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Things we would have wanted to see if there was a spring game but there isn't so let's all imagine
Imagine a version of McCaffrey that had soft tissue on it. [Chris Cook]
More specifically, Shea Patterson making some big plays, especially outside the pocket, and Peters/McCaffrey making fewer derpy mistakes.
Seth: I was really looking forward to seeing Shea Patterson doing things that fit the meter of Weapon of Choice.
Ace: …but going to class.
BiSB: I wanted to see Joe Milton throw a ball over those mountains.
Ace: His warmups would be a show. The game itself: possibly a different kind of show.
BiSB: But seriously, it would have been a first look at Milton, nearly a first look at McCaffrey, and a first Harbaugh Offense look at Patterson. There would have been a lot of mental YMRMFSPA recalibration based on this game.
Seth: The reports are all about Shea doing crazy athletic things. His first practice there was supposedly a 75-yard touchdown run that involved a footrace with Metellus, who is definitively not slow. And yeah, we still haven't seen McCaffrey, who's apparently thicc enough now that gravity has a fair shot against a strong gust of wind. I also was planning on watching to see which coach is talking to them between plays.
Ace: I assume Shea is doing a lot of stuff outside the offense because he doesn’t know the system that well yet, but that also could be critical based on… certain other position groups.
Seth: Yes might as well skip past position groups and go right to...
Jim said this morning that Cesar [Ruiz] and Mike [Onwenu] might play together. How would that work?
“Well, you know Mike is working through some things, his back… gosh, there’s three more days of practice left so we’ll kind of see how it all shakes down and like every day, we’ll roll the balls out and see who the best guys are and the best guy for us to win. Could both share time. We’ll just see as we go. Still too early to tell.”
Even if Mike’s healthy, do you feel like Cesar’s one of your best five right now?
“Cesar does a nice job. His athleticism, his initial quickness, the way he can recover on a block. I mean, both of them bring great things to the party, but to say he’s one of the best five right now, that’s just a little too early to tell just because of where we are. He’s played two games. Did a nice job in there. There’s things that all of them need to work on, just as Cesar needs to work on some things, but he’s doing a good job.”
Enough to make you think about it, though?
“Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, you think about it. Every day you’re thinking about, hey, how can I change this lineup, how can I make it better? Every day is a day in here is—you want to make sure you’re working, that you’re unsettled. You don’t want to become content. Content becomes laziness, and that’s not a good thing, is it?”
Why are you looking at me?
“I’m not. My wife sometimes says that: ‘This isn’t the Marriott, pick up your stuff around here.’”
[After THE JUMP: scouting Wisconsin’s defense, why Drevno went back to coaching from the field, where Ruiz and Bredeson won’t play, and more evidence Drevno should always listen to his wife]
Nick Eubanks: do you have an update on his status?
“Yeah, he’s healing.” Expect him back this year?
“Don’t know for sure.”
Grant Newsome as well and Tarik [Black], can you talk about how they’re progressing in their rehab?
“Um, well, both Nick and Tarik, bones healing. It takes some time to do that. Grant seems to be progressing weekly. Thanks for asking.”
You sort of said and kind of said but is Brandon [Peters] your starter this week? I know last Saturday you said you’d like to see how he handles a week of practice as the starter. Are you going into this week with him being the starting quarterback?
“We’re going in the way we have: preparing both quarterbacks. Not naming a starter today. We’ll see how the week progresses. Our system is a meritocracy where the best players play. It was time for Brandon to play. Went in, acquitted himself very well, and he will play again. He will play again this week.”
What do you like best about Karan Higdon’s running style?
“Well, it’s low. He drops his pads. At the line of scrimmage, his vision keeps getting better as well as his balance. Been a hard runner. Did a great job picking up the 4th-and-1, 4th-and-half-yard early in the ball game. By the narrowest margin, but found a way to get it done. So yeah, he’s popping—he’s making big runs. Pass protecting well. Yeah, I think that balance, the low center of gravity, the way he can drop his pads, physical nature of the way he plays.”
With Brandon’s performance on Saturday, what can he do to build off that and improve and how good can Brandon Peters be?
“Well, he can do a lot to build on it. Getting your first action and the things that you did well and how that felt when it happened, and then things that could have done better. Now he’s been in game action, so I think that helps a lot.”
[After THE JUMP: it’s like somebody went down to the presser cellar and brought up a nice 2016 for the table]
Arizona is ranked for the first time in a minute after four straight Pac-12 wins. Tate watched Arizona's first four games from the sideline. Last year he completed 40% of his 45 passes and rushed for under 5 yards a carry.
A bit further north in that same conference, Stanford barely escaped an awful Oregon State team as QB Keller Chryst averaged 4.3 yards an attempt. Sophomore KJ Costello played the vast majority of previous high-scoring wins over UCLA and Arizona State. Twitter was rife with bitching about Chryst and stupefaction at what it would take for Costello to enter the game as the Cardinal labored towards a win over the 1-7 Beavers. You may remember that Michigan's first choice at QB two years ago was Costello; it was only after he committed to Stanford that Michigan started looking around.
A bit further south in that same conference, Sam Darnold watched USC start 1-2 under Max Browne last year before emerging as a 67%, 3000-yard, 31-9 TD-INT flamethrower and Rose Bowl winner.
A bit closer to home, Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke spent most of the 2016 season watching Tyler O'Connor bork it before getting a chance midway through the year. A few years back MSU also spent a brief, wonderful period as the worst offense on the planet under Andrew Maxwell before pulling the trigger on the Connor Cook era. Wisconsin left Alex Hornibrook, the conference's #2 QB by passer rating, on the bench early last year, and then benched him for their final two games.
Nobody knows! Even coaches. Coaches think things. They have the limited amount of data that practice provides, and then there is game data, and all of this information pales in comparison to a giant, looming Fear Of The Unknown. Some decisions make themselves; others have to wait until there's literally no way a second-year player is worse.
There is a moment when even if the backup sometimes seems like a semi-sentient radish in a human suit, he's the man, man. Welcome to that moment.
John O'Korn's struggles after Purdue sent the Michigan internet down a fairly appalling rabbit hole of speculation about Brandon Peters. "Promising young player stuck on bench for bad reasons" is such a trope that everyone knows the name of an otherwise obscure baseball player who Lou Gehrig replaced: Wally Pipp. The hundred-year persistence of this pattern was not good enough.
Nor were a plethora of recent examples at Michigan itself: Mike Hart behind David Underwood. Ben Gedeon behind Joe Bolden. Heck, even this very year Michigan went with Nolan Ulizio despite the fact Juwann Bushell-Beatty is older and apparently better. Sometimes the wrong guy is playing.
None of this mattered. O'Korn was bad so something had to be wrong with his backup.
So the last few weeks you couldn't throw a rock on a Michigan message board without hitting someone either implying or directly stating that Peters was a weird aspie with a fidget spinner and no future, Rain Man in a helmet. It's one thing when this comes from anonymous insider wannabes and entirely another when Rivals's Chris Balas calls a redshirt freshman a "big recruiting mistake" and says he "wouldn't be surprised" if Peters transferred.
Gasoline on the whisper fire, based on nothing. And this the second time Rivals has fueled baseless Peters transfer rumors that had to be debunked. The first time it was by Peters's father. This time Peters did it himself.
It turns out Brandon Peters is at least as plausible a second-year quarterback as anyone else suspected of being a sentient radish. Never in the history of Michigan Stadium has a soft toss in the flat or a fullback checkdown been met with more rapture, because everyone was worried that there was a good reason Peters was behind O'Korn, and that meant doom both now and later. Rutgers guys were annoyed at it, for some reason:
"It seemed like the crowd was kind of obnoxiously cheering," Rutgers redshirt senior Dorian Miller said with a smile. "(Peters) completed a 10-yard ball and the crowd belted out. Football is football, so I'm sure you could apply that to any team and the fans would respond like that. It's not a knock on them."
Just when folks who haven't seen Peters in action started wondering if this guy's arm strength was substandard, Peters stepped up in the pocket and ripped a laser at a receiver just in front of a safety. The ball got in a half second before the safety arrived, and the absurdity of the whisper campaign really settled in.
Brandon Peters is a quarterback in 2017, which means he was scouted to death in high school. And the thing that really leapt out to both Ace and I was that slow build to a ripping throw. Peters has the natural ability to vary his throws so they're catchable when they can be and darts when they have to be. That featured in his recruiting profile:
He varies trajectory and speed based on the situation. My favorite throws in the Brownsburg game above are two high-arc, low speed passes to his tight end that are the exact right throws in those situations. That's the definition of a "catchable ball."
Peters seemed like a savant, especially in the aftermath of Shane Morris's approach to the game. He had no QB guru, like most quarterbacks do these days. He ripped through high school football. This wasn't a guy completing half his passes who might be moldable into a guy down the road. Personality issues didn't prevent Peters from impressing the entire recruiting industry and flying up rankings after a senior year ending at the Army game.
So what are we doing when we search for some personality flaw when a second year player can't get into the game just yet? Why is a mountain of evidence from across college football not enough? And so what if the dude is more engineer than prom king?
Even if Brandon Peters isn't George Clooney—and I'm not saying he is or is not—has anyone actually seen Rain Man? Placed in his element, Rain Man is a baller.
this guy's mustache got an HM [Barron]
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 Rashan Gary. Gary was rampant, consistently blowing around the corner to sack and/or terrify the quarterback. The Rutgers LT gets some NFL hype; Gary, and Chase Winovich to a slightly less rampant extent, made that guy look like a walk-on.
#2(t) Mason Cole and Mike Onwenu. Cole and Onwenu tentatively seemed like Michigan's most mauling OL on a rewatch, but probably I could have given this to any member of the blocking crew and not been particularly off.
#3 Sean McKeon. McKeon was able to dig out a throw low and behind him to convert a third and long; he was the only guy to pull in multiple passes. He probably would have scored on that fourth down if Peters put it on him. In addition, McKeon's blocking was excellent for a second consecutive week.
Honorable mention: That guy's mustache. Poggi, Hill, Kugler, JBB, and Bredeson all chipped in on a dominating ground game. Isaac and Higdon made the most out of the blocking. Winovich, Hurst, and Bush were all their usual selves.
8: Devin Bush (#1 Florida, T2 Cincinnati, T2 Air Force, #1 Purdue) 5: Chase Winovich(#1 Air Force, #2a Purdue), Mo Hurst (#1 MSU, #2(T), Indiana), Karan Higdon (#1 Indiana, #2 PSU), Rashan Gary(T2 Indiana, #1 Rutgers), Mason Cole (#1 Cincinnati, T2 Rutgers). 4: David Long (T3 Indiana, #1 PSU) 3: Ty Isaac (#2, Florida, #3 Cincinnati), Lavert Hill(#2 MSU, T3 Indiana)) 2: Quinn Nordin (#3 Florida, #3 Air Force), John O'Korn (#2 Purdue), Khaleke Hudson (T2 Cincinnati, #3 PSU), Sean McKeon(T3 Purdue, #3 Rutgers), Mike Onwenu(T2 Rutgers). 1: Tyree Kinnel (T2 Cincinnati), Mike McCray(T2 Air Force), Zach Gentry (T3 Purdue), Brad Robbins(#3 MSU), Brandon Watson (T3 Indiana).
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
Brandon Peters completes a short waggle pass to Ty Wheatley for a first down.
Honorable mention: Peters completes another soft toss to Poggi on his next opportunity. Higdon breaks free for a game-sealing long touchdown. Kareem Walker scores. Various annihilations of the Rutgers quarterback. Various annihilations of the Rutgers front seven.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
Michigan misses a run fit against a wildcat formation, ceding a long touchdown that tied the score at 7. At the time it felt like that was the start of a very long day indeed. Also long wildcat touchdowns remind me of the Penn State game.
Honorable mention: O'Korn throws a pick in the direction of Gentry when he's covered by a 5'9" guy; O'Korn fumbles the snap and Michigan eats a 14 yard loss; Rutgers uses the same damn screen play MSU scored on to get down to the two.
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FORMATION NOTES. Michigan was mainly big sets early, except when forced into passing downs. That pattern changed a bit as the game went on and Michigan put more WRs on the field, more in an effort to see if something else worked. Answer: not really.
Penn State, meanwhile, put their safeties in Michigan's face the whole game, except for passing downs.
Michigan will have to get used to this unless they discover a passing game.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES. QB, OL, RB, and TE were about as they've been. Gentry and McKeon get the large bulk of the TE snaps. Higdon is the main RB with Evans and Isaac getting run behind him. WR saw Schoenle return and the debut of Nico Collins, who played a half dozen snaps, none of which he had a target on. Crawford, DPJ, and Perry remained the main targets.
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FORMATION NOTES. It was a manball outing, with 31 one-or-zero WR snaps. There were 23 two-WR snaps and 15 three-WR snaps, many of those on obvious passing downs. When not forced into WRs Michigan had an extreme preference for tight ends and fullbacks.
IU kept their safeties increasingly close to the LOS as the day progressed for obvious reasons. They did one weird thing with this gap in the line:
Their front was multiple, as they like to say, bouncing between even, under, over, and even some 3-4 stuff. They also had a few plays with a five-man line when they were trying to slow down Michigan's heavy sets. Here's Indiana in an under front with the FLAG OF DOOM waving:
SUBSTITUTION NOTES. Thin rotation. O'Korn went the whole way at QB. OL was the new usual with Bushell-Beatty playing the whole way at RT. Hill and Poggi split FB snaps; no Mason. TE was mostly Gentry and McKeon, with a healthy number of Wheatley and Bunting snaps. Eubanks didn't play.
RB was mostly Higdon with Evans and Isaac making cameos; Walker got two snaps and one carry. WR was DPJ, Crawford, Perry, and some Ways. DPJ seemed to get more snaps this week.
SPONSOR NOTES. You know one thing I appreciate about HomeSure Lending is that Matt is not a song designed to draw the attention of a child, and has never gotten stuck in my head for days on end, relating banal facts about the world around me. This may be happening to my brain right now, and is not a very good advertisement.
If you'd like to think about something other than washing your hands for once in your life you could call Matt and get some quotes for a home loan. The problem with this strategy is that Matt will get you your quotes so quickly that your respite will be brief. But then you can talk to him about football, which helps.
FORMATION NOTES. Nothing particularly unusual except for one tackle over play that was a waggle pass to Poggi. Purdue alternated between a 3-4 and 4-3 front but was also not weird in any significant way.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES. OL was standard save for a healthy number of Runyan snaps at right guard; after the game Harbaugh said those were more about Onwenu's endurance than his performance. Speight got the first three drives and was knocked out before the fourth, whereupon O'Korn came in. Brandon Peters got the final, uncharted drive.
Isaac was limited with a ding sustained late in the Air Force game, so Higdon got a plurality of the work until his fumble. Evans got most of the carries after that. Kareem Walker saw his first live action late. Fullbacks were the usual rotation between the seniors with one snap for Mason.
With Black out it was Nate Schoenle and Grant Perry who got most of the additional snaps. Perry played both inside and out in this game; DPJ got his fair share but didn't get targeted as much as many folks want. Crawford was still the most-heavily deployed WR. TE saw McKeon and Gentry get almost all of the targets and a clear edge in snaps. For Ty Wheatley that means he's playing with a cast on his hand; for Ian Bunting that is bad news. Eubanks got scattered snaps as well.
[After THE JUMP: my kingdom for an offensive line.]
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But yeah like he does sponsor us, which is even better. It's nice to have sponsors you can actually recommend with a clear conscience, especially because they have never paid a dime to the Larry Culpepper guy.
FORMATION NOTES. Air Force runs a 3-4, but it's not like that. Whereas your conventional 3-4 has big guys who two-gap, Air Force has little guys. It's a one-gap 3-4, if you will.
The NT almost always shaded between the C and G in a one tech, with four linebackers in the traditional 3-4 umbrella. Sometimes head up with the same umbrella, and check those safeties on first and freakin' ten:
Now, there are a ton of very obvious ways in which this is not at all the 3-3-5 stack Michigan runs. Air Force doesn't stack their linebackers, for one. They rarely insert an OLB between their DEs as anything other than a twist blitz; Michigan is constantly making Furbush an extra DL. AF just about always shaded their NT instead of running a zero-tech, and they had a clear weakside and strongside end, with the strongside end basically a DT. Michigan's DEs have run identical techniques for the duration of the season. Also there is not a withdrawn MLB like Bush; instead two ILBs.
These are the ways in which Michigan's defense is not at all like Air Force's, which is a one-gap 3-4.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES. The regular at QB and OL. Onwenu got pulled for the last three plays of the final drive, with Runyan coming in. Isaac was the starting RB and got the bulk of the work; Evans was pulled after his fumble until late, when Isaac went out with a minor injury. Mason one snap at FB, with the seniors going the rest of the way.
WR was Black, Crawford, and DPJ outside with cameos from Schoenle on running plays. That's getting into a major play tip zone, though Black's injury might change that. Perry got most of the run in the slot; McDoom had maybe a dozen snaps, and not all were jet stuff.
Tight end was the usual rotation of everyone, minus Wheatley. He had a ding that held him out. Also I might not have seen Eubanks? I don't think I saw Eubanks. Bunting is losing ground, BTW, to McKeon and Gentry.
Some of the defensive players were saying that Joe Hewlett was really helping out with the scout team in emulating Air Force’s offense. Have you seen that as well?
“Yeah, I’ve been busy with the offense. I really haven’t paid much attention to the defense, but I know that Joe Hewlett’s in there.”
Have you ever run a triple option at any stop in your career?
“Uh…no. I’ve kind of messed with it here and there.”
What does that mean?
“I’ve put in some different plays but never saturate yourself into it, so I don’t know the ins and outs of it. You try to maybe put a play in here or there in the form of a triple option but not live in it, no.”
What have you seen from Air Force’s defense?
“Great question. Very fast, well disciplined. They play an odd scheme. They love the pressure. They’re very good tacklers in the back end. Play extremely hard. Just technically sound. They know how to get off blocks, know how to pass rush. Secondary’s very good at reading route concepts, know how to break on the ball. They’re very well coached. They do a great job at Air Force.”
Do you think Jon Runyan’s a better fit at guard? He was in the mix at tackle and then seems like he’s coming in a little bit—
“Yeah, Jon’s a very athletic guy. He could play all five positions. It’s just right now he could be a guard, he could be a tackle, but he does a good job just initial quickness off the ball, with his hand placement, really athletic, feet move well, when something moves he can cover it up. Jon’s doing a nice job and progressing well.”
[After THE JUMP: correcting little mistakes, O-line development, and Grant Newsome as coach/president. Oh, and what it means to be human]
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FORMATION NOTES: Michigan didn't do anything weird except for a fake-out Emory And Henry on the first snap they never returned to.
Cincinnati mostly played a 4-3 under, sometimes with a standup end.
Line slid away from the strength of the formation, WDE stands up, SAM type substance. They played a lot like a 3-4, with three big DL and the linebacker type guy, even if they didn't have a guy lining up head up on the C:
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: OL and QB remained the same. No Runyan run-out this week. Cesar Ruiz got one snap as a super jumbo TE. Isaac was the primary back with Evans and Higdon getting maybe a quarter of the snaps each.
Crawford and Perry were the top receivers in snaps garnered with Black and DPJ splitting the other outside WR snaps. McDoom had some limited time; Nate Schoenle got maybe ten snaps, none of which he was targeted on. TE remained a blender, with McKeon, Wheatley, and Gentry most prominent.
[After THE JUMP: absolutely no discussion of the QB situation, sorry]