Preview 2011: Linebackers

Preview 2011: Linebackers

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

Previously: The story and the secondary.

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

obi-ezeh-hurdlejonas-mouton-after-illinois

 

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

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

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

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

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

Middle Linebacker

Rating: 4

kenny-demens-iowakenny-demens-beaver

Right: Demens hangin' with Doctor Vorax

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

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

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

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

Demens. Wow.

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

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

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

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

left: first half. right: second half.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Backups

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strongside Linebacker

Rating: 2.5

cam-gordon-notre-damecam-gordon-osu

less deep half, more linebacker plz

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

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

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

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

…and vastly too conservative…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Backups

jake-ryan-mbrennen-beyer

Ryan, Beyer

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

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

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

Weakside Linebacker

Rating: 2

103109_SPT_UM v Illinois_MRMbrandon-herron-msu

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

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

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

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

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

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

Backups

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

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

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

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

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

Brandin Hawthornedesmond-morgan-25jpg-14ccbad0d4cfe4f1_large

Hawthorne, Morgan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unverified Voracity Is Almost A Black Hole

Unverified Voracity Is Almost A Black Hole

Submitted by Brian on April 25th, 2011 at 11:14 AM

Denser than a neutron star. SI's draft profile of Jonas Mouton:

 image

That is a very dense 239-pound human, or it's Terrence Robinson. I'm just amazed someone took a picture of Robinson holding the ball—he's got one career catch.

Not so much. According to GBW's Bret Osburn, hockey forward Jacob Fallon won't return to the team next year($). We haven't seen confirmation anywhere else but the addition of Sinelli could be construed like a kind of a "whoah, we need a guy" thing. He'd be Michigan's 14th forward if Fallon does come back, and while you want a couple extra guys around forward #14 can probably come from the club team. (Krikor Arman say what.) More than next year it's the jam adding Sinelli creates in the next two years that make his addition seem kind of like an either/or with Fallon.

The most convincing possible argument against the BCS. Everyone likes Andy Staples. He writes interesting things, thinks advanced stats might have some merit, and is willing to get in twitter fights with SBN bloggers without being condescending to them. But there is no greater reason to like Andy Staples than his admittedly half-cocked BCS implosion scenario. Specifically, this bit:

The Fiesta, after missing out on Big Ten No. 2, takes Pac-10 No. 2 and matches it against Notre Dame. Every year. Because Notre Dame equals ratings and sellouts.

That's right, Notre Dame: "after missing out on Big Ten No. 2". /Degeneration X entrance in your face

The mouths of babes part XXI. In a Sam Webb article on OH LB Joe Bolden, Bolden drops some super secret future plans:

"They are definitely up there on the list," Bolden said of the Wolverines. "The facilities are impressive. Both indoor fields are as long as the outdoor grass and outdoor turf fields. Then you just walk into the Big House and look from side to side — 115,000 people are screaming for you on a Saturday. There is probably no feeling like it. They told me that they were going to add about 6,000 seats. That's definitely an impressive thing."

Those would presumably be more rows in the endzone, but how that works with new scoreboards is undetermined. Do they flank the scoreboards? Would they move their  grand spanking new boards? Do they set one back or something? Someone interview another recruit so we can find out.

The past! Um… was anyone allowed at Wisconsin's spring game? This is a somewhat sincere question. They won the Big Ten, the weather was nice, and most of the shots in this video feature zero (0) spectators:

While you can see some people in the endzones they could be parents or something.

In other news, zero touchdowns were scored, all of Wisconsin's quarterbacks are terrible and they'll spend the next four years going 3-10,000 because they don't play Michigan. Sorry, Wisconsin. We don't make the schedule, we just doom everyone who doesn't play us. We don't like it either.

(HT: EDSBS.)

Tatgate warp. I guess the NCAA has been working on OSU's case since at least December but even so they've pounded out a Notice of Allegations against Tressel & co in record time. When Michigan got their version of that during the Jihad I did an email interview with the Bylaw Blog that tried to get a sense of how final all this was. The answer was "pretty final":

A major violation case, once it gets to this point, rarely is argued back down to a secondary infraction. To get to a Notice of Allegations, especially in this case, the enforcement staff and Committee on Infractions would have worked very closely to decide if there were major violations, ultimately the COI's decision.

Individual major violations are sometimes downgraded to secondary violations during the response and hearing. In the Kelvin Sampson case at IU, one of the original five major violations--that Sampson and assistant coach Jeff Meyer gave Derek Elston a backpack and t-shirt and recruited him during a camp--was found to be only a secondary violation. Of course, the COI can add too, like the failure to monitor charge that came after the committee hearing.

Expect all or almost all of the allegations in the NOA to stick. They are:

  • Seven different players sold or exchanged memorabilia.
  • Tressel "knew or should have known" two of these players were ineligible but played them anyway.
  • Jim Tressel lied about this—the dread almost-certain-firing bylaw 10.1 violation.

…and that's it. So much for delicious rumors of point shaving/something much worse/Ohio nuclear apocalypse, at least for now.

Not that the above doesn't constitute something close to Ohio nuclear apocalypse. The Dispatch's article has some raw numbers that are alarming for OSU fans: 13,385, 500, and 6000. The former is the amount of money the seven players got. The latter are the amounts Troy Smith and a basketball recruit got in the recent past. The first is pretty big; the second two expose OSU to repeat violator status. While Michigan was technically a repeat violator when the Jihad started, their eventual infractions were major in name only and had nothing to do with Ed Martin; here this seems like the continuation of a pattern.

As far as Tressel himself goes, the email trail is even more damning than previously known. The Dispatch:

After Ohio State University football coach Jim Tressel was alerted that some of his players had traded memorabilia for free tattoos from a suspected drug dealer, he exchanged numerous emails, phone calls and text messages with the tipster, his star quarterback Terrelle Pryor and Pryor's mentors.

Documents obtained by The Dispatch also show Tressel called an FBI agent within days of getting the first email warning the coach of the potential NCAA rules violation and a federal drug investigation.

But OSU records don't show a single call or email from Tressel to the Ohio State compliance office in which he could have reported his players' apparent violations of NCAA regulations.

(Some OSU spokesman claims the dozen extra emails between Tressel and Sarniak were "inadvertently omitted" from previous document releases.) Michigan fan disclaimers and all that but I can't see how anyone can construe that as anything other than a deliberate decision to not suspend players known to be ineligible. The text of that email to Sarniak:

"This guy, Chris Cicero, is a criminal lawyer in town. He played here when I was an assistant coach in the early 1980s. He has always looked out for us. jt"

If anything justifies a we-have-to-fire-you show cause it's this case*. I mean, right? I'm betting OSU vacates last season, gets a bowl ban for this one, and gets a show-cause on Tressel. Scholarship penalties could be in the offing but I'm guessing they won't be severe unless the NCAA justifies it with that "repeat offender" status.

*[Um… other than trying to frame a murdered player of yours as a drug dealer.]

wilkins-bombed

Spring extrapolations. Magnus picture-pages the Cox touchdown from the spring game and comes away with some conclusions: no Wilkins this year (he was obliterated by two walk-ons), not so much on Herron, Marvin Robinson is highly inconsistent.

Etc.: Rodriguez says going to Michigan wasn't the best decision he's ever made, which… yeah. Depressing headline. Pete Bigelow claims Cullen Christian's exit doesn't "make for another cornerback crisis," and he's right: it continues and deepens a secondary-wide crisis that has been raging at various levels for going on ten years. Soon pirates will start appearing off the coast of the Michigan secondary. UMHoops scouts a bunch of 2013 targets. Christian transfers to—surprise!—Pitt. Someone owes me ten million dollars. Penn State's first coach is Guy Gadowsky, previously of Princeton.

Picture Pages: Swallowing Kenny Demens

Picture Pages: Swallowing Kenny Demens

Submitted by Brian on November 23rd, 2010 at 12:55 PM

So… Greg Robinson doesn't know how to run a 3-3-5. For whatever reason, Michigan is running a 3-3-5. This results in situations like this first quarter run for the Badgers that echoes several themes from the This Is Not A Stack post: by lining up his MLB just behind his nose tackle he dooms that guy to take one step to the playside, whereupon he is eaten by a guard who has no one lined up over him. Even if Michigan successfully plugs that hole they are crazy vulnerable to cutbacks and counters.

It's second and three on Wisconsin's second drive of the day. they come out in an I-form with twins to the field side. Michigan aligns in its stack formation with Jordan Kovacs—supposedly the bandit—aligned to the strong side of the formation, with Cam Gordon hovering over the wide receiver stack to the outside:

 cutback-1

Wisconsin's going to run a simple iso play that's designed to go off the right side of the line. You can see in shot two Demens's alignment just three yards off the LOS:

cutback-2

Martin's getting momentarily doubled in the shot below but the G peels off quickly to block the rolled-up Demens. On the backside Ryan Van Bergen has gotten kicked out and Mouton is staring down a free release from the backside G:

cutback-3

Demens is swallowed. I think the idea here is to force Wisconsin to come off their double of Martin quickly, allowing him to run free and eat people, but don't quote me on that. Ezeh is attacking the FB, and there's nothing on the frontside:

cutback-4

Because Martin has slanted past the center and Van Bergen has gotten kicked out there's a big cutback lane. Mouton is in a bad situation, essentially standing still as a guard comes out on him. Demens is getting blocked; the OG has his arm around his back. This never gets called holding but he's being held:

cutback-5

Mouton gets blasted three yards downfield and gives up the inside. Courtney Avery was filling from his overhang spot and could have maybe held this under three yards but once Mouton gets hit in that position the RB cut past him and it's up to Demens and/or Martin to spin of blocks and close it down.

cutback-6

They can't. Vinopal is forced to tackle ten yards downfield.

cutback-7

Video:

Object lesson type objects:

  • Theory as to the deployment of Kenny Demens two feet from his NT. Demens threatens to shoot into the backfield immediately on plays like this, which seriously reduces the time Wisconsin guards have to double Mike Martin. This allows Martin to use his quickness to slant under the center, get to the playside, and close off holes.
  • Problem with the deployment of Kenny Demens two feet from his NT. Once you're engaged with an OL he is going to grab you and delay you and let go before he gets a flag, so you can attempt to get off him and close down the massive cutback hole you've opened up by shooting both your MLB and NT to the playside but you're probably not going to make it.
  • Second problem with the deployment. I imagine it has something to do with opponents' consistent ability to hit balls over the linebackers and in front of the safeties; having your linebackers five yards off the LOS gives them more time to reduce throwing windows. I've charted basically all of Tolzein's throws and three or four could have been shut down if the linebackers had been a yard or three deeper.
  • WTF Van Bergen? When Michigan is aligned in this fashion the overhang guy—in this case Courtney Avery—is in great position to shut down anything that bounces all the way outside to the short side. With both Demens and Martin headed playside RVB should be flowing down the line, relying on Kovacs to bounce anything that gets behind him and Avery to clean up. Instead he gets upfield and seals himself, basically, leaving Mouton in acres of space with a guard bubbled over him.
  • Mouton could do better here, too. It's never good when you're taking on an OL three yards downfield and that OL is moving while you're not.

Ironically, I think this MLB deployment would have worked out okay for Ezeh, who's a big guy with some pop but terribly indecisive. Here there's not much of a decision. Line goes one way, you pound the playside guard ASAP. It seems like a waste for Demens, who has displayed good read and react skills in his brief career as a starter.

I was looking for an adjustment here where Michigan would defense something like this by not having Demens right at the LOS but haven't found it yet. I've seen a lot of small guys getting battered and crappy pursuit angles. I'm not sure if my haziness on what the appropriate play is is my fault or the defense's fault; it seems like Michigan players are making basic errors but it could be a shifting scheme in which a guy like JB Fitzgerald's attempt to defeat a downblock sees him go from the LOS at the snap to six yards off the LOS outside the hashmarks.

More than anything this seems like another example where the scheme is either incoherent or the players don't know what they're doing. Van Bergen getting upfield is the killer here and makes no sense given the alignment of the D.

Michigan Football Injury Report for Wisconsin

Michigan Football Injury Report for Wisconsin

Submitted by Tim on November 18th, 2010 at 6:25 PM

Press release:

OUT (0% PLAY)

Ferrara, John                     Knee

Floyd, JT                               Ankle

Jones, Mike                        Leg

Jones, Teric                        Knee

Odoms, Martavious        Foot

Van Slyke, Jared               Clavicle

Williams, Mike                   Head

Woolfolk, Troy                  Ankle

 

QUESTIONABLE (50% PLAY)

Lewan, Taylor                    Head

Shaw, Mike                        Head

 

PROBABLE (75% PLAY)

Martin, Mike                      Ankle

Mouton, Jonas                  Chest

/release.

No surprises, on the heels of the news from yesterday that Lewan may have been concussed against Purdue. Martin and Mouton are likely to grit it out if they're needed.

 

Senior Day Haiku

Senior Day Haiku

Submitted by Brian on November 16th, 2010 at 4:14 PM

An annual tradition. Special bonus this year: holy pants there are no seniors. Usually I skip a bunch of anonymous walk-ons who never saw the field unless they have a silly name; this year this is it.

Michigan runningback Kevin Grady runs the ball  during the second half of the Wolverine's 2009 season opener 31-7 win, versus Western Michigan University at Michigan Stadium, Saturday, September 5th.
Melanie Maxwell| Ann Arbor.com
  Martell Webb

It goes thump. Sometimes
it catches or drops a pass.
Mostly it goes thump.

Perry Dorrestein

Bad back, outed grades
but through it all a kickin'
Punisher tattoo

Steve Schilling

Been around forever
Witnessed the Horror up close
Football purple heart

John Ferrara

Thrown into the fire
just two weeks after switching
'08: the nutshell

Adam Patterson

One last swing hits sod
A shaft of daylight strikes down
Hello two deep

Renaldo Sagesse

Hurling hockey kids,
the largest man in Quebec came
and he was all right

Greg Banks

Took the Moosman crown
as player most likely to
impress your TA

Obi Ezeh

Why did you tattoo
"Stand around, think about plants"
across your torso?

mark-moundros-nwBONUS NOT MEAN HAIKU

Like Schilling, lived
through every last awful bit
and never complained

Jonas Mouton

The west wind in fall
brings everything, and then
takes everything

Mark Moundros

Walk-on captains are
intimidatingly bald
pretty much always

James Rogers

The last vagabond
a-wander from spot to spot:
Dread Pirate Rogers

COMMENCE THE SYLLABLE COUNTING.

Michigan Injury Report for Purdue

Michigan Injury Report for Purdue

Submitted by Tim on November 11th, 2010 at 8:08 PM

OUT (0% PLAY)

JT Floyd Ankle
Mike Jones Leg
Teric Jones Knee
Martavious Odoms Foot
Jared Van Slyke Clavicle
Mike Williams Head
Troy Woolfolk Cruel Deity

 

QUESTIONABLE (50% PLAY)

Jonas Mouton Chest

 

PROBABLE (75% PLAY)

Perry Dorrestein Knee
Fitzgerald Toussaint Shoulder

Nothing new in the "out" category, except a distinct lack of Fitzgerald Toussaint, who is... (gasp) probable! Perry Dorrestein and Mark Huyge have been about equally effective, so Dorrestein's status isn't a huge deal one way or the other.

The big question mark is Jonas Mouton, who has been Michigan's best (yet simultaneously worst) linebacker this season. If he can't go, expect to see more of Obi Ezeh and JB Fitzgerald, and maybe even Craig Roh playing extensively at linebacker.

Upon Further Review 2010: Defense vs Illinois

Upon Further Review 2010: Defense vs Illinois

Submitted by Brian on November 10th, 2010 at 5:23 PM

Formation notes: More of the same mad scientist business, with Michigan rolling out a 3-4, a 4-3, and a 3-3-5 on various occasions. With Roh's move to the defensive line the fourth "defensive lineman" in the 4-3 was either Obi Ezeh or JB Fitzgerald, which had predictable results. Michigan seemed to save the stack mostly for spread alignments and used the other two in more traditional situations.

Substitution notes: The secondary was Vinopal, Rogers, Avery, and Kovacs the whole way. Fitz and Ezeh seemed to get equal time at the OLB/DE spot, with Cam Gordon getting maybe 80% of the time at spur. Thomas got some snaps. Demens and Mouton went the whole way at MLB. On the line Martin, RVB, and Roh started; Patterson, Black, and Banks spotted them periodically.

Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O33 1 10 Pistol FB twins 4-3 Light Run Triple option pitch N/A 11
So Michigan comes out in a four man line with Fitzgerald as a standup DE, Mouton and Demens behind them, and Gordon flexed out over the slot receiver. Kovacs is rolled up a bit so it's like 6.5 guys in the box. Avery is at FS with Vinopal over the slot. Illinois goes to their bread and butter and Michigan is badly outflanked. The way they've lined up against it I don't think they can stop either the dive or the pitch (RPS -2). Kovacs is taking off for the backside of the play; Mouton is sitting on the dive because I think he has to, and Cam Gordon's on the edge with a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation. He crashes on Scheelhaase; pitch back wide open. I'm not sure who to minus, so the RPS just has to stand. I guess I do think Rogers could have kept LeShoure from getting outside of him and held this under a first down so -0.5.
O44 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide tight 4-3 Light Pass Cross Demens 4
RVB(+0.5, pressure +1) swims through a double team and comes up the middle of the field, forcing Scheelhaase to dump it. Jenkins is a dangerous YAC guy that Demens(+0.5) is tracking through the zone; he makes a diving tackle after two. Jenkins can fall forward but that's a pretty good play in space.
O48 2 6 Pistol FB twins 4-3 Light Run Power dive Mouton 4
FB charges through a hole that's massive as Fitz(-0.5) gets kicked out and Martin slants outside. A guard pulls around to get a hat on Demens, which happens somewhat close to the LOS. That block is not tested as Mouton(+0.5) takes on the FB about a yard downfield, giving the RB the impression he should hit it outside. Mouton fights through the block and gets help from a filling Kovacs(+0.5); the pair tackles.
M48 3 2 I-form big 4-3 Light Run Down G Fitzgerald 5
No chance of stopping this power formation with this set of personnel on the field; they run right at Fitz(-1), who comes inside as a guard pulls around and gets plowed. He actually does a good job to get off the block and force the play back inside, where Kovacs and some linemen tackle. Michigan got caught shooting both linebackers up the middle of the field and left an obvious vulnerability open. RPS -1.
M43 1 10 Ace 3-wide Base 3-4 Run Inside zone Roh 1
3-4 look is less goofy in terms of personnel. Illinois runs an inside zone; Roh(+1) flows down the line to shut off the hole and Martin(+1) reads the direction of the RB, slowing up and cutting inside his blocker instead of getting pulled down the line as if it's a stretch. The two converge to tackle at the LOS.
M42 2 9 Shotgun trips Base 3-4 Pass 4 Hitch Mouton 11
Gordon blitzes off the edge for a fourth rusher. Everyone's picked up, massive pocket (pressure -1); Scheelhaase finds a receiver in between three guys in the zone (cover -1). I think this is a bad drop from Mouton(-0.5), as Demens is going with one receiver on his little cross and Fitz is moving out to get the flat.
M31 1 10 Pistol FB twins 4-3 Light Run Triple option dive Black 4
Black in. Black(-0.5) shoots upfield and opens up the dive but at least recovers enough to force the RB inside a bit, where Demens(+0.5) can fight through the free release of the playside tackle to hit the tailback after a few yards; help arrives.
M27 2 6 Shotgun trips Base 3-4 Pass 4 Scramble Patterson 10
Michigan covers(+1) a series of short hitches perfectly; Patterson(-2, pressure -2) gets way out of his rush lane, ending up next to Black, and gives Scheelhaase a wide open lane he exploits for the first.
M17 1 10 Shotgun 2TE Base 4-4 Pass 4 Throwaway Van Bergen Inc
Kovacs rolls up. Illinois runs mesh and both linebackers cover it(+1) so Scheelhaase doesn't have his first read. He can't get his second because Van Bergen(+0.5) drove into the backfield and got a hand up, causing a scramble and eventually a throwaway.
M17 2 10 Pistol FB twins Base 4-4 Run Triple option pitch Demens 0
Michigan stunting here, sending Roh inside of the DTs, which causes Scheelhaase to keep and sends Roh right into the hypothetical dive. Gordon(+1) gets out on Scheelhaase immediately, forcing a very quick pitch that Demens(+1) is assigned. In space with a good back, Demens comes up quickly but under control, forms up, doesn't bite on two different fakes, and delays LeShoure until he has to take off and get what he can. Rogers(+0.5) came in after a while to tackle but this is Demens making a play in space. (Tackling +1, RPS +1)
M17 3 10 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass Scramble Roh 9 (Pen -10)
Roh(+2) smokes the Illini RT to the inside and forces Scheelhaase to scramble; would have been worse for UI if the RT hadn't held Roh up, drawing a flag. Scheelhaase scrambles for near first down yardage because Demens(-0.5) overran the scramble by getting too aggressive on an underneath WR. (Pressure +2)
M27 3 20 I-form 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass FB screen Martin Inc
Martin(+1) comes through the line even faster than they want on a screen, nailing the fullback in the backfield and eventually sending him to the ground. Scheelhaase has no one to throw to and just gets rid of it. (Pressure +1)
Drive Notes: FG(44), 7-3, 9 min 1st Q. This isn't awful, really. Only the first play was a groaner. Everything else is understandable or actually good.
M47 1 10 Pistol FB twins 3-3-5 stack Pass PA corner Rogers 34
Triple option fake with McGee at QB and he pulls up to throw. We never get a good replay but Michigan is in cover three here and Rogers is going with the outside guy on a post instead of coming off on a guy running a corner route 25 yards downfield, so I think this is on him (cover -3, -2). McGee got plowed by Martin as he threw so no pressure minus.
M13 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Run Zone read keeper Ezeh 4
Ezeh in for Fitz at OLB. Mouton actually in the middle on this play. Roh comes down so Scheelhaase pulls it, but he's to the short side and he's got two WRs out there so Ezeh(+0.5) and Avery(+0.5) don't have a ton of room to close down once they come off their blocks, which they both do ably. With not much room and two guys coming at him Scheelhaase can't get much more than three.
M19 2 6 I-form 4-3 light Run Down G -5
Again going right at Fitz/Obi; here Obi gets blown off the ball. I can't tell if this is going to be nothing or a touchdown; Mouton(+0.5) gets outside of the pulling T and is either going to tackle for nothing or the RB is going to run right by him because Kovacs(-1) went way too far upfield and created a huge hole. We'll never know because the RB drops the ball and Michigan recovers.
Drive Notes: Fumble, 7-3, 5 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
M33 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 3-3-5 stack Run Zone read keeper Mouton 4
Roh(+0.5) is shuffling down the line and should have a handoff dead to rights if it's actually made but pulls off when he sees the RB doesn't have the ball. I think Mouton(-1) is supposed to be scraping outside but he doesn't read the play quickly and gets blocked by the RT, leaving Kovacs to fill quickly and cut off the outside; Mouton is flowing down the line and when Scheelhaase cuts back he bangs into the LT, allowing Roh to tackle from behind.
M29 2 6 I-form twins 4-3 Light Run Down G Kovacs 3
Again going at the LB/DE substance. Illinois gets everyone blocked but Avery and Mouton take on their blocks appropriately and Kovacs(+0.5) is in overhang mode, so he crashes down in the relatively small gap to make a solid tackle after a meh gain.
M26 3 3 Shotgun trips bunch 3-3-5 stack Pass 4 Flare Kovacs 0
Illinois slides their protection away from the spur and Gordon blitzes, getting in free immediately(RPS +1, pressure +1); dumpoff on the swing route as Kovacs is undercutting the slant. Kovacs moves to the swing and attacks. He whiffs but he whiffs to the outside and forces the RB to come to a near-complete stop. Mouton whiffs, Avery whiffs, Roh and Demens come in to clean up.  Kovacs +1 for an angle that allowed the gang tackle. BWS picture-paged this.
Drive Notes: FG(43), 7-6, 3 min 2nd Q. Gallon fumbles the ensuing kickoff.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
M32 1 10 Pistol FB twins 4-3 Light Run Power dive Mouton 3
Mouton(+1) attacks the leading fullback at the line, shedding him to the outside and forcing the RB back to his help. Still a big hole because Patterson(-1) got blown up; Demens(+0.5) scrapes to tackle without getting a blocker; it's clear the pulling guard did not expect Mouton to do this and had to improvise in space; he ends up blocking no one.
M29 2 7 Ace 4-wide tight 3-3-5 stack Pass N/A PA rollout cross Kovacs 13
Fake pitch with Scheelhaase rolling out. Kovacs is attacking but then pulls off, which is smart because there's a guy coming to the sideline right behind him. Unfortunately, as Scheelhaase nears the LOS Kovacs(-1, cover -1) blows his earlier good work by coming up and opening up a little flip pass at the sideline. This was going to gain yards either way but Mouton was coming, too, and it would have been less damaging to allow the scramble.
M16 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Base 3-4 Run Inside zone Black 9
Zone read look; Ezeh is the contain and forces a handoff. Major problem here is Black(-1) flowing way too fast down the line of scrimmage on the backside, giving the RB a cavernous cutback lane behind him and away from any of the linebackers. I think Ezeh(-0.5) does come up too hot and makes the read and cutback easy, but there's a lot of room.
M7 2 1 I-form big Base 3-4 Run Down G Ezeh 4
3-4 look but the same idea from Illinois: run at the guy out of position, which is still Ezeh(+1). This time he's not getting blocked at the line because of the alignment and gets into the pulling G in the backfield, which cuts off the interior hole. Black(+0.5) helped by not getting blown out this time. Ezeh then pops out to rub the FB, making it a tough bounce for the tailback and hypothetically a no gain. Kovacs(-1) is caught off guard by this development and takes an angle inside, then overruns it; he does tackle but this was set up to be a better play by Ezeh.
M3 1 G I-form big Base 3-4 Run Iso Martin 1
Nothing in the middle with Martin(+2) shucking the C, moving past a G trying to block him, and absorbing the lead block. RB cuts back, where three separate M players are with just one guy to block; they do an adequate job of getting him down. The cutback does gain a yard.
M2 2 G Goal line Goal line Pass N/A PA rollout scramble Demens 0
This is more run than pass here, I think, with just one option in the endzone, and that one decently covered by Mouton(+0.5, cover +1), though I think a more confident QB tries this. Scheelhaase is on the edge; Gordon(+0.5) bumps the underneath receiver and gets outside, cutting off the corner. This allows Demens(+1, tackling +1) to flow hard from the interior, grabbing the QB at the LOS and allowing Gordon to pound him for no gain. Gordon brings a physical intimidation factor the other two spurs don't.
M2 3 G Shotgun 3-wide Base 3-4 Run QB draw Kovacs 2
Ezeh(+1) blitzes right into the play, taking out the RB and the pulling guard and hypothetically giving Kovacs(-2) a free shot on Scheelhaase on an obvious playcall here, but Kovacs is wandering out towards the tight end for some reason and instead of a thumping TFL and a field goal Michigan gets scored on.
M3 2pt 2pt Shotgun twins 2TE Base 4-3 Pass 6 Cross Vinopal 3
A rubtastic rub route with rubbing rubs, although Illinois does it so that it's all on the up and up. Vinopal is in man over the slot guy and has to take slight deviations around one of his own men and an Illinois receiver, which is just enough for the Illini receiver to get into the endzone; Michigan sent six and was closing in with two guys just as Scheelhaase, who's had to back ten yards off the LOS,throws. Good coverage, good pressure, good play from Illinois. Nothing to get despondent about here.
Drive Notes: Touchdown(2PT), 7-14, 14 min 2nd Q. Comin' up: despondency!
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O46 1 10 I-form twins 4-3 Light Run Inside zone Kovacs 6 (Pen -10)
Martin(+1) beats his man to the inside and is tackled, drawing a holding call. Play goes outside anyway, where there's no one blocking Kovacs after Fitzgerald does a mediocre job and Avery gets kicked out. Kovacs(-1) takes a crappy angle and can only make a desperate ankle tackle(-1) after two yards, giving the RB another four.
O36 1 20 Pistol FB 3-wide 4-3 Light Run Triple option pitch Mouton 64
Martin limps off the field after the last play. Determining blame on this one is difficult because it's hard to tell whose assignment is whose.If Kovacs is blitzing the dive he's fine. If he's blitzing the QB he makes a fatal mistake by getting sucked inside by the slot blocker and removing himself from contain. If he's blitzing the dive Mouton is at fault for not scraping over the top. Vinopal comes up and forces a pitch. He should be taking the pitch guy, who's most dangerous; Mouton is flowing from the inside after sucking in and has an angle to tackle after about 15 yards but inexplicably slows up and allows the RB to run past him, turning a frustrating gain into an enormous touchdown. Kovacs –3, as later we'll see these blitzes are to contain the QB; Mouton –3 for a really poor missed tackle(-2) that doesn't even slow the RB and turns a gain into a TD.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-21, 11 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O30 1 10 Pistol FB twins 4-4 Light Run Triple option pitch ??? 14
This one is just broken. Kovacs rolls up to the line and blitzes, forcing an immediate pitch from Scheelhaase, and then there's no one on the pitch. Mouton is again the closest linebacker to the pitch and is not getting out on it. (RPS -2)
O44 1 10 I-form twins 4-4 Light Run Off tackle Demens 5
Ezeh(-1) single blocked and buried as a DE, but that's not really his fault. This allows Illinois to downblock Martin and get a free release on Mouton. Avery has to contain against a lead blocker. Demens(+1) is about to take a cut block when he takes a step back, dodging it, and flows down the line past the Mouton blowup to tackle after on a play where everyone on offense had an easy play because Ezeh is not a DE. (RPS -1)
O49 2 5 Shotgun 2-back 4-3 Light Pass 4 Dumpoff Gordon 1
McGee at QB. His first read is covered(+1) and then Black comes around on a stunt up the middle and he has to dump it. Gordon(+1, tackling +1) is there as the ball is brought in and cuts the RBs legs out as he turns upfield.
50 3 4 Shotgun trips bunch 3-3-5 stack Pass 4 Hitch Demens Inc
Demens passes one hitch route off and is caught a little inside but reads Scheelhaase and recovers to make a leaping PBU on a five-yard hitch. Demens! (+2, cover +1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 14-21, 7 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O29 1 10 Pistol FB 3-wide 4-3 Light Run Triple option keeper Banks 4
Somewhat bizarre as it looks like the pitch is again wide open but Scheelhaase decides to keep it and follow the dive play he just decided against instead of toss it. Patterson(+1) actually gets into his blocker and shoves him back, then sets up so he can come off on either side. He does so as Scheelhaase passes, tackling after a few yards. Banks(-1), in for RVB, got crushed, though, and it's five yards. Still fortunate, IME, but can't tell for sure.
O33 2 6 I-form twins 4-3 Light Run Off tackle Mouton 4
Virtual replay of the off tackle play on the last drive. Fitzgerald(-1) proves he's not a DE, going down to single blocking. This time Mouton(+2) evades a free release from the TE and pounds the RB as he crease the LOS; no YAC(tackling +1).
O37 3 2 Shotgun trips 4-3 Light Pass 4 Corner Vinopal Inc
Incredibly depressing as RVB(+1) has beaten the RT to the outside and slid inside the RB, coming up on the rollout to force a throw… to a vastly wide open receiver on a corner route for another 25 yards… which is dropped. Salutations! Vinopal the nearest guy but none of these replays are providing actual information. (Cover -3, pressure +1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 21-21, 5 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O40 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Base 3-4 Run Inside zone Vinopal 16
Vinopal rolls down into the box on the snap. This is an inside zone; Patterson and RVB get doubled and don't go anywhere but don't penetrate. With nowhere to go on the inside LeShoure cuts it out, where there's a major gap because Gordon(-1) got way too far upfield. Demens has to scrape through a blocker to get outside but Vinopal is there as a free hitter... and whiffs(-2, tackling -2) entirely. Compounding matters is that he let LeShoure outside of him and did not funnel to help. He's into the secondary, where Rogers dives at his legs to tackle after 15.
M44 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Base 3-4 Run Power dive Van Bergen 1
Michigan slants the line and sends Gordon from the edge, which gets RVB(+1) past a down block attempt and into the intended running lane, where he absorbs the pulling G. Gordon(+0.5) keeps under control and tackles on the slow cutback. (RPS +1)
M43 2 9 Shotgun 3-wide Base 3-4 Pass 4 Scramble Ezeh? 8
Michigan sends Ezeh off the edge and slants the other way, which gets good pressure except for the fact that Roh and Ezeh split like the Red Sea and there's a huge lane for Scheelhaase to scramble into. I think this minus goes to Ezeh(-1) since he got way upfield; Roh was coming right up the middle and if he got out of a lane it wasn't by much. Downfield Mouton(-0.5) makes a dodgy tackle that gives more yards.
M35 3 1 Ace 3-wide Base 3-4 Run Inside zone Ezeh 2
Kovacs comes down into the box and Gordon backs off to cover the slot. Patterson(+0.5 and Roh(+0.5) slant past OL and cut off any hope on the frontside. Ezeh(-0.5) is blitzing on the backside and can't quite get there to close off the cutback lane. He tackles but the RB's momentum takes him forward.
M33 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Base 3-4 Pass 4 Batted Gordon Inc
MOTS, with one of the OLBs coming off the edge. This time it's Gordon(+1, pressure +1) coming around the outside to hit Scheelhaase's arm as the throws. The resulting duck hits the ground harmlessly.
M33 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide Base 3-4 Pass 4 Fly Avery 33
Same blitz, but picked up better this time. No one bothers Scheelhaase (pressure -1) and he launches a deep fly route to a well-covered receiver that juuuuust evades the fingertips of Courtney Avery and is brought in for a touchdown. This is actually a +1, cover +1 that just got beat by a perfect throw.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 28-28, 1 min 2nd Q. Swanky kick return follows.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O35 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Cross Fitzgerald 6
Roh(+1) smokes the left tackle with a sweet move, heading inside and then spinning out to get quick pressure(+1) on Scheelhaase. He's forced to dump it to Fayson on a zero yard route; Fitzgerald(-1, tackling -1) comes up hard and misses a tackle, allowing Fayson to the outside for decent yardage.
O41 2 4 Shotgun 4-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Improve Mouton? 25
Roh(+0.5) does the exact inverse, this time threatening outside and spinning inside of the other tackle. He slips as he gets free but he does cause a scramble (pressure +1). Unfortunately there's a guy wide freaking open. Michigan moved to a three-deep late with Avery rolled up and the linebackers and Gordon underneath; at the end of the play Avery, Mouton, and Demens are all near a guy on a short out and no one is dealing with the slot guy's seam route. This is either on Vinopal or Mouton, the LB who was over the slot receiver and did not go vertical with him. Minus two for both? Sure. (Cover -3) I think Illinois was running four verts, BTW.
M34 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Scramble Roh? 8
A carbon copy of the scramble earlier on the drive where a gap opens up between Roh and Ezeh. This time Roh gets the minus; Ezeh was a lot less irresponsibly upfield and Roh seemed to be the one opening it up. (Pressure -1)
M26 2 2 Shotgun 4-wide Base 3-4 Pass 4 Fly Rogers Inc
Rogers(+1, cover +1) in excellent position and the ball's overthrown anyway. Not +2 here because this was pretty obviously endzone or bust.
Drive Notes: FG(43), 31-31, EOH.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O43 1 10 Pistol FB ? Run Triple option dive Ezeh 3
Probably. We get to the play late. No idea what happens; Ezeh tackles after three so let's call it even.
O46 2 7 Shotgun 3-wide Base 3-4 Run Inside zone Roh 1
Roh(+1) slants past the tackle and into the running lane. He gets pushed past the play and the RB can cut back but he must slow considerably, and then Roh gets an arm on him. Demens(+0.5) scrapes from the inside to get there at about the LOS and prevent the RB from falling forward.
O47 3 6 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass 2 Improv Rogers 5
Starts out as a 3-4 then Michigan checks into the stack when Illinois audibles. Michigan rushes two(!), with Martin dropping off to act as a screen/QB spy. Coverage(+1) is good and then Scheelhaase's timer goes bing and he starts scrambling to the sideline. Martin runs at him. Gordon escorts the RB deep, leaving Scheelhaase an improv dumpoff for five yards. Rogers(+0.5) and Ezeh(+0.5) are there to tackle(+1) short of the sticks. RPS+1.
Drive Notes: Punt, 31-31, 12 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
M31 1 10 Ace 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass N/A Waggle out Van Bergen Inc
Cameraman fooled, and so is Michigan. RVB(-1) is tasked with edge contain and gets beaten outside. The coverage(-1) is not so good as Scheelhaase has a wide open guy for a first down with linebackers chasing way out of position, and at the very least he's a fast guy on the edge against Thomas Gordon he can pick up some yards. Instead he chucks a ball at the sideline, which goes out of bounds and would have been very tough for the receiver anyway.
M31 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide Base 3-4 Run QB draw Martin 4
Martin back in, woo. He shoves his man back into the pulling guard(+1) and causes him to be very late. Van Bergen(-0.5) gets blocked well out of the play on his slant. Demens takes on a blocker, funneling it back, and Mouton(+0.5) can tackle relatively clean since Martin delayed the guard. Martin also comes from behind to make sure.
M27 2 6 Shotgun 3-wide Base 3-4 Pass 4 Scramble Van Bergen 5
Van Bergen(+2) swims through an Illinois OG like he is not there, but Roh(-1) got blasted inside and opened up another scrambling lane for Scheelhaase. It looks like he's going to get the first down easily when Avery(!!!, +1, tackling +1) sets up in just the right spot and '>'>takes out Scheelhaase's legs as he tries to cut outside.
Drive Notes: Missed FG(39), 31-31, 10 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
M42 1 10 Shotgun H-back twins Base 4-4 Run Zone read keeper Demens 1
Black(-1) crashes in on something or another as the pulling FB bypasses him—this is a called keeper, not a read. He's gone. Demens(+2) starts scraping outside, taking on the FB block low and coming through it without damage. Gordon(+0.5) has set up outside so there's nowhere to go; Demens tackles(+1) in space.
M41 2 9 Shotgun 3-wide Base 3-4 Pass 4 Hitch Ezeh Inc
Four guys don't get there right away and Ezeh(-1) faked towards the LOS then dropped straight back, so he's about two yards from Mouton and this hitch is wide open. Receiver juggles and drops the ball; Avery(-0.5) was also late-ish and though he's there to tackle he doesn't jar the ball free, it just comes out by itself. (Cover -1)
M41 3 9 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Improv Van Bergen Inc
RVB(+1) beats the tackle clean ot the inside and forces Scheelhaase to scramble (pressure +1). There's a ton of guys in the area; Ezeh does some chasing and Scheelhaase launches an ill-advised pass off his back foot; Mouton(+1, cover +1) is there to knock it away. Actually not the world's worst decision in the situation. INT here is almost as good as punt.
Drive Notes: Punt, 38-31, 6 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O22 1 10 Pistol FB twins 4-4 Light Run Triple option dive Banks 3
Patterson takes a momentary double and does okay; Demens(+0.5) pops up and takes the peeling C at the LOS and there's no hole for the dive. Banks(+0.5) reads the cutback and comes off the now wrong-side block to tackle.
O25 2 7 Pistol FB twins 4-4 Light Run Counter Banks 20
Kovacs rolls up late to make this an eight man front and blitzes; TE kicks him out. Fitz(-1.5) gets crushed by the tackle. Banks(-1.5) gets crushed out of the hole by the guard, and Mouton(-1.5) attacks the wrong shoulder of the first guy through, so LeShoure is through a massive hole without being touched. Vinopal and Avery manage to prevent a TD.
O45 1 10 Pistol FB twins 4-4 Light Run Power dive Mouton 4
Virtual replay of the last play without the counter step from the RB. Fitz(-1) kicked out wide, Mouton(-1) sits and eats a block two yards downfield. Patterson(+0.5) did a little better this time and the pulling G bumps his linemate, allowing Demens(+0.5) to run in to the hole and plug him at the LOS. Wad of bodies moves forward because Mouton got blowed up so good.
O49 2 6 Pistol 3-wide 4-4 Light Run Triple option pitch Kovacs -8
Kovacs(+1, RPS +2) again blitzes off the edge, but there's no TE this time to stop him and he smashes Scheelhaase almost before the dive fake. Scheelhaase still tries to pitch and chucks it over the RB's head. Mouton(-2) had again sucked in on the dive fake, leaving the pitch wide freaking open, but gets bailed out.
O41 3 14 Shotgun 4-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Post Fitzgerald 21
Three man rush on third and fourteen and a wide open guy in the middle of the field because Fitzgerald(-2, cover -2) did not get enough depth on his drop and opened up a post. Van Bergen(+0.5) was getting there to tackle Scheelhaase just as he released; time but not a ton of time. One more moment.
M38 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Base 3-4 Run Read option keeper Vinopal 3
Scheelhaase pulls as it looks like T. Gordon(-1) gets too aggressive, but Vinopal(+2) comes up, avoids a block, and makes an excellent open field tackle(+1) to hold it down.
M35 2 7 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel 4-3 Run QB draw Martin 8
This is so bizarre that I think it must be a stunt or something but Martin(-1) kind of sets up instead of attacking and then gets blown out of the hole. With Black slanting hard this seems like Martin's supposed to pull around him. Instead he just gets crushed. Mouton(-1) doesn't read the guard right over him pulling and sits in an area with no holes and a backside pursuit guy. Demens(-1) is outside and it seems like that's his assignment but then he engages a guy and goes further outside when it's clear where the ball is going. Van Bergen and Black reach out arms, slowing Scheelhaase, and Kovacs cleans up from behind.
M27 1 10 Shotgun 2-back twins 4-3 Light Pass 5 Wheel of doom T. Gordon? 27
New formation for Illinois and Michigan is confused before the snap. Also after. Illinois runs a weak stretch fake and rolls out; both outside receivers run posts that drag Avery and Vinopal with them, and LeShoure runs wheel route with nothing but grass around him. Who's responsibility is this? I'm not sure anyone's except GERG. T. Gordon does not know to carry the running back vertical. If he does the other running back will be vastly open in the flat because Demens is bugging out for the deep middle. Avery's going with the post, as is Vinopal, and Rogers is covering no one on the far side of the field. So... who and what can Michigan do to make no obvious touchdowns on this play? Don't know. T. Gordon -2, Cover -3, RPS -3.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 38-31, 14 min 4th Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
M28 1 10 Pistol FB 3-wide 4-3 Light Pass 4 Triple option pitch Gordon 11
Scheelhaase pulls and now has Demens and Roh chasing at him from the inside, so he pitches. Cam Gordon's(-2) on the edge against a WR, gets too close to the LOS, gets blocked, gets held a little, and gives up the corner.
M17 1 10 Pistol FB twins 4-4 Light Run Off tackle Mouton -2
Michigan slanting their DL, including Ezeh, and this is still not a super idea since it just gives Illinois a hole and Mouton has to deal with a free releasing tackle. Kovacs(+0.5) comes up to the outside well, forcing a cutback the RB apparently did not expect. Mouton(+3) gives the TE an ole job and fills in the hole, tackling for no gain. (RPS -1)
M18 2 11 Shotgun 4-wide Base 3-4 Run Zone read keeper Kovacs 17 (Pen -10)
Michigan gets lucky here, picking up a holding call on what looks like the Illinois LT just tossing Ezeh to the ground like a rag doll. I guess he grabbed him outside the shoulder pads but I've seen a thousand worse things let go every week. Zone read from Scheelhaase and he makes a questionable decision to pull with Demens scraping over. He has to cut inside, where Mouton(+0.5) is scraping to the play, and then he has to cut all the way to the backside, which is possible because Roh(-1) got way upfield and Kovacs(-2) started running to the frontside of the play instead of attacking the cutback lane. Vinopal has to scrape past the umpire and can only make a diving tackle at the sticks. The bad hold call brings it back.
M29 2 22 Shotgun 4-wide Base 3-4 Pass 3 Slot seam Mouton 23
Strange to have seven guys at nor near the LOS in this position. Slot guy runs right by Mouton(-2, cover -3), who stops his drop at ten yards for some reason, leaving an absolute cavern between the linebackers and the three-deep. Again, Michigan DL are getting to Scheelhaase--Roh this time--but because of crap like this it's always irrelevant.
M6 1 G Pistol FB twins 4-4 Light Run Speed option Roh -1
Roh(+1) reads the play and hops out past the tackle before he can react. This forces a quick pitch. Gordon(+1) has to deal with the FB. He gets outside and strings it out perfectly; Rogers (+0.5) comes up to help tackle once the RB finally decides he has to go inside Gordon.
M7 2 G Pistol FB twins 4-4 Light Run Power dive Van Bergen 6
RVB(-2) gets doubled and crushed backwards as LBs ably fill the gaps on both sides of him. RVB can't anchor and ends up five yards downfield with his back to the football; LeShoure just has to run up those OLs' backs to get to the one.
M1 3 G Goal line Goal line Run Iso 1
LeShoure manages to burrow in, but it's not easy.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 38-45, 11 min 4th Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O11 1 10 I-Form 4-3 Light Run Off tackle Black 7
Black(-0.5) gets a little push but not much and gets sealed inside by a single guy; TE gets a free release on Demens and seals him. FB kicks out Gordon; Vinopal(-0.5, tackling -1) fills after about three but has to hang on for dear life, giving up a chunk afterwards.
O18 2 3 I-form twins 4-4 Light Run Off tackle Van Bergen 2
Van Bergen(+2) crushes the C into the backfield, picking off a pulling guard and forcing LeShoure to dance outside the mess. This gives Martin(+1) time to flow down the line after beating his guy and tackle at the LOS. Could have been a no gainer or loss but for Banks(-1) getting blown off the ball.
O20 3 1 I-form big Base 3-4 Run Power off tackle Martin 1
Both safeties move down into the box and Avery sets up deep. Fitz(+0.5) blitzes off the edge and gets into the pulling G in a good spot, occupying both him and the FB and giving no creases for the RB. Martin(+1) flows into the gap behind him, beating an OL, and it's the two LBs versus the backside G and LeShoure. They've got him short until a second effort just gets him over the line. I'm fine with this, really.
O21 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 3-3-5 stack Run Zone read keeper Fitzgerald? 12
Not sure if this is on RVB or Fitz, but no one goes with the QB and this is easy. (RPS -2)
O33 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 3-3-5 stack Run QB power dive Fitzgerald 6
Martin absorbs two and does okay. Demens reads it and moves up to hit the pulling G at the LOS. Fitzgerald(-1) started running outside, read the play late, and is easily popped out of the hole by the RB, giving the QB an avenue for a nice gain.
O39 2 4 I-form 4-4 light Run Off tackle Roh -1
Vinopal rolled up too so this is nine in the box. Michigan stunts. RVB(+1) slants past the playside G, cutting off the intended hole and forcing a cutback. Roh(+2) splits two OL not expecting him on his stunt and comes through to TFL by himself. RPS+1.
O38 3 5 Shotgun 4-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass 4 Quick out Kovacs 4
Quick out thrown a yard short of the sticks and since it's not precise Kovacs(+0.5) can escort a leaping WR out of bounds short of the first.
Drive Notes: Punt, 38-45, 6 min 4th Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O18 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass 4 Improv Demens Inc
Demens(+0.5, cover +1) drops into the hitch that is Scheelhaase's first read, and then Martin comes around to get pressure on a stunt. No rush lanes this time and Scheelhaase has to roll outside, where everyone is still covered(+1, with Vinopal(+1) tipping a dangerous pass away.
O18 2 10 Shotgun 4-wide Base 3-4 Run Inside zone Mouton 9
Michigan seems to expect pass here, which is frustrating since given the down and distance and time Illinois almost has to run lest they give M another possession on an incomplete pass. Line slants down but there's no one filling the cutback lane after Roh gets past the tackle. This is either on Roh for slanting down the line too hard or Mouton for sitting back and eating a block--one or the other has to stay outside. Ezeh sits outside to dissuade the keeper then crashes down after the handoff, but he's too far away to help with Mouton getting blocked to the outside; Demens was dropping into a short zone to take away a slant, allowing Gordon to blitz from the frontside. Roh -1, Mouton -1, but I lean towards Mouton being the responsible party here for the usual reason: if you're a linebacker getting blocked flat-footed four yards downfield you're doomed.
O27 3 1 Shotgun 3-wide Base 3-4 Run Inside zone Vinopal 0
Vinopal rolls up late for another guy in the box. RVB(+1) gets under his blocker and into the intended running lane; Mouton(+0.5) fills a frontside gap hard, leaving Vinopal(+1, tackling +1) a free hitter in a constricted area. He brings enough wood to stand LeShoure up and the cavalry arrives.
Drive Notes: Punt, 45-45, 1 min 4th Q. Illinois' final drive of regulation is not charted because it's an extreme outlier. On to OT.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
M25 1 10 I-form 3-wide Base 3-4 Pass 4 PA Scramble 6
PA is covered all over (cover +2) but Scheelhaase has epic time (pressure -3) and a rushing lane he takes for six.
M19 2 4 Shotgun 4-wide 3-3-5 stack Run Zone read keeper Roh 15
Another instance where the DE shuffles down the line and no scrape from the LB. Mouton is blocked, Roh out of the play, and a big gainer happens. RPS –1.
M4 1 G Shotgun 3-wide Base 3-4 Run QB draw Mouton 2
Mouton(+1) recognizes the pull this time and slams into the guard at the LOS. He takes a hit from a tailback too, and gives ground. Demens comes up slightly tardy; Scheelhaase has to burrow behind the double on Mouton, allowing Michigan players to converge.
M2 2 G Goal line Goal line Pass 4 Waggle cross Inc
Michigan bites, with Gordon(-0.5) getting out way late on the corner and Mouton(-0.5) losing the TE(cover -1); Scheelhaase tries the more covered TE and ends up throwing it well behind him.
M2 3 G Shotgun 3-wide Base 3-4 Run QB draw Mouton 1
Demens(-1) reads this too slowly and gets hit a yard downfield, so there's a gap. Mouton(+2) jukes the RT, sliding inside of him and tackling at the LOS. Scheelhaase dives to about the inch line.
M1 4 G Goal line Goal line Run Down G Mouton 1
They block down on RVB and shoot the FB right at Mouton, who can't make a great play this time. LeShoure finds the endzone.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 52-52, OT
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
M25 1 10 Shotgun 2-back twins Base 4-4 Pass Wheel of doom ??? 25
Literally the exact same thing happens, though they're thrown at Mouton and Ezeh as the linebackers this time. RPS -4.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 52-59, OT2
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
M25 1 10 Pistol FB twins 4-3 Light Run Triple option pitch Avery 1
This is different than the other pitches since they run it away from the twins side of the field instead of to it. So. Fitzgerald comes down on the dive; a pull. Mouton(+0.5) gets outside his blocker and starts flowing; Kovacs(+0.5) comes up to take away the QB run. Avery(+1, tackling +1) was on the TE and got outside, shutting off the corner. He comes off to tackle, and Michigan finally stops an option pitch.
M24 2 9 Ace twins Base 3-4 Pass 4 PA TE throwback Fitzgerald 14
Really delayed this time as the TE gets caught up on Van Bergen before releasing. Kovacs has to go vertical with one tight end and Fitzgerald(-2, cover -2) starts running playside, getting way out of position and opening this up vastly. (RPS -2, because at least on this play I can tell who probably should have had the play.
M10 1 G Shotgun 4-wide 3-3-5 stack Run Zone read keeper Roh 7
Same fricking thing, with Roh shuffling down the line and Mouton(-1) not getting in position to do anything on either the dive or the keeper; Scheelhaase pulls it and gets down to the three. RPS-2. They've had 100 plays to fix this.
M3 2 G Shotgun 4-wide Base 3-4 Run Zone read handoff Roh 3
Fitz blitzes off the edge for contain and M slants; Roh(-1) gets pushed too far down the line and opens up a cutback lane; Mouton was moving inside his blocker and cannot adjust once the bounce happens, though he tries.
M3 2pt 2pt Shotgun 2TE twins 4-3 light Pass 6 Sack Mouton -7
Same play as the previous one and Michigan is caught in man but Mouton(+2) leaps over a cut attempt from the LT and Roh(+1) stunts inside, coming free. Scheehaase has to try to get around Mouton but can't, getting ankle-tackled as he rolls out and going down to end the game. (Pressure +2)
Drive Notes: Touchdown(2PT failed), 67-65, EOG.

 So this sounds insane after a 67-65 game but that was… less depressing?

Yeah? Penn State had nine drives on which they tried to score. On those drives their average field position was their 32. They scored 4.6 points per drive. They were the worst offense in the Big Ten before the game. Illinois was not a good offense, but they had 19(!!!) drives with an average starting position of their own 48 and scored 3.4 points per drive. Michigan forced six punts and had two other three-and-outs that Illinois got field goal attempts on because they started around the Michigan 30. Two of Illinois's touchdown drives also started around the Michigan 30.

By the Mathlete's reckoning, an average offense would expect to score 40 points given the 16 drives with great field position Illinois had in regulation; Michigan gave up 45. That is almost not awful.

But still pretty depressing?

Also yeah. "Almost not awful" does not include the three consecutive TDs Illinois scored in overtime. Also, an average defense going up against an average offense would expect to put up 40. Illinois does not have an average offense. Even after Saturday they're 71st in total offense; before it they were 85th. Illinois put up 43 on Indiana and 44 on Purdue. Multiple breakdowns were plays Illinois ran over and over again (triple option, wheel of doom, a simple zone read keeper) on which there was no Michigan defender with even a plausible chance of defending. The sheer number of wide open guys on passes, option pitches, and zone read keepers caused me to burble in disgust as I saw carbon copies of previous errors made deep into the game.

In addition, a number of the stops were of the Illinois-stops-self variety. UI receivers dropped two third down conversions, one of them a very long gainer, and their fumble was just a guy dropping the ball. Michigan had some fortunate breaks go their way to get the not-awful-by-the numbers performance.

I think there's some hope from individual players, but when some of that hope comes from Craig Roh checking in with a positive number because he's at DE after he was moved to LB in the fall, did poorly, played DE against Iowa and MSU, did well, and then was put back at a linebacker against Penn State and Michigan puts Obi Ezeh and JB Fitzgerald at defensive end for big chunks of the game, your coaching sucks.

I keep talking like this? Inflecting my sentences to make them questions?

You do. I wasn't going to say anything but you brought it up.

Chart?

oic. Chart. Remember that these are going to be high amplitude because of the sheer number of plays and that you should turn the volume down by a third or so.

Defensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Van Bergen 10.5 3.5 7 Developing into a fine player. Now consistently putting up points.
Martin 8 1 7 Was more back than it looked live, but still out a lot more than usual.
Banks 0.5 3.5 -3 Little PT with the move.
Sagesse - - - DNP?
Patterson 2 3 -1 The usual dropoff but held his ground a bit better.
Black 1.5 2 -0.5 Off day.
Roh 10.5 8 2.5 Eventful; some minuses may be someone else's fault.
TOTAL 33 21 12 Not great; no production from the backups and too much time for them.
Linebacker
Player + - T Notes
Ezeh 3 4 -1 Didn't do anything outlandish, a lot of minuses not really his fault.
Mouton 15.5 16 -0.5 The most Mouton day ever.
C. Gordon 5 3.5 1.5 Far more clueful this week but also a lot more blitzy.
T. Gordon - 3 -3 Had the misfortune of being only plausible coverage guy on Wheel of Doom 1.
Leach - - - Did get in at least one play.
Moundros - - - DNP
Demens 10.5 2.5 8 Can play, yo.
Herron - - - DNP
Fitzgerald 0.5 11 -10.5 Um… not so good.
TOTAL 34.5 40 -5.5 Let's have linebackers play DE.
Secondary
Player + - T Notes
Floyd - - - DNP
Rogers 2.5 2.5 0 I'll take it!
Kovacs 4.5 11 -6.5 Very bad day early.
Johnson - - - DNP.
Talbott - - - DNP.
Christian - - - DNP.
Avery 3.5 0.5 3 Two key tackles.
Ray Vinopal 4 4.5 -0.5 Some great tackles, a couple ugly whiffs.
TOTAL 15.5 18.5 -3 I'll take this, too.
Metrics
Pressure 12 8 4 If only they covered anyone…
Coverage 13 24 -11 But they don't.
Tackling 9 7 2 Meh.
RPS 7 21 -14 Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

[RPS is "rock, paper, scissors." Michigan gets a + when they call a play that makes it very easy for them to defend the opponent, like getting a free blitzer. They get a – when they call a play that makes it very difficult for them to defend the opponent, like showing a seven-man blitz and having Penn State get easy touchdowns twice.]

Shave about a third off all of those and you get approximately a normal game. The defensive line did decently. The linebackers were slightly below par, the secondary was all right individually but as a whole there were vast openings in the zone that probably fall more on the LB's heads than anything else, and everything that's ever happened good or bad is because of Jonas Mouton.

Isn't Mouton supposed to be one of our better players?

Yes, I guess. I have been complaining about him all year, so not to sound like a broken record but man, whenever something awful happened to Michigan it seemed like the linebacker running his ass off in a vain attempt to get back in position was Mouton. Sometimes it's tough to tell exactly who has what assignment when Michigan is defending the option but 1) almost all of Illinois's successful option pitches came to Mouton's side of the field*, 2) on most of them they were playing three deep and blitzing a rolled up safety into the QB, and 3) Mouton was hanging out on the inside when a DE was crashing the dive.

This was the most blatant example—watch Mouton as Kovacs screams in on Scheelhaase:

There is absolutely no reason for Mouton to be anywhere near the interior of the play. Kovacs has the QB. The line/DE/Demens has the dive. The secondary is in a three deep. He should be the force defender and is so far out of position that if Scheelhaase manages to make an accurate pitch this is at least ten yards and possibly another touchdown. Either this is his responsibility or GERG's scheme to defend the option literally cannot work. I'm honestly not sure which it is.

On the 64-yard TD Mouton probably was supposed to be inside and Kovacs got blocked out of his blitz but man this is ugly when he tries to tackle:

 

Vinopal comes up and lets the play outside of him but either way Michigan's giving up lots of yards here since Kovacs blitzed inside the tackle and Mouton never scraped.

But wait! There's more! I'm not exactly sure who this was on, but Roh kept shuffling down on Illinois's inside zone keepers and Scheelhaase pulled, finding tons of open space because Mouton was sitting on the interior again. Since Roh is younger and just moved back to DE I thought it was on him, but I'm not sure if Mouton should get the benefit of the doubt. He gives up contain a lot. Roh shuffled on the third drive of the game and led to a keeper that Kovacs had to deal with, and kept shuffling, and Mouton never, ever scraped. One of these two people must be told to do something differently.

The most frustrating part of all of this is that these things kept happening. Michigan did not change their scheme at all and the option pitch was still open and Scheelhaase could pull in overtime just like he did before. No Michigan player altered their play, which makes it difficult for me to tell who was at fault because no one changed their behavior.

In Mouton's defense, he also made his usual array of flat-out great plays. The most obvious was the final one where he leapt an offensive lineman and shot in on Scheelhaase before he could force a fourth overtime, but scattered in between all that contain business was a guy who took on a lot of blocks, made a lot of tackles, and displayed the athleticism that made him a hot recruit and will probably get some NFL team to take a flier on him. So he's not all bad.

*(The one that worked and didn't featured Cam Gordon failing to maintain leverage on the RB as he was getting blocked by a slot, but at least in that instance there was a player in the vicinity who just made a mistake; there was not an obviously blown assignment.)

This will be a good segue: how intense does your GERG hatred run this week?

I'm keeping steady at a thousand suns. The inability to adjust to the option—the one time Michigan stopped it late they ran away from the twins side into Kovacs and Avery, who was in overhang mode and could get outside the TE easily to contain—or the wheel of death or a simple zone read keeper led to another monster negative RPS day. Whenever I'm not sure which Michigan player is making errors on a dozen different massive gains the defensive coordinator is going to get a huge negative RPS.

Meanwhile, Michigan finally put Roh where he should be but we're addicted to playing guys out of position so for long stretches of the game we had the privilege of watching two linebackers try to play defensive end, which they did not. They got no pressure and were blown up in the run game. They were better as 3-4 OLBs but Michigan had a gameplan and stuck with it, putting four men on the line in power situations much of the day and paying for it. I know Greg Banks isn't spectacular but he does make the occasional good play, unlike Fitz and Ezeh when they're shoehorned into playing defensive end. Fitz was particularly woeful. I'm not sure how he even got that massive minus but there it is. He only had one tackle, so there's some circumstantial backup.

This game provides no evidence Greg Robinson should be kept. Not that I have to tell you that.

Heroes?

Demens was again consistent on anything that got pushed to him, making a couple impressive tackles in space and making a breakup on a short third down attempt. Avery didn't seem victimized on anything and made a couple big tackles

Goats?

Greg Robinson, for putting Ezeh and Fitzgerald in a position they'd never played before, and for moving Roh to linebacker in the spring, and for moving Cam Gordon to safety, and for never ever adjusting to 1) simple zone read keepers, 2) the basic triple option play that is Illinois's offensive staple, and 3) the wheel of death. I'm not even sure he knew what was going wrong. On film it's instantly obvious that either the DE or LB is not containing and something must be changed, but in the third overtime Roh was still shuffling and Mouton not scraping as Scheelhaase ran down to the three.

The alpha and omega, beginning and end of all things, the snake that eats its own tail, the world tree, the ever-expanding universe itself, the very Big Bang that brought matter into existence?

Jonas Mouton.

What does it mean for Purdue and beyond?

Michigan should either scrap the four man line or play an actual lineman on it. The 3-4 seemed to work much better, but what I really want to see is a personnel package that is simple and makes sense instead of Michigan trying to shoehorn every front they can think of into the same personnel. Be one thing and be good at it. I was so wrong about this in the preseason.

Long term, Demens now has three games to his name and is on the verge of establishing himself a guy Michigan can expect somewhat big things out of next year. Van Bergen is becoming a guy with some impact, Roh (surprise!) can rush the passer and is a much more effective DE than LB, and the guys moving around in the secondary seem less bewildered; Cam Gordon brings some pop and potential to spur if he can just get settled.

I'm not sure what to expect against Purdue. Maybe they'll play Denard at nose tackle. More likely they'll stick with the 3-4 that was the default against spread sets against IU and try to corral the Purdue running game. I hope to see a coherent defense next week, but don't expect one.

Picture Pages: This Is Not A Stack

Picture Pages: This Is Not A Stack

Submitted by Brian on November 3rd, 2010 at 1:50 PM

Note: no UFR today, as the torrent got down late Monday and I couldn't do the first half then. Hopefully both halves tomorrow.

You'll have to forgive the picture quality on this one—both of these are low-quality torrents. Just like Michigan's defense. AMIRITE!

So in the game column this week I complained about the alignment of the middle linebacker in this bastardized version of the 3-3-5. Michigan has him maybe a yard behind the nose tackle, like so:

kovacs-1

This creates a major vulnerability against misdirection, as we'll see. This play is a first and ten on Penn State's first drive. They've driven it into the Michigan half of the field because of depressing things, and more depressing things will happen. This isn't one of them. Michigan shows a two-deep with six in the box, but moves Kovacs down late to add a seventh guy, which gives Michigan the formation above versus Penn State's ace 3-wide.

At the snap the offset fullback heads inside the tackle to his side. You can see the handoff is going to be made to the right side of McGloin. Linebackers start scraping as each and every DE attempts to take on two blockers:

 kovacs-2

Here's the handoff point. The fullback is hitting the backside B gap, which makes me think this is a called counter play. Where's Demens?

kovacs-3

Demens has taken a step towards the line of scrimmage and has hit a guard. Now… he hit the backside guard, the one that PSU is cutting towards. He read the play, but he's a linebacker two yards from the LOS meeting a guard with a free release who's much bigger than him. Momentum means that the best he can do is bounce off it and attempt to flow down the line. (This is much more apparent in the video below.)

kovacs-4

The play cuts back as designed. Roh has attacked a frontside gap. Martin and Demens are caught up in the wash on the interior, and Mouton, who was scraping along well back of everyone else, is going to eat the fullback four yards downfield:

kovacs-5

The saving grace here is Kovacs, who sifts through the blockers and makes a mediocre ankle tackle that the RB (Royster, I think) steps through:

kovacs-6

Demens and others finish it off but after four yards:

kovacs-7

Michigan got away with this by putting an extra player in the box late. When Penn State was not caught in a bad playcall, counters like this gashed Michigan all night.

Here's the video:

I don't have an exact replica of this from Rodriguez's WVU days but here's an inside zone Rutgers ran in their 2007 game. Rutgers was no joke on the ground in '07. Ray Rice was around and the Scarlet Knights finished 26th nationally.

The first thing that's obvious is that the MLB is six yards off the line of scrimmage, not two. Also despite playing against a bigger set—Rutgers has a tight end on the field instead of a third wide receiver—West Virginia maintains two deep safeties:

 wvu-2007-inside-zone

At the snap WVU has shifted to an aggressive look with the OLBs and the spur at the LOS; the MLB has moved up a yard:

wvu-2007-inside-zone-2

At the snap six players attack the line, giving all but one WVU DL a one-on-one matchup:

wvu-2007-inside-zone-3

This is a similar setup, really: inside zone. Main difference is that there is an inline TE instead of a fullback on the backside, but they block the backside end above. The playside end is about to beat a Rutgers tackle to the inside. Note the MLB two yards away from the LOS now—where Demens started the play—after the handoff. He's scraping to the hole. A Rice cutback would be somewhat problematic for him but he's not likely to get a lineman in his face:

wvu-2007-inside-zone-4

MLB has now engaged an OL at the LOS. Rutgers tackle is totally beaten and forces Rice to start cutting:

wvu-2007-inside-zone-5

There are four WVU guys in the area:

wvu-2007-inside-zone-6

And Rice goes down shortly after he crosses the LOS:

wvu-2007-inside-zone-7

On the day Rutgers would get 183 rushing yards, but Mike Teel completed under 50% of his passes and threw two interceptions on a 128 yard passing day because WVU left the safeties back the whole time. West Virginia won 31-3. Their rushing defense was 18th nationally.

So, things:

  • It seemed like Michigan was using Jonas Mouton like WVU used their MLB in the 3-3-5. Except Mouton was four yards off the LOS, not six, and not aligned in the middle of the field. So if he's going to get to anything on the frontside he has to run hard, which means he is susceptible to cutbacks.
  • I don't think Demens ever had a prayer of dealing with a cutback or counter because of his alignment. One step to the playside and he's a yard away from the LOS about to get swallowed by a guard.
  • Michigan plays Demens at the same depth in their other line alignments. 3-4:
    base-3-4
    4-3:
    moutong-ugh-1 
    Paired with the disconnect in WVU's 3-3-5 this signals shoehorning to me. Demens should be at a certain depth in more conventional sets and putting him six yards back would confuse him in pass drops, run fills, etc, but in the 3-3-5 he takes one step and there's a lineman releasing free into him. In these sets he's got a chance to scrape without dealing with an unblocked OL all the time. So…
  • Michigan's deployment of the 3-3-5 isn't really a 3-3-5. I don't know what it is, but that whole attacking from everywhere, making different fronts, blitzing, getting guys through the line unblocked thing is something you can see on a fairly typical WVU play above. There are six guys on the LOS threatening and a dedicated cleanup guy behind them with the space and time to get anywhere along the line. Michigan is a passive three man line with guys you can easily single block (but get to double if you want) and linebackers who are living a nightmare. It's incoherent, and Michigan going back to it after having a fairly solid day against Iowa basing almost exclusively from traditional fronts is a miniature version of what happened against Purdue in 2008. Michigan's 3-3-5 is a 3-4 with linebackers in places that don't make sense.
  • Michigan only escapes the above play by outnumbering the offense. No one on the defense beat their counterpart. Everyone was blocked out of the play, which means you can't win unless you've got an extra guy, which means you can't play two deep without getting smashed.
  • I have no idea what Greg Robinson is trying to accomplish. This puts me in the same situation as Greg Robinson.

UFR Errata: Iowa, Defending Kenny Demens

UFR Errata: Iowa, Defending Kenny Demens

Submitted by Brian on October 27th, 2010 at 4:58 PM

taylor-lewan-michigan Offense

Lewan moving. Complaints here are always less strenuous, likely because it's way easier to tell what everyone's supposed to be doing. A few commenters noted that Lewan's been moving early, Jerel Worthy-style, for chunks of the year. Kilgore Trout:

From my vantage point on the east side of the stadium, it looked like he pretty clearly moved early.  I think he was doing it a lot against MSU and not getting called.  Either he's got considerably faster reflexes than everyone else on UM's O-Line or MSU and Iowa's D-Lines, or he moves early a decent amount.  To be honest, I think he's lucky to only have had two false starts called on him.

In retrospect I do remember Lewan getting a slight jump on the opponent; it's possible refs are now watching for this and Lewan got nailed.

Denard's accuracy. FWIW, this seemed interesting:

Looking at replays of his throws, he is not stepping into them.  His front foot is stepping to the side, causing him to open up his body when he throws.  This is causing him to be less accurate and also neutralizing his arm-strength.

All the passes where he throws the ball just short or one-hops the ball to the receiver is a function of not stepping into the throw.

He obviously looks great otherwise.

There was the usual war about Vincent Smith in the comments, but I've said my bit on that.

Defense

Demens defense. Most complaints center on the enigmatic anointed Kenny Demens, his +8, and the assertion that Demens is a clear upgrade over Ezeh worthy of a "wow." The general theory from His Dudeness:

Biff,

I know you watch a TON more game video than I do and that you have a TON more experience grading out players than I do, but I have to fear that sometimes you overrate guys based on a single game. I do hope Demens turns into a great MLB, but to say he is going to be a quality MLB from here on out until he graduates may be setting the bar a little high based on one game? I certainly hope you are correct in your assessment, but I will hold off on my expectations that he will be our MLB savior Christ child. I like to expect nothing and be pleasantly surprised by what I get though, so that's my thing.

That's fair; I've tried to assert that Demens's performance was not necessarily replicable against teams that have seen him play and can identify some weaknesses. But he's a clear upgrade on Ezeh. Magnus suggests that Demens pluses would be Ezeh minuses:

I remember Ezeh being dinged for taking on blocks rather than getting around them somehow to make the tackle.  Now it seems that we're celebrating the fact that Demens took on a block from a lineman, even though he was pancaked after he plugged.

This is probably in reference to this play featured in part of the OMG Demens section:

As a couple responders said, the difference between Demens running up into an offensive guard here and eventually getting pancaked and Ezeh getting whacked while motionless is self evident from the result of the play. This was my thought process here:

  1. This is a zero yard run without an obvious Iowa error so the net should be somewhere around +2.
  2. There are no creases in the line. Why are there no creases? Well, the three guys on the frontside all stand up to blocks at the LOS but don't disengage so that's half-points for Kovacs, Banks, and Mouton.
  3. On this one Patterson is done instantly and the G has almost a free release at Demens; there should be a gap. There isn't because Demens hits the G right at the LOS. –1 Patterson, +1 Demens.
  4. Floyd comes up and contains unblocked. Half-point.

Net is +2. On a play where Ezeh consumes a block with gusto and the opponent gets a big gain the play is going to net out at –2 or –3 and he's going to take some of the blame. Iowa had almost no success running between the tackles, so plays on which Demens was involved in were usually + plays and usually he got a share of the +.

On the other hand, BWS took another look at the National Lampoon's Zone Vacation picture pages and suggested the blame was largely on Demens:

averyguh5.1

I disagree somewhat. Asking a middle linebacker to cover a receiver moving into the flat is either an incoherent defense that will get you killed long term or one of those pattern reading systems that require a ton of drilling. By appearances (and necessity) Michigan does not run fancy stuff; this was three-deep zone with four underneath defenders, except one of them was way, way out of his zone. One of them was somewhat out of his zone.

Avery needs to re-route the slot guy but once he does that he has to get back out into the flat, whereupon the WR gets forced back into Demens and Iowa kicks a field goal and Michigan has a chance to win the game at the end. BWS says "Avery wasn't in great position here, but he also wasn't in terrible position. If he hadn't fallen, he might've had a chance to make the play." The reason he fell is he was playing with his back to the quarterback and running at full speed inside in an attempt to cover a receiver he has no prayer of helping on. Physics is relentless.

It is likely that Demens wasn't supposed to re-route the TE because he wasn't going vertical, and he did drag out of his zone. The reason that's a fifteen-yard error instead of five isn't on him. I should have given him a –1; Avery still is the primary culprit IME.

Black to the future. An email on Black:

Hey Brian-

I was really surprised by your rating of Black's play. I've watched the every defensive snap footage a few times, and to me it looks like Black is out there on about half the snaps, not barely playing as you indicated in the UFR. I also felt like he was a major culprit on a few of the big running plays. I feel like you may have mis-attributed  some negatives to either Banks or Sagesse that were on Black. I don't think Sagesse really played at all except in a few relief appearances for Patterson in the second half.  I'm not a coach or anything, but I played DL (and OL) in high school, and I'm fairly sure that Black had a fairly negative day. Looks to me like he only knows how to pass rush, and gets killed on run plays.
Thanks for all the hard work, as always.

Best,
Daniel

I don't think I've mis-identified Black much; 55 is sufficiently different from 92 that I feel aware when he's in. Sagesse has not played much and I believe I've said that. But I agree that Black is a liability against the run. Michigan State glided down the field on a series of cutbacks he was on the ground for and a couple of runs that Iowa busted outside were partially (possibly largely) his responsibility.

Mouton defense disagreed with. Mouton came in for criticism on a number of runs outside the tackles including a Picture Pages dedicated to Iowa's fourth touchdown, and that criticism was criticized by people who sound like they know what they're talking about. MightAndMainWeCheer on the Iowa TD:

Banks gets hooked by the tackle (which is understandable considering he was lined up a shade inside of the tackle).  The tackle then executes a scoop with the guard; the tackle then releases and blocks Mouton.  Again, Mouton can't bail to the outside at the snap of the ball because there is a huge cutback lane between the B gap.  Kovacs is blitzing but predictably gets kicked out by the FB; in this case cutting the FB and making a pile in the backfield would have been useful in getting the RB to cut up in side or take the ball wider to the outside thus allowing help to arrive.  Again, Mouton is flowing down the line but gets blocked by a tackle (you can see a good view of it from the behind-the-offense replay in the youtube cutup).  Also Demens does a good job of escaping the wash at the beginning of the play but he doesn't take a very good angle to the ballcarrier at the end.

I totally disagree. I missed Kovacs's blitz getting picked off by the fullback and hadn't considered whether he should get minused there; I'm not convinced but I can see the argument. However, defending Mouton not getting outside the tackle just doesn't fly. Mouton knows Kovacs is gone. Banks is in front of him getting shoved inside. He knows he has no help to the outside, so his first priority must be to funnel the ball inside. If he doesn't it's an auto touchdown. He doesn't, auto touchdown. There is a big damn B gap, true, but his choice is between doing what he did and hoping Robinson doesn't run into the wide open field outside or keeping contain and hoping help comes. Also, criticizing Demens because he didn't take a good angle to the ballcarrier seems insane to me. He hit it up in the hole to get a third down stop and the play went outside.

There's another guy saying similar things on the Picture Pages post itself but Bo Schembechler himself could call down from heaven to say Mouton was innocent and I wouldn't believe him. He expected to have to do it all himself, tried to, failed, and gave up many yards. He has done this throughout his career. There are other problems on the play—Banks did get a minus—but thanks to Sagesse taking two blockers and Demens getting to the hole Mouton is the most obvious reason the play blew up.

I'm slightly more receptive to the idea that I should have been harsher on Black on the other run outside the tackle, as Mouton was given a difficult task:

Black got crushed but Patterson actually stayed playside of his attempted double and is flowing down the line into a gap that Mouton also attacks. Mouton running up into that gap doesn't help; if he flows down the line the gain is held down. Kovacs didn't make a heroic play but I'm not sure what he's supposed to do there. I give minuses to linebackers who hit already filled gaps, and Mouton hit one and let a guy outside again.

Midseason Re-Eval: Linebackers

Midseason Re-Eval: Linebackers

Submitted by Brian on October 26th, 2010 at 10:40 AM

Taking stock during the bye week. Previously: secondary.

Preseason

obi-ezeh-smoked

Following straight on the heels of the secondary preview, the linebacker preview caused more stomach-twisting agony at projected incompetence. Craig Roh was covered as a defensive lineman, leaving Mouton, Ezeh/Walk-on, and Freshman Spur Rotation the guys covered here.

Mouton and Ezeh were lumped together as close to interchangeable backers and given a two, except it was actually Mouton and Moundros evaluated as starters. Doom was projected at MLB:

…"sparsely deployed walk-on fullback to starting middle linebacker" is as much of a flashing sign that says DOOM as anything I've ever seen.

On the other hand, during the Illinois game last year Ezeh actually ran out of a hole Juice Williams was about to enter with the ball so he could chase after a running back. It looked insane, causing me to dig out the "run away" bit of "Janie's Got A Gun" and the fake Magic card you see at right. By the end of the year whatever hope remained for Ezeh was vestigial indeed; merely having options other than him could maybe possibly hopefully slightly improve matters?

All that was offered in hope was "Ezeh won't get worse and if he's replaced the guy doing the replacing will be better than him." When it came to address the backups, I was expecting "some" improvement from Ezeh thanks to the exit of Jay Hopson and the usual leveling up that comes through experience. The Enigmatic Kenny Demens was indeed dubbed The Enigmatic Kenny Demens; the tea leaves were not encouraging on him because he'd gone from pushing for a job in spring to all but absent in fall.

Mouton was declared a wildly inconsistent guy hopped up on bad angles but theoretically capable of becoming a "ruthless Crable-like playmaker." That was just a theory, though:

Unlike the situation at middle linebacker, it seems within the realm of possibility Mouton's light goes on and the talent he's flashed the past couple years turns into an All Big Ten kind of season. To deploy a cliche, he is the X factor, the guy with the greatest possible variance in his play on the defense. I'd settle for a return to his 2008 level; he is capable of more. There's a 25% chance he's awesome, a 50% chance he's okay, and a 25% chance he gets benched.

Mike Jones came in for the most pub as a backup.

At spur, Carvin Johnson and Thomas Gordon were regarded as near-interchangeable parts based entirely on recruiting profiles of Johnson and Gordon; they were given a two for essentially no reason:

His [Johnson's] recruiting profile picked him out as a true sleeper likely to exceed his relatively modest rankings based on local praise and late SEC offers, and while my usual heuristics lead me to be skeptical about a true freshman beating out a redshirt freshman with nary a fourth star to be seen, I've just got that feeling—what's it called—you know—optimism. Optimism enough to throw this position a 2, anyway. While two less-than-touted freshmen are not likely to be average Big Ten players in year one, I don't think we'll be looking back at 2010 and saying "oh God, what about that mess at spur."

Fast forward to NOW!

obi-ezeh-brandon-herronkenny-demens-iowamouton-notre-dame

Mouton has settled into the broad 50% level where he is okay, in no danger of getting benched or making an All Big Ten team at year's end. He's come in for clucking on two separate Picture Pages wherein tailbacks got outside of him despite having a clear mandate to maintain contain. Despite this, he's been in the black most of the year on the UFR chart and has turned in some huge positive plays:

Mouton leads the team in tackles and is in a big pack of guys with around 5 TFLs. Though he hasn't made the senior leap he was capable of he is appreciably better than last year and is going to get some NFL team to take a swing at him in the draft.

Ezeh managed to hold off the challenge from Moundros largely because when Moundros came in he looked exactly like you'd expect a fullback to look at linebacker. The problem was that Ezeh looked like a fullback, too:

At this point it's almost hopeless. What are the chances Obi Ezeh learns how to be a linebacker in the last ten games of his career if he's still making incredibly basic mistakes like that after starting for three years? This has nothing to do with scheme. This is basic play recognition/ability to remember how to make your legs go.  … The ugly fate foretold by the "Mark Moundros could start" preseason meme appears to be coming true.

That was after Ezeh scored a –8 against a I-AA team. That may have been harsh but if you're arguing that a –8 against UMass for a senior middle linebacker is really a –4 you're really just arguing about how obvious his future benching is. Frustratingly obvious, or eye-bleedingly obvious?

It was apparently the former. Ezeh hung onto his job until the Michigan State game, when a bizarre scheme that saw him fly out of the center of the defense on two long MSU touchdown runs was replaced by the usual thing where he was asked to read and react and did only the first:

The MSU game was finally enough. Michigan turned to The Enigmatic Kenny Demens, who'd been enigmatically buried on the depth chart. Placed on the field he hit the right gaps, made a number of tackles at or near the line of scrimmage, and could not be fingered for anything particularly negative that went on. Contrast the above clip with this:

I've got plenty more of the first clip to prove the trend. Demens hasn't seen enough time to prove anything but at the very least he's suggested he's already an upgrade as a sophomore. It wouldn't have taken much.

At spur it has been super boring. Johnson got knocked out of the UConn game and missed the next few weeks. He's reclaimed the starting spot after healing but he and Gordon alternate so much that it's hard to tell who is who. It doesn't help that neither of them has done much of anything good or bad. The hope was that maybe Cam Gordon would be able to pull the Brandent Englemon 1-0-1 this year. He hasn't come anywhere close, but the spurs are doing almost exactly that. Between them they have 25 tackles, 3.5 for loss and the one impressive sack of Dayne Crist.

Is that good? On this defense it qualifies. A couple freshmen are not huge issues. The 2 they were handed in the preview seems about right.

Fast forward to LATER!

(CAPTION INFORMATION)
Indiana's Mitchell Evans is chased down by Michigan's Jonas Mouton in the second quarter.       Photos are of the University of Michigan vs. Indiana University at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, September 26, 2009.  (The Detroit News / David Guralnick)demens-tackle

Mouton is what he is at this point. He'll use his combo of size and speed to nail down a fair share of impressive plays; his iffy angles and pursuit will open up the outside and cutbacks. His pass drops have gotten much better. He's probably going to end the year as Michigan's leading tackler and have maybe 10 TFLs. He's not a star. He's not a liability. Except he's both. It all averages out to an average-ish Big Ten linebacker.

Rotating Spur Freshman should improve as the season progresses and the collective's eyes get less wide, but it's hard to see a lot of plays from Johnson and Gordon until 2011 when one of them can get a solid grip on the job and can focus on doing a bit more than not screwing up. But they're not screwing up—or at least not screwing up much compared to other spots. One negative: they must be iffy in pass coverage in practice if the exploitable nickel package has persisted this far into its erratic 2010.

The upside in the unit comes in the form of The Enigmatic Kenny Demens, who turned in a legitimately good—not good-for-being-not-Ezeh—game against Iowa. It is highly likely he is better than Ezeh right now. It is unlikely he is as good as he showed against an Iowa team that IIRC did not run a counter or anything other than straight zone blocking all day. Where he falls in that continuum from Linebackers Obviously Better Than Ezeh to Legitimately Good will have a huge impact on Michigan's rushing defense the rest of the way.

Prediction accuracy to date: Pretty good, though the preview punted on making a call on Mouton and was taken in by whatever it was that caused Demens to plummet down the depth chart.
Level of play relative to prediction: Slightly optimistic, as Ezeh didn't seem to be any better this year than last.
Expected level of play for remainder of season: Somewhere between slightly and considerably better than predicted depending on how sustainable Demens's play is and how much of an upgrade Carvin Johnson is over Thomas Gordon. The guesses here: 70% sustainable and not much of an upgrade.