TO THE HOT TAKE CANNON
I say we call him "Quick Burst, Mo Hurts." Nobody is on board with me on this. [Fuller]
- The Question:
- Seth: After the spring game which player are you bullish on, and which are you hedging?
Ace: Brian and I did a segment on this during the podcast, so I'll keep this relatively brief. (That's called a teaser, folks.)
MAURICE HURST had arguably the best performance of anyone during the spring game, lining up at multiple spots and blowing up plays at all of them. His first step, which was his greatest strength coming out of high school, is still very quick after adding weight, and he looks very ready to see a significant role this fall.
Given that some practice reports had him as a potential starter, it's hard not to be a little disappointed in Logan Tuley-Tillman's showing, which featured three flags and a couple olés. He was a major project coming of high school, to the point that this year was the earliest he could feasibly see the field, so it's not a devastating blow that he doesn't look ready yet. He has so much upside, though, that it would've been really encouraging to see him push into that starting five.
Adam Schnepp: I was looking for a weakness. There had to be one; the practice reports had practically reached tall-tale status, but now I see why. It almost feels like I need to pick someone else because this is too easy, but I'm bullish on JABRILL PEPPERS. I know that we've been bullish on him since last August, but now it's like Raging Bull(ishness). Except not about boxing. Or self-destruction. I was really just going for the bull imagery here.
As a hybrid space player, Peppers is going to have to read run/pass and react immediately. On the Blue offense's first play Peppers peers into the backfield, reads the handoff from Morris, and comes off the edge to take out Shallman, limiting him to a one-yard gain.
While his run stopping was adequate for an HSP, I was more impressed with Peppers' coverage skills. He played almost exclusively with a seven-yard cushion and not only was able to jam guys who had already built up a head of steam but consistently re-routed them to the side he had a help defender. I can't find a good example of this on the video thanks to BTN's zoom-o-matic cameras, but Ace can confirm that if I tweeted the above as many times as I said it to him you'd all either unfollow me or think I accidentally set up a scheduled tweet.
I'm hedging on BRIAN COLE. It's important, however, to delineate "hedging" as separate from "disappointed with." It's hard to judge a receiver when they aren't targeted often, and doubly so as the offense's predilection for two- and three-wide sets often left Cole on the sideline. I expected him to compete for time with the known commodities; I did not expect him to have the same number of receptions and receiving yards as 5-9 walk-on fullback Joe Beneducci. I wouldn't rule him out as a contributor in the fall*, but I expected the ball to be thrown his way more often last Saturday.
*(I don't think any of the receivers have locked down a spot with the exception of maybe Darboh, who was lined up against a dude who'd been a corner for maybe four practices.)
[Jump for the defensive backs are gonna be good, even if the passing game makes them look so.]
Podcast? Yes. We couldn't record it yesterday because of Easter obligations. We will tape it this evening. It should go up tomorrow.
Missed it? It's on the tubes.
Ours got more attention than normal because it was so early.
The Michigan offense in one picture [Patrick Barron]
Rome was not rebuilt from atomized dust in a day. It was not good, obviously. People will tell you that the defense is supposed to be in front of the offense at this juncture… but not that far in front. When they say that they mean something like "it was a little ugly and they only ran for like three yards a carry." They mean that the final score was 17-10 or thereabouts.
They do not mean that the only offense of the day will be Amara Darboh catching fades against Poor Damn Dennis Norfleet, a 5'7" guy who hadn't played defense in college until being tested there this spring. The overall feel was reminiscent of the legendarily terrible 2008 spring game, which I didn't even go to because it was held at a high school to facilitate Michigan Stadium's renovations and still remember as the first "oh shiiiii" moment in the Rodriguez era.
To some extent this was all expected. Michigan fans have been debating between a true freshman, a guy who had 3.2 YPA last year, and a redshirt freshman who did not play. They were going up against a defense that has been pretty good the last couple years (until collapsing in exhaustion at the end of games). It was never going to be pretty.
But did it have to be that ugly? Bler!
Quarterbacks: come on down Joliet Jake. Morris was anointed the #1 QB coming out of spring by none other than Harbaugh himself, and that seemed about right after the spring game. That it did so after Morris went 11 of 24 for 5.6 YPA would have me purchasing bags of dehydrated food, water purifiers, and shotguns if not for the 99% official transfer of Iowa starter Jake Rudock to Michigan. Rudock may not be a conquering hero… but he will probably feel like one.
Malzone, the great (if vague) hope going into spring, did not look ready to challenge for the throne. I'm not on board with the arm strength complaints just yet, as those seemed to be generated by a wide receiver screen Lewis tried to jump but did not, giving up a first down on 2nd and 19 (in this game the equivalent of 2nd and Canada).
I may come around in the near future. The constant short stuff was disappointing: even his attempt at a game-saving two minute drill featured five yard hitch after five yard hitch. He did have one nice dart downfield that Chase Winovich dropped…
a linebacker linebacks even when he tight ends [Bryan Fuller]
…but that stands out as just about the only attempt Malzone made to get the ball down the field. There were a lot of doomed WR screens in there. And that two minute drill… oy. They got about 20 yards before time ran out. This is a tradition I would like to leave in the past.
One thing I'll say in Morris's favor. He's got that fade down pat. One got intercepted because Darboh didn't wall off and extend away from a defensive back and a couple more got dropped; the rest save one were completions, and I think Morris ended up leaving that one short because he got hit. The rest were on the money, in that space outside the numbers and inside the sideline where the receiver has space to play with and can detach from the DB.
That's a good location to have down, by the way. It's tough to throw and thus tough to get to for a lot of defenses. Deep outs, smash routes, corners, and those fades all end up in that general area. It's the location on the field that is the reason NFL teams go cuckoo for cocoa puffs when they find a Mallett type. Morris can buy himself a lot of leeway if that throw is as consistently accurate as it felt like on Saturday.
a lot of this [Eric Upchurch]
Run game: I don't know. Ty Isaac was all but out (he's credited for one carry I don't remember), so the Malzone team's tailback was Wyatt Shallman (12 carries, 22 yards) with spot duty from Ross Taylor-Douglas*. Shallman is more of an H-back in college and it showed.
Meanwhile, both Ace and I assumed that Derrick Green had been mostly held out with an injury of his own only to find out that he and De'Veon Smith apparently split carries down the middle. It's just that Green's 7 went for 8 yards and Smith's 7 went for 50.
Smith had a sequence early in the second half where he ran tough and his offense started getting some actual time on the field. That ended with a fumbled exchange, because of course it did. Smith never fumbled in high school and hasn't done so in college yet so that issue is probably a freshman-QB thing more than anything Smith did wrong.
If Michigan knew Isaac was going to be limited they should have swapped Green over to the Blue team to get a better feel for the competition between those guys. Either way it was a good day for Drake Johnson.
*[who has now completed his tour of all the positions you can play on a football field and can turn in his punch card for a free bag of Combos.]
The one good run. Cole gets a good push on Henry, Kugler seals away, RJS and AJ Williams battle to a stalemate, Cole gets to the second level, and Smith makes a nice out-in cut to put the other linebacker on the wrong side of the hole:
gif via Ace
If Michigan develops holes on the regular I think Smith has an advantage because his ability to grind out another two or three yards will be valuable in the Harbaughffense.
L to R: back, under threat, trying out [Bryan Fuller]
OL depth chart hints. Glasgow was back and playing center as if he had not violated his probation; the program said he'd gotten through whatever punishment the program had deployed for him. If he keeps his nose clean that should clear him to resume playing center this fall.
Meanwhile Michigan tried out Logan Tuley-Tillman as the left tackle on the blue team, bumping Ben Braden inside to guard. LTT picked up three legit holding calls; even so that implies that he's getting a serious look and Braden may move or lose his job. Erik Magnuson playing right tackle for the Maize team is another indication that the tackle jobs are not secure.
A scholarship guy who might be looking at some writing on the wall is Dan Samuelson, who was healthy enough to make the roster but IIRC did not play much, if at all. With a couple walk-ons seemingly ahead of them they might be down for the count. Bars (who I omitted from the rosters post by accident did play, at guard:
He is 62 next to Kugler [Fuller]
If you made me guess right now I'd say that Erik Magnuson is Michigan's starting right tackle this fall and that guard slot opened up by the various line shifts is the most heated competition out there. But that's firmly in wild guess territory.
Wide receivers: do we have a problem? There were a number of ugly drops, none more so than Jaron Dukes batting a ball in his facemask directly skyward for an interception. Morris zinged it with unnecessary force, yes. That's still a worst case scenario for a receiver. Dukes had another sorta drop later and doesn't seem like he'll be pushing past the established guys this year.
Elsewhere: Darboh had a drop and a fade wrested away from him but recovered late to be the Blue team offense. Going up against Dennis Norfleet significantly compromises that accomplishment, especially since most of the plays were "throw it over that guy's head," but Darboh did display strong hands and an ability to track the ball in flight in a difficult situation. Some people can do that (Junior Hemingway), and some cannot (Darryl Stonum). Darboh is in the former category. Can he get separation from the likes of Jourdan Lewis? I don't know—one downside of this format.
Receivers other than Dukes and Darboh were playing with Malzone and barely got targeted on anything notable. This year's spring hype machine, Brian Cole, was not a factor until deep into the second half; Freddy Canteen made a couple of nice catches on balls outside the frame of his body. There was not a whole lot else to talk about.
There was a notable lack of separation for receivers going up against actual defensive backs. That could be bad; it could be an indicator that the secondary is going to be as lights out as we all hope. As per usual, we'll find out abruptly in fall.
Poor Damn Norfleet. In the aftermath Harbaugh talked Norfleet up as a guy who could contribute in all three phases. Nope. The act of moving a guy his size to cornerback is waving a white flag on his career.
I mean… maybe not. Harbaugh is weird and one of the specific ways in which he is weird is his predilection for flipping guys from one side of the ball to the other. This could be a Harbaugh whim that doesn't mean much about playing time down the line. But it probably means that Norfleet is kaput. We'll always have that
punt return touchdown to seal the Maryland game inane irrelevant block in the back by someone far away from you.
BEARD. This is not Elliott, right? This is some other spectacular beard just hanging out on the sideline?
This is one Brady Hoke tradition I'm glad we're keeping.
He tries to sic these guys on you if you ask a dumb question [Eric Upchurch]
News bullets and other items:
Shane Morris is ahead of the other quarterbacks, though Harbaugh said the competition will “rage on”
Harbaugh liked the way the defense performed, singling out the secondary and inside pass rush. He also thought Shane Morris and Amara Darboh did a nice job.
He said there’s room for improvement in receivers learning to catch contested balls, the running game as a whole, and outside pass rushing.
Gary Moeller and Lloyd Carr had a large part in designing the trick plays; Harbaugh said he was hands-off in that process
Harbaugh said the legal system has as much hanging over Graham Glasgow’s head as is possible, noting that it’s more than what the football program could do; it sounds like he won’t be suspended if there are no further incidents.
Players with long-term injuries noted were Joe Hewlett (unspecified), Mike McCray (surgery, not sure for what), and Michael Wroblewski (ACL).
Dennis Norfleet may play on offense, defense, and special teams in the fall
Your general takeaways from today? What did you like, what maybe obviously needs work still?
“Liked a lot of things. Mainly [the] thing I liked the most is we played a 40-minute game and there was no injuries that I could tell, none at least that aren’t the you-don’t-come-back-from-soon type, so I’m most pleased with that.
“There’s, uh, there’s- obviously the defense played extremely well. There’s been a lot of improvement in our secondary; that showed up again today. And pass rush, uh, pass rush is improving. Got some rush and push from our inside guys and we’ll continue to try and get the outside pass rush. That’s an area that we want to improve, especially when it’s a four-man rush, to be able to get pressure on the quarterback just with the four.
“I thought Shane Morris did a nice job. Amara Darboh made some nice catches and that’s an area that we need to keep working on, receivers that can make the catch when it’s contested, make the tough catch.
“Running game at times was okay. You know it’s not going to be real good in a spring game especially with the format that we had which was a draft, so offensive linemen are playing in different combinations than they’re used to. But overall we had the one fumble, we had the two turnovers, and with the interceptions but quarterback play I thought was good. Multiple errors [but] I thought it was good.
“To sum it all up I’m most pleased there weren’t any serious injuries today. Come out healthy, and that’ll propel us into April and May.”
I know it was just a spring game but for you to be back inside the Big House, what was it like for you personally?
“It was good. It was a great turnout, I thought. I mean, that’s a hundred-thousand-and-ten people seat stadium and to see that many seats filled was great. It really means a lot. Much appreciated. I know our players appreciate that, the turnout for the 2015 spring game. Added to it, you know. Really added to the atmosphere. Made it like a game. [I] don’t think of it just as a spring game, think of it as a game, and I know that our players had those feelings, those emotions of it being a game before the game and until they took their first hits so that’s something that’ll bode well for us.”
You had several players that were missing from the game: Taco Charlton, Mario Ojemudia, [Ondre] Pipkins. Are any of those long-term concerns or were they just players that were banged up?
“Yeah, we had multiple players that are working through something right now.”
Are any of them long-term, though?
“I’m not a doctor.”
“I did not get my medical degree at the University of Michigan.”
[After THE JUMP: Talkin’ about the ol’ depth chart]
News bullets and other items:
Dennis Norfleet will play against Maryland
Derrick Green may or may not be back against Maryland. He, like Devin Gardner and Jake Butt, are getting healthier every day
President Schlissel called Hoke to apologize for his comments regarding academics and athletics. Hoke said that they recruit kids that fit the Michigan blueprint and that it’s not for everyone
Hoke said the Northwestern game was the offensive line’s best of the season
Nussmeier and Fred Jackson make the decision on which RB has the “hot hand,” and the decision can be made as early as the third series
“Thanks for coming out. Number one, yesterday we had a good chance with the players to look at the Northwestern film [and] make the corrections we need to make, but really emphasize the good things because really that's what you want to see are the good things. We've got to keep emphasizing those things. We practiced and it wasn't long but there was a lot of energy and a lot of good timing, and the one thing when you talk about bye weeks a little bit is the timing. You don't want to lose that part of it or if you need to get a little better you need to get a little better, especially in the pass game and all those things, so that was really productive.
“Start a little bit on Maryland today. I think the most exciting part of it is we are going to scrimmage some of the young guys against some who have played a little bit and those who haven't. We'll do about 30 minutes, probably 25 to 28 plays. When we do that we have to make sure it's going to help the team because those are your look teams going into the next week so I think it will be very good for us.
“Bye week again gives us a chance to rest some guys. I think getting Dennis [Norfleet]back will be very good for us. He'll be healthy. I think the health of Devin keeps – Gardner keeps improving and so in a lot of those guys there's a lot of guys who're just beat up a little bit. That's the way it is in football.
“The other thing is the president made some comments and I've talked to him. He called and apologized for his comments and I'm not going to speak for him. He put out whatever statements or interpretations that he needed to. We have always believed that this is truly an academic University. I was here for eight years before, as you all know, and I think the one thing you know being a former player and a coach is you only play so long and that's what this degree, a Michigan degree, is all about. And being the truly academic institution that it is, that degree will last forever so we take it very seriously. We try and recruit the best football players, the best student-athletes, and people that fit the blueprint here at Michigan. It's not for everybody because it is demanding and that's the way it should be.”
You kind of had the incident with Jake Butt. How much is he a work in progress on and off the field in terms of what he can be?
“I think Jake, he – from an athletic standpoint and all those things he continues to get healthier. He's one of those guys who another week, if we continue to do the right things with him… and the double edge sword is the timing of the routes and all that because you do want to rest guys so that they get a little healthier. I think he’s always developing and we are happy with his development.”
Have you seen the jerseys that his family where is when they come to games?
“I have not.”
Papa butt and headbutt and stuff like that. Have you seen him embrace that? He talks about getting teased about his last name.
“Yeah, he gets teased but… he gets teased.”
[After THE JUMP: We are grinders. It is stupid. Also some academic stuff.]
11/1/2014 – Michigan 34, Indiana 10 – 4-5, 2-3 Big Ten
This happened. The end. [Eric Upchurch]
Sometimes there's a game that does not have anything to say about it. This was that game. Michigan won 34-10, the same score they beat Miami (Not That Miami) by, and it felt a lot like a replay of that throwaway nonconference game.
The opposing offense wasn't going anywhere unless Michigan busted something. Michigan's running game alternated between frustrating lack of holes and lanes so open you could drive a truck through. The defensive backs could have spent the entire afternoon reading The Economist and sipping Kermit tea and nothing would have changed. Indiana had eight attempts. This game was almost literally none of their business.
Michigan thudded out to a 17-0 lead with the help of a couple fumbles that somehow benched Tevin Coleman, and then the game was over. Indiana turned a Gardner interception that ended up inside the Michigan ten into a doinked field goal. Thereupon a giant pig descended from the sky to proclaim the game state.
Brady Hoke knew it, so he ran the ball a couple times to end the first half instead of attempting to score.
I knew it, so I wasn't even a tiny bit peeved by that. Devin Gardner had just demonstrated the only way Indiana was going to get back in the game by not quite giftwrapping a pick six. Just before that Gardner had not quite giftwrapped another pick six. Michigan could have run the ball on every remaining down and won, and it was cold and I have to UFR these things. Run that clock down. Fine by me.
Everyone in the crowd knew it, so an awful lot of them left at halftime.
Non-student areas weren't a whole lot better. [Bryan Fuller]
At this point I'm not blaming anyone. It was cold, Michigan is playing for a berth in the kind of bowl where the gift bags include broken Swatches from 1985, and the game was already decided. I stayed because I write these columns and your soapbox is a little higher if you stayed like a True Fan™. I am enjoying the extra centimeter right now. Mighty fine view it's providing.
The game being what it was, about the only thing of interest over the weekend was a smattering of pissy comments from current and former players.
Desmond Howard decried Michigan's "mob mentality" on Gameday. Taylor Lewan called the Daily's Alejandro Zuniga a "moron" after Zuniga's appearance on BTN. Drew Dileo used air quotes around 'loyal' en route to stating that Dave Brandon and Brady Hoke weren't the problem—causing responders to respectfully ask what, then, the problem might be. Elliot Mealer referred to "the muggles that attend the University of Michigan" suddenly knowing something about the athletic department. Shane Morris provided a shout-out to the few students that made it to the end of the game and helpfully informed the ones who didn't that Michigan won.
It's like they went to bed and universal suffrage happened overnight.
INT. HOUSE OF COMMONS
A raucous scene, as a bill has just come up for vote. Enter AN ASSORTMENT OF LORDS.
EARL OF MEALER
Good heavens, what are they doing?
HOWARD, DUKE OF HEISMAN
They seem to be voicing their opinions.
MARQUIS DI LEO
EARL OF MEALER
Say, you, boy: what is all this ruckus?
The bill of attainder is up for vote; these are
final arguments before a decision is made.
Also, I don't think 'boy' is the preferred nomenclature.
HOWARD, DUKE OF HEISMAN
You have the vote? What nonsense!
MARQUIS DI LEO
/frantically dips snuff
EARL OF MEALER
Disaster! Woe! Surely we will topple like saplings in a typhoon!
HOWARD, DUKE OF HEISMAN
How long has… this been going on?
Approximately 600 years?
MARQUIS DI LEO
HOWARD, DUKE OF HEISMAN
WHY WEREN'T WE TOLD?!
We assumed you knew.
EARL OF MEALER
Our doom is at hand! Flee! I'll die on the squash courts if I can make it!
/exit MEALER, HOWARD
MARQUIS DI LEO
MARQUIS DI LEO
Michigan fans always had the vote; never before had they been pressed so hard as to think about using it. When there's an epic wait list you can find another team and the edifice doesn't notice. Not so much anymore.
The ironic thing about all of this is it's actually the students—sorry, "muggles"—leading the way towards positive change. Brandon implements the worst possible version of general admission; Mike Proppe's CSG negotiates a more sensible arrangement that provides better seats to better fans. Brandon blames the new policy for the drop in attendance instead of prices; Bobby Dishell's CSG negotiates a 40% slashing of ticket prices. El-Kilani's petition laid out the case against Brandon concisely and far more authoritatively than any defenses mounted by the House of Lords, which generally amount to "nuh-uh, you don't know."
It is true that we don't know the face Brandon showed to the student-athletes. I do know that one day he got in front of his department and quizzed them as to who their customers were. The answer: "student-athletes." So he probably acted like a human to them.
That's not enough when he is a six-foot phallus to everyone else. You just don't know that unless you're outside the program, looking at a 150-dollar ticket that you could have had for 20 bucks, watching grim quasi-football that means nothing in the freezing cold. Bon Jovi is playing, for some reason.
Here's the thing. This is a large group of people. Every large group of people is basically a bell curve. Michigan has pushed the prices up to the point where they're going to hit the downside of that bell curve without serious change.
That's a disaster that cannot be allowed to happen. Maybe it won't be for the people in the program right now, or the people who have been through it. It is one for the people who are thinking about 30 years from now, who are thinking about what it's going to be like for their kids.
Michigan, the program, can do little to change the group of people. They will remain the same people. They can only change themselves to fit the people. Step one is firing the coach, because the crushing blow to season ticket sales that results from his retention is unacceptable. Also he is not good at coaching.
Step two is not being dicks to people outside the program. I know y'all learned it from Brandon. Unlearn it. The next AD is going to be just as fantastic to increasingly pampered student-athletes without being loathed by everyone else on the planet. The Al Bundy patrol talking down to a fanbase on the edge of deserting in droves is hilariously out of touch. Michigan revenue vs Michigan performance. QED.
It's time to stop interpreting "The Team The Team The Team" as a moat between 115 players and 113,000 fans.
[After THE JUMP: hawt babes, and why are you trying to be a fey English twit]
SUCH a good movie. You chivalric fool; as if the way one fell down mattered. On Wednesday this week I had to put our family dog down—he was 14 and been slowing down since we lost my dad, and he had a stroke during the night, and it was sad but undeniably the best way and best time to go. Afterwards I was supposed to collect my daughter, get the roundtable posted, then get to the facility that's trying to get my Mom able to walk again within the impossibly small window her insurance company will pay for it. I didn't want to engage the sympathy choir, nor was I ready to go fixing things or move on. Instead I wandered into a breakfast place and ordered a coffee, and stared at texts of things people say when your heretofore ridiculously fortunate family is going through the mother of all mean regressions.
SUCH a good movie.
You chivalric fool; as if the way one fell down mattered. On Wednesday this week I had to put our family dog down—he was 14 and been slowing down since we lost my dad, and he had a stroke during the night, and it was sad but undeniably the best way and best time to go. Afterwards I was supposed to collect my daughter, get the roundtable posted, then get to the facility that's trying to get my Mom able to walk again within the impossibly small window her insurance company will pay for it. I didn't want to engage the sympathy choir, nor was I ready to go fixing things or move on. Instead I wandered into a breakfast place and ordered a coffee, and stared at texts of things people say when your heretofore ridiculously fortunate family is going through the mother of all mean regressions.
After a time I struck up a conversation with an older dude who from his Michigan hat I identified with the super Michigan-stickered car outside. He was, of course, a current player's dad, and other than his kid who's the best player in the entire world, he had a lot to say about the darkness hanging over this program that twinkling lights could only temporarily keep at bay.
He echoed a lot of what another player's brother said in a diary earlier in the week:
The program is in shambles. Bo is not coming back and it's time to move on. The cult like adherence to tradition and "this is Michigan" is the very reason we are plummeting towards rock bottom. We don't need another Bo or another Michigan Man, we need a competent, forward thinking administration who will take advantage of the massive institutional advantages Michigan provides.
The players are acknowledging reality while doing everything they can to make sure there's a team tomorrow. We got a glimpse of this from Gardner's aneurism of leadership
…and another from a letter to the players by their senior punter:
"Play for the guys in your class who you texted the day you committed, and live in the dorms with. Play for the elementary kids back home whom you've never even met, but know who you are and where you play. Play for your high school coaches, the guys you've met at combines, your family, your friends. Finally, play for yourself. Pride in yourself means that, win or lose, you worked and competed as hard as you possibly could until the schedule provided no more games to play."
When the fall is all that is, it matters.
[After the jump, I know. You know I know. I know you know I know. We know Henry knows, and Henry knows we know it. We're a knowledgeable family.]