The loss of the dynamic Moritz Wagner to the NBA leaves a huge hole in the middle of the paint for John Beilein’s team. Michigan now looks to Jon Teske to fill that spot, albeit in a much different form.
Behind Teske, Beilein will call upon seldom-used Austin Davis and newcomer Colin Castleton to provide bench relief.
Now the starting man in the middle, Jon Teske will serve a critical role in Michigan’s success and failures in 2018-19.
Despite some limitations offensively, Teske’s offensive rating last season was second to only Duncan Robinson’s thanks to his efficient finishing and lack of turnovers. His role without the ball was far more important, though.
Teske proved extremely valuable as a screener during Michigan’s 2018 run. His large frame opened up driving and passing lanes that a Michigan big has not provided for teammates in many years. Returning players Zavier Simpson and Charles Matthews took full advantage of that screening, developing some very real chemistry with Teske as the season progressed. Because Michigan has an apparent lack of shooting entering this year, Teske’s screens could serve as a focal point for the offense to create easier looks in the pick-and-roll when shots aren’t falling.
Adding to the intrigue is the development of an outside shot for the Ohio native. Onlookers saw Teske nail an in-rhythm three in Spain and the big man seems to suggest that he’s added a three-point ball to his game:
“Obviously, every day Coach B is watching you and he keeps track of everything — scrimmages, points, blocks, rebounds. So that's one thing that they do keep track of is makes and misses,” Teske said. “That's one thing that he's seeing me grow and I've been able to show him that I'm capable of shooting the 3.”
Teske’s true value comes, however, on the other end of the court. His huge size and ability to protect the rim adds an aspect to Michigan’s defense that John Beilein has not enjoyed since Mitch McGary. But it goes further that.
We discussed previously that Teske displayed a high basketball IQ. Although he’s not the most mobile big man in the country, his recognition of when to attack screens and when to lay off was exceptional. With an offseason to watch film and grow in his play recognition, Teske’s defense could improve to a dominant level despite his perceived physical limitations.
11/10/2018 – Michigan 42, Rutgers 7 – 9-1, 7-0 Big Ten
Confronted with every option for intrigue Michigan vs Rutgers could provide, BTN went with "who is Michigan's backup quarterback now?" The pre-game studio show teased it. The announce team mentioned it in the first quarter. There were multiple sideline shots of Joe Milton warming up next to Brandon Peters warming up. When the moment came, Peters entered, handed off to Chris Evans for a long touchdown, and was immediately replaced by Milton.
The prospect that Harbaugh was trolling BTN's angle crossed my mind. He almost certainly wasn't, but, it's not like he had anything else to do. In the aftermath of the game he praised Rutgers for not giving up ten yards a play and called Chris Ash "Rob Ash."
Rutgers. Whatever. Good… bad… Rob Ash is not the guy with the gun.
There is one bit of meaning that you might chisel out of the grim slab of a game against Rutgers. Michigan explicitly instructed Shea Patterson not to pull the ball, resulting in a fair number of runs wiped out near the line of scrimmage and a steady stream of third and mediums. Then they dialed up a bunch of high degree-of-difficulty throws.
Patterson nailed almost every one of them. He was flushed from the pocket away from his throwing arm; he calmly checked three options and hit Donovan Peoples-Jones on the third. DPJ hauled in a chunk fade on the sideline on another rollout left by the right-handed Patterson. Nico Collins got an inch-perfect back-shoulder fade for his second touchdown. Zach Gentry was permitted to explore the upper edges of the #buttzone on a seam. Oliver Martin had one TD doink off his facemask before scoring one on a two-man-route, max-protection throw from the Rutgers 16; Patterson slalomed through several defenders before finding literally the only option on the field just before it exited said field.
It felt like Michigan was calling the grossest stuff in their playbook just to see what would happen. Who puts two guys in a pattern from the 16? Who calls a short-side rollout to the left for a right-handed quarterback? Given Harbaugh's history, a man trying to make a point. The fourth quarter of Michigan's Citrus Bowl demolition of Florida a few years back featured Jake Rudock making a bunch of throws designed to end up on his NFL reel. That too was the grossest stuff in the playbook.
The 2018 edition of this wasn't aimed at the NFL, but rather Patterson himself. Patterson was asked to sit in the pocket and find guys. He was asked to take a bunch of deep shots despite a difficult wind situation. Harbaugh:
"That was a really tough night to throw the ball. It reminded me of my days back at Soldier field some of those windy conditions. But he made some throws that were just unbelievable. Put in the right spot with the wind blowing and swirling.”
Some of those deep shots got pushed off course; a couple of back-shoulder attempts didn't quite come off. As the rest of Patterson's passes zinged home against a not-terrible secondary the ceiling on Michigan's offense might have come off. The faint outline of a Rudockening is now there, waiting to be confirmed or dis-confirmed in two weeks. Also against Indiana. But in two weeks.
A version of Patterson who's taking shots to his giant leapy crew of wideouts, a version that's sticking in the pocket long enough for Michigan's routes to complete, a version that's got the whole suite of throws down: that is the guy who might propel Michigan past Ohio State and into the playoff. The hesitant version of Patterson that's slightly frustrated during Michigan's revenge tour is less likely to do these things.
Harbaugh spent this game daring his quarterback to evolve. So far so good.
Known Friends and Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 Shea Patterson. See above. 18/27 for 260 yards and three TDs. Zero rushes. One more week to stay healthy.
#2 Donovan Peoples-Jones. DPJ nosed ahead of his compatriots with a tough catch down the sideline on the aforementioned Patterson rollout away from his throwing arm and a slant on which he was able to rumble for an extra ten yards despite four different Rutgers players hanging off of him.
#3(t) Nico Collins and Zach Gentry. Tough catches for each to convert first downs and, in Collins's case, score. One point each because the points are made up and don't matter.
Honorable mention: More or less the whole defense, which had Rutgers in turtle mode the whole day. Nobody really stood out as Michigan spread out the reps and TFLs.
Michigan takes passing practice, Shea locked on for 3rd down. Left a couple of posts to DPJ short but that Saquan Hampton made good plays. Higdon bad cuts: two in a row for the 4th down we didn’t get. Another bad bounce when a cut could have had 4. Tru was better at that. Long discussion on the receivers. Will DPJ get this FFFF star?
2. The Defense
starts at 27:18
Tried to tell you: Pacheko is the Chris Evans! Handing out negatives for the touchdown, a few other bad edge sets. WLB Sweepstakes was a solid win for Ross: thumpin hit but more impressive was taking down a TE in space in the early 4th. No Metellus no Solomon, Paye and Lavert Hill went out. Sad pass to Rescigno ruins the passing Rutger. Bush and Gary are still in for the 4th: Gary’s health vs half the people in the stands were Gary's friends and family.
3. Special Teams/Feelingsball
starts at 27:48
Coaches vs Kickoffs: Moody has discovered skying them to the 15 is the right spot to entice a bringout. Hudson somehow missed his block. Going for it on 4th was correct, woulda gone for it on 4th and 3 at the end of the half but it’s fine: Worst thing you can do is go into the half at 21-14. Roughing the Passer: Hit affected the arc of the ball. He hit him and momentum went to the ground. Poor Winovich. BAND RUTGER: Seth is mad on behalf of M fans who wanted tickets.
4. Around the Big Ten with Jamie Mac
Starts at 56:28
Iowa-Northwestern wasn’t exactly Bedlam, but Bowser gives them a running game on a night Thorson looked like a freshman again. Ferentz-Fant divorce. What the hell just happened game of the week: Minnesota dominates Purdue. IU survives a Maryland-has-an-offense-game (quarter scores read 6-9-8-9) to set up an Oaken Bucket for a bowl. MSU-OSU a derpfest until Dantonio throws the game. Lewerke is broken, Willekes dominated OSU’s OTs, OSU’s punter had a 4-yard punt and was the player of the game. FFFF’ing this game: three trouble spots on their OL? MSU receivers running open all game. Scary part: Ohio State can run the ball but if you move Haskins he doesn’t hit intermediate stuff and doesn’t want to be touched. Penn State dominated Wisconsin OL on passing downs. Nebraska-Illinois a battle of defenseless programs.
"Katamari on the Rocks"—Katamari Damacy Soundtrack