Unverified Voracity Gawps At Stuff

Unverified Voracity Gawps At Stuff

Submitted by Brian on September 5th, 2012 at 12:02 PM

[Programming note: UFR is coming today, but later than usual, say 4 or 5. For some reason I'm having trouble summoning the willpower to slog through all of it.]

image

Sponsor note. You may be driving in for the Air Force game and wondering where you will park. It hangs over you like a great dark cloud: where will my friends be? Will I have to walk through miles of jungle to get to them? Where did all this jungle come from anyway?

Well, skip that bit. Park 'n' Party solves those issues by organizing gameday parking. You can park next to your buddies, no intervening jungle. You can reserve a space just where you want it. You can do all of these things. Bonuses this year:

Air Force parking awaits you. Soon they will debut a 2.0 website. Soon.

Holgo. I know they hate our guts and went all ex-girlfriend on us when Rich Rodriguez left, but I can't help but want West Virginia to tear the Big 12 up. They're weird, passionate, isolated from all recruiting hotbeds that are not Pittsburgh, they've got a history of putting up video-game numbers, and their coach says stuff like this:

I don't think it would go well if we hired that guy (learning: I has it), but I'll admire them from afar.

I am not sure you are up on recent events. Air Force coach Troy Calhoun on Michigan:

"There are a handful of programs in college football that are guaranteed at least 10 victories every season," Calhoun said, "Michigan is one of them. They clearly are the favorite to win the Big Ten Conference."

I'm imagining a world where this is literally true. I'm so happy, in this world. I wear sunglasses all the time and high five anyone I come across. I make pancakes a lot just so I can put a whipped-cream smiley face on them. If my car breaks down, I exclaim "aw, shucks!"

I chew bubble-gum nonstop.

0902_taxi_fans08[1]

my watch says it is STAB O'CLOCK

How did this not end in homicide? Serious question:

The misery wasn't over for some fans of the No.8-ranked Michigan Wolverines on Saturday night at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington when their team took a 41-14 pounding at the hands of then-No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide.

Many who planned to catch a taxi for the return trip to their hotels or other lodgings after the nationally televised football game were in for a long wait. Some complained of standing in line with dozens of other fans and waiting as long as two hours for a cab.

Beer + that game + two hour wait for cab == STABBY STABBY STAB STAB. The local news channel interviewing these folks says this lady is not mincing words!

Michigan fan Elizabeth Jahn minced no words. "If there's a system, and this is where the fans are supposed to be stationed and situated, that should be communicated to the cab companies," she said.

That lady minced those words, TV station. She took those words and made them tiny and even by chopping. If she was not mincing words she would have said "I STAB YOUUUUUUU."

Alphabetical. Spencer kicks it off by talking about how Alabama owned Michigan. At least we're not alone:

Again, it is not a Big Ten thing: disabuse yourself of that notion immediately, Michigan fan. The last thing we want you feeling is special, because what happened to you on Saturday night in Dallas was not special. Slightly different than in past years? Perhaps: Doug Nussmeier's offense appears to be a bit more happy to turn A.J. McCarron loose, particularly in early innings, and the defense didn't pressure so much as constrict Michigan into tiny, useless spaces turning Denard Robinson into a doomed sub captain. Depth charges: Alabama has them

Unfortunately, his assertion that no one died does not account for the Countess injury. Sad face.

Bubble popping? I've muttered about how college football fans are getting close to the breaking point for a while now, and Pat Forde has just documented an opening weekend that was an attendance bust all around. I was shocked at more than one of these factoids:

There was exactly one announced capacity crowd in eight Southeastern Conference home openers. Before the Labor Day Georgia Tech-Virginia Tech game, six out of seven Atlantic Coast Conference schools had smaller crowds than their openers last year – some of them much smaller. Attendance was down at six out of eight Big 12 home openers from 2011. Five out of eight Pac-12 schools had smaller crowds as well, and Oregon's 13-year sellout streak was in jeopardy until game day.

I saw the Florida-BGSU game and was shocked at a corner of the endzone in the upper deck that was all but empty. Even the bluebloods are reaching their limit.

Michigan doesn't seem to have similar problems except when it comes to getting the students to show up on time, but they should benefit from this trend. They may have already after snagging one-off home games with Oregon State and Colorado in the near future. Would those have happened ten years ago? Probably not. Increasing ticket prices and the ubiquity of television are pushing the economics of college football back  towards actual games between teams. Tomato cans aren't going away but we should see them gradually recede from their boring-ass apex. High five, epic ongoing recession!

Bubble expanding. Via Get The Picture, the Ed O'Bannon lawsuit that threatens to drain money from the NCAA and give it to the players whose images have been expropriated has decided to aim higher:

O’Bannon seeks a judge’s permission to expand the class action to include current D-I football and men’s basketball players. O’Bannon does not ask that current players be paid while in college. Instead, he wants a temporary trust set up for monies generated by the licensing and sale of their names, images and likenesses. Players could access those trusts at the completion of their collegiate careers.

The O'Bannon plan sends half(!) of broadcasting and a third of video game revenue to the players. Even partial success here would be seismic. I'm in favor, obviously.

Austin Hatch to 2014. Everyone in the world speculated that Austin Hatch would take another year of high school after his tragic plane crash, and now that's official. He's a 2014 recruit now.

Michigan is now at 13 for next year's team will have open spots if Hardaway or Trey Burke head for the NBA, which is why they're still after some 2013 guys. The most prominent is Reggie Cameron, a 2.0 version of Smotrycz hopefully without the existential depression.

As for Hatch, if he doesn't recover to the point where he can play, Michigan will still honor his scholarship. Presumably they would give him a medical; I'm guessing in this situation the NCAA would provide whatever waivers would be necessary lickety-split.

!?!?!?!? Touch the Banner interviews JB Fitzgerald, and he says this!

(3.)  If you had to choose, who was your favorite coach at Michigan, including position coaches?

"So many great coaches I had the privilege of learning from, which I expected going into a program like Michigan. Two coaches really stand out.  First, Greg Robinson - truly a class act and the depth of football knowledge that I was able to gain from him is hard to put a price on. And then of course Coach Hoke."

/gawps

Air Force stuff. Via mgovideo:

Oosterbaan unretirement. MVictors scores an interview with Ben McCready, Bennie Oosterbaan's godson:

MVictors:  As one of the representatives of Bennie Oosterbaan family, did the athletic department reach out to you to ask if the family would be interested in participating in the Legends program?

McCready:  Dave Brandon contacted me last September to see what I thought of the Legends program.  I loved the idea.  He and asked if I could put him in touch with members of Bennie’s family. I was happy to put Dave in touch with Bennie’s surviving relatives (8 in all), most of whom Bennie and his wife Delmas were very close to throughout their lives.  Dave sent letters to all of them. Every member of the family responded to Dave that they loved and supported the Legends Program and the "unretiring" of Bennie’s jersey.

McCready wants Jordan Kovacs to wear 47, which nooooooooooooooooooo.

Seriously, though, as the guy who famously hauled in Benny Friedman's passes, I'd hope Oosterbaan's 47 goes to a wideout. 47 would be a lot more notable on a WR than a defensive player, and Michigan already has to throw Gerald Ford's #48 to someone other than a lineman due to modern-day number restrictions. The Wisterts' #11 should end up on the DL somewhere; Ron Kramer should obviously be given to a TE.

Etc.: Quality diary featuring Hall and Oates. A dinged Rex Burkhead does not need surgery. He may be out a bit but should be fine by the time Michigan hits Lincoln. Texas A&M is going to get pwned. This Week in "John L Smith must stay forever": prank-calls reporter at presser. Comprehensive M blogosphere Alabama react collection. To his credit, Dantonio says MSU players need to shut up.

Recruits In Retrospect: 2008 Defense

Recruits In Retrospect: 2008 Defense

Submitted by Ace on June 11th, 2012 at 4:32 PM


The Ballad of Boubacar is brief and unfortunate

This is the second part of an in-depth look at the 2008 recruiting class, and more specifically Brian's recruiting profiles for that class. You can find part one, covering the offense, here. If you'd like to peruse the recruiting profiles yourself—a highly recommended time-waster—you can find links to each position group here. Without further ado, let's look back at the eight-member defensive class of 2008. This one's not for the squeamish.

Mike Martin Wrestles Not Mike Martin, Which Goes As Expected

Let's start with the good, yes? Mike Martin not only stands as the clear-cut best player in the class, but outside of two-star Patrick Omameh may very well be the only player to surpass expectations from when he hit campus. Those expectations, at least from Brian, were pretty high:

Guru Reliability: High.
General Excitement Level: High. The highlight reel is totally impressive, there are zero questions about work ethic or how in shape he is, and he's got pretty good guru rankings.
Projection: Will play in the DT rotation immediately, and will probably leap past Ferrara, Kates (if Kates remains on the team), et al to claim a starting spot once Taylor and Johnson graduate.

The remarkable strength that helped Martin excel for four years at Michigan was also on full display during his high school wrestling career, and fortunately there is video evidence of a young Martin perfecting his Hulk Smash. A Simmons-style running diary follows:

0:00 — Martin and his opponent—"Mo" is his name, judging by the cheers from people around the cameraman—jog onto the mat.
0:07 — Mo removes what appears to be an ankle tether, so maybe this is just an elaborate criminal punishment that almost certainly violates the 8th Amendment.
0:14 — Martin shakes Mo's hand. Martin releases his grip and Mo's hand goes limp, never again to function properly.
0:16 — The match begins. Martin begins stalking his prey, who ignores his coach's cries to "circle, circle!" and instead backpedals furiously to avoid Martin's grasp. Within seconds, Mo finds himself out of bounds.
0:36 — At the restart, Mo goes for an ill-timed high-five. Martin ignores this desperate plea for peace and immediately dives for a single-leg takedown.
0:44 — Mo manages to ward off the takedown, but once again backs himself out of the ring. When facing Mike Martin, this is not cowardice, but simply a display of proper survival instincts.
0:56 — On the second restart, Mo lightly pats Martin on the head. If you consult page 56 of your Worst Case Scenario handbook, you know this is the last thing you want to do when encountering a Mike Martin in the wild.
1:12 — Martin gets his hands on the back of Mo's head then explodes for a takedown, knocking Mo to the very edge of the mat. Mo sees an opportunity for escape and frantically crawls for the exits. Mike Martin is having none of that:

1:20 — As Mo's compatriots cackle at his misfortune, Martin assumes control and pins his convulsing opponent, ending this match with relative humanity.
1:50 — The two shake hands as Martin is declared the winner. Martin goes on to star at Michigan. Mo reattaches his ankle tether, vows to straighten his life out, and hastily seeks both physical and emotional therapy.

This Did Not Go As Planned, Part I

The first, and highest-ranked, of the Cass Tech Lollipop Guild line of cornerbacks was Boubacar Cissoko, a top-50 overall recruit to every site save ESPN, where he was outrageously(!) pegged as the nation's #28 corner. Regrettable statement goes here:

Guru Reliability: Maximal. The unified chorus: this is a perfect cornerback except he's 5'8".
General Excitement Level: High. Obvious physical limitation aside, the perfect corner.
Projection: Plays as a freshman and is starting next to Warren by his sophomore year.

Cissoko flashed promise as a freshman in 2008, even starting two contests. Then Michael Floyd and Golden Tate lit him up again and again in 2009 before Cissoko went on a crime spree that quickly found him off the team and then incarcerated. While Cissoko obviously never reached anything close to the potential that had Brian so excited, his recruiting profile did feature one bit of eerie foreshadowing [emphasis mine]:

A couple years ago, I watched [current Detroit Lions CB Chris] Houston and Arkansas play South Carolina. Redshirt sophomore Sidney Rice was the Gamecock's big star and Houston lined up nose-to-nose with Rice in eff-you press man on every single play. Spurrier went after him again and again; sometimes he won and sometimes he lost, but usually because Rice reeled in a perfectly-thrown fade. It was a fantastic individual battle and I came away impressed with both players. So did the NFL: Houston went with the eighth pick in the second round; Rice went just four picks later.

Maybe this isn't the most reassuring comparison, as Rice did end up with 7 catches for 128 yards and Arkansas lost, but... hey... free second round pick!

Michael Floyd vs. Michigan, 2009: 7 catches, 131 yards, and a touchdown. Somehow, the Wolverines won anyway.

Instead of 3-4 years of Cissoko stardom, this was the guy who ended up as a multi-year starter at cornerback:

Guru Reliability: High. No reason he'd be under the radar; offers about commensurate with ranking.
General Excitement Level: Meh.
Projection: Though he's being brought in as a corner a move to safety is likely given the above, where he'll probably end up buried behind Stevie Brown, Artis Chambers, Stewart, and maybe Brandon Smith until his junior year, at which point he might develop into a contributor.

If you read that and went "sounds like J.T. Floyd," give yourself a cookie. At least, "meh" was most everyone's general impression of Floyd until last year's Illinois game; his emergence as a reliable starting corner means he's surpassed most reasonable expectations for his career.

The final secondary recruit was safety Brandon Smith, whose guru ratings took a Marvin Robinson-like dive for very similar reasons:

Smith looks like a prototypical collegian at a strapping 6'2", 210, but the lack of big time offers is telling. It's easy to believe Smith could lure the gurus in with his impressive frame at various combines and inflate his ranking while leaving college coaches relatively unmoved.

Excitement level was only "moderate" and a move to outside linebacker predicted. Smith moved to linebacker, then announced his intention to transfer before the end of the 2009 season. He landed at Temple and is not listed on the 2012 spring roster.

This Did Not Go As Planned, Part II

Michigan's recruiting haul included four linebackers rated as four-stars by Rivals, providing promise of much-needed depth and versatility for the position group going forward. The class included New Jersey's Marcus Witherspoon (Spoon!)...

An explosive edge rusher who's probably too small to be a fulltime defensive end in college? Add four inches and some chicken legs and that sounds like Shawn Crable, who actually spent quite a bit of time as a defensive end anyway.

...as well as Youngstown product Taylor Hill:

What does Michigan have in Hill? The comparison above, Larry Foote, is a strong one. Like Foote, Hill is an undersized WLB who played his high school ball as a defensive end and specialized in getting into the backfield.

As you know, the Wolverines did not end up with new versions of Crable and Foote. Instead, Witherspoon hit a snag with the NCAA Clearinghouse and eventually signed with Rutgers, while Hill was on the team for all of one game before transferring to Youngstown State.

Fellow linebacker recruit J.B. Fitzgerald—"a good bet to be a multi-year starter"—also joined the ranks of the disappointing. Kenny Demens is the only class of 2008 linebacker to make a significant impact despite being pegged as a "low upside sort" and getting a less-than-complimentary player comparison:

Chris Graham may not be the most appealing comparison, but the elements are all there: a little undersized (I am of the belief the 6'1" frequently thrown around as his height is overstated), has difficulting getting through traffic, praised for his short range burst and thumping tackling. Graham never figured out how to play in control or get to the right place at the right time and was thus a disappointing starter; if Demens can play smarter he could be anything from a decent starter to a borderline all Big Ten pick.

Admittedly, that's a pretty accurate assessment. Now let's try to forget about the carnage of this class, which featured the legal adventures of Justin Feagin and Cissoko, not nearly enough Sam McGuffie YouTube magic, transfers from several critical commits, the hope that Witherspoon could mitigate the loss of Nick Perry to USC, and no Terrelle Pryor. Though, on second thought, that last bit turned out just fine.

Michigan Museday: What We Asked of Them, Part I

Michigan Museday: What We Asked of Them, Part I

Submitted by Seth on November 22nd, 2011 at 7:57 AM

Seniors

EDIT: Moved Grady to this group

I've written plenty about the guys from the classes of '07 and '08 who didn't make it to this week. This one's for the guys who did.

Many had to overcome hideous, season-ending injuries to get here. They also stuck around through two paradigm-shifting coaching changes, or watched the guy and the system they committed to run out of town.What they signed up for was multiple Big Ten championships and Rose Bowls, but what they got was the most tumultuous years at Stadium and Main since Yost dug a hole in the ground.michael-shaw

What they leave is a program on the verge of a BCS bowl, on the verge of another reshaping, on the verge of one final chance to beat Ohio State. The leadership they provided helped Michigan avoid another painful transition, and set the tone for more success to come. There have been many great seniors to graduate from Michigan, but it is no derogation of them to say that this class is a bit special. Here are their stories (in reverse order of commitment):

EARLY RICH-RODIGAN JET-SMURFS:

Michael Shaw was the wizard hat to Trotwood teammate Roundtree's snake oil, a Penn State commit (Carr had wanted him as a CB) who switched to Michigan at the last minute. Unlike fellow '08 RB recruits he had neither captured the imagination of the Internet by hurdling fools, nor did he have a name that 13-year-olds use on prank calls. What Shaw had was speed, hands, and a cut-and-bounce move. People thought he might be a slot receiver. The era Shaw played in was replete with RBs of various skillsets, and proximity to Carlos Brown made for exaggerated comparisons. Various injuries made for sporadic appearances. He started the '09 Ohio State game and was nominally the starter at the beginning of this year. Everyone will have to pick their endearing memory of bouncy Shaw; mine will be the block on McNaul against NU (the purple one) and Batman.

Yearbook Quote:

"Normally they're keying in on me. I don't know why, but they're keying in on me, so that's where [Denard] gets his yards from … We had an idea they were going to try to contain Denard, but we also thought Notre Dame was going to try to contain him."

Martavious Odoms was billed as the perfect slot bug, the prototypical Rich Rodriguez Pahokee speedster with skillz who's completely overlooked because he's tiny. He was brought in to return kicks and punts, block like a mountain goat, and catch bubble screens. Whenever someone of the old guard complained about "little Florida guys" who "won't saytaymake it in the Big Ten," they were talking about Odoms.

Tay almost immediately grabbed that slot position and led the team in receptions as a somewhat fumbly true freshman. His sophomore season it was his mountain goat blocking and magnificent TD against Indiana that prevented a Hoosier loss from ever being added to the pile of Rodriguezian indignities. But he sprained a knee against Penn State and missed the rest of the season while redshirted classmate Roy Roundtree exploded. Odoms returned as the world's smallest outside WR in 2010 until a broken foot knocked him out for the second half of the year. This year several broken bits kept Odoms on the sideline as Gallon emerged, until Odoms reprised the Indy TD (@8:51) against Nebraska.

Yearbook quote:

Denard, can you talk about what you saw on the Odoms TD?

Denard: “Me and Martavious had a race, what, two years ago? So I saw that he can run, and he went right past the defenders and I put it in the air.”

What happened in that race?

Odoms, to Denard: “… What happened?”

Denard: “You have to tell them. You have to tell them.”

Odoms: “No, you should tell them.”

Denard: “Ah … he beat me. He got a win there. He got a win.”

Kelvin Grady committed to Michigan before any of these guys, but for basketball. After his sophomore ('08-'09) season Grady left the backcourt to join his brother in Rich Rod's basketball on grass. Grady also left his sure scholarship, and had to compete with the rest of the walk-ons to earn a football one (he did). Grady19 immediately pushed for playing time in the now crowded slot rotation, showing great route running but not so great hands. kelvin_gradywallpaperThen last year the hands improved—as in he caught almost everything thrown his way—and also became the designated reverse guy.

This year he's rotated in every game, despite there being another guy who's "emerged" at his position every year he's been here (Odoms, Roundtree, Gallon). His eligibility will run out after this season, but Kelvin has already received his Bachelor's degree, and is a year into his Master's in Social Work.

Yearbook quote:

"It crossed my mind that I wouldn't have anything," said Grady, who started 25 basketball games as a freshman before seeing his time reduced last year. "I'd be out. I'd be just like the rest of the guys back home who dropped out of college and didn't have anywhere else to go. But I'm too strong. I've got too much will. I've got a family that supports me. I've got a brother [Kevin, a senior running back for Michigan] that's working hard.

Yearbook quote II:

"I just want to say to you Florida boys it's not so bad in Michigan."

Terrence Robinson may not get a 5th year; the Texas 4-star was another slot bug who actually won the job in '08 before Odoms. He caused a Nebraska fumble on special teams this year—I don't know what his plans are if there's a scholarship available.

667015PLAYERS COMMITTED TO MICHIGAN:

J.B. Fitzgerald got the Victor Hobson designation in the four-man YMRMFSPA haul of Foote-Hobson-Crable-C.Graham. This was thanks to um, large hands? Fitz also was considered quite raw, needing considerable coaching on his read and reaction skills. In this, it's hard to argue that Michigan didn't fail him, provided Jay Hopson then GERG as his position coaches. Fitzgerald was never a threat to displace Obi Ezeh or Jonas Mouton, except when the coaches got so fed up with those guys they put Fitz in (after they tried Kevin Leach). He did see some starting time at OLB late last year due to injuries, but has since been passed by the likes of Ryan and the freshmen. An academic All-American, Fitz will graduate with a degree in sport management.

Yearbook quote:

"Physical's how we like it." (half of this guy's quotes can be taken out of context, the other half are about his family).

Until 2011, Kevin Koger (not Kroger) was the last head-to-head recruiting battle with [glances around, whispers] you know who in Ohio that Michigan actually won. Brian said he was Carson Butler minus the attitude and projected a future move to defensive end. Damn right about the attitude – Koger is a 2011 team captain and the Ryan Van Bergen of the offense.

Koger raised the hype meter a bit by scoring that TD versus Wisconsin in his first career catch, and then hauling in a one-handed flying stab in garbage time versus WMU in '09 that was more entertaining than 2lc78nkConer throwing D.O.'s to walk-on receivers with Mets' last names. This year he made another ridiculous catch over the middle versus Western. Koger's production on the field hasn't changed much from sharing time with Webb in 2010 (14 catches for 199 yards and 2 TDs) to being the guy in Borges's offense (17 catches for 195 yards and 3 TDs). Blocking Purdue's DEs (at top of screen, blocking 49) was a lot of fun.

Yearbook quote:

So I headbutted @VanBergen53 without a helmet on and he had his on #BadLifeDecision lol

In parts of the internet where trite metaphors are allowed, the phrase "Mike Martin is a beast!!!" is stated repeatedly, the number of exclamation marks varying from one to however many it takes to break a keyboard depending on how many yards backwards the poor sap charged with blocking him traveled before reestablishing radio contact. In less savage parts of the internet, people made things like this:

martinhulk

all the time. You can even put him in a micro fleece Balaclava and put Greg Robinson behind him (below) and he still looks like he's about to kill a quarterback any second. So of course Michigan put him in a micro fleece Balaclava and put Greg Robinson behind him. He was still the best player on the defense once Brandon Graham left; actually he beat out Graham for Michigan's '09 DL award.

A late-blooming prospect, Martin got his offer in June after Georgia DT Omar Hunter turned Michigan down. He committed immediately, and remained committed when a flood of others, including ND, came in after the coaching change. Martin arrived able to bench press like NFL first rounders, and ESPN said he looks like a crab.*

He immediately entered the DT rotation with Taylor and Johnson, and then spent the rest of his career here as a nose tackle because Michigan didn't have any other guys on the interior who could demand double teams. GERG's great idea to utilize Martin was to make him the centerpiece of 3-man rushes. After his junior year, Martin's personal accomplishments matched those of Alan Branch, with a far worse supporting cast.

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

*I think when people say "crab" what they mean is pad level. From now on when I hear "crab" I will declare that prospect someone Michigan must get. I want an entire DL that consists of nothing but crab people who squat 520 and chase QBs like they're Shawn Crable.

----------------------------------3900110853_658e3dc931

Despite having NFL prospects, despite a new coach and staff again again, he stayed. He said:

"‘What are we going to do as a team? Where are we now? We can either not be all in and do what we need to do, or we can work hard together and make sure we’re successful.’ ”

Hoke was also in the room. He remembered Robinson being upset at the media speculating his departure. He remembered fifth-year senior center David Molk getting up in that same meeting and telling everybody the team was going to stick together. …

“When (Robinson) came to us, he was addressing that we as a group — including him — need to make sure that none of the younger guys have doubtful thoughts or might want to stray away,” Martin said. “We didn't want there to be a repeat of last time there was a transfer of a coach.”

Tomorrow: Those Who Stayed (the Class of '07):

Troy_spread03333molkmoforyan-van-bergen

Picture Pages: How Not To Defend Power, Part II

Picture Pages: How Not To Defend Power, Part II

Submitted by Brian on September 7th, 2011 at 2:38 PM

Last time on Picture Pages we saw how hopeless n00b Brennen Beyer made life very difficult for Michigan on a 25-yard counter play Western ran in the second quarter. Poor linebacker play from Kenny Demens and Carvin Johnson contributed.

A bit later in the half, Western would go back to the well. How would Beyer react?

It's first and ten at the Michigan 17 on Western's third drive. They've taken the ball from the Michigan 47 to get here. Western comes out in the same look-ma-spread-in-shred formation and will run the same counter play they ran before. Michigan is again in an aggressive one-high press look:

second-counter-1

A lot of backups are in. The DL is Beyer/Heininger/Brink/Black. LBs are Herron, Fitzgerald, and Johnson walking down into the box.

On the snap it's the same business, with the backside G and H-back pulling around. This time Beyer's got it figure out, though. You can just see his head popping out from behind the tackle who is releasing downfield:

second-counter-2

All right, now we are in the business. Or not. You can read the title.

second-counter-3

Beyer disappears in the above frame because he is making contact with the G at about the LOS. Also look at the linebackers. Fitzgerald has not moved; Herron is starting to run at the play.

Doh:

second-counter-4

Beyer has run inside and gotten sealed at the LOS approximately where the center started the play. The fullback sails outside no problem. Instead of making a pile he's just created a huge hole by removing any leverage available.

Meanwhile Fitzgerald is getting cut to the ground. He's hardly moved despite a guard pulling in front of his face, and thanks to that Johnson can't flow. Neither can Brink, who is giving ground to pursue but just gets cut.

Herron, for his part, is going to blow the leverage again…

second-counter-5

…but it wouldn't have mattered much because there's hardly anyone behind him.

Zoom!

second-counter-6

Kovacs cleans up again.

second-counter-7

Video with dramatic pause:

Object Lessons

Someone took Beyer aside and told him how he'd screwed up on the first power and what to do. If you look at the comments on the last one there is some debate about whether or not Beyer was absolved because of a blitz. I don't think that's entirely possible; if you're blitzing and no one's blocking you off the edge while the QB executes a mesh point you need to slow your roll and adjust. Beyer didn't; someone told him he should do that.

Beyer took that advice and overcompensated a la Cam Gordon playing safety last year. I'm still not sure if they were playing to squeeze or spill. I'm guessing squeeze. This is the cost of playing freshmen. This kind of thing will get better.

I do wonder why he's even on the field. If they're going to run a four-man line I'd rather have Brink and Heininger out there than Beyer, since at least they've played football in college before. I guess you have to chalk that up to the heat and the necessity to play the walk-ons on the interior, which means just terrible things about Ash/Campbell/Washington. If Cam Gordon returns next week it wouldn't surprise me to see Ryan in Beyer's role.

Yet more indecisive linebackers. A guard pulling is a dead giveaway as to the direction of the play and twice we see Michigan players not reacting to it at all. If they're not reading the G whatever they are reading is not giving them a heads-up quickly enough.

This may be four defensive systems in four years with three coordinators; it may be a talent issue. Demens suggests it's at least some of the latter. Either way, Fitzgerald sits entirely still until he's chopped to the ground by a Western OL, which eliminates not only him but Johnson and Brink thanks to the location of the block. Meanwhile, Herron has a tough job that he does poorly with, losing leverage on the play.

I assume days that aren't blistering hot will see Demens on the field for every snap, but if he's hurt we're screwed and WLB is a real problem. Herron had two touchdowns and is going to end up significantly negative on the day.

Heininger does not accomplish what RVB does. He gets sealed away and is trying to spin free when the LB-FB contact occurs; he's in no position to help if Herron turns it inside, which he doesn't because no one turns it inside ever. This may be a slight exaggeration born of frustration.

Preview 2011: Linebackers

Preview 2011: Linebackers

Submitted by Brian on August 30th, 2011 at 10:39 AM

Previously: The story and the secondary.

A note before we start: this preview relies heavily on the defensive UFRs of last year because there’s a convenient numerical system that does a decent job of summing up a defensive player’s contributions. One caveat: the system is generous to defensive linemen and harsh to defensive backs, especially cornerbacks. A +4 for a defensive end is just okay; for a cornerback it’s outstanding.

obi-ezeh-hurdlejonas-mouton-after-illinois

 

Well… they're gone. For better or worse the two linebacking stalwarts of the Rodriguez era are out the door, destined for San Diego or the real world. Though no one's going to memorialize Obi Ezeh and Jonas Mouton in song, they endured the transition from Ron English to Scot Shafer to Greg Robinson to Dr. Vorax, the stuffed wolverine Robinson insisted was the real coordinator of the insane 3-3-5 Rodriguez demanded. If anyone can feel hard done by the Rodriguez era it's them.

HOWEVA, Dr. Vorax and other assorted coaching indignities cannot explain away much of the horror Michigan suffered at their hands. Mouton was linebacker Janus, singlehandedly crushing fullbacks and even pulling guards en route to TFLs a few plays before losing contain yet a-goddamn-gain against opponents as meek as UMass.

Ezeh, for his part, was first amongst equals as this blog's whipping boy the last couple years until the Penn State game, when Greg Robinson became public enemy #1. His trademark move was sitting completely still until an offensive lineman screwed him into the ground.

Midyear, former Michigan linebackers were dropping the word "inexcusable." A fresh start is called for.

Depth Chart
SLB Yr. MLB Yr. WLB Yr.
Cam Gordon So.* Kenny Demens Jr.* Mike Jones So.*
Jake Ryan Fr.* Marell Evans Sr.* Brandin Hawthorne Jr.
Brennen Beyer Fr. JB Fitzgerald Sr. Desmond Morgan Fr.

Middle Linebacker

Rating: 4

kenny-demens-iowakenny-demens-beaver

Right: Demens hangin' with Doctor Vorax

MICHIGAN PROVIDES THAT with three relatively new starters. The most established new blood is redshirt junior Kenny Demens, the man who inexplicably languished behind not only Ezeh but walk-on and converted fullback Mark Moundros at the start of last year. That seemed like plenty of evidence to write the kid off, so this blog did:

The enigmatic Kenny Demens is third string in the middle; after a seemingly productive spring he dropped off the map and has generated zero fall mentions as Moundros climbs the depth chart. He played sparingly in the fall scrimmage; last year he was passed over for walk-on Kevin Leach when it came time to replace Ezeh temporarily. He's spinning his wheels, seemingly on track to watch this year. Next year both of the guys above him will be gone and he'll get one last chance to step forward; the tea leaves are not encouraging at the moment.

Demens then watched as Ezeh played at his usual level until the Iowa game. Desperate for anything after being gashed by Michigan State, Robinson finally put Demens on the field. We finally saw what was keeping him from playing time:

Only the machinations of the traitorous Vorax. That's not a play Ray Lewis is going to have on his hall of fame reel but it stood out to me after years of watching Ezeh try to clunk his way through traffic. Demens steps to the right as Iowa runs a counter but reads it, steps around traffic, and is there to tackle once Mouton forces it inside. Demens did that on a consistent basis against all opposition (except Purdue, oddly). The sumptuous conversation about him after the Iowa game was excited:

Demens. Wow.

Yeah. Watching the game live I thought that he was an obvious upgrade over Ezeh but expected that when I went over the game in detail I'd find he was at fault for some of the longer Iowa runs or third down conversions, or had messed up in some way that had gone unexploited. I didn't. I found little things that I thought were good plays I hadn't seen live

How many times did Iowa RBs find themselves facing a line with no penetration and no holes in it? Several. How many times did previous Michigan opponents face this? Essentially never. Good DL play with crappy linebacker play yields a lot of penetration and a lot of lanes where the DL aren't. Crappy DL play with good LB play is this, a bunch of bodies on the line with no windows to squeeze through.

At least, he did when he was not subject to further machinations. Vorax saw his nemesis had escaped confinement and immediately upped his insanity level further. Below are Michigan's alignments in the first and second halves of the Penn State game two weeks later:

demens-1_thumb[12]demens-2_thumb[15]

left: first half. right: second half.

After getting annihilated by a terrible run offense in the first half Demens actually had to ask the coaches to move him more than a yard away from the nose tackle's rear. He struggled, but who wouldn't when the only thing between you and two guards is Adam Patterson and far too little space?

Demens recovered from that to register as one of the "heroes" of the Illinois game—he managed a +8, leading to cries of Anyone But Ezeh favoritism from readers—before registering his first clunker against Purdue. Demens got hooked pretty badly on a play that, in retrospect, I should have been harsher to the DL on since Dan Dierking roared through a truck-sized hole. Later he got lost and let Rob Henry rip off a big gain. He was one of few Michigan defenders to come out of the Wisconsin game with something approximating dignity.

KENNY DEMENS
plays in space
quick but under control
make a leaping PBU
killshot shakes the ball loose
tackle on the catch
jars the ball free
picking through trash
goal line gap shoot
slants past the tackle
reads and fills
scraping, waiting, tackling
picture-paged this.
not quite harris
runs to the backside
pulls an Ezeh and sits
wanders backside
smart
removes cutback

When everything was over Demens had racked up 82 tackles despite playing sparingly in the first five games. If he'd gotten the whole season he would have had numbers like that random Northwestern linebacker who ends up with 130 tackles at the end of the season because he's the guy roping down tailbacks after they pick up six yards.

It's clear by the rating above that I'm a Demens believer. I liked what I saw last year and I've seen MLBs who are pretty good to compare him to. David Harris, for one. He's not Harris but I think Demens is closer to him than Ezeh already. He just has a knack for getting to where the play is going. Though his coverage still needs some work he was decently effective in short zones last year. As a bonus, one of the few things practice reports have been consistent in is their Demens praise.

Demens will benefit from the move to back to the 4-3 under more than anyone save Craig Roh. With RVB and Martin shielding him from linemen he won't be in nearly as many hopeless situations where he's one-on-one with a guard He should be the team's leading tackler by a healthy margin and see his TFLs skyrocket from the measly 1.5 he managed a year ago.

Michigan's defense will probably be too bad to warrant much All Big Ten consideration, but honorable mention seems reasonable.

Backups

Marell-Evans(CAPTION INFORMATION)
Purdue's Joey Elliott is sacked by Michigan's Al Backey in the first quarter.         Photos are of the University of Michigan vs. Purdue University at Michigan Stadium, November 7, 2009.    (The Detroit News / David Guralnick)

I can't believe we had commemorative spring game jerseys
Also: Evans left, Fitzgerald right

Prodigal son Marell Evans returned from exile at I-AA Hampton to rejoin the team for his fifth and final year of eligibility. He probably wasn't expecting to see too much time after doing so, but there he was in the spring game, starting in Demens's stead. How well he did was in the eye of the beholder; around these parts I was "extremely leery" of the depth but offered up no reason as to why.

If forced into action Evans will be a wildcard. He hardly played at Hampton because of injury and hardly played at Michigan because of youth. He's probably not going to be that good. Over the course of the last month I received a couple of practice reports that slammed him pretty hard. Those aren't gospel, but that and his vagabond career to date are all we have to go on.

Fellow senior JB Fitzgerald is also hanging around this area of the depth chart, though no one knows exactly what linebacker spot he's backing up. It's never good when you've been around for four years and no one knows where you're supposed to play.

At least Fitzgerald is used to it by now. He's been kicked around since he arrived. On occasion he's even been drafted to play DE terribly when Greg Robinson runs out of ideas. When he pops up in UFRs doing something well, as he's done from time to time for years, I get all excited he might be finally breaking through. Then he never does. Fitzgerald's about out of time and there's no reason to think he's suddenly going to get it. He was passed by Evans as soon as he arrived; Jake Ryan emerged to back up Cam Gordon in spring; Michigan has a vicious melee for the WLB spot that Fitzgerald isn't even involved in. Without a plague of injuries he'll spend most of his final year providing leadership on special teams.

Strongside Linebacker

Rating: 2.5

cam-gordon-notre-damecam-gordon-osu

less deep half, more linebacker plz

Cam Gordon has finally found a home. He can buy a new couch and maybe a speaker system that attaches to the walls and everything. That it took this long is another symptom of the madness on defense last year. Gordon is linebacker sized and plays like a linebacker, except he was playing receiver as a freshman and thus tackled people in the same way a coke machine would: by running your bulk into a dude and hoping he falls over.

This was Michigan's last line of defense, and they paid for it many times over, starting against Michigan State:

His shoulder-block style of tackling was something he got away with before he faced Michigan State but against MSU he was bouncing off ballcarriers because they were big and strong enough to take the blow. Then he would try to drag them to the ground, which only worked sometimes and always gave up YAC.

Worse yet were Gordon's angles, which alternated between vastly too aggressive…

…and vastly too conservative…

…depending on which flaw he had just spent the week getting chewed out about in practice. And then there was that rainbow thing. I'm embarrassed to have pumped him up a bit after the Indiana game, though to be fair he did have an interception.

Gordon got shuffled to spur, a position roughly analogous to the strongside linebacker in a 4-3 under, for the Penn State game. Thrown into the fire at yet another position he had only the barest clue how to play, he struggled there as well. He was emblematic of that game's defensive implosion:

It's symbolic that this is the play where it all went to hell.

Demens has that dead to rights if he can just get some gang tackling help. Marvin Robinson whiffs, Cam Gordon vacates the only area Royster can go, and Royster makes a terrific play to spin outside for the first down. Great play, but you can't spin past three guys without something having gone horribly wrong. That's a true freshman and a redshirt freshman who was a wide receiver last year and a safety last week. FFFUUUUUUUU.

CAM GORDON
tackling issues
whiffs but gets lucky
safety ugh
takes a horrible angle on the pass
lost in coverage
too far off
some good stuff
intercepts Chappell
delivers a nice hit

Cam Gordon had a rough freshman year. Worse for our purposes is how useless it is for projecting his future. With half of his season spent at a position he'll never play again and the other half spent in an incoherent defense at a spot he'd learned for literally two weeks, his UFR chart isn't even worth looking at.

If you insist, it's not pretty even after he moved to linebacker. He managed to stay on the positive side against Illinois by blitzing a ton. I did note that "Gordon brings a physical intimidation factor the other two spurs don't." He didn't do much other than scoop up a fumble and run a long way against Purdue. Against Wisconsin he failed to register even a positive half-point and picked up this note: "Not involved much and didn't do well when he was." After that the malaise took over. He did have some TFLs in the final two games.

That doesn't mean much, though. Bounced from position to position and ill-served by the coaching of Greg Robinson and Adam Braithwaite, Gordon was put in a position to fail. He did. 

Now he's at a spot that makes sense being coached by people who make sense. Since he wasted a redshirt year playing offense and his freshman year trying to play safety he'll be farther behind the curve than an average third-year player. He's also pretty light for a strongside linebacker at 224. That will serve him well when he's asked to drop into coverage but will make fending off tight ends a struggle. A reasonable level of development gets him to a bit below average this year.

Backups

jake-ryan-mbrennen-beyer

Ryan, Beyer

There is one. The spring game was a dreary, depressing thing mostly notable for the various ways in which the quarterbacks looked awful, but one of the certifiable bright spots was the rampaging play of redshirt freshman Jake Ryan. Ryan had a pick-six, sacked Devin Gardner at least a couple times—hard to tell exactly what would have happened if they were live—and generally gave second-string OT Kristian Mateus more than he could handle. Mateus is a walk-on and all spring impressions come with free grains of salt, but as of the moment Ryan Rob Lytle-ed his helmet in spring, the hype train has left the station and will build up steam until such time as there's another guy to get hyped about.

In high school, Ryan was an outside linebacker in an actual 3-3-5. As such, he spent a lot of time screaming at the quarterback from angles designed to make life hard for offensive linemen. That's not far off his job in the 4-3 under but it comes with a lot more run responsibility—the SLB has to take on blockers in just the right spot so that he neither lets the play escape contain nor gives him a lane inside too big to shut down. Expect to see him on passing downs but only passing downs this fall.

Third on the depth chart is true freshman Brennen Beyer, one of the most highly touted recruits in this year's class. His recruiting profile has the goods: excellent speed and lateral mobility on a frame that needs and can put on a lot of weight. He was expected to play WDE and flipped to SLB after Frank Clark showed very well in fall. He was 100% lineman in high school and will need some time to adjust to new responsibilities. Hopefully they can get a redshirt on him this year.

Weakside Linebacker

Rating: 2

103109_SPT_UM v Illinois_MRMbrandon-herron-msu

it's tough to find shots of Jones and Herron in the wild

This is the most uncertain thing about the defense. Mouton left no ready heir apparent thanks to an injury that forced Mike Jones out for the entirety of 2009. Top competition Brandon Herron also missed a big chunk of last year. When he returned he mostly sat.

Jones returns atop the depth chart out of little more than momentum. Michigan fans haven't seen much out of him other than a few redshirt-burning tackles on kickoff coverage, so his recruiting profile will have to stand in for actual knowledge.

For what it's worth he does seem well suited to be one of those blitzer guys Greg Mattison promises will exist this year:

Exceptional edge blitzer that has great timing and quickness; speed rushes by the offensive tackle before he can get set. Offensive backs can't or won't block him when blitzing off the edge; really creates havoc in the backfield. Does a great job of using his hands to shed blockers in order to get to the ball carrier.

As a bonus, he's beefed up from 208 to 224, which is reasonable WLB size. Folks were talking him up as a "playmaker" during spring practice last time around. Little's been heard since. That goes for all of his competitors as well.

Backups

Those competitors are serious threats for the job. Michigan spent much of the fall shoving every plausibly-shaped available body to WLB, suggesting they aren't confident in Jones. Either that or they actually think they have depth. Mattison was unusually positive when asked about the WLB spot a couple weeks into camp:

That position and again I hate to ever say anything positive, I love how those guys are playing at times. At times, they are playing with such energy and such speed and such explosiveness. One day one of them, I’ll go wow that’s what we’re looking for and the next day he may have not as good a day and the other guy will step up. I think that one is a battle. That one is a battle right now and it is kind of a good battle to have.

Reality or Johnny Sears airy pump-up? We won't know that for a while. There are three experienced scholarship options. Whoever ends up winning the job might be bad; they probably won't be awful. There are three upperclass options before we dig up a freshman.

The second guy on the depth chart is fifth-year senior Brandon Herron, who's bounced all over the front seven in his time in Ann Arbor without managing to see the field much. He's got thirty-four tackles to his name, many of them in garbage time or on special teams.

Just when it looked like he might have a role in the 3-3-5 he came down with an injury and forced Roh to move back to LB. As a recruit he was middle-of-the-road, reputed to be a raw athlete. He'll probably see some time and not do anything spectacular with it.

Brandin Hawthornedesmond-morgan-25jpg-14ccbad0d4cfe4f1_large

Hawthorne, Morgan

Junior Brandin Hawthorne and true freshman Desmond Morgan also feature on the depth chart. Hawthorne is one of the Pahokee crew. He was a hilariously undersized high school player and has been bouncing between linebacker and safety the past couple years. He's happy to be back in the front seven:

"I was actually recruited as a linebacker so to be back feels really natural to me," said Hawthorne. "This is the position I played my whole life until I got to Michigan so it's nothing new, but I've had to learn the system, my responsibilities, and that takes time." …

"I'm not a real physical player - I'm more finesse - but I'm fast and smart," he said. "You need a brain on defense and I'm smart enough to recognize formations, and help move guys around. And I think I'm pretty good at making plays. I know I'm not going to overpower someone but I'm pretty good at slipping through the cracks."

Now up to 214 pounds, Hawthorne was getting some time with the first team during the select plays the media was allowed to watch. If his self-scouting is accurate he may be more of an option against spread teams. The weakside linebacker does get protected in the 4-3, so if he's got the speed and smarts Michigan might deal with the size.

The Big Ten Network was told to watch out for Morgan when their tour hit Ann Arbor, so they did. Viewers were treated to a shot of Morgan getting plowed over and over again as Gerry DiNardo tried to convince them he was the new hotness on the weakside.

Hoke has been talking him up. When asked about the linebacker situation outside of Demens Hoke went to Morgan first:

I think Desmond Morgan is a guy who we think is going to play some football for us. Mike Jones, we’ve played a little bit of MIKE and a little bit of WILL. Marrell Evans is playing some in there.

That was just a few days ago. Morgan was the MGoBlog Sleeper of the Year based on a wide array of scouting reports that praise his instincts, lateral mobility, and toughnosed hard gritty gritness. I thought he'd have to cool his heels behind Demens for a couple years, but he may get on the field quicker than anyone expected.

Preview 2010: Defensive Line

Preview 2010: Defensive Line

Submitted by Brian on August 31st, 2010 at 3:18 PM

Previously: The story, the secondary, and the linebackers.

Note: the confusion about if Michigan is actually running a 3-3-5 this fall or if it's more of the 4-3 with deathbacker hybrid, or if it's "multiple" or whatever leaves the previewer at a loss when attempting to slot players into familiar roles. I've decided to take Greg Robinson and Rich Rodriguez at their word and will treat Craig Roh like a defensive lineman who frequently fakes playing linebacker and occasionally (or more than occassionally) does. This may be off.

Defensive Line

Rating: 4.

Depth Chart
Deathbacker Yr. NT Yr. DT Yr. SDE Yr.
Craig Roh So. Mike Martin Jr. Greg Banks Sr.* Ryan Van Bergen Jr.*
Brandon Herron Jr.* Will Campbell So. Renaldo Sagesse Sr.* Jibreel Black Fr.
JB Fitzgerald Jr.* Richard Ash Fr. Terry Talbott Fr. Anthony LaLota Fr.*
 
The absence of Brandon Graham is immensely depressing but if you survey the above you'll see interesting things: seniors! Returning starters! Backups! A curious lack of walk-ons! Players with good recruiting rankings and promising careers to date! I totally went with the most depressing parts of the team first! Put away the gun!

Defensive Tackle

Rating: 4

(caption) Wisconsin center Gabe Carimi knocks heads with Michigan defensive tackle Mike Martin across the line of scrimmage in the second half.  ***  For the fourth week in a row, Michigan's defense gave up too many points in the second half, as the Wisconsin Badgers rolled to a 45-24 victory over the Wolverines at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison Wisconsin. The loss, Michigan's sixth straight in the Big Ten, drops the Wolverines to 5-6 overall, after starting the season 4-0.  Photos taken on Saturday, November 14, 2009.   ( John T. Greilick / The Detroit News )

MIKE MARTIN

GET IN THE CAR
sacks authoritatively
splits a double team
blows past the down-block attempt
zips around the center
SLASHING PAST OL
forces bounce
deep into the backfield
wholesale destruction
darts past attempted down-block
does attack on this one
DRIVING BACK
drives blockers backwards
drives the opposing center back
SEALED OFF
scooped

Martin blew up against Wisconsin, not that it ended up mattering.

Mike Martin was a promising freshman backup and promising sophomore starter. Now entering his true junior season, it's time for Martin to shed the promise and become the beast he has to be if Michigan's defense is going to tread water this season. With a position switch starter behind him at linebacker and Brandon Graham elsewhere, he goes from sidekick to superhero.

As you can see at right, Mike Martin is at his best using his agility and strength to zip past opposing offensive linemen and do mean things to ballcarriers in the backfield. The clips have a distinct lack of Watson-esque offensive lineman crushing; similarly, much of Martin's high school highlight video features him zipping around, not through overmatched kids. Though he can fight through opposition blockers from time to time and doesn't get blown back often, deploying him as a one-technique nose tackle exposes him to a ton of double teams—most of the highlights above feature him splitting two guys trying to zone him—and limits what he's able to accomplish. A switch to more of a 3-3-5, if that actually happens, will either mitigate this or provide outside linebackers windows to exploit; Martin's iron grip on the NT job is an indication that could be the plan. (More scheme discussion will take place later in the week.)

A quick survey of his UFR results from last year shows a guy who doesn't often end up in the minus column but also doesn't consistently produce like the star he has to be if Michigan's defensive line is going to maintain their productivity of a year ago:

UFR '09: Mike Martin
Opponent + - T Notes
WMU 5.5 1 4.5 Two great pass rush moves on the interior are most of those points.
Notre Dame 2.5 - 2.5 Decent tracking down the run but zero pass rush.
EMU 7 1.5 5.5 Much better job getting off blocks this week and more active; this is probably because of the competition. Still, he's promising. Probably needs another year before he's truly an anchor.
Indiana 4.5 - 4.5 Indiana could not move him.
Michigan State 7 5.5 1.5 Mental issues on the Cousins run and the final Caper run.
Iowa 9 4.5 4.5 Demonstrated great agility several times and had a couple good pass rush moves but got crushed off the ball four times, too.
Penn State 2.5 2.5 0 Off day.
Illinois 7 1 6 No frontside creases all day; too bad about the linebackers.
Purdue 4.5 0.5 4 Relatively quiet; not getting much pass rush this year.
Wisconsin 12.5 2 10.5 Huge day, especially early.

This, and the brief snippets of talent from Martin's freshman year when he was a backup to Will Johnson (after he snuffed out Wisconsin's second two-point attempt in 2008 I said he was "already kind of great" as a pass rusher), has seen this blog suggest/push/plead for Martin to slide to the three-tech spot made famous by Warren Sapp and occupied by backfield inhabitants Ryan Van Bergen and Alan Branch recently. In his third year in a college program, Martin has the potential to put up serious numbers if he can find himself one-on-one with sluggish guards. This requires a move away from the nose. It's also not going to happen, so you can put away your fancy dreams about Martin going all Babineaux on the Big Ten and dropping 28 TFLs.

Even so, it's time for Martin to make the same leap Brandon Graham did between his junior and senior years. I can't offer anything more powerful than this wonderfully ungrammatical assessment from Jibreel Black:

You look at the rest of this defensive line and there’s a lot of talent there, but is there anyone in particular that you look at and say, ‘wow man this dude is better than I thought he was? ‘

“Not necessarily better than I thought he was, because I know all of them are good, but when I see some plays that Mike (Martin) makes in practice, I be like dang. His explosiveness, his technique that he uses. You can tell the work that he put in with it.”

I hope to be like dang for large sections of the season.

Martin's reached the point where he's being held out of hitting because he's Mike Martin…

“Defensively, Mike Martin has had a tremendous camp. We limited him yesterday because we know what he can. He has been really good and probably our most consistent defensive player since camp started.”

…he's in good enough shape to crush the rest of his position group when Michigan does post-practice runs, he's an upperclassman with a year of starting experience under his belt… now is the time. I'm not sure if Martin will be on All Big Ten teams after the year, especially at a position at which statistics don't always tell the tale, but I'm confident in asserting he should be on them.

(caption) Michigan defensive tackle Greg Banks (92) clobbers Eastern Michigan running back Dominique Sherrer after a one-yard gain in the fourth quarter. *** Michigan defeated Eastern Michigan 45-17 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, rushing for 380 yards, but passing for just 68 yards. Photos taken on Saturday, September 19, 2009. ( John T. Greilick / The Detroit News )



renaldo-sagesse

Banks left; Sagesse right

GREG BANKS

OCCASIONAL NOTABILITY
burst past blockers
knifed through the line
cuts under his blocker

The other tackle spot will be manned by the two seniors. Michigan lists Greg Banks first on its UConn depth chart but moved 289-pound Renaldo Sagesse away from the nose tackle spot he played decently at a year ago to back him up; to me this signals an intent to wear Martin out and keep the three-tech/DE spot fresh with constant platooning. We'll address the two as co-starters.

Sagesse and Banks are like senior versions of the two 5'10 freshman corners. They were middling recruits; they've established themselves solid but uninspiring Big Ten players. The closest comparison I can think of in the recent history of Michigan linemen is Rondell Biggs, the other guy on the ridiculous 2006 line.

RENALDO SAGESSE

GENERAL COMPETENCE
blasts the LT back
forcing a cutback
shoots past the center's block
both blow into the backfield

Last year Sagesse was a "mysterious entity locked on the bench" after arriving at Michigan from the wild hinterlands of Quebec pegged to provide "functional depth." He actually did a bit better than that, as the clip reel shows: nothing negative enough to be worthy of pulling off, a few impressive plays, albeit against lower-level competition. The worst thing I've seen Sagesse do to date is get sealed and pancaked by Patrick Omameh in the spring game but we'll just chalk that up to Omameh being wicked sweet.

I was openly campaigning for Sagesse to get more playing time:

So this Sagesse guy is okay?

He hasn't seen much time but I have him down for +5 in that time with no minuses. Given the depth situation at DE and RVB's seeming inability to hold up—not surprising at 6'5" 270 something—doesn't it make sense to try Sagesse out as a starting NT and slide Martin over to the 3-tech? RVB can then back up the 3-tech and Graham. The line adds 30-40 pounds and doesn't have to roll out a walk-on when Graham needs a blow.

Van Bergen found his footing on the interior and that never came to fruition, but I remained on Sagesse's side to the point where I was campaigning for him to start this year, again so Martin could slide out.

Last year both started out well, with Sagesse picking up a total of 9.5 to the good against just one minus in the three nonconference games before Indiana; Banks had plus 6.5 and minus 0.5 in the same timespan. But from there both went radio silent, playing regularly but getting little in the way of up or down recognition. Sample reactions from the Big Ten schedule: "quiet," "meh," "played little," "also played little," and "one nice play for naught."

This isn't a terrible thing for a sparely-used defensive tackle, especially the nose spot Sagesse was at. Ideally you'd like some plays from the interior, but if Mike Martin is going to provide those you can deal with the other spot being functional. On the '06 Line of Doom, sophomore Terrance Taylor wasn't a star and that worked out okay. It is concerning that I didn't see either play in the Purdue game and Sagesse remained totally absent for Wisconsin.

Michigan's formations will go some way to determining which player gets more time. In three-man lines Sagesse is clearly going to be a pass-rush liability as a defensive end, but when Michigan goes to four (or brings in the "double eagle" package with the DEs lined up over the opposition guards) Sagesse's got more heft. I wouldn't be surprised to see both lifted for Jibreel Black or maybe Craig Roh on passing downs.

Take your pick of adjectives: workmanlike, yeoman, gritty, etc. Expect something okay here; the upside is low, but so is the downside.

Backups

And now everyone's worried about Will Campbell since his '09 cameos were unimpressive and he's stuck behind Adam Patterson on the depth chart. He's back on the upswing with his weight after losing a ton between the end of his senior year and fall camp, adding 15 pounds from '09 to '10. He now checks in at 333, the heaviest guy on the roster.

That could be good as Michigan starts putting good weight back on Campbell after his freshman year slim-down. It could be bad. Rodriguez complained about the conditioning of a "small handful," and Campbell seemed like an obvious candidate for the wingless doghouse. He wasn't in it, but that doesn't mean Rodriguez is pleased with his conditioning:

"He got a lot of reps in the spring with Mike Martin [out], and I think he got better. he's still got some things to work on, but he's a big, strong guy. Depending on what kind of shape he's in when we start will determine how quickly he can battle for that job.

"If he's in great shape when we come in, he can battle to start. If he's not, he'll struggle until he gets in shape."

On the field, Campbell lived up to his reputation as a very large guy in need of serious technique work. I've seen a lot of zone stretches by now and rarely has a nose tackle eaten it like he did against Iowa:

I'm not at the point where I can tell you the ten different things Campbell did to get blown four yards downfield, but I can blather on about pad level: man, pad level. Am I right?

That happened about midway through the year and Campbell virtually disappeared after it; the only other clip I've got on him is what seems in retrospect to be an excessively harsh evaluation of a big Baby Seal U run on which Vlad Emilien got pancaked and Kevin Leach blasted out of the play, too. But even so he did get sealed by the BSU center all too easily. There wasn't a lot of buzz about Campbell coming out of spring, and he failed to live up to this blog's expectation of a regular job in the rotation with an "an eye on maybe starting when Michigan goes bulky for games against ground-pounders like Michigan State and Wisconsin." As the Iowa cameo showed, that would have been a bad idea.

HOWEVA, planet-spanning defensive tackles take time, as West Texas Blue demonstrated in a diary running down the fates of Campbell's DT classmates. None of them did anything save OU's Jamarcus McFarland and (sigh) Arkansas's Dequinta Jones. Most redshirted, like Campbell should have. Since he's third team right now don't expect much more than short-yardage duty early in the year, with the hope being he can emerge into a competent Martin backup by midseason,

Meanwhile, Adam Patterson's odd Michigan career has taken another turn in his fifth and final year: he's now a nose tackle. An easy top-100 recruit out of South Carolina whose selection of Michigan was almost as surprising as Carlos Brown's, Patterson's been locked on the bench his entire career. My assumption was that the nose move ended any chance he had at regular playing time, but he's now second on the depth chart at a position that sees a lot of rotation. He'll play; I don't think he'll be much good. The dropoff after Martin will be similar to that Michigan experienced when Graham came off the field, though less severe since Martin won't be Graham and the backup is at least a senior.

There are a couple freshmen, about whom we know nothing that hasn't been covered by their recruiting profiles. Pahokee native Richard Ash went from 263 pounds about a year ago to 320 on the fall roster; with concerns about his fitness and drive dogging his recruitment he is a guaranteed redshirt as Barwis attempts to whittle him down to something approximating the player who briefly had Florida and USC offers before the weight got too sloppy. Everything the blog compiled on Ash is located at his recruiting profile.

Finally, Terry Talbott is a three-tech in the making. He's got the inverse issue: listed at 248 on Michigan's roster, he'll need a year and 20 pounds before he's viable. Neither appeared on the UConn depth chart; redshirts beckon.

Strongside Defensive End

Rating: 4.

ryan-van-bergen-vs-wmu 110709_SPT_UM v Purdue_MRM

RYAN VAN BERGEN

DRIVING BACK OTHERS
blows the RG back,
gets under Stewart
gets playside of his guy
tearing around the corner
drives LG three yards back
blows into the RG
blasts into the backfield
CRUSHED BACK HIMSELF
drives RVB out of the hole
Tackle blocks down on RVB
Ezeh(?!?!) follows him
trouble holding up
AGILITY FOR DE? POSSIBLE
deep into the backfield
slices through two blockers
again through the line
splits a double team
gets playside of his guy
tackling(+1) at the LOS

Brandon Graham is currently racking up defensive rookie of the year hype in Philadelphia, but the position is seemingly in good hands. Redshirt junior Ryan Van Bergen slides outside after a year starting at the three-tech defensive tackle spot. He was productive there, acquiring 40 tackles, 6.5 TFLs, and five sacks in his first year as a starter. He even tacked on four pass breakups, presumably on bat-downs at the line of scrimmage.

His season in UFR was okay for a DT:

UFR '09: Ryan Van Bergen
Opponent + - T Notes
WMU 5 0.5 4.5 More effective on review; did not give ground, albeit against a MAC team.
Notre Dame 2.5 3 -0.5 Looked a lot like an out of position DE.
EMU 1 2.5 -1.5 Not holding up very well against doubles.
Indiana 8 1 7 Did virtually nothing until the 85-yard run, then single-handedly killed the next drive.
Michigan State 9 4.5 4.5 Great day against an MSU OL that planned to turn him into dust and could not, but irresponsible pass rushing cost Michigan more than once.
Iowa 5 - 5 Very competent against a day of single blocking, which got him a lot of half points.
Penn State 4 3 1 Also not a great day.
Illinois 2 - 2 Not a major factor. [here this just becomes true so i say it again]
Purdue 2 2 0 Not a major factor.
Wisconsin 1 1 0 Not a major factor.

Disclaimers about UFR being a DL-friendly grading system apply; even so, that's pretty good for a redshirt sophomore entering the lineup for the first time. The drive after Indiana's "doomed from the start" 85-yard touchdown you may have seen on the sidebar when Jordan Kovacs or JT Floyd was discussed was probably my favorite series in last year's UFR process. Michigan desperately needed a stop and RVB provided:

Do you know what I did when Indiana had that 85 yard run?

No.

I thought to myself "I bet Ryan Van Bergen missed a check and will spend the rest of the game personally destroying the Indiana offense."

Really?

No. I threw the cat at the TV and vowed to find Jim Herrmann and find a way to blame it on him.

Ah so.

His hulk up after that play continued through Michigan State (when he was "going from a non-entity to a guy who's making plays") and Iowa, when he "only got a +5" because of an array of half-points. Unfortunatley it evaporated on a meh day against Penn State and for the rest of the year Van Bergen was hovering around the zero that is not a good day for a DL. I think some of that has to do with the rest of the defense: Illinois just kept going outside and Wisconsin passing over the middle, leaving few opportunities for him to make plays.

The move outside is a complicating factor, though it remains to be seen just how much of one it is. In the clips at left there's a section in which RVB gets MASSEY'D back; understandable since at 6'6", 271 there's only so much you can do to avoid getting blown back on every play. The ratio of good to bad there is encouraging, but more encouraging for his future as a defensive end is the section on agility and those five sacks. As a bonus, before he slid into the starting lineup he was Graham's backup.

Van Bergen knows the position, was recruited to play it, and is entering his fourth year on campus with a season as a solid starter under his belt. Least useful phrase ever: he's not going to be Brandon Graham. Mitigating phrase: but he should be solid. At a spot more amenable to pass rush and with more experience, RVB should brush up against double-digit sacks and see his UFRs climb into the consistently good realm inhabited by, say, Tim Jamison as a senior.

jibreel-black-sackingBackups

Here's a change: instead of massive attrition and injury bringing a walk-on into play, at this spot a walk-on's unavailability is a problem. Will Heininger tore his knee up in spring practice and will miss the season, leaving Van Bergen backed up by… some guys… I guess.

The guy who most prominent in the fall practice was true freshman Jibreel Black, a stocky 6'1" 262 pound pass-rush specialist who was issued the just-vacated 55 and has a special section in his recruiting profile in which people either say things that sound like Brandon Graham or just flat-out compare him to probably the best defensive end ever to play at Michigan. Here's Rodriguez:

“He wears No. 55 and looks a little like BG at times. But he’s got a burst and some natural athletic ability. I’ve been really pleased with his progress.”

No pressure, kid. 

Rodriguez further called out Black as "the freshman lineman most likely to have a chance to play." Black won't be much of a factor as a true freshman; hope for a year in which he holds his own when RVB needs a breather and maybe makes a couple of MAC offensive tackles look silly.

Redshirt freshman Anthony LaLota is also in the mix for playing time behind Van Bergen; he was a high four-star to the recruiting sites (recruiting profile) before a disappointing week at the Army game saw his rankings take a significant hit. He still checked in as a Rivals 250 guy and was just outside the Scout 100, so it wasn't too bad. Unfortunately, his height and weight were significantly overstated by the same sites and when he hit campus two inches and 30 pounds short of expectations, he was destined for a redshirt. He got that redshirt, got up to 256 by fall of last year, and is now listed at 270—possibly time to play, possibly in need of another 15 pounds since he's a couple inches taller than Black. The coaches have been radio silent on LaLota (a Google news search turns up zero, whereas Black is getting some pub), so it might be the latter.

Former tight end Steve Watson is also here, but he's pretty much David Cone on defense. I imagine if push comes to shove LaLota will see the field before he does despite the initial depth chart. That seems like a nod to seniority.

Deathbacker

 craig-roh-versus-purdue

CRAIG ROH

IRRESPONSIBLE BUT EFFECTIVE
blows up WMU draw
making an ankle tackle
JUST THE FORMER
cavernous gap
dropping into coverage
spinning inside of the OT
Incredibly open dig/seam
SPEED
hit Cousins as he throws
excellent on the stunt here
murders this dead
VETERANISH
reads the pull
gets outside and avoids a cut
SMALL
two guys double Roh

Roh against Purdue.

Rating: 3.

Craig Roh is the Denard Robinson of the defense: a highly touted recruit that should have spent his freshman year redshirting and sucking up Breaston-level practice hype before debuting as a promising but still so raw redshirt freshman in 2010. Since it's the Age of Doom, Roh had to start as a 225 pound defensive end in the Big Ten.

The results were mixed, trending towards negative. When opponents got a solid block on him he was done, something Michigan tried to prevent by slanting him extensively. That worked well enough, but since there's only so much you can do with a defensive end that small his pass rush repertoire shrunk from the Swiss Army Knife set that saw Roh rise to become a top 50 prospect on at least one site to the hope he could run around guys.

There was one major positive the clips at right don't show: he was seemingly better in coverage than Michigan veteran linebackers, able to track tight ends up to 20 yards downfield and surprisingly capable of doing something about it if and when the ball arrived. The hope at linebacker is that Roh's advanced coverage skills were Greg Robinson's doing.

But without further adieu, Roh's '09 numbers, keeping in mind that UFRs are slanted towards defensive ends and getting a small positive is treading water there:

UFR '09: Craig Roh
Opponent + - T Notes
WMU 5.5 1 4.5 Pretty good debut; showed a variety of pass-rush moves including a sick spin.
Notre Dame 2 3 -1 Drew a key hold but mostly neutralized. Looked like a freshman.
EMU 6.5 3 3.5 A couple of nice plays when EMU put him on the edge and tried to fool or read him. Athleticism should be an asset against zone read teams.
Indiana 3 1 2 Not really in on much.
Michigan State 4.5 0.5 4 Not getting as much pressure as you'd like, though.
Iowa 5.5 1 4.5 Had a couple hurries, used his athleticism well from the backside on a couple runs.
Penn State 4 1 3 Got a sack against the real side of the PSU D.
Illinois 7 2.5 4.5 Effective slanting all day; not great in pass rush yet.
Purdue 6 4.5 1.5 Extensive discussion below.
Wisconsin 4 6 -2 Wisconsin was always going to be the team to own him.

The Purdue game exposed Roh's limitations more obviously than any other. The Boilers lined up in an array of 3x1 sets and got big gains by running right at Roh when he lined up to the open side of the field:

Michigan flipped Graham to that side of the field and Purdue started rolling away from him to the receiver-heavy side of the field, completing a bunch of wide open passes. Michigan flipped back and Roh was again unable to fight through blockers to maintain his edge:

As the UFR made clear, there are a lot of reasons Michigan's defense was so porous last year but running out a freshman defensive end was one of them. The end result:

Roh did some good stuff on slants and was responsible when he had an opportunity to overrun plays, which gives him that modest positive score above, but big minuses in pressure fall mostly on the shoulders of the DEs and when one of the DEs is Brandon Graham they fall mostly on the shoulders of the DE who isn't Brandon Graham. So if you apply a chunk of that pressure metric to Roh, you get a solidly negative day.

This year Roh is better prepared for the rigors of the Big Ten. Rodriguez:

“He played last year at about 225 as a true freshman and did a good job. Now, he is probably closer to 240 to 245 and running just as well if not better. I think that and the experience that he has been out there before, you can see. He’s guy that we want to move around a little bit. Craig is a very active, high-motor player and being able 245-250 pounds is going to let him hold up…especially with those big physical team, starting with the first game.”

Going from 225 to 245 and from freshman to sophomore means Roh should make a greater leap than anyone else on the defense. He came to Michigan with a mountain of recruiting hype based on his diabolical array of pass rush moves and dominating Under Armor Game performance. He's got the hype; he's got the weight; he's got the experience…

Sort of! The catch in the Craig Roh explosion is this niggling move to the 3-3-5, where he's a strongside linebacker:

As Michigan's defense worked more in the 3-3-5 set during spring ball, Roh divided his time between linebacker and defensive line.
"There’s some changes," he said. "I’ve never been in a linebacker [position], second-level, setting up there. Some guys are playing basically the same position they played last year. For me, this is something new and different.

"[Defensive coordinator Greg Robinson] is helping me a lot with the learning curve."

No one's sure how much Michigan will be running a three man line this fall but it will be some, which will give Roh the ability to attack from surprising angles and use his vertical speed to get into the backfield. It will also expose him to play action, counters, and other plays he's not used to dealing with much that can take advantage of the inability to change direction that had everyone projecting him as a defensive end despite being linebacker size. Now, you could just say he'll blitz all the time but that would get predictable; it would also impinge on Jonas Mouton's ability to do the same thing, and Mouton's a guy who has the exact same strengths Roh does. They'll have to split the fun bits where they tear into the backfield.

All this makes it difficult to project what Roh will do this season. A guess: doubling his 7.5 TFLs and significantly adding to his two sacks is a good bet. I don't think he'll be a crazy star just yet, but I expect to be saying the same things about him next year that I'm saying about Mike Martin this year.

Backups

It's here more than anywhere else that confusion about exactly how "multiple" the defense is going to be wreaks havoc with position projections. One man's guess at the setup here: Roh will be able to flip from linebacker to defensive end with some aplomb, but his backups are likely to be one or the other.

The defensive-end-ish backup will probably be redshirt junior Brandon Herron, Roh's backup last year. Though he lost his job to the touted freshman he got a regular shift like Sagesse or Banks; unlike Sagesse or Banks his performance didn't register even the brief slices of notability the aforementioned seniors managed. The only clip I got that involves him is a single passing play against Indiana on which he successfully walls off a TE seam, and his UFR notes read "did make one good tackle," "eh," "some good run defense," "nonfactor," "meh," and "eh, ok." You get the idea.

That's not good because of Herron's position, which is supposed to be a source of big plays. As long as a guy like Sagesse holds the fort at his position things are pretty much good. If Herron does nothing positive or negative that's a much greater opportunity spurned. Gradual improvement is likely; Herron will remain a guy Michigan kills time with until Roh can get back in there.

While Herron was out in spring and Michigan was running something approximating a 3-3-5, JB Fitzgerald acted as Roh's backup. The linebacker preview already addressed his shaky '09 performance. As a backup here I imagine Michigan will always be in a three-man line so Fitzgerald can play linebacker; he's never played DE. His best shot at playing time is if Michigan has a passing-down package that sees Roh put his hand down.

Upon Further Review: Defense vs Purdue

Upon Further Review: Defense vs Purdue

Submitted by Brian on November 11th, 2009 at 3:31 PM

Personnel notes: Leach started the game and got pulled after he busted an assignment on a third-and-five TE cross that turned into 56 yards and a backbreaking touchdown. Ezeh replaced him for the remainder of the game. Mouton started the game and got pulled after he busted an assignment on the first Purdue touchdown. Fitzgerald replaced him until he took a bad angle on a Bolden touchdown, at which point he was replaced by Mouton.

You might sense a theme here. It will be addressed later.

Other than that it was the usual: zero rotation in the secondary, Brown in on every play, regular rotation on the DL. Banks was out so Campbell was Martin's backup. I don't know if I saw RVB ever leave the game.

Formation notes: That thing where Michigan drops the MLB to safety depth, or near it, returned again. I'm calling this "Tampa Nickel":

what the hell

The dude in the deep middle is Kevin Leach; you can see Kovacs just off the edge of the screen at the 35. My best guess here is that this is an attempt to replicate a Tampa 2 defense with a walk-on linebacker or Obi Ezeh, which necessitates starting him well back of where a middle linebacker would normally end up.

Michigan's also running some even fronts—I think:

nickel even

Look at the alignment of the two DTs relative to the DTs in the shot above. In this defense, Brown acts as a nickelback and Michigan plays, or at least shows, two-deep with the safeties.

AAARGH Notes: argh.

Show:

Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O20 1 10 Shotgun trips Tampa Nickel(?) Pass Jailbreak screen -- 9
What the hell? [Ed: see above] Michigan has five guys in the box with Brown split out over to the trips side and Williams walked up outside of Mouton, who's lined up over the tackle. Leach is playing nine yards deep. Kovacs is 15 yards deep. Purdue throws a jailbreak screen on which Roh, who's dropping into coverage, reacts to. With both DTs sucking upfield Michigan has no one else in the area because Leach is 10 yards downfield. Leach recovers to tackle—barely—after making up the ground he gave presnap. The way this aligned Michigan had little chance to defend it. (RPS -1)
O21 2 1 Shotgun trips TE 4-3 under man Run Power O -- 30
Roh again dropping into coverage so he falls off the line of scrimmage attempting to cover the TE, who's moving out to block Leach. Leach is reading the play and manages to keep his feet as the TE dives at them, but is slowed and as a result the pulling guard gets an easy block on him. There's no one else on the corner. WTF? (RPS -1, Roh -1, as this must be some screwup on his part.) BTN says Troy Woolfolk is from “Suger Land, TX.” Really? Suger Land?
M49 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Pass Hitch Woolfolk 14
Woolfolk(-1) is backing out into a deep zone and reacts slowly to the short hitch Purdue is going for. He then overruns the play and turns this from five yards into 14. (Cover –1, tackling -1)
M35 1 10 Ace 4-3 under Pass Wheel Mouton 35
Mouton(-4) is in man on the tailback and decides man coverage is for losers. (Cover -4) I assume this is his bust because he got yanked; Mike Williams was also coming up on the TE Mouton decided to cover, and cover pretty well, actually.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-7, 13 min 1st Q. Somehow they won't score more than a FG for the rest of the half.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O23 1 10 Shotgun trips TE 4-3 under zone Run Power O Fitzgerald 1
Michigan has flipped the line to the short side of the field, which happens to be the open side of the field, and is in zone coverage with Warren lined up over the TE. Purdue runs basically the same play they did on the last drive except with only one pulling guard. They double and down-block Graham. Warren hops out for contain and draws the pulling guard; Fitzgerald(+1) reads the play and shoots into the hole, tackling(+1) for a minimal gain.
O24 2 9 Shotgun Twins Twin TE 4-3 under man Pass Hitch Leach Inc
Yikes: looks to be a coverage bust with no one going with the TE hitting it up into the seam, but Elliot's already decided to come short. Ball is dropped; would have been six and an immediate tackle if caught.
O24 3 9 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Pass Jailbreak screen Fitzgerald 17
Fitzgerald and Williams do a great job of reading the play and attacking the LOS, giving Purdue no chance to block them. WR heads inside, right into Fitzgerald, who's just coming through a block and has his hands down; they collide and the RB runs through the contact. (-1, tackling -1); Roh(-1) can't make a diving ankle tackle attempt despite the slowdown and Purdue makes an unlikely third down conversion.
O41 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Pass Fade Woolfolk 30
Cover two and Purdue runs a play that attacks it with an out underneath holding Woolfolk(-1) as a receiver goes over the top; Williams(-1) can't get over in time. Ball is well underthrown, which gives Michigan a chance to make a play on the ball; they don't. (Cover -1)
M29 1 10 Shotgun trips 4-3 under Run Draw Leach 4
Leach in a tough spot because RVB(-1) is stood up by the RG and eventually driven back, conceding holes to both sides of him. Leach picks one that he thinks Bolden is hitting it up into and gets it right; Bolden has to cut, and Leach(+1) manages to trip him as he runs by. Bolden falls forward for a bunch after contact but Leach did well in a lot of space in a tough situation.
M25 2 6 Shotgun trips Tampa Nickel Pass Out Woolfolk Inc
This... thing again. Quick out open in front of Woolfolk(cover -1); dropped.
M25 3 6 Shotgun trips 3-3-5 stack Pass Scramble Graham 1
Michigan shows a 3-man front with threatened blitzes from the linebackers, then drops out of it. Graham(+2) immediately pwns the RT and forces the QB up in the pocket; good coverage(+1) from the eight guys downfield allows Graham to come around from the back and tackle, though it doesn't go down as a sack because Graham hits him across the LOS. (Pressure +1)
Drive Notes: FG(41), 7-10, 7 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O19 1 10 I-Form Twins 4-3 under Run Down G Leach 13 + 15 pen
Heininger doubled and removed from the play, leaving a pulling G and the FB on Leach and Brown. Brown heads outside for contain. Leach(-1) badly overruns the play, providing a quick cut-up for the RB when he could have slowed up, let Brown cut off the outside, and slowed the play down. I'm not sure what to make of Fitzgerald here, who might be a step slow, might have stumbled, but took on a block and shed it, but then couldn't make a tough tackle attempt at about five yards. This penalty is probably a bad one but definitely stupid... Williams(-1) knows he's right at the sideline and there's zero upside to hitting a guy who's running OOB.
O48 1 10 I-Form 4-4 under Run Rollout something Brown -4
This looks like a busted play as Elliott rolls out with a couple of lead blockers and his receiver goes to block some guys. Unless this is just a called bootleg run for Elliot without so much as a fake, which I find hard to believe. Brown(+1) does to a good job of containing, and Fitzgerald comes to tackle.
O44 2 14 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass Dig Brown 13
Brown(+1, cover +1) right there on the play and has a swat at the ball but misses it. He's still there to make a tackle, though the receiver drags him for a few yards. Excellent coverage; Michigan made it tough this time. Graham did tear through late, but this is a pressure -1... Elliot could stand and fire.
M43 3 1 Shotgun trips TE Nickel even Pass Bubble screen Woolfolk 6
Tough to stop on third and one with Michigan loading the box and with only two guys on the edge here. Brown does a decent job getting out; Woolfolk(-0.5) was late reacting after the guy was clearly stalk-blocking him off the line; he does shed and force the player out of bounds.
M37 1 10 I-Form 4-4 under Run Draw Van Bergen 4
Campbell in; Michigan stunts through the line(RPS +1), with Van Bergen(-1) coming through clean only to overrun the play and let Bolden through the hole he just came through. Bolden ends up tripping over the guy blocking Campbell.
M33 2 6 Shotgun empty 2TE 4-3 under Pass TE Out Brown 3 (Pen -5)
Caught; Brown(+1, cover +1), in a cover-2 zone, lights up the TE as soon as he catches it. Illegal motion brings it back.
M38 2 11 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 under Pass Wobbler Leach Int
Michigan gets a gift as Elliot gets time (pressure -1) against a three-man rush and finds someone to fire to. The ball flutters at it leaves his hand and is reeled in by Leach(+1).
Drive Notes: Interception, 10-10, 2 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O39 1 10 Shotgun trips TE 4-3 under Run Pin and pull zone Graham 5
What? See the Smart Football link. Basically any covered OL blocks down and anyone else pulls around. Graham(+1) shucks his blocker and gets playside of him, shooting into the hole and delaying the running back. And I thought I was going to give a big minus to one of the linebackers here but it turns out that JB Fitzgerald is held by a Purdue OL—like the guy grabs him from behind, this one is no question—and thus can't get out to the corner. That turns this from zero to five.
O44 2 5 Shotgun 2-back Base 4-3 Run Triple option keeper Graham 1
Refs miss a Purdue false start. Elliott pulls it out when he doesn't like the dive fake, but Graham(+1) is not crashing and gets out on Elliott, forcing him back inside; Graham and Fitzgerald combine to tackle(+1) for minimal gain. Pitch guy was covered too, so Elliott didn't make the worst read possible.
O45 3 4 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Pass Corner Brown 6
Line shifted as per usual but the LBs are off the line and tucked in; weird. Michigan blitzes; Graham tears around the corner and beats one blocker, forcing another to come out on him. Purdue is clearly trying to pick Warren and get the slant as a result; Warren(+1) does a fantastic job of coming under the pick and having this blanketed. Holding? Maybe, but not called. Brown(-1), however, reacts to that route when he's in man on the slot guy and leaves his little corner route open, so Elliot has another option other than “die because of Graham.” Tough leaping catch from the WR.
M49 1 10 Shotgun Twins Twin TE 4-4 under Run Zone read stretch Leach 6
Unfortunate for Michigan as Purdue gets an inadvertent chop on Graham, who they tried to double but did not seal, because the guy coming off Graham dives to cut Leach(-1) and Graham trips over the mess, opening up a crease just before the play reaches the sideline. Leach went down hard and heavy to the cut block, allowing his blocker to take out two guys.
M43 2 4 I-Form 4-4 under Run Inside zone Roh -2
Michigan's got a line slant on that murders this dead(RPS +1), as Roh(+1) is unblocked on the backside and blitzes right into the path of the tailback before the offset fullback has a chance to do anything about it.
M45 3 6 Shotgun empty 4-3 under split Pass Jailbreak screen Roh Inc
Roh(+1) is either spying on this or reads it because he does not pursue the QB but rather holds up and occupies the LT, which prevents him from getting out and allows Fitzgerald(+1) to flow unimpeded to the receiver. Ball is dropped anyway. (RPS +1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 17-10, 11 min 3rd Q. What is this “punt” you speak of?
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O24 1 10 Shotgun trips bunch Nickel under Pass Swing Brown 3
Trips bunch set takes Brown out to them and he plays head-up on the guy on the LOS. Michigan drops into a zone; Purdue receivers attempt to run it off and hit the swing pass underneath; Brown(+1, tackling +1) makes a good open-field tackle to turn this into a meh play.
O27 2 7 I-Form Twins 4-4 under Pass Rollout Woolfolk 16
This will be annoying for the rest of the game. Michigan in what looks like man on the outside receivers, playing pretty far off. It's not man, as Warren drops off into a deep zone and Woolfolk(-1) is supposed to have an outside zone. He ends up getting run off and leaves a 15-yard out wide open(cover -1). Roh was chasing Elliott down but fell as he tried to avoid a desperate cut from an OL, so there's no pressure(-1) on this.
O41 1 10 I-Form 4-4 under Run Power O Martin 0
Martin(+2) darts between the center and an attempted down-block from the RG, coming under the pulling LG to tackle Bolden in the backfield with no help from anyone else. Bolden coughs the ball up but it falls right to him.
O41 2 10 Shotgun trips Tampa Nickel Pass Hitch Brown 5
Brown(cover +1, +1) is again right in the receiver's grill as he makes the catch and has a swipe at the ball for a PBU, but can't make it. He does tackle(+1) with help.
O46 3 5 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass TE cross Roh Int
Warren spends the run up to this play leaping up and down trying to get other secondary members' attention. He does. Michigan runs a crazy zone blitz with both Roh and RVB dropping off the right side of the line into short zones; this gets Brown, blitzing off the corner, in clean (pressure +1, RPS +1). The zone drops from the DT end up covering(+1) the short options but Elliott gets a crazy accurate pass off that manages to find his tight end despite the tight end taking a detour around Roh after the ball was thrown. Tight end gets his head around late to find the ball almost there already and can't bring it in; Warren(+1) picks off the deflection.
Drive Notes: Interception, 24-10, 6 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O18 1 10 I-Form Twins 4-4 under Pass Rollout deep hitch Leach? 12
Part II of rollout extravaganza. No pressure(-1) on the corner and this seems like it's got to be a coverage bust from one of the linebackers because both Leach and Fitzgerald tear after the rollout, opening a lane for Elliott when Williams heads out for his flat zone. (Cover -1)
O30 1 10 Shotgun 2-back Twins 4-4 under Pass Bubble screen Warren 3
Michigan man up on the corners and Warren(+0.5, cover +1) reacts to the bubble very quickly, getting in on it basically as the catch is made. Unfortunately he gets stiffarmed(tackling -1). Roh also overruns the guy as he cuts inside of Warren but the delays mean there are now five other Wolverines in the area and he can only get three.
O33 2 7 Ace Twins Twin TE 4-4 under Pass Rollout TE Out Williams 7
TE pulls across with presnap motion and Purdue runs him into the flat, where he catches the ball in front of Williams for near first down yardage (cover -1, pressure -1, RPS -1).
O40 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Pass Hitch Warren 9
Warren is bailing out into cover-three and Elliott finds the hitch his coverage leaves open (cover -1).
O49 2 1 I-Form Twins 4-4 under Pass Rollout scramble Brown 3
Still no one on the edge here (pressure -1) on the fourth rollout of the day. Leach does get a good chuck on the TE; he's covered; Brown has a guy in the flat(cover +1) so Elliot is forced to scramble up for the first down.
M48 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass Fly Warren Inc
Warren(+1, cover +1) in great position. Ball is high and short so Warren doesn't have a play on the ball; leaping WR can only get one hand on it and it falls incomplete.
M48 2 10 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Run Trap Roh 3
Roh(+1) responsible enough here to not fly upfield as Purdue leaves him unblocked and pulls two OL around attempting to trap Michigan up the middle. He gets into a blocker and when Bolden cuts up—Leach(+0.5) had contain—Roh fights playside of the blocker, gets held pretty badly, and sort of tackles Bolden with his back. Help came from RVB and Graham.
M45 3 7 Shotgun empty 3-3-5 stack Penalty False start -- -5
Oops
50 3 12 Shotgun 2-back 3-3-5 stack Penalty Delay -- -5
Oops. Why does the clock keep running after penalties like this?
O45 3 17 Shotgun 2-back Tampa Nickel Pass Hitch Warren 6
Whatever. (Cover +1)
Drive Notes: EOH, 24-10.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
M19 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Run Power off tackle Brown 19
Ugh. Center actually pulls here as two guys double Roh and Purdue goes for the outside. Roh(-1) gets sealed really quickly and is both out of the play and not occupying a double. Brown(-1) comes down too far inside and gives up the corner; Leach(-1) is sliced to the ground by the TE coming off Roh, Williams(-1) overruns the play as it nears the sticks and turns it into a touchdown.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 24-17, 13 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O9 1 10 Shotgun trips Nickel under Pass Hitch -- 8
Weird LB/secondary config. Purdue runs a three-step drop that finds a hole in the zone(cover -1) between Williams and Leach. Fitz got a free run, but it didn't matter. (Pressure +1)
O17 2 2 Ace Twins 4-4 under Pass Rollout throwaway Graham Inc
Graham(+1) tears through the line and is fast enough to get in on Elliott, forcing a throwaway. Good flat coverage from Brown(+1, cover +1)
O17 3 2 Shotgun Twins Twin TE 4-4 under Pass Hitch Fitzgerald 6
Guy comes open underneath a zone and Elliott hits him quickly; immediate tackle. Excellent catch on a poorly thrown ball by the TE.
O23 1 10 Ace 4-3 under Pass Rollout hitch Warren 6
Quick throw, not a long rollout, and Warren is there to escort out of bounds immediately. I'm not negging these quick throws with immediate tackles but I am getting cranky.
O29 2 4 Shotgun 2-back TE 4-4 under Run Zone read stretch Martin -2
Martin(+1) blows the center back, forcing Bolden to delay a bit to get around the disruption. Graham(+1) blows into the backfield as well, cutting off the outside and taking out two blockers. and Fitzgerald(+1, tackling +1) uses the delay and the lack of blockers to dart into the backfield and make a solid TFL.
O27 3 6 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Pass Hitch Fitzgerald 9
Four man rush is stoned (pressure -1) to the point where Elliot doesn't even have to worry about any issues, and Fitzgerald(-1, cover -1) sucks out of his zone, opening up a slant. Leach had the slot receiver; Fitz is busting a coverage here.
O38 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 under Run Zone read stretch Brown 16
Purdue motions in a slot WR to act as a second TE and Michigan does not react (RPS -1); Brown(-1) fails to get outside the slot guy and gives up the corner; Roh(-1) ends up spinning inside of the OT despite this run obviously going outside; Leach(-1) is indecisive and ends up getting blocked into oblivion. Bolden gets the corner and a bunch of yards.
M46 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass Rollout corner Kovacs Inc
Kovacs(-1, cover -2, RPS -1) in man on this and that is a terrible matchup against a good Purdue receiver lined up in the slot. Elliott has the guy for at least 20 but throws it too far in front of him and the receiver can't make a tough catch.
M46 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel under Pass Rollout deep hitch -- 14
This is more of a half-roll and there's max protect, but Michigan is still not getting anywhere near this guy (pressure -2) on a deep drop. Elliott has plenty of time to come to a second receiver, wait for him to get open, and fire in a pass to a tight window in front of Brown. Lot of time, still pretty covered receiver, no cover minuses. These rollouts are killing me.
M32 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Pass Quick out Brown 8
Brown(-1) has the flat here and instead attempts to cover a TE that is running into Leach's zone; Warren has a deep half and is not responsible. (Cover -1)
M24 2 2 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Run Zone read keeper Herron 6
Herron(-1) dives too far inside and gives up the corner. Pretty sure this isn't a scrape exchange; if it was Herron would not even think about responsibility.
M18 1 10 Ace Twins Twin TE 4-3 under Run Draw Leach 3
Plays off the rollout stuff with it looking like a rollout and then the counter draw coming. Martin seems like he's about to come around his guy and make a tackle at the LOS but a hold prevents him; OL then gives the “I ain't doin' nothing” hands up thing and lets him go, preventing a penalty. Borderline; can see letting it go. Leach(+0.5) slices between a couple OL to make a diving, face-first, sketchy tackle attempt; Roh(+0.5) loops around on what is probably a stunt to provide enough Michigan jersey to cut off the hole.
M15 2 7 I-Form 4-3 under Pass Rollout FB Flat Williams 5
Williams takes a step inside, biting on the run fake, but then gets out quickly to cover and tackle the FB flat immediately. No plus, no minus, eh.
M10 3 2 Shotgun trips TE 4-3 under Run Zone read stretch Fitzgerald 10
Ugh. This is a game-losing play. Martin(+1) does great, slanting from the backside and taking two blockers directly into the path of Bolden. This play has to be dead now; a guy has occupied two blockers and delayed the RB. It's over, except Fitzgerald(-2) takes an angle way too far upfield and can only make a diving arm-tackle attempt on Bolden, which misses (tackle -1). Roh's stunted himself out of the area and the resulting mess prevents RVB from flowing; Ditto Kovacs, so Bolden gets into the endzone. Really, really should have been a TFL and a FG attempt.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 30-24, 5 min 3rd Q. Onside kick gives it right back to Purdue. Spectacular execution by the kicker.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O46 1 10 Shotgun trips Tampa Nickel Pass Fly Kovacs 54
Four man rush, a zone blitz, gets nowhere near Elliott (pressure -2) and so he can half-roll a bit and look deep, where Kovacs(-4) has completely busted on the only deep receiver on his side of the field; guy is so wide open that even a terribly underthrown pass doesn't prevent him from scoring. (Cover -4). Enormous bust. Walk-on freshman safety.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, FML, 30-31, 5 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O42 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 4-4 under Pass Bubble screen Woolfolk 6
Michigan in a zone; Woolfolk(-0.5) is unblocked but reads it a little late and almost misses a tackle, allowing the receiver to make some YAC.
O48 2 4 I-Form Twins 4-3 under Run Pitch sweep Graham -3
Graham(+1) slants inside, meeting the playside G a couple yards in the backfield as he pulls; he drives the G back, forcing Bolden outside. Graham gets stiffarmed but his interior play has allowed Brown(+1) to finish the TFL after he got outside his blocker effectively.
O45 3 7 Shotgun empty 3-3-5 split Pass Hitch Graham Inc
Graham(+1) tears around the RT, flushing Elliott up into the pocket on a three-man rush (pressure +1) and forcing him to throw as he knows Graham is coming up for EXTREME VENGANCE behind him. Mouton(-1, cover –1) vacates his zone to chase Elliott, opening up a receiver for a first down; RVB(+1) is looping around and bats it down.
Drive Notes: Punt, 30-31, 1 min 3rd Q. You can tell what the coaches' reaction was to that Bolden touchdown: Fitzgerald out, Mouton in.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O31 1 10 Shotgun trips 4-3 under Pass Jailbreak screen Roh 1
Kind of a similar deal to a failed Michigan version of this earlier: Roh(+1) actually hooks the playside tackle, which prevents him from getting out to get a block; three Wolverines, including Roh, come in to crush the play. (RPS +1)
O32 2 9 Shotgun empty Tampa Nickel Pass Scramble Brown 4
Fake bubble to the slant Michigan likes to run except Brown(+1, cover +1) is not biting and Elliott has to look elsewhere, at which point Graham(+1) tears through on a three man rush and flushes him out of the pocket. Coverage remains good downfield so Elliot has to scramble; lot of short routes mean no one can peel off until he crosses the LOS. (Cover +1)
O36 3 5 Shotgun 2TE Base 4-3 Pass TE cross Leach 56
Michigan sends six and plays man behind it; Leach(-4) is looking in the backfield and covering the wrong tight end because he's playing zone. This opens the tight end up wide open, and he grabs a short cross and turns it up for a huge gain. (Cover -4)
M8 1 G I-Form 4-4 under Pass Scramble Roh? 8

I'm not sure why this lane opens up. Martin is slanting and slants from one side of the line to the left, coming around as if he's the DE on the opposite side of the line and dragging the RG with him; Graham does his usual tear-upfield-speed rush thing. Roh and RVB are slanting away from Martin; this results in a big pocket opening up and a major cutback lane no one is in because they're trying to cover receivers. I think Roh -1, RVB -1. Maybe Martin. Not sure. BTN analyst calls out Mouton, but he's in pass coverage on a guy who would otherwise be open, right? I dunno.

Hmmm. Official call: minus halves for the DLs, minus one for Mouton. Help here?

Drive Notes: Touchdown, 30-38, 10 min 4th Q. Aaand exeunt Leach.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O11 1 10 Shotgun trips 4-3 under Run Zone read inside Roh 4
Martin(+0.5) holds up decently well, which causes a slowdown and allows Roh(+0.5), who's crashing from the backside, to come from behind and snuff this out. Pile then falls way forward. Martin holds up a little better and this can be 0.
O15 2 6 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 under Pass Dumpoff -- Inc
Graham(+1) starts the tear-around-corner-business and it looks like Elliott can step up into a pocket but I think he's spooked and decides to dump it off to the releasing RB, who drops an iffy pass. (pressure +1)
O15 3 6 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 split Pass Hitch Warren 5
Wow, close to a chop block as a guy Martin isn't expecting gets into his knees. C was not engaged but it was close. The chop indicates a pass that must get thrown immediately and indeed, Elliott chucks it in between Kovacs(+1) and Warren(+1)—very dangerous. Cover +1. Ball is caught but the TE is falling back upfield because of the tight coverage and ends up short of the first down.
Drive Notes: Punt, 30-38, 7 min 4th Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O18 1 10 Shotgun Twins 2TE 4-4 under Penalty False start -- -5
Oops
O13 1 15 Shotgun Twins 2TE 4-4 under Run Down G Graham 4 (Pen -7)
Graham(+2) tears through a TE trying to down-block him and heads out to the edge, where he gets into both pulling blockers and is tackled to the ground, drawing a holding call. The result is a strung out play that Ezeh and Brown end up overrunning, allowing Bolden to pick up a few.
O6 1 22 I-Form Twins 4-3 under Pass Rollout comeback Woolfolk Inc
Elliott wants to go to the TE but Brown(+1, cover +1) has him covered and Elliott keeps rolling and rolling. He's late; as he reaches the sideline he chucks it to the other receiver, who Woolfolk(+1) has under control and makes a pass breakup on. (Pressure -1, cover +1)
O6 2 22 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Run Trap Roh 4
Roh(+1) slants inside the attempted trap block and gets in the lane, meeting the RB at the LOS. Bolden powers through for a decent gain, though... Roh needs some more weight.
O10 3 18 ? ? Pass Sack Van Bergen -4
Tape does not have this play. Abbreviated replay shows RVB(+1) the beneficiary of a coverage sack(cover +1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 30-38, 3 min 4th Q. Final drive for Purdue is not charted since it's an extreme run situation and not representative.

How's the ichor?

Don't I ask the questions?

Just talk before I dispel you.

The ichor is dry and rubbery. If I attempt to stroke my luxurious goatee it comes off in little gooey balls that are faintly warm to the touch and smell like an oil slick with an otter drowning in it.

Dude, you are evil.

Not as evil as Michigan's linebackers. ZING!

Sigh. How about a special mailbag question?

Sure, what the hell, I just want to talk Cowherd.

Brian,
 
Defensively, I don't understand.  My biggest concern is not the big plays, but how they look.  I understand we have three walk-ons playing significant time, as well as a freshman D-lineman. Mistakes will happen. What I am worried about is the ease of which we are beaten.  I don't have a problem with Kovacs being outrun or Leach getting blocked. That is expected. I have a problem with completely blown assignments.  To get beat on a fly pattern by a guy who is faster - acceptable.  To get beat on a fly pattern because you were tackling the fullback when the wideout was your responsibility - unacceptable. That is where we are. It can't all be Rock-Paper-Scissors playcalling.  It is coaching.  They have got to get these kids in the right position.  Williams total disregard for Juice responsibility is a perfect example.  The coaches have got to figure a way to get through to him. Then if Juice breaks his tackle or fakes him out of his shoes, good job Juice.  We don't even challenge our opponent to out execute us. 
 
In a nutshell, I can be patient with the offense. Improvement, youth, blah blah blah.   I can't be patient with this defense, and I believe it is on the staff.  Coach Rod will have some tough decisions to make this offseason.  Don't know if Gerg is the answer, but position coaches should be feeling the heat.
 
Just needed to vent.  I want Rod here 5 years minimum.  I hope his delegation of defensive authority doesn't doom him sooner.
 
Go Blue!
 
Jim Cunningham
Well, first, let's look at the—

I SORT OF TALK… like CAPTAIN KIRK… if he had DOWN'S SYNDROME.

Chart.

Defensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Graham 12 - 12 Killed all runs to his side; somewhat culpable for poor pressure metric but those were rollouts.
Heininger - - - Didn't record anything.
Watson - - - DNP.
Roh 6 4.5 1.5 Extensive discussion below.
Herron - 1 -1 Only contribution was blowing contain once.
Martin 4.5 0.5 4 Relatively quiet; not getting much pass rush this year.
Van Bergen 2 2 0 Not a major factor.
Banks - - - DNP, I think.
Sagesse - - - Also DNP, I think.
Campbell - - - Didn't do anything of note but did play.
TOTAL 24.5 8 16.5 Step back from usual effort, especially given the pressure metric below.
Linebacker
Player + - T Notes
Ezeh - - - Nothing particularly good or bad on late cameo.
Mouton - 6 -6 Did this in like a quarter of playing time.
Brown 9 4 5 Built to play his position against a team like Purdue.
Fitzgerald 3 4 -1 I am actually encouraged by his play.
Leach 3 8 -5 Basically even except for the monster bust.
TOTAL 15 22 -7 Is it a positive that this is positive but for the –8 on huge coverage busts? No?
Secondary
Player + - T Notes
Warren 4.5 - 4.5 The NFL wants you to stay in school.
Cissoko - - - Happy trails.
Floyd - - - DNP.
Turner - - - DNP.
Woolfolk - 4 -4 Rough day in zones.
Williams - 3 -3 I'll take it.
Emilien - - - DNP
Kovacs 1 5 -4 Enormous bust #3.
TOTAL 5.5 12 -6.5 Better than against Illinois, I  guess.
Metrics
Pressure 5 12 -7 Poor BG.
Coverage 15 24 -9 Did a good job when they remembered at all where they were supposed to be.
Tackling 5 5 0 I really need to definite this more precisely.
RPS 5 5 0 Still working on this, too.

[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.]

It's basically the usual: pretty decent on the DL, Graham destroys, Brown does well or okay, other linebackers and people in the secondary who aren't Warren make graves. Hidden in the raw numbers is the distribution: –12 in coverage and the above numbers goes to three separate enormous busts. If Michigan does not make those busts it seems reasonable to assume they hold Purdue to something like 10-14 fewer points. If they don't bust, there is the talent, it seems, to have an average defensive performance against Purdue.

The emailer is correct that it's the busted coverages and disaster that makes this defense a disastrous disaster of disastrous proportions. Is this "acceptable"? Well… let's rephrase that into something that's less vague and standoffish. How much of this is a reflection on poor coaching by position coaches on up to Rodriguez? How much should this deflate expectations about how well this team can play on defense going forward?

I can point you to any number of metrics that suggest there are plenty of reasons that Michigan sucks on defense for reasons other than coaching. Here's a new one:

Comparing Michigan's defensive upperclassmen [ed: 3rd, 4th, 5th year players; RVB counts] not only to Ohio State, Penn State, and Notre Dame, but to the rest of the conference as well...

Ohio State - 22
Northwestern - 21
Indiana - 19
Illinois - 19
Michigan State - 19
Penn State - 19
Iowa - 18
Wisconsin - 18
Minnesota - 17
Purdue - 15
Notre Dame - 15
Michigan - 12

The rest of the Big Ten averages 50% more upperclassmen on defense.  We are dead last in the conference by a wide margin in terms of experienced defensive players.

Then you add in the defensive coordinator carousel—three in three years—and the wholesale changeover of position coaches last year and, like, doy: this just about has to be a bad defense. If it was even average it would be a miracle. The emailer dismisses the idea of youth being a factor; again, I have no idea how you can do that. The raw numbers defy you.

So it's bad and it should be bad. Is it worse than it should be considering the incredible paucity of not even talent but mere bodies on the team? I don't know. Assuming that a busted coverage is necessarily on a coach not getting his guys to go to the right spots is dodgy. It could just be that the guys they have to start are either not ready or just not that bright when it comes to football and would be mediocre backups on another team. Sometimes people just can't hack the mental side of the game no matter what.

So maybe it's on the coaches. That is a blindingly obvious possibility. But there are plenty of mitigating factors that suggest it is not necessarily the case. The only way we will find out is with more time. They've got to be a lot better next year or things will get ugly.

[Note: the criticism that Rodriguez forced various kids to get R-U-N-N-O-F-T is another show. Presumably, attrition will be normal in the future. Rodriguez's previous stop did not experience undue attrition after his transition. Going forward, Michigan can expect to get its numbers back into the pack here.]

On to specifics, maybe?

So what was with the rollouts?

Purdue was very clever. Remember this thirty-yard run?

That's run directly at Roh and RVB and linebackers because Michigan's aligning based on the hash these days and not the formation. So they've got a lot of open space if they can blow Roh off the line, which is pretty easy right now because he's a 220-230 pound true freshman. Here he's not blown off the line, he's tasked with coverage. and gives up the corner. Okay, that's not going to work. RPS –1 was born for this.

Later Michigan flips the line so that Graham is to the open side of the field:

That play picks up one because two guys have to take on Graham and Michigan is using someone else. On the first play of Purdue's third drive they run an outside zone like the 30-yarder to start, and Graham tears through it; a hold from Purdue gives them five yards but the play is basically blown up. Purdue picks up a big run later with Heininger in in an I-Form twins; it's clear that BG is the only thing keeping Purdue away from major gains outside the tackle. So it's the strong side for him.

Now Graham is away from the receiver side of the field on the formations above and the rollouts can take advantage of Roh not being Brandon Graham; the one rollout on which Michigan did get pressure was from Graham. Later in the game, Roh gets sealed away on a 19-yard touchdown by Bolden when Michigan puts Graham on the weakside and gets another excellent run when Roh comes inside a TE. (Plenty other folk—three—picked up minuses on that play but if that's run at Graham they are not likely to have much success.) Purdue made Michigan pick its poison.

Roh did some good stuff on slants and was responsible when he had an opportunity to overrun plays, which gives him that modest positive score above, but big minuses in pressure fall mostly on the shoulders of the DEs and when one of the DEs is Brandon Graham they fall mostly on the shoulders of the DE who isn't Brandon Graham. So if you apply a chunk of that pressure metric to Roh, you get a solidly negative day. I think that's a realistic take on is game and am going to incredible lengths to justify that assessment because apparently Roh's dad reads UFR, which is something I'd really rather not know. The eyebrow furrowing!

I THINK THAT'S TOTALLY FAIR

Shut up, imaginary Cowherd. Anyway, Purdue did a really good job of exploiting the true freshman defensive end in this game. I think Danny Hope has shown that he was an excellent choice for Purdue's coaching transition; he will be a success. Probably.

Aaaaargh linebackers.

I know, man. Mouton busts huge on the first drive and gets yanked. Ezeh has already been yanked and so you've got a couple sophomores out there and you're thinking 'hey, maybe this is where they show their mettle, they're gamers' and then by the end of the game they've both busted huge and the nominal starters are back in and if you go back and chalk up the number of Purdue points that came directly from the linebackers not knowing WTF they are supposed to do you get something like 14. They are terrible, and it's all mental.

This is one spot on the field where I lean towards the torch and pitchfork crowd. It could just be a couple busts and no depth with any experience, but Mouton was better last year and the vast improvement from Stevie Brown stands in stark contrast… since he's coached by Greg Robinson.

Heroes?

Brandon Graham remains Brandon Graham. Also, Stevie Brown's short coverage was excellent all day and though he missed on a couple opportunities to get PBUs he made it very tough and was a sure tackler. I'm so happy we blew his redshirt on kickoff coverage.

Warren also turned in a good day; I know it looked like he was leaving a lot of guys open during the game but I am pretty confident that those were not his issues because he was a deep half in cover-two.

Goat-type substances?

Pick an enormous busty guy: Mouton, Kovacs, Leach. And as discussed above, Purdue's game plan other than "hey throw it to that wide open guy" was focused on exploiting Roh's lack of size and experience.

What does it mean for Wisconsin and beyond?

Despite the re-insertion of the nominal starting linebackers at the end of the  game I assume that the linebacker question is an open one for Saturday and probably until the UConn game next fall. I graded Fitzgerald out at a –1 despite the crippling poor angle on that Bolden run and he looked physically capable; I'm pulling for him because he's younger, seems less prone to implode, and hasn't made me want to die more than once or twice.

At middle linebacker, I think Leach is seriously mediocre at this instant but so is Ezeh; there are no good options there. He, too, is a sophomore with a lack of on-field experience, so he seems more likely to have a light go on than Ezeh.

At this point the line is basically status quo, as is the secondary. I thought Williams did okay after a monstrously poor day against Illinois. So there's that.

Preview 2009: Linebackers

Preview 2009: Linebackers

Submitted by Brian on September 3rd, 2009 at 2:33 PM

Part seven of the all-singing all-dancing season preview. Previously: The Story, 2009, quarterbacks, tailbacks, receivers, offensive line, and the secondary.

Note: video from last year is lightboxed; previous years will take you off the page.

A note before we start: this preview relies heavily on the defensive UFRs of last year, even more so than the offense did, because there’s a convenient numerical system that does a decent job of summing up a defensive player’s contributions. One caveat: the system is generous to defensive linemen and harsh to defensive backs, especially cornerbacks. A +4 for a defensive end is just okay; for a cornerback it’s outstanding.

obi-ezeh Linebackers

Rating: 3.5.

Depth Chart
WLB Yr. MLB Yr. SLB/Spinner Yr.
Jonas Mouton Jr.* Obi Ezeh Jr.* Stevie Brown Sr.
Kenny Demens Fr.* JB Fitzgerald So.* Mike Jones Fr.
Kevin Leach So.* Brandon Smith Fr.* Brandin Hawthorne Fr.

       

Here's where we have to start talking about the changes Greg Robinson hath wrought. In this defense there's a large distinction between the outside linebackers—"spinner" and deathbacker—and the inside linebackers. In this way it's more of a 3-4. Jay Hopson doesn't even coach the guys on the outside, he only gets the WLBs and MLBs. These guys will be operating off the line of scrimmage at all times and acting like conventional linebackers.

The outside guys are the hybrids, with the deathbacker somewhere between a defensive end and a linebacker and the "spinner"—a term that Greg Robinson claims does not exist—somewhere between a linebacker and a safety. On any particular play they could be tight to the line of scrimmage or dropped off. This helpful screenshot from diarist remdies should help clarify:

linebacker alignment

There's been a lot of debate on the blog about whether the base D is a 4-3 under or not; this alignment, for one, is pure 4-3 under. In any case, you can see the spinner and deathbacker at or near the line of scrimmage; Brown, if called to do so, can drop off onto the slot receiver. That's why he's on the strongside: to cover. I assume this will be the base formation against spreads, with adjustments for pounders.

Middle Linebacker(s)

Going into last year, Obi Ezeh was the Steve Schilling of the defense. Oh, hell, let me quote myself:

Obi Ezeh
2008
"Like David Harris"
Not like Harris
Frowns: read fail
Slashing blitz
Unblocked, manages good read
Hesitant, booted
Hesitant, booted x2
Blitzes into play
Suckered by PA
Blitz sack
Blowing up Juice
Not blowing up Juice
Nope, not here either
WHERE ARE YOU GOING?
Good flow wsg Graham

Sophomore middle linebacker Obi Ezeh was the Steve Schilling of the defense in 2007: a redshirt freshman pressed into the starting lineup before his time, he was unprepared and often bad. Now he’s the “veteran” anchor of a shaky unit, counted upon to improve massively.

Going into this year, Obi Ezeh is still the Steve Schilling of the defense: a two-year starter entering his redshirt junior year without having done much to distinguish himself and rapidly running out of upside. Schilling's got a fresh start and bonus round of practice hype based on his position switch, but Ezeh's not been so lucky. Though he's been showing up on some preseason All Big Ten lists, that's strictly a Matt Lentz phenomenon. Lentz entered his third year as a Michigan starting guard in 2005 with a ton of accolades; he left without even getting drafted. Winged helmet momentum sometimes carries meh players to lofty preseaon heights; Ezeh appears to be one of these folk.

There's a theme in the videos at right: the good ones usually involve Ezeh shooting towards the line of scrimmage on a blitz. The bad ones see him getting lost: see "hesitant, booted" or "suckered by PA" or "WHERE ARE YOU GOING"; the theme is clear here.

A lot of Ezeh's issues at right came in the Illinois game so let's check that game's UFR:

The first of Williams's crazy ninja ballfakes. This one suckers an unblocked Ezeh(-2) despite the fact Mouton is racing up into the same hole, beating a blocker to tackle the guy. … Ezeh(-1) fails to read this, hesitating long enough for the C to get out on him on the second level. … Ezeh(-2) took an upfield angle around a blocker [on a 57-yard screen touchdown]. … Problem: Ezeh(-2) overruns the WR as he cuts back since Mouton has forced him back upfield. He whiffs a tackle, allowing Illinois to convert. … Ezeh(-1.5) completely overruns the play, turning two yards into first and goal.

Now, Ezeh did have +8.5 scattered across that game but it was outweighed by a –12.5, which whoah. Most of the plusses came when Ezeh was permitted to attack the line of scrimmage immediately on a blitz or Illinois decided not to go with misdirection; you have to set people up sometimes, right? When they weren't doing that, they confused Ezeh. A lot.

Part of that was uncertainty about just what the hell he was doing. After I slammed Johnny Thompson for his performance in the Notre Dame game, high school coach and excellent diarist Steve Sharik came to his defense by way of blamin' Obi:

The mistake was by Obi Ezeh.  By design, Ezeh is supposed to fast flow over the top and be outside of Thompson.  If the back sees this and cuts back, he does so into the waiting arms of Terrance Taylor.  Ezeh's used to the old way--which was played as you suggested.  If you re-examine "bad iso 3," Ezeh is flat-footed instead of screaming over the top, which is what the scheme calls for.  And that's why Thompson spilled the block again on the next play.  The bad part is that Ezeh messed it up again. 

It's not like Ezeh was the only one who had no idea what he was doing last year, but as the middle linebacker it's just way more apparent when you get lost because you're reading and reacting on every play.

Will it be better? Michigan, after all, has just switched schemes again. That will depend on Ezeh's increased experience giving him added flexibility and how much better Greg Robinson is compared to Scott Shafer at, you know, teaching people things. Everyone knows he's not David Harris but Harris didn't start until he was a redshirt junior; Ezeh will be one this fall. If he can just get his head on straight he should be average or slightly better.

mouton-toledo mouton-minnesota

will pop your lid

Jonas Mouton
2008
Smart read
Play action fail
Chasing down end around
Blitz TFL
Frowns: poor zone cover
Stands up FB, tackles
Stands up G, tackles
Improved coverage late
Destroys triple option

The other starting spot is technically an outside linebacker position but the two spots are far more similar than WLB is to spinner/SLB so I'll slot Jonas Mouton here. Mouton's star was fading rapidly after he arrived out of California a top-50 recruit. Despite Chris Graham's persistent mediocrity, Mouton never threatened to start after moving from safety. And when Michigan opened last season, Mouton was behind two-star recruit Marell Evans.

Evans fell by the wayside when Michigan revamped its linebacker corps after the Utah un derneath coverage fiasco, paving the way for Mouton to chip in a +7 in his first extended game action against Miami Of Ohio (Not That Miami Of Ohio). Ah, but not so fast my friend:

Mouton was overrated by the numbers, IMO. I gave him credit for blitzing up into the heart of Miami plays over and over again; that credit should probably fall to Shafer and not Mouton. Overall, though, I did think he played well and was a major upgrade over Evans.

That he was. Evans fell into the background and hardly saw a defensive snap the rest of the season; Mouton dropped off from his dynamite debut into a series of performances that were only okay but promised better once Mouton found his feet. That he did. Amongst the debris of the Purdue disaster his "continued good play" was about the only positive I could find

The praise Mouton started picking up late last year in UFR is echoed by Hopson. No, scratch that. It is amplified considerably (further quotes in this piece from Hopson are all from this link):

I’ve been really pleased with Jonas. Jonas is a kid that has worked extremely hard. He’s a kid that’s an explosive player. He’s a kid…he’s my kind of guy. Jonas is a tough guy. He’s physical and we expect Jonas to make some plays for us. … I think he’s ready to have a big year. … I think he’s an NFL player all the way. I’ll sell him to anybody. I just love him.

This dedicated amateur concurs. Mouton's uptake last year was swift and by the end of the season he was easily Michigan's best linebacker. Chart? Chart.

Opponent + - Total Comments
Wisconsin 6 4.5 1.5 Had a tough time against Wisconsin's mondo players and is still learning; potential is there.
Illinois 5 2.5 2.5 Was better suited to defend this offense than the more lumbering guys. BONUS: “solid day”
Penn State 7 6 1 Still terrible in coverage; turning into a good blitzer.
Michigan State 5.5 3 2.5 Stood up MSU's fullback time and again, clearly surprising MSU. ... pleasantly surprised by both OLBs in this game.
Purdue 5.5 3.5 2 The closest thing M has to a player in the back seven right now.
Minnesota 2 5.5 -3.5 Off day from him; was culpable on one of the GDCDs.
Northwestern 9.5 1.5 8 Monster day, best of his career. Really got freed up to attack and constantly shot past guys trying to block him.

I could go through more of it but it's all the same in the comments: Mouton's an excellent, explosive blitzer and surprisingly stout when it comes to taking on fullbacks and even guards at the point of attack. He's still vulnerable to misdirection some and has coverage issues—though they weren't as severe as Ezeh's. He's got the athleticism to be a pass-rush threat and should get more capable in coverage this year. He'll be drawing easier assignments, for one, as Stevie Brown replaces Johnny Thompson in the lineup.

Mouton is poised for a breakout.

Backups and Whatnot

This is about the only spot on defense where there is reasonable depth. Two second-year players back up Ezeh and Mouton. Ezeh's primary backup is JB Fitzgerald, a sophomore who got special teams time a year ago. As a recruit, Fitzgerald was just outside the top 100 on the recruiting sites and has gotten the sporadic positive mention in practice reports and coach recaps. Hopson recently said that Fitzgerald is "really in a battle" for a starting job, and though that may be optimistic about his chances it says something about him that he's not just shoved into the background.

More from Hopson:

JB … knows both positions. JB is smart. He’s also very much like Obi. He is mentally sharp. He’s physical and JB is a competitor. He’s not going to give in. JB wants a job too. He’s going to work hard and I’m fortunate to have guys like that. … He might be a little bit further ahead at MIKE right now, but I probably practice him a lot more at MIKE right now.

He should be reasonably prepared should he be called upon, and his talent level seems high. He's probably the player outside the starting eleven you should be least terrified to see on the field.

Kenny Demens is a classmate of Fitzgerald's but got an injury redshirt last year after appearing on special teams in the first couple games. He wasn't a huge recruit or anything, but the practice buzz has been positive. He'll be Mouton's primary backup.

There is also converted safety Brandon Smith. Smith was a big recruit—about on par with Mouton, actually—who stayed at safety his first year mostly because Michigan had few other options. When it became clear he didn't have the speed to stay there in spring, he was moved to linebacker.

Hopson is very positive about him:

They have to have an awareness. … That’s the one thing that has impressed me about Brandon Smith, moving from defensive back. When you’re far away from the ball sometimes you have time and distant on your side, you have a little bit more time to decipher. Brandon came in and in two days, okay this kid has that ability. He can see right now. A lot of players are big, physical and fast, but they can't see all the stuff that a linebacker has to see. It is truly that natural instinct.

Question: Is Brandon Smith catching up?
Jay Hopson: “Yes, he really is. He is a kid that’s worked extremely hard. I see him making one more step every day."

Even so, it will take at least a year for Smith to get comfortable enough to be a viable option. If we see him this year the linebacking corps will look like a MASH unit. Look for Smith to idle away on the bench until Mouton and Ezeh graduate, then battle for a starting job as a redshirt junior. He should be a special teams mainstay.

Strongside Linebacker

stevie-brown

Steve Brown
2007
The Horror Begins
2008
Frowns: Utah overrrun
PBU leads to int
Blanket in man
FROWNS: Blown post
FROWNS: Slant = TD
FROWNS: tackle whiff
FROWNS: flat fail
Actually appears to be a safety here

I don't remember where I read this but it sounds like the sort of quote that must have been on a message board somewhere, penned by one of those insider-type folks. Wherever it was, it lodged in my head and won't leave. Here's a possibly apocryphal quote about Stevie Brown from Greg Robinson: "he's a hell of a lot better player where he is now."

For the love of God, let that be true. A brief tour of Stevie Brown's 2008 can be found at right, or you can just read this in-depth scouting report: ack.

You can check the Miami Of Ohio (NTMOO) UFR for an early laundry-list of concerns but it's the Michigan State one that gets right to the point:

Brown … seems hopeless. He was quiet for a few games, then returned with a vengeance in this one. Some guys just can't figure out how to play, and at this point it would be shocking if the light ever went on.

Oh and the Northwestern one:

that's quintessential Brown: poor angles and poor awareness of the situation on the field.

And some others but you get the point. Brown was a horror show at safety.

But he's no longer a safety and if you look at the few highlights at right that don't start with the word "frowns" you'll find the athleticism that made Brown a big recruit out of high school and some good examples of man coverage. If he's not the last line of defense and he's in a lot of man against tight ends or tailbacks coming out of the back and maybe a slot receiver or three, maybe this could be okay? It certainly addresses one of the dumbest traits of Scott Shafer's tenure as defensive coordinator: leaving dinosaur MLB Johnny Thompson on the field against spread teams and asking him to cover… well, anyone. At the very least, Brown is more suited for modern football than a guy with a neck roll. Who covered slot receivers. Argh! That's another post, though, and one for tomorrow.

Brown, for one, thinks his move is a good one:

“It’s been going well. It was a little different for me at camp having to actually hit the O-lineman and tight ends all day, every day. Thus far, it’s been fine. I’ve been able to adjust to it very well. Coach Robinson does a good job teaching it and I think it’s going to work out very well for me.”

I do too, but man that incident in the spring game where the Coner juked him out of his jock, combined with, you know, everything else in his history, makes me leery. I do think he'll be in position to make a lot of plays, and I love the flexibility and common sense of putting a virtual safety in a spot where he can blitz, play zone, or man up. I like putting him behind deathbeast Brandon Graham, which should make it harder for defenses to exploit his lack of size. And people get better as they age. Michigan's put Brown in a spot to maximize his assets and minimize his downside, and I kind of sort of think it will work out.

lucy-football

Backups and Whatnot

None with experience. Michigan brought in three safety/linebacker hybrid freshmen, though. No one's heard much about Isaiah Bell (recruiting profile) so far because IIRC he's been injured. Mike Jones (recruiting profile)is second on the depth chart after enrolling early; Brandin Hawthorne (recruiting profile) also enrolled early but is, for now, behind a walk-on. Jones will play in an effort to get someone ready for the spot once Brown graduates; Hawthorne and Bell are likely to redshirt.

2008 Recruiting: Linebackers And Defensive Line

2008 Recruiting: Linebackers And Defensive Line

Submitted by Brian on February 25th, 2008 at 8:12 PM

Taylor Hill

Youngstown, Ohio - 6'2" 190
Scout 3*, #25 WLB
Rivals 4*, #21 OLB, Rivals 250
ESPN 75, #70 OLB
Others NR
Other Suitors Oklahoma, LSU, Michigan State, Pitt
YMRMFSPA Larry Foote
Previously On
MGoBlog
Taylor Hill Commits?
Notes Glenville-Mooney scrimmage video,

If you want to add Taylor Hill to the snake-oil bonanza, feel free. At one time Hill was committed to Oklahoma, and he had just committed to Rodriguez at West Virginia when Rodriguez left for Michigan. So he's a quasi-decommit. Even odder: Hill committed to Oklahoma before visiting the campus and didn't meet Bob Stoops until October. He promptly decommitted. (Joking!)

It's hard to decipher the split between Hill's offers and his ranking. He originally decided in June between the four suitors listed above, which means he had early offers from both LSU and Oklahoma. Normally when LSU and Oklahoma offer a kid from Ohio that's a strong indicator he's elite. In this case, both Bob Stoops and Bo Pelini are both Cardinal Mooney alums who had reason to know about Hill's existence, and when Hill told Oklahoma he was going to look around they yanked his offer. They weren't exactly desperate to hang on to him.

After Oklahoma and Hill parted ways, Hill verbaled to Rich Rodriguez two days before he took the Michigan job. He decommitted again, promising to open things up. A visit to Michigan State later, he committed to Michigan. So... do we believe the early LSU and Oklahoma offers or his second-wave recruitment, during which the big candidates were second-tier schools like West Virginia and Michigan State? Two of three gurus say the latter; Rivals is more optimistic.

What does Michigan have in Hill? The comparison above, Larry Foote, is a strong one. Like Foote, Hill is an undersized WLB who played his high school ball as a defensive end and specialized in getting into the backfield. A Scout.com report from Mooney's game against Pennsylvania power Gateway:

Taylor Hill is another player that helped change the game early on. He got a ton of pressure on the Gateway quarterback off of the edge. The Gators just never could get it going offensively due to the fact they could not establish a passing attack, and Hill played a huge role in the disruption.

His athletic director echoes the thought in a piece from late in Hill's junior year:

While several other Cardinal defenders have got a lot of attention this year — specifically, junior linebacker Michael Zordich and senior defensive tackle Ishmaai'ly Kitchen — junior defensive end Taylor Hill has flown under the radar despite a terrific season.

"This kid causes a lot of havoc," said legendary Mooney coach Don Bucci, now the school's athletic director. "When you talk about that junior class, people always name the big three of McCarthy, Zordich and [running back Brandon Beachum], but he's in their class as far as an athlete."

A local columnist summed up Hill's season after Mooney's one-point loss to Coldwater in the state championship game: "Coldwater's game plan in the state finals was, basically, to get rid of the ball so quickly it wouldn't have to block Hill."

On the other hand, ESPN's scouting report notes that he's playing out of position and has some praise for his athleticism but spends most of its length saying things like "can be undisciplined" and "can run, but needs to improve instincts and feel for the game." It's an uncommonly negative piece for ESPN. Unsurprisingly, their rating of Hill is significantly lower than that of either Scout or Rivals.

Guru Reliability: Moderate. High profile player, but playing out of position.
General Excitement Level: Moderate. A project that requires a lot of development both mentally and physically before he's ready to play, but Oklahoma and LSU offers are Oklahoma and LSU offers. High upside, high bust factor.
Projection: Obvious redshirt candidate what with the position switch and being 180 or 190 pounds and all. After that will try to find a role as a blitzing linebacker a la Foote or Shawn Crable.

Marcus Witherspoon

Absecon, New Jersey - 6'2" 210
Scout 4*, #14 WLB, #212 overall
Rivals 4*, #20 OLB
ESPN 80, #23 OLB
Others #91 overall to Takkle
Other Suitors Rutgers, Tennessee
YMRMFSPA Shawn Crable
Previously On
MGoBlog
Spooooon(!)
Notes Video.

By the time Marcus Witherspoon committed in early June, I had a couple articles in which he claimed offers from BC, Florida, Georgia, Notre Dame, and 25 others... unfortunately, those have evaporated and I think maybe a couple of those are iffy. In any case, when Carr retired and Rodriguez was hired there was a minor panic as Witherspoon re-opened his recruiting, seriously considered Tennessee, and seemed headed there for a moment or two before re-committing.

Witherspoon was rated and recruited as a linebacker, but with no defensive ends in this class and just one in the previous year's, someone's likely to move. Witherspoon seems a likely candidate. Check it:

The Michigan commit definitely looks like a top DI prospect physically. Although he's listed as a linebacker, he spent most of the day at defensive end, and used an assortment of moves to harass the Immaculata quarterback and running g ame. He'll likely start off as a linebacker with the Wolverines, but don't be surprised if he grows out of that position after a year or two in their strength and conditioning program.

Witherspoon in the wild:

Last year Witherspoon racked up 27 sacks as his team went undefeated, winning the state championship as Witherspoon wreaked havoc on the edge. Witherspoon's coach before his junior season:

"We still consider him raw, so this (season) is going to be interesting," Holy Spirit coach Bill Walsh said. "At the high school level, he has the ability to take things into his own hands. We're looking forward to see what's going to happen this season. He's one of the special ones that make everyone else better.

"His first three steps are explosive and for a kid that big to run a legit 4.5 (seconds in the 40-yard dash), there are not too many kids who have his weight and size that run that legit speed. When you watch him on tape, he gets after it. But he still has a lot of growth."

An explosive edge rusher who's probably too small to be a fulltime defensive end in college? Add four inches and some chicken legs and that sounds like Shawn Crable, who actually spent quite a bit of time as a defensive end anyway. ESPN's scouting report reinforces that belief:

Natural pass rusher, who possesses the quick first step and lean to effectively get by offensive lineman. This excellent, vertical attacking ability is also evident in the run game. Very difficult to block him when trying to get the edge.

Concerns are expressed about Witherspoon being the product of an "attack-style defense" who might need some serious technique and responsibility work as a collegian... again, Crable.

Guru Reliability: High. They're all in the same ballpark; no sleeper marks.
General Excitement Level: Moderate++. Michigan's probably better off if Witherspoon doesn't see serious time for a year or two and then develops into a weakside defensive end. He won't have to be an enormous guy if VanBergen, a much larger guy who projects on the strongside, works out.
Projection: Obviously, this blog is projecting a move to DE. Or, rather, a non-move from DE.

JB Fitzgerald

Princeton Junction, New Jersey - 6'3" 225
Scout 4*, #10 SLB, #152 overall
Rivals 4*, #18 OLB, #145 overall
ESPN 80, #14 OLB, #141 overall
Others NR
Other Suitors Florida, Rutgers
YMRMFSPA Victor Hobson
Previously On
MGoBlog
Shamefully, nothing.
Notes Greg Schiano followed this dude around in a helicopter.

Only CB Boubacar Cissoko has a set of guru ratings as consistent as JB Fitzgerald's: three separate services have Fitz from around the 140th to 150th-best player in the country, and all say he's an outside linebacker. Despite that the tentative plan is to play Fitzgerald in the middle.

Fitzgerald picked Michigan over Rutgers and a legit Florida offer in late August, then picked Michigan over Rutgers again on Signing Day. Other offers came from Cal, Virginia Tech, Virginia, Georgia Tech, and a wide variety of other school.

Why did he get those offers? Well, you know what they say about a guy with huge hands...

"Coach Smith had told me that at the end of his sophomore year, he took J.B.'s hand and put it on a photocopier machine," said David Fitzgerald, J.B.'s father. "He mailed it out to all these schools."

..."boy, those guys make good linebackers." And lo, the offers flowed. ESPN($):

Possesses the flat-out speed to turn and chase down backs to the sideline, rare and very impressive for size ... His overall read-and-reaction skills need improvement. We have yet to see great reactive athleticism and a good initial jump to the football. He is such a good short-range athlete that these weaknesses are often masked.

So he's a bit raw as a linebacker, but nowhere near as raw as either Hill or Witherspoon. In marked contrast to the sack-heavy statlines of Michigan's other linebacker recruits, Fitzgerald's numbers actually look like those of a linebacker: 125 tackles, six forced fumbles, two interceptions, and two sacks. He was picked the Gatorade player of the year and Newark Star-Ledger defensive player of the year in New Jersey over OMG shirtless Florida recruit Will Hill. (Side note: the "hands" article is enormous and enlightening.)

You'd think there would be more out there on Fitzgerald, but unfortunately that's all the info I could dig up. At least it's positive.

Guru Reliability: High. Not much of a position move, three-year starter, no injury concerns, consistent rankings.
General Excitement Level: High. A good bet to be a multi-year starter.
Projection: Gives Johnny Thompson a run for his playing time in the fall; ends up a frequently-used backup and is groomed for a starting spot starting his sophomore year. Ezeh will probably head out to SLB.

Kenny Demens

Beverly Hills, Michigan - 6'1" 220
Scout 3*, #23 WLB
Rivals 4*, #23 OLB
ESPN 78, #35 ATH
Others NR
Other Suitors Michigan State, Nebraska
YMRMFSPA Chris Graham
Previously On
MGoBlog
 
Notes The only youtube hit for "Kenny Demens" is so awesome. And Scandanavian. Commitment presser.

The high school teammate of top-ranked instate running back Jonas Gray, Kenny Demens found himself similarly ignored by Michigan for the first half of the recruiting year. By June he had picked up offers from West Virginia, Nebraska, and most of the Big Ten outside of Penn State and Ohio State.

Michigan didn't get serious about offering until Demens attended their summer camp and put in an impressive performance; the late-developing interest had them temporarily behind Nebraska and Michigan State.

ESPN spends much of its scouting report discussing his potential as a fullback; when they finally get around to the idea of Demens as a linebacker they note that his short-range closing speed "can match most of the elite linebackers in this 2008 class" -- it's too bad none of Demens' film was released into the free areas of the internet, because it's mostly him laying wood to people -- and that he has some trouble moving through the muck but is a "tough, physical tackling machine" before referencing his lack of ideal measurables and giving him about the same grade everyone else does: on the three-four star borderline.

Chris Graham may not be the most appealing comparison, but the elements are all there: a little undersized (I am of the belief the 6'1" frequently thrown around as his height is overstated), has difficulting getting through traffic, praised for his short range burst and thumping tackling. Graham never figured out how to play in control or get to the right place at the right time and was thus a disappointing starter; if Demens can play smarter he could be anything from a decent starter to a borderline all Big Ten pick.

Guru Reliability: High; they all agree and there's no reason he'd be particularly underrated.
General Excitement Level: Moderate--. Offers and ratings are pretty much in agreement; Demens is a low upside sort.
Projection: Think he's a little less likely to contribute than any of the other linebackers in the class, but not by much. It'll depend on how smart he is about maximizing his abilities.

Mike Martin

Novi, Michigan - 6'1" 285
Scout 4*, #12 DT, #196 overall
Rivals 4*, #16 DT
ESPN 80, #8 DT
Others NR
Other Suitors MSU, PSU, Notre Dame
YMRMFSPA Terrance Taylor
Previously On
MGoBlog
Say Hello to Mike Martin, Crabman
Notes Don't blame me. ESPN said it.

Martin committed in early June, about a month after picking up his Michigan offer. By that time Penn State, Michigan State, Purdue, and a dozen other schools had offered, but there weren't any heavyweights on his list. IIRC, he was a late-emerging sort that no one mentioned until around April or May, at which point people began to catch on. Notre Dame offered and attempted to sway Martin after the coaching change, but Martin canceled a planned visit and stuck with his commitment.

In Martin, Michigan appears to have a player almost identical to current NT Terrance Taylor. Both are mildly undersized nose tackles who were terrifying heavyweight wrestlers and powerlifters with multiple state records to their credit. Taylor was generally ranked higher (IIRC, anywhere from around #60 to the tail end of top 100 lists) and entered college much larger.

Martin doesn't look much like your stereotypical pot-bellied defensive tackle; check this video of a Martin wrestling match:

That is a slab of muscle Mike Barwis would be mildly impressed with.

This extensive highlight reel covers Martin's senior season; it often features him running ballcarriers down like he's Shawn Crable (you might want to skip the first minute, which is all still shots):

Martin is the platonic opposite of Gabe Watson, a penetrator reminiscent of USC terror Sedrick Ellis. Ellis was an All-American because he can do the sort of things Martin does in the clips above at 305 pounds and hold up at the point of attack when doubled. Martin's usually listed at 280 and is obviously way more advanced in the tao of weightroom than 99% of high schoolers: there's a chance he's just not going to get any bigger.

Guru Reliability: High.
General Excitement Level: High. The highlight reel is totally impressive, there are zero questions about work ethic or how in shape he is, and he's got pretty good guru rankings.
Projection: Will play in the DT rotation immediately, and will probably leap past Ferrara, Kates (if Kates remains on the team), et al to claim a starting spot once Taylor and Johnson graduate.

 

Position Grades

Linebacker: B+. Michigan picked up its share of athletes and did well in an area they had to after a disappointing 2007 class with just two sleepers, but some immediate impact sorts were needed and other than maybe Fitzgerald there doesn't appear to be a guy who can compete for serious playing time as a freshman.

Defensive Line: C-. I really like Martin and think he's very likely to be a productive starter and eventually an All Big Ten sort. But... uh... that's it. A year after picking up just one DE, Michigan got zero; the position now looms as the far and away #2 area of need for the 2008 class (quarterback, obviously, is #1 ). Losing Nick Perry hurt badly on a Signing Day otherwise full of pleasant surprises.

We'll see if Witherspoon or Koger or both end up at DE, but given the way the class was announced this is the biggest issue with the class outside of the understandable QB fiasco.