Tuesday Presser Transcript 8-27-13: Greg Mattison

Tuesday Presser Transcript 8-27-13: Greg Mattison

Submitted by Heiko on August 28th, 2013 at 11:27 AM

"Well, it's about time to start, isn't it? We're excited about it and can't wait to see what this defense plays like. I'm excited about how they've prepared, how they're working, and now we have to get that first game."

What has Channing Stribling done to put himself in position to play?

"Made plays in practice. Practiced very hard. Has picked up the defense quicker than a lot of freshmen. He's a very competitive young man. He's got good range. He's done very well."

He had good instincts in high school football. Have you seen that?

"The thing about him is he came from a very strong high school program. That high school program that he's from coaches like we coach. He understands that everything he does will be critiqued and coached and he moves onto the next one. That sometimes separates freshmen from when they play or don't play -- understanding the toughness and the scrutiny that they go under to make sure they're ready to play."

Monday Presser Transcript 8-26-13: Brady Hoke

Monday Presser Transcript 8-26-13: Brady Hoke

Submitted by Heiko on August 26th, 2013 at 6:09 PM

Bullets:

  • Taylor Lewan, Courtney Avery, Jake Ryan, and Cam Gordon are your captains. 
  • Joe Reynolds, Graham Glasgow, and Joe Kerridge now have scholarships.
  • Courtney Avery is out with orthoscopic [MGoI'mGoingToDoSoWellAsAnM3: ARTHROSCOPIC] surgery for some cartilage in his knee. Playing time and experience would say that Jarrod Wilson is the next guy in, but there's probably a three-way battle between him, Josh Furman, and Dymonte Thomas.
  • Derrick Green and Deveon Smith made the traveling depth chart, and they will be expected to contribute either as backup running backs or special teamers. Their redshirts are toast.
  • Starting offensive line is Lewan, Glasgow, Miller, Kalis, and Schofield. 
  • Blake Countess is starting cornerback and starting nickel. Next guy off the bench is probably Hollowell, but both Channing Stribling and Jourdan Lewis made it onto the depth chart, so there may be some competition there.
  • Dennis Norfleet is handling all return duties.

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

Televised Part

Opening remarks:

"Okay let's get started. Thanks for coming out. We're five days away now. It is game week, and it's exciting. Our players, our staff, everybody involved has worked very hard since January to get to this point. We're excited about the opportunity to see where this team is, and we talk about never getting a second chance to make a first impression, so it's going to be exciting on Saturday. 

"We voted our captains yesterday, and I think the four guys: Taylor Lewan, Courtney Avery, Jake Ryan, and Cam Gordon, are very deserving. At the same time I'll tell you that whole class has done a tremendous job as far as leadership and teaching and helping to help coach young football players. As you all know we are a young football team. We also had an opportunity last night to award three scholarships to guys that have walked onto the program and have set a standard for work ethic and set a standard for their toughness. Their love for their teammates and their love for Michigan. Joe Reynolds, Graham Glasgow, and Joe Kerridge were three guys most deserving. When you have an opportunity to do that as a coach, you always feel good because it obviously is helping their families out. More than that, the guys have earned it. 

"Courtney Avery had arthroscopic surgery Thursday night. Cartilage. It should be a two-week setback, but everything went well. He is in great spirits and he'll be back on the field soon."

Fall Camp Presser Transcript 8-22-13: Brady Hoke

Fall Camp Presser Transcript 8-22-13: Brady Hoke

Submitted by Heiko on August 23rd, 2013 at 1:53 PM

Bullets:

  • Shane Morris is the backup QB.
  • No decision on center or left guard yet, where Jack Miller, Graham Glasgow, and Chris Bryant are playing musical chairs. 
  • Michigan has a lot of receivers whose first names start with the letter "J."
  • Matt Wile will handle all kicking duties other than regular field goals and PATs.
  • Norfleet is the kick returner. Norfleet will probably be the punt returner. Norfleet4Life.

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

Opening remarks:

"We have nine games before we open up and Team 134 gets an opportunity for their first impression. I think we've had a very good camp. We have two days left of camp, and tomorrow we'll start looking more at Central Michigan, scout teams, look teams, that sort of thing. The coaches have already been breaking down that opponent in the summer. Really the last couple days, [we'll be] getting back to it a little more at the stadium, [run] about the half the number of plays of Saturday's scrimmage. I thought we came out, played hard. I think we'll get some answers on some rotations or spots, if you want to call them that as we look at the tape tonight and keep evaluating through the end of camp."

Fall Camp Presser Transcript 8-21-13: Greg Mattison

Fall Camp Presser Transcript 8-21-13: Greg Mattison

Submitted by Heiko on August 21st, 2013 at 3:40 PM

Were you pleased with your defense during the scrimmage on Saturday?

"I think there were some good things. I think we started off doing some real good things in the different situations that Brady put us in. The black zone, coming out, moving the ball. And then we had a kicking break and we did a lot of the kicking. I wasn't real happy with how we came back. It may seem like a little thing to a lot of people, but I relate that to coming out of the locker room at halftime. When you're a young team, all of those things have got to be addressed. You can't assume -- a veteran team, you'd know, 'Okay, let's turn it up guys. Here's the switch coming out.' You can see when you have a young team, they do a couple things good at times and then all of a sudden, you have to make sure they're hungry and they have to understand how to do it. They have to make sure they do their job every time."

How Are We Feeling About Football Things?

How Are We Feeling About Football Things?

Submitted by Brian on August 19th, 2013 at 11:48 AM

Over the weekend Michigan had a scrimmage that simulated what they'll do for Notre Dame week. Michigan put some ULTRAZOOM highlights on the internet, some guy attempted to UFR them, Heiko attempted to forestall panic about what was contained therein to eagle-eyed watchers. First, let's examine the pore structure of various unidentified Michigan football players:

Countdown to Kickoff 2013: Day 13 - Scrimmage... by mgovideo

Graham Glasgow's playing left guard. More than that, Glasgow was playing left guard because Chris Bryant—not massively-hyped Ben Braden—was held out after having his knee drained. How do we feel about this?

On the one hand, Bryant is a massive human who is a natural guard, whereas Braden is a massive human who is maybe not the best fit on the inside. Having Bryant emerge as a contender at guard gives Michigan more line depth, and when he's been healthy he's drawn praise like this from Kenny Demens:

I’ve always been a fan of Chris Bryant.  That has been my favorite offensive lineman since his freshman year.  I remember his freshman year he was on scout team… whenever he pulled, I don’t care if you were Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen, myself, whoever… when Chris Bryant pulled, you were nervous.  You were nervous!  Chris Bryant brings the pain.

On the other, Braden is supposedly the most physically talented guy Taylor Lewan has ever seen and line shifts in camp remind you of last year, when the flippin' and the floppin' made the line like jello, Rudy. A steady hand is always better. Plus, Bryant spent all of last year injured to the point where he wasn't really doing much in spring. I'd heard he had some lingering pain issues from that even now, and he just got his knee drained. Also, Bryant was a decent recruit but not as hyped as you might remember. Only Rivals gave him four stars, and they were so up on his recruitment they ranked a 6'4", 340 pound guy at tackle.

Do we like it? Do we hate it? I don't know man. I think I'd rather hear that Bryant is seriously pushing Braden, who is locked in, instead of a position switch that undoes a position switch from spring. The flippin' and the floppin'. On the other hand, Bryant was not available then and is now. It could just be that he is pretty good.

Braden does get some snaps at that LG spot, BTW. He was off and on, apparently hasn't been practicing much at guard, and struggled some against interior quickness in the spring game. (He also seems to get beat by Willie Henry on a Rawls iso that goes nowhere in the above video.) So… I bet he is the #1 backup at tackle when the season starts and it's Bryant at guard. If that happens I'm going to decrement Braden expectations from "Jake Long 3.0" to "plus right tackle."

Fitzgerald Toussaint Purdue v Michigan D7mJDURiHBXl[1]460x[1]

Toussaint, Hayes

Toussaint looks like Toussaint. In a good way, not Poor Damn Toussaint of last year. No one else did much at tailback except Justice Hayes, who slips out of the backfield from a shotgun set and makes a touchdown catch after Gardner buys some time. Other running back events are Toussaint juking guys, running tough north and south, and picking up yardage. People other than Toussaint get consumed. Sample size qualifiers, obviously, but Toussaint is also getting external validation from insider types and the coaches.

It's one or two carries each for other challengers, thus indicating who has the lead in the race at RB and giving us no other information. Green gets bounced outside and swarmed, looking a little ponderous. Hayes gets to the hole and nailed on by Cam Gordon on a nice play; Ross grabs him in the hole on his next carry. Rawls picks up negative one yards and zero yards (the latter on a play from the two)—picking up where he left off. De'Veon Smith finishes that drive off.

Meanwhile, Hayes: he was reputed to be a spread-oriented back and excellent receiver. Michigan needs a third down back with the graduation of Vincent Smith. Of late I've been asserting that Toussaint should grab that job but if he's entering the season as the out-and-out feature back (which seems likely given his buzz and Green's injury) Michigan will want someone else to pick up linebackers and slip into the flat. Hayes would obviously be that guy. The other backs on the roster are young or bulky.

It does seem like he's locking down that spot. He was the back in all the shotgun snaps, with that touchdown catch and a screen that Dymonte Thomas engulfs.

The first snap is Kalis pulling to Lewan on a power play. Get used to that, kids.

Chesson and Reynolds are the receiving stars. Gallon was held out, probably because he doesn't have anything to prove at this point.

Also, guy who apparently gets injury information no one else gets says Darboh has picked up a boo boo. (Injury guy has since deleted the tweet, undoubtedly after a visit from Biff the Wolverine Enforcer.)  He shows up in the first snap of the video as a blocker and then not again. Assumption: boo boo, held out, don't read too much into it. Injury Guy was right about Derrick Green, FWIW. Michigan was being a little coy with how much he was doing; the two-week estimate was not off base much, if at all. Darboh's thing is supposed to be a rolled ankle, so keep your hands off the panic button.

While you don't want to read too much into a hand-picked collection of pore videos, pencil Chesson and Reynolds in ahead of Jackson and any freshmen when it comes to the #3 and #4 outside receivers. Chesson's catch is pretty dang good, especially as it comes over Blake Countess.

Courtney Avery's playing free safety. This one is negative, I think. Avery's run support has never been a big positive, he's never played the position at Michigan, and it says some not great things about the guys backing up the presumed starters that a "five-eleven", 175 pound guy is getting a look.

One thing it probably doesn't mean: Jarrod Wilson is losing the job. Assumption here is that Michigan is experimenting in case something happens. If it is Wilson losing his job, uh, at least my prediction that we'll miss Jordan Kovacs will have been correct?

Michigan_Ohio_St

Cam Gordon is begging someone to photoshop this.

There is a lot of Cam Gordon in here. Cam Gordon pressures and chases Fitz Toussaint and hits guys and blitzes and whatnot. Beyer's supposed to be pushing Gordon quite a bit, but you can't tell that from this video, not only in terms of appearances but also in terms of Cam Gordon play. Since Beyer was not held out, that would seem to mean something.

There is also a lot of Willie Henry. The mountain wearing 69 is Henry, and he shows up on a bunch of snaps. Black was held out, but there are other guys—Strobel and Ryan Glasgow—who do not feature nearly as much. Most notably Henry helps bury the one Derrick Green carry and engulfs Rawls in the backfield. Something to note, maybe: on that play Richard Ash is also in, playing nose. Henry's at the three-tech. That makes sense with a quality nose rotation in place and a notable lack of size at three-tech. We might see him in a short yardage package instead of Black/Strobel.

It would be something if after this year we look back at ten years of recruiting and Glenville has provided Michigan with as many or even more plus players than Cass Tech.

Man I like that Dymonte Thomas play. Can't see much except Thomas flying up at lightning speed to beat a block and tackle, but me gusta.

[Also in CTK:

Countdown to Kickoff 2013: Day 12 - Special Teams by mgovideo

And Jibreel Black says things.]

Fall Camp Presser Transcript 8-16-13: Greg Mattison

Fall Camp Presser Transcript 8-16-13: Greg Mattison

Submitted by Heiko on August 17th, 2013 at 2:36 PM

How are you coming together?

"We're coming together. We are coming together. You know, every day is a work in progress because I think we're so critical and emphatic about doing everything right that when something gets corrected or something gets finally taught to these young guys, now you might spring a leak somewhere else. I guess what I'm saying is we're not ready to play today. I am really excited and really impressed with how, for the most part, we've come out every day and had energy and tried to get better. We've played with some physicality. i don't know that there's a position or a guy that you're looking to count on and say, 'Oh boy, that was bad.' You probably say, 'you've got to step this way' or 'your hands aren't here.' The next play they're going to do it right. That's what keeps you really excited about this group of kids."

Unverified Voracity Signs That Apparatus

Unverified Voracity Signs That Apparatus

Submitted by Brian on August 16th, 2013 at 12:45 PM

Important. Notre Dame is good at football.

wIokiM-tHio[1]

"Sign that apparatus up to play football," says Football Coach. "Okay," says assistant football coach. "Now I am a player," says apparatus.

There is no waiting list. Michigan has finally burned out the fanbase to the point that you can get tickets just by ponying up the five hundred bucks it takes to get on the "interest list":

Michigan officials say that everyone on "interest list" who paid $500 got season tickets. No pay, not on list.

And that's a year with Ohio State, Nebraska, and a Notre Dame night game on the schedule! I wonder what will happen next year, when 1) the schedule sucks and 2) it starts off with a slap in the face I don't even want to go to.

Meanwhile, ugh:

"This game is as hot, if not hotter, than two years ago," Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon told The Detroit News. "There's enormous demand. Hopefully, that's because the fans who saw the first night game want to come back for more, and also because it's the last Michigan-Notre Dame game at Michigan Stadium for a long, long time makes it really special."

Congrats on your short-term achievement.

At least they're willing to show penalties and such now?

CTK. Schofield's up. Do not stand between him and ham:

Countdown to Kickoff 2013: Day 16 - Mike Schofield by mgovideo

Forgotten man? What? He's a three-year starter!

There is also Courtney Avery, who plans on going to law school. No mention of the safety move that he's apparently flirting with right now, which is no surprise. The "no mention" thing, not the hypothetical safety move. I chalk that up to experimentation, FWIW.

Here is a long thing. Here's the 1992 Michigan-Notre Dame game, all of it:

Should I not spoil it? Is that an insane thing to do for a 21-year-old game? I guess I'm not going to say anything about the outcome. (Except it involves a berserk alpaca and ten tons of rubber cement.)

There is also the 1972 Ohio State game in four parts. Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and uh… Still Processing.

Fourth And Long. We'll have a Michigan-relevant excerpt from the book on the site on the 23rd that will be of local interest, but the most compelling parts of Fourth And Long—John Bacon's new book—are easily the Penn State stuff:

Privately, the staff joked that the less the 84-year-old Paterno got involved, the better things usually went. When Paterno did weigh in, he often confused the situation, got players' names wrong or just yelled at them by their numbers.

Still, his assistants clung to certain symbols of the Paterno Way. "Shave your face, cut your hair," Mauti said, recalling the mantra. "If we weren't shaved for a practice, we would have to work out on Saturdays in the off-season. It got almost to the point where that's all that mattered."

Few programs in college football at the time could have claimed a richer tradition than Penn State's. It looked like Camelot—but only from the outside. Almost every Penn State senior I talked to last season repeated some version of the following: "We felt like we were protecting an image. And only we knew it."

Mike Mauti and Mike Zordich are never going to buy drinks in State College again. BONUS: There's a great story about Jay Paterno almost being eaten by the defensive line that I hope makes it out in the wild that's worth the price of admission by itself.

Oh, for Flansburgh's sake. It is 2013 and are we STILL having Lloyd Carr on lists like these?

Here are some notable Big Ten (and Nebraska) coaching force-outs ...
LLOYD CARR, Michigan (1995-2007)

Lloyd Carr retired by his own choice. The athletic director was surprised by this. That he was surprised was completely insane because everyone around the program new Carr was going to hang it up quite soon. I just… Lloyd Carr was not forced out. Repeat this one thousand times, Adam Rittenberg, and feel bad about yourself briefly.

Previewing basketball. ESPN does it for the conference at large:

Michigan

Best case: The Wolverines were a dominant Louisville second half from winning the national title in 2012-13, and, while losing the national player of the year is never easy, the combination of Beilein's returning studs and his incoming talent could put Michigan right back where it was in April.

Worst case: There are questions, though. Can McGary produce over a whole season without Burke on the ball? Can Robinson evolve into a more perimeter-oriented, versatile scorer? Can Nik Stauskas be a multifaceted threat? Can Spike Albrecht and Zak Irvin keep all these gears in motion? Most of all -- can the Wolverines defend?

Not really, yes, yes, maybe? Meanwhile, Seth Greenberg puts Michigan and State 1-2 in his conference power rankings.

It remains to be seen whether Robinson can be as effective at the small forward position as he was last season at power forward, playing off Burke's penetration. If Robinson  concentrates on being a basketball player as opposed to a position player, it will be in the best interest of the Wolverines.

He drops Indiana down to sixth(!), behind Iowa(!). Related: this will be the 65th straight season where I say "watch out for Iowa basketball, they look good" in November only for the Hawkeyes to top out as an NIT team.

I want this to happen just so I can see Jeff Meyer's face the next time he meets Tom Crean. Indiana decommit James Blackmon Jr. is planning a visit to Michigan, whereupon he'll presumably be offered. Why this is delicious:

Blackmon has been to Ann Arbor before, he was sitting next to Austin Hatch this March when Indiana played at Michigan. Blackmon was committed to Indiana at the time and the visit was thought to be at least part of the reason for the rift between Tom Crean and Michigan assistant coach Jeff Meyer after the game.

Blackmon is a Kentucky legacy with a Kentucky offer, so file under extreme long shot. He would fill the SG slot Michigan currently would like Devin Booker to fill, FWIW.

The worst case scenario. Actually this is Iowa we're talking about, so this should rightly be renamed "thing we expect to happen":

GAME 6, MICHIGAN STATE

Spartan coach Mark Dantonio refuses to bring his team to Iowa City, saying "I'm competitive, but I'm not insane." Offensive coordinator Greg Davis calls out Dantonio in a press conference, saying "Mark ... just ... looking out for ... players. Doesn't want our boys ... to hurt 'em ... too bad. Let's ... give him ... a hand."

Daviszombie_medium

The government has turned Minneapolis into a quarantine zone. Chicago residents have erected hasty barricades to separate themselves from the outer suburbs. IOWA WINS BY FORFEIT

Needs more alligators.

Also in worst case scenarios, the NCAA's in the Ed O'Bannon case is "severely damages Iowa State and no one else."

Etc.: ND game is at eight on ESPN, because ABC has NASCAR. What is wrong with you ABC? Christian Hackenberg pulls even with another first-year guy (a JUCO transfer) in the Penn State QB race. Gardner Heisman hype. DOES ADAM JACOBI THINK ANYTHING SHOULD PLAY FOOTBALL?

Illinois assistant gets a two-game ban for tryna murder him some officials after the end of the Miami-Illinois tourney game last year. Guy had a case, though. SI ranks M 18th, hates on their special teams without explanation.

This Week's Obsession: Handicapping the Position Battles

This Week's Obsession: Handicapping the Position Battles

Submitted by Seth on August 14th, 2013 at 10:38 AM

WAPO

Weird line combinations and depth stuff have been coming out of practice. What should we believe, what's motivational, what's a boo boo, what's anything in this crazy world? We go under cover and bring you the NEWS that HITS the HARDEST (at least until Jake Ryan returns, because he hits harder than our news). The staff:

  • Brian Woodward
  • Seth Bernstein
  • Ace Bradlee
  • Heiko Felt, Sr.
  • Blue in South Katherine Graham
  • Watergathlete
  • Deep Throw

And the question:

Heiko and I have been arguing about this on gchat and I thought I'd bring it to the team. We want to know where you think there are real positional battles going on right now, and how you're handicapping them. For example:

Center: 55% Glasgow, 40% Miller, 5% Kugler
SAM: 85% Gordon, 15% Beyer
Norfleet: 100% Norfleet, 400% Norfleet, Norfleet% Norfleet.

Mathlete: Shouldn't it be Norfleet: 75% Slot, 20% RB, 5% DB, 100% Awesome?

Ace: The lineup seems refreshingly settled at most spots (hooray depth!); the only positions I see having real competition are tailback, outside receiver, center, and strongside linebacker, though it'll be interesting to see if there are any surprises in the defensive backfield with the return of Blake Countess and Dymonte Thomas's potential early impact at nickel. I'm operating under the assumption that Keith Heitzman earns the nod at SDE and Jibreel Black starts at three-tech with Chris Wormley playing a key role as a backup.

Starting from the top, we've discussed the running back battle ad nauseam; Fitz Toussaint should start against CMU and Derrick Green will push for more and more carries as the season wears on. I'll go 99% Toussaint (barring injury) and a 1% chance that Dennis Norfleet gets the season's first carry as Al Borges epically trolls Brian.

[Surprising (and probably meaningless) revelations and scandal, minus the scandal, after the jump]

Hokepoints: What's a Nickelback?

Hokepoints: What's a Nickelback?

Submitted by Seth on May 21st, 2013 at 10:51 AM

Before we get to this, if you haven't yet go down to Heiko's Exclusive Interview with Borges. It is penetrating, and excellent, and kind of a coup that we got it.

averyNCAA99Upchurch -8646509558_8588cf3a37_o

I know what you were thinking. When spring practices meant there was actual FOOTBALL to pay attention to for a moment, you immediately sought the defensive back depth chart because:

  • You are aware that the original X-hating god resides in our backfield
  • You are aware that Jordan Kovacs isn't back there being your banky anymore
  • You remember how you felt about things before Kovacs became your banky
  • You remember we recruited a 5-star (to at least one service) this year and that he's enrolling early.
  • You can't really name all the various Cass Tech dudes so you kinda have to check in every once in awhile to figure out which you actually have to learn.

This is likely when you discovered the aforementioned 5-star was at nickelback and you did a double-take because you read Dymonte's scouting report, and "is a cornerback" wasn't in it. I am supposing further that you think "nickelback" equals "cornerback" because by golly you've played that game with Woodson or Desmond or Denard or a handful of less important schmucks on the cover, and know that nickelback is the guy you put third on the cornerback depth chart who comes in on passing downs. Right Inigo?

indigo

Back when your grandpa was playing NCAA '06 or whatever, base defenses were 4-3 or 3-4, backfields had four dudes, and teams would cordially run on 1st and 2nd down and if it was still long on 3rd down they'd put another receiver on the field, you'd put another cornerback on the field, and because this was a 5th defensive back you called him the "nickel" and everything was nice and sense-y-make-y.

Then everything changed.

[Jump to understand]

Hokepoints: Would Bill Walsh Draft These DBs?

Hokepoints: Would Bill Walsh Draft These DBs?

Submitted by Seth on May 7th, 2013 at 10:46 AM

Upchurch -8646510666_fd8ba5d69f_o walsh_050736

left: Bryan Fuller

Earlier this offseason I stumbled onto an old article where Bill Walsh wrote what qualities he looks for when drafting various positions. Meant to be a one-off on the offense, I took requests for a defensive version and broke it up into D-Line, linebackers, and now, finally, the defensive backs. The idea is since the coaching staff is building a "pro-style" team with principles more akin to the Walsh ideal that dominates the pros than the collegiate evaluations made on scouting sites and the like, we shall re-scout the 2013 roster for Walsh-approved attributes.

Since coverages have changed the most since Walsh's day—a reaction to the spread—this is probably the least valuable of the series. To bring it back on point, I've gone off the page a little bit to note some of the attributes that NFL defensive coaches are looking for nowadays, and what those changes mean.

Strong Safety

plankamaluSHAZORVACSUpchurch -8645425559_026bcc0008_o

Plankamalu / Shazorvacs/ M-Rob if all quarterbacks were Brian Cleary

Walsh Says: 6'3/215. Now hold your horses before going all "SHAZOR?!?" on me—I'm making a point: The type of player you have at safety depends on the type of system you want to run and the type of player you have everywhere else. If you're going to be playing more odd coverages (cover 1, cover 3) then you want your strong safety to be more of a run support guy, in many ways a fourth linebacker. If your base coverage is even (cover 2, cover 4) the strong and weak safeties will be more similar:

"There are other systems of defense where both safeties play a two-deep coverage and only occasionally come out of the middle to support the run. They basically play the ball in the air, the middle of the field and the sidelines. When you do that, then the stress is on the cornerback to be the support man.

So you must keep in mind these various philosophies when considering what types of cornerbacks and safeties you want to put together in forming a defensive secondary."

The attributes of your defensive backs should be complementary. Here's what Walsh is getting at: your backfield has to be able to defend the pass first and the run second. And here's the key: the more you can trust one player to handle coverage without help, DavidFulcher2.jpg.w180h258the more you can stock up on extra run defense with the other guys. If your backfield already has plenty of coverage, you can have a strong man:

"The strong safety is historically the support man. He must have some of the traits you look for in a linebacker. In fact there have been some hybrid players in that position. Cincinnati had David Fulcher [right], who was as big as some linebackers but could function also as a safety. The Bengals moved him weak and strong, inside and outside and he became that extra man that the offensive run game had to account for but often could not block.

"But the typical strong safety is someone who can hit and stop people and respond spontaneously and go to the ball. Naturally, the more coverage talent the man has the more you can line him up on anybody."

Today, defensive coordinators sit on porches, remember when you could play a guy like Fulcher, and say "those were the days." The epitome of this type of safety is former Buckeye Doug Plank, who defined his position to such a degree that the defensive system itself was named for his number (46).46defense

It's also called the "Bear" defense because it was the Bears

This defense was at the height of its popularity when Walsh joined the 49ers in 1979, and it was this defense his model passing concepts shredded. The defense played to Plank's strengths as an overly aggressive, hard-hitting run stopper with some coverage skills. The SAM linebacker in today's anti-spread sets (e.g. the 3-3-5's "Spur") is a closer analogue to the Plank-style player than the modern strong safety, with the key difference being that, as a safety, you couldn't put a blocker on a 46 without removing one from a lineman or linebacker, meaning the SS could flow cleanly to the point of attack and wrack up ridiculous tackle numbers.

College teams loved this, since passing quarterbacks were hard to come by and the big boys were running three yards and a cloud of dust (and later the option). A lot of cool names for linebacker-safeties were passed down from this period, such as the "Wolf" on Bo's teams, or the "Star" (names which today are coming out of retirement for the nickel-SAM hybrid position in base 4-2-5 anti-spread defenses).

Walsh's Favorite Wolverine: Why does a mid-'70s response to off-tackle NFL running games matter to a collegiate defense in 2013? Well because we have a really good free safety, and play tight end-heavy outfits this year in UConn (T.J. Weist, a rare member of the Gary Moeller coaching tree, is taking over there), Penn State, Michigan State, and Iowa, with the outside possibility of a Wisconsin if we make it to the conference championship. Also because the coaches have been subtly putting safety-like objects (Woolfolk, Gordon, and now Dymonte Thomas) at nickel, and recruiting a few linebacker-sized safeties.

Upchurch - 8173108160_66b1320817_oI don't know what he'd think of Kovacs. We loved him, but Jordan had two weaknesses: 1) his lack of overall athleticism made exploitable if left in wide coverage (see: his abusing by Ace Sanders on the last play of the Outback Bowl, and the utter disaster that was GERG's attempt to play Kovacs as the free safety in 2009), and 2) his lack of size made him blockable if a lead blocker could get to him (see: bad things happening whenever Mouton abandoned contain).

He would have loved Ernest Shazor, a knife blade listed at 6'4/226 with a scatback's acceleration who loved nothing better than demonstrating the force equation. Brian calls Shazor "the most overrated Michigan player of the decade" because he has to live with the bolded subconscious of UFR, and nothing pisses off a figment of a blogger's imagination like a safety who gives up a big play in coverage.

Here's the point: the ideal safety would be a dude with the size and stopping power to pop a lead blocker and make the tackle or lay out a guy like Shazor, read and react like Kovacs, and cover like Charles Woodson. That human doesn't exist. A combo of epic athleticism with plus headiness and serviceable tackling and size equals Ed Reed or Sean Taylor. Epic headiness with plus size and serviceable everything else nets you Doug Plank, with plus athleticism: Ronnie Lott, Troy Polamalu or Rodney Harrison. The trick is to have epic everything between your safeties; for strongside then it's not Ernest Shazor or Jordan Kovacs; it's SHAZORVACS!

SHAZORVACS

What to look for in a Scouting Report: At either safety position, instincts rate highly and speed after that (less so for the strongside). You're looking to first make sure you have enough coverage in the entire backfield, and once you do you can use this position to stock up on linebacker traits: tackling, size, taking on blockers, personal contribution to local seismic activity, that sort of stuff.

What you can learn on film: Everyone loves those bone-jarring hits and coaches are more than happy to put them in a recruiting video, but not all hits are created equal. Sometimes they're generated by another defender cutting off the lead blocker, other times it's your guy reading the play so early he can go all-out on the hit. More important is what happens to the ballcarrier: he needs to go down. Safeties are going to be left in space, and making that tackle is more important than making the offensive player wish he'd never met this oblong brown thing.

What could signal bust potential: Remember you want a safety, not a horse, i.e. overrating the secondary, linebacker-y attributes and expecting the rest to come along. Adequate coverage and good instincts need to be there or else this guy is just a platoon player. "May be a linebacker on the next level" is a red flag, unless he actually becomes a linebacker. Brandon Smith's recruiting profile is instructive.

It's usually good policy to discount ESPN's opinion when it's in wild disagreement with the other services, but here I tend to give their rip job ($, "he's not a fast-twitch athlete and lacks explosive quickness and speed"; "Takes too long to reach top speed"; "He can be late, takes false steps and doesn't see things happen quickly enough") some credence. Reasons:

  • Rivals started off very high on him, ranking him around #50, but steadily dropped him as the year progressed despite his status as a high-profile uncommitted player.
  • Despite all the guru accolades Michigan's main competitors were Rutgers and South Carolina; other offers came from Maryland, NC State, Wisconsin and West Virginia. He wanted offers from Florida and Ohio State which never came.
  • You always risk looking like a tool when you rely on your super awesome scouting skills and six plays on youtube to discern a kid's fate, but... yeah, I didn't think he was all that.

The guy left in a huff after they tried to wring the last bit of value out of him as a Doug Plank-like extra linebacker vs. Wisconsin, and Wisconsin ground us to dust, but then Smith was a high school quarterback whose development as a defender had to come almost entirely from the Rodriguez-era coaching staff. Anyway you've seen this again and again: rave reviews for the guy's "frame" and a profundity of attributes that would make him seem a really nice horse, combined with not nearly enough "makes plays." First have all of the safety stuff: can read and react, cover, and tackle in space. Then care about the size.

How our guys compare: Jarrod Wilson (6'2/196) remains my favorite to start at this spot because he is adequate (not yet plus) in coverage and the other guys aren't. Like the Jamar Adams he reminds me of, Wilson doesn't stand out in any category but doesn't have any major holes in his game other than being young.

The other leading candidate is Marvin Robinson who scares the hell out of me. He was a big-time recruit early in the process thanks to apparently having an early growth spurt, and his profile was filled with horsey metaphors. The same player still hangs on that frame (he arrived at 203 and never deviated more than 3 lbs from that) and hopes for him hang on the comparative competence in coaching plus the fact that being behind Jordan Kovacs is a perfectly reasonable excuse for not seeing the field earlier.

The redshirt freshmen at this position are stiff and linebacker-ish with instincts, more Plank than Polamalu. Jeremy Clark is all of 6'4/201 and did an okay job against the run in the Spring Game I covered in this space a few weeks ago, but lacks speed. Allen Gant also had instincts praised as a recruit, but also lacks the kind of athleticism and would at best develop into a slightly bigger and less heady Kovacs. If going forward Michigan can develop a superstar at the other safety spot or with a corner, they might be able to Plank it with one of these guys—when Woodson gave us that opportunity in '97, Daydrion Taylor and Tommy Hendricks went ham.

Thomas Gordon is super-instinctive and would be a perfect fit here except he's needed at the more important free position he's been playing.

[The rest, after the leap.]