Nate Brink Injured, Probably For A While

Nate Brink Injured, Probably For A While Comment Count

Brian October 1st, 2012 at 3:42 PM

NathanBrink_Practice-thumb-590x391-86355_large[1]

Official release:

Michigan football senior/junior defensive lineman Nathan Brink (Holland, Mich./Holland Christian) suffered an undisclosed injury during practice last week and will be out indefinitely. Brink has appeared in all four games this season and has two tackles, including 1.5 stops for losses

I take that to mean his season's over since The Fort doesn't release any injury information it absolutely doesn't have to. If they're telling people it's because they know word will get out anyway once Brink is spotted on crutches or whatever walking around campus or on gameday.

Brink's not a huge loss but Michigan's thin DL just got thinner. This means more playing time for Keith Heitzman and… well, Keith Heitzman. Also Jibreel Black, who will probably take some of the snaps Brink was getting as a rotation 3-tech.

UPDATE: Heritage Newspaper is saying it's a neck injury, so Brink will transfer to MSU and play next weekend because he's just had the wind knocked out of him.

Comments

Preview 2012: Defensive Line

Preview 2012: Defensive Line Comment Count

Brian August 29th, 2012 at 10:30 AM

Previously: Podcast 4.0, the story, quarterback, running back, wide receivers, offensive line.

A note before we start: this preview relies heavily on the defensive UFRs of last year because there’s a convenient numerical system that does a decent job of summing up a defensive player’s contributions. One caveat: the system is generous to defensive linemen and harsh to defensive backs, especially cornerbacks. A +4 for a defensive end is just okay; for a cornerback it’s outstanding.

campbell-iowa

Depth Chart
STRONG DE Yr. NOSE TACKLE Yr. THREE-TECH Yr. WEAK DE Yr.
Craig Roh Sr. Quinton Washington Jr.* Will Campbell Sr. Jibreel Black Jr.
Nate Brink Jr.*# Richard Ash So.* Ryan Glasgow Fr.# Brennen Beyer So.
Keith Heitzman Fr.* Ondre Pipkins Fr. Matt Godin Fr. Frank Clark So.

Okay okay okay. Breathe. Breathe in. Breathe out. Feel the lung expand and contract, and feel a calmness wash over you. Yeah. Calm. Calm.

Michigan lost three starters, may be starting a 280-pound three-tech, moved the only returning starter, and has a walk-on seriously pressing for playing time. If they're not starting a 280-pound three-tech, they're starting a 280-pound WDE. Will Campbell inherits a starting spot essentially by default.

No no no no. Calm. Callllm.

Defensive Tackle

Rating: 2.5

The big piece of news that hit when the Big Ten Network was let inside the velvet rope at Michigan practice was Jerry Montgomery naming Quinton Washington one of his starters instead of Brennen Beyer. This was followed up by a depth chart confirming this fact.

Clarity came Monday when Hoke made an appearance at the UM Club of Greater Detroit's kickoff dinner that I was at, waiting for the Q&A session with Greg Dooley and Angelique Chengelis. Hoke took questions, someone asked him about the defensive line, and Hoke gave a straight answer. To paraphrase: Michigan is planning on rotating six guys. Washington will be the nose in certain packages with Campbell at three tech and Black at WDE. In other packages they'll remove Washington and slide everyone down, inserting Beyer at WDE and going with Roh-Campbell-Black-Beyer.

Who's the sixth guy? You got me. I'd guess it's Nate Brink, but it didn't come up.

Anyway…

William-Campbellworld_thumb[1]

this year he'll totally live up to this image. really! (probably not really.)

This time we mean it, Will Campbell: it's now or never. The one-time five-star recruit is now a senior. He's been handed a starting spot by the graduation of three DL starters and Rodriguez's crappy recruiting. This makes everyone nervous because obviously.

There is some good news on this front. After a couple years in which Campbell appearances were all but guaranteed to draw this sort of commentary…

I'm not at the point where I can tell you the ten different things Campbell did to get blown four yards downfield, but I can blather on about pad level: man, pad level. Am I right?

…his cameos were fairly effective last year. He got limited snaps, of course, but only ended up negative against Iowa, when he got cut twice on big Coker runs. He had a +5 against ND, a +3.5 against SDSU, a +4 against Minnesota, and a +4 against Illinois, three of which came when he blew up a third and one by himself:

You can also watch him annihilate another Illinois OL to set up a Desmond Morgan decleater and flatten Max Shortell.

Unfortunately, these positives and highlights are all against the worst offensive lines on the schedule (and ND, oddly). Michigan didn't put him out there much against tougher competition; now they've got no choice.

Campbell's giving it a go. He's taken to showing off his chest after shedding 20 pounds in the past couple years. Taylor Lewan:

"The most dramatic change I've seen in a body on our team is Will Campbell," said left tackle Taylor Lewan. "His body is transformed. He was a sloppy 350 and now he's a toned down 308 kind of guy. He looks real good. His conditioning shows it. You should see him run. He's like a gazelle. It's unreal. I think Will is going to do some special things this year."

Come on, baby. He's getting the full-court press from Michigan's three-headed DL coaching staff, and I wished and hoped my way to thinking he was a lot better this spring:

Last spring game guy was a lump who managed to not get blown off the ball most of the time and just about never did anything. During the year he was largely that with some nice plays mixed in, but too infrequently to be encouraging. In the spring game he had clearly progressed enough to actually beat his man to the gap more than once.

You know all those runs Rawls had where he had to abort mission and find another hole? Most of those were headed at Campbell. Since we got a baseline for Ricky Barnum in the time he got before his ankle injury last year—decent Big Ten player even then—that's a hopeful sign.

While that hasn't kept the coaches from grousing about things, their expectations are not my expectations.

Finding out that Campbell will flip between three tech and the nose is probably a positive tea leaf. Leverage has always been a problem, and at 6'5" he's never going to be a great burrower. Get him one on one and he can deposit folks on their butts. That is what he'll generally be allowed to do at the three. His ability to do that on passing downs is going to be a huge factor in how effective that line configuration is—three techs can get good rush, and Michigan's ability to get pressure out of the WDE spot is very much in doubt.

What to expect here is a mystery. My WAG: adequate play that's on average a few points to the good on UFR charts (which is average for DL, as it measures MAKING PLAYS more than not doing so). Maybe a fringe draft pick if Michigan is pretty lucky. I don't think he'll be worse than Heininger, and he was pretty decent by the end of the year.

[hit THE JUMP for the GREAT MYSTERY beyond the KEN OF MAN (and Craig Roh)]

Comments

Michigan Museday If the Dudes Get Dinged: D-Line

Michigan Museday If the Dudes Get Dinged: D-Line Comment Count

Seth July 18th, 2012 at 7:46 AM

BWCNebraska-Heiko2  BarnumRoundtreeRohSpringGame-Heiko
Heiko|MGoBlog

♪ Well a whole season played with the first string guy is usually quite lucky.
And a squad who plays with the second team out can be anything but fussy.
But a team whose seen an important guy down—head concussed, knee on the ground!
If they ain't got depth around, then
all goes to poopie.
To poopie, to poopie, to poopie, but depth is hard to get!
To poopie, to poopie, to poopie, but we can get there yet! /♫

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

This is a continuation from last week when I went through the expected offensive depth chart and tried to predict what would happen—what's the dropoff? how do we react?—if each starter is injured for an extended time. Now, I'm not here trying to roll into town and stir up trouble, see? I'm a purveyor of portents and hedger of predictions only. What I seek to do is prepare us for any one of these dings, so that if one occurs we can say something intelligent like "it hurts to lose Roh but Black is probably the less replaceable!"

Why not all defense? Things slow down from here because the defense has a lot of intermeshing parts, and because there actually is depth in places to speak of. Mattison's er Michigan's defense has been characterized by interchangeable positions but really each spot is more of a sliding scale from NT to field corner where each one overlaps the things on either side of it. The listed spring/recruiting weights play this out (click e-bigitates):

Roster for HTTV

saturn-puntingzoltanQuickly again. Photos are all by Upchurch unless otherwise noted. Ratings are given in Saturn-punting Zoltans. Think of them like stars except more heavenly. Five is an all-conference-type player (Denard to Kovacs); four is a guy you'd call "solid" (RVB to Demens); three is an average B1G player (Morgan to Hawthorne); two is a guy with a big hole in his game (freshman Kovacs); one is trouble with a capital T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for Poole.

Nose Tackle (Avengers)

thor_385F717860141950
Geeks / O. Ryan Hussain|TheWolverine / 247 Sports

Starter: Will Campbell 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5 ???

Backups: Ondre Pipkins 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o ???, Richard Ash 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5 ???

In case of emergency: I'll be honest; this one is impossible to call straight. The 4-3 under is like the 3-4 in that it leans on the nose to suck up double teams and create mismatches elsewhere. The ideal is a superhero, and for the last few years we've had one of the best (by Ghost of Bo).

555238_364284353624692_1537003961_n

Hulk is gone but the franchise must go on, and for now that means we are 100% committed to making Thor work.

thorcampbell

If the old 5-star takes up the hammer he's the pivot point of a great defense. If he doesn't then one of two mystery men could be anything from serviceable to disasters, and most things in between.

The upside on all three of Michigan's nose tackles is mighty. Weirdly, we think we know more about the true freshman, Ondre Pipkins, than the redshirt sophomore. Pipkins was a 4 or 5 star whose huge, squat, Tongan frame and jovial, Hoke-impersonating character made him and Michigan's need for nose tackle a cosmic destiny. If he's got the goods we'll see Pipkins early in spells of Campbell. True freshmen (Martin, Gabe Watson) of his caliber have fared well enough in rotational duty. The later this season goes, the more comfortable you can feel about Pipkins when he's called upon. Caveat: until he's called upon you have no idea if he can hack it, and for every huge dude you can name who could play right away (Marcus Thomas, Suh, Ngata, [sigh] Johnathan Hankins, DeQuinta Jones) there's 30 who need to spend a year as Ben Grimm before being The Thing. /metaphor used up.

In case of dire emergency: …break glass on Richard Ash. Nobody knows on this guy, who was recruited by Rodriguez as the last Pahokeeian project for Barwis to tear down and rebuild. The tear-down went unnoticed through 2010 and '11 and we caught a glimpse of possible rebuild when, 20 lbs. svelter, he made a few plays nice in the backfield. Ash could be anything from ahead of Pipkins to Adam Patterson. If that's where we are I could see Quinton Washington sliding down.

Rush Tackle (3-Tech)

6932489716_dcc6100ca6_oIMG_5048 - CopyKenny Wilkins
Right: Dell Callihan|
UMGoBlog

Starter: Jibreel Black 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5

Backups: Quinton Washington 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5, Ken Wilkins 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, Matt Godin ???, Willie Henry ???, plus nose tackles

In case of emergency: The coaches have made it clear that Jibreel Black can play, and moving him two slots down the size/speed slide chart of defensive positions means they want him on the field, and that they want 5-tech-ish skills at the 3-tech. This being a swing position means the backups could be different things.

Quinton Washington is a big dude who was an offensive guard until he and Will Campbell were swapped for each other in that experiment. He still looks like a guard, and has yet show much at tackle besides easily dismissible coach hokum right after the move in 2010 so it wouldn't look like Rodriguez was throwing substances at surfaces to see what sticks.

Q stuck although the OL he left is now about as leaky as the DL he came to save. That the coaches moved Roh and Black down the line tells you something about their faith that Washington is ready, and going into his redshirt junior year that might mean he'll never be. He's seen time on goal line situations and is likely to again. Early in the year I wouldn't be surprised if he or Ash—whichever wins—is backing up both interior line spots, and that later on we see some Pipkins and Campbell together time.

In case of dire emergency: Ken Wilkins has been absent enough from chatter that people email me asking if he's still on team. Yes he is on the damn team, and he's still just a RS sophomore, but yeah, there's room for true freshmen on the three deep. Those two seem to be Godin and Henry, the lesser heralded of the heralded class, both of whom would benefit from redshirts. Henry is the larger. Chris Wormley, whom I rate at 5-tech, seems a more likely backup.

Strongside End (5-Tech)

IMG_0886-- Chris Wormley

Starter: Craig Roh 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o

Backups: Nate Brink 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, Keith Heitzman 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o, Chris Wormley ???, Tom Strobel ???, plus 3-techs.

In case of emergency: Craig Roh has to be the hardest four-year starter to project in history, thanks to many different careers as too-small WDE in a 4-3, a miscast OLB in the 3-3-5, then as the edge rushing WDE in Mattison's 4-3 under. Now he moves to RVB's old spot.

The backup here is almost assuredly Nate Brink, whom the coaches love but the fans hardly know because he's been hurt (he missed Spring because of it). When the coaches talk about the one-time walk-on they make sure to hit all of the Ecksteinian points: "coachable", "hard worker", "toughness", "great technique", "great motor." To that I might add he's 6'5 and 263, which is normal for the position. He's not Heininger (who as a sophomore backed up Brandon Graham), except in that he's some of the things you wrongly thought about Heininger. Then again I remember Brady Hoke making all sorts of guys into effect tech linemen.

If you'd rather see stars, Keith Heitzman is your guy. The beneficiary of the spring time Brink missed, the redshirt fresham was rated higher at tight end out of high school yet apparently good enough at SDE that the coaches moved Jordan Paskorz instead of him. Either this was a promise made at the time of his last-minute recruitment—likely since Tim reacted strongly when I say him and the TE depth chart together—or an endorsement by Hoke that he can play, or both. Best guess is it's both.

In case of dire emergency: Any of the freshmen linemen but Pipkins and Ojemudia are ready built for 5-tech. Of these Chris Wormley was a longtime high school star, which tells me he is probably physically ahead of the other guys right now. Tom Strobel is the other proto-RVB here. One day I expect we'll see the two of them playing next to each other at 3- and 5- respectively.

Weakside End

DEsojemudia

Starter: Brennan Beyer 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5, or Frank Clark 4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o4128455980_9d72f36b6b_o.5

Backups: Mario Ojemudia ???, plus 5-techs

In case of emergency: Well if one goes down the other starts. Following a trend, both Clark and Beyer were OLBs last season, while this spot was rotated between Black and Roh. Though technically a unit change, the job they did last year—outside rusher—and what they'll be called on to do this year are not all that dissimilar. It speaks well to both that they played as true freshmen ahead of once-touted Cam Gordon. Read less into that, since Gordon was hurt to give them the opening and their skillsets are different from his.

They're also different from each other. Beyer was the more highly regarded and will get called "solid" more often because he's less eventful than Clark. Clark has the greater athleticism (see: interception in Sugar Bowl) though has been convicted of multiple accounts of giving up the edge, a freshman mistake repeated in spring. The rest of the D-line by design is meant to free these guys up for sacks, thus I see both rotating. If one goes down we lose the rotation.

The only other designated WDE is freshman Ojemudia, who is about 200 lbs. right now and would be 2009 Craig Roh'ed by most of the OTs and TEs on our schedule. Far more likely, in the event we lose one of the sophomores, we'll see one of the 5-techs or SLBs move in before the shirt is lifted from Mario. Craig Roh has played WDE more than any other spot, and Brink has the coaches' trust to fill in at 5-tech.

In case of dire emergency: Packaging still covers but there's Ojemudia if you need him. Packaging means in pass situations you just put Jake Ryan here and have Cam Gordon or Brandin Hawthorne or a nickel corner come in; otherwise go "big" (for a certain definition of such) with Roh back to wide and whichever backup DT/SDE in the game instead.

Comments

2011 Preview Review: Defense

2011 Preview Review: Defense Comment Count

Ace April 25th, 2012 at 2:01 PM


Vastly underrated; properly rated

Previously: The Offense

My look back at Brian's epic 2011 football preview continues with the defense. This one got a lot more interesting than the offense, because despite all the warm fuzzies we felt from the GERG-to-Greg transition*, expecting a jump from the #110 total defense to #17 would have been outrageous. As in get-this-man-a-straitjacket outrageous.

Thankfully, the performance of the defense exceeded all reasonable expectations, and even most of the unreasonable ones. Let's peep last year's predictions, shall we?

--------------------
*Not to mention the Tony-Gibson-to-Anyone-But-Tony-Gibson transition.

Greatest Hits

The move to three-tech won't be an issue [for Ryan Van Bergen]. He played it two years ago and when Michigan went to a four man front last year they stuck him back inside. He's now 290, a three year starter, and a senior. He's a good bet to crack double-digit TFLs and get some All Big Ten mention.

RVB actually ended up at strongside DE, which probably helped him lead the team with 12.5 TFLs. He ended up earning All-Big Ten honorable mention from both the coaches and media and graduating as one of the most beloved Wolverines in recent memory.

Demens will benefit from the move to back to the 4-3 under more than anyone save Craig Roh. With RVB and Martin shielding him from linemen he won't be in nearly as many hopeless situations where he's one-on-one with a guard He should be the team's leading tackler by a healthy margin and see his TFLs skyrocket from the measly 1.5 he managed a year ago.

Michigan's defense will probably be too bad to warrant much All Big Ten consideration, but honorable mention seems reasonable.

A year after inexplicably having to move past not just Obi Ezeh, but converted fullback Mark Moundros, on the depth chart at middle linebacker despite subsequently making it painfully obvious that he should've been the starter all along, Demens had his breakout season.  He led the team with 94 tackles—second was Jordan Kovacs at 75—and saw his TFLs jump to a respectable five. Like Van Bergen, Demens was an all-conference honorable mention.

Even so, [Kovacs's] season was a step forward from obvious liability to "certainly not a liability." Even if he's a walk-on and even if he's obviously small and slow, he should continue improving. He'll be a little less small and slow with another year of conditioning. Being in a coherent defensive system should help put him in positions to make plays. His redshirt year was not spent on the team so he's not as close to his ceiling as your average redshirt junior.

He's not going to be Reggie Nelson. That won't keep him from becoming the first Michigan safety you only hate a little tiny bit since Jamar Adams.

This may still be underselling Kovacs, who took to competent coaching even better than expected and became the team's rock in the secondary, covering for his athletic limitations with usually-impeccable positioning. No, he's not Reggie Nelson, but I don't think you can find a remotely rational Michigan fan who harbors even the tiniest bit of ill will towards Kovacs. Michigan's shocking lack of big plays allowed—both against the pass and the run—can largely be attributed to his play; despite missing a game, Kovacs led the team with 51 solo tackles. He also notched 8 TFLs. All hail Kovacs.

I have the same optimism about this Johnson/Gordon combo that I had last year. This, of course, terrifies me. It seems unnatural to think an unproven Michigan safety could be competent. I like Gordon's agility and tackling, though, and while there will be rough spots early by midseason he should settle into that midlevel safety range like Englemon or Barringer.

This time around, the optimism regarding the free safety position was justified. Thomas Gordon had his share of struggles, especially late in the season, but for the most part he was quite competent. Around here, safety competence is a luxury on par with consistent placekicking.

Sacks almost double from 1.4 per game to 2.4. That would be a move from 98th to around 30th.

Michigan finished with 2.3 sacks per game. That put them at... 29th. Tip o' the cap.

Turnovers forced go from 19 to 27.

Brian's continued insistence that turnover luck would someday go Michigan's way finally paid off; the Wolverines forced 29 turnovers. It also helped that this defense actually tackled people.

EVERYTHING SEEMS WONDERFUL

YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW RIGHT THIS WOULD BE.

Close Enough

Morgan was the MGoBlog Sleeper of the Year based on a wide array of scouting reports that praise his instincts, lateral mobility, and toughnosed hard gritty gritness. I thought he'd have to cool his heels behind Demens for a couple years, but he may get on the field quicker than anyone expected.

No full credit simply because Mike Jones was projected as the starter at WLB, a fact I had completely forgotten about until I looked back at the preview. Morgan ended up playing in 12 games, starting seven (the first being in week two against ND), and finished fifth on the team in tackles.

If [J.T. Floyd] gets a lot better this year it's time to take the Gibson chatter seriously.

This wasn't really a prediction, but... yeah. Tony Gibson minus all of the points.

Beyond Talbott it's true freshmen, but at least there's a horde of them. Maryland's Blake Countess arrives with the most hype and should be the biggest threat to play. (Caveat: last year Cullen Christian arrived with the most hype.)

Points for mentioning Countess as the most likely freshman to see the field. No points for giving him one sentence when he took over the starting job by midseason, especially considering the Christian caveat. As you'll see, the hype that should've surrounded Countess went—justifiably, in the preseason—to Courtney Avery.

Not So Much

Healthy again and less abandoned in the middle of the defense, Martin's numbers should soar. Before the sprain Martin was on pace for 11 TFLs and 4 sacks; after it he got just a half TFL the rest of the year. While the front of the schedule is a bit easier, Martin had 8.5 TFLs and 51 tackles a year ago. Reasonable progression should have gotten him to 11.  Add in further progression plus three DL coaches plus a bit more help on the line plus a free-roaming QB attack role and 15 to 18 TFLs plus a little more QB terror should be within reach. He should be All Big Ten. He might be better.

I hate that I have to put this prediction in this category, but here it is. While Martin was the best player on the defense, his numbers were hampered by having to play the nose; he finished with six TFLs and 3.5 sacks. Despite the lack of statistical production, Martin's efforts were recognized with second-team All-Big Ten honors. He also forced a pitch on a speed option. See you on Sundays, MM.

"Experience" was why [Will Heininger] got the nod; that experience consists of backing Brandon Graham up. In is time on the field he rarely did anything wrong; he rarely did anything right, either. He was a non-factor. As a guy spotting Graham from time to time that's cool, but as a starter or a guy rotating with another equally obscure walk-on that's a recipe for zero production out of a spot that should see its fair share of plays. If this spot averages out as a zero next year that's probably good—and that's not good.

The biggest swing-and-a-miss on the list. Heininger swapped spots with RVB and started all 12 regular-season games at five-tech DT before missing the Sugar Bowl with a foot injury. He exceeded all expectations of a walk-on raised in the shadow of the Big House, proving he could hold his own against Big Ten competition and be a positive force on the interior. After the season, Brian ranked him as the third most siginificant departure on the defense, behind only Martin and Van Bergen. While part of that is due to the remaining depth along the defensive line, I don't think anyone thought Heininger's absence would be felt in such a way.

Brink will play. After mentioning Heininger's experience he said Brink has "practiced very well, played well, been productive" and promised to rotate six guys on the line. Six is a weird number because it means one of Black, Campbell, or Brink is on the fringe. Given the lineups Campbell seems the most likely even though that seems unlikely.

If you're saying "who?" you're probably not alone (though you read this blog, so you probably aren't saying "who?"). Walk-on Nathan Brink was penciled in as the starting SDE at one point in the fall, earning much preseason praise for his unlikely rise up the depth chart. After garnering all that hype, however, he made almost no impact, recording just one tackle while barely seeing the field. He's a prime example of why you must take all offseason practice hype with a grain of salt, especially when said hype involves previously-unknown walk-ons.

We've yet to see the much of the pass-rushing skill that made Roh a top 50 recruit. He's displayed hints of the ability to zip past tackles before they know what hits them when suffered to rush the passer—there's a chance that when he puts hand to ground and is told to let it rip that he goes bonkers. Roh is the biggest X factor on the team. He could end up with anywhere from a half-dozen to twelve sacks.

Playing his third position in three seasons, Roh didn't quite go bonkers, tallying four sacks and eight TFLs. Roh's play still markedly improved from his previous two seasons, but he still hasn't lived up to the sky-high recruiting hype. Much of the blame for that can fall upon the shoulders of Greg Robinson and Co., and we'll see if one last position switch, this time to SDE, finally results in Roh producing double-digit sacks.

In high school, Ryan was an outside linebacker in an actual 3-3-5. As such, he spent a lot of time screaming at the quarterback from angles designed to make life hard for offensive linemen. That's not far off his job in the 4-3 under but it comes with a lot more run responsibility—the SLB has to take on blockers in just the right spot so that he neither lets the play escape contain nor gives him a lane inside too big to shut down. Expect to see him on passing downs but only passing downs this fall.

Ryan became a pleasant early-season surprise when he started against Western Michigan and made his presence felt by batting an Alex Carder pass that Brandon Herron would intercept and return 94 yards to the house. While certainly more of an asset against the pass than the run—his balls-to-the-wall approach was great on blitzes, but not always sound when keeping contain—Ryan proved that he was by far the best option on the strong side. Just one year later, all-conference honors are very much in play.

Assuming he's healthy, another year to learn the position and get bigger should see him improve on his previous form. There is a nonzero chance his earlier performances were not representative of his ability, but the smart money is on Woolfolk being at least average. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him go at the tail end of next year's NFL draft.

Troy Woolfolk's return from the exploding ankle of doom wasn't as triumphant as we all hoped. While he started ten games—six at corner and four at safety—Woolfolk never looked fully comfortable on the field and was supplanted at each position by a younger player (Countess at corner, Gordon at safety). It would be quite a surprise to see him taken in this week's NFL draft.

Courtney Avery busts out. Going into next year people are talking about him as an All Big Ten performer.

After showing much promise as a true freshman, Avery was the obvious candidate to grow into a big-time role as the team's top corner of the present and future. Instead, he started the first two games, then ceded that role to J.T. Floyd, Woolfolk, and eventually Countess. Avery was a solid nickel corner, and should reprise that role in 2012, but his progression wasn't as great as expected.

Craig Roh leads the team in sacks with eight.

Nein. Despite Michigan's impressive rise in team sacks, they were spread pretty evenly across both the D-line and the back seven thanks to Mattison's blitz-happy approach. Ryan Van Bergen paced the team with 5.5, with Jordan Kovacs actually tying Roh for second with four.

Michigan noses just above average in yardage allowed. Advanced metrics have them about 50th.

I know Brian has no complaints about being so hilariously wrong on this one. As noted above, the Wolverines finished 17th in yardage allowed, and they also shot up to sixth (faints) in points allowed. Football Outsiders's FEI metric ranked them as the #16 defense in the country. Despite watching every second of the 2011 season (usually twice), I still have a hard time not believing I'm the victim of an elaborate hoax or a drug experiment gone horribly awry. If you see me waking up in a gutter and GERG is still the defensive coordinator, please do me a favor and run me over with an SUV. Make sure to double-tap, please.

Comments

Coaching Clinic Notes: Brady Hoke

Coaching Clinic Notes: Brady Hoke Comment Count

Brian February 22nd, 2012 at 3:31 PM

NOTE: it proved impossible to communicate what OL coaches were like without swearing more than I usually would in a post not about backboards in the immediate aftermath of last year's Wisconsin game. Keep children and the mad away from this post.

Faced with a difficult choice between seeing the head coach give his stump speech and talk about defensive line coaching and Al Borges talking about creating a play sheet and Michigan's passing concepts, I split the difference: one hour each. If I'd known I was going to get an excellent event recap from the Hoke presentation in my inbox that night I would have gone 100% Borges, but better to have it 3/4ths covered than half.

The emailer's notes follow. I was in the room for the first half of this and will interject some asides where appropriate; first a few general impressions from me.

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

no%20bread[1]world-of-shit[1]

loafs = bad; offensive line coaches, basically

My first exposure to the football coaching subculture was sometimes fascinating, sometimes boring, and full of swearing.

To a certain extent all football coaches emphasize the same things, and they tell you about these things every time. I get it: "loafs" are not tolerated. They are to you as scrubs are to TLC. [blank stares] I would like to move on from this because I have never tried to teach anyone and do not understand that without relentless consistency you do not get the results you want. Football coaches know you would like to move on but the relentless consistency is so ingrained in their nature that they can't help themselves.

Hoke was the most explicit example of this amongst the coaches I've seen over the past couple weeks. His presentation is on proper defensive line technique* and he says "I respect guys who just get into football and won't do all that philosophy stuff," he does a large section on philosophy stuff, and then sort of apologizes for it—only sort of because Hoke has a friendly bravado to him. Very few coaches can escape it.

Most of those guys are offensive line coaches. In a field of insane, profanity-prone sticklers for detail, OL coaches stand out. Collectively they have an air of weary acceptance. The best way to communicate this: a couple of the guys who presented in Grand Rapids have their own OL-specific clinic. Their logo is a mushroom because they're "kept in the dark and eat shit all day."

Funk was the first OL coach I took in so I didn't know how much of an exception he was. He may be the most businesslike individual I've ever perceived. No jokes, no swearing, just explanations.

What Funk shares with the other guys is an arcane language that's half signing, half jargon, half grunting, and I know that adds up to more than 100%. Jets consultant Jim McNally spent an hour talking about where a center's first step should be against a one-technique. He'd put his foot somewhere, say that was horseshit, put his foot somewhere else that you could just perceive was different, and tell you that this would prevent the motherfucker lined up across from you from putting you in a world of shit as long as you did six dozen other things right. But then some other motherfucker would put you in a world of shit some other way so you had to STEP [GRUNT] in this other particular way. A ballet eventually emerged in this quarter-full room as McNally scribbled his hieroglyphics on an overhead projector: step, grunt, swear. Step, grunt, swear. And so on.

So… yeah. Offensive line coaches.

*[Again it's worth mentioning here that Hoke is an outlier amongst head coaches. He still coaches a position. Meanwhile, he seems to have relatively little input on the coordinator-level duties. He is high and low and nowhere in between.]

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

hokesmug

Brady Hoke commands a room. I'd been in The Presence once before, when The UM Club of Ann Arbor invited me to be a panelist for their season kickoff Q&A. He started off with the same call and response he gives the team:

Hoke: YEAR
Team: 132
Hoke: CHAMPIONSHIPS
Team: 42

He then jovially mocks you for being meek little things and asks you to do it again. It's probably the oldest motivational/attention gathering technique in the history of man. He did it to the infinite coaches in the room by saying "GOOD EVENING" until the response was involved enough for him to continue. He does this with the team, obviously.

Over the course of the hour I took in he grabbed a half-dozen people out of the crowd to demonstrate certain things, told everyone to get up and actually get in a stance—this did not work well since the room was packed—and used a former Ball State player he called by a stereotypically defensive line nickname I forget as a proficient dummy. He got his points across, kept attention to him, and tossed off laugh lines with the casual air of a guy in complete control of a room. Which he was. As I noodled on my phone in certain other talks, Hoke's charisma became a more notable thing.

A couple days later eight four-star recruits would agree.

Now on to the email report.

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

HI Brian,

Last night I had the opportunity to hear Coach Hoke speak for 2 hours at a Glazier Clinic in Grand Rapids.  Hoke took the first five minutes to talk a little program philosophy and motivational stuff, he then launched into a very detailed 110 minute talk about D-Line rules/technique/drills/responsibilities.  I thought I would share some various bullets from the night.

Current Personnel

Roh move. Although already mentioned on the Blog, Craig Roh is definitely moving to the 5 tech! Coach hit on this a couple times while discussing drills.  Seemed to hint at Beyer and possibly Ryan moving to WDE?!  [Hint means he mentioned these guys as he was discussing WDE position...again nothing for sure, but just passing along info.]

[ED: I assume Ryan isn't moving to WDE. He probably gets mentioned amongst them because the SLB has a lot of responsibilities similar to the WDE. At the previous clinic Mattison mentioned that M has a defense in which the SLB and WDE essentially swap responsibilities that they ran 80 times last year. As always, SLB and WDE in the 4-3 under aren't that different. Also Ryan was a DE in the even-front nickel package last year.]

Campbell. Big Will came in for a little praise for his size and strength and it sounds like he is a "tremendous" individual, but Hoke didn't make you feel great about Will's chances to contribute at a high level.

Jake Ryan. Came in for some high praise as Coach Hoke called him "an unorthodox football player" and also said he will be a key to the success of the defense here at Michigan.  They showed the clip from the Sugar Bowl where Wilson tries to bounce at the goal line and runs 20 yards backwards then Ryan cleans up.

[ED:

This was one of two late-season plays on which Ryan's shocking upfield acceleration resulted in a big loss. A Taylor Martinez zone read keeper that ended up a TFL was the other.]

Hoke smiles and says, "That's just fun, isn't it?" Hoke went on to tell a story about a connection to the Ryan family and that Jake was interested in SDSU, but Hoke and his staff there never offered.  He then said something to the sound of, "times like this make you feel like a fool, glad we got him now!" 

Obviously. Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen came in for high praise as men who worked hard and set the tone as important Seniors on team #132.  RVB was credited as one of the smartest players on the team, Hoke then said, "Mike is really strong!"  That received a roar of laughs. (Quick side note:  Hoke is a great comedian and has a natural feel for comedic timing. [ED: It's true. He called a guy up to the front of the room to get in a stance, started adjusting him, and then asked if his feet were square. The demonstrator said "more or less"; Hoke repeated it in just the right way and got a roaring laugh from the room. Comedy without a punchline is hard.])

Hoke talked specifically about Martin not getting enough push earlier in the year and how, once he was attacking more, he was unblockable. 

Nathan Brink got a lot of love from Coach Hoke.  He said, "he is a limited athlete, but a tough sucker." Maybe he can add some valuable depth?

Desmond Morgan received some high praise.  However, every time they showed D-Line clips from game film, Des seemed to be out of place or getting killed! Coach Hoke talked about his smarts, strength, and instinct.

[ED: Morgan fared better in the clips from the Mattison session. I figure the bad bits are freshman being freshmen and they expect he'll be a lot better this year. Morgan will not go easily into the night what with the new kids around.]

Quinton Washington got some love from Coach.  He talked about his strength and good feet.  The only set back for Quinton is he is a "pincher bug!"  Meaning he doesn't get his hands inside and get extension.  With three D-Line coaches on staff, you have to get technique right or you will not see the field.  He said "we need Quinton to get this right before September 1st!"

Stories and Comments

0912 MICH2 PHOTO 3 SPORTS 1998
Photo By Frank Ordoñez/ SU's Donovan Mcnabb runs for a 11 yard gain that set up SU's first touchdown in the 1st quarter.

Cross is boss

The McNabb game. Coach Hoke talked about the 98' Syracuse game and mentioned that, "you guys know a guy by the name of Donovan McNabb?  He is just a little bit of good!" He went on to say, "I told Coach Carr that I take all responsibility for the loss."   Hoke talked about the fact that he didn't prepare his linemen properly and he let them down.  Some of this is coach speak, but he is so effectual with his speaking that I felt like he let me down too.  It was salt in the wounds man, salt in the wounds.

[ED: This was presented in the context of returning nine starters from the 1997 defense, which you may remember as pretty  good. Hoke was discussing the algorithm he has his players go through to get to the ball and how he thought his guys had it down after '97; now he teaches it every year without fail. Again we got back to coaches repeating everything for a reason.

nddf2[1]Hall. He talked about James Hall (right) as having the best hands he has ever seen.  He referenced this leading to a great NFL career, although he did mention that great speed/quickness helps!

Jabs. Hoke kept throwing out light hearted jabs at his assistants.  Gave you the feeling that these guys really like each other and work well together.

[ED: as I tweeted out, Borges was talking about how few people were in his clinic and Hoke was telling him "no one cares about offense" before they went on. In actuality both sessions were packed to the gills.]

T-Bone. I was surprised by how detailed he was in all the drills/technique portion.  One of his GAs from Ball State was in attendance, so he had "T-Bone" come up and be his personal dummy for the night.  Hoke repeatedly gave this guy huge shots on every demonstrated punch and extension.  T-Bone was tough, but by the end, he was grimacing each time.  I only include this to show how much Hoke is still a D-Line guy at heart.  He can't hold back and was working up a sweat demonstrating this.

[ED: T-Bone. Of course.]

Ohio. Following the clinic someone was asking him a question about the "Akron State Golden Bobcats" and this gentleman used the full given name of that said team.  Quickly Hoke corrected him and said, "You mean Ohio?" questioning which team the man meant.  I know it might seem played up with the whole "Ohio" thing, but that little interaction made me a bit more proud that he is our coach. 

Tremendous. Overall, there were 11 counts of "tremendous." 

I was very much on the fence about Coach Hoke until his introductory press conference.  Then I remained skeptical throughout the summer and even fall.  After getting to witness this talk on a Thursday night in February with a bunch of overweight D-Line coaches, I am thankful that he is our coach.  You can see why Mattison wanted to coach with him. 

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

So that's Hoke.

Comments

Things That Happened

Things That Happened Comment Count

Brian December 29th, 2011 at 12:22 PM

Hello!

The DL took a hit for the Sugar. Nate Brink is out, leaving I Don't Know behind RVB at strongside defensive end, and Will Heininger is "questionable" with a foot thing.  No one expects him to play. Heininger's absence would probably mean a start for Will Campbell and more playing time for Quinton Washington, plus a tired Mike Martin since he won't have anything approximating a plausible backup:

"(We have) two other seniors up front that are going to play their last college game and their last game for Michigan," Hoke said. "Sometimes, you’ve got to be an iron man."

The line is thin.

MonuMental dropped wallpaper. It's uncommonly gorgeous even for MonuMental.

michigan-football-wallpaper-2012-sugar-bowl-widescreen[1]

He also has a request for people who have enjoyed his work. Click through.

Denard got Sports Scienced. BIZANG

Virginia Tech's kicker got in jail. Like, jail-jail. I think I mentioned that already, but the new thing is VT's significant uncertainty at the spot:

Beamer said everyone made the trip except suspended place-kicker Cody Journell, who is facing a felony charge of entering a house with the intent to commit a felony. He spent six days in jail before being released this morning.

Beamer said senior Tyler Weiss will handle extra-point tries and field goals of less than 22 yards against Michigan, and senior Justin Myer will attempt longer kicks.

The Hokies have a guy who's deadly accurate from inside the five but can't get a 30-yarder over the bar. I look forward to seeing this strangely configured man.

The Big Ten and Pac 12 enjoyed a long, teary hug. Starting in 2017 the two conferences will have a scheduling alliance designed to "match teams of similar strength" in football, which is all that matters. The two leagues will also play in all other sports but in all other sports it's a matter of replacing one of your quality nonconference opponents with a Pac-12 school. Only in football does this make for real change.

While the move away from cupcake non-games is welcome, that was already on the docket as the Big Ten prepared to move to a nine-game conference schedule. That is now off the table:

The scheduling partnership means the Big Ten won't be moving from eight conference games to nine beginning in the 2017 season. The league had announced the increase in August.

"If it's not off the board, it's coming off the board," Delany said. "When this opportunity was raised, it's pretty much the understanding that it's in lieu of."

Instead of playing Wisconsin and Penn State more Michigan will play some Pac-10 teams. Honestly, I'd rather skip this business and expand the conference schedule. I'd rather have a more balanced conference schedule and more frequently revisited rivalries with the rest of the league than games Michigan could schedule anyway.

ANTI-BONUS: This hurts Michigan and Ohio State more than anyone else since they are locked into that cross-divisional protected rivalry. The other contenders in the West have annual matchups against Purdue (Iowa), Indiana (MSU), and the post-apocalypse version of Penn State (Nebraska). Michigan gets OSU annually. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes' main division rival's permanent crossover is… Minnesota. At least the Badgers won't be able to duck any and all plausible nonconference opponents anymore.

So it's a push leaning to not good right now. It will will be a total fail if Michigan takes the opportunity to ditch the ND series. Survey says… probably not($):

While Brandon said he wouldn’t want to predict anything in the long term -- and he said 2017 is not considered long term in his view of football scheduling -- if the current schedule were to remain the same, the Irish will remain on the schedule.

That schedule would be eight Big Ten games, a home or away game with the Big Ten/Pac-12 agreement, a home or away game against Notre Dame and two non-conference home games.

“They like to play us and we like to play them so that game continues to be on our schedule,” Brandon said. “As it relates to the long term, who knows. The long term is pretty hard to predict with the constant changes in college football, but for now we intend to play Notre Dame and they are on our schedule and we’ll be playing them for the next few years anyway.”

If the ND game stays in place that will take Michigan's interesting nonconference games from one to two in 2017, but you can say goodbye to the idea of playing anyone from the ACC, Big 12, or SEC in the nonconference unless Jerry Jones is throwing money around like a sad old lonely man. And that was going to happen in 2017 anyway with a move to a nine-game conference schedule.

The Big Ten got a lot of credit for envisioneering a multifaceted solution to the dynamic problems of college athletics. I don't get it. Not to pick on the MZone, but, uh:

And just like that, the SEC's addition of Mizzou and Texas A&M seems so...quaint.  The Big East's addition of Boise State and...who again?... seems so 2011.  As Scott points out, the B1G and Pac-12 gain a lot of the upside of expansion (broader reach, new markets and recruiting areas( without actually expanding.  And with the conferences' TV deals with ESPN expiring in 2016, the BTN and the Pac-12 new network stand to make a financial killing.

This is far from an isolated opinion; check the link blizzard in the second paragraph of Get the Picture's analysis of the situation.

The SEC diluting its product with Mizzou and A&M was never a good idea to begin with. This lacks any huge, stupid downsides like the SEC deal, so there's that, but at its heart it's one football game a year. Just because the man with the eyebrows says something doesn't mean it's true.

Michigan hired a soccer coach. He's from Providence, he's turned a nothing program into a consistent NCAA participant, he's not Caleb Porter, but he seems like a pretty good idea. More details in the board thread.

Tigerdroppings got cited by a newspaper. Tennessee WR DeAnthony Arnett is leaving Tennessee after Charlie Baggett's exit to be closer to his ailing father. You're probably wondering if Michigan will take a look after grabbing Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh in the last few weeks. There is a wild card spot open since Bri'onte Dunn decided to stick with the Golden Bobcats.

Michigan would be foolish not to explore the possibility. If he doesn't get a waiver he'd be coming off his redshirt year with three to play when Roundtree and Stonum exit. He fills a hole on the roster after Michigan didn't take any WRs last year. If Michigan doesn't hop on him his most likely destination is MSU. Since he's a transfer he doesn't have to be crammed into the 28 available LOI slots. His stock has not dropped over the last year: Arnett had 24 catches as a freshman. His timeline matches up well with Michigan's needs and he's got talent. I would grab him and see if Michigan suffers the one or two extra departures that would allow them to take 28 on Signing Day anyway.

That's beside the point. This is the point:

Arnett caught 24 passes for 242 as a true freshman for the Volunteers last season, but several factors have prompted Arnett to ask for a release from Tennesse, according to fan site tigerdroppings.com.

That link leads to a C&P of the Rivals article on his decision to exit.

OH TE Sam Grant is seeing Michigan's main competition fill up a bit. Kyle Kalis teammate Sam Grant just picked up an Oklahoma offer, which had the potential to significantly complicate what looked like a straightforward decision to avoid the tire fire that is BC football for Michigan. That offer may have just fell by the wayside with AZ TE Taylor McNamara's commitment to the Sooners($). McNamara was briefly a Michigan target before he decided Ann Arbor was too far from home.

That gives OU two tight ends in the last week, but Grant is still planning on a visit in January.

Josh Garnett said something reasonable. This was it.

Michigan recruit Josh Garnett: 'I'm like Suh, but on offense'

NotSureIfSerious

Also not sure if serious. Wait… what?

Despite his pro-style roots, Borges didn't shun the spread. After resigning from Auburn in December 2007, Borges took the next year off, his first since starting coaching, and made visits to college teams like Mississippi State, Florida and Cal as well as to the NFL's Detroit Lions.

Then, in preparation for Michigan's season, he consulted with spread-offense practitioners like Temple coach Steve Addazio.

Steve Addazio is a spread offense practitioner like Jim Tressel is an honesty practitioner.

Multi-year scholarships got overriden, too. That PDF only had 48 objections to the multi-year scholarship option so I thought it was in the clear. It is not:

More than 75 schools are asking to override a plan approved in October to allow multiyear athletic scholarships rather than the one-year renewable awards schools currently provide.

That's disappointing but at least the world is being alerted to the asshat factory that is the Indiana State athletic department. If it goes to an override vote, 5/8ths of the membership would have to vote it down to eliminate it.

Someone made Central Michigan's stadium in Minecraft. Srs.

CMU was not in my top ten "schools most likely to create 1:1 replica of their stadium in Minecraft." BOOM:

  1. Georgia Tech
  2. Stanford
  3. Cal
  4. Michigan
  5. Rice
  6. UCLA
  7. Illinois
  8. Florida
  9. Washington State
  10. Notre Dame

Bowl lol continues. It's costing LSU and Alabama almost a million dollars to buy their band tickets for the SEC West title game. Clemson expects to eat 200k in losses for winning the ACC, too.

Michigan's uniforms were named the best in college football by, like, fashion people. WSJ:

Michigan: Of all the traditional uniforms, the Wolverines' maize-and-blue unis earned the highest marks from the panel. (Michigan also wore throwback uniforms this season that received mixed reviews, but our panel didn't evaluate them.)

American fashion designer Marc Ecko especially liked the color weight on the jersey, while graphic artist Josh Vanover praised the "bold, bright colors" and "clean" fonts.

But what really pushed Michigan to the top was its iconic winged helmet, which received near-universal praise for its creativity.

"Anyone that uses it, no matter what color you put it in, it's Michigan," said Anthony Coleman, the managing editor of the fashion and street culture blog SlamxHype. "You can use it, but realize that you're stealing from Michigan."

Maryland also came in for praise for their whatever that was, as did Oregon, so this is not a panel of get-off-my-lawn types. Michigan does their thing so well they don't have to resort to goofy things they've done so far this year.

Basketball had a scare against Bradley. A second-half run finally broke open an uncomfortable game as Michigan put the nonconference schedule (mostly) to bed. Holding the Rope has a holistic overview. Jon Horford's lingering stress fracture forced McLimans on the floor and there were a fair number of "OH COME ON" shots made by the Braves as they isolationed their way to a barrage of shots Kobe Bryant would find difficult. Still… Bradley went out and got annihilated 90-51 by a very good Witchita State team yesterday and the Big Ten is terrifying.

Without Horford it is even more critical for Morgan and Smotrycz to stay out of foul trouble. That is not likely. Michigan cannot drop tonight's game against Penn State. There's zero room for error in the league this year and there is a bright line between 9-9—tourney lock—and 8-10. This game against PSU is just one of seven Michigan has left against teams ranked below them in Kenpom (#143 PSU x2, #69 NW, #122 Iowa, #126 Nebraska, #93 Arkansas).

INSANE SMOTRYCZ SHOOTING UPDATE: 22 of 38 from 3 (58%), fifth nationally in eFG%. Novak is 16th with his 64%/42% shooting.

Etc.: Michigan scores best comeback on Doctor Saturday's year-end list of said comebacks. The Rees fumble that greatly aided that comeback leads off the list of gaffes. Penn State tire fire claims Drake, McGloin, Paul Jones, forces Bolden to start against Houston. Penn State still has no coach.

Comments

Unverified Voracity Needs To Schedule Kansas Right Now

Unverified Voracity Needs To Schedule Kansas Right Now Comment Count

Brian December 9th, 2011 at 12:17 PM

Rimington: acquired. David Molk is your 2011 Rimington winner as the nation's best center:

I haven't watched every snap of every other center's career in detail, but I have watched Molk and I would have scoffed if he didn't win. Good move, Rimington award. The scoffing… you don't want this, son.

With the award and the first-team All-American status that goes with it, Molk will be one of the guys you randomly stumble across pages for on the Bentley site when trying to figure out all-decade teams. He'll show up in an endzone of Michigan Stadium at some point, grudgingly waving at the crowd. This makes me happy.

Future centers need not apply for the 2010s All-Decade team, by the way. Your application is as likely to be successful as Charlie Weis getting another head coaching—SKREEEEEEEEETCH

Carry on my Weighward son. So this happened:

390006_10150419902218842_40139773841_8414634_1239908666_n[1]

I'm still waiting for Orson to email the Kansas AD asking "who are you and when did you think of this," thus exposing the brilliant hoax. Because that ain't real. Kansas did not just hire an old sociopath whose college tenure is spectacular failure at Notre Dame and leading the Florida offense into walrusball territory. They did not shell out three million a year for him. These are not things that happen without Batman villains intervening in the water supply.

In the unlikely event this is a real thing that really happened, Michigan needs to schedule an annual series with Kansas. That's how you create the future, by causing the media to reminisce about things that your fanbase remembers as awesome.

Weis II >>>>>>>> Horror II. EFACT.

And now a word from Orson.

YEAH THE REASONS YOU CAME HERE WHATEVER I DON'T CARE I ASSUME YOU CAME WITH A SKI MASK ON AND SHOULD LEAVE WITH ONE BECAUSE YOU STOLE MONEY AT NOTRE DAME AND YOU STOLE MONEY FROM FLORIDA AND NOW YOU'RE GOING TO KANSAS AND THAT MAKES YOU SOME KIND OF SUBTROPICAL DEPRESSION THAT GUSTS INTO PRESS CONFERENCES RAINS TURNOVERS ON AN OFFENSE AND THEN SUCKS THE CASH OUT OF THE AIR BEFORE BLOWING INTO THE NEXT STOP. WE BOUGHT THE MONORAIL. WE DIDN'T SEE A WICKED THING COMING THIS WAY. WE WROTE THE CHECK AND SAID SURE YOU SEEM TRUSTWORTHY PERSON WHO LOST TO GREG ROBINSON AT SYRACUSE ON YOUR OWN HALLOWED HOME FIELD.

THEN YOU LEAVE AND THAT'S GREAT. SERIOUSLY I WOULD HAVE THROWN BATTERIES AT YOU AT THE BOWL GAME. YOU THINK I'M JOKING BUT I'M NOT MY FRIEND JON SAID "I'M GOING TO THROW BATTERIES AT HIM" AND FOR ONCE THIS MADE SO MUCH EMOTIONAL SENSE TO ME. I WOULD HAVE FELT BETTER. MY HATE AND FRUSTRATION WOULD HAVE CHARGED THE BATTERY AND THEN LEFT ME IN ONE CATHARTIC JOLT IN A CLEAN TRANSFER OF ENERGY FROM ME TO THE BATTERY TO YOUR WORTHLESS CARCASS. I WOULD HAVE FELT BETTER EVEN WITH THE MISDEMEANOR ASSAULT CHARGE. I REALLY WOULD HAVE ESPECIALLY AFTER I WATCHED YOU MAKE UP THAT BULLSHIT PLAN FOR THE GEORGIA GAME AND WATCHED US DIE IN PERSON FOR THE ENTIRE SECOND HALF SERIOUSLY YOU OWE JOHN BRANTLEY SEVEN YEARS ON HIS LIFE.

And now let's reminisce.

"They're going to have to learn about us, OK? Let them try to stop a pro-style offense, which has multiple personnel groups and multiple formations. Let's see how they are going to do. They've had their advantage because I've come into recruiting late. Well, now it's Xs and Os time. Let's see who has the advantage now."

I wrote a thing after the above game with a photoshop Kansas fans may want to have handy.

The only wonder is that the media spent the better part of 2.5 years pumping him up as Weis E. Coyote, Certified Super Genius, largely because Weis spent every available moment telling the media that he and his ACME catalog of incredibly sophisticated devices were worth a foolproof touchdown every game. Somehow I doubt even Tyrone Willingham would have Notre Dame scoring -7 points per game.


By god, if EDSBS can have a horrible photoshop of Dennis
Erickson driving a golf cart into a volcano, I can have this.

The result of all these fantastic toys? Literally nothing. No touchdowns. No rushing yards. No hope.

No hope… no hope. [Kansas football flatlines.]

A witch! Find the witch! If you're wondering why the parents of former Michigan commits are telling recruiting reporters that their sons are qualified, yesterday Rivals claimed a current commit was not likely to make it past the clearinghouse and please don't speculate as to who, which worked as well as it always does: not at all. At least the Inquisition didn't last long. When Anthony Standifer decommitted soon after, two was added to two.

I'm not sure what the deal is here. Michigan's main competition for Standifer was Notre Dame, not often hot after kids who won't qualify. In the Trieu article above his mom doesn't sound mad, claiming it was a mutual breakup:

"Both parties have decided to go their separate ways."

So, whatever. For whatever reason Michigan is down one Standifer. This has two major impacts:

  1. Michigan probably wants another defensive back. Hot prospect is current PSU commit Armani Reeves, a four-star corner Michigan finished second for back when Penn State didn't have… events. He seems to be opening it back up; it appears M was ready to grab Yuri Wright even with Standifer in the class and would probably take both Wright and Reeves without thinking twice.
  2. If Michigan handled this poorly there could be some fallout with LaQuon Treadwell, the 2013 WR from Standifer's school who has visited multiple times and seems to favor M. FWIW, Ace has a report on that indicating it won't impact his decision.

And now: children who hate football. The father in the first one is kind of a jerk.

Try not to think of the latter one the next time Michigan loses a game.

The coming funpocalypse. Every report that BCS automatic qualifier status is probably gone further enhances the belief that BCS AQ status is probably gone. The bigger issue is if the cap on the number of teams per conference will be lifted, as that will determine who benefits from the AQ removal: Boise State or SEC #3? Actually, with Boise now moving to the Big East, they're hurt by this. They finally wrangle themselves an autobid just in time for them to go up in smoke. They have been trolled expertly.

Every report that an expanded playoff field is inevitable further enhances the belief that Jim Delany is a Centauri diplomat. Andy Staples quoting Stanford's AD:

"I happen to agree with my conference colleagues about the plus-one game," Stanford athletic director Bob Bowlsby said Wednesday. "I think it's inevitable at this point."

That's the Pac-12, man. With the Big 12 having their Okie State hissy, the SEC and ACC already on board, and the Big East able to calculate the chances of one of their teams ever getting in a two-team playoff, the Big Ten is about to be dragged into an arrangement they don't want. As I said, Delany should have thought about the slippery slope in 1998, not now.

In other quotes that make me pump my fist:

[After complaining about the Sugar Bowl, Kansas State AD John] Currie then said something that should strike fear into the hearts of overpaid, underworked bowl directors everywhere, because while Currie may be the jilted, angry one now, he isn't the only administrator who feels this way. "College football doesn't need the bowls like it once did to build the brand of college football," Currie said. In other words, the schools and conferences can stage exhibition games on their own at a far lower cost, increasing their profits and cutting the bowls out of the equation entirely.

YES THIS YES. The NCAA needs goofballs in yellow jackets in no way whatsoever.

Staples also discusses a potential split in D-I between haves and have-nots, something I either don't care about (if the split does not prevent you from scheduling lower division teams) or adore (if it does).

Well, maybe. Meinke starts the fretting about next year's defensive line with some quotes from defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery. This is the most interesting:

One question that likely will fester into fall camp: Will either Roh, who will be a senior fourth-year starter next year, or sophomore Jibreel Black be moved from weak-side to strong-side end to replace Van Bergen?

They both played well this season on the weak side, so splitting them could be a way of getting the best 11 on the field.

Montgomery's answer: "It could happen, but I’m telling you, Nathan Brink is going to be a good football player. To say anyone is going to pass him at five-technique (is premature)."

When Brink got hyped up in preseason camp, that was a sign the world was ending at the Will Campbell spot. When he immediately faded in favor of Will Heininger, that was a sign things were even worse than implied when one walk-on was in the conversation. And Heininger had some struggles early.

Then a funny thing happened: Heininger stopped getting beat up by Eastern Michigan

If the rest of the line did this there'd be nothing. Unfortunately, this is Will Heininger's fate (second from the top in the first frame):

heininger-power-2 heininger-power-4 heininger-power-5

You can see the blue stripe. Roh has his helmet on it. Heininger ends up a yard behind it and sealed away. That middle frame is a butt-kicking, and the third frame is the result: two Michigan players with no hope of making a tackle.

…and settled into a brief period of anonymity before emerging into a pretty good player late in the year. Heininger has been consistently positive in UFRs since about the midpoint of the season, and while he's not Mike Martin or Ryan Van Bergen he's far more effective than folks like Banks and Patterson were last year.

This realigns our perceptions. Michigan has never been a place that could get mileage out of walk-ons like Iowa or Wisconsin, so the default assumption has been walkons == doom. In certain cases (say, inserting a freshman student-body walk-on into the starting lineup) that remains true. But if Brink fends off Roh and Black for a job at five-tech there's reason to believe he'll be able to hack it.

Given his brief windows of play so far he'll have to improve massively to get there, but, hey, Will Heininger.

This year, last year. Stolen from the depths of the internet, a man who goes only by "Jeff" posts Michigan's plays of X yards or more allowed this year and last year:

Plays of 80+ yards - 2010 3, 2011 0
Plays of 70+ yards - 2010 4, 2011 0
Plays of 60+ yards - 2010 7, 2011 0
Plays of 50+ yards - 2010 8, 2011 2
Plays of 40+ yards - 2010 15, 2011 6
Plays of 30+ yards - 2010 29, 2011 13
Plays of 20+ yards - 2010 64, 2011 41
Plays of 10+ yards - 2010 211, 2011 150

Note that these numbers include *all* plays of longer than 10+, 20+, not plays for 10-19 yards, plays for 20-29 yards, etc. - we didn't give up 7 plays for 70+ yards in 2010, we gave up 3 for 80-100 and 1 for 70-79.

That is slight improvement there. Safeties, safeties, safeties. The difference doesn't really kick into full force until you get to plays of 30 and 40 yards. Too bad the defense had a bit of a meltdown against OSU or that plays of >30 yards number would be ridiculously low.

Etc.: Video from the 1930s. Of Michigan Stadium. The Daily notes that there are two guys in lobster costumes in the student section calling themselves "Smotrycz's Lobstryczs," which is incredible. You men are heroes.

Comments

Preview 2011: Five Questions On Defense

Preview 2011: Five Questions On Defense Comment Count

Brian September 2nd, 2011 at 11:00 AM

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

1. How does the shift back to the 4-3 under fit the personnel?

stack-two-deepavery-guh-1

left: stack no blitzy. right: 4-3, though an even 4-3, not the under

Better than the 3-3-5-type-substance but it's not going to be a huge difference. Fits:

  • BETTER: Roh (LB/DE to WDE), Demens (MLB to MLB with guys in front of him)
  • SAME: RVB(DE to SDE/DT), Martin (NT to NT), Heininger (DE to SDE), Gordon (spur to SLB), Jones (WLB to WLB), Gordon (FS to FS), cornerbacks
  • WORSE: Kovacs (bandit to SS)
  • Craig Roh and Jibreel Black were men without a position last year. Though Roh actually help up pretty well when he moved to the DL late, he was still miscast as a DE in a three-man line. Black just got crushed. This year both will be playing weakside DE, where they can get after one tackle.

Kenny Demens will be shielded by two senior defensive tackles, allowing him to flow to the ball like he did against Iowa. Michigan set of small, quick WLBs is better suited for the 4-3 since it will be harder for opponents to get a hat on them.

The major negative is not finding a way to keep the two safeties near the LOS. Both are effective blitzers who are a little dodgy in a deep half.

2. How big is the coaching upgrade? Will the transition hurt more than it?

The Mathlete's numbers suggest a coaching change is a drag on the improvement of very bad defenses worth about eight spots. It seems flabbergasting that that could be the case for this specific situation, however. dnak438 found a GERG effect of approximately negative 30(!) spots. While you should take that with a grain of salt because the sample size there is extremely small, each grain adds to a pile threatening to eclipse the Schwarzschild radius. Going from Greg Robinson not running a system he knows to Greg Mattison teaching exactly what he's taught for a zillion years has to be a positive even in the short term.

What causes that drag? Probably a system change. How long has Michigan been running its current system? Six games. They've probably got more experience running the under than the 3-3-5.

Then there are the position coaches: Adam Braithwaite was a grad assistant promoted to LB coach without the usual stops at East Nowhere State. Tony Gibson was reputed to be mostly a recruiter. Bruce Tall seemed pretty good but in his place Michigan has Hoke, Mattison, and Jerry Montgomery. That's an upgrade across the board.

3. Why is everybody so suicidal when the personnel doesn't look entirely doomy?

karschdeath

doug karsch interviewing popular perception about the defense. via firstbase

Slap me for saying this but the starting lineup isn't that scary save for two spots: SDE, where walk-ons Will Heininger and Nathan Brink are backed up by Nobody At All, and WLB, where four cats are fighting in a sack. You know what they say about WLBs: if you've got four you don't have any.

The rest of the line is Martin, Van Bergen, and Roh. Demens is promising at linebacker and they've got a couple of good options at SAM. And the secondary isn't awesome but Avery/Woolfolk/Kovacs/Gordon looks like it could be below average, which will seem like heaven. This year's edition of "Are You Experienced?" sees Michigan move towards average. There's still a gap, but it's narrowing. The Decimated Defense series also sees its Michigan number creep towards sane.

So why is everyone, including myself, afraid of going 7-5 this year with just about everyone back everywhere?

Well, there's depth. Once you get past those starters its scary. There are three backups I wouldn't wince upon seeing enter on the field: Black, Jake Ryan, and Carvin Johnson. I guess Brink fits in there as well but only because he'd be spotting another walk-on. Everyone else on the line has been beaten out by Brink and Heininger, I have little faith in JT Floyd, and even if Marell Evans was injured at Hampton he's done little in four years of football. When injuries happen the dropoff will be severe. It won't even take injuries for the defensive line to wane in effectiveness. Modern football rotates the DL. Michigan has a choice between tired starters and ineffective backups.

Even so I still can't work up the same sense of bowel-crippling panic I had last year when I believed the secondary would tread "horrible, polluted, razor-blade-filled, despair-laden water." Let's poke around at

PROJECTED FRESHMAN CONTRIBUTORS

2010: Black, Gordon, Gordon, Johnson, Avery, Talbott
2011: Maybe Ash

DEFENSES RUN

2010: 4-3 under, 3-4, 3-3-5
2011: 4-3 under

RADICAL MIDSEASON SWITCH TO ENTIRELY DIFFERENT SYSTEM

2010: Third year running
2011: Hell no

MOTIVATIONAL DEVICE

2010: Rubbing a stuffed beaver in your face
2011: Navy SEAL tridents

Michigan wasn't just rocking an underclass two-deep, they were rocking a freshman-heavy two deep. This could work out! For a given definition of work out!

4. What is with Will Campbell? Isn't the situation at SDE just horrible?

Man, I don't know about Campbell. Maybe his center of gravity is just too high. Maybe he'll never learn technique in the same way Mike Cox can't remember to run into the hole.

The situation at SDE is caused by whatever it is with Will Campbell and will not be encouraging. Heininger was already a non-entity in the passing game and that was 28 pounds ago. And who the hell knows about Brink? I'm guessing Mattison is just trying to get that spot to hold up against double teams in the run game and will rely on Roh/Martin/Van Bergen to get the pass rush. If they can do that it's a win.

Can they do that? Why do I ask myself unanswerable questions? 

5. Well?

Michigan will be much, much better this year. How much better depends on:

  • The health of key, irreplaceable pieces. These are Martin, Demens, Van Bergen, and the starting corners.
  • The improvement of last year's freshmen. Avery, both Gordons, and Black all have the potential to leap forward Darius Morris style.
  • Nathan Brink. If Michigan's unearthed something here that not only makes SDE acceptable it means the guys he beat out are potentially serviceable.
  • Craig Roh. He could be anything from Tim Jamison to James Hall.

The first bit is unknowable but I can hazard guesses on the latter three: two of the four freshmen above will be startlingly good. Two will be meh. I'm guessing Thomas Gordon and Avery are the former. Brink will not be as bad as everyone feared but that SDE spot is going to be averaging +2 for the season, which is bad. Roh will be in the 75th percentile of his range, a fringe All Big Ten guy.

When I wrote that the D should improve but "not enough" I didn't account for a GERG/RR effect that is real. They'll be better than 82nd in advanced metrics this year by a long shot.

Now, behold the greater-thans and less-thans!

BETTER

  • senior Mike Martin with ankles > Mike Martin
  • junior Craig Roh playing his actual position >>> linebacker Craig Roh
  • junior Demens >> sophomore Demens/Ezeh
  • sophomore Cam Gordon > freshman Gordon/Gordon/Johnson
  • Woolfolk >>> Rogers
  • sophomore Avery >> freshman Avery/Floyd
  • T. Gordon/Johnson >> Gordon/Vinopal

SAME

  • senior RVB == junior RVB
  • Kovacs == Kovacs
  • Heininger/Brink == Banks

WORSE

  • Jones/Hawthorne/Herron/Morgan << Mouton

It's going to take two years to dig out of this hole completely but I think the defense will rebound more effectively than stats and conventional wisdom suggest.

Last Year's Stupid Predictions

Fumbles recovered double to ten.

Michigan recovered seven.

The secondary is actually better than last year's secondary because long touchdowns are less frequent. It will still be very bad.

First sentence: false. Second: true.

Mouton is much better, leads the team in TFLs and sacks, and is still incredibly frustrating.

Very accurate. Mouton led the team in tackles (117), was in a three-way tie for TFLs (8.5, Kovacs and RVB tied) and had two sacks. RVB (4) and Banks (3) beat him but not by much in a pathetic year for sacks.

Mike Martin is great and should get first-team Big Ten recognition, though he probably won't.

This might have actually transpired if he hadn't gotten laid up with high ankle sprains. Before he was chopped down against MSU he was playing very, very well.

Mark Moundros holds on to the starting MLB job all season.

No.

Michigan manages a modest improvement in yards allowed, getting up to the 60-70 range nationally.

Not so much: Michigan dipped to 110th.

Pain.

More accurate than anyone thought possible.

This Year's Stupid Predictions

  • Courtney Avery busts out. Going into next year people are talking about him as an All Big Ten performer.
  • Kenny Demens leads the team in tackles with Northwestern-MLB-type numbers.
  • Brink is a legitimate player, better than Greg Banks was last year. The biggest source of pain on the defense is the WLB.
  • Craig Roh leads the team in sacks with eight.
  • Sacks almost double from 1.4 per game to 2.4. That would be a move from 98th to around 30th.
  • Turnovers forced go from 19 to 27.
  • Michigan noses just above average in yardage allowed. Advanced metrics have them about 50th.
  • EVERYTHING SEEMS WONDERFUL

Comments

An Interview With Nathan Brink's High School Position Coach

An Interview With Nathan Brink's High School Position Coach Comment Count

Ace August 30th, 2011 at 6:58 PM

Walk-on defensive lineman Nathan Brink [photo credit: Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com]

Redshirt sophomore defensive end Nathan Brink's emergence this fall as a walk-on in line for major playing time has come as a surprise for many, and begs raises the question: Who is Nathan Brink? Perhaps more importantly, at least to Wolverine fans, can he make a positive contribution this year on the field? To help us learn more about the walk-on, who's currently slated to back up Will Heininger at strongside defensive end, Brad Hoffman, who was Nate's defensive line coach at Holland Christian, was kind enough to answer a few questions:

ACE: Nate's burst onto the scene this year, and as a walk-on Michigan fans aren't very familiar with him. What was his recruitment like coming out of high school? Did he get any scholarship offers for football, and what made him decide to walk on at Michigan?
 
COACH HOFFMAN: Early on in high school Nate was focused on basketball. Some time during the team's state title run Nate's senior year he switched his focus to football.  He was 6'5" and around 220 lbs. his senior year. Nate was a strong kid, but not high level college football strong. I don't have first hand knowledge of any scholarship offers. Our head coach at the time was Willie Snead, who just came over from Glades Central in FL and had a good relationship with Rich Rodriguez. Through Coach Snead, Nate and Seth Broekhuizen [Brink's high school teammate] were able to receive walk-on spots at Michigan. 

ACE: What was Nate's football game like as a high school player? What were his strong and weak points?
 
COACH HOFFMAN: As I mentioned earlier Nate's focus was basketball early in his high school career. He didn't play football his sophomore year. When he came back his junior year he was inexperienced, but he earned a starting spot. Nate was our starting left tackle and right defensive end. We went 14-0 Nate's senior year and Nate must have been on the field for 80% of all snaps. Nate always was a hard worker. Coach Mattison said something about how when Coach Montgomery tells Nate to step a certain way he tries to step a certain way. That is something I remember about Nate. He always gave consistent effort and tried to improve his game every drill and every practice.
 
Nate was a very physical football player. We ran a 3-5-3 his senior year and that meant he was constantly getting double teamed. He was consistently going against lineman who had 40+ lbs. on him. The front of Nate's helmet and his facemask was trashed at the end of the season because he played low through those double teams and was getting his head through his assigned gap. Because of his basketball background Nate had fantastic feet and balance that certainly helped him overcome the size difference. Nate's biggest weakness was strength. If he was to compete at the collegiate level he was going to have to get stronger.
 
ACE: How has Nate changed as a player since he got to Ann Arbor?
 
COACH HOFFMAN: I would say the biggest difference I see in Nate is the 50 lbs. he has gained. He still works out in our weight room when he is in town and he looks like a completely different man from the one that left here in 2009. I am sure he is still the detail-oriented, hard working d-lineman he was back in 2009. Since he only had 2 years of varsity football experience (3 years total) all the credit goes to Coaches Tall, Montgomery, Mattison and Hoke in getting him ready to play major D-1 college football.


ACE: As his high school defensive line coach, did you think he had the potential to grow into a contributor for the Wolverines? How do you think he'll fare this year as part of the D-line rotation?
 
COACH HOFFMAN: Anyone could have seen that Nate had great potential. He was a good athlete with a frame in which to pack on some major weight. There was no doubt in my mind that he would maximize that potential because of the work ethic he had showed in high school. I didn't know if he would see the field a whole lot during his career, not too many walk-ons do, but I knew he would make a contribution in some way, whether that be on the practice field or in a leadership position. As a part of the rotation I think we will see a player that gives his all and will be a big-hitter when given the opportunity.
 
Thanks to Coach Hoffman for providing his insight on Nate. Personally, I'm excited to see what he can do on the field, and it looks like Michigan will need him to step up in a major way if the defensive line is going to perform up to its potential.
 
Coach Hoffman also noted in an earlier email that true freshman linebacker Desmond Morgan, who also looks to be in line for playing time, had "been a killer for many years" in the OK Conference Red division. Feel free to adjust your expectations accordingly.

Comments

Preview 2011: Defensive Line

Preview 2011: Defensive Line Comment Count

Brian August 30th, 2011 at 4:42 PM

Previously: The story, the secondary, and the linebackers.

Depth Chart
STRONG DE Yr. NOSE TACKLE Yr. THREE-TECH Yr. WEAK DE Yr.
Will Heininger Sr.* Mike Martin Sr. Ryan Van Bergen Sr.* Craig Roh Jr.
Nate Brink So.* Richard Ash Fr.* Will Campbell Jr. Jibreel Black So.
Chris Rock Fr. Quinton Washington So* Kenny Wilkins Fr.* Frank Clark Fr.
 
If Will Campbell had just taken to a trio of defensive line coaches breathing down his neck for eight months the top line of that depth chart would be almost great: two seniors, two juniors, three returning starters, a couple all-conference types, and one moon-sized five-star recruit emerging into the starting lineup. The depth… eh… not so much, but as far as lines go that's a pretty good start en route to defensive competency.
 
Campbell didn't. Halfway through camp Ryan Van Bergen got flipped into the interior of the line and the coaches started talking about Nate Brink, then put near 300-pound Will Heininger, who sat out last year with an ACL tear, on top of the depth chart. Both are walk-ons. Yipes.

Defensive Tackle

Rating: 4.5

mike-martin-indianamike-martin-nd-2010

We'll start with the good. Last year, freshman Jibreel Black showed up and got an eyeful of what college defensive linemen were like when he laid eyes on Mike Martin. He came away from the experience with his eyes opened and his grammar damaged:

"When I see some plays that Mike (Martin) makes in practice, I be like dang. His explosiveness, his technique that he uses. You can tell the work that he put in with it.”

MIKE MARTIN
lolblocking
LOL single block
LOL zoning him
LOL pulling
LOL double block
LOL triple block
beast mode
authoritatively sacks
blasts through line
driving the center
zips between the C and G
consumes Chappell's soul
made every play
bad occassionally
easily scooped

In the right situation (three-technique instead of the nose) with the right amount of healthy ankles (two instead of zero), Martin could make All-America selectors be like dang.

Unfortunately, it seems like Martin is never going to get to move to that three-tech spot it seems he was made for. It's not that he's a bad nose tackle. Martin is big and strong and can take on double teams just fine. But he's also amazingly quick for a 300-pound squat-beast, so much so that the first thing Greg Mattison thought when he saw him was "we should use him like Shawn Crable." In the spring game passing downs Martin was in on often featured him in a two-point stance, hopping around like a linebacker. This is not your typical nose tackle.

If permitted to go one-on-one with guards used to holding off slugs and the results could be spectacular, like Jonathan Babineaux 28-TFL spectacular. But with no one else on the roster who won't get annihilated at the nose, Martin will have to tough out the double teams.

If you flip through the videos at right you'll see an awful lot of Martin crushing people until the Michigan State game, and then hardly anything. That's because a Spartan lineman chop-blocked Martin at the end of a game that was well in hand. Martin limped off and was diagnosed with the dreaded high ankle sprain. From then on he was not himself.

Sometimes this manifested by not being on the field at all. Martin missed most of the Iowa and Penn State games, big chunks of Illinois, and didn't play at all against Purdue. He started to get his mojo back afterwards but only gradually. You can see the effect in his UFR chart:

Opponent ++ -- TOT Notes
UConn 8 3 5 Late minuses for getting too pass-rush-y. Demands doubles. Good start.
Notre Dame 12 0.5 11.5 Beast mode. Best game of career.
UMass 25 - 25 I just write the numbers down!
BGSU 7 1 6 Quick passing offenses reduce DL impact; still did well when called upon.
Indiana 11.5 3 8.5 Actually got beat out by someone, also round this down to +7 or so.
MSU 8 1 7 A good performance, but coming down from his ridiculous nonconference level.
Iowa 0.5 1 -0.5 Clearly hurt.
Penn State - 1 -1 I'm going to throw myself off a bridge.
Illinois 8 1 7 Was more back than it looked live, but still out a lot more than usual.
Purdue - - - DNP
Wisconsin 8.5 2 6.5 One old-style "I destroy this play" plus a few more scattered good bits and some half points.

Martin was a nonfactor the next two weeks and only moderately effective against Illinois (remember that the wacky nature of that game meant more plays for DL to rack up points). To preserve my sanity I didn't UFR the dismal final two games of Rodriguez's career. Martin had two tackles and four assists against OSU and one measly assist in the bowl game; none of those were behind the LOS.

Healthy again and less abandoned in the middle of the defense, Martin's numbers should soar. Before the sprain Martin was on pace for 11 TFLs and 4 sacks; after it he got just a half TFL the rest of the year. While the front of the schedule is a bit easier, Martin had 8.5 TFLs and 51 tackles a year ago. Reasonable progression should have gotten him to 11.  Add in further progression plus three DL coaches plus a bit more help on the line plus a free-roaming QB attack role and 15 to 18 TFLs plus a little more QB terror should be within reach. He should be All Big Ten. He might be better.

rvb-notre-dameMichigan's Ryan Van Bergen, #53, hauls down Michigan State University quarterback Kirk Cousins during secind quarter action of Saturday afternoon, October 3rd's clash between the in-state rivals at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing. 
Lon Horwedel | AnnArbor.com

Ryan Van Bergen is your new starting three-tech. Great at nothing but consistent and durable, Van Bergen is a lot better than he gets credit for. As a put upon 3-3-5 DE last year he had 5 sacks and 9.5 TFLs despite getting very little help from the structure of the defense. He was often left by himself against two defenders, especially when it came to the passing game. GERG loved him some three-man rush.

/shakes fist

Van Bergen graded out almost as well as Martin over the course of the season thanks to his steady acquisition of points and half points for standing his ground against doubles or pushing offensive linemen into places they don't want to be. The UFR chart is really impressive:

Opponent ++ -- TOT Notes
UConn 3 - 3 Not exactly BG, but I don't think he has to be if it's a stack.
Notre Dame 4.5 3 1.5 Unproductive until late; irresponsible on midline zone read.
UMass 5 1.5 3.5 Lots of half points for doing decently on run plays.
BGSU 5.5 2 3.5 Decent impact in little opportunity.
Indiana 12 - 12 Excellent against the run, got some pass rush, mentally round this down to a +8.
MSU 9.5 1 8.5 One impact sack, some additional pressure, solid against the run. Good player.
Iowa 5.5 1 4.5 Best performance on the day but that's just average.
Penn State 10 3 7 The solitary player to have a good day.
Illinois 10.5 3.5 7 Developing into a fine player. Now consistently putting up points.
Purdue 7 3 4 May have been unfairly blamed for the big Henry keeper.
Wisconsin 3 6 -3 Did not make many plays; seemed to give up big cutback lanes easily. Maybe an RPS thing.

Van Bergen got better as the season went along and kept playing well in the face of total annihilation. He produced, and then Martin went out and he kept producing. A lot of the things he did were not explosive look-at-me plays, but the meat-and-potatoes grunt work required to keep your linebackers clean. This is emblematic:

That's not even an assist but by slanting past his blocker and then holding his ground he occupies two blockers and closes the hole so far that the RB runs into one of the guys trying to block him.

There were also a few explosive look-at-me plays, like this one:

RYAN VAN BERGEN
pass rush
stunts effectively
tough customer
annihilates guy trying to downblock him
slants into the lane
swims past Iowa OL
bounces off to tackle
picks off a pulling guard
all too easy
needs more beef
Wisconsin too much

That is Van Bergen lined up as a three-tech between Craig Roh and Mike Martin smoking MSU RT J'Michael Deane. Deane was apparently not much of a pass protector, but he's representative of the sort of guys RVB will be going up against this year—guards who are crushing run blockers but maybe not so good at pass pro.

His rushing isn't on Brandon Graham's level—last year's prediction he would "brush up against double digit sacks" fell three or four short. As the third-most-threatening guy on the line he's pretty good. If Michigan can get him single blocked by rushing more than three guys he might get there this year. He had five sacks from the three-tech spot as a sophomore; two years of experience and the luxury of being flanked by Martin and Roh will give him opportunities to slant past one-on-one blocking.

What's more, Van Bergen was an ironman last year. On a defense saddled with mediocre or worse backups at every spot, Van Bergen saw more snaps than any DL, often going entire games without being substituted. This year's line has no depth, either. That trait is going to be useful.

The move to three-tech won't be an issue. He played it two years ago and when Michigan went to a four man front last year they stuck him back inside. He's now 290, a three year starter, and a senior. He's a good bet to crack double-digit TFLs and get some All Big Ten mention.

Come On Backups

will-campbell-bgsuwill-campbell-backfield

yes, I wrote this section when I thought he was going to start

Well… there's Will Campbell. The all-everything recruit (except to ESPN, where he was their #22 OT) has languished on the bench, bounced to OL, and then gotten bounced from the starting lineup by a walk-on.

ESPN's skepticism about Campbell's tendency to stand straight up turned out to be right. When placed on the field as a freshman he struggled badly. Canonical example recycled from last year:

Description recycled from last year:

I'm not at the point where I can tell you the ten different things Campbell did to get blown four yards downfield, but I can blather on about pad level: man, pad level. Am I right?

You'll note that Campbell was playing a three-tech and got smoked one on one. The hype about how Campbell is an obvious three-tech and having him at the nose was another symptom of GERG's madness still has to combat Campbell's pad level, man.

At least his weight is back on the downswing. Last year he was listed at 333, significantly up from his freshman weight. Rodriguez was openly displeased with his conditioning last year, and he never saw the field outside of the goal line package. That's not good; it's even worse when Greg Banks and Renaldo Sagesse are the guys getting time instead of you. He's down eleven pounds this year and it's safe to say that's for the best. There is no good weight above 320.

Teammates and coaches have started talking Campbell up. While anyone who remembers the three weeks that Ron English spent talking up Johnny Sears knows that's not necessarily an assurance the player in question will be good, or even not-awful, at least this time around the conditioning grumblings are being directed elsewhere. Nose tackles do tend to take some time, as last year's West Texas Blue diary on Campbell's DT classmates demonstrated. Most redshirted as freshmen; few of the ones who didn't had any impact. (DeQuinta Jones was instantly productive for Arkansas, of course. That's just what happened under Rodriguez.)

He's further behind the curve now but even fellow uber recruits like LSU's Chris Davenport (one tackle), and Texas's Calvin Howell (two tackles) are struggling to find the field. They're not idling behind Greg Banks, sure, but Campbell's not dead yet.

He can be okay if protected. I spent large chunks of the spring game focused on him and he was mediocre:

All eyes were on Will Campbell and Will Campbell was all right. He got single blocked the whole day, alternating his time between pushing into the backfield to force cutbacks on unsuccessful runs, getting blocked out of rushing lanes, and (on passing downs) sitting at the LOS being the guy who looks for screens and scrambles. Unsurprisingly, reports that Campbell was "unblockable" as a three-tech turned out to be fiction—Campbell didn't beat a block all day. His contributions were limited to getting a moderate amount of penetration when single blocked on running plays. It was far from dominant; it could have been worse. I'm still pretty worried about what happens on stretch plays.

A moderate amount of penetration is worlds better than that clip above. He'll feature in the goal line package and against teams that want to run.

Past Campbell the only player anyone's seen on the field is redshirt sophomore Quinton Washington, who Rodriguez flipped from guard during the bye week last year. Washington got in on a few goal line plays, proceeding to drive his guy back and fall over.

That's fine on a goal line play. Taking that limited skillset and expanding it to the point where he can play defensive tackle on the other 98 yards is going to be trickier.

With Terry Talbott's medical redshirt there are just two other options, both redshirt freshmen who have survived the harrowing that's befallen much of Rodriguez's recruiting classes. Richard Ash is a nose tackle sort from Pahokee who briefly featured offers from USC and Florida before abruptly losing those. Over the course of a year he went from 260 to 320, which scared a lot of people off. Last year his corpulence was notable even amongst the defensive tackles. He's back down to about 300 now and will have to see some time spelling Martin. The sum total of Ash knowledge other than his weight loss is still in his recruiting profile.

The other option is Kenny Wilkins, who was initially supposed to be a weakside DE but showed up at 270 and is now 280. He's now listed as a DT and presumably will back up the three-tech spot. Wilkins was memorably pwned by walkons in the spring game on Mike Cox's long touchdown and has been called out by the coaches as a guy who needs to get his act together; if he plays this year he probably won't play well.

Strongside Defensive End

Rating: 1

heiningerheininger-2

This was Van Bergen until Campbell's failure to emerge sucked him back into the interior. Now you get your choice of walk-on. First on the depth chart is senior Will Heininger, who missed last year with an ACL tear and used that opportunity to expand alarmingly fast. After adding six pounds two years ago he threw on 28 over this offseason to end up at 295.

My assumption was that kind of weight gain from an injured guy who'd been in the program for years was a Posada-like sign, but after being all but ignored during fall camp he popped up on the two-deep as a starter and Hoke said that was a real thing. He must have spent every waking hour in the weight room.

"Experience" was why he got the nod; that experience consists of backing Brandon Graham up. In is time on the field he rarely did anything wrong; he rarely did anything right, either. He was a non-factor. As a guy spotting Graham from time to time that's cool, but as a starter or a guy rotating with another equally obscure walk-on that's a recipe for zero production out of a spot that should see its fair share of plays. If this spot averages out as a zero next year that's probably good—and that's not good.

One mitigating factor here: Michigan showed a three-man line in their two-minute defense. That package removes the walk-ons in favor of a zone-blitzing 3-4. These guys aren't playing on passing downs and may not see a lot of time against spread outfits. All these guys have to do is not get pounded on the ground. Pass rush is a bonus.

Backups

Nate Brinkbolivia

Nate Brink; where Nate Brink came from

More walkons! Sexy. With Van Bergen held out, Nate Brink was the starter at SDE in the spring game. Everybody assumed that didn't mean anything and focused on Campbell, so no one can tell you word one about how he did.

He faded back into Bolivian until the Van Bergen move, whereupon press conferences started talking about him and insiders started dropping what knowledge they had. The insiders said their usual bits about Brink being a diamond in the rough—one report claimed Mattison said he'd be in the two deep of any college team he'd coached. The press conferences were similarly predictable. This bit from Mattison is the most encouraging:

He's played like a Michigan football player. I hate to talk about a young man because I think when I do that they go right down in the tubes but this guy has come out every day as tough as he can. He listens to Coach Montgomery on every word. When he tells him to step a certain way, he tries, and he's really, really physical.

I think he was probably 250 in the spring and we told him to get to 265 and when he was reporting, I yelled, 'What do you weigh?' He said, '265' and I told him to drink some water and sure enough he started drinking water. Now I think he's 267 or 268.

In the spring, his toughness showed up and he was only 250 at that time. But his want-to and toughness stuck out like crazy. And that's what we want - 11 guys that play with that kind of attitude.

He's a guy that if he keeps doing what he's doing, Michigan people are going to be very happy with him.

I know this will end in tears but that's actually coachspeak that seems meaningful.

Holding The Rope has the complete presser dossier and all of his other biographical information. It adds up to:

  • is 265 pounds, up from 220 in high school
  • is a redshirt sophomore
  • coaches have said nice things about him
  • named "Nate Brink"

Brink will play. After mentioning Heininger's experience he said Brink has "practiced very well, played well, been productive" and promised to rotate six guys on the line. Six is a weird number because it means one of Black, Campbell, or Brink is on the fringe. Given the lineups Campbell seems the most likely even though that seems unlikely.

There's obviously no depth when the first two guys are walkons. In the event injuries hit them, Michigan will grit its teeth and slide Van Bergen back outside. True freshmen Chris Rock (Not That Chris Rock) and Keith Heitzman should be headed for redshirts (Heitzman actually might be headed for TE). If they don't it's a Ray Vinopal situation.

Weakside Defensive End

Rating: a speculative 4.

craig-roh-gergcraig-roh-uconn-2

what do you mean by "I don't want to play corner" again?

The only thing Michigan fans will miss about the deathbacker position is the name, and even then the group of people who know its true nomenclature is even smaller than the already-pretty-small group who know Craig Roh was a "spinner" and vastly smaller than the masses who know Roh is "that defensive end Michigan insists on pretending is a linebacker."

Craig Roh is not a linebacker. He has never been a linebacker, and this year he cranked himself up to 270 pounds to evaporate the last vestiges of confusion. Look at my giant skull crushing muscles, he says. Just try to put this in a two point stance.

CRAIG ROH
you can't see me
avoids a cut
Chappell hurry
speed rush for sack wsg Martin
smokes Illini T for holding call
sweet spin move
crunch, fumble, TD
not a lb
no depth on drops
frustrating dink
bubble overrun
dl run game
comes through TE
slants into lane
chucks lineman
slants under TE
power right at him

And the thing is, last year Roh wasn't that exploitable as a defensive end. He was certainly no more so than the other non-Van Bergen options, and when Michigan put his hand in the dirt against Notre Dame they got dividends from it:

Hit up those videos on the side to confirm. For a guy who was supposedly a liability he made his share of plays against the run in trying circumstances. Notable is that many of those were plays on the backside where he got under his blocker in a flash and sped down the line. On the weakside in the 4-3 under this is what he's going to be doing a lot.

Roh was so badly misserved by the previous defensive staff that he had to tell them what the hell he should be doing on defense. He requested a move back to the DL and got it, whereupon he was decent despite all this 3-3-5 business not suiting him at all. Talking about what happened to Roh last year makes me stabby. I called him the "Denard of the defense" because he was a uber-touted recruit forced on the field way too early by necessity; Denard became Denard and Roh dropped into short zones. Other than everything else, that was the clearest evidence GERG was sacrificing our defense to Xenu.

This year, though… this year Craig Roh is 270 pounds and will be playing the spot literally every scouting evaluation ever issued about him has begged—demanded—plead for him. This could yield one of those breakout year things. Here's what he did in the games Michigan played him mostly as a lineman:

Opponent ++ -- TOT Notes
Notre Dame 11 - 11 By far best game of his career.
MSU 6 1.5 4.5 Wasn't a liability in the run game against a pounding team.
Iowa 5 1 4 Okay, but not making a big impact.
Illinois 10.5 8 2.5 Eventful; some minuses may be someone else's fault.
Purdue 7 2.5 4.5 Good day.
Wisconsin 3.5 2 1.5 Basically one nice play and then not much.

He was much less a part of the tire fire when he had his hand in the dirt, and that was frequently as a 245-pound DE on a three man line. He is now 270 and going one-on-one with weakside tackles. He should improve from average-ish (remember that UFR slants towards the DL) to good.

At least good. We've yet to see the much of the pass-rushing skill that made Roh a top 50 recruit. He's displayed hints of the ability to zip past tackles before they know what hits them when suffered to rush the passer—there's a chance that when he puts hand to ground and is told to let it rip that he goes bonkers. Roh is the biggest X factor on the team. He could end up with anywhere from a half-dozen to twelve sacks.

Backups

jibreel-black-msujibreel-black

There is one. Hooray. The aforementioned Jibreel Black saw time spotting Roh last year; he showed some pass rush flair. His run defense was abject. He prominently featured on a Michigan State touchdown drive where cutback lanes were always open because Black wasn't flowing down the line. He was targeted for dismantling every time he hit the field, and more often than not opponents got exactly what they wanted. Except Penn State, weirdly.

    True freshman and all that, though. Black should be significantly better this year. Like Roh he'll benefit from the extra protection afforded the WDE in the 4-3 under and the triple threat DL coaches in the Hoke era. There is a significant downer, though. Black actually lost weight over the offseason, going from 265 to 260. This is one weight gain/loss that is not always good. After the spring Black was a guy who needed to change his body:

"Jibreel is a guy that, as his body composition changes a little bit, he's gonna be a good football player. I think him and Craig at the rush have had pretty good springs."

    Though I can't find the quote I'm thinking of, the coaches seemed irritated when he came into camp five pounds lighter than he was as a freshman. Early in camp, Mattison responded to a question about Black by highlighting his inconsistency:

“Jibreel has a lot of talent, but right now, Jibreel is a little inconsistent. … That’s not a knock on him, but he’s just like a lot of talented young guys. I’m not ready to say this guy is the next Terrell Suggs (of the Baltimore Ravens)."

    They have to play him; he might need another year to get his head right and muscles all powerful and stuff. Brandon Graham, who everyone has compared him to, took a couple years to get his head and body right, too.

frank-clarkjordan-paskorz-bowl

Clark @ Glenville; the only extant photo of Paskorz on the field

But wait, there's more! On scholarship, even! True freshman Frank Clark defied his middling recruiting rankings and status as a WR/TE/LB/DE tweener to feature on the depth chart at WDE. He's supposed to be fast—very fast. An insider I've corresponded with noted that players say "he can catch Denard." He "just has a lot of athleticism" according to Van Bergen.

Clark's quick rise caught Mattison's eye when he was asked about freshman in general, not Clark specifically:

I think Frank Clark has a lot of ability. You can see a different speed at which he goes.

In his recruiting profile I said he had a long road ahead of him to productivity. Clark drove fast.

    Redshirt freshman Jordan Paskorz may as well have been in the witness protection program since he enrolled. Not a peep has been heard about him since he arrived, and I have no recollection of the guy even playing in the spring game. But he is totally a defensive player on the roster who is not a true freshman. So we've got that going for us.
    Paskorz was a generic three star coming out of high school; his recruiting profile is where the infos are. I wasn't that enthused about him a year ago but just by remaining on the roster he's ahead of a lot of his classmates. With Clark impressing and a serious need at TE he's another candidate to switch.

Comments