11/1/2014 – Michigan 34, Indiana 10 – 4-5, 2-3 Big Ten
This happened. The end. [Eric Upchurch]
Sometimes there's a game that does not have anything to say about it. This was that game. Michigan won 34-10, the same score they beat Miami (Not That Miami) by, and it felt a lot like a replay of that throwaway nonconference game.
The opposing offense wasn't going anywhere unless Michigan busted something. Michigan's running game alternated between frustrating lack of holes and lanes so open you could drive a truck through. The defensive backs could have spent the entire afternoon reading The Economist and sipping Kermit tea and nothing would have changed. Indiana had eight attempts. This game was almost literally none of their business.
Michigan thudded out to a 17-0 lead with the help of a couple fumbles that somehow benched Tevin Coleman, and then the game was over. Indiana turned a Gardner interception that ended up inside the Michigan ten into a doinked field goal. Thereupon a giant pig descended from the sky to proclaim the game state.
Brady Hoke knew it, so he ran the ball a couple times to end the first half instead of attempting to score.
I knew it, so I wasn't even a tiny bit peeved by that. Devin Gardner had just demonstrated the only way Indiana was going to get back in the game by not quite giftwrapping a pick six. Just before that Gardner had not quite giftwrapped another pick six. Michigan could have run the ball on every remaining down and won, and it was cold and I have to UFR these things. Run that clock down. Fine by me.
Everyone in the crowd knew it, so an awful lot of them left at halftime.
Non-student areas weren't a whole lot better. [Bryan Fuller]
At this point I'm not blaming anyone. It was cold, Michigan is playing for a berth in the kind of bowl where the gift bags include broken Swatches from 1985, and the game was already decided. I stayed because I write these columns and your soapbox is a little higher if you stayed like a True Fan™. I am enjoying the extra centimeter right now. Mighty fine view it's providing.
The game being what it was, about the only thing of interest over the weekend was a smattering of pissy comments from current and former players.
Desmond Howard decried Michigan's "mob mentality" on Gameday. Taylor Lewan called the Daily's Alejandro Zuniga a "moron" after Zuniga's appearance on BTN. Drew Dileo used air quotes around 'loyal' en route to stating that Dave Brandon and Brady Hoke weren't the problem—causing responders to respectfully ask what, then, the problem might be. Elliot Mealer referred to "the muggles that attend the University of Michigan" suddenly knowing something about the athletic department. Shane Morris provided a shout-out to the few students that made it to the end of the game and helpfully informed the ones who didn't that Michigan won.
It's like they went to bed and universal suffrage happened overnight.
INT. HOUSE OF COMMONS
A raucous scene, as a bill has just come up for vote. Enter AN ASSORTMENT OF LORDS.
EARL OF MEALER
Good heavens, what are they doing?
HOWARD, DUKE OF HEISMAN
They seem to be voicing their opinions.
MARQUIS DI LEO
EARL OF MEALER
Say, you, boy: what is all this ruckus?
The bill of attainder is up for vote; these are final arguments before a decision is made. Also, I don't think 'boy' is the preferred nomenclature.
HOWARD, DUKE OF HEISMAN
You have the vote? What nonsense!
MARQUIS DI LEO
/frantically dips snuff
EARL OF MEALER
Disaster! Woe! Surely we will topple like saplings in a typhoon!
HOWARD, DUKE OF HEISMAN
How long has… this been going on?
Approximately 600 years?
MARQUIS DI LEO
HOWARD, DUKE OF HEISMAN
WHY WEREN'T WE TOLD?!
We assumed you knew.
EARL OF MEALER
Our doom is at hand! Flee! I'll die on the squash courts if I can make it!
/exit MEALER, HOWARD
MARQUIS DI LEO
MARQUIS DI LEO
Michigan fans always had the vote; never before had they been pressed so hard as to think about using it. When there's an epic wait list you can find another team and the edifice doesn't notice. Not so much anymore.
It is true that we don't know the face Brandon showed to the student-athletes. I do know that one day he got in front of his department and quizzed them as to who their customers were. The answer: "student-athletes." So he probably acted like a human to them.
That's not enough when he is a six-foot phallus to everyone else. You just don't know that unless you're outside the program, looking at a 150-dollar ticket that you could have had for 20 bucks, watching grim quasi-football that means nothing in the freezing cold. Bon Jovi is playing, for some reason.
Here's the thing. This is a large group of people. Every large group of people is basically a bell curve. Michigan has pushed the prices up to the point where they're going to hit the downside of that bell curve without serious change.
That's a disaster that cannot be allowed to happen. Maybe it won't be for the people in the program right now, or the people who have been through it. It is one for the people who are thinking about 30 years from now, who are thinking about what it's going to be like for their kids.
Michigan, the program, can do little to change the group of people. They will remain the same people. They can only change themselves to fit the people. Step one is firing the coach, because the crushing blow to season ticket sales that results from his retention is unacceptable. Also he is not good at coaching.
Step two is not being dicks to people outside the program. I know y'all learned it from Brandon. Unlearn it. The next AD is going to be just as fantastic to increasingly pampered student-athletes without being loathed by everyone else on the planet. The Al Bundy patrol talking down to a fanbase on the edge of deserting in droves is hilariously out of touch. Michigan revenue vs Michigan performance. QED.
It's time to stop interpreting "The Team The Team The Team" as a moat between 115 players and 113,000 fans.
[After THE JUMP: hawt babes, and why are you trying to be a fey English twit]
As per usual with first UV of season, some of this is a bit dated because of preview week.
I HAVE HEARD THE PEOPLE. I acknowledge that the people demand I eat a lemon. I will eat a lemon, because I guess I'd rather be the guy who eats a lemon on a technicality than doesn't eat a lemon on a technicality. I request that you, the people, acknowledge that my call that Desmond Morgan would be pushed out of Michigan's starting lineup appears to be a good call after he was probably Michigan's best LB in game one and led the team in tackles despite not technically starting. I plead nolo contendre to this lemon, basically.
The ND cheating thing: resolved? Well, first: the investigation's tentacles reached out and added safety Eilar Hardy to the Kendall Moore, KeiVarae Russell, Davaris Daniels, Ishaq Williams quartet. Message boards are naturally buzzing with rumors ranging from they're all done for the year to they're all back by Michigan. As of three days ago the investigation was "reportedly complete"—that's when Hardy got suspended.
Everyone involved here was supposed to be out the door when it happened. FWIW, I had a good source suggesting that was the case as well. I didn't mention it because when Bruce Feldman is reporting something piping up with a "me too" is some Darren Rovell business, but now that there's doubt about the final outcome here it seems pertinent.
If there are reinstatements that impact the Michigan game they're going to have to come quickly, what with most of these guys missing nearly a month of practice. As of today's ND presser there was no update. Could you insert these guys on one or two days of practice? (Friday is a walkthrough.) Getting late.
One guy who is out. Austin Collinsworth did something to a knee ligament, missed the Rice game, and is projected to miss the Michigan game. As of three days ago he was out two to four weeks and getting some of that horse placenta action:
“There's a chance we could have him for week three,” Kelly said. “He had a PRP [platelet-rich plasma] treatment on the weekend, so we'll see what happens."
Rice is a spread, so ND was in a nickel package most of that game. They brought in Elijah Shumate next to sophomore Max Redfield; Mattias Farley played nickel the whole way. Shumate busted on the Rice touchdown. Shumate was a touted recruit, as you might expect.
“This game was not what (Michigan) had shown all last year,” said Mountaineers coach Scott Satterfield. “Why they did that, I don’t know. … It was all game. Even the last drive, they were playing man.”
They did that because they had been doing it all offseason. I don't think it's unreasonable for you to read, like, one article about Michigan's defense this year.
Oh that makes more sense then. After Wisconsin finished gacking the game away to LSU, Badger head coach Gary Andersen said he "didn't know" why Melvin F-ing Gordon got three carries after a 63-yard romp in the second quarter. It turns out there is a reason for this other than Andersen being hypnotized by Les Miles's scary voodoo eyes:
Badgers coach Gary Andersen said on Monday that his junior running back suffered a hip flexor strain during the game. Gordon later told reporters that the injury occurred late in the second quarter. …
"I should have let them know, let Coach A know and stepped up and told them, 'Look I need to be in there," Gordon said, according to Fox Sports Wisconsin's Jesse Temple. "I put that on myself."
So that makes a little more sense. Also making more sense: Joel Stave's arm injury has caused Wisconsin to shut him down. He was not available to relieve the overwhelmed Tanner McEvoy. Cold comfort to Wisconsin fans today, though. Jamiemac has a breakdown of the game—Warren Herring going out was a huge problem.
Here's a breakdown of the Beilein offense. No doubt you will see this again as Ace goes over it in detail for you after his high school football responsibilities have been completed, but here's 15 minutes of John Beilein's offense categorized by play type:
Wildcats continue dropping like flies. Northwestern DT Sean McEvilly, he of the most disappointing name pronunciation in the league, is out for the year with a foot injury. This is a problem. You no doubt remember Michigan's offensive line looking functional against the Wildcats last year. Now take a starter off that line.
Also in personnel issues affecting distant games, Maryland loses receiver Levern Jacbos and some other guy. They are still set on receivers thank you.
McGary clarification. Many folks picked up on part of the McGary VICE interview in which he seems to say "so what, I committed a literally victimless non-crime" about his draconian NCAA suspension. This is a hot take even if it is a correct hot take. But he's really talking about people annoying him on social media:
"I still get people on Twitter and Instagram still commenting on stuff, saying, oh, you did drugs. Well, you know what, I did, whatever. So what? I learned from it. It was in college. They'll understand when they're in college."
He does say what he did was "the opposite of harming somebody" and "just don't get caught," which is a take hot enough for me.
More Pastujov hype. This one is for the older brother Nick.
Michigan commit Nick Pastujov plays a perfect mix of aggression and skill. Difference maker when breaking down the play, soft hands.
Another nail in the already quite-nailed coffin. Patrick Omameh is probably going to be Tampa Bay's starting right guard this fall. So Michigan had a line with three NFL players on it in 2012 and Denard Robinson and couldn't run the ball except with Denard Robinson.
The second half is a haze of Michigan pushing their way back in miserably slow fashion. I spent much of it staring at the clock. I had no idea how many emotions were building until… Mike Hart gave Michigan a one-point lead with a remarkable, weaving touchdown run from around midfield with under five minutes left. One of my roommates, standing next to me, literally wept with a mixture of joy and relief.
(Jane: I had left the stadium by then. I couldn’t do it. I saw where this was going, and I strongly believed that if I went home and went to sleep, I would wake up and this would all be a horrific dream. As a small child, I used to have nightmares that a raptor dressed as a postal worker ate me while my parents stood and watched. I have significant experience in bad dreams. I watched the rest of the game on ESPN’s Gamecast.)
This is literally the only thing I have read about the 2007 game despite the entire universe breaking their longform budget to provide opportunities for me to do so.
Do you think you may be getting ahead of yourself, sir.AP:
Michigan power running game looks like glory days
Have we learned nothing from last year's "IT LOOKS LIKE ALABAMA!" quote from Gerry DiNardo?
One sign this may not be a very clued-in article: the repeated use of fictional house divided child "De'Veon Bell." Not that I wouldn't take De'Veon Bell on my team. That would be like trying to tackle a centaur.
Formation notes: much, much more under-center in this game. FWIW, Minnesota had some packages where they'd put a linebacker in between two DL, as below:
Last year people told me this was a bear front, so that's what I called it. On short yardage Minnesota would do this to both sides of the line, so that's double bear. As always, lingo may not be compatible with your local football lingo-knowing guy and only exists to provide extended conversations with Seth about what the hell I meant when I classified X as Y.
Also here's this guy again:
Substitution notes: Gardner the whole way at QB, Rawls got some playing time, Smith was back, and the line was exactly how it always is. Burzynski got a few goal line plays on that package where they line up Lewan and Schofield next to each other.
The WR rotation was about what you'd expect as well, except there was a lot more Jerald Robinson. He has apparently inherited most of Devin's snaps.
[AFTER THE JUMP: so how was Devin really, and ARGH runs ARGH]
10/21/2012 – Michigan 12, Michigan State 10 – 5-2, 3-0 Big Ten
Denard Robinson is 13 of 29 for 143 yards; he's run 20 times for 96 yards. His team is down a point and has managed to turn 120 seconds into eighteen without moving the ball anywhere near plausible field goal range. A few drives ago Jeremy Gallon was as wide open as you can be on third and goal and Denard blasted it hard and behind the guy—if it was to keep it away from a defender it was because the throw was late—or Michigan would lead by three.
Behind me, some Michigan State meathead has spent the better part of four quarters screaming "throw it, Denard, huh huh huh." Juggalo Nation, reprazent.
"Is this guy really a QB I'll say my mans vento is a better QB lol. S/O to my boy vento by the way."
-Denicos Allen, MSU linebacker, on Denard and MSU walk-on QB Tommy Vento, 9/1/2012
Michigan has second and eleven but more importantly they have seventeen seconds to get in field goal range. State shows a three man rush but also sends Denicos Allen; Allen stunts inside Will Gholston, who Lewan has nerfed, and hits Ricky Barnum at full speed. Barnum gives ground—a lot of ground. Allen is flying up into the pocket, where Denard would be.
Denard has started to roll.
"DENARD IS SOOOO BAD! And it makes me feel so good."
The roll is bad. The roll takes out most of Michigan's routes, spends time Michigan doesn't have, removes downfield possibilities Michigan desperately needs. In the stands, my heart sinks. I have seen this script before, not just watching Michigan, but watching everyone. Michigan's win probability is sinking like a stone with every step Denard takes outside the pocket.
Denard stops. The roll steps have gotten Roy Roundtree a bracket, and made the middle of the field lonely.
Barnum has continued shoving Allen past everything. Gholston, lined up against Lewan, is as relevant to the play as I am. Denard sets his feet.
Denard decides setting his feet is not for him. He starts moving up in the pocket as the State nose tackle sheds Elliot Mealer.
Dileo's head is in a better spot to tackle someone than Gholston
As all of this has occurred with half the people on the field, the other half have been fighting hand-to-hand in remote locations. Drew Dileo has started outside, then come inside of MSU safety Isaiah Lewis. Lewis is tracking, in decent position. Dileo is entering a window between two underneath defenders. It's huge since Denard's temporary roll has caused Max Bullough to chase Roundtree—the roll truly was doomed.
Denard is moving up in a pocket that is less a pocket and more a space occupied by a no-longer-blocked Michigan State defender by the moment. He has not rolled. He is stepping into the future, whatever it brings.
Denard cocks, and throws. The stadium stops. The throw has to be on a line, at Dileo's chest. It's 20 yards downfield. As each frame ticks by, universes begin and end.
"Even a blind squirrel can get a nut ever once in a while...,"
…I mean, the guy knows. He's heard it all, whether he'll admit it or not. In this game the defenses dominated as both quarterbacks struggled to about 5.6 yards per attempt. The difference: Denard outrushed MSU's offense by himself and threw a meaningless interception on an end-of-half Hail Mary while Maxwell chucked one into Kovacs's chest after Michigan State had been set up with good field position. Run and armpunt that, homeboy.
"We've beat Michigan the last four years. So where's the threat?"
The remainder of Michigan State's season is a choice between not going to a bowl game and helping Michigan make the Rose Bowl.
Michigan State found a few nuts when one Michigan coach hung on too long and a second employed Greg Robinson, and couldn't wait to tell everybody every day all day. In the aftermath, they're asking Brady Hoke if they're as important as Ohio State and saying it's a real rivalry and it's level footing now, because Michigan is apparently also busy cutting off recruiting coordinators for no apparent reason and talking trash because Michigan State is losing a game. The little brother thing keeps getting brought up because it is the truest thing anyone has ever said about a 100-year-old football program.
Whatever. Michigan is rounding up a selection of ass-kickers and has its sights set on bigger things than one game against a program that's never been in a BCS bowl and hasn't seen Pasadena in 25 years. It doesn't matter if MSU or Iowa is Iowa. What matters is in Schembechler Hall, and MSU players watching Michigan play Alabama know it.
After the game, DenardX tweeted something about walk-on quarterbacks.
Me and the rest of the QBs after the game with our home boy Paul Bunyan!!! #GoBlue @teamdgizzle @rbellomy
As of press time, Denicos Allen has not given a shoutout to his boy Tommy Vento.
Brady Hoke Epic Double Point Of The Week. Come on down, Drew Dileo. You caught over two-thirds of Denard's passing yardage and are now The Threat. Viva slot receivers.
Honorable mention: Jake Ryan (obvs), JT Floyd (they tried but could never bust him), Greg Mattison (I mean, my God), Denard Robinson (HEYYYY COLUMN LADY), Taylor Lewan (Tom Lolston), Kenny Demens (LeVeon Bell, welcome to 2.6 YPC), Jordan Kovacs (ditto).
Epic Double Point standings.
3: Jake Ryan (ND, Purdue, Illinois) 2: Denard Robinson (Air Force, UMass) 1: Jeremy Gallon(Alabama), Drew Dileo (Michigan State)
DEE-FENSE. That image above is just perfect. LeVeon Bell crapped out 2.6 yards a carry against OSU… and 2.6 yards a carry against Michigan. That's all DL stuff and while the Michigan State line had the services of Dan France, they were out two of their three starters for most of the OSU game and did not have Treadwell much; Treadwell went the whole way against M and AFAIK Ethan Ruhland did not make an appearance. Dion Sims was gimpy; other than that it's basically the same performance against the same team.
Bell never got caught behind the line, which makes the 2.6 YPC even more impressive since Michigan didn't RPS their way into any TFLs. Michigan won the battle on third and short against LeVeon Bell. Thumbs up.
CLOCK MANAGEMENT. That was verbatim tweet I sent out Saturday and holy pants, WTF. Some of that was crappy luck and crappy decisions—Toussaint catching the Butterfield/Breaston memorial DON'T YOU DARE CATCH THAT pass, Denard checking down in the first place, but at one point the entire stadium was on its feet screaming SNAP THE BALL at once after Michigan let almost 20 seconds run off the clock for no apparent reason. Michigan had already burned nine seconds before the review on the Denard third-and-two lunge; they burned off a few more before snapping the ball.
If this was a one time thing it would be a one-time thing; after last year's Iowa two-minute debacle it's an issue. I don't think this is much on the players when they're looking to the sideline for a call, especially after Michigan burned two timeouts in this game just trying to get the playcall in.
Michigan huddling for half the playclock is killing me. There's no reason to do it, it doesn't seem to help their attempts to audible out of obvious blitzes, and their lack of practicing at tempo is an obvious detriment when they need to go fast.
Jake Ryan crazy thing of the week. This is not actually the Maxwell sack pictured at right, which came about after Ryan went around the 250-pound Bell like he was not there for Michigan's only TFL of the week. Though that was pretty awesome, you guys.
Even so, the crazy thing Ryan did this week was facing down three blockers on a screen that MSU had set up like whoah, trashing the guy who peeled off to deal with him, and holding Michigan State to seven yards. Michigan booted state off the field on the subsequent third and short.
Totals: 10 tackles, 8 solo, Michigan's only sack. HE'S SLIGHTLY GOOD YOU GUYS SRSLY
JT Floyd. It was clear once MSU started taking regular shots downfield that they had identified JT Floyd as the weak spot on the Michigan defense, but he held tough. The catch-and-YAC five yard hitch first downs from the Purdue game were eliminated entirely; he got beat deep by a step or two each time but was in good enough position that the throws had to be perfect lest he pull the press Michael Floyd and live (or "trail") technique.
The throws weren't perfect, and the only long completions Maxwell managed were against Thomas Gordon (bad play by him on a ball he would have had a play on if he found it) and Raymon Taylor (got an interference call and gave up an admittedly spectacular completion late). Floyd got off without issue.
What's more, MSU's big idea to get a touchdown on short yardage was to line up a fullback over Floyd and run Bell at him. Floyd held up, got the edge, kept leverage at the numbers, and prevented Bell from getting outside, whereupon Desmond Morgan helped him tackle. The guy had a target on his back all day and came through with flying colors.
Fumbles. Are a bitch.
Somehow Michigan did not recover this one, nor the other one, despite having nothing but Michigan players surrounding the Spartan who clutched the ball like it was a nugget of gold.
NOW DO YOU BELIEVE ME NOWWWWWW
Denard, my man. I am totally down with the whole "not getting torn limb from limb by defenses" thing, but…
…dude, there is a time and place to put your body on the line and turning your 44 yard run late in the fourth quarter into 50 is it.
Denard's bad throw to Gallon. Eric got a great shot of it:
Watching the replay, Denard is throwing it in the heart of the window between the two linebackers. Gallon should be sitting between the two guys; he overruns it a bit. My thinking here is influenced by seeing Borges at that coaches clinic, where he mentioned that he wants his QBs to hold up his receivers against zone coverage.
Still, probably at least 75% Denard. He's rifling that at a guy barely ten yards downfield so his margin for error is extremely small; he doesn't read the fact that he is wide, wide open and he can just soft toss it to him.
Matt Wile: most useful backup kicker ever. Matt Wile may not have displaced Keith Stone Sasquatch Brendan Gibbons as Michigan's starting kicker but he's the best third-most-important kicker since I've been watching Michigan football. He:
kicks most kickoffs into the endzone
is a pretty effective pooch-punter
had a good plain-old punting record last year when Hagerup was jittery
nailed a 48-yard field goal that, along with all other field goals, was the winning margin.
If either kicker got injured he'd step into their shoes. Michigan should be fine on the kicking stuff for a while now. Note foregone pun.
Hagerup confidence : 2012 :: Gibbons confidence : 2011. Whatever happened with Hagerup last year to tack a four-game suspension on to his OSU suspension from 2010 led to a lot of shanks and mortifiedpunter.gif. After a couple of Sugar Bowl shanks, Wile displaced Hagerup for the rest of the game.
At that point it was writin' off time, like Gibbons after 2010. When Hagerup was still atop the depth chart in September, that made people suspicious. It wasn't alarming like Gibbons since Wile was around and fairly established, but it was only 50-50 to stick. Stuck it has. Hagerup's averaging 47.5 yards a kick and would be fourth nationally if he had enough punts to qualify.
Special teams coach: do we have one or not? The fake punt was… frustrating. Michigan's trying to set up a return, which you can't really do against a spread punt anyway, and they're playing a team that loves nothing more than faking punts and field goals. Somehow this combination results in three guys leading the punter and blocking no one at all. Michigan's even got a designated special teams/TEs guy, but they can't cover or block on punts and they got gashed for 30 yards by a punter. WTF.
Michigan did get a big return out of Gallon at the end of the first half but even that emphasized the difference in punt coverage. Gallon had to split two unblocked guys and then run laterally past a second wave. Meanwhile the one Hagerup punt that was not a 48-yard, five-second-hang unreturnable moonball was a free 15 yards for the punt returner since MSU doubled a gunner and no one else on that side of the ball got downfield.
Whatever they're doing with the kickers is great… but is that anything other than hot babes visualization exercises? I'm not sure. Everything else is questionable at best.
Game theory bits. There wasn't a whole lot of interest from my eyes but a couple of decisions have sucked up post-game airtime.
MSU threw on second down on their last drive. Not even close: right call. LeVeon Bell was averaging 2.6 yards a carry and had just been stuffed for nothing. Maybe you want some slants or a hitch or something instead of what they threw but you can't assume Michigan is going to run the worst successful two minute drill ever. All running on second down accomplishes is spending a Michigan timeout; getting the first down ends the game.
Michigan punted on fourth and seven from the MSU 42 early. Did not have a problem with this. Not in true no man's land, yardage pretty big, and if you're in the kind of game that ends 12-10 puntosaur technology is the right tech.
MSU attempted a 38-yard field goal on fourth and one from the 21. This was debatable—one of reasons puntosaur tech makes sense is that even if you get the first down you're probably kicking anyway. Is MSU going to score a TD? Eh… probably not. A 38-yarder is well within the range in which you expect your established PK to hit it. Even so… that was fourth and capital-S Short. If MSU is intimidated by Michigan's short yardage defense… well, I get that. Probably a mistake but in a puntosaur game I get it.
The assumption you're making on those early calls is that you are in a puntosaur game. IME, that was clear from the get-go.
Oh for crap's sake. Dollars to donuts this is new LSJ beatwriter and slappy Graham "Alex Carder Best Quarterback In The State™" Couch:
I don’t know if you guys saw after the game, but I almost got trampled out there. [MGo: -_______-] Have the fans ever trampled the field like that after a Michigan State win? Is this rivalry getting to the level of Ohio State?
[update: Heiko says it was a photographer, not Couch; stuff below stands.]
No, and no.
Couch derided Junior Hemingway—yup, Junior Hemingway—for his classlessness after the game in a tweet, going so far as to hashtag his tweet "#classless," because he interpreted Michigan's rush to get a Paul Bunyan trophy that was on the sideline last year but not this year as taunting. He's since deleted the tweet, because nothing goes better with stupidity than cowardice.
BONUS: This blog already has a "Graham Couch's laughable homerism" tag from his days covering WMU.
Pom poms. I thought I was good when the guy three rows in front of me was an Air Force veteran—so said his hat—who would clearly rather eat glass than wave a pom-pom, but then some Ladies who Just Wanted To Have Fun ended up two rows in front of me. At some point I had to say "please don't wave those so high" because I couldn't see the field, at which point they said "it's a football game" and I said "I KNOW I WOULD LIKE TO SEE IT."
I don't know, man. This isn't an old man thing, it's just… if there are pom poms it is a guarantee that some dip in front of you will forget that there are people behind them and act affronted when you say there are people behind them. This is amazingly consistent in my and my friends experience: ask the kind of person who waves a pom-pom during actual football plays to not do that and you will be subjected to a "whateva, I do what I want" style rant and petulant extra-vigorous pom-pom shaking. And yet if I was to take the pom-pom and stuff it down the pom-pom waver's throat, I would be the one removed from the stadium.
Pom poms suck, because society.
Special K. False hope is worse than death.
What the incentive program should be. Any student who wasn't in the stadium at kickoff shouldn't be allowed to buy tickets next year. I mean, seriously: a 3:30 kick for the only decent home game all year and the upper 20 rows of the student section are half-full means the student section is too big.
We had Witvoet's crew for the game. After calling a penalty on State, he let Hawthorne have it. I'm not sure what Brandin did, but I'm just glad he didn't draw an unsportmanlike penalty call.
* The officials let it be known early that they weren't going to stand for any shenanigans this year, calling Lewan for a somewhat touchy late hit. I wish they would have sent a message by calling a penalty on the team responsible for all the shenanigans last year, but they kept things under control, so no complaints.
I’m sure this is a bit of coach-speak, but it is also something that needed to be said. Since, oh, the Eastern Michigan game, I don’t think most people saw MSU as a legitimate Big 10 championship team. The offense was too crippled by a porous line, poor WRs, and a somewhat-shaky QB to keep pace with teams like Wisconsin, UM, OSU, and Nebraska. The Iowa game cemented their ceiling for the year at 7-8 wins, even with an elite defense.
Outside of the Alabama game, though, UM’s ceiling was never defined. Notre Dame was a tough loss but one that felt more self-inflicted than the team meeting a superior opponent. Purdue and Illinois proved only that UM was probably as good as Louisiana Tech and and Marshall. MSU, frankly, was not going to validate UM’s season, but only give them another breakpoint from which to calibrate their potential.
And that’s what Hoke encapsulates in this statement. He recognizes that MSU is a rival and the game mattered, but this wasn’t the season.
Spartanfreude section. The "Post Your Big (Jail) House experience" thread is pretty good from an M standpoint—no one reports much untoward aside from some verbal sparring, and even that is pretty tame.
I was in Section 8 and saw some arguing going on. On the way back to the car had 3 assholes walking in back of us talking shit like everyone above said, "Little brother put back in his place again", "Leveon Bell for Heisman....", "130 seasons of football and 900 wins", "UM is back in their rightful place". This yapping went. on for the whole walk thru the golf course. Mind you that I took my 74 year old dad to the game. I finally blew. Stopped in my tracks and had a few words. That slightly shut them up.
A 74-year-old man had to listen to people describe how many wins Michigan had acquired, and was exposed to the opinion that Michigan State is not as good at football as Michigan. #thugs
Cut my hand open, Michigan fans threatened to "throw me out of the stadium" for cheering, got my backpack stolen, bought macaroni salad on the walk home. Typical saturday. Also I got called ugly a lot. I'm like a 6 let's be real.
Edit: in retrospect, I probably swore around children a lot more than I should have
Also This Guy:
It's an awful place. Will never return after my last visit in 2010, when I had to be retstrained from attacking Walvies who kept telling me to go back to jail. Nothing about the experience is fun, no matter the result.
Rolled out of bed today more upset and sick than last night
This sucks. Facing the world this week with every UM drag sporting that cocky arrogant grin, wearing their colors -unwashed.
I hate this.
Many if you rcmb'rs are too you to remember all the games from late 80's until Dantonio era.... I hate this week. I can't wait for the first one to offer some sort of mild apology or winning with fg's... Kill.
That is the same This Guy who complained about the Michigan fans who had the audacity to tell him the game would be close and Michigan wasn't good last week. If this man was ever exposed to a real taunt his head would disintegrate into a fine mist.
Spock: Well, Michigan was quite fortunate to have won that game. Kirk: Woooo! Don't care! Wooooo! Woooo! Woooo! Spock: Four field goals is hardly the offensive output necessary over the long term to win the Big Ten Championship. Kirk: Don't care! Don't care! Woooooo! Woooo! What the Dileo?!? Wooo!
As J. Lehman was interviewing Hoke during pregame (above), I heard a woman on the sideline (with a sideline pass mind you) gesture over to Hoke and ask, “Is that the coach?”. I gave the Jim Halpert stare to anyone who wanted it. And a lot of guys wanted it.
BWS points out that Michigan passed on 7 of 26 first downs, and only 5 of 22 before the two-minute drill. The lack of a reliable play action option really hurt in this one. I'm not sure why Michigan can't throw outs to their slot receivers.
There aren't going to be any four-game winning streaks in this rivalry again for a long time. ("It takes four years. Of course it will be a long time." Shut up, guy). MSU will get the favorable schedule U-M has enjoyed for the next two years, and both teams are starting to stockpile talent. (If you bring up recruiting rankings, I'm going to punch you).
MSU fans are still clinging to the recruiting-rankings-are-meaningless thing. They're in for a harsh reality check once Michigan's recruiting rankings are paired with something other than crippling attrition, lackadaisical talent evaluation, and crappy coaching. Maybe not next year, when Michigan's breaking in a new quarterback and the upperclass talent levels are still relatively even, but after that… back to the salt mines, Sparty. Or maybe Alabama, OSU, and USC are only good because of their helmets.
…most college kids use "if it feels good, do it" as their main decision-making rule, not a six-factor test. Thus, a few jumped on the field. At first, I smiled and wondered how I'd get out of the stadium, but more people started jumping the fence. Michigan Stadium goes out instead of up, and the student section seems to run 100 rows deep. So, I learned that when you have a mile of drunk, yellow-clad college kids behind you and someone says you're rushing the field, you're rushing the field.
That's how I, a 28-year-old, job-having person, rushed the field at Michigan Stadium. And I did it con gusto. I joined in the chants, yelled "wooooo!" a lot and got my picture taken with the band. It might have been the rum and "Coke" (I suspect that the mixer was either another type of rum or a non-poisonous brand of varnish) that I'd been taking swigs of during the game, but it was still a fantastic experience. Please keep in mind that I have no ties to the University of Michigan beyond a sister in grad school there. Never mind that; running around a football field makes you feel alive.
I have to admit I rolled my eyes at the field-rush, which was epic in its half-assery. The first students over the wall waited for the team to leave the field, basically, and then it was a slow trickle as only 30-40% of the people in the front row at any particular juncture actually wanted to get on the field. The contrast from last year's OSU field rush to this one was appropriately vast.
Q: I can't remember anyone ever rushing the field outside of the 1997 OSU game before the two incidents mentioned above. Can anyone else?
Moments after Michigan's 12-10 win over Michigan State on Saturday in Ann Arbor, Lewan, teammate Roy Roundtree and a host of other Michigan players rushed the field and sprinted toward the Spartan sideline.
They were, of course, searching for the famous Paul Bunyan Trophy. But the effort was futile.
"This was my first time beating Michigan State, so I don't know how this works," Lewan said, believing Michigan was supposed to receive the trophy from MSU after the game. "I ran over there to get the Paul Bunyan Trophy, because I remember (MSU having it on the field once before).
"I didn't see him until I went into the locker room. ... I think they were upset about it."
The Michigan victory brings the trophy back to Ann Arbor for the first time since 2007, even if it wasn't brought onto the field Saturday.
After beating the Wolverines for a fourth straight time last season, Michigan State players were seen celebrating with the massive trophy on the field at Spartan Stadium. On Saturday, though, the exchange was more low-key -- it was done somewhere inside the stadium tunnel, and the trophy was waiting for the Wolverines in their locker room after the game.
"Usually a guy with good vision is a little bit taller," Jackson said. "Thomas is probably, maybe, 5-8. He tells me he's 5-11 and I'm 6-2, I think, and I look down on him and eat soup off his head."
Why are you eating soup off of someone's head, Fred Jackson? Why is there soup there anyway? What kind of soup? Does Thomas Rawls have a circular depression in the top of his head? Doesn't that seem unsafe for a football player? Are you #$*#$ing serious about this Hart thing? Do you remember Mike Hart? Fred Jackson I am confused.
BONUS I JUST DON'T EVEN HOW DOES I DON'T MAN: Rawls has a "bete noire" tattoo for this reason:
He says it's French for "accomplish your hopes and dreams."
I do not think your tattoo means what you think it means.
Jackson said Rawls also reminds him of another former Flint star, Mark Ingram, the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner at Alabama. Ingram (5-10, 215 pounds) and Rawls are similar in build.
"They were almost identical high school backs," said Jackson. "Obviously, Mark Ingram had a great (offensive) line at Alabama that helped him along, but Thomas is a lot faster than Mark, (and) has the same type of ability. I'm not trying to compare them in any way but when you watched them in high school, they were very similar running backs."
With careful grooming and time, this man could be a facial hair All-American. This would give Michigan two, since Elliott Mealer either needs an acoustic guitar or a hammer fashioned by Odin to do justice to his face… thing:
They might do it. Brady Hoke's old defensive coordinator Rocky Long, now the head guy at San Diego State, has heard of Pulaski High School—the Arkansas outfit that never ever punts—and is thinking about doing it:
After reading articles about an idiosyncratic Arkansas high school coach who never punts, always onside kicks, and has tremendous success doing it, Long is toying with the idea for his Aztecs of no punts or field goal attempts once they’ve driven inside an opponent’s 50-yard line.
Conceivably, San Diego State would go for the first down whether it needed a couple of inches or 10 yards.
And yes, Long — who apparently hasn’t yet tried it all in his 40 years of coaching — is serious about this.
“It makes sense,” he said, seeming almost giddy in talking about the possibilities.
“Additional plays would allow you to score a lot more points,” he said. “It also puts a whole lot of pressure on the defense.”
It's not a sure thing yet, but I can't think of any better way to memorialize the WAC. Do it. You'd look so cool.
CBS Sports Network announces Houston Nutt will serve as studio analyst this year. He'll be joined by Ron Zook.
If college football does not take me up on my extremely reasonable plan to have JLS coach a different team on an interim basis every year, he could join up in 2013, and then our piss would indeed be hot.
Jolly good show, catching me. I am quite elusive, you know. Fitzgerald Toussaint's OWI hearing is four days before the Alabama game. He's probably still getting suspended, but at least he's nicer than the average DUI recipient:
"He was extremely cooperative and gave us no problems at all," Saline Police Department Det. Don Lupi said Monday. "He was even more pleasant than the average drunk-driving arrestee. He was friendly and easy to deal with, unlike a lot of arrest situations."
"I say, you bobbies are really on your game."
Yes, imaginary Fitzgerald Toussaint is British. Because obviously.
The Fort. Man, running through my feeds and seeing open scrimmage reports from Arkansas and Ole Miss and Iowa plus A Lion Eye chastising himself for not checking out who the holders were at Illinois camp is a little depressing. Michigan's attitude towards this stuff is "please die, kthx." At media day it's clear the players were instructed to not answer questions about any freshmen:
I remember asking Jeremy Gallon how the freshmen receivers were coming along and his reaction was one along the lines of almost trying to keep things hush. He paused for a minute and then told me to talk to the coaches about it.
Will Campbell did the same thing on an interview I caught on WTKA.
Opening some stuff up is not just for mid-level programs (and Ole Miss), either: this space has noted some really cool access provided by Ohio State. Even Alabama, led by hater of all media Nick Saban, lets the media in to see some stuff. If Michigan's access is worse that Alabama's it's got to be the worst in the country, right?
I guess I get it since when Rodriguez was around the Free Press used the opportunity to talk to a couple freshmen to get them to issue misleading statements about how much time they were putting in, thus proving all long-held suspicions about the lizardmedia true. It's still frustrating that the hardest-hitting stuff we get is "what is your favorite Olympic event?" Not a 'wow' experience here. Someone put some pasta in a bread bowl or something.
It's on the up and up. The OHL came down harshly on Windsor for paying players under the table, which obviously never happens. My favorite part of all this is remembering the OHL's crocodile tears for their players when the NCAA was revamping their foreign player rules and hockey got an exception to keep CHL players out. They claimed it was just a shame that their entirely amateur league league was banned. Ugh. These guys are worse than the NCAA honchos.
Anyone want to bet a dollar that a pissed off Jack Campbell was a major source here? The WOTS about how these investigations came about fits Campbell's experience:
The league is choosing not to reveal names, though most believe some of the high-profile American players who played in Windsor could be responsible for the information leading to the sanctions. Some of those players were eventually traded, and it’s been suggested the trade could leave them feeling bitter and more prone to talk about their former team during an investigation.
The king of tight camera angles was really feeling it this time around, so we don't get a whole lot of detail, but it's April. Events are not thick on the ground.
Play 1: Denard fires a TE out to Brandon Moore, immediate tackle by Kenny Demens and Jake Ryan. Ricardo Miller comes into the frame late: 2TE set from the shotgun, or Miller's splitting his time between TE and WR.
Play 2: What looks like an inside zone from the shotgun breaks big. Ryan is coming around the backside and gets butt-blocked by Lewan, and that's all she wrote. Where is the SDE?
Play 3: Similar but Toussaint hits his gap closer to the frontside between Omameh and Barnum. Black gets handled one-on-one by Barnum and Toussaint jukes a filling safety I can't identify to dance into the endzone. I think that was probably Marvin Robinson since he was not a white guy and Gordon comes into the frame at the end of the play. Bolden and Talbott are also in with what seems like the first unit.
Play 4: Denard zips a deep slant just over the outstretched hand of Brennen Beyer that Jeremy Gallon snags impressively:
That's Countess to the left. He's concentrating on the interception instead of the tackle and gives up a bunch of YAC as a result.
Play 5: Marvin Robinson clubs a quick TE out for little gain. Second unit there: Ringer and Mike Jones are on the field.
Play 6: More 2-on-2s action as an inside zone to Rawls is well defended on the front side; Rawls cuts back behind Quinton Washington for a big gain. Washington is a three-tech next to NT Ash, so it's not really his fault. Where is the WDE?
Play 7: Denard under center. Iso handoff to Toussaint goes nowhere as Ryan makes a nice play. Campbell beat Barnum and forced Toussaint behind the A-gap where Hopkins was leading into; Morgan thumped the FB at the LOS. Bolden now running with the first team. probably because this is after Demens did this:
He took the opportunity to claim he'd be out for the season as an April Fools joke before revising that down to a few weeks and then a couple days.
Play 8: Vincent Smith power from under center goes nowhere. Bolden ends up tackling near the LOS. He does not bring his feet, causing someone to cry out "bring your feet!"
Play 9: Gardner launches a deep fly to Gallon; Countess is all over it, knocking it away.
Play 10: Under center power is pretty much stuffed until Ryan can't quite make a tackle on Toussaint as he breaks outside containment. He did a good enough job of stringing him out and slowing him down that Countess and other members can rally and hold it down. Michigan still can't run power from under center.
It is possible that Toussaint had a decent gain if he slammed it up in the hole.
Play 11: Denard sits in the pocket, getting no pressure, then runs around being all fast and stuff.
Play 12: Gardner waggle does not meet pressure on the edge. Gardner lofts a nice touch pass over Frank Clark to walk-on former DE Chris Eddins.
Interlude:Man, is Elliot Mealer's forehead red.
Also he has a great mountain man beard going on. Some potential here for Mealer to be Mike Hart's Pet Viking down the road.
Play 13: Another under center run should be consumed until Toussaint makes it into a decent gain. Toussaint has to dodge Beyer in the backfield. Campbell is stunting behind this and overruns the play a little bit; he's got help to the frontside and lets Fitz behind him. He gets enough of Toussaint to put him to the ground but not before the play gets six or seven.
Play 14: Denard hangs in the pocket and zings it to Gallon; ball is well behind him and Gallon has to make a moderately difficult catch. I don't think this is that bad of a throw—at the coaches' clinic Borges said he wants his QBs to hold the receiver up when throwing against zone, which this is. He doesn't want the QB to lead the WR into a defender. So this is somewhat intentional.
Talbott still out there with the first team.
Play 15: Another TE out, this one from Gardner to Jordan Paskorz and a bit deeper. Jarrod Wilson appears for the first time.
Play 16: Denard zings a TE in to Moore for a first down. Gordon tackles.
Play 17: Taylor Lewan blocks Ryan. We don't see the ball.
Play 18: Unidentifiable leaping guy (probably Ryan or Beyer) dissuades Denard from throwing the throwback screen. Instead he takes off and is fast and stuff.
Any takeaways here? It feels like the offensive line depth chart is approaching ink: Barnum has won the center job and Mealer is the guy at left guard. We haven't seen a snap that would suggest otherwise yet. Things can change when the cavalry arrives in fall; for now it looks like the veterans have the edge.
There are a lot of plays featuring tight ends, which is kind of odd since everyone's claiming their tight ends are a major issue and won't feature much during the year. Eddins, Moore, and Paskorz all feature. This may be the Johnny Sears move where you promote the weakest link on the team in an effort to keep spirits buoyed.
Other bits: Bolden passed Mike Jones the minute he showed up. Terrence Talbott could be a viable option at corner and may be pressing for some time. Also he has six arms and an FTL drive. /BOOM FredJackson'd. Campbell isn't getting blown up by Barnum. They've got some edge issues. Big ones, issues where you wonder if they weren't playing with ten guys on the field.
Denard is fast. Their under center running game is still poor. Jeremy Gallon is making some nice downfield catches, and Toussaint is on another level from Rawls and Smith. You can see the difference immediately in these tight-frame closeups.
Readers are advised to follow the same procedure as they might for the defensive line: look at the soothing, soothing starters and not the precarious dropoff—this time including a true freshman and non-entity "Dash Dash"—immediately after them.
Here the fainting should be kept to a minimum. Michigan returns four starters, inserts a well-regarded redshirt junior into the open slot, and ran for a crapton of yards last year. And the depth isn't all that bad. At various times new offensive line coach Darrell Funk has expressed a desire for seven or eight guys who are ready to play. That's how many they have: seven or eight, depending on which way the wind is blowing about Elliot Mealer today.
While not having a backup at left tackle looks ominous, in the event Lewan is forced off the field Michigan will just rearrange some guys and pull Schofield onto the field. The coaches have proclaimed their faith in both Schofield and Khoury, so Michigan won't get to serious collar-puling time until the third injury/suspension/abduction. Even that would likely bring a redshirt junior out of mothballs.
They'll be okay this year. The depth bomb hits next year as Khoury and Schofield draw into the starting lineup, leaving just Mealer and a horde of redshirt or true freshman behind the starters, including zero (0) backup tackles who won't be going to prom in a few months. At least those backups are backed by panting recruiting rankings. But that's for another season preview.
This season preview is concerned with the above offensive line and how well it will transition to MANBALL downhill running. It's not that they don't know how to do this. Here's the line doing this:
This is the thirdtime I've pulled a different gap-blocked play from last year to claim they can pull, so… yeah, they can pull. (FWIW, that is not Power O but Down G.) If you don't believe me, believe Mark Huyge:
"Last year, our primary play was outside zone, and this year it's coming at you. Really, they're not that much different. We ran the power last year, so we knew the footwork already, basically. [Offensive line coach Darrell] Funk tweaked us here and there a little bit. But it's just doing it more often."
Taylor Lewan also dismisses the idea the new offense incorporated anything he wasn't being taught a year ago:
"We have the same plays … Instead of an outside zone we might run a lead zone."
The issue is what happens when power goes from a constraint play designed to keep the defense honest to the bread and butter designed to make the defense cheat. The conventional wisdom is that power requires massive road graders a la the Wisconsin offense while the zone game requires guys who, while big compared to civilians, are less likely to annihilate a tackle one-on-one than dance their way into an advantageous position. Boy howdy can these guys do that.
They can do the other stuff when opponents are expecting an outside zone. Can they make it the base? And can they pass protect well enough to open up a full pro-style route tree? Well, we just don't know, Dude.
Rating: 4 of 5
Taylor Lewan started getting hyped up as the next Jake Long as soon as he committed. That hype never waned until Lewan managed to start his RS freshman year on the bench behind Mark Huyge.
That dip was brief. Lewan forced his way into the starting lineup by the second half of the UMass game and quickly established himself as a man who perceives men in other football uniforms as donkeys and himself as the last survivor of a species destroyed by donkeys. Result:
That was pretty exciting, and when he turned Adrian Clayborn off in the Iowa game the Jake Long hype hit fever pitch. Not even Long had started at left tackle as a freshman. Then Lewan took sixteen straight holding or false start penalties and harshed everyone's buzz good and proper.
After the third Lewan penalty Michigan Stadium was ready to throttle the guy. It would have taken most of the stadium to do so, but the "AWWWWWWWWW" coming from the stands suggested it was possible.
He's good. The Clayborn line: one solo tackle, two assists, a half sack on the last desperate Michigan drive. Last year Clayborn had 70 tackles, 20 for loss, and 11.5 sacks. Against Penn State earlier this year Clayborn had ten tackles, three TFLs, and a sack. He's a holy lock first-rounder, and Taylor Lewan all but erased him. …
That was a star-making performance. Lewan == Long has gone from optimistic ceiling to serious possibility.
…and Lewan established himself as the Mouton of the offense. He continued to sabotage Michigan drives with false starts and holds the rest of the year; when he wasn't doing that he was all but impenetrable.
"Last year, I had a lot of penalties and that's one of the main things I've tried to work on," he said. "My biggest problem was the penalties, absolutely. Everybody saw that. My biggest thing is to focus on that, stay onsides, stay aggressive between the whistles and not after.
"(But) I'm not trying to tone down the aggressiveness, because the offensive line, I feel, should be one of the most aggressive on the field. Have a defensive mentality on the offensive line."
The Mouton comparison is ominous since we just watched that guy start for three years without getting any better, but Lewan hasn't suffered at the hands of poor coaching yet and won't in the future. This should be the year he drops the crazy hot girl act and establishes himself as an All Big Ten left tackle. He'll still be a little penalty-prone but it will be worth it.
Opposite Lewan, Mark Huyge is barely holding on for the third straight year. A who-dat recruit Michigan snatched away from the MAC in the first year of Mike DeBord's zone transition, Huyge's done well for himself to be a sort of kind of three year starter.
That hasn't prevented him from losing his job over and over. Two years ago it was a rotating cavalcade of missed blocks at right tackle as Huyge swapped with Perry Dorrestein and got sucked inside to play guard in David Molk's absence. Late in the year Patrick Omameh emerged at right guard and Huyge was finally exiled to the bench.
Last year it was Lewan bursting onto the scene. Huyge popped up from time to time when Lewan's penalties were too infuriating for Rodriguez and when Dorrestein's back injuries cropped up again. He was okay, his pass blocking issues covered up by the offense and Denard, his rushing numbers usually a little bit above zero.
This year he's in another "dogfight," this one with redshirt sophomore Michael Schofield and, oddly, Omameh. Funk:
“Mark’s played all over the place, been a starter at three different positions. He’s set himself up to have a great senior year,” Funk said. “He’s a great kid, great with the young kids. He defers to Dave [Molk] in the leadership role, but they are both seniors who are always both counted on to be leaders. He’s playing right guard and right tackle, has that flexibility that he could play left tackle if we need him.
“I’m happy with how Mark is doing. It’s a little dogfight between him and Patrick [Omameh] and Michael Schofield, who is doing a nice job."
I hope that's just a motivational device for Omameh, who needs to get better against elite DTs but… well… more on him later.
Huyge has the lead for now, so he goes here. I wouldn't be surprised if some pass blocking issues crop up and give Schofield a shot at the job—Huyge has never been able to hold off elite rushers. The difference between him and Lewan in that Iowa game was stark:
…the Huyge/Lewan battle [was] resolved in the exact same way the Demens/Ezeh battle was: by some Iowa guy running over the backup. In Ezeh's case this was Iowa OL Julian Vandevelde. In Huyge's it was Adrian Clayborn.
Huyge wasn't terrible but when you play a third of a game and you don't get a single +/- on the run chart you're being avoided to some extent and just doing okay at when you're not. He got a –4 in pass protection; Lewan has a –3 in twice the time. Lewan was +7 on the ground, tied with Denard for the best score.
He'll be better, and he'll be needed unless the line miraculously skates through the season without injury. I'm just not sure he'll be the first choice at tackle when the Big Ten schedule rolls around, because...
Schofield and… Schofield
The aforementioned Michael Schofield is it, man. Jake Fisher's post-firing defection to Oregon and Tony Posada's instant exit leave Schofield the only scholarship tackle on the roster who's not, like, starting, man. That's not good.
At least Schofield was a consensus four star who picked Michigan over Notre Dame back when all our OL recruits belonged to Weis. He's spent a couple years bulking up and is now the obvious #6 offensive lineman:
"Schofield would be a top back-up if we started today ... but he could easily be a starter. He’s playing most days at a starter level. His big deal is he’s inconsistent, and that’s the whole group. We’ve got go make sure we’re consistently good.”
Huyge's flexibility will allow Michigan to flip Schofield onto the field if anyone other than Molk goes down. He's likely to start a few games in preparation for a full time role in 2011… unless he rips the job away from Huyge right now.
Given the way Huyge's career has gone and the general vibe coming from camp chatter and Funk's public statements, that's a strong possibility. Huyge's never been much of a pass blocker and Michigan's offense is going to require quite a bit more of that as Robinson starts making more and more five and seven step drops.
There's no one else thanks to Rodriguez's failures in the 2010 class and The Process. A discussion of the walk-on options would be pointless since in the event two tackles explode Michigan will flip Barnum (who played LT last year on the second team) or Omameh (who was widely regarded as the tackle of the future before he was needed as the guard of the present) outside and bring in Khoury.
Rating: 4.5 of 5.
This would be a five if Rich Rodriguez was still around. I've been badgering people about how awesome David Molk is since he was a redshirt freshman; Patrick Omameh's full-season debut was not quite spectacular but promised it right quick; Ricky Barnum is a touted recruit who's hitting the field as a redshirt junior. All were prepped to reach-block the living daylights out of opponents this year.
Now I'm not so sure. I think they'll still be pretty good, but worry that their strength is not their strength, if you know what I mean. I think they'll end up running a lot of zone blocking, whether it's by choice or hard lesson.
Your starting center for the fourth straight year is MGoBlog fave-rave David Molk. He drops f-bombs in press conferences, openly disdains stupid questions, and frequently makes the toughest block in football look easy. I love David Molk. This is what he does:
That was against freshman Akeem Spence but here's one of a few ass-kickings he handed veteran Penn State DT Ollie Ogbu:
Sometimes he joins Taylor Lewan in his donkey hating campaigns. He's getting a little All-America hype, and I think he could deserve more: CBS has him on the second team behind OSU's Mike Brewster. If my OSU blog interpretation is correct I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a Buckeye fan who wouldn't complain about the frustrating lack of dominance from their OL.
Molk is the perfect spread 'n' shred center, a major reason Michigan put up an unprecedented-this-millennium 5.6 YPC last year. If he's got weaknesses they apply to the transition he may or may not have to make.
While it's usually guards who end up pulling in gap-blocked rushing attacks, having a center who can do likewise is an asset. It opens up extra possibilities. Molk has the agility for that sort of thing but it seems like the act of pulling right after you've snapped the ball is one of those things you have to practice a ton to get right. Molk's spent his time doing other things. Additionally, when Molk takes on a DT with the intent of blowing him off the ball he's almost always doubling with an intent to peel off after a scoop. If he's asked to go one-on-one with bigger guys that might not go so well.
That is admittedly me trying to find a concern. David Molk is great. You can never tell which interior linemen are going to be up for postseason awards but I'll be incensed if he's not All Big Ten after a healthy year. I think he'll be a Rimington finalist.
in space, where he belongs
Returning next to Molk is redshirt junior Patrick Omameh. Omameh broke into the stating lineup at the tail end of his freshman year and immediately displayed an agility I'd never seen in a Michigan guard before. Last year he built on that. You know what I am about to embed, but are you sick of it? No, you are not sick of it.
That was no fluke. He did the same thing to the same epic linebacker later in the game, did it to Penn State, did it to Adrian Clayborn, did it to a lot of people. If you get Patrick Omameh to the second level he is liable to turn an opposing linebacker into a safety-destroying club.
His weakness was a lot more obvious than Molk's, though: he had a lot of trouble with beefy, high quality DTs. He actually picked up a negative in the opener against UConn due to his struggles with Kendall Reyes…
He didn't exactly lose out, but as the only guy on the line anywhere near even he stood out as a sophomore. UConn's Kendall Reyes was a problem all day, bursting into the backfield on the Shaw ten-yard loss and causing most of the bounce-outs. Sometimes this just happens. I remember Eastern Michigan's Jason Jones doing a lot of damage, pointing out how good he was, and hoping this was true both for credibility and what it said about Michigan's offensive line. Jones eventually went in the second round of the NFL draft. I both think and hope Reyes is really good, headed for All Big East recognition. If not, Omameh has a lot of work to do.
…and had a rough day against Corey Liuget ("when he did get Liuget he struggled … Many times Schilling or Omameh had not been able to keep pace with that spring into the backfield [that Molk did.]")
There are worse things. Reyes did end up first team All Big East. Liuget was a first-round pick over the summer and Reyes may be one next year. A lot of players have bad days against them. But that is a downside that will be relevant this year when Michigan sees Jared Crick and John Simon roll into town. It'll help out immensely if Omameh can stand up to them mano-a-mano. I'm not sure if that will happen unless the zero extra pounds he's credited with is gamesmanship, which has been rumored. That seems like an obvious rationalization to me.
Omameh's lack of out-and-out POWER to run POWER, his agility, and Lewan's donkey-hating ways mean that when Michigan does use POWER to run POWER they are going to be heavily left-handed. Remember when the first play of every game was zone left over Jake Long for two yards? I'm hoping Borges isn't as predictable as Mike "The Avalanche" DeBord, but the breakdown of left-right might be similar to 2007.
As for Omameh's performance, he should get towards the fringe of All Big Ten. They spread these things out amongst linemen and Lewan and Molk are ahead in the pecking order so he probably won't get it; I don't think he'll necessarily deserve it but he won't be far off.
Ricky Barnum is the line's only newcomer. He'll fill in for the departed Steve Schilling. As a backup offensive lineman we don't know much about him; his only appearances on the field to date have been in uncharted garbage time. We do know he was a touted recruit who backed out of a Florida commitment to follow Rich Rodriguez north—which, wow, dude, that's a hell of a decommit.
Barnum, a junior, however has received rave reviews from Funk and his teammates. Funk described him as most improved from last spring, and Lewan said he's been playing like an experienced, fifth-year senior.
In classic offensive lineman form, Barnum laughed off the praise and spoke about the big picture.
"It's not what I've done," Barnum said. "It's what we do as a team. We worked really hard in the offseason, and we're dedicated. We want to get better as a group."
On Barnum: "Ricky is as athletic as anyone on our line. Ricky is a tough guy." Biggest problem is that he's a little underweight, but he's gotten stronger, doesn't get pushed around, and "looks like a back out there sometimes when he runs."
"Underweight" in this case is 292; "looks like a back out there sometimes" is like looking in the Omameh mirror. File this under yet more evidence they're going to have to remain a primarily zone team the next couple years.
The only issue with his acquisition of the starting job is that he didn't have to fight too hard for it. Rocko Khoury and Elliot Mealer are the only plausible alternatives. While Khoury did an admirable job against Iowa, he's primarily a center. Beating out just one guy means you're necessarily more of a risk than someone who emerged from a thicket of a depth chart with a machete in his teeth.
The one thing that might hold him back early is injury. As of a couple weeks ago he was held out of the punting demo because of a knee issue. He still dressed, so it can't be too serious. He seems to have dumped the brace in recent photos; he'll probably be just fine.
There are only two before you get down to walk-ons and freshmen. Rocko Khoury is the only one who won't cause some hyperventilation. When Molk was knocked out for the Iowa game last year he stepped in and performed ably. Most of the clips at right are Khoury doubling DTs with Schilling, which isn't the toughest job in the world. He does display a bit of ability on the second level; he does not reach someone into oblivion.
If Khoury draws in it will be a downgrade since he's not likely to do any of the exciting Molkomamehwan things I embedded above. It won't be a disaster. Michigan averaged 4.5 YPC in his start against the #6 rush defense in the country, almost a yard and a half better than Iowa gave up against the rest of their schedule. They'll live if he plays.
Redshirt junior Elliot Mealer is the sole other non-freshman option. That qualifier is probably unnecessary since the freshmen are either 340 or 270 pounds—he's the last line of defense between Michigan and someone totally unprepared to play in the Big Ten. The coaches clearly have him behind Khoury and Schofield and while they do make encouraging noises about him from time to time…
Elliott Mealer and Rocko Khoury are vying for back-up positions on the interior line, ‘right on the cusp’ but depth guys right now, Funk added.
…the overall impression is that they'd like to avoid having him on the field just yet. He's still much better than the alternatives.
Those alternatives areChris Bryant, the 340-pounder, andJack Miller, the 270-pounder. They are freshman OL. It would be best if they did not see the field.
New shirts! The MGoStore is rocking two new shirts. One of them is pretty obvious. The other is, er… not. Click either for link:
Yes, the back of the Cone shirt says "leave ya twisted with chalk around ya body" in tribute to Cone rapping up a storm. WOOOOO. Get 'em while they last. Shoelace will be around for a bit, of course. Cone will be in our hearts forever but since it's kind of doubtful he gets a fifth year you probably want to scoop those bad boys up ASAP.
NOTE for folks who live in Ann Arbor and hate the idea of paying shipping costs: MGoShirts are available at Underground's retail space on South U. My cut there is the same as the one online, for people super concerned about the cash flow here. (This does happen.)
Outback Bowlin'. Orson Swindle would do well to avoid this vein-popping Zook special, but you're not Orson so here's the Wolverine Historian version of the 2003 Outback Bowl:
I don't know if this is good or bad. Justin Turner was credited with a special teams tackle on Saturday, but that did not actually happen:
MSU corrected the official boxscore Sunday to show Jonas Mouton in on the tackle, and Turner, the No. 2-rated player in Michigan's 2009 recruiting class according to Rivals.com, remains eligible to redshirt.
So he's probably going to redshirt, and JT Floyd is going to start. Hurrah for good roster management? Boo because of thin secondary depth and the oddity of having such a highly-rated guy on a redshirt track? You make the call.
Also of indeterminate benefit. Rodriguez is going to take a look at linebackers who aren't Ezeh or Mouton (both of whom are at least making a number of good plays to go along with their terrible horrible not good ones in the UFR I've gotten to):
Yeah, every job is up for grabs every week,” Rodriguez said. “It sounds like coach speak, but our guys know they have to play at a certain level. Jonas (Mouton) and Obi (Ezeh) have played very, very hard. … I think Jonas is a very active player, and Obi has played solid, as well, but we can all play better.” …
"You take away a couple of those scramble plays, their big third and long passes, and it was a pretty solid effort,” Rodriguez said. “But you have to count those. Those are part of the whole deal. … We've got to be more consistent I think is the word in all three phases, particularly defensively."
"Player X has played very hard" is an excellent backhanded compliment. FWIW, I don't think anything will come of the starting jobs potentially coming open given Fitzgerald's shaky cameo and Leach's meh performance in the Eastern game. At least Mouton, who does appear to be blitzing a lot more recently, has guru-approved (and obvious) athletic ability. Leach doesn't.
As long as we're talking about the possibility of walk-ons busting into the starting lineup, let's highlight this bolded bit from yesterday's press conference recap:
Mike Williams wasn't 100% going into the game, but taking him out for Kovacs was a substitution issue, not an injury issue.
IE: Kovacs is just playing because the coaches think he's better. Williams got yanked quickly, too, right after he failed to get out on a short zone when Michigan was running three-deep and gave up a 15-yard hitch on Michigan State's endless drive. I didn't even think that was his fault, FWIW, as he was tasked with faking a blitz and had no chance to get out there; with Warren playing in the parking lot that play was super easy. FWIW, Kovacs has turned in a couple of impressive tackles so far. He's probably a disaster in coverage but Michigan is using him as downhill run-stuffer, something he seems capable of.
Sports leader ESPN has followed the Mealer and Richer families for a year documenting how each family dealt with grief while moving ahead with their lives. On Tuesday the segment will air for the first time on ESPN and ESPN HD on a program called E:60 at 7 p.m.
"I first got contacted really early in the morning after I had just spoken at a FCA event at Napoleon High School," explained Elliott Mealer, a senior at the time of the accident that claimed two lives. "We talked it over as a family and all agreed that this could be something that could bring a positive light to the accident and everything after. As a little kid you always dream about being on ESPN and I guess in this sense it is bittersweet. I really wish I didn't have a story to tell but the fact of the matter is I do."
Worth examining, yes, I talk like Yoda for no reason mmmm.
That knee you see on the ground is Robert Hughes's. His entire body, and therefore the ball, is outside the endzone at this moment. This is the two point conversion that Notre Dame got to go up three, and without it they would have lost 30-28 in regulation. The lack of a review here is inexplicable. It was obvious the instant NBC cut to a replay of the play. CONSPIRACY
(Also, people: download a torrent and get a frame from that instead of taking pictures of your TV.)
With all the HD Jumbo screen talk(and with my boring 3rd shift) I figured I would draw it using my awesome skills. Now every one can see it. The future of the Big House. Around 2025 I am guessing. I did remove the one press box so you could see the field, so just pretend it's there. I also added seats above the HD screens and on top of the press box. Bringing the total seating to 125,000. In the year 2025 we will have be playing night games and using Maize jersey's. Welcome to the future! Great Scott!
These were not the top secret plans I referenced this morning. But they should be.
Obvious quarterback questioning. Tim's getting frustrated with the nonstop quarterback questioning at the press conferences, but none of you are going so here you go:
The art of saying nothing in 1:14. I don't think there's much chance all three QBs play equally well for anything length of time, and neither does Rodriguez, but he refuses to rule out anything. All things are possible.
Mealer okay? Elliot Mealer's shoulder was severely injured in that Christmas Eve car crash and there were some rumors that the effects of it still lingered and may be a permanent hindrance to his ability to play. Apparently that's not true:
"I've come a long ways," Mealer said. "You know, My arm is actually stronger, I think. My bad arm, so to speak, is stronger than my good arm and it's been a long ways. I still rehab it to this day, and then do a little prehab, as they call it, just to keep it loose and it helps. So it's come a long ways."
Mealer's not likely to play this year but should work himself into the playing mix in 2010.
BONUS Kevin Koger hype (the article is about Toledo-area players for M):
"Kevin Koger's had a great great offseason," said Calvin Magee, Koger's offensive coordinator and position mentor. "He's done well. He's gotten a lot stronger and a lot faster, and it's a natural progression from freshman to sophomore year.
"He's changed his body. You know, his weight's around the same. He's more lean now. So naturally, he's got more muscle on him. That allows him to be faster and he's one of those kids that committed himself to the offseason conditioning and it's going to help him a great deal."
Best Drill: The "M" Drill at Michigan. It's the Oklahoma Drill, but with a twist. There are three layers of blocking going on – linemen going 1 on 1, then a FB or TE engaged with a LB, followed by a WR and a DB. The back with the ball then tries to run through all three levels. Very intense and really well done. …
Impact Freshman: Tate Forcier, Michigan. I think Forcier is perfect for Rodriguez's system. Throws well, particularly on the run, and he runs well. He has everything they need. Seems Rodriguez isn't quite as convinced, given his plans to play three QBs in the opener against Western Michigan, but I still think that, ultimately, Forcier will be the guy. …
Honorable Mention: Vincent Smith, Michigan. Another tiny Smith who packs some serious punch, Smith absolutely bowled over a defender in a tackling drill, then, the next time he had the ball, juked another guy out of his uniform with a great move.
All that's cool, but Michigan didn't show up on any of Revsine's top position groups, or honorable mentions. Not that you expected them to anywhere except tailback, where Revsine bizarrely goes with Michigan State as his third-place team.
You said what? Gary Barnett talked crap about Gary Moeller's substitutions. This did not end well for him.
Isn't it strange that Barnett left Northwestern for Colorado and since that event Northwestern has probably been the better program? What happened to the Buffs?
"I've had people come up to me and say, 'How can you be a part of that coaching staff?' Those people aren't true Michigan fans. ... People don't understand how I accept my role, but those people don't know.
"It's an honor. It's Michigan, always going to be Michigan. Coach Rodriguez is a great guy, presented me an opportunity, and I took it."
So there you go, family values and so forth and so on.
Programming Note: I'll be on WTKA with John U Bacon this afternoon from 4-5. WTKA streams live for those in the diaspora.
It wasn't a total head implosion weekend. Lost in the dual frustrations from hockey and basketball was the baseball team's strong start: 4-0 against an array of Big East teams (and, oddly, Purdue), including two walk-off wins to open the season. Formerlyanonymous is now blogging up a storm about the baseball team at Varsity Blue; his article on the weekend is probably the most detailed recap of a Michigan baseball weekend ever written(!).
Michigan is in Jacksonville Wednesday through Sunday taking on a wide array of meh-sounding teams: North Florida, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Jacksonville, and Akron. Their major opportunity to get some committee-impressing nonconference wins comes in mid-March when Michigan goes to Arizona for a three-game series.
Hello again, Elliot. Elliot Mealer's unfortunate life story has made him perhaps the most-chronicled anonymous redshirt freshman offensive linemen ever(!). His local paper has a story on him, and this one deviates from the usual fluff and goes for a couple of interesting quotes:
"The speed of the game is just incredibly different from high school," reflected Mealer. "I talked to guys who I had played with at Wauseon and told them about the first time I faced speed in practice. I was playing left tackle against Tim Jamison (2008 starting defensive end). He comes at me and in high school you are taught to get your hands on him and move, but he slapped my hands down before I ever got them up. The next thing I realize I'm on the ground asking what happened and he's sacking the quarterback."
There's also a story about John Thompson crushing Mealer backwards, causing him to wonder if he'd been concussed; it's a step up from the usual stuff you get in these things.
One downer: it sounds like Mealer's on-field future may have been damaged by the car crash.
For Mealer, the challenge is restoring lost shoulder strength which may never return.
"The team has been doing a lot of upper arm strengthening in the weight room, but I'm not allowed to start that until after spring break (Feb. 20-28)," said Mealer. "At that time, I will start out with two to three days of upper body strength training and I'm not sure how long that will last, but it could last my whole career just to stay on top of it."
Mealer was a top-250 sort who certainly projected to playing time; with lingering effects from the injury he won't be in the conversation to start this year, at the very least.
…Rodriguez is in danger of falling behind in the spread offense arms race in terms of sophistication. I discussed that phenomena with Purdue as a pass-first spread team over the last decade, but it's of a slightly different order with Michigan. In the spread's nascent days, the spread-to-run innovators included Rodriguez and Kevin Wilson and Randy Walker at Northwestern, with Urban Meyer following shortly after. Wilson is now at OU and of course Meyer is at Florida. Compare their offenses with Rodriguez's: there's not much difference from a run-game standpoint (though Meyer and OU mix up their sets a bit more and use more tight-ends now), but the passing games have seen a wide departure. Wilson now uses what Chuck Long put in at OU, with some schematic residue lingering from Mike Leach and Mark Mangino, while Meyer, along with Dan Mullen and Mike Sanford, assembled a pro-style one-back approach gleaned from John L. Smith and Scott Linehan from Louisville and Joe Tiller and Jim Chaney from Purdue. I can't say I'm a huge fan of Meyer's passing game, but it's definitely more sophisticated than what Rodriguez has going on.
But Rodriguez is a bright guy and his passing game originally derived from (though is a long way now) the old run and shoot. So you'd think he could remedy this. Yet with nothing but true freshman, that evolution will have to wait. The longer they wait, however, the farther behind they fall.
This is more of a restated concern than a new one, and it's worth pointing out that the situation Rodriguez inherited last year was not conducive demonstrating any sort of great leap forward in passing sophistication. The larger issue is that Rodriguez, scrambling to do a thousand different things to reshape the Michigan football program, is probably not spending a lot of time keeping ahead of the game. It's all conjecture until walk-ons have been banished from the depth chart, but it's worth keeping an eye on.
I'm hoping this is more of a Pat White effect than a Rich Rodriguez one; West Virginia's passing offense of late didn't look sophisticated because 1) it didn't have to be and 2) it didn't play into White's strengths. Even if White did well at the combine keep in mind that Rodriguez was deploying the guy as a freshman/sophomore/junior, so the bulk of his recent forays into passing games were with a wobbly underclass jet engine; risk would be stupid in a situation like that. Tate Forcier, the most accurate passer EVER, figures to change that equation significantly.
More attrition? Buried in this recruiting chat from Josh Helmholdt is an interesting bit of speculation:
The WR position was a disappointment this past year, so I certainly understand the need to recruit as many WR's as possible. Also, the depth at the slot WR position is shallow and could get even thinner before the freshmen come in next year.
That points squarely the departure of a slot receiver currently on the team. Martavious Odoms was Michigan's leading receiver a year ago and has two teammates joining him, so it's unlikely to be him. Terrance Robinson is a redshirt freshman who didn't play because of injury. Rodriguez recruited him to play in the slot, too. He's probably going to stick around and try to earn playing time. There's only one other guy on the roster who played in the slot last year: Toney Clemons. There have been erratic transfer rumors about Clemons for months now, but never anything concrete. This is also not concrete, obviously, but Helmholdt doesn't just say things without sourcing.