Brian: I surmise this is in honor of Derrick Walton?
Brian: We should point out that Walton's breakout is not merely a senior year breakout but the ultra-rare midseason senior-year breakout. After being called softbatch.
Ace: Yeah, I don’t really remember anything quite like what Walton has done over the last month, at least with Michigan basketball players.
Brian: I could kiss Maverick Morgan.
Ace: The senior-year breakout that comes to mind for me hopefully won’t have too many parallels to Walton. When I was a senior in high school, my parents got me a ten-game ticket package for Michigan basketball that covered the conference portion of the schedule. This was 2005-06, when it looked like this could finally be the year that Tommy Amaker’s squad snapped the tourney drought.
Senior Horton nearly got an Amaker team to the Dance. [MGoBlue.com via Holdin the Rope]
Up to that point in his career, Daniel Horton had been an enigmatic player: obviously talented, usually the best player on some mediocre teams, but clearly hamstrung by the system and surrounding talent. His ORating never cracked 100 in his first three years at Michigan, and after a junior season cut short when he pled guilty to domestic violence, it looked like his promising freshman year may stand as his peak.
It all clicked in his senior year. Horton took a Walton-esque leap with his finishing around the rim, hit 39% of his threes, and played remarkably efficient ball for someone shouldering such a huge load (111.4 ORtg on a 28% usage rage). He had several notable performances, most of which came down the stretch: 32 points in a win at Minnesota, 23 and five assists in a win over MSU at Crisler, 21 and five in the home rematch against the Gophers, and a masterful 39-point game to beat Illinois and get Michigan to 8-6 in the Big Ten and on the precipice of a tourney bid. (Someone, please, get that game on YouTube. That was as loud as I’d ever heard Crisler until the Final Four squad.)
Horton’s heroics weren’t quite enough to propel Michigan into the tournament. The Wolverines went 2-7 down the stretch, with Dion Harris’ ankle injury against Ohio State wiping out much of Horton’s scoring support; Horton’s 34-point game against Indiana still wasn’t enough to get M the final win they would’ve needed to get a bid. They instead had to settle for a run to the NIT final. Horton’s magnificent play to close out his career, however, remains one of my fondest memories from a relatively dreadful era in Michigan hoops.
[Hit THE JUMP for Seth just rocketing off answers before anybody else can]
IT JUST SO HAPPENS THAT YOUR QUARTERBACK HERE IS ONLY MOSTLY DEAD
The Law of Harbaugh: it doesn't matter who your QB is [Bryan Fuller]
Midway through last season this space was openly wondering if Jake Rudock had some sort of disease that prevented him from doing quarterback good. Many theories were theorized. Eastern Shriveled Limb. Leaf's Palsy. The Harrington Syndrome. Akili's Aphid Aphasia. Whatever it was, it warn't good. Headstones were prepared. Ornamental flowers were arranged. Tuxes were rented. Boyz II Men was booked to sing "End Of The Road."
Then Jake Rudock erupted flaming from his own corpse. Pro Football Focus's #150 quarterback out of 159 qualifiers through week nine put the sword to a series of pass defenses ranging from comical (Indiana) to Nazgul in helmets (OSU, Florida), pulled his team's ass out of the fire repeatedly, finished as the second most efficient quarterback in the Big Ten, and got drafted. By the time the smoke cleared last year's Rudock MGo-prediction had gone from a millstone I'd wear around my neck until the end of time to dead on, as it were:
Rudock starts the whole year and turns in a season like last year at Iowa except more efficient: 60% completions, 8 YPA, excellent TD/INT.
64%, 7.8 YPA, 20-9 TD/INT. Rack it? Is that what we say? Someone with a moist goatee tell me the etiquette here.
developed non-scholarship San Diego's Josh Johnson into a third-place finisher for the Walter Payton, the I-AA Heisman, and the first draft pick in school history,
recruited and developed Andrew Luck,
salvaged Alex Smith's NFL career and got him a huge contract despite the fact that he simultaneously...
advocated for, drafted, and developed Colin Kaepernick into a legit starting NFL QB when few thought he could make the transition from the Nevada pistol, and
molded would-be Iowa backup Jake Rudock into a sixth-round draft pick.
The only point in Harbaugh's coaching career that he didn't have a quarterback somewhere between good and great was his first two years at a 1-11 Stanford program that had been driven off several increasingly tall cliffs before his arrival. And one of those guys beat USC at the height of its Pete Carroll power.
On one level, "who is the starting quarterback?" is the single most critical question about the 2016 Michigan Wolverines. On another level, eh, it'll be fine.
SPONSOR NOTES: Again, chances of this existing without Matt are somewhat less. I like to think this would be a thing in the world without the prod from Homesure Lending, but you never know. Matt's sponsoring another Football Eve this year, albeit on Thursday so it's Football Eve Eve. September 1st, 7:30, Ashley's, first beer's on him.
FORMATION NOTES: I'm ready to give up on naming these things. A couple of attempts to clarify the lingo below:
This was a Peppers sweep to all the dudes. Michigan has six OL in the game and Cole is in a two point stance to the bottom of the line. This was "ace quad tight bunch" even though that doesn't encapsulate all the weirdness.
Here Michigan has two TEs and two WRs on the field, with Butt lined up in a two point stance and Chesson an inline TE:
I'm calling this "WR hide." If you see it below there's an "inline TE" named Darboh or Chesson or both.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Rudock, starting OL, and the starting WRs the whole way. Isaac did not play and Drake Johnson was limited to scattered snaps as Smith and Peppers took the large bulk of the RB snaps. Peppers also lined up in the slot, at H-back and as a wildcat QB. AJ Williams didn't get much time.
[After THE JUMP: one very big problem M tried to work around.]
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:
MSU also released a preseason depth chart: Kieler now listed as starter at center, Brian Allen at LG, Dennis Finley/Miguel Machado at RT
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.
MGoQuestion: Which receivers have impressed you the most since spring started?
“Well, you know, we haven’t had Jehu [Chesson]. Amara [Darboh] has had a very good spring so far. Really working hard at his craft. I mean, just you would think—you know, it felt like he just picked up where he left off against Florida. Grant Perry, same thing. Really good spring so far. Picked up where he left off. Drake Harris had a really good last two days. Had his best day today. Really making some plays with his—we all know he’s a basketball player, right? But he’s shown that ability. And then Ahmir Mitchell’s come in and he’s competing. These guys are supposed to be in high school right now and he’s practicing as hard as he can. And Moe Ways has improved a lot. Moe Ways, I’m not sure I can remember a drop in spring. I think Moe Ways leads us with the least amount of drops, so it’s been a good—you know, those guys have all come in and they’ve all done a nice job coming back and kind of letting us pick up where we left off.”
What kind of things are you able to do with them this year now that you’re not building the foundation like last spring? How much further ahead?
“Yeah, well, we’re a little light on numbers until the next batch comes in in terms of we’ve got four or five guys coming in. So in terms of what we’re doing, we’re just building off of what we did and asking these guys to really push themselves and fight through it and they’ve become really well conditioned, and then you’re able to tweak a route or tweak a release or change some things up. ‘Hey, this is how we did it all of last fall. Here’s you on film’ rather than ‘Here’s Allen Robinson on film’ or ‘Here’s Brandon Marshall on film,’ [it’s] ‘Here’s you on film. How can we make that better?’”
With so few, are you able to do more individual tweaking?
“Yeah, that’s one of the benefits of where we’re at right now is you can really hone in and focus in and spend the time getting Ahmir caught up to speed, time getting Grant ready to play outside and inside, really focusing in on Moe Ways playing both spots on the perimeter and just kind of making those ‘Hey, in one-on-ones, here’s you running the route; here’s you last year running the route. Look at the difference.’”
After what Amara and Jehu gave you last year, what do you still need from a third wide receiver or a fourth wide receiver?
“Um, well, we need more production. We need someone else to be in that range of 40 or 50 catches. We need Amara and Jehu to be in the range of 75 catches. You know, they need to get up and the third receiver then needs to bring his numbers up. Maybe our third receiver had like 20 catches or something. Let’s get to 40. Let’s get to two more first downs a game. You know, give us two more first downs a game. Give us one more explosive play a game. Keep us on the field for one more drive, and then allow us to play with more guys. Let’s play with more receivers, you know, and get more guys ready to go. It’ll be fun to see what these guys can do.”
[After THE JUMP: if you would like to be considered for the starting quarterback position please leave your application at the front desk]
In honor of Ferentz. Last year after neither starting quarterback did much good in their bowl game, Iowa released an unprecedented post-bowl depth chart listing C.J. Beathard as the starting quarterback over Jake Rudock. The PR gesture had two effects: 1) placated Beathard's dad who'd been making threatening transfer noises in a Tennessee paper, and 2) gave Rudock a concrete sign to seek playing time elsewhere.
In honor of Kirk Ferentz's noble and unselfish dick move, I hereby give you a post-bowl Fee Fi Foe Film diagram of just Michigan's guys. Rudock, you'll note, has again been put in his proper place: among the stars.
While we're at it, I figured I might as well clean up the roster data spreadsheets I use to keep track of things like what happened to Michigan's recruiting classes, attrition, redshirts, position switches, and starts, with historical data going back to the 1997 team. Link is here.
Check the tabs for 2016 scholarships, starter data and walk-ons. I'll keep this updated over the offseason if you'd like to use it for diaries or fact-finding. For example if you want to see how attrition cut into Michigan's classes since 1994:
QB Jake Rudock. Iowa transfer was a jittery mess for the first half and Andrew Luck Jr for the second. Cracked 3,000 passing yards with good efficiency and a solid TD/INT ratio; ended year by dicing up three top-ten pass defenses. Will be missed unless Harbaugh just Harbaughs himself another excellent QB, which is Harbaugh likely.
C Graham Glasgow. Three year starter was always good even if it was near-impossible to tell without going into UFR-level depth. Stepped up as a senior and was, IMO, an All Big Ten-level performer. Michigan has a couple promising options to replace him; don't underrate his loss.
TE AJ Williams. Went from symbol of the flaccid Hoke era to symbol of the player development Jim Harbaugh brings to the table. Improved his blocking immensely, quadrupled career receiving stats, was no longer a one-dimensional tight end who did not actually deliver on that dimension, blew guys off ball with consistency. I don't think I've ever seen a senior get that much better since… Bennie Joppru? Probably Bennie Joppru.
FBs Sione Houma and Joe Kerridge. Treated as a unit. Solid to excellent blockers both with Kerridge a capable receiver and captain and Houma a promising mooseback capable of juking Florida linebackers. Normally a position met with a shrug these days, it's a much bigger deal under Harbaugh. Henry Poggi returns but hasn't touched a ball in anger yet.
As of yet unknown attrition. Departures are on the way. Some of those will undoubtedly be on offense. Guys not playing at WR, RB, and QB are likely to be amongst the departures. None project to have significant 2016 roles unless the wild Rivals rumor about a starting OL not being asked back pans out. I'm skeptical about that.
TE Jake Butt. 654 receiving yards a year ago with two-count-em-two drops all year. Blocking was finesse but relatively effective. Smoked touted Florida CB on route in bowl game. Should be nation's top receiving tight end and get that Mackey award he was inexplicably denied this year. A bit more oomph on the ground would be nice.
OL Mason Cole. Emerged into a top-shelf run blocker in year two. Pass blocking was generally good but there were struggles against elite edge rushers like Yannick Ngakoue and Joey Bosa. Smart, technical player could get moved inside if Grant Newsome is Michigan's #5 OL.
WR Jehu Chesson. Comparisons went from Stonum to Breaston to Manningham over the course of the season. Multi-use threat effective as a runner, blocker, and increasingly as a receiver. 764 yards and 9 TDs despite being chronically missed for the first half of the season, plus a KOR TD and a number of jet sweeps that went a long way. Has his shit together.
WR Amara Darboh. Avant comparisons were on point, as he amply demonstrated on that catch. You know. That one. Solid intermediate threat with excellent hands and a large catching radius. Avant-esque. Like Avant. Reminiscent of Avant.
RB De'Veon Smith. Nuclear-powered icebreaker back was frustrating much of the year but great against the Gators. If proverbial click has clicked and he knows where to go most of the time can be prototypical Harbaugh back. Superior blocker; may get drafted at fullback part-time a la BJ Askew.
OLs Erik Magnuson, Kyle Kalis, and Ben Braden. All thrown into the same lump because they were more or less the same guy. All had their struggles, particularly the guards; all had their successes. All are likely to get incrementally better as senior returning starters, but it wouldn't be out of the question for one of them to get knocked out of the lineup if Kugler and Newsome emerge or Michigan picks up Texas grad transfer Jake Raulerson.
FB/TE Henry Poggi. Last year's version of early AJ Williams. Had one catch for two yards, did not carry the ball, was a blocker and only a blocker. As a blocker he was generally effective when he made contact with a person. He failed to accomplish this with understandable frequency since he was flipped from the DL in spring. Should improve significantly in that department but must be more of a threat to have the ball.
RB Drake Johnson. Michigan's quickest back by far but career has been limited by injury.
RB/WR Jabrill Peppers. Oh right that guy. In year two under Harbaugh should emerge as a guy who gets ten touches a game on a variety of screens, sweeps, and straight-up runs and throws.
WHAT'S NEW, OR CLOSE ENOUGH, ANYWAY
O'Korn is generally considered the leader at QB [Fuller]
Probably John O'Korn. Michigan's QB derby is currently a five-way battle that will add a sixth contender in Brandon Peters and maybe a seventh if Harbaugh goes back to the grad-transfer well, but after a season of scout-team hype anyone other than Houston transfer O'Korn would be a moderate surprise.
O'Korn is the platonic opposite of Jake Rudock. He is Ryan Mallett, more or less, capable of throwing for 3,000 yards as a true freshman and equally capable of going full Hackenberg on WR screens in an increasingly frustrating situation and getting deservedly benched as a sophomore. He is a big, strapping fellow with good wheels who can uncork pinpoint 40-yard passes on the run. He threw an array of insane interceptions and made other mistakes in bunches at Houston, but given a year of understudy under Harbaugh both the natural maturation process and the coaching upgrade promise big things.
Half the running back rotation. This space projects that De'Veon Smith ends up absorbing most of the carries from the fullback spot and plays enough RB to remain Michigan's leading rusher. That will leave about half the total carries available. Peppers, Karan Higdon, Ty Isaac, and freshmen Kareem Walker and Kingston Davis figure to scrap over the remainder.
Only Peppers is a lock to get a bunch of touches, because he is Peppers. The rest could go anywhere; Michigan fans are hoping the freshmen step up immediately. It could happen.
An offensive lineman, maybe two. Grant Newsome is a heavy favorite to be the fifth starter on the offensive line after Michigan burned his redshirt midseason so he could be a sixth OL in heavy packages. Newsome is an ideal left tackle, though, and Michigan has an incumbent. Look for Mason Cole to move inside, as his run blocking is considerably ahead of his pass protection.
It is possible that Michigan could mix things up more extensively if they feel their best five includes Patrick Kugler or Raulerson, potentially bumping Mason Cole to guard instead of center. If that happens it's probably a good thing.
Receivers and blocky/catchy types past the Big Three. We're filing Grant Perry as "new" since he made little impact last year except in the first and last games. In the former case that impact was massively negative; in the latter a pleasant surprise. Perry, Drake Harris, Moe Ways, and tight ends Ian Bunting and Khalid Hill will compete to fill snaps vacated by Williams and the departing fullbacks.
Unless there's an injury none will emerge into prime targets; the goal there is for Michigan to have guys ready to step in when Darboh, Chesson, and Butt all depart after next year.
WHAT'S ROD STEWART 1976
The peripheral nature of most of the previous section's bullet points. Michigan needs to find a QB, an OL, and half a running back. They have less to replace than 95% of D-I programs.
Three Amigos 2016. Butt, Darboh, and Chesson are a receiving trio that might be on par with the famous Braylon/Avant/Breaston set. If Chesson continues his development he is a legit #1; Butt probably would have been the second tight end off the board if he announced for the NFL draft; Darboh is a circus-catch wizard and burly possession guy to move the chains. Nobody in the league is going to have a set of pass-catchers like that.
Continuity. Hey look Michigan has the same coaching staff for the second consecutive year, running the same offense. They have the same players running it, for the most part. This has been a rare treasure of late.
Experience. Michigan projects to have seniors start at eight of eleven positions, and one of the exceptions is Mason Cole.
WHAT'S ROD STEWART 2016
how much better can these gentlemen get? [Upchurch]
Blocking upside. I thought Michigan had two very good offensive linemen and three guys who were meh. One of the very good guys is gone; the three meh guys are all going to be redshirt seniors. I'm not sure how much any of them will improve. I mean, they should improve, but the kind of leap Cole took last year from meh to very good is unlikely.
Similarly, I don't think Jake Butt is suddenly going to be a murderous blocker. This doesn't feel like a run game that gets amazing unless it was really all targeting issues.
WHAT'S HEISENBERG ROD STEWART UNCERTAINTY
The O'Kornininging, or Speightininging, or Whoeverining. New quarterback is always a worry, albeit less so when Jim Harbaugh is his quarterback coach. O'Korn has all the tools you could want and seemingly went to Houston because he was wild and unrefined. He could be Ryan Mallett or he could be Ryan Mallett, if you get my drift.
Will the tailbacks be any good? I'd give that position group a D for the year. Kareem Walker may not be the quick fix everyone was vaguely hoping for when they heard the #1 back in the country was going to decommit from OSU and flip to Michigan. Recruiting consensus on Walker has dipped to the point where he's a good, not great prospect. (This might actually be good for Michigan given the track record of five-star backs in Ann Arbor.)
Smith and Johnson gave a glimmer of hope in the bowl game, enough to bump this from bad to dunno.
MANDATORY WILD ASS GUESS
It all hinges on INSERT QB HERE. If he comes in hot and we get a year of Late Rudock production this should be an offense that takes a major step forward. Whoever does get the job is going to have a terrific receiving corps, solid or better pass protection, and Jabrill Peppers hanging around.
The run game is a bit of a question mark still. Michigan has no slam-dunk back and probably won't see their OL take a quantum leap forward. Real improvement is likely, though. Michigan gets four OL back and will have continuity, plus both returning tailbacks who played in the bowl showed major improvement.
For context, Michigan finished 30th in offensive S&P+ this year, 43rd on the ground and 8th(!!!) in the air. They should be able to push the ground number up 10 to 20 spots, and if O'Korn hits the ground running and maintains that passing number—somewhat tough but he'll be operating in a friendly environment—Michigan should get into the top 20 teams statistically.
I'd say maintaining the passing production is unlikely, but a quick glance at Jim Harbaugh's track record with quarterbacks suggests it is anything but.
After a Florida defender committed an obvious facemask on Amara Darboh, Harbaugh sprinted down the sideline screaming for a call, gesticulating the whole way.
You may note a brave player—by the arm sleeve, I believe it's Jabrill Peppers—tried to get Harbaugh's attention when he reached the offical. Harbaugh, too deep into rage mode to notice, proceeded to scream "HEY, THEN CALL IT. YOU CALLED IT? YOU CALLED IT? WELL, OKAY."
Sealing this as my favorite Harbaugh GIF of the year is the scoreboard chyron showing that a flag was down the whole time.
[Hit THE JUMP for Dad Rudock, Jehu Chesson, heel clicks, and much more.]
On television, passes over a certain length are leaps of faith for the viewer. The quarterback throws it. Then there's a second or two before the intended target comes into focus. In that second you hope the guy is open or covered, depending on the situation. Maybe sometimes if you're lucky just plain expect something good to happen. For most of the year Michigan's defense has given fans the right to expect something at least reasonably difficult in those moments.
The offense hasn't quite managed that, even after Harbaugh found the right way to scream-pound Jake Rudock midway through the season. Also Florida's secondary is House of Cosby, except with Jourdan Lewis. So Rudock flung it up and for a moment there it didn't look too good. The arc was a bit high, the ball hung a bit long. Despite the recent surge I felt a wave of trepidation as this ball's parabola swung back towards Earth.
And then Jehu Chesson panned into view. Just Chesson, because Vernon Hargreaves was standing at the twenty yard line with an enormous animated question mark over his head. Chesson caught an uncontested touchdown that Rudock had punted up short on purpose, and the slow-motion rout was on.
A few months ago Michigan trundled to another one of those losses against Utah that are all pretty much the same depressing football game. In it, Chesson burned a corner on a double move almost as badly as he did Hargreaves. He downshifted as he neared the endzone; Rudock tried to make the perfect pass and ended up overthrowing a sure thing by a couple yards.
That was a theme of not only his junior season at Iowa but the first half of this year: Rudock would try to hit the perfect pass every time, and often this was just out of his reach. That tendency continued; it combined with an unfamiliarity with the offense to turn Rudock from an efficient, if beleaguered, game manager into a guy who barely completed half his passes and couldn't hit 6 YPA against UNLV.
There wasn't anything to be done about this. Rudock was in Ann Arbor to spackle over a quarterback recruiting sinkhole of epic proportions, and if he didn't work out he didn't work out. A shrug is all you can muster if the stopgap is in fact a stopgap.
Then f(Rudock) = 2^x
Ain't never seen anything like that before. One day, Jake Rudock was scuffling through a depressing transition season. The next he was keeping Michigan afloat as the defense scrambled in the aftermath of Ryan Glasgow's injury.
The Chesson touchdown, while easy, was the culmination of Rudock's year. That closed the circle from the Utah game. Later Rudock would dump a 45-yard post route in Chesson's lap to put a cherry on top.
Rudock finished behind only Nate Sudfeld in passer efficiency in the Big Ten, averaged nearly 8 yards an attempt, had a 20:9 TD:INT ratio, and led the conference with a 64% completion percentage.
Rudock ended the year against the nation's #4, 5, and 8 S&P+ pass defenses. His line in those three games: 64/101, 63%, 7.9 YPA, 6 TD, 1 INT.
I am going to repeat that. Jake Rudock's line against three consecutive top ten pass defenses: 63%, 7.9 YPA, 6:1 TD-INT.
Give Jim Harbaugh your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, and he will turn them into NFL quarterbacks. Give Jim Harbaugh your disjointed messes, your pitiful morale, your nonsense rosters, and he will put on a hard-hat and create a ten-win team. I think we just got done with the glide path. Now for a rocket and a match.
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 Jake Rudock completed his in-season renaissance with a stunningly efficient performance against a third-straight top-ten pass defense. He also ran for some yards and gave a polished post-game interview. Destined to be a backup QB in the NFL for the next ten years.
#2 De'Veon Smith went full Ricky Vaughn in this game, demonstrating a greatly improved ability to read the game in front of him and quickness possibly borne of a recovery from injury. PFF credited him with 11 broken tackles; he crested 100 yards against a fierce run defense.
#3 Jehu Chesson toasted Vernon Hargreaves crispy on a touchdown, caught a tough 45-yard post route, had a catch-and-run conversion on which he was pulling away from the Florida secondary before a safety chopped him down, had a spectacular over-the-shoulder reception on a play he also drew a flag on, and then had the best catch of his life on a throw that took him about six inches out of bounds. Do I hear Manningham 2.0?
Honorable mention: Chris Wormley and Willie Henry had terrific days on the DL and are excluded mostly because the offensive players had a much tougher matchup. Jarrod Wilson ended his boring Michigan career with a boring interception and we love boring safeties and will miss him. Kenny Allen hit a couple chip shot field goals, blasted a punt that would have probably been a 70 yarder had the endzone not intervened, and hit Vernon Hargreaves so hard on a kick return that he forgot to cover Chesson a bit later. Mason Cole and Graham Glasgow were terrific on the ground and equally good against the pass.
Honorable mention: That post route. De'Veon Smith finds a backside cut. Drake Johnson reverses direction on that draw. Treon Harris's ludicrous interception. Willie Henry eats a dude. Sione Houma befuddles a linebacker.
Utah: circle route pick six. Oregon State: Rudock fumbles after blitz bust. UNLV: Rudock matches 2014 INT total in game 3. BYU: BYU manages to get to triple digit yards in the last minutes of the game. Maryland: Slog extended by deflected interception at Houma. Northwestern: KLINSMANN OUT MSU: Obvious. Minnesota: The bit where the lost it until they didn't. Rutgers: KO return given up. Indiana: run run run run run run run run run run run run. PSU: OSU's WHAT ARE THOOOOOOSE gameplan against MSU. OSU: the second half
Through the first half of the season Jake Rudock looked more like a liability than a solution at quarterback.
That felt like a distant memory as Rudock picked apart the vaunted Florida secondary, becoming the second Michigan quarterback (John Navarre) to surpass 3,000 single-season passing yards in the process. Rudock connected on 20/31 passes for 278 yards and three touchdowns and looked like a completley different player from the one that threw three picks at Utah to open the season.
Even with Jabrill Peppers sidelined due to a hand injury, Michigan looked like a team peaking in bowl season and ready to carry that momentum into 2016. De'Veon Smith, perhaps unencumbered by the turf toe he'd dealt with all season, had some extra pep in his step; more importantly, he knew where to take that step, showing much-improved vision on his way to a 109-yard afternoon.
The O-line stymied a Florida pass rush that ranked among the best in the country. Jehu Chesson repeatedly won one-on-one battles with balleyhooed cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, a projected top-ten NFL draft pick, including a hitch-and-go touchdown that broke the game open. Grant Perry emerged with a couple big grabs and his first career score. If Rudock can be satisfactorily replaced, all the pieces are there for the offense to break out in 2016.
The defense, meanwhile, limited an overmatched Gators offense to 262 yards. Florida couldn't hit a big play—their longest gain went for 27 yards—and didn't have a means to stay ahead of the chains outside of a few scattered scrambles by quarterback Treon Harris, who had to deal with plenty of pressure from Michigan's front four. When Harris lost his composure, the Wolverines took advantage, most notably on a Jarrod Wilson interception in the end zone with the Gators threatening to answer Chesson's long TD.
The special teams battle hardly came into play, but Michigan won that, too. Channing Stribling intercepted the holder's pitch when Florida faked a field goal on their opening drive; long after the game had been decided, a cavalcade stuffed a fake punt in the backfield.
Rudock teared up in the televised interview following his final collegiate game. Jim Harbaugh is done working his magic with Rudock, who guided a limited team to ten wins in their first year in a new system. When this team reconvenes in the spring, most of the talent from today's blowout will be back, and if Harbaugh has coaxed similar improvement from the other quarterbacks on the roster, they'll be poised for a run at the playoff.