How badly did you want to get out there with them?
“I wanted to but I pulled a muscle. Hip flexor that I acquired playing softball at Camp MIchigania a couple weeks ago. Still with me. Played softball with—it was the dads versus the camp staff members.”
Double the pain? Hurt then and hurts not to get out there?
[Inaudible because of the construction at Oosterbaan, which looks like it’s coming along nicely.] “Had a nice meeting with the AS Roma staff: their CEO, their general manager, their coach. Had a good talk. There’s some similarities for sure. It was good to see them.”
Are you guys going to the game?
“I don’t know. I’m going but I don’t know if the whole team is going. I think they’d consider that an impermissible benefit, so…they can watch it on TV.”
One of your players suggested the Oklahoma drill. How do you think the soccer players would have done?
“Uh, they would have done good. They were very competitive. You could see it. Especially Kevin [Strootman]. Really enjoyed watching him go through the drills. He’s a guy that’s overcome some real adversity: two ACL injuries. To make it back to the level that he’s playing at right now is very impressive.”
Are there any skills that soccer players possess that you’d like to see your football team pick up?
“I don’t think there’s a better game for running. In terms of running and eye-foot coordination, there’s really no other game like it. I always encourage youngsters in America to play soccer. I think every American boy should play soccer until the eighth grade and then they should play football.”
You learn any preparation tips when you were out there in Italy watching AS Roma, from the team?
“Just the conversations. We never did actually get to watch Roma practice, and then they played their game the day after we left. Very interesting, some of the tips I have gotten from them, is in the way they practice. High intensity, hour-and-a-half to two-hour practices. No breaks. There’s just something about their preparation style. Fergus Connelly, who’s been doing a great job here, came from the football leagues in England and Scotland, so I know for a fact there’s a couple of crossovers and things that we are learning, have learned, and will continue to learn.”
[After THE JUMP: “All deep breaths have been taken now. It’s time to train and get ready for the season.”]
let's talk about all three of these dudes [Bryan Fuller]
Chris Evans: already good? I'm a wee bit skeptical about these numbers because I seem to remember Chris Evans breaking some tackles and running for a gorillion yards when it was 49-0 against Rutgers, but, uh:
Chris Evans returns after a sensational freshman season in the Maize and Blue as the Big 10's most elusive returning RB. pic.twitter.com/NQb7w1EO01
No Saquon Barkley is a surprise. (He's not even 4th, which goes to Maryland's Ty Johnson.) Enough of a surprise that I look at this stat with a bit of a jaundiced eye. It looks like it heavily favors guys who end up in certain situations but not others. Wadley and Evans were insulated from short yardage situations by LeShun Daniels and De'Veon Smith, respectively. And the whole Maryland offense was geared towards getting little quick guys in space one on one. The context is important.
This one might be better?
In 2016, these were the most effective freshman running backs on a per carry basis after contact with a defender. pic.twitter.com/0zyNCDrGJA
I still think that's about Evans breaking the occasional tackle and getting a huge play than anything De'Veon Smith-esque. Huge plays are good, don't get me wrong—I am just worried about sample size. Better to have Evans on these lists than not; maybe not super predictive about the season.
Less skeptical about this one. Michigan's DL is going to be just fine this fall.
Michigan and Ohio State are the only schools returning multiple 4-3 ends who finished in the top 20 nationally for pass rush productivity. pic.twitter.com/XNuV7KRBgL
That one may be a garbage time artifact. Even if you haul those numbers back down to Wormley/Taco level that's pretty dang okay, and we haven't even talked about Mo Hurst.
Exit Fox Sports Dave Brandon. A spectacular final act for carnival-barker Jamie Horowitz at Fox Sports. Step one is gutting the profitable(!) Fox Sports digital team in order to consolidate his hold on power, with a side of implementing his post-apocalyptic vision:
What really does work is when you take things are good like ’11 Coaches Oregon Might Hire’, that might be something someone is interested in the day Helfrich gets fired, and we change to ‘Colin Cowherd’s 11 Coaches.’ We’ve seen this be very successful. You look at Fox News right now, O’Reilly and his take. That’s all it is. And there are many different ways.
Jamie Horowitz’s dismissal Monday came about a week after Fox began investigating allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace in its sports division. The company interviewed several women at L.A.-based Fox Sports about Horowitz’s behavior, according to a person familiar with the investigation who was not authorized to publicly discuss it.
The women included prominent on-air personalities and show producers, according to two people who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the investigation.
Lawsuits will follow as Horowitz tries to collect on a contract and Fox Sports tries to separate itself from an alleged sexual harasser. Unfortunately for Fox and their writers, there appears to be no way to re-spool the thread.
A bloody few weeks in online #content have caused a round of introspective articles about "pivoting to video," and why that's exec-speak for "I give up, eat at Arby's." Bryan Curtis:
Why this is happening is simple: The web has a surplus of copy versus advertising. Companies have decided that sticking an ad at the front of a video makes it less ignorable than putting a similar ad next to an article. It doesn’t matter what the video is. I often get a paragraph or two into a Sports Illustrated story only to find MadelynBurke in the lower right-hand corner of the screen, giving me a summary of the sentences I’m already reading.
The new round of layoffs ignited a lousy ritual. “Hire these people!” we tweeted at … whom, exactly? A word-friendly publication that would promise to never, ever pivot to anything else? The contact information for Vocativ’s “free agents” was sent around on a spreadsheet.
Other writers tried to play media visionary and stepped in it. “I’ve been in digital media for 12 years,” Sports Illustrated’s Andy Gray tweeted last week. “One thing I’ve learned is that nobody wants to read anything over 1,000 words. MTV is more proof.” Never mind that Gray’s employer uses the motto “longform since 1954.”
On Twitter, Gray got the noogie he deserved. I enjoyed reading his replies. They proved that no occasion, not even an existential threat to the industry, will prevent a journalist from citing his old articles — and, in this case, also providing the word count. Why, my recent longform piece was actually quite popular!
There are two kinds of online video. One has video content. Like this:
The other kind of online video does not have video content, whether it's a talking head repeating what someone else said or a poorly lit podcast-on-youtube-for-some-reason with horrible audio. These are stuck next to the actual written content you want, set to autoplay, and nowadays they even follow you around when you scroll down. They exist only to scam advertisers willing to play high CPMs for ads on video content. The problem, of course, is that these videos only have written content repurposed badly. No hamsters anywhere. They are never watched. At best they run in the background of someone's work computer, on mute.
Scout's bankruptcy and firesale was easily predicted by their own pivot to video. I can't tell you how many times I've clicked on a Scout article hoping for information on a recruit only to be presented with a video. Once in a while this seems useful enough for me to transcribe, and I do so. Half the time I decide to do this I can barely hear the #content because they taped it outside on a phone in high winds.
I dunno what the solution to online content is but I do know that scamming people is not it. Making your product worse by turning it into a tedious video instead a searchable, skimmable article is also not it. Until someone trains a hamster to recite your text, video is strictly worse for most content.
Penn State skepticism. Various folks on this here blog have been trying to elucidate why we're not as high on Penn State as most folks. Mostly it comes down to "their all-bomb offense was pretty lucky," and here's a stat to back that up:
Good stat from Phil Steele that matches the eye test:
Penn State came down with ~75% of 50-50 balls last year. McSorley bailed out a lot.
Whether he'll actually come back for football is an open question. Webb reported that he's 1) down to 180 and 2) very fast, so there's a role for him in both football and track. With a wonky hamstring that might not like stop-start, you could hardly blame him for packing it in and just running track.
Johnson would have been a rotation piece in the backfield; they still have Evans, Higdon, Isaac, and Kareem Walker along with O'Maury Samuels arriving in the fall. On-field impact should be low. FWIW, this has been likely for a couple months now and Michigan recruited like it.
"I'm sitting in [Fred Jackson's] office, and there was a fridge right over there, and he's like, 'You hungry?'" Johnson said. "I'm like, 'No man, I'm not hungry.' So he's like, 'OK, I'm going to grab myself a Coke.' So he grabs himself a Coke and he sits down.
"He takes maybe two sips, and he's like, 'Hey Drake, you want something to drink?' And I'm like, 'No, I'm still good.' He's like, 'I think I'm going to get myself an orange juice.' I'm like, 'Dude, you have a Coke in front of you.' He says, 'It's fine.'
"So I'm sitting there, and maybe two minutes later, he's like, 'I think I'm going to get myself a drink,' and I'm like, 'Coach, you already got two drinks in front of you, man! Your thirst can be quenched by what's in front of you.'
"He says, 'I'm just going to grab myself some water. You want some water?' And I'm like, "Nooo, I have Gatorade in my hand, guy. It's fine.'"
Let him take up his place in the Jibreel Black wing of the Michigan Hall of Fame where we put all the folks who didn't have a huge on-field impact but were nonetheless delightful.
Jim Harbaugh says there has been some difficulty in Grant Newsome's recovery - thinks he will be back next year instead of this year
Newsome's return was always 50/50 at best, and now it's probably 10/90. He does have a redshirt available, which he'll take, and hope to return as a redshirt junior next year. Michigan's looking at Cole, Bredeson, Juwann Bushell-Beatty, Nolan Ulizio, and incoming freshmen for their two tackle spots.
This year’s event seemed to be focused more on the internal stars, if you will—brining out the coaches, introducing the alumni, all that. What was the decision behind that and what do you think of this event compared to last year’s?
“Yeah, that was really it. It was just a thought that I had, we had, to make it more about Michigan, from the band, the cheerleaders, the drum line, coaches, players, parents. Just make it about the family, make it about the family that we are at the University of Michigan.”
Why did you want to make that change compared to last year?
“I just thought it’d be better. Not comparing the two; I think they’re both great. Just kind of the direction—it just felt right. That was the ‘why.’”
Does that reinforce the family atmosphere here at Michigan?
“It means so much to me. Never has that resonated more; brought home our seventh child yesterday. Came right out, gave it to Eddie McDoom on a fly sweep. They were giving it to us. Had to take it. There’s no better word in the English language to me than ‘family,’ this family of ours, the University of Michigan.”
/Ambry Thomas sneaks up behind Harbaugh
“Compete, Coach! Compete!”
JH: “Compete! Compete! Compete! Was that good? Good job, Ambry.”
You touched on it up there, but the combination of this receiving class you’re brining in and Pep Hamilton moving forward with that group.
“It’s a very dynamic group. Wonderful guys, you know. Really talented people, and just thankful. Today is a day I thank the guys. I thank ‘em for coming to the University of Michigan, for choosing Michigan. I thank the parents for trusting us with their children. So, it’s a day to be thankful. It’s a day to celebrate, and very happy. I mean, this is Michigan. I want just to come be great. I want them to take advantage of everything Michigan has to offer. So, a lot of emotions, but mostly joy.”
Can you talk about the trip to Italy and your reaction to the NCAA ruling that this is the last year of spring break camps?
“Yeah, we’re not going during spring break, so…[/smiles]. We’re going at the end of the term, so it’s compliant with all rules or new rules that have been made. And let’s talk about what mainly it is: it’s an unbelievable opportunity for all of us—youngsters and adults alike—to have an educational opportunity, to connect with the people from another country, to study in terms of study abroad. Most all our players are going to have that opportunity to study abroad, do internships, do service.
“We’re going to Italy, we’re gonna be there for a week, we’re going to practice, but from there all our players are going to be able to branch out all over the world. Thinking that the classroom—the world is our classroom. And they’re going to be going to Iceland, Belgium, Japan, Israel, South America, Puerto Rico, all over the world to do their classes in May. It’s so phenomenal that I can’t wait to get there.”
[After THE JUMP: Tom Brady, HC; loading the Jim Harbaugh Coaching Express; future trips abroad]
[New bolded player rules: not necessarily returning starter, but someone we've seen enough of that I'm no longer talking about their recruiting profile. Extant contributor.]
Last year was more of the same from a Michigan running back corps that had slowly devolved since the moment Mike Hart left. Upticks from Brandon Minor and Fitz Toussaint were more than offset by yards eschewed, random running, that year Toussaint couldn't pass block a soul, and a steady stream of Michigan discards who blew up as soon as they landed on another team.
His vision and run instincts tend to run hot/cold, leading to questionable decisions, and with his lack of explosive traits, Smith needs to be more decisive and trust what he sees. He tends to leave you wanting more due to his marginal burst and instincts, but there is a place at the next level for Smith due to his power, ball skills and upside as a blocker.
It was pretty bad… and then it got better. Smith's outstanding Citrus Bowl was the exclamation point on a mid-season turnaround that looks a lot like those Chesson and Rudock experienced. It wasn't as dramatic, but it was there. I'm going to whisper the next sentence: it almost kind of looked like someone had figured something out.
Running back coaching matters? I want to believe.
THE MAN THE MAN THE MAN
After consecutive years where this preview listed options at all three roles above in an almost but not quite entirely arbitrary fashion, Michigan enters the season knowing who their first-choice back is: DE'VEON SMITH. They know who their short-yardage back is: De'Veon Smith. They know who their third-down back is: De'Veon Smith. They think he's good enough to put him in the bin with Amara Darboh and Jourdan Lewis and all the other veterans who don't need spring contact.
Survey says... eh, maybe. Smith's bravura Citrus Bowl against some tough, if potentially disinterested, customers was the exclamation point to a rollercoaster season. If you don't want to read the rest of this section here it is in 15 seconds:
Smith abandoned his pulling guard, disappeared into a pile of bodies, was still upright seven yards later, got caught from behind, shook off a defensive back, got caught by the same guy again, and shrugged him off once more like so much lint on his varsity jacket. Few sixty yard touchdowns in the history of Michigan football have been as likely to cause the coaching box to exclaim "what are you DOING?" the instant before the breakthrough.
That was Smith's 2015. For every shattered defensive back left trembling in a puddle of his own making...
...there was a truck lane ignored.
Last year's UFRs invariably contained a book-length subsection on the running backs and the yards they made or, more often, set on fire. As the lead back Smith came in for the plurality of the discussion. Depending on the week this discussion was either generally positive and hopeful...
/spittle shields at 70% and dropping
Actually… I got nothing this week. I thought the backs did well. I complainedabout a lead zone run last week. Michigan didn't block it well; Smith mechanically ran into the gap he should go in if they in fact did block it well. He ate a DT for minimal yardage. I didn't care if Smith actually got anything on the play, I just wanted to see him see what was going on in front of him and put a foot in the ground to give himself a chance.
He did that on this one:
That cutback doesn't look like it'll amount to much when he makes it but Michigan gets on some blocks and Smith runs through some guys and it's a nice gain. If he'd gotten swallowed by an unblocked LB back there it's still the right cut.
I feel like this is going to lead into another running back diatribe.
Are they really diatribes?
Large portions of last year's preview focused on Smith's tendency to run at random, which outlets other than the Michigan obsessive bits of the internet picked up on:
The hope was Harbaugh and Wheatley could get Smith moving in the right direction more often, and for most of the season that was dashed.
But the frustration I experienced was not limited to Smith. Everyone who took more than a dozen or so carries made at least one mindbogglingly bad cut, from Drake Johnson to Ty Isaac to Derrick Green to Sione Houma. That's widespread enough to seem like a coaching issue, and Smith's trajectory confirms:
[UFR charting for ballcarriers is another spot where zero is bad. Zero means you got what was blocked and nothing else.]
Cuts late let M down.
Two very bad plays and not much to make up for it.
On just 8 carries.
Grinder; a bit frustrating with the cuts again.
Frustratingly slow sometimes but made up for it with power.
+2 blocking, +2 on catches, and then +3 late, which fits a pattern discussed below.
Made a significant number of yards himself. Zero pass pro minuses.
I be like dang
That is a veritable late-season surge. Smith came in for some clucking after the PSU game since I didn't care for three of his 13 carries, but in the context of the last five games that's the outlier and being good at running is the trend.
And this continued! Presented with a DL penetrating almost to the handoff point Smith cut off his OL's back and blew through an arm tackle. On the three, Smith turned negative two yards into two by juking two dudes and running through a couple tackles. Even on certain runs where it looked like he'd screwed up, the tape revealed he was trying to make the best of a bad situation only to find that there was no relief elsewhere. It took me a couple takes to realize that this was Smith avoiding a wholly unblocked LB in the hole:
As I said in the table above, he's probably better off running right at the guy for a few yards but I prefer Smith seeing trouble and adjusting even if it doesn't work out. Early in the second half Smith cut to the backside of the line and got hewed down early because a safety blitz prevented Darboh from getting to the guy. That's an RPS minus; without the playcall Smith is ripping off another backside cut. Even with it if Cole had cut off penetration a little better Smith can attack the S head-on, and that usually ends badly for the DB.
At that point I hadn't done the OSU game and wondered if that was a one-off; now that the entire picture is in view it's obviously not. I mean… it's kind of a Rudock trajectory. It wasn't quite as obvious since Michigan tried its hardest to avoid the defensive lines of PSU and OSU, but it's there. That's why Smith was placed amongst the revered elders during spring.
So. The dude remains a nuclear-powered icebreaker. The number of tackles he blew through was truly impressive, and even when he was in fact being tackled piles had a tendency to lurch two or three yards towards the endzone:
I have literally dozens of these clipped:
Smith grindsoutyardsaftercontactbetterthananybackI'veseenatMichigan. Yeah, he's slow. Yeah, he's not going to juke a guy in the open field. But in the right situation he can be a killer. That situation is surrounded by very good blocking that delivers him three yards downfield on a consistent basis. Smith will turn that into five or eight or eleven yards better than anyone not named Fournette. Is he going to have that this year? Maybe, maybe not. Michigan should get closer to it.
Smith's peripherals are unambiguously positive. He fumbled just once last year. He was also a strangely effective third-down back, to the point where I called him "King Hippo Vincent Smith." This is mostly because of his consistently excellent pass blocking:
Smith has the oomph to stand up linebackers like nobody since Mike Hart. This was a point of discussion after Penn State, a game in which Smith only got eight carries and still managed to stick out as an asset:
His eight protection minuses on the season are only twice what Ty Isaac managed to acquire in scattered snaps against Oregon State, and there was a distinct lack of the "team" minuses I hand out when I'm not sure who screwed up. 13 over the course of the season is a really low number and off the top of my head I'd guess that two-thirds could not be on Smith.
As a bonus, Smith is a solid outlet option because of this SAT analogy:
De'Veon Smith : defensive back :: windshield : insect
In limited opportunities he's shown that he's also an asset as a run blocker:
After that game I described him as a "low-to-the-ground 230-pound brick"; after the pass block above I broke my longstanding commitment to pooh-pooh all motivation/effort talk:
I usually assume everyone's going all out all the time and dismiss motivation stuff, but this week I got frustrated with a couple players for a lack of want-to. Smith never lacks that. Smith wants to end you. Even if he's slow and his vision is lacking, that's something.
He's the kind of guy willing to play through just about anything, and that's something Harbaugh has noticed.
Smith is a good bet to be Michigan's first 1,000 yard back since Fitz Toussaint. He's got a half-season of being pretty good and has more upside than you'd expect because so many of his issues stemmed from an unfamiliarity with the offense and running back basics. Wheatley:
"(Now we're trying to) get guys like De'Veon and Ty Isaac (and Drake Johnson) to what I call a mastery level. Progressing past the things we did last year."
It says here that Smith's 2015 is a better version of his second half. Michigan will rotate him a bunch to keep him as healthy as possible—his pounding style is tough on him and caused him to miss chunks of multiple games—and this will keep his counting numbers from attracting national attention, but his YPC should take a big step forward along with his reputation amongst Michigan fans.
[After THE JUMP: Jabrill Peppers! And other guys, but also Peppers!]
Juniors will pile in, of course, but if that holds to draft day both those guys would go in the top 15. I can't imagine it would—QBs and various other players at positions the NFL drafts higher than TE will emerge—but I be like dang anyway.
Todd McShay has Michigan third on his list of teams with the most NFL talent, and while having no idea what happened in the draft last year…
Last year, QB Jake Rudock (sixth round) was the lone Wolverine selected
…is not a great look for a draft analyst, ESPN currently projects seven players to be off the board by the end of the third round:
#31 Jake Butt: "Has very good natural combination of size and speed to create mismatches. Adept at playing in-line (Y), flexed out (F) and split out wide. Very fluid for his size. … Gets overmatched physically at the point of attack by bigger defensive linemen."
#33 Jabrill Peppers: "Good cover skills for a safety. Has lots of experience playing man-coverage both in the slot and on perimeter. At his best in man-coverage. Lacks elite fluidity in hips, but has quick feet and good burst. … Willing but could also be more aggressive at times. [ed: ?!?!?]"
#39 Jourdan Lewis: "was in the hip pocket of Michigan State WR Aaron Burbridge (6th round pick, 49ers) hip pocket the entire 2015 game (stats are deceiving). Displays excellent body control and balance. Shows good deep speed on tape."
#46 Jehu Chesson: "Very good speed for size and can threaten vertically. Gets from 0-to-60 miles per hour in a hurry. Has length and tracking ability to create matchup problems for average-to-smaller cornerbacks on 50-50 balls…. Excellent effort as a blocker. … Love watching this guy play the game."
#56 Chris Wormley: "Excellent size and good overall strength. Shows snap in his hands and flashes ability to press offensive linemen into their backfield. … Tied for team-lead with 6.5 sacks in 2015 but 4.5 of those sacks came versus marginal offensive lines (Oregon State, Penn State and Rutgers) and his sack versus Michigan State was a protection breakdown."
#69 Taco Charlton: "Power-based bass rusher that does a good job of using his long arms and explosive power to get into offensive linemen's pads, and then grinds through contact. … Good but not elite first-step quickness. Solid lateral agility and redirect skills for size."
#77 Mason Cole: "Better suited for pass pro inside. … Takes good angles and has very good range. At his best as a run blocker when on the move. Has the feet to consistently win battle for initial positioning. Lacks heavy hands and is erratic with hand placement."
In addition, De'Veon Smith and Kyle Kalis(!) are ranked as fifth-rounders. Smith has no scouting and Kalis's ("Good angles. Knows assignments. Solid job locating assignments in space.") appears to be about a different person.
You'll note the omission of Amara Darboh and Maurice Hurst from these rankings. Both those guys will be draftable by the end of the year. I'd be another member or two of the secondary get there as well.
Drake Johnson is the guy you should hit with a forklift. I mean, if it's absolutely necessary. Please don't run Drake Johnson over. Or anyone, really. Do not run people over with forklifts. Yes, fine, Hitler. In that unusual case where a zombie nazi is threatening children or whatever, go ahead. Even in that situation, are we really calling a reanimated corpse "people"? I think that's not people.
"The world could be falling apart, and doomsday could be happening, and I'd be like, oh, look, there's a nice flower on the ground," he says.
If it were anyone other than Johnson, such positivity would feel contrived and feigned. But then Johnson waves his arms, talking with his hands like a grand raconteur, and says something like, "There's always something good in every situation," and, dammit, you've got to believe him.
If I was Drake Johnson I would get business cards with "Grand Raconteur" on them posthaste, while looking very carefully for lurking forklifts.
Around the league. Things happening in opponent camps:
Penn State seems set to replace Carl Nassib with a couple of older guys who had 1.5 sacks between them a year ago. You'd think that would be a dropoff, but Nassib came out of nowhere a year ago.
Rutgers QB Chris Laviano "edged" a grad transfer brought in to compete with him. I mostly mention this because I had no idea this went down last year: "Laviano will have a chance to win over Rutgers fans who had no love for him last season when he went five straight games without a touchdown pass and lost his cool by blasting them on social media after interpreting boos meant for then-coach Kyle Flood at his own show of toughness in the middle of a career-best game."
MSU has five "co-starters" on the DL. One of them is a 275-pound DT who grad-transferred from Nebraska, a second is a redshirt freshman, and a third is a senior DE with eight career tackles. If that doesn't presage a major dropoff despite the presence of Malik McDowell I'm going to throw a shoe.
Per Urban Meyer, H-back Curtis Samuel is OSU's "number one playmaker on offense." Mike Weber is "close" to being named the starting RB; after Brionte Dunn was booted his competition is "nah" and "???." Malik Hooker and Damon Webb are leading to start at safety; sounds like Webb is still a little combustible.
“It’s going well. Typical camp stuff, so we’re supposed to keep it in house but everyone’s doing a good job. Everyone’s competing the way they should be. No one’s trying to back off. No one’s trying to give anyone any leeway. It’s just good, healthy competition.”
What’s the second camp [like] under Jim Harbaugh compared to the first one?
“Hmm. That’s a good question. Hold up with this. What he’s been stressing a lot is the toughness of it. The first camp, I think a lot of us were getting acclimated to his coaching style but the second one, now that we’ve been under his belt for a year-- even the young guys, they’re having to get this crash course in Harbaughism. I personally enjoy it. I’ve got no problem with it, but it’s definitely been an increase in I’d say intensity, maybe, is the best way to put it.”
Is it fun to watch the kids go through it the first time?
“Yeah! It’s always fun. Chris Evans is my roommate. I talked to him the first day of camp and I was like, ‘Hey, Chris. Ready for camp?’ He was like, ‘Yeah, dog. I’m so ready.’ I was like, ‘No, you’re not. You think you’re ready but you’re not. Just give it a couple days.’ But he’s doing well.
“I think all the freshmen are taking well, but there’s definitely those first few days where they’re like ‘What did I just get myself into?’ They’re adjusting well now. Everyone’s doing well.”
Is Chris working at running back and receiver or is he mostly at just running back?
“He’s been doing both. I kind of pay attention to him when he’s with us because we’re doing running back stuff. We get off from our play and we kind of huddle and talk about the play that just happened. I haven’t really seen him leave the running back huddle but if he has I’m typically not in the area where he would be there.I wouldn’t be surprised if he has.”
Jim said good things about him.
”Yeah, he’s a good guy.”
Jim said that about him as a player.
“Yeah, he’s athletic. Very athletic.”
You’ve been full go?
“Yeah, I’ve been through all the practices.”
Any discomfort with anything?
Have we talked to you since the forklift incident?
For those of us who weren’t there, talk a little bit about—I mean, how did that happen? Give us the rundown on that.
“You know, I was stretching at the track and there was a [claps] incident. But I’m not supposed to talk about it. Coach said chill on it so I’m gonna chill on it, but it was just an unfortunate incident. It happened. I’m glad I’m on the other side of it.”
[After THE JUMP: A rejected Charizard tattoo; fat man 7-on-7]
It lives! When Homesure Lending sponsored these posts, Matt admonished me that his sponsorship was contingent on me actually doing all of them. So, yeah, next time you see him buy him a beer and get a mortgage. Matt just pinged me in case a refi made sense, demonstrating that 1) he's always on the lookout if he can save you money and 2) rates must be even more absurdly low than they were a couple years ago.
Formation notes: I'm not sure if we've seen this before at M:
There are three tight ends to the right side of the formation. "Ace trip TE."
This mess was "tight FB big" and went about how you'd expect:
And this is an example of how Florida spent a big chunk of the first half. Check out the defensive line. That is a huge split between the nose tackle and the defensive end to the bottom of your screen. Michigan had a hard time dealing with it for a couple snaps and then blasted it until UF abandoned it.
Substitution notes: As expected. Rudock, the starting OL, and the FB/RB corps all went the distance. Smith, Houma, and Johnson were your only RBs—no Higdon, no Isaac. I don't think Newsome got any 6th OL time. WR/TE was all Darboh/Chesson/Perry/Butt/Williams until the game was salted away. Michigan put in Ways and Harris in place of the outside WRs, continued playing Perry, and gave Ian Bunting some run.
[After The JUMP: rather big JUMPS forward for a half-dozen guys.]
Coach, what are your thoughts on Lovie Smith taking over at Illinois?
"Uh, I think it's positive for the Big Ten, for college football. The level of competition I look forward to elevating- fair, honest, healthy competition and a tremendous football man."
What are the issues with going from the NFL to college?
"I can't say that there is any issue with it."
There was a Michigan release this morning indicating that Drake Johnson was injured in an accident and I was hoping you could explain what happened, and can you confirm the widespread rumor/speculation that he was hit by a forklift in the track building?
"I was with the family last night and I'll let them comment on all the specifics. Better, I think, coming from Drake or his family, but he's doing well. I can tell you this, it would have killed a lesser man but he is blue twisted steel and very flexible. Amazing. But, you know, it's one of those miraculous things and he is doing well. As to be expected, yeah."
I was wondering what his prognosis is, if you can share that, and will this affect his football future?
"To the best that I know, I'm not a doctor, but talking to him a week or two or three at the most. So it's…it's a miracle right up there with Easter. Just thanking God. Thank God that he's alright. That's my thoughts on it."
We didn't talk to you after the spring game. Did you guys go into summertime here with a guy leading at the quarterback spot or is it still open?
"There's so much that can happen over the summer in terms of improvements that you expect all of our quarterbacks to make, and we'll want to gauge that when we come back to start practice in August as to who made the greatest amount of strides in those four months so have not decided yet."
Was there one guy who had a better camp than the others?
"I haven't decided that yet."
Your decision to speak over at Paramus Catholic obviously created a lot of headlines. Why did that appeal to you?
"Has it created a lot of headlines?"
It has, yeah. In our parts it has.
"So why? I was asked. I didn't know that, but why I said I would agree to speaking as the commencement speaker?"
Yeah. Why did it appeal to you?
"I think the biggest thing was because I was asked."
Obviously it creates a unique situation with--
"I think that was the most appealing thing, that they wanted me to do it and I was asked to do it. My default is usually 'yes' when asked to do things."
Do you think it creates a unique situation to actually come into Rutgers' backyard and actually speak at a rival school?
"You said 'obviously' it does. I don't agree that that's obvious, no."
I think it's fair to say that there's many coaches in college football who would like to see satellite camps continued versus discontinued. As this goes to the board of directors there's still an opportunity to have the decision reversed as it may be. I'm wondering what plans you may have to be involved in mustering an effort among coaches to get this looked at a little bit more?
"Yeah, right. I think we're all looking at that. I do agree that there are a lot of coaches—most all coaches—there's always an urgency to help the youngsters and their own programs and in this case the spirit of football.
"Really I'm taking those words from Warde Manuel, our athletic director. I thought he framed it extremely well when he talked on the subject yesterday and I think it's a good message for everybody here in our athletic department and our sport here at the University of Michigan. As he said, we're going to continue to put more thought into it and then have a course of action. I'm proud that he's taken a lead in that on that topic.
"We all believe—we believe here it's beneficial, you know. Like Warde said, this is exactly the way he said it, there's always an urgency to help kids, our program, and in this case the sport of football. I would refer you to some of his comments because I think they're spot on."
With the satellite camps, I know your opinion on it so I won't ask about that but something that's interesting for me is the coaching side of it, banning coaches from being able to coach at other camps. I know at your high school camps you invite coaches from smaller programs or smaller conferences. What's your opinion on that? To me it seems like it eliminates opportunity for those smaller coaches to network and build relationships with guys like you and other bigger coaches to build their careers up and have opportunities for them to come in and show you guys that they can coach too. Do you have an opinion on that, how it could affect those coaches?
"Yes. I mean, as I said the other day, I think it affects thousands and thousands and thousands of people. Some people have scoffed at that but it's at least thousands and thousands and you bring up a good point. There's a collegial gesture that goes on when you're working a camp and you have coaches from all backgrounds—high school, college, professional—we get together and we talk about the sport of football and trends and best practices.
"That took place—Pat Fitzgerald was here last year at our camp. It was a tremendous, tremendous learning experience for us being around him. And Pete Lembo was here. There was was many colleges represented. Hundreds of coaches were here and that's just at our school. Yeah, that's another part of the debate."
How’s the running back group progressing through six practices?
“Progressing well. Just trying to get certain guys like De’Veon [Smith] and Ty Isaac to what I call a mastery level, meaning that it’s progressing past the things we did last year. Instead of going through the hole and getting tackled by a guy it’s really working some moves, try and improve your game.
“With the younger guys, they’re doing well. They’re right where I’d expect them to be. A little overloaded in some aspects in terms of the information coming in on them, but they all look good. They all look good.”
How do you keep De’Veon healthy for a whole year?
“How do I keep him healthy for a full year?”
Yeah. I mean, that was obviously the challenge last year. ”He was healthy. He was relatively healthy. I mean, any football guy who lines up and takes that first—it’s like a car. Once you take that car off the lot it depreciates. It’s never going to be 100% value. So in terms of De’Veon, I think he was healthy besides the toe. But in terms of being healthy, some of the things we’re talking about now: being able to not run down the middle of guys, taking so many hits, being able to make some guys miss. That will improve his health, but I think relatively compared to last year he was relatively healthy.”
WelpThisWasGoingToBeMyMGoQuestion: What’s a realistic expectation for the two freshmen?
“Expectation? They’re true freshmen.”
So how much would that be?
“They’re freshmen! We won’t know. Right now it’s too hard to put anything on it. I’ll just put it to you this way: it’s freshmen. They’re freshmen. I mean, they’re good freshmen, but the fact of the matter is they’re freshmen. So to put an expectation on it is really unfair right now.”
For Ty [Isaac], who probably didn’t see as many carries as he wanted to last year, getting to the mastery level, has he put in more work? Has he taken to that a little bit differently this year?
“Yeah. I mean, regardless the point of the snaps, it’s still just age and being around and hearing it, so trying to take his game to that next level. So yeah, I mean, he’s working. He worked last year. He’s working this year. Sometimes a guy may just outwork you. That’s just a thing. It’s not that he did anything wrong last year. But he’s working hard. Yes, he is. Putting in the work.”
Do you feel like Drake [Johnson] is finally back to finally maybe 100%? He’s running track, too. He said that’s helping his leg and knee strength.
“Well, unfortunate part about me, I never was here when Drake was Drake Drake. So what I saw last year and just seeing a guy who’s coming off an ACL, he looked pretty darn good. So if we can improve him and get him past that, we should be looking at a much improved Drake, and he is looking good. In terms of track, he has a little more burst to him. But just in terms of football-wise, we’re trying to get Drake to that mastery level as well. It’s moving past little things like getting tackled, little better in pass-pro, things of that nature. So he’s one of those guys we’re trying to get to that mastery level.”
[After THE JUMP: some good news re: fullbacks, more on achieving RB mastery level]