- Cornerback play in Don Brown's system
- Shea Patterson's fast integration into the system
- Karan Higdon becoming a workhorse
- The backup quarterback situation
[After THE JUMP: Your kickoff coverage ain't got nothing on Rutgers]
[After THE JUMP: Your kickoff coverage ain't got nothing on Rutgers]
In a battle featuring the cream of the crop from America’s Dairyland, it was only right that the victory went to the team with the Cheeseman.
[Ed-Ace: Please join us in welcoming aboard new press conference correspondent Ethan Sears, whose work you may have seen at the Michigan Daily and UMHoops. Don't worry, Adam isn't going anywhere—you'll be seeing his posts soon, too.]
“How we doing?”
(Everybody, all together) Pretty good.
So, what were sort of the qualities that set Shea (Patterson) apart from the other quarterbacks, that you feel won that job?
“I think Shea has shown in big games, over the course of his short career that he can make plays. And,not that the other quarterbacks can’t make plays, but he offers just an ability to make the on-schedule plays and the off-schedule plays, and we’re excited about having that element in our offense.”
So was experience a big part of that then?
Exactly how close, was it a close competition? And at what point in camp, any point I guess, was it clear that Shea was the guy?
“Yeah, it was an extremely close competition. I think coach (Jim) Harbaugh had talked throughout the offseason about the possibility of making that decision right up to gameday at Notre Dame. Possibly take that long. And the other guys, they showed tremendous growth from spring practice to training camp, and they played well. They did a lotta good things as well, but ultimately, coach decided to go with Shea.”
So would announcing Shea as the starter two weeks before, I guess that kinda gives the idea that you guys have known for a while. So, would it be unfair to assume that it wasn’t a close competition?
“That wasn’t the case at all. I don’t know that we’ve known for a while. Only coach Harbaugh knew when he wanted to announce it and who that guy would be, but we thought we have four candidates that are very qualified to go out and play a high level of football for us.”
Pep, how are Brandon (Peters) and Dylan (McCaffrey) different now than they were maybe in January?
“They’re a year older. You know, they have more experience and more time with the offense and within the system. They have — Brandon in particular — having played in games last year, just has a better understanding of the urgency with which you have to make decisions in real games.”
And how has Brandon handled this whole thing from your — you’re around every day. How has he handled Shea coming in and now he’s not the starter and all that sort of stuff?
“He has been consistent. He’s never stopped preparing. He’s a competitor, so of course he wants to be out there, and if he ever had to get out there, I feel like he would go out and play at a high level.”
Who’s number two on the depth chart right now?
“I don’t know. We don’t have a depth chart.”
Who would go in if Shea got hurt?
“Coach Harbaugh would decide.”
[Hit THE JUMP for more Nico Collins hype plus much more.]
There is a fairly convincing body of evidence that All Of This Is My Fault, that Michigan football will not be on top of the world again until I am locked in the trunk of a car somewhere. Last year's edition of this post is in that pile somewhere near the top. You see, I once again pointed out Jim Harbaugh's flawless record of quarterback development. Give or take a Stanford third-stringer, literally every quarterback Jim Harbaugh's ever coached has exceeded expectations:
DOES THIS THING HAVE A DIFFICULTY LEVEL HARDER THAN "INSANE"
Jim Harbaugh is a kid sitting in a basement frustrated because Dark Souls is too easy. Sure, he crafted the first draft pick of any variety in San Diego history. He beat USC with a pottery major. He got Alex Smith a 70-million dollar contract. He nearly won a Super Bowl with a guy the league is currently passing over in favor of Stoney Case. (For bad reasons, admittedly.) And he turned an Iowa castoff into an NFL draft pick and in-demand trade bait.
Quarterbacks? Quarterbacks are easy.
At some point a Michigan fan is going to set me on fire and it'll be justified. It turns out there is a QB coaching difficulty level that even Jim Harbaugh cannot conquer. Take a QB room crafted by Al Borges*, replace the offensive line with those little strips in Mario Kart that make you go faster, and it's time to rage-quit. Amongst the many grim aspects of last year's offense was a roster-wide QB implosion:
The utter ineptitude of Michigan's pass protection had something to do with the above, but that was bad all season. The arrows here are all pointing the wrong way. Speight wasn't around long enough to get Devin Gardner'd but still seemed like he'd gone backwards in the offseason, converting from a quarterback who was sneaky great at buying an extra second to get a throw out to someone who looked deeply uncomfortable most of the time. After Air Force:
The guy who was a pressure maestro last year seems gone. Even when he did the very good pressure thing in this game he immediately assumes he's running the ball in from the eight and only changes his mind very late. Grant Perry is running wide open directly in front of his face as he does this:
Crawford can and should help him out later in the play, but I don't understand why the rollout to the side of the field your best WR is running a route in does not immediately trigger "look at your best WR." ...
Speight's getting sped up by his mediocre pass protection, but make no mistake: it is mediocre. It is not terrible, or even bad. Per Football Outsiders the average NFL team gives up a pressure 27% of the time, and while college is different for a lot of reasons I'd be surprised if that wasn't pretty close. Michigan's protection metrics so far: 69%, 80%, 69%. That's not much different than it was last year, when Speight was operating at a higher level. He is making more mistakes, regardless of the youth around him.
Things got infinitely worse on the OL about two seconds after that post went up, but Speight only suffered about a half of the worst case scenario in pass protection before it fractured one of his vertebra and eventually ended his Michigan career.
But it's a blip, right? Probably a blip. One bad, weird year doesn't erase the annual litany of success this post rolls out. Please do not train dogs to smell and then bite me.
*[I promise** this is the last time you'll ever have to hear this, but: with Wilton Speight's transfer to UCLA, Al Borges *never* recruited a quarterback who finished his career as the starter at his original school. Speight and IU QB-turned-TE Cam Coffman were the only guys to even start a year. Also: Borges crafted the QB room by recruiting Speight and Shane Morris and then taking a year off, necessitating Michigan's swing at a transfer they knew little about right after Harbaugh arrived.]
**[read as "do not promise"]
Ole Miss's NCAA implosion was richly deserved and very, very stupid from the beginning so it's only appropriate that its spectacular finale featured Hugh Freeze repeatedly calling escort services on a phone subject to FOIA. A local Sonic manager named Matt Luke was hurriedly promoted, the Rebels cratered their season, and the NCAA hit them with a 2018 bowl ban.
Various players took this as the sign to leave, amongst them former five-star QB Shea Patterson. Patterson transferred to Michigan and is immediately eligible due to... something or other. The NCAA changed some rule that allowed Ole Miss to say "sure, go ahead" without accepting a document full of allegations that paint Ole Miss in a bad light, and AD Ross Bjork took advantage of that about two seconds after the rule was implemented.
In the aftermath, Michigan has the college equivalent of a high profile free agent signing. Gonna be weird. But... I'll take it.
[After THE JUMP: show them what they've won!]
Previously: Last year's profiles. S Sammy Faustin, S German Green, CB Gemon Green, CB Vincent Gray, CB Myles "Spider" Sims, LB Cameron McGrone, DE Taylor Upshaw, DE Julius Welschof, DE Aidan Hutchinson, OL Jalen Mayfield, OL Ryan Hayes, TE Luke Schoonmaker, TE Mustapha Muhammad, WR Ronnie Bell, RB-ish Michael Barrett, FB Ben VanSumeren, RB Hassan Haskins, RB Christian Turner.
|Pahokee, FL — 6'5", 234|
|24/7||3*, #449 overall
#15 PRO, #60 FL
|Rivals||4*, #200 overall
#11 DUAL, #37 FL
|ESPN||4*, #119 overall
#7 DUAL, #27 FL
|Composite||4*, #204 overall
#9 PRO, #35 FL
|Other Suitors||UF, UGA|
|YMRMFSPA||Pahokee Ryan Mallett|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
|Notes||Twitter. Early Enrollee.|
Joe Milton is either going to be the greatest quarterback in the history of the game or a malfunctioning sprinkler system. There is no in-between! Unless there is!
This is to say that Milton is one of those quarterbacks: the guy with the proverbial cannon arm. The cannon's dial goes to 11, starts at 11, and all numbers between are also 11:
Upon being asked for his assessment of the Michigan quarterbacks, redshirt junior tight end Zach Gentry immediately said, “Joe Milton throws the hardest ball of all time.”
"That boy can sling it. Those slants and curls ... you can feel it in your palms, they'll sting a bit."
SBN's Bud Elliott provided a thorough scouting report on Milton after watching 100+ of his throws at a 7 on 7 tournament:
...one of the strongest arms in the country. It’s really something to see in person. One of Milton’s receivers told me his chest hurts after games, and indeed some of his best throws were dropped by receivers who are not as good as the players he will throw to at the next level. The 6’4.5, 222-pound QB fires rockets all over the field. He can make throws others cannot. ... Right now, he is like a pitcher with a 100-mile-per-hour fastball who needs to develop his other pitches. ... If Milton can learn to change the speed and arc on his throws to fit the situation and read defenses more quickly, he could be a beast at the college level.
(That post has 20-30 of those passes in a video if you'd like to confirm or dis-confirm that for yourself.) Even Harbaugh, who's seen a QB or two, is impressed:
“Joe did fantastic, better than you’d expect a freshman at mid-year to be. He’s really talented. Very high ceiling. Big arm. You’d really have to be there to see it. You may have heard (it’s strong), but to see it in person … you’ve got to be there. Pretty good.”
There are passing mentions of 85-yard throws, naturally. There is a distressing high school completion percentage, naturally. And there is the usual scramble to go get the guy from the lingering pro-style wing of college football. Michigan won out and either has Andrew Luck, but with a good arm, or a paperweight.
[After THE JUMP: could be good, could be not good. But Pahokee!]
[Ed. A—Thanks to Orion Sang and The Michigan Daily crew for passing along audio]
“Well, I think we’re a tough group. I think we’re a tough group. Without a doubt, we’re still a work in progress. I think when you look at the group as a whole, we have some guys that actually have some game experience, and I feel good, really good about just the overall continuity of our staff and all the experience that we have and all the different ideas and how we were able to input the things that we feel like are going to be necessary for us to be a good offense next year.”
Tough how? More physical?
“I mea, physically tough, but a coach Harbaugh team, a Jim Harbaugh team, is always mentally tough as well. He likes to grind on guys. He likes to challenge guys to push past their threshold of comfort, and so we will be a tough group.”
With no designated offensive coordinator, how is the playcalling going to work?
“Coach Harbaugh, it’s his offense. Everything goes through Coach and it starts and ends with coach Harbaugh.”
Has your role in the offense changed? Are you taking on more responsibilities than last year?
“No. No, not at all.”
How do you and Jim McElwain process things together? Do you get some input from him?
“Yeah, we all work hard together. We all process things together, so to say coach McElwain, coach Warinner, Ron Prince, Ben McDaniels, along with Jay Harbaugh and Sherrone Moore, we work well together and it’s all a collaborative effort to present coach Harbaugh with some ideas of things that we like and he gives us the yes or no.”
So on gameday will there be somebody or will there be more than one person? Have you talked about that yet, who’s going to be talking to Coach?
“It’s always been that way.”
[Hit THE JUMP for impressions of each QB]
You can catch the entire episode on Michigan Insider's podcast stream on Podbean.
The one time I want to talk about soccer and you’re peeing in my Cheerios.
Scheduling note: Splitting these up because we got a lot from this weekend. Here’s the offense.
I hate to write to the worst of my mentions but the biggest complaint I’ve gotten from doing these write-ups is they’re too positive. There is a very good reason for this: That is what the people with access want to share. Most of the information available to the public comes from the coaches and players made available to the press. That’s supplemented by SOURCES: former players, current players, family members, big donors, local coaches, or those hearing second-hand from them. They are partisans or ambassadors, and have all been told how to talk to the media.
Once in awhile some of this is negative, but the first rule of sourcing is don’t repeat something unless you can verify it, either by getting the same information independently or because you trust where it’s coming from entirely. Positive stuff gets repeated; negative things are usually coming from just one guy. Balancing coverage is impossible, for one, and two, a fallacious exercise.
The best I can do is present the information we have and frame it in context of spring hype. If you take biased information at face value you’re a fool; if you run from bias because it’s not what you want to hear you’re a coward. All agreed? Good. Let’s see where the smoke is blowing.
What we want to hear: Just be honest, okay?
What we’re hearing: From umbig11:
“The ‘SWAG’ is back on the offense! We have playmakers and we have studs on the OL. Shea is playing at a level not seen in A2 for several years!”
Michael Spath talked to a couple players ($) about the how the team looks this year, and got stuff like this:
"I'd put Shea up against any quarterback in the Big Ten, I think Tarik is going to be the best receiver and Ruiz ... man, he's got everything. I'd be shocked if he's not an All-American."
In an interview with Josh Henscke, Carlo Kemp said the offensive line is tough to play against:
"They're really good at every position," Kemp said. "It's a battle every time, especially inside. You've got to be ready to take on double-teams, people coming this way and that way, it's a lot faster game. The o-line is looking really good all across the board. We've all gotten stronger, we've all matured from last season and two seasons ago just with experience playing from the same position. It's been a good fight, o-line and d-line this fall."
What it means: So that’s where the smoke is blowing. Right up in there.
[after THE JUMP: what you want to hear.]
What are your impressions after day one?
“Uh, good. Good day. The team is…it’s a rejuvenated team. And I like the way they’ve really trained over the last two-and-a-half months and getting back on the field was great today.”
Rejuvenated in what way?
“Just attitude, confidence, there was a bounce in their step, and it’s been good. It’s been good over the last weeks, months, and great to get back started on the field.”
I know it’s only been one day, but what did you think of Shea [Patterson]?
“Um, did good. Did a good job. As did a lot of guys, you know. And for a first day, I mean, it was…guys had studied. Guys, you know, it wasn’t the first time they’d thought about the plays or the defensive calls or the punt protections. Guys came out and had a high level of understanding and there was good execution [for a] first day.”
Do you have an update on Shea’s timeline with regard to eligibility or when you might hear something from the NCAA?
Are you hopeful or what do you think?
“I don’t have an update.”
When you go through, because you don’t have an update and you don’t know, do you go through just a normal progression with him and say ‘You’re going to get these reps’ and then the other guys the same way? Do you just go with it thinking that okay, yeah, we will have him?
“Uh, the reps are being evenly distributed amongst the quarterbacks.”
Is Grant Newsome able to practice yet?
He can do anything with the team right now?
“He’s working out, he’s conditioning, but he’s not at the point to come back and practice with the team.”
I think you said Grant Perry’s also limited on the radio. Is there anybody else besides those two that’s not going to be full go by spring ball?
“Yeah. Luiji [Vilain], Jameson Offerdahl, there’s a few. And then Ty Wheatley, looks like he fractured the metacarpal [Ed. A- metatarsal] in his foot today, so he’ll be out for all of spring ball but back for the season.”
[After THE JUMP: out-of-the-gate leaders, some O-line clarity, and RPOh no]
“Am I late?”
“Should have come and got me. I was busy doing something. Sorry if I’m late.”
Tell us what you like best about the guys you got on the dotted line.
“Um…the thing I like best…I like a lot of things, but the thing I like best…football players, good students. I think the thing I like best is there’s guys that really wanted to be at Michigan and appreciate what Michigan has to offer. They can understand it both as a football powerhouse and an academic powerhouse. That it provides both of those things.
“Nobody in there that really thinks they’re doing us the favor. It’s equal. So I think that’s what I like the most.
“I like the production in football games. Guys that are record-setters. There’s state champions. Very productive, and they’re productive in the classroom. They’re coming here to get a degree. The parents expect that they will get a very good degree. They’re not going to college to major in eligibility. They understand that they’re going to major in a legitimate discipline. There’s going to be rigor here, and they welcome that. Multiple things I like about this class so far.”
You guys announced yesterday Shea Patterson. What are your thoughts about him coming in and what his role could be?
“To compete. To…like everybody in the program, he has the license and the ability to be a starter. As I told all three of the quarterbacks at the same time, the only thing that’s guaranteed here is an opportunity. If I was the mindset of Brandon Peters, I would say, ‘Brandon, this is how you should think.’ He’s the starting quarterback, he should take this job and run with it and nobody’s going to take that away from him.
“If I was Dylan McCaffrey I would have the mindset of being on the scout team, being the scout team player of the year, now he’s going to get stronger. Doesn’t matter how many quarterbacks are on the roster, nobody’s going to beat him out.
“And if I was Shea Patterson, I would have the mindset of ‘Wait till they get a load of me.’ So all three have the license and ability to be great.”
[After THE JUMP: an MGoFriend stonewalls a minor violation, Hurst’s bowl-game decision, and a bit on some of the incoming freshmen]