Belated Recruiting Bits

Belated Recruiting Bits

Submitted by Brian on February 16th, 2012 at 11:45 AM

Via Craig Ross, impressions from the signing day press conference.

Kyle_Kalis_Action-thumb-590x499-837641[1]AJ Williams[1]

Kalis; Williams

Kyle Kalis: looks like an initial shot at RT according to Darrell Funk. No particular reason, he might end up elsewhere, but my impression is that Funk thinks this might be the best place for him to push for PT this year.

OL recruits. Funk says without hesitation that these are the best four he has ever had in a class in one year. All are possible/plausible to get to the 320 pound range. All  “are big and can run, bend, move and play hard.” Funk emphasizes the “bend” element, looking for big guys who aren’t stiff. Funk says none of these guys seems destined for center, but doesn’t rule it out.

Nature of Evaluation. I asked Funk and Mark Smith about the nature of evaluation of players. Both said that the process is collaborative. That coaches tend to watch film together and/or ask others about his impressions of a player. Funk says he isn’t trump on any player. If he likes a player he has to convince others on the staff. Sometimes he is looking at an OL and notices a DL and passes this along.

While the “area” recruiter might be the first contact with a player, by the time the recruiting is over a recruit will know the position coach and “just about every, sometimes every” coach on the staff.

 The Staff.  While I often felt there were some outliers on the RR staff (I could be wrong, but Shafer really seemed disconnected), these coaches seem quite tight, quite collegial. They like each other and Borges, Hoke, Mattison, Funk, Hecklinski, Smith, Jackson and Mallory seem very comfortable with the media. These are the ones I have talked to. Borges was teasing Hecklinski as they left the building together, calling him a “media darling, a rock star.” I really like Funk and Smith (the ones I have talked to most). They are very smart, articulate, comfortable answering dopey questions and thoughtful questions. Hoke made some effort to recognize Mark Snyder and Rosenberg (pretty sure it was Mike) and that seems like a pretty good idea to me.

AJ Williams. He is listed as a TE and I wondered about the “talk” that he will end up at tackle. I asked Funk. He was definitive. “He’s a tight end.” Funk said “he can catch the ball, but we really need help at the point of attack at the TE spot and he’s a guy who might have some opportunity to play right away.” The message was clear (a) we need help at TE now, especially in the run game, (b) we sure as hell hope this kid can step up there soon and (c) no, we don’t have any thought of moving him away from the TE spot.

LBs. Smith says Ringer and Bolden are ILB but all four have the capacity to play inside or outside.

National Signing Day Presser Transcript: Coaching Assistants

National Signing Day Presser Transcript: Coaching Assistants

Submitted by Heiko on February 1st, 2012 at 4:33 PM

I was tasked by Brian with a couple specific MGoQuestions for coaching assistants following the press conference. Here are those answers and whatever else I could get. 

Darrell Funk

Can you assess your new offensive line recruits?

“These guys are tough. They can run, they can move, they’re going to be really good players. They’re great looking kids. Each one of them has a little different skill set, but they’re going to be a great line for the years to come. We’re really excited about that.”

Players’ bodies change a lot from when they’re in high school to college. What do you look for physically in recruits?

“Like I said, they’re each different. A few of them have to put on a few pounds. A couple of them are pretty much at weight. When you’re developing linemen that can come in, the biggest difference is the strength levels between them and the defensive linemen they’re going to block. I think these kids are advanced in that compared with some potential guys we were looking at because they are stronger and more physical. They’ve got some size to them, but every guy develops a little bit at his own pace.”

How excited are those guys to finally get here?

“Well they’re chumpin at the bit. Most of them have been commited for a while and just signing day seemed like forever to them. And now that’s here now, and now the next thing I’m going to hear is 'Gee, coach, when is June 24 going to come around?' Then they have a lot of chances to get stronger, hit the weight room -- they’re going to have an opportunity to play early. As coach always says, you can’t guarantee someone’s going to play right away, but if they’re better than the guys in front of them they’ll play. And they know that and we’ve talked about that, and the work that they do between today and June 24th when they come to school in the summer will go a long way.”

Are you allowed to communicate with them and advise them before they get on campus?

“As soon as they sign, which they have, now we can give them a weight workout. I can send them playbooks, I can send them different things. There are some strange rules whether they can come on campus and they can’t sit on meetings and different things -- we abide by the rules -- but for the most part I can be on the phone with them every night talking about our base power play and explaining things, and I will. I’m going to work hard with those four kids and give them every opportunity to come into camp and when we install the offense and they hear the terms it won’t be the first time they’ve heard it.”

Do you send them a playbook?

“We send them a version of it. The reason we couldn’t last year is because really until we went through the spring, we really didn’t know exactly -- we know what we’re going to run. We may tweak a couple things. I’ll send them a version, kind of an accelerated version, almost like cliff notes or something like that, so that they get pretty well versed before they come here.”

Are there any other offensive linemen you’re waiting on?

“Yeah, I think it’s important we talk about the guys that we have for today.”

MGoQuestion: Who of your current players on the roster would project to center?

“Well, we have guys who can play center. We wanted to recruit someone in this class that could play center. Guys could play center in this class … you could make some switches. I’ve got some flexibility with the guys I have, and we can find some replacements for David, and we have guys who have played a lot at the position.”

 

Mark Smith

MGoQuestion: What exact position does Mario Ojemudia project?

“At this time I would think he’s more of what you would consider a defensive lineman. He’s going to be more of a defensive end, kind of a Craig Roh position where sometimes he plays up, sometimes he drops. I won’t have much exposure to Mario until he gets here.”

MGoQuestion: Do any of the current commits project to weakside linebacker?

“Well of all those four guys you mentioned other than Mario, with Kaleb and Joe and Royce and James, they’re all going to play somewhere in the middle, meaning a Mike or Will-type linebacker. They’ll be one of those two positions at least to start out with. That’s where our need for depth and competition is most.”

MGoQuestion: What do you look for in a middle linebacker vs a weakside linebacker?

“Generally speaking the guy in the middle’s a little bit bigger. He’s going to have to take on blockers a little bit more, whereas the guy on the weakside, he’s protected more, and what I mean by that is he’s covered up by down linemen a little bit better, so maybe a smaller guy that runs a little bit better. But you know, what I want them both to be interchangeable. They should be able to play both positions to start out, and then you try to fit them in where they best fit in.”

 

Al Borges

MGoQuestion: Dennis Norfleet isn’t the prototypical back for the power running offense you talk about a lot. How do you envision using him?

“Well until he proves he can’t do that, we’ll give him a chance to do that. He’s coming in here kind of as an all-around player. He’ll return kicks, play offense, and we’ll see what he does. I’ve had little guys that you didn’t consider prototypes to be good backs. You say, ‘Well, maybe he can do it.’ As we go through it, we’ll test the waters and give everybody a chance to prove what they can do. He’s in that category, too, but he’s electric. He’s a touchdown scorer. You can’t get enough of those guys.”

MGoQuestion: Hoke said you guys didn’t really give him that hard of a look until yesterday. How long have you known about him?

“Well we’ve known about him, but because of the fluid nature of recruiting, you have things become available, and you say, okay, well, we got this, we have a kid that can score touchdowns, let’s take a good look at this kid and see how he fits. Everywhere I’ve been we’ve done that. Whether it’s last week, last couple days, something becomes available … you end up taking a guy who has a chance to help you in some way or some form.”

People have talked about this offense potentially shifting over the next couple years to something similar to what the Patriots run. What do you say to that?

“We do a little of the things the Patriots do. We have an empty package. Didn’t use it this year as much as I’ve used it before. We are very similar to the Patriots. We’ll line up in two back offense, we’ll line up in spread … the key to offense is not whether it’s the Patriots or the 49ers or whoevers. It’s being diverse enough to deal with all situations that arise in football. Having an offense that can accommodate all of those situations that’s geared to your personnel. That’s a nebulous answer, but that is the answer.”

Tight end is a position you like to use. Funchess and AJ Williams are pretty different  players. Do you envision using them differently?

“Possibly. There’s a skill set that you anticipate and there’s a skill set that you get. So when they get here, we’ll see how they fit into what we want to do with them. They’re both going to be tight ends, they’re both going to be coached to be pure tight ends, and we’ll see how that skill set fits with the rest of the group, and we’ll accommodate it.”

How do you like your depth at that position?

“I think we have plenty of guys. We just have to see how it shakes out. We have a couple kids in the spring that are still going to get a golden opportunity to prove they can do it. With the new guys coming in, we’ll see if they can break into the depth chart.”

 

Greg Mattison

MGoQuestion: Jeremy Clark and Willie Henry seem to be pretty under the radar recruits. How did you learn about them?

“Well Jeremy Clark was in our camp, and all it took was for a bunch of guys to watch him, they went, ‘Wow, this guy’s something special.’ And then the process that we talked about where the coach that recruited that area goes in there and meets the caoch and the coach just says the same things about them. You walk down the hall and you talk to the math teacher and the math teacher says this guy’s unbelievable. Now all of a sudden you say, you have all of this, and look what we saw on the field, and then it’s pretty easy. Willie Henry was the same kind of thing. There are some schools that coaches will not recommend very highly until they’re done with them. They’re going to make sure -- people, especially the ones that respect Michigan and respect coach Hoke, they’re not ever going to give you somebody they’re not willing to put their name on. When a coach like that says, ‘Yes this guy can play.’ Then you listen. So that’s the deal with that.”

After looking at his film and evaluating him for yourself, did you feel like he was underrated as a recruit?

“I don’t care about stars. And I really don’t. There are some five stars out there that I hope we play against. To me all I care is what we, our staff, when we look at the film and say yes he can play or no he can’t play. When we looked at this guy on film, we said, Wow, this is one that we want.’ I don’t care if he’s a five star, three star, or two star. Those are the kind of guys we want in this class.”

Unverified Voracity Trolls The Free Press

Unverified Voracity Trolls The Free Press

Submitted by Brian on August 26th, 2011 at 12:09 PM

Countdown: 8.

three-men-and-a-baby-poster

Son, never throw a punch at a redwood.
Tom Selleck

Second amendment say what. Borges:

"We'll be gunning more than we've ever gunned — than I've ever gunned," Borges said. "We use a lot of shotgun, but we're tailoring the gun more to his skills. I'm not going to reveal any trade secrets here, but we're going to use Denard the way he can best exploit the defense."

And there was much rejoicing.

He's done it. Thanks to user Chunkums here's a glimpse of Borges running the speed option at Auburn back in the day. It's at 26 seconds:

Dollars to donuts this is happening.

Are you a woman, a bicyclist, a baby, very sweaty, or all of the above? This is your lucky day if you've been interested in some MGoShirts. Underground has a limited-time store up with women's, kids, and toddler sizes plus wicking shirts, hoodies, and assorted exotics. Check it out. Order by the 30th.

Tomorrow they'll announce Dantonio's hiring. The RCMB had a thread featuring user photoshop mockups of the Pro Combat uniforms everybody will always wear against Michigan forever. One of them featured the RCMB logo on the helmet. So of course this happened the next day at the Free Press:

image

Someone associated with the "Downtown Coaches Club" emailed it out, so that's obviously happening. I hope the State spokesman was under 40 and therefore far more aware of the RCMB than Steve Schrader.

Chagrined by their mistake, the next day the Free Press reported that TE Evan Jones had committed to State. That's accurate. It also happened three months ago.

This is probably just me. Does Darrell Funk give off kind of a Gary Busey vibe?

Just me? Okay. As far as actual news, Huyge is holding off Schofield; Schofield is actually practicing at RG(?) as well.

Bring out yer dead conferences. The CCHA has ceased to be, or has set a point in the future where it will cease to be:

After two rounds of talks, the WCHA is ready to accept five CCHA schools into the conference, sources have indicated to CHN.

The switch from the CCHA to the WCHA is pending each individual schools' Board of Trustees approving the move. Announcements will thus come piecemeal, with the first ones potentially coming as early as Friday.

The WCHA has given the CCHA schools are 30-day window in which to officially accept the invitation. At least three CCHA schools are certain to accept — Lake Superior State, Ferris State and Alaska.

Bowling Green and Western are both waiting around to see what Notre Dame does. If ND joins the NCHC—we really need a sarcastic nickname for them—Western hopes to tag along. If Notre Dame goes to Hockey East, both BG and WMU hope to get their faces kicked in for all eternity in the NCHC. That latter scenario would mean the powers of the WCHA broke it up so they could add Miami, WMU, and BGSU.

I'm a little disappointed this is the way it's playing out. I would rather have seen the CCHA bolster itself with the four Atlantic Hockey schools that were interested in moving and kept conferences relatively small so expansion would be an attractive option. It's still a lot better than it was before the Big Ten formed.

At least get your lame political cracks right. Via the MZone, here's this guy:

USAOSU

I thought Ann Arbor was supposed to be full of liberal hippies. Apparently it is also really into sharia.

Etc.: Catlab returns. Trippy. I think I'm in love with Dana Holgorsen: "Holgorsen's idea of balance is making sure a bunch of people get the ball, whether by pass or by run, and then get a bunch of yards." Frank the Tank's latest on conference realignment. The Hoover Street rag is irritated that Michigan is phasing out the seal in favor of the block M. Holdin' The Rope explores the file on Nate Brink.

Football Media Day 2011: Assistant and Player Notes

Football Media Day 2011: Assistant and Player Notes

Submitted by Tim on August 15th, 2011 at 1:39 PM

Apologies for the brevity of the updates, but I wanted to talk to a bunch of different people instead of going in-depth with anybody in particular.

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Players

Denard Robinson

Denard is adapting to the new offense well. He's getting the footwork down, and should be good to go by the start of the season.

Denard is looking forward to the opportunity to stay a little healthier this year, with less of a load carrying the ball on his shoulders.

Fullback John McColgan "is one of the toughest guys I've ever seen in my life."

Thomas Rawls

The upperclassmen are the leaders in the backfield, but the young guys came in because they wanted to compete. Having a number of talented players back there makes everybody better.

Thomas has never had the opportunity to meet Mark Ingram face-to-face, but he really wants to. As a Flint guy, he really looks up to Ingram.

Stephen Hopkins

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Even though Stephen had a couple fumbles last year, it was out of character for him. "I've never been a fumbler. I had maybe two in my whole high school career."

The new offense is a good fit for his skills, and he's looking forward to it.

Roy Roundtree

The new offense is still going to put up points, because that's the goal of any offense. However, the pace will be slower to control the ball instead of running as many plays as possible, so scoring might drop a bit. That doesn't mean it's any less effective.

There are some differences for the wideouts going into the new offense, but it's nothing they can't adjust to.

There's definitely an emphasis on blocking for the wideouts in the new offense. If you can't or won't get out there and block, you won't play.

Taylor Lewan

He's always had trouble being able to gain weight. He was on a similar diet as Ryan Van Bergen. The trick to gaining weight is to eat only the right things, but eat until you're full, and then just a little bit more. Sometimes, Taylor had to lie down in bed for a little bit after a meal and hope it didn't come back up.

Craig Roh

It's exciting to be back down on the defensive line with his hand back in the dirt. "I don't want to worry about the past," but he's excited about the defense going forward.

It's been tough to play in a different defense every year, but again, he doesn't want to dwell on the past.

Matt Wile

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He had a relationship with Michigan's current coaching staff when they were at San Diego State. They had offered him a scholarship when he was a sophomore.

Matt had been planning to go to Boise State, but when Michigan hired the new staff, he set up a visit here. The plan was to head to Nebraska for a visit the following week, but he fell in love with Ann Arbor and committed to the Wolverines. Even though his visit was in January, the weather didn't bother him.

Assistants

Jeff Hecklinski

Jerald Robinson has great potential, and "doesn't know how good Jerald can be." He has good size and athleticism, and just needs to keep working hard to see that potential realized.

Jeremy Gallon has been impressive in fall camp. "Let's hope he keeps progressing."

Curt Mallory

The goal for the safeties is to not have a "second-best strong or free" safety, but have guys who are capable of stepping in at either safety position.

Jordan Kovacs is a tough, smart player, and that's what's helped him be a contributor here. That should continue going forward.

Thomas Gordon is performing well at nickel, and he's also trying to become a contributor at one of the safety positions. They want him to be able to do both roles. Troy Woolfolk is the same way: he's contributing at corner, but they also want him to have the ability to rotate in at nickel.

Fred Jackson

Thomas Rawls and Justice Hayes have really helped push the others at the position to improve, because despite being freshman "they're coming in here like they're sophomores." He's as happy with those two as he's ever been with a pair of freshmen. (Fred kept returning to the freshmen, regardless of what he was asked).

John McColgan is a solid option at fullback. He's doesn't have the skill set of Kevin Dudley (glorified lineman in the backfield) or Chris Floyd (who had plenty of ability with the ball in his hands). However, he's a very smart player, and will get some opportunities, including in the pass game.

Darrell Funk

The left side of the line is mostly set: Taylor Lewan at left tackle, Patrick Omameh at left guard, and David Molk at center. On the right side of the line, there are pretty much three players for two positions. Ricky Barnum (guard), Mark Huyge (tackle or guard), and Michael Schofield (tackle) have separated themselves from the pack.

You always worry about depth, but it is definitely a concern this year. They'll have just a couple backups on top of a "solid top six." They're addressing depth going forward with recruiting.

Mark Smith

Cam Gordon is most impressive in his love for football, and his strong desire to improve his game and get better.

Jerry Montgomery

There are a lot of players on the defensive line who are versatile enough to play multiple positions. Craig Roh, Jibreel Black, and others could see a bit of time on the inside, even though they're primarily defensive ends.

Brennen Beyer and Frank Clark are some impressive freshmen. (Note: Seeing Clark, he was taller than I thought, but also much skinnier: he looked like the second coming of Davion Rogers - OK, maybe not that skinny. Still, it sounds like he'll have an opportunity to play this year).

Coaching Clinic Notes: Offense

Coaching Clinic Notes: Offense

Submitted by Brian on April 21st, 2011 at 3:22 PM

The second half of Craig Ross's recap of the coaching clinic.

Borges and the Offense

Borges, unlike Mattison, obsessed over last year’s tape. This makes sense since the O was pretty effective for much of the year, and he wanted to evaluate what he had (particularly on the OL) to see what changes they might need to make. He noted (in a presser) that he felt that the zone blocking from RR’s tenure wasn’t a lot different from the style he prefers, but then said that they wouldn’t do a ton of zone. It is a part of the offense, but it sounds like it is like power was last year—a changeup. Borges has a lot more problems than Mattison even though we assume offense is going to be much better than the defense, because he actually has something that asks him to adapt.

Hoke made it clear that the “signature play” (their words, more than a couple of times) would be “power.” This is often out of a 21 package [ed: 2 RB, 1 TE—usually a standard I-form] with the FB kicking out/protecting the edge and the play being run through the A gap, with the backside guard pulling through the gap. Here’s what it looks like. The diagrams below were created by Borges when he was OC at Auburn and are found in Bill Mallory’s (and Don Nehlen’s) book Football Offenses and Plays:

image

[ed: Here's an excellent Smart Football primer. Also here is another diagram. Key player is the guy just to the left of the X representing the center:

power

That's actually a counter play that the Steelers used for a 75-yard touchdown in a Super Bowl a few years back. It's not "A-gap"—A gap would go right next to the center.

This won't be entirely unfamiliar. Michigan pulled guys last year. This Picture Pages covers a "down G" play—like power but with the playside guard pulling outside of the TE/tackle. Here's the C and frontside guard pulling against Indiana:

Here's an actual backside G pull on a power inverted read veer pickle sandwich (or something… Rodriguez's run game forced me to figure out/invent lingo every week):

Plenty of college spread teams use power. Here's seven minutes of it:

Yes, I am slightly obsessed with this. Also whenever this topic comes up I hear EA Kirk Herbstreit's disembodied head say "he used POWER… he used POWER… he used POWER." I'll stop now since this editorial aside is turning into its own post.]

Ideally, the back is reading the WILL who will be spilling over to the playside once he determines he has no gap responsibility on his side. If the Will pursues hard the back can even cut back to the weakside of the formation. Borges has said that they won't be in 21 and 22 personnel running power 14 times a game, but Hoke had a slightly varied message.

This Spring, power for the most part sucked against the #1 D, but it is clear that this is their primary running play. They run the Wildcat in a similar fashion. That has pretty much not been very good either.

The Borges article in the above book remains vital. My guess is he is still using slice plays: the slice pass, the naked boot and the wide zone. Funk says he has run the power for 25 years (he doesn’t seem that old) but he likes to run some zone also. He says, a la Landry, Bo and Lombardi, that they like to practice power more than it is used in games so that “the kids have seen everything a defense can throw at you and they are always prepared—we want to get to where they are always comfortable in blocking the play, regardless of defense.” Funk also said they will “never check to power” but they might check out of it.

On a personal level, Hoke has an extremely high regard for Funk. He implied that SDSU wasn’t very tough or fundamentally sound in 2009 but by 2010 Funk had created a different deal. Hoke says that Funk is the best OL coach in the country and, I have to admit, he is incredibly impressive.

At this point I don’t know what to think. I thought the offense was sketchy in the Saturday scrimmage. I thought offense was sketchy in the spring game. OK, Molk didn’t play a lot. Lewan didn’t play at all. These are two of our top three guys on the line. In both events the O was still working on reps as much as anything else. But I didn’t think either QB looked comfortable in this offense. Did the offense, really, look any better than the offense with Steve Threet in Year One of the Years of Complete Implosion? And, weren’t we running against the personnel that was the worst D in History last year? Well, everything has morphed. Wasn’t the D playing against a pretty damned good O from last year? Uh, yeah, except it was running a completely different system. [ed: DUCK!]

My sense/conclusion, though it is more mist than light, is that the D has truly improved. Part is experience. Part is growth by the younger guys, the natural progression. Part is Mattison and the HC’s focus on defense, not offense. Part is a scheme that gets guys in the right places. My sense/conclusion is also that the offense will decline, perhaps massively. Now, it is early. But doesn’t it feel like, as RR in Year One, that we are pounding a lot of square pegs into round holes? Doesn’t it feel like we have taken the best weapon in college football and hamstrung him? I can’t be right.

[ed:

]

Special Teams

Place kicking remains a debacle. I have watched this a lot. These guys just can’t do it. If the frosh (Wile) isn’t the starter this fall we are (again) in trouble. Think four downs—not that I have any problem with that on just about any place on the field. But if you ain’t playing four downs from down 1—different deal. And, since no one but Pulaski High School is, well, we gotta get better here.

Hagerup, of course, isn’t a problem. He should be a better punter than last year and he was competent last year. He gets great hang time and doesn’t chunk them often. [Ed-M: provided whatever kept him out of the bowl is now behind him]

Punt returns: The coaches have tried a different idea re: training. Instead of hassling and bumping the returner (something I thought would have worked pretty well) the coaches are turning them around pre-punt and then forcing them to find the ball in the air, post punt. Another drill has them catching the punt with another ball tucked in one arm. Seems to be working or, at least, I didn’t see Junior, Dileo or Gallon drop one. Even when being turned around or holding another ball. Better than last spring. I will predict improvement here, for whatever reason, or only because it can’t continue.

KOs and returns I haven’t witnessed. Or, if I did, it wasn’t much and it didn’t register.

Overall

As an abstraction I could not (and still don’t) believe the offensive transition will go well in the short term. Now, Borges seems a very sharp guy. I have no concerns about his intelligence, experience or ability. His OL coach, Darrel Funk, is awesome: off the charts smart and personable. He seems less obsessed than Hoke about smashmouth football. He wants to be physical, but concedes that spreads are viable. He reminds me of Carr. Carr wasn’t a believer in zone blocking but was willing to be convinced and DeBo (plus Alex Gibbs) were able to convince him. Funk seems confident in his ability to teach any style. I am convinced he could teach anything, also.

I have zero issue with the hiring of this group. I am impressed. They stress that they never belittle or embarrass a player. Criticisms are constructive and positive. But they are more classical football guys who have inherited a lot of spread offense pieces. In this, I don’t see 2011 as much different than 2008. Lotsa round offensive pegs in square holes. In the long run, I have no doubt that Hoke will put high quality football on the field. But this might be three years away.

Football Luncheon Notes

Football Luncheon Notes

Submitted by Tim on March 9th, 2011 at 4:27 PM

Michigan's new football coaching staff met with the media today prior to the start of spring ball. Here are some excerpts of what they said. Video coming tomorrow.

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Head Coach Brady Hoke

I spent much less time with Hoke because we've had chances to hear from him before. The assistants have much more new stuff to say.

"We've talked a lot about 'this is a fresh start' and going back to square one."

The facility upgrades are a lot different than last time Hoke was here. "You look aesthetically at how everything looks, and it's beautiful. It's a sign of the times in college football."

Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison

"We have to take who we have, and make them as good as they can be." Can the team make dramatic improvements on D? "It has to. Michigan forever - and you guys know it longer than I do - Michigan has taken great pride in defense, and will take great pride in defense again." It starts with technique, fundamentals, and stopping the run. Not allowing big plays and great red zone defense are huge.

It was tough to come to Michigan, because the Ravens are a great team, and "probably one of the best franchises in the NFL right now." In the end, he couldn't turn down working with Brady again and coming to Michigan again. He likes working with young guys and teaching the game.

On Hoke: "He's number one a great leader, he's a great person, as far as knowing what has to happen. He loves Michigan. He's always loved Michigan. He has a passion to get Michigan back to where it always was." Mattison and Hoke stayed close even though they weren't on the same staff for several years.

Cameron Gordon will play outside linebacker, because they want to get the guys into the best position they can to make plays. "And then what's the most upside." He has great ability to grow, and has that upside at OLB. "As compared to being a safety, I think he can do that too, but we have other guys that can do that."

"How dangerous? I don't know that, because we haven't hit anybody." Don't know how tough the team is until they have contact practices.

Nobody on the staff is selfish or looking out for their owns goals. "Everybody has Michigan first. It's not about any individual on that team."

Mattison hasn't watched any film on the defense from 2010. The only useful thing would be for individual ability, but he'll learn that through conditioning. "The players we have here are who we have here." Improving the defensive rankings doesn't matter. "I want this defense to be the best they can possibly be... It doesn't matter what the numbers were before. If the numbers were 50 a game and it goes down to 40, that isn't good enough." The bar at Michigan is higher than most places.

The coaches have to invest their own effort for the players to buy in. "Through their effort, they can become 'Michigan football players' again. And they're not far off."

"Very very physical, aggressive defense. A defense that, when somebody comes out on that field, they know their in a war." The other point of pride is having excellent technique.

Young kids are excited to play for a coach who's had Ray Lewis, Haloti Ngata, and Ed Reed play for him. "The good news is, you don't coach these guys any different than you coach them. It's just teaching."

Defensive Line: Jerry Montgomery

"They're going to be a reflection of me. I'm passionate about what I do, they'll feel that passion, and eventually it will rub off." The defensive linemen will play with intensity and "we're going to be the best-coached group on the field." Building a relationship with the players is one of the most important parts of coaching.

There are a lot of different defensive schemes out there, "but at the end of the day, you get to a lot of the same things." Michigan's 4-3 this season won't be worried about confusing the offense or disguising what they're going to get on a given play, unlike some of the other schemes out there. It'll be a lot of "here we are, come at us." Think along the lines of what Iowa does.

"Our goal is to stop the run first. That's priority number one."

The players who are best capable of playing "within the defense" will be the ones who play. If they're All-Americans in another scheme, but can't accept the coaching, they aren't going to play.

Coach Mattison is able to compare linemen to Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs, and other great NFL linemen, so they know the bar is set high, and what they're aiming to achieve. "What they're asking is 'how can I be more like him?' Well, I'm going to them them." They'll watch the Ravens film because "we're going to be running that defense. So we've got the luxury of using that film."

"I'd like to rotate a bunch. But we've gotta have the players for us to do that. I won't know until we get deep into spring ball what type of depth we have." They want to keep the linemen fresh as much as possible.

It's exciting to work under Coaches Hoke and Mattison, because they're former D-Line coaches, and it's great to learn under them.

On Mattison: "Regardless of how old he is, he's great with the players, he relates to the players, and he's a great recruiter." He's as energetic as Montgomery, despite the age difference. He has the enthusiasm of a young guy, and cam back to college because he loved recruiting so much.

Offensive Coordinator Al Borges

alborges.JPG

The installation timeline for the offense isn't set in stone. They'll work on certain things as long as they need for the players to get it.

The important qualities for a quarterback are 1) proper management, and getting the offense into the proper plays, 2) throw accurately, and 3) "when there's breakdowns, particularly in the passing game, can you create?" The third quality separates system QBs from great ones.

There will still be some designed run plays. "He's not gonna rush for 1700 yards, I've already told him that." If he runs for 700 less and makes up for it in passing yards, that's a win. "Denard wants to be a next-level player." He's aware that this coaching staff gives him an opportunity to develop enough to play quarterback at the next level.

Borges has coached guys who can run in the past, but nobody with Denard's running skills. "He definitely has next level skills." As a quarterback? "Possibly." He's about as big as Michael Vick, and a little faster. He just needs to get the passing skills where they need to be.

Devin Gardner has a chance to play. "We have complete respect for what's been accomplished by Denard and anyone else in the lineup. But by the same token, everyone's going to have to prove to us they can play their position." They'll start with the guys that finished last year, but there's no entitlement.

The offense has a zone package, but they're not primarily a zone running team. "We're a combination of zone, gap, and insert schemes." They'll explore more options with what works well in practice. They've gone toward more gap in the past (SDSU) and also more zone (Auburn). All of it is available. The read-option isn't dead, but it's not a priority of this team.

Aaron Wellman, the team's strength coach, is as good as anybody at determining every individual player's maximum efficient weight. If guys can be most efficient a little lighter, so be it.

Running Backs: Fred Jackson

Every player in the running back position group (even Vincent Smith!) will play both running back and a bit of fullback, except John McColgan, who is strictly a fullback. They won't necessarily be doing the traditional Iso blocking, of course. Added versatility will make them all better players.

Running backs in this system have a wider range of responsibilities than the previous system. They have to be able to be pass catchers not just in the flat, but as downfield receivers as well. For the running backs, the spread wasn't that complex an offense. "For this offense, you're involved in every scheme of the protections, you're not free-released as much."

Vincent Smith is excited for the new offense, but he's a little nervous that the new offense has a reputation of favoring bigger backs. "But Vincent Smith for his size, pound for pound, I'd put him up against anybody. He's a tough, tough kid."

On Mike Cox: "He is by far better-suited for this offense. What he has to do to see the field is grasp the offense. I think I've talked about that in the past."

As high school players, Thomas Rawls is very similar to Mark Ingram: "What Mark has done right now, you can't really compare to anything," but they are very similar coming out of high school.

Justice Hayes is versatile enough to play several positions. "He can play running back, he can play receiver, he can play defensive back." For now, he's a running back, but "he can do a lot of things."

Offensive Line: Darrell Funk

It's tough to know what you have at your position group until actual spring practice starts. At offensive line, it's even tougher until you get them in pads. "I'm really excited. Even though we really enjoy recruiting and all those things that come with the job, we're here to coach football."

The biggest key for these guys is to teach them the new system, including the terms, etc. that are different from before. "There'll be some growing pains that way." That doesn't mean it's all about three yards and a cloud of dust - you have to be able to run and pass.

It's not just football that the players need to adjust to: "in the weight room, and in the training, and in the conditioning... doing things like we want to do."

They had to transition the offense from spread to pro-style at San Diego State as well, though that was more of a passing spread. "It ended up being real good in a 2-year period." The Aztecs were a 2-win program the year before this staff came in, so they might start a little further ahead at Michigan.

This group of kids at Michigan is an intelligent and attentive group. "It's mostly older kids in there. The David Molks and some kids who have played a lot of football." They're very willing to learn.

"We don't want guys to put on bad weight... just like every place, there's some guys who need to put on weight and there's a few who probably need to lose a pound or two. At the end of the day, if you can perform what we need done at, say, 290, and you want them to be 300: at the end of the day, production is key."

Hokebits Assemble

Hokebits Assemble

Submitted by Brian on January 13th, 2011 at 3:49 PM

Mike Martin returns. Here's one punch in the solar plexus avoided:

"Yup, I'm staying," said Martin, a junior defensive tackle from Detroit Catholic Central who reportedly considered leaving U-M early for the NFL draft.

I'm pretty sure this was happening in any case, especially after his effectiveness plummeted thanks to his ankle injuries, but w00t nonetheless.

Exeunt Barwis. Devin Gardner has tweeted his goodbyes to Mike Barwis, so that's official then. I will miss the circle of death. I feel like posting a kitten but that seems wrong so via EDSBS here's Neko Case with a sword:

neko-case

Is the saddest part of all of this having to retire the "eeee I'm a little girl for Mike Barwis" tag? Probably. We'll always have the wolf-ridden Yukon tundra.

Staff filling out. According to the local paper Al Borges won't be the only assistant moving with Hoke from San Diego State:

Offensive coordinator Al Borges and running backs coach/recruiting coordinator Jeff Hecklinski have already confirmed they are gone. Offensive line coach Darrell Funk and linebackers coach Mark Smith are expected to follow, which makes sense because both came with Hoke from Ball State.

Two guys are definitely staying and two others—QB coach Brian Sipe and TE/ST coach Dan Ferrigno—aren't definite at SDSU but seem likely to stay. That leaves holes at DC, QB, WR, DL, and DB. Borges was profiled yesterday when his hire was announced; the other guys are just position coaches with no other track record. San Diego State's website is fancy, though, and breaks them down in detail.

Hecklinski is in his mid-30s and came up at some truly obscure schools (including Fort Scott CC, the community college Demar Dorsey signed/set off a bomb at) before landing at Arizona to be the QB coach and passing game coordinator in 2003. Almost as soon as he arrived the Wildcats rose up in insurrection against John Mackovic; the next year he landed at Ball State as the WR coach and recruiting coordinator. He moved to RB coach when the staff went to SDSU. He was a quarterback in college.

Funk is mid-40s and has followed the same route as Hecklinski, working his way up from Muskingum College to Mesa State to Rhode Island and eventually NIU and Colorado State. He played at CSU and got his first student assistant gig there. In his two decades as a coach he's mostly done OL with some moonlighting as a TE or DL coach, and he split four weird years at Rhode Island between offensive line and… defensive coordinator.

Smith is in his 50s. He spent one billion years (22, precisely) as an Indiana State position coach before moving up to be the DC for two years. Hoke hired him when he showed up at BSU and made him his DC, whereupon Cardinal fans were not impressed. When Hoke moved to SDSU he took the opportunity to demote him to LB coach, allowing Rocky Long to come in and install his 3-3-5.

So… yeah. Pretty generic. Hard to have an opinion one way or the other given their nonexistent profiles. Official MGoBlog policy is that RB coaches don't exist except to recruit, anyway. 

Not an option. One name not in the running: Florida assistant and Michigan alum Chuck Heater, who will be Steve Addazio's DC at Temple. Does anyone else double-take when they're reminded Steve Addazio is a head coach somewhere? I bet Orson bursts out in seemingly unprompted laughter several times a day. This differs from two months ago because now people around him understand why.