Monday Presser 10-12-15: Players

Monday Presser 10-12-15: Players

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on October 13th, 2015 at 9:01 AM

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[Fuller/Upchurch]

Desmond Morgan and Joe Kerridge

Joe, can you talk about being able to touch the ball, carry the ball and what a thrill that is?

“It’s really- over the years, looking at the fullback position it’s a lot of blocking- a lot of blocking- and so getting to touch the ball every once in a while is an awesome thing for us fullbacks. Sione’s been doing a great job. It’s a different twist in the game now and it’s something we really like to do.”

You guys probably haven’t had a lot of practices yet, but has there been an early message from Jim about how to prepare for this game? You guys have been moving up the rankings, people are talking College Football Playoff- how do you not let that get to your head?

DM: “After the game on Saturday we addressed it being a trophy game and being a big game for us, but as far as that we meet this afternoon in probably about thirty minutes or an hour. We’ll get more down to it then.”

When do you recall the countdown clocks coming down, and what do you think about that?

DM: “I don’t remember exact dates or anything like that. As far as thoughts on it, I think the whole mindset this year’s just been approach the next game, just go out and try to win the next game. So, for us in terms of countdown clocks or to count down to a certain game, it’s just basically been the next Saturday.”

Your thoughts on Jake [Rudock]. The steadiness obviously has been kind of a theme for him. This is a big game. Just your thoughts on having a quarterback who seems pretty level-headed through six weeks.

JK: “Yeah, Jake’s done a great job. He’s a student of the game, for sure. I try to get around him as much as I can. He’ll come up to me in the locker room after practice, he’ll already have watched the practice and come up and give me some pointers or something like that; he’ll critique something, or something like that. He’s shown great strides and it’s great to see a quarterback that loves the game as much as he does.”

[After THE JUMP: Jake Butt and Jourdan Lewis]

Wednesday Presser 10-7-15: DJ Durkin

Wednesday Presser 10-7-15: DJ Durkin

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on October 8th, 2015 at 11:30 AM

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[Fuller]

We’ve heard a lot of guys say you tell them to stamp their personality on the defense. When did you start using that?

“I don’t know for sure when. Some time ago. I think it’s just a way for me to describe to those guys that-I mean, I think it’s important to play with a personality. You were recruited here for reasons that are good. Don’t change that. We don’t want robots. Keep playing the way you play, obviously within the scheme and what we do, but play the way you play the game. I think that’s important.”

They also say they believe in what they’re being given now, and that gives them more confidence. Can you talk about, as a coach, watching that process take place?

“Yeah. I just- I’m really proud of our guys of how hard they’ve been playing. That’s the biggest thing to me is playing with effort and playing with the technique we’re talking about, and so any time you get a group of guys that are believing in one another and playing for one another then I think you have a chance to have something special, and I think they’re starting to understand what that means.”

Any similarities between Oregon State’s offense and Northwestern’s

“Yeah, I think too often spread teams are all clumped together like, ‘Oh, they’re a spread team or a one-back team.’ I think there’s always a lot more differences that apply within those offenses than what some might say. Northwestern’s definitely unique in what they do and they’re really good at what they do. I mean, they’ve had that system there for a while and they do a great job. You can tell their players know what’s going on and know where they want to go.”

What are some of those unique things?

“Just…they’re committed to the run game. They’re a physical group. They’re committed to the run game, and they do a great job of changing up formations and personnel and all that but at the end of the day they want to run that ball, and they do a great job of it.”

You do some hands-on teaching. They said you get in the drills sometimes and show them stuff. Is that something that you’ve always kind of felt people learn better that way or it keeps you engaged or why do you do that?

“I don’t know. I’ve probably never but that much thought into it other than I think just what we said about stamp your personality as a player. I think you do the same thing as a coach, you know, and that’s…I don’t know. That’s just me. I like being hands-on and being involved in it. I like being high energy. Whatever your personality is, if you’re true to it I think that usually gets a response.”

[After THE JUMP: Nothing else about robots. Cyborgs maybe, but not robots. Fine, no cyborgs either. But defense, yes. Definitely some talk about the defense.]

Upon Further Review 2015: Defense vs Maryland

Upon Further Review 2015: Defense vs Maryland

Submitted by Brian on October 7th, 2015 at 4:12 PM

homesure-lending-logoUpon Further Review is sponsored.

You know, Matt was just like "if I sponsor this you have to do them all for the whole season" and I was like "okay but you know that was going to be likely since now I am not going to be overwhelmed with sadness two-thirds through" and then he made some sort of intimidating hand gesture. But his heart is in the right place?

Matt's got a ticket offer going for a Michigan football or basketball game. If you're buying a home or refinancing, he's the right guy to call.

FORMATION NOTES: At this point Michigan has few formation surprises. They're usually in a nickel. They alternate between three or four fronts. One is a three man line with the buck in a two point stance as a 3-4 OLB:

30-nickel-slide

30 nickel slide

One splits the DEs a bit further and tucks the buck in behind the NT:

image

dime buck

And then they run a lot of standard four man fronts.

image

nickel even

Some of the four man lines will have the buck in a two point stance; I still denote those as four man lines based on the alignments of the DL.

Michigan swaps mostly between man under with one or two deep safeties and a cover three with a few different variants.

PERSONNEL NOTES: Standard rotation up front with Henry/Glasgow/Wormley in front of Charlton/Hurst/Godin. Henry got a lot of playing time after a couple weeks in which Godin was more prominent; Hurst probably played the best of anyone. Ojemudia got almost all the buck snaps until he was hurt, and from that point it was RJS.

LB was Morgan and Bolden with a scattering of 4-3 snaps that featured Ross. The secondary did not have Stribling so it was Clark/Peppers/Lewis/Wilson/Hill for the vast majority of the game. When in a 4-3, Clark left. When in a dime, Dymonte Thomas entered.

Michigan continued flipping Peppers and Lewis between outside corner and slot like they did last week.

[After THE JUMP: a defenestration]

Unverified Voracity Rents Monster Truck

Unverified Voracity Rents Monster Truck

Submitted by Brian on October 6th, 2015 at 12:23 PM

Event. The Alumni Associations big homecoming tailgate is this weekend. It features many things:

Five stations of delicious tailgate themed foods.

Cold beer brewed by U-M alumni-owned North Peak Brewing Company.

Performances by student groups.

Appearances by special guests including: University President Mark Schlissel, MGoBlog creator Brian Cook, and New York Times bestseller John U. Bacon.

A performance by the Michigan Marching Band.

The Exclusive Member Lounge - Alumni Association members can meet Sara Moulton between 12:30 - 1:30 and try out some of her favorite tailgating recipes.

One of them is somehow me. I have been tasked with emceeing the event, so send me all your John U Bacon short jokes. Tickets are available here. Teaser: I hear John U Bacon is not very tall, you guys! /rimshot

Whoops. Accidentally left this from LongLiveBo out of the game column:

Felt like this for a while

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Ended up feeling like this.

21893870482_5afcfa87be[1]

You will agree that it is good I have repaired this mistake.

A man who knows his history. Michigan went way back in the annals of football and dug out the T-formation against Maryland. I'm charting it and trying to figure out what the accepted lingo for T-formations with receivers is and hit up the Wikipedia article, and bang:

Yost_regular_formation_(crop)

That is from Fielding Yost's 1905 book "Football for Player and Spectator," which sounds amazing. Also, the section in which this image is found is headlined "Obsolescence," to which Jim Harbaugh would like to say not so fast, my friend.

Another tale in which Michigan is prepared. From Doug Karsch:

"I spoke with D.J. Durkin this week before the game, and he said, 'Look, Caleb Rowe is fine, until he gets pressured. That's where the turnovers have come from. So we're going to need to pressure him.'

"Sure enough, they did. All three of his interceptions came under heavy duress. Desmond Morgan said after the game about his interception, which came on a screen pass, before the ball was snapped, he knew in that down and distance that they liked to go screen. He told the defensive line to watch for the screen."

Michigan got Hurst in on Rowe so quickly he ended up hammering the ball at a running back about five feet from him. The deflection that followed was partially forced by the D.

So many ORs it sounds like a seal convention around here. Looking ahead a little bit to next week, Michigan State's depth chart on offense is certainly uncertain:

Pasted image at 2015_10_06 10_18

Jack Allen is a very good center. As a 6'2" left tackle he's gonna die. MSU really needs Conklin back posthaste. I imagine if there is any way either he or Kieler can play next Saturday they will do so.

It's fatal. Start over. The immediate aftermath of hiring Mike DeBord at Tennessee has exceeded even Michigan fans' extraordinarily jaded expectations:

The Vols are 108th in Bill Connelly's "explosiveness" metric. They've scored a total of 13 points in the second half of games against Oklahoma, Florida, and Arkansas.

The optics here are really bad. Tennessee essentially does not have a quarterbacks coach. That task has fallen to Nick Sheridan (yes, that Nick Sheridan), who is a grad assistant after a couple of years as Willie Taggart's QB coach at WKU and then USF. No offense to Sheridan, but that's an incredibly thin resume for the only guy a major college has with any claim to be a QB coach. Dobbs has seen his completion percentage drop six points and lost 0.6 YPA this year. You want those numbers to go the other way when your QB hits his upperclass years.

You really have to wonder what the hell Butch Jones was thinking.

The love is real. If Cracker Barrel's latest viral marketing campaign was based on kidnapping and hypnotizing Jim Harbaugh, someone needs a raise.

BTW, there is now a hidden subplot in Harbaugh twitter:

This happens a lot in his mentions now. A lot.

Possibly because Licensed Twitter Troll Tim Kawakami is retweeting him. Well done, Licensed Twitter Troll Tim Kawakami.

Cumong man. I am happy with the state of the team. I am getting a little punchy about the outside perception of it from both humans and numbers. Vegas moved Michigan from essentially infinity to 1 for the national title to 22 to 1, which is insane. S&P is not a person but a series of carefully selected numbers; now that Michigan bludgeoned Maryland and all preseason numbers have been dropped Michigan sits third(!) in it. FEI, at least, is more skeptical—Michigan is 22nd.

Pat Forde has a gimmicky column on when the undefeated teams lose in which he essentially says Michigan is goin' to the the playoff:

Northwestern (1)

Expiration date: Oct. 10, at Michigan. Saturday the Wildcats play in the Big House, in front of roughly 75,000 more people than have seen them play at any point this season. First team to 10 may win this matchup of the best defenses in the conference – and that team will be the Wolverines.

Michigan State (8)

Expiration date: Oct. 17, at Michigan. If this comes to pass, the Mitten may lose its mind. But which team is playing better football at the moment? The Wolverines.

Ohio State (20)

Expiration date: Nov. 28, at Michigan. And if it comes to this, Lord have mercy on the scarlet and gray.

I think the Lord's already done plenty for Ohio State, thanks. We have to fire our coach for blatant cheating—oh look Urban Meyer is tanned, rested, and ready. Hooray.

Dadrock is everywhere. The HarPod dominates all sports.

As basketballs bounced on the hardwood, the arena filled with noise: "You get up every morning from your 'larm clock's warning, take the 8:15 into the city."

Yes, Michigan basketball's official opening practice of the 2015-16 season actually included Bachman Turner Overdrive's "Takin' Care Of Business."

The Dads. They are rocking.

Quinn also has some useful takes from the open practice:

Speaking of Robinson, yes, he's as advertised. The redshirt sophomore can shoot — really shoot — from all over. It's effortless; more net than rim. As Derrick Walton Jr. told us before practice, "Like, it's weird when he misses."

Now all that Robinson has to prove is that he can get off his shot in live action, defend on the other end, and rebound his space. As for the athleticism question, Robinson rose up and tossed in an ally-oop with ease on Friday. He can jump. Quickness? I'm not sure yet.

I don't know where he got the impression Doyle had any baby fat; guy was as built as I've ever seen a freshman post at M. IIRC his tendency to become exhausted was more because he was constantly ill last year.

It's back! Jim Hackett has resumed wearing his I Got Harbaugh outfit.

This is a welcome development.

Etc.: Russell Bellomy departs UTSA. "A retrospective on Tom Crean's mediocre sext game." A history of moved Michigan games. Aubrey Dawkins oh man oh man oh man. Official site stuff on the Yost renovations. Gary Danielson being himself. ESPN adopts a sensible strategy for game overlap.

I'll Believe In Anything; You'll Believe In Anything

I'll Believe In Anything; You'll Believe In Anything

Submitted by Brian on October 5th, 2015 at 12:24 PM

10/3/2015 – Michigan 28, Maryland 0 – 4-1, 1-0 Big Ten

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fight or fliiiiiiiiiiaaaaaaargh [Patrick Barron]

I'LL BELIEVE IN ANYTHING – WOLF PARADE

"I mean ... there were a couple plays where they got first downs. We've got to look at that and correct it. They shouldn't have anything."

-Maurice Hurst

"I BELIEVE" seems like one of the most fun things to say at full bellow. You are in thrall to whatever it is you are busy believing in. You are ejecting spittle that contains within it the virus that will pass the belief on to those blessed by its impact. You have left the constellation of niggling doubts and pressing issues behind for at least three syllables. It sounds like a good time.

With neither Catholics nor Michigan fans prone to bare-chested, cloth-rending proclamations of that sort, I haven't had many opportunities to test this theory out personally. Once I when I was a teenager I ended up in a place where super serious teenagers were hanging out and speaking in tongues and the like. Yes, the reason was a girl. No, it didn't take.

But anyway in the aftermath I have occasionally found myself lingering on late-night exploitative religious television with equal parts scorn, sympathy, and jealousy. While the pompadour'd reverend is immediately repulsive, I get the flock's desire.

Just give me a sign, Lord. Just give me a sign. I will take this sweaty dude's earpiece radio telling him details from the card I filled out. I'll take anything. My God, this dude is sweaty. That wasn't directed at you, necessarily, Lord. You probably know about the sweaty guy already. Sorry.

Just give me a sign.

He is really sweaty though.

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

Here is what this game was like: Michigan punched in the first touchdown of the game early in the third quarter. When Maryland got the ball back, the play by play announcer gamely attempted to maintain the general public's waning interest by noting it was "just a two score game."

Unless it's the Big Ten West you're talking about, in modern college football you don't have to say that in the third quarter. You don't have to say it until there are about five minutes left, and that's only if someone's out of timeouts.

Baylor and Texas Tech were a couple hours away from trading 45 minutes of haymakers before falling over in an exhausted heap. Tennessee hired Mike DeBord and now specializes in blowing three-score leads. Indiana—Indiana minus its starting tailback and quarterback!—took three separate Ezekiel Elliott uppercuts and still staggered its way back to attempt a potential game-tying drive. They got a 79-yard touchdown run from that quarterback made out of popsicle sticks. Their attempt to tie only ended because a relatively obvious pass interference call in the endzone went unnoticed.

Indiana. Indiana's bench.

These days a two score lead in football is slightly more meaningful than one in basketball, but you could be forgiven for forgetting that during any particular Big 12 game. Anyone turning off a game because two scores separate the sides is ravenously hungry and can't turn on the toaster and the TV without blowing a fuse or has something seriously wrong—like Lions fandom—with them.

Not right now, not against Michigan. If you find yourself two scores down against Michigan it's time for a priest and a eulogy. "BYU: at least they're already saved." "Maryland: if you pay really close attention you can tell they tried."

I mean, maybe not forever. Anything this good is bound to regress to the mean and get various holes poked in it and fall over breathing heavily. This isn't even typical Michigan fan bleating, it's just a fact. The ultimate fact of the universe is entropy. Ask Ohio State, currently struggling to nose ahead of MAC teams and Indiana after returning almost literally everyone of importance from a team that blitzed Oregon and Alabama to end last year. Ask the water on Mars. Ask Devin Gardner. Chaos reigns.

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

Michigan now faces back-to back undefeated top 15 opponents. A year ago this would have been time to stock up the bunker and wait for the bombs to fall. Even when the Harbaugh Hail Mary was gloriously completed, we collectively told ourselves we were going to keep expectations on the level. Hopes stopped at "this is a nice 8-4 season that feels very nice and also like football mostly."

It's dumb to go past that even now. Reasonable expectations are a nice thing to have. The poison of ridiculous ones is evident down the road. I've been here before, latching on to the things that seem good and saying maybe it'll happen this time. I have gotten naught but misery for my troubles.

But each three and out, each time a Michigan defensive lineman shoots through a gap he should not be able to pierce, each bewildered quarterback throwing a ball he sort of hopes is complete but mostly just wants out of his hand—all of it sucks me closer to the event horizon. Within it all reason is lost and the future is a horde of pending victims in our war against the galaxy.

Outwardly I am still too Michigan to cry it out, the thing that is fun to say. But on third and long—and there is always a third and long—my eyes dance with blood. Just give me a sign, Lord.

HIGHLIGHTS

Also, the BTN profiled Amara Darboh:

AWARDS

-2535ac8789d1b499[1]

Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week

Now named! Named like so because this is the nicest thing Harbaugh can say about you.

you're the man now, dog

#1 Desmond Morgan was actually relevant this week. He was also terrific, with a difficult diving interception on a deflected pass, two pass breakups besides, and nine tackles.

#2 Maurice Hurst edges out the rest of the defensive line with two ultra-badass TFLs, one a sack on a three man rush, one an extremely similar play where he dumped the RB in the backfield.

#3 Blake O'Neill delicately located two punts inside the five, had a 59-yarder, and was extremely important for field position in a field-position-heavy game.

Honorable mention: All defensive persons. Drake Johnson. Jake Butt. The offensive braintrust.

KFATAotW Standings.

5: Chris Wormley(#2 Utah, #1 Oregon State)
3: Jake Butt (#1 Utah), Jourdan Lewis (#1 UNLV), De'Veon Smith(#2 Oregon State, #3 BYU), Ryan Glasgow (#1 BYU), Desmond Morgan (#1 Maryland)
2: Ty Isaac(#2 UNLV), Jabrill Peppers(#2 BYU), Maurice Hurst (#2 Maryland).
1: Willie Henry (#3 Utah), AJ Williams (#3 Oregon State), Channing Stribling(#3 UNLV), Blake O'Neill(#3 Maryland)

Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week

This week's best thing ever.

Jehu Chesson gets loose on a jet sweep and puts a Maryland safety in an early grave before outrunning the other guy to the endzone.

Honorable mention: Perfectly called Drake Johnson screen goes for touchdown; perfectly called Jake Butt screen goes for 44 yards; every defensive play except about six.

WGIBTUs Past.

Utah: Crazy #buttdown.
Oregon State: #tacopunts.
UNLV: Ty Isaac's 76 yard touchdown.
BYU: De'Veon Smith's illicit teleporter run.
Maryland: Jehu Chesson jet sweeps past you.

imageMARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.

This week's worst thing ever.

A Jake Rudock NO NO NO YES throw hits Sione Houma in the hands and bounces up to a defender, thus prolonging the first-half slog significantly.

Honorable mention: Even though Michigan got it back, Ty Isaac's second fumble felt a lot like a promising guy eating bench for half a season. Also Isaac's first fumble.

PREVIOUS EDBs

Utah: circle route pick six.
Oregon State: Rudock fumbles after blitz bust.
UNLV: Rudock matches 2014 INT total in game 3.
BYU: BYU manages to get to triple digit yards in the last minutes of the game.
Maryland: Slog extended by deflected interception at Houma.

[After THE JUMP: sad ghost rudock, tuff ghost defensive line]

Upon Further Review 2015: Defense vs UNLV

Upon Further Review 2015: Defense vs UNLV

Submitted by Brian on September 24th, 2015 at 3:04 PM

Upon Further Review has not yet lost its sponsor.

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Look you probably know about the rates and the pants and the whatnot. Homesure Lending is also a good option because on otherwise boring phone calls you can talk about how awesome Ryan Glasgow is.

Matt's got a ticket offer going for a Michigan football or basketball game. If you're buying a home or refinancing, he's the right guy to call.

FORMATION NOTES: By this point the defense is pretty well established. We got a few glimpses at what Michigan intends to do against pro-style formations; this is a 4-4 with the line shifted over (to the strength of the formation), Ross at SAM, and Hill threatening off the weakside:

4-4 over

Wilson, the free safety, is about 20 yards downfield.

I'm calling the thing where they drop the buck off the line like so…

30 nickel buck

…"30 nickel buck" to distinguish it from an actual 3-3-5.

This is what I mean by "triple stack" on UNLV's part;  Michigan is in their standard nickel even:

triple stack

SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Line was close to the first two games with Henry/Glasgow/Wormley backed by Charlton/Hurst/Godin except that you could replace Henry in the starting lineup with Godin based on snaps played. Henry got cut a bunch on the backside of zones and didn't see much time in the middle of the game.

WDE/buck was the usual 70/30 split between Ojemudia and RJS.

Lawrence Marshall got in on the last drive, as did Brady Pallante.

Linebacker was the same; a little more James Ross at SAM in this game; Gedeon and Ross also got a couple drives as ILBs in the nickel.

Secondary saw the same rotation as per usual (Lewis/Peppers/Wilson/Hill with Stribling or Clark in the nickel) except that Wayne Lyons was the dime back. Brandon Watson got in on the last drive as well.

[After THE JUMP: defense crush]

Upon Further Review 2015: Defense vs Oregon State

Upon Further Review 2015: Defense vs Oregon State

Submitted by Brian on September 16th, 2015 at 2:59 PM

Upon Further Review has not yet lost its sponsor.

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Matt's got a ticket offer going for a Michigan football or basketball game. If you're buying a home or refinancing, he's the right guy to call.

FORMATION NOTES: Michigan stuck mostly with its nickel even against a run-oriented spread team. At times either Peppers or Hill would line up as a WLB:

nickel-4-3

My deeply unsatisfying nomenclature for this was "nickel 4-3." I know this is a nonsense thing to say, but this is the world we live in.

I also don't like calling this a "3-3-5 nickel" since it's really just taking a DE and having him run at the LOS:

3-3-5-nickel

I need better lingo for that if you've got it.

M did this some with Frank Clark last year and they're continuing to do it with Ojemudia. I kind of get the idea, but execution so far has been weak.

shotgun te H

Oregon State used a lot of H-backs and I designated those with "H" after whatever the formation is. This is Shotgun TE H for the Beavers. Michigan is an actual 4-3 here.

PERSONNEL NOTES: Much the same as the first game, with heavy rotation on the front that justifies the OR next to Matt Godin's name. He played both DE and DT and probably got as much time as either Henry or Wormley. Glasgow probably got the most snaps on the DL; Hurst appearances were infrequent. It was mostly Ojemudia at buck, with a reasonable number of RJS appearances.

Secondary was as in the first game: Lewis, Peppers, Hill, Wilson + Stribling/Clark. When they went to a 4-3 it was Stribling/Clark coming off the field instead of Hill. After Lewis went out it was Stribling and Clark. Dymonte Thomas got some snaps in the dime.

LBs were Morgan and Bolden with Ross coming in for 4-3 snaps; Gedeon and Ross both got a couple drives as ILBs.

[After THE JUMP: short is good]

Upon Further Review 2015: Defense vs Utah

Upon Further Review 2015: Defense vs Utah

Submitted by Brian on September 9th, 2015 at 3:06 PM

Upon Further Review has a sponsor!

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UFR is the ur content of MGoBlog. We've had sponsor offers in the past, but they were never the right fit. This is the right fit. Longtime reader and MGoBlog supporter Matt Demorest started Homesure Lending on the same principles as Upon Further Review: chart the information that's out there, and try to turn it into sense.

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20150902_230137

He's got a ticket offer going for a Michigan football or basketball game. If you're buying a home or refinancing, he's the right guy to call.

FORMATION NOTES: Michigan spent the entire game in nickel save for scattered snaps in a dime package with three safeties (Hill, Thomas, Wilson) on it. Their first drive they came out in an odd front featuring the buck as a standup end:

30 nickel press

Either they weren't happy with the play there or it was just a stunt, because after the first drive Michigan spent most of the rest of the day with an even four-man front:

even

On occasion they'd do this or something similar with a standup end; this pinched formation saw a hard line slant that got Wormley through for one of his impressive penetration plays:

nickel even tight press

And that was about it. Michigan spent the entire game with one very deep safety—generally 15 or more yards off the LOS; sometimes they'd offer a two high look but they always came down with one or the other presnap.

PERSONNEL NOTES: Line was mostly Henry/Glasgow/Wormley/Ojemudia. Matt Godin got the most time of any backup, spotting both Wormley and Henry frequently and pretty effectively. Charlton played a reasonable number of snaps behind Henry as well. Maurice Hurst was mostly a passing down sub for Glasgow; he did get a few standard down snaps. RJS saw a little bit of time.

At linebacker it was mostly Morgan and Bolden. Gedeon got a drive; Ross got a couple. Secondary was Lewis/Peppers/Wilson/Hill 100% of the time and a mix of Stribling and Clark at the last spot. Thomas got some snaps in the dime package.

[After THE JUMP: battling a very spread out spread]

Preview 2015: Linebacker

Preview 2015: Linebacker

Submitted by Brian on September 1st, 2015 at 11:17 AM

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

10633344445_2cc4b46115_z

[Eric Upchurch]

Depth Chart
STRONGSIDE  LB Yr. MIDDLE LB Yr. WEAKSIDE LB Yr.
James Ross Sr. Desmond Morgan Sr.* Joe Bolden Sr.
Allen Gant Jr.* Ben Gedeon Jr. Jared Wangler Fr.*
Jabrill Peppers Fr.* Mike McCray So.* Noah Furbush So.*

This is music to a new defensive coordinator's ear: Michigan sports an all-senior linebacker corps. All have started for multiple years, give or take a hand injury or benching here and there. They've even got a high-quality backup. Senior leadership is out of control, man!

INSIDE LINEBACKER:

RATING: 5

14900828959_4b9856ee38_z (1)

[Upchurch]

Approximately the fourth-best* thing to happen to the 2015 team's chances over the last year was DESMOND MORGAN breaking his hand after the first game of the season. That didn't have much impact on where 2014 went; it gives this year's team a three-year starter to slot in the Jake Ryan-shaped hole at middle linebacker.

By this point you're probably tired of me extolling Morgan's virtues, and since he didn't do much last year other than fall behind Joe Bolden just long enough for me to eat a lemon this is going to be a rehash.

Morgan is a heady, athletic enough, stick-em tackler who's been yelling at the rest of the front seven to get in the correct spot for a few years now. He is your proverbial quarterback of the defense. That role will probably be lessened this year since the entire front seven consists of upperclassmen, but expect him to thwack Lawrence Marshall and maybe Mo Hurst should the need arise. Mike Spath got a great quote about Morgan's ability in that department:

On U-M's linebackers: "We played them two years ago and the guy that everyone seemed to listen to was [Desmond] Morgan. Those guys are invaluable. Everyone respects them.

"Last year, you didn't hear a lot of talk from the middle linebacker. I don't think Jake Ryan was a talker. He just wanted to do his own thing. He was very good at it, but he wasn't that guy in the middle of a defense that was taking care of the other 10 guys on the field."

When called into duty to make a tackle, he brings the wood.

During the 2014 Minnesota game he uncorked this ridiculous thing where he flew in on a blitz, had to leap over a guy, kept his feet, held up two blockers, and helped stuff a third and short.

When he's not making eye-popping plays he's keeping things going down-to-down. The one glimpse at him we got last year was enough for me to bring out a Picture Pages about Morgan's LB instincts.

morgan-belly-2[1]

Morgan found himself in a bad stop here, taking on a free releasing lineman in a bunch of space. He popped that OL back; the RB ran into said OL, and Michigan saved some yards.

When Jake Ryan faced the exact same situation later on that drive, he tried to make a spectacular play. His attempt to teleport around that OL was an instinct that served him well as a chaos-sowing SAM linebacker; when moved to MLB that instinct meant he didn't delay the back at all. Instead of six yards, Michigan gave up 11.

That's Morgan in a nutshell. He will hit guys hard and funnel back to his help and drop into his zone. He'll make it difficult for a QB to get a completion on him; he'll make it difficult for a running back to get YAC on him; he'll make it difficult for an OL to stay attached to him. He's not going to turn in Ryan's Tarzan plays, but you don't have to do that to be a great middle linebacker.

As David Harris demonstrated, MLB is a thinking man's spot. Harris was just about flawless with his reads, and his understanding of the game extended to ways to get off blocks without even taking them—one of his trademarks was in effect juking OL by momentarily fighting to one side of a block and then cutting back once the OL took a false step. Morgan had some moments like that a year ago:

Do that consistently and you get to be David Harris too.

Morgan's coverage is good. Very rarely does he vacate big tracts of land, as both Ryan and Bolden were prone to last year. He of course saved Michigan's bacon in the 2013 UConn game (for all the good that did them in the long run) with a leaping spear of an interception. Add it up and you get a 2013 UFR in extended, trying circumstances that looks like a guy who is on the verge of stardom:

Game Opponent + - TOT Note
1 CMU 4 0.5 3.5 Crunch crunch bang bang
2 Notre Dame 7.5 4.5 3 Coped pretty well in coverage. Responsible for both EZ deflections.
3 Akron 6 3.5 2.5 Negative coverage number should be factored in here.
4 UConn 6.5 3.5 3 Saved the game.
5 Minnesota 11 3 8 First real test this year passed easily.
6 Penn State 9.5 4 4.5 Rough start, strong finish.
7 Indiana 4.5 2.5 2 Blitzed effectively.
8 MSU 5.5 4 1.5 Okay.
9 Nebraska 5 4.5 0.5 Blew one TFL big. Otherwise solid.
10 Northwestern 6 5 1 Drawn in by some misdirection.
11 Iowa 1 - 1 Pulled early with injury.

UFR is tough on linebackers, so anything above zero is good. To consistently go over it over the course of a season, generally on heavy usage is very difficult.

The main drawback here is explosiveness. Morgan doesn't rack up TFLs and sacks; he's not great at getting to the quarterback on blitzes. (Run blitzes, on the other hand, he is excellent at, especially on short yardage.) He is not the kind of athlete that is going to make the NFL salivate.

But there are few guys I'd rather have on third and one. Morgan should reprise his 2013 with some incremental improvements. That would make him an All Big Ten level guy even if the lack of fancy stats prevents that from happening in real life.

*[Your top three are Dave Brandon late night email sessions, Harbaugh, and Jake Rudock's transfer.]

[After THE JUMP: seniors are made of leadership]