Michigan In The NFL: Who's Making The Cut?

Michigan In The NFL: Who's Making The Cut? Comment Count

Ace August 13th, 2014 at 2:49 PM


wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

The NFL preseason is officially underway, and with mandatory roster cuts (down to 75) set for August 26th, now is a good time to check in with the former Wolverines currently playing in the league. After scouring the interwebs, here's my best guess at where each Michigan representative stands as we near the start of the season.

Locks To Make It

Jason Avant, WR, Carolina. After being relegated to decoy duty in Chip Kelly's offense for Philadelphia in 2013, Avant—who boasts the lowest drop percentage in the NFL over the last three years—should be one of Cam Newton's top targets with his move to the Panthers.

Tom Brady, QB, New England. Brady threw for over 4,300 yards with 25 touchdowns last season while working with a very raw receiving corps. It was universally considered a down year. I think he's gonna make it, y'all.

Alan Branch, DE, Buffalo. Branch was an integral member of the D-line rotation for the Bills last season, recording 39 tackles, and he should reprise that role working behind up-and-coming star Marcell Dareus again this year.

Stevie Brown, FS, New York Giants. After finishing second in the NFL with eight interceptions in 2012, Brown missed all of 2013 with a torn ACL. He's back from the injury and expected to start at free safety.

Larry Foote, ILB, Arizona. The longtime Steeler—Foote has played 11 of his 12 NFL seasons in Pittsburgh—was cut in the offseason, but quickly found a home in Arizona, which lost both of their starting ILBs from last season. He's currently atop the depth chart, and even if he doesn't hold that spot, he should stick around to provide veteran leadership for a young position group.

Jonathan Goodwin, C/G, New Orleans. According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Goodwin and Tim Lelito, the two players competing to start at center, are "certain to make the final roster." Goodwin's ability to play both center and guard gives him extra job security, even at 35 years old, as does his relatively cheap one-year deal.

Leon Hall, CB, Cincinnati. While Hall tore his right Achilles tendon last season, just two seasons removed from tearing his left Achilles, he's back in the starting lineup as Cinci's slot corner, a spot he plays about as well as anybody in the league when healthy. Barring further injury, his spot is very much safe.

David Harris, ILB, New York Jets. Jets head coach Rex Ryan called Harris "the most underrated player in the league" after he was left of the NFL Network's top 100 players list for 2014. Yeah, he's safe.

Junior Hemingway, WR, Kansas City. Even though Hemingway missed a good deal of training camp with a hamstring injury, he came right back and was a prime target for QB Alex Smith out of the slot. This very thorough rundown of the Chiefs' roster situation has Hemingway safely on the team—in fact, he should start in the slot—and that doesn't look likely to change.

Chad Henne, QB, Jacksonville. Though Jacksonville used the #3 overall pick on QB Blake Bortles, Henne started the first preseason game, and the Jaguars higher-ups insist there's no QB controversy. Bortles is the QB of the future; for now, however, this is Henne's job.

Taylor Lewan, OT, Tennessee. First-round picks don't get cut in their rookie seasons, especially when they're competing for starting jobs.

Jake Long, OT, St. Louis. Long is coming back from a torn ACL and MCL, so he's been held out so far in the preseason, but he's on track to make a surpringly quick return. Also, he's Jake Long, which should be enough.

Ryan Mundy, S, Chicago. Even though the Bears have shuffled their safeties around, Mundy has seen the most action on the first team of anyone, and he can play both free and strong safety in their system. He started the preseason strong, picking off a pass in the opener.

Michael Schofield, OG/OT, Denver. Third-round picks also don't get cut in their rookie season, except in very unusual circumstances. Considering Schofield is "in the mix" at both left guard and right tackle, it looks like he'll be a critical backup at the very least in Denver.

LaMarr Woodley, DE, Oakland. After seven productive years in Pittsburgh, Woodley was unceremoniously released by the Steelers over the offseason, and the Raiders were happy to get him. He provides a major upgrade from them at DE, a spot that may suit him better than 3-4 OLB, where he played in Pittsburgh.

Charles Woodson, S, Oakland. At 37, Woodson came back to Oakland, where he's beloved by the fanbase. He'll play safety there, and he is Charles Woodson, so he'll play well until he decides it's time to hang up the cleats.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the list.]

Comments

Recruits In Retrospect: 2009 Offense

Recruits In Retrospect: 2009 Offense Comment Count

Ace June 24th, 2014 at 3:06 PM


Gallon's levitation skills translated to the college game just fine.

Previously: 2008 Offense2008 Defense2009 Defense, 2009 Quarterbacks

Finishing out the series looking back on the 2009 recruiting class, here's a look at the non-quarterback offensive players, as described in Brian's recruiting posts of yore. But first...

My Bad, Cam

While I remembered to include then-OL, future-NT Quinton Washington on the defensive side of the ball, I forgot to do the same for Cam Gordon, the future defensive positional nomad who came to Michigan with most recruiting services considering him a wide receiver. As Gordon's recruitment wore on, it became more clear that his best spot may actually be in the defensive back seven, and thus we got one of the odder player comps I've seen:

Jason Avant, or maybe Prescott Burgess

Why Avant or Burgess? Bulky 6'2" wide receiver who will push 215 and lacks deep speed == Avant. Rangy linebacker who needs to put on 20 pounds, switch positions (sort of) and probably struggle with the mental part of being a college linebacker for a while == Burgess.

Free safety wasn't mentioned, because only an insane, desperate person would put a player matching that profile on the last line of defen--AAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIGGGGHHHHHH. (Thank you, Denard, forever and always.)

Gordon ended his career as a backup outside linebacker and situational defensive end. Fire Tony Gibson again, just in case.

The Blue Darter

As for prospects who actually ended up at receiver, Michigan had two: consensus top-200 prospect Je'Ron Stokes, and a high school single-wing quarterback who—despite being an Army All-American—earned four-star status on just one site due to his diminutive stature.

PEAK MIXTAPE WEEZY WITH A KEVIN FEDERLINE REFERENCE.
HOW DID IT GET SO LATE SO SOON?

Though everyone pegged Jeremy Gallon as a pure slot ninja—he'd prove to be much more, obviously—the eye-opening highlights and strong Army week performance earned him plenty of hype:

Gallon is a Swiss Army knife of a player: pocket-sized, versatile, capable of surprising feats, and… uh… hard to tackle. (If you've ever tried to tackle a Swiss Army knife you know what I'm talking about. They're pointy.) It's hard to envision a scenario in which one of his diverse and sundry talents doesn't find him on the field, if not this fall than next.

Brian, I'd like to hear more about your past attempts to ... tackle ... pocket knives.

As for Stokes...

When Je'Ron Stokes committed to Michigan I was in an airport about to board a plane for Egypt by way of Germany, and as soon as he did I logged off and forgot all about him. Ever since when something reminds me of that commitment, it's like a weird bonus: oh, yeah, that universally-praised wide receiver in the class I never remember. He's like a ghost recruit.

Yeah, that was for the best.

Oh Damn, Fitz

From 2008-09, I worked as an intern at The Wolverine, and one of my primary tasks during football season was posting the stats of Michigan's commits each week. A back from Ohio's Division V Youngstown Liberty by the name of Fitzgerald Toussaint committed a few months before I got that job, so week after week that fall I'd look up his stats, bug out my eyes, and get incrementally more excited for him to see the field at U-M:

Fitzgerald Toussaint, Youngstown Liberty: Senior RB and Michigan recruit went over 250 yards for the seventh week in a row in a 33-28 win over Hubbard. After generating 16 yards on four carries in the first half, Toussaint erupted for 235 yards in the second half and scored two TDs. He has 1,950 yards in eight games.

He'd finish the season with over 2,200 yards and 28 touchdowns. Between those numbers and his excellently soundtracked highlights, I thought he'd be the next great Michigan running back:

That wasn't to be, at least in large part for reasons outside his control, but when remembering where Toussaint came from...

It wasn't all flowers and 90-yard touchdowns for Toussaint, though. His dad—also named Fitzgerald Toussaint—ended up in jail after stabbing his ex-wife's boyfriend… at a football scrimmage. Nasty business.

...I'd say 32 career starts, graduating from U-M, and getting a shot to make an NFL roster constitutes a very successful college career.

Vincent Smith's profile started out with similar recounting of a tough upbringing in Pahokee, then mostly waffled between excitement about his highlights/fit in the scheme and trepidation about his size, which was the subject of an awkwardly written ESPN scouting report:

ESPN says Smith lacks size "on paper"—which uh what about real life too—and says he runs "low to the ground," as if he has a choice.

Sadly, no mention of fingerguns or being a heat-seeking, defender-destroying missile.

Michigan rounded out a three-man running back class with Cass Tech product Teric Jones, who recorded the fastest time at the Army combine after his junior year but didn't receive much at all in the way of recruiting hype. By the time he got to campus the coaches were already considering a position switch:

In fact, Michigan might be shooting Jones into lots of space as a slot receiver. Rodriguez said Jones was a slot receiver who "may also get reps at running back" at the signing day press conference, and Jones did have some nice receiving numbers as a junior: 24 catches for 306 yards.

Jones ended up playing special teams as a true freshman, bounced between running back and cornerback as the thin roster dictated need, then left the team and went on medical scholarship before the 2011 season after a sophomore-year knee injury.

If You Just Take Two Linemen...

...you might as well make them NFL linemen, and that's exactly what happened with U-M's 2009 O-line class of Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield. Lewan, especially, was quite the steal; he was a total unknown until moving from defensive line to offensive line before his senior season, then vaulted into the top 300 recruits on all three recruiting services and played in the Under Armour AA Game in his first year playing the position. Michigan had a nice in with Lewan—his teammate at Chaparral High, Craig Roh, had been committed to U-M for months when Lewan decided to also head to Ann Arbor. 

While this usually doesn't happen, Lewan's high school coach ended up giving the most accurate forecast of his player's potential:

“Michigan is getting, in my opinion, the steal of this year's recruiting class in the country,” Ragle said. “I know that's a bold statement to make, (but) this kid’s ability on the field won't be questioned. He's as good an athlete on the offensive line as I've ever seen.

...

"He's as good athletically as any guy I have ever coached," Ragle said. "The thing that makes him so special is his upside when you think he's only been coached at the position for about eight months. But the one intangible that's most impressive is his nastiness --Taylor wants to burry [sic] someone on every play, and you can't coach that."

On point, Coach Ragle.

Schofield's rankings were in a similar range as Lewan's after a strong senior season. What stood out about him most was his athleticism—which translated to the college game, as he seamlessly transition from being Michigan's best pulling guard to a nimble pass-protector at tackle—and considering he's now 6'7" and 300+ pounds this is rather astounding:

In his first two years at Sandburg, Schofield ran the 110 high hurdles for the Eagles’ track team, winning a conference title his freshman year and finishing second his sophomore season. He also moved up to the varsity team for the state tournament during his sophomore year, finishing sixth in sectionals.

Unfortunately, there's no video of this, as the age of someone-on-a-smartphone-will-film-literally-anything hadn't hit yet.

So, with that exercise out of the way, who's ready to go over the 2010 class?

/click

On second thought, let's save that for next summer. Or perhaps never. Leaning towards never.

Comments

Michigan's NFL Draftees: How Do They Fit?

Michigan's NFL Draftees: How Do They Fit? Comment Count

Ace May 14th, 2014 at 2:25 PM

While the NFL Draft hasn't been much of an event for Michigan fans in recent years, this year's iteration produced three Wolverine draftees, including the highest-picked Big Ten player in Taylor Lewan. When I'm not allowing the Lions to ruin my fall Sundays, I'm spending them watching the Red Zone channel, with one eye out for my fantasy players and the other hoping to see a former Michigan player in action.

I'm sure many of you are as curious as I am to see how the newest NFL Wolverines fit in to the squads that drafted them. While it's possible all three spend this year developing behind returning veterans, each has a chance to carve out a role for himself.

Taylor Lewan, Tennessee Titans

Draft position: First round, #11 overall
New uniform number: #77, same as the old uniform number

Fit: The selection of Lewan surprised some due to the fact that offensive tackle wasn't their biggest need, but they clearly felt he was the best option on the board. The long-term plan is likely to have Lewan supplant 31-year-old stalwart Michael Roos at left tackle. That probably won't be this year, however, as the two-time All-Pro has started all but one of Tennessee's last 144 regular-season games. There are some rumors that Roos could be dealt before the season, but at the moment that appears to be speculation fueled by the Lewan pick.

That doesn't mean Lewan is destined to ride the pine, however, as he could provide fierce competition from the get-go for right tackle Michael Oher, he of Blind Side fame. While the Titans inked Oher to a 4-year, $20 million contract over the offseason, his on-field performance hasn't come close to living up to the hype since his standout rookie season—he was one of the more disappointing players on a Baltimore line that graded out as one of the NFL's worst by Football Outsiders in 2013.

In fact, despite Oher's new deal, SBNation's Titans blog projects Lewan as this fall's starter at right tackle. At the very least, he should push Oher for time this year, and with Roos in the final year of his contract, it's tough to see Lewan not starting by 2015.

Projection: Backup in 2014, starting left tackle in 2015


I can't say I expected to find a good blocking-related picture from this, of all games. [Fuller]

Michael Schofield, Denver Broncos

Draft position: Third round, #95 overall
New uniform number: #79

Fit: Denver's offensive line is in a state of flux, which could provide an opening for Schofield to crack the lineup, especially given his experience playing both guard and tackle. Last year's starter at left guard, Zane Beadles, signed with Jacksonville in free agency; one potential candidate to replace him, Chris Kuper, retired in March due to ankle problems. With two-time first-team All-Pro LT Ryan Clady returning this year after missing all but the first two games of 2013, RT Orlando Franklin is expected to shift down to LG while Clady's 2013 replacement, Chris Clark, fills in at right tackle.

That isn't set in stone, by any means. Per the Mile High Report, the Broncos picked Schofield for his versatility and potential to contribute right away at multiple positions:

The Broncos drafted OT Michael Schofield with versatility in mind. Denver's o-line is in the middle of some personnel shifting, with Orlando Franklin testing his mettle at left guard and Chris Clark possibly moving to right tackle. Schofield played both positions in college, giving the Broncos depth and experience - and another name to add to the competition.

...

"He's got a lot of upside," John Fox said of Schofield. "Very long, very athletic. A guy that we studied really hard in the Senior Bowl as well as his college tape and we think has tremendous upside and can come in and help us right away."

MHR's current projected depth chart has Schofield as the primary backup for both guard spots, which seems like a natural fit for him early in his career.

Projection: Backup guard, first lineman off the bench if an injury occurs


Sadly, Gallon can't bring Indiana's secondary with him to the NFL [Fuller]

Jeremy Gallon, New England Patriots

Draft position: Seventh round, #244 overall
New uniform number: #83

Fit: Given a cursory glance, Gallon to the Patriots seems like a great fit—New England had serious issues with their receivers last season and we all love the idea of a Brady-to-Gallon connection. The trouble is, with Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman on the roster, the diminutive Gallon will have to prove his worth as an outside receiver or special teams standout if he wants to make the roster. Amendola is signed through 2017 and Edelman got a four-year contract and a big pay raise this offseason; they're not going anywhere, and both play primarily out of the slot.

SBNation's Patriots blog, Pats Pulpit, sees Gallon as a low-risk, high-reward pick who could push one of New England's young outside receivers for a place on the roster:

Gallon is interesting because there's no real competition on the roster. Is he a slot receiver? Because Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman have that covered. At 5'7 1/2, he's too small to be an X with Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins. The only remaining option is the Z with Brandon LaFell and Josh Boyce- and it's likely that Gallon will be fighting with Boyce. Gallon always rises up against the top competition and I wouldn't be too surprised if was up for the task.

Boyce was a fourth-round selection out of TCU in 2013; despite some serious struggles from the non-Edelman receivers last season (Amendola was hurt for much of the year), he only managed to catch nine passes in nine games, so it's not unreasonable to hope Gallon can beat him out. 

Boston.com, meanwhile, doesn't appear to expect Gallon to make the roster:

It's going to be real interesting to watch the training camp battle at wide receiver. Looks like at least one familiar name is going home. The way I see it, if you can only keep five (not including Matthew Slater, who is a specialist for all intents and purposes): Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins, Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, and Brandon LaFell are the ones to keep. 

Slater is an interesting name here; he's been with the Pats for six years despite catching just two passes because of his ability on special teams. If New England keeps just six receivers, Gallon's roster spot could depend on his ability to excel in that area of the game while biding his time for an opportunity to open up at receiver.

Projection: Cut by the Patriots. I'd be willing to bet he gets a better shot with another team, as soon as this year. Gallon's a good example of a player who may have preferred going undrafted—and subsequently choosing from multiple training camp invites—to getting picked up in the final round.

Undrafted Free Agents

I won't break down the situations for each UDFA, as they're all essentially in the same boat: it's an uphill battle to make an NFL roster from that position, and—like Gallon—the path to surviving training camp cuts often runs through special teams. Here's the list as it currently stands, culled from multiple sources:

DL Jibreel Black, Pittsburgh Steelers
LS Jareth Glanda, New Orleans Saints
OLB Cameron Gordon, New England Patriots
S Thomas Gordon, New York Giants
RB Fitzgerald Toussaint, Baltimore Ravens
DT Quinton Washington, Oakland Raiders

Former Michigan safety Marvin Robinson, who played his final season of eligibility at Ferris State, earned a training camp invite from the Dallas Cowboys.

Comments

Basketballgasm 2014: Day 1 Liveblog

Basketballgasm 2014: Day 1 Liveblog Comment Count

Seth March 20th, 2014 at 12:35 PM

Die, work productivity! Die before the might of The Great Thursday of the Basketballing (also: hockey), and the grilling of former football players on things of interest.

The Celebrity Mods: By seniority, Todd Howard (CB, 1998-'01); Brandon Williams (CB, 1999-'02), who wrangled them all together; Tim Massaquoi (WR/TE, 2001-'05); Jordan Kovacs# (S, 2009-'12); and Michael Schofield (OL, 2009-'13). They'll be in and out ds-main-logothroughout the day.

# = never gets to live it down.

The Sponsor: As they did last year, our official fantasy game partner DraftStreet stepped up. If you're getting bored between games today, head on over to their dashboard and sign up for any of their games. That link goes to the NBA one I just started. Or just check in on your team for the $40k (or $20k if you came late) tourney we've been on about all week.

The Cause: We've got a bunch of former players coming by today to answer your questions, yap about the ballgames with you, and support the Go Blue Bowl, on April 4.

GBB

Flier (click to see list of players attending, etc.):

14_GBB_flyer_v4

It's a series of evening flag football games at Pioneer between teams coached by former Michigan players. Two teams will be made up of sponsors and you can still get in on that. The event benefits Marlin Jackon's Fight for Life Foundation.

The Schedule: As we get going it'll be general discussion time while the Ohio State-Dayton (12:15) and Wisconsin-American (12:40) are on, continuing that through Pitt-Colorado (1:40), and Cincy-Harvard (2:10). At 3pm we'll switch to the hockey game vs Penn State, go to Michigan State's game after that, and that should carry us to the Michigan-Wofford game tonight.

The Mitigation of Liveblog Chaos: Read it. Know it. Love it. Be it.

GO BLUE! Always.

Comments

Unverified Voracity Is In, Is Out

Unverified Voracity Is In, Is Out Comment Count

Brian January 23rd, 2014 at 4:41 PM

The ineffable lightness of McGary. Via UMHoops, Mitch McGary and Jon Horford have different opinions about things.

image

Did they play an Adam Sandler movie on the court at some point? Because this is how that would work out.

One in, one out. Injury news for this weekend's state game is a rollercoaster. First, Adriean Payne tells Facebook that he's been cleared to play Saturday. Then:

How did he acquire this injury?

Dude. Just lie. Say you got it caught in a thresher or something. This is not the time for honesty.

Dawson is a beast on the offensive glass and an efficient finisher off putbacks and dumpoffs but not a lot of State's offense ran through him. If Payne is full go and mobile by Saturday I'd guess they play him at the four, which he did plenty of last year with Nix around, and go with Costello and Gauna at the five.

State's other option is to play a lot of Kenny Kaminski. Kaminski is a redshirt freshman stretch four who is Just A Shooter™, with 31 3PAs vs 8 twos attempted on the year. He is hitting 55% of his threes, so, yeah, check him hand in the face etc. Kaminski doesn't have enough playing time to definitely say much about him but from appearances he's not in Dawson's class as a defender or rebounder.

Either way, MSU gets more shooting and less defense on the floor without Dawson.

UPDATE: Izzo says Payne's shot at playing is "slim to none" and that Kaminski is expected to start, presumably next to Costello.

Meanwhile for Michigan. If you're concerned about the prospect of Appling going up against Spike, it sounds like Walton will be just fine by Saturday:

Beilein said that Walton had a high temperature and flu-like symptoms, so there was uncertainty about how much he could play and contribute.

“He got to see the doctor and kept him away from everybody all day, so he didn’t even go to practice or see the game plan,” Beilein said. “The fever broke and he felt good today, enough to at least give us a minute or two. Spike was fine and I’m really pleased with the way he played.”

Again, if Walton is still a bit shaky Michigan can get away with Spike on Travis Trice whenever he's out there, which could keep Walton's minutes down to about 20 if necessary.

Grantland breaks us down. Shane Ryan on the unnoticeable slowness of Michigan's offense:

… unlike other plodding offenses, it never really looks like Beilein’s teams are taking their time. The reason for that is the Wolverines are astoundingly efficient, year after year, to the point that every possession takes on a rhythm and purpose of its own. And the results are so continually positive that there’s drama and anticipation in the lead-up; while teams like Wisconsin (no. 300 in Division I tempo) and Virginia (333) can suck the life out of a game with their effective control of pace, and others like Clemson (348) and Miami (dead last at 351) are clearly taking their time because they have no other option, Beilein’s offenses are so fluid and effective that they retain their sense of drama. Michigan is slow, but never boring.

Also, Stauskas highlights:

And with Michigan's resurgence comes the candy that is Luke Winn saying something interesting about you in his power rankings:

The Wolverines' Nik Stauskas-led offense has an adjusted efficiency of 120.1 points per 100 possessions, which ranks third nationally ... and is pretty much just as efficient as it was last season, when it scored 120.3 points/100 possessions.

They check in ninth, up from 31st(!) last week. It has been a good week.

Chad Ford don't fail me now. Chad Ford's latest mock draft($) for ESPN has zero Wolverines in the first round. Yes, NBA GMs. You are getting very sleepy. You are agreeing with Chad Ford in every way. You have completed your scouting for the season.

FWIW, Stauskas downplayed his dad's quote from the SI article:

“I apologize for my father’s comments,” he said Wednesday. “He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I haven’t really thought anything about that yet. We’ll just address it after the season.”

I know he's got to say what he's got to say; the dad comment seems like a moment of unguarded honesty. We'll see where he's projected; if it's the first round I imagine he's out.

Mixed reports on Schofield. Mike Schofield's at the Senior Bowl this week trying to establish his draft bonafides. After a couple days moving back to guard didn't seem to go well, they've put him back at his natural position, where he has impressed:

"Not a highly acclaimed kid; a late add [to the roster]," Mayock said. "I thought he stoned everybody in the [1-on-1] drill. Now, he's a right tackle only, in my opinion. They tried him at guard. Right tackle only is not a good thing to be in the NFL unless you're a starter. I think he has the potential to be a starting right tackle."

You can look at this as affirmation that Darrell Funk can develop offensive linemen or further condemnation of Michigan's OL last year as you so desire.

But where is the part where he rescues a bus full of kittens? MLive profiles Andrew Copp:

Copp’s 3.2 G.P.A. wasn’t quite good enough for admission into the business school, so he worries about what lies in store in the future, even if it does include a stop in the NHL. He also said he at times feels at a disadvantage in the classroom.

“I study a lot, but when we have games and practice, some of these kids are still studying the whole time,” Copp says with a palpable stress in his voice. “When there’s a lot of readings in particular, other students don’t have a five or six hour block and weekends taken up by games where they have the opportunity to study.”

That's confidence in a kid: letting a reporter follow him around for a day.

Etc.: Dave Brandon sent around empty planes during the most recent coaching search. I think that means we win. Tom Izzo being histrionic? Never. Sports are supposed to be fun, and Richard Sherman is that. Sacks are lies.

Comments

This Week's Obsession: Filling Shoes

This Week's Obsession: Filling Shoes Comment Count

Seth December 4th, 2013 at 5:48 PM

BLF_2284

[Fuller]

In HTTV last year we made a strange assertion: that given the relative drop-off to their replacements, Kovacs would probably be missed more than Denard Robinson. I thought I'd pose the question now concerning this year's seniors, except there's one guy who could have gone 1st overall in the NFL draft LAST YEAR, and he's being replaced by either a member of the worst interior offensive line in Michigan memory or a guy who couldn't beat out one of those guys for playing time.

1V - LEAD and DOMINATE THE FIRST PAGE- Upchurch -8646512992_e3c0ba6d0a_o
Actually, #2 Taylor Lewan's twosie and #3 Taylor Lewan's pet pig are also out of the running. [Upchurch]

So, OTHER than that guy,

Which senior will Michigan miss most next season?

Ace: I'll leave a couple very strong candidates aside—namely, Jeremy Gallon and Thomas Gordon—and go to the other bookend of the offensive line, Michael Schofield. Michigan already needs to get much (much) better play out of the interior of the line next year, not to mention a major step up in blocking from the backs and tight ends. Losing not just one, but two NFL-quality tackles means the Wolverines once again head into a new season with major uncertainty up front.

I expect the interior line to be better, especially since some of the true freshmen who weren't viable options this season—especially Patrick Kugler and David Dawson—should at least be ready to compete for a spot on the two-deep. Losing Schofield along with Lewan, however, means that there's almost no margin for error with the new tackles; Michigan needs to find two decent starters out of Ben Braden, Erik Magnuson, and... that's about it.

I guess Dawson could play right tackle, as could Kyle Kalis, but both are more natural fits inside. Chris Fox, coming off a major knee injury that delayed his freshman progress, and Logan Tuley-Tillman, a raw-upside prospect with a heavy emphasis on raw, probably won't be ready to step in and be very effective.

Losing Lewan hurts the most, of course; that's compounded by the absence of Schofield—who really came into his own this year—leaving Michigan with, at best, four relatively unproven players competing for two open tackle spots while the interior of the line is still very much a question mark.

[After the jump: Pining for (Scho)fields]

Comments

27 For 27: A Document

27 For 27: A Document Comment Count

Brian October 16th, 2013 at 3:53 PM

[SITE NOTE: Due to a confluence of things including a long drive home, four overtimes, thrilling CONCACAF qualifier business, the Tigers, this post, and a desire to stab my eyeballs whenever I look at the tape, UFR is not quite done and will go up tomorrow.]

Fitzgerald Toussaint set a Michigan record for sustained futility on Saturday by running for 27 yards on 27 carries. Since 1949, no other back has gotten as many carries without gaining at least twice as many yards. Posterity demands that someone detail what happened.

A note: blame is apportioned. When things are designated playcall it's because I don't believe it's reasonable to expect Michigan to block player X, either because he's an extra guy in the box or he's tearing towards the line of scrimmage on the snap because he has no fear of a pass. You can adjust your personal indignation levels on this based on how reasonable you thought running into stacked boxes was vis a vis Devin Gardner's 13 YPA and constant turnover threat; I'm just trying to figure out how much of the run splat was preordained by playcalls.

Ready? No. I know you're not. But here we go anyway.

One

27f27-1

Play: Power O
Formation: Tackle over I Form H
Yards: -3

Why it didn't work:

  1. Graham Glasgow ignored the NT.
  2. Predictable playcall sees PSU linebackers flow hard with effectively nine in the box.
  3. Jake Butt gets beat badly by a PSU LB in the hole.

Blame: 80% OL, 10% playcall, %10 TE/FB

Two

27f27-2

Play: Zone stretch.
Formation: Tackle over I Form big
Yards: -3

Why it didn't work:

  1. PSU has straight up nine in the box.
  2. Michigan tries to be clever by running at Williams and Bryant, both of whom get destroyed.
  3. Schofield leaves immediately, so Lewan has no shot at the backside tackle.

Blame: 30% TE/FB, 30% OL, 40% playcall

Three

27f27-3

Play: Power O
Formation: Tackle over Ace H
Yards: 12

Why it didn't work:

  1. Actually it did work.
  2. It works because Schofield gets nice push, giving Toussaint a crease. Glasgow gets movement on a DT and the eighth guy in the box for PSU tries to get over to the frontside when he should probably stack this up near the LOS.

Blame: Everyone is happy!

Four

27f27-4

Play: Counter
Formation: Tackle over trips TE
Yards: 1

Why it didn't work:

  1. Seven guys in the box against six blockers; extra guy makes the stop.
  2. PSU WLB doesn't get suckered by the counter, gives Glasgow no shot to block him.
  3. Kalis gets shed, falling to the ground.

Blame: 80% playcall, 20% OL.

[After THE JUMP: just don't click through. I'm sorry I even did this.]

Comments

Upon Further Review 2013: Offense vs Minnesota

Upon Further Review 2013: Offense vs Minnesota Comment Count

Brian October 9th, 2013 at 6:52 PM

FORMATION NOTES: Hello "tackle over":

tackle-over-twins-twin-te

Since these were standard formations that happened to have Lewan and Schofield next to each other I just named them as standard formations and noted them as "tackle over" before hand. I've also started noting the TO goal line formations.

As a reminder, TEs flitting in from the side to show up behind a guard are now designated with an H. This is "tackle over Ace Big H." I still consider these guys TEs.

ace-big-h

Also Michigan's been using this enough (and Seth asked me about it) that I dubbed the shotgun formation where there are three WR to one side of the field with two guys tight to the line stacked "shotgun trips inner stack."

shotgun trips inner stack

Chesson is motioning to line up outside of Funchess and Dileo.

Not to be confused with "shotgun trips stack," where all three WR are lined up over each other on the hash. Or "shotgun double stack," where there are, uh, double stacks.

SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Offensive line was as before save for the tackle over stuff, on which AJ Williams was always the tight-end type substance on the other end of the line. When Kalis got dinged, Joey Burzynski got three or four snaps.

Butt played a ton as the H-back TE. Funchess was mostly a wide receiver; when he did line up at tight end it wasn't a run. Paskorz got some playing time in the second half as another inline TE when Michigan went to three TE sets.

With Funchess consuming more WR snaps and a ton of looks with just one WR on the field, Reynolds and Jackson saw their playing time decrease substantially. Green got in frequently, picking up ten carries, and Justice Hayes got one snap in a two-back shotgun set on third and long.

[After THE JUMP: manball.]

Comments

Picture Pages: He Just Used Power, Part 2

Picture Pages: He Just Used Power, Part 2 Comment Count

Brian October 9th, 2013 at 2:34 PM

Last time, Michigan grinds out six yards on their first snap by using POWER.

Michigan's second snap against Minnesota was more of the same, but a little lighter. Chesson replaced Butt, and Minnesota responded by covering him. They also shifted their line towards Lewan instead of away. The end result was much the same except Michigan didn't have an opportunity to block the last guy because Minnesota didn't have a linebacker bail.

p2-1 - Copy

Yes, Michigan can go nuts in the passing game against this kind of alignment, and would later; this drive—this game—is about establishing something even if it's not the most efficient way to go about doing things. After Akron and UConn you can understand this line of thinking.

With the line shifted to Lewan, he's going to kick the guy outside of him, leaving Schofield and Kalis to double the playside DT; Bryant and Kerridge will again lead through the hole.

power2-1

On the snap, Bryant pulls out and heads around as the double is initiated; Bryant is out so quick that he's almost running into Devin Gardner:

pw-2 - Copy

This is a notable improvement from last year. Between the above frame in the next, Schofield blasts the playside DT such that he starts falling inside of Kalis. He'll end up moving to the second level, and picking up the WLB since that guy is not shooting a gap. Unfortunately, someone is shooting a gap: Hageman.

pw-3 - Copy

Hageman just about beats Glasgow clean. There is a little bit of delay here that prevents him from swallowing the play in the backfield; this is still pretty bad. But the gap is even more enormous this time at the handoff point. It stretches almost from the hashes to the numbers as Michigan pounds the two playside DL away from each other:

pw-4

This time Minnesota has sufficient bodies in the hole to deal with it as all three linebackers demand a body. Hageman is threatening enough from behind to force Toussaint to alter his path a bit, but with Kerridge latched onto one linebacker, Bryant about to pop a second, and a cavern to operate in he doesn't slow down the fatal step.

pw-5 - Copy

That safety is unaccounted for, though, and waiting two yards downfield.

pw-6

Toussaint pounds out some YAC.

pw-8

Video

Slow:

Items Of Interest

Sometimes you can do everything right and get five yards. At the end of the day there's always one more defender than you have blockers. Here every block save Glasgow's gets executed and contact is still made two yards downfield.

This is both a reason not to get too worried about YPC in this game and wonder about the long-term viability of the tackle over buddy cop movie. When you can execute every block just right and get five yards the opponents is overplaying you like whoah and you are either so confident you are able to get these five yards on every play or locked in a 12-10 death struggle kind of game. Here it turns out to be the former, as Michigan scores touchdowns on 5 of 8 drives, albeit with a lot of help from third and long conversions to Funchess after their grind game clunked out.

However: as mentioned in the last post, tackle over was literally 90% run in this one and when they ran it was 83% run to the tackle side. Is this configuration powerful enough to grind these yards out against actual defenses? Can Michigan get enough play action off of this to keep defenses honest and get the big chunk plays they'll have to if a ton of their offense is grinding out four yards against a stacked front? Is this anything more than a get-healthy gimmick effective against a terrible defense?

I don't know.

This is what Bryant expected to see on the last play. He pulls around and whacks the MLB, like he did on the last play; this time the MLB is not already being blocked because a differently-aligned Minnesota defense scrapes the MLB past Schofield releasing downfield. This is one of those things that may come with experience: the ability to improvise profitably.

Meanwhile, Bryant gets there, hits a guy, woot. This is night and day from last year's guards.

Glasgow did get smoked. Hageman's pretty good, though, and he was very quiet in this one. Hageman's play didn't end up making a tackle but I think it did impact the outcome of this play because…

Toussaint puts his head down and takes what he can get. With all this room Toussaint can threaten both sides of Kerridge's block, and we've seen him dip inside to pop out before. This would be an excellent time to do that if he was not being chased by an angry 300 pound man. As it is he just runs directly upfield into the safety and runs him over for near first down yardage. That's the when-in-doubt solution, and it's the one Toussaint took consistently in this game.

Speaking of which. The bye week seems like it was spent telling Toussaint that if he does not go hard north and south he will be dipped in uncomfortably warm pudding for hours at a time. This is the kind of run where bounce-it hesitation gets you clubbed and there is a guy waiting that he can see; previously he might have tried the thing I mentioned above and gotten tackled at the line. Instead we're talking about the yards he gained after contact instead of trying to calculate how many he lost by trying to avoid it. Thumbs up.

This is now Lewan's day. This is play two. The rest of the game is basically this for Lewan, whether it's pass or run: hello, overmatched donkey about 60 pounds lighter than me. It is time to go out to the numbers. I gave him a ton of half-points that maybe should have been full ones.

Comments

Picture Pages: He Just Used Power, Part I

Picture Pages: He Just Used Power, Part I Comment Count

Brian October 9th, 2013 at 12:19 PM

"He just used POWER"

–Kirk Herbstreit, every play, every edition of NCAA Football since 2003

Michigan spent half its day with Michael Schofield tucked just inside of a tight-end-ish Taylor Lewan, and ran ran ran ran ran ran ran out of this. Your "tackle over" breakdown:

  • PASSES: 2, one incomplete to Chesson, one 30 yard post to Gallon.
  • POWER: 11, one each for Green and Gardner, nine for Toussaint. 54 yards acquired, all but one on Toussaint's carries. [Includes playside G pulls.]
  • ISO: 3, two for Toussaint, one for Green. Five yards total.
  • STRETCH: 4, for 28 yards. Green picks up basically all of his yards on two of these.
    [Excluded are four goal line plays that were all runs; those were a pair of two-yard touchdowns, one successful play that got M from the 4 to the 2, and a zero-yard iso.]
    All told, when Michigan lined up Lewan next to Schofield they acquired 4.8 yards a carry. One the one hand, woo-hoo BFD Minnesota is terrible and that's a mediocre YPC once sacks are put somewhere sensible. On the other hand, woo-hoo, only two TFLs and a screw-you performance against a team dropping eight or nine guys in the box. When Michigan did deign to pass from this, Gallon and Funchess were both open on deep posts and Gallon picked up 30 yards only because Gardner threw the ball behind him; an on target pass may have been a 60-yard touchdown.
    Let's delve. We'll cover three plays eventually, all of them relatively successful but not that successful: Michigan's first two snaps and the 12-yard touchdown that was like "oh, I guess that was easy."
    Michigan's first snap comes from the opponent 35 after a fumble. Michigan comes out in what I dubbed "tackle over I-Form Big H," a set with one WR, two TEs, and two RBs; Butt motions to the usual H-back spot:

power-1

Minnesota responds by singling up Gallon and putting everyone else within seven yards of the LOS. Could Michigan have bludgeoned this repeatedly with easy Gardner/Gallon hookups? Yes. They were intent on establishing the run, though.

power-2

Power rules, like zone rules, depend on how the defense lines up. Minnesota was mostly an over team in this game, so Lewan would kick and the hole would be between the two OTs. Here they're shifted under, so Lewan will block down, Butt will kick, and Michigan will shoot the pulling G and fullback into that gap between the two.

power-2

This all goes just fine. By the next frame you can see that both Schofield and Lewan have easy control of their end, Bryant is coming down the line, and a gap will develop.

power-3

By the time Toussaint gets the handoff, the gap is truly massive. The playside end has been clubbed inside to the hash, with Lewan popping off on a linebacker. Meanwhile the SAM is three yards upfield, 2/3rds of the way to the numbers.

power-4

Part of this is bad play. Ace pointed out in the Minnesota FFFF that Minnesota's ends tended to get way upfield, and that was the case in this one. (It's a SAM, but same thing. End man on the LOS.) The gaps the Gophers were trying to shut down were difficult for them to do so.

Also bad play: Minnesota's #9, who should be reading power all the way and attempts to shoot a gap upfield and to the inside of the POA. If it's third and one, okay maybe you make a play and boot the opponent off the field. On first and ten this is asking to get a huge play on your face.

So now Michigan has two guys plunging through a large gap with one linebacker showing because #9 is exiting the play on his own recognizance. That leaves an extra guy for the overhanging safety, right?

power-5

Note gap even larger now.

Uh… no. Bryant hits the guy Lewan has already blocked.

power-6

power-7

That guy tackles, but not before Toussaint picks up six yards.

Video

Slow:

Items of Interest

He used power just like he would have in any other situation. Over the last few days I've scoured the internet for anything it has to tell me about unbalanced lines, and found that when it's in use it's either 1) a package designed to futz with alignment keys as teams try to find a tight end and locate him in an unexpected position, or 2) Stanford HAM.

Naming your 7 OL package after notorious steroid case: Stanford football.

Stanford's stuff endeavors to screw with your brain by putting four guys to one side of the center, which conventional defenses don't have a great answer for. It's something you have to prepare for. There's not much to prepare for here, at least in terms of "we haven't seen this before."

Here Michigan was confronted with…

FACT: our tight ends can't block
FACT: our tackles are the only upperclass OL we have and they're both pretty sweet
FACT: manball
FACT: especially after inserting Chris Bryant

…so they just swapped Lewan and AJ Williams and ran normal power out of normal power sets. There is absolutely nothing about this play that would be any different if Michigan ran it from a normal line, except that AJ Williams is a lot less likely to execute his assignment with this authority.

Michael Schofield was a revelation in this game. Traditionally he has been the least-involved Michigan OL in the run game charting because that stuff doesn't bother with "hinge" blocks on the backside of power, which are executed literally 99% of the time by anyone—say, nice place to stash a TE—or blocks on the backside of stretch plays that are tough to evaluate without a cutback and often patently unfair to expect the backside T to execute. Schofield's gotten a lot of those because Michigan runs towards Lewan, a lot. Surprise.

That said, Schofield has always been regarded as more of a finesse player by everyone including his offensive line coach. He has never consistently moved guys off the ball. In this game, he did. Minnesota isn't good, sure. It's still going to be a record positive day for him.

The art of the kickout. Kickout blocks get relatively short shrift from me in UFR charting because they are by their nature a compromise between offense and defense. The defense says "I'll stay out here so the play turns back inside," and the offense says "I will push you a bit and make sure you stay out there."

Here Butt and the SAM compromise in a way very detrimental to Minnesota's chances, but that's mostly on the SAM. If he sets up better, Butt walls him off and the hole is narrower. He rarely has to actually deal with the guy trying to beat him, because if that guy succeeds he may have just given up the corner.

Minnesota saw this and was like NOOOOPE. This is almost the only under front the Gophers ran all game. After this play, Minnesota shifted their line towards Lewan, which meant that Lewan would kick the DE. This started a parade of plus-half-points for him as he shoved guys to create large holes, but did remove him from the kind of facecrushing blocks he executed on this play. This under front gives Lewan a hard-ish job he does really well; the over gives Lewan an easy job he does really well, shifting the hard-ish bits to other players.

Identifying guys to block: issue. Neither Kalis nor Bryant was particularly good at figuring out what they're supposed to do when they reach the hole. (This is at least better than the situation last year, which was "OL cannot reach hole.") Here Michigan has an opportunity to bust a big play because one of the Minnesota linebackers goes under a block and eliminates himself; Bryant can go all the way to the safety, whereupon Toussaint probably scores a touchdown. Instead he doubles a guy that Lewan is blocking, which… cumong man. Of all the people to block a second time you pick the one Taylor Lewan has.

As discussed previously, that's one error that costs Michigan 30 yards.

Comments