Mailbag: Anticipating Future Problems

Mailbag: Anticipating Future Problems

Submitted by Brian on May 5th, 2011 at 11:58 AM

craig-roh-umasssafety Troy Woolfolk (29) plays during Michigan's 26-20 loss to Michigan State at Spartan Stadium on Saturday October 3, 2009 (ZACHARY MEISNER/Daily)

Roh: forever hybrid. Woolfolk: forever Woorfork

Dear Brian,

Is there any possibility we see Troy Woolfolk playing free safety this season? In 2009, it seemed to me that our most effective defensive games were the ones where Woolfolk was playing deep safety (which we called strong that season I believe). While JT Floyd is by no means good, I imagine that as an upperclassmen with some games started, he has a better shot of being effective or at least not terrible playing cornerback than Carvin Johnson or someone similar has at being effective or not terrible at free safety.

Do you agree with my premise? Is there any possibility of this happening? 


If Woolfolk had been healthy enough to go through spring practice I could see him moving to safety, as the coaches would have had the time reconfigure their defense to account for that. Since they won't have a fully healthy Woolfolk until fall I'm not sure they have that luxury. He hasn't played the position since about the halfway point of the 2009 season. He'll be rusty either way; moving him only increases the risk a good chunk of his final year will be subpar due to his long layoff.

Anyway, the situation at corner isn't much better than safety. Courtney Avery will be decent but the guy starting next to him in the spring game was a walk-on. I'm not sure how much getting Floyd back is going to help. Last year he seemed worse than both Avery and Talbott and his recruiting profile doesn't exactly scream "this guy is going to get a lot better."

If you're moving Woolfolk the guy starting opposite Avery is either Floyd, a freshman, a walk-on, or a guy who seemingly got beat out by a walk-on this spring. That seems like a worse person to put in the starting lineup than Carvin Johnson, and Woolfolk will probably play better at the position he's more familiar with.

Further adventures in getting all these linebackers on the field.

Could Michigan enhance situational packages in the future running a 3-4 on occasion? Having four really talented linebackers may be too much not to use even though its not like Mattison to do so.

Dios mio, let's just do one thing for a while. Once people are complaining that our defense is too predictable we can start thinking about wacky packages.

Even in a hypothetical future where being predictably good or better is Michigan's biggest problem, when Michigan stems to 3-4 it won't get more linebackers on the field. The thing about the 4-3 under is that it's kind of halfway between a 4-3 and a 3-4. Relative to a straight-up 4-3 SAM linebacker and weakside defensive end are heavier and lighter, respectively, and both usually play on or near the LOS outside of the tackles.

This makes them a lot like mismatched 3-4  OLBs*. The reason Michigan kept calling their WDE a "rush linebacker" through the 90s and most of the 00s is that they used to be a 3-4. If Michigan changed to a 3-4 tomorrow Roh would be a starting OLB. Pulling him off the field in favor of a linebacker is actually making Michigan's fit with that defense worse. What's more, in the event Michigan does start running 3-4 fronts they'll use it as a change from their base defense. They'd like to show it as late as possible so the offense is confused. Flipping Roh/Beyer out for a linebacker tips their hand.

That attempt to find a spot for more than three of Michigan's thirteen linebackers next year is as valiant as "this guy can play position X" but no more likely to smooth out what looks like a roster imbalance. But, again, if the only thing we have to complain about is roster imbalance…

*[The way the defense plays differently is on the line, where opportunities to MAKE PLAYS fall almost exclusively to the linebackers; in the 4-3 under there's more opportunity for those guys to get into the backfield.]

Further adventures in anticipating problems.

Does Michigan recruit any offensive guys any more are we headed to the polar opposite of Rodriguez?

Seems like a ton of postings on the defense, I am wondering how much offensive recruiting success we are having.


This is just like complaints about Rodriguez not recruiting any defensive guys lodged in August of two years ago. That class ended up having more defensive players than offensive ones. Looking back on it the problem with it wasn't too many offensive players it was too few offensive linemen. And that people started bolting from it the instant it was signed. And the lack of a true nose tackle. And the inability to retain a quarterback with a Cone-like last name.

By position:

  • QB: seemed to be in the lead for Zeke Pike until his Auburn visit and is pursuing all manner of pro-style QB in the Midwest; will get one, then will load up the charm wagon for instater Shane Morris in 2013.
  • RB: Plenty of numbers; eight will be on the roster this fall with only Michael Shaw a senior. Will probably swing for the fences this year, taking only a high-profile guy. OSU commit Brionte Dunn will be on campus tomorrow
  • WR: Obviously no need for slots; outside is an issue. No one seems particularly likely to commit but Aaron Burbridge buzz now has him in play.
  • TE: Set unless there's still mutual interest for Ron Thompson.
  • OL: No need for centers. Two guards already in the class and Michigan is considered the leader for highly-touted IL OT Jordan Diamond. Should add another two tackles, but with OL it often pays to wait and see who the Lewans and Omamehs are.

My only concern is at WR. Michigan can afford another Bellomy type this year if they're confident in Morris and while a blue-chip back would be great Michigan has plenty of guys there, including double-Jackson approved Thomas Rawls. At WR the four guys entering year two seem to be largely disappointing and there isn't much else on the roster that isn't short. Being concerned about one or two WRs nine months out from signing day is a manageable issue.

Further adventures in Denard's awesomeness.

Brian -- my friend works for a Charter school in NYC.  the students were all assigned to write to someone they consider a leader.  not all of the leaders responded to the kids, but #16 did.

check out the attached:  a nice break from our passing game concerns ... and also, at long last, a story about Leaders that doesn't involve Legends

Go Blue,


The attached:

(Name removed),

Thank you for your letter and for asking me about how to be a leader. First of all, you need to believe in yourself and never just follow people. Always do what you think is right no matter what anyone else does or thinks.

Don’t forget to ask people for help and thank those who help you. Don’t be afraid to work hard, follow directions, and follow your dreams!

Good Luck and Go Blue!




Denard on Denard

Denard on Denard

Submitted by Brian on January 17th, 2011 at 10:51 AM

Because the logical thing to do these days is expect everything will be DOOM forever I was waiting for Denard Robinson to say something about not transferring (instead of people who have talked to Denard Robinson) before declaring ollie ollie oxen free. This would be that:

I'm still expecting a couple weeks of terrifying rumors in May, but I think it's safe for the kids on the diag to put their candles out and head home.

There have been kids on the diag with lit candles, right?

[New media looking-glass bonus: this is a snippet of a longer interview posted by the official site, clipped by a television station, placed on youtube by the roving band of Michigan video maniacs, and embedded by yours truly.]

Upon Further Review: Offense vs Indiana 2010

Upon Further Review: Offense vs Indiana 2010

Submitted by Brian on October 6th, 2010 at 2:44 PM

Substitution notes: Nothing unusual little. It appears the top three outside receivers are all getting approximately equal snaps. Smith played the whole game, I think, with Hopkins the other guy in the lineup on the rare occasions Michigan used a two back set. He never carried the ball. The second slot receiver is being de-emphasized in favor of more lineups featuring tight ends.

Formation notes: nothing new.

Gratuitous video:


Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M24 1 10 Shotgun H-back 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone stretch Smith 3
Playside DT slants and does not get sealed but also runs himself out of the play so there's a hole-ish; Schilling trips over the legs of that guy and falls, removing a blocker. Whether it's because of this or Dorrestein(-1) not being able to do anything with the backside guy, Smith decides on the full cutback, which is open because the backside DE maintained contain. DE runs him down, etc. This play is a good example of what Smith gives you: he's okay. He doesn't break tackles and isn't fast enough right now to juke opponents. (ZR +1)
RUN+: RUN-: Dorrestein
M27 2 7 Shotgun H-back 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run QB lead draw Robinson 73
Omameh(+1) blocks down on the playside DT and blasts him out of the hole. Molk(+1) gets out on and seals one MLB; Webb(+1) plugs the other in the hole and Robinson has a lane right up the middle. FS comes up to fill, Robinson goes WOOP, and then he's gone. Stonum(+1) picked up a good downfield block to remove the last guy who might have had an angle. Replay.
RUN+: Omameh, Webb, Molk, Stonum, Robinson(3) RUN-:
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-7, 8 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M15 1 10 Shotgun H-back 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Inside Zone Smith 4
Schilling(-1) is beaten and falls to the ground, forcing Smith behind him. There's a lane because of an excellent block from Webb(+1) on the backside but it's not open for much as Lewan(-1) was blasted backwards by the LB and falls over. That guy should put this on his NFL highlight tape. Smith has nowhere to go because of the minuses here and gets what he can. Molk(+1) did get a good downfield block on the MLB, which helped create a pocket for these yards. (ZR+1, btw)
RUN+: Webb, Molk RUN-: Lewan, Schilling
M19 2 6 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone read keeper Robinson 5
This is not the right read with the backside DE setting up outside and another linebacker coming up, plus Stonum getting attacked like whoah by the corner. Anyway, Robinson's on the edge with two Hoosiers but manages to dance past them and pick up some yards; Omameh(+1) had gotten an excellent driving block on the backside DT and his push opened this up for a few more yards that you might expect. (ZR –1, Robinson gets off without a minus because his agility made up for the poor decision.)
RUN+: Omameh RUN-:
M24 3 1 Shotgun 2H 1 2 2 Base 5-2 Run QB lead draw Robinson 27
Smith motions out before the snap; he'll do this before most snaps out of this formation in this game. Molk(+1) and Schilling(+1) momentarily double the playside DT, who hops inside as Denard hits it upfield immediately; Schilling pops out to seal a linebacker. Lewan(+1) has obliterated the playside DE and ends up pancaking him; Webb(+1) runs over a defensive back and Robinson gets into wide open spaces. It looks like he might be en route to a touchdown but a safety just manages to grab him from behind and take him down. I'm not sure if this was ruled a fumble or not but on replay it's clear he was down before the ball is out.
RUN+: Molk, Schilling, Lewan(2), Webb, Robinson RUN-:
O49 1 10 Shotgun H-back 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass PA rollout hitch Hemingway 17
Webb acts as the lead blocker here and Indiana bites hard, leaving Robinson a ton of space to operate in. He hits an open Hemingway in time for Hemingway to turn upfield and get some YAC. Pass was a little high but not too bad. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)
O32 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Base 4-3 Pass Bubble screen Roundtree 32
Indiana is running the same response to this bubble that they did last year: crash the safety at it. Michigan is responding to the response by having the outside WR block the safety—they did this against UW and OSU late last year. Hemingway(+1) picks the safety off and Roundtree(+1) shakes the hesitant, evidently not good corner for a touchdown. (CA, 3, screen, RPS +1)
RUN+: Hemingway, Roundtree RUN-:
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-7, 5 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M19 1 10 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 Base 4-3 Pass Flanker screen Odoms 5
Grady(-1) whiffs on a safety, which forces Odoms outside if he's going to get anything and robs Roundtree of his blocking angle. Still a decent gain thanks to a quick reaction and stiffarm from Odoms(+1). (CA, 3, screen)
RUN+: Odoms RUN-: Grady
M24 2 5 Shotgn trips 1 0 4 Base 4-3 Pass PA doom seam Roundtree 74
QB lead draw fake sucks the linebackers and the single deep safety up, providing Denard an easy throw to a wide open Roundtree that he hits. Roundtree starts rambling downfield, getting some vague help from Grady but mostly doing it himself, cutting back and then cutting out to get down to the three. (CA+, 3, protection N/A, RPS+3)
O2 1 G I-Form Big 2 2 1 Goal line Run Dive Smith 1 (pen +1)
Come to the play late so not really sure what happens, but Indiana has twelve guys anyway.
O1 1 G I-Form Big 2 2 1 Goal line Run Yakety Sax Robinson 0
Fumbled snap.
Drive Notes: Fumble, 14-7, 1 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M22 1 10 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 Base 4-3 Run QB lead draw Robinson 2
Schilling(-1) beaten to the playside by a guy he has position on, which forces Smith to ineffectually block that guy too and sends Robinson to the backside of the play, where multiple unblocked IU players meet him.
RUN+: RUN-: Schilling
M24 2 8 Shotgun 4-wide 1 0 4 Base 4-3 Pass PA circle Grady Inc
Poor read by Robinson with the safety tearing after this and Gallon breaking open over the middle on the same route Forcier tossed to Roundtree last week; the deep hitch may also have been available. As it is he throws the circle and Grady drops it, though he was going to get blown up for three yards anyway. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)
M24 3 8 Shotgun empty 1 0 4 Nickel 4-3 Pass Tunnel screen Smith Inc
Robinson throws it high; this was getting blown up anyway with at DT running right into Smith as the ball passed overhead. (IN, 0, screen, RPS -1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 14-14, 10 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M19 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone stretch Smith 4
Contain; good handoff (ZR+1). Michigan does block the backside end but the DTs slant past Omameh(-1) and Schilling(-1) to blow up the play and the downfield blocking. Smith(+1) does a good job to cut it back behind Schilling, who just got enough of the DT to give the backside crease; he gets his point back. He hits it upfield until the contain guy comes down on him. This play was blown up and still got some yards.
RUN+: Smith RUN-: Omameh
M23 2 6 ? ? ? ? ? Pass PA rollout hitch Odoms 14
Watching highlights because you suck ESPNU; as we come back Odoms is sitting down in a hole in the zone and Robinson is nailing him for a first down. (CA+, 3, protection 1/1)
M37 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run QB power off tackle Robinson 13
Schilling and Molk pull around as Koger and Lewan block down. Koger(+1) locks down the DE; Schilling(+2) pulls up to absorb a blow from a charging linebacker; very nice play. Robinson heads outside of that block, then cuts up inside of the corner that Roundtree got a piece of. Molk(+1) gets a downfield block on the last remaining LB; Smith(-1) is surprised by the direction of the guy he's attempting to block and lets him through; his diving arm tackle is just enough.
RUN+: Koger, Schilling(2), Molk, Robinson RUN-: Smith
50 1 10 Shotgun H-back 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Bubble screen Roundtree 7
This one barely gets out there, forcing Roundtree to dig it out. He does and manages to dodge the charging safety (who is now chagrined after terrible things happened to him), picking up decent yardage thanks to a good block from Odoms(+1). (MA, 2, screen)
RUN+: Odoms RUN-:
O43 2 3 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone stretch Smith 6
Correct read (ZR +1); we come to this late because of cool graphics but as we do Omameh(+1) has control of Larry Black and is driving him down the line; Webb(+1) pops out on the linebacker that shows up in the B gap and Molk(+1) has both the agility and intelligence to decide he's going to pull around Omameh since this scoop isn't happening, allowing him to plow a safety. Smith runs up his back for a decent gain.
RUN+: Omameh, Webb, Molk RUN-:
O37 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run QB down G Robinson 28
Just Schilling pulling this time as Molk shoots downfield for a block without coming around. Lewan(+1) and Koger(+1) blast their dudes inside; Schilling(+1) gets that same linebacker, and Smith gets a slight shove on a charging safety that Robinson(+2) just runs outside of. He then picks up an awesome block from Roundtree(+2) that allows him to cut inside and set sail for the endzone, whereupon the guy Schilling blocked(!) runs his ass off to make a shoestring tackle at the ten.
RUN+: Roundtree(2), Robinson(2), Lewan, Koger, Schilling RUN-:
O9 1 G Shotgun 2TE 1 2 2 Base 5-2 Run Zone read keeper Robinson 5
So this is kind of interesting here since because of the 2TE set and Indiana's response to this, this looks like midline. Koger kicks out the OLB on the line, leaving the backside DE unblocked; he chases after Smith and Robinson pulls (ZR+1). Lewan(+1) gets a clubbing downfield block but it's for Smith and he guy is able to spin off of it. He's there to tackle once Robinson dances inside the safety who comes up to deal with him.
RUN+: Robinson, Lewan RUN-:
O4 2 G Shotgun 2H 1 2 2 Base 4-3 Run QB lead draw Robinson 1
Backside DT times the snap and beats Schilling(RPS-1) thanks to it; there is a big crease to the right side of Omameh since the playside DE is actually running away from Dorrestein into Webb; Koger heads into it but Robinson can't follow since Omameh(-1) loses his guy; cutback and tackle.
RUN+: RUN-: Omameh
O3 3 G Shotgun 2H 1 2 2 Base 5-2 Pass PA TE flat Koger 3
Zone stretch fake gets Denard on the edge; three Hoosiers attack him, opening up Koger for six; he flicks it in calmly. (CA+, 3, protection N/A, RPS +1)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-14, 2 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M28 1 10 Shotgun trips 1 1 3 Base 4-4 Run Inside Zone Smith 2
IU playing man with cover zero behind it so Robinson can't keep it (ZR +1) but the safeties in the box let everyone scream towards the playside and forces a Smith cutback into nothing. (RPS -1)
M30 2 8 Shotgun H-back 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Slant Hemingway 70
This is what happens when you play cover zero, Larry. Michigan fakes the same play, runs the bubble route, has Robinson pump, then throws a deep slant to a wide open Hemingway, who breaks the tackle of Indiana's terrible corner—same guy who got smoked by Roundtree on the bubble TD—and sets off for the endzone. +1 for employing the Tecmo Bowl zig-zag along the way. (DO, 3, protection 1/1, RPS +4)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 28-21, 14 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M13 1 10 Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run QB lead draw Robinson 8
Two MLBs blitz so they're out of the play since M is running to a gap they're not attacking. Smith kind of holds one of them to prevent at TFL but does not get called because it's all subtle-like. I guess he gets a plus? Omameh(+1) gets his guy a yard back and when he tries to reach out for Denard Omameh shoves him so he falls; DE comes off a block to tackle from behind but not before major yards.
RUN+: Smith, Omameh, Robinson RUN-:
M21 2 2 Shotgun H-back 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Inside Zone Smith 1
Tate comes in as Robinson has dinged himself, and IU sells out to stop what the believe is coming, which comes. No chance for anyone to get out on the second level, guys slanting, no holes for Smith, and since Smith is totally average he can't do anything but get tackled. (RPS -1.)
M22 3 1 Shotgun H-back 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Bubble screen Roundtree 0
Safety comes up on this and kills it when a simple slant would have been wide open; IU again sells out against this package of plays. Two straight. (RPS -1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 28-21, 9 min 3rd Q. This is Forcier's pooch punt. Michigan seems hesitant to let Forcier throw downfield when he comes in like this.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M31 1 10 Shotgun H-back 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Slant and go Hemingway Inc
Gaaaah. Denard pumps the bubble and sucks up the safeties, then Hemingway burns the corner. Denard throws a 69-yard touchdown on a platter well long. (IN, 0, protection 2/2, RPS +3)
M31 2 10 Shotgun 4-wide 1 0 4 Base 4-3 Pass Slant Roundtree 13
Safety runs up late and Michigan just goes drop-back pass against man, with Roundtree running an excellent slant and Robinson fitting it in a tight window for the first down. Roundtree makes a good catch. (CA+, 2, protection 2/2)
M44 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone stretch Smith 56
Another textbook scoop by Omameh(+1) and Molk(+2) seals the playside guy and gets Omameh(+1 again) out on the second level. Schilling(+1) cuts the hell out of the MLB and Stonum seals off the safety, sending Smith into the open field; he runs through a shoestring tackle attempt at the ten and scores.
RUN+: Omameh(2), Molk(2), Schilling, Stonum, Smith RUN-:
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 35-28, 6 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M28 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone stretch Smith 1
ZR+1 as there is contain. Schilling(-1) and Molk(-1) cannot scoop the playside DT here and the linebackers are flowing downhill super fast, leaving Smith nowhere to go on any part of the play. Still, this is a play someone else might have been able to run through an arm tackle on and get three or four, not one. (RPS -1)
RUN+: RUN-: Schilling, Molk
M29 2 9 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Base 4-3 Pass Slant and go Stonum Inc
Blockers left in and three deep routes. Denard overthrows Stonum, who is doubled but has a step on both guys; probably should have come off him and looked to Roundtree on the deep post. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)
M29 3 9 Shotgun 4-wide 1 0 4 Base 4-3 Run QB draw Robinson 8
Five sent and live I thought Robinson spooked but on replay it's obvious the receivers are blocking. Blitz forces Robinson to take a circuitous route out of the backfield and Roundtree(-1) whiffs his block, leaving two guys able to contain Robinson; he shoots up between them but comes up a yard short.
RUN+: RUN-: Roundtree
Drive Notes: Punt, 35-28, 3 min 3rd Q. This is where you go for it, no?
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M30 1 10 Shotgun H-back 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone read keeper Robinson 11
Another midline-ish look with the H-back lined up to the same side the tailback is and Michigan blocking an edge player with him; unblocked backside DE crashes down on the tailback and Robinson pulls (ZR+1, RPS +1), finding open space.
RUN+: Webb, Robinson RUN-:
M41 1 10 Shotgun trips 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Inside Zone Smith 1
M blocks the backside end so the read here is the backside LB, who is crashing down on the play. Robinson should pull, but does not (ZR -1), and that LB is right in the play, tackling at the LOS since the slanting DL took away the gap he's not in.
RUN+: RUN-: Robinson
M42 2 9 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run QB power off tackle Robinson 4
Omameh(+1) pulls around to lead block; he picks off the MLB but Indiana is reacting to this better and he's able to force Robinson inside where Webb(-1) has lost control off the DE after starting to drive him downfield; that guy tackles.
RUN+: Omameh RUN-: Webb
M46 3 5 Shotgun trips 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Hitch Stonum Inc
Indiana goes M2M, it appears, with a robber in the middle of the field; Robinson pumps the RB in the flat but wisely does not throw, then comes off on Stonum. He is well covered but breaking just open about ten yards downfield. The throw is one-hopped. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 35-28, 10 min 4th Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M39 1 10 Shotgun H-back 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone read keeper Robinson 3
I think this is Robinson screwing it up. He again pulls it on the midline read (ZR +1) as the DE crashes down on Smith, and should blast it upfield in the gap where there isn't a linebacker for days. Instead he takes an angle way too far upfield and then cuts outside Koger's block, only to cut back up, allowing the DE to recover and tackle. This is a big error, as Michigan had IU dead to rights. (RPS +2)
RUN+: Koger RUN-: Robinson(2)
M42 2 7 Shotgun H-back 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run QB stretch Robinson -1
Reverse fake to Roundtree, FWIW. Playside DE does a good job not to get sealed by Dorrestein(-1) and then Omameh(-1) gets blasted back and actually pancaked by the IU MLB; Robinson has to cut way outside, where Koger(-1) loses his guy. That guy tackles Robinson in the backfield.
RUN+: RUN-: Dorrestein, Omameh, Koger
M41 3 8 Shotgun empty 1 0 4 Base 4-3 Pass Fly T. Robinson Inc
IU sends six guys but has a couple of them in definite don't-let-DR-escape mode. Dorrestein(-2) gets confused and lets a guy in free; Denard lets it go long to a single-covered Grady but the pass is well long. (IN, 0, protection 0/2, Dorrestein -2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 35-28, 7 min 4th Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M27 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run QB stretch Robinson 8
Not quite a scoop on the playside DT but Molk(+1) does well enough, giving Denard a crease since Lewan(+1) blew out the DE. Schilling(+1) buries a linebacker; Omameh(+1) got downfield to bash someone, too.
RUN+: Molk, Lewan, Schilling, Omameh RUN-:
M35 2 2 Shotgun empty 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run QB draw Robinson 17
Is this a planned counter? I don't know. Robinson takes a couple steps to the TE side of the line, then cuts back. Schilling's guy gets playside of him but then gets shoved past the play; Lewan(+1) buries the DE and then gets a little tug as Robinson passes. He evades the holding call and Robinson is into the secondary, picking up good blocks from Stonum(+1) and Roundtree(+1)
RUN+: Lewan, Schilling, Robinson, Stonum, Roundtree RUN-:
O48 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run QB stretch Robinson 2
Decent job on the playside by the left side of the line but IU is slanting harrrrd and Dorrestein has no chance to do anything to the backside DT so he's down the line and a cutback is out of the question. Robinson runs OOB after a few; Lewan did a good job to get the corner for him. This probably should have been PA. (RPS –1)
RUN+: Lewan RUN-:
O46 2 8 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Fly Hemingway 42
Five men rush with two more in short Denard Zones; Omameh(-2) stumbles out of his stance as Michigan slides the protection and allows Black under him. Not really his fault but he did stumble. Black comes right up the middle to nail Robinson. He throws just before the impact and the ball is a lofted ball in man coverage that's to the receiver's back shoulder; Hemingway adjusts and leaps to catch the ball, stumbling to the ground at the four. THEY TRIED TO MAN UP CRAB. Seriously: if Texas Tech did this you'd be all like "they drill the back shoulder of the WR all the time." Do I think Robinson meant to place this perfectly as he was getting lit up by a DT? No. Can I say for sure? No. Was it the best possible pass in this situation? Yes. (DO+, 2, protection 0/2, Omameh -2)
O4 1 G Shotgun 2H 1 2 2 Base 4-3 Run QB off tackle Robinson 4
Dude shoots right into the play; Smith(+1) submarines him and takes him out but that's erased Koger, too, so Robinson has to run away from the other guy shooting up the middle. Webb(+1) walls off the contain, Lewan(+1) rides the DE down the line and again doesn't get that holding call, and Robinson slams it up for the points that win the game.
RUN+: Smith, Lewan, Webb, Robinson RUN-:
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 42-35, EOG, basically. Woo!

Oh my gaaawd we scored so faaaaast.

Yeah. I'm pretty sure that's mostly Indiana's doing. Their defensive philosophy was totally different from Michigan's, especially in the second half. IU came out and shut down a run for nothing by sending both safeties on a kamikaze mission, so on the next play Magee calls this:

One clunky-lookin' white dude who's already given up a touchdown on a bubble screen versus Hemingway on a deep slant with no one else within ten yards == RPS +4. That's the main takeaway from this game, IME.

ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS: 14 – 7 = +7

Plus seven is a big number. Michigan had a lot of plays on which gaining 70 yards was as easy as slipping a tackle, and since IU decided they couldn't sit back they opened themselves up to a lot of big plays when they guessed wrong. They could have bled Michigan down the field if they wanted to.

So all your complaining about Michigan's passivity in the defensive UFR should keep this in mind. I mean, the numbers for Denard were ridiculous and his—


—chart was actually a tiny bit lame this game:


2009, All Of It 1 7 6(2) 3(1) 4 4 - - ? - 44%
UConn 2 15(6) - - 3 2 - - 2 - 68%
Notre Dame 3 25(8) 3(1) 4 1 - 4(1) 2 - - 71%
UMass 4 10(3) - 1 1 - 1 1 - - 73%
BGSU 1 4(1) - - - - - - - 1/1 N/A
Indiana 2 8(2) 1(1) 5(1) - - - - - 9/11 66%

(Tate threw one screen that I didn't bother charting since we already know he can throw screens.)

Two of his misses were out-and-out bombs UFR is generally forgiving about, but on one Stonum was magnificently wide open and Robinson could have put it in a five-yard radius for a completion but overthrew it badly. His strike rate on those is still pretty good: with the two from BG and the one completed one to Hemingway, he's at 60% on the year.

His reads on the zone were strong and his failures are a small portion of his overall resume at this point; I'm not worried he's going to go backwards. I think we all knew his miraculous lack of inaccurate passes from the UConn game was not sustainable long-term.

A note: I could have handed out a BR on another circle where he got his slot receiver lit up (see: you're killing Roy Roundtree) but gave him a CA since it should have been a short completion.


  This Game   Totals
Player 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3
Stonum 2 - - - 3 - 3/4 11/11
Odoms - - - 2/2 - - 3/4 11/11
Hemingway 1 - 1/1 2/2 2 - 2/2 4/5
Jackson - - - - - - - -
Roundtree - - 2/2 1/1 5 2/3 3/4 20/20
Grady 1 - - 0/1 3 - 1/1 6/7
T. Robinson - - - - - 0/1 - 2/3
Gallon - - - - 1 - - 1/1
Koger - - - 1/1 - - 1/2 3/3
Webb - - - - - - - -
Smith 1 - - - 1 - 0/1 4/4
Shaw - - - - 1 0/1 0/1 3/3
McColgan - - - - - - - 1/1
Hopkins - - - - - - - -
Toussaint - - - - - - - -

Not much action because everyone scored so quickly; highlights were Hemingway plucking that 42-yarder out of the air just like his recruiting profile said he would and Roundtree grabbing a slant nicely. The one drop was the aforementioned three-yarder so no big deal.

Protection actually has a ding for a tackle. PROTECTION METRIC: 10/14, Omameh –2, Dorrestein –2.

10/14 isn't a great number but the sample size is so low it's not a big deal.

And, finally, a run chart:

Offensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Huyge - - - DNP
Lewan 8 1 7 Not getting called for holding, so those are on the plus side.
Schilling 7 3 4 More slant trouble.
Molk 8 1 7 Had a clever play to impromptu pull on a zone.
Omameh 8 3 5 This qualifies as an off day.
Barnum - - - DNP
Dorrestein - 2 -2 Big difference in impact between him and Lewan
Webb 6 1 5 H-back club is clubby.
Koger 3 1 2 They're playing more than the slots lately and for good reason.
TOTAL 40 12 28 On a per-play basis, ridiculous.
Player + - T Notes
Robinson 12 3 9 Still Denard.
Gardner - - - DNP
Forcier - - - Wasn't involved in his two plays.
Shaw - - - DNP
Smith 4 1 3 Long run was pretty easy.
Cox - - - DNP
Toussaint - - - DNP
Hopkins - - - Did a little blocking.
McColgan - - - Didn't get to see the one play he was relevant on.
Jones - - - DNP
TOTAL 16 4 12 Maybe I should plus Denard more, but I don't know.
Player + - T Notes
Stonum 3 - 3 Great block on Denard's long touchdown.
Odoms 2 - 2 --
TRobinson - - - --
Roundtree 4 1 3 Showed zip on his TD.
Grady - 1 -1 --
Gallon - - - --
Hemingway 1 - 1 --
TOTAL 10 2 8 Consistent quality.

The charting did not keep up with the long runs. A 70-yarder is going to be +10 or something but 7 ten yard runs are going to rack up a lot more than that. Maybe I should had out a FLAWLESS VICTORY award for everyone when the play is successfully executed by everyone and Denard bursts downfield for six.

Anyway, the chart above seems to be the developing story of the season: Michigan has four very good offensive linemen and a serviceable right tackle. The tight ends are effective and versatile. Denard is a ninja. Vincent Smith is a reliable blocker and receiver without much wow to him even when he hits a 50-yard touchdown. And the receivers will block your ass. Together they result in Denard having more rushing yards than most D-I teams and some leftovers.

Oh no Denard's effectiveness waned after the usual injury?

Well, yes it did but I don't think that had anything to do with reduced physical ability. Michigan's first three plays of their game-winning drive were Denard runs on which he looked spry as ever. Drives after he came back:

  1. Misses Hemingway for sure TD, nails Roundtree on slant, watches Vincent Smith score a long TD.
  2. Indiana sells out to stuff first down run. Denard overthrows doubled Stonum when he should have come off on Roundtree. Denard's QB sneak comes up a yard short when Roundtree whiffs block.
  3. Keeper for 11, blown up handoff because Robinson did not pull when he should have, four yard Robinson run, Indiana goes man to man and Robinson misses Stonum.
  4. Robinson keeper should go for many yards but Robinson does not have faith in his read; stretch blown up; free rusher forces inaccurate bomb to Grady.
  5. Gamewinning TD drive on which he carries four times and bombs it to Hemingway.

Robinson was still running a ton, but he made some mental mistakes and poor throws. If he was damaged it didn't change Michigan's playcalling; more likely we're just talking about a true sophomore who is going to have some moments when he doesn't do the right thing.

Any hints of new stuff we might see against Michigan State?

I mentioned this after the Bowling Green game but Michigan has gone away from its all-zone-almost-all-the-time run game and has started putting in a number of power plays. Here's something straight out of the Michigan State playbook:

State features a jumpy, slanty defensive line and mixing plays up will either keep them from swarming the zone stuff or burn them badly when they get something other than what they expected. For all the Greg Jones talk, Michigan State gave up 5.5 YPC to Armando Allen and 6.6 to Wisconsin's Clay/White combo, and it was clear that Clay was laboring for much of that game. I'm not sure how much better their run defense is than, say, Notre Dame, and Notre Dame got gashed.

Also, Steve Sharik brought up the midline option in a diary and that's something I've been crying for for ages. By now defensive ends are pretty good about containing; tackles are not and tend to tear after the tailback. ND got us on the midline a few times, and no one is going to confuse their quarterbacks with Denard Robinson. Michigan showed something like it a couple times:

Okay, this is still the DE Michigan is optioning off of but Magee noticed that IU was using the WLB as a contain guy, so you block the contain guy and option of a guy who is not expecting to contain. That's similar in principle: do not allow the defense to know which guy is going to have to contain the QB before the snap. With Worthy a guy who absolutely loves to penetrate, running the midline at him seems like it could bust big.


Denard, most of the OL including the TEs, and Junior Hemingway's ability to high-point the ball.


Again, when you put up 42 points and almost 600 yards there really aren't any but I am still hoping someone pushes Smith to third string. Dorrestein is clearly a step behind the other guys on the OL.

What does it mean for Michigan State and beyond?

It's further confirmation that this offense is for real, though not a lot. Indiana's defense was as preposterously bad as expected. We didn't learn much we didn't already know except that maybe Junior Hemingway is a downfield weapon on jump balls, Marquise Walker-style. We always suspected it but he could never stay on the field long enough for anyone to confirm.

Everything else is par for the course.

Please Notify Rainbow Of New Address

Please Notify Rainbow Of New Address

Submitted by Brian on September 13th, 2010 at 10:31 AM

9/11/2010 – Michigan 28, Notre Dame 24 – 2-0

The Daily's Sam Wolson.

Sometimes even the corner of the endzone is a perfect vantage point to see something, and we were right on line to see Dayne Crist heave up what looked like a punt in the general direction of a covered Kyle Rudolph. We saw Cam Gordon take the wrong angle, backtrack desperately to take a futile swat at the ball, and twist his body around as quickly as possible to chase Rudolph. From there it's a dull haze as Notre Dame stadium erupted. The public address announcer, normally as staid and even-handed as Carl Grapentine, finished relating the details by exclaiming something about the rainbow Providence had directed to appear above the stadium at that exact moment.

Michigan fans are no strangers to this sort of thing. Ask anyone who's been around the block a couple times about Notre Dame Stadium and you'll get a recounting of injustices cosmic and otherwise perpetrated on not only Michigan but the idea of free will. Find them in a quiet moment in the dead of winter and get a couple drinks in them and you might hear a rigidly controlled statement about how the things that happen to Michigan's football team in South Bend make the speaker just… I don't know… unsure about certain things. Doesn't matter if they're religious or not. If they are, it's the existence of a just and loving God. If they aren't, it's the absence of a wrathful one. Either way the intensity with which your conversation partner is focusing on the rim of his glass will be unsettling.

The last time I went was 2002. Michigan fumbled four times, committed ten penalties, missed a 32-yard field goal, gave up a safety on a Courtney Morgan holding call, saw a Carlyle Holiday fumble at the two ruled a touchdown, and lost when Navarre's first pass on Michigan's last-ditch drive was batted directly to a Notre Dame defender. Michigan lost 25-23; in their previous two outings Notre Dame hadn't scored an offensive touchdown. I wrote two things about it in the aftermath:

The thesis statement of the latter:

To a Michigan fan, every Irish loss over the past ten years has been due to an unfortunate confluence of unlikely events: fumbles, ridiculous refereeing, blocked punts, hilarious deflected passes, etc. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not (though it is): that’s what it feels like. It feels like Michigan has nothing to gain and everything to lose, and everything gets lost on a biannual basis.

When Kyle Rudolph crossed the goal line the thing I thought was not an unprintable string of expletives. It was "of course."


Before the season a reporter from the Hartford Courant called me up for a story he was doing on the UConn game, probably because he saw me as a way to tap into the zeitgeist of the Michigan fan. As these things usually go, he only used one sentence from a fifteen minute conversation. This left out what seemed to me like the most interesting bit of the conversation, where he asked what I thought Michigan football stood for, what made it special and unique.

I had no answer to this. I said "that sounds like a question a Notre Dame fan would love to answer"—which caused the reporter to laugh a little more heartily than objectivity would approve of—and then launched into a narrative that won't be unfamiliar to anyone who's been around here a while. The post titles say it all, really: "Empire of the Fallen." "You Were Killed By A Bear And I Am Sad."

I told the guy that my inability to answer that question any more was kind of the point. The thing that was is dead, having expired from natural causes after a long illness. The thing that replaced it wasn't really anything except incompetent.

Basic understanding of the Michigan zeitgeist is understanding that now there is no answer to the question. Advanced understanding adds that until the Horror there was no program in the country with a more confident answer to it, and puts the two together to find a large number of sad pandas.

denard-robinson-is-a-sad-panda denard-postgame-smiles

And then with 40 seconds left Denard Robinson stared down a blitzing, unblocked Manti Te'o and fired a dart to Roy Roundtree for fifteen yards on third and anything but a field goal attempt. Michigan had done its best to gaffe its way out of it like this uniquely frustrating rivalry demands, but after that it was academic. You try to stop Denard Robinson from going two yards, or seventy-two, or eighty-seven.

The rainbow was not Providence, except insofar as Denard Robinson might be it. It was the Shoelace bat signal, or rather one of many Shoelace bat signals: Flagpoles. Trees. Corned beef sandwiches. Damn near anything. Once summoned not even the vast historical juju of Notre Dame Stadium can do anything about him.

So this thing you dared not hope for starts to coalesce just from the things that happen on the field, and then yesterday morning I was struck by a sense of profound gratefulness when I watched the MGoBlue video of Denard's postgame presser:

I love how he smiles all the time and wears his heart on his sleeve and goes "AHHHH" when someone mentions Roundtree blocking for him and seems about as amazed as everyone else as what he's doing. I love how he drops to one knee after he scores in a way that seems genuine in a way I couldn't comprehend until I saw it. I love that if you ask him he'll sign your forehead. I was going to let my skepticism overwhelm, to wait until it was obvious that 2010 was not going to be 2009, but I lasted two games. I'm in the tank again.

That feeling Johnny identified in 2008 when it became clear that neither we nor Michigan had any idea what it was any more is obliterated. I've got an answer for the Courant now: Michigan is receivers blocking like tiny mountain goats 40 yards downfield because it matters, because if you set Denard free he'll go "AHHHH" at you afterwards. He'll smile and it will seem like the sun is poking through dark clouds, scattering colors in a circle all around you.


They're annoying. Now bold section titles. More room. Easier blockquoting. Win.

The unsung hero: Shavodrick Beaver, the backup at Tulsa. Does anyone else remember the sick feeling in your stomach when you found out that Michigan had lost a desperately-needed QB recruit to Tulsa? Funny old world, isn't it?

Denard is like a video game, but to Google it's NBA Jam:


HT to reader Apoorva Bansal.

Crist return. We were only getting the usual scattered texts that actually got through but by halftime it was clear that Crist had some sort of head injury that prevented him from seeing out of one eye. I laughed at my friend's concern that Crist might come back in the second half, reasoning that a head injury severe enough to keep someone out of a half of football is severe enough to keep someone out of a game of football. But lo, Crist rose after this:

Q. What play was it that you got dinged up on and what happened?
DAYNE CRIST: Just running the ball, just took a hit kind of on the side of the helmet. I had trouble seeing out of my right eye after that. Tried to get back into focus. …

Q. Was it your vision?
DAYNE CRIST: Just kind of dazed a little bit and couldn't really see out of my right eye. But that was really it.

How would you feel if Michigan's coach had done that after everything we've heard about concussions the past couple years? Apparently they "did the tests" on the sideline and determined he didn't have one, but it's hard to be comfortable with that decision when it's a debate about in what particular way Crist's brain was messed up.

Ref argh. There have been a lot of complaints about Michigan's many penalties and the lack of ND holding calls—especially after Mike Martin described Chris Stewart getting a "warning"—that I can't comment on yet since I haven't seen the tape, but we saw this live since our endzone was the one it happened in:

What is it with Notre Dame getting free touchdowns on a balls they fumble at the one? No one from Michigan jumped on it, unfortunately, or a review would have been uncomfortable for the home crowd. What happens if a player fumbles into the endzone and it just sits there forever? Does anyone know what the result would have been? You can't claim an inadvertent whistle ended the play until after the ball is out. Commenters seem to think it would have been ND's ball at the one.

Tailback argh. Thirty yards rushing is not so good for all your tailbacks, though as we'll see below Fred Jackson thinks Notre Dame made a bizarre decision to put it all on Denard's shoulders. I'll reserve judgment until I see the tape since the corner of the endzone isn't a great vantage point to draw conclusions, but with a couple of less challenging games coming up it seems like its time to pull the other three kids out of mothballs and see what they can do. Tousssaint's Mike Hart and Chris Perry except fast, after all. That sounds okay.

Flagpole argh. One thing that did not factor into my decision as to which tickets I'd use and which I'd give to my friends: whether or not the flag would be 1) in my LOS and 2) at half-mast. It was kind of hard to see stuff inside the 20 on the far side of the field; people twenty rows higher were probably steamed about Al Qaeda in a way they'd never thought possible.

Denard implosion argh. In the aftermath of another OMG Robinson day the questions about his durability continue. I think they're slightly overblown since Robinson takes way fewer hits from the pocket than most quarterbacks, and hits in the pocket to a stationary target are always the most dangerous. Even so they're not entirely so, which means Robinson should see a reduced workload over at least the next two weeks and hopefully three as Michigan tries to find some confidence in the backup quarterbacks and find a tailback. If it comes down to it, though, you have to put the ball in his hands when it's do or die.

The truly terrifying thing about Denard Robinson is how often he was one downfield block from being gone like he was on the 87-yarder. These blocks got missed way too often, but I guess it's a lot harder to make them when you don't have any idea where the runner is going to be.

Game theory stuff. I agree vigorously with this message board thread about how the Rudolph touchdown was a blessing in disguise since any Notre Dame touchdown drive of actual length would have pulled so much time off the clock its hard to see Robinson leading a drive to win. He can execute a three-minute drill now (obviously), but with one and a half minutes I keep going back to those seams to Roundtree in the third quarter. The first was thrown directly at a linebacker when lofting it was a touchdown; the second was lofted and would have been a touchdown except it was considerably overthrown.

Giving up a 95-yard touchdown is obviously bad, but I think the play once Rudolph is behind the secondary and around the 35 is to let him score. Michigan didn't do this intentionally, but they did prevent the same sort of agonizing touchdown drive they gave up against Wisconsin and Ohio State in 2005, where they soft-shell their way down the field and allow the opponent the opportunity to score for the win with vanishingly little time left.

While we're on the topic, Kelly's decision to go for it from the three at the end of the first half has come in for rampant bashing by Notre Dame fans because it didn't work out but to me it seems like one of those decisions that's so close there's no right or wrong answer. We happen to have a huge database of one-shot plays from the three because that's where two-point conversions are attempted from. The expected value of a field goal from there is basically 3 points. The expected value of going for it is 45% of 7, or 3.15 points… if you assume an average defense and offense. Michigan does not have an average defense but Notre Dame's offense while directed by a third-string walk-on is probably even further below average, so in terms of pure points expected I'm betting Kelly gave up a little when he went for it. On the other hand, when you're down 14 points and you might not get many opportunities to score because you're down to the third-string walk-on you take variance where you can; you should be willing to give up some expectation for it. My gut feeling was that I was unhappy with the decision to go, which means it's probably the right call.

Yardage bit. This has been noted elsewhere, but what a bizarre game. Over 1000 yards of total offense but a winning score of just 28 and 18 punts. In a game where yardage was dead even Michigan was +3 in turnover margin and barely won. This happened because they lost about 40 yards of field position on punt exchanges, missed two field goals, got away with giving up the bomb at the end of the first half, shot themselves not in the foot but the head with penalties, and intentionally gave away 50 yards on Notre Dame's final drive.

So… yeah, Michigan functionally outgained ND by 50 since they weren't trying to stop those first two passes to Floyd, which makes the second week they did that against a BCS opponent. That didn't happen until the Purdue game last year.

Defense? Caveats about the backups in the first half apply but the defense managed to hang in there. Cam Gordon is going to come in for some huge minuses in UFR, but the rest of the defense can't be blamed for 200, maybe 250 (Jones phantom TD, Rudolph TD, long pass @ end of first half, final drive) of ND's 500 yards. Given the number of drives in this game holding ND to 24 points is an accomplishment. After Crist came out of the locker room and led ND right down the field twice I thought we were doomed, but the D got a stop after first and goal and then got five straight stops after. Say what you want about rushing three but I'm pretty sure all three picks were thrown into a three-man rush when the QB could not find anyone open. I'll be adding a "players rushed" tracker to UFR to see if the thing everyone hates actually hurt M.

Field goal argh silver lining. Rodriguez may be forced to do mathematically correct things on fourth and three from the 25.

ELSEWHERE slideshow. Genuinely Sarcastic column makes a good point about Cam Gordon and a box safety spot: ideally that's where he'd be. Doctor Saturday says "at some point you begin to run out of perspective, and adjectives." HSR took video of postgame celebrations. Wolverine Historian has a three-part set of highlights up. USA-Algeria-style bar explosion video from NYC's Professor Thom's. MVictors bullets. The Daily ranks the greatest individual performances in Michigan history, slotting Denard #4 behind three guys who killed Ohio State singlehandedly.

MGoReader scores tickets at face when ND opens up wheelchair seating to the public, sits next to Brock Mealer, and gets told this story:

He told me and a couple of nearby patrons a story about Denard: last week, before the game, he asked our QB if he ever thought about cutting off his dreads in case someone tried to pull him down (a la Polamu). Denard's response?

"If they ever catch me, they can have 'em."

Amongst the great many articles using the above picture and declaring Robinson to be hotter than the surface of Mercury but deploying the same stats and quotes as all the others is Mike Rothstein's from, which quotes to Fred Jackson about all those carries:

Notre Dame (1-1) offered no choice. With the defensive fronts the Irish presented, it was Robinson’s ball to carry over and over again….

“A lot of times, his reads tell him to give the ball to the running backs,” Jackson said. “But this game, they were forcing him to run it. They were probably trying to beat him up. But he’s too quick to beat up.”

That's an… interesting decision on the part of the Notre Dame coaches there.

I missed a few of Ryan Terpstra's postgame videos. Here's Jordan Kovacs:

JT Floyd and Craig Roh round them out.