Upon Further Review 2016: Defense vs Penn State

Upon Further Review 2016: Defense vs Penn State

Submitted by Brian on September 28th, 2016 at 3:16 PM

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If you're buying a home or refinancing, he's the right guy to call.

FORMATION NOTES: Okay. Breaking things into front and cover look seems to be mostly functional. By "press" I mean that the two outside corners are in press. Usually the slots are still a number of yards off. This was a 4-2-5 package. The front is nickel over—Peppers is playing S and the line slides towards the run strength—and the cover look was press two high:

press two high

Goal line package was called 4-4 press zero:

press zero

When Michigan went to a dime package they had a couple of different approaches. This is a 3-man front like you'd see in a 3-4 with OLBs flanking it and just one ILB:

3-3 split

I called this front 3-3 split. They also did some wacky stuff, like putting all three DL to one side of the line:

heavy slide 3-3-5

"Heavy slide 3-3-5." Taco Charlton, the nominal nose tackle, will help tackle an outside run to the top of the field.

And as a reminder I'm lumping all fronts with a bunch of dudes at the LOS under "okie":

okie

BTW, "half press" or "off" looks are usually zone so far.

PERSONNEL NOTES: Just 57 defensive snaps and a ton of rotation on the DL. Charlton seems all the way back and in fact took the most of any DL(39); Godin, Glasgow, Hurst, Wormley, and Gary all had around 30. Winovich got 22.

The two ILBs got every snap until the final drive; McCray was lifted a few times when Michigan went to passing down packages. Furbush debuted for the final two drives. Stribling, Hill, Peppers, Thomas, and Lewis were near-omnipresent. Clark got just 15 snaps before his exit; Kinnel got 23.

[After THE JUMP: this is turning into the usual Penn State game.]

This Week’s Obsession: New Contributors Stock Watch

This Week’s Obsession: New Contributors Stock Watch

Submitted by Seth on September 27th, 2016 at 12:00 PM

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Asiasi-asi! Oy! Oy! Oy! [Bryan Fuller]

Our weekly roundtable.

The Question:

How are our pre-season predictions on new starters and heavy rotation guys holding up? Eligible players are anyone getting significantly more snaps this year than last.

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

The Responses:

David:

UpTyree Kinnel. I'm relieved and satisfied from what I've seen from Kinnel so far; he looks to be another Boring Safety™. Hooray!

I looked back through the last few defensive UFRs and he received increasingly more snaps, hovering around +1 while being relevant on only a few plays. After Clark got hurt Kinnel seemed to be the DB of choice to take his spot and shift others around as necessary. Kinnel has also been used on special teams and blocked a kick. While he's not going to be a starter just yet (hopefully), his work load should increase, and for the moment it looks like that will come without a drop-off. I'm not thinking that anyone ever has serious doubts about whether he could contribute on this team, but he's at least met expectations so far.

DownOn the other end of the secondary spectrum appears to be Brandon Watson. He hasn't played a ton, but he definitely saw his snaps go up for the Hawaii and Colorado games. In the UFR he was -2 and -3, respectively, for those games. He was put in the slot against Colorado for the first couple of quarters and definitely looked overmatched. He's always been a guy who could potentially succeed if he got a good jam on a WR...however, when that does not happen, he looks lost in space. With Michigan's current and future set of CBs, its not looking like Watson will see too much extra time in close games, or not on defense anyway. It looks as if he could be destined for special teams duty for the long term.

[Hit THE JUMP for MGoBlog contributors trying very hard to find something that hasn’t gone right so far.]

Upon Further Review 2016: Defense vs Colorado

Upon Further Review 2016: Defense vs Colorado

Submitted by Brian on September 21st, 2016 at 4:06 PM

HomeSure-Lending_logo_tagSPONSOR NOTES: Got a couple of requests to re-record the podcast commercial featuring Matt and his kids because it sounds like Matt has dragooned his offspring into this. Well, yeah, that's what offspring are for. Matt is a man who will dragoon for you. That's not something everyone can say, because not everyone knows what that word means. Matt does!

In addition to being a gentleman replete with Michigan tickets, Matt is also a good man to know if you need a mortgage. It's striking that we actually get non-astroturfed comments about positive experiences with Matt not infrequently.

If you're buying a home or refinancing, he's the right guy to call.

IDIOT DIRECTOR NOTES: This goober zoomed in so close to almost everything and provided zero high-angle replays, so I'm doing a lot more guessing about coverages than I usually do. As a result some plays of interest aren't clipped because the interesting bits I remember from the game aren't actually on the screen.

FORMATION NOTES: Okay, I separated front and cover look, and am still not satisfied with the results. "Press" was anything with hard corners on guys on the LOS:

press 

Off was off. This was two high, and also the post TD.

One high version of same:

2016 Michigan vs Colorado 1st Half.wmv_snapshot_00.13.34_[2016.09.21_15.55.43]

Still a work in progress.

Michigan and Colorado didn't do anything too weird except for some offset three man lines I'm just piling in as "exotic."

SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Again a tight rotation, which makes yet more burned redshirts puzzling. Wormley and Glasgow led the way on the DL with 53 of 71 snaps; Godin, Winovich, and Garry all got around 40. Hurst got 27 and since he played well I'm guessing they're trying to keep his workload light as he continues to recover from whatever held him out of the opener.

Linebacker was as you'd expect, with Starters getting the whole game minus some personnel package items. Gedeon is the guy who stays in when Michigan has just one true LB on the field.

Secondary was also low rotation, with Thomas, Stribling, and Clark playing every snap. Hill got dinged up and missed 16; Kinnel saw 20 snaps, most meaningful; Watson had 18.

WTF burned redshirt of the week goes to Carlo Kemp and his four snaps.

[After THE JUMP: panic calibration.]

Brash, Outrageous, And Free

Brash, Outrageous, And Free

Submitted by Brian on September 19th, 2016 at 12:28 PM

9/17/2016 – Michigan 45, Colorado 28 – 3-0

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linebacker on fire [Patrick Barron]

Let's say you're on the sideline of a football game. You've got a job to do, and you're doing it. This job involves looking at things other than the field, so you rely on your colleagues to let you know when the action threatens to spill over into your area of the sideline.

This is a fine system. You've honed it over the years. People move at a certain speed, you see, and when you hear "heads up" you get your head up, evaluate the situation, and avoid the brunt of the contact. Tried, and true, this system. Damn near infallible, in fact. At no point have you looked winged death straight in the facemask.

Then, this Saturday. Just after your team has taken a very unexpected second-half lead, the system kicks in. "Heads up." Head goes up. This is a process, though, and as you are in the midst of this process your brain starts signaling to you that something is wrong. The tone of voice, maybe? An ominous breeze? What's that thing with the sirens going by? Doppler effect? Whatever it is, the hairs on the back of your neck stand up straight. The process is complete now. Your head is up.

The system has failed.

The system was designed with certain tolerances and Jabrill Peppers has just blown through all of them. You are now staring winged death straight in the facemask. What a terrible time for it to be, now. Before is good. Later is good, assuming that there will in fact be a later. Now… now is bad. You spin the fight or flight wheel and land on "soil yourself."

And who can blame you, really?

Sphincters are also designed with certain tolerances. In your own way you've just blown through as many of them as Jabrill Peppers has in the realm of physics. So you've got that going for you.

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

There is a certain kind of person—usually a rival fan with a brain that could be cooled down to meat-locker temperatures without any discernible ill effect—who spent most of the offseason bleating about excessive hype for Jabrill Peppers. Peppers didn't have a bunch of shiny counting stats, you see, and therefore he was worse than other people who did.

This argument, already dead in the water to any slightly objective person with eyes, is now beyond repair. Peppers has a decent season's worth of linebacker stats three games in: 9.5 TFLs, 2.5 sacks, three QB hurries, and a forced fumble. He leads Michigan with 28 tackles, 19 of them solo. He's got 173 punt return yards—an average of 22 yards a pop!—and has just started contributing on offense.

Linear extrapolation of these numbers gets to territory so uncharted that Captain Janeway and her crew of morons show up to survey it. We probably shouldn't do that. Spicy stats will get rarer as the competition level increases… insofar as it does. Rutgers is still on the schedule, after all. Maryland—which just went to double OT with Central Florida—is also on the docket. Penn State and Wisconsin have offensive lines that are, uh, in flux. Peppers might not might meet significantly more resistance except in a few games.

So screw it! Linear extrapolation: 112 tackles, 38 for loss, 10 sacks, a thousand return yards and however many touchdowns, and whatever he chips in on offense. Ahahahahahaha.

image

PICTURED: THE BIG TEN CONFERENCE

Haha. Ha.

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

This was a concerning game for several reasons, not least of them the fact that a middling-at-best Pac-12 school was driving to go up 28-7 in front of a shocked Michigan Stadium. Post Traumatic Hoke Disorder was in full effect amongst the 110,000 gathered. Personally, I was not having a real good time. I went into emotional shutoff mode, as is my wont, and contemplated how I was going to break it to MGoBlog readers that I was moving to Bolivia, as is also my wont.

Peppers didn't rescue that himself. I had a fist pump after Rashan Gary came around the corner and a ragged exhalation when Amara Darboh dismissed a couple tacklers to turn a tunnel screen into a touchdown. Michigan's rebound from a game they certainly lose in the previous regime was a collective effort. That collective effort was mostly accepted on mute.

The one guy who pierced right through that attempted stoicism was Peppers. Because BANG he's thumping some dude in the backfield and BANG he's just slashed upfield through the first wave of punt defenders and BANG he has sacked the quarterback before he's even finished his drop.  Even when you're trying not to feel anything in case the feelings are horrible, it's impossible to see Peppers and not think OH HELL YES SOMETHING 'BOUT TO BE ON FIRE I CAN'T FEEL MY FAAAACE LET'S GO PUNCH A LEOPARD WOO.

Offense or defense, doesn't matter. He's the best lion. He sinks his meaty claws into anyone with the temerity to test his edge. He's the best gazelle. He slashes through a line of claws without ill effect. He is sui generis, the scourge of sphincters, and someone put him in a winged helmet to rouse the inert from their stupors and send them to their local superstores in search of an axe appropriate for crazed berserking. Check.

HIGHLIGHTS

WH:

Parkinggod:

AWARDS

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[Bryan Fuller]

-2535ac8789d1b499[1]

Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week

you're the man now, dog

#1 Jabrill Peppers is an easy selection after 3.5 TFLs, a sack, two rushes for 24 yards, a kickoff return to the Colorado 45, and four punt returns averaging 25 yards a pop including the game-sealing touchdown. Peppers has been everything he's been hyped up to be so far this year. The busted coverage is a demerit, and this is still an easy pick.

#2 Jake Butt was the one consistently positive target in Michigan's passing game, with seven catches for 87 yards; I also caught a couple of positive run-blocking events on Michigan's big plays.

#3 Ben Gedeon had 12 tackles, a critical sack early in the game, and was a major component of Michigan's interior run defense. Pop pass issues may have been on him and McCray but asking LBs to respond to RPOs like that is asking for trouble; I'm assuming those are on the safeties.

Honorable mention: Khalid Hill would have made it if I wasn't pretty sure he got Speight killed on the sack/strip. Rashan Gary, Chris Wormley, and Ryan Glasgow were key components of a stout interior run defense.

KFaTAotW Standings.

5: Jabrill Peppers((T2, Hawaii; #3 UCF, #1 Colorado).
3: Mike McCray(#1, Hawaii), Wilton Speight (#1 UCF).
2: Ryan Glasgow(#2 UCF), Jake Butt(#2 Colorado).
1: Delano Hill (T2, Hawaii), Ben Gedeon(#3, Colorado).
0.5: Chris Evans (T3, Hawaii), Mason Cole(T3, Hawaii).

Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week

This week's best thing ever.

Peppers finally gets his return touchdown and seals the game.

Honorable mention: Matching 45 yard touchdowns down the edge by De'Veon Smith and Amara Darboh; various other Peppers things.

WGIBTUs Past.

Hawaii: Laughter-inducing Peppers punt return.
UCF: Speight opens his Rex Grossman account.
Colorado: Peppers cashes it in.

imageMARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.

This week's worst thing ever.

A blown protection gets Wilton Speight blindsided for a 14-0 Colorado lead and a first quarter of deep panic.

Honorable mention: A blown coverage results in a long post touchdown to open things up for CU; Colorado strikes back at the beginning of the first half with a 70-yard bomb.

PREVIOUS EPIC DOUBLE BIRDs

Hawaii: Not Mone again.
UCF: Uh, Dymonte, you may want to either tackle or at least lightly brush that guy.
Colorado: Speight blindsided.

[After THE JUMP: SPEIGHTDOWN, also bad thing discussion]

Upon Further Review 2016: Defense vs UCF

Upon Further Review 2016: Defense vs UCF

Submitted by Brian on September 15th, 2016 at 4:16 PM

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SPONSOR NOTES: So we fixed the link, as someone informed us that the page had been password protected for seemingly no reason. That is no longer the case. You can go over to Matt's site and be lovingly led through the process of financing a home purchase now. Alacrity, that's the ticket.

In addition to being a gentleman replete with Michigan tickets, Matt is also a good man to know if you need a mortgage. It's striking that we actually get non-astroturfed comments about positive experiences with Matt not infrequently.

If you're buying a home or refinancing, he's the right guy to call.

FORMATION NOTES: Okay. I added a column. "D Pack" is short for defensive package and lists the personnel. 4-2-5 is Michigan's standard with two ILBs and Peppers on the field. Peppers counts as part of the 5 because he can play CB and S, which he did in this game. 3-2-6 lifts a DL for (currently) a safety. There was one 4-0-7 with Peppers at LB and six other DBs on the field.

I'm still sifting through what I want to do with the other columns. I'm probably going to split Front into Front and Coverage, but given how complicated coverages are these days and my lack of ability to see downfield sometimes that'll be noisy data.

Anyway. Most of the stuff wasn't crazy. I called this 4-3 SAM slide, as it's a 4-3 even with Peppers on the end of the line:

4-3 sam slide

This was a more standard 4-3.

pop-slant-1

PERSONNEL NOTES: Almost zero rotation in this game. Starting defense when the whole way, with all 68 snaps given to the starting  DBs. Kinnel and Watson got 10 and 7 snaps in various dime packages; Lavert Hill got in for that 4-0-7 play.

Peppers, Gedeon, and McCray all missed one snap. The DL rotated six guys close to evenly. By snap counts: Winovich(55), Glasgow(47), Godin(40), Wormley(36), Gary(33), Hurst(33). Marshall got 13 and was the only other DL to play.

[After THE JUMP: calm with bursts of WTF]

Wednesday Presser 9-7-16: Brian Smith

Wednesday Presser 9-7-16: Brian Smith

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on September 8th, 2016 at 11:30 AM

25452474933_46d77a7fe8_z

[Upchurch]

What did you think of the secondary and how they played?

“I was happy with the group as a whole with the way they played. I thought Delano Hill had a good game. Obviously had an interception returned for a touchdown, but he was solid in his coverage. He did a nice job. Didn’t make any mental mistakes, and I was happy with the way he played.

“Dymonte Thomas, he did a good job. He’s been a steady player for us all camp, and it was good to see it come to fruition at game time. I was happy with those two guys and then Tyree Kinnel. He came in and did a nice job. Young guy, hasn’t had much experience, but I thought he did a pretty good job coming in. And he was confident, and he helps me be confident to put him in the game when he plays the way he does. I was happy with the way they played.”

What did you have Jourdan doing on a day where he wasn’t going to play just to keep him involved? Can he pick things up from the game on the sideline?

“Well, I work more with the safeties, so I’m kind of more focused on them. I think Jourdan’s done a good job working trying to get back and he’s done a nice job with the younger guys pitching in. Him not being in there, he can give them lessons from the sideline. Having him around has been good?”

What are things that you saw during camp with Dymonte and Delano, because they’ve been essentially backups—they’ve had spot starts, but for them to take those leadership roles. Did you see a flash where they were prepared for that? It’s a different role, a different mentality, right?

“Yeah, I mean, being a starter, a lot of times you’ve got to lead by example. I thought they’ve done an excellent job coming to work every day, bringing their lunch box, and just having a workman’s mentality. Delano, all camp he was one of the leaders as far as reps in practice. And just leading by example, I think, sets the tone for the young guys. We’ve got a lot of young guys in the secondary and they’re learning from them and the example they provide on a day-to-day basis.”

Khaleke’s [Hudson] still a safety, correct?

“Yes.”

Jim had spoken highly of Khaleke, I remember, on national signing day and since then. What have you seen out of him? How is he adjusting and keeping up with the older guys?

“Yeah, Khaleke came in as a freshman, didn’t know much. Played running back in high school, kind of an option running back, and you could see the maturity that he has for a young guy coming in. He’s really learned a lot over the last couple weeks. I’ve been happy with his progression from where he started to where he is now. Just got to keep going every day, getting better, and just learning the game, the safety position. But he’s done a nice job so far. I’ve been happy with his progression.”

[After THE JUMP: on Hudson, Metellus, tempo, and mechanics]

Preview 2016: Five Questions And Five Answers On Defense

Preview 2016: Five Questions And Five Answers On Defense

Submitted by Brian on September 2nd, 2016 at 2:02 PM

Previously: Podcast 8.0. The Story. Quarterback. Running Back. Wide Receiver. Tight End And Friends. Offensive Line. Defensive End. Defensive Tackle. Linebacker. Cornerback. Safety. Special Teams. 5Q5A: Offense.

1. Is The Don Brown thing really a big deal?

27654217462_4a74e7cffc_z

[Patrick Barron]

Yes. When he was hired a wide selection of ACC folk whooped with joy and Boston College fans put on their NIN, and the proof is in the pudding. At three different stops over the last seven years, Don Brown has turned middling or worse Power 5 defenses into top 20-ish units, with the most recent one at BC a straight up Murder Castle:

[metrics are yards per play, FEI, and S&P+; national ranks are presented. final column is the average of the three. Bolded years are Brown years.]

Year TEAM YPP FEI S&P+ AVG
2008 Maryland 56 63 75 65
2009 Maryland 87 64 44 65
2010 Maryland 14 20 31 22
2011 Maryland 83 74 102 86
           
2010 UConn 40 40 63 48
2011 UConn 56 23 34 38
2012 UConn 8 22 38 23
2013 UConn 64 56 72 64
           
2012 Boston College 63 81 80 75
2013 Boston College 92 98 80 90
2014 Boston College 30 68 36 45
2015 Boston College 1 5 3 3

That is a hell of a track record. Not only does he improve units way beyond previous expectations, his departure also immediately deleterious to the school he's left. That is highly suggestive of a guy who is a cut above as a tactician and playcaller.

And not to dump on DJ Durkin excessively, but he had close to no track record before his hire at Michigan. Being defensive coordinator under Will Muschamp is an assistant (to the) regional manager job. I think Durkin's going to be a good head coach—he's recruiting like gangbusters already—but there is simply no comparison between Durkin and Brown if you're talking about putting a defense together.

This goes double for the Big Bad at the end of the schedule. Michigan's gotten gashed for years by Ohio State, and last year was no different. A lot of this went directly back to Durkin's simplistic and static approach: man free, man free, man free. Steve Sharik pointed this out after the Indiana gashing:

Why Michigan has been really successful on D this year is b/c it can lock up on receivers, put an excellent, smart safety deep, then play with a man advantage in the box b/c the QB was not a run threat. In some sense, it was throwing rock every single time, believing (like Mickey from Seinfeld) that nothing beats rock. They're not alone.

It is widely known among coaching circles that gurus Bill Belichick and Nick Saban believe that (all else being equal) man-free defense is the best in the game: you're strong up the middle, you're protected deep, and you have an extra defender in the box vs. run.

When you're facing option football (which the NFL never sees), this is a fallacy, and Michigan fell victim on defense last Saturday.

Long story short there was zero adaptation against Ohio State and after halftime it was all over but the grinding.

This will not happen to Don Brown, who has been fighting spread offenses with defenses made out of a sock, a paperclip, and some mint gum for years. Never in Don Brown's career has he been able to sit back with minus one in the box and watch his guys whip it up one-on-one. He's got a ton of different ways to deal with the perimeter issues that Michigan endured a year ago, and spent his entire presentation at Michigan's coaching clinic talking about how to defend the inverted veer and its brethren.

I was straight up terrified about all the rumors about NFL guys under consideration. Every single one of those guy would walk into the OSU game as unprepared as Durkin. Don Brown is the best possible hire for Michigan, not just because he is Don Brown, but because he is the best choice for the Game. Even Brown's average defenses over the past five years have been that because of the pass; five straight years Brown has had a top five rush defense. At UConn and BC.

Don Brown is a huge hire. Huge.

[After THE JUMP: additional strategically located Peppers talk.]

Preview 2016: Safeties

Preview 2016: Safeties

Submitted by Brian on September 1st, 2016 at 2:53 PM

Previously: Podcast 8.0. The Story. Quarterback. Running Back. Wide Receiver. Tight End And Friends. Offensive Line. Defensive End. Defensive Tackle. Linebacker. Cornerback.

image

This post is also sponsored by XFINITY, which does not have any rockets or landers or even probes because, as it has been carefully explained to me, they are cable company. If you're on on-campus student they'll let you stream live sports and other shows for free on your phone, tablet, or moon lander you can rent from XFINITY I guess you have to get from NASA.

Off campus students can get both TV and internet for $79.99 a month. Adults and adult-type persons (you know who you are) can get the X1 system and its voice-activated remote which is just like Hal 9000 AND THEREFORE XFINITY IS A SPACE COMPANY AFTER ALL.

It's not.

Bolded alter-ego, sometimes I just…

Can we get on with the preview?

FINE

25786758350_3568acde99_z

[Bryan Fuller]

Depth Chart

Free Safety Yr. Strong Safety Yr. Nickelback Yr.
Dymonte Thomas Sr. Delano Hill Sr. Jabrill Peppers So.*
Tyree Kinnel So. Khaleke Hudson Fr. Jourdan Lewis Sr.
Josh Metellus Fr. Jabrill Peppers So.* Brandon Watson So.*

The Pax Wilsonica is over and Michigan moves into a less boring era, for better or worse. While the depth here gets scary quickly, Michigan returns two guys who were prominent contributors to a very good secondary. Both are touted recruits and seniors; both played better than they might be getting credit for. I was actually surprised at how many good things I had clipped and how few bad things there were other than the ones that stand out in memory.

Both starters are going to have a tougher job than they did a year ago as Michigan moves away from one super deep safety most of the time. They'll have to cover guys man to man, make checks, that sort of thing. So far, so good? When Delano Hill isn't trying to punch the ball out from behind, yes.

FREE SAFETY

RATING: 4.

We're splitting the safety designation into defined "free" and "strong" halves instead of a single unified section. This would have been mandatory if DJ Durkin was still around since Jarrod Wilson and Not Jarrod Wilson were deployed very differently a year ago; since Don Brown will mix in one-high coverages with a designated FS, it's still appropriate.

So. For years this space called Jarrod Wilson a boring safety. We barely ever saw him on the screen because he was doing his job. When he did see him it was generally fine. He made tackles. He did not separate receivers from the ball or intercept passes or force fumbles. He was there to put out fires, not start them. Now he's gone, and more interesting times may beckon.

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[Patrick Barron]

That's because DYMONTE THOMAS is still a bit of a wild card after a career that's been frustrating in more ways than one so far. Thomas was a high school linebacker and running back who Michigan first played at nickel, then at one safety spot, then another, then back to nickel, etc. Webb discussed the situation before last season:

The issue for him has been the fact that he's been moved around so consistently and hasn't been focused or told to focus on only one position.

Despite having no business on a football field as a freshman he set his redshirt on fire blocking a punt against Central Michigan; meanwhile the positional switching and Thomas's rawness made his brief cameos depressing. Last year's preview slotted him as a backup and mostly focused on various goofs, bemoaned the redshirt, and clucked about player development:

This kind of errant run fill isn't something we've seen from Wilson or Hill.

For big portions of last year it looked like he didn't quite know what he was seeing. He'd run a zone, see nobody anywhere near him, and just kind of stand around instead of trying to adapt his coverage to the situation. … He's far behind the other guys when it comes to understanding what the defense is trying to accomplish.

That take held for half the year. Against Oregon State, Thomas had a huge bust on a tunnel screen that could have resulted in a touchdown against a team better than the Beavers. Then he disappeared for three games. When he re-emerged it was in garbage time against Maryland and Northwestern; he played well enough for a couple of Delano Hill issues to open the door for live-fire snaps.

He did unreasonably well with them. One of my primary memories of Thomas's 2015 was that time he got shook big time against Minnesota in his first extended playing time:

I was prepared to talk about how his coverage was a mixed bag as a result. It wasn't. After this play, which I issued an excessively harsh –3 (it's –2, easy completion but he does tackle immediately) I didn't have a coverage minus for him the rest of the year.

And he was tested with some frequency. He's in press man to the top of the field on this play:

To try to chuck one receiver, have to bail to the other guy, and then have the speed to catch up is impressive. A better throw is probably a completion there, but to even be in a position to contest a reasonably good one is something not a lot of safeties can manage. Thomas drove on outs and shoved fades into the sideline and impressively mirrored wheels (while picking up ridiculous PI flags) and raked out near completions and on this play I misclassified him as Jourdan Lewis until I saw it for the third time:

Strange but true: Dymonte Thomas was good in coverage last year.

In addition to burgeoning man-to-man skills, Thomas has capital-R Range. He's always been fast as hell. See that punt block that burned his redshirt:

9650948388_2a476b928d_o[1]

Not only does that hit his foot, it hits his foot before the punter can even strike it.

Late last year his newfound knowledge of what direction to go finally saw that speed start paying off. If you hesitate slightly even go routes down the sidelines become dangerous:

Thomas was lined up on the near hash on that one. In the spring game he intercepted a reasonably well thrown ball in the corner of the endzone despite being in the dead center of the field:

Jarrod Wilson does not make either of those plays. Thomas could have five or so interceptions if he carries that kind of thing over to 2016.

Even some of Thomas's bad plays were kind of good. There was that interception against Minnesota that not only clanged off his hands but went directly to a Gopher WR, and he managed to jet through a bunch of traffic against Rutgers only to turn a TFL into… not that:

I liked that ability to pick through traffic but not the missed tackle, and there were a couple other instances of bad play against the run. Shannon Brooks spun through another tackle attempt in the Minnesota game, and I thought Thomas overran the one long run Rutgers had.  On the other hand, Thomas had a couple of extremely impressive open-field tackles against Ohio State:

His overall aura caused me to say he was "almost there" after Rutgers:

Dymonte Thomas could be putting it together. I don't think he's ever going to be a guy who's particularly good at preventing 20 yard plays from going 50, but with his athleticism he provides a suite of capabilities that can make up for that deficiency. He is a guy who you can put in man coverage relatively confidently, that Minnesota play nonwithstanding. He's come a long way this year; he has a moderate way to go. Cross your fingers.

With a season's worth of data, it maybe kind of sort of feels like he has arrived.

Thomas was "productive" per PFF, and my charting agrees. With increased playing time and considerable upside left to plumb, Thomas could blow up. He's not a physical guy and won't suddenly become one this year; you can chalk up a few missed tackles that add chunks of yards to plays that have already broken somewhat big. Everything else looks like a strength. He's good in coverage, he's fast as the dickens, and he's still got a solid bit of upside left.

Thomas should be good. It's hard for me to judge safeties since they're so rarely on the screen, but whatever extra deep stuff Michigan gets hit with because Thomas isn't Jarrod Wilson should be offset by the plays Thomas makes because he isn't Jarrod Wilson.

[After THE JUMP: Jabrill Peppers is briefly mentioned!]

This Week's Obsession: Let's Talk About What We Haven't Talked About

This Week's Obsession: Let's Talk About What We Haven't Talked About

Submitted by Seth on August 23rd, 2016 at 2:23 PM

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[Bryan Fuller]

This is our weekly roundtable, brought back from its offseason slumber because you really don't want to know what we are obsessing about in the offseason. If you ever have any topic suggestions, send them to seth at mgoblog dot com.

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The Question:

Sleeper player of the year? Who are we not talking about that we'll be talking about?

The Responses:

Brian: So not Wheatley then.

Ace: I’m partway into an answer that starts with a mention of Ian Bunting (not my choice) being an option because of our constant Wheatley hype.

Brian: And not Hudson then.

Ace: Options on the ground are very limited unless we’re allowing anyone who hasn’t been a full-time starter already. I was going to go with Dymonte Thomas.

Brian: I don't think I can do this if I can't talk about Wheatley and Hudson.

Ace: I wouldn’t veto Wheatley/Hudson talk even if I could.

Brian: A man needs a code. Can't talk about guys we're talking about. I will persist.

BiSB: Allow me to parse the rule: you can't talk about Hudson and Wheatley in general because your feelings are well known, but you CAN talk about them in the specific context of 2016, as such things are NOT known.

Like, Khaleke Hudson will invade and overrun Persia by the time he's a Junior, but will we see him as a true freshman toppling some minor Greek city-state?

Ace: Please let it be Sparta. #ancientdisrespekt

Seth: This is This Week's Obsession, not Nam. There are rules.

[After THE JUMP we actually do answer the question]

Fall Camp Presser 8-19-16: Bryan Mone and Dymonte Thomas

Fall Camp Presser 8-19-16: Bryan Mone and Dymonte Thomas

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on August 23rd, 2016 at 9:27 AM

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[Fuller]

[I walked into the scrum mid-answer.] “Camp’s really been fun lately. I’m actually enjoying camp. You know, getting to spend time with the boys playing football. It’s crazy because usually different teams go do activities, but we just wake up, come down to Schembechler and practice. And that’s fun, to spend time with the boys.”

Do you think losing last year to injury changed your perspective on that, wanting to be back around and involved?

“Yeah. One thing that my injury taught me is just to be thankful. There’s people that can’t walk. I’m just grateful, grateful to play football.”

Obviously a lot of talent on the defensive line; you guys showed it last year. Do you ever think about if you were healthy, what it could have been?

“Yeah, I wish I’d be out there to be with the boys, but everything happens for a reason.”

With you back in the mix, can you talk about that depth a little bit?

“It’s really good. Coach calls it like he doesn’t really have starters, he has a two-deep group and everybody—basically anybody could play if [inaudible].”

Is it the depth that stands out most about the defensive line or is there something else that stands out to you?

“What do you mean by that?”

What stands out about the group?

“What stands out? We have a lot of veterans back, that’s what really stands out. We have so much leadership from the defensive line, and what’s really positive about the D-line is all the old heads we have.”

Why is that important? We know about the physical part of the defensive line, but the mental part.

“Mental part? Sorry, I’m lost.”

The leadership: why is that important as opposed to all the guys coming back?

“Oh, leadership! Because we have so many young guys—a lot of young guys. It’s good to have that leadership because it shows the younger boys what to do, and the vets throughout the whole thing have just been good leaders and everyone’s been backing them up.”

What’s Don Brown like to play for?

“Oh man, I love it. Coach Brown, he’s a fun coach you want to play for. I don’t know. Coach Brown, he’s just a great ol’ guy.”

What does he do that you like?

“He just brings the juice to every practice. In practices and in meetings he always has his juice. So much energy from Coach Brown.”

You talked about being thankful and you talked about the old heads a little bit. Do you find yourself in a position where you’re talking to the younger guys like, ‘Hey, don’t take this for granted.’?

“Oh yeah, definitely. Yeah, I talk to mostly all the freshmen. I took them in under my wing and just told them to be grateful because there’s no other place like Michigan. Everybody just likes and enjoys the struggle of being out there.”

[More after THE JUMP]