The "Speed Is Overrated" Era Is, Mercifully, Over

The "Speed Is Overrated" Era Is, Mercifully, Over

Submitted by Ace on May 17th, 2017 at 12:40 PM


The successes. [Patrick Barron]

In his four-year tenure at Michigan, Brady Hoke accepted commitments from eight recruits who entered the program as wide receivers. With Drake Harris' move to cornerback, one remains at the position on the current roster: senior Moe Ways, who has five career receptions and doesn't appear likely to play a significant role this fall.

After the Harris news broke, The Mathlete posed a question to the group in the mgo-slack chat:

Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson are obvious; both just went in the NFL draft after productive college careers. If we take this question literally—including only players who were recruited as wide receivers—then the third answer tells you all you need to know about Hoke's recruiting at the position: Moe Ways, he of the five career catches.

Here are Hoke's recruits ranked by receiving yards. I've listed them by the position they began their careers playing, because this staff well and truly thought Devin Funchess was a tight end for two years before getting it right:

  1. WR Amara Darboh, 2062
  2. TE/WR Devin Funchess, 1715
  3. TE Jake Butt, 1646
  4. WR Jehu Chesson, 1639
  5. RB De'Veon Smith, 251
  6. TE/FB Khalid Hill, 226
  7. TE AJ Williams, 164
  8. RB/WR Dennis Norfleet, 157
  9. FB Joe Kerridge, 123
  10. TE Ian Bunting, 118
  11. RB Drake Johnson, 107
  12. RB Justice Hayes, 105
  13. FB Sione Houma, 91
  14. S Jabrill Peppers, 82
  15. WR Moe Ways, 64
  16. RB Ty Isaac, 54
  17. WR Drake Harris, 50
  18. FB Henry Poggi, 47

It's understandable, in this relatively short time period, to have the type of chasm that exists between Chesson and Smith—a team can only have so many top targets. Having not one, not two, but three fullbacks rank ahead of the next player recruited as a wide receiver (and a fourth threatening to pass him), however, is not.

You may note that the entire 2013 wide receiver class—Jaron Dukes, Da'Mario Jones, and Csont'e York—is missing from the above list. The trio produced two catches for 13 yards at Michigan, all by Jones. In retrospect, perhaps this wasn't the best recruiting strategy:

Michigan signed three receivers last week, none of whom ranks better than a three star.

They seem to be big on size, but lack elite speed.

That doesn't concern receivers coach Jeff Hecklinski.

"Speed is overrated," he said last week. "Obviously, it's something we have to have. But speed is overrated. How can you truly judge the speed of a high school kid on the perimeter when maybe he touches the ball three times a game?

This is how a true sophomore, Kekoa Crawford, wound up as the old man among expected two-deep contributors at receiver this year. Thankfully, Jim Harbaugh followed up on a strong 2016 receiver haul with, by recruiting rankings, the best receiver class in program history. One look at Donovan Peoples-Jones will dispel any notion that this staff believes speed is overrated. Thank the football gods.

Upon Further Review 2016: Offense vs Iowa

Upon Further Review 2016: Offense vs Iowa

Submitted by Brian on November 17th, 2016 at 12:03 PM

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SPONSOR NOTES: You're in big trouble, Sauce Castillo. Not Nik Stauskas. User Sauce Castillo, who we are blaming for this. We also blame Sauce Castillo for a pending FEDERAL INTEREST RATE HIKE that means you should get a mortgage now.

In addition to being a gentleman replete with Michigan tickets, Matt is also a good man to know if you need a mortgage. It's striking that we actually get non-astroturfed comments about positive experiences with Matt not infrequently.

If you're buying a home or refinancing, he's the right guy to call.

FORMATION NOTES: Hey, it's Iowa.

image

4-3 over with two high safeties on just about every play. Iowa will insert safeties into the box post-snap like Michigan's done with some frequency this year; they are a cover-two-heavy 4-3 defense like they have always been and will always be.

SUBSTITUTION NOTES: The usual at QB and OL. Darboh got almost every snap (55 of 61), with Butt not far behind at 48. Chesson was at 37. Smith got two-thirds of the RB snaps with Chris Evans getting the bulk of the remainder; Higdon(5 snaps) and Isaac(1) saw reduced usage. Hill had an edge in FB snaps with 19 to Poggi's 12.

Rounding out the offense were scattered snaps for Perry, McDoom, Crawford, Wheatley, Asiasi, Drake Harris, and Juwann Bushell-Beatty.

[After THE JUMP: plane, meet mountain]

Hard Right Turn

Hard Right Turn

Submitted by Brian on November 14th, 2016 at 1:25 PM

11/12/2016 – Michigan 13, Iowa 14 – 9-1, 6-1 Big Ten

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[Eric Upchurch]

The punt landed on the four and took an abrupt right turn, as if God himself had decided to intervene with a brief misapplication of the rules of physics. In my experience punts do not do this. Usually they continue forward on their merry way. Sometimes they'll catch the turf in a particular way and bounce backwards, which still would have been great for Iowa but not quite as great as what happened. Which was, again, a punt hitting inside the five and veering away from the endzone like it was remote-controlled. It settled at the two.

Behind me, an Iowa fan exclaimed "RON COLUZZI IS A GOLDEN GOD." You, dear reader, may think this was some sort of cynical punt-to-win exclamation from a fanbase that hasn't had much else to hold onto this year. I do not think this was the case. Coluzzi had already dropped a coffin corner punt inside Michigan's ten and induced Devin Bush's ejection with a certainly-intentional mid-play flip. I feel that the Iowa fan was expressing a genuine opinion that Ron Coluzzi has occult powers given to him in a satanic ritual.

After Khalid Hill fielded a pop-up to start the second half and fumbled it to Iowa, I had no choice but to agree. Ron Coluzzi is a golden god. Yea, and wroth.

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

The game veered at the same instant that punt did. Michigan was up 10-0 after a 72-yard touchdown drive and had collected 125 yards midway through the second quarter—not the flamethrower operation they'd been the previous three weeks, but not bad for three drives, one of them starting in Iowa territory and ending with a goal-to-go field goal.

Two plays later Michigan had given up a safety because Kyle Kalis let Iowa's best lineman into the backfield more or less free. Their next four drives went three-and-out, with a fifth stillborn thanks to Coluzzi's occult powers. Passes were dropped. Deep balls were vastly errant. Michigan's ground game could do little against a defense that just gave up a 300-yard day to Penn State.

And what do you say about that? Michigan appeared to be a knockoff version of itself, cheaply made and sold out of the back of a van. Iowa was vastly improved in this game after a wakeup call against Penn State. They brought out a bunch of traps and quick pitches and in general looked like a team actively attempting to win a football game, instead of one present at it and hoping things go their way. Desmond King made a series of excellent run defense plays; Jaleel Johnson got a bunch of pressure; Akrum Wadley is currently looking at an industrial washer on the spin cycle and thinking is that all you got? They were good enough to compete.

They should not have been good enough to win. This had little to do with the Iowa defense:

...an array of overthrown, late and underthrown deep balls saw the Michigan quarterback complete just one of his 13 passes aimed 10 or more yards down the field — a 29-yard gain to Jehu Chesson.

PFF had Iowa's coverage -4.2 on the night largely because Amara Darboh repeatedly got screamingly wide open downfield. Two yards here, four yards there—nobody was in his area code. Michigan completed none of these throws. When Wilton Speight did give his receivers reasonable opportunities, too many times they went clang. Chesson, Butt, and Darboh all had reasonably catchable balls thunk off their hands and too the turf. Yes, Speight could have done better. Yes, the receivers could have done better. They did not.

Michigan isn't this team. Unfortunately, it appears that neither are they the rampaging death machine that stomped through this season, barely dented by nine different teams' best shot. Because of the 9 in the record above and the way that 9 was acquired, this game has drawn a truly epic amount of stupid overreactions to it. This means Michigan isn't 'Bama. It doesn't mean they can't beat a team that beat Northwestern 24-20 at home.

How much of this is Michigan being a CLOWN FRAUD and how much is just college football losing its damn mind like it always does it yet to be determined. Ron Coluzzi is a golden god; Ron Coluzzi probably did not plan for his punt to veer sideways. Randomness is always a factor. Teams put up stinkers every year for no other reason than having a bunch of weighted coin flips go the wrong way, and it's not hard to move one or two balls a couple feet and exit this game undefeated and not particularly challenged.

They did not, and now it's a long wait to see how much of a weird night in Iowa is being in the wrong place when a punter ascends to the heavens and how much are real chinks in Michigan's once-impregnable armor.


AWARDS

25332289029_531587599c_z

[Upchurch]

Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week

-2535ac8789d1b499[1]you're the man now, dog

#1 Chris Wormley had a sack and another TFL; he did a great job on a reverse to pursue and get outside to hold the damage down on a play that looked real bad for a second; he bounced between DE and DT and was consistently pushing the middle of the pocket on passing plays; he dismissed various tight ends with authority, as per usual. His impact outstripped the box score, and the box score is pretty good.

#2 Taco Charlton was similarly dominant on the night. He got the hit on Beathard that resulted in the late interception, dismissed yet more tight ends, and had a major hand in Michigan's dominant pass rush despite not picking up the stats himself.

#3 Channing Stribling had that late interception and was repeatedly tested by an Iowa offense determined to keep it away from Jourdan Lewis at all costs. He had multiple pass breakups and dominated a couple plays so comprehensively that Beathard just booted the ball out of bounds instead of risking a throw. A pass or two completed against him and some iffy run D don't offset an otherwise terrific game.

Honorable mention: Jourdan Lewis, as per usual. Ryan Glasgow and Maurice Hurst were both good on the interior; Chris Evans had a solid day running the ball; Mason Cole was a bright spot on an OL that had a rough night.

KFaTAotW Standings.

10: Wilton Speight (#1 UCF, #1 Illinois, #3 MSU, #1 Maryland)
9: Jabrill Peppers(T2, Hawaii; #3 UCF, #1 Colorado, #2 Rutgers, #2 MSU)
5: Ryan Glasgow(#2 UCF, #1 UW), Chris Wormley (three-way T1, PSU, same vs Rutgers, #1 Iowa), Taco Charlton(three-way T1, PSU, same vs Rutgers, #3 Maryland, #2 Iowa).
3: Mike McCray(#1, Hawaii), Ben Gedeon(#3 Colorado, #3 PSU, three-way T1 Rutgers), Amara Darboh(#1 MSU), Jourdan Lewis (#3 UW, #2 Maryland).
2.5: Karan Higdon(four-way T2, PSU, #2 Illinois).
2: Jake Butt(#2 Colorado), Kyle Kalis (#2 UW)
1: Delano Hill (T2, Hawaii), Chris Evans (T3, Hawaii, four-way T2, PSU),  Maurice Hurst (three-way T1, PSU),  Devin Asiasi(#3 Rutgers), Ben Braden (#3 Illinois), Channing Stribling (#3 Iowa).
0.5: Mason Cole(T3, Hawaii), De'Veon Smith (four-way T2, PSU), Ty Isaac (four-way T2, PSU).

Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week

This week's best thing ever.

Ty Isaac puts Michigan up 10-0.

Honorable mention: Interception that nearly sealed the game; Kenny Allen nails a 51-yard field goal to give Michigan the lead.

WGIBTUs Past.

Hawaii: Laughter-inducing Peppers punt return.
UCF: Speight opens his Rex Grossman account.
Colorado: Peppers cashes it in.
PSU: Wormley's sack establishes a theme.
UW: Darboh puts Michigan ahead for good.
Rutgers: Peppers presses "on".
Illinois: TRAIN 2.0.
MSU: lol, two points.
Maryland: very complicated bomb.
Iowa: The touchdown.

imageMARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.

This week's worst thing ever.

Kyle Kalis leaves Jaleel Johnson on the two yard line, creating a safety that started Michigan's weird ride towards a loss.

Honorable mention: QB sneak is down a yard short of the first down line and is not reviewed; Ron Coluzzi being a golden god repeatedly; Darboh can't bring in a fade that would have just about ended it

PREVIOUS EPIC DOUBLE BIRDs

Hawaii: Not Mone again.
UCF: Uh, Dymonte, you may want to either tackle or at least lightly brush that guy.
Colorado: Speight blindsided.
PSU: Clark's noncontact ACL injury.
UW: Newsome joins the ranks of the injured.
Rutgers: you can't call back the Mona Lisa of punt returns, man.
Illinois: They scored a what now? On Michigan? A touchdown?
Michigan State: a terrifying first drive momentarily makes you think you're in the mirror universe.
Maryland: Edge defense is a confirmed issue.
Iowa: Kalis hands Iowa a safety.

[After THE JUMP: WELP.]

Upon Further Review 2016: Offense vs Maryland

Upon Further Review 2016: Offense vs Maryland

Submitted by Brian on November 10th, 2016 at 3:07 PM

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SPONSOR NOTES: We're going to Iowa thanks to Matt, and he's going to be tailgating prior to the game. If you're going, hit him up and stop by. We'll be around for a few hours before the game, traffic and weather willing.

In addition to being a gentleman replete with Michigan tickets, Matt is also a good man to know if you need a mortgage. It's striking that we actually get non-astroturfed comments about positive experiences with Matt not infrequently.

If you're buying a home or refinancing, he's the right guy to call.

FORMATION NOTES: Maryland switched between fronts a bunch, seemingly because they were trying to find anything that could possibly work. A 3-4 was their base set through the middle of the game; late and early they were mostly four-man fronts.

None of this went well. Here is an obligatory picture.

offset i big

Michigan didn't do anything wacky with formations aside from some pistol stuff that is pretty standard at various places around college football.

SUBSTITUTION NOTES: 59 snaps for the line before they were pulled on the final drive. Braden-Bredeson-Cole-Kalis-Magnuson for the third straight week; Kugler got two RG snaps after the Kalis personal foul. Butt and Darboh were close to omnipresent with 47 and 44 snaps; Chesson got 33.

De'Veon Smith usage surged to two-thirds of Michigan's snaps, with Ty Isaac limited to four. Evans and Higdon had 13 and 11. Peppers got four. Hill and Poggi continued to split FB snaps about down the middle. Asiasi, Bunting, and Wheatley all got around 20 snaps; Crawford, McDoom, and Harris got around 10.

[After THE JUMP: many, many touchdowns.]

The Joe Flacco Question

The Joe Flacco Question

Submitted by Brian on November 7th, 2016 at 12:49 PM

11/5/2016 – Michigan 59, Maryland 3 – 9-0, 6-0 Big Ten

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[Bryan Fuller]

It actually wasn't any of the deep shots that really caught my attention. It was a slant to Darboh. Play action, linebackers suck up and recover, too late. Wilton Speight fired a rifle shot into Darboh's hands that allowed him to continue without breaking stride. I thought oh no, I have to say this is happening, because that was approximately the sixth eyebrow-cocking throw of the afternoon.

So. This is happening. Here is that column I couldn't write earlier this year. I am writing it now, after three games in which Speight has averaged 12 yards an attempt, after various stats have rejiggered themselves into eye-popping arrangements three-quarters of the way through the college football regular season, after Jim Harbaugh asserted that Jabrill Peppers wasn't the only Michigan player who deserved your Heisman consideration and was met with thoughtful recalibration instead of laughter.

You've seen it with your own eyes on spins out of the pocket and inch-perfect deep balls as Speight continues to refine the high school version of himself into a cross between John Navarre, Ben Roethlisberger, and a production of Swan Lake staffed entirely by bears. At one point Speight scrambled for a touchdown and did some sort of insane flying ballerina move as he crossed the goal line.

wheeeeeee this is fun I didn't know I could move faster than a koala

Your eyes are like "did I just see that" and your spleen is like

I DON'T KNOW!
YOU'RE THE LOOKING PART!
I JUST SIT HERE AND GET NERVOUS SOMEONE'S GOING TO PICKLE ME!

because spleens are like that man. Just venting, like Jim Harbaugh failing to get an extra yard on review after picking up second and thirty-four.

30166198973_cb8d85493a_z

BALDERDASH [Eric Upchurch]

Since your eyes are clearly not up to the task of confirming or disconfirming what the hell is happening at the most important position in football, here are some numbers. They are rather optimistic given that said eyes spent half the season worrying Speight was going to sink Michigan when crunch time came around:

  • Speight's 8.9 YPA leads the Big Ten by almost a half yard and is 11th nationally.
  • His 15-3 TD/INT ratio is second in the Big Ten to JT Barrett (21-4).
  • His passer rating is now five points clear of Perry Hills for best in the league and is 14th nationally.
  • He's fifth nationally in ESPN's QBR metric, which accounts for rushing yards and SOS.
  • S&P+ now has Michigan's passing attack third(!) in the country.

That latter measure filters out garbage time and attempts to adjust for schedule strength. For that to be an improvement on the raw numbers is rather something. A major reason is that they've played S&P+'s #3 (Wisconsin), #8 (Colorado), and #15 (Penn State) defenses. They got lucky with Penn State's linebacker issues, but Michigan kept Garrett Sickels in check just fine during that game and he was rampant against OSU.

Speight was again mostly clean in this game but hardly noticed pressure except to spin out of it and make something productive of it, whether it was a bomb to Chesson or a seven-yard scramble that is probably still ongoing or finding the guy who blew the protection for a first down. His receivers certainly help. But this was a game where he lost a fifty-yard completion to an offensive pass interference call and still posted ludicrous numbers.

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

Is Wilton Speight elite? I don't know, man. This is a considerable improvement from "lol no" before the bye week and is trending in a spectacular direction. His last 72 attempts are elite, and with every game he moves towards a simple "yes." This is the second straight year a Michigan quarterback has muddled around for half a year before an exponential explosion in competence.

In addition to all the other ways Jim Harbaugh is a difference maker as a head coach he has this. There is no better quarterback coach in football. Every one of his charges exceeds expectations.  Often when he or they move on the player in question never recaptures his form. Is Wilton Speight elite? Ask again later. Is Jim Harbaugh elite? Cumong man, that's not even worth asking.

This team no longer feels like an elite defense with an offense scraping by, a la 1997. With Speight dropping bombs on all comers, it feels like... I have no idea. No Michigan team in my experience has spent an entire season bombing everyone they come across. Michigan has three top fifteen wins and the only reason any of those was within three scores was Kenny Allen having a miserable day against Wisconsin. You'd have to go back to the 70s to find a Michigan team that can end almost every game it plays in the first half.

Bo never managed to complete his task, because his quarterbacks were never state of the art. Jim Harbaugh emphatically does not have this problem. Ohio State? Bring 'em on.

HIGHLIGHTS

parkinggod:

AWARDS

30799927805_99a811720f_z

[Fuller]

-2535ac8789d1b499[1]

Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week

you're the man now, dog

#1 Wilton Speight had the greatest first half in the history of Michigan football quarterbacking, per statistics and Jim Harbaugh. He finished with an absurd 15 yards an attempt and is now the Big Ten's clear leader in passer rating and YPA; he also ran(!) for a touchdown that he finished with weird ballerina flair(!!!).

#2 Jourdan Lewis never gets on these lists anymore because for the most part nobody is trifling with him. A hat tip to Maryland for multiple shots down the sideline resulting in 3 PBUs, zero completions, and one uncalled OPI.

#3 Taco Charlton almost literally does not show up in the box score. He got a half sack and no other tackles. Do not let this color your opinion of his game: dude was on fire, repeatedly hammering into the backfield when Maryland ran inside and getting pressure on just about every dropback only for his friends to clean up most of it.

Honorable mention: Jehu Chesson had a breakout game with 112 yards; Jake Butt is now Michigan's all-time leader in receiving yards from a tight end; Deveon Smith managed 6 YPC with a long of 14, which is super hard to do; Maurice Hurst was a constantly disruptive presence; Ben Gedeon had three TFLs and did an excellent job on the edge.

KFaTAotW Standings.

10: Wilton Speight (#1 UCF, #1 Illinois, #3 MSU, #1 Maryland)
9: Jabrill Peppers(T2, Hawaii; #3 UCF, #1 Colorado, #2 Rutgers, #2 MSU)
5: Ryan Glasgow(#2 UCF, #1 UW).
3: Mike McCray(#1, Hawaii), Ben Gedeon(#3 Colorado, #3 PSU, three-way T1 Rutgers), Amara Darboh(#1 MSU), Jourdan Lewis (#3 UW, #2 Maryland), Taco Charlton (three-way T1, PSU, same vs Rutgers, #3 Maryland).
2.5: Karan Higdon(four-way T2, PSU, #2 Illinois).
2: Jake Butt(#2 Colorado), Kyle Kalis (#2 UW), Chris Wormley (three-way T1, PSU, same vs Rutgers),
1: Delano Hill (T2, Hawaii), Chris Evans (T3, Hawaii, four-way T2, PSU),  Maurice Hurst (three-way T1, PSU),  Devin Asiasi(#3 Rutgers), Ben Braden (#3 Illinois).
0.5: Mason Cole(T3, Hawaii), De'Veon Smith (four-way T2, PSU), Ty Isaac (four-way T2, PSU).

Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week

This week's best thing ever.

The throwback bomb from Peppers to Speight to Chesson was entirely unnecessary, entirely awesome, and caused a purported journalist to descend into a hissy fit.

Also a great throw on a route that's not as open as it could have been on a trick play.

Honorable mention:

WGIBTUs Past.

Hawaii: Laughter-inducing Peppers punt return.
UCF: Speight opens his Rex Grossman account.
Colorado: Peppers cashes it in.
PSU: Wormley's sack establishes a theme.
UW: Darboh puts Michigan ahead for good.
Rutgers: Peppers presses "on".
Illinois: TRAIN 2.0.
MSU: lol, two points.
Maryland: very complicated bomb.

imageMARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.

This week's worst thing ever.

Either Channing Stribling whiffing on a reverse he'd put himself in great position on or Mike McCray getting juked and edged by Lorenzo Harrison, because both of those incidents confirmed issues from the Michigan State game and indicated a weakness in this defense.

Honorable mention: Maryland breaks the shutout with a field goal; Speight turfs a bubble screen to Peppers that would probably have scored; Michigan gets stuffed on fourth and short; that one time they almost punted.

PREVIOUS EPIC DOUBLE BIRDs

Hawaii: Not Mone again.
UCF: Uh, Dymonte, you may want to either tackle or at least lightly brush that guy.
Colorado: Speight blindsided.
PSU: Clark's noncontact ACL injury.
UW: Newsome joins the ranks of the injured.
Rutgers: you can't call back the Mona Lisa of punt returns, man.
Illinois: They scored a what now? On Michigan? A touchdown?
Michigan State: a terrifying first drive momentarily makes you think you're in the mirror universe.
Maryland: Edge defense is a confirmed issue.

[After THE JUMP: Happy Maryland fans.]

Michigan 59, Maryland 3

Michigan 59, Maryland 3

Submitted by Ace on November 5th, 2016 at 7:59 PM


Whether passing or running, Wilton Speight dominated the air. [Bryan Fuller]

Dominance is the new normal, and this team knows it.

"There's no feeling like the feeling we have right now, and I'm not going to take that for granted," said De'Veon Smith, who rushed for 114 yards and three scores on only 19 carries.

"The yards he got after contact were real eye-opening. He's real tough to get down," Jim Harbaugh said, in perhaps the understatement of the season thus far.

Even with that production, Smith accounted for a mere fraction of Michigan's total output. That total: 660 yards on an even ten per play and a few more entries in the program record book. Wilton Speight broke a school record with 292 passing yards in the first half; he'd surpass his career high less than five minute into the third quarter. Speight finished with 362 yards and two touchdowns through the air and added a ten-yard scramble capped with a leap into the end zone.

"Statistically and just the eyeball, that's the best half of football I've ever seen a Michigan quarterback play," said Harbaugh. "Moving and throwing and accuracy and just extending plays, all of the above. I don't know how you play better."

"There was one throw that wasn't a great throw. Other than that it was a perfect game."

"Wilton had an unbelievable game today," said Jake Butt. "He keeps coming through for us when we need him most."

Butt made some history himself. On a five-catch, 76-yard day, he surpassed Jim Mandich as Michigan's all-time receiving leader among tight ends. Butt said it was "hard to take in" that he broke Mandich's record.

"You talk about [Ron] Kramer and Mandich, [Eric] Kattus, some tremendous tight ends have come through here. I know I'm leaving some out," said Harbaugh. "Most catches, most yards for a Michigan tight end is a great accomplishment."

Jehu Chesson, meanwhile, had a bounce-back game, hauling in five catches for 112 yards and one of the easier touchdowns he'll ever have when Maryland let him slip behind the defense. That was a bit of a theme; Michigan's first score came when Amara Darboh was all alone on a post route, and when the backups took over, Kekoa Crawford found himself similarly forsaken and caught his first career touchdown for the final score of the day.

Harbaugh was "bewildered" by the call marking Chris Evans short of the end zone. That's one word for it. [Eric Upchurch]

For the offense, there was little to complain about, save a couple calls that didn't go Michigan's way. Drake Harris had a long catch negated by a ticky-tack offensive pass interference call, and Chris Evans got marked just short of the goal line after a spectacular juggling catch and weaving run through the Terrapin defense.

"It offends my football sensibility in all ways that he didn't get a touchdown," said Harbaugh, who threw his hat several yards in the air after the call. "I think that would offend the football gods, as well."

Michigan mostly didn't need offensive contributions from Jabrill Peppers, but they got an early highlight when Peppers took a pitch, then threw it back to Speight, who launched a 40-yard bomb to Chesson. Peppers had a couple carries for 19 yards and added another TFL to ever-rising tally on defense. Asked after the game if he was trying to bolster Peppers's Heisman candidacy with "flashy" plays on offense, Harbaugh said he's simply utilizing Peppers as he should be utilized.

"It's just happening organically. It happens au naturale. He just does so much," said Harbaugh. "It doesn't have to be a forced thing. Au naturale." With a chuckle, Harbaugh added that his quarterback should perhaps be under consideration for the Heisman, too.


Whether on offense or defense, Peppers's contributions are "au naturale." [Fuller]

Despite holding Maryland to 367 yards, there were some worrisome moments for the defense. The Terps had a clear gameplan to test Michigan on the edge with outside runs and tunnel screens, and those plays found success—Mike McCray and Channing Stribling, in particular, had tough games holding trying to hold those plays down. Maryland nearly had a touchdown on a tunnel to DJ Moore at the very end of the first half, but Dymonte Thomas kept the play in front of him long enough for McCray to chase him down from behind; the clock expired with the Terps on Michigan's one-yard line.

Those deficiencies will get plenty of attention over the weeks to come, and Ohio State's coaching staff surely took note. That shouldn't totally overshadow an otherwise dominant outing from the defense, though. Maryland averaged just 2.7 yards per carry; the non-screen passing game was non-existent; the Wolverines had three sacks and ten additional TFLs. As in seemingly every other contest this year, Michigan knocked the starting quarterback out of the game, and Caleb Rowe was a clear downgrade from Perry Hills—he threw two interceptions to Delano Hill that Hill deemed "gifts" after the game.

A road night game at Iowa awaits. While that looked like a huge test entering the season, it now appears to be another golden opportunity for Michigan to make a statement to not only the conference, but the entire country. They're two more dominant outings away from having everything to play for in The Game.

Don't take it for granted.

Upon Further Review 2016: Offense vs MSU

Upon Further Review 2016: Offense vs MSU

Submitted by Brian on November 2nd, 2016 at 4:18 PM

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SPONSOR NOTES: Matt reminds me that there is some chatter that the Federal Reserve could finally raise rates in the near future, which would be bad for your mortgage.

In addition to being a gentleman replete with Michigan tickets, Matt is also a good man to know if you need a mortgage. It's striking that we actually get non-astroturfed comments about positive experiences with Matt not infrequently.

If you're buying a home or refinancing, he's the right guy to call.

FORMATION NOTES: Michigan broke out the 'bone a couple times:

flexbone

That is a bonafide flexbone. One of these snaps was a jet sweep, the other a trap that coulda shoulda worked in the fourth quarter but for McDowell blowing Cole up.

Pistol diamond with MSU in their very standard arrangement:

pistol diamond

4-3 over, two safeties sitting at 8-10 yards, on damn near every play.

Late MSU did split their LBs and blitz them as they threw the kitchen sink at M in an attempt to get the ball back.

split lbs

But it was mostly "here we are running quarters."

SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Starting line with the Braden/Bredeson left side for the second straight game, Speight your QB. Peppers got six wildcat snaps and one as a WR; Morris got thee QB/FB snaps. JBB got five snaps as a TE-type substance.

Darboh led the way at WR with 54 snaps; Chesson had 40 and Harris, Crawford, and McDoom got the scattered remainder. Poggi and Hill again split FB snaps about down the middle. Smith got 60% of the RB snaps with Higdon and Evans splitting most of the rest; Isaac was only used on four snaps, three of them sweeps.

Butt got 57 snaps as the primary TE; Asiasi (31) and Wheatley (18) also got significant action. Bunting was briefly on the field as well.

[After THE JUMP: three quarters of up and down the field followed by (correct) turtle time.]

Midseason Expectations Reset: Offense Part II

Midseason Expectations Reset: Offense Part II

Submitted by Brian on October 18th, 2016 at 11:36 AM

Previously: Offense Part I.

WIDE RECEIVER

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[Patrick Barron]

SEASON PREVIEW TAKE: Jehu Chesson was given top billing as the preview went with on-field production and Chesson's trajectory over Amara Darboh's offseason hype, but both guys were declared real real good. Chesson was expected to be a complete WR and off the board in the first couple of rounds of the draft; I was skeptical about Darboh's ability to get deep on folks.

Grant Perry was projected to be a solid third option, and nobody knew anything about who would emerge from the backups. Eddie McDoom was given a shout.

NUMBERS AT THE HALFWAY MARK: A pile of blowouts and profusion of tight ends has made for uninspiring numbers. Seventeen different Wolverines have caught passes, including three different fullbacks and five different TEs. Meanwhile the starters have been on the bench for most of the second half in each outing.

Darboh has indeed emerged as the top wideout with 25 catches for 400 yards; his 9.5 yards per target is an impressive number, and he's on the end of a quarter of Speight's passes. Chesson has 15 catches for 231 yards and has had some iffy plays on balls downfield, though he's been hurt by bad throws. Chesson's also got seven carries for 44 yards.

Here ends significant WR contributions. Perry has six catches, McDoom three, and Kekoa Crawford one. McDoom's been a frequent jet sweep runner.

FEELINGSBALL: This is what happens when you're hammering almost all your opposition and your quarterback is struggling mightily in the two games (Colorado and Wisconsin) in which second-half passing won't be interpreted as a slap in the face. The wide receivers have been hamstrung by the situation.

It has been a mild disappointment that both starters have failed to high-point a number of passes that weren't perfect but were good enough to force a PI or result in a spectacular catch. On the other hand, WR blocking has been excellent on Michigan's many crack sweeps.

UP OR DOWN OR EH: This unit gets an incomplete.

TIGHT END

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[Bryan Fuller]

SEASON PREVIEW TAKE: Jake Butt is the best receiving tight end in the country, Ian Bunting is set for a breakout, and look out for the Kaiju brothers, Ty Wheatley Jr and Devin Asiasi... but probably next year. Since we also cover all blocky/catchy types in that post, fullbacks Henry Poggi and Khalid Hill were both mentioned as potential X factors since they obviously had a lot of potential as blockers but had targeting or technique issues.

NUMBERS AT THE HALFWAY MARK: Butt had two inexplicable drops early and has since been Jake Butt. He's since recovered to post a 71% catch rate per S&P+, which is excellent, and 8.3 yards per target, also excellent for a tight end. His blocking was alarming to start but has settled in at "decent," which is a minor upgrade on last year. Bunting was playing a bunch but had not been featured; he's missed the last couple games with an undisclosed injury.

Meanwhile Hill and Poggi have grabbed the rest of the targets here. Hill's caught all eight balls thrown his way and is averaging the same 8.3 yards per target that Butt is. While some of that is scheme, Hill has made a couple of difficult catches. 

FEELINGSBALL: Meanwhile in things that don't pick up numbers: blocking. Butt is a bit better than last year, and the fullbacks have improved a great deal. Hill has had a few spectacular blocks where he blows through a linebacker without slowing and then gets to a third level player; these don't show up except in UFR and PFF, where Hill is clearly preferred by both metrics. I've been more enthused about Poggi than PFF; he's cut out most of the targeting issues that plagued him last year.

Meanwhile, Asiasi has emerged over the last few games. Against Rutgers most big runs featured Asiasi moving a DL and then popping out to blast a LB or DB. He's got a combination of power and agility that make him effective against just about anyone a defense fields, and at nearly 290 pounds his upside in this department is considerable.

UP OR DOWN OR EH: Asiasi's emergence over the last few games as a plus blocker—as a blocker who could be a difference-maker—is the main reason this spot feels like an upgrade over expectations. Khalid Hill whacking guys has also been an unexpected positive. Butt's been about what you expect.

OFFENSIVE LINE

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[Barron]

SEASON PREVIEW TAKE: Meh. Mason Cole was projected to be a very good player. Grant Newsome was fretted over, largely because Ben Bredeson was pushing him for the job. Ben Braden and Erik Magnuson were declared acceptable offensive linemen with little upside. Kyle Kalis was an infinitely frustrating mauler who blew assignments all the time, but was declared an X factor because if he could just figure things out...

NUMBERS AT THE HALFWAY MARK: OL don't have numbers.

FEELINGSBALL: The line has been acceptable. Newsome, the projected weak link, was exactly that before the knee injury that ended his season. He had some pass protection issues but was not a revolving door; on the ground he was an able puller and decent enough at the point of attack. Magnuson has somewhat exceeded expectations as he's combined with Kalis to be a powerful right side of the line. Pass protection issues have lingered for him, though. He's somewhere between some preseason NFL scouting, which saw him as a potential high pick, and my "eh, undrafted FA" take from the preview.

The interior has been about as good as expected but the star has been Kalis, not Cole. Kalis did indeed cut out the vast majority of the mental errors and round into the mauling five-star guard everyone wanted him to be immediately out of high school. Cole, however, has struggled against zero-tech nose tackles. (Michigan has played an inordinate number of 3-4s early in the year.) While I think Colorado's Josh Tupou is just that good, Cole's impact has been muted at C.

Braden has clearly and vastly outperformed Bredeson at LG to the point where the only explanation for Bredeson's playing time is injury.

UP OR DOWN OR EH: The guys who started the season were actually a slight upgrade on expectations because Newsome was not a problem. However, Juwann Bushell-Beatty has been shaky in relief. He's been beat on edge rushes a ton; he's taken holding calls; he's been iffy on the ground. He looms as a potential issue down the road, so this is a sad injury downgrade.

One Frame At A Time: Rutgers

One Frame At A Time: Rutgers

Submitted by Ace on October 11th, 2016 at 4:31 PM

Of note:

  1. Jabrill Peppers is going Norfleet-before-a-punt to keep the game entertaining.
  2. On defense.
  3. It is still the second quarter.
  4. Total yards are 311-3.

It only would've been slightly more insulting to Rutgers if Peppers had continued dancing during the play—not that doing so would've affected the outcome.

[Hit THE JUMP for so, so many Peppers GIFs.]

Man Versus Printer

Man Versus Printer

Submitted by Brian on October 10th, 2016 at 12:32 PM

10/8/2016 – Michigan 78, Rutgers 0 – 6-0, 3-0 Big Ten

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A first down is gained [Patrick Barron]

Like many a mysterious drifter who's spent the past seven years wondering whether to drink whiskey or bleach, I don't really want to linger on the past. But when Michigan plays at Rutgers and a play by play guy desperate to inject any intrigue into a man-versus-printer situation keeps bringing up the 2014 game, it's hard to get away. And when you're already inclined to think about the radical shift in Michigan's fortunes, running across an article titled "Brady Hoke discusses monumental loss" is game over, man. There's nothing for it.

So let's talk about it.

Entering week six in 2016, Michigan was 5-0, favored by 30, coached by Jim Harbaugh and athletically directed by Warde Manuel. Manuel has probably been about as visible as your average athletic director; in the aftermath of Dave Brandon he feels like a ninja with an invisibility cloak since I haven't thought about him much outside of a few interviews and the resumption of the Notre Dame series.

Exiting week six Michigan is a top five team that just beat Rutgers so badly that they're causing existential crises amongst Cable Subscribers fans. The Daily's Jacob Gase caught up with the stragglers in the student section and got a quote for the ages:

“I like these kinds of games where we’re losing by a lot,” Kasia said, “because if we get a touchdown in the last four minutes, everyone is so happy to have anything that it’s really exciting.”

Rutgers only got a touchdown briefly. When the referees took it away it was a sign that the cosmos itself had decided that they were emphasizing the "win with cruelty" bit of Jim Harbaugh's favorite dichotomy. Everything about a blowout so epic it broke records set just before the University of Chicago decided football wasn't for them was expected.

Two years ago Michigan left for Rutgers after a week of incompetence so sheer that there was a well-attended rally on the Diag demanding Dave Brandon's ouster. Shane Morris had just been probably mildly concussed, the coverup was worse than the crime, and Brandon's "my personality is to the best of my ability" media blitz ended with this:

rutgers2014

A phalanx of athletic department staffers dragooned into wishing the team well as they departed. Brandon was front and center, naturally.

Upon arriving in Piscataway a person named Gary Nova bombed a secondary featuring Jourdan Lewis and NFL draft pick Blake Countess, a reigning first-team All Big Ten corner, for 404 passing yards. Michigan's featured pass rushers were current NFL stalwarts Jake Ryan and Frank Clark.

Brady Hoke had his cornerbacks coach install a press man system before the 2014 season. The minor flaw with this plan is that the cornerbacks coach was a linebacker who had never coached corners. This is how you lose to Rutgers.

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

I no longer know how you lose to Rutgers. There was no combination of parlous events that sees this game end up competitive, even vaguely so. The first time Rutgers crossed the first down line their quarterback was immediately crushed by Delano Hill, fumbling back behind the line to gain. The second time Rutgers crossed the first down line, deep into the fourth quarter, a Rutgers fan hugged it out with a Michigan fan. Various people on twitter bemusedly reported that ESPN's live win percentage tracker was stuck on 99.9%. My "harbaugh class" search started garnering hits early in the second quarter.

This was a blowout so comprehensive it went from boring to notable. And, yes, since two years ago this week I was posting The Kids In The Hall "Each Day We Work" sketch with the "there is no time off until I am crushed by the black hand" line and generally mooning about, it's worth noting that this is not that and that these are the rewards of finally getting some people in charge of things for a reason.

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there is no time off until Rutgers scores [Barron]

Michigan's cornerbacks coach is now a guy who played safety in the NFL for a decade, their athletic director has athletically directed at two other schools prior to this stop, and Jim Harbaugh is the head coach. Reasons veritably abound.

College programs can be steady for decades at a time as long as the core remains, and then lurch wildly about when that thing no longer suffices. See post-Bear 'Bama, the current situation at Texas,—which is playing out exactly like Lloyd Carr/RichRod—the last 20 years of Notre Dame football, etc. Michigan is no different. (Ohio State was incredibly lucky that when Jim Tressel got himself fired, Urban Meyer just happened to be waiting around.)

Today is a fine time to reflect on the bad old days, as we stand amidst a fine red mist that used to be the Rutgers football program, and appreciate that they got fixed. "Each day we work" has a different meaning now. So too does having an average weekend. It means the other team averages 18 inches a play.

HIGHLIGHTS

WD:

parkinggod:

More at MGoVideo.

AWARDS

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[Barron]

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Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week

you're the man now, dog

#1 (tie) Taco Charlton, Ben Gedeon, and Chris Wormley were first amongst equals on defense. Charlton had two insta-sacks. Gedeon ran over a running back for a sack of his own and had a Don Brown special TFL on which he crushed a guy five yards in the backfield. Wormley continues to crush all tight ends and had a sack that should not be possible.

#2 Jabrill Peppers did some defense things. He also should have had a punt return touchdown. He did have a 63-yard run on a broken play and two very easy wildcat touchdowns, one of which was supposed to be a throw. 

#3 Devin Asiasi popped out on a cursory rewatch as an absolutely mauling blocker; virtually very big run Evans had was facilitated by Asiasi blowing one or two dudes out.

Honorable mention: everybody!

KFaTAotW Standings.

7: Jabrill Peppers(T2, Hawaii; #3 UCF, #1 Colorado, #2 Rutgers)
5: Ryan Glasgow(#2 UCF, #1 UW).
3: Mike McCray(#1, Hawaii), Wilton Speight (#1 UCF), Ben Gedeon(#3 Colorado, #3 PSU, three-way T1 Rutgers).
2: Jake Butt(#2 Colorado), Kyle Kalis (#2 UW), Chris Wormley (three-way T1, PSU, same vs Rutgers), Taco Charlton(three-way T1, PSU, same vs Rutgers).
1: Delano Hill (T2, Hawaii), Chris Evans (T3, Hawaii, four-way T2, PSU),  Maurice Hurst (three-way T1, PSU), Jourdan Lewis (#3 UW), Devin Asiasi(#3 Rutgers).
0.5: Mason Cole(T3, Hawaii), De'Veon Smith (four-way T2, PSU), Ty Isaac (four-way T2, PSU), Karan Higdon(four-way T2, PSU).

Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week

This week's best thing ever.

Peppers takes off for the huge run that opened the floodgates.

Honorable mention: Everything that happened after the first seven minutes.

WGIBTUs Past.

Hawaii: Laughter-inducing Peppers punt return.
UCF: Speight opens his Rex Grossman account.
Colorado: Peppers cashes it in.
PSU: Wormley's sack establishes a theme.
UW: Darboh puts Michigan ahead for good.
Rutgers: Peppers presses "on".

imageMARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.

This week's worst thing ever.

A bonkers Jabrill Peppers punt return is called back for an extremely dubious block in the back penalty. I mean, for real. They never give a number because in their great shame they forget everything including the name, but the only thing that seems even slightly plausible is Delano Hill putting one hand (one hand!) on a punt returner who falls over in sheer awe of Peppers:

The only appropriate statement in that situation is "sorry sorry I'm trying to delete it."

Honorable mention: N/A.

PREVIOUS EPIC DOUBLE BIRDs

Hawaii: Not Mone again.
UCF: Uh, Dymonte, you may want to either tackle or at least lightly brush that guy.
Colorado: Speight blindsided.
PSU: Clark's noncontact ACL injury.
UW: Newsome joins the ranks of the injured.
Rutgers: you can't call back the Mona Lisa of punt returns, man.

[After THE JUMP: winning with cruelty]