This Week's Obsession: Targets Acquired

This Week's Obsession: Targets Acquired

Submitted by Seth on August 20th, 2014 at 11:02 AM

04 Fuller - 8358884667_5f2773bf31_o

[Fuller]

[UPDATED 12:25p.m. Now with 100% more Ace]

The Q: Michigan graduated much of its 2013 receiver depth chart and did away with the fancy Borges stacks and routes. In this new world, after Funchess, who's going to be Gardner's favorite target this year? Who are we going to see more or less of among the receivers/tight ends?

Brian: 1. Amara Darboh. Darboh was going to start last year and the buzz there was palpable. He brings physicality against what I promise you will be the grabbiest set of Big Ten pass defenses you've ever seen—the MSU effect—and he's even got mutant muscles in his arms, which I assume will be the entirety of Ace's response. He should ease past Canteen for the starting job, at least to start, and Canteen will have a tough time catching up since he's not going to drop off the face of the earth. 

2. Dennis Norfleet. This is an artifact of some assumptions about the rest of the offense. Namely, that they won't be able to run that well and the tight end situation is going to be suboptimal. With reports that Norfleet looks great in space and an offensive coordinator who's not afraid to throw to his WRs on the perimeter, Norfleet's catch volume should spike as Michigan looks to him for easy yards that get defenders out of the box.

3. Freddy Canteen. Yeah, he's probably Manningham again, but even Manningham had a bit of a slow start. It'll be close with Norfleet.

4. Jehu Chesson/Jake Butt. Your guess is as good as mine about relative frequency here. I have a hunch we're going to see tight ends stay in to block frequently this year what with the lack of NFL OTs, and Butt is going to miss at least a game or two after his ACL tear. But he's got a much clearer path to playing time than Chesson and already had more catches than Chesson did a year ago.

Everyone else gets scraps, maybe a dozen catches spread between AJ Williams, Keith Heitzman, Da'Mario Jones, and Jaron Dukes and another dozen to the tailbacks. I hope we don't see any of the true freshmen other than Canteen, because there's not much need either this year or next and all could use work.

[Jump for the rest of us twisting ourselves to not have the same responses]

Dear Diary Feels Like Football Season

Dear Diary Feels Like Football Season

Submitted by Seth on August 15th, 2014 at 3:13 PM

DSC_3627

There are five…SIX principle benchmarks of a quarterback. The secret is surprise, surprise and fear, fear and a fanatical devotion to protection… [Fuller]

Diarist of the Week MCalibur was bumped this morning. Scroll, or continue. Some Meta things to get into first.

East Coast Trip. The New York and Philly alumni associations have invited Brian to come do his spiel. Details:

  • Monday, 8/18: New York, New York (We're in New York!) Brian will be at Professor Thom's on 2nd Ave between 13th & 14th, 7pm to 8:30, for their annual kickoff event, along with Paul Myerberg of USA Today. There's a thread up to put your questions in, and for any other signup details.
  • Tuesday, 8/19: Philadelphia, PA. 6:30 to 9pm at the Fox and Hound on 15th and Spruce with the Philly alumni association. Thread for questions. They have tickets on sale and details here. Hot appetizers provided.

Yes Brian will have a stack of HTTVs there. About that…

draftkingsrotator

Check your mailbox right now. The bulk of the Kickstarter books should arrive today. These were supposed to go direct from the printer two weeks ago; instead they arrived a week ago in Ann Arbor, whence we got them to a mailing house and out as quickly as possible.

The t-shirt orders and signed books are coming. The books are now on sale. If you haven't gotten one yet, a reminder that book sponsor Draft Kings is still offering a free copy for a  $15 deposit—that's the least expensive method of acquisition. If that's not your bag, "pre-sale" has moved to "on sale" on the MGoStore. It also comes in digital. And if you know any Penn State fans, we made a version for them too (digital edition).

Ticket Center. We're shopping for a new ticket vendor where MGoBloggers will be able to exchange with each other for free and find better 16478122820130311412deals on tix, since this year's secondary market will be pretty alive this year. If you have preferences (not Stubhub—they haven't offered) let them be known in the comments; number one priority is what you'll want to use.

The Venn of Brandon. This by 4roses is a Venn of Brandon's responsibilities:

lyOmKZr

Do you need the entire key? I'm kind of confused on the methodology; I think the idea is the circle is whether it's a priority for the AD? Are we placing different ideas here, so like Slippery Rock is B3? How do we separate complaints about marketing in general from being bad at it?

[After the jump: recruiting's secret sauce, hoops practice, Darboh's arms, and political things]

Fall Camp Presser 8-12-14: Brady Hoke

Fall Camp Presser 8-12-14: Brady Hoke

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on August 13th, 2014 at 4:05 PM

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News bullets and other items:

  • The team scrimmages in Michigan Stadium on Wednesday
  • Mason Cole really, truly might play. Really.
  • Funchess was held out of practice but Hoke didn't even call it a boo-boo so he's likely fine
  • Csont’e York is still part of the program
  • Devin Gardner is expected to start against Appalachian State
  • The coaches will probably know their  starting offensive line after Saturday's scrimmage
  • Jake Butt being back by the Notre Dame game is “a little nuts”
  • Ross Douglas is a wide receiver

Opening remarks:

“Thanks for coming out. We continued, I think, as a team to practice hard. We continued as a team to take the incremental jumps that we want to keep making every day were out here I think from all positions. Again, the competition is such that it just creates a great competitive environment in everything we're doing. Happy with the effort we've had throughout camp, happy with the improvements and the progress. We need to keep getting better, I think that's a big part of it. The jump that we make this week as a team, because this is really a grind, is important. Tomorrow we'll put it together up at the stadium, we'll scrimmage up there. We'll see how many plays. Would like to get 120 in, 130 plays. We'll talk a little more in-depth what we want to get from each unit, from the first defense to the first offense, seconds, thirds, all the way down so that we can see – we're getting everybody some reps and also a good idea of guys playing up in that stadium.”

We've heard a lot about Mason Cole. What has he done to impress you guys and is it a good or a bad thing or are you concerned that you might have a true freshman starter on the offensive line?

”I think I'll take the back end of it first. If he's good enough, he's old enough. To this point so far he's been good enough. When you look at the people that he's gone against with Frank and those rush ends and the people that he's blocking, five techniques, he's held his own very well. I think I mentioned earlier sometime but he came in a little differently. I give a lot of credit to his coach and his high school team and their preparation. He has a great passion about playing the game.”

Any update on the injuries?

“Yeah, everybody was back. The only one, obviously Jake is still not full speed but the guys who got banged up – Funchess is the only guy that we held out a little bit but other than that I can't think of another guy. I'm just trying to think so I can give you accurate information.”

What happened to Funchess?
”He just got bumped up a little bit. He'll be okay. He probably could have gone today but we're trying to be smart. We've got a scrimmage tomorrow.”

Any update on Csont’e York and is he still a part of the program?
”No question. We are going to go through the process. You know, he's a guy who has been a part of this team and we'll go through this process. His status hasn't changed.”

So he's still part of the program?
”Yeah. Status hasn't changed.”

[Hit THE JUMP for more on Jake Butt, Devin Gardner, the inside linebackers, and a complete lack of clarity regarding the offensive line]

Media Day Presser 8-10-14: Doug Nussmeier

Media Day Presser 8-10-14: Doug Nussmeier

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on August 13th, 2014 at 12:01 PM

Not to compare it to last year, but what is a Doug Nussmeier offense? What is this offense going to look like?

“We want to play physical. We want to establish an identity as a physical and explosive offense.”

How have the guys embraced that?

“I feel really good about the way that our guys have worked. The players have worked extremely hard, had a good summer with Coach Wellman and come to camp, like I said, really focused. They’ve had a good first week.”

How important is it to figure out who you are on the offensive line and let them gel? [Note: that’s my best guess as to the question. The audio was garbled.]

“Obviously the sooner you can answer that question the better off you’re going to be. It’s not just the verbal communication but it’s also the nonverbal communication that goes on there. It’s something that we’re working on. We’re looking at a couple different scenarios and combinations right now and we’ll settle on that soon.”

Is there pressure or excitement or both?

“You know, it’s all how you look at it. There’s always excitement and pressure’s what you put on yourself. For me, the expectation at Michigan is extremely high and that’s the way we want it. That’s why you coach at Michigan, that’s why you play at Michigan. You embrace it. There’s a lot of guys that have played in this program and coached in this program before that have set a standard and you want to be part of that and that’s why it’s a special place.”

The offensive line had its struggles last year and yet lost two NFL Draft picks. How can this line be better even without that group?

“Well, we’re really excited about the group we have—young players and they’re growing everyday with different things. They’re trying to focus in on certain things that we do every week so that they can really get good and, as you say, get better with repetition and so hopefully each week we’ll get better and better.”

Are you starting to see guys blossom because of the opportunity?

“I think Coach [Hoke] has said it many times, we’ve created some really good competition on our team. We’re getting better and deeper as far as creating competition at different position and we’re moving guys around to create competition, so you’d think that competition brings out the best in every player.”

Coach Hoke said today that Drake Johnson and De’Veon [Smith] are kind of a cut above the other running backs. What set them apart, those two in particular?

“Well, first thing when you talk about De’Veon is you talk about how physical of a player he is. He’s a tough, tough guy and really day in and day out he’s a guy that puts on his hard hat and brings his lunch pail. To me that’s the thing that’s stood out the most about him. Drake looks really explosive coming off the injury from last year, did a great job with rehab. Schmidty [Paul Schimdt, Head Trainer] and his staff and Aaron [Wellman] this summer, they’ve done a great job of getting him ready to go. And Derrick Green’s done some really good things. Justice does some good things also. There’s a group of guys there and we’re really looking for somebody to separate themselves from the group.”

Brady [Hoke] said he wants toughness to be the identity of this team. For an offense what does that mean?

“Talk about being physical, being physical at the line of scrimmage. That’s across the board. Our wideouts are going to be be physical players. We’re going to demand that from everybody on the offense.”

[After THE JUMP: offensive installation, Devin Gardner, and Jabrill Peppers?]

2014 Preview: The X-Factors

2014 Preview: The X-Factors

Submitted by Ace on August 5th, 2014 at 2:15 PM


Where to start, really? [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]

In Brady Hoke's fourth year at the helm, Michigan heads into fall camp with far fewer questions about the starting lineup than we're used to hearing this time of year; even the offensive line looks pretty much set, though of course concerns about their ability will follow this team well into the season. Today I'm taking a look at the five players—some penciled in as starters, some not—whose emergence is critical to Michigan's success in 2014, either due to the depth at their position, their potential to become a real difference-maker, or both.

You'll be shocked to see that the list begins with an offensive lineman.

RT Ben Braden

Braden is #1 with a bullet for me. He replaces an NFL draft pick at a critical spot on a line in need of a whole lot of improvement, and the options behind him are very limited. Braden has great potential due to his Lewan-wowing combination of size (6'6", 322 lbs.) and athleticism, but there are also significant concerns—that same Lewan article, from last August, stated the starting left guard spot was Braden's to lose, but even in a season when the guards rotated with alarming frequency he played just two games, both as a reserve.

While it's far too early to say a lineman heading into his redshirt sophomore season has panned out or not, the fact that a true freshman and a 6'1" walk-on—Kyle Bosch and Joey Burzynski, respectively—saw the field over Braden last year is certainly worrisome. Adding to that concern is the depth at tackle this season. If Braden can't lock down his spot at right tackle, the first tackle off the bench looks likely to be another true freshman, Mason Cole, if the spring is any indication. A trio of redshirt freshmen provide depth, but none are close to sure things: Logan Tuley-Tillman likely needs at least another year of development, Chris Fox mostly spent last year rehabbing an ACL tear, and David Dawson seems more suited to guard.

It's true that any of Michigan's O-linemen could be on this list—in fact, there's another later—but Braden's spot in the lineup appears the least certain, and he just happens to be in a spot that could cause a complete reshuffling of the line if he can't hold the job.

NT Ondre Pipkins

There are really four interior defensive linemen that could go here; Willie Henry, Chris Wormley, and Maurice Hurst were under serious consideration, but Henry seems like he'll be at least a passable starter, and the three-tech spot—where Wormley and Hurst are slated to play—doesn't have the same importance as the nose (while boasting more depth on this roster). Also, only one of these guys was a five-star All-American out of high school, and it's Pee Wee Pipkins.

Pipkins is, rather shockingly, already a true junior, and his time to make that five-star impact is quickly running out after he blew out an ACL against Minnesota last year, just as he was showing signs of reaching his potential. He's reportedly fully recovered from that injury, though there's no telling how it'll affect him until he's back playing in actual games. If he's healthy, he could develop into some unholy combination of Gabe Watson and Alan Branch; he could also be the next Will Campbell, and that's without accounting for the potential that he's not fully comfortable on that knee.

While Michigan doesn't necessarily need Pipkins in the starting lineup—Henry can start at the nose next to a three-tech platoon of Wormley/Hurst/others—they need him to be healthy and productive enough to rotate in a good deal, unless Bryan Mone is remarkably ahead of the curve for a true freshman nose tackle. It'd also, of course, be really nice to see the affable Pipkins return to the how-the-hell-is-that-blob-chasing-down-Stefon Diggs form he showed in his standout Army AA Game performance a couple years ago.

WR Amara Darboh

"Today in practice I witnessed the single greatest catch I've ever seen in person." — Devin Gardner

We got a couple tantalizing looks at Darboh before he missed the 2013 season with a foot injury: the amazing catch from a 2012 Outback Bowl practice (right) and a nice deep sideline grab in the 2013 Spring Game. While Jehu Chesson did a solid job as the #3 receiver last year, Darboh was considered the clear leader for that role—really the #2 receiver role at the time, before everyone figured out Devin Funchess was a tight end in name only—and he also garnered more hype as a recruit.

This admittedly isn't an area of significant need for Michigan; Freddy Canteen, Moe Ways, Jaron Dukes, and DaMario Jones provide plenty of depth and talent at receiver.* None of those guys possess the combination of talent, physical development, and knowledge of the offense that Darboh has right now, however, and the capable-of-catching-anything aspect to Darboh's game is something I'd like to see on the field.

Having a sure-handed possession receiver across from Devin Funchess could make Michigan's passing game downright scary, and early in the season it could also help cover for the absence of a receiving threat at tight end while Jake Butt recovers from his ACL injury. Darboh, who's now listed at 6'2", 211 pounds, potentially fits that bill better than anyone on the roster.

*I'd include Drake Harris, too, but he's coming off a lost senior season of high school due to a hamstring injury and he needs to gain weight, so a redshirt hopefully beckons.

RG Kyle Kalis

This should probably be Jake Butt's spot, but I'm going with Kalis here, since he's a five-star talent on a line in need of that, and after one rough year it appears he's been written off by many. I mean, this was in Brian's post-spring 27 Tickets, when he (ever so jinxfully) assumed now-Buckeye Chad Lindsay would transfer from Alabama to Michigan and take over the center spot:

7879940[1]27. G Kyle Bosch, So. [Last time: 25]

Under assumption that Lindsay comes in, Glasgow displaces one of Braden/Bosch/Kalis. Random guess here is that it's Kalis because Bosch should improve more as younger guy but your guess is as good as mine. So is Hoke's.

Kalis was left out of the top 27.

While I realize Kalis underperformed last year, and not all of that can be chalked up to coaching ... well, you all saw the mess on the line, and assigning individual blame for that tire fire is a difficult, if not impossible, endeavor. Kalis was thrust into a starting job as a redshirt freshman, then moved in and out of the lineup as the coaches tried (and failed) to find something that would work—not exactly a recipe for success for a first-year starter regardless of talent.

And boy, does Kalis have talent. Offensive linemen are the toughest prospects to project with much accuracy, but he looked like the surest of sure things out of high school. Many of his issues last year appeared to stem from uncertainty about his assignment; given his freshmandom and the sheer number of schemes Michigan tried to run last year, that's understandable. The simplified, inside zone-centric offense under Doug Nussmeier should suit him well; if he's confident enough in his knowledge of the playbook to stop thinking and starting clobbering, we could see a huge step forward from him this fall.

NICKEL/S/CB Jabrill Peppers

Braden is the #1 X-factor, in my opinion, because of his importance to the team's success this year; if you think of X-factors as players who can make an impact in a number of ways, however, the obvious choice is Peppers. Obviously.

The coaches maintain that they'll start him out at nickel, and he could make a huge difference there as a prototype hybrid space player who's equally adept in coverage and run support. He could very well start from day one at strong safety, the only spot in the secondary with any real uncertainty, and the way Greg Mattison utilized that spot in the Spring Game—aggressively rolling the SS into the box often—is ideally suited for a player like Peppers. He could even challenge Raymon Taylor at boundary corner, though with the rise of Jourdan Lewis the need for Peppers at corner appears less than the two other defensive positions he could play this year.

Personally, I'm hoping that sooner or later he starts at strong safety, where he could bring a level of playmaking Michigan hasn't had back there since... uh... let's go with "a while ago." I don't believe the coaches will ask Peppers to make an impact on offense this year, but special teams is another story—his potential as a return man is massive, and I have a hard time believing the coaches won't try to get the ball in his hands one way or another.

Ryan to MLB and Other People Doing Other Things: What it All Means

Ryan to MLB and Other People Doing Other Things: What it All Means

Submitted by Seth on February 21st, 2014 at 12:19 PM

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[Fuller]

I'm going to skip the user-generated content column, since there wasn't very much of it this week, and talk about the position swaps. The top two diaries at right are new this week.

Something completely different. Brady Hoke attended the Detroit alumni association's annual event yesterday and went on WTKA this morning, leaking out some position changes and player updates, as well as explaining the thinking behind the defensive position coach shakeup. News via nickbob:

Jake Ryan moving to MIKE

Chris Bryant to take medical

Magnuson will miss "most" of spring, will do some individual stuff, surgery went well

Tuley-Tillman had hand surgery

Drake Johnson and Darboh are limited and working their way back

Some other odds and ends related to the D coaching moves

Also Taco Charlton will be moving from WDE to SDE. Let's discuss.

DSC_7409
More Ryan is a good thing. [Fuller]

Moving Ryan. This, like the coaching changes, is a response to college football going mostly spread. Hoke said that Ohio State effectively neutralized Ryan against the run by spreading out, thus moving him out of the box. Here's your matchups for strongside linebackers on Michigan's 2014 schedule:

  • Vs tight end/manball: MSU, Minnesota, PSU*
  • Vs slot receiver, spread-to-run: App State, Utah, Ohio State
  • Vs slot receiver, spread-to-pass: ND, Miami(NTM), Maryland, Indiana, NW'ern

The * for PSU is because Franklin's offense is a bit of a hybrid; when adapted to Penn State's current roster I'm guessing it ends up a zone-blocked, tight-end-heavy passing offense that moves at warp speed. Northwestern will be a lot more passy with Trevor Siemian instead of Colter. Only two games will heavily feature a SAM taking on tight end blocks.

Upside: anyone who's watched Te'o or Bullough against us in recent years can attest how much of a difference a great middle linebacker can make. The downgrade from Demens to last year's linebackers in deep zone coverage was probably the defense's biggest liability, and Ryan to date has been a plus zone defender.

Downsides: SAM just went from Michigan's strongest position on defense to a huge question mark, since Cam Gordon graduated and Beyer was moved to SDE, leaving just unheralded Spur (i.e. safety)-like object Allen Gant and neophytes.

The obvious thing would be for Beyer to switch back, though Hoke told Sam Webb that isn't happening. Rather James Ross may swap to SAM, and Morgan/Bolden/Gedeon will compete/rotate at WILL and backup MIKE. Weight Watch 2014 just became how big will James Ross be watch. If Ross seizes the position this spring I think things will work out fine, though this has to be a comedown from our hype going into last year. McCray or one of the freshmen could factor in.

The other downside is the most consistent generator of pass rush is no longer on the pass rush.

[Jump: moving Taco, OL damage, coach position switches]

First Look: Offense 2014

First Look: Offense 2014

Submitted by Brian on December 31st, 2013 at 1:20 PM

DEPARTURES IN ORDER OF SIGNIFICANCE.

imageSchofield-[1]

  1. LT Taylor Lewan. Four year starter took all kinds of heat for performance of Michigan OL as if he was able to play four positions at once or he had some sort of deficiency in his Leadership Aura and was not communicating enough Leadership to the rag-tag interior line. Was in fact the same player he was as a junior—a great one—and NFL draft slot in the first round will reflect this.
  2. WR Jeremy Gallon. Michigan's all-time single season receiving yards record is now his, so at least I was right about one thing in the preseason. Short, but good at fades; eviscerated Notre Dame; eviscerated Indiana; eviscerated Ohio State; best pound for pound WR in country not named Lockett.
  3. RT Michael Schofield. Overshadowed by Lewan his entire career but emerged into a complete run/pass tackle as a senior. I know there was so much pressure up the middle that there were fewer opportunities than normal for tackles to biff, but when's the last time you remember Schofield getting beat by a pass rusher? That one time he miscommunicated with Toussaint doesn't count. I mean straight-up beat. It's hard to remember. Will be missed; will be drafted.
  4. WR Drew Dileo. Sticky-fingered Louisiana gnome sort of epitomized 2013 with ill-time drops, but was a reliable chain-mover and special teams tool. Will miss calling him "sticky-fingered Louisiana gnome" because obviously.
  5. RB Fitzgerald Toussaint. Final game saw him receive two carries; entire career one long comedown from explosive junior season; horrible, horrible pass blocker. Had mostly been replaced by end of year.
  6. WRs Jeremy Jackson and Joe Reynolds. Little-used backups were good program guys but should be replaceable.

WHAT'S LEFT

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I may have reused these pictures. The numbers may be a give away.

  1. QB Devin Gardner. Chaos machine seemed to reduce interceptions as season went along, but how much that perception changes if some guys catch some passes in their guts is up for debate. Excellent YPA despite having most of his body ground into paste by year's end. Should take step forward as senior; still major X-factor.
  2. WR Devin Funchess. For the love of God, world, stop pretending this man is a tight end. Looking at you, Big Ten awards committee. Michigan's second-leading receiver with 49 catches for 748 yards and six TDs; works just fine as a jumbo WR, thanks. Hands issues late after fine start to career. Go-to WR next year.
  3. OL Graham Glasgow. Only returning OL to have and hold a job all year; had some struggles after move to center; has the size and athleticism for the major college level of competition, as ESPN is wont to say; will play somewhere but Michigan probably hoping Patrick Kugler bounces him out to guard.
  4. TE Jake Butt. Site tagline does not refer to him. Productive freshman season saw him add 45 pounds and catch 20 balls for 235 yards; was probably M's best blocker at the spot; 15 more pounds and he is the dual threat Borges has wanted from day one.
  5. OL Erik Magnuson. Entered on second line shuffle of year and stuck; now obviously moving out to tackle and must be quality, because options other than him are scanty indeed.
  6. OL Kyle Kalis. Recruiting sheen severely reduced after painful redshirt freshman season saw him benched, supposedly for an undisclosed ankle injury. Performance even before that was middling at best. But was FR OL.
  7. OL Kyle Bosch. True freshman showed some promise; showed a lot of true freshman business. Momentarily replaced Kalis but then lost his job to Kalis once again. Tentatively penciled in as a starter
  8. WR Jehu Chesson. Nominal starter hardly targeted in first few games and then saw Funchess eat his job; did grab 15 balls for 221 yards and crushed a few dudes, whether it was on special teams or after the catch. Probably still the #3 WR with Amara Darboh's return but a promising freshman year should see him eat up some of Gallon's targets.
  9. TE AJ Williams. Blocking TE seemed to regress after freshman year; could not block. Major issue needs repairing STAT.
  10. FB Joe Kerridge. Your primary blocking back. May be drafted as pass protector again, but hopefully not.

WHAT'S NEW, OR CLOSE ENOUGH, ANYWAY

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Kugler and Braden may step in

One or two or three guys on the offensive line. At this instant your leaders on the offensive line are probably Magnuson-Bosch-Glasgow-Kalis mentioned above and Ben Braden at RT, but that is the shakiest depth chart in the history of the concept. Magnuson is the only certainty, as Michigan isn't going to trust anyone else to be their left tackle a year after Braden went from sure starter to ghost because he didn't have the foot quickness to hack it at guard. Glasgow is also pretty safe, as he didn't get pulled from the lineup last year and can play any of the three interior spots.

Everyone else is 50/50 at best with Michigan getting five guys off redshirts and having a few veterans also competing. Will Patrick Kugler be the man from day one at center? Will Chris Bryant get it together? Will David Dawson beat someone out whether it's at guard or right tackle, where I've heard they expect him to compete? The answers to these questions will start trickling in during spring and not have a full resolution until Michigan's first offensive snap… if then.

A dang running back who can run the dang ball, again. I'm lumping Michigan's four returning tailbacks into the "new" category for reasons both obvious and hopeful:

  • Drake Johnson tore his ACL covering a kick after two carries.
  • Justice Hayes had two carries last year; De'Veon Smith had 26.
  • Derrick Green did get 83 carries, normally enough to put him into the returning category, but with so many of those doomed by the OL in front of him and the hope that he goes from kind of plodding to the lean brute that impressed recruiting analysts, those 83 carries don't mean much.

For the third straight year Michigan will be looking for anything that works on the ground other than Denard Robinson, and what Michigan can expect from its tailbacks is still in doubt.

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"The single greatest catch I've ever seen in person" –Devin Gardner

African refugee wide receivers, again. Amara Darboh's debut was delayed by a foot injury suffered late in fall camp; this year he should debut as something between an uninspiring chain mover and Jason Avant (but fast)! Darboh had buckets of practice hype after a series of spectacular catches put him on everyone's lips in press conferences. He was clearly ahead of Chesson at the time and probably still is after Chesson had a decent but not paradigm-shifting debut.

And we can throw in Chesson here, too: he figures to absorb a lot of snaps not just from Gallon but Dileo, Jackson, and Reynolds. With Gallon's targets spreading across the offense he'll get a shot to be an impact player he didn't this year.

Dennis Norfleet, for pants' sake. I swear on this bible factory that if Michigan can't find a productive role for Dennis Norfleet in this offense I am going to break every rule in the factory of bibles I have just sworn upon. This does not mean bringing him in motion every time he's on the field. It means looking at him as a slot receiver instead of a tiny bouncy freak show, which okay yeah he is but seriously people just imagine what West Virginia would do with the guy and do it.

More TE-ish guys. Khalid Hill and Wyatt Shallman come off redshirts and should bring blocky/catchy/runny aspects to the guys on the field who aren't WRs or RBs, whatever you'd like to call them. With Butt and Williams aging and hopefully improving, Michigan might have some options here to do tricky things, particularly in the redzone. If any of them can block.

WHAT'S ROD STEWART 1972

Gardner to Funchess. This was Gardner to Gallon last year. This year it is pretty obvious what replaces that: Devin Funchess blew up after his move to WR, taking end-arounds and leaping over people both before and after he acquired the ball. They even threw him a couple fades late in the year when it occurred to them that maybe that was a good idea.

Unfortunately, after a very strong start to his career in the catching department drops became an issue around the Michigan State game. The overall picture is still a guy with very good hands and a huge catching radius, though.

He's already the Big Ten's second-leading returning receiver, behind only Hoosier Cody Latimer, and Latimer plays in a light-speed offense that inflates basic counting stats. With a full season at WR and Gallon off to the NFL, a thousand-yard season is a certainty. The only question is at what point television accepts the fact that he's a wideout.

What happens if Gardner gets injured, at least relative to usual. Michigan seems to have itself a legit backup QB in Shane Morris for the first time in forever.

Passing weapons writ large. There is some projection in saying this, but it doesn't seem like Gallon's departure is going to leave Gardner bereft of options. He's got a #1 guy ready to step into that role and then you've got Darboh, Chesson, Butt, Norfleet, and possibly contributors from either the three-man 2013 class or Drake Harris/Moe Ways/Freddy Canteen in 2014. Five veterans plus six young options looks like a lot of options to me.

WHAT'S ROD STEWART 2013

Pass protection. This was horrendous and doesn't figure to get a lot better with both tackles out the door. Magnuson still needs to add 15-20 pounds to hold up against bull rushes and the question mark at right tackle is highly ominous. Maybe I'm making too much of Braden's swift disappearance from the two deep in fall, but… man, to swiftly disappear from that two-deep would seem to bode unwell. If it's not Braden then it seems like Michigan is trying to shoehorn a guy who would be better at guard into the RT spot, whether it's Dan Samuelson or David Dawson or even Bosch. Add to that continuing uncertainty on the interior and it's easy to see Michigan QBs get harassed as much as they were this year.

The seeming certainty that there will be three (or more!) brutal clunkers from this unit. Three years in and Borges's crew has thrown up at least three horrendous games a year, every year, as whatever mad scientist stuff Borges throws at the wall backfires spectacularly when his team can't execute the new stuff and can't execute anything else because the offense is a chameleon from game to game with the exception of throwback screens.

How far they have to go and how much time they have to do it in. Discussed more in the next section, but it seems like the best case scenario next year is improvement by default that gives us little insight into what Michigan should do going forward. Regression to the mean should see Michigan uptick in many categories in which they set dubious records. Hooray,  but if Michigan is 70th in TFLs allowed in year four that just puts us in an uncertain netherworld. Your options here:

  • Michigan has a near repeat of last year. PRO: No uncertainty here as everyone is put on a donkey and ridden out of town. CON: Michigan has a near repeat of last year.
  • Michigan is below mediocre on the line, but not a completely unwatchable tire fire. PRO: Manage to avoid stabbing other eye out. CON: No idea whether to stay the course and hope for further improvement in year five or move on after third consecutive mediocre at best season.
  • Michigan is good! PRO: Michigan is good. CON: Drugs are expensive.

It's hard to see anything definitively good happening next year.

WHAT'S HEISENBERG ROD STEWART UNCERTAINTY

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The offensive line can't be worse, right? This is a repeat from last year, because the offensive line was worse and now the offensive line is losing two NFL tackles. This year… they literally cannot be worse. Michigan finished 123rd of 123 in tackles for loss allowed and turned Devin Gardner into hamburger. So we've got that going for us. The offensive line can't be worse, because they're already at the bottom.

Okay but can they be massively better? That is the real question here. Michigan has to be vastly better on the offensive line next year or it's firing time: for Funk definitely, for Borges definitely, and after (hypothetically) three straight years of non-Denard utter incompetence on the ground probably Hoke.

And… yikes. Frankly, writing this bit makes me think they should just throw everyone over right now because how can you go from that to average in one year while losing your two best guys? These kind of reclamation projects are two-year deals, usually, and that's if they get reclaimed at all.

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD CAN ANYONE OTHER THAN DENARD ROBINSON PICK UP THREE FEET ON THE GROUND? This is also a repeat from last year, because the answer was NO FOR THE LOVE OF GOD NO. For perspective, Michigan rushed for 3.9 yards a carry in 2008, with Brandon Minor leading the way at 5.2 yards a pop. Last year, Michigan had 3.3. This rushing offense was tons worse than the 2008 outfit despite having some very threatening weapons on the outside. No offense to Nick Sheridan, Steven Threet, Greg Mathews or Martavious Odoms, but in terms of loosening up a defense… uh… does this sentence need to continue? Nope. It ended right there.

Michigan must have a function running back for the first time in three years or it's head-lopping time.

Can Gardner get his interceptions down to a reasonable rate? You'd think this would improve what with experience and not getting annihilated all the time, but 1) he might get annihilated all the time, and 2) we saw with Denard that sometimes guys just don't get better at taking care of the ball as they acquire experience. This is pretty much another do or die here for Borges: have one of your quarterback show major improvement or GTFO.

MANDATORY WILD ASS GUESS

Oh hell, I don't know. Things should get better on the ground and the pass protection won't be great… could be just as bad. Gardner's experience and a lot of options in the passing game should result in something more tolerable than 2013. How much and how much impact that has on the wins and losses I just don't know anymore man.

Fall Camp Presser Transcript 8-22-13: Al Borges

Fall Camp Presser Transcript 8-22-13: Al Borges

Submitted by Heiko on August 22nd, 2013 at 2:38 PM

Opening remarks:

"These high chairs are not really built for me. Hrnggh. How's my hair look?"

Great. Bad news about Amara Darboh. How do you compensate for that?

"Well, fortunately we have some pretty good kids that can fill in, but I feel probably worse for him than anybody. The kid had an excellent spring ball and capped it off with a fabulous two-a-days. He was playing good. I feel bad because I really feel like this was going to be a big, almost maybe even a coming-out season for him. But he's got a redshirt, so I guess there's a silver lining, but I just feel bad for the kid."

Does this maybe put a little more pressure on Jehu Chesson?

"Well Jehu would do it. Joe Reynolds will be out there. Jeremy Jackson. We have some capable replacements, thank goodness. All those guys, not just Jehu, but everybody."

Will you consider any position changes to try to get some depth?

"Oh I don't think so. I think we're still okay. We can't lose too many more."

Are any of the freshmen capable at this point?

"No. No. Not really."

Not yet?

"No. Not yet. But we're not completing eliminating them, either. Not yet, anyway."

Unverified Voracity Busts Out Orbiting Panic Guy

Unverified Voracity Busts Out Orbiting Panic Guy

Submitted by Brian on August 21st, 2013 at 12:53 PM

image

also Panic Kornheiser Google Image Search

Dammit, dammit, dammit. You have probably heard that Amara Darboh has blown up something in his foot and is out for the year. This calls for the little panic guy.

panic

Michigan is not going to replace Darboh's combination of size and blocking and receiver expectations should be downgraded a notch. Judging from scrimmage highlights and practice buzz, Jehu Chesson or Joe Reynolds is the next man in. Hopefully it's Chesson, who has excellent upside; realistically both guys are going to split Darboh snaps.

Michigan may also turn to more plays on which Devin Funchess splits out. While Funchess doesn't have the same speed Darboh does he can duplicate some of the leapy-catchy Hemingway business Michigan just lost.

At least Darboh gets a redshirt.

Elsewhere in PANIC. Bad sign:

"More production" in this case probably means "fewer blown tackles/coverages." That's bad. What's more, the seemingly odd move of Courtney Avery back there signals that Michigan is scrambling at that spot. If it was a safety coming through another safety, fine. A 175-pound corner whose health is constantly in question triggers my alarm bells.

That's a death knell for Josh Furman, for one. While it's less of a negative sign for Jeremy Clark since he's just a year into the program, it would have been nice if he was able to play once Wilson faltered.

Feel better? George Campbell Whitfield, broom-wielding quarterback guru, on Devin Gardner:

“I was shocked,” Whitfield said. “I had only seen him in a couple cameos at Michigan. I was shocked at all the talent, how strong he was, how athletic, how fast.

“We worked on a lot of footwork ... weight transition, the ability to drop, put your foot in the ground, stop and work back into a play. That’s not always easy. ... We spent quite a bit of time on chaos training — what happens if two linemen got beat, halfway through drop, and I don’t have to pull rip cord or I’m getting chased to left sideline, I’m a right-handed quarterback, how do I make this throw?”

Gardner's main issue is accuracy—too many times last year he missed on simple throws because of erratic mechanics. Hopefully an offseason of ownership sees him make serious progress there.

[after THE JUMP: pudding pops, Bartlestein on the shot, and advice for freshmen.]

Fall Camp Presser Transcript 8-21-13: Brady Hoke

Fall Camp Presser Transcript 8-21-13: Brady Hoke

Submitted by Heiko on August 21st, 2013 at 11:31 AM

Bullets:

  • Boo boos are the worst.
  • Fitz Toussaint has been named the starter at tailback. Act surprised.
  • Ryan Glasgow and Willie Henry are backing up Jibreel Black at 3-tech. Wormley is strictly a 5-tech, and Tom Strobel has fallen off the depth chart it would appear. 
  • Heitzman, Wormley, and Godin are rotating at the 5-tech.
  • Blake Countess is the nickel corner for the nickel package. That tentatively means Michigan is experimenting with a nickel package of Raymon Taylor (CB), Delonte Hollowell (CB), Blake Countess (NB), Thomas Gordon (S), and Courtney Avery (S).
  • Cam Gordon has been proclaimed the No. 1 guy at SAM. I've been strongly predicting Beyer to beat out Cam Gordon, but perhaps this will not be case. We'll see what happens once game day rolls around, but for now I'll concede that I was wrong.
  • In things I'm not so willing to concede, Hoke says that Ben Braden has moved to tackle (he and Magnuson are third in the tackle pecking order) yet remains a guard. While Braden certainly has the ability to play guard (and took snaps there in the scrimmage when Bryant was out), he has not been taking practice reps there for two weeks now, suggesting that Michigan wants him at tackle. Ultimately, none of this matters. It's Bryant or busted assignments.

--------------------

Opening remarks:

"We had our last two-a-day practice. I thought we ended that part of it, as far as the two practices a day, in pretty good shape. Did a lot this morning. Physical this morning, physical this afternoon. I like how the kids are coming out and how they're competing with each other. We have 11 days until we kick the ball off, so we have to make sure our timing, playing with speed, playing fast, playing physical like we want to -- we get all those things accomplished. I like the leadership and where we're at."

Do you wish the weather had been this warm earlier in camp?

"Yeah. It would have been nice if it had a little more heat, and I think we'll get some more this week, which will be good for us."

Have you made any personnel decisions yet? Center? SDE?

"Jack [Miller] and Graham [Glasgow], obviously. Chris [Bryant] didn't participate the other night, but he's back out there today. We played Graham at a lot of guard, so today we played them both in there at center a little bit more. I think we're getting closer."