We had heard persistent rumors all season that Cole was on thin ice after mounting violations of a thing that probably wouldn't have been a thing if it happened just once. Or twice. Insiders last summer thought he was already on the rails but around bowl practices it seemed he'd finally put that behind him. Apparently it happened again after/during the bowl trip, and Cole got the Kelly Baraka boot sometime before last week.
Cole saw a little bit of action early on as a special teamer, and some snaps at slot receiver after Grant Perry had a bad first outing. After that he was either injured (Scout, 247) or deep in the doghouse (Rivals) depending on what service you subscribed to. Then around bowl season it seemed he was in the clear and practicing at safety according to comments by Royce Jenkins-Stone. It seems Rivals (and maybe all of them) got this one right.
Damage: The move to safety made plenty of sense; his elite athleticism was badly needed given Michigan's depth chart after next year reads Tyree Kinnel and whatever they get out of this year's haul. Plan on seeing at least one and probably two of the freshmen on the field as everyone tries out for the post-Dymonte/Hill era. And unless some players emerge there I wouldn't be surprised if the coaches were shopping the grad transfer ranks once they've seen the position shake out next spring.
Scholarship update: Michigan now has 23 scholarships available. With three special teamers/former walk-ons they don't have to count until fall and seven in the 2016 class enrolled and back-dateable they're not going to have any trouble signing all the guys they want on Wednesday. Expected and the usual unexpected losses should make that a whopping 31(!) available spots for new guys before you have to worry if guys are going to be cut.
[UPDATE: Michigan has 24 spots right now with two to four fifth years who might go through spring trying to earn a spot. We expect 2-4 additional departures if Michigan does go to the 30 number that's been tossed around. -BC]
“Why not the Big House?” he said. “Why not? 140,000 – I bet we could get in there for Wrestlemania. They’re trying to break the attendance record at Jerry Jones’ stadium in Dallas. (There’s) a great Canadian presence in wrestling. Why not Michigan and the Big House?”
When a producer on the show suggested that Harbaugh participate as a referee in a Flair vs Hulk Hogan matchup, Harbaugh didn’t hesitate.
“I’m in,” he said.
The chances of that match are not great since Flair and Hogan are a combined billion years old and Hogan was dropped by WWE after tapes of him being racist-uncle-level racist were released as part of a lawsuit he's embroiled in. With Gawker, because of course.
But other than that, yeah, sure. Unfortunately it's too late for Michigan Stadium to get it this year, since last year it was in the 49ers' stadium and that symmetry would have been perfect. Screw you, Jed York! (Actually, thank you, Jed York. Thank you so much for all that you have done for Michigan athletics.)
Last December, at a conference on the business of college sports, a panel discussion involving Michigan athletics executive Hunter Lochmann turned to the topic of paying players. Lochmann, according to media reports, expressed skepticism about whether players deserved any of the millions sponsors paid to have their logos seen during Michigan games.
“Those are fleeting, four-year relationships,” he said of the careers of Michigan athletes. “At Michigan, it’s the block ‘M’ that has the affinity and power globally, not [former Michigan quarterback] Denard Robinson.”
The response was interesting coming from Lochmann, a former longtime National Basketball Association marketing executive who himself had just a four-year relationship with college sports at that point. In 2014, Lochmann made $225,000 performing a job — chief marketing officer at Michigan athletics — that didn’t exist before 2010, when then-Michigan athletic director Brandon created the position, luring Lochmann from the New York Knicks.
Lochmann was not the only new face in Michigan athletics. Between 2004 and 2014, records show, the department added 77 new full-time positions, contributing to an administrative payroll surge from $14.7 million to $27.7 million.
That 89% increase considerably outpaces the national average of 69%—this is national trend that Brandon managed to beat out. The returns on those additional staff were nil, as by the end of Brandon's tenure the Big House was three-quarters full and the athletic department had suffered a never-ending series of PR gaffes culminating in the concussion fiasco. The article revisits Lochdogg a bit later:
Michigan’s front office has gotten a bit smaller since last year, however. A few weeks after Lochmann’s controversial comments about Michigan athletes — which sparked backlash from university alums, including some NFL players — the university announced that Lochmann had resigned to “pursue other opportunities.”
In the year since, Michigan athletics has not needed to fill the vacant chief marketing officer job.
Except insofar as Harbaugh fills that role.
Anyway. The article ably details the flood of money going somewhere. That is an increasing army of administrators and higher salaries for extant ones, because, and I quote this quote "We’re no different than any other corporation that wants its business to be successful.”
I can think of one way it is different.
Bobby Bowden and IU athletic director Fred Glass come off well, FWIW.
That's all good news for a Michigan team that ended the year with a bit of a thud.
Brian Cole mystery, resolved. If you follow the premium sites you've noticed a hard split on the first year of Brian Cole at Michigan. Cole disappeared from the field after a few games thanks to an injury and never returned. Rivals repeatedly asserted that he was deep in the doghouse and unlikely to ever emerge; Scout said he'd moved to safety and was doing well after an early Internal Matter. RJS helps clarify:
"B-Cole's at safety, he's been coming down and bringing a lot of havoc," senior linebacker Royce Jenkins-Stone said Monday. "He's been good." …
"Everybody's getting some time to play, we've been doing a lot of scrimmaging with younger guys," Jenkins-Stone said. "Coach Harbaugh's putting people where he feels like they'll be best for the team.
"Coach Harbaugh feels like (Cole) can make that happen, and I'm pretty sure he'll be able to fill a void next year at safety."
0% chance Cole plays in the bowl game since he's got a medical redshirt coming, but good to hear that Michigan's top athlete from the 2015 class is not in the same boat Derrick Green is.
The boat Derrick Green is in. A fast one, going anywhere but Ann Arbor. Ty Isaac will stick around; multiple reports had him taking most of the first team reps before the OSU game.
A less dangerous Indiana. #CHAOSTEAM may be a bit less chaos-y next year thanks to departures. RB Jordan Howard and DT Darius Latham have declared for the draft. IU loses most of their OL and Nate Sudfeld. I find it hard to believe that Zander Diamont is going to replace Sudfeld's production. Kevin Wilson is pretty great at offense but all they have to do is take a half-step back and the chaos turns into something like the LSU-Texas Tech bowl game where it's close for a while and then whoops it's 42-20.
S&P+ is as good as any other ranking system that drills into play-by-play data to get a clearer picture of a football game than scoring margin alone can give you. Bill Connelly, the guy behind it, also runs Football Study Hall. He does a lot of smart things. S&P+ is a valuable look at who is playing the best.
Unfortunately, it can only go on the data that exists and in early-season college football that's always going to be sparse. Meanwhile some folks will dispute lot of the assumptions S&P+ makes, primarily that turnovers are super random and not major factors in the rankings. It also values all games evenly in ways that humans aren't always big fans of. Utah is significantly below Michigan because:
the Michigan-Utah game was about even down to down and turned on turnovers
Utah did not significantly outgain Utah State or Fresno State
Michigan yardage-murdered everyone other than Utah
S&P+ is not trying to be a descriptive ranking (ie: these teams have had the best season so far) but rather a predictive one (ie: if these teams were to meet who would win). Michigan has performed like an elite team so far according to S&P+, and I can see why it thinks that.
FEI, the other major ranking that takes more than score into account*, is more skeptical than S&P, but I think that's because that still bakes some preseason assumptions into the ranking.
*[AFAIK Sagarin only uses the final score.]
Can we manball it when even Saban flees to spread-type behavior?
It seems that Nick Saban has recently admitted that his current style is a bit outdated, that he needs to adjust to the recent trends in college football. It is pretty obvious that teams like OSU, Oregon, TCU, Baylor, even BGSU are seeing a lot of success by utilizing both up-tempo and featuring quick guys in space.
Can you speak to offensive philosophies such as Alabama and Stanford and how this may or may not be a concern for us going forward? I understand that "smashmouth" football is not mutually exclusive with up-tempo and quick guys in space. But it just seems to me that Harbaugh's style doesn't seem to emphasize either of these current successful trends.
Given how the season has gone so far I actually think Michigan might occasionally run into the opposite problem. They've been absolutely lights out against six consecutive spread offenses. (Not very good spread offenses, sure, but Michigan isn't holding these guys to 20 points and high-fiving afterwards. They are crushing opponents.) Meanwhile the Harbauffense is winning plays against teams that aren't always comfortable putting heavy D packages on the field or filling all the gaps Harbaugh creates.
Saban's move to a more spread and tempo oriented offense is a reaction to the many times his defense has been blown out of the water by those kind of attacks over the past few years. When the Tide get to line up against one of the remaining "pro style" offenses, the results are generally ugly. Ask Georgia.
Michigan might not have that issue. Durkin seems very comfortable devising ways to neutralize spreads. I will have trepidation when and if Michigan does come up against… well, pretty much just Alabama.
On and off and on and off
Brian or Ace-
Do you know, or, if not, could you ask someone, why Dan Liesman (I think that is who it is, at least according to my Mini-Program; it is #54) comes out a few yards onto the field between plays almost every time when we are on defense. It is as if he is not sure whether he is going in or not, but since he NEVER goes in, it is obviously for some other reason. Is there some rule about substitutions that this relates to, are we trying to confuse the opposition, or does he just like to pretend he might be going in? There has to be a reason, and I would think most MGoBloggers would love to hear it. Thanks
We've seen Ross and Gant also do this. It's just a substitution strategy. After the play Michigan sends guys who may or may not be in the defensive package, depending on what the offense does, to about the numbers. (Any farther could get you an illegal substitution penalty.)
If opponents send in two or more blocky-catchy types, the linebacker will stay in and a DB will be removed. Since every team Michigan has played almost never uses two or more blocky-catchy types the LB heads back to the sideline almost all the time.
Liesman specifically is interesting because Michigan usually has Ross available; I haven't noticed if sometimes he is poking his head on the field when Michigan's already in a 4-3. That would imply Michigan has a heavy package in case someone tries to manball them.
Someone was confused.
I wanted you to know how much I appreciate and enjoy your broadcasts of Notre Dame football. Your kind deference to Our Lady's University is a beautiful expression of the christian love that infuses your broadcast persona. Thank you so much! You are a good man.
May God bless you and yours.
I did flip over to the Notre Dame-UMass game when it was interesting for a minute and heard Hammond's dulcet tones. He's missed.
AND YOU WILL KNOW HIM BY THE TRAIL OF DEAD [Eric Upchurch]
When Michigan got the ball back up 28-7 in the fourth quarter, the game was already over. Oregon State hadn't budged on offense since their first drive. If they were going to push towards making it a game it would have come after they intercepted Jake Rudock; instead they went nowhere and punted. That punt was waving the white flag, something Michigan fans have gotten used to over the last couple years.
Michigan took that flag and rammed it down Oregon State's throat. At one juncture they hit a bit of a snag and had to employ Ol' Skillet Hands Ian Bunting to get past the obstruction; afterwards it was smooth sailing. The end result was a 14-play touchdown drive featuring 13 runs and no trace of the Beavers' flag of surrender unless you want to count a palpably uncomfortable crimp in the Beavers' gait.
I used to think that was boring.
Back in the long long ago when "This Is Michigan" meant "this is an unstoppable factory of offensive linemen and tailbacks who will go too high in the NFL draft," they'd get the ball back from a reasonable team and proceed to do to the fourth quarter what time-lapse photography does to glaciers. It was a pleasant sort of boring, to be sure, but it was also a signal that the football had concluded. All that was left was to hear the muffled squeaks.
Part of the reason it was boring was that it was unsatisfying. I came of age during the Moeller era, when Michigan dropped four games a year, and except for the occasional deviation when Michigan had a killer defense(1997, 2006) games that featured boa constrictor drives like Saturday's were false positives. The most bonkers stat about the Lloyd Carr era is the one where the team was more likely to win if it entered the fourth quarter with a small deficit than a small lead, but #2 is that during Lloyd Carr's tenure Michigan finished in the top 30 in yards per carry once. You'd think a run game featuring Mo Williams, Steve Hutchinson, Jeff Backus, and Anthony Thomas would be able to crack the top 30 by accident. Not so much.
Carr's teams were consistently good and had an amazing knack for getting off the mat, but there was a persistent frustration in the fanbase. It felt like Michigan was not getting the most out of its talent. When Rich Rodriguez came in, he had three functioning offensive linemen, a freshman and a walk-on at quarterback, and freshmen everywhere else. That his 2008 team's ground game would have been one of Carr's better ones was evidence enough that the frustration was warranted.
So I was encouraged by the general splattening of a bad team; I was more encouraged by the fullback traps that saw Sione Houma thunder through the line trailing a wildfire of hair. Harbaugh's run game is diverse and weird. By the end of that game Oregon State didn't just feel physically beaten but also confused as hell.
You can't just line up and do the one thing you're good at a lot and expect to succeed anymore. Harbaugh doesn't do that. It can look like he's doing that, but his run game is closer to Paul Johnson's than Lloyd Carr's. Johnson is constantly tweaking his blocking schemes. If you stick to one pattern to defuse his flexbone option he will eventually send one of his guys in a different direction and all of a sudden there's a dude ripping down the sideline. Harbaugh uses all those tight ends because they give him the ability to add gaps where defenses don't expect them—and this goes double in an era when teams are increasingly reducing their options on the interior.
Michigan is on a long path to being both good and confusing. If the coach has a nuclear meltdown on the sidelines—because he's right about something—as an amuse bouche, all the better. Of course, it does not do to get ahead of ourselves. They're not going to be able to do this against top-end defenses right away. We saw that against Utah.
Saturday wasn't the opening credits to this year's movie. But as a preview of coming attractions it felt pretty pretty good.
Yet To Be Named Harbaugh-Themed Guys Who Did Good Award.
you're the man now, dog
#1 Chris Wormley deployed beast mode on a sack that was a yard or two away from a safety, had two or three other TFLs depending on what mood you catch the official scorer in, and generally nosed in front of an otherwise killer defensive line.
#2 De'Veon Smith spent most of the game picking members of the Oregon State back seven out of his teeth.
#3 AJ Williams had a 20-yard catch and, more important, was one of the key guys blowing the perimeter of the Oregon State defense off the ball. Really. I am all about how AJ Williams played in this game, pending UFR review.
Honorable mention: Pick just about any defender. The offensive line in general.
5: Chris Wormley(#2 Utah, #1 Oregon State) 3: Jake Butt (#1, Utah) 2: De'Veon Smith(#2 Oregon State) 1: Willie Henry (#3, Utah), AJ Williams (#3 Oregon State)
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
For the single individual best moment.
Oregon State offers Michigan a free touchdown by sailing a punt snap yards over the punter's head just before halftime. That this was the culmination of a series of mishaps directed by the angry gods of probability only adds to the mirth.
Honorable mention: Michigan's 13-run, 1-pass game-sealing drive. Ol' Skillet Hands trucks a defensive back for an important first down. Rudock finds Smith for a fourth and five conversion. Any of a half-dozen runs on which you will know De'Veon Smith by the trail of dead.
Wait: let's talk about this. Epic Double Bird is pretty epic. But is Harbaugh Meltdown epic? Should we change this? Let me know. Anyway:
This week's worst thing ever.
Michigan, already down 7-0 early, busts a blitz pickup. Jake Rudock has nowhere to go with the ball and gets blown up on the sack. He fumbles, Oregon State recovers, and a certain Brady Hoke feeling descends on events.
Honorable mention: Ridiculous missed Darboh endzone PI, the roughing the punter penalty that caused Harbaugh to go nuclear, most of Oregon State's opening drive.
Utah: circle route pick six. Oregon State: Rudock fumbles after blitz bust.
[NOTE!This section uses the UFR catch chart. Passes are rated on a three point scale for catchability. 3: routine. 2: moderate. 1: difficult. There's also a zero for times when the player was thrown to without any chance of a reception.]
[NOTE: though flex tight ends are listed above since they will fill some of the WR snaps they are addressed in the TE & Friends post, not here.]
Last year's WR corps was a bit like the famous Braylon/Avant/Breaston trio if those guys had been coached by a potato and inserted into a disaster of an offense and gradually lost their will to live and halfway through the season they accidentally left Breaston in Piscataway and Breaston had to fend off a pair of cartoonishly dumb burglars with a series of elaborate traps.
artist's impression via Seth
This year's WR corps is down the Braylon and Breaston equivalent-type-substances, leaving only a substantially more unproven version of Avant, Jehu Chesson, and a bunch of guys who have seen maybe six snaps between them.
But Drake Harris maybe? Shh. You'll spook the hamstring. Let's be nice to the hamstring. Good hamstring. Does hamstring want a treat? Yes it does. Nice hamstring.
As soon as Devin Funchess declared for the NFL draft, AMARA DARBOH became this year's presumptive #1 wide receiver. Normally that would be met with mild optimism since Darboh is a touted recruit entering his redshirt junior year with decent production. Also he did this:
But in the crater left after last year's offense got done with our brains it's hard to be positive about anything in the micro. (The macro, of course: HARBAUGH.)
In the tortured analogy above, Darboh is our substantially more unproven Avant. Avant was of course a quality possession receiver and slant merchant who is not much of a threat to take the top off a defense. When Darboh had a catchable ball come his way, he looked fairly similar:
He is not likely to be as good as Avant because Avant is 100 out of 100 in certain skills. Darboh might be very good and still a standard deviation below that level of performance.
ACE: Round 22, Pick 2: RJ Williamson, safety, Michigan State
OFFENSE: QB Jake Rudock (U-M), RB Josh Ferguson (IL), OW Braxton Miller (OSU), WR Michael Thomas (OSU), WR DaeSean Hamilton (PSU), H-back Kyle Carter (PSU), TE Adam Breneman (PSU), OT Jack Conklin (MSU), OG Billy Price (OSU), OG Kyle Kalis (U-M), OC Dan Voltz (UW)
DEFENSE: WDE Joey Bosa (OSU), SDE Darius Hamilton (RU), NT Austin Johnson (PSU), DT Willie Henry (U-M), OLB Darron Lee (OSU), MLB Riley Bullough (MSU), OLB Joshua Perry (OSU), CB Eli Apple (OSU), CB Darius Hillary (UW), S Tyvis Powell (OSU), S RJ Williamson (MSU)
Michigan State's defense took a slight step back last year as a few teams cracked the code on beating Pat Narduzzi's aggressive Cover 4 scheme. While they remained generally stout against the pass (16th in S&P+, 9th in Success Rate), big plays were an issue, especially against Oregon, Ohio State, and Baylor. That's almost certainly what's scared us off from selecting Williamson so far.
I think we've overcorrected. The aggressive scheme put the safeties in unenviable positions once opponents figured out the best plan of attack was to send a guy like Devin Smith flying up the seam. The cornerback play across from Trae Waynes underwhelmed. Kurtis Drummond tried to do too much and ended up victimized on several long passes as a result. After some early season issues, I thought Williamson rebounded pretty well, and now he's the senior leader of MSU's secondary, taking over the free safety spot from Drummond.
Williamson is a proven playmaker. He has six career interceptions—including some spectacular grabs—despite playing spot duty until last season, when he had three picks and added five pass breakups. He should be solid as a senior, especially if MSU makes some minor tweaks to their defense so opponents don't take so many shots over the top.
SETH: Round 22, Pick 3: Rafael Gaglianone, kicker, Wisconsin
OFFENSE: QB Connor Cook (MSU), RB Corey Clement (WIS), WR Leonte Carroo (Rut), WR Geronimo Allison (ILL), Slot Jalin Marshall (OSU), OC Jack Allen (MSU), OG Pat Elflein (OSU), OT Alex Lewis (Neb), OT Mason Cole (Mich), OG Graham Glasgow
DEFENSE: NT Ryan Glasgow, 3T Malik McDowell (MSU), DE/DT Lawrence Thomas (MSU), DE/OLB Kemoko Turay (RU), SAM Joe Schobert (Wis), MLB Desmond Morgan (Mich), WLB Steve Longa (RU), HSP Jabrill Peppers (Mich), DB Jordan Lucas (PSU), S Michael Caputo (WI), CB Will Likely (MD)
Cole is an incredibly versatile athlete who did just about everything but drive the team bus and cook the pregame meal at Saginaw Heritage. He played quarterback, running back, wide receiver, defensive back and returned kicks. He was even a punter.
And he drove the bus and cooked the pregame meal.
In Brian Cole, Michigan has an… uh… well, an athlete. But more like an ATHLETE! Here are some people going "like wow dang":
Bud Elliott, SBNation: "…absolutely fantastic athlete, easily one of the best in the country … deadly on the football field … quick-twitch to the max. His ability to stop, and then get right back up to top speed is excellent. He can sky to get the football as a receiver if any defender has managed to keep up with his top-end speed, and he snatches the football well with his hands, naturally."
ESPN: "…really impressive on the hoof. Big, strong and fast. Good height, long arms and has huge upside for frame development over time. He is an explosive 0 to 60 player with great feet and a second gear. Possesses an ideal combination of physical prowess and speed with excellent agility on both sides of the football. … When he gets to the second level he can be a hold your breath type of guy."
Josh Helmholdt, Rivals: "[has] a combination of great size - he's built like a guy who could grow into a linebacker - but he has the speed and athleticism of a top-end wide receiver … it's the run-after-catch ability. He'll be a threat with the football once he has it in his hands."
Allen Trieu, Scout (evaluating a single game in which Cole was a tailback): "…[showed] good feet and elusiveness for a kid of his size. He can make people miss and cut back and change directions like a smaller player. Defensively, where he had 10 tackles, he showed excellent closing speed and a lot of effort in pursuit. That extra gear and acceleration was surprising and impressive."
"Cole is a bigger/stronger wide receiver that is more in the possession type of receiver mold. He runs outstanding routes and has un-matched physicality and competitiveness catching the ball in traffic or in one-on-one coverage. … game at wide receiver really reminds me of the NFL’s Anquan Boldin"
I dunno man. There's always one evaluation that seems like it's of another player, even if it's generally positive.
One thing about that scouting report that is echoed by others is heavy praise for Cole's ball skills. Anquan Boldin is a human vacuum and may be taking things too far, but both ESPN…
…will high point the ball from his safety position, naturally plucks the ball in contested match-ups and is not a player that fights the football or allows it to get into his frame. Shows good hand-eye coordination to time jumps, elevate in a crowd and pull ball away from receivers. Shows very good body control in conjunction with his ball skills."
The guy should be a senior in high school and he goes out there and I told him, I said, ‘Your ball skills are unbelievable. When you actually know what you’re doing it’s going to be unreal,’ because he makes some plays that are just tremendous.
…are on board.
Of course, there is that catch in there: "when you actually know what you're doing." Cole's high school team had little passing game and he missed a couple games because he got ejected. When he was on the field, his team wasn't helping him much. That tape Dave got at the top of the post is the exact opposite of Ty Isaac's high school film: you can't tell anything because there are 11 guys around him instead of 0.
So he's raw at whichever position you'd like to project him to, including wide receiver. Take it from a man named Brian Cole:
“To be honest, I’m not even the best route runner … I’ve progressed and gotten better at it. But I’m still not where I want to be.”
Helmholdt echoed that in his evaluation, saying "he gets by mostly on pure athleticism" and that "route-running is something [he wants] to see more of from him." When Ace and Dave scouted Cole in person, this was the extent of what they saw from him at his college position:
Cole was far and away the best athlete on the field, made a few spectacular plays, a couple poor ones, and couldn't find any space to maneuver against a defense hell-bent on containing him. Unfortunately, the only half-decent look we got of him as a receiver—he's expected to play the slot at Michigan—came when he torched a corner off the line, got over the top of the safety, and... that's it, because his quarterback couldn't get the ball to him.
His coach at the Under Armor game even suggested he would end up redshirting. That is both an uncommon opinion and one that's based on the coach's projection that he'd play safety. Which he probably will at some point, because HARBAUGH, but given Michigan's crying need at WR—crying need for anyone who can outrun a traffic cone on offense—this evaluation isn't going to consider that.
"He defeated double coverage, caught the ball with both hands with no fear, came down with it, hit a burst, split the safeties, scored a touchdown and got up and celebrated with his teammates. That was one of those plays where if you’re a parent or a recruit standing there and you’re over there talking about whatever and (someone says), ‘did you guys just see that play?’ It got your attention. He’s going to be a difference maker."
247's Steve Lorenz also heard the chatter, saying Cole was "looking more and more like" the true freshman who makes the biggest impact this fall. His teammates (and future teammates) also felt it:
"Cole looks like a natural out there," Swenson said. "He must have made about six or seven plays when I was watching practice. He's just really smooth in running his routes and the way he was playing the game. He's definitely the guy that stood out to me overall on offense. It was really impressive."
Hoke's staff planned on starting Cole off in the slot, and Harbaugh seemed to go along with that—probably because in the absence of Dennis Norfleet, the list of scholarship slot receivers this spring consisted of "maybe Freddy Canteen unless we need him on the outside" and walkons.
Cole certainly has the skillset to play on the outside eventually. 6'2" leaping athletes generally get stuck out there, and if Cole comes close to matching his hype he will be on the field with a lot of tight ends, thus making him an outside receiver by default.
As far as this year goes… well, there's freshman receiver hype and freshman receiver reality. Cole did little in the spring game. The most recent true freshman wideout to make any sort of impact was Mario Manningham. Manningham spent his high school career demolishing secondaries across Ohio and would develop into one of the smoothest, most natural wide receivers Michigan has ever had; he still did not crack 30 catches his first year. An athlete(!) like Cole, even one who comes with an exclamation point attached, will do well to see the field on actual passing plays.
I mean, remember last year and Freddy Canteen? Yeah. I'd be way less surprised if Canteen started delivering this year and people were momentarily disappointed in Cole. Momentarily.
Early in the first quarter – Cole who is also Heritage’s punter – botched a low snap, and then, well, he improvised. First he ran left, no room, so then he ran right and took his speed to a new level as he outran the entire Arthur Hill defense for an electrifying 59 yard touchdown run.
If we run out of Australians, worth a try.
Why Braxton Miller, WR Edition? Miller is a 6'2", 220-pound-ish freak of an athlete with full-throttle speed and agility he should not have. Also he has spent the bulk of his career in the backfield so no one knows if he can play wide receiver. I mean, you'd think… but Darryl Stonum never got the hang of it so clearly there are hurdles to overcome.
Miller was a bigger recruit than Cole, around 30th nationally, but not by that much and since he clearly projected to a college position and played tougher competition sites were more comfortable sliding him up the list. Athleticism may be (should be?)comparable.
Braylon? Not as tall, might be as fast, needs some work his freshman year, can go get the dang ball.
Guru Reliability: Moderate. Mostly same thing, but ATH gonna ATH.
Variance: Very high. ATH gonna ATH and in this case you could see Cole never figuring out any position in particular and fading away or being ridiculous.
Ceiling: Huge. Clearly the guy with the most upside in this class unless Zach Gentry is 6'8" Denard.
General Excitement Level: High. Daddy needs a new pair of Braylons.
Projection: He's probably going to play, because Michigan needs something slot receiver-shaped. While Grant Perry may fit the bill in the Drew Dileo way, they need something more Breaston-esque with an offense that doesn't look like it has a lot of big play potential. I'm still skeptical he gets heavily involved just because of the precedents. Also I think Canteen will be pretty good.
With zero seniors in this year's receiving corps, Cole will face a slightly uphill battle for playing time in year two. It's not one he couldn't easily overcome if he hits the exponential section of his growth curve on the early side. 30/70 he passes someone to start; as a junior the depth chart will be open and the world will hopefully be his oyster.
Brian Cole wants to see the field this year. [Fuller]
Next up for the Media Day interviews is slot receiver Brian Cole, one of a few freshmen who was available to speak to the media, presumably because he enrolled early and went through spring practice with the team. Cole has already undergone his first uniform change. While he wore #81 in the spring, he's now rocking #41, perhaps a sign that senior walk-on tight end Michael Jocz (now the only #81) is in line for some playing time.
A couple guys have said they didn't even know it was Media Day until they walked in. How has it been with Harbaugh keeping you guys on your toes?
Oh, yeah, it's blessing us though, I'll tell you that, because he's getting all of us ready for the league, NFL-ready. He's treating it like it's the NFL, so people are just getting a better understanding of what it's going to be like if you play in the NFL.
How big of a transition is it coming from high school to this type of environment? What's been the toughest part of that?
It's very overwhelming, to be honest. It's a lot of pressure. You have your highs and your lows. To be honest, it's been hard, but it's been a good experience.
What's he got you playing right now?
I'm playing slot receiver.
I know you played a lot of different spots in high school. How comfortable are you settling into that position?
I'm still getting used to it since I never really played receiver. So my footwork, stuff like that, I'm still working on it. I like it a lot, though. I want to score touchdowns, too, so that's always fun. Catching them isn't so bad, either. I'm just getting used to it.
You guys have Jedd Fisch as a receivers coach, another guy with NFL experience. How big of a help is it to have somebody who's been there?
It's great. The whole coaching staff, they know what it takes, and having Coach Fisch, that's my dawg, I love Coach Fisch. He's always helping me. He's always on top of me about everything, too.
With you in the slot, do you expect to be utilized as a runner as well as a receiver? How do you expect to be used out there?
To be honest, I don't know. I have no idea.
So they're keeping you in the dark about everything.
How easy has it been to pick up the playbook?
Not easy at all. (Laughs.) It's still coming along. It's just the fact that, coming from high school, our playbook looked nothing like that—like, it was numbers, and that was our play. Having all this extra stuff, audibles, all these extra signs we can do, it makes it a lot harder but you gotta learn it. If I want to play I gotta learn it, so that's what I'm trying to do.
Four hour practices, it sounds like the intensity is way up; how well do you think the team has adjusted to that?
Well. We grinding. We got better every day, so things are going good with those four-hour practices. It's not hurting us too bad.
What are your expectations for this year? Do you have anything laid out?
As far as team goals, I don't know. I know, even not talking to them, I know we want to win, like, every game, and that's what we plan to do. We're going to work, have fun, and just win.
And for you personally, what are your expectations for your play this year?
I just want to play. I just want to touch the field.
The program had its draft for the spring game over the weekend, right?
What kind of experience was it like for the coaches and the players seeing them all-
“Oh, it’s a great experience, yeah! It’s something that we’ve done in the past with coach Harbaugh so it’s an exciting time. You go through the roster and you pick out your strengths and weakness and you pick out your positions and you’re going through and strategizing as the draft goes on because you have to fill those positions and make sure you don’t lose out on somebody. Really as a coaching staff it makes you a better coach because you’re trying to build a team and build them to strength, so it was a fun time. Really fun.”
What was your draft strategy?
“Well, you’ll see that on Saturday.”
Is there going to be trash talk between you and DJ?
“No, we wouldn’t do that. Nah, we wouldn’t do that. DJ’s a good guy, but we’re competitive, which is fun.”
Where are you now with the offensive line, and Graham [Glasgow] is back practicing with the team?
“Yeah! Graham’s back, he’s back and glad he’s back, and the offensive line is- they’re doing good. They’ve taken another step forward, which we’ve foreseen them to do and they’re on track and I think finishing up the Thursday practice, Saturday practice, pushing into the strength and conditioning phase and then going into training camp, they’re right on track and they’re taking steps forward, which is really, really exciting.”
Did Graham missing time stunt the development there for those guys?
“No, it didn’t stunt [their growth]. If somebody’s not around somebody’s got to step in and that’s what we preach and it worked out just fine.”
Mason Cole was getting work at center-
“Yeah! We put Mason in there, which was good for Mason. He’s an athletic guy and did some really, really good things there so that’s good for Mason and it’s good for Michigan.”
[After THE JUMP: Jim Harbaugh, talent evaluator extraordinaire, and we circle back to the center]
“Everybody good? Yeah? Great. Who’s kicking us off?”
I’ll kick you off. It’s only been a couple of days but what have you seen out of your quarterbacks so far?
“Uh, well, right now we’re seeing progress. That’s, I think, the first thing we’re looking for is how they’ve picked up what we’ve asked them to do. We’ve seen them now- this is what, practice four? But it’s been 16 hours on the field so we’ve had a lot of repetitions and we’ve been able to do a ton of drill work with them and been able to watch them kind of pick up the system the best they can at this point. I think there’s some really good progress in terms of command at the line of scrimmage. I think there’s good progress in terms of understanding the offense. Now it’s a matter of slowing the game down for them, and that’s what our next step is.”
How do you slow it down?
“I would say that slowing it down comes from knowledge, number one. Number two, it comes from experience, and then three, it comes from some form of comfort level. Right now their knowledge in terms of what we’re asking them to do is still growing and it’s kind of not where we want it to be yet in terms of you’d love to always fast forward the process but right now the process is what it is. In terms of experience they have none in the system and the really don’t have much college football playing experience, but with us they’ve had four days of experience. And finally, as we continue to go through this process and give them opportunities I think we’ll see them continue to develop every day and that will slow the game down for them.”
You mentioned progress. How long of a road do they have to get where you want them to go?
“I think that we’re certainly in a situation where we don’t play for a while, so that’s good. We’ve got 11 more practices, so that’s really good, and then we’ve got a big summer where they can really grind themselves. I’m a huge believer in that philosophy of players coaching players. I think that it’s huge during this time of the summer when we’re not with them that they can really take what we’ve kind of coached them on and then help each other and really continue to develop one another. And then finally we have training camp and we have all of camp to get ready for opening day. So they’ve got some time and we’re going to use all of it, every second we can, to try and help them improve and be comfortable and then be able to go out there and put us in the best possible position to succeed.”
What are the differences you see in the three scholarship guys?
“Well, they certainly do have different skill sets. Wilton is a very large man He’s a big guy and he can see everything. He’s a pretty good athlete. Throws the ball well. He doesn’t seem to have had a ton of experience. I know Shane probably took more reps last year, I would guess, because he was probably the 2. I know he went in one game, two games, whatever and then played the year before also so he’s probably had some more practice reps than Wilt has but Wilt makes a lot of nice throws and is a good sized kid.
“Shane has a very strong arm, which everybody knows. He spins it well. He just has to understand that’s really not the most important thing. If you have a really strong arm you have a really strong arm. That’s what you have. So now it’s a matter of what can you do with it? How do you utilize it? So his skill set, you know, his arm strength is tremendous and he has really good- he’s very comfortable as a quarterback, so that’s fun to watch him in the huddle. He has really good command of what we’re asking him to do and Alex- Alex should be a senior in high school right now.
“I know my senior spring I wasn’t in college, so I know that he’s got a lot going on and he has handled it unbelievably well. He is like- he’s unbelievable in terms of his ability to not let things bother him, to be consistent, and to jump right back in and play the game. If a play doesn’t go right he’s right back in [and] ready for the next one. Short-term memory is phenomenal for a quarterback.”