Michigan's best offensive recruit of 2011 entered the program as a walk-on. [Barron]
It's that time of the offseason when I go back through the recruiting profiles for the class that just finished its five-year cycle, which brings us to...
Oh no. Ohhhhhhhh no. It's the 2011 hybrid RichRod/Hoke class, an underwhelming group at the time—ranked 26th in the composite—that didn't come close to living up to expectations. I promise this exercise will be less painful next year. Until then, let this serve as a painful reminder of how far the program has come in the last couple years.
This post on the offense will be mercifully short, at least; there were only seven scholarship players on that side of the ball in the class, and two didn't make it through their first fall camp.
Forcier Comparison = Accuracy
Michigan snake-oiled three-star dual-threat quarterback Russell Bellomy from Purdue shortly before signing day. By the time Brian got around to writing up Bellomy's profile, Shane Morris had already committed to the 2013 class, while Devin Gardner was waiting in the wings behind Denard Robinson. Bellomy's profile didn't exactly scream "future starter" regardless of the competition:
So what have they won? A developmental prospect. Bellomy's a bit like Justice Hayes in that he seems like a better fit for the offense Michigan just dumped. That might not be a big deal long term—unlike Hayes, Michigan actually got interested in Bellomy after the transition—but Bellomy is not Chad Henne. He's described as an "efficient spread offense QB" and completed only 58% of his passes on a run-heavy team. He rarely broke the 20 attempt barrier. Opposing coaches($) say stuff like "he was much more effective in the pocket than we expected" and "you have to respect his passing ability as well." He needs work.
Bellomy's YMRMFSPA was "pick a Forcier" due to his mobility and reputation as a "riverboat gambler." The comparison worked in that Bellomy flamed out of the program. You know the story well: Bellomy entered the 2012 Nebraska game over Devin Gardner, then moonlighting at receiver, when Denard Robinson hurt his elbow, had a disastrous three-interception performance, and never saw meaningful time again. He transferred to UT-San Antonio for his senior season, attempted ten passes as their backup quarterback, and left the program only a month into the 2015 season.
RIP Terry Pratchett. British author Terry Pratchett died on Thursday at 66, eight years after being diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's.
Occasionally, people ask me about how to be a successful writer. This is kind of like asking a football player about his rad interception after the game—I don't really know, it just happened. But no one likes that answer. So my second-best guess is that I read many different things over a long period of time, and written various things for public consumption all along. Eventually I'd cribbed my style from so many different people that the pastiche seems like something its own. Voila: writer with Voice.
Pratchett was the first and most painfully obvious theft of the Big Four. (The others: Bloom County author Berke Breathed, David Foster Wallace, and SI's Paul Zimmerman.) He had not yet made a successful transition to this side of the Atlantic, but I had a friend in high school whose aunt was in British publishing. She passed Pratchett along to him, and he doled the books out to me one at a time. I lost one once and was terrified that I would not be entrusted with additional precious objects. But my friend kept giving them to me. For a time afterwards my prose was littered with jaunty footnotes and anthropomorphizations of natural forces. A pale imitation of the real thing.
I kept some of that, toning it down, and as I was reading the internet's obituary of the man I found this, in his own words:
There is a term that readers have been known to apply to fantasy that is sometimes an unquestioning echo of better work gone before, with a static society, conveniently ugly “bad” races, magic that works like electricity, and horses that work like cars. It’s EFP, or Extruded Fantasy Product. It can be recognized by the fact that you can’t tell it apart from all the other EFP.
Do not write it, and try not to read it. Read widely outside the genre. Read about the Old West (a fantasy in itself) or Georgian London or how Nelson’s navy was victualled or the history of alchemy or clock making or the mail coach system. Read with the mind-set of a carpenter looking at trees.
This is what I've done. I barely read sports books. I get a lot of them in the mail, or at least I used to before people cottoned onto the fact that a review was not likely to be forthcoming. I read fiction, right now mostly science fiction, and I think it serves the site well.
Pratchett was endlessly creative and subversive, often taking hallowed but trope-laden fantasy novels apart then reassembling them into a half-parodic, half-genuine whole far better than the source material. He found a platform, then found that he'd rather make his own characters than repackage the frustrating ones he found elsewhere. He was excellent at this as well. He always maintained a healthy fear of hollow marketing—Pratchett elves are twisted creatures who live in a neighboring dimension that project an aura of glamour that iron disrupts. His most prominent and probably favorite character was DEATH, yes with the bones and the scythe and everything. He was simultaneously very weird and very kind and very upset, and I'll miss him.
If you're interested in trying him out, I recommend Good Omens, a book he wrote with Neil Gaiman, Guards! Guards!, and Small Gods.
YES OKAY. I did think to myself "by dang, Dave Brandon was selling Extruded Michigan Product" when I read that.
The difference here is an average of seven percent. Apply that to the average scoring this season of 66.85 points per game and you’d get 71.5. That’s over a point higher than last season when the scoring average was propped up by an increase in free throws early in the season. And it’s higher than any season since 1996.
…seven percent, which in fact precisely offsets the drop in possessions from 2002 (the first year for which Kenpom has data) to 2015. Kenpom also points out that the drop from 45 seconds to 35 resulted in just a two percent increase in pace.
If this year's NIT doesn't show a large negative impact on efficiency, I would expect the 30 second clock to become standard in the near future.
Miller says adios. Already covered by Ace when it happened; Miller releases his own reasoning on twitter. It sounds like he was just done with football. This kind of thing happens when you have a transition, and if Miller didn't have much of an NFL career in the wings (he didn't) it makes sense to just go be in the world… if the alternative you most closely associate with continuing is the last two years of Michigan football followed by a jarring change.
I don't think this is a major issue since Michigan finally has a lot of depth that is not any variety of freshman. It is an indication that the team spirit was worn down extensively over the past couple years. It's one thing to walk away from an NFL job—it's a job. It's another, or at least should be another, to do so when you could be a senior at Michigan. Hopefully Harbaugh can restore that difference.
But it could be a problem because… Graham Glasgow violated the terms of his probation and is suspended as a result. The nature of his violation is worrying:
Michigan offensive lineman Graham Glasgow has been suspended from the program, according to a UM spokesman, after testing .086 on a Breathalyzer given on Sunday and violating his probation.
Testing barely over the legal limit to drive is not a big deal if you are not driving… except this test was done at ten in the morning. That is a red flag.
If Glasgow comes through this okay and gets a handle on things, the OL can sustain Miller's departure by sliding him back to center and inserting Erik Magnuson with little loss of efficacy. If Glasgow flames out, then things start to look a bit thin.
But seeing your head coach lying on the ground during practice to demonstrate the proper center-quarterback exchange technique?
Well, things get real at that point.
"He's really hands on with everything," the Michigan junior running back said with a smile Thursday. "When I first saw him (on the ground like that), I was like 'why is he doing this?' But I asked the centers the next day if that helped them and they said it did, they said that was the first time anyone had showed them something like that.
"So, I enjoyed it."
"…and barely avoided bursting into laughter like Derrick. RIP Derrick."
More people. Erik Campbell returns to staff as a… guy… who does… things. Probably works with film, breaks down opponent tendencies, that sort of thing. Michigan also added Cleveland St. Ed's head coach Jim Finotti as their Ops guy.
Obligatory. John Oliver on the NCAA:
It's a racket. Related: here's Andy Schwarz on Purdue's "internal services" sleight of hand. Long story short, Purdue takes profit from the athletic department and pretends it's an expense they are paying for. In this way it appears like the Boilermakers are not in the black, helping the NCAA cry poverty.
Finally. Bill Raftery, at 73, gets to call the Final Four. Raftery manages to bring the enthusiasm Dick Vitale does without being a braying nonsense merchant; he is one of the chosen few media people who can be utterly himself without getting in trouble for it and still be awesome. (Another: Scott Van Pelt.)
“I would say it’s probably the longest I’ve ever been on the football field, other than a game with a rain delay like Utah last year,” said senior linebacker Joe Bolden. “To me it flies by. If you tell a high school or college kid that they’re going to have a four-hour practice in pads they’ll think you’re a bit crazy. But at the same time, you don’t think about it when you’re out there. Your body can take a lot more than you think it can. If he wants to practice six hours, and it’s (within the practice time cap), then we’ll practice six hours.”
This man was not one of the Big Four influences. A nation realizes that those rabid anti-Rosenberg Michigan fans were probably right all along.
Your brother told us that you threw people out of practice yesterday.
“I did?” That's what he said. Rick Leach too?
“No, you'd never kick Rick Leach out of a Michigan practice.” Who won the last time-
“That was exaggerated.” Who won the last time you two played golf?
“I don't know. He won the last big one.” He said he won nine holes and then you too played two extra holes that you won.
“I don't recall.” You had five practices. Are you getting a better feel for the personnel and what you have to work with?
“Yes, yes. You get a better feel for – you get to know people as you go. You learn a little more about someone every day.” Can you talk a little bit about personnel at the center position? I know you've had some attrition.
“Uh huh. Yes.” I was just wondering who's filling in.
“Glasgow's doing a real nice job. He's been a tough, steady player. We will need others at that position as well.” Were you disappointed to see Jack [Miller] leave or did you understand it?
“Yeah, and I appreciated the honesty and I have a level of respect for what he had to say and continuing his education. There is some job opportunities that he has and he's going to pursue that, so you always appreciate the honesty.” In terms of quarterbacks is there maybe one thing that you want a little bit more of right now? How's that all going?
“It's going good. We're making strides every day, like I said earlier. They're doing a lot of little things better and better each day and they're all really – it means a lot to them, each guy that we have. That's all you can ask for as a coach.”
[I purposely didn’t do bullets because you’re going to want to read everything after THE JUMP]
Sam Webb reported this morning that senior Michigan offensive lineman Jack Miller will forego his fifth and final year of eligibility. The returning starter at center will stay at the university and focus on his academic pursuits:
Source indicated #Michigan center Jack Miller has opted to forego his fifth year. Just confirmed by athletic department official
Miller started 16 games at center over the last two seasons, including all 12 in 2014. Redshirt sophomore Patrick Kugler and redshirt junior Blake Bars will compete to take Miller's spot in the middle of the line. Kugler is the likely favorite given his pedigree and recruiting profile; Graham Glasgow could also be an option if the line shuffles around a bit. As long as one of the centers has a good handle on the offense, Michigan should be no worse for wear. Best of luck to Miller in his future endeavors—it's great to see that he'll be continuing his studies.
Before you were at Michigan, your favorite Michigan v. Ohio State game. Maybe something that you watched growing up?
JM: “I was never a particular fan of either team, but when you grow up in the state of Ohio or Michigan the last weekend of November the game is always kind of a big deal, so I always watched them. I don’t necessarily remember a specific one more than another. Maybe when they were #1 and #2 one year down in Ohio or whatever, maybe that one. But you always know about it. You always watch it, and it means a hell of a lot.”
Jack, we just had your offensive coordinator out here who was talking about the challenges you guys have gone through adapting to a new system here. I know it hasn’t been maybe the year you’d hope for, but how do you feel you’ve done trying to learn what he’s been teaching and what kind of struggles have happened along the way?
JM: “I can only speak from an offensive line perspective, and maybe that’s a bright spot for us is we’ve gotten better as the season’s gone on. In November, which is arguably the most important month, we’re running the ball really well. We’re protecting Devin pretty well, and so I’m pretty proud of how the offensive line’s coming together as a team and we’ve been pretty successful down the stretch, but we haven’t put it all together as an offense or as a team and that’s the ultimate goal, which we’ve failed to accomplish.”
If you could just briefly describe your feelings for Ohio State. Obviously it’s a more elevated rivalry, but what about them makes this special for you?
BB: “Growing up in Michigan this game’s been my favorite game to watch moreso than any other sporting event I’d say just being a big Michigan fan. Playing in it is pretty cool too. It’s just got so much weight in the football game, two programs, two top-of-the-line programs. There’s just so much going into it. So much history and so much tension in the rivalry. It’s awesome. It’s the game you want to play in.”
JM: “I think I’ll say it the most diplomatic way I can: I’m not a big fan of Ohio State. I never have been. Ever since they beat Miami in the 2002 National Championship Game I’ve always disliked them, and I don’t like the Horseshoe and I don’t like Carmen Ohio. That’s kind of how I feel about them.”
JW: “It’s the greatest rivalry in college football. As far as Ohio, being an Ohio kid I kind of grew up watching them but never really was a fan of them. For this game I’m just really excited to play.”
Devin, we ask you every week but do you feel like you’re getting closer to 100%? It looks like every time you take a big hit it aggravates it a little bit. Is that just part of the game?
DG: “Yeah, sometimes but I fell like I’m getting healthier and healthier. I’m just doing everything I can to contribute as much as possible.”
Talk about your ability to read defenses. Have you made progress in Nussmeier’s system would you say?
DG: “Yeah, I think so.”
In what sense?
DG: “All of it. Making reads and getting us in the right plays, things like that.”
Devin, is it frustrating at all because there’s times where it seems like you want to put your foot down and run but it doesn’t seem like it’s there?
DG: “Yeah, it’s always frustrating because of the type of player I am and what I’m usually able to do but you’ve got to find a way.”
How limited would you say you are feet-wise with your ability to run?
DG: “I’m getting better. I mean, I’ll see on Saturday.”
How much is that changing what’s called for you, because you can have audibles and you can make decisions but is it your decision that you’re maybe not going to push it in terms of getting out and scrambling or is it Nussmeier’s?
DG: “This past week I didn’t have to scramble much so luckily I didn’t need to.”
On that 10-yard run it looked like that was one you tried to take off on…
DG: “Yeah, I probably would have scored [last year] but I got the first down and that’s what the team needed and it kept the chains moving, so that’s the most important part.”
Jack, the offense didn’t score a whole lot but some people noticed the difference between last year against Michigan State and this year in terms of the offensive line holding its own. Was progress made there or does the frustration about not scoring that many points overwhelm that?
JM: “A little bit of both probably. There was some progress, especially when you compare it to the season before against Michigan State. We did a much better job picking up some of their blitzes, those type of things, and were able to move the line of scrimmage a little bit more than we did last year. Obviously the way it turned out kind of put a damper on it.”
With a record of 3-5 and just four games left to play how do the goals shift? How does the focus remain on just one game at a time? Also just kind of talk about the coaches message at this juncture in the season.
JM: “Being 3-5 it almost becomes easier to just take it one game at a time. When you’re winning you’re thinking of the big picture probably a little more. You’re thinking of what’s to come. When things aren’t going your way necessarily you buckle down and all you can really do is focus on the next game. That’s where we’re at. That’s the coaches’ message. That’s kind of been our approach throughout the season.”
BB: “Yeah, I’d agree with that. All of our focus has shifted to what’s in front of us: Indiana. The next game, that’s what we’re focused on.”
AD: “Yeah, both of those guys said it best. Just focused on Indiana right now and focused on practicing and trying to get better.”
Brennen, the way Michigan State was able to run the football…does that give an incentive to control an Indiana team that runs the ball also very well?
BB: “Yeah, they have a great back back there, their leading rusher. We definitely- we watched the State film and we’re going to have to learn from our mistakes. Definitely bring it in practice this week and be ready for that run.”
Devin, as an in-state guy and your last shot at these guys, how much does this one mean to you?
DG: “It means a lot to me, but it means a lot to me every year so I’m just excited to get to the game.”
For Devin again, last year it was safe to say you got beat up pretty badly in the MSU game. Is there a mental hurdle that you have to clear yourself to get yourself prepared for this one?
For Jake: they have a pretty decent running game right now. Good wide receivers. How much have you and the defense talked about limiting the big plays [and] not allowing Langford to do what he does?
JR: “Yeah, that’s what our defense needs to do. Stopping the run’s been huge for us this year and we’ve got to keep on doing it. Lippett’s been a good receiver and we’ve got to shut him down.”
Devin, we were talking to coach Nussmeier and he said that he felt you made the biggest strides in understanding defenses this year. Talk about how that’s come about and the benefit of that for you.
DG: “I think it’s been really big for me, just being able to see what I need to see out there and it helps when you know where you want to go with the ball. You have to have an idea where you want to go with the ball, and he brought a lot of different coverages that we didn’t really know about and we didn’t really understand how they were played but we feel like we’re doing a good job of understanding now.”
Ace: We're halfway through the season, and I'm in no mood to ask the standard "how is the team doing compared to expectations?" for obvious reasons. Instead, for a more positive outlook, let's keep our eyes on the future: Which player on each side of the ball has exceeded your expectations for them heading into the year? Has anyone, in your opinion, gone from question mark to potential star?
Seth: There has been so little good news from the offense that Jack Miller's play has gone largely unnoticed. I was ready to write him off after last year to the point where I was writing off the entire OL because Miller still had a job on it. Mea culpa; there's no whiff of Rimington in his future, but it appears the dude can ball.
Miller seems to be involved in much of the offense's little bursts of running competence. [Fuller]
We haven't had a UFR for awhile, but when those do come out I bet you'll find the run game's quiet progress can be largely attributed to Miller pulling off the occasional block in a gap nobody but Molk has any business getting to. Even earlier in the season there were Miller-generated holes that the RBs just missed. Did you hear me, People of Earth Who Lived Through the Neg-Two and 27 for 27? THERE WERE HOLES! Upperclassmen are nice, and also a nice reminder that most OL take a long time to develop.
On defense it's Ryan Glasgow, with Jourdan Lewis running a close second. Remember what you thought when you first heard Glasgow was atop the depth chart? You thought "Oh dear, Pipkins is still damaged and a walk-on is ahead of everyone else." That seems like forever ago; it was six weeks ago.
It took just a few games for Glasgow to earn the Order of St. Kovacs, his asterisks packed away for his eventual NFL destination to do human interest stories. I remind you even the Great and Mighty Kovacs spent a season as the opposite of Ed Reed (and went out, miserably, on a play that reminded us how much he wasn't Ed Reed). Some decent run outfits haven't been able to get anywhere against Michigan except when Glasgow rotates out, and there have even been a few GRrraaaarrr plays of brute strength to hint at a higher ceiling.
His game could use some pass rush, but has exceeded expectations to the point that I want Adam to ask the coaches where was guy this last year when they were playing Jibreel Black at nose? I'll say this for Brady Hoke: when he's gone, I suspect I will dearly miss the Heininger Certainty Principle.
[jump for people saying positive things about offensive players, perhaps]
Frank, obviously that wasn’t what your defense wanted [with] the third down struggles, the passing yards and stuff. What do you identify as the single biggest reason for all that?
FC: “Just poor execution. As a defense one thing you’ve got to do and you take pride in is stopping the run first and foremost, and then getting off the field on third down and that’s something that we failed to do this past Saturday. All we can do from this point on is continue to progress and get better as far as those situations, those third-and-longs, third-and-shorts even and come out next week- this week, actually, and make a difference.”
One of those was yours before the half. Can you take us through that?
FC: “Just failed execution. It was a pretty obvious play. I should have made the play, but that play is over with and I move forward from it. I think I’ve beat myself up enough over it. Like I said, that’s just one of those plays I should have made. I tell myself all the time- I’d say 99% of the time I would have made that play. That was that 1% that I didn’t.”
Jack, you guys talk about blocking things out and not hearing the outside, but what would it mean to the guys on this team to have a crowd that is pretty packed and whipped up for a night game here?
JM: “It’d be awesome, and that’s what we’re hoping happens. There’s no place like the Big House when it gets rocking, and we’re really looking forward to coming home for the first night game in the Big Ten here and all that stuff and having a fun night. So we’re looking forward to the support from the fans and the students and hopefully they can give us an extra edge to get a W out there.”