The Museday of the Depend Adult Undergarment

The Museday of the Depend Adult Undergarment

Submitted by Seth on December 6th, 2011 at 8:04 AM

  SugarSugar   peach_bowl_logo

Right: One the fruits of this week's "Virginia Tech" googlestalking.

First there was the Rose. At this point let's not pretend like this wasn't a marketing ploy because the entire point of the Rose Bowl was to prove to skeptical Easterners that it really is sunny and 70 in January in Pasadena. But at some point the marketing went from "come see our lovely town" to how much can we annoy you. This is where I come in. I carry a keyboard.

When there were fewer bowls the funny names were okay, especially when they matched the local industry. The Citrus and Tangerine and Orange and Gator screamed Florida. The Peach was very Georgia. The Liberty Bowl at least began in Philly and had a logo of the Liberty Bell. The Refrigerator Bowl was in the Refrigerator Capital of the World—if you knew where that was you could place the bowl game.

With naming rights to bowls now going for less than Pryor made in extra benefits (oh snap!) it is time to revolt.

This should have been done before a company called Mine-hickey Care Bear or some such sullied one "hallowed" bowl with that name, let alone its second (map by Hinton):

Going with this week's theme of whining about things that will never happen, here's my plea to readers and bloggers alike for dealing with the billions of bad names and barnacle-like corporate monikers affixing themselves to your bowls.

Why care? Without getting into the mercenary finances of the bowls I don't care that companies buy naming rights. I care that they are very bad at it, and that this makes the bowlscape very unhelpful. It is not my intent to restrict or confine or dictate language. I'm just tired of having to Google where the Maaco Bowl is.

Just Add 'Bowl': Rose. Orange. Sugar. Fiesta. Cotton (no need to add "classic"). Liberty. Holiday. Alamo. Gator. Sun. Poinsettia. Oh they all have title sponsors who've tried to affix their names but you can pretty safely ignore them, especially since the sponsorships almost never last more than half a decade or so.

Fine with the Sponsor: Fight Hunger (leave out Kraft, it's an image wash anyway). Outback. Y'know what, "Hall of Fame" bowl in its day never really impressed me. On the other hand Outback Steakhouse did the sponsorship thing right by not adding the extra two syllables, allowing the bowl to evoke the Aussie desert instead of a restaurant that doesn't believe anything could be over-salted. I don't know what Tampa, FL, has to do with interior Australia but for some reason this doesn't bother me at all. Board? Hall of Fame or Outback for this one?

Never Change: Peach. Tangerine. Citrus. Copper. The chicken guys are insidious. Watch this logo progression (thanks Chris Creamer):

1970s_Peach_Bowl_logolrg_ChickfilA_Peach_Bowlpeachbowl35175px-ChickFilABowl

It ate the whole peach!

The Tangerine is now called the Champs Sports Bowl and was a zillion other things too but it's easy to remember as the Tangerine because it's still the other Orlando bowl after the Citrus. As for the Citrus itself, until such time as Capital One casts Michigan State in one of their marauding commercials, then has them sack a dorm while Kirk Cousins turns to the camera and says "what's in YOUR wallet?" this should always remain the Citrus. The Copper Bowl is the one that's now in Tempe and used to be in Tucson. It's been the "Insight" for a time but I can't stand .com names.*

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What Was Wrong With the Old One? Pop quiz hot-shot: where was the Aloha Bowl (1982-'00)? Oh you guessed it. It was obvious. So why is it now the Hawai'i Bowl? By the way it was the Pineapple Bowl from '39 to '51, and the Poi Bowl from '35 to '38. Amazing that this bowl's predecessors go all the way back to when the BCS bowls were starting up.

Use the City: Virtually all of the rest of them. There is no way you should be responsible for remembering what bowl is currently the Franklin American Mortgage Company Bowl. Call it Music City or Nashville. The one in Mobile is Mobile. The one in Birmingham is Birmingham. Las Vegas. Detroit (or Motor City). Boise (you can call this one Potato if you like). New Orleans II. New Mexico. Tampa II (the one they're now calling Beef 'O' Babies or something, and is in St. Petersburg. So Tampa. Tampa II. Like the defense). Charlotte (the old Continental Ire, then Mein Kitty Carb Scare Bowl, now Belk). The "Armed Forces" and "Military" Bowls are currently battling it out to see which one can be the most Captain America:

 FileMilitaryBowlFile2007_Armed_Forces_Bowl

…but until that is settled you are not going to remember which one is in Ft. Worth and which one is in D.C. So they're D.C. and Fort Worth ("Dallas III" gets confusing with the Cotton Bowl and Cotton II both in the tri-city area).

Special Cases: The "Pinstripe" Bowl can be that or the Bronx Bowl, or the one they're playing in Yankee Stadium. The bowl that's moved into the old Cotton Bowl is best referred to as Cotton II (not Ticketcity)

If you're in need of non-sullied bowl logos, the following is a collection of such created by bloggers (except the Rose: a Rose is a Rose).

rose-bowlOrangeBowlsugarFiesta5kcx6fynk65qmg23v4ekGatorbowlCottonbowlLibertybowlHolidayBowlSunbowl1990_1-1_Citrus_Bowl_Guidepeach_bowl_logo

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* Unless you guys want to take up a fund to start the MGoBlog.com Bowl. But then we'd just call it the MGoBowl. Man who do we invite? I mean after Slippery Rock.

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UPDATE: Handy Chart.

They Call It You Call It Started Location Payout
Alamo Bowl Alamo 1993 San Antonio, TX $2,250,000
Armed Forces Bowl Fort Worth 2003 University Park, TX $750,000
BBVA Compass Bowl Birmingham 2006 Birmingham, AL $1,000,000
Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl Tampa II 2008 St. Petersburg, FL $1,000,000
Belk Bowl Charlotte 2002 Charlotte, NC $1,000,000
Capital One Bowl Citrus 1946 Orlando, FL $4,250,000
Champs Sports Bowl Tangerine 1990 Orlando, FL $2,125,000
Chick-fil-A Bowl Peach 1968 Atlanta, GA $3,350,000
Cotton Bowl Classic Cotton 1936 Dallas (Arlington), TX $6,750,000
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Boise 1997 Boise, ID $750,000
Fiesta Bowl Fiesta 1971 Glendale, AZ $18,000,000
Gator Bowl Gator 1945 Jacksonville, FL $2,500,000
GoDaddy.com Bowl Mobile 1999 Mobile, AL $750,000
Hawaiʻi Bowl Hawai'i or Aloha 2002 Honolulu, HI $750,000
Holiday Bowl Holiday 1978 San Diego, CA $1,000,000
Independence Bowl Independence 1976 Shreveport, LA $1,100,000
Insight Bowl Copper 1989 Tempe, AZ $1,200,000
Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl San Fran or Fight Hunger 2002 San Francisco, CA $825,000
Liberty Bowl Liberty 1959 Memphis, TN $1,350,000
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl Detroit or Motor City 1997 Detroit, MI $750,000
Maaco Bowl Las Vegas Las Vegas 1992 Las Vegas, NV $1,000,000
Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas Houston 2006 Houston, TX $1,700,000
Military Bowl D.C. 2008 Washington, DC $1,000,000
Music City Bowl Music City or Nashville 1998 Nashville, TN $1,700,000
New Mexico Bowl New Mexico 2006 Albuquerque, NM $750,000
New Orleans Bowl New Orleans 2001 New Orleans, LA $325,000
Orange Bowl Orange 1934 Miami Gardens, FL $18,000,000
Outback Bowl Outback 1986 Tampa, FL $3,400,000
Pinstripe Bowl Bronx 2010 Bronx, NY $2,000,000
Poinsettia Bowl Poinsettia 2005 San Diego, CA $750,000
Rose Bowl Game Rose 1901 Pasadena, CA $18,000,000
Sugar Bowl Sugar 1934 New Orleans, LA $18,000,000
Sun Bowl Sun 1934 El Paso, TX $1,900,000
TicketCity Bowl Cotton II 2010 Dallas, TX $1,200,000

 

Funes the Manballious

Funes the Manballious

Submitted by Seth on December 1st, 2011 at 7:51 AM

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Borges/Borges

"Without effort, he had learned English, French, Portuguese, Latin. I suspect, nevertheless, that he was not very capable of thought. To think is to forget a difference, to generalize, to abstract. In the overly replete world of Funes there were nothing but details, almost contiguous details."

---Jorge Luis Borges, Funes, the Memorious

The above reference is to a short story my 11th grade English teacher (Hi Mrs. Bruton!) would be very proud I remembered. In it a fictional JL Borges speaks of conversations with a young autistic savant named Funes. Funes is so mathematical he invented his own way of counting. Then he dies of congestion of the lungs. So it goes.

The other pic is from an early M presser with Al Borges when he was asked how he would use Denard. There were contiguous details: You gotta use him. We'll think up some ways to utilize those legs. We're going to run our offense. The voice was sharp, mocking.

And through the season the thoughts of the young Borges were realized:

fritz

The Fritz.

denard-jet

Denard Jet.

They were ways, but not the way.

We have all moved on from the last three years. We have t-shirts and memes and a competent defense and a win over Ohio and a new spiteful way of referring to our rival. Yet until Shane Morris is zipping DOs to myriad tight ends in the flat there is going to be a Godwin's Law*-ishness about discussing the offense that best fits the offensive personnel at Michigan because we fired the guys who invented it.

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* Technically it's a corollary.

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First a note that advanced users can skip: I'm using formation because each formation comes with a set of strengths and weaknesses selected by the guy calling the plays. Once the ball is snapped all hell breaks loose and it's way harder to judge decisions or coaching. Of the relevant formations, the I-form is great for running because you get two backs (one usually a lead blocker) immediately moving toward the line of scrimmage and your play's chosen point of attack, but not great for passing because either you're committing two eligible receivers and precious QB time to a run fake, or you're immediately showing pass when the RBs are bailing out of the QB's drop line. The Ace is basically I-form but you swap the FB for a WR or TE. It's a compromise formation, slightly better for passing, not great at either.

Formation Plays YPA
Shotgun 259 7.2
I-Form 58 4.2
Ace 36 11.4*
Denard Jet 12 3.3
Fritz 7 9.3
Pro-Set 2 2.0
The shotgun is the best for passing because the QB starts having completed his drop sequence, but bad for running because the RB is starting way in the backfield with no momentum. Unless you can run from it, lining up in the gun is an invitation for defenses to key on the pass.

The shotgun's fundamental running flaws can be somewhat mitigated by: 1) Zone Blocking, which lets the runner scan for creases like a QB instead of hitting a certain spot ASAP, 2) Backs who can see and accelerate quickly into those gaps, 3) A run-threat QB who can keep the defense from teeing off the tailback, 4) Spreading receivers out so that their defenders are too far away to help the inside running game, and 5) Optioning and the threat thereof, e.g. Rich Rodriguez's zone read.

These are kind of very specialized things to get, and you need like three or four of them just to get shotgun running on par with the natural advantages of I-form running. If you can run out of an I against eight in the box you are indefeatable; if you can run out of a shotgun AND your running QB can pass you are indefeatable. So it's not like the way is the only way. The reason your friendly bloggers are always yelping "shotgun! shotgun!" is because by the above rationale, a team with Molk, Toussaint, and Denard, and which used to have Rodriguez himself coaching them, should be pretty awesome at running from the shotgun, which is still the best passing formation.) /tutorial.

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*Yes, 11.4 YPA from the Ace. Some of the biggest plays were broken this year from that formation, along with a healthy diet of throwback screens to Gallon good for 20 yards a pop (that play also worked just as well out of the I and the Fritz, going to Smith). However you can see this was mostly a change-of-pace formation, and not a base offense. You can mentally put it with Denard Jet if you like. I believe it would not have been as effective if opponents weren't preparing for Denard in the Gun runs.

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Because nobody but a small nest of holdouts is going to say "we really should get a spread guy up in here," the great hope around the Arbor-y parts this year was that Young Borges the Savant would run what worked. Did Older Borges gain this perspective that Young Borges sought? This we must answer the MGoBlog way:

Chart of formation tendencies (pass & run)

Excised: Plays when the score differential >16, 4th quarters, plays inside the M or opponent's 3 yard line.

Opponent Run% Plays Gun I-Form Ace DR Jet Fritz Pro
Western Michigan 55.6% 27 70.4% 22.2% 7.4% - - -
Notre Dame 42.9% 28 75.0% 25.0% - - - -
Eastern Michigan 68.4% 38 84.2% 7.9% 7.9% - - -
San Diego State 62.1% 29 82.8% 13.8% 3.4% - - -
Minnesota 54.5% 22 68.2% 4.5% 9.1% - 18.2% -
Northwestern 55.9% 59 76.3% 10.2% 6.8% 6.8% - -
Michigan State 39.2% 51 88.2% 11.8% - - - -
Purdue 60.0% 50 48.0% 22.0% 18.0% 4.0% 8.0% -
Iowa 56.0% 50 46.0% 28.0% 18.0% 8.0% - -
Illinois 70.0% 50 80.0% 14.0% 6.0% - - -
Nebraska 64.3% 56 83.9% 7.1% 5.4% - - 3.6%
Ohio State 70.2% 47 85.1% 4.3% 6.4% 4.3% - -
Grand Total 58.8% 507 74.0% 14.0% 7.7% 2.4% 1.6% 0.4%

The games where Michigan was 25% I-form were, as predicted, at the beginning of the season. The Fritz took its place against Minnesota and then it was all shotgun ru…

hokelol[9]Okay so it was inexplicably becoming a team that passes 60% of the time in a trash tornado against MSU and then two game-plans which look absolutely identical. Because Purdue's defensive ends were pliant this worked brilliantly against Purdue as Borges called mannish plays to the end. The thing is for some odd reason he didn't stop I-forming the Purdue game away until it was the 4th quarter of the Iowa game.

Here's a weird thing though: when I run the same numbers for '09 and '10, Rich Rod was way I-Form against Iowa as well. 20% I-form in fact, when he was 96% gun all other games combined. He did it both years, and only for Iowa. Is there some Lloyd-Ferentz pact to run substantially more I-forms versus each other every year?

Anyway it went away. Illinois looks like an intermediary step but 7 of the 8 plays from the I were during that interminable 14-point lead after the defense had established itself as 2006-ian. Following that game it almost disappeared from 1st downs (chart in excessive charting area post-jump*). It's the same story just more dramatic. Red Zone is more so, as the I-form was largely abandoned in the red zone during relevant plays of the last three games of the season:

Redzone

So it is at this point where Funes the Manballious makes his impression on the young Borges, or vice versa, and the rational meets the abstract, and the result is sublime.

Denard Scores

Gregory Shamus|Getty

Michigan Museday: What We Asked of Them, Part III

Michigan Museday: What We Asked of Them, Part III

Submitted by Seth on November 24th, 2011 at 6:12 PM

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UM MINN BROWN JUG LT--SmallJBFitz--martinsmaller--Kelvinsmallermichigan-western-michigan-interception-brandon-herronWill-Heininger-celebrates-Michigan-win-over-Notre-Dame6370679027_722582bb70_o

(click the little pics for previous entries)

We're talking about these seniors. And I figure now's as good a time as any to specify exactly what we're thankful for. It's not simply loyalty to an institution: that for its own sake can lead to otherwise good institutions looking the other way when their members do awful things (see: MSU, OSU, PSU, SEC). Except for an extremely abstract and debatable conceptualization of Michigan as a "good guys" program, what our seniors have done by sticking through the "least rewarding Michigan careers in decades" is not a good because of a higher universal cause it served.

Whom it served was themselves (for they did get degrees), their fellow teammates who stayed, and most importantly for our purposes, us. We thank them for this because Michigan football, for reasons we can't quite articulate without sounding at least a little bit foolish, is massively, massively important to us. And while you can debate whether Michigan's football is—relatively or absolutely—a beacon of morality, or whether caring this much about the athletic derring do's of 22-year-olds is a healthy thing, what nobody is debating is that this thing called Michigan could have become something much less than it is today, and that these seniors, these seniors, saved it.

JUNIOR-JUNIOR JUNIOR JR.

Kenneth Earl "Junior" Hemingway had his own personal angry X–hating god. Services were split on him, depending on whether leaping (tremendous) or speed (sub-mendous) was the high school scout's attribute of choice. Part of that disagreement was, as you probably guessed, because of an injury his junior season. At times in his Michigan career Junior was sidelined with a bum shoulder, sometimes mononucleosis, sometimes a pulled hamstring, sometimes a sprained ankle, sometimes a sprained knee, sometimes an "abrasion," and sometimes another bum shoulder. And sometimes…

The mono struck shortly after that tantalizing catch in '08. Hemingway wasn't allowed to go near his teammates, except his roommate Mike Williams, and even then they had to label their videogame controllers so as not to spread the Junior juju. That was Junior's low point, but the resulting medical redshirt did give him this season (he played as a depth guy in '07).

A National Honor Society member and academic achievement winner, as the story goes (I haven't confirmed this but it matches most students' experiences including mine) he earned enough credits before the end of the '08 season to qualify for "junior standing," meaning Junior spent three years (academically, chronologically, redshirt-) as a junior, which I find fascinating. Possessed of remarkable body control, when Hemingway was available he was Michigan's go-to possession receiver who got tons of YAC, some inexplicable, some simply inconceivable:

Here's 50 more of it. Sometimes he out-leapt guys too.

Yearbook quote:

"Junior always wants to make big plays," [Denard] Robinson said. "I think he's one of the best receivers in the country."

THE REACH

The same year Hemingway arrived, Michigan's offense transitioned to a zone running scheme. While MANBALL likes centers with enough mass to move massive nose tackles out of the hole, the perfect zone center is a guy who's really strong but also really nimble and really smart. A zone center who can get playside of a DT who's lined up playside of him, and seal that guy off—this is called a reach block—has pretty much created an instant 6 yards for the offense. It is also the hardest block for any offensive lineman to make. I learned this in October of 2008, when somebody first said that David Molk is the best offensive player on the team.6244778962_e6c2c2960e

I have a thing for short people. My wife is a generous 5'0. Desmond Howard made me a Michigan fan. When Mike Hart graduated I never thought another player could ever displace him as all-time favorite Wolverine. Because football is weird the guy who would was already on the sidelines.

At one point Molk was a 5'6, 175-lb high school freshman. Then he discovered the weight room and it was love at first lift. Whereas most of Michigan's on-hand interior guys were a terrible fit for Rich Rodriguez's spread 'n shred and Barwis's legendary weight room, this hit-loving, high-motor, high-attitude, high-academic, low-elevation lineman was born for it.

In 2008 Molk never missed a single offensive play. The ones where he reached some dude and Brandon Minor went RAGE-ing into the secondary were interspersed with plays where the whittle guy got tossed into the backfield by various Ogbu monsters and inadvertently kicking Sheridan in the dong (3&O). Molk responded by getting stronger, winning the Iron Wolverine Award as the best-conditioned Michigan lineman. By his sophomore year he was a Lombardi and Rimington candidate and Michigan's offense came alive. Then he broke a foot against EMU, Moosman moved to center, and the offense wasn't as good. Molk came back from the foot (and surgery) for the first series against Penn State and Michigan went 70 yards in the opening scoring drive that consisted almost entirely of 7-yard gains. During that drive Molk tore a ligament in his knee, God canceled Christmas, and all things that ever happened again were the bad things.

DavidMolk-thumb-537x383-14579

If you are concerned that Molk's impending graduation means the dong-punching will start again, this is not an unreasonable fear.

Molk did return in '10—said he: "It's been almost eleven months. Somebody is going to pay."—and was a Rimington finalist and First Team All Big Ten, leading the way for Denard Robinson's Heisman candidate year despite more injuries that Molk refused to talk about. 03333molkmofoThe one we knew knocked him out in the 3rd play versus Iowa. That hurt the rest of the year, though you'd never hear that from Molk. Here's a snapshot of Molk from half-time of the Wisconsin game:

David Molk decided to pull himself up, and he wanted his teammates to come up with him. They were slumped in their stalls, ready to concede, when he stood up and marched around the room. "Hey, Michigan! Are we fucking scared? Because we're playing like it! We are all on our fucking heels. ALL OF US!

"We gotta drop our fucking nuts and MAN UP! We are NOT lying down! We are NOT scared! We will fight! We will FIGHT! And we will GET AFTER THEM!

"Everyone STAND UP! Stretch out! I mean it!"

"Get up!" Van Bergen said, and they did.

"We're gonna hit 'em in the fucking face," Molk said, "and they'll cry! They'll bleed! NOW LET'S GO!"

The offence went out and played the best half against the Badgers that Wisconsin saw all year. But the defense played the worst and Michigan lost 45-28.

Then Rodriguez was fired. Despite the accolades Molk's stature and the NFL's style didn't make a jump to the pro's likely. Not that Molk ever thought about it…

Yearbook quote:

"A lot of thigns had to happen to go 3-9—not because of the coach, but because of the transition. Every guy who had a chance to leave, left. That tore our team apart. We lost starters, backups, you name it. There were only half of us left.

"We're a family. I love all you guys. No matter how much shit I give you—I love you. If we don't' stay together, we'll never make it. This program stays together. I don't want to see anyone leaving. If you do, we'll be crappy for three more years.

"I love Coad Rod. He did everything he could. But now it rests on us."

JUST JUMP ALREADY … (after the jump)

Michigan Museday: What We Asked of Them, Part II

Michigan Museday: What We Asked of Them, Part II

Submitted by Seth on November 23rd, 2011 at 7:27 PM

Seniors2

(Compare to yesterday's)

We're talking about these seniors. Yesterday was the Class of '08 plus Grady, players who either committed to Rodriguez or at least had time to break their commitments to Michigan after the coaching change. The level of commitment to the program by those guys may have been unparalleled in Michigan history but for some of their fellow seniors from the Class of 2007. This is Part II. It's running long still and I have family in town so the last four guys will have to be a Part III. Anyway, 2007…

This class committed to 'Lloyd Carr's University of Michigan' while the Wolverines were riding the best defense in the country to 3 points shy of playing for the National Championship. Their careers began by watching, redshirted, as The Horror obliterated every shred of mysticism the program had, yet they stuck by Michigan. They stuck by Michigan when their coaches and systems were replaced, stuck by Michigan when outsiders trashed the program and some insiders were actively trying to sabotage it. TroyFS_spreadThey stuck by coaches they hadn't chosen, right up until those coaches were shown the door. Then they met with their teammates, told their story, and made sure that when another staff came through the door, everyone would stick by Michigan.

It would be ungracious to not mention some of their classmates who stayed until their health or eligibility ran out: Renaldo Sagesse, a bonhomme Quebecois and one-time 20-year-old freshman. Secret weapon Martell Webb, a blocking tight end whose great contributions to the 2010 offense went largely unremarked. Michael Williams, maligned in these parts as only bad underclassman free safeties can be, who had to choose between the best years of his football career or having a functional brain the rest of his life. And James Rogers, a positional vagabond who finally went wherever he was very needed indeed. And some of the walk-ons like John McColgan, Jered van Slyke, Zac Johnson, Tony Anderson, and Tom Pomarico who've had to earn their roster spots (and some, scholarships) from three different coaching staffs. What follows is the story of eight more guys like that, again in reverse order of length of commitment.

Will Heininger had a story written about him once in the Daily by the inimitable Joe Stapleton. Will was the kid in Michigan gear who became the teenager who knew more about the team than the lifer sitting next to him, who gave up a likely career in baseball to walk on to the team of his dreams. As a redshirt sophomore Heininger beat out scholarship upperclassmen like Sagesse, Greg Banks and Adam Patterson to be the first guy rotated in when Brandon Graham needed a breather. With Graham in the NFL a 2010 starter role was in his grasp, but then Heininger tore his ACL at Will-Heininger-celebrates-Michigan-win-over-Notre-Damethe end of Spring Practice. He missed the first 10 games of the season, but fought his way back on the field, albeit not yet fully back to form, for Wisconsin, Ohio State and the Gator Bowl.

Finally this year he earned the starting job as a utility D-lineman, over guys like Jibreel Black and Will Campbell. While doing all of this Heininger has been named Academic All-Big Ten every year since '08, and has been nominated for his third Big Ten Distinguished Scholar award.

Yearbook quote:

My Papi, my grandpa, I like to have his initials or his name somewhere on me. My tape, or something like that, during the game to see him always …He’s from Columbus, but he’s a Michigan Man. He’s the biggest influence on my life and he passed just this past spring. He’s a great man and he’s part of the reason I’m here. He’s always out there watching over me."

Brandon Herron was a project*, a Texas (same school as TWoolf) kid built like a safety who played defensive end and projected as a linebacker. He had good athleticism but was consistently listed as something less than 200 which your mind rounds up to 200. He was raaaaaaww.

Raw freshman often don't pan out even if they're recruited by a competent coach for their specific skillset, and that coach then spends five years drilling a single system into the player's brain. Herron didn't have that; he was an afterthought classmate-of-a-recruit body in a "NEED LINEBACKERS LIKE WHOA" class, given first to Steve Szabo (the guy who spoke for Carr's assistants in Bacon's book, now EMU's LB coach), then to Jay Hopson, then to GERG. Other than an ankle injury for a chunk of 2010 his career was a lot of "contributed on special teams."

Herron kept plugging along, even when his name hardly popped up in the carousel of "Which weakside linebacker impressed Mattison today?" of this spring and fall camps. Then on Opening Day 2011 versus WMU he was suddenly the starter and proceeded to score two defensive michigan-western-michigan-interception-brandon-herrontouchdowns (one a 94-yarder that still stands as the most significant swing play of the year). Those won him a handful of national defensive player of the week awards (UFR of that game revealed his play was really just so-so). Then he got hurt, and fell back behind Hawthorne and the freshmen and his career was cooked.

Yearbook quote:

When Kovacs sacked the quarterback and he forced the fumble, we saw something in the offense so we made a check, which led me to come off the edge so it opened up a hole for him to get through. [The WMU OT] he kind of brushed me off, he didn't really pick me up, so I just kind of went around, then [breaks into huge smile] heard the hit, saw the hit, and saw the ball on the ground, and just went out there, and next thing you know I'm running towards the end zone.

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*BONUS: The 'Hello:' article for Herron has their coach saying "I really believe he's a safety" about Woolfolk, and Brian saying 'not gonna happen.' Oh hindsight.

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When Coaching Change the First happened, the offensive line was already one year into transitioning from MANBALL blocking to zone. The tackles were senior All Everything Jake Long, Mt. Alex Mitchell, and a collection of eh man-blocking dudes. Redshirting was one of just two offensive linemen (and sole tackle) recruited in 2007, and to be honest the 6'6, 280, two-star obscure guy whose next-best offer was Ball State was more someone's backup plan than a system diamond they'd uncovered. So came Mark Huyge. Brian wrote him off as "Unlikely to ever play extensively."

Huyge sat buried on the depth chart for a few years grumbling about having to puke for Barwis instead of down pizzas for Gittleson, took some padded LSA classes with some of the other dissatisfied guys from the Lloyd era, then watched as successive RR jackrabbits displaced him and finally transferred to Someplace Division II College Tech. That's about how it went, right Mark?

huyge-3huyge-2

Well, he could have done that. What Huyge did do was embrace the new staff, lifted his way up the depth chart against established returning starters, and by 2009 was Schofielding his way into whatever guard or tackle spot was available. Every time a guy like Omameh in '09, Lewan in '10, or Schofield in '11 emerged to finally displace him, Huyge would manage to either fend that guy off, or pop up to displace the next weakest starter on the line. He's never been spectacular, never threw a safety into Manti Te'o or killed a donkey, but he's been in there, so much now that when he's not there next year I'll be sorely missing him.

Had Michigan got any of the OTs they were after in '07, Huyge would probably have committed to Brady Hoke, then seen Hoke take off for SD State. So when the old staff entered and the new one came, Huyge 'grabbed the helm' as a senior leader and oft team spokesman. He was one of the seniors who organized the "don't anybody bail on your teammates" meetings that held the players together in the darkest days of last winter.

Oh and somewhere in there Huyge also managed to take a thousand bus trips up to North Campus; he'll walk in December with a degree in naval architecture and marine engineering, then marry his fiancee. That must have been what the second star from Scout was for.

Yearbook quote:

“It’s going to be a big one next week. We’ll enjoy this one for a little bit, but the whole emphasis starting back in January when these guys got here was this game coming up. We’ll be really looking forward to them, and we’ll be ready.”

(caption) Michigan OL Mark Huyge (72) savors the Wolverines comeback victory. Michigan rallied from a 24-7 deficit with 28-fourth quarter points to beat their rivals 35-31. ***  With a miraculous second half, junior quarterback Denard Robinson led the Michigan Wolverines to a comeback victory 35-31 over the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame in the first-ever night game at Michigan Stadium. The Wolverines battled back from a 24-7 deficit to eventually beat the Irish for the third year in a row.  at Michigan Stadium  in Ann Arbor. Photos taken on Saturday, September 10, 2011. ( John T. Greilick / The Detroit News )

Tomorrow (sorry it's taking so long): Hemingway, Molk, Watson, Woolfolk, RVB.

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.

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*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

Michigan Museday is The Wall

Michigan Museday is The Wall

Submitted by Seth on November 15th, 2011 at 8:01 AM

thewall

Is this not what you expected to see?

This week we're going to try a little Michigan defense word association. I'm gonna say a phrase and you're going to tell me what you're feeling. All set? Okay:

3rd and 1.

Lemme guess: Confidence? Excitement? Anticipation? A center sent airborne by a launching pad named Martin?

It is that, and Jake Ryan coming off the edge and hugging an opponent's running back two yards behind the line of scrimmage. And then it is RVB past his block and stopping all forward progress even though the running back's legs are still moving because Ron Zook told him if he keeps his legs moving he can still get yards. Then Heininger arrives. And maybe Demens, or a safety, and you know for certain it is over. You know, and now you've seen it so many times you think you knew before they even snapped it...

Dragging behind you the silent reproach of a million tear-stained eyes…
You slip out of your depth and out of your mind

Now I want you to wind your mind back one year. Michigan has just defeated Purdue to get to 7-3, with Wisconsin and Ohio State left. Same exercise, I say a phrase, you tell me what your last year brain is feeling:

3rd and 1

Did you ever wonder why we had to run for shelter?

This isn't just your imagination. Opponents' conversion rates on 3rd- or 4th and 1 the last three years, from UFR-ed drives plus Illinois (:

  • 2009: 15 for 22 (68.18%)
  • 2010: 20 for 28 (71.43%)
  • 2011: 12 for 27 (44.44%)

 

What shall we use to fill the empty spaces?

The going rate, I've been told, is generally 70% so those '09 and '10 numbers are average-ish (help me Enjoy Life, Mathlete, anyone?) That would make sense with RVB and Martin around both years. But it makes this year's numbers just ridiculous. Michigan has stopped their opponent at least once in every game this year. Two of those conversions were from Illinois's 4th quarter drive down 24-7 versus Brink-Campbell-Heininger-Roh-Beyer.

This isn't a competition thing either. When I excise MAC and FCS opponents from all years it's far more pronounced:

  • 2009: 10 for 13 (76.92%)
  • 2010: 15 for 19 (78.95%)
  • 2011: 6 for 19 (31.58%)

Notre Dame (0 for 3), Michigan State (0 for 1), and Iowa (0 for 3) have extant pound-it tailbacks and went a combined zero first downs in 7 attempts. Thanks to the above-mentioned Letterman-collaring 4th quarter TD drive, the Illinois game actually made Michigan look worse than they've been since conference play started.

Of all the things Michigan's defense is doing this year, the sudden and remarkable ability to stone teams on 3rd and 1 is likely a big part of the Mattison Renaissance. Using a simple calculator (made for the NFL), that stop in the 1st quarter was worth 1.56 expected points for Michigan, the equivalent of a 28-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage.

Who could be responsible for such success? Just a couple bricks in the wall:

martinandrvb Don't leave me now. How could you go, when you you know how I need you
to beat to a pulp on a Saturday night? (Greilick|DetNews)

We are really, really going to miss these guys next year, period. But a glance at this year's UFR tracking of 3rd and 1, 4th and 1, and anything from the Michigan 1—not a perfect resource but useful for this at least—and it shows those aren't the only two guys showing up in the hole this year:

Player + -
Kenny Demens and Ryan Van Bergen each 6.5 0
Craig Roh 6 0
Jake Ryan 5.5 0
Mike Martin 4.5 0
Campbell, Hawthorne, and Heininger each 2.5 0
Jordan Kovacs 2 0
Black, Morgan & Woolfolk each 1 0
Herron 0 -1
Total 41.5 -3
RPS 7 -2
Refs   -2

Just a little pinprick. There'll be no more aaaaaah!

Keep in mind these sorts of plays make guys look overly good in UFR since giving up one yard generally doesn't net anybody minuses while stuffing them in the backfield causes them to rain. The encouraging part is many of these plus-earning pieces will be around next year. Even Campbell (who moved the line backwards in two chances v. Illinois) looks to be an asset in short situations. The cleanup crew of Demens, Roh, and Ryan should be around next year. Of course with freshmen etc. at the big man DL positions next year I expect this outrageous level of success to regress. /shakes Brian's fist at Rodriguez DT recruiting.

After the jump you can re-live the UFRs of every 3rd/4th and short since 2009 (but not Illinois 2011 'cause it's not written yet). This is entirely optional since hopefully my point has been made already. By clicking you agree to absolve MGoBlog of all damages from GERG-related coronary failures, strokes, embolisms, and/or cranial pyrotechnics. Fortunately, I have become comfortably numb.


Michigan Museday Won't Be That Guy

Michigan Museday Won't Be That Guy

Submitted by Seth on November 8th, 2011 at 8:54 AM

20530-vendetta-guy-fawkes-rose-movie-movies

Remember, remember the 5th of November, the Manball treason and plot. 
There's plenty good reason the Manball treason should ever be forgot.

After Notre Dame I picked out Michigan's success running the ball under center versus from a shotgun and found this:

Formation   Plays RUSH YPA
I-Form 3 2.33
Ace 0 n/a
Shotgun 14 7.46
Total 17 6.06

That was two games into the Hoke and Borges era, in the first test against a real defense. A bit of clunky install was expected, if not such a big disparity. Also expected was that Borges would at that point still be running a lot of Power before inevitably realizing the personnel is simply way better at spreading and shredding. Runs from under center that weren't in goal line or 3rd/4th down situations were throwaway downs to set up passes. Runs from the shotgun were mostly 1st down plays that went for good yardage.GunpowderPlot Once Michigan got down early it was sit back and turn on the guns.

Here's Michigan's ninth game of the season:

Formation   Plays RUSH YPA
I-Form 8 3.25
Ace 6 2.67
Shotgun 10 6.20
Total 24 4.33

… and this is why a small subclass of zealots are already plotting to blow up Parliament.

The ace (not THAT Ace) stuff was 1/3 Denard Jet, which Iowa was prepared for. I tried breaking this up further into inside and outside runs but the sample sizes got too small to be of any use. However I did find that the seven inside runs from the I-form got about 3.57 YPA. It was around 5 until Iowa started sending the linebackers right into it, which counts as making them cheat and opening up some of those passes . So let's not pretend Borges doesn't have an offense when he ISOs with Hopkins followed by Toussaint; it's just nowhere near as good as putting Denard in the gun.

A Desperate Disease Requires a Dangerous Remedy

AlBorges_Preview-thumb-590x391-86513
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com

I believe King Hoke and Lord Borgesham are aware of this, which is why the 4th quarter comeback was 27 plays of straight shotgun.* Why they are doing it is the real question. If they're really Manball zealots like Hoke's been telling us they are since he got here, this year doesn't end well.

There's an alternative hypothesis, one I've been hesitant to mention because it would need a mountain more data than we have (or a quote from the coaches…Heiko?).civil2

Perhaps each week the offense game plan is preparing the defense?

If there has been any rhyme or reason to the Borges grab bag (except the Denard Jet package which has five complimentary plays) it's that Michigan's offense tends to come out running its version of what the opponent does a lot of.

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

* There's one play where they cut back too late from another game and missed the formation – it was a pass to Hemingway I think.

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

See: trend. Against interior zone loving Iowa, Michigan ran I-form ISOs almost like a base play. Against Purdue it was outside running (although the Wolverines could do whatever they wanted really). The offense versus MSU was slants and TE flares set against the occasional (QB) power off tackle, exactly what Dantonio does with Cousins and Baker. With Northwestern he lined up in all sorts of formations and ran zone to pass, calling everything but Kitchen Sink Z Right while Denard did his best impression of Dan Persa. SD State uses the tunnel screen and I-form and got this started

tunnels-screen-liberation-society

JOIN THE TUNNEL SCREEN AND POWER FROM THE I-FORM LIBERATION SOCIETY
STILL WORKING ON THE COLOR SCHEME
NOW ALSO WORKING ON THE NAME
tTSAPFTILS DOES NOT ROLL OFF THE TONGUE

…in the UFR. Minnesota…I don't know, they don't have an offense so we made one up.

All of these plays are Michigan offense plays, for example they ran a lot of the power off-tackle using Denard against MSU. But they're also the closest plays to what the opponent is running.

I need way way way more data to make this more than a hypothesis. It's not a theory. But if we do have a mimic offense, it's not hard to find a reason: Defensive Improvement. Getting this defense from the bottom to gloriously better-than-mediocre has something to do with linebacker alignment and coachspeak words filled with hard consonants, but it also might have a little sacrifice coming with it in the form of offensive grab-bagginess. article-0-0716A6D6000005DC-281_964x670Perhaps the parts of the Michigan offense most like the opponent's are emphasized each week in order to maximize both units' preparation for that opponent?

That's the best reason I can think of for why, nine games in, Michigan is still going with offensive game-planning that doesn't maximize the talent available to them, until it's the 4th quarter and it's time to cut them loose. Hopefully they've also been using the time saved having the 1st team defense face the 1st Team Mimics to be preparing like hell for Ohio State. Maybe they're preserving Denard so that they can unleash the Denard and Toussaint interior running game from hell. If all this beats that backwards, filthy, imperialist scoundrel of a nation to the south, it'll be worth it to this subject at least.

Handle note: Everyone else uses their name these days, so Internet mask removed. I'm Seth. Misopogon=Seth. No, I never learned how to pronounce "Misopogon" – I think the first and last o's are short and middle one is long.

Michigan Museday Finishes That Thought

Michigan Museday Finishes That Thought

Submitted by Seth on November 1st, 2011 at 9:56 AM

josh-groban-_-you-raise-me-up_6VqRlO3wa1A image_120

Michigan is 7-1 right now with four winnable games on the horizon. We have an excellent coaching staff and a team and fanbase united behind them. We have a top 5 recruiting class, yet one of the cleanest programs in the Top 25, and one of the hungriest. A victory over Ohio State this year for the first time seems at least 50% likely. The defense is young but competent, the offense scares people. We have all the Denards.

It took me three sessions to get through Three and Out, and after each one I had to repeat some variation of the above mantra to recalibrate. The book is about the program and the team from the perspective of Rodriguez, it has a hard Michigan bias and got at least one minor fact wrong,* but as an RR-era survivor I couldn't help experiencing it again as a fan. Reliving the Rod years is not a particularly enjoyable experience.

Battle_of_Fort_Rodriguez

M Zone

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

* He gives the program credit for giving Kovacs, an out-of-state player, a scholarship despite out-of-state tuition being much higher, but the AD—and I'm 99.999% sure about this—pays the same (full) cost of attendance for every student athlete. Everyone costs the maximum whether they're suburban Toledo defensive backs, underclass volleyball strikers from Algonac, or intergalactic space punters in the B-school.

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

What struck me most when reading Bacon's book was how important those years made this all seem. He mentions match points a lot; there were a lot of match points, and not just the football game ones. Like every article in every rag across the country that ragged on our coaches meant organizing a counter-defense. We were blogging for our very lives!

The second, and longest, of those sessions ended around page 415, or Location 8691 for you Kindle readers. Rodriguez was giving his speech at the infamous Bust, moments before the Great Groban-ing finally tipped the scales. Rodriguez at the bustI quote the passage:

"We all need to be ONE Michigan. One Michigan. Proud of every era. Proud of every young man, every student athlete who went through this program…

After giving a nod to Michigan tradition, he was now speaking of what his coaches were doing to turn their players into a team of Michigan Men. Now that he understood Michigan traditions, Michigan needed to extend him the respect he needed to lead the program…

The raw emotion of the speech went up a notch.

"Is this worth it?" Behind that question stood all the personal and professional costs of the past three years. "Is this worth it for your family?" he asked, getting choked up.

The answer wasn't clear-cut. It wasn't a matter of feeling sorry for yourself, he said, though the temptation was always there. It was instead seeing "the pain in the coaches' faces and worry and anxiety in your kids' faces." He wasn't speaking just of the losses but also of the personal attacks and the seemingly endless public trial he and his staff and players had been put through.

But, unequivocally, Rodriguez said, the answer was yes. Yes, it was worth it. It was worth it because the differences made in the lives of everyone attached to the program, said, and because of his unquestioning faith in the future greatness of his players and team. 

And right there I had to painfully leave it for a day of work. I knew as well as you do where this was going, but without its infamous conclusion I got to ponder the content of the Bust speech and mentally fill in Factionsmy own ending. In it I had him define "Michigan" and confront the idea of factions…

"If you ask me what side I'm on it's for these players, and the ideals of hard work, excellence, education, loyalty, and honesty which they embody—in a word, 'Michigan.' If you ask our own living legend, Lloyd Carr, who stood as a rock of integrity in a business that makes a mockery of it, what side he's on, it's 'Michigan.' If you ask our millions of fans and alumni what faction they're with, it'll be Michigan! Michigan! Michigan!" etc.

…and then come back to "Is it worth it," where "it" isn't just poor Rich and his staff but the players and the program. This is the thing that Hoke "gets" that Rodriguez didn't: there's nothing that can galvanize Michigan fans like talk about how great Michigan is, and the unity of the fanbase is all-important.

Of course he didn't take that tack but before he Groban-ed himself out of the job Rodriguez did give us a question worth pondering: "Was it worth it?"

Well was it? All the battles, all the interminable defenses, all the GERG and gimpy Gibsonesque defensive backing? The transfers, the divisiveness, the losing, the jihad—were these all worth it if that was the price to chip off the hubris from our program's unique idealism?

The RR years left us with a defense so bad it would literally need the Baltimore Ravens' D.C. and more than one outstanding freshman to even get to okay. It also left a team and a fanbase more united behind our program and our ideals than anytime in recent memory. We may have had to throw one of the rare good guys who can actually coach under the bus to get there, but we did get there. Other than a bit of whining last February, the mistakes made in the last transition have not been repeated, either inside Fort Schembechler or outside of it. The liars and the leaks were exposed. And these players, man. rtreeCan you remember a team more worth rooting for?

I got to the end of the book feeling more favorable toward Rodriguez than I was before, but ultimately, like Brian, still glad we've moved on from all that. But in some ways, I'm also glad he came. Because that subtext, the possibilities left unrealized at every match point, all the stuff that was on the tip of the tongue right before everything went Josh Groban, weirdly enough we got to keep all of that, and move on.

Michigan is 7-1 right now with four winnable games on the horizon. We have an excellent coaching staff and a team and fanbase united behind them. We have a top 5 recruiting class, yet one of the cleanest programs in the Top 25, and one of the hungriest. A victory over Ohio State this year for the first time seems at least 50% likely. The defense is young but competent, the offense scares people. We have all the Denards. Hoke and his staff have a lot to do with that, but a lot of that comes from what was built before them. In his own completely inelegant way, Rodriguez left a program in better shape than he found it. Perhaps that can be my last thought on him.

Michigan Museday: Playing Devin's Advocate

Michigan Museday: Playing Devin's Advocate

Submitted by Seth on October 25th, 2011 at 2:40 PM

From presser
"There are three stages in an actor's career: Who is John Amos? Get me John Amos. Get me a young John Amos." –John Amos | Photo: John T. Greilick, Detroit News 

He's listed at 6'4" and 205 lbs. In his career so far – about 50 snaps – he's thrown 24 passes and completed 14 (58.3%) for 186 yards and 1 TD. He's also rushed for 56 yards (96 forward, 40 backwards) and 2 scores. He kinda  looks like a young version of that guy who played Admiral Fitzwallace on the West Wing.*

john-amosFor the last three games Hoke has been working Devin Gardner into the offense more often, either with the "Fritz" formation, the Denard Jet, or in some practiced Gardner-specific packages. How much of a 'rotation' this is can be overstated. Before Marcus Rush's flagrant roughing the passer knocked out Denard on Michigan's last drive I counted 67 snaps, of which 5 were Gardner's alone, 6 used both QBs, and 56 were just Denard. That's about a 90-10 split.

This is an attempt to discuss some prevailing theories as to why Devin is taking away a tenth of snaps from a Davey O'Brien award semifinalist.

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

* DYK: John Amos played ball for Colorado State back in the day.

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

THEORY 1: RUNNING QUARTERBACKS ARE FOR SOCIALISTS

The inevitable result of Denard's 2011 regression has been leagues of old blues who see Devin Gardner's hype and strapping physique and decide that anyone who looks more like a Scot Loeffler acolyte must be able to complete more than 30 percent of his passes in a trash tornado. They would be correct on the last bit; 3 for 7 is 43 percent. He also had a play so freshman-y against MSU it got through the entire first stanza of Yakety Sax:

The old men say things like "he's a better fit for Borges' offense," because the columnists they read break down all offenses into Manballicans and Spreadocrats, Borges being of the former (never mind that he's run a different offense at every stop). Their ranks are swelled by the same "Put in Henson" effect that has made 2nd string QBs and goalies so beloved wherever starters are struggling.

But there is evidence that Gardner is a more accurate passer than Robinson, not from the games but because his coaches say that. Hoke at the post-MSU presser:

Can you talk about philosophy of alternating Devin and Denard? “Yeah, we thought we may do some of that, and part of what pushed it over a little more was that it was a windy day, and I think Devin at times can throw the ball a little more accurately.”

So if we take the politics out and pare this theory down to "Gardner is more accurate," that accounts for two plays last week. One was when Denard overthrew Hemingway down the sideline in the 2nd quarter and was yanked for Gardner. Gardner immediately missed a wide open Hopkins for a 50-yard score. Later on they brought in Devin for an important 3rd and 11 early in the 4th quarter; Gardner fumbled the snap.

THEORY 2: THE MOST TALENTED GUYS ON THE FIELD

devinanddenard

By recruiting metrics, Gardner is the most talented offensive player on Michigan's team. He was the No. 1 ranked dual-threat QB in 2010 to everybody but ESPN (Bolden), a 5-star to Scout, and the 5th ranked QB to pretty much everyone. Everyone who has a believable opinion about scouting says Devin has every type of it. DEVIN-GARDNER-1-thumb-280x494-51461After a year and change in the program, is there any way we can get some of that it on the field without giving up the rainbows and love and liquid happy of Denards?

Borges after debuting the Fritz:

We talked about it a little bit and after spring football it became apparent Devin was a skilled kid, we just tried to figure out a way we could use him. It’s hard, without literally giving quarterbacks series, and I know they did that here in the past, I’m just not a fan of breaking the starting quarterback’s rhythm by taking him out for another guy.

Game theorists and bloggers love this explanation. Technically they're replacing a receiver so the talent tradeoff is Roundtree for Devin. But if you're already overreacting to Denard and then you have to deal with Devin's legs on the other side, and Devin's arm, and oh yeah there's a running back who can go up the middle or option or (Gotchya!) pass it, you can see how opposing DC's can end up with disorders.

Last week this was very effective. The Denard Jet play netted two first downs that were both a shoestring tackle away from breaking big, and two well-defended fake jets that Gardner dumped off for 4 yards on 1st down, and a ran for 3 yards that should have been 8 if Devin hadn't missed his hole.

THEORY 3: THE LAW OF DIMINISHING DENARDS

 DENARD-293x225 Robinson_injury-thumb-250x406-55538 DENARD-ROBINSON-HURT-thumb-305x291-57984

Molk(+.5) and Schofield block down, Robinson(+1) finds a small hole and squirts into the secondary for 7 yards, where two linebackers and a safety converge. Denard gets up holding his hand.

The thinking goes, the more you play Denard, the more banged up he gets and thus the worse his performance. Talk during the offseason was all about limiting Robinson's carries. One way to reduce wear is to have him pass more, but his passing this year—scheme is part of it, inaccuracy is most of it—makes that untenable as his 2009-y performance against MSU shows:

DenardYPP

This is rushing and passing together, with baby seals and EMUs excised. I was looking for some evidence that Denard's effectiveness goes down the deeper into a year you get but it doesn't show that. What it does show is Denard is less effective against better defenses (duh moment) and that he was very much Freshman Denard against MSU. It was also his passing-iest game yet.

Another way to keep miles off the Robinsonmobile is to drive the Gardner more. The tradeoff is that the best part of this offense is Denard's legs and that defenses have to overreact to that whenever Denard's legs are in the game.

Thus the Fritz and Denard Jet packages, which so far have gotten Denard hit about a third of the time but have Denard's legs as a threat 100% of the time.

THEORY 4: THE TATE FORCIER EFFECT

2010 v Illinois 2010 v Iowa
Ariel Bond|Daily / Lon Horwedel|AnnArbor.com

One of the reasons advanced stats loved Michigan's offense last year is we put up way above average yards against Illinois and Iowa, two statistically good defenses. Those also happen to be Tate Forcier's two extended appearances not in garbage time.

Tate had 597 yards on 84 passing attempts last year, all but 13 of those passes against real Big Ten defenses when filling in for a dinged Denard. With him gone and most of the Big Ten season ahead, this job falls to Devin Gardner. It might be a good idea to come up with a few plays he can do well and get those snaps logged. We've got that. In the Monday presser Hoke elaborated a little bit on the devin vs BGjust-Devin package:

When you put Devin in the game, is there a purpose to that? “There’s three plays that we like Devin to run. One was the touchdown that he had against Northwestern -- that boot. And there’s another boot in there that we really wanted him to be a part of besides the combination of them both in there.”

More of this after NW from Borges:

Does it help to have Devin play a couple snaps when Denard was out from a coaching standpoint and from his standpoint? “Oh yeah, absolutely. Because Devin’s a highly skilled kid. He is. When he can go in the game and score a touchdown, really not make any tactical or technical errors, he gains confidence, and we gain confidence in his ability to do it.

Experience is needed. We had a preview of Devin in relief at the end of the MSU game and Gardner twice tried to throw the ball past the L.O.S. (the one above and the TD pass called back). That is an experience problem, and highlights the main reason, in my opinion, for getting Devin snaps: having a backup ready if/when Denard gets his dings. The experience thing is a double edged sword since it seems Robinson needs the experience snaps in this offense just as much as his backup.

In a perfect world Michigan would have an extra 15 snaps per game per quarterback we can throw away to learning. As it is that opportunity has come once this year, against Minnesota. The rest of the way, I figure the coaches will be looking for opportunities to give Devin a few more looks here and there. If he's replacing Denard more than 1 play in 10, it's because the dings have already come.

Michigan Museday Abuses Cat

Michigan Museday Abuses Cat

Submitted by Seth on October 18th, 2011 at 4:02 PM

imgad 1953_Michigan-State_vs_Michigan

PeTA ad / Historicfootballposters.com

Some things that are inevitable are impossible to call until they happen. Like that Google AdSense would eventually find the perfect sponsor to reach the massive and growing audience of Michigan/cat readers. Or that Michigan would eventually run a fake from the FB dive.

It's 4th and short. Michigan has cut MSU's lead to 7 and has the ball on the MSU 9 with a little over 6 minutes to play thanks to a State fumble on its own 32. Michigan has already converted a 4th and 1 on this drive (the ZR where Denard pulled it after his RB was already being tackled). A fumbled snap, a short pass to Koger and a dead-on pass to Gallon at the sticks for 11 yards (had Michigan challenged the spot we would have gotten it) later it's 4th and inches. Then everything goes wrong:

Somewhere in Michigan, a cat is being abused.

Said Hoke:

Do you wish you would have called a running play on the fourth and one? “No. I liked the play. If we execute the play, Koger’s in the endzone. We don’t make a block that we need to make, and that’s part of it. That play’s been very successful for us. It’s a nice complement to the dive. We just didn’t execute it.”

WE DON'T MAKE A BLOCK THAT WE NEED TO MAKE

Before the snap the TE on the top of your screen (Moore) is looking inside for the snap and misses the CB start his blitz. By the time Moore is out of his stance the CB is already past him. The fake doesn't work because the corner is coming from the edge and knows exactly who has the ball.

IF WE EXECUTE THE PLAY

There was more than just the missed assignment. MSU's strongside end managed to hit both Watson (the TE) and Koger (the H-Back), which occupied Koger long enough to throw off his route. By the time Denard was on the ground, Koger still hadn't made it out of the backfield, and had picked up a safety escort.

BUT THE DIVE-FAKE WAS SET UP!

How many times in a short situation has Michigan come out in the I, shifted the RB outside, then run a FB dive? Eventually there was going to be a wrinkle off of this. Such a wrinkle was primed like a Guitar Hero Star Power Meter. cat_born-in-teh-usaOr was it?

Here's all the goal-line dives this year:

  • 4th and 1 from WMU's 19. Toussaint gets 3 against the 3-4 defense.
  • 2nd and goal from WMU 1. Well defended but Toussaint just barely gets the nose of the ball to break the plane.
  • 3rd and goal from ND 3. ND stuffs, Hopkins fumbles, Denard picks it up and runs in unmolested.
  • 3rd and goal from EMU 1. Because it's EMU they are slow to react and Toussaint leaps over the pile.
  • 2nd and goal from Minn 1. Michigan gets a yard.
  • 1st and goal from NW 1. Wildcats spot the play, meet Toussaint's leap, stopped just short.
  • 2nd and goal from NW 1 (the next play). Toussaint doesn't jump, they stop it.

In Star Power terms this is Note-plink-plink-plink-plink-plink-plink = U No Haz Str Pwr.

DeBordian thinking would tell you a fake off the dive is perfectly set up. MSU knows the dive by heart. They're even tempting Michigan to run it by shifting the alignment. There's a hole to the left of Molk that either Toussaint or Norman will get to first. This is Man-Ball at maximum chest hair.

Diveit

Because of Molk's block (he's 3/4 of the way to a seal before anyone else is out of their stance) and Toussaint's athleticism, the dive probably would have worked. It would depend on the spot, and be close.

The point is a fake off this thing was as incredibly surprising as a DeBordian waggle. MSU had seen it defended, and knew just like the rest of us that a fake was eventually inevitable. Their answer: blitz the corner in case of a keeper and having Norman shoot the hole they left.

IT'S THE WRONG OFFENSE AT THIS MOMENT

wow funny lol cat

I am totally fine with the FB dive and its variations this year. It is a staple of power offenses, and except in terrible, cat-abusive situations, saves Denard from taking hits. Saves him, for example, for those times you're down a score and deep in your opponent's territory late in the 4th quarter against a rival with a three-game streak against you.

What caused this

That was the dumbest goddamned $%&*^-*$#*ing #&!$brained dip*&%$ mother*(%$ing horse_+$# goat-&^%t &%$*y-infested $%^&stick playcalling I have ever &*$ing seen in my life.

…wasn't any of the execution problems. It was conceptual. Hoke and Borges are betting that MSU sells out against the dive—never mind the plinking—and he can use that to take an easy touchdown. This is the opposite of correct, cat-evil-plan the equivalent to Weis throwing a bomb on 2nd and 10, and giving Tate and company an extra 28 seconds for the comeback. It's throwing away a huge advantage for the advantage of surprise. It's making lemonade when God gave you apples and an apple crusher.

Every second the quarterback is moving backwards or isn't facing the line of scrimmage is a second that the quarterback isn't going to be running forward. Even if it was properly blocked. Even if Koger wasn't held up by a great rush by MSU's end, it's a terrible play call because it leaves Michigan's biggest weapon—Denard Robinson's legs—in the garage, while trusting Denard's arm (not good in a garbage tornado), Koger's catching (iffy all day), and Michigan State to not play disciplined defensively (between the whistles they were fine).

I haven't changed my opinion about these coaches: we have awesome coaches and I'd rather have them than any other person who's coached in this state the last four years. But that was a terrible, terrible call.