Picture Pages: Who Are You Optioning?

Picture Pages: Who Are You Optioning? Comment Count

Brian September 4th, 2012 at 2:04 PM

The option has always been about making a defender wrong about who has the ball, thus effectively blocking him. Since you don't have to actually block him this means you can take out a slavering rage-beast with even the daintiest of skill position players.

Rich Rodriguez's innovation was taking the hazard-laden option and turning it into a simple yes-or-no handoff. The read option makes a guy wrong without requiring a pitch, and without getting your quarterback lit up time and again. Pairing that with plays that stretch the defense across the field horizontally opens up the box, forces safeties down, and creates the kind of environments that see his teams run for nearly six yards a clip.

Borges and Hoke have a different outlook on football. Last year when the inverted veer was running riot over Ohio State, they were consistently blocking the guy a Rodriguez-style offense would consider optioned off.


This worked, but I wondered if it was working because Ryan Shazier was an injured freshman who was pretty horrible in that game. It's hard not to look at what's going on with Michael Schofield in this clip and not pine for the guy to move past the OSU DE and take on Ohrian Johnson, thus likely springing Denard for another huge gain.

Last year both myself and fellow guy who does the picture paging Chris Gaerig thought that this was an execution issue that would be hammered out given enough time, but Tyler Sellhorn, a high school OL coach who frequently emails me tips and corrections, thought this was a philosophical thing:

Dear Brian,

I think Schofield and Omameh were coached to block the DE. Hoke/Borges do not like leaving unblocked defensive linemen out there. A famous unattributed coaching axiom that I am sure that Hoke/Borges believe in is: "First level defenders cause fumbles, second level defenders make tackles." To me, this is the "MANBALL" component of M's "option" game.  True power running game people think like that.  I think that is the reason there have been fewer really long runs (the second level has been blocked less consistently this season). 

This is one philosophical difference: RR's first thought always was, "How can we mess with the safeties to get big yards when we break through the line",  Hoke/Borges first thought is "How can we mess with the DL so they are less aggro (in run and pass situations) and we don't ever have a negative play." Both work well as we have seen.

Tyler Sellhorn

The consistency with which Michigan guys were blocking the supposedly option DL was a point in his favor. At first I thought the Alabama game was the point at which this was undeniable, but now I think Alabama was blocking Michigan, not the other way around.

Optioning Nobody #1

It's Michigan's first drive. They've picked up a first down with a (horribly spotted) flare to Smith and a third down conversion from same. They come out in a two-back, three-wide set. Alabama responds with its base 3-4 set, half-rolling a safety into the box.


Michigan will run the veer. They pull Barnum (1), use Hopkins(2) as a lead blocker, and block down on the front side. This leaves the Alabama defender (3) there unblocked… for now, anyway.


Hopkins. You are not flaring out, my man. You are  doing something that isn't that.


At the mesh point, Hopkins (1) has contacted the "unblocked" Alabama defensive end. This means he is now blocked. (Science!) Hopkins is also blocked. They are mutually blocking each other. Neither can go forward very easily.

This happens really fast. The DE is doing this on purpose. His goal here is two-fold: one, to force the handoff, and two to pick off one of the lead blockers.

Barnum(2) is still pulling for the front side; since the guys blocking down have actually done a pretty good job of getting push he's got a lane. Denard(3) sees the DE underneath Hopkins and gives.


And now it's over. Hopkins has indeed eliminated the Alabama DE, and Barnum reaches the hole as Smith sprints outside. Also sprinting outside: the totally unblocked Alabama LB.

Michigan's got some other problems, too, as the playside DE came through the double on the playside when Kwiatkowski released—you can see Schofield hunched over in an "oops" way right at the LOS behind Barnum. Given Smith's angle and Barnum's this is only a further indicator that Schofield got hammered on Saturday, not an actual reason the play doesn't work.


And that's all she wrote.


Who did Michigan block with Denard's legs on this play? Nobody.


[After THE JUMP: oops they did it again :( ]


Monkey Punches

Monkey Punches Comment Count

Brian September 3rd, 2012 at 11:30 AM

9/1/2012 – Michigan 14, Alabama 41 – 0-1

[ED: I retreated into humor; Ace, being there, didn't have that option, and wrote a thing that is closer to the game column thing than this.]

So I've spent a lot of time thinking about this, and have concluded that Michigan's biggest tactical error on Saturday night was not leaving Jerryworld ten minutes into the first quarter and wandering around Dallas until they'd had enough random encounters to go up several levels. Once Michigan had unlocked special abilities like Mystic Separation and acquired the Arm Of Elway, they could have returned to the field and resumed playing on a more even basis.

While this would take about three years and pose several logistical difficulties, there can be no debate this would have been a preferable to the solution Michigan's dunderheaded coaches decided on, viz., not running away at top speed apologizing profusely. By not fleeing to practice their skills on, like, bats and stuff, they ended up losing the game.

Worse, they ended up continuing the game, thus forcing a great many people to watch it. At no point did Al Borges deploy the EMP weapon he must have spent the offseason perfecting in lieu of figuring out what Denard Robinson is good at. So the broadcast continued unabated, except apparently in DC where DirecTV was on the fritz. (Wolverines in our nation's capitol: keep yourselves quarantined. You may be all that's left of us once the PTSD kicks in. You must continue to tell others of our sacrifice.)

As mentioned, a better strategy would have been to exit at top speed while splicing K-Pop videos into the feed.

One of 67,200,113 things that would have been preferable to watching football on Saturday night

But hey, I'm just a guy on the internet. Maybe I haven't thought this through. There are multiple strategies for successfully executing a game like Saturday's.

INVENT A TIME MACHINE. The classic. Go back to the point at which this game was agreed upon and describe to the decision-makers what the consequences will be. Unfortunately, in this case the only part of "nationally televised debacle on par with Chernobyl" that will be heard is "nationally televised," and nothing will change.

DRINK! Not working.

DRINK MORE! Nerft veruking erngerghf.

AFTER IT'S OVER, TELL PEOPLE YOU SUCK AND WILL PUT MORE SUGAR IN YOUR SAUCE. I'm not sure what the analog of putting more sugar in your sauce is but it's probably putting more MAN in your BALL down BY THE RIVER. This move was successfully executed by the guy who replaced the guy who only hears "nationally televised" at his old job and may be replicated here once the guy who only hears "nationally televised" has been safely quarantined in a relatively meaningless BS government job like governor.

Sorry, world, that you think we suck. We're going to try not to suck any more, and look, here's some guy who works for us. Very middle America, this guy. Puts garlic on the uniforms. How cool is that?

GO LIMP. Jesse Williams may believe you are rotten and wander off in search of salmon.




via MVictors

The weird thing about doing this and being this age is that you feel stuck. I did not know I was doing this when I started doing it and have felt grateful for my continued obsession it as various other people ranging from 30-50 have reported back on their waning interest in Michigan football, previously their alpha and omega. There's nothing sadder than the thing you used to think is amazing.

What I felt on Saturday was an intense jealousy of Orson/Spencer, who had a child a couple years back and is having another one. We're getting there, but not quite yet due to PhD things. It would have been nice to have a child to look at halfway through the second quarter and know with 100% certainty that what I was looking at was just a game that did not really matter.

I know this, or at least knew it. (I do not know this and never knew it even a tiny bit.) Now that the career is the game it is hard to figure out what's a reasonable response from a human, what's my response, and what's my response augmented by the fact that I've doubled down on fandom. All of it seems out whack, and never more so than on Saturday when a guy I've met a half-dozen times now, mostly at NYC Alumni Club events, was there. He's one of those magical guys who somehow makes a career out of writing stuff for Spin and the NYT Magazine and magazines that start "New York" and may or may not have additional bits in their name. He's been pitching an article about me at these organizations. He was taking notes.

At halftime I bellowed "THAT'S BECAUSE YOU'RE NOT RUNNING DENAAAAARD" at the television. I knew that this was probably not wise with a man taking notes in the room, but only after I did it. There it was anyway. I'd already spent the entire first quarter telling myself not to say anything on twitter until the die had truly been cast.

So, I feel stuck, you know? I'm 33 now, the age when Jim McManus had his Age of Miracles and went to the World Series of Poker to write about it for Harper's, married and not disjointed and blessed by the cosmos. It's a hell of a football game to watch that makes you wish this stuff didn't have such a hold on you, but the first time I looked at the clock and boggled at how much time was left was in the first quarter.


It'll pass, I'm sure. It's just a hell of a football game to do that do you, to leave you blank and unthinking until you laugh in a way that frightens even you.

Bullets we need for this post so you can't use them, find others

The takeaway. DENNIS NORFLEET WOOOOOOOOOOO. He looked fast! And returned some kicks a moderate distance! And got lit up by Dee Hart! And Fred Jackson doesn't think he can play!

Some other stuff that's not about Norfleet for some stupid reason follows.


Obligatory uniform opinion. Highlighter yellow emphatically not getting fixed, so the shoulder things combine with the pants to give off a blinding aura. If that was the goal—maybe Alabama won't even be able to look at us!—okay. I'm guessing it's not. Meanwhile, Alabama just wears their uniforms because they're Alabama. Their brand seems to be surviving.

At least Michigan got the helmet numbers right, amirite?

Blown out. I debated just posting the Hoke presser and saying "Hoke's voice is all you need to know about this game."

Obligatory Borges stuff. Guh. The best thing you can say is that once you're down 31-0 you might as well get out of there without getting anyone hurt. When the opponents are saying stuff like this

“I thought with the running back being out, I thought (Robinson) would’ve got more touches, because he’s a playmaker, he’s a good athlete, good player,” said Alabama linebacker Nico Johnson. “And I don’t know, it was a shock.”

…you totally outsmarted them. And yourself. Mostly yourself.  Any hopes you may be harboring that this will all work itself out and Denard's legs will be the primary engine of the offense are looking pretty sickly at the moment. At least we've been here before, and Borges has retreated to plot anew. Usually he comes back with "hey, this guy can run."

The only rationale I can think of that makes any sense is that Borges believed flat-out that Michigan could not run at all and wanted an offense predicated on that. I don't know how much I buy that given Alabama replacing a number of starters and football coaches' general self-belief, but the numbers are clear. From Bill Connolly:

In 2011, Michigan ran the ball 74 percent of the time on standard downs (national average: 60 percent), 40 percent on passing downs (national average: 33 percent). Despite pro-style intentions, the Wolverines catered to Denard Robinson's strengths for the most part and kept things run-heavy, especially when Toussaint caught fire late in the year.

Against Alabama on Saturday, though, the gameplan was quite different. In the first quarter, Michigan ran just five times on 11 standard downs (45 percent) and just once in six passing downs (17 percent). These are Air Raid percentages.

If Robinson has 30 carries against Air Force I'll again descend into the Walter White laugh. (Spoilers, obviously.)

Would have been nice to see what Robinson could have become in an offense that catered to—or even bothered to use—his primary skill. (Everything else would have been terrible, of course.)

Yeah, yeah, Robinson had reads and could have kept the ball blah blah. Planning to get Robinson carries when Alabama's defense decides not to put a guy on him on the read option is not a winning strategy.

Gardner WR stuff. Gardner probably took more snaps at WR than anyone else and looked like a 6'4" version of Darryl Stonum from 2008. He consistently looked over the wrong shoulder on deep stuff and his routes were crap. But he scored a touchdown and could have had a couple more long gainers if he wasn't going up against yet another Alabama cornerback from hell. Gardner didn't get an opportunity to catch that opening slant thanks to that Milliner kid and had a few more potential long completions broken up by the Alabama secondary. Milliner raked one out; a few others never got there.

Once Gardner's away from a 6'2" junior who was a five star and the #2 CB in his class to Rivals, he'll do fine. Unlike Stonum 2008, Gardner did find the ball even if it looked ugly as he did so.

Roundtree. The first interception was debatably interference as Milliner shoved Roundtree to the ground on his route. Penalty or not, that sequence should make Roundtree's shortcomings as an outside receiver clear. He is not big enough, strong enough, or athletic enough to compete with standout corners. His assets are about as wasted as Denard's, though at least in Roundtree's case it's clear he's on the outside because of a lack of other options.

The ground game. Hard to get a grasp on anything, obviously. Michigan was overwhelmed; Toussaint would not have done much better. Aside from one Vincent Smith run that Alabama lost contain on, Michigan got jack on the ground. I can ask questions all day: why was Rawls going east-west? Why was misdirection hardly attempted? Did Michigan come into the game with more than one running play?

It doesn't really matter.

Bubble screens. They existed, and they got eight yards each, and they were Michigan's best plays that weren't chucking it deep. Gallon looked very good on both; there's no reason not to keep going to it when the defense is giving it to you.

In case of Lewan emergency. Move Schofield to left tackle (where he was pwned on his first play), Omameh to right tackle, and bring in Burzynski at right guard. In case of Lewan emergency, we are dead dead dead dead dead dead.

Defense. Ask again later. I stopped paying close enough attention to tell you anything interesting after the first quarter.

The Countess injury is of course a major blow; with Talbott out the door earlier their CB depth has gone from excellent to shaky before game two. Webb says($) expect Raymon Taylor to pick up the slack. The line was always going to get pounded. Somewhat disconcerting to see a lot of James Ross out there unless Michigan had also just packed it in and was screwing around with getting some experience.

Freshmen. Maize and Blue News has a comprehensive recap. Other than Ross (and NORFLEET) the most prominent freshman contributor was Jarrod Wilson, who stepped in as the free safety in the nickel package as Michigan moved Thomas Gordon down to nickel. Pipkins looked like he got some push on a few plays, too.

We did not see much from Chesson and Darboh, but if Roundtree keeps playing like he is that won't last.

Your winner for dumbest burned redshirt: Royce Jenkins-Stone.

Well, at least this isn't particularly unusual. Various recent Alabama scores:

  • 2011 Citrus Bowl: Alabama 49, MSU 7
  • 2011 Arkansas: 38-14
  • 2011 Florida: 38-10
  • 2011 Tennessee: 37-6
  • 2011 Auburn: 42-14
  • National title game: 21-0 over LSU, LSU never crosses midfield.

Other than Georgia Southern, no team has put up more than 14 points on Michigan since Cam Newton's Auburn outfit.

Forever little brother. This is why Michigan State will always be Michigan State, and doesn't even include Delvon Roe:

Michigan is getting Raped right now. I bet Jerry Sandusky is proud lol #ROLLTIDE

Get your yuks in now.

At least it wasn't the most embarrassing thing to happen over the weekend. This GIF of Kentucky fans is destined to go head to head with Rollerblading Raptors Mascot someday:


Don't forget the guy in the bottom corner and the dude left hanging at the top right. This is a gif as complex and layered as Yankee Enthusiasts and will in time take its place in GIF Valhalla.


Inside the Boxscore returns:

Morgan had 8 tackles, but they were all assisted tackles, which epitomizes the game. In all of the one-on-one matchups, we lost. Bama was just more “-er” than us, bigger, stronger, faster, tougher. I avoided watching Bama last season because I hate that “ESS EEE SEE” crap, but there’s no denying how good they are.

As does Hoke For Tomorrow:

I turned off the TV after Bellamy's first career pass attempt/interception and made my way quietly upstairs to bed.  The rest of the family (wife, 5yo son, 1yo daughter) had long since decided that a good night's sleep was a better option than watching Michigan get smeared across the turf in Texas.  I didn't feel any bitter emotions really, mostly concern for the collective knees of Taylor Lewan, Blake Countess, and Brandon Moore.  I guess the Rich Rod years knocked all of the conceited sense of entitlement out of me for real.



Hinton is gloriously reborn and his article is mostly about Alabama, because obviously. The bit on Denard:

That said, Denard Robinson did not look like a quarterback on the verge of turning the corner as a passer. On one level, it's hard to judge a guy who's being consistently hit and hurried by a defense as relentless as Alabama's, which seems to have an answer for everything on almost every play. But Robinson was well below the Mendoza line tonight in terms of completion percentage (11 of 26), and his two interceptions in the first half were about as ugly – and as costly – as they come.


The first he simply put up for grabs, recklessly lobbing a jump ball in the direction of a receiver who had already been shoved off of his feet and out of bounds by Tide corner Dee Milliner, who found himself all alone to gather in the pick; Eddie Lacy scored three plays, extending 'Bama's lead to 21-0. On the second, Robinson stepped up in the pocket and drilled the ball directly into the chest of linebacker C.J. Mosley, who jogged in for an icing score that pushed the lead to 31-0. In both cases, Robinson had no idea what he was seeing when he put the ball in the air, and seemed more interested in getting rid of it under pressure for the sake of getting rid of, whatever the cost on the other end. Michigan fans have seen that before; all indications tonight are that they'll be seeing it again.

I think that The Hoover Street Rag is not correct:

We have a choice as fans.  We can sulk, we can lament, we can shake our fists in anger.  But I don't think we will.

That would be nice.


In the second quarter, with Michigan trailing 24-0 and backed up inside their 10-yard line, Kirk Herbstreit was talking about Michigan's non-existant running game. The camera panned up to Al Borges in the coordinator's booth. After relaying the upcoming 3rd down play, Borges shook his head in disbelief and rubbed his face. It was the unmistakeable look of someone who had run out of answers, like working your way through a maze and finding only brick walls.

Touch the Banner:

Al Borges deserves some blame, but not much.  Michigan wasn't going to be able to run the ball in this game.  I predicted that Michigan would rush for fewer than 100 yards; the final tally was 69, despite having one of the most electrifying players in the country at quarterback.  Yes, Denard Robinson probably could have run the ball more, especially before he got dinged up.  Would it have made much of a difference?  Probably not.  Where Robinson really could  have made a difference was in the passing game.  He had lots of open receivers early in the game, but he's just as erratic as ever in the passing game.  He kept throwing deep (inaccurately), and completed just 11/26 passes.  The offensive line did a decent job of pass blocking, but if Michigan has to rely on Robinson to win the game with his arm, they're going to struggle.

Erratic, maybe, but I saw a lot of accurate-enough passes that would have been complete if not for Dee Milliner and other members of the Alabama secondary.

Wojo wrote a column. Maize and Brew did a thing. MGoRecruiting returns from the dead to pine for the spread 'n' shred. MLive now TWIS-ing their own readers. Big House Blog is not thrilled with Brandon. Me, I say that whenever you can get less money to play thousands of miles from campus against a team that's signed an extra recruiting class of players over the last five years without getting a home game in return, you have to do it.

At least the server held up, amirite?


Preview 2012: Five Questions On Offense

Preview 2012: Five Questions On Offense Comment Count

Brian August 31st, 2012 at 11:51 AM

Previously: Podcast 4.0, the story, quarterback, running back, wide receivers, offensive line, defensive line, linebackers, secondary, Qs on D.

1. We're clear about this shotgun thing, right?


The number one question about last year's offense was how much it would play to Denard's strengths and how much it would settle into Borges's comfort zone. The answer was mostly the former. While the first real test against Notre Dame was a rocky one and Michigan's under-center experiment against Iowa—against a Hawkeye defense that had just been plowed for a game-winning touchdown by Minnesota—was an outright disaster, those were outliers in a season that saw Michigan hardly budge from its shotgun-oriented ways under Rodriguez. The Sugar Bowl was a big fat raspberry at the end of things, granted.

What they ran from the shotgun was a lot different, but when it came down to the most important game in Brady Hoke's career to date—Ohio State—Michigan's primary gambit was the single most prominent spread play in the game today: the inverted veer, which marries power blocking to spread principles and gets you a lot of carries where Denard is charging hard upfield. The result was 170 rushing yards, a 167 yard, 14/17, 3 TD, 0 INT day passing, and 40 points against Oho State.

That seemed to work pretty well, right?

This blog tracked Michigan's success in various formations all year, and it wasn't even a debate except when the opposing defense was entirely theoretical (think EMU). Against mediocre defenses, the shotgun was far superior. Against good defenses, the shotgun was far superior. Various examples:

  • Michigan averaged 10.6 YPC from the gun against WMU, 6.8 from under center. (Note that all these numbers excise goal line and short yardage carries as distorting.)
  • It was 7.5 gun, 2.3 under center against ND.
  • It was 6.4 gun, 3.4 I, 2.3 ace against Iowa.
  • It was 5.8 gun, 3.9 under center against Illinois, and before two garbage-time runs from Toussaint Michigan had –1 yards on 8 carries from under center. The blocking on those wasn't even good: "On the first he cut to the backside of the play on a power, which rarely goes well; on the second he had to dodge three tacklers on the backfield on an iso and bounce all the way to the sideline before finding open grass."

You get the idea. For the season Michigan averaged 3.9 YPC from the I and 6.7 from the gun. While ace (not that Ace) actually bested the gun's performance at 7.4 YPC, less than ten percent of Michigan's snaps were from that formation and they were heavily biased against good Ds—no ace snaps against ND or MSU, big chunks against Purdue and Iowa. One 59-yard Fitz run against Purdue explains most of that number, and that was some pretty inexcusable D combined with Fitz being awesome.

When the I worked it was usually due to opponents screwing up


Three defenders to the left of center vs four blockers plus a FB = 8 yards

…or the tailback making chicken salad out of chicken despair, as in the clips from the Illinois game above.


SHOTGUN SHOTGUN SHOTGUN SHOTGUN SHOTGUNNNNNNNNN. Consider the line: Lewan, Mealer/Kalis, Barnum, Omameh, Schofield—all Rodriguez recruits who can move save the LG. Consider the QB: Denard. Consider the RB: Fitz Toussaint, space jitterbug. Consider the TEs: 404 file not found. Consider the FB: Stephen Hopkins, a guy who can reprise some of the MINOR RAGE if attention is drawn away from him and he's free to run straight at one guy. You've even got leftover RR slots in the WR corps. Just let it ride, man.

Next year is the year you flip over to your multiple pro-style whipsaw offense, next year when Denard is gone and maybe Toussaint heads for the draft and Kalis/Miller/Bryant is your road-grading interior OL and you've got TE depth and a panoply of different rushers for different situations. This year, stick with it and refine what works.

The spring game, which was almost all RR-at-WVU déjà vu 3WR 2RB shotgun set, indicates that's what the coaching staff thinks, too, as does the buzz I've gotten from The Fort. Now about using it a little more smoothly.

[after the JUMP: Borges fusion cuisine, yet more on DG at WR, stupid predictions.]


Fee Fi Foe Film: Alabama

Fee Fi Foe Film: Alabama Comment Count

Ace August 29th, 2012 at 4:49 PM

In case you've forgotten since last fall, FFFF is the weekly film breakdown of Michigan's upcoming opponent where I apply my (limited) knowledge of X's and O's—luckily, this week much of the technical brilliance is provided by Chris Brown.

College football fans should know a few things about Alabama: they're good (duh), they play a soul-crushing 3-4 defense, and they grind out wins with a glacial-paced zone running offense that's brutally efficient. I'll get into more detail below, of course, but that's the Cliffs Notes version if you hate to read. Given that it's the opening week of the season and Alabama is replacing several starters, this post will almost entirely focus on scheme; Friday's preview will go much deeper into their personnel.


Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Pro-style. Alabama mostly operates from under center, usually with either a fullback/H-back or second tight end on the field.

Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? Though the Crimson Tide offense operates in the spirit of MANBALL, they actually utilize a lot of zone blocking—the inside and outside zones are staples of their offense.

Quarterback Dilithium Level (Scale: 1 [Navarre] to 10 [Denard]): Even with sacks removed, quarterback A.J. McCarron rushed for only 70 yards on 19 carries last year. He's mobile enough that he could escape the pocket and possibly pick up a surprise first down, but not much more than that. I'll give him a 3.

Dangerman: QB A.J. McCarron. Alabama loses most of their top skill position players from last year, but McCarron is often overlooked as one of the better quarterbacks in the nation, largely due to their run-heavy attack and defensive reputation. As a redshirt sophomore last season, McCarron finished 25th in the country in passer efficiency (147.27) and 24th in yards per attempt (8.0), most impressively posting a miniscule 1.5% interception rate. McCarron doesn't wow you, but he's the perfect quarterback for 'Bama's system: the proverbial "game manager" who rarely makes a mistake.

Zook Factor: This is my measure of how often teams have horrible ideas like "let's punt on 4th and 3 from the opponent 35" and so on. While Alabama is hailed as a conservative paragon, they've been known to break that habit in a big way:

Of course, the reason this works so well is because Alabama normally takes the safe route; earlier in the same game, they punted on 4th and 1 from their 46 despite the presence of one Trent Richardson.

OVERVIEW: Alabama has a new offensive coordinator this year as former Washington OC Don Nussmeier takes over for new Colorado State head coach Jim McElwain. The general strategy should be the same, however, and if anything the offense could become even slower: according to Football Study Hall, the Tide—quite uncharacteristically—had a slightly faster pace than NCAA average last year, while Nussmeier's Washington squad plodded along at a 39.6% adjusted pace. Chart via Football Study Hall:

Alabama's hard-earned reputation as a run-first outfit doesn't manifest itself on standard downs (First downs, second-and-6 or less, third-and-4 or less); instead, it shows up in their far-above-average run percentage on passing downs (second-and-7 or more, third-and-5 or more). The Tide don't often find themselves in that latter category, however, as they led the nation in all three advanced statistical measures (S&P+, Success Rate, PPP+) on standard downs. In other words, they stay ahead of the chains and rarely find themselves in a situation where they need to pick up a big chunk of yardage.

[Hit the jump for the rest of the breakdown]


Fall Camp Presser Transcript 8-8-12: Al Borges

Fall Camp Presser Transcript 8-8-12: Al Borges Comment Count

Heiko August 9th, 2012 at 9:16 AM

Al Borges

Opening remarks:

"Okay. Who’s going to break the ice?"

With Fitz out for a while, how quickly will you be able to identify your next No. 1 RB?

“Well we’re just going to the next guy. We’re not really changing anything. Thomas Rawls is going to be that next guy. Vince is going to do what he’s done, and on we go. I think the key to these situations from a game plan perspective is to try to make as little out of it, to make it as seamless as you can, and just go.”

What can you glean from the first few practices?

“Not much. I mean, what do you see? They’re just running around in shorts. Until somebody’s going to hit somebody and somebody’s going to do something, it’s really just kind of glorified aerobics in a lot of ways. I hate to put it that way, but you know, we have a few kids run pretty good. We’ll learn more today because we’re in half pads and we’ll learn even more towards the end of the week. To make any hard and fast assessments of where we are is really hard to do right now. It is. I’m not copping out, I’m just telling you this. We know more about the offense, but we kind of knew that before we even lined up. That part is better.”

Does that mean Vince is just a third down guy?

“No. Not necessarily. Vince is going to pretty much play the same role as he did a year ago, and that wasn’t always on third down. So he was in there sometimes to spell backs, and we’ll just see how it shakes out, but Thomas is going to get a good chance, and Vince is going to get a good chance. Justice Hayes is in the fold, too. So we’ll kind of see, and again these next few days -- not few days, but really this next week or so, when we start and the full contact takes hold, we’ll learn more about that situation.”

Have you talked much to Fitz?

“A little bit. As much as I ever do, ya know. ‘Hi Fitz, what’s going on, how ya feelin.’ Yeah, I mean. I talk to all offensive players at one time or another. But yeah, that’s about it.”

You’ve been around Rawls. What do you like about his style and what he brings to the table?

“He’s reckless. He runs with a demeanor that’s aggressive. Suffice to say, aggressive would be the best word -- he looks like he’s mad when he runs sometimes. But he’s a tough guy, and if you hit him you’re going to feel him, I promise you that. You are going to feel him, because there’s times when he’s just simply not interested in avoiding you.”

In your offense, how do you choose where to place your X and Z receivers? Does it make a difference?

“Yeah, it does make a difference, but optimal thing is you’d like to have a guy that plays the position. But the X receiver tends to draw a little more single coverage depending on the team. Some teams that’s not true, and he’s on the line of scrimmage most of the time, so he’s going to draw tighter press coverage, too, whereas the flanker’s not going to draw quite as much tight coverage. The X is a guy that’s got to be kind of rangy because he’s got to be able to get some jump balls. The Z does sometimes, too. The Z’s got to be a guy that moves around a lot more. He’s going to be in more formations than the X is, so he’s got to be on the ball with regard to that. But the skill set in terms of being able to catch, run, and jump, it’s very similar. But once we get them there we try and kind of fit the guys that look like they can handle those things I talked about better.”

What role do you envision Jeremy Gallon to be in?

“Pretty much more the same, with a little bit more seasoning, if that makes any sense. He’s a tough guy. He plays much bigger than his size. You just don’t see a lot of guys his height that can go up and get jump balls like he does. He’s a very good blocker. But what I’d say in answer to that question is that every phase of his game should be a little better simply because of his overall understanding of what we’re trying to do. But he’s a reliable kid, and the quarterbacks have faith in his ability to go get the ball. They know they’ll get his best effort every time he goes up. I would look for him as well as Roy, who’s really [had an outstanding spring] -- both of them have taken that next step. Now I hope we get some carryover once we start playing.”

How much do you think you can use Devin at receiver?

“Well, that’s going to be a lot by game plan, but we’re developing him at two different positions, and let me tell you that’s a challenge. For a kid to be an occasional player is one thing, but to be a guy that you’re really kind of splitting time with, that’s a challenge, but we’ll just see how that shakes out. That’s still kind of in the embryonic stages. As we go, we’ll decide how much of it we’re going to use.”

Do you expect to use him more at one position or another?

“He could -- it depends. I can’t commit to that because you don’t know. At the end of the day, maybe, but we’re trying to exploit every option at this point.”

Does the decision to play Devin at wide receiver mean you have more confidence in Russell Bellomy’s ability as a backup quarterback?

“Yeah. I have more confidence in all their abilities. Any way you cut it, Russell Bellomy’s going to have to take the next step, just like we’re asking everybody else to do. So yeah. I think that’s the key point. You have to develop three quarterbacks. At this point, anyway. Now once you get into the season and you decide how you distribute all that, you’re really working just with two quarterbacks, but we have to see how this whole thing shakes out. Right now we’re still an open book, but we do have some nice options, and right now that’s all you can ask for.”

Have you consulted any other coaches who have dealt with players splitting time between two positions?

“Uh, no not really. No, I tell you what we did do when I was at UCLA is we came here when [Michigan] had Charles Woodson. We came for a spring. Just curious because we had a kid there who we were talking about doing some of that stuff with. But that was different. It was a little different because Charles was playing in a defensive and offensive position. He had this completely different deal. You have to learn two different systems. But Devin’s … in the same system. Learning, hearing the same words all the time. But I can still remember doing that.”

Have you done this with many players in the past?

“A few. A couple over the years, yeah. One time or another you’re forced to do some of that. Sometimes you’re just short on depth, particularly when I coached lower levels when you didn’t have all the scholarships, you know. You had to have some kids that were versatile, so it was through necessity.”

Any examples?

“Oh god, I don’t even remember anymore. God I’d have to walk in the room -- I don’t remember.”

How hard is it for a kid to split time?

“It’s tough because there’s not that many reps. You get X amount of reps and you have to figure out how to get them those reps without killing them. It’s hard. It’s not easy to do.”

You said you’ll see “how it shakes out.” Can you determine that by the end of fall camp?

“Well we determine it before we get to a game situation because we have a game plan, right? You have to make some hard and fast decisions before you get to game time because you have to have a plan going into the game. You can’t do that experiment. And I will say this, too: once you get into the game, it better work out at least in part how you wanted it to, or you’re gonna have to make some adjustments, but at one point in time, we have to have an idea how many reps everybody’s going to play. You know what I mean? Not just him, but everybody -- where and when and what situations. That’s part of game planning.”

Does it help Devin that he’s practicing at two positions that have to work together so closely?

“I think so. Yeah I do.”

Are Devin and Bellomy 1A and 1B?

“No, Devin’s still the second quarterback. That part of it doesn’t change.”

Any impressions of the freshman receivers?

“Eh … nah. I ain’t doin’ it. Nah. I could [say], ‘This guy’s great, that guy’s great,’ then tomorrow you put pads on and go, ‘Oh my god.’ No. Ask me in a week and I’ll probably have a better assessment.”

Does Devin’s switch to receiver show off his athleticism more?

“Yeah. Yeah, and that’s why we did it. Some quarterbacks are quarterbacks and that’s all they are. We’re fortunate in that we have really a couple good quarterbacks that can probably play [receiver] … and he’s one of those guys. You know, he’s a big guy that can run and has good hands. So I mean it’d be bad coaching if he’d be standing next to me the whole game when you have a guy who can really help us. Last year we were pretty deep at that position so it wasn’t as critical, but I think this year he can play more of a part.”

Thoughts on offensive line chemistry?

“Eh, again, it’s just so hard to call, but I know that those kids worked their butts off in the offseason. They did. And they worked together as much as they could. I think that’s something that if it’s not there now, it’s going to come because I know how important it is to those kids.”

MGoQuestion: How do you evaluate the effectiveness of the deuce package, and will you consider using it again this season?

“Well I had my analyst do a -- I believe we were eight-point-something yards [per attempt]. I’m not sure exactly. I don’t have it in front of me, but it was good. And even the plays that weren’t good set up plays that were good. You know what I mean. There were guys we’d run a play that wouldn’t yield much, only to be set up by another play that did. It’s not always the play, sometimes It’s the residual effect of the initial play. So it was good. Now how much we use of it? I don’t know. That’s a game plan deal. As we get through the install and we see where we are, we’ll decide on that. But we’re not doing any of that stuff now. That’s not what we’re about right now. We’re about teaching the system and getting our valuations straight. And once we do that, then and only then will we start playing with some of the more I guess cute phases of our offense. I hate using that word. Why’d I say that.”

You mentioned starting Denard off a little too quickly with the pro-style concepts. How do you approach it this year?

“Well we have a lot better feel for what we are. You know what I mean. We knew Denard was a good spread quarterback. I mean, anybody could see that. It was a matter of how much he could do of what we’d done in the past -- because we were always going to have some of that in our offense. We decided that when we came here. We decided that when I took the job. So once we decided what percentages that was, then we could proceed accordingly. We have so much better feel for that now because we’ve been through a fall, a spring, we know basically how much we want to be of both. It’s different now. It’s different without a question.”

Can you make a determination on certain position battles -- like left guard -- by a certain date? Do you have a timetable?

“I would never put a date on it because it could change the day before the game, you know what I mean? But there is a point in time when you have to narrow the field down to how many kids you’re going to practice in scout teams. And that’ll be sometime within a couple weeks to the game -- within at least a week and a half to the game. We have not set that date yet, but at that time it’s fish or cut bait. You have to take the 18 to 20 players that you’re going to practice with every single day, then kind of go from there.”


Media Day Roundtable: Denard Robinson

Media Day Roundtable: Denard Robinson Comment Count

Ace July 31st, 2012 at 10:10 AM

You don't want to know what I had to do to secure that seat

The media day roundtable session took place just a couple of hours before Denard Robinson delivered his keynote address at the Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon. This meant, unfortunately, that in my half-hour at Denard's table the majority of the questions related to the speech, how he prepared for the speech, his nerves before the speech, his pre-speech nerves compared to his pre-game nerves, Kirk Cousins's speech, and so on.* What follows is my best effort at collecting relevant, non-speech quotes, as the speech did a decent job of speaking for itself.


Was timing something that got sacrificed last year somewhat because you guys were learning a new offense?

I think that did hurt us. Us not having timing, that was a key issue. My footwork, I was thinking so much that my footwork was everywhere; throwing off my back foot was one of the things I messed up a lot on. That’s what I’m trying to change this year, I’ve been doing that [during the] offseason and working on that timing. Now we’re not thinking about the offense because we know the offense and we have confidence in ourselves. We know the offense and now we have the opportunity to have success in the offense.

Was the problem that you were thinking about too many other things last year, especially early?

Yeah, earlier in the season I was still learning the offense, trying to get the basis of the offense. Towards the end of the season, that’s when it started coming along, because I was in the offense enough to know the offense.

MGoQuestion: Compared to last year, now that you’re more comfortable in the offense, do you expect to have more input into the game plan? Will Coach Borges give you more input in terms of which plays to call?

I think so. I think Coach Borges, he’s always open-minded, he always asks, “what do you think about this?” That’s the kind of guy he is. If I don’t feel comfortable doing something, he would ask me if I feel comfortable doing it. That’s just Coach Borges, that’s just his personality, that’s the way he coaches.

MGoQuestion: The offense really seemed to evolve last year as you got more comfortable and as Coach Borges got more familiar with the personnel. How would you say the offense changed over the course of last year, and where are you guys today compared to where you were at before last season?

I think we’re way past what we were before [last season]. We’ve built this chemistry in the offense and we feel confident and comfortable with the offense. When it comes down to making the reads and making the right checks and getting us into the right play, I think we all know how to do it now.

MGoQuestion: Schematically, were there changes that Coach Borges made once he got more familiar with your game and the rest of the offense?

He made little tweaks, but I feel like he made game plans, and whatever he’d feel would be successful, that’s what he used.

MGoQuestion: Do you expect this year to be any more or less involved in the running game than you were last year?

I don’t know, you gotta ask Coach Borges. If you want me to run the ball a hundred-some times a game I’ll run it. Whatever it takes for us to win, that’s what I feel anybody on our team would do.


When you’re watching a defense—let’s say it’s Alabama—what do you look at? When you’re, as a quarterback, studying a defense just casually … what do you look at?

You look at the coverage. I’m a quarterback, so I look at the coverage first. You want to see little hints that they give you, like if there’s a safety coming down, how far is the linebacker up to the umpire, how close the safety is to the umpire—if the safety is right on the umpire he’s probably coming, or he’s got to cover somebody, stuff like that. You might see the corner bail before his time, so you can tell that’s probably a [cover] 3 or 4, something like that. Just looking at what kind of coverage they’re in, if the corner is flat-footed or is he on his toes, little things like that you want to look at.


Did you ever envision in your wildest dreams ending up where you’re at today?

Oh, man, to be honest with you I didn’t. I didn’t know how far I’d go. I was just telling Kovacs and Taylor last night, in high school I didn’t think I was a D-I athlete, so now I’m here and it’s like it’s all a dream.

You didn’t think you’d be a D-I athlete?

Yeah, in high school I really didn’t. I really didn’t think that until I got my first offer from Florida my junior year.

*I've unearthed exclusive footage of this portion of the roundtable.


2011 Preview Review: Offense

2011 Preview Review: Offense Comment Count

Ace April 19th, 2012 at 12:37 PM

Molk as Rimington finalist: check, plus. Kelvin Grady's 30 catches: not so much.

Spring football is over, meaning we're entering the darkest days of the offseason, the times when college football bloggers must get creative (aigh!) and come up with something, anything, to post while hoping nobody on the team gets arrested (usually as a product of being as bored with the offseason as us).

This is one of those posts.

Last year, Brian went HAM with his football preview, churning out so much content that I ended up previewing Western lest the first game pass without comment. Now I get to look back on all of Brian's hard work, use hindsight as a crutch to make me look intelligent, and critique his predictions. It's up to you to decide whether it's coincidence that I'm doing this while he's rather incapacitated.

This review will be posted in three parts. Today, I'll look at the offensive personnel. Later, I'll tackle the defense (ooh, role reversal), then finally look at special teams and Brian's "stupid predictions," (his term, not mine). This first post was less fun than I expected; outside of some inflated projections for the wide receivers, Brian kinda nailed it when it came to the offense. BOO.

Greatest Hits

Koger's role will be up to him. He'll be somewhere between a B- and B+ blocker and will have opportunities to establish himself a major part of the passing game. Our sample size on his hands is still very small and the bad part is now two years removed and he's quite an athlete—his upside is high. I can't help but think he's been held back by things other than Rich Rodriguez's preferences, though. I'm betting on a good but unmemorable senior year.

I have a difficult time coming up with a better description for Kevin Koger's final Michigan season. He was a solid, but unspectacular, blocker who recorded 23 catches for 244 yards and four touchdowns. That was more production than he'd had under Rodriguez, but I had to check MGoBlue to see if he even earned All-Big Ten honorable mention (he did). My lasting memories of Koger will remain the insane catch against Western in 2009 and his battles with the dropsies the next year, along with his "KogerNotKroger" Twitter handle.

The Mouton comparison is ominous since we just watched that guy start for three years without getting any better, but Lewan hasn't suffered at the hands of poor coaching yet and won't in the future. This should be the year he drops the crazy hot girl act and establishes himself as an All Big Ten left tackle. He'll still be a little penalty-prone but it will be worth it.

Taylor Lewan earned second-team All-B1G honors from the coaches, honorable mention from the media, and generally was the team's best non-Molk offensive lineman. He still took a few dumb penalties, but not as many as he did in 2010. Again, spot on, old chap.

That is admittedly me trying to find a concern. David Molk is great. You can never tell which interior linemen are going to be up for postseason awards but I'll be incensed if he's not All Big Ten after a healthy year. I think he'll be a Rimington finalist.

See: picture at top of post.

Al Borges is going to do his damndest to keep Denard productive, upright, and beaming.

Check, check, and of course, check.

He'll give Denard a more sophisticated offense that he won't execute as well as Borges needs him to; he'll use Denard's legs but not quite as effectively as Rodriguez would have. These guys are good because they've spent a lot of time specializing in ways that make them successful. There is a necessary lack of efficiency once they get outside their comfort zones.

It was a near-impossible task for Denard to replicate his 2010 rushing production under Borges, especially since the coaches explicitly stated that wasn't at all the goal. He still finished as the team's leading rusher, broke the 1,000-yard barrier, scored 16 rushing touchdowns, and averaged over five yards per carry. As for the execution of the offense as a whole: yup, there were some efficiency issues. Yards/attempt, completion percentage, and passing efficiency all dropped, while interceptions rose to an unsightly 15. This prediction didn't exactly go out on a limb, but that didn't make it any less right.

Yards per carry drop quite a bit but nose above 5.

2010 YPC: 5.58.
2011 YPC: 5.15.

Close Enough

If [Junior Hemingway] can manage [to stay healthy] through the season he's going to end the year with a ton of catches. Even if the Michigan offense doesn't go full MANBALL right away continued development from Denard Robinson will make difficult pro-style throws that frequently target outside wide receivers more feasible; Borges's offense will make them more frequent. Combine that with Hemingway's main skill and there will be jump balls for the taking.

ALL OF THE JUMP BALLS. This piece of prognostication would've made it into the above category if not for this next bit:

If he can maintain his 18.5 YPC he'll challenge Roundtree for the most receiving yards on the team. Expect a bit under 1,000 yards from him.

Hemingway actually averaged a tic above 20 YPC and still led the team in receptions, but leading the team meant catching 34 passes for 699 yards. Junior did manage to stay healthy, which was nice, and then stole all of our hearts during (and after) the Sugar Bowl. Y U NO PREDICT HE STEAL OUR HEARTS, BRIAN?

Huyge's flexibility will allow Michigan to flip Schofield onto the field if anyone other than Molk goes down. He's likely to start a few games in preparation for a full time role in 2011… unless he rips the job away from Huyge right now.

Given the way Huyge's career has gone and the general vibe coming from camp chatter and Funk's public statements, that's a strong possibility. Huyge's never been much of a pass blocker and Michigan's offense is going to require quite a bit more of that as Robinson starts making more and more five and seven step drops.

This was right on in that a non-Molk OL (Ricky Barnum) went down with an injury, and Michael Schofield was the man to replace him. What Brian didn't see coming—and I don't think anyone predicted this—is that Huyge would remain at tackle while Schofield filled in admirably at left guard, keeping the job even after Barnum returned.

Tousssaint [extra 's' there, boss] seems to have that jittery short-range quickness that allows little guys to survive, even thrive, as they pick their way through the chaos.

I'm hoping he emerges as the guy. If he beats out a healthy Shaw he'll be well on his way to translating that tape to college, and I could get used to a jump-cutting Houdini with sprinter's speed. Toussaint is the offense's Roh: the wildcard. Anything from Mike Hart (except crappy :( ) to Mike Hart (except fast!) is possible.

No full credit here what with the significant hedging and the fact that Brian had Michael Shaw listed as the (tenuous) starter, even though that's because Brady Hoke flat-out said so before the season. Instead, Toussaint was the man all year, rushing for 1,041 yards on 5.6 YPC and surpassing all reasonable expectations in the process. Fitz's speed turned out to be more of the sprinter's variety than what he showed in his previous, injury-plagued season, and the jump-cuts were plentiful. He wasn't quite Mike Hart (except fast!); Michigan didn't need that with Denard playing quarterback. The potential is there, however.

Michigan finishes around 15th in FEI and other advance metrics. By yardage they drop to about the same spot; scoring offense increases from 25th to match.

Brian actually underestimated the offense in terms of the advanced metrics—9th in FEI—though successfully predicted that it wouldn't quite match the #2 rank of the previous year. Yardage fell to 42nd in the country, and scoring offense was 26th. The larger point remained true—the offense was quite efficient, but not quite at the level of 2010's spread-and-shred—but the raw numbers didn't quite match up.

Not So Much

Roundtree's production will drop this year as Michigan tries to get Hemingway and Koger more involved. He can't expect set the single-game receiving record every year. He'll still run neck and neck with Hemingway fro [sic] the most receiving yards on the team. [Ed-S: hey, I remember that vacation--it was nice]

Roundtree's production did drop, just more significantly than expected. With QB OH NOES mostly gone from the offense (and Roundtree flat-out dropping the one such opportunity I recall), he finished with just 19 catches for 355 yards, well behind both Hemingway and Jeremy Gallon on the stat sheet. Speaking of Gallon...

Entering his final season [Kelvin] Grady's best shot at extensive playing time is based on 1) a lot of three wide and 2) Roundtree playing mostly on the outside. In that situation he's the established veteran. He'd get a crack at screens and seams and whatnot en route to a breakout mini-'Tree year. More likely is a moderately increased role as Roundtree bounces inside and out with around 30 catches.

First, a sadface— :( —for the lack of screens, not to mention blitheringly wide-open seams. Now, Grady's final stat line: five catches, 75 yards. Brian did recover with a nice hedge—"It could go sour for Grady if Jeremy Gallon translates chatter into playing time"—especially since Gallon produced Grady's projected stat line: 31 catches netting 453 yards. Still, swing and a miss on which player would produce said stat line, and I'm really reaching for stuff to critique here

Denard rushes for 1200 yards. His interception rate falls significantly but is still not great.

Shaw claims the starting job to himself in week four, gets injured shortly after, and Toussaint takes over. Both are much better than Smith at making extra yards. At the end of the year they've all got somewhere between 400 and 800 yards.

Toussaint's rapid rise wasn't foreseen by Brian, who expected more of a backfield-by-committee, especially in the early going. Shaw never captured the starting job, appeared in nine games, and finished with 199 yards on 31 carries. That made Shaw a more effective runner than Smith, who had 298 yards on 50 carries, but both were surprisingly effective (6.42 YPC for Shaw, 5.96 for Smith, though obviously in limited action for both).

Hopkins creates windows other backs don't. When three yards and a cloud of dust is a win, he'll be in there.

Or he'll continue putting the ball on the ground—see: Denard's immaculate rushing TD against Notre Dame—and get relegated to fullback.


Michigan Muse(urs)day Has a Wicked Fastball

Michigan Muse(urs)day Has a Wicked Fastball Comment Count

Seth April 5th, 2012 at 2:28 PM


MANBALL: BEATING the opponent with POWER running and repetitive CONTACT and MANLY CAPITALIZED WORDS.

West Coast: A symphony of route design and timing that puts defenses into a progression of impossible choices

Option: Isolate an unblocked defender so that he's forced into a Catch 22 decision.

Justin Verlander: A metaphor.

After reading Parts I, II and III of this series you might think a college offense must only be one of these things. That is a very effective thought, as the best offenses in college football according to people who can extricate offense from defense, special teams, winning, fairy dust, and these days seem to center around doing one of these things very well.

But doing one thing well and building around that isn't the only way to build an offense. In fact if you only do your one thing well and can't execute other things, the other team will adjust quickly and now you won't do your one thing well anymore. These were the points made in the previous articles, the first (Doctor Rocklove) to explain the terminology, the second (Rock, Paper, Scissors) to describe constraint theory and demonstrate a Rock/Paper/Scissors for four different philosophies. The third (Pulls Bazooka!) got into the concept of vanilla defense. This last asks the question: what's Michigan's rock?

The Verlander Effect: Doing Multiple Things Well is Good

I'd like to first hone in on how "Rock" is used in this context, since it's not just another cell in an equal triangle matrix.

In honor of Opening Day today I'll use a baseball metaphor. Pitchers, like offenses, usually build a strategy out of a maximizing the effectiveness of one thing they are exceptional at. A 95+ mph 4-seam (ie straight-up) fastball is a common "rock" pitch that will, to a typical batter looking for any kind of pitch, give the most trouble. To keep hitters from sitting on the fastball, the pitchers use slow-speed secondary pitches, for example a curveball and/or changeup. This is the constraint theory at play. But when you break down the pitch selection of a typical Fastball-Curveball-Changeup starting pitcher, you'll notice quickly that the fastball is between 40% and 50% of his pitches. Football offenses function on the same principle: throw the fastball, and mix in curveballs and changeups to keep the hitters/defense from overreacting to, and thus killing the effectiveness of your heater.

Now to relate this to Michigan's offense. You see, not everyone has the same suite of pitches. Among Tiger starters Doug Fister is the normal fastball-curve-changeup guy, but Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello both use a 2-seam fastball, ie a breaking fastball, as "rock." This pitch will dive downwards and (righty on righty) inwards. The downward motion gets a hitter aiming for the meat of the baseball to hit the top of the ball instead, the spin absorbs some of the power of the stroke, and the result is a lightly hit ground ball. To keep hitters from simply adjusting their aim, the 2-seamer's constraints are a 4-seamer (leading to a pop-up), and a slider, which has a lateral motion opposite that of a 2-seamer.

This brings us to Justin Verlander, the best pitcher in (and MVP of) the American League last year. Justin's "rock" is a killer 4-seam fastball – it has lots of lateral movement and lots of velocity and is a total bitch to hit. In a season between half and two thirds of his pitches will be the fastball. However any MLB hitter who is looking for any fastball will be able to hit it, just as Northwestern defenders can stop a Wisconsin rushing attack if they're looking for it or a I-AA team can...let's not go there. Justin also has a devastating curveball and changeup, both of which will F you up if you're looking for his fastball. Verlander's curveball is like Cam Newton's arm: the constraint is good enough in its own right that you can't beat it unless you're overreacting to it, in which case you're now going to be eaten alive by the fastball and changeup.

In 2010 and 2011, Verlander leapt from being a great young pitcher to undeniably elite. What happened is he developed a 2-seamer game. The two-seamer and the slider arrived in 2010 and now account for about 15% of Justin's pitches.

This is all strategy; the other 90% is execution.

What Does Michigan Do Very Well?

The offense of 2011 at its apex was versus Ohio State. Since the Sugar Bowl strategy became "dear God stay away from the middle" on account of Molk playing gimpy, last year's Game is also the best representative we have so far (other than practice video zoomed into Toussaint's nostril hairs) of the 2012 offense. So let's re-live that game from the perspective of formation, personnel, philosophy, and RPS to get a feel for the current Borgesian ideal.

Remember, personnel is the number of RBs and number of TEs, so 22 is two of each. Subtract the total RBs and TEs from 5 to know the number of receivers. I defined "Value" on this scale: 1: Fail. 2: Got some yards, not what it was supposed to. 3: Did what it was drawn up to do. 4: Did better than it was drawn up to do. 5: Broke open for big yardage/score.

Ln Dn Ds Formation Per-son-nel Play Philosophy RPS Value Yards
M26 1 10 Shotgun 11 QB sweep MANBALL Rock 3 5
M31 2 5 Shotgun 12 Zone read belly Option Rock 1 0
M31 3 5 Shotgun 10 Slant West Coast Rock 1 Inc
O47 1 10 Split Backs 21 Flare screen West Coast Scissors 4 6
O41 2 4 Shotgun 20 Inverted veer keeper Option Rock 5 41
M48 1 10 Denard Jet 12 Jet sweep MANBALL Rock 3 5
O47 2 5 Ace 11 Throwback screen MANBALL Scissors 2 2
O45 3 3 Shotgun 11 QB power MANBALL Rock 2 2
O43 4 1 I-form 22 FB dive MANBALL Rock 4 3
O40 1 10 Denard Jet 12 Counter pitch MANBALL Rock 2 3
O37 2 7 Shotgun 12 Rollout hitch MANBALL Paper 4 8
O29 1 10 Shotgun 20 Inside zone Option Rock 2 3
O26 2 7 Shotgun 21 Post MANBALL Paper 5 26
M7 1 10 Shotgun 11 Zone read dive Option Rock 2 2
M9 2 8 Shotgun 11 Inverted veer keeper Option Rock 1 2
M11 3 6 Shotgun 11 Rollout Sack MANBALL Paper 1 -4
M20 1 10 Shotgun 10 Zone read dive Option Rock 2 3
M23 2 7 Shotgun 20 PA scramble Option Paper 2 5
M28 3 2 Shotgun 22 QB power MANBALL Rock 3 3
M20 1 10 Shotgun 11 Zone read keeper Option Rock 1 1
M22 2 9 Shotgun 11 PA TE flat Option Paper 3 7
M29 3 2 Shotgun 10 Scramble West Coast Rock 4 9
M38 1 10 Shotgun 11 Sprint counter MANBALL Rock 5 46
O16 1 10 Shotgun 11 Inverted veer give Option Rock 2 2
O14 2 8 Ace 12 Waggle TE flat MANBALL Paper 2 3
O11 3 5 Shotgun 10 Drag West Coast Rock 3 5
O6 1 G Shotgun 12 Zone read dive Option Rock 1 0
O6 2 G Shotgun 20 Inverted veer keeper Option Rock 5 6
M20 1 10 Shotgun 11 Inverted veer give Option Rock 4 8
M28 2 2 Shotgun 11 QB power MANBALL Rock 2 3
M31 1 10 Ace 11 Throwback screen MANBALL Scissors 4 8
M39 2 2 Shotgun 20 Inverted veer give Option Rock 3 4
M43 1 10 Shotgun 20 Triple option dive Option Rock 3 4
M47 2 6 Shotgun 12 Triple option keeper Option Rock 3 5
O48 3 1 Shotgun 11 QB power MANBALL Rock 3 3
O45 1 10 Shotgun 21 PA TE seam Option Paper 5 26
O19 1 10 Shotgun 11 QB sweep MANBALL Rock 4 6
O13 2 4 Shotgun 12 Triple option pitch Option Rock 1 -7
O20 3 11 Shotgun 10 Dig West Coast Rock 5 20
M9 1 10 Shotgun 11 Sprint counter MANBALL Rock 1 1
M10 2 9 Shotgun 11 QB draw West Coast Scissors 4 10
M20 1 10 Shotgun 20 Inverted veer keeper Option Rock 5 22
M42 1 10 Shotgun 20 Triple option dive Option Rock 2 3
M45 2 7 Shotgun 11 PA rollout out MANBALL Paper 3 4
M49 3 3 Shotgun 10 Corner West Coast Rock 1 Inc
M25 1 10 Shotgun 11 QB sweep MANBALL Rock 2 3
M28 2 7 I-form 21 Waggle deep out MANBALL Paper 5 20
M48 1 10 Shotgun 20 Zone stretch Option Rock 5 11
O41 1 10 Shotgun 11 QB draw MANBALL Scissors 4 10
O31 2 In I-form 21 Power off tackle MANBALL Rock 3 5 + 13 Pen
M13 1 10 Shotgun 11 Zone read keeper Option Rock 2 3
M10 2 7 Shotgun 11 Inverted veer keeper Option Rock 3 6
M4 3 1 Goal Line 23 Waggle TE corner MANBALL Paper 3 4
M20 1 10 I-form 21 Sweep MANBALL Rock 2 2
M22 2 8 Shotgun 20 Rollout corner MANBALL Paper 5 28
50 1 10 Shotgun 11 Zone read dive Option Rock 1 -1
M49 2 11 Shotgun 10 QB draw West Coast Scissors 5 16
O37 1 10 I-form 21 Power off tackle MANBALL Rock 5 20
O17 1 10 I-form 21 Power off tackle MANBALL Rock 2 2
O15 2 8 Shotgun 11 QB power MANBALL Rock 4 11
O4 1 G Shotgun 21 QB power MANBALL Rock 1 -1
O5 2 G Goal Line 23 Power off tackle MANBALL Rock 3 5
O1 3 G Goal Line 23 Bootleg MANBALL Paper 1 1 (pen -25!)
O25 3 G Shotgun 10 Throwaway West Coast Rock 1 Inc

Non-bullets with charts:

Counting "Denard Jet" as another Ace formation, here's the breakdown:

Philosophy Shotgun Ace I-form Split Backs Goal Line Total
MANBALL 17 5 6 - 3 31
Option 24 - - - - 24
West Coast 8 - - 1 - 9
Total 49 5 6 1 3 64

And the breakdown by RPS %:

Philosophy Rock Paper Scissors Total
MANBALL 61.3% 29.0% 9.7% 48.4%
Option 87.5% 12.5% 0.0%* 37.5%
West Coast 66.7% 0.0% 33.3% 14.1%
Grand Total 71.9% 18.8% 9.4% -

As you can see the RPS rolls look more like a Verlander pitch-type tracker than a triangle matrix of equal things. You can also see Borges working in his West Coast game like a 2-seamer/slider tandem. If there was a base play in there it's probably the zone read from a Shotgun 1-back, 1-TE formation, with the blocking switched up (read: "veer"). Borges threw a lot of fastballs, but it worked:

Philosophy Rock Paper Scissors Total
MANBALL 2.8 3.2 3.3 3.0
Option 2.6 3.3 - * 2.7
West Coast 2.8 4.3 3.3
Total 2.7 3.3 3.8 2.9

Remember 3.0 on my value scale means the offense was getting that 3rd down conversion, that 5 yards on 1st down, or setting up that 3rd and short every time. Manball accounted for about 72% of plays, and its effectiveness was strong, including many plays that broke big. The corollary of rock's effectiveness was that the constraints all performed better. This offense was working. About the only complaint here is that the Option game was totally missing a constraint. There was one play where Michigan actually faked this constraint—you know what that constraint is—and it was wiiiiide open, but then the play went rock and got stuffed. This is a minor complaint.




What the hell was this offense?


It was Fastball-Curveball, with some West Coast sprinkled in. Even Rich Rodriguez's Pat White teams would sprinkle in that much pass-first philosophy, because that's another type of changeup you can throw. What we see here though is that the Option-from-Shotgun philosophy and MANBALL-from-mostly-shotgun philosophies are working in tandem. If you recognize this, it's really not all that different than Michigan's offense in 2010. If you have Denard, you run POWER with him, or you use him in a zone read option.

So after all that you're saying Al Borges is running the same offense Rich Rodriguez ran?

Wait, you were the subheads a second ago; when did you become a bolded alter-ego?

Answer the question!

Well no because it was just 75% shotgun versus like 85%, but other than that, yeah, kind of. But it's not Rich Rod's offense (the Zone Read) from West Virginia; it's what RR did when he got Denard. And I might point out that this was against Ohio State, so while I'm using it as a stand-in for the 2012 offense, that's not quite right because Borges has said and shown in other games that he's not going to have Denard run this often. This was Ohio State; this was balls to the wall.

The lesson of the 2011 offense is that Borges believes in all of this stuff, and despite earlier reticence, is happy to take the best of different philosophies and best use his personnel. And he can identify what that is.

The other thing is how he uses things other than the normal constraint plays as his changeups. Michigan is pitching with a plus-fastball and plus-curveball out of the same "motion," in this case formation. The personnel change on virtually every play, and the changeups are rare and (sometimes) devastatingly effective.

As a 2011 strategy it was frustrating during Iowa to see Michigan come out in an I-form on 1st and 10 in the 1st quarter, and then to hear Borges in the press conference treat questions about that as if we were asking about I-form on 2nd and 2 in the 4th quarter when Michigan's in clock-kill mode. This he learned, as he learned the best way to use Denard is to keep the threat of his legs involved in everything.

So why all the "Power" in the press conferences?

We learned this isn't actually philosophic zeal so much as the fact that one of the key benefits of running power for coaches is getting to say the word "Power" in press conferences. One of the nice things about Power is using the rhetoric, and until the massive incoming linemen and rocket-armed QB and pounding tailbacks and stable of tight ends and tall receivers are on hand to make a Wisconsin offense a reality, these coaches will be happy to take the best of all philosophies and run with them.

Next time in this series (last time?), I'll tackle why recruiting for the Wisconsin offense is perhaps a good idea for the future.


Spring Practice Presser Transcript 3-19-12: Al Borges

Spring Practice Presser Transcript 3-19-12: Al Borges Comment Count

Heiko March 20th, 2012 at 10:11 AM

Al Borges

"I got you guys broken in."

How does Rocko Khoury’s departure affect the center battle?

“Well we do, yeah. We have enough guys to compete. You always would like more numbers, offensive line wise particularly because we’re not deep at the position. We have a couple kids, Ricky Barnum, Jack Miller -- I think will be good centers. Ricky has a good profile for the position, probably even more so than when he played guard.”

Are you experimenting with Devin Gardner at other positions?

“We’re doing what we did a year ago, pretty much. We’re giong to play the best 11 guys. Devin’s the backup quarterback right now. He’s number two, and we’re going to do what we have to do to get the best 11 on the field. Nothing’s changed in that perspective, so we pretty much have the same mentality that we had.”

Are you looking at him at wide receiver?

“Yeah … the practices are closed for a reason.”

Are you able to work on more experimental things now that you’ve had a year with this team?

“Later on, yeah. Not right now. First thing [is] we’re not going to get real fancy the first couple days of practice. We’re going to go through a little refresher course on the offense, take them about four or five days of practices to do that. Once we get to where we’ve pretty much got it back -- kids learn the stuff much faster now for obvious reasons -- then we’ll start dabbling more in some of the offseason research we’ve done on some stuff, whether it be deuce package or moving folks around. So we’re always evolving constantly, and we’re always trying to figure out how to get our best 11 on the field to do what they do best. That may not be not consistently be the same 11 guys all the time. You may change the the 11 so that you can get a guy out there that may be able to do something that may not be able to do it on some other plays. Devin’s part of that. We’ve got about five guys that are involved in that.”

Is it more difficult for an offensive lineman to switch to center than anywhere else on the line?

“Well, center, because the ball’s involved, you have the issues there in terms of snaps. But once a kid’s played center for a while, they usually prefer it. They know exactly when the ball’s coming up. They can control the line play a little better. But center’s a little different animal than tackle or guard. Mike [Schofield] had played tackle, so it wasn’t a huge transition for him.”

How do you balance being physical in practice with your lack of depth on the offensive line?

“Boy, that’s tough. That is hard. You have to be smart with it, but if you don’t get accomplished what you’re trying to get accomplished, then spring football’s a waste of time. We’re always going to err on the side of getting after it a little bit, and if you have to pull off, we’ll pull off. We just believe that the game’s played with a physical demeanor and we’re not ever going to stop that regardless of guys getting hurt. We’re going to be smart, but we’re never going to stop thinking that way.”

Where do you think Denard stands in terms of throwing downfield?

“I think the first two days of practice, he’s made a marked improvement in that because he basically understands the offense better. It’s always a work in progress. There’s still errors here and there, but there are less. I think as he goes and understands better and better you’re going to get a better product. There’s two issues with Denard, and that’s one: the overall understanding of the offense, which I know is going to be better, there’s no doubt in my mind about that, and the footwork issues, which generally cause a lot of the interceptions. We’re working on it everyday, and he’s so keenly aware of it. When he makes a mistake, he’s getting to a point now where he can almost coach himself. He’ll come out and say, ‘Oh I screwed up.’ He’ll tell me before I tell him. I’ll never assume it. I’ll still tell him. He’s tired of me telling him the same things, but he knows how I think as a coordinator and how I think as a position coach. One thing about the kid is he’s a very good football guy. He understands the game really well. He has great instincts. Now that he’s got a year in the system, I think some of those instincts will show up more than that, and that’s scary.”

What do you know about Denard now that might change the way you coordinate the offense?

“Well, not much than what I knew at the end of the season. He’s a great runner. He’s taken on a leadership role which is exciting to me. It’s exctiing to all of us. Those types of things. And we can probably do a little bit more now because he understands without doing it too much, where you get paralysis by analysis.”

Did he get enough time with Ricky in the offseason to get comfortable?

“Yes. Yeah, he did. He and Ricky have been working it out for a while and Jack too. All of them. They’re always on their own just go out and snap balls and working the skelly drills and all that. This isn’t the first time they took a snap. It wasn’t yesterday or the day before yesterday.”

How do you replace Junior?

“Boy that’s the best question that’s been asked so far. That’s not been easy to do. One way we are doing it is with Roy Roundtree. Roy is moving to flanker. Roy was a split end last year. He played flanker in some spots. Because we split time with him and Jeremy Gallon, Roy took some hits with his numbers, but going to Junior’s position, a healthy Roy Roundtree is really running well right now. Best I’ve ever seen him run. But a healthy Roy Roundtree could really have a good season. I’m thinking great things about Roy. Roy’s had such a great attitude. He did take a hit with numbers, and it would be natural to second guess a lot of things, but he didn’t, and because he didn’t, he’s improving daily.”

Was Roundtree unhealthy at all at any point last season?

“Not really. I think he stayed in one piece pretty good. But out of flanker now you get a lot more balls thrown your way. You saw Junior -- a lot of time you catch that thing and there’s some folks around you. But I have no doubt that Roy Roundtree’s going to have a heck of a year.”

Can he be your vertical deep threat?

“Yes he can. Yes he can. You bet he can. He’s got excellent speed. He goes and gets the ball. He can definitely be that without question, and so can Jeremy Gallon for that matter.”

Who besides Roundtree are you looking for at that position?

“Jerald Robinson. Jerald Robinson, in two days, has been very impressive. Big, physical receiver. Very much like Junior. Not quite as big as Junior, but still big. Has excellent hands. Ran on the scout team quite a bit. Not because he wasn’t good enough to play -- he was good enough to play, but we were pretty good at wide receiver and we never got a chance to use him. But this year Jerald’s going to get a great look. So far what we’ve seen, he’s going to make a contribution, and he is that big physical guy much like Junior was. If you’re aksing how to replace [Junior], he’s definitely at least one answer. ”

You saw Fitz Toussaint’s vision improve over last season. What’s the biggest thing you want to see take a jump up this spring for him?

“Well that to continue, number one, and improve his pass receiving skills. He’s got good hands, but we used Vince so much in that capacity that I’d like for Fitz to be equal to what Vince did so we don’t have to take him out all the time. Pass protection still can improve. We ask our backs to block. That can always get better. Those types of things. Refining more of the little things about his game, where a year ago there were some huge factors, the vision being at the top of the list. The more we learn with Fitz, the more he plays, the faster he learns and the issues go away with him. Some backs they never go away. They never gain good vision because they simply don’t have very good vision. He does. He just needed the time and I think that’s going to be the case with the other things we’re talking about.”

How do you envision using a player like Justice Hayes?

“He’s another one. We’re going to take a good look. Knowing that Fitz has been productive, we don’t have to overuse Fitz in the spring, yet still try to improve him. I’m not talking sit him on the sideline and let him watch, he’s still playing now. But that being said, it isn’t like last spring where we have to run him and run him and find out what he can do. We kind of know what he can do. That’s where we can use Justice now is give Justice a chance to carry that ball, tote it a few times, get him in some pass protection situations. He’s got some great receiving skills, see if he can do that, but this is a big spring for him.”

Switching between shotgun and under center puts a lot of stress on the center. How does Ricky’s transition to the position affect how you run your offense?

“Well, because we are under center some and because our center basically quarterbacks the offensive line -- he puts them all on the same page with regard to targeting fronts where it be in pass protection or running. That position is absolutely critical that we get productivity out fo the position. You need a smart guy that’s athletic and knows how to use his help. We don’t ask our center to consistently single block a nose guard, but he’s got to know how to make the call to allow for some help for him. I could go into all the nuances, but it’s endless what that kid's got to do. It’s not an easy position to play. ”

Do you anticipate being under center more this season?

“I don’t think it’s going to be much different. We’re still basically a shotgun team. I mean, we have a quarterback that can run, and the best way to exploit that is for him to be in the shotgun. Yet we still want to downhill run. You look the last two or three games of the season, that’s really what we want to be. We don’t want to be a total shotgun team. But knowing that the shotgun is going to be very very prominent simply because of the skillset of our quarterback. So in answer to your question, we’re basically going to be what we were a year ago.”

How quickly is Ricky learning how to make all the pre-snap decisions?

“He’s doing a great job. He’s still got a few deals. Now Greg’ll throw you some defenses that will test your center’s ability to adjust. It’s still a work in progress … and the more he sees it the better he’s going to get at it, the better he’s going to understand it and the better he’s going to get the other guys to understand it, because that’s part of his job, too. I’m not concerned about Ricky. He keeps progressing like I think he will. He’ll be a good center.”

Has anyone caught your eye at tight end yet?

“Not yet, but they’re not doing bad. No one has jumped out and said, ‘Oh my god, look at that guy.’ But they’re not doing bad. Brandon Moore’s been consistent. Ricardo Miller, who really is more of a move guy, but he’s played with his hand on the ground a little bit. He understands our offense. Very athletic. Very athletic. Athletic as any tight end we got. Used to be a wide receiver so he has speed and he has receiving skills. He’s another one that’s going to get a great look. Who knows, we have some freshmen coming in. If they show up, they’ll have an opportunity to contribute there, too. So we’ll see how that goes. It’s still too early. We haven’t put pads on yet. I want to save judgement on that position until we’ve been through a few practices with pads on and guys blocking at the line of scrimmage because that’s so critical to what we want to do.”

What have you learned about Devin, and how can that help you prepare for the season?

“Well he’s an incredible athlete. He has so many dimensions to him. He’s smart, so he picks stuff up fast. He doesn’t have any problem that way. That being said, every time you put together a plan, you have to find out how to factor him into it somewhere. Again, if it doesn’t sacrifice any other phases of your game. As you guys saw last year, we’re always looking for opportunities to get him in the game in some way shape or form without breaking the rhythm of the quarterback, which I don’t think we did. And seeing to it that we use him getting the ball, use him throwing the ball, and use him decoying. With that in mind, doing the same thing with Denard.”

Do you feel like you’ll use him more this season?

“I don’t know. I want to see. Maybe. I don’t know yet. We’ll see. It’s a matter of how. That’s the key. What are you going to do? We’ve done a lot with him, but there’s still a lot more that he can do, so we’ll see.”

Is his athleticism such that it’s better than your other skill position players?

“No. It’s very much like that -- he’s an athletic quarterback. I wasn’t here -- but Devin was recruited as the number one dual threat quarterback in the country, was he not? Generally those guys can do a lot of stuff. He was not a prototypical drop back passer type, although he was recruited by prostyle teams and spread guys, so he can do that stuff. He’s certainly one of our better athletes on the team, and we have to find a way to exploit that.”

Is he open to all of this?

“Oh yeah. Yeah. He wants to play.”

Are you concerned that giving him looks at other positions will disrupt his growth as a quarterback?

“Nope. Nope. Not at all. Smart kid, he’ll be fine.”

What do you like about Russell Bellomy?

“Russ is very athletic -- another athlete. Very good athelte. Can run the ball. He was recruited too by spread teams and pro-style guys. Accurate passer. His arm is improving strength-wise all the time. If you tell him once, he’s got it. He’s one fo those guys. You don’t have to re-tell him ten times. He’s got it down. He’s got composure. He can get himself out of a lot of messes when things break down, and he can run. He can run designed quarterback runs, although I don’t know you’re going to run as many as you would with Denard. But if you turn him loose he will hurt you. He has that kind of ability. We’re looking more at him because it’s spring time and we’re trying to give him some time. Like we’re talking about Fitz, where we’re giving Justice Hayes time and it may cost Fitz a few reps, we’re going to look at Russ more and cost Denard a couple reps or even Devin a couple. But we have to see them all now. This is our chance. Once we get into the season and we’re game planning all the time, it’s tough to give everybody enough chances.”

Do you start game planning at all for Alabama this early?

“Oh yeah. Yeah. We do. Kids are watching Alabama now. They come in on their own and they’ll look at Alabama. Right now it’s about developing our football team. We don’t have an opponent in front of us other than ourselves right now. We’re trying to develop our football team, try to get every guy a little better every single day and build up to that. Build up to that, get through spring fotoball, and as you get closer to the game, you get more focused on the task at hand, but right now we have a heavy emphasis this spring on becoming a fundamentally better offense. We talked about it. We’re allotting the time in practice for it. Whereas last year we were trying to be fundamental and installing our offense. That was a headache. Now second year, we have it installed, we’re just trying to get better with our footwork at every position -- offensive line, running back, you name it. Just doing the little things better.”

How confident are you in Schofield’s ability to transition back to right tackle?

“I think he’ll do fine because it’s really a more natural position for him. He has a tackle profile He’s 6-foot-6 plus. He was a hurdler in high school, somebody told me, and it’s obvious because he can move. He’s really more of a tackle body type than he is a guard body type, although he did a nice job at guard. This is where we need him now, he’s very receptive to it, and so far he’s done a nice job.”


Unverified Voracity Brings Back The Old Man

Unverified Voracity Brings Back The Old Man Comment Count

Brian March 8th, 2012 at 4:47 PM

The Old Man is coming. The Old Man.


The Old Man is coming.

The McCrayken is alive. All of the internets to user mdoc, who responded to the winged-helmet-kraken request instantly:


This blog is rooting for Mike McCray to be a destructive force so hard.

Penn State's death has been greatly exaggerated. OR: look what we can do when we have a head coach! PSU's 2012 class was terrible. All their good recruits ended up with Urban Meyer and they replaced them with two stars snatched from the MAC. That's going to hurt for a while. Despite that, Nittany Lions fans are probably feeling more chipper than they thought they would about their program's intermediate-term prospects. They've recently swooped in on the following recruits:

  • QB Christian Hackenberg, a consensus four star claiming offers from Alabama and Florida.
  • DE Garrett Sickels, who is rated a lot like Mike McCray (ie: top 50 on Rivals, solid four-star elsewhere)
  • CB Ross Douglas, a three/four star tweener.

They are almost certain to add five-star-ish TE Adam Breneman tomorrow. By doing so they've become the only Big Ten team kind of sort of keeping up with the big two when it comes to shiny stars next to high schoolers' names. The Sandusky effect is looking pretty short-lived.

All you have to do is look at OSU's last class to know that this is good for Michigan. A strong Penn State takes recruits from teams who play Michigan all the time and puts them on one that plays Michigan 40% of the time; also it would be really nice if there was someone strong enough in the East to prevent an annoying B10 championship game instant rematch.

I'm with Fitz, sort of. Pat Fitzgerald does not want 6-6 teams to be excluded from bowl consideration:

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald hopes the Big Ten does not support potential legislation to limit bowl games to teams with at least seven wins.
"The best part of bowl games is about the opportunities -- not just the teams, but for your students, your fans, your alumni, your fans in the area," Fitzgerald told the Tribune on Tuesday. "I'm not for limiting it."

Paging Captain Renault. I agree that if a couple teams want to play some football it's better than watching ping-pong, but I'm not a fan of goofs in blazers bleeding college tuition out of the system. Leave it at 6-6 and severely reduce ticket guarantees. That will cause a bunch of bowls to collapse and solve the problem organically.

And this is 95% of the reason I linked the article:

"I'm not for five-win teams even being able to receive a waiver," Fitzgerald said. "That's tough noogies. If you have a losing record, you are out. A .500 record should be the benchmark."

I love Pat Fitzgerald. May he coach at Northwestern for 30 years.


Al Borges and the interesting things. Borges was on the Huge show recently and the resulting conversation had an unusual density of interesting things said. Borges admits that the early-season (and Iowa) forays into a more pro-style offense were a mistake:

"I think had we had to do it over again, we would have been a little more spread offense early on and gotten better at that. We kind of weaned ourselves into more spread offense as we went. That's really what was best for Denard at the end of the day."

He also makes a great observation about where Denard is at his most dangerous in the passing game:

"Denard is better in the pocket than rolling out," Borges said. "The thing with Denard, where he scares the defense the most, is when he sits in the middle of the pocket, comes underneath the rush, and poses not just a passing threat to the defense, but a running threat too. If you roll him out all the time a lot of time what they did is they would pin us into the sideline where Denard's improv skills aren't used near as much."

Whole thing is recommended. Borges references the "drastic leap" from year one to year two in his passing game. If Denard can just set his feet regularly and not throw into double coverage, Michigan will be cooking.

Sounds good to me. Andy Staples has a fascinating article on the potential impact of full cost of attendance scholarships:

For years, doomsayers have predicted a scenario in which the wealthiest 50 or 60 schools compete only against one another. If such a scenario ever came to fruition, it would have its roots in the debate over the full-cost-of-attendance scholarship.

Doomsayers? As long as we're talking about football here that sounds like heaven.

The article goes into arguments both for and against, with the small schools making arguments that moving some of the money currently going to coaches and facilities to players exacerbates competitive inequity. They don't make the case that this isn't a good thing, and then Nebraska's chancellor just blows it up anyway:

"You can tell me that I can't give them bagels with cream cheese and I can't give them more scholarships and I can't do this and I can't do that, and I follow those rules," Perlman said. "But then what I do to recruit competitively is I spend the money on other stuff. So I build facilities where there is no limit on what I can do, and I make those facilities far beyond what normal students live in because there's no limit on that. There's a standard understanding about regulatory environments that if you regulate something, people will move to the part of their activity that isn't regulated."

At worst the proposal takes the middleman out of competitive inequity.

It sounds like the big schools are getting increasingly exasperated with small schools with no financial weight imposing restrictions on them because they like to pretend they're DI schools when they're really just Indiana State. Eventually some sort of split is coming.


"The kids who are on solely need-based aid can basically work 20 hours a week or whatever and earn a little pizza money or earn a little money for tattoos or whatever they want," Young said, tongue planted firmly in cheek. "Our athletes, on the other hand, work 40-50 hours a week for the school, and they don't get anything except what these other kids get without having to work for it. It seems when one thinks about simple equity, from that perspective, it's hard to argue that these kids shouldn't get something."

You're all right, Washington president Michael Young.

Wat. Brady Hoke is going to loathe this:

Hoke, Beilein and Brandon —along with U-M softball coach Carol Hutchins and a handful of business professors— will host a six-day executive education program intended to teach business leadership through lessons learned in U-M sports. Those lessons, according to a recent U-M announcement, include the trick to "transformations in times of crisis," as well as how to teach people "new ways of doing things" and how to "take on fierce competitors and produce winning results."

Only $15,000! Some people have too much money.

Etc.: Possibly random Hardaway renaissance is retconned into narrative. Please be true, narrative. Mitch McGary's "defensive impact" draws high praise—that would be nice, wouldn't it? If you've got ESPN insider this Wolverine Nation piece in which recruits are anonymously surveyed on recruiting tactics they've faced is a must-read. Excellent Yost student section retrospective. John Beilein for everything.

Trade mag article on how Michigan Stadium amplified the band. Maybe next year they'll have a piece on how they made it sound better in section 44. : (