Spring Practice Presser 4-12-18: Mike Zordich

Spring Practice Presser 4-12-18: Mike Zordich

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on April 13th, 2018 at 10:05 AM

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[Bryan Fuller]

[Ed. A- So my wife and I had a baby a week ago and since then I think of sleep like I used to think of vacations, like, “Oh, that would be nice to do someday.” Last night I caffeinated just in time for the baby to actually fall asleep, so I had a chance to transcribe this. Huge thanks to Orion Sang for passing along the audio.]

How’s your group look?

“Our group looks good. The guys that are out there are working their tails off and pleased with the progress.”

So you’re not going to come here and do what you did last camp?

[laughs] “We’re just gonna talk about the guys that are out there practicing, getting better, how about that? That fair enough to say?

“Yeah, but Ambry Thomas, B. Watson, David Long, then you got a young guy in Myles Sims who still should be in high school, he’s our here working his tail off getting better, so it’s been promising. Then Hunter Reynolds, a walk-on, really getting better, so it’s been good for ‘em.”

You mentioned Ambry Thomas. What’s the biggest difference in him from year one to year two?

“He is very comfortable now. We were just talking about it over there about maturity level. You know, last year we were so young and now all the sudden these guys have had some playing experience and it has helped them, and so that’s last year and now you’re walking into a new year and just much more confident. And things are slower for them, and he’s been really improved. [Inaudible] with the ones quite a bit, so he’s been showing up a bunch.”

If he’s been working with the ones does that mean maybe that Vert moves into the inside? Are you guys messing around with those combinations there?

“Well, yeah, you know, Vert hasn’t practiced, so he’s losing valuable time, unfortunately for him. But it allows Brandon Watson to continue to get better, Ambry THomas to get better, David Long to get better, and as I mentioned Hunter and Myles. So, it’s great for those guys. They’re just growing by leaps and bounds.”

Why hasn’t Hill practiced?

“He’s got an issue with his hips or his groin. Trying to figure that out.”

[After THE JUMP: who’s rising, who’s out, and where guys might end up]

Wednesday Presser 11-15-17: Mike Zordich

Wednesday Presser 11-15-17: Mike Zordich

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on November 15th, 2017 at 6:30 PM

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[Fuller]

Talk about David’s [Long] play. He’s really seemed to pick it up.

“Yeah, David, from week to week, really from day to day, is just getting better. Really he’s working at his craft. It means something to him. It’s really good to see. I’m really happy for him.”

Any update on Lavert [Hill] or is that just a wait-and-see kind of thing?

“I think that’s a wait-and-see kind of thing. Know he’s in the protocol right now, so we’ll wait and see.”

What does that mean, ‘the protocol’?

“That means that he has to see a doctor every day, and certain symptoms have to go away or if they stay then certain things happen.”

How are you preparing to go without him if he can’t go?

“Oh, we’re fine. We’ll be fine. I have all the confidence in B-Wat and certainly David. Those guys are true starters anyway, and then Ben St. Juste behind them and Ambry [Thomas], he’s been playing, so we’re good. Then Jaylen Kelly-Powell, he’s been kind of working the nickel corner mode too, so we’ve got enough. We’re in good shape.”

Speaking of Jaylen, we saw him against Maryland actually on the defense and not just on special teams. What has he shown you?

“Well, he’s shown that he can cover. He’s pretty—he’s like a little magnet. He’s able to get in the slot and cover very well, and that’s why we had confidence to put him in there. He’s been doing well. Really well. What’s great about Jaylen is he can do a lot of different things. He’s a freshman; we’ve asked him to play safety, we’ve asked him to play corner, and now nickel. So those are—it’s not an easy thing to do and he’s done it and he’s done it well.”

[After THE JUMP: Kelly-Powell’s long-term fit, Ben St. Juste’s progress, when they need a decision on Hill, and intercepting the China concept]

Upon Further Review 2017: Defense vs Indiana

Upon Further Review 2017: Defense vs Indiana

Submitted by Brian on October 19th, 2017 at 3:31 PM

2017 logoo_thumbSPONSOR NOTES. Matt's on his way to Penn State as we speak, thinking no doubt about various ways in which US Soccer's surplus can be spent effectively: reducing the cost of A-level coaching licenses, supporting youth clubs that produce USMNT players, building a giant statue of Sunil Gulati being devoured by wolves. Maybe I'm projecting. I'm probably projecting.

Matt's probably thinking about ways to get your mortgage quote even faster, like inventing a time machine or hiring really fast donkeys. Because he gets you quotes fast, like a competent person not in charge of US soccer does.

FORMATION NOTES. Another 60-40 split between the stack package and a four-man line. 31 four man line snaps of which Mone probably got 25, with Dwumfour in on passing downs. 4-3 snaps went down 3 against a spread offense.

Michigan is deploying some dime now, with all three CBs on the field simultaneously. I had them for 11 dime snaps.

Indiana was all spread, never under center. Here is a picture of Indiana:

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Other than the usual diet of weird line alignments on passing downs this was basically what you'd expect.

SUBSTITUTION NOTES. Secondary was the usual: Kinnel and Metellus omnipresent except for a play or two after Kinnel got dinged when Woods came in. Thomas and Glasgow both got a few snaps. CBs rotated through snaps, with a half-dozen or so snaps where all three were on the field.

Bush was omnipresent; McCray nearly so except in the immediate aftermath of a cut block when Gil got a play.

Michigan again rotated between two of Hudson, Furbush, and Mone, with the 3-3-5 set far more common than alternatives. Uche got a few of Hudson/Furbush's snaps in the second quarter. The DL did see some rotation, with Solomon, Kemp, Marshall and Dwumfour all getting scattered snaps. Winovich did not come off the field; Dwumfour was usually in as a fourth DL on passing downs instead of Mone.

[After THE JUMP: bolded alter-ego can't maintain the fiction any longer!]

Game Over, Insert Freshman To Continue

Game Over, Insert Freshman To Continue

Submitted by Brian on October 16th, 2017 at 1:01 PM

10/14/2017 – Michigan 27, Indiana 20 (OT) – 5-1, 2-1 Big Ten

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[Bryan Fuller]

I am at stage five. I have passed through denial, anger, bargaining, and depression. And here we are: acceptance. Michigan is not very good this year. I accept that they are rebuilding.

Well... wait. Let me rephrase that. 60% of Michigan is righteous. 20% is questionable but encouraging. 20% is a deep, black pit of infinite depth that you fall through for hours at a time. The walls murmur foul, unspeakable red-zone stats. You yell "I DON'T BELIEVE RED ZONE OFFENSE IS MEANINGFULLY DIFFERENT FROM OVERALL OFFENSE"; the walls ignore you. Occasionally a gust of wind buffets you from below, braking your descent. It doesn't really matter, though. Terminal velocity or soon-to-reach terminal velocity are functionally identical when you are dropping forever in an inky expanse of nothing, waiting for the sickening crunch that will never come except when it does about every 365 days.

Woe! Woe! Fire and flame, death and brimstone! Woe. Dolorous woe.

...is what you might have said like 15 years ago when this stuff still had the capacity to hurt you. Now? Nah. Some Indiana fan sent me a picture of scoreboard from The Horror on Saturday and I just snorted. This is no longer a fanbase that considers 7-5 the "Year of Infinite Pain," as this site did way back in the ancient past. Michigan's going to lose some more games this year and end up in Florida on New Year's Day.

That's more or less fine. They return something like 21 starters next year, give or take QB. This depends on whether or not Brandon Peters can humorously conk John O'Korn in the head and sneakily don his jersey at some point in the next few weeks.

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

You've probably figured it out already but the righteous bits are the run defense,  the pass defense, and special teams. The questionable-but-encouraging bit is a ground game that appears to be waking up and putting things together. And the black, infinite, inky pit is the passing offense.

O'Korn's 10-for-20, 58 yard performance was actually worse than last year's Indiana game, when he managed 59 yards on 16 throws. Michigan completed three passes for four yards in the second half—two of them screens—and did not even think about involving O'Korn in their attempts to put away the game. It got so bad that on one of Michigan's few downfield attempts of the fourth quarter that Official Journalists were barely concealing their bewilderment:

Very same, Zach Gentry. A quick glance at the photo that leads this column will confirm how very, very covered Kekoa Crawford was. And yet.

Meanwhile Harbaugh almost lost his mind on the sideline when Michigan pulled out a shovel pass they hadn't put on film, saw it break for a first down and more, and then had it called back because O'Korn didn't get the snap off in time. Harbaugh's clearly toning down his sideline behavior this year after the PF in Columbus and the supposed extra focus on coach behavior; that was a moment where he just about relapsed. But did not!

Also this:

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somehow not an INT [Fuller]

So here we are. That's three of four O'Korn games with extended playing time where he's been horrible. I have no idea what happened against Purdue, but if you're asking me to project future performance it's more in line with the last two weeks than the outlier. Teams are now preparing for a guy who's only good when he breaks the pocket, and there goes the efficiency of that gambit.

It's bad, man. It's so bad that Michigan spent half of its dropbacks presenting O'Korn with just two guys—or even one—in a downfield pattern. The interception he threw at a dominated Eddie McDoom was third and seven; Michigan had outside receivers run fades. Nobody else was in a pattern. O'Korn somehow still threw the wrong fade, choosing the 5'11" guy being checked by Indiana's best cornerback. Michigan dumbed down their passing offense to an extraordinary extent in this game, and their quarterback still couldn't keep up.

Game over, man. Game over.

It turns out there is a difficulty level too hard on the Jim Harbaugh Quarterback Constructor video game, and it's "Houston transfer who lost his job as a sophomore." Noted, and forgiven. Michigan's desperate scramble for quarterbacks upon Harbaugh's arrival turned up a strike in Jake Rudock, and a... not strike in O'Korn.

Michigan still has their goals in front of them, and maybe O'Korn has another Purdue game in him somewhere. I doubt it, personally, but we'd all written off the Brown Jug in 2008 just in time for Nick Sheridan to put up 200 passing yards in a 29-6 win. You can just barely cobble together a justification for continuing with O'Korn for another week, because a road night game at Penn State is next and we don't want to send our baby lamb to slaughter.

But win or lose against PSU, it's hard to imagine Michigan not taking Brandon Peters out for a test drive against Rutgers. Because Michigan's future is extraordinarily bright if they can find a QB. Even if O'Korn turns it around he's not going to be part of that future. Meanwhile it's hard to imagine production worse than what they've currently got. Here is where people say "it can always be worse": I submit that it cannot. Two point nine yard an attempt and two shoulda-been interceptions, people.

Game over. Insert freshman to continue.

AWARDS

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go go go go [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week

-2535ac8789d1b499[1]you're the man now, dog

#1 Karan Higdon. Yeah, maybe several defensive players had better individual games in chart-world. All of those guys reinforce each other, though. Higdon's efforts were emphatically not reinforced by Michigan's passing game and he still put up Michigan's first 200 yard RB game since Mike freakin' Hart. He earned all 25 of Michigan's overtime yards, showed legit deep speed on his long touchdown, and ground out countless YAC without much, if anything, in the way of a missed read.

#2(t) Rashan Gary and Mo Hurst. Gary's 2.5 TFLs coulda shoulda been 4.5; he was robbed of a couple more sack by bloody circumstance but for the first time felt like an omnipresent terror. Meanwhile Hurst continued being Hurst, repeatedly whipping guys and getting pressure directly up the middle. The downgrade when both gents were out on the first IU touchdown drive was obvious. Both guys get two points, because I want them to have these points.

#3 Lavert Hill, Brandon Watson, and David Long. Michgian's CB crew all but erased Simmie Cobbs, and Hill turned in a Jourdan Lewis-esque INT. Most completions were to guys they were not in coverage on. Also: I mean, 40 yards for Cobbs. Get it.

Honorable mention: Chase Winovich wasn't far off his DL mates. Devin Bush turned in another very good outing, albeit one without fireworks. Ty Isaac chipped in eight productive carries. The OL was excellent on the ground and gave up zero sacks... narrowly.

KFaTAotW Standings.

8: Devin Bush (#1 Florida, T2 Cincinnati, T2 Air Force, #1 Purdue)
5: Chase Winovich(#1 Air Force, #2a Purdue), Mo Hurst (#1 MSU, #2(T), Indiana) 
3: Mason Cole (#1, Cincinnati), Ty Isaac (#2, Florida, #3 Cincinnati), Lavert Hill(#2 MSU, T3 Indiana), Karan Higdon (#1 Indiana)
2: Quinn Nordin (#3 Florida, #3 Air Force), John O'Korn (#2 Purdue), Rashan Gary(T2 Indiana).   
1: Khaleke Hudson (T2 Cincinnati), Tyree Kinnel (T2 Cincinnati), Mike McCray(T2 Air Force), Sean McKeon(T3 Purdue), Zach Gentry (T3 Purdue), Brad Robbins(#3 MSU), Brandon Watson (T3 Indiana), David Long (T3 Indiana).

Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week

Michigan busts out a new counter look on a fourth-quarter drive, running it three times on a five-play drive that ended with a 59-yard Higdon touchdown. Don't stop:

Honorable mention: Michigan wins the game with a goal-line stand from the two. Higdon bounces outside for an OT touchdown. Higdon bounces outside for a first-half touchdown.

imageMARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.

John O'Korn throws to a double-covered Kekoa Crawford instead of finding the other guy on a two man route. That guy, Zach Gentry, was open for a 40-yard catch and run touchdown. Also he was the only other guy in a route.

Honorable mention: Indiana breaks off a punt return that gets them to overtime; various absurd calls after the mean man yelled at the refs but especially the Cam Cheesman "hold" that was critical for IU's tying FG drive; Michigan picks up a bunch of legitimate penalties, including PFs against Kekoa Crawford and Josh Metellus (unless Drake Harris is on the punt return team).

[After THE JUMP: How can Peters be behind this guy?]

Upon Further Review 2017: Defense vs Cincinnati

Upon Further Review 2017: Defense vs Cincinnati

Submitted by Brian on September 14th, 2017 at 3:33 PM

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SPONSOR NOTE: I would like to focus on that Larry Culpepper thing. Again. I mean, you've got HomeSure Lending. He's Pitbull here. He has parties. Sometimes underneath overpasses, and he just wants you to have a real good time. He's a Michigan fan, and he loves sharing the Michigan with you.

Other companies, when not putting kittens into their hummus, are running around blaring about rockets or how they invented mortgages and are very annoying and aren't offering you free food or #content. This is not a hard decision, especially when Matt gets you lightning fast quotes.

FORMATION NOTES: More four man fronts in this one. Excluding the final backup-laden drive, I had Michigan down for

  • 45 3-3-5 snaps,
  • 1 3-2-6 dime snap,
  • 11 4-2-5 snaps, and
  • 11 4-3-4 snaps.

They did this weird thing some, which I called "3-3 line slide":

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Winovich is your "nose tackle" and the other DL are to his left.

They'd also do this thing where they had a huge split between "NT" Hurst and Gary:

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These were both pass rush exotics.

Here is a good old 4-3 even. Funny old thing.

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SUBSTITUTION NOTES: It was always Mone as the fourth DL, so Mone got 22 snaps, about a third of the total. Other starting DL went almost the whole way. Winovich/Hurst/Gary each briefly gave way to Jones/Marshall/Kemp but their snaps were probably under 5 each.

Linebackers were McCray, Bush, and Furbush throughout save the last half of the first UC touchdown drive, when Bush was sidelined with a minor injury and Wroblewski came in. Wroblewski will henceforth be called Robo. Furbush of course missed out on the 4-2-5 snaps.

In the secondary, Kinnel and Metellus were omnipresent; Hill, Watson, and Long rotated through the corner snaps with a scattered few claimed by Ambry Thomas. Glasgow did get one snap on which he defended a slant like a vengeful Kenny G. I think it was just one—he rather sticks out.

Depth chart mavens might be interested in the final drive, which saw Kemp-Dwumfour-Solomon-Paye across the front and a linebacker corps of Uche-Robo-Gil; secondary remained the same.

[After THE JUMP: the killers!]

Wednesday Presser 9-13-17: Mike Zordich

Wednesday Presser 9-13-17: Mike Zordich

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on September 13th, 2017 at 6:05 PM

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[Fuller]

How far has your group come since you told us that you were a little concerned?

“You know what, I gotta give credit where credit is due. They’ve definitely stepped up and been playing… playing okay. Yep.”

Okay but not great?

“It’s the third game of the season. We’ve got a long way to go. They know it, I know it, I think our whole team knows it. Each week we’ve got to just keep getting better, so nobody’s arrived for sure.”

Your rotation hasn’t been very deep. For the most part you’ve been going with three; maybe Ambry [Thomas] is getting a little bit of playing time at corner.

“Exactly.”

Is that part of you just waiting for other guys to show that they can get on the field?

“Same deal, yeah. Competition’s wide open. It’s really been those four: Vert and then Ambry’s been in the mix and then Brandon Watson and David Long. Those are the four that are kind of getting into all of the action now. But, you know, the door’s always open and the competition has been open.”

What unique challenges doe the Air Force offense pose for the secondary?

“Well, for us, certainly all the misdirection on almost a down basis. The offenses that we play, the misdirection isn’t—it’s here and there. Now you have to be ready for it on just about every down, and the fact that they’re gonna run the ball, we think, the majority of the time, so the run game comes into play for our guys big time, too. Those two things are the areas that we’ve got to concentrate on this week.”

[After THE JUMP: Lavert’s UFR grade, where the corners need to improve, and Don Brown’s lessening angst]

The Navarre Zone

The Navarre Zone

Submitted by Brian on September 11th, 2017 at 12:35 PM

9/9/2017 – Michigan 36, Cincinnati 14 – 2-0

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furk [Eric Upchurch]

There is always a tipping point when something that probably won't happen becomes something that probably will happen. Sometimes this is nice, like when the entire NFL swears up and down that Jim Harbaugh wouldn't go back to Ann Arbor for love or money. Sometimes it is not nice.

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If we aren't already at the tipping point where "Wilton Speight makes a lot of critical mistakes" is a reasonable, seemingly immutable theory, surely we are approaching it.

The weird thing is the way these critical mistakes are loosed into the world. Anybody can throw several passes into defenders' facemasks. Killing your team with a blizzard of boggling interceptions is almost common in college football, where injuries and the vagaries of rostering regularly see peach-fuzzed high schoolers thrown into a tank of piranhas. Sometimes people transfer from Tulane and are expected to stop throwing interceptions, for reasons unknown.  Also apparently the NFL has this issue. Twitter informs me Scott Tolzien—yes, that guy—started a game this weekend. Twitter hastens to note that things did not go well. The hopelessly overmatched panic machine quarterback is so common it's a football trope.

Speight, on the other hand, has an air of cool control up until the moment he wings a pass so high that Donovan Peoples-Jones correctly decides his best bet is to spike it, or he turns around to hand air to his running back, or he does that again for the second time in one dang game. He does not seem overwhelmed. He hasn't thrown into coverage except on rare, understandable occasions*. He's yelling at his peach-fuzzed skill player crew about where to line up regularly. He makes a bunch of checks at the line. He is a man in command.

And then.

The very bad events are adding up. Everyone misses guys or makes bad reads or eats a sack on occasion. Speight's bad has been explosively bad, and maximally punished. Thus this column, which is lot like 2015's Jake Rudock is going to kill us column.

Rudock, of course, did not kill Michigan. He turned into a fine college player and Matt Stafford caddy, and even now it's not too hard to see Speight getting it together. His issues are fairly simple to correct; they jumped out at me, a layman, on a re-watch and Speight confirmed it in the postgame press conference:

“What it comes down to is, when there's something going on in my face – when I avoid the pressure – I've got to keep my base. Coach Pep is big on keeping my base. Staying loaded. And sometimes when I move around in the pocket, I get a little sloppy with my feet and it causes the ball to sail or go a little low."

Speight was leaning back a bunch in this game and the resulting throws were high. Nick Baumgardner with a preview of what UFR is going to say:

Also he's dorfing handoffs because he's not listening to Harbaugh. Two seemingly simple fixes yet to make it to the field in year four. This cuts both ways: if Speight can fix his lingering issues Michigan has that commanding guy when he throws straight and does not fumble exchanges, and that seems pretty good.

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deep shot hit rate: muchly [Bryan Fuller]

There are very good reasons that Speight is keeping his competition stapled to the bench, and it's that upside. Nobody else on the roster is going to walk on the field and know where everyone else has to be, a critical skill given the average age of Michigan's offense. Nobody else is going to have all the checks in his head, or the pocket presence.

The things Wilton Speight needs to fix are fixable in a timespan of weeks. John O'Korn and Brandon Peters do not have flaws (presence and youth, respectively) nearly as tractable, and so Michigan is going to ride with Speight and hope like hell these blips are just that, and not a pattern that will clobber a promising season like it did in Iowa City last year.

Until further notice, all dropbacks will be evaluated with a jaundiced eye and glance towards Columbus. Welcome to the John Navarre zone.

*[In this game he tried a deep shot to a bracketed Peoples-Jones because there were only two guys in the route and both were covered and what else was he going to do, which is fine.]

HIGHLIGHTS

Inside Michigan Football:

AWARDS

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mobile man mauls Mouhon [Fuller]


Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week

-2535ac8789d1b499[1]you're the man now, dog

#1 Mason Cole. This is a bit of a guess but OL never get the proper amount of respect in this section because I haven't gone over things with a fine-toothed comb yet. Cole helped Michigan bust a lot of crack sweeps, and while Isaac got the yardage on the long one it was Cole's ability to ID the force defender, declare him harmless, and go wreck a safety that sprung the play. He gave up nothing in pass protection, as well.

#2(t) Khaleke Hudson, Devin Bush, and Tyree Kinnel. Michigan's bushel of short fast dudes on defense terrorized the Cincinnati backfield, collecting all of Michigan's sacks on the day. Each also had their moments in the ground game as well; Kinnel in particular had a couple of critical tackles. Oh, and a pick six. (That was a bit of a gift, yes.) I'm rounding up and giving each gent a point. The points are made up and don't matter, people!

#3 Ty Isaac. Isaac was Michigan's best back again, slaloming through waves of opponent players. He alternated bounces with interior runs that kept UC off guard and used his size and speed combination to excellent effect.

Honorable mention: Winovich, Hurst, and Gary were all effective in bursts. Brandon Watson was in the back pocket of many a wide receiver. Grant Perry was efficient, explosive, and dangit that third down was a catch. Zach Gentry had a couple of key receptions.

Honorary Honorable mention: Baker Mayfield.

KFaTAotW Standings.

4: Devin Bush (#1, Florida, T2 Cincinnati)
3: Mason Cole (#1, Cincinnati), Ty Isaac (#2, Florida, #3 Cincinnati)    
1: Quinn Nordin (#3, Florida), Khaleke Hudson (T2 Cincinnati), Tyree Kinnel (T2 Cincinnati).

Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week

Grant Perry's third-quarter grab and go both further established him as a bonafide top-flight, experienced receiver but staked Michigan to a two score lead that allowed most to exhale.

Honorable mention: This week the good section gets to talk about Pick Six #1 and Pick Six #2. You will like them better here, I imagine. Also: Ty Isaac rips a long one off down the sideline, Speight hits Kekoa Crawford with a bomb; Rashan Gary hulks up after nearly getting ejected and gets the crowd hyped.

imageMARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.

Speight's second dorfed exchange ends a promising drive for Michigan and causes even the aggressively reasonable to think this guy has a long term issue.

Honorable mention: Cincinnati rips off a long touchdown drive to start the third quarter and create a period of squeaky bum time; Donovan Peoples-Jones turns out to be Not Jabrill Peppers on punt returns; various Speight overthrows; that one play where both guards pulled in opposite directions.

[After THE JUMP: oh also a defense]

Upon Further Review 2017: Defense vs Florida

Upon Further Review 2017: Defense vs Florida

Submitted by Brian on September 8th, 2017 at 12:50 PM

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SPONSOR NOTE: Matt also bought a very silly Michigan bus this offseason. For no reason, really. Just to have a giant bus with a winged helmet painted on it. And other stuff, sure. An engine, probably. Twitter handle painted on the side because that's how we do.

So you can get a mortgage from a guy with a giant Michigan bus or a guy without a giant Michigan bus. Homesure Lending is the guy with the bus. This is an easy choice even if you don't need a term sheet in 15 minutes because you're a bigshot lawyer who is very bad at promoting your own books.

FORMATION NOTES: Hoo boy.

vlcsnap-2017-09-06-12h13m09s706

Michigan played almost the entire game in a 3-3-5 stack. Copious discussion below.

PERSONNEL NOTES: Exact snap counts are not available right now but the general picture was clear. On the DL, Michigan started Gary, Hurst, and Winovich. Those guys got the lion's share of snaps. Marshall and later Solomon rotated in at NT. Kemp got a few snaps when Gary needed to get told something. Winovich went the distance until garbage time, when Reuben Jones and Kwity Paye got in.

At linebacker Furbush and McCray were the OLBs with Bush at ILB. Gil got a couple early series as Michigan rehydrated McCray; that was the only rotation until late. On the last drive the LBs were Gil again, Mbem-Bosse, and Uche.

Secondary was Metellus, Kinnel, and Hudson the whole way at safety with Hill and Long generally first choice at corner. Long's injuries and solid play from Watson got him a healthy number of snaps. Thomas got in a little bit in the third and fourth quarters. There was no dime package. Also yes I'm lumping Hudson in with the safeties since he will split over the slot and occasionally play FS.

[After THE JUMP: do the rich rod!]

Preview 2017: Cornerback

Preview 2017: Cornerback

Submitted by Brian on August 31st, 2017 at 11:00 AM

Previously: Podcast 9.0A. Podcast 9.0B. Podcast 9.0C. The Story. Quarterback. Running Back. Wide Receiver. Tight End And Friends. Offensive Line. Defensive End. Defensive Tackle. Linebacker.

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osmosis for the win please [Bryan Fuller]

Depth Chart

Boundary Corner Yr. Field Corner Yr. Nickelback Yr.
David Long Fr.* LaVert Hill So. Brandon Watson Jr.*
Ambry Thomas Fr. Brandon Watson Jr.* Ambry Thomas Fr.
Drake Harris Jr.* Benjamin St Juste Fr. Jaylen Kelly-Powell Fr.

This spot has gotten steadily wobblier as the offseason has worn on. Talk of an open competition went from fanciful to deadly serious. Coaches made grumbling noises about player availability. One of Michigan's only experienced wide receivers was added to the mix after spring practice. The ideal scenario where Long and Hill are second year players just like sophomore  Jourdan Lewis seems unlikely at the moment.

Things probably shouldn't be bad. If you're not a little nervous you're braver than this preview. There is a distinct whiff of job-by-default here. If the two highly-touted second-year players aren't up to it the alternatives are either true freshmen, a couple of modest recruits with little on-field track record, and a guy who flipped from WR in spring.

But it'll probably be fine? Maybe?

CORNERBACK

RATING: 3.

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[Fuller]

The #1 spot here was an open question even after the insiders had several cracks at making projections. Then Mike Zordich evacuated LAVERT HILL [recruiting profile] prior to the Dresden portion of his recent press conference. Nobody can accuse Zordich of being a coachspeak robot after this:

How are those young corners coming along?

“Not fast enough.” [/laughs] “Not fast enough. They show flashes. I’ll say this: Lavert has, since his injury, he’s been pretty consistent and you can see him increasing every day and getting better. ...

So Lavert’s responded to whatever challenge you—

“He has. He absolutely has. He came back. He didn’t practice much in the spring. We were very disappointed about that and we expressed that with him. This summer he really worked hard, then unfortunately he gets injured. But he came back and just picked up and the arrow’s going up. The arrow’s going up. Can’t say that about the rest of the guys.”

In a way this might be good news? Seriously? Zordich clearly wasn't around to spare anyone's feelings and he was fairly enthusiastic about Hill, who entered as a massive wildcard. If he's putting it together enough to spare himself from a coach on the warpath... I might take that and run. One wonky spot is easier to fill if you have a bonafide War Daddy who can man up an X receiver aligned away from trips.

Hill can be that guy. He is a high ceiling, low floor gentleman. During high school he was either in Lewis-level coverage or watching a long touchdown from the next county. Current Belleville head coach Jermaine Crowell, who was at one time the position coach for both Hill and Lewis, laid it down:

Vert is more athletic than JD [ed: Lewis's nickname]. He’s faster than JD ... His vertical is better. But JD has always had that edge, he doesn’t care who you are, he’s coming at you. JD will line up against a seventh grader and treat him like he’s the best receiver in college.

“Lavert might not necessarily do that. He rises to the challenge. He wants to go against the best of the best to prove himself. You have to be more consistent. Once his consistency gets there he’s going to be unreal.”

That take has been spot on so far, with Hill reports alternating between marvels at his "hip pocket coverage" and worries about his compete level. Webb cited an anonymous rival coach comparing Hill to Ambry Thomas:

"If Vert had Ambry's intensity he'd be the #1 corner in the country. Hands down."

Elsewhere in that post is an assertion from another Detroit-area high school coach that Hill, not Lewis, not Thomas, not Desmond King, is the "most talented corner in recent memory to come out of the city." Janus looks both ways. The duality of man, man.

In limited time last year (about 60 snaps) Hill came out at essentially zero to PFF; he was not frequently mentioned in UFR. He did have a couple moments where the incessant Lewis comparisons seemed pretty on point:

He had a couple of similar plays in garbage time; in the bowl game he was in good position and got hit with a dubious PI flag after mutual handfighting between DB and WR:

This is largely encouraging. When Hill was targeted he was in a good spot and able to make a play on the ball. Pass interference savvy can be developed. Being close enough to need it is a good start.

But inconsistency has continued to dog Hill, at least until recently. After spring practice the coaches were openly frustrated with his tendency to take a knock and then miss reps. Zordich:

“Lavert is a natural at it. LaVert has got to get better at finishing, straining, more effort, but talent – he has it. He just has to make up his mind on how he wants this to roll.”

Similar grumbles persisted through the first half of fall camp, and then they cleared like smoke. Webb started talking him up a few days before Zordich confirmed Hill's rise to the world at large, saying he is the lone "fixture with the first group" and that he "stepped up his game significantly"; Rivals reported that Hill has "finally stepped up, big time."

Webb has also asserted that Michigan trusted Hill covering the slots last year and might be the guy sliding inside when Michigan goes to a dime package. That opens up the sixth DB spot to any of the competitors and is a valuable thing in one of your corners. It's also a Lewis comparison point.

Hill could be anything from sophomore Jourdan Lewis...

...who was already an All Big Ten guy at that point in his career, or he could be a version of Jourdan Lewis who gets lost way too much and sees a bunch of TDs go over his head. Finding out will be fun! Or possibly not fun!

[After THE JUMP: lock no longer]

Fall Camp Presser 8-21-17: Mike Zordich

Fall Camp Presser 8-21-17: Mike Zordich

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on August 21st, 2017 at 4:30 PM

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[Fuller]

How are those young corners coming along?

“Not fast enough.” [/laughs] “Not fast enough. They show flashes. I’ll say this: Lavert has, since his injury, he’s been pretty consistent and you can see him increasing every day and getting better. The other guys, they’ve shown flashes. They just need to grab it. Somebody’s got to grab it and run with it and take it. It’s just not happening. Hopefully somebody will in the next five to seven days because we’ve got to get ready for a game in less than two weeks.”

So Lavert’s responded to whatever challenge you—

“He has. He absolutely has. He came back. He didn’t practice much in the spring. We were very disappointed about that and we expressed that with him. This summer he really worked hard, then unfortunately he gets injured. But he came back and just picked up and the arrow’s going up. The arrow’s going up. Can’t say that about the rest of the guys. Again, you see some flashes. You know they can do it, but they’ve got to do it every single day.”

How often have you gotten to a point in camp where you feel like that and in other years have seen a group, a secondary, come along and do what you want?

“Well, I’ll go back to when I was in Philadelphia coaching with the Eagles. My second year there we had some new faces but they came together and played well. Certainly we’ve got new faces—I guess I can say young faces—and they’re not coming together. I don’t know if they’re just afraid to make plays because, again, they have the ability and they’ve shown the ability and they’ve done it in live situations out here. It’s just for them to understand that it has to be on a consistent basis and that is just not happening right now.”

Is it just a matter of experience?

“Possibly. It could be. It could be experience. It may be. It may just be that they don’t know how to dig a little deeper and to find it. That could be part of the problem, too.”

Is anyone closer? Do you feel like anyone’s making more flashes than someone else?

“No.”

Are you sure this isn’t coachspeak?

“No. No. I’m not—I’m not gonna tell a story that isn’t true. That fair enough?”

That’s fair.

“I mean, we got a game to play in, what, twelve days? They’re working hard, they just gotta work hard more consistently and do the right things more consistently.”

[More honesty (and WR and JKP and Brad Hawkins hype) after THE JUMP]