SPONSOR NOTE: Matt also bought a very silly Michigan bus this offseason. For no reason, really. Just to have a giant bus with a winged helmet painted on it. And other stuff, sure. An engine, probably. Twitter handle painted on the side because that's how we do.
So you can get a mortgage from a guy with a giant Michigan bus or a guy without a giant Michigan bus. Homesure Lending is the guy with the bus. This is an easy choice even if you don't need a term sheet in 15 minutes because you're a bigshot lawyer who is very bad at promoting your own books.
FORMATION NOTES: Hoo boy.
Michigan played almost the entire game in a 3-3-5 stack. Copious discussion below.
PERSONNEL NOTES: Exact snap counts are not available right now but the general picture was clear. On the DL, Michigan started Gary, Hurst, and Winovich. Those guys got the lion's share of snaps. Marshall and later Solomon rotated in at NT. Kemp got a few snaps when Gary needed to get told something. Winovich went the distance until garbage time, when Reuben Jones and Kwity Paye got in.
At linebacker Furbush and McCray were the OLBs with Bush at ILB. Gil got a couple early series as Michigan rehydrated McCray; that was the only rotation until late. On the last drive the LBs were Gil again, Mbem-Bosse, and Uche.
Secondary was Metellus, Kinnel, and Hudson the whole way at safety with Hill and Long generally first choice at corner. Long's injuries and solid play from Watson got him a healthy number of snaps. Thomas got in a little bit in the third and fourth quarters. There was no dime package. Also yes I'm lumping Hudson in with the safeties since he will split over the slot and occasionally play FS.
I felt pretty good about this game for a long time, and continued to feel better as we approached it. First Jim McElwain freaked out about someone on the internet facetiously claiming that he laid upon a shark in the nude. Then some Florida guy said this about the Michigan defensive line:
"They don't move well sideline to sideline, so I think we should take advantage of things like that."
Allegedly paying some SEO outfit 70,000 clams to scrub your Google results of a twitter joke that nobody would have remembered 24 hours later if you hadn't gone full Streisand Effect is one thing. Declaring Michigan's defensive line to lack Southern Speed is another.
The former is insane, yes, but insane manias are not just encouraged but required for high-level college football coaches. Telling your team that Mo Hurst, Chase Winovich, and Rashan Gary can't run is plain old laziness.Gary and Hurst made tackles on WR screens...
Heggie can't hold block on Hurst (duh, R-FR vs. NFL 1st rounder). McCoy, who's looking upfield to block 9, doesn't notice til it's too late. pic.twitter.com/cZu74GiA7T
A Michigan team that sent so much to the NFL a year ago could have been the subject of many, many legitimate critiques to be expressed in the media. For Florida Man to settle on that one, and say it out loud, was proof that the Gators' internal monologue was indistinguishable from any random SEC SPEED message board. Before this game they talked like one; during this game they played like one; after this game they probably imploded like one. Florida talked that work, got that work, and talked about getting worked.
Reporter: I saw you had a work type shirt with your name on it? What's that? Harbaugh: It's my work shirt. Reporter: Is there more of a story to it? Harbaugh: No, just a shirt I wear to work.
Jim Harbaugh is accused of stunts, antics, and bids for media relevancy on the regular. These are mostly true. The subtext, however, is that Harbaugh's profile-raising activities eat into time otherwise spent on the boring work of making a football team. That is not true. Harbaugh and his coaches are also doing that.
Michigan spent most of this game in a bonafide 3-3-5 that they had hardly shown on film last year, baffling Florida's blocking schemes and showing two unprepared quarterbacks a glimpse of hell. Hell is Rashan Gary closing on you unblocked. The proper response is to fall over and pretend you died of rabies, as Felipe Franks did.
On offense Michigan's backs repeatedly burst outside to find that Florida had neglected to deploy a force player. The consistency with which this happened was baffling at first and then felt like a thing Michigan saw and prepared to exploit. Probably 60% of their rushing yards came on the 10-12 carries that started inside and ended outside. At one point I thought about that sideline video from the Stanford-VT Orange Bowl where Harbaugh's telling his back the backside cut is there, and sure enough.
Mike Shaw would have kicked ass in this game [Cook]
In the aftermath, McElwain talked about how his team got beat up and pushed around by a bigger, stronger Michigan team... you know, the one deploying 10 new starters on defense and a receiving corps consisting entirely of baby lambs stretching their legs. That's default coach talk after taking it on the chin, but Florida didn't lose a bench press competition. They lost because Michigan presented them with a puzzle they could not solve.
Many teams have done that to Florida these last seven years. The Gators are now in the exact same place Michigan was during the dolorous late Hoke era. Spencer:
This is laughable, like openly contemptible. Consider the list of teams that with meager resources and worse recruiting footprints and every other curse imaginable have built top 30 offenses out of nothing. That list based on 2016 alone is hilariously bad given what Florida spends on their head coach alone, not to mention the resources surrounding the football program, one that even after all that spending has topped out at a recent ceiling of “sort-of fleshed-out secondary character with an inflated reputation who makes it into the second act of the Western before being killed in a gunfight when he runs out of bullets.”
Michigan is now on the other side of this equation and when Florida hires Jeff Brohm next year they will be too, and if you're not pulling for that you are a cold person indeed.
For Michigan, a fog of nervousness now evaporated. Your author spent 50k words talking about why he wasn't worried about Michigan's incredible outflux of starters, but as some guy named Foug walked up for the opening kickoff there were butterflies all the same. The difference between "should be" and "is" has bitten Michigan fans too many times in the last decade, and at kickoff all that practice talk is just talk.
Foug could have put that ball straight out of bounds and kicked off a clownshow. At one point, after three separate game-losing disasters in a row, it felt like he had. Michigan did not waver, and once the disasters stopped raining down they asserted themselves as one would.
"This is Michigan" no longer feels like a cruelly oblivious thing to proclaim. They lost the world, and they are still here, being Michigan. Working at it every day.
Full game tight cut:
Postgame presser from Harbaugh:
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 Devin Bush. This space has asserted that Devin Bush was accidentally the perfect Don Brown linebacker recruit, and it took one game for that to become obvious. Bush got two sacks in this game and had a few more instances of QB terror; he takes angles that normally mean you lose and wins with them; he shows up in the QB's chest with a quickness that seems to shock them. He is a missile.
#2 Ty Isaac. Not sure how much this is going to translate to opponents that either make sure to have a force guy and pay attention to a run threat on third down, but Isaac was mansome in game one. He converted two third and longs on the ground, embarrassed a couple of would-be tacklers, and kinda looked five-star-ish against a very fast defense.
#3 Quinn Nordin. Nordin missing a 32-yarder was the only thing preventing him from ending up #1 on the list. One game into his Michigan career he's already tied for third in career 50+ yard field goals, with 50 and 55 yarders to his name. He also grooved a couple shorter ones down the middle. His other miss, from 52, was eminently understandable.
Honorable mention: Tarik Black's two catches went for 80+ yards; DPJ nearly broke two different punt returns; Winovich, Hurst, and Gary were all between good and dominant, also the entire rest of the defense.
3: Devin Bush (#1, Florida) 2: Ty Isaac (#2, Florida) 1: Quinn Nordin (#3, Florida)
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
Embedded above: Chase Winovich seals the game in the most appropriate fashion possible.
Honorable mention: Nordin bangs in 55-yarder; Nordin bangs in a 50-yarder; Tarik Black is wide open for a deep touchdown; Nick Eubanks is a very fast quasi-TE; Ambry Thomas rips the ball out on a kick return; various and sundry assaults on Florida QB sanity.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
Pick six #2. This was the moment during the game when a loss felt most plausible, because every subsequent Michigan drive was destined to end in a pick six. Feels bad man!
Honorable mention: Pick six #1; punt block after pick six #2; Speight checks Michigan into the perfect play and he misses an easy TD; a couple of completions where Hill was in good position but couldn't get his head around and react.
[After THE JUMP: a play from the 2012 Nebraska game.]
This spot has gotten steadily wobblier as the offseason has worn on. Talk of an open competition went from fanciful to deadly serious. Coaches made grumbling noises about player availability. One of Michigan's only experienced wide receivers was added to the mix after spring practice. The ideal scenario where Long and Hill are second year players just like sophomore Jourdan Lewis seems unlikely at the moment.
Things probably shouldn't be bad. If you're not a little nervous you're braver than this preview. There is a distinct whiff of job-by-default here. If the two highly-touted second-year players aren't up to it the alternatives are either true freshmen, a couple of modest recruits with little on-field track record, and a guy who flipped from WR in spring.
But it'll probably be fine? Maybe?
The #1 spot here was an open question even after the insiders had several cracks at making projections. Then Mike Zordich evacuated LAVERT HILL [recruiting profile]prior to the Dresden portion of his recent press conference. Nobody can accuse Zordich of being a coachspeak robot after this:
How are those young corners coming along?
“Not fast enough.” [/laughs] “Not fast enough. They show flashes. I’ll say this: Lavert has, since his injury, he’s been pretty consistent and you can see him increasing every day and getting better. ...
So Lavert’s responded to whatever challenge you—
“He has. He absolutely has. He came back. He didn’t practice much in the spring. We were very disappointed about that and we expressed that with him. This summer he really worked hard, then unfortunately he gets injured. But he came back and just picked up and the arrow’s going up. The arrow’s going up. Can’t say that about the rest of the guys.”
In a way this might be good news? Seriously? Zordich clearly wasn't around to spare anyone's feelings and he was fairly enthusiastic about Hill, who entered as a massive wildcard. If he's putting it together enough to spare himself from a coach on the warpath... I might take that and run. One wonky spot is easier to fill if you have a bonafide War Daddy who can man up an X receiver aligned away from trips.
Hill can be that guy. He is a high ceiling, low floor gentleman. During high school he was either in Lewis-level coverage or watching a long touchdown from the next county. Current Belleville head coach Jermaine Crowell, who was at one time the position coach for both Hill and Lewis, laid it down:
“Vert is more athletic than JD [ed: Lewis's nickname]. He’s faster than JD ... His vertical is better. But JD has always had that edge, he doesn’t care who you are, he’s coming at you. JD will line up against a seventh grader and treat him like he’s the best receiver in college.
“Lavert might not necessarily do that. He rises to the challenge. He wants to go against the best of the best to prove himself. You have to be more consistent. Once his consistency gets there he’s going to be unreal.”
That take has been spot on so far, with Hill reports alternating between marvels at his "hip pocket coverage" and worries about his compete level. Webb cited an anonymous rival coach comparing Hill to Ambry Thomas:
"If Vert had Ambry's intensity he'd be the #1 corner in the country. Hands down."
Elsewhere in that post is an assertion from another Detroit-area high school coach that Hill, not Lewis, not Thomas, not Desmond King, is the "most talented corner in recent memory to come out of the city." Janus looks both ways. The duality of man, man.
In limited time last year (about 60 snaps) Hill came out at essentially zero to PFF; he was not frequently mentioned in UFR. He did have a couple moments where the incessant Lewis comparisons seemed pretty on point:
He had a couple of similar plays in garbage time; in the bowl game he was in good position and got hit with a dubious PI flag after mutual handfighting between DB and WR:
This is largely encouraging. When Hill was targeted he was in a good spot and able to make a play on the ball. Pass interference savvy can be developed. Being close enough to need it is a good start.
But inconsistency has continued to dog Hill, at least until recently. After spring practice the coaches were openly frustrated with his tendency to take a knock and then miss reps. Zordich:
“Lavert is a natural at it. LaVert has got to get better at finishing, straining, more effort, but talent – he has it. He just has to make up his mind on how he wants this to roll.”
Similar grumbles persisted through the first half of fall camp, and then they cleared like smoke. Webb started talking him up a few days before Zordich confirmed Hill's rise to the world at large, saying he is the lone "fixture with the first group" and that he "stepped up his game significantly"; Rivals reported that Hill has "finally stepped up, big time."
Webb has also asserted that Michigan trusted Hill covering the slots last year and might be the guy sliding inside when Michigan goes to a dime package. That opens up the sixth DB spot to any of the competitors and is a valuable thing in one of your corners. It's also a Lewis comparison point.
Hill could be anything from sophomore Jourdan Lewis...
...who was already an All Big Ten guy at that point in his career, or he could be a version of Jourdan Lewis who gets lost way too much and sees a bunch of TDs go over his head. Finding out will be fun! Or possibly not fun!
“Hello. Thanks for coming out to Schembechler Hall.”
Can you talk about the two guys that were selected as captains and what you think their teammates saw in them that put them there?
“Yeah, first of all, it was a really good group. We looked at the seniors and the fifth-year players who could be elected captain and put it up there on the wall, on the screen. Really good leaders in that group so felt like we’d get two really good captains. We voted and we did: Mason Cole on offense, Mike McCray on defense. Both “Go Blue” guys, both poised to have big years, both starting players, both very good players at the highest level, so excited about both of our captains.
“And, as I said before, all of our seniors, our leaders, the way the leadership group is coming together.”
Are you ready to announce who is starting at quarterback?
“Have not heard Florida announce who their starting quarterback will be and we would love to have that information.”
Is that a no?
“So, uh, no, we’re not announcing our starting quarterback. As I said before, people make a big deal about our roster or not announcing a starting quarterback; I’m not seeing a starting quarterback—I haven’t seen the starting quarterback come out at Florida but never any mention of that. Very interesting. But yes, we would like to have that information from them. I’m sure they’d like to have it from us and right now neither is giving that information.”
This is typical [in that] you normally don’t name a quarterback early. Do you have a certain philosophy as to why that’s the case?
“Well, it’s been that the philosophy is it’s a meritocracy and competition is healthy and fair and productive. It’s been very good. As I said, it’s been a good camp for our quarterbacks and we feel confident in our guys. We believe in them.”
Obviously you don’t want to tell us but do you have a plan in mind? Do those guys know who’s going to be in at quarterback heading into game week at this point?
“We’re, uh, working on it, yes. It’s been formulated and we’ve communicated it.”
[After THE JUMP: a more focused offensive line, one surefire starter at corner, Florida standouts, and the deputization of leadership]
is what someone says when they’re too polite to admit that they’re writing another
Draftageddon 2017: ASK FOR THE PANDA YOU GET THE PANDA Edition
This is Part IX (the penultimate of this year). We are drafting Big Ten players to give you an overview of the guys and dudes around the conference, and to learn them ourselves. You’re along for the ride, and if you want to get off we use the same lead image every time so you can do that.
THAT WHICH HAS ALREADY OCCURRED
click to read
BiSB is on the clock and has no outside receivers, so he’ll take another slot.
BiSB: ROUND 21, PICK 1: KJ Hill, WR (OSU)
Off: QB Brandon Peters (UM), QB Clayton Thorson (NW), RB Saquon Barkley (PSU), RB Ty Johnson (MD), WR DJ Moore (MD), WR K.J. Hill (OSU), TE/WR Mike Gesicki (PSU), G/C Billy Price (OSU); G/T Beau Benzschawel (UW), G/T Ryan Bates (PSU), G/T Ben Bredeson (UM)
Def: NT Bryan Mone (UM); DT Conor Sheehy (UW), DE Tyquan Lewis (OSU), DE Chase Winovich (UM), LB Tegray Scales (IU), LB Jason Cabinda (PSU) CB Rashard Fant (IU), CB Derrick Tindal (UW), S Godwin Igwebuike (NW), S D’Cota Dixon (UW)
I'm hitching my wagon to [OSU’s nepotismo WRs coach] Zach Smith. I may have gone mad.
Last year was the first year under Urban Meyer that Ohio State hasn't had at least a relatively reliable and productive traditional receiver; Curtis Samuel had over 900 yards, but no one else had more than Noah Brown's 402. Brown is gone, leaving K.J. Hill as the leading returning wide receiver (not counting TE Marcus Baugh). Hill's small-sample numbers were good; his 10.9 yards per target led the team, as did his 75% success rate. Bill Connelly had him as the 5th best freshman wide receiver in the country.
It's a bit of a crapshoot, as there are a number of talented wide receivers waiting in the wings in Columbus, including Austin Mack, Binjimen Victor, and Terry McLaurin. But Hill is a versatile guy who can play outside, in the slot, or at H-back, and he's the most productive guy they've got. Odds are he'll get enough touches to make it worth my while. And if we subscribe to Brian's "Freshman Receivers Suck" theory, Hill is primed for a breakout sophomore campaign.
On the other hand... Zach Smith.
[AFTER THE JUMP: A shutdown fullcast about draftageddon then 11 more picks, then people bitching about draftageddon in the comments. At least this one is guaranteed to get you excited about Michigan football]
“Not fast enough.” [/laughs] “Not fast enough. They show flashes. I’ll say this: Lavert has, since his injury, he’s been pretty consistent and you can see him increasing every day and getting better. The other guys, they’ve shown flashes. They just need to grab it. Somebody’s got to grab it and run with it and take it. It’s just not happening. Hopefully somebody will in the next five to seven days because we’ve got to get ready for a game in less than two weeks.”
So Lavert’s responded to whatever challenge you—
“He has. He absolutely has. He came back. He didn’t practice much in the spring. We were very disappointed about that and we expressed that with him. This summer he really worked hard, then unfortunately he gets injured. But he came back and just picked up and the arrow’s going up. The arrow’s going up. Can’t say that about the rest of the guys. Again, you see some flashes. You know they can do it, but they’ve got to do it every single day.”
How often have you gotten to a point in camp where you feel like that and in other years have seen a group, a secondary, come along and do what you want?
“Well, I’ll go back to when I was in Philadelphia coaching with the Eagles. My second year there we had some new faces but they came together and played well. Certainly we’ve got new faces—I guess I can say young faces—and they’re not coming together. I don’t know if they’re just afraid to make plays because, again, they have the ability and they’ve shown the ability and they’ve done it in live situations out here. It’s just for them to understand that it has to be on a consistent basis and that is just not happening right now.”
Is it just a matter of experience?
“Possibly. It could be. It could be experience. It may be. It may just be that they don’t know how to dig a little deeper and to find it. That could be part of the problem, too.”
Is anyone closer? Do you feel like anyone’s making more flashes than someone else?
Are you sure this isn’t coachspeak?
“No. No. I’m not—I’m not gonna tell a story that isn’t true. That fair enough?”
“I mean, we got a game to play in, what, twelve days? They’re working hard, they just gotta work hard more consistently and do the right things more consistently.”
[More honesty (and WR and JKP and Brad Hawkins hype) after THE JUMP]
Dwumfour has a great shot. They're calling him "a bigger Mo Hurst." The other payers rave about him too. But he was injured this spring and wasn't in on all the contact drills, so I'm not ready to call my shot there.
"Bigger Mo Hurst" is very much in the "Mike Hart, but fast!" vein of Fred Jackson hyperbole; I will take plain ol' Mo Hurst every day and twice on Saturday, thank you very much. Dwumfour was one of our key players going into spring, so for him to miss out on all the publicly available time is a major disappointment. At least the things we're hearing are still very good.
So. The two deep is going to feature a freshman nose tackle 99% likely to be named Aubrey Solomon and a freshman weakside end 99% likely to be named Luiji Vilain. If Michigan has to rely on them as much as they relied on Rashan Gary last year that's fine. Solomon is a five-star ready to chip in, and Vilain ended the year not far off from that status. Any injury to the starting line immediately puts Michigan in crisis mode.
This gap is the consequence of the collapse in Brady Hoke's recruiting after it became clear he was not Vince Lombardi and is the difference between Michigan right now and an elite program. It'll take another year or two before Michigan is stacked front-to-back with Harbaugh recruiting classes.
No changes or even much commentary on the linebackers. There's a top three; Webb asserted that he felt a final member of the two-deep would be arriving in fall with the rest of the freshman class. This is obviously not great news for the linebackers already on campus. They have sufficient numbers there that the backup situation will probably be fine; again this is a spot which will require another year or two before they have guys lined up three deep.
Michigan's defensive coordinator doesn't operate in coach-speak, the truth always seems to seep out -- whether he wants it to or not.
And when it came to the question of whether or not he's happy with where cornerback Lavert Hill is heading into Michigan's 15th and final practice of spring ball, he couldn't help but get real.
"No," Brown said Friday after Michigan's practice in Rome, a slight chuckle coming through in his voice.
Lavert Hill missed too much of the spring with minor injuries and the lack of talk about David Long is creeping towards worrying. (Long was one of a few players who did not make the Rome trip, FWIW.) Keith Washington following up that spring game with a major move in fall practice would be most welcome.
Meanwhile reports have Jordan Glasgow as Khaleke Hudson's backup at VIPER(!!!), which is sensible but a wee bit disappointing to your author after his strong performance in the spring game as a safety. He's second string at either position but at safety he is a potential dimeback* like Kinnel was a year ago. As the backup viper that's unlikely. Glasgow continued to impress observers in Rome, FWIW:
After a Brandon Peters 20 yard scramble for a TD... Jordan Glasgow makes a great play to pick off Speight pic.twitter.com/76mQmOfNhk
That is a diving INT on a crossing route, which you don't see every day. Webb noted that they're "thrilled" with Glasgow's emergence as the viper and that between those two guys they're set there. Furbush and Uche come in for mentions as well, which emphasizes the depth at that spot.
At safety the starters are locked in, and then like DL there are major question marks behind them. Michigan did get to see both freshman S as early enrollees, and the injury that held J'Marick Woods out of the spring game did not prevent him from practicing in Rome:
Safety is almost the last place I want to see a freshman heavily involved—QB is #1—so even if Woods and Jaylen Kelly-Powell are promising I'm hoping their deployment is restricted to blowouts. Webb says Michigan will be monitoring grad transfers for a potential backup S—again, if Glasgow can play S it really feels like he should play S.
At least it seems like the starters should be high quality. Tyree Kinnel put in good work in 100+ snaps a year ago and Don Brown is super enthused about Josh Metellus, a "savant".
*[MGoBlog convention is that Michigan is a 4-2-5 base defense so this is equivalent to a nickelback in a 4-3. IE, the dimeback comes in on passing downs.]
What were your initial impressions of the secondary after the spring game?
“After the spring game I thought—I still believe we’re young and talented, but there’s quite a ways to go. Quite a ways to go. On the outside, the young guys were still very critical of the technique we play, especially in our man coverage. So, they’ve got a ways to go even though they should be in high school. We’ve got to change their habits, if you will. So we’re happy, but lot of room for improvement.”
Last week Brian [Smith] was saying that Keith is coming along a little bit but that he was pretty hard on himself, like he’d pick up something, maybe wouldn’t get it again the next time, and was pretty hard on himself. What have you seen out of Keith?
“Yeah, Keith has always been hard on himself. Keith is a competitor, and that’s one thing I always like about Keith. He works his tail off. You gotta remember, he played at quarterback at high school. We brought him over and said, ‘Hey, we’re gonna make you a cornerback’ in a system that plays press-man 90% of the time, so it’s not an easy thing to do and it’s a tough technique to learn. That’s what he’s trying to do and I think he’s doing it very well.
“I thought he had a heck of a game Saturday. Played really well, was very aggressive, had some nice tackles. He’s come along really well.”
[After THE JUMP: On winemaking, which is not a metaphor. We talked about making actual wine. Also defending fades, but wine, too]
Tyree Kinnel has been playing free safety and Josh Metellus has been playing Rover (strong safety). If the season started today, those are your starters
Rotating guys is always an option; Kinnel and Metellus played both positions last year (and Metellus played some VIPER, too)
The biggest challenge for Smith this spring has been getting the safeties to “open up and communicate.” The natural ability is there, but their communication skills (i.e. getting everyone lined up) are being refined.
How enjoyable has it been for you this spring with all the new faces you’ve had to coach and get used to?
“It’s been really enjoyable. Like you said, we’ve had a lot of new guys in the room, a lot of young guys that don’t have much experience, but they’re eager to learn. They’re starting from square one so they’re listening to everything you tell them. They’re holding on to it, so it’s been good so far.”
Who has stood out?
“Well, from the safety position, I think J’Marick Woods has had an outstanding spring. He’s kind of earning his nickname; we call him Woods because he brings the wood. He’s a physical player, he’s a hitter…I mean, he’s what you look for back there. He’s got good range and some other things he needs to work on still, but he’s shown a lot of potential and enthusiasm for the game.
“Jaylen Kelly-Powell, he’s done a nice job. He comes in from a good high school program. He’s been well-coached. He’s really technically sound for a young defensive back. His man-to-man skills are definitely there. They flash. He’s done a nice job so far.”
For Khaleke [Hudson] and Josh [Metellus], for them to be kind of moving back and forth between safety and that VIPER position, does that help them or does it hurt them not being able to focus on one spot?
“I think it helps them. After last year having a whole season under their belts just playing one position for Khaleke, now having to play another position, I think it gives him a better understanding of the defense. You know, once you play different positions, things start to make sense and they come together. You see the big picture. I think it’ll help them definitely in the long run. I think VIPER’s a good position for him with his physical traits, Khaleke, and I think he’s done a nice job so far.”
[After THE JUMP: the differences between a Rover and VIPER, and what the staff looks for when recruiting those positions]
Is it hard to be anything but elated with your group at this point in the season?
“Yeah, I think so. I think if you ask any team in the country they’d like to be sitting at 9-0 and our ranking, so yeah, we’re happy but certainly not satisfied. There’s work to be done.”
How about your position group?
“Playing well. I think we had a little bit of a slide in the Michigan State game. Other than, I think they’ve learned from it and are moving on.”
What’s the key or you guys in the short-yardage situations, in the red zone, to be as effective as you have?
“Well, I think in short yardage it’s just gap integrity. Guys in front have to stay in their gaps, linebackers have to stay in their gaps, the secondary fits and fills where needed, so that’s very important in short yardage. Then red zone is something we work day in and day out, starting on Monday all the way through Friday. That’s an area we hit every day, so it’s important in the game and you have to practice it.”
You talked about Channing [Stribling] in run support earlier in the year. Have there been some teaching moments the past few weeks?
“Well, yes, absolutely. The Michigan State game is a big teaching moment. He realized it and he knew he was wrong and he fixed it. That’s important. Just gotta keep building on it. That’s what he has to do.”
How do you fix that, exactly?
“You work at it. In practice we do some tackling drills, and we have some nice talks about it, too.”
[After THE JUMP: who is mini-Jourdan, more on run support, and talking about tunnel screen defense]