Exit Kareem Walker

Exit Kareem Walker

Submitted by Brian on July 29th, 2018 at 11:06 PM

[Patrick Barron]

Kareem Walker's departure was reported by Toledo sports anchor Jordan Strack over a month ago but nothing resembling official word came from either Walker or the program so he (and Kekoa Crawford) existed in this Schrodinger world where if we open the box we're pretty damn sure the cat has transferred but don't actually know, you know? Whoah.

Anyway, box open, cat is headed to JUCO:

Fort Scott Community College head coach Kale Pick told reporters at the recent Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference football media day event Walker has signed to play with Fort Scott for the 2018 season.

Pick said Walker signed with his program Friday.

Walker had a hard time keeping up with his academics at Michigan and that's probably what got him in the end. Anyone who mentioned him privately said he was a nice kid and not a guy who'd get in trouble.

Walker flashed the ability to run guys over and some quickness that made him a highly touted back in scattered snaps and still has a good shot at being a productive D-I back after this season. Michigan returns its top two RBs from a year ago, so Walker's departure is more about what happens in 2019 and 2020.

UNVERIFIED VORACITY THINKS THIS IS AN INDOOR VOICE

UNVERIFIED VORACITY THINKS THIS IS AN INDOOR VOICE

Submitted by Brian on June 11th, 2018 at 11:41 AM

Dives. Washtenaw County dive bars surveyed. Self-recommending header picture is above. Also:

It turned out that the day that worked best for us to embark on the trip was a random Tuesday at the end of May. “Are dive bars open on Tuesdays?” I texted my friend. “They are if they want to be considered BEST OF WASHTENAW COUNTY,” he responded.

The penguin is in Saline, FWIW.

I guess this is all but official? We've been waiting for an official confirmation, or at least more than one person reporting, on this for a while now:

As a result we haven't talked about a piece of news since we were waiting to post their respective Exits. /shakes fist at transfer gray areas

Assuming this turns out to be true—and given the way Harbaugh has talked about the RB and WR groups since spring it's almost certainly true—that's two highly ranked guys out the door. Crawford's departure is probably the result of a plunge down the depth chart that saw him omitted from any spring discussion; that plunge down the depth chart is not a surprise given his flatly terrible play in 2017.

Walker flashed promise as a Brandon Minor-esque rage back in limited carries last year and would be an unfortunate loss. He'd publicly struggled with the transition to Michigan but seemed to get things on track last year; it would be really disappointing if he couldn't manage it, and Michigan could help him enough to do so.

Neither departure is likely to have much impact on the field this year; Michigan returns its top two backs and every WR outside of Crawford. Walker's presumed absence could bite next year.

FWIW, I wouldn't start getting worried about O'Maury Samuels yet. Harbaugh's mention of Tru Wilson as the #3 guy on the depth chart was immediately followed by a Samuels mention and a reference to his hamstring holding him back this spring. Meeanwhile, the WRs:

"I feel like our wide receivers have come along," Harbaugh told reporters during the 'Best of the Midwest' event. "Coach Mac has done a great job coaching them. Tarik, Donovan have probably done the best job of anybody in spring practice. Nate Schoenle, Oliver Martin, Nico Collins also did extremely well. Nico was slowed a little bit by a shoulder. Was going for a ball when we were working with pads and hurt his shoulder. He fought through that. I think he's got some real good upside. Those four guys there probably had the best spring."

Those four guys are actually five guys and Crawford is not amongst them. The lines are not hard to read between.

[After THE JUMP: FULLBACK TALK]

Spring Practice Presser 3-29-18: Jay Harbaugh

Spring Practice Presser 3-29-18: Jay Harbaugh

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on March 30th, 2018 at 9:02 AM

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[Bryan Fuller]

[Ed. A- Thank you once again to 247’s Isaiah Hole for getting me video so I can still transcribe even when doctors’ appointments keep me from being there]

“Alright, what’s up?”

Four practices in. How would you characterize the start of spring practice?

“Lot of energy. Improving on the execution from where we started to where we’re trying to get to. Every practice has been better, but I think the guys are really taking to it well and really competing with the defense at a high level.”

What have you seen from Karan [Higdon] and Chris [Evans] specifically?

“Doing a great job. Just exactly what you’d expect from them. They’re taking all the parts of their game that needed detail or polish and they’re doing that. Every day it’s one less mistake and really turning in a great spring thus far.”

Could you elaborate on some of those parts of their game?

“The rare double question. Protection-wise, they’re both improving. Route detail in terms of the top routes, details that typically running backs don’t get to just because they don’t have the time. Those guys are exceptional athletes and as we work them in empty packages and coming out of the backfield, they can handle a lot of detail in their technique like a receiver would, so continuing to hone those skills has been nice to see.”

You mentioned that they’ve gotten better at pass protection. How have they evolved since you took over the position in pass protection?

“They’re both super tough. Just getting them to play with the technique that we’re looking for and it’s really, from right now to like if you compared it to last spring it’s significantly better, and even these four practices have been incrementally better.”

[After THE JUMP: the punctilious pursuit of pass protection perfect, Ben Mason two-way murderball comin’, and an offense as a living organism]

Upon Further Review 2017: Offense vs Maryland

Upon Further Review 2017: Offense vs Maryland

Submitted by Brian on November 15th, 2017 at 4:24 PM

2017 logoo_thumbSPONSOR NOTE. We're having a charity tailgate before the OSU game. Details:

MGoBlog and HomeSure Lending are having a tailgate before The Game at The North End Zone tailgate space, 1011 S. Main Street (map) from 9 a.m. to a little before noon, with food from Scratch Barbecue and beer donated from Wolverine State Brewing, and proceeds going to the T. Wall Foundation.

  • Tickets (food & beer included): $12 if you buy them ahead of time on EventBritegets you in, gets you a wrist band for the food.
  • Tickets (just beer at the door): $10 suggested donation just to come hang out on your way to the game.
  • Watch/Afterparty: Your ticket for the tailgate also gets you a round at Wolverine Brewing. If you don’t have a ticket for The Game but want to come, you won’t be alone; there’s a Lyft pickup spot across the street so when people go into the game a handful of us (I’m still in the market) are gonna go back to Wolverine State Brewing to watch it together, and more are planning to come back there (and park there) after.

Scratch provided the BBQ at the season-opening event, if you were there. It's good.

FORMATION NOTES. Slightly less heavy this week with 14 3-WR snaps, some of them on standard downs. Most, actually. There were 12 two-WR snaps, 17 one-WR snaps, and 7 beef machine snaps, one of which was the beefiest: a 7-OL, 3 TE formation on which Poggi scored. BEHOLD THE MAJESTY.

image

I called this simply BEEF, since brevity is the heart of our goal here.

SUBSTITUTION NOTES. QB and OL were as expected. Per 24/7, Spanellis got ten snaps as a bonus OL and Runyan got two. Evans and Higdon got about 20 each, with Walker filling in for Higdon after his exit with 7 snaps. FB snaps were 2:1 Poggi.

DPJ and McDoom got the most run at WR, with Perry getting just 13 snaps coming off injury. Schoenle was at 12 and Ways 8. Gentry and McKeon continue to lead the way at TE; Bunting got 23 snaps, though, and Wheatley 12.

[After THE JUMP: run run run run, but more zone]

Monday Presser 10-30-17: Jim Harbaugh

Monday Presser 10-30-17: Jim Harbaugh

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on October 30th, 2017 at 6:00 PM

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[Campredon]

Nick Eubanks: do you have an update on his status?

“Yeah, he’s healing.”
Expect him back this year?

“Don’t know for sure.”

Grant Newsome as well and Tarik [Black], can you talk about how they’re progressing in their rehab?

“Um, well, both Nick and Tarik, bones healing. It takes some time to do that. Grant seems to be progressing weekly. Thanks for asking.”

You sort of said and kind of said but is Brandon [Peters] your starter this week? I know last Saturday you said you’d like to see how he handles a week of practice as the starter. Are you going into this week with him being the starting quarterback?

“We’re going in the way we have: preparing both quarterbacks. Not naming a starter today. We’ll see how the week progresses. Our system is a meritocracy where the best players play. It was time for Brandon to play. Went in, acquitted himself very well, and he will play again. He will play again this week.”

What do you like best about Karan Higdon’s running style?

“Well, it’s low. He drops his pads. At the line of scrimmage, his vision keeps getting better as well as his balance. Been a hard runner. Did a great job picking up the 4th-and-1, 4th-and-half-yard early in the ball game. By the narrowest margin, but found a way to get it done. So yeah, he’s popping—he’s making big runs. Pass protecting well. Yeah, I think that balance, the low center of gravity, the way he can drop his pads, physical nature of the way he plays.”

With Brandon’s performance on Saturday, what can he do to build off that and improve and how good can Brandon Peters be?

“Well, he can do a lot to build on it. Getting your first action and the things that you did well and how that felt when it happened, and then things that could have done better. Now he’s been in game action, so I think that helps a lot.”

[After THE JUMP: it’s like somebody went down to the presser cellar and brought up a nice 2016 for the table]

Radish Talk

Radish Talk

Submitted by Brian on October 30th, 2017 at 12:54 PM

10/28/2017 – Michigan 35, Rutgers 14 – 6-2, 3-2 Big Ten

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LET RAIN MAN BALL [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate is doing this:

Arizona is ranked for the first time in a minute after four straight Pac-12 wins. Tate watched Arizona's first four games from the sideline. Last year he completed 40% of his 45 passes and rushed for under 5 yards a carry.

A bit further north in that same conference, Stanford barely escaped an awful Oregon State team as QB Keller Chryst averaged 4.3 yards an attempt. Sophomore KJ Costello played the vast majority of previous high-scoring wins over UCLA and Arizona State. Twitter was rife with bitching about Chryst and stupefaction at what it would take for Costello to enter the game as the Cardinal labored towards a win over the 1-7 Beavers. You may remember that Michigan's first choice at QB two years ago was Costello; it was only after he committed to Stanford that Michigan started looking around.

A bit further south in that same conference, Sam Darnold watched USC start 1-2 under Max Browne last year before emerging as a 67%, 3000-yard, 31-9 TD-INT flamethrower and Rose Bowl winner.

A bit closer to home, Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke spent most of the 2016 season watching Tyler O'Connor bork it before getting a chance midway through the year. A few years back MSU also spent a brief, wonderful period as the worst offense on the planet under Andrew Maxwell before pulling the trigger on the Connor Cook era. Wisconsin left Alex Hornibrook, the conference's #2 QB by passer rating, on the bench early last year, and then benched him for their final two games.

Nobody knows! Even coaches. Coaches think things. They have the limited amount of data that practice provides, and then there is game data, and all of this information pales in comparison to a giant, looming Fear Of The Unknown. Some decisions make themselves; others have to wait until there's literally no way a second-year player is worse.

There is a moment when even if the backup sometimes seems like a semi-sentient radish in a human suit, he's the man, man. Welcome to that moment.

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

John O'Korn's struggles after Purdue sent the Michigan internet down a fairly appalling rabbit hole of speculation about Brandon Peters. "Promising young player stuck on bench for bad reasons" is such a trope that everyone knows the name of an otherwise obscure baseball player who Lou Gehrig replaced: Wally Pipp. The hundred-year persistence of this pattern was not good enough.

Nor were a plethora of recent examples at Michigan itself: Mike Hart behind David Underwood. Ben Gedeon behind Joe Bolden. Heck, even this very year Michigan went with Nolan Ulizio despite the fact Juwann Bushell-Beatty is older and apparently better. Sometimes the wrong guy is playing.

None of this mattered. O'Korn was bad so something had to be wrong with his backup.

So the last few weeks you couldn't throw a rock on a Michigan message board without hitting someone either implying or directly stating that Peters was a weird aspie with a fidget spinner and no future, Rain Man in a helmet. It's one thing when this comes from anonymous insider wannabes and entirely another when Rivals's Chris Balas calls a redshirt freshman a "big recruiting mistake" and says he "wouldn't be surprised" if Peters transferred.

Gasoline on the whisper fire, based on nothing. And this the second time Rivals has fueled baseless Peters transfer rumors that had to be debunked. The first time it was by Peters's father. This time Peters did it himself.

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

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easy [Campredon]

It turns out Brandon Peters is at least as plausible a second-year quarterback as anyone else suspected of being a sentient radish. Never in the history of Michigan Stadium has a soft toss in the flat or a fullback checkdown been met with more rapture, because everyone was worried that there was a good reason Peters was behind O'Korn, and that meant doom both now and later. Rutgers guys were annoyed at it, for some reason:

"It seemed like the crowd was kind of obnoxiously cheering," Rutgers redshirt senior Dorian Miller said with a smile. "(Peters) completed a 10-yard ball and the crowd belted out. Football is football, so I'm sure you could apply that to any team and the fans would respond like that. It's not a knock on them."

Just when folks who haven't seen Peters in action started wondering if this guy's arm strength was substandard, Peters stepped up in the pocket and ripped a laser at a receiver just in front of a safety. The ball got in a half second before the safety arrived, and the absurdity of the whisper campaign really settled in.

Brandon Peters is a quarterback in 2017, which means he was scouted to death in high school. And the thing that really leapt out to both Ace and I was that slow build to a ripping throw. Peters has the natural ability to vary his throws so they're catchable when they can be and darts when they have to be. That featured in his recruiting profile:

He varies trajectory and speed based on the situation. My favorite throws in the Brownsburg game above are two high-arc, low speed passes to his tight end that are the exact right throws in those situations. That's the definition of a "catchable ball."

Peters seemed like a savant, especially in the aftermath of Shane Morris's approach to the game. He had no QB guru, like most quarterbacks do these days. He ripped through high school football. This wasn't a guy completing half his passes who might be moldable into a guy down the road. Personality issues didn't prevent Peters from impressing the entire recruiting industry and flying up rankings after a senior year ending at the Army game.

So what are we doing when we search for some personality flaw when a second year player can't get into the game just yet? Why is a mountain of evidence from across college football not enough? And so what if the dude is more engineer than prom king?

Even if Brandon Peters isn't George Clooney—and I'm not saying he is or is not—has anyone actually seen Rain Man? Placed in his element, Rain Man is a baller.

HIGHLIGHTS

AWARDS

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this guy's mustache got an HM [Barron]

Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week

-2535ac8789d1b499[1]you're the man now, dog

#1 Rashan Gary. Gary was rampant, consistently blowing around the corner to sack and/or terrify the quarterback. The Rutgers LT gets some NFL hype; Gary, and Chase Winovich to a slightly less rampant extent, made that guy look like a walk-on.

#2(t) Mason Cole and Mike Onwenu. Cole and Onwenu tentatively seemed like Michigan's most mauling OL on a rewatch, but probably I could have given this to any member of the blocking crew and not been particularly off.

#3 Sean McKeon. McKeon was able to dig out a throw low and behind him to convert a third and long; he was the only guy to pull in multiple passes. He probably would have scored on that fourth down if Peters put it on him. In addition, McKeon's blocking was excellent for a second consecutive week.

Honorable mention: That guy's mustache. Poggi, Hill, Kugler, JBB, and Bredeson all chipped in on a dominating ground game. Isaac and Higdon made the most out of the blocking. Winovich, Hurst, and Bush were all their usual selves.

KFaTAotW Standings.

8: Devin Bush (#1 Florida, T2 Cincinnati, T2 Air Force, #1 Purdue)
5: Chase Winovich(#1 Air Force, #2a Purdue), Mo Hurst (#1 MSU, #2(T), Indiana), Karan Higdon (#1 Indiana, #2 PSU), Rashan Gary(T2 Indiana, #1 Rutgers), Mason Cole (#1 Cincinnati, T2 Rutgers).
4: David Long (T3 Indiana, #1 PSU)
3: Ty Isaac (#2, Florida, #3 Cincinnati), Lavert Hill(#2 MSU, T3 Indiana))
2: Quinn Nordin (#3 Florida, #3 Air Force), John O'Korn (#2 Purdue), Khaleke Hudson (T2 Cincinnati, #3 PSU), Sean McKeon(T3 Purdue, #3 Rutgers), Mike Onwenu(T2 Rutgers).
1: Tyree Kinnel (T2 Cincinnati), Mike McCray(T2 Air Force), Zach Gentry (T3 Purdue), Brad Robbins(#3 MSU), Brandon Watson (T3 Indiana).

Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week

Brandon Peters completes a short waggle pass to Ty Wheatley for a first down.

Honorable mention: Peters completes another soft toss to Poggi on his next opportunity. Higdon breaks free for a game-sealing long touchdown. Kareem Walker scores. Various annihilations of the Rutgers quarterback. Various annihilations of the Rutgers front seven.

imageMARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.

Michigan misses a run fit against a wildcat formation, ceding a long touchdown that tied the score at 7. At the time it felt like that was the start of a very long day indeed. Also long wildcat touchdowns remind me of the Penn State game.

Honorable mention: O'Korn throws a pick in the direction of Gentry when he's covered by a 5'9" guy; O'Korn fumbles the snap and Michigan eats a 14 yard loss; Rutgers uses the same damn screen play MSU scored on to get down to the two.

[After the JUMP: hamblasting the hamblasted]

Wednesday Presser 10-18-17: Tim Drevno

Wednesday Presser 10-18-17: Tim Drevno

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on October 18th, 2017 at 6:15 PM

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[Fuller]

How much improvement did you see from your guys up front in that Indiana game?

“I saw a lot of improvement. It was good. We still need to play better offensively and the guys up front, but when you rush for 271 yards there’s a lot of positivity. Guys are moving guys off the ball and protection was better, so it was a step forward as we prepare against Penn State this week.”

How much improvement have you seen out of Mike Onwenu?

“A lot, a lot of improvement. You can see that he’s moving his feet, he’s understanding it, he’s finishing. He could finish a little bit better, like all of them can, everybody on the offense. But you can see it. Light bulb’s going on, which is neat. He’s playing good football—really good football.”

How did Juwann Bushell-Beatty do in his first full contest?

“Juwann did a nice job. He competed well. There’s some thing we’ve got to clean up but he did a nice job for his first start here. He had a false start there at one point in time in the game but for the most part his protection was good. We’ve just got to clean up some of the run blocking things, but it was real positive.”

[After THE JUMP: Tim Drevno, an American Legion baseball field, a water pump, and a metaphor for the offense]

Upon Further Review 2017: Offense vs Indiana

Upon Further Review 2017: Offense vs Indiana

Submitted by Brian on October 18th, 2017 at 4:36 PM

2017 logoo_thumbSPONSOR NOTE. I mean the unfortunate thing is that president of US soccer isn't even a paid position right now so a guy like Matt, who is very organized and on top of everything and is clearly a talented manager and would probably listen to me when I told him that he shouldn't hire a muppet to be the coach, couldn't swing it and his current day job at the same time. Because he's got to get you those mortgage quotes lickety-split, you see, and if he's trying to determine who's a soccer muppet and who is a human you will not get them with the speed he is accustomed to.

HomeSure Lending: simple mortgage guidance in the comfort of your own home. Where nobody can see you watching clips of the Landon Donovan goal with big ol' wet tears falling out of your face.

FORMATION NOTES. It was a manball outing, with 31 one-or-zero WR snaps. There were 23 two-WR snaps and 15 three-WR snaps, many of those on obvious passing downs. When not forced into WRs Michigan had an extreme preference for tight ends and fullbacks.

IU kept their safeties increasingly close to the LOS as the day progressed for obvious reasons. They did one weird thing with this gap in the line:

vlcsnap-2017-10-17-00h52m50s372

Their front was multiple, as they like to say, bouncing between even, under, over, and even some 3-4 stuff. They also had a few plays with a five-man line when they were trying to slow down Michigan's heavy sets. Here's Indiana in an under front with the FLAG OF DOOM waving:

vlcsnap-2017-10-16-18h54m48s454

SUBSTITUTION NOTES. Thin rotation. O'Korn went the whole way at QB. OL was the new usual with Bushell-Beatty playing the whole way at RT. Hill and Poggi split FB snaps; no Mason. TE was mostly Gentry and McKeon, with a healthy number of Wheatley and Bunting snaps. Eubanks didn't play.

RB was mostly Higdon with Evans and Isaac making cameos; Walker got two snaps and one carry. WR was DPJ, Crawford, Perry, and some Ways. DPJ seemed to get more snaps this week.

[After THE JUMP: a unicorn!]

Preview 2017: Running Back

Preview 2017: Running Back

Submitted by Brian on August 28th, 2017 at 4:00 PM

Previously: Podcast 9.0A. Podcast 9.0B. Podcast 9.0C. The Story. Quarterback.

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[Eric Upchurch]

[Bolded player rules: not necessarily returning starter, but someone we've seen enough of that I'm no longer talking about their recruiting profile. Extant contributor.]


FEATURE BACK Yr. SHORT YARDAGE Yr. 3RD DOWN YR. SPREAD H YR.
Chris Evans So. Karan Higdon Jr. Ty Isaac Sr.* Chris Evans So.
Karan Higdon Jr. Kareem Walker Fr*. Karan Higdon Jr. Eddie McDoom So.
Ty Isaac Sr.* Ty Isaac Sr.* Chris Evans So. Ty Isaac Sr.*
Kareem Walker Fr.* O'Maury Samuels Fr. Kurt Taylor Fr. Karan Higdon Jr.

Michigan loses their starter but returns 60% of their running back carries, so experience won't be in short supply. Neither will quicks, what with Chris Evans and Karan Higdon emerging into a one-two punch. This is a major shift from De'Veon Smith, a battleship of a back who was great at carrying defensive backs like recalcitrant children but never a visionary.

The nature of these gentlemen is interesting. Most are short, and quick, and clever. Mike Spath gathered this quote at Big Ten media days from an anonymous opponent:

"They have a lot of speed backs now that Smith is gone. They're not going to be a power-running team so I'll be curious to see what type of formations they run. They've got the two guys that could be really good as a No. 1 - Evans and [Karan Higdon]."

This is a sea change from the Smiths and Derrick Greens of the world where how mean you look is priority one. Chris Evans looks like a dang sweetheart, but he's a killer all the same.

RUNNING BACK: KID DON'T PLAY

RATING: 4

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if we're being honest his hair is more Play than Kid [Bryan Fuller]

This is a good preview. It is not an infallible one, as last year's take on CHRIS EVANS demonstrates:

…our bet is the Evans hype is likely to peter out into not very much this year. There are only so many snaps to go around and you know Smith, Isaac, and Peppers are going to get their cuts.

Evans was first amongst equals in the three-man platoon behind De'Veon Smith and is now projected by many to start and have a huge breakout year. That includes this space, and not just because of this:

[Evans] coaches a local kids flag football team. This in and of itself is odd and very, very Harbaugh. An acquaintance of mine relates that his kid is in this flag football league, and that his game was at 7:15 in the morning, with a potential second game at 9:30 if his kids' team won. Chris Evans is at this game. Not because his team is playing—his team is the one waiting for the winner at 9:30. Chris Evans is... taking notes? Watching intently? Is Chris Evans, starting Michigan running back, scouting a flag football game at 7 in the morning? Yes. Yes he is.

Dan Murphy confirmed that was no fever-dream of an under-caffeinated parent, uncovering that and yet more Chris Evans coaching exploits. Evans immediately leaps to the front of the Jim Harbaugh 2040 list.

Also the depth chart. Early in camp there were some rumors that Karan Higdon had grabbed the starting job; those were forcefully debunked by both Scout and 247. Evans remains first among equals and should see a plurality—if not a majority—of the carries. His quick hook in the spring game is plenty of evidence in that department:

"I wanted to play more …but they said 'nah, nah, nah, you're not going to play, you're not going to play.'

Also his ability to deploy a sick crossover in a sport that doesn't have them:

Evans breaks ankles. He is superbly agile and able to juke guys in a quick one-two-three step ballet move. He needs little room to pull this off:

In the bowl game he did this literally while in the hole, running through the subsequent arm tackle it set up:

This offseason someone close to the team told me that Evans even had a tendency to juke guys there was literally no way he could see, because he knew what the likely structure of the defense was and what that meant for, say, a safety approaching from the side. He's not just scouting flag football.

This is no doubt part of the reason why Evans seemed immediately more instinctual than De'Veon Smith and Michigan backs since, jeez, Fitz Toussaint. I spent virtually the entire Hoke era complaining about straight-ahead running, bad cuts, and an inability to set up blocks. Evans was a breath of fresh air in that department. He had a feel for how to commit the second level and then burst into a different gap:

Evans was good at putting his foot in the ground after linebackers had decided, and slipping through tight creases in the line. He just knows that he needs to change direction once, and when to make that change:

As a true freshman he's already better at taking advantage of his blocking than anyone who's been in the backfield at Michigan for a minute. And once he gets in the open field it's jockstrap time:

Evans did all he could last year to establish himself as Michigan's top back, and that continued through the offseason:

"He's coached the flag football team. He's held youth camps," he said. "He did that all on his own. His nose was in the playbook all off-season. He put in the work to get bigger. His dedication to taking the next step has been a lot of fun to watch. He's relentless."

While it wasn't all sunshine and roses—Evans made an occasional wacky cut and drew some grumbles around here for going down at first contact too often—it was a freshman year to sit up and take notice of. Numbers adore Evans. Obligatory caveat: they should all come with a big flashing "SMALL SAMPLE SIZE" sign. They are all we have to go on, though, so:

  • Evans is first among returning Big Ten RBs in PFF's "Elusive Rating," which turns a combination of broken tackles and yards after contact to "measure a runner's success beyond the point of being helped by his blockers." Ty Johnson and Akrum Wadley are 2 and 3, so the metric passes a basic sanity test.
  • His 4.1 yards after contact were fourth best nationally for freshmen and second in the Power 5.
  • Evans was the second most likely returning Big Ten back to get five yards on any particular run ("opportunity rate") and towards the top of the league in yards acquired after he got to five ("highlight yards"). He's behind only the two Maryland backs in highlight yards per attempt, and was significantly better than the other three Michigan backs last year in all categories.
  • Evans just about swept the RB portion of Michigan's winter combine, winning everything except the powerball throw.

Evans's 40 at the combine was a somewhat alarming 4.64, but I wouldn't sweat that. That might be the first 40 time to ever receive negative FAKES around here. From what we've seen on the field Evans's long speed is at least solid; as a recruit his speed was unanimously declared his best asset, with a significant amount of data backing that up:

A 4.4-ish 40 at the Army Combine just after his junior year is legit. Last March Steve Wiltfong noted that Evans has run a "4.4 hand-held every time" he lays down a 40 yard dash. At Best of the Midwest he ran a 4.37 40, and while that's solidly in the realm of combine fiction Evans's track career was impressive. Tracking Football places him in the 87th percentile of RBs based on his lycra exploits, which include a state championship in the 100 meter relay and a narrow defeat in the regular 100 meter state finals.

Maybe that's a bad run, a dinged up guy, or a typo. I'd be surprised if Evans isn't a legitimate 4.5 guy and, depending on your definition of legitimate, 4.4. But hey, don't take it from me, take it from Drake Johnson, raconteur:

"He's mad athletic. You just see some people and think 'yeah, he's an athlete.' He's an athlete, he just does stuff. He's smooth, he's real smooth. He's like butter smooth, we're just like 'ooh, wow.' He's like *sound effects* someone flips to the side, like he had no chance. Like, I'm sorry you could've tried but it sucks to suck. He just makes it look easy."

(Someone give this man a job talking about things.) Evans's home run ability should be top notch. This doesn't feel like a slow RB:

If he has a problem in this department it would be the ability to turn 40 into 50, and all the evidence outside that 4.64 suggests he'll be fine

Evans's other potential drawback is much more real: pass blocking. He was barely asked to do it last year—14 snaps total per PFF, and when he did it was ugly. He's bigger and older now but still not that big and not that old. He's never going to be Mike Hart. Michigan has a solution and it's one with a lot of upside. Evans:

"I'm coming out of the backfield or in the slot because I'm bigger, but I'm not 230. I can't really step up in the hole and block people. Well, I can -- that's what I've been working on all offseason. [But] we can block with five and send five receivers downfield. Stretch the field out with guys -- the good receivers that stretch the field out. It'll give me more open lanes to run through."

With 91 catches his last two years in high school, Evans was as much a receiver as he was a running back. Michigan entirely neglected to explore that talent a year ago; plenty of spread looks in the spring game suggest they will not continue doing so this year. Webb reports that you should expect him to get more looks thanks to his "outstanding receiving skills" that could have seen him play slot.

Evans should bust out to become one of the Big Ten's best backs, and its most prolific receiver out of the backfield, give or take an Akrum Wadley. He's got the quicks, speed, dedication, and agility to make a great many folks look foolish. You can't project All Big Ten nods in a league where a pretty dang good running back is going to be the 8th-best guy in the conference; Evans should perform at that level.

[After THE JUMP: a cast of thousands! several, anyway. plenty. pedant.]

Fall Camp Presser 8-21-17: Jay Harbaugh

Fall Camp Presser 8-21-17: Jay Harbaugh

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on August 22nd, 2017 at 11:01 AM

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[Fuller]

How’s your position group look?

“Doing good. Everyone looks good. Competing, getting better. A lot of the guys just had such strong springs and summers it’s elevated the guys at the top of the depth chart, the guys at the bottom of the depth chart, the younger guys are starting to come along, so everyone’s making everyone better just through competition, like it is at all positions.”

Ty Isaac’s slimmed down and is looking better. Talk about him a little bit.

“Yeah, he’s just doing everything right. Running the ball well, been great in protection, reliable hands, taking care of the ball. He’s a little bit trimmer so he’s moving a little bit more swiftly so really excited about him.”

We’ve heard a lot about, and Chris Evans specifically mentioned, the big back-small back aspect. He said Tyrone [Wheatley] kind of looked at it through the lens of a big back whereas you are more geared toward a small running back. Can you detail that a little bit and explain it?

“I don’t know if I can explain the difference or anything because I don’t know that I would agree that I see things like a small back or anything. I just try to look at each guy and what they bring to the table, what their skill set is, and you have to understand that they’re all different.

“Whether or not that’s different than before I really couldn’t tell you, but we do have a good group of guys that they all bring a little something different to the table so just when you’re calling plays and substituting, that’s something that you keep in mind.”

Chris said last week that a year ago he would run the ball or release and now he has to actually block people also. How have you seen that aspect of his game developing?

“He’s gotten so much more comfortable just trusting his eyes and reading defenses and knowing his responsibility and on top of that knowing what the offensive line is doing, what the quarterback’s thinking just in terms of where the protection is going and where the weaknesses are. So he’s shown a ton of growth in that regard and just very, very trustworthy to have him there in all kinds of different protections.”

[After THE JUMP: A little on where each back has improved. Also Ben Mason, because always ask a Harbaugh about fullbacks]