Unverified Voracity Wonders About The Bearded Lady?

Unverified Voracity Wonders About The Bearded Lady?

Submitted by Brian on December 19th, 2017 at 12:16 PM

Last call for XMas tales. PEOPLE OF EARTH: FAILURE IS IMMINENT. No, this isn't about Dave Brandon. This is about YOU. If you order TODAY a copy of Hail To Old Blue will get to its proper location by Christmas.

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Or you can pick up a copy at Underground Printing, Literati, or Nicola's. All of them are fine establishments containing our book. Literati also has unauthorized copies of Crag Ross's books. (To be clear: they are unauthorized by Literati, because Craig just signs them and drops them off.)

The inscrutable crocodile. As the kind of person who sits in his bunker and plots various ways to destroy my mortal enemy Instagram whilst almost entirely ignoring the NFL, this insane thing has eluded my attention for far longer than anything that could cause this picture to exist should:

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Tom Brady's slow descent into madness is now manifesting itself as a series of bizarre webcomics that involve centaur, jockey, and Captain Planet versions of Brady himself, some sort of pudgy leprechaun who is about to touch his nipples, Walker Space Ranger, a crocodile dressed like Captain Picard during a holodeck episode, several anime animals engaging in some sort of... activity, and—most bizarrely—Gronk in a lab coat pouring what I can only assume is trademarked, patented GronkJuice(tm) onto a chicken wing. 

That paragraph was one sentence.

Anyway. This clearly needs a crack investigative team breaking down the ins, outs, what-have-yous, and thoughtcrimes being committed. Charlotte Wilder was born for this job.

  • Speaking of lasers, the plans inside the Dolphins’ briefcase appear to be for some sort of giant, inter-galactic laser.
  • Oh my god, do you think that because I’ve been imagining that the social media room underneath a TB12 workout facility looks like a lair, they drew a lair?
  • Sorry, I know this isn’t about me.
  • Is that guy wearing a lab coat by the picture of Ben Steeler Gronk?
  • Yes, because in the comic after the Houston win, Gronk showed up wearing that same lab coat. He’s also wearing glasses and says, “the computer data is telling me...”
  • Get it? It’s funny because Gronk is not generally seen as a rocket scientist. They were in space then. Now they’re underwater. Or possibly underground.

I think that's a compliment? I don't know. She did a really good job analyzing this nonsense Tom Brady webcomic? Hell, I've covered the last 14 years of Michigan football. I have no room to criticize.

Speaking of NFL things that don't make any sense. This isn't a catch, people! Why are you mad about this?

Any player that hasn't clearly established themselves as a runner has to maintain control through contact through the ground and this dude certainly did not do that. Even the current 65-page version of the catch rule the NFL deploys isn't at fault here. This particular incident was even explained with poetic beauty!

“The receiver, in the end zone, did not survive the ground,” was the explanation on the field by referee Tony Corrente.

Damn, Tony Corrente.

The problem is nobody knows what a damn catch is. Here's a four part catch rule that is as unambiguous as is possible (for the NFL) and solves many many problems:

  • A receiver has to secure the ball and get both feet down in bounds to start the catch process.
  • Once he takes a step after both feet come down he is a runner and has caught the ball.
  • Receivers who do not take a step between possessing the ball and either going to ground or touching out of bounds must maintain possession through contact with the ground.
  • Maintaining possession means the ball does not touch the ground. If the receiver is now out of bounds and he bobbles the ball, forcing the catch process to start over, it's incomplete.

The end. The above-linked SBN article has a controversial Dez Bryant non-catch that this version of the rule makes crystal clear:

Catch, step, runner, complete. No controversy. Steelers' play above: no step, ball touches ground, incomplete, no controversy.

There will of course be edge cases where the situation at the moment of possession makes it unclear whether a catch is a catch, but those four steps are the clearest and least controversial a catch rule can be. If you wanted to go even farther towards clarity you could let a catch stand if 1) the WR got his feet in bounds and 2) the ball never hit the turf even if there was a bobble after the WR went out. I think that's not a catch but if you said it was then it's pretty simple: did you keep the ball off the ground after establishing a foot (or two) in bounds? Yes? Catch.

The quintessential Bush blitz. Blitzology—hey!—breaks it down.

Really interesting and effective pressure concept from Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown. The Wolverines are in a 3-3 nickel personnel package.

The Rush:
The front slides the 3 down linemen to the strong side and has all 3 LB's walked up to the weak side. The Mike is initially in a 3 point stance. 
The effect is a 4 man version of America's Blitz. The Will wraps around to the fill the role of the inside rusher in the America's blitz concept. Because the defense bluffs the weak side overload the protection doesn't identify the concept as America's blitz and pass it off. The RB is forced into a really difficult block, scanning all the way back across the formation to pick up the Will as he wraps around.

Frequently the "N" was actually Noah Furbush, but that wrap blitz was largely responsible for Bush's blazing start to the season. Teams did adapt, but then Michigan threw other stuff—largely Khaleke Hudson—at the opposition.

To be fair, this is correct about 20% of the time. Whoops, Tampa Bay Times:

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Although... that appears to be an ad, which means the Outback Bowl itself doesn't know who's in this year's game. Which is fine. I mean. It's the Outback Bowl. No1curr. Except MSU fans.

Good lord, dude. ASU AD Ray Anderson is rapidly charging up the ranks of Most Incompetent AD Ever, and he's got the bravura of a Wall Street trader to go with it:

"The athletic department there is perceived there as a cluster," Sun Devils athletic director Ray Anderson said. "Their athletic director, now Phil Fulmer, in the athletic director's world is a pariah. It is not a good situation."

Their AD is a cluster? Bruh.

Do I hear a senior season? ESPN's latest draft rankings have Mo Wagner #68 despite his clearly improved rebounding and... possibly improved defense. We've seen guys (GRIII most prominently) leave one year after they put their name in but withdrew, and that's always a possibility. But if Wagner's leaving after the year it's probably not for the lottery.

Don't expect Rashan Gary to fall in the same boat, though.

Some bad grades. Since all we get these day from PFF are glimpses you don't get a lot of negatives unless the situation—cough cough, OL—absolutely demands it. South Carolina's 24/7 site is looking for weaknesses in the Michigan D, though, and they came up with:

Defensive end Carlo Kemp (49.9) - A sophomore who is listed as a backup, Kemp has played 367 snaps on defense. He has graded out at 48.2 against the run and 55.6 in pass rush.

Linebacker Noah Furbush (50.6) - Furbush is also listed as a backup and has played 138 snaps this season. He’s performed much better against the run grading out at 64.6 and has struggled in coverage at 45.9.

Two backups. (I think they might have flipped those snap counts, FWIW. Furbush got way more snaps than Kemp this year.)  The conceit of this post is "three at the top and three at the bottom," but...

The “Three at the top” needed to be expanded to five as each player listed graded out as “elite,” a designation given to players who achieve an 85.0 or higher. The “Three near the bottom” was cut to two given that no other player with 75 or more snaps played had a grade below 70.

...ain't nobody else at the bottom. The five elite guys are Hurst, Winovich, Hudson, Bush, and Hill, all of whom are at 87 or better.

Yes, this means that PFF is also grading Michigan's safeties well. Metellus's rough OSU game had a lot of internet people waving Brian Smith goodbye happily because they thought Metellus and Kinnel were bad. They were not. They were good. A B+ unit.

Etc.: Ann Arbor average home price went up 8% this year; went up 11% last year. Again, I apologize to Juggalos for comparing them to Michigan State fans. Good luck at the Supreme Court, Juggalos. Harbaugh visits the tiny town of Garber, is greeted like movie star. Pioneer parking makes bank.

Upon Further Review 2017: Defense vs Purdue

Upon Further Review 2017: Defense vs Purdue

Submitted by Brian on September 29th, 2017 at 2:37 PM

2017 logoo_thumbSPONSOR NOTES. If you're a Power 5 university that still doesn't have air conditioning in a visitor's locker room in 2017, there's probably a reason. Maybe you're paying a buyout for a guy you hired after one good year in the MAC, that sort of thing. Maybe you've made some poor choices in your athletic department and do not have ready cash to repair the embarrassing thing about yourself. Maybe you need a loan. Well, HomeSure Lending can get you that loan.

Probably. I mean... it's not like you're a part of the Michigan fanbase. No promises. But you'll find out fast if you have sufficient credit to build a marginally acceptable locker room. That HomeSure Lending can promise.

FORMATION NOTES. 15 4-DL snaps versus 39 3-DL snaps; Michigan had a few passing down snaps where Furbush was a DE and they lined up in a four-man line, so call it 1/3rd four-man lines and 2/3rds 3-3 stuff with a heavy stack emphasis. Michigan had three dime snaps with all three CBs on the field, which is a slightly meaningful indicator about the trust they've got in their top three.

They had some more of their weird line slide snaps.

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This was about the only thing of note in the formations. Purdue had a bunch of bog-standard spread stuff. Michigan did what they'd done in their previous games. The end.

SUBSTITUTION NOTES. A little bit more rotation on the interior DL, with Solomon, Kemp and Dwumfour getting several snaps. Winovich was omnipresent until very late. LBs were Furbush, McCray, and Bush the whole way except for one drive Wroblewski got in the first half.

The secondary saw the now usual rotation of Hill, Long, and Watson through the snaps, in approximately equal shares. Hudson, Metellus, and Kinnel did not come off the field.

[After THE JUMP: throwbacks and doom]

Superhero Origin Story

Superhero Origin Story

Submitted by Brian on September 25th, 2017 at 1:52 PM

9/23/2017 – Michigan 28, Purdue 10 – 4-0, 1-0 Big Ten

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POW! WHAP! [Bryan Fuller]

That has never happened before. Never in the 200-year history of the University of Michigan has a person done something so very badly for three hours, and then emerged some time later doing the same thing so well. James Earl Jones never sounded like a pimple-faced teenager. Lawrence Kasdan did not write Happy Gilmore before Empire Strikes Back. Gerald Ford was not also Dick Nixon. HH Holmes did not accidentally build a Mildly Annoying Castle.

When you progress, it is gradually, not all at once. And maybe John O'Korn has done that, away from the glare of the public. Maybe last year's Indiana game was an outlier amongst all of O'Korn's throws since he lost the starting job at Houston. Maybe we are have too little data and are making it big.

Or maybe dude got bit by a radioactive spider. Maybe he spent the offseason creating a powerful electromagnet that works on leather. Maybe he did a bunch of cool ninja stuff in the Himalayas and then brooded in a cave a bunch. Maybe there's about to be a bunch of John O'Korn sequels and reboots and superfriends movies.

Whatever it is, take it and run.

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

Because I am a Michigan fan I can think of players that went the other way, mostly because of Brady Hoke. Blake Countess was asked to go from a zone corner to a man corner, guided by a linebacker who'd never coached DBs. He went from an All Big Ten player to Will Fuller toast. Devin Gardner's thrilling debut as #98 against the Irish was matched only by his performance in the 42-41 barnburner against OSU; in between he was a battered shell of himself.

No one has gone the right way so suddenly and dramatically. Nick Sheridan's blip against Minnesota is probably the closest thing, but that was clearly a blip at the time. O'Korn's eventually-confident performance against Purdue looks much more sustainable.

Gone was the Madden infinite dropback disease, except once when it made sense on the Gentry touchdown. Early, rough attempts to break the pocket seemed like an inability to read what was in front of him until he spectacularly avoided a sack, formed up, and found Grant Perry over the middle:

This was the moment when it was clear Indiana 2.0 was not happening. O'Korn saw he had nothing to the outside and decided on another plan despite the likelihood someone was going to annihilate him from behind. It was a remarkably aware, mature play for a guy we last saw completing twenty-yard passes that were somehow at the line of scrimmage.

O'Korn would execute two other improvisational plays when his protection broke down, and on one scramble he dodged a tackler before plowing over another one for a first down. Michigan twitter cried out in unison on this run, because they were suddenly terrified of losing him.

When executing within the confines of the offense O'Korn was just as good, hitting a couple of deep shots to his tight ends and checking down when that was appropriate. Errors were acceptably few and mostly benign; even the interception was the kind of throw that ends up a tough catch or incomplete 9 of 10 times. The stats are in line with the performance: 18 of 26 for 270 yards, little of it cheap.

If you're not gob-smacked you're not paying attention. I don't know how or why, I only know what. And what I saw Saturday was a new starting quarterback emerging from a lagoon of nuclear slime, or being rebuilt out of old Soviet tanks, or finishing up a montage set to "Take It To The Limit."

Is it a mirage? Possibly. Will our new hero run out of spinach and flag alarmingly? Almost certainly at some point, yes. Is there anything to do but forge ahead and hope the new guy wasn't constructed of baling wire and North Korean electronics? No. So here we go, Mr. O'Korn. It's your show now.

[After THE JUMP: Devin the destroyer... but where are the bucket hats]

Upon Further Review 2017: Defense vs Cincinnati

Upon Further Review 2017: Defense vs Cincinnati

Submitted by Brian on September 14th, 2017 at 3:33 PM

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SPONSOR NOTE: I would like to focus on that Larry Culpepper thing. Again. I mean, you've got HomeSure Lending. He's Pitbull here. He has parties. Sometimes underneath overpasses, and he just wants you to have a real good time. He's a Michigan fan, and he loves sharing the Michigan with you.

Other companies, when not putting kittens into their hummus, are running around blaring about rockets or how they invented mortgages and are very annoying and aren't offering you free food or #content. This is not a hard decision, especially when Matt gets you lightning fast quotes.

FORMATION NOTES: More four man fronts in this one. Excluding the final backup-laden drive, I had Michigan down for

  • 45 3-3-5 snaps,
  • 1 3-2-6 dime snap,
  • 11 4-2-5 snaps, and
  • 11 4-3-4 snaps.

They did this weird thing some, which I called "3-3 line slide":

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Winovich is your "nose tackle" and the other DL are to his left.

They'd also do this thing where they had a huge split between "NT" Hurst and Gary:

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These were both pass rush exotics.

Here is a good old 4-3 even. Funny old thing.

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SUBSTITUTION NOTES: It was always Mone as the fourth DL, so Mone got 22 snaps, about a third of the total. Other starting DL went almost the whole way. Winovich/Hurst/Gary each briefly gave way to Jones/Marshall/Kemp but their snaps were probably under 5 each.

Linebackers were McCray, Bush, and Furbush throughout save the last half of the first UC touchdown drive, when Bush was sidelined with a minor injury and Wroblewski came in. Wroblewski will henceforth be called Robo. Furbush of course missed out on the 4-2-5 snaps.

In the secondary, Kinnel and Metellus were omnipresent; Hill, Watson, and Long rotated through the corner snaps with a scattered few claimed by Ambry Thomas. Glasgow did get one snap on which he defended a slant like a vengeful Kenny G. I think it was just one—he rather sticks out.

Depth chart mavens might be interested in the final drive, which saw Kemp-Dwumfour-Solomon-Paye across the front and a linebacker corps of Uche-Robo-Gil; secondary remained the same.

[After THE JUMP: the killers!]

Upon Further Review 2017: Defense vs Florida

Upon Further Review 2017: Defense vs Florida

Submitted by Brian on September 8th, 2017 at 12:50 PM

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SPONSOR NOTE: Matt also bought a very silly Michigan bus this offseason. For no reason, really. Just to have a giant bus with a winged helmet painted on it. And other stuff, sure. An engine, probably. Twitter handle painted on the side because that's how we do.

So you can get a mortgage from a guy with a giant Michigan bus or a guy without a giant Michigan bus. Homesure Lending is the guy with the bus. This is an easy choice even if you don't need a term sheet in 15 minutes because you're a bigshot lawyer who is very bad at promoting your own books.

FORMATION NOTES: Hoo boy.

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Michigan played almost the entire game in a 3-3-5 stack. Copious discussion below.

PERSONNEL NOTES: Exact snap counts are not available right now but the general picture was clear. On the DL, Michigan started Gary, Hurst, and Winovich. Those guys got the lion's share of snaps. Marshall and later Solomon rotated in at NT. Kemp got a few snaps when Gary needed to get told something. Winovich went the distance until garbage time, when Reuben Jones and Kwity Paye got in.

At linebacker Furbush and McCray were the OLBs with Bush at ILB. Gil got a couple early series as Michigan rehydrated McCray; that was the only rotation until late. On the last drive the LBs were Gil again, Mbem-Bosse, and Uche.

Secondary was Metellus, Kinnel, and Hudson the whole way at safety with Hill and Long generally first choice at corner. Long's injuries and solid play from Watson got him a healthy number of snaps. Thomas got in a little bit in the third and fourth quarters. There was no dime package. Also yes I'm lumping Hudson in with the safeties since he will split over the slot and occasionally play FS.

[After THE JUMP: do the rich rod!]

One-Play One-on-One: Noah Furbush

One-Play One-on-One: Noah Furbush

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on September 5th, 2017 at 4:00 PM

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[Upchurch]

A Florida team intent on beating the brakes off of Michigan found themselves bracing for impact again and again Saturday. Don Brown made a strong case for inclusion in the next Nefarious Mustachioed Character Hall of Fame class by putting together what once seemed oxymoronic: a suffocating 3-3-5. Deploying the 3-3-5 in turn led to more playing time for redshirt junior linebacker Noah Furbush, who recorded two tackles and a fumble recovery. I spoke with Furbush about the play that led to his fumble recovery touchdown and subsequently sealed Michigan’s opening-game victory.

On that play, it was the second time you had them backed up inside their own 10-yard line the entire game. Did you have a good feel for what they might run, and how tough is that when you don’t get those looks very often?

“We knew that they were moving the pocket a lot of the game. When we get them down inside our own 5, inside our own 10, we really want to put the pressure on. We really want to make them feel uncomfortable. We wanted to get after them and we wanted to make a big play like something that happened. Chase stepped up and made a huge play for us.”

As far as what their offense was doing, was it what you expected when they were backed up?

“Yeah, I suppose.”

How important then is gap integrity against a guy like Zaire?

“Yeah, a guy like Zaire can spread a defense out, really change a play, and change how a defense can operate. It’s important to be assignment-perfect, do everything you’re supposed to do, and not lose contain on the play.”

It looked like you had to slide over a gap but first it looked like you looked inside before you did that. Is that related to Zaire and his running ability? Is that trying to stay gap-sound?

“Yeah. I just wanted to make sure that he didn’t get out of the pocket. I wanted to keep him in there and keep him inside so Chase could finish him off.”

You obviously had to shed a block to get there. What are some of the fundamentals of stacking and shedding, and what happened on that block?

“Every day we practice shedding blocks, working the hands, and that’s basically just instinctual stuff. You do it without even thinking about it.”

And that’s what happened on that block.

“Yep, yep.”

At what point do you see that Chase has gotten to the quarterback and at what point do you see the ball come out?

“Right when I got off the block I saw Chase hit the quarterback and then as I was running to him I just saw the ball. Another instinctual reaction, something we work every day. We have a fumble circuit and we work that every day: hopping on balls, fetal position, secure the football.”

So it’s just second nature at that point? You just know to dive and go?

“Yep, all reaction.”

And keeping it in bounds is the same thing?

“All muscle memory, yep.”

[gif courtesy of Ace]

Preview 2017: Linebacker

Preview 2017: Linebacker

Submitted by Brian on August 30th, 2017 at 4:12 PM

Previously: Podcast 9.0A. Podcast 9.0B. Podcast 9.0C. The Story. Quarterback. Running Back. Wide Receiver. Tight End And Friends. Offensive Line. Defensive End. Defensive Tackle.

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next gen [Patrick Barron]


Depth Chart
     VIPER! Yr. MIDDLE LB Yr. WEAKSIDE LB Yr.
Khaleke Hudson So. Mike McCray Sr.* Devin Bush So.
Noah Furbush Jr.* Mike Wroblewski Sr.* Josh Ross Fr.
Josh Uche So. Elysee Mbem-Bosse So. Drew Singleton Fr.

Michigan loses two of three starters from last year and has a couple of start-by-default replacements. Unlike the secondary, though, expectations are high for both newbies after veritable torrents of offseason hype. Michigan now has a linebacker corps that Doctor Blitz can do nefarious things with. Youth will lead to mistakes; Brown will solve his problems with aggression. As one does when one is Doctor Blitz.

VIPER: DOCTOR WHO JUST HIT ME WITH A TRUCK

Rating: 4.

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Hudson is wha ah ah ah ah down with the sickness [Barron]

Yeah, Jabrill Peppers is gone. I'm not sweating it. I'm wearing a KHALEKE HUDSON [recruiting profile] fez, waving a Khaleke Hudson flag, and writing a PhD dissertation about Khaleke Hudson's senior highlight reel. Anyone who's read this site for a hot second knows its staff comprises the biggest Hudson fan group outside of his immediate family, and if he takes off like Michigan hopes he will they're going to have to really up their game at Christmas.

So far, so good as Hudson tries to redeem our unseemly enthusiasm. All the overheated rhetoric from his recruiting profile is on track, whether it was from an opposing coach…

"He is the best combination of strength, speed and burst I've seen in a long time," said Ruane. "Every tackle, run and block is violent with him. He will be playing on Sundays someday. And I'm happy he's graduating."

…or your author:

A multiple-position star who is seemingly designed by man and God to punish people … I mean, he's not Peppers. But other than not being Peppers, he's basically Peppers.

The people saying these things are now his coaches and teammates, and that's one step closer to realizing his potential. Chris Partridge:

Khaleke Hudson and the skills that he brings to that position?

“Violence. Aggression. Hammerhead. He’s a guy that just loves contact. I think that people feed off that, too. He’s becoming very well rounded as a player so he’s going to be very enjoyable to watch.”

Don Brown:

“Well, I love him. He’s a very physical guy. His learning at that position has been outstanding and he’s competing at a high level. … Some guys’ arrow is flat, some guys’ arrow is down -- his arrow is constantly going up.”

Brown doesn't just rattle off praise for everyone—see the CB spot. If he's a Hudson believer that's meaningful.

Hudson got his first action on Michigan's punt block, where he was sufficiently explosive and physical to drive through shield blocking and return two to sender. But he was clearly behind Metellus, who was getting more garbage time snaps and got the call when Peppers was unavailable for the bowl game. That's likely because Metellus picked up the defense faster. Don Brown calls him a "savant"; meanwhile a couple of insider reports I got asserted that Hudson was a bit slow to grasp Brown's intricate defense.

Spring, and a definitive move to viper, has cleared Hudson for liftoff. He says he's got the defense down now:

"I feel like I know it really well now," Hudson said. "I still go back and forth with Josh. We both get reps at viper, but I feel like it's starting to be a good position for me."

Reports started reaching our ears about Hudson's tendency to pound people who ventured into his area and the "spectacular, freaky plays" he was making. Partridge again:

"He’s very physical, he’s low to the ground, he gets under people, he strikes people, he plays really hard, he’s very self-motivated."

He impressed in the spring game. Ace named him one of the standouts:

The hype here isn't going to slow one bit after today. Hudson was everywhere on defense, looking like the heavy-hitting player we expected against the run and proving equally formidable in coverage, where he broke up a couple passes and nearly came up with an interception. As is his wont, he came inches away from a blocked punt, too.

That heavy hitting was deployed against John O'Korn in the picture that leads this section. O'Korn broke the pocket and looked certain to punch the ball into the endzone until he met Hudson:

O'Korn is the first, but certainly not the last, victim.

Insider chatter this fall has been about as over the moon as this here site. He and Bush are "looking amazing" per 247, with "rave reviews" coming from teammates. McCray offered some of those publicly at Big Ten media day:

"I think he's going to be one of the best players in the nation this year, and in the future, because he can play linebacker, and he can play safety. If he wanted to, he could probably play corner. He's just a freak athlete, and he's really good."

Webb asserted that Hudson kept it up from his excellent spring and has "found his home" at viper(!), where his tendency to be a large hadron collider was a "revelation." Later he'd talk to JT Rogan, who concurred:

"Khaleke Hudson is a great downhill player. He is similar to Jabrill Peppers... man, is he strong and he's fast."

He's "a bull against the run game" and Rivals reports that Michigan tight ends are hugely productive... when Hudson is on the sideline. That about covers it.

Hudson's a perfect fit for the glamor spot in Michigan's defense and has all the arrows pointing the right way. He'll have his share of busts in year one as a starter; when not doing that he'll be turning in more TFLs, big hits, and PBUs. He won't be Peppers, but he's basically Peppers.

[After THE JUMP: fey Johnny Depp! Hhhhhhhyyyyaaaaarrr!]

Preview 2016: Linebacker

Preview 2016: Linebacker

Submitted by Brian on August 31st, 2016 at 4:25 PM

Previously: Podcast 8.0. The Story. Quarterback. Running Back. Wide Receiver. Tight End And Friends. Offensive Line. Defensive End. Defensive Tackle.

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[Bryan Fuller]

Depth Chart
STRONGSIDE  LB Yr. MIDDLE LB Yr. WEAKSIDE LB Yr.
Jabrill Peppers So.* Ben Gedeon Sr. Mike McCray Jr.*
Noah Furbush So.* Mike Wroblewski Jr.* Devin Bush Fr.
Josh Uche Fr. Elysee Mbem-Bosse Fr. Jared Wangler So.*

The old guard had been around forever—Desmond Morgan started as a freshman and had an injury redshirt in there—and is now gone. In their stead there is… well, a guy. Michigan's linebacker recruiting in the Hoke era was a major failing, so after one guy they've mishandled and one guy who narrowly evaded a career-ending injury there's freshmen and the only non-Order-of-St.-Kovacs walk-on on the two deep.

Could get hairy if anyone can get to these guys on the ground or protect their quarterback long enough to get 'em in the air. So probably not that hairy. Still, along with the offensive line and quarterback, linebacker stands out as a position at which things could go pear-shaped.

On the other hand, Peppers. He's actually in this post!

STRONGSIDE LB: HYBRID SPACE ASSASSIN

Rating: 5.

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WOOOO! [Bryan Fuller]

Oh hey, it's JABRILL PEPPERS again. He's taken the baton from Jake Butt when it comes to posting shirtless jugs machine exploits:

And this year he hopes to refine his immense talent into a TFL and PBU machine.

One part of his game is already flawless and has been so from the drop. He was a bonafide hybrid space player from his first snaps against Utah. Any sort of swing, flare, or screen to the wide side of the field was going to die horribly. Peppers was truly, literally unblockable in space. He'd slow up, pick his moment, and just explode past the wide receiver who drew the short straw:

Three times in this game Peppers destroyed plays that attacked the wide open spaces he is set to patrol. If Michigan can rely on that, those passes across the middle that open up because of bubble fakes get removed along with the screens; it's kind of a big deal to be able to do that.

The utter consistency with which this happened became a defensive bellwether. I eagerly awaited the moment when the offensive coordinator got fed up with having zero access to a big chunk of his playbook and said "screw it." One snap later the OC was reminded why he wasn't doing this:

There was an internet item purporting to show that Peppers missed 20% of his tackle attempts; you can mostly ignore that. A Peppers missed tackle was often something a lesser player wouldn't even get an attempt in on.

Blocking someone with his explosiveness on the edge is a futile task. This is a screen that he turns in barely outside the hash and still gets a tackle in on, because he can wait until the proper moment and just explode past the guy who drew the short straw:

Peppers gets places fast and brings a pop when he gets there. Sometimes he makes the play himself and sometimes he allows others to rally to make it, because he's constricting space that other guys cannot.

I say "mostly" because Peppers does need to refine a few things. He has a bit of Brandon Harrison disease wherein he gets going so dang fast that he overruns his target, and his tackling form could use some work. But even when he missed a tackle last year he funneled things back to his teammates.

As Peppers moves inside more often this ability will serve him well. There was a spate of tiny linebacker articles over this offseason, and this one from The Ringer highlights that Peppers evasion thing:

The key to smaller linebackers surviving in a land of 330-pound giants isn’t taking them on in single combat; it’s anticipating movements to avoid combat altogether.

“Those guys seem to make their living not by getting off blocks, but by never getting blocked,” Snead says. “They’ve got to read things quickly so they can use their deficiency to their advantage.”

There was the occasional indicator that Peppers would be able to continue his uncanny ability to blow past blockers even as space gets constricted. Here he reads the play and simply redirects past a fullback assigned to him:

His explosion is such that he can dart around blockers to the "wrong" side so fast that he makes it right. He makes all that Joe Bolden stuff work, and that'll be key when he is faced with much larger opposition.

We have some evidence what Peppers will look like as a linebacker. He was in the box on scattered snaps. He was kept clean, for the most part, and Peppers showed an ability to read and react. This isn't hard, but we don't have much else to go on:

Against UNLV he lined up as a Jake Ryan-style SAM on the line of scrimmage and did a good job to push the play back inside.

He was used as a blitzer very occasionally, and looked much like he did whilst erasing screen games nationwide. He's fast and brings a load and often comes in too hot to get a clean shot.

If he does get a free run at a blindside target an Oregon State receiver can tell you what the likely outcome is:

Peppers has the potential to force a ton of fumbles.

When Peppers is an actual SAM linebacker and not reprising his hybrid space player role, Plan A is keeping Peppers clean by demanding double teams for the SDE; Plan B is Peppers blowing the minds of linemen and blocky/catchy guys with his ability to do make something conventionally understood to be wrong work for him.

Peppers's coverage is still somewhat in question. He had issues early trying to defend horizontal double moves. That first impression lingered, and then the big bad thing against Penn State hammered it home for a lot of folks:

Peppers was rough early, no question. He was much better at playing press man as an outside corner, where he could set up to the inside and just run with his dude.

He developed over the course of the year. By midseason he was racking up some physical PBUs, usually when he was allowed to set up in press:

He was still a bit iffy in the slot but started making it difficult for guys to get in their routes, and he started making the occasional play in off man. The Penn State debacle is evidence enough that his coverage is still a work in progress, but in this case we really do mean "work in progress" instead of "permanent problem" as people so often do when they deploy that phrase. His improvement should be obvious. He won't be perfect but slot receivers aren't going to get the best of him for much longer.

Peppers also has upside as a safety. He's obviously kind of a big deal in run defense, and his speed allows him to get over the top of deep routes even when he lines up close to the line of scrimmage.

Peppers can and will do a half-dozen different things on D. You'll see him as a SAM, as a nickel, as a strong safety, as a boundary corner as Michigan tries to put out fires and exploit mismatches. Boston College SAM Matt Milano is a good baseline: 60 tackles, 17.5 TFLs, 6.5 sacks, and 3 PBUs a year ago. Peppers is around the same size and much more athletic. (I have no idea how athletic Matt Milano is and I'm sticking with that assertion.) I'd expect more pass defense stats and not so many TFLs since the DL will eat up their share, but as I said on the other side of the ball his omnipresence should lead to a bunch of stats both ways and a Heisman finalist slot.

[After the JUMP: Jabrill Peppers! Probably!]

Spring Practice Presser 3/29/16: Don Brown

Spring Practice Presser 3/29/16: Don Brown

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on March 30th, 2016 at 11:28 AM

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[Upchurch/MGoBlog]

How much further along is your defense right now than when you started four weeks ago?

“We’ve come a long way. We are obviously 14 practices in. Starting from scratch really in essence for the third year in a row, so the challenges were there, you know, and obviously my hat’s off to our guys. I thought they approached it in a positive manner. I think they’ve got a pretty good handle on what we’re doing. We’ve got a number of pressures in. The bulk of our coverage concepts are in, and I was able to kind of at least get all the concepts in. Not all the patterns and so forth that accompany those, but there will be nothing now that’s brand new to the guys. It’ll be a concept that they can relate to as we move forward.”

Guys were talking about how most of the stuff’s the same [and] there’s just the one new coverage. Whatever new changes you are bringing to the system, how do you think they’re adjusting to them?

“Well, you know, one of those concepts is pretty involved and there’s a lot of moving pieces and the players have a lot of accountability because they have to handle all the checks and so forth, and I think we’ve done a really good job of handling the responsibility and accountability piece of it as well as functioning from a concept standpoint. So yeah, I’m pretty pleased. And it’s really—you know, football’s football. The reality is football’s football. But, you know, that concept’s pretty different and I think the guys have handled it really well.”

You talked about the linebackers earlier in Florida about some new guys and guys who hadn’t proven themselves. How have they progressed over the course of the month?

“Well, you know, I think Noah Furbush has done a good job at Sam. Obviously we’re doing a lot with Jabrill and he’s logging some minutes there and doing a very good job. Ben Gedeon has had an extremely positive spring, so I’m excited about his progress and where he’s at. Mike McCray has stayed healthy and continued to take steps moving forward, as has true freshman Devin Bush. And Mike Wroblewski, we moved him from defensive end to linebacker earlier on in the spring practice period and it seems to have been a good move for us. He’s still got some work ahead of him, but he’s doing a very, very good job.”

How much of Jabrill’s time is now spent at linebacker? How much are you dividing it?

“Eh, he’s probably 70/30, but he’s doing a lot of things. You won’t see it on display Friday, that’s for sure, but he’s doing enough stuff that keeps his plate full. There’s no question about that.”

Seventy [%] linebacker, thirty [%] other stuff?

“Yeah, I would say about that. But, you know, it’s not gonna stay that way. It’ll end up increasing as we move forward as we’re trying to do things package-wise to offset the other people.”

[After THE JUMP: D-line rotation, Jabrill, the art of the mustache. One of those things may not have actually come up.]

When he’s doing that and he’s at that position—you said you had a player last year that did the same thing. Can you see him pick it up that quickly?

“Yeah, he’s already picked it up. He’s playing at a high level there, so I’m happy with him. From a coverage standpoint it’s everything we expected. I think he’s picked up the linebacker pieces pretty well as well. So, you know, making good progress, but like everybody else he needs more time, more reps.”

Are you able to do more creative things or different things than what you’ve done in the past with a player like Jabrill?

“Yeah, we’ll be able to do some stuff but, you know, that position’s always been occupied—you know, the last three guys are all in the NFL that I’ve coached that have played that position so it’s a pretty—you expect a lot at that spot. We’re gonna get what we expect. There’s no question.”

Who else plays that spot? Is there another guy who can do what Jabrill does?

“We’re playing Noah there, Noah Furbush. He can’t do some of those things, but there’s a number of those things he can do and we can function as a defense with him being there if we had to.”

Will Devin Bush see the field this fall?

“Uh, yeah, I’m not really looking at—I mean, obviously that still remains to be seen, but I’m very happy with his progress at Will linebacker.”

Do you have a term for that position that Jabrill and Noah are playing?

“Sam.”

Jim said the quarterbacks will be live on Friday. What do you want to see from your defensive line now that they can hit them?

“Well, you know, we gotta rush the passer. The reality is you gotta get better against the same color jerseys. That’s the reality. We’ve done a good job, and obviously there’ll be some limitations from what we’re gonna be able to do from a defensive perspective. Which is fine, because you wanna find out who can win the one-on-ones and those kind of things. Gotta go get ‘em!”

MGoQuestion: With guys like Winovich and Kemp, do you see them sticking at End or do think they could also play a little bit at Backer* or Sam?

“I think Winovich and Kemp are both in the right spot. Obviously Carlo’s been here for a short period of time. We fooled around with him standing up a little bit. I think he’s in the right position now. Now it’s just a matter of, you know, like every other freshman he’s got to get his feet wet. He’s got to go through the learning process, and, you know, we’ll let that run its course.

Winovich is playing well at End. Obviously techniques, fundamentals he needs to get better at but we think we got him in the right spot.”

*[Ed-A: It might sound like I’m using a super cool abbreviation for linebacker, but Backer’s a spot in Brown’s defense. See Seth’s great Don Brown glossaries here and here.]

We’ve seen a lot in the last couple years about the defensive line and rotating because they said that they had depth and then by the end of last year there wasn’t as much. How many guys do you trust in that defensive line to rotate?

“Well, we’d like to be seven or eight guys. I mean, you certainly want to be a pair and a spare. You’d like to be up to seven or eight guys, eight if possible.”

What are you at now do you think? That you trust.

“You know, I think we’re approaching that number. I really do. Once we get through summer workouts and get everybody back healthy there plus the influx of the young guys, I think we’ll be just fine.”

Good to work with Brian [Smith] again?

“Yeah, Brian’s a great guy. He was a tremendous player, tremendous leader. Won a national championship as a player and helped me coach a team that went to the national championship game. I still lay awake thinking of Armanti Edwards from App State on occasion [Ed-A: same], but I’m glad to be back with him. He’s a great dude.”