Opportunity Seized

Opportunity Seized

Submitted by Ace on September 22nd, 2012 at 11:32 PM


Upchurch/MGoBlog

It was there for the taking.

It was there when Michigan had a first-and-goal on their third possession, when Vincent Smith—yes, Vincent Smith—threw an interception in the end zone.

It was there on each of the next four drives, each ending with a Denard Robinson interception.

It was there when—despite the above—Michigan faced just a ten-point deficit on their first possession of the second half, when they drove to the Notre Dame 16, only to lose a Robinson fumble.

It was there when the defense forced a do-or-die third-and-four with 2:35 on the clock, only to see Tyler Eifert beat J.T. Floyd down the sideline for a 38-yard completion.

In a game that felt like karmic retribution for the last three years, however, Michigan never seized control, instead making error after crippling error until there were no more errors to make. The defense did everything in their power to overcome the offense, holding Notre Dame to just 239 yards on 4.8 yards per play and forcing two interceptions of their own. They could not stop Robinson from turning the ball over, though, and in the end it was a triumphant Tommy Rees kneeling the clock out.

The turnovers overshadowed a stellar defensive effort, one that will sadly be forgotten in the aftermath. Notre Dame starting quarterback Everett Golson was completely ineffective, completing just one fewer pass to Michigan (two) than he did to his own team. The Irish rushing attack never got going, gaining 94 yards on 31 carries. Jordan Kovacs (7 tackles, 1 TFL) and Jake Ryan (5 tackles, all solo) both turned in outstanding games. With no margin for error, however, all it took was two poor plays on third downs—a pass interference by freshman Jarrod Wilson on the goal line and the final pass to Eifert—to foil an otherwise textbook Mattison game.

On offense, the bright spots are fewer and farther between. Fitz Toussaint finally got some holes to run though and looked like his nimble 2011 self when he found them. Roy Roundtree make a few crucial catches after largely disappearing from the offense this year. Al Borges added a promising wrinkle when Devin Gardner took an end-around only to throw downfield to fullback Joe Kerridge, drawing a pass interference on the opening drive. That's about it.

As I'm sure will be said ad nauseam in the coming bye week, all of Michigan's goals are still within reach. The Big Ten is awful and still very much there for the taking. If the Wolverines are to seize that chance, however, they'll have to be far more opportunistic than they were tonight, when a fourth straight victory over the Irish slipped through their fingers and into the hands of a team more willing to take advantage.

Tuesday Presser Transcript 9-18-12: Greg Mattison

Tuesday Presser Transcript 9-18-12: Greg Mattison

Submitted by Heiko on September 18th, 2012 at 4:20 PM

Greg Mattison

file

Opening remarks:

“Well obviously you know this is a big week, and it’s a great, great football game and it’s going to be a great test for our defense, and just starting out I can tell you our guys are really excited. We as coaches are really excited, so we are looking forward to playing this game.”

How impressed were you with how Notre Dame played against Michigan State?

“Very impressed. They’re a very good football tam. They can run the football. The quarterback really impressed me with his ability to throw the football as well as he puts a lot of pressure on you when he takes off scrambling, and he can run. They’ve got some fast running backs. They’ve got a pretty good thing going.”

Is preparation for them different this year compared with last year?

“Uh, you know I don’t know if it’s any different prep. They’ve changed a little bit but they’re still Notre Dame. They want to run the football and they want you to make mistakes so they can hopefully get a shot on you and try to test your coverage with their speed and take shots down field. So I think it’s a lot alike. ”

Upon Further Review 2012: Defense vs Air Force

Upon Further Review 2012: Defense vs Air Force

Submitted by Brian on September 13th, 2012 at 2:38 PM

Formation Notes: Oh, the humanity.

vlcsnap-2012-09-10-19h50m39s70

This is an I-form. Sweet. Air Force started out motioning the outside WR into the gap between the two backs, FWIW.

vlcsnap-2012-09-10-20h00m22s129

This was called "near 3-wide unbalanced" because I think NCAA calls formations with RB alignments like that "near" and "far". Yes, large sections of my nomenclature are lifted from EA Sports. It is the closest thing to a lingua franca we have for footballing jargon. Note the covered-up slot WR. That's the unbalanced bit. You discovered this in the Picture Pages.

vlcsnap-2012-09-10-20h05m24s35

This is "flexbone big," which means there's a TE on the line. Just flexbone means the two wingbacks and two WRs.

op-1

This was "near half-flex."

As for Michigan, they spend most of the game in a 4-4 with a three-deep shell. They would shift the line towards the field side. I called it "under" even when it was technically "over" because Michigan aligns to field and Air Force doesn't really have a declared formation strength because of all the motion they do.

Substitution notes: The humanity continues. Michigan started Roh-Campbell-Black-Beyer on the line, rotating in Clark, Heitzman, Pipkins, and Brink extensively. Ojemudia also got time, mostly after Beyer went out with his "knee strain."

At linebacker, Ryan got the most playing time; he was spotted by Cam Gordon on a couple drives. Michigan started with Demens-Morgan, then started rotating in Bolden and Ross. Demens did not appear in the second half; the final AF drive in their base offense featured Ross and Bolden both on the field simultaneously.

In the secondary, Gordon, Kovacs, and Floyd took every snap. Avery started out as the other corner and was replaced by Taylor midway through the second. Gordon moved down to the nickelback spot and Jarrod Wilson came in when Air Force was stuck in passing downs, which was rarely.

Show? Show.

Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O25 1 10 I-Form 3-wide tight 4-3 even Run N/A Triple option Floyd 12
Wingback motions to backfield before snap, creating Maryland I. I am going to be guessing a lot here. Dive doesn't get it; QB and RB head out with the wingback as a lead blocker. Gordon(-1) motions inside of the tight WR on the AF motion and looks in the backfield, getting sealed away by the WR easily. Floyd(-2) doesn't know what he's looking at for way too long; Gordon's getting plowed for steps before he finally commits to a run fill. He ends up trying to dodge a cut block eight yards downfield; I'm guessing he probably needs to be turning this inside at the numbers five yards further up. RB gets the corner. Morgan had good pursuit and Kovacs makes a good tackle at the sticks, FWIW.
O37 1 10 Near 3-wide unbalanced 4-3 under Run N/A Counter dive Black 4
AF did this a lot: line up the slot on the LOS. This should scream run at that slot defender. Here they motion towards that and hand it off on the backside, aiming for the hole between NT Campbell and 5-tech Roh. Campbell(-1) gets blown up by a downblock; Black(+0.5) blasts a G trying to pull across his face. This prevents the G from getting out on Demens, but then Black gets confused and starts chasing the QB. FB blasts into the G, who is now blasting Demens, and can fall forward for a few yards.
O41 2 6 Flexbone Big 4-3 over Run N/A FB power Beyer 4 + 10 Pen
Power == pulling guard. This is not a true option as the QB is not looking at anything but the FB as he gives. Beyer(-1) is unblocked for a moment, thinks he has to get down on the dive back(?--I thought M used DEs for the QB) and then gets nailed by the guard. He's sealed inside, FB bounces out. Morgan(+1) is getting blocked, sheds to the outside, and tackles. He's just catching the guy because of the blocker and everyone falls backwards. RPS -1; this took a pretty good play from Morgan to not hit the first down. Campbell(-1) gets a flag for tackling an AF lineman [BWS] trying to get to the second level.
M45 1 10 N/A N/A Penalty N/A False start N/A -5
Freedom.
50 1 15 I-Form 3-wide unbalanced 4-3 even Run N/A Speed option Gordon -1
They motion a guy to the field and run to it. He goes for Kovacs. FB goes for Demens. Morgan(+1) forces the pitch and then pursues well; Gordon(+1) gets the edge on the WR and should force it back inside the numbers but seems to get held and falls; no call. Getz is at the sideline and has to delay to get around the falling Gordon; he falls at the LOS. Morgan was there for a minimal gain even if he keeps his feet.
O49 2 16 Ace 4-wide 4-3 under Run N/A QB draw Ryan 7
Acceptable given situation. Demens(-0.5) reacts quickly enough to get past a blocker and force a bounce but ends up falling; Ryan(+0.5) forces it back and trips the QB. Demens not being on his feet gives up some extra yardage. Morgan was pursuing and helps finish.
M44 3 9 Ace 3-wide Nickel under Pass 4 Scramble Demens 9
Dietz comes off first read as Avery(+1, cover +1) gets depth to carry a seam to the safety. Morgan(+1, cover +1) is on the other slant and the outside guys are covered; Demens(-1, cover -1) is nowhere near the RB release, which could go for the first; Dietz doesn't bother to throw it and takes off; Black(-0.5) and Ryan(-0.5) can't make shoestring tackles(-1), and Demens's late reaction gives Dietz a first down.
M35 1 10 Flexbone 4-3 under Run N/A Triple option Kovacs 1
Washington(+0.5) gets nice push, and there's nothing on the dive, so a pull. Ryan is sitting on the edge and takes the QB. Kovacs(+1, tackling +1) was not blocked on this play and so does what Kovacs does when you don't block him, which is plaster the ballcarrier.
M34 2 9 Flexbone 4-3 under Pass 4 Drag N/A 6
This is ludicrously bad refereeing. Two Air Force OL release downfield on a pass play. One of them cut-blocks Demens! By the time Dietz releases the ball these two guys are six yards downfield. Anyway. Beyer(-1) gets cut by an RB and allows Dietz outside, where he calmly hits a little drag that Ryan is in meh coverage on. Pressure -1, Refs -2.
M28 3 3 Offset I-Form 4-3 over Penalty N/A Offsides Washington 5
Washington(-1)
M23 1 10 Near 3-wide unbalanced 4-3 under Run N/A Speed option Kovacs 3
AF motion man moves back and then starts moving towards the LOS pre-snap, no call. He ends up falling to the ground, possibly on purpose, as he blocks Demens along with another Falcon. Ryan on the edge with QB; Dietz fakes keeping it and draws him, in then pitches late. Kovacs is a bit late on this one, but it's a three yard gain so call it a push.
M20 2 7 I-Form 3-wide 4-3 under Run N/A Iso Roh 2
Campbell(+1) gets under his guy and pushes him back, which forces the RB to alter his flight path in the backfield a bit. Probably needed a little better angle but this was still good. Roh(-1) got blown out, though, so when RB alters path there's still a hole. Demens avoids one block only to eat the FB; Morgan(+0.5) and Ryan(+0.5) close to tackle in the hole. Call it a push for the LBs.
M18 3 5 Flexbone 4-3 under Run N/A Counter option Ryan -1
Roh(+1) does not get faked out by the dive action and is there to force a quick pitch; Ryan(+2) is on the edge one on one and makes the open-field TFL(+1)
Drive Notes: Missed FG(36), 0-0, 9 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O25 1 10 Flexbone 4-4 under Run N/A Triple option N/A -1
Gordon rolled down with three deep across the top. AF fumbles the dive exchange.
O24 2 11 I-Form 3-wide 4-4 under Run N/A Triple option Morgan -1
Motion to Maryland I. Man, they have this as again Gordon(-1) get sealed inside way too easily but Dietz does not make Morgan(+2) commit; he shoots out on the edge and makes a TFL in space (tackling +1). Floyd(-1) ended up on his face five yards downfield; if Morgan is forced to take the QB this could have been a big gain.
O23 3 12 Ace trips Nickel even Pass 4 Corner Taylor 15
Taylor(-1, cover -1) does not get enough depth on his drop; he's seven yards downfield, sucked up on third and twelve when a corner route is going on behind him. He recovers well but the ball is a foot over his hand and AF's big leapy guy can bring it in in front of an immediate tackle from Kovacs. C. Gordon(+0.5, pressure +1) was in the QB's feet as he throws; without this being open a likely scramble and three and out.
O38 1 10 Flexbone 3-wide 4-4 under Run N/A Outside pitch. Floyd 9
No back; guy comes in motion and gets a quick pitch to the outside. C. Gordon(-1) gets crushed inside by a WR and ends up going upfield of him, which never works. This knocks a pursuing Roh out of the play as well. Downfield, Demens avoids one cut block only to take a second block as he's still trying to find his balance. Floyd(-2) again ends up on his face eight yards downfield. Morgan flows about as fast is as reasonably possible and manages to make contact from the side a ways downfield. Floyd needs to get on his horse as soon as he sees that WR crack down on the LB.
O47 2 1 Flexbone Big 4-4 under Run N/A Triple option Washington 1
Dive. Washington(+1) actually does a good job of getting under his guy and pushing him back into the runner but he's got no help since Roh gave ground to a double. That's tough.
O48 1 10 Near half-flex 4-4 under Run N/A Triple option Floyd 11
Kovacs again is supposed to have the pitchman; this time the WR releases downfield a bit, then cracks down on him. Floyd(-1) doesn't read this until it's way too late. RPS -1.
M41 1 10 Flexbone big 4-4 under Pass N/A PA waggle drag Gordon 18
This looks like a flood play but really there's just one WR this ever goes to. The guy who took Avery deep on a fly route is blocking the whole way. This is part structure(RPS -2), part Gordon(-1, cover -1) sucking way up. Fundamentally he was screwed, though, covering one of two guys.
M23 1 10 Flexbone 4-4 under Run N/A FB dive Campbell 4
Campbell(-1) gets cut to the ground and the immediate release of the guard is not punished. Demens doesn't do great here but I'm not sure what he can do. It'll be interesting to see what, if anything, the freshmen are doing better.
M19 2 6 Flexbone 4-4 under Run N/A FB dive Campbell 5
Same thing. When your NT is just falling to the ground on the FB dive that goes right behind him the linebackers cannot do anything about it, because they are getting insta-OL in their junk. Campbell -1. Brink(-1) also blown back.
M14 3 1 Flexbone Big Goal line Penalty N/A False start -- -5
Service.
M19 3 6 Near half-flex 4-4 under Run N/A Triple option Taylor 7
Same thing: Block Kovacs, exploit crappy corner support. This time it's Taylor(-1) who gives up the corner.
M12 1 10 Flexbone 4-4 under Run N/A Counter dive Washington 8
Washington(-2) gets blown down the line; Roh(-1) is easily locked out by the LT. Big hole. Demens reads the play and tries to get to it but he's basically screwed. He gets blocked by a guy with a great angle. Morgan(-2) ran himself way out of the play and it's only a superior play from Kovacs(+2, tackling +2) to avoid a block and make a diving ankle tackle that prevents this from being six points.
M4 2 2 Flexbone 4-4 under Run N/A FB dive Roh 1
Roh(+1) gets under his guy and pushes him into the running lane. This forces a cutback into Ryan(+0.5) and Demens(+0.5), who tackle for no YAC. Washington(-1) had gotten blown up, FWIW.
M3 3 1 Flexbone 3-wide Goal line Run N/A Outside pitch. Avery -1
AF blows this as the WR to the playside is headhunting Ryan, who's on the LOS and moving upfield at the snap this means he takes a bad angle that 1) immediately tips Avery that this is a run and 2) picks off the flex guy assigned to him. Avery(+1) moves up, forms up, and makes contact two yards behind the LOS. Ryan(+1) flattens the guy assigned to him and flows out to make sure there is no funny business. RPS+1. Putting Ryan on the line made AF go all crazy.
Drive Notes: FG(22), 7-3, 3 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O10 1 10 Flexbone unbalanced 4-4 under Run N/A FB dive Bolden 3
Bolden(+0.5) in. He does do better than Demens on this dive, hitting the guard about a yard from the LOS. He loses the battle a bit but does hit the FB directly before falling over backwards. He saves Michigan a yard over Demens, so here's a half-point.
O13 2 7 Ace 4-wide unbalanced 4-3 even Penalty N/A False start -- -5
Service this time.
O8 2 12 Ace twins 4-3 under Pass N/A Waggle out Floyd 6
I think. He's the CB on this side and he is not even in the frame as this completion is made. Hard to tell if it's a good idea because they had to go deep or not. Still... suspicious. Floyd -1, cover -1. Fortunate AF does not execute better here, they could have turned this upfield at the sideline for first down yardage easy. Beyer(-0.5) gave up the corner, FWIW. Pressure -1.
O14 3 6 Flexbone tight 4-3 under Pass N/A Scramble Ryan 4
They fake that effective quick pitch and shoot three WRs the opposite way. Taylor(+1), Bolden(+1), and Ryan(+1), cover these guys... it's dodgy for the former two but they are enough to dissuade a throw, and then they attack at the right moment to prevent Dietz from running for the first. (Cover +3). Taylor came up late, leaving the deeper guy to Gordon and preventing AF from going over the top of these LBs.
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-3, 12 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O25 1 10 Ace 3-wide 4-4 under Run N/A Counter dive Bolden 4
Bolden is staring right at this and gets no blocker so he just runs right up in the hole, making contact after a yard. That contact is won by the FB, who pushes Bolden over backwards. Clark comes to help finish. A push; Bolden could have done better here but did not screw up an easy play.
O29 2 6 Near half-flex 4-4 under Run N/A Triple option Roh -2
Roh(+1) shoves the LT inside and releases into the QB, who has to pitch early. CGordon(+1) is the guy on the edge here and makes a nice open field TFL. AF RT stumbled here, making this easier for Roh.
O27 3 8 Ace trips Nickel even Pass 5 Throwaway Black Inc
Blitz sends Avery and Bolden with Gordon backing out; Black(+1) stunts around and gets through as the RG blocks air. Roh(+1) is coming up the edge as Black chases Dietz out of the pocket and he's all like F this I'm outie. This was a jailbreak [BWS]. (Pressure +3, RPS +2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 14-3, 6 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O45 1 10 Flexbone 4-4 under Run N/A Counter power Demens 3
RT is pulling inside of the G here. Ojemudia almost tracks this down from behind but can't quite get there. Black(+0.5) constricts the hole, causing the RT to stumble. Demens(+0.5) is there for a tackle near the LOS.
O48 2 7 Flexbone 4-4 under Pass 4 PA throwaway Roh Inc
Fake pitch into a fake option to the other side and then into a pass attempt. Avery(+1, cover +1) isn't biting on that stuff and the deep route is not immediately open. Roh(+1, pressure +1) then chucks the LT and gets pressure—probably gets held—forcing a throwaway.
O48 3 7 Flexbone Nickel even Run N/A QB draw Roh 14
DTs split too much and give up a running lane; contain should be the name of the game here. Roh, Campbell -1. Now there's trouble as the LBs are pass dropping against blockers. Demens(-1) can't do anything; Morgan is trying to flow into the gap and may be able to make a tackle but one of the downfield blockers for Air Force literally tackles him, reaching out to grab his ankles. RPS -1. This opened up big. Just play it straight when they're in the bone, it's not like their passing game is forcing you into the nickel on third and seven.
O34 1 10 I-Form 3-wide 4-4 under Run N/A Lead zone Morgan 3
Heitzman(-2) gets scooped really badly. Insta-second level means Demens has to fight off a cut block, which he does. Morgan(+1) beats up the blocker on the edge and Gordon(+1) shoots past his, forcing a cutback. Demens could be there but for the DL. Beyer(+0.5) is there, but giving ground; momentum carries Getz for a few yards.
O31 2 7 Flexbone 4-4 under Run N/A Quick pitch Ryan 7 – 15 Pen
Ryan(-2) chopped to the ground by a cut block, back goes outside of him, no chance for anyone else to do anything about it. Brink was pursuing and may have had a shot. Demens again ate a block from a guy releasing right away; he kept his feet; not sure if there's anything at all he can do to prevent himself from getting hit there. Kovacs(+0.5) beat a block to get to the edge and prevented this from breaking even bigger. At the end of this play, the AF guy who took out Ryan gets up and clearly talks smack to him. Good on you, flexback. AF gets a call for tripping as that OL who cut Demens puts his legs up when Morgan jumps over him. Not relevant to the play.
O40 2 16 Flexbone Big Nickel even Pass 4 Dumpoff Floyd 6
I think Floyd(-1) blows a coverage on the TE here as he is headed for the corner and Floyd turns around and chases him; Gordon(+1) has his back, dropping into that route and preventing it from being thrown. With both of those guys focused on a deeper route the swing underneath opens up for good yardage.
O34 3 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Run N/A Speed option Kovacs 11
RB moves simultaneously with snap; legal. They get out on the corner quick. Ryan is unblocked and optioned off. Morgan(-1) is slashed to the ground. He takes two with him as AF ends up doubling him. Three guys on the edge now: Avery, Kovacs, and Demens. Demens(+0.5) takes a good angle past the guy trying to cut him and is in the area ready for action about four yards downfield; Kovacs(-2) goes upfield of his blocker and loses leverage; Taylor(-1) is aggressive but puts himself right on the sideline and doesn't keep this hole small. Demens flows to tackle, but too late.
O23 1 10 Near half-flex twins 4-4 under Run N/A Triple option Ryan 4
Roh shucks past a tackle and then eats a cut block. Demens also gets hit with a block right away, he stays on his feet but he's been shoved away from the POA. Ryan(+2) is alone on the edge with both guys and splits them such that Dietz turns it up and Ryan can tackle him. Washington was coming from behind but fell, Clark pursued from the other end to help tackle. I should probably find a minus on a four yard run but can't. I plead option.
O19 2 6 Offset I-Form 4-4 under Run N/A End around Taylor 12
Dive fake and then a handoff to that guy going in orbit motion. Ryan is looking in the backfied and gets lit up by a receiver cracking down on him. Taylor(-2) is way off despite this being in the redzone and comes up poorly, getting cut to the ground and allowing the back to leap over him. Demens was flowing as soon as he figured out where the ball was going; he can't get to the sideline. RPS -1... hard to figure out how M will defend this.
O7 1 G Flexbone 4-4 under Run N/A FB dive Campbell 2
Campbell(+1) is falling over but in the running lane; RB falls over him. Demens(+0.5) is there to help stop his momentum as well.
O5 2 G Flexbone 4-4 under Run N/A Triple option Refs 5
This is the play where Arena league flex guy is hauling ass at the LOS before the snap and cuts Kovacs to the ground. Demens(-1) gets cut really badly here but once this goes outside Ryan there's no one to fill because Kovacs(-1) got blown up. Refs -2.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-10, 1 min 2nd Q. Hoke should have called a timeout once AF had second and goal with the clock running.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O12 1 10 Near half-flex 4-4 under Run N/A Triple option Gordon 14 + 10 pen
So there's still no help on the edge as the flexback is running right at Kovacs(-1), who gets cut. Morgan(-1) also goes down. I don't think that's too much on Kovacs but on Michigan failing to adjust here. The CB has to respect the deep route being run by the WR, Gordon is on the edge, and he has support on the interior—he should take the pitch. Instead he takes QB, again corner is open, big gain. RPS -1. Campbell(-1) gets another holding call for tackling an AF OL, which is why Bolden is running free. Picture-paged.
O36 1 10 Near half-flex tight 4-4 under Run N/A Counter power Bolden 6
RT pulls. A back shoots down onto Clark, cutting him off, and then the RB moves through the backside hole between the NT and Roh. Bolden eats the OL in the hole. Morgan(-1) is gone to the fake; Michigan is fortunate that Ryan(+0.5) reads it and comes down on the RB to tackle as he shoots through the gap. Bolden(+1) did force the RB into Ryan, whether it was intentional or not. Result-based charting. Big hole as Roh and Campbell(-1) got kicked. I get Roh since he's contain on the backside. Not so much Campbell, who ends up father away from the play than two guys lined up outside of him.
O42 2 4 Flexbone 4-4 under Run N/A FB dive Bolden 2
Straight ahead at the Roh/Campbell gap. Bolden hits it as fast as possible, they get a couple yards, everyone says that's how that has to go down, next snap. Bolden +0.5 I guess, for keeping this to two yards.
O44 3 2 Flexbone tight 4-4 under Run N/A Counter dive Bolden 3
Again at the same gap, with the LT coming off of Roh to hit Bolden. Contact is made at a yard, but Roh is on the side and Bolden's getting hit so momentum pushes the pile over the line. Another push; this is just what happens unless someone MAKES PLAYS.
O47 1 10 Flexbone 4-4 under Pass 4 Out Taylor Inc
Straight dropback! No pressure(-2), though I understand. AF WR does not sell his route and rounds it off, allowing Taylor(+2, cover +2) to break on the ball and break it up.
O47 2 10 Near half-flex tight 4-4 under Run N/A Counter power Washington 7
Same play they just ran. Clark(+1) actually does a great job to get under the same block he just fell victim to. He comes through it and shoulders Getz, but he's literally shedding this block as he makes contact and can't use his arms. Brink(-1) fights way far upfield; they block Ryan. Washington(-1) is buried. Bolden hits the pulling T right at the LOS but there's just huge amounts of space to both sides of him. He sheds and tackles downfield. Morgan(-1) again misses the T pulling in front of his face.
M46 3 3 Near half-flex 4-4 under Run N/A Quick pitch Morgan 11
Back goes in motion before the snap and they pitch it out; no adjustment from M before the snap. Gordon has to keep leverage and turn it in. He does. Clark(-1) doesn't adjust to the motion and goes upfield, no pursuit. Morgan(-1) starts moving about two steps after the OT flares out and has no shot. He leaps a cut, but the delay is more than enough. Kovacs(-1, tackling -1) isn't going to prevent a first down; his missed tackle adds five or six.
M35 1 10 Ace twins twin TE 4-3 under Pass N/A Waggle cross Taylor 17
Bolden(-2, cover -2) gets utterly lost on the play action and lets this guy get open by ten yards. Yeah, so now they're decisive. Taylor(-2, cover -2) also sucked way up and didn't get depth even when it was clear this was a pass. There's no run threat to his side and he's still flying upfield. Nyet.
M18 1 10 Flexbone Big 4-4 under Run N/A FB dive Bolden 3
Campbell cut, ends up on ground, etc. Must be the scheme. Bolden(-0.5) there but not quite decisive enough and misses a tackle, Morgan and Floyd combine to finish the guy as he squeezes through the line.
M15 2 7 Ace twins 4-3 under Pass N/A Waggle hitch Floyd 9
Ojemudia(-1) flows hard down the line and gives up the corner (pressure -2). Floyd has to drop into the corner route and gives up a super easy completion in front of him, but that's a coverage thing—three guys ended up trying to cover one AF player. Cover -2, RPS -1.
M6 1 G I-Form 3-wide 4-4 under Run N/A Lead zone Roh 3
Roh(+1) thrusts playward, getting penetration and keeping the edge; he picks off the FB and forces a cut inside. Bolden(-0.5) gets past a blocker but his angle is not directly at the hole the RB must hit if he's going to be relevant. Ryan(+0.5) is containing but reads the cutback and gets a tackle in. Campbell did get a little penetration. FWIW.
M3 2 G Flexbone Goal line Run N/A FB dive Black 2
Black(+1) immediately hops inside his blocker, and though he falls he forces a cutback. Clark(-1) again just shoulders a defender and starts falling over; he's not there to stand the RB up, and he falls forward for two yards.
M1 3 G Flexbone Goal line Run N/A QB sneak Campbell 0
Campbell(+1) gets lower than two blockers and everyone falls at the LOS, not beyond it; Bolden(+1) is the first of many people to jump on Dietz. Roh(+1) also had a large hand in stalling the momentum of the pile.
M1 4 G Near half-flex tight Goal line Run N/A Quick pitch N/A 1
Michigan sends everybody, and Air Force calls rock to their scissors, shooting Getz outside and getting it easily since Taylor is blitzing. I don't RPS plays like this since you've got to roll the dice to stop them from getting a yard.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-17, 9 min 3rd Q. That's kind of depressing.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O34 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Run N/A Speed option Ross 4
Our first all-freshman LB corps. AF motions a WR to the short side and runs a speed option at three WRs and not much space. Ross(+1) is blitzing with Bolden moving to cover him at the snap. He bowls over the WR who is trying to seal him inside, and the QB cuts up. Heitzman(-0.5) gets significantly delayed by a scoop block and blown off the line so there's a gap for him. Pipkins(+0.5) shot through the line at a crappy angle on the backside and manages to come around and tackle.
O38 2 6 Flexbone unbalanced 4-4 under Pass N/A PA fly Kovacs 32
They show their option and shoot that flexback downfield at Kovacs again. Kovacs is like NOT THIS TIME BUDDY, is determined to get outside of him, and... guy runs right by him. How the hell you're supposed to not have this happen I don't know. I guess you can key on is Roh getting blocked. Yes, in this case. Otherwise, screwed. I have to give him a -2, cover -4, but this is also an RPS -4, the culmination of Michigan's scheme leaving them vulnerable to this. WR is hit over the top with eight yards lead on the nearest defender, but bobbles the ball and falls over, which is the only thing preventing a TD. Picture-paged.
M30 1 10 ??? ??? Run N/A Counter dive ??? 0
I think. They are showing a replay on this down. No idea. Some pluses should be handed out for a zero yard run, and are not.
M30 2 10 Ace twins twin TE 4-3 under Pass N/A Waggle scramble CGordon 10
Coverage(+2) is good. Brink(-1) is chasing on the end but he's either slow or not going maximum speed. Either way this opens up more space than the QB should have. Bolden is underneath on a TE. CGordon(-1) roars up late when it becomes clear a scramble is coming but overruns it and gives up more yardage than is necessary.
M20 3 In Flexbone 4-3 under Run N/A FB dive Ross 2
They get it.
M18 1 10 Near half-flex tight Okie Run N/A FB dive Washington 2
Washington(+1) gets some push and impacts the FB with his blocker; Bolden(+0.5) pulls out of the seven man front and tackles unmolested.
M16 2 8 Flexbone big 4-4 under Run N/A FB dive Black 2
Oookay. Black(+1) dodges a cut and Ross(+1) again plows a blocker back; those two tackle after the usual two yards.
M14 3 6 Ace 3-wide 4-3 under Run N/A QB draw Bolden 6
Michigan stunts, pulling Black around and sealing the intended hole. Bolden(-2) does not read this and sits, waiting for the QB to come through the hole the stunt closes off; he cuts behind where Washington was always going to get sealed off from thanks to the stunt. Black almost makes a saving play after avoiding a cut and coming around but can't; Bolden is not where he needs to be and this breaks for the first down. Ryan, who starts a full three yards behind Bolden, actually makes this tackle.
M8 1 G Flexbone goal line 4-4 under Run N/A FB dive Bolden 1
May be a bust as the playside G pulls. FB is running straight at where the G no longer is. Campbell(+0.5) comes under a block and helps tackle with an unblocked Bolden(+0.5) hitting it after a yard.
M7 2 G Offset I-Form 4-3 under Run N/A End around Ross 4
Ross takes one step playside and then bursts upfield as he sees the end around. Too far upfield. He's there to make the tackle but only from the side and just barely. Taylor(+1) provided good support here, getting into the lead blocker at the LOS and turning it in at then numbers. He also helps tackle. Ross gets a push; this was good recognition but that angle needs to be wider so that you're meeting the guy at the LOS instead of chasing him.
M3 3 G Near half-flex unbalanced 4-4 under Run N/A Outside pitch. Taylor 0
A crappy pitch bails M out, but I think they had this stopped. Taylor(+1) held the edge and dodged a cut, and Ross(+0.5) was going flat out for the outside. Bad pitch brings Getz into a ton of bodies and ends it.
M3 4 G Field goal 4-3 under Run N/A Speed option Ryan 2
Michigan leaves their defense on the field and AF still runs the fake. Not a good idea. Ryan(+1) forces it back and Bolden(+0.5) tackles with help.
Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 28-17, 1 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
M39 1 10 Ace trips unbalanced 4-3 under Pass N/A PA fly Taylor Inc
Two deep routes draw man coverage, basically, as Gordon shoots up on the option fake. Taylor(+1, cover +1) is step for step with his guy and probably has a play on the ball if this is accurate enough to be caught; it's not.
M39 2 10 Near half-flex 4-3 even Run N/A Triple option Gordon 7
Same thing. Safety has to worry about getting burned over the top and by the time he commits it's too late. Gordon hops over a cut block but is still way far away from the edge once Ryan forces a pitch. I guess you can key on the OL releasing downfield and get on your horse. Gordon -1.
M32 3 3 Flexbone tight 4-3 even Run N/A Quick pitch Taylor -2
Taylor(+2) comes up hard on this one, smacking a blocker three yards in the backfield at the numbers. Other blockers run by Clark(+1), who delivers a thumping tackle. RPS +1, they were looking for this.
M34 4 5 Near half-flex 4-3 even Run N/A Triple option Gordon 6
Same thing, always. Gordon(-1) does not get outside the flexback, gives up corner, does tackle at the sticks but not enough. Clark is coming so hard from the back on this that if Ryan makes the QB turn up this is a stop, I think.
M28 1 10 Flexbone 4-3 even Pass N/A PA flare N/A Inc
Floyd(+1, cover +1) and Morgan(+1, cover +1) cover their guys, Floyd on a fly route and Morgan recovering from the PA. QB tries to flare it out as a checkdown and misses badly. Possibly thanks to Heitzman(+0.5) getting a nominal amount of pressure.
M28 2 10 Flexbone 4-3 even Run N/A Triple option Floyd 3
Ojemudia(-2) has no idea what he's doing and shoots down inside at the dive back instead of taking the QB. Floyd(+2, tackling +1) shoots by the corner and fills after the QB pitches for no earthly reason. Took a huge mistake by the QB and a great play to not have this break huge. Because the whole defense was going nuts about the dive back.
M25 3 7 Ace 4-wide 4-3 even Pass N/A Slant Morgan 10
Morgan(-1, cover -1) takes a weird bad zone drop and opens this up. OL had cut everyone, so this was coming out immediately or not at all.
M15 1 10 Flexbone 4-3 even Run N/A FB dive Black 6
DL shift does Michigan a disservice here; Black(-1) pops through the line at the wrong spot to do anything about this and LBs can't do anything about it either.
M9 2 4 Flexbone 4-3 even Run N/A Triple option Ojemudia 1
Ojemudia(+1) does hop out on the QB this time. He decides not to pitch for some reason and gets nailed. Pitch looked like a TD, FWIW.
M8 3 3 Flexbone 6-2 over Run N/A Triple option Morgan 8
M finally switches their scheme up, shooting Gordon at the QB from the corner. This forces a pitch. Morgan and Floyd are on the edge against one blocker... Floyd(-1) gets cut and ends up incapacitated at the three and Morgan(-2, tackling -1) overruns the RB entirely. TD.
M3 2pt 2pt Ace twins 4-3 even Pass N/A Waggle TE circle Bolden 3
Roh(-1, pressure -1) sucks up and does not get out on the edge. Bolden(-1, cover -1) also bites hard, so this is easy.
Drive Notes: Touchdown(2pt), 28-25, 12 min 4th Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O34 1 10 Flexbone 4-3 even Run N/A Triple option N/A 2
Fumbled the dive fake.
O36 2 8 Flexbone tight 4-3 even Pass 4 Scramble Brink 1
One flex back is in a WR stance, so may tip pass. Dive fake and then Dietz drops back. He doesn't like what he sees(cover +1) and scrambles directly upfield. Brink(+1) and Pipkins(+1) collapse on him.
O37 3 7 Shotgun trips Nickel even Run N/A Speed option Floyd 13
Three AF players are moving before the snap, which ain't legal. Ross is hauling after this play—he really is decisive—but gets easily cut off by a guy blocking down. Kovacs takes another blocker and Floyd(-1) is one on one on the outside with a motioned flexback; he again gets taken out of the play. RPS -1. Schemed here, mostly. No response from the LBs to the motion.
50 1 10 Near half-flex 4-3 even Run N/A FB dive Campbell 2
Campbell(+1) shoves his blocker backwards and gets to the hole, tackling. C released directly into Ross; Campbell making this play saves a yard or two, an important yard or two.
M48 2 8 Flexbone 4-3 under Run N/A FB dive Roh 3
Campbell over C on this one, play goes behind him. Roh(+1) fights to the hole and helps tackle; Bolden(-0.5) isn't quite authoritative enough with his fill and shoulder-blocks the RB down.
M45 3 5 Flexbone 4-3 even Run N/A Counter dive Ross 2
Woo! Ross(+1) is going forward on the snap, splitting the two guys releasing downfield and blasting the RB at the LOS. Would be two but he does not wrap. Black(+1) ditched a blocker and takes out the pulling G; he uses the Ross-created delay to tackle.
M43 4 3 Near half-flex 4-3 even Run N/A Triple option Clark 0
Michigan stunts. They send Clark upfield and take Black out behind that. Clark(+1) takes out the lead blocker and forces Getz upfield. Black(+1) is now out on the QB, who ends up pitching it forward to a guy right next to him. Black and Ross(+1), who flew right by a blocker en route to the edge, make the stop. RPS +1. The stunt killed it. Way to pull that out at a critical juncture, Mattison.
Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 31-25, 4 min 4th Q. Okay, so ABC screwed up here and the tape misses the first three plays of this drive. They are INC, 7 yard completion plus 15 roughing the passer, Roh(-1), incomplete (Clark +1 for leaping PBU), and a sideline interference(!) penalty. We pick it up on second and fifteen.
Ln Dn Ds O Form DForm Type Rush Play Player Yards
O37 2 15 Shotgun trips 4-3 under Pass 4 Out Ryan Inc
Roh(+1) gets some pressure after initially getting stopped by the LT; Dietz is rolling out to his side after he dumps the tackle and has to throw. Ryan(+1, cover +1) is in position and breaks to break up a poorly-thrown ball.
O37 3 15 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Run N/A QB draw Clark -2
Mattison is so looking for this, running a stunt that sends Clark(+1) directly into the running lane AF is looking for. Ryan(+1) darted inside the tackle he's stunting and helps tackle. RPS +2.
O35 4 17 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass 4 Batted Ryan Inc
Ryan(+2) sets the RT up inside, looks like he's going to burst outside, and then is definitely bursting outside because the RB clunks into the RT. Ryan in, QB has to throw, Ryan knocks it down. (Pressure +2)
Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 31-25, 1 min 4th Q. EOG for D.

That could have gone better.

Yeah. I found this reference to what Michigan was doing on The Birddog, the great Navy blog:

The biggest surprise in this game was how poorly Michigan defended the option. They spent most of the game in a 3-deep 4-4, with the safety assigned to the pitch man. Sound familiar? No wonder Air Force was able to move the ball. After playing both Navy and Air Force several times in his career, you’d think that Brady Hoke would have known better.

That link takes you to the Birddog's extensive breakdown of the 2008 Georgia-Georgia Tech game in which the Yellow Jackets broke a long losing streak against the Dawgs by completing one pass for 19 yards… and rushing for 409. In that game, the pitchman was the safety's responsibility, the safety started eating the flexback, and the Jackets looked like Las Vegas for a day. The Birddog chalks this up to old-timey ways to defend the wishbone that time-pressed coaches default to because they aren't up on the ways in which the flexbone makes those defenses invalid.

It's of purely academic interest until Michigan schedules another option team, but the similarities between how UGA defended Tech in 2008 and how Michigan defended Air Force in 2012 are extensive. If you just want to know why Saturday went down like it did, I can't recommend that post enough.

This is already nine thousand words.

Uh-huh.

What I'm saying is could I have some cliffs notes?

Ah so:

Fundamentally, the mechanics of your basic triple option play are the same whether you’re running it out of the wishbone, I-formation, spread, or whatever. Each of these formations, however, imply different overall philosophies. The underlying theme of the wishbone– bringing blockers to the point of attack to support a power running game– is very different than that of the spread. In the spread, you want to stretch the defense, both vertically and from sideline to sideline, in order to create running lanes. You might think these are just platitudes, but they aren’t; this difference, coupled with the threat of the pass, is why wishbone defenses don’t work against the spread option. The spread allows an offensive coordinator to use a greater variety of formations in order to create the space he wants for his ballcarriers. That advantage played a big part in Georgia Tech’s win over Georgia.

Mattison knows he was burned, and we won't see Michigan try this in purely hypothetical future option matchups. But when it came down to crunch time, he did respond.

Oh yes?

Oh, yes. On Air Force's final drive he had the luxury of the Falcons trying a shotgun passing attack but it's still a big plus when you call rock to the opponent's QB draw scissors, and on the even-more-critical final AF drive in their base offense Mattison finally pulled out a variation of his base defense that worked:

Clark bursts upfield and Michigan stunts Black outside, getting both a delay on the QB and a second tackler in space. Also featured is James Ross getting on his horse and doing what James Ross does: running at maximum speed somewhere. I assume there will be moments this year when Ross doing this leaves a tight end wide open, but you can't accuse Ross of being indecisive. If you need to figure out where to eat dinner with 12 people, invite James Ross.

He is in fact the only edge-type person on the—

probably pretty doomy CHART

--chart to not get a negative.

Defensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Roh 9 5 4 Size not a problem against Falcons.
Campbell 4.5 7 -2.5 I may have been a little harsh on some early cuts as AF didn't get that many yards on them.
Washington 2.5 5 -2.5 Right, this is more realistic than his Alabama number.
Black 6 1.5 4.5 Some big plays late.
Brink 1 3 -2 Eh.
Ash - - - DNP
Pipkins 1.5 - 1.5 Showed some agility after popping through the line at bad angle
Beyer 0.5 2.5 -2 Clark seemed a lot better.
Heitzman 0.5 2 -1.5 Probably shouldn't be playing yet.
Clark 5 2 3 Too bad impressive PBU not shown by ABC.
Ojemudia 1 3 -2 One bust on QB he got away with.
TOTAL 31.5 31 0.5 Step up from 'Bama; maybe not very telling anyway.
Linebacker
Player + - T Notes
Morgan 8 10 -2 Faded late after strong start, thus setting up allfrosh.
Demens 2 3.5 -1.5 Poor guy was dodging two blocks a play.
Ryan 13 2.5 10.5 Ran up the score with +4 on final three plays. Option blame fell elsewhere.
C. Gordon 1.5 2 -0.5 Will be viable depth for Ryan.
Ross 4.5 - 4.5 Goes, man, just goes.
Bolden 5.5 6 -0.5 Some nice plays, some getting lost.
Hawthorne - - - DNP.
TOTAL 34.5 24 10.5 Thought these guys did okay considering all the cut blocks
Secondary
Player + - T Notes
Floyd 3 10 -7 Has always been a terrible run defender, this played into a weakness.
Avery 3 - 3 Did okay before getting pulled with back issue.
Taylor 7 7 0 Had some crappy plays, but also popped up to pop people.
Kovacs 3.5 7 -3.5 Really put in a bind by the scheme.
T. Gordon 3 5 -2 Did not do well compared to Ryan on edge.
Holowell - - - DNP
Wilson - - - Did not chart.
TOTAL 19.5 29 -9.5 No Marlin Jacksons here.
Metrics
Pressure 7 7 0 Not really important.
Coverage 15 15 0 Push good against this kind of offense.
Tackling 6 3 66% AF != Alabama
RPS 7 13 -6 Mattison said as much.

So… I did not get the Demens removal. I thought the DL was pretty scary save Roh, loved Ryan, thought the linebackers were otherwise eh, hated Floyd's run support, was disappointed in the safeties, and think Michigan got outschemed somewhat. Thus Air Force racking it up.

Ryan is so shiny here, but you thought he might be a problem live?

That was probably lingering Argh Ryan bias from last year. He made tackles in space, he was very likely not the guy who had the pitchman at any point except when he was making tackles in space, and he almost singlehandedly ended Air Force's final drive. Bennie Oosterbaan would be proud as soon as he stopped asking why a linebacker was wearing his number.

He also lowered some BOOM:

Note that the alignment there drives the blocking crazy. The WR is trying to crack down on a LB but he's on the line, so the CB knows right away that this is a run, and then the angle he has to take cuts off the guy assigned to Avery.

Ryan did have one ARGH RYAN; other than that he was stellar. Easily Michigan's best defender on the day. 

But Floyd not so much.

No. While he got a lot better in coverage last year—Gibson minus all of the points—he remained a sucky edge defender. Remember bubble screen fiesta by Northwestern? Etc. He is not real good at taking on blocks of any variety. This ends up a Morgan TFL but watch Floyd:

That was a constant occurrence, and it would have been a problem on this play if the QB had made Morgan commit before pitching. It cost Michigan lots of yards on others. On this one he's not even blocked and ends up in the parking lot:

I don't know why they're so far off. I do know that attacking Michigan's corners in the run/screen game has been easy money for a couple years now.

How did Taylor do in his first extended time?

He was uneven, as you might expect. I don't blame him on the easy pitch touchdown Air Force got since he was blitzing at the snap—watch Floyd for confirmation—and got blocked in the back something fierce without a call from this ref crew deathly afraid of throwing a flag on America. Mattison dialed up a risky play in an effort to get a stop and got beat, which is fine on the one yard line. You've got to dial it up somehow.

He did extend a few Air Force drives with rookie mistakes, like this corner route on which he has to know the situation:

That step up is the difference between a completion and getting off the field, and it was made against a stationary tight end three yards downfield on third and twelve. On the other hand, he recovered pretty well there. If Dietz doesn't put it up high he's got a play on it. He's got the athleticism. He needs to learn how to play zone coverage, is all. He might already be better than Floyd at run support.

Demens got pulled but doesn't stand out as terrible above.

No. I'm not sure what he could have done on most of these plays. I mean, the poor guy ended up dealing with multiple blocks for big chunks of the first half:

That is not one but two Air Force blockers who do nothing but go after Demens. No consideration for guys on the line, no one else to block, just Kenny Demens vs The World.

Bolden was okay, but I think maybe Demens doesn't get sucked to the frontside and makes a stop on this play:

That's pretty bad because of the stunt in front of Bolden. That hole frontside is going to get filled by the stunter, and that's something the LB should realize. I didn't see much from Bolden that was option-relevant. Michigan was using their MLBs mostly to nail that FB dive.

Ross showed that maybe there were plays out there to make, but I don't expect Demens to get buried. I also don't expect him to do much unless Michigan starts getting more plays from the DL.

So what about this covered slot thing?

I've never seen anyone do that with the frequency Air Force did, and wanted to know if Mattison was using that stuff as a run key. Answer: yes. Via Heiko:

MGoQuestion: A lot of times Air Force came out with two receivers lined up on the line of scrimmage such that the slot was an ineligible receiver. Do you coach your defense to use that as a run key?

“Yeah. We knew that. We knew that. In fact, if you watched that, you would have seen J.T. Floyd come over to him and know that he didn’t have to drop, and he didn’t. He became another run defender over there.”

Even so I was frustrated a couple times when that happened and the guy over the slot did not react quickly enough to the run. It is possible to pass out of it but the contortions you have to go through are extreme. Nebraska got a corner route TD on it against Southern Miss by not even bothering to move either of the outside WRs. [HT: Smart Football.] We saw the magical journey the covered slot guy went on on the long shoulda-been-TD in Picture Pages.

LOLrefs.

Just astoundingly bad. Here's an Air Force pass play on which not one but two Falcon offensive linemen release downfield:

vlcsnap-2012-09-10-20h32m02s57

Those two guys in the middle of the field are OL. One of them cut-blocked Demens. No flag. I know the packaged plays have made everyone aware that refs will give OL a couple yards, but that's ridiculous. There was that Arena-league touchdown, and Morgan got tackled on a critical third down:

I mean, call it both ways. We're part of America too.

Heroes?

Jake Ryan and James Ross.

Goats?

Floyd's run support, Mattison's antiquated approach to defending the flexbone option, the D-tackles (somewhat), and the safeties (somewhat).

What does it mean for UMass and the future?

Not a whole lot since option has just slid off the schedule. However: I think Taylor will have some rough spots but come through okay. He's an athlete. Ross is going to get more playing time until such time as his hypercaffeinated ways get Michigan burned, and possibly beyond that. Jake Ryan is developing as well as Michigan fans had hoped.

Still feeling pretty ominous about the line, unfortunately, but a lot of Air Force's success is not replicable by other teams. Since Alabama is way up there, UMass way down there, and Air Force way out there, our first read on how this defense is going to play against humans comes against Notre Dame.

Preview 2012: Secondary

Preview 2012: Secondary

Submitted by Brian on August 30th, 2012 at 11:14 AM

Previously: Podcast 4.0, the story, quarterback, running back, wide receivers, offensive line, defensive line, linebackers.

Remember this?

death6.2

I don't either. See Brady Hoke's century-long tenure. What do you mean I posted it Monday? Get out of town.

This been all banners and Never Forget and all that business for a long time. Michigan's secondary woes didn't start with Rich Rodriguez, who merely carved out a crevasse of hopeless abyssal despair previously unknown to man from a moderately deep trench of hopeless abyssal despair. The secondary has not been good for a long, long time.

But it was last year. I'm about to put up the "coverage" metric the blog tracks. Points are awarded for DBs close enough to receivers to make a play on the ball (even if the ball is caught) and subtracted when guys are open enough to get YAC or easily convert first downs on third and medium situations. If you're batting .500 here you're doing pretty well. Drum roll:

# Opponent + - T Notes
1 WMU 6 11 -5 A lot of this was Herron, frankly.
2 ND 17 18 -1 Good deep in press man.
3 EMU 9 1 8 Ignore
4 SDSU 25 19 6 Flabbergasting.
5 MINN 10 5 5 Tony Gibson –6.02 x 10^23
6 NW 13 15 -2 Not bad. Some issues getting RPSed.
7 MSU 9 12 -3 That's not too bad against a senior QB.
8 Purdue 11 6 5 Excellent number given the ratio.
9 Iowa 11 14 -3 Good recovery after weak start.
10 Illinois 30 12 18 HAHAHAHA.
11 Nebraska 17 6 13 NUTS
12 OSU 11 30 -19 Not so much.

The OSU number stands out as the only truly bad day of the year not easily explained away by a linebacker who hit the bench after the game in question. That was not entirely on the secondary. Greg Mattison NFLed himself, changing up Michigan's scheme and putting his charges in positions that were untenable or close to it. Even so Michigan's pass efficiency defense rocketed from 103rd to 36th in a single year.

How did this happen? EXCLUSIVE EXCLUSIVE EXCLUSIVE MUST CREDIT MGOBLOG.

bill-Ted[1]billtedsexcellentadventure-phonebooth001[1]trilogy[1]

True.

Cornerback

Rating: 4.

jt-floyd-iowa-2

Boundary Corner Yr. Field Corner Yr. Nickelback Yr.
JT Floyd Sr.* Blake Countess So. Courtney Avery Jr.
Raymon Taylor So. Terry Richardson Fr. Delonte Hollowell So.

I know. I know. This ish be cray. I have no idea what that means. I saw Ace tweet it at some point and thought about crayfish probably.

JT FLOYD
COVERIN'
jumps out
step for step
all over this dude
EDGE Qs
beats Jenkins block
BEATEN
back shoulder'd
the oh shiiiiiii

Michigan returns their top three corners from a year ago, all of whom were pretty good. The depth has been whittled down by the departures of Terry Talbott and Tamani Carter, but they've got a couple sophomores and a touted freshman and should be okay unless they get a flood of injuries. Give them a year and it'll be time to forget Never Forget.

JT Floyd is the headliner in so many ways. After the Penn State game pictured above I said he'd run "three of the worst coverages I've ever seen," and time has done nothing to change that opinion. He got yanked after that game; his last two games UFRed in 2010 were a –8.5 against Iowa ("oh my God the slants") and the –9 against PSU ("awful, awful, awful"). Everyone was openly petrified that he would play; this space predicted Courtney Avery would start and Countess would usurp Floyd's spot posthaste. Instead Countess usurped Avery's spot and Floyd developed into a pretty good Big Ten corner.

I know!

The highlight was his game-sealing interception against AJ Jenkins…

…and Floyd was no one-trick pony. I kept an owlish watch on him as he played to the point where I checked his coverage on plays that didn't go anywhere near him. The results were pure Ripley's. He may have sucked containing runs/screen to his side but

…I still think he's the best corner Michigan has right now. I base this off plays when opponents run twinned routes and I can see a Woolfolk or Countess cover the same slant on the same call; almost invariably Floyd is hugging the receiver tighter. This is not the best example because the QB set him up for this one but whether it's in man or zone Floyd seems to get more plays on the ball than anyone else in the secondary:

Meanwhile, count the long receptions Floyd's given up this year… I've got one, an undefendable Michael Floyd fade on which he had a rake at the ball. When they go after Michigan deep it was Woolfolk and Countess getting most of the exposure. That's good enough for me when trying to figure out who's good in an area of the field you only see when someone hasn't been good (or one of Michigan's quarterbacks has decided they're tired of being on the field).

I know. OMG. Floyd stands alone as the most soaring, magnificent demonstration of the differences between the last staff and this one.

This is not to say he turned into Charles Woodson. He was consistently subpar on bubble screens and other run-support tasks, which was especially frustrating since he is the boundary corner. He, like everyone else, got smoked by Posey in the OSU game, and he still seems to lack a certain something when it comes to deep speed. When I broke down Michigan's "NOBODY CARES ABOUT THE BALL" coverage, a few different coaches got in touch with me to tell me this was something commonly called "trail" coverage. Trail is something you do when you get beat and can't look for the ball; it's supposed to be a plan B when you're really good. For Floyd, it was plan A.

Which, fine. More than fine. Hallelujah. The guy can play. He's got flaws, only some of which will get worked out, and his top end is a stray All Big Ten vote or two and a seventh-round pick, and who cares about any of that when JT Floyd can play football.

TONY GIBSON MINUS ALL OF THE POINTS

Minus all of the points.

For real.

[After THE JUMP: Kovacs! A lack of long touchdowns! Depth!]

The Story 2012: The Real William Carlos Williams

The Story 2012: The Real William Carlos Williams

Submitted by Brian on August 27th, 2012 at 11:23 AM

Previously: The Story 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008. Preview 2011.

Sometimes there's a man... I won't say a hero, 'cause what's a hero? But sometimes there's a man … and I'm talkin' about the Dude here… sometimes there's a man, well, he's the man for his time and place. He fits right in there.

-The Stranger, The Big Lebowksi

I construct the preview every year from the bones of the previous one, and when I took my first stabs at organizing what I was going to say about the secondary I ran across this, because obviously:

death6.2

How long ago was that? A hundred years.

Joe Paterno was still Penn State's coach, and wonderful. JT Floyd was unable to stay within ten yards of a receiver. Michigan's football program was riven with factionalism. Craig Roh was some sort of linebacker and Kenny Demens was lining up an inch from the nose tackle. Rich Rodriguez had hired Greg Robinson, and this was Greg Robinson burning the world in response.

How long ago was this?

kenny-demens-beaver

Bathrooms had not yet been invented. Top hats were all the rage. Punting was a good idea. Pterodactyls were the hot new species. It was a long, long time ago, October of 2010. A long time ago.

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

It was college, so we did ridiculous things. In my sophomore year one of those was having a fight about who the "real William Carlos Williams" was. William Carlos Williams was obviously the real William Carlos Williams but somehow Kit and Sunil contrived to have a dispute about which one of them really was the real William Carlos Williams anyway. This was settled the way these things always are: with a poetry-off.

We met with great solemnity in Ryan's dorm room. One of us had found a recipe for a drink that supposedly tasted like apple pie. I was still in the phase where changing my state of mind with alcohol was something beneath me and did not partake. I do remember there being whipped cream from a can. It was drinking in a dorm room. Of course there was whipped cream.

Embarrassingly sweet drinks were consumed as the festivities progressed until the poetry-off. Kit and Sunil would be given a topic and asked to compose a poem on that theme in the style of William Carlos Williams. The topic—revealed with the allez cuisine flourish of an Iron Chef ingredient—was red-haired women.

When the allotted minutes had passed and time was called, Kit went first. Kit had prepared. His poem was a mélange of repurposed WCW lines that he'd memorized and crammed together into a surprisingly coherent Frankenstein of a poem.

Sunil was next. He'd had far too much to drink and was showing it. Sitting on Ryan's bed slumped over, he roused himself. He looked down at what he'd written, and started.

"I love red haired bitches
they say 'whatever' and 'like'
how easily we imbibe their terminology
…"

At this juncture Sunil toppled over backward on the bed and said no more. The panel of judges unanimously declared him the Real William Carlos Williams. Sunil celebrated by throwing up into the trash.

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

I think about Sunil's poem whenever someone other than Brady Hoke calls the Great Eye of Columbus "Ohio." This is all the time. Kit assembled a frankenpoem from someone's else's mouth; Sunil just said stuff. One of these things stuck. There's an "imbibe this terminology" tag on this blog.

hokesmugBrady Hoke dropped the "State" from Ohio and drove the Buckeyes to distraction to the point where the program—not just the fans—celebrated the return of "that school up north" like Terrelle Pryor welcoming an auto dealer into his tattoo-artist-sponsored apartment. Hoke dropped "This is Michigan" in his introductory press conference and tacked on the "fergodsakes" that made it immortal. He called last year's outfit Team 132, and now this year's outfit is team 133 and the ridiculous recruiting class that will enroll next year is shooting #team134 hashtags back and forth across twitter.

Hoke didn't seem to mean anything by any of it. He just talked, and though he tried to press-conference it things slipped out sideways. We imbibed them.

That's marketing. The rest is just repetition.

A year ago—or a hundred, whatever, I can't tell anymore—I wrote a story about the 2011 season that focused on how it was a damn good thing that Denard and Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen and Kevin Koger were around because I'd been in the stands when they were losing to Purdue and some guy kept screaming "they don't have any HEART" and heard tale after tale of shameful behavior directed at Rich Rodriguez—if you can't recall, he was the head coach at the time—by program alums.

A year later, Brady Hoke has every last Michigan fan marching behind him, not to mention Greg Mattison and a heaping handful of the country's best high school football players. This has just happened, you know? It is of course planned and difficult and meticulousness is required, but on one level Hoke just vacuumed everyone up because he is who he is.

Last February I was in a hotel in Grand Rapids where people had gathered to talk about football. I'm in the very corner of this room and I've got longer hair than any five other people in it put together and a goatee and I look like I do, you know. Like a guy who has trouble crossing borders sometimes. I could have been wearing a sequined dress and heels and not have looked less like a football coach than I did.

Hoke is standing two feet in front of me.

I have this completely insane fear that somehow Hoke will recognize me even though he knows nothing about me. He may not even know what the internet is. But this is an insane fear, remember. I don't want to make eye contact in case he says "you're the one who wrote a post called 'Profiles In Cronyism' about me, and several other uncomplimentary things besides" and this will spur the rest of the room to toss me bodily out of this hotel. But I'm staring at him all the same.

Borges is there, too. He's talking a couple rooms down but has stopped in for a visit. In an hour I'll sneak over to his talk and listen, enraptured, for an hour as he describes Michigan's passing concepts, and feel embittered when he has to stop instead of continuing on for another four. Before he gets into it he'll tell the room that it is great working for "Brady" because he trusts you to do your job, unlike some coaches he's worked under. When he says it, it sounds like he's saying no one will ever leave him, because why would you?

Right now Borges is surveying a room packed from stem to stern for Hoke and making a self-depreciating comment about the lack of people in his much smaller room. Brady grins, and says "Nobody cares about offense, Al. Who cares about offense?" He says it again. He laughs, and is completely at ease as myself and a half-dozen other star-struck folk file this interaction away in our brains. He walks away and we fall into line behind him, like so many others.

Fall Camp Presser Transcript 8-16-12: Brady Hoke

Fall Camp Presser Transcript 8-16-12: Brady Hoke

Submitted by Heiko on August 16th, 2012 at 9:27 PM

Programming note: Due to a poorly timed (but awesome) vacation, I was in California for the last several days. That's why Ace had to cover for me at Media Day and why *Jedi handwave* there was no coordinator presser on Tuesday. I'm back to provide uninterrupted coverage from here on out, though, so feel free to get off your tenterhooks.

News bullets and other important things:

  • Just completed 14th practice; did some scrimmaging.
  • Ben Braden, Erik Magnuson, and Erik Gunderson are all practicing at tackle.
  • No decision yet on Fitz Toussaint.
  • Roundtree's chances of returning for Alabama are "good."
  • Matt Wile currently holds a slight edge for the punting job over Will Hagerup and Kenny Allen.
  • Chris Wormley has not yet undergone surgery but will; as expected, will likely miss the entire season.

Brady Hoke

Football was being played.

Opening remarks:

“Thanks for coming. 14th practice, midway point, did some good things, did some things -- playing with a little better speed. I think the fundamentals and techniques that you always go back to. I think the guys are doing a pretty good job with that. I think we have to be more physical on both fronts. That’s not nearly solved yet for how we need to play, but for the 14th day, this is really grind right now and it should be because of the schedule that they’ve been on. You have to see how they respond. They responded pretty well to some situational things this afternoon, but as far as being ready for September 1st, we have a long way to go.”

By situational, do you mean scrimmage?

“It’s a little bit situations. You know, just give as many -- not a lot of plays, but enough to hear some football and those kinds of things.”

When do you plan to have a full scrimmage?

“Not until Saturday.”

Just wanted to ask about a couple Alabama guys: their QB McCarron and nose guard Williams. Thoughts?

“Well I mean, I think McCarron’s done a great job leading their football team. National championship quarterback. Plays with a lot of poise. The run game, he gets them in and out of the right places. They run the ball. He’s a very good leader. He seems to be on the field for them. Williams is a guy who’s disruptive. Somebody will have to contend with [him]. They have 10 teammates on each side of the ball, so they’re really part of a very good football team.”

Have you identified any backup tackles to Lewan and Schofield?

“You know, I don’t know. All those guys -- Ben Braden’s taken some snaps, Gunderson’s taken some snaps, Erik Magnuson’s taken some snaps. I don’t know I’d identify anybody who was it, I’d be honest with you, yet.”

Is it concerning that you have true freshmen at those positions?

“Yeah, always is. But it’s always -- those guys have to grow up fast. All of them are smart guys, and they’re coachable, so they’ll be okay.”

How many freshmen do you anticipate having in the two-deep on the offensive line?

“On the line? Oh maybe three. Maybe four.”

You didn’t get to spend much time with the freshmen earlier because they were in classes. What about now?

“Well they got out on Tuesday and today’s Thursday, so you still, from a learning and being comfortable with the terminology and what they’re asked to do, I think that part of it’s still early. I think they get through this week and into next week a little bit. You have a better idea. Can they play fast? Can they play with poise? Can they play with great technique? All those things are a part of it.”

Does anyone catch your attention in a positive way?

“Uh, you know, I would probably say they’re all -- I think they’re all working hard. I think they’re all eager. I think the talent level, the athleticism stuff is kind of what we’re looking at -- I don’t know. Not yet.”

Has Desmond Morgan made a leap this fall?

“Yeah, I think he did from spring and I think he has in the fall. I think he had a very good summer. He’s a driven, young man. And a very competitive person. I think the improvement of how he reacts -- he’s pretty instinctive. That’s why Yyu play as a freshman, because you’re an instinctive person and football player. And he’s pretty instinctive. I think the strength gains that he’s made, he’s a more powerful football player, linebacker.”

When do you make decisions on walk-ons getting scholarships?

“No we haven’t done that. It depends sometime before school starts if we’re thinking about that or if we have the scholarships.”

Are you thinking about it this year?

“Sometime before school starts.”

How has Fitz looked, and are you closer to making a decision on him yet?

“I have not, and he’s out there like the others running around.”

How do you plan to build cohesion as an offensive line while rotating three guys at left guard?

“What we’ll do is take a big part of scrimmage, practice situations, and keep playing a guy there so that there’s a comfort level between the left tackle and the center. I think Taylor can play basically with anybody because of his experience, and he knows more what to do. So that part of it, he’s pretty good so he doesn’t have to worry about himself as much as he does that guard.”

Has he been sort of an on-the-field coach?

“Yeah, he’s done a nice job. He’s done a nice job.”

When would you like to identify a starting offensive line?

“Oh, ten -- ten days before probably.”

Is that a rough guess? Why ten days?

“I think, you know, some continuity that we try to build consistently, but I think that’s part of it.”

Chris Wormley tore his ACL.

“Mmhmm.”

Has he had/will he have surgery?

“No. He has not and he will.”

When?

“Sometime in the near future.”

How did he sustain the injury?

“Just playing football.”

Any plans to redshirt him?

“Most likely he’ll miss the year.”

You have three guys competing for the punting job. Has anyone stood out yet?

“You know, not really. I would give right now -- probably Wile had the better day. But we’ve got to be consistent day in and day out. Today I thought Matt stroked it pretty well. I didn’t think Will was as consistent, but he was better than he has been. Both of those guys were a little bit behind because they didn’t get as many reps during the summer, so I think they’re catching up.”

How confident are you with playing an inexperienced guy like Jerald Robinson, who has reportedly been standing out at the receiver position, on September 1st?

“I think we’ve got to put enough pressure on him and get him out of his comfort zone that you test them as best you can, and he’s got to go out there and do it. I mean there’s no other way besides going out there on that stage and doing it. We can put him on situations and test him and make him uncomfortable and see how he reacts. But at the same time, he’s just got to do it.”

What would you do to get him out of his comfort zone?

“Well you give him a lot of reps. You see how he reacts when he gets tired. You do some things coverage wise to beat him up at the line of scrimmage. Just trying to get him a little bit out of the comfort level.”

How is Roundtree doing, and what are his chances of playing the first week?

“He’s doing great.”

Chances?

“I think they’re good.”

What is the clearing process for him to get back on the field?

“Him feeling better and the doctor feeling good and comfortable about it.”

Do you check up on him every day?

“Yeah he’s with a rehab specialist every day. We obviously communicate.”

What’s he doing physically at this point?

“With the rehab -- ”

Just that?

“Yeah.”

Has JT Floyd progressed since last season, and how has his chemistry with Blake Countess developed?

“Well I think there’s a chemistry before JT and Blake. I think they push each other. I think the consistency is always something that we’ve got to keep having out there. That’s kind of a position where you’re on the island, everybody sees it when you falter, but I think they both improved. I think they both worked very hard.”

How do Blake and JT differ?

“That’s a good question. JT’s a little rangier, a little longer-armed, a little taller. I would say Blake’s probably a little more physical, you know, of the two. I think JT showed some physicalness a year ago, too. ”

Do you think that they feed off each other?

“Yeah I think so. I think that and Tom Gordon and Kovacs. Kovacs [is] kind of the field general, and it’s part of being a safety. I think they feed really well [off] each other.”

Can you get a sense for what kind of team you are 14 practices in?

“No.”

Can you characterize anything about it so far?

“You know, we’ve got a lot we need to improve on.”

Do you like what you’re getting out of the seniors?

“They’re doing a good job.”

----------------BONUS PARAPHRASED PLAYER INTERVIEWS!----------------

Brennen Beyer

  • Likes his new position, prefers it to OLB.
  • Technique-wise working on bull rush and a couple other moves.
  • Says defense's strength is "technique." Weakness is "toughness." Needs to be "tougher."

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

Desmond Morgan

  • Father is a high school coach -- used to give him a bunch of pointers on technique, but now just watches the games as a fan.
  • Family attends every game.
  • Second year in defense, is picking up visual cues faster and therefore playing faster. 

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

Vincent Smith

  • Fitz's absence and return didn't affect running back practice. Fitz basically picked up where he left off. 
  • No sense of cutthroat competition between running backs -- they're all brothers and support each other.

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

JT Floyd

  • Loves watching film. Craziest place to watch film? In the shower. Did it multiple times last season.
  • I brought up the fact that he had only allowed one touchdown to opposing teams' No. 1 receivers all last season.
    [Paraphrased] 
    Floyd: "Which one? I just want to test you."
    Me: "The Iowa guy? McNutt? It was either him or DeVier Posey." [I didn't remember exactly, but it was Posey.]
    Floyd: "McNutt didn't score a touchdown on me!"
  • Awesome.

Big Ten Draft O' Snark: The Fourth Bit

Big Ten Draft O' Snark: The Fourth Bit

Submitted by Brian on August 15th, 2012 at 2:22 PM

PREVIOUSLY ON "MGOBLOG WRITERS DRAFT THEIR VERY OWN BIG TEN TEAMS WITH DISTRESSINGLY LOW NUMBERS OF MICHIGAN PLAYERS":

SETH got Denard, then did some other stuff I guess. He also got Kovacs.

ACE god Ace your team is SO BORING, got EVEN MORE BORING, and then I just don't even know man because I'm thinking about anything else.

HEIKO took quarterbacks, then took quarterbacks, then tried to hump the rules real good by taking a combo kicker.

BRIAN got stuck with Nathan Scheelhaase, wept, and then told himself he would develop a narrative of victory, whereupon maybe he kind of did maybe (call me?). No he didn't.

We find our HEROIC DRAFTERS in a SECRET SUBMARINE HEADQUARTERS UNDERNEATH THE NORTH ATLANTIC [ed-S: ...where iPhones can't get OSU eligibility updates]. Heiko is on the clock for the SECOND PICK of round THIRTEEN…

Follow along on Seth's spreadsheet here.

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

HEIKO

Ryan Shazier Penn State v Ohio State bByS8kadbJMl[1]PICK: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State

CURRENT O: Braxton Miller (QB, OSU), Taylor Martinez (QB/RB, UNL), Kyle Prater (WR, NW), Devin Gardner (QB/WR, UM), DeAnthony Arnett (WR, MSU)

CURRENT D: Michael Buchanan (DE, ILL), Jordan Hill (DT, PSU), Craig Roh (DE, UM), Ryan Shazier (LB, OSU), Isaiah Lewis (FS, MSU), C.J. Barnett (SS, OSU)

KICKER(S): Brett Maher, K/P, Nebraska

BRIEF EXPLANATION: At this point the field of competition has narrowed to exclude Brian's great Scheelhaase experiment, so I'm going to focus my attention on neutralizing Seth and Ace. To deal with Denard Robinson, I'm going to procure my own heat-seeking missile in the form of Ohio State LB Ryan Shazier, who you may remember notching a bazillion tackles toward the end of last season and is poised to break out in 2012. Sure, Denard had a field day in last year's edition of The Game, but that's because Borges was smart enough to use misdirection with Toussaint and option the crap out of Ohio State's linebackers.

Shazier still ended up with 8 tackles, several of which were touchdown preventing, and he did this on a bad knee. At 100% and a little more experience, Shazier could end up better than Nebraska's second-round draft pick Lavonte David.

SNERK: The key to this pick is that Seth does not get Fitz and I do not end up with Etienne Sabino. Check, and pending. On an unrelated note, but just to be clear: Two of your quarterbacks lost to Minnesota last year.

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

ACE

129035494_display_image[1]PICK: Spencer Long, guard, Nebraska

CURRENT O: Montee Ball (RB, UW), James Vandenberg (QB, IA), Ricky Wagner (OL, UW), Keenan Davis (WR, IA), Travis Frederick (C, UW), Spencer Long (G, NEB)

CURRENT D: Chris Borland (LB, UW), William Gholston (DE, MSU), Johnny Adams (CB, MSU), Mike Taylor (LB, UW), Ricardo Allen (CB, PUR), Ibraheim Campbell (S, NW)

BRIEF EXPLANATION: Long was an unknown, untested walk-on heading into 2011, but by the end of the season he'd earned enough respect to be named second-team all-conference by the media and honorable mention by the coaches. At 6'4", 305, Long lacks the ideal size for an NFL interior line prospect; the ground production of Rex Burkhead and Taylor Martinez, however, indicate the strength up front for the Huskers, and Long is widely considered their best lineman. With my offense clearly predicated around the running game, Long is a great fit.

SNARK: I'm sure Ryan Shazier won't open up any gaping lanes against these run-heavy attacks. Nope, not at all.

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

SETH

Jacob Pedersen Wisconsin v Michigan State Zvqu2UfHmCNl[1]PICKS: Jacob Pedersen, tight end, Wisconsin; and Graham Pocic, offensive line, Illinois

CURRENT O: Denard Robinson (QB, M), Rex Burkhead (RB, Neb), Kofi Hughes (WR, Ind), Jacob Pedersen (TE, Wis), Michael Schofield (OT, M), Graham Pocic (OL, Ill)

CURRENT D:  John Hankins (NT, OSU), Kawaan Short (3T, Pur), Marcus Rush (DE, MSU), Jon Brown (MLB, Ill), Gerald Hodges (OLB, PSU), Jordan Kovacs (SS, M), Micah Hyde (CB, Iowa)

EXPLANATION: There are only a few best overall players left at any position and even fewer 5-stars left on my draft board, so to get two here is VALUE. That begins with Pedersen, who would be in an argument for best tight end in the conference with Stoneburner if Stoneburner was eligible. [ed: ????]

Since he's not, [EDIT: mea culpa] I get the position's lone star: 30 catches for 356 yards for 12 ypc, and eight (8!!!) touchdowns. And unlike Neb's Reed, Pedersen also happens to be a better blocker than receiver. If the knock on him is he's *only* 6'4, I urge you to check the sizes of your safeties and OLBs who won't be defending him up the seam (Cover 3 you say? BOOM Denard'd). Who says spreads can't have tight ends? Martell Webb was a secret reason M's 2010 offense was awesome, and I've got Webb who can catch plus a go-to option for when Denard and Rex get me to the red zone.

07-Oct-10_102118071JD091_Ohio_State_v_crop_450x500[1]Pocic meanwhile makes every all-conference list and a few all-American mentions. I know why he fell this far: Go to the D vs Illini UFR last year and look at Martin and RVB's monster days. Much of that I put on the guards since Pocic was called on to release downfield while M's elite DL blew by the other guys, however he had more than his fair share of awful that day, including letting Will Campbell get under him and shove him back on a crucial short situation. This is because crazy-ass Zook put a fleet-footed, 6'7/310 dude at CENTER. Not I said the Seth. This senior leader is going at guard or tackle--NFL projections do the same--both of which he has played and either of which makes his length an asset while better utilizing his devastating downfield blocking skills and keeping him away from the low-leverage pluggers he can't swallow whole.

SNARK: Speaking of monster DL days, check out the following week when Martin et al. threw Nebraska's light-footed walk-on guard around like a ragdoll. Now picture that guy in Wisconsin's man-blocking scheme where his specialized abilities won't even help him. Now remember Ace just lost the tight end he was so sure the spread outfits (or Heiko's Fitz offense) would overlook and be kind because he's really just a nice guy having a bad day.

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

ACE

106811260_crop_exact[1]PICK: Jake Stoneburner, tight end, Ohio State

CURRENT O: Montee Ball (RB, UW), James Vandenberg (QB, IA), Ricky Wagner (OT, UW), Keenan Davis (WR, IA), Travis Frederick (C, UW), Spencer Long (G, NEB), Jake Stoneburner (TE, OSU)

CURRENT D: Chris Borland (LB, UW), William Gholston (DE, MSU), Johnny Adams (CB, MSU), Mike Taylor (LB, UW), Ricardo Allen (CB, PUR), Ibraheim Campbell (S, NW)

BRIEF EXPLANATION: Uh, Seth? Stoneburner, along with partner-in-crime Jack Mewhort, is practicing with Ohio State while waiting for his inevitable reinstatement. I was just waiting for the first tight end to go off the board and, oh, hey, here we are. At 6'5", 245, Stoneburner provides a big target and also has the size to be a solid run-blocker. He'll provide a critical red-zone option for Vandenberg, as seven of his 14 receptions last year went for touchdowns. He also has the versatility to split out wide, something he did a fair amount this spring, giving my offense greater flexibility. Stoneburner's numbers should only increase now that Ohio State's quarterback situation has worked itself out, and just imagine what his numbers would be like with a marksman like Vandenberg slinging him the rock. That's what I've got, and good luck stopping this team in the red zone.

SNARK: Might want to spend a little more time on that iPhone, Seth.

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

HEIKO

Capital One Bowl FootballPICK: Max Bullough, LB, Michigan State

CURRENT O: Braxton Miller (QB, OSU), Taylor Martinez (QB/RB, UNL), Kyle Prater (WR, NW), Devin Gardner (QB/WR, UM), DeAnthony Arnett (WR, MSU)

CURRENT D: Michael Buchanan (DE, ILL), Jordan Hill (DT, PSU), Craig Roh (DE, UM), Ryan Shazier (LB, OSU), Max Bullough (LB, MSU), Isaiah Lewis (FS, MSU), C.J. Barnett (SS, OSU)

KICKER(S): Brett Maher, K/P, Nebraska

BRIEF EXPLANATION: Heat-seeking missile: check. Large blunt object: I'll take Michigan State LB Max Bullough. In a conference that's pretty loaded with inside linebackery types, Bullough is probably the most talented. I like that he was second team All-B1G last season even without super-inflated stats (89 tackles, 7.0 TFL, 3.5 sacks), and I like that he isn't 5'11 and fat. Michigan State DC Pat Narduzzi recently called him the best linebacker he's ever coached, so if that means Bullough is better than former MSU All-American LB Greg Jones, that's fantastic.

Bullough's size -- 6'3, 252 lbs -- suggests that he could also play SAM should I choose to draft another middle linebacker so that I don't have to draft Etienne Sabino. He also reminds me a lot of David Molk, and I have a soft spot in my heart for people who remind me of NO I DON'T SPARTY SUCKS KORK COUPONS AHHH This draft is an excellent exercise in cognitive dissonance *twitch*.

SNURK: FYI, red zone offenses aren't much help if you can't even make it past the 50, but Ace should totally bolster his red zone offense with Zach Boren, on whom I will graciously give up my dibs.

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

BRIAN

136425307_display_image[1]PICKS: Beau Allen, NT, Wisconsin, and Bradley Roby, CB, OSU

CURRENT O: Nathan Scheelhaase (QB, ILL), Fitzgerald Toussaint (RB, M), LeVeon Bell (HB/FB, MSU), Jared Abbrederis (WR, UW), Taylor Lewan(LT, M), Chris McDonald (RG, MSU), Jack Mewhort (RT, OSU).

CURRENT D: John Simon (DE, OSU), Beau Allen (NT, UW), Akeem Spence (DT, Illinois), Jake Ryan (LB, M), Denicos Allen (LB, MSU), Terry Hawthorne (CB, ILL), Bradley Roby(CB, OSU)

BRIEF EXPLANATION: I need a nose tackle, and the biggest, nose-tackliest dude on the board who I'm not deathly afraid will get pancaked all year is Wisconsin's Allen, a 6'3", 330 pound tank who managed to record four sacks last year despite not starting and being 330 pounds. That was good for second-best on Wisconsin's defense. Then he crushed Wisconsin's OL in their spring game, racking up 3 TFLs and a sack while drawing approving noises from the Wisconsin DL coach. With Jordan Kohout ending his career due to recurring migraines and the graduation of meh senior Patrick Butrym, Allen's going to get a ton of playing time. As a rising true junior still turning fat into muscle, he's got major upside, and solid existing production. Can you say "Beaukout"? Probably not since that's not a word.

Bradley-Roby[1]Then I'll take Roby, who started for OSU as a redshirt freshman and has reportedly run a 4.31. I give that five FAKES but they say he's the fastest kid on OSU's team and when I watched him last year he did impress with his raw speed. He'll need to develop to be an all-conference sort but that's what freshmen do. His coach is hyping him up as a future first-rounder, and he had three interceptions last year. He seemed clearly better than Travis Howard in my eyes and should extend that distance this year.

[NOTE: Seth and I are full at DT, so either Ace or Heiko filling up will trigger the must-draft rule, which we're extending to 3 rounds.]

SNARK: I thought about Shazier but trading AWESOME TFLs with 80 YARD RUNS THAT ARE TOTALLY YOUR FAULT didn't seem like a good deal. Also, I cant wait for Allen to hurl Seth's 6'7" interior linemen out of the very real stadium that will hold billions of screaming fans when our teams meet on the field of very, very real battle. FOOTBALL GAMES ARE WON WITH PAD LEVEL AAAAAH.

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

HEIKO

Baker Steinkuhler Washington v Nebraska sZsJDG9LGall[1]PICK: Baker Steinkuhler, DT, Nebraska

CURRENT O: Braxton Miller (QB, OSU), Taylor Martinez (QB/RB, UNL), Kyle Prater (WR, NW), Devin Gardner (QB/WR, UM), DeAnthony Arnett (WR, MSU)

CURRENT D: Michael Buchanan (DE, ILL), Jordan Hill (DT, PSU), Baker Steinkuhler (DT, UNL), Craig Roh (DE, UM), Ryan Shazier (LB, OSU), Isaiah Lewis (FS, MSU), C.J. Barnett (SS, OSU)

KICKER(S): Brett Maher, K/P, Nebraska

BRIEF EXPLANATION: I have no problem forcing Ace's hand, so I'm going to go ahead and slide Jordan Hill to nose and take Nebraska's Baker Steinkuhler as my 3-tech DT. Steinkuhler's a solid contributor on the defensive line, garnering All-Conference recognition in both the B1G and the B12 in consecutive seasons. His stats (40 tackles, 5 TFL, 2 sacks) belie his true ability as a penetrating defensive lineman—last year opposing teams could afford to focus on him after Jared Crick got injured.

GENUINELY HELPFUL ADVICE: Yo Ace, you should look into picking up Cameron Meredith before either Seth or Brian gets to him.

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

ACE

970685[1]PICK: Cameron Meredith, defensive end, Nebraska

CURRENT O: Montee Ball (RB, UW), James Vandenberg (QB, IA), Ricky Wagner (OT, UW), Keenan Davis (WR, IA), Travis Frederick (C, UW), Spencer Long (G, NEB), Jake Stoneburner (TE, OSU)

CURRENT D: Chris Borland (LB, UW), William Gholston (DE, MSU), Johnny Adams (CB, MSU), Mike Taylor (LB, UW), Ricardo Allen (CB, PUR), Ibraheim Campbell (S, NW), Cameron Meredith (DE, NEB)

BRIEF EXPLANATION: Meredith is a versatile lineman; in addition to his normal WDE duties, he filled in at DT when Nebraska was hit hard by injuries last year, and he's also lined up at rush linebacker when they've gone to a 3-4 look. He's not going to be super-productive, though he did manage five sacks last year, but he'll hold up well against the run and—with 27 consecutive starts under his belt—he's got experience and durability in his favor.

SNARK: Wait, did I just take drafting advice from MGoMillen?

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

SETH

RickyBarnum1[1]PICKS: Ricky Barnum, interior offensive line, Michigan; and Kenny Bell, wide receiver, Nebraska

CURRENT O: Denard Robinson (QB, M), Rex Burkhead (RB, Neb), Kofi Hughes (WR, Ind), Kenny Bell (WR, Neb), Jacob Pedersen (TE, Wis), Michael Schofield (OT, M), Graham Pocic (OL, Ill), Ricky Barnum (OL, MICH)

CURRENT D: John Hankins (NT, OSU), Kawaan Short (3T, Pur), Marcus Rush (DE, MSU), Jon Brown (MLB, Ill), Gerald Hodges (OLB, PSU), Jordan Kovacs (SS, M), Micah Hyde (CB, Iowa)

EXPLANATION: So when I take huge, proven linemen you guys say your puny nose guards will get leverage on them, and when I take squat, proven linemen you say I'm a Michigan homer. What I am is a spread offensive line homer, and it just so happens that some of the best of them play for Michigan. With Barnum I have yet another super target of Rich Rod, another very fast and dependable combo blocker, and a guy who can play center or guard depending on who is available to me later on.

Kenny Bell gives me a be-dreaded complimentary receiver who's 6'1, speedy, and had a deceptively productive season: 32 catches for 461 yards and 3 TDs--all as a freshman with Heiko's starting running back as a passer. Project that to a Denardified offense where he's not a freshman and not the only eligible receiver worth covering, and you get a top 5-ish receiver by Big Ten 2012 standards. His usage increased as the season progressed to about 5 catches per game on 7 targets. The knock on him is dropsies, which Husker fans say comes from blocking 90% of the time. Good blocking also comes from blocking 90% of the time. Only Roundtree comes close as a comparable left on the board, but Bell's low side is basically last year's Roundtree and his upside is Manninghamish.

In a year when the conference is so receiver-poor that the far and away best option is a Roundtree-effect walk-on, and the other guys are hanging their hats on depth chart transfers and position switchers (ahem, "being closer to family members"), to get Kofi and Kenny is somewhat of a coup.

SNARK: Yes, Heiko, there is deep magic in Ryan Shazier. But if you read the deeper magic, the magic written in HTTVs of years past, you would know that you have drafted nothing but "Janus" Mouton II. You may have stopped one play in the backfield, but the next one is going 42 yards to paydirt!

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

ACE

9027266-large[1]PICK: Michael Mauti, linebacker, Penn State

CURRENT O: Montee Ball (RB, UW), James Vandenberg (QB, IA), Ricky Wagner (LT, UW), Keenan Davis (WR, IA), Travis Frederick (C, UW), Spencer Long (RG, NEB), Jake Stoneburner (TE, OSU)

CURRENT D: Chris Borland (MLB, UW), William Gholston (SDE, MSU), Johnny Adams (CB, MSU), Mike Taylor (WLB, UW), Ricardo Allen (CB, PUR), Ibraheim Campbell (SS, NW), Cameron Meredith (WDE, NEB), Michael Mauti (SLB, PSU)

BRIEF EXPLANATION: Now's the time to take some risks, and Mauti certainly qualifies; for the second time in three seasons, he's looking to bounce back from a season-ending ACL tear (the bright side, I guess, being that the knee he hurt last year wasn't the same one that underwent surgery in 2009). When healthy, however, Mauti is an aggressive, instinctual run-stuffer with NFL upside. As a part-time starter in 2010, Mauti tallied 67 tackles and 5.5 TFL, and in just three games last year he amassed 21 tackles, 3 TFL, 3 PBU, and an interception before going down against Eastern Michigan. At this point in the draft, he's worth the gamble; if playing at 100%, he's better than several of the LBs taken previously.

SNARK: Barnum over Ferentz or any of the more-qualified guards in the league? The iPhone fails Seth again, apparently.

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

HEIKO

Kenny Demens[1]PICK: Kenny Demens, LB, Michigan

CURRENT O: Braxton Miller (QB, OSU), Taylor Martinez (QB/RB, UNL), Kyle Prater (WR, NW), Devin Gardner (QB/WR, UM), DeAnthony Arnett (WR, MSU)

CURRENT D: Michael Buchanan (DE, ILL), Jordan Hill (DT, PSU), Baker Steinkuhler (DT, UNL), Craig Roh (DE, UM), Max Bullough (LB, MSU), Kenny Demens (LB, UM), Ryan Shazier (LB, OSU), Isaiah Lewis (FS, MSU), C.J. Barnett (SS, OSU)

KICKER(S): Brett Maher, K/P, Nebraska

BRIEF EXPLANATION: I needed a middle linebacker to thump your running backs and also to cover all your tight ends. Kenny is almost David Harris, and can cover. Good enough.

SNARK: 10 dollars says Seth is going to take James Ferentz and turn Barnum into a guard.

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

BRIAN

MarqueisGrayTDREC[1]PICKS: MarQuies Gray, QB/WR, Minnesota, and CJ Fieodorwicz, TE, Iowa

CURRENT O: Nathan Scheelhaase (QB, ILL), Fitzgerald Toussaint (RB, M), LeVeon Bell (HB/FB, MSU), Jared Abbrederis (WR, UW), MarQuies Gray (QB/WR, Minn), CJ Fieodorwicz (TE, Iowa), Taylor Lewan (LT, M), Chris McDonald (RG, MSU), Jack Mewhort (RT, OSU).

CURRENT D: John Simon (DE, OSU), Beau Allen (NT, UW), Akeem Spence (DT, Illinois), Jake Ryan (LB, M), Denicos Allen (LB, MSU), Terry Hawthorne (CB, ILL), Bradley Roby(CB, OSU)

BRIEF EXPLANATION: You guys forgot about Gray. While guys with no catches were being snapped up by Heiko to fulfill the role of a rangy downfield threat basically absent in the Big Ten this year, the one QB who'd actually proven himself at wide receiver sat on the board, wondering if anyone remembered that Minnesota was in the Big Ten. Well, I did. I remember your existence, Minnesota, and I'll grab MarQuies Gray to be my Devin Gardner.

Gray was shifted to wide receiver his sophomore year because he was too much of an athlete for the Gophers to sit on the bench and caught 42 balls for 587 yards in just seven starts. Last year he was (usually) Minnesota's starting quarterback and while he was pretty terrible at that, he rushed for just under 1,000 yards, further proving his athletic bonafides. He'll give Scheelhaase another deep threat to exploit.

Then I'll beef up the BEEFCAKE with a 6'7" rising true junior who came on late for the Hawkeyes and ncf_u_fiedorowicz_wm_400[1]has the level-headed Patrick Vint saying stuff like this:

Fiedorowicz was the jewel of the 2010 Iowa recruiting class, a four-star genetic freak of a tight end who played seven different positions in high school and was enough of a talent to draw offers from programs that don't even use tight ends. … Since then, he shrugged off a redshirt, blew people up on special teams as a true freshman, won the second-string tight end spot for his sophomore year, left the initial starter -- a four-year letterman -- in the dust, caught sixteen passes for 167 yards and a handful of touchdowns (including a touchdown in Iowa's bowl loss), and drew rave reviews from his new offensive coordinator. Not a bad two years.

The "Polish Hat"—no idea—is expected to be Iowa's most potent offensive weapon this year, and he's already exceeded Stoneburner's annual production. At around 270 pounds, he's also capable of contributing to the ground-and-pound being developed around these parts.

SNARK: See above in re: Stoneburner. Seth, you are such a Michigan OL homer.

Also, we are Michigan fans. We have known the Kovacs, and therefore we cannot talk poorly about awesome players who happen to be former walk-ons, lest the Kovacs disapprove. Abbrederis forever.

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

HEIKO

105121884_display_image[1]PICK: J.T. Floyd, Cornerback, Michigan

CURRENT O: Braxton Miller (QB, OSU), Taylor Martinez (QB/RB, UNL), Kyle Prater (WR, NW), Devin Gardner (QB/WR, UM), DeAnthony Arnett (WR, MSU)

CURRENT D: Michael Buchanan (DE, ILL), Jordan Hill (DT, PSU), Baker

Steinkuhler (DT, UNL), Craig Roh (DE, UM), Max Bullough (LB, MSU), Kenny Demens (LB, UM), Ryan Shazier (LB, OSU), J.T. Floyd (CB, UM), Isaiah Lewis (FS, MSU), C.J. Barnett (SS, OSU)

KICKER(S): Brett Maher, K/P, Nebraska

BRIEF EXPLANATION: Michigan's J.T. Floyd is perhaps a little underrated due to lingering PTSD from his 2010 performance. But as Seth pointed out a while ago, Floyd allowed 1 TD all last season against opposing teams' No. 1 wide receivers. Given that those No. 1 wide receivers were a lot better than whatever you guys can muster, I think I am my team is going to be all right. Also, as a bigger boundary corner, he can come up in run support should you choose to run the ball 90% of the time, which you all would probably be wise to do.

SNARK: I thought about drafting Gray, but I didn't want someone who was 6-18 over the past two years. Also, now that you have a quarterback who's better than Scheelhaase, what're you going to do with Scheelhaase?

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

hi-res-6179384_crop_exact[1]ACE

PICK: Will Campbell, defensive tackle, Michigan

CURRENT O: Montee Ball (RB, UW), James Vandenberg (QB, IA), Ricky Wagner (OT, UW), Keenan Davis (WR, IA), Travis Frederick (C, UW), Spencer Long (G, NEB), Jake Stoneburner (TE, OSU)

CURRENT D: Chris Borland (LB, UW), William Gholston (DE, MSU), Johnny Adams (CB, MSU), Mike Taylor (LB, UW), Ricardo Allen (CB, PUR), Ibraheim Campbell (S, NW), Will Campbell (DT, MICH)

BRIEF EXPLANATION: Wait for it...

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

SETH

Oklahoma IowaPICKS: James Ferentz, center, Iowa, and Jeremy Gallon, slot-back, Michigan

CURRENT O: Denard Robinson (QB, M), Rex Burkhead (RB, Neb), Jeremy Gallon (Slot, M), Kofi Hughes (WR, Ind), Kenny Bell (WR, Neb), Jacob Pedersen (TE, Wis), Michael Schofield (OT, M), Graham Pocic (OL, Ill), Ricky Barnum (OG, MICH), James Ferentz (C, Iowa)

CURRENT D: John Hankins (NT, OSU), Kawaan Short (3T, Pur), Marcus Rush (DE, MSU), Jon Brown (MLB, Ill), Gerald Hodges (OLB, PSU), Jordan Kovacs (SS, M), Micah Hyde (CB, Iowa)

EXPLANATION: It's all part of the plan, Ace. Barnum was always meant for guard and I didn't trust certain other Michigan homers to leave me the best spread guard left on the board. The platonic ideal for my offense's center is David Molk. Since David Molk can't be on a Big Ten roster anymore (did nobody think to try to get him a 6th year for all the injuries? Just sayin--other schools have gotten it for less time missed and it would matter), my anchor will have to be the guy known as "not quite David Molk." Ferentz is not quite as big or strong as Molk. He can execute not quite as many reach blocks as Molk. He's almost as much of a team leader, appears on nearly as many preseason best-of lists, and is slightly less favored in those lists than Molk was to win them. My new not-quite Rimington has been the No. 1 center on my board since the start, but I would have been fine with Schmeig or Vitable--easy late round picks--is why I waited this long. Ferentz allows me to play Barnum at guard where he's better suited and gives me an interior line I'd put against any of your DT combos.

Gallon-Jump-Ball[1]Gallon: Brian can keep his two-back sets. Heiko can have his Fritz-tri-QB-wildcat-diamond abomination or whatever it is he's planning. And Ace can keep on wearing down Google until it agrees to answer "Who's the Big Ten's best fullback???". For my extra back-like object, since I don't have to worry about Burkhead tiring, like, ever, I'm taking a slot receiver. Gallon is everything a slot should be: a jitterbug with trustworthy hands and jetpack speed who can make a defense pay if they try to cheat (...their slot coverage into the box) on Denard. As a bonus he inherited Odoms's mountain goat blocking. As a double-bonus he has perfected Roundtree's 2009-'10 cloaking device that allows him to get acres of open downfield. As a triple-bonus Gallon has shown he can overcome some of his 5'8 size disadvantage with well-timed leaps and positioning on less athletic cornerbacks, making him a surprisingly effective third-down and red zone comeback option. In Borges's West Coasty Spread and Denard a Lot grab-bag of an offense last year Gallon put up nearly identical numbers to Kenny Bell and featured in the most game-swingingly play (late v ND) of the season. He is the perfect fit for this offense, which makes sense because like the rest of the Wolverines on Team Seth, he was recruited for it.

He'll also be my punt returner. Gallon is no Abbrederis but was solidly 3rd in the Big Ten last year in per-return yardage (MSU's departed Keshawn Martin was 2nd), averaging a solid 10.11 yards per attempt. GALLON U HOLD ONTO THE DAMN BALL!

SNARK: Abbrederis could have dreadlocks and look like Snoop from the Wire-- he still wouldn't repeat last year's output catching Scheelhaase passes instead of Russell Wilson passes, and opposite a guy who would rather be a Minnesota Gopher than play receiver instead of Nick Toon. Also since you knocked my quicksilver o-line: are you running a spread with those ponderous plodders or are you secretly putting together the pieces to recreate the 2007 DeBord offense with Scheelhaase at QB instead of Henne?

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

ACE

 U.S. Army All-American Bowl West Team defensive lineman Ondre Pipkins (53) during the Monday West Team Practice for the 2012 U.S. Army All-American Bowl at Comalander Stadium in San Antonio Texas.PICK: Ondre Pipkins, nose tackle, Michigan

CURRENT O: Montee Ball (RB, UW), James Vandenberg (QB, IA), Ricky Wagner (OT, UW), Keenan Davis (WR, IA), Travis Frederick (C, UW), Spencer Long (G, NEB), Jake Stoneburner (TE, OSU)

CURRENT D: Chris Borland (LB, UW), William Gholston (DE, MSU), Johnny Adams (CB, MSU), Mike Taylor (LB, UW), Ricardo Allen (CB, PUR), Ibraheim Campbell (S, NW), Will Campbell (DT, MICH), Ondre Pipkins (NT, MICH)

BRIEF EXPLANATION: So, I just drafted two of Michigan's defensive tackles; one of them doesn't even start and is a true freshman, the other is a senior with all of 3.5 career TFL. Is this insane? Probably. Allow me to explain myself. The options available at defensive tackle were limited, with the best available options probably Purdue's Bruce Gaston and Indiana's Larry Black and Adam Replogle. Those three are among the best players on their respective defenses. The problem, of course, is that those respective defenses are terrible. Despite the presence of Kawaan Short, Purdue allowed over 200 yards rushing per game on 4.7 yards per carry last year in Big Ten play; both figures placed them 10th in the conference. The Hoosiers somehow managed to be far, far worse, ceding 271(!) yards per game on 5.7(!!) yards per carry.

Michigan's figures of 116 yards and 3.7 yards per carry, on the other hand, were good for first and third in the B1G, respectively. Yes, it was with a completely different set of defensive tackles—not to mention far more talent surrounding those tackles—but the standard for quality play is at an entirely different level in Ann Arbor than it is in Bloomington or West Lafayette. If Will Campbell had decided to transfer to Purdue after the 2010 season, I have a hunch he'd be starting next to Short. If Ondre Pipkins shocked the world and chose Indiana out of high school, he'd play from day one and probably have his jersey retired before he ever played a game.

Plus, while Black (6'2", 294) and Replogle (6'3", 294) are a decent-sized pairing, Campbell (6'5", 308) and Pipkins (6'3", 340) obstruct all of the sidewalks and probably most of the running backs, too. I'm not so much concerned about production as I am building a wall of beef; with Campbell and Pipkins both in the best shape of their lives, that beef can even move a little. Is the floor of Campbell/Pipkins lower than that of Black/Replogle? Certainly. Are their ceilings even remotely comparable? Absolutely not.
Okay, I was also due an unabashed homer pick. Snark away, gents.

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

HEIKO

Patrick Omameh[1]PICK: Patrick Omameh

CURRENT O: Braxton Miller (QB, OSU), Taylor Martinez (QB/RB, UNL), Patrick Omameh (OG, UM), Kyle Prater (WR, NW), Devin Gardner (QB/WR, UM), DeAnthony Arnett (WR, MSU)

CURRENT D: Michael Buchanan (DE, ILL), Jordan Hill (DT, PSU), Baker Steinkuhler (DT, UNL), Craig Roh (DE, UM), Max Bullough (LB, MSU), Kenny Demens (LB, UM), Ryan Shazier (LB, OSU), J.T. Floyd (CB, UM), Isaiah Lewis (FS, MSU), C.J. Barnett (SS, OSU)

KICKER(S): Brett Maher, K/P, Nebraska

BRIEF EXPLANATION: Omameh is huge and loves pancaking All-American linebackers into first-round draft pick safeties. He makes the magic happen.

SNARK: None needed. Ace snarked himself.

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

BRIAN

041412_SPT_Spring_Game_MRM_02.jpgPICKS: Blake Countess, CB, Michigan, and Daimion Stafford, SS, Nebraska.

CURRENT O: Nathan Scheelhaase (QB, ILL), Fitzgerald Toussaint (RB, M), LeVeon Bell (HB/FB, MSU), Jared Abbrederis (WR, UW), MarQuies Gray (QB/WR, Minn), CJ Fieodorwicz (TE, Iowa), Taylor Lewan(LT, M), Chris McDonald (RG, MSU), Jack Mewhort (RT, OSU).

CURRENT D: John Simon (DE, OSU), Beau Allen (NT, UW), Akeem Spence (DT, ILL), Jake Ryan (LB, M), Denicos Allen (LB, MSU), Terry Hawthorne (CB, ILL), Bradley Roby(CB, OSU), Blake Countess (CB, M), Daimion Stafford(SS, UNL)

BRIEF EXPLANATION: I'll continue the homer train but unlike a number of the Wolverines flying off the board now that we've seemingly picked all the foreign players we've heard about, Blake Countess actually deserves to be picked after a freshman year in which he emerged into a starter at field corner for Mattison and company, performing well. A universal four star, he enters year two poised to blow up in the mold of previous Michigan cornerbacks like Woodson, Hall, and Jackson. JT Floyd was better last year, but Countess will be better this year. What's that about eight-foot-ceilings now, Heiko?

Daimion Stafford Chattanooga v Nebraska V0Xw2JeXcU-l[1]I was also going to grab Omameh before he got snatched, since he is a three-year starter entering his senior year; with him gone I'll latch onto Daimion Stafford, a JUCO transfer who stepped right into Nebraska's starting lineup last year and finished third on the team in tackles; he also picked up 10 PBUs. He was no Kovacs in terms of reliability, but he was sort of a freshman and he brings the wood. 247 named him the #6 JUCO last year, he had an offer from USC. Nebraska folks feel he developed as a cover guy, and he should get significantly better with a full offseason to prepare—Stafford was a show-up-in-fall-and-start guy. And he's named "Daimion." QED.

SNARK: Ask Shazier about how power blocking schemes can mesh with a spread just fine, Seth. Inverted veer for the win. Hope everyone's getting familiar with the secondaries of Northwestern and Indiana to fill out their corner slots.

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NEXT TIME ON DRAFTOSNARK: we finish this dang thing. Most of us are now conversant on the secondaries of Northwestern and Indiana. Heiko drafts Kain Colter to do something, probably.

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:

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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.

Recruits In Retrospect: 2008 Defense

Recruits In Retrospect: 2008 Defense

Submitted by Ace on June 11th, 2012 at 4:32 PM


The Ballad of Boubacar is brief and unfortunate

This is the second part of an in-depth look at the 2008 recruiting class, and more specifically Brian's recruiting profiles for that class. You can find part one, covering the offense, here. If you'd like to peruse the recruiting profiles yourself—a highly recommended time-waster—you can find links to each position group here. Without further ado, let's look back at the eight-member defensive class of 2008. This one's not for the squeamish.

Mike Martin Wrestles Not Mike Martin, Which Goes As Expected

Let's start with the good, yes? Mike Martin not only stands as the clear-cut best player in the class, but outside of two-star Patrick Omameh may very well be the only player to surpass expectations from when he hit campus. Those expectations, at least from Brian, were pretty high:

Guru Reliability: High.
General Excitement Level: High. The highlight reel is totally impressive, there are zero questions about work ethic or how in shape he is, and he's got pretty good guru rankings.
Projection: Will play in the DT rotation immediately, and will probably leap past Ferrara, Kates (if Kates remains on the team), et al to claim a starting spot once Taylor and Johnson graduate.

The remarkable strength that helped Martin excel for four years at Michigan was also on full display during his high school wrestling career, and fortunately there is video evidence of a young Martin perfecting his Hulk Smash. A Simmons-style running diary follows:

0:00 — Martin and his opponent—"Mo" is his name, judging by the cheers from people around the cameraman—jog onto the mat.
0:07 — Mo removes what appears to be an ankle tether, so maybe this is just an elaborate criminal punishment that almost certainly violates the 8th Amendment.
0:14 — Martin shakes Mo's hand. Martin releases his grip and Mo's hand goes limp, never again to function properly.
0:16 — The match begins. Martin begins stalking his prey, who ignores his coach's cries to "circle, circle!" and instead backpedals furiously to avoid Martin's grasp. Within seconds, Mo finds himself out of bounds.
0:36 — At the restart, Mo goes for an ill-timed high-five. Martin ignores this desperate plea for peace and immediately dives for a single-leg takedown.
0:44 — Mo manages to ward off the takedown, but once again backs himself out of the ring. When facing Mike Martin, this is not cowardice, but simply a display of proper survival instincts.
0:56 — On the second restart, Mo lightly pats Martin on the head. If you consult page 56 of your Worst Case Scenario handbook, you know this is the last thing you want to do when encountering a Mike Martin in the wild.
1:12 — Martin gets his hands on the back of Mo's head then explodes for a takedown, knocking Mo to the very edge of the mat. Mo sees an opportunity for escape and frantically crawls for the exits. Mike Martin is having none of that:

1:20 — As Mo's compatriots cackle at his misfortune, Martin assumes control and pins his convulsing opponent, ending this match with relative humanity.
1:50 — The two shake hands as Martin is declared the winner. Martin goes on to star at Michigan. Mo reattaches his ankle tether, vows to straighten his life out, and hastily seeks both physical and emotional therapy.

This Did Not Go As Planned, Part I

The first, and highest-ranked, of the Cass Tech Lollipop Guild line of cornerbacks was Boubacar Cissoko, a top-50 overall recruit to every site save ESPN, where he was outrageously(!) pegged as the nation's #28 corner. Regrettable statement goes here:

Guru Reliability: Maximal. The unified chorus: this is a perfect cornerback except he's 5'8".
General Excitement Level: High. Obvious physical limitation aside, the perfect corner.
Projection: Plays as a freshman and is starting next to Warren by his sophomore year.

Cissoko flashed promise as a freshman in 2008, even starting two contests. Then Michael Floyd and Golden Tate lit him up again and again in 2009 before Cissoko went on a crime spree that quickly found him off the team and then incarcerated. While Cissoko obviously never reached anything close to the potential that had Brian so excited, his recruiting profile did feature one bit of eerie foreshadowing [emphasis mine]:

A couple years ago, I watched [current Detroit Lions CB Chris] Houston and Arkansas play South Carolina. Redshirt sophomore Sidney Rice was the Gamecock's big star and Houston lined up nose-to-nose with Rice in eff-you press man on every single play. Spurrier went after him again and again; sometimes he won and sometimes he lost, but usually because Rice reeled in a perfectly-thrown fade. It was a fantastic individual battle and I came away impressed with both players. So did the NFL: Houston went with the eighth pick in the second round; Rice went just four picks later.

Maybe this isn't the most reassuring comparison, as Rice did end up with 7 catches for 128 yards and Arkansas lost, but... hey... free second round pick!

Michael Floyd vs. Michigan, 2009: 7 catches, 131 yards, and a touchdown. Somehow, the Wolverines won anyway.

Instead of 3-4 years of Cissoko stardom, this was the guy who ended up as a multi-year starter at cornerback:

Guru Reliability: High. No reason he'd be under the radar; offers about commensurate with ranking.
General Excitement Level: Meh.
Projection: Though he's being brought in as a corner a move to safety is likely given the above, where he'll probably end up buried behind Stevie Brown, Artis Chambers, Stewart, and maybe Brandon Smith until his junior year, at which point he might develop into a contributor.

If you read that and went "sounds like J.T. Floyd," give yourself a cookie. At least, "meh" was most everyone's general impression of Floyd until last year's Illinois game; his emergence as a reliable starting corner means he's surpassed most reasonable expectations for his career.

The final secondary recruit was safety Brandon Smith, whose guru ratings took a Marvin Robinson-like dive for very similar reasons:

Smith looks like a prototypical collegian at a strapping 6'2", 210, but the lack of big time offers is telling. It's easy to believe Smith could lure the gurus in with his impressive frame at various combines and inflate his ranking while leaving college coaches relatively unmoved.

Excitement level was only "moderate" and a move to outside linebacker predicted. Smith moved to linebacker, then announced his intention to transfer before the end of the 2009 season. He landed at Temple and is not listed on the 2012 spring roster.

This Did Not Go As Planned, Part II

Michigan's recruiting haul included four linebackers rated as four-stars by Rivals, providing promise of much-needed depth and versatility for the position group going forward. The class included New Jersey's Marcus Witherspoon (Spoon!)...

An explosive edge rusher who's probably too small to be a fulltime defensive end in college? Add four inches and some chicken legs and that sounds like Shawn Crable, who actually spent quite a bit of time as a defensive end anyway.

...as well as Youngstown product Taylor Hill:

What does Michigan have in Hill? The comparison above, Larry Foote, is a strong one. Like Foote, Hill is an undersized WLB who played his high school ball as a defensive end and specialized in getting into the backfield.

As you know, the Wolverines did not end up with new versions of Crable and Foote. Instead, Witherspoon hit a snag with the NCAA Clearinghouse and eventually signed with Rutgers, while Hill was on the team for all of one game before transferring to Youngstown State.

Fellow linebacker recruit J.B. Fitzgerald—"a good bet to be a multi-year starter"—also joined the ranks of the disappointing. Kenny Demens is the only class of 2008 linebacker to make a significant impact despite being pegged as a "low upside sort" and getting a less-than-complimentary player comparison:

Chris Graham may not be the most appealing comparison, but the elements are all there: a little undersized (I am of the belief the 6'1" frequently thrown around as his height is overstated), has difficulting getting through traffic, praised for his short range burst and thumping tackling. Graham never figured out how to play in control or get to the right place at the right time and was thus a disappointing starter; if Demens can play smarter he could be anything from a decent starter to a borderline all Big Ten pick.

Admittedly, that's a pretty accurate assessment. Now let's try to forget about the carnage of this class, which featured the legal adventures of Justin Feagin and Cissoko, not nearly enough Sam McGuffie YouTube magic, transfers from several critical commits, the hope that Witherspoon could mitigate the loss of Nick Perry to USC, and no Terrelle Pryor. Though, on second thought, that last bit turned out just fine.

Spring! Yes! Sort Of!

Spring! Yes! Sort Of!

Submitted by Brian on April 16th, 2012 at 12:00 PM

7078576629_1d5142be3b_z[1]

Eric Upchurch. Upchurch's spring gallery.

The Spring Game came and went and I don't think it was just me: this one seemed flat in comparison to previous editions. The last time Michigan had a spring game so devoid of intrigue it was 2007, when senior versions of Hart and Henne ruled on offense and Lloyd Carr was the coach. Carr often seemed like he'd prefer it if his team played in front of no one, and this tendency was most frequently expressed at spring games. 2007 was boring and that was the way of things: boring.

Since:

  • 2008: closed to the public thanks to Michigan Stadium construction, we still get our first glimpses at the spread offense… and our doom. The sense of the willies you got reading descriptions of what went on (you dismissed it as meaningless spring game stuff because you didn't want to ruin your summer as well as your fall) was the first indicator of what we were in for. The turnover party did not stop until the season did.
  • 2009: Tate Forcier's coming out party. Program savior gets a run out for the first time as an early enrollee, performs brilliantly, everyone high-fives. Ace puts together Weapon of Choice video that is then recut into Weapon of Choice w/ Christopher Walken video. Youtube now thinks this video is set to Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend," which is Skynet-level commentary on how that Forcier thing worked out.
  • 2010: Denard Robinson's coming out party. Program savior gets a run out for not quite the first time but definitely the first one in which he looks like a plausible quarterback, performs brilliantly, everyone high-fives. Afterwards mgovideo published cutups of all three QBs' snaps so people could engage in Lincoln-Douglass debates about who should be the starter.
  • 2011: Will Al Borges stuff Denard Robinson into a pro-style offense designed for the exact opposite sort of quarterback? Answer: argh, yes. Spring game spawns offseason-long running debate about whether it's pure folly to move away from all shotgun, all the time. Borges participates in internal conflict version of that debate and generally sides with the shotgun crew, except against Iowa, for which we all pay dearly.

The past four years the spring game has been an important data dump that has indicated quite a lot of things about Michigan's season to come. Doom in 2008. Better quarterbacking the next couple years but with a fatal flaw: Forcier and Robinson's blowout performances came against Michigan's defense, which merely blew. Last year displayed to all how bad an idea it was to go under center a majority of the time.

This year Michigan spent about the same number of snaps as last year in the spread, ran Denard out there for one series, gave the established top tailback a few carries, and the whole thing was… just there, flopping around being dull and stuff.

Maybe this opinion is influenced by the fact that I wasn't there, but I don't think so. The things we think we found out are generally less exciting than "introducing DENARD ROBINSON!" and less important than the possibility we might totally screw him up. This is a sign of health in a program. It just makes this post a little less throbbingly important than it has been recently.

Anyway, there were some things we did learn…

Video

DonkeyPuncher231 (please change that username someday, dear DP) has spliced together just about the whole thing:

The official site put out a highlight video about half that length:

Box Scorin'

An unofficial box score from AnnArbor.com. Notables:

  • Gardner two of seven with an INT and 36 yards passing.
  • Bellomy six of nine but the same yardage as Gardner.
  • Gardner 9 rushes for 41 yards.
  • Toussaint five for 39.
  • Rawls 9 for 39.
  • Hayes and Smith had one yard between them on 11 carries.
  • "Unknown" caught two balls for 20 yards. Tacopants?

That data in hand, let's talk turkey.

 

Backup Quarterback Derby? I've Never Heard Of Such A Thing

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Upchurch

Michigan's coaches took the Colonel Tressel approach to the obvious #1 storyline of the day, Russell Bellomy looking a lot better than Devin Gardner. Bellomy praise was ladled out but when a reporter asked point-blank who the #2 guy was, Hoke's response:

If you were to name a No. 2 quarterback today, who would it be?

“Well, it’s Devin.”

I see nossing. I do not comment on Devin Gardner throwing multiple five-yard dumpoffs in a manner that John Shurna thinks is unusual and Northwestern's perpetual 6'9" euro center who takes threes despite never making any of them thinks is inaccurate. Neither do I comment on Gardner throwing an interception that, while a pretty good play by one Blake Countess, was also very late.

Borges's Bellomy praise was specifically parceled out after a section of Gardner hype:

You gave most of the snaps to Devin Gardner and Russell Bellomy today …

“Yeah, that’s what we were trying to develop. We decided before we came in that we were only going to play Denard just a little tiny bit. We wanted to see these other kids.”

Thoughts on their springs overall?

“Yeah I think Devin in particular has had an outstanding spring. He’s really done some very nice things and has developed in the position more and more. Needs more time in situations like this where there’s a lot of people watching and the pressure’s on and all that, but he has really done a nice job. And Russ -- I said it last week and the week before -- Russ has been steady and solid and [when] guys get open he hits them. He makes very few mistakes. He’s just one of those kinds of guys. He too is very athletic and can get himself out of some messes. He’s a solid guy.

If Gardner's been really good and Bellomy uninspiring but solid and mistake-light throughout the spring, only one of these traits came through on Saturday.

Twitter took the evidence on hand, considered it carefully, and wrote out a PhD thesis about how Gardner was terrible forever and Bellomy should be the backup quarterback as Gardner became LarryJustin FitzeraldBlackmon. And, yea, because twitter always has the most considered opinions these were not immediately regretted in the morning and… actually, hold that twitter sarcasm for one twitter moment.

Do we of the twitter hivemind regret that? Let's consider the evidence. Last year Gardner got into various games and threw 23 passes. He was 11 of 23 for 176 yards (7.6 YPA), one touchdown, and one INT. There was also this:

The defense would like to add this:

That's not much to go on. Let's make our data big, at least insofar as it can be made so.

In three consecutive spring games he's looked bad. You may remember Jake Ryan bursting onto the scene last year with a pick six thrown directly at his dome by Gardner. Yeah. Stuff on Gardner from the last spring game post:

As per usual, many events from the spring game are in the eye of the beholder. Is Devin Gardner's inability to find anyone open an indictment of him, an indictment of the second-team wide receivers, or… uh… like… people being covered? I know that latter seems improbable but I have seen football games in which this has happened. …

Unfortunately, there was a lot that was unambiguously bad, most of it from the quarterbacks: interceptions whistled yards over the intended receiver's head or thrown directly at linebackers, a Mallett-like plague of dropped snaps, offsides calls, etc. The general impression was more 2008 than 2010. … The QBs sucked on their own. …

Devin Gardner was also inaccurate in drills. They have this dig route where a slot receiver works to the seam then cuts his route off 15 yards downfield and Gardner was consistently missing it.

Robinson went out and did okay for himself after that business, minimizing its importance in our attempts to judge him. For Gardner it remains a big chunk of the time we've gotten to see him.

Here's the video of the year previous:

A summary of that from the immediate aftermath:

Devin Gardner looked raw as hell, fumbling snaps, scrambling into trouble, and reverting to that ugly shotput motion whenever he was forced to throw on the run. He looked like a freshman, which is okay because he is a freshman. However, the torrent of spring hype that suggested Gardner would probably not redshirt because he would be Michigan's best quarterback by UConn… eh, not so much. Maybe it was just a bad day. Even if it was an off day, Robinson showed enough to relegate Gardner to the bench for the first couple games and hopefully his whole freshman year.

Gardner did show the his deep touch on a third and long seam to Odoms that was laid in perfectly. Odoms dropped it.

Gardner got safetied and intercepted on the same play and still probably had a better overall outing than he did yesterday.

So. This is our oeuvre. Now consider Michigan's situation:

  • They didn't even attempt a long pass yesterday, presumably because they were all covered. After tight end, wide receiver is the position on offense that could most use an instant talent infusion.
  • Most of the unambiguously  good things Gardner did yesterday involved his legs. That scamper down the sideline… good lord y'all. It's not a big stretch to declare him the best athlete on the team outside of Denard, and given that size and wingspan he could be pushing close to #16.
  • Bellomy looks like a competent game manager should the need arise.
  • Given Robinson's previous two seasons at QB, the need almost certainly will arise.
  • Moving Gardner away from quarterback gives Michigan exactly two QBs this year and next and means either a true freshman or low-profile redshirt sophomore starts for M in 2013.

What do you do with that? Hell if I know. If you still had Forcier around and recruited a 2012 quarterback I would be at the post office right now watching Hoke mail a bow-clad Gardner* to Jeff Hecklinski. If there were enough of us and a fiddle we'd probably be singing Hava Nagila and dancing.

*[He's also wearing a full uniform, pervs.]

In Michigan's current situation, moving Gardner is asking for this interlude in game nine:

Matt-Millen-Will-McDonough-580[1]

MCDONAUGH: Michigan's quarterback is now Jack Kennedy. Ask not what your team can do for you, Jack, amirite? 
MILLEN: He looks really, really sweaty.
MCDONAUGH: Astute observation, Matt. Jack Kennedy is soaked in a bodily fluid we dearly hope is sweat.
MILLEN: Someone should get him an IV. I… what is that? That can't be healthy.
MCDONAUGH: Jack Kennedy is leaving a trail of viscous material behind him that must be a slurry of sweat and pure, distilled fear. Here's the snap. Kennedy hands off from the I-form… Vincent Smith with a one-yard loss.
MILLEN: Can all that fluid really be coming out of his body?
MCDONAUGH: Take it from my uncle Morty: all that and more. Vincent Smith with a one-yard loss.
MILLEN: How can he even hold on to the ball?
MCDONAUGH: I have no idea. This series of one-yard losses may be the most heroic in football history. Vincent Smith tackled for a loss of one.
MILLEN: Just look at him not fumble that snap despite having lost half his body weight in the past six minutes.

dal_ok_ksu_booth_20111029[1]

MCDONAUGH: It's kind of beautiful.
MILLEN: For spacious skies. For aglumb waves of grain. For purple mounted mohair above the fruit-tossed Spain. AMERICAAAAAAA—
MCDONAUGH: Hagerup in to punt.
MILLEN: –AMERICAAAAAAAA, GOD SPED HIS FACE ON THEEEEEE. AND CROWN THY HOOD WITH BROTHERGOOD FROM PEA TO SHINGLING PEA.
MCDONAUGH: Inspiring stuff from Ann Arbor. Michigan has six yards of offense at the half. We'll be back after this commercial break.

SCENE. This may have been drug-induced.

Anyway. They'd probably just put Gardner in and hope they hadn't stunted his development to the point where he'd be totally useless. Things would go poorly.

Could you blame them that much, though? If Hoke reaches for the brass ring next fall and it blows up in his face because Denard goes down and the guy who was supposed to be his backup is at wideout, I probably wouldn't even be mad. It would suck, but I want a guy who will swing for the fences.

While the coaches are going out of their way to make it sound like that is not in the cards, sometimes the relationship between reality and what coaches have to say to not have horrible things happen is great. If Devin wants to be the #2 QB going into fall Michigan would be foolish not to downplay the WR stuff until he's on campus in the fall. Once he's there, then talk to him about moonlighting while still being the #2.

Gun to the head, I think he does see a lot of time at WR in fall camp. He'll still practice most of the #2 QB snaps but also taking a share of snaps at WR when Denard is out there. They'll teach him one of the four spots—probably Hemingway's—and use him in certain three and four wide receiver packages for 15-20 snaps a game. If he proves to be a top-flight guy quickly Michigan might not have much choice about using him more in tight games, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

If Denard goes down for any length of time, it'll be Devin.

Meanwhile there are 20 or 21 other positions Michigan has to fill…

All Eyes(z) On Campbell

"It just means I can't slip at all, because I got 120 eyes on me now," Campbell said of leading the team on the field.

Well… there's no denying he looked a lot better.

041412_SPT_Spring_Game_MRM_02_fullsize-thumb-590x391-108936[1]

Not literally. His name is Rio and he dances on the sand. Via AnnArbor.com

Like, a lot. Last spring game guy was a lump who managed to not get blown off the ball most of the time and just about never did anything. During the year he was largely that with some nice plays mixed in, but too infrequently to be encouraging. In the spring game he had clearly progressed enough to actually beat his man to the gap more than once.

You know all those runs Rawls had where he had to abort mission and find another hole? Most of those were headed at Campbell. Since we got a baseline for Ricky Barnum in the time he got before his ankle injury last year—decent Big Ten player even then—that's a hopeful sign.

Mattison and Hoke hated it, though, hated everything. I am factoring in further improvement as this line Heningers themselves into ship shape by fall. Enough to survive a 'Bama onslaught? Probably not, but they'll be okay afterwards.

Other DL Items

Roh and Black each showed some pass-rush ability from their spots and neither got ostentatiously rammed into the endzone on a big run play. The going was tough for the offense. With four-ish starters back from an OL that paved the way for Michigan running backs—IE, no Denard—to average 5.7 YPA last year, I'll place that in the good column. The extremely tenuous good column.

One nice thing the moves do is it allows Mattison to play a ton of games with his line. Black and Roh can both function as outside DEs just fine, so Mattison can call plays where the line slants and stunts such that one of those guys ends up playing a WDE-ish slot whenever he wants. What Michigan lacks in bulk they'll have to make up for with quickness and the element of surprise; Mattison will have some chess pieces to do that with next year. Note that the touch sack on the Gardner waggle came from the containing… Black. Usually your three-technique is not the guy asked to do that.

The depth here was also encouraging. Richard Ash made a couple nice plays, which I was not expecting. One was an excellent string-out on a stretch play that forced the tailback to awkwardly cut behind him. I was beyond not expecting that. I don't think John Gasaway will get on me if I say I was shocked. Yeah. Later he showed up two yards in the backfield directly in the path of an iso; he got blocked from the side but the bounce he forced saw Marvin Robinson chop poor Vincent Smith down for a one-yard loss.

Redshirt freshman Keith Heitzman also was a standout on the second units, though his inability to flow down the line at the proper angle was the main issue on Rawls's fourth-and-short touchdown. He got into the backfield plenty. Once you've got a guy who can get there it's not that hard to get him to take the right angle against air.

Injuries

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Toussaint clubberates Morgan, via the Wolverine

None serious. Desmond Morgan took a cut block from Fitzgerald Toussaint and limped his way to the sidelines for the day; a source indicates that is not serious and shouldn't affect him at all. Jerald Robinson also had a minor boo boo that should not affect him.

The only player to miss the game was backup SDE Nate Brink, and that injury was no surprise since it happened before the Sugar Bowl. Barring a non-contact injury, Michigan should hit fall camp with everyone on the roster ready to go. Everyone save Brink, the suspended Josh Furman, and the mysteriously absent-but-returned now Tamani Carter got a full spring session in.

So they've got that going for them. That's a lot better than last year when five or six important players, including Toussaint and Lewan, were sidelined.

The Burzynski Start

World, meet Joey Burzynski, the redshirt sophomore walk-on who started at left guard in the spring game. That's not a huge surprise since a lot of shadowy spring practice reports praised him as a potential contributor and he had seen some time with the ones in the King of Tight Frames' highlight videos throughout the spring. His start may not mean anything more than Michigan wanted a decent right tackle (Elliott Mealer) on the second unit to give Bellomy a little time, but the guy started the spring game and must be considered an obvious member of the two-deep.

This is a development that strikes me as concerning. Redshirt freshman Chris Bryant has been getting a lot of shadow praise for a year now and he doesn't seem to be anywhere close to finding a starting job. Not only is he behind Mealer on most days when Mealer is a guard, he's behind Burzynski. Decrement your Bryant excitement meters.

No offense to Burzynski, but until proven otherwise the assumption here is that the spot featuring a walk-on is going to be a problem. Even if it's not that's a spot that will be subject to fierce competition in fall.

Q: does Michigan have enough faith in one of its incoming freshman tackles to move Kalis from primary tackle backup—this site's assumed role for him as a freshman—to left guard competitor? A: Dunno. I do know they like Ben Braden a lot, like far more than the recruiting sites did. Whether he's got the polish to be that third tackle or not I don't know. I would look at insta-move of Kalis inside as a good sign as far as Magnuson and Braden go. That'll be something to watch for in the spring.

Thomas Rawls: Ramming Speed

We got a few carries from Toussaint to remind us that yes, Virginia, Michigan has a true feature back again. The headliner amongst the backups was sophomore Thomas Rawls, who showed a knack in short-yardage ramming and the sort of spread-oriented north-south RAGE runs that Brandon Minor used to specialize in.

It was the short yardage that was most impressive. Michigan's OL was rarely getting Rawls the holes they intended to get him. I'll leave the debate about whether that was Mattison's DL being better than expected or the OL worse for people who enjoy debating impossibilities; what was certainly impressive is that when that happened to Rawls he downshifted behind wherever the intended hole was supposed to be and burst into the next one over—closer to the middle of the field. He lowered his head, knocked guys back, and showed enough presence of mind to reach the ball across the goal line when he was suspended near it. Your short-yardage back: check.

Rawls also displayed that north-south bowling ball mentality on a couple of belly plays from the gun on which flailing arm tackles failed to bring him down and he fell forward after contact. He's got enough of a package to also provide breathers for Toussaint when he wants out. He'll get 5-10 carries a game this year and fill a role. Not sure if he'll ever reach feature back status with two more years of Toussaint and the Isaac(?)/Smith cavalry coming in next season, but he doesn't have to to be a good idea.

Vincent Smith: Did I Do Something Wrong?

Dear Tiny Jesus,

It's me, Vincent. All praise to your save percentage. Could you make sure the spring game is the last time I ever run an iso play from under center? I never go anywhere and it hurts a lot when six 300 pound defensive tackles fling me into the natatorium.

Congratulations on your call-up with the Blue Jackets.

Tiny Bros Before Other Bros,
Vincent

(Smith will be the third down back again and will level some dudes way bigger than he is to open up third down conversions. The power of Rawls hopefully compels Michigan not to run Smith out of the I any more.)

Disappointingly Absent

Spring game disclaimers apply, but where were Jerald Robinson and Roy Roundtree? They were out there. They were not targeted frequently. IIRC Roundtree got a hitch from Robinson on the first drive and then was not gone to again. Robinson featured from time to time but never as a downfield receiver, always as a checkdown option and usually a checkdown option being given a crappy pass.

The only receiver to make an impact was Gallon. I'd prefer Michigan's main target to be a big dude with a bigger catching radius, no offense Denard.

Secondary Status Quo

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Upchurch

After a series of video clips heavily featuring comer Terrence Talbott with the ones instead of JT Floyd it was Floyd who got the start Saturday. He played well, making quick tackles on the short stuff. Later he broke up a slant on a goal-line situation only to get a horsecrap PI call (BOOO PRETEND REF, BOOO). While Talbott got some run, I don't think Floyd's job is under serious threat. Especially after Mattison gushed about him at that Glazier clinic some months ago.

As a unit the secondary was excellent. Countess got a pick and there were very few downfield completions. A skinny post from Gardner to Gallon stands out as the only one of note. Default note about how that makes the WRs look bad goes here; comparison to Michigan defenses pre-Mattison also does. To virtually skunk an offense in 60 plays is quality. With Talbott emerging Michigan seems to go four-deep at corner, maybe five or six depending on how ready Hollowell and Taylor are. The comparison to the Never Forget days is wondrous.

If the depth isn't quite as good at safety at least Jarrod Wilson and Marvin Robinson seemed on top of things… most of the time. Wilson was the guy Rawls made most of his highlights against. If either starter goes down there will be some hairy moments. One of the two should be able to replace 80% of Kovacs next year.

Robinson is out of the doghouse and to see him play well was good because I'd gotten some practice buzz that indicated he was out of shape. He's obviously not; he seems tuned in. Michigan will need him. Even if Furman's stuff was as minor as his lawyer suggests he'll be behind this fall. If it's not as minor he might not be available for a while.

Do Not Be Alarmed, Rich Rodriguez Is Still In Arizona

Formations and such: Michigan still can't run out of the I worth a lick, which is fine by me. I suppose we have to downshift into that stuff eventually, but I'd rather it be clear as day that the way to go is shotgun just to prevent any further Iowa-like misunderstandings of where Michigan's capabilities lie.

Aside from that the most interesting aspect of the day's formations was the most common set: two backs, three WRs, shotgun. That was the meat and bones of the spread and shred in its Slaton/White/Schmitt heyday and Michigan has a pretty good replica of that in Toussaint/Robinson/Hopkins, albeit without the spread-oriented OC and the lethality of the spread in the early aughts as allies.

This says what everyone expects about the TEs—yuck—and suggests that if Michigan can't block 'em they're going to spread 'em. If it's going to work they are going to have to make that gray area defender pay for cheating. We'll see.

Brandin Hawthorne: Mauler of Walk-ons

The most interesting thing that happened after Jack Kennedy entered, signaling the end of serious attention from most folk, was Brandin Hawthorne going ham. He shot a gap for a backfield TFL reminiscent of his slice into the Irish backfield late in that game, then intercepted a TE-bound ball on the next play.

He made a few other tackles here and there and looked… really good.

Now, we've seen him on the field and there's only one way Hawthorne making contact with a Big Ten blocker ends. That would be "poorly," and that would be why Desmond Morgan took his job last year and won't give it back this year.

I'm just saying, though. Just sayin' that when Michigan goes to a nickel package on a passing down I think having Hawthorne in there as a blitzer and cover guy instead of Morgan would behoove Michigan. Morgan's a little ponderous on his pass drops, and if it's a passing down Hawthorne's limitations against rushes aren't relevant. Just sayin'. Throwin' it out there.

You, athletic department intern who has to read these things: don't say you got it from me. Ask Mattison to repeat that thing he was saying a couple months ago about using Hawthorne as a nickel WLB and how smart that seemed even before he was killing walk-ons in the spring game. Yeah.

Miscellaneous

Game bits:

  • Bellomy ran a QB power from the gun, so it's still there and it might stick around for a while. Bellomy did decently with it.
  • There were also a few inverted veers, none of which went for a ton of yards. Gardner did impressively juke himself into a crease outside on one; he was blown dead before he could test it.
  • Kaleb Ringer had an impressive track-and-tackle on Hayes in the open field off a dumpoff. Next play he whiffed a tackle on Toussaint (I think it was him).
  • Jeremy Jackson's lack of separation from Blake Countess was… not surprising.
  • Demens blanketed a Brandon Moore TE out that Gardner shouldn't have thrown but did; he made a nice play on the ball. His coverage is an underrated aspect of his game.
  • Antonio Poole only popped up on my radar when he lost leverage on a Gardner scramble late.

Weather could have been worse. This is what Indiana was facing down for their now-cancelled spring game:

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Tre Roberson put the One Ring into the fires of Mount Press Box and things returned to normal.

Random picture on the twitter:

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Tuley-Tillman, Bosch… OH GOD WHAT DID THEY DO TO DENARD BREATHE BREATHEEEE

LaQuon Treadwell with Morris and Bosch:

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Elsewhere

Photos from Maize and Blue Nation, AnnArbor.com, AnnArbor.com again (alumni game), and MVictors. Rod Payne came dressed as Raiden:

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Melanie Maxwell/AnnArbor.com

Alumni game recap at AA.com.

Bullets and whatnot from:

Also AA.com has an article on Burzynski.