Mailbag: Moving Jake Ryan, Running Power, Official Exhibitions

Mailbag: Moving Jake Ryan, Running Power, Official Exhibitions

Submitted by Brian on August 11th, 2011 at 3:48 PM

jake-ryan-mBrandon Herron

Left: Jake Ryan. Right: Brandon Herron

Brian,
Do you think Jake Ryan has a chance to play WLB now that Kellen is off the team?  The coaches seem to love what he brings so why stick him behind Cam Gordon when you can get him on the field?  Thanks

Fresh Meat

I think that's unlikely. For one, in today's Countdown to Kickoff Brandon Herron announces he's moved to WLB now. When spring started he was at SLB. By the time it ended he was at MLB. Now he's at WLB. The coaches appear to like what they've got at the other two spots enough to roll with Gordon/Ryan and Evans/Demens.

For two, the Great Oft-Repeated Hybrid 4-3 Theory states that Michigan's 4-3 under is about halfway between a traditional 4-3 and a 3-4 and that the SLB actually has about as much in common with the WDE as the WLB. Very hypothetically certain SLBs could also play one of those other spots but they would have to be very versatile and very experienced, which Jake Ryan isn't really.

Ryan's strength appears to be hearing the lamentation of the women after he pillages the offensive backfield. In the 4-3 under the linebacker best suited to get upfield quickly is the SLB. His weakness is probably executing deep zone drops a la Mouton last year; at SLB his coverage responsibilities are usually "chuck this tight end and head out into the flat."

In this defense he's SLB all the way, as it plays into his vertical attacking style. If you were really going to move one of the SLB strivers Cam Gordon is probably the guy. People at least thought he could play safety. They were insane people, sure. Good point.

If you're looking for a backup option at WLB I think Thomas Gordon is your man. He's small and is specifically slotted into a nickelback role but if Jones falters he's got some of that experience stuff; I thought he played pretty well last year. He will be a fixture against spread teams and see quite a bit of time in other games.

Brian,

I'm curious to get your take on how you think the running game is going to work out this year now that the weights of the OL have come out. As you briefly mentioned in the roster overanalysis, these guys are hardly designed for the power game. A cursory glance at Wisconsin's roster reveals that anyone even close to competing for a starting position is 315-330 and our linemen top out at 302. That's not exactly tiny, but clearly reflects the zone blocking system they were crafted in.

Everyone out there seems to regard the offensive line as a strength because they're experienced, but how skeptical are you that the line won't have it's troubles in running situations? And is there any sort of precedent out there for this o-line transition from the spread to more pro-style/west coast style offense?

Thanks,
Aaron

Man, I don't know. Michigan ran some power stuff last year with decent success but that was as a changeup, not the bread and butter. As the bread and butter it's tough to see them battering opponents. If they really want to run I-form power all the time next year, YPC averages will drop to Carr-era levels (4 YPC) instead of the schwingy bits of last year (almost 6!).

How much of that schwing is the offensive line and how much is the vast superiority of Denard Robinson to the rest of the mediocre running back corps? Counter rhetorical question: how much can Michigan take advantage of that superiority without Rodriguez's constant subtle adjustments?

Aw, hell, those aren't rhetorical:

  1. Large chunks of it were just Denard being ridiculous. Run power with Denard from the gun and life will be okay.
  2. Quite a bit. A lot of the stuff Michigan ran last year was simple. They largely abandoned the zone read and the blocking flexibility I was so excited about is a trademark of Borges's most recent offense. I may have been overreacting to Rodriguez's genius-type-substance after the Debord years when literally everything was a goddamn stretch. Maybe I'd never analyzed an offense other than "you know what's coming, try to stop it, oops you did let's punt."

Michigan's not going to be able to run power 20 times a game and get by on sheer brawn. I don't think they'll try, though. Hoke talks about power but when the rubber hits the road Borges seems to play to his players' strengths. If they operate out of the shotgun and run Denard 10-15 times a game they'll still be decent. They can even run power from it if they want:

That's not the A gap, but let's work our way up to that. Part of effectively running power is getting to the place you're supposed to be. With this line getting that guard outside the tackle is going to be easier than obliterating the NT.

It will probably never happen, but what do you think about this proposal to address the lack of big time opponents in the non-conference:

Teams are allowed to schedule a 13th game as a "pre-season game" against a FCS school before the season starts.  The schools could get a little more practice and charge half price for the game.  You'd still get all of the parking and concessions money.  By having that "half price" game then you offset the down side of playing a big away game.  Then instead of making one of these cup-cake games count toward your overall record and take up a valuable spot on your schedule you can make it pre-season and then schedule a real opponent.

That's actually an idea Rodriguez promoted from time to time, and it's a good one. Institutionalizing the FCS game as an exhibition turns it from a waste of everyone's time to a mildly diverting opportunity for extra football without too much extra brain damage. You're kidding yourself if you think anyone will charge half price, but if I could get a guarantee that the extra game every year would be against a reasonable BCS opponent I'd happily shell out the extra whatever dollars.

But as you say, will never happen.

Are there any players on this team right now that you consider "sure-things" for their production?  I would have said there are only two - Martin and Hagerup.  Now one of those has been suspended.  I think the OL should be good but is learning a new scheme.  I like the thought of Demens and Woolfolk for a full season, but do we really know what to expect from them and this new defense? 

AC1997

Production is maybe not the right thing to be sure about. How can you be sure about any of that when schemes are changing?

I do think I have a handle on certain players. They might not perform as expected because they're being asked to do certain things they haven't done in the past, but Molk, Roundtree, Hemingway, Van Bergen, and Kovacs are pretty well established in my mind at this point. That's not very many, and I guess that's your point.

Unverified Voracity Fits In Tight Windows

Unverified Voracity Fits In Tight Windows

Submitted by Brian on July 13th, 2011 at 2:15 PM

Borges in detail. I referenced this interview with Borges yesterday but I didn't actually listen to it. That turned out to be a mistake because in addition to the boilerplate about turnovers Borges said a couple of interesting things. Specifically about the shotgun percentage:

We’re going to be under center about half the time, and we’ll be in shotgun more than I’ve ever run before.

That's the baseline; it will be interesting to see how that breakdown moves as the season progresses. If the under center stuff is less effective (and Borges prefaced the above quote with a fairly ominous sentence or three about how different dropping back from under center is from taking a shotgun snap) how far is Borges willing to depart from the pro-style approach?

Meanwhile, I'm a bit leery about this:

So much of what they have done here in the past is based on Denard’s ability to run, and then he would pull up and then kind of pass underneath coverage and throw the ball down the seams. They killed people with that stuff. ... A big part of our game is running the intermediate cuts and being able to be precise coming out of the breaks and learning the timing and all that. In that regard, we are different than the last staff because, although they had those routes, we just use them more. It’s going to be a little transition for them, but like Denard, our receiving corps has been very receptive to the changes.

Michigan did do a fair amount of intermediate stuff last year but a lot of it was constraint stuff built around Denard's legs that was witheringly open. When coverage gets tight I can't help but think of the Michigan State game, when Denard threw two end-zone interceptions on plays that John Navarre would have made without blinking. (The first of those was just plain wide open; the second was a slant where there was a window for a pro QB that Denard missed badly on. At the time those seemed anomalous but by the end of the year his INT rate had sunk to the Jacobian depths.)

Offseason hype is at its usual fever pitch about the transition; Grady Brooks and etc etc etc.

They put in lights for a reason. Amidst a lot of talk about branding Dave Brandon drops this about the future of night games in Ann Arbor:

Night football is so popular right now. What's the future outlook there for Michigan?
DB: We've not committed to any more night football games until we get the experience of Sept. 10. We're going to see how this goes, execute this at a high level, have it be a safe, positive experience for our fans. If it's a good experience and we execute it well and it's overall a positive night for our community and for our fans and our players and coaches, my expectations would be we would try to do a night game at least once a year. I don't know that we would necessarily go much beyond that, but to have one a year in Michigan Stadium would be a great goal.

At least he's got the hang of the first person plural these days.

I'm in favor of the occasional night game because it might let me see the Red River Shootout once before I die and I hate missing the 3:30 window so much. Just maybe not so much with the "legacy throwback" uniforms that are neither throwbacks nor part of Michigan's legacy.

Be careful what you wish for. I googled Troy Smith's violations to see whether or not Ohio State was exposed to repeat violator status because of them*, and in the process I ran across this remarkable article from a couple Septembers ago:

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Maurice Clarett and Troy Smith for Ohio State. Reggie Bush and basketball's O.J. Mayo for USC.

As the Buckeyes and Trojans prepare to meet Saturday night, they do so with recent athletic success that also includes NCAA investigations of their brightest stars.

Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor is currently the biggest name on this national stage, and it's not unreasonable to wonder what might happen with the NCAA and the most high-profile football recruit of the last several years. The NCAA has already conducted an on-campus investigation of Pryor's recruitment to Ohio State, which resulted in two minor secondary NCAA violations.

It's time for Gene Smith to say something regrettable:

"I kind of look at them as the auditors," Smith said of the NCAA. "I welcome auditors because all they do is help us do a better job ourselves."

And time for Jim Tressel to one-up that like whoah:

"Especially as an administrator and as a head coach, you always want things evaluated," Tressel said. "Because if one of Gene Smith's coaches' isn't doing something right, he needs to know. So I don't think you ever worry about that as long as you don't have anything to worry about."

*[The verdict appears to be yes even though IIRC the NCAA only issued a secondary violation after Ohio State's thorough investigation only turned up the one guy who had taken a $500 handshake. The OSU response admits they are subject to repeat violator status but only addresses the old basketball allegations in its attempt to mitigate. Troy Smith does not come up.]

Windows. Yost will uncover them as part of the renovation; they were covered because direct sunlight was bad for ice back in the day. SCIENCE(!) has taken care of it. No word about returning the Old Man's head.

Meanwhile in chaos. The Super League has named itself the "National Collegiate Hockey Conference" because the nation consists of a smattering of Midwestern states and North Dakota. This is not a very good name but their first tweet

First @TheNCHC tweet: "We are exciting to announce the formation of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference."

…implies that it sounds really cool in Japanese and just needs a better translator.

Also Western is so gone from the CCHA, yo:

"We've positioned ourselves, telling people the value in Western Michigan," said Beauregard, who has formed a "Why Western" campaign to sell the program to other universities and existing and potential conferences.

"We want to hear what they have to say." …

"We've had close conversations with Notre Dame," Beauregard said. "We want to follow them and be a part of what they end up doing."

Getting dragged along with ND because they're a convenient bus ride from South Bend is quite a break for a team that spent most of the last decade battling BGSU for last place in the CCHA.

Or maybe it's not a break since without Blashill the most logical landing spot for them is the cellar of the Badly Translated From Japanese Conference. Congratulations, you're Michigan Tech. If they stuck in the CCHA they'd instantly be in contention for an autobid; if they succeed in persuading the BTFJC they're worthy the next time they see the NCAA tournament the skies will be red with blood and Mel Gibson (only Mel Gibson) will have been raptured up.

The remaining CCHA teams have been trying to meet with the remnants of the WCHA, but the WCHA is trying to find room on its rolodex between "eject all tournament teams" and "blither aimlessly"; NMU would really like to hook up at some point in the future but will be washing its hair until 2013. Any day now we'll start hearing about Niagara and Robert Morris and etc.

Etc.: The Kalis stepfather call all podcasted and stuff. Pros and cons of this brave new world in hockey.

Unverified Voracity Swings A Toothpick

Unverified Voracity Swings A Toothpick

Submitted by Brian on July 12th, 2011 at 2:38 PM

Winner. I put out the call for someone affiliated with the program to cackle evilly about what's going down in Columbus, and Larry Foote stepped to the plate:

Foote said he expects the NCAA to come down hard on the Buckeyes, who will go before the committee on infractions in August, giving them, he said, "what they deserve."

And what would that be?

"Ten-year ban, take all the victories away, lose 100 scholarships," Foote said, clearly exaggerating. "Give that (bowl money) back and donate it to the rest of the Big Ten teams."

Helpful note on the exaggeration there. Jalen Rose is also unsurprisingly straightforward about his glee (yes, irony); Jimmy King and Brandon Graham fall into the Serious Face About Serious Issue camp.

Also Graham says he really wants see Denard develop into a drop-back passer. Who wants another 3500 words about the shotgun? I'm warning you, people who can be quoted in newspapers about Denard Robinson: I will do this.

Speaking of. Al Borges isn't exactly wrong here…

"Well, the thing we gotta do is play efficiently, Borges told Matt Shepard on WDFN-AM 1130 Detroit, "and by that I mean take care of the ball, number one, because you don't want to put your defense in bad positions, because that will get you beat faster than anything – when your opponent is playing on a short field. "That's first and foremost."

…but I have not missed the "controlling turnovers is job one" meme the last three years. I have missed non-brain-melting turnover margins, though, so maybe I should just shut up and feel the soothing coachspeak flow through me.

Not Willingham, so we've got that going for us. Brady Hoke does not look like a natural with a golf club in his hands. He looks like a bear waving a toothpick:

hoke-golf

This is more reassuring than it should be. Also at that link: massive donor Al Glick hanging out with Carr and Hoke. He is very old and tiny.

Yes, there were two separate Michigan golfing events—the Foote quotes come from another Rose Leadership Academy fundraiser—in one weekend. Out of control.

Just a dude. This quote from Mike Martin…

"I'm a really humble guy," Martin said. "I was talking to someone and said, 'I don't look at myself as a big-time senior football player at Michigan. I look at myself as a dude playing a game.' They're like, 'You're awesome.' "

…is awesome. Get your head around that.

I hear tell that varmint convinced Kyle Kalis to commit. You're aware that Kyle Kalis committed to Michigan over the weekend*. You'll be shocked and appalled at what went down to make that happen:

I'm told that Kyle Kalis' stepdad just called into WKNR and said that Kyle is being manipulated by Hoke and his dad.

The head coach of the university of Michigan and one of Kalis's parents conspired to have him accept a scholarship offer from a school that knows who its head coach will be next year and how many scholarships it will have, whereupon his stepfather called a radio station to complain. It's going to be awkward to ask for the mashed potatoes for a while.

Kalis, meanwhile, declared it to be open season in Ohio:

"He is the type of guy I want to play for," Kalis said. "(Hoke) has an incredible amount of passion. I believe the Michigan-Ohio border is now open. I think you're going to see eight or nine guys from the state of Ohio going over to Michigan this year."

They've already got seven nine, so that's not a huge stretch (or any at all). Five-star RB Bri'onte Dunn may or may not be next; he is either 100% committed to Ohio State or sort of committed to Ohio State or technically committed to Ohio State but actually encouraging Kalis to defect, which was a wild rumor I thought I saw somewhere but I can't track down and therefore probably isn't true.

*[Something that was on the verge of happening for a couple weeks now. That was why Tom posted the "buckle up" tweet that riled up the board. #nowitcanbetold]

Which is it? Even I think Brooks has been a little unhinged about this Ohio State stuff but he does do a service by pointing out the ever-shifting story behind Tressel's firing/resignation/retirement. May 30th:

“Jim Tressel decided to resign.”

June 12th:

Tressel was not told he would be fired if he didn’t quit, Gee said.

“He was not given an ultimatum.”

That's directly contradicted by OSU's response, which pats itself on the back over and over again for "seeking and accepting" Tressel's resignation, as well as planning to ban Tressel from recruiting for a year—but not bothering to announce or, you know, actually do it.

The school also praises itself for self-reporting when the legal department found the Tressel emails as they responded to a FOIA—without someone else asking for information they never would have found the violation.

Etc.: Touch The Banner interviews Jack Miller. Some complicated calculations about Brady Hoke's record being more than meets the eye. Five stars appear next to Greg Mattison's name. NEEDS MOAR STARS. WVU linebacker Branko Busick charged with armed robbery. The weapon: his name. Also his dad had a short career as a WWF heel with an epic mustache in the mid-90s. (HT: DocSat)

Mailbag: Grayshirting, DTs, More Borges

Mailbag: Grayshirting, DTs, More Borges

Submitted by Brian on July 5th, 2011 at 1:48 PM

Brian -

I was wondering if you could answer the question as to why Jeremy Clark and Michigan would pursue a grey shirt versus a preferred walk-on.  In both cases the player has to pay their own way until a scholarship is available.  But with a grey shirt you can't practice with the team at all.  Is the thinking that they would then get a psuedo sixth year?  I would think having the player on campus and practicing with the team as a walk-on that first year would be better than hoping he earns a scholarship by sitting around doing nothing for a year. 

Also, I know we all share concerns about the size of this class and where the scholarships will come from - but I have a more specific question for you.  How do you feel about only taking one at the DT spot?  My thinking is that it is one of the hardest positions to project (cough-Will Campbell-cough), you need a healthy rotation of players, and you need size.  I have no idea why the staff wouldn't want two true defensive tackles in this class given the lack of depth and talent at that position.  I would even take one lower rated DT in this class if you get a star DT with another scholarship.  I think that's far more important than just about every other position at this point. 

Adam
Chicago, IL

On grayshirting: you do get a psuedo-sixth year since your eligibility clock does not start ticking until the subsequent year if you are a mid-year enrollee. Clark could enroll, redshirt, and have four years of eligibility starting in in 2014. Enrolling in the fall starts your clock, so the fall of 2012 would be Clark's redshirt year. Also, being a preferred walk-on costs money.

I'm not actually sure what path Clark will take since grayshirting is an overloaded term that refers to both enrolling without a scholarship and not enrolling until winter. It could be either depending on how quickly Michigan thinks they'd want to deploy Clark and if he wants to/can make the financial sacrifice to enroll without a scholarship.

On the defensive tackle spot: I don't think anyone gets Michigan's plan there. When the 2012 class hits campus the only potential nose tackles on the roster are Quinton Washington and Richard Ash; the only three-techs are Will Campbell and Terrance Talbott. Both Talbott and Ash have been dogged with rumors they have health issues and neither was exactly a slam-dunk recruit. No one has played; Michigan took no true DTs a year ago. Campbell will be a senior and Washington a junior.

Meanwhile, the defensive line sees more rotation than any other position in football—Michigan rotated four guys last year even when the options were walk-ons and journeymen like Adam Patterson.

So it seems nuts to me to turn down a consensus four star DT with the offers to match, as it seems they will if Pipkins and O'Brien both want to sign up. Even if they can move some combination of Godin/Wormley/Strobel/Rock/Wilkins inside, those guys are all tall dudes who probably can't deal with the nose.

That leaves essentially no one after Martin graduates. Hoke's made all the right moves so far but if he takes a scholarship fullback over a desperately-needed nose tackle people should question that.

Hi Brian,
First, the giant scoreboard at Yost:  on the post today it indeed appears to be gigantic and I was wondering if you had a chance yet to see if this thing might interfere with sightlines across the ice or corner to corner?  Don't know if anyone remembers/cares, but there was a giant block hangy-downy scoreboard there back at Yost in the early 80's and it hung down too far.  If you were sitting really high up in the endzones or even in the top couple of rows on the sidelines, the scoreboard actually hung down far enough to block your view across the ice.  It was worse than obstructed view at Tiger Stadium, though I guess that might be because Larry Herndon never ran very far.  So, the end-zone scoreboards were actually an innovation kind of because there were then no seats obstructed by the scoreboard hanging down.  Someone must have thought about that one before they hung this thing, right?  I am suspicious of change, get off the lawn, I miss the Apple IIC, etc. 

The board is currently closer to the ice than it will be when it is finally deployed, and while it's certainly larger than the current one I don't think it's significantly taller. And the top couple rows on the sidelines are now usually vacant because of overhangs.

Second, we've seen a lot of decision matrices about 4th down, go for it vs. field goal vs punt on different places on the field.  Would it be possible for someone to do a historic survey? 

For example, I bet that matrix looked a lot different for a 1972 Bo team than for a 1998 Lloyd team because of the efficiency - or not - of the passing game back then.  Bo going for it on 4th and 7 with his option teams was a totally different animal than Carr going for it on 4th and 7 with Henne and Braylon.  I guess what I'm asking is, can those 4th and charts be adjusted backwards for inflation?  I bet they would explain a lot about the evolution of 4th-and theory and about Carr's reluctance to not punt from the opponent's 41. 
JS

A historic survey is outside the scope of a mailbag response but it's probably unnecessary anyway since the Mathlete tackled something similar in a past diary that got bumped to the front page. Two charts, one for high offensive expectation…

…and one for low offensive expectation…

…show the increasing viability of the punt as scoring decreases.

Game theory in the paleolithic era was probably better than it was over the past 20 years. It seems we've passed an inflection point where going for it is the choice, but teams are still being coached by guys who came up under old school coaches who had totally different probabilities in their head. It's like adding four cards to a deck and asking 1950s poker players to cope—eventually they'll make a mistake because the game has changed.

I think it is worth noting that the West Coast offense, which Borges favors, can be traced directly back to Sid Gillman, the same Sid Gillman whose offensive style was loathed by manball loving Woody Hayes when the two of them were rivals at Cincinnati and Miami of Ohio respectively. Also, the most famous west coast quarterback of all time is Joe Montana, and he was hardly an immobile pocket passer.

I am probably being overly optimistic, but do you think there is a possibility that Michigan's offense in 2011 will resemble Auburn's 2010 offense in that it will be a hybrid of spread elements and pro-style elements? Yes I realize that Denard's skill set is not identical to Cam Newton's, but based on some of the remarks Borges has made and Hoke's likely realization that Michigan fans aren't going to be patient for wins, I think this is the most likely direction for the offense.

-anon

I'm not sure I agree with the above emailer's police work there. Auburns' offense worked so well because they didn't even need any semblance of a pro-style attack because an inverted veer with Cam Newton was short-yardage gold. Newton was recruited to run the same offense he did run. When there was a mismatch between the offensive coordinator's vision, that of the head coach, and available personnel, both Tony Franklin and Tommy Tuberville got fired. Auburn is not a good analogue.

I'm not sure if there is in fact a good analogue for the transformation Denard is going to be asked to make. Usually when you have a talent like him at quarterback the head coach doesn't get fired because you win a bunch of games. I've searched my memory banks for an example of a successful returning spread quarterback dealing with a new, more pro-style system and can only recall the most ironic possible name: Pat White.

White, of course, was coming off of West Virginia's 48-28 demolition of Oklahoma; WVU was third nationally in rushing offense, 15th in yardage, and 9th in scoring. The next year Rodriguez was out and Bill Stewart brought in Jeff Mullen from Wake Forest; Mullen preached balance but seemed to respect the accomplishments of the previous regime:

“I don’t want it to be too much different. You’re talking about a group of men who left here who were very successful coaches, and they installed one of the best offenses in the country. I’m not going to come in here and turn it around,” he said.

WVU still ran the spread but lost some of its maniacal dependence on the run (70% in RR's last year, 63% in Stewart's first) and large chunks of its derring-do. West Virginia lost almost a yard per carry in the transition despite running less and retaining White and Noel Devine. Total yardage dropped to 59th, scoring to 73rd. You will not be thrilled to hear that turnover margin remained as ludicrously good as it was for the bulk of Rodriguez's tenure.

I think something like that dropoff may be in the cards for Michigan. Mullen was no slouch. He was able to staple together decent outfits at Wake Forest despite having a massive injury plague strike his already-depleted roster. But his expertise did not align with the skills of his offense and as a result a bunch of returning starters got a lot less explosive.

I do think Al Borges is going to put together something that tries to take advantage of the parts he has. If I had to guess I'd say Brady Hoke's public statements about manball are just statements—at San Diego State Borges had full sway to do what he wanted, and what he wanted was a lot of different things including quite a bit of zone running. But you can't expect Borges to be Rich Rodriguez when he's spent much of his career fiddling with passing routes instead of the slight adjustments Rodriguez used to keep Robinson ahead of the pack.

The falloff from the transition probably won't be as bad* but if Borges can just maintain Michigan's YPC I'll be thrilled.

*[Reasons: The offense wasn't as good as that WVU unit and shouldn't be exposed to such a withering regression to the mean, Denard is lower on his learning curve than White, there's no equivalent to losing Slaton, general coaching ept-ness will probably go up, field goals.]

Unverified Voracity Is Suddenly Rabid

Unverified Voracity Is Suddenly Rabid

Submitted by Brian on June 7th, 2011 at 1:01 PM

[Ed: light day. Going to Gold Cup game(s). Also is June.]

If reporters looked like this the world would be a different, stranger place. College Football Live called up a local Morgantown reporter to discuss what Doctor Saturday has dubbed "As The Couch Burns." They immediately improved said reporters self-image:

barwis-haunting

If Mike Casazza woke up today with wolves and a fridge full of chocolate milk this is why.

While we're on ATCB, yes, it has been broached: bring back Rich Rodriguez.

"Mentor." The Dispatch FOIAs Tressel's communications with one Ted Sarniak and comes up with a heavily redacted set of information that invites questions as to who is mentoring who, exactly:

After Tressel received an April 2, 2010, email from a former player warning him of potential NCAA violations, the coach exchanged 77 calls and text messages with and spent a total of 4 1/2 hours talking on the phone with Ted Sarniak, the hometown mentor of quarterback Terrelle Pryor in Jeannette, Pa.

Their longest phone conversation - 18 minutes - happened on Dec. 21, two days before OSU announced Pryor and five others would be suspended for part of the 2011 season for violations.

The two also spoke for three minutes immediately after the Dec. 23 news conference benching Pryor, Daniel Herron, DeVier Posey, Solomon Thomas and Mike Adams for five games and Jordan Whiting for one game.

Tressel and Sarniak exchanged text messages on March 8, the day OSU announced that Tressel had known about the violations for months.

Sarniak will now offer tearful testimony about how Jim Tressel made him into a man. There's still a bunch of stuff that's redacted with OSU claiming it's "personal," but OSU also tried to withhold Chris Cicero's name and a bunch of other things besides that they had no legal ground to do so. That doesn't much matter since the NCAA can ask to see them on pain of pain. (I think, anyway. Lawyer me in the comments if I'm wrong).

"Mistake." Again with the "mistake" language, this time from bow-tie wearing university president and fool Gordon Gee:

"Any time that there is a mistake, or any time that there is an issue that flares up, and we go back through and scrub everything very, very carefully," he said. "We want to make certain that we're asking all the right questions."

It is not a mistake to engage in a months-long cover-up, just like it's not a mistake to give Jim Tressel a gentle massage when you find out he's violated a very serious NCAA bylaw. Nor is it a "mistake" to ignore two separate warnings that you are barely checking on your athlete's cars, or a "mistake" to talk with Terrelle Pryor's shady handler for four and a half hours.

Meanwhile, that article has another insight into OSU's compliance department:

The university's compliance department, however, did warn another university about a former Buckeyes player who has been linked to the NCAA scandal.

In January, former Ohio State running back Jermil Martin enrolled at Ashland University, an NCAA Division II school midway between Columbus and Cleveland.

As required by NCAA rules, Ohio State notified Ashland of problems with Martin's eligibility, Ashland athletic director Bill Goldring said.

Martin was cited in the SI article as a guy with a close relationship with Rife, so the eligibility issues they reported to the DII school should have led to an investigation and so forth and so on. Instead it was all like "whoops, third string fullback, you did bad and have to go and It Is Fortunate you are the only one."

On the other hand, OSU has just updated (in April) its compliance procedures to the satisfaction of the auditing committee. Close that barn door, baby.

Steelebits. Via Get The Picture, Michigan returns a higher percentage of its yards on offense than almost anyone—they're tenth at 93%. And they only graduate one starter on the line. The offense was going to take a step back in terms of FEI and other advanced metrics just by regressing to the mean, but trying to parse out how much of that is going on versus how much the offensive transition is hurting things is going to be difficult.

Actually, it might not be if they just can't run (or throw) out of the I. That'll be something tracked in UFRs. Because it's interesting, not because I am full of hate. Hoke Uber Alles.

Offtopic but wow. Haven't bashed a local columnist in a while and while it's probably not nice to make fun of someone obviously suffering from late-state syphillis… wow:

Pistons need tough leader like Isiah Thomas as coach

If only we had known about this before a dollar of penicillin could have prevented this tragedy. Isaiah Thomas will sexually harass the players, yo, and then he will do what he's done to every NBA team he's ever come in contact with: make them so much worse than you ever thought possible.

Etc.: Mike Hamilton resigns. With OSU on the Volunteer path that means Gene Smith has a couple months before he does the same.

Coaching Clinic Notes: Offense

Coaching Clinic Notes: Offense

Submitted by Brian on April 21st, 2011 at 3:22 PM

The second half of Craig Ross's recap of the coaching clinic.

Borges and the Offense

Borges, unlike Mattison, obsessed over last year’s tape. This makes sense since the O was pretty effective for much of the year, and he wanted to evaluate what he had (particularly on the OL) to see what changes they might need to make. He noted (in a presser) that he felt that the zone blocking from RR’s tenure wasn’t a lot different from the style he prefers, but then said that they wouldn’t do a ton of zone. It is a part of the offense, but it sounds like it is like power was last year—a changeup. Borges has a lot more problems than Mattison even though we assume offense is going to be much better than the defense, because he actually has something that asks him to adapt.

Hoke made it clear that the “signature play” (their words, more than a couple of times) would be “power.” This is often out of a 21 package [ed: 2 RB, 1 TE—usually a standard I-form] with the FB kicking out/protecting the edge and the play being run through the A gap, with the backside guard pulling through the gap. Here’s what it looks like. The diagrams below were created by Borges when he was OC at Auburn and are found in Bill Mallory’s (and Don Nehlen’s) book Football Offenses and Plays:

image

[ed: Here's an excellent Smart Football primer. Also here is another diagram. Key player is the guy just to the left of the X representing the center:

power

That's actually a counter play that the Steelers used for a 75-yard touchdown in a Super Bowl a few years back. It's not "A-gap"—A gap would go right next to the center.

This won't be entirely unfamiliar. Michigan pulled guys last year. This Picture Pages covers a "down G" play—like power but with the playside guard pulling outside of the TE/tackle. Here's the C and frontside guard pulling against Indiana:

Here's an actual backside G pull on a power inverted read veer pickle sandwich (or something… Rodriguez's run game forced me to figure out/invent lingo every week):

Plenty of college spread teams use power. Here's seven minutes of it:

Yes, I am slightly obsessed with this. Also whenever this topic comes up I hear EA Kirk Herbstreit's disembodied head say "he used POWER… he used POWER… he used POWER." I'll stop now since this editorial aside is turning into its own post.]

Ideally, the back is reading the WILL who will be spilling over to the playside once he determines he has no gap responsibility on his side. If the Will pursues hard the back can even cut back to the weakside of the formation. Borges has said that they won't be in 21 and 22 personnel running power 14 times a game, but Hoke had a slightly varied message.

This Spring, power for the most part sucked against the #1 D, but it is clear that this is their primary running play. They run the Wildcat in a similar fashion. That has pretty much not been very good either.

The Borges article in the above book remains vital. My guess is he is still using slice plays: the slice pass, the naked boot and the wide zone. Funk says he has run the power for 25 years (he doesn’t seem that old) but he likes to run some zone also. He says, a la Landry, Bo and Lombardi, that they like to practice power more than it is used in games so that “the kids have seen everything a defense can throw at you and they are always prepared—we want to get to where they are always comfortable in blocking the play, regardless of defense.” Funk also said they will “never check to power” but they might check out of it.

On a personal level, Hoke has an extremely high regard for Funk. He implied that SDSU wasn’t very tough or fundamentally sound in 2009 but by 2010 Funk had created a different deal. Hoke says that Funk is the best OL coach in the country and, I have to admit, he is incredibly impressive.

At this point I don’t know what to think. I thought the offense was sketchy in the Saturday scrimmage. I thought offense was sketchy in the spring game. OK, Molk didn’t play a lot. Lewan didn’t play at all. These are two of our top three guys on the line. In both events the O was still working on reps as much as anything else. But I didn’t think either QB looked comfortable in this offense. Did the offense, really, look any better than the offense with Steve Threet in Year One of the Years of Complete Implosion? And, weren’t we running against the personnel that was the worst D in History last year? Well, everything has morphed. Wasn’t the D playing against a pretty damned good O from last year? Uh, yeah, except it was running a completely different system. [ed: DUCK!]

My sense/conclusion, though it is more mist than light, is that the D has truly improved. Part is experience. Part is growth by the younger guys, the natural progression. Part is Mattison and the HC’s focus on defense, not offense. Part is a scheme that gets guys in the right places. My sense/conclusion is also that the offense will decline, perhaps massively. Now, it is early. But doesn’t it feel like, as RR in Year One, that we are pounding a lot of square pegs into round holes? Doesn’t it feel like we have taken the best weapon in college football and hamstrung him? I can’t be right.

[ed:

]

Special Teams

Place kicking remains a debacle. I have watched this a lot. These guys just can’t do it. If the frosh (Wile) isn’t the starter this fall we are (again) in trouble. Think four downs—not that I have any problem with that on just about any place on the field. But if you ain’t playing four downs from down 1—different deal. And, since no one but Pulaski High School is, well, we gotta get better here.

Hagerup, of course, isn’t a problem. He should be a better punter than last year and he was competent last year. He gets great hang time and doesn’t chunk them often. [Ed-M: provided whatever kept him out of the bowl is now behind him]

Punt returns: The coaches have tried a different idea re: training. Instead of hassling and bumping the returner (something I thought would have worked pretty well) the coaches are turning them around pre-punt and then forcing them to find the ball in the air, post punt. Another drill has them catching the punt with another ball tucked in one arm. Seems to be working or, at least, I didn’t see Junior, Dileo or Gallon drop one. Even when being turned around or holding another ball. Better than last spring. I will predict improvement here, for whatever reason, or only because it can’t continue.

KOs and returns I haven’t witnessed. Or, if I did, it wasn’t much and it didn’t register.

Overall

As an abstraction I could not (and still don’t) believe the offensive transition will go well in the short term. Now, Borges seems a very sharp guy. I have no concerns about his intelligence, experience or ability. His OL coach, Darrel Funk, is awesome: off the charts smart and personable. He seems less obsessed than Hoke about smashmouth football. He wants to be physical, but concedes that spreads are viable. He reminds me of Carr. Carr wasn’t a believer in zone blocking but was willing to be convinced and DeBo (plus Alex Gibbs) were able to convince him. Funk seems confident in his ability to teach any style. I am convinced he could teach anything, also.

I have zero issue with the hiring of this group. I am impressed. They stress that they never belittle or embarrass a player. Criticisms are constructive and positive. But they are more classical football guys who have inherited a lot of spread offense pieces. In this, I don’t see 2011 as much different than 2008. Lotsa round offensive pegs in square holes. In the long run, I have no doubt that Hoke will put high quality football on the field. But this might be three years away.

Unverified Voracity Flags Down Shawn Kemp

Unverified Voracity Flags Down Shawn Kemp

Submitted by Brian on April 21st, 2011 at 1:12 PM

Facepalm of the last half-hour. Trey Keenan is a Texas offensive lineman with three stars, a Michigan offer, and a slightly shaky grasp of the recent past($):

Keenan admits he likes the direction that the new staff is taking the program. “I like that they’re going back to being the old Michigan and not the team that got beat by Appalachian State,” he said.

It's a good thing I set up a facepalm hotkey. Ctrl+Alt+FFFFUUU:

facepalm-godzilla

Dude is hardcore. Hey, look, it's the Little Brown Jug:

dude-is-hardcore

Just hanging out… uh… in some guy's basement on what appears to be a pool table. This would be the point at which we round up a posse and hunt down the varmit who stole our danged jug, but that would be pointless violence since some dude made a Brown Jug replica (and apparently that box) because he is hardcore. Auburn fans should try this: get some hardcore guy to make a replica of Toomer's Corner. Problem solved.

Come on, baby. Red apparently doesn't think anyone's jetting in the offseason:

Michigan coach Red Berenson said Monday he finished his postseason individual meetings with players and doesn't expect anyone to leave early for the pro ranks. The Wolverines, who advanced to the national title game, return two outstanding defensemen in junior Brandon Burlon and freshman Jon Merrill.

No quotes and frankly the Detroit News isn't an outlet that spends a lot of time on hockey, but… woo? It wouldn't be too outlandish: Merrill and Burlon are the only serious departure threats and both are Devils draftees. The Devils have a track record of leaving kids in college and have a number of D prospects a bit further along the development path than their guys at Michigan.

While it's kind of a negative that I can't think of a Michigan forward who would even think of an NHL departure at least we won't get blindsided, except of course we will.

Attention Shawn Kemp. You take any random son of an NBA star, have him commit to Michigan, and bam he's awesome:

I did not recognize Glenn “Trey” Robinson when compared to the skinny kid I watched last summer. Robinson was maybe 175 pounds soaking wet then.

Now he has a body that makes you envision a flying combo forward finishing strong on the offensive end with lock down ability defensively. Robinson did just that Friday night against Upstate. He finished at the rim, often violently, through contact.

That's the third or fourth early rave GRIII has picked up in the month or so AAU ball has been going on. In addition NBE lists Robinson at 6'8"(!), 205. Other first-hand reports like those of UMHoops think that's generous, but he's clearly bigger than he was when he committed.

(HT: UMHoops.)

Stats are bad (this time). I hate to disagree with a guy who goes back and checks out actual game film instead of talking about football players playing football, but KC Joyner has an ESPN Insider article that claims Michigan is going to have an "elite passing game"($) this year because of some shiny Denard stats that I think are silly.

Joyner splits Denard's attempts* into buckets by yardage: 11.9 YPA on throws of 11-19 yards, 16.4 YPA on throws from 20-29 yards, and 15.4 YPA on throws of more than 30 yards. These compare favorably to some guy you may have heard of:

A review of 11 of Ryan Mallett's games against SEC and bowl-level competition over the past two seasons found that the possible future first-round draft pick (and one of college football's top passers) posted an 8.2 total YPA, an 11.6 vertical YPA and a 14.6 stretch vertical YPA.

Robinson's 10 games include his three worst contests from last season with regard to passer rating (Ohio State, Michigan State, Notre Dame) and exclude his two of his three best passer rating contests (Massachusetts and Bowling Green), yet he was still able to top Mallett in all three categories.

There are a number of problems with this analysis. One: it does not account for the frequency of throws. Mallett's Hogs passed 53% percent of the time; Michigan threw on 40% of snaps. Two: Denard's throws are heavily slanted towards short stuff. The "stretch vertical" number cited by Joyner consists of just 31 attempts, which is both a sample size problem and another equilibrium issue. Three:

A large number of Denard's long touchdowns were stupidly easy because of the system that ran so much and so effectively, often with Robinson himself. You can't point to 11 completions featuring safeties going "WHAT DO I DO /explodes" and extrapolate anything approximating Mallett's production. The opportunities above simply will not exist in an under-center WCO, leaving Denard to try to do this:

I love Denard like he is a combination of my own son and Olivia Wilde but I don't think he's making throws like that. Maybe "simply will not exist" is a bit much, but the amount of pressure Denard put on opposing safeties last year—and the interceptions he threw even when given reasonable windows—prevents you from divorcing his production from his system.

I'm not saying he won't be a better QB than he was last year. I'm saying the smart bet is on a significant reduction in passer efficiency if he's operating a WCO.

*[Attempts against Michigan's Big Ten schedule, ND, and UConn. Unclear why the bowl was left out. Probably because KC Joyner doesn't like watching snuff films.]

Get this man a cereal commercial. Don't tell that to Denard, though, who says "I really like this offesne and what we're doing" in a brief TSN interview. Also:

Q: Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison says he talks a lot of trash to you. What’s going on there?

Robinson: We have that love/hate relationship. I love competing against him. Every day at practice, he says something to make you want to compete.

Q: What does he say?

Robinson: He says, ‘You can’t throw. Can’t throw.’ I know he’s teasing. I make a throw, and I’ll say something to him. Or I’ll just look over and smile at him.

Thank God for Denard—whenever you're feeling ambivalent about your connection to the program because of the Braylon Edwardses of the world just think about Denard.

Um… thanks? Believe it or not, this is Jack Nicklaus trying to say something nice about Ohio State:

"I don't know what really happened, but I'll promise you that Tressel wasn't the only one that knew what happened," Nicklaus told The Plain Dealer.

If he's right pieces of the Ohio State athletic department will be slowly descending from the troposphere for decades. (Not that he's anything other than a very famous message board poster in this department.)

Etc.: Ace relates the story of his first game at Michigan Stadium. I'd play but I can't remember which game it was because I was small. The Hero Of Tiananmen Square (AKA John Pollack, king of futile Big House preservation attempts) puts out an awful book on puns featuring many awful puns. As per usual, he misses the point entirely. You should have gone to Vermont, but at least you didn't go to Iowa State. TTB outlines the 4-3 under in parts: line, linebackers, and secondary. Forward Thinking surveys the QB landscape in the aftermath of Zeke Pike's Auburn commitment. If you didn't get enough carpet-bombing of former players who have fallen back in love with Michigan football, Mets Maize is over Avignon right now.

Spring Stuff

Spring Stuff

Submitted by Brian on April 18th, 2011 at 1:07 PM

So… that happened. As per usual, many events from the spring game are in the eye of the beholder. Is Devin Gardner's inability to find anyone open an indictment of him, an indictment of the second-team wide receivers, or… uh… like… people being covered? I know that latter seems improbable but I have seen football games in which this has happened. Whether your reaction to Saturday was "woo defense" or "ugh offense" depends on your state of mind and may oscillate wildly.

Unfortunately, there was a lot that was unambiguously bad, most of it from the quarterbacks: interceptions whistled yards over the intended receiver's head or thrown directly at linebackers, a Mallett-like plague of dropped snaps, offsides calls, etc. The general impression was more 2008 than 2010. Denard completed 5 of 14 passes for 5 YPA—2008 numbers—and ran six times for 60 yards, averaging 1 YPC after his first attempt. Insert the usual spring caveats and add a bunch more besides for small sample size and an awkward transition, but that is a far cry from the last spring game, and very little of it can be attributed to awesome defense. The QBs sucked on their own.

Here are highlight-type substances (which also feature the Most Legendary Press Conference Ever):

The official site version:

Other vague impressions:

The worst part ever. That guy who sung the anthem. I don't know why events that aren't actual football games are accompanied by some never-was with vibrato Tourette's singing the national anthem. This happened at the Big Chill, too. This is the last drip of Michigan football for five months—give me the band.

Quarterback

Obviously not so good. Devin Gardner was also inaccurate in drills. They have this dig route where a slot receiver works to the seam then cuts his route off 15 yards downfield and Gardner was consistently missing it. Denard missed a couple times but was obviously better. Both performed poorly in the game itself, which fine. Denard doesn't need a more practice on running plays that were beaten into his head last year, sometimes literally. If you're installing new stuff now is the time to see if it works.

HOWEVA, man… it did not seem to work. They kept running the waggle and Denard could not get anything out of it. There was a guy in his face the whole time; the resulting throws were frequently incomplete due to inaccuracy. In the video above when Hoke references a couple of "drops" the best examples the BTN can dig up are Drew Dileo almost making a spectacular one-handed stab and Darryl Stonum almost making a spectacular sideline lay-out.

Maybe in a tackle football game he can escape that contain guy on the regular, but that seems like a high variance strategy with limited upside. Option 1: beats corner guy, is on corner, has shot at running some probably not immense distance or hitting a crossing route of some variety. Option 2: second and 20. There's a reason the waggle is strictly an occasional changeup—whenever you've got the ball and are spending time with your back to the defense there's a chance something awful is going to happen, like John Navarre getting blown up in that one MSU game.

Running Back

Mike Cox was the most impressive, scoring the only legitimate touchdown of the day for the offense—the second was an uncalled offensive PI that outraged Charles Woodson even if he wasn't watching it—on a 68-yard rumble through the middle of the defense. A few runs later he powered through a couple diving arm tackles for a decent gain. Notably, no coach dropped his headset in disgust without even yelling at the guy, which totally happened at last year's fall scrimmage. That was a sign Cox was going to be buried on the bench all year. Light going on? Let's hope so.

Stephen Hopkins seemed like Stephen Hopkins. Everyone else was pretty eh. Hayes and Rawls will have a shot in the fall.

Receivers

With all but five Michigan receptions leaders returning there wasn't much new here, especially since the quarterbacks had such an off day. Hard to show anything when you're chasing Carvin Johnson down instead of vice-versa. A few items:

  • It seems like Drew Dileo has risen to second on the slot depth chart.
  • Odoms is still outside.
  • Moving Ricardo Miller to tight end is a very bad sign for him. Seeing him next to the other TEs is like seeing that tiny third-string FB in the game. He just doesn't have the frame for TE, especially in a manball offense, so… what does that say about his potential future as a WR?
  • The much-touted involvement of the tight ends did not materialize. I don't remember a single catch [Ed-M: Koger got one] and I think they only targeted TEs once or twice. This has been an exceptionally overblown meme anyway. Last year Michigan TEs had 20 catches. In Carr's last year they had 24. When you've got talent you throw to it; Michigan's talent is in the slot.

Michigan needs a couple big receiver recruits this year because the cavalry does not appear to be coming. Jerald Robinson may develop into a decent option but Miller's not even at the spot anymore and DJ Williamson didn't look good in drills or exist in the game; Jeremy Jackson is probably the best of all the receivers brought in last year and his upside is strictly possession.

Offensive Line

It's all but impossible to pick out anything specific live unless you're a savant, which I'm not, so… uh… yeah. Michigan's attempts to run power didn't go so well—a follower tweeted that Michigan's guards were the equivalent of Michigan's kickers when they tried to pull. Again, with a veteran line that's got zone blocking down it's okay to work on the stuff they don't know yet. It seems foolhardy to dump that entirely and we did see a couple examples of Rodriguez's QB stretch, so let's hope the playcalling is less slanted towards the unfamiliar in fall.

The second team OL was walk-on infested with injuries to Molk (played but sparingly) and Lewan (out). They could not block the second-team DL, which contributed to Gardner's issues. Late it seemed like Mattison called off the dogs specifically so Gardner could see what it was like to not have someone breathing down his neck two seconds after the snap.

One guy I did think looked pretty good was Schofield.

Defensive Line

All eyes were on Will Campbell and Will Campbell was all right. He got single blocked the whole day, alternating his time between pushing into the backfield to force cutbacks on unsuccessful runs, getting blocked out of rushing lanes, and (on passing downs) sitting at the LOS being the guy who looks for screens and scrambles. Unsurprisingly, reports that Campbell was "unblockable" as a three-tech turned out to be fiction—Campbell didn't beat a block all day. His contributions were limited to getting a moderate amount of penetration when single blocked on running plays. It was far from dominant; it could have been worse. I'm still pretty worried about what happens on stretch plays.

As for the other guys, RVB was out, leaving Jibreel Black and walk-on Nate Brink alternating at SDE. We know what to expect out of Martin when his ankles exist, and now he's getting moved around on passing downs. Schofield seemed to win his battle with Craig Roh, but Roh made a couple of plays on runs and looks like an honest-to-God DE these days. Kenny Wilkins was the DE who got steamrolled on the Cox TD.

Linebacker

Everyone's talking about Jake Ryan after his pick six and constant pressure of Gardner, but his primary opponent was a redshirt freshman walk-on not very good at blocking people. Big difference between his setup and, say, Campbell taking on the starting guards on the regular. Cam Gordon's in front of him for a reason. Ryan does appear like he'll push for time.

On the whole this unit was surprisingly decent for one starting a guy who just transferred from Hampton after not getting any PT there. Often when I'd watch Campbell he'd get kicked out of the hole way too easily, but as I braced for a big run two linebackers would roar in from the backside and swallow the play. That's what a one-gap defense does as long as you get your "run fits" right, and it seemed like they were vastly improved over last year. I'm extremely leery of the depth when your best alternative to Demens is Marell Evans, but here it seemed like the transition was going smoothly. Caveats apply: could just be the OL not being any good at what they're being asked to do.

FWIW, it was Brandon Herron getting steamrolled on the Cox TD run.

Secondary

With Floyd and Woolfolk out this was also a lot of walk-ons. It's not good for Terrance Talbott to be behind Tony Anderson; Cullen Christian was also behind Anderson but was apparently injured and did not play. This will be some combination of Avery/Floyd/Woolfolk this fall unless Blake Countess shows up extremely ready. Greg Brown showed better than most expected after he spent his senior year of high school at linebacker.

As for safety, Michigan certainly looks good there. Marvin Robinson, Josh Furman, and Carvin Johnson are physically reminiscent of NFL safeties. A dollar says that perception doesn't last into the Big Ten season, but in this game they only blew two plays—the Cox TD (overrun by a very confused Robinson) and Denard's game-opening 55-yarder (Johnson was understandably outrun). Oh, and there was that hopeless Gardner bomb that should have been intercepted but ended up a completion. I think that was also Robinson, but I don't remember exactly.

So… slightly encouraging here. While Johnson's interceptions were gifts he came up and put a lick on more than one tailback who had broken to the sideline. Robinson also bombed a couple tailbacks. Furman was in position to break up a couple of Gardner deep balls and could have had an interception or two if Gardner's passes had been a little more accurate. Unfortunately, I am constitutionally incapable of not panicking about safety play even if there is evidence I shouldn't.

Special Teams

Will Hagerup is sophomore Zoltan: still too inconsistent but if he gets hold of one look out. He's going to hit a 70-yard punt this year. He'll also hit some 35-yard dribblers, but he's getting there.

Kickers: aigh. [Ed-M: They say Aslan Matt Wile is on the move.]

Other Video Type Objects

Hoke presser:

Borges presser:

Important bit on Denard:  “in the real world, he'll probably run more than you saw today.”

Elsewhere

Photo galleries abound. AnnArbor.com:

There are also images from the flag football game. Daily article also contains extensive gallery.

Our Helmets Have Wings:

If the spring game is any indication, Mattison is not afraid to bring the heat. One of the criticisms Ravens fans levied at Mattison was that he “didn’t blitz enough.” That is something that is said about just every defensive coordinator ever, so take it for what it’s worth.  Still, the concern that Michigan is going to drop back into a cover-2 and rush four is something that I’ve been somewhat afraid of. I thought the 3-3-5 was going solve that, instead it proved to be the exact opposite of an aggressive, attacking defense.

As OHHW notes, rushing four would actually be an improvement on last year. Ace predicted and wanted ugly. Point Ace. The Big House Blog wonders where Roy Roundtree went. Hoke says Michigan has a "long way to go." Mattison says he "doesn't know if [Johnson] was responsible for" his big plays, which… yeah. Photos and bits from MVictors.

Mailbag: Denard As Troy Smith, Hoke Tatgate Hypothetical

Mailbag: Denard As Troy Smith, Hoke Tatgate Hypothetical

Submitted by Brian on April 15th, 2011 at 12:13 PM

troy-smith-heisman-trophy-winner-michael-fieldsdenard-robinson-heisman

It's no Nuge but it's something. Also: Daily.

So it seems a lot of people, including you, I believe, have resisted the "Denard Robinson 2011 = Michael Vick 2010" path to blind hope for the upcoming football season. I'm as hopeful as anyone else because duh, but I'm also aware that Robinson is probably too small and inaccurate at this point in his development for this to be a realistic possibility.

But what about Troy Smith? I believe that kid was around Robinson's size, but probably a little slower and had an arm that was probably a bit more accurate but not quite as strong. Do you agree that Smith (against anyone other than Michigan, against which he was a planet-devouring demigod regardless of the season you want to talk about) is a realistic/optimistic benchmark we can have in mind when projecting Robinson in 2011?

This isn't to say Robinson will be as good as Smith, only that their skill sets are comparable, as are the coaching philosophies under which they operated, and that getting some mixed bag of 2005 and 2006 Troy Smith out of the QB position would be a positive.

-Anon

Troy Smith's career does give some hope that a hopeless n00b of a quarterback can develop into a lethal gunslinger. When Justin Zwick was injured midway through 2004 he was pressed into the lineup as redshirt sophomore and was somewhere between Sheridan and Forcier until he played Michigan. You don't need to be told he was insane against M: 18 rushes for 145 yards, 13 of 23 passing for 241 yards, three total touchdowns, no turnovers.

Without that game his numbers were turrible: 3.0 YPC, 6.6 YPA, 56% completion percentage. With it—and as much as we hate to admit it, that happened—his redshirt sophomore numbers were about on par with Tate Forcier as a freshman except with fewer turnovers. With the exception of TD-INT ratio, Denard was actually well ahead of him as a true sophomore, averaging almost nine yards per attempt and running for a billion yards at 6.6 yards a pop.

So if he can improve as much as Smith we're in business. The next year he blew up, completing 63% of his passes for 9.3 yards an attempt with 16 TDs and 4 INTs. He also rushed for around 600 yards on 12 carries a game.

Problem? Yes:

  • Smith was handing off and throwing to Santonio Holmes (first round pick), Ted Ginn (first round pick), Antonio Pittman (fourth round pick), and Anthony Gonzalez (first round pick). You can see Stonum and Roundtree getting drafted but probably not until late; Smith had a ton more talent at his disposal than Robinson will.
  • Smith had the same coaches for the duration of his career.
  • Smith's improvement was standard deviations above the mean, so while it's an optimistic benchmark for Denard it's not one it's reasonable to expect he'll reach.
  • Smith's running ability may have opened up some passing lanes for him but nowhere near as many as Robinson's did. If you're going to de-emphasize Robinson's legs that should make it tougher to pass and easier to run.

If Smith provides an optimistic benchmark for Robinson he also provides one for Michigan's coaches: as Smith developed Ohio State's offense gradually morphed into a passing spread reminiscent of Purdue at its absolute apex. This is generally out of character for Tressel—he only brings out the spread option for Pryor in times of great need—but as Smith developed he earned enough trust from his coaches for them to play to his strengths.

Have a question for you, Sir. This is all hypothetical but I was wondering what would you think at the end of it all?

April 2011 - Coach Hoke receives email concerning Player X selling comp tickets (nevermind everyone does it, it is still illegal), Coach Hoke emails back, says he'll check into it. Now...what does Coach Hoke do? What do you hope he does? Go to Compliance? Or handle it internally?

So, he decides to handle it internally
April 2011 - Coach Hoke asks player, player denies selling tickets.
April 2011 - Send email to parents of Player X reminding them that selling comp tickets is illegal.
April 2011 - Has meeting with team reminding that comp tickets can't be sold.
June 2011 - Sends email to person who sent first email verifying that Player X did indeed sell tickets (so, he doesn't get tickets for upcoming season)
Dec 2011 - Michigan Compliance Office gets documentation that Player X did indeed sell tickets.
Dec 2011 - Player X confesses to selling tickets...Michigan self-reports and recommends 5 games for the following season (since that is the normal recommended punishment for this type of violation and the fact that the player didn't come forward).
Dec 2011 - Coach Hoke signs document that no other information was available (giving him the benefit of the doubt, since he gets several hundred emails a day and the fact that he's gone through an entire football season)
Jan 2011 - Michigan Compliance office finds emails related to ticket incident while searching for something else.
Feb 2011 - Michigan Compliance Office interviews Coach Hoke and self-reports information. Recommends 2 games hoping that Player X's suspension is reduced.
March 2011 - Player X's suspension is upheld, Coach Hoke changes his suspension to match Player X.

So, what should Michigan do with Coach Hoke? What do you want to happen to Coach Hoke if he got caught up in something he thought that he could handle internally?

I know it is all hypothetical in nature though Player X could be anyone and I imagine this event could easily come to pass, but everyday coaches make decisions, some good and some bad...but I would be interested in hearing what you would want to happen if this particular event were to go down that way.

Really enjoy your site even though I'm an Ohio State fan...as we don't quite have anything like it.

I'm not sure if that exact scenario rises to the level of a firing—which I'm guessing is the aim of the email—but that part at the top where you get a credible email from someone known to you about guys getting illegal benefits and do not immediately notify compliance is a huge deal. Maybe this is just me speaking as a Michigan fan who has lived through the great annoyance arising from a lack of communication with compliance, but I don't think so. Your compliance department is still "internal." It's not the NCAA. It's essentially on your side unless it really shouldn't be, and they need to know exactly these kinds of things. You can handle a bar fight internally. You cannot handle extra benefits internally.

There are also some key differences between the above scenario and what appears to have transpired at OSU. The hypothesized investigation-type substance where Hoke asks the player about selling tickets and gets a "no" is not sufficient in OSU's case—the original email broke lawyerly confidence to reveal a federal investigation had turned this up. The lawyer is a former OSU walk-on who has defended OSU players in court; he followed up his concern with a second credible email. That's a situation in which you can't just say "did you do this?" and be satisfied with the answer. Though we're not 100% sure on the details yet it seems like the information relayed should have been easy to confirm and only wasn't because there was strong motive not to.

I agree the form Tressel signed a few months later is one of those things that runs across your desk and you sign it because it's boilerplate. But once the investigation is underway, not telling the U or NCAA about some funny emails you responded to and even forwarded to Terrelle Pryor's sketchy "mentor" is far less plausibly innocent.

In the end, Ohio State got to and won a BCS bowl because of Tressel's actions that kept five ineligible players on the field; the alternative was likely indefinite suspensions until the investigation was completed. It looks like a breathtakingly cynical act, and it's not just Michigan fans saying this. What's described above can plausibly be described as "mistake"—and that is what separates it from Tressel's deliberate cover-up.

Brian,

I got into a conversation with one of my close friends from Michigan about something you wrote in a blog post two days ago:  "There's no reason any women's basketball coach not at UConn or Tennessee should be making more than 100k. What's going to happen? Are the empty seats going to stop coming?"

My friend had forwarded it to me because he thought your comment was hilarious.  It ended up leading into a much more detailed discussion on coaching salaries.  Have you by chance seen the athletic department salaries?  It is very interesting. 

Three things stand out:

1. dominated by the football staff (though not surprising)

2. the sheer number of women's sport coaches (regardless of gender) who make over $100,000 (softball, soccer, etc.)

*3. how many comparable sports where the women's coach makes significantly more than the men's coach.  for example, consider tennis (women's coach: $115k.   men's coach: $94K),  soccer (women's: $152K.  men's: $72.5K), track (women's: $122K.  men's: $82K), gymnastics (women's: $156K.  men's: $91K), and cross country (women's: $103K.  men's: $75K).    Any thoughts as to the reason for the discrepancies?  As far as I know, TItle 9 does not regulate coaching salaries.  Is it explainable by length of service?  Or perhaps that the men's coaches are making more through other avenues (i.e., camps, sponsorships, etc.)? 

Mike
BBA '01, Lifelong Michigan Fan

A number of the discrepancies are obvious: the women's soccer coach used to run the national team; the men's coach used to run Michigan's club team. Carol Hutchins has established Michigan as a softball superpower. She's the equivalent of women's basketball coaches at UConn and Tennessee. The women's track coach is in his 27th year while the men's coach is in his second; the cross-country coaches are in year 19 and 1, respectively.

While I don't get why there's such a gap in the gymnastics salaries—women's gymnastics is consistently very good but the men won the national title last year—most of those are easily explainable by seniority or other obvious factors. My main thing is that all these salaries grate when the NCAA claims poverty prevents them from doing more for the guys who bring in the money by risking what now seems to be quite a lot. The only environment in which a gymnastics program drawing 1500 people per meet can afford to pay their head coach 100 dollars for every head in the stands is one in which administrators are like "good God, what do we do with all this money?"

Um.

your next UV title most definitely needs to come from this site: http://yes.thatcan.be/my/next/tweet/

I put in mgoblog and got this sample tweet:

MGoPost: TomVH: An Interview with the board can't get any head explodes.

I am very sorry, board, but yes.thatcan.be/my/next/tweet/ does not lie. Not that it's making a huge leap in suggesting that about a sports message board.

Spring Game Extrapolations: Offense

Spring Game Extrapolations: Offense

Submitted by Brian on April 12th, 2011 at 3:23 PM

Nothing will ever bring home how bizarrely intense people get about spring football than Orson's annual in-depth review of Florida's spring game. It's the closest he gets to being a conventional team blogger, a straightforward piece of analysis long enough to be a Marky Mark Mangino post livened up by Orson's tendency to call things a "boiled bag of rat innards". Orson is writing about defensive tackles. It is April and college football is bored.

Michigan's got one of those this weekend and these are the things I'll be extrapolating answers from the tiniest filaments of evidence about:

Is Can Have Tailback

 stephen-hopkins-2lovemoose

Michigan's tailback last year was Denard Robinson and when it wasn't Denard Robinson it was people being enraged that Vincent Smith wasn't really fast or falling down past the line of scrimmage. This year some variety of pro-style offense will be deployed; having a tailback becomes significantly less optional.

Your candidates:

  • Vincent Smith, the 5'6" Pahokeean who was the leading non-Robinson rusher last year with 601 yards. He took 136 carries to get those—4.4 per—and struggled badly against anything approximating a good defense.
  • Michael Shaw. Carlos Brown 2.0 averaged a full yard per carry more than Smith mostly because he got hurt after the Bowling Green game.
  • Michael Cox. The Loch Ness Monster is reputed to be a stallion of a man capable of great feats. Unfortunately he is 50-50 to run towards the correct endzone on any given play.
  • Stephen Hopkins. Hopkins had some fumbling issues and only ended up with 37 carries last year but his size made him an effective lead blocker for Robinson and his rushes promised a Minor-like downhill moose down the road. We're a bit further down the road and Hopkins's new head coach loves him some moose.
  • Fitzgerald Toussaint. Toussaint has been vaporware in his first two years. Maybe he can stay healthy for the next twenty seconds.

There is also The Greatest Player In The History Of The World According To Two Jacksons. Thomas Rawls enters with the sort of hype you can only get by being a generic late-rising three star coached by Fred Jackson's son and recruited by Fred Jackson. Since he didn't enroll early we won't get to test the Jacksons' theory that Thomas Rawls encompasses the power of the sun and gently warms the earth each morning.

Looking for: A somewhat lighter, faster Hopkins with a grasp of what he should do. He's probably going to be the best back on the roster and he's now in a system that loves/needs a guy like him.

Fearing: Vincent Smith looks pretty much the same and still has a lock on the top TB spot. It's plausible that Smith's injury lingered into last season—remember he tore that ACL during the OSU game, so he had well under a year to get ready—and that he'll display a lot more speed and agility two years removed from it. If that's the case then maybe he can be a decent Big Ten starter. If he's still the same guy he was last year and he's still at the top of the depth chart and he's getting a lot of carries from the I when Denard could be doing something, guh.

Will only believe three games into the season: Cox as Herschel Walker. That guy is never going to play. He's a redshirt junior and couldn't get a carry last year even when half the tailback corps was injured and the rest was Smith and freshman Hopkins. And this is at tailback, the position where you can leap into the starting lineup on day one if, say, you're a human battering ram who runs like a gazelle. The only RB in recent Michigan history to get noticeably better late in his career was Chris Perry. Everyone else was the same guy they always were.

The Roundtree Question

What do you do with the Big Ten's second leading receiver when his production was predicated on the threat of Denard Robinson running and his position only sort of exists in the platonic ideal of a MANBALL offense?

The answer to this is probably "nothing." Borges said something about running a ton of three and four wide this season. Even if that's forced it sounds like Borges is going to roll with it, especially because his best wideout seems most comfortable in the slot—kinda need to have three WRs to have a slot—and the tight ends are sparse and stone-handed. Late-era Carr teams based out of three wide even after Steve Breaston had moved on to the NFL. Borges is more of a bomber than Carrbord and just spent a couple years running one of those "West Coast" offenses that throws damn near everything out there. So… yeah, expect three wideouts.

Okay, then, but the further question is: what will Borges do with the guy? Roundtree went nuts last year when the threat of Denard Robinson sucked safeties up and saw him stunningly wide open against Notre Dame and Indiana and Illinois and several other times besides. Can Borges run what he wants to run and surround Roundtree with nothing but grass?

Looking for: Michigan safeties to fail spectacularly because they can't decide whether to take Denard or stay back. If you can't do it to Michigan safeties you can't do it to anyone.

Fearing: Borges can't evolve the system to keep ahead of defenses and get those almost free touchdowns. I'm sure he can emulate QB Lead Oh Noes but Michigan had to keep re-arranging it to prevent safeties from showing up in the wrong place at the critical moment. Borges is a smart guy but his knowledge is in another arena. I'm not sure he'll be able to create as many opportunities with Denard's legs.

Will only believe three games into the season: Jeremy Gallon on the field.

Okay, You Run Power, But How?

powpuff1

Michigan ran POWER last year. They didn't run it much, but they did use it as a counter to the constant stretch action. It was fairly successful as a changeup. That move was part of the shift in Michigan's offense away from a true zone read to an odd QB-as-TB thing people called "QB iso" and didn't know what to do with—the AP put him on their All-America team as a "back." Like Rodriguez coming into DeBord's already extant stretch offense, Hoke is walking into a situation where his guys have some clue about what the new stuff is.

Unfortunately, we've seen bits and pieces of power plays run from under center in the practice videos that have invariably been stuffed. This is rock hard evidence it is not a good idea. So, like, what I'm saying is that if you've got Denard Robinson and you want to run power you might as well line up in the shotgun and run it with Denard Robinson, right?

A secondary question: how serious is Hoke about his distaste for zone running? He seems like a pretty hands-off guy when it comes to the offense, but if there's one thing he's stressed on that side of the ball it's that the team "will run power" and fullbacks will have their spine compressed and whatnot. This is something of a problem because Michigan has just completed the transition away from hampeople. Mike DeBord installed a zone stretch running game in 2006 and Michigan started recruiting to it. That first class was David Molk and Mark Huyge, now redshirt seniors.

Everyone recruited since has been either a relatively light and mobile spread OL or a prototypical left tackle. The prototype will be fine in any system; guys like Molk and Omameh and Ricky Barnum might not be. If Michigan spends the offseason putting beef on the interior line it might work out… or it might give them a bunch of tweeners not particularly good at anything.

Looking for: QB power.

Fearing: RB power.

Will only believe three games into the season: Michigan guards as effective drive blockers.

Lamarckian Denard

 Denard_PacmanGame_medium

EVOLLLLLLLLLVE

It was at last year's spring game that Robinson went from a freak show who should be moved to tailback to a freak show who should be in the Heisman running. He can't improve that much again without melting anyone who watches him, Ark of the Covenant style, but he was still pretty raw last year. He had bouts of drive- and game-crippling inaccuracy; he occasionally joined the Rex Grossman "f*** it, I'm going deep" club; he was restricted to a set of limited routes that teams adapted to as the leaves turned. He should progress. How much?

Looking for: Incremental improvement.

Fearing: Uncomfortable on drops and still prone to chucking slants well behind his receivers.

Will only believe three games into the season: hopefully that Denard Robinson can do anything.