This Week's Obsession: How to Watch a Spring Game

This Week's Obsession: How to Watch a Spring Game

Submitted by Seth on April 2nd, 2014 at 11:32 AM

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Upchurch

It is spring, the season with all the rebirth and egg-laying rabbits and such. In this pastel, paschal period of the year, everything is positive. Your baseball team could win the World Series, your backups arrived with 20 lbs more muscle/less fat ready to decapitate enemies, and your linebackers exploding everything in the backfield says everything about your linebackers and nothing about your offensive line. So question:

I am about to devote all of my attention to Spring Football. What can I learn about this team with this exercise? Is there anything that my eyes can show me that the hype is hiding?

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Ace: In previous years, I've had the opportunity to see a few spring practices (in the RichRod days, which coincided with my internship at The Wolverine) and get to know a few players both on Michigan's squad and at other levels of college football. Almost universally, the first thing I've been told about spring practices, and the spring game in particular, is to expect the defense to look well ahead of the offense—and that, if this is the case, it's a good thing. That's especially true when installing a new offense, as Michigan is this season.

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Mmmm true freshmen dominating walk-ons. [Fuller]

If you're skeptical, think back to those Rodriguez spring games and the general excitement they brought as Tate Forcier or Denard Robinson slashed through the defense with ease. Those were fun games. Those were also bad defenses. It's a whole lot easier to install and run a base defense than to get the offense fully up to speed, even with a limited playbook; if the offense looks like they know what they're supposed to be doing better than the defense, it's a point of concern.

So, strangely, I'm hoping for an ugly spring game—if it even resembles a "game" at all, which it hasn't for years. That's not to say I hope the offensive line looks totally overmatched—quite the contrary—but with a Doug Nussmeier's system still being put in place, the defense should more than hold their own at this juncture. Since we'll be seeing a very unfinished product on offense, I think more than anything we'll learn where the defense stands as they also make a transition, albeit a smaller one, to playing more 4-3 over with a reshuffled coaching staff.

[After the jump: preparing for platitudes]

Mailbag: Slowing Down Offenses, Henry At NT, Smith Vs Green, #1 Jersey, Onside Piracy

Mailbag: Slowing Down Offenses, Henry At NT, Smith Vs Green, #1 Jersey, Onside Piracy

Submitted by Brian on December 10th, 2013 at 12:58 PM

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Brian,

As I sit here watching Missouri and Auburn roll up and down the field, with the only defense being turnovers, I'm wondering what can be done to curtail the wave of offense in football so that defenses have a chance again.  Maybe people are fine with all of the offense, but it seems like it is so tough to play defense (get held on nearly every play, called one in 30 times) that I would love to see something to help even things up without drastically changing the game (such as 3 downs instead of 4 or having to go 15 yards for a first down instead of 10, etc.).  I think I figured out a simple change that may help:  with offenses spread out to make one on one match-ups all over the place, what if there is a rule that all of the offensive players have to line up between the numbers?  This wouldn't be such a drastic change and it would allow defenses to be a little less spread out at the snap.

What do you think?

A loyal reader,
Ppudge

Despite the attempt to not seem drastic, that seems kind of drastic. That would affect a lot of teams from spread to, uh, concentrate. And I'm not even sure what the impact would be. If teams just stack two guys up at the numbers is that better or worse? It doesn't seem to have a huge impact. Apologies, but thumbs down.

If we're going to change football to slow down the offenses, my suggestion is to simplify and liberalize pass interference by making it a (nearly) arms-only offense. I can't stand it when a defender gets nailed for the WR trying to run through him; some of these back shoulder things are basically prayer ducks relying on the fact that the DB isn't looking and hoping he'll run over the DB. In the hypothetical world where I am king, whiskey is free and pass interference is a thing that can only happen when a defensive back uses his arms in an unfair fashion or blows a guy up early. No more of this stuff where the DB is running in a direction and the WR changes his path such that the DB is now impeding the WR. You have a right to your momentum. In exchange, offenses can have full NFL penalties for flagrant you-tackled-that-guy offenses.

Not that any of this will do much to slow down Auburn, which just runs and runs and runs and runs. They beat Alabama and their QB threw for 97 yards. They got outgained by 100 yards, but they also ran for 5.7 yards a carry against Alabama. It boggles the mind.

Moving Willie Henry?

Brian,

OK, there are many candidates to play the DT next year, but few candidates to play NT if Pipkins doesn't come back strong after injury. You and others are very high on Henry at DT, but I haven't seen him mentioned at a possible NT. His weight and height look fine, but is there something about his build that makes him not well suited to play the nose?

Rod

Henry is a very plausible NT with his size and strength. Michigan lists him at 6'2", 306, which is about ideal NT size, and we've seen him throw away more than one OL this year. In an ideal world, Pipkins is full-go by late spring and playing well in fall camp, allowing Henry to continue doing his thing at three-tech.

But if that's not happening I bet we do see Henry slide over to the nose. Michigan's other options there are Richard Ash and redshirt freshman Maurice Hurst Jr, which doesn't sound too appealing. At three tech, Strobel, Poggi, and Glasgow are returning and Michigan has the option of bumping either Godin or Wormley down from SDE with Beyer the projected starter there.

A Henry move is 50/50 right now.

[After the JUMP: Smith vs Green, annual #1 jersey speculation, and evaluating a potential onside kick in The Game.]

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Green was getting more PT for a reason. Was that recruiting hype? [Fuller]

Unverified Voracity Would Settle Everything at Trafalgar

Unverified Voracity Would Settle Everything at Trafalgar

Submitted by Seth on February 21st, 2013 at 4:23 PM

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Legolas is cooler than Treebeard. Brian's taking a short vacation and left me to write UV today. That's too bad because he's missing the party after Spath heard from Norfleet's mentor/7-on-7 coach ($) that the MGoFavorite little bugger's defensive foray was a temporary thing:

"He's supposedly going back to offense," Blackwell said. "They will use him in the slot and in the return game, and some as a running back. Coach [Greg] Mattison is saying he can still use him on defense and is making an argument to keep him there, but Dennis' passion is for the offense. That's where he wants to play, and from talking to Dennis it appears that's where he's going to play.

Putting him with the other elves made some sense when the cornerback two-deep was the starters, and what carries he could siphon last year from Toussaint, Rawls and Hayes would now have to be defended from Drake Johnson and three highly rated incoming freshman. The rooting for Norfleet to take over Smith's role comes from simple fan interest: it's way more fun to hold your breath and watch this guy scamper around like a maniac than to plunge a tree into the enemy lines and watch him fall forward for the same result.

Contempt for compliance, not photos of Donna Shalala. The Miami (of course THAT Miami) case was to be the Austerlitz of the new and improved NCAA enforcement empire; instead it's going to be a summer of Waterloo metaphors and Shalala vs. Emmert lead images. SBNation's Robert Wheel's afore-linked take calls for Emmert's resignation, while admitting that won't do anything to fix the underlying problem:

If the NCAA were enforcing rules that didn't require a lot of investigation, then this lack of power would not be a problem. But as long as college sports remain a big time moneymaker with rich guys who want to circumvent the rulebook to see their teams win, said rich guys will find ways to try to outfox the rules. Unless we want to give the NCAA subpoena power (we really don't) then this will always be a losing battle. The NCAA will never have the ability or the resources to catch up to people breaking its rules.

In a real legal system the Canes could discredit the prosecution's only witness and get the case thrown out. This isn't a real legal system: schools don't get in trouble for breaking NCAA rules, they get in trouble by publicly reminding everybody that the NCAA can't really enforce them. USC tried this and got slapped down despite the evidence in hand being too weak for any court. Meanwhile investigators with bees up their butts couldn't prove what every 4-year-old knows in re: Ohio State gives players cars, or really much of anything in the original Tatgate story until the NFL forced Pryor to talk. For stonewalling so politely the extent of the Buckeyes' punishment was to end a 12-0 season with Meyer on their sidelines and Tressel on their shoulders. The dumbest thing Shalala could do is comply.* The second-dumbest thing she could do is say na-na-na-boo-boo to an organization that only slightly cares if it turned up doo doo.

The obvious answer is pay the players (FoxSports in re: Clowney and the risk of injury) and end the shadow ring where guys like Shapiro are the only people who can perform the otherwise perfectly legal function of paying adult U.S. citizens for the services they provide.

* There are a select few schools like Michigan who don't have a choice because our whole thing is being the good guys, and because we're among those who would benefit the most if tradition, competitiveness and the quality of education were the only factors in recruiting and retaining college football talent. Kind of like how Great Britain would prefer to settle everything with a sea battle.

Basketball on verge of spread revolution. Weinreb dug up a budding Mike Leach from a D-II school in West Virginia to highlight a story about how pacing in basketball has slowed way down while the smart guys beating up the lower ranks are going the other way. That coach's motto is "Don't do it unless you can rationalize why you're doing it." He's too old to end up in Ann Arbor, but apparently the Yost alleles for engineering-minded coaches are still going strong in Appalachia. Beilein small ball isn't speed ball, but this…

When Crutchfield recruits, he looks for kids who react quickly — "You can make up for a lot of quickness and speed if you react mentally," he says — and play with high intensity: If they get beat on defense and they don't D up even harder the next time down the floor, he starts to wonder if they might not fit into his system.

… is similar to Beilein. HT and board discussion itauditbill. While we're on Grantland's court Shane Ryan has updated his chart of the Big Ten's "Big Six" versus each other on the road:

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That's part of a discussion on how road game success can be a strong predictor of postseason performance. I've used it for predicting NBA and NHL playoff results, and March Madness would be right there with them if it wasn't such a crapshoot in general. HT again from the board: SoFlaWolverine.

Assistant Coaches like money too. There's a rumor that Oklahoma may be going after Jerry Montgomery (Meinke via Footballscoop). Cam Cameron you may have heard just joined Les Miles's staff, further evidence to my theory that LSU is the In a Mirror, Darkly evil twin of Michigan from another dimension.

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Dark universe Les Miles is in his 5th season as head coach at Michigan, where he's been slowly rebuilding the school's reputation shredded by win-at-all-costs Evil Lloyd Carr

Cameron will be making $3.4 million over 3 years, and this has made internet people start buzzing about top assistants commanding the kind of salary you give the school president. /mind blown. /thinks about the difference between GERG and Greg. /mind unblown.

It's right because the internet said so. The NCAA cover vote on Facebook has moved to a semifinals where the S-E-C!!! vote has been split (to Eddie Lacy's doom and random A&M guy's benefit) and Denard now leads. Every time this appears on the board cynical-me goes to erase it because it's playing to somebody's marketing ploy, and enchanted-me says "But Denard on the cover would be a wonderful thing!" I wish Denard would be on the cover because he is the living symbol of what is singularly spectacular about NCAA football; I also wish they could have come to that conclusion without somebody "developing an engaging social media campaign" that might only settle on Robinson because a cat playing guitar hero wasn't allowed in the race. #AIRBHG2014

Etc. People of the East Coast, check your DVR schedule or wind up recording a Virginia-BC game. UMHoops takes on Michigan's defense, scores a bazillion points (ha!). Zoltan's foundation update. FAU's marketing department derps stadium sponsor, double-derps wikipedia entry. MGoAndroid App is updated, report bugs here. NFL logos if they were designed by British people.

2012 Recruiting: Dennis Norfleet

2012 Recruiting: Dennis Norfleet

Submitted by Brian on August 24th, 2012 at 11:45 AM

Previously: S Jeremy Clark, S Allen Gant, S Jarrod Wilson, CB Terry Richardson, LB James Ross, LB Royce Jenkins-Stone, LB Kaleb Ringer, LB Joe Bolden, DE Chris Wormley, DE Tom Strobel, DE Mario Ojemudia, DT Matt Godin, DT Willie Henry, DT Ondre Pipkins, OL Ben Braden, OL Erik Magnuson, OL Blake Bars, OL leKyle Kalis, TE AJ Williams, TE Devin Funchess, WR Jehu Chesson, WR Amara Darboh, and FB Sione Houma.

       
Detroit, MI – 5'7", 161
       

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Scout 4*, #19 RB, #163 overall
Rivals 4*, #5 APB, #6 MI, #236 overall
ESPN 3*, #80 RB, #26 MI
24/7 4*, #7 APB, #4 MI, #169 overall
Other Suitors Cinci, MSU, Pitt, Tennessee
YMRMFSPA Darren Sproles, or what you always hoped Vincent Smith would be
Previously On MGoBlog Hello post from me(!).
Notes IS NOT NAMED DENNIS "NORTHFLEET" LET'S NOT WOLFORK THIS OKAY

Film

Senior highlights:

I got way behind on these thanks to book stuff and knee stuff, so I apologize that this is going to sound like a broken record a day after I mentioned Michigan's acquisition of offensive weapons in all shapes and sizes for the third time in little over a week. But…

Dennis Norfleet is another guy who Michigan can plug into their offense to jar opponents out of comfort zones and exploit weaknesses. Whipsaw, Swiss army knife, etc., the null offense, whatever you want to call it, Norfleet is a guy who fulfills a role. He is a specialist.

That specialty is being in space, where the bugger is impossible to catch. Norfleet rose to prominence as a wildly productive midget RB as a sophomore but really caught recruiting services' eyes when he annihilated a swathe of 7-on-7 competitions last summer. He was the MVP of the IMG Madden tourney and the NLA tourney, both attended by legions of top recruits. How does a 5'6" guy do that($)?

There are a select few players who can make defenders in position totally whiff in one-hand touch, 7-on-7 football. There may be only one Dennis Norfleet who seems to make a play or two like that every game. On one particular play, Norfleet put a move on two defenders at one time, splitting the pair and taking the ball in for a touchdown. He is electric with the football in his hands.

By splitting defenders in one-hand touch.

If 7 on 7 was football, Norfleet would have been the top prospect in the country. I've waded through rapturous report after rapturous report to assemble this post. A sampling:

  • "…so explosive, incredibly elusive and runs with an energy that you don’t often see. Even in the one-hand-touch setting, Norfleet was making multiple players grasp at air, sometimes many in the same play."
  • "…just keeps showing up at events and making people take notice. He is without a doubt one of the most exciting players in this 2012 class."
  • "…in 100-degree plus weather, he never subbed out on offense and defense. He demanded the ball on offense on every snap. He has a relentless motor."
  • The NLA MVP "really wasn’t even a difficult call" because Norfleet "was demanding the football on offense, was nearly uncoverable in man-to-man and then wouldn’t miss a beat as a lock-down cornerback on defense."
  • "…a natural leader and showed great energy when everyone else was exhausted."
  • "…is actually an outstanding receiver, and defensive backs could not hang with his speed. After creating separation, Norfleet also displays excellent hands to finish the play."
  • "…Norfleet and Morris [yes that Morris] were running neck and neck for the MVP for the tournament, but Norfleet separated himself from his teammate after elevating for a pass that was well over thrown and landing on a brick lined sidewalk with an audible thud.

Comparisons abound, from Sproles to Jock Sanders (WVU's all-purpose slotback) to Danny Woodhead (the ridiculously productive DII dwarf now with the Patriots) to Jacquizz Rogers. The recipe is simple: get him in space and get the popcorn.

[after THE JUMP: "that guy can do anything" & ESPN poops the party. PLUS LINK TO RIHANNA SONG.]