Upon Further Review 2014: Offense vs Appalachian State

Upon Further Review 2014: Offense vs Appalachian State

Submitted by Brian on September 4th, 2014 at 3:15 PM

FORMATION NOTES: Not a whole lot that was unusual. Michigan has changed the alignment of their backs in some shotgun sets:

M pistol-off

I called this "shotgun deep" since the QB is still at 5 yards but the back is behind instead of parallel. I imagine they did this for the same reason the pistol exists: to give the back downhill momentum when he takes a handoff.

Conventional shotgun sets were frequent as well, as were split TEs. This is the first snap of the game and features Hill motioning from an H-back spot to the slot; he'll block for Funchess on a successful flanker screen.

ASU 3-3-5 slide

Michigan would occasionally scrape up an I-Form out of whatever was laying around, like when Chesson motioned in here. This actually cut behind Chesson's force block to pick up 15.

M hback-chesson

SUBSTITUTION NOTES: OL was Cole-Magnuson-Miller-Burzynski/Kalis-Braden the whole way. Gardner obviously QB until garbage time; he got pulled a couple drives before Michigan did much non-WR substitution.

Feature backs were Green and Smith with Hayes apparently a third down option; Drake Johnson only saw garbage carries and should no longer be considered a playing time contender going forward.

At WR it was Funchess, Chesson, Darboh, and Norfleet rotating approximately equally; Canteen did not get on until late. Bo Dever is your backup slot, apparently. Tight end was mostly Hill and Williams with a bit less Heitzman sprinkled in.

[After THE JUMP: all things discussed.]

Preview 2014: Offensive Line

Preview 2014: Offensive Line

Submitted by Brian on August 26th, 2014 at 5:55 PM

Previously: Podcast 6.0. The Story. Quarterback. Running back. Wide Receiver. Tight End And Friends.

hC98E3669[1]

Depth Chart

LT Yr. LG Yr. C Yr. RG Yr. RT Yr.
Mason Cole Fr. Erik Magnuson So.* Graham Glasgow Jr.* Kyle Kalis So.* Ben Braden So.*
Logan Tuley-Tillman Fr.* Kyle Bosch So. Jack Miller Jr.* Joey Burzynski Jr.* David Dawson Fr.*

starters arbitrarily decided to be people who started at least 7 games

I apologize. Last year's edition of this post started with an assertion that "things almost literally can't be worse." It wasn't sunshine…

The way this went down gives some reason for concern. … Michigan [will be] starting at least one player by default. Michigan saw what "by default" can lead to last year. While that isn't likely to recur, neither does the situation promise an amazing one-year turnaround.

…but I didn't recommend that you find a bunker and stock up on pudding pops. Last year did not recur. It went the other direction, hard.

In 2012, Michigan decided to flip their left guard to center on the eve of the season. In 2013, they got four games in before making the switch. Things were already bad. That switch made them worse, not so much because of what was happening at center—Graham Glasgow established himself a pretty good player over the course of the year—but what was happening everywhere else.

Specifically, what was happening around him. The Bentley Library lists starters through the years and one glimpse at left guard shows you the chaos:

image

A 6'1" walk-on got a start. A true freshman got three. A guy who retired after the season because he couldn't get breakfast without injuring himself got two. A 285-pound redshirt freshman got the other three. Reality mowed them all down, and by the end of the year the pile of skulls around the OL was not the enemy but Michigan itself.

Then their starting tackles went in the first three rounds of the NFL draft. Have fun storming the castle!

TACKLE

Rating: 1 of 5

I mean, maybe it'll work out. Maybe this rating will seem very silly at the end of the year, an overreaction to past events that was not a good prognostication of the future. I dearly hope this is the case. Gardner claimed he'd been sacked once during fall camp. It could happen!

Unfortunately, I can't make a reasonable case that you should expect much other than problems. Michigan has zero (ZERO) upperclassmen. The projected left tackle is a true freshman. The projected right tackle was supposed to be the starter at left guard last year but got pulled from the lineup after spring practice. He was not an option during the anarchy when literally every other OL on the roster was. Backing these guys up are two redshirt freshman who were huge projects and are still that. Oh, and the starting guards.

Maybe it will all work out. These guys are universally touted recruits, after all. If only that meant very much on the OL.

13655608025_77d25f9674_z (1)

He blocked Clark! Probably! It's a still shot! [Bryan Fuller]

Might as well start with the big flashing DANGER sign: MASON COLE [recruiting profile], true freshman, is your starting left tackle. This was all fun and games in spring when Erik Magnuson was out, but things got very real very fast this fall and the guy hasn't moved from LT since his arrival and campus and Brady Hoke is just like

"Who knows what will happen. You ask me today? Yeah, he would start. We're not at Aug. 30 yet. But he's more ready than most freshmen are."

…so he's the guy.

Since he's a true freshman I don't have anything more on him than exists in the recruiting profile published about a month ago, which notes that 1) the entire world offered him early, 2) he was possibly the most polished guy at the UA game…

it was clear that the Michigan commit was one of the most polished and skilled offensive line prospects on the East squad. The 6-foot-4, 280-pound Cole projects as an offensive guard long-term, but we aren’t so sure he could not be an excellent tackle in Ann Arbor during his college career.

…3) that he has the requisite athleticism and knee bend to be effective on the edge:

He is very athletic and plays with a lot of energy. Cole is able to bend and play low, giving him the leverage advantage over most opponents, though he needs to do so more consistently.

Cole is quick out of his stance and climbs to the second level using good angles. His feet allow him to play with good balance, which helps him not overextend for defenders.

All of this is great and Cole's trajectory is great; beating Magnuson inside authoritatively when Michigan seems to have a ton of guard bullets is impressive and there has been zero waver in any of this from day one. This is the profile of a guy who is going to be a draft pick very easily. We can discard the usual caveats about high school OL profiles because he has blown past all expectations immediately. Hooray for the long term.

This year? I don't know man. Let's check out

A RECENT HISTORY OF TRUE FRESHMAN TACKLES

Well, here's a thing: mighty Alabama is putting freshman Cameron Robinson out as their starter this fall. The slight difference: Robinson is a Peppers-level prospect, in fact ranked one spot ahead of him on the 247 composite. At 323 he's less of a size question than Cole.

In terms of guys who did play:

  • Oregon State started Sean Harlow at right tackle. The Beavers were middling in pass protection… and 109th in YPC.
  • Virginia played Eric Smith, also at right tackle. UVA was also middling in pass protection… and 91st in YPC.
  • Maryland managed to start true freshman left tackles in consecutive years(!). Mike Madaras left abruptly after his first year, paving the way for Moise Larose to get four starts before a foot injury ended his year. Larose is now suspended for 2014. Feel the Terpitude. The 2012 Terps were completely terrible in all line-related stats; last year they were okay at pass protection.
  • Virginia Tech started Jonathan McLaughlin all last year, and I don't even have to look their stats up to know they were a tire fire. Aaand yup: 99th and worse.
  • Ole Miss started Laremy Tunsil, a Robinson-level five star. Mississippi was… okay! 42nd in YPC, 74th in sacks allowed.

So… that's not at all encouraging. Cole was a much more highly touted prospect than all of those guys save Tunsil, at least, and he 1) enrolled early and 2) came from one of those super serious Florida high schools that are almost college programs in their own right. Also the way he was the LT starter from about a week into spring without challenge is a hopeful sign.

The occasional freshman tackle can cope. I think Cole is one of those guys. But is he going to blow a guy off the ball and provide a big ol' lane at 292 pounds? Probably not. Our hope here is that Cole is a solid, agile pass protector in year one who is a meh run blocker. Chances are he has a wake-up call or two coming.

[After THE JUMP: large men, vague hope]

Fall Camp Presser 8-20-14: Brady Hoke

Fall Camp Presser 8-20-14: Brady Hoke

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on August 21st, 2014 at 8:58 AM

Hoke presser 2

file

News bullets and other items:

  • Today’s starting offensive line would be Mason Cole- LT; Erik Magnuson- LG; Jack Miller- C; Burzynski/Bosch/Kalis- RG; Ben Braden- RT
  • Jabrill Peppers will start at nickel but has picked up the defense fast enough that he’s taking some snaps at boundary corner
  • Hoke can’t remember Devin Funchess dropping a single pass in fall camp which, like, eeeeee
  • Derrick Green and DeVeon Smith are considered the downhill backs, while Drake Johnson and Justice Hayes are the third-down backs
  • Preparation for that game on the 30th against that one team begins Thursday
  • Brady Hoke “Well,…” count: 6

    Opening remarks:

"Thanks for coming out. I think we haven't spoken to each other since Saturday. We've had good practices, good energy, good competition. I think that's one thing we've talked about every time is to compete and challenge each other and I think this team has done that. I think there's leadership throughout the team in all classes which has been good to see. If you're good enough, you're old enough and that's been part of what we talked about. I think that's very good. Starting to get...we are starting to get prepared for Appalachian State here in the next couple days. We'll do some things with switch [?] teams and really have some good competition with that part of it and also keep the speed of how we want to play the game, so there will always be situational ones on ones, twos on twos. Tomorrow is Tuesday, the next day is Wednesday and Saturday is a Thursday how we look at it and next week we'll take Sunday and do some walk-throughs, get the tape reviewed. Next Tuesday will be a Tuesday, Wednesday will be a Wednesday, and Thursday will be Thursday so you've got to figure it out on my end sometimes. But it's been a good camp. I guess we'll break on Saturday morning – about 1 PM on Saturday after we go up to the stadium, have a good practice there. We'll do a lot of game rehearsal things, trying to put the players in situations that they will be in. I think that's important. So… excited. I think we're all excited. Are we ready? Not yet, so we have a lot of work ahead of us but at the same time I like how we go about our business every day."

You said this was the day you start preparing for App State. Do you have a set offensive line?

“Well, I think there's still some competition but I think Ben Braden has been a very steady performer at right tackle. I think Mason Cole has been very, very steady at the left tackle position. I always get asked – not just by you guys but Mason Cole, you don't notice him so you don't notice any mistakes. He's not a guy who's been a guy who killed plays and that's the kind of stuff… Jack will be the center, Kugler will back him up. We'll be without Graham as you all know. Mags will be the left guard if we were playing today and at the right guard I think there's good competition. Joe Burzynski, Kyle Bosch, Kalis is getting work at both guards, he's just getting back into things yesterday so I think we're still– I have an idea, but I don't think we're set at that right guard position right now.”

What did the film from Saturday show you as far as the offensive line goes?

“You know, there were some holes and there were some holes we have to take advantage of and there's also times where the back’s got to make it right, you know, quarterback drifting out of his ball handling knocks a back out of his A gap. We had some of those. Still not enough of them. We still got to move the line of scrimmage better and that's a constant that we'll have. I thought that yesterday the backs did a nice job. I think that Fred [Jackson] definitely had an effect on how they need to approach it and so I think we're making really good progress there.”

To clarify something from Saturday, did you say that in a 4-3 defense, your base, Jabrill [Peppers] would be a corner and then slide into the nickel spot?

“Yeah, I mean he would slide inside. We're going to really try and make sure that he’s set at the nickel before we get too far out there being a boundary corner. I mean, we played him at boundary corner some the other night with the first group. There's some things that are different when you're playing one-third than when you're playing a nickel position so right now, yes, he's playing some corner but we are going to focus in on nickel with him in there.”

You said that you wanted him just to be practicing in one position to get really comfortable there. What have you seen out of him that you feel comfortable, obviously, giving him more responsibility?

“Well, he's learned fast. I think the way he's engrossed himself in the playbook. I think from a fundamental/technique standpoint he's come a long way. Just think he's done a nice job overall.”

[After THE JUMP: sorting out the running back situation, Devin Gardner’s leadership, and my inaugural MGoQuestion]

Scrimmage Take: But The Defense Is Great?

Scrimmage Take: But The Defense Is Great?

Submitted by Brian on August 18th, 2014 at 11:38 AM

13655919505_259e92e420_z

why u no push [Bryan Fuller]

Might as well get it out of the way. The offensive line was pretty depressing. For big chunks of the scrimmage it was ones versus twos, which helps resolve the classic intrasquad "is this event good or bad" dilemma: when your second-team defense is stoning your first team offense, it is bad. And they did stone the offense:

The rotation Saturday was more stable in comparison with last season, but the three running backs gained just 33 yards on 20 carries with the first team, and the blocking issues haven’t gone away.

In this case it is maybe less bad than otherwise because there's little separation between Michigan's first- and second-team front sevens. But it is still bad.

One disturbing echo of last year: when Glasgow got dinged up and went out, it was Joey Burzynski who drew into the lineup at right guard on the first team. No offense to Burzynski, but the guy is a 6'1" gentleman coming off of ACL surgery. Surely one of the touted 6'5" guys should be ahead of him on the depth chart by now.

Kalis was out and I imagine he has managed to pass Burzynski, but his presence indicates that Samuelson and Dawson and Bars and so forth and so on are not yet viable options. And where's Bosch? On the second team, yes, but why isn't he pushing for a spot?

I can't tell you too much about any particular lineman without tape, unfortunately… Cole held his own in pass protection, so there's that.

9856914956_d9600894d3_z

in yo face [Fuller]

Aggression. If you needed further confirmation it is real, well, it's real. Michigan ran piles and piles of man-to-man—all the better to unleash Peppers on opponents with—and took a number of PI flags ranging from obvious to silly to questionable. They must clean those up, but with Michigan going hell-for-leather in your face this year the QB has to get it on target for it to count.

Encouragingly there weren't many biffs that led to wide open guys in the flat. Wyatt Shallman had one flare-and-run that broke for a bunch of yards when his man got picked off by the route. That will be a danger: if Michigan doesn't have a reasonable amount of zone those plays will be there.

Hello Mr. Hurts. I just misspelled "Hurst" but I'm leavin' it. Mo Hurst burst into the backfield three or four times, once getting a thunderous safety TFL. As a recruit he was reputed to be a first step that happened to be attached to a human body, and that looks on point. No doubt he will have issues holding up to double-teams as a 282-pound redshirt freshman; from here it looks like a promising debut season and considerable excitement going into next year are waiting in the wings.

8646298713_82f41cb18f_z

[Fuller]

Who is where at DT? And will they stay there? Your nominal starters were, unexpectedly, Matt Godin and Ryan Glasgow at three-tech and nose, respectively. There was a ton of rotation at those spots, so much so that determining a Real Starter seems not only futile but pointless, but if those two guys are actually viable that's interesting. Because it's not like Willie Henry is going away:

He will start; Godin's existence is a nice bonus. I'm a little less enthused about the prospect of Glasgow as a candidate to start at nose because there isn't a groundswell of buzz behind a couple of established players like there is at three-tech. Pipkins has gotten some approving mentions but nothing like that accompanying Henry, and while Mone is set to be a contributor he is a true freshman.

Undeserved lemon? Bolden was first choice at WLB but Morgan rotated in so frequently at both positions it seems like they just have three starters for two spots. Like DT it is at times pointless to think one guy is a starter while the other is not. This bodes well.

Bolden did just annihilate one screen, laying the hardest hit he has on anyone since his arrival. Hesitancy has been the main issue with his game since his arrival. If it has truly clicked for him, that's exciting. He is not beating out a scrub here.

Youth movement at corner. Also in "not beating out a scrub here": Lewis and Peppers are definitely your leaders there; rotation will be frequent. Countess did have an excellent INT on a Gardner throw destined for Funchess, but even so it seems like two returning starters on a decent pass defense have been booted from the starting lineup.

14694629398_a8f8729060_z

Darboh and Gardner have chemistry. [Fuller]

Wideout depth is quality. Michigan has their big 5 (Funchess, Darboh, Canteen, Chesson, Norfleet) and then some: Moe Ways brought in four or five catches that were reminiscent of Junior Hemingway, and while he was working on a walk-on wearing 49 for some of those the way he found the ball in the air and brought it in was impressive.

Walk-on Bo Dever showed some promise as a Dileo-type in the slot; he was Speight's favorite target; fellow walk-on Jack Wangler was also reliable. No idea if either has the athletcism or route chops to get real playing time. They've got a chance. FWIW, Stribling had a nice interception on a Dever wheel route that he had blanketed. That is not his jam.

On the negative side, Da'Mario Jones had a bad night, dropping several balls that should have been catches. Jaron Dukes didn't do much.

Oh, and the top end is rather top end.

The first downfield pass was Funchess making a spectacular stab while well covered. Yes, please. In general, the WR/CB matchup looked top-notch all around. Michigan receivers found very few open opportunities and still made some great catches. Freddy Canteen once again reminded Jourdan Lewis that the gypsy he offended needs an apology. And Amara Darboh looked very, very Avant-like on a series of slants and digs that promise to be reliable chain-movers this fall.

If Michigan can pass protect there is the potential for a passing-oriented offense to work here. If.

All the zone reps. Every OL drill in the warmup portion was zone-oriented, and about 90% was inside zone. They worked in pairs against one opponent, reacting to his movements to execute combination blocks, and then worked on IDing and reacting appropriately to stunts. As the scrimmage showed, it is a work in progress. It's going to be a work in progress all year, and all next year, and the year after that. Inside zone is hard and competence is built up over years.

Another safety solution. Hill was held out; in his stead the first team safety combination was Clark and Wilson. The twist: it was Wilson frequently creeping to the line as the strong safety with Clark playing center field.

Gardner looked good. He's fast!. He's still a little wobbly with the decisions. He looked very accurate when given time, and stepped up through pressure more than once. His only flip-around-and-chuck was a ball he was throwing away; he did have one aimless bomb downfield that should have been out of bounds but was instead up for grabs that Nussmeier did not like.

Morris looked a lot more plausible than he did in the spring, more comfortable in the pocket and less prone to throwing directly at defenders.

Injuries. Butt and Hill were in no-contact jerseys; Reon Dawson had an arm in a sling; Delonte Hollowell had a hard cast on one hand for what looked like a thumb issue. Hollowell participated as normal. Drake Harris dressed normally but didn't even take the full warmup reps with his bros. Ty Isaac was held out with something minor, and Kalis had his back issue. He should be back today.

Meanwhile, any and all optimism about Butt's return seems reasonable. He went through warmup drills with everyone else and looked just fine. If he's at the stage where he can plant and cut at full speed with a month before ND he should be ready to go by then.

Return reversal. In a bit of an oddity, it looks like Peppers is more likely to get time as a punt returner than at kick returner, where Raymon Taylor was Norfleet's backup. Usually kickoffs are where you blood new guys because a muff just means you got a touchback or some bad field position instead of disaster.

Hagerup! Booted a 70 yarder, drawing the first applause of the night. #B1G.

The thing that is hilarious. Dennis Norfleet stacked behind Devin Funchess. We do not have a photo of this yet, but when we do… oh, when we do. 

Phil Collins count: 0.

I think we killed it. I didn't mention this all last year because I didn't want to jinx it but after not only the nonstop music from the spring game but also this scrimmage, I think I can finally poke my head out and say: "In The Big House" is dead. Deaaaaaaaaad.

I swear to God, Special K, if you bring it back after I mention this I will find you. That's the best thing about making up a fictional bete noire DJ: you can threaten it all you want.

Formations. Michigan at least showed a lot of stuff, mixing under center snaps with the pistol and shotgun. The formations featured a lot of 2TE looks, and what seemed like a decreased emphasis on the FB. Nussmeier really likes motioning FB/RB/TE types out wide to trips formations, which gives the defense a dilemma: do I run a linebacker out there and tell 'em it's man coverage (and spread the box) or do I live with the potential mismatch that comes when one of my corners is dealing with AJ Williams?

This will get more interesting when Butt is on the field. Right now a 2TE lineup of Williams and Heitzman or Hill is emphatically 2TEs; with Butt you can really put a defense in a bind.

Corner blitz hot reads. Two or three times Gardner IDed a corner blitz and just threw a hot stop route to the vacated corner for nice gains.

FLEET house KO. High five!

Monday Presser Transcript 10-21-13: Brady Hoke

Monday Presser Transcript 10-21-13: Brady Hoke

Submitted by Heiko on October 21st, 2013 at 4:18 PM

Bullets:

  • Joey Burzynski is out with a torn ACL. Drew Dileo should be fine.
  • Amara Darboh is out of his boot.
  • Offensive line is still subject to change.
  • Team will take Tuesday off and resume practice Thursday and Friday.
  • Offensive game plan vs Indiana was to use a lot of double moves to take advantage of Indiana's corners' tendency to jump routes. 
  • Defensive game plan was to not get frustrated. 

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

Opening remarks:

“It was great to win the football game the other night. Obviously we don’t like winning games when we give up that many points. We have to do a better job defensively in some areas. Offensively, obviously, it was a great offensive performance. I think playing itself, going into the game to take advantage of some of the things that Indiana did defensively, some of the double moves, the play-action game out of the two-back and 12 personnel sets were really good. And it helped that we were able to run the football. I think the guards that played did a nice job. Was it perfect? No. But I think all three of them did a nice job. The unfortunate thing is Joey [Burzynski], we’ll probably lose for the year with an ACL. You look at your depth and you look at the last five games you’re going into, you need everybody. We’re fortunate Chris Bryant is still a guy that will compete, and Kyle Kalis is a guy who can compete. That helps you a little bit but you feel bad for Joey because he’s worked so hard to get to this point.”

27 For 27: A Document

27 For 27: A Document

Submitted by Brian on October 16th, 2013 at 3:53 PM

[SITE NOTE: Due to a confluence of things including a long drive home, four overtimes, thrilling CONCACAF qualifier business, the Tigers, this post, and a desire to stab my eyeballs whenever I look at the tape, UFR is not quite done and will go up tomorrow.]

Fitzgerald Toussaint set a Michigan record for sustained futility on Saturday by running for 27 yards on 27 carries. Since 1949, no other back has gotten as many carries without gaining at least twice as many yards. Posterity demands that someone detail what happened.

A note: blame is apportioned. When things are designated playcall it's because I don't believe it's reasonable to expect Michigan to block player X, either because he's an extra guy in the box or he's tearing towards the line of scrimmage on the snap because he has no fear of a pass. You can adjust your personal indignation levels on this based on how reasonable you thought running into stacked boxes was vis a vis Devin Gardner's 13 YPA and constant turnover threat; I'm just trying to figure out how much of the run splat was preordained by playcalls.

Ready? No. I know you're not. But here we go anyway.

One

27f27-1

Play: Power O
Formation: Tackle over I Form H
Yards: -3

Why it didn't work:

  1. Graham Glasgow ignored the NT.
  2. Predictable playcall sees PSU linebackers flow hard with effectively nine in the box.
  3. Jake Butt gets beat badly by a PSU LB in the hole.

Blame: 80% OL, 10% playcall, %10 TE/FB

Two

27f27-2

Play: Zone stretch.
Formation: Tackle over I Form big
Yards: -3

Why it didn't work:

  1. PSU has straight up nine in the box.
  2. Michigan tries to be clever by running at Williams and Bryant, both of whom get destroyed.
  3. Schofield leaves immediately, so Lewan has no shot at the backside tackle.

Blame: 30% TE/FB, 30% OL, 40% playcall

Three

27f27-3

Play: Power O
Formation: Tackle over Ace H
Yards: 12

Why it didn't work:

  1. Actually it did work.
  2. It works because Schofield gets nice push, giving Toussaint a crease. Glasgow gets movement on a DT and the eighth guy in the box for PSU tries to get over to the frontside when he should probably stack this up near the LOS.

Blame: Everyone is happy!

Four

27f27-4

Play: Counter
Formation: Tackle over trips TE
Yards: 1

Why it didn't work:

  1. Seven guys in the box against six blockers; extra guy makes the stop.
  2. PSU WLB doesn't get suckered by the counter, gives Glasgow no shot to block him.
  3. Kalis gets shed, falling to the ground.

Blame: 80% playcall, 20% OL.

[After THE JUMP: just don't click through. I'm sorry I even did this.]

Spring Practice Checklist

Spring Practice Checklist

Submitted by Brian on March 6th, 2013 at 11:33 AM

rec_u_miller_400[1]512x[1]

just win the job thx / just get touches thx

Michigan kicks off spring practice in ten days, whereupon they will hit each other and do things that are football related and not much of import will go down but we will suck it up with the world's largest straw anyway because that's just how we do. This is a welcome change from Rodriguez-era spring practices, where worlds rose and fell because of the quarterback situation. Michigan has that locked down thanks to Denard's elbow injury and Devin Gardner's play.

Still, there are things to look for in the insider buzz and coach-talkin' that we will start receiving soon. (Other schools are out there covering it in person, grumble.) Here are the things I hope we start hearing soon:

Dennis Norfleet is back on offense. Check($). Norfleet's coach told Mike Spath that Norfleet was moving back to a return/slot/change of pace role a couple weeks ago, which makes me go eeee. Speculation that Norfleet's move was related to JT Floyd's suspension appears to have been accurate:

"In the bowl, it was basically a situation where he wanted the chance to earn more playing time, the numbers were down, and they let him compete there, but it was never supposed to be a permanent move."

Next on the checklist is seeing Norfleet get some touches at a place other than kick return.

Devin Gardner has two years to play. Also check. High five your future self.

There are clear leaders for each of the interior line spots. Last year's late Barnum/Mealer flip presaged trouble, and trouble was received. Ideally Michigan will come out of spring practice with an offensive line two-deep written in ink—chiseled in stone is unfortunately out of the question.

In practice this means:

  • Kyle Kalis locks down a guard spot.
  • There are no whispers about serious competition for Jack Miller since Kugler is not on campus yet.
  • Bars, Bosch, Braden, or Bryant becomes the clear leader at the other guard spot.

If the last one doesn't come to fruition that's okay, as Michigan will probably be able to figure out one guard spot in fall camp without much trouble. If either of the first two is false that's not so good. If it's Kalis, that's a five-star guy falling off a stardom track. Meanwhile Miller's current competition at center is…

uh…

well, a "tight-lipped" Darrell Funk didn't mention any position changes other than the fact that Joey Burzynski and Graham Glasgow will receive looks at center this spring. If Michigan's going to start a walk-on, center is the place that I'm most comfortable having that happen, especially since they've all got a decent amount of experience there…

"That'll be a really interesting battle," Funk said. "I would prefer not to have another center battle for the second consecutive year, but it is what it is and we've got some candidates. They've all repped it for a year and a half, or two years, and we'll see who the best guy is."

…but I'm with Funk. Someone please lock that job down ASAP.

If it's a walk-on that might be okay. Burzynski was actually ahead of Miller as a sixth lineman on the goal line last year; Glasgow has the size (listed at 6'6", 305), has received some hype and is one of the better twitter follows on the team*. If either wins the job the least we can expect is that the line calls are consistently right, right?

*[

]

8172983839_aa273ebde1_z[1]

needs moar this (Upchurch)

There's someone to throw to. I'd better damn well hear that after last year's Devin Funchess fade—little of it his fault since the guy caught everything they threw at him—that Devin Gardner is throwing to him on every play, often twice. I desire a low rumble of Breaston-level hype relating to Devin Funchess. Oh and I would also like him to be a credible blocker.

On the outside, it's time for Amarah Darboh or Jehu Chesson or hopefully both to start getting buzz as a possession magnet or deep ball specialist. Michigan is okay with Jeremy Gallon (suddenly rampant with Gardner at the helm) and Drew Dileo at two spots; they'd dearly like to acquire a large receiver for various purposes.

New-ish defensive lineman X is making The Leap. Prime candidates are Ondre Pipkins and either Frank Clark or Mario Ojemudia. Someone on that line should be getting way better right now, and while Pipkins isn't going to start this year Michigan is going to count on him heavily the next three years. He needs to be a guy who does not get knocked over by running backs one-on-one.

Then you've got a cavalcade of redshirt freshmen. Chris Wormley's ACL injury was 6 or 7 months ago so we probably won't get to hear much about him; it would be nice if Willie Henry, Matt Godin, or Tom Strobel started generating some buzz.

James Ross is beast. I'm not including either rising sophomore linebacker in the above discussion since we have already seen them in action plenty and they are marked for stardom. I still think Desmond Morgan is going to hold a job, leaving one of the two a frequent substitute rather than a starter. The preferred way for this to work out is for James Ross to put on 20 pounds and leave no doubt about who is Michigan's weakside linebacker for the next three years.

It's like nothing ever happened to Blake Countess. Obvious.

The loss of Jordan Kovacs, while inevitably painful, will be mitigated. Also obvious. The battle here is between Dymonte Thomas, who enrolled early, Jarrod Wilson, and little-used veterans Marvin Robinson and Josh Furman. Jeremy Clark may figure in as well.

I'm not sure how I want that to work out just yet but like center, it's for the best if someone grabs the job and sits on it. At least here seem to be a number of reasonable options.

Starting Beard is taken care of. Elliott Mealer is gone. Time to step it up, people. This town needs Vikings.

Preview 2012: Offensive Line

Preview 2012: Offensive Line

Submitted by Brian on August 28th, 2012 at 12:32 PM

Previous: Podcast 4.0, the story, quarterback, running back, wide receivers.

oline-vs-osu

Depth Chart
LT Yr. LG Yr. C Yr. RG Yr. RT Yr.
Taylor Lewan Jr.* Elliott Mealer Sr.* Ricky Barnum Sr.* Patrick Omameh Sr.* Michael Schofield Jr.*
Erik Magnuson Fr. Joey Burzynski So.* Jack Miller Fr.* Kyle Kalis Fr. Ben Braden Fr.

This again. One year after Michigan's offensive line looked pretty shiny as long as you did not consider the cliff after guy #6, Michigan's offensive line looks really shiny… as long as you don't consider the cliff after guy #5. Or maybe guy #4. In a best case scenario, still guy #6.

Last year, Michigan had Michael Schofield to step into the lineup, and needed him to. This year any injury will see a walk-on or freshman—probably a true freshman—hit the field. Yipes.

But let's not think about that. As long as the starting five stays intact, the line should be quality. Taylor Lewan is projected as a first-round NFL draft pick, Patrick Omameh is in his fourth year as a starter, Michael Schofield started most of last year and moves to a more natural position, and the other two guys are redshirt seniors. Michigan should have a better line this year even without David Molk.

That first step's a doozy, though.

Tackle

Rating: 5 of 5, not considering depth

(CAPTION INFORMATION)
Michigan offensive linesman Taylor Lewan and Purdue safety Albert Evans have words after a play.  Lewan was given a penalty for his troubles.               Photos are of the University of Michigan vs. Purdue University at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, October 29, 2011.   (David Guralnick / The Detroit News)
(caption) Michigan OL Taylor Lewan (77) blocks Eastern Michigan Eagles linebacker Marcus English (42), paving the way for Denard Robinson's rushing touchdown  in the second quarter.    *** The Michigan Wolverines (2-0) host the Eastern Michigan Eagles (2-0) at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. Photos taken on Saturday, September 17, 2011. ( John T. Greilick / The Detroit News )

Guralnick/Greilick, Detroit News

At this point, "Taylor Lewan is the next Jake Long" is not hope or hype or projection but just a (pretty much) true thing. Lewan may not go first overall in the NFL draft but he's already being projected in the top half of the first round next year, should he choose to depart.

After a promising but penalty-filled freshman year, Lewan cut out the holding calls and stoned opposing pass rushers, snap in, snap out. The primary reason ultra-hyped MSU DE Will Gholston started playing judo chop with various Lewan limbs was that he had no hope of impacting the game in any other fashion:

TAYLOR LEWAN
AGILITY TO PULL
sprint counter
gets outside on p&p
another sprint counter
HATES DONKEYS
donkey McNaul
donkey Short
donkey Meredith
donkey some guy
donkey-ish Hankins
DONKEY HANKINS
ETC.
nice seal on Worthy
stands up Binns
gets Toussaint edge
DOES BIFF
loses balance
fails to cut on screen

In a game where the Michigan OL was overwhelmed, blitz or not (Mark Huyge got 7 protection minuses), Lewan had a measly +1. Across twelve games of fending off the opposition's best pass rusher he racked up a total of four protection minuses. Two of those were for not cutting a guy on a screen; a third was not getting out on a corner on an attempted double pass. The fourth is somewhere in that video above, and I'm not even sure what that was. Even counting that there was literally one QB hurry going one-on-one with Lewan last year, to say nothing of actual sacks. There is a reason he is getting the NFL hype.

(Note that when blitzes cause confusion not localizable to one or two players that sends in free rushers I file that under "team." Lewan's no doubt responsible for some of those. When he identifies a guy to block, it's over.)

The black lining in our silver cloud was Lewan's lack of impact in the run game. He started off well, with three games around +10 in the UFR run chart and a 7-3-+4 against ND in limited opportunities—Michigan did jack before eviscerating Gary Gray in the fourth quarter. This was noted.

how often have you thought about Taylor Lewan this year? Not often, right? Mostly when he takes some donkey and punches it so hard in the nose shards of cartilage come out the back of its donkeyhelmet, right? (In a non-personal-foul acquiring way, of course.)

After that, he struggled to register on the run chart until late. His Big Ten season:

Game Opponent + - T Comment
5 MINN 5.5 6 -0.5 Yeah, surprised me too: had a couple busts and one bad whiff.
6 NW 4.5 2 2.5 Why so low, numbers? Discussion later.
7 MSU 6 5 1 Lucky to have both arms in his shoulder sockets.
8 PU 7 1 6 Would like to see him more involved somehow.
9 Iowa 6 7 -1 Off day.
10 Illinois 8 5 3 Had some mistakes in space.
11 Nebraska 9 - 9 Finally some productive donkey hatred. Belly helps him produce; also got Toussaint the edge on a play that would have gone badly otherwise.
12 OSU 9.5 1 8 Effective against DTs, mostly, also getting to the second level.

There's a certain amount of busting plays that is part and parcel of being an offensive lineman, especially one learning a new offense. That doesn't bother me. What does is the overall lack of positives until the tail end of the season. Heavily involved linemen will be putting up twice the positives and negatives as the above—Omameh had eight games where his positives were above ten and five where they were 13 or greater. Lewan didn't get there, and I think this was because of Omameh, ironically:

What is with those Lewan numbers?

The system doesn't try to judge blocks that are far away from the play and often declares an easy thing done okay to be a zero, so backside tackles and down-blocking guys a gap away from the play rarely register. Lewan rarely registered and this week's picture pages were examples of Schofield pulling, Schofield pulling, and Schofield pulling. Why is Michigan pulling the converted tackle backup and running away from their donkey-hating first round tackle?

The only conclusion that makes sense is they hate pulling Omameh. When they did pull left, they pulled Molk or Schofield and Molk, only rarely trying Omameh.

We'll talk about that when we get to the right guard, but Omameh came on in those last three games in which Lewan finally got some traction. Once they could pull the right guard, the left tackle got to express his donkey hatred.

With Omameh figuring it out and another year of experience for both, Michigan figures to be more left-handed on the ground; combine that with the pass blocking mentioned above and factor the injuries Lewan dragged around all year and the projections for his 2012 should be sky-high. He should be an All-American, or at least play like one.

[hit THE JUMP to find out about the other starters, but probably not the backups.]

Unverified Voracity Can't Get Jinxed This Time

Unverified Voracity Can't Get Jinxed This Time

Submitted by Brian on August 16th, 2012 at 1:09 PM

Liveblog update. I think we've found a much more reasonably-priced liveblog solution. We're taking a test drive at around noon Monday if you want to stop in, check it out, and ask a question about Will Campbell I can't really answer.

Hopefully this works out better than the last one. Denard is one of SI's 62 regional covers:

527961_424396337611797_17891639_n[1]

Hey, I wonder how Michigan did the last time they featured on one of SI's 64 regional covers?

0817_large[1]

Yipes. At least if they lose their opener this time no one is going to set the world on fire.

The Burzynski hypothesis. Joey Burzynski on his developing all-time beard:

"Facial hair goes in 150-year cycles," he says. "This was popular in the Civil War, and it should be coming back right about now I think."

And Mealer talking about… well, I'm going to pretend he's talking about their beard rivalry instead of their competition for starting LG:

"Joey's great," Mealer said. "He pushes me to get better and I hope I push him to get better."

Yeah, man, yeah. Follicles.

Wormley ACL bits. Chris Wormley's torn ACL is suboptimal but I don't think it'll be much of an issue either this year or down the road. Wormley was behind definitely Roh and probably Nate Brink, and Tom Strobel is a pretty big dude himself. If Wormley ended up being the #2 three-tech—vaguely possible—then Michigan has picked up a downgrade, but again, Matt Godin is already big enough to be an okay rotation player if Washington or Wilkins don't step up.

As for the injury itself, it's reportedly just a plain ACL tear with none of the assorted meniscus/PCL issues that are not fun. It just so happens I had a plain ol' ACL tear and am coming through rehab as we speak. Wormley will be on crutches for a month and then will start rebuilding his strength; he'll probably be limited or out for spring practice but by this time next year he should be good as new.

Meanwhile in Lansing injuries. Aaron Burbridge's rumored knee thing is now just a knee thing; he's out six weeks and will likely redshirt as a result. Meanwhile, starting LG Blake Treadwell has a stress fracture and will be out four or five weeks at least—hairline leg fractures can linger, especially when you're an unnaturally large human.

Hype that Bellomy. Russell Bellomy is coming in for a wide sampling of hype now, which makes sense what with Devin Gardner looking more and more like a wide receiver. Do you buy it? I dunno, man. Bellomy looked better than Gardner in the spring game but he was mostly dinking and dunking.

It doesn't really matter, does it? I mean, we're boned if Robinson goes down for an extended period of time either way. Carry on.

How did this happen? Tom Crean pulled a Les Miles yesterday as Indiana told 2012 recruit Ron Patterson that he wouldn't actually be enrolling at Indiana… after he had already enrolled at Indiana. He is eligible to transfer to another four year school immediately—he's eligible in the NCAA's eyes. Indiana had 14 players for 13 scholarships.

Q: isn't that against Big Ten rules? IIRC, if you don't have a spot for a player you have to explain where you're getting it before the Big Ten will allow you to go over. That reason could not have been "we will let this guy take some classes and then tell him to talk to the hand halfway through August despite being through the NCAA clearinghouse." How did Crean get this through?

Anyway, that's some dirt Indiana just did. They took a guy who was eligible, put him in classes, and then dumped him two weeks before fall classes start most places. Dwight Schrute, I am disappoint.

Etc.: Yahoo ranks Michigan #6; Pre-Snap Read goes with #18. I like reading previews just to see how many fanciful assertions each makes as someone with only a passing familiarity with the team in question tries to say stuff about guys on the line. Steve Sapardanis on Billy Taylor's shoes. Yeah, Pro Combat's a pretty dumb name for amateur non-combat. Maize and Go Blue breaks down some of Denard's mechanical issues.

Unverified Voracity Is Storing A Sandwich In There

Unverified Voracity Is Storing A Sandwich In There

Submitted by Brian on August 14th, 2012 at 3:00 PM

Not dog grooming. Good news! It seems like they're shelving "In The Big House" for something else. That would seem to be this from a couple of walk-ons:

According to the facebook, anyway. It's… not dog grooming. Horrible thought: this may have no impact on dog grooming. Let's move on to happier thoughts.

Vintage Fred Jackson. Man I just don't know how does this even:

"He's got Mike Hart kind of feet, but a lot faster than Mike."

That's about Thomas Rawls, and it goes in the Fred Jackson hyperbole hall of fame. Jackson also got this quote off:

"Usually a guy with good vision is a little bit taller," Jackson said. "Thomas is probably, maybe, 5-8. He tells me he's 5-11 and I'm 6-2, I think, and I look down on him and eat soup off his head."

Why are you eating soup off of someone's head, Fred Jackson? Why is there soup there anyway? What kind of soup? Does Thomas Rawls have a circular depression in the top of his head? Doesn't that seem unsafe for a football player? Are you #$*#$ing serious about this Hart thing? Do you remember Mike Hart? Fred Jackson I am confused.

BONUS I JUST DON'T EVEN HOW DOES I DON'T MAN: Rawls has a "bete noire" tattoo for this reason:

He says it's French for "accomplish your hopes and dreams."

I do not think your tattoo means what you think it means.

BONUS BONUS FRED JACKSON JACKSON:

Jackson said Rawls also reminds him of another former Flint star, Mark Ingram, the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner at Alabama. Ingram (5-10, 215 pounds) and Rawls are similar in build.

"They were almost identical high school backs," said Jackson. "Obviously, Mark Ingram had a great (offensive) line at Alabama that helped him along, but Thomas is a lot faster than Mark, (and) has the same type of ability. I'm not trying to compare them in any way but when you watched them in high school, they were very similar running backs."

BONUS BONUS BONUS FRED JACKSON JACKSON JACKSON:

"Norfleet is as quick as any kid at Michigan since I've been here," said Jackson, in his 21st season. "I've not seen a guy that quick…."

But what about senior quarterback Denard Robinson? Is Norfleet faster?

"No, I don't think (anybody) is faster than Denard," Jackson said. "(Norfleet's) got the quickness that will put him in the same positions Denard gets in quicker than Denard will get in them."

Facial hair watch. Ace points out that walk-on and competitor at left guard Joey Burzynski has the makings of something special on his face:

Michigan offensive lineman Joey Burzynski during the 2012 Michigan Football Media Day, Sunday, August 12, in UM's Al Glick Fieldhouse.

With careful grooming and time, this man could be a facial hair All-American. This would give Michigan two, since Elliott Mealer either needs an acoustic guitar or a hammer fashioned by Odin to do justice to his face… thing:

image

STEP YOUR FACE HAIR GAME UP, KYLE KALIS WOOOOO

BONUS: Mustaches for Michigan, where have you gone?

They might do it. Brady Hoke's old defensive coordinator Rocky Long, now the head guy at San Diego State, has heard of Pulaski High School—the Arkansas outfit that never ever punts—and is thinking about doing it:

After reading articles about an idiosyncratic Arkansas high school coach who never punts, always onside kicks, and has tremendous success doing it, Long is toying with the idea for his Aztecs of no punts or field goal attempts once they’ve driven inside an opponent’s 50-yard line.

Conceivably, San Diego State would go for the first down whether it needed a couple of inches or 10 yards.

And yes, Long — who apparently hasn’t yet tried it all in his 40 years of coaching — is serious about this.

“It makes sense,” he said, seeming almost giddy in talking about the possibilities.

“Additional plays would allow you to score a lot more points,” he said. “It also puts a whole lot of pressure on the defense.”

It's not a sure thing yet, but I can't think of any better way to memorialize the WAC. Do it. You'd look so cool.

Oh my gawd. Please CBS, call this show "Boss Hog and the Zooker" and make it a crime procedural:

CBS Sports Network announces Houston Nutt will serve as studio analyst this year. He'll be joined by Ron Zook.

If college football does not take me up on my extremely reasonable plan to have JLS coach a different team on an interim basis every year, he could join up in 2013, and then our piss would indeed be hot.

Are these different? The M-Den says the basketball jerseys are different. I can't really tell:

A0NdwqdCcAAUZ7x[1]

I can still complain about it, right?

Jolly good show, catching me. I am quite elusive, you know. Fitzgerald Toussaint's OWI hearing is four days before the Alabama game. He's probably still getting suspended, but at least he's nicer than the average DUI recipient:

"He was extremely cooperative and gave us no problems at all," Saline Police Department Det. Don Lupi said Monday. "He was even more pleasant than the average drunk-driving arrestee. He was friendly and easy to deal with, unlike a lot of arrest situations."

"I say, you bobbies are really on your game."

Yes, imaginary Fitzgerald Toussaint is British. Because obviously.

The Fort. Man, running through my feeds and seeing open scrimmage reports from Arkansas and Ole Miss and Iowa plus A Lion Eye chastising himself for not checking out who the holders were at Illinois camp is a little depressing. Michigan's attitude towards this stuff is "please die, kthx." At media day it's clear the players were instructed to not answer questions about any freshmen:

I remember asking Jeremy Gallon how the freshmen receivers were coming along and his reaction was one along the lines of almost trying to keep things hush. He paused for a minute and then told me to talk to the coaches about it.

Will Campbell did the same thing on an interview I caught on WTKA.

Opening some stuff up is not just for mid-level programs (and Ole Miss), either: this space has noted some really cool access provided by Ohio State. Even Alabama, led by hater of all media Nick Saban, lets the media in to see some stuff. If Michigan's access is worse that Alabama's it's got to be the worst in the country, right?

I guess I get it since when Rodriguez was around the Free Press used the opportunity to talk to a couple freshmen to get them to issue misleading statements about how much time they were putting in, thus proving all long-held suspicions about the lizardmedia true. It's still frustrating that the hardest-hitting stuff we get is "what is your favorite Olympic event?" Not a 'wow' experience here. Someone put some pasta in a bread bowl or something.

It's on the up and up. The OHL came down harshly on Windsor for paying players under the table, which obviously never happens. My favorite part of all this is remembering the OHL's crocodile tears for their players when the NCAA was revamping their foreign player rules and hockey got an exception to keep CHL players out. They claimed it was just a shame that their entirely amateur league league was banned. Ugh. These guys are worse than the NCAA honchos.

Anyone want to bet a dollar that a pissed off Jack Campbell was a major source here? The WOTS about how these investigations came about fits Campbell's experience:

The league is choosing not to reveal names, though most believe some of the high-profile American players who played in Windsor could be responsible for the information leading to the sanctions. Some of those players were eventually traded, and it’s been suggested the trade could leave them feeling bitter and more prone to talk about their former team during an investigation.

But at least he's in the NHL already.

Etc.: More and more people are like WTF Emmert about this North Carolina thing. More photos from youth day, including a guy wearing an old old Rich Robots shirt. MVictors on achievable Michigan records. The Tigers are having a "Wolverines In The D" event next Friday—22 bucks gets you in, a shirt, and five bucks of it goes to the Pat Maloy Scholarship Fund.