Gravestone

Gravestone

Submitted by Brian on November 27th, 2017 at 1:31 PM

11/25/2017 – Michigan 20, Ohio State 31 – 8-4, 5-4 Big Ten

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[Bryan Fuller]

John O'Korn sat in a press conference on Saturday and broke down. He blamed himself, and himself alone, for Michigan's latest loss to Ohio State. And he was correct. I don't think I've ever seen a Michigan-Ohio State game so clearly decided by one guy's inability to hack it.

Previous terrible individual performances have been given in concert. The 2007 game featured Chad Henne without a throwing arm, but it also featured an offensive line that had to drag Alex Mitchell out of retirement midseason and the infamous picture that resulted. Nick Sheridan averaged 3.6 yards an attempt the year after, but nobody missed the forest for that particular tree as Michigan finished a 3-9 season with a 42-7 loss. And so forth and so on. The sad fact of the last decade of Michigan football is that when Michigan gets in a competitive game against Ohio State it's usually because someone is playing over their head.

This was different. This was Michigan feeling like the better football team except for one glaring black hole at the most important position on the field. The crowd felt the agony of this keenly with every errant pass or unnecessary sack. O'Korn was not booed, per se, but the desperate groans that issued involuntarily from the assembled masses were almost worse. There's a certain tenor of "ohhhawwww" a crowd can issue that is the pure, distilled sound of frustration. I have memorized this after Saturday, and find it replaying in my head whenever there's a spare neuron not playing Baby Signing Time songs. (This is rarely.)

Even after all those moans Michigan had not one but two shots to go ahead very late. Those ended with back-to-back throws that are burned into the retinas of every Michigan fan and will be replayed when "John O'Korn" is mentioned. Possibly even corn. Or Korn. I can't mention my Pandora station ever again on this website. Those throws were a fourth and four pass that went yards over the head of a screamingly wide open Chris Evans and an interception on which two Michigan receivers were open, and not within 20 yards of the ball.

That is O'Korn's football gravestone, chiseled, checked, and done.

O'Korn knows it, and wasn't going to offer up any bullshit platitudes afterwards. Say what you want about his play—although I can't imagine there's any excoriation in any language that hasn't already been delivered—but the guy did not shy away from the enormity of the thing that had just happened to him, a living, breathing human who has to go through the next sixty years introducing himself to people and hoping they've never heard of the most popular sport in America.

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At about the same time O'Korn was breaking down in public, someone logged on to this website and typed "fuck John O'Korn," into it, posted it, and then got a bunch of upvotes. A guy who started arguing with the various toxic manbabies in this thread that O'Korn was a virtually unpaid person thrust into a position he should never have been in was consistently downvoted.

After taking down several threads and banning a dozen people I yanked commenting for about a day. Naturally, this resulted in these same people fleeing to twitter to tell me it was PATHETIC that I COULDN'T HANDLE NEGATIVITY, because I didn't want them throwing their poop in a place I feel responsible for. And I didn't want to wonder what they were saying while I was doing anything other than commenting on Michigan football. Also, I hate them.

If you're one of these people reading this column I'd like to make it clear that there is something wrong with you. The vast majority of people who come to this site don't post on it, because it is like every other website in the world. Those that do are split between normal people with something to say, and you, the person too dumb to know you shouldn't say anything. You are a tiny minority of this fanbase that gets outsized attention because you're dumb and loud, and most people are willing to throw away the good parts of the comments because of you:

Next football season will not be like this, because you will be gone from this website. If you have any doubt in your mind whether I'm talking about you, yes, I am talking about you. If you're mad at Ace for saying the fanbase is the worst part of his job, I'm talking about you. Because he's not talking about 90% of the fanbase, he's talking about you.

No one needs to yell at John O'Korn, who clearly understands the implications of what just occurred in ways you do not. Nobody needs to say anything to John O'Korn ever again. Dude needs a hug and a Malaysian passport. And even though O'Korn just set a winnable Ohio State game on fire in a way that has probably never happened before or will happen again, I care a lot more about his feelings than some jabroni on the internet who doesn't have to introduce himself under his screen name.

That's it. There's no big sweeping theme here, nothing about the direction of this program or where this fits in the historical firmament. Just an incredibly obvious black hole...

...and a bunch of people who are incapable of seeing it.

AWARDS

Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week

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

#1 Rashan Gary. Finally got a little sack luck, as Devin Bush flushed Barrett to him on one of his two sacks. He added a third TFL amongst ten tackles, which is a very large number for a DE, especially because he missed a big chunk of OSU's first TD drive with a recurrence of the shoulder stinger (or similar injury) that he's been battling all season.

#2 Mike McCray. Eight solo tackles and two TFLs as McCray was a major factor in Michigan's ability to keep OSU to under 200 yards of offense until a late fade, none of which was on him. He didn't get edged, and managed to survive the return of Oh No Mike McCray On A Flanked Out Running Back without getting targeted.

#3(T) Chris Evans and Karan Higdon. Michigan's tailback duo had 165 yards on 28 touches, 5.9 yards a pop. Evans caught five passes as Michigan finally paid off on that preseason hype; Higdon was able to get the corner a couple times as well. If the offensive line can come together next year one or both are candidates to have All Big Ten season... or at least they would be if they weren't going to cannibalize each others' carries.

Honorable mention: Mo Hurst and Devin Bush turned in excellent performances; Michigan's cornerbacks again almost pitched a shutout, albeit with the aid of a couple drops. DPJ set up Michigan's second touchdown. Mason Cole had an edge two for one that sprung Crawford early in the third to get Michigan's third TD.

KFaTAotW Standings.

9: Rashan Gary(T2 Indiana, #1 Rutgers, T2 Wisconsin, #1 OSU).   
8:
Devin Bush (#1 Florida, T2 Cincinnati, T2 Air Force, #1 Purdue), Mo Hurst (#1 MSU, #2(T), Indiana, #1 Wisconsin),  Karan Higdon (#1 Indiana, #2 PSU, T2 Minnesota, T3 OSU).
6: Mason Cole (#1 Cincinnati, T2 Rutgers, T3 Minnesota), Chase Winovich(#1 Air Force, #2a Purdue, T2 Wisconsin),
5: Khaleke Hudson (T2 Cincinnati, #3 PSU, #1 Minnesota), David Long (T3 Indiana, #1 PSU, #3 Maryland)    
4: Chris Evans(T2 Minnesota, #2 Maryland).   
3: Ty Isaac (#2, Florida, #3 Cincinnati), Lavert Hill(#2 MSU, T3 Indiana)), Josh Metellus (#1 Maryland), Mike McCray(T2 Air Force, #2 OSU).
2: Quinn Nordin (#3 Florida, #3 Air Force), John O'Korn (#2 Purdue), Sean McKeon(T3 Purdue, #3 Rutgers), Mike Onwenu(T2 Rutgers),
1: Tyree Kinnel (T2 Cincinnati),  Zach Gentry (T3 Purdue), Brad Robbins(#3 MSU), Brandon Watson (T3 Indiana), Ben Bredeson(T3 Minnesota), Donovan Peoples-Jones (#3 Wisconsin).

Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week

The entire first quarter? Yes, that.

Honorable mention: Oh man I should not have used up the whole first quarter before the honorable mention section. That was a real good first quarter. Oh: Kekoa Crawford

imageMARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.

Of the two chiseled, checked, and done plays the Evans miss stands out since it was a wide open guy less than ten yards downfield.

Honorable mention: Various other things that happened when Michigan dropped back to pass. I could tell you about them, but you know. Metellus gets lost on two late drag routes. Watson misses a third and thirteen PBU. Nordin misses an XP.

[After THE JUMP: less than usual, i tellya]

Upon Further Review 2017: Offense vs Maryland

Upon Further Review 2017: Offense vs Maryland

Submitted by Brian on November 15th, 2017 at 4:24 PM

2017 logoo_thumbSPONSOR NOTE. We're having a charity tailgate before the OSU game. Details:

MGoBlog and HomeSure Lending are having a tailgate before The Game at The North End Zone tailgate space, 1011 S. Main Street (map) from 9 a.m. to a little before noon, with food from Scratch Barbecue and beer donated from Wolverine State Brewing, and proceeds going to the T. Wall Foundation.

  • Tickets (food & beer included): $12 if you buy them ahead of time on EventBritegets you in, gets you a wrist band for the food.
  • Tickets (just beer at the door): $10 suggested donation just to come hang out on your way to the game.
  • Watch/Afterparty: Your ticket for the tailgate also gets you a round at Wolverine Brewing. If you don’t have a ticket for The Game but want to come, you won’t be alone; there’s a Lyft pickup spot across the street so when people go into the game a handful of us (I’m still in the market) are gonna go back to Wolverine State Brewing to watch it together, and more are planning to come back there (and park there) after.

Scratch provided the BBQ at the season-opening event, if you were there. It's good.

FORMATION NOTES. Slightly less heavy this week with 14 3-WR snaps, some of them on standard downs. Most, actually. There were 12 two-WR snaps, 17 one-WR snaps, and 7 beef machine snaps, one of which was the beefiest: a 7-OL, 3 TE formation on which Poggi scored. BEHOLD THE MAJESTY.

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I called this simply BEEF, since brevity is the heart of our goal here.

SUBSTITUTION NOTES. QB and OL were as expected. Per 24/7, Spanellis got ten snaps as a bonus OL and Runyan got two. Evans and Higdon got about 20 each, with Walker filling in for Higdon after his exit with 7 snaps. FB snaps were 2:1 Poggi.

DPJ and McDoom got the most run at WR, with Perry getting just 13 snaps coming off injury. Schoenle was at 12 and Ways 8. Gentry and McKeon continue to lead the way at TE; Bunting got 23 snaps, though, and Wheatley 12.

[After THE JUMP: run run run run, but more zone]

Upon Further Review 2017: Offense vs Minnesota

Upon Further Review 2017: Offense vs Minnesota

Submitted by Brian on November 8th, 2017 at 5:23 PM

2017 logoo_thumbSPONSOR NOTE. It feels good to hit the open field with nothing between you and the endzone except grass, because you have blockers. Man this is veering into cheesy ad copy really fast. Let Matt and HomeSure Lending be YOUR BLOCKERS ON ROUTE TO THE TOUCHDOWN THAT IS A FAST MORTGAGE AT A GOOD RATE. BANG. Suck on that one, Don Draper! Woo!

Look, they can't all be good sponsor notes. Unlike HomeSure Lending mortgages, which are all good. Because they let you have a house, fast.

FORMATION NOTES. Another jumbo day for the offense. I charted just seven snaps with 3 WRs, all of them passing downs. The closest thing to a 3-wide snap on a run down was second and twelve. Standard down offense was split about evenly between 2 WR snaps (20) and jumbo formations (18 1 WR snaps, 6 0 WR snaps, only two of which were short yardage).

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MEAT

If you're keeping score that means that Michigan has all but discarded the two major changes in the offense—inside zone focus and a bunch of NFL-style empty formations—to go full Harbaugh.

SUBSTITUTION NOTES. QB was Peters, obviously. OL was the usual except for Ruiz replacing Onwenu, and Runyan replacing Ruiz after Ruiz nearly got Peters killed on that one play. Ulizio got in for the last drive I charted, FWIW. Spanellis continued in his role as a sixth OL, getting maybe a dozen snaps.

RB was all Higdon and Evans with Isaac and Walker out; Samuels only got the Malzone drive at the end. Gentry and McKeon continued getting the large bulk of the TE snaps; Wheatley was out. Bunting did get 10-ish snaps. WR was mostly DPJ and Collins in single WR sets, with Schoenle and McDoom coming in for the rare 3-WR sets. Perry and Crawford were out.

[After THE JUMP: many yards; few plays.]

One Frame At A Time: Minnesota

One Frame At A Time: Minnesota

Submitted by Ace on November 7th, 2017 at 3:52 PM

Let's take a look at the most impressive run of the game.

Oh, sure, Karan Higdon made a couple nifty moves in there. I'm not talking about him, though. I need to know if the field judge still has eligibility. Look at these wheels!

Sadly, none of the camera angles on the broadcast captured his full sprint, but as the screencaps show, dude was hauling ass.

The official's dash is made all the more impressive when you notice he kept his whistle in his mouth the whole time without accidentally blowing the play dead. That's a pro.

[Hit THE JUMP for Khaleke Hudson TFL, Khaleke Hudson sack, Khaleke Hudson TFL, Khaleke Hudson TFL, Khaleke Hudson sack, Khaleke Hudson TFL, Khaleke Hudson TFL, Khaleke Hudson sack, and some non-Khaleke Hudson items.]

Slanted And Faceplanted

Slanted And Faceplanted

Submitted by Brian on November 6th, 2017 at 12:12 PM

11/4/2017 – Michigan 33, Minnesota 10 – 7-2, 4-2 Big Ten

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FACE TO FACE [Bryan Fuller]

Michigan has a new starting quarterback, a highly touted redshirt freshman who flashed potential a week ago. This week he got his first-ever start, completed some simple throws early, and then went home to have a cheese sandwich. Probably? Maybe? I don't recall if he continued playing after the first drive.

He probably did. Starting quarterbacks leaving the stadium during a game tend to make the news. I think I remember a hitch on third down in there somewhere, now that you mention it. But if Brandon Peters hadn't stayed around the result would have been little different, because Michigan's rushing game can optimistically be termed a Ground Assault now. Michigan assaulted a large number of Gophers on Saturday night. They did not battle or fight or contest Minnesota, because all those terms imply a certain evenness. They assaulted Minnesota, like a gang of Hell's Angels descending on a gaming convention. "Aaaaaargh, why are you still playing Settlers of Catan instead of something fun," screamed Michigan's running game, metaphorically. Also, I hope, literally because Catan is trash dot emoji.

I don't even have to subtract sacks to bring you a stat that's absurd: 10 yards per carry. Ten. One first down of yardage per carry. Also this:

In three weeks there will be a ripped from the headlines Law & Order episode in which Michigan is convicted of murder in the zeroth degree, because of this game. Ice T will accuse Michigan of being hopped up on Zebra Glitter and only be half-wrong. Michigan is hopped up on life, Ice T. Life and 60+ yard rushing touchdowns. And murder.

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ANKLE TO FACE [Fuller]

Touchdown murder.

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And now for the lame bit: hoping this sticks. Falling apart at the end has been the fate of all excellent Michigan football things over the past decade or so. The 2006 defense. Denard Robinson's elbow. Chad Henne's shoulder. Last year's top 5 team. Michigan's pursuit of David Cutcliffe. All of these things ended poorly.

Also some less than excellent ones like Brady Hoke. And last year's passing offense. You probably don't remember this but this was the state of Michigan's passing attack after nine games last year:

  • Speight's 8.9 YPA leads the Big Ten by almost a half yard and is 11th nationally.
  • His 15-3 TD/INT ratio is second in the Big Ten to JT Barrett (21-4).
  • His passer rating is now five points clear of Perry Hills for best in the league and is 14th nationally.
  • He's fifth nationally in ESPN's QBR metric, which accounts for rushing yards and SOS.
  • S&P+ now has Michigan's passing attack third(!) in the country.

I wrote that and can barely remember it in the soup that followed. Michigan got ambushed in Iowa City the next week—though not as ambushed as Ohio State did on Saturday, amirite—and Speight got hurt at the end of that game. Since it's been somewhere between coping and total disaster against teams not named Purdue.

So it must be mentioned that the parking lots that were once Rutgers and Minnesota are very likely to be terrible run defenses, and Minnesota's was badly hurt by their injury issues in the secondary. Back when Harbaugh was hired I talked about his Stanford offenses, which went against the prevailing trends in college football by putting very big guys on little guys; here Michigan put no guys on the littlest guys. They ignored the Minnesota cornerbacks and saw that decision pay off with a series of comically bad attempts to execute a run fit. This kind of hamblasting is always equal parts you, the opponent, and luck.

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DESPAIR TO FACE [Fuller]

If you're still waiting for the other shoe to drop, that is a well-learned tendency. I sort of am as well. The last two opponents did not have sufficient confidence in their secondaries to jam everyone forward, and they were probably correct to do so. Michigan's passing game is still almost totally nonexistent, and the two heavies at the back end of the schedule are going to make Michigan suffer for that deficiency.

Probably, anyway. Michigan has been steadily building to this for half a season and will continue refining now that they've put their foot down and become a thing. That thing is a semi truck careening wildly towards the end of the season. Maybe it will flip over in a ditch. Maybe it will careen right through a series of animals and trees until the thick paste on the grill is an unspeakable mélange of the defeated.

HIGHLIGHTS

AWARDS

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no no no no no no no no no[Eric Upchurch]


Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week

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

#1 Khaleke Hudson. Michigan appears to have noticed what we did while taping the podcast on Sunday: Chase Winovich got credit for the sack on the intentional grounding call. They've fixed that and are now claiming 3 sacks and 8 TFLs for Hudson. The former is a solo Don Brown Hat Trick; the latter is a school record. So, yeah, that's good enough.

Gotta block that punt, though.

#2(t) Karan Higdon and Chris Evans. The backs edge ahead of their top blockers this week because they made a lot for themselves. Higdon ran through Cesar Ruiz on his first big run and set a number of others up with hard cuts after initial feints that bought him a second level block. For his part, Evans ripped off two 60+ yard TDs, the second one featuring a broken tackle near the line of scrimmage on an unblocked linebacker.

#3(t) Mason Cole and Ben Bredeson. Two gentlemen that did work on the opposition defense, consistently and ruthlessly. JBB and Ruiz narrowly miss because their pass protection was alarming.

Honorable mention: Mo Hurst did his usual Mo Hurst things. The rest of the front seven was impregnable on anything but a jet sweep. JBB and Ruiz and Kugler do deserve some recognition for their ground efforts.

KFaTAotW Standings.

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

Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week

Uh... let's pick the first Evans touchdown, on which he broke a linebacker tackle and then glided into the endzone.

Fun fact: I always think "glode" is the right past tense of "glide" for one point six seconds.

Honorable mention: Higdon's enormous touchdown. The other enormous Evans touchdown. Enormous Higdon run that doesn't reach the endzone. Khaleke Hudson tomahawks the ball out from Demry Croft; Hudson tackles for loss like seven more times.

imageMARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.

Quinn Nordin misses another extra point. What's the deal man? #collegekickers? Let's not #collegekickers. Let's not do that at all.

Honorable mention: Nordin pushes a 49 yarder just wide; Peters is thundersacked on third down on consecutive third quarter drives; Minnesota has a legitimate touchdown drive; rush is stopped for three yards. Hudson doesn't block that punt.

[After THE JUMP: oh also a defense]

Preview 2017: Running Back

Preview 2017: Running Back

Submitted by Brian on August 28th, 2017 at 4:00 PM

Previously: Podcast 9.0A. Podcast 9.0B. Podcast 9.0C. The Story. Quarterback.

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[Eric Upchurch]

[Bolded player rules: not necessarily returning starter, but someone we've seen enough of that I'm no longer talking about their recruiting profile. Extant contributor.]


FEATURE BACK Yr. SHORT YARDAGE Yr. 3RD DOWN YR. SPREAD H YR.
Chris Evans So. Karan Higdon Jr. Ty Isaac Sr.* Chris Evans So.
Karan Higdon Jr. Kareem Walker Fr*. Karan Higdon Jr. Eddie McDoom So.
Ty Isaac Sr.* Ty Isaac Sr.* Chris Evans So. Ty Isaac Sr.*
Kareem Walker Fr.* O'Maury Samuels Fr. Kurt Taylor Fr. Karan Higdon Jr.

Michigan loses their starter but returns 60% of their running back carries, so experience won't be in short supply. Neither will quicks, what with Chris Evans and Karan Higdon emerging into a one-two punch. This is a major shift from De'Veon Smith, a battleship of a back who was great at carrying defensive backs like recalcitrant children but never a visionary.

The nature of these gentlemen is interesting. Most are short, and quick, and clever. Mike Spath gathered this quote at Big Ten media days from an anonymous opponent:

"They have a lot of speed backs now that Smith is gone. They're not going to be a power-running team so I'll be curious to see what type of formations they run. They've got the two guys that could be really good as a No. 1 - Evans and [Karan Higdon]."

This is a sea change from the Smiths and Derrick Greens of the world where how mean you look is priority one. Chris Evans looks like a dang sweetheart, but he's a killer all the same.

RUNNING BACK: KID DON'T PLAY

RATING: 4

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if we're being honest his hair is more Play than Kid [Bryan Fuller]

This is a good preview. It is not an infallible one, as last year's take on CHRIS EVANS demonstrates:

…our bet is the Evans hype is likely to peter out into not very much this year. There are only so many snaps to go around and you know Smith, Isaac, and Peppers are going to get their cuts.

Evans was first amongst equals in the three-man platoon behind De'Veon Smith and is now projected by many to start and have a huge breakout year. That includes this space, and not just because of this:

[Evans] coaches a local kids flag football team. This in and of itself is odd and very, very Harbaugh. An acquaintance of mine relates that his kid is in this flag football league, and that his game was at 7:15 in the morning, with a potential second game at 9:30 if his kids' team won. Chris Evans is at this game. Not because his team is playing—his team is the one waiting for the winner at 9:30. Chris Evans is... taking notes? Watching intently? Is Chris Evans, starting Michigan running back, scouting a flag football game at 7 in the morning? Yes. Yes he is.

Dan Murphy confirmed that was no fever-dream of an under-caffeinated parent, uncovering that and yet more Chris Evans coaching exploits. Evans immediately leaps to the front of the Jim Harbaugh 2040 list.

Also the depth chart. Early in camp there were some rumors that Karan Higdon had grabbed the starting job; those were forcefully debunked by both Scout and 247. Evans remains first among equals and should see a plurality—if not a majority—of the carries. His quick hook in the spring game is plenty of evidence in that department:

"I wanted to play more …but they said 'nah, nah, nah, you're not going to play, you're not going to play.'

Also his ability to deploy a sick crossover in a sport that doesn't have them:

Evans breaks ankles. He is superbly agile and able to juke guys in a quick one-two-three step ballet move. He needs little room to pull this off:

In the bowl game he did this literally while in the hole, running through the subsequent arm tackle it set up:

This offseason someone close to the team told me that Evans even had a tendency to juke guys there was literally no way he could see, because he knew what the likely structure of the defense was and what that meant for, say, a safety approaching from the side. He's not just scouting flag football.

This is no doubt part of the reason why Evans seemed immediately more instinctual than De'Veon Smith and Michigan backs since, jeez, Fitz Toussaint. I spent virtually the entire Hoke era complaining about straight-ahead running, bad cuts, and an inability to set up blocks. Evans was a breath of fresh air in that department. He had a feel for how to commit the second level and then burst into a different gap:

Evans was good at putting his foot in the ground after linebackers had decided, and slipping through tight creases in the line. He just knows that he needs to change direction once, and when to make that change:

As a true freshman he's already better at taking advantage of his blocking than anyone who's been in the backfield at Michigan for a minute. And once he gets in the open field it's jockstrap time:

Evans did all he could last year to establish himself as Michigan's top back, and that continued through the offseason:

"He's coached the flag football team. He's held youth camps," he said. "He did that all on his own. His nose was in the playbook all off-season. He put in the work to get bigger. His dedication to taking the next step has been a lot of fun to watch. He's relentless."

While it wasn't all sunshine and roses—Evans made an occasional wacky cut and drew some grumbles around here for going down at first contact too often—it was a freshman year to sit up and take notice of. Numbers adore Evans. Obligatory caveat: they should all come with a big flashing "SMALL SAMPLE SIZE" sign. They are all we have to go on, though, so:

  • Evans is first among returning Big Ten RBs in PFF's "Elusive Rating," which turns a combination of broken tackles and yards after contact to "measure a runner's success beyond the point of being helped by his blockers." Ty Johnson and Akrum Wadley are 2 and 3, so the metric passes a basic sanity test.
  • His 4.1 yards after contact were fourth best nationally for freshmen and second in the Power 5.
  • Evans was the second most likely returning Big Ten back to get five yards on any particular run ("opportunity rate") and towards the top of the league in yards acquired after he got to five ("highlight yards"). He's behind only the two Maryland backs in highlight yards per attempt, and was significantly better than the other three Michigan backs last year in all categories.
  • Evans just about swept the RB portion of Michigan's winter combine, winning everything except the powerball throw.

Evans's 40 at the combine was a somewhat alarming 4.64, but I wouldn't sweat that. That might be the first 40 time to ever receive negative FAKES around here. From what we've seen on the field Evans's long speed is at least solid; as a recruit his speed was unanimously declared his best asset, with a significant amount of data backing that up:

A 4.4-ish 40 at the Army Combine just after his junior year is legit. Last March Steve Wiltfong noted that Evans has run a "4.4 hand-held every time" he lays down a 40 yard dash. At Best of the Midwest he ran a 4.37 40, and while that's solidly in the realm of combine fiction Evans's track career was impressive. Tracking Football places him in the 87th percentile of RBs based on his lycra exploits, which include a state championship in the 100 meter relay and a narrow defeat in the regular 100 meter state finals.

Maybe that's a bad run, a dinged up guy, or a typo. I'd be surprised if Evans isn't a legitimate 4.5 guy and, depending on your definition of legitimate, 4.4. But hey, don't take it from me, take it from Drake Johnson, raconteur:

"He's mad athletic. You just see some people and think 'yeah, he's an athlete.' He's an athlete, he just does stuff. He's smooth, he's real smooth. He's like butter smooth, we're just like 'ooh, wow.' He's like *sound effects* someone flips to the side, like he had no chance. Like, I'm sorry you could've tried but it sucks to suck. He just makes it look easy."

(Someone give this man a job talking about things.) Evans's home run ability should be top notch. This doesn't feel like a slow RB:

If he has a problem in this department it would be the ability to turn 40 into 50, and all the evidence outside that 4.64 suggests he'll be fine

Evans's other potential drawback is much more real: pass blocking. He was barely asked to do it last year—14 snaps total per PFF, and when he did it was ugly. He's bigger and older now but still not that big and not that old. He's never going to be Mike Hart. Michigan has a solution and it's one with a lot of upside. Evans:

"I'm coming out of the backfield or in the slot because I'm bigger, but I'm not 230. I can't really step up in the hole and block people. Well, I can -- that's what I've been working on all offseason. [But] we can block with five and send five receivers downfield. Stretch the field out with guys -- the good receivers that stretch the field out. It'll give me more open lanes to run through."

With 91 catches his last two years in high school, Evans was as much a receiver as he was a running back. Michigan entirely neglected to explore that talent a year ago; plenty of spread looks in the spring game suggest they will not continue doing so this year. Webb reports that you should expect him to get more looks thanks to his "outstanding receiving skills" that could have seen him play slot.

Evans should bust out to become one of the Big Ten's best backs, and its most prolific receiver out of the backfield, give or take an Akrum Wadley. He's got the quicks, speed, dedication, and agility to make a great many folks look foolish. You can't project All Big Ten nods in a league where a pretty dang good running back is going to be the 8th-best guy in the conference; Evans should perform at that level.

[After THE JUMP: a cast of thousands! several, anyway. plenty. pedant.]

The Top 61-70 Returning Players in the Big Ten

The Top 61-70 Returning Players in the Big Ten

Submitted by Seth on August 10th, 2017 at 4:38 PM

is a nicer way of saying

Draftageddon 2017: Jukeboxes and Jitterbugs Edition

Four_Horsemen_by_MarkWilkinson1

This is Part VII. We are drafting Big Ten players to give you an overview of the guys and dudes around the conference. You come out of it with a four-deep preseason All-Big Ten. We come out of it with very strong opinions on Justin Jackson.

Previously: Picks 1-10 (Hurst, Gary Speight), Picks 11-20 (Peters), Picks 21-28 (Cole), and Picks 29-40 (McCray, Mone) Picks 41-50 (Winovich), Picks 51-60 (Bredeson, Kekoa, Khaleke)

THAT WHICH HAS ALREADY OCCURRED:

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  1. Ohio State (11 players): DE Nick Bosa (3rd, Seth), QB JT Barrett (6th, Seth), DE Tyquan Lewis (8th, BiSB), CB Denzel Ward (11th, Seth), DT Dre’Mont Jones (13th, Ace), OC Billy Price (17th, BiSB), DE Sam Hubbard (20th, Ace), LB Jerome Baker (21st, Ace), OT Jamarco Jones (28th, Ace), NT Bob Landers (51st, Seth), DE Jalyn Holmes (54th, Seth)
  2. Michigan (11 players): DT Maurice Hurst (2nd, Brian), DE Rashan Gary (5th, Ace), QB Wilton Speight (7th, Brian), QB Brandon Peters (an obligatory 16th, BiSB), OT Mason Cole (26th, Brian), LB Mike McCray (36th, Ace), NT Brian Mone (40th, BiSB), DE Chase Winovich (48th, BiSB), OG Ben Bredeson (57th, BiSB), WR Kekoa Crawford (58th, Brian), VIPER!!! Khaleke Hudson (59th, Seth) 
  3. Iowa (7 players): RB Akrum Wadley (18th, Brian), G/C Sean Welsh (22nd, Seth), LB Josey Jewell 23rd, Brian), OT Ike Boettger (35th, Seth), DE Anthony Nelson (42nd, Brian), CB Manny Rugamba (43rd, Seth), OC James Daniels (47th, Brian)
  4. Penn State (7 players): RB Saquon Barkley (1st, BiSB), QB Trace McSorley (4th, Ace), “TE” Mike Gesicki (25th, BiSB), S Marcus Allen (29th, Ace), OT Ryan Bates (41st, BiSB), LB Jason Cabinda (49th, BiSB), Brendan Mahon (53rd, Ace)
  5. Wisconsin (6 players): LB Jack Cichy (14th, Seth), TE Troy Fumagalli (15th, Brian), OG Beau Benzschawel (33rd, BiSB), OC Michael Dieter (34th, Brian), LB TJ Edwards (39th, Brian), WR Jazz Peavy (44th, Ace)
  6. Indiana (5 players): LB Tegray Scales (9th, BiSB), WR Simmie Cobbs (12th, Ace), WR Nick Westbrook (30th, Seth), CB Rashard Fant (32nd, BiSB), S Jonathan Crawford (52nd, Ace)
  7. Maryland (3 players): DT Kingsley Opara (19th, Seth), OT Damian Prince (45th, Ace), WR DJ Moore (56th, BiSB)
  8. Minnesota (2 players): DT Stephen Richardson (10th, Brian), WR Rashad Still (38th, Seth)
  9. Nebraska (2 players): OG Tanner Farmer (46th, Seth), S Joshua Kalu (50th, Brian)
  10. Northwestern (2 players): S Godwin Igwebuike (24th, BiSB), RB Justin Jackson (60th, Ace)
  11. Michigan State (2 players): OG Brian Allen (37th, Ace), RB LJ Scott (55th, Brian)
  12. Rutgers (1 player): OT Tariq Cole (27th, Seth)
  13. Illinois (1 player): WR Malik Turner (31st, Brian)

So we just got done having an argument about Justin Jackson. Speaking of guys wearing #21 for the Wildcats…

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Seth: Round 16, Pick 2: Kyle Queiro, Safety, Northwestern

Off: QB JT Barrett (OSU), WR Nick Westbrook (IU), WR Rashad Still (MN), OG Sean Welsh (IA), LT Tariq Cole (RU), RT Ike Boettger (IA), OG Tanner Farmer (NE)

Def: NT Robert Landers (OSU), DT Kingsley Opara (MD), DE Nick Bosa (OSU), DE Jalyn Holmes (OSU), LB Jack Cichy (UW), VIPER!!! Khaleke Hudson (UM), S Kyle Quiero (NW), CB Denzel Ward, CB Manny Rugamba

  1. No. No he didn't. Unless you're thinking of an entirely different pick.
  2. That's pretty cool
  3. The reason he one-handed it is his other hand was in a club.

PFF's College football twitter last month started putting out graphics of their top 3 returning players for each team, with last year's grades. The Northwestern one both confirmed a sleeper pick I've been close to pulling the trigger on for a few rounds, and outs him.

PFF thought Kyle Queiro was almost as good as Iggy while playing mostly deep centerfield to Igwebuike's boxier role. On film the distance is wider. Igwebuike is a Player who eats jet sweeps and screens for lunch. Queiro, who's 6'3, is more of a Jarrod Wilsonian binkie, keeping the hashes clean and long runs to field goal drives. He's athletic enough that they use him to cover slots out of the nickel in their sub packages. Injuries kept him off the field for the early part of his career and much of September so his 53 tackles, 3.5 TFLs, 6 PBUs, and 2 INTs (you remember the club) are in 10 games.

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Seth: And let's make this clear: Lewis was alone in man-to-man and in better "I'm not touching you" personal space invasion technique than my brothers could master in a childhood of up north road trips. Queiro is drifting back in zone coverage with help over the top and Lagow significantly underthrew it.

[Hit THE JUMP for what Tom Haverford calls a scatback]

Unverified Voracity Pivots To Hamster

Unverified Voracity Pivots To Hamster

Submitted by Brian on July 5th, 2017 at 12:06 PM

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let's talk about all three of these dudes [Bryan Fuller]

Chris Evans: already good? I'm a wee bit skeptical about these numbers because I seem to remember Chris Evans breaking some tackles and running for a gorillion yards when it was 49-0 against Rutgers, but, uh:

No Saquon Barkley is a surprise. (He's not even 4th, which goes to Maryland's Ty Johnson.) Enough of a surprise that I look at this stat with a bit of a jaundiced eye. It looks like it heavily favors guys who end up in certain situations but not others. Wadley and Evans were insulated from short yardage situations by LeShun Daniels and De'Veon Smith, respectively. And the whole Maryland offense was geared towards getting little quick guys in space one on one. The context is important.

This one might be better?

I still think that's about Evans breaking the occasional tackle and getting a huge play than anything De'Veon Smith-esque. Huge plays are good, don't get me wrong—I am just worried about sample size. Better to have Evans on these lists than not; maybe not super predictive about the season.

Less skeptical about this one. Michigan's DL is going to be just fine this fall.

Bosa and Winovich are in fact #2 and 3 nationally, behind only Harold Landry—another Don Brown acolyte. Meanwhile the new DEs were actually more productive against the run than the departures:

That one may be a garbage time artifact. Even if you haul those numbers back down to Wormley/Taco level that's pretty dang okay, and we haven't even talked about Mo Hurst.

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BRILLIANT

Exit Fox Sports Dave Brandon. A spectacular final act for carnival-barker Jamie Horowitz at Fox Sports. Step one is gutting the profitable(!) Fox Sports digital team in order to consolidate his hold on power, with a side of implementing his post-apocalyptic vision:

What really does work is when you take things are good like ’11 Coaches Oregon Might Hire’, that might be something someone is interested in the day Helfrich gets fired, and we change to ‘Colin Cowherd’s 11 Coaches.’ We’ve seen this be very successful. You look at Fox News right now, O’Reilly and his take. That’s all it is. And there are many different ways.

Step two is getting fired literally the next week.

Jamie Horowitz’s dismissal Monday came about a week after Fox began investigating allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace in its sports division. The company interviewed several women at L.A.-based Fox Sports about Horowitz’s behavior, according to a person familiar with the investigation who was not authorized to publicly discuss it.

The women included prominent on-air personalities and show producers, according to two people who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the investigation.

Lawsuits will follow as Horowitz tries to collect on a contract and Fox Sports tries to separate itself from an alleged sexual harasser. Unfortunately for Fox and their writers, there appears to be no way to re-spool the thread.

A bloody few weeks in online #content have caused a round of introspective articles about "pivoting to video," and why that's exec-speak for "I give up, eat at Arby's." Bryan Curtis:

Why this is happening is simple: The web has a surplus of copy versus advertising. Companies have decided that sticking an ad at the front of a video makes it less ignorable than putting a similar ad next to an article. It doesn’t matter what the video is. I often get a paragraph or two into a Sports Illustrated story only to find Madelyn Burke in the lower right-hand corner of the screen, giving me a summary of the sentences I’m already reading.

The new round of layoffs ignited a lousy ritual. “Hire these people!” we tweeted at … whom, exactly? A word-friendly publication that would promise to never, ever pivot to anything else? The contact information for Vocativ’s “free agents” was sent around on a spreadsheet.

Other writers tried to play media visionary and stepped in it. “I’ve been in digital media for 12 years,” Sports Illustrated’s Andy Gray tweeted last week. “One thing I’ve learned is that nobody wants to read anything over 1,000 words. MTV is more proof.” Never mind that Gray’s employer uses the motto “longform since 1954.”

On Twitter, Gray got the noogie he deserved. I enjoyed reading his replies. They proved that no occasion, not even an existential threat to the industry, will prevent a journalist from citing his old articles — and, in this case, also providing the word count. Why, my recent longform piece was actually quite popular!

There are two kinds of online video. One has video content. Like this:

Delightful.

The other kind of online video does not have video content, whether it's a talking head repeating what someone else said or a poorly lit podcast-on-youtube-for-some-reason with horrible audio. These are stuck next to the actual written content you want, set to autoplay, and nowadays they even follow you around when you scroll down. They exist only to scam advertisers willing to play high CPMs for ads on video content. The problem, of course, is that these videos only have written content repurposed badly. No hamsters anywhere. They are never watched. At best they run in the background of someone's work computer, on mute.

Scout's bankruptcy and firesale was easily predicted by their own pivot to video. I can't tell you how many times I've clicked on a Scout article hoping for information on a recruit only to be presented with a video. Once in a while this seems useful enough for me to transcribe, and I do so. Half the time I decide to do this I can barely hear the #content because they taped it outside on a phone in high winds.

I dunno what the solution to online content is but I do know that scamming people is not it. Making your product worse by turning it into a tedious video instead a searchable, skimmable article is also not it. Until someone trains a hamster to recite your text, video is strictly worse for most content.

Penn State skepticism. Various folks on this here blog have been trying to elucidate why we're not as high on Penn State as most folks. Mostly it comes down to "their all-bomb offense was pretty lucky," and here's a stat to back that up:

That conversion rate on jump balls is almost certainly unsustainable and PSU will have to make up for it elsewhere. They've got a shot at doing so because they bring back a lot from last year's team.

Drake yes? Drake no? Per Sam Webb, Drake Johnson did get approved for a sixth year in various sports:

Whether he'll actually come back for football is an open question. Webb reported that he's 1) down to 180 and 2) very fast, so there's a role for him in both football and track. With a wonky hamstring that might not like stop-start, you could hardly blame him for packing it in and just running track.

Michigan has the room, FWIW.

Etc.: Buccigross survives, gets new five year deal. The Elite 11 is basically garbage for predicting QBs. That Bamba cash thing isn't going anywhere. The fullback is dead in the NFL. Assistant coach names. Talking with Mel Pearson. A reason to huddle?

Florida State 33, Michigan 32

Florida State 33, Michigan 32

Submitted by Ace on December 31st, 2016 at 12:43 AM


Dalvin Cook lived up to his billing. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]

Sometimes you make it a game despite yourself and the human lightning bolt that is Dalvin Cook and then a freshman receiver who looks like a tight end turns a dumb play into a game-swinging kickoff return and a 5'11" guy beats Jourdan Lewis for a touchdown because sure why not and a series of improbable events occur and a laugher turns into a heartbreaker.

For most of the game, Florida State showed why Michigan is on the wrong side of the playoff bubble. Michigan's offense couldn't overcome a shaky offensive line to put any sort of consistent attack together, mustering only 83 first-half yards. Florida State's couldn't either but for the notable exception of Cook. The future Pro Bowl running back had 141 yards and a score on 16 touches. Nyqwan Murray exploited a busted coverage for a 92-yard touchdown. The rest of the FSU offense had 22 yards on 17 plays. The Seminoles held a 20-6 lead at halftime.

Neither team did much of anything in the third quarter until Kenny Allen, for seemingly the umpteenth time, backed up FSU deep in their own territory with 1:12 left in the quarter. Facing second-and-ten from his own eight-yard line, quarterback Deondre Francois rolled right to escape pressure and threw a pass directly to Mike McCray, who ended his short trip down the sideline with a dive into the end zone to make it 20-15. Michigan had pulled within a score for the first time since the opening quarter, setting up one of the wildest finishes of this college football season.


Chris Evans, flying. [Fuller]

Cook once again pulled the game almost out of reach, breaking a 71-yard run on third-and-22 to set up a three-yard touchdown run by his backup, Jacques Patrick. After the teams traded punts, Wilton Speight capitalized on great field position with a third-and-goal touchdown pass to Khalid Hill. The Wolverines returned to the end zone less than four minutes later, forcing a three-and-out before Chris Evans juke-posterized an FSU safety on a 30-yard touchdown scamper. Before you could say "Captain America," Michigan had taken a 30-27 lead.

The ensuing kickoff looked as innocuous as could be. FSU freshman Keith Gavin fielded Allen's boot a couple yards deep in the end zone, surveyed the field, and paused. In football, when you pause on a kickoff return, you kneel for a touchback. That is the only play. Except for this play. This play, Gavin belatedly took off despite the protestations of fellow return man Kermit Whitfield, burst through a tackle, and was finally dragged down 66 yards later by Jourdan Lewis.


The winning touchdown. [Fuller]

Cook got the Seminoles to the 12-yard line on a screen pass. Two plays later, Murray rose over Lewis to haul in the go-ahead touchdown. As if this game wasn't frantic enough, Michigan blocked the extra point and Josh Metullus, filling in for an injured Jabrill Peppers, brought it all the way back for two points. With 36 seconds left, down a point, Michigan had the opportunity to give this meandering game one final twist.

Instead, the Seminoles held strong, intercepting a desperation fourth-and-ten heave by Speight forced by instant—perhaps too instant—pressure by DeMarcus Walker.

It may be coachspeak cliché, but it's true: Florida State made more plays. The better team, at least tonight, won the game. Cook showed Michigan what they lack: an offensive playmaker that makes opponents sigh with relief every time the ball goes elsewhere. That, or an elite quarterback, can overcome a porous offensive line. The Wolverines had neither.

Maybe next year.

MGoRadio 2.11: The Last Hambender and the Tale of the Cape

MGoRadio 2.11: The Last Hambender and the Tale of the Cape

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MGoRadio is recorded before a live retail audience at The Bo Store, 333 S. Main. If you haven’t checked out Rishi and Ryan’s latest venture, do so. Also they’ve got a big online sale through Cyber Monday—don’t wait to let your in-laws dress the kids in cute animals all winter; get those holiday gifts with Block M’s like Santa intended.

Special guests: Steve Lorenz of 247 Sports, and Greg Dooley of MVictors.

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Sponsors

The reason we can put out so much audio content now is it’s paid for. The show is presented by the Bo Store, UGP & Moe's and frankly would not be happening without them; Rishi and Ryan and their people have been huge MGoBlog supporters from the start.

Our other sponsors are also key in the expanding empire: thanks to Homesure Lending, Ann Arbor Elder Law, the Residence Inn Ann Arbor Downtown, the University of Michigan Alumni Association, Deo Bookkeeping, Michigan Law Grad, Defensive Drivers Group, and Peak Wealth Management.

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1. Indiana After Review

O’Korn wasn’t any better close up than you thought he was when you left the stadium. De’Veon Smith got very De’Veon Smith-like runs, but Chris Evans has a really effective short area juke. Taco and Glasgow killed outside zone, which doesn’t let you ignore the nose—Taco becoming a first rounder.

2a. Across the Crooked Blue Line, with Steve Lorenz

starts at 19:36

We say names and Lorenz gets us excited. Hicks. Price. Haaarrrris? December should be good.

2b. The History and Culture of The Game, with Greg Dooley

starts at 43:34

The history of Michigan-Ohio State, how it became The Game, and why are Ohio State fans so insane (hint: Woody). Brian tells the cape story. If Penn State wins the Big Ten, who goes to the national championship? Also Brian gets served.

3. Gimmicky Top Five: Ways to Pass the Time Until IT

1:06:51

We don’t want to contemplate it. We just want to get to there or worry about it. Time refuses to comply. Schnepp is the act of turning gypsum into a useful substance.

4. The Preview of Ohio State

starts at 1:20:50

Ohio State’s offense is really hard to get to 3rd and long, but can be kicked off the field when you do. Their receivers are burly Noah Brown and eh other than some crazy slot stuff, but keeping JT Barrett from turning 2-yard gains into 7-yard gains is the key. Michigan is going to throw the kitchen sink at a defense with a couple of holes. Ugly it up and get that one big play. We’ll take a fumbled punt.

MUSIC:

  • “We Used to Wait”—The Arcade Fire
  • “The World (Is Going Up In Flames)”—Charles Bradley & The Menahan Street Band
  • “Heroes”—David Bowie
  • “Across 110th Street”

THE USUAL LINKS