This Week’s Obsession: Unicorn Games

This Week’s Obsession: Unicorn Games

Submitted by Seth on January 18th, 2017 at 1:42 PM

Ron Bellamy Day. From WH. Part II is here.

THE QUESTION:

Remember that one time an otherwise obscure/disappointing player was a superstar for a day?

Ace: image

Full game is on the youtubes.

BiSB: If we're talking image games: Spiiiiiiiike!

Smoothitron: I went through his game log not that long ago praying that wasn't his career high, and it's not, but it's close.

image 

The pinnacle stretch of Spike's career was tragically unfun.

[Do NOT hit THE JUMP if you prefer to fondly remember erstwhile highly hyped Michigan scatbacks]

Recruits In Retrospect: 2009 Defense

Recruits In Retrospect: 2009 Defense

Submitted by Ace on June 10th, 2014 at 3:44 PM


oh boy

A couple summers ago, I delved back into the blogspot days to look at Brian's 2008 recruiting posts and how well players lived up to expectations. There were high points, like Mike Martin wrestling Not Mike Martin. These were accompanied by lows such as "Dann O'Neill might be Michigan's most critical recruit." The McGuffie mixtape was rewatched, wistfully.

I forgot to continue the series last summer, so I'm picking it back up with the 2009 class; conveniently, all the players from that class have completed their time in the program, so it's easier to give a fair retrospective on their careers. If you want to go back and look though the old posts yourself, the Tate Forcier profile features links to every player.

While that last link is a nice teaser for the offense portion of this exercise, today I'll be looking at the 2009 defensive recruits. Brace yourselves.

Never Forget

I'm gonna go ahead and get the defensive back portion of this post over with, as the four commits in the secondary were Vlad Emilien, Thomas Gordon, Justin Turner, and Adrian Witty. Emilien's projection was a harbinger of doom for U-M's future situation at safety:

Projection: Either sparing special teams time as a freshman or (hopefully) a redshirt. In 2010 will be a major threat to start at strong safety, though he might have to fight Brandon Smith to get a job.

Brian, today, on this quote: "I was so innocent then."

Smith moved to outside linebacker, then announced his intention to transfer near the end of the 2009 season, ending up at Temple and never doing anything of consequence there. Emilien followed a similar path, playing a little special teams as a true freshman, then transferring after the first game in 2010 when Jordan Kovacs put a death grip on the strong safety spot. He ended up as, yup, an outside linebacker at Toledo, where he made 15 tackles as a senior last year.

omg shirtless heroin-laced carrot

Witty never actually made it onto the team due to academic issues, eventually landing at Cincinnati, where he's the top returner in the secondary this year. Not getting him through admissions may be viewed as a recruiting failure, but in context, it was totally worth it:

Adrian Witty, a teammate of Denard Robinson, is Denard Robinson's teammate. On this team, which they share, they play together. Also, Witty and Denard Robinson attended the same high school. At this high school, they played on a team which they shared and played together on: they were teammates.

That should be clear. Many, many folks regard Witty's offer as the heroin-laced carrot used to lure critical QB recruit Denard Robinson away from Urban Meyer's clutches and to Michigan's post-apocalyptic frozen wastes.

Even though Witty would've been, at worst, the second-best defensive back in this class for U-M, there are no hard feelings here. We salute you, heroin-laced carrot.

The most hyped recruit in the class was Massillon, Ohio's Justin Turner, a top-35 overall player to both Rivals and Scout.* It wasn't hard to see what all the excitement was about:

That excitement only grew after Turner tore it up at Army All-American Game, to the point that his recruitment post led off with a discussion of one of those B/R "[touted recruit] is [football titan]" posts:

If you're measuring by delusional expectations of internet denizens, Justin Turner may be the #1 recruit in the universe. You've got to have an avalanche of hype for some guy to write an article saying you're Charles Woodson and get this response:

"Good article, but i see justin turner being faster then charles woodson. I also see turner being a better saftey the woodson was but woodson will be a better return man."

IE: "Good article about some high school senior being the reincarnation of the only defensive player to ever win the Heisman, but don't you think you're selling him a little short? Also I have no recollection of Charles Woodson's return abilities, which were pretty much crap aside from one white hot moment." (Yes, this exchange happened on Bleacher Report. Where else could it?)

Brian took the conservative tack, comparing Turner to... Marlin Jackson. Let's just move along.

The one defensive back to actually make a positive impact on the field at U-M, Cass Tech's Thomas Gordon, came in as a relatively anonymous recruit. He got Brandent Englemon for his "YMRMFSPA" and this projection:

General Excitement Level: Well… he is the lowest-ranked non-kicker in the class, and that's probably for a reason. 
Projection: Obvious redshirt and will likely require at least two years before he's ready to see the field on defense. The most likely (but by no means assured) outcome is that he doesn't contribute much.

Yes, it's possible for a Cass Tech recruit to exceed expectations.

[*ESPN was a skeptical outlier, listing him as their #21 athlete. Point, ESPN.]

Who?

At least Mike Jones provided us this picture.

On to the linebackers: Isaiah Bell, Mike Jones, and Brandin Hawthorne. Brian's assessment of Jones' potential almost nailed it:

General Excitement Level: Eh; I'm expecting one of the OLB recruts to pan out in a big way, one to be okay, and one to wash out. 

Instead, nobody panned out big. Bell washed out before annarbor.com died, Jones saw the field sparingly before playing his fifth year at Western, and Hawthorne topped out as a nickel linebacker.

I won't spend much time on these guys simply because there isn't a whole lot to talk about, but I will note that when a search for a player comparison goes like this, there's a pretty good chance you've got a serious tweener on your hands:

So he's just like Shawn Crable, if Crable was six to eight inches shorter. So he's just like Chris Graham, if Hawthorne was a stiff, clunky guy incapable of shedding blockers and not much for changing direction. He's not like either, actually. I mean, just look at the guy. Linebacker? In college? Er. There's a reason Hawthorne is well down in the rankings.

Brian suggested Hawthorne "may be better suited for a 3-3-5 than a more traditional D," and hoo boy did some bad memories just come flooding back. Quick, to the defensive line!

THORQWASH & The Crab Person


Between this and the legendary hood slide, we're all good, Big Will.

Justin Turner wasn't the only five-star recruit to the established recruiting sites to get some major skepticism from ESPN. Will Campbell's rankings went #35 overall (Scout), #26 overall (Rivals), and... #21 offensive tackle (ESPN). Another point for the Worldwide Leader. Like Turner, an outstanding Army game performance added to the hype, as did pictures like this...

...and, for entirely different reasons, this:

WE GOT THOR.

In retrospect, however, maybe we should've seen Campbell's future weight issues coming:

Campbell is one of the biggest players in the Army game, but he's apparently not ready for the roller coasters when the teams visit Six Flags on Tuesday night.

"There's a weight limit on those things," he said. "I might be on the tea cups."

Even though he didn't have the desired impact until a solid, though not five-star-caliber, senior season, Campbell always gave a hell of a quote. Brian's Gabe Watson comparison was pretty on point; though Big Will didn't come close to Watson's production, they were similar players—jovial, wildly talented, bull-strong, big fans of food—with similar hype coming to Ann Arbor. 

craaaaaaab people craaaaaab people

Michigan landed two defensive ends in the top-100 range in the class: Craig Roh (right) and Anthony LaLota. While Roh never became an edge-rushing terror, he managed to consitently produce and improve despite boucing between positions—not to mention different defensive schemes that didn't necessarily fit his skill set—for his entire career due to factors outside his control. This comparison both worked and, well, didn't work:

Why Shawn Crable? Crable was a 6'6" athletic terror with chicken legs who spent his Michigan career bouncing from DE to OLB and would have been the perfect player to slot in this spinner spot. Crable was also rated right around where Roh is. The comparison here is very tight.

The tweener aspect of the comparison was spot-on, but Roh ended up being a very different player from Crable, more disciplined and able to hold the point of attack but far less explosive off the edge.

As for LaLota, he received one of the most random YMRMFSPA comps in this blog's history:

Alain Kashama… except good!

Kashama was a total project at Michigan, coming in with little football experience—as did LaLota, who played just 12 games of organized football before hitting campus—before settling in as a reserve pass-rushing specialist, eventually totaling six career sacks.

That ended up being six more career sacks than LaLota recorded, as he transferred back to home-state Rutgers two weeks into his sophomore season, where he quit football to focus on his education after a move to tight end saw him buried on the depth chart.

We end with the class curveball, Quinton Washington, whom everybody evaluated as an interior offensive lineman—with most saying he had a ton of potential there, this blog included:

General Excitement Level: High. It's clear the coaches were nuts about this guy and he's got the offers and recruiting mojo to back it up. 
Projection: Though the coaches have suggested Washington might see the field this year—they think he's that ready—a redshirt makes more sense with Schilling's move inside solidifying the interior line. He'll have to fight Ricky Barnum to replace Moosman next year; if he loses that battle he'll be the odds on favorite to replace Schilling in 2011.

Steve Schilling, in fact, was his player comparison. Washington instead moved to nose tackle early in the 2010 season, worked his way into a starting role as a junior, earned the nickname QWASH, and gave the defense a proficient space-eater until his role mysteriously diminished last season.

The real answer is Roh, but one could make a reasonable argument that Michigan's most critical 2009 defensive recruit was a guy who never played a down for the Wolverines: heroin-laced carrot (seriously, Brian, how the hell do you come up with these things?) Adrian Witty.

Unverified Voracity Dances Way Off Team

Unverified Voracity Dances Way Off Team

Submitted by Brian on December 17th, 2012 at 11:42 AM

Goodbye beard. Also the rest of Elliott Mealer at winter graduation:

A-Qsx5TCQAAw6jj[1]

Goodbye to you sir. Michigan suspends Hawthorne, Floyd, and Will Hagerup for the bowl game. A couple people told me this a couple days ago, and they both seemed to think Hagerup would not return. After a dramatically-timed suspension against Ohio State and another for the first four games of 2011, it would be surprising to find out Hagerup had a fourth strike.

But the AD didn't announce Hagerup was gone, so there's probably a last-ditch straight-and-narrow chance he can get back a la Stonum, except hopefully not a la Stonum. Michigan will be fine with Matt Wile for the bowl anyway.

Cornerback, on the other hand… yeah, Floyd spent the year tempting fate but the alternatives there are… uh. Moving Courtney Avery to the outside—probably to field corner since he's a lot smaller than Raymon Taylor—is probably your best one, and then your nickel guy is either Delonte Holowell or Terry Richardson. I'm still not sure that corner environment is any worse than Michigan's options at tailback, but at least the Norfleet-to-corner move makes some sense now. Hopefully it's temporary.

Hawthorne had been limited to special teams this year; his loss isn't impactful.

Now has more time for dancing. MGoVideo caught this oddly-timed dance festival just posted on youtube featuring Floyd:

I rate it an 0.8 Mike Cox.

And so it does not begin. Presenting Michigan's secret weapon in their recruitment of Derrick Green:

Dead period for football begins today and runs through January 3. No on- or off-campus contacts/evals permitted. Calls/email permissible.

Green plans on enrolling early; if he sticks to that plan he should be announcing at the Army game on January 5th, leaving virtually no time for anyone to catch up with announced leader Michigan. Does yoga, is huge.

This trend will probably stop soon. Will Leitch on the way the cable bundling model is going:

Not that many people are going through all the trouble to do this yet, but as cable fees keep going up, and more workarounds can be found (and we haven’t even gotten into pirated feeds), more people will cut the cord. We live in an information-wants-to-be-free age, and we’re still being held down by these media-company gatekeepers. In the real world it’s 2012; in the cable universe, it might as well be 1988. Eventually, this will have to change. It’s too insane and rigged-against-the-consumer for it not to. The problem, of course, is that, like so many capitalists before them, leagues and teams and sports networks are all assuming that it’ll always be like this, that these revenue will keep growing forever and ever, that this golden goose will always keep laying eggs. There are decades upon decades of Darwinian consumer trends that contradict that. In 30 years, we may have all unplugged our cable bundles and be paying a la carte. This is the nightmare situation, but I’m not the first person to suggest we’re living in a cable sports television bubble. Someday it’ll pop. Then, suddenly, we’ll look and think: Why in the world is Maryland in the Big Ten?

Rutgers is even more of an outlier but the point is a good one. At some point the rickety dam keeping all of these channels unnecessarily bundled is going to break, and then having teams that can't fill not-very-big stadiums is not going to be an asset.

Bacon. He considers the PSL increase:

Former Michigan Athletic Director Don Canham sold the experience – and we bought it.  Canham was a great marketer, but what impressed me most was what he would not do for money: solicit donors, put advertising on the uniforms or in the stadium, host night games, charge for tours – or ask for a raise.  He had already made millions in business, and didn’t feel the need to squeeze more from his alma mater.

The current athletic department now aggressively seeks donors and corporate sponsors.  It has brought advertising back to Crisler, in a big way, and has started sneaking advertising into the once-pristine Big House, too.  They now charge to host corporate events, wedding receptions, and even school tours, which had been free since the Big House opened in 1927.  Heck, until a few years ago, they didn’t even lock the gates during the week.

Michigan’s not alone, of course, and they will tell you it’s the cost of doing business – but what business, exactly?  When current Athletic Director Dave Brandon said on “60 Minutes” that the “business model is broken” – what he failed to grasp was that it’s “broken” because it was never intended to be a business in the first place.  After all, what business doesn’t have to pay shareholders, partners, owners, taxes, or the star attractions, the players and the band?

Raise your hand if you're sick of being told you can rent out the Big House for a wedding. That is everyone except the guy who emailed me pictures of his Michigan Stadium wedding over the summer in case I wanted to post them, which seemed like an awfully mean thing to do to a guy.

Brandon clearly sees the lack of advertising in the stadium as an annoyance, and has put it in anyway: just because the blaring thing trying to market something is a wedding or Michigan's facebook page doesn't mean it's not advertising. By pushing the boundaries wherever he can, Brandon indicates where he'd like to take the Big House experience if not faced with a potential fan revolt.

Bacon makes a great point: it's to the point that whenever you're putting down your money you feel like kind of an idiot for spending it. Thus the multiple "I bet I can scalp for cheap" projects on the internet and the regular stories about how you can get into most Michigan State games for two dollars or the Big Ten Championship for ten.

Speaking of: College Football Is This Other Thing post using Wall Street as the other thing is creepily accurate.

The Guys Running The Big Ten are Bain Capital

The Guys Running The Big Ten are Bain Capital

Step 1: Take over asset. Step 2: Exploit that asset with no regard for long-term consequences. Step 3: Laugh, buy a bigger summer house or a dressage horse or something.

In the Big Ten's case the dressage horse is a fancy building for a sport that brings in no revenue.

Yes please return. This will help the floundering hockey team:

Michigan coach Billy Powers on WTKA: "There's a good chance we could see (Merrill) immediately following the holidays."

I'm not holding out much hope for the GLI with Trouba at the World Juniors, and by the time Merrill makes it back Michigan's fate may already be sealed. Michigan is currently 36th in the RPI and would have to win 75% of their remaining games to get into the top 20, where a bid is vaguely possible. Either they rip off a streak for the ages starting right now or it's conference tourney or bust.

Etc.: can Rob Parker please stop existing now? On TV, I mean. He can remain in existence as long as he is not given a platform to express his thought-type-substances to the masses.

Derrick Walton profiled. Brandon gets dollars. Michigan was not fortunate this year. One way in which linear regressions are frequently misapplied. Key plays against West Virginia.

OFAAT: Seniors, Iowa Past

OFAAT: Seniors, Iowa Past

Submitted by Ace on November 16th, 2012 at 2:53 PM

Brian has already waxed poetic about the seniors, so I'll stick to moving pictures and keep the words to a minimum. I've done my best to cover each member of the outgoing class. Let's just say it was hard to pick one moment for this guy:

He may make some cameo appearances later.

[For the rest of the gifs, hit THE JUMP.]

Senior Day Haiku 2012

Senior Day Haiku 2012

Submitted by Brian on November 16th, 2012 at 12:44 PM

20090912231722_26-umvnd[1]Craig Roh

A leaf blows in fall
Tasting each position once
Time to duck, Martinez

Will Campbell

These days people who
are not Thomas Gordon say
"Get off of me, please"

Jordan Kovacs Michigan v Notre Dame hcY6ms5iF8jl[1]Jordan Kovacs

A man from nowhere
is the safety blanket for
a hundred thousand

Kenny Demens

As Northwestern died
they must have thought "ouch" and
"my god, sweet mustache"

JT Floyd

UM-Floyd-ND-Floyd[1]Sorry about things said
two years ago, low and mean
Mattison saves all

Brandin Hawthorne

We'll always have that
Purdue hash to hash zone drop
and a kickoff hold

Brandon Moore

Must be a good guy
to get Kramer's eighty-seven
imagetime to make stories

Vincent Smith

Meet mini-Gandalf:
finger-gun Balrog LB,
state YOU SHALL NOT PASS

Elliott Mealer

tumblr_m9s369BwSH1rfy8h4o1_1280[1]The measure of man:
how many squirrels can live
in your face, repos'd

Ricky Barnum

Stayed through some things
that would have made most depart
and we needed him to

Patrick Omameh

386277_10150394019912616_648717615_8625136_973392225_n[1]This dance goes one way
two hearts meet at Notre Dame
Te'o's goes backwards

Mike Kwiatkowski

Not a walk-on, no
A scientist of brains, yes
And blocker of sweeps

[UPDATE: so I forgot Roy Roundtree.

Roy Roundtree

Joe Tiller quivers
in walrus rage as Roundtree
waves an arm, alone

]

Denard Robinson

I had been in the desert for some time, lost and directionless. The sun was relentless. A deadly thirst stalked me. I had not accepted the grisly fate which awaited me but was powerless to change it.

On the fifth night—possibly the sixth—a breeze arose. It was cool and dewy. I savored it for a time, then step by step it led me home.

7958859750_26230aebbe_z[1]

Upchurch

Preview 2012: Linebackers

Preview 2012: Linebackers

Submitted by Brian on August 29th, 2012 at 3:02 PM

Previously: Podcast 4.0, the story, quarterback, running back, wide receivers, offensive line, defensive line.

Depth Chart
SLB Yr. MLB Yr. WLB Yr.
Jake Ryan So.* Kenny Demens Sr.* Desmond Morgan So.
Cam Gordon Jr.* Joe Bolden Fr. Brandin Hawthorne Sr.
Royce Jenkins-Stone Fr. Mike Jones Jr.* James Ross Fr.

It's step-up time for the linebacking corps. They return every contributor from a year ago and get freshman-to-sophomore transitions from Jake Ryan and Desmond Morgan. Kenny Demens, Cam Gordon, and Brandin Hawthorne are entering their second consecutive years in a sane defense for the first time in their careers and could/should see larger than average leaps in performance.

They will need to be much better. Mike Martin isn't going to bail them out on six plays a game anymore. Ryan Van Bergen isn't walking through that door. Ryan has to become an elite pass rush threat; Demens and Morgan need to take on blockers and funnel to help far more consistently than they did a year ago.

This is well within reach. Now about getting there.

Middle Linebacker

demens-nebraskademens-nw

Rating: 3.5

KENNY DEMENS
SLOWER THAN BLOCKS
eats MSU cut
eats OSU TE
eats him again
FASTER THAN BLOCKS
Minnesota, granted
flow hard son
GOT SOME THUMP
Iowa FB denied
No Coker part 1
BLITZING
blitzing
COVERAGE
line to seam PBU

In 2010, Kenny Demens was not Obi Ezeh, and this was enough. Expectations were sky-high for Demens in 2011 if only because he seemed so much better than Michigan's incumbent that he had to be pretty good. In retrospect, his somewhat disappointing output was always the likely outcome. Like almost everyone else on the defense, Demens had experienced position-coaching chaos and shifted from system to system on a semiannual basis.

Stepping into an entirely different coaching regime naturally meant hesitation, and hesitation was what we got. I put up this extremely scientific pie chart after Eastern Michigan put up 4.5 YPC despite throwing six times:

image_thumb_1241_thumb

We'll talk about the Jake Ryan edge allowance below; here we're fixated on the big red thing labeled "hesitant linebacker play." This was the week after I'd watched Notre Dame's linebackers tear ass after anything that moved, so I may have had a view of proper linebacker play improperly biased towards running your balls off as soon as a guard gives you a direction.

I don't think so, though, as Michigan linebackers were exploited on the edge for much of the year. Blue Seoul captured a Kain Colter option TD in With Pics(!), and while I suppose Carvin Johnson, who Seoul criticizes, could have been more Kovacs-y on the play, he did follow the golden rule of leverage by keeping Colter well inside of him. It's just that there was no one to clean up afterwards:

6231723730_6bb1ffe037[1]6231724246_09ca5bf9d0[1]

Johnson's mistake should have been worth a few yards, but not enough for Northwestern to convert. Earlier he was unable to shut down an outside run that got turned up at the numbers:

6231720430_62d9c3945c[1]

He's even with Hawthorne, who was the backside LB, and well behind nose tackle Mike Martin in his attempt to shut the play down. This is because he took an angle upfield of a blocker on a perimeter run, which is one of those "you better make the damn play" decisions. Demens wasn't close.

Demens got a –4 in that game and was negative the next week against MSU as the Spartans pounded the edges and found Michigan LBs a step slow. Too often Demens did not do what Johnson is managing above, like on this Ed Baker run against MSU. Watch him eat a block and let Baker to the edge:

I know this is not an edge play, but it's symptomatic of the main issue.
You want edge biff? Edge biff.

State couldn't get out to the second level on Hawthorne and he is free. This is a quintessential example of what you hear about the WLB in the under: he often ends up the free hitter because of the configuration of the DL whereas the MLB has to take on a block. Demens takes on a block, loses leverage, does not funnel to his partner, and off Baker goes. This was 60-70% of all the complaining I did about the linebackers last year and my A-#1 bitch about Jonas Mouton. Michigan linebackers aren't good about keeping leverage. (Yet.)

Before and after that, Demens was pretty good between the tackles. He pounded ND for twelve tackles and a +8.5 and was consistently above average late in the year, picking up three straight +4s against Iowa, Illinois, and Nebraska before falling back towards zero in the OSU game. Late he started playing faster. His third-and-one stick of Marcus Coker was hands down Michigan's tackle of the year:

Yeah, Kovacs collapsed Alex Carder's lung. He did not stop that truck dead in its tracks. Demens was also the second key on that Braxton Miller rollout against OSU, tracking him to the edge and forming up at the right spot to allow Black to come from behind.

For Demens, it's about playing fast and going hard. Last year Mattison literally played him at nose tackle because he'd rather have Mike Martin blitz; Demens needs to go when he goes, and decide to go more quickly. That should be in reach. He'll be a solid run defender and decent down the seam, but a lack of raw athleticism probably sees him top out at a bit above average.

[hit THE JUMP for Bolden as Samson, Jake Ryan(!), and Desmond Morgan]

Michigan Museday If the Dudes Get Dinged: Linebackerites

Michigan Museday If the Dudes Get Dinged: Linebackerites

Submitted by Seth on July 25th, 2012 at 7:46 AM

IMG_6292
Upchurch|MGoBlog

Previously: Offense, Defensive Line

This goes out to all those young linebackers out there who have given me your letters of intent:

♪ There was Bell, and a Hill, but I never saw them playing
No I never saw depth at all, 'till there was you.
There were safeties who gained weight, and a JUCO straight from Butler
But they were no Obianna Ezeh, 'till there was you.

Oh there were walk-ons, and converted fullbacks, they tell me,
And sweet freshman "Spinners," and Roh at "Quick"…

There was Ken-ny Demens, and a plush-toy Castor face-wash,
But no other linebackers at all, 'till there was you.

Till there was you! ♫

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

Linebacker depth: EXTANT!

This is Part III of the thing where I go over the depth chart and predict what will happen if the starter at any given position is hurt for an extended period of time in 2012: Who goes in?, What's the dropoff?, How do things shuffle?

And this time, there's goods here. There's depth in the SAMs and the WILLs and the MIKEs and the macks and the rovers. Whatayatalk whatayatalk: Where'd-we-get-it? With a Greg who knows the territory! With the jacks from the buckeyes, and the bucks from the mitten, and ROLBs from the overlooked, redshirted, 3-star, buck- and spart-passed over huckleberry bin. Whatayatalk, whatayatalk. Ya can talk, ya can talk, ya can bicker ya can talk, ya can bicker, bicker, bicker, ya can talk all ya want, but it's different than it was!

saturn-puntingzoltanQuickly again. Photos are all by Upchurch unless otherwise noted. Ratings are given in Saturn-punting Zoltans. Think of them like stars except more heavenly. Five is an all-conference-type player (Denard to Kovacs); four is a guy you'd call "solid" (RVB to Demens); three is an average B1G player (Morgan to Hawthorne); two is a guy with a big hole in his game (freshman Kovacs); one is trouble with a capital T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for Poole.

SAM (Strongside Linebacker):

IMG_5182-croppedCGordon6087655821_7877ddac48_o

Starter: Jake Ryan 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o

Backups: Cameron Gordon 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, Royce Jenkins-Stone ???, various WDEs

In case of emergency: Jake was a revelation last year as a redshirt freshman who as the season progressed kept giving the coaches less and less excuse to yank him. The nature of his position, which rotates often, and the nature of his cavalier game make it hard to quantify the effective difference of an injury here. By design he's the most replaceable guy on the defense; by the magnitude of his effect when he's in the game, there are few, if any, guys on the team who you'd less like to lose. He was far from perfect—his problems holding the edge led to some ugly things in the Northwestern-Michigan State part of the year—however there were also those times when a "running" quarterback would see this crazy freshman coming inside the edge blocker and think to himself "oh I'm so going around that idiot," only to end up flat on his back 20 yards in the backfield. Nothing was more satisfying to a fan base recovering from Passive 3-3-5 syndrome than seeing this crazed high-necked Viking bellowing something unintelligible at fast-retreating Logan Thomas.

JakeRyanSugarBowlInterview-Heiko

Heiko took this

Cam Gordon is the nominal backup, and since the freshman who played ahead of him last year (Beyer) has made the move to WDE, you would imagine the onetime receiver, onetime epitome of ethereal spring optimism at free safety, and onetime 3-3-5 spinner will have finally settled into a useful something. He spent most of last year with a back injury that gives us precious little information on what he might become. So is C.Gordon a junior stunted by position switches, bad fundamental coaching and injury who's now ready to erupt, or a guy with bad fundamentals doomed to be remembered for that one time he was badly cast in the hero role of a box office flop?

What you want are his credentials for a position that rotates like a train of traveling salesmen; what I've got for you is a barbershop quartet of coaches singing songs about him. One thing they don't say is "platoon." Despite his safety pedigree and safety frame versus Jake Ryan's oft hand-down deployment, the coaches haven't indicated Gordon is a situational backup. The SLB in this defense is supposed to be more like a WDE than the other two linebacker spots, and Cam is not that. On the other hand he seems tailor-made for the side-job of the SLB: covering the guy in the slot.

So I'm saying if Ryan goes down, Michigan probably goes with Gordon and eases off the gas a bit, leaning less on pressure and more on coverage from the position. The real drop-off won't be too severe, as there are other guys who can blitz if the SLB becomes more coverage-oriented, and there are rush options extant. The apparent drop-off will feel like when we lost Marcus Ray—the defense is still the defense but that sense that somebody's about to lose an important body organ will be appreciably depreciated. You'll see Gordon plenty either way.

In case of dire emergency: Well like I said this position rotates. Don't know what will happen with Clark, but if he's in at WDE that means Brennan Beyer can easily reprise his 2011 role over here. Mario Ojemudia could be pressed into service. And any of the freshmen linebackers could end up here. Of the four, I picked Royce Jenkins-Stone as the SAM since Bolden already seems to be the two-deep man at Mike, and Ringer was here for spring practice at Mike, and scouting reports say Ross is a coverage-y WLB-type, while RJS has been described as a raw, blitz-loving knife. That's an SLB. It'd be best if he redshirts to learn how to be the second-most aggressive guy on the defense (WDE is the first) while holding the edge.

MIKE (Middle Linebacker):

IMG_5220IMG_4747

Starter: Kenny Demens 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o

Backups: Joe Bolden 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, Who? Mike Jones 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, Kaleb Ringer 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, WLBs

In case of emergency: Responding to my size chart in last week's article, TSS started a thread about how Demens, who's listed at 248 on the spring roster (which is a copy of last fall's), has significantly Clipboard02-3more beef than the rest of the linebacking crew. The image above seems to reject the notion that he's the Carl Diggs among the Brackinses; the variability charts for the 2012 linebackers say he's huge (right, via TSS). So I checked the average listed size for a Michigan contributing linebacker since 1993, and it says he made big:

Season Demens M Avg
1st (Freshman-true) 224 225
2nd (Sophomore or RS Fr) 236 228
3rd (Junior or RS Soph) 246 232
4th (Senior or RS Junior) 248 233
5th year Senior 252 238

Most of our starters played over 240 in their 4th or 5th years. Over 230 is where it seems the contributors need to be. And when you look at the depth chart for 2012 there are exactly three dudes who seem likely to fit that description:

MLBs Wt SLBs Wt WLBs Wt
Kenny Demens 248 Jake Ryan 230 Desmond Morgan 220
Joe Bolden 230 Cam Gordon 222 Brandin Hawthorne 214
Mike Jones 224 Royce Jenkins-Stone 215 Antonio Poole 212
Kaleb Ringer 219     James Ross 209

Knock-knock … Orange … yada yada … you have Joe Bolden, the 2012 recruit I am most giggity about, and for good reason. He had the kind of performance as the starter (Demens was wearing that club you see above) in the spring game that makes even the cautious prognosticators say "I think we have something here." Then they pull out the David Harris comparisons.

There's nothing I can really add to the recruiting profile or the lofty expectations except to focus on what he brings to the table right now. That is a guy with freshman-grade Kovacsian play-diagnosis skills that must be tempered by "is a true freshman," plus a lot of range and athleticism that must be tempered by "is probably not strong enough yet to get off blocks." I don't think Demens should be worried about losing his job this year unless he's banged up, however in that eventuality Michigan has something between what Desmond Morgan was last year and a freshman Manti Te'o on hand, and should be just fine. Orange you glad!

In case of dire emergency: The phrase "Who? MIKE JONES!" had a very short meme life on the MGoBoards, and it is the considered hope of every Michigan fan that it should never become the headline of an MGoInjury Roundup or uttered without irony inside Michigan Stadium ever. Before the injury that ruined his 2009 coaches were suggesting he might displace Mouton; alas that seems to have been motivational spring hokum. More hype/hokum was Mattison saying he's an unstoppable speed rusher. We saw Jones a bit while Michigan was killing clock against Minnesota and he looked, um, safety-ish. There is a job for a safety-ish linebacker in this defense—the Will—but there are so many other slight LBs on this roster that tripping the 220-something wire puts you into the mix at middle. I would think before we see Jones start, Morgan would slide down to MLB and Hawthorne become the full-time WLB. While time is running out for Jones, he's not ignorable.

WILL (Weakside Linebacker):

IMG_4732IMG_5224

Starter: Desmond Morgan 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5

Backups: Brandin Hawthorne 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, Antonio Poole 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, James Ross ???, MLBs

In case of emergency: You can argue about the stars being low for a sophomore whom I already said was at 3 stars when starting as a true freshman—that was at the end of last year and I expect Des should still be improving exponentially as this season goes on. I also predict this year you'll start seeing more Jake Ryan in him, since everyone from recruiting analysts to coaches have raved about grittiness, something we haven't had the opportunity to see much of just yet. If our next Eckstein McGritsalot loses that opportunity, the safety net is the the safety-like Brandin Hawthorne.

If you have the opportunity to give the coaches one suggestion for 2012, please join the MGoCrusade to have Hawthorne deployed as the WLB when Michigan goes to nickel. Until Morgan emerged in the second half of last year, Hawthorne had lain tenuous claim to defense's most open position. Brandon Herron, the beefy Yang to Brandin's Yin, dropped out of the race after the double-fumble touchdown rally and has graduated. Hawthorne was excellent in coverage, knifed into the backfield for a key stop against Notre Dame, and displayed Pahokeeian speed to all parts of the field … except when a blocker came near.

For you Tiger fans, Hawthorne is the Ramon Santiago of this defense. He is great at what he does, but playing him every down is going to expose his weakness against the run. So what does happen if Des goes down? It's probably Joe Bolden, but with more Hawthorne appearances.

In case of dire emergency: Trouble with capital T, rhymes with P, stands for…oh actually we don't know what we have in Antonio Poole except his name lends itself well to the Music Man theme. Really he's a redshirt freshman who was ignored by Rodriguez but picked up quickly by Hoke. His recruiting profile lists abilities of play diagnosis, tackling, and translating of the Facebook pages of CRex's in-laws. Third on the depth chart is where you'd want a redshirt freshman to be. Anyway if you see Poole that means he's better than expected, or that "dire emergency" includes the MLB depth chart too. Same goes for James Ross, who was at one point the highest rated linebacker of the 2012 uber-haul, and may yet have a long career beside Bolden (Orange!), however he's listed in the vicinity of 200 lbs. and would probably benefit from a redshirt more than Ringer, who was here for Spring ball. Since redshirting a consensus high 4-star is a luxury we haven't had around the linebacking parts in some time, I suggest we take advantage of it.

Spring! Yes! Sort Of!

Spring! Yes! Sort Of!

Submitted by Brian on April 16th, 2012 at 12:00 PM

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Eric Upchurch. Upchurch's spring gallery.

The Spring Game came and went and I don't think it was just me: this one seemed flat in comparison to previous editions. The last time Michigan had a spring game so devoid of intrigue it was 2007, when senior versions of Hart and Henne ruled on offense and Lloyd Carr was the coach. Carr often seemed like he'd prefer it if his team played in front of no one, and this tendency was most frequently expressed at spring games. 2007 was boring and that was the way of things: boring.

Since:

  • 2008: closed to the public thanks to Michigan Stadium construction, we still get our first glimpses at the spread offense… and our doom. The sense of the willies you got reading descriptions of what went on (you dismissed it as meaningless spring game stuff because you didn't want to ruin your summer as well as your fall) was the first indicator of what we were in for. The turnover party did not stop until the season did.
  • 2009: Tate Forcier's coming out party. Program savior gets a run out for the first time as an early enrollee, performs brilliantly, everyone high-fives. Ace puts together Weapon of Choice video that is then recut into Weapon of Choice w/ Christopher Walken video. Youtube now thinks this video is set to Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend," which is Skynet-level commentary on how that Forcier thing worked out.
  • 2010: Denard Robinson's coming out party. Program savior gets a run out for not quite the first time but definitely the first one in which he looks like a plausible quarterback, performs brilliantly, everyone high-fives. Afterwards mgovideo published cutups of all three QBs' snaps so people could engage in Lincoln-Douglass debates about who should be the starter.
  • 2011: Will Al Borges stuff Denard Robinson into a pro-style offense designed for the exact opposite sort of quarterback? Answer: argh, yes. Spring game spawns offseason-long running debate about whether it's pure folly to move away from all shotgun, all the time. Borges participates in internal conflict version of that debate and generally sides with the shotgun crew, except against Iowa, for which we all pay dearly.

The past four years the spring game has been an important data dump that has indicated quite a lot of things about Michigan's season to come. Doom in 2008. Better quarterbacking the next couple years but with a fatal flaw: Forcier and Robinson's blowout performances came against Michigan's defense, which merely blew. Last year displayed to all how bad an idea it was to go under center a majority of the time.

This year Michigan spent about the same number of snaps as last year in the spread, ran Denard out there for one series, gave the established top tailback a few carries, and the whole thing was… just there, flopping around being dull and stuff.

Maybe this opinion is influenced by the fact that I wasn't there, but I don't think so. The things we think we found out are generally less exciting than "introducing DENARD ROBINSON!" and less important than the possibility we might totally screw him up. This is a sign of health in a program. It just makes this post a little less throbbingly important than it has been recently.

Anyway, there were some things we did learn…

Video

DonkeyPuncher231 (please change that username someday, dear DP) has spliced together just about the whole thing:

The official site put out a highlight video about half that length:

Box Scorin'

An unofficial box score from AnnArbor.com. Notables:

  • Gardner two of seven with an INT and 36 yards passing.
  • Bellomy six of nine but the same yardage as Gardner.
  • Gardner 9 rushes for 41 yards.
  • Toussaint five for 39.
  • Rawls 9 for 39.
  • Hayes and Smith had one yard between them on 11 carries.
  • "Unknown" caught two balls for 20 yards. Tacopants?

That data in hand, let's talk turkey.

 

Backup Quarterback Derby? I've Never Heard Of Such A Thing

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Upchurch

Michigan's coaches took the Colonel Tressel approach to the obvious #1 storyline of the day, Russell Bellomy looking a lot better than Devin Gardner. Bellomy praise was ladled out but when a reporter asked point-blank who the #2 guy was, Hoke's response:

If you were to name a No. 2 quarterback today, who would it be?

“Well, it’s Devin.”

I see nossing. I do not comment on Devin Gardner throwing multiple five-yard dumpoffs in a manner that John Shurna thinks is unusual and Northwestern's perpetual 6'9" euro center who takes threes despite never making any of them thinks is inaccurate. Neither do I comment on Gardner throwing an interception that, while a pretty good play by one Blake Countess, was also very late.

Borges's Bellomy praise was specifically parceled out after a section of Gardner hype:

You gave most of the snaps to Devin Gardner and Russell Bellomy today …

“Yeah, that’s what we were trying to develop. We decided before we came in that we were only going to play Denard just a little tiny bit. We wanted to see these other kids.”

Thoughts on their springs overall?

“Yeah I think Devin in particular has had an outstanding spring. He’s really done some very nice things and has developed in the position more and more. Needs more time in situations like this where there’s a lot of people watching and the pressure’s on and all that, but he has really done a nice job. And Russ -- I said it last week and the week before -- Russ has been steady and solid and [when] guys get open he hits them. He makes very few mistakes. He’s just one of those kinds of guys. He too is very athletic and can get himself out of some messes. He’s a solid guy.

If Gardner's been really good and Bellomy uninspiring but solid and mistake-light throughout the spring, only one of these traits came through on Saturday.

Twitter took the evidence on hand, considered it carefully, and wrote out a PhD thesis about how Gardner was terrible forever and Bellomy should be the backup quarterback as Gardner became LarryJustin FitzeraldBlackmon. And, yea, because twitter always has the most considered opinions these were not immediately regretted in the morning and… actually, hold that twitter sarcasm for one twitter moment.

Do we of the twitter hivemind regret that? Let's consider the evidence. Last year Gardner got into various games and threw 23 passes. He was 11 of 23 for 176 yards (7.6 YPA), one touchdown, and one INT. There was also this:

The defense would like to add this:

That's not much to go on. Let's make our data big, at least insofar as it can be made so.

In three consecutive spring games he's looked bad. You may remember Jake Ryan bursting onto the scene last year with a pick six thrown directly at his dome by Gardner. Yeah. Stuff on Gardner from the last spring game post:

As per usual, many events from the spring game are in the eye of the beholder. Is Devin Gardner's inability to find anyone open an indictment of him, an indictment of the second-team wide receivers, or… uh… like… people being covered? I know that latter seems improbable but I have seen football games in which this has happened. …

Unfortunately, there was a lot that was unambiguously bad, most of it from the quarterbacks: interceptions whistled yards over the intended receiver's head or thrown directly at linebackers, a Mallett-like plague of dropped snaps, offsides calls, etc. The general impression was more 2008 than 2010. … The QBs sucked on their own. …

Devin Gardner was also inaccurate in drills. They have this dig route where a slot receiver works to the seam then cuts his route off 15 yards downfield and Gardner was consistently missing it.

Robinson went out and did okay for himself after that business, minimizing its importance in our attempts to judge him. For Gardner it remains a big chunk of the time we've gotten to see him.

Here's the video of the year previous:

A summary of that from the immediate aftermath:

Devin Gardner looked raw as hell, fumbling snaps, scrambling into trouble, and reverting to that ugly shotput motion whenever he was forced to throw on the run. He looked like a freshman, which is okay because he is a freshman. However, the torrent of spring hype that suggested Gardner would probably not redshirt because he would be Michigan's best quarterback by UConn… eh, not so much. Maybe it was just a bad day. Even if it was an off day, Robinson showed enough to relegate Gardner to the bench for the first couple games and hopefully his whole freshman year.

Gardner did show the his deep touch on a third and long seam to Odoms that was laid in perfectly. Odoms dropped it.

Gardner got safetied and intercepted on the same play and still probably had a better overall outing than he did yesterday.

So. This is our oeuvre. Now consider Michigan's situation:

  • They didn't even attempt a long pass yesterday, presumably because they were all covered. After tight end, wide receiver is the position on offense that could most use an instant talent infusion.
  • Most of the unambiguously  good things Gardner did yesterday involved his legs. That scamper down the sideline… good lord y'all. It's not a big stretch to declare him the best athlete on the team outside of Denard, and given that size and wingspan he could be pushing close to #16.
  • Bellomy looks like a competent game manager should the need arise.
  • Given Robinson's previous two seasons at QB, the need almost certainly will arise.
  • Moving Gardner away from quarterback gives Michigan exactly two QBs this year and next and means either a true freshman or low-profile redshirt sophomore starts for M in 2013.

What do you do with that? Hell if I know. If you still had Forcier around and recruited a 2012 quarterback I would be at the post office right now watching Hoke mail a bow-clad Gardner* to Jeff Hecklinski. If there were enough of us and a fiddle we'd probably be singing Hava Nagila and dancing.

*[He's also wearing a full uniform, pervs.]

In Michigan's current situation, moving Gardner is asking for this interlude in game nine:

Matt-Millen-Will-McDonough-580[1]

MCDONAUGH: Michigan's quarterback is now Jack Kennedy. Ask not what your team can do for you, Jack, amirite? 
MILLEN: He looks really, really sweaty.
MCDONAUGH: Astute observation, Matt. Jack Kennedy is soaked in a bodily fluid we dearly hope is sweat.
MILLEN: Someone should get him an IV. I… what is that? That can't be healthy.
MCDONAUGH: Jack Kennedy is leaving a trail of viscous material behind him that must be a slurry of sweat and pure, distilled fear. Here's the snap. Kennedy hands off from the I-form… Vincent Smith with a one-yard loss.
MILLEN: Can all that fluid really be coming out of his body?
MCDONAUGH: Take it from my uncle Morty: all that and more. Vincent Smith with a one-yard loss.
MILLEN: How can he even hold on to the ball?
MCDONAUGH: I have no idea. This series of one-yard losses may be the most heroic in football history. Vincent Smith tackled for a loss of one.
MILLEN: Just look at him not fumble that snap despite having lost half his body weight in the past six minutes.

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MCDONAUGH: It's kind of beautiful.
MILLEN: For spacious skies. For aglumb waves of grain. For purple mounted mohair above the fruit-tossed Spain. AMERICAAAAAAA—
MCDONAUGH: Hagerup in to punt.
MILLEN: –AMERICAAAAAAAA, GOD SPED HIS FACE ON THEEEEEE. AND CROWN THY HOOD WITH BROTHERGOOD FROM PEA TO SHINGLING PEA.
MCDONAUGH: Inspiring stuff from Ann Arbor. Michigan has six yards of offense at the half. We'll be back after this commercial break.

SCENE. This may have been drug-induced.

Anyway. They'd probably just put Gardner in and hope they hadn't stunted his development to the point where he'd be totally useless. Things would go poorly.

Could you blame them that much, though? If Hoke reaches for the brass ring next fall and it blows up in his face because Denard goes down and the guy who was supposed to be his backup is at wideout, I probably wouldn't even be mad. It would suck, but I want a guy who will swing for the fences.

While the coaches are going out of their way to make it sound like that is not in the cards, sometimes the relationship between reality and what coaches have to say to not have horrible things happen is great. If Devin wants to be the #2 QB going into fall Michigan would be foolish not to downplay the WR stuff until he's on campus in the fall. Once he's there, then talk to him about moonlighting while still being the #2.

Gun to the head, I think he does see a lot of time at WR in fall camp. He'll still practice most of the #2 QB snaps but also taking a share of snaps at WR when Denard is out there. They'll teach him one of the four spots—probably Hemingway's—and use him in certain three and four wide receiver packages for 15-20 snaps a game. If he proves to be a top-flight guy quickly Michigan might not have much choice about using him more in tight games, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

If Denard goes down for any length of time, it'll be Devin.

Meanwhile there are 20 or 21 other positions Michigan has to fill…

All Eyes(z) On Campbell

"It just means I can't slip at all, because I got 120 eyes on me now," Campbell said of leading the team on the field.

Well… there's no denying he looked a lot better.

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Not literally. His name is Rio and he dances on the sand. Via AnnArbor.com

Like, a lot. Last spring game guy was a lump who managed to not get blown off the ball most of the time and just about never did anything. During the year he was largely that with some nice plays mixed in, but too infrequently to be encouraging. In the spring game he had clearly progressed enough to actually beat his man to the gap more than once.

You know all those runs Rawls had where he had to abort mission and find another hole? Most of those were headed at Campbell. Since we got a baseline for Ricky Barnum in the time he got before his ankle injury last year—decent Big Ten player even then—that's a hopeful sign.

Mattison and Hoke hated it, though, hated everything. I am factoring in further improvement as this line Heningers themselves into ship shape by fall. Enough to survive a 'Bama onslaught? Probably not, but they'll be okay afterwards.

Other DL Items

Roh and Black each showed some pass-rush ability from their spots and neither got ostentatiously rammed into the endzone on a big run play. The going was tough for the offense. With four-ish starters back from an OL that paved the way for Michigan running backs—IE, no Denard—to average 5.7 YPA last year, I'll place that in the good column. The extremely tenuous good column.

One nice thing the moves do is it allows Mattison to play a ton of games with his line. Black and Roh can both function as outside DEs just fine, so Mattison can call plays where the line slants and stunts such that one of those guys ends up playing a WDE-ish slot whenever he wants. What Michigan lacks in bulk they'll have to make up for with quickness and the element of surprise; Mattison will have some chess pieces to do that with next year. Note that the touch sack on the Gardner waggle came from the containing… Black. Usually your three-technique is not the guy asked to do that.

The depth here was also encouraging. Richard Ash made a couple nice plays, which I was not expecting. One was an excellent string-out on a stretch play that forced the tailback to awkwardly cut behind him. I was beyond not expecting that. I don't think John Gasaway will get on me if I say I was shocked. Yeah. Later he showed up two yards in the backfield directly in the path of an iso; he got blocked from the side but the bounce he forced saw Marvin Robinson chop poor Vincent Smith down for a one-yard loss.

Redshirt freshman Keith Heitzman also was a standout on the second units, though his inability to flow down the line at the proper angle was the main issue on Rawls's fourth-and-short touchdown. He got into the backfield plenty. Once you've got a guy who can get there it's not that hard to get him to take the right angle against air.

Injuries

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Toussaint clubberates Morgan, via the Wolverine

None serious. Desmond Morgan took a cut block from Fitzgerald Toussaint and limped his way to the sidelines for the day; a source indicates that is not serious and shouldn't affect him at all. Jerald Robinson also had a minor boo boo that should not affect him.

The only player to miss the game was backup SDE Nate Brink, and that injury was no surprise since it happened before the Sugar Bowl. Barring a non-contact injury, Michigan should hit fall camp with everyone on the roster ready to go. Everyone save Brink, the suspended Josh Furman, and the mysteriously absent-but-returned now Tamani Carter got a full spring session in.

So they've got that going for them. That's a lot better than last year when five or six important players, including Toussaint and Lewan, were sidelined.

The Burzynski Start

World, meet Joey Burzynski, the redshirt sophomore walk-on who started at left guard in the spring game. That's not a huge surprise since a lot of shadowy spring practice reports praised him as a potential contributor and he had seen some time with the ones in the King of Tight Frames' highlight videos throughout the spring. His start may not mean anything more than Michigan wanted a decent right tackle (Elliott Mealer) on the second unit to give Bellomy a little time, but the guy started the spring game and must be considered an obvious member of the two-deep.

This is a development that strikes me as concerning. Redshirt freshman Chris Bryant has been getting a lot of shadow praise for a year now and he doesn't seem to be anywhere close to finding a starting job. Not only is he behind Mealer on most days when Mealer is a guard, he's behind Burzynski. Decrement your Bryant excitement meters.

No offense to Burzynski, but until proven otherwise the assumption here is that the spot featuring a walk-on is going to be a problem. Even if it's not that's a spot that will be subject to fierce competition in fall.

Q: does Michigan have enough faith in one of its incoming freshman tackles to move Kalis from primary tackle backup—this site's assumed role for him as a freshman—to left guard competitor? A: Dunno. I do know they like Ben Braden a lot, like far more than the recruiting sites did. Whether he's got the polish to be that third tackle or not I don't know. I would look at insta-move of Kalis inside as a good sign as far as Magnuson and Braden go. That'll be something to watch for in the spring.

Thomas Rawls: Ramming Speed

We got a few carries from Toussaint to remind us that yes, Virginia, Michigan has a true feature back again. The headliner amongst the backups was sophomore Thomas Rawls, who showed a knack in short-yardage ramming and the sort of spread-oriented north-south RAGE runs that Brandon Minor used to specialize in.

It was the short yardage that was most impressive. Michigan's OL was rarely getting Rawls the holes they intended to get him. I'll leave the debate about whether that was Mattison's DL being better than expected or the OL worse for people who enjoy debating impossibilities; what was certainly impressive is that when that happened to Rawls he downshifted behind wherever the intended hole was supposed to be and burst into the next one over—closer to the middle of the field. He lowered his head, knocked guys back, and showed enough presence of mind to reach the ball across the goal line when he was suspended near it. Your short-yardage back: check.

Rawls also displayed that north-south bowling ball mentality on a couple of belly plays from the gun on which flailing arm tackles failed to bring him down and he fell forward after contact. He's got enough of a package to also provide breathers for Toussaint when he wants out. He'll get 5-10 carries a game this year and fill a role. Not sure if he'll ever reach feature back status with two more years of Toussaint and the Isaac(?)/Smith cavalry coming in next season, but he doesn't have to to be a good idea.

Vincent Smith: Did I Do Something Wrong?

Dear Tiny Jesus,

It's me, Vincent. All praise to your save percentage. Could you make sure the spring game is the last time I ever run an iso play from under center? I never go anywhere and it hurts a lot when six 300 pound defensive tackles fling me into the natatorium.

Congratulations on your call-up with the Blue Jackets.

Tiny Bros Before Other Bros,
Vincent

(Smith will be the third down back again and will level some dudes way bigger than he is to open up third down conversions. The power of Rawls hopefully compels Michigan not to run Smith out of the I any more.)

Disappointingly Absent

Spring game disclaimers apply, but where were Jerald Robinson and Roy Roundtree? They were out there. They were not targeted frequently. IIRC Roundtree got a hitch from Robinson on the first drive and then was not gone to again. Robinson featured from time to time but never as a downfield receiver, always as a checkdown option and usually a checkdown option being given a crappy pass.

The only receiver to make an impact was Gallon. I'd prefer Michigan's main target to be a big dude with a bigger catching radius, no offense Denard.

Secondary Status Quo

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Upchurch

After a series of video clips heavily featuring comer Terrence Talbott with the ones instead of JT Floyd it was Floyd who got the start Saturday. He played well, making quick tackles on the short stuff. Later he broke up a slant on a goal-line situation only to get a horsecrap PI call (BOOO PRETEND REF, BOOO). While Talbott got some run, I don't think Floyd's job is under serious threat. Especially after Mattison gushed about him at that Glazier clinic some months ago.

As a unit the secondary was excellent. Countess got a pick and there were very few downfield completions. A skinny post from Gardner to Gallon stands out as the only one of note. Default note about how that makes the WRs look bad goes here; comparison to Michigan defenses pre-Mattison also does. To virtually skunk an offense in 60 plays is quality. With Talbott emerging Michigan seems to go four-deep at corner, maybe five or six depending on how ready Hollowell and Taylor are. The comparison to the Never Forget days is wondrous.

If the depth isn't quite as good at safety at least Jarrod Wilson and Marvin Robinson seemed on top of things… most of the time. Wilson was the guy Rawls made most of his highlights against. If either starter goes down there will be some hairy moments. One of the two should be able to replace 80% of Kovacs next year.

Robinson is out of the doghouse and to see him play well was good because I'd gotten some practice buzz that indicated he was out of shape. He's obviously not; he seems tuned in. Michigan will need him. Even if Furman's stuff was as minor as his lawyer suggests he'll be behind this fall. If it's not as minor he might not be available for a while.

Do Not Be Alarmed, Rich Rodriguez Is Still In Arizona

Formations and such: Michigan still can't run out of the I worth a lick, which is fine by me. I suppose we have to downshift into that stuff eventually, but I'd rather it be clear as day that the way to go is shotgun just to prevent any further Iowa-like misunderstandings of where Michigan's capabilities lie.

Aside from that the most interesting aspect of the day's formations was the most common set: two backs, three WRs, shotgun. That was the meat and bones of the spread and shred in its Slaton/White/Schmitt heyday and Michigan has a pretty good replica of that in Toussaint/Robinson/Hopkins, albeit without the spread-oriented OC and the lethality of the spread in the early aughts as allies.

This says what everyone expects about the TEs—yuck—and suggests that if Michigan can't block 'em they're going to spread 'em. If it's going to work they are going to have to make that gray area defender pay for cheating. We'll see.

Brandin Hawthorne: Mauler of Walk-ons

The most interesting thing that happened after Jack Kennedy entered, signaling the end of serious attention from most folk, was Brandin Hawthorne going ham. He shot a gap for a backfield TFL reminiscent of his slice into the Irish backfield late in that game, then intercepted a TE-bound ball on the next play.

He made a few other tackles here and there and looked… really good.

Now, we've seen him on the field and there's only one way Hawthorne making contact with a Big Ten blocker ends. That would be "poorly," and that would be why Desmond Morgan took his job last year and won't give it back this year.

I'm just saying, though. Just sayin' that when Michigan goes to a nickel package on a passing down I think having Hawthorne in there as a blitzer and cover guy instead of Morgan would behoove Michigan. Morgan's a little ponderous on his pass drops, and if it's a passing down Hawthorne's limitations against rushes aren't relevant. Just sayin'. Throwin' it out there.

You, athletic department intern who has to read these things: don't say you got it from me. Ask Mattison to repeat that thing he was saying a couple months ago about using Hawthorne as a nickel WLB and how smart that seemed even before he was killing walk-ons in the spring game. Yeah.

Miscellaneous

Game bits:

  • Bellomy ran a QB power from the gun, so it's still there and it might stick around for a while. Bellomy did decently with it.
  • There were also a few inverted veers, none of which went for a ton of yards. Gardner did impressively juke himself into a crease outside on one; he was blown dead before he could test it.
  • Kaleb Ringer had an impressive track-and-tackle on Hayes in the open field off a dumpoff. Next play he whiffed a tackle on Toussaint (I think it was him).
  • Jeremy Jackson's lack of separation from Blake Countess was… not surprising.
  • Demens blanketed a Brandon Moore TE out that Gardner shouldn't have thrown but did; he made a nice play on the ball. His coverage is an underrated aspect of his game.
  • Antonio Poole only popped up on my radar when he lost leverage on a Gardner scramble late.

Weather could have been worse. This is what Indiana was facing down for their now-cancelled spring game:

image

Tre Roberson put the One Ring into the fires of Mount Press Box and things returned to normal.

Random picture on the twitter:

Aqi7cKpCAAEA7jG[1]

Tuley-Tillman, Bosch… OH GOD WHAT DID THEY DO TO DENARD BREATHE BREATHEEEE

LaQuon Treadwell with Morris and Bosch:

ekavt[1]

Elsewhere

Photos from Maize and Blue Nation, AnnArbor.com, AnnArbor.com again (alumni game), and MVictors. Rod Payne came dressed as Raiden:

041412_SPT_Alumni_Game_MRM_02_fullsize[1]

Melanie Maxwell/AnnArbor.com

Alumni game recap at AA.com.

Bullets and whatnot from:

Also AA.com has an article on Burzynski.

Upon Further Review 2011: Defense vs Purdue

Upon Further Review 2011: Defense vs Purdue

Submitted by Brian on November 3rd, 2011 at 1:04 PM

Formation notes: At this point it's less about looking at all the new stuff like the offense and more about figuring out what Mattison does with his base against various formations.

Mostly it's "bring in the nickelback," but not always. Here's Jake Ryan flared out over the slot:

base-4-3

This will not be a surprise since you've seen a zillion Big Ten cover-two-always teams run this against M's spread the past few years. Michigan uses the stack over the slot to spring some surprises:

under-versus-spread

That's basically the same thing; Ryan blitzed off the edge here. Tipoff is the depth of the FS, but not by much.

This is slightly more novel:

split-4-3

That's a pass-rush set with a couple standup ends and just one guy truly in the box with a couple guys hanging out over the slot. Guy truly in the box: Mike Martin.

This is Purdue's long touchdown as Michigan sent the world and left the middle even more open than it looks now. They shelved this for the rest of the day.

Substitution notes: DL was about how you expect with a little bit more Brink and a little less Black. Maybe a little less Campbell, too.

At LB, Morgan played the whole game until Hawthorne came in for garbage time. Demens was out for a series or two in favor of Fitzgerald; in the presser this week this sounded like a desire to get Demens some rest but Michigan hadn't been on the field much when he came in. Maybe it was part of a plan or something. Ryan played most of the game at SLB; Beyer did get some playing time early and did okay.

In the secondary it was Countess, Floyd, Woolfolk, and Gordon the whole way. Avery was the nickelback. These guys didn't really come out even in garbage time. Thin, thin, thin.

Show? Show.

Ln Dn Ds O Form DForm Type Rush Play Player Yards
O33 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 under Run N/A Reverse Roh 7
I don't see many reverses and am not sure what the issue is here. I don't think it's reasonable to expect Morgan to deal with this; by the time the second handoff is made he's way out of position and heading the wrong way. Roh(-1) could do better here; he's crashing down the line and ends up getting blocked by the QB. If he reads the reverse and gets upfield he's got a shot at a big play; instead the guy gets outside without delay. Floyd is out on the edge; he gets blocked inside by the WR who was initially running him out of the play, which gives up the edge. Gordon escorts the WR out of bounds after a decent gain.
O40 2 3 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Pass 4 WR screen Floyd 12
This is the shot above, w Ryan off the line and the line shifted to the short side (boundary). Purdue throws a quick screen to the outside receiver; Roh(-1) is dropping off into the play as Ryan blitzes. He starts chasing it down; I think he gets ambitious and goes too far upfield. The bigger problem is Floyd(-2) getting chopped to the ground and giving up the outside, allowing the WR to dance down the sidelines for a big gain. RPS+1; this was two guys on one and should have been killed dead. With pics'd.
M48 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Martin 0
Ryan flanked over the slot, not on the line, despite a TE. Purdue runs a zone that I think they want to get outside since they have a numbers advantage on the line but Martin(+2) drives his man into the backfield, forcing a cutback, and pushes back to tackle himself. Heininger(+0.5) also came through to help after the guy doubling him released. With pics'd.
M48 2 10 Shotgun 2-back Base 4-3 Pass 4 Quick out Floyd Inc
This is open for about five; WR drops it. Coverage is a push: short route, probably no YAC.
M48 3 10 Shotgun empty Split 4-3 Pass 5 Tunnel screen -- 48
Michigan splits out over the slots so there are only five or six in the box with Woolfolk a single deep safety. They then blitz Martin, who was laying back a couple yards off the LOS as a quasi-linebacker. The five guys in the box are gone. And that's all she wrote. Countess can't beat a cut block to make a diving tackle; he comes close. Avery and Gordon are buried by OL. I do think Gordon(-1) needs to realize he's not going to run through this OL and take a deeper angle. Floyd(-1) takes an angle too shallow and is outrun to the endzone; Woolfolk had to take on an OL block and keep leverage just to give Floyd a shot. He avoids the cut and starts pursuing but can't catch up in time to tackle. RPS -3. Blitz + alignment = dead. With pics'd.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-7, 13 min 1st Q. Goodbye, Purdue offense.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O20 1 10 I-Form 4-3 under Run N/A Iso Demens 5
Brink in at SDE for RVB. Martin is doubled; Brink(-0.5) single blocked effectively. Demens(-1) gets pounded in the hole by the FB and spills the play outside instead of allowing Morgan to be a free hitter. Beyer(+0.5) peels to tackle.
O25 2 5 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Pass N/A WR screen Roh 0
Michigan still getting set when the ball is snapped, which fortuitously gets Roh running straight at the WR screen here. WR decides to duck inside of the charging Roh; Roh(+0.5) forms up and tackles with help from Morgan(+0.5). The RPS meter just exploded. Call it zero. With pics'd.
O25 3 5 Shotgun 2-back Nickel even Run N/A Inverted veer Ryan -4
Wildcat type formation with Siller at QB; Michigan runs a play that seems specifically designed to crush the inverted veer. Morgan flares out along the LOS and blitzes from the outside as Ryan(+1) stunts around Martin, showing up in the hole Siller thinks he has because there's no WLB filling it. He pulls, Ryan is there, RVB(+1) beats a block to provide more pressure, and then everything caves in. Ryan(+1 again) gets another plus for making an excellent tackle(+1) in the backfield. RPS+2.
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 6 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O38 1 10 Shotgun 2TE 4-3 under Run N/A Jet sweep Gordon 4
Gordon starts creeping down when Purdue motions a TE to the wide side. He comes up further on the jet sweep action and bursts upfield to cut off the outside(+1). Ryan(+1) has held the edge, taking on a double and holding up enough allowing both LBs to flow unimpeded to the ball. Demens's tackle was a thump he fell off of. The tailback manages to fall forward for a decent gain.
O42 2 6 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Pass 4 Quick out Floyd 4
Floyd(+1, cover +1) is in good enough position to make a play on the ball if it's not low and to the outside, which it is. Receiver makes the catch; no YAC.
O46 3 2 I-Form 4-3 under Run N/A FB Dive Martin 0
Martin(+1) shoves the center back into the intended path of the RB, forcing a cutback into Roh(+0.5), who tackles for no gain. Heininger(+0.5) held up to a block at the LOS and provides the restricted space that prevents Crank from falling forward.
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 1 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O5 1 10 I-Form 4-3 under Pass 4 Sack Martin -5
Martin(+3) drives the LG back, chucks him, starts driving into TerBush, gets a holding call, facemasks a little, and ends up safetying the dude. Pressure +2.
Drive Notes: Safety, 9-7, 14 min 2nd Q. Is this a missed call or the sort of flag they got rid of when they got rid of the five yarders? I don't know.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O28 1 10 I-Form 4-3 under Pass 5 Waggle out Ryan 15 + 15 pen
Marve in for Purdue. Ryan(-2) sent on a blitz right at this (RPS +2). He's in, Marve's not that mobile, this should be doom. Unfortunately Ryan goes for a pump fake and leaps. His hand comes down, grabbing the face mask, and he still misses the tackle. Marve is now outside the pocket and lofts one to a wide open tight end. Not sure who this is on, but it is either Countess or Woolfolk. Guessing Countess. (Cover -2, Pressure +1, Countess -1).
M42 1 10 I-Form 4-3 even Run N/A Power off tackle Demens 6
Ryan off the LOS as the WLB, Roh SDE, etc. They're flipped from normal. Roh(+1) drives the TE back, making the FB useless; Morgan(+0.5) takes on the outside shoulder of the fullback, funneling to the unblocked Demens in the hole. Demens(-1, tackling -1) has this lined up for a nothing play and glances off the tailback, allowing him to fall forward for a significant gain. Heininger(-1) blown off the ball by a single block didn't help but this is an easy play for Demens that didn't get made.
M36 2 4 ??? ??? Run N/A ?? Morgan 0
Tape does not have this play.
M36 3 4 Shotgun trips bunch Nickel under Pass 4 Scramble -- 6
I'm probably supposed to ding a DL or two for opening up a lane right in front of the QB, so minus half points for Martin and RVB for getting too far upfield in their pass rush. Morgan does a fairly impressive job of tracking Marve down but it's not enough.
M30 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 under Run N/A Trap Heininger 14
Martin(-1) gets upfield aggressively and is trap-blocked as the RG pulls around into Heininger(-1), who was similarly too aggressive. This kicks both DTs out and gives Crank a lot of room. Both LBs have OL to deal with; they set up to one side and force the play back into... nothing. Beyer(-1) ran uselessly upfield and got sealed off by a slot receiver. Yerk.
M16 1 10 Shotgun trips bunch 4-3 under Pass 4 Hitch Floyd Inc
Hitch opposite the bunch. Floyd(+0.5, cover +1) is there to tackle on the catch after about four but it's dropped.
M16 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 5 Throwaway Demens Inc
They roll the pocket. Roh(-0.5) gets cut to the ground; Demens(+1, pressure +1) reads the roll and shoots outside into it. Marve has nowhere to go because good coverage(+2) from Avery(+1) and Countess(+1) and chucks it OOB.
M15 3 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 4 Tunnel screen Avery INT
Michigan much better prepared. Avery(+3) not only splits the two defenders coming out on him and is in position to tackle if this is complete but manages to make a tough diving grab on the ball when the receiver bats the poorly-thrown screen up. Roh(+0.5) and Martin(+0.5) were flowing out from the line to deal with this as well; it was going nowhere. RPS +1.
Drive Notes: Interception, 12-7, 8 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O20 1 10 I-Form 4-3 over Pass 4 PA FB Flat Floyd 4
Fitzgerald in for Demens. Campbell and Brink also playing a bit on this drive. Waggle action and Marve has to take a checkdown(cover+1). Floyd is there to tackle after about two and gives up a couple more by almost missing.
O24 2 6 Shotgun 2-back TE 4-3 even Run N/A Inside zone Martin 4
Martin(+1) drives the playside G back; RB has to wait up as he is in the path. No help coming though with Campbell(-1) blown up and Fitzgerald(-1) doing the sit and wait; Ryan(+1) is over the slot, reads the handoff, and has time to get to the hole between Martin and Brink to hold the gain down.
O28 3 2 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Run N/A Down G Roh 5 (Pen -10)
M shows man free and blitzes Fitzgerald(-1) up the middle; he trips over a guy who ducked to cut Martin. Martin stays up; guy who's not even getting blocked goes down. Once that happens it's tough for M to do anything on the edge because they don't have any LBs flowing. Roh(+1) fights through the TE's down block and is held; flag. Gordon(+1) gets into a block and comes through it to the outside as Bolden passes the first down marker. He can't tackle but he forces Bolden into two other defenders. He had a tough job and did it well.
O18 3 12 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass 4 Sack Martin -2
Roh(+1) gets enough of a speed rush to spook Marve up into the pocket, whereupon Martin(+1) beats the center and blows back a tailback to complete the sack. (Pressure +2) Covered in With Pics(!).
Drive Notes: Punt, 19-7, 3 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O1 1 10 I-Form 4-3 under Penalty N/A Offsides Martin 5
Doh. Martin -1.
O6 1 5 I-Form 4-3 under Run N/A Power off tackle Morgan 2
Michigan appears to be slanting away from the POA. RVB(+0.5) gets under a tackle and ends up taking a puller. They may be trying to go A gap here. Ryan(+0.5) quickly gets into the FB and cuts off the outside; there is a crease because RVB got hit and Martin is slanting away from the gap. An OL has released downfield into Morgan(+1) but doesn't have much of an angle because of the RB hitting a gap that is farther inside than Purdue wanted; Morgan plays off it, shoving the OL away and making a solid tackle(+1)
O8 2 3 Shotgun 2-back 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Ryan 3
Ryan blitzes late, timing it excellently. He gave nothing away before the snap. As a result the lead back runs right by him. Ryan(-1) then runs right by Crank, missing an arm tackle(-1). He does knock Crank off balance but that was a free run for a loss (RPS +1) RVB(+1) slants under the tackle and forces the RB backside, another reason Ryan should have killed this dead. This allows Morgan(+0.5) to run away from a block and scrape to the new POA; Gordon(+0.5) also came up well to restrict space.
O11 1 10 I-Form 4-3 over Pass 4 Waggle out Woolfolk Inc (Pen +5)
RVB(-1) jumps offside. Play continues. Purdue runs a waggle with a TE running an out at about the sticks. Terbush comes up to fire at him; pass is accurate but Woolfolk(+2, cover +2) is there to put his helmet in the TE's chest and dislodge the ball.
O16 1 5 I-Form twins 4-3 over Run N/A Iso Heininger 0
No one gets out to the second level; Campbell(+0.5) does an all right job with his double and Heininger(+1) drives his man back a yard or two, which ends up absorbing the fullback and forcing a cutback. Demens(+1) does have an OL releasing into him late; he is too quick for that guy to get anything useful and tackle(+1) in the hole effectively.
O16 2 5 I-Form 3-wide 4-3 over Pass 4 Out Floyd Inc
Quick out—too quick—against Floyd as a hard cover two corner. Floyd(+2, cover +2) jumps the route and may have a shot at a pick if the ball isn't thrown way too high. As it is he gets a PBU.
O16 3 5 Shotgun trips bunch Nickel even Pass 4 Drag Morgan 18
Roh(+1, pressure +1) gets a speed rush around the RT and nearly has a sack; he ends up flushing TerBush up into the pocket. Morgan(-1, cover -1) ends up in the same spot as Demens on their zone drops because he's looking in the backfield; this opens up a three yard drag Siller can turn up for big yards. Gordon(-1, tackling -1) whiffs a tackle after about six yards; Morgan(-1, tackling -1) whiffs another tackle; finally Siller goes down as multiple M players, including both DTs, track him down.
O34 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Run N/A Trap Van Bergen 1
Both DTs remain responsible, diving inside on the snap and eliminating the hole; they both get inside of the guys trying to trap them as they rush upfield. RVB, Martin +1. Morgan(+0.5); he did a good job of getting to the hole to help tackle.
O35 2 9 Shotgun 2-back Nickel even Pass 4 Hitch Gordon 12
Simple zone blitz gets Morgan(+0.5, pressure +1) in unblocked but someone screws up their zone and allows the hitch right over Morgan to come open. This looks like Gordon(-1, cover -1)
O47 1 10 Shotgun 2-back Nickel 4-3 Run N/A Iso Morgan 4
Gordon walks down as an extra LB as M goes one high. DTs Campbell(+0.5) and Heininger(+0.5) do a good job of constricting this hole, forcing the RBs to dance through it gingerly. Morgan(-1) pops to the wrong side of the FB—he's at MLB in this formation and probably doesn't know where his hitter is—which allows Edison to dart through a small gap between the FB and Campbell.
M49 2 6 Shotgun trips bunch Nickel even Run N/A Pin and pull zone Heininger 0
Heininger(+2) does not get sealed; he does one better than that by chucking the OL blocking him to the inside and popping up into the hole, taking out a second blocker and forcing the RB to slow. With Beyer(+0.5) holding the edge the cutback is the only thing left; Ryan(+0.5) has that handled in pursuit.
M49 3 6 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass 5 Hitch Campbell Inc
Zone blitz from Demens and Avery doesn't have time to get home; TerBush throws a quick hitch in the middle of the field that Campbell(+1, pressure +1) bats down. Woolfolk(+1, cover +1) was going to be there on the catch to make this tough.
Drive Notes: Punt, 22-7, 5 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O26 1 10 Diamond screen Nickel even Pass 4 Transcontinental Floyd 18
Double pass with two options, one a TE running deep that Gordon(+1) covers. The other is the transcontinental, which is the only real option because linemen are releasing downfield. Floyd(-2) doesn't realize this and comes up late, then lets Siller outside of him without even touching him (tackling -1), turning a first down into a big gain. RPS -1.
M46 1 10 Shotgun trips 4-3 under Run N/A Zone read dive Gordon 3
Beyer forms up on the QB; handoff. Nothing playside with RVB(+0.5) driving his guy in to the play and ditto Heininger(+0.5); the cutback is there until Gordon(+1, tackling +1) comes up to make an excellent open field tackle as the RB cuts back behind everyone.
M43 2 7 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 even Pass 4 Throwaway Roh Inc
Roh(+1, pressure +1) beats the right tackle, and though it looks like TerBush can step up he bugs out for the corner. Martin(+0.5) is pursuing out there and TerBush has to chuck it OOB.
M43 3 7 Ace 3-wide 4-3 under Pass 4 Scramble -- 2
More double pass stuff; Michigan covers(+1) the first read and then Siller starts running around aimlessly, picking up a few yards. RPS +1.
Drive Notes: Punt, 29-7, 1 min 3rd Q. Clark, Hawthorne, and other backups start rotating in after M scores to go up 36-7. Seriousness: declining.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O30 1 10 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass 5 PA Quick seam Demens 23
Oh noes is less fun when it happens to you. Avery is over the slot; he blitzes. Demens(-1, cover -1) is dropping off in response, it seems, and is staring down the QB but not getting sufficient depth on his drop. The seam opens up. Woolfolk's tackle is a dodgy one but he does rope him down after a few extra yards given up. Call it a push.
M47 1 10 Shotgun trips Nickel even Run N/A Zone read keeper Clark 41
Michigan in man free with Woolfolk as the deep guy, except he's not so deep, he's moving forward at the snap less than ten yards off the LOS. This becomes a problem when Clark(-2) ignores the QB contain, causing a pull. Everyone else is headed to the playside and Floyd(-1) moves up too quickly, allowing Terbush to run by him before he can angle him into the help that doesn't really seem to be coming. Woolfolk(-1) never figures out the pull and ends up going derp on the playside; Floyd eventually runs it down.
M6 1 G Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Run N/A Zone read dive Marin 1
Martin(+1) passes off the RG and gets into the center in the backfield, forcing the same cutback he forced a few times earlier. Van Bergen(+1) holds up against a double well, so no hole; Clark(+0.5) comes down to tackle on the cutback.
M5 2 G I-Form 4-3 under Penalty N/A False start -- -5
Derp
M10 2 G I-Form 46 bear Run N/A Pitch sweep Ryan -5
Late move to the line by Morgan into the bear spot. Ryan is sent to fly off the edge. He's past the TE before he can get out on him, submarines the FB, and sends the tailback flailing skyward with a diving arm tackle. +3. Even if he whiffs here—a strong possibility—he's gotten a two-for-one on the FB and TE and Morgan should be able to force it back into unblocked help.
M15 3 G Shotgun empty 3-3-5 Nickel Pass 3 Quick post Morgan 12
Michigan drops eight, and I think it's either Ryan (who doesn't get over to the center of the zone fast enough, instead dropping too far into a post route in the center of the field that Gordon has) or Morgan (who's lined up over the guy and gives him inside position despite starting with inside leverage). Given the way the play looks—it appears to be man with three deep behind it—I think it's Morgan (-1, cover -1)
M3 4 G Shotgun trips 2-back Goal line Run N/A Yakety sax Demens 2
Slot covered, so pretty obvious run. What that run was supposed to be we'll never know because the two tailbacks run into each other. TerBush tries to improvise but gets chopped down short of the goal line by Demens(+1), who did beat a block to get to this quasi-hole. Ryan(+0.5) scraped way over to help, too.
Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 36-7, 9 min 4th Q. It's total scrub mode from this point on. Charting ceases.

"Total scrub mode?" A bunch of starters were out there!

"Total scrub mode if Michigan had available scrubs they weren't trying to redshirt," then.

What about Talbott? Taylor? Robinson (Marvin Edition)? Furman?

Hmmm. Taylor's hurt, I think. Meanwhile I'm guessing they're in maximum-snap-acquirement mode for freshman Countess. I'm not sure about the other guys.

But anyway I'm not charting that stuff. It is not representative of the football game. You know how I know?

I ask the questions?

Because Purdue acquired yards. On the ground.

At least give me that I exclaim chart!

You exclaim chart!

[Note: with Purdue unable to stay on the field and the last 13 plays excised for uselessness, this is only 43 snaps. IE: less than half some performance-type-substances from last year. Adjust expectations accordingly by multiplying by ~1.6 to get relatively normalized numbers.

You can also look at the +/- ratio, which is hovering around 3:1 for the DL (dirty) and 60% for the DBs (quality), with the linebackers hovering around planet okay.]

Defensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Van Bergen 5 1.5 3.5 Somewhat quiet day.
Martin 11 2.5 8.5 Two sacks and a number of plays he forced away from blocking.
Roh 6.5 2.5 4 Got some useful speed rush; half sack in uncharted time.
Brink - 0.5 -0.5 Eh.
Heininger 5 2 3 Played pretty well; seems to turn in a play or two per week.
Black - - - Didn't register.
Campbell 2 1 1 Not getting a ton of push.
TOTAL 29.5 10 19.5 Clark also –1.5. Solid performance from the starters.
Linebacker
Player + - T Notes
C. Gordon - - - DNP
Demens 3 3 0 Not much got to him thanks to Martin.
Herron - - - DNP
Ryan 8.5 3 5.5 No argh moments, a couple wow experiences.
Fitzgerald - 2 -2 Behind Demens for a reason.
Jones - - - Garbage time.
Evans - - - DNP
Beyer 0.5 1.5 -1 Michigan working in their depth a bit more.
Hawthorne - - - Only garbage time.
Morgan 3.5 3 0.5 An improvement on Hawthorne, but still a work in progress.
TOTAL 15.5 12.5 3 Decent play from most, no real standout plays save Ryan's.
Secondary
Player + - T Notes
Floyd 3.5 6 -2.5 Best cover guy now so keep that in mind; tackling struggles do not outweigh his contribution to the cover metric below.
Avery 4 - 4 Mostly the INT.
Woolfolk 4 - 4 Played well at safety. Not as solid a tackler as Kovacs but good in coverage.
Kovacs - - - Come back soon.
T. Gordon 4.5 3 1.5 Solid tackling day.
Countess 1 2 -1 No one was really tested back here.
Johnson - - - : (
TOTAL 17 11 6 Very good save Floyd's tackling issues.
Metrics
Pressure 9 1 8 Most of this a four man rush.
Coverage 11 6 5 Excellent number given the ratio.
Tackling 4 4 50% Floyd on the edge can be not so good.
RPS 8 4 4 Didn't give up much schematically after the first drive.

That is a quality day from the secondary, albeit one racked up in limited opportunities against a team that hardly goes deep, if they ever do. I didn't chart the final two drives, during which the Boilers were 6/9 for 47 yards. The drive before that was also pretty whatever and it featured two completions for 35 yards, both of them seemingly on the linebackers.

In time that can be described as meaningful, Michigan gave up 140 yards on 16 attempts, 48 of those on the screen. That's 6.1 YPA on the other 15 attempts. Aside from Floyd missing some tackles they did a good job. I wouldn't take too much out of it since Purdue is the most relentlessly dinky opponent Michigan will face.

More impressive than that was the rush defense, which gave up essentially nothing until Clark blew his contain on the zone read. Removing four sacks for 20 yards and Purdue still had just 109, 41 of those in garbage time thanks to a true freshman who's got two guys in front of him on the depth chart. Bolden averaged 2 YPC. Runs that don't heavily feature Clark making a mistake he won't get to make in a real game were barely better at 2.8.

Mike Martin is back!

Yeah, after getting blown out on a number of doubles against MSU Martin rebounded with a strong performance both statistically and when it came to the sorts of things that Don't Show Up In The Box Score. A large portion of the Bolden futility was Purdue trying to single block Martin and getting their angles blown up in return:

Forcing the cutback is 80% of the battle there; coming off to tackle yourself is just a bonus. You try running a fullback dive when the center is two yards in the backfield.

You are aware that Martin essentially threw the left guard into TerBush for a safety, but it remains a good example of his day:

This is what I like to see from my Mike Martin. That and rag-dolling a tailback like he is not present.

If he can do this against Iowa Coker will have a hard time. Dude is surprisingly agile for a truck but cutting in the backfield is doom for anyone his size. I imagine Iowa will do more doubling of him—Purdue wanted to get out on the linebackers so quickly they never really gave anyone help on Martin. Even Heininger got in on some of the single-blocked action.

Jake Ryan is living up to the promise implied by Sixteen Candles!

I do think we should slow our roll a little bit here. At this rate Ryan is going to be hyped to the moon over the offseason and when he's only pretty good as a sophomore everyone's going to be disappointed. He is learning, he is destructive, I still want to see him put on another 20 pounds and absorb Ryan Van Bergen's tao of weeble-wobbling before I start penciling him on the next three All Big Ten teams. One of his big plays was manufactured by Mattison, after all.

The other was not, though:

That is MAKING PLAYS. That's a +3 all the way, what with beating a tackle and submarining another blocker and tackling the dude in the backfield.

I dislike JT Floyd!

I've seen a couple of the educated football folk in the blogosphere and my twitter stream grouse about JT Floyd this week, and the numbers above do back that up. Getting chopped to the ground by an outside WR on a bubble is pretty bad, and Floyd's eh speed will always be an issue.

HOWEVA, I still think he's the best corner Michigan has right now. I base this off plays when opponents run twinned routes and I can see a Woolfolk or Countess cover the same slant on the same call; almost invariably Floyd is hugging the receiver tighter. This is not the best example because the QB set him up for this one but whether it's in man or zone Floyd seems to get more plays on the ball than anyone else in the secondary:

Meanwhile, count the long receptions Floyd's given up this year… I've got one, an undefendable Michael Floyd fade on which he had a rake at the ball. When they go after Michigan deep it was Woolfolk and Countess getting most of the exposure. That's good enough for me when trying to figure out who's good in an area of the field you only see when someone hasn't been good (or one of Michigan's quarterbacks has decided they're tired of being on the field).

Floyd's not going to go down as a great or probably even get drafted; he's still Michigan's best corner until Countess takes that mantle from him.

Morgan is the WLB forever!

I think he's the long-term solution on most downs. I like it when linebackers can shed and form tackle, even if it's on a kickoff:

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I still see a place for Hawthorne on the defense in a nickel package. Many of his plusses this year have been in tight, instant-tackle coverage on third and medium. Morgan had a not-so-much moment over the weekend:

Froshbits that will get better with time, yes. I still think if you've got a safety/LB hybrid who's shown an aptitude for playing underneath coverage on medium-length third downs there's a place for that guy on your D. When the run you're worried about is a draw I wouldn't mind seeing Hawthorne out there.

How plausible is this? Well, BWS caught a nickel blitz late that again showed Mattison's desire to have one of his linebackers bug out to an unexpected place on a zone blitz. Check #7:

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They tried this earlier in the year with Herron and it didn't go well. They didn't bring it out until Hawthorne came in against the Boilers, and it seems like if there's anyone on the roster who can run like an NFL linebacker in coverage it's him. I wouldn't put it past Mattison to start using Hawthorne like a dimeback to give his zone blitz schemes a little more terror. He's an interesting player.

Heroes?

Martin in particular but the rest of the line as well—constant harassment of the QBs and the opponent had no running game at the same time your MLB had one solo tackle.

Goats?

Floyd's edge tackling was a source of problems. Pretty much the only one except a bad playcall on the first drive.

What does it mean for Iowa and the future?

I stole my own thunder above talking about Coker, but to reiterate: the key in the ground game will be to get the penetration they were getting today and slow Coker in the backfield. He takes time to get up to speed and is a one-cut-and-go type guy. If Martin/RVB can make him a one-cut-and-stop type guy they'll go a long way towards… uh… holding most of his runs to like four yards because you can't stop the guy from falling forward. I don't have faith in Michigan's linebackers to be able to stop that guy in his tracks. Kovacs's health will be important here—the downgrade in tackling from him to Woolfolk is obvious.

As for Iowa's passing game, prepare for a stiff test. Michigan hasn't faced a player of McNutt's quality in an environment that will allow for throwing instead of hoping since Notre Dame, and they escaped from that mess by the skin of their teeth. McNutt isn't on that level… quite.

LT Reilly Reiff, hyped up as a possible first rounder, struggled alarmingly with Minnesota DEs; if Michigan can get the same kind of pressure with their front four Iowa fans have been bitching all year about a certain deer-in-the-headlights quality to Vandenberg when he gets pressure. 

Picture Pages: Slanting Against Power

Picture Pages: Slanting Against Power

Submitted by Brian on October 25th, 2011 at 12:05 PM

Picture Pages on a bye week? Sure. I generally take more snapshots than I can reasonably cram into one week of posting what with all the other whatnot that goes on in this space, so this is a perfect spot for some reheated leftovers.

Yesterday I tagged Whoever at WLB as one of the main trouble spots on the defense; last week I criticized the linebackers for a particular Edwin Baker run that popped big despite Michigan seemingly having it covered. I caught some criticism myself for not being harsh enough with Mike Martin on that particular play that I'm still not sure about.

In any case, I pick the individual plays after the game (or season) has developed enough for me to identify a trend, and I grabbed that specifically because of the WTF behavior of the linebackers. Here's a play from earlier in the season that got in my thought processes and may have compelled me to pull that baby out of the bathwater. Metaphors not guaranteed.

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It's late against Eastern. The starters are still mostly in; the Eagles have been driving a bit. It's first and ten. They'll run a power play to the strong side of their formation*. Michigan is in their usual under.

*[People have told me this is a "Down G", not a Power O, because the guard blocks down—I see what you did there—and it's actually a frontside tackle pulling, along with the center.]

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USUAL UNDER IS USUAL
Ryan to bottom of screen, Frank Clark to top.

The key guy to watch is Hawthorne, who is the topmost of the MLBs.

On the snap everything happens!

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By this I mean three things.

  1. the center pulls
  2. the frontside tackle pulls
  3. Michigan slants away from the play

You can see the entire line headed inside away from the playside. Brink, Ryan, Martin: all are oblivious to the idea of containment. This is fine.

fbz3gg[1]SLANTING THE LINE AGAINST POWER

wsg Slanty, the football-playing, jean-vested gecko who is inexplicably the first hit in Google images for "line slant football."

Why do it? To get a free hitter. Your slant should make life difficult for anything run to its side. The downblocks are key in the power. They're the easy bit for the offense. If one gets beat your play is going to not work very well. In all likelihood your pullers are going to take defensive linemen in the backfield, leaving linebackers free to run up and smash face.

If the opponent runs away from your slant it should be okay because the linebackers know there's a slant on and can chase playside as soon as the offense gives any indication there is a playside. This gets the backside tackle/guard/whoever—the guy assigned to the WLB—blocking air. The WLB gets to scrape down the line to tackle.

This gets the backside tackle… guard… whoever…

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…blocking air…

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…awww, come on, Hawthorne.

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In the wider view you can see huge numbers of players on the backside:

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Cutback == doom. Hawthorne has no responsibility but to get down the line to the POA. Note the difference in the disposition of the linebackers. Demens is hauling for the frontside; Hawthorne is in full block-catching mode.

Now, Michigan's D can bottle this up without needing a WLB if Ryan gets a two for one on these pullers. He's the guy currently inside of #68. The other puller is running right by him. He's already given up the bounce because of the slant; if he gets into the other blocker Demens has a free run.

Ryan doesn't. He gets knocked to the inside and pancaked, which erases backside help. The other puller gets out on Demens:

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Demens has maintained outside leverage, forcing it back to his help, which is three yards downfield and getting farther away.

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First down on a basic power run.

VIDEO

ITEMS OF INTEREST

Hesitation is a killer here and it does not seem explicable. Hawthorne does not quite know what he's doing yet, especially earlier in the season. The hesitation gets a little more explicable when you look at the previous play, when one Brandin Hawthorne got burned on a counter:

Even so, with the line slanting in front of him he should know to take off playside at any hint of a pull or any hint of a guy releasing to block him. Slanting should make LB decision processes easy.

This play is one of the archetypical examples of why the WLB is hard to block and can get away with being a slight fast guy… so don't get blocked.

This is especially bad for a player like Hawthorne. Hawthorne looks like Leo Messi out there. He has a hard time getting off blocks and has basically no chance if he's not thundering at whoever is coming out to block him. At least in that situation his momentum can pop the guy back and he can come off to tackle. He's done if he pulls the [REDACTED] Memorial Block Catching Dance.

Ryan missed an opportunity to MAKE PLAYS. The other thing a slant like this can do is take the playside DE/LB and make two guys block him. You see Ryan dive inside the first puller. This means the RB is going to bounce, which means Ryan's basically done. Also done is Ryan's blocker.

Ryan has one way to impact the play left: try to pick off that other puller, leaving Demens unimpeded on the edge. Here he takes the block and appears to try to fight back outside, which ends with him in a heap. This isn't the worst thing in the world but great defenses that swarm these kinds of plays with two guys get both the 2-for-1 and the WLB in the hole.

This is one of the reasons I'm looking owlishly at the WLB whenever something goes wrong. Picture Pages are attempts to thematically summarize trends I see as I'm UFRing, so when I pull a play to illustrate something it is a complaint/credit I've seen quite a bit of. That may mean I focus on the linebackers on a particular play that may or may not be Mike Martin's fault for not shedding his guy and tackling for loss.

Google images can be weird sometimes.