Clinic Items: Greg Mattison

Clinic Items: Greg Mattison

Submitted by Brian on February 15th, 2012 at 3:07 PM

mattison-hoke-p1[1]

So I hit up a Glazier Clinic last week. I'm not sure what the etiquette is about actually talking about this stuff since the atmosphere in the room was not at all similar to press conferences in which carefully evaluated non-statements are provided. For instance, at one point Greg Mattison said that "I've never seen such awful technique" than that of the defensive line upon his arrival.

Mattison didn't say anything offensive, but he was very blunt. If he knew someone would be posting about it on the internet he might not have spoken like that, which means I probably shouldn't be in the room. But being in the room was exceedingly useful for me as I try to figure out what people are supposed to be doing on the field. So here's a mostly paraphrased recap that I don't think anyone could possibly get mad at.

I also listened to an hour of Funk after Mattison was done; having missed two hours of table-setting and lingo I had a hard time grabbing anything that I could relate to you. FWIW, Funk's presentation was three hours of inside zone minutiae—I don't think we're dumping zone any time soon. Craig Ross took in the whole thing and provided a few notes that I'll post Friday.

Philosophy

Mattison. Very personable, obviously a veteran of the clinic circuit. At points reminded me of a folk singer in one and only one very specific way: after explaining this formation or this coverage or this defense, he would fire off some zingers, get everyone to laugh, and then continue with business. I can see why he's regarded as a great recruiter.

His interest in teaching was also clear. Occasionally it felt like it was a college class as Mattison asked the room what player X would be doing in a particular situation. That lent a lot of credence to his assertion that one of two primary reasons he came back to college was a desire to "influence young men—that's what we do." (Brady Hoke was the other.)

On message. Mattison kicked the session off with about 30 minutes describing Michigan's philosophy, goals, and motivational techniques before getting into Xs and Os. He started by talking about Hoke; that "the one thing Brady did was bring back what made Michigan what it is." Michigan hasn't been "one of those teams loaded with unbelievable stars" but plays fundamentally sound, tough defense with maximum effort. Etc.

There were then the usual bits about Hoke's "Years: 133, Championships: 42" call-and-response and a statement that the Sugar Bowl was "fine" but he would trade 100 of them for a Big Ten Championship. The rooms say "THE TEAM THE TEAM THE TEAM," of course. The program is on message.

Position switches. As I wrestled with how to handle this various coaches in the room told every-damn-body that Mattison said Brennen Beyer was moving to WDE and Craig Roh to SDE. This was explicitly stated. Adjust the wiki pages.

Helmets to the ball. A major theme: "loafs" are not tolerated and Mattison wants to see the jersey of 10 guys at the end of every play. When he catches a defensive lineman getting passed by another one he asks the kid how fast he is, and when they say "4.7" he says "well that guy must be a 4.3 then."

At the end of the session Mattison was discussing a corner blitz they didn't run much because the corners didn't come hard enough. One of the cut-ups was from the end of the third quarter against OSU. This play:

The coaches' film is a wider shot and emphasized the huge distance Floyd had to make up to catch Miller before the touchdown. Mattison took the opportunity to point out that this was an example of the corners not coming hard enough and gush over Floyd ("I love this kid") in general and specifically as an exemplar of the Michigan philosophy. Floyd's effort led to this:

And that led to a field goal.

Bonus: For those looking for a reason other than blind luck that Michigan recovered 80% of opponent fumbles this year, in practice all incompletions are live balls. Mattison credited this practice for getting players moving towards the ball at all times and being in position to scoop up live balls in actual play.

Technique a priority. This was a feature of both the general philosophical section and the chalk talk. Mattison did not select the cutups himself—that was delegated to a video coordinator—and didn't know exactly what would come up. This made for an interesting dynamic as he evaluated each play live. He repeatedly digressed from his main topic to note the footwork of his linemen: Van Bergen is getting distance with his first step. All of these guys have identical footwork. There was also a long discussion about why your rush end needs to start with his outside foot back when he gets a tight end to him*. Etc.

In the philosophical section he noted that Michigan was probably the only team in the country with a head coach who coaches a position, that nose guard. It was at this point he told the story about Hoke coming to him fuming, saying he "wasn't going to be one of those head coaches who just walk around" and demanding a position group. He took the nose. Zinger: "now… I question why he coached the best player on the team."

Here he also noted that everyone hits the sled every day and that this was not something the previous coaching staff did frequently, if ever. This is where the bit about "I've never seen such awful technique" came in. Pretty much the only thing negative Mattison said was about the state of the team he was handed. Everyone who's surprised raise their hand. That's no one.

The final bit on this: "don't go be a scheme coach, focus on technique."

*[The reason is the biggest threat to the rush end in this situation is getting reached and if the tight end flares out to do so that first step needs to be one that gains him distance, something you can't do while remaining square if your outside foot is to the LOS. Disagreement with this appeared to be a pet peeve of Mattison's.]

Big plays. Obviously a priority just from the play on the field. Section on this concentrated on the secondary, declared the biggest problem with big plays. Hates it when safeties "look like blitzing linebackers" when there is a pile. He wants a cup around the pile and safeties to make tackles at least six yards downfield.

Now, that doesn't mean Jordan Kovacs needs to make a tackle six yards downfield. In this context a safety is a player in a deep zone. This is most often the corners and Gordon/Woolfolk.

Rotation. This is a Hoke thing Mattison was skeptical about: Michigan rotates the entire defense on every play of practice. Run on—snap—run off. This is "not pretty" when your 21st and 22nd best defensive players are going up against the first team offense but builds conditioning and depth and was credited for "saving the team" in the Sugar Bowl when injuries whittled down available defensive linemen to dust. Think Martin and Van Bergen in the third quarter.

Situational

Goal line philosophy. To Mattison it's simple: one zone "you run perfectly" and an all-out pressure.

When they're backed up. Mattison asked the crowd to think of what they are thinking when they've got the other team backed up, and then said "how many of you are thinking 'don't give up a big play'?" Mattison's been there and tries to fight that. Now if you're backed up, "if we have a great run pressure, we're coming after your ass."

This goes here.

Not exactly a run pressure but Michigan is sending all five guys on the line there. "When you have a chance, when they're backed up, go after their ass."

Third down. "For us, we're gonna pressure." Mattison on the end of the Akron State game:

You saw the Ohio game, you probably thought 'this guy is the dumbest sonofabitch in the world' He turned a wide receiver loose against Ohio a couple minutes left in the game.

But we intercepted it on the next play. Did we win? Yes. So we were aggressive and we won. [laughter]

So they'll be aggressive come hell or high water, that's clear.

Scheme

4-3 versus 3-4: THE FINAL WORD. "We'd be here for hours" if someone tried to argue him away from playing the 4-3 under. Said something along the lines of "if you've got that 330 pound nose tackle and your ends and your linebackers, okay, God bless you." I thought of Pipkins—what is Mattison going to do with a 330 pound nose?

Anyway, Greg Mattison will never run a 3-4. End of story.

4-3 under assertions from the man himself. These aren't too different than the things you'll hear about the under when you read up on it on the internet but just to confirm, the basis of the defense:

  • Rush end: "The whole thing is predicated on the rush." Must be a great player, and athlete who can spill power (ie, get into a pulling guard and stop him in his tracks), drop into coverage, and win one-on-one battles with the tight end. All that and he's got to be a ferocious pass rusher. More similar to the SAM linebacker than the SAM is to the ILBs.
  • SAM linebacker. Must not be outflanked either in the run or the pass game. Hugely important not to give himself up one for one on the edge. [Editor's aside: that's something we were talking about a ton early in the year. It got a lot better as the season progressed.]
  • Inside linebackers. The usual: the mike has to be a little bigger, a little stronger, and the will has to be able to adjust to coverage outside of the box. An important difference between the two is the WLB has to be able to run vertically down the seam whereas the MLB can pass his guy off; IIRC this year the guy running down the seam was Demens, not Morgan. Adjustment based on Demens's surprising ability to stick with guys downfield?
  • Nose tackle. Also hugely important. "You cannot win with a weak nose." We should start calling our incoming five star "No Pressure Pipkins" right now.
  • Corners. "Corners are corners" but the field corner (Countess) is not involved with "heavy work" and usually just has to clean up plays that have been strung out. The boundary corner (Floyd) has to be a bigger guy better in run support. It's a seven man front; if you go eight you'd "better have a war daddy" at field corner because he's got to cover an outside receiver with little additional help.

Michigan does not align to strength but rather aligns to field—ie, if you're on the left hash the SAM will be to the wide side of the field and if you're on the right hash the SAM will be to the wide side of the field. You can flip your tight ends all around and Michigan won't flip in response. I assume the flipping from earlier in the year was a necessary evil as Michigan tried to get everyone up on the new system.

The most important thing. One of the line shifts Michigan runs is called "pirate technique."

Player Notes

Kyle Kalis. Mattison saw one of the St. Ed's guys and mentioned that Michigan had recruited a "real man" out that school, one that "may just maul some of our guys."

brennen-beyer-minnesotaBrennen Beyer. Beyer was talked up like a future star. Reportedly up to 250 pounds and will be given an opportunity to win the WDE job in the spring.

Jake Ryan. Mattison said Michigan was "blessed" at SAM linebacker—probably including Beyer in that assessment—and that Ryan was a major player. A major player they probably wished they didn't have to run out as a freshman, but a major player.

Mattison referenced a particular play against Nebraska on which he lined up on the wrong side of the field. I remember that but I don't think it was against Nebraska; there's no mention of it in the UFR. "Still a lot of coaching to do" with him but it's clear they think he has vast potential.

JT Floyd. As mentioned, Mattison seemed enamored with him. "Love that kid."

Desmond Morgan. Came up on a couple of clips where he ended up clubbing offensive linemen. Mattison said something along the lines of "think he'll hit you?" And "is that good or what? For a little freshman?" It is unknown whether he has ever said "freshman" without preceding it with "little."

Morgan tipped one of the blitzes they run; Mattison mentioned that he told Morgan he'd play three technique if he kept it up. This is a common threat, as…

Kenny Demens. …they literally did this with Demens, playing him at nose so they could have Martin run the blitzes he wasn't coming hard enough on. In contrast, the SAM (Ryan) was called out as a guy who does come hard.

Some secondhand reports that the implication was Demens's job is under threat have filtered out to premium message boards; I did not get that vibe.

Jordan Kovacs. Michigan's "down safety" or "close safety"—I'll stick with strong, FWIW—was "tremendous."

Departing DL. Heininger "really became a football player." Seems like they think they'll miss him. Van Bergen "really, really played" for M and Martin was of course the best player on the team.

Monday Presser Transcript 11-28-11: Brady Hoke

Monday Presser Transcript 11-28-11: Brady Hoke

Submitted by Heiko on November 28th, 2011 at 4:10 PM

Brady Hoke

News bullets and other important items:

  • Brennen Beyer should be fine for bowl practice.
  • Team will go back to fundamentals and technique during bowl practice and develop younger players.
  • Quinton Washington, Keith Heitzman, and Chris Rock are improving on the D-line. Coaches also trying to coach up Richard Ash.
  • Bowl practice schedule will depend on which bowl they go to. Team will be active this week.

Press Conference

from file

Opening remarks:

“It’s great to go out and play well enough to win. I think there’s some things we all know we have to do a better job with when you look at the whole football game, but I think our guys responded well. As a team, I’ve said it many times, but they really complement each other offensively and defensively and in the kicking game. It’s great to win a football game. Anytime you can win that great rivalry game, it’s good.”

Borges has been saying all season that the offense is eventually going to come along. Have we been seeing that the last two weeks?

“You know, I think a couple things: number one, [Denard has] grown and matured as a Michigan quarterback throughout the course of the year. I think the decisiveness that he has run the football with when he’s made that decision, that there’s some open area or whatever has really been good the last couple weeks. I think that’s helped his confidence. I thought he ran extremely hard with the ball on Saturday. When we can rush the ball for 277 yards, it helps you obviously when you get into the throw game. And in the passing game, I thought he made three really good throw again. He was 14 of 17, so his accuracy and completion rate was pretty doggone good. I think he just keeps growing.”

What was the mood like the last 36 hours? Have you been hearing from a lot of people?

“Yeah, I mean there’s a lot of text messages that I haven’t even seen yet to be honest with you. It’s nice and it’s great that people want to congratulate you, but we’re not done with this year yet. Our goal was to win the conference championship and we didn’t do that, so we have a lot more to prove.”

What do you think about the Urban Meyer hire?

“You know, he’s not going to play a down and neither am I. To me, I’ve known Urban. He’s a good football coach. He’s a good guy, I’ll welcome him in, but this is still Michigan and Ohio. It’s still going to be that rivalry. Neither one of us is going to play a game.”

(more after the jump)

Wednesday Presser Transcript 11-23-11: Brady Hoke

Wednesday Presser Transcript 11-23-11: Brady Hoke

Submitted by Heiko on November 23rd, 2011 at 3:03 PM

News bullets and other important things:

  • Brennen Beyer is the only major injury the team is dealing with. He hurt his leg.
  • Barnum is practicing, will get consideration to start.

Brady Hoke

From file, just to spice things up. Still can't believe this game happened.

Opening remarks:

“This is a great week to follow college football. Obviously with this game, I thought we had a very good practice yesterday. Hopefully we can follow that up today with our preparation. Our seniors have done a tremendous job with really the focus and the things that we need to do as a team and being the leaders out there, so it’s been good so far this week, and we just have a lot of work ahead of us.”

You say the focus was up. Has the focus gone to another level this week?

“You know, I think there’s been a lot of consistency, which is what we want to have a on weekly basis. I can’t tell you if it’s up more, but I think they understand how fun this game is.”

Do you feel like they’re focused on the fun and opportunity rather than the pressure and stakes?

“I think the consistency that we’ve had week to week, I think that the intensity of it and doing all those things has been good. I think they’ve been pretty focused on it.”

Not tight?

“This group doesn’t get tight very often.”

(more after the jump)

Monday Presser Transcript 10-24-11: Brady Hoke

Monday Presser Transcript 10-24-11: Brady Hoke

Submitted by Heiko on October 24th, 2011 at 4:11 PM

[No coordinator or Wednesday presser this week, fyi]

News bullets and other important things:

  • We might be seeing more of Frank Clark, Brennen Beyer, and Raymon Taylor.
  • Woolfolk and Barnum seem to be better.
  • Lewan had an ankle injury but is expected back on Saturday. 
  • With Barnum back, there also will be competition at right guard (currently Patrick Omameh).

Brady Hoke

Press Conference

from file

Opening remarks: “It was good in some ways to have a bye week. From a health standpoint, I think it always helps you a little bit, no matter where you’re at in the season, to get a little more rested. I think our guys did a nice job with that. I thought our practices on Tuesday, Thursday, and yesterday were at a high tempo. I think there was a lot of good teaching that went on. When you look at the fundamentals of where we need to improve: blocking, tackling, all those things that go along with football, I think that was good. We’ve got five guaranteed opportunities left that we need to focus on, and obviously this week is Purdue.”

Any new players cracking the depth chart? “Frank Clark [is] one that comes to mind. I think Blake [Countess] has been playing, but I think that helps. Raymon Taylor, when you look at it from that vantage point, that’s good for them to get a little more work in.”

When did you move on from Michigan State, and how fired up are you for Purdue? “Well, we did that on Tuesday. Tuesday was the first time we met together as a team. [We] went through the film, met after the film, went out and practiced, and moved forward.”

You put a lot of emphasis on the trenches. How are they doing by your assessment? “I would say we are not where we need to be with the consistency of how we want to play on both groups. I think there’s been times when, from an offensive standpoint, we blocked the line of scrimmage pretty well and created movement and the things that you want to do at the point of attack. And then I think there are times we haven’t blocked it as well. I would say the same thing on defense. I think Mike’s been very consistent. He’s played better and better every week when you evaluate what he’s done in the middle. I thought Will Heininger played a better football game a couple weeks ago. Maybe one of his better games. But the consistency of all four guys is something we need to keep striving for.”

Greg Brown left the team. Why, and have you ever had guys leave in the middle of the season before? “Greg is no longer part of our team, and yes. I’ve had guys leave.”

(more after the jump.)

Tuesday Presser Transcript 9-20-11: Coordinators

Tuesday Presser Transcript 9-20-11: Coordinators

Submitted by Heiko on 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)

Picture Pages: How Not To Defend Power, Part II

Picture Pages: How Not To Defend Power, Part II

Submitted by Brian on September 7th, 2011 at 2:38 PM

Last time on Picture Pages we saw how hopeless n00b Brennen Beyer made life very difficult for Michigan on a 25-yard counter play Western ran in the second quarter. Poor linebacker play from Kenny Demens and Carvin Johnson contributed.

A bit later in the half, Western would go back to the well. How would Beyer react?

It's first and ten at the Michigan 17 on Western's third drive. They've taken the ball from the Michigan 47 to get here. Western comes out in the same look-ma-spread-in-shred formation and will run the same counter play they ran before. Michigan is again in an aggressive one-high press look:

second-counter-1

A lot of backups are in. The DL is Beyer/Heininger/Brink/Black. LBs are Herron, Fitzgerald, and Johnson walking down into the box.

On the snap it's the same business, with the backside G and H-back pulling around. This time Beyer's got it figure out, though. You can just see his head popping out from behind the tackle who is releasing downfield:

second-counter-2

All right, now we are in the business. Or not. You can read the title.

second-counter-3

Beyer disappears in the above frame because he is making contact with the G at about the LOS. Also look at the linebackers. Fitzgerald has not moved; Herron is starting to run at the play.

Doh:

second-counter-4

Beyer has run inside and gotten sealed at the LOS approximately where the center started the play. The fullback sails outside no problem. Instead of making a pile he's just created a huge hole by removing any leverage available.

Meanwhile Fitzgerald is getting cut to the ground. He's hardly moved despite a guard pulling in front of his face, and thanks to that Johnson can't flow. Neither can Brink, who is giving ground to pursue but just gets cut.

Herron, for his part, is going to blow the leverage again…

second-counter-5

…but it wouldn't have mattered much because there's hardly anyone behind him.

Zoom!

second-counter-6

Kovacs cleans up again.

second-counter-7

Video with dramatic pause:

Object Lessons

Someone took Beyer aside and told him how he'd screwed up on the first power and what to do. If you look at the comments on the last one there is some debate about whether or not Beyer was absolved because of a blitz. I don't think that's entirely possible; if you're blitzing and no one's blocking you off the edge while the QB executes a mesh point you need to slow your roll and adjust. Beyer didn't; someone told him he should do that.

Beyer took that advice and overcompensated a la Cam Gordon playing safety last year. I'm still not sure if they were playing to squeeze or spill. I'm guessing squeeze. This is the cost of playing freshmen. This kind of thing will get better.

I do wonder why he's even on the field. If they're going to run a four-man line I'd rather have Brink and Heininger out there than Beyer, since at least they've played football in college before. I guess you have to chalk that up to the heat and the necessity to play the walk-ons on the interior, which means just terrible things about Ash/Campbell/Washington. If Cam Gordon returns next week it wouldn't surprise me to see Ryan in Beyer's role.

Yet more indecisive linebackers. A guard pulling is a dead giveaway as to the direction of the play and twice we see Michigan players not reacting to it at all. If they're not reading the G whatever they are reading is not giving them a heads-up quickly enough.

This may be four defensive systems in four years with three coordinators; it may be a talent issue. Demens suggests it's at least some of the latter. Either way, Fitzgerald sits entirely still until he's chopped to the ground by a Western OL, which eliminates not only him but Johnson and Brink thanks to the location of the block. Meanwhile, Herron has a tough job that he does poorly with, losing leverage on the play.

I assume days that aren't blistering hot will see Demens on the field for every snap, but if he's hurt we're screwed and WLB is a real problem. Herron had two touchdowns and is going to end up significantly negative on the day.

Heininger does not accomplish what RVB does. He gets sealed away and is trying to spin free when the LB-FB contact occurs; he's in no position to help if Herron turns it inside, which he doesn't because no one turns it inside ever. This may be a slight exaggeration born of frustration.

Picture Pages: How Not To Defend Power, Part I

Picture Pages: How Not To Defend Power, Part I

Submitted by Brian on September 7th, 2011 at 12:21 PM

People are worried about the defense, and with good reason. The worrying bit isn't so much the best quarterback in the state averaging 5.9 YPA and being forced into two turnovers by getting clobbered, but rather Western Michigan running for almost 5 YPC with guards they picked up at a yard sale in Jackson.

I have good news and bad news about this. The good news: a major reason for these issues was a true freshman in his first game who made obvious errors. He fixed some of those errors. The bad news: he fixed those errors so hard he made the opposite error. More bad news: he wasn't the only culprit.

We're looking at two successful first-half counters run by the Broncos. Here's the first. It's second and two on the Michigan 47 on Western's second drive of the day. Western's all like "look, ma, I'm the 2010 Michigan offense" and Michigan brings out its aggressive one-high press man for the first time:

counter-not-so-much-1

You see the 3-4 front with three tight corners. Kovacs is out of the picture deep. The slot "corner" is Thomas Gordon. The LBs from top to bottom are Herron Jones, Johnson, Demens, and Beyer, with Roh/Martin/Van Bergen the DL. Your key players are the bottom three guys in the front seven: Beyer, RVB, and Demens.

A moment after the snap:

counter-not-so-much-2

The tackle blocks down on RVB, leaving Beyer free to fly into the backfield. This is an Admiral Ackbar situation that Beyer is too pumped up on adrenaline and youthful stupidity to recognize. He's all like "gonna get me some QB."

Meanwhile, the RB is moving right, but check out that OL directly in front of the QB: he's pulling left. This is a counter.

counter-not-so-much-3

A moment later Beyer is recognizing his DERP far too late. He's already three yards into the backfield and his momentum is stopped as he tries to change direction now that the QB doesn't have the ball. the pulling G is going to hammer him.

Not all is lost, though: Demens has read it and is moving into the hole. And you see a lot more of Van Bergen's jersey, don't you?

counter-not-so-much-4

RVB has given about a yard but now has his helmet across his blocker. Beyer defeats the OG's block and would have a shot at a tackle if he hadn't flown upfield so fast. There's that lead blocker and a lot of room for Demens to close down but he could…

counter-not-so-much-5

…just about turn it back inside to RVB, who has now totally defeated his block, or he could…

counter-not-so-much-6

…turn into Jonas Mouton and lose leverage.

Zoom!

counter-not-so-much-7

That's 25 yards before Kovacs can come up and save the bacon.

Video, with annotation!

OBJECT LESSONS

I learned this from Spielman. There are two main ways to defend the power play: "squeeze" and "spill." Squeezing is getting into the guard upfield a bit so that the RB has to take it inside into a more restricted hole. Beyer would have to be a yard or two closer to the LOS and to the inside to be squeezing. From that spot he can make a play, or at least make it harder to burst outside that LB.

Spilling is kind of a scrape exchange type deal where the playside DE roars down the line at the pulling G and cuts his ass to the ground. This is intended to create a pile that takes out the other lead blocker and forces the running back to bounce outside, where a linebacker scraping over the top should clean stuff up. Beyer would have had to shoot directly at the G as soon as he reads the pull.

Obviously, he does neither and gets kicked out of a very large hole. If he's in the right position he's dealt with the block well enough to make a tackle. He's not.

Demens did Mouton it. He's got a tough job here with the fullback and a big hole, but letting the guy outside of you is a cardinal sin—unfortunately, one we're all too familiar with. If Demens gets outside that fullback WMU might get a big run anyway but "losing leverage" (the jargon) guarantees it.

Another quiet Van Bergen plus. This is the kind of thing I am talking about when I say RVB is good but the things he does often go for naught. Here he beats a downblock, which is tough, to show up in the hole and potentially rescue Johnson, who you may note ran ridiculously playside and ends up farther away from the play than double-teamed NT Martin. Demens loses the plot and Van Bergen's reward is just a UFR plus and a chase downfield.

Ugh Johnson. To reiterate: the guard directly in front of Johnson's face pulls and he ends up yards away from relevance.

Kovacs. He tackles. He does not not tackle. Here he sort of misses, but this was very rare. This may not hold up against Big Ten teams but there were plenty of opportunities for the Broncos to pick up a touchdown that they could not because Kovacs tackled them.

Preview 2011: Linebackers

Preview 2011: Linebackers

Submitted by Brian on August 30th, 2011 at 10:39 AM

Previously: The story and the secondary.

A note before we start: this preview relies heavily on the defensive UFRs of last year because there’s a convenient numerical system that does a decent job of summing up a defensive player’s contributions. One caveat: the system is generous to defensive linemen and harsh to defensive backs, especially cornerbacks. A +4 for a defensive end is just okay; for a cornerback it’s outstanding.

obi-ezeh-hurdlejonas-mouton-after-illinois

 

Well… they're gone. For better or worse the two linebacking stalwarts of the Rodriguez era are out the door, destined for San Diego or the real world. Though no one's going to memorialize Obi Ezeh and Jonas Mouton in song, they endured the transition from Ron English to Scot Shafer to Greg Robinson to Dr. Vorax, the stuffed wolverine Robinson insisted was the real coordinator of the insane 3-3-5 Rodriguez demanded. If anyone can feel hard done by the Rodriguez era it's them.

HOWEVA, Dr. Vorax and other assorted coaching indignities cannot explain away much of the horror Michigan suffered at their hands. Mouton was linebacker Janus, singlehandedly crushing fullbacks and even pulling guards en route to TFLs a few plays before losing contain yet a-goddamn-gain against opponents as meek as UMass.

Ezeh, for his part, was first amongst equals as this blog's whipping boy the last couple years until the Penn State game, when Greg Robinson became public enemy #1. His trademark move was sitting completely still until an offensive lineman screwed him into the ground.

Midyear, former Michigan linebackers were dropping the word "inexcusable." A fresh start is called for.

Depth Chart
SLB Yr. MLB Yr. WLB Yr.
Cam Gordon So.* Kenny Demens Jr.* Mike Jones So.*
Jake Ryan Fr.* Marell Evans Sr.* Brandin Hawthorne Jr.
Brennen Beyer Fr. JB Fitzgerald Sr. Desmond Morgan Fr.

Middle Linebacker

Rating: 4

kenny-demens-iowakenny-demens-beaver

Right: Demens hangin' with Doctor Vorax

MICHIGAN PROVIDES THAT with three relatively new starters. The most established new blood is redshirt junior Kenny Demens, the man who inexplicably languished behind not only Ezeh but walk-on and converted fullback Mark Moundros at the start of last year. That seemed like plenty of evidence to write the kid off, so this blog did:

The enigmatic Kenny Demens is third string in the middle; after a seemingly productive spring he dropped off the map and has generated zero fall mentions as Moundros climbs the depth chart. He played sparingly in the fall scrimmage; last year he was passed over for walk-on Kevin Leach when it came time to replace Ezeh temporarily. He's spinning his wheels, seemingly on track to watch this year. Next year both of the guys above him will be gone and he'll get one last chance to step forward; the tea leaves are not encouraging at the moment.

Demens then watched as Ezeh played at his usual level until the Iowa game. Desperate for anything after being gashed by Michigan State, Robinson finally put Demens on the field. We finally saw what was keeping him from playing time:

Only the machinations of the traitorous Vorax. That's not a play Ray Lewis is going to have on his hall of fame reel but it stood out to me after years of watching Ezeh try to clunk his way through traffic. Demens steps to the right as Iowa runs a counter but reads it, steps around traffic, and is there to tackle once Mouton forces it inside. Demens did that on a consistent basis against all opposition (except Purdue, oddly). The sumptuous conversation about him after the Iowa game was excited:

Demens. Wow.

Yeah. Watching the game live I thought that he was an obvious upgrade over Ezeh but expected that when I went over the game in detail I'd find he was at fault for some of the longer Iowa runs or third down conversions, or had messed up in some way that had gone unexploited. I didn't. I found little things that I thought were good plays I hadn't seen live

How many times did Iowa RBs find themselves facing a line with no penetration and no holes in it? Several. How many times did previous Michigan opponents face this? Essentially never. Good DL play with crappy linebacker play yields a lot of penetration and a lot of lanes where the DL aren't. Crappy DL play with good LB play is this, a bunch of bodies on the line with no windows to squeeze through.

At least, he did when he was not subject to further machinations. Vorax saw his nemesis had escaped confinement and immediately upped his insanity level further. Below are Michigan's alignments in the first and second halves of the Penn State game two weeks later:

demens-1_thumb[12]demens-2_thumb[15]

left: first half. right: second half.

After getting annihilated by a terrible run offense in the first half Demens actually had to ask the coaches to move him more than a yard away from the nose tackle's rear. He struggled, but who wouldn't when the only thing between you and two guards is Adam Patterson and far too little space?

Demens recovered from that to register as one of the "heroes" of the Illinois game—he managed a +8, leading to cries of Anyone But Ezeh favoritism from readers—before registering his first clunker against Purdue. Demens got hooked pretty badly on a play that, in retrospect, I should have been harsher to the DL on since Dan Dierking roared through a truck-sized hole. Later he got lost and let Rob Henry rip off a big gain. He was one of few Michigan defenders to come out of the Wisconsin game with something approximating dignity.

KENNY DEMENS
plays in space
quick but under control
make a leaping PBU
killshot shakes the ball loose
tackle on the catch
jars the ball free
picking through trash
goal line gap shoot
slants past the tackle
reads and fills
scraping, waiting, tackling
picture-paged this.
not quite harris
runs to the backside
pulls an Ezeh and sits
wanders backside
smart
removes cutback

When everything was over Demens had racked up 82 tackles despite playing sparingly in the first five games. If he'd gotten the whole season he would have had numbers like that random Northwestern linebacker who ends up with 130 tackles at the end of the season because he's the guy roping down tailbacks after they pick up six yards.

It's clear by the rating above that I'm a Demens believer. I liked what I saw last year and I've seen MLBs who are pretty good to compare him to. David Harris, for one. He's not Harris but I think Demens is closer to him than Ezeh already. He just has a knack for getting to where the play is going. Though his coverage still needs some work he was decently effective in short zones last year. As a bonus, one of the few things practice reports have been consistent in is their Demens praise.

Demens will benefit from the move to back to the 4-3 under more than anyone save Craig Roh. With RVB and Martin shielding him from linemen he won't be in nearly as many hopeless situations where he's one-on-one with a guard He should be the team's leading tackler by a healthy margin and see his TFLs skyrocket from the measly 1.5 he managed a year ago.

Michigan's defense will probably be too bad to warrant much All Big Ten consideration, but honorable mention seems reasonable.

Backups

Marell-Evans(CAPTION INFORMATION)
Purdue's Joey Elliott is sacked by Michigan's Al Backey in the first quarter.         Photos are of the University of Michigan vs. Purdue University at Michigan Stadium, November 7, 2009.    (The Detroit News / David Guralnick)

I can't believe we had commemorative spring game jerseys
Also: Evans left, Fitzgerald right

Prodigal son Marell Evans returned from exile at I-AA Hampton to rejoin the team for his fifth and final year of eligibility. He probably wasn't expecting to see too much time after doing so, but there he was in the spring game, starting in Demens's stead. How well he did was in the eye of the beholder; around these parts I was "extremely leery" of the depth but offered up no reason as to why.

If forced into action Evans will be a wildcard. He hardly played at Hampton because of injury and hardly played at Michigan because of youth. He's probably not going to be that good. Over the course of the last month I received a couple of practice reports that slammed him pretty hard. Those aren't gospel, but that and his vagabond career to date are all we have to go on.

Fellow senior JB Fitzgerald is also hanging around this area of the depth chart, though no one knows exactly what linebacker spot he's backing up. It's never good when you've been around for four years and no one knows where you're supposed to play.

At least Fitzgerald is used to it by now. He's been kicked around since he arrived. On occasion he's even been drafted to play DE terribly when Greg Robinson runs out of ideas. When he pops up in UFRs doing something well, as he's done from time to time for years, I get all excited he might be finally breaking through. Then he never does. Fitzgerald's about out of time and there's no reason to think he's suddenly going to get it. He was passed by Evans as soon as he arrived; Jake Ryan emerged to back up Cam Gordon in spring; Michigan has a vicious melee for the WLB spot that Fitzgerald isn't even involved in. Without a plague of injuries he'll spend most of his final year providing leadership on special teams.

Strongside Linebacker

Rating: 2.5

cam-gordon-notre-damecam-gordon-osu

less deep half, more linebacker plz

Cam Gordon has finally found a home. He can buy a new couch and maybe a speaker system that attaches to the walls and everything. That it took this long is another symptom of the madness on defense last year. Gordon is linebacker sized and plays like a linebacker, except he was playing receiver as a freshman and thus tackled people in the same way a coke machine would: by running your bulk into a dude and hoping he falls over.

This was Michigan's last line of defense, and they paid for it many times over, starting against Michigan State:

His shoulder-block style of tackling was something he got away with before he faced Michigan State but against MSU he was bouncing off ballcarriers because they were big and strong enough to take the blow. Then he would try to drag them to the ground, which only worked sometimes and always gave up YAC.

Worse yet were Gordon's angles, which alternated between vastly too aggressive…

…and vastly too conservative…

…depending on which flaw he had just spent the week getting chewed out about in practice. And then there was that rainbow thing. I'm embarrassed to have pumped him up a bit after the Indiana game, though to be fair he did have an interception.

Gordon got shuffled to spur, a position roughly analogous to the strongside linebacker in a 4-3 under, for the Penn State game. Thrown into the fire at yet another position he had only the barest clue how to play, he struggled there as well. He was emblematic of that game's defensive implosion:

It's symbolic that this is the play where it all went to hell.

Demens has that dead to rights if he can just get some gang tackling help. Marvin Robinson whiffs, Cam Gordon vacates the only area Royster can go, and Royster makes a terrific play to spin outside for the first down. Great play, but you can't spin past three guys without something having gone horribly wrong. That's a true freshman and a redshirt freshman who was a wide receiver last year and a safety last week. FFFUUUUUUUU.

CAM GORDON
tackling issues
whiffs but gets lucky
safety ugh
takes a horrible angle on the pass
lost in coverage
too far off
some good stuff
intercepts Chappell
delivers a nice hit

Cam Gordon had a rough freshman year. Worse for our purposes is how useless it is for projecting his future. With half of his season spent at a position he'll never play again and the other half spent in an incoherent defense at a spot he'd learned for literally two weeks, his UFR chart isn't even worth looking at.

If you insist, it's not pretty even after he moved to linebacker. He managed to stay on the positive side against Illinois by blitzing a ton. I did note that "Gordon brings a physical intimidation factor the other two spurs don't." He didn't do much other than scoop up a fumble and run a long way against Purdue. Against Wisconsin he failed to register even a positive half-point and picked up this note: "Not involved much and didn't do well when he was." After that the malaise took over. He did have some TFLs in the final two games.

That doesn't mean much, though. Bounced from position to position and ill-served by the coaching of Greg Robinson and Adam Braithwaite, Gordon was put in a position to fail. He did. 

Now he's at a spot that makes sense being coached by people who make sense. Since he wasted a redshirt year playing offense and his freshman year trying to play safety he'll be farther behind the curve than an average third-year player. He's also pretty light for a strongside linebacker at 224. That will serve him well when he's asked to drop into coverage but will make fending off tight ends a struggle. A reasonable level of development gets him to a bit below average this year.

Backups

jake-ryan-mbrennen-beyer

Ryan, Beyer

There is one. The spring game was a dreary, depressing thing mostly notable for the various ways in which the quarterbacks looked awful, but one of the certifiable bright spots was the rampaging play of redshirt freshman Jake Ryan. Ryan had a pick-six, sacked Devin Gardner at least a couple times—hard to tell exactly what would have happened if they were live—and generally gave second-string OT Kristian Mateus more than he could handle. Mateus is a walk-on and all spring impressions come with free grains of salt, but as of the moment Ryan Rob Lytle-ed his helmet in spring, the hype train has left the station and will build up steam until such time as there's another guy to get hyped about.

In high school, Ryan was an outside linebacker in an actual 3-3-5. As such, he spent a lot of time screaming at the quarterback from angles designed to make life hard for offensive linemen. That's not far off his job in the 4-3 under but it comes with a lot more run responsibility—the SLB has to take on blockers in just the right spot so that he neither lets the play escape contain nor gives him a lane inside too big to shut down. Expect to see him on passing downs but only passing downs this fall.

Third on the depth chart is true freshman Brennen Beyer, one of the most highly touted recruits in this year's class. His recruiting profile has the goods: excellent speed and lateral mobility on a frame that needs and can put on a lot of weight. He was expected to play WDE and flipped to SLB after Frank Clark showed very well in fall. He was 100% lineman in high school and will need some time to adjust to new responsibilities. Hopefully they can get a redshirt on him this year.

Weakside Linebacker

Rating: 2

103109_SPT_UM v Illinois_MRMbrandon-herron-msu

it's tough to find shots of Jones and Herron in the wild

This is the most uncertain thing about the defense. Mouton left no ready heir apparent thanks to an injury that forced Mike Jones out for the entirety of 2009. Top competition Brandon Herron also missed a big chunk of last year. When he returned he mostly sat.

Jones returns atop the depth chart out of little more than momentum. Michigan fans haven't seen much out of him other than a few redshirt-burning tackles on kickoff coverage, so his recruiting profile will have to stand in for actual knowledge.

For what it's worth he does seem well suited to be one of those blitzer guys Greg Mattison promises will exist this year:

Exceptional edge blitzer that has great timing and quickness; speed rushes by the offensive tackle before he can get set. Offensive backs can't or won't block him when blitzing off the edge; really creates havoc in the backfield. Does a great job of using his hands to shed blockers in order to get to the ball carrier.

As a bonus, he's beefed up from 208 to 224, which is reasonable WLB size. Folks were talking him up as a "playmaker" during spring practice last time around. Little's been heard since. That goes for all of his competitors as well.

Backups

Those competitors are serious threats for the job. Michigan spent much of the fall shoving every plausibly-shaped available body to WLB, suggesting they aren't confident in Jones. Either that or they actually think they have depth. Mattison was unusually positive when asked about the WLB spot a couple weeks into camp:

That position and again I hate to ever say anything positive, I love how those guys are playing at times. At times, they are playing with such energy and such speed and such explosiveness. One day one of them, I’ll go wow that’s what we’re looking for and the next day he may have not as good a day and the other guy will step up. I think that one is a battle. That one is a battle right now and it is kind of a good battle to have.

Reality or Johnny Sears airy pump-up? We won't know that for a while. There are three experienced scholarship options. Whoever ends up winning the job might be bad; they probably won't be awful. There are three upperclass options before we dig up a freshman.

The second guy on the depth chart is fifth-year senior Brandon Herron, who's bounced all over the front seven in his time in Ann Arbor without managing to see the field much. He's got thirty-four tackles to his name, many of them in garbage time or on special teams.

Just when it looked like he might have a role in the 3-3-5 he came down with an injury and forced Roh to move back to LB. As a recruit he was middle-of-the-road, reputed to be a raw athlete. He'll probably see some time and not do anything spectacular with it.

Brandin Hawthornedesmond-morgan-25jpg-14ccbad0d4cfe4f1_large

Hawthorne, Morgan

Junior Brandin Hawthorne and true freshman Desmond Morgan also feature on the depth chart. Hawthorne is one of the Pahokee crew. He was a hilariously undersized high school player and has been bouncing between linebacker and safety the past couple years. He's happy to be back in the front seven:

"I was actually recruited as a linebacker so to be back feels really natural to me," said Hawthorne. "This is the position I played my whole life until I got to Michigan so it's nothing new, but I've had to learn the system, my responsibilities, and that takes time." …

"I'm not a real physical player - I'm more finesse - but I'm fast and smart," he said. "You need a brain on defense and I'm smart enough to recognize formations, and help move guys around. And I think I'm pretty good at making plays. I know I'm not going to overpower someone but I'm pretty good at slipping through the cracks."

Now up to 214 pounds, Hawthorne was getting some time with the first team during the select plays the media was allowed to watch. If his self-scouting is accurate he may be more of an option against spread teams. The weakside linebacker does get protected in the 4-3, so if he's got the speed and smarts Michigan might deal with the size.

The Big Ten Network was told to watch out for Morgan when their tour hit Ann Arbor, so they did. Viewers were treated to a shot of Morgan getting plowed over and over again as Gerry DiNardo tried to convince them he was the new hotness on the weakside.

Hoke has been talking him up. When asked about the linebacker situation outside of Demens Hoke went to Morgan first:

I think Desmond Morgan is a guy who we think is going to play some football for us. Mike Jones, we’ve played a little bit of MIKE and a little bit of WILL. Marrell Evans is playing some in there.

That was just a few days ago. Morgan was the MGoBlog Sleeper of the Year based on a wide array of scouting reports that praise his instincts, lateral mobility, and toughnosed hard gritty gritness. I thought he'd have to cool his heels behind Demens for a couple years, but he may get on the field quicker than anyone expected.

Recent Tea Leaves

Recent Tea Leaves

Submitted by Brian on August 17th, 2011 at 12:01 PM

First, Al Borges:

And then Greg Mattison:

Brink of the Brink. I jumped the gun yesterday by retweeting the Blade's Ryan Autullo, who reported Nathan Brink was hanging out on the first-team defensive line yesterday, and claiming this should deflate the Will Campbell hype balloon. It turns out reporters got to see a lot of stretching and not much else; the units out there were not exactly 20 minutes of solid evidence.

Nonetheless, yesterday was Nathan Brink day. Autullo gathered up some quotes for a feature story featuring the Word of the Day, as did AnnArbor.com's Kyle Meinke. Autullo's article:

"I hate to ever talk about a young man because I think every time I do that they go right down in the tubes," Mattison said after yesterday's practice. "He has come out every day as tough as he can. He listens to [defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery] on every word. When he tells him to step a certain way, he tries to step a certain way. And he's really, really physical." …

"In the spring it was mentioned a number of times because his toughness stuck out like crazy," Mattison said.

The word of the day is always "physical" except when it's "toughness." It's a good sign for you when the coaches are describing you with the attributes they've been preaching nonstop since their arrival.

Is it good for Michigan? If you were under the impression Michigan wouldn't be rotating through walk-ons on its DL, no. That's been unlikely since those dual DT decommits on Signing Day two years ago, though.

Now you should brace for zing:

"Everybody's a scholarship football player to us," Mattison said. "The best 11, the best 12, the best 17, those guys are going to play."

This walk-on may be on the brink of doing that.

Zesty.

The other change. Is it alarming that Jibreel Black, who the coaches have been displeased with, was the other surprise first-team-ish player on the line yesterday? Probably not. An emailer relates that Craig Roh is sick. Not good but not a major problem unless it's mono.

Don't be mono, k thx.

demens-hawthorne

might not be much bench time for this pair. via GBMW

Insidery scuttlebutt. Fall camps are full of temporary surprise starters as coaches test new things or dole out rewards and reprimands, so reading too much into any particular lineup is a constant threat. That said, a couple folk close to the program say Hawthorne has been playing well enough to warrant his shot at the first team. Consistency remains an issue. If Michigan can get production out of him that will be a bonus.

Other insidery nuggets: Demens has MLB locked down and is playing as well at that spot as anyone has in a while; Cam Gordon should hold off Jake Ryan for the SLB spot; Marell Evans has been a bit of disappointment.

Position switches. As media day content continues to trickle out information missed by folks moving to and fro amongst the panoply of assistants and players comes out. For example, there's a new contender at Safety Who Isn't Kovacs. Curt Mallory:

"Thomas has been playing nickel and also been playing safety. We're moving him around," Mallory said. "They will eventually [be interchangeable]. We went into it playing sides, and now as they've learned it, you can play your next best safety rather than next best strong or free. As we get closer to it we'll hone it in a bit and get guys where they best fit the defense. …

"No one's hiding. They all want to be out there, involved, competing. That's probably the most encouraging thing. If Thomas Gordon could, he'd be out there the whole time, and he's not the only one. That's good. They all want to be out there—it's a healthy thing because they are all helping one another."

I liked Gordon last year in the limited role (and limited time) he was allowed. He's dropped some weight and I'd be surprised if he wasn't the fastest guy competing to start at safety. (Furman is probably faster but no one mentions him as a threat to start this year.)

Mallory mentioned Countess, Taylor and Hollowell first amongst the freshmen corners, FWIW.

Rivals also has an article on Brennen Beyer's move to SLB. He won't be required to play this year and that sounds like a good thing:

It's a change because I haven't really played that before, but it's fun trying to learn as much as I can as fast as I can," Beyer said. … "Pass dropping, for one. I've never done that before," he said. "Playing while standing up—that's a little different."

Anyone nervous? I'm nervous. Jeff Hecklinski on the receivers:

"It was such a drastic change offensively that it really hasn't been aided [by their experience]," Hecklinski said. "We have to understand the intricacies that go along with the pro-style offense and the throwing game like we have.

"But, to their credit, they've worked hard throughout the summer. You can see a lot of good things throughout the summer. They came through and did the 7-on-7s and now we get a chance to look at them, you can see they've started to develop that timing and put things together. Now, we need to build on it, and we can hone it down to every little detail."

Practice buzz has been extremely happy with the unit as a whole despite the change; I'm guessing we see a preponderance of three-wide sets this fall. Four is a thing of the past but SDSU ran a lot of three-wide last year. With little established behind Koger at TE their other option is all I-Form.

Gallon is getting talked up, which is surprising. He was an impressive player in the Army Bowl as a recruit but couldn't find the field in an offense perhaps better suited for his talents—he mostly spent his time screwing up painfully on special teams. If he gets his act together he'd bring a YAC aspect Michigan's receivers are currently lacking. I'd bet this is more like Johnny Sears hype, though: encouragement more than accurate reporting.

Standard. More Fred Jackson: "I’ve very, very confident [in the future] because those two freshmen are good players. They are better than good. Both of them.”

2011 Recruiting: Brennen Beyer

2011 Recruiting: Brennen Beyer

Submitted by Brian on August 5th, 2011 at 1:47 PM

Previously: CB Greg Brown, CB/S Tamani Carter, CB Blake Countess, CB Delonte Hollowell, CB Raymon Taylor, LB Antonio Poole, LB Desmond Morgan, LB Frank Clark, LB Kellen Jones, DE Keith Heitzman, and DE Chris Rock.

       
Plymouth, MI - 6'4" 220
       

beyerinside

Scout 4*, #12 DE, #76 overall
Rivals 4*, #16 SDE(?), #5 MI, #201 overall
ESPN 4*, 79, #24 DE
Others 247: 4*, #11 OLB, #6 MI, #208 overall
Other Suitors Notre Dame, MSU, UCLA, NW
YMRMFSPA Craig Roh
Previously On MGoBlog Commitment post from Tim. FNL video as well.
Notes Has a twitter.

Film

Brennen Beyer is a throwback to the Natural Way of Things in-state as established by Bo and Mo and Carr before the cliff Michigan recruiting went off. He's a universal four star from Michigan, he wanted to go to Michigan, he got the offer, committed, and never wavered. Bully for Beyer and the Natural Way.

All four recruiting services have him a four-star player and Scout had him in their top 100. It's easy to see why if you hit up the senior-year footage above, which features a lot of Beyer taking on and defeating blocks en route to making plays. That's a changeup from highlight reels that feature the star swooshing past confused linemen en route to killing some poor 5'10" sophomore. (See: Brown, Pharaoh and Ryan, Jake, not that there's anything wrong with killing sophomores.)

Beyer gets past people even when they try to do something about it:

Beyer overwhelms offensive linemen with his initial burst off the ball and his hands are so quick, it must appear to the linemen that there's simply a flurry of movement in his face. Beyer has a terrific frame and sometimes seems to be made of elastic as he's able to lay out and contort his body to get a ball carrier trying to elude him. Simply needs to add weight and continue to get stronger to be a dominant defender - Scott Kennedy, Scout.com

Tim reported back that Beyer has an odd build with a long torso, long arms, and short legs but didn't know what to make of that, good or bad.

The scouting reports think the bit about the arms is good, anyway. A coach quote:

“I saw him do a 330-pound power clean. For a high school kid? Wow! His arms are so long, too. He’s got really long arms and knows how to use them. But he’s just so strong.”  …

“You can’t block him one on one as a defensive end,” Sawchuk said. “He had those sacks against Rockford, and that’s a well-coached team.”

Sawchuk returns to those arms in a freebie interview with Sam Webb:

Sam Webb:  From a skill set standpoint; what does he do well, what are the strengths of his game?

Mike Sawchuk:  “He has got a motor that does not quit.  He just keeps on coming at you.  He has got great arm length.  He’s really worked on his explosiveness in the weight room with power cleans and the parallel squat and all the stuff we do in the weight room.  Probably his greatest thing is his quickness and his motor.”

people look at the way he uses his hands and gets separation and he’s got those long limbs and his motor and they just love it."

Beyer also draws praise for his lateral quickness and corner-turning first step. A report from the Michigan Elite camp($), which was the only one he attended:

There may not have been a more impressive prospect at the camp … Beyer's first step was unmatched and there was not an offensive lineman in the camp that could keep him from turning the corner. With 4.5 speed and tremendous lateral quickness, Beyer could be a standout at either DE or LB.

All this and he's an excellent student (3.9 GPA, pursuit by Northwestern and Stanford) and citizen. A bit more from Sawchuk and Webb:

Sam Webb:  In your experience with Brennen (Beyer) as a player over the years, just what [do] you think of him as a player?

Mike Sawchuk:  “Obviously since he’s been in our program he’s done nothing but work his tail off.  He’s one of those kids that worked his tail off, not only on the football field and in the offseason and that, but in the classroom as well.  He also works at being a great citizen, good character kid.  He really has no weaknesses in my eyes.”

That's probably why he was the center of an "epic" M-ND battle that thankfully didn't turn out to be at all epic.

Downsides? There must be downsides since he's not rated higher. All right, yes, there is some disagreement about just how advanced Beyer's technique is. ESPN—the least enthusiastic of the services by a good distance—put out a report that's only middling($):

He gets off the ball well. While he can tend to lose them at times for the most part he uses his hands well to take on blockers. He needs to watch his pad level, but flashes the ability to keep leverage and be tough at the point of attack. Displays the ability to shoot his hands and create some separation, bend at the knees, generate power from his lower body, and hold his ground. Does a good job of being able to stay square and work along the line of scrimmage. … He is a productive pass rusher. He will use his hands to punch and try and knock blockers out of their cylinder. Displays the ability to try and work to the shoulder and use a move to clear from the blocker.

That's a lot of "flashes," "can," and "displays." It's pretty positive overall but the implication is clear. TTB echoes:

Has a tendency to turn his shoulders, allowing blockers to get into his chest. He does not drive his feet when making contact with the ballcarrier; stronger runners will gain extra yards after contact. He needs to refine his pass rushing moves, because he uses virtually no technique aside from his speed. Beyer rarely uses his strength to overpower blockers or deliver a strong initial blow.

Don't let me take Magnus out of context here—that's just one part of the "weaknesses" section in a scouting report that praises his hands, agility, and dedication ("the definition of a high-motor player") before making the inevitable comparison to Roh. It's just that we're in the weaknesses bit of the profile.

There's also the usual bit about how high school player Brennen Beyer is in high school, which is not college, and if Brennen Beyer would like to play in college he should become college-sized. Everyone (ESPN, coach, TTB, Scout) says this shouldn't be a problem since he, like Chris Rock, has giant meaty bones on which to hang sheets of muscle.

So let's and then see what happens in two years. Hopefully something that sounds disgustingly like celery when we watch the replays of it twenty times.

Etc.: Turned Rockford into Mudville:

LANSING -- The cheers and screaming fell silent in a matter of seconds for the Rockford football team and its fans.

Tears of joy quickly became tears of sorrow. A return trip to Ford Field and a chance at another Division 1 state championship was denied when Plymouth senior end Brennen Beyer made a game-winning touchdown catch with two Ram defenders in tight coverage in the back corner of the end zone with 4.5 seconds remaining. …

"(Beyer) is a great kid, and he just keeps playing," Plymouth coach Mike Sawchuk said. "As a coach, obviously, you have doubt (when they score that touchdown with just over a minute to play), but these kids never quit."

Stats:

registered 65 tackles and 12 sacks at defensive end as a senior year... caught 31 passes for 10 TDs as a senior ... compiled 45 tackles, nine tackles for loss and nine sacks during his junior season ...

Teammate and future ND (boo) K Kyle Brindiza on Beyer:

The skills he possesses are crazy," Brindza said of Beyer. "On defense, he comes off the ball so well and he's super-fast, so he's able to get to the quarterback quickly. On offense, he's a big, fast target with great hands. He can outjump a lot of defensive backs, which makes him hard to stop."

Why Craig Roh? Again, take it from the horse's mouth:

"He said they could see me playing a defensive end-linebacker hybrid position like Craig Roh's playing now for them. It's been exciting."

That was the Rodriguez crew, but there's no indication Hoke and company think any different. (Except for that linebacker business. Screw that in the ear.) They're recruiting Craig Roh WDE types in Mario Ojemudia and Pharoah Brown, so that spot will exist.

Roh, meanwhile, was a too-light 6'5"-ish pass rusher who high school offensive tackles thought had super powers. He had a bigger profile thanks to a standout performance at the UA game [Ed-M: and a bit more technical praise -- see: "crab people" meme)], but in all other ways Beyer is Roh-like.

Guru Reliability: Not quite high. Would have been nice to see Beyer go up against elite folk at an all-star game, as those are often illuminating when it comes to the best of the best. As it is there's a not-insignificant spread in his rankings from all-conference sort to good starter.

General Excitement Level: High. Near universal acclaim, impeccable academics, effort level widely praised, high level of athleticism, and good size. If there are any red flags for Beyer they are hard to make out. He'll need some time to get big, I guess.

Projection: Weakside DE is one spot where Michigan is fairly well stocked. Roh and Jibreel Black (and maybe Brandon Herron?) make for an enticing rotation, one that hopefully allows Beyer to redshirt. If Ryan Van Bergen's graduation forces Black to flip to the strongside—and it probably will since the other options are Rock, Heitzman, or a true freshman—Beyer will see plenty of time spelling Roh as a redshirt freshman in 2012. The starting spot will be his to lose in 2013.