Mailbag: Crootin Philosophies, Insane Post-Michigan Hires, 2017 DL, 2016 LB

Mailbag: Crootin Philosophies, Insane Post-Michigan Hires, 2017 DL, 2016 LB

Submitted by Brian on February 12th, 2016 at 2:28 PM

Crootin philosophies

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[Bryan Fuller]

Brian -

Two quick mailbag questions for you during this recruiting season. 

1 - How would you describe Harbaugh's recruiting philosophy? 

I think Hoke's was pretty easy to understand.  If you got an offer from Hoke, it was a commit-able offer.  If you wanted to take visits after accepting an offer, then you were no longer considered committed and they would consider you just a recruit competing for a spot in the class. 

Rodriguez was somewhat similar to Harbaugh i think, but there are some subtle differences.  Rodriguez would fire off a ton of offers and sort out how "official" they were as they learned more about grades, etc.  I think he had less consideration for class distribution by position and that may have gotten him in trouble, but he also chased some of the top players regardless of fit. 

Harbaugh seems to be something along the lines of this:

-- An offer is conditional upon certain requirements (curious your opinion on those)

-- If you commit, that doesn't mean that either you or Michigan is married to another.  Visits are still allowed and Michigan may still explore options for your spot.

-- Until you sign the LOI or enroll, consider things a soft commitment. 

Harbaugh sends out "offers." Hoke did not do that. If you had an offer from Michigan under Hoke you could commit to it. Harbaugh does the thing most people do these days and fires out offers in name only. To date he's been less than circumspect when it comes to allowing kids to commit to those offers (though sometimes that's not his call; some kids announce commitments to uncommitable offers).

A commitment is still mostly a commitment. Of the guys who left Michigan's class only two, Swenson and Weaver, were instances where Michigan flat out didn't want a guy because of their perception of his talent level. It's been more or less directly stated by guys like Steve Wiltfong that other players who decommitted had academic benchmarks they didn't reach or were 100% the player's choice. And Swenson was a unique situation since he was a highly-rated commit who was offered before his sophomore year by Brady Hoke. Michigan evidently made it clear they wanted to see him in action to confirm but didn't make it CLEAR, if you know what I mean. That's an error Harbaugh admitted to and hopefully won't be as much of a thing going forward.

I expect that Michigan will continue to have a few speculative commits who may or may not end up in the class for reasons academic and otherwise. Their offers will continue to keep pace with the state of the art in mangling the English langauge for marketing purposes. Some guys will take those offers. Michigan will make things clear to them, and some of them will end up in the class while others either use their status as a springboard, as Weaver did, or end up where they were going to end up anyway.

[After the JUMP: a graph, 2017 DL worries, 2016 LB worries, and HOW INSANE WAS THIS COACHING HIRE]

Preview 2014: Linebacker

Preview 2014: Linebacker

Submitted by Brian on August 28th, 2014 at 12:54 PM

Previously: Podcast 6.0. The Story. Quarterback. Running back. Wide Receiver. Tight End And Friends. Offensive Line. Defensive End. Defensive Tackle.

Depth Chart
STRONGSIDE  LB Yr. MIDDLE LB Yr. WEAKSIDE LB Yr.
James Ross Jr. Jake Ryan Sr.* Joe Bolden Jr.
Royce Jenkins-Stone Jr. Desmond Morgan Sr. Desmond Morgan Sr.
Allen Gant So.* Mike McCray Fr.* Ben Gedeon So.

Despite the move to a 4-3 over we're going to keep the convention we've had in previous years where two of the linebackers are designated "inside" and addressed together while the third gets separate mention. In both cases the WLB and the MLB are designated "inside" and the strongside backer is addressed separately. In the under it's because the SAM is half DE; in the over it's because he's half DB.

Michigan returns their entire linebacking corps save backup-ish SAM Cam Gordon, and they now have a healthy Jake Ryan instead of one fresh off an ACL tear midseason. This is good. Better still is their depth: no freshmen on this three-deep and one guy getting praised to the moon when a very solid returning starter is available. If the DL improves these guys are going to seem shockingly better.

There's just that thing about moving that guy to a place…

INSIDE LINEBACKER: CONAN IN A STRANGE LAND

RATING: 4.5

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please be this guy again somehow [Eric Upchurch]

Man, I do now know what to expect from JAKE RYAN this year. He was every bit the flaming meteorite your memory suggests he was in 2012. We've been talking up Willie Henry and Frank Clark based on UFR scores that were consistently positive and encouraging. Make no mistake, though: those are not star-level performances. Jake Ryan's 2012 is the last time a member of the Michigan front seven turned one of those in:

Opponent + - TOT Notes
Alabama 4.5 3.5 1 I may have not picked up some things he was doing that were bad.
Air Force 13 2.5 10.5 Ran up the score with +4 on final three plays. Option blame fell elsewhere.
UMass 8.5 - 8.5 Essentially a DE in this game.
Notre Dame 8.5 3 5.5 Great tackle on screen.
Purdue 10 - 10 I call him mini Clay Matthews.
Illinois 14 3 11 I call Clay Matthews mini Jake Ryan.
MSU 17.5 3 14.5 I AM THE ONE WHO KNOCKS
Nebraska 10 7.5 2.5 Got edged a lot; Nebraska used his aggression against him successfully.
Minnesota 14 6 8 JMFR; did get edged a couple times.
Northwestern 8.5 4 4.5 A bit of a quiet day, only 4 tackles, no TFLs.
Iowa 5.5 - 5.5 Nearly had an explosive sack.

That is a star, and that is a guy on the verge of writing his name in sloppy red ink across college football. That's the kind of season before the season that Brandon Graham had as a senior, that Mike Martin had as a senior. Screw you, ACLs. Because that Ryan was not this Ryan:

Game Opponent + - TOT Note
6 Penn State 3.5 2 1.5 …this gentleman.
7 Indiana 5 2 3 Coming on a bit.
8 MSU 6 3 3 Good until ARGH RYAN on final play, still doesn't seem all the way back.
9 Nebraska 4 1 3 One RYAN BACK play, but not every-down impactful yet.
10 Northwestern 6 3 3 Showing that crazy redirect a little more often.
11 Iowa 6.5 - 6.5 Created free touchdown.

And while that's still a respectable player, I'm not into Jake Ryan because he's really respectful and mom likes him, you know? I would prefer Jake Ryan to mount his Harley and run roughshod across the league wearing a thirty-inch skull on his back. And maybe his forehead. As many skulls as possible, really. I mean, I didn't feel this quote from a 2012 Big Ten OL in 2013:

"We were watching film and our coach stopped it and said, 'Where's he at?' And it took you a second to realize he was lined up at defensive end. Then he hits the play button, and it's like the guy gets shot out of a cannon. He has speed, and he just has this ability to know where the football is and he attacks it. "

So there's that. And now he's a middle linebacker. Hooray?

Look… I can't tell you this is a great idea. The way Ryan plays is 80% chaos, 20% hair metal, and he's kind of tall and weird-shaped for middle linebacker. It's easy to envision a guard getting under his pads and taking him for a ride. And it's easy to envision him failing to funnel to his help, because at SAM your help is always very easy to figure out: inside. Chaos!

Chaos is probably not great for a MLB.

But it might not be a bad one. Ryan has taken on a lot of blocks in his time and even if he has to invent and patent ways to get rid of them, he generally does. The guy does not stay blocked.

When Michigan had problems with wide receiver screens a couple years ago they slid Ryan over the slot; problem solved. That combination of tackling and the ability to get to the productive side of a block is encouraging. It's going to be a bigger project against OL instead of TEs, but he's been a defensive end an awful lot—he's not going to be surprised.

The concern at MLB is that his tendency to shed at all costs will put him on the wrong side of a blocker. That concern is considerably less urgent than the prospect of lining up a 256-pound strongside end, but your evaluation should be in that context: this is a move about what is best for the defense as a whole, not necessarily Jake Ryan's individual fit.

That said… healthy Jake Ryan.

Healthy Jake Ryan is a menace shot out of a cannon who impacts you fiercely and rocks you back and then runs really fast at the guy with the ball. While middle linebacker may be an awkward fit, there are not many Jake Ryans out there, and when the guy is sent on a blitz, opponents are going to feel it.

It is not going to feel good.

[After THE JUMP: the Bolden Question, the Morgan Binkie, the Ross Explanation]

Hokepoints Goes Over: Level II

Hokepoints Goes Over: Level II

Submitted by Seth on June 17th, 2014 at 11:16 AM

Read Level I: The Defensive Line

4-3 Overunder

Click to big. Right-click to open in a separate window so you can reference it as you go.

A few weeks ago I promised to finish this piece on the differences for Michigan's personnel in the 4-3 over. Sorry.

Refresher: What's a 4-3 Over? What you're looking at are alignments of the front seven. The "under" shifts the defensive line away from the strength of the defense and the linebackers swing the opposite way to compensate. Michigan would often align this to the hash rather than the offense, shifting the DL toward the sideline.

The "over" shifts the line the opposite way, but not to such an extreme. The linebackers wind up centered over the ball, and the DL spread across the formation. There is nothing 3-4 about it except the nose tackle.

Last time I talked about how going from a base under to a base over will demand the WDE and 3-tech play a little bigger, the SDE can play more like a rush end, and the nose's job stays pretty much the same except he's now the backside DT. Now on to the second level.

Strongside Linebacker (SAM): James Ross/Royce Jenkins-Stone

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[Upchurch]

IZiz vs 4-3under

The 4-3 under is tough to run against—often they wind up blocking the backside DE in hopes of getting something from a cutback, since it's hard for the LT to get to anybody else. That meant the WLB could be a free hitter

On inside zone that strongside (right) tackle is trying to get a free release. The 3-tech could get aggressive and slow him up but the danger of playing aggressively on the DL against a zone running team is you open up the backside. The faster the OT gets out to the second level the more room there's going to be for the running back to dodge around the DT. A SAM who can read IZ quickly will be all up in that OT's face, able to affect both frontside gaps without opening up the backside cut. Every half-second of delay on the SAM's part is another yard for the offense.

But the SAM can't get crazy-aggressive attacking the OT or the C gap because that tight end is an eligible receiver, and there's another receiver on that side of the formation who could be slanting or dragging. Since the guess is Michigan wants Jake Ryan to be aggressive in the middle, Ross will end up in a lot of zone drops or in man-to-man on the tight end.

The fit: The WLB in the 4-3 under that James Ross played last year isn't hugely different, but it wound up playing differently because Ross was constantly having to take on blockers thanks to Michigan's Jibreel-Black-is-a-NT stunt-a-thon. His quick-twitch reads will be an asset, and his speed and coverage ability will be also. Michigan State's defense had Denicos Allen blitz a ton from this position, and got away with it because the handsy press coverage took care of the slant/drag passes that punish it, and because they had Max Bullough to read and react at MLB. Ross will get to blitz more than he did as the backside linebacker, but I'm guessing Michigan would rather he be the read-react-hit-spill dude so Jake Ryan can go viking.

[jump for the other two spots]

Hokepoints: Who Needs SAM?

Hokepoints: Who Needs SAM?

Submitted by Seth on February 25th, 2014 at 11:10 AM

Upchurch - 8173043148_1c2001efcd_o

Say uaaaahhh [Upchurch] 

Last week when I was talking about the position moves—Jake Ryan to middle linebacker, Roy Manning to cornerbacks coach, etc.—I was mostly positive in the analysis portion, explaining the move as a reaction to having their best defensive player at a defensive role that's quickly becoming as defunct as the spinning fullback.*

In the podcast Brian and Ace expressed some heebies and jeebies over the moves. I can't speak to all of those worries; who knows whether Jake Ryan can read run/pass, or if maybe Desmond Morgan's pass defense was a gaping hole the coaches were covering up in other ways. I can't even give a full answer since Brian didn't do defensive UFRs for Michigan's last three games. But I thought we might use the data we have to see whether the strongside linebacker position in Michigan's defense has been phasing out.

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

Spread level: rising. The vagaries of year-to-year scheduling and missing UFRs may throw off the data but Michigan's opponents indeed have been throwing out more wide receivers in their base sets as of late.

Average WRs in Formation by Situation**
Year Normal Long/2 min Short/2pt Total
2008 2.93 3.34 1.72 2.92
2009 2.55 3.14 1.83 2.59
2010 2.68 3.41 1.69 2.72
2011 2.68 3.31 1.41 2.69
2012 2.68 3.39 2.06 2.75
2013 2.81 3.31 2.17 2.87
Total 2.72 3.32 1.81 2.76

2008 was thrown off by teams going uber-spread: Minnesota, Northwestern, Utah, Illinois, and Miami (NTM) all averaged more than three wide receivers on normal downs, the former three going 4-wide more often than not. That's not too surprising given that defense had a plausible 4-3 run-stopping depth chart, but a huge dropoff if you could mitigate the DL and get past Warren and Trent on the CB depth chart. After that things normalized to a spread-leaning mix of 2- and 3-wide sets until last year.

I wish I had complete numbers. I can tell you that next year Michigan replaces CMU, UConn, Akron, Nebraska, and Iowa with Appalachian State, Utah, Miami (NTM), Maryland, and Rutgers. I can use 2013 stats (from cfbstats) to show you the playcalling breakdown of these offenses:

[If you jump first]

Hokepoints: Point of Attack

Hokepoints: Point of Attack

Submitted by Seth on October 1st, 2013 at 4:53 PM

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Taylor on an island [Upchurch]

Brian forwarded me a mailbag question regarding where Michigan's defense is getting attacked through the air, i.e. are there certain coverage areas that have been particularly weak? It took me most of a day to chart every passing play; the resulting post is rather straightforward. Consider this your bye week from my logorrhea.

Data are here.

What I tracked:

1) Where the ball starts (hash or center). If the tackles lined up inside the hash it was "center"

2) Which zone it was thrown to, on a telephone keypad grid. 1, 4, and 7 are around the numbers to the sideline; 2, 5, and 8 are the area around the opposite hash to the wide side only, and 3, 6, and 9 are down the middle.

stadiumatnight

If a ball was on the line I always erred to the zone closest to the quarterback. This makes sense if you imagine a player covering Zone 6 will be responsible for carrying a player through that zone, and would be in better position to defend that pass than a guy over him.

3) Which side (strong or weak) of the defense. I noted "Strong" as wherever the SAM lined up in 4-3 sets and where Countess lined up in nickel sets. Once or twice this conflicted with the offense but it's better this way for identifying which players are being targeted.

Weakside/boundary players, usually: R.Taylor, Wilson, Ross/Bolden, Beyer (as WDE) on nickel, Clark on 4-3.

Strongside/field players, usually: Countess, C.Gordon, Beyer (as SAM) on 4-3, Clark on nickel, T.Gordon, Morgan/Bolden, Stribling/Hollowell/Lewis/Avery.

Sacks, throwaways, scrambles, and other such events that took the emphasis on coverage were excised. I couldn't reward those things which occurred because coverage was good enough to make them happen so keep that in mind as you read.

Chart?

Jump.

Awww.

Preview 2013: Linebackers

Preview 2013: Linebackers

Submitted by Brian on August 29th, 2013 at 2:53 PM

Previously: Podcast 5.0, The Story, Quarterback, Running Back, Wide Receiver, Tight End and Friends, Offensive Line, Defensive Tackle, Defensive End, Special Teams.

Depth Chart
STRONGSIDE  LB Yr. MIDDLE LB Yr. WEAKSIDE LB Yr.
Cam Gordon Sr.* Desmond Morgan Jr. James Ross So.
Jake Ryan Jr.* Joe Bolden So. Royce Jenkins-Stone So.
Brennen Beyer Jr. Mike McCray Fr. Ben Gedeon Fr.

Stupid ACL injuries wrecking everything… well… some things. Michigan loses Kenny Demens to graduation and Jake Ryan to cruel fate, but returns everyone else, adds Brennen Beyer from the stacked WDE spot, and welcomes two freshmen. They have a decent amount of experience, a decent amount of depth, and a ton of promise. James Ross figures to blow up; Desmond Morgan's improvement will be more incremental but now he's at a more comfortable position. Joe Bolden gives both a quality backup.

Even at the depleted SAM spot you've got a fifth year senior and true junior who Greg Mattison says are both playing like starters, and then Ryan is supposed to be back by mid-October… or sooner. Could be pretty good here.

Inside Linebacker

These previews had previously split out the middle and weakside linebackers into their own sections, but the obvious interchangeability of the two spots (Desmond Morgan moves from one to the other, Bolden played both last year, supposed MLB Kenny Demens took the bulk of the TE-seam responsibilities) we're combining the two into an inside LB spot. Differences between the two spots exist, but are thin—according to Mattison, "inside is inside."

Rating: 4

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Morgan will hit ya [Upchurch/MGoBlue.com]

DESMOND MORGAN
hit and shed
gets in, gets upfield
sheds block, slows Bell
pow!
no more forward for you
can move
comes from backside to tackle 
kind of Ryan-like here
was young
lost on counter
accepts a block
slashed to the ground
cut like a mofo
read and react
nerfs counter draw
takes on two blockers
sidles all the way
shuts down Martinez draw

DESMOND MORGAN enters his third year as a starter by moving over from the weakside to the middle, as predicted by everyone in the world including myself. This is partly because James Ross demands entry into the starting lineup and partly because Morgan's skillset—thumpin'—was always more suited to the mike. Even when he was at WLB, it was Kenny Demens tasked with following tight ends down the seam. Morgan isn't quite a Sam Sword two-downs-and-out guy, but between he and Ross there's no question who you want dropping into coverage and who you want taking on fullbacks.

The best part of Morgan's game is how running backs stop when he contacts them. Morgan emerged into a bang-you're-dead tackler over the course of the year. Here he takes on a block, sheds it, gets an arm on LeVeon Bell(!), and robs him of most of his momentum:

Michigan would boot State off the field on the ensuing third and short. Having guys like Morgan around makes every first down a battle. Morgan also robbed a Minnesota power back of most of his momentum, amongst other events. Click play and HEAR FOOTBALL!

The guy is a brick.

After his first year this space criticized Morgan's hesitancy (mildly since he was a freshman), something that lasted through the first portion of last season. Michigan would slant the line and get gashed and I eventually pieced together a theory that the linebackers were uncomfortable predicting what would happen on that slant and late to the hole.

As the year progressed (and Washington and Campbell got more reliable with their angles), that tendency receded:

The linebackers are generally more decisive. The Demens see-gap-hit-gap-eat-soul is one part of it; also you can sense Morgan feeling the play behind that. He eases to the playside a bit to give him an edge on someone who might be releasing backside. He's reading the play through, and he shows up to help at the right spot. There's an air of "I am no longer a confused freshman" to him.

Morgan put a lot of previous worries about athleticism to bed last year as he got sideline to sideline effectively and made plays in space against tough customers like Taylor Martinez. Watching his read-and-explode is at times reminiscent of Jake Ryan. At times.

The UFR chart is reflective of this:

Opponent + - TOT Notes
Alabama 5.5 10 -4.5 And this was the best ILB play!
Air Force 8 10 -2 Faded late after strong start, thus setting up allfrosh.
UMass - - - DNP
Notre Dame 5 2 3 Solid tackling day, looked pretty athletic.
Purdue 5.5 3.5 2 Overshadowed with +2, is this real life?
Illinois 7.5 4.5 3 This is relatively bad!
MSU 9 2 7 Remember the athleticism worries with him?
Nebraska 11 4 7 Hit Y on leaping bat that became INT.
Minnesota 11 5.5 5.5 You stop when he hits you.
Northwestern 4 9.5 -5.5 Rough outing with blown assignments; Ross out there on critical last two drives speaks for itself.
Iowa - - - DNP

OSU not done, sorry. South Carolina not listed because it was impossible to tell who was who between Morgan and Bolden, and South Carolina ran the tailback five times anyway.

For inside linebackers, anything above zero is generally good. After getting 'Bama'd and having issues against Air Force's triple option, Morgan started a run of six straight positive games—some very much so.

Of course, a couple games after I proclaimed him a star in the Nebraska UFR he got edged and outran all day by Northwestern. Hey, he's just not the best guy to take on Venric Mark. It happens. Moving him to the middle should mitigate those issues.

In year three, Mattison believes that Morgan has the mental and physical ability to be top notch as long as he fixes one issue:

"He's so smart. He can make the checks, and he's strong. That allows him to be able to strike a blow, punch and get off blocks. One thing our linebackers have to work extremely hard on that was a negative for us was there were too many times they ran into blockers and didn't disengage. That's been a big emphasis."

Morgan got consistently better at this as the year rolled along. He's too much of a blue-collar guy to get the sexy TFL stats to be All Big Ten (also, Max Bullough exists) but he should be a consistently plus player who fends off Joe Bolden all year. He will be an asset.

[After THE JUMP: James Ross! Depth! Jake Ryan as Loki! Cam Gordon! More depth!]

This Week's Obsession: Handicapping the Position Battles

This Week's Obsession: Handicapping the Position Battles

Submitted by Seth on August 14th, 2013 at 10:38 AM

WAPO

Weird line combinations and depth stuff have been coming out of practice. What should we believe, what's motivational, what's a boo boo, what's anything in this crazy world? We go under cover and bring you the NEWS that HITS the HARDEST (at least until Jake Ryan returns, because he hits harder than our news). The staff:

  • Brian Woodward
  • Seth Bernstein
  • Ace Bradlee
  • Heiko Felt, Sr.
  • Blue in South Katherine Graham
  • Watergathlete
  • Deep Throw

And the question:

Heiko and I have been arguing about this on gchat and I thought I'd bring it to the team. We want to know where you think there are real positional battles going on right now, and how you're handicapping them. For example:

Center: 55% Glasgow, 40% Miller, 5% Kugler
SAM: 85% Gordon, 15% Beyer
Norfleet: 100% Norfleet, 400% Norfleet, Norfleet% Norfleet.

Mathlete: Shouldn't it be Norfleet: 75% Slot, 20% RB, 5% DB, 100% Awesome?

Ace: The lineup seems refreshingly settled at most spots (hooray depth!); the only positions I see having real competition are tailback, outside receiver, center, and strongside linebacker, though it'll be interesting to see if there are any surprises in the defensive backfield with the return of Blake Countess and Dymonte Thomas's potential early impact at nickel. I'm operating under the assumption that Keith Heitzman earns the nod at SDE and Jibreel Black starts at three-tech with Chris Wormley playing a key role as a backup.

Starting from the top, we've discussed the running back battle ad nauseam; Fitz Toussaint should start against CMU and Derrick Green will push for more and more carries as the season wears on. I'll go 99% Toussaint (barring injury) and a 1% chance that Dennis Norfleet gets the season's first carry as Al Borges epically trolls Brian.

[Surprising (and probably meaningless) revelations and scandal, minus the scandal, after the jump]

Hokepoints: Would Bill Walsh Draft These LBs

Hokepoints: Would Bill Walsh Draft These LBs

Submitted by Seth on March 26th, 2013 at 10:59 AM

Fuller - 8358972809_00dc6d5091_owalsh_050736

Sinestral: Ross, Ryan and Clark|Bryan Fuller, MGoBlog. Dextral: Bill Walsh

First, a Chag Sameach to my fellow tribesmen and a Happy Turtleversary to the wingnuts.

We now continue with the Bill Walshian rundown of the 2013 roster. Since Michigan's offense and defense schemes are kindred spirits of the great 49er teams of the '80s, I've found it somewhat useful to re-scout Michigan's players on the same factors that the legendary coach used to evaluate his draft picks. How do we know what Walsh drafted on? Well wouldn'tchya know it, he provided it in a 1997 article for Pro Sports Exchange that Chris Brown (Smart Football) discovered.

Part the first was the entire offense. Part the second was the interior D-Line. Now we're on to the linebackers, among whom I include the WDEs.

Weakside End

smithjameshallIMG_4406

Bruce Smith/ James Hall / Frank Clark by Upchurch

Walsh Says: 6'5/270 or 6'3/245 depending on type. It's complicated so I'm going to spend some extra time here. His DE descriptions bounced between what you want from 3-4 DEs, which is the 3- and 5-tech in Michigan's defense, and pure pass rushers. Ultimately Michigan's WDE is closer to the pass-rush-specialist-who-stops-runs-too job description of a Walshian 3-4 weakside linebacker than a blocker-sucking interior DL, so they go here with the LBs. Speed and quickness are now very much in play:

Must have explosive movement and the ability to cover ground quickly in three to five yards of space. The ability to get your shoulder past the shoulder of the tackle. This makes for a pass rusher. With that there is quickness because it sets up a lot of other things.

From the outside linebackers description we get this:

These pass rushing outside linebackers must have natural gifts, or instincts for dealing with offensive tackles who are up to 100 pounds heavier. Quickness is only part of it. They must know how to use leverage, how to get underneath the larger man's pads and work back toward the quarterback. And he must be strong enough to bounce off blocks and still make the play.

The rush DE needs to have some finesse. This site never misses an opportunity to knock on Will Gholston so I'll do that: Gholston has more than enough explosion and strength, and is an excellent tackler but the big hole in his game is he doesn't get leverage or bounce off blocks. This is why State deployed him mostly SDE this year while Marcus Rush was the premier pass rusher. Walsh says it's all the same if you can push a tackle as go around him, but being an okay jack of all trades here isn't as valuable as being super disruptive at one or the other.

Overall strength is important. You don't have to be a Mike Martin beastmonster in the weight room but a WDE has to be strong enough to not get turned by the tackle. This is also a technique issue though it's not a skill that needs years to develop—a big sophomore year leap is expected at this position as the kid gains weight, strength, and the footwork and balance to be able to keep his shoulders pointed toward the football.

As echoed in Mattison's statements in 2011 regarding WDEs, Walsh calls his rush DEs "the substance off the defensive team" since their ability to put pressure on the quarterback can make or break a defense. This is why great DEs are at such a premium in today's NFL.

The last piece is willpower, which in scouting parlance becomes "high motor." WDEs typically get rotated a lot because they burn a gazillion calories on each play. Because this spot is supposed to win 1-on-1 battles and kill plays himself, success on the second and third moves can make a huge difference.

Walsh's Favorite Wolverine: If James Hall and Larry Stevens had a baby, and that baby came out 6'5/260 and immediately ate the doctor. Michigan just hasn't had the freaks here unless you count Woodley and I'm saving him. Stevens didn't have the sacks but generated hurries. And Hall: because he's 6'2 every scout from the early recruiting years to modern NFL trade talkers underrates him, despite consistent production at every level. Hall is second (to Graham) in career sacks and 6th in TFLs among Wolverines and was the 1997 team's secret weapon. Both guys were often extolled for their virtues under the hood.

What to look for in a Scouting Report: EXPLOSIONS! I know I said this for SDE but even more so. You know these guys on sight because the innate quickness and strength makes them terrors against high schoolers. Skipping over the blue chips (or like Ra'Shede Hageman who would have been a blue chip if he accepted Florida's offer to play DE rather than Minnesota's offer of tight end) 3-stars who shine seem to have athletic tickmarks or the proverbial motor. I noticed some of the big performers from high school All-American games (Ray Drew, Alex Okafor, a million dudes who went to Florida) tend to fare well—about the worst among Army game standouts of yore was Victor Abiamiri, who was still pretty good. The pushers had ridiculous squats (Simon's was 700!)

What you can learn on film: How fast he gets into the backfield, adjusted for competition. You're looking for that quick burst. The great ones just look completely unblockable—like the guy blocking him doesn't seem to have any leverage.

What could signal bust potential: Size. Rivals tends to put its favorite DEs at "SDE" for this reason. If you browse through the five-stars you generally find two categories: high-effort guys who were early contributors and are or are on track to be NFL draft picks at defensive end, and Pierre Woods/Shawn Crable-like linebackers whose recruiting profiles said they would grow into Jevon Kearse. There's a reason they called Kearse "the freak."

How our guys compare: Frank Clark and Brennan Beyer are the two sides of the WDE coin. This refrain from MGoBlog is becoming tiresome but Beyer seems the stronger and more responsible one and Clark is the greater X-factor. We overplay this; both would still fall more into the finesse side than, say, John Simon, and both seem to top out as useful but not stars.

Ojemudia is kind of a James Hall but more akin to Shantee Orr. Where James Hall was small but had the size to stand up to a good shove when needed, here you have a dude with explosiveness and great hands for pass rushing but is going to be dead meat if doubled and run at, and is therefore best deployed as a 3rd down or [blank]-and-long specialist.

Early enrollee Vidauntae "Taco" Charlton, who's already 6'6/265 on Michigan's spring roster, is the closest thing to Walshian dreams. On film though a lot of times you just see him blowing something up because they didn't block him, and though this probably had a lot to do with being way bigger than high school tackles in Central Ohio he didn't play with much leverage after the snap. The reason for all the Tacoptimism is he blew up the camp circuit. He probably still needs a year to work on technique since he spent most of high school in a 2-point stance. Warning: he doesn't check the motor box.

[Linebackers, after a leap.]

Hokepoints: The Defense is Still The Wall

Hokepoints: The Defense is Still The Wall

Submitted by Seth on October 23rd, 2012 at 3:41 PM

stuffin

Stuffing. Upchurch

Eleven months ago I used this space to discuss Michigan's crazy success in defensive short situations. That was brought on by a staggering performance against Illinois, at which point Michigan had stopped 15 of 27 3rd- or 4th-and-one situations, and 13 of 19 against real competition. This was up from stopping less than a quarter of such plays the previous two years, and almost as far above the going rate for all defenses.

This was huge. Getting one yard for any offense is far easier that stopping it for any defense—one good block can usually do it. Forcing a 4th down situation from 3rd and 1 or a turnover on downs on 4th and 1 is worth half a turnover or more. Jamie Mac addressed this further in his HTTV article, showing that the stoppage situation was affecting the happy margin between our yards-ceded defense and scoring defense as much as having a ridiculous year in turnover luck.

Michigan last year was really good at stopping the short stuff, but folks chalked it up to Martin and Van Bergen playing to their strengths and figured it was a blip. Except it wasn't just those guys. Here's last year's chart for short situations, through OSU: BarnumRoundtreeRohSpringGame-Heiko

Player (2011) + -
Kenny Demens 6.5 0
Ryan Van Bergen 6.5 0
Craig Roh (right/Heiko) 6 0
Jake Ryan 5.5 0
Mike Martin 4.5 0
Jordan Kovacs 3 0
Campbell, Hawthorne & Heinigner 2.5 0
Black, Morgan, and Woolfolk 1 0
Herron and Beyer 0 -1
Total 42.5 -2
RPS 7 -2
Refs 0 -2

Two thirds of Michigan's short-down production from last year returned (as did bad refs). Demens, Roh, Ryan, Kovacs, and Campbell were all key role players in that ridiculous shutdown rate, and if the UFR can be trusted, they weren't getting it just because of things the Team 132 seniors were doing.

This doesn't even count things like stopping Ohio State on 3rd and goal from the 2. Actually it doesn't count goal line situations at all, though 1st and goal from the 1 is as hard to stop as 3rd and 1 from the 40. So I revisited when updating the UFR database. Get ready to be happy (through MSU):

Year    --FCS and MAC removed--         --All Opponents--
Stopped! They got it :( Stop % Stopped! They got it :( Stop %
2008 11 14 44% 16 18 47%
2009 3 11 21% 7 16 30%
2010 5 18 22% 11 24 31%
2011 14 10 58% 16 16 50%
2012 10 7 59% 10 8 56%
Total 43 60 42% 60 82 42%

It's still happening. It's happening more. We replaced Martin and RVB with Washington and Campbell, and if anything got better! And like last year Michigan's short defense seems to be getting tougher as the season goes on. Since Big Ten play started, the non-stops have read thusly: Purdue converting with 16 seconds left in the half while down 18, Illinois benefiting from a terrible spot, two plays where Bell was forced to cut back into the pile and just managed to squeak through, and one bust.

[After the jump, what's causing it, and the plays vs. State]