Preview 2014: Running Back

Preview 2014: Running Back

Submitted by Brian on August 25th, 2014 at 4:03 PM

Previously: Podcast 6.0. The Story. Quarterback.

IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE THREE *YARDS* AND A CLOUD OF DUST

-This Preview, Last Year

IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE ANYTHING POSITIVE AND A CLOUD OF NOT EBOLA

Rating: 3

FEATURE BACK Yr. SHORT YARDAGE Yr. 3RD DOWN YR.
De'Veon Smith So. Derrick Green So. Drake Johnson So.*
Derrick Green So. De'Veon Smith So. Justice Hayes Jr.*
Drake Johnson So.* Wyatt Shallman Fr.* De'Veon Smith So.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

How did Michigan's current tailbacks do last year? I don't know and they don't either. The situation on the line and Fitzgerald Toussaint sucking up a bunch of carries left Michigan relatively short on snaps to give anyone still around, and then when they got those snaps they were immediately drowned in a pile of opposition bodies.

This was especially bad since Michigan has almost exclusively recruited guys with tree-trunk legs who aren't going to put a Hart move on you. An anonymous opponent talks to Michael Spath at Big Ten Media Days:

"They needed to have a really quick, change-of-direction back, kind of like [Nebraska's] Ameer [Abdullah], but they had two guys that were similar size that were more like the big, physical type. Like Carlos Hyde, but they weren't as fast as Carlos, they didn't have the holes to run through, and they didn't have the vision."

Or that vision was wall-to-wall doom. The jury is emphatically out.

THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER-TYPE SUBSTANCE

Unless Ty Isaac gets his NCAA waiver, something that does not seem likely, Michigan only has four-ish tailbacks on the roster after Ross Douglas's sensible move to slot receiver. Three of those have drawn heavy mention through fall camp, and one seems to be the very tentative #1 back. (Or at least he did until they released the depth chart this morning, but Rome wasn't written in a day, people.)

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HAIR ZOOM 2014 [Fuller. Nice resolution, bro!]

That is DE'VEON SMITH [recruiting profile], a ball of muscle Michigan won in a head-to-head battle with Ohio State. Smith had a bit of a Braylon Edwards in him last year… the Braylon who was infamously Not On The Same Page with Lloyd Carr early in his career. Smith was left off the travel roster in early November for obscure reasons—Hoke gruffly explained that "De’Veon didn’t travel because I took him off the travel team"—that turned out to be some major friction about playing time. Smith couldn't understand why he didn't have all of it and had a rep for expressing that point of view… let's say passionately.

It seems like that friction is in the past now. Reports have varied as to who is at the top of the tailback depth chart, but they have varied in who, if anyone, is 1B to Smith's 1A. The BTN guys said Smith was at the top when they visited practice; our insider thought Smith was clearly at the top of the depth chart; Hoke told the assembled media that Smith and Drake Johnson were the top two guys. Then he said Green was the top guy with Smith just behind, and then they were neck and neck. so… yeah. My Bayesian estimation is that Smith has a tiny lead that wouldn't even be worth mentioning except for the fact that I have to talk about someone first.

Given Brady Hoke's favorite word other than "well" and its total lack of applicability to the last couple editions of the Michigan ground game, these presser statements are almost a coronation:

"The one thing I know about De’Veon is he’s probably as tough a guy as I’ve been around. His identity is toughness. The way he practices, he’s a guy who can get dinged up but he’s still going to go, and he’s going to go, and he’s going to go."

I'm totally fine with this. I predicted Smith would emerge as the #2 back last year; I preferred him when asked in a mailbag after the season.

I am bullish on him because people complain about his speed, and I like Mike Hart. Speed is an overrated quality for tailbacks because 90% of the time they never approach their top end, and Smith brings a lot of Hart-like qualities to the table.

One is the fact that if you used a giant claw to extract De'Veon Smith from the tumbling melee of a football game, his legs would keep going. Turn him over: still going. Etc. From the Northwestern game:

I liked Smith's "leg churn," as faux NFL draft analysts like to say. He seems to have a knack for keeping his thighs moving as the pile forms around him.

That ability to keep his stride when being harassed was key for his big run against OSU, when he ran through two tackles without even acknowledging their existence.

And since Smith barely got a carry with any room to do anything last year the GIF I asked Ace to pull from Smith's highlight film is still a good representation of his assets:

9459772347_7806867ee4_o1_thumb[1]

The man has uncanny balance and the ability to run through tackles. In addition, Smith had a Hart-like aversion to fumbling through his high school career and didn't put one on the turf in his freshman year.

What Smith didn't show in year one was anything approximating Hart's ability to ghost out of tackles he had no right to avoid. Smith needs more help than Hart did and hopes to make it up by being bigger and more powerful once he gets going. That was a major problem last year and might be one again.

The broken record bit: any attempts to predict production here are seriously compromised by the massive question mark on the offensive line. I'm guessing Smith and Green platoon just about down the middle, with neither really emerging into a star; both are decent, and just decent.

[After THE JUMP: Mega-recruit now mega-hulk, the pass-pro brothers, God willing, and a belated appreciation of Vincent Smith.]

Spring Stuff: Offense

Spring Stuff: Offense

Submitted by Brian on April 8th, 2014 at 2:06 PM

WELP. In a word, Michigan's offense was ominous. It was ominous—worse than that—in Hoke's first year, though, and that worked out okay as long as Al Borges wasn't trying to make Denard Robinson into a pocket passer. Standard disclaimer about information value of spring.

That stated, yeesh. We knew the situation at tackle was going to be iffy, especially with Magnuson out. Having Mason Cole as the first option at the most important spot on the line was beyond those expectations. Meanwhile, Michigan is prepping the only remaining guy who started every game last year (Graham Glasgow) at right tackle, which they'll say is just precautionary but speaks of some trepidation about Ben Braden. I do not want there to be trepidation about Ben Braden.

Hoke did not mince words when asked if they thought they'd found their best five:

"I don't know if we can say that, honestly," Hoke said. "I know I can't.

"So, I guess the answer is no."

Are the Wolverines even close, really, to identifying the best five?

"No," Hoke said. "Not yet."

That was apparent on the field, where runs generally got to the line of scrimmage (hooray!) and no further (mutter). Pass protection was close to nonexistent. It was what everyone expected, which was bad. They've got five months to figure it out, whereupon they probably won't figure it out. Digging out of a hole as big as Michigan dug last year is a two-year operation.

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Nussmeier and new protégé [Bryan Fuller]

Quarterbacking. Gardner was just two of ten, but Morris was hardly better. Gardner's interception was at least at his receiver; Morris threw one directly into Lewis's chest. In the aftermath there were the usual quotes about how it's an open competition, but, yeah, when the Big Ten Network's main Morris highlight is a pass thrown behind the line of scrimmage that guy isn't displacing a quarterback who averaged 8.6 YPA last year and can run.

Neither quarterback was helped by the pass protection, which forced them to move around and let Michigan's secondary recover. Gardner's move and re-set on one throw allowed Jarrod Wilson to get over to Canteen on a corner route, for example. We have a ton of Gardner data from a year and a half as the starting quarterback. One spring outing isn't going to move the needle.

Speight didn't do much; Bellomy didn't look better than he did against Nebraska.

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Hayes should be a legit option. [Fuller]

Tailbacking. On the few runs on which tailbacks had an opportunity to do something notable it was usually Justice Hayes doing the notable thing. He had a couple of quality cuts in tight areas that got him a nice chunk. Derrick Green had one bounce outside on which he seemed quicker than last year but still not particularly quick; De'Veon Smith also turned in a leg-churning run.

They're all about even, it seems. Michigan will cycle through them looking for one to break out. That's a tough ask given the line. It's platoon time. Michigan still seems to insist that anyone who does not resemble a moose must be relegated to third downs:

"Right now, if we're not in a third down situation, it's De'Veon and Derrick. And then Justice if we get into third down."

There's no reason that Hayes shouldn't be given a look as the feature back after last year's lack of production all around and his evident ability. He was no slouch as a recruit, and being able to pick through traffic is a nice skill to have. You get the impression that Hoke would ride David Underwood for years before even considering Mike Hart. Size isn't everything. Ask the Kansas State team that just eviscerated you with a 5'8" tailback and 5'11" wide receiver.

It's also time for Fred Jackson to preach the simplicity line and throw shade on Al Borges:

"Guys are more consistent now with their reads, going from point A to point B with protections," Michigan running backs coach Fred Jackson said last week on WTKA-AM in Ann Arbor. "By not having a ton of protections and a ton of different runs, it allows the guys to be more consistent in what they're doing."

/waves tiny flag

Of course, the main problem with the blitz pickups last year was not so much the tailback going to the wrong spot but what happened when he met the blitzer. That's on Jackson, not Borges. The thing about not doing every possible thing is great—I've heard that Michigan had 13 different protection schemes last year. 13!

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MOS EISLEY FTW [Eric Upchurch]

Something about a wretched hive of scum and villainy I can't quite figure out. Freddy Canteen went from freshman to Manningham in the space of 15 practices, starting the day opposite Devin Funchess, making the one deep catch of the scrimmage session, and smoking Blake Countess over the top on another pass that Gardner threw short. Countess caught up; it was still reminiscent of 86.

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Almost. [Upchurch]

Also reminiscent of 86, at least as a freshman: people screaming at Canteen about where to line up pre-snap. There was one memorable play in Manningham's freshman year where Fred Jackson was having a conniption fit on the sideline trying to get Manningham to relocate himself; Manningham did not and scored a touchdown anyway. Canteen dredged that memory up on Saturday.

Spring depth etc., but passing Jehu Chesson after a promising freshman year from him is a real thing. The tea leaves here suggest Canteen is the real deal—Michigan does not need a WR savior and has a veritable avalanche of bodies they can put on the outside. Canteen rocketed past last year's WR class and Chesson in 15 practices. It would be easy for Michigan to talk him up and throw him in the slot; instead they appear to be prepping him for a major role on the outside.

"I've been at slot and outside receiver, (I'm comfortable) at both, but I'll play probably more outside," Canteen said. "(I want to be a playmaker), to be honest. I just want to make plays."

Darboh and Chesson will also figure in; with Funchess that gives Michigan four guys with production or hype or both to their name. They're suddenly flush. With York and Dukes—who made a nice diving catch—also available, it seems like Drake Harris and Moe Ways should redshirt.

Let's think about the guy like a football player instead of a traveling circus. I can only assume the light deployment of Dennis Norfleet was for cackling-about-your-mad-plan-in-your-underground-lair reasons. It was encouraging to see them throw an actual route his way, a wheel on which Jourdan Lewis took an unnecessary pass interference flag on an overthrown ball. I support the integration of Dennis Norfleet into the base offense instead of having a completely separate Norfleet offense that always results in him getting the ball going laterally.

Hooray for efficiency. One of the most disconcerting things about Michigan's spring activity is how much standing around there is. For many, they're setting a countable hour on fire. This is apparently not how it works behind closed doors:

"Practices are really fast, we get a lot of reps," Gardner said. "This was probably the fastest practice I've ever been a part of."

There's been plenty of talk about the overall pace Nussmeier -- Michigan's first-year offensive coordinator -- works with in practice, and the overall level of tempo he chooses to play with during games.

Practices are quick. When a play ends, the next group -- according to players -- is expected to be out of the huddle and ready to snap the ball for the next rep. That concept is a simple one: It creates more reps, and for a young team, the more reps the better.

For any team, really. And that should serve Michigan well when they want to change the tempo, something Borges teams were mind-bendingly awful at. Here's a manna from heaven quote:

"I think the biggest thing, you always want to be able to control the tempo on offense -- whether that's to speed the game up or slow the game down," Nussmeier said during an interview with WTKA-AM 1050 in Ann Arbor on Thursday. "We practice at a fast tempo for a lot of reasons. One, it forces our guys to play fast and focus and always concentrate.

"And it also allows us to pick the tempo of the game up (if we need to)."

Hallelujah.

Random Mone quote I missed yesterday. This is an epic nonquote.

"I'm just having fun, being blessed," he said. "Just having fun playing the game is what I think my teammates have noticed. My enthusiasm is the main thing I bring to the field."

Our THREE weapons are having fun, being blessed, and having enthusiasm!

Complaining Section

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WE MUST MAN THE BARRICADES OR OUR FATE IS SEALED

The experience of being at the spring game was not a pleasant one. Brandon further pushed the limits of his promise not to put advertising in Michigan Stadium (a promise he's already broken in a dozen different ways) with large videoboard ads for Comcast and Allstate. There was also some dude kicking a field goal sponsored by PNC. Dude is just itching to turn Michigan's gameday experience into OSU or MSU where the scoreboard looks like a NASCAR driver's jumpsuit and each play is brought to you by Depends Adult Undergarments.

More maddening was the constant—and I mean constant—wedding DJ music, which only dropped out for brief periods in which the band was suffered to play. By the end of the day it appeared like the band just said "screw it, we're playing" and went about fifteen minutes straight. This was a merciful relief.

The music combined with the punting drill section of the day was typical Michigan at this point: we'll be shitty to you, fans, but here is this awesome guitar riff! Hunter Lochmann apparently believes that any deficit can be obscured by music. If things go poorly this season expect them to try two songs at once for the entirety of the Penn State game. One of them will be Phil Collins, because that's the soul of football.

The contrast between the NCAA tournament regional the week before and the spring game could not have been greater. The tournament is a great event the NCAA gets out of the way of. Michigan has a crappy event they try to dress up. Hoke's disregard for the fanbase hurts their ability to make it a non-crappy event, of course. Michigan remain focused on one thing and one thing only: strip-mining revenue from the banks of fan loyalty like it is an infinite resource.

Any things they do that are actually fan-friendly, like bringing in a slightly less rank standard of nonconference opponent, are because they have reached the limit of their ability to strip-mine. Michigan reminded fans in attendance to renew their season tickets—an announcement that never needed to be made before.

It would be one thing if the people making these decisions did anything but ape whoever their counterparts are in the ECHL. They have no concept of forming an identity to rally around. They just have spreadsheets.

Michigan Offers Daelin Hayes

Michigan Offers Daelin Hayes

Submitted by Brandon Brown on March 25th, 2014 at 9:13 AM

Daelin Hayes (2)

Name: Daelin Hayes
Position: Outside Linebacker
Ht/Wt: 6'3" / 225 lbs.
Location: St. Mary’s Preparatory – Orchard Lake, MI (2016)
Offers: Michigan, Michigan State, Tennessee
Rating: N/A
Ranking: N/A
FILM

The Michigan coaching staff decided to offer 2016 LB prospect Daelin Hayes over the weekend while he was in town for a photo shoot and an unofficial visit. At 6’3” and 225 lbs. Daelin passes the eyeball test with flying colors and while most recruiting sites list him vaguely as an athlete or a LB/RB combo, the Wolverine coaches see him purely as an athletic outside linebacker. Daelin is the younger cousin of current Wolverine, Justice Hayes, and that proved to be advantageous while Daelin was in Ann Arbor. I asked Daelin about that connection to the program, the overall feel of the weekend, and the moment he was offered.

I got there around 9 am for Tom Lemming’s magazine photo shoot which was in Michigan Stadium. So then after that we just went straight to the scrimmage, a few of us, Mike Weber and Tyriq Thompson. We went to the Michigan practice and Coach Jackson actually called me over when they were practicing and he told me to stay after practice, like stay for the entire time because Coach Hoke wanted to speak with me. So practice ended and Coach Hoke calls me over onto the field with Coach Mattison and said, “We want you to play linebacker for the University of Michigan.” I really just thought that this was them saying that they were interested, like they just say that and then an offer might come later or whatever. Then Coach Hoke was like, “You know what that means right? You have an offer from the University of Michigan” I just came in, gave him a huge hug, gave all the coaches hugs. It was just a great day. My mom was very excited, she was tearing up a little bit. Then I was at Michigan all day on Saturday, I was able to stay with Justice. I hung around the other players and stuff. I was able to spend a lot of time with the team, in the players lounge. Justice was telling me a lot about what it’s like. He also just told me to take my time and make sure I make the right decision. He told me that offers are going to come so just be patient and take my time.

Michigan has joined the Spartans and the Volunteers as the only schools to offer Daelin thus far, a list that is surely going to grow, but now Daelin is focusing on other potential visits in the future.

I will definitely be up at Michigan again soon. I’m going to be at State sometime possibly this week and I will be at Penn State’s spring game.

With three solid offers already on the table I asked Daelin to disclose what other schools he might be interested in hearing from on a more official basis and he singled out Notre Dame, UCLA, and Penn State. Those three schools along with the offers from Michigan, Michigan State, and Tennessee round out his current top six with all of them providing something special.

I like certain things about each school. With Michigan State, my relationship with Coach Dantonio and Coach Salem that I’ve had since I was in the 9th grade. That was my first unofficial visit and I’ve been up there maybe six times so it’s familiar.

Going down to Tennessee, being in SEC country, football is like a religion down south. They took everything very seriously. They were the only school that actually went over what they would do with me on defense. They were trying to quiz me on what I would call if I was on the field. It was very hands on and they got to the point very quickly.

Then something like the degree from Michigan. It’s such a prestigious school, on the field and off the field. The degree to fall back on if football doesn’t work out is unbelievable. Every player wants to play in the NFL but we all know that’s not the reality. Being able to do both, being able to be a great student in the classroom and a great player on the field at a place like Michigan is special.

Hayes understands that he’s just a sophomore and that his offer list will continue to expand so right now he’s just enjoying the process and letting it all sink in. He is working out and training very hard, along with participating in track to stay in shape and improve his speed.

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

Hayes and I spoke for a few minutes off the record and let’s just say he really likes Michigan. He’s definitely not in a hurry to commit, but Michigan will absolutely be in it for him until he makes his decision. He speaks with Coach Singletary once or twice a week and will continue to do so throughout his process. Having an older cousin on the team isn’t hurting either.

THE VIBE

0 - Passing interest or none
1 - Let's see if he visits before we talk
2 - Among large (8-15) group under consideration
3 - Contender in a top 3-7
4 - Tentative lead or solidly in a top 2-3
5 – Trending Blue

If Daelin was closer to a decision date I think he could be a 5 on The Vibe scale. He won’t commit for a while and because of that I expect a lot of big time players to get involved in his recruitment. That being said, I still believe Michigan will remain at or near the top of his list.

Preview 2013: Running Back

Preview 2013: Running Back

Submitted by Brian on August 26th, 2013 at 4:48 PM

Previously: Podcast 5.0, The Story, Quarterback

IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE THREE *YARDS* AND A CLOUD OF DUST

Rating: 4 of 5. Yeah, I said it.

FEATURE BACK Yr. SHORT YARDAGE Yr. 3RD DOWN YR.
Fitzgerald Toussaint Sr.* Derrick Green Fr. Justice Hayes So.*
De'Veon Smith Fr. Thomas Rawls Jr. Fitzgerald Toussaint Sr.*
Drake Johnson Fr.* De'Veon Smith Fr. Drake Johnson Fr.*
Fitzgerald Toussaint returns from the horrific ankle injury that neatly summarized his 2012 season. Michigan adds horses in freshmen Derrick Green, De'Veon Smith, and (redshirted) Drake Johnson. They get back Thomas Rawls and Justice Hayes.
Will any of it matter? Will Michigan be able to stare down a first and ten in a big set and expect two, even three yards? Will everything just melt into goo without Denard Robinson's 7.2(!!!) YPC holding things aloft? How much of last year was even on the running backs and how much was on never blocking anyone?
Ack! That's not even this preview! Come back for the offensive line!

The Man Comes Around

"In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer that could approach six yards a carry." –Albert Camus

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Bryan Fuller

FITZ TOUSSAINT
attributes a plenty
screen WOOP
good at tiptoeing sidelines
picks up feet smartly
A-/B+ speed
plus balance
picks through traffic 
DOOOOOOOM
notre doom
purdoom 
more purdoom
even more purdoom
are you friggin kidding me
are these STILL purdue clips?
YES YES THEY ARE WTF
MSU doom, finally
mother died today
or maybe yesterday
i can't be sure
I was assailed by memories of a life that wasn't mine anymore
one in which I'd found the simplest and most lasting joys
FITZGERALD TOUSSAINT was coming off a breakout sophomore year in which he cracked a thousand yards on just 187 carries, coming in at an impressive 5.6 yards a crack. That's good for 21st all-time (minimum 100 carries) and was the best YPC season from a Michigan running back since Tim Biakabatuka's 1995 campaign.  Yes. It had been nearly two decades since a Michigan back had been so efficient on the ground. People were hyped.
They got a resounding thud, and not the good kind that Derrick Green promises.
The first sign of trouble was an offseason DUI that cost him the opener and restricted him to eight carries in the Air Force game. Once returned to full service Toussaint was swarmed on play after play, losing an astounding amount of production. His YPC dipped to 3.9. At left there are six separate clips from the Purdue game alone in which Toussaint is swarmed by defenders in the backfield. Michigan won that game 44-13; Toussaint eked out 1.1 yards a carry. Yeah, man, eventually I just started quoting The Stranger. If there's anything Fitzgerald Toussaint needs it's a meditation on the absurdity of human existence. And maybe a block. Just one block. Is that too much to ask?
I suppose it is.
And just when it looked like he was turning the corner thanks to a 19-touch, 120-yard day against Northwestern, his lower leg turned into paste on his third carry of the Iowa game.
Poor damn Toussaint.

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

Toussaint rehabbed with a vengeance, and went into spring camp with a vengeance, and hopes to confront the Big Ten in superhero outfit and big guns this fall. His coaches have taken notice. Borges:

"Fitz has got fire in his eyes. I see no signs of any injury ... He is very hungry.

"One thing about running backs, it's not like the lines. You get to see them cut, even if it's not live or not with pads on. His stop and go ability looks to be right back where it was."

Fullback Joe Kerridge looks like a cross between a refrigerator and a bear (more on this in the Tight End And Friends section) and says Toussaint outworked even him over the summer:

"He busted his butt to get back before the start of camp. It seemed like every time I went in this summer to lift or do conditioning, Fitz was already there and he would still be there after I left."

When fall camp launched, the immediate and consistent buzz was that Toussaint was back to his old self—his old-old self. Tellingly, the coaches didn't dance around the topic like they do on most every other personnel battle. First he was back, then he was playing very well, then he was leading, and then it was his job, full stop.

So… what now?

[after THE JUMP: Yeah, what now? Freshmen are large men. A replacement for Vincent Smith, and veterans trying to hold off the youngsters.]

Let's Overreact To: 2013 Fall Scrimmage #2

Let's Overreact To: 2013 Fall Scrimmage #2

Submitted by Brian on August 23rd, 2013 at 2:45 PM

Pore-o-vision returns:

Countdown to Kickoff 2013: Day 8 - Scrimmage #2... by mgovideo

ITEMS!

CAN THEY ZOOM THIS THING ANY MORE? For pants' sake. Devin Gardner takes a shotgun snap and the only other guy in the frame is Justice Hayes. I think this is negatively affecting camera guy in games—the replays in Michigan Stadium are invariably pore-o-vision, too.

Jack Miller's hand is not broken. The video of Tom Brady's speech featured a guy saying "his left is broken" right at the end, and people thought it was Miller, and now there is an e-rumor to that effect. Obviously that is not the case. The MGoStaff has looked at the back of a lot of heads and we're pretty sure that's Tom Strobel, the redshirt freshman three-tech.

Lewan was held out. The line on the first snap is Schofield-Glasgow-Miller-Kalis-Magnuson, and Lewan makes no appearance. Since the line is completely out of many shots it's hard to tell anything definitive about who's playing, but if Chris Bryant is pressing to start, where is Chris Bryant? He does get in on at least one snap here, FWIW, but if we're going by the scraps in these videos it looks like Glasgow is the leader.

I assume they also held Gallon and Fitz out for obvious reasons.

Wormley looking good. On one snap sure, but he beats Magnuson to the inside on a Justice Hayes carry.

Justice Hayes sure seems like your third down back. There have been few shotgun snaps in either of these that don't feature Hayes next to Gardner. There is a small chance it's actually Fitz and he's being held out because he doesn't need to prove anything, but with the Green injury and Toussaint obtaining a death lock on the starting job, Hayes is in a good spot to take snaps away.

Hey: Shane Morris. Man that hoser can hose. Throwing rope after rope, though dollars to donuts this video elides three terrible interceptions.

Hey: Channing Stribling. Gardner almost throws an ugly pick to Stribling. Stribling dives to break up a dig route. Stribling tackles Chesson after a hitch. Stribling breaks up a well-thrown fly route to Chesson.

Also, Hollowell is all over Da'Mario Jones.

Hey: De'Veon Smith. Flashes shades of that high school tape when he spins through three guys on his single carry and then drags Jourdan Lewis on his back for five or six more.

Also, Green makes a slick cut to the backside of a power play and runs through an arm tackle. His single carry looked a lot better than his single carry in the other video. #samplesize

Apparently Drake Johnson is now #20. This was news to me.

Slow-mo Reynolds catch is pretty good. First, Morris moves around the pocket like a pro before unleashing a rope, then the DB (never see a number) is a fingertip away from a PBU and may actually get a deflection, then Reynolds makes a diving catch.

PORES. Pores.

How Are We Feeling About Football Things?

How Are We Feeling About Football Things?

Submitted by Brian on August 19th, 2013 at 11:48 AM

Over the weekend Michigan had a scrimmage that simulated what they'll do for Notre Dame week. Michigan put some ULTRAZOOM highlights on the internet, some guy attempted to UFR them, Heiko attempted to forestall panic about what was contained therein to eagle-eyed watchers. First, let's examine the pore structure of various unidentified Michigan football players:

Countdown to Kickoff 2013: Day 13 - Scrimmage... by mgovideo

Graham Glasgow's playing left guard. More than that, Glasgow was playing left guard because Chris Bryant—not massively-hyped Ben Braden—was held out after having his knee drained. How do we feel about this?

On the one hand, Bryant is a massive human who is a natural guard, whereas Braden is a massive human who is maybe not the best fit on the inside. Having Bryant emerge as a contender at guard gives Michigan more line depth, and when he's been healthy he's drawn praise like this from Kenny Demens:

I’ve always been a fan of Chris Bryant.  That has been my favorite offensive lineman since his freshman year.  I remember his freshman year he was on scout team… whenever he pulled, I don’t care if you were Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen, myself, whoever… when Chris Bryant pulled, you were nervous.  You were nervous!  Chris Bryant brings the pain.

On the other, Braden is supposedly the most physically talented guy Taylor Lewan has ever seen and line shifts in camp remind you of last year, when the flippin' and the floppin' made the line like jello, Rudy. A steady hand is always better. Plus, Bryant spent all of last year injured to the point where he wasn't really doing much in spring. I'd heard he had some lingering pain issues from that even now, and he just got his knee drained. Also, Bryant was a decent recruit but not as hyped as you might remember. Only Rivals gave him four stars, and they were so up on his recruitment they ranked a 6'4", 340 pound guy at tackle.

Do we like it? Do we hate it? I don't know man. I think I'd rather hear that Bryant is seriously pushing Braden, who is locked in, instead of a position switch that undoes a position switch from spring. The flippin' and the floppin'. On the other hand, Bryant was not available then and is now. It could just be that he is pretty good.

Braden does get some snaps at that LG spot, BTW. He was off and on, apparently hasn't been practicing much at guard, and struggled some against interior quickness in the spring game. (He also seems to get beat by Willie Henry on a Rawls iso that goes nowhere in the above video.) So… I bet he is the #1 backup at tackle when the season starts and it's Bryant at guard. If that happens I'm going to decrement Braden expectations from "Jake Long 3.0" to "plus right tackle."

Fitzgerald Toussaint Purdue v Michigan D7mJDURiHBXl[1]460x[1]

Toussaint, Hayes

Toussaint looks like Toussaint. In a good way, not Poor Damn Toussaint of last year. No one else did much at tailback except Justice Hayes, who slips out of the backfield from a shotgun set and makes a touchdown catch after Gardner buys some time. Other running back events are Toussaint juking guys, running tough north and south, and picking up yardage. People other than Toussaint get consumed. Sample size qualifiers, obviously, but Toussaint is also getting external validation from insider types and the coaches.

It's one or two carries each for other challengers, thus indicating who has the lead in the race at RB and giving us no other information. Green gets bounced outside and swarmed, looking a little ponderous. Hayes gets to the hole and nailed on by Cam Gordon on a nice play; Ross grabs him in the hole on his next carry. Rawls picks up negative one yards and zero yards (the latter on a play from the two)—picking up where he left off. De'Veon Smith finishes that drive off.

Meanwhile, Hayes: he was reputed to be a spread-oriented back and excellent receiver. Michigan needs a third down back with the graduation of Vincent Smith. Of late I've been asserting that Toussaint should grab that job but if he's entering the season as the out-and-out feature back (which seems likely given his buzz and Green's injury) Michigan will want someone else to pick up linebackers and slip into the flat. Hayes would obviously be that guy. The other backs on the roster are young or bulky.

It does seem like he's locking down that spot. He was the back in all the shotgun snaps, with that touchdown catch and a screen that Dymonte Thomas engulfs.

The first snap is Kalis pulling to Lewan on a power play. Get used to that, kids.

Chesson and Reynolds are the receiving stars. Gallon was held out, probably because he doesn't have anything to prove at this point.

Also, guy who apparently gets injury information no one else gets says Darboh has picked up a boo boo. (Injury guy has since deleted the tweet, undoubtedly after a visit from Biff the Wolverine Enforcer.)  He shows up in the first snap of the video as a blocker and then not again. Assumption: boo boo, held out, don't read too much into it. Injury Guy was right about Derrick Green, FWIW. Michigan was being a little coy with how much he was doing; the two-week estimate was not off base much, if at all. Darboh's thing is supposed to be a rolled ankle, so keep your hands off the panic button.

While you don't want to read too much into a hand-picked collection of pore videos, pencil Chesson and Reynolds in ahead of Jackson and any freshmen when it comes to the #3 and #4 outside receivers. Chesson's catch is pretty dang good, especially as it comes over Blake Countess.

Courtney Avery's playing free safety. This one is negative, I think. Avery's run support has never been a big positive, he's never played the position at Michigan, and it says some not great things about the guys backing up the presumed starters that a "five-eleven", 175 pound guy is getting a look.

One thing it probably doesn't mean: Jarrod Wilson is losing the job. Assumption here is that Michigan is experimenting in case something happens. If it is Wilson losing his job, uh, at least my prediction that we'll miss Jordan Kovacs will have been correct?

Michigan_Ohio_St

Cam Gordon is begging someone to photoshop this.

There is a lot of Cam Gordon in here. Cam Gordon pressures and chases Fitz Toussaint and hits guys and blitzes and whatnot. Beyer's supposed to be pushing Gordon quite a bit, but you can't tell that from this video, not only in terms of appearances but also in terms of Cam Gordon play. Since Beyer was not held out, that would seem to mean something.

There is also a lot of Willie Henry. The mountain wearing 69 is Henry, and he shows up on a bunch of snaps. Black was held out, but there are other guys—Strobel and Ryan Glasgow—who do not feature nearly as much. Most notably Henry helps bury the one Derrick Green carry and engulfs Rawls in the backfield. Something to note, maybe: on that play Richard Ash is also in, playing nose. Henry's at the three-tech. That makes sense with a quality nose rotation in place and a notable lack of size at three-tech. We might see him in a short yardage package instead of Black/Strobel.

It would be something if after this year we look back at ten years of recruiting and Glenville has provided Michigan with as many or even more plus players than Cass Tech.

Man I like that Dymonte Thomas play. Can't see much except Thomas flying up at lightning speed to beat a block and tackle, but me gusta.

[Also in CTK:

Countdown to Kickoff 2013: Day 12 - Special Teams by mgovideo

And Jibreel Black says things.]

Fall Camp Presser Transcript 8-16-13: Al Borges

Fall Camp Presser Transcript 8-16-13: Al Borges

Submitted by Heiko on August 16th, 2013 at 3:28 PM

"Heiko, what's up? How's it going?"

MGo: Not bad. How are you?

"Good ... I'm supposed to give a shout out to Devin Gardner. Don't ask me what that's about. So I did it, okay?"

...

"Well this is pretty easy."

How comfortable has Devin Gardner looked in practice?

"Pretty comfortable, yeah. Like I said last time, he's pretty confident in nature. He's been in the system now for a while. Understands what we want. For the quarterback, if he thinks like the coaches, which I think he's doing more and more of, it really gives him a chance."

Have you seen specific elements that he improved on over the summer?

"Oh yeah. Yes. Just understanding route structure, decision-making. All that comes when you play more, obviously, but there's a big difference in terms of just knowing where to go with the ball, timing of the cuts, how we work ... we work a lot on improv stuff because he's athletic, but we would do this with any quarterback. We work a lot on when we break contain or push the pocket, when something doesn't happen by structure and he has to make something happen. So we work more and more on that kind of stuff. We work on the receivers and where they're supposed to be and all that stuff. He's getting a really good understanding of that, too."

Mailbag: A Lot Of Running Back Stuff, Turning Five Star Recruits Into Five Star Players

Mailbag: A Lot Of Running Back Stuff, Turning Five Star Recruits Into Five Star Players

Submitted by Brian on August 12th, 2013 at 1:17 PM

Green redshirt? Er?

University-of-Michigan-player-Fitzgerald-Toussaint[1]

one dude is not enough

Brian,

I was wondering what your take on Green getting a redshirt would be.
I know it's an unusual concept to redshirt a blue chip running back, or
an uncommon practice. But with Fitz Tousaint at 100%, who has proven his
abilities as a top tier back, and Michigan having a fully loaded stable of
RB's, is it a better practice to allow a player that is already this good
another year to develop before he is unleashed on the world for mayhem and destruction?

Is Michigan in THAT much need of another RB that Green should play immediately, or is offering him the redshirt the way to go? Will
offering him a redshirt cause atrophy in the competition between the backs
for the starting spot? Also, would Derrick Green transfer if he was
redshirted? Any insight you could give would be appreciated.

Even if Fitzgerald Toussaint is 100% healthy, someone else is going to get a lot of carries. Michigan ran 502 times last year, and even carry-magnet LeVeon Bell only scooped up 382 for Michigan State. Meanwhile, Toussaint has 130 and 187 carries the last two years. There are going to be 200 to 300 carries, minimum, handed out to other players, and with the situation at quarterback only a handful will be Devin Gardner's.

So someone's got to play. If Green is the second-best back on the roster it should be him, because:

  1. Michigan has a very legit shot to win their division
  2. Green is likely to start next year if he is the #2 back on the roster
  3. blue-chip freshman like to go places they play early
  4. with De'Veon Smith and Damien Harris waiting in the wings Michigan won't miss a hypothetical fifth year from Green much, and…
  5. if Green ends up being of interest to the NFL he will almost certainly not be around for year #5. Tailbacks have short shelf lives, especially when they're moosebacks.

Add in the uncertainty generated by Toussaint's miserable year and injury and there is absolutely no case to redshirt Derrick Green unless De'Veon Smith is obviously better.

What goes down at running back generally?

Hey guys,

With all of the weapons that Hoke is stockpiling, I was wondering if you guys know the plan going forward at the running back position.

Running back seems the most interesting to me with Borges' pro style making a big return. That said, how will the staff balance Fitz and Derrick Green? Has Rawls proven to the staff he can be a 3rd down bruiser that can get the 1 yard when we need it? Are there roles for Justice Hayes, Drake Johnson, and Norfleet in the backfield this season? With the full stable back there is there any chance any of them convert to other positions?

I've been dying to know anything about the running backs and would love some insight.

Thanks,
Matt

These are many questions. The last one is the easiest: yes. Dennis Norfleet has apparently already been moved to slot receiver, which is fine by me as long as they use him.

michigan-msu-celebration-26-dennis-norfleet[1]

Hayes, too, is likely to end up in the slot at some point. That's not insider information, it's just a guy looking at the depth chart, thinking about what Michigan clearly wants to do, and extrapolating. Hayes was regarded a guy who could move to wideout coming out of high school, and Michigan is about to be short on slots. Johnson is pretty much RB-or-bust; he'll stay where he is.

Answering the last question answers the second to last: not really. Hayes was nominally at the top of the depth chart after spring and Johnson was getting some practice hype, but I expect both to be marginalized. Third down back is up for grabs—my advice to those guys is to get really good at pass blocking.

Apparently I'm going backwards: no, Rawls has not proven he can be a third down bruiser. If anything he's proven the opposite, repeatedly going down on contact on short yardage plays. It's likely that not only Derrick Green but De'Veon Smith, Wyatt Shallman, and Sione Houma are better options for short yardage this season.

The first question is pretty much the thing. I expect Green to immediately take over short yardage duties, where his power is welcome and his potentially iffy pass blocking (freshman) is not relevant. Fitz should be fully healthy and he is a damn good back when he gets a little blocking, so the bet here is he starts the year getting the plurality of the carries. As things move along Green should come more and more into the offense, like TJ Yeldon last year, until they're about splitting carries evenly.

Making elite players elite… uh… players?

Brandon_Graham,_Mike_Martin[1]

Graham and Martin were indisputably elite.

Brian,

I was wondering about Michigan and player development.  I completely understand the Heininger Certainty Principle, and how Mattison can take a average player and make him good.  I also know that they can take a good player and make him great. 

However, with getting Peppers and the possibility of getting Hand, is there any recent evidence from Mattison or Hoke that they can mold elite recruits into elite players.  Or should I change my definition of elite from first round draft and successful NFL career.

Thanks,
Chris

That's a pretty high bar to clear. Mike Martin was indisputably elite in his senior season but does not meet the criteria as a third round pick. After one year he's being touted as a potential breakout player by people who have obviously never seen Martin play. But is it on Mattison and Hoke that NFL teams are sometimes dumb? I say it is not.

The thing about evidence that Hoke and Mattison can take a guy like Hand and make him into an elite player is that I know for a fact Hoke has never had a Hand-level guy to mold. Mattison did have a number of five stars to deal with at Florida, and we'll get into that.

First, Hoke. He was Michigan's defensive line coach from 1995 to 2002. During that period Michigan had the following players drafted from the DL:

  • Will Carr (7th round, 1997)
  • Glen Steele (4th round, 1998)
  • Rob Renes (7th round, 2000)
  • Josh Williams (4th round, 2000)

That, uh, isn't great. But how much of that was on Hoke and how much was on the fact that Michigan was recruiting and playing guys like Dan Rumishek, Norman Heuer, and Shawn Lazarus in 2001? While those guys were all quality pluggers, Hoke wasn't exactly working with Brandon Graham and Lamarr Woodley there.

Michigan's defensive philosophy in the late 90s and early aughts was to hold up offensive linemen with RVB types and let their athletic linebackers wreak havoc. They recruited NFL linebackers and put many of them in the league for long periods of time: Dhani Jones, Ian Gold, Larry Foote, and Victor Hobson all launched long NFL careers in a four-year span in the early aughts. They recruited blue-collar guys out of the Midwest on the line without regard to their rush abilities or hugeness: all three of the DL mentioned above were 6'4" and around 290. No matter how technically adept they were, the NFL wasn't going to be interested because they don't fit anywhere in an NFL 4-3 under.

The much-traveled Greg Mattison had a similar track record until he tapped into a geyser of talent:

  • Renaldo Wynn (1st round, 1997, ND)
  • Anthony Weaver (2nd round, 2002, ND)
  • Justin Tuck (3rd round, 2005, which was the year Mattison left for Florida but he's worth mentioning.)
  • Joe Cohen (4th round, 2007, Florida)
  • Marcus Thomas (4th round, 2007, Florida)
  • Ray McDonald (3rd round, 2007, Florida)
  • Jarvis Moss (1st round, 2007, Florida)
  • Derrick Harvey (1st round, 2008, again Mattison had departed)

At Florida it went: nothing, nothing, entire defensive line off the board before the fourth round ended. That tells you that the level of talent he was working with took off—he's pretty much the same coach at that point. Instead of coaching up blue-collar pluggers he was teaching explosive large versions of same to do the same things the blue collar guys did. And lo, they wrecked things.

Despite the rankings, Michigan has very rarely brought in the kind of top-tier guys they have lined up the next couple years, and when they did sometimes they were crazy. The touted Germany/McKinney/Slocum/Taylor recruiting class turned out to have three guys in it that couldn't stay enrolled for whatever reason. But other than that, Michigan's track record with five-star-ish defensive linemen has been good: Woodley, Graham, Branch, and Taylor were all quality college players and high NFL draft picks. Gabe Watson, popularly derided a guy as who never lived up to the hype, was still two-time All Big Ten and a mid-round pick. Pure talent busts are limited to Will Campbell, who should have been an offensive lineman all along… and still got drafted.

Player development is inherently difficult. Every year half of the first round of the NFL draft is comprised of relatively unheralded players. Busts are inevitable, talent is talent, and you just have to get piles of it to have a Florida-type DL. Michigan is going to approach that level of talent in the next few years.

This Week's Obsession: Percent Green

This Week's Obsession: Percent Green

Submitted by Seth on August 7th, 2013 at 2:58 PM

Green2

UPDATE: NOW WITH 100% MORE BRANDON BROWN ANSWERS

It's that freshman you've all be waiting for. Michigan's new 5-star back was the highlight of this week's padless practice video. There are plenty more exciting carries to come, but just how many this year, and what's the expectation for sharing with the current starter? We try to tackle that. The backfield:

  • Brian "Mike Hart except tall and hairy and into emo" Cook
  • Seth "Anthony Thomas except more like a high-speed monorail" Fisher
  • Ace "Tim Biakabutuka except better against Ohio State" Anbender
  • Heiko "Dennis Norfleet except more Norfleet" Yang
  • Blue "Brandon Minor in an alternate universe where he was forced to kick his way out of Charlie Weis's stomach" in South Bend
  • Math- "Tom Harmon except more perspicacious" –lete , and introducing:
  • Brandon "Like Jamie Morris if interviewed the linebackers as he ran by them" Brown

And the question:

Let's all make stupid predictions about running back carries this year. How many are there to go around? How many go to Toussaint, Green, guys down the batting order? Base expectations for YPC? Anybody cracking 1,000 yards this year? How about 10 TDs?

Seth: I believe Toussaint and the coaches that the senior RB who's proven he can torch defenses when given a reasonable amount of blocking will get the majority of carries this season. If I put us on a crappy graph (how do I make non-crappy graphs?) I'd be near the bullish Toussaint extreme and bearish on Green's yardage totals:

HHS1107
Safe Prediction: Brian's YMRMFSPA for
Deveon Smith will be Brandon Minor
2012 stats
Name Carries % Yds YPC TD
Fitzgerald Toussaint 130 53% 514 4.0 5
Thomas Rawls 57 23% 242 4.2 4
Vincent Smith 38 16% 94 2.5 2
Justice Hayes 18 7% 83 4.6 1
D. Norfleet 2 1% 13 6.5 0
Total 245 - 946 3.9 12
2013 Seth's prediction:
Name Carries % YDs YPC TD
Fitzgerald Toussaint 168 54% 778 4.6 7
Derrick Green 77 25% 417 5.4 6
Justice Hayes 31 10% 155 5.0 1
Deveon Smith 21 7% 112 5.3 2
Thomas Rawls 14 5% 51 3.6 1
TOTAL 311 - 1513 4.9 17

If the Green prediction in the above sound familiar you've been getting into the Chris Perry's freshman stats again. That year A-Train had a ludicrous 319 carries for 1733 yards and 18 TDs and Perry came on in the second half of the season as Thomas's No. 2 guy. They both got 5.4 YPC behind the best offensive line of my lifetime. No, this line won't be anywhere near that good; at best they're the 2000 line in 1997. That'll mean less to the No. 2 guy who gets the benefit of a softened defense and more trash time.

Regardless I'm going for a yard per carry better than last year thanks in part to more forgiving defenses, and a lot more attempts as QB carries (218 for 1455 yards with sacks removed last year) are halved in the world after Denard. When it's done Toussaint will emerge with a small majority of RB carries as he did last year, and increase his YPC to something under 5 but not that much.

I think Green will get more carries as the year progresses and he's worked into more two-back sets. In fact given the tight ends are still a developing thing, and Green's already 240 with reportedly advanced blocking techniques, and the fullbacks aren't anything special, why not make two-RB sets a regular feature in the Great Borgesian formation extravaganza? I was predicting something like that before Stephen Hopkins decided to transfer [edit: give up football] and it didn't look so bad when it happened. I digress.

Green will severely eat into Rawls's opportunities, and unless they plan to redshirt Deveon Smith, last year's No. 2 back will have a tough battle to repeat half of last year's 57 carries. I'm of the mind that running backs don't change all that much (compared to other positions) over years in the program, and that Rawls won't suddenly develop the vision he didn't have last year. He remains what he is: Kevin Grady 2.0, albeit minus two stars of hype and any whiff of misbehavior. Having seen what we have in him, I'd like to see Smith pass him, since that would say nice things about Smith and set Michigan up nicely for the future.

I expect Justice Hayes will move into that 3rd down back role evacuated by Vincent Smith's graduation, and act as designated recipient of those fun throwback screens Borges loves. Obligatory Drake Johnson is on the roster note goes here. Maybe one of you guys know different but exactly zero hype on him from this spring made it my ears to corroborate the pre-bowl practice murmurs. Until I hear otherwise I'm figuring him for a non-factor.

Brian: Dennis Norfleet 500 carries for 5000 yards.

[After the jump: RB opinions from people like bloggers except more interesting]

Spring Practice Presser Transcript 4-4-13: Al Borges

Spring Practice Presser Transcript 4-4-13: Al Borges

Submitted by Heiko on April 4th, 2013 at 5:18 PM

Hoke said you talked to Shane Morris after Russell Bellomy’s injury. How does the injury impact Shane, and how does this impact how you coach him?

“Really not as much as you might think. He was going to come in and compete anyway. There’s one less slot there to go through, so that’s really all it impacted. He knows there’s one less body. Doesn’t affect him as much as you might think.”

Does Shane come around a lot?

“Oh yeah. All the time. He’s been around for a couple years, actually. He committed early, so he knows everybody on the team and they all know him. He’ll hit the ground running when he gets here.”