This Week’s Obsession: Most Snakebit Player in Recent Memory

This Week’s Obsession: Most Snakebit Player in Recent Memory Comment Count

Seth April 21st, 2016 at 12:44 PM

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Melanie Maxwell/Ann Arbor.com

The Question:

What it says in the title duh. Note: other than Drake Johnson, who was obviously the inspiration for this.

The Responses:

Ace: Two years ago, it was hard to imagine Caris LeVert would make a list like this. After forcing John Beilein to burn his redshirt and contributing to the 2012-13 title game squad, he played an effective second banana to Nik Stauskas on a 2013-14 team that nearly made it back to the Final Four and set the (since surpassed) KenPom standard for offensive efficiency. The blueprint was there for LeVert to step into Stauskas’ role as a junior, play at or near an All-American level, lead a deep tourney run, and then face a difficult decision about whether to turn pro early.

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Lucy will let him get back on the court next time, Charlie Brown. [Bryan Fuller]

Instead, Michigan struggled out of the gate in 2014-15, suffering a few humiliating defeats as the team failed to gel around LeVert, who struggled to maintain his sophomore-year efficiency. As Michigan survived a last-second, game-tying attempt by Northwestern at Crisler in mid-January, LeVert went down clutching his foot while the rest of the team celebrated. On a seemingly innocuous play, he’d suffered a season-ending injury; without him, Michigan missed the postseason, and LeVert returned to try it again his senior year.

LeVert looked fantastic, putting up All-American-level numbers as the team’s centerpiece, and Michigan made it through non-conference play with a quality win over Texas and no bad losses. LeVert was poised to lead his team to a decent NCAA seed while cementing his standing as a first-round NBA prospect. Then, in the waning moments of the conference opener at Illinois, it happened again: LeVert stepped on a defender’s foot, rolled his ankle, and came up limping.

[Continue at THE JUMP even though you don’t want to, because you know you should, even if it’s painful. If you make it to the end there are 24 minutes of Denard highlights]

Comments

Mailbag: Recruiting Concern, Countess Impact, Are We Basically Iowa, Outrageous Afro

Mailbag: Recruiting Concern, Countess Impact, Are We Basically Iowa, Outrageous Afro Comment Count

Brian June 9th, 2015 at 12:30 PM

Dytarious Johnson is mean

The question we no longer have to answer about basketball

Brian,

Does it concern you yet that Harbaugh and staff are going after so many 3-star or less recruits (and even unranked ones) rather than shooting for more 4- and 5-star types?  Might JH be underestimating his own standing and instead still be in "I'm at Stanford" mentality (i.e., "I need to find the hidden gems because the 5-stars are going to USC, Alabama, and such")?

Thanks for the blog, and give Ace a raise.

Hail to the bloggers,

Dayne

This is so overblown. Michigan has ten commits. Five of them are composite four-stars (Swenson, Onwenu, Peters, Falcon, and Evans). Of the five who aren't, one committed to Brady Hoke (Harding), one is (probably) a fullback (Reese), and one picked up Nebraska, LSU, and Florida offers after his commitment (Davis). The two other guys are Kiante Enis and Dytarious Johnson. Enis ran for three thousand(!) yards last year and Johnson looks like a BAMF on his Hudl film.

That is not a high flier rate thus far. The two guys who truly qualify are both gentlemen an expert talent evaluator has seen in person.

Meanwhile, here is a list of high four star recruits who Michigan is thought to lead for: NJ WR Ahmir Mitchell, NJ WR Brad Hawkins, PA TE Nasseir Upshur, MD OL Terrance Davis, WI OL Ben Bredeson, MI DE Khalid Kareem, and NJ DE Ron Johnson. They are at or near the top for five star NJ DT Rashan Gary and CA LB Caleb Kelly.

They won't get all those guys; they'll get a healthy chunk, and they'll get involved with more guys down the road. It's not going to be an Alabama class but it should be comfortably top ten.

And that's only half the reason recruiting concern is overblown. The other half:

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That class was Andrew Luck and three stars. It followed a class that was all three stars, and ranked ninth in the then Pac-10. Stanford was slightly better than that when those classes bore fruit. Recruiting is important; coaching is more important.

[After the JUMP: Countess impact, concerns that Michigan's skill position players are no better than Iowa's, outrageous afro.]

Comments

Unverified Voracity Has A Busy Week

Unverified Voracity Has A Busy Week Comment Count

Brian May 26th, 2015 at 12:42 PM

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Star-Trib

Hey: tournaments. Softball making the postseason is a given, and even the CWS is kind of expected when they're having a good year. Baseball not so much, but they played themselves in off the bubble. So here we are with an unusually busy late May sports weekend.

Softball's opener is against Alabama on Thursday at 8 PM Eastern on ESPN2. Alabama's 47-13, the #6 overall seed, and one of five(!) SEC teams to make it. All eight national seeds made it to the CWS because softball is way more predictable than baseball. if they win that they will play on Friday at 10:30; if they lose they'll be in an elimination game on Saturday at 3:30.

Baseball kicks off its regional against two-seed Bradley at 2 on Friday. That game is only available on ESPN3; Louisville is the top seed and host. Let's find out about Bradley!

"We don't know anything about Bradley, so we are going in with a blindfold on," Cronenworth said.

Nevermind!

Let's have a DB transfer key party. Just days after the Moncrief kerfuffle, Blake Countess announces he'll spend his final year at Auburn. Excellent pickup if you're going to play a lot of zone, but this is the important part.

So they've got that going for them.

Holy pants. Remember a few days ago when I compared the Big Ten's DOA freshman ineligibility plan to Nationwide Your Kid Just Died? They may have literally been created by the same people.

The Big Ten floated the “year of readiness” plan mostly as a ploy to get people focused on discussing more academic and student-welfare issues, or what Glass called “less controversial and more doable” reforms.

Aaaaand

Nationwide ran an ad during the Super Bowl that started a fierce conversation. The sole purpose of this message was to start a conversation, not sell insurance.

Unfortunately, Jim Delany isn't accountable to anyone. Jim Delany could walk around pooping big scarlet Rs on Big Ten fans and it wouldn't impact his job security. He could jump on the hood of a car and fire 17 scarlet Rs at unarmed passengers and get acquitted. Nationwide bro got future endeavored.

“Matt accomplished a great deal during his time at Nationwide and we wish him the very best in his future endeavors,” Nationwide spokesman Joe Case said.

No such luck for the Big Ten's partisans.

Camp Sanderson yoke up of the year. Can't be summer on a Michigan blog without a picture of a basketball player who has put on an impressive amount of muscle. Memorial Day has just passed, so:

That is a big leap, one that should help him a lot as he gets drafted into playing some center this year.

To rein people in, stop reining them in. Via Get The Picture, GT coach Paul Johnson has a way to fix all the offer-not-offer stuff going on in college football currently:

Once you start your senior year of high school, you should be able to sign at any time,” Johnson said. “The schools have their 85 scholarships, and you can sign no more than 25 in a year. When you sign your limit, you’re through. If you sign a kid and he doesn’t qualify, you lose it for that year. We put the onus back on the kids with better grades and better students, and we stop all the craziness of the hat shows, soft commits, decommits and all that.”

You can't stop a hat show, but he's right on about that. My blue sky version of that goes slightly farther:

  • players can sign a non-binding LOI whenever they want
  • this LOI commits the school to offering a slot in their class
  • the kid can withdraw it at any time until Signing Day
  • he can only visit the school he committed to, he has unlimited contact with that school, and other coaches can't call him

It's a bad idea to lock people into commitments before the coaching carousel stops moving in mid-January, but that system gives both schools and players incentives to be up front with each other. Johnson:

“If a kid said he was committed, you hand him the papers. If he didn’t sign, you knew he wasn’t committed. The same thing on the schools. If the kid went in, and they said, ‘You’ve got an offer,’ and the kid wants to sign, (he’d) call their bluff as well."

As GTP says, hard to argue with that logic.

A bit on Hibbitts. I wonder if Michigan went with preferred walk-on Brent Hibbitts over Max Bielfeldt with their last scholarship this year. Once they missed on Jaylen Brown it seemed like they had a spot to keep a guy who is drawing interest from Nebraska and Indiana. Bielfeldt told reporters he would like to stay but that wasn't happening. Illogical, captain.

But then Michigan gets a 6'8" stretch four with mid-major offers. If Michigan thinks they could develop Hibbitts into a player given some time—and their track record is impressive in that department—and they need a carrot, guaranteeing him a scholarship for his first year isn't a bad one.

Etc.: John Calipari has goals man. Harbaugh regret in San Francisco. There are more quarterbacks now. Excellent outside zone primer from James Light. Highly recommend the first comment. Stauskas comes back for the summer. Dawkins and Donnal evaluated.

Comments

This Week's Obsession: Worst Attrition

This Week's Obsession: Worst Attrition Comment Count

Seth May 21st, 2015 at 11:09 AM

Two-parter this [ed-actually we did this last…] week.

Seth:

1. What was the most painful single attrition loss you remember (Woodson was not painful since you didn't expect him to come back. Neither was Stauskas. Hypothetically losing Trey Burke after one year would have been THE WORST. Guys who were 50/50 only get half points.)?

2. Guy who would have been eligible for the 2015 football team you most miss?

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

Worst attrition loss ever?

Brian: We're a fun bunch this week. Here is a picture of Denard.

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comes with one free Molk

Despite the fact that Mitch McGary went in the first round and there was a pretty decent chance he was going to leave even if the NCAA didn't come down on him like lunatics, it's gotta be him. We got those six tournament games that hinted at his ability, and then he wasn't right during his sophomore season, and then he was gone because he had a soon-to-be-legal substance he was tested for after not playing in a game.

I just needed to have one season of McGary as his effervescent self before he went and blew up NBA twitter. Michigan's most recent basketball season was a magnificent combination of crappy circumstances that prevented McGary's impact from being severe in a program legacy sense... and despite that, his absence pulls at the heartstrings harder than anyone else's.

[After the jump: nothing as anger-inducing as McGary, at least.]

Comments

Blake Countess To Transfer

Blake Countess To Transfer Comment Count

Brian May 13th, 2015 at 3:00 PM

Via his instagram:

That is a blow to Michigan's secondary. Countess was the leading candidate to start opposite Jourdan Lewis, give or take a Wayne Lyons, and even in the event he lost the job he figured to see considerable playing time spotting various guys in the secondary.

Countess struggled mightily last year as Michigan transitioned to a man press style, but was an All Big Ten performer as a sophomore in a zone system. It is possible that Michigan apparently rededicating themselves to the aggressive system they had to ditch midseason last year may have precipitated a transfer. Either that or the usual transition stuff compounded by the availability of immediate eligibility elsewhere.

Other than Lyons, the main beneficiaries of Countess's departure figure to be Brandon Watson and Channing Stribling. Watson was impressive in the spring game and has a ton of experience as a press corner; Stribling was promising as a freshman before a relatively anonymous sophomore year.

Countess was set to be a fifth year senior so this doesn't impact recruiting classes going forward; it does end any questions about if any contributing walk-ons would get stiffed. If anyone else leaves Michigan would have a spot to add another fifth year transfer.

Godspeed, Mr. Countess.

Comments

Countess or Lyons: Fight

Countess or Lyons: Fight Comment Count

Seth May 13th, 2015 at 12:00 PM

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I've written in various places, and Brian said again just yesterday, that Blake Countess is a very good zone cornerback who was exposed last year by being asked to do things outside of his comfort zone. Or outside his natural abilities. Or outside the capabilities of a guy his size.

The tape is the best evidence that he's not a fit for the aggressive man-to-man stuff Michigan switched to early last season, and will almost certainly try again this year. The best evidence against it was produced by Countess this spring, when he generated above the usual level of comments for controllable things like his work ethic, his knowledge of the defense, his toughness, etc.

But his size is a thing Blake can't change, and that plus the inability to shut down Tyler Lockett or William Fuller downgraded our hopes for a next-Woodson (leave him on an island) ceiling even before we discovered he's no MC5:

(you forgot to kick out the jams.)

That kind of thing can be mitigated by not lining him up so close—you give up that lock-down mentality for either soft coverage that lets the QB complete short stuff, or puts a safety over the top so Countess can break on that stuff.

Is Countess too small?

His size is below average for a guy who registered a play on a Power 5 roster, though not debilitatingly so. Here's how the CB depth chart stacks up against cornerbacks on all Power 5 rosters from 2010-2013 (#6 is Lyons):

sizedistribution-mich

Bubble size is more guys with that listed ht/wt. Avg height was 5'11", and weight was 183. Year-to-year differences were negligible.

If you need a roster refresher I put the tentative depth chart below-right. Our guys are generally on the line of distribution, with Richardson a wee little dude and Stribling and Dawson (and Keith Washington) on the edges of lankiness. I included Peppers to show just how different he is from most cornerbacks on this level of football, even as a redshirt freshman whose conditioning was hurt by a year of injury.

No. Name Elig. Ht. Wgt.
5 Jabrill Peppers Fr.* 6'1 205
26 Jourdan Lewis Jr. 5'10 176
2 Blake Countess Sr.* 5'10 180
6 Wayne Lyons Sr.* 5'11 190
8 Channing Stribling Jr. 6'2 178
28 Brandon Watson Fr.* 5'11 189
13 Terry Richardson Jr.* 5'7 170
30 Reon Dawson So.* 6'1 175

There were also quite a few teams who list all safeties and cornerbacks as "DBs"; indeed the cornerback sample we did get seems like it wouldn't change much. If you care here's Michigan's expected 2015 backfield rotation against the distribution of one year's Power 5 cornerbacks.

DBs by weightDBs by height

Interesting side-note: Florida's cornerbacks last year under Durkin were the smallest of any school in the Power 5. Using the formula from the chart above, Auburn and Minnesota were by far the biggest defensive backfields—both teams were about 6'0/200 with their cornerbacks. I know Minnesota at least is a man-all-day-long team. Nebraska and Ohio State were top five biggest, Iowa and Notre Dame around there and Stanford relatively big. Michigan was smallish—right around FSU and LSU. TCU was the second-smallest at CB.

Anyway Countess isn't the little guy according to the rosters; Lewis is. Jourdan's game is based on his recovery speed. He is just okay at jamming a guy at the line, but is so fast on a dead run and so quick to change direction that he doesn't have to stonewall his guy.

[Jump for what we've got in Lyons]

Comments

Spring Stuff 2015: Defense

Spring Stuff 2015: Defense Comment Count

Brian April 7th, 2015 at 12:56 PM

Previously: the offense.

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hello [Patrick Barron]

This is the good part. There were a few folks trying to find the nearest available ledge after yesterday's post. I'm not sure if they're wildly optimistic about HARBAUGH and expect next year's team to be year four Stanford or if I came off too brutally negative. Either way, this post will be a lot sunnier.

It's not a 3-4. Unless Michigan was sandbagging in their spring game they are running a defense quite similar to last year's—at least as far as the front seven goes. We have great experience with paranoid coaches as Michigan fans and not once has a major structural shift in the defense been concealed in spring. Even last year under Sir Puntsalot Michigan went full man press and that was their defense until circumstances dictated otherwise.

So we'll run with the assumption that what Michigan put out there was about what they'll run. This game saw Michigan run a 4-3—actually more of a 4-4, but more about that later—almost all the time. They went so far as to deploy Royce Jenkins-Stone as a weakside end because they were all out of weakside ends outside of Lawrence Marshall.

They will mix fronts, as all teams do. It is not a radical departure from last year's approach. And that's a good thing.

There is a departure. That is…

17032765582_dbe45344a6_zA hybrid space player is here. The biggest difference between Mattison's defense and Durkin's is at safety. Under Hoke it was difficult to tell who was the strong safety and who was the free safety. That will not be the case this year, as Jabrill Peppers was operating as a lightning fast outside linebacker for big chunks of the game. He tattooed running backs in the backfield more than once.

Peppers barely left that location. When Michigan went to a nickel package they did so by bringing in an extra safety and leaving Peppers over the slot, where he nearly caused an interception by breaking on a quick slant to Bo Dever.

[@ right: Upchurch]

If you were worried that moving Peppers to safety would make him a peripheral player who mostly shows up when making a tackle ten yards downfield, don't be. The vision of Peppers provided on Saturday was one of Tennessee-era Eric Berry or Packers-era Charles Woodson: an all-purpose sower of havoc. Berry had 16 TFLs his final two years at Tennessee. Woodson evolved into an NFL Defensive Player Of The Year as something beyond traditional positional definitions:

“They’re playing a lot of nickel, you know the old split six, so an eight man front,” said Mornhinweg. “They’ve got a good cover man with [Charles Woodson] down there who’s a very, very good tackler, so they sort of invite you to run the football into that base type personnel group however they’re very good.”

While that would normally be a successful strategy, Woodson’s ability to defend the run as a slot cornerback gives the defense some teeth.

“They feel very comfortable with him playing in that, which really is like a WILL linebacker position, he’s a physical guy,” said Eagles head coach Andy Reid. “He has great speed. He’s a great blitzer, great blitzer. So that’s how they use him.”

Woodson acted as that triple threat: 

Woodson is fast enough to get to the quarterback in a hurry, but still strong enough to defend the run.  Most of all, he’s a highly talented cover cornerback.

That is Peppers's role. Michigan's "nickel" is a base package with a hyper-athletic WLB; its base set looks like an eight-man front with a guy in that front who can cover anyone on the field. The defense is designed around his uncommon abilities.

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Hurst was a regular annoyance to Morris [Bryan Fuller]

Activate DT depth. One of the striking things about the roster is that I had no idea who got struck first when drafting the defensive tackles. Glasgow and Henry were starters last year but both Mone and Hurst flashed ability as backups; a year later everyone's back and Maurice Hurst is in your base every play.

As a recruit Hurst was regarded as a lightning quick first step above all, with questions about whether he could hold up. That makes him an ideal three-technique. Three-techs get more one on one matchups if the nose tackle absorbs doubles, and Hurst is a good bet to shoot into the backfield. That was the case on Saturday. Hurst was a regular entrant into the land where TFLs are made.

He was going up against Ben Braden and David Dawson at guard, neither of whom is established as a starter-level player on the inside. But Braden did start all of last year and Dawson was a well-regarded recruit; neither is a walkon; both have been around a couple years. He was slicing through those guys with regularity.

Henry did well for himself after the first snap and should maintain the starting job. That two-deep looks set to be a high quality platoon.

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I am ready to respect your authoritah [Eric Upchurch]

Inside backers are ready to rip. With James Ross out and Royce Jenkins-Stone drafted at WDE, the third linebacker in most sets was an odd duck. It did not seem to matter much, because the ILBs were filling with abandon. I have long been a skeptic about Joe Bolden's ability to hit people hard, but I thought he looked great.

There has always been a hesitancy about his play that has caused things like third and two conversions when Bolden goes entirely unblocked; that feels like it's finally out the door. Bolden showed up in the backfield a ton and hit guys hard when he showed. If that is not a spring mirage that sets Michigan up excellently for fall. Desmond Morgan's return gives Michigan another hard-hitting, dead-stop-tackler with a ton of experience, and Ben "Inexplicably Not Redshirted" Gedeon is ready to be the guy who spots both starters so regularly that he is a virtual starter as well.

The third linebacker should be Ross if healthy. In this defense I wonder how much run he'll get. Michigan has gone from a team that resigns itself to a ton of 4-3 sets against spread personnel (remember Jake Ryan walking out over three WR sets?) to one downright eager to play nickel.

In any case, two senior linebackers is a luxury.

Questions. The pieces are there for an outstanding defense. In my mind there are four main questions:

  • Can anyone rush the quarterback?
  • Can they find a second man press cornerback?
  • Are the safeties reliable enough?
  • Will the offense sell them out too much?

The last question is beyond the scope of this post. Suffice it to say that the last two years the defense had a tendency to collapse late after the offense's millionth three-and-out of the game.

Let's try to address the others.

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Marshall is a breakout candidate and a 2015 key [Fuller]

Can anyone rush the quarterback? Michigan has not had a standout pass rusher since… Brandon Graham? Jake Ryan had a year in there but then he blew out his knee and wasn't an impact player as a junior; as a senior he had a distinctly muted impact (2 sacks) as a middle linebacker*. Brennen Beyer led last year's team with 5.5; Frank Clark had 4.5; neither was the kind of edge terror that needs to be accounted for every play.

Prospects are dim for that guy to emerge this year. Lawrence Marshall, a highly-regarded in-state recruit coming off a redshirt, has gotten a lot of hype. It would be a meteoric rise to go from not playing to being a terror. Mario Ojemudia is what he is at this point.

Michigan's best hope might be Taco Charlton, who seems set to move back to the weakside end after a season spent on the strongside in a 4-3 over. Charlton has a package of athleticism that is unmatched; this is a point where the proverbial light might come on. A spring injury prevented a hype train from building up steam; he'll be a guy you hope starts opening eyes in fall.

The defensive tackles also offer some promise here. Glasgow offered little pass rush a year ago, but Hurst, Mone, and Henry could be plus gentlemen, especially if they're all fresh because they can rotate freely without much drop in production. And the havoc Peppers causes might open up opportunities for other guys.

Even so this seems like the biggest gotcha in Michigan's quest for an elite defense.

Can they find a second man press cornerback? Michigan wanted to run an in-your-face aggressive defense last year and did so until it became clear that this was exposing Blake Countess to Spock levels of toxic radiation. Jourdan Lewis thrived, though, and returns as Michigan's #1 corner. Is there someone around who can let Michigan go Teddy KGB on opponents?

The two main contenders here are Countess, a year wiser and receiving cornerback coaching from a couple gentlemen with a slightly better pedigree in that department than the departed Roy Manning, and Stanford transfer Wayne Lyons. Lyons started for large chunks of the year for a lights-out Stanford secondary; he was regarded as something of a weak link. He can be the weak link in the #2 defense in the country and I will find that acceptable.

I give the slight edge to Lyons here, as he is bigger and faster than Countess. The boundary corner slot beckons.

A darkhorse: Brandon Watson. The redshirt freshman spent some time at safety last year, which made no sense since literally the only thing he did in high school is line up with his facemask molecules away from the opposition and jam the hell out of them. He looked pretty good on Saturday.

Are the safeties reliable enough? Jarrod Wilson is probably fine. I thought Michigan's tendency to jerk him around because he gave a team a small window to hit a pass in was one of their worst qualities under Hoke. They played nonsense guys over him from time to time, seemingly out of pique, and the defense got worse. Anyway, he's back and he should be reliable to good.

The second safety is not really Peppers since Peppers is a destroyer-of-all-trades in or near the box. The second safety is the guy who comes in when Michigan goes to the nickel that we are all going to interpret as Michigan's base defense by midyear. That is some combination of Delano Hill, Dymonte Thomas, Jeremy Clark, and Tyree Kinnel. Clark and Hill are the favorites. The numbers there are reasonable; can they find a player?

*[A move that was way more bonkers than it seems in retrospect because of Morgan's injury. Michigan opted to move their only impact rusher to MLB when they had Bolden and Morgan at ILB.]

Comments

What To Watch For: Spring 2015

What To Watch For: Spring 2015 Comment Count

Brian April 3rd, 2015 at 12:28 PM

Looking forward to tomorrow's event. Logistical details can be found here.

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[Bryan Fuller]

It's going to be a bit strange. Michigan has never had an actual spring game before. Carr generally provided an open practice with an attached scrimmage and was all too happy to cancel the thing if given any pretext to. Rodriguez seemed to want to play a game but having only seven offensive linemen rather prohibited that. Hoke was cut from Carr's cloth; if possible it seemed like he was even more opposed to the entire idea. Punting exhibitions were ironically common.

These intrasquad practices were always difficult to glean data from, but they did give you a pretty good picture of who was on the first team and who was on the second at that moment. Saturday will not provide much clarity in that department.

If he had a draft order that might, but we don't. We only know that Malzone was the first QB taken and others didn't follow for a while. We can also make a couple of guesses based on the distribution of certain players, but the depth chart will remain fuzzy.

On the other hand, it'll be a better crucible to observe folks in. Ones versus ones and twos versus twos often saw whoever the second string quarterback was spend his day running from large angry men. While this was in fact an excellent preview of Devin Gardner's life, hopefully that won't be the situation going forward. An even spread of talent on both sides may not give us as much insight into who the coaches think is ahead; it should give us more ground to form (admittedly useless) opinions of their own.

But let's form them anyway

There are a few things I'll be looking out for.

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hello sirs [Fuller]

The Peppers disposition. We all know Peppers is starting, and his team has two other legit safeties on it—Jeremy Clark and Delano Hill. His team does not have a third corner. The obvious conclusion is that Michigan will be moving Peppers to the slot in nickel situations on Saturday.

That makes a lot of sense. I've been yammering on about Hybrid Space Players forever. Peppers promises to be that, at long last. The Hybrid Space player is a triple threat. He can cover like a corner. He can defend an edge run like a safety. And he can blitz like a linebacker. He resolves a number of the questions spread offenses pose by flat-out winning the one-on-one battles the spread issues, against all comers.

I thought Dymonte Thomas might be that guy until he disappeared down the depth chart. Peppers has, uh, not. How he's deployed is going to be be a fascinating subplot.

How 3-4 is it? How 4-3 is it? We've tackled this in multiple posts over the past few weeks: a lot of inside chatter holds that Michigan is moving to primarily a 3-4 this year. I'll be watching to see how accurate that is. This is going to be difficult with the lack of anything resembling a weakside end on the Blue team. Meanwhile, the Maize team has only Lawrence Marshall.

There is going to be ample shoehorning no matter what happens. The nature of that shoehorning should give us an indicator as to how "multiple" the defense is, and if they're really going to run a 3-4.

Formations and personnel on offense. Harbaugh has the MANBALL rep, but the real calling card of his offense is diversity. A gentleman named Colin Davy presented a measure of offensive complexity/diversity at Sloan and a friend of his sent it along to me. San Francisco is highlighted:

image

That edition of San Francisco deviated from Harbaugh's first three years, which were more WR-averse than any other team in the NFL. Harbaugh ran a ton of three-wide shotgun last year…

image

…and San Francisco had its worst offensive output under Harbaugh. Probably not a coincidence.

But even so the thing that leaps out after watching a bunch of Harbaugh games is just how much weird stuff there is. People tend to think manball is synonymous with pro-style, but whatever Harbaugh is doing is its own beast. Unless you've seen anyone else line up in a goal line set on first and ten from their own 30, that is. Maybe you have.

Mixed in with the popular conception of the Harbaugh offense is shotgun, zone read, pistol, you name it. Last year he adapted because he had to—injuries slashed his tight end corps to ribbons. What will that adaptation look like with Michigan's personnel?

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We got excited about the result of Canteen vs Countess last year; we should have been worried. [Fuller]

Skill positions. Usually the easiest group to get a handle on because breaking tackles, cutting quickly, and catching the dang ball are somewhat competition-invariant. This is not a hard and fast rule—Freddy Canteen was the star of last year's spring game-type substance and did little when the live bullets started flying. But there are going to be a lot of receivers competing for time and attention as Michigan tries to find a #1.

Quarterback. I may be looking at the quarterbacks to see if any of them are any good. Previous spring games have actually been pretty good about delivering information here: Forcier was a revelation after he enrolled early, Denard was a revelation after his freshman year, Bellomy never looked plausible, and last year was extremely ominous. A first glimpse at Malzone and Speight will be interesting. And has Shane Morris developed enough to stay in the conversation?

Interior DL. Both sides have starters that look like plausible Big Ten starting lines: Henry and Glasgow versus Hurst and Mone. I think Glasgow is going to be Glasgow. (This is a good thing.) The other guys are all potential breakout players if they can put the proverbial It together.

Countess. Lewis is a lock at one corner spot. Countess is a favorite for the other… until Wayne Lyons comes in. Michigan's coaches are again asserting that they want to be a super-aggressive man to man outfit, which was Countess's achilles heel last year. Does having an experienced DBs coach help him out? Is he capable of putting his nose across from a wideout and preventing him from doing what Will Fuller did to him last year?

Norfleet. IT COULD HAPPEN, OKAY.

Hackett's first gameday. Last year's spring game was the worst. Michigan played Phil Collins constantly. The band sat in the corner, irritated that they were even there, until deciding to play for about 20 minutes straight near the end. Their constant noise was the only way to get Special K to cut out his constant noise.

Hackett's recent comments on how he envisions the gameday experience are as encouraging as possible and this will be the first opportunity to see them in action. I'm not expecting miracles immediately. The athletic department is a large ship that takes some time to steer. I will be looking out for gameday changes that might stick.

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Spring Practice Presser 3-26-15: Mike Zordich

Spring Practice Presser 3-26-15: Mike Zordich Comment Count

Adam Schnepp March 27th, 2015 at 5:00 PM

photo (8)

“Well, everybody alright? I’m good. Who wants to start?”

You have a couple of players who are new to the position in Brandon Watson and Ross Douglas, though Ross Douglas has played it before. How are they adjusting to that change?

“They’re doing well. It’s a whole different deal for everybody. It’s a different defense, so everybody’s making a lot of adjustments but those two guys are coming along just like the rest of them.”

We’ve heard it said that you’ve played a lot more press coverage than they’re used to. How have they adjusted and how much work is that?

“It’s a lot of work. It’s a new total concept for the defense, for these guys who haven’t played- for Jourdan [Lewis] two or three years, for Blake [Countess] four years- so it is a new concept. It’s a whole new technique they’re learning so it’s taking time but they’re working their butts off. They’re working extremely hard at it and in time we’re going to get it done.”

Press was something they tried last year and did a little bit of it and struggled with it. Are you guys totally committed to it?

“Well, that’s coach Durkin’s defense, yes. So yes, we are totally, 100 % committed. We’ve just got to find the guys who catch on the fastest and handle the technique the best.”

Most cornerbacks are really excited about the chance to do that. Has that been the case here?

“Absolutely for us, and in recruiting they’re very excited to hear we’re aggressive on the outside and they want to see and hear what they’d have to do, so I think it will help us in that respect as far as getting some other corners in here.”

Can you talk about Lewis and Countess in particular and their ability to do that?

“Yeah, Blake’s an extremely hard worker. He’s very focused. Jourdan’s a natural at it. He’s probably our most natural corner for what we’re asking him to do. He does it pretty good but he’s still got some things to get better at because of the fact that it’s something they haven’t done all the time as far as last season goes. But those two are definitely, as far as technique-sound and even athletically and mentally, more experienced in that way.”

[After THE JUMP: Skills needed to play press, a transfer from Stanford confirmed-ish, and depth chart discussion]

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The Heart Of Saturday Night

The Heart Of Saturday Night Comment Count

Brian October 13th, 2014 at 1:06 PM

10/11/2014 – Michigan 18, Penn State 13 – 3-4, 1-2 Big Ten

OONTS OONTS OONTS OONTS

Songs designed for da club have one over-arching theme: tonight. Buy another drink, raise it to the sky. The OONTS OONTS commands you. Feel the beat. The beat is inside you. Tonight is going to be a good night, says the worst song ever written. The people around you accept this and so do you. Your sky-drink is empty. You are commanded to buy another. The OONTS OONTS doesn't care if you vote or do your homework or wake up tomorrow with a gremlin jackhammering at your temple. It commands you to see only what is in front of you now.

What is in front of us now is a lady named Victory. She is… well… she's a little ragged. Makeup's smeared; eyes are a little twitchy; you don't want to know the Vegas over/under on how many times she will throw up in the cab. Because she will do that, in the cab. Because there is going to be a cab.

Tonight, we go home with Victory.

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Michigan put it all aside. There is no one to credit here; I found out a long time ago that pushing large groups of people in a direction is impossible. To lead is to find yourself at the head of a tidal wave hoping it won't notice your tiny course corrections. The people are the direction.

And except for a third of the student section that was momentarily absent because of malice or apathy—impossible to tell—the people showed up, were as into it as can be expected of people watching two cows rub against each other threateningly, and were happy to win.

After the game a section in the south endzone unfurled a section-wide FIRE BRANDON banner; that was about right. Michigan fans have for the most part held their fire on players, held their fire for the portions of games in which Michigan can win. When things get out of hand or are just intolerably incompetent on the staff's part, they let their feelings be known. They have in fact been as good as an enormous amorphous mass of pissed-off people can be at aiming before firing.

They're still mad, because they should be. This kind of win over this kind of team is just more of the same, and the athletic director's futile gestures towards humanity are the definition of too little, too late. But tonight is tonight and tomorrow can be dealt with later.

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Devin Gardner put it all aside. A guy who'd been moved to wide receiver because the coaching staff thought more highly of Russell Bellomy. A guy whose ribs are a fine paste after last year. A guy who got benched for Shane Morris because the coaches had lost faith in him. There is a guy to credit here.

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He's going to be a footnote, now, no question. All hopes and dreams of being a towering colossus have fled. He won't have Navarre's redemption story, and unless something deeply bizarre happens he won't have an OSU win. Ten years down the road mention Devin Gardner and most Michigan fans will wince involuntarily and offer sympathy.

This is especially cruel on the heels of his predecessor. Denard was a tragic hero but he got his OSU win, his BCS bowl, and anyone still trying to be disappointed with him after what happened when he left is certifiable. Ask a Michigan fan about him in ten years and it's different. A lot different.

But that's tomorrow, and tonight the guy who's had his leadership questioned since he arrived is going full Novak on his sideline to WIN THIS FUCKING GAME. He limped out on the field because that's just what he does. Probably can't even throw right unless several different areas of his body are telling him to go to the spa immediately. Rod Gilmore's screaming that he shouldn't be in the game because Rod Gilmore is incapable of telling a head from a leg—not that we are at all surprised by this revelation—and Devin Gardner is just like I put my heart in this shit.

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Heart only gets you so far. It gets you to a narrow win over a Penn State team starting a broken vacuum and a Teddy Roosevelt biography at guard. We appear to have a vicious all-day hangover scheduled in two weeks. But that's for tomorrow.

Tonight, we are in a cab and squinting and feeling pretty okay, because we've got something to hang on to.

Awards

DEVIN GARDNER I PUT MY HEART IN THIS SHIT POINTS OF THE WEEK.

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1: Devin Gardner.
2: Dennis Norfleet.
3: Devin Gardner again.

[After THE JUMP: don't start thinking about tomorrow. Oh no we did.]

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