This Week's Obsession: Filling Shoes

This Week's Obsession: Filling Shoes

Submitted by Seth on December 4th, 2013 at 5:48 PM

BLF_2284

[Fuller]

In HTTV last year we made a strange assertion: that given the relative drop-off to their replacements, Kovacs would probably be missed more than Denard Robinson. I thought I'd pose the question now concerning this year's seniors, except there's one guy who could have gone 1st overall in the NFL draft LAST YEAR, and he's being replaced by either a member of the worst interior offensive line in Michigan memory or a guy who couldn't beat out one of those guys for playing time.

1V - LEAD and DOMINATE THE FIRST PAGE- Upchurch -8646512992_e3c0ba6d0a_o
Actually, #2 Taylor Lewan's twosie and #3 Taylor Lewan's pet pig are also out of the running. [Upchurch]

So, OTHER than that guy,

Which senior will Michigan miss most next season?

Ace: I'll leave a couple very strong candidates aside—namely, Jeremy Gallon and Thomas Gordon—and go to the other bookend of the offensive line, Michael Schofield. Michigan already needs to get much (much) better play out of the interior of the line next year, not to mention a major step up in blocking from the backs and tight ends. Losing not just one, but two NFL-quality tackles means the Wolverines once again head into a new season with major uncertainty up front.

I expect the interior line to be better, especially since some of the true freshmen who weren't viable options this season—especially Patrick Kugler and David Dawson—should at least be ready to compete for a spot on the two-deep. Losing Schofield along with Lewan, however, means that there's almost no margin for error with the new tackles; Michigan needs to find two decent starters out of Ben Braden, Erik Magnuson, and... that's about it.

I guess Dawson could play right tackle, as could Kyle Kalis, but both are more natural fits inside. Chris Fox, coming off a major knee injury that delayed his freshman progress, and Logan Tuley-Tillman, a raw-upside prospect with a heavy emphasis on raw, probably won't be ready to step in and be very effective.

Losing Lewan hurts the most, of course; that's compounded by the absence of Schofield—who really came into his own this year—leaving Michigan with, at best, four relatively unproven players competing for two open tackle spots while the interior of the line is still very much a question mark.

[After the jump: Pining for (Scho)fields]

Hokepoints Empties the Bubble Drawer

Hokepoints Empties the Bubble Drawer

Submitted by Seth on December 3rd, 2013 at 3:34 PM

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[Fuller]

The best reason I've been able to come up with for how this Michigan team could put up that kind of yardage against Ohio State is that Ohio State's defensive players are—man, how do I say this without being a total jackass homer rival?—more prone to mental errors than your average Big Ten starters.

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I hereby dedicate this post In memory of the too-short MGoCareer of Heiko "Bubble Screen" Yang. Who needs doctor money anyway?

Another way to say it: the best and most representative player on that unit is Ryan Shazier, who is basically Jonas Mouton with five years of good coaching. Another way to say it: they're exactly as dumb as they are talented, and that's why a group of 5-stars are just an average defense. I am a total jackass homer rival.

The second-best reason, and the best you can say without coming off like a TJHR, is that which Borges himself apparently gave in the pre-game interview with Musberger: "We emptied the drawer." In other words, they finally ran all of those counters to the things they'd been doing all year.

There will be plenty of time in the months ahead to wonder why it took this long to throw paper, especially when that gamble came up just short (and the last play was a rock that OSU allegedly* RPS'ed) of paying off. For the moment, let's look at one of the "third" things they brought out for this game and what that did for the offense.

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

* Ohio State's players threw out one of those heartbreaking quotes about being uber-prepared for what was coming, but the play also had Gallon about to break open.

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It's hard to argue Funchess isn't an "ideal" slot ninja, isn't it? [Upchurch]

The Bubble Package

Yards per attempt; attempts in parentheses:

Opponent Run Bubble Other Total YPP
MSU 2.0 (1) 8.0 (1)   5.0
Northwestern 5.3 (7) 5.7 (3)   5.4
Iowa 3.0 (5) 1.0 (2)   2.4
Ohio State 4.5 (4) 7.7 (3) 18.0 (1) 7.4
TOTALS 4.2 (17) 5.6 (9) 18.0 (1) 5.2

Michigan does the bubble differently than Rich Rod—he made it an automatic check against the slot defender getting too close to his running game—but both work under the same principle: keep your grubby SAM's hands away from my interior running game!

The Borges Bubble game debuted against Michigan State as a bubble screen(!) that got a remarkable-for-that-day eight yards, followed by a fake bubble (out of the shotgun) to inside zone that got unfortunately blown up by a double-a gap blitz. It really came out in the Northwestern game: ten plays for  5.4 YPP. Of those, three were the bubble screen, four were a fake to an inside zone, and three to an iso. Once it was on film, Iowa adapted but Michigan ran the same (basically) two things they had against the Wildcats. The result was 2.4 YPP on seven tries: 2 bubbles and 5 inside zones.

They run it out of different formations, usually with two tight ends opposite the bubble twins (20/27 plays I have charted were from the Ace twins twin TE or I-form twins). They do run other stuff from these formations but twins (two receivers to one side) with Gallon on the line and Funchess in the slot is a good sign the bubble game is in play.

It's a good fit for this team since it: A) de-emphasizes interior blocking by holding the SAM outside and letting his OL play 5-on-5; B) Utilizes the surprising multi-threats of Gallon (as a blocker) and Funchess (as a slot receiver), and C) Lets them get Derrick Green running downhill.

Rock

I don't have Iowa video but I can show you how they adapted. The first time Michigan ran it they threatened blitz with the SAM:

Threat

Then had that guy back out and attack Funchess. The idea was to lure Michigan into a screen if this was a check, and then blow it all to hell. Like I said, it's on tape. Fortunately Michigan doesn't run checks; they called run:

Real

Iowa got to play their base defense against that basic zone run, and the result was 5-ish yards. That is rock on rock: it's blockers versus the blocked until safeties arrive, however the SAM was kept away from the running game by the threat of Funchess. The thing is, up to then Michigan only had a rock and a scissors, so Iowa could spend all day in this defense, ceding 3-5 yards when Michigan ran it, and blowing up the bubble constraint.

Here's what this looked like when OSU defended it:

Same playcall as Iowa except since they knew it wasn't a check they didn't bother with fake SAM ("Star" in Buckeye terminology) blitz—just lined him up against Funchess. A screen is dead.

But watch Joey Bosa (#97 on the bottom of OSU's line) get way too upfield and try to knock down the screen pass that isn't coming, thus taking himself completely out of the play. He's matched against Lewan instead of Butt, though, so Michigan was probably going to get something out of that block anyway; you still don't want to make it so easy.

The middle linebacker (#14 Curtis Grant) compounded matters by Obi Ezeh-ing his way to the hole, which gave Kerridge enough time to arrive and pop in an advantageous position. Finally, the safety (#3 Corey "City in Pennsylvania" Brown) took a long time to read the play, backing out a few steps before setting up at the 1st down line. He might have been run through if the other safety (#4 C.J. Barnett) hadn't made his way over, got depth with a neat little athletic step, and helped stop it.

So rock on rock nets a big hole and big yards, because Ohio State's defenders are something-something box of rocks. But they're not the only talent-deficient guys on the field. Michigan's OL screwed up rock on the third bubble package play of the game:

That's inside zone. With the Star taken out by the bubble fake, everyone is blocked except the safety coming down (#3 Corey "a Jewish suburb west of Pittsburgh" Brown). And he was set up outside so if Mags and Glasgow can hold their downfield blocks this could bust huge. However Glasgow and Kalis didn't do a very good job on their exchange—or else the DT (#63 Michael Bennett) just did a great job fighting through it—and the Buckeye DT ends the play with a mouthful. Bennett was bent back when Glasgow released so my inclination here is to point at Kalis and call it ten-man football.

In the Iowa play I wish I had video of, that DE threw off Butt, and the middle linebacker, despite drawing Lewan, managed to attack quick enough to cut off escape until everyone else arrived, which didn't take long since Iowa's safeties were playing with their ears back. However Green's momentum vs the size of those guys got an extra two yards. Here his 240 lbs. are irrelevant against a wall like Bennett.

[After the jump: other things you can make your fist into]

Michigan 63, Indiana 47

Michigan 63, Indiana 47

Submitted by Ace on October 19th, 2013 at 8:37 PM


NOT PICTURED: Indiana's defense (far left: Upchurch; center and right: Fuller)

Michigan comfortably defeated Indiana by 16 points, outgaining them by 161 yards and staying even in the critical turnover battle.

Or something like that, at least.

In real life, the Wolverines and Hoosiers traded haymakers, smashing records while combining for 1,323 yards of total offense. I'll spell that out: ONE-THOUSAND, THREE-HUNDRED AND TWENTY-THREE YARDS OF TOTAL OFFENSE. 751 (SEVEN-HUNDRED--okay, you get it) of those belonged to Michigan, a school record. Devin Gardner passed for 503 of those yards, another school record, and added 81 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, breaking Denard Robinson's U-M record for single-game total offense. Jeremy Gallon caught 14 passes for 369 yards and two scores, felling not only the Michigan receiving yards record, but also the Big Ten mark.

On the other side of the ledger, Indiana amassed 572 yards and 28 first downs while scoring on seven of their first 11 full drives. We all know this feel, probably-drunk student (via bubbaprog):

When the above occurred during the game doesn't matter, because it could've been any moment of the game.*

Remarkably, the teams traded punts to begin the game; matters escalated quickly. First, Indiana QB Nate Sudfeld hit a wide-open Cody Latimer for a 59-yard touchdown when Michigan's defense couldn't get set against the lightning-fast Hoosier attack; Raymon Taylor got beat over the top, and the safety help it appeared he expected never arrived.

Michigan responded with a five-play, 56-yard march capped by a 13-yard Gardner scoring run; all but one of the plays was a shotgun run. Clearly, Al Borges wasn't pleased with last week's effort; not only did Michigan come out with two new starting guards, Erik Magnuson and Joey Burzynski, they spread the field to make attacking a porous Indiana defense that much easier.

From there, it was the Jeremy Gallon Show. The Wolverines took a 14-7 lead after a 70-yard Gallon catch set up a two-yard TD run by Fitz Toussaint. By the end of the first quarter, he had 116 yards. Back-to-back first down passes to Gallon set up the next score, too, a seven-yard Toussaint run to the pylon for a 21-7 Michigan lead.

Indiana responded to that score in their trademark lightning-strike fashion, taking just 1:03 off the clock as Tre Roberson took over for Sudfeld, going 3/3 on the drive for 57 yards. That took some luck, as Roberson's second throw went right through the hands of Raymon Taylor, only to be caught by Duwyce Wilson; one play later, Shane Wynn took the top off the defense for a 33-yard score.

The Wolverines looked to carry all the momentum into halftime, going on a methodical 12-play, 91-yard drive that ate 5:19 of the final 5:59 off the clock; a 21-yard touchdown pass to—who else?—Gallon on a wide open flag route. As it turned out, however, 40 seconds was just enough for the Hoosiers to move into field goal range with a little help from a very passive defense, and Mitch Ewald drilled a 50-yarder to make it 28-17 at the half.


Upchurch

Michigan received to start the second half; any hopes of opening up a comfortable lead were quickly dashed, however, when Toussaint dropped a pitch from Gardner and IU LB Flo Hardin returned it 13 yards to the Wolverine five. Three plays later, Tevin Coleman dashed through a huge hole in the middle to bring the Hoosiers within four.

Even as the Wolverines tried to slow the game's breakneck pace, Indiana wouldn't allow them to do so; unfortunately for the Hoosiers, they did this by ceding a 50-yard touchdown pass to Gallon on the fourth play of the next drive. The play came on another very successful adjustment by Borges: bringing in two tight ends, going max protect, and letting Gallon and Devin Funchess work against Indiana's generous secondary. Funchess drew a lot of attention from Indiana's back seven, allowing Gallon to roam freely downfield, almost as if he were invisible.

Indiana came back with a five-yard Roberson pass to an uncovered Wynn on a broken coverage, failed to convert a reverse pass on a gutsy (read: questionable) two-point conversion attempt, and after a Michigan punt another Ewald field goal cut the lead to just one point. The offense once again answered the bell, however, this time in the form of Gardner pump-faking and scrambling through several Hoosiers en route to a six-yard score, eating an illegal late hit after he arrived in the end zone.

Despite kicking off from the 50 with a nine-point lead and a defense seemingly incapable of slowing down Indiana, Brady Hoke elected to have Matt Wile boot the ball through the end zone instead of trying a relatively safe onside kick. The Hoosiers made up the 15-yard difference in one Tevin Coleman rush, then cut the lead to two on a 15-yard Roberson scramble.

Hearts quickly jumped into throats and stomachs plummeted into shoes after Michigan moved their way down to the Indiana two-yard line, only for Gardner to fumble the snap on first-and-goal; Indiana recovered and the Big House fell silent as the Hoosiers took the ball with a chance at the lead. Michigan caught two big breaks, however: first, Roberson dislocated his thumb, forcing Sudfeld back onto the field; second, Sudfeld softly tossed the ball in the direction of an open receiver, only for Thomas Gordon (above, Fuller) to undercut it for a critical interception, giving the Wolverines the ball back just three yards worse for wear.

After two runs were stuffed by the Hoosiers, Gardner dropped back to pass, niftily eluded a corner blitz, and took off up the middle, barrel-rolling over a tackle attempt and into the end zone to make it 56-47. Roberson gamely got Indiana into scoring position again on the next drive, but Hoosier hopes were dashed when either a bad overthrow or a miscommunication with the intended receiver resulted in a ball deflecting off Jourdan Lewis's hands and straight to Gordon for his second pick. Toussaint, who finished with 151 yards and four touchdowns on 32 carries, capped the scoring with a 27-yard dash up the middle.

This felt a lot like the 2010 Illinois game, with Michigan looking unstoppable on offense and incapable on defense. The difference, of course, is that the offense was supposed to be the big question mark with the defense being called upon to keep the team afloat. For this game's good signs—the offensive explosion and adjustments from Borges—there were plenty of bad ones, especially the defense allowing five different Indiana receivers to record catches of at least 20 yards. One thing is for sure: this team still looks eminantly beatable, and after this week's bye, the Wolverines face the teeth of their schedule, starting with a trip to East Lansing to face the vaunted Spartan defense (and also, thankfully, a Connor Cook-led MSU offense).

----------------
*If you must know, it was after Gardner's fumble on the goal line, which stood out as particularly absurd even in this absurdity of a game.

One Frame At A Time: Minnesota Past

One Frame At A Time: Minnesota Past

Submitted by Ace on October 4th, 2013 at 2:58 PM

When we last met, Jeremy Gallon had rocket boots...

...and Devin Gardner made that "run around forever until somebody gets open" thing work out pretty, pretty well:

Also, Jake Ryan single-handedly destroyed a reverse. Get well soon, please.

[For a veritable stampede of GIFs from Minnesota games past, hit THE JUMP.]

Upon Further Review 2012: Offense vs South Carolina

Upon Further Review 2012: Offense vs South Carolina

Submitted by Brian on August 22nd, 2013 at 5:16 PM

IT ALSO EXISTS

FORMATION NOTES: Michigan did a lot of that stuff the Redskins did in Tecmo Bowl, lining up in one formation and then changing everyone around. There were some oddities.

This I called "near twins." You can see that Kerridge is the nominal tailback and Denard is aligned to his left.

near twins

In the NCAA football games that constitute the closest thing to a Unified Internet Football Lingo Database this might actually be "far." I don't remember. Someone tell me which it is and I'll fix it going forward.

This was "full house near," what with the two fullbacks and Denard:

full-house neaer

And this is "I-Form offset tight":

i-form offset-tight

Michigan also ran a few plays where Schofield and Lewan were on the left side of the line with the tight end playing right tackle:

lewan-schofield-united

SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Gardner was at QB the whole way except for a few Denard QB plays, and often he was at WR when those happened. Denard was essentially the starting tailback; Smith came in and that was it at RB. Kerridge was full-time at FB.

The line was the usual save for one drive on which Lewan got knocked out; when that happened Schofield flipped to LT, Omameh slid over to RT, and Burzynski came in at RG.

WRs were the usual rotation heavy on Gallon and Roundtree with Dileo and Jackson filling in.

[AFTER THE JUMP: Gardner gets wobbly, Gallon owns people, Lewan vs Clowney verdict]

Media Day Things

Media Day Things

Submitted by Brian on July 26th, 2013 at 12:24 PM

It came and went with one piece of news—Antonio Poole's departure—and a lot of mean questions for Urban Meyer. Brady Hoke said Brady Hoke things, like eight wins is "unacceptable" and anything other than winning the Big Ten is "failure." The usual.

The interesting thing

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Gordon needs to be the new Kovacs

The most interesting thing to come out of the media day annually is Michael Spath asking the assembled players to talk about Michigan last year.

In there you've got Kovacs confirmation:

"[Jordan Kovacs] is a guy that on film doesn't look that special, not compared to some of the guys out there, but ask our coaches and there was no one they respected more. Our defensive coordinator said he could play for our team any day because he's just so smart, such a great leader, and he plays mistake-free football. Sure enough we play them and you just can't get anything past him. He doesn't go for ball-fakes, doesn't buy play-action, and every time you look downfield, he's there, just waiting for it."

Unfortunately, that's immediately followed by a statement that Thomas Gordon may be a better athlete but was "very average" and that it was all about Kovacs.

On Frank Clark:

"We saw some film of him from early in the season and then some stuff from the last few games, and he was a different player. When we saw him, he was motivated. He played pissed off, and he was really a force."

Come on, hype, be true. I don't know who that could be, since I don't remember Clark having a major impact in any game save Ohio State, and that impact was not exactly a block-shedding spectacular:

On the offensive side of the ball, here is something you probably already know but it's good to get it confirmed:

"The thing that really stood out to us was how bad their guards were at pulling. Half the time the running back would be the first guy to the hole and we had a linebacker waiting there. They're supposed to be paving the way but they were so sloppy and so out of position even when they were out ahead you could simply sidestep them or outmuscle them because they had lost their leverage."

Sad face. Michigan needs to improve drastically there, and probably well. In other news, Funchess is delicately called a finesse player and marveled at as a "freak". And yeah, we were weirded out by this Gallon thing too:

"I don't know how tall [Jeremy Gallon] is but that kid can really sky. We were watching film after a game we lost and our coaches were really hard on one of our guys because he lost a jump ball to Gallon, but then the next week he did it again, and then the next week again. That guy is little but he can play."

Offensive line: set-ish

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oblig "Ben Braden is preposterously large" picture via Tim Sullivan

The other thing emerging from the roundtables is that the battle to start at guard has been basically resolved—it's Braden along with Kalis.

Hoke confirmed Thursday that physical redshirt freshmen Ben Braden and Kyle Kalis have separated themselves at left and right guard, respectively. That development was anticipated.

"I don't know if you ever feel great until you get through a season with new guys, but I like the work ethic of Kalis and Braden and those two guys from a genetics standpoint, for what we're looking for in an offensive lineman," the coach said during the second day of Big Ten media days at the Chicago Hilton.

Graham Glasgow is now pushing Jack Miller at center:

At center, Lewan was quick to insist people shouldn't write off walk-on Graham Glasgow. "He's 6-6 and nasty. He does whatever you ask him to do. If it's the end of a long practice and they want us back out there, he's the first one."

Morris: prepping

Take what you will from this:

"(Morris) came to campus a little bit earlier than some of the guys," Hoke said during a breakout session during Big Ten media days at the Chicago Hilton. "From what I know, he's had a good summer to this point. I think he's done a nice job learning. I think Devin's done a nice job with him. I think (fellow QB candidate) Brian Cleary's done a nice job with him.

"He'll be in good shape coming into fall camp."

Hopefully he won't be needed to do anything more than mop up.

Can't be going to the bars with doctor pig

Mutant-Pig-Person---87563[1]

the internet has a hit for "gary busey pig." go internet

Lewan on Darrell Funk, who looks way too much like Gary Busey to be so relentlessly controlled:

"He has never told a joke in his entire life. The man has never told a joke, ever, but he is so funny. He's hilarious. He's so dry - he'll walk into a meeting and say, 'OK guys, couple of things - can't be going to the bars, guys. Can't be doing that. You like going to the bars, Bosch? Can't be doing that.' It's like, What? His delivery cracks me up."

More on the short lived run of Dr. Hamlet III:

Where do you find a pig? Craigslist, of course. The linemen pooled their money and spent $250 for a teacup pig. As for the robust name?

"I don't know," he said. "I just wanted my pig to have a Ph.D."

So say we all.

Hokepoints: Time to Drop the Zero from Snoop?

Hokepoints: Time to Drop the Zero from Snoop?

Submitted by Seth on May 14th, 2013 at 10:38 AM

During a wee hours period break of a wee hours Wings game last weekend, I ended up in a conversation about the #1 jersey and who might be the next player to wear it. The guy was really high on Chesson or Drake Harris or some future giant; I was like thatsracist.gif because the best receiver since Braylon is on the roster RIGHT NOW

 IMG_5154

Upchurch

Unless you’re just categorically against changing numbers for seniors (which I totally understand in all circumstances but this), if we’re truly honoring elite receivers with the 1 jersey it could be time we give it to Jeremy Gallon. The case against: is 5’8, has always been just mediocre at returning punts and kicks, is 5’8, took some time to work his way up the depth chart, would ideally be a slot receiver because he’s 5’8. The case for: is secretly 8 feet tall, among his various Inspector Gadget peripherals is a cloaking device that saved Under the Lights I, and the WAR stat for receivers says he’s the best in the conference by a wide margin.

When I was doing the receivers pages of HTTV last week I went looking for some more advanced stats to put in tables aside from the usual Bentley things like receptions, yards, TDs, games played, and what you can get by dividing those things together. I remembered cfbstats’s Marty Couvillan last year made all of those targeting data available to the public, with an assist from Bill Connelly of Football Study Hall.*

What Marty did is took that play by play ticker information that the NCAA makes available, and through some ninja text-to-columns work, managed to pull out data for when each receiver was targeted. This is groundbreaking work in receiver stats, knowing what happens whenever a ball is thrown in the direction of a player. It still doesn’t say how well it was thrown, how deep if it wasn’t caught, or how many defenders had to be shooed off, but until we have official scorers UFR-ing every game this is about the best we can get. Guys like Bill began building their own stats out of the new data and came up with YRPR, which formula is:

  • The % of your team’s targets you receive
  • Times how many yards you average per pass thrown in your direction
  • Times an adjustment for the rest of your team’s passing game so we don’t just get the guys with great QBs and lines
  • Times an adjustment for how often your team passes, so that we don’t just award wide open receivers on run-heavy teams, e.g. Roundtree 2010.

And what it said was…

2012 Big Ten Receivers by YRPR:

Rk Name Targets Catch Rate School Rk (FBS) YRPR
1 Jeremy Gallon 79 62.0% Michigan 14 169.56
2 Jared Abbrederis 71 69.0% Wisconsin 22 149.32
3 Kenny Bell 77 64.9% Nebraska 34 134.55
4 Allen Robinson 126 61.1% PSU 36 133.27
5 Roy Roundtree 58 53.4% Michigan 51 118.63
6 Corey Brown 85 70.6% Ohio State 52 118.22
7 Devin Smith 58 51.7% Ohio State 73 109.21
8 Cody Latimer 65 78.5% Indiana 80 107.02
9 Shane Wynn 95 70.5% Indiana 124 86.15
10 Kofi Hughes 81 53.1% Indiana 129 84.95
11 A.J. Barker 46 65.2% Minnesota 150 79.71
12 Antavian Edison 92 63.0% Purdue 165 76.67
13 Quincy Enunwa 69 60.9% Nebraska 180 73.28
14 Keenan Davis 88 53.4% Iowa 193 70.45
15 Kevonte Martin-Manley 81 64.2% Iowa 196 70.20
16 Drew Dileo 30 66.7% Michigan 206 67.70
17 Jamal Turner 53 60.4% Nebraska 216 65.02
18 Jacob Pedersen 49 55.1% Wisconsin 221 63.33
19 Ryan Lankford 63 58.7% Illinois 237 59.96
20 Kyle Carter 52 69.2% PSU 240 59.30
           
27 Devin Gardner 37 43.2% Michigan 271 54.41
           
33 Devin Funchess 28 53.6% Michigan 324 47.86

I know what you’re thinking: that top five includes three of the receivers I drafted in last year’s Draft o’ Snark, and my fourth is in the Top 10. That and our tiny receiver who looks like Snoop was best in the conference and 14th in the nation. Not “one of the best after Allen Robinson and Kenny Bell and Jared Abbrederis and those Ohio State and Indiana guys,” but best-best.

Nationally Gallon was one spot behind West Virginia’s Tavon Austin, also a 5’8 mite, also the first receiver taken in this year’s NFL Draft. In fact most of the guys above Gallon were drafted this year—only USC’s Marqise Lee, SJ State’s Noel Grigsby, Bama’s Amari Cooper, Vanderbilt’s Jordan Mathews, and Fresno State’s Davante Adams return among those who finished above Jeremy Gallon in this metric.

When Brian gets to the receiver previews later this offseason he will undoubtedly point out that Gallon blew up after Gardner stepped in, projecting to Braylon-like numbers if you extrapolate the Gardner starts across an entire season. Well, the advanced stats guys took his entire year and said he’s Tavon Austin.

* [Where’s LSAClassof2000? Follow those links and stop writing personal diaries.]

[After the jump, how Gallon’s 2012 compared with those of past M receivers, and how the Big Ten has fared against the others]

Dot Dot Dot

Dot Dot Dot

Submitted by Brian on January 2nd, 2013 at 4:14 PM

1/1/2012 – Michigan 28, South Carolina 33 – 8-5, EOS

denard-falls-outback-thumb-646x428-131035[1]

AnnArbor.com

Well, it's over.

A confession: before yesterday I had attended one bowl game in my life, that the 2007 Rose Bowl in which Michigan was tied 3-3 with USC at halftime and got their doors blown off in the second half when Pete Carroll told his OC to stop running the ball, period. That was crushing despite the inevitability of the loss once Michigan's severe lack of corner depth was put to the test.

This game was far closer to even—South Carolina was in fact one yard better than M before their final drive, one which almost didn't get off the ground—and yet by the time I exited the stadium I was pretty much over it. This was weird for all sorts of reasons, foremost among them a sense that I would have cared more if I had watched it on TV. As the game reached its frenetic pitch I did reconnect, to my relief. Still, it took a lot to recover from finding out Michigan had been designated Team Coconut Shrimp, or something. There's just not that much difference between four and five losses.

In retrospect this season lost its urgency the moment Denard's elbow banged the Memorial Stadium turf and Michigan's offense died in Lincoln. That game staked the Huskers to a lead they would not relinquish no matter how they tried. Michigan was reduced to playing out the string without Senior Hero at quarterback, without a shot at the Big Ten championship, without the storybook ending every Michigan fan entered the year pining for.

There were moments of vitality when it looked like Nebraska might blow it, but Michigan wasn't playing those games. By the time the bowl rolled around it was exhibition time, with little on the line other than a few spots in a poll that would have Michigan 15th at best. A starting cornerback and the punter confirmed that analysis by violating team rules and being left home.

I went to see Denard for a last time, and ended up squinting to make sure he wasn't Vincent Smith. He ran 23 times, picked up 100 yards, ground out 4.8 yards a carry, and reminded me of that picture of Mike Hart in a Colts uniform Johnny put up in a post, where Hart looked old—erosion old—and like he was doing something as a job. It took about 20 open tabs to find it, but yeah.

2807762003_4bf6677023[1]

I think Johnny was maybe projecting his own thought processes onto Hart a little when he wrote this…

But he’s more mechanical now; he doesn't smile like he used to, he isn’t as self-indulgent. His cuts aren’t as risky – more just graceful, cautious lunges. He’s a professional now, measured and stoic and less eccentric. He looks stronger, and too focused. It used to just be a playful resentment for the institution, but now he seems like he respects it. It’s like the NFL has tranquilized him.

…because I know that Denard hasn't changed much since he made everyone laugh and caused me to bolt upright when he ran through two Ohio State tackles at the end of the first half of The Game.

It is the end, though, and Denard looks like this

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and I'm a little disoriented. This season was not supposed to end with Peter Pan becoming an accountant.

He was good. He seemed like a plausible NFL running back once he learns how to block. He joins LSU's Jeremy Hill as the only running back not from Wofford's triple option to crack 100 yards against Clowney and company. For him there is still a lot at stake, and yesterday was important. It is a fine career that awaits him.

But I just keep thinking of that throw he made, and what it represented. How those moments where he'd go to the sideline holding his hand built up and finally washed over the levee. If his arm had held up, or Rich Rodriguez had recruited some OL, or Devin Gardner had stayed at quarterback… if.

That's a burden now: what if Denard dot dot dot. Instead of an exclamation point, we end with an ellipses. Unspoken thoughts, trailing off. Re-carving a rock-hard past into something more pleasing. What could have been, etc.

I don't understand why I felt disconnected. I guess it was because this thing I was at was not what I thought it would be, and for once someone managed to keep Denard from obliterating all doubt.

Offense

Well okay. No real complaints about Borges this time around, but it was really odd how South Carolina reacted to the Denard plays at QB, all predictable runs save the attempted screen. They still dropped a safety 20-30 yards deep, sometimes two guys at 15 yards, and while they tended to blitz they did not sell out like Ohio State did in the second half, even after Denard's lame duck of a throw.

I'm still a little disappointed that Denard wasn't used more as an attention-grabbing decoy. Despite that Michigan had a solid day on offense that would have verged on excellent if Gardner's accuracy had been better.

Speaking of…

Wither Northwestern/Iowa Devin? With five games under his belt I think we can say that Gardner's accuracy leaves a bit to be desired. The Minnesota game was effective but shaky; he blew through Northwestern and Iowa, and now he's had a couple of games where some bad decisions and awkward throws hurt him against quality defenses.

In this one he hit 18 of 36 for 214 yards, 3 TDs, and an interception. 5.9 YPA is poor. There were throws to make there, and he just missed them. He made up for that with a couple scrambles, I guess.

WR corps 2013: not a problem maybe? Jeremy Gallon may be small in stature, but he is his own imaginary 11-foot-tall friend made of dreams. This is not quite the rocket boots touchdown from the Minnesota game, but I mean come on pretty nice:

Meanwhile, his other touchdown came on a post route on which he got open one-on-one a play after he smoked that same corner crispy on a corner route that Gardner actually threw a split second too early, before Gallon had even made his break. The TD:

Gardner trusts the guy to get open, that's clear.

His 9 catches and 145 yards push him up to 49 and 825 on the year, which is impressive production given that he caught a lot of screens that would normally make achieving a 16.8 YPC impossible and that the quarterbacking for much of the year was erratic.

Gallon's season totals are now in a virtual dead heat with Kenny Bell and Jared Abbrederis for second in the league behind thousand-yard-guy Allen Robinson of Penn State, and he made an array of tough catches without more than a drop or two all season.

As a senior is he a quality #1 option? I think the answer there is clearly yes. Take his production in the Gardner era and extrapolate it across as season and you get 81 catches for 1329 yards—ie, one of the top ten receivers in the country.

I'll be interested to see what his yards per target is if Football Study Hall updates those numbers that showed Junior Hemingway was probably the most underrated player at Michigan in a long time. While Gallon's small stature doesn't hurt him in the UFR catch numbers, the simple fact that he's not 6'4" turns balls that Devin Funchess could nab easily into uncatchable zeroes. I think he'll come out well—last year he was top five in yards per target with a per-catch average of 14.6.

Add in Dileo—an excellent underneath option—with a maturing Funchess and you only need one of Darboh/Chesson to step up to have a solid set of options.

Nope, but pretty much anyway. Denard bludgeoned out 100 yards on 23 carries as basically a tailback, which was quite good against a quality run defense behind an offensive line that couldn't get anyone else an inch. It, however, dropped Denard's season YPC to 7.2, a tenth behind Ty Wheatley's 1992 campaign. If we take out sacks Robinson suffered he would pop back above Wheatley, but that's not how it looks in the record book.

Of course if we're going to start poking around at sacks we might as well take a larger view. This line versus to Michigan's 1992 outfit featuring future longtime pro Steve Everitt, three other All Big Ten linemen (Joe Cocozzo, Rob Doherty, and Doug Skene) plus future first-round NFL draft pick Trezelle Jenkins*? There is no comparison. Four of those guys were drafted, two in the first round. Lewan will go high and I bet Schofield works his way into mid-round consideration, but there's no comparison between the interior lines.

*[Wikipedia indicates that Jenkins now owns a Harold's Chicken Shack in Ferndale. #themoreyouknow]

AN IMPORTANT OPEN LETTER FROM MICHIGAN TAILBACKS TO FUTURE GAME SCHEDULES

Dear future Michigan game schedules,

Please endeavor to exclude South Carolina.

Sincerely,

Michigan running backs but especially Thomas Wilcher and Vincent Smith

[South Carolina lost that '85 game 34-3, FWIW.]

On the demolishing. Lewan was frank about what happened. Via Andy Staples:

Meanwhile, Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges had called a Power run to the left side. Wolverines offensive tackle Taylor Lewan -- whose play against Clowney on Tuesday further solidified his place near the top of the NFL draft if he chooses to turn pro -- noticed something amiss about Clowney's alignment. "The end lined up on me in such a gray area that I had to call a Deuce to the inside," Lewan said. Lewan explained that a Deuce call ties the tackle to the guard, and their responsibilities are the lineman nearest the guard and the backside linebacker. By making the Deuce call, Lewan had untied himself from tight end Mike Kwiatkowski, who had anticipated working in tandem with Lewan on the play. Lewan said Kwiatkowski didn't hear the Deuce call, and video replays make that quite obvious. Kwiatkowski fired off the line at an angle that would have been perfect had he and Lewan been working a combo block. But Lewan was working a combo block with guard Ricky Barnum. Clowney, the owner of one of college football's quickest first steps, shot the gap before Kwiatkowski could realize what happened. "He's got that little slip move," Spurrier said. "When they come at him, they get nothing but air." Smith never had a chance. "That miscommunication," Lewan said. "Those are the plays that can lose games."

Just a miscommunication that got Smith decleated—de-everythinged.

Defense

Terry Richardson, Delonte Holowell—thanks for playing. Disclaimers about young players improving apply.

That said, Michigan was so opposed to putting those guys on the field that even after four verts blew them to pieces several times in the previous three quarters Michigan still stuck with a nickel package featuring Jarrod Wilson at free safety and Gordon/Kovacs moving down over the slots, with the subsequent events we all know and are slightly depressed about.

Don't click play if you are still depressed.

Kovacs should never have been put in that position, covering South Carolina's leading receiver, and Jarrod Wilson seems super super late—he should not have been on the field.

That's not Kovacs's game, everyone knows that's not his game, there's a reason he was a walk-on, and for Michigan to resort to that indicates that the two small guys from Cass Tech basically can't see the field, period. As a true freshman Richardson still has some hope of finding his way as a nickel corner down the road; as a redshirt sophomore, if Holowell can't see the field in that game he's never going to. Since spring practice Michigan lost four corners (Floyd, Countess, Talbott, Carter) and still not a sniff. Bad news.

Also, WTF was with moving Norfleet then? At least give the guy a chance to be a third down back—Michigan is now in the market for one.

JT Floyd: guh. Michigan wins this game if they can go to the Avery nickel package with confidence; they couldn't because JT Floyd got left home for the final game of his career. I hope it was worth it, man.

Kenny Demens coverage: missed. I assume that Bolden can get there in time, but not all of the seam bustage was on safteies/corner folk. For one, I blame no one on that Ace Sanders touchdown that was in by about a millimeter—that'll happen. On the tight end completion I bet that was a linebacker not carrying that guy. It's still pretty great that Michigan went much of the game with true freshmen at LB and performed very well against the run.

Beyer will win the WDE spot next year. The huge South Carolina QB run was Frank Clark ignoring backside responsibility and chasing a tailback without the ball as two other guys tackled him. This is a full year after he was biffing these things against Scheelhaase; to make a mistake that momentous on a basic, basic play is a good indication that he's just not getting there mentally. If he was making big plays to repair his mistakes, maybe that's one thing, but the pass rush he adds is minimal. If he doesn't figure it out, he's going to fall off the two deep quickly with Ojemudia and Charlton pressing from behind.

Miscellaneous Bits

Oblig. game theory bits. Plenty to chew on in this game.

ONE: Fake field goal on which Dileo runs around and stuff for a first down.

The box score has this a 4th and 6 from the 27; in the stadium they had it 4th and 9. Assuming that Everybody Loves Raymond Stadium was wrong, that's a push according to the Advanced NFL Stats calculator. The break even point is 53%; given how Michigan's fake field goals have gone I'd say that's a coin flip. Since M was down 11 at the time, increasing that variance is probably to your advantage.

TWO: Fake punt on which 9.9 yards is basically a first down, man.

This was fourth and four from the Michigan 37.

Loved this. Michigan was up one with around eight minutes left. If you can go on a drive, rip four or five minutes off the clock, and even get a field goal you've tipped the scales in your direction massively. If you fail, you are in a bit of a bad spot but a South Carolina score allows you time to respond. As it happened, Michigan got the first down (sort of) and still felt the sting of what failure would have been like—then they responded with a touchdown drive. Love Hoke going for the jugular there.

THREE: Unsportsmanlike conduct on South Carolina's second-to-last TD.

My initial instinct was to take the penalty on the two-point conversion (argh), which would have put that at the 18 and all but forced a one-point attempt. South Carolina didn't get it and subsequently kicked from the 20; Michigan got it out slightly over the 35.

I still think the play there is to take it on the two-point conversion, as you're significantly reducing the chance that is successful. That seems well worth the ten yards Michigan picked up.

FOUR: Spurrier is not Ferentz.

Michigan's ultimate demise came on another four verts play on which the seam came wide open as a Michigan seam defender—in this case Jordan Kovacs—got smoked. That was pure OBC, and won them the game.

The setup: South Carolina's kicker was 11 of 15 on the season but had missed a moderate length field goal and had another blocked. They had a timeout left, it was second and ten from the 32, and the Gamecocks had been pounding the seams all day. Spurrier gets Kovacs lined up over Ace Sanders, ballgame. Tip of the cap. This was a game in which both coaches went for the win.

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THEY S'POSED TO BE NFL

Everyone Hates Raymond Stadium. If you're ever on the fence about going to an Outback Bowl in the future, don't. I imagine the scoreboard situation is going to get repaired in the near future, but until then that stadium has the worst I've ever seen. They're useless. They're tiny, 40% of them are given over to ads during replays, and you can't see anything on them anyway. They're worse—much worse—than the boards Michigan just replaced. It was flabbergasting. I mean, it's an NFL stadium. I hear they're doing fairly well for themselves.

Meanwhile, the stadium itself has an incredibly shallow rise, which means if you're unfortunately positioned in what purports to be a good seat*, you spend large chunks of the game looking around beer vendors or Only Guy In The Section Standing Up Guy. The sidelines are huge; the field is not that far below seat level. The end result is a lot of very bad seats, and not much recourse when you can't figure out what happened immediately.

In addition, the area around the stadium is run-down and amenity-free. There's nothing within walking distance. It is the opposite of stadium districts in Detroit, Denver, Columbus, Minneapolis, Pasadena, etc. Unless it is geographically convenient or your favorite player(s) are entering their last games ever you probably shouldn't go. The guy who makes 800k for running the thing probably deserves it for keeping such a crappy venue high up in the pecking order.

Tampa is everything it's reputed to be, as well. Most Tampa thing: all the police cars advertise their website located at www.tampagov.net.

*[This reminded me of Wrigley, actually. A fan of the blog with access to nice tickets threw us a couple a few years back and I spent literally an entire half-inning looking into the paunch of a beer vendor since Wrigley's rise is minuscule. Vertical stadiums are the best.]

Everyone Hates Adidas. I mean, who could have known that putting light yellow numbers on a white jersey would make it impossible to tell who was who? It's almost as if these uniform stunts aren't well thought out.

I was skeptic in re: guys on message boards proclaiming that Nike was the best and that moving to Adidas was a mistake despite the fact they would give Michigan all of the money. I was wrong.

Two things have finally torn it:

  • This uniformz debacle. Completely impossible to tell who was who. Didn't figure out Demens wasn't playing much, if at all, until second half, and that was because twitter was talking about it. I had no idea which DB got burned on the first touchdown until twitter told me, as well. Idiotic.
  • Hockey third jerseys. You have to see these in person to fully appreciate how awful they look. It's not just the weaselferret. It's not even sort of the weaselferret. It's that they look like they came straight off the rack from the Walmart replica section.

Once this contract is up Michigan should flee. They will just take whoever offers them more money; after what Underarmour did with Northwestern this year I am rooting my ass off for those guys. Yeah, Maryland, whatever. That's on the AD. If M screws it up as much as the Terrapins we'll know what the problem is.

SPREAD PUNT.

WE DIDN'T LISTEN

WE DIDN'T LISTEN

Elsewhere

I'll collect game reacts later; this is tough to do in a day now that it's ballooned into a 5000 word monstrosity.

One Frame At A Time: Minnesota

One Frame At A Time: Minnesota

Submitted by Ace on November 5th, 2012 at 11:10 AM

Jeremy Gallon continues to find new ways to confound defenses. First, it was the cloaking device, which made its spectacular debut against Notre Dame last year. Now, he's moved on to rocket shoes:

Dubious legality? Admittedly, yes. Fantastic results? Oh, indeed.

[The rest of the Minnesota game in gifs is after THE JUMP. WARNING: Jake Ryan nightmare fuel ahead.]