Unverified Voracity Says Up Periscope

Unverified Voracity Says Up Periscope

Submitted by Brian on August 17th, 2016 at 1:02 PM

BTN preview. BTN had their day at Michigan and came back with some video and some nonsense—on the television a person said that Michigan would be running a lot more man coverage, which is a literal impossibility. I'm not doing a recap post this year since specifics were thin; MGoVideo has the show up if you missed it.

The most interesting bit was Howard Griffith and then the rest of the crew advocating for Ben Bredeson to start immediately at left tackle because he is "elite":

Dave Revsine did have a couple of things of interest, including a Rashan Gary-Bredeson battle:

Bredeson got some rep at the UA game as the only guy who could even sort of slow Gary down, and here he sort of slows Gary down. Given the roster tackle reps for Bredeson are an inevitability—he can play it even if it's not an ideal spot and options past the starters are extremely questionable. Sufficient tackle reps to convince onlookers that Bredeson should play now are a bit of a surprise.

A bit more from Revsine:

And yes Gerry DiNardo said some nice things. I can never take them seriously:

"When I saw them in the spring it was like a war at the line of scrimmage. It was what you imagine it looks like at Alabama and all the downhill teams."

"How Michigan football returned to its smashmouth roots" was written before the 2013 season and remains the single least correct thing ever put on paper.

Let's infer things from this still shot. Via Chris Evans:

That appears to be ones versus ones. Items:

  • David Dawson is at right guard. Kyle Kalis was spotted in a non-contact jersey earlier in fall camp so that's probably an injury issue rather than Dawson making a move past an established starter; he appears to be the top backup option at guard.
  • Evans is in an H-back spot, not at tailback, His best fit on offense is as an OSU-style H-back in the vein of Jalin Marshall or last year's version Braxton Miller. While Michigan's offense doesn't have a dedicated spot like that, they did end up with a guy more or less in that role: Jabrill Peppers. With Evans impressing and Peppers around the offense figures to use a hybrid RB/WR guy on a lot of snaps, especially because you can do a lot worse than having De'Veon Smith block for you.
  • Michigan is very spread out across the defensive line and features both Wormley and Gary at defensive end. Wormley is likely to split his snaps close to evenly between DT and DE; reports that Gary will start get another bit of weight to them.
  • Pretty sure that's Peppers man up over a tight end I assume is Butt.

This is a good amount of data from a still shot.

It's a competition. All those #1 jerseys handed out? It's a competition like everything else:

“The one is not really given to me. Right now, I don’t really know what I’m wearing,” Crawford explained at Michigan’s Media Day. “I’m just wearing it right now, so we’ll see. There’s a couple players that want it. Whoever gets on the field first is going to get it.”

The hybrid space player breaks out. Excellent Andy Staples article on Jabrill Peppers and his ilk:

Since 2008, when the NCAA adopted the current clock rules and spawned an era of up-tempo offense, defensive coordinators have tried with little success to devise a system that can match up with an opponent who won't allow the defense time to substitute. The answer, it turns out, wasn't a scheme but a person. What those coordinators were seeking was a human Swiss Army knife, a player who can successfully operate on any of the defense's three levels and move effortlessly among them from play to play. With such a player on the field, a 4–3 base can morph into a 4–2–5 nickel without a single substitution or presnap move to tip off the quarterback. That 4–3 could also transform into (what appears to be) a blitzing 3–4 by walking the hybrid player to the line of scrimmage. Of course, the hybrid doesn't always have to blitz when he drops deep into the box (the area that encompasses the width of the offense's down linemen and extends about five yards beyond the line of scrimmage). He might bail and cover a receiver. Or he could come screaming off the edge faster than any defensive end or linebacker an offensive tackle has ever seen.

BC's Matt Milano, FSU's Derwin James, and Duke's Jeremy Cash are also this variety of hyper athletic linebacker/mean-ass safety. Read the whole thing for a picture of what Peppers's role will be this year.

Doctor Blitz. The Ringer's Jack McCluskey on Don Brown:

BC sent so many defenders into the backfield that it produced four players with at least 14.5 tackles for loss (no other team had more than two). Yet the Eagles failed to land a single player in the top 20 in that stat — they didn’t have transcendent talents like Clemson’s Shaq Lawson (25.5 TFL, 12.5 sacks) or Penn State’s Carl Nassib (19.5 TFL, 15.5 sacks) inflating their numbers. Their best pass rusher, Matt Milano, led the team with 17.5 TFLs (tied for no. 21 nationally) and just 6.5 sacks (tied for no. 72 nationally).

And though the Eagles had been vulnerable to giving up big plays on the back end in Brown’s first few seasons in Chestnut Hill, by Year 3 they got the personnel and the scheme to the point where they were solid on both ends. In 2013, Brown’s first year helming the defense, BC gave up 47 passing plays of more than 20 yards (tied for no. 97 nationally); in his last year, it gave up just 29 (tied for no. 10).

Someone is also using CFBStats.com, and well. That stat about 20 yard pass plays is clear evidence that Brown's reputation as an attack guy is warranted, and extends even to situations where his teams are getting burned on the back end as a result. Michigan probably won't have an issue as severe as BC 2013, but the Boring Old Jarrod Wilson days are probably behind us, for good and bad.

Hype hype hype hype. Michigan's gotten a lot of it this summer and there is naturally a tendency to check on this since Michigan hasn't been a truly elite team in a long time. (The Sugar Bowl was fun, sure, but if we're being honest that team was crazy lucky.) Dan Murphy analyzes the situation an article; he also gets a telling quote from Jake Butt:

“We were struggling with toughness our first few years,” Butt said about his underclassmen days under the former coaching staff. “Down the stretch of games when our backs were against the wall we struggled and we lost a lot of games. Coach Harbaugh identified this, and he made the changes necessary and it worked for us last year. I think it will continue to pay off for us going forward.”

Brady Hoke talked a lot about toughness but he wasn't having four-hour practices.

Injuries across the league. Michigan hasn't been hit yet, knock on wood. Others have not been so fortunate:

Thing I don't care about anymore. Harbaugh blazing people on twitter was fun over the summer, but it's more or less football season now. Now we talk about football. I do not care about Harbaugh ending an interview early because Mark Snyder has the social grace of an autistic llama on PCP, or moistly goateed Jim Rome turning that into #content, or Harbaugh spending ten seconds of his life googling "Jim Rome Jim Everett".

It does not matter. Rich Rodriguez was nicer to the media than any Michigan coach ever has been or will be and they stabbed him in the back at every opportunity. The media read Goodnight Gorilla to Brady Hoke every night and Michigan fans still abandoned the stadium in droves rather than watch his offense-type substance. I don't think it's a negative. I don't think Ty Duffy's right when he says it's a positive:

Harbaugh has spent two years playing the pied piper and dropping the occasional crumb on social media. Every media member is talking about him. Every major college football coach is answering questions about him. He’s been forced to reveal nothing. He doesn’t demand media members go along with it. He knows they will.

Everyone is talking about Michigan. Harbaugh has kept everyone’s attention deflected away from Michigan’s quarterback battle, from Jabrill Peppers being poised for a breakout year, and from Rashan Gary arriving on campus as the No. 1 overall recruit.

Harbaugh has been “handling” the media, masterfully, since he arrived in Ann Arbor. The implication is that “the media” are going to turn on Harbaugh and somehow this fact will have some grave karmic implications for him. Spoiler: it won’t.

It's nothing. It is noise made by people who don't really understand what they're watching. Andy Staples doesn't care. He can write a thing about hybrid space players. Mark Snyder has nothing other than press conferences to live on because he's never cared to learn one thing about the sport he covers even after 20-some years.

Here's the thing: a large number of people like open contempt for sports press since so often they're contemptible.

This is not a problem for most fans because given the chance they'd stuff most of the media in a broom closet.

Anyway. This admittedly longish section is the last I'll mention it unless something really amazingly tone deaf happens.

Etc.: They're run/pass optioning safeties now. Also still getting illegally downfield. Gentry as a tight end. Harbaugh hides at Coach and Four. The Hoover Street Rag turns ten. Probably not.

Media Day Presser 7/25/16: Jim Harbaugh

Media Day Presser 7/25/16: Jim Harbaugh

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on July 26th, 2016 at 9:58 AM

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I'm not in Chicago, but thanks to newfangled technology like interweb videos and this here word processin' program I'm still able to bring you a full transcript of Harbaugh's time at the podium. Football! It's almost here!

 

"Thank you very much. Great to see everybody here. Glad you all made it. Good to see people again I haven't seen in a while. It's been an enjoyable day. Having fun. Brought three wonderful players and youngsters with us today. I'd like to talk about each of them. I know them better now. Going into the second year, feel like more time with our players, [I] know our players well. We have a lot of top players as you mentioned there, but these three…

"Jake Butt, a outstanding six-foot-six-and-a-half tight end, one of the most gung-ho players I've ever been around. Can sit through a two-and-a-half hour, three-hour meeting and be interactive, be on the edge of his seat, walk out of that meeting with a bounce in his step, and put his football gear on, kind of the hair on the back of his neck is standing up, excited about getting out on to the field. And he practices, whether he's going out to hit a sled or rattle somebody's fillings, he's just as excited about doing that as he is running a post route or a corner route and catching a ball. Does all those things equally well as a route runner, as a blocker, as a teammate, and as a guy with some pizzazz. He's gung-ho. Enjoys the struggle of football. Really enjoy him as one of our top players.

"Also, Jourdan Lewis, who has been a every practice, every drill competitor who wants to get better every single day. He doesn't take time off, he doesn't diminish his effort at any time. He's an ascending player, an improving player. And then when he started to get the recognition of being a really good player--All-American, All-Big Ten, interceptions and acclaim--when he started getting the acclaim, he didn't change a bit. He went through the entire spring practice wanting to get better, wanting to improve every single day. And a high character individual. Has never been--has never said a disrespectful word to a professor, to a coach, to a teammate. He's just a pleasure to be around. He's...not one bit of incident or problem when it comes to Jourdan Lewis, and he's a likable guy. He's respected by everybody on the team, but he also has the personality of being very competitive but being very likable with his teammates because he doesn't act like the big man on campus. He doesn't act like the All-American. Just a very, very good person in all respects. Can't say enough good things about him.

"Amara Darboh, would say he's our top receiver right now. As we went through the season last year I thought it was Jehu Chesson, and then Amara surged during spring ball and they're in a very good-hearted competition there to be our best receiver. But again, as a gentleman, as a person, as a class act, a winner, a champion all the way, Amara Darboh. He went through our season last year and he became an American citizen. It was a great moment of pride for Amara and our team that he achieved American citizenship, and another player on our team that's a class act the entire way. Never an issue, never a problem, respectful to all that he comes in contact with. And not just respectful of people, he's respectful of their time, he's respectful of the game, just respectful in all forms and fashions. Feel very proud to have brought those three youngsters here to Chicago. Hope you're enjoying their company as well. And they're really good football players. Not just on our team, not just in the Big Ten, but also in the United States of America. Pleased to share them with you here in Chicago and I'd be glad to answer any of your questions.

It's been an entertaining offseason for yourself and Michigan football in terms of social media activity. How has this impacted the team and university during the offseason?

"I don't know that it has. I don't know how entertaining it's really been. Be glad to go through any of those specifics with you. Think it's been a very productive, healthy offseason for our football team. Was really pleased with our team, the way they went through spring practice. Thought it was extremely productive. Competition was very high for spots, for starting positions, for backup roles, for contributing roles, for specialty roles, so...and then, no real long-term injuries coming out of the season. None of the six-monthers. A few things here and there that we hope that the guys will be ready for the start of camp. Maybe one or two that may not, but our goal right now as we finish up the summer is the healthiest, most in shape, prepared team for August 8th and then we'll take our shot from there."

Something you've tried to instill in your players is to improve 1% each day with everything that they do. My question is what kind of improvements do you see from returning players and staff and new players and coaches in the fold as well?

"Thanks for that question, Trevor. Just the idea of can we get 1% better each day. Can we be better today than we were yesterday, can we be better tomorrow than we were today. The notion that improvement will lead to success, and that's the kind of improvement that really sticks. It's almost getting in shape. If you were going to get in shape, if you do it day after day, a little bit better, a little bit better each day, you may not see it in a day, you may not see it in a week, you may not even see it in a month but at some point you're going to see it and it's going to stick. That improvement is going to be there for the long run. So try to paint that picture. If it's one percent better each guy or we got one percent better as a team, then after 30 days that's 30% better. After 60 days it's 60% better. Even if it's .01% better each day then that would be something that's worthwhile, that would be something worth pursuing, aspiring to.

"Another way to say it is look at the NASCAR boys. They'll stay up all night long just to get one mile an hour faster. Can we get one mile an hour faster each day? That mentality simply put is better today than yesterday, better tomorrow than today."

[After THE JUMP: at least a tenth of this presser is Harbaugh listing all the positions Peppers could play]

Unverified Voracity Threw A Ball Over Rashan Gary Once

Unverified Voracity Threw A Ball Over Rashan Gary Once

Submitted by Brian on July 25th, 2016 at 12:54 PM

Harbaugh as Uncle Rico. He's the least Uncle Rico person of all time, except in his mind:

No, not really. Maybe if we…

There we go.

WE ARE KIND OF EXCITED. Take it from a man selling a preseason magazine: Michigan fans are throwing their money at the upcoming season because they have an enthusiasm too rare over the past ten years. News that more bets are being placed on Michigan to win the national title than any other team should be interpreted in that light.

PFF evaluates that take, mostly rehashing things they've published before—Wormley, Glasgow, Hurst, and Charlton are all real good, literally everyone in the secondary graded out positively—but offering some new insights into their 2015 rankings:

They are bringing back a solid receiving corps led by WR Jehu Chesson (who earned the third-highest WR rating among returning wideouts at 127.9) and TE Jake Butt (who is the top returning tight end in receiving grade, after catching 51 of 70 targets for 653 yards and three touchdowns). They have a productive running back in De’Veon Smith, who broke 52 tackles combined last season.

There's been a lot of NFL and All Big Ten hype around Chesson, a guy who came on late but didn't exactly put up Braylon numbers; that helps confirm the late season surge. (Also Florida UFR is this week, and Chesson was insanely good in that game even if you look past the two long strikes against Hargreaves.) Butt being the top receiving WR is no surprise; Smith being "productive" kind of is.

Also, Jake Rudock surge:

Jake Rudock came on strong at the end of 2015, but for the first nine weeks of the season, he ranked 98th among 101 qualifying quarterbacks in PFF grades – and the Wolverines were still a top-10 team entering the final week of the regular season.

If Rudock had transferred fast enough to get in for spring practice that would have been something.

Still gets no respect. BTN put out a list of the top 100 players in the league that's mostly notable for their bonkers #takes on various players, like definition-of-just-a-guy Justin Jackson at #11. Jackson is Northwestern running back on a team with some sort of sea mammal trying to use his flippers to get the ball downfield, so his carry numbers are inflated. He got the ball a whopping 312 times last year, and was fine. He did nothing to defy Northwestern's fate against Michigan, Iowa, and Nebraska—25, 30, and 40 yards, respectively—and mostly ran over teams that were not good. He had a couple moments; he was fine. He got to 139 yards against Wisconsin without cracking 4 YPC. You could put him somewhere in the second half of this list if you wanted; 11 is bizarre.

But the reason this section exists is because the list completely omits Ryan Glasgow. Ryan Glasgow, the guy who got hurt just before Michigan's run defense fell off a cliff; Ryan Glasgow, the guy PFF ranked a top 20 DL in all of college football last year. No matter what he does on the field, because he is 1) a former walk-on and 2) a nose tackle someone is always willing to ignore him in favor of Bryan Mone or a completely average running back. Or #32 Montae Nicholson a guy who got pulled over and over again last year because he kept giving up big plays. Or #60 Wes Lunt. Or #100 Michael Geiger, a kicker hitting 63% the last two years. There's an obvious mandate to diversify the schools involved here but that's nonsensical.

Anyway. Get your chips hot, Glasgow.

The media days, they begin. If news comes out of them that'll be newsworthy. Best item so far is that MSU appears to be moving Kodi Kieler to center:

I said there wasn't much news. JUCO transfer Machado was real bad last year as Kieler struggled to stay ambulatory; Finley was hurt the whole year.

Dytarious may return. Dytarious Johnson didn't sign a letter of intent this fall and then enrolled in prep school; per Johnson Michigan is still in pursuit and will enroll him this January. That's still dependent on a number of things, including Johnson getting his grades right and how Michigan's scholarship situation shapes up. A lot of these plans end up changing along the way.

More unit rankings. Sports On Earth declares Michigan's DL the third-best in the land and their secondary fifth-best, and if that actually strikes you as pessimistic, well, placing the OL #5 in the country more than makes up for that.

Etc.: Iowa defensive tackle Faith Ekakitie had four guns pulled on him because he was mistaken for a bank robber 100 pounds lighter than him. Peppers gets a prestigious award. Eric Upchurch talks MGoPhotography with MGoFish. Remembering 1976.

Unverified Voracity Has To Invent Colors

Unverified Voracity Has To Invent Colors

Submitted by Brian on July 22nd, 2016 at 12:39 PM

What are you doing? As part of their deal with the devil, once a year Notre Dame has to abandon their classic blue and gold for colors that don't even exist:

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Nothing is any of those colors except the helmet: urine when you're dehydrated. The helmet comes nowhere near anything else on the uniform. They've got as many design elements as you put on your rad-ass logo the first time you ever opened up your pirated copy of photoshop in seventh grade. Also:

2. "Authentic Irish Pub" in suburban upstate New York lookin' ass font. Guy who has never left his hometown but never shuts up about how Irish he is ass font. This font is so dumb, if you let your eyes lose focus, the letters automatically rearrange into "You know, the Guinness they have in Ireland is different and much better than here in the US."

These are the worst things Under Armour does annually.

I hesitate to suggest that Michigan won't do similar things under Harbaugh because not even he can stand against the tide by himself, but so far so good. Last year's all-white road uniforms were sharp and we haven't had uniformz announced or even rumored. It is possible. Texas, Alabama, and USC have largely or even entirely avoided uniforms that look like a wrestler's entrance video.

Harbaugh uptick. MLive covers how Michigan and MSU spend their money, albeit with poorly-axis'd graphs. The most interesting bit is a clear Harbaugh surge in spending on support staff:

image

This is spending on guys like Erik Campbell, TJ Weist, Bam Richards, Devin Bush Sr, etc. Michigan almost doubled its spending on support staff in Harbaugh's first year, hitting 2.7 million. The number they landed on doesn't seem like a coincidence:

In its 2013-14 NCAA financial report, Alabama reported spending $2.7 million on football support staff. … Clemson reported spending $2.5 million on football support staff in 2013-14, up from $480,000 about a decade ago.

Harbaugh asked and got the same budget as the two teams who played for the national title this year.

Michigan's recruiting expenses also saw an uptick, but I don't know if these numbers account for Satellite Camp World Tour 1.0 or not; either way the financial impact of those tours is going to be a slight increase in a number best described as "piddling."

Michigan was good at kickoffs. Michigan was 17th nationally in opponent drives following a kickoff that started at the 25 or worse and 16th when they tried to return kickoffs past the 25 themselves. That success rate was only 57% despite ranking in the top 20—so much of the value in a kick return is the 50 yards at the end that almost never happen but sometimes do.

I think they'll be good in both departments this year. Kenny Allen got good hang time and a lot of touchbacks, and whoever Michigan opts for as a returner is going to be fast and mean.

More expansion, hooray. If the Big 12 is going to expand they should just take BYU and Houston and be done with it. Houston doesn't make a whole lot of sense for the same reason Pitt was never seriously considered by the Big Ten—footprint rules everything around me—but when the other options are Cincinnati, Memphis, UConn, and directional Floridas, Houston starts to look mighty appealing anyway. So of course a former president of CBS sports recommends UConn:

For that reason, Pilson advised the Big 12 to take a page from the Big Ten’s playbook. Much as the Big Ten, a traditionally Midwestern league, recently added Rutgers and Maryland to plant its flag near several East Coast population centers, the Big 12, whose members reside in Great Plains states and Texas (and West Virginia), ought to invite Connecticut to join, Pilson said.

“Having Texas and Oklahoma and the other major Big 12 schools playing in the Northeast would create additional revenue opportunities and make it a more attractive conference in terms of new sponsors and a better linear television deal,” Pilson said.

That seems nuts to me. The Big 12 does not have a network and won't have one unless Texas gives the LHN up, which no. If Texas really wants exposure in a different part of the country they'll blow the Big 12 up.

Unless we can interest the Big 12 in some of our finest athletic departments?

Invite Purdue and Rutgers to join the Big 12 conference.

Yep, you heard me. Purdue University and Rutgers University would be great fits for your fledgling conference, since they really round out and diversify what the conference needs most. And to help you out, I even made a pro/con list for each school and why they'd work in the Big 12. …

Cons:

  • There are no drawbacks to this move whatsoever

A compelling case from the Crimson Quarry.

There is a Big Ten angle here. 247's Bobby Burton notes that the Big 12 has a grant of rights agreement through 2025 and Texas is seriously considering an exit at that point:

The only assurance Texas, or any school for that matter, could truly give to any newcomer is the "grant of rights" to the league that is currently in place. That grant for Texas and all of teams of the Big 12 extends to 2025.

Yet I don't see an extension of the grant of rights occurring based on my discussion with a high-ranking Texas official this morning.

"I do not like any of the choices," the official said. "(I) want to watch to see if there is a move to extend the grant of TV rights. I will fight that tooth and nail."

Per Burton, Texas's president and chancellor both prefer the Big Ten to the Pac-12 or SEC. Oddly, he says "expect Texas to ask for an annual trip to Chicago and to either of the East Coast markets," which almost certainly can't happen without making the division structure insane. Chicago they can manage since the West division in that event is going to be Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Texas, Northwestern, Illinois, and whichever other Big 12 refugee hypothetically comes along.

By the way, at that point you're back down to playing the other division 25% of the time even with nine conference games. Hooray expansion.

Persons profiled. Angelique profiles Mo Hurst

Hurst has been on the Uber clock this summer, logging miles and earning money, in addition to interning at Blue Lion Fitness in Ann Arbor.

“I’ve just done it for extra cash, pretty much that’s it,” the affable 6-foot-2, 282-pound lineman said. “I definitely like the flexibility. I can work whenever, which helps with my schedule with (football) workouts and working at Blue Lion Fitness.”

Once camp begins Aug. 8, however, Hurst’s Uber days will be over. But he’s enjoyed the experience, especially longer trips to the airport which net $22.

…and Dymonte Thomas:

“Jake [Butt] is a character. We talk trash every day. He likes to get better. He knows in the NFL there are going to be DBs who are quick and fast and strong, kind of like me, who are going to cover him, and he’s going to have to get open. That’s why he likes the competition. He’ll go against the linebacker, but he knows if he can get open on a DB, he can get open on a linebacker, so Jake and I go at it every day.”

Thomas offered a Butt scouting report as well:

“Jake’s going to be probably a first-round pick,” Thomas said. “Jake has got strides. It’s not like he’s super fast, but he has long strides that make him fast. He’s really good with his double moves and he’s really good at sticking, stopping and going. If you don’t slow him down, he will leave you. He’s sneaky fast.”

Etc.: This Harbaugh conspiracy theory is just crazy enough to consider. My take on the new apparel: it's definitely a shirt. Jordan Poole playing well in AAU. Fixing the schedule needs 7 B10 ADs to approve. Hugh Freeze has a future in politics. Moritz Wagner profiled.

Unverified Voracity Drops By Half

Unverified Voracity Drops By Half

Submitted by Brian on July 18th, 2016 at 12:38 PM

Harbaugh hanging out with Rich Eisen. 24 minutes:

Remarkable how much different Harbaugh is when he's talking with a person he's comfortable with.

Rashan hype. Jourdan Lewis is impressed:

“You should see Rashan move,” Lewis said this week. “He’s very, very light on his feet. He and (nose tackle) Bryan Mone, it’s crazy. You should see them on the ladder drills. Oh my goodness, it’s unbelievable. At that size, you can’t teach stuff like that. It’s mind-blowing.”

Mone is listed in the spring roster at 6-foot-4, 320 pounds, while Gary is 6-5 and pushing 300 pounds.

The ladder drill develops footwork and quickness.

“It’s about how clean you are, and they barely touch that ladder,” Lewis said. “They are really fast on the ladder, and it’s really crazy.”

Hooray for that. Also hooray for quotes in the offseason. What sorcery is this?

Zordich's impact. We heard a ton about Greg Jackson a year ago but no so much about Zordich. Lewis offers up some praise for Michigan's second-year DBs coach:

“When Coach Zordich got here, he really broke it down for us. We have to know every formation by name. He has specific names for formations and we’ve got to know them. That’s the standard. Technique always has to be precise, because that’s the difference between a pick and a reception. I had knowledge of the game and knew when I could do certain things. But when he came in and he showed us these different formations and tricks when you see different looks, it has really helped my game. He’s been a huge part of our development as players.”

Before Zordich and Jackson came in Michigan's DBs coaches were a linebackers coach and Mike Curt Mallory, who Michigan wanted to get rid of but Hoke held onto because he was excessively nice.

I have a lot of problems with you people. The Michigan Scout board recently had a kerfuffle about ranking in the aftermath of Dylan McCaffrey dropping out of their top 100 in aftermath of the Opening. I shrug at that, like, opinion, man. I think whoever doubts a guy with the last name McCaffrey playing quarterback for Jim Harbaugh is eventually going to look real dumb, but it's just one dude.

I do have a thing that bugs me about Scout's rankings.

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That is a map of NFL players by home state. Scout's Midwest region consists of Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Kentucky. Collectively those states provide 260 NFL players, 16% of the league's total membership. While college rankings aren't direct NFL projections, all the sites admit that it plays a large role since they're so often judged on their ability to project guys to the league. Meanwhile football players are generally good or not good; serious disagreements between spread-heavy colleges and the pros are mostly limited to 5'10" quarterbacks and slot receivers. For the other 95% of players NFL counts are an excellent proxy for ideal recruiting rankings.

Scout has a top 300; by NFL reckoning this means that approximately 48 players in the Midwest should make that list. This no longer happens. You have to go back to 2014 to get a representative sample of 47 Scout 300 members from their Midwest region. Since there has been a steady and unexplained decline. There were 39 Midwest Scout 300 players in 2015, 38 in 2016, 29 in 2017, and 27 in their early 2018 rankings. Scout has made no effort to explain why they believe the number of future NFL players in the Midwest has dropped 50% in just four years. Talent fluctuates year to year but that's not a fluctuation—it's four straight years of decline, a severe one in 2017 and 2018.

And while I'm on the subject of recruiting ranking things that bug me. Most every year sees 3-6 kickers and punters drafted. The top end guys should get four stars.

Other adventures in Michigan's turnover luck last year. Per LSU blog And The Valley Shook, PBUs convert into interceptions at a relatively reliable rate:

Interception rate is a lot more steady. Last year, defenses intercepted 19.14% of the passes they defended. The average team defended 63.07 passes and had 12.07 picks. The 2014 rate was 21.44%, so we're looking at a fairly constant twenty percent rate. Still, we'll use the 2015 average rate of 19.44%.

Michigan had 55 PBUs a year ago and ten interceptions so that's very close to on point. It's really the lack of fumbles forced that made Michigan's defense lag TO expectations a year ago.

Rule changes. There aren't many new rules this year. You've probably heard about coach ejections being a thing now. They're probably not an actual thing, though:

The NCAA Football Rules Committee has brought football in line with other intercollegiate sports and increased the accountability a coach has in maintaining decorum. Just as with a player, a coach is now disqualified if he collects two unsportsmanlike conduct fouls during a game.

IIRC Bo Pelini did get hit with two unsportsmanlike flags in one game. That's the only instance I can remember in which this rule would actually get deployed. Even the infamous Will Muschamp rage only resulted in a single flag.

The other change of interest to Michigan fans is a clarification of the rules on sliding to the ground:

Rules-makers continue to expand the scope of targeting. Now they will protect any ball carrier who slides feet-first, giving sliding players the kind of protection they've had in the NFL, as some have advocated. If a defender makes "forcible contact" to the head or neck of a runner who has "given himself up," the defender will incur a 15-yard penalty for his team and be disqualified for at least the remainder of the game.

Jake Rudock took two or three nasty head shots on feet-first slides a year ago. Harbaugh actually changed the way he taught sliding as a result, with Rudock falling forward a couple of times in the bowl game. This year anyone blowing up a QB who's going to the ground will get booted, which kind of sucks for defenders expecting to tackle a ball-carrier instead of a guy sliding into second. No word on whether getting blocked into the QB after a play is still an ejection.

I call it trips TE. MMQB breaks down the "Y-iso" formation. Y-iso isolates your pass-catching tight end:

ISO3

That's Greg Olsen to the bottom of the screen, and he'll catch that corner route for a big chunk as Richard Sherman bails for the inside slot receiver's deep route.

Y-iso snaps have doubled in the last four years of the NFL and with Jake Butt on the roster and Harbaugh's million NFL contacts, not least his brother, there's a good chance you see a significant dose of this in 2016. The rationale given for the formation certainly applies:

“If a team played man, your tight end is gonna get a safety or a linebacker on him and all the corners are gonna go over there and match up on the receivers,” Smith explains. “The tight end has to be talented enough to win that. That has to be a match up you want, depending on the team you’re playing. There’s probably not many of those match-ups that we don’t look at as favorable with Kelce. He’s that kind of player.”

The number of players with the speed to keep up with Butt and the frame to challenge him on balls up high is vanishingly small.

FWIW, I don't think Michigan lined up with the TE split out like this last year; when they ran this it was Butt in a three-point stance.

Mostly right but when you're wrong whoah buddy. ESPN publishes an "all-century" team that cops out on QB by listing Denard Robinson as an all-purpose player. It's mostly right, though it does that annoying thing where you list two running backs, no fullbacks, and two wide receivers. Also they list three corners and one safety. Marlin Jackson is one of those corners and he did play safety as a junior so whatever man. Errors as I see them:

  • Bennie Joppru over Jake Butt. Joppru did have a big senior season; Butt just about matched it last year and is set to shatter the all-time TE receiving mark held by Jim Mandich.
  • Gabe Watson over Mike Martin. I defend Watson endlessly to people disappointed in his two-time All Big Ten first team career, but Martin was far more impactful. Watson occupied guys; Martin blew through them.
  • Shawn Crable over David Harris. Harris is an all-timer MLB. Crable's nutty 28.5 TFL season in 2007 was as a defensive end, and I'm still taking Woodley and Graham over him.
  • Ernest Shazor over most Michigan safeties in the past 16 years. Big play factory largely responsible for Braylonfest having to be Braylonfest. Did murder that Purdue WR, then fell off a cliff. Prefer Jarrod Wilson.

Etc.: Feldman names Michigan the #4 secondary in the country; no anonymous coach quotes this time. CU athletes refer to their academic center as "the Plantation" and CU's president is talking about why they do this and how to address their grievances. New letter jackets for female letterwinners have gone out. Jibreel Black doing a ton of volunteer work. "The Ballad of the Sloop John Belein."

Unverified Voracity Has An Okay Defensive Line

Unverified Voracity Has An Okay Defensive Line

Submitted by Brian on July 6th, 2016 at 2:05 PM

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[Bryan Fuller]

Two more gentlemen are good. PFF extended its list of the top X players in the country by ten and hit on another two Wolverines. Taco Charlton:

  1. Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan

The Wolverines’ defensive line is absolutely loaded for 2016. Taco Charlton provides them with pass rush production from either defensive end position. Charlton generated 41 total pressures on 213 snaps in 2015 and his 15.1 pass rushing productivity rating ranks No. 1 among all returning FBS 4-3 defensive ends.

I did not realize Charlton's snap count was that limited. I mean, I knew it was limited because of Wormley, but that count is barely more than a third of Wormley's snap count, half of Hurst's, and about 33% lower than Glasgow, who got knocked out for the year against Rutgers. If Charlton 1) gets a bunch more snaps, 2) gets even a little better, and 3) gets most of his snaps at the WDE spot that is the glory position for most 4-3 defenses, he's going to blow up.

Jake Butt:

Butt is one of the premier pass-catching tight ends in college football. Butt showed in 2015 that he could line up in the backfield, in the slot or in-line and still get open. Butt’s +10.1 receiving grade ranks No.1 among returning FBS tight ends.

You'll note the lack of mention of Butt's blocking prowess. IIRC he came out negatively for the year, albeit slightly. I don't expect that to improve much since adding much more weight to his frame will detract from his killer receiving ability.

Meanwhile PFF surveys the state of Big Ten quarterbacking:

  1. C.J. Beathard, Iowa

C.J. Beathard is the only returning Big Ten signal-caller with a positive passing grade from last season.

Woooooooooof. Wes Lunt and Mitch Leidner are #4 and #5 on this list. Michigan's quarterback situation is already better than the vast majority of the league simply by virtue of having Jim Harbaugh.

It does look like Charlton will flip back to the weakside. Baumgardner profiles Charlton and gets some interesting quotes about this year's defense versus last year's:

"Last year we played in the 3-4 and (I was at a) tackle-type position. Now I'm back outside in a 4-3 defense doing what I'm more comfortable doing. Now I can get back to rushing that passer on the outside and using my speed a little bit more."

That doesn't fit with what my conception of a 3-4 is but whatever. Here Charlton seems to confirm the Sam Webb report that Michigan's starting DL is likely to read Gary/Glasgow/Wormley/Charlton from strongside end to weak; Charlton spent the spring at SDE with Chase Winovich trying to display his qualities on the weakside.

More defensive line praise. Bruce Feldman kicks off a list of the country's top DLs and leads it off with Michigan. Ryan Glasgow comes in for some praise, described as "pretty salty" by a Big Ten OL coach, and the addition of Don Brown veritably looms:

"What he does from a schematic standpoint because he's so outside the box with the way that he packages his pressures where they're bringing five, six every snap trying to get ready for all that stuff in one week's time is a bitch," one veteran offensive line coach said. "The scheme will definitely help their production."

OSU comes in tenth despite some questions at DT; MSU is an honorable mention largely because of Malik McDowell.

This bad thing is actually a good thing probably, but the good thing is a bad thing maybe. ESPN evaluates reasons Michigan will make the playoff, and I'm a little dubious about where a couple of them are classified. Michigan's schedule is not particularly hard:

Easier path to the playoff: Based on FPI, Michigan has the second-easiest schedule of any Power-5 team. (Oklahoma has the easiest.) The Wolverines will leave the state only once prior to Nov. 6, and that’s to take on Rutgers in New Jersey. Their three non-conference opponents -- Hawaii, UCF, Colorado -- went a combined 7-31 last season. That’s not to say the schedule is without challenges, but those challenges appear to be the exception. That’s why Michigan is expected to have some of the most blowout wins in the country based on ESPN analytics.

This is judged a good thing, and it is for Michigan's chances of getting through the season undefeated. It's not a good thing once the hairs start to get split amongst one-loss teams. It's not hard to see one-loss teams from virtually every other conference jumping Michigan in the queue if M is 12-1.

Meanwhile this bad thing is not necessarily a bad thing: 

Wrong side of the turnover battle: Last season, only Notre Dame fared worse than Michigan in the turnover battle while still pulling off double-digit wins. Neither team was very good in that department. On offense, the Wolverines turned the ball over 16 times -- but the defense forced just 12 turnovers. Michigan ranked No. 92 nationally in turnover differential (minus-4) and ranked No. 117 in turnovers gained. Defensive coordinator Don Brown is banking on a more aggressive unit to increase those numbers, but a new quarterback also has the potential to cancel out any defensive gain. At any rate, it’s rare for a playoff team to wind up on the wrong side of the turnover battle. That’s something Michigan needs to correct.

Michigan's lack of turnovers was freakish for a defense as proficient as the 2015 unit. Michigan only forced five fumbles all of last year, 123rd nationally, despite finishing well above average in sacks. (They recovered two.) Judging from PFF's take on Michigan's DL they were probably even better at getting pressures. QB pressure is the single most important factor in forcing turnovers. Sacked QBs fumble; pressured QBs throw passes where they shouldn't. Michigan should be quite good at getting to the QB again, and should do much better in TOs acquired.

Going from DJ Durkin to Don Brown is promising as well. Durkin was content throwing an absolute buttload of man coverage at opponents. Brown will mix that up with various zones that have the potential to put people in places the QB does not expect them to go, and blitzes that promise to up the chaos factor even further.

This is so dumb but it might help recruiting. Every year there is a new batch of articles featuring NFL coaches complaining about spread offenses. SI has one as part of a series on developing quarterbacks. Its lead example? Marcus Mariota:

…in the months leading up to the draft, Mariota faced questions over his viability as a pro passer. The main gripe—from the perspective of TV analyst X, anonymous scout Y and a parade of others weighing in on that year's collection of quarterbacks—was that Mariota may have difficulty transitioning to the NFL because of his history playing in Oregon's spread offense as opposed to a pro-style attack. The criticism didn't just obscure Mariota's illustrious college track record, but the top-line speed and improvisational playmaking that made him such a highly regarded prospect.

All of it must have felt like a wake-up call for the growing number of college coaches who hope to attract elite high school quarterbacks to run their spread offenses.

Mariota evaporates from the article at this point, which is a shame because the skepticism directed his way was a perfect example of how overblown this chatter is. Mariota completed 62% of his passes for 7.6 YPA as a rookie. His QBR was 61, indicating he was an above-average NFL QB as a rookie coming out of a the most spread system in the land.

A lot of quarterbacks bust for a lot of reasons. NFL people say it's college's fault because their jobs are at stake, but there's little relation to reality there. Even so their complaining helps places like Michigan, Stanford, and Georgia:

Clemson co-offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach Jeff Scott, who helped lead the Tigers to the national title game last season, says he has heard a similar line trotted out. "Just guys that say, 'You don't want to go play in that offense because it's a spread, gimmick offense, and it's not going to prepare you for the NFL.'"

There are increasingly few programs that can sell NFL-shaped QBs that they are the best place for them. Michigan is one of them. They're already two thirds of the way through a QB recruiting triptych matched only once in the star era of recruiting. Michigan pulled in Clayton Richard, Matt Gutierrez, and Chad Henne back to back to back in the early aughts. If Michigan grabs one of the guys they're in on early in the 2018 class they'll match that, and then they'll probably continue going. Lloyd Carr did not: his next two QBs after those three were Jason Forcier and David Cone.

Etc.: Mike Bottom will be at the Olympics. Bring your mosquito spray. "Impermissible recruiting decoration." Big 12 defenses are another world, man. TTB reviews Jon Falk's latest.

Draftageddon 2016: This Time You Might Actually Enjoy It

Draftageddon 2016: This Time You Might Actually Enjoy It

Submitted by Seth on June 21st, 2016 at 2:00 PM

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Once again we are running our Big Ten preview with a fantasy draft gimmick. This serves three purposes: For you, it's a snarky, informative way to learn who's good in the conference; it cuts through bad hype and the murky waters of line play, and sets expectations for Michigan players against guys outside our biases.

For us the comments section never fails to be a sobering reminder that some of our wonky readership prefer having lives to infinite knowledge about Nebraska OL. For Brian, he gets to play Bo, turning his staff's natural competitiveness against each other to hone us into fine-tuned Big Ten football coverage machines. Summer vacation is for losers and Nick Saban.

RULES

Everyone drafts a team from available Big Ten players consisting of

  • A QB, five OL, and six skill players on offense. Usually this breaks down in to a RB, three WR, a TE, and a wild card but things tend to get weird.
  • 4 DL, 3 LB, 2 CB, 2 S and one wild card on defense.
  • A punter and a kicker.

Standard serpentine fantasy draft.

Once three teams have filled a position group the final team must do so at most three rounds later. This is mostly intended to prevent someone from waiting on a QB until the end of the draft and occasionally results in hilarious things like "Nathan Scheelhaase goes in round 8".

Brian will make fun of me for taking a low-volume defensive player he will draft in the first round next year.

The winner will be the person with the most impressive team.

As randomly determined by RANDOM.ORG the order is

Ace
Adam
Seth
Brian

BiSB and Smoothitron are in the Slack thread to be spicy. Ace is on the clock.

Brian: JT Barrett is a much more reasonable selection this year.

BiSB: Over First Rounder Mitch Leidner?

Brian: I didn't say that.

BiSB: I mean, shit, sure… it's your funeral.

--------------------------------------

ACE: Round 1, Pick 1: Jabrill Peppers, Heisman Contender, Michigan

OFFENSE: WILDCAT Jabrill Peppers, RB Jabrill Peppers, WR Jabrill Peppers

DEFENSE: OLB Jabrill Peppers, CB Jabrill Peppers, NICKEL Jabrill Peppers, SS Jabrill Peppers

SPECIAL TEAMS: KR Jabrill Peppers, PR Jabrill Peppers

I strongly considered JT Barrett because of the dearth of proven quarterbacks, but…

…yeah, I’ll take the third-year, Don Brown-coached version of that guy.

[HEY READERS ARE YOU ENJOYING THIS SO FAR? SERIOUSLY. TRY THE JUMP IF YOU DON'T BELIEVE ME.]

Big Ten Spring Teleconference 4/14/16: Jake Butt

Big Ten Spring Teleconference 4/14/16: Jake Butt

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on April 15th, 2016 at 11:59 AM

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[Fuller/MGoBlog]

Opening statement:

"I think spring went really well for us. I think the goal was to improve as a team. I think we definitely did that in all areas, so we're just looking to build off that this offseason, get a little stronger, get some of these player-led practices and continue to build chemistry with each other and understand the offense and the defense a little bit better so we can hit the ground rolling come camp."

Jim just talked a little bit about Drake Johnson and the accident yesterday. I was wondering whether you've had a chance to speak to him and what are his spirits like right now?

"I haven't had a chance to speak with him directly or anything but I saw him post a snapchat yesterday and he seems to be in good spirits and everything like that. I'm sure just knowing the kind of guy Drake is he'll come out of this pretty strong."

Do you get a sense that the Big Ten or at least the East division is the most balanced it's been in 2016 as it's been in your career?

"You know, I haven't really been concerning myself too much with that. Really I'm just focusing on what we can do as a team to make our team as good as possible, and there's a lot of great teams in the Big Ten and in the country. What we've just got to focus on is not really what other people are doing but how can we make ourselves the best team that we possibly can be. So yeah, there's some very talented teams out there and we're going to work really hard to try to give ourselves the best chance when we come up against some of these great teams."

How confident are you that this is the best Michigan team that you've been on?

"I'm very confident in that. I think we have the talent, but really I say I'm confident because we have a mentality of just hard work and preparation and I think we've got great leadership from our coaches and from our players, so I think that's really where the confidence comes from."

I was just wondering not just you but Tyrone [Wheatley Jr.] and Ian [Bunting] were making some plays in the spring game as well. Just your impression of the guys behind you at your position group. You guys are pretty loaded at tight end.

"Absolutely, absolutely, and I think we've got a really talented group from top to bottom. And we've got a lot of great guys that are hungry, hungry looking for spots, looking for roles and just really hungry to learn and get better and I think that's a recipe for success right there. So, we've got a lot of guys that can do a bunch of different things. You know, wherever the role is for some guys it's going to go to whoever's the best at that specific role so guys are hungry and they're working hard to find a spot this fall."

In the past couple days you've really let your voice be heard on social media in the wake of the satellite camp decision. Why is it important for yourself and your teammates and other athletes to put your voice out there and state an opinion on this?

"Because I think sometimes we can get lost a little bit, but we do have a voice. We are, the athletes are, one of the driving forces that gets the NCAA to run. Sometimes I feel like we aren't heard as much as possible, especially with these satellite camps. I think it's stripping the opportunity from a lot of young kids that don't have the chance to get out there and see some of these programs and get one-on-one coaching with some of these coaches across the country. So, you know, I really looked at it as who is really winning in this situation? How does the student—if the NCAA is so much about [being] for the student-athletes where does the student-athlete win in this? That was my biggest question and I'm still looking for an answer for that one."

It seems like you and Jourdan [Lewis] and maybe some other guys are speaking out on topics a little bit more whether it's twitter or other places. Do you think part of that is you guys sort of adopting the personality and culture that coach Harbaugh brings in the way he addresses issues and speaks his mind?

"I think that's definitely part of it. Coach Harbaugh is our head coach and our leader so we're going to follow him but also this is moreso—this is something personal. I know a lot of guys on our team that participated in some of these camps and these camps opened up doors for them, some of their friends, some of my friends where you start taking this away…it's more personal. Like I said, we do have a voice and we want to speak out and make these changes positive, make changes in a positive way, so we can help these young recruits and young student-athletes down the line."

On that note of the camps, you as a player, your teammates, what's you guys' reaction when you see the claims that Jim Harbaugh has hijacked college football, that he's using these camps as a promo tool and not doing what the camps are designed for. How do you guys react to that negative kind of attacks on him?

"Yeah, honestly I think that's absolutely bizarre and there's no factual—there's no facts to back that claim up whatsoever. I can tell you from being a player of coach Harbaugh he is always looking for ways to help us out both as football players, as students, and as young men and he's always looking for ways—and he wasn't breaking any rules. He was out here trying to help this program but also help these student-athletes and help some of these smaller colleges.

"So, it's bigger than what we're doing here at Michigan with the ban on satellite camps. It's bigger than what's going on. It's really…we're looking to help student-athletes get their name out there and get recruited, and when you strip them of this opportunity it kind of sits [not] well. And maybe that's where some of the blame is being pushed. I don't know. This is a tough situation and I hope they can figure it out."

Spring Practice Presser 3/22/16: Jay Harbaugh

Spring Practice Presser 3/22/16: Jay Harbaugh

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on March 23rd, 2016 at 9:59 AM

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[Fuller/MGoBlog]

So Jay, how’s your new house? I saw you bought a house on Twitter.

“Uh, I have no heat. Gas got shut off even though I tried to not have it shut off, so I haven’t slept there yet. No heat. It’s about 35 degrees in there. Not great.”

MGoQuestion: Are you guys still going to use the shield punt formation this year?

“We’re going to have a bunch of different things. Shield will be one of the things that we do. I think we’re going to be kind of hybrid—a little bit of everything.”

MGoFollowUp: What led to that decision?

“To basically change it up?”

MGoWe’reOnTheSamePage: To switch it up, yeah.

“I think when you look at what teams are doing nationally I think out of 120 teams probably 75 or so, maybe 65-75 that are some variation of hybrid, meaning they’re not really pro-style, they’re not really shield, they kind of go back and forth; it’s a little harder to identify. Those are the teams that generally have the most success, so probably go that route.”

We saw a lot of Wheatley working with Butt and that first group when we were in Florida. How has that evolved? Is he still among those fighting for that other spot?

“Yeah. I mean, we traveled six guys to all the games so there’s really no other spot to be won. There’s certain jobs to be won, maybe, in terms of, ‘Hey, you’re going to do this role on this play’ but I wouldn’t think of it like that in terms of ‘Hey, this guy’s fighting for that third tight end spot.’

“We want to put guys in positions to do things that they’re good at anyway, but he is doing well and he’s one of that group of guys that kind of rotates with the ones. There’s really four or five of them, though.”

With a guy like Jake, as good as he is and experienced, how much of a comfort is he for whoever emerges at quarterback to know that Jake’s probably going to be open and he’s probably going to catch the ball?

“I would imagine it’s pretty nice. I don’t know for sure but I’d imagine that’s a pretty great thing to have him and Amara and then eventually Jehu out there. That’s got to make you feel really good throwing the ball.”

Can Kenny [Allen] punt and kick field goals if needed?

“Certainly. Yeah, Kenny’s very good and he has a very good sense of how much he can handle physically and he’s not going to wear himself out, so he can certainly do it all.”

Doesn’t seem like an ideal situation though, is it?

“Mm, no. Ideally yeah, you’d have a different person for everything but the really ideal thing is to have the best guy at each spot. If he happens to be the best guy at each spot then we’re good with that, but there’s still a long ways to go. And those guys, that’s one position where you can really develop quite a bit in the offseason more so than some other spots where it’s more just strength and conditioning. Specialists can actually improve their craft more than some other spots, I think.”

Have you had a chance to do many returns yet, and are there any different guys mixing in than what we saw last fall?

“I wouldn’t say different expect for new guys like Kareem [Walker]. But Jehu and Jourdan Lewis, Jabrill, Dymonte [Thomas], Kareem. I mean, I think that group as a whole is really, really good. I’d be surprised if there’s a better group as a whole in the country. All those guys are pretty dangerous.”

You mentioned four or five other tight ends. Who’s in that group, and is it a little deeper than it was last year, would you say?

“Umm, it probably is. I mean, at one point or another this spring we’ve had Jake [Butt], Ian [Bunting], TJ [Wheatley], and Sean McKeon and Gentry with the ones obviously doing different things. I’d like to put everyone in a position to succeed. TJ can do things different than Gentry; just naturally they’re very different body types and they have different strengths and weaknesses at this point. But yeah, at one point or another each of those guys has been with the ones.”

[After THE JUMP: Jake Butt, best tight end in America; recruiting a dominant trait; why Gentry moved to TE; Ol’ Skillet Hands hype]

Neck Sharpies: Reading Your Tight End Open

Neck Sharpies: Reading Your Tight End Open

Submitted by Seth on February 17th, 2016 at 9:44 AM

In January I drew up two running plays from Harbaugh's masterful 1st quarter drive against Florida. In both plays Michigan found room to run despite the Gators scheming to attack inside runs, either by blitzing a linebacker or putting DTs in both "A" gaps (the gaps between the center and his guards).

Michigan also used its passing game to attack that defensive strategy, and true to Harbaugh, they did it with tight ends. Let's see how.

The setup:

image

Rudock will call a play three plays in the huddle and pick one at the line. At that point Harbaugh quarterbacks will often decide where the ball is going by subtle things the defense does with its alignment. You can't trust a defense to attack the way they show, but they do betray some things. Apologies if this sounds like Dora (I work from home with a toddler, okay?!?) but can you spot what the defense is aligning for?

image

1. That DT isn't in a standard 3-tech position. Both DTs are in a 2i, i.e. lined up on a guard's shoulder. Again, Florida is srsly about taking away those inside runs.

2. The LBs are squeezed in, more evidence that they're selling out against interior runs, which isn't so bad of an idea given Michigan's got Houma and Smith—two runners who do most of their damage going north-south—in the backfield. Guessing who's got what gap isn't easy since the MLB doesn't seem to have one. On the other hand the SAM I'm pointing at here isn't really in position to defend a quick-releasing TE. Meaning the safety to that side is engaged either in a zone or man coverage over there (i.e. not free to roam). Good to know.

3. The ends are both playing 6i, off their respective tight ends' inside shoulders. This suggests some defensive backs have edge responsibility, with the MLB a free hitter. This is suggesting a 9-man front. Perhaps those ends are expected to engage and delay the release of their tight ends, but it's doubtful either would have more than flat coverage against the TEs on a pass play; if those tight ends do release downfield those same edge defenders hangout out on the wings become pass defenders.

Considering the things Michigan wants to do with its offense, this seems pretty sound. Is it accurate though?

[After the jump: there's always a crack]