’ All my buddies joke, like, yeah, they blurred out the number but you’re the only eight-foot [tall] quarterback in the country, so it’s easily identifiable that it’s me. Yeah, we’ve obviously come a long way since then and it’s something to look back and laugh about now.”
Chase, at what point did you know that you were going to play a bigger role on Saturday with Taco being out, and what was kind of your gameplan and maybe take us through the first quarter, getting your first big play in there.
“The first time I realized I was going to have a bigger role it was kind of—the spawn was back in spring when Taco was playing more of an Anchor role and Chris was back inside and I was starting at the End for a while. Then it came to this camp and I realized my role as a backup or whatever, I always had to be ready.
“Then he went down last Saturday and it was just so natural to get up there and take the next step, to step up and perform, that it really didn’t even phase me. Then this week I realized that I was either going to be starting or sharing time with Rashan at End whenever they released the depth chart, and whatever it was it was. I’d go out there and try to do my thing and try to give everything I have on every play, just the same as always.
“Then this Saturday getting out there, it was cool to get out there and just do the same thing that I’ve been trained to do. There is a quote by Coach Brown and he tells us we’re ‘trained assassins’ and that’s true. We’ve trained for this moment and that’s what it was. It was natural. It wasn’t like an ‘oh, this is my first time playing ever’ type deal. I felt like I was ready for it.”
[More after THE JUMP]
What do you think Yost would think of your almost point-a-minute offense so far?
“Um…you know, it’s so far, so good.”
Can you talk about how the offensive line graded out on Saturday?
“Did well. They played a lot of plays, the offensive linemen. Really were in the most snaps of the game. Mason Cole was the best of all the linemen, and I thought the other four were real close, but I thought Mason stood out.”
I noticed at the satellite camps that you always told the campers don’t be Freddy P. Soft [alternate Chase Winovich-posited spelling: Fredeee P. Soft]. I’ve been trying to find out who is this guy, Freddy P. Soft?
[chuckles] “He’s a four-inch guy that wears a cape and a hat with a plume in it, and he’s just tall enough to talk right into your ear and tell you that ‘You don’t have to practice today. Why are you working so hard? Get over there in the shade. You don’t have to attack with enthusiasm unknown to mankind today. Take a break, take a knee.’ Yeah, he’s not a guy you want around. Want to get him off your shoulder as fast as possible.”
I know you guys do the practice where you have the guys spring and you race. You know what I’m talking about? Where you have them race in practice?
“Yeah, the race.”
Where does Eddie McDoom land in those heats with the skill guys?
“We don’t do those in the fall as much as we do in the spring. We’re real close to having a race between Jehu Chesson and Eddie McDoom. It’s been talked about, so when that official challenge is made, then we’ll race ‘em. It’s been close. There’s been discussion if Eddie’s faster than Jehu or not. That would be the guy that Eddie would have to dethrone would be Jehu.”
But he’s up there with the fastest on the team?
“To my eyes. My eye-time of watching him run, he’s right up there with Jehu. And I’m not the only one. There’ve been a few others that have commented on it and would like to see that race. It may take place. The gauntlet, the challenge has not been thrown down yet, so it’s just been talked about.”
Khalid Hill has obviously been helping you around the goal line. Can you comment specifically on how he’s done so far and on your fullbacks?
“Yeah, I’d say Khalid has been outstanding in all areas: blocking, catching out of the backfield, protection, and a special gift of being all around the ball. He’s got a real knack. Picked up some fourth downs for us and touchdowns. I mean, he looks like the most complete NFL-prototypical fullback on our roster.
“And the others, Henry Poggi, I think he’s coming along and he’s…they’re both real tough guys. I think of the hammer, rather be the hammer than the nail. A fullback is a guy we want to be our hammer. There’s a special place on our team for the fullback position. It’s the identity of the team. Both those guys, along with Bobby Henderson. All three have real courage, contact courage.
“I think of it as contact courage. How fast can you go from point A to point B to hit somebody? That’s where the courage shows up. Just how quick can you get there to do that aggressive act? Feel good about all our fullbacks right now. The most polished guy in terms of at an NFL-ready level, I would say that would be Khalid.”
[After THE JUMP: things that are obvious for anybody who knows football, cereal vaguely power ranked, O-line issues diagnosed, what to do after a QB’s inflection point]
McDoom/Crawford/Bredeson are but a small part of the great redshirt bonfire. [Fuller]
Ed-Ace: We are excited to debut a new feature today. Recruitnik extraordinaire, regular podcast guest, and noted darts enthusiast Steve Lorenz of Wolverine247, aka The Artist Formerly Known As Aquaman, is providing a weekly recruiting mailbag. Steve does a tremendous job running the show at Wolverine247, and if you're somehow unfamiliar with his work, they're usually giving some sort of deal to get you in the door that involves getting premium access for free for a while, which seems like a bargain to me. Without further ado, here's the first edition of Steve's mailbag; keep an eye out for Steve's posts on the mgoboard—that's how he's collecting questions for these posts.
Other Andrew asks: How may the redshirt bonfire affect recruiting? Is there any benefit in how this may influence decisions of top talent?
Strictly in the recruiting sense, it's about as good a scenario as you can ask for if you're Michigan.
There's no doubt that the staff is working to get as many first-year players acclimated to the field because of the departures they will face next season. However, it's also indicative of Harbaugh's meritocracy mantra in that the best players will play, regardless of what class they're in.
This is something the coaches can take into the living room of a top player with tangible proof that they are willing to play guys if they put in the work. The tangible proof part is important because telling elite players that they will play is one of the most basic recruiting pitches out there. A lot of times, it's a simple smokescreen designed to help reel in a player. If you can show that you will play young players and play them often, it's a huge benefit because players prefer to play as quickly as they can, regardless of the program they commit to.
Michigan has been consistent in their message with this also. I haven't heard many instances of them being a "promise" type staff. If you beat the guys ahead of you, you will play. That's their philosophy, and they've stuck to it so far. Because they've stuck to it, it could give them an edge with some kids who are aware of how schools handle those types of situations.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the mailbag.]