Michigan All-Blank Teams: Position Switchers

Michigan All-Blank Teams: Position Switchers Comment Count

Seth June 8th, 2018 at 4:44 PM

You know those “make your all-time” lists that circulate in the offseason? I’m still making themed teams because it’s easy content and “Make a new website” and “Make HTTV” are in my job description.


This week: Position-Switchers!


Rules: He had to play at least a season or a snap at a significantly different position at the college level (so no ATHs), and BEFORE this position. Jake Ryan’s move from quasi-DE in a 4-3 under to the Mike in an 4-3 over counts; Matt Godin going from 5-tech to DT does not. Neither does moving between safety positions unless you’re a FS who became half-linebacker. Also no pro moves (sorry Cato June), or playing a second, non-primary position (sorry Charles Woodson) even if you won the Heisman (sorry, Tennessee fans, but he did).

Cutoff Point: Recruited Post-Bo, so I don’t have to remember positions from when I was ten (sorry Tripp Welborne).


    Quarterback: Devin Gardner


    “Wonky throwing motion” indeed. [Eric Upchurch]

    In between the times he wore 7 and that awful Nebraska day, Michigan of the Denard era couldn’t resist getting one of their best athletes on the field. So despite no backup quarterback plan other than Russell Bellomy for Denard Robinson (who’d been knocked out for that nerve in the elbow before), for 2012 Mr. Gardner was shipped off to receiver. At first it looked to be a good idea: Gardner had touchdown passes in his first three games (Bama, Air Force, and UMass). He wasn’t a great route runner but with Denard getting the ball every play the receivers got a lot of one-on-one matchups, and Gardner was a big dude. Then Denard went out and we had to wait until the following week before the Devin at QB era could begin. The receiver experiment thus ended at 16 receptions, 266 yards, and 4 touchdowns.

    As for quarterback, the end of that 2012 season was magnificent enough to portend great things, but the offensive line was never enough. Two virtuoso performances against Ohio State and Notre Dame as a redshirt junior, then a senior year of a lot of heart but a broken body and a coaching situation. If we do a “man I feel sorry for that guy” team he’ll be back.

    Other candidates: Nope.

    [Hit THE JUMP unless you’re an Iowa safety then you probably don’t want to know what’s next]


    Go Blue Bowl Tailgate This Saturday

    Go Blue Bowl Tailgate This Saturday Comment Count

    Seth October 8th, 2014 at 9:00 PM

    9698841593_9838d28025_z (1)

    [Reposting for those who missed yesterday]

    What? MGoBlog and handful of former Michigan players who are disproportionately cornerbacks about my age are going to be tailgating before the PSU game at Marlin Jackson's Go Blue Bowl Tailgate charity drive. There will be a raffle, and a tailgate Olympics where fans are teamed with former players for maizehole/beer pong/ladder toss, and a Q&A session MC'ed by Brian, and beer.

    Where? The North End Zone, 1011 S. Main St., Building B, Ann Arbor, MI 48104. Technically it would be Michigan Stadium's north end zone if the field was 300 yards long. It's the white and green house on Main Street, opposite Pauline, off the northwest gate of the Big House.

    Ann Arbor Tailgate Location

    When? 3 pm to 6 pm this Saturday. Games will start at 4-ish, probably do the Q&A from 5 pm to whenever it breaks up or it's time to go to the game.

    Who exactly? Well, Brian Cook, Seth Fisher, Ace Anbender, Adam Schnepp, Orson, MMMGoBlueBBQ promised to stop by, my 7-month old…oh you meant important people? Confirmed so far are Marlin Jackson, Brandon Williams, Todd Howard, Marcus Ray, Cato June, Chris Perry, and Zia Combs. As these things go, more are planning to come but can't make promises.

    Looks like this except none of us wear khakis and polos.

      The event was organized by Marlin's people, who asked us to participate.

    NOBODY under 21 (except babies). They are checking IDs.

    What's the cause? The Go Blue Bowl Tailgate and the Go Blue Bowl Football Challenge support Marlin's Fight for Life Foundation, as well as the the Phalen Leadership Academies, the Peace Neighborhood Center of Ann Arbor, the Summer Advantage Program, and Go Blue Then and Now. These all* fund extracurricular and catch-up programs for at-risk kids.

    Marlin started FFL in Indianapolis and has expanded the concept up to Michigan. The school systems where these kids live have been dropping such programs and don't have the ability to implement modern teaching techniques (even though we've known they work for 15+ years) so FFL provides that. It's evolved a bit since we started supporting it: the in-school programs are Building Dreams/Field of Dreams (elementary/middle), and RAP (high school). Seal the Deal is the after-school youth flag football program. And they've added Be a Blessing!, which follows up with the kids who've been in their programs, and provides need-based assistance to their families.

    Go Blue Then and Now is an umbrella organization for former Michigan players' charities.

    The Go Blue Bowl itself is a flag football game for local kids football teams where former Michigan players coach them for a day (or most of a day then hide indoors because their Floridian skin still can't handle Michigan weather; not naming any names that are also a unit of measurement).

    I gotta make a donation right? Yes, but what you can afford. We urge you to donate beforehand on Marlin's website, or buy some raffle tickets when you arrive, or be like "here's five dollars" at the gate. I do ask if you're going to drink the beer you donate like $20 at the door so they don't end up taking a loss on the provisioning of said suds. Suggested minimal donation if you're just gonna come by for the Q&A is $5. The point of the tailgate is to raise money for these charities.

    There are things you get for donation levels of $100 and above, like access to the VIP lounge where players with weak-ass Floridian skin might be hiding, and signed memorabilia, and corporate sponsorship displays.

    Also one sponsor who sends a check ahead of time will get two free tickets to the Penn State game that one of our readers donated to the cause.

    The raffle? I'm not sure of everything that will be there; when we did our tailgate last year Marlin brought a jersey signed by Woodley and some footballs and t-shirts, and Six Zero had a drawing of a half-lion/half-Devin Gardner. There's a Michigan Stadium print by Bennie (godson of THAT Bennie) McCready that I'm bringing. And you can win a spot in the tailgate Olympics.


    Dear Diary is Playing in the Rain

    Dear Diary is Playing in the Rain Comment Count

    Seth April 4th, 2014 at 11:11 AM


    O! that a man might know
    The end of this day's business, ere it come;

    On the morrow we shall be bath'd in sunlight and spring football, but today, my friends, is an opportunity nearly as great and many times as wet. For this eve shall mark the inaugural Go Blue Bowl, whence a crapload of Michigan football alumni shalt descend upon the institution of secondary education known as Pioneer High School and forthwith become as volunteer coaches.

    Here's yon latest roster (by graduation year) and what these noble knights hath been doing these years hence which I know what of offhand:

    Yes, Donovan, I'm getting to those.
    • Marcus Ray, BTN and WTKA analyst
    • Ron Bellamy, head football coach West Bloomfield
    • Dave Pearson, (don't know; I'll ask)
    • Bennie Joppru, who calls himself "NFL bust, major weirdo creep" on twitter
    • Cato June, head coach of Anacostia in D.C.
    • Andy Mignery, WTKA radio personality
    • Chris Perry, a non-MGoBlog reader
    • Brandon Williams, director of Go Blue Then and Now
    • Earnest Shazor, working in health care
    • Roy Manning, University of Michigan Athletic Director and CEO and Future-Creating Chief Visionary Officer Dave Brandon Who Has a Six Pack Cornerbacks Coach at the University of Michigan
    • Marlin Jackson, director of the Fight for Life Foundation
    • Jerome Jackson, sometime MGoBlog reader
    • Steve Breaston, NFL free agent
    • Tim Massaquoi, college counselor and clinical psychologist
    • Jason Avant, NFL free agent
    • Donovan Warren, NFL free agent who's been trying to start up a new youth football league
    • Jordan Kovacs, NFL safety for Miami
    • Mike Schofield, NFL draft prospect; and
    • Jeremy Gallon, pint-sized NFL draft prospect.

    Also on hand this evening: precipitation. Yes, we're playing anyway.

    There's one spot left on the alumni teams. The event is to help launch the same three Fight for Life Foundation programs in Ann Arbor and environs that have helped so many disadvantaged kids get back on track in Indianapolis.

    Diaries as Soliloquy:

    Coach Schiano:shake

    To foul, or not follow, that is the question.
    Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to put
    their 50-percent free throw shooters on the line
    and in so doing, give ourselves a chance to respond,
    Or to take Caris LeVert's arm
    against a three point attempt of troubles
    And by opposing end them?


    O mighty Izzo! Dost thy teams lie so low'?
    Are all thy conquests, glories, triumphs, spoils,
    accomplished with talent of so little measure?

    I know not, gentlemen, what you intend,
    Who else must be let blood, who else's recruits were of such rank:
    If I myself, there is no honor so fit
    As State's death hour.


    You three, Sheehey, Fischer, and Vonleh,
    Have sworn for four years' term to live with me
    My fellow-scholars, and to keep those statutes
    That are recorded in this schedule here:
    Your oaths are pass'd; and yet to transfer/NBA exits you subscribe your names,
    That his own hand may strike his honour down.

    Lanyard Program:

    Hark. a program in miniature.

    Best of the Board


    The latest in softball is freshman phenom Megan Betsa threw a no-hitter. Your move, Wagner. Also: WTH, athletic department who scheduled the baseball and softball games at the same time as the Spring Game?


    Ghost of BCook's Ethics (?) started an interesting discussion topic: Michigan basketball recruits who didn't live up to the hype. Other than a handful of obvious guys there aren't all that many on the ground. I submit Amadou Ba. Not a hyped prospect, really, but it was cool to have a big man from Africa. He played just 43 minutes in his career behind Courtney Sims, Graham Brown, and Chrus Hunter. Just think of monster slams where we could yell "BAAAAAAAH!"

    ETC. Next Beckmann (seriously asking, is it not obviously Karsch?)? An HTTV for Penn State fans. Just offer in-state Drew Brees already! Show up early for the spring game to see the Schembechler museum, or stop by tonight to see a giant statue of the man who most defined the Michigan we know today they're now systematically replacing with monuments and such.

    Your Moment of Zen:

    Sometimes an opponent's last-second, contested three-pointer goes in. Other times…

    Hi five!!!


    The Inaugural Go Blue Bowl

    The Inaugural Go Blue Bowl Comment Count

    Seth February 27th, 2014 at 5:40 PM


    Charity is good. Football is fun. Meeting former players is cool. One day before the Spring Game may be really cold, but that's not going to stop us from joining a heap of former Michigan players in a day of flag football and fun-having at Pioneer for charity. Wanna come?

    The things of the goings on. The event will be a series of flag football games from 4-9 pm on Friday, April 4, between local kids' teams and two adult teams, each coached by a former Michigan player. Confirmed guys: Marlin Jackson (it's his event), Jason Avant, Jerome Jackson, Donovan Warren, Chris Perry, Cato June, Tim Massaquoi, Marcus Ray, Jeremy Gallon, Roy Manning, Brandon Williams, Jamar Adams, and Andy Mignery.

    The adult game will be at halftime, after you've had some time to get coached up (and Heiko's had time to prepare his super-secret passing play for Gallon that he's been diagramming incessantly).

    If you find yourself with any of these guys there's a 66.7% you can talk about stuff you read on MGoBlog.

    After the games there will be an after-party for those who gave donations to hang out with the former players and collectively reminisce about Jason's catch against Iowa, or Jerome's 19-yard TD against Iowa, or Donovan's 3 PBU/1 INT performance against Iowa, etc.

    The charity of the receiving. Marlin Jackson's Fight for Life Foundation is taking the same programming he's implemented so well in Indianapolis and launching it for Ann Arbor and environs. The programs give underprivileged kids access to critical educational opportunities. One's an SEL program for helping kids get and stay on track for their grade level in learning, reading, and communication skills. One's a program to give them access to artistic and self-actualization education (arts and music classes, basically). And one's a series of football camps so they can have access to things you get from team sports. Why we care.

    The involvement of the you-like people. Want to be part of this? There are five sponsorship levels:

    • Heisman ($5,000) – Great for a business looking to be a lead sponsor.
    • All-American ($2,500) – Also great for a local business looking to be very visibly associated with this.
    • All-Big Ten ($1,000) – Stepped down version of above.

    Ha, Python joke. Or typo. Or maybe there's two more for those who want to play in the adult game:

    • $250 – Gets you a roster spot
    • $1500 – Gets you and five friends roster spots; you can all fight over the signed jersey.

    Any donation gets you in to watch. Or you could volunteer to help. If you've got a team you'd like to participate, sign them up here.


    Dear Diary is Michigan's Fourth Sport

    Dear Diary is Michigan's Fourth Sport Comment Count

    Seth February 14th, 2014 at 11:19 AM


    Via Hail to the Blue in the comments, "The softball team is in action today, tomorrow, and Sunday in Lafayette, LA at the Ragin' Cajun Invitational. Follow @umichsoftball on Twitter for live updates. Couple of tough games against UL-Lafayette today and tomorrow down here."

    Pitchers and Catchers! There used to be a day sometime in the late summer every year when I start to get really excited about football. This tingling would progress to a low hum when practices started up, and would be a spinal vibration by the time I'm racing into the stadium for whatever MACrifice we're starting against. I miss that. Last year we were doing the basketball book so August was just a bleary eyed gauntlet, and the year before the season started in Jerryworld. This year I already know that excitement will be damped down by a month's worth of reliving The Horror.

    Baseball's version of that is pitchers & catchers reporting. Mack Avenue Kurt:

    Pitchers and catchers reporting isn't so much an event, or even a day on the calendar, as it is a metaphor: It is the day that winter's back begins to break; a promise that day follows night.

    Rk Sport Revenue
    1 Football $81,475,191
    2 M Basketball $14,799,440
    3 Ice Hockey $3,248,026
    4 Lacrosse $2,378,900
    5 W Basketball $440,353
    6 Baseball $312,388
    7 Softball $300,721
    8 Volleyball $151,635
    9 W All Track Combined $141,452
    10 W Gymnastics $100,723

    You can't dampen pitchers and catchers day, not when Omar Infante is the rookie you're praying will lead the offense, not you're seeing his back plus Prince Fielder's and your 4th best pitcher's because the expense of being so awesome has passed what awesome can net.

    Sorry, this is supposed to be about Michigan not the Tigers. Ah but it is, for it's a lead-in to Raoul's comprehensive preview of Michigan's baseball team. It's still tough for a northern team to be more than a good mid-major in this sport, but Bakich seems to have Michigan heading in that direction.

    When baseball is really good (e.g. their 2006 run) they're the fourth sport in these parts. Are they Michigan's true #4 sport? There was a interesting thread this week where the question of that sport's identity was posed by Wolverine Devotee. To that discussion I added the list at right from Michigan's Title IX reporting. Some of those teams (like lacrosse) are benefiting more from ticket sales/TV revenue generated by opponents' fans. I tried to compare where each stands among other universities, but many schools lie their asses off in those reports regarding women's sports revenues, for example West Virginia says their W Track & Field team takes in what Michigan's hockey team does. My guess is this gets them around a Title IX provision but I don't know which. Either way it makes the stats useless.

    As for Michigan's fourth sport, I still think it's softball.

    My bloody valentine. Sunday there will be a whole bunch of recruits who don't have drivers licenses yet watching the Wisconsin game at Crisler. Next week there will be a large and star-heavy group of those who can drive, and who can also say things like "I'm committing to Michigan," say, for example, if they were suddenly taken by a wave of euphoria that might accompany an effective conference title clinch over a rival. This is not crazy; it has happened before. Go make our football team good, basketball.

    FWIW HopeInHoke's diary shows winning the conference from here is possible, but nowhere near a certainty. MSU's only road loss in-conference is to Wisconsin; remember when that was a thing we used to just chalk up to "happens to everyone"? LSA's weekly stats report shows Michigan's superior to an average of remaining opponents in everything but rebounding.

    [After the jump: things Marcus Ray et al. say about Michigan's 2014 secondary]


    MGoTailgate and Marlin Jackson Q&A, This Time With Free Beer and Outside and Stuff

    MGoTailgate and Marlin Jackson Q&A, This Time With Free Beer and Outside and Stuff Comment Count

    Seth September 5th, 2013 at 6:01 PM


    Why is this thing back on top? First: logistics. Those in town tomorrow (Friday) evening are welcome to join us at MGoPatio, 312 Berkley Ave, Ann Arbor, MI for the first-ever MGoTailgate. All the MGoStaff (except Coach Brown) will be there, as well as Marlin Jackson and some other former Wolverines you remember. There is free beer from Wolverine State Brewing; they're bringing the Amber Lager. Festivities begin at 7pm, Marlin arriving at 8pm.

    Parking is available on the SOUTH side of the street (opposite the house). Note that the street will be closed the following day for the game so don't leave your car there expecting a Jedi parking spot on Saturday.

    Second, there will be a Raffle at this thing. Tickets are $5 and giveaways are a signed Lamar Woodley Steelers Throwback jersey, a mini Colts helmet with "Hart" and "Marlin" written on it by Marlin and Hart, plus some t-shirts and Adidas backpacks. And I think Marlin is bringing something else to hand out.

    Second-Second: Expecting between 50-80 people. If it's more than 80 we'll have to start grilling people on Michigan trivia and turning away those who don't have the roster memorized. Don't think it'll be a problem given turnout in the past but just putting that out there.

    Third-Second, the bolded guy has an announcement.

    Dude I got you food.


    You're going to ask if it's leftovers or something...


    C'mon you act casual them I blow you away with the TRUTH. That's how this works.

    I know but I am expecting big things now. What do you got?

    Free food.

    And it is...

    You're no fun. It's HOLIDAY'S!

    That's...wait seriously? I LOVE THAT PLACE!!! Tell me you got the Tat-o-Skins.

    I got the Tat-o-Skins!

    Also the BBQ sliders and Quesadillas.

    Dude, you are the best imaginary rhetorical narrative mechanism since the bolded subconscious that Plato was always arguing with.

    I'll take that as a compliment.

    [Details to be found in the original post after the...

    That's MY JOB!


    [Details after the Jump]


    Dear Diary Avoids Nasty 4th Downses

    Dear Diary Avoids Nasty 4th Downses Comment Count

    Seth August 9th, 2013 at 9:43 AM


    I meant to have a diary up on this already but SAVE THE DATE: FRIDAY, SEPT 6 at 7:00 P.M. we will be gathering logo2_03with Marlin Jackson and an assortment of his friends at the MGOPATIO across the street from the stadium. Details still being hammered out but it will at the very least include a Q&A session with Brian and Marlin and other luminaries. It'll be free to attend with a suggested donation to Marlin's Fight for Life Foundation, and an optional contribution to the food and beer.

    Also reminder to New Yorkers that Brian and TomVH will be visiting you next Thursday, Aug. 15 at Professor Thom's between NYU and Stuyvesant Town.


    It’s been a few weeks since I had cause to plop one of these on you; hopefully with the “There Are” posts now into backfield numbers that’ll be changing.

    In the quiet time LSAClassof2000 has kept up with his charting, this time getting into 3rd and 4th down conversion success rate. The first look was pretty pedestrian, except when charting he added a percent of plays that were 1st down stat to them. I don’t think I’ve seen that stat used before, but come to think of it that’s a neat way to track offensive success, yes/no? Let’s try that:



    Clickit to make it biggit.

    My data are a little different than what you can pull from cfbstats or something because I left in things like plays that resulted in defensive pass interference or offsides (offensive penalties that caused a play to be wiped were removed). Anyway Michigan was sneaky good at avoiding 4th downs last year because of the high 3rd down conversion rate. The most efficient offenses in the conference were better at avoiding 3rd downs too; those were also the spread offenses.

    LSA also took a second swing at the conversion stats but went the other way, tracking the differential between offensive and defensive 3rd down conversion rates, and how that tracks with win percentage and points per game. The Michigan difference:


    Win your 3rd downs, win more games. My suggestion is to track this game-by-game against the opponents' average points for and against—smaller sample sizes but I bet you those swings make a huge difference in performance vs. expectation.

    Bronxblue had a long "best and worst" diary to kind of preview this year's storylines. Things we'll be talking about:

    • Football (as opposed to Johnny Manziel)
    • Effect of non-Denardiness on offense
    • Running back stable no longer smurf variants
    • Less spread.
    • Where's the pass rush?
    • % less RichRodiness
    • All those four/five star kids emerging into favorites

    Etc. UMass Lowell preview for hoops, will revisit when it's closer. Helpful database of Michigan's assistant coaches. MGoProfiles with gifmaker Purplestuff and ex-mod Profitgoblue.

    [Jump: best of the board, moment of zen]


    Unverified Voracity Has Multiple Suppliers

    Unverified Voracity Has Multiple Suppliers Comment Count

    Brian May 24th, 2013 at 12:14 PM

    I'm just interested in the shirt. Ondre Pipkins caught a no-doubt exhausted Frank Clark catching some uncomfortable-looking Zs at something or another. As a man who slept through most of AP Bio in high school I have no leg to stand on as far as criticism of that activity. I'm just interested in his shirt:



    That would be nice.

    And the shoes. Dr. Sap puts together a history of Michigan's shoes.


    It's more interesting than it sounds. Before Nike came in in 1983, Michigan had seven different suppliers!

    It's halftime. Jabrill Peppers has 20 minutes. He's already fixed your car, dated your daughter respectfully, and optioned a screenplay, so it's time to get props from Naughty By Nature:

    “I would always hear about [Jabrill], and it was kind of like we let him do his thing and now he’s surfacing on his own. That was the first time I had heard him rap, I didn’t even know he had a crew like that,” he said. “I watched the video and listened to the song and it is really good. Jabrill’s song is like a throwback to ’90’s hip hop and I was like, ‘Wow, I’m really impressed.’ ”

    In the time it took you to read that blockquote, Jabrill Peppers made crostini, pulled invasive garlic mustard out of an acre of parkland, and charged your phone. No, he didn't plug it into the wall.

    Stick ball sports. Baseball got swept out of the Big Ten tournament, completing a promising first season for Eric Bakich. Michigan was vastly young this year, with just four seniors on the team: three relievers and Eric Biondi. With most of the best players underclassmen and a strong recruiting class coming in, baseball should be on an upward swing. Unfortunately, they'll probably lose slugger Michael O'Neill, who's projected to go somewhere in the first four rounds.

    As you may know from the wince-inducing, nonsensical, miserable puns in your inbox…

    Alumni Field Will Be Ragin' (& Cajun) This Weekend - Time To BUY(OU) Tickets

    We're Jumba-LAY-ing It On Thick - Don't Miss The SOUP-er Regional This Weekend

    …softball takes on Louisiana-Lafayette starting… uh… in a couple hours. If you're around and free, tickets are reasonably priced. If you're not, it's on ESPNU. Tomorrow's game is at noon, on plain ol' ESPN, with an if-necessary third game scheduled for ESPN at 3. Winner hits the WCWS. In the face with a bat.

    Here is an article on Michigan's leadoff hitters.

    "No, WE'RE going to murder the language more." Fed up with recruits claiming to be committed to schools they have no chance of actually signing with, schools fire back with offers that aren't anything like offers:

    Alabama’s scholarship offers at some positions, most notably quarterback, are non-committable and pending an evaluation at summer camp.

    The non-committable offer. Everything is a lie. This is a society that takes true things, hits them in the head with shovels, buries them neck-deep in turds, and waits for the tide to come in. This is called right-shoveling. All of everything is false and wrong and a lie. These words are random assemblages of symbols that have no inherent meaning. I cannot communicate at all, there is no meaning, I am floating in that crazy sad void in that one Death Cab song on that album I can't listen to for reason of not wanting to kind of want to put my face in a bathtub of water.

    This may be an overreaction.

    IT WAS NOT AN OVERREACTION. Charlie Weis got bought out for 19 million dollars. Oh hai meaningless Death Cab void.

    Carl Hagelin has powers. Spooky powers:


    GOOD EFFORT TRY WIN FIGHT. MLive asks what trolling is, discovers it is trolling. Revelations!

    For example, when MSU fans post things like "LOL Walmart Wolverine skunk weasels" or when U-M fans post things like "LOL little brother" nothing is added to the conversation.

    They are counseling commenters to ignore people who bother them, which if followed will reduce comments to four per article, all of them from me fighting with myself.

    Marlin scouting Gordon. Thomas, that is. And how:

    "Thomas Gordon could be a really good player," Jackson said during a recent interview. "If you look at him physically, he's everything you could want in an NFL safety."


    "But I would just like to see him become more aggressive, when he's coming to make plays on the football and closing on open-field tackles," Jackson said. "Little things, but big things."

    Etc.: Iowa loses a Ufer-equivalent. White House gets down with voracity. Everything you need to know about the Champions League final and horses. Toussaint "fired up" to keep his job, maybe play behind a line that will get him more than two inches of space. Denard can run man. How the pants was he still available in the fifth round man.

    Minnesota game is a 3:30 start. Tim Tebow's name is in NCAA 2010. Zack Novak may retire, do something with his honest-to-God business degree.


    Hokepoints: Would Bill Walsh Draft These DBs?

    Hokepoints: Would Bill Walsh Draft These DBs? Comment Count

    Seth May 7th, 2013 at 10:46 AM

    Upchurch -8646510666_fd8ba5d69f_o walsh_050736

    left: Bryan Fuller

    Earlier this offseason I stumbled onto an old article where Bill Walsh wrote what qualities he looks for when drafting various positions. Meant to be a one-off on the offense, I took requests for a defensive version and broke it up into D-Line, linebackers, and now, finally, the defensive backs. The idea is since the coaching staff is building a "pro-style" team with principles more akin to the Walsh ideal that dominates the pros than the collegiate evaluations made on scouting sites and the like, we shall re-scout the 2013 roster for Walsh-approved attributes.

    Since coverages have changed the most since Walsh's day—a reaction to the spread—this is probably the least valuable of the series. To bring it back on point, I've gone off the page a little bit to note some of the attributes that NFL defensive coaches are looking for nowadays, and what those changes mean.

    Strong Safety

    plankamaluSHAZORVACSUpchurch -8645425559_026bcc0008_o

    Plankamalu / Shazorvacs/ M-Rob if all quarterbacks were Brian Cleary

    Walsh Says: 6'3/215. Now hold your horses before going all "SHAZOR?!?" on me—I'm making a point: The type of player you have at safety depends on the type of system you want to run and the type of player you have everywhere else. If you're going to be playing more odd coverages (cover 1, cover 3) then you want your strong safety to be more of a run support guy, in many ways a fourth linebacker. If your base coverage is even (cover 2, cover 4) the strong and weak safeties will be more similar:

    "There are other systems of defense where both safeties play a two-deep coverage and only occasionally come out of the middle to support the run. They basically play the ball in the air, the middle of the field and the sidelines. When you do that, then the stress is on the cornerback to be the support man.

    So you must keep in mind these various philosophies when considering what types of cornerbacks and safeties you want to put together in forming a defensive secondary."

    The attributes of your defensive backs should be complementary. Here's what Walsh is getting at: your backfield has to be able to defend the pass first and the run second. And here's the key: the more you can trust one player to handle coverage without help, DavidFulcher2.jpg.w180h258the more you can stock up on extra run defense with the other guys. If your backfield already has plenty of coverage, you can have a strong man:

    "The strong safety is historically the support man. He must have some of the traits you look for in a linebacker. In fact there have been some hybrid players in that position. Cincinnati had David Fulcher [right], who was as big as some linebackers but could function also as a safety. The Bengals moved him weak and strong, inside and outside and he became that extra man that the offensive run game had to account for but often could not block.

    "But the typical strong safety is someone who can hit and stop people and respond spontaneously and go to the ball. Naturally, the more coverage talent the man has the more you can line him up on anybody."

    Today, defensive coordinators sit on porches, remember when you could play a guy like Fulcher, and say "those were the days." The epitome of this type of safety is former Buckeye Doug Plank, who defined his position to such a degree that the defensive system itself was named for his number (46).46defense

    It's also called the "Bear" defense because it was the Bears

    This defense was at the height of its popularity when Walsh joined the 49ers in 1979, and it was this defense his model passing concepts shredded. The defense played to Plank's strengths as an overly aggressive, hard-hitting run stopper with some coverage skills. The SAM linebacker in today's anti-spread sets (e.g. the 3-3-5's "Spur") is a closer analogue to the Plank-style player than the modern strong safety, with the key difference being that, as a safety, you couldn't put a blocker on a 46 without removing one from a lineman or linebacker, meaning the SS could flow cleanly to the point of attack and wrack up ridiculous tackle numbers.

    College teams loved this, since passing quarterbacks were hard to come by and the big boys were running three yards and a cloud of dust (and later the option). A lot of cool names for linebacker-safeties were passed down from this period, such as the "Wolf" on Bo's teams, or the "Star" (names which today are coming out of retirement for the nickel-SAM hybrid position in base 4-2-5 anti-spread defenses).

    Walsh's Favorite Wolverine: Why does a mid-'70s response to off-tackle NFL running games matter to a collegiate defense in 2013? Well because we have a really good free safety, and play tight end-heavy outfits this year in UConn (T.J. Weist, a rare member of the Gary Moeller coaching tree, is taking over there), Penn State, Michigan State, and Iowa, with the outside possibility of a Wisconsin if we make it to the conference championship. Also because the coaches have been subtly putting safety-like objects (Woolfolk, Gordon, and now Dymonte Thomas) at nickel, and recruiting a few linebacker-sized safeties.

    Upchurch - 8173108160_66b1320817_oI don't know what he'd think of Kovacs. We loved him, but Jordan had two weaknesses: 1) his lack of overall athleticism made exploitable if left in wide coverage (see: his abusing by Ace Sanders on the last play of the Outback Bowl, and the utter disaster that was GERG's attempt to play Kovacs as the free safety in 2009), and 2) his lack of size made him blockable if a lead blocker could get to him (see: bad things happening whenever Mouton abandoned contain).

    He would have loved Ernest Shazor, a knife blade listed at 6'4/226 with a scatback's acceleration who loved nothing better than demonstrating the force equation. Brian calls Shazor "the most overrated Michigan player of the decade" because he has to live with the bolded subconscious of UFR, and nothing pisses off a figment of a blogger's imagination like a safety who gives up a big play in coverage.

    Here's the point: the ideal safety would be a dude with the size and stopping power to pop a lead blocker and make the tackle or lay out a guy like Shazor, read and react like Kovacs, and cover like Charles Woodson. That human doesn't exist. A combo of epic athleticism with plus headiness and serviceable tackling and size equals Ed Reed or Sean Taylor. Epic headiness with plus size and serviceable everything else nets you Doug Plank, with plus athleticism: Ronnie Lott, Troy Polamalu or Rodney Harrison. The trick is to have epic everything between your safeties; for strongside then it's not Ernest Shazor or Jordan Kovacs; it's SHAZORVACS!


    What to look for in a Scouting Report: At either safety position, instincts rate highly and speed after that (less so for the strongside). You're looking to first make sure you have enough coverage in the entire backfield, and once you do you can use this position to stock up on linebacker traits: tackling, size, taking on blockers, personal contribution to local seismic activity, that sort of stuff.

    What you can learn on film: Everyone loves those bone-jarring hits and coaches are more than happy to put them in a recruiting video, but not all hits are created equal. Sometimes they're generated by another defender cutting off the lead blocker, other times it's your guy reading the play so early he can go all-out on the hit. More important is what happens to the ballcarrier: he needs to go down. Safeties are going to be left in space, and making that tackle is more important than making the offensive player wish he'd never met this oblong brown thing.

    What could signal bust potential: Remember you want a safety, not a horse, i.e. overrating the secondary, linebacker-y attributes and expecting the rest to come along. Adequate coverage and good instincts need to be there or else this guy is just a platoon player. "May be a linebacker on the next level" is a red flag, unless he actually becomes a linebacker. Brandon Smith's recruiting profile is instructive.

    It's usually good policy to discount ESPN's opinion when it's in wild disagreement with the other services, but here I tend to give their rip job ($, "he's not a fast-twitch athlete and lacks explosive quickness and speed"; "Takes too long to reach top speed"; "He can be late, takes false steps and doesn't see things happen quickly enough") some credence. Reasons:

    • Rivals started off very high on him, ranking him around #50, but steadily dropped him as the year progressed despite his status as a high-profile uncommitted player.
    • Despite all the guru accolades Michigan's main competitors were Rutgers and South Carolina; other offers came from Maryland, NC State, Wisconsin and West Virginia. He wanted offers from Florida and Ohio State which never came.
    • You always risk looking like a tool when you rely on your super awesome scouting skills and six plays on youtube to discern a kid's fate, but... yeah, I didn't think he was all that.

    The guy left in a huff after they tried to wring the last bit of value out of him as a Doug Plank-like extra linebacker vs. Wisconsin, and Wisconsin ground us to dust, but then Smith was a high school quarterback whose development as a defender had to come almost entirely from the Rodriguez-era coaching staff. Anyway you've seen this again and again: rave reviews for the guy's "frame" and a profundity of attributes that would make him seem a really nice horse, combined with not nearly enough "makes plays." First have all of the safety stuff: can read and react, cover, and tackle in space. Then care about the size.

    How our guys compare: Jarrod Wilson (6'2/196) remains my favorite to start at this spot because he is adequate (not yet plus) in coverage and the other guys aren't. Like the Jamar Adams he reminds me of, Wilson doesn't stand out in any category but doesn't have any major holes in his game other than being young.

    The other leading candidate is Marvin Robinson who scares the hell out of me. He was a big-time recruit early in the process thanks to apparently having an early growth spurt, and his profile was filled with horsey metaphors. The same player still hangs on that frame (he arrived at 203 and never deviated more than 3 lbs from that) and hopes for him hang on the comparative competence in coaching plus the fact that being behind Jordan Kovacs is a perfectly reasonable excuse for not seeing the field earlier.

    The redshirt freshmen at this position are stiff and linebacker-ish with instincts, more Plank than Polamalu. Jeremy Clark is all of 6'4/201 and did an okay job against the run in the Spring Game I covered in this space a few weeks ago, but lacks speed. Allen Gant also had instincts praised as a recruit, but also lacks the kind of athleticism and would at best develop into a slightly bigger and less heady Kovacs. If going forward Michigan can develop a superstar at the other safety spot or with a corner, they might be able to Plank it with one of these guys—when Woodson gave us that opportunity in '97, Daydrion Taylor and Tommy Hendricks went ham.

    Thomas Gordon is super-instinctive and would be a perfect fit here except he's needed at the more important free position he's been playing.

    [The rest, after the leap.]


    Hokepoints Draws Up Rolex

    Hokepoints Draws Up Rolex Comment Count

    Seth May 1st, 2013 at 8:28 AM

    Sorry this one's short, since I'm neck deep in the HTTV editorial right now. When we did the Marlin Q&A I shot him a question over email after the fact about his favorite type of defense. The answer I got back was very detailed, and mostly Greek to anyone who hasn't immersed themselves in it. I also thought it made a great snapshot answer to the question of what's the difference between college defense and pro/Alabama defense.

    The question:

    What's your favorite type of defense/base formation? Is there one that's more fun to play in and another that you think is the most effective, or are those one and the same?

    My favorite type of defense is the 4-3  zone blitz with a mix of cov 4 and cov 2. My favorite coverage was one named Rolex, a mix of cov 4 and 2. DBs must read the number 2 receiver in order to know which cov to play, if 2 goes to the flat, outside corner comes off one and plays cov 2 while the safety pushes over the top of #1. If #2 goes vertical instead of to the flat, the safety takes #2 and the corner stays on #1 playing quarters cov.

    Glossary (skip this part if you're already comfy with football terms)

    4-3: The 4-3 you know: four linemen and three linebackers. Because the NFL plays with so many different fronts, specifying the base shift isn't necessary—they're going to align to what the offense shows and change it up three times before the snap to confuse the offense.

    Zone blitz: Credited to the '71 Dolphins and popularized by LeBeau with the Bengals and Steelers. All it really means is dropping guys you'd expect to pass rush into coverage and blitzing from one of the guys you'd expect to be playing coverage. In a 4-3 defense it usually means a defensive end is in dropping into coverage and a linebacker or safety is blitzing. Granted your DEs are not going to be Ed Reed out there but it's effective because you screw up the OL's blocking assignments and you can get some quick picks from quarterbacks trained to throw in the direction of the extra rusher.


    a typical cover-2 zone blitz

    Cover 4 and Cover 2: Two basic defensive schemes for playing zone defense:


    As you can see by the size and shape of the coverage zones, they have different strengths and weaknesses. Cover 2 is strong against short passing and is effective against the run because the linebackers don't have to go very far and the corners can keep that edge. It's weak to either side of the safeties, beaten by abusing the MLB deep or the spot on the sideline over the corner's head. Common routes to beat Cover 2 are seams, four-verts, and posts, which put receivers on either side of the safety's zone, or going high-low on the cornerback, making him pick between receivers running routes both under and over him.

    Cover 4, also called "Quarters" is strong where Cover 2 is weak, and vice versa. You attack it by attacking the flat, for example with stop routes or making a linebacker carry a receiver/tight end to one side of his zone and having a back roll into the spot just vacated. You also can attack Cover 4 by running into it, but because the coverage just went back to normal for those safeties, and because the NFL has guys like Marlin, and Polamalu, and Ed Reed available to them, some coaches use this opportunity to line up one or two safeties in the box as supplemental run stoppers, trusting he'd have the speed to get back to a deep zone. Ohio State and Virginia Tech do a lot of this. The base quarters play is this:


    The Flat: You should know this but it's the area between the hash marks and the sidelines within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage.


    1 receiver, 2 receiver: Lots of coaches have different terms for the different receivers in any given formation, and defensive coaches have their own sets again for better kenning. In this terminology throw out all the stuff about slots and Y's and split ends versus flankers, and just think of the No.1 receiver as the outside guy.1and2

    Cover 2 and Cover 4 both split the field in half, so in the defensive back's mind he just needs to be watching to see what the receivers are doing on his side, hence the plural 1's and 2's.

    High-Low: He didn't say that but it's what this play is trying to prevent. The cornerback on the right of this gif is getting high-low'ed:


    In this case the corner plays it safe and decides to stay with the receiver running a flag to the top of the corner's zone, effectively forcing the corner to play a Cover 4 zone and abandon his Cover 2 zone, where there's now a tight end hanging out with a whole lot of nitrogen. Boom: high-low'ed.

    If you look at left side of the above-gif'ed play, you can see they're running the other thing that beats Cover-2, putting the free safety in a bad choice (and requiring the cornerback to turn and carry the receiver out of his zone). If you start covering the flat and leave the #1 receiver to the safety, the offense can punish you deep and down the middle. Here the free safety was put in a bad choice between taking the tight end who's already behind the linebackers or a receiver who's behind his corner's zone. Boom: vert'ed.

    But what if you could play Cover-4 when they try to verts you, and stay in your Cover-2 zone when they try to hit you in the flat?


    This is Rolex


    purple means it's a read

    The point of this play is to take away one of the methods of beating Cover 2—going high-low on the cornerback—without opening something else up by having the safety and corner read the #2 receiver (for ease I've made this the tight end) and adjust accordingly.

    In the example above, if Y goes into the flat, then the cornerback lets the receiver go and covers the flat, and the safety knows he is responsible for that receiver (who you're expecting to head out to corner). If the Y is running a vertical route the corner and safety play a Cover 4.


    This Isn't Cover 4 or Cover 2

    If you watch the linebackers' zones, it looks like a Cover 2, since the outside guys aren't covering the flats. From the offense's standpoint, the whole thing is playing havoc with the keys you've been drilled on since your first snap: the zone blitz means there's coverage in the direction the pressure is coming from, and though you recognize Cover 2 zones in the first few seconds of the play, when you go to throw the pass that's supposed to beat Cover 2, there's a cornerback or safety playing it super-aggressively.

    Whole thing:

    Rolex - Copy

    How to Beat It

    It's a changeup, not a complete defense. Marlin didn't say what they do if the #2 receiver goes on a slant inside or something, but I think that plays right into the teeth of the defense; just double up the #1. I am confused about how they deal with the opposite high-low method:


    …since the corner's read is going to drop him into Cover 4—perfect spot to intercept a ball to #2 but who's got #1 now? My guess is he just plays quarters with the linebacker (or in this case the SDE), who has responsibility for the flat. Also the SS is playing quarters so he's got his ears back.


    Best I could find after watching lots of tape (Marlin failed to mention it was an Eagles defense until after I'd watched a lot of 2007 Colts). The #2 receiver stayed in to block, and the corner reads the backfield to be sure there isn't an RB trickling out into the flat, then leaps into Cover 4. The LBs are playing Cover 2. Another from that same guy.

    Can we try this?

    Mattison certainly played with this kinda stuff with the Ravens. But this year we're going to have at least one untrained safety, and the corners have about a year and a half of experience between the two starters. The thing about this play is it requires several defenders all to make the correct read and react to it quickly. It's the kind of advanced stuff that an NFL defense can install and practice until it's second-nature, but seems like a hard thing to get a young secondary to do. In the future, projecting that a handful of the defensive back recruits do work out, yeah I absolutely see Michigan trying stuff like this. Mattison loves his zone blitzes, and you could see in 2011 and last year that he wanted to put some more quarters and mixed coverage stuff in.