Recruits In Retrospect: 2008 Offense

Recruits In Retrospect: 2008 Offense

Submitted by Ace on May 31st, 2012 at 9:18 AM


David Guralnick/The Detroit News

Continuing my theme of getting super-meta this offseason, I decided to take a look back at the MGoBlog recruiting recaps from the class of 2008—hello, blogspot!—and see how they stand up now that those players have either moved on from the program or are fifth-year seniors. 2008, of course, was the franken-class of Lloyd Carr and Rich Rodriguez recruits, a bizarre blend of pro-style plodders and size-challenged spread speedsters. While it boasted 17 four-stars among 24 commits, finishing a very respectable tenth in the Rivals team rankings, the class would prove to be an unmitigated disaster, ravaged by attrition and marked with disappointment.

So, let's go back to a time when Michigan fans still held out hope for landing Terrelle Pryor—when these were written, still holding out for a better contract mulling his decision a month after signing day—to spearhead this newfangled spread offense. Today, I'll take a look at Brian's offensive evaluations, and the defense will be covered next week. For reference, links to the original posts: Quarterback and Running Back, Receivers, Tight Ends, Offensive Line. If you're anything like me, perusing those is a remarkably fun way to waste time.

Easy Joke Is Easy

With a major change in offensive scheme, Michigan was in desperate need of a dual-threat quarterback. Pryor was the ultimate prize, and Rodriguez was forced to hedge his bets with Justin Feagin, an under-the-radar athlete from Florida whose best offers were to play wide receiver at LSU or defensive back at Miami (YTM).

Projection: Someone's going to play Tebow to Threet's Chris Leak this fall; unless Carlos Brown locks that down, it'll be Feagin. I have no idea what to expect, but think his future is probably somewhere other than quarterback.

Namely, the inside of a courtroom. ZING! (Really, when it comes to the 2008 quarterback situation, dark humor is the only option lest you want to break down in tears.)

Ironically, it was his off-field actions that made Feagin one of the recruits Brian was "baselessly excited about in defiance of recruiting rankings and reason," due to late-night workouts and multiple quotes expressing no concern about potentially having to compete with Pryor for the starting job. It was noted that Feagin required "a ton of developing to be a legitimate quarterback," which was readily apparent during his brief appearances as a freshman. Then came the cocaine stuff and subsequent boot, so we'll never know whether Feagin could've turned into a passable receiver.

NEVER FORGET

I started following recruiting seriously when a friend showed me Noel Devine's highlight tape during my senior year of high school. Since I had little understanding at the time about how recruiting actually worked, I was bitterly disappointed when Devine seemingly had zero interest in Michigan (and vice versa), eventually ending up at West Virginia. I swore never to get my hopes up about highlight tape heroes again.

So the next year, when another atom-sized running back took the YouTubes by storm, I had little hope that this Texan doing heel-clicks on the backs of linebackers would even consider donning the Maize and Blue. Even so, I'd watch his tape on repeat, sharing it with friends whenever the opportunity arose; seeing their eyes bug while asking what in the hell they just watched never got old. This is what they saw [NSFW audio warning]:

Then, of course, the impossible occurred: Sam McGuffie signed with Michigan, though not before nearly shattering our dreams during a signing day flirtation with Cal. Brian, however, was nonplussed, proferring this muted reaction to McGuffie's inclusion in the class:

General Excitement Level: AAAAIIEEEE! Man... this offense is McGuffie's jam, man, and the Church Of Barwis will excommunicate anyone who doubts his his's ability to get up to 200-some pounds without compromising his lightning quicks. Steve Slaton says what.
Projection: He's the man, man. Will battle Brown and Grady for carries at first; probably a Noel Devine role his first year.

Oh. Unfortunately, you all know how this one went. McGuffie showed flashes of brilliance as a freshman in 2008, but also the durability of a paper bag. After finishing the season as the team's second-leading rusher, he decided to transfer closer to home, ending up at Rice, where he'll be a redshirt senior in 2012. Not exactly what we'd all envisioned when the guy who frontflipped over J.B. Shugarts at the Army Game hit campus.

McGuffie wasn't the only back in the class, however, as he was joined by two other intriguing prospects. Rich Rodriguez earned the "snake-oil salesman" moniker for snatching Roy Roundtree from Purdue (more on him later), but his other signing day surprise was pulling Trotwood-Madison RB Michael Shaw away from Penn State. You'll never guess what Brian noticed on his film [emphasis mine]:

I am not a scout, but in the Shaw video at Scouting Ohio I saw a guy with a knack for catching the flare, good speed, and exactly one move: an upfield cut followed by a bounce-out that got him outside high school defenders with regularity.

And thus we find the origins of bouncebouncebouncebounce.

The final back in the class was a relative unknown from the football hotbed of Avon, Connecticut. Mike Cox's name required a disclaimer in the notes section of his profile—"Degree of difficulty applies on all jokes about his name. (IE: please no "Mike Cox is huge" jokes.)"—while his school's sporting pedigree invited a healthy dose of skepticism:

There's almost zero reliable data on Cox. His high school conference is well known for hockey -- read full of rich white guys named "Higginbotham" (no, literally) -- and is awful at football.

Until reading the profile, I had completely forgotten that Michigan took Cox over four-star Detroit Country Day product and eventual Notre Dame commit Jonas Gray. In retrospect, I think it's safe to say that was a mistake, even though Gray wasn't a major contributor until his senior season. At least we got four years of stale dick jokes, though.

NEVER FORGET, Part Deux

Rodriguez's hire brought to Michigan the era of the waterbug slot guy, which promised to be great fun for a fanbase used to watching tiny track-star guys tear it up only for opponents. The recruit expected to come in and make a big splash early was four-star Terrence Robinson out of Klein, Texas, and all it took was one physics-defying play to see why:

Commits pulling Hakeem Olajuwon post moves at warp speed during a football game understandably cause a fair amount of excitement. Brian busted out the obligatory Breaston comparison and projected him to be in the mix at both returner and slot receiver. Robinson finished his Michigan career with one catch, two kickoff returns, and one punt return for a grand total of 94 all-purpose yards.

Michigan's other slot ninja was Pahokee's Martavious Odoms, whose profile contains endless testimonials about his rabbit-chasing speed. Brian's comparison is Devin Hester and also a version of Steve Breaston that actually catches the bombs:

General Excitement Level: Moderate++. He's never going to be Braylon Edwards but if he's as fast as his reputation he could be a dynamite returner and even a deep threat: remember Steve Breaston's ill-fated career as the target of bombs? Well, he was open by yards time and again because opposing players got smoked by his moves and always dropped the ball. Odoms looks like he's pretty good at hauling in deep balls.
Projection: Will press for time as a returner immediately and is 50-50 to be the designated bubble screen guy, with Terrance Robinson the other option. Starts off with an advantage on Robinson because he's spent the last four years as a receiver.

Evaluation severely lacking in mountain goat blocking praise.

Despite the excitement over the tiny slot guys, the biggest expectations were reserved for consensus top-100 receiver Darryl Stonum, who chose Michigan over Florida, Alabama, USC, and Florida State. Breathless hype part one:

Natural change of direction? Fluid hips? Comes down with jump balls? A mix of Braylon Edwards and Mario Manningham... which, like, dude.

And part two:

General Excitement Level: Maximal. The second most likely kid in the class to have a long, productive career at Michigan, IMO, behind Dann O'Neill.

Stonum's production disappointed, even after it was discovered that he'd been playing half-blind and needed contacts, and his career came to an untimely end after a string of alcohol- and driving-related arrests.

The last of the four receiver recruits was Roy Roundtree, another Trotwood-Madison star whose projection was the closest to the eventual reality:

General Excitement Level: Moderate. Never going to be a gamebreaker, but a likely contributor. Has to add a lot of weight to be an effective player.
Projection: Redshirts, plays sparingly his second year, and is 50-50 to emerge into Michigan's #2 WR.

Roundtree redshirted, then led the team in catches in each of the next two seasons, though this was more the product of the offense—Roundtree was the main beneficiary of QB Oh Noes—than him being a true #1 receiver, though he may be forced into that role this season.

Caveats Apply

The 2008 class also featured two four-star tight end recruits, though both came with significant question marks. For Brandon Moore, the third of the Trotwood trio, the question was whether he was the future star who earned top-100 rankings and big-time offers after a standout junior season or the potential bust whose stock slipped significantly during a disappointing senior year. Scout actually started out with Moore as their #98 overall prospect before dropping him all the way to three stars and the #43(!) tight end. The verdict:

General Excitement Level: High, with caveats. Moore is a boom-or-bust guy with much potential but a long way to go.
Projection: Great success, great failure, or somewhere in between. Specific cat is specific.

Barring an out-of-nowhere breakout season in 2012, bust it is.

Meanwhile, Michigan took a head-to-head battle with Ohio State for Toledo Whitmer's Kevin Koger, but it was unclear whether he'd stick at tight end or eventually make a move to defensive end:

It must be said: Koger is widely regarded a prospect of equal or greater merit at defensive end, and with Nick Perry's escape to Southern Cal Michigan finds themselves with one defensive end recruit across two classes. Though it's possible one of the linebackers -- most likely Marcus Witherspoon -- could end up with his hand down, Michigan is critically short there.

A down-the-line move was projected, but that was largely based on the assumption that Moore would pan out. Instead, it was Koger who'd get the lion's share of the snaps at tight end for the next four years.

Brian's O-line Knowledge Has Come A Long Way

One of the staples of the recruiting recaps is the "YMRMFSPA" section, in which Brian compares the recruit's style of play to a notable former player (usually a Wolverine, but not always, as evidenced by the Hester comparison for Odoms). With Michigan pulling in six offensive linemen in 2008, coming up with the proper approximation got a little difficult:

Dann O'Neill: YMRMFSPA Jake Long. No pressure.
Kurt Wermers: YMRMFSPA Matt Lentz?
Elliott Mealer: YMRMFSPA Matt Stenavich(?)
Rocko Khoury: YMRMFSPA Uh, that other un-touted guard person.
Ricky Barnum: YMRMFSPA Rod Payne?
Patrick Omameh: YMRMFSPA ????

Dave Petruziello and Leo Henige feel very neglected, man.

As you can see above, before Taylor Lewan was the Next Jake Long, that distinction went to Dann O'Neill, a top 100 recruit from Grand Haven. Not only was O'Neill quite a talent, his services were desperately needed along a thin offensive line:

Dann O'Neill might be Michigan's most critical recruit. The only tackles in the last two recruiting classes are incumbent RT Steve Schilling, three-star Perry Dorrestein, and two-star sleeper (as in "only had offers from MAC schools" sleeper) Mark Huyge. Finding two starting tackles from that group once the Zirbel-Ortmann class graduates in two years was looking very risky.

Brian projected O'Neill to start "at some point, hopefully later (say, as a redshirt sophomore) rather than sooner (say, this fall)." Instead, he never played a down as a Wolverine, transferring to Western Michigan after his freshman year. He would eventually earn a start at Michigan Stadium in 2011, but as a member of the Broncos.

The other future washout on the line was Indiana guard Kurt Wermers, whose off-field hobbies were not exactly typical of a football player [emphasis Brian's]:

Wermers was also named to the stupidly named "Offense-Defense Bowl" in Miami. The OD bowl appears to be a sort of second-tier all star game. Big whoop, except for the press release announcing the selection:

"Wermers, a veritable renaissance man whose hobbies include weightlifting, playing guitar, singing, and reading, also enjoys spending time on the virtual field of battle in the wildly popular massively multiplayer role-playing game World of Warcraft when not battling in the trenches on the football field."

This dovetails with information from May about Wermer's participation in... an a capella group:

"I love it," Wermers said of singing. "It gives me a chance to get away from big jocky athletic guys and hang out with a different group of people."

I don't think we'll be having any discipline issues with young Mr. Wermers. It's just a feeling.

Wermers left the team before the 2009 season, saying he decided to transfer because Rodriguez was "bringing in a lot of different kids that were not my kind of crowd," and running the team like a business (Wermers signed when Carr was the coach, but obviously never played under him). It was later revealed that Wermers was academically ineligible when he announced his transfer, probably because he was playing WoW instead of going to class. Discipline issues: check.

The player who's actually panned out was the lowest-ranked among the six, Patrick Omameh, a two-star DE to Rivals and the #87 OT to Scout. There wasn't much comment on Omameh beyond addressing his sleeper status; speculation about his future position turned out to go 0-for-2:

There are conflicting reports as to whether Omameh was recruited as a center (where his intelligence would help with the line calls) or tackle; that will get sorted out somewhere down the line.

As you know, Omameh is entering his third year as the full-time starter at... right guard.

Finally, Ricky Barnum peered into the future and got a serious head start on his future team's biggest rivalry:

Various people are probably irritated with Ricky Barnum: Urban Meyer, for one. Also OH OL Zebrie Sanders, who tried to commit to Florida but was told to talk to the hand because Barnum and another player had filled Florida's OL quotient for the year. Sanders, also rejected by Georgia for the same reason, ended up at Florida State and Urban ended up short one highly recruited interior lineman. Not that anyone will ever shed a tear for Urban Meyer.

Well done, Ricky.

Michigan Museday: What We Asked of Them, Part I

Michigan Museday: What We Asked of Them, Part I

Submitted by Seth on November 22nd, 2011 at 7:57 AM

Seniors

EDIT: Moved Grady to this group

I've written plenty about the guys from the classes of '07 and '08 who didn't make it to this week. This one's for the guys who did.

Many had to overcome hideous, season-ending injuries to get here. They also stuck around through two paradigm-shifting coaching changes, or watched the guy and the system they committed to run out of town.What they signed up for was multiple Big Ten championships and Rose Bowls, but what they got was the most tumultuous years at Stadium and Main since Yost dug a hole in the ground.michael-shaw

What they leave is a program on the verge of a BCS bowl, on the verge of another reshaping, on the verge of one final chance to beat Ohio State. The leadership they provided helped Michigan avoid another painful transition, and set the tone for more success to come. There have been many great seniors to graduate from Michigan, but it is no derogation of them to say that this class is a bit special. Here are their stories (in reverse order of commitment):

EARLY RICH-RODIGAN JET-SMURFS:

Michael Shaw was the wizard hat to Trotwood teammate Roundtree's snake oil, a Penn State commit (Carr had wanted him as a CB) who switched to Michigan at the last minute. Unlike fellow '08 RB recruits he had neither captured the imagination of the Internet by hurdling fools, nor did he have a name that 13-year-olds use on prank calls. What Shaw had was speed, hands, and a cut-and-bounce move. People thought he might be a slot receiver. The era Shaw played in was replete with RBs of various skillsets, and proximity to Carlos Brown made for exaggerated comparisons. Various injuries made for sporadic appearances. He started the '09 Ohio State game and was nominally the starter at the beginning of this year. Everyone will have to pick their endearing memory of bouncy Shaw; mine will be the block on McNaul against NU (the purple one) and Batman.

Yearbook Quote:

"Normally they're keying in on me. I don't know why, but they're keying in on me, so that's where [Denard] gets his yards from … We had an idea they were going to try to contain Denard, but we also thought Notre Dame was going to try to contain him."

Martavious Odoms was billed as the perfect slot bug, the prototypical Rich Rodriguez Pahokee speedster with skillz who's completely overlooked because he's tiny. He was brought in to return kicks and punts, block like a mountain goat, and catch bubble screens. Whenever someone of the old guard complained about "little Florida guys" who "won't saytaymake it in the Big Ten," they were talking about Odoms.

Tay almost immediately grabbed that slot position and led the team in receptions as a somewhat fumbly true freshman. His sophomore season it was his mountain goat blocking and magnificent TD against Indiana that prevented a Hoosier loss from ever being added to the pile of Rodriguezian indignities. But he sprained a knee against Penn State and missed the rest of the season while redshirted classmate Roy Roundtree exploded. Odoms returned as the world's smallest outside WR in 2010 until a broken foot knocked him out for the second half of the year. This year several broken bits kept Odoms on the sideline as Gallon emerged, until Odoms reprised the Indy TD (@8:51) against Nebraska.

Yearbook quote:

Denard, can you talk about what you saw on the Odoms TD?

Denard: “Me and Martavious had a race, what, two years ago? So I saw that he can run, and he went right past the defenders and I put it in the air.”

What happened in that race?

Odoms, to Denard: “… What happened?”

Denard: “You have to tell them. You have to tell them.”

Odoms: “No, you should tell them.”

Denard: “Ah … he beat me. He got a win there. He got a win.”

Kelvin Grady committed to Michigan before any of these guys, but for basketball. After his sophomore ('08-'09) season Grady left the backcourt to join his brother in Rich Rod's basketball on grass. Grady also left his sure scholarship, and had to compete with the rest of the walk-ons to earn a football one (he did). Grady19 immediately pushed for playing time in the now crowded slot rotation, showing great route running but not so great hands. kelvin_gradywallpaperThen last year the hands improved—as in he caught almost everything thrown his way—and also became the designated reverse guy.

This year he's rotated in every game, despite there being another guy who's "emerged" at his position every year he's been here (Odoms, Roundtree, Gallon). His eligibility will run out after this season, but Kelvin has already received his Bachelor's degree, and is a year into his Master's in Social Work.

Yearbook quote:

"It crossed my mind that I wouldn't have anything," said Grady, who started 25 basketball games as a freshman before seeing his time reduced last year. "I'd be out. I'd be just like the rest of the guys back home who dropped out of college and didn't have anywhere else to go. But I'm too strong. I've got too much will. I've got a family that supports me. I've got a brother [Kevin, a senior running back for Michigan] that's working hard.

Yearbook quote II:

"I just want to say to you Florida boys it's not so bad in Michigan."

Terrence Robinson may not get a 5th year; the Texas 4-star was another slot bug who actually won the job in '08 before Odoms. He caused a Nebraska fumble on special teams this year—I don't know what his plans are if there's a scholarship available.

667015PLAYERS COMMITTED TO MICHIGAN:

J.B. Fitzgerald got the Victor Hobson designation in the four-man YMRMFSPA haul of Foote-Hobson-Crable-C.Graham. This was thanks to um, large hands? Fitz also was considered quite raw, needing considerable coaching on his read and reaction skills. In this, it's hard to argue that Michigan didn't fail him, provided Jay Hopson then GERG as his position coaches. Fitzgerald was never a threat to displace Obi Ezeh or Jonas Mouton, except when the coaches got so fed up with those guys they put Fitz in (after they tried Kevin Leach). He did see some starting time at OLB late last year due to injuries, but has since been passed by the likes of Ryan and the freshmen. An academic All-American, Fitz will graduate with a degree in sport management.

Yearbook quote:

"Physical's how we like it." (half of this guy's quotes can be taken out of context, the other half are about his family).

Until 2011, Kevin Koger (not Kroger) was the last head-to-head recruiting battle with [glances around, whispers] you know who in Ohio that Michigan actually won. Brian said he was Carson Butler minus the attitude and projected a future move to defensive end. Damn right about the attitude – Koger is a 2011 team captain and the Ryan Van Bergen of the offense.

Koger raised the hype meter a bit by scoring that TD versus Wisconsin in his first career catch, and then hauling in a one-handed flying stab in garbage time versus WMU in '09 that was more entertaining than 2lc78nkConer throwing D.O.'s to walk-on receivers with Mets' last names. This year he made another ridiculous catch over the middle versus Western. Koger's production on the field hasn't changed much from sharing time with Webb in 2010 (14 catches for 199 yards and 2 TDs) to being the guy in Borges's offense (17 catches for 195 yards and 3 TDs). Blocking Purdue's DEs (at top of screen, blocking 49) was a lot of fun.

Yearbook quote:

So I headbutted @VanBergen53 without a helmet on and he had his on #BadLifeDecision lol

In parts of the internet where trite metaphors are allowed, the phrase "Mike Martin is a beast!!!" is stated repeatedly, the number of exclamation marks varying from one to however many it takes to break a keyboard depending on how many yards backwards the poor sap charged with blocking him traveled before reestablishing radio contact. In less savage parts of the internet, people made things like this:

martinhulk

all the time. You can even put him in a micro fleece Balaclava and put Greg Robinson behind him (below) and he still looks like he's about to kill a quarterback any second. So of course Michigan put him in a micro fleece Balaclava and put Greg Robinson behind him. He was still the best player on the defense once Brandon Graham left; actually he beat out Graham for Michigan's '09 DL award.

A late-blooming prospect, Martin got his offer in June after Georgia DT Omar Hunter turned Michigan down. He committed immediately, and remained committed when a flood of others, including ND, came in after the coaching change. Martin arrived able to bench press like NFL first rounders, and ESPN said he looks like a crab.*

He immediately entered the DT rotation with Taylor and Johnson, and then spent the rest of his career here as a nose tackle because Michigan didn't have any other guys on the interior who could demand double teams. GERG's great idea to utilize Martin was to make him the centerpiece of 3-man rushes. After his junior year, Martin's personal accomplishments matched those of Alan Branch, with a far worse supporting cast.

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

*I think when people say "crab" what they mean is pad level. From now on when I hear "crab" I will declare that prospect someone Michigan must get. I want an entire DL that consists of nothing but crab people who squat 520 and chase QBs like they're Shawn Crable.

----------------------------------3900110853_658e3dc931

Despite having NFL prospects, despite a new coach and staff again again, he stayed. He said:

"‘What are we going to do as a team? Where are we now? We can either not be all in and do what we need to do, or we can work hard together and make sure we’re successful.’ ”

Hoke was also in the room. He remembered Robinson being upset at the media speculating his departure. He remembered fifth-year senior center David Molk getting up in that same meeting and telling everybody the team was going to stick together. …

“When (Robinson) came to us, he was addressing that we as a group — including him — need to make sure that none of the younger guys have doubtful thoughts or might want to stray away,” Martin said. “We didn't want there to be a repeat of last time there was a transfer of a coach.”

Tomorrow: Those Who Stayed (the Class of '07):

Troy_spread03333molkmoforyan-van-bergen

Upon Further Review 2011: Offense vs Illinois

Upon Further Review 2011: Offense vs Illinois

Submitted by Brian on November 17th, 2011 at 4:36 PM

Thing of the week. Introducing Vampire Denard, as MVictors dubbed him.

vampire-denard

Formation notes: Michigan went heavy shotgun in this game. I've only got nine I-form snaps, two of which came in garbage time. As for how those snaps worked out… more on that later.

Michigan operated with a lot of 2-back sets in this game, from which they deployed a variety of zone runs; when they went three-wide with a TE he was usually aligned as an H-back a la Rodriguez.

Substitution notes: Nothing you don't already know. Line was Lewan/Schofield/Molk/Omameh/Huyge, WR rotation was the same as usual, Denard was knocked out when he hit his hand on a pass-rusher's helmet midway through the third, Toussaint got the bulk of the carries.

Show? Show.

Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR DForm Type Play Player Yards
M20 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 1 0 4 4-3 under Run Triple option dive Toussaint 0
Wow, good thing I didn't see this live: the NT times the first snap of the game. Anyway: Odoms is in the slot to the short side and comes in motion at the snap; he then appears to get in a pitch relationship with Robinson. Denard hands off on a dive to Toussaint; this is a mistake with the MLB headed to the dive. NT shoots past Omameh thanks to the snap timing and has time to come all the way around to tackle at the LOS. Toussaint had no other options because of the LB, who prevents a yard or two of YAC. RPS -1 for snap jump. RUN-: Robinson(2)
M20 2 10 Shotgun twin TE twins 1 2 2 4-3 even Run Zone read dive Toussaint 65
The big run opened by the safety overplaying Robinson. M uses Koger and an H back and shoots him to the backside of the play to get a linebacker crashing down. Denard reads the exchange and hands. There are three second level defenders left with the scrape. One drops into coverage on the snap since the slot blitz left Hemingway open and Michigan threatens passes in these situations. A second tries to blitz the backside belly gap between Omameh and Huyge; Huyge(+1) just manages to get over to slow him down. LB is coming through because he's gotten in too fast but a significant slowdown is enough. The last guy is the free safety, who is still checking Denard by the time Toussaint bursts past the LOS. With Watson(+1) releasing downfield and sealing the cornerback there is nothing but grass in front of Fitz; the other S manages to grab his shirt because all long Toussaint runs this year end with someone grabbing his shirt. Molk(+1) and Schofield(+1) provided the frontside crease; Toussaint(+2) saw it and hit it immediately. RPS +1. I would normally give this more since there are three guys checking Denard but this is a basic spread play Illinois should not get clunked on like this. Picture paged.
RUN+: Molk, Huyge, Toussaint(2), Schofield, Robinson(0.5), Watson RUN-:
O15 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 4-3 even Run Triple option dive Toussaint 6
Denard slightly in front of the TBs, implying inside zone. Hopkins motions into a pitch relationship with Denard on the snap. This pulls both linebackers to the wide side of the field; slot guy comes in to contain and Robinson hands off. Hopkins never even looks at Denard so I don't think this is a read. Schofield(+1) kicks one DT; Molk(+1) another. Omameh(+1) comes off a momentary double to seal the SLB after he stepped the wrong way on the option fake. Lewan(+2) rides a DE five yards downfield. Toussaint hits the crease provided and hops outside... I think he gives up some yards by cutting back behind Lewan instead of just running right for the corner. RPS +1.
RUN+: Lewan(2), Schofield, Molk, Omameh RUN-:
O9 2 4 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run QB draw Robinson 9
Slot LB stays with the slot this time; Illinois makes it up with a safety. They blitz a LB right into the intended hole; Smith(+2) hacks him to the ground as Robinson(+1) darts around him. Molk(+1) seals the playside DT; Schofield(+1) and Koger(+1) get downfield to wall off the last two guys. Lewan(-1) almost gets it all blown up by losing his guy; Robinson(+1) glides past that guy and into the endzone.
RUN+: Robinson(2), Smith(2), Molk, Koger, Schofield RUN-: Lewan
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-0, 13 min 1st Q. Craig James says the last play is 'almost like a designed quarterback run'. O RLY?
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M47 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 4-3 even Run Zone read dive Toussaint 7
Illinois keeps the LB over the slot and sends the guy on the short side; M runs another inside zone. The linebackers slide a little to the backside since Hopkins shooting into that end threatens both a Denard keeper and a Toussaint cutback; the corner has the frontside gap. Or at least he would if Gallon(+1) didn't read his blitz and crack down on him, shoving him past the hole and helping Omameh(+0.5) out on his WLB block. With Molk(+1) and Huyge(+0.5) not doing anything too bad on their blocks Toussaint hits the open hole for a good gain.
RUN+: Gallon, Huyge(0.5), Molk(0.5), Omameh(0.5), Toussaint(0.5) RUN-:
O46 2 3 Shotgun 2back TE 2 1 2 4-3 even Run Inverted veer keeper Robinson 1
Bubble complaint lodged. Anyway, Illinois has a corner on one side of the line with no one in his zone since the TE is offset to the WR side. He can run at this as soon as he sees the RB move away from him. He does. On the playside the optioned DE heads upfield so Robinson keeps. Omameh(+1) kicks the playside LB effectively. Cutback means the corner tackles Robinson from behind; even without that Lewan(-1) lost a downblock and Schofield(-1) couldn't get out on a linebacker. RPS -1. Picture paged.
O45 3 2 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 4-3 even Run QB draw Robinson 1
Twinned WRs stacked over each other; Toussaint motions outside of them. No one really goes with him; Illinois is still playing a full two deep so it's six on six in the box. Illinois charges upfield, opening up a draw; a blitzing LB seems like he's supposed to deal with that possibility. Molk(+1) shoves him past the play. Mercilus beats Huyge(-1) upfield in a flash, which wouldn't normally be a problem but the guy actually catches Robinson from behind just as it looks like he's going to burst into the secondary. He can't tackle; he does redirect Denard into the DT peeling back. Omameh(-0.5) could have done a little better here and still made this a big play. Hopkins(+1) got a good block on the last LB. RPS +1; Michigan had this for big yardage but for Mercilus being great.
RUN+: Molk, Hopkins RUN-: Huyge, Omameh(0.5)
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 10 min 1st Q. Boo punt.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M17 1 10 Ace twin TE 1 2 2 4-3 even Pass Throwback screen Gallon 8
It's back. This one works because there isn't even a corner anywhere near the WR on the catch since Illinois bit hard on the play action and played soft behind it. Koger(-1) whiffs his block, unfortunately, and Lewan(-1) did not adjust to that reality; meanwhile Schofield(-1) also whiffs. Hard on these guys in space but man, I think one block here is a big, big gainer. RPS +2. (CA, 3, screen)
RUN+: Gallon RUN-: Koger, Schofield, Lewan
M25 2 2 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 4-3 even Run QB draw Robinson -2
I think this doesn't go anywhere like where it's supposed to go because Molk(-1) cannot react quickly enough to a blitz to prevent a linebacker from getting in past him. Both RBs are headed to the left side of the line but that's no longer an option. Instead of redirecting Toussaint bangs the blitzing LB. Robinson is now alone in some space with two Illinois players. He hesitates(-2) and tries to go back to the play he had already abandoned. If he hits it up directly he may get a yard or two. Instead he loses four; the refs inexplicably say he lost only two. Refs +1, RPS –1.
RUN-: Molk, Robinson(2)
M23 3 4 Shotgun trips bunch 1 1 3 4-3 under Pass Delayed slant Hemingway 8
Lovely little route combo here as Odoms runs a drag across the field and Koger releases deep as Hemingway just kind of hangs out at the line waiting for everyone to GTFO. Denard stares down the drag, drawing a zoning DE, and then comes off on a wide open slant for the first. (CA, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +1) This was explained in the Football Fundamentals diary.
M31 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 under Run Zone stretch Toussaint 9
Old friend. Illinois is way undershifted on the line and Molk can release immediately; Omameh(+1) cuts the NT to the ground. Molk ends up missing the MLB but only because he's charging straight upfield; he runs right by the play. Schofield(+1) adjusts to chuck the other blitzing LB to the ground; Lewan(+1) kicks the playside DE and Toussaint(+1) zips into a gaping hole. Illini have two safeties back so they combo to hold this down. RPS +1; Illinois reacted poorly to this.
M40 2 1 I-Form 2 1 2 4-3 even Run Power off tackle Toussaint 3
Illinois slants to this play, which makes life difficult. Koger gets good push on a downblock; McColgan(+1) blows up the EMLOS; the two good blocks on this play give Toussaint enough of a lane to slam it up for a first down.
RUN+: McColgan, Koger RUN-:
M43 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 4-3 even Run Zone stretch Toussaint 0
Classic Molk reach(+2) sees the NT buried in the middle of the field. With the slot LB sticking to the WR and a backside blitz from the other corner plus two deep safeties there is now one player with any hope of preventing this from breaking big. Omameh(-2) runs by the guy and he makes the tackle. RPS +1.
M43 2 10 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 Dime even Run Zone read dive Toussaint 25
The WTF Zook play. Illinois wants to defend this by slanting to the right and shooting a linebacker underneath into the belly gap to tackle for loss; Molk(+2) starts releasing left, reads this play that I don't know if he's ever seen before, and rudely ejects the LB from the box. Lewan(+1) and Schofield(+1) crease the backside DT and DE and Toussaint runs fast into a gaping cavern. RPS+2, but sort of a play where I'd like to RPS-2 Zook without giving a plus to anyone else.
RUN+: Molk(3), Schofield, Lewan, Toussaint. RUN-:
O32 1 10 Shotgun 2back TE 2 1 2 4-4 even Run Power off tackle Shaw 5
I think Michigan tips this by lining McColgan to the weak side, but whateva. Illinois blitzes the MLB to no effect. Think that's a Denard blitz. Huyge(+1) does a good job on the playside DT. There's now two Illinois players to the outside and one scraping from the inside. McColgan gets an iffy bump on the outside guys; Schofield(-1) realizes he needs to turn inside to get a scraping LB too late and lets him by. Shaw(+1) makes one hard cut upfield and runs into three arm tackles. He goes down. Did well to get yardage there and if he had a little more room could have creased this for a big gain.
RUN+: Huyge, Shaw RUN-: Schofield
O27 2 5 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run Zone read keeper Robinson 4
The backside DE starts shuffling down the line to defend the belly and Robinson(+1) pulls. This is the right read and it takes a series of unfortunate events to hold this down. Event one: shuffling DE reads the pull and manages to bang Koger upfield. Event two: NT decides before the mesh point is complete that Denard is pulling and chucks his blocker to head backside. (This is why the handoff looked so open.) Event three: Hemingway's block on the slot guy is crappy. He gets upfield and takes Koger's block; Denard has to cut behind all this. Thanks to Lewan(+1) pushing that shuffling DE past the play he does have a cutback lane that he takes to the sticks. Unfortunately he puts the ball on the turf(-3). Addressed in a picture pages.
RUN+: Lewan RUN-: Robinson(2), Hemingway
Drive Notes: Fumble, 7-0, 3 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
O41 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 4-3 even Run Triple option dive Toussaint 6
WLB blitzes right at Molk(+1); Molk picks him up and walls him off. Triple option makes the MLB run upfield. Illinois is filling hard with a safety; Roundtree(+1) cracks down on him. Michigan has adapted to this Illinois strategy well; their WRs are picking up the right guys in the secondary. Change from last week. Anyway, Toussaint is now breaking free. Roundtree's block is tough and his man gets an arm tackle attempt that slows Toussaint; Huyge's man comes off to tackle with the corner. Omameh did a good job on the DT.
RUN+: Molk, Roundtree, Omameh RUN-:
O35 2 4 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run QB iso Robinson 10
Schofield(+2) gets playside of a guy who is playside of him on the snap and buries him. Toussaint(+1) reads the block of Omameh and cuts inside; Robinson follows. Omameh's block is kind of crappy but as the DT is coming off he eats Toussaint. Robinson darts by. Molk(+1) takes out the MLB. Hemingway(-1) basically whiffs his block; Denard(+1) runs through that arm tackle attempt and gets a chunk more than the first.
RUN+: Toussaint, Schofield(2), Robinson, Molk RUN-: Omameh(0.5), Hemingway
O25 1 10 Shotgun twin TE twins 1 2 2 4-3 even Run Zone read dive Toussaint 7
Illinois now scraping down the line with that DE; I think this is actually a bad read by Denard(-1). With Odoms in the slot the corner opens up; Koger is running by the DE's block and should have any scraper DOA. (Hemingway's blocking is really an issue in this game.) Anyway, the DE should snuff this out at the LOS but inexplicably derps just as the guy with the ball runs by him. Toussaint(+1) runs through an arm tackle from that guy. That done he rides behind a great diving block from Schofield(+2) that sees the playside DT deposited five yards downfield. Half of Toussaint's plus is using this block to its fullest. Molk(+0.5) helped with a momentary double and then walled off a linebacker.
RUN+: Toussaint, Schofield(2), Molk(0.5) RUN-: Robinson
O18 2 3 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 4-3 even Run Zone read dive Toussaint 8
MLB blitz; Lewan(+1) shoots him down the LOS and eliminates him. Playside DT is already slanting away; Molk and Schofield help him but not plus. Hopkins(+1) walls off the DE containing Robinson. Slot LB is in no-man's land; Toussaint(+0.5) hits it up for a quality gain. RPS +1.
RUN+: Toussaint(0.5), Hopkins, Lewan RUN-:
O10 1 G Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run Zone read dive Toussaint 2
With Koger pulling around it seems like Denard has a blocker for the scrape LB and is one on one with a safety. Anyway. Handoff is made. Molk(-2) is chucked to the ground by the NT; seems like it should be defensive holding but results based charting. Omameh(+1) is still blocking this guy but he's got a two for one. Schofield(-1) falls down and allows the backside DT to flow behind this business. Toussaint(-1) still has a lane thanks to a good Huyge(+1) kick but hesitates. For what reason I don't know. Angling outside and just slamming for whatever you can get seems like 4; he gets two.
RUN+: Huyge, Omameh RUN-: Molk(2), Schofield, Toussaint
O8 2 G Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run Zone read dive Toussaint 6
Michigan's blocking changes, possibly based on opponent alignment. Lewan(+1) kicks the DE; Koger(+1) dives inside that block and picks off an aggressive LB. Schofield(+1) comes off a double to get another LB and Toussaint dances through the blocks to get down to the four. From there it's push the pile.
RUN+: Lewan, Koger, Toussaint, Schofield RUN-:
O2 3 G Shotgun 2TE 1 2 2 4-3 under Run Speed option Robinson 2
Omameh(+2) slashes the backside DT to the ground and that is all she wrote. Molk(+1) gets the last linebacker with a chance and Robinson(+1) reads the situation for an easy six.
RUN+: Omameh(2), Molk, Robinson RUN-:
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-0, 12 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M41 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run Zone read dive Toussaint 0
Okay, now Illinois has this down. Shuffling DE comes down the line and tackles Toussaint as he cuts behind Omameh. M is running the Odoms end-around fake; without that—with a bubble—it seems like the keeper is open. As it is I don't even know if this is an option. RPS -1.
RUN-: Robinson
M41 2 10 Shotgun twin TE twins 1 2 2 4-3 even Pass PA TE Flat Koger 2
Robinson has to dump it immediately and can only be sure Koger is safe; he hits him; a cover two corner comes up to tackle on the catch. Koger fell down anyway. (CA, 3, protection N/A, RPS -1)
M43 3 8 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 4-3 even Pass Rollout out Hemingway 15
Man, this rollout gets three Illini defenders running at Robinson unfettered but he does have enough time to zing a great pass into a well-covered Hemingway for the first down. Hemingway has to leap for it but it's not particularly tough catch and putting it at the height Robinson does is a good way to keep it from prying hands. (DO, 2, protection 0/2, Toussaint -1, team -1)
O42 1 10 Ace twin TE 1 2 2 4-3 even Pass TE wheel Koger 40
Finally we get a derp easy play based on a team overreacting to something. M runs PA and then fakes the throwback screen. When the corner comes up hard on Gallon, Koger releases downfield and gets crazy wide open a la 2010. Denard has a touchdown... and leaves it short. To be fair, an Illinois blitz did get a guy in on Robinson, forcing him to throw off the back foot. Still... lay it a little further out here, man. (MA, 3, protection ½, team -1, RPS +3)
O2 1 G Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 3-3-5 stack Run Zone read dive Toussaint -3
Bandit type player actually looks like a DL; he charges hard at the LOS when Molk pops that head up. Another LB blitzes behind this. Both these guys get in free. Toussaint has no chance. RPS -2; Michigan dead on snap.
O5 2 G I-Form 2 1 2 4-3 even Run Delay Toussaint -3
Guh, man. Michigan runs a delay on the five after passing like five times in this game. I'd rather just throw here. Illinois blitzes right into it and again gets an unlbocked LB into the backfield. Molk(-2) doubled a DT and was the primary culprit. Still not a fan of the call. RPS -1.
RUN-: Molk(2)
O8 3 G Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Pass Scramble Robinson 7
No one open, Robinson finally just runs and almost gets a huge reward for it; unfortunately he does step OOB early. Review picks up the ref error. (SCR, N/A, protection 2/2)
O1 4 G Shotgun trips 2 3 0 Goal line Run Speed option Robinson -4
I do think the snap takes this from a low chance to zero chance but man... they didn't try to manball once on this series. If this is a good snap Robinson might pitch and then Toussaint either gets crushed by the guy flaring out or dives inside of him and drives the unblocked LB into the endzone. Still... when RR did this he threw two TEs on the line to give his runners more gaps to probe. RPS –1.
RUN-: Molk.
Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 5 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M13 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run QB iso Robinson 0
Illinois shifts as Molk puts his head down, sliding one LB to the line and putting another guy right over the NT. Robinson has few good options once Molk(-1) gets beaten playside. He can wait and get tackled from behind by the shifted LB or not wait and get tackled by the NT. He chooses door #2. RPS -1.
RUN-: Molk
M13 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run Zone stretch Shaw -8
W/ Illlinois in a true even set Molk cannot reach anyone. Omameh(-3) is then tossed to the ground by the playside DT, which blows up the play. Normally you can cut to one side or the other other of that guy; here Omameh fails to exist and Shaw is doomed either way. Shaw(-3) compounds matters by not cutting straight upfield and accepting his loss of a couple. Instead he bounces outside and loses eight.
RUN-: Omameh(3), Shaw(3)
M21 3 18 Shotgun 4-wide 1 0 4 4-3 even Pass Sack -- -6
Zone blitz confuses the M D line; live this looked like Huyge got destroyed but really this was just a complicated protection executed poorly. Huyge sets up to maybe block an OLB who drops off; Omameh eventually peels off Mercilus because a blitzer is coming unblocked up the middle and he does not have faith—or does not know—that Smith is about to slice the guy down. Mercilus annihilates Robinson as he delays because he isn't actually looking at the dude; ball pops up and is either recovered or intercepted. (PR, N/A, protection 0/3, Omameh -1, Huyge -1, Team -1) No replays show the routes, but M got killed on a zone blitz and had no obvious short options. RPS -1.
Drive Notes: Fumble, 14-0, 3 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
O43 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 1 0 4 4-3 even Run Zone read dive Toussaint 7
Starts out with the triple stack; Odoms motions to the other side of the field. Illinois ends up with just six in the box; M runs at it. DE contains; handoff. Huyge(+1) picks up the WLB's blitz and kicks him out. Omameh(+2) gets an excellent driving block on the playside DT and a sizeable hole forms. Molk(-0.5) reads another LB blitz late and can't cut his guy off; he does impede him enough that Toussaint can run through an arm tackle. He cuts past a safety that Odoms isn't blocking in the back but is walling off; the delay allows the guy containing Robinson to come back and tackle from behind.
RUN+: Omameh(2), Huyge, Toussaint RUN-: Molk(0.5)
O36 2 3 I-Form twins 2 1 2 4-3 even Run Iso Toussaint -2
Schofield(-0.5) gives too much ground here, making the angle of attack awkward. Lewan(-1) whiffs on a linebacker as he releases downfield, which spooks Toussaint into bouncing outside despite the fact that he's still got Hopkins and will probably get something by just slamming it up. As it is his bounce is a bad idea since it's into a guy with excellent position.
RUN-: Lewan, Toussaint, Schofield(0.5), Hopkins(0.5)
O38 3 5 Shotgun trips bunch tight 1 1 3 4-3 even Pass Drag Odoms 19
Part II of drag-follow, this time with the drag opening up. Illinois corner starts pointing at the Odoms motion and gets no response; he ends up having to make a hopeless march through traffic and has no shot of catching Odoms as he makes the turn upfield. Pattern got M an easy first down on a dead simple catch. (CA, 3, protection 2/2, RPS+1)
O19 1 10 I-Form twins 2 1 2 4-3 under Run Power off tackle Toussaint -2
Playside end dives under Koger(-1) and gets upfield into Schofield, picking off that puller. Aggressive MLB now shoots into the gap unmolested and Toussaint has nowhere to go. Hopkins had to flare out to block the blitzing slot guy, bubble complaint etc. RPS -1.
RUN-: Koger
O21 2 12 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 Dime even Pass Screen Smith Inc
Smith gets bashed as he tries to get into the pattern and Mercilus gets a free run as Lewan(-1) is suckered by a zone blitz, so Robinson doesn't have time to let this set up or find a receiver. He throws it away. (TA, 0, protection ½, Lewan -1, RPS -1)
O21 3 12 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Pass Rollout fly Odoms Inc
Guhhhhhh. Odoms runs right by a zoning corner and is wide open for a touchdown. Denard throws it on a line and zips it just past the outstretched hands of Odoms. He deflects it but no way. If Odoms isn't 5'8” it's a TD easy. Still, Robinson had this and if he puts a little more arc on it this is an easy six. (IN, 0, protection 1/1, RPS +1)
Drive Notes: Missed FG(39), 14-0, 1 min 2nd Q. Michigan gets the ball back for a final play; Hail Mary not charted.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M42 1 10 Shotgun 2TE twins 1 2 2 4-3 even Run Yakety snap -- -9
On Robinson; snap is perfect.
M33 2 19 Shotgun 2TE twins 1 2 2 4-3 even Run QB power Robinson 11
Koger(+1) drives the playside end inside. The WLB is gone upfield to the other side of the line. Toussaint(+2) gets a crushing block on the MLB that blows him downfield; Hemingway(-2) does nothing with the slot LB. Robinson feints inside as that guy threatens to do bad things upfield; Omameh(+1) pulls into him, at which point Robinson bounces back outside and jets for the corner, stiffarming a safety.
RUN+: Robinson(2), Toussaint(2), Omameh, Koger RUN-: Hemingway(2)
M44 3 8 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Pass Rollout what -- Inc
Rollout just gets Robinson killed when he has to pull up since the edge is not clean, which exposes him to a free run from the backside end. Robinson pulls up and ends up chucking a ball directly at an Illinois DB, which is dropped. I have no idea what he saw; should have thrown it away. Possible this was deflected? These rollouts are more trouble than they're worth. (INX, N/A, protection 0/2, team, RPS -1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 14-0, 10 min 3rd Q. Robinson is done for the day.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M29 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 4-3 even Pass Zone read dive Toussaint 9
Hopkins comes around for the speed option; DE forms up so Gardner hands off. Toussaint(+1) squeezes through the backside hole between the OL and that DE. That's thanks to Schofield(+1) giving him some extra room. Schofield's guy eventually spins off to get an arm tackle attempt in; that slows Toussaint and allows a LB to come from behind. Lewan(+1) did a good job to erase the MLB on the play. RPS +1. Play design gets the gain here by optioning off the DE.
RUN+: Toussaint, Schofield, Lewan RUN-:
M38 2 1 I-Form 2 1 2 4-3 over Run Power off tackle Toussaint 0
Playside DT slants away from the play into Huyge, who is essentially blocked and cannot get out on the MLB. The rest of the play goes as intended but unblocked LB in the hole means a cutback into a mess for no gain because Omameh(-2) got shoved to the ground and a DT is sitting there unblocked. RPS -1.
RUN-: Omameh(2)
M38 3 1 I-Form Big 2 1 2 4-3 under Run Power off tackle Toussaint 0
Eight guys in the box and a safety coming down. M doubles the playside DT; Koger(+1) pops off and gets a driving block on the MLB. Playside DE slides down; Hopkins does kick him but Schofield has to slow up significantly to get through the hole. He ends up blocking the overhang corner as Toussaint(-2) runs into two unblocked players; had to follow Schofield and Koger for the first.
RUN+: Koger RUN-: Toussaint(2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 14-0, 7 min 3rd Q. Runs from the I so far: 6 for -4 yards. Illinois muffs subsquent punt.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M32 1 10 I-Form 2 1 2 4-3 even Run Delay Toussaint 3
Corner blitz overruns the play but the guy recovers well. Toussaint finds considerable running room at first until the DE on the edge gives it up to fill the hole; Toussaint bounces out smartly only for that blitzing corner to tackle from behind. Molk(+0.5) and Schofield(+0.5) got good looking blocks that weren't tested; Lewan couldn't really be blamed since the DE released in a way he had no ability to combat. The corner blitz gets the play. RPS -1.
RUN+: Toussaint, Molk(0.5), Schofield(0.5) RUN-:
M29 2 7 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Pass Rollout hitch Odoms Inc
Edge acquired this time but this is going to be a five yards and immediate tackle sort of pass despite the roll. Ball winged to Tacopants. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)
M29 3 7 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 4-3 even Pass Rollout cross Hemingway 20
I think the snap is too early here; a guy is coming across the formation but ends up not even getting to the center by the snap. He ends up useless when he's supposed to be a drag route underneath, I bet. Gardner gets pressure thanks to a Smith(-1) whiff on the cut but at least he whiffs to the outside and sends Mercilus inside; Gardner manages to run through the tackle attempt. Once he does that he lobs a wobbler to Hemingway that's brought in for a good gain. (CA+, 3, protection ½, Smith -1)
M9 1 G Ace 2TE tight 1 2 2 4-3 even Run Pitch sweep Smith 0
Pitch formation and pitch play picture paged last week, except Hemingway(-2) runs by the playside LB, leaving him to a pulling Molk, who has no chance to get this guy shooting upfield for leverage. Hemingway then whiffs on the safety. So he blocked the wrong guy and didn't even block the guy he was trying to. Smith has to cut back behind Molk because the LB has shot out to the corner; heavily flowing MLB Molk should be blocking and safety Hemingway whiffed on combine to tackle.
RUN-: Hemingway(2)
M9 2 G Shotgun trips 1 1 3 3-3-5 stack Pass Rollout drag Hemingway Inc
Blitz w/ DE flying upfield and LB coming behind it cuts off the roll and forces a quick, bad throw from Gardner. Hemingway can't haul it in; it's three yards if he does. (IN, 1, protection ½, team -1, RPS -1)
M9 3 G Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run QB draw Gardner 5
Give up and kick.
Drive Notes: FG(27), 17-0, 4 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M20 1 10 Shotgun 2TE twins 1 2 2 4-3 even Run Zone read dive Toussaint 2
Playside DE contains; Koger(+1) moves out on the slot LB, who is coming down. That erases him way outside. Omameh does an okay job on the backside DT; Huyge(+1) gets a good block on the MLB, and Toussaint has a huge cutback lane... that he totally misses. Instead he runs to the wrong side of Omameh's block and turns a good gain into a crappy one.
RUN+: Omameh, Koger, Huyge RUN-: Toussaint(2)
M22 2 8 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 4-3 even Run Zone read keeper Gardner 2 (Pen -11)
Backside DE shuffles down and Gardner pulls. Depending on Hopkins's assignment his either fine or insane, because Hopkins slams that DE. Gardner now dealing with a scraping LB and a safety shooting down and has to bounce all the way outside, where he gets a couple yards. Hopkins gets a chop block PF for his block of a technically engaged DE, but I don't really blame him since the whole point of this offense is that guy is not actually blocked. So... someone's wrong. Hopkins or Gardner? I'm guessing Gardner.
RUN-: Gardner(2)
M11 2 19 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel even Run Zone read dive Toussaint 9
Illinois clearly backing out into safe coverage so M runs at a six man box. Molk(+1) and Omameh(+1) blow out the playside DT; Schofield(-1) has a tough time with his guy and he almost blows up the play but the great work on the frontside gives him a crease; Molk pops off on a LB. Toussaint does good work to make one dash cut right upfield after clearing the arm tackle attempt from the backside DE. He's into the secondary, where everybody is. Everybody tackles him.
RUN+: Toussaint, Molk, Omameh RUN-: Schofield
M20 3 10 Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 Okie Run PA Scramble Gardner 4
A blitz off the edge gets two guys in on Gardner almost before the fake mesh point and erase any thought of a throw. Gardner manages to scramble for decent yardage. PA on which you are not blocking a guy on third and ten? Come on. (PR, N/A, protection N/A, RPS -1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 17-7, 13 min 4th Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
O22 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 4-3 even Run Zone stretch Toussaint -5
Yeesh: not only does the slot LB blitz but so does the corner. Both of these guys are on the playside. Slot LB charges upfield; Hopkins(+1) manages to shove him past the play and Toussaint hops past him. With the playside DE sealed and Huyge(+1) out on the playside LB this is opening up but for that blitz; Hemingway(-1) again is watching his guy make a tackle after barely or not touching him; quicker reaction here maybe gets Toussaint a bounce. As it is he almost does before getting chopped down by an ankle tackle. RPS -2.
RUN+: Hopkins, Huyge, Omameh RUN-: Hemingway
O27 2 15 Ace 4-wide tight 1 2 2 4-3 even Pass PA Whatever ??? Inc
Fake toss; WLB is blitzing upfield and is instantly in on Gardner. He chucks an ugly dangerous duck off his back foot that lands yards in front of Hemingway. He might have been open. (IN, 0, protection 0/2, team, RPS -1)
O27 3 15 Shotgun trips 1 1 3 Dime even Pass Dig Odoms 27
Three man rush gives Gardner all day. He gets a crease and steps up into the forever pocket, then hits a wide open Odoms breaking into the endzone. Yeesh, Zook. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +2, though again this is more of an RPS -2 for Illinois than anything else.)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 24-7, 10 min 4th Q. Game is over when M gets the ball back but for posterity...
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
O40 1 10 I-Form twins 2 1 2 4-3 even Run Power off tackle Toussaint 13
This is all RB. Lewan(-1) downblock is beaten by a slant; that guy cuts off the pulling Omameh. Toussaint has no crease and if he's going anywhere it's into the arms of an unblocked LB. Backside blitz should have this dead on the cutback but Illinois has two guys go after Gardner's waggle, allowing Toussaint(+2) to cut back hard and fast into the secondary. No RPSes now but this is not something that should have worked.
RUN+: Toussaint(2) RUN-: Lewan
O27 1 10 I-Form big 2 2 1 4-3 under Run Iso Toussaint 27
Everyone runs right at this and misses; Molk being a culprit. This is just here because Toussaint(+3) did silly things.
RUN+: Toussaint(3) RUN-:
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 31-14, 2 min 4th Q. M gets the ball back and kneels. EOG.

I AM SO CONFLICTED

Illinois gives up 280 yards a game and hasn't had anyone score more than 21 against them save Northwestern; Michigan had more yards in the first half than OSU and PSU did in their entire games against the Illini; they spent most of the second half trying to strangle the game with their backup quarterback; one extra yard and one field goal pushed a little further inside and they put up 41.

Be happy.

BUT THE NO POINTS

Bothersome. Less bothersome than not moving the ball at all, like Iowa and MSU.

I THOUGHT YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO HATE BORGES

I hate the pro-style-with-Denard-and-Zoney-McOffensiveline, not the man. Are you Joe Paterno again?

IT'S NOT LIKE I HAVE ANYTHING BETTER TO DO NOW

Would you like to scream—

CHART

—chart?

[Hover over column headers for explanation of abbreviation. Screens are in parens.]

Opponent DO CA MA IN BR TA BA PR SCR DSR
2009, All Of It 1 7 6(2) 3(1) 4 4 - - ? 44%
Notre Dame 3 25(8) 3(1) 4 1 - 4(1) 2 - 71%
Michigan State 4 14(3) 1 7(1) 1 - - 2 2 68%
Iowa 1 11(3) 2 3(1) 2 - 1 - - 64%
Illinois 4 9(1) 1 4 1 3 1(1) - - 60%
Purdue 2 12(1) 1 3 1 1 1 3 - 68%
WMU '11 - 6(1) 4 3 1 - - - 1 56%
Notre Dame '11 6 7(1) 1 6(1) 5 1 1 1 - 50%
EMU '11 1 10(1) - 5 1 - 1 1 1 59%
SDSU '11 - 10(2) - 4 2 1 - 1 - 53%
Minnesota '11 1 13(3) 1 3 1 - - - - 73%
Northwestern '11 4 12(3) 1 7 2 - - - 1 59%
MSU '11 1 8(1) 4(1) 6 5 - 1 7 1 40%
Purdue '11 1 7(1) - 1 2 1 - 2 - 66%
Iowa '11 2 21 2 7 1 - 3(1) 2 - 69%
Illinois '11 1 4(1) 1 2 - 1(1) - 1 1 66%

Gardner had two CAs, three INs, and a PR.

Denard's DSR is an incredibly small sample size—4/6—so read as little into that as possible. His two bad throws were the "argh, why aren't you six feet tall, Odoms" overthrow and his last insane pass that was so off and wobbly it seems like it must have slipped or been deflected. He did have an impressive throw to Hemingway:

He gets an INC for his passing in this game, but if you look at his season trend he does seem to be getting better. The last three games he's been hovering in the md-60s, which is acceptable. The MSU debacle is a heavily mitigated outlier in a decent Big Ten season.

My problem with Denard's game was not in the air, but on the ground:

Offensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Lewan 8 5 3 Had some mistakes in space.
Barnum - - - DNP
Molk 14 7.5 6.5 Off to roaring start and then hit a wall on the goal line stand.
Omameh 14 7.5 6.5 Had a really good day except when getting tossed to the ground on two plays that lost a ton of yards.
Huyge 7 1 6 Very solid day against Mercilus.
Schofield 11.5 5.5 6 Doing well, solid starter.
Mealer - - - DNP
Watson 1 - 1
Koger 6 2 4 Back to the usual after fun with Purdue DEs.
TOTAL 61.5 28.5 68% A solid B day from the line against a good D.
Backs
Player + - T Notes
Robinson 6.5 8 -1.5 Fumble, bad reads, hesitancy.
Gardner - 2 -2 Blew one read.
Toussaint 18.5 6.5 12 +5 on the meaningless last drive but still a quality day both running and blocking.
Shaw 1 3 -2 Turned in the ultimate Shaw run, at least.
Smith 2 - 2 Supplanted. M may have tipped screen by throwing it to him.
Hopkins 2 0.5 1.5 Marginalized in spread.
Rawls - - - DNP
McColgan - - - DNP
TOTAL 30 20 10 Good day from Toussaint; everyone else bler.
Receivers
Player + - T Notes
Hemingway - 7 -7 Huge, huge problem. I hate having him in the slot.
Odoms - - -  
Gallon 2 - -  
Roundtree 1 - -  
Grady - - - --
Jackson - - -  
Dileo - - - --
TOTAL 3 7 -4 Paging Floridian mountain goats to slot STAT
Metrics
Player + - T Notes
Protection 14 13 52% Team 8, Omameh 1, Toussaint 1, Huyge 1, Lewan 1, Smith 1. NO MORE ROLLOUTS
RPS 18 20 -2 +8 before goal line stand; that was  big chunk and then Borges was just bleeding the game out w/ Gardner mostly. That'll happen.

So… yeah. Denard being negative on the ground is a recipe for bad things happening. A chunk of that is the fumble, but even if you take that out he barely edges above even. He danced too much and gave up yardage, he missed reads on the zone, and he didn't have any runs on which he could truly deploy his speed. That is part of Toussaint's day, obviously, but Denard's trend on the ground is now in the land of cocked eyebrow.

When the playside LB is doing this…

triple-option-2

…and you're handing off you have messed up. That kind of thing is getting distressingly common.

Good god, I've never even seen a relevant wide receiver. What happened?

I don't know, man, but the difference between Hemingway and the little headbutting goats from Florida is stark. Having Hemingway in the slot against an opponent that loves to bring a linebacker off the corner is asking for trouble, and then there were plays that were just bad. Michigan ran that same pitch sweep I picture paged from the Iowa game to Hemingway's side; instead of blocking the playside LB Hemingway ran right to the safety. And then he whiffed. Molk had no shot at cutting off that LB when he ran free and Smith had to cut back into bodies. And then there was this:

fumble-no-bubblefumble-no-bubble-2

I get that you might not be able to seal the guy to the outside but at least shove the dude somewhere. Like… touching him would be a start.

Meanwhile, Michigan's throwing go routes into the endzone at Odoms. I get moving Hemingway around a little bit but let Odoms headbutt people and catch touchdowns from the slot. Needs moar tiny bastards.

Barely relevant WR chart?

And here's the barely relevant WR chart.

[Passes are rated like so: 0 = uncatchable, 1 = very difficult, 2 = moderately difficult, 3 = routine.]

  This Game   Totals
Player 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3
Hemingway - - - 2/2 10 0/2 8/9 18/21
Roundtree - - - - 10 1/5 5/7 9/10
Odoms 2 - - 2/2 4 - - 2/2
Grady - - - - 4 - 0/1 2/2
Gallon -

-

- 1/1 7 - 2/2 21/21
J. Robinson - - - - - - - -
Dileo - - - - - 0/2 2/3 2/2
Jackson - - - - - - 1/1 1/1
                 
Koger - - - 1/1 6 1/3 3/4 10/11
Moore - - - - 2 - 1/1 -
                 
Toussaint - - - - - - - 2/3
Shaw - - - - - - - 1/1
Smith 1 - - - 4 0/2 1/1 7/8
Hopkins - - - - 2 - - 1/1
McColgan - - - - 1 - - 1/1

The only thing to say to this is "whatever."

I thought running Denard on the goal line was instant touchdown, smart guy?

It's a good idea when you're in a power set… maybe not so much when you've only got five blockers against seven guys. When RR wanted to power it into the endzone he would put two TEs on the line without fail, which spread the defense further out—harder to get around the edge—and gave Denard more gaps in which to cut. Heck, Borges did it:

That is tough to stop with everyone spread out and one guy going down enough to give Denard a crease. Going four wide is asking for trouble. Think of it like a power play for the defense, which always has one extra guy to tackle: would you rather be killing a 5 on 4 or 4 on 3? (Note that this equation is reversed when there's a lot of field left and two deep safeties are back: then you've got the power play.)

The snap didn't help either, obviously.

Is it just me or do you also want to cry into the pillow when they come out under center?

It is not just you. We've been tracking the efficacy of Michigan's running game from the shotgun versus under center all year. It's been a blowout in favor of shotgun most weeks, but never so much as it was on Saturday. Michigan ran ten times from under center and collected 39 yards.

It's even worse than that sounds. 40 of those yards—ie, more than all of them—came on the two Toussaint runs after the Illinois onside kick that I only charted to demonstrate how good of a back the kid is. On the first he cut to the backside of the play on a power, which rarely goes well; on the second he had to dodge three tacklers on the backfield on an iso and bounce all the way to the sideline before finding open grass. At no point did Michigan open up the hole it wanted to from the I.

Shotgun runs averaged 5.8 yards a pop. If you take out the 65-yarder they get hacked down to 3.9… so… yeah. Take out the best run of the day and Shotgun Michigan had an average outing against the Illinois defense. Leave it in and it's the best performance of the year by over a half-yard. Under Center Michigan was two garbage time carries away for being negative on the day.

Those are the numbers.

stretch-argh

AAARGH TEN MAN FOOTBALL

Anecdotally, it felt like all of Michigan's under-center runs were doomed from the start and a lot of  Michigan's unsuccessful shotgun runs were close to breaking long. This Toussaint zero-yarder is one easy Omameh block from being a big gain:

Guhhhhhhhhh. Omameh gets even a weak shove on the linebacker he's way playside of and Toussaint is shooting at the safeties with a lead blocker. That's thanks to the Classic Molk Reach Block, something that just about kills any attempt to defend a stretch play and a thing I hope we see more of as the season concludes.

On another Michigan caught a double A gap blitz and ran right by it.

That's playing with fire, though given the different alignments of the QB in stretch versus inside zone alert opponents might pick up on it.

To be fair, it didn't work consistently in this game. There was a nine-yarder, the missed opportunity above, the WTF Shaw play, and a late stretch that lost a chunk of yards because M was in murder-the-clock mode and Illinois blitzed not just the slot but the corner from the playside. The numbers don't suggest using it more. But I'm telling you: with its sparse use so far this season there is a big stretch play in the near future if Michigan just runs it 6-8 more times.

So they ran the stretch. Did that feel like an RR-esque gameplan?

Moreso than any we've seen so far. The TE-as-H-back was straight out of the RR playbook and allowed Koger to attack both the frontside and backside of the line depending on what was called for. The stretch came back, and Michigan used the belly to good effect. They attacked various places along the line and didn't expose themselves to the monotonous repetition of the blitz.

Will we see something similar this weekend? Who knows. Borges changes like the wind.

Is the offensive line actually any good?

Molk is very good, Schofield has been consistently above average, Lewan is solid in the run game and people don't even bother testing him on passes. Huyge… variable. Not good in pass protection. And Omameh clearly has size and strength issues even if he had a good game this time out. Watch Akeem Spence toss him to the ground on the Shaw BOUNCEBOUNCEBOUNCEDERP play:

That is a big no-no and it happened twice. He also biffed that block on the coulda-been stretch.

Despite all that I had him +7.5 on the day, so he's not just a liability. It's just that when he does something wrong it's very wrong.

Heroes?

Toussaint and the interior offensive line.

Goats?

Hemingway's blocking was terrible. Michigan needs more from Denard on the ground if they're going to win the next couple weeks.

What does it mean for Nebraska and beyond?

Do you think this will be the final straw for playing from under center? I don't, either, but there's no way either of the last two games sees play distributions like the Iowa game. Probably. We'll get the usual dosage of POWER that has no POWER and is actually kind of like A GAP ADULT CONTEMPORARY. Hopefully it will be on second and third and one and actually pick up yards, unlike this game.

But anyway: this is a shotgun running team still, and seems to be doing some more shotgun running things. The triple option stuff was clearly a decoy in this game, which is why they dumped it after it worked a couple times. If I know Borges that means an actual triple option is coming. That plus a little more stretch and maybe a return to that sprint counter once the stretch is established could break some stuff open. Look for misdirection against Nebraska—Lavonte David is fast but if you get fast running the wrong way you are in business.

We didn't learn anything about the passing game on Saturday; you might be able to put a grain or two in the "Denard isn't as bad as as it seemed early in the season" pile, but that's it.

Déjà Vu, Then Something Different

Déjà Vu, Then Something Different

Submitted by Brian on October 10th, 2011 at 1:01 PM

10/8/2011 – Michigan 42, Northwestern 24 – 6-0, 2-0 Big Ten

courtney-avery-bubble

Last week's picture pages focused on a two-play sequence in which Stephen Hopkins bulldozed a Minnesota linebacker on an iso, then pretended he was going to do the same on the next drive before running right past him for a long completion up the seam. If Michigan wasn't playing Minnesota the iso would have gone for a few yards and that sequence would have been the Northwestern game exactly: two halves, pretty much the same same thing, radically different results.

Half the first: this old bad thing again

It is not fun to be a Michigan fan seeing your past flash before your eyes when your team is going up against the spread offense. Three hundred yards and twenty-four points in the first half? I have seen this before. It ends with me in the fetal position muttering something about Armanti Edwards or Donovan McNabb or this exact Northwestern team blowing up the recordbook in 2000 in this exact stadium at this exact time. The only intelligible things in the moaning will be a bleated "Herrrrrrmaannnn" or strangled "Englissssssh."

I uncurled long enough at halftime to get a tweet out about how we were essentially getting Rich-Rodded to death. We'd heard about but rarely seen this kind of thing the last three years: Northwestern killed Michigan with bubbles they weren't aligned to defend and expertly used varying tempos to catch Michigan off guard much of the first half. This was the spread 'n' shred at full absorption, the kind of thing you can do when you are totally committed to one style of offense you know well.

That was influenced by these super-interesting Calvin Magee videos* in which he's describing the philosophy of the offense that just led a redshirt freshman everyone recruited as a receiver and his sidekicks to a BCS win over Georgia. I'm an hour and a half in and and it's mostly been Magee describing the various tempos WVU uses and breaking down various bubble screens.

This fresh in my mind, my experience of the first half was thus accompanied by a strong sense of déjà vu as the Wildcats bubbled and tempo-ed and aargh-safetied their way down the field. It was simultaneously the thing we'd always seen and the thing we never got to see. It was yet another reason to shake your fist at the Great Rodriguez Defensive Coaching Malpractice. It was unpleasant.

I envisioned Rodriguez sitting in the same room with Ralph Friedgen. Rodriguez watches the Michigan game; Friedgen watches Maryland. Mike Leach pops his head in from time to time. They are sipping cognac, smoking cigars, and laughing maniacally.

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

Half the second: this old bad thing again, happening to them

devin-tddenard-northwestern

via MGoBlue

It is more fun to be a Michigan fan seeing your past flash before your eyes when the Rodriguez spread is the other team's and they are suddenly incapable of moving the ball while their defense is incapable of anything at all. Insert any of a dozen games over the last three years for comparisons. 2008 Penn State may be the canonical example.

The collapse of the Northwestern offense shouldn't be overstated. They only had four second-half drives that meant anything thanks to the offense executing this second half:

  • 8 play, 80 yard TD
  • 12 play, 80 yard TD
  • 6 play, 47 yard TD
  • 7 play, 28 yard FGA
  • 9 play, 53 yard TD

This was a masterpiece for the time of possession fetishists. Northwestern opportunities were limited. (As an incidental bonus, Michigan also got 28 points while "keeping the Wildcats off the field." Funny how that works.)

In the aftermath you can't poke a newspaper-type person (and even the occasional blogger) not talking up adjustments. I'm not so sure the adjustment were brilliant. They consisted of telling Denard to stop throwing terrible interceptions and throwing Jake Ryan into the slot—hello heebie jeebies—so the Wildcats couldn't bubble Michigan to death. That accomplished, they waited for the turnover flood.

One sack, two of those turnovers, and a quarter-and-a-half later Michigan was already in rush-the-passer, kill-the-clock mode up 11 with nine minutes left. The first turnover should have been a first down conversion that pushed the Wildcats into Michigan territory; the second was an excellent strip by Thomas Gordon on a drive that had moved from around the Northwestern 20 to midfield.

The adjustment was not giving up the thing they shouldn't have been giving up in the first place and not arm punting directly at opponent safeties. Michigan was just better, no brilliance required. The second half bore that out.

The end result: 42 points despite three turnovers, 541 yards, 360 ceded, and a margin of victory over the Wildcats larger than any since 2004. The 2004 team was the last one Michigan team to smoke-and-mirror its way to a Rose Bowl—if that's really what a team one inch away from beating Vince Young really did.

As the weeks pass the questions fade. Michigan seems flatly better than everyone they play, no qualifiers necessary. This week the Spartans will test that theory. They are the mirror; this weekend blows away the smoke.

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

*[It's mostly football stuff but a couple of personality items:

1. Magee's showing a clip of a bubble they ran against Cincinnati and apropos of nothing says "the coach, I can't remember his name, is a really nice guy." Someone in the room says "Dantonio?" and he replies "Yeah, Dantonio. Nice guy." Wonder how Magee feels about him now—easy to think someone's a nice guy when you beat him 38-0.

2. Magee's describing a bubble against Georgia in their Sugar Bowl win as a pre-snap read he let White have because he "wants to let the kid grow." WVU ran two different bubbles, a pre-snap read based on alignment and a post-snap read with a full mesh point and an option afterwards if the QB keeps. By allowing White to make the read before the snap he's giving him more flexibility in the offense.

Rodriguez, in contrast, "isn't going to put his fate in the hands of a 19-year-old kid" and wants his QBs to "read it out" post snap all the time.

This particular bubble looked there pre-snap but wasn't actually because a desperate Georgia defense was plunging the safety down at it; WVU didn't have any PA off the bubble—hard to believe—at the time, something Magee said he regrets and they obviously fixed.]

Non-Bullets Of Inverseness

Yes we have no photos. Road game means we don't have a gallery, at least not yet. Mike DeSimone collects everyone's pictures weekly at his page.

brady-hoke-epic-double-pointBRADY HOKE EPIC DOUBLE POINT OF THE WEEK AWARD. Awarded to Brady Hoke for the following section.

Game theory bits. You will not be surprised that I was very much in favor of the fourth and one in the first half, especially given the state of Michigan's defense at that point and what we'd seen Northwestern do on D in their first few games. The result of that play and their ability to convert on the ensuing drive was the difference between going in down 24-14 and 24-7.

While the dominant second half made that touchdown irrelevant in the long run, the people who doubt the wisdom of that call are the same who ascribe a mystical power to momentum. If you're worried about giving momentum up by not converting you have consider the possibility of acquiring it by getting a touchdown, which in addition to being momentum-tastic is also worth seven points. For me, simple calculation: fourth and one near midfield against a team with an iffy defense and in possession of Denard Robinson. Go.

Also not a surprise: thumbs down to the field-goal attempt. I'd actually started arguing with my friend about it on second down. I was in favor of going on fourth and reasonable; he and others around me were in favor of kicking. My main rationale was that there's a huge difference between 18 and 11 (game over, especially with more time off the clock) and only a meh difference between 11 and 14.

We were having this as a hypothetically kicker-independent argument, but there seemed to be agreement that with Michigan's situation at that spot you go. If you had Nate Kaeding I could see kicking, but Gibbons has never made a field goal of 40 yards, let alone 48, and 4th and 5 is very makeable.

Even with the FG attempt I disagreed with, my "Brady Hoke is awesome on gameday" meter incremented a notch. On twitter someone said he tried to sneak Denard and a WR out with the punt team before the timeout, which if true is awesome. It means the TO was not hesitation but rather a trick being snuffed out and that even when the trick was foiled Hoke still went for it.

EPIC DOUBLE POINT STANDINGS, RETROACTIVELY APPLIED:

2: Denard Robinson (Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan), Brady Hoke (San Diego State, Northwestern)
1: Jordan Kovacs (Western Michigan), David Molk (Minnesota)

Almost went with Hemingway for the ND game since Hemingway didn't throw a bunch of interceptions but "WHAT?!" and "the game is ova" were tiebreakers.

Something I've never screamed before. "NICE BLOCK," I yelped a moment after Michael Shaw blew up Bryce McNaul with a cut block:

Thanks to terrible play by the NW MLB and what looks like a slant by the playside DT all Shaw had to do was meekly shove McNaul for Denard to burst into the secondary, but yelp == shoutout.

aa16[1]

via AnnArbor.com and Mike DeSimone

Hello Mr. Gardner. Gardner had another package in this game. I didn't like this one as much. It seemed too on-the-nose to run that jet sweep to Denard, then come back with a naked boot off it the next time you ran it. Michigan just executed a similar pattern against Minnesota, so NW was prepared. Above is the linebacker Gardner dodged en route to three yards.

And then there was that bit late in the game where Gardner came in. At first he was just handing off/getting the corner from the one, which is not that thrilling, but before that they brought him in to hit Jeremy Jackson on second and ten.

If Gardner can handle it future plays with both guys on the field should be less focused on Denard—maybe make that jet sweep fake and then drop back as per normal. Robinson is an option but not the only one.

Obvious waggle is inverted. On the Watson touchdown, the universe thought "waggle" when Michigan brought in an I-form big on second and goal from the nine. Michigan ran it to the short side of the field, breaking a tendency, and got rewarded for it with an wide open Steve Watson (who Denard nearly missed).

Bipolar OL. Maybe. Michigan couldn't run the ball but it occurred to me there was a strong possibility they got RPSed trying to run the spread against a team that knows it backwards and forwards. There seemed to be a lot of blitzing into places Michigan was trying to run.

So run problems exist. On the other hand, Denard had eons to find people to throw the ball to. Vincent Smith epic blitz pickups had something to do with that, as did Wildcat-fan-infuriating three-man-rushes, but so did the offensive line. So much so that this was a Freudian slip in a thread about the refereeing:

Yost Ghost

Yost Ghost's picture

There was .. (Score:1)

also a rushing the passer on Drob that was never called. He was takled for a loss, in the third I believe, and while on the ground was hit by a second defender and then a third. That third defender had enough time to pull up but didn't. No call.

Borges seemed to agree with this blog's petulant complaining about rollouts, which were reduced. Northwestern got negative pressure on pocket passes and the rollouts that were called saw better protection as those edge blockers went hell-bent for the outside instead of hesitating. Michigan's currently first in sacks allowed [tiresome avalanche of caveats]; so it seems that Michigan's best option when it's going to pass is letting Denard sit back and survey. No one is getting near him.

The arm punting bit. Denard did throw three interceptions. This is less than ideal. One of those was a badly inaccurate deep ball into single-ish coverage; the others were WTFs. But the opponent line that Denard is basically a tailback at quarterback

The long passes were underthrown jump balls that NU didn’t win. I am disappointed (but not surprised) that the secondary was not told to look for the ball once the receiver was 25 yards down the field. Throughout the year, most of Denard Robinson’s long passes have been underthrows that would be INTs if the defender looked for the ball.  … At least 100 of those passing yards were 50/50 jump balls. the pass defense wasn’t great, but the defensive scheme in general limited most of Robinson’s runs and made him throw. … Denard has receivers that are willing to go up for the jump ball and bring it down (e.g., the Notre Dame win), and until teams can stop that, all Denard has to do is limit his wild throws to the opposition and get the ball into the general area of his receivers.

…has started to grate. Even with the turrible interceptions Denard still completed 65% of his passes for nearly 13 YPA. That is enough for him to far exceed Dan Persa's QB rating last game (177 to 131) when Persa completed 73% of his passes like he always does. And, like, 13 YPA. 48 and 57 yard bombs to Hemingway and Roundtree help, but Robinson being Robinson put those guys in single coverage.

And here's the thing. While the jump ball thing is a fair assessment of some of the deep stuff, remove his two longest completions and Denard still averaged 9.7 YPA. Chop out the two successful bombs—but not the INT or the Gallon overthrow—and Denard averaged almost a first down per passing attempt. Northwestern fans cannot talk crap about him in any fashion. Do terribly unfair things to his passing stats and he still pwns you. Teams with secondaries are another matter, but we are seeing Denard get back to being the fairly accurate guy he was last year. 

When allowed to set and step into throws Denard can toss all kinds of stuff. As Borges gets his head around the things he can and cannot do his efficiency should improve, because he's got enough in his legs to compensate for the fact he's not Andrew Luck. Now, about those throws that make all of us want to die…

[Disclaimer: There's a difference between not thinking you can sustain an offense on downfield chucks into double coverage and back-shoulder fades to Jeremy Gallon and thinking a QB averaging 10 YPA even when you mutilate his stats unfairly is not a QB. Thank you for not needing this disclaimer.]

WTFs. I don't know, man. I think one of them was an attempted wheel route that was either badly disrupted or saw the guy fall down; in any case there was a safety right there so that was a very bad read. The other I have no idea. Hypothetically that could have been a massive WR bust, but I doubt it. I will look at these in UFR but I doubt I'll be able to tell much.

Shaw. If Tommy Rees's brain goes "FLOYDFLOYDFLOYDFLOYD" then Michael Shaw's goes "BOUNCEBOUNCEBOUNCEBOUNCE." It worked against a slow-ish Northwestern team cramming the box; kudos to Borges for making that switch.

Roundtree. Welcome back to the offense, kid. Totally thought you were Junior Hemingway on the long one.

Woolfolk. Again pulled for Countess. Obviously injured.

Johnson. Hoo boy, going to come in for some finger-wagging in UFR. His whiff on the Kain Colter TD was spectacular.

The West: open. It was going to be wide open when Nebraska was losing 27-6 to Ohio State, but even with that comeback there the Michigan-Michigan State game has the shape of a division championship game, doesn't it? Whoever wins it will be two clear of their instate rival with the most threatening other teams in the division already carrying losses. The winner of that game could lose once and probably be fine since Iowa is unlikely to sweep M/MSU/Nebraska and Nebraska similarly unlikely to do so against M/MSU/Iowa/PSU/Northwestern.

Michigan State would have a smaller margin of error since their remaining games against the East include an almost certain loss versus Wisconsin; Michigan wins this weekend and they become solid favorites.

Video Bits

As per usual, when I attend road games I usually can't get around to VOAV. Penance:

Postgame interview with the person of particular note:

Here

ST3 goes inside the box score:

After starting slowly in the sack department, we picked up 3 last week and 4 this week, including a decapitation by Kovacs and a Wile E. Coyote style steamrolling by Will Campbell.

After giving up 297 yards in the first half, the defense settled down (and the offense controlled the clock for major stretches) limiting NU to 438 yards total for the game. A tad higher than my goal of 400 per game, but NU does have a good offense, I think everyone would agree. And they would have been held under 400 if the refs called holding penalties. More on that in the ref section, don’t neg me yet.

That 438 includes a 79 yard drive at the end of the game when Michigan was up three scores and just bleeding clock. If anything ever convinces you that advance stats are more real than the regular ones, that should be it. On 11 real drives—about an average game's worth—the Wildcats had 359 yards, which is about average. On the meaningless last one the Wildcats piled it on. Advanced stats will dump that last drive.

Hoke for tomorrow:

6-0 starts for Michigan are rare. 

Most of my life (33 years) has been spent rooting for a Michigan team that would win most Saturdays, live in the national rankings, and stub their toe early in the season.  4-0 or better starts have only occurred 11 times in those 33 seasons:

4-0: '78 '96 '09

5-0: '85 '95 '99 '10

6-0: '86 '97 '06 '11

The starts to the  last three seasons have been a stretch that Michigan fans have not witnessed since the dawn of the Carr era.

A Michigan fan sneaks a UTL coin into the ND lockerroom. Michigan State wallpaper flows like wine: Blue Indy and Monumental provide.

Elsewhere

Media, as in files. Melanie Maxwell's gallery for AnnArbor.com. This thing was epic:

100811_SPT_Umich_vs_NWest_MRM_51_display[1]

We should get a giant inflatable Wolverine head for the players to run out from under, except it should probably be, like, the comic book version, and then to make it even more rad we could shoot off some fireworks during the national anthem and this would make things electric.

Media, as in unwashed blog masses. If you are a true schadenfreude connoisseur, there is a Sippin' on Purple game thread that descends into self-loathing misery. I didn't enjoy it much except for the one post where the person said every time Denard takes off it terrifies them.

TWB on the good and bad. The Hoover Street Rag gets a head start on the MICHIGAN STATE IS THE BEGINNING OR END OF THE WORLD hype, which is deserved. Big House Blog provides cheers and jeers. TTB has bullets. One of them:

Kenny Demens had his best game of the year.  Demens hasn't been as productive this year as I expected, but he's still been a solid player.  This game was his best, though.  He had 10 tackles, including a sack, and did a good job of chasing down wide receivers and crossing routes in space.  A lot of middle linebackers (Obi Ezeh, for example) would have been left in the dust or would have missed the tackle on those smaller players, but Demens is so strong that if he gets his hands on someone, that person is going to the ground.

BWS:

In five of Michigan's nine losses during the 2008 season, the Wolverines were either ahead or tied at the half. But during the subsequent two quarters, Michigan's offense crumbled and the defense wasn't good enough to prop the team up. Throughout the Rodriguez years, exponential in-game decline became a staple of the team's performance

MZone on second half Denard vs first half Denard. MVictors bullets:

Don’t you feel like, for the first time in a long while, that Michigan clearly has the advantage in coordinators?  While there is room for improvement, it’s a blast to see Borges tinker around with Denard and Gardner, and the defense has rattled several quarterbacks this season and has clearly improved.  The team seems to get better as the game goes on.

This Week in Unexpected Sentences from Lake The Posts:

the 'Cats two second half TOs and Denard Robinson’s unstoppable passing prove too much in blowout win.

Nationally, Holly Anderson on the second-half D:

The story of Northwestern being shut out entirely in the second half is one of repeated, eerily consistent, enormous drive-ending plays by the Michigan defense. A sack and an interception killed the Wildcats’ third-quarter drives; a fumble and a sack put paid to their first two fourth-quarter efforts, and the final Northwestern drive barely reached Michigan’s red zone before the clock ran out.

Iowan Adam Jacobi has quick hits on the game at CBS.

Media, as in badge-wearers. Fox Sports's resident officiating expert on the Kovacs/Persa decapitating:

Some face mask penalties an official should never miss. This is not one of them. When I watched this play in real time and even after the first replay, I did not think the face mask was grabbed. So many helmets come off, and often it has nothing to do with the face mask being pulled. In this case, however, the last replay indicated that Kovacs did grab the mask with his left hand. The referee, who is behind the quarterback, would never see this, and he is the only official who is watching the quarterback. It was a foul, but not all fouls can be seen. Coach Fitzgerald was penalized for running out on the field to argue, which is absolutely the correct call. You cannot let a coach come as far onto the field as Fitzgerald did to scream at the officials. It makes no difference whether there is a missed call. That cannot be allowed.

That's on point. It's clear on the replay that Kovacs did grab the facemask but you can't expect the official to see that. (Side note: Adding Pereira to their coverage of NFL and college sports was a brilliant move by FOX. He's great at giving an unvarnished take from the referee's perspective. In that same article he bags on the live-ball unsportsmanlike penalty the NCAA just instituted, but he also gives it to you straight when you are being a stupid fanboy.)

Pete Thamel has yet another Denard piece, but okay:

Koger’s favorite Robinson story is from when he was a freshman, and he bounded up and down outside a team huddle.

“Put me in coach, I run fast,” Robinson said repeatedly.

When Robinson overheard Koger relaying that story Monday, he blushed with embarrassment and tried to plead down some details. But early on, Robinson’s need to slow down was obvious.

Also:

“I was just thinking about it the other day — man, it’s going by too fast for me,” he said with a smile. “I don’t want to leave.”

eeeeeee /passes out

Junior Hemingway had a lime:

"It feels real good," receiver Junior Hemingway said of the six victories.

Let's have a real wool lime.

AnnArbor.com's Kyle Meinke says Michigan answered a lot of questions. True, but I don't think "can Michigan win without Denard Robinson?" was one of them. Tim Rohan on the dichotomy of Denard. Raftery on the receivers. Chengelis on going to EL.

Preview 2011: Five Questions On Offense

Preview 2011: Five Questions On Offense

Submitted by Brian on September 2nd, 2011 at 1:26 PM

Previously: The story, the secondary, the linebackers, the defensive line, the offensive line, the receivers, the running backs, the quarterbacks, special teams, defensive questions.

Is Al Borges going to play to his strengths or Denard's?

Borges has been talking about lots of wide receivers and lots of shotgun since people started him asking the obvious question of the offseason. This has not kept people from asking him "yeah, but how much?" The only thing Borges could have done to get people to cease and desist is present a signed contract guaranteeing a certain number of shotgun snaps and QB Draw Oh Noes.

He didn't quite do that in his interview with the BTN crew when they hit up Ann Arbor, but he came closer than he ever had before:

Point blank: Denard "is the priority." (Readers wishing to contrast with Rich Rodriguez are asked to focus on his obsession with a poorly-run 3-3-5, not his inability to squeeze maximum production out of the ragtag 2008 offense.)

The spring game disputes this version of reality:

They kept running the waggle and Denard could not get anything out of it. There was a guy in his face the whole time; the resulting throws were frequently incomplete due to inaccuracy. In the video above when Hoke references a couple of "drops" the best examples the BTN can dig up are Drew Dileo almost making a spectacular one-handed stab and Darryl Stonum almost making a spectacular sideline lay-out.

Maybe in a tackle football game he can escape that contain guy on the regular, but that seems like a high variance strategy with limited upside. Option 1: beats corner guy, is on corner, has shot at running some probably not immense distance or hitting a crossing route of some variety. Option 2: second and 20. There's a reason the waggle is strictly an occasional changeup—whenever you've got the ball and are spending time with your back to the defense there's a chance something awful is going to happen, like John Navarre getting blown up in that one MSU game.

But after the game Borges said Denard would run more "in the real world" and that's a long time ago now and every indication we've had since is that the offense isn't going to be a whole lot different than it was last year.

so happyI have been arguing for this to the point where I feel bad for annoying people about it. This makes me so happy. It makes me drool baby drool. Look at that.  I am so happy.

ONE: it suggests that Al Borges is awesome. His career has hinted from this as it rambled from scrambling Forcier-a-like Cade McNown to brutal play-action annihilation with Ronnie Brown, Cadillac Williams, and Jason Campbell to a flexible multi-formation West Coast attack featuring Ryan Lindley in any formation you care to name. Now he's got the squarest peg he's ever run across and he's busily shaving his offense to match.

TWO: This is the way to go, especially now. In the NFL, shotgun formations are more efficient:

Shotgun formations are generally more efficient than formations with the quarterback under center.

Over the past three seasons, offenses have averaged 5.9 yards per play from Shotgun, but just 5.1 yards per play with the quarterback under center. This wide split exists even if you analyze the data to try to weed out biases like teams using Shotgun more often on third-and-long, or against prevent defenses in the fourth quarter. Shotgun offense is more efficient if you only look at the first half, on every down, and even if you only look at running back carries rather than passes and scrambles.

In college, running quarterbacks have a real advantage that the Mathlete stumbled across while trying to figure something else out:

image_thumb_108[1]

In Denard's specific case the threat of a run from him is the reason he could surge to 20th in passer efficiency (Chad Henne 2006: 26th) one year after being totally incompetent.

Al Borges is going to do his damndest to keep Denard productive, upright, and beaming.

How much will Borges's lack of familiarity with cheetahs in Porsches strapped to jet engines and dropped out of an airplane hurt the offense?

It is going to hurt somewhat. Pretty much the only thing Rodriguez was consistently awesome at was introducing wrinkles in the run game that consistently produced. Remember that dreamlike first half against Penn State in 2008 when Brandon Minor emerged from nowhere and raged his way down PSU's throat? Rodriguez was fantastic at that stuff.

It petered out in his first two years because he had nothing to go to—no constraints—when the defense started cheating on him. With Robinson the wrinkles not only to the run game but to the defense-crippling QB Draw Oh Noes resulted in either points or plays where the points were there for the taking if only the players could have executed. Maybe the fundamentals were lacking. I tend to think of these things as youth and bloody fate. Either way you could see the outline of something great and tentacled in Michigan's fumbling missteps and blown opportunities. Rodriguez's offense was gorgeous in how it gave defenses awful choices.

Al Borges can do that. In his first year at Auburn, Jason Campbell averaged 10 YPA. Ten! That is a great many yards per attempt.

I'm not sure he can do that with Denard. He'll give Denard a more sophisticated offense that he won't execute as well as Borges needs him to; he'll use Denard's legs but not quite as effectively as Rodriguez would have. These guys are good because they've spent a lot of time specializing in ways that make them successful. There is a necessary lack of efficiency once they get outside their comfort zones.

Is anyone going to help Denard out?

michael-shaw-minnesotaFitzgerald Toussaint 2Michigan running back Vincent Smith (2) plays against Wisconsin in Madison, WI on Saturday, November 14, 2009. (Zachary Meisner/Daily)

I think so. Injuries laid up Shaw and Toussaint last year; both are apparently healthy. It's also possible that Vincent Smith will be closer to his late freshman form now that he's almost two years removed from his ACL tear. Add in a sophomore Hopkins and a couple freshmen and there are a lot more bullets in the chamber than there were last year, when Michigan was down to Smith and a fumble-prone Hopkins most of the season.

Without a similar plague of injuries, whoever emerges from those six guys is going to be better than the one who emerged from two. That's still going to hold true even when the grim reaper scythes one of Shaw or Toussaint down in the Big Ten opener. (Don't even think this isn't happening.) Getting production out of the tailback is key. If they can do that they can approximate last year's offense without putting undue pressure on Denard's bones.

In the passing game the #1 candidate to turn incompletions and short gains into longer ones is Junior Hemingway. He averaged 18.5 yards a catch last year and showed signs of being a guy you can just chuck it to because he'll come down with it. A fully healthy, senior Hemingway is a potential breakout performer.

Is the offensive line cut out for this?

Las year's offensive line was a B+. They didn't get an A because of a zillion Taylor Lewan penalties and mediocre play at right tackle. The interior line was very good. This year everyone is back save Steve Schilling and Perry Dorrestein. Dorrestein was a replacement level starter and Schilling has a touted, capable backup entering his redshirt junior year. Four starters return.

If this is not a great offensive line it will be because of a mismatch between what they were recruited to do and what they've been asked to do. Of late there has been a surge in OL skepticism from the premium practice reports on the message boards; I interpret this as a bunch of power being run not very effectively by a crew that should be running primarily zone.

If "this" is old-school MANBALL running, the answer is no. If it's a hybrid between last year and MANBALL, they'll get by. If they're making people cheat on the zone they will kill.

Well?

denard-it's-a-trapal-borges

Michigan will backslide. But let's set the point from which they will backslide: I believe the advanced metrics. Michigan's field position was terrible, field goals were terrible, turnovers were terrible, and so forth and so on. We would have gotten a better picture of this offense if the field position they  gained was honored either by the special teams or the defense. What happened last year was a lot of excellent play marred by turnovers from a true sophomore first-year starter with the weight of the world on his shoulders.

If Michigan did not have the #2 offense in the country last year, they weren't far off. What we had going last year was both explosive on the ground (5.6 YPC exceeded Carr's best effort this decade by almost a yard and a half) and in the air:

Last season, his first as a full-time starter in former coach Rich Rodriguez's spread offense, Robinson had 16 runs that covered at least 20 yards and seven that exceeded 30 yards. He had at least one 20-yard gain in nine of the Wolverines' 13 games last season. He scored touchdowns on runs of 87, 72, 47, 32 and 32 yards. He also had 12 pass completions of more than 40 yards. That's more than Stanford's Andrew Luck.

Criticisms about Michigan's inability to score points against elite defenses mostly boil down to inopportune turnovers and bad defense. In games against Iowa, Penn State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State, Michigan averaged nearly 440 yards. Because of the defense, special teams, and Denard's high turnover rate they didn't turn those yards into enough points—and they still scored 28 or more in three of those games. The bowl game was the only real clunker.

It was for real and it returns everyone save Steve Schilling, Martell Webb, and Darryl Stonum. Those three guys have upperclass replacements that should do just fine. The main issues with maintaining last year's level of productivity are:

  1. Regression to the mean.
  2. Keeping Denard upright.
  3. Not suffering more than two injuries on the OL or at TE.
  4. Having horrible enough field position to lead the country in long TD drives again.
  5. Not screwing it up.

#2 is the biggest problem. The most efficient version of the offense is also the one most likely to get Denard knocked up out. They'll move away from that when they can, which will mean a hit. This is some version of #4: not screwing it up. I don't think they will. We will get some symbolic MANBALL—the first play against WMU is probably going to be power out of the I-form that goes for three yards—to please the Great Tradition and then Borges will get down to the business of being a coordinator instead of Mike DeBord.

Let's hit shift and comma!

BETTER

  • junior Denard > sophomore Denard
  • Toussaint/Shaw/Smith/Hopkins > younger, more injured versions of same
  • junior Patrick Omameh > sophomore Omameh
  • sophomore Taylor Lewan >> Huyge/Lewan/Penaltyfest
  • Huyge/Schofield > Huyge/Dorrestein

PUSH

  • David Molk == David Molk
  • Junior Hemingway == Junior Hemingway
  • Roundtree/Grady == Roundtree/Grady

WORSE

  • Ricky Barnum < Steve Schilling
  • Kevin Koger/Brandon Moore < Koger/Webb
  • Martavious Odoms < Darryl Stonum
    This is still going to be a very good offense, and this year they should have points to show for it.

Last Year's Stupid Predictions

Michigan 2010 finishes atop the rush YPC chart above without considering the UMass game and by a considerable margin.

Check

Gardner ends up burning his redshirt in very, very frustrating fashion, because…

Check-ish. Michigan is trying to un-burn that redshirt.

Denard is pretty much your starting quarterback all year, but…

    Check.

…Forcier plays in every game, bailing Michigan out in one critical fourth quarter.

Not quite every game but lots of them. Forcier did bail Michigan out against Illinois and came damn near doing so against Iowa.

Vincent Smith gets the most touches amongst the running backs. Second: Shaw. Third: Toussaint. Fourth: Hopkins.

Pretty close. Toussaint's injuries knocked him out.

Robinson is Michigan's leading rusher.

All too easy.

Darryl Stonum does not exactly go Chris Henry on the planet but does greatly increase production via a series of big plays: 30 catches, 650 yards, 6 touchdowns.

Stonum did see his production increase to 633 yards but it took him 49 catches to get there. The Chris Henry lite of the offense was Junior Hemingway, who had 593 yards on 32 catches.

Michigan breaks out the triple option with regularity, using Hopkins as the dive back and Shaw/Smith the pitch guy. They also dig out those WVU formations where the slot motions into the backfield, with Grady the man beneficiary.

Nope.

This Year's Stupid Predictions

  • Yards per carry drop quite a bit but nose above 5.
  • Shaw claims the starting job to himself in week four, gets injured shortly after, and Toussaint takes over. Both are much better than Smith at making extra yards. At the end of the year they've all got somewhere between 400 and 800 yards.
  • Denard rushes for 1200 yards. His interception rate falls significantly but is still not great.
  • Michigan runs more zone blocking than gap blocking. When they do gap block they are a left-handed team thanks to Taylor Lewan.
  • Koger's production is up a bit but total TE catches only go up slightly: 20 last year, 30 this year.
  • Huyge gives way to Schofield mid-year.
  • Michigan finishes around 15th in FEI and other advance metrics. By yardage they drop to about the same spot; scoring offense increases from 25th to match.

Preview 2011: Running Backs

Preview 2011: Running Backs

Submitted by Brian on September 1st, 2011 at 11:25 AM

Previously: The story, the secondary, the linebackers, the defensive line, the offensive line, and receivers.

Rating: 3 of 5.

 
RB Yr. FB Yr.
Mike Shaw Sr. John McColgan Sr.*
Fitzgerald Toussaint So.* Steve Watson Sr.*
Vincent Smith Jr. Joe Kerridge Fr.
Stephen Hopkins So. -- ----
Thomas Rawls Fr. --  
Last year the lack of a go-to tailback led to Denard Robinson running rampant over the Big Ten. That was just fine. It also led to Denard Robinson getting knocked out of virtually every game he played. That was not so good.
This year everyone's back save Teric Jones and his three carries against Bowling Green. Normally that would mean there was some sort of clarity here, what with a whole season of carries with which to distinguish the good from the bad. Unfortunately, there's none of that. Ain't nobody here but us chickens, and their mediocre YPC and tendency to fumble and get injured.
But, hey, Fred Jackson likes it:
For some reason I feel real good about this group of guys.
Is it because he's been high as a kite since 1973? Probably not! But you can't rule it out! FRED JACKSON LOVES EVERYTHING NO PERIOD ON PURPOSE LETS GO WOOOOO

The Tenuous Starter

shaw-uconndenard-shaw-mesh

MICHAEL SHAW
carlos brown fast…
just runs by the SLB
make a decisive cut
burst into the open field
cuts hard backside
…but doesn't fall over if you breathe on him
runs through three tackles
spins for YAC
keeps balance on goal line
always falls funny
just UMass but still
vision can be laughable
complete stop in hole
He's the senior and the guy Brady Hoke said was in the lead little more than a day ago, so Michael Shaw is the man slotted here. His career to date hasn't been thrilling. His 400 yards last year about doubled his output from his freshman and sophomore years, and while his 5.5 YPC seems encouraging that number plummets a full yard when 12 carries for 126 yards against I-AA UMass are excised. He was almost totally removed from the offense after the nonconference season, averaging under four carries per game in the Big Ten.
While injury had a lot to do with marginalization, that would be a lot more encouraging if Shaw hadn't been injured since he showed up. As a freshman he was slowed by a sports hernia (if you don't know what that is, don't ask). His sophomore year was plagued by various minor issues. Last year he spent big chunks of the season on the sideline with a knee problem and when he came back he immediately picked up a concussion-type substance. This spring he had a broken hand.
Junior Hemingway's got him beat, but only just, and while you can believe a wide receiver who will take maybe a couple hard shots per game can suddenly get healthy it's a lot harder to envision a manball back running power 20 times a game suddenly turning into Wolverine. Shaw's position on top of the depth chart will last as long as his joints do. History says that will be about ten carries.
If Shaw does defy history he can be good. He's still got the sprinter's speed that made him a hyped recruit and while he's not Brandon Minor he's got a lot better balance than predecessor Carlos Brown. His vision occasionally fails him spectacularly:
That play is so well blocked that he could stop and still score a touchdown. This is not a diabolical plan on his part. He's always been less than decisive.
He might fit better in a power offense where he's got a predetermined gap he's going to hit, but he's not much for breaking tackles (he's more of a spin-through-it-for-two-more-yards guy) and his speed is better suited for the spread. If he establishes himself as the main guy he'll be a solid B who averages around 5 YPC and brushes up against 1,000 yards.

Co-Starter-Type Guy

fitz-bgsu-2

After two years of injury, redshirt sophomore Fitzgerald Toussaint seemed on his way to Bolivia. Maybe that judgment was a bit hasty, but he was healthy for chunks of last year and couldn't push his way past a thoroughly mediocre group in front of him (he had eight carries), so the internet jumped to conclusions. That's what the internet does.

The internet has recently jumped to another conclusion based on rapturous scrimmage reports and Toussaint getting the Golden Carry in front of the media before they were abruptly ushered out of practice. Everyone else can go to Bolivia: we're going with Fitz.

The thing is this also happened last year. Toussaint redshirted due to a shoulder injury, then started building up the hype train. By the time last fall's preview rolled around, Fred Jackson had called him Mike Hart (except fast) and Chris Perry (except fast) and local insiders were saying he was a "clear #1" in the tailback derby.

Toussaint followed this surge in momentum up by damaging himself. An ankle injury took him down late in last year's fall camp. He was was listed as "out" on the injury report for UConn and Notre Dame and didn't play against UMass. When he got on the field against Bowling Green he ripped off a long run and a touchdown… and then immediately hurt his knee. He was then out for Iowa, MSU, Illinois, and Penn State. To date he's been china in a bull shop.

While the Jackson hype spotlight has moved on to the new freshman hotness, Hoke and Borges have focused on Toussaint. So have the papers, though when they focus on him they are lying like a boss:

"I wasn't as comfortable (last year) as I am in this offense," said Stephen Hopkins (6-0, 228).

Fitzgerald Toussaint, like Hopkins, is a bigger back — stronger and more physical, and this type of offense fits his style.

"I like this offense a little bit better," said Toussaint (5-10, 195). "It's smash-mouth football."

Guh? Toussaint is not large. He is a bigger back in the way Mike Hart is a bigger back: not at all (except fast!). All round knowledge must be reshaped to fit into the new square knowledge holes.

If Toussaint grabs the job he'll be closer to Hart than Shaw or Hopkins. I'm not sure if he is Except Fast—that long run above features BGSU players running him down from behind, but he was the 60M state champ in high school. Hopefully his injury issues were the cause.

Because of those issues, we have little more than the BGSU runs and his high school tape to go on. That tape again:

I like it. It makes me tingly. Tousssaint seems to have that jittery short-range quickness that allows little guys to survive, even thrive, as they pick their way through the chaos.

I'm hoping he emerges as the guy. If he beats out a healthy Shaw he'll be well on his way to translating that tape to college, and I could get used to a jump-cutting Houdini with sprinter's speed. Toussaint is the offense's Roh: the wildcard. Anything from Mike Hart (except crappy :( ) to Mike Hart (except fast!) is possible.

Third Down Back

vincent-smith-wisconsinvincent-smith-td

VINCENT SMITH
gets what you give him…
power TD
backside cut
here's a free touchdown
Y U NO FAST
…and sometimes more
whiffed Purdue tackle
dancing past Huskies
slips through small holes
catchin'
flare screen specialist
LB + Smith = easy slant
srsly about slant
still flare specialist
wheelin'
blockin'
cuts charging slot LB
pops S pretty good

When Al Borges said Michigan had settled on a third down back but he wouldn't tell the public who it was, the existence of the role was far more interesting than who it might be. It was bloody obvious who it was: Vincent Smith. He is 5'6" and the coaches have spent the fall gushing about his toughness. He played as a freshman because he was a better pass blocker than anyone else after Minor got too banged up to stay in if he wasn't running. If you need some one to leak out into the flat or annihilate a blitzer, he's your guy.

That's what they mean, right? They don't mean to run him on third and freaking one over and over again, do they? I'm not thinking about this possibility. Eat it, paranoid fears of irrational coaching decisions past.

Those taken care of, Smith has actually suffered a demotion by taking the new role. He was the only Michigan player to exceed 50% of Denard's carries last year. He didn't tear up the field with them, averaging a meh 4.5 YPC. The clips at right are not exactly "wow" moments. Smith seems to have a good sense for how his blocking will set up; he does not break many tackles or drag carriers for YAC, nor does he juke guys out of their jocks. He's just a guy.

The hope with Smith is that the ACL injury he sustained in the '09 Ohio State game was not entirely healed last year, or at least Smith had not recovered the jitterbug agility that caused me to attribute "top-end shiftiness" to him, channel my inner Fred Jackson by comparing Smith to Hart after he did this…

…and declare "I will not be dissuaded" that he would start next year (check) and be good (eh… not so much). This year will determine whether that was excessive enthusiams based on small sample size or the real, ACL-having Smith.

Smith's lack of rushing yards was one thing, but the weird thing was his lack of involvement in the passing game. After making ten catches in less than a game and a half at the end of his freshman year, he made only 15 during the entirety of 2010. That's quite a bit what less than the "30, 40, even 50" I predicted before the season. This year he'll probably get towards the 30 range; his rushing attempts will dip but not that much unless you believe the two guys in front of him are going to be super mega healthy, which would be a silly thing to believe. Like his Pahokee teammate Odoms, Smith is a useful piece opponents won't lose sleep over.

Backups

stephen-hopkins-blockingstephen-hopkins-fumble

STEPHEN HOPKINS
manback(!)
massive short yardage overreaction
straight upfield
four-yard slam
not Vincent Smith
can move laterally
classic stretch
good agility for beef machine
thump thump
lead block for Denard
kicking out for Denard
great vision here
clubs PSU LB

Now we descend into the woolly depths. Sophomore Stephen Hopkins is a surprise find down here. A big mooseback with no competition on the roster when it comes to being 230 pounds and capable of carrying a football, Hopkins was hailed as the obvious solution to the tailback issue once Hoke installed MANBALL. Hell, I was arguing that even sans manball Hopkins and his blocking heft were the best fit in a Denard-heavy running offense.

So of course Hopkins has been a virtual non-entity this fall. He did show up in a Media Day interview seeming chipper and vowing he hadn't played a snap at fullback; other than that he's been invisible save a couple of "oh and that guy" references from the coaches.

The insider chatter keeps mentioning the doghouse, and eagle-eyed observers of the season preview of Inside Michigan Football caught him doing something called "log rolling," which I thought was when you tried not to fall off a log into a lake. It turns out to also refer to a punitive activity people inflict on football players. Hopkins is doing it. So… yeah, he's in the doghouse. Since that doesn't seem to be a weight problem it's an off-field issue.

Whatever it is it will have to be serious if it's going to knock Hopkins off the field long term. He's the only guy on the roster with a plausible claim to being a short-yardage mauler, and we're all sick of watching Vincent Smith on third and one. He fills a role and fills it well; unless the Rawls hype is something other than the usual Fred Jackson stuff Hopkins will be the guy they call on when they want to MAN some BALLS in a VAN down by the FIRST DOWN MARKER.

I think he'll have a role elsewhere as well. That thump-thump section at right makes a good case that if you're trying to maximize Denard's effectiveness Hopkins is your guy. While Smith is the best pass blocker available, when he impacts a linebacker he's just trying to stall him. He does not do this:

Hopkins creates windows other backs don't. When three yards and a cloud of dust is a win, he'll be in there.

After Hopkins it's freshmen and obscurity. Thanks to the tireless efforts of the Jackson family the least obscure kid down here is Thomas Rawls. He's Mark Ingram except faster… or Kevin Grady not asked to run stretch plays. Even before he was laid up with a shoulder issue in fall camp he'd fallen behind the veterans. Catching up now is going to be difficult. If he's as difficult to tackle as the Jacksons say he could wrest the short yardage job from Hopkins while he's in the doghouse; more realistically he'll get a few carries here and there in preparation for more serious efforts in 2012 and beyond. Fellow freshman Justice Hayes [recruiting profile] looks like he'll redshirt. A move to receiver is a possibility.

Finally, redshirt junior Mike Cox finds himself buried on the depth chart even after the coaching change he celebrated with some unwise tweets. He can be the most physically talented running back on the roster all he wants. He's just about out of chances, and he's nowhere near the field. We'll always have long runs in garbage time, Mike.

Fullback

Rating: 2?

We've seen very little from Michigan fullbacks since the advent of the Rodriguez era. When it came time to bulk up Rodriguez would just run Robinson at the line, bring in Webb and Koger at the same time, or use one of the tailbacks as a lead blocker.

Appearances by John McColgan were infrequent, too infrequent to draw conclusions. He did catch one of those two-yard touchdown passes fullbacks are always reeling in and whack Clayborn with help from Huyge on a third and short against Iowa.

He's a senior and should be all right. Moving Steve Watson to an H-back type spot suggests he won't be anything more than a specialist. I'm betting fullbacks are only more prevalent when Michigan is "imposing its will" on an opponent, and by "imposing its will" I mean "boring the hell out of everyone in the third quarter against a MAC opponent." Here is the mandatory fluff article about his increased role in MANBALL anyway.

Fall Camp 2011: Presser Notes 8-26

Fall Camp 2011: Presser Notes 8-26

Submitted by Heiko on August 26th, 2011 at 7:47 PM

(Newsy bits pulled out for easier digestion. Important stuff underlined for better clarity. [Ed: jk, I guess we're still bolding.])

Brady Hoke

Again, from not my file, but we'll get there soon.

News Bullets:

  • Gallon, Dileo, and Vincent Smith handling returns
  • Odoms is healthy
  • Starting O-line, from left to right: Lewan, Barnum, Molk, Omameh, Huyge
  • Shaw starting RB, Fitz likely back-up (based on mention only)
  • Thomas Gordon likely starting free safety, may play nickel along with Woolfolk
  • Cam Gordon starting at SAM, no starter at WILL yet.
  • Gibbons likely kicking FGs. Wile will kick off, also might punt. 
  • Started prep for Western Michigan two days ago.

Okay, on to the poetry.

General, aka fluff:

Footbawww. "It was really good to get up in the stadium, get up there and kind of go through our process on gameday, so guys get an idea what our expectations of mentally preparing for a game -- how you come out, where you go with your group to warm up -- all those things that we don't think about, but they're all organization things you've got to go through. We got to do that, we got to be in that locker room, go down the tunnel, and get a sense for playing in that great stadium."

Consistency. Toughness. Improving. "This was practice 23. We have six opportunities left. We have to keep grinding and keep improving as a team. There were some good things you saw on both sides of the ball, but at the same time we're a long way from where we need to be as a football team."

We need to stop false-starting. "We had a couple penalties today, two of them were composure and poise penalties. We had a full Big Ten crew working the scrimmage. It was a much lighter scrimmage than it was a week ago. Our composure and our poise -- we had a couple procedure penalties offensively that obviously don't help you. Instead of first and 10, you're first and 15 or you're second and 12 or whatever it might be. Those things bother you."

But we didn't fumble or throw INTs! "We took care of the ball pretty well. When you look at the ball security issues ... that's huge for us. We've been minus 32 in turnover margin the last three years. You can't play football that way."

What is the two deep? "I think there are things that are set. We'll do a good job of diving into the tape tonight and further some evaluations on guys. The corner position is hotly contested. I like how JT and I like how Troy have come back, but Courtney Avery and, oh, daggonit, uh..." Talbott? "Calvin! Yeah ... " No, Talbott. " ... Talbott is doing a good job. I just went blank... I'm good with numbers ... Number 18, Blake Countess is doing a good job. Greg Brown is playing well. There's great competition there."

How is health? "We're pretty good health wise." Nothing major? "No, no ... everybody's a little beat up." Tay Odoms? "He scrimmaged today. In fact, he's gone the last three days. He seems fine."

Return game? "Gallon -- both kickoff and punt -- has done a good job. I think Vince Smith in kickoff returns is a guy that would either be the off returner because he's not afraid to go hit somebody in the face, or return the ball. Dileo -- punt -- when you look at punts, you always want to make sure that guy first and foremost is going to be able to field the ball, and isn't scared. I think between those two right now we'll probably start that way."

How many plays did you run in scrimmage today? "We went 126 plays last week. If my count's right, we'll probably get 73-74 today."

How many 4th and 1s? "One."

Did you do anything situational? "We did black-zone coming out, trying to get a first down so you have room to punt and field position. We didn't put it on the 1-yard line. We had a bunch of shots last week at it, and that was a pretty phsyical deal. You're starting to get to the point where you want to get into game week."

Were you surprised by the transfers? "I think you're always surprised, but guys gotta do what they feel is right for them. This isn't for everybody here, and it never will be. They're great kids, and we wish them the best."

But you recruited them! "That happens."

Resolution at some positions, can you share? "Mike Martin's probably going to be the nose tackle. Denard's going to be the quarterback." Oh. Ha ha. "Koger's going to be the tight end. Molk will be center. Lewan will be the left tackle. Huyge will be the right tackle. Patrick will be the right guard, and Ricky will be the left guard. Running-back wise I think we'll look into his tape a little more, but Shaw's had a pretty good camp. Fitz has had a good camp. Safety-wise, Kovacs will be one of those safeties at our base, and I would think Thomas Gordon will be. Thomas is really having a tremendous camp. He had a tremendous summer, and that's why his camp was so good."

Whoa, wait, where did Gordon come from? You never talk about him. "I just think his whole attitude and how he approached the game of football, workin' out, all those things. He's really taken a conscious effort. He'll play some stuff in our nickel. Him and Troy, depending on what unit we have out, they're both playing some nickel. Thomas is basically a dime in another defense. There is a lot of learning that goes on, and he's done a really good job with it, and I'm proud of where he's at right now."

SAM and WILL: "Cam Gordon, I would think, is going to be the SAM. Jake is obviously pushing in there. Brennan Beyer has done a nice job for us. At the WILL ... I don't know yet. Mike (Jones) and Kenny Demens (?) have done a good job, but at the WILL, Hawthorne missed a couple days because of an ankle, and he's fighting his way back. Mike Jones is playing a little bit of both them, both MIKE and WILL. Freshman Desmond Morgan is a good football player. He's got a slight ham, so we held him out today. I don't know if we have a definite guy."

Kicking and Punting: "There's no doubt Wile will kick off. I think Gibbons has done a nice job. He's been accurate. [Ed-M: whaaah?] We did a lot of kicking again today. He's had a good camp. Wile has had a pretty good camp. I think Wile will probably punt, but Seth is a real good possibility there. I think that will probably be a decision made up Wednesday or Thursday to be honest with you."

But that's really late! "You can do that one late I think." 

"They all have a real great mindset about their craft, and I like that about them. I don't know if I would have said that in the spring as much, but I think they all have worked hard at it. Every night they're evaluating their kicks because we film them a lot from all angles. You get a write-up from them, and some of them are a page, page-and a half about each kick and my plant foot and whatever it might be. I'm pleased that they're into football, let's put it that way."

You're a big tradition guy. What does it mean to be in stadium now? "Yeah it's always special to be in the stadium. We talk about that a lot, when we go up there, the expectation, how you play.  We had one other date that we were going to be there, but we had the bad rain and the storm, so we had to stay indoors. We were at [Big Ten Championship site] Lucas-Oil Stadium indoors for that day because all those scrimmages are gamedays. And the championship is played in Lucas-Oil, so we had to go indoors, we just thought it was lucas-oil." (I think Hoke means that they were playing make-believe.)

Minus blitz, how is the pass rush? "Mike gets some good push. I think he is a guy that is aggressive enough, strong enough, pretty good technician in there to push the pocket. I think Jibreel has shown some life as a pass rusher, and Roh. Ryan's kind of a meat and potatoes guy. He works hard at it, and because of that, he'll have some good things happen."

What's your schedule the next two days? "We're going to have a very good mental practice tomorrow at the stadium. Probably about an hour and fifteen minutes. A lot of kicking, a lot of situational stuff. A lot of mental stuff. We'll do a two-minute at the end. We've started Western -- we started about two days ago on some of the switch personnel things, looking at them on both sides of the ball, and we'll have a couple of periods on Sunday. On Monday, they'll be off of meat," (No meat!?) "but there will be no practice for them. We're getting into the school-time schedule where we'll be off as far as practicing goes."

Fall Camp 2011: Presser Notes 8-25

Fall Camp 2011: Presser Notes 8-25

Submitted by Heiko on August 25th, 2011 at 9:38 PM

Greg Mattison

(First post! So we're trying to use more direct quotes from now on. Let's see how it goes.)

gregmattison.jpg "You like my haircut? Everytime I get a haircut, I say to the guy he's stealin'. He should not be charging me."

General: Seven [practices] left ... Proud of attitude and effort to improve. "Where we are? I don't know ... I see times out there when we're approaching a Michigan defense. And then I don't see it enough times. We gotta see it on a more consistent basis."

Seeing more of what you like? I am seeing more. "What I look at at every single position is technique. I'm seeing great improvement on their technique. I can't accept [excuses like] being a long camp and a lot of hitting, why I get tired and why I don't use my technique. There's going to be games when you're going to be out there more than you have to be. You got to rely on your technique." 

Two-deep: "We have not filled out a two-deep. The scrimmage tomorrow, that will be a big key. We're going into our house -- we're going to the Big House -- and if you can't play like you have to play, then you're telling us a lot." 

How many guys do you feel comfortable playing? For next weekend, "I hope it's 22." Needs to have 22 capable guys, and have seven more days to get 22. Won't ever be a coach who says we lost a game because a guy got injured.

What are your impressions of Troy Woolfolk? "I'm really, really impressed with a senior -- with a new staff, with a new system -- with a guy that comes out every day and says 'I'm going to do what you tell me to do, I'm going to do it how you tell me to do it, and I'm going to try as hard as I can to do it.' ... I think his technique is improving." 

"I don't see any signs of (the ankle injury) at all."

On cornerback competition: "We've got a number of guys still battling for it ... One day you might say, 'this is the guy,' and then he may not be as consistent the next day." Happens to just about everyone. Can't name anyone in particular. Have to wait another week. "They're all in same boat." 

On defensive standouts: "A lot of guys, different days." Mike Martin, Troy ... "probably would leave it right there" ... are guys that have more good days than bad. Needs everyone to be consistent all the time. "Those two guys haven't done it every day, either." 

Marvin Robinson and Jake Ryan ... haven't heard about them in a while: "Marvin was a little bit sick, got through that. He's a guy, two days ago, [had me saying] 'yeah that's how I want you to play.'" Maybe today too, but hasn't watched film. Jake was out with minor injuries for almost a week, but came back yesterday. "(He) right away had a great hit." He knew what to do when new defenses went in, because "when he came back he didn't miss a beat."

"Our SAMs would also be guys that, in our sub or nickel packages, would be pass rushers." As such, Jake is playing SAM and big part of sub/nickel package. 

Josh Furman? He is inconsistent. 

Harder than anticipated to improve defense? "No, it's Michigan." 

Battle at WILL linebacker: "A young man by the name of Desmond Morgan has shown some great signs." He got a little nicked up the past couple of days. They do a thing called "production points" where the coaches gives players points whenever defensive plays are made: interceptions = 10 pts, fumble recoveries = 7. tackles = 3.

"Hawthorne was in 10 plays in the live scrimmage, and I think he had 24 or 25 points. So I'm sitting here thinking, 'Wow, we got a guy right here.' And then he twisted his ankle a little bit, but he'll be back."

"A defensive player can have his technique be perfect every play, but if he doesn't make plays, you're not going to have a great defense."

"Jones showed some great things." Morgan, Hawthorne, and Herron. "All of them had their moments ... Now who's going to put the moments all together? That's what we've got to figure out."

Demens? Demens has been running with ones, had some good hits, but still not completely consistent.

Scrimmage: "I was pleased early." Got to be consistent. "When you're into your 60th or 65th play, what are you going to be like then? And that was what bothered me: I didn't see them stay the way they started out all the way through." 

Is Craig Roh on the D-line? "Craig Roh is a rush. He's a rush outside linebacker for us. [Ed-M: This is a term for a 3/4 OLB with his hand on the ground. #FEARSOFGERG] Craig, Jibreel Black, and even the young kid Frank Clark. All three of those guys are working hard at that position." 

Rapport with Denard: "I got on him today. He didn't play every play of yesterday's practice, and I yelled at him during stretch today: 'Boy, you must be as fresh as a daisy today,' and he gave me something back.' I love him."

The wide receivers are his adopted children. Goes over and talks crap to them every day.

Al Borges

AlBorges.jpg
From not my file.

General: "Our practices are not for the faint of heart. We get after them pretty good." It has been a real real grueling training camp. (We want to) see what they're made of when they're tired." But they're going to taper the intensity as gameday approaches. 

On Denard: "He's picked it up. What we're trying to do is wean him a little bit. From the pass game perspective, we're not giving him so much that he's overwhelmed. It's what I call a starter set."

Right now this "starter set" of plays is about 65-70% of the SDSU playbook. 

"As he feels better about it, we'll feed him a little more, particularly in the pass offense." 

Chris Barnett? Talk to the hand. Or Hoke. 

Starting RB: "Mike Shaw is definitely one of our ... if we played tomorrow, he'd probably be our starting running back." Has had a "heck of a camp, as has Fitz, and Stephen Hopkins, and Vince Brown" -- oopsies -- "Vince Smith." Smith is doing more situational stuff (aka 3rd down) but can still "run from the home position. We're not eliminating him from the fold that way."

There wasn't a lot of hype on Shaw before camp because of his hand injury. "He was not a participant in a big part of spring football ... I didn't really have a good bead on him other than what he had done before." 

Freshmen? "We have two kids that are going to have a great future, but at this point, Justice Hayes is still developmental, and Thomas has had an injury that set him back ... Probably somebody will redshirt, but it's still too early to tell." 

Expect to see just Shaw, Fitz, Hopkins, and Smith at this point. Rawls has missed a couple weeks with the injury, but he's back. 

O-line: "We feel pretty good about our first five guys, first six guys, maybe even seven guys." It's a chemistry position, and likes the way it's shaking out. Funk is a very good technician. "He coaches them to the bone on the steps and all the things you gotta do to play that position, and they've come around." 

Receivers: "I think you're going to see more than Junior and Roy out there." Hemmingway and Roundtree will start outside. Grady has done good job, and so has Gallon. Jeremy Jackson has good range because of his size. "Drew Dileo, he'll go in the middle and catch the ball. He's fearless." Will rotate often to keep players fresh because injuries occur more often when players are tired. WRs run a lot in camp, especially, but the coaches will be backing off on them for this last week.

Right tackle battle: "Mark Huyge has been very consistent. Mike Schofield has developed a great deal since spring - athletic, runs well. There will be a role for him, too." Feels good about the position. Good depth. 

On Barnum: "Ricky is as athletic as anyone on our line. Ricky is a tough guy." Biggest problem is that he's a little underweight, but he's gotten stronger, doesn't get pushed around, and "looks like a back out there sometimes when he runs." 

On scripting opening plays: "In the old days I used to script a lot more." Would script up to 25 plays, but is doing less these days. Never got to the last 10 plays, so stopped scripting so much. Just wants to call what they practice. "If you practiced it, you should do it in the game, otherwise that's bad economy of offense." 

An esteemed Big Ten Network analyst said that Denard is going to be out of the shotgun more. "Dinardo said that, didn't he. Esteemed? Nah ... " JK. "Gerry if you're out there, you know I'm kidding."

"Shotgun is not deuce(?). We're tailoring the gun more to his skills ... We're going to use Denard the way he can best exploit the defense." 

Which of his past offenses will this resemble most? "None." Nucleus of offense still same as when he started in 1986. QB skill set still most important aspect, so gotta tailor to that.

Thoughts on giving Devin PT? "I'm not promising anything on that, and if I was I wouldn't tell you anyway." 

On last weekend's scrimmage: "Physical nature was good on both sides of the ball." Saw ability to create big plays, but too many self-inflicted wounds. We have to remedy that before we play. "When you're transitioning offenses -- and trust me guys I've done this a bunch, OK? -- you can survive if the damage you do (to yourself) is not excruciating ... you're going to have some pain, but if those aren't things that are catastrophic, you can survive."

Ryan Van Bergen

General: "We've had our ups and down like anybody would in camp." Still striving for consistency. "You probably question your commitment if you're not fully into it in practice. We go full pads every day. We bang everyday." 

How much more physical, maybe percentage-wise, are the practices compared with last year? "I don't have the stats in front of me [zing!] but statistically offensive line and defensive line, we bang everyday. We probably have periods of five minutes each. We probably have close to ten periods that are full-go offensive line (vs) defensive line, and that's not counting individual periods where the defensive line is servicing the defensive line and we're going against each other. We're very physical." Very. 

Are you 5-tech or 3-tech? Currently playing both "depending on situations, who we're playing. Right now I've been repping both of them, and I'm comfortable with both of them. I've played both of them in the past. Fortunately I'm 290 lbs now. The last time I played 3 technique I was 260 and I don't think that went too well. I'm much more comfortable with the weight I'm at."

"I prefer 5-technique because I get to go against my bud back there." (Hi Taylor!) "Me and Taylor, we're real competitive. You know, we're good friends -- best buds. We got rings. It's no big deal." 

Does moving people around hurt D-line chemistry it at all? "I can see how that's the perception, but that's not the case at all. The D-line has been together for so long. When you have that many reps with each other, regardless of what positions you're playing, you're still pretty comfortable with each other. Everybody has been together long enough that we feel chemistry regardless of who's in." 

On Frank Clark: He's got raw athleticism. He's a fast guy, did track in high school. Coaches have been impressed.

Did you say something about rings? "No, it's just that me and Taylor, we're best buds. We talk about it sometimes."

Taylor Lewan

Personal record between him and RVB? "It was 2-1 (Lewan) before today, and then we did 1-on-1 drills. He beat me today. But a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while, right? So it's all good." 

How's the O-line chemistry? Good. Lots of guys competing for positions. Mike Schofield especially. "He's everywhere. Right guard, right Tackle, left tackle, he's all over the place. It only makes everybody better. He pushes me, he pushes Huyge, he pushes Patrick Omameh, and that's awesome."

On Chris Bryant: "He's shown a lot of improvement. He got his weight down a lot, he's shown a lot of athleticism for a big guy. As far as playing this year, I'm not positive -- I'm not a coach, but I think he's doing some really good things, and I'm excited about his future."

Is this offense as efficient as last year? "We'll get four yards, and that's successful for us. We're much more into nickel and diming it, just moving the ball up and down the field. Controlling the game. That's a big part of us now, and how Michigan has been for a while."

On Barnum: "He's improved so much. He's playing like a redshirt senior." With Schilling gone, Barnum picked it up. NBD.

Molk's leadership? Quiet, sturdy. Like a rock.

Borges' coaching style: "There will be times in practice where he'll get up in our faces and tell us you need to do this this and this. Other times sit back, he'll get up on the thing where you film practice, what's it called?" The lift. "The lift! Thank god, you guys are smarter than me. He'll get up on the lift, and he'll call the play, read the defense, and he'll be out of it." Doing both is good for the offense.

Fall Camp 2011: Presser Notes 8-23

Fall Camp 2011: Presser Notes 8-23

Submitted by Tim on August 23rd, 2011 at 8:02 PM

IMG_3588.JPG
photo from file

General

Captains will be voted on Sunday.

Practice #20 done. Eleven days out from the first game [Ed-M: eeee foootbawwww!]. Starting scout team work for Western tomorrow. "I thought we moved the dial in every area." Need to improve consistency in competitive drills. Defense good one day, the next day it's the offense. You're neutral as head coach, but you want to see the consistency.

On the scrimmage: "Saturday, I thought we were physical. You could hear football being played." Great competition still going on. Saturday standouts: "I thought Troy played pretty well... Brandon Herron showed some signs that were real positive. Offensively, I thought Fitz [Toussaint] carried the ball well, Vince Smith carried the ball well, Michael Shaw has carried the ball well." It was a 120ish-play scrimmage.

Team needs to work on finishing, but goal line and 2-minutes drill had pretty good tempo and intensity.

On the two deep: Players will become aware of the 2-deep soon, but spots aren't locked in. "You can lose that [spot] pretty easily, because we're playing guys who can represent Michigan... They have to meet the expectations for that position every day."

On expectations: "We have high expectations. I really don't care what anybody else thinks." They want to help the kids succeed, both on and off the field. He doesn't worry about managing expectations. Gauging toughness starts during winter conditioning. Build mental toughness by making sure the locker room is disciplined, "mentally being tough enough to take care of that locker room."

"I think the jury's still out" on whether the team will be able to run the ball and stop the run to his satisfaction. They have some physical practices upcoming, but will taper that back as the season approaches.

Offense

Are they going to play a second QB in early games? "We haven't really talked about that yet." They may get Devin into early games, to get him experience. It also builds morale to get more guys in earlier.

On running back: Right now, Mike Shaw would be the starter. Toussaint has done good things, Hopkins was better today. "Vincent is a guy on third downs who can do an awful lot. He is a tough, tough guy." Shaw: "He's been more consistent on a daily basis. That's what he really shows the most."

Impressive position groups: The first five on the OL have good chemistry, and they play with good tempo.

Wide receivers: "Our wide receivers, I think they keep... [Ed-M: ?] Jeremy Gallon's a guy we think has done a pretty good job."

On OL depth: "Darrell's got six guys right now that can roll through, I think we're building the seventh." You want five top guys, then develop the young guys behind them as fast as you can. "I think Friday we'll get after it pretty good scrimmage-wise," putting together a couple different lineups.

Defense

On Brink: "If we play tomorrow, he'd be the starting 5-technique defensive end." He has great technique, and has to be because he's a little small. "You feel him a lot out on the field."

On the rest of the DL: "Will [Campbell] can play both the three and the 1, Heininger can play all three, and has." You want guys to settle into a comfortable position, but you also want versatility in their positions, so you have flexibility. "Will [Heininger] has the intelligence to do that, because of those different things."

On linebackers: "I think Desmond Morgan's a guy who we think is gonna play football for us. Mike Jones has played a little bit at MIKE and a little bit at WILL. I would say Kenny right now has a pretty solid lock on the MIKE linebacker. Cam is doing a good job. Jake Ryan and Brennen Beyer... All three of those guys are getting snaps." Desmond Morgan was limited today, but will be good. Brandin Hawthorne will be a good player.

On the secondary: "I can tell you that between Troy, JT Floyd, and Courtney Avery, there's tremendous competition." JT and Avery competing at one corner. "I think Thomas Gordan has had a really good camp... I think Kovacs has done a really nice job." He's smart, understands the concepts, can be a QB of the D. Carvin Johnson also good. "Three safeties and three corners right now that we have good competition with." Those guys are all on the field in the dime package.

Special Teams

On Matt Wile: "I think right now we're looking really at between him and Seth punting, and him doing the kickoffs, and between him and Brendan handling the field goals." They'll kick in the stadium Friday, Saturday, and know what they want by Sunday. Brendan Gibbons is kicking the best overall from distance.

On attrition: "It was the right thing for them and what they felt... Sometimes, kids move on for different reasons. Homesick, or whatever it might be." Too early to think if it will affect 2012 recruiting class.

Like Our Running Backs, Only Faster

Like Our Running Backs, Only Faster

Submitted by Seth on August 23rd, 2011 at 2:17 AM

RUNNING-BACKS-thumb-590x409-52096

Photo from Media Day 2010 by Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com.
LtoR: Phil Monolo, Stephen Hopkins, Michael Shaw, Fred Jackson, Fitgerald Toussaint, John McColgan, Vincent Smith. Not pictured: Cox.

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Scheduling note: I'm gonna start separating the Dear Diary and rambling musings/studies/logorrhea stuff into two separate weekly posts. DD is moving to Friday to service your weekend reading demands, with the other stuff (name suggestions?) on Tuesdays. Also I'm going to try to make these ramblings less wordy, starting…uh, next time.

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By now you know the meme: Fred Jackson likes to hyperbolize his running backs. This being the most active position battle, I figured a review of Jackson's current stud stable of studly running studs, half-studs and tail-studs might be in order.

Close your eyes, think of your favorite Michigan back of all time, and then imagine he's FASTER:

Mike Hart/Jamie Morris, Except Faster and More Agile!
Alias: #2 Vincent Smith (Jr/Jr)

Video evidence of reincarnation:

This is not the greatest song in the world; this is just a tribute.

 

 

Omameh and Molk do the hard stuff but watch Smith do a Hart-y shoulder thing then almost get caught by a Hoosier DB.

Stats, Recruiting Profile

Style: Pahokeean scat-back who can catch. Vincent is small, like Hart, and plays with ♥, like Hart, but when Smith tries to burrow the pile forward like Hart he looks like a 6-year-old trying with all his might to batter 10-year-olds, ie he ends up earning more respect than yards. And there's this:

As junior:

Name Ht Wt.
Vincent Smith 5'6 172
Jamie Morris 5'7 179
Michael Hart 5'9* 196

* Yeah right.

Darren Sproles would be more accurate. I just can't think of another jackrabbit, and honestly I think he's more Hart than Jamie, except Hart is more like Jamie than Smith. Before his injury Smith was a vintage spread scatty RB who could also be a devastating receiver in the flat. He can jump out of a run into a big lateral juke and accelerate faster than any other back from a dead stop.

Of all M's tailbacks you want him in there when: It's 3rd and 8, and that nickel back needs some strong incentive to keep him from blitzing or dropping back to help cover the slant.

Is he THE ONE? Smith's nominally the returning starter and also the leader in rushes, career yards, and receptions/rec yards among the RBs. But probably not, since he's leeeetle, and physics. If the Spring Game is any evidence I-form man-ball means sending the RB into the 2nd level with Force, which is acceleration times something Smith lacks. Jackson says he's chosen a 3rd down back and inference leads to obviously Smith, therefore Smith's not the every-down back.

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Mike Hart, Except Faster, and Bigger, and like Chris Perry…
Or Lawrence Ricks. Except Faster.
Alias: #28 Fitzgerald Toussaint (So/Jr)

Video evidence of reincarnation:

 

 

Just a freshman…

 

 

Having trouble with time stamps. There's a good one of Ricks at 38 seconds, but the whole day's basically Ricks rushes broken up by great defense and AC highlights so deal.

FWIW that BG defensive back is actually pretty fast.

Fred Jackson:

"Michael Hart ability with speed. The kind of guy that can do Michael's cuts, he can sit down, sink his hips and explode by making steps. He's faster than Mike and a very, very tough guy, like Mike was. He's very similar to Mike. He's not the type of inside runner Mike was -- but he's going to get there."

Fred Jackson 2:

"He's got great feet, acceleration, strength, power," Jackson said. "I can compare him to somebody -- he's like a fast Chris Perry. He's going to be very good."

Stats, Recruiting Profile

Style: I keep hearing people say Hart and I see it in that Fitz has those same thick, powerful legs that put his center of gravity lower than Pat Massey can bend. But Hart was sly with subtle plants that threw off tackle attempts. Fitz's highlight reel is full of knee-poppers and sideways slides he used to make lower-division Ohio high schoolers look like fools the way Barry Sanders made NFL players look like fools. Makes great moves and great cuts. Vision is unknown – he ran and reacted in high school. Then he goes to plaid.

Of all M's tailbacks you want him in there when: The practice hype (it started swelling last year at this time as well) turns into Fitz Toussaint atop the roster.

Is he THE ONE? The shift to I-formations and man blocking seems to favor him over Brown or Smith, but he's still a guy made for picking through zone, not taking on linebackers with his face.

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Carlos Brown, Except Faster
Alias: #20 Michael Shaw (Sr/Sr)

Video evidence of reincarnation:

 

 

Woop. Gone.

 

 

At 3:38. Warning: Pam Ward at her all excitement- and joy-devouring Pam Wardiest; mute advised. Stats, Recruiting Profile

Style: Glider who runs upright and a little leaned back, waiting to unleash a ridiculous gashing move from which he accelerates like an overused metaphor at the Woodward Dream Cruise. The move can be used to clear traffic or cutback, but with Shaw, like Brown, you only get to press the juke button once, and then you're mashing speed boost. Track star speed plus that move make him murder on bad teams.

Of all M's tailbacks you want him in there when: The playside hole is blocked perfectly and the backside DE for whatever reason (out of position, MACrificial) might not get there in time to fill before it's open green to the end zone.

Is he THE ONE? Probably not, but when you say "change of pace" back, Shaw is exactly what you're talking about. The kill-shot or bust nature of the slasher means they usually come paired with a softening agent: Carlos Brown & Brandon Minor, Tony Boles & Leroy Hoard (& Morris), Butch Woolfolk & Stan Edwards, Woody Allen & Bette Midler. Shaw will push a pile a bit and isn't as shoelace trippy as Brown was, but other guys can do much more with less. My sense is he's best deployed when the defense is way overmatched against Michigan's blocking, either because they're exhausted from chasing Smith/Toussaint and being battered by Hopkins, or because they aren't so good to begin with.

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Jerome Bettis/Leroy Hoard, Except Faster
Alias: #33 Stephen Hopkins (So/So)

Video evidence of reincarnation:

 

 

FF to 1:28 for Hoard. Optional: stand out in the middle of U.S. 23.

 

 

Where's Keith Jackson with his rising"He's a HOSS!" when you need him?

Stats, Recruiting Profile

Style: Hopkinstruck. The Bus also comes to mind.

Of all M's tailbacks you want him in there when:

visual-depiction-goal-line-stand-joke
Chunkums.

Also when the offensive line has done its job, but so has the defense, and that means there's a linebacker headed for the same, only hole the running back can go through, and physics takes over.

Is he THE ONE? Well he might not be available early, and in a crowd that could hurt. Hopkins earned more carries as his freshman season went on. The offense seems to 'liek mudkipz' (I have no idea if I got this reference right). Count me among those holding back on visions of Wheatley (who was a bona fide track star as well as bruiser) or A-Train, who ran high and fell forward for those extra yards. Hoard but faster could be accurate, and not at all a bad thing.

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Tshimanga Biakabutuka & Chris Perry, Except Faster & Stronger 
Alias: #15 Michael Cox (Jr/Sr)

Video evidence of reincarnation:

 

 

You knew this was coming.

 

 

Just flip to a random spot, it's probably Perry running for 8 yards.

 

 

Somebody's been messing with the sliders on Junior Varsity mode.

Stats, Recruiting Profile

Style: Like Shaw/Brown he waits for the opponent to make a mistake he can exploit before hitting the gas pedal (Perry would just go). But Cox is built much thicker than the pure speed guys, and while he can burn in his way, he can also use his thick build for power. His main asset is great balance, which makes him hard to take down without crazy moves, and that's where the Biakabutuka reference comes in. Plus I wanted to link that video of him tearing apart Ohio State again because I was 15 when that happened and not yet sure if it's okay to develop strong feelings for people who dismantle Ohio State. I am pretty sure it's not okay to do so for people who dismantle Delaware State.

Of all M's tailbacks you want him in there when: You're drafting your 3-on-3 basketball team.

Is he THE ONE? Practice word since freshman year is he's the most naturally gifted, but practice hype from teammates et al. is refuted by observer reports mentioning Cox running the wrong direction, and missing his lanes. Latest is he's learning the playbook and might challenge later on. OTOH the guy does have ridiculous balance, and has broken a long one in every game he's appeared. On the other-other hand, most of his career yards were gained with Cone in at QB making DO throws to LaTerryal Savoy and Anthony Reyes. Unless he makes his move this year, this former camp offer from nowhere likely ends up a running back Notorious C.O.N.E.

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Mark Ingram, Except Faster
Alias: #38 Thomas Rawls (Fr/Fr)

Video evidence of reincarnation:

 

 

Look how slow highlight reels were before high school coaches learned about 1.2x playback.

 

 

Hurray for "Higlights!"

Recruiting Profile

Style: He's 5'10 and almost 230 lbs. as a freshman. That means lots of mass relatively low to the ground. He makes that lower, giving Rawls the same P.J. Hill-ishness that makes guys bounce off him.

Of all M's tailbacks you want him in there when: This guy was born to run between the tackles.

Is he THE ONE? Thickly built backs like him tend to be early-playable since their game is pretty straightforward. Watch Ingram's highlight reel – or Clarett's – as underclassmen. Such men are immune to arm tackling. To anyone not from Flint or with the last name Jackson, Rawls is almost certainly a lite version of those guys. How lite will determine how useful he is this year, and down the line.

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Bobby 'Bomber' Nussbaumer, Except Faster
Alias: #5 Justice Hayes (Fr/Fr)

Evidence of reincarnation:

Actually in Nussbaumer's day bloggers got our video feeds from buying packs of chewing gum with cardboard prints of badly-colored newspaper clippings. Then we swished the cards around so it looked like their subjects were moving…

Reverse from 1948 card:

43---BOBBY NUSSSBAUMER
(Bomber)

Halfback – Washington Redskins
Weight—170 lbs.                 Age—24
Height—5'11"       College—Michigan

…Set all-time Redskin pass-catching record, finishing 2nd in league play to Bud Keane of Bears with 47 passes good for 597 yards. Named All-Big Ten halfback in 1945 while starring for Michigan. Is all-around athlete. Plays baseball, basketball and participates in track.

Recruiting Profile

Style: Kind of like a less hyped McGuffie, no? And like McGuff, he hurdled some fool, and lost most of his senior year to injury.

Of all M's tailbacks you want him in there when: It's January 2014, Heisman-winning QB Devin Gardner takes the snap and suddenly Tennesse's defense is through the line and coming toward him – but WAIT, it's a screen to Michigan's playmaker Justice Mercury Willie Mays Hayes. He's loose in the open field with just one man – 7'2 safety JAWS – to beat…Hayes leaps OVER him. Touchdown Michigan! Michigan has put this game out of reach and barring a miracle Gardner and Hayes and the Wolverines are going to be your 2013 season National Champions! Hi dad!

Is he THE ONE? As in can he lead us to victory over the machines and free us from the Matrix? Yes. As in will he claim the job in 2011? No. But next year Shaw's gone and then Smith's gone, and Hayes should be a more filled out sophomore.

The smart money says all of these guys except Hayes will probably touch the ball this year. So if you really want to know what Michigan's backs will look like this year, put this on fast forward..

…or watch lots of games from 1980:

Name Att Net Yd Yd/Att TD Lng
Butch Woolfolk 196 1042 5.3 8 64
Stanley Edwards 192 901 4.7 8 42
Lawrence Ricks 167 850 5.1 6 29
Jerald Ingram 33 145 4.4 2 26
Rich Hewlett 21 73 3.5 0 17
Anthony Carter 10 68 6.8 0 21
Kerry Smith 8 46 5.8 0 16
Tom Hassel 6 17 2.8 0 9
Steve Smith 9 8 0.9 0 9
John Powers 0 7   0 7
John Wangler 32 -122 -3.8 0 6
Total 674 3035 4.5 24 64