Fall Camp Presser Transcript 8-6-12: Brady Hoke

Fall Camp Presser Transcript 8-6-12: Brady Hoke

Submitted by Heiko on August 6th, 2012 at 9:24 PM

Michigan's athletic department has made a few changes regarding media access for the upcoming season:

  • Players' family members cannot be interviewed without permission from the athletic department. 
  • Freshmen will be withheld from media day.
  • Practice will be closed to all media.

This is just a heads up. Shutting off practice is the only item that affects MGoBlog directly, but it's not a huge loss. Last year I attended a few Tuesday practices and took a couple photos, but I didn't see anything other than stretching and a hand-off. If they're going to do things like throw a Jordan Kovacs jersey on Matt Cavanaugh anyway, nothing is left to be gained. No complaints from me. 

The other two items, however, will significantly affect the MSM (main stream media for those new to this blog). Enterprising features about David Molk's mother, Kovacs's journey as a walk-on, and Denard Robinson's humble beginnings will be harder to come by, as I predict that access will be granted sparingly and only to preferred media outlets. I doubt we'll see any freshmen this season, and relationships with their family members formed during the recruiting process will no longer be viable sources. Hail to the VictorsTM.

BREAKING, RELATED: Will Campbell dropped the F-bomb today (transcript tomorrow), so here's to never hearing from him again.

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

Brady Hoke

News bullets and other important items: 

  • Fitz Toussaint and Frank Clark did not practice today; judgment has not yet been passed.
  • Jerald Robinson did practice.
  • Antonio Poole is out with a pec injury. 
  • Ricardo Miller is playing both U-back TE and receiver.
  • Devin Gardner is taking reps at receiver.

I feel like there's something between us.

Opening remarks:

“Ready to go? All right. Thanks for coming out. For us, it was the first day back out there with a new football team. It’s always fun. There’s a lot of questions out there that we’ll continue to have as we go through this fall camp. I thought there’s some excitement, some chippyness, which is always good because there’s some competition. And that’s an important part of every day. We’re going to manufacture that as much as we can and put stress on our players and get them out of their comfort zone so that Saturdays are easy. That’s part of what the plan has always been. I thought we had a pretty good day. We got some good work as a team. Obviously when you’re going out there without pads on, helmets on, it can be deceiving at times, but I liked how we practiced with only helmets on. I thought they did a nice job with that. Thought the seniors and the guys who have played a lot of football at Michigan -- they’ve really taken an accountability, so that part of it is exciting and it was a good first day.”

Did Fitz Toussaint and Frank Clark participate?

 “They did not participate.”

Will they?

“I don’t know that.”

When will you make a decision on that?

“When I make it, I guess. When? I don’t know.”

What’s your hope and expectation for Schofield at tackle?

“What I like about him is that he has some good game experience from a year ago being at guard. I think his athleticism, I think his maturity -- when you look at the group as a whole, genetically I think we look better from what we did physically during the summer. He’s one of those guys who’s stronger. He’s one of those guys who I think the maturity level -- everyone’s a little different, but I think he’s pretty serious about it.”

With Frank Clark out, who will compete with Brennen Beyer, and how will he respond to the competition?

“I think when you talk about him responding, he’s always responded. He’s a competitive kid. He loves to play. I think he’s done a tremendous job. Mario Ojemudia is a guy we can play at that position. We can put Jake Ryan back down there and play him there and move Cam Gordon up and rotate some linebackers around if we had to. So when you look at it, there’s some freshmen who are going to get some looks obviously throughout our football team, depthwise. I’m not too worried about it.”

Jake Ryan’s been a playmaker without a whole lot of technique. How do you refine that technique?

“I think through the spring he got better. Greg did a nice job coaching him every day. I think Jake probably became [a] more focused and intense football player, so his fundamentals would improve, his technique would improve. You still like some of the natural things that he does instinctively best that he does at times.”

Given that the entire staff is back, is there some continuity?

“I think there is. I think there is from the standpoint that -- and I know Kovacs said this in Chicago. They [have] the same coaches, and they [have] the same playbook and the same terminology. So I think all those things are a big part of it, which help it.”

What does a “good practice” mean on day 1?

“Well we lined up right. We didn’t have too many balls on the ground. Didn’t have a whole lot of penalties. Personally I like it when it’s a little chippy. Come out with an attitude to compete with each other.”

Will Campbell.

“Well I think it would help our team an awful lot. He’s got a great atittude. He’s really become a tremendous leader of our football team in a lot of ways. He’s worked his tail off during the summer from everything I’ve heard from players on this team. He really was a guy who led by example and then when he had to get after somebody, he’s not afraid to do that.”

Is it uplifting when that kind of thing comes from the players?

“No question. If we have to lead -- if I have to lead or the coaches have to lead the team, we aren’t going to be any good.”

Is that why you think Campbell’s going to be better?

“I’d be surprised if he didn’t because of his work ethic and his toughness and his leadership.”

Is lack of playing time a factor in his development?

“Well I think that’s part of it and when you play a couple different positions a couple different times around -- you’ve been in three different defenses when you did play defense, I think there’s a continuity level that you like to have.”

How do you know that a guy is going to be good before Sept. 1?

“I don’t know that you do. Some guys get in front of those big crowds and they just don’t quite play as well maybe as they practice. I just like his work ethic and what he’s done and not just physically but the mental part of playing the game of football.”

What about Ricky Barnum makes you think he’ll be ready?

“I think again there’s a guy who’s played some snaps. His work ethic, I mean, his leadership, you know I think Ricky’s got a really good quickness. I think that’s one of the pluses of a center that he has. Plays with pretty good leverage. I just like him.”

How is his chemistry with Denard?

“Well we’ve only had one day, but it was pretty good today. What I’ve seen of it. Now again, we’re out there in shorts. It’s a little different.”

Have you seen Denard be more of a vocal leader?

“Well I’ve seen that from him probably since the end of spring and through the end of summer. I think his maturity for the position and at the position has been really good. I thought today, again, we’re one day in. I thought he did a nice job of getting the offense where they needed to be from place to place and from practice. Talking with his receivers whether it was skelly or one-on-one and just how he runs the huddle.”

How different is that from how he was the first day of practice last year?

“Oh I don’t know. If I had to measure it, I couldn’t tell you that. I think what we observe, I think it’s there.”

What’s the goal of practices without pads?

“Well there’s a lot of installation obviously. The veterans are pretty clued into most of it. You always maybe tweak some things on either side of the ball during the course of spring and summer a little bit. You look at opponents, maybe somebody’s doing [something] that fits your scheme. There’s those kinds of things. I think it really is trying to establish the physicalness that we’re trying to play with.”

Have you decided how you’ll split Devin Gardner’s reps?

“Not yet. Again, it’s one day.”

Did Jerald Robinson practice?

“Yes.”

Is his punishment effectively over?

“Yes.”

How long does it take before you make decisions regarding position battles?

“We evaluate it every day. We evaluate the kids we’ll meet here in about an hour as a staff, and we’ll go through practice and talk about it. The coaches right now, they’re already into the tape, so they’re looking at it, so when we meet we’ll talk about them. From what we did in the special teams today and the different things we did there to how they [did in] the seven-on-seven, how the nine-on-seven went, the full line stuff. And trying to do a good job of talking about where everybody is as a staff. We’ve got walkthroughs in the morning, and we’ll meet before that and talk about it, then we’ll talk about it afterwards.”

Stephen Hopkins looks more like a fullback now with his weight gain. What will be his role?

“I think Steph is one of those guys who has good understanding and has accepted that role in a real positive way. I think he’s grown a lot maturity wise. I can just tell you from 18 months or however long it’s been we’ve been here, I think it’s really for the position. I think he’s become a teammate. So his role will depend on the game plan and what we want to do. I think he fits a great role for us.”

Has Al Borges used a fullback extensively before? Catching the ball, running the ball …

“Oh yeah. A whole lot.”

Did everybody show up?

“Yeah. Yeah.”

Any injuries?

“Nope.”

Poole?

“He’s the only one.”

Diagnosis?

“Well, his pec.”

You were pushing Kenny Demens pretty hard in the spring. How has he done so far?

“I think he’s done a good job. I think Kenny is, again -- these guys who are getting ready to play their last year, they finally realize that you tell them for three or four years it doesn’t last forever. I think those guys, there’s always a little difference in their approach in a positive way, and Kenny’s one of those guys.”

Overall, are you happy with the condition of the players?

“Oh yeah. I’m very happy with it. And they do a nice job. They’ve done a nice job and they had a little time off. The guys who have finished with school were able to go home for five, six days before we came back. I think they came back ready to go.”

How has Kovacs changed over the past year?

“I don’t know if he has. I think Kovacs has always been a guy who’s had a lot of passion and love for the game of football. He’s a guy that’s very instinctive. He’s smart. He’s got a love for Michigan, and if anywhere he probably feels a little more comfortable and confident talking when he needs to say something.”

Is that steadiness part of who he is, and do you think others feed off it?

“I think they do. I do think it makes him who he is.”

Ricardo Miller was a tight end last fall, a wide receiver in the spring, and yesterday he was a tight end again.

“Well he’s playing both. I think from a weight standpoint and everything he’s still going to be an edge guy, U-back guy, wide receiver guy. So he’s working them both.”

What do you most want to see from the team to know that you’re ready to go?

“Well, I really hope we’re a tough football team. And a physical football team. We have the mental toughness in how we prepare, to prepare at a high level, to play fast as a team, which means you’re confident and you’re knowing what you’re doing. There’s a physicalness to that because there’s an intensity to it. I think that’s what we would like to see.”

Is Miller back going back to tight end due a depth problem?

“Well you got some death issues -- uh death, DEPTH -- depth issues, that’s part of it. You have some depth that you want to look at at wide receiver, too. Right now he’s kind of a guy who can be a swing U-back for you and play wide receiver.”

Any freshmen who have impressed you?

“Some of those guys -- most of them, they’re finishing classes so they’re kind of running in and out. So to be honest with you, no.”

What did you think about Denard’s speech at the B1G luncheon?

“I think he did an amazing job. I thought he really told a story and did it how Denard would do it. And I think that’s what you want out of your players. Just like your captains. You want them to be who they are.”

Do you know when you’ll choose your captains?

“No that’s not for a couple more weeks. Usually we do it the Saturday or Sunday before game week.”

Rawls runs angry, mean, and fast. Is that how you would describe him? Also, re: Devin. Did he take snaps at receiver today?

“Yeah. And Rawls is angry.”

How so?

“He just runs hard. He runs hard, he’s hard to tackle, he’s physical, he’s got pretty good balance. Between Justice Hayes and Thomas and Vince, they all got carries.”

Did Jibreel Black show up with a good weight on him?

“He did. He’s not near as big as his brother who plays at Indiana. I don’t know if his body can be that, but he did a good job of working hard to put some weight on him. He and Craig both did a tremendous job. I think how he is able to keep it during camp, and I don’t know what the weather is going to be. I’m hoping it’s hot like it had been for at least 10 days, because that’s good for us. You know, I sweat a little more, maybe lose a pound. You know, that’s always good. But I just think how he manages that …”

How’s the punting battle shaping up?

“It’s a heck of a battle.”

Michigan Museday If the Dudes Get Dinged: DBs

Michigan Museday If the Dudes Get Dinged: DBs

Submitted by Seth on August 1st, 2012 at 9:07 AM

never_forget500

Starting to look more and more like Sgt. Pepper's. Less depressing now. Legend*

♪ Oho a good secondary is a-comin' down the street 
Oh please let it be for real
Oho the best safety tandem since like '80-something!
I wish I wish I knew that it could be.

I've got an FS and two tiny backs from Cass Tech
I've got safety-like safeties from Ohio
I've even got a two-deep filled with juniors!
And Curtice Clay out near Toledo sent a bona fide star!

Oho a good defensive backfield is a-comin' down the street
Don't look now but "shut-down" might apply to our J.T.!
Oho a good secondary is a-comin' down the street
And M-Robinson might finally be ready!

I'm particularly excited for Blake Countess
He's everything a
sophomore phenom ought to be.
When minus every Gibson from this unit,
Well they could be (yes they could be) yes you're right they surely could be…
Something special (not a Woodson, but perhaps Leon-like special)
Yes we could have… something special… at D.B.!!!

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

Also: Do do do do do do do do the worst is over.

This is Part IV of the thing predicting the reaction and drop-off if any 2012 starter goes down. Actually I wasn't sure I wanted to complete this series. I did the offense and Toussaint got a DUI; I did the DEs and Frank Clark got charged for stealing a laptop; I did the linebackers and it leaked that Antonio Poole's injury is at least Fall Camp-missing worthy. And well, before I could nix the series and wipe it from the interwebs Terrence Talbott preemptively took the bullet for the DBs, so I guess we can have that now. But if you folks want special teams I'm going to need written confirmation that Hagerup/Gibbons/Wile have come nowhere near the M on the Diag.

These days it's best to think of defensive back as five positions. To demonstrate, here's a preview chart from a Museday in the works (click enhances largetation):

UFRDatabaseDefense

To coaches this is "duh" but the more receivers the offense puts out there, the more DBs the defense counters with. While I mean to eventually include how teams played Michigan as well, and I won't make the mistake of treating anything GERG did as canon unless it involves hair product, the preliminary chart meshes with what coaches tell me about matching personnel. The Shafer line suggests heavy nickel use is more the norm while the outlier of 2009 stands as a reminder of what happens to those who mock the need for corner depth. This is important to us because the teams we play use 3-receiver sets more often than they used to, and this chart (made from UFRs so it's not perfect) says Mattison's defense used almost exactly as many five-DB sets as the 2010 defense, a base 3-3-5! Typical shotgun personnel is RB, 1TE, and 3WR; that is the formation we will face the most vs. every team but Air Force (Triple-Option) and Iowa (the I is for ISO).

saturn-puntingzoltanQuickly again. Photos are all by Upchurch unless otherwise noted. Ratings are given in Saturn-punting Zoltans. Think of them like stars except more heavenly. Five is an all-conference-type player (Denard to Kovacs); four is a guy you'd call "solid" (RVB to Demens); three is an average B1G player (Morgan to Hawthorne); two is a guy with a big hole in his game (freshman Kovacs); one is trouble with a capital T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for Poole.

Strong Safety:

6408801139_95eb0798ac_o IMG_6321IMG_0156

Starter: Jordan Kovacs 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o

Backups: Marvin Robinson 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5, Floyd Simmons 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, Allen Gant ???, various FS

In case of emergency: Was it only a few years ago we were really down about having an emergency redshirt freshman with questionable athleticism thrust into the starting lineup? I re-watched what portions of the Indiana 2009 game are left on the youtubes yesterday to confirm he wasn't a guy you'd think would be getting five Saturn-punting Zoltans; those Zoltans now come confirmed by opponents. To imagine where we might be without him means figuring out what we have now in Marvin Robinson. He was one of those recruits who blew up early in his high school career thanks to an early growth spurt then fell down the rankings as other kids his age caught up. Frankly after similar tweeners like Burgess/Mouton/S. Brown/I. Bell became various types of linebacker I'm excited to see one of these dudes actually stick at safety.

M-Rob probably won't hit his half-SHIRTLESS recruiting expectations, but half-way through his Michigan career the possibility is at least still intact. It's weird to still be relying on his recruiting profile this far into a high-interest career; the off-campus incident may at least alleviate questions of whether the talent was overvalued. Technical problems evident in previous springs were still present but much reduced over a strong spring, and after several years of tutelage under the best, what we probably have is something between the anti-Kovacs and Ernest Shazor. He's a perfect IMG_4848"bandit" safety in a 3-3-5, and that's kind of what we've been doing with Kovacs. Lacking Kovacsian instincts he'll be a downgrade, but he'll make up parts of that with superior athleticism.

In case of dire emergency: Allen Gant may be as ready to go later this year as anyone else of his class, including Kalis. He's a big guy for a freshman, comes with as many work ethic and weight room credentials as Mike Martin did, and has the bloodlines. You'd usually redshirt a guy like this since safety is a tough position to learn, but there are two other safeties in his class and Dymonte Thomas is on the way. Then again he may not bring any more right now than 5th year senior Floyd Simmons, a former walk-on who has been on special teams a lot. He has never made it higher than the two-deep even when a hater god put most of that depth chart on the Never Forget banner. That might be because he was a Spinner (backing up Stevie Brown) at the time. You should also know he has three forced fumbles on kickoffs, suggesting he shares some of T.Gordon's weird fumble-causing voodoo. He's the same size as Kovacs (we have multiple pics of them standing together) and foremost a run defender—his route to regular playing time would be in a platoon situation with M-Rob or one of the free safety types.

Since the likely backups at free safety are pretty much free safeties (Furman's calling card is speed; Jarrod Wilson is the proverbial "rangy" player), a disaster at strong safety is as likely to make one of them a starter as Gant. In such a scenario Thomas Gordon takes on more of the run stopping duties and Furman/Wilson drawn in as an entirely nominal "strong" safety.

Free Safety

IMG_5049josh_furman_bmpIMG_7022
Safety: home of the scrumptious abdomen HT M&B

Starter: Thomas Gordon 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o

Backups: Josh Furman 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, Jarrod Wilson 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5, Jeremy Clark ???, various SS or nickels

In case of emergency: This is where things get more interesting. After letting us spend years praying for the next Ed Reed to appear as a 5-star Campbellian Hero with angel wings (and trying to believe the other Gordon was that) Thomas Gordon spent 2011 doing his best impersonation of Brandent Englemon. It was like coming back from trying to sleep around New York and finding the girl next door, if the girl next door was once called "Prison Abs" and had a weird (spectacular) ability to cause game-changing turnovers by waving his hands at people.

If we lose him, we hope this has all been some giant lead-up to the Superhero reveal scene. Potential heroes begin with Josh Furman. Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a … dammit I just looked up at the damn picture again. Due to a spurious arrest over the summer (he was innocent, the result of a misunderstanding, but suspended while it got sorted out) Furman missed precious practice time. At last sight he still needed to leap a few levels in a single bound to be ready for Big Ten play. The beneficiary of Furman's misfortune was early enrollee Jarrod Wilson, who is safety-shaped and safety-like and is actually a safety, which I realize is kind of a novelty around here since Jamar Adams graduated. He made some freshman mistakes along with mostly solid play and is probably the first to see playing time among his classmates, especially early.

In case of dire emergency: The position that inspired the BLANK-Hating God meme was free safety. This was in 2005 when Michigan was forced to burn the redshirt of Brandon Harrison (and in turn burn down a good part of the 2009 secondary).

Today there's at least Furman/Wilson, one or both of whom should be plausible by mid-season. The other freshman is Jeremy Clark, a big guy whose grayshirt was upgraded to full-ride as his star rose, but who probably needs some time to develop. Clark's future is at strong safety, but he's a tweener. While the talent atop the depth chart is mostly specialized, Mattison does want the safeties to eventually be interchangeable (the better to screw up quarterback reads my dear) and an injury plague at one safety spot might trigger that.

Boundary Corner:

IMG_1183TamaniRaymonTaylorMorganEMUTackle-Heiko
Center: from the Ernie Harwell Sports Collection, courtesy of the Freep

Starter: J.T. Floyd 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o

Backups: Courtney Avery 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, Tamani Carter 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, Raymon Taylor 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o other CBs

In case of emergency: The depth recovery program managed to get a bunch of little corners, however since Michigan makes a distinction between "Field" and "Boundary" we may as well try to see where the early returns fit. The former can supposedly sacrifice some size for coverage ability/athleticism. The latter has less area to cover, is more involved in run support since he's generally on the weak side of the formation (offenses typically align to the field since it gives them more room to string out the run defense), and ends up matched with other teams' big receivers on an island. At this last year Floyd was spectacular. A list of guys he covered who are now in the NFL:

Receiver 2011 Team NFL Team Rnd-Overall Catches Yards TDs
Michael Floyd ND Cardinals 1-13 13 159 0
A.J. Jenkins Illini 49ers 1-30 4 103 0
DeVier Posey OSU Texans 5-68 3 58 1
B.J. Cunningham MSU Dolphins 6-183 4 39 0
Marvin McNutt Iowa Eagles 6-194 9 101 0
Jeremy Ebert NW Patriots 7-235 11 86 0
Jordan White WMU Jets 7-244 12 119 0
*******Total******* -   - 56 665 1
*****Average****** -   - 8.0 95.0 0.1

*VT's Danny Coale and MSU's Keyshawn Martin were also drafted this year, but Floyd was primarily covering Jarrett Boykin and BJ Cunningham, respectively, in those games. Boykin had 4 catches for 30 yards and 0 TD; he went undrafted and unsigned.

The lack of touchdowns from seven leaping touchdown machines earns Floyd that 4th star. DeVier Posey did demonstrate the hole in Floyd's game—he can't keep up with the elite athletes—and better passes from Braxton Miller easily could have added two TDs and 120 yards to DeVier's single day of 2011 eligibility. That guy, at least, is gone, as are the rest of the Big Ten's 2011 embarrassment of WR riches. Of those who remain on our schedule, Keenan Davis (Iowa) might be a Posey-like (read: bad) matchup, however I would trust him against Northwestern's (now-eligible) Kyle Prater.

Which brings me to the point: there isn't another Floyd on the roster. Even in the hilariously height-overestimating world of college football rosters, J.T. is the only CB who the FAKErs thought could even plausibly be listed at 6'0.

Talbott was the guy making noise to be the #1 backup to Floyd during spring ball, but since he's gone that means a ding to J.T. puts us back in the midget bucket. I think what happens is Courtney Avery reprises his role as starting corner, which this being his junior year I think we can now get past the original excitement of his one good game and the bitterness of that tackle he missed against Iowa, and remember he ended the Ohio State counter. Avery has been ahead of Talbott his whole career thus far, despite being a quarterback until fall practice of his freshman year, so while Floyd to Avery is a downgrade, I don't think the effect of losing the second Talbott will be felt unless we get to…

In case of dire emergency: This is still a work in progress. Of last year's freshmen Tamani Carter is the biggest—that's why he was listed with the safeties in the first place. He's been hanging out on safety depth charts due to hips that do not fluid swivel or whatever they call a cornerback nowadays who's not twitchy enough, and his forte is supposedly the jump-ball. This is why I've mentally moved Carter to boundary since Talbott's departure. Magnus says he likes Carter in a role where he sits out in the flat, and he missed spring practices, so you're hoping he can just be a nickel back and not have to play significant snaps on the island. Then there's Ramon Taylor. He dreamed of going to Michigan, and that came true when Hoke was putting together a last-minute class and wondered, as we all had, what Indiana was doing with a 4-star...yoink. He's another mite who is listed now at 183 (up from 167 last year), a plausible weight for a Big Ten cornerback. He's also listed at 5'10 which he's not. But he likes to hit and also doesn't have Robot Hips. As a recruit he drew a comparison to a shorter James Rogers; make of that what you will but I say it suggests he fits into Rogers's position. Taylor played early last year (that photo's from EMU), mostly at nickel, and I think he too is destined to be that more than either outer corner spot.

Blake Countess isn't huge, and you want your better guy at the field, but this distinction can be overstated. In the event of an Avery-Floyd injury combo, Michigan will probably lean on Countess to cover the other team's best receiver and whichever mini Cass Tech kid is most ready will be in a better position to start than either of the young nickelbacks. Next year the cavalry arrives.

Field Corner:

7078554489_a67c251bb5_o24 Delonte Hollowell-Heiko6088427964_e2ae586dde_o
Heiko took the one of Hollowell (24)

Starter: Blake Countess 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o

Backups: Delonte Hollowell 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5, Terry Richardson 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, other CBs

In case of emergency: This spot is young. They're also not-big. What they lack in being young and non-big however, they make up for by being "good" and "extant." That begins with Countess, whom I gave 4 stars because that was the level he was playing at (about equal with Floyd) by the end of last year. The upside is tantalizing for us now, though it remains upside. Making Woolfolk obsolete last year was one hell of a statement, and it's because of that entrance that I'm more filled with trepidation over losing Blake than I reasonably should be.

The reason not to be in total fear is the little we've seen and heard about the other remaining corners from his class (Greg Brown has joined the banner on top of this post) is that they're good, in the way little mite corners are supposedly good everywhere else but here because seriously we have been burned on this so many times.

Every year I involuntarily pick a guy on the team nobody's talking about to get overly excited about for no reason, and this year that somebody is Delonte Hollowell. That's him in the Nebraska photo above and the reason he was playing on special teams against Nebraska when we had all sorts of other corners eating eligibility is he played his way out of a redshirt. I don't yet know what's Hoke's baseline for doing such a thing, however either the coaches are so sure they will be able to find plenty of great CBs to fill the 2015 depth chart (which their 2013 class seems to suggest they were right), or more likely, Hollowell met some standard of what he needs to do to play.

That standard can be few other things than "is 2nd on the depth chart" and there my reasoning stands. Courtney Avery would be here if something happens early I guess. I think you'll be seeing Hollowell spelling Countess either way.

In case of dire emergency: Terry Richardson is the mite-iest Cass Tech dust mite yet. He has the power to shrink to the size of a neutrino and hide out among the other atoms that make up a receiver's garments, reappearing in time to make a crucial interception. However being only a handful of planks has its drawbacks, like accidentally passing through the Earth's gravitational field, and Whitley/Howard syndrome. The true freshman comes with high recruiting bona fides, so if you see him jumping up the depth chart we may have another Countess here.

Nickel:

IMG_1133IMG_6495

Starter: Courtney Avery 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5

Backups: Ramon Taylor 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, Tamani Carter 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5, other CBs and safeties

In case of emergency: For most teams the nickel corner will replace the SLB (Jake Ryan), though in Michigan's case we seem to pull the Will (Desmond Morgan) just as often. Later in the year that became more usual as Michigan went with an aggressive nickel package featuring a nickelback and Ryan/Beyer/Clark with a hand down (a 5-1-5  look with 4-2-5 personnel that we called Michigan's "Okie."). The nickel will cover the slot, usually has help over the top, and must be there to tackle in space when spread outfits isolate him against the slot or RB. Michigan played a lot of nickel in 2003 (Leon Hall) and 2006 (Brandon Harrison), and it led to some 38-0 scores against various Indiana teams. You'll remember we came out in mostly 4-2-5 personnel against Northwestern last year, but it didn't work; in the second half Jake Ryan was inserted and allowed to terrorize (at this point he dished it out equally to friend and foe). Early in the season T.Gordon and Avery split duties at nickel, and Carvin Johnson was the free safety. This year Avery is again the designated nickel guy, however expect others from the safety and CB corps to rotate in there.

The nominal "other" is Raymon Taylor (see above), who played a good bit last year at this spot. He is small but so was Harrison. You also might as well pencil in RS Freshman Tamani Carter here since his long-term future is at nickel.

In case of dire emergency: Nickel draws from the CB depth charts (and can from the safety ones as well) so if Avery and a backup are hurt there's an endless parade of other guys. You'll see moonlights of most of the backups here regardless, as it's a way to get a young cornerback playing time and tackling experience without exposing to deep responsibility. If The Dude in Section 2 Eating Fat Free Pretzels is tapped, well, so long as the pretzels are fat free and he stayed in a Holiday Inn Express and whatnot. The 2009 depth chart across the secondary really was unprecedented; if it happens again then it is 2009 and we can all go punch each other in the dong.

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

* Never Forget Legend (years in parentheses are the last season the guy would have helped had he not left/gone down/whatever).

TOP ROW: T-Wolf (2010), Mike Williams (2011), Boubacar Cissoko (2011), Adrian Witty (2011), Vladimir Emilien (2013), Jared Van Slyke (2011).

SECOND ROW: J.T. Turner (2013), Terrence Talbott (2013), Carvin Johnson (2013), Cullen Christian (2013), Demar Dorsey (2013), Ray Vinopal (2013).

BOTTOM ROW: Greg Brown (2014 or '15), Crying Biff the Wolverine, Donovan Warren (2010), Never Forget Guy.

Media Day Roundtable: Jordan Kovacs

Media Day Roundtable: Jordan Kovacs

Submitted by Ace on July 30th, 2012 at 3:05 PM


Taylor Lewan on Kovacs: "He looks like an accountant."

The roundtable session at media days takes on a remarkably repetitive nature, a product of giving reporters two hours to move freely between tables and fire away questions. Inanity ensues. Perhaps no player serves as a better example of this than Jordan Kovacs, who in the 40 or so minutes that I spent at his table fielded approximately 7,432 questions about his journey from walk-on to All-Big Ten safety. I mean, of course this happened:

Reporter: Do you ever get tired of questions about being a walk-on?

Kovacs: [laughs] Yeah, I was just asked that.

Jordan Kovacs is tired of being asked if he's tired of being asked about being a walk-on, and would someone please help me out of this wormhole?

Anyway, here's some select quotes from his roundtable session. I'll post Taylor Lewan's later today, and Denard Robinson's will go up tomorrow.

RELEVANT FOOTBALL STUFF

MGoQuestion: Now that you’re in the second year under Greg Mattison, do you expect the defense schematically to change at all in terms of playcalling? Do you expect it to get more aggressive this year?

I think he’s going to be the same Coach Mattison. He’s always been aggressive, and I don’t know if you can get more aggressive [laughs]. But I think we’re all more comfortable with the scheme and he’s more comfortable with us. Like I’ve said before, we really look forward to this season with the defense because nobody on this defense has been in the same defense for two consecutive years, and that’s what we’ll have this year, so we really look forward to that and we really look forward to seeing how far we can take this defense.

MGoQuestion: When you’re looking at film of Alabama, what do you see out of A.J. McCarron? What does he bring that you guys are going to have to defend against?

He’s improved a lot. He’s improved tremendously. I think at the beginning of last year he was not nearly as good—I mean, that’s obviously when they were in the quarterback battle—but he was not nearly as good as he was at the end of the year. At the end of the year he was one of the best quarterbacks in the nation, if not the best. Obviously he’s got a great arm, and I think that his running game helps him so much, I think that really opens up the passing game for him. He’s a tough quarterback, a tough kid, and I hope we can make him a little uncomfortable back there, but with their offensive line that’s not going to be anything easy.

MGoQuestion: There’s been a lot of roster turnover over the past few years, especially in the secondary. What kind of challenge does that pose to you guys as a team, especially in practice; is that tough when the guys behind you are constantly changing?

Yeah. That’s always happening. I know Coach Hoke always says it but it’s true that there are always expectations for the position and for the ballplayer. Whoever is at defensive tackle for us, there’s expectations to be great, not that they’re going to step in and be great but that they’re going to work hard this offseason and pick up right where Mike Martin or Ryan Van Bergen or Will Heininger or wherever those guys left off. Obviously those are going to be big shoes to fill but that’s how it is at Michigan.

MGoQuestion: The defense was really good last year at limiting big plays, but then against Ohio State and also against Virginia Tech, they were able to go over the top a little bit. Was that a schematic issue or a matchup issue—what happened over the last two games?

We didn’t play very well, from a defensive backs standpoint. Obviously against Ohio State we gave up quite a few big plays; Virginia Tech it wasn’t as many that cost us, we played a little bit more bend-but-don’t-break defense in that game. We did not play well enough from a defensive standpoint in either of those games, and it starts with the defensive backs. That’s something we worked on a lot in spring ball. It’s not an issue of athleticism or anything like that, it was just guys not being on the same page, and we’ll get that corrected.

So what you’re saying is it was a mental thing?

Yeah, there were more mental errors. A couple of the routes were tough. Ohio State kinda gave us a route that really cost us, it was a tough one to defend.

Which route?

You know, I don’t remember exactly. It was tough to defend with our coverage; there was some miscommunication, we misplayed it.* Sometimes that’ll happen and you’ve just got to get it corrected and that’s what we did. We played a little better in the second half, as we did against Virginia Tech, and we ultimately won the game.

BEST DEFLECTION OF A STUPID QUESTION

I’m going to have you #1 on my AP ballot in the preseason. Is that a good call or a bad call?

I think that’s a call that doesn’t really matter. Where you start means nothing, it’s where you finish. So, tell me where we’ll finish at the end of the season, and I’ll tell you whether that’s a good or a bad call.

SOUNDS ABOUT RIGHT

What is it like defending Denard in practice?

Yeah, it sucks.

ON RECRUITING

How much do you follow the recruiting stuff?

I don’t really follow any rankings, but you meet the kids and you hear through word of mouth from the players. But at the end of the day, the whole rankings system—I didn’t have any stars, and I’m here today, right? Not one. So yeah, I don’t keep up with it too much.

Are you ever a player host?

I’ve hosted a couple. I think Taylor is the key recruiter, and Roy; we’ve got our go-to guys.

KOVACS VS. LEWAN, PART I

We talked a little bit about Denard and how he hasn’t changed. What about Taylor?

Unfortunately, Taylor, he hasn’t changed. I’m just joking, but you can write that. Taylor, I can’t describe how much I think he’s matured, and I’m sure you see that as reporters. He’s vanilla this weekend. He’s been told to be vanilla this weekend. I don’t even think he needed to be told that, because I think he’s more focused than ever before. I think he understands how far we can take this team, and he’s really harnessed it and he’s really looking forward to it. I can’t say enough about his leadership. He’s got those young offensive linemen in there and he’s really working hard with those guys.

Do you think the vanilla-ization of Taylor has taken away from his aggressiveness on the field?

No. I think we need him to be vanilla off the field. Taylor is one of those guys that… first of all, he’s ugly. But he’s a very aggressive ballplayer; he’s one of those offensive linemen that you hate to play against but you love to have him on your team, because he’s just nasty, he’s ugly—I don’t know if I said that—but he’s a mauler. What offensive linemen do is not pretty, but you love it when they do it for your team.

He’s ugly?

Just tell him I said that.**

------------------
*My guess at the time was Kovacs was thinking of OSU attacking the seam against Michigan's cover 2. Brian concurred when I chatted with him today; Michigan ran a cloud cover 2 where the corners had deep responsibility at the free safety defended underneath, a coverage they only used against the Buckeyes, which could explain the confusion.
**In case you're actually concerned about an offense-defense rift or something, this was entirely in jest. Stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion later this afternoon.

Mailbag: Morris Redshirt, Utah Sense, Legends Practices

Mailbag: Morris Redshirt, Utah Sense, Legends Practices

Submitted by Brian on June 13th, 2012 at 12:40 PM

WolvNationShaneMorrisFeature[1]

yep, 6'3".

Morris redshirt.

Brian,

Looking way off into the future here, but is there any chance Shane Morris gets a redshirt in 2013?  Would he accept one?  Would we be in a position to sit him?

Redshirt or no, he would enter 2013 behind a redshirt junior Devin Gardner (should he actually receive a 5th year himself) and Russell Bellomy.  I just keep thinking it would be nice to enter a 2017 season (told you I was thinking way off) with a senior QB when Notre Dame and Ohio would play us at home.

Your expressions are greatly appreciated.

Pete Saunders

If Gardner wins the job and has a strong season I think you would see Morris redshirted, especially if Gardner gets his redshirt (something about which I've heard conflicting information on). I don't think Morris would have a problem with it—he can see the large upside in 2017 as well as anyone—and with Bellomy an experienced-second stringer the only reason they'd have to put Morris on the field is in the event of a serious injury.

The most likely scenario in which Morris doesn't get the redshirt is the one in which Gardner is not getting his retroactively and Morris is far and away the second-best QB on the roster. In that situation you might see Michigan get Morris some playing time for grooming purposes, much like what everyone expects to see happen with Joe Bolden at MLB this year. I'm still rooting for a redshirt.

Utah road game sense making.

Brian,

If the Utah series is true, this really makes no sense at all. Brandon has complained about playing @ Uconn in 2013 because "the Rent" only holds 40k (and to be fair to Brandon, this series was scheduled by Bill Martin). Utah's Stadium has a capacity of 46k. Doesn't DB's rationale to move the Uconn game hold no weight now in light of scheduling us to play at a 46k seat stadium on a Thursday night? I really dont believe an extra 6,000 seats makes enough of a difference for us to play this road game versus the Uconn road game.

I get scheduling is difficult, but this one is pretty frustrating. Wish we could have gotten a Pac-12 team we haven't seen recently.

Go Blue!

In Dave Brandon's mind the 46k is okay as long as there is a synergistic marketeing campaign that brings the Wow Factor into the equation. By leveraging the increased mindshare acquired by being top-of-mind at the beginning of the college football season, Michigan can increase its brand awareness amongst decision-makers and trendsetters. By being the first team to play in a college football season, Michigan will find a competitive advantage to grow the digital audience and build brand loyalty. A pearlescent hipster sheen will descend upon the brand, whereupon Michigan will become the Apple of college football.

I think "pearlescent hipster sheen" was a misstep. Too many words people might use in a novel instead of a powerpoint presentation.

Anyway: Brandon's persistent complaints about UConn's desire to have a game against Michigan on their campus aren't really about capacity, they are about Wow Factor. Wow Factor can be acquired by doing something unusual that might get you attention, no matter how good of an idea it is. Flyovers, new uniforms, night games, really loud jet pack guys, full student sections, Special K, legends patches, field hashtags, rescheduling the Horror: these are all sources of Wow Factor. Some are neutral. Some are positive. Some are negative. All provide someone in the athletic department who needs to justify his existence a line in a performance evaluation. This is the heart of Wow Factor: it looks good on a performance evaluation.

The rumored Thursday night opener* provides Wow Factor, therefore playing in a 46k stadium is acceptable. If the on-campus UConn game was modified to provide wow factor—playing underwater, maybe—it would also be acceptable. A regular football game in a regular stadium at a regular time gives Brandon a rash.

*[Still just a rumor. Chris Balas, the source on this information, also mentioned difficulties for Utah in 2015 that could cause the return date to be delayed until 2016. If that happened 2016 would be another weak-looking six-game home slate thanks to the Big Ten's refusal to give Michigan a reasonable home/road split in conference.]

Legends numbers deployment.

jordan-kovacs-murders_0[1]

LEAVE 32 ALONE

Brian:

Completely agree with you, re: flipping seniors' numbers diminishes their own impact on the program as much, if not more, than it rewards them. The most extreme—and perhaps ludicrous—example is Desmond, who if he returns for his senior year could have been "rewarded" with the 1 jersey. Then there wouldn't be a 21 "Legends Jersey."

If they're really going to do this, it should almost be something that a guy "earns" during his freshman (or even redshirt) year. Then we can see if lives up to it. And guys that don't earn it can use the snub to become determined to make their own a number a future legend. Seems better than diluting (even in a superficial way) the career of guy between his two biggest years in the program.

Anyway, good to have something to discuss in June.

Matt

[Editor's note: Yesterday, Michigan officially announced they would un-retire not only Gerald Ford's number but also those of Ron Kramer and Bennie Oosterbaan. 48, 47, and 87 are back on the market and seemingly must be filled.]

The number-flipping thing seems like an extension of the trend with the #1 jersey, which was effectively mothballed once Braylon Edwards sponsored a scholarship requiring that it be earned after enrollment.

Unlike the #1, these legends jerseys seem like they must be filled every year, and if they're not filled they will flip someone to them, thus preventing many players who might turn themselves into legends wearing their own number into… not that. I think I'm having a strong negative reaction to this because DO YOU PEOPLE REALIZE WE HAVE A COMPETENT SAFETY WHO MAY HAVE TO CHANGE HIS NUMBER NO I DON'T THINK YOU DO I DON'T THINK YOU UNDERSTAND THE GRAVITY OF WHAT THIS MEANS TO THE FUTURE LEGACY OF THE #32 JERSEY, WHICH IS ON THE VERGE OF REMINDING ME OF A CRITICAL TACKLE IN SPACE THAT IS NOT MISSED, IS NEVER EVER MISSED.

/considers situation in which Denard Robinson would switch from 16 to 7 or something as a senior

/dies

Anyway: I hope Michigan uses them like the #1 used to be deployed, as a carrot to dangle in front of certain recruits. 87 is the tight end version of #1. 47 is the… er… wide receiver version of #1. 48 is… well, it's a roving version of #1 I assume will find itself on linebackers and safeties mostly. (Linemen can no longer wear 48.) Some of the guys you hand the uniforms to won't work out, and that's life. That seems better than moving a handful of seniors annually.

That doesn't get around the fact that Michigan has to give them out now. So… Michigan should hand 48 to Joe Bolden, 87 to AJ Williams or Devin Funchess, and 47 to Amarah Darboh or Jehu Chesson. Leave Britney Kovacs alone, and if a kid with one of those jerseys does something naughty, take it away.

Interesting bits from the Women's Football Academy.

Brian,

I volunteered at the Women's Football Academy and I asked all the coaches except Borges how they would feel about an early signing period in football.  All except LB coach Mark Smith said they were all for it.  Smith said he didn't like it because that would mean official visits in the summer and then coaches would get no time off, as opposed to the 3-4 weeks they now get in late June and July.

One of the things they pointed out as being a big advantage is that kids from lower economic families could take official visits during the summer.  Mattison said this is very important because kids are committing so early now and by the time the poorer kids have a chance to take the official visits when their senior season starts, it is getting to be "too late."

Mattison specifically talked about kids who want to "put on a hat" at the Under Armour game.  He tells those kids, "Then you won't be committing to Michigan because by that time, we won't have any scholarships left."

Your humble correspondent,
Thom Dartt
Bellbrook, Ohio

I think the official visit timing and an early signing day are separate matters—and still dislike the idea that a kid can sign before his coach might get fired—but I'm not posting this to argue, just to relate the emailed information. Love the hat thing. Down with hats.

2011 Preview Review: Defense

2011 Preview Review: Defense

Submitted by Ace on April 25th, 2012 at 2:01 PM


Vastly underrated; properly rated

Previously: The Offense

My look back at Brian's epic 2011 football preview continues with the defense. This one got a lot more interesting than the offense, because despite all the warm fuzzies we felt from the GERG-to-Greg transition*, expecting a jump from the #110 total defense to #17 would have been outrageous. As in get-this-man-a-straitjacket outrageous.

Thankfully, the performance of the defense exceeded all reasonable expectations, and even most of the unreasonable ones. Let's peep last year's predictions, shall we?

--------------------
*Not to mention the Tony-Gibson-to-Anyone-But-Tony-Gibson transition.

Greatest Hits

The move to three-tech won't be an issue [for Ryan Van Bergen]. He played it two years ago and when Michigan went to a four man front last year they stuck him back inside. He's now 290, a three year starter, and a senior. He's a good bet to crack double-digit TFLs and get some All Big Ten mention.

RVB actually ended up at strongside DE, which probably helped him lead the team with 12.5 TFLs. He ended up earning All-Big Ten honorable mention from both the coaches and media and graduating as one of the most beloved Wolverines in recent memory.

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.

A year after inexplicably having to move past not just Obi Ezeh, but converted fullback Mark Moundros, on the depth chart at middle linebacker despite subsequently making it painfully obvious that he should've been the starter all along, Demens had his breakout season.  He led the team with 94 tackles—second was Jordan Kovacs at 75—and saw his TFLs jump to a respectable five. Like Van Bergen, Demens was an all-conference honorable mention.

Even so, [Kovacs's] season was a step forward from obvious liability to "certainly not a liability." Even if he's a walk-on and even if he's obviously small and slow, he should continue improving. He'll be a little less small and slow with another year of conditioning. Being in a coherent defensive system should help put him in positions to make plays. His redshirt year was not spent on the team so he's not as close to his ceiling as your average redshirt junior.

He's not going to be Reggie Nelson. That won't keep him from becoming the first Michigan safety you only hate a little tiny bit since Jamar Adams.

This may still be underselling Kovacs, who took to competent coaching even better than expected and became the team's rock in the secondary, covering for his athletic limitations with usually-impeccable positioning. No, he's not Reggie Nelson, but I don't think you can find a remotely rational Michigan fan who harbors even the tiniest bit of ill will towards Kovacs. Michigan's shocking lack of big plays allowed—both against the pass and the run—can largely be attributed to his play; despite missing a game, Kovacs led the team with 51 solo tackles. He also notched 8 TFLs. All hail Kovacs.

I have the same optimism about this Johnson/Gordon combo that I had last year. This, of course, terrifies me. It seems unnatural to think an unproven Michigan safety could be competent. I like Gordon's agility and tackling, though, and while there will be rough spots early by midseason he should settle into that midlevel safety range like Englemon or Barringer.

This time around, the optimism regarding the free safety position was justified. Thomas Gordon had his share of struggles, especially late in the season, but for the most part he was quite competent. Around here, safety competence is a luxury on par with consistent placekicking.

Sacks almost double from 1.4 per game to 2.4. That would be a move from 98th to around 30th.

Michigan finished with 2.3 sacks per game. That put them at... 29th. Tip o' the cap.

Turnovers forced go from 19 to 27.

Brian's continued insistence that turnover luck would someday go Michigan's way finally paid off; the Wolverines forced 29 turnovers. It also helped that this defense actually tackled people.

EVERYTHING SEEMS WONDERFUL

YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW RIGHT THIS WOULD BE.

Close Enough

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.

No full credit simply because Mike Jones was projected as the starter at WLB, a fact I had completely forgotten about until I looked back at the preview. Morgan ended up playing in 12 games, starting seven (the first being in week two against ND), and finished fifth on the team in tackles.

If [J.T. Floyd] gets a lot better this year it's time to take the Gibson chatter seriously.

This wasn't really a prediction, but... yeah. Tony Gibson minus all of the points.

Beyond Talbott it's true freshmen, but at least there's a horde of them. Maryland's Blake Countess arrives with the most hype and should be the biggest threat to play. (Caveat: last year Cullen Christian arrived with the most hype.)

Points for mentioning Countess as the most likely freshman to see the field. No points for giving him one sentence when he took over the starting job by midseason, especially considering the Christian caveat. As you'll see, the hype that should've surrounded Countess went—justifiably, in the preseason—to Courtney Avery.

Not So Much

Healthy again and less abandoned in the middle of the defense, Martin's numbers should soar. Before the sprain Martin was on pace for 11 TFLs and 4 sacks; after it he got just a half TFL the rest of the year. While the front of the schedule is a bit easier, Martin had 8.5 TFLs and 51 tackles a year ago. Reasonable progression should have gotten him to 11.  Add in further progression plus three DL coaches plus a bit more help on the line plus a free-roaming QB attack role and 15 to 18 TFLs plus a little more QB terror should be within reach. He should be All Big Ten. He might be better.

I hate that I have to put this prediction in this category, but here it is. While Martin was the best player on the defense, his numbers were hampered by having to play the nose; he finished with six TFLs and 3.5 sacks. Despite the lack of statistical production, Martin's efforts were recognized with second-team All-Big Ten honors. He also forced a pitch on a speed option. See you on Sundays, MM.

"Experience" was why [Will Heininger] got the nod; that experience consists of backing Brandon Graham up. In is time on the field he rarely did anything wrong; he rarely did anything right, either. He was a non-factor. As a guy spotting Graham from time to time that's cool, but as a starter or a guy rotating with another equally obscure walk-on that's a recipe for zero production out of a spot that should see its fair share of plays. If this spot averages out as a zero next year that's probably good—and that's not good.

The biggest swing-and-a-miss on the list. Heininger swapped spots with RVB and started all 12 regular-season games at five-tech DT before missing the Sugar Bowl with a foot injury. He exceeded all expectations of a walk-on raised in the shadow of the Big House, proving he could hold his own against Big Ten competition and be a positive force on the interior. After the season, Brian ranked him as the third most siginificant departure on the defense, behind only Martin and Van Bergen. While part of that is due to the remaining depth along the defensive line, I don't think anyone thought Heininger's absence would be felt in such a way.

Brink will play. After mentioning Heininger's experience he said Brink has "practiced very well, played well, been productive" and promised to rotate six guys on the line. Six is a weird number because it means one of Black, Campbell, or Brink is on the fringe. Given the lineups Campbell seems the most likely even though that seems unlikely.

If you're saying "who?" you're probably not alone (though you read this blog, so you probably aren't saying "who?"). Walk-on Nathan Brink was penciled in as the starting SDE at one point in the fall, earning much preseason praise for his unlikely rise up the depth chart. After garnering all that hype, however, he made almost no impact, recording just one tackle while barely seeing the field. He's a prime example of why you must take all offseason practice hype with a grain of salt, especially when said hype involves previously-unknown walk-ons.

We've yet to see the much of the pass-rushing skill that made Roh a top 50 recruit. He's displayed hints of the ability to zip past tackles before they know what hits them when suffered to rush the passer—there's a chance that when he puts hand to ground and is told to let it rip that he goes bonkers. Roh is the biggest X factor on the team. He could end up with anywhere from a half-dozen to twelve sacks.

Playing his third position in three seasons, Roh didn't quite go bonkers, tallying four sacks and eight TFLs. Roh's play still markedly improved from his previous two seasons, but he still hasn't lived up to the sky-high recruiting hype. Much of the blame for that can fall upon the shoulders of Greg Robinson and Co., and we'll see if one last position switch, this time to SDE, finally results in Roh producing double-digit sacks.

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.

Ryan became a pleasant early-season surprise when he started against Western Michigan and made his presence felt by batting an Alex Carder pass that Brandon Herron would intercept and return 94 yards to the house. While certainly more of an asset against the pass than the run—his balls-to-the-wall approach was great on blitzes, but not always sound when keeping contain—Ryan proved that he was by far the best option on the strong side. Just one year later, all-conference honors are very much in play.

Assuming he's healthy, another year to learn the position and get bigger should see him improve on his previous form. There is a nonzero chance his earlier performances were not representative of his ability, but the smart money is on Woolfolk being at least average. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him go at the tail end of next year's NFL draft.

Troy Woolfolk's return from the exploding ankle of doom wasn't as triumphant as we all hoped. While he started ten games—six at corner and four at safety—Woolfolk never looked fully comfortable on the field and was supplanted at each position by a younger player (Countess at corner, Gordon at safety). It would be quite a surprise to see him taken in this week's NFL draft.

Courtney Avery busts out. Going into next year people are talking about him as an All Big Ten performer.

After showing much promise as a true freshman, Avery was the obvious candidate to grow into a big-time role as the team's top corner of the present and future. Instead, he started the first two games, then ceded that role to J.T. Floyd, Woolfolk, and eventually Countess. Avery was a solid nickel corner, and should reprise that role in 2012, but his progression wasn't as great as expected.

Craig Roh leads the team in sacks with eight.

Nein. Despite Michigan's impressive rise in team sacks, they were spread pretty evenly across both the D-line and the back seven thanks to Mattison's blitz-happy approach. Ryan Van Bergen paced the team with 5.5, with Jordan Kovacs actually tying Roh for second with four.

Michigan noses just above average in yardage allowed. Advanced metrics have them about 50th.

I know Brian has no complaints about being so hilariously wrong on this one. As noted above, the Wolverines finished 17th in yardage allowed, and they also shot up to sixth (faints) in points allowed. Football Outsiders's FEI metric ranked them as the #16 defense in the country. Despite watching every second of the 2011 season (usually twice), I still have a hard time not believing I'm the victim of an elaborate hoax or a drug experiment gone horribly awry. If you see me waking up in a gutter and GERG is still the defensive coordinator, please do me a favor and run me over with an SUV. Make sure to double-tap, please.

Spring Practice Presser Transcript 3-22-12: Players

Spring Practice Presser Transcript 3-22-12: Players

Submitted by Heiko on March 23rd, 2012 at 5:23 PM

Denard Robinson

from file

How does it feel to be a senior?

“Man, college goes by fast, and right now I’m taking on a leadership role and trying to be the best quarterback I can be for the team and be the best leader I can be for the team. Right now just trying to get better at everything I can get better at: watching film, going in with teammates and throwing extra routes, whoever’s around me, if we’re lifting, trying to tell them ‘get better at this’ and ‘get better at that.’ These are the things that I’m trying to do as a leader and as the quarterback on the team.”

Borges said you’re holding more people accountable. Is that the next step of development for you as a leader?

“Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I wasn’t an outspoken person. I didn’t do a lot of yelling and telling people, patting them on the butt and doing stuff like that. That’s one of the things I need to start doing, and that’s what I’m taking on this spring. For practice right now, I’ve been pretty well lately and talking to people and telling them what they need to do. Russ [Bellomy] was with me yesterday when we had practice. I told him if he took his time he’d make a better, more accurate throw. Those were some things that I did.”

Do you have to be the bad guy sometimes?

“Oh yeah, sometimes you have to get up in them. Help them out, give them their encouragement, but you can’t always be nice to them. I can’t always have a smile on my face.”

Is that possible?

“Oh yeah that’s possible. It’s possible.”

What was this offseason like for you?

“Learning. I mean --”

I don’t even mean football. I mean the enormity of, kind of, everything.

“Oh. Everything. I am a student. I am a student-athlete. Student first. Being part of that student body was one of the best experiences I’ve ever experienced on this campus. I’ve been in the Maize Rage at the basketball games, I’ve been at a hockey game watching them play, I’ve been to track watching the girls run. That’s one of the things I could never stay away from. I love watching sports. I love watching people that I know do better.”

How many sporting events do you think you went to?

“Oh man.”

You were on TV for every single one of them.

“I don’t know. I just try to go to all of them. If I had the chance, if I had the time, I’d try to go.”

Are you trying to do anything different with your body in terms of weight and strength?

“Trying to gain weight … whatever happens happens with that. Hopefully I gain a little weight.”

Does Hoke want you to gain weight?

“No. They never tell me about gaining weight. I have to take it into my own hands to gain weight.”

How is it taking snaps from Ricky?

“I’ve been snapping with Ricky since Rich Rod was here. My freshman year I was snapping with Ricky. Ricky’s one of the guys from Florida, so we can relate to each other. When he makes a mistake I’m right on him and telling him, ‘Let’s go. I’m right behind you 100-percent.’ He stayed competing and all of us are competing right now and trying to get better at everything. We’ve got some growing to do.”

He speaks Florida?

“Oh yeah. He does speak it. He helps me a lot in the huddle. Sometimes he tells the other offensive linemen what the play is. When Molk and Patrick used to get on me all the time, Ricky would help me out.”

Has anything changed for you over the offseason with the Obama stuff, etc.?

“No, because I enjoy interacting with people. That’s one of the things that I always enjoy. I come from a big family. Meeting new people is not a problem for me. I would love to meet everybody. If I see anybody on the street, I want to say hi to you. My goal is to make somebody’s day everyday. Hopefully I can do that.”

Borges said one of the keys for you is to cut down on interceptions. What is the most important part of being able to accomplish that?

“I’m going to tell you this. I play quarterback, and the number one thing about the quarterback is always take care of the ball. That’s one of the things that I need to stop doing. Turnovers. I had 15 interceptions. That’s not acceptable as a quarterback and something that I need to work on. I was throwing off my back foot -- that’s one of the things that kind of got me in a lot of trouble and I need to stay away from that. Making the right reads is one of the things I need to work on, too. All offseason I’ve been watching film and seeing the reads I should have made and how many touchdowns I missed. This year hopefully I don’t have that many mistakes.”

Is Devin athletic enough to catch the ball?

“Right now … both of us just have the same mindset. Whatever it takes for the team to win, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

How are his hands?

“Both of us have good hands.”

What was meeting Obama like?

“Oh man. That’s one of the days that I’m going to sit down and tell my grandkids. I met the president. That’s one of the things I’ll always cherish. As soon as I got done meeting him I called my mom, my dad, my brothers, and I was just telling them, ‘I just met the president. I just met the president of the United States.”

Did it catch you off guard at all?

“Me and Patrick were just like, ‘What?’ Patrick was right next to me and he was like, ‘Oh my gosh, he just called your name.’ ”

Have you thought about what the expectations are going to be this fall?

“We already know our expectations. We’ve been working on that all offseason. We’re trying to get better. It starts now. Get prepared for September 1st. Our goal is to win the Big Ten every year. That’s one of the things we already said that’s set in stone. We just have to be ready to work for it and all offseason just keep working for it and working at it. Holding each other accountable. It’s right there. We have to take care of it.”

How does it change your mentality to actually know who your running back is this year?

“We don’t know anything. We don’t know who the quarterback’s going to be. I’m going to tell you this. We have to come out and compete every day. Every day. Nothing’s handed to you. And that’s better that you know that you have to compete every day.”

You really don’t think you’re going to be the quarterback this fall?

“We have to compete every day.”

-----

Roy Roundtree

from file

Hoke has said you had a great attitude last year despite not getting as many catches or numbers. Can you talk about how you dealt with that and what you’re looking forward to this year moving outside?

“I was buying in, just listening to what the coaches were saying. I wasn’t going out there and looking at the numbers and stats each game. I was just going out there and competing. It played out well, going to the Sugar Bowl and winning it. That was a great season for us.”

Was it hard at all going through that transition?

“No, not at all, because any point in the game we can get the ball in and see the seniors doing well last year and leading this team. I was just looking up to them. Even though I probably had one catch a game, that one catch was made effective.”

Did you ever get frustrated not getting footballs thrown your way?

“No. Our goal during the season was knockdowns. Every game we were just trying to have more knockdowns than one another. We really weren’t worried about the ball because the quarterback is the one with the ball in his hand and he’s the one making the right decisions.”

Is there a transition in moving to flanker?

“More motion. We’ve been doing this since January. We always rotated Y’s in different formations last year. It’s something I’m used to now because the extra [work] that we’ve been putting in trying to learn new plays and new positions that everyone’s at. I’m getting comfortable with it. More motions and really have to stay in shape.”

Why is that?

“Oh man, because you’re moving around all the time. Lining up in the slot or lining up outside. Just something I’m taking in and learning through spring ball.”

Do you see any differences in Denard this spring?

“Yeah, yeah I do. The timing is there. He’s making better reads. Staying composed back there. Now he knows the offense. It’s fluid. Practice goes smoother. I don’t see him frustrated or anything. I really see that he’s composed.”

Is he more decisive?

“Yeah he’s reading the defenses well out there. Just taking his time. You can actually heard the play fluent in the huddle again. I talk about him all the time saying he’s so country you can barely hear him, but now we’ve been in the offense for a year, we like listening to him better.”

Last year he often threw balls that put you in a position to get crushed. Has there been less of that these days?

“I mean, he’s the quarterback. They’re going to have their ups and downs. The wide receivers, just know our time to make the plays. If it’s a low ball, go get the low ball. You can’t just blame everything on the quarterback because they might be getting rushed half the time while we’re coming out of our routes. You never know until you watch it on film. He’s really been fluid in his passing. Getting better. Seeing him healthy, seeing him composed back there just making things right.”

How has Brandon Moore been?

“Yeah, Brandon Moore’s my roommate. I just talk to him everyday and see how practice went because I’m only with them during skelly and team, not individually. Him being a senior. Leadership -- we always say that seniors have leadership. He’s been doing well. Catching the ball good and running great routes and blocking. This is his year, I feel like. If you go out there and practice and show the coaches you can be trusted out there, it’s really going to be an impact this season.”

What’s Brandon like off the field?

“Shy. Calm. Smart. He doesn’t really do anything. Half the time he’s playing with his dog. Big Doberman that he has.”

What’s its name?

“Kane. I don’t mess with dogs.”

Why’s that?

“I got bit when I was younger, so I don’t mess with them.”

How has Denard progressed off the field?

“Oh, just speaking. He’s been outgoing this year. Being a quarterback, that’s what it takes because everybody’s looking up to the quarterback. Just seeing him become a senior. Now he just said, man this went by so fast. Now everybody’s going to be looking up to him. All our seniors. We take real great impact in being a senior and having leadership, just like Team 132 seniors did, trying to accomplish something better.”

Denard hasn’t always been a real vocal guy. How has that transition been for him?

“He was a shy kid coming in, but now he’s mature more. Just taking it day by day, like how we work out. We’d be partners half the time just pushing each other. Just seeing that from ‘Lace. That’s giving him extra points because he wasn’t like that at first.”

Does it get the receivers fired up when you hear things like ‘What is Michigan going to do without Junior Hemingway’?

“(Roundtree talked about something that sounded like “croop thick” or “group think.” I have no idea, so I’m not going to transcribe it) … It doesn’t matter who’s out there. Being blessed to play here, playing for Michigan. Coach Heck always said that we lost some great wide receivers, but being a senior -- I’m the only senior up here going through the ups and downs and learning from each class -- most of them look at me because I’ve played the most. But I feel like we have a nice group of kids now. Everybody you haven’t heard about, but most of them you will.”

Have you taken to mentoring any of the younger receivers?

“Oh yeah. Half the time they ask me questions it’s like I’m a teacher out there. It’s weird because I did the same thing when I was a freshman, asking the upperclassmen. But now I’m just schooling them.”

What kinds of things do they ask you?

“Just like how you read the coverage on this route, how to get off press coverage. Just simple stuff because coach Heck does a great job coaching us in different steps in the offense.”

Any of the younger guys impress you?

“I know Joe Reynolds, I know J.J. (Jeremy Jackson). I see a lot of them and go like, wow made a great catch or did something. That’s what I expect to hear, so it’s not like I haven’t seen it before.”

Do you talk to Junior about playing his position?

“Yeah I talk to Junior all the time. Me and Junior are still close friends. He just said stay in shape, you’re going to have a lot of motions and reading the defense. Something I was already used to, reading it from the slot position. I feel like I’m not back at slot, but it seems like I am because of all the motions and getting closer to the inside and whatnot. He just said just stay in shape.”

-----

Jordan Kovacs

from file

Does being a leader come naturally now for you?

“After being four years in the defense and on this team, I think it’s something that’s starting to come naturally. I think we have a lot of seniors that are stepping into that role, and that’s going to be huge for us this fall. Our senior leadership is going to be huge.”

Have you seen more consistency out of Will Campbell?

“Yeah, no doubt. It’s not just on the field. It’s off the field. He’s holding meetings for the defensive linemen to get in and watch film. He’s helping them out. We’ve got a lot of young guys on the defensive line, and he understands that and he understands he’s a senior and he has to be a leader. He’s really stepping into that role and filling that role nicely for us.”

How does Jarrod Wilson look?

“Good. I think he’s going to be a good ball player. At the same time, we’re only four practices in, only two in pads. He’s been impressive so far as have the other underclassmen. We’re going to need those guys to continue to get better.”

How does he compare with how you remember other freshman safeties playing in the past?

“He’s made quite a few plays so far. He’s had the opportunity because we’ve been somewhat thin at safety, so he’s been getting a good look and he’s been taking advantage of it. Like I said, he still has a ways to go. He’s still young. He’s got a bright future here. He’s going to get better in the spring and in the fall I look forward to how he can play.”

Is it weird returning so many guys in the secondary? That’s never happened for you before.

“Well I think what’s weird is I’m going to have the same defense for two years in a row. I don’t think I’ve ever had that in my four years here. I think that that’s something that’s going to help us a lot. We’re getting comfortable with the playcalling and with the different plays. We bring a lot of defensive players back. We bring a lot of seniors back. That’s going to be huge for us. It’s nice to be comfortable with the guys you’re out there with and the plays.”

Have you been able to sit back and marvel at how much better the defense got between 2010 and 2011?

“A little bit, but at the same time we’re already on to the next year and we’re looking forward to getting even better.”

Hoke talked about ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ in practice. Is that new to this spring or has he done that before?

“We’ve been competing since he’s gotten here in everything that we do. That’s something he brought with him, whether it’s in the weight room or out on the practice field in spring practice or even in fall camp. There’s winners and losers. Competition’s important and we thrive in that. That environment is important for us to be successful.”

What happens when you lose?

“Gassers or some sort of punishment.”

Unverified Voracity Discovers The Axe Effect

Unverified Voracity Discovers The Axe Effect

Submitted by Brian on February 20th, 2012 at 2:53 PM

The weekend. Via MGoVideo:

The Axe effect. Remember these guys?

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Since they executed the above, Michigan is 18-7 in the Big Ten. Thanks Axe guys! Thanks, Tony Gerdeman! (Attention Tony: please don't do that again in the next couple weeks. Ace's blood will be on your hands.)

A brief digression into faulty math. By the way, Gerdeman, your numbers are horsecrap since they include a bunch of players who list offers from Michigan who Michigan had ceased recruiting. No one buys your head fake about Tommy Schutt when you include a guy (Pittman) who tried to commit to M and was rebuffed plus a bunch of OL Michigan had moved on from by the time Meyer was hired. 2012 head to head Meyer wins: Armani Reeves. End of list.

Of course, the head to head thing is beside the point. Ohio State is always going to win most of its recruting battles with Michigan because most of them will be for Ohio kids. This has not prevented Michigan from being good at football.

And this will be the future. Via WH, the future of the M-MSU rivalry if recruiting keeps going like this:

Look at the mauling on the line. Also cough cough infinite Desmond Howard bubble screens.

The bracket of storyline. Lunardi's latest has Michigan on the three line playing the Drexel Dragons in the first round. After that, the bracket is all storylines:

  • If high seeds win the second round opponent would be Notre Dame
  • Hypothetical Sweet 16 matchups would be against Duke (played earlier, semi-rival), San Diego State (Steve Fisher), or Alabama (footbaw matchup).

He's got us in Nashville right now; Marquette is the protected seed in the other Columbus pod. I'd hope we land either there or Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, Northwestern fans are pointing at tomorrow's game as perhaps their make-or-break moment for a first-ever NCAA bid. Bill Carmody is scoffing at the idea this is the biggest game in program history. Welsh-Ryan will be hyped.

Five star bump. Glenn Robinson is getting one. He's #1 on a recent Rivals list of the top ten players likely to move up when Rivals releases its final 2012 basketball rankings:

1. Glenn Robinson III
School: St. John (Ind.) Lake Central
The Buzz: The 6-foot-7 wing was knocking on the door of five-star status coming out of the summer. This winter, he appears to be well on his way to busting that door down. He has size, a complete game and high level athleticism that all translates at a high level. His impact at Michigan should be immediate and sizable.

Someone learned their lesson about John Beilein's talent evaluation skills after dropping Burke in their final rankings last year.

Brief position paper on "chink in the armor." ESPN fired the staffer who wrote the headline and suspended the anchor that spoke it aloud, causing some folks to question the inconsistency. I think it's the right call: a headline is something that is written down and considered. More importantly, it is also a place where double meanings and puns are crammed in as often as possible. A headline invites you to read it in all ways possible. If the staffer is too dumb to know this, he should be fired. If he's not, he should be fired.

The anchor probably should have gotten off with nothing other than a clarification that he was using the "chink in the armor" idiom in a way that is completely natural. They're talking about a big hole (turnovers) in Jeremy Lin's game. The idiom fits that conversation like a glove. These days a lot of folk use "unfortunate" to mean "awful" but in this case it is appropriate: the anchor's choice of words was unfortunate but not offensive.

How they do it. This Sporting News article on a mock bracket selection various members of the media went through is a fascinating insight into how the sausage gets made:

They stressed, time and time again, that there must be a way to organize the data — a true, valid point — and the RPI is just the way they chose. The relationship with the RPI dates back to 1981, when it was first used to provide “supplemental data” for the evaluation of potential at-large teams. As individuals, committee members have access to whatever ratings are available — including but not limited to the Pomeroy ratings, the Sagarin ratings and the LRMC results. But, the fact of the matter is everything dealing with ratings that was provided to the media members in the mock exercise was filtered through the RPI. The team sheets showed records vs. RPI top-50 teams, vs. teams ranked 51-100 in the RPI and so on. The RPI isn’t the gold standard and it might not even necessarily be the preferred ranking, but it’s the way the NCAA chooses to organize the information, so it’s definitely the most front-and-center data.

I think the committee generally does a good job at picking out serious RPI outliers; at points where they disagree with Kenpom seriously I tend to side with the committee. That Wisconsin bank shot last year was devastating because the committee mostly considers wins and losses. If it was just an infinitesimal hit to Michigan's defensive rating a lot of the drama gets sucked out of the season. Kenpom is designed to be predictive, which is not necessarily the best model for making a bracket that makes the sport entertaining.

Kovacs! Jordan Kovacs headlines Andy Staples's all-two-star (and under) team:

S Jordan Kovacs, Sr., Michigan (Zero stars in Class of 2008): Kovacs, another walk-on who came out of nowhere, joins Whaley as a co-captain. I first wrote about Kovacs in 2009 after he filled in admirably during the Wolverines' win against Notre Dame. Since then, Kovacs has developed into one of the Big Ten's best safeties. The kid who made the team from a student-body tryout has started 33 games, and he still has one more season to play.

Patrick Omameh and Nathan Brink also feature. Get your fill of this stuff now, because Michigan is about to be a rumor to this annual exercise.

Also let's keep the RR walk-on program going strong, yes? Even in a year where Michigan has a lot of guys on the line a Heininger would have ended up being a useful rotation piece. Kovacs starts on damn near every Michigan D in the past 20 years.

In your head. Michigan's weekend got not one but two coaching-type guys on the OSU staff to indirectly reference it. First someone who seems like their Singletary equivalent:

Slow and steady wins the race

And then:

Old coach told me one time... Don't trust false enthusiasm. Don't worry, I'm not. I trust @markpantoni

Again with the "these guys don't really mean to commit to Michigan." I'm sure it's an accident, yes. Don't forget "long way to signing day."

Program culture. Beilein on his seniors and the baseline they've established:

"I think in recruiting, people don’t understand the part about those four years, how much better they’ll get if they have really good work habits. Their work habits have not only made them better, it’s made the rest of our team better. Trey Burke comes into the gym and he sees Stu or Zack working extra before or working extra afterwards, he then realizes well, that’s what I’m supposed to do, and he’s always done that. But if he came in and saw two seniors that were late for practice or complaining about practice or didn’t work in the off-season, he may go more toward that way. They’ve helped us create a culture here that I hope is everlasting."

I cut the evaluators a break there because that's impossible to judge. Also it's not like a bunch of colleges were banging down Douglass's and Novak's doors. In any case, the point about the work ethic of the program is one that looms large in the aftermath of the Lee/Merritt departures blowing up the program. I think Burke will be a guy who helps keep that around this time. Morgan, too.

Etc.: SI declares the Big Ten the best conference in college basketball. DGDestroys has a miraculously-still-relevant recruiting post from before the weekend about the WR recruiting landscape. Surprise: Gordon Gee says something dumb.

Clinic Items: Greg Mattison

Clinic Items: Greg Mattison

Submitted by Brian on February 15th, 2012 at 3:07 PM

mattison-hoke-p1[1]

So I hit up a Glazier Clinic last week. I'm not sure what the etiquette is about actually talking about this stuff since the atmosphere in the room was not at all similar to press conferences in which carefully evaluated non-statements are provided. For instance, at one point Greg Mattison said that "I've never seen such awful technique" than that of the defensive line upon his arrival.

Mattison didn't say anything offensive, but he was very blunt. If he knew someone would be posting about it on the internet he might not have spoken like that, which means I probably shouldn't be in the room. But being in the room was exceedingly useful for me as I try to figure out what people are supposed to be doing on the field. So here's a mostly paraphrased recap that I don't think anyone could possibly get mad at.

I also listened to an hour of Funk after Mattison was done; having missed two hours of table-setting and lingo I had a hard time grabbing anything that I could relate to you. FWIW, Funk's presentation was three hours of inside zone minutiae—I don't think we're dumping zone any time soon. Craig Ross took in the whole thing and provided a few notes that I'll post Friday.

Philosophy

Mattison. Very personable, obviously a veteran of the clinic circuit. At points reminded me of a folk singer in one and only one very specific way: after explaining this formation or this coverage or this defense, he would fire off some zingers, get everyone to laugh, and then continue with business. I can see why he's regarded as a great recruiter.

His interest in teaching was also clear. Occasionally it felt like it was a college class as Mattison asked the room what player X would be doing in a particular situation. That lent a lot of credence to his assertion that one of two primary reasons he came back to college was a desire to "influence young men—that's what we do." (Brady Hoke was the other.)

On message. Mattison kicked the session off with about 30 minutes describing Michigan's philosophy, goals, and motivational techniques before getting into Xs and Os. He started by talking about Hoke; that "the one thing Brady did was bring back what made Michigan what it is." Michigan hasn't been "one of those teams loaded with unbelievable stars" but plays fundamentally sound, tough defense with maximum effort. Etc.

There were then the usual bits about Hoke's "Years: 133, Championships: 42" call-and-response and a statement that the Sugar Bowl was "fine" but he would trade 100 of them for a Big Ten Championship. The rooms say "THE TEAM THE TEAM THE TEAM," of course. The program is on message.

Position switches. As I wrestled with how to handle this various coaches in the room told every-damn-body that Mattison said Brennen Beyer was moving to WDE and Craig Roh to SDE. This was explicitly stated. Adjust the wiki pages.

Helmets to the ball. A major theme: "loafs" are not tolerated and Mattison wants to see the jersey of 10 guys at the end of every play. When he catches a defensive lineman getting passed by another one he asks the kid how fast he is, and when they say "4.7" he says "well that guy must be a 4.3 then."

At the end of the session Mattison was discussing a corner blitz they didn't run much because the corners didn't come hard enough. One of the cut-ups was from the end of the third quarter against OSU. This play:

The coaches' film is a wider shot and emphasized the huge distance Floyd had to make up to catch Miller before the touchdown. Mattison took the opportunity to point out that this was an example of the corners not coming hard enough and gush over Floyd ("I love this kid") in general and specifically as an exemplar of the Michigan philosophy. Floyd's effort led to this:

And that led to a field goal.

Bonus: For those looking for a reason other than blind luck that Michigan recovered 80% of opponent fumbles this year, in practice all incompletions are live balls. Mattison credited this practice for getting players moving towards the ball at all times and being in position to scoop up live balls in actual play.

Technique a priority. This was a feature of both the general philosophical section and the chalk talk. Mattison did not select the cutups himself—that was delegated to a video coordinator—and didn't know exactly what would come up. This made for an interesting dynamic as he evaluated each play live. He repeatedly digressed from his main topic to note the footwork of his linemen: Van Bergen is getting distance with his first step. All of these guys have identical footwork. There was also a long discussion about why your rush end needs to start with his outside foot back when he gets a tight end to him*. Etc.

In the philosophical section he noted that Michigan was probably the only team in the country with a head coach who coaches a position, that nose guard. It was at this point he told the story about Hoke coming to him fuming, saying he "wasn't going to be one of those head coaches who just walk around" and demanding a position group. He took the nose. Zinger: "now… I question why he coached the best player on the team."

Here he also noted that everyone hits the sled every day and that this was not something the previous coaching staff did frequently, if ever. This is where the bit about "I've never seen such awful technique" came in. Pretty much the only thing negative Mattison said was about the state of the team he was handed. Everyone who's surprised raise their hand. That's no one.

The final bit on this: "don't go be a scheme coach, focus on technique."

*[The reason is the biggest threat to the rush end in this situation is getting reached and if the tight end flares out to do so that first step needs to be one that gains him distance, something you can't do while remaining square if your outside foot is to the LOS. Disagreement with this appeared to be a pet peeve of Mattison's.]

Big plays. Obviously a priority just from the play on the field. Section on this concentrated on the secondary, declared the biggest problem with big plays. Hates it when safeties "look like blitzing linebackers" when there is a pile. He wants a cup around the pile and safeties to make tackles at least six yards downfield.

Now, that doesn't mean Jordan Kovacs needs to make a tackle six yards downfield. In this context a safety is a player in a deep zone. This is most often the corners and Gordon/Woolfolk.

Rotation. This is a Hoke thing Mattison was skeptical about: Michigan rotates the entire defense on every play of practice. Run on—snap—run off. This is "not pretty" when your 21st and 22nd best defensive players are going up against the first team offense but builds conditioning and depth and was credited for "saving the team" in the Sugar Bowl when injuries whittled down available defensive linemen to dust. Think Martin and Van Bergen in the third quarter.

Situational

Goal line philosophy. To Mattison it's simple: one zone "you run perfectly" and an all-out pressure.

When they're backed up. Mattison asked the crowd to think of what they are thinking when they've got the other team backed up, and then said "how many of you are thinking 'don't give up a big play'?" Mattison's been there and tries to fight that. Now if you're backed up, "if we have a great run pressure, we're coming after your ass."

This goes here.

Not exactly a run pressure but Michigan is sending all five guys on the line there. "When you have a chance, when they're backed up, go after their ass."

Third down. "For us, we're gonna pressure." Mattison on the end of the Akron State game:

You saw the Ohio game, you probably thought 'this guy is the dumbest sonofabitch in the world' He turned a wide receiver loose against Ohio a couple minutes left in the game.

But we intercepted it on the next play. Did we win? Yes. So we were aggressive and we won. [laughter]

So they'll be aggressive come hell or high water, that's clear.

Scheme

4-3 versus 3-4: THE FINAL WORD. "We'd be here for hours" if someone tried to argue him away from playing the 4-3 under. Said something along the lines of "if you've got that 330 pound nose tackle and your ends and your linebackers, okay, God bless you." I thought of Pipkins—what is Mattison going to do with a 330 pound nose?

Anyway, Greg Mattison will never run a 3-4. End of story.

4-3 under assertions from the man himself. These aren't too different than the things you'll hear about the under when you read up on it on the internet but just to confirm, the basis of the defense:

  • Rush end: "The whole thing is predicated on the rush." Must be a great player, and athlete who can spill power (ie, get into a pulling guard and stop him in his tracks), drop into coverage, and win one-on-one battles with the tight end. All that and he's got to be a ferocious pass rusher. More similar to the SAM linebacker than the SAM is to the ILBs.
  • SAM linebacker. Must not be outflanked either in the run or the pass game. Hugely important not to give himself up one for one on the edge. [Editor's aside: that's something we were talking about a ton early in the year. It got a lot better as the season progressed.]
  • Inside linebackers. The usual: the mike has to be a little bigger, a little stronger, and the will has to be able to adjust to coverage outside of the box. An important difference between the two is the WLB has to be able to run vertically down the seam whereas the MLB can pass his guy off; IIRC this year the guy running down the seam was Demens, not Morgan. Adjustment based on Demens's surprising ability to stick with guys downfield?
  • Nose tackle. Also hugely important. "You cannot win with a weak nose." We should start calling our incoming five star "No Pressure Pipkins" right now.
  • Corners. "Corners are corners" but the field corner (Countess) is not involved with "heavy work" and usually just has to clean up plays that have been strung out. The boundary corner (Floyd) has to be a bigger guy better in run support. It's a seven man front; if you go eight you'd "better have a war daddy" at field corner because he's got to cover an outside receiver with little additional help.

Michigan does not align to strength but rather aligns to field—ie, if you're on the left hash the SAM will be to the wide side of the field and if you're on the right hash the SAM will be to the wide side of the field. You can flip your tight ends all around and Michigan won't flip in response. I assume the flipping from earlier in the year was a necessary evil as Michigan tried to get everyone up on the new system.

The most important thing. One of the line shifts Michigan runs is called "pirate technique."

Player Notes

Kyle Kalis. Mattison saw one of the St. Ed's guys and mentioned that Michigan had recruited a "real man" out that school, one that "may just maul some of our guys."

brennen-beyer-minnesotaBrennen Beyer. Beyer was talked up like a future star. Reportedly up to 250 pounds and will be given an opportunity to win the WDE job in the spring.

Jake Ryan. Mattison said Michigan was "blessed" at SAM linebacker—probably including Beyer in that assessment—and that Ryan was a major player. A major player they probably wished they didn't have to run out as a freshman, but a major player.

Mattison referenced a particular play against Nebraska on which he lined up on the wrong side of the field. I remember that but I don't think it was against Nebraska; there's no mention of it in the UFR. "Still a lot of coaching to do" with him but it's clear they think he has vast potential.

JT Floyd. As mentioned, Mattison seemed enamored with him. "Love that kid."

Desmond Morgan. Came up on a couple of clips where he ended up clubbing offensive linemen. Mattison said something along the lines of "think he'll hit you?" And "is that good or what? For a little freshman?" It is unknown whether he has ever said "freshman" without preceding it with "little."

Morgan tipped one of the blitzes they run; Mattison mentioned that he told Morgan he'd play three technique if he kept it up. This is a common threat, as…

Kenny Demens. …they literally did this with Demens, playing him at nose so they could have Martin run the blitzes he wasn't coming hard enough on. In contrast, the SAM (Ryan) was called out as a guy who does come hard.

Some secondhand reports that the implication was Demens's job is under threat have filtered out to premium message boards; I did not get that vibe.

Jordan Kovacs. Michigan's "down safety" or "close safety"—I'll stick with strong, FWIW—was "tremendous."

Departing DL. Heininger "really became a football player." Seems like they think they'll miss him. Van Bergen "really, really played" for M and Martin was of course the best player on the team.

2012 First Look: Defense

2012 First Look: Defense

Submitted by Brian on January 11th, 2012 at 2:37 PM

DEPARTURES IN ORDER OF SIGNIFICANCE

MIKE-MARTIN-112109-1-thumb-320x389-17091[1]Will Heininger Notre Dame v Michigan ft_wTXsLodyl[1]

Van Bergen and Martin, Heininger

  1. NT Mike Martin. Penetrating, active nose tackle a major factor in Michigan's massive improvement in run defense; forced a pitch on a speed option; late-season run was absolute dominance; backed up by air, hope, and freshmen.
  2. SDE Ryan Van Bergen. Crafty veteran and iron man was less explosive than Martin but not by much; turned in huge OSU game; consistent production in UFR even if the actual numbers aren't that amazing; backed up by walk-on.
  3. DT Will Heininger. Walk-on evolved from liability against MAC teams to solid, maybe even better than that, Big Ten DT; made a play or two every game after the nonconference schedule; replacement will be Will Campbell and the hope he can finally play some football.
  4. CB/S Troy Woolfolk. Bounced from CB to S throughout career; basically a NEVER FORGET poster all to himself after series of injuries robbed him of all or much of his senior year twice; marginalized by injury and burned by Posey; did not start Sugar Bowl.

    [worry ceases]

  5. JB Fitzgerald. Touted recruit never managed to see the field except on occasional snaps spotting Demens or playing DE under GERG.
  6. Brandon Herron. Scored two touchdowns against WMU and was never heard from again.
  7. Jared Van Slyke. Saw some snaps due to injury over the course of his career.

WHAT'S LEFT

123490379_crop_650x440[1]image[1]2c4424af68414d00030f6a706700ae03[1]

Kovacs, Ryan, Roh

  1. SS Jordan Kovacs. Never going to be a great deep half guy but the best damn tiny linebacker there's ever been; great tackling in space; great angles; huge part of Michigan's lack of big plays given up; best safety since at least Marcus Ray and probably further back.
  2. SLB Jake Ryan. Explosive edge athlete with a burst opponents are unprepared for; did get confused sometimes as a freshman; outstanding flow; nickel DE.
  3. WDE Craig Roh. Solid, but did not provide the explosive edge rush Michigan was hoping for. May end up moving to SDE, but his size and body type seemingly disqualifies him from that.
  4. CB Blake Countess. Touted recruit stepped into the starting lineup when Woolfolk was struck down and played very well; crappy edge tackling needs work; had tough close to the season against OSU and VT.
  5. CB JT Floyd. Resurrected his career and even turned in a big play or three along the way; jumped a route against Illinois to salt that game away; best technique amongst cover guys; still not that fast; also crappy edge tackling.
  6. MLB Kenny Demens. Ate a lot of blocks after move to new system; hopefully will get more decisive in year two; highly underrated cover guy; not much of a blitzer; may seem a lot better if the NT in front of him is a space eater instead of a penetrator.
  7. FS Thomas Gordon. Also a big part of Michigan's excellent big play prevention; largely exempted from secondary criticism after OSU game because he was not on the field for the worst of it; sweet-ass interception against EMU; probably a better fit at SS.
  8. WLB Desmond Morgan. Wrested the job away from a couple veterans once he got healthy, whereupon he was okay for a freshman; problems in coverage; problems with misdirection; a big chunk of Michigan's outside vulnerability; will either improve or see someone yoink his job.

    [starters cease]

  9. Nickelback Courtney Avery. Diminutive but quality underneath cover guy; PBU and INT sealed OSU game; also a crappy edge tackler; fine option as a third corner.
  10. WDE Jibreel Black. Spotted Roh, could not take his job; may be a candidate to move to SDE if he can put on the weight; emergence of Frank Clark threatens to cut into playing time.
  11. DT Will Campbell. Alternates tossing his man into the quarterback with passive acceptance of blocks. Conditioning and effort an issue.
  12. WLB Brandin Hawthorne. Tiny safety-sized LB a man without a position after Michigan ditched the 3-3-5.

WHAT'S NEW, OR CLOSE ENOUGH, ANYWAY

campbell-cosgrove

please don't be our DT.

Most of the DL. YAYAYAYAYAYAYYYYYYYYY. The best unit on the team is strip-mined by eligibility expiration, leaving the next generation to… oh, right, the next generation doesn't exist. Fantastic.

Michigan's options at SDE are redshirt junior walk-on Nate Brink, who saw occasional snaps this year and was blown up on 80% of them, guys no one has seen or heard from like Jordan Paskorz, or true freshmen. At defensive tackle they've got two spots to fill and two guys who have seen meaningful snaps, Quinton Washington and Will Campbell. Kenny Wilkins and Richard Ash exist, Chris Rock will be coming off a redshirt, and there are some freshmen arriving. The most prominent is 330-pound tank/battleship/Hoke impersonator Ondre Pipkins.

I'll wait for you to finish retching.

All right! We retched it real good! Anyway. Massive dropoff is all but inevitable here. I'm betting Brink, Pipkins, and Campbell are your opening-day starters with Washington a guy who rotates in on the interior; Godin, Strobel, and Wormley will all play immediately due to necessity, leaping past Wilkins and Ash. Rock may also get some PT.

Nothing else. So we've got that going for us. Except…

Maybe WLB. Desmond Morgan is far from invulnerable at WLB, especially with Joe Bolden and Kaleb Ringer enrolling early. James Ross is extensively praised for his play identification ability and should be a candidate for early playing time. Teeny-tiny Antonio Poole is coming off a redshirt and is presumably less teeny-tiny.

That is a lot of guys vying for a single starting spot, many of them more athletic than Morgan at a spot that puts a premium on athleticism. Meanwhile, Kenny Demens is backed up by Mike Jones and more freshmen. Like Omameh, displacing him from the starting lineup provides an ancillary benefit by creating a quality backup where there is none already.

WHAT'S THE FIRST FOUR SEASONS OF BATTLESTAR GALACTICA

Sanity. O Mattison, without whom we are naught, yea, verily doth we bring these burnt offerings to your lustrous feet. May they keep your pecs jiggling as they command our forces to do something wondrous.

Experience. Michigan has it with eight starters back. For the first time since Carr's final season Michigan will go into the year running the same thing they did the year before. Run and tell that.

Depth at linebacker and quasi-linebacker. Michigan may have to pirate one of the three valid options at WDE to help out on the other side of the line but right now you can have decent confidence in any of Roh, Black, and Clark. At SLB, Ryan is a bust-out star, Brennen Beyer is coming off a freshman season with some promise and a role in short yardage, and Cam Gordon's still hanging around. In the middle, a flood of touted freshmen arrive to back up returning starters; Poole is also around.

Bending but not breaking. Kovacs and Gordon gave up vanishingly few big plays over the course of the season; both return.

WHAT'S THE LAST SEASON OF BATTLESTAR GALACTICA

The line, obviously. There's some talent there but if Michigan doesn't experience a massive backslide it's time to assume that Michigan's DL will be great as long as Hoke and Mattison and Montgomery are around.

Michigan-Jake-Ryan-tips-pass-by-Western-Michigan-Alex-Carder[1](caption) Michigan linebacker Craig Roh (88) and defensive tackle Ryan Van Bergen (53) get to Western Michigan quarterback Tim Hiller (3) for a sack. Michigan's Brandon Graham (upper right) was also in on the play. The Wolverines defense sacked Hiller twice in the game.  *** Michigan built a 31-0 first half lead, then coasted to a 31-7 season opening victory over Western Michigan University at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. True freshman quarterback Tate Forcier threw three touchdown passes to lead the Wolverines.   ***  The University of Michigan Wolverines open Rich Rodriguez' second season against the Western Michigan University Broncos at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. Photos taken on Saturday, September 5, 2009. ( John T. Greilick / The Detroit News )

okay, but what about, like, teams other than Western Michigan?

Getting to the quarterback. Roh did not blow up as we hoped and most of the options to replace other guys are ponderous. Campbell and Washington and Pipkins are going to be the sorts of guys who shove a couple dudes at the LOS on passing plays. Michigan got away with a lack of pass rush from the outside last year because a couple of their inside guys were great penetrators; next year Michigan needs their outside LB types (WDE and SLB) to MAKE PLAYS or opposing quarterbacks will be able to grow small businesses in the pocket.

Secondary athleticism. I love Kovacs with all of the hearts and think whatever athleticism he lacks is more than made up for by his smarts. At this point I'm not sure athleticism is even an issue. I can't remember the last time it came up in a game.

The rest of the secondary… we don't know about. Sometimes you're going to get burned over the top. When you have great recovery speed you can live. When you don't you die, which happened to Michigan time and again against Devier Posey. JT Floyd is much better but isn't likely to get a sniff from the NFL; Countess and Avery are faster but little buggers ill-suited to take on the Michael Floyds of the world. Thomas Gordon has decent to good speed; he still got burned over the top big time by Nebraska.

There are no blazers and the big guy in the secondary is almost kind of maybe outright slow. Yeah. So… could be an issue.

WHAT'S INEXPLICABLE JIMI HENDRIX

Can these coaches salvage the line? Tell me lies, baby.

How ready to play are some of these freshmen? If Bolden comes in and rips Morgan's job away from him that's probably good, but we're really talking about Ondre Pipkins, Chris Wormley, Tom Strobel, and Matt Godin here. Pipkins all but has to start from day one and two of the other three will be frequently-used depth guys.

Are the cornerbacks for real? They seemed fantastic over the first 11 games but the results against OSU and VT are alarming.

MANDATORY WILD-ASS GUESS

I'm torn. There is a case for a backslide despite returning eight starters. For one, the fumbles will not be as plentiful. For two, a lot of Michigan's weakness was covered up by Mike Martin being essentially unblockable the back half of the season and Van Bergen being so reliable. I'm worried that without those two, Michigan is going to have issues. In the best case scenario the new guys prevent OL from getting to the second level, making a lot of plays available for the linebackers that the linebackers might not make. I also don't see where the heat comes from.

But they do return eight starters and go from year one to year two in the same system. They seem pretty injury-resilient at spots that aren't Jordan Kovacs and bring in a lot of talented freshmen. They will be much older at just about every spot.

It's mandatory, though, so… yeah, they'll be worse. The lack of consistent pressure will be a year-long problem that exposes some of the issues in the secondary and the linebackers are not at the level they need to be to benefit from planetoid DL.

Sacks backslide into the bottom half of D-I after finishing 29th, total defense slides into the 30s, and the scoring defense does not repeat its top ten performance from a year ago.

Upon Further Review 2011: Defense vs OSU

Upon Further Review 2011: Defense vs OSU

Submitted by Brian on December 9th, 2011 at 3:58 PM

Formation notes: Since Brennen Beyer's fake injury kept him out of this game, Michigan had to adapt their big package. Behold a 5-3:

form 5-3-eagle

From top to bottom that is Black, Heininger, Martin, Van Bergen, and Roh on the line with Ryan, Morgan, Demens, and Kovacs in an umbrella behind them. Countess is pulled; Floyd is the lone corner and Gordon the free safety.

When there were more wideouts on the field this was the usual deployment:

form-under-plus

Kovacs is rolled down into the box, reprising his days as a "bandit" in the 3-3-5. Rolling Kovacs into the box like this was referred to as "plus" in the UFR chart; any "plus" formation has a safety within four or five yards of the LOS.

Substitution notes: The usual most places. Very limited substitutions along the line, with Brink, Black, and Campbell getting a few snaps here and there. Mike Jones briefly replaced Demens at MLB during Ohio State's dispiriting 82-second TD drive after M had gone up 37-27; that came after the long Stoneburner catch and run that I thought Ryan was mostly responsible for, but more on that later.

Woolfolk started at safety but gave way to Gordon at times in the first half; the second half it was all Gordon.

A what-the-dickens-was-that-note: we talked about the oddity that was Michigan seeming to play with zero deep safety support the whole game in a Picture Pages earlier in the week. Chris Brown emails to suggest that what Michigan was doing was running Virginia Tech's defense:

Beamer and Foster also relied on a hybrid coverage of their own design: The "robber," run out of the "G" front. This coverage worked so well because it transformed an already run-heavy eight-man front into a nine man front, where they combined their 4-4 set with conventional two-deep principles: Instead of two deep safeties, they used two deep cornerbacks who split the field into halves. The free-safety then was free to play a "robber" technique -- that is, on pass plays, he read the quarterback's eyes and broke on intermediate routes, but on runs, where he truly became valuable, he was an incredible ninth run-stuffer in the box.

Although not the best against the pass, that wasn't the point. It was good enough (especially with dynamos like D'Angelo Hall at cornerback), and the focus was on stuffing the run or hitting the quarterback before he could release the ball.

That is exactly what Michigan ran much of the day, so keep it in mind. A fuller discussion after the play breakdown.

Show? Show.

Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O20 1 10 Pistol 2TE 4-3 under plus Pass 4 Hitch Floyd 5
Kovacs rolled up for the plus. Posey beats Floyd(-0.5, cover -1) but the throw is late and upfield, turning a first down (or near first down) into a meh gain. Floyd comes up to tackle with help from Ryan, who dropped into coverage on a shorter out route. Martin spun off a block to get some token pressure on Miller, barely avoiding the -1.
O25 2 5 I-Form 4-3 under plus Run N/A Inside zone Heininger 1
I'm not sure what exactly this is supposed to be but I think it is an inside zone; the fullback does not head outside like usual here but attacks the strong side of the line, likely in an attempt to break keys for the linebackers. Herron takes the ball to the other side of the line as OSU zones. RVB(+1) slants under the backside G; Martin(+1) chucks his blocker, and Herron has to bounce out into Heininger(+0.5) and Roh(+0.5) who had set up in their gaps and combine to tackle.
O26 3 4 Shotgun 2-back Nickel even Pass 5 Flare Ryan 5
Snag package for OSU to the short side of the field; Ryan is dropping into the snag and Miller goes with the flare to the outside; Ryan does a decent job on it but can't stop it before the sticks. Push. Could have gone either way.
O31 1 10 Pistol 2TE 4-3 under Pass 4 PA Dig Morgan Inc
Speed option fake into a pass. Michigan's linebackers are suckered big time (Morgan -1, Demens -1, cover -2) and Miller has a huge lane in which to hit a guy on a dig route. He turfs the ball nowhere near his WR.
O31 2 10 Shotgun 2-back 4-3 even Run N/A QB draw Kovacs 15
M slanting to the short side with Roh dropping into coverage and Ryan blitzing off the slot. Ryan(-1) gets way too far outside and upfield and RVB(-1) gets way too far inside and upfield, opening up a huge lane. Demens(+0.5) does a good job to pop off a blocker and flow; Kovacs(-2) loses leverage and whiffs at Miller's feet, turning this from around five into a big gain that could be bigger but for that Demens flow allowing Countess(+0.5) to toss a blocker upfield and disconnect to tackle after the first down marker.
O46 1 10 I-Form twins 4-3 over plus Pass 4 Waggle fly Countess 54
Roh dives inside the fullback on a play action power fake and gives up the corner; that's probably his assignment with Kovacs overhanging. Spill that. Michigan has no one on the edge; Kovacs(pressure –2) and Morgan are there, there's a pulling G in protection, and both guys plus Demens back out into a zone drop. Miller can pull up and fire to an incredibly wide open receiver. Assuming M is playing this VT D, Countess(-4, cover –4) has the deep half and blows it. RPS –2; two on two coverage and a ton of time.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-7, 12 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O21 1 10 I-Form 4-3 under Pass 4 Dumpoff -- 2
No pressure(-2) at all as Martin is doubled and no one else can beat a blocker. Miller steps up into more pressure than there actually is. M in a two deep here and nothing's open deep (cover +2). Miller's inaccurate checkdown costs them a few yards.
O23 2 8 I-Form twins 4-3 even Pass N/A WR screen -- Inc
Well wide. Looked like five or so.
O23 3 8 Shotgun 2-back Okie two deep Pass 6 Sack Kovacs -11
Regular okie has seven at the line. This just has six. That's because Kovacs is coming from the safety spot. Everyone else rushes save Morgan, who drops off into a spy zone; OSU goes max pro and Kovacs(+1, pressure +2, RPS +2) still gets a free run. He whiffs; RVB(+1) has slanted past an OL to help clean up; he can't tackle either. Kovacs(+0.5) cleans up from behind. Tackling -1? Yeah, I guess.
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-7, 9 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O20 1 10 I-Form 4-3 under plus Pass 4 Post Countess Inc
Good lord. Woolfolk moves up on the underneath route, Countess(-3, cover –3) is setting up outside of Posey, and Miller misses an 80 yard touchdown. Countess is still in the frame so avoids a –4 but this isn't good. RPS –1.
O20 2 10 Pistol 2TE 4-3 under plus Run N/A Speed option Ryan 8 (Pen -10)
With two TEs to one side and Kovacs blitzing weak it seems like Michigan's LBs have to do a better job of getting outside. They don't; Demens(-1) is slashed to the ground and Miller gets the edge for near first down yardage before Woolfolk comes up to shove him out of bounds; Ryan(+1) did a good job of holding that edge until he got held himself, drawing a flag. RPS -1.
O10 2 20 Shotgun 2-back 4-3 under Penalty N/A False start -- -5
Derf.
O5 2 25 Shotgun 2-back Nickel even Run N/A QB draw Van Bergen -2
DTs stunt; RVB(+3) drives through a botched double that is botched because of the stunt and tackles Miller for loss. Given what we know about DT stunts it's possible RVB called this himself.
O3 3 27 I-Form Nickel even Pass 4 Post Roh Inc (Pen -3)
Roh(+2, pressure +2) speed rushes around Mike Adams and is tackled, drawing a holding call that will be a safety. With that guy tackled and only two other rushers Miller has plenty of time; Woolfolk has again come up on a shorter underneath route (on third and twenty seven!) and leaves Countess trailing Posey for a potential big gain; Countess(+2, cover +2) comes over the top to break the pass up. Still very dangerous. Picture paged.
Drive Notes: Safety, 9-7, 5 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O29 1 10 I-Form twins 4-3 even plus Run N/A Iso Morgan 4
Morgan(-0.5) takes the lead block at the LOS but does not funnel to his partner; Heininger(+0.5) makes a nice play to come off a block and start an ankle tackle near the LOS, robbing Herron of momentum and making it easier for the rest of the D to rally.
O33 2 6 I-Form 4-3 under plus Run N/A Inside zone? Van Bergen 1
This has an attack point outside the tackles but features a lead blocker and looks like inside zone blocking. So... yeah. Morgan(-0.5) and Demens(-0.5) get swallowed up on the second level and again they have Kovacs behind them so I think they're not doing so well; it doesn't look like M is slanting hard. The DL cleans up for them. Ryan(+1) takes on Boren two yards in the backfield; Van Bergen(+1) drives his blocker in to the backfield, forcing a cutback into Martin(+1), who tackles. Good thing, too. Demens was literally ten yards downfield by the time the play was over.
O34 3 5 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 4 TE Out Morgan Inc
Man, OSU's gameplan is go after Morgan, go after Morgan, go after Morgan. Here he's in eh coverage(-1, cover -1) on their ponderous TE Fragel; ball is high and over the hands of the target.
Drive Notes: Punt, 16-7, 1 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O30 1 10 Ace 4-3 under plus Run N/A Inside zone Martin 3
Martin and Heininger take doubles; Martin(+2) holds up until his guy releases and then sets up so the RB comes behind him, then disengages to tackle. Heininger(-1) had been blown several yards off the ball and Herron can muscle forward for a few yards. Dangerous without Martin here. Next year's run defense might be shady.
O33 2 7 Shotgun empty Wacky nickel Pass 4 Hitch Van Bergen Inc
Martin as quasi LB with Morgan on the LOS. Martin(+1) comes on his unsurprising blitz as Roh drops off; this time he shocks Brewster with his explosive contact and is about to pressure Miller when he throws; RVB(+1, pressure +1) is in the lane and deflects the pass. Open for around first down yardage if not batted.
O33 3 7 Shotgun 2-back Okie Run N/A QB draw -- 24
Full on man up okie; Miller checks into a QB draw that goes for a bunch of yards because he's running at Morgan backing out into pass coverage and everyone else is rushing upfield. Kovacs(-0.5, tackling -1) and Floyd(-0.5) miss tough open field tackle attempts to provide bonus yards. RPS -2.
M43 1 10 I-Form twins 4-3 under plus Run N/A Iso Martin 7
Martin(-1) is doubled and gives ground, eventually dropping to his knees a couple yards downfield. Demens(+0.5) does a decent job on the lead block and does not let it outside. Morgan(-1) seems unaware he has Kovacs helping behind on cutbacks and is hesitant; instead of scraping over to the iso hole he sits behind the Martin mess in case Herron cuts back and can only tackle after he decides on a hole. Heininger(+0.5) was there on the cutback as well.
M36 2 3 I-Form twins 4-3 even Run N/A Iso Morgan 1
Morgan(+2) slams Boren at the LOS and gets outside at said LOS; RVB(+1) has slanted under a tackle and forces the play out, where Morgan ends it for little gain.
M35 3 2 Diamond screen 4-3 under Run N/A QB draw Van Bergen 4
Diamond draws four defenders, leaving six on six in the box with Floyd overhanging. Van Bergen... argh, man, he had this after splitting a couple guys; his penetration into the backfield looks like it will doom the play, and then Miller jukes upfield and Van Bergen(sadface -1) bites on it, falling uselessly upfield as the blocker he beat takes that momentum and amplifies it. Martin(+0.5) and Heininger(+0.5) do a good job to converge on the guy near the LOS; momentum carries them across the line to make. Spielman says this a hold but I don't necessarily agree; Van Bergen never forced the issue by disengaging because of the fake so it's hard to tell.
M31 1 10 I-Form 4-3 under plus Run N/A Iso Morgan 5
Morgan(-1) does not take on the FB block at the LOS and gets crushed a yard downfield, giving ground. Martin(+1) fights through a block to get to the hole and force a cutback; Brink(-1) is in for RVB and gets handled by single blocking easily. With Demens(-0.5) also fighting through a block not very effectively there is a cutback; Woolfolk fills with help from Demens.
M26 2 5 I-Form 4-3 under plus Run N/A Iso Kovacs -2
I was nervous about this live because the line was Campbell/Brink/Black/Heininger and I loved this playcall, one of those Kovacs edge blitzes that gets him in unblocked for a TFL. It also got Heininger(+1) and Black(+1) past blockers into the backfield; with Kovacs(+2, tackling +1) roaring off the edge and tackling that's worth another couple of yards to the D. RPS +2.
M28 3 7 I-Form Nickel even Pass 4 Corner Countess Inc
Plenty of time(pressure -2); Countess(-3, cover -3) gets smoked in man coverage and should give up an easy TD but Miller misses. Picture paged.
Drive Notes: FG(45), 16-10, 10 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
M31 1 10 I-Form 4-3 over plus Pass 6 Scramble Martin 8
DTs stunt and Martin(-2) gets pushed out of the lane he has to be in, so when he and RVB get some pressure after coverage(+1) is there to prevent an immediate throw, Miller can bust out into a lot of grass. Demens(+1, tackling +1) makes a good open field tackle to prevent bigger problems after Michigan rushed six and let the QB through.
M23 2 2 I-Form twins 4-3 under Run N/A Iso Heininger 4
Heininger(-0.5) gets a double and gives some ground, though he fights through decently; Demens(+0.5) took on the iso block near the line and is the key tackler, though he is naturally giving ground as he does so. Morgan(-0.5) again not really relevant because he is hesitant.
M19 1 10 Pistol 2TE 46 bear Run N/A Speed option counter Roh 19
Whether this is brilliant improv or a called play Miller is busting backside on the snap and this is no field reversal based on the defense. Roh(-2) makes the cardinal and only mistake on the play by letting the guy outside of him. Out on the sideline on a counter everyone bit on understandably, it's JT Floyd, a blocker, and all of the air. Gordon(-1, tackling -1) could maybe keep this out of the endzone with an open field tackle; he whiffs. Understandable. RPS -2.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 16-17, 7 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O34 1 10 I-Form twins 4-3 under plus Pass N/A WR screen Countess 9
This is doomed from the start with Countess eight yards off and dropping on the snap. RPS -1.
O43 2 1 I-Form twins 4-3 under plus Run N/A Iso -- 4
Campbell in; he's handled okay by a single block. Demens is running at the FB; Campbell and his guy get in the way. Both FB and LB are kind of like “what now?” If M's LBs were running hard maybe they stop this for a loss or no gain but that's not a good gamble on second and short. Basically a push.
O47 1 10 I-Form 4-3 under Pass 4 PA dumpoff Van Bergen 5
RVB(+1, pressure +1) slants a little, then beats the G and forces Miller to flush after an iso playfake. Miller breaks the pocket, gets pursuit from a couple of DL, and dumps it to Herron, where the LBs converge.
M48 2 5 Shotgun empty 4-3 even Pass 4 Out Morgan Inc
Miller has Hall wide open for a first down (cover -1) as Morgan is keying draw on the snap; he misses.
M48 3 5 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 4 Flare Floyd 5
Roh(+2, pressure +2) again beats the LT, shoving him upfield as he tries to contain the speed rush and impacting Miller just as he checks down to his flare route after the first read is covered(+1). Floyd is there and shoves the guy OOB seemingly short of the first; they are awarded it. Hoke challenges, which is smart since it's not like challenges are actually useful in college and that's a big swing. He loses. Oh well.
M43 1 10 I-Form 4-3 under plus Pass 5 Corner Woolfolk 43
Pressure is not terrible but Kovacs(-0.5) should probably not get outside of Boren, instead he should hold up and not open up this lane. Miller steps up and finds a receiver breaking past Floyd and Woolfolk just as Roh spins off to deal with him. This is all Woolfolk(-3, cover -3) dying when Posey runs the same route that beat Countess.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 23-24, EOH
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O25 1 10 Pistol 2TE 4-3 under plus Pass 4 PA sack Roh -1
Gordon in at FS. Speed option fake and then Miller pivots to the backside of the play. Roh(+1, pressure +1) gets into the tight end on this and then shoots upfield once the TE releases into his route, forcing Miller back inside. Morgan(+2, tackling +1) sees the cut and immediately attacks, which is both smart given the QB and his relatively piddly short zone assignment and effective because he makes an open field tackle. Heininger(+0.5) was pursuing to help as well.
O24 2 11 I-Form twins 4-3 over Run N/A Iso Martin 3
Ryan over the slot and blitzes. Martin(+1) is not doubled and owns Brewster, shoving him back and into the path of the play; Boren runs into that mess, as does Herron. There's nothing there but no one can get through to tackle; eventually Herron pops out the other side and gains a few yards before Morgan and Floyd put him down.
O27 3 8 Shotgun 2-back Okie two deep Run N/A QB draw -- 9
Exact same thing as earlier okie, with guys flaring on the edge and no one in the middle once Morgan drops into a zone and gets blocked. Kovacs comes up on the snap but from the wrong side; Gordon(+1, tackling +1) actually makes a really nice open field tackle to almost kick them off the field but can't quite manage it. RPS -1.
O36 1 10 I-Form twins 4-3 over Pass 5 Waggle corner Gordon 22
Gordon(-2, cover -2) beaten as he's poking his nose in the backfield; Miller has all kinds of time on the edge (pressure -2) and floats it in. RPS -1.
M42 1 10 I-Form 4-3 under plus Run N/A Iso Van Bergen -4
A bit slower developing as this is going at the tackle; Van Bergen(+2) dominates his guy, drives into the backfield, and takes out the FB two yards behind the LOS. Ryan(+2) drives Stoneburner back three yards and when Herron bounces he runs into the TE. Slowed, he stops and reverses field. Van Bergen robs this of its danger by getting upfield and forcing it back again, then he comes back to tackle.
M46 2 14 Shotgun empty Nickel even Pass 4 Tunnel screen Kovacs 7
Posey decides to abort mission for some reason. Not sure why, looks well set up. Maybe RVB coming back? Anyway, it's a good decision as Morgan is out there getting doubled and Floyd has to keep leverage; Kovacs(+1, tackling +1) comes up hard to tackle as soon as feasible but still a good gain. RPS -1.
M39 3 7 Shotgun 2-back Nickel even Run N/A QB draw Van Bergen 3
No okie and this is better defended. M stunts; RVB(+1) comes through into the rushing lane and forces Miller away from lead blocks. Martin(+0.5) and Demens(+0.5) are in the area to hold this down to a moderate gain.
Drive Notes: lolpunt, 30-24, 4 min 3rd Q. Michigan moves it 40 yards and then the Hagerup thing happens.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
M32 1 10 I-Form big 5-3 eagle Run N/A Power off tackle Roh 4
Without Beyer, Michigan's big package is a five man line with Black and Roh the ends with the usual suspects on the interior; Countess is lifted. This is counter action with the play going away from TE motion and an offset fullback. The DL eats this up, with Heininger(+1) and RVB(+1) coming through blocks into the hole; Martin(+1) has beaten a block as well but won't be relevant because Herron can bounce. Roh(-1) is in good position but not prepared to handle the bounce; Demens(-1) ate a block and ends up eight yards off the LOS [Ed-S: Not holding?]; Kovacs fills adequately but misses a tackle(-1). This does maintain leverage and slow Herron so that Martin can get him from behind, so no minus.
M28 2 6 I-Form twins 4-3 over Pass 5 Scramble Morgan 23
Play action. Michigan sends five with Floyd(-1) coming off the corner. He comes in hot and gets shoved way upfield by Boren; Roh is slanting inside of Adams; this opens up a big running lane (pressure -2). Morgan(-2, tackling -1) is in open space and lets Miller outside, turning a first down or so into a big gainer; Floyd does make some amends by tracking Miller down from behind. Without that this is a touchdown.
M5 1 G Pistol Big 5-3 eagle Run N/A Speed option Heininger 2
They go away from the strength of the formation; Heininger(+1) drives playside of his blocker and forces a Miller cutback. Martin(+0.5) is the next guy; he's taking a double at the LOS and Miller has to go behind again. RVB(+0.5) gets an arm on Miller as he cuts behind the Martin double and all the way back here there's no blocking and a lot of Michigan players; gang tackle.
M3 2 G Goal line Goal line Run N/A Iso Ryan 1
Boren's motion brings Ryan(+1) to the line and on the snap he is unaccounted for by the OL; he drives right at the FB and gets him two yards in the backfield with outside leverage, forcing the play inside. With the DL sufficiently occupying the OL there is one guy blocking downfield, that on Floyd, and Demens(+0.5), Gordon, and Morgan combine to tackle after a modest gain. RVB(+0.5) made the hole small.
M2 3 G Goal line Goal line Pass N/A Waggle sack Black -2
No sale! How many times do you see this become easy. Lots of times. Here Kovacs(+1, cover +1) and Morgan(+1, cover +1) flow out onto the receiving options and Miller decides to pull down. Gordon(+0.5) is out on the edge containing, forcing a cutback into Demens(+0.5) and Black(+1), who was unblocked on the edge and supposed to run himself out of the play or get chopped; he kept his feet and flowed from behind, making first contact and removing the chance of some Braxton Miller bull turning this into a TD. RPS +2. Michigan had this murdered dead, with five guys in the area by the time Miller got tackled.
Drive Notes: FG(21), 30-27, 12 min 4th Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O20 1 10 I-Form 4-3 over Pass 4 Dig -- Inc
Panic at the disco here as OSU flips their TE and Michigan tries to flip their formation instead of just shifting to the under. Roh and Ryan are late getting to their destinations. Van Bergen(+1, pressure +1) beats Adams easily and is about to nail Miller from behind when he finds a wide open guy(cover -2) 15 yards downfield. Ball is behind the WR and not brought in.
O20 2 10 I-Form 4-3 even Pass 4 Hitch Ryan 36
Miller drops with a token but not serious PA fake; Michigan rushes four and gets nowhere near. Ryan(-2, cover -2) vacates his zone to run up on a dumpoff route by the RB and opens up a pocket outside of Demens, who has the initial route covered. If OSU is throwing checkdowns at this point in the game, fine. Gordon has bugged out for the deep routes and there is no support after Stoneburner clears the second level resulting in a big gain. Pressure -2; Demens had this covered at first and then OSU was able to adjust because no one got to Miller. RPS –1.
M44 1 10 Shotgun 2-back Nickel even Pass 4 Screen Jones 16
Jones in for Demens at MLB, maybe he screwed up on the last play. M stunts and all DL are out of commission; a bigger problem is Jones(-1, cover -1) never ever reading this and getting killed by a WR cracking down; Avery gets picked off and there's no one until Gordon. RPS -1.
M28 1 10 Pistol 2TE 4-3 under plus Pass 4 PA TE Drag Morgan 20 + 4 pen
Gordon in the box with Kovacs deep. Morgan(-2, cover -2) sees the TE dragging across the formation and gets a shove but not early enough or well enough and that guy breaks past him into open space. Morgan doesn't bug out for the sideline after the shove and this opens up the corner; Morgan simply lacks the athleticism to catch up with a TE. He and Kovacs eventually get him OOB after a big gain. RPS -1. Kovacs(-1) gets a late hit call that is deserved.
M4 1 G I-Form twins 4-3 under Run N/A Iso Floyd 4
RVB(+0.5) stands up his blocker around the LOS; Demens(+0.5) bangs the FB at the line, forcing it outside; Floyd(-2, tackling -1) is unblocked and attacking; he whiffs and lets Herron into the endzone on a play that should have gained a yard or two at most.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 37-34, 7 min 4th Q. Immensely disappointing here. M drives for a TD, gets awarded a FG, and OSU takes over down six with 1:59 on the clock.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O20 1 10 Shotgun empty Nickel even Pass 4 Post Demens Inc
Good time (pressure -1) on a four man rush; Miller throws a wobbler on a deep post Demens(+1, cover +1) is running right with. Very narrow window of opportunity here that Miller cannot hit. Still no safety over the top here... worrisome.
O20 2 10 Shotgun 2-back Okie Run N/A QB draw Morgan 4
Miller checks and Morgan backs out before the snap. Instead of rushing the edges like M has before, Demens, Ryan, and Martin come inside; Morgan(+1) comes up to take on the center's block and sheds playside to help tackle with RVB(+0.5) and Martin(+0.5). RPS +1; Michigan baited OSU into blowing this down and running the clock; OSU burns their last TO. This will become relevant.
O24 3 6 I-Form 3-wide Okie Pass 4 Fly Floyd Inc
Plenty of time(pressure -1); Floyd(-3, cover -3) gets smoked on a double move and beat deep. Miller misses and everybody in the stadium dies from fright.
O24 4 6 Shotgun 2-back Okie Pass 4 Scramble Morgan 7
Four man rush gets RVB(+0.5, pressure +1) through on a slant; he's still getting blocked but he's threatening, so Miller pulls the ball down and starts moving. Lanes have opened up; Morgan(-1, tackling -1) seems like he's in a spy zone as he flies up to deal with what looks like it will be a scramble as soon as Miller busts outside the pocket. He misses, letting Miller outside. Floyd(+0.5) comes up and almost boots OSU off the field with a tackle at the sticks; Miller reaches the ball across the line as he leaps in the air.
O31 1 10 Shotgun empty Nickel even Pass 4 Sack Van Bergen -2
Morgan(+1, pressure +2, RPS +1) sent late as Roh drops off. OSU blows their pickup with the entire interior line trying to deal with a Martin/RVB stunt; Miller rolls away from the pressure and looks like he wants to fire deep but decides against it. Morgan is now coming from behind and Miller tries to come back to the other side of the LOS; RVB(+1, tackling +1) does a great job of anticipating that cutback and shooting up in the tatters of the pocket to sack.
O33 2 12 Shotgun trips Okie Pass 4 Drag Morgan 6
Ryan(+0.5, pressure +1) is coming in unblocked until a guard manages to pop outside and block him; Miller can't count on this happening and decides to go to his hot read, which is a little drag that Morgan(+0.5) is there to tackle immediately on.
O39 3 6 Ace trips Nickel even LOL N/A Spike N/A Inc
lolwut
O39 4 6 Shotgun 2-back Nickel even Pass 4 Hitch Avery INT
Decent time; RVB is coming around the outside and Roh threatens to sack if Miller tries to step up. He throws about a ten yard hitch to a seemingly open guy that Avery(+3, cover +2) tips and then makes a diving interception on.
Drive Notes: Interception, 40-34, EOG.

What happened to all my beautiful defenses?

Mostly Devier Posey, and Mattison failing to account for Devier Posey because he'd played one game, and Jim Bollman going all Citrus 2008. Let's go back to the defense Michigan was running.

That is a run defense with two corners handling vertical routes from outside receivers, and if you've got D'Angelo Hall and the horde of quality VT corners plus a ton of pressure you can get away with it. Michigan did not get a VT level of pressure, whether because of OSU's OL or their fear of letting Braxton Miller's legs take over, and neither Floyd nor Countess had any prayer of covering Posey without help.

In the Picture Pages there were a couple plays in which Countess was beaten to the inside and not punished. The near 80 yard touchdown, for instance:

On the next play Countess recovered to get a PBU on the third and forever that would eventually be a Michigan safety. On their next drive, OSU would go three and out when Miller missed an open TE on third and medium. The drive after that they found themselves in third and medium again. Countess isn't going to get beaten to the inside again. He's done with that. He's learned. He's…

…oh, man.

That same route burned Michigan just before the end of the half:

And then there was this WTF moment on the last drive:

That's all three starters in the secondary getting pwned by Posey. I'm giving whoever drafts him in the second round an A+ for their day.

Mattison's defense was a good idea for the version of the OSU offense we saw most of the year, the one in which Miller has 12, 15, 18 attempts, not 25. He was caught off guard by OSU going to the air and his secondary suffered some confusion—the first TD was just a bust. More than that, they were just incapable of covering Posey one on one. Four times Miller had Posey wide open for touchdowns: the two above, the mindboggling Floyd bite on the last drive, and the actual touchdown. Miller hit him once.

But he had to put Kovacs in the box to contain the OSU running game.

I get the idea but in practice it was pointless. Kovacs had three tackles and an assist:

  1. Sack after blitzing from safety depth
  2. TFL after weakside edge blitz
  3. Downfield fill from safety depth
  4. Not sure if this was his assist, another safety fill

I get going into the game with a plan but they stuck with it way too long; going to a two-deep shell and forcing OSU to execute underneath would have been far less harrowing. Miller's accuracy is just as goofy underneath. Michigan dared OSU to beat them over the top and OSU was like "okay."

I mean, look at the—

DON'T LOOK AT THE CHART

Look at the chart.

Note that a paucity of plays charted—only 40—means you should multiply numbers by about 1.5 to get an average day's work. I am going to work on something that fixes this variability for next year.

Defensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Van Bergen 17.5 2 15.5 Dang.
Martin 9.5 3 6.5 Slight letdown.
Roh 5.5 3 2.5 Got safety; let Miller outside on speed option counter.
Heininger 5.5 1.5 4 Quality.
Brink - 1 -1 Cameo.
Black 2 - 2 Part of big third down stop.
Campbell 1 - 1 Didn't register.
TOTAL 41 10.5 30.5 Caveat: pressure was –1 and DL didn't get much of it.
Linebacker
Player + - T Notes
Morgan 7.5 10.5 -3 Worrisome lack of athleticism evident on a couple plays.
Demens 5.5 4 1.5 Ate some blocks.
Ryan 5.5 3 2.5 Was not a major factor.
Fitzgerald - - - DNP
Beyer - - - DNP
Hawthorne - - - Garbage time.
Jones - 1 -1 Cameo.
TOTAL 18.5 18.5 0 Going to be hard to maintain D without increased production from these folks.
Secondary
Player + - T Notes
Floyd 1 6.5 -5.5 Yeesh.
Avery 3 - 3 Game ending INT only time he was thrown at.
Woolfolk - 3 -3 One long TD on him.
Kovacs 5.5 4 1.5 Should probably be filed as LB.
T. Gordon 1.5 3 -1.5 Didn't give up anything huge.
Countess 2.5 10 -7.5 Could not deal with deep stuff by himself.
Van Slyke - - - DNP
TOTAL 13.5 26.5 -13 Thanks for being inaccurate, Miller.
Metrics
Pressure 13 14 -1 Erratic, usually based on blitzes.
Coverage 11 30 -19 Not so much.
Tackling 6 7 46% Miller is tough.
RPS 8 15 -7 walrusball'd

I generally give out –3 for wide open dudes who are wide open and only exceed that for massive busts like the first TD, so that –13 understates the carnage. Mattison got burned up in this game, possibly because OSU flipped their personality.

A note on what might seem like some abnormally high defensive line numbers: they did create a safety and basically crush any conventional rushing attempts.

On 15 rushing attempts of the inside zone, iso, and power variety OSU averaged 2.3 YPC. QB draws on which Mattison got RPSed in the okie and Miller scrambles that the DL is only partially responsible for account for 71 of Miller's 115 rushing yards; outside of that Miller averaged 4 YPC. So… yeah, the DL was hugely responsible for the stops Michigan did get. They were a little disappointing as far as getting pressure goes; they were nails against the run.

That's another reason the gameplan was disappointing. Given the way M's DL was beating up the OSU OL they could have gotten away with a safer defense. This was Mattison's version of the Borges MSU gameplan: way, way too aggressive. Bad now, encouraging from a program standpoint since it'll work a hell of a lot better when the defensive backfield is full of bluechips or dudes who beat out bluechips instead of freshmen and sleepers.

But we love Mattison!

Yes, yes. This was money:

It happens to everybody. You go into a game with a plan that falls apart upon contact with the enemy. Given what we'd seen from OSU earlier in the year the plan had sense to it, but M couldn't handle wildcard Posey, busted a couple times, and were caught off guard by the OSU gameplan. It happens. Michigan still got through, and it is worth pointing out that it wasn't quite that bad for the D. They picked up a safety and ten points were given up on drives that started around the Michigan 30. You should charge the D with about 26 points given up since they did get that safety and two field goals were likely after OSU got that starting field position.

Good? No, still no. Better? Yes.

What's this about being worried about next year's defense?

With the linebackers barely treading water most of the year it's a bit scary what might happen if the downgrade on the DL is severe. It was watching this play that gave me the heebie-jeebies:

If three different DL players (two and a half if we're talking about Ryan, I guess) don't execute well there isn't a linebacker in the picture once Herron makes it to the second level. That may just be the way the defense is supposed to go; if so you are heavily dependent on having players as good and active as Martin and Van Bergen. I wouldn't be surprised to see both current MLB starters see their positions come under threat.

The LBs were good at taking on iso blocks in this game but Morgan in particular struggles to scrape to the hole when there's any possibility of a cutback. That's better than being too aggressive but B- work at best.

If the defensive line is good next year, well, then we can just expect them to kick ass until Hoke or Mattison is out. Here's hoping.

Hey, have an unsung hero?

Yeah: Matt Wile. Remember Michigan's terrible kickoff coverage from earlier in the year? It was bad! I didn't like it.

That coverage has improved, but what's even better is the relative paucity of kick return attempts. Four of eight Ohio State drives that started on kickoffs saw Wile get a touchback. When Brian Fremeau debuted a special teams FEI Michigan was languishing around 80th; now they're up to 59th. Kickoffs (20th) are their best phase of special teams. A major reason for that is Wile started putting a bunch of them in the endzone. Thumbs up.

Heroes?

Ryan Van Bergen had a monster day, the best of his career. A fitting sendoff. Martin was also very good, and the two "also starring" members of the DL turned in big plays here and there. That DL laughs at all the Buckeye chatter about how no one on Michigan's team would start for OSU. Hell, the OL does too.

If you pool the two teams' lines and pick starters at their positions OSU gets two: John Simon at WDE and JB Shugarts at RT. I'm not taking a single other Buckeye OL/DL over their Michigan counterparts after watching that game. Will Heininger is flat-out better than Garrett Goebel. Just look at the RB YPC.

Goats?

Mattison, the secondary.

What does it mean for the bowl game and the future?

Well, Michigan should probably take it easy with the hyper-aggressive-no-help coverage back there if Virginia Tech has a high quality wideout. I haven't watched any film yet to see whether Jarrett Boykin is that guy.

Anyway, the secondary was exposed. Countess is young and Floyd isn't ready to go up against a truly elite guy like Posey by himself; Woolfolk just never regained any form after his parade of injuries. Michigan needs reinforcements down the line.

The key matchup against the VT offense will be the Michigan DL working on that VT OL. If they can duplicate their success against OSU, David Wilson can be a scary dude and still creak out 3 YPC. That should mean a return to form.