Upon Further Review has a sponsor!
UFR is the ur content of MGoBlog. We've had sponsor offers in the past, but they were never the right fit. This is the right fit. Longtime reader and MGoBlog supporter Matt Demorest started Homesure Lending on the same principles as Upon Further Review: chart the information that's out there, and try to turn it into sense.
As a mortgage broker he has the flexibility to get the right lender and right pricing structure, and as a small niche outfit for Southeast Michigan he doesn't have to charge much to get you the right deal. He refinanced my house and Seth's house, and I was really happy about my rate until I heard Seth's rate. He bought everyone drinks at Ashley's last week. This was an undertaking.
FORMATION NOTES: Michigan spent the entire game in nickel save for scattered snaps in a dime package with three safeties (Hill, Thomas, Wilson) on it. Their first drive they came out in an odd front featuring the buck as a standup end:
Either they weren't happy with the play there or it was just a stunt, because after the first drive Michigan spent most of the rest of the day with an even four-man front:
On occasion they'd do this or something similar with a standup end; this pinched formation saw a hard line slant that got Wormley through for one of his impressive penetration plays:
And that was about it. Michigan spent the entire game with one very deep safety—generally 15 or more yards off the LOS; sometimes they'd offer a two high look but they always came down with one or the other presnap.
PERSONNEL NOTES: Line was mostly Henry/Glasgow/Wormley/Ojemudia. Matt Godin got the most time of any backup, spotting both Wormley and Henry frequently and pretty effectively. Charlton played a reasonable number of snaps behind Henry as well. Maurice Hurst was mostly a passing down sub for Glasgow; he did get a few standard down snaps. RJS saw a little bit of time.
At linebacker it was mostly Morgan and Bolden. Gedeon got a drive; Ross got a couple. Secondary was Lewis/Peppers/Wilson/Hill 100% of the time and a mix of Stribling and Clark at the last spot. Thomas got some snaps in the dime package.
[After THE JUMP: battling a very spread out spread]
|STRONGSIDE LB||Yr.||MIDDLE LB||Yr.||WEAKSIDE LB||Yr.|
|James Ross||Sr.||Desmond Morgan||Sr.*||Joe Bolden||Sr.|
|Allen Gant||Jr.*||Ben Gedeon||Jr.||Jared Wangler||Fr.*|
|Jabrill Peppers||Fr.*||Mike McCray||So.*||Noah Furbush||So.*|
This is music to a new defensive coordinator's ear: Michigan sports an all-senior linebacker corps. All have started for multiple years, give or take a hand injury or benching here and there. They've even got a high-quality backup. Senior leadership is out of control, man!
Approximately the fourth-best* thing to happen to the 2015 team's chances over the last year was DESMOND MORGAN breaking his hand after the first game of the season. That didn't have much impact on where 2014 went; it gives this year's team a three-year starter to slot in the Jake Ryan-shaped hole at middle linebacker.
By this point you're probably tired of me extolling Morgan's virtues, and since he didn't do much last year other than fall behind Joe Bolden just long enough for me to eat a lemon this is going to be a rehash.
Morgan is a heady, athletic enough, stick-em tackler who's been yelling at the rest of the front seven to get in the correct spot for a few years now. He is your proverbial quarterback of the defense. That role will probably be lessened this year since the entire front seven consists of upperclassmen, but expect him to thwack Lawrence Marshall and maybe Mo Hurst should the need arise. Mike Spath got a great quote about Morgan's ability in that department:
On U-M's linebackers: "We played them two years ago and the guy that everyone seemed to listen to was [Desmond] Morgan. Those guys are invaluable. Everyone respects them.
"Last year, you didn't hear a lot of talk from the middle linebacker. I don't think Jake Ryan was a talker. He just wanted to do his own thing. He was very good at it, but he wasn't that guy in the middle of a defense that was taking care of the other 10 guys on the field."
When called into duty to make a tackle, he brings the wood.
During the 2014 Minnesota game he uncorked this ridiculous thing where he flew in on a blitz, had to leap over a guy, kept his feet, held up two blockers, and helped stuff a third and short.
When he's not making eye-popping plays he's keeping things going down-to-down. The one glimpse at him we got last year was enough for me to bring out a Picture Pages about Morgan's LB instincts.
Morgan found himself in a bad stop here, taking on a free releasing lineman in a bunch of space. He popped that OL back; the RB ran into said OL, and Michigan saved some yards.
When Jake Ryan faced the exact same situation later on that drive, he tried to make a spectacular play. His attempt to teleport around that OL was an instinct that served him well as a chaos-sowing SAM linebacker; when moved to MLB that instinct meant he didn't delay the back at all. Instead of six yards, Michigan gave up 11.
That's Morgan in a nutshell. He will hit guys hard and funnel back to his help and drop into his zone. He'll make it difficult for a QB to get a completion on him; he'll make it difficult for a running back to get YAC on him; he'll make it difficult for an OL to stay attached to him. He's not going to turn in Ryan's Tarzan plays, but you don't have to do that to be a great middle linebacker.
As David Harris demonstrated, MLB is a thinking man's spot. Harris was just about flawless with his reads, and his understanding of the game extended to ways to get off blocks without even taking them—one of his trademarks was in effect juking OL by momentarily fighting to one side of a block and then cutting back once the OL took a false step. Morgan had some moments like that a year ago:
Do that consistently and you get to be David Harris too.
Morgan's coverage is good. Very rarely does he vacate big tracts of land, as both Ryan and Bolden were prone to last year. He of course saved Michigan's bacon in the 2013 UConn game (for all the good that did them in the long run) with a leaping spear of an interception. Add it up and you get a 2013 UFR in extended, trying circumstances that looks like a guy who is on the verge of stardom:
|1||CMU||4||0.5||3.5||Crunch crunch bang bang|
|2||Notre Dame||7.5||4.5||3||Coped pretty well in coverage. Responsible for both EZ deflections.|
|3||Akron||6||3.5||2.5||Negative coverage number should be factored in here.|
|4||UConn||6.5||3.5||3||Saved the game.|
|5||Minnesota||11||3||8||First real test this year passed easily.|
|6||Penn State||9.5||4||4.5||Rough start, strong finish.|
|9||Nebraska||5||4.5||0.5||Blew one TFL big. Otherwise solid.|
|10||Northwestern||6||5||1||Drawn in by some misdirection.|
|11||Iowa||1||-||1||Pulled early with injury.|
UFR is tough on linebackers, so anything above zero is good. To consistently go over it over the course of a season, generally on heavy usage is very difficult.
The main drawback here is explosiveness. Morgan doesn't rack up TFLs and sacks; he's not great at getting to the quarterback on blitzes. (Run blitzes, on the other hand, he is excellent at, especially on short yardage.) He is not the kind of athlete that is going to make the NFL salivate.
But there are few guys I'd rather have on third and one. Morgan should reprise his 2013 with some incremental improvements. That would make him an All Big Ten level guy even if the lack of fancy stats prevents that from happening in real life.
*[Your top three are Dave Brandon late night email sessions, Harbaugh, and Jake Rudock's transfer.]
[After THE JUMP: seniors are made of leadership]
Kyle, a lot’s been made about your maturity and now you’re in your third year here. Just talk about how you’ve grown and how you’re ready for this role as a leader.
Kyle Kalis: “I think a lot of it was the offseason condition. You know, we grew a lot as a team through coach Tolbert’s workouts and stuff, and a big thing not only personally but as an O-lineman and concerning my unit is coach Drev’s ability to coach us.
“He’s taught us stuff that we had no idea was even out there, and his experience, his vast knowledge of O-line play and the way you have to do it, the way you have to take that mentality every day has been huge for us. So that’s probably the biggest thing is coach Drev.”
I know that you guys are probably tired of the offensive line improvement talk, but last year it was said that the offensive line had improved. Do you feel that this season there is real, tangible improvement? Is this finally the year that the offensive line will come together?
KK: “Yeah. I mean, the past couple years we’ve been good. It’s just hard- it was hard to find…to look through the cracks and see us doing well. But this year I think as a team us being able to come together [and] have all the parts working together as a cohesive unit is going to be huge to not only be successful as a team, but also, you know, get the big guys some love. That’s the thing [is] you have to be successful as a team to let everybody have the spotlight.”
You mentioned the spotlight. Are there any guys out there that have impressed you? A lot has been said about Mason Cole. Talk about some of the guys who you’ve seen a lot of improvement from.
KK: “Yeah, Mason’s definitely…Mason’s Mason. He started all last year as a freshman. That’s huge. I mean, no one does that really anywhere, and so that’s huge for him. He’s improved a lot. Again, with coach Drev he’s been able to make some strides. Dave Dawson did really good. Tulley- Logan’s been doing really good. Blake’s [Bars] had a really good camp. A lot of guys have been really coming along and it’s been good.”
[After THE JUMP: More Kalis and Houma, plus Desmond Morgan and Chris Wormley]
DJ Durkin inherits a Michigan defense that’s both experienced and talented, with good depth in most position groups. Durkin has promised to mix up the fronts we’ll see this season, and he expanded on that while also talking about his pass rushers, linebackers, and more at Media Day.
[I jumped in while Durkin was in the middle of an answer]
“The thought is now we get into camp [and] a lot of it is now they’re hearing it for the second, the third, the fourth time of what we’re installing so you can master it and play fast.”
You talked at the beginning of spring about how you didn’t really know your team. What do you know about your personnel now?
“Yeah, I feel we know them much better. We had four-hour practices in the spring [so] we got a lot of reps with those guys. We saw them do a lot, so that’s a good thing. There’s not a lot of angst from me or our staff of ‘What’s this guy going to do in a game?’ or ‘[How will he] respond?’ We have, number one, experienced guys on defense for the most part. And then, like I said, we had really competitive practices in the spring where we put those guys in a lot of situations that they had to show what they could do so I feel like we have a good evaluation and awareness of where they’re at.
“And now it becomes let’s go into fall camp and see what guys come in with that right mindset and what they did over the summer, see how they prepared and go through it all over again and re-evaluate everyone and get ready for the first game.”
What are you most excited about for tomorrow and then fast-forwarding to September 3rd?
“Tomorrow, just getting out there. I mean, it’s one of those things that there’s a build up of it and when you finally get out there and hit that first period and start moving, it’s always…I don’t know. It’s one of my favorite times of the year. You just get that feeling like ‘Alright, we’re back out on the field.’ All this stuff is fun and everything but talking about it is not the same as going and doing it, so that’s what I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
And then the opener?
“Yeah, the opener. I mean, wow, what a great test as an opener on the road in an environment that’s really loud. They’re into it; they’ve had great success there, especially recently, with their football program. So we’ll be tested right there, week one. Our guys know that, they understand that and we’re going to keep working towards that as we get through camp.”
[The rest after THE JUMP]
The first rule of Draftageddon is "you must complain about Draftageddon." The second is "the four people drafting assemble teams of Big Ten players in an effort to seem the best at drafting."
THAT WHICH HAS COME BEFORE
Previously on Draftageddon:
- Adam takes a guy with a ~33% chance to start first overall! Joey Bosa lasts until pick 3! Seth is generally sensible! For him that counts as Heiko-ing, I think!
- Brian takes back to back QBs! Several additional Ohio State players go off the board! 24-12!
- Ace takes Braxton Miller as a QB and then shrugs expansively when he ends up a terrifying H-back!
THAT WHICH IS THE CURRENT SITUATION
THAT WHICH IS HAPPENING CURRENTLY
ACE: Round 12, Pick 2: Jake Rudock, actual quarterback, Michigan
OFFENSE: QB Jake Rudock (U-M), OW Braxton Miller (OSU), WR Michael Thomas (OSU), WR DaeSean Hamilton (PSU), OT Jack Conklin (MSU), OC Dan Voltz (UW)
DEFENSE: DE Joey Bosa (OSU), DT Darius Hamilton (RU), NT Austin Johnson (PSU), OLB Darron Lee (OSU), CB Eli Apple (OSU), S Tyvis Powell (OSU)
[ED: Since everyone else has QBs, Ace has to take one.]
Just after I submitted my last pick, SI's Pete Thamel broke the news: I have successfully gamed the system.
“For the most part, it’s going to be H-Back and punt return,” Miller said in a phone interview on Thursday night. “It’s a long process to get back totally to throwing and throwing every day. This is the smarter thing for right now, God blessed me with a lot of talent and different opportunities. I’m going to have fun with that and still score a lot of touchdowns and help the team out and be dominant at that.”
A reminder: H-back, in Urban Meyer's system, is the Percy Harvin position. Miller is as close to a Harvin-level athlete as Meyer has had since Harvin himself. While I'm forced to take a quarterback again here, the magnanimous Commissioner Brian offered the opportunity to release Miller back into the pool and take an additional compensatory selection; I will not be doing that, even with Jalin Marshall still on the board. Miller's potential in that role is too great for me to pass up on; it was one of the main reasons I drafted him in the first place.
So, anyway, an actual quarterback. Many would expect Indiana's Nate Sudfeld to go here, but I'm not convinced he can replicate his 2013 success. Sudfeld benefitted from both Kevin Wilson's wide open, lightning fast system and a great group of receivers (2014 2nd-rounder Cody Latimer, Kofi Hughes, Shane Wynn, Ted Bolser) that season. With Latimer, Hughes, and Bolser gone last year, Sudfeld had rough games against the two remotely viable defenses he faced—32/70, 378 yards (5.4 YPA), 1 TD, 1 INT combined vs. Mizzou and Maryland—before injuring his shoulder early on against Iowa. He had Tevin Coleman there to take a great deal of attention off of him and still didn't look all-conference caliber.
Jake Rudock, meanwhile, played for a program that considered Mark Weisman an acceptable three-year starter at running back. Brian's done the research legwork here. Rudock generally looked very good when afforded time and a reasonable gameplan despite working with a substandard group of receivers. He looked less good when victimized by a combination of coaching malpractice and a leaky offensive line. At the very least, Rudock should be efficient; even in a year when he eventually got benched, he posted the third-best passer efficiency in the Big Ten. If a lot of his perceived issues—namely, a propensity for checking down too often—were the product of his GERG-ian environment, he'll thrive under Jim Harbaugh. My guess is Rudock will serve as yet another reminder to Iowa fans that their coaching situation, um, sucks.
SETH: Round 12, Pick 3: Mason Cole, OL, Michigan
OFFENSE: QB Connor Cook (MSU), RB Corey Clement (WIS), WR Leonte Carroo (Rut), OC Jack Allen (MSU), OG Pat Elflein (OSU), OT Alex Lewis (Neb)
DEFENSE: Steve Longa (WLB), HSP Jabrill Peppers (Mich), DB Jordan Lucas (PSU), S Michael Caputo (Wis), CB Will Likely (Md)
Last year's offensive line preview gave Michigan a "1 of 5" for tackle, because in the history of true freshman tackles, the absolute ceiling is for some future superstar to be just okay. Brian even ran down the history of teams forced to put the blindside in the hands of an 18-year-old and found those who got to okay had a five-star recruit on the level of Peppers.
Mason Cole was okay.
Since competent true freshman LTs are so rare we're literally stuck with Laremy Tunsil as the only comparison, here is a list of Michigan redshirt freshman offensive lineman since the mid-'90s who were not obvious liabilities: Jansen, Hutchinson, Backus, Long, Molk, Lewan.
Cole's best years are still in the future, but I'll take last year plus the standard freshman-to-sophomore bump on my line any day.
ADAM: Round 12, Pick 4: Ed Davis, OLB, Michigan State
Round 13, Pick 1: Justin Jackson, RB, Northwestern
OFFENSE: QB J.T. Barrett (OSU), WR Jordan Westerkamp (Neb), OT Jason Spriggs, (IU), TE Jake Butt (UM), C Austin Blythe (Iowa), RB Justin Jackson (NW)
DEFENSE: DE Shilique Calhoun (MSU), DT Adolphus Washington (OSU), S Vonn Bell (OSU), CB Eric Murray (Minn), LB Raekwon McMillan (OSU), DE Drew Ott (Iowa), OLB Ed Davis (MSU)
My linebackers may not win the hearts of the Michigan faithful, but I couldn't pass up an opportunity to add a SAM with pass-rush ability. Davis had 58 tackles, 12.0 TFL, and 7.0 sacks in his first season as a starter; you may remember him from his 6 tackle, 2 TFL performance against Michigan.
In his Hail to the Victors preview, Seth described Davis as "...an attack piece who will rack up a lot of sacks and otherwise match up against tight ends he's more athletic than." If that's what my twelfth round pick can do then that's fine by me. What's most noticeable on film is his lateral quickness, which allows him to easily cover the flat or crash inside to stop the run. He's also fast enough to line up wide and make tackles look absolutely ridiculous.
His skill set lends itself to being a SAM in a 4-3 under, which was what I was looking for. In McMillan I have a player who was certainly productive as a true freshman but whom I drafted in part because of his potential (i.e. recruiting profile); in Davis I have a two-year starter and fifth-year senior who's a more known commodity.
My next pick played in the M00N game- on offense, no less. And I made this pick voluntarily! Easily snarkable, and yet a likely record for longest it's taken for a Northwestern player to go off the board. Jackson's not a big back (5'11", 195) but he's quick and his vision is excellent. He's also a reliable receiver, catching 78.6% of passes when he was targeted and averaging 7.2 yards per target.
In 2014 Jackson rushed for 1,187 yards on 4.8 yards per carry despite playing behind a line that ranked 83rd in adjusted line yards and 117th (!) in opportunity rate. He's also the second-leading returning rusher in the Big Ten, behind only Ezekiel Elliott (who understandably went 11 rounds earlier). He put up 162 rushing yards on 33 carries and 106 on 22 (plus 4 catches for 50 receiving yards) against Wisconsin and Minnesota, ranked 29th and 36th in Rushing S&P+, respectively. Those two games were part of his end of season tear, in which he rushed for 100+ yards in six of the season's last eight games.
I can't recreate OSU's offense, but if Barrett's going to be effective he needs a run threat to keep defenses honest. I'm happy to have this one in what looks like an otherwise arid wasteland of Big Ten backs.
[After THE JUMP: CERTAINLY WE ARE OUT OF OSU PLAYERS AT THIS JUNCTURE]
That is a man who realizes he's home, at long last. The score may only be 7-0 in the waning moments of the game, the stadium may only be half-full, this whole thing may only be an exhibition, but it's impossible to repress that smile.
[Hit THE JUMP for the spring game in GIFs, and, yes, more Harbaugh.]