Upon Further Review still has a sponsor. Hey man the feds are going to raid your meth lab. Or raise rates. I'm not sure which agency we're talking about. Unless they're the same one, which would be weird but again we are talking about an entity that thinks alcohol, tobacco, and firearms are pretty much the same thing. I disagree, feds.
What was I talking about again?
Oh, right: low rates won't be quite as low in the near future if you're on the fence.
FORMATION NOTES: Nothing weird in this one. This will be a pattern, as Michigan put the toys away for the most part. The screens were not anything super clever; other than the fullback wheel this was almost all things already put on film.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Exceptions from the usual routine were few and far between in this one. Smith and Johnson were the main tailbacks; Houma got a couple carries that must have induced déjà vu in Rudock. Green and Shallman got in some in garbage time.
Tight end was mostly Butt and Williams; Hill got a few snaps. Bunting may have gotten in once or twice, his playing time has dipped significantly. Wouldn't read too much into that since Williams is doing well.
WR was Darboh, Chesson, and Perry. I don't think Ways played. Newsome got a half-dozen snaps as an extra OL.
[After THE JUMP: accurate Iowa Rudock is a good thing.]
Let me further emphasize the fact that pants are entirely optional when you go with HomeSure Lending. I mean, it's not like Matt has anything against pants. You want to go with pants, you go ahead. If you want to go with a mumu or board shorts or whatever, also fine. He can't see you. Also, excellent rates. He may have wanted me to emphasize that instead of the pants.
FORMATION NOTES: Michigan went heavier in this game. I did not this week but in the future I am going to start specifying H-backs like Butt in this shot:
While TEs lined up next to other TEs are often H-backs in the offense I'm going to reserve the H designation for either the above or instances where there is a tight end near the LOS but tucked inside the edges of the line.
Michigan also had an under-center version of the diamond formations that Oklahoma State and other spread teams started implementing a year or two ago:
Generally the diamond had a tailback with a tight end and the fullback in front of him. In fall camp there was the occasional rumble of these formations featuring all tailbacks. Not yet; that would be something they hold for a tenser outing, I think.
I had no idea what to call this goal line formation with the FB and RB next to each other.
And if I call something "tight bunch" this is generally what I mean:
That's a TE, FB, and WR in the bunch. Harbaugh loves throwing out buckets of formations with 2 RB, 1 TE personnel. In the Utah game this was very frequently a pitch sweep; Michigan broke that tendency in this game by running off-tackle- ish at the bunch.
FWIW, I am designating Houma and Kerridge as FBs and listing all other blocky catchy types as TEs.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: OL was the same as it was against Utah: Cole/Braden/Glasgow/Kalis/Magnuson. Braden got dinged and left for a play or two; David Dawson entered in his place. That's not a huge surprise but there were a couple rumbles that Blake Bars might be the first guy in the game. That may be the case if a tackle goes out; it's apparently not the case at guard.
QB Rudock; RB was Smith almost the whole way until the fourth quarter, when Isaac and Green got the stress-free time. Isaac did spot Smith at various times in the first three quarters.
WR was the same rotation between Darboh, Chesson, and Harris on the outside. Perry got less time but I think that was more an effect of playing a lot of tight ends than anything else. Moe Ways got scattered snaps as well.
At tight end, every available one played except Khalid Hill. No idea what's going on with him. Fullback was mostly Kerridge until late when Houma came in to impress us all with his running and hair; Kerridge reportedly had a stinger.
So, AJ Williams. The first thing you should know about AJ Williams is that the "holes" thing is about noodling:
Q: I heard you used the term, “noodling.” I’ve been watching this show “Hillbilly Hand Fishin’”….
A: “Hillbilly Hand Fishin’”! (says simultaneously)
Q: I’d like to see A.J. Williams on that show doing that.
A: It’s always been a dream of mine to go noodling. I can’t wait to do it. I have family down in Whitesville, Ga. We’ve got some pretty nice lakes down there. Hopefully, I can go down there and get some noodling done.
The second thing you should know is that noodling is sticking your hands into dank watery holes in the ground in search of catfish.
The third thing you should know is that AJ Williams is an improbably-sized tight end, one who arrives in Ann Arbor the same height and two pounds lighter than tackle recruit Erik Magnuson, one who played right tackle for his high school team last year and did so well at it that Scout bumped him into their top 300 based on his potential there. He's here to block you, weakside defensive end who he has motioned over to. No, it doesn't seem fair, does it? Get used to it. It's called life.
Anyway, Williams's size makes him an awkward fit for TE at the services who continued to rank him there and his (still hypothetical but highly, highly probable) inability to scream down the seam for big yardage makes him a generic three star. But like a Matt Godin or a Martavious Odoms, just because you're not an NFL prototype doesn't mean you don't fill an important role.
At Michigan, that role is obvious. His ESPN profile($) is almost exclusively about his blocking:
Williams is a big in-line tight end. He possesses good size for a high school tight end and is/can be big enough to be like an extra lineman on the field. … He is not the dominating drive blocker that his size might suggest… He is more a positional stick-and-stay type blocker. … You would like to see him throw his size around a little more and deliver more of an initial pop and better create push off the ball in the run game. He is adequate working up to second level and getting a piece of moving targets and needs to do a better job of utilizing angles.
And they're kind of meh about it, which fair enough. Scout's positive take is based on more recent data, though:
Power And Strength
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
Williams showed as a senior that he is capable of being a high level offensive tackle. He could potentially stay at tight end, but we like his upside more if he were to stay at tackle. He's a strong kid who keeps his feet nicely and finishes his blocks. He does well when asked to move, pull, and work in the second level. He will have to continue to refine his technique and playing with better pad level.
Again you notice nothing about this "passing" business. This is because his high school team all but refused to do it. In 2010 Sycamore passed for 489 yards. In 2011 that fell to 300-some. Williams had two catches as a junior, and none as a senior (because he was an offensive lineman). So about the only thing we know about AJ Williams is how he is as a run blocker.
"The obvious thing that sticks out is it is so rare to be that big and be that athletic," Commins said. "A testament to his athletic ability is he was one of the leading scorers and rebounders in our conference during the basketball season and he just has terrific feet around the basket that are on display on the football field too.
"He's strong and powerful. I've seen him collapse an entire side of the defensive line, sealing off the outside running lane without any help from the tackle or guard on that side. He's a special talent."
“He played tackle this year in an offense that runs the ball 97% of the time about so he wasn’t going to catch any balls but he’s a skilled athlete,” said Ferrigno. “You watch him, like I have, run up and down the basketball court and he is a skilled guy. Now, is he going to run like a wide receiver? No, but he’s got a role on our football team. He’s going to run well enough to do the things that we need to do in the passing game.”
…the three-star rankings make all the sense in the world. He'll have a role, he'll fill it ably, he will not ever garner any hype unless it's that of the "unsung hero" variety.
AJ Williams. He is listed as a TE and I wondered about the “talk” that he will end up at tackle. I asked Funk. He was definitive. “He’s a tight end.” Funk said “he can catch the ball, but we really need help at the point of attack at the TE spot and he’s a guy who might have some opportunity to play right away.” The message was clear (a) we need help at TE now, especially in the run game, (b) we sure as hell hope this kid can step up there soon and (c) no, we don’t have any thought of moving him away from the TE spot.
…and the depth chart is even steelier with its assertions. Fifth-year senior Brandon Moore is the only scholarship TE on the roster other than the freshmen and Jordan Paskorz, who just flipped from defense. Classmate Devin Funchess is about sixty pounds lighter than Williams.
He has a role at TE that is obvious and will persist through his career. He may have one at tackle, too—it's just that the need is far more obvious further outside. Michigan is about to be flush with highly-rated tackles. If Williams ends up competing there it is because an unexpectedly high number of them washed out. It's a backup plan for the program.
“I’ll catch some passes at Michigan,” Williams said. “I’ve got 4.8 or 4.9 speed in the 40.”
Why Reid Fragel? Fragel came out of Michigan when Rodriguez was running things; Michigan offered him as an OL and was told to talk to the hand. Now listed at 6'8", 298, OSU's moved him to tackle largely because they have no other options. He's played in every OSU game since his redshirt came off and has a total of 14 catches, about one every three games. Fragel is a lot taller (6'8") but, yeah, Reid Fragel.
Guru Reliability: Low. Healthy, but no one really has any idea how he'll do at TE and only Scout seemed to pay attention to his senior year.
Variance: Low. Seems like a lock for major playing time and will dutifully block guys trying to do things and catch a ball about every third game.
Ceiling: Low-plus. Is not Gronkowski. Maybe has some upside to surprise since he's been playing on a team that runs 97% of the time, though.
General Excitement Level: Moderate. I am very even keeled about this dude. He seems like a nice piece to have in the redzone and on short yardage. Very hard to see him ending up the sort of multi-level threat you'd like out of your hybrid offensive players, but can be a key bit of one of those multiple pro-style offenses that whipsaw you from GRAAAGGHHG 3TE SMASH to wispy three and four wide shotgun eeeeee. You know, like Stanford last year or SDSU under Borges.
Having that extra tackle TE gives you options; I remember OSU just saying "screw it" and lining up with literally an extra tackle for the large bulk of one of their streak games, and that going poorly for M. If he gives Michigan that option and provides a steady stream of quotes about noodling he'll be well worth the roster slot.
Projection: Won't redshirt. Will probably start the year behind Brandon Moore, but could pass him by midseason given how much Moore has played so far in his career. Will be used as an inline blocker and won't be catching much other than play action flares and short stuff, at least at first.
As his career develops it will be much the same thing. He'll be on the line, doing stuff and running outlet routes. There's a slight possibility he would move to tackle eventually, but unlike Fragel he's on a team that has been recruiting their pants off at that position and there probably won't be any need.