Senior Day Haiku

Senior Day Haiku

Submitted by Brian on November 16th, 2010 at 4:14 PM

An annual tradition. Special bonus this year: holy pants there are no seniors. Usually I skip a bunch of anonymous walk-ons who never saw the field unless they have a silly name; this year this is it.

Michigan runningback Kevin Grady runs the ball  during the second half of the Wolverine's 2009 season opener 31-7 win, versus Western Michigan University at Michigan Stadium, Saturday, September 5th.
Melanie Maxwell| Ann
  Martell Webb

It goes thump. Sometimes
it catches or drops a pass.
Mostly it goes thump.

Perry Dorrestein

Bad back, outed grades
but through it all a kickin'
Punisher tattoo

Steve Schilling

Been around forever
Witnessed the Horror up close
Football purple heart

John Ferrara

Thrown into the fire
just two weeks after switching
'08: the nutshell

Adam Patterson

One last swing hits sod
A shaft of daylight strikes down
Hello two deep

Renaldo Sagesse

Hurling hockey kids,
the largest man in Quebec came
and he was all right

Greg Banks

Took the Moosman crown
as player most likely to
impress your TA

Obi Ezeh

Why did you tattoo
"Stand around, think about plants"
across your torso?

mark-moundros-nwBONUS NOT MEAN HAIKU

Like Schilling, lived
through every last awful bit
and never complained

Jonas Mouton

The west wind in fall
brings everything, and then
takes everything

Mark Moundros

Walk-on captains are
intimidatingly bald
pretty much always

James Rogers

The last vagabond
a-wander from spot to spot:
Dread Pirate Rogers


Monday Player Presser Notes 11-15-10

Monday Player Presser Notes 11-15-10

Submitted by Tim on November 15th, 2010 at 3:44 PM

Cam Gordon

On the fumble return, "I was thinking 'scoop and score' like you talk in little league." Patterson was encouraging him during the runback. Was exciting to be able to score.

It's a learning experience to be in his first year on the field. Helping the team was the goal all along, and he's glad to be able to do that.

Position change is good for him because it's good for the team "I'm a football player and I want to play, nothing to it but that." Everything is coming at him faster at the new position, and the field is a bit more compacted. Being physical is his biggest strength. It's not confusing to switch positions for the third time. He's just a football player and loves being on the field.

Wisconsin: "They have some pretty good backs, the o-line is big. We'll see how it looks this week." When they put up 83 on Indiana, his only thought was "that's a good team." "They put up 83 against Indiana, not against us."

The defense's attitude has changed. "'I don't care attitude' - in a positive way" has been the defense's calling card for the last two weeks, and they'll continue with it. If the opponent gets a big play, they have to move on and not care.

Adam Patterson

Found out he was going to start within minutes of the beginning of the game. Was excited to get his first start. "It's was kinda hard to relax, but you know." There have been points where he wondered if he'd ever get the opportunity to start. Was motivated to prove himself. Filling in for Mike Martin "It's a lot of pressure." Need to step up when he goes down, even though it might be tough to fill his shoes.

Going through the coaching transition: "I feel like it's an experience that's really prepared me for my future and for life." They aren't that different, but this staff is a lot more intense.

When Cam Gordon was returning the fumble for a TD,"I just kept trying to tell him 'keep going, keep going.'"

Team will be focused to prepare for Wisconsin. "Wisconsin always has a big offensive line, and they always have a good offensive line." You respect them, but the goal is to prove you can compete with them. "You also come in with the mindset that this is going to be a very physical game."

Wisconsin scoring 83 against Indiana has motivated the M defense to make sure they don't have a bad performance themselves.

On the defense: "I really feel like the swagger is getting there. Every game we play is a stepping stone." The defense is developing, and they learned this weekend what they can do if they play up to their potential.

"To go out there and to win these next to games is very motivating." Trying to show what they can do, and improve bowl status.

James Rogers

"If the team ever needed me anywhere, I would do it. That was my whole mindset." He's going to get his degree, and to play football and get playing time is just an extra benefit to that.

Since the Illinois game, the defense has been more loose, and they're translating it to the field. "It's a good way to go into the game. Our swagger and everything about our defense got a lot better, and it's perfect to go into the Wisconsin game."

Not worried about Wisconsin's 83 points against Indiana "I guarantee you they're not going to score 83 points on us." Wisconsin is a powerful team, but Indiana backed down a bit at the end, and Michigan won't do that, they'll fight to the finish.

Will miss running through the tunnel after doing it the last time this weekend.

"I hope they throw the ball my way a little more, I haven't seen much action lately." Wants the chance to build up some stats. You just had two interceptions: "Yeah, FINALLY."

"I've seen Courtney grow a lot even when JT was there." He'll be a great player in the future and has stepped up. Vinopal has stepped up in a tough position. Talbott and Christian have also done a really good job as true freshmen.

"We need this Ohio State win bigger than anything. That's something we've been waiting on, and our focus will be on that really soon. We've gotta take on Wisconsin first."

Main difference between Carr and Rodriguez eras is a major step up in the conditioning.

Stephen Schilling

Lots of memories about touching the banner, etc., excited to have one more time to do that. Wants the seniors to leave with a win.

The change in coaching staffs has made for an unexpectedly interesting experience. "Hopefully this is the year that Michigan turns the tide." Ohio State "That's the big one obviously, and they've got us however many 6 or 7 years in a row." Winning in Columbus would set the program up for years to come.

Ryan Kerrigan is a great player. "We weren't running the ball very well, and got into third and long." That allowed Kerrigan to get after the QBs a bit more.

"The energy has been there the last two weeks" for the defense. Even though they struggled a bit, they want to prove themselves again at the end of the season.

Wisconsin is always tough against the run. Michigan is coming off a poor rushing performance against Purdue, so they'll need to be back on their game to have success.

There are keys to victory for every week, and ball security is on the list every week. "You can't win games with turnovers. The last two we were lucky to come out of there with a win."

Kelvin Grady

It's always important to take care of the ball, especially against a grinding team like Wisconsin.

It's impressive that Wisconsin could put up 83 points. "I didn't really think much of it. Obviously Wisconsin's a great team, but it didn't make me scared or anything."

Important to send the seniors out with a win in their final home game. Glad they were able to get to a bowl game for those guys. "We all wanna win, for them it might be a little more important."

Denard responds well, even after he makes mistakes.

"We're not content with anything." Want to win the last two games. "We're gonna go and and we're gonna fight in those two games."

Tries to stay ready for the occasion when he gets the ball on the reverse, but isn't begging for it to get called.

Different receivers prefer different routes, but it's their job to work them all in practice. "If you're in that position, and they happen to call the play and you've gotta run that route, you're gonna run that route."

Midseason Re-Eval: Secondary

Midseason Re-Eval: Secondary

Submitted by Brian on October 20th, 2010 at 2:43 PM

Taking stock during the bye week.


People thought I was depressive when the secondary preview started "what's the point of anything?"


WHO'S DEPRESSIVE NOW!?!?! YEAHHHHH. Score one for cold-eyed realism. This could be the worst secondary in a BCS conference. It's definitely the worst in Michigan history.

Anyway, cornerback got a 1 and I thought about breaking the rules to go lower:

Nothing has ever gotten a zero before even jokingly, not even the 2008 offensive line that consisted of seven guys who could plausibly play and actually started a defensive tackle who had been switched in the middle of fall camp. But I thought about it here. What Michigan has to offer at corner is going to be substandard unless a great miracle falls from the sky, and will probably be no better than last year's fare even before Woolfolk moved.

Some vague hopes were offered for JT Floyd despite his ugly, brief tenure as the starter opposite Donovan Warren once Boubacar Cissoko went ham. These were based on constant positive reinforcement from the coaches and the occasional mysterious practice observer, with the latter given more credence because they didn't have an obvious ulterior motive. "Average" was the "best anyone could hope for," though.

Opposite Floyd I took a wild guess that Cullen Christian would end up starting—if not immediately by the time the Big Ten season hit—because he was the most highly-touted recruit and was not James Rogers. Avery and Talbott were regarded as basically identical recruits who needed a year and 20 pounds before seeing the field. They wouldn't be allowed that luxury.

At safety 2 was offered, "generously." Jordan Kovacs was said to be totally incapable of playing a deep half but "pretty good as a tiny linebacker." In sum:

So Kovacs is going to have to cover a deep half sometimes. This won't go very well, and Michigan's defense will be limited by it. On the other hand, the run defense shouldn't be nearly as bad with Kovacs filling the weakside alley; last year he racked up 75 tackles despite the late start. Marvin Robinson will press Kovacs for his job, but probably not take it. Iowa and Wisconsin have gotten away with players like him for years.

At free safety, Cam Gordon was named the Grady Brooks memorial King of Spring Hype. The usual accolades were relayed, the thing about how he should probably be a linebacker mentioned, and a projection of a sort offered:

As a redshirt freshman, a "big year" would be wrapping up his tackles and not letting anyone behind him for crippling long touchdowns. … Repeating [Brandon Englemon's] +0.7 per game would go a very long way towards bringing Michigan's defense back from the dead. That's optimistic. Cam Gordon will chase more than a couple opponents into the endzone. But not on third and twenty-four.

Fast forward to NOW!


nothing really matters… anyone can see… that nothing really matters to meeeeeeeeeee

Depressingly accurate overall even considering the original depression that was depressing. Michigan is 118th in pass defense and 94th in efficiency.

Maybe the corners have been slightly less atrocious than expected, but Michigan's been limited when they try to play man coverage because things like Iowa's last touchdown happen when they do. On that play, Michigan sent the house and JT Floyd gave up a slant despite starting with inside leverage. They make plays on occasion, but lord they're not good. Michigan's defense is limited in the same way their offense was in 2008—with deficiencies that severe man coverage is a dangerous gamble every time it's deployed.

Floyd is significantly improved, so there's that. He's still below average. He's not a total liability. On the other side, Michigan hasn't been able to displace Rogers despite his tendency to go into anaphylactic shock whenever he comes within five yards of an opponent wide receiver…



…because the freshmen have been playing like typical three-star true freshmen: badly. They first started rotating into the lineup against BG; since then

  • Cullen Christian was burned twice against BG and gave up an easy long touchdown against Michigan State,
  • Terrence Talbott was primarily responsible for turning third and fifteen into first and ten on Michigan State's second touchdown drive and gave Indiana their last touchdown by dragging out of his zone, and
  • Courtney Avery was personally responsible for large chunks of Indiana yards, gave up a touchdown on third and ten against Iowa by dragging out of his zone, and turned what should have been another third and ten stop into a whiffed tackle, 20 yards, and the field goal that was the final nail in Michigan's coffin.

This is disappointing, especially Christian's failure to beat out not only Rogers but apparently his classmates. Talbott and Avery feature in the nickel and dime packages while Christian backed up the outside guy; he has apparently lost that job. too—Avery came in against Iowa when JT Floyd missed a few plays.

At safety, Kovacs has been Kovacs. He's small, he's not very fast, but he's probably the team's best tackler and he's been in the right spot more often than anyone on the defense. This has resulted in a bunch of UFRs where he's got several half-points in each direction and comes out at zero. He could be the fifth-best player on a good defense.

Cam Gordon has been rough, honestly little better than the mess Michigan threw out last year. He racked up a double-digit negative day against Notre Dame and followed that up with another one against Michigan State. His angles have been too aggressive or too conservative with little porridge in-between, and he's failed to shake a nasty habit of not wrapping up his tackles. He's pretty good running downhill, and that's about it. Preseason hype has given way to cold reality. Gordon is a redshirt freshman converted wide receiver who should probably be playing linebacker. He plays safety like he's a bowling ball: he goes fast in one direction and hopes to knock over the pins with momentum because he has no arms.


Fast forward to LATER!

What can we expect the rest of the year? Pain, but less of it.

Rodriguez made an offhand comment about maybe moving someone from one safety spot to another when discussing the possibility of a Will Campbell move, but that would either be Jordan Kovacs or Marvin Robinson. Kovacs's tenure at deep safety last year was hardly less disastrous than that of Mike William or Gordon; Marvin Robinson is yet another freshman who is likely to make the same sorts of mistakes.

Gordon's it unless Michigan wants to turn to true freshman two-star Ray Vinopal, who picked off a pass from a third-string Bowling Green walk-on and has therefore made the best play by a Michigan safety in the last ten years. I'm not sure if that's a joke.

Floyd's not very good, Rogers is what he is at this point, and the freshmen are clearly not instant impact types, except insofar as they give up an extra touchdown per game than a Michigan secondary featuring Troy Woolfolk. That is an impact, just not the one you're hoping for.

Your best hopes the rest of the year:

  • Courtney Avery learns WTF a zone is and how to play it.
  • Cam Gordon's angles and tackling improve marginally.
  • JT Floyd progresses towards average and at least gets basic things right.

Actually, your best hope is this: Michigan did okay against the two rookies and/or flat bad quarterbacks they've faced to date. Zack Fraser didn't do anything. ND's three-headed QB was contained. Bowling Green couldn't do much of anything. Michigan's next three opponents all feature freshmen at QB; they're ranked 104th (PSU), 105th (Illinois), and 107th (Purdue) in passing efficiency. They're bound to be less effective than the last three guys, a senior returning starter, junior returning starter, and senior returning starter who are all in the top 30 in passer efficiency. Tolzien will shred, but who knows what Terrelle Pryor will do? (Probably shred, actually—he has no problems against awful Ds this year.)

By the end of the year Michigan's numbers will be slightly less grim as the schedule eases and the freshmen learn WTF a zone is. They will still be grim.

Picture Pages: Cover Two Corner Route Doom

Picture Pages: Cover Two Corner Route Doom

Submitted by Brian on October 7th, 2010 at 10:53 AM

Why so the suck against Indiana? A few things leapt out on the tape. One was YAC given up by a physical inability to be close enough to the receiver to tackle on the catch. This is the James Rogers problem, and it isn't going away. Another problem might: freshman defensive backs think "zone" means "man." BWS caught an instance of this and picture-paged Courtney Avery giving up a big gainer on third and sixteen because he dragged out of his zone.

That was an excellent example of cover three. Here Michigan will run cover two and get nailed on it. However, it's not Avery's aggressive coverage that's the problem here, it's the Michigan zone's obviousness and inflexibility.

The setup: Michigan is trying to keep Indiana out of the endzone on the final drive of the first half. IU's driven it just inside the Michigan 40 and has a second and ten. They come out in their bunch shotgun set. Michigan shows two high safeties:


At the snap four guys rush and Michigan is obviously in zone. They have JT Floyd and Mouton in the middle of the field, Courtney Avery playing in the slot, Terrence Talbott and James Rogers on the outside, and Kovacs and Gordon as deep safeties. Mouton drops into a zone to cover a potential slant and Floyd is sitting in the middle of the field about ten yards deep:


A split second later we see what's going on with this bunch at the bottom of the screen: two short routes breaking inside and out with one guy headed deeper. Rogers is essentially motionless as Avery starts moving with the interior WR: corner-4

Avery follows… Rogers is motionless…


Avery follows… Rogers still not going anywhere… IU receiver still running to the sticks… Chappell throwing…


Alert: someone done failed.


Gordon comes over to clean up:


Indiana gets a first down inside the 20.

UPDATE: duh forgot the clip.

Who's at fault here? I don't know. I don't think anyone, really. Some guesses at object lessons:

  • This, like Odoms sitting way down in the hole, is a pass that takes advantage of cover two. The sideline 15-20 yards downfield is always a weak spot. Not a lot of quarterbacks can exploit that as ruthlessly as Chappell can, though in this instance it's so open a lot of QBs could make the play.
  • Michigan made this read easy by showing cover two and running it. Chappell knew it was zone because Michigan just about always plays zone and did not put another guy over the bunch, and as soon as Rogers sat down on the out he knew the corner was going to be open.
  • Advanced zone defenses that use pattern reading can adapt to these routes better. I'm not sure about this, but the key is that someone has to be responsible for #2 going vertical and go with him. That would be either Avery or Rogers. The other would come up on the out, leaving the drag to Floyd. Michigan doesn't do this here and probably doesn't ever do it because they've got a secondary with three sophomores, two freshmen, and positional vagabond James Rogers. Also some defensive coaches think pattern reading is suboptimal for reasons I'm not 100% clear on yet.
  • Avery seems like he's in great position if this was man coverage. He also broke up a slant against BG impressively. If Michigan ever ran man I bet he'd be pretty good at it. Can they do that? Eh… maybe against teams that don't spread the field. Here I think his coverage is good given the situation and the assumption Michigan is not pattern reading.
  • But it's not man and the freshman corners do this all the time. There's the BWS post with an example, and Indiana's last touchdown was Terrence Talbott in great man coverage on a slant… when he had a zone to the short side of the field that held Darius Willis and no one else once he covered the slant.
  • Can Gordon do anything more here? I don't think so, but I'm asking anyone with the knowledge. Is the safety's role here tackle and live to fight another day? What if this was Reggie Nelson?

There is some good news: Michigan did adapt to this route pattern, stoning it several times late. Indiana adjusted by sending the deep WR on a post and Floyd dropped back into it, forcing Chappell to chuck it high.

UFR Errata: Notre Dame 2010

UFR Errata: Notre Dame 2010

Submitted by Brian on September 17th, 2010 at 5:11 PM

Didn't get any awesome emails this week but there are a few bits from the comments and other blogs. Anyway:


GS's run chart comes to a lot of reassuringly similar conclusions as the UFR did: the left side of Michigan's line struggled against Kapron Lewis-Moore but the right side and Molk got their pwn on; he was way more impressed with the tight ends (8-0=8 combined!) than I was and similarly down on Shaw. More Omameh hype:

Much better from Omameh. The 2* who was a 250 pound DE in high school crushed the 5* all-world linebacker multiple times, with brutal efficiency.

I meant to mention this in the UFR, but BWS also picture-paged some running back inefficiency. This is a key point:


As you can see here, the defensive end is staying high, forcing Denard to hand the ball off. But the Notre Dame linebackers have engaged with the offensive line before they were able to get upfield. If Michigan's linemen were given a free release to the second level, they're fast and smart enough to make the block. But instead, Notre Dame's linebackers were told to plug the holes at the point of attack and make Shaw slow down at the line and pick a hole. In doing so, it gives the weakside defensive end enough time to crash down for the tackle.

Last week against UConn we saw a lot of holes open up; this week ND linebackers were clogging the LOS. I made my position on this clear: Michigan really needed to exploit this tendency more. The other play he cites is the frustrating Shaw dance where this…


…turned into no yards because Shaw cut behind Schilling and then tried to spin to the backside of the play.

Magnus also criticizes the play design of the Te'o sideline to sideline play. Might and Main points out that Stonum got chewed out after the Vincent Smith swing pass that Calabrese killed for a minimal gain on third and seven. This is what I said:

Last week this was paired with a slant and I'm confused why it's not this week. ND is in man-to-man for once and the deeper hitch is covered by the CB, leaving the flare open; accurate, but Calabrese is all over it for minimal gain. (CA, 2, protection 1/1)

Given the reaction of RR, it's likely this was supposed to be a slant after all.


Didn't get much feedback this week, but here's Magnus making a valid criticism of the 53-yard touchdown breakdown:

Rogers shouldn't get a -1 for the 53-yard TD pass to TJ Jones.  Here's why:

In a Cover 2 defense, the flat defender (Rogers) is supposed to play any receiver in his zone.  If no receiver enters his area, he's supposed to gain depth.  On that play, an underneath receiver entered the flat zone; furthermore, the QB was rolling to his side.  When a QB rolls to the flat defender's side, there will always be a receiver in the flat - that's just how plays are drawn up.  So when that receiver enters his zone, Rogers had to suck up closer to the line of scrimmage.

Meanwhile, Cam Gordon's job is to play the deepest man on his half of the field.  Whether one, two, or three receivers enter his zone, he has to play the one who runs farthest down the field.  It was a well designed play to pick on an inexperienced safety.  Gordon got caught looking in the backfield and didn't see TJ Jones streaking up the sideline.  By the time Jones came open, he was no longer the responsibility of James Rogers - that was all Cam Gordon.

This is the exact reason that Michigan wants to run a lot of Cover 3.  Gordon doesn't have the speed/experience to cover a deep half, and Kovacs doesn't have the athleticism to make a play on the ball, either.

On the other hand, this seems reasonable to me too:

Magnus, I think you should look at the video again......Rogers doesn't even react to the fact that both receivers are going vertical.  He almost immediately looks up #3 and starts to jump the route (completely disregarding his coverage duties).

Rogers was the one caught looking in the backfield. He should be reading 2 to 1.  When 2 gets vertical, he should immediately get into phase on #1.  He jumped the flat route and disregarded the fact that 2 receivers had gone vert, putting Cam on an island.

Who is right? Video:

I can see it either way. It's tough to zone up when you've only got six guys in the coverage, and Rogers was faced with a choice of sinking back on the vertical routes, leaving Rudolph wide open, or leaving Gordon one-on-one with two guys. From his play it looks like he's not even considering dropping back into coverage, which is either a major bust on his part or just the way the D is drawn up. Either way I should have RPS –2ed the play.

Magnus also disagrees with my minusing the linebackers on Armando Allen's nine-yard run off tackle late (the play before the epic Mouton hold:

By alignment, it looks like Kovacs has outside contain to the bottom of the screen.  He steps down to get a jam on the TE and replace his feet, but he then gets caught inside.  If Kovacs can keep contain here (like he did earlier in the game when he fought off a block from the pulling OT), he's funneling the running back to the inside.

If Kovacs holds the edge, Mouton is stepping up to take on the pulling OL.  Ideally, Mouton would stuff up the OL, cut his legs, or take him on with the inside shoulder and force the RB further inside.  But Mouton gets caught up in the wash of Kovacs getting blown down the line.

Meanwhile, Ezeh is scraping unblocked and would presumably make the tackle after a minimal gain.

This is plausible, but it's hard to see how Kovacs can possibly maintain contain when he's one guy lined up opposite two ND tight ends and the fullback. This is bad defense design and should have been RPS-1ed.

Monday 9/13 Presser Notes: Players

Monday 9/13 Presser Notes: Players

Submitted by Tim on September 13th, 2010 at 4:55 PM

Denard Robinsonnardheisman.png

On Heisman hype: "I don't pay attention to none of that." He doesn't have cable,and doesn't go on websites that talk about it. For entertainment "I like being around my teammates, and around the players." The opinion on him has really changed: "A lot of people doubted me last year... I really don't care what other people think about me."

Staying humble: "My mom raised me to be humble, and always keep your eyes on the prize, and on you go." Can't get a big head. People back home tell Denard he's gotta keep going "It's not the end." What is the prize to aim for? "Try to keep winning for Michigan. Be all-in."

Are teams trying to knock him out? Yeah, but you can't control that. "I guess you've gotta be ready to take blows like that, shots like that." He's a little sore, but you've gotta get through it.Denard is stronger and faster than he was in high school. Can take more of a pounding, reads defenses better. "You get better when you get to the next level because you have great coaching."

Other teams recruiting him said receiver, corner. Michigan's pitch was "you'll be a quarterback unless you want to play something different."

Growing up, he watched "Charles Woodson, you gotta say the great guys who came through Michigan" but watched the great players from the Florida teams. Mostly receivers, RBs, guys with the ball in their hands. He's never talked to him or met Pat White, but it's an honor to be compared to him. "That's somebody that's set records." Denard has watched lots of tape of him. Great runner and passer. "Same thing they listed me at: as an athlete."

"When the offensive linemen are blocking like that and it's god-willing, I can do whatever."

QBs are a happy family. "We're all brothers on this team." Tate, Devin, Jack happy for him after the game. The team is having fun. "Just starving to get better."

The RBs are all-in for Michigan, and nobody's going against each other. "Michael Shaw is a tough, tough dude." He tells Denard to make the read, and if he has to pull the ball, so be it.

Punting - Practiced it a lot, and RR makes a big deal about QBs being able to punt. "I wouldn't like to punt. We don't want to punt any balls."

"Classmates, they don't really say to much. They probably just say 'great game, and just keep doing it.'"

"Both of my parents like smiling. My whole family smiles all the time. It's just something that goes through my family, I guess."

David Molk

"Denard is probably the best person that could have all this fame." He can handle it, and doesn't seek it out. "He's not gonna get taken by the storm."

RBs - "Our running backs are forming. Denard's been taking a lot of it as we all know. they're going to step up and they're gonna be big."

Ranking doesn't change his view of the season "I don't like the attention that comes with all of it." Would rather see the team stick together. The team came in ranked 80th, now 20th, will change other teams' view of them.

"Everyone's more mature, no one's making mistakes" frorm last year.

OL is doing well, but there are always places to improve. Will find and make those improvements over the course of the season. Playing center in a spread offense is "probably no different than any other center in the country." He starts with the ball, so his screwups look bad. It's nothing he can't handle. "Offensive line play, in my eyes, really doesn't change. I just get to hit people, snap the ball."

On fan perception of Rich Rod: "They hate him when we lose, and they love him when we win."

It was amazing to see guys come together when drives would stall because of mistakes. "It was more come together: 'we know we need a drive.'"

Greg Banks

"We don't really look at rankings. We're still playing like we're ranked 80th in the nation." The players all citing the 80th ranking is not a marketing ploy, it was the truth coming in. They're trying to earn everybody's respect back. Anything provides motivation.

Is it tough to get up for a powderpuff? There's no such thing. "We saw that with App State. We underestimated them, and it'll never happen again." Michigan will give their all against every team.

The defense wasn't low about allowing the last ND touchdown. "It happened one play ago, so we have to flush that in order to be ready for the next play." During Michigan's game-winning drive, Banks was just reminding everyone to stay focused and be ready to get back out there.

UConn and ND have great OLs, not taking anything away from them "we can only focus on what we can do."

Doesn't matter what year it is, "The Notre Dame game is the Notre Dame game. Big either way you look at it."

Can't replace Brandon Graham. It's not the player they're filling, it's the position. "I can only play within my limits. I talk to him every day before the game, before practice." Graham is a mentor. "He's a great friend of mine that I'll have for the rest of my life."

James Rogers

Preparing for an FCS team - "just gotta stay humble. Go out and prepare every week like it's the biggest game of the year." Prepare the same way as other games. Didn't see any of JMU's win against Virginia Tech. "I didn't see any of it, so I don't know."

UMass receivers - get scouting books today and learn more about them.

Michael Floyd "I kind of picked of some of his tendencies early from watching film." Prepared well for him. You have to watch as much film as you can for a little advantage over an exceptional opponent.

Denard off the field "He's a great kid. He's only a sophomore, but the kid's a leader." First one to workouts, etc. "Boy's a speedster. When I see him, I just look at it like it's a track meet. He's just gonna cross that goal line and be a champion."

DBs get together as a unit to watch film "I gotta help these young cats out a little bit." Help them use the film system, etc. Cam Gordon- "Cam's a hard worker. Me and Cam worked out together over the summertime." He'll watch the film and get better - he's his own biggest critic.

Comfort level - "I go out and play, just have fun every week. I feel that I've got nothing to lose." Have fun, play with enthusiasm. Always get out there and have fun with it. Saw Woolfolk's injury and any position switch as an opportunity. "I knew when Troy went down, I knew I had to step up my leadership as a senior."

Half the team probably doesn't even know they're ranked.

JT Floyd

Denard "He's the best, man. He's a real down-to-earth guy... I can't say enough good things about him, I'm just proud to be on this team with him."

Jonas Mouton - "Man, I love having him on my side." He's a great ommunicator, always gives 110%.

Extremely impressed with James Rogers's play against ND. "He's always had the work ethic," and just needed a bit of game experience.

The goal is always to win for Michigan. Stay focused and keep the hunger.

"It was one of the most exciting games I've ever been a part of." Confidence "I definitely believe this is a step in the positive direction." Still a lot of stuff that needs to be patched up. The road victory is something that can be attributed to hard work and preparation.

UMass has a good group of receivers. Work hard to prepare for them.

On his interception: "It was a big weight off my shoulders, just getting that first one. It's aways elusive." The secondary did well, had some good plays. Gave up a couple plays they wish they could have back.

Unfair perception of the secondary - it's just something out there, everyone's inexperienced. "Every week we've just gotta go out there and prove we really belong here."

Upon Further Review 2010: Defense vs UConn

Upon Further Review 2010: Defense vs UConn

Submitted by Brian on September 8th, 2010 at 5:53 PM

Video reminder: they pop up!

Substitution notes: Michigan did make the move I suggested they might in the season preview: on passing downs they lifted the Sagesse/Banks platoon, bringing in Mike Williams as a linebacker and using Roh as a DE on a three man line. Several times they used a four-man line with Mouton and Roh the DEs and Martin/RVB the DTs.

Sagesse and Banks seemed to split the snaps about evenly. Black and Patterson got spot snaps early and more extensive time later as the game seemed in hand. Moundros got one drive in the second quarter; Herron got one drive; Jones was in the nickel package and briefly spotted Mouton when he got a cramp. Thomas Gordon got one drive early and then replaced Johnson when he went out injured.

There was no substitution in the secondary (shock!) until the final, uncharted drive.

Formation notes: It's a 3-3-5 stack unless you are a football coach, in which case it is very close to but not quite a 3-3-5 stack if you believe Rodriguez and Robinson. This is what it looks like on most plays:


And that's a stack. When the opposition goes 3x1, this is what happens:


Still a stack, just a stack reacting to a 3x1.

Sometimes Roh hops down to be a DE:


You may recognize this from last year; I called it 4-4 under since it is a shifted line, this one away from the (nominal) strength of the formation. Michigan has put RVB out by himself like they did Graham last year, so Roh is doing the exact same thing he did a year before.

I had Michigan down for 40 snaps identified as a stack, 5 in double eagle (which is a short-yardage version of the stack), 5 in the 4-4 under, 5 in which they were in their "nickel rush" package in which it's that four man line with Mouton and Roh as DEs described above, and two goal line plays. 45 of 57 plays is 79% stack, which is even stackier than I thought the defense would be in the Five Questions section of the season preview. That could be an artifact of the opponent and a relatively comfortable day in which Michigan could put away much of the playbook, but, seriously people, all that talk about how it's "not a 3-3-5" and is a "multiple" defense was bunk. It smokes a cigar constantly and gets very frustrated with Jimmy McNulty.

Anyway, on with the show:

Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O39 1 10 Shotgun Trips TE 3-3-5 stack Pass PA Bubble Screen C. Gordon -1
UConn opens up with a PA run fake and then throws a bubble; Michigan has three guys in an area with three receivers because Floyd, Johnson, and Gordon are out there. Gordon(+1) reads it and keeps the WR inside of him, where Roh(+0.5) cleans up. No blocks defeated but contain kept. (Tackling +1, Cover +1)
O38 2 11 Shotgun Trips TE ? Run Power Mouton -3
First of what I'm told will be a profusion of awful directorial decisions. UConn gets to the line quickly and snaps the ball as we're doing player introductions. As we come back Mouton and Kovacs are nailing the RB for a sizeable loss. +1 Banks for holding up to a straight double and giving no ground; +1 Mouton for recognizing and getting to the hole before the pulling guard has any chance to get on him. Kovacs also kept contain.
O35 3 14 Shotgun Trips Bunch 3-3-5 stack Penalty False Start -- -5
Banks out, Jones in, Roh to DE on third and long. Also oops.
O30 3 19 Shotgun Trips Bunch 3-3-5 stack Pass Hitch Roh Inc
Michigan rushes three and gets Both Martin(+1) and Roh(+1) through blockers, Martin through a double-team. (Pressure +2). With eight guys in coverage and two guys in his face he has no chance and chucks a hitch well short of a receiver who was going to get like three yards even if he catches it.
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 13 min 1st Q. That went better than expected.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O20 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide bunch 3-3-5 stack Run Zone read stretch Kovacs 7
Banks(-2) blown back, crushed to the point where RVB on the backside is closer to the running back than he is. Martin(+1) tears through the line and threatens a tackle for loss, forcing the running back upfield a bit, delaying him. This doesn't matter because Kovacs(-1) takes a block and gets blown back by a WR, forcing Mouton to scrape over the top of him, tripping as he goes. He falls(-1), getting into the lineman's feet; Floyd(+1) comes up on the outside to maintain leverage on the ball and manages to get in a diving shoe-string tackle. Dangerously close to a long gainer.
O27 2 3 Shotgun 2-back 4-4 under Pass Throwback screen Mouton 4
Martin is stunting around and ends up tacking a block from one of the guards releasing downfield; he's there but occupied. Kovacs(+0.5) recognizes the play quickly, coming up outside as Martin gets past his blocker. This forces the RB inside to Mouton(+0.5), who delivers a thumping tackle but ends up falling backwards because this is the FB, not the TB. Everyone did all right. Tackling +1 I guess.
O31 1 10 I-Form 3-wide 4-4 under Run Lead draw Ezeh 8
I sighed in involuntary disgust here, as Ezeh(-2) completely fails to read the draw and goes into a pass drop. Mouton's attacking the LOS on a jammed-up frontside, leaving a big hole between RVB (the weakside DE in the under this year, a la BG last year), and Martin fighting through a double. Roh's slant will get him to the RB if there's the slightest delay--if Ezeh just meets the fullback, but there's no one there, Ezeh eats the fullback six yards downfield, and it's up to Mouton to run him down from behind.
O39 2 2 Shotgun 2-back 3-3-5 stack Pass FB dumpoff -- 15
Mouton and Floyd blitz; Banks(+1) manages to trundle past the tackle on an inside slant, leaving two guys in Frazer's face(pressure +1), but the flat is wide open(cover -2) for the FB. This looks like a busted coverage given how close Roh and Ezeh are to Kovacs and Johnson, but it's hard to tell who it's on. (RPS -1),
M46 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide bunch 3-3-5 stack Run Down G Mouton? 20
Doomed from the start. Mouton(-1) is up tight to the line outside Banks; he and Banks slant inside at the snap, with Banks actually banging into Martin as those three guys run themselves up the middle of the field as two UConn players pull around. Roh is cut to the ground by two guys, Ezeh has no chance but uselessly run inside a blocker, Floyd eats an OL, and there's a guy into the secondary with blockers. Kovacs forces him inside where Gordon(-0.5) fails to wrap up (tackling -1) but does manage to get the guy to fall on his spin move; other secondary members were there to clean up anyway. (RPS -2),
M26 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 3-3-5 stack Pass PA Post C. Gordon Inc
Dive fake to a pass play with some room in the middle for this post near the goal line as Gordon is late arriving, but not too late. The throw is low and in front of the receiver, taking the guy off his feet and making this probably a 1; Gordon might have had an opportunity to blast the guy if it had been more on target. Receiver cannot dig it out. No pressure at all on a three man rush. (Pressure -1),
M26 2 10 I-Form twins 4-4 under Run Power off tackle Sagesse 3
Roh moves down late and Gordon comes up as another LB, giving about nine guys in the box, give or take Johnson. Mouton and Kovacs set up outside their blockers; Sagesse(+1) holds up against a double, leaving Ezeh(-0.5) a free hitter. He sets up and dives at the RB's feet, taking him off balance but turning zero yards into three; Roh cleans up from the backside. ,
M23 3 7 Shotgun trips Nickel rush Pass Screen Martin Inc
Bangesse pulled for Mike Jones; four man undershifted line w/ Roh, RVB, Martin, and Mouton. Mouton(+1) tears through the LT with a juke move and Roh(+1) roars around the corner. This is actually a fake-right, throw-back-left screen, but Martin(+1) has chopped the RB down in the backfield (no PI behind LOS) and there's no one to go to, so Frazer chucks it into the ground. (Pressure +1) Note that the pass rush moves by Roh and Mouton were legit; neither tackle was looking to release downfield.,
Drive Notes: Blocked FG(41), 7-0, 4 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O20 1 10 Shotgun trips TE 3-3-5 stack Pass WR wheel Johnson Inc
UConn runs a fairly unconvincing bubble screen fake that draws Gordon up on the innermost receiver to the trips side. Johnson(-2) stares at the QB and then goes to the fake, vacating a ton of space behind him on a wheel route for a receiver who heads beyond him. The wide open pass dies in the wind and Michigan is fortunate to escape without giving up 20 yards (Cover -2) Another three man rush; Martin does get to jump at Frazer but can't bat it down.
O20 2 10 Shotgun trips TE 3-3-5 stack Run Counter Van Bergen 4
Looks like a zone stretch in the backfield, but down blocks on the line and two linemen pull around on counter action. Van Bergen(+1) avoids a cut from one of the pulling linemen, hops over the guy, and tackles as the guy passes the LOS. Not sure what to make of Roh here, as he dangerously goes around the wide receiver blocking him when he's got unblocked guys to the outside. He comes around him fast enough to get in on the tackle. Good or bad?
O24 3 6 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel rush Pass Cross Roh Inc
Mouton DE, Martin and RVB DTs, Roh a standup DE, two LB, Johnson lined up basically as a nickelback. Michigan sends six. Roh(+1) doesn't even have to make a move, he just runs right by the tackle, forcing Frazer into an early throw and ending the drive. (Pressure +1) Good chance a crossing route would have come open against Floyd without the pressure.
Drive Notes: Punt, 14-0, 1 min 1st Q.
O26 1 10 I-Form 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Run Pin and pull zone Ezeh -1
See the Smart Football link for a detailed explanation, but basically the two OL on the playside who are lined up to the playside of their guy block down as the other two pull around. Here Martin(+1) fights through his block and absorbs the pulling guy, allowing Ezeh(+1) to attack, drawing the FB's block and delaying the RB. Martin and Sagesse combine to tackle.
O25 2 11 Shotgun 2-back 3-3-5 stack Pass Jailbreak screen Rogers 8
Ball is way behind the intended receiver and drags him back and outside, turning this into something like an impromptu bubble. Thomas Gordon is in the game and out there along with Rogers; both guys try to get outside leverage, giving the receiver time to hit it up behind the WR blocking for him; Ezeh's not fast enough to get out there. Rogers and Ezeh combine to tackle. Er... I think I'm going to hit Rogers with a -0.5, and probably Ezeh, too, since he did not react that quickly.
O33 3 3 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 eagle Pass Quick hitch Rogers Inc
Looks like one of Shafer's old Okie packages with a three deep shell and eight guys threatening something at the LOS, and then the LBs back out and it just looks like a 3-3-5. Another three man rush, UConn has quick throw on; Rogers(+1) is sitting on the little out by the #2 WR and attackis it, breaking it up(!) and even if he hadn't probably tackling short of the sticks. (Cover +1, RPS +1),
Drive Notes: Punt, 14-0, 12 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O37 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 3-3-5 stack Pass Corner Johnson 21
Similar problem to the earlier pass in which Johnson got lost and let a guy behind him. Play action fake doesn't really fool anyone as M drops into zone. Johnson(-2) gets a bit of a chuck and then no depth at all, instead running a few yards away from Roh, guarding no one in particular. This time they actually hit the wide open guy for big yardage. (Cover -2, Pressure -1). Another three man rush, this one totally neutralized.
M42 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide bunch 3-3-5 stack Pass Quick out Floyd 9
JT Floyd must be faking a blitz because he heads towards the QB for a few steps and then starts backing out; it is too late since they're just running one of these quick outs and he's the flat guy. Easy pitch and catch and YAC. RPS-1. Coverage -1.
M33 2 1 I-Form 3-wide 4-4 under Run Iso Moundros 0
Roh moves down. Moundros is in; he and Mouton (+0.5 each) both tear into the hole, with Mouton standing up an OL and Moundros the FB; Roh(+0.5) comes from the backside to clean up after the mess.
M33 3 1 I-Form Big 3-3-5 stack Run Power off tackle Roh 4
Either Roh or Moundros screws up because they both head inside and one guy blocks both. Blocker gets driven back a bit and ends up tripping the OL pulling through the hole, allowing Floyd to dart by him and deliver a solid tackle(+1). I blame Roh on review: -1.
M29 1 10 Shotgun Trips TE 3-3-5 stack Run Power off tackle? Mouton 0
Late getting to this play; as we get to it two OL have pulled around and are trying to block Kovacs, Mouton, and Moundros. Mouton(+2) avoids a cut block, leaping over it to deliver a thumping tackle(+1) for no gain.
M29 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass Quick out Rogers Inc
Quick pass zinged high and through the hands of the intended receiver. Rogers(+1) read it well and was coming up to pound the guy on the catch anyway. (Cover +1),
M29 3 10 Shotgun Trips TE Nickel rush Pass TE Cross Kovacs 8
Rush package. Michigan sends six, with Martin(+1) breaking through and threatening terrible things; Frazer has to throw. He does to his TE, who catches it and is immediately tackled (+1, tackle +1, cover +1, RPS+1) by Kovacs short of the sticks.
M21 4 2 I-Form Big 3-3-5 eagle Run Power off tackle Banks 2
This is actually a great play and a stop. Mouton(+1) blasts downhill at the fullback and nails him at the LOS, forcing him back; Banks(+1) shucks the LT, comes under the other puling guard, meets to tackle at the LOS, and gets the hefty Shoemate down seemingly short of the first down. They give him the spot. Maybe I'm wrong... they never show a replay.
M19 1 10 Shotgun Trips TE 3-3-5 stack Run Power dive(?) Martin 0
Features a guard pulling around the center, who single blocks Martin, and by single blocks Martin I mean tries to single block Martin. Martin(+2) pwns the guy, comes around, and tackles with some help from Mouton(+0.5).
M19 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass TE Cross Moundros Inc
House sent, getting Moundros free up the middle. He leaps and bats the pass(+1, pressure +1, RPS+1). Floyd may have been in position to do something about it right after the catch, but maybe not.
M19 3 10 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 nickel? Pass Dumpoff Roh 3
Kovacs drops back to safety depth; Johnson takes up a position behind the linebackers. Don't know what to call this. Three man rush finds no one open or near the QB until Roh(+0.5) threatens to spring free, forcing the dumpoff that Moundros and Rogers(+0.5) snuff. Cover +1.
Drive Notes: FG(32), 21-3, 4 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O23 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide bunch 3-3-5 stack Pass Fly Gordon Inc
Three man rush, so Frazer has plenty of time (pressure -1) to step up and bomb; the pass is long. Receiver had a step on Gordon(-1, cover -1).
O23 2 10 Shotgun Trips TE 3-3-5 stack Pass Flare screen Ezeh Inc
I don't know WTF this is, but it develops late and has no prayer to work since Ezeh(+0.5) and Rogers(+0.5) react in time for there to be two guys ready to pound this guy behind the LOS; he drops the ball anyway. Some execution error on UConn's part, surely.
O23 3 10 Shotgun 2-back 3-3-5 nickel Pass Dig Ezeh? 21
Another three man rush and plenty of time (pressure -1); this time Frazer finds someone well downfield between guys in the zone and nails him. I don't really blame Ezeh since there's a number of guys who this could be on. Wouldn't surprise me if this is Carvin getting too deep since he seem too close to the safeties. (Cover –2)
O44 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel rush Pass Cross Floyd Inc
Corner blitz gets Roh a free run (pressure +1, RPS+1); Frazer dumps it to a crossing route that the guy drops; Floyd(+0.5) was probably in position to tackle. (Cover +1)
O44 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass HItch Floyd Inc
Johnson(+1) blitzes this time, spooking Frazer into the throw (pressure +1) that short hops; Floyd(+0.5) again seemingly in position to tackle for no YAC afterwards. (Cover +1)
O44 3 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel rush Pass Dig Kovacs 47
Mouton(+1) smokes the RT and gets in on Frazer(pressure +1). He has to chuck it and does as Kovacs(-2) vacates the middle of the field for some unknown reason. If he just sits back on third and ten he has a deflection or pick. Pass should be caught but is juggled ridiculously, causing Cam Gordon(-2) to alter his path to the receiver because he's going after the ball, that receiver eventually hauls in. Gordon whiffs, Floyd drags him down inside the ten. Cover –2, tackling –2.
M9 1 G Shotgun Trips TE 3-3-5 stack? Run Power off tackle Mouton 2
Get to this play at the snap as the tackles are pulling around. RVB(+1) is quick enough from the backside of the play that the backside tackle bumps into him and gets slowed down, allowing Mouton(+1) to knife upfield and meet the RB at the line; Herron jumps on his back and the pile falls the wrong way.,
M7 2 G I-Form Big 3-3-5 eagle Run Down G Ezeh 4
Mouton(+0.5) again slashes upfield, taking out a blocker; Ezeh(-1) waits and gets blown way downfield and pancaked. If he had held up a little bit the cavalry would have arrived sooner (Herron again) and the gain held down.
M3 3 G I-Form Big Goal line Run Power off tackle Ezeh 2
Kovacs(-1) blitzes into the pull to spill' the play but to do that he's got to make a pile, instead he just gets plowed by the FB. Danger. Roh's coming from behind and starts tripping the guy, Mouton cuts off the outside, Ezeh(+1) fights through the Kovacs traffic to grab Todman. Gordon(+1) delivers the final blow to stop his momentum short.
M1 4 G I-Form Big Goal line Run Power off tackle -- 1
They rush to the line and snap it before M gets set. Frustrating no TO. (RPS-2.)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-10, EOH
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O39 1 10 Shotgun trips 3-3-5 stack Pass Flare screen T. Gordon 0
Excellent job by T. Gordon(+1) to gets outside the #2 WR's block and shoot directly inoo the FB's path. He's forced to cut inside, where RVB(+0.5) had avoided a cut and tackles the flying FB for no gain. (Cover +1.)
O39 2 10 Shotgun 4-wide 3-3-5 stack Run Counter pitch Ezeh 17
Counter step like this is going to be a stretch, then the RB heads out for a quick pitch; sort of like what we tried to run last year with the edge pitch that never really came off. Kovacs(+1) reads and attacks, getting past the blocker and threatening to tackle. Mouton(-1) does the same but takes a shove that could be a block in the back and gets shoved out of the way, yielding a hole because Ezeh(-2) is outside the guard who pulled around the other side to block the backside DE. RB can cut inside, running by RVB and into the secondary where Floyd and Gordon tackle.
M44 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 3-3-5 stack Run Broken play Roh -4
This is supposed to be a power play but the RB goes to pass block. Frazer is dead meat; Roh(+2) does a nice job of avoiding a cut and taking him down for a loss.
M48 2 14 Shotgun trips 3-3-5 stack Pass PA Corner Mouton 19
Mouton(-2) sucks up on second and fourteen and then drops straight back, ending up no more than two yards from Ezeh on his zone drop and leaving a huge area along the sidelines for UConn to exploit. Floyd(-1) failed to get any depth in a cover two, taking the short guy instead of the deep one. Kovacs(+0.5) comes up to tackle(+1) immediately (cover -2). RVB(+0.5) was getting there on a three-man rush.
M29 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 3-3-5 stack Run Power off tackle Ezeh 9
Power play they just messed up; Michigan blitzes two guys on the backside of the play, leaving a lot of room and not many guys to the run side. (RPS-1) Martin(-1) is doubled and taken out of the play, then continues to attempt to get upfield instead of spinning back in case there's a tackle opportunity. Meanwhile, Ezeh and Mouton are taking on a WR and a pulling OL; both go outside, leaving Todman an opportunity to cut past Ezeh and into open space. Should Ezeh(-1) attempt to send Todman outside to his help? Yeah, probably. He definitely shouldn't just thunk into the OL and fall over, which he does. Gordon does make a solid tackle(+1).
M20 2 1 Shotgun 4-wide 3-3-5 stack Run Counter pitch Mouton 4
Same blocking but the counter step and the pitch out. This time Ezeh does recognize it and starts heading out to follow the back, but it doesn't matter because Kovacs(+0.5) and Mouton(+0.5) are all over it; this time Mouton doesn't get a debatably legal shove in the back and tackles, albeit weakly, yielding a first down.
M16 1 10 Shotgun trips TE 3-3-5 stack Run Down G Mouton 6
Roh(+1) times a blitz into the heart of the line well, drawing a guard and erasing the pulling OL. Kovacs(+1) reads it, beats an OL block, and hops around the guy to grab and tackle; Mouton(-1) should be a free hitter here since Roh took two blockers but he stepped away from the play to start and has not given himself an angle to attack. Instead of finishing Kovacs' tackle with a thump he runs by and watches Kovacs dragged a considerable distance.
M10 2 4 I-Form Big 3-3-5 eagle Run Power off tackle Ezeh 1
Pulling guard slips as he comes around the line, allowing Ezeh(+0.5) and Gordon to tackle pretty much unmolested. ,
M9 3 3 Wildcat 3-3-5 stack Run QB power Mouton 3
Mouton(+1) reads and blasts the leading guard, allowing Ezeh a free hit. He forms up and lowers his shoulder, getting the tackle just short of the sticks. Would like it if he was a little faster to the hole and brought some momentum.
M6 4 In I-Form Big 3-3-5 eagle Run Down G Floyd -4
Mouton blitzes and is erased by a downblock; Kovacs kicked out, Ezeh manages to get past one guard only to get crushed off his feet by a second; Floyd is free and fills, putting his head on the ball(+2), jarring it free; Ezeh has it pop to him, recovering.
Drive Notes: Fumble, 24-10, 2 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O28 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 3-3-5 stack Pass Hitch Floyd Inc
Looks like some miscommunication as the receiver is not near the ball at all. Floyd(+1, cover +1) is, and if this is a little lower he's got a shot at a pick.
O28 2 10 Shotgun 2-back 3-3-5 stack Pass Angle Patterson Inc
Michigan rushes two(!), dropping Patterson into a short zone in front of the fullback that happens to be where Frazer's outlet is. The ball clanks off Patterson's pads. (RPS+1, cover+1, Patterson+1.)
O28 3 10 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass Dumpoff Mouton 9
Roh and Mouton blitz off the edges, with Mouton(+1) coming around and threatening a sack; Jibreel Black(+1) has also fought through, preventing Frazer from stepping up. He has to get rid of it, picking a five-yard dumpoff to the FB. Floyd(-1) has dropped into that deep zone that the corner routes were exploiting earlier and does not react quickly enough to tackle at the snap; Ezeh(-0.5) is in decent position but his tackle attempt is mostly powered through, setting up fourth and short instead of fourth and two. (Pressure +1)
O37 4 1 I-Form Big 4-4 under Run Iso -- 2
Todman burrows for the first. Martin has been out most of the last two drives, BTW, and Black is playing in RVB's stead--they're basically packing it in. Black does get through the line and almost finds himself in position to thump this, but not quite.
O39 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Run Power dive Ezeh 14
Martin(-1) is pass rushing and gets way out of position, opening a crease. Ezeh(-1) sits there, not challenging a blocker, and gets pushed out of the way without delaying a tailback; Roh(-1) starts a pass drop too soon and can't recover. I guess some of this is understandable given the situation, but Roh should tackle(-1) anyway and does not.
M47 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass Dumpoff -- Inc
Martin(+1) is triple(!) teamed on a three-man rush and still manages to claw through to spook Frazer into a throw to the underneath dumpoff (cover +1), which the guy can't handle, dropping it instead of getting his five yards.
M47 2 10 Shotgun trips TE 3-3-5 stack Run Counter Martin 15
Martin(-1) appears to be pass rushing again, hopping to the wrong side of the C here and getting single-blocked, which leaves two guys pulling and another two releasing. Roh(-1) comes up too hard to the outside, getting kicked out; Ezeh(-1) just gets shoved out of the play.
M32 1 10 Shotgun trips TE 3-3-5 stack Run Pin and pull zone Ezeh 4
Jones(-1) is tardy reading the play and bumps into Ezeh, causing him to trip a little; Ezeh(+1) however, is reading it fast and flows to the hole well enough to get a diving tackle. Kovacs(+0.5) squeezed it down so the RB would have to cut back into help.
M28 2 6 Shotgun trips TE 3-3-5 stack Pass Quick out Rogers Inc
Variation on the long handoff, I guess, as the outside WRs run slants and the inside guy runs parallel to the LOS, turning back for the ball. He drops it; didn't matter since Michigan was going to crush it anyway. (Rogers +1, cover +1)
M28 3 6 Shotgun trips TE 3-3-5 stack Run Power off tackle Banks 3
Michigan sends the house but UConn manages to run by it. (RPS-2) Michigan is very fortunate that Banks(+1) can make a diving tackle on the TB, otherwise he scores.
M25 4 3 Shotgun trips TE 3-3-5 stack Run Counter Ezeh 2
Same counter they were just gashed on. Roh(+0.5) manages to squeeze down enough for the RB to run up in an area where Ezeh(+2) has a chance. He's blocked but he discards the guy and makes a lunging tackle that sees the RB short of the sticks.
Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 30-10, 9 min 4th Q. Michigan strangles the game; the last Uconn drive was meaningless and saw Michigan adopt a prevent; it's not charted.

I'm noticing a distinct lack of ichor seeping from the clawed-out holes that used to be my eyes.

Yeah, that was dodgy but far from the worst-case scenario.

They completed less that half their passes!

Yeah, how about that. How about that.



Defensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Van Bergen 3 - 3 Not exactly BG, but I don't think he has to be if it's a stack.
Martin 8 3 5 Late minuses for getting too pass-rush-y. Demands doubles. Good start.
Banks 5 2 3 Line will probably be something akin to this all year.
Sagesse 1 - 1 Eh.
Patterson 1 - 1 Had ball thrown into chest.
Black 1 - - Decent debut.
TOTAL 19 5 14 Were working uphill most of the day with Michigan going to a lot of three-man rushes, so this is okay.
Player + - T Notes
Ezeh 6 9.5 -3.5 Well, when you're almost beaten out by a walk-on it's for a reason.
Mouton 11.5 6 5.5 Smells like progress. DE moonlighting was effective.
Roh 7.5 3 4.5 Odd reliance on three man rushes.
Johnson 1 4 -3 Culprit on one long pass play and another that should have been a long pass play.
T. Gordon 1 - 1 Eh?
Jones - 1 -1 Part of the pass defense package, FWIW.
Moundros 1.5 - 1.5 Not much data.
Herron - - - Did not register a point on his drive.
TOTAL 26.5 23.5 3 Going to take a bit to get a feel for the new scheme, but they appeared to do all right. Mouton and Roh are going to be in a lot of backfields.
Player + - T Notes
Floyd 6 2 4 Guh?
Rogers 4 0.5 3.5 Wha?
Kovacs 5 4 1 Keeping his head above water.
C. Gordon 2 3.5 -1.5 I don't really blame him for the long pass too much.
Talbott - - - Garbage time.
Christian - - - Garbage time.
M. Robinson - - - DNP on D.
Ray Vinopal - - - Spinal Tap's current drummer.
TOTAL 17 10 7 !?!?!?
Pressure 11 4 7 In retrospect, a better than than I thought.
Coverage 12 12 0 Even ==  major win for any secondary.
Tackling 6 4 2 No outright misses.
RPS 5 9 -4 Maybe not showing your hand?

[A reminder: RPS is "rock, paper, scissors." Michigan gets a + when they call a play that makes it very easy for them to defend the opponent, like getting a free blitzer. They get a – when they call a play that makes it very difficult for them to defend the opponent, like showing a seven-man blitz and having Penn State get easy touchdowns twice.]

Are you telling me that every member of the secondary had a great day except Gordon?

Uh… maybe? UConn's deeper completions were on Kovacs, Ezeh, or Gordon, with the corners mostly hanging out in the flats and punishing short passes, which they did very well. And because of all those short passes the cover number is even. That's a good result for any secondary, let alone what we thought would go down with these guys.

Caveats abound. Michigan dropped eight into coverage a lot. UConn's solitary receiver with any talent got a step on Floyd and Gordon once only to see Frazer miss, and that guy dropped a couple of tough-ish catches. The wind may have prevented UConn from testing Michigan over the top much. Frazer is thoroughly mediocre. They kept dumping it to squat white guys. Etc etc.

But even if all those things were true we've seen magnificently flaming failure time and again from Michigan secondary members. On Saturday the only hint of that was the ridiculous bobbling catch that went for 47 yards, and it's hard to blame Gordon for altering his path when he saw the ball pop skyward and he thought he could intercept it. The rest of the day he took excellent angles to the ball and delivered blows. There was one shoulder-block of a tackle that came as Floyd was wrapping a guy up; other than that and the bomb he looked pretty solid. If every game ends with an opponent's longest run checking in at 20 yards, he will be a hero.

Wither Brandon Graham?

Zero sacks from 38 attempts is not an encouraging statistic. But when I looked at it closer it came out to 11-4 = 7, which is a good, if numerically low day. Mouton, Martin, and Roh flashed hints that they'll be able to get to the passer regularly, and RVB and Black chipped in a little help. On a lot of Frazer's errant or short-of-the-sticks throws he had little choice but to dump it off to the squat white guy lest he eat facemask.

UConn may not be the most talented team Michigan plays this year but it might be the most experienced: Frazer is a senior, as are three of the offensive linemen, with the others a junior and sophomore. They returned for starters on the line and both guys in the backfield. Last year they were solidly above average in sacks allowed despite the statue quarterback; they should be better this year. And they didn't bother trying deep passes or long-developing routes more than a few times. It'll be interesting to see what happens against Notre Dame, as they only return their guards from last year's offensive line and will be starting Dayne Crist for only the second time.

That nickel rush package looks promising. I wouldn't want to try to pass block against Roh, Mouton, Martin, and RVB.

How are the initial returns on the GERG Linebacker Magic theory?

Good, but not great. It's not much of a surprise when you juuuust barely beat out a walk-on for your job but Obi Ezeh's progress has been incremental at best. He did make a nice play on the last defensive play charted up there but there was an awful lot of Ezeh getting shoved around like a rag doll and even one instance of those horrible times last year when he'd go into a pass drop on a run play. I mean:

That's pretty much what his day was like. Do something sort of right, get hammered to the ground. It's really frustrating that the second best option is not only a walk-on but a walk-on who's not even going to be around next year. There are picture pages to follow with more detail.

On the other hand, Jonas Mouton didn't do anything I remember as really frustrating. There were the usual errors that come along with being a linebacker, a couple of instances of late recognition, and maybe a coverage issue or two, but he did look good. Numerically he put in his best day since he was a sophomore.

Roh looked good too. He looked far more dangerous as a pass rusher than he ever did as a freshman and did not make a ton of linebacker errors.

So was this… good?

I don't know. Michigan was playing a lot of bend, don't break and they bent and they didn't break much. Even on UConn's long drives they had to put together fourth down conversions. It would be nice if Michigan could keep those stops a yard or so shorter and force punts, but that seems like random fortune instead of something repeatable.

The shortness of the game—just eight real drives each—overstated how efficient the defense was, so don't let that yardage total influence you too much (especially if you're looking at the sub-300 total from before the last drive. By result:

  • Three and outs: 3
  • Somewhat fluky two-minute drill touchdowns: 1
  • 40-60 yard drives ending in bupkis or FG: 4

I'd be livid if this was 2002, but it's 2010 and the secondary is comprised of baling wire and duct tape. I'll take that, assume opponents can get to 24 points in a normal length game when they don't waste drives like UConn did, and say "outscore them, Denard."

This was the thing about the UConn game: there are only eight clips above. That's less than half the usual number, and that's because there weren't hugelong unexplainable touchdowns that needed to be present so I could give someone a big minus without also providing the evidence; there also weren't many OMG AWESOME plays. Michigan had just 4 TFLs. UConn had 11. It was a boring, boring day from the defense.

Maybe that's not good, exactly. But maybe it's good enough.


The cornerbacks! Jonas Mouton! !!!!

Also less thrillingly weird, Mike Martin.


Ezeh mostly, but Banks, RVB, and Sagesse need to turn in some more plays. RVB did not have a good day.

What does it mean for Notre Dame?

Oh, God, who knows? I'm about 75% of my way through the Purdue game and the offense looks very similar to UConn's except replace Juggly McHusky with Mike Floyd and I'm A Good Big East Back with what looks like a pretty rampage-y Armando Allen and that's a recipe for the above drive breakdown minus the bupkis.

On the other hand, UConn's OL has got to be a bunch better and if Michigan gets pressure by running past the pretty trundling OTs Crist is liable to freak out. In a word: variance.

Preview 2010: Secondary

Preview 2010: Secondary

Submitted by Brian on August 30th, 2010 at 2:42 PM

Previously: The Story.

never_forget-500 Never forget.

What's the point of anything?

I ask this question for reasons existential and practical. Earlier this summer Eleven Warriors pinged me for some help previewing Michigan's defense, so I talked about Mike Martin and the rest of the promising defensive line and mentioned the trouble at linebacker; the section on the secondary was simply this: "rank them last." At this point Justin Turner was still on the team and Troy Woolfolk's ankle was unaware of what Angry Michigan Secondary Hating God had in store for it.

When it, he, and we found out AMSHG's true power in mid-August I started drinking immediately, resulting in a night where I finally used twitter as God intended by blathering about having a power drill, burning my elbow on tea, coughing, not coughing, and finally drinking a horrible concoction of Cointreau with anything (the whiskey had been exhausted) and eating cold squash pakora with a slice of American cheese while mournfully contemplating everything from Mike Floyd to whatever 5'8" guy UMass will throw out there this year. The next day Henri the Otter of Ennui made his earliest-ever appearance on the blog (setting a record that will probably stand for all time) while I enumerated the options left at corner, mentioning Richard Nixon twice before a nominal first-string player at the semi-public fall scrimmage. Even if I've calmed down since, and I have a little bit, that's the existential chunk.

The practical chunk: the probable starters at corner, safety, and the safety-ish position that was called spinner (except when Greg Robinson was denying such a concept ever existed) and is now called spur are:

  • at free safety, a redshirt freshman
  • at spur, a true freshman (who will be treated as a linebacker, FWIW)
  • at bandit, a redshirt sophomore walk-on
  • at one corner, a redshirt sophomore pulled in favor of Mike Williams last year, and
  • at the other corner, a true freshman.

Meanwhile, literally every backup except the aforementioned Williams has never played a meaningful snap at Michigan because they arrived two months ago or, in the case of James Rogers, was just one of those guys who seems like they're never going to play from day one. I could just point you to their recruiting profiles, tell you they'll be in the conversation for worst secondary in the league, and resume cowering in a closet. Previewing this position group is almost totally pointless: I've never really seen anyone play. They're probably going to be bad.

If this is an insufficient description of the situation, though, well, here's all this stuff. 


Rating: 1.

Corner #1 Yr. Corner #2 Yr.
JT Floyd So.* Cullen Christian Fr.
Courtney Avery Fr. James Rogers Sr.*
Terrence Talbott Fr. Tony Anderson Jr.*#

[* = player has taken redshirt. # = walk-on.]

Technically, the position preview scale goes from one to five. Nothing has ever gotten a zero before even jokingly, not even the 2008 offensive line that consisted of seven guys who could plausibly play and actually started a defensive tackle who had been switched in the middle of fall camp. But I thought about it here. What Michigan has to offer at corner is going to be substandard unless a great miracle falls from the sky, and will probably be no better than last year's fare even before Woolfolk moved.



The big touchdown.
doomed from the start
knocking it down
fade cover

The single person at this position who Michigan fans have seen on the field is redshirt sophomore JT Floyd. On the one hand, he was so overmatched last year that Michigan decided they should move Troy Woolfolk to his spot and unleash Mike Williams on the world; Williams promptly gave up a third-and-twenty-four conversion to Iowa and was subsequently swapped with freshman walk-on Jordan Kovacs, leaving a tiny, slow, inexperienced guy no one even recruited in the most critical spot on the defense. This went exactly as well as you might expect. The coaches thought this was preferable to having Floyd on the field.

For my part, the Indiana UFR waved a white flag even at 4-0:

Whatever lingering hopes you had that the corner spot opposite Warren could turn into a non-liability should be put in the corner and told to  be quiet for a while. JT Floyd did better than I thought he did live but still remains a timid redshirt freshman who transparently lacks the speed to be an elite corner. Michigan is going to have to cover up for him.

So did the game column:

Seeing an Indiana freshman zip past not only the walk-on safety gamely pretending he doesn't run a 4.8 but the scholarship, potentially-starting cornerback not named Donovan Warren was alarming. If JT Floyd is going to play corner in the Big Ten he's going to do it ten yards off the line of scrimmage.

Floyd held onto his job for the Michigan State game, but that game saw Michigan adopt a fundamentally unsound formation featuring Floyd in the parking lot. State exploited this with a ton of virtually uncontested wide receiver screens:

They then countered those with the outside pitches that were the only consistently successful running plays Michigan State managed all day (QB scrambles were another story). Floyd may not have gotten smoked deep but it was only because he was playing Hail Mary defense all game. Seeing how untenable that situation was, Michigan's coaches made the move to Woolfolk at corner, thus opening up the already pretty much wide open floodgates. Except for sporadic plays and special teams duty, thus ended Floyd's participation in the 2009 season.

On the other hand, the coaches have been talking up his improvement since spring and have continued to do so through fall. Rodriguez 4/13: Floyd has "played well." Rodriguez 8/2: Floyd is coming off "a great spring." Also on 8/2: Rodriguez expresses "particular confidence" in Floyd and drops the t-bomb—"tremendous." Greg Robinson 8/11: Floyd is showing "a lot of progress." A spring practice source: Floyd is "vastly improved." And Robinson and Gibson on 8/25:

"J.T. Floyd may have been the guy that made the biggest jump from last season to the end of spring ball in so many ways," Robinson said on Sunday. "There's nothing any different - he's just worked really hard. J.T. just has a way about him - he leads well and his work habits - he's just a harder worker than he was at this time last year."

Gibson concurs. "He's done such a complete turnaround. You just take last year at this time, and he was just a guy really trying to work to the point that he’s at right now, and he’s done it."

UFR '09: JT Floyd
Opponent + - T Comments
WMU - 5 -5 Yikes.
Indiana 4.5 8 -3.5 Tries hard. Clearly
physically deficient.
MSU 3 3 0 I'll take it.
Wisconsin - 1 -1 Eh.

How meaningful is any of this? The fear is not very. This is replica of the Johnny Sears hype down to the sweet dreads: after being largely responsible for that heart-stopping moment when Ball State had a first and goal with a shot to tie Michigan in the '06 season, Johnny Sears was in line for a starting cornerback job after the graduation of Leon Hall. Sears was talked up all offseason, failed miserably during the Horror, was quickly yanked for true freshman Donovan Warren, and was off the team a month into the 2007 season. While that outcome is an negative outlier even with Angry Michigan Secondary-Hating God at full wroth, it goes to show that sometimes a coach praising a kid who's struggled and is being thrust into a prominent role is more hope than anything else. Our best hope may be that anonymous spring observer, who has no reason to pump up a kid in the hopes he'll keep it together.

Floyd was just a freshman last year and should improve significantly. The chatter's consistent enough and from enough sources that some of it is probably real. Average is about all anyone can hope for, though.


The other corner spot will probably (50.1%!) end up in the hands of freshman Cullen Christian. James Rogers had a tentative hold on the first string in the semi-public fall scrimmage that he maintained to the release of the fall depth chart, but since he hasn't played at all in his Michigan career—not even when the walls were falling in last year—he's likely to cede that by the time the season rolls around. If not by then, probably by the Big Ten season.

Christian gets the ultra-tentative nod here simply by virtue of his recruiting rankings, which were strong. He checked in a near five-star at Scout, a top 100 guy at Rivals, and hit three other top 100 lists. He's not a burner; his main assets are his size (6'1"), leaping ability, and excellent hips. ESPN praised his "coveted size, quickness, fluidity and savvy" and said he would enter college "ahead of the curve in terms of technique, understanding of coverages and size," and assessment basically echoed by Rivals and the rest of the chattering class. His main problem is tackling, at which he's pretty sucky.

How doomed is Michigan here? Still pretty doomed. But it is worth pointing out that if there's one spot on defense where a freshman can walk onto the field and not spoil everything, it's corner, where conservative play and safety help can mitigate the damage.

What, Me Backups?

The backups are unknowns or freshmen. The aforementioned James Rogers was a lanky high school tailback reputed to have great straight-line speed but no hips; Michigan took him as a flier recruit. He has not panned out, bouncing from wide receiver to cornerback for the duration of his career.

Rogers did come in for some fall fluff during Rodriguez's post-scrimmage presser:

James Rogers is a senior that has played over that position. He has had a really good camp. Some of the young freshman that are competing out there at that position … Again, James Rogers is a veteran. He has been around a little bit, so we have a little experience with James out there as well.

He has to play and may even get the bulk of the time early. The assumption here is that even if he's currently ahead of the freshmen he probably won't remain so for very long.

sns103109spSpringfieldFB2 courtney-avery
Talbott #14 left, Avery right

The two remaining freshmen are extremely similar. Terrence Talbott and Courtney Avery are middling three-star types from Ohio; Avery is probably the better athlete, since he was a star quarterback; Talbott is more polished since he's been a full-time corner but spent a lot of his high school career injured. Both approached but did not get four stars on one of the big three recruiting sites; both got "meh" from the other two; both are generously listed at 5'10" and truthfully listed at 165 pounds. They need 20 pounds before they're anything approximating Big Ten corners. Instead they get thrown into the fire immediately.

Talbott in a sentence:

The book on Talbott: short, smart, agile, excellent in coverage but needs a year or two to bulk up for college.

I don't have anything quite as neat on Avery but both Scout and ESPN praise his "exceptional athleticism" while calling him very, very small.

Reports out of fall camp have been conflicting, with certain folk claiming one or the other will play, possibly a lot, while the other is way too small and a guaranteed redshirt. There wasn't much to tell them apart during the scrimmage; whichever one does get drafted into playing this year is going to play a lot of conservative zone coverage and miss a lot of tackles.

There were rumors Kelvin Grady might get a shot at corner but with Martavious Odoms apparently moving outside full-time there's room for him to play at slot and he's been prominent this fall; if he does end up moving it will be a midseason panic thing. Teric Jones was moved back to offense after spending a year trying to learn cornerback, getting moved to safety, and then getting moved to cornerback again; obviously he's just not a D-I caliber player on D.


Rating: 2, generously

Bandit/SS Yr. Free Safety Yr.
Jordan Kovacs So.*# Cam Gordon Fr.*
Marvin Robinson Fr. Jared Van Slyke Jr.*#
-- -- Vlad Emilien Fr.*

[* = player has taken redshirt. # = walk-on, or former walk-on]

111409_SPT_UM v WU_MRMSafety has been the positional bête noir of the Michigan fan for going on a decade now but things had never been as black or beastly as they were last year, when Boubacar Cissoko's epic flameout forced Michigan to go with the doomed Jordan Kovacs-Mike Williams combination. Williams was the most confused, least useful player I've ever broken down film of; Kovacs was just slow and small. Their powers combined in episodes like "Iowa tight ends are open by 15 yards," "We don't have a guy in the deep middle on third and twenty four," and "What would Juice Williams be like if he was an unstoppable 500-foot-tall robot?"

Williams has been shuffled off to third- or fourth-team spur to cover punts for all eternity,  but the situation here is hardly less bleak than it was a year ago. Jordan Kovacs is now a sophomore walk-on and probable starter. Last year he debuted against Notre Dame, was one of two Michigan secondary members to be blazed on the infamous 85-yard Indiana touchdown, and then actually started making a name for himself as a solid box safety in the Michigan State game:

Jordan Kovacs registered a +4.5 and is single-handedly responsible for about half of the + tackles Michigan saw yesterday … Kovacs provided hard-nosed run defense that makes me think he'll be a positive contributor going forward.

Williams imploded in the next game, Michigan dropped Kovacs to free safety, and the walls caved in. The dividing line was clear as day in UFR:

UFR '09: Jordan Kovacs
Opponent + - T Notes
Notre Dame 1 - 1 Nice story.
EMU 2 1 1 Hasn't cost Michigan anything yet..
Indiana 3 4 -1 Hardy, but slow.
Michigan State 7.5 3 4.5 Some of these were just backside blitzes that he tackled on, but he did tackle. At other times he displayed a real knack for getting to  ballcarriers.
Iowa 2.5 3 -0.5 Missed one tackle, made another few, good downhill box safety.
Penn State 1 6 -5 Just can't play a deep half.
Illinois - 3 -3 Again burned as a deep half safety.
Purdue 1 5 -4 Enormous bust #3.
Wisconsin 4 4 0 Did pretty okay. No idea why they moved him to deep safety; he's pretty effective in the box.

The Mike Williams bit is handled in the linebackers and has more on just how disastrous a switch this was, but the morals of the story: Kovacs cannot play free safety and is pretty effective as a tiny linebacker when he doesn't have to take on linemen.


jet past blockers
tackles Caper from behind
takes down the RB
shoot up through a gaping hole
doesn't bite on the bubble fake
doomed from the start
bails and bails

Michigan moves him back to tiny linebacker this fall, but it's not that easy. When Steve Sharik explained how you defend four verticals in the three-deep coverage Michigan would love to play all year if they can get away with it, he made it clear such a move was how you draw it up but not how it plays out much: frankly, three deep, one-high coverage sucks against four verticals. You know how a bunch of Michigan's passing plays in spring and fall came when the quarterbacks nailed the slot receivers in between levels in zone coverage? That's what happens, Larry, when you meet a stranger in the alps by playing exclusively one-high coverage.

So Kovacs is going to have to cover a deep half sometimes. This won't go very well, and Michigan's defense will be limited by it. On the other hand, the run defense shouldn't be nearly as bad with Kovacs filling the weakside alley; last year he racked up 75 tackles despite the late start. Marvin Robinson will press Kovacs for his job, but probably not take it. Iowa and Wisconsin have gotten away with players like him for years.

Freshman safety Cameron Gordon plays in Michigan's spring football game on Saturday, April 17, 2010 at the Big House.  (ARIEL BOND/Daily)

At free safety is this year's Grady Brooks memorial King of Spring Hype award: Cam Gordon. Though Gordon was recruited as a wide receiver, everyone on the planet expected he'd get his token chance at the position and then get flipped to defense, where Michigan desperately needed bodies and he projects better anyway.

This duly happened, except when Gordon and his 6'3" frame moved it was to free safety, not linebacker. This was pretty weird, and it got weirder still when the hype machine starter cranking out superlative after superlative. A sampling follows. Rodriguez:

“Cam Gordon has been really consistent all spring,” Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said. We’re “really getting some confidence with him.”

MGoBlog's own Tom Van Haaren reporting back from some conversations with players on the team:

Cameron Gordon is the most surprising for everyone. His name keeps coming up. I’ve heard that he tackles well and has really good coverage skills. The people I’ve talked to say he’s just a natural ball hawk. Good decision to move him to safety.

By the spring game he was the undisputed starter at free safety; he managed to get through that without anyone even noticing him. In the safety business this is a win.

Unfortunately, Gordon struggled in the fall scrimmage, failing to wrap up on a number of tackles. Rodriguez was sticking to his guns afterward:

"Yesterday was not his best day practice wise, but other than that, he has a really good camp. He is a very physical guy and the game is really important to him. Again, he has not played. He has not played in the big stage yet. There is going to be nerves and there are going to be some mistakes, but he has just got to limit them… we look for a big year for him even though he is a redshirt freshman.”

As a redshirt freshman, a "big year" would be wrapping up his tackles and not letting anyone behind him for crippling long touchdowns. With his lack of blazing speed and inexperience, actually making plays seems out of the question. Misopogon dedicated a couple of his epically researched posts to the safety play and found that Brandent Englemon's traditional 1-0-1 as a junior was actually the second best performance of any safety in the UFR era (with Jamar Adams obviously finishing first).

Repeating that +0.7 per game would go a very long way towards bringing Michigan's defense back from the dead. That's optimistic. Cam Gordon will chase more than a couple opponents into the endzone. But not on third and twenty-four.


marvin-robinson-abs marvin-robinson-no-shirt

Marvin Robinson is the most shirtless recruit in the world

If you've been watching the Countdown to Kickoff videos frequently, you've probably experienced the same sort of cognitive dissonance I have when #3 comes roaring in from somewhere else and whacks a guy to the ground authoritatively or picks off an errant pass. This is not the competent-to-good LB hybrid version of Stevie Brown, it's Marvin Robinson, Michigan's first great hope for bandit. As a true freshman, the book on Robinson is contained in his recruiting profile, but you're probably familiar with the general outline by now: hyped Florida recruit enamored with Michigan since a freshman trip to Michigan's summer camp, early offers from USC, Florida, and the rest of the world, precipitous fall in the rankings, still a highly regarded prospect with athleticism Jordan Kovacs can only dream of.

Robinson's early performance has him pushing Kovacs. Woofolk noticed him even before practice started, and Greg Robinson knows a lady-killer when he sees one:

"I know this: he walks around the building looking really good."

His performance in fall was highlight-heavy and caught the attention of his teammates. He finished second to Jonas Mouton when media day poll asked who the hardest hitter on the team was. Ricardo Miller was one vote:

"When he comes to hit, everyone knows it. I think he's cracked his helmet twice this camp, and if that doesn't show you enough that he can, I don't know what could."

Robinson has huge size and speed advantages on Kovacs and will certainly play this fall, possibly as a passing-down replacement, possibly as something more. In an ideal world he would be so good he would ease Kovacs out of his starting role by midseason. I don't think that's likely since the bandit position is extremely complicated, but I do expect some sort of platoon where Robinson gets ahold of some parts of the playbook he executes better than Kovacs and is brought in regularly.

 Michigan freshman safety Vladimir Emilien snares a pass during Thursday afternoon, August 20th's practice at the Michigan practice facility. 
Lon Horwedel | Ann
At deep safety, Vlad Emilien still seems like the first option behind Gordon but his initial returns have been discouraging. He enrolled early—giving him just as much experience as Kovacs—and then never played, Turner-style, despite the debacle going down on the field. Word was that the senior-year knee injury that cost him almost all of his senior season and his Ohio State offer lingered through the year. With that almost two years in the past now that can no longer be an excuse—any damage still lingering is permanent.

There may be some, as it was Emilien who was left in the dust by Roy Roundtree on the 97-yard strike from Denard Robinson in the spring game; Teric Jones caught and passed Emilien en route. Getting instantly passed by a position-switching guy the same class as you is a bad indicator, as is ending up behind a walk-on on the depth chart.

That walk-on is Jared Van Slyke, about whom nothing is known except his father is really good at baseball. True freshman Ray Vinopal (recruiting profile) is also at free safety. Rodriguez did mention him as a guy who has "a chance" to play this fall, he didn't show up on the first depth chart and he's probably going to redshirt.

The deep safety situation is grim past Gordon; if he doesn't work out you're either starting two walk-ons, moving up Emilien, who doesn't seem ready, or shuffling Robinson and or Kovacs around.

Media Day: Players

Media Day: Players

Submitted by Tim on August 25th, 2010 at 1:31 PM

Quotes from some of Michigan's players at Sunday's Media Day.

JT Floyd

"I wish [Troy Woolfolk] a speedy recovery, man. That was like my best friend. I looked across there and that was my man." Woolfolk has encouraged Floyd to keep his head up, and work to make the secondary as good as possible.

Floyd hasn't had to step up his leadership with Woolfolk going out. He's always been a high-energy guy, and will continue to be that way.

Floyd is excited for the opportunity to be the team's top corner. "Personally, I've worked hard for a very long time. I put a lot of time in this summer to work to get better. I just ready for the opportunity to really show what I can do."

Floyd had never played corner until he got to Michigan (he was always a safety in high school). He's now had two years at the position, and knows what to expect and how to prepare.

Darryl Stonum

Stonum's biggest improvement this off-season has been in ball skills. He was already running good routes, had good speed, and was recognizing coverages. He just needed to catch the ball when it showed up. Contact lenses have helped with that, as did working hard individually this summer.

Stonum tried to get a little bit bigger, because he takes a lot of hits with kickoff returns and receiver duty. The team worked hard this summer to get into shape.

The whole wide receiver crew has worked hard to show that they can be the #1 guy. The competition makes everyone better, and makes the team better.

Spending a couple days in jail this summer was a learning experience. It's in the past, and it's something Darryl can look back at, making sure something like it doesn't happen again. Darryl, the coaches, and his family talked about it together, and made the best out of a bad situation.

Darryl and Junior Hemingway take a leadership role among the wide receivers. They're trying to show the younger guys the ropes. "Everybody's a leader. If you're doing what you're supposed to do, and you're someone that your teammate can look at and be like 'he's doing the right thing, he's doing what he's supposed to do' then you're a leader."

Craig Roh

"Last year, I thought I was just going to play a role in the defense. I had no idea I was going to start." He didn't find out until Friday before the first game.

Roy Roundtree

On whether there's more pressure to win this season: "More pressure? Nawww. We're at Michigan. We've always got pressure." The team just needs to go out there and play their hardest.

One of the reasons Roundtree came to Michigan is that he loves the tradition and academics (subtle Purdue dig?).

Even when he wasn't a big contributor last year, Roundtree was practicing hard every day. When he finally got his chance, he showed everyone that he had been working hard. "Now that I am almost like the head of the offensive corps, I still work my tail off and still the same things I did last year when I wasn't starting are the same things I'm doing now."

Vincent Smith

At first, Smith was a little worried about how his knee would hold up in practice. Now, "I'm just going out there to compete and just make it better and better every day." He's now feeling comfortable, and there's no pain in his knee.

Smith was never worried that his knee would never be the same. His lateral quickness means a lot to his game.

"It was pretty tough just going out there and seeing them playing" this spring, when he was held out of practice.

Everybody looked at Smith's size and height coming out of high school as negatives. Michigan saw more though, in his passion for football.

Despite Smith's size, he's more than just a third-down back. He's been preparing to be an every-down guy. He's gotten bigger and worked on the mental game this summer.

Michael Cox and Michael Shaw

Cox: "We've got a real good relationship with Coach J [Fred Jackson], we just gotta do what he asks us to do, and he'll be happy with us."

Shaw: "[Jackson] definitely knows what he's talking about. No question about it. Everything he says, you've gotta listen to it." The coaches have to be brutally honest in their constructive criticism, because that's the only way you'll get better and win football games.

Cox: The different backs give defenses more to prepare for. They can change up in the game and exploit different weaknesses.

Shaw: "I'm not gonna try to run over linebackers, but if Cox wants to do that - look at him - he's definitely a good fit for the job." Having a variety of roles for the running backs makes it better, because you can bring in a fresh pair of legs with no dropoff.

James Rogers

Rogers started the spring game with the ones, because Troy had just gone down with a finger injury. When that happened (and when Troy injured his ankle a week ago), Rogers knew he had to step up.

"I'm just here to play. I'm here to do whatever the team needs. I just get out here and I try to work hard every day." He can't worry about depth chart positions.

Rogers came in as a receiver, but told the coaches he was willing to switch positions to help the team as soon as he arrived in Ann Arbor. He's bounced around since.

Rogers is trying to prepare the young guys, and be a leader. Now that Woolfolk is out, he''ll have to step it up even further.

Woolfolk is a loose leader, and it helps calm down the players so they don't get too serious. Rogers's leadership style might not be the same.