Mailbag: Air Force Scheduling Dispute, Why Freshman WRs Are Bad, 2013 Feels, Vanilla, Hummus

Mailbag: Air Force Scheduling Dispute, Why Freshman WRs Are Bad, 2013 Feels, Vanilla, Hummus Comment Count

Brian September 27th, 2017 at 3:26 PM

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27-24 man, it's tight against the Falcons

AIR FORCE SCHEDULING DISPUTE

Q: Isn't this why you DO schedule Air Force?

- The service-academy factor at least makes it more of an "event" game than, say, UNLV or Bowling Green.

- Gives both offense and defense experience reacting on the fly in a real game to unusual scheming.

- You're still probably going to win—and if you don't, is there really a situation in which a team is good enough to make the Playoff but for having lost to Air Force?

BML

The first point is almost certainly why Brandon scheduled this game. There were parachutists and a flyover and some military band guys at halftime, which is fine as far as it goes.

The second point is where I have an objection. Michigan installed an option-specific defense for this game and repped it hundreds of times. All of that effort is now mostly wasted. I'm sure there's some salutary effect from having triple option burned into your head, but it's probably minor compared to getting that many reps in against the kind of things Michigan will see from Wisconsin, PSU, and OSU.

And while a loss to Air Force is not particularly likely for a top-level team, college football programs do gain and lose recruiting momentum based on wins and losses even when you're in the kind of down year that could lead to an upset. And Air Force is consistently dangerous. Since 2010, they've has beaten Boise twice. They scared the pants off a 12-2 Big 12 Champ Oklahoma. They outgained MSU's playoff team by over 100 yards but lost because they were –3 in TOs. And they nearly upset Michigan.

Is anyone going to give Michigan credit for beating Air Force? No. Are they way more dangerous and less applicable to the rest of the schedule than any other G5 buy game you can imagine? Yes. This is why the scheduling of Air Force is unwise.

Michigan did put Army on the schedule a couple years down the road, which comes with some of the same problems. Unless the Black Knights sustain this recent blip, though, it doesn't come with the biggest one: a disproportionate shot at being upset. Army occasionally puts a scare into a 7-6 PSU team. They have not beaten a legitimately good team in recent memory.

[After THE JUMP: this is not like that other season]

Comments

Spring Practice Presser 3/29/16: Don Brown

Spring Practice Presser 3/29/16: Don Brown Comment Count

Adam Schnepp March 30th, 2016 at 11:28 AM

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[Upchurch/MGoBlog]

How much further along is your defense right now than when you started four weeks ago?

“We’ve come a long way. We are obviously 14 practices in. Starting from scratch really in essence for the third year in a row, so the challenges were there, you know, and obviously my hat’s off to our guys. I thought they approached it in a positive manner. I think they’ve got a pretty good handle on what we’re doing. We’ve got a number of pressures in. The bulk of our coverage concepts are in, and I was able to kind of at least get all the concepts in. Not all the patterns and so forth that accompany those, but there will be nothing now that’s brand new to the guys. It’ll be a concept that they can relate to as we move forward.”

Guys were talking about how most of the stuff’s the same [and] there’s just the one new coverage. Whatever new changes you are bringing to the system, how do you think they’re adjusting to them?

“Well, you know, one of those concepts is pretty involved and there’s a lot of moving pieces and the players have a lot of accountability because they have to handle all the checks and so forth, and I think we’ve done a really good job of handling the responsibility and accountability piece of it as well as functioning from a concept standpoint. So yeah, I’m pretty pleased. And it’s really—you know, football’s football. The reality is football’s football. But, you know, that concept’s pretty different and I think the guys have handled it really well.”

You talked about the linebackers earlier in Florida about some new guys and guys who hadn’t proven themselves. How have they progressed over the course of the month?

“Well, you know, I think Noah Furbush has done a good job at Sam. Obviously we’re doing a lot with Jabrill and he’s logging some minutes there and doing a very good job. Ben Gedeon has had an extremely positive spring, so I’m excited about his progress and where he’s at. Mike McCray has stayed healthy and continued to take steps moving forward, as has true freshman Devin Bush. And Mike Wroblewski, we moved him from defensive end to linebacker earlier on in the spring practice period and it seems to have been a good move for us. He’s still got some work ahead of him, but he’s doing a very, very good job.”

How much of Jabrill’s time is now spent at linebacker? How much are you dividing it?

“Eh, he’s probably 70/30, but he’s doing a lot of things. You won’t see it on display Friday, that’s for sure, but he’s doing enough stuff that keeps his plate full. There’s no question about that.”

Seventy [%] linebacker, thirty [%] other stuff?

“Yeah, I would say about that. But, you know, it’s not gonna stay that way. It’ll end up increasing as we move forward as we’re trying to do things package-wise to offset the other people.”

[After THE JUMP: D-line rotation, Jabrill, the art of the mustache. One of those things may not have actually come up.]

When he’s doing that and he’s at that position—you said you had a player last year that did the same thing. Can you see him pick it up that quickly?

“Yeah, he’s already picked it up. He’s playing at a high level there, so I’m happy with him. From a coverage standpoint it’s everything we expected. I think he’s picked up the linebacker pieces pretty well as well. So, you know, making good progress, but like everybody else he needs more time, more reps.”

Are you able to do more creative things or different things than what you’ve done in the past with a player like Jabrill?

“Yeah, we’ll be able to do some stuff but, you know, that position’s always been occupied—you know, the last three guys are all in the NFL that I’ve coached that have played that position so it’s a pretty—you expect a lot at that spot. We’re gonna get what we expect. There’s no question.”

Who else plays that spot? Is there another guy who can do what Jabrill does?

“We’re playing Noah there, Noah Furbush. He can’t do some of those things, but there’s a number of those things he can do and we can function as a defense with him being there if we had to.”

Will Devin Bush see the field this fall?

“Uh, yeah, I’m not really looking at—I mean, obviously that still remains to be seen, but I’m very happy with his progress at Will linebacker.”

Do you have a term for that position that Jabrill and Noah are playing?

“Sam.”

Jim said the quarterbacks will be live on Friday. What do you want to see from your defensive line now that they can hit them?

“Well, you know, we gotta rush the passer. The reality is you gotta get better against the same color jerseys. That’s the reality. We’ve done a good job, and obviously there’ll be some limitations from what we’re gonna be able to do from a defensive perspective. Which is fine, because you wanna find out who can win the one-on-ones and those kind of things. Gotta go get ‘em!”

MGoQuestion: With guys like Winovich and Kemp, do you see them sticking at End or do think they could also play a little bit at Backer* or Sam?

“I think Winovich and Kemp are both in the right spot. Obviously Carlo’s been here for a short period of time. We fooled around with him standing up a little bit. I think he’s in the right position now. Now it’s just a matter of, you know, like every other freshman he’s got to get his feet wet. He’s got to go through the learning process, and, you know, we’ll let that run its course.

Winovich is playing well at End. Obviously techniques, fundamentals he needs to get better at but we think we got him in the right spot.”

*[Ed-A: It might sound like I’m using a super cool abbreviation for linebacker, but Backer’s a spot in Brown’s defense. See Seth’s great Don Brown glossaries here and here.]

We’ve seen a lot in the last couple years about the defensive line and rotating because they said that they had depth and then by the end of last year there wasn’t as much. How many guys do you trust in that defensive line to rotate?

“Well, we’d like to be seven or eight guys. I mean, you certainly want to be a pair and a spare. You’d like to be up to seven or eight guys, eight if possible.”

What are you at now do you think? That you trust.

“You know, I think we’re approaching that number. I really do. Once we get through summer workouts and get everybody back healthy there plus the influx of the young guys, I think we’ll be just fine.”

Good to work with Brian [Smith] again?

“Yeah, Brian’s a great guy. He was a tremendous player, tremendous leader. Won a national championship as a player and helped me coach a team that went to the national championship game. I still lay awake thinking of Armanti Edwards from App State on occasion [Ed-A: same], but I’m glad to be back with him. He’s a great dude.”

Comments

Mailbag: Crootin Philosophies, Insane Post-Michigan Hires, 2017 DL, 2016 LB

Mailbag: Crootin Philosophies, Insane Post-Michigan Hires, 2017 DL, 2016 LB Comment Count

Brian February 12th, 2016 at 2:28 PM

Crootin philosophies

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[Bryan Fuller]

Brian -

Two quick mailbag questions for you during this recruiting season. 

1 - How would you describe Harbaugh's recruiting philosophy? 

I think Hoke's was pretty easy to understand.  If you got an offer from Hoke, it was a commit-able offer.  If you wanted to take visits after accepting an offer, then you were no longer considered committed and they would consider you just a recruit competing for a spot in the class. 

Rodriguez was somewhat similar to Harbaugh i think, but there are some subtle differences.  Rodriguez would fire off a ton of offers and sort out how "official" they were as they learned more about grades, etc.  I think he had less consideration for class distribution by position and that may have gotten him in trouble, but he also chased some of the top players regardless of fit. 

Harbaugh seems to be something along the lines of this:

-- An offer is conditional upon certain requirements (curious your opinion on those)

-- If you commit, that doesn't mean that either you or Michigan is married to another.  Visits are still allowed and Michigan may still explore options for your spot.

-- Until you sign the LOI or enroll, consider things a soft commitment. 

Harbaugh sends out "offers." Hoke did not do that. If you had an offer from Michigan under Hoke you could commit to it. Harbaugh does the thing most people do these days and fires out offers in name only. To date he's been less than circumspect when it comes to allowing kids to commit to those offers (though sometimes that's not his call; some kids announce commitments to uncommitable offers).

A commitment is still mostly a commitment. Of the guys who left Michigan's class only two, Swenson and Weaver, were instances where Michigan flat out didn't want a guy because of their perception of his talent level. It's been more or less directly stated by guys like Steve Wiltfong that other players who decommitted had academic benchmarks they didn't reach or were 100% the player's choice. And Swenson was a unique situation since he was a highly-rated commit who was offered before his sophomore year by Brady Hoke. Michigan evidently made it clear they wanted to see him in action to confirm but didn't make it CLEAR, if you know what I mean. That's an error Harbaugh admitted to and hopefully won't be as much of a thing going forward.

I expect that Michigan will continue to have a few speculative commits who may or may not end up in the class for reasons academic and otherwise. Their offers will continue to keep pace with the state of the art in mangling the English langauge for marketing purposes. Some guys will take those offers. Michigan will make things clear to them, and some of them will end up in the class while others either use their status as a springboard, as Weaver did, or end up where they were going to end up anyway.

[After the JUMP: a graph, 2017 DL worries, 2016 LB worries, and HOW INSANE WAS THIS COACHING HIRE]

Comments

Neck Sharpies: Not Getting Even

Neck Sharpies: Not Getting Even Comment Count

Seth December 2nd, 2015 at 10:11 AM

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This would not go over well.

After the injury to Ryan Glasgow Michigan has struggled to stop zone running. Indiana and Penn State tore the defense to shreds on stretch or outside zone, until Penn State decided the thing that got them two huge gains in three attempts wasn't worth using again (please keep James Franklin forever kthx). I drew that up last week and found Michigan was still trying to defend runs by shooting the DL upfield and dominating one-on-one matchups up front, as opposed to soundly preventing guards from releasing onto the linebackers.

With Urban Meyer, one of a few true masters of modern running attacks, doing the planning for the Game, we knew Michigan's defensive coaches would have to pull something out of our butts to stop it. Here's what we found in our butts:

Michigan broke out a 3-3-5 defense with an "even" front. Offensive coaches have different names for fronts but the basics are:

  • Under: NT on the center, shaded to strong. DT on a guard. (aka Weak, 50)
  • Over: NT on the center, shaded to weak. DT on a guard. (aka Strong)
  • Even: DL are lined up over guards, none over the center. (aka Split)
  • Okie: Center is covered, guards are not. (aka 30)
  • Bear: Center and guards all covered. (aka 46, Eagle, Double Eagle)

These can be split into "Odd" (under/over) and "Even" (Even, Okie, Bear). It is usual for just about any defense to come out in multiple fronts over the course of a game, though Bear and Okie are more rare than the other three.

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Anyway that's what that means. By putting guys over the guards it makes it tougher for them to release to the next level. Michigan State used to love their even fronts back when Bullough was their best run defender, and that tells you something about the design of this defense. Tweaking your defense is about making life hard on your better players so things are easier for the rest of your players. "Even" makes life hard on the MLB, since that center is getting a free release unto him.

There's nothing 100% unsound about this defense. Depending on the offense's play, one LB is likely to get a center on him but the other is often a free hitter. If your LB eating the block is good at beating those consistently, or your free hitter is a ninja who sniffs out the play and attacks ferociously, or your unblocked guy is coached to play aggressively against an option you can defeat a basic run play regularly.

[After the JUMP, we totally can't]

Comments

Wednesday Presser 10-14-15: Greg Mattison

Wednesday Presser 10-14-15: Greg Mattison Comment Count

Adam Schnepp October 15th, 2015 at 9:00 AM

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[Fuller]

“How ‘bout those Cubs, huh? Is there a real Cub fan in here? I wore No. 14 growin’ up. I mean, Ernie Banks is the greatest player ever! How ‘bout those Cubs! What do you think? What’s up? What can I help you with?”

Talk about Ryan Glasgow as a pass rusher and how he’s stepped up into that role this year.

“Well, I think all the guys up front have tried very hard to use their technique to do what fits them, you know? A lot of people when they talk about pass rush, they see all the fancy type things the NFL uses and all these different type of moves. Well, some people aren’t built for that, and what these guys have embraced is moving the pocket [and] doing what’s best for them and what’s best for the defense.

“And sometimes to be a good pass rusher you have to be selfish, where you don’t really care about rush lanes and things and you kind of just say, ‘Man, I’ve got to get to the quarterback cuz getting to a sack is everything.’ But there aren’t many sacks, so the big thing is you’ve got to stay in your rush lanes and try to get to the quarterback or put stress on the quarterback another way, and I think our kids have all tried to embrace that philosophy.”

These kids developed right along, but are even you surprised at three straight shutouts?

“I don’t look at shutouts. I think what you look at is you try to play the best defense you can and do what you’re supposed to do and everybody be on the same page, and then good things will happen. Sometimes shutouts go hand in hand with special teams, hand in hand with offense and it’s not always just the defense that gets that shutout, it’s the team. There’s been some great things done special teams-wise and offense-wise that’s allowed us to play defense and play what we have to do.

“We just go out every game trying to play as hard as we can with great effort, try to eliminate big plays, and try to make sure that we play with great effort and I think that’s what our kids are trying to do.”

Connor Cook’s been pressured but he’s only been sacked four times. Is he getting rid of the ball quickly? What’s the key to getting to him?

“Yeah, he’s a very good quarterback. He gets rid of the ball quick. He sees who the receiver should be by the coverage very well, and I think that’s a lot of him as a quarterback getting rid of the football.”

[After THE JUMP: Breaking down Glasgow’s sack, talking stunts, and Jake Arrieta: defensive end?]

Comments

Preview 2015: Defensive Tackle

Preview 2015: Defensive Tackle Comment Count

Brian August 31st, 2015 at 1:18 PM

Previously: Podcast 7.0. The Story. Quarterback. Running Back. Wide Receiver. Tight End And Friends. Offensive Line.

Depth Chart
STRONG DE Yr. NOSE TACKLE Yr. 3-TECH Yr. WEAK DE Yr.
Chris Wormley Jr.* Ryan Glasgow Jr.* Willie Henry Jr.* Mario Ojemudia Sr.
Taco Charlton Jr. Maurice Hurst So.* Matt Godin Jr.* Lawrence Marshall Fr.*
Tom Strobel Jr.* Bryan Mone So. Jabrill Peppers Fr.* Royce Jenkins-Stone Sr.

Depth chart shows everybody just because.

The loss of Bryan Mone to injury hurts a depth chart that was looking quite excellent. They've still got a very solid two deep featuring two returning starters, the breakout guy from the spring game, and Matt Godin. With limited exceptions, those two starters were very good a year ago until Willie Henry got laid up with injury; this year they could be excellent.

The one catch here is because of Mone's absence. Without him, Michigan does not have a planetoid-style DT. Henry is a big dude but more of an explodes-in-either-direction kind of a guy; everyone else is decidedly a one-gap style of player. Michigan is going to have to play a lot of games when the backups are in, and might have some issues holding up against power that is powerful.

NOSE TACKLE: THAT'S SIR GLASGOW TO YOU

Rating: 4

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Glasgow, right, exceeded all expectation [Bryan Fuller]

This got a 3 last year despite the fact that a walk-on had apparently locked the job down; that might have been pessimistic. By midseason RYAN GLASGOW had been awarded the Order Of St. Kovacs, indicating that his former walk-on status should no longer factor into any projections of his ability. Hell, by game two I was proclaiming him a major factor in Notre Dame's 53 yards rushing:

Glasgow was a penetrating, disruptive presence. Here he rips to the hole on a goal line play and just about gets a TFL:

That deserved better than a 1.5 yard gain after he nearly brought the back down in the backfield. Here he slants to the backfield effectively, forcing the back into traffic:Here he's got a full on double the whole play and puts it in the backfield, forcing a cutback.

Watching Glasgow clips from last year, his ability to zip through a gap and then actually do something jumps out. He's at his best when he's popping up in an unexpected gap.

A lot of nose tackles can get into that gap when the center goes to the second level without a bump; not many get all the way around the guard to make the tackle themselves.

Glasgow was also good at standing up single blocks. Sometimes it was at the line; sometimes he got a yard or two of depth to prevent cutbacks. He was adept at swatting his way through attempted momentary combos:

Consistently disruptive and hard to keep blocked, Glasgow was probably the most important part of Michigan's excellent run defense a year ago. I know the above clip is Indiana and thus prone to dismissal, but remember that Tevin Coleman guy? Yeah, Indiana could run the ball a bit last year.

One thing Glasgow is not is a pure 3-4 nose tackle. When opponents doubled him, one of two things generally happened: 1) he ripped one guy away and shot through a gap because it wasn't an extended double or 2) they both latched on and got motion on him.

Asking him to play a zero tech isn't going to go so well. Not many teams Michigan faced were able to take advantage of the fact Glasgow isn't a 330 pound man-mountain, but the two that did were kind of important: MSU and OSU. Glasgow in fact got yanked from big chunks of the MSU game because he just could not hold up against the Spartans mean and very good interior OL.

The other main issue with Glasgow's game seems fixable and was partially scheme-based anyway: pass rush. A lot of teams will leave their nose tackle on screen duty. He'll occupy a blocker or two with a token rush that keeps him near the line of scrimmage in case it's a trap. Glasgow got some of that duty a year ago. He also had a bunch of plays on which he attempted to get to the QB, and the results there weren't great. Glasgow wasn't so much as credited with half a sack last year. I know he got at least one because he had a sack/strip/recovery against Indiana (Michigan hasn't issued sacks for forced fumbles for a couple years now); one is still not many. Literally.

Given Glasgow's ability to warp past OL the lack of pass rush is a bit of a puzzle; that has undoubtedly been an offseason focus for him. If the 2015 edition of Ryan Glasgow can add a reasonable amount of that to his repertoire he'll go from Michigan fan's best-kept secret to a man of wider renown.

[After THE JUMP: Ogre, take two]

Comments

Preview 2014: Defensive End

Preview 2014: Defensive End Comment Count

Brian August 27th, 2014 at 12:00 PM

Podcast 6.0. The Story. Quarterback. Running back. Wide Receiver. Tight End And Friends. Offensive Line.

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

Depth Chart
STRONG DE Yr. NOSE TACKLE Yr. 3-TECH Yr. WEAK DE Yr.
Brennen Beyer Sr. Ryan Glasgow So.*# Willie Henry So.* Frank Clark Sr.
Taco Charlton So. Ondre Pipkins Jr. Chris Wormley So.* Mario Ojemudia Jr.
Henry Poggi Fr.* Bryan Mone Fr. Maurice Hurst Fr.* Lawrence Marshall Fr.

It is time for Michigan to kick some ass on defense, and if they are going to do so it starts here: Michigan has two veteran, quality seniors playing defensive end spots they can hack this year. Both can really play; neither has broken through such that many people believe this.

It is go time for these gentlemen. Victory or death!

WEAKSIDE DEFENSIVE END

Rating: 5

BEFORE PSU                                                          AFTER

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hell yes I'm recycling this joke, because it was also Frank Clark's season

One of the more broadly correct bits of last year's preview was this section, which asked everyone to pump the breaks on the FRANK CLARK hype train:

The distance from Frank Clark 2012 to what he's supposed to be this year is immense. Too immense. I have to concede significant improvement to the chatter, but something along the lines of Tim Jamison (as a junior: 10 TFL, 5.5 sacks) would be a massive step forward.

Clark racked up 12 TFLs and 4.5 sacks. Self high five. I was broadly correct.

But though the stats and overall Tim Jamison-esque B+ season were accurate, the shape of that season is really promising. Clark started the year making little impact against MAC teams; he ended it by straight-up whipping Brandon Scherff and CJ Fiedorowicz en route to his second career game with a double-digit positive UFR score. He was a C at best to start; by the end he was an A-.

[After the JUMP: Frank Clark beasts up, fitting Beyer into the front, DEATH STARE 2014]

Comments

Unverified Voracity Is In Lip Trance

Unverified Voracity Is In Lip Trance Comment Count

Brian August 12th, 2014 at 1:18 PM

Hype video.

Practice video. From Maize and Blue News:

Jane previews Michigan! Oh man this is just so dead on:

We long for a past that we hated while it was happening, in which Michigan would go 9-3 or 10-2 and people would complain like Michigan was a waiter who we couldn't find when we just wanted the goddamn check. If a Michigan fan tells you that they liked Tom Brady when he was playing at Michigan, they are lying because no Michigan fan ever liked whomever was starting at quarterback until Denard Robinson. We hated Elvis Grbac. We hated Brian Griese. We hated John Navarre. We hated Drew Henson. We hated - HATED - sad robot Chad Henne*.

I tended to like Michigan's quarterbacks who were not underclassman Drew Henson, and I knew the one guy who really really liked John Navarre. Like, he was super-enthused about John Navarre. And eventually correct!

More insider business. A gentleman who is probably too identifiable for his own good comes back with a very legit-seeming practice report that he's posted on a couple of different boards. The 247 version, all errors sic:

DL looked great, really great. all the hype is backed up. Pipkins looks the part, even coming off the injury. on friday he was easily the most impressive NT that they had, that by no means is discounting mone, hurst, or henry. Their depth and talent at the position although young, is very, very good. Even pallante looked good!! yes, he is small, but ive spoken to a few players who say he is as strong as a senior and one of the quickest most technically sound players there.

I imagine that if that's true we'll see at least one of those four guys (Pipkins, Mone, Hurst, Henry) at three-tech, which currently has Wormley and no one else who's gotten much hype.

That's not good. Nebraska lost three defenders for the season a couple days back, including two starters: Michael Rose and LeRoy Alexander. That'll help when Michigan… uh… we don't play them this year, or until all those guys graduate. CARRY ON.

That's not… uh… relevant. Reporting from media day!

“The job that he does and the job that he’s done since the day he got here, has been unbelievable,” Mattison said with a sweaty upper lip. “Me personally, there is no way I would have come here if it wasn’t for Brady Hoke.”

That typed itself, I bet. I bet Brendan F Quinn was mesmerized by the lip and when it came time to write the article that phrase slipped itself in there and if you ask Brendan F Quinn about that passage he will be shocked that it exists. You see, I've been there, down on ol' Lip Mesmerization Farm. It's a strange, sweaty place, but you get used to it.

No age gap now. Another article on how the offensive line is going to be better because they all like each other:

"There was an age gap last year, and it was just there," Bosch said. "It was just something that was obviously noticeable. You could tell 'these were the seniors, you were a freshmen.' That's how it was."

No chance of that this year, because there are no seniors. For the record I think the line will be better this year because they will be trying to do one thing instead of all things and not necessarily because they are more together. Or that they are Galvanized By Criticism:

Those stats and the barrage of negative press regarding Michigan’s offensive line have helped galvanize the linemen. Jack Miller, a redshirt junior who started the first four games at center last season, said they are more than aware of the doubters.

No doubt they will Shock The World and Not Listen To The Haters. I mean, Miller's following quote is twisted pretty hard to get into that narrative:

“Between last year and this offseason, you’d be hard-pressed to miss that if you pay attention to anything,” Miller said. “You run into fans who say stuff — ‘What’s going on with that offensive line?’ But that’s the way it goes with any program of this caliber. We know that. We know that’s part of the gig here, and that’s OK. Some of it is rightly so. We need to live up the expectations that people have here.”

A good rule of thumb: when someone cites chemistry as a reason for something it's because they don't know. Chalking it up to the undefinable cannot be disproved or really even argued.

Getting on the the WJC team. College Hockey News profiles Downing and Motte as they try to avoid being late cuts this time around. USA coach mark Osiecki on Downing:

“We’re still trying to identify what (Downing’s) strengths and weaknesses will be,” Osiecki said. “He has a bomb from the blue line, that’s for sure, there’s no doubt about that. His awareness from the red line back has continued to show improvement. It’s hard for a defenseman to jump into summer hockey. You haven’t done much defending at all, and he likes to get into the offense when he can, but he’s getting back to it on the defensive side of things.”

Downing says he's put on 25 pounds; hopefully he'll be more of a physical presence than he was last year, when he was more lanky than intimidating. Motte dumped in a hat trick in the USA's 9-1 thumping of Finland, playing with uber-prospect Jack Eichel.

For his part, JT Compher is not so much fighting to make the team as fighting to be named king:

While a few players have stepped up, it's obvious Compher has emerged as the frontrunner to be captain of the team.

"He's done a really nice job," Osiecki said. "There's a group of those kids that are similar, but you talk to any of the support staff, the trainers, the equipment personnel, and they say he's very vocal and takes charge of the group. We have to start that now and develop that relationship between him and the coaching staff."

I am looking forward to the Copp/Compher axis truly owning the team this year. Jack Eichel:

"He does everything on the ice so well," Eichel, a teammate on the USNTDP U-18 team in 2012-13. "He's a guy that you can just try to model your game after. He just so good wherever he is, in the faceoff circle, in the [defensive] zone, he's great killing penalties, great on the power play. He's a role model to me and I really look up to him. He's a great kid and a great leader. He works so hard everywhere. Everyone else tries to match him. A guy like that on your team, it's really good. Everyone tries to work as hard as him, and if everyone works as hard as J.T., you know you have a good team."

Let's goooo.

How do two stars get drafted? By adding half a person.

Ra'Shede Hageman, No. 35 overall, gained 60 pounds

Hageman was a well-regarded but raw tight end recruit who grew from a listed 6'6, 250 to 310 pounds while at Minnesota, moving to defensive tackle. He's expected to make an instant impact for the Atlanta Falcons.

Jimmy Staten, No. 172 overall, gained 86

Staten was a 6'3, 217-pound two-star defensive end in high school when he signed with Middle Tennessee State. The Seahawks drafted him at 6'4, 303.

At least nine other drafted two-stars increased their body weight by 20 percent between high school and the Combine.

You really shouldn't criticize recruiting services for missing on guys like Staten or Buffalo first-rounder Khalil Mack—everyone else did. There are always going to be guys who blow up in college.

Etc.: In news that you take for granted these days, all of Michigan's freshmen are enrolled and full go. A look at what Loeffler wants to do at VT. Autonomy details. Annual Michigan drill thingy. Gasaway on the O'Bannon ruling.

O RLY.

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Hokepoints Goes Over

Hokepoints Goes Over Comment Count

Seth June 3rd, 2014 at 10:35 AM

In honor of our annual right there -----> which I expect will get Kickstarted a third year in a row today, I thought I'd share a little sneak peak from it. Brian asked me to create these for the linebackers page:

4-3 Overunder

Click to big. Right-click to open in a separate window so you can reference it as you go.

That's a side by side comparison of Michigan's prohibitive starters this year before and after the "shift" to a 4-3 over and accompanying position changes were announced. Seeing it you can start to appreciate how all of those announcements make sense.

For the lay, what you're looking at are alignments of the front seven. The "under" shifts the defensive line away from the strength of the defense and the linebackers swing the opposite way to compensate. The result is very much like a 3-4 (picture the WDE in the photo above as yellow) and plays like it. In this alignment the strong side is the left because there's a TE there. Michigan would often align this to the hash rather than the offense, shifting the DL toward the sideline.

The "over" shifts the line the opposite way, but not to such an extreme. The linebackers wind up centered over the ball, and the DL spread across the formation. There is nothing 3-4 about it except the nose tackle.

Let's run through the positions to appreciate what's changed and what will be expected of them.

Weakside Defensive End (Frank Clark/Mario Ojemudia)

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Ojemudia lined up as a 7-tech in the under [Fuller]

In the Under: The WDE is the leading pass rusher. He lines up so far outside of the backside offensive tackle that he'll wind up getting a 1-on-1 battle with that guy all day. The tradeoff was being further from the point of a attack in the run game. The WDE is further from the run game but in position to drop into coverage, a thing he was tasked to do quite often as the DE-like linebacker opposite him charged into the backfield. Much of the good done by the over shift is it creates double teams elsewhere to preserve the WDE's ability to attack upfield.

In the Over: The weakside end is still outside the offensive tackle, but shaded in a "5 technique," i.e. over the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle.

Dtechniquealignments

If you remember your 5-techs from 4-3 under school, you'll get the difference, though unlike your Ryan Van Bergens the weakside end usually doesn't have a tight end lined up to his side (ace even, H-backs and the like do happen) so he needn't be a double-team-eating anchor. The new WDE's biggest change is he's not dropping into coverage all the time. He has to control that OT in the run game, and often he has to cover the B gap. The linebackerity of the position has been removed; this man is a defensive lineman, and not necessarily a flashy one—Michigan State's been plugging their workhorse DE Marcus Rush in this spot for four years while various SDEs make the highlight reels.

The fit: Clark showed signs of being a pretty good player by the latter half of last season and now up near 260 he is large enough to not get kicked by OTs. As a pass rusher he's only like fifth or sixth in the conference, partly because the interior DL couldn't push the pocket very often, and partly because he wasn't great at closing when he beat his guy.  Ojemudia and true freshman Lawrence Marshall aren't large men in your memory, but both claim to be up to 250 now. They're all better full-time defensive ends than 3-4 OLBs.

[Jump for the rest of the DL—LBs coming up in Part II]

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Mailbag: Argument For Borges, Montgomery Departure Effect, Emo Business, Don't Play Skyrim

Mailbag: Argument For Borges, Montgomery Departure Effect, Emo Business, Don't Play Skyrim Comment Count

Brian January 8th, 2014 at 11:58 AM

099[1]ArrestedJeffreytambor4[1]

Brian Sipe and Al Borges did not see eye to eye

Quarterback coach?

Quarterback coach?

-BML, Brooklyn

Nope. When Borges arrived someone asked him about having a QB coach, and he said that he wasn't a fan of the setup they had at SDSU, where Brian Sipe was hired as a dedicated QB coach. That relationship was strained, it seems, and Borges now handles all that himself.

My google-fu has failed me in an effort to find this quote, but a couple years back there was a direct statement from Borges that he prefers to work with the QBs himself, alone.

UPDATE: a commenter comes through.

“I’m sure there were times I was driving Brian nuts, because I was being driven nuts. Coaching quarterbacks is more my M.O.”

What is the argument for Borges?

What is the argument for Borges?

Watching bowl games and I'm jealous of Iowa and their dinosaur coaching staff occasionally running up tempo offense.

Al Borges has either had the game pass him by or hasn't trusted his QBs at michigan one bit. They don't/can't run tempo, don't/can't get out of the huddle in time to gather any info on the defensive alignment pre-snap and don't/can't commit to any spread concepts that put playmakers in space and pressure defenders to make one on one plays in space.

Michigan's offense doesn't take advantage of ANY of the benefits of modern college offenses.

Andy
Miami, FL

The argument in his favor is that he does tend to have high YPA offenses when he has decent quarterbacks, and in YPA is generally regarded as the stat most predictive of victory. If you've heard the roundtable on WTKA this year you've heard Craig bring this up weekly, at which point I shoot him down because Michigan's running game is just so so bad this year. Then he brings it up the next week because his pet YPA stat was actually pretty accurate, and we repeat the cycle.

Anyway. In year two at SDSU, Ryan Lindley had a 9.1 YPA, which is near-great. In three years at Michigan:

  • Denard 2011: 8.4
  • Denard 2012: 7.9
  • Devin 2012: 9.7(!)
  • Devin 2013: 8.6

Things at Auburn were great, then increasingly grimmer. Jason Campbell cracked the 10 YPA mark in year one, then Brandon Cox went from 7.6 to 8.1 to 6.6, whereupon Borges got fired in favor of that Franklin spread guy who got fired midseason the next year, leading to Borges's current pathological worldview.

I'm not even sure how much of the Cox degradation I blame on Borges. I saw Cox live and in person in his senior year, and by that time his arm strength had degraded to Russell Bellomy-against-Nebraska levels. Meanwhile Tommy Tuberville's staff was a collection of Just In Charge Of Something For No Reasons that undermined the next guy and got fired as a unit as a result—they were Rodriguez's defensive assistants and Borges was Scott Shafer.

This year's actually-quite-good YPA stat (23rd nationally) is impressive in context. I think you can make a case that with a functional running game, Borges can pilot an effective offense. The program is pretty dinosaur all around, but at least Borges has shown that he is looking for the knockout punch.

Dear Brian,

I've read and heard a lot about our miserable offensive line and how Coach Borges's hands are somewhat tied with such an incapable unit. But it seems to me that the larger problem is the predictability of his play calling. I don't study tape or rewatch games the way our opponents must, but even I feel like I know exactly when he's going to run the ball and when he isn't. The Nebraska players said as much after they completely shut us down. The only game that I can remember saying to myself  "I didn't expect that" with regard to our ground game was against OSU, and in that match-up our O line suddenly looked average/competent against a good Buckeye unit. I feel like Borges is a guy that really believes that as long as everyone "executes", it doesn't matter if the opposing defense has an idea of what's coming. I'd like to hear your thoughts on this.

Thanks again for your hard work.

Mark

When one half of your offense is totally incapable of picking up yard one in most games you do tend to get predictable. Defenses figure out the thing that you are trying to do and shut it down because they aren't worried about the other thing. The Kansas State game was a great example of that: once the Wildcats figured out what Michigan was doing and adapted to stop it there wasn't much else Michigan could execute so they had to keep doing the one thing they could do.

This pattern is familiar from 2008, when Rodriguez would insert various tweaks and folds into his rushing offense that would work great for about a half and then die in a heap. Remember the 2008 Penn State game that was 17-14 at halftime and then ended something like 80-17 Penn State? Same thing: unleash something unexpected that really works (in that case it was MINOR RAGE), then have bupkis when opponent adjusts.

Predictability is a hallmark of crappy offenses, but it's more a symptom than a disease.

The Jerry Montgomery effect?

Hi Brian,

I see a lot of Michigan fans saying they will give the defensive staff a pass for this season's defensive performance because this is the same staff responsible for vast improvements seen in the first year under Brady Hoke. But, this isn't the same staff. We lost Jerry Montgomery to Oklahoma last offseason. Our d-line was definitely disappointing this year. Could you please comment on whether Montgomery leaving was a bigger blow than anticipated? Also, could you please comment on Roy Manning's performance as the linebacker coach?

Thanks and Go Blue!

How disappointing was it, though?

Our impressions are always colored by the most recent thing to happen and those two things were eviscerations by OSU and Kansas State, but the overall picture is less than awful. Michigan finished 35th in raw YPC without an imposing pass rush and without a whole lot of blitzing or load-the-box safety help. Their YPC allowed (3.81) was identical to last year's number, when Montgomery was around.

On an individual level, by the time the Ohio State game rolled around Ondre Pipkins had torn his ACL and Michigan's first choice nose tackle was 285 pound Jibreel Black, which went about as well as you might expect against what was by far the nation's top rushing offense. That is a huge and obvious personnel issue caused by injury—I continue to assume that something was just not right with Quinton Washington because otherwise his deployment makes no goddamn sense at all—and youth.

On an individual level, Michigan got strong upward ticks from everyone on the line:

  • Frank Clark went from hype bust of the offseason to a solid, Tim Jamison-as-senior effort.
  • Willie Henry went from obscure rotation guy to solid starter and potential future star.
  • Black was considerably better than he was as a junior, though completely overmatched because of his size at certain points.
  • Brennen Beyer… actually went backwards a bit, okay. But again this was Michigan's first choice SDE against OSU, a 250-pound dude.

The lack of imposing pass rush is an issue that needs to be addressed, yes. I don't think this season was necessarily that disappointing when you look at the roster at the three interior DL spots (SDE counts as one in my book). There is a gap akin to the interior OL on the roster.

image

Remove injured Pipkins and your non-freshman options at three interior DL spots that really need about six guys to rotate through are Black (285 pounds), Washington (inexplicable lack of PT), Ash (never played meaningful snaps in his life before OSU), and Heitzman (dumped from rotation in favor of 250-pound SAM). All things considered they were doing really well to hold up like they did before the season-ending collapse.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma was 53rd in rushing D, giving up a third of a yard per attempt more than M. I don't think Montgomery was a huge blow.

As for Manning, he's got the outside linebackers, which means SAM and only SAM. Michigan got quality play from first Beyer and then Cam Gordon; Jake Ryan was not as impactful this year but with the injury that's understandable. Tentative thumbs up in year one.

WMNationalChampionshipTipoff2013[1]

It wasn't too long ago that you were ready to cut someone about something something

EMO QUESTION OF THE WEEK OF THE YEAR

Brian,

Is there a point for you at which fanhood of Michigan football is so disappointing because of things besides kids trying their best (e.g., Borges/Hoke insanity, almost everything Dave Brandon) that stop...like, really, at least sort of? As we as a fanbase get to consider your experience of being a fan and weigh it against our own, you shared some, I don't know, despondency or something at times this season, usually in appropriate situations. And in a time in my life when I am thinking of getting ready for my marriage, and getting something resembling a career going, and God help me I'll be a father in a few years...this football stuff just seems like a waste of time when everything besides the kids gets me as worked up as [REDACTED TOPIC OF CHOICE] does.

Honestly, larger than the blog, which I could see continuing in a hundred ways, is there a "this far and no further" point in your tolerance of extraneous bullshit for the sake of the joy or whatever it is that's so incredible when the kids on the field do amazing things?

I mean, after the 2009 Illinois game, I locked myself in a dorm and turned off my phone and didn't talk to anyone until late Sunday. As crazy and immature as that was, nothing about the disappointment of a loss has ever made me feel like I should stop following the team. But now I read about BWW Bowls and Jerryworld II and I'm like...whatever, man.

JV

This is a natural consequence of aging and putting things in your life other than football that poop all over themselves when you would rather they not do that. Eventually, this will be you, wishing you weren't pooping all over yourself while watching Michigan poop all over itself in a hologram.

Scatology!

Anyway. It is an annual rite for person X on message board Y to declare that they just don't have the steam in them any more. I get it. To be blunt, I've been struggling with motivation issues since about midseason and understand anyone who flips the TV off and goes bowling*.

But, again, it is a human tendency to project most recent thing as thing that happens forever. It is not so. It was just last April that I was in the Georgia Dome, panicking about a Ke$ha song (probably, anyway; getting to the point where I can't necessarily discern which pop ingénues is which) because it was the thing going on before the national championship game. If they had played The Final Countdown I literally would have grabbed my buddy and gone AHHHH AHHHH AHHHH until he slapped me.

This season has been particularly enervating because of not only the suckiness of the team but its total unwatchability. As I mentioned in the post-bowl column, the 3-9 outfit was a worse team but they came by their awfulness honestly. Not that these folk didn't, but there is a special pain in rushing for negative yards consecutive weeks. It is transmitted direct to your eyeballs.

When this is not the case, you will discover the terror of your attachment again. Probably.

In your specific case, I've tied my career to this and don't have the option, so I don't know man. I tend to think I might get fed up, but I'm still getting hockey tickets and no one really cares if I go to hockey. Maybe I would just complain about feeling like a sucker and continue acting like a sucker.

*[I finally broke down and played Skyrim. Do not do this. Skyrim is the kind of awful that only reveals itself after you've set 60 hours of your life on fire listening to boring conversations and dully hacking things in the face. Their open world is beautiful and soulless, shiny on the outside but hollow in the center. Bethesda's mechanics are hopelessly broken in every single game they make, and while being able to jump across a continent in Morrowind was charmingly broken, Skyrim's mechanics invite you to a dull, iron-dagger-laden trudge through one moronically designed UI after another.

Wait.

Shit.

I just played the computer version of Michigan's 2013 football season. I DID IT TO MYSELF. AGAIN.]

AAAARGH

Obviously changes need to be made, and probably already have for all I know. I posed this idea to some friends this morning and got intrigued responses but it was ultimately dismissed as unrealistic: Michigan should hire Pat Narduzzi as head coach right now.

He's obviously ready for a move, would clearly help Michigan's defense tremendously (and bring in a new OC who could only be an upgrade), and this would really hurt one of our division rivals who is on the verge of becoming a regular contender. I would say this move would be on par with hiring Bo (who, at the time, was an Ohio State guy, even though he was at Miami). Getting Narduzzi now is no different, except skipping the middle step of him coaching elsewhere first. Has anyone suggested this idea yet, and what do you think from the perspective of is it possible as well as is it a good move?

Anon

IT HAPPENED, JV

IT HAPPENED RIGHT NOW WITH EVERYONE WATCHING

OH GOD

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