Picture Pages: Whither Safeties

Picture Pages: Whither Safeties

Submitted by Brian on December 6th, 2011 at 2:01 PM

First: a confession. I really wanted to have the UFR's raring to go early this week. You must believe me. I wanted to play Fallout 3, which I'd saved as an end of the year treat, slightly more. So… yeah. I am through the main bit of that and am now plowing through the OSU game at all speed. I apologize for lackadaisical behavior and certainly hope Michigan is taking their film breakdowns more seriously than I am.

Second: a confusion. If you're like me, Michigan's inexplicable lack of a free safety was a surprising and disconcerting feature of the Akron State Golden Bobcats game. Before, Michigan had safeties. During… not so much. The reason for this was twofold. One:

form-under-plus

form-under-plus

Michigan spent a lot of time in formations like this with Kovacs rolled up to the line of scrimmage. This leaves just one deep safety.

Two:

wtf-woolfolk-3

The guy on the far right in this still coming over the top of a tight end that's pretty dang covered is Troy Woolfolk. Result:

wtf-woolfolk-2

Not quite an eighty yard touchdown. This was the very next drive after Woolfolk did the same thing on incredibly easy Braxton Miller touchdown one.

And then… I mean… WTF. It's third and twenty seven for OSU on their own three yard line, and despite having a mistake-prone Braxton Miller and third and a billion from the three, Ohio State throws.

The setup:

woolfolk-1

OSU's in an I, Michigan is in its usual under, albeit a nickel. You can see Kovacs rolled up to the line at the top of the screen; Floyd and Woolfolk are your two deep safeties.

OSU goes straight dropback. Michigan rushes three. You can see Ryan dropping off in the frame below; He'll set up to contain scrambles. Martin and RVB are doubled and get nowhere, but Roh got a speed rush on Mike Adams:

woolfolk-2

Adams tackles Roh and picks up the holding call that will give Michigan a safety. Huge play from Roh against a first round pick. But that's another Picture Pages. (It's not, actually.)

woolfolk-3

Given time, Miller sets up and chucks it. Where is Woolfolk?

wtf-woolfolk-4

On the 25, covering the slot receiver. Oh, balls.

woolfolk-5

SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII—

woolfolk-6

NICE. KNEW THAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN THE WHOLE TIME. WOO COUNTESS.

Video

54-yard TD on which Woolfolk and Countess jump the underneath route:

Near 80 yard touchdown:

Third and twenty-seven:

Items of Interest

WTF was this? The consistency with which Woolfolk was jumping the underneath route suggests it was part of Mattison's gameplan. Watch Woolfolk on the video just above: he is sitting on the slot receiver. But if Woolfolk is supposed to come up in a robber, why the hell is Countess playing outside of Posey on both of the latter two throws?

On the first one Spielman starts chattering about how Countess can't give up in the inside, and my immediate thought was "dude that is not on him, that is on the free safety losing his mind." Then the second one happens and… if it's third and twenty seven and your free safety vacates the deep middle for the third time in seven minutes(!) can it really be Woolfolk blowing an assignment? Probably not. I have not yet run across the sideline reporter screaming "OH MY GOD GREG MATTISON IS LITERALLY EATING TROY WOOLFOLK'S INTERNAL ORGANS FOR BUSTING SPECTACULARLY THREE TIMES IN SEVEN MINUTES AAAAAAAAAH THEY TOLD ME THIS WOULDN'T BE LIKE COVERING BRIAN KELLY NOT AGAIN NOT AGAIN NOT AGAIN." If Woolfolk had not been doing what he was supposed to, this would have happened.

So. We think Michigan is playing a three deep coverage on which the middle safety is intentionally sucking up on intermediate routes and the corner is playing outside. That does not make sense. That throw in the middle of the field is easy relative to deep fly routes down the sideline—that's why there's always a deep safety—and Michigan is giving it to OSU all day. Even on third and twenty-seven.

I don't get it, man. Even if you assume Countess is a freshman and thus screwing up, you're still putting him one on one with Posey all game with no help at all over the top. That doesn't seem like a good strategy.

On the other hand. Maybe you can't blame Woolfolk for these plays because he was executing his assignment. I find it hard to believe he is not at fault on the 54-yard WTF on OSU's first drive and the half-ending corner route on which he reacted very late. If Michigan lost that game that was going to be the kid's legacy, sorry to say. OSU's gameplan was based around attacking 1) Morgan and 2) Woolfolk with a side of Floyd and Countess.

Braxton Miller problems. Putting Kovacs in the box on every play restricts what you can run in coverage and exposes the middle of the field; that spot Woolfolk keeps running into is the same one Stoneburner will exploit for a huge gain on OSU's disconcerting 82-second touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. On that play the safety (now Gordon) stayed deep and there was no one to tackle once Stoneburner found the soft spot in the zone.

[Update: you can see Gordon turn and run for the post, leaving no one behind Demens.]

So your choice is between opening that up and opening up the deep stuff; obviously neither of those is a great choice.

Hurray Roh. Roh has not developed into the devastating pass rusher Michigan fans were hoping for this summer. He's got four sacks, which is amongst the team lead but far short of the numbers an impact player would put up. Here, though, he beats a very good tackle and gets paid for his effort. Thumbs up.

Wednesday Presser Transcript 11-9-11: Brady Hoke

Wednesday Presser Transcript 11-9-11: Brady Hoke

Submitted by Heiko on November 9th, 2011 at 2:18 PM

News bullets and other important items:

  • Delonte Hollowell had his redshirt burned two weeks ago. 
  • There will be some rotation between Thomas Gordon and Troy Woolfolk vs. Illinois regardless of which one wins the spot in practice.
  • Ricky Barnum still limited in practice. Hoke says he "will play," however.

Brady Hoke

from file

Opening remarks: “I’m going to make a brief statement just regarding everything up at Penn State. One thing I can tell you, we have an utmost respect for what coach Paterno’s done on the field. It’s really a situation that’s obviously unfortunate, but it’s one that doesn’t affect us. We’ve got to worry about Michigan and the decision that we make in getting ready for this week and going to Illinois and winning a football game.

“Now practice yesterday was good. I like it. I liked how they competed. I liked how they came out, had a lot of energy, and they fought like heck.”

(more after the jump)

Tuesday Presser Transcript 11-8-11: Greg Mattison

Tuesday Presser Transcript 11-8-11: Greg Mattison

Submitted by Heiko on November 8th, 2011 at 10:49 PM

Greg Mattison

from file

Opening remarks: “The first thing I’d say starting out is that was a tough loss for us on defense especially because when you’re a great defense, you find a way to win the ball game. When we looked at the tape afterwards, you saw a lot of really good things and things that we hadn’t done all year. Just made a couple crucial mistakes that we could have really done something. That’s what we talk about all the time with these defenses. Let’s take it to the next level where whatever has to happen, the defense has to win the game. We really felt like there was some times when we could have done it.”

Is there a good explanation for why Thomas Gordon didn’t see the field? “He and Troy have been in a battle for who’s going to be that safety. Troy had a better week of practice, and that’s how it’ll always be at Michigan. The guys who have the best week of practice are going to play. As the game went on, you felt like the guy wasn’t tired, the guy wasn’t hurt, so keep going with what you have out there. He has been a part of some turnovers, but there’s other things on film also that you may not see that we as coaches have to make a decision on who plays, and that was our decision.”

Is it hard to pull a guy who’s been so productive? “Getting turnovers is a big part of the defense, but 60 plays of how you do is what we as coaches do. And we watch it and evaluate, and our job is to decide who has the best chance to help you win in a certain offense in a certain scheme. And that’s the decision that we make.”

How is that competition going this week? “Good. Good. There’s a lot of competition. In fact, there’s a number of other guys who had really good practices today, so that’s how it’ll always be here. It’s always going to be that Tuesday, that Wednesday, that Thursday. That’s when you’re going to make the team. There’s a lot of guys that are real close.”

So is it Troy’s spot and Gordon has to win it back? “Everybody has to hold their spot every week in practice. Nobody is given a spot and says, ‘This is your spot, it’s yours.’ And that’s the way it is with every player on that defense.”

When Countess took the job from Troy, was it kind of the same situation? “That’s what we do. That’s what we do until 12 o’clock at night. That’s what we do after we’re done here. We go up there and we’ll watch every play of this practice. As a coach, your job is to make a decision who’s going to help you win that football game against this opponent. Some opponents are different than others. That’s what we do. Mike doesn’t have that position locked. Ryan Van Bergen doesn’t have that position locked. Craig Roh doesn’t have it locked. It’s what you do every day in practice.”

(more after the jump)

Generic Midseason Evaluation Post

Generic Midseason Evaluation Post

Submitted by Brian on October 24th, 2011 at 2:03 PM

So it's been seven games and it's a bye week so TACO PARTY—

birthday-party-with-mister-taco-and-piata-charles-harrison-pompa[1]

this is a thing you can purchase at "Fine Art America"
or steal from your crazy Aunt Betty in Pensacola

—also generic bullety midseason-type post.

BEST DEVELOPMENT. Confirmation of the offseason's Greg >>> GERG theory.

hearts[1]209972[1]hearts[1]

he's like defensive coordinator Zooey Deschanel.

There are still obvious weaknesses and no obvious stars past a slightly disappointing Mike Martin, but it turns out having a coherent defensive philosophy is a lot better than running around screaming "we're all gonna die but at least my hair is fantastic!!!"

Pick a metric, advanced or not, and the improvement is incredible. The advanced ones are even more enthusiastic than the regular ones: Michigan is actually a top-20 FEI defense. Top 20! They were 108th last year! Excuse me, I have to go list this pool of razorblades, despair, and misery on Craigslist! Where an Ohio State blogger will purchase it to talk about their offense!

You can apply every massively-deserved caveat you can think of and the author will nod sagely about how that is a concern and the end result is still something that should approximate giddiness. When the turnovers stop coming in droves and a smaller percentage of games are played in a trash tornado, Michigan will backslide. But, like… backslide into the 40s or something. IE: the offseason's best-case scenario that didn't involve installing robots from the future at key spots.

RUNNER-UP, BEST DEVELOPMENT. Jordan Kovacs ending the debate about Jordan Kovacs.

If you strain your memory you can think back to a time where it was very warm and people had heated debates about whether Jordan Kovacs was any good or not. This was summer, and it was a silly time. A major reason the defense is scraping the ceiling of the ceiling above its best-case scenario is the near-total absence of big plays. Michigan still hasn't given up anything over 40 yards. Kovacs and (to a lesser extent) Thomas Gordon are primarily responsible for shutting down the Wolverine Free Touchdown Factory and shipping it to Thailand. WOO OUTSOURCING JOKE

WORST DEVELOPMENT. Denard's inability to hit Charlie Weis in three tries.

Even if you ascribe to the theory that Denard's passing success last year was largely a mirage when it came to Actual Big Ten Defenses*, his numbers against the two actual-seeming defenses on the schedule thus far have been horrendous. At least half of that can be ascribed to Denard just missing dudes.

Even running in place would have been disappointing after the quantum leap it seemed he made last year. He was still raw as sushi and could still be expected to move more towards quarterback-dom than a guy who'd had the slightest amount of polish. Instead the Al Borges-Denard Fusion Cuisine has shoved him back to being that guy who heaved it up against Iowa when he had a wide open Odoms running underneath. I didn't like that guy as much as the one from last year, warts and all.

*[Which I don't, FWIW. I UFR this stuff for a reason, and that reason is "so I can do something more than wave my hands in the air and say 'nuh-uh' when I would like to dispute someone else's assertion." I charted all of Denard's throws before the dismal end of the RR regime and there's a definite backslide.]

RUNNER-UP, WORST DEVELOPMENT. What happened, offensive line?

Last year you were all like blocking your way to an insane YPC and hardly giving up anything on the ground and this year you can't pull to save your life; the impregnable wall of no sacks was punched into smithereens by Michigan State. Now it's hard not to look at next year without a sense of panic.

MOST MIDDLING DEVELOPMENT. The tailbacks. It's still Vincent Smith and increasingly less Fitzgerald Toussaint (for reasons that are opaque to me). They're not awful. I still covet any tailback who wanders by to break a tackle or two.

MOST MISLEADING DEVELOPMENT. The defense's turnover-fu. It is not sustainable. Repeat this in your head a thousand times in a futile effort for its lack to be tolerable.

MOST DEVELOPING DEVELOPMENT. Special teams. They've been bad so far but the sample size is small. Brendan Gibbons made three(!) field goals against Minnesota and is 4/6 on the year. His two misses were both blocked. He might be serviceable. He might be benefiting from a bunch of chip shots—he still hasn't made one past 40 yards.

Meanwhile, the starting punter was suspended for the first four games and is averaging under 34 yards a kick because he was a nonfactor against Minnesota and Northwestern and seven of his punts came in a howling windstorm, six(!) of those from the Michigan State half of the field.

They can't cover kicks and can't return them, either. So… yeah. The jury is still out.

OFFENSE: FOCUS: OFFENSE

100% PURE COLOMBIAN AWESOME. Jeremy Gallon cloaking device engagement.

The play that followed it was pretty sweet, too, but that thing took Michigan from dead in the water to fightin' chance in The First Night Game Evar.

100% WORST THING EVER. Fourth and inches play action pass from the nine against Michigan State. I assume this needs no explanation.

THING THEY DO THE MOST. Run inside zone.

THING THEY DO WAY TOO MUCH. Throw deep.

THING THEY DON'T DO ENOUGH. Use stretch blocking and deploy the quick screen with the wide receivers to force a third defender to live outside the tackles. Michigan hasn't attacked the outside enough, allowing Michigan State's double-A-gap blitzes to be ludicrously effective.

BEST PLAYER. Well… Denard, despite obvious issues.

SECOND-BEST PLAYER. Taylor Lewan. Lewan has been near-flawless in pass protection, and has generally done well when the run game has come his way, which hasn't been often given their inability to pull left.

PLAYER WHO MIGHT WANT TO WORK ON SOME THINGS. Michigan hasn't been able to pull left largely because Patrick Omameh can't get to the hole before the tailback, which is not so good.

GUY WHO JUST IS WHO HE IS. Vincent Smith. He's a third down back and useful player who's not a guy you want to give 20 carries.

GUY WHO MIGHT GET A LOT BETTER IN THE LAST FIVE GAMES. Denard. Please, baby, please.

DEFENSE: FOCUS: DEFENSE

100% PURE COLOMBIAN AWESOME. Jordan Kovacs depositing his head into a ball Alex Carder happened to be carrying.

That sack is like the awful Nick Sheridan interception that kicked off the Rodriguez era and made its way into the Worst Plays of the Decade more for what it symbolized than the actual impact of the play. It heralds a sea change in Michigan's fortunes.

Caveats, caveats, caveats: Michigan is now deploying a zone-blitz heavy 4-3 under that will draw valid NFL comparisons and will hopefully start playing like Michigan defenses of old, and by "Michigan defenses of old" I mean "Michigan defenses of very old or more recent Ohio State outfits."

100% WORST THING EVER. It's a tribute to Michigan's safeties and Greg Mattison that the only long-ish touchdown they've given up was the no-safeties formation that handed Notre Dame a freebie right before the Gallon cloaking device play. But, man… that was kind of not good right there.

THING THEY DO THE MOST. Zone blitz.

THING THEY DO WAY TOO MUCH. Let guys outside the tackles.

THING THEY DON'T DO ENOUGH. Uh… you got me. /shakes fist at format established by himself

BEST PLAYER. Ryan Van Bergen, I think. It's close between RVB, Martin, and Kovacs, but Martin had a tough outing against Michigan State. Van Bergen played well. Kovacs had a storming game the first time out and is a major reason for the lack of long touchdown but has not has as much down to down impact. Maybe that's just the nature of being a safety. If Michigan gets through the rest of the year without getting bombed deep he'll win by default.

SECOND-BEST PLAYER. Kovacs. I don't hate Michigan's safeties except from time to time when Johnson is missing tackles.

PLAYER WHO MIGHT WANT TO WORK ON SOME THINGS. Weakside linebacker du jour. Woolfolk hasn't been good  but that's obviously an injury thing. I've been leery about Jake Ryan from time to time but he's turning in enough good plays with his bad ones to nose above even most days.

But whoever's been at weakside linebacker has had issues. Brandon Herron started the year, had two defensive touchdowns, and got benched. Brandin Hawthorne came in for him, played okay for a bit, made some mistakes, and has rotated in and out with true freshman Desmond Morgan the past couple weeks.

GUY WHO JUST IS WHO HE IS. Will Heininger. Heininger hasn't been a disaster or anything but he is single blocked often, rarely makes plays, and is pretty much what you'd expect a walk-on to be at defensive tackle.

GUY WHO MIGHT GET A LOT BETTER IN THE LAST FIVE GAMES. There are two: Jake Ryan and Blake Countess. Both are freshman starters* turning in promising plays amongst the youthful head-vs-wall moments. Ryan in particular has cut down his blatant errors to getting cut to the ground a few times per game.

*[Countess is not technically starting. He is getting the bulk of the playing time.]

THE BIG TEN

THE WORST. Minnesota. We have a GopherQuest dedicated to their badness.

THE SECOND-WORST. Everyone else. This league is not so good. The team leading the East division starts Matt McGloin at quarterback and is coached by a guy without a headset who isn't on the sideline. The team leading the West division is Michigan State. There are no undefeated teams, no national powers, and it's inevitable that the league's bowl record is going to be 2-6.

FUTURE OPPONENTS IN ORDER OF CONCERN.

  1. Nebraska
  2. @ Iowa
  3. Ohio State
  4. @ Illinois
  5. Purdue

BALLPARK RECORD AGAINST THOSE FOLKS. 3-2.

WHO'D TAKE 9-3. That's everyone.

WHO'D WHIMPER AND HIDE AT THE BOWL OPPONENT IN THAT EVENT. Also everyone. Okay, not you, message board hero who spent the last week calling Michigan fans whiners. You will say unreasonable things about the prospect of beating…

Wait. There are only two good SEC teams this year. Am I going to tremble at the sight of Arkansas or Georgia or South Carolina? No. Nevermind.

FIVE GUYS WHO SEEM PRETTY GOOD WHOM INSUFFICIENT DISCUSSION IS HAD ABOUT.

Bryce McNaul, Northwestern LB. (Heady, quick the hole, part of Northwestern's good run defense, injured too much, can do nothing about the nonexistent Wildcat secondary.)

Marcus Rush, MSU DE. (Rush has been overshadowed by the Gholston controversy but is actually a better player. Gholston does nothing once he is blocked; Rush will shed guys. Gholston would be on the bench if Tyler Hoover was healthy.)

Devon Still, PSU DT. (Still may be a reach since he is reaching tongue-bath levels but I was all about Still last year.)

Kawaan Short, Purdue DT.

Da'Jon McKnight, Minnesota WR. (Winner: most futile B1G existence.)

Upon Further Review 2011: Defense vs Minnesota

Upon Further Review 2011: Defense vs Minnesota

Submitted by Brian on October 5th, 2011 at 2:55 PM

I'm pretty sure this is the shortest UFR table in a long time. Probably not forever since in the embryonic stages a lot of plays were described as "a big wad of bodies I can't figure out," full stop, but in a long time.

Substitution notes: Secondary was the usual; Countess came in in the second quarter for Woolfolk. He is clearly the #3 CB, with Johnson the #3 S. At LB it was Ryan/Demens/Hawthorne the whole way until garbage time. On the line the usual rotation with a bit less of the backups because there was no opportunity for the starters to get tired. Still no Cam Gordon.

Formation notes: Nothing we haven't seen before, and since Minnesota was so transparently bad I didn't bother to get a bunch of screenshots of certain plays.

Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O20 1 10 Pistol 3TE 4-3 under Run N/A Power off tackle Hawthorne 1
Heininger(-1) blown off the ball by a double; this should provide a lane but Martin(+1) drove the center back, Roh(+0.5) held up on the outside, and Hawthorne (+1) hit a lead blocker on the LOS, holding up surprisingly well. With nowhere to go we have a wad play that Roh eventually ends by tackling the RB.
O21 2 9 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Run N/A Inside zone Roh -1
I think, anyway. No doubles from Minnesota as two guys release downfield into Gordon and Demens immediately. This means all of the DL are one on one and all of them end up controlling their guys, able to release on either side of them if the RB tries to hit a hole. RB tries to go outside where Roh(+1) is waiting and Gordon(+1) flows up to help; Demens(+1) had also beaten a block and was there. RVB and Martin pick up half points.
O20 3 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass 4 Sack Van Bergen -5
Stunt gets RVB(+2) through as the Gopher line busts; RVB tackles the relatively immobile Shortell before the Gophers can even finish their routes. (RPS +1, Pressure +2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 9 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O41 1 10 Pistol 2TE 4-3 under Run N/A Power off tackle Demens 3
Martin(+0.5) is doubled; while he does give a little ground it's not much and the pulling G doesn't have much room. Hawthorne(+0.5) hits him near the line, causing a cutback into Demens(+0.5), who is unblocked because of the double and scrapes into the backside hole to tackle. Heininger(+0.5) did a good job closing down the intended hole as well; he popped off a defender and had a shot to tackle if the RB didn't cut back.
O44 2 7 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 4 Out Floyd 5
Delayed blitz does not get through; Minnesota throws a dinky route that Floyd lets happen; he tackles immediately. Fine.
O49 3 2 Ace twin TE 4-3 under Run N/A Power off tackle Kovacs -1
2TE motions into an H-back spot; Kovacs rolls down into the box. H-back flares in an attempt to kick out Roh(+2), the EMLOS. Roh bowls him over backwards. This cannot happen on a power if you're ever going to gain any yards. There is no lane. Pulling G derps his way past everyone without blocking anyone; Kovacs(+1) is blitzing from the outside; untouched, he tackles for loss. Hawthorne(+0.5) had also blitzed right into the play, so three separate M players were in a position to stop this. Minnesota is not good.
Drive Notes: Punt, 14-0, 4 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O6 1 10 Pistol twins 4-3 under Pass 5 Out Woolfolk 12
Minnesota successfully high-lows Woolfolk in zone. Not his fault as he's got a corner route coming from the inside and has to drop back into that; this naturally opens up an underneath receiver since there's no underneath help. (Cover/RPS -1)
O18 1 10 Shotgun trips bunch Nickel under Run N/A Inside zone Ryan 9
Martin(+1) fights a double team and gets enough penetration when the second guy releases into the linebackers to close off the hole himself. RB has to bounce and it looks like Ryan is about to read this and pop out on the edge to finish the play when he's yanked and seemingly ankle tackled by the OT. No call. Refs -1. Floyd(-0.5) did a kind of weak job on the edge, though the Ryan issue allowed a quick bounce so he had a tough job.
O27 2 1 Shotgun 2TE 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Heininger 0
Nowhere to go as Martin(+1) holds up to a double and Heininger(+1) a single block. Cutback from the RB; an unblocked Roh(+0.5) read the play and shuffled down the LOS before exploding to tackle at the line. Heininger gets his extra half point for getting control of his guy to the point where he can disengage to help tackle.
O27 3 1 Pistol 2TE 4-3 under Pass 4 Sack Ryan -4
I'm not entirely sure but Shortell appears to be looking for his TE on a tiny little hitch first but pulls it down because Black(+1, RPS +1) chucked him before going into his pass rush. This disrupts the timing and causes Shortell to move on. RVB(+1) gets in at this point, flushing the awkward Shortell out of the pocket, where Hawthorne(+0.5) and Ryan(+0.5) roar up to sack. (Pressure +1, cover +1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 21-0, 12 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O20 1 10 Pistol 3-wide Nickel even Run N/A Inside zone Demens 7
Michigan's line steps to the left on the snap. This doesn't seem like a full on slant, it's just a way to one-gap the D. I'm not sure if Heininger(+0.5) is playing this okay and just gets pushed past the play or if he got out of position. He does slice through two blockers, causing the C to attempt to peel back and forcing a cutback behind him—away from the blocking angles. Demens(-1) has a free run at the gap but reads it late and meets the RB a couple yards downfield when he can make a tackle at the LOS. Then some bad luck as a pursuing Black impacts the tackle from behind, knocking Demens to the ground and giving the RB some YAC.
O27 2 3 Ace twins 4-3 even Pass N/A Sack Ryan -9
Ryan is lined up over the slot and blitzes. Minnesota is trying a PA rollout to his side, pulling a backside OL around to give some edge protection. Ryan(+2) explodes upfield, getting into Shortell's feet and cutting off the outside. Shortell does manage to escape upfield, where Martin(+1) is tearing around blockers, coming from the inside. Shortell spins back to avoid that sack, whereupon the Red Sea caves in on him. (Pressure +3, RPS +1)
O18 3 12 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Run N/A Inside zone -- 4
Give up and punt.
Drive Notes: Punt, 28-0, 7 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O20 1 10 Shotgun twins twin TE 4-3 under Pass 4 Rollout hitch Countess 8
Countess in for Woolfolk. You can see Michigan checking when the TE motions across the formation; Gordon comes down into man on the slot receiver, implying that Ryan(-1) should come to the LOS to act as a 4-3 SLB. He doesn't, instead dropping into a redundant zone and opening up the corner (pressure -1). Shortell finds his hitch in front of Countess.
O28 2 2 Shotgun twins twin TE 4-3 under Pass 5 PA Quick seam Hawthorne Inc (Pen +9)
TE motions to Ryan's side and this time he does creep down off the slot. He blitzes off the snap, getting picked off by a pulling pass protector after the PA fake. Michigan is zone blitzing and tips it by leaving Roh in a two point stance; he drops off in coverage over the TE. Hawthorne makes one of those back-to-QB zone drops across the field, and this zone seems perfectly designed to stop this route. Hawthorne(cover +1) gets over to the TE quick seam before the TE can get there; he slows up rather than run over Hawthorne and Shortell's wobbler goes well long. Demens(+1) timed his blitz excellently and got a free run, thumping Shortell as he threw(pressure +2) Hawthorne(-2) then gets an incredibly late, but legit PI call for grabbing the TE as he tried to cut inside.
O37 1 10 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass N/A Bubble screen -- Inc
Dropped. Strong possibility Hawthorne blows this up for little.
O37 2 10 Shotgun twins twin TE 4-3 under Pass N/A Rollout hitch Countess 11
Replay of the previous hitch except Ryan is on the edge this time, though he gets eliminated easily. (Pressure -1) Again in front of Countess(-1, cover -1) and I will ding him for not being there to challenge on the same route he just saw.
O48 1 10 Ace 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Demens 0
Martin(+1) takes on a double and wins, forcing his way into the gap to his left and preventing anyone from getting out on the LBs. Demens(+2) uses this to his advantage, seeing the gap open up behind Martin as he pushes playside. He shoots it and makes a tackle at the LOS after having removed the cutback lane. RVB(+0.5) held up well on the edge and helps tackle.
O48 2 10 Shotgun twin TE 46 front Pass 5 Fly Countess Inc
Campbell(+2) runs over the center and comes right up the middle of the field (pressure +2), leveling Shortell. Shortell stands in and chucks one to a guy on a fly route. Countess was in press coverage and is step for step(+2, cover +2); he finds the underthrown ball and adjusts to it. He has a shot at an INT but it's a tough catch and he settles for the PBU.
O48 3 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel press Pass 6 Hitch Countess 7
Michigan sends the house and doesn't quite get there; Roh(+0.5) seems like he's coming around the corner fast enough to cause problems if Shortell has to wait another beat. Instead he throws a hitch route short of the sticks that Countess(+1, cover +1) allows to be completed but tackles immediately on. He pops the ball loose as he does so; Michigan recovers.
Drive Notes: Fumble, 31-0, 3 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O34 1 10 Pistol 3-wide Nickel press Pass 4 Fade Floyd Inc
Testing the press w/ McKnight. Floyd is in good position and has pushed McKnight almost to the sideline but does not time his jump well; he gets his head around and then it seems like he fails to locate the ball. McKnight goes up to grab it but steps OOB on his way down. Given the position of McKnight this was circus all the way, so (+1, cover +1)
O34 2 10 Shotgun trips Nickel even Run N/A Inside zone Demens 7
Kovacs blitzes from the backside and gets upfield outside of the TE. That seems okay since he'd have to contain the QB. Roh is shuffling down the line on the inside zone and gets cut behind. This may be possible because instead of a mesh point the QB accidentally bats the snap right to the RB. The cut backside this should expose RB to unblocked Demens; Demens(-1) drops into a short zone and then lets the RB outside of him. Johnson has rolled down over the slot and does keep leverage; Demens tackles from behind. Partially one of those things—an actual mesh point and Demens/Roh probably have time to react better to this—but an unblocked LB should not let an RB outside of him.
O41 3 3 Pistol 2TE 4-3 under Pass 4 Rollout TE Flat Roh 1
Roh(+1) drops off into a short zone as Ryan blitzes. He gets cut; Heininger(+1) bumps the TE and then heads upfield between two befuddled Gopher blockers once that guy releases. He pressures(+1) and Shortell has to dump it off; Roh gets outside to tackle(+1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 38-0, 14 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O16 1 10 Ace 4-3 under Pass 5 TE comeback Ryan Inc
Roh again in a two point stance, indicating he will drop; he drops. Ryan(+1) blitzes from the other side, beating the TE and flushing Shortell up into the pocket(pressure +1). Shortell manages to find the second he needs and finds a receiver, who happens to be the TE on a comeback in front of Roh. TE drops it. (Roh -1, cover -1)
O16 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel press Run N/A Inside zone Van Bergen 2
Michigan blitzing Ryan and Demens; Demens lines up right over the C and then twists outside. The C is convinced he's supposed to block Demens, which he doesn't; G releases downfield. This allows RVB(+1) a single block that he gets playside of and carries to the hole; Martin(+1) also closed off the frontside, leaving nowhere for the RB to go.
O18 3 8 Shotgun trips Nickel press Pass 6 Fly Johnson Inc
Johnson backs out in to a deep zone late as Kovacs is sent on a blitz. Roh(+1) beats his blocker and is getting into Shortell's face (pressure +1) as Kovacs comes; Shortell bombs it deep. Gordon(-1) is beaten but Johnson(+2) is quick enough to get over and get a PBU as he arrives at the ball at the same time the WR does (cover +1, better thrown ball does find space).
Drive Notes: Punt, 38-0, 10 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O34 1 10 Pistol 2TE 46 front Run N/A Power off tackle Heininger 2
Heininger(+1) dives inside the OT trying to block down and comes around. Black(+1) has driven the OT back, giving the RB an awkward cut to make upfield. This allows Heininger to tackle from behind. Demens(-0.5) ended up running past the play as the pulling G got to him.
O36 2 8 Shotgun twins twin TE 4-3 under Pass 5 Rollout TE Flat Black 9
Again with the blitz and WDE dropping off into coverage. Minnesota runs a quasi-screen here, pumping to the left, then coming back to the little TE flare as the RB comes out of the backfield intent on blocking. This time Black(-1, cover -1) drops a ways and because the RB gets in his way he's not in position to tackle this on the catch, allowing the TE to turn it up for a first down.
O45 1 10 Ace twin TE 4-3 under Run N/A Power off tackle Heininger 1
Similar to the previous power on this drive. Minnesota flips the TEs, which doesn't make M flip the lines, they just move Hawthorne and Kovacs over. Hawthorne lines up right over the tackle. On the snap he takes a block and starts giving ground; Heininger(+2) bowls over this blocker as Black(+1) gets penetration that restricts the hole and prevents a bounce. Those two combine to tackle at the line as the RB just kind of falls over.
O46 2 9 Shotgun 2TE 4-3 even Pass 5 Hitch Avery Inc
RVB(+2, pressure +2) slants inside a blocker and comes right up the center of the field to get a hurry; throw now or get sacked. Hitch is open in front of Avery(-0.5, cover -1) for near first down yardage; throw is upfield and dropped.
O46 3 9 Shotgun 3-wide Okie Pass 5 Hitch Avery Inc
Good pocket(pressure -1); Shortell wings it well high. Avery(+0.5, cover +1) appears to have reacted quickly enough to make a play on the ball if there was one to be made.
Drive Notes: Punt, 45-0, 6 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O25 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel over Run N/A QB power Campbell 0
Hawthorne(+1) reads the QB's cut upfield and runs away from the blocking angle further outside; he and Campbell(+1), who beat a single block to show up in the hole, combine to tackle.
O25 2 10 Shotgun trips 4-3 under Pass 5 Fade Avery 33
Okay, Brink and Avery and Fitzgerald in. This game is not long for the charting. Shortell gets the corner (pressure -1) and has an easy deep throw to Avery's guy(-1, cover -1) as he's beaten so badly he cannot recover.
M42 1 10 Shotgun trips Nickel press Run N/A Inside zone Campbell 3
Wad o bodies as Minnesota can't move Campbell(+1) out of the playside hole with a double. He gets support from Heininger and Ryan(+0.5 each) and the RB runs up into the wad for little.
M39 2 7 Pistol 2TE 4-3 under Run N/A Down G Brink -4
Instead of blocking Brink(+2) the playside TE watches him run past and make a TFL. Minnesota: not good.
M43 3 11 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel press Pass 4 Slant Countess Inc
Countess(+2, cover +2) fights the WR for position and makes a play on the ball as it arrives.
Drive Notes: Punt, 48-0, 14 min 4th Q. Charting ceases.

So, about that.

Yeah, not much you can take from that game.

But it's nice to be able to say that about a Big Ten team, right?

Sure. The last team Michigan made look that inept was Baby Seal U, and the last team before that was the 2007 Notre Dame outfit that was the absolute nadir of super-geniusdom. Last year's Purdue team may have been as bad on offense; with the help of a driving rainstorm Michigan held them to 256 yards, giving up a 61-yard field goal drive early. This edition of Michigan's defense was better against the 2011 equivalent.

But… yeah, the Purdue example is instructive. There is a level of offense that can make even last year's Michigan D seem competent. Minnesota is at that level of offense.

There is something we can take from this, though, I mean, right?

A little, sure. A couple years ago Michigan gave up 17 to EMU in the first half, ceding 179 rushing yards to that year's #116 total offense. Last year Michigan gave up 37 to I-AA UMass.

You can never tell anything good from a game like this, but you can receive an ominous message that causes you to stock up on survival gear. The failure to get one of those represents progress.

Also, I only caught one wacky misalignment in the above-charted plays, that a failure of Jake Ryan to come down to LB depth after Minnesota shifted a TE. That's significant improvement from the nonconference portion of the schedule. That first drive against Western where no one knew where to line up has receded almost entirely.

I suppose we should look at the chart.

Man, you are subdued.

I'm locked and loaded. Actin' like I've been there. Emulatin' Brady Hoke's cool sideline demeanor. Somewhat terrified about what happens after game five in Michigan football seasons.

Right. Chart.

Keep in mind that this is only 36 snaps, five of which were contested mostly by backups. If you had to reduce certain games last year to find reasonable numbers, for this game you need to almost double them to find a per-play average approximately in line with historical norms.

Defensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Van Bergen 7 - 7 Minnesota couldn't move him.
Martin 7 - 7 Or him.
Roh 7.5 1 6.5 Seems to have reclaimed the starting spot.
Brink 2 - 2 Thanks, lack of Minnesota blocking.
Heininger 6.5 1 5.5 Hard to move after first snap, too.
Black 3 1 2 Playing time reduced.
Campbell 4 - 4 "Get off me"
TOTAL 37 3 34 lol. +0.94 per snap
Linebacker
Player + - T Notes
C. Gordon - - - DNP
Demens 4.5 2.5 2 Not many plays even got to him.
Herron - - - DNP
Ryan 4 1 3 Couple of explosive pass rush moves.
Fitzgerald - - - Nothing of note.
Jones - - - DNP
Evans - - - DNP
Beyer - - - PT in garbage time.
Hawthorne 3.5 2 1.5 Not giving his PT back.
Morgan - - - PT in garbage time
TOTAL 12 5.5 6.5 Enjoyed some tea as they watched the DL do the tackling for them.
Secondary
Player + - T Notes
Floyd 1 0.5 0.5 Not tested(!)
Avery 0.5 1.5 -1 Has obviously slid behind Countess.
Woolfolk - - - Rest this man.
Kovacs 1 - 1 Earl Grey, please
T. Gordon 1 1 0 I'll have chai
Countess 5 1 4 Think we may have something here.
Johnson 2 - 2 Roobios for me
TOTAL 10.5 4 6 Smashing, chaps
Metrics
Pressure 15 4 11 NO BLOCKY FOR YOU
Coverage 10 5 5 Tony Gibson –6.02 x 10^23
Tackling - - - Nothing even approached an open field tackle.
RPS 3 1 2 Whateva

So… yeah. The defensive line annihilated the opposition to the point where nothing else really mattered. Can we take anything away from that? Eh… probably not. I'd love to live in a world where Will Heininger can flatten an opponent's interior OL, but I don't think that's the case.

We require some sort of crazy extrapolation to justify this piece.

Okay. We did get some depth chart clarity. Roh seems the clear starter at WDE, and Countess is #3 at CB and rising. Also we should now know who is redshirting and who is not. On defense:

  • Burned: Countess, Brown, Taylor, Beyer, Clark, Morgan
  • Redshirting: Carter, Hollowell, Heitzman, Rock, Poole

A couple of those do strike me as AAARGH burned redshirts: Brown and Clark. Brown is the #5 CB at best and Clark has two guys in front of him at WDE. Maybe the long-term plan is to slide Roh or Black to SDE next year, in which case I retract my argh.

Can we at least get a little Countess eeeeing?

Oh, all right: Countess had a couple of hitches completed on him but also acquired two PBUs, one of them another of the "too bad the QB didn't throw that more accurately" variety, the other a broken-up slant:

That looks like an exceptionally crappy route to me, but every little bit helps as we try to extrapolate young Countess into Charles Woodson. He also forced a fumble thanks to Mattison's new turnover-causing technique: tackling the opposition. That was a completion given up but it was also seven yards on third and ten, ie fine.

Was Minnesota really bad?

Oh, God yes. It was kind of marvelous. The best examples (on defense, anyway) I found were two separate incidents where Michigan defenders destroyed Minnesota OL. The first was Craig Roh taking a kickout block and turning it into total destruction:

That never happens.

And then there was Will Campbell using his sumo belly flop on someone other than Thomas Gordon:

After that it was a surprise Shortell didn't get up two-dimensional.

Minnesota is a bad football team.

Heroes?

Everyone but especially everyone on the defensive line.

Goats?

No one.

What does it mean for Northwestern and beyond?

It means we don't have a terrible, terrible defense but not much more.

Those Who Stayed

Those Who Stayed

Submitted by Brian on October 3rd, 2011 at 11:56 AM

10/1/2011 – Michigan 58, Minnesota 0 – 5-0, 1-0 Big Ten

seniors-jug

via Mike Martin and Marissa McClain of the Daily

In the depths of Michigan's worst season ever (if you can't divide) or in a damn long time (if you can) they travelled to the Metrodome to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Michigan was 2-7 and without the services of their starting quarterback. Minnesota was 7-2 and in possession of a functional offense. I was posting pictures of Death because Nick Sheridan was going to play the entire game. We were going to hit rock bottom when the Gophers picked up the jug they see once a decade, if that. "Henry Kissinger" was amongst the things projected to be more fun than the Jug game.

Because football is strange, Michigan waltzed into Minneapolis and annihilated the Gophers. The final score was 29-6; total yardage was 435-188. Nick Sheridan completed 60% of his passes and almost eclipsed 7 YPA. Justin Feagin averaged 7 yards a carry.

It was a crazy exception to the nigh-unrelenting misery of 2008. Yeah, they fluked their way into a win over Wisconsin despite getting outgained by 100 yards. Minnesota was different. If you had no knowledge of the context you would have thought it was a year like any other, a Michigan team like any other. Michigan did what they do to Minnesota: beat them without a second thought.

This week multiple newspaper folk took the time to tell people the Jug doesn't matter, but when that awful Michigan team locked arms and walked over to Jon Falk to lift up the only thing they'd held onto, it mattered. Paul Bunyan, the bowl streak, most people's sanity, all of the street cred, and huge chunks of the dignity were gone. The Jug remained.

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

Martin, Koger, Molk, and Van Bergen were freshmen on that team. Molk started. Koger, Van Bergen, and Martin played but didn't acquire stats. Recruited by Carr, they stuck it out under Rodriguez. Many of their teammates didn't.

As a reward the four above started down a path towards the least rewarding Michigan careers in decades, through little or no fault of their own. You can win Big Ten championships with those four guys as prominent starters. You have to have other people to play football around them, though, and maybe a coach or two who can tell the difference between a stuffed beaver and a 4-3 under. Michigan didn't.

In 2008 they had little on the field and even less off it. According to John Bacon's Three and Out, Lloyd Carr signed off on Justin Boren's transfer to Ohio State and upstanding citizen Jim Tressel. Morgan Trent half-assed his way through the season and tossed bombs at Rodriguez afterwards. Toney Clemons and Greg Mathews would act as sources for the Free Press jihad shortly after the season. Given the result of that investigation it's clear they did so entirely out of spite. Brandon Minor would rail on about how leadership was going to happen in 2009 as people whispered that he was a major source of its lack in 2008. There's probably never been a more dysfunctional Michigan team, and it started from the top.

Freshmen learn from seniors. This is the way of the world. Usually they learn how to be, how to maintain the standards of the program they walked into. The four guys above did it a different way: they learned what not to do. When it came time to meet for the first time in the Hoke era, they decided not to repeat the recent past. Mike Martin:

"‘What are we going to do as a team? Where are we now? We can either not be all in and do what we need to do, or we can work hard together and make sure we’re successful.’ ”

Hoke was also in the room. He remembered Robinson being upset at the media speculating his departure. He remembered fifth-year senior center David Molk getting up in that same meeting and telling everybody the team was going to stick together. …

“When (Robinson) came to us, he was addressing that we as a group — including him — need to make sure that none of the younger guys have doubtful thoughts or might want to stray away,” Martin said. “We didn't want there to be a repeat of last time there was a transfer of a coach.”

Meanwhile, Van Bergen called out the program alums who'd drifted away when times got tough. The message was clear: this is our program. We've been here for four years and gotten nothing but crap. We've paid more dues than anyone in the last 40 years of Michigan football, and now we'd like some payoff.

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

That payoff was going to be an Alamo Bowl at best. But the seniors' effort, Greg Mattison's expertise, Denard Robinson's existence, the Big Ten's complete horribleness, and Brady Hoke's rectal horseshoe now tempt hope.

Michigan State can't run or stay within three scores of Notre Dame. Nebraska can't throw or keep a good running offense under 30 points. Iowa can't beat Iowa State. It may be a division race on par with one of those years Wake Forest won the ACC, but by God there is a tinny flimsy division championship there to be acquired. Even if it wouldn't be much—in all likelihood it would be a historical footnote after a curbstomping at the hands of Wisconsin—it would at least somewhat fulfill a promise Bo made when he arrived in 1969.

No one's deserved it more than the four guys above. It's relatively easy to be a "Michigan Man" when it's handed down to you. Koger, Martin, Molk, and Van Bergen had to figure it out on their own. They stayed, and figured it out when available evidence suggested being a Michigan Man was endorsing transfers to Free Tattoo University, telling recruits to go to Michigan State, and selling out your own program to a couple of hacks.

A few years ago on the eve of the Ohio State game that ended to that miserable 2008 season I wrote a thing about being an anchorless mid-20s person who is uncertain of where to go or who to be and is sad as a result. In that piece I envisioned Michigan's coaches telling their charges how to get out of this hole:

Some of you will stay. And you will go insane. You will work, and you will work, and we will build something here from nothing. Because, make no mistake, this is nothing. You will build something out of this. If you're a senior next year and you teach some freshman something, you will build something. If you're a freshman and you refuse to quit on your stupid decision, you will build something.

What you build will be yours. Few in the great history of his university have had that opportunity. Everything came based on what came before. They were part of a great chain, now broken.

Those of you who stay will forge a new one, starting today. When we are done we will fix the last link to the broken chain, and break the first link, and tell those who come after us to live up to it.

Whether or not Michigan manages a championship, flimsy or real, Michigan's seniors have done this. This Is Michigan again because they stayed.

Non-Bullets Of Domination

Photogallery. Via the Ann Arbor Observer and Eric Upchurch:

A favorite:

devin-denard-postgame

The two QB formation thing. So that was something. That and the double pass touchdown reminded me of that Indiana game prior to Football Armageddon (IIRC) when Michigan dumped out a zillion trick plays to force the opponent to prepare for extra stuff. I didn't like it then and hope that's not the case now, not least because after the first play the thing seemed pretty effective. Gardner implied that was not the case:

“It’s really, really dangerous. We’ve also got Fitzgerald Toussaint back there and Vincent Smith," he said. "You’re going to have to wait and see. It’s going to be pretty dangerous.”

Items:

What to call it? Hoke refused to answer a direct question about what we should call it, so it's up to us. Vincent Smith suggests "two," which is a little bland. Ace got a "diamond of doom" suggestion on Twitter; while that's catchy it's also long and jinxtastic. Naturally, Ace wants to extend it to "Denard and Devin's Diamond of Doom" because it abbreviates to DDDD and if there's one thing Ace likes it's repetitive hexadecimal numbers.

But that's long and a bit awkward. Since it's a goofy, misdirection-heavy everyone's-a-QB thing that reminds people of the Mad Magicians I propose calling it "Fritz." It's not exactly what Crisler used to do…

…but what "Fritz" lacks in outright accuracy it makes up for in Getting-Itness.

[BONUS extreme history nerd BONUS: This has set frequent correspondent John Kryk alight with references to not Crisler but Notre Dame's Frank Leahy, who deployed a T formation with a close resemblance to Fritz.

image

Michigan sort of ran the above. Kryk actually has a diagram in which the T looks identical to Fritz:

image

I'm pretty sure we'll all way too abuzz about a formation we'll see maybe a half-dozen times the rest of the season, but old-timey football is always cool to see in the flesh. It's why Georgia Tech games remain an abiding fascination.]

Why does the outside pitch not bother me so much in that formation? When we run the I-form fake-dive-to-pitch it's just asking the opposition to key on the running back flying out to the corner because Michigan never runs the dive, and even if they did defenses are like "BFD." When we ran it from Fritz it played off the earlier speed option.

Is it a tenable package against real opposition? If the wildcat can work I don't see why this can't.

Triple option? May be on the way.

Records. Some happened. Smith's touchdown cycle had not been accomplished in the modern era:

It was the first time a player has ran, thrown and passed for a score in modern Michigan football history (post-World War II).

That seemed like a given. I'm waiting for MVictors to dig up the dude who managed it in 1923, because I know it's happened and I know he will.

helmets-numbers

via Eric Upchurch and the Ann Arbor Observer.

Our helmets have wings… and numbers! Let's avoid the inevitable Rodriguez tradition rehash. It's already been done. Personal opinion of them: whateva. On a scale from 10 to –10 where 10 is Denard, –10 is Pop Evil, and 0 is total indifference I'm a –0.1. I'd rather not have the uniforms futzed with but the numbers have some history to them, don't look terrible, and are a minor adjustment.

I think Hoke should say he'll yank 'em if they lose, though.

On-field takeaways. Minnesota is very not good—we were playing a pretend game where the Gophers got a touchdown every time they crossed midfield and a point every time they succesfully fielded a kickoff and they still lost by 30. So disclaimers apply.

That said: Denard throwing to his receivers—and getting the opportunity to hit some short, confidence-building throws—was encouraging, as was the almost total lack of I-form even deep into the third quarter. That seems like an abandonment. If they were still working on it they would have pulled it out just to practice it, no?

Short stuff. AnnArbor.com's Kyle Mienke notes that of Michigan's first 11 passes, eight were five yards or less. He categorizes that crazy seam to Hopkins as "another was over the top to a leaking fullback," which is a goofy thing to try to lump into easy passes for Denard confidence. That was pure DO.

Patrick Omameh. Some evidence he might be struggling in the new offense: he was left on the field much longer than any of the other starters save Schofield, who was forced into the starting lineup by the Barnum injury and was granted time at tackle late.

Possible liberation society addendum. I'm so over the rollouts. It seems like the only way to get Denard Robinson pressured is to roll him out into unblocked contain defenders, which Michigan does plenty. If you leave him in the pocket people are terrified to get out of their lanes and he usually has a lot of time. If you put him on the edge against defenses keying on him he doesn't get outside and he has to make rushed throws on the move that seem to be more inaccurate than his usual ones.

I guess the rollouts do open up the throwback stuff, which has been very successful. And they did insert a heavy dose of sprint draw (AKA That Goddamned Counter Draw), something I've been pleading for since Rodriguez's arrival. So they might be developing a package there. They've got to figure out how to block it.

FWIW, I wasn't a fan of showing the sprint draw against an incompetent opponent. I'd rather Michigan's future opponents not prepare for a potentially game-breaking play. But I've got no evidence behind that.

Field goals. We haz them?

Here

Hoke for tomorrow is getting a little ahead of itself:

It is not hard to see the qualities of Bo in Brady Hoke.  At first I cringed at his seeming overconfidence, at his seeming overuse of Bo-isms, and wondered if he was trying too hard to win Michigan fans' hearts with his bravado.  I don't doubt the man any longer. Brady Hoke has a Bo-like level of expectations for those he leads.  He has expectations of effort, execution, and yes "toughness" that no coach since Bo has required from both his players and his staff.  Hoke isn't making Michigan great again by being an innovator on either side of the ball; he is acquiring the best available parts, constructing a beast-machine, and driving the thing to eventual domination.

These feelings must be fought until the Michigan State game. ST3 goes inside the box score:

This is the section where I discuss turnovers and other momentum changing plays. There was one burst of impetus in this game. Minnesota kicked off to start the game. That's it. They were never in it. I bet that "adjusted winning percentage" diary shows us pegged at 100% for the duration.

Lloyd Brady is unstoppable.

Elsewhere

Media as in files. Melanie Maxwell's Ann Arbor.com gallery.

100111_SPT_MICHIGAN_MINN_JNS_01_fullsize[1]

WHY DID YOU GIVE ME CANCER GOLDY
i… I was just trying to field a kickoff

MNB Nation gallery and some pregame shots. MVictors gets various field shots, including one of Will Hagerup's shoes:

purple2_thumb[1]

I think he may have altered that shot but will check. Greg also has a bunch of jug pictures. Troy Woolfolk posted this on his twitter:

x2_8942dfb[1]

The explanation: "My girl is always experimenting on me." I have no idea? I have no idea.

And finally, eagle-eyed mgouser M Fanfare caught an epic double point from Hoke:

brady-hoke-epic-double-point

In other Brady Hoke Points At Stuff news, Brady Hoke points at stuff.

Media, as in unwashed internet rabble. I have no idea what "Everybody pants now" means, but if you watch Parks and Rec you probably do. Amongst Adam Jacobi's things he learned in the conference this week:

So while it's easy to just say "But 2010" whenever someone mentions the fact that Michigan is still undefeated, there's one difference that's crucial to point out: the defense is showing up too. Last season, Michigan gave up over 25 points per game in its first five games. This year? 10.2. Yes, it's relevant that 31 points came against Notre Dame in a game the Wolverines had zero business winning and 20 came against tomato cans like Eastern Michigan and Minnesota, but consider that Michigan also spanked Western Michigan 34-10, and that's a Broncos team that came up just shy in a 23-20 loss at Illinois and just took a 38-31 win at Connecticut. So yes, given the context we've got, Michigan is not just pulling a 2010.

Jacobi's still not banking on Michigan "surviving" our "brutal November," but if not surviving means not winning the division instead of collapsing to 7-5 I don't think Michigan fans are going to be too peeved.

Touch the Banner:

Blake Countess is the next Leon Hall.  Yep, I said it.  Minnesota doesn't have the greatest talent in the world, but Countess has looked pretty darn good for two weeks in a row.  Courtney Avery had a nice 83-yard fumble return for a touchdown, but Avery has been getting beaten more regularly than any of Michigan's other corners this year.  He's still not bad, but it looks like Countess will grab a starting spot sooner rather than later.

The Hoover Street Rag notes it was appropriate that Michigan tried a transcontinental-type play on the same day they honored John Navarre, though in that case they were attempting a double pass, not a run. Was anyone else OUTRAGED that the Navarre highlight package didn't include the Buffalo Stampede? That's like having an Alan Branch highlight package without the Morelli elimination.

Holdin' the Rope:

That was an old school Michigan blowout, like the ones you'd watch on ESPN Plus (memory lane, you are there now) back in the day, where nothing was ever in doubt and The Law was that Michigan would average a billion yards a carry under a grumpy Michigan sky. It's always the ideal of overindulgence, and if anything it's a reminder of how far we've come since 2008 when beating Minnesota on the road was considered an upset.

Maize and Go Blue likes getting it. BWS hates RR for not getting it.

Media as in newspaper type things. Brian Bennett's take from the ESPN Big Ten blog:

f and when Minnesota can get back to being competitive in the Big Ten, the Gophers can use Saturday's game as a motivational tool.

Hopefully for them, they'll remember this as rock bottom. Because Michigan blew the doors off Jerry Kill's team in a 58-0 humiliation at the Big House. The Wolverines have dominated this Little Brown Jug series for the last 40 years, but Saturday's margin of victory was the largest in the long-running semi-rivalry. It was the fifth-largest win in Michigan history, and that's a lot of history there.

Are we seriously declaring a knee to end the game as a failed redzone opportunity, News?

For Michigan, this game was a chance to flex its muscles offensively and defensively, add a few wrinkles and give as many players as possible — in this case, 71 — an opportunity to play. Michigan was 8-of-9 in the red zone against the Gophers and is now 21-of-22 for the season (17 touchdowns and four field goals).

No, we are not.

Via the Daily, some facts that sum up last year's field goal kicking:

The three field goals were each career longs [for Gibbons] at the time, starting from 25 yards and going to 32 yards and to 38 yards. In five games this season he’s missed just one field goal — a 40-yard try against San Diego State.

Jennings on Vincent Smith's diverse day. Rothstein on Michigan's domination.

Upon Further Review 2011: Defense vs SDSU

Upon Further Review 2011: Defense vs SDSU

Submitted by Brian on September 28th, 2011 at 3:41 PM

INTERESTING SCREENSHOT OF THE WEEK

sdsu-lady-board

Hey, that's a lady. BTN didn't show any shots of people you'd recognize, so this is the closest thing to evidence that they were holding up pictures of people who left. She must be support staff or something.

Formation notes: Mostly under, which they ran almost all the time when they were actually running what they wanted to. When SDSU went to spread formations the nickel package came in, with a good amount of one-high press…

slants-1

…and some regular old nickel even. IE: the usual. No funny stuff.

Substitution notes: Kovacs and Gordon went the whole way with Carvin Johnson re-claiming his spot as the fifth defensive back in nickel. Gordon is the nickelback; Johnson came in as a safety. Woolfolk went out with an ankle issue in the second quarter and Avery came in; Floyd went out with a ding in the third quarter and Countess came in. When Floyd returned it was Avery, not Countess, who took a seat.

At LB it was Ryan-Demens-Hawthorne almost the whole way. Morgan, Fitzgerald, and Beyer got a series or two each spelling the starters.

On the DL, the same four starters (Roh, RVB, Martin, Heininger) with heavy rotation from Campbell and Black with lesser rotation from Brink. I don't think I saw much of Washington. In the nickel package they lifted one of the DT types and left Ryan out as a DE.

Show? Show.

Ln Dn Ds O Form DForm Type Rush Play Player Yards
O18 1 10 I-Form Big 4-4 under Run N/A Iso Martin 3
RB takes the handoff to the right of the QB as the FB goes left—a bit of counter action here. Martin(+2) pushes the C into the backfield, forcing an awkward cut from Hillman; RVB(+0.5) has also gotten penetration, forcing Hillman to hit it up in the small crease between the two DTs. Martin chucks his blocker and comes off to tackle. I'm trying to figure out why this is three yards instead of zero—think it's the linebackers not being aggressive enough, but no minuses.
O21 2 7 I-Form twins unbalanced 4-3 even Run N/A Power off tackle Ryan 6
First of many flips by M's DL as SDSU flips the formation. This will have to get sorted out. They actually end up in an even formation with LBs from strong to weak Demens, Hawthorne, Ryan. Given the alignment of the other LBs this appears to be a bust by Ryan(-2), who did not flip when the rest of the line did. As a result they run power off the left hand side and one guy has no one to block. Demens heads straight upfield, taking on an OL peeling off RVB right at the LOS. This forces a bounce that may have been coming anyway because of the Ryan misalignment. RVB gets caught inside but I don't blame him since this is probably how he's supposed to play it when he's got an SLB. M gets lucky that the FB jets downfield instead of trying to block Hawthorne, who is scraping quickly from the interior. Hawthorne(+0.5) shoots between the FB headed for Kovacs and the pulling OL, forcing Hillman outside. He misses a tackle(-1) but his ability to get out in a flash forces Hillman outside into Kovacs(+0.5), who set up in a good spot; Hillman cuts back under where Ryan makes some amends by tackling before the sticks. Not an RPS minus because the error here is w/ player, not call.
O27 3 1 I-Form Big 4-4 under Run N/A Power off tackle Roh -1
Pulling guard trips as he comes out of his stance, which helps quite a bit. Roh(+3) is one on one with a tight end, pushes him into the backfield, and then throws him to the ground. He meets Hillman head-on a yard in the backfield for a thumping tackle. Strong possibility this is still stuffed with the pull since Hawthorne(+0.5) had flown up into the gap outside Roh and was in position to tackle behind the LOS.
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 13 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O20 1 10 Ace twin TE 4-3 under Run N/A Jet sweep Ryan 10
Ryan(-2) straight upfield again, giving up the edge. When you're let into the backfield without being blocked and don't make this guy at least change his flight path you messed up. There's no way for the LBs to remain responsible on the inside run here and get outside to track the jet sweep down unless Ryan delays the guy; he does not. Gordon keeps leverage forcing it back; Demens is pursuing and Kovacs(+0.5) comes up to tackle at the sticks.
O30 1 10 I-Form Big 4-4 under Pass 5 Throwaway Heininger Inc (Pen -10)
Not really a blitz as this is a two-man route. Deep guy is bracketed by Floyd and Woolfolk; Kovacs is going with the TE who motioned out. I think Lindley sees Hawthorne in his throwing lane and decides to chuck it at his RB's feet, which causes Hawthorne to vacate that lane when he sees the QB's eyes leave. Also, Heininger(+1, pressure +1) got in Lindley's face, drawing a holding call. It kind of looks like the TE hitch might be open, but results-based charting. (Cover +2, Kovacs +0.5; Floyd +0.5; Woolfolk +0.5)
O20 1 20 I-Form 4-3 even Pass N/A Long handoff Woolfolk 8
Played poorly by Woolfolk(-1), who lets the play outside of him and gives up eight yards on a nothing screen. Either have to tackle more quickly or force it back to help; Hawthorne was probably there if forced inside.
O28 2 12 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 4 Out Floyd 11
SDSU shifts from an I-form and gets a too-easy pitch and catch in front of Floyd(cover -1). Not really his fault as this was a zone blitz they had a good route on for (RPS –1).
O39 3 1 I-Form big 4-3 under Run N/A Power off tackle Martin 7
TEs flip and this time Ryan has his head on straight. Martin(+1) slides through the center instantly. He's into the backfield, picking off a puller. This provides Michigan a free hitter, which is a hard-flowing Demens(+1), who is in position to tackle for loss; Hillman bounces. Woolfolk(+1) is there on the edge but is held to the point where his shoulder pads pop out; no call. Refs -2.
O46 1 10 I-Form twin TE 4-3 even Run N/A Power off tackle Hawthorne 7
So this is what happens when Michigan does not flip the formation: not good stuff. Michigan's defense makes no sense: they're outnumbered on the strong side so they slant weakside and blitz Floyd(?!?) from the weakside as well. Black(-1) is not done favors by the play call but gets nailed inside; Hawthorne(+1) takes on a lead block and gets crushed but manages to keep his feet and draw the attention of a second blocker, who kicks the poor guy's ass. Hawthorne falls backwards right into Hillman's feet, which he grabs. Woolfolk was also there. Demens did okay considering the circumstances; Ryan(-0.5) was lost on the backside of the play; would not have been available to pursue if needed. RPS -2.
M47 2 3 Shotgun twin TE 4-4 under Run N/A Zone read dive Demens 7
Neither DT needs a double. Brink(+0.5) and Campbell(+0.5) stand up single blocks and get upfield, so the A gap is where the play must go. Heininger(-2) ends up sealed a yard and a half downfield after only a momentary double. The linebackers take on blocks near the first down marker and converge to tackle. Hillman and various OL start pushing the pile, whereupon Hillman fumbles because Demens(+2) ripped the ball out.
Drive Notes: Fumble, 7-0, 7 min 1st Q. Not too peeved about this drive since it should have been booted off the field on a third and short but for a hold.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O30 1 10 Ace twins twin TE 4-3 under Pass 5 PA Deep out Gordon 21
Morgan in for Hawthorne. Late motion stacks the two WRs over each other; one runs deep and the other cuts out an out route. Deep guy has run off Woolfolk and Gordon is coming from the inside so there's a big hole in the coverage(-2). Martin(+0.5) had gotten some pressure on Lindley to force him to throw it off his back foot a bit; Morgan(-1) sucked way up on the playfake and let Hillman out into the flat with no one around him. Gordon(-1) didn't read this very well.
M49 1 10 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run N/A Power off tackle Ryan 3
Another formation flip, causing Michigan to do the same. TE then motions into the backfield as short side is overloaded. This time Ryan(+0.5) is in the right spot. He takes on his blocker quickly, standing him up at the LOS and further inside than he wants to be. Pulling G impacts him. RVB, Martin, and Heininger all do their jobs without doing anything spectacular, so there are no holes and a wad of bodies forms about two yards downfield. Half points for RVB and Heininger; Martin got pushed back a bit trying to shed and is the reason there's a little push.
M46 2 7 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 6 Out Woolfolk 10
Rhythm throw from Lindley comes too soon for serious pressure unless someone doesn't get picked up; SDSU stones the blitz (pressure -1, RPS -1). Woolfolk(+0.5) is there to tackle on the catch and has a decent shot of raking the ball out; he's about a half step from a PBU.
M36 1 10 Ace twin TE 4-3 under Run N/A Pitch sweep Gordon 1
Both TEs block down as both guards pull. Ryan again flies straight upfield, avoiding the downblock but not doing anything useful. If he slows up here and picks off the pulling G he gets a plus, but he doesn't. Hillman is in business if he cuts upfield but he widens too much and too fast for his OL to keep up with him, allowing Gordon(+1) to flow hard upfield. Hillman tries to cut inside; Demens(+0.5) slows up and is blocked by the guy Ryan did not pick off. He is in a good spot to prevent bad things from happening, though. Hillman bounces back outside, where Gordon has beaten the other G's block. He can't make a tackle but does slow Hillman enough for Demens, Martin, and Morgan to tackle for little gain. One yard gain only gets 1.5 plus because I think this is a poor job by Hillman of reading his blocks.
M35 2 9 Ace twins twin TE 4-3 even Run N/A Inside zone Campbell 5
TE motions in and Floyd moves down in as a quasi SLB. Michigan slanting playside; Heininger(+0.5) gets upfield of his guy but Campbell(-1) does not, getting sealed away. Heininger's move robs SDSU of some of its blocking angles; there's an OL out on Morgan but no one on Floyd or Demens so those guys can shut it down after a few yards provided by the Campbell crease. Would like to see Demens(-0.5) hit this more authoritatively; he gives up YAC by making a bleah arm tackle.
M30 3 4 Shotgun trips Nickel press Pass 6 Slant Van Bergen Inc
Van Bergen(+1, pressure +1) bats it at the line.
M30 4 4 Shotgun 2TE Okie press Pass 6 RB flat Demens Inc
So they do leave a guy wide open here, but they might have done it on purpose. SDSU misaligns, leaving a TE covered up. Johnson points him out out Floyd, and, then Floyd ignores him to double the RB coming out of the flat. Is Johnson IDing the guy as ineligible or telling Floyd to cover him and getting ignored? Don't know. In any case, Michigan sends six. Ryan gets a free run(+0.5, pressure/RPS +1) but Lindley has time to try to find a guy. It's his RB leaking into the flat after giving Demens(+2, cover +2) an ole; Demens pivots and is maybe a step behind him, making this throw all but impossible. Lindley has about a yard where the RB can catch it but it won't bounce off Demens's head, and Floyd(+0.5) is coming up to hit him at or near the sticks anyway.
Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 14-0, 3 min 1st Q. The coverage is just night and day. Sometimes guys get open but this is suddenly a much, much tougher secondary to go up against.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O27 1 10 Ace twin TE 4-3 even Pass 5 PA TE Seam -- Inc
I don't know what the hell they pulled to get this but Ryan is now lined up over the slot receiver. Michigan runs zone behind a blitz; Lindley throws a seam to a TE who is running an out. With three guys around this TE it was going to be a tough window on the seam.
O27 2 10 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run N/A Power off tackle Campbell 4
So... Campbell(+0.5). He gets doubled and holds his ground as NTs are supposed to do. Hurrah. This allows both LBs to flow to the hole unimpeded. Ryan(+0.5) gets into his blocker at the LOS, forcing the pulling G and RB outside; Fitz(+1) takes on the G at the LOS and forces it back to Hawthorne, his help. This should be a textbook stop except Ryan(-0.5) has started to cede ground quickly and is now behind the LOS. Cutback lane opens up. Campbell should be there to cut it off but has spent the entire play just burrowing into his two dudes. Gordon(+1) has flowed down with the time provided by the jam-up on the front and makes a solid-wrap up tackle(+1) to mitigate the damage but this probably should have been zero.
O31 3 6 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 5 Dig Gordon Inc
This is so good. One: Martin(+2) rips through a double team and forces Lindley to throw to his first read(pressure +1). Two: Hawthorne is ripping upfield as Michigan sends three blitzers up the center as Black peels off to pick up the TE drag. Three: Gordon(+2, cover +2) reads the TE cut and jumps the route, arriving at the destination in front of the TE. If this is accurate Gordon has a shot at an INT; Lindley wings it wide. This is what a damn strong defense looks like.
Drive Notes: Punt, 14-0, EO1Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O17 1 10 I-Form Big 4-3 under Pass 4 RB flat Martin Inc
Martin(+2, pressure +1) roars up the center of the pocket, eventually pancaking the center(!) and causing Lindley to dump it inaccurately to a flat route Hawthorne(+1, cover +1) had blanketed anyway.
O17 2 10 Shotgun 2TE 4-3 under Pass 5 Out Woolfolk 13
I think Beyer needs to get some more depth on his drop here but this is a 12-yard out he can't help on. Far too easy for the WR here as Woolfolk(-1, cover -1) is beaten clean and can only shove the guy out after he turns upfield.
O30 1 10 I-Form Big 4-3 under Pass N/A Waggle TE Flat Roh Inc
Roh(+0.5) and RVB(+0.5) don't bite on a weak fake and are right in Lindley's face(pressure +2), forcing him to turf it. Hawthorne(-1, cover -1) had gotten way out of position and this would have been open otherwise.
O30 2 10 I-Form twins Nickel press Run N/A Iso Van Bergen 9
Michigan goes nickel on second and long versus a standard set, and are one guy away from stuffing a run anyway. Martin(+1) slants under the backside G and just misses taking out the FB. Instead he's in the path of the RB, forcing him to stop and cut back behind. Both linebackers shed blocks and are about to tackle when Van Bergen(-2) gets blown way off the line after standing up initially, providing a cutback lane with no one in it because Black(-1) ran around upfield. Hawthorne nailed with a block in the back; no call. Johnson(+0.5, tackling +1) does fill well.
O39 3 1 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run N/A Iso Campbell 2
Seems like M is playing this too conservatively, with two deep safeties and the LBs five yards off the LOS. Campbell(+0.5) stands up a G and comes off to tackle but it's not enough with the LBs having to come down from far away.
O41 1 10 Shotgun 2TE 4-3 under Pass N/A Post Woolfolk Inc
Good pocket(pressure -1) and Lindley seems to want a post on Woolfolk—you can tell how they're picking on him and avoiding Floyd. The receiver thinks it's a run play and starts blocking.
O41 2 10 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass 3 Out Gordon 9
Gordon(-1) allows a five yard out, which fine, but then overruns the play (tackling -1), turning the five yards into nine. He does manage to tackle from behind when the WR slows up.
50 3 1 Ace twin TE 4-3 under Penalty N/A False start -- -5
This is why you don't talk into conch shells.
O45 3 6 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel press Pass 6 Slant Woolfolk 9
No time to get to the QB here as it's slants; Woolfolk(-1, cover -1) is beaten, and while I wouldn't usually be so harsh here he's got a WR juggling the ball and if he hits him at all it's incomplete. Instead he's a step away. It's instructive to compare Floyd on the other side—he is covering his very well. Woolfolk leaves the game limping at this point.
M46 1 10 Goal line 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Hawthorne 4
Nothing on the frontside as Martin(+0.5) and RVB(+0.5) hold up; Heininger(-1) is blown up but Hawthorne(+1) slices into the gap before the guy coming off Heininger can pop him. Roh(+0.5) is flowing down the backside and forces a bounce all the way behind into an unblocked Avery, who tackles.
M42 2 6 I-Form twins 4-3 under Pass N/A Long handoff Floyd 5
Kovacs is charging hard from the inside and Floyd does play this better than Woolfolk, making a tackle instead of forcing him OOB. This means five yards instead of eight. Still less than ideal.
M37 3 1 I-Form Big 46 eagle Run N/A Down G Fitzgerald 2
Going at Fitz, lined up over the TE. He does an okay job to stay at the LOS but gets no penetration. Playside DE is RVB, who shoots into the backfield and gets blown out of the play. That is something that happens when you're gambling on short yardage. Demens(+0.5) gets to the lead blocker at the LOS and forces Kazee up the back of the TE; Hawthorne(+0.5) comes under a block to tackle but Kazee can fall forward for the first.
M35 1 10 I-Form 4-3 under Pass 4 PA Deep comeback Ryan 21 (Pen -10)
Ryan(+2, pressure +1) is blitzing off the edge and gets inside the fullback; he's held. Otherwise a sack is likely. Lindley steps around the hold and lofts an impossibly accurate back-foot deep comeback that nails a WR at the sticks 16 yards downfield in front of Avery. Dude made a lot of bad throws, but dude... this is dude. Avery(-1, tackling -1) compounds matters by missing a tackle.
M45 1 20 I-Form 4-3 under Run N/A Iso Campbell 0
Campbell(+1) and Heininger(+1) both shove single blocking into the backfield, forcing the play behind into the unblocked Ryan(+0.5) for a TFL.
M45 2 20 Shotgun 2TE Nickel press Pass 4 TE flat Avery 2
Ryan(+0.5) and Roh(+0.5, pressure +1) bullrush right back into Lindley, forcing a quick throw for nothing that Avery(+1, cover +1, tackling +1) is all over.
M43 3 18 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel press Pass 4 Post Floyd Inc
Martin(+1, pressure +1) flushes Lindley up into the pocket; he has to throw as RVB threatens to come outside to take him out. It's a post. Similar to the previous incompletion on fourth down, here the Michigan defender is in very good position and Lindley's window is tiny. Floyd(+1, cover +1) doesn't get his head around for the ball and so doesn't pick up an extra plus; if he did you could have filed this under passes Lindley was lucky he didn't throw more accurately.
Drive Notes: Punt, 14-0, 6 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
M48 1 10 Ace twins twin TE 4-3 under Pass 4 PA throwaway Martin Inc (Pen -10)
Martin(+2) blows through the center's block before Lindley can even turn around and his held. Lindley is all like GET IN THE CAR IT'S MIKE MARTIN and chucks the ball away. (Pressure +2)
O42 1 20 I-Form twins 4-3 under Run N/A Power off tackle Demens -2
Hoo! Demens(+2) reads the play and roars to the LOS, blasting the pulling OL on his ass. Ryan(+2) set up the FB's block so that it would be in the wrong place, Harris-style, then explodes upfield at about the same time Demens is giving this OL the business, tackling for loss. Greg Mattison, man.
O40 2 22 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 5 Slant Floyd Inc
Lindley wings a slant behind his receiver. Floyd(+0.5) seemed in position for an immediate tackle, which is fine in this D&D.
O40 3 22 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass 4 Dumpoff Black 8 (Pen +5)
Black(-1) jumps offside. Lindley checks down (cover +1) despite having a free play.
O45 3 17 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass 4 Comeback Martin Inc
Zone blitz with both LBs headed up the middle as the DEs drop off. Kovacs comes late. This is telegraphed and picked up; Martin(+2) quickly battles through the OT's block and gets a hurry on Lindley, forcing him to get rid of the ball. Comeback is well wide. Short of the sticks but in go for it range if complete. (Pressure +1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 21-0, 11 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
M39 1 10 I-Form twins 4-3 under Run N/A Power off tackle Ryan 2
Michigan slants the line away from the strength of the formation. This takes RVB(+0.5) into the playside G, eliminating him from downfield blocking. Ryan(+1) impacts both lead blockers, delaying the lead guy and taking the second one. Fitz's initial burst is taking him outside, where he'll need to be if there is a bounce against this slant, so he can't change direction fast enough to do much other than impact the FB that Ryan delayed. That's fine since the slant has left Hawthorne(-0.5) a free hitter. If he's as fast to the LOS as Fitz this is no gain; as it is he's a little late. He does tackle(+1). RPS +1.
M37 2 8 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 5 Hitch Floyd Inc
WR beats Floyd(-1, cover -1) clean and Lindley can throw on rhythm. WR drops it. Pressure was getting there if there was a second read. (Pressure +1)
M37 3 8 Ace twins twin TE Okie press Run N/A Pitch sweep -- 22
Massive RPS here as Michigan is lined up in its okie set with one guy on deep and does not react when SDSU motions in a TE who was already split out. When the Aztecs run the toss to that side they've got Roh, Hawthorne, Kovacs, and Avery versus four OL. Yay. Roh(-1) crushed inside like Lewan is blocking him; Kovacs(-2) takes fatal steps to the interior. Hawthorne manages to spin outside one block only to get buried by another OL. Avery keeps leverage but has little hope of doing anything else. Johnson(+0.5) manages to dive at Hillman's feet as he nears the 15 despite taking on a block; Hillman runs through it but this slows him down enough for a pursuing RVB(+2) to tackle from behind, punching the ball free as he does. Ryan recovers. RPS -3. It is super inane that the replay focuses on Jake Ryan instead of the DT WHO RAN DOWN RONNIE HILLMAN. Guh.
Drive Notes: Fumble, 21-0, 9 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O23 1 10 Ace twins twin TE 4-3 under Run N/A Yakety snap -- 1
Fumbled snap is picked up by Hillman, who rushes to the edge. Ryan gets lit up on a crackback block; Floyd cleans up. He's dinged on the tackle, paving the way for Countess.
O24 2 9 Shotgun 2TE 4-3 under Pass 4 TE Corner Martin Inc
This is open for a big chunk and just missed; Avery(-2, cover -2) has no threats in front of him and has to get much deeper on this to take it away. Ryan(+1) and Martin(+1) had both beaten blocks to pressure(+2) Lindley, possibly causing the incompletion. If Avery covers this is a sack.
O24 3 9 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass 4 Skinny post Countess Inc
Time, but no one open(cover +2); Countess(+2, cover +1 again) is tested and is running this skinny post for the WR; he's even got his head around. Ball is well behind the WR and incomplete.
Drive Notes: Punt, 21-0, 2 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
M38 1 10 I-Form twins 4-3 under Pass 4 PA something Countess Inc
Plenty of time(pressure -1); Lindley throws sort of in the direction of Countess and his guy but not, like, near them.
M38 2 10 I-Form twins 4-3 even Run N/A Iso Ryan 4
Ryan in space over the slot receiver. Campbell(+1) takes a double and doesn't move, then fights playside of his blocker. Hole is small. Fitz(+1) pops the FB right at the line; RVB(+1) fights outside to keep the bounce from happening; Ryan(-1) is hesitant about the bounce and fails to fill the last remaining crack of space Hillman has; he does tackle but the delay allows Hillman to get four where there were none. It is possible this is on RVB for bouncing out, but I doubt it since he's the senior.
M34 3 6 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass 4 Slant Avery 7
This seems like about as good as you can defend this. Avery(+1, cover +1) does give up the inside but only barely; he's right on the WR's back and the throw has to be perfect and the catch good since Avery whacks the WR's hand just as the ball arrives, then tackles.
M27 1 10 Ace 3TE Nickel even Pass 4 PA TE Wheel Kovacs Inc (Pen -5)
Black(+1) beats a blocker and hurries Lindley(pressure +1), forcing a throw. This one is way off and wouldn't have mattered anyway since Kovacs(+2, cover +2) had run the guy's route for him, forcing the TE OOB of his own volition. Another good-thing-you're-inaccurate-buddy throw. TE was covered up anyway, illegal man downfield. I would not have taken a five yard penalty instead of an incompletion here.
M32 1 15 I-Form twins 4-3 under Pass 6 PA RB flat Hawthorne 13
Blitz gets a guy in but there is an easy dumpoff because of it; Hawthorne(-2, tackling -2) is running out to keep this down to a moderate gain but overruns the play badly, barely touching Hillman. Gordon comes from behind to tackle near the sticks.
M19 2 2 Goal line 4-3 under Pass 4 Waggle TE Flat Ryan 3
Hillman takes three yards on a TE flat. Okay.
M16 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 even Pass 4 Post Avery 16
I actually tend to blame Gordon more than Avery here; as soon as that TE in the slot goes horizontal you are no longer threatened in the deep middle and it's time to find the other WRs. That's speculation from me. Avery does get beat on the post but not by much. He's again on the back of the WR and forces a perfect throw, which Lindley provides. Am I being too nice here?
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-7, EO3Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
50 1 10 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Black 0
Black(+2) ducks under the OT's block and penetrates into the backfield, forcing Hillman away from blocking lanes and getting a diving arm tackle attempt that brings him to a near halt. Martin(+0.5) has held his position and pops off into a lane that Hillman might hit; he comes back inside, where Demens(+0.5) is there to finish the job.
50 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 5 Slant Countess 10
Blitz up the middle with dropping DEs. I can't tell if this is Ryan's fault, Countess's fault, or no one's fault. Ryan drops back into the slot's slant instead of the outer slant, leaving it open; Countess is off the line. I'm watching Floyd on the other side play an identical slant and he's in much better position, so Countess(-1, cover -1) gets the ding. He does recover to tackle before the sticks. Also pressure -1.
M40 1 10 I-Form twins 4-3 under Pass 5 Post Countess Inc
Ryan off the line. He approaches it on a late shift; Gordon comes down over the slot for a one-high look. Play action with the outside receivers going deep; Countess is in man with a guy on a post. He runs it for him (+2, cover +2) and Lindley adds to his list of thankfully inaccurate passes. Pressure -1.
M40 2 10 Shotgun 2TE 4-3 under Pass 4 Hitch Floyd Inc
Big personnel with Hillman spread out wide and a FB next to Lindley. They run a little hitch to Hillman, which might work okay if they'd successfully motioned out a LB on him, but it's Floyd(+2, cover +2), who breaks on the ball for a PBU. RPS +1.
M40 3 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel press Pass 6 Fade Countess Inc
Blitz gets Morgan(+1, RPS +1, Pressure +2) a free run up the middle. Lindley makes a back-foot chuck a la Carder but this one is deadly accurate, a fade outside of Countess's guy(-1, cover -1) that he just drops.
Drive Notes: Punt, 21-7, 12 min 4th Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O34 1 10 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run N/A Outside zone Ryan 14
I think. It's not really stretch blocking but the playside tackle is definitely sealing RVB inside. It bounces outside spectacularly because Ryan(-2) is hacked to the ground by a fullback block, giving up the corner. Demens(-2) is also cut to the ground, meaning there's zero chance anyone can get out there before the secondary.
O48 1 10 Ace twin TE 4-3 even Run N/A Jet sweep Van Bergen -5
A tiny little adjustment murderizes the play. Michigan goes to an even front, which shifts RVB outside over a TE. TEs fan out and RVB(+1). goes straight upfield to tackle(+1) for loss. Normally the TEs would block Ryan and the T would get Van Bergen but the shift to the even confused them. More bust than tactical checkmate but still RPS +1.
O43 2 15 I-Form twins Nickel even Run N/A Draw Van Bergen 4
Van Bergen(+1) blows his guy back as they make contact, forcing Hillman behind him and away from his blocking. Countess(+0.5) realizes what's going on and sees Hillman coming; he can't disengage smoothly but does manage to sort of arm tackle him; Demens(+0.5) finishes it off. I'll take a four yard run on second and fifteen when you're in nickel and they're in a regular set.
O47 3 11 Shotgun 3-wide Okie press Pass 6 Slant Countess 10
Countess(-1, cover -1) is beaten a lot easier than Floyd and Avery have been so far this game and can only tackle afterwards; no chance at a breakup. This sets up a fourth down.
M43 4 1 Ace 3TE 4-3 under Pass 4 PA TE Seam -- Inc
PA is wildly effective and this guy is wide open (RPS -2, cover -2) but either Lindley misses or his TE turns the wrong way and it's incomplete.
Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 21-7, 8 min 4th Q. Michigan scores quickly and SDSU gets the ball back with 6 minutes left down 21. Both starting units stay on so I'll keep charting, but with game situation in mind big minuses for chunks will be slim. I'm mostly just trying to get a grip on the D.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O27 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 5 Out Kovacs Inc
Lindley badly misses on an out or the WR should have run a hitch; either way Kovacs(-1, cover -1) is way far off after a Floyd corner blitz.
O27 2 10 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass 4 Flat Countess 2
Okay pressure; Lindley has to check down (cover +1). Countess(+1, tackling +1) is the hard corner in the zone and comes up for an immediate tackle.
O29 3 8 Shotgun 4-wide Okie press Pass 5 Skinny post Van Slyke 23
Van Slyke in tight man against an SDSU TE and just gets outrun by yards. Man. That guy cannot play in real games, I don't think. No cover because I don't think this is relevant to actual games.
M48 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass 3 Dig Hawthorne 15
Hawthorne(-2, cover -2) busts, flying out on an out route and leaving a big hole in the zone.
M33 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass 4 Post Gordon 14
Out and and a post behind it; Gordon starts moving out on the out, then realizes that's not a good idea and sinks back. On the throw he's right there but the WR undercuts him a little and gets to the ball first, making a juggling catch. He's there and he's got a shot at an INT; could have played it better when the ball got there. (-0.5)
M19 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel press Pass 4 Sack Roh -8
Not instant BG death pressure here as Lindley sits for a second or two before trying a deep corner route, but Roh(+2) does beat the OT and hit the QB as he throws, forcing a drive-ending fumble. Pressure +1.
Drive Notes: Fumble, 28-7, 5 min 4th Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O17 1 10 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass 4 TE seam Demens 30
Martin and Lindley are out there so I guess I'm charting. I have no idea what to do with this one since Demens is in great position and actually has this ball go off his head before the TE Prothros him. I think (+0.5, cover +1) but please get your head around son before you Todd Howard us all. I mean... this throw was really hard and so was the catch and Demens could have done better but he didn't do bad.
O47 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass 4 Out Countess? 13
This may be on Countess (-1, cover -1), as this appears to be zone; Countess sits down on a short hitch, opening space up behind him that Gordon and the S can't cover. He should definitely be dropping deeper in this situation; who cares about a little hitch?
M40 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass N/A Bubble screen Countess 1
Michigan misaligns and SDSU busts. Opa! Hawthorne(-1) lines up wrong but the WR out on the bubble doesn't block so okay. Countess tackles for a minimal gain.
M39 2 9 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel press Pass 4 Slant Gordon Inc
Gordon on the slot; pocket is okay; Black is getting there but Lindley can step up. Zinged to Denso, who makes a one-handed grab with Gordon in pursuit. Gordon was riding him but couldn't make a play on the ball. -0.5. It's dropped because of the tough throw.
M39 3 9 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel press Pass 4 Screen Ryan Inc
Ryan(+1) and Campbell(+1) read screen and snuff it out; Lindley turfs it. RPS +1. Black(-1) was offside.
M34 3 4 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel press Pass 4 Slant Gordon 9
Gordon(-1, cover -1) beaten, and fairly easily.
M25 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel press Pass 4 Slant Countess 6
Six yard slant with instant tackle... I usually don't ding these on first down since you have to be wary about longer routes.
M19 2 4 Shotgun 4-wide tight Nickel even Pass 4 Out Countess Inc
Wide. Probably right at the sticks if completed.
M19 3 4 Shotgun trips Nickel press Pass 4 Hitch Hawthorne 6
Hawthorne in tight coverage but Lindley fits it in and Hawthorne can't rake it out.
M13 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel press Pass 4 Throwaway Black Inc
Black(+1) gets some pressure and Lindley chucks it OOB due to good coverage(+1).
M13 2 10 Shotgun trips Nickel press Pass 4 Corner Countess Inc
Corner route against man is a TD if well thrown; this is too far inside. Countess(+0.5) is there and can make a play on the ball as it gets there, though, so there's that. M making it tough.
M13 3 10 Shotgun 4-wide Okie press Pass 7 Seam Floyd Inc
Unblocked guy, naturally, Lindley chucks it off his back foot inaccurately; Floyd(+1, cover +1, RPS +1) was riding the WR before the throw to make sure that was the case.
M13 4 10 Ace twins twin TE Nickel press Pass 4 Slant Gordon Inc
Gordon in trail position again and seems beaten but as the WR catches it he double clutches; Gordon(+1, cover +1) punches it loose.
Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 28-7, EOG.

OH MAH GAWD WE HELD A ACTUAL-ISH TEAM TO SEVEN POINTS

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

EEEEE—all right.

Yes. Right.

Composure.

Yes. Yes, smooth out the jacket.

Insert bubble pipe.

Adopt calm, professional mien.

How about a chart?

Yes, that will help.

image

That's not very professional.

I took out the reference to "sex."

You have multiple exclamation points… and did you put the title at a jaunty angle? IS THAT AN EMO-KID LOWERCASE LETTER AMONGST CAPITALS IN THERE?

It's not in comic sans at least.

Pretty soon you'll be referring to Michigan's coaches as "CBH, CGM, and CAB."

Hater. I'm not even going to let you say chart.

Already did.

Oooooh. Fine.

Defensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Van Bergen 8.5 2 6.5 Forced fumble was big deal; solid otherwise.
Martin 15.5 - 15.5 Unblockable today.
Roh 6.5 1 5.5 Not bad for splitting time.
Brink 0.5 - 0.5 Sporadic PT.
Heininger 3 3 0 I'll take it.
Black 4 4 0 Not much impact; two offsides calls.
Campbell 4.5 1 3.5 Keep hope alive.
TOTAL 42.5 11 31.5 Martin wrecked these guys. Check the pressure metric.
Linebacker
Player + - T Notes
C. Gordon - - - DNP
Demens 9.5 2.5 7 Not sure what to do with his Howard-esque coverage but I liked it.
Herron - - - DNP
Ryan 9.5 8 1.5 Paging Jonas Mouton to aisle reincarnation.
Fitzgerald 2 - 2 A couple plays.
Jones - - - DNP
Evans - - - DNP
Beyer - - - Did not register.
Hawthorne 4.5 6.5 -2 Half of minuses came on final drive, fwiw, but he did bust a coverage there.
Morgan 1 1 0 Eh.
TOTAL 26.5 18 8.5 A better day from most; Ryan makes plays but really needs to settle down on the edge.
Secondary
Player + - T Notes
Floyd 5.5 1 4.5 Tony Gibson -1000
Avery 2 3 -1 Tough completions made against him.
Woolfolk 2 3 -1 Didn't seem right even before the injury.
Kovacs 3.5 3 0.5 Got him on the long RPS run.
T. Gordon 5 4 1 All safeties > 0 against real QB.
Countess 6 4 2 Not as rapturous as we thought but still pretty good, full stop.
Johnson 1 - 1 A couple of fills.
TOTAL 25 18 7 Stunning.
Metrics
Pressure 20 4 16 Jeepers.
Coverage 25 19 6 Flabbergasting.
Tackling 5 5 0 Could use work.
RPS 8 10 -2 Blitzing reduced as not necessary; did get RPS-3ed on a big run

To sanity check those numbers, SDSU had thirteen drives and got seven points. Four drives started at midfield or worse. When Michigan punched in their final TD to end the game with about six minutes left, SDSU had 266 yards. Michigan at least sort of forced three turnovers.

I think they're right. With a few exceptions on too-easy short passes and busts on edge contain, San Diego State got dominated.

But Lindley was terrible. This means nothing!

I don't think Lindley was good by any means, but in a way the Aztecs were lucky he was so off. On multiple plays Michigan had defensive backs in position to either get PBUs or intercept the ball only to see Lindley miss by miles. A lot of the time the reason those balls were so off was pressure applied by Martin or others.

Lindley is no joke, either. He is a legit NFL prospect:

Overall, he’s got a strong arm, showcases the ability to look off defenders, find a secondary option and when given time he can get his feet around toward his target. However, he doesn’t possess the kind of coordination/balance from the waist down that you want to see from an NFL quarterback, especially in today’s NFL where you need a QB who can escape pressure both inside and outside the pocket, settle himself quickly and burn a defense that wants to bring the blitz. Something I have a hard time seeing Lindley doing consistently at the next level.

Lindley is certainly worth a draft pick and has the skill set to go somewhere in the early/mid round range, depending on how well he performs the rest of the year/post-season. However, if he doesn’t improve his overall footwork/coordination from the pocket, it’s going to be tough for him to make plays in the NFL when he doesn’t have a clean pocket.

While he's not Tom Brady I don't have to remind anyone reading this of the murderer's row that carved Michigan up last year.

ben-chappellllllllmatt-mcgloinfootball-cat

The Michigan secondary held a fifth year senior NFL prospect QB to 5.3 YPA, which is also known as "Threet/Sheridan production." Take whatever coaching-upgrade-based optimism you held going into the season and triple it.

Okay, okay, no receivers and a lot of Mike Martin tearing through the line. Sure. San Diego State is going to backslide this year. I refer you to the above murderers row, though. Upgrade: massive.

Here's where I want to embed several plays that showcased Michigan's newfound talent for making life tough on opposing receivers, but I'm still trying to figure out what my status is there. But, man, even when SDSU was completing stuff they had guys in their grill. Lindley had to make some perfect passes to complete slants on Avery and often just missed because a guy like Demens had given him the choice of throwing it high/wide or throwing it into his helmet.

And the run defense?

There are still problems on the edge. Ryan did end up positive but is dinged for losing contain on three separate occasions that resulted in 30 yards. So there's that. There was also the massive minus rock-paper-scissor run that ended in the Hillman fumble. That was another 30 yards. So the SDSU run game:

  • Ryan losing contain on edge (w/ assist from Demens once): 3 carries, 30 yards
  • That one RPS play: 1 carry, 30 yards
  • Everything else: 24 carries, 77 yards

As a wise groundskeeper in a Snickers commercial once said, great googly moogly. Say what you want about Lindley and his receivers, SDSU returned essentially their entire running game and was shut down when not exploiting one freshman's issues with keeping the edge or running that one play. Those things seem fixable. Even if they aren't, Michigan held the Aztecs to 4.2 YPC.

I'm getting closer to believing that Campbell can be an average three-tech in the Big Ten. Like, a guy who doesn't get blown up and is mildly positive. Weakness at LB outside of Demens is going to be an issue that prevents Michigan from having a really good run defense, but I think they're 80% of the way to the best case scenario already.

So you're down on Ryan, then.

Relative to the rest of the internet, yeah. I think he's promising. I also think he's making four or five really obvious mistakes per game. Maize Pages picture paged the second play of the game, a six yard run that was the first of Michigan's Flip You For Real plays. Notice something?

flip-you-for-real-5

The middle linebacker is… Brandin Hawthorne. The line is… undershifted. Jake Ryan is… definitely not in position. When Michigan meant to run an even front this is what it looked like:

even-for-real

Demens in the middle, line slid more playside. Maize Pages dinged the D for not adjusting but they didn't have to; a safety slid down when the TE went in motion. If Ryan's where he's supposed to be Michigan probably defends this play.

COUNTESS!

I'm a little less thrilled than I was on gameday but I'm still pretty impressed. Even more impressive: when SDSU runs double slants and I look across the field at Floyd to see if he's playing it better, he is. Maybe we should be saying FLOYD!

Seriously. When the starters were in there, SDSU went after Woolfolk. When Avery was in there, they went after Avery. Floyd came up with a jumped-route PBU and ended up significantly positive despite being a corner. I'm still leery about the depth of the transformation here but each game adds evidence to the pile indicating Floyd can play now and Pitt fans should get used to shootouts.

Back to Countess: he ran some routes for guys, which puts him in a group with Gordon, Kovacs, Floyd, and not quite Avery. I be like dang.

image

Speaking of being like dang…

Yes. Mike Martin in full effect, never more so than when he literally ran over the SDSU center en route to the QB. A large number of Lindley's hopeless mortar shells can be directly attributed to Martin ripping through those guys like they were not there. This was a solid offensive line he did it to; with his quietly plus-double-digit day against Eastern (no passes to be devastating on) he seems poised to wreck the Big Ten. I can't wait to see him matchup against MSU's center, who will be a freshman coming off injury or a converted DT.

Why is your eye twitching?

BOY I'M GLAD TERRANCE ROBINSON CAN TACKLE DESPITE BEING SIX INCHES TALL

punt-wtf

That's a lot of grass, man. That is all.

Heroes?

Mike Martin, JT Floyd(!?!), RVB, and Kenny Demens.

Goats?

If I had to pick a guy it would be Ryan, but even that is a guy who ended up positive on the day. Black also should be mentioned—if you're going to take two offsides penalties you need to have one big negative play to compensate and he didn't.

What does it mean for Minnesota and beyond?

They should do about what they did to SDSU to Minnesota, a team in disarray that can maybe run a little bit when Gray is in there. I actually expect them to hold the Gophers to not many points.

As far as beyond, it seems like they've plugged a lot of their holes. I'm still worried about what happens when Michigan goes up against a serious offensive line but it's hard to find any until the last couple weeks of the schedule. There has been ever less firedrill confusion as the season progresses and in two weeks when they start the Big Ten schedule in earnest it's not too much to expect it to be largely gone. Then it's just a matter of getting improvement from Ryan/Hawthorne/Campbell/Johnson to bring the starting defense up to "decent to good Big Ten team." There's still a lack of out and out stars behind Martin but it's hard to point to a truly gaping hole at the moment, either.

This could all blow up against Northwestern if they've got Persa back. Right now, though, the defense is currently executing the best case scenario.

Boot On The Other Throat

Boot On The Other Throat

Submitted by Brian on September 26th, 2011 at 11:11 AM

9/24/2011 – Michigan 28, San Diego State 7 – 4-0

imagebracelets-doylebrunson2005hokesmug

A long, long time ago now a Lloyd-Carr coached Michigan team was struggling through the 2005 season when they met Northwestern. A lot of throws to Tacopants (Jason Avant's 11-foot-tall imaginary friend) on both sides later, Michigan emerged with a 33-17 win and I embarked on one of the first of an endless procession of stat-nerd diatribes about the evils of punting.

You've probably heard it already: punting decisions have not kept pace with the increasingly offensive nature of the game, leaving coaches in a perpetual state of risk- and win-avoidance. Romer paper, Pulaski High, Mathlete chart. Etc.

In this particular Northwestern game, though, Carr went for it on fourth and five from the Northwestern 23, a decision I thought was too aggressive(!). When paired with a number of similarly aggressive calls from earlier that season, it seemed like a sea change for the old man:

In multiple cases he's made tough, correct decisions: going on fourth and goal from the one against Wisconsin, pounding it into the line twice against Michigan State, etc. Even when the strategy has backfired, he accepts the downside and persists in a more aggressive posture.

In context, the Penn State gaffe seems more like one last hit of that sweet Bombay Popsicle* snuck in-between rehab sessions than evidence of 1970s thinking taking hold. Lloyd Carr has checked himself in to the Betty Ford Center for Coaches Addicted to Low Variance. I wouldn't expect a flying-colors discharge any time soon, but he's made the first, biggest step.

*[I don't know either.]

That change lasted into the fourth quarter of that year's Ohio State game. Having acquired a two-score lead by converting a fourth and inches around the Michigan 40, Carr reverted to his primitive instincts at the crucial moment. With three minutes left from the Ohio State 40, he called for a wide receiver screen on third and ten. It gained six yards. With a two point lead, three minutes on the clock, no Ohio State timeouts left, and a fourth and four on the Ohio State 34, Carr punted. Ohio State drove for a touchdown; Carr would never again have the opportunity to kill a game against the Buckeyes.

In the moment, Carr choked. Six years on that single decision seems like the best way to explain why a lot Michigan fans found his tenure frustrating despite its high rate of success: the program was perpetually making poor decisions because a combination of fear and arrogance. Something could go wrong if you made a high variance decision, and Michigan could spit on expected value because This Is Michigan. See any game in which Michigan acquired an 18-point lead or the first half of the Orange Bowl for confirmation.

Carr coached like he had a kickass running game and killer defense no matter the facts, which was the difference between being a legend and a being a B+ coach who lost the battle with Tressel authoritatively. Hell, even Tressel blew games when he failed to adjust to the reality that sometimes his defense and special teams were not enough, and he ran roughshod over the Big Ten for nine years.

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

Part of the reason a segment of the Michigan fanbase (including the author) blew up at Hoke's hire is because it seemed to represent a return to that expectation-spurning 1970s decision-making.

Brady Hoke put a lot of those fears to rest by going for—and getting—the win against Notre Dame with eight seconds left. That decision was a no-brainer. If the field goal team had run out onto the field, I would have been livid. That was a test he passed, but it was one with a low bar.

On Saturday, Hoke sent out the punting team with about two and a half minutes left in the first half. It was fourth and two around midfield, and I was mildly peeved. It was not the percentage play, but I've watched a lot of football and it seemed too much to hope that even the rootin'est, tootin'est, eyepatch-wearingest pirate of a head coach would go for it. Needing more than a sneak and up fourteen in the first half, the world punts. My peevishness was directed at football coaches in general, not Hoke in particular.

And then.

And then an angel came down from the sky, and signaled timeout. Great trumpets erupted from the flagpoles, playing a fanfare as a golden staircase descended. Each of the steps was engraved with the names of World Series of Poker winners. Down from the clouds strode Doyle Brunson, clad in a jacket of hundred-dollar bills. And lo, Texas Dolly spaketh unto the people: "check-raise." Brady Hoke sent the offensive line onto the field.

This was a really, really good decision. Even if you don't believe the exact outlines of the Mathlete's calculations, it is not close: average offense versus average defense means the break-even line is around eight yards. This was not an average situation. Michigan had Denard Robinson against a pretty horrible run defense. And that number does not take into account the game situation. If Michigan gets the first down they are almost certainly robbing San Diego State of a possession. Punting gets you thirty, forty yards of field position. Getting the first down puts you in good position to score and is essentially another +1 in turnover margin. You need two yards and you have Denard Robinson.

(caption) Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson breaks away from the San Diego State defense for a big gain in the second quarter. Robinson rushed for 200 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries, a 9.5-yards-per-carry average. He struggled in the passing game, however, completing just 8 of 17 passes for 93 yards with two interceptions.  *** After jumping out to a 21-0 lead by halftime, courtesy of three rushing touchdowns by Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, the Wolverines turned the ball over three times in the second half, but held on to beat coach Brady Hoke's former team, the San Diego State Aztecs 28-7 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. Photos taken on Saturday, September 24, 2011. ( John T. Greilick / The Detroit News )

stealing a joke from the internet: the guy on the right looks like he just looked into the Ark of the Covenant. via the News.

One speed option later Michigan was en route to the endzone and had essentially ended the game. Without that massively +EV decision they go into halftime up maybe 14, maybe 11, maybe 7 points. That ugly third quarter becomes the gut-check time most were predicting before the game. Maybe Michigan comes out on top (24-21, say). Maybe not. That didn't happen because when Michigan had its boot on San Diego State's neck, Hoke called Z 22 stomp right.

The Lloyd Carr example above shows we don't know that Hoke's going to do this consistently, that he'll stick to the non-pejorative MANBALL when the pressure is at its greatest, but so far so good. Even my doubts about Hoke's ability to math up in the waning moments of an Ohio State game are faint. When things go wrong he does not scowl or pout or throw headsets like Rich Rodriguez or Brian Kelly or Bo Pelini. He does not go on tilt. He calmly talks to guys about what in the hell they were thinking.

Hoke continues to leave best-case scenarios in the dust. Saturday night I watched Dennis Erickson punt on fourth and five from the USC 37 and thought "my coach would never do that." Then I watched Erickson chew out the punter who put the ball in the endzone because that's what happens when you punt from the 37 and thought "my coach would never do that."

That felt good. It felt invent-a-time-machine-to-assure-yourself-its-all-going-to-be-okay good. It feels like Michigan has finally learned how to gamble.

+EV Non-Bullets

Boy do I want to play poker with certain people on the internet. Evaluating the decision has popped up on every Michigan message board. It's mostly been met with praise, but man, there are a lot of people who can't estimate and multiply out there. Maybe it's Carr Stockholm syndrome.

Photoset. The SDSU photoset comes via Eric Upchurch and the Ann Arbor Observer:

A reminder: anything on the MGoBlog photostream is creative-commons licensed, free to use for non-commercial applications. Attribution to Eric Upchurch, the Observer, and MGoBlog is appreciated.

Mark Huyge is delighted to be here. From the above SDSU photoset.

huyge-1huyge-2huyge-3

It's not quite the Molk death glare. It's more like Shifty-Eyed Dog.

Try to look at Mark Huyge ever again without having that play in your head.

Eric also managed to get a picture of Denard looking sad after a win, which I thought was not possible, and this shot of a fully-padded Van Bergen about to opine on Kant:

ryan-van-bergen-kant

That's a great question. Just as our rationality leads us to a belief in an objective reality, Kant believed there is an objective morality we can locate from the same process. The Categorical Imperative is an absolute, fundamental moral law on par with Minnesota losing to teams from the Dakotas. Things are either right or wrong—there are no gray areas, and context does not apply. You could call him the BJ Daniels of philosophy*.

*[Ten-cent summary of Kantian philosophy cribbed from Three Minute Philosophy, which is terrific. Philosophers wishing to quibble with my paraphrase of a comedic summary are invited to consider the moral consequences of their actions and also jump in a lake. USF fans wishing to WOO BJ DANIELS can skip to the latter.]

And the internet eeeed Countess. When Troy Woolfolk headed to the sidelines, all Michigan fans everywhere winced. When Blake Countess replaced JT Floyd in the third quarter, all Michigan fans everywhere prepared for the deluge.

It never came, and as a result everyone from my uncle to the internet to the newspapers are having little freakouts about Michigan's #4 corner. I am with all of you. The only thing stopping Countess from having a few PBUs or interceptions was Ryan Lindley's inability to throw the ball anywhere near the guys Countess had blanketed but Lindley targeted anyway.

For most of the third quarter I stopped watching the offensive backfield and started watching downfield coverage and while I won't be able to confirm this on the tape I think Countess was doing really well even when people weren't going after him. I'm with the rest of the internet when I suggest that Troy Woolfolk should take the Minnesota game off to recover from his multiple nagging injuries so we can see some more of the freshman.

I thought Avery did well, too. He had a third-down slant completed on him and was the DB victimized on the touchdown but in both cases he was right there tackling/raking at the ball. Is he doing something wrong I'm not perceiving yet? Because I think he's playing better than Woolfolk, who gave up some groan-worthy easy completions. (I don't blame him for allowing Hillman to bounce on one third down conversion because he was clearly held.)

Release the Martin. This week in the I-told-you-so files: Mike Martin is just fine. His good day last week was obscured by EMU never throwing and having quite a bit of success attacking away from him. Against SDSU he was nigh unblockable, bowling a veteran offensive line over backwards multiple times and drawing holding calls left and right. Craig Roh had two big plays and will show up doing little things when I do the UFR; Will Campbell had a couple of line-pushing plays. Hillman's YPC was still over five, so there are issues but I think a big chunk of them are localizable to…

Problems. So… everyone's talking up Jake Ryan, too. I'm with everyone in a general, long-term sense but a little less enthused about his performance on Saturday. One of the results of the first few weeks of UFRing/picture paging is that whenever the opponent tries to get outside I immediately focus on Ryan. Result from last week: three "aaargh Ryan" screams that no one in my section comprehended. He's still giving up the corner way too easy.

Also, there are two caveats to an otherwise encouraging performance from the secondary. One: Lindley and his receivers were flat bad as a group. Drops, bad routes, and bad throws artificially boosted Michigan's efficiency against him. Some of that was caused by pressure. Some of it was just a crappy opponent. Two: I wonder if Michigan's familiarity with the SDSU offense allowed them to beat the Aztecs' favorite routes into Michigan DBs heads.

Still, 5.3 YPA and actual depth at corner. +1 Mallory.

Offensive construction bits. Another week, another confirmation that running Denard is the offense. While I still groan whenever they line up under center, snaps from there were limited. I would really prefer it if they never ran I-form power on first and ten again, though. They've mixed in some inexplicably effective short play action so far; if they can't run that will probably dry up.

Things I liked: That screen to Smith. The essence of an RPS+3 is when three offensive linemen have no one to block for 30 yards. And then the much-discussed speed option debuted. I'd gotten a couple insider emails telling me it was part of the offense but thought it would be extremely bad form to publish that, so I'd been waiting. It was quite a debut.

I'm hoping we see Borges add wrinkles at the same rate Rodriguez did. He'll have to to keep the run offense ahead of the wolves. He's off to a good start.

vincent-smith-sdsu

via the Detroit News.

Tailbacks. I'm suddenly happy with Michigan's tailback situation after Vincent Smith made a lot of yards on his own, including the above touchdown where he kept his balance at about the five and managed to drag a safety into the endzone. There was also the zone play where he squeezed through a crack in the line it's possible literally no other D-I back would have fit through.

Toussaint, meanwhile, didn't have the yards Smith did but ran hard on the inside; I still like him best but understand if they're going to split duties between the top two. I feel bad for Shaw—maybe it's time to put him on kickoffs? He's got speed Smith does not.

The Denard question. So they did run a curl-flat. Denard went to the curl way late and threw his first interception. Not sure if that was schemed or just bad execution by the offense. If it's the latter that might be attributable to not running it over the offseason as Borges attempted to install his route packages, route packages that now seem like things Denard just can't do.

A three-point plan in an attempt to get Denard back on track:

  1. Stop throwing on the run.
  2. Provide some easy throws early—all hitch, snag—in an effort to get him calmed down.
  3. Develop some sort of counter-punch to the opponent getting all up in Denard's face on the rollout PA. A shovel pass?

Bending but not breaking. Michigan's giving up a lot of yards but not a lot of points. Frankly, some of this is luck. They are acquiring turnovers at an unsustainable rate. Not unsustainable for a mediocre defense, unsustainable for Michigan 1997. When the well dries up they'll do some more breaking.

The other thing is the secondary. Michigan's newfound ability to make plays on deep balls and Jordan Kovacs being stone-cold reliable (so far /crosses self) have erased cheap touchdowns for the opposition. WMU's touchdown came on a 15-play drive. ND touchdown drives went 7, 10, 7, and 4 plays. San Diego State's took six plays but started from the Michigan 38. The only quick drive Michigan's given up all year was ND's desperation drive, on which Michigan gave up chunks on purpose because of the time situation and then tried an NFL-style defense they weren't ready for and blew it. The longest touchdown other than that was the 16-yard pass Lindley hit in the third quarter.

Opponents have ripped off chunks on occasion, but they have not been handed free touchdowns. Michigan's at least making them earn it. That's a necessary first step on the road away from completely awful.

The next opponent. When Minnesota managed to hang with USC on the first weekend of the season they seemed like they might be more intimidating than your average Minnesota team. Then they lost to Not Even The Good New Mexico and North Dakota State and seemed even less intimidating than your average Minnesota team. Compounding matters: Jerry Kill is again out of commission with his seizure issue.

Drumline? Drumline:

Here

I did not VOAV this week for reasons of being spooked. Boyz In The Pahokee provided the usual bounty if you are jonesing.

ST3 goes Inside the Box Score:

Matt Wile. Wait, let me try that again. MATT WILE!!! Yeah, I think he was properly pumped up to play his Dad's team. Net yards per kickoff were 50 for SDSU and 49.2 for UofM. To be even on kickoffs is a win for us. Net yards per punt were 34.7 for SDSU and 43.5 for Michigan. To gain almost a full first down per punt is huge. Two punts were inside the 20, and two were 50+ yards. #82, Terrance Robinson had 2 ST tackles and did a great job as the gunner on punts.

Wile's just lost his punting job; if that allows him to improve his kickoffs and compete for the field goal job, Michigan's kicking could be one of those strength things by midseason. 

Lordfoul's weekly Hoke for Tomorrow:

Michigan needs Hagerup back.  Maybe Hagerup isn't the only answer.  Wile's kicks are improving it would seem, both on KOs and punts, possibly because his nerves are settling down.  Kickoffs regularly made it to the goal line and only 1 of 4 punts was returned for much while they averaged 49 yards per with a long of only 51(!).

Player participation notes from jtmc33.

Elsewhere

Media, as in files: Brady Hoke pointing at something. Hugs and Ryan Van Bergen's ripped jersey. AnnArbor.com's photo gallery.

MVictors got a few sideline shots, including SDSU's mascot:

1montazuma_thumb[1]

You see that conch shell he's got in his hand? At some point in the first half he was talking into it like it was a cell phone. That is all.

Media, as in blog rabble. BWS hops aboard the Countess bandwagon and points out Denard can't throw.

MGoBlog : The Big Lebowski :: The Hoover Street Rag : The Hunt For Red October:

After the Notre Dame game, I tweeted very simply: "And the singing, Captain?" "Let them sing."  The moment was too good to start worrying about the future.  But at some point, the future arrives and you need to deal with it.  How well prepared you are for that future plays a large role in how well you're able to handle it when the moment arrives.  The non-conference schedule, particularly one played as four games at the start of the season should, theoretically, be a nice combination of challenges and the working out of kinks.  Before the mission starts, you must know the capacity and capabilities of your crew.

Touch the Banner provides the usual breakdown, says we should see "no one" less on the defense. Whoah. MGoFootball highlights the tailbacks, says D is a live.

Media, as in local newspaper. John Niyo on the defense, which is extant. Chengelis on the fact the team is not vintage. San Diego State had big pictures of their former coaches as signals. The Daily on RVB's Hillman chase:

Fifth-year senior defensive tackle Ryan Van Bergen caught Hillman from behind inside the 10-yard line and knocked the ball loose for the second fumble.

Try reading it this way: a 288-pound defensive tackle caught the nation’s second-leading rusher from behind in the open field — 30 yards away from the line of scrimmage.

Van Bergen got a block from fifth-year senior defensive tackle Mike Martin, but most of his help came from practice.

“But when it comes down to it, we have the most explosive player in the country in our backfield,” Van Bergen said. “We get to play against (junior quarterback) Denard (Robinson), so we’ve learned how to take angles at guys who have speed.

“I took off on my horse just thinking, ‘I’ve almost caught Denard before, maybe I can catch this guy.’ ”

AnnArbor.com writes similarly. The San Diego perspective:

“They were very emotional after the game, depressed, disappointed, upset, however you want to say,” said Long, whose team dropped to 3-1 after Saturday’s 28-7 defeat. “It was a very emotional locker room after the game and not in a good sense.”

They probably would have done a “poor job” of answering questions, Long said, so he kept them behind closed doors. “It’s my job to protect them,” Long said Sunday. “This is not pro football.” …

"The defense got shocked by the speed of especially one guy (Robinson),” Long said. “They got shocked by the strength they had up front and the speed of quarterback early in the game.”

Nesbitt on Denard's twitter adventure. Meinke points out Michigan's massive uptick in red zone efficiency:

• Offensively, Michigan is 13-for-13 on red-zone opportunities. It is one of 13 teams in the country to have scored on every trip inside the 20-yard line this year.

• Even better? The Wolverines have scored touchdowns on 12 of those 13 trips. That 92-percent touchdown rate trails only Texas Tech nationally.

One of the main arguments made in favor of Shotgun Forever is that red zone efficiency is not a stat that shows much repeatable skill year to year and that the huge chunks of yards Michigan picked up without, you know, scoring in 2010 would turn into points if you just left the damn thing alone (and got a kicker). The early returns are excellent.

National takes. Smart Football:

- Michigan 28, San Diego State 7. Brady Hoke’s new team faced his old team, and I’m still not sure, despite their 4-0 record, that we know anything about this Michigan football team. The defense seems to be improving under DC Greg Mattison, but they’ve been using so much movement and motion to cover up their talent weaknesses it’s unclear how the defense will fare against a polished opponent. And while the offense has found a better rhythm running a Rich Rodriguez-lite Denard Robinson attack — including Denard’s long TD run on the speed option — his passing line was abysmal: 8 of 17 for 93 yards, no TDs and two interceptions. He’s obviously uncomfortable in the new offense. He looked like a more polished and comfortable passer last year. I chalk some of this up to the fact that the very techniques he’s using are new, but he’s going to have to improve for UM to have success. That said, given Michigan’s favorable schedule — no Wisconsin and the easy part of the Big 10 schedule up next — we may not learn anything about Michigan until the last three weeks of the season, when they play Illinois, Nebraska and Ohio State.

No one else bothered. A couple weeks after puntosauring himself into a loss against Iowa State, BHGP documents Kirk Ferentz opening Iowa's game against ULM in a shotgun spread, demonstrating the Carr thing above perfectly.

Wednesday Presser Transcript 9-14-11: Brady Hoke

Wednesday Presser Transcript 9-14-11: Brady Hoke

Submitted by Heiko on September 14th, 2011 at 5:52 PM

News bullets and other important items:

  • Cam Gordon is healthy, but conditioning might be a problem at this point.
  • Troy Woolfolk is fine, so stop asking.
  • Fitz Toussaint will return for EMU.
  • Ricky Barnum is clear starter at left guard.
  • Will Campbell will get more playing time.
  • Freshman RBs may play depending on how things go.
  • Justice Hayes is lining up as a receiver on scout team at times.
  • Brendan Gibbons is still primary placekicker, with Wile/Paulowski handling long FGs.
  • No redshirting decisions made yet.
  • Blake Countess looks likely to be a contributor at some point.
  • Saturday is Hoke's 100th game as head coach, but it ain't no thang.

Brady Hoke

"Let’s not be sticklers on what’s morning and what’s not."

Opening remarks: “We’ve got a lot of work, and I’ve said that before, and you guys say, ‘Yeah, right,’ but we have a lot of work to do as a football team. Tuesday, yesterday, was an okay day. I didn’t think it was a great day. A lot of that was the mental things of game planning. It always seems to happen that way. Every Tuesday is not near as good as Wednesday and not near as good as Thursday, because you tweak your plan a little bit, and you’ve got to have something that your kids, number one, can execute and perform well, but at the same time, you want to take advantage of some things that you want to from your opponent.

“Eastern is a very good football team. I’m talking about how they play the game. You can tell Ron’s done a great job in his footprint on that program. I’ve known Ron for a number of years, and his toughness that they want to have as a team is evident. If you look at 331 yards per game, I don’t care who you’re rushing the ball, if you’re averaging that, that’s pretty significant. So they’re blocking pretty well up front. There’s a number of guys that have spent time here in Ann Arbor on that staff who are very good coaches, and guys who understand and have a philosophy on how you play the game of football. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. We’ve got to play much better. We have to have some improvement as a team if we want to reach our goals, so believe me. We’ve got full attention on what Eastern Michigan does."

What’s practice like during game week, re: position drills, scrimmaging, etc.? “Tuesday and Wednesday are big work days -- big physical days and we’re going to compete against each other in some of the drills because of the speed and the look that you want. You break up part of practice to get a good switch of personnel so you can get a look at the plays that you have to defend and the defenses that you want to try and block. The kicking part of it – we do coverage teams on Tuesday, return teams on Wednesday, and do them both on Thursday. All those things, as you look at your opponent, you’re trying to put the best plan together.”

Does Eastern’s emphasis on the run help you shore up things up front? “I don’t know if it helps. I think they’re very good with formations. I think they leverage defenses pretty well. I think they do a nice job in and out of personnels and formations to leverage a defense. It all goes back to the same thing on defense -- you have to play with your eyes, and you have to make sure you’re honed in on what that key is -- that key at every position so you can react in the proper manner.”

Has Cam practiced this week? “He practiced yesterday, ran around, did some things. My biggest concern right now for him is his conditioning level because he’s missed a lot of time. I think we’ll get through that, but right now he’s available.”

You’ve talked about improving from week one to week two. What did you do better against Notre Dame, and how do you plan on continuing that trend? “I think there’s a lot of truth to that, and then you've got to continue to be championship teams, you’ve got to continue every week. A lot of that comes from the mental process of how you prepare, and that’s what we as a team have to do a good job of -- the way we prepare every week.

“I think we did some good things on third downs in the second half from a defensive standpoint. I thought we adjusted well offensively at halftime. When you look at some of the runs Denard had, and how Al changed up some blocking offensively to expose it a little more and help it. So there was good reaction from what Notre Dame was doing. I thought that was a good part. I think kickoff coverage was good.”

Do you expect to get Fitz back for Eastern? “Yeah he should be. He did everything yesterday, so we hope to.”

Taylor Lewan got pissed off yesterday because someone told him that the running backs didn’t really do much in the run game. What does O-line have to do to allow RBs some consistency? “You have to be better at the point of attack. You have to finish if you’re combination blocking, make sure you get up to the next level, make sure you’re getting the movement that you want on the line of scrimmage. There’s multiple things, because there’s perimeter people you have to count on harassing the guys from the secondary so your bigger plays can come from that. I think Taylor and all those guys have a lot of pride, and it’s good to hear that.”

Did you think Vincent Smith made a bigger difference in the passing game than rushing game? “I couldn’t tell you that. I think we have to block better. That’s where the game starts, so it’s like everything else. It’s all of us, coaches, players, and everybody.”

What does Vince bring on third down? “He’s tough. He knows what he’s doing, he’s tough, he’s not afraid to put his face on somebody, and he’s good out of the backfield. Catches the ball well. I like that little guy.”

Is there ongoing competition at left guard (Barnum vs. Schofield)? “I think Ricky has probably cemented himself decently to some degree in there, but if he practices badly or plays badly, then it’s nice to have a little bit of an option with Mike.”

Have you given any thought to Saturday being your 100th game as a head coach? “No.” Does it mean anything to you? “Not really.”

You referenced improvement on third down stops. Overall number isn’t very good yet, but is there a common theme in what worked on those plays? “I would think a couple things -- number one, we’ve got to challenge a little more in the back end. That would be first. We let some runs that were … I think there were one, two … three runs on third downs that broke because of one reason or another that we’ve got to execute better.”

Mike Hart’s going to be on the opposite sideline. What’s your relationship with him like? “I know Mike. I wasn’t here when Mike was here, but I have a lot of respect for Mike, and what he did for Michigan. I know him well enough. He’s a good man, and I like the heck out of him.”

If the opportunity arose, would you welcome him back to Michigan? “I think all of those guys are welcome back.”

After you get done with a noon game, do you spend the rest of the night looking at other teams? “Well, I’ll take the laptop home and first thing I’ll do is watch what we did, and then there’s usually next opponents on there gamewise, and may look at that a little bit.”

Are you going to give Will Campbell more playing time? “Yeah, in fact I asked him -- I guess I’m a little naïve -- I said, ‘Is that the most you’ve ever played?’ and he said, ‘Yes,’ and I said, ‘Really?’ I guess I should have known that. He did some good things in there. I think he’s gaining a little bit more confidence. He is a guy that can help us an awful lot if we can get the consistency and the improvement.”

Has lack of PT lit a fire under him in practice? “I think he just is -- I think we all get to a point that he’s settled in a position, number one, and I think that helps on a daily basis on what you do from a fundamentals and technique side. I think that part of it is real positive for our football team, and positive for him.”

Just makin’ sure … Is Troy limited at all in practice? “No. He did everything yesterday. I really like where he’s at in a mental state right now.”

Michael Floyd got his yards, but JT had him one-on-one and did a nice job considering it was against Michael Floyd. What did he do well? “I think JT’s improved. I think he’s got a long way to go, but I think he’s done some things better. I think he has the confidence level you want to have as a corner, without being too cocky. I think that’s an important part of it. There’s a lot of plays in there where he’s got to play a little better, too.”

Can you talk about your depth at linebacker position? “I think with Mike Jones, and Hawthorne being healthy, Fitzgerald and Desmond being healthier than he was Week One, that helps. Brandin’s still trying to get himself back. Cam, we’ve talked about, he’s an outside linebacker. Kenny’s done a pretty good job. I would say we’re okay. We’re not the deepest group anywhere, to be honest with you.”

Lots o’ guys playing at the WILL position during the last two games. How much of that is just rotating them, and how much is just trying to find a clear starter or two? “Some of that depends on what defense you’re in. If you’re in a nickel or dime package, who’s out on the field, or if you’re in our base package. So with what Western Michigan wanted to do, it was more of a nickel/dime kind of setup [with their four-wide formations]. But [with Eastern Michigan] rushing the ball for 331 yards a game out of two base personnel groups, you’ll be a little more with your base defense.”

Does it help having stability in the middle with Kenny Demens? “I always think it does. You have a guy who has experience, you have a guy who’s pretty sharp when it comes to making the calls, setting the front, and adjusting at that level, so yeah. Kenny does a good job, and J.B. does a good job when he’s in.”

Will you consider playing your freshman RBs? “Maybe.” What will that depend on? “It will always depend on how fast they learn, maturity-wise, and all those things.” Have they caught up a little more? “I think they’re okay. Depending on where we get, they may play.”

What have you seen from them? “I think Rawls is a strong runner, he’s got good vision and pretty good balance. He’s got a pretty good burst. Justice is a guy who’s got great quickness. Catches the ball well. He’s doing a lot of things for us now on our look teams, sometimes lining up as a wideout, just because of numbers, and he’s matured.”

You’re not Kirk Ferentz, so you’re probably not going to take a knee on third down just to kick a field goal, but how important is it to get a couple attempts in the next couple games to get to the meat of the schedule? “I don’t know if it’s as important as we all may think. I think we’re kicking everyday. [Gibbons] is going up to the stadium everyday. He’s shown good consistency. We’ve come at him everyday. We put pressure on him, and I think right now he’s hitting the ball pretty well.”

Is that still one of those things where you don’t really know how well he kicks until you get into a game situation? “It’s like anything else in life. I don’t know what’s going to happen ten minutes from now. I don’t worry about that.”

It looked like Wile was taking a few practice kicks during the Notre Dame game when it looked like the FG attempt would be longer. Is Wile still handling long field goals? “I would say him or Paulowski. Either one of those two guys. They to have a little bit of a stronger leg.”

How were the players mentally yesterday? “They were pretty good that way. I think your Tuesday, no matter what -- because of a couple wrinkles here or there, and they are students also -- they come in here and they have to focus on this part of it now, and some do a better job than others.”

Any scholarships for walk-ons? “Bum. Bum bum. Bum. Um … I don’t think so. I think we’ve renewed some that were given a year ago.” No one new? “No.”

Any redshirting decisions? “You know, not really. We’re not going to be afraid to play freshmen, obviously. The best player's going to play. They’re still learning to some degree, but from the fundamentals standpoints, if they’re the best, they’ll play.”

How do you get more out of your return game? “Gotta block better. The punt return that Gallon had the other night was huge, when you look at field position, but on the kickoffs, we have to do a better job of picking guys up. I think our vision was okay back there as far as the return part of it. We just have to be more consistent staying on guys longer.”

Is Countess putting himself in a position to contribute? “I think so. I think he will.”

Monday Presser Notes 8-29-11: Brady Hoke

Monday Presser Notes 8-29-11: Brady Hoke

Submitted by Heiko on August 29th, 2011 at 4:15 PM

Brady Hoke:

Good news: I took pictures today. Bad news: I left my card reader at home.

News bullets:

  • No one is seriously injured
  • Mike Jones had pneumonia the other day, but was better today
  • Fitz still has opportunity to earn start over Shaw this week
  • Gibbons is solidly starting at placekicker, unless it's a long field goal, in which case Wile or (Kris) Pauloski might kick
  • There will be an intense practice late Friday night
  • There will be no Victors Walk
  • Kick/punt returner situation is fluid (obviously)

Press Conference (this part was filmed)

General fluff:

"Finishing fall camp on Saturday morning, I think we were very productive in what we wanted to get done. You're never going to be satisfied, it's never going to be as good as you'd like it to be, and that's just part of being competitive. I think we developed as a team, I think we became closer as a team. I think when you look at us as a team, we're excited to get going and to have that first opportunity. We're guaranteed 12 opportunities, and we've made that known to our players. We want to play obviously 14, but the 12 opporutnities we have, we start with the first test this weekend."

"We voted on captains last night as a team. I think our players understand that our seniors will always be our leaders, and the three guys, with Mike on defense, Kevin Koger and David Molk on offense, have demonstrated an ability to lead. I think they all three bring a lot to our football team, when you look at the leadership roles that they'll play, and you look also at the roles from a production standpoint."

"Western Michigan is a well-coached, disciplined, tough football team. I've had a little bit of experience with Coach Cubit and how his teams play, offensively and defensively."

Offensively, QB Alex Carder is good. He's as impressive as anybody with 30 TDs, >63% completions. WR Jordan White caught 94-96 balls a year ago, challenge for Michigan secondary. LT Anthony Parker spearheads a big, physical O-line. They have some Juco transfers. Defensively, D-line has everyone coming back. Secondary is one of the better ones in MAC, very aggressive and like to attack the football.

"We're excited. We're not near ready to play, and I'll probably say that on Friday. We're not near ready to play, but we get to play, and that's a good thing. We get to see our first test, where we're at as a team and as a program, and to get out there and not beat up on each other, but you get to play with somebody else."

Looks like there are lots of "ORs" on the depth chart. What gives? "I just think there's great competition. At the running back, Fitz has done some good things, Mike [Shaw] has done some good things. Vince Smith's a guy we talked about being a third-down back for us for multiple reasons, but I think there's some great competition there. I think with JT and Troy, when you look at Courtney Avery ... Blake Countess is a young guy who's played pretty well ... Raymon Taylor ... all those guys are competing, and Greg Brown. I would expect JT and Troy would be the guys who would start the football game, but when we get into the nickel, then we get into the other situations."

Why is Will Heininger starting? "More than anything else, it's his experience. We like what Nathan has done. He's practiced very well, played well, been productive, but Will at the same time has done a great job -- Will Heininger -- but the other guy who has come on a little bit is Will Campbell. That will be fluid anyway because we want to play six guys during the course of the game so we can keep guys fresh and keep them healthy."

Any questionable players healthwise? "Healthwise we're in great shape. As good as you can be coming out of fall camp. We had a pretty physical fall camp, so I'm pretty pleased. Mike Jones had a little bit of a fever and pneumonia the other day, but I just saw him on the way here in fact, and feels pretty good."

Does it help that you've played against Western? "I don't think it helps, because you've got to go back to the tape you had from a year ago. First games are always a little bit different as far as when you start to study. Do you take the last four games, (or) do you take the first three from a year ago to see what they taught within their offense and defense? And then the last three games as far as when you start breaking an opponent down and looking at it.

"I really am impressed when you watch them play on the tape. Being a defensive guy, I'll always look at more offensive film of an opponent than I do defensively. I'm very impressed with Carder and how he handles this offense."

I'm writing some fluff about you coming out of the tunnel. Can you give me a some fluff about coming out of the tunnel? "It's a special place, being at Michigan. I'm sure that we'll be very humbled. But at the end of the day, we're playing a football game, and our consistency as coaches is important, so we'll move pretty quickly. I'm hoping we get to the sidelines the right way, and you're always as a new staff, you're doing things different. When we go to dinner on Friday night, we'll practice at 5 o'clock on Friday night, and all those things are different than what has been done in the past, so those things we'll all be worrying about until the game's kicked off."

Roundtable (this part was not filmed)

This is what Hoke sort of looked like when I took a picture of him.

Western has no idea what you're going to do. Is that an advantage? "They're a good football staff, and I'm sure that they got a hold of all the San Diego State film they could from an offensive perspective. I think defnesively it's always a little harder getting NFL film. I'm sure they've been able to see remnants of what we're trying to do." 

RB's still have to prove themselves? "I think they all do, not just the running backs. We want to evalutate them every day, and if a guy doesn't meet the standard or expectation that we need to play with -- it could be any position -- if he doesn't meet that standard, then we gotta find someone else."

Do you evaluate players differently between practice and games? "I don't think so. I'm a big believer in that when you prepare and when you practice, you're going to play that way. So if we've got great intensity getting to the football (with the) eleven guys defensively, (or if) our wide receivers are sustaining blocks and harassing corners, we expect that to be done during practice. That's a demand that we have because I believe you have to play like you practice."

Will you give both kickers a shot in the game? "Right now, Gibbons is going to handle the field goals, and if we get into a long field goal situation, I think Wile or Pauloski would be next in line for that. Matt will kick off, and Matt's going to punt."

What's the range for Gibbons vs. Wile? "When you start getting over, I dunno, I would guess from my observation, 43-44 (yards), som'n ike that, Matt's just got a little ... I don't know if it's a bigger leg, a better leg ... he's got the opportunity to hit the ball more cleanly. Everybody attributes and compares it to golf -- and I can't tell you about golf, if you've seen me golf you would know why -- and it's kind of the sweet spot he hits it with."

How much has the offense changed from the spring re: Denard? "I think his knowledge of what we're trying to do as a whole package [has increased], and I think there's still some things Al hasn't added to the mix. I think his grasp of it is at a higher level than it was in the spring. I think when you put that together where he doesn't have to think as much, and now he can be settled in his fundamentals and techniques. I think that's where the growth has come, and then his growth being a leader, and that maturity level, is at a higher place."

Is the offense what you envisioned when you first came in? "That depends. I think the basic plays of a pro-style offense are a big part of it. The play-action game, all those things. There are some things out of the spread that we're obviously going to stay with, that kind of overlap a little bit with how you want to block at the point of attack and those things. We're still going to line up and run the power play a bunch."

Do you tell Denard the same things you tell a normal QB about getting out of bounds? "I think it's the same. You don't want him to take needless shots, and we wouldn't want Devin to either. We want to be aggressive and always know where the stakes are, but we don't want a guy to take needless shots if he can help it."

Most coaches play freshmen during a coaching transition because they recruited them. You're playing older guys. Is it because you value experience? "I think that's an important part of it, to some degree. Believe me, if we thought those younger guys were at a point where the older guys weren't better, the younger guys would be playing. I think we're growing with some youth, and probably more so on the defensive side of the ball. There are some guys who have a better chance to play than on the offensive side."

I'm going to ask a convoluted question about the guys who started last year. They worked to earn these spots collectively, maybe, you think. Hunger, winning, Michigan. ? "I hope they're hungry, first and foremost. I mean, this is a competitive game, this is the winningest program in college football, so I hope they understand those expectations that we have as a team and we have as a program. Um, you know, I think ... when you ... and I don't know if I understand the other part of your question."

Basically, I mean, the starting lineup, more or less, are guys that started last year, and yet, it wasn't handed to them, collectively, you know. "I think we had good competition, I guess that's what I would say. I think we had good competition, and it's easy to see. Our depth on both sides of the ball up front aren't exactly where you'd like it to be, and that's okay, because it's always an expectation for who's playing the position. It doesn't matter if they're a fifth year guy or a guy who's a true freshman, you've gotta play to a Michigan standard."

Were some of those decisions made during the scrimmages? "Everyday they're evaluated. And it doesn't matter if they're in the weight room ... I talk to Aaron everyday. Every night I talk to him and (ask), "How'd he do there?" Because you're looking for an attitude. You're looking for a team attitude first. And if a guy goes in there and doesn't do what he needs to do to help his teammates, then we're going to have a problem with it.

"It all starts there, and obviously when you're in those situational things that you do with the football aspect of it, you're expecting them to play at a fast level and a fast tempo with an enthusiasm for the game."

Is Van Bergen locked in at DT? "He's one of those guys who can play a lot. He can play in sub defense, he can be over the center, which [he] is at times. I'm talking about nickels and dimes and those kinds of things. He can do that, and he can swing back out to the 5 (-tech). Ryan brings a lot of intelligence to the game, and being an older guy who's been around football a lot, it really helps him out and helps our team out."

I'd like to ask another question that you will answer in a non-informative way. You haven't played a game yet, but you've been here seven months. Do you ... feel like the transition has been what you thought ... Has there been more you thought you would have to change? Or less? Or ... ? "Uh. It's about what you would think it would be. I mean, you know, it's, it really just ... trying to, you know, have a focus on what Michigan's all about, and starting there. You know, and, uh, I don't know if it's any different or not."

But History? And Tradition?? "Well, I think that's important, I mean, that's an important accountability that we have." 

Thank you. That was a productive series of words.

You have four punt returners with "Or" next to their names. You gonna make up your mind or not? "It probably will be fluid. I wouldn't be surprised that we probably had two guys back there and switch them for punts to see who we think may be the best playmaker out of it."

You got any superstitions or rituals? "I would not share them with you if I did."

You doing the Victors Walk? "No."

But you said in Chicago you would do it. "Nope."

Could Fitz Toussaint still win the job this week? "Sure. Sure. No question."

Do you get nervous close to gametime? "My nervousness only comes that we're dottin' all the i's and crossin' all the t's. We talked as a staff -- number one, (we have to) have a great plan for (our players). And that's our responsibility, that we have a plan on both sides of the ball, in the kicking game, that's going to help these guys be successful. That's what you think about constantly. Did we cover this? Have we covered this enough? Taking a safety from a punt formation with 13 seconds left on the game, you know, what's the punter do? There's a lot of different ways you can do it.

"I don't know if it's a nervousness, because once we're here on Saturday, it's fun."

Do you meet with the captains? "I meet with the seniors every Sunday and every Thursday, so they'll be part of that group obviously. Captains, I'll meet with them periodically when I feel there's a need."

Countess and Clark made the two-deep. What'd they do to impress? "Frank is a guy we think can do something in those nickel and dime packages. Blake has got an opportunity to be a very good corner here. Very good feet, and he's got some make-up speed that corners need to have. He's tough. Both of them are tough. I think they both, from a defensive mentality ... we don't want to overload them so that they go out there and have paralysis by analysis. We want them to be able to go and play the game ...

"I like them, I'll put it that way."

Will it take some time to see the whole Brady Hoke system? "I think it always does. I've done this at two other schools. Every week's a learning experience. When I say that I'm going back to every week, how we travel. We're playing at home, but it's still, we're going to the Campus Inn, and how we meet, and all that stuff, it's a learning experience every week. The sooner that we feel ... I don't want to say comfortable, but that's basically what it is ... then the faster we'll start playing and then the more physical we'll play football."

You talked about corn chowder last week, are there other traditions -- "CLAM chowder."

Are there any other traditions that you've brought back, or that you're bringing, that are important to you this week? "We practice later on Fridays. There will be a little more intensity to it than maybe other programs have had, because I'm a big believer in that mental practice that we'll have. You have to have an intensity in how you do it, because then you're going to play fast. At the end of the day, you have to play fast in this game. I don't know what else."

(David Molk, Mike Martin, and Kevin Koger notes will be up later. [Ed: probably tomorrow morning.])