This Week’s Obsession: Unicorn Games

This Week’s Obsession: Unicorn Games Comment Count

Seth 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]

Comments

Unverified Voracity Talks Uncertainty

Unverified Voracity Talks Uncertainty Comment Count

Brian July 3rd, 2012 at 4:16 PM

image

Sponsors with benefits. Hotels: there are none on gameday unless you want to stay in Canada or Ohio. These places are inconvenient. Few people even speak English. Houses: Ann Arbor has many, lots of them right across the street from Michigan Stadium. Money: can be used to convince people in these houses to let you borrow the houses. Thus your crew of 8+ people can stay in the same, convenient place.

You are probably entering URLs that seem likely candidates to host such a service as we speak. Your fingers ache, your keyboard smokes. Well, enter nonexistent website URLs no longer. You can use Money to avoid Hotels at Gameday Housing, which not only benefits you but also the site. A bonus: mention MGoBlog when you sign up (in the "you heard about us from" box) and they'll take 50 bucks off your first rental*. You can lock down accommodations for Michigan State for about what a hotel would run you, except instead of a hotel room you get a house. Doing so also supports the site.

*[Fine print: only valid until the end of 2012, can't combine with another promotion, one per user.]

2011 photo spectacular. Max starts an excellent thread of favorite pictures from last year:

F1cRfl[1]

No sources are listed, unfortunately. Everyone should be shoving the metadata in their files so people can credit back if so inclined.

Troubaaaargh. The Daily's Matt Slovin reports that Jacob Trouba has a 200k offer from the OHL sitting on the table and that this is a source of OHL-related optimism in re: guy breaking his commitment to leave. Again. Kitchener denies this because kids in the OHL get 45 bucks a week only. It's not a professional league, man. You have to believe us.

We'll see how that goes. It's a chunk of cash, but for a guy who's likely to sign a max rookie contract in a year or two it's not a life changing amount. Insert usual bits about how Something Must Be Done, but what? It's clear the OHL doesn't care about its own rules, and the NHL is never going to step in, so what can be done?

UPDATE: Trouba has again reiterated he will play at Michigan.

Werner something. You're probably aware that Joe Paterno's legacy is even further tattered after the release of emails that imply the university administration was about to go to some sort of police-type organization that would have put Jerry Sandusky's crimes to an end until Joe intervened on Sandusky's behalf. But are you aware of the contortions many on the Penn State rivals board are willing to undertake to maintain their worship?

I Would Like to Pose a Question to the Board
Reply


Let's see who can answer this question.  Bear with me -- I have a point to make.  Here it is:

The human body consists of 99.9% of something.  What is it?

[several posts in which people respond.]

Congratulations! Three of You Got It.
Reply


The answer is empty space.  Now, on the face of it, the answer is absurd.  How can the body be empty space?  Well, because atoms are empty space.  Vibrating energy (I think) is what gives things solidity (this is a quantum physics deal, so I can't elaborate).  But, here's the point.  It is absolutely PREPOSTEROUS to claim that the human body is empty space, just as it is preposterous to claim that Joe Paterno was not involved in covering up Jerry Sandusky's child abuse.  Yet, the human body really is empty space; so why can't Joe Paterno not be involved in a cover-up, particularly since no one yet has forwarded any evidence of such?  It is a supposition that Paterno was involved, just as it is a common supposition that the human body is not empty space.

This guy has a future as a noir defense attorney.

Meanwhile, Vijay comes out of retirement to re-evaluate the "Grand Experiment." 

If this really happens… If Wisconsin's nonconference scheduling goes from sad to decent, yes, Virginia, strength of schedule will be a big deal in the new playoff world. Alvarez is talking about it, at least:

“If you want to be a player (in the national championship equation) and strength of schedule is going to be a part of it, then you really have to consider (a different approach),” UW athletic director Barry Alvarez said.

That might explain why UW football coach Bret Bielema disclosed on his Twitter account this week that he’s reached out to his Notre Dame counterpart Brian Kelly about a possible series with the high-profile independent. Bielema is targeting openings for 2018 and ’19 when Michigan drops off the Irish’s schedule.

It might also explain why Alvarez disclosed this week that there were recent discussions, orchestrated by ESPN, about matching the Badgers against defending national champion and Southeastern Conference power Alabama at a neutral site.

Alvarez, who handled scheduling when he coached the Badgers from 1990 to ’05, said Bielema countered with an offer to play a home-and-home series with the Crimson Tide — no specific years were discussed — but that Alabama coach Nick Saban declined.

That's all talk now. I have a hard time seeing SOS becoming important enough to overrule our current how-many-losses ranking system except in intraconference instances like last year's Oregon-Stanford hypothetical controversy, and if that's the case Wisconsin will continue its steady diet of cupcakes. Something to keep an eye on, at least.

Mario. He got suspended that one game and was kind of frustrating at other times, but Mario Manningham could play, yo:

In other Wolverine Historian bits, he captures the 1994 Minnesota game.

Big Ten Network programming breakdown. A poster on BSD totaled up a month's worth of BTN programming this summer and came out with these numbers:

A quick breakdown of school and how many hours of programming they have, in order from least to greatest:

  • Nebraska 27.5 hours
  • Minnesota 32 hours
  • Northwestern 40.5 hours
  • Penn State 47.5 hours
  • Purdue 49 hours
  • Illinois 73.5 hours
  • Iowa 82.5 hours
  • Indiana 85 hours
  • Michigan 106 hours
  • Michigan St 108 hours
  • Wisconsin 127.5 hours
  • Ohio State 153 hours
  • Wisconsin and MSU benefited from frequent replays of the inaugural champinship game. OSU's edge on the rest of the field is a combination of football and basketball prowess that no one else is matching at the moment. The jump from Purdue to Illinois is… odd.

    Left tackles can't stand normal bikes. Via a TTB interview with Erik Magnuson:

    Magnuson[1]

    That is a 6'6", 300 pound man on a unicycle. Maybe we'll see him performing during halftime at Crisler next year.

    Etc.: Hardaway, Burke, McGary all second-round-ish NBA prospects at the moment, with Burke in that gray area between the first and second round. The 2013 class rankings are rejiggered: Walton, Donnal up, Irvin down a little.

    Sam Mikulak makes the Olympic team. Jeff Porter makes it in the 110M hurdles. Michigan alum Richard Kaplan is mayor of a small Florida town that is way into cricket. Brady Hoke returns to his old stomping grounds to out MANBALL Ball State's new coach.

    Comments

    Picture Pages: Revisiting The Hash To Hash Drop

    Picture Pages: Revisiting The Hash To Hash Drop Comment Count

    Brian March 7th, 2012 at 1:44 PM

    Early in the 2011 football season I noticed an odd, seemingly-impossible task handed to one of the inside linebackers: going from one hash to the other while attempting to get enough depth to cover a receiver who's starting the play on the opposite side of the field from the linebacker.

    Here's Brandon Herron trying this admittedly hard task:

    zone-blitz-5_thumb[1]

    This would end up a Western Michigan first down as the receiver would sit down at the sticks; you can tell that Carder has already identified the open man and is throwing before the WR makes his break. He'd do better on a subsequent attempt to cover this but still give up another completion. He got there, basically, but because of the angle he had to take to do so he wasn't in a position to do anything about the ball when it was in the air:

    herron-zone5_thumb[1]

    This was odd behavior to me. Most of the time a Picture Pages is trying to explain something; this one was just "I noticed this weird pattern… isn't it weird?" It seemed bizarre to ask a not-very-good coverage guy to make a very hard drop, especially when the quarterback is getting blitzed from the same side of the field and will naturally look for a hole in the zone from the direction of the blitz.

    One of the ancillary benefits of checking out those coaching clinics, however, has been an increased understanding of what's going on when this happens. A hash to hash zone drop requires a particular set of circumstances:

    1. The defense is sending a zone blitz with a three-deep coverage behind it and three underneath defenders, one of whom is an inside linebacker*.
    2. The three underneath defenders are instructed to "drop off of" a particular receiver.
    3. The offense aligns or motions itself into a situation with three wide receivers to one side of the line.

    In this situation… well, here's some Xs and Os that should help:

    Slide1[1]

    This comes from Coach Hoover via Smart Football and is a fire zone similar to one Greg Mattison explained at his Glazier Clinic talk. Michigan's running something similar above, with the WLB tasked with a "hot" coverage on a receiver. It is far from uncommon—the Coach Hoover post calls it "America's Fire Zone."

    Our linebacker chugging across the field in a futile attempt to wave at a ball he's not looking at is "hot 3."

    Hot 2? Hot 3? What? The goal of this defense is to get pressure without giving up big plays and often devolves into man to man coverage. Defenses number the opposing WRs from the outside. Above the two receivers are the #1 receivers and largely dealt with by the corners. The tight end is the field side #2 and will be the responsibility of the SS; the dropping "F" (in Michigan's scheme this would be the WDE, Craig Roh last year) is going to pick up any back coming out of the backfield to his side of the field; the WLB has whoever's left. Hot X defenders are supposed to get their man until he breaks to safety depth at 15 yards—again, pseudo man-to-man.

    If you're running a three-under combo like this and you are facing an I-Form, no problem. The WLB is going to have to make up a yard or two of distance if he even gets a guy to play pseudo man-to-man on. He may watch a back stay in to block, in which case he's just an extra guy or becomes a delayed blitzer. If he does get a second guy leaking out of the backfield, he's probably a fullback. Crisis: not present.

    Unfortunately for weakside linebackers everywhere, a million billion plays these days are run with three or four wide receivers on the field. This means the WLB is going to have to deal with a player who is a lot faster than a fullback and much farther away from his starting point, with results often like what you see above.

    Brandin Hawthorne[1]

    Mattison's video jockeys did find an example of the coverage working against a slot receiver, but where they had to go to get it was telling. It featured Brandin Hawthorne against Purdue running over the top of a seam route. It's not in the UFR because it was in garbage time.

    Hawthorne took off for his drop the moment the ball was snapped without even thinking about the possibility of a run, which caused one of the coaches in the audience to ask after that odd behavior. Mattison hadn't selected the clips and this one did not jump out from his memory for obvious reasons, so he attributed it to Michigan's scouting and whatever the potential down and distance was.

    He was right, but it doesn't take much scouting to predict a pass when the second team is in up 36-7 in the fourth. The one example Michigan had of this drop working against a spread formation was better evidence that it didn't work than it did.

    His Rock, Your Scissors

    Getting rained on like this is a frequent problem in the current college football metagame. Offensive coaches are always searching for ways to get bad matchups; defensive coaches are looking for free rushers and no holes. The hash-to-hash thing leapt off the page in the opener because it was strange and seemed really hard.

    Unsurprisingly, it faded as the year went on. Like Mattison flipping his line every time an opponent changed its strength, it was a makeshift band-aid made necessary by a lack of experience with Mattison's defense. If Michigan's running a fire zone and gets a bunch of receivers to one side of the field, this year you'll probably get something like this:

    Slide3[1]

    That is from a post at Coach Hoover detailing a half-dozen coverage adjustments this blitz can undergo to combat bad matchups like you see above. Here the D sees a bunch of guys to the wide side of the field and switches the blitz, sending the WLB and giving the closer MLB slot duty. WLB high-fives himself, MLB grumbles, defense probably gets a better result.

    That adaptation is well underway at Michigan. Linebackers will look at each other, pat their helmets or cross their forearms or give each other finger gunz, and check into something less ostentatiously weird. Not every time, but enough to relegate those hash to hash drops into the realm of oddity. We'll see them from time to time as Mattison tries to bait opponents into big wrong decisions and not much more.

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

    [Hoover HT: Smart Football.]

    *[Nomenclature NOTE: the middle and weakside linebackers are almost but not quite interchangeable and I use this term to distinguish them from the SAM, who is almost but not quite a DE.

    Also while you're down here: these Purdue plays were actually cover four but all of Mattison's clinic stuff assumed cover three so I'll stick with that for the explanations. I assume Michigan was intent on preventing big plays in game one or didn't think WMU could run the ball at all.]

    Comments

    Opponent Recap: Western Michigan

    Opponent Recap: Western Michigan Comment Count

    Heiko December 7th, 2011 at 1:56 PM

    ED-Seth: With the regular season over Heiko's opponent watch feature transitions to Opponent Recap, where he looks back over M's foes in detail so you can put the season into better perspective. Op met de show:

    Western Michigan

    Rainbows: Denard still makes them.

    Kovacs for Heisman.

    Schedule:

    • @ Michigan, 34-10 (L)
    • Nicholls State, 38-7 (W)
    • Central Michigan, 44-14 (W)
    • @ No. 24 Illinois, 23-20 (L)
    • @ Connecticut, 38-31 (W)
    • Bowling Green, 45-21 (W)
    • @ Northern Illinois, 51-22 (L)
    • @ Eastern Michigan, 14-10 (L)
    • Ball State, 45-35 (W)
    • @ Toledo, 66-63 (L)
    • @ Miami (OH), 24-21 (W)
    • Akron, 68-19 (W)

    Overall: 7-5

    Conference: 5-3

    Rank/Standings: 3rd place MAC-West

      Offense Defense
    Total 456.3 ypg, 22nd 434.1 ypg, 100th
    Scoring 35.6 ppg, 18th 28.0 ppg, 72nd
    Rush 127.4 ypg, 87th 215.9, 107th
    Pass 328.8 ypg, 8th 218.2, 53rd

    Season recap: Western Michigan finished their season third in the MAC-West division. Their 5-3 conference record was two wins behind that of division champs Northern Illinois and Toledo.

    That’s not a bad mark considering that the Broncos were a one-dimensional team. Their one strength was a pass-happy offense featuring a fearsome duo in QB Alex Carder and WR Jordan White (who led the FBS in receiving yards with 137 ypg, btw) that could score on anyone, but their inability/unwillingness to run the ball and stop the run cost them several games. RB Tevin Drake did average 5.5 yards a carry, but he had just 505 yards on the season; their rush defense rank was in the triple digit club.

    The Broncos lost Carder for the better part of the last two games due to a separated shoulder, but his replacement Tyler Van Tubbergen was a serviceable next-guy-in. Carder should return for the bowl game.

    I wish I knew more about the MAC so I could talk about Western Michigan’s ups and downs throughout the course of the season. I don’t, so I won’t. That Eastern Michigan game, though … man. Who knew the Eagles had that in them.

    Best Win: @ Connecticut, but maybe not so much now that the Big East has formally declared itself a joke.

    Worst Loss: @ Northern Illinois, in which their defense stopped playing after the first quarter. If Western Michigan had any chance of competing for their division they needed to beat the Huskies, and they fell way short. Northern Illinois incidentally ended up winning the conference on a late field goal to #BeatOhio (not that Ohio).

    When Michigan played them, we thought they were as frightening as: The original week one post got overwritten so I don’t remember, but I think I set their fear level at a 3 and compared them to the MAC version of Ben Chappell-era Indiana.

    But now we know they are as frightening as: The MAC version of this year’s Northwestern. 3. Their offense gained legitimacy throughout the season, and Carder even showed off some dual-threat ability. Unfortunately, their defense went the other direction.

    What this win meant for Michigan: Though Western Michigan wasn’t your typical MAC-cake this season, Michigan sure made them look the part thanks to a couple favorable bounces, Jordan Kovacs, and weather.

    The Wolverines had enjoyed exceptional opening day mojo for the past two years, and this game wasn’t any different. By luck and by Mattison, the defense got into Carder’s head, and the Broncos played like crap after their first turnover. Michigan did whatever it wanted for the remainder of the game.

    The remainder of the game came to an unsatisfactory end, however, due to the great Midwest Monsoon of 2011. Fans wanted to see the fourth quarter to gain more confidence in this mysterious product Brady Hoke and company had been working on, capitulated opponent or not. Instead, everyone was sent out of the stadium, invited back in, then sent home and told to wait for next week.

    All gone.

    There was also a window of confusion after the second weather delay during which everyone wondered whether a curtailed game could be recorded as a Wolverines victory, whether the game had to be rescheduled, or whether none of this happened at all and we would be told that we had just imagined it.

    Finally a frazzled Dave Brandon informed the media that an agreement had been struck with the Western Michigan AD, once DB's pimp hand convinced her to be enough of a sportswoman to concede the Michigan win.

    Hoke talked about how it was good to win a football game, Denard gave his teammate props for usurping his place as the team's top rusher, and Brandon Herron got his 15 minutes of fame.

    Did you imagine your first game happening like this? "No I don't think so. It was kind of wild. Wet and wild."

    "Hmm." "Mmhmm."

    Get well soon.

    And it totally felt as awesome as: Rediscovering sex after nine months of pregnancy, and hey, it’s still pretty good!

    Bowl: Little Caesars Pizza Motor City Bowl vs. Purdue, Dec. 27 at 4:30 p.m. EST

    Comments

    Michigan Museday: What We Asked of Them, Part II

    Michigan Museday: What We Asked of Them, Part II Comment Count

    Seth November 23rd, 2011 at 7:27 PM

    Seniors2

    (Compare to yesterday's)

    We're talking about these seniors. Yesterday was the Class of '08 plus Grady, players who either committed to Rodriguez or at least had time to break their commitments to Michigan after the coaching change. The level of commitment to the program by those guys may have been unparalleled in Michigan history but for some of their fellow seniors from the Class of 2007. This is Part II. It's running long still and I have family in town so the last four guys will have to be a Part III. Anyway, 2007…

    This class committed to 'Lloyd Carr's University of Michigan' while the Wolverines were riding the best defense in the country to 3 points shy of playing for the National Championship. Their careers began by watching, redshirted, as The Horror obliterated every shred of mysticism the program had, yet they stuck by Michigan. They stuck by Michigan when their coaches and systems were replaced, stuck by Michigan when outsiders trashed the program and some insiders were actively trying to sabotage it. TroyFS_spreadThey stuck by coaches they hadn't chosen, right up until those coaches were shown the door. Then they met with their teammates, told their story, and made sure that when another staff came through the door, everyone would stick by Michigan.

    It would be ungracious to not mention some of their classmates who stayed until their health or eligibility ran out: Renaldo Sagesse, a bonhomme Quebecois and one-time 20-year-old freshman. Secret weapon Martell Webb, a blocking tight end whose great contributions to the 2010 offense went largely unremarked. Michael Williams, maligned in these parts as only bad underclassman free safeties can be, who had to choose between the best years of his football career or having a functional brain the rest of his life. And James Rogers, a positional vagabond who finally went wherever he was very needed indeed. And some of the walk-ons like John McColgan, Jered van Slyke, Zac Johnson, Tony Anderson, and Tom Pomarico who've had to earn their roster spots (and some, scholarships) from three different coaching staffs. What follows is the story of eight more guys like that, again in reverse order of length of commitment.

    Will Heininger had a story written about him once in the Daily by the inimitable Joe Stapleton. Will was the kid in Michigan gear who became the teenager who knew more about the team than the lifer sitting next to him, who gave up a likely career in baseball to walk on to the team of his dreams. As a redshirt sophomore Heininger beat out scholarship upperclassmen like Sagesse, Greg Banks and Adam Patterson to be the first guy rotated in when Brandon Graham needed a breather. With Graham in the NFL a 2010 starter role was in his grasp, but then Heininger tore his ACL at Will-Heininger-celebrates-Michigan-win-over-Notre-Damethe end of Spring Practice. He missed the first 10 games of the season, but fought his way back on the field, albeit not yet fully back to form, for Wisconsin, Ohio State and the Gator Bowl.

    Finally this year he earned the starting job as a utility D-lineman, over guys like Jibreel Black and Will Campbell. While doing all of this Heininger has been named Academic All-Big Ten every year since '08, and has been nominated for his third Big Ten Distinguished Scholar award.

    Yearbook quote:

    My Papi, my grandpa, I like to have his initials or his name somewhere on me. My tape, or something like that, during the game to see him always …He’s from Columbus, but he’s a Michigan Man. He’s the biggest influence on my life and he passed just this past spring. He’s a great man and he’s part of the reason I’m here. He’s always out there watching over me."

    Brandon Herron was a project*, a Texas (same school as TWoolf) kid built like a safety who played defensive end and projected as a linebacker. He had good athleticism but was consistently listed as something less than 200 which your mind rounds up to 200. He was raaaaaaww.

    Raw freshman often don't pan out even if they're recruited by a competent coach for their specific skillset, and that coach then spends five years drilling a single system into the player's brain. Herron didn't have that; he was an afterthought classmate-of-a-recruit body in a "NEED LINEBACKERS LIKE WHOA" class, given first to Steve Szabo (the guy who spoke for Carr's assistants in Bacon's book, now EMU's LB coach), then to Jay Hopson, then to GERG. Other than an ankle injury for a chunk of 2010 his career was a lot of "contributed on special teams."

    Herron kept plugging along, even when his name hardly popped up in the carousel of "Which weakside linebacker impressed Mattison today?" of this spring and fall camps. Then on Opening Day 2011 versus WMU he was suddenly the starter and proceeded to score two defensive michigan-western-michigan-interception-brandon-herrontouchdowns (one a 94-yarder that still stands as the most significant swing play of the year). Those won him a handful of national defensive player of the week awards (UFR of that game revealed his play was really just so-so). Then he got hurt, and fell back behind Hawthorne and the freshmen and his career was cooked.

    Yearbook quote:

    When Kovacs sacked the quarterback and he forced the fumble, we saw something in the offense so we made a check, which led me to come off the edge so it opened up a hole for him to get through. [The WMU OT] he kind of brushed me off, he didn't really pick me up, so I just kind of went around, then [breaks into huge smile] heard the hit, saw the hit, and saw the ball on the ground, and just went out there, and next thing you know I'm running towards the end zone.

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

    *BONUS: The 'Hello:' article for Herron has their coach saying "I really believe he's a safety" about Woolfolk, and Brian saying 'not gonna happen.' Oh hindsight.

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

    When Coaching Change the First happened, the offensive line was already one year into transitioning from MANBALL blocking to zone. The tackles were senior All Everything Jake Long, Mt. Alex Mitchell, and a collection of eh man-blocking dudes. Redshirting was one of just two offensive linemen (and sole tackle) recruited in 2007, and to be honest the 6'6, 280, two-star obscure guy whose next-best offer was Ball State was more someone's backup plan than a system diamond they'd uncovered. So came Mark Huyge. Brian wrote him off as "Unlikely to ever play extensively."

    Huyge sat buried on the depth chart for a few years grumbling about having to puke for Barwis instead of down pizzas for Gittleson, took some padded LSA classes with some of the other dissatisfied guys from the Lloyd era, then watched as successive RR jackrabbits displaced him and finally transferred to Someplace Division II College Tech. That's about how it went, right Mark?

    huyge-3huyge-2

    Well, he could have done that. What Huyge did do was embrace the new staff, lifted his way up the depth chart against established returning starters, and by 2009 was Schofielding his way into whatever guard or tackle spot was available. Every time a guy like Omameh in '09, Lewan in '10, or Schofield in '11 emerged to finally displace him, Huyge would manage to either fend that guy off, or pop up to displace the next weakest starter on the line. He's never been spectacular, never threw a safety into Manti Te'o or killed a donkey, but he's been in there, so much now that when he's not there next year I'll be sorely missing him.

    Had Michigan got any of the OTs they were after in '07, Huyge would probably have committed to Brady Hoke, then seen Hoke take off for SD State. So when the old staff entered and the new one came, Huyge 'grabbed the helm' as a senior leader and oft team spokesman. He was one of the seniors who organized the "don't anybody bail on your teammates" meetings that held the players together in the darkest days of last winter.

    Oh and somewhere in there Huyge also managed to take a thousand bus trips up to North Campus; he'll walk in December with a degree in naval architecture and marine engineering, then marry his fiancee. That must have been what the second star from Scout was for.

    Yearbook quote:

    “It’s going to be a big one next week. We’ll enjoy this one for a little bit, but the whole emphasis starting back in January when these guys got here was this game coming up. We’ll be really looking forward to them, and we’ll be ready.”

    (caption) Michigan OL Mark Huyge (72) savors the Wolverines comeback victory. Michigan rallied from a 24-7 deficit with 28-fourth quarter points to beat their rivals 35-31. ***  With a miraculous second half, junior quarterback Denard Robinson led the Michigan Wolverines to a comeback victory 35-31 over the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame in the first-ever night game at Michigan Stadium. The Wolverines battled back from a 24-7 deficit to eventually beat the Irish for the third year in a row.  at Michigan Stadium  in Ann Arbor. Photos taken on Saturday, September 10, 2011. ( John T. Greilick / The Detroit News )

    Tomorrow (sorry it's taking so long): Hemingway, Molk, Watson, Woolfolk, RVB.

    Comments

    Wednesday Presser Transcript 9-28-11: Brady Hoke

    Wednesday Presser Transcript 9-28-11: Brady Hoke Comment Count

    Heiko September 28th, 2011 at 1:52 PM

    News bullets and other important things:

    • Troy Woolfolk is, once again, fine.
    • Ricky Barnum didn't practice yesterday. He's questionable.
    • Cam Gordon is practicing a lot better but still trying to work himself in. 
    • Brandon Herron is also fine.
    • Team hasn't started tapering physicality of practices yet.
    • No decision on Justice Hayes' redshirt yet.
    • Hoke is being all weird about the punting situation, but Will Hagerup looks better in practice according to all observers named Angelique Chengelis.

    Onwards.

    Brady Hoke

    “We got a new table. It’s rusty --” Rustic. “It’s rustic.”

    Opening remarks: “We had a very good practice yesterday. I thought both sides of the ball we had a lot of energy. I thought it was physical -- how we want to be physical during the course of competing against each other. I thought that was good. I thought game-plan wise I think they responded well to those different things that you do, so it was good.”

    Are you going to be less physical now than you were in camp to keep players healthy? “Not really. Not too much. Not right yet. As you get into the marathon that a season is, you may lighten up a little bit later, but this isn’t the time for us to do that.”

    Was Troy Woolfolk able to do everything? “Yeah. I think I was asked Saturday, and Sunday he did everything. And he did eveything yesterday.”

    Ricky Barnum? “I’m not saying he’s out, but he’s trying to take care of that ankle.” Is he practicing? “Not today. Er, not yesterday, let’s put it that way.”

    How much is Cam Gordon practicing? “A lot. He’s just working himself back into it. He did some good things yesterday. I think he feels better.”

    How difficult is it to stay intense and also pick up new schemes mid-season? “Well the schemes -- they’re new to a standpoint of how you want to tweak your base things to take advantage of an offense. From a defensive standpoint, most of the offenses are different, but I think when you look at a guy like Cam. He had a pretty good spring. What he did during the summer was pretty good from what I can tell. Fall camp, until he got hurt, he was fine. He’s a smart kid, so he’s in tune with everything that’s going on. Learns well. So for him it’s maybe not as difficult as it is for someone else.”

    Brandon Herron? “He did everything. He’s fine. He’s 100%.”

    Thomas Gordon said Will Campbell needs to get lower. What does he have to do to take that next step? “I’m glad Thomas is coaching him up. I really am. Thomas is right. Will just has to -- and this happens with a lot of guys who are big guys, and they’re big in high school where technique and fundamnetals are taught and they’re important, but it’s just one of those things where he’s got to play lower. He’s got to be more consistent with that part of it. His get-off the football is something he’s got to be conscious about and make good habits with.”

    You say Mike Martin plays with great leverage. Is that what you want Will to do? “Well yeah. But Mike, when he has a bad play in there, it’s usually because his knees start to lock out and they don’t bring their feet with them. This is a good conversation because it’s D-line play and that’s what I like to talk about, so I can do this all day. But that part of it with Mike, I thought, last week he did his best job with it. Will did some real good things in there. And he’s improving.”

    Craig Roh’s good performance two weeks in a roh (do you see what I did there?), is that a better sign than just seeing it for only one week/flash in the pan? “Well I think you always have to be guarded, and you always have to make sure the consistency you want from your players is there. Craig takes it very seriously when he works and he prepares from the mental side of it to the physical stuff that we do.”

    Is it harder to build consistency with front four than with an individual when you’re trying to get max effort? “Well it starts with that individual pride and ownership of who that guy is. We talk about that quite often. And then there’s always a unit pride that you want to have. I always think, and we always think that kind of permeates through that unit.”

    Is this team better suited to play against a mobile quarterback because of Denard? “It probably helps. I think our team, facing Denard and Devin both, and Russell Bellomy -- I mean, he’s a little slippery. So when you look at it that way, there’s some familiarity with what we do, which is kind of a great thing because of what we do with the spread part of it and out of the gun to what we do with the I-back stuff. I think it really helps us as a team.”

    What do you tell your defensive linemen when you play against a running quarterback? “I think gap integrity is always important in part. The critical thing to me is you have to chase the rabbit. You have to stay after it through the whistle because you see a lot of those guys make plays on cutbacks and those kinds of things, and you have to be a part of the 11.”

    Are you going to look at other Big Ten games any differently now that divisions are in place? “You know, I was asked that once before. I don’t think so. Maybe I need to go back and look at it. But within the framework of the divisional play and crossover play, I don’t see much difference.”

    Depth is a concern, particularly in the trenches. How does that affect you during the year? “It affects you in practice. It does. Guys you have to bring up on both sides of the ball. Guys who might be fighting for two and three in there who are down. They have to go over, so you take a good look from your look teams. That’s one reason we do so much against each other. I started doing that when I went to Ball State because of the competitive nature of going ones on ones, twos on twos, and the speed and all those things.”

    What’s the situation at nickel? Two weeks ago you had Raymon Taylor but then last game it was mostly Thomas Gordon. “We’ll use both. Raymon’s a young guy who’s learning. Thomas is more of a veteran, obviously. We’ll use both guys, though. I think they both are doing okay. Not quite what we need.”

    Are there any other freshmen that haven’t played at all that still could? “Good question. I hate to count anybody out because you never know. You get guys twisted up and those kinds of things and you never know when that’s going to happen.”

    Is it safe to say that Justice Hayes will redshirt? “I wouldn’t say that yet.”

    What’s punting situation? “What do you guys think?” Angelique only saw a couple yesterday. “I think they were both punting well yesterday.” Would you say one has a leg up on the other? “Not yet. That’s pretty good, I like that. You’re giving him good material, Angelique.”

    Are you a stats guy? Mattison said yesterday he’s not much of a stats guy. “Huh uh. Why?” Well Idunno … “No no no. I’m not asking you why. My point is … no. I mean, the only statistic that's important is the outcome and winning. So no.”

    Mattison also said he wasn’t pleased with Jake Ryan down the stretch. Is that because there were some one-on-one situations he didn’t win? “Oh, I think that’s part of it. I think we have a high opinion of Jake, and at the same time we have to remember he’s a redshirt freshman. He can do some good things. He can make plays, and part of that is he runs around the field and plays with good effort. He’s always not doing exactly what Jake should do in the framework of the defense, but he has an opportunity, because he plays hard, to make up for those things. That’s contagious, a little bit, and he’s got to keep growing with everything that we do.”

    Have there not been enough carries for Thomas Rawls for you to properly evaluate him? “I think we gave him a pretty good look during the course of camp. And then he got banged up a little bit. Fred does a nice job of rotating those guys through, number one, to keep them healthy. Because we do compete against each other. I think the second part of it is trying to see where guys are at.”

    Are you resigned to the fact that Denard’s your lead back? “You could say that probably. But he carries the ball. I know that. But I don’t know if I’d consider him a back, personally.”

    Borges said if he has two backs running for over a hundred yards combined, he can live with that. Do you agree? “Sure. Sure. I’m fine with that. And again I go back to the statistic that counts: Winning.”

    Comments

    Tuesday Presser Transcript 9-20-11: Coordinators

    Tuesday Presser Transcript 9-20-11: Coordinators Comment Count

    Heiko September 20th, 2011 at 9:40 PM

    Al Borges

    Does this game feel different for you because it’s SDSU? “Well, looking at that part of it, I guess is different. We’re obviously more familiar with this team because we just coached the team. It’s nothing to do with any of that stuff. It’s about San Diego State against Michigan. Anything else is just smoke and mirrors.”

    Rocky Long said you have advantage because you know the SDSU players and their signals. How much does that come into play? “No. I really don’t get caught up in that too much. Signals and all that stuff, it’s overrated. Way overrated. There are 17 teams in the NFL that run the same offense. They use the same terms. Nobody changes -- they may change a little bit here and there, but not significantly enough to where it scares people.” Do you use the same signals here at Michigan as you did when you were at SDSU? “No we don’t. A lot of ours is sent in on wristband calls anyway, so it’s difficult for anybody to get what we’re doing because they’d have to have the wristband.”

    Were you involved in recruiting Ronnie Hillman? “Hillman was already committed when we got there. Our job was really just hanging onto him.” Did he look good back then? “Oh yeah. The kids that we kept, we thought were pretty good players.”

    Are you surprised by how prolific they are offensively? “No. No. Not at all. Not even a little bit.” Does that make you feel good? “No. We have to play them. Made me feel great last year. They’re a good team and they deserve respect, and we’re going to give it to them. Our kids are well aware of what they’re dealing with here. We’ve made it clear that this is going to be a tough contest. We better come ready to play.”

    (more after the jump)

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    Monday Presser Transcript 9-19-11: Brady Hoke

    Monday Presser Transcript 9-19-11: Brady Hoke Comment Count

    Heiko September 19th, 2011 at 4:41 PM

    Brady Hoke

    News bullets and other important things:

    • Vincent Smith has earned a start at RB
    • New NCAA rules mean that Rawl's redshirt is not completely burned yet.
    • Herron and Cam Gordon are expected back next week, but must compete for their jobs.
    • Gallon might get time as kick returner, but not because V. Smith is slow.
    • Hoke tried getting Dave Brandon to buy out the SDSU game.
    • Raymon Taylor played in nickel because Woolfolk got beat up a bit, but did not necessarily surpass Courtney Avery. 
    • Taylor doesn't have the Desmond patch.
    • David Molk hates people in general, not just the press.

    Press Conference (filmed)

    Did you talk to the players about being in the rankings? “Does it matter?” Well, no. “Exactly.”

    Opening remarks: “A couple things about last Saturday. It’s good to win a football game. I thought we started a little slower than we’d like to. I don’t know if there’s a magic answer for that. We talked about that as a team. The first six possessions offensively, I think we were three-and-out three times. We were driving the ball and then we threw an interception. That hurts you when you look at tempo and fluidness you want to have offensively. And obviously your defense is back on the field. We struggled a little bit with the jet series plays, but after that I think our guys really made some good adjustments on both sides of the ball. I thought the kids played fundamentally maybe more sound. The time of possession, obviously, became a big factor. We play good defense when we’re watching our offense, and we were able to do that in the second half a little more.

    “The running game, I thought, came on as I saw it. We still don’t want to run Denard 26 times a game. That’s a good way to get him beat up and hurt. So we have to keep plugging away. With Vince’s production, [and] Fitz gave us some good runs in there, it took a little bit of load off [Denard], but we have to make sure we’re a healthy football team as we continue forward. We need to complete a couple balls if they’re going to load the box and play man coverage, which they did, and that’s smart. We have to be able to complete a couple of those things to loosen some people up.

    “Defensively, Thomas Gordon made a critical a play in the game with the interception and the fumble recovery. Both of those were hustle plays. On the interception it was Thomas doing his job. [He] didn’t get fooled, didn’t get sucked in, and I thought that was a nice play by him. We felt our defensive front during the course of the game a little more. Craig Roh played his best football of the year so far. Jibreel played a pretty productive football game. You could feel Mike [Martin] a little more in there. I thought Will Campbell gave us some really good snaps.

    “We have a lot of work ahead of us with a very good San Diego team coming in. They’re undefeated. They’re 3-0. Beat Washington State last week. Very talented team, a team that’s going to play with a lot of toughness and a team that’s well coached. We have our hands full.”

    (more after the jump)

    Comments

    Monday Presser Transcript 9-12-11: Brady Hoke

    Monday Presser Transcript 9-12-11: Brady Hoke Comment Count

    Heiko September 12th, 2011 at 3:55 PM

    Brady Hoke

    News bullets and other important items:

    • Eastern Michigan is 2-0 and is averaging 331 yards rushing, which is scary to Hoke. Fear level now up to 2.
    • Fitz Toussaint (shoulder) will likely return this week.
    • Brandon Herron (unknown), and Cam Gordon (back) are questionable. Will need good week in practice to return.
    • Woolfolk had a bit of a nose injury, but re: his ankle -- "He's fine." Period.
    • Marell Evans still working on eligibility. Currently operating as scout team linebacker.
    • Jake Ryan playing with hand down primarily in nickel package.
    • Need to see more from Will Campbell in practice for more playing time.
    • Odoms working his way back into rotation.
    • No student-body tryouts until January.
    • No. 21 jersey will likely go to wide receivers in the future. Unknown whether Raymon Taylor is wearing the Desmond Howard patch.

    Press Conference (filmed)

    "Does that make sense? It does to me ..."

    Opening remarks: “You guys ready? Thanks for coming.

    “Saturday was obviously very exciting in a lot of ways. The crowd, the passion, how both teams played 60 minutes of football. It was a neat environment, fun, all those things. Obviously a record crowd to see a college football game, and it was good to have the outcome the way it did. It was hard fought, not a perfect game. When you look at it offensively and defensively, things that we need to get a lot better at before we’re going to be any kind of a football team -- we need to focus in on those things, and as a team, we’ve gotta do a good job of coaching, number one, and teaching, and then playing. Our expectations are high, and we won’t get that way if we don’t possess the ball offensively to help the defense, and if we don’t do a better job in third-down conversions from a defensive standpoint.”

    What did you see from Brandin Hawthorne and Will Campbell? “I thought Brandin got in there and did a nice job and made some plays. I think it was good to see him be productive in that role. Part of it [was] he did a nice job reacting and seeing the ball and focusing in on keys and finishing plays. And that was good to see from him. He had been banged up about the last week of camp. He practiced, but he had an ankle problem and still does to some degree, but it was good to see him play full speed.”

    Overcoming adversity, was it especially hard trying to overcome a 24-7 deficit or trying to score with 30 seconds left? “Probably both. Our team stayed together. At halftime, we went in, and we just talk about -- asked a pretty simple question, ‘Have we played our best football?’ … ‘Are we playing our best football?’ and ‘Are we coaching our best football?’ and it was a unanimous ‘No.’

    “Al and the offensive staff did a good job in some adjusting that they did. You’ve got to get Notre Dame a lot of credit. They’re a pretty good football team. Their biggest Achilles heel is they’ve turned the ball over, and you can’t do that. I’m not coaching them, but I’m sure Brian is sick about that. I thought the guys complement each other as a team, and they stayed together.”

    What did you say to the team yesterday to get them to move past Notre Dame? “We were going to spend Sunday talking about the things that we did [well] and didn’t do [well]. Eastern -- they’re 2-0. They’re a confident team. I think Ron’s done a nice job. They’re averaging 331 yards per game rushing the football. That’s pretty impressive -- I don’t care who you’re playing. I think you’ve got a staff over there of guys -- with Mike [Hart] and Kurt Anderson, Steve Morrison, who are all products of this program as players -- that understand about coaching hard and doing those things, and you know just from being around those guys that’s how they coach their kids. And you can tell, with Ron’s influence as a defensive coach and defensive minded guy and an aggressive personality guy -- that’s the way they’re playing football. They’re impressive. They’ve got 10 sacks in two games. They’re doing a lot of good things.”

    Did Denard have a rough game, great game, or little of both? “Probably a little of both. Obviously he made some plays when we needed to have some plays made, which a guy of his capability and caliber can do, but we also needed to make better decisions at times. He was the first one to come off the field after one [bad play] and say, ‘My footwork was bad.’ So that’s good to see. The whole thing is a process to some degree, and we’re learning everyday.”

    What is Fitz Toussaint’s status, and are there concerns about repeated injuries to him? “I don’t know much of his history. I think he’ll be okay. He just bumped up his shoulder a bit against Western. Didn’t see as much as we’d like to for him to be ready for the Notre Dame game.”

    You’re blitzing a lot. Are you concerned that it’s taking the linebackers out of the running game? The middle of field did look pretty open. “Well … honestly it shouldn’t have been. It’s open for a second, and then we’ve got to execute a little better at closing it off. You can get hurt, no question. If they want to take that gamble depending on who they are, depending on down and distance, they can check into a run, and sometimes you want them to. But you got to execute the defense when you want them to.

    “Does that make sense? It does to me …”

    Do you need to blitz more based on pressure (or lack thereof) from the front four? “I think yes, we have had to be more aggressive. At the same time, you’ve got to look at your match-ups pretty hard, and what you want to do with your guys in the back end, and how you feel about that.”

    What was postgame like for you? “I have a lot of family in the Midwest, believe me. We had 35 or 40 people at our house. Nephews, nieces, brothers, sisters, and in-laws -- the whole deal. Everybody found a place on the floor and went to bed, but it was late. 3:30 maybe by the time you say hello and talk to everybody and be as gracious as I can be.”

    Other health updates? Anybody definitely out for Saturday? “We’re pretty healthy. We’ve got some nicks and those kind of things, but I’m trying to think if, uh … Cam is gonna see what it feels like tomorrow. He feels better. Brandon Herron felt better but we’ll see what he’s like. I think Fitz is going to be fine. I don’t think we’re in too bad of shape.”

    When you were down 17 points, was the offensive play-calling based more on Borges’ offense or 2010-Denard’s offense? “One of the key plays in the game was McColgan’s catch. Coming off the play-action, and we didn’t run a whole lot of play-action with I-backs and all that. A lot of the stuff was just being basic third-down offensive stuff and being in the gun anyway on third downs. It was a good mix, I would say.”

    How much of last couple drives was within framework of offense, and how much of it was Denard making rainbows? “The rush lanes kind of went like this. And he did what he’s coached to do. Step up, step up in there, and keep pushing the pocket up when you feel it on the perimeter. It was pretty open. They were spying at times – one of the linebackers – but in that situation, they were playing pretty far off, so it bought time for Gallon. It really bought time for the sail routes, the cross, to take and suck their secondary that way, and Gallon was there by himself.”

    Are you still trying to identify playmakers on defense? “I think we still are. Practice is one thing. Game time stuff is a little different. I think who plays with the lights on … we’ll see. It was good to give Will [Campbell] some snaps against good competition. Like I said, they’re a good football team, they’ve got good personnel. Right now the difference for them probably is turnover margin.”

    What’s going on with Brandon Herron? “He’s got a little bit of a leg problem.”

    Linebacker rotation/competition … how many linebackers are you comfortable with? “I think J.B. [Fitzgerald], all those guys, we feel pretty comfortable. I think it’s who you identify as taking most of the snaps. You work through. Kenny is pretty solid in what he does. J.B. has an opportunity to get in there and rest Kenny a little bit, which is important in the fourth quarter. There will be a rotation, and it really depends some on what package we’re in, if we’re playing out of our base front, or if we’re in our dimes and nickels.”

    How would you assess D-line play? Are there things you see in practice that aren’t translating onto the field? “We’re not near to the expectations that we have. I think the kids feel the same way at that position. I think there are things that Ryan Van Bergen has done at times that are really well. I don’t want to get specific, but I think we have to feel those guys. We need to get a little big more pressure with four guys rushing the quarterback, so you don’t put J.T. or Courtney Avery out there on an island. I think we’re a work in progress in a lot of degrees. Some of it is because it’s a little different schematically, and how you attack the line of scrimmage, take on blocks, and get off blocks. We would think we’d be further along.”

    Talk about efficiency of red-zone offense (Michigan was 5/5). “I think we’ve got a pretty good package down there, and the kids are executing. I don’t think it’s anything more than that. Certain teams, defensively, always are going to have certain teams they like in the red zone, and I think the kids have been executing what the plan has been.”

    (we're bringing back the jump. so ... more after the jump!)

    Comments

    Picture Pages: Hash To Hash Zone Drop

    Picture Pages: Hash To Hash Zone Drop Comment Count

    Brian September 9th, 2011 at 12:17 PM

    Brandon Herron picked up a lot of minuses yesterday but it could easily have been Kenny Demens if he was the guy tasked with hauling ass to a far, far away zone coverage instead of making Alex Carder spit blood. He was given a tough job.

    But he didn't execute that tough job, and we remain a results-based charting service. The good news is that he did get better at not executing his tough job. If you're looking for evidence that this coaching staff is better than the last one at teaching people how not to be terrible defensive players, here's some hope for you.

    I found two plays that were exact replicas of each other. It's third down on one hash in both. WMU is in a four-wide shotgun while Michigan deploys its Okie package. Michigan will send wide-side blitzers and Brandon Herron will be directed to drop into a zone on the other hash—IE, run halfway across the field. WMU completes both passes, but Herron gets better.

    Play The First

    You are focused entirely on Herron, who is on the near hash in front of Demens, threatening blitz:

    zone-blitz-1

    On the snap Heron pivots as Demens comes; RVB drops in to a short zone as Michigan sends five:

    zone-blitz-2

    Herron crosses the hash marks three yards off the LOS:

    zone-blitz-3

    Still three yards:

    zone-blitz-4

    Now he's maybe three and a half yards deep and not even to the midway point as Carder cocks to throw the hitch to the slot.

    Two other things to note:

    • Gordon got a free run at Carder but slips as he moves in for a killshot. If he doesn't, he's likely to bat the pass or sack Carder.
    • RVB is totally cutting off the other inside hitch, though his back is to the QB.

    zone-blitz-5

    As the ball goes over Herron's head he's four or five yards deep, still not to the other hash, and not facing the quarterback:

    zone-blitz-6

    First down.

    zone-blitz-7

    Play The Second

    This is going to be the exact same play by both teams. WMU runs the same all-hitch; Michigan runs the same zone blitz behind it. It's third and four on WMU's first drive of the second half. Herron is below the bottom hash this time.

    herron-zone-1

    As the snap reaches the QB Herron is pivoting…

    herron-zone-2

    …and on step two he's already got a yard of depth:

    herron-zone-3

    By the time the WR cuts off the route he's at the spot he was when the ball went over his head last time:

    herron-zone-4

    Important: this hitch is seven yards and the previous one was ten. The extra two steps the WR would take to get to the depth on the previous play would also get Herron all the way to the hash, whereupon he could give that WR the business. He's closer and a bit deeper earlier in the play.

    You can see the improvement in the zone drop in the next frame, when the ball is halfway to the WR. Herron is right there:

    herron-zone5

    Unfortunately he's had to run hash to hash with his back to the QB and never turns around.

    herron-zone7

    First down again.

    Object Lessons

    A primary disadvantage of zone blitzing is having to haul ass so hard you can't look at the QB. You can see this in RVB's drops both times, too: when you're dropping into a surprising zone far away from where you start the play in order to facilitate QB pressure you can't just shuffle backwards like a linebacker, keeping your eyes on the QB and the receivers in front of you. To even get in the area you have to turn your back to the world and then whip around when it seems like the right time.

    This seems hard. (Todd Howard is nodding his head right now.) Certainly we don't see it happening on either of the plays above. This is probably easier in the NFL when everyone's more athletic—and it may be an argument for the fastest, whippiest WLB Michigan can throw out there.

    If your zone blitz works the pressure you get is often coming from the same area the open guy is. On the first play Thomas Gordon is in free. If he keeps his feet he's got a great shot at batting the ball skyward. A guy leaping at the QB may cause a delay. In a normal blitz package this might not get you much, but with Herron rotating over lateness is dangerous for an offense.

    It doesn't take much for late to be late. Carder is late on the second play. You can see that on the frame where he's in his throwing motion: the WR has already settled and is looking for the ball. If he's on time the argh about Herron not turning around in the next frame is considerably reduced.

    If offenses execute perfectly there's not much you can do about them, but offenses do not execute perfectly and defense is all about giving little margin for error. Michigan did a much better job of that on the second play than the first.

    They're learning. This is good and bad. You could see the confusion on the first drive, the big errors that got a little smaller as the day went along. But if we're looking for evidence that this year's coaching staff is more adept at doing things other than preserving their meticulous hair, we've got a couple examples.

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