The Story 2013: All Together Now

The Story 2013: All Together Now

Submitted by Brian on August 26th, 2013 at 11:06 AM

Previously: The Story 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008. Preview 2012.

Also Previously: Podcast 5.0.


I had this thing I was always going to write about Denard, and I said I'd put it in Hail To The Victors, and Seth really, really wanted it because we really, really had to send everything to the printer, and I sat in front of my keyboard and could not do it. As you're about to find out this week, putting words into a computer is something I do quite frequently. My problem is usually keeping those words relatively concise. This time I sat there, and the thing I'd had in my head for years sat there too.

We stared at each other. Nobody moved.


This is a program that has been in flux for nearly a decade now. The first indication was Jim Herrmann's one-year experiment with the 3-4 in 2004. Like everything in the Late Herrmann period, it worked just enough to make you crazy when it didn't. A year later, Michigan was running a 4-3 again, had a 9-point lead against Ohio State with 7:49 on the clock, and blew it.

Herrmann was given the NFL position coach gold watch, and because any motion towards the future must be paired with an equal and opposite motion towards the past a year later Mike DeBord was re-installed as the offensive coordinator. He completely overhauled the offense, dumping pulling linemen for a zone-stretch running game. Two years later, Rodriguez came in, overhauling everything except David Molk. Three years later, Hoke came in, overhauling everything except David Molk.

All along, the panic grew. Michigan started casting about for anyone they thought could help, whether it was mentally unbalanced defensive linemen or guys with no offers who showed at camp or defensive backs who hadn't ever played a varsity game. Or Mike DeBord. The decisions being made became increasingly unmoored from reality in the late aughts. Something named Appalachian State beat Michigan. At some point Greg Robinson was hired.

Here is a Hieronymus Bosch painting, because nothing else can represent the thought process that ended with that decision.


Chaos descended on Michigan gradually, until a bird-man and spiky monkey and plague dude and bird-hippo-thing murdered it and its magnificent beard. You can assign the various actors their roles based on your preferences, except the plague guy has to be GERG.

This is still a team in flux. Rodriguez got axed just in time for Michigan to complete its transition to spread personnel, echoes of which are still on the team today: a right tackle who was high school hurdler, a #1 receiver standing 5'8", a quarterback who's probably going to jet for 60 yards at some point this year. There are two (two!) upperclass offensive linemen.

This will be the first time since 2003 that anyone at Michigan has entered his third year—let alone fourth—in the same defense, under the same coordinator. Even as the defense settles in, the offense prepares for a drastic change in its nature. The Hoke recruiting classes are just blooding themselves in the two deep; the disastrous 2010 recruiting class looms in holes across the roster.

But for the first time in a long, long time, you can see the trajectory. No one's clamoring for the defensive coordinator's head; no one's looming over the shoulder of the offensive coordinator, ready to pull the plug on anything that looks remotely dangerous. For the next half-dozen years, Michigan is going to be an aggressive 4-3 under defense paired with an offense of titanic humans who will make safeties choose between pounding on the ground and long-range aerial bombardment. The coaches will be the coaches with the exception of a position coach or two who will probably be replaced by a Michigan legend.

On fourth down, they're going.


Deadlines are deadlines, so I wrote the thing eventually. It wasn't what I wanted. It was supposed to have turrets and buttresses and run a 4.1 40. Instead it was… okay. It's not the worst thing I've written. None of that mattered. Time was up. It was done.

In the aftermath a peculiar feeling descended on me. If I spoke German, I would crush together several contradictory words into a multi-syllabic monstrosity that would not quite entirely fail to communicate it. It was over, and that was terrible. It was over, and that was necessary. I wanted to go back, and wanted to go forward.

The thing that was keeping Michigan between states of being had dreadlocks and could outrun a photon. Denard could not do the things Al Borges wanted him to do, and Al Borges could not figure out other things to ask. And yet there he was, so we kept banging that square peg against the round hole. To do otherwise was incomprehensible.

Regrets, I've got 'em. Everyone's got 'em. But there's no going back. Finally, it's in the past. Finally, everyone can focus their efforts on refining what is there instead of throwing it all away and starting over, and then throwing it away next year and starting over again.

This is Michigan, a guy said once. What does that mean? Now we find out.


Michigan Museday If the Dudes Get Dinged: Offense

Michigan Museday If the Dudes Get Dinged: Offense

Submitted by Seth on July 11th, 2012 at 7:37 AM


Hobbled Lewan would be very bad: Andy Morrison|Toledo Blade

Any team that remains relatively healthy for an entire season is going to be doggone good, and doggoner lucky. Until the Sugar Bowl, when Heininger went out and Molk would have been sidelined if he was anybody but David Molk in his last game at Michigan, Team 132's most significant injury losses were Odoms, the sum total of various dings that kept Woolfolk from being as T-Wolf-ian as he used to be, and Barnum missing extensive time. All were replaced by more than competent backups, respectively Gallon, T.Gordon, and Schofield. Depth at the positions of ding-itude (and relative health elsewhere) was an understated but important part of the strong second half and thin margin by which Hoke's first team ended up winning a BCS bowl.

If 2012 proves an underwhelming sequel, the most likely culprit will be injuries at certain positions where they can be ill afforded. Since so much of this year's ultimate preview is bound to be extraordinarily rah-rah, here I'll try to temper those expectations a bit by predicting what the drop-off might be if we lose any given starter. If negative hypotheticals tend to make rain clouds appear over your head, well, either you're closing your eyes to a situation you do not wish to acknowledge or you are not aware of the caliber of disaster indicated by the presence of a pool table in your community.

saturn-puntingzoltanQuickly. Photos are all by Upchurch unless otherwise noted. Ratings are given in Saturn-punting Zoltans. Think of them like stars except more heavenly. Five is an all-conference-type player (Denard to Kovacs); four is a guy you'd call "solid" (RVB to Demens); three is an average B1G player (Morgan to Hawthorne); two is a guy with a big hole in his game (freshman Kovacs); one is trouble with a capital T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for Poole.



Starter (1): Denard Robinson 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o

Backups: Devin Gardner 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5, Russell Bellomy 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o

In case of emergency: Devin Gardner was a 5-star recruit at the most important and most scouted position in football, has played relatively extensively for a backup, and has athletic powers not quite Denard-level but still far beyond mortal Division I signal callers. The drop-off from Denard to the Devin from practice chatter is measurable but not dire; the fall from Denard to the Devin we've seen in limited action so far is precipitous.

If the inconceivable is conceived, the offense could be simplified and lean far more on Toussaint, both to make things easier on Gardner and because if he gets hurt we're down to Bellomy and walk-ons. How unready Gardner is can be overstated; he's either a redshirt sophomore or a junior depending on how recently Gordon Gee bought your NCAA contact a beer, and this is plenty old enough to have a feel for the offense. Then again, when he's been in… Ultimately Michigan can win 8 games with Gardner; with Denard the upside on the season is roses.

In case of dire emergency: Bellomy looked cool in the Spring Game, but I wouldn't expect more than 2008 Threet out of him at this point in his career. Spread outfits like Northwestern and Purdue have made it work with such guys before, so it's not DEATH. It's hard to see him beating the tougher parts of the schedule.

Running Back


Starter (1): Fitzgerald Toussaint 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5

Backups: Vincent Smith 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o (as "the guy"), Thomas Rawls 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, or
Justice Hayes 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o

In case of emergency: The emergence of Fitz last year finally broke Michigan out of a three-year period of carries by broken bits of Minor or guys who could do one thing very well and all other things okay well. Previous the-guys like Hart/Perry/A-Train could get more yards than the defense's execution gave them by having multiple strengths. In Fitz's case those X-factors are Perry-like vision, Carlos Brown-level breakaway speed, plus the Hart-like quality Brian historically refers to as "juking a guy in a phone booth." If he could truck he'd a Heisman candidate. As it is he gives defenses another guy they have to "cheat" around by scheme/alignment/personnel at the cost of weakening something else.

Losing Fitz means going back to a committee of guys who do one or two things well. A passing spread could be just fine with Smith, who's the best blocker among the backs, is dangerous as a screen/catching target, and has some of those Pahokee jackrabbit genes that magnify his effectiveness as space increases. So long as Borges can resist the urge to ISOs with him the offense can still be the best in the conference, if not Oregon-good. Remember 2009 with Brown and Minor? That plus a senior QB. And that wasn't so terrible. Since Smith will get in anyway, the primary beneficiary of an injury to Toussaint is Justice Hayes. Hayes (right) has already outgrown his Breaston-skinny recruiting profile and flashed Toussaint-like skills. In high school he was a good enough receiver that people thought his future was at slot. If he can block too Michigan might have something here.

The Minor in this equation is either Rawls or Hopkins. Rawls we've seen in spring and limited carries last year and seems as advertised: a trunk-legged trucker. All said, the drop from The Guy™ to the guys is a star-and-a-half but the committee is strong enough that the sum difference will probably be one or two of Purdue-Illinois-Northwestern-Iowa getting closer than they would have.

In case of dire emergency: We have two freshmen. If Norfleet isn't returning this year I'd like to see him get the Breaston redshirt to put on some muscle; Drake Johnson could rotate into garbage time now. Hopkins can be dragooned from fullback if we lose Rawls.




Starter (1): Stephen Hopkins 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5

Backups: Joe Kerridge 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, Sione Houma 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o

In case of emergency: Hopkins seems to have fallen out of the RB conversation since moving to fullback—equal parts Rawls' emergence and fumblitis—but when I look at him I see a young Leroy Hoard, and when I look at the TE depth chart I see plenty of two-RB sets no matter who the feature back is; with Toussaint hurt Hopkins could get Hoard-like usage. There isn't another guy on the roster like Hopkins, but Kerridge is by accounts a decent fullbackian fullback, and if he isn't there's 5th year senior Paul Gyarmati and 3-star fullbackian recruit Sione Houma's redshirt to burn before we run out of noses to stuff into linebackers. I do believe the position will be featured more than in recent memory, but I think if Hopkins goes down it will be less so since he's the only real running threat among the group. So far as I know none of them are the Aaron Shea/Brian Thompson kind of receiving threat; for that Michigan will probably use a U-back, currently Ricardo Miller and Jordan Paskorz.

Tight End


Starter (1-2): Brandon Moore 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5, Ricardo Miller 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o

Backups: AJ Williams 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, Mike Kwiatkowski 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, Chris Eddins 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5, or Jordan Paskorz 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5, or The Funchess ???

In case of emergency: The good news: the fall from Michigan's 5th year returning starter to his backups doesn't look too bad. The bad news: the drop-off from the 2nd team to random walk-ons is barely different. Of the group Moore had a good TE's recruiting profile though he's flashed neither Martell Webb's blocking ability nor Koger's receiving skills. In a typical Hoke year you'll see two TE starters but we're not there yet.

Ricardo Miller is the next guy in, but is a vastly different guy. As a junior in high school Miller was one of the top recruits in Florida, the star of power program Dr. Phillips, a National Honor Society member, and an early commit who gave us dreams of the next #1. His senior year he moved to Ann Arbor and ended up a stiff TE in Pioneer's option offense, pushing his rating to MSU-ish 3-star. There's still three years of eligibility for him to turn into Tim Massaquoi, and that seems like the path he's on, though the dearth of practice hype to that effect and equal reps for so many other guys makes the murmurs deafening. The opposite side of the coin from Miller is A.J. Williams, a true freshman who played OT and can therefore block a defensive end, which makes him useful now at the Y, especially when Michigan goes to (it's not dead yet) tight formations. Anything happens to Moore and Williams/Miller are probably trading off based on situation.

A few more common Spring tea leaves for a position in trouble are a sudden burst of hype for a senior walk-on, and position switchers climbing the depth chart. We have that in Mike Kwiatkowski and Jordan Paskorz. All told my guess is Michigan will play one tight end some of the time, two tight ends rarely, and if injury strikes Moore we'll see Miller and a lot more fullback sets.



Starters (2-3): Roy Roundtree 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, Jeremy Gallon 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, and

Jerald Robinson 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5 ?

Backups: Drew Dileo 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, Jeremy Jackson 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5, Jehu Chesson ???, Amarah Darboh ???

In case of emergency: Like tight end, the backups here are not a huge drop-off but there's simply not enough dudes with experience to fill the depth chart. Unlike tight end there's a lot of talent and reason for hope. While Tree and Gallon are established as what they are, and Jeremy Jackson is probably not much more than a possession change-of-pace, there's some wideout wild cards in Jerald Robinson and two good freshmen, either of whom could be a starter by the start of the conference season.

Borges does prefer to have a prototype split end and flanker (and a slot), but both guys at the top of the depth chart are spread slots. Gallon is best in the slot, and more so than fullback the tight end situation benefits the existence of a third receiver most plays. Roundtree is now at Hemingway's old position, the flanker, which starts in the backfield and gets to run plays designed to get him open. Who wins the split end position out of J-Rob and the freshmen will mean much for how the unit develops. Since there's seven guys for what should be three positions, nobody is really out of the rotation unless one freshman is significantly ahead of the other.

If Gallon gets hurt, Dileo is a similar type of player and can be used in the same role—he should rotate in plenty as it is. If Roundtree is lost for an extensive time, you may get a long look at Jerome Jackson in that role, something that would signify the corps as a whole will have limitations. The hope here is that the receivers won't have to face super-tough coverage while defenses react to Denard and Fitz, but it's hard to call the difference because the starters and the depth are largely different types of players.

In case of dire emergency: A scenario that sees Roundtree and Gallon hurt (and/or somebody getting very serious about damage to parking gates) probably sees Michigan go "big" (think 2001 with Walker) with routes designed to get whoever Denard feels the most comfort with mismatched against smaller DBs.


BarnumRoundtreeRohSpringGame-Heiko-cropped molkmiller-Heiko

Heiko took these. The one at right was accidentally not credited in HTTV.

Starter (1): Ricky Barnum 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5

Backup: Jack Miller 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5

In case of emergency: It's Jack Miller, who has some Molkian qualities about him but is a redshirt freshman, still gaining muscle, and liable to be thrown around like a ragdoll by the Ogbu's of the world as Molk was. The non-feasibility of Miller starting was underlined when Barnum was announced early in Spring as the center. This depleted the guards but at least there's a live body to snap it if Barnum gets hurt.

Spring proved that gap is wider than we thought, as Barnum established himself as clearly the best interior offensive lineman and tailor-made center for the transitional year's offense. Meanwhile we've heard little from Miller. He wasn't highly recruited but centers rarely are, especially spread centers. The caveat for this is until you see them play you have little else to go on. If Barnum gets hurt, the interior line is probably a team weakness, and teams with immobile DTs will probably bog Michigan's offense down by making it tough to run to the interior. But then if he can reach block like Molk it won't matter so much who's taking up space behind the play.

Offensive Tackles


Starters (2): Taylor Lewan 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, and Michael Schofield 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o

Backups: Kyle Kalis 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5, Erik Gunderson 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, Kristian Mateus 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, Ben Braden 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5, Eric Magnuson 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5

In case of emergency: By "emergency" you mean anything happening to the starters, which would almost certainly see a true freshman drawn in. The true freshman in question is a 5-star and the most college-ready linemen we've recruited since that's been something we can qualify, but a freshman nonetheless, and one whose brightest future is probably at guard, possibly immediately since Elliot Mealer and a walk-on seem to be the competition for the left guard spot. Mealer was beaten rather badly by Minnesota on a day Minnesota was doing half of the blocking on Minnesota in his one garbage time moonlight on the outside, and I'd rather never see that happen again. So even if the true freshman wins a starting job this fall, an injury to Lewan or Schofield sees Mealer slide back to guard and Kalis is the guy, despite the fact he probably hasn't even figured out the Tisch-to-Mason cut through yet.

We'll get a tiny feel for just how much of a drop-off this is when the squishy part of the schedule yields opportunity to rotate the starters out and let Kalis get some seasoning, but such situations are doubtful to yield much in the way of passing plays against blitzes and hell-bent rush ends. If the unthinkable happens, however, you'll see an appreciable difference in Michigan's passing game, especially early, as they try to lean on whichever RS junior is left standing. Rollouts, runs to the other side, shorter routes, that sort of thing. One thing he'll have going for him is ends don't want to risk losing contain on Denard, so Kalis would not be forced to block a full-on pass rush very often.

Even as he settles in, this is making a position of strength into a weakness, in the case of Lewan like going from Verlander right now to Jacob Turner (for you baseball fans). I would also guess Schofield slides to left to cover Denard's backside.

In case of dire emergency: If any two of the above-mentioned go down I think Ben Braden is the next of the freshmen closest to being ready to play, even if Magnuson probably has a higher ceiling. It's possible Omameh could shift outside too—he's not big but he's quick enough to be a spread tackle and played there before—if one of the existing interior options proves to be a better option.

In case of really dire emergency: It's Gunderson, who looked exactly awful in the Spring Game even when the defense went to playing soft so that Gardner could do something other than get chased by the guy Gunderson was blocking. Or Magnuson. Or Chaucer. Rabelais. Balzac!

Offensive Guard


Starters (2): Patrick Omameh 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5, and Elliott Mealer 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5

Backups: Joey Burzynski 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5, Chris Bryant 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5, Recycling Bin 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, Beer Pong Table We Stole Off East William 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, Blake Bars ???

In case of emergency: Burzynski got the start in the Spring Game and looked good for a guy not much bigger than my brother. This bodes unwell for nominal starter Elliott Mealer, the last man standing from Carrs 2008 offensive line recruits now that Khoury has moved on. That Bryant is behind both of them says he still hasn't gotten into playing shape, although the redshirt freshman may be closer to that by fall. Anyway if he's not needed as the only breathing tackle Kyle Kalis has as good a shot as anyone at starting left guard this fall.

Omameh is the O-line's longest tenured starter and was brilliant as a spread guard who gets to the 2nd level, something he didn't get to do much of last year. His upside as Destroyer of Teo's makes the relative value of losing him a variable, but large any way you calculate it. Any of the freshmen named earlier, plus Blake Bars, might be cast into a guard role this year. Fortunately there's a lot of O-line recruits on their way in case we burn a lot of redhsirts in 2012, but a quick glance at the depth chart by class reveals a fist-shaking inattention to the O-line.

I imagine by later this year Bryant is closer to being ready to contribute. He was a planetary object brought into to be stripped apart and rebuilt; enough pieces have been reattached at this point that he managed to show some life in Spring. He's a year away from being a ready asset.

In case of dire emergency: Q-Wash might be moved back in a pinch. Anyway, two injuries anywhere on the O-line and I'm writing a Decimated Offense article. Spoiler: it will say Rodriguez expected to recruit a huge O-line class in 2011 in order to have lots of RS freshmen ready to stand behind the 2012 upperclassmen, but because linemen commit early and prefer stability (remember: usually three years before they see the field) and with much of 2010 was poisoned this plan backfired. None of this will be solace to you if the O-line falls apart this year. I'm more worried now than I was before, and I was really worried before.

All told, this is a thinner offense than it was a year ago. The difference between the starters and their backups is two stars Saturn-Punting Zoltans or more at five positions, six if you think Fitz Toussaint is All Big Ten. Nowhere on the offense is there a ready guy like 2011 Schofield or T.Gordon burning a hole in the depth chart, unless one of the freshman tight ends or receivers move into open starting roles.

Mailbag: Hemingway's Slot, 2012 OL, Terrible Relationship Advice, Spread Forever

Mailbag: Hemingway's Slot, 2012 OL, Terrible Relationship Advice, Spread Forever

Submitted by Brian on December 1st, 2011 at 1:04 PM


Hemingway; Omameh

Hemingway slot business.

As I understand it, you use smaller, quicker WR's in the slot because they are matched up against lumbering LB's who can't keep up.  You then use bigger, stronger WR's on the outside against the smaller CB's.  It seems like we use Hemmingway in the slot quite often with Gallon or Odoms on the outside.  Am I missing something here?  I just don't understand why Hemmingway is in the slot so much.  It's not like he is Floyd or Calvin Johnson, and they are trying to move him all over the field to keep defenses question because they are so freaked out about Hemmingway.


Fresh Meat

If you're not going to screen with those slots or use them as runners, there's not a whole lot of point to making those slot dudes little buggers. Putting your top WR there does get you some advantages.

One: it's hard to jam the guy since he's starting off the line of scrimmage and many defenses don't feature a guy directly over the slot. Two: you're essentially preventing the opponent's top corner from covering the guy man to man. If that's not the case you're forcing a nickel package on the field and forcing that corner away from his regular spot. This can have negative impacts on run fills from both members of the secondary. Three: hypothetically your big guy is a relatively good blocker and having him in the slot can help you attack the edge. This works better when we're talking about Floyd or BJ Cunningham.

Just because Hemingway isn't Floyd or Megatron doesn't mean he's not the closest thing Michigan has available, and since the Michigan offense involves zero quick throws to the slot, putting him there doesn't cost you anything.

A timely response on next year's OL.

Brian -

Despite the awesome win at Illinois this week I still felt like Omameh had a rough day as I saw him get beat on a few occasions.  Here's a question for you - based on the outlook for 2012, do you think the coaches might consider moving him to RT and keeping Schofield and Barnum as the two guards?  Maybe Omameh just isn't cut out for mauling large DT or pulling, which is what the guard needs to do in this offense. 


Gurnee, IL

I think that's a possibility, but one that will depend on how quickly Chris Bryant progresses and how ready to play Kyle Kalis is more than Schofield.

I bet a dollar Schofield is the starting right tackle next year. He was neck and neck with Huyge for the starting job there before Barnum went down; Omameh has not played tackle in two or three years; there are no other tackles on the dang roster. If Schofield isn't the second-best pass protector on the team next year I'll be shocked. So he goes outside.

That means Omameh moving to tackle makes him a backup. Is that a realistic possibility for a would-be three year starter competing with freshmen, one of them a true freshman? Normally the answer there would be "no way" but watching him get chucked to the ground by Illinois (and everybody else) and seeing Omameh's inexperience pulling makes you wonder. He's been hurt more than anyone else on the offense by the coaching change and it's not a huge stretch to see a 340-pound mauler displace him, no matter the experience difference.

That might not be a bad thing. Omameh as the #6 lineman means there is a #6 lineman. Right now that looks far from guaranteed.

MGoBlog ruins relationships.

Hi Brian,


I've been dating an LSU alum for almost 3 months.  In the week leading up to their big game I made the mistake of explaining (unsolicited) the ethical shortcomings of oversigning and the significant competitive advantage that it promotes.  She follows CFB sparingly and didn't have much to say about the topic, but at her friends' game party on Saturday night she made sure to have the LSU contingent confront me.  The return arguments went something like "you're jealous", "it's a numbers game", and "my friend's cousin plays for the team, he's not very good and he hasn't been cut", etc. 


I'm no longer concerned with proving my point but rather with the chasm that oversigning has created in our relationship.  Needless to say, she didn't agree with me and said that she just wanted me to be an LSU fan with her.  Naturally, I want her to follow Michigan, too.  I'm conflicted because I can't reconcile supporting Les Miles or the SEC with my own values.  What's a man to do?


Austin, TX


If your girlfriend is following LSU only sparingly she will not be able to tell the difference between your mild affection for the Hat's grass-eating insanity and a genuine desire for LSU to win. That will get you through games against the SEC West's collection of robot mercenary Bible salesmen. LSU is the lesser evil in their division if only because Miles is Loki incarnate.

Past that I can't help you. LSU had an assistant coach fired for arranging illicit benefits for a recruit. LSU's oversigning practices are just short of Alabama's for overall odiousness. LSU is mixed up in the Lyles scouting thing. If they were exposed to the same level of scrutiny OSU just went through, Baton Rouge would be a smoking, deliciously-scented crater. They're fun, I guess. I hate fun.

It kind of sounds like this girl is not a winner, anyway. Having her friends dogpile on you to offer sports talk radio opinions about oversigning is not a good sign. "Hey, I know what my boyfriend will like: being berated by a room full of people." Find a nice Texas alum so you can accuse the Longhorns of destroying college football, preferably at a Mack Brown house party.

[ED-S: Pro-tip: don't take relationship advice from Brian unless your relationship is based on an incomparable understanding of college football]

Coaching: it matters.


this year; last year

There's been a long line of assertions about college football being highly dependent on unusually gifted/determined athletes (It's not about X's and O's; it's about Jimmies and Joes comes to mind), and that coaching is more an area where the game can be lost and talent squandered (Ron Zook) or the marginal advantages in the same team strategy add up to wins over equally talented teams (Jim Tressel).

While it seems that some players excel regardless of coaching (Brandon Graham, Jordan Kovacs), the turnaround of Michigan's defense seems to be as good a test case as any for how coaching affects performance. They improved dramatically, but they did it opposite an offense that was similarly potent and returned almost everyone from a year ago, played similar caliber teams if not the same teams, and employed youth effectively in the secondary in stark contrast to previous years.

In light of this, all things being equal, how big a difference do you think having great versus "just good" coaching makes in college football (Like if Michigan had hired anyone who had the misfortune of not being born a Raven's defensive coordinator), setting aside that it only needs to be one point better in each game for the win?


The only thing Greg Mattison and Greg Robinson have in common other than first names—I'm pretty sure they're not even the same species—is their ability to mutter "scheme is overrated" when asked a question they don't really feel like answering. But if this year's Michigan defense has taught anyone anything it's that yes, scheme matters a lot. So does technique coaching.

Michigan did not go from 108th in the country to top 20 by replacing their players. They did it by playing a defense that made sense, delivering remarkably effective zone blitzes, and making certain total scrubs a lot better at football.

Scheme matters. So does everything else. Acquiring your pieces is a third of the game. Developing them into football players is a third. And deploying them effectively is a third.


gerg2010 Michigan defense

  • Acquire: C-
  • Develop: F
  • Deploy: F

2011 Michigan defense

  • Acquire: C+
  • Develop: A
  • Deploy: A-

Rodriguez offense

  • Acquire: B+
  • Develop: B+
  • Deploy: A

tressel_carr[1]Lloyd Carr regime

  • Acquire: A-
  • Develop: A-
  • Deploy: C

Jim Tressel regime

  • Acquire: A*
  • Develop: A-
  • Deploy: A-

Brady Hoke so far (tenuous)

  • Acquire: A
  • Develop: A-
  • Deploy: B+ (provisional)

Fight over the niggling half-grades if you must. To answer the guy's question, the difference between great and "just good" schematic coaching in college football is not a massive difference in win percentage—it's not going to win you three games a year—but when you're at the level Michigan expects to be, edging out an extra half-win per year has a massive impact on the overall prestige of your program. The difference between 6-6 and 7-5 is nothing. The difference between 10-2 and 11-1 is immense, as Wisconsin and their omission from national title discussion have found out.

    *[Illicit or no.]

    Spread: we wants it forever.


    A question that I would love to hear Borges asked is, given the fact that he has run a lot of spread this year, for really the first time in his career because of Denard, has it influenced his offensive philosophy? How he will approach game planning in future?

    He always talks about how he's changed over the years and added things to his concepts, and I would love to hear him talk about that. I have a hope that we actually do not move completely away from the spread once Denard is gone--I would love it if we retained some of that concept and retained the ability to run the ball from the QB position. I think it really complicates defensive planning to have a dual threat guy back there (no offense Shane Morris). Is it possible to have Heiko ask a question of that sort?

    No one can be certain, but since your question conjured forth an image of Heiko trudging to a press conference with "Taps" playing in the background… eh… I'm guessing not so much. When these guys came in they told everyone in no uncertain terms that Michigan football was running power down your throat, and they kept trying to do that from time to time no matter how spectacularly ineffective it had proven.

    Is the Denard Robinson experience going to change that? Probably not. Borges has been an offensive coordinator for decades. Two years of Denard are just a couple additional logs on an already raging fire of this metaphor makes no sense. When he's gone Borges will have Gardner, Bellomy, Shane Morris, and a clobberating OL of Lewan, Barnum, Miller, Kalis, and Schofield with Chris Bryant and others waiting in the wings. He might (should?) have Bri'onte Dunn. Even if he's learned some cool stuff over the past couple years there's not much he'll be able to carry over with the personnel he'll have. While Gardner's pretty fast he's nowhere near the runner Denard is. (Rodriguez's disastrous OL recruiting helps smooth this transition: all the underclass Omamehs are air.)

    Maybe we'll see a zone read or two, an inverted veer here and there, but even now it's obvious what Borges wants to do despite not being able to do it even a little.

    I do find this a little depressing, but only a little. If Michigan puts together a pro-style offense with personnel like they had through most of the aughts and actually lets it rip that promises to be fun, especially with Ohio State transitioning to an offense that wants different things than Michigan will. I'd still like them to take runs at QBs like Braxton Miller and Devin Gardner, but I think they will—they took Bellomy, who is a mobile guy with the ability to develop into a thrower.

    MGoBlog’s Handy Suggestion Hour

    MGoBlog’s Handy Suggestion Hour

    Submitted by Brian on August 24th, 2009 at 10:36 AM

    Right, so if you go to Canada for a weekend you are advised not to leave your laptop on top of your car overnight, especially if it’s going pour down rain for a brief period of time. After an array of panic-inducing STOP blue screens of death that boded very ill for my laptop, my season preview, and my sanity, I have managed to extract the most critical bits of information from my PC and get them onto an external hard drive. I have learned a very valuable lesson about backups and making them extremely convenient so you don’t fall off the wagon after a while.

    A new laptop is being lovingly assembled in Malaysia. In the meantime, which is unfortunately scheduled to last a week into the season, I am using all-purpose backup PC, which is old and slow. It also needs to be whipped into usable shape after a long layoff. Also I’m behind after three days sans internet and a three-hour delay on my plane flight back from New York. Upshot for readers: slow day today. Bear with me as I put the gun back in the drawer.

    BLOGPOLL NOTE: Due to this and a number of login issues I wasn’t able to address for obvious reasons the poll will be delayed until Wednesday.

    SIDE NOTE: the laptop currently in a hospital bed with an extremely erratic pulse has not only been on for basically two straight years but it’s suffered a vast array of indignities. The fan’s been tetchy for a while. When I took it to New York I dropped it, hard, shattering a hinge but leaving the functionality of the thing uncompromised. Now it’s gamely whispering all my data onto its will after being rained on and almost dying. I’m thinking of nicknaming Junior Hemingway “Dell Vostro 1500.”