Michigan had to know that Newsome's return was a distant possibility for a while, and has been preparing as if he would not return for some time. Getting him back would have been a bonus; as it is Jon Runyan and appears to be locking down the left tackle job, with Jaylen Mayfield and Andrew Stueber pushing from behind, and a JBB-Hudson battle on the right side.
Rule: This team is for those who made their contributions off the field. I don’t mean being a quiet model citizen; I mean doing things that we found entertaining, insane, or otherwise meme-worthy.
Cutoff Point: Had to exist in the Michigan consciousness during the Time of Blog (2005-present)
Quarterback: David Cone
Please still exist please still exist please still exist DAMMIT.
Why you gotta use MySpace, Notorious C.O.N.E.? Since stone age social media no longer hosts, former WR Toney Clemons filmed roommate/former QB David Cone in their apartment laying some sick rhymes (free mgoshirt to whoever can track down a copy of the album for us).
Fortunately MVictors still has the audio, if the vid is gone for all time. But that video was so good.
Honorable Mention: Denard. How do you separate Brian’s kid’s name, Shoelace, the smile, Whaaaaat?!?, the cover of the last NCAA edition for a decade, and a crumpled up mailbox from the actual dilithium? You can’t, and the purpose of this list is to honor the Coners because these lists otherwise exist just for an excuse to put Denard at QB when you wouldn’t otherwise.
The offensive line? Players talked about how much new position coach Ed Warinner made simplifications this spring, mainly because he had no other choice. Grant Newsome told reporters Tuesday that Warinner stripped down the complex language and overall concept because it was overwhelming.
"He said he was even confused by the amount of terminology and different plays we had in the playbook," Newsome said.
The internet's talked a lot about the excessive complexity of Michigan's offense in the aftermath, and I feel like I have to interject. Michigan's OSU gameplan wins the game if it doesn't draw the worst QB performance in living memory. Michigan's ability to tweak and screw with people's heads has been a trademark of Harbaugh's best offenses. It can and should be Michigan's approaching going forward for the same reason RichRod shouldn't have run a pro-style offense in his first year in Ann Arbor.
I'd like to separate out the offensive approach in general from a particular problem on the offensive line that Newsome highlights above. Michigan's 2017 OL, and by extension the team, suffered from a terminal case of…
Borges disease is when you try to do everything without doing one thing well and everything falls apart in a morass of beautiful-on-paper plays that are executed with the balletic grace of a drunken donkey crashing his ex-wife's wedding.
Borges's special power was containing all bad-idea multitudes within himself. Michigan created their own version of this by importing former Indiana and RichRod OL coach Greg Frey for a single disastrous year. This wasn't Frey's fault; he remains a well-regarded OL coach and jumped to his alma mater FSU before a serious inquest could result. Because Frey's hire was a half-measure on Harbaugh's part, it blew up in his face.
Publicly, Michigan split OL duties between Frey and a still-extant Drevno, handing Frey the tackles and TEs while Drevno coached the interior line. I'm not sure that's the way it actually worked, because Michigan went from a power-based run offense in Harbaugh's first two years to an inside zone team with some power sprinkled in. Then they went to a 50/50 split, and finally they returned zone to an occasional constraint play, because they were immensely bad at running zone.
So not only did Michigan spend a bunch of time trying to get good at IZ and burn a bunch of snaps grabbing two yards a pop, they retarded their growth as the mashing power team their personnel certainly pointed to. Post-MSU UFR, which was in the 50-50 phase:
Michigan ran 11 zone plays versus 14 gap-blocked plays. (FB dives, crack sweeps, and the reverse are excluded from this analysis.) That is a significant shift away from zone. That still remains a part of the playbook, obviously... but a crappy one. Those 11 plays gained just 25 yards. Michigan suuuucks at zone.
There were costs to the returning diversity. Michigan had a couple of plays on which it looked like someone busted an assignment. Onwenu appeared to be running a trap on a play that was not a trap, and either Hill or McKeon busted on this Isaac TFL. Michigan blocks a big cavern in the middle that has an unblocked LB, and then Hill runs outside. Isaac follows him, because follow your fullback:
I gave that to Hill but that could be what he's supposed to do; in that case McKeon needs to be doubling on Cole's guy and leaving the force player for Hill. YMMV. Either way it's a mental mistake that turns a promising play into a TFL.
When Michigan focused on becoming the mashing team they were always supposed to be, the results were good. Despite wasting a bunch of time, their S&P+ breakdown stats paint the picture of a bunch of maulers:
Power success rate: 7th
Adjusted line yards: 20th
Rushing explosiveness: 29th
Overall rushing S&P+: 14th
A #47 stuff rate, #79 success rate, and #90 opportunity rate look like a lot of missed assignments in that context, missed assignments created by Michigan's failed attempt to adopt Frey's approach on the ground.
That is dysfunction. Michigan masked it fairly well by pushing the abort button halfway through the season and having a couple good running backs and some Large Adult Sons. But since those Large Adult Sons came coupled with serious pass protection issues, there was no Plan B for the other half of the offense.
There the disconnect between Drevno and Frey was easily seen every time Michigan failed to pick up a stunt, which was about every other stunt. Michigan looked like the worst-coached offensive line in the country last year. I started wondering if Patrick Kugler's inability to get on the field until his redshirt senior year was because he couldn't make a line call to save his life. And here's where the Newsome quote comes in. Michigan clearly couldn't execute their pass protection system.
An outsider can't know whether that's because two different guys were teaching it, or it was an unholy combination of two different approaches, or it was just plain bad because Drevno is bad and should feel bad. But it all goes back to Michigan importing an offensive coordinator (Pep Hamilton) and an OL coach without telling the guy who thought he was both to hit the bricks.
If anyone knows what to do with their hands after seeing this please let me know.
Peters transfer: nope. The lingering concern about Shea Patterson's transfer is that it would cause Brandon Peters to transfer out, thus leaving Michigan just as thin at quarterback and reliant on an NCAA waiver for their presumed starter. That does not appear to be happening. Sam Webb talked to Peters's father; you can listen to a WTKA segment on that conversation—helpfully summarized here—or read his take on The Michigan Insider:
“That's good,” Mr. Peters said of Patterson’s transfer. “Iron sharpens iron. Brandon is up for a good fight. Put the gloves on, (get) both fists up, (and) let's go! Brandon said, ‘bring in 30 QBs. I'm going to my job at hand and work.’
“Coach Harbaugh said it’s going to be a competition and we believe him.”
Webb also cleared up the strange yes-no-yes Patterson saga: Michigan was content to go into 2018 with three quarterbacks, but once Speight decided to grad transfer they wanted to add a guy and Patterson wanted to come, so... yeah.
The grad transfer rule might also be helping Michigan keep Peters around, BTW. He will compete for the job this year. If he doesn't get it he will be the backup; if Patterson's one and done then he's in line for the job again in 2018. If he's not, Peters can almost certainly graduate in 3.5 years and have two to play two, a la Alex Malzone. He doesn't lose anything by staying, and he will be a serious candidate for the job. I'd tentatively give him the edge given his familiarity with the offense.
Not quite crootin' visits of note. JaRaymond Hall took a visit to CMU this weekend, which seems like a significant step towards a transfer. Hall is on the fence after receiving his release earlier this month.
Also: potential Ole Miss transfer Van Jefferson visited Louisville yesterday. As of Monday, Jefferson was the only one of the three guys who had not told a recruiting reporter that he was at least virtually committed, and it appears that there is a genuine race on for his services. Louisville is closer to home since Shawn Jefferson is the Titans' WR coach. If this is a backup plan because of transcripts thing expect that to get resolved almost immediately—all three guys want to be on someone else's campus for the winter semester.
Doesn't sound great for Newsome. This is reading between the lines, admittedly, but that's all we've got here. And if Grant Newsome isn't cleared for spring it's probably not good news for his career:
Michigan left tackle Grant Newsome still holds the goal of being medically cleared to return to football by the start of the 2018 season.
"Before then hopefully," Newsome said Sunday night. "As soon as possible." ...
"Trying to get back on the field as soon as possible," said Newsome, who was honored with the Pete Schmidt Courage Award at the National Football Foundation/Free Press All-State Dream Team banquet in Dearborn on Sunday. "I want to play right now. But it's up to the doctors when they'll let me go."
Not being cleared more than a year removed from his injury is fairly ominous.
Shooter. Adrien Nunez is the who-dat afterthought in Michigan's 2018 basketball recruiting class, at least if you go by rankings. If you go by the ability to make threes off the dribble, though:
That's one game and thus fairly representative. Nunez ventured inside the three point line once; he makes multiple off the dribble threes; he also catches and shoots. Nunez doesn't look like the kind of athlete who gets the shiny rankings, but he looks like a guy who can get his shot in a variety of ways. That shot is always a three pointer. Beilein kind of kid.
A disastrous nonconference schedule. Michigan isn't the only Big Ten team to suffer through a disappointing basketball stretch here. The conference has imploded:
This looks like a four bid league. Northwestern, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Maryland, and Wisconsin have all badly undershot preseason expectations. Michigan really needs this game against Texas tonight and then will have to go... uh... 11-7 in conference play to be on the bubble? Is it that bad? I think it might be.
What have you seen from some of the younger guys at tackle, Stueber, some of those guys?
“They’re doing really well. That transition of coming from high school to college is going really good. You’re seeing them move around do things more natural now than six weeks ago, seven weeks ago, so really excited about the young group. There’s a good group and it’s going to be fun to watch them continue to grow and compete and prepare and the whole nine yards.”
Is that typically a pretty big transition coming from high school to college as an offensive lineman?
“Oh yeah, absolutely.”
What’s been the difference for Juwann [Bushell-Beatty]? He started out no. 2, now he’s in there moving people.
“Juwann’s—he’s really maturing in just his outlook and how he goes and it’s been really fun to watch and interesting to see, like you said, overcome some adversity early on and continue to battle and continue to press. Certainly not where we want him to be or where he feels he can be but I think he’s on that road and it’s been really fun to watch.”
He’s been moving people. Is the pass pro part still where you’re really—
“Yeah, it’s always because every defense presents different challenges, and so as a group and watching these guys, they’re attacking those challenges. Still making some mistakes. There’s still some things we’ve got to get where maybe a guy gets anxious or something happens where we’ve got to calm him down a little bit but he’s solidly moving forward to become what we think he can become.”
[After THE JUMP: how Frey approaches TEs, updates on Hudson, Newsome the player/coach, and a Maryland scouting report of sorts]
Some of the defensive players were saying that Joe Hewlett was really helping out with the scout team in emulating Air Force’s offense. Have you seen that as well?
“Yeah, I’ve been busy with the offense. I really haven’t paid much attention to the defense, but I know that Joe Hewlett’s in there.”
Have you ever run a triple option at any stop in your career?
“Uh…no. I’ve kind of messed with it here and there.”
What does that mean?
“I’ve put in some different plays but never saturate yourself into it, so I don’t know the ins and outs of it. You try to maybe put a play in here or there in the form of a triple option but not live in it, no.”
What have you seen from Air Force’s defense?
“Great question. Very fast, well disciplined. They play an odd scheme. They love the pressure. They’re very good tacklers in the back end. Play extremely hard. Just technically sound. They know how to get off blocks, know how to pass rush. Secondary’s very good at reading route concepts, know how to break on the ball. They’re very well coached. They do a great job at Air Force.”
Do you think Jon Runyan’s a better fit at guard? He was in the mix at tackle and then seems like he’s coming in a little bit—
“Yeah, Jon’s a very athletic guy. He could play all five positions. It’s just right now he could be a guard, he could be a tackle, but he does a good job just initial quickness off the ball, with his hand placement, really athletic, feet move well, when something moves he can cover it up. Jon’s doing a nice job and progressing well.”
[After THE JUMP: correcting little mistakes, O-line development, and Grant Newsome as coach/president. Oh, and what it means to be human]
[Ed. note: Newsome is actually a true junior but we are assuming he redshirts this season so the listed year is more accurate spiritually. Also Paea is probably a DT this year but I ran out of OL anyone's heard of.]
Michigan lost three starters to graduation and will be without left tackle Grant Newsome after his scary injury midway through last season. And… eh. By the time the graduated had played out their eligibility it was clear that there wasn't much anyone could do to turn them into a crew of firebreathers. Ben Braden (-9.4 to PFF) was willing but the very definition of stiff. Kyle Kalis(-6.3) was a missed assignment machine to the last. Erik Magnuson(+9.1) was a solid player but never an impactful one. None were drafted, and they collectively plateaued three years ago:
Adj Line Yards
Adj Sack Rate
Advanced line stats are a bit wonky because they also depend on the running back and style of offense, but the whole set tells a story. That story: mediocre players hitting their ceiling.
At some point it was clear they were playing mostly because Michigan didn't have any alternatives. When Newsome went out there was a brief dalliance with Juwann Bushell-Beatty at left tackle that went so poorly that Michigan flipped Braden out and brought in a true freshman in his stead. Everyone else other than Patrick Kugler, who was stuck behind Mason Cole, was some flavor of freshman as well.
So, they're gone and the replacements are incapable of voting. It's the end of the Hoke as we know it, and I feel fine. Except about the Newsome thing. That sucks.
TACKLE: COLE AND THE RANDOS
there and back again [Eric Upchurch]
Last year MASON COLE moved to center because it was clear he was not a tackle. This year he returns to tackle because it's clear nobody else is.
Despite the somewhat awkward fit with Cole's body type, this foray should be mostly successful. At tackle, Cole was a near-elite run blocker, capable of overpowering and outmaneuvering defensive ends and linebackers. At center Cole's lack of oomph left him vulnerable to planet-sized nose tackles he couldn't move and gents like Malik McDowell who just wanted to bulldoze him.
Cole was better at the mental aspects of being a center. At the same time he was getting plowed by McDowell he was instrumental when MSU turned to their double A gap twist blitz. That blitz bedeviled Michigan for years under less competent coaches; Cole (and Harbaugh) throttled it:
The trademark MSU defensive playcall was comprehensively beaten. Finally. All of these plays feature the extreme aggression of the MSU linebackers being used against them, something that Michigan hasn't been able to do in forever. Can't block 'em? Run right by 'em.
The line just about maintained its very good adjusted sack rate with Cole at center despite suffering an injury to Newsome they simply could not afford. A large part of that goes back to Cole's ability to make the line calls. Bredeson's freshman biffs aren't on Cole's ability to organize, and Michigan was pretty dang organized in pass pro:
Zone running not so much, but more about that in Five Question and Five Answers. Michigan's frustrating inability to identify first level blocks on stretch plays all but removed those from the offense, so we never got to see if Cole could get his David Molk on. Getting a reach block is really hard and really good if you manage it and Cole had some promising upside in that department that never came to fruition.
[After THE JUMP: LARGE ADULT SONS, except not quite adult.]
I was trying out a few pieces of transcription software and though they didn’t speed up my process it felt like a waste for me to not just finish transcribing and post this for your consumption. This scrum took place during Saturday’s Ann Arbor Aerial Assault camp and exists thanks to Maize & Blue News uploading video of it.
You don't have all the NFL guys [this year]. I mean, you still have goals to get out of this camp? It seems like there's a large interest still and everything.
“Yes, yes. We use a lot of our own players and coaches other college coaches. Just-- there was changing in rules and IAWP status and some NFL players have siblings or they coach at high school so you don't want to go on that road at all. I think it's better at getting all the-- getting other coaches and so it's been good. It's been a good camp.”
The players are pretty involved. It seems like they are eager to teach--
You guys are done with camps, you've been back around the guys a couple of days here, spent more time with them than you had been in May. Of course, you were gone.
“Yeah. Less camps; we've been around here more. Been here since the beginning of June.”
There's a lot out true freshmen that are hanging out here. Have you gotten to kind of get to know those guys in a way that you hadn't before?
“Yeah, we're starting to, we're starting to. We've really had an emphasis to improve the commitment and the accountability and so far that's been been working nicely.”
What are these young guys who weren't here in the spring have to kind of--what can they gain here in the next couple of months?
“You can gain a lot by watching. Can observe a lot by just watching, and they're slowly working into the workouts. They're voluntary workouts right now so they don't become full-time until we start classes and orientation June 24th.”
What date are you starting camp?
[Read the last answer after THE JUMP and tell me that’s not a lesson learned from experience]
Johnson would have been a rotation piece in the backfield; they still have Evans, Higdon, Isaac, and Kareem Walker along with O'Maury Samuels arriving in the fall. On-field impact should be low. FWIW, this has been likely for a couple months now and Michigan recruited like it.
"I'm sitting in [Fred Jackson's] office, and there was a fridge right over there, and he's like, 'You hungry?'" Johnson said. "I'm like, 'No man, I'm not hungry.' So he's like, 'OK, I'm going to grab myself a Coke.' So he grabs himself a Coke and he sits down.
"He takes maybe two sips, and he's like, 'Hey Drake, you want something to drink?' And I'm like, 'No, I'm still good.' He's like, 'I think I'm going to get myself an orange juice.' I'm like, 'Dude, you have a Coke in front of you.' He says, 'It's fine.'
"So I'm sitting there, and maybe two minutes later, he's like, 'I think I'm going to get myself a drink,' and I'm like, 'Coach, you already got two drinks in front of you, man! Your thirst can be quenched by what's in front of you.'
"He says, 'I'm just going to grab myself some water. You want some water?' And I'm like, "Nooo, I have Gatorade in my hand, guy. It's fine.'"
Let him take up his place in the Jibreel Black wing of the Michigan Hall of Fame where we put all the folks who didn't have a huge on-field impact but were nonetheless delightful.
Jim Harbaugh says there has been some difficulty in Grant Newsome's recovery - thinks he will be back next year instead of this year
Newsome's return was always 50/50 at best, and now it's probably 10/90. He does have a redshirt available, which he'll take, and hope to return as a redshirt junior next year. Michigan's looking at Cole, Bredeson, Juwann Bushell-Beatty, Nolan Ulizio, and incoming freshmen for their two tackle spots.
Adding Greg Frey to the coaching staff has allowed Drevno to more fully take on the role of offensive coordinator
Pep Hamilton and Drevno have a nigh telepathic connection thanks to their days coaching together at Stanford
Donovan Peoples-Jones appears to be everything he was advertised as being; Drevno said that with DPJ, “…there’s no letdown, man.”
Grant Newsome is not practicing yet
When asked about Grant Perry, Drevno said it’s an internal matter and didn’t elaborate further
Everyone is being rotated through different spots to find the best five (and the best fit) on the offensive line
Drevno praised Cesar Ruiz’s rapid processing of information and his ability to quickly get off the ball and to the second level
You’ve got a lot of new guys. What’s your impression through the first day of spring?
“Really good. They worked really hard. They’ve done a nice job in the classroom the last couple days. Like we’ve said, just in terms of the winter condition there’s some very athletic guys that we’ve recruited, especially at the wide receiver position and other places on the offense, so it’s been really good.”
The football classroom?
“Yeah, the football classroom in terms of just the last couple days we’ve met and it’s been good. And they carried it over into today, which is really nice to see just them doing it at a high level. They learn fast and can fix problems.”
Is Mason [Cole] going to be practicing at multiple spots to make sure you get the right fit as far as tackle and center goes?
“Yeah, we’re rotating guys through there and we’ll see who the best five guys are.”