Mailbag: Tourney Prospects, OL Flipping, MANBALL Re-evaluating

Mailbag: Tourney Prospects, OL Flipping, MANBALL Re-evaluating Comment Count

Brian March 6th, 2012 at 12:24 PM

Basketball: really as good as all that?

Via UMHoops

Now, it doesn't matter for the Big Ten regular is what it is, we went 13-5, and earned a share of the title.  But what does it mean for the Big Ten Tournament and the NCAA?

Ask yourself this question when it comes to evaluating the Michigan season...was it a solid 13-5 or a weak 13-5?  Was it a 13-5 that with a few breaks was 15-3?  Or was it a 13-5 with a bunch of breaks that could have easily been 10-8?  Which of those is more representative of the basketball we saw this year?  Death from above in the two tournaments?

Northwestern looms.  Twice we played them.  Twice we went overtime with them. Could have lost both.  Didn't. Positives to be sure.  But who shows up come Friday? …

To me, happy we share the title.  Not convinced at this point we are as good as either of those other two teams.  Proud of the heart, proud of the overall result.  Concerned about the two tourneys.

Bluntly, Michigan was not as good as either of the two teams they tied with. You can see that in the efficiency margins:

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Ohio St.         13-5   65.4    1.10    0.93    +0.17
2.  Michigan St.     13-5   62.5    1.08    0.92    +0.16
3.  Wisconsin        12-6   58.0    1.03    0.97    +0.06
4.  Michigan         13-5   58.9    1.06    1.01    +0.05
5.  Indiana          11-7   65.4    1.11    1.06    +0.05
6.  Purdue           10-8   64.0    1.10    1.09    +0.01
7.  Northwestern     8-10   61.0    1.08    1.12    -0.04
8.  Minnesota        6-12   62.6    1.00    1.04    -0.04
9.  Iowa             8-10   65.8    1.03    1.09    -0.06
10. Illinois         6-12   63.7    0.97    1.05    -0.08
11. Penn St.         4-14   62.3    0.97    1.10    -0.13
12. Nebraska         4-14   61.9    0.93    1.09    -0.16

Kenpom will confirm that for you: it has MSU and OSU #2 and #3 behind Kentucky with Michigan idling at 20.

Meanwhile, going 13-5 would not have netted Michigan a title in any other year since the Big Ten went back to 18 games. Most years they wouldn't even be within a game. There's no denying they were fortunate to end up where they are now. Michigan lost one close Big Ten game (@ Indiana, 73-71) and won four to six (NW x 2, MSU, Purdue, maybe Minnesota and OSU depending on how you feel about five-point games). You can grub grub grub about will to win and finding ways to win and winning is for winners; I don't buy that stuff.

In terms of efficiency margin and Kenpom rankings, Michigan is about where we'd hoped they'd be before the season: slightly improved despite the loss of Darius Morris, short of truly contending for a conference title. In terms of wins they're a three seed and a Big Ten champ.

I don't say this to bring anyone down. It's wonderful. For this team to accomplish what they have is fantastic, and at this point anything after winning a 3-14 matchup in the first round is gravy.

I do think they'll be a particularly vulnerable three, though, and won't be surprised to see them flame out in the second round*. I also won't let that damage the wonderful run they went on to erase a lot of bad streaks. From a logical perspective I get the "concern"; from an emotional perspective it went from 90% house money to 110% as soon as Buford hit that shot. The worst that happens is Michigan State fans say "see you weren't really a Big Ten champ." This will not prevent the banner from going up.


*[I'm not predicting that by any means. Michigan gave Duke all they wanted last year and a hypothetical second-round opponent will be much worse than the Blue Devils were last year. Beilein is a consistent outperformer when he reaches the tourney.

HOWEVA, I do loathe the prospect of drawing a couple of the current six-seeds in Jerry Palm's bracket. They are all dangerous mid-majors: UNLV, New Mexico, Wichita State, and St. Mary's. In Kenpom's eyes that's two teams better than Michigan (Wichita, New Mexico) and two who are a dozen or so spots worse (UNLV, St. Mary's).

You may remember the Dohrmann UCLA article mentioning the success of a couple transfers out of the program: that's basically UNLV. Chace Stanback is a 6'8" guy hitting 47% from three; Mike Moser is a 6'8" guy in the top ten in defensive rebounding with high usage and an inside-out game.

I find Palm's fives a lot more palatable: Louisville (#30 Kenpom), FSU (#28), SDSU (#51), and Creighton(#35). No matter what I expect a second-round nailbiter.]

The golden child's effect on the OL.

Brian or Ace or Anybody;

I am confused, when talking about o-line prospects in the 2012 or 2013 class, some say "Fox makes an ideal RT" or "LT-T is the prototype Left Tackle.". Is the fact that Shane "Obama circa 2008" Morris is a southpaw baked into the projections as to who plays where on the OL?  Wouldn't the proto LT be moved to RT for a lefty QB, or no?

Are you and your Bloggy ilk keeping this in mind, does it make a difference for a lefty qb?

Reid McCarthy

I don't think it matters much. Many players at Michigan and elsewhere have flipped from right to left tackle without a problem; when Morris becomes the starter Michigan will put their best pass protector at right tackle and he'll adjust over the course of an offseason. Jake Long switched from right to left after his first year as a starter; Mike Schofield was pressed into service as a left guard after practicing mostly at tackle and did fine.

There might be some slight issues if Morris is either in (because of Gardner injury) or out (because of a Morris injury) of the lineup unexpectedly. In that case you probably wouldn't want to screw up the line's performance by flipping them mid-game and will be exposing either Morris's or his backup's blind side to slightly worse protection. That's life.

Even if that happens it doesn't look like there's going to be a huge difference between the starting tackles at any point in the near future. Whoever the #2 guy is will have beaten out an array of 6'5"-6'7" blue chips. This is not going to be Jake Long opposite Rueben Riley. It's going to be Almost Jake Long opposite Decent Approximation Of Jake Long.

MANBALL concerns revisited.




You have argued over the past several years that you think Michigan will be at a talent disadvantage compared to teams like Ohio and SEC oversigners like Alabama, so long as the status quo persists. You've also argued that, schematically, the best way to deal with this deficit is the spread offense. I am curious if you think Hoke (and Borges) can build an offense in their mold that can truly compete on the national stage. What do you think it will take in terms of recruiting and scheme to be a legitimate contender for the national championship? Do you think that we have the ability to recruit the offensive talent we need to contend for a national title? Or is it perhaps too early to tell?

Obviously an elite defense, which I think we are building, mitigates the need for an elite offense, but recent BCS title games have demonstrated that you can't rely on just defense to win that game. Ultimately I am asking what combination of scheme and talent you think we need to achieve in order to win the national championship.

All the best,

My concerns about Michigan's ceiling have been blown away by Hoke's early recruiting returns. If Michigan is bringing in top five classes consistently—Hoke's already two for two a month into his second class—and is approaching games with the controlled aggression that Hoke, Mattison, and Borges displayed in their first year, there is no reason they can't run a conventional offense and compete for national titles.

When you have a huge talent advantage or are Wisconsin you can line up and beat heads in: top ten FEI offenses* this year include Wisconsin, Stanford, and USC. Alabama was #11. All you need to replicate that is a ton of NFL guys on the line, an NFL quarterback, and some NFL skill guys. Check, check, well… we'll see.

I get the vibe from your email that you're a bit skeptical of Michigan's skill position recruiting. I think that's premature. Shane Morris is a Henne-level QB recruit. Michigan did pick up a consensus four-star in Amara Darboh at WR and came close to flipping Brionte Dunn; this year they've got a top 100 tight end (for now, anyway—Butt will probably fall into the 100-200 range as the year progresses) and seem to lead for a couple five-star types in Ty Isaac and LaQuon Treadwell. If Hoke lands those guys Michigan's weak spot in the 2012 and 2013 classes is…



…uh… cornerback? For now, anyway.

Even if one of those two guys escapes we're still 11 months from Signing Day; more targets will emerge. It seems like Michigan's going to be able to focus a lot of attention on any holes they have in the class come, oh, May.

My main concern with Michigan's scheme going forward is a potential over-reliance on a fullback. It seems like most pro-styles have moved to double TE sets. See this Chris Brown article on Alabama's very MANBALL, very NC-worthy offense. I hope that's where Michigan's going, too. Tight ends threaten defenses vertically in a way that fullbacks do not; they're better athletes, generally, and better targets for downfield passes. Fullbacks… eh.

I think this is also where Michigan's going. Their TE recruiting is massive—they're looking for a fifth in two years—and there's clear distinction between guys like Jake Butt and Khalid Hill, a 6'2", 230 pound guy designated a "U-back" or "move tight end" according to TomVH.

So, like, whatever. My beefs 14 months into the Hoke era are "that one punt against Illinois" and "taking a scholarship fullback." Oh, and the complete implosion of the offense in a couple games. But that's not a long term issue.

Hoke has dumped game-changer after game-changer on us since his hire to the point where the internet is making memes like this…


Ben Gedeon's visiting, you say?

…if we're feeling for a ceiling it's a bit hard to find right now. One will probably come, but there's no reason to go looking for it just yet.


*[I know FEI put up some weird results this year what with Navy and Miami in the top ten as well but it at least tries to account for strength of schedule and pace of play; FWIW, Stanford was 8th in total yardage, Wisconsin 14th, USC 21st, 'Bama 31st.

Also, as long as you're down here, how about Paul Chryst? I predict Wisconsin has a noticeable dropoff in his absence.]


More On Next Year's Front

More On Next Year's Front Comment Count

Brian February 8th, 2012 at 2:12 PM


no pressure, Ondre

As part of the run up to the Super Bowl, Smart Football posted a Grantland article detailing the Patriots' defense. It's not much good at football, that defense, but it is pretty interesting from the Michigan perspective for two reasons.

Reason one: it provides an excuse for Chris Brown to talk about techniques in an easy to understand way.

"Gap" refers to the area between offensive linemen. A 1-gap technique is just what it sounds like: The defensive lineman lines up in front of the gap he is responsible for and his job is to attack and control it. If nothing else, a defender must not allow a runner to go through his gap. While defensive linemen attack their gaps, the linebackers behind them are responsible for their own gaps. These are the defense's "run fits," meaning how they fit into an offense's blocking scheme to take away running space.

Diagram 3
Courtesy of Chris Brown

The 2-gap technique, by contrast, sounds physically impossible. How can one player occupy two separate gaps? He does it by controlling the blocker. At the snap of the football, a two-gapping defensive lineman does what Wilfork did to Birk. He leads with his hands, gets leverage on the offensive lineman, and takes control of the blocker. From there, the advanced techniques kick in. On run plays, the defender reacts to where the blocker tries to take him. If he is double-teamed, he'll try to split the blockers and either shoot into the backfield or occupy the blockers, thus freeing up his teammates to make tackles.

In short, while a 1-gap player attacks gaps, a 2-gap player attacks people. Football's conventional wisdom states that an effective 2-gap lineman, particularly one who lines up in the middle of the defense like Wilfork does, must be enormous. Coaches refer to them as "war daddies." But size is actually less important than athleticism and smarts. The line between touchdowns and stops in the NFL is exceedingly thin, and it's footwork and feel that are the difference. It is the most violent, most complicated, and most beautiful ballet I can think of.

Count the war daddies on the Michigan defensive line. You come back with a true freshman and an inconsistent former five star who can't play consistently without standing up straight. The other guy who would be two-gapping in a 3-4 is… Nate Brink? Jibreel Black? A true freshman? Not happening.

This matters much more than a surfeit of linebackers when you're trying to pick a defense to run, especially when moving to a two-gap system does not get more of them on the field. The 3-4 is not coming to Michigan.

At least not in total. We might see bits and pieces, though…

Reason two is an interesting adjustment the Patriots have made to adapt to their personnel. Wilfork is a monster they would like to use to the maximum extent possible, which means two-gapping him. Asking him to be Mike Martin is a lot like asking Ondre Pipkins to run a bunch of goofy pass-rush stunts like he did in the AA game. But because of deficiencies elsewhere Bill Belichick (mainly a 3-4 guy) feels compelled to run a 4-3, which generally means one-gapping.

What to do?

The Patriots run a 3-4 to one side of the field and a 4-3 to the other, all on the same play. The key to all this is Wilfork. He lines up over the center and assumes his traditional spot of run-stuffing, blocker consuming, two-gapping war daddy. Belichick fills out the rest of the pieces based on the strengths and weaknesses of his other defenders.


Create a hybrid. This is the Patriots' under front, one similar to what Michigan ran this year except with one planetoid defensive tackle and one strong-and-good strongside defensive two-gapping. This might be something we see from Michigan next year. Getting maximum production out of Pipkins basically demands something similar.

The problem here is still the same one we have when we theorize about moving to a 3-4, though: there is no SDE on the roster with a prayer of being able to two-gap anything. If you try to get clever by flipping Campbell out there you're asking for it when that tight end goes in motion to the other side of the line and you're either rearranging the entire DL on the fly or running this:


Your weakside DE is not a pass rush threat at all. So don't expect this next year.

HOWEVA, even if you shouldn't go around calling the defense "basically Belichick's" yet, we should expect Pipkins' deployment to be radically different than Martin's. That should mean fewer blocks getting to the linebackers and more plays from that unit. If the ILBs find a surge in productivity it will be because of Pipkins—not because he is a better player than Martin, but because he's a different one.

You'll be able to tell if this is happening by Pipkins's alignment. Martin played a "shade"—he aligned in the gap between the center and guard. If Michigan wants Pipkins to be Wilfork they'll put him nose to nose with the center and say "sic 'em."


This is where disclaimers go. Even with New England doing this a major theme of the first half in the Super Bowl was that one-gap backside tackle getting doubled (often on zone runs) and blown up. It is never as simple as "this guy gets one on one blocking." All you can do is change the equation so that doing that exposes someone else to a tough assignment. You can't entirely cover up for a sucky player.

Pipkins may be talented but there's more to playing nose tackle than talent. You can dominate your guy, push him into the backfield, and still screw up if you lose control of one of your gaps. Usually this happens when the DT gets pushed too far in the direction he wants to go and opens up a cutback lane behind him. When one of these players is Gabe Watson and the other is Pat Massey, pain results. It's not too hard to envision that happening what with Will Campbell still a rotation player you're a little afraid of. At least he's not 6'8"*.

It may make more sense to start Pipkins off with the easier assignment (always one-gap) and hope to make him impactful in two gaps later in his career. That'll be one of the interesting tactical decisions we unveil against… oh, Christ. Alabama. Yay!

*[Who in the hell looked at a 6'8", 260 pound player and put him on defense? That is either a tackle or a tight end or a man who should be playing basketball.]


Picture Pages: Final Bubble Treatise

Picture Pages: Final Bubble Treatise Comment Count

Brian November 16th, 2011 at 1:17 PM

Complaining about the lack of bubble screens in Michigan's offense has become a hobby-horse here. Some people find this weird. I admit that a focus on one particular play, no matter what it is, is often missing the forest for a tree, and my focus on a play that picks up eight yards if run well is a little maniacal. But I see a lot of things not work and think 1) the bubble is open and 2) that might have worked if the bubble wasn't open.

While the bubble seems like an option you can take or leave, it's actually a key way to make every player on the offense an effective blocker every play. When Magee goes to his cutups in those videos about the spread 'n' shred philosophy, the guy asking most of the questions* wants to see bubbles first.

*[who I think is Harvard's coach since he talks about playing Columbia and a pizza place on "Comm Ave" that Google reveals is in Boston.]

The bubble is a constraint that opens up other things and forces the defense into positions it would rather not take. Michigan saw this first hand, as a series of first half bubbles forced Jake Ryan into the slot against Northwestern. Even that wasn't enough to hold down the single bubble the Wildcats ran in the second half before fumbles and interceptions and Michigan scoring on every drive terminated Northwestern's ability to use them.

It's not just a play. It's part of a coherent whole. Spreading the field stresses the defense only if you make the D cover everyone horizontally. Smart Football explained a long Oregon touchdown in the recent Stanford game and I was struck by the difference between the way Stanford defends this play


…and the way Illinois defended a similarly unbalanced formation from Michigan:


That is a similar setup with one extra guy in the backfield. The highlighted defender to the top of the screen is the equivalent of #3 at the top of the Stanford defense (not the guy on the line)… unless the highlighted guy at the bottom—the corner—is. Someone on this defense is not respecting the threat of Junior Hemingway.

Michigan will run the play I've been calling "inverted veer", which is probably not the best terminology since various people say people call it "dash" and since it features a guy pulling to the frontside of the play it's not really a "veer"—if you care about these things. It's too late for me since I've got a tag, but you can still save yourself.

Anyway, on the snap, before the mesh point, it is clear that both highlighted defenders are going to get involved in the run defense. 


Where is the equivalent guy in the Stanford play?


His feet are the ones bugging out for the bubble at the top of the screen. This effectively blocks a defender without having to engage that receiver's potentially crap blocking skills.

Junior Hemingway's existence, in contrast, is pointlessly lonely:


There isn't anyone within five yards of him by the time the mesh point passes. Even before the mesh it's clear the bubble is going to be open, if it was being run.

Anyway, at the mesh point the containing DE is containing so Denard pulls.


This options off a DE; the slot guy is being taken by Hopkins; the playside LB will get kicked by the pulling Omameh. There is no one for the corner, and this has turned into a run up the middle.


This is pretty much dead at this point. Michigan's got some problems on the line, too: you can see that the Lewan/Schofield combo block hasn't even sealed the playside DT, let alone the WLB… but that's just another reason the play isn't going to work since Denard is tackled in the backfield by that backside CB:


Pile of bodies, no gain, third down.



Items of Interest

This isn't to say I think Borges did a bad job in this game. I did get a little frustrated by the forays into the I that were spectacularly unsuccessful—before the Toussaint runs in garbage time Michigan had run seven times out of the I for –1 yards—and the lack of responses to the increasingly aggressive Illinois defense. HOWEVA, in context the move was to go conservative and get out of Dodge; before that was the move he tore up a good defense and was thwarted largely by things out of his control.

There are multiple issues with this play and I'm not suggesting the bubble is a panacea. I am saying it is going to work for tons of yards here, but it's not the only reason this play gets thumped.

The threat of the bubble effectively options off another defender. This means more space for people who are good in space, one more opportunity to blow something for the defense, and mitigates the following.

Receivers' blocking eh… not so good. On the play where Denard fumbled he actually had a good setup for the pull: the backside DE has shuffled down the line and Koger went around him to the edge.


Unfortunately, Junior Hemingway's consistently crap blocking reared its head on this play and the slot LB—who is actually covering the WR on this play—created problems.


Denard has to cut back. If Michigan's running a bubble this guy is either outside of the hash or Denard's throwing it to Hemingway or the Illinois defense is getting super aggressive and opening itself up to a Worst Waldo play. Since he's just a wide receiver who can't block Denard loses an opportunity to burst into a ton of space.

Lack of bubbles = lack of big plays (that aren't chuck and hope)? If you're looking for a culprit when it comes to the lack of long plays that are very open, the lack of the humble bubble screen is a candidate. When you spread the field and make the defense defend all eleven players on every play, a single breakdown means big yards. If you're covering every WR man to man and trying to leave two deep safeties, this is the result:


Michigan has put a lot less stress on safeties this year because they run a bunch of plays from a formation in which opponent safeties think "if they run it will be for half a yard" and when they're in the shotgun they aren't really in the spread, if you catch my drift. By not attacking the outside consistently Michigan lets opponents defend them with two deep.

In the inverted veer above the guy on Hemingway starts 13 yards off the LOS, which means the free safety can come down on the run without worrying about an Oh Noes.

Also bubbles work, yo. I mean, sure, opponents freaked out about them in the RR era since they were a foundational component of the offense but when they were run they worked, and when opponents run them against Michigan (or State vs Iowa) they pick up chunks. When you can get a chunk on first down you have a low-pressure environment to probe with your run game.

This is clearly a philosophical thing that is permanent. I'll drop it now, and this is not a criticism of Al Borges's overall philosophy—we have no idea what that's going to be like. It's clear, however, that the vast bulk of teams who use the quarterback as a runner believe the bubble is an integral part of the effectiveness of the offense. Michigan doesn't, and unless Borges can explain that in a way better than "don't ask me about it" its absence will rankle.


Upon Further Review 2011: Defense vs Purdue

Upon Further Review 2011: Defense vs Purdue Comment Count

Brian November 3rd, 2011 at 1:04 PM

Formation notes: At this point it's less about looking at all the new stuff like the offense and more about figuring out what Mattison does with his base against various formations.

Mostly it's "bring in the nickelback," but not always. Here's Jake Ryan flared out over the slot:


This will not be a surprise since you've seen a zillion Big Ten cover-two-always teams run this against M's spread the past few years. Michigan uses the stack over the slot to spring some surprises:


That's basically the same thing; Ryan blitzed off the edge here. Tipoff is the depth of the FS, but not by much.

This is slightly more novel:


That's a pass-rush set with a couple standup ends and just one guy truly in the box with a couple guys hanging out over the slot. Guy truly in the box: Mike Martin.

This is Purdue's long touchdown as Michigan sent the world and left the middle even more open than it looks now. They shelved this for the rest of the day.

Substitution notes: DL was about how you expect with a little bit more Brink and a little less Black. Maybe a little less Campbell, too.

At LB, Morgan played the whole game until Hawthorne came in for garbage time. Demens was out for a series or two in favor of Fitzgerald; in the presser this week this sounded like a desire to get Demens some rest but Michigan hadn't been on the field much when he came in. Maybe it was part of a plan or something. Ryan played most of the game at SLB; Beyer did get some playing time early and did okay.

In the secondary it was Countess, Floyd, Woolfolk, and Gordon the whole way. Avery was the nickelback. These guys didn't really come out even in garbage time. Thin, thin, thin.

Show? Show.

Ln Dn Ds O Form DForm Type Rush Play Player Yards
O33 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 under Run N/A Reverse Roh 7
I don't see many reverses and am not sure what the issue is here. I don't think it's reasonable to expect Morgan to deal with this; by the time the second handoff is made he's way out of position and heading the wrong way. Roh(-1) could do better here; he's crashing down the line and ends up getting blocked by the QB. If he reads the reverse and gets upfield he's got a shot at a big play; instead the guy gets outside without delay. Floyd is out on the edge; he gets blocked inside by the WR who was initially running him out of the play, which gives up the edge. Gordon escorts the WR out of bounds after a decent gain.
O40 2 3 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Pass 4 WR screen Floyd 12
This is the shot above, w Ryan off the line and the line shifted to the short side (boundary). Purdue throws a quick screen to the outside receiver; Roh(-1) is dropping off into the play as Ryan blitzes. He starts chasing it down; I think he gets ambitious and goes too far upfield. The bigger problem is Floyd(-2) getting chopped to the ground and giving up the outside, allowing the WR to dance down the sidelines for a big gain. RPS+1; this was two guys on one and should have been killed dead. With pics'd.
M48 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Martin 0
Ryan flanked over the slot, not on the line, despite a TE. Purdue runs a zone that I think they want to get outside since they have a numbers advantage on the line but Martin(+2) drives his man into the backfield, forcing a cutback, and pushes back to tackle himself. Heininger(+0.5) also came through to help after the guy doubling him released. With pics'd.
M48 2 10 Shotgun 2-back Base 4-3 Pass 4 Quick out Floyd Inc
This is open for about five; WR drops it. Coverage is a push: short route, probably no YAC.
M48 3 10 Shotgun empty Split 4-3 Pass 5 Tunnel screen -- 48
Michigan splits out over the slots so there are only five or six in the box with Woolfolk a single deep safety. They then blitz Martin, who was laying back a couple yards off the LOS as a quasi-linebacker. The five guys in the box are gone. And that's all she wrote. Countess can't beat a cut block to make a diving tackle; he comes close. Avery and Gordon are buried by OL. I do think Gordon(-1) needs to realize he's not going to run through this OL and take a deeper angle. Floyd(-1) takes an angle too shallow and is outrun to the endzone; Woolfolk had to take on an OL block and keep leverage just to give Floyd a shot. He avoids the cut and starts pursuing but can't catch up in time to tackle. RPS -3. Blitz + alignment = dead. With pics'd.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-7, 13 min 1st Q. Goodbye, Purdue offense.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O20 1 10 I-Form 4-3 under Run N/A Iso Demens 5
Brink in at SDE for RVB. Martin is doubled; Brink(-0.5) single blocked effectively. Demens(-1) gets pounded in the hole by the FB and spills the play outside instead of allowing Morgan to be a free hitter. Beyer(+0.5) peels to tackle.
O25 2 5 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Pass N/A WR screen Roh 0
Michigan still getting set when the ball is snapped, which fortuitously gets Roh running straight at the WR screen here. WR decides to duck inside of the charging Roh; Roh(+0.5) forms up and tackles with help from Morgan(+0.5). The RPS meter just exploded. Call it zero. With pics'd.
O25 3 5 Shotgun 2-back Nickel even Run N/A Inverted veer Ryan -4
Wildcat type formation with Siller at QB; Michigan runs a play that seems specifically designed to crush the inverted veer. Morgan flares out along the LOS and blitzes from the outside as Ryan(+1) stunts around Martin, showing up in the hole Siller thinks he has because there's no WLB filling it. He pulls, Ryan is there, RVB(+1) beats a block to provide more pressure, and then everything caves in. Ryan(+1 again) gets another plus for making an excellent tackle(+1) in the backfield. RPS+2.
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 6 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O38 1 10 Shotgun 2TE 4-3 under Run N/A Jet sweep Gordon 4
Gordon starts creeping down when Purdue motions a TE to the wide side. He comes up further on the jet sweep action and bursts upfield to cut off the outside(+1). Ryan(+1) has held the edge, taking on a double and holding up enough allowing both LBs to flow unimpeded to the ball. Demens's tackle was a thump he fell off of. The tailback manages to fall forward for a decent gain.
O42 2 6 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Pass 4 Quick out Floyd 4
Floyd(+1, cover +1) is in good enough position to make a play on the ball if it's not low and to the outside, which it is. Receiver makes the catch; no YAC.
O46 3 2 I-Form 4-3 under Run N/A FB Dive Martin 0
Martin(+1) shoves the center back into the intended path of the RB, forcing a cutback into Roh(+0.5), who tackles for no gain. Heininger(+0.5) held up to a block at the LOS and provides the restricted space that prevents Crank from falling forward.
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 1 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O5 1 10 I-Form 4-3 under Pass 4 Sack Martin -5
Martin(+3) drives the LG back, chucks him, starts driving into TerBush, gets a holding call, facemasks a little, and ends up safetying the dude. Pressure +2.
Drive Notes: Safety, 9-7, 14 min 2nd Q. Is this a missed call or the sort of flag they got rid of when they got rid of the five yarders? I don't know.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O28 1 10 I-Form 4-3 under Pass 5 Waggle out Ryan 15 + 15 pen
Marve in for Purdue. Ryan(-2) sent on a blitz right at this (RPS +2). He's in, Marve's not that mobile, this should be doom. Unfortunately Ryan goes for a pump fake and leaps. His hand comes down, grabbing the face mask, and he still misses the tackle. Marve is now outside the pocket and lofts one to a wide open tight end. Not sure who this is on, but it is either Countess or Woolfolk. Guessing Countess. (Cover -2, Pressure +1, Countess -1).
M42 1 10 I-Form 4-3 even Run N/A Power off tackle Demens 6
Ryan off the LOS as the WLB, Roh SDE, etc. They're flipped from normal. Roh(+1) drives the TE back, making the FB useless; Morgan(+0.5) takes on the outside shoulder of the fullback, funneling to the unblocked Demens in the hole. Demens(-1, tackling -1) has this lined up for a nothing play and glances off the tailback, allowing him to fall forward for a significant gain. Heininger(-1) blown off the ball by a single block didn't help but this is an easy play for Demens that didn't get made.
M36 2 4 ??? ??? Run N/A ?? Morgan 0
Tape does not have this play.
M36 3 4 Shotgun trips bunch Nickel under Pass 4 Scramble -- 6
I'm probably supposed to ding a DL or two for opening up a lane right in front of the QB, so minus half points for Martin and RVB for getting too far upfield in their pass rush. Morgan does a fairly impressive job of tracking Marve down but it's not enough.
M30 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 under Run N/A Trap Heininger 14
Martin(-1) gets upfield aggressively and is trap-blocked as the RG pulls around into Heininger(-1), who was similarly too aggressive. This kicks both DTs out and gives Crank a lot of room. Both LBs have OL to deal with; they set up to one side and force the play back into... nothing. Beyer(-1) ran uselessly upfield and got sealed off by a slot receiver. Yerk.
M16 1 10 Shotgun trips bunch 4-3 under Pass 4 Hitch Floyd Inc
Hitch opposite the bunch. Floyd(+0.5, cover +1) is there to tackle on the catch after about four but it's dropped.
M16 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 5 Throwaway Demens Inc
They roll the pocket. Roh(-0.5) gets cut to the ground; Demens(+1, pressure +1) reads the roll and shoots outside into it. Marve has nowhere to go because good coverage(+2) from Avery(+1) and Countess(+1) and chucks it OOB.
M15 3 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 4 Tunnel screen Avery INT
Michigan much better prepared. Avery(+3) not only splits the two defenders coming out on him and is in position to tackle if this is complete but manages to make a tough diving grab on the ball when the receiver bats the poorly-thrown screen up. Roh(+0.5) and Martin(+0.5) were flowing out from the line to deal with this as well; it was going nowhere. RPS +1.
Drive Notes: Interception, 12-7, 8 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O20 1 10 I-Form 4-3 over Pass 4 PA FB Flat Floyd 4
Fitzgerald in for Demens. Campbell and Brink also playing a bit on this drive. Waggle action and Marve has to take a checkdown(cover+1). Floyd is there to tackle after about two and gives up a couple more by almost missing.
O24 2 6 Shotgun 2-back TE 4-3 even Run N/A Inside zone Martin 4
Martin(+1) drives the playside G back; RB has to wait up as he is in the path. No help coming though with Campbell(-1) blown up and Fitzgerald(-1) doing the sit and wait; Ryan(+1) is over the slot, reads the handoff, and has time to get to the hole between Martin and Brink to hold the gain down.
O28 3 2 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Run N/A Down G Roh 5 (Pen -10)
M shows man free and blitzes Fitzgerald(-1) up the middle; he trips over a guy who ducked to cut Martin. Martin stays up; guy who's not even getting blocked goes down. Once that happens it's tough for M to do anything on the edge because they don't have any LBs flowing. Roh(+1) fights through the TE's down block and is held; flag. Gordon(+1) gets into a block and comes through it to the outside as Bolden passes the first down marker. He can't tackle but he forces Bolden into two other defenders. He had a tough job and did it well.
O18 3 12 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass 4 Sack Martin -2
Roh(+1) gets enough of a speed rush to spook Marve up into the pocket, whereupon Martin(+1) beats the center and blows back a tailback to complete the sack. (Pressure +2) Covered in With Pics(!).
Drive Notes: Punt, 19-7, 3 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O1 1 10 I-Form 4-3 under Penalty N/A Offsides Martin 5
Doh. Martin -1.
O6 1 5 I-Form 4-3 under Run N/A Power off tackle Morgan 2
Michigan appears to be slanting away from the POA. RVB(+0.5) gets under a tackle and ends up taking a puller. They may be trying to go A gap here. Ryan(+0.5) quickly gets into the FB and cuts off the outside; there is a crease because RVB got hit and Martin is slanting away from the gap. An OL has released downfield into Morgan(+1) but doesn't have much of an angle because of the RB hitting a gap that is farther inside than Purdue wanted; Morgan plays off it, shoving the OL away and making a solid tackle(+1)
O8 2 3 Shotgun 2-back 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Ryan 3
Ryan blitzes late, timing it excellently. He gave nothing away before the snap. As a result the lead back runs right by him. Ryan(-1) then runs right by Crank, missing an arm tackle(-1). He does knock Crank off balance but that was a free run for a loss (RPS +1) RVB(+1) slants under the tackle and forces the RB backside, another reason Ryan should have killed this dead. This allows Morgan(+0.5) to run away from a block and scrape to the new POA; Gordon(+0.5) also came up well to restrict space.
O11 1 10 I-Form 4-3 over Pass 4 Waggle out Woolfolk Inc (Pen +5)
RVB(-1) jumps offside. Play continues. Purdue runs a waggle with a TE running an out at about the sticks. Terbush comes up to fire at him; pass is accurate but Woolfolk(+2, cover +2) is there to put his helmet in the TE's chest and dislodge the ball.
O16 1 5 I-Form twins 4-3 over Run N/A Iso Heininger 0
No one gets out to the second level; Campbell(+0.5) does an all right job with his double and Heininger(+1) drives his man back a yard or two, which ends up absorbing the fullback and forcing a cutback. Demens(+1) does have an OL releasing into him late; he is too quick for that guy to get anything useful and tackle(+1) in the hole effectively.
O16 2 5 I-Form 3-wide 4-3 over Pass 4 Out Floyd Inc
Quick out—too quick—against Floyd as a hard cover two corner. Floyd(+2, cover +2) jumps the route and may have a shot at a pick if the ball isn't thrown way too high. As it is he gets a PBU.
O16 3 5 Shotgun trips bunch Nickel even Pass 4 Drag Morgan 18
Roh(+1, pressure +1) gets a speed rush around the RT and nearly has a sack; he ends up flushing TerBush up into the pocket. Morgan(-1, cover -1) ends up in the same spot as Demens on their zone drops because he's looking in the backfield; this opens up a three yard drag Siller can turn up for big yards. Gordon(-1, tackling -1) whiffs a tackle after about six yards; Morgan(-1, tackling -1) whiffs another tackle; finally Siller goes down as multiple M players, including both DTs, track him down.
O34 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Run N/A Trap Van Bergen 1
Both DTs remain responsible, diving inside on the snap and eliminating the hole; they both get inside of the guys trying to trap them as they rush upfield. RVB, Martin +1. Morgan(+0.5); he did a good job of getting to the hole to help tackle.
O35 2 9 Shotgun 2-back Nickel even Pass 4 Hitch Gordon 12
Simple zone blitz gets Morgan(+0.5, pressure +1) in unblocked but someone screws up their zone and allows the hitch right over Morgan to come open. This looks like Gordon(-1, cover -1)
O47 1 10 Shotgun 2-back Nickel 4-3 Run N/A Iso Morgan 4
Gordon walks down as an extra LB as M goes one high. DTs Campbell(+0.5) and Heininger(+0.5) do a good job of constricting this hole, forcing the RBs to dance through it gingerly. Morgan(-1) pops to the wrong side of the FB—he's at MLB in this formation and probably doesn't know where his hitter is—which allows Edison to dart through a small gap between the FB and Campbell.
M49 2 6 Shotgun trips bunch Nickel even Run N/A Pin and pull zone Heininger 0
Heininger(+2) does not get sealed; he does one better than that by chucking the OL blocking him to the inside and popping up into the hole, taking out a second blocker and forcing the RB to slow. With Beyer(+0.5) holding the edge the cutback is the only thing left; Ryan(+0.5) has that handled in pursuit.
M49 3 6 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass 5 Hitch Campbell Inc
Zone blitz from Demens and Avery doesn't have time to get home; TerBush throws a quick hitch in the middle of the field that Campbell(+1, pressure +1) bats down. Woolfolk(+1, cover +1) was going to be there on the catch to make this tough.
Drive Notes: Punt, 22-7, 5 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O26 1 10 Diamond screen Nickel even Pass 4 Transcontinental Floyd 18
Double pass with two options, one a TE running deep that Gordon(+1) covers. The other is the transcontinental, which is the only real option because linemen are releasing downfield. Floyd(-2) doesn't realize this and comes up late, then lets Siller outside of him without even touching him (tackling -1), turning a first down into a big gain. RPS -1.
M46 1 10 Shotgun trips 4-3 under Run N/A Zone read dive Gordon 3
Beyer forms up on the QB; handoff. Nothing playside with RVB(+0.5) driving his guy in to the play and ditto Heininger(+0.5); the cutback is there until Gordon(+1, tackling +1) comes up to make an excellent open field tackle as the RB cuts back behind everyone.
M43 2 7 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 even Pass 4 Throwaway Roh Inc
Roh(+1, pressure +1) beats the right tackle, and though it looks like TerBush can step up he bugs out for the corner. Martin(+0.5) is pursuing out there and TerBush has to chuck it OOB.
M43 3 7 Ace 3-wide 4-3 under Pass 4 Scramble -- 2
More double pass stuff; Michigan covers(+1) the first read and then Siller starts running around aimlessly, picking up a few yards. RPS +1.
Drive Notes: Punt, 29-7, 1 min 3rd Q. Clark, Hawthorne, and other backups start rotating in after M scores to go up 36-7. Seriousness: declining.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O30 1 10 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass 5 PA Quick seam Demens 23
Oh noes is less fun when it happens to you. Avery is over the slot; he blitzes. Demens(-1, cover -1) is dropping off in response, it seems, and is staring down the QB but not getting sufficient depth on his drop. The seam opens up. Woolfolk's tackle is a dodgy one but he does rope him down after a few extra yards given up. Call it a push.
M47 1 10 Shotgun trips Nickel even Run N/A Zone read keeper Clark 41
Michigan in man free with Woolfolk as the deep guy, except he's not so deep, he's moving forward at the snap less than ten yards off the LOS. This becomes a problem when Clark(-2) ignores the QB contain, causing a pull. Everyone else is headed to the playside and Floyd(-1) moves up too quickly, allowing Terbush to run by him before he can angle him into the help that doesn't really seem to be coming. Woolfolk(-1) never figures out the pull and ends up going derp on the playside; Floyd eventually runs it down.
M6 1 G Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Run N/A Zone read dive Marin 1
Martin(+1) passes off the RG and gets into the center in the backfield, forcing the same cutback he forced a few times earlier. Van Bergen(+1) holds up against a double well, so no hole; Clark(+0.5) comes down to tackle on the cutback.
M5 2 G I-Form 4-3 under Penalty N/A False start -- -5
M10 2 G I-Form 46 bear Run N/A Pitch sweep Ryan -5
Late move to the line by Morgan into the bear spot. Ryan is sent to fly off the edge. He's past the TE before he can get out on him, submarines the FB, and sends the tailback flailing skyward with a diving arm tackle. +3. Even if he whiffs here—a strong possibility—he's gotten a two-for-one on the FB and TE and Morgan should be able to force it back into unblocked help.
M15 3 G Shotgun empty 3-3-5 Nickel Pass 3 Quick post Morgan 12
Michigan drops eight, and I think it's either Ryan (who doesn't get over to the center of the zone fast enough, instead dropping too far into a post route in the center of the field that Gordon has) or Morgan (who's lined up over the guy and gives him inside position despite starting with inside leverage). Given the way the play looks—it appears to be man with three deep behind it—I think it's Morgan (-1, cover -1)
M3 4 G Shotgun trips 2-back Goal line Run N/A Yakety sax Demens 2
Slot covered, so pretty obvious run. What that run was supposed to be we'll never know because the two tailbacks run into each other. TerBush tries to improvise but gets chopped down short of the goal line by Demens(+1), who did beat a block to get to this quasi-hole. Ryan(+0.5) scraped way over to help, too.
Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 36-7, 9 min 4th Q. It's total scrub mode from this point on. Charting ceases.

"Total scrub mode?" A bunch of starters were out there!

"Total scrub mode if Michigan had available scrubs they weren't trying to redshirt," then.

What about Talbott? Taylor? Robinson (Marvin Edition)? Furman?

Hmmm. Taylor's hurt, I think. Meanwhile I'm guessing they're in maximum-snap-acquirement mode for freshman Countess. I'm not sure about the other guys.

But anyway I'm not charting that stuff. It is not representative of the football game. You know how I know?

I ask the questions?

Because Purdue acquired yards. On the ground.

At least give me that I exclaim chart!

You exclaim chart!

[Note: with Purdue unable to stay on the field and the last 13 plays excised for uselessness, this is only 43 snaps. IE: less than half some performance-type-substances from last year. Adjust expectations accordingly by multiplying by ~1.6 to get relatively normalized numbers.

You can also look at the +/- ratio, which is hovering around 3:1 for the DL (dirty) and 60% for the DBs (quality), with the linebackers hovering around planet okay.]

Defensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Van Bergen 5 1.5 3.5 Somewhat quiet day.
Martin 11 2.5 8.5 Two sacks and a number of plays he forced away from blocking.
Roh 6.5 2.5 4 Got some useful speed rush; half sack in uncharted time.
Brink - 0.5 -0.5 Eh.
Heininger 5 2 3 Played pretty well; seems to turn in a play or two per week.
Black - - - Didn't register.
Campbell 2 1 1 Not getting a ton of push.
TOTAL 29.5 10 19.5 Clark also –1.5. Solid performance from the starters.
Player + - T Notes
C. Gordon - - - DNP
Demens 3 3 0 Not much got to him thanks to Martin.
Herron - - - DNP
Ryan 8.5 3 5.5 No argh moments, a couple wow experiences.
Fitzgerald - 2 -2 Behind Demens for a reason.
Jones - - - Garbage time.
Evans - - - DNP
Beyer 0.5 1.5 -1 Michigan working in their depth a bit more.
Hawthorne - - - Only garbage time.
Morgan 3.5 3 0.5 An improvement on Hawthorne, but still a work in progress.
TOTAL 15.5 12.5 3 Decent play from most, no real standout plays save Ryan's.
Player + - T Notes
Floyd 3.5 6 -2.5 Best cover guy now so keep that in mind; tackling struggles do not outweigh his contribution to the cover metric below.
Avery 4 - 4 Mostly the INT.
Woolfolk 4 - 4 Played well at safety. Not as solid a tackler as Kovacs but good in coverage.
Kovacs - - - Come back soon.
T. Gordon 4.5 3 1.5 Solid tackling day.
Countess 1 2 -1 No one was really tested back here.
Johnson - - - : (
TOTAL 17 11 6 Very good save Floyd's tackling issues.
Pressure 9 1 8 Most of this a four man rush.
Coverage 11 6 5 Excellent number given the ratio.
Tackling 4 4 50% Floyd on the edge can be not so good.
RPS 8 4 4 Didn't give up much schematically after the first drive.

That is a quality day from the secondary, albeit one racked up in limited opportunities against a team that hardly goes deep, if they ever do. I didn't chart the final two drives, during which the Boilers were 6/9 for 47 yards. The drive before that was also pretty whatever and it featured two completions for 35 yards, both of them seemingly on the linebackers.

In time that can be described as meaningful, Michigan gave up 140 yards on 16 attempts, 48 of those on the screen. That's 6.1 YPA on the other 15 attempts. Aside from Floyd missing some tackles they did a good job. I wouldn't take too much out of it since Purdue is the most relentlessly dinky opponent Michigan will face.

More impressive than that was the rush defense, which gave up essentially nothing until Clark blew his contain on the zone read. Removing four sacks for 20 yards and Purdue still had just 109, 41 of those in garbage time thanks to a true freshman who's got two guys in front of him on the depth chart. Bolden averaged 2 YPC. Runs that don't heavily feature Clark making a mistake he won't get to make in a real game were barely better at 2.8.

Mike Martin is back!

Yeah, after getting blown out on a number of doubles against MSU Martin rebounded with a strong performance both statistically and when it came to the sorts of things that Don't Show Up In The Box Score. A large portion of the Bolden futility was Purdue trying to single block Martin and getting their angles blown up in return:

Forcing the cutback is 80% of the battle there; coming off to tackle yourself is just a bonus. You try running a fullback dive when the center is two yards in the backfield.

You are aware that Martin essentially threw the left guard into TerBush for a safety, but it remains a good example of his day:

This is what I like to see from my Mike Martin. That and rag-dolling a tailback like he is not present.

If he can do this against Iowa Coker will have a hard time. Dude is surprisingly agile for a truck but cutting in the backfield is doom for anyone his size. I imagine Iowa will do more doubling of him—Purdue wanted to get out on the linebackers so quickly they never really gave anyone help on Martin. Even Heininger got in on some of the single-blocked action.

Jake Ryan is living up to the promise implied by Sixteen Candles!

I do think we should slow our roll a little bit here. At this rate Ryan is going to be hyped to the moon over the offseason and when he's only pretty good as a sophomore everyone's going to be disappointed. He is learning, he is destructive, I still want to see him put on another 20 pounds and absorb Ryan Van Bergen's tao of weeble-wobbling before I start penciling him on the next three All Big Ten teams. One of his big plays was manufactured by Mattison, after all.

The other was not, though:

That is MAKING PLAYS. That's a +3 all the way, what with beating a tackle and submarining another blocker and tackling the dude in the backfield.

I dislike JT Floyd!

I've seen a couple of the educated football folk in the blogosphere and my twitter stream grouse about JT Floyd this week, and the numbers above do back that up. Getting chopped to the ground by an outside WR on a bubble is pretty bad, and Floyd's eh speed will always be an issue.

HOWEVA, I still think he's the best corner Michigan has right now. I base this off plays when opponents run twinned routes and I can see a Woolfolk or Countess cover the same slant on the same call; almost invariably Floyd is hugging the receiver tighter. This is not the best example because the QB set him up for this one but whether it's in man or zone Floyd seems to get more plays on the ball than anyone else in the secondary:

Meanwhile, count the long receptions Floyd's given up this year… I've got one, an undefendable Michael Floyd fade on which he had a rake at the ball. When they go after Michigan deep it was Woolfolk and Countess getting most of the exposure. That's good enough for me when trying to figure out who's good in an area of the field you only see when someone hasn't been good (or one of Michigan's quarterbacks has decided they're tired of being on the field).

Floyd's not going to go down as a great or probably even get drafted; he's still Michigan's best corner until Countess takes that mantle from him.

Morgan is the WLB forever!

I think he's the long-term solution on most downs. I like it when linebackers can shed and form tackle, even if it's on a kickoff:


I still see a place for Hawthorne on the defense in a nickel package. Many of his plusses this year have been in tight, instant-tackle coverage on third and medium. Morgan had a not-so-much moment over the weekend:

Froshbits that will get better with time, yes. I still think if you've got a safety/LB hybrid who's shown an aptitude for playing underneath coverage on medium-length third downs there's a place for that guy on your D. When the run you're worried about is a draw I wouldn't mind seeing Hawthorne out there.

How plausible is this? Well, BWS caught a nickel blitz late that again showed Mattison's desire to have one of his linebackers bug out to an unexpected place on a zone blitz. Check #7:


They tried this earlier in the year with Herron and it didn't go well. They didn't bring it out until Hawthorne came in against the Boilers, and it seems like if there's anyone on the roster who can run like an NFL linebacker in coverage it's him. I wouldn't put it past Mattison to start using Hawthorne like a dimeback to give his zone blitz schemes a little more terror. He's an interesting player.


Martin in particular but the rest of the line as well—constant harassment of the QBs and the opponent had no running game at the same time your MLB had one solo tackle.


Floyd's edge tackling was a source of problems. Pretty much the only one except a bad playcall on the first drive.

What does it mean for Iowa and the future?

I stole my own thunder above talking about Coker, but to reiterate: the key in the ground game will be to get the penetration they were getting today and slow Coker in the backfield. He takes time to get up to speed and is a one-cut-and-go type guy. If Martin/RVB can make him a one-cut-and-stop type guy they'll go a long way towards… uh… holding most of his runs to like four yards because you can't stop the guy from falling forward. I don't have faith in Michigan's linebackers to be able to stop that guy in his tracks. Kovacs's health will be important here—the downgrade in tackling from him to Woolfolk is obvious.

As for Iowa's passing game, prepare for a stiff test. Michigan hasn't faced a player of McNutt's quality in an environment that will allow for throwing instead of hoping since Notre Dame, and they escaped from that mess by the skin of their teeth. McNutt isn't on that level… quite.

LT Reilly Reiff, hyped up as a possible first rounder, struggled alarmingly with Minnesota DEs; if Michigan can get the same kind of pressure with their front four Iowa fans have been bitching all year about a certain deer-in-the-headlights quality to Vandenberg when he gets pressure. 


Upon Further Review 2011: Defense vs Northwestern

Upon Further Review 2011: Defense vs Northwestern Comment Count

Brian October 12th, 2011 at 3:43 PM

Formation notes:  Michigan spent the bulk of the first half in their nickel package with Ryan down on the line and Gordon and Johnson at nickel and safety, respectively. In the second half they took Johnson off in favor of using Ryan as a slot LB until Northwestern started their passing hurry-up on their fourth(!) drive.

Substitution notes: The usual defensive line substitutions, with Heininger and Black seeing frequent time, Campbell a little, and Washington maybe a snap or three. Michigan did briefly show Avery as the nickelback, but that only lasted a drive or two. Demens went the whole way; Morgan got a couple series late in the first half. Countess replaced Woolfolk in the second quarter and went the rest of the way.

Demens, Kovacs, Floyd, and Gordon didn't come off the field.

Show? Show.

Ln Dn Ds O Form DForm Type Rush Play Player Yards
O20 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass 4 Bubble screen Floyd 7
Hawthorne starts flowing up into the playfake and there's no one to the short side, leaving the slot all alone; Floyd is playing ten yards off. With Hawthorne positioned like he is there is no way he's making this play anyway. RPS -1.
O27 2 3 Shotgun trips Nickel press Pass 4 Out Floyd Inc
Floyd(+1, cover +1) is right there on the receiver's cut, forcing Persa to throw it perfectly—upfield and away from Floyd. He does so; WR has a shot at a decently tough catch and cannot make it. Rushing lane was opening up but Persa did not take it.
O27 3 3 Shotgun trips bunch Nickel press Pass 5 Drag Demens Inc
Demens lines up right over the center and rushes, trying to take the center out of the play as Martin(+0.5) stunts around. This basically works; center slides off on Martin and Demens(+1) uses that opportunity to shoot up into the pocket. He's about to sack when an in the grasp Persa chucks it inaccurately in the vicinity of a receiver Hawthorne(+1, cover +1) is all over; may have a PBU if ball is accurate. Pressure +1, RPS +1. This is really close to a sack, BTW.
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 14 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O20 1 10 Shotgun empty quad bunch Nickel press Pass 5 Drag Van Bergen Inc (Pen +15)
Avery in as the nickelback. NW has a tight bunch to the wide side of the field and motions the tailback outside of those guys. Michigan is confused, with Demens eventually heading out there to deal with him, but late. Doesn't end up mattering this time. Michigan runs a twist that gets Roh(+0.5) through thanks to Martin(+1) threatening to shoot past the C. He's screwed either way. Persa has to dump it; RVB(+1) reads Persa's eyes and starts moving into the throwing lane, batting it down. Hawthorne(-1, cover -1) got beaten by Ebert on this drag and would have been able to turn it up for big yardage. Pressure +2. Roh picks up a roughing the passer call that is horsecrap. That's one step and then hit. Awful call. Refs -2.
O35 1 10 Pistol 2-back offset Nickel even Run N/A Veer triple option Kovacs 5
Colter in at QB; Michigan seemingly misaligned with no reaction to the strong side and Kovacs lined up a couple yards behind the LBs. They do not comprehend Colter is in at QB. NW runs an option to the wide side. Both LBs and Roh(-2), the playside DE, suck up on the dive fake. Mattison said DE == QB so I'm –2ing every DE who tackles a dive guy or lets the QB outside. Even Kovacs hesitates; no one is tracking the pitch back at all. Roh does recover to string the play out a bit, and Kovacs flows hard, forcing a pitch a few yards downfield. Colter didn't make Kovacs take him, though, and he flows down to tackle, preventing this from becoming a big gain. I have no idea who's at fault here. Either Roh or Demens needs to get out on the pitch and Kovacs needs to do so as well. Kovacs(+1) for getting out as secondary support and making a tough tackle(+1). RPS -1.
O40 2 5 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass N/A Bubble screen Woolfolk 14
Bler bler bler. Michigan has two guys to the wide side of the field that possesses three NW WRs. Those two guys are seven and ten yards off the LOS. Woolfolk(-1) then misses the tackle(-1) and turns this from seven into 13. RPS-1.
M46 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass 4 Improv Avery? 27
Black drops off into a zone before the play and Woolfolk blitzes from the other side. Unsurprisingly, this is picked up. Martin(+1) is coming through the line and is held; no call; Persa can flush outside of the pocket because Woolfolk got upfield. Outside of the pocket Persa is deadly; he finds a guy for a big gainer. Cover -1, Pressure -1, RPS -1.
M19 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass 4 Dumpoff Hawthorne 4
Yeesh, looks like Demens(-1) doesn't get enough of a drop and Johnson(-2) pulls up on a dig, leaving a post wide open for a touchdown (cover -2). Persa misses this and checks down. Hawthorne(+1, cover +1) with an immediate tackle. With Martin out and Campbell in there is no rush at all (pressure -2).
M15 2 6 Shotgun trips 2back Nickel even Run N/A Veer triple option Kovacs 15
Trips plus two backs equals a covered up WR, equals run, equals massive frustration that this catches Michigan off guard. Ryan(-2) crashes down on the dive fake; Demens and Hawthorne move forward despite this obviously being an option and get sealed away; Demens is playside so –1. Kovacs(-1) misses a tackle(-1) at the ten but that could be harsh since he is the only player on the edge against two other players. If he takes a more conservative angle Colter pitches and the RB walks into the endzone. At least Kovacs had a shot here. RPS -2.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-7, 8 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O37 1 10 Pistol trips TE Nickel even Run N/A Speed option Demens 12
RVB(+0.5) and Martin are coming at the QB hard, forcing a quick pitch. That should be advantage D since the DL are stringing the RB out quickly. Gordon(+0.5) comes up to maintain leverage, at which point... no one comes up to tackle. Demens(-2) had gone upfield around a blocker for no discernible reason and is late as a result. Martin can't quite make up for his mistake; Hawthorne(-0.5) is there seven yards downfield. His tackle(-1) is run through but does force the RB OOB.
O49 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass N/A Flare screen Van Bergen 3
Woolfolk(-0.5) is caught up in man coverage here and never realizes this is basically a run play; he ends up on his butt. Gordon(-0.5) has the same thing happen to him. Maybe that's harsh for press coverage. Demens(+1) and Van Bergen(+1) read the play and get out on it to hold it down, with RVB actually making the tackle.
M47 2 7 Shotgun empty TE Nickel even Run N/A Shovel pass Hawthorne 2
Yeah, technically a pass, but this is a run play in UFR's book. This is a variation on the Florida TE shovel this blog raved about the past couple years, with Persa running outside at first and taking Gordon with him, then shoveling inside to the pulling TE, who is actually WR Drake Dunsmore, as they run power. Ryan(-1) blown up and out. Big hole. One guy in space against Hawthorne; if Dunsmore cuts behind the block either Roh hacks him down or it's a big gain; instead he runs right into Hawthorne. I guess Hawthorne gets a +1, Demens a +0.5, as they tackle(+1) in space for a minimal gain, but we got lucky.
M45 3 5 Shotgun trips bunch Nickel press Pass 6 Out Gordon 6
Again with Demens lined up over the nose; Michigan sends the house. They don't get a free run and don't get a hurry (pressure -1) but they didn't give up anything big so no RPS -1. NW running some man-beater routes that force Gordon into an awkward path; this gets Ebert the step he needs to stab this pass one-handed and turn up the sideline for the first. Gordon was there to tackle so it's not like he did a bad job.
M39 1 10 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass 3 Scramble Ryan 5
Tempoed, Michigan only has two down linemen at the snap (RPS -1). As a result, Ryan is lost in no-man's land. Coverage(+1) is good downfield; Persa takes off, diving as Ryan comes in on him.
M34 1 10 Pistol 2-back offset Nickel even Run N/A Veer triple option Hawthorne 23
Colter magical option formation, and they give despite again having Kovacs versus two guys on the edge. Maybe Colter was worried about Black. I'm not entirely sure about what goes wrong here but it seems to me like Campbell(+1) takes on a double and beats his man to the inside as the interior guy peels off, which means the RB has to go behind him and the C trying to get out on Hawthorne(-2) would have no angle if Hawthorne read this and made his NT right. Instead he and Demens are a foot away from each other and when the RB cuts behind Campbell there is no one there.
M11 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass 4 Scramble Hawthorne 4
Good coverage(+2) means Persa can't find anything despite having a long time (pressure -1). He eventually rolls out; Roh(+0.5) and Hawthorne(+0.5) remain on their receivers long enough to force a scramble and then come up quickly to hold it down.
M7 2 6 Pistol trips TE Nickel press Run N/A Speed option Johnson 7
Demens(-2) again heads too far upfield too fast and gets himself into a lineman who ends up cutting him to the ground after they run down the line for a while. This is a speed option! Get outside! RVB(+0.5) forced a pitch and flowed down the line to make it difficult for the RB; Carvin Johnson(-1, tackling -1) comes up hard around the LOS and whiffs entirely. He does force a cut upfield, but because Demens is on his stomach the cut is not a modest gain but a touchdown.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-14, 4 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O7 1 10 Shotgun trips Nickel even Run N/A Zone read dive Morgan 2
Morgan in for Hawthorne. Morgan(+1) bashes into the center at the LOS and drives him back on the dive; Martin(+1) fights through a double team, refusing to get sealed. When the G releases he's still playside of the T. With Heininger(+0.5) beating a single block there's nowhere to go.
O9 2 8 ??? ??? Pass 4 Scramble ??? 6
Good coverage(+1) causes a flush but because the DL split so badly that was kind of obvious; no second read here. (Pressure -2). Not sure who to minus specifically because tape is cutting out at the beginning of this play.
O15 3 2 Shotgun trips Nickel even Run N/A Speed option? ??? 12
Technical difficulties. We come back with the pitch already made. I am somewhat certain this is largely Demens's fault(-1), as he was lined up playside of Morgan presnap but when we come back Morgan is actually closer to the play. He then gets shot past the play. Morgan(-1) took a too-aggressive route around a WR and couldn't make the play; Johnson(+0.5) does come up to make a fill on a dangerous play, though his ankle tackle is maybe less than ideal.
O27 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass ??? ??? ??? Inc
Apparently this is just a misthrow, but I don't know.
O27 2 10 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass ??? Sack Demens -2
Oh, hell, BTN. I guess Demens(+1, pressure +1) is a minimum?
O24 3 13 Shotgun trips bunch Nickel press Penalty N/A False start -- -5
O19 3 18 Shotgun trips Nickel even Run N/A Zone read dive Black 6
Give up and punt.
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-14, 11 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
M41 1 10 Shotgun empty Nickel even Pass 4 Hitch Martin 7
Zone blitz drops Roh and sends Morgan. Martin(+1) slants around the G and C to get a run at Persa(pressure +1) and bats the ball. The thing still finds its way to the receiver, but the delay allows an immediate tackle... that Demens(-1, tackling -1) does not make.
M34 2 3 Shotgun trips Nickel even Run N/A Zone read stretch Van Bergen 2
RVB(+2) shoves the playside OT back two yards, cutting off the outside and forcing a cutback. He disconnects when this happens and tackles himself for a minimal gain. Nice play; scary if he doesn't make this. Think he missed a check when Dunsmore motioned into play H-back, but he made up for it.
M32 3 1 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Run N/A Zone read dive Heininger 1
NW goes tempo. Heininger(+2) takes on a double and holds, going to his knees in the backfield and absorbing both guys without budging. Martin(+1) is single blocked. He stands his guy up and sheds inside to meet the RB a yard on the backfield. Momentum from him and a blitzing Morgan coming from behind gets the pile to the LOS but no farther.
M31 4 In Pistol 2-back offset big 46 bear Run N/A Speed option Roh -1
Roh(+3) takes on the playside TE and sheds him to the outside, then shoots up on Persa, forcing the pitch. Getting a forced pitch from a blocked guy is clutch here. Before the snap, Kovacs motions to Morgan, who takes a step shortside and then starts flowing hard; he takes the leading fullback's block, leaving Kovacs(+2, tackling +1) alone on the corner with the pitchback, who he cuts to the ground in the backfield. Watch Kovacs take the lighting quick path to the ballcarrier after the pitch. Baller. Also make no mistake: this is Roh's play at its heart.
Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 7-14, 8 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O18 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass N/A Bubble screen Floyd 6
There by alignment with no one on the the slot and Morgan reacting to the zone fake. Floyd does as well as he can to get into the blocker at about five yards but help can't converge for seven. RPS -1
O24 2 4 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass N/A Bubble screen Johnson 9
Another bubble by alignment; Gordon is over the slot but in these situations the guy grabs it and goes right up the hash, where there is no one. Johnson eventually fills and makes a dodgy tackle. RPS -1
O33 1 10 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass N/A Bubble screen Johnson 7
Exact same thing as NW goes tempo. RPS -1. Better tackle from Johnson.
O40 2 3 Shotgun empty Nickel even Pass 4 Slant Van Bergen Inc
Morgan(-1, cover -1) is now paranoid about the bubble, though he's not aligned any better, and starts outside as NW runs actual patterns. Slant is wide open. Persa throws it; Van Bergen(+1, pressure +1) bats it down as he's come inside on a stunt.
O40 3 3 Shotgun trips TE Nickel even Pass 5 Drag Martin 19
Zone blitz sees Martin left in man coverage on Dunsmore on a drag. That goes about how you would expect. (Cover -1, RPS -1)
M41 1 10 Shotgun trips Nickel press Pass 4 Fade Countess 39
No pressure(-2); huge pocket for Persa to step into. Countess(-1, cover -1) gets flat beat on a go route and is a step and a half behind the WR; even though it's a little underthrown and definitely in the defeat-Michael-Floyd zone he cannot catch up and gives up the big completion. Does get a hand on an arm, but it's that half step that kills him.
M2 1 G Shotgun trips 2back Nickel even Run N/A Speed option Gordon 2
Covered WR with Colter in. RB motions to the other side; Kovacs goes with him. Speed option to the plentiful WR side. Gordon(-1), Demens(-1), and Floyd(-1) get blown up and after Ryan forces the pitch the RB walks into the endzone. This is clever by NW: Kovacs is the guy with the pitchman so they get him out of the picture and exploit the LBs. RPS -1.
Drive Notes: Touchdown,14-21, 2 min 2nd Q. This was pretty terrible on Mattison's part. Bubble bubble bubble Martin on drag no answer for option.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O48 1 10 Shotgun empty Nickel even Pass 4 Drag Roh 16
Martin(+1, pressure +1) goes right around the center and gets a hurry as Roh drops off and Morgan comes. Another zone blitz gets burned by the drag route as Roh cannot keep pace with Colter, RPS -1.
M36 1 10 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass 4 Comeback -- 13
No pressure(-2); Persa has plenty of time to survey and find the deep comeback coming open. Gordon the nearest guy but not really on him.
M23 1 10 Shotgun empty Nickel even Pass 4 Slant Morgan 16
Morgan(-1, cover -1) beaten easily by Colter. Morgan(-1, tackling -1) then fails to tackle. Quick throw leaves little time for pressure but the lack of push from the DL is worrying. Why is Morgan in the game against a spread offense when you have Hawthorne available, especially on a two-minute drill?
M7 1 G Shotgun trips Nickel even Run N/A Zone read keeper Demens 4
Black(-1) doesn't get upfield, causing a pull. If he was crashing on a scrape that's one thing. Here he's in no-man's land. Demens(+1) sets up a lineman, getting into him and then pushing out into the space Persa occupies; Gordon(+0.5) also flows down to help tackle, though he had an easy time of it because Colter didn't even bother blocking.
M3 2 G Shotgun 4-wide Nickel press Run 5 Snag Woolfolk Inc
Pick play designed to beat man coverage. It does so but Persa is late, allowing Woolfolk(+1, cover +1) to recover and knock the ball out as it arrives. Pressure(-1) not getting to Persa.
M3 3 G Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass 3 Post Johnson Inc
Three man rush gets nowhere (pressure -1); Johnson(-1, cover -1) gets outside and opens up the post. Persa hits him; dropped.
Drive Notes: FG, 14-24, EOH. Refs are idiots about the time either way here.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O40 1 10 Shotgun trips TE 4-3 under Run N/A Speed option Ryan -1
Ryan back at LB instead of DE and hanging out over the slot. They run a speed option; Ryan flies up on the edge. It kind of looks like he comes up on the QB and has just given the pitchman the edge but Persa doesn't think so, so we'll give him the benefit of the doubt. Ryan's(+2) excellent positioning prevents a pitch, forces Persa to cut it up, and results in nothing thanks to RVB(+1) and Martin(+0.5) flowing down the line well.
O39 2 11 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 under Pass 4 Sack Martin -5
Persa apparently looking at a hitch Floyd(+1, cover +1) has covered; he hesitates and never gets a second read because Martin(+2) bull-rushed the center back into him and Roh(+2) came under the left tackle; the two combine to sack. (Pressure +2) Hawthorne appears to have the TE seam covered; Countess is way off the hitch on the other side of the field.
O34 3 6 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel press Pass 4 Seam Van Bergen  
Van Bergen(+2, pressure +2) rips through the RG and gets immediate pressure up the center of the field. Persa fires too far in front of his receiver; Johnson nearly digs out the pick. Route was a seam or skinny post that Gordon(+1, cover +1) was in coverage on; incidental contact with the feet caused the WR to fall. He looked in pretty good position, FWIW.
Drive Notes: Punt, 21-24, 9 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O18 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Pass N/A Bubble screen -- 6
Yay. Ryan is on the wide side slot but there's still no one over the short side, so they throw it. With Floyd playing very soft, no chance this doesn't pick up a pretty decent gain. Hawthorne does well to get out there and push him out before it's eight, I guess. RPS -1.
O24 2 4 Shotgun empty 4-3 under Pass 4 Rollout -- 9
No one on the edge (pressure -2) and Persa can run or throw for the first. He chooses the throw, hitting the second receiver, who's drifting outside of Demens's zone. (Cover -1) Countess makes a quick tackle.
O35 1 10 Shotgun trips 4-3 under Pass N/A Bubble screen -- 6
argh argh argh. Ryan blitzes off the corner; Persa sees this and immediately throws the bubble without a mesh point. Gordon(+1) is the only guy out there. He gets into the slot guy at the LOS, getting outside and forcing a cutback, then disconnects to tackle after just five. RPS -1.
O41 2 4 Shotgun trips 4-3 under Pass 5 Drag Hawthorne Int
Michigan tempoed and not aligned at the snap. Zone blitz gets Demens in but Martin(-1) has vacated his lane and Demens can't do anything about it as Persa steps up into the pocket. Receiver is moving to give Persa an option; he throws it to him for what will be seven yards and a first down if it doesn't derp off the guy's pads, allowing Hawthorne(+1) to make a diving interception.
Drive Notes: Interception, 28-24, 1 min 3rd Q. Dude... how was this not overturned? Poopin' magic yo.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O19 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 even Run N/A Inside zone Martin 6
Michigan spread out with LBs shaded over the slots so NW hits them inside. Martin(-1) fights through a block way upfield and opens up a big hole in the middle. Demens(-0.5) and Ryan(-0.5) sit back and accept blocks but at least they combine to force the guy into a tackle.
O25 2 4 Shotgun empty 4-3 even Pass 4 Hitch Countess 6
Schmidt motions out; there is a bunch to the wide side and then the RB outside of them. Quick hitch to the RB that Van Bergen(+1, pressure +1) actually deflects, but the ball still goes right to the RB. Countess(-1, cover -1) is really soft, giving up the first down despite the ball taking a long time to get there because of the deflection.
O31 1 10 Shotgun empty Nickel even Pass 4 Hitch Floyd 10
Floyd(-1, cover -1) beaten pretty clean by Ebert; this is a five yard route on which Floyd is at the sticks on the catch. Ebert picks up the rest of the first down as a result.
O41 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Run N/A Inside zone Martin 2
Martin(+1) and Heininger(+1) hold up to blocks, closing off holes up the middle of the field. Mark manages to pick his way through little gaps for a few yards, but that will happen.
O43 2 8 Shotgun empty Nickel even Pass 5 Fly Floyd Inc (Pen +15)
Floyd in press; Michigan zone blitzes behind it. Gordon gets in free (pressure +1, RPS +1); Persa throws it to the fly route without really knowing if it's open. Floyd is there, gets his head around, and seems to break up the pass... and gets flagged. On replay, yes, he got his hand on the shoulder pad and prevented the guy from jumping for the ball. I'll take that though, since it's subtle and you can miss it. I still have to (-1, cover -1)
M42 1 10 Shotgun trips 4-3 even Pass N/A Bubble screen Ryan 4
Finally something that looks like defense. Gordon(+0.5) flows up hard and Ryan gets outside of the slot blocker as Demens reads the throw and gets out there usefully. Ryan gets cut under; Gordon and Demens are there to tackle. As the WR is digging for an extra half yard Gordon(+3) strips the ball loose.
Drive Notes: Fumble, 35-24, 12 min 4th Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O31 1 10 Shotgun empty Nickel even Pass 4 Drag Demens 5
M sitting back in an obvious four-man-rush zone as they work to not blow it; grades handed out with that in mind. Persa hits Colter underneath on a drag; Demens(+1, tackling +1) comes up to tackle immediately.
O36 2 5 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass 4 Slant Hawthorne 9
Hawthorne(-0.5) comes up on a not very convincing run fake and opens the slant up for a first down.
O45 1 10 Shotgun empty Nickel even Run N/A Jet sweep Gordon 6
Glerb. M blitzes into the sweep and Gordon(-1) widens out to blow it up; he misses the tackle(-1). This makes good play from Hawthorne and Demens to get outside their blockers bad play and the DL, slanting away from this on the snap, cannot pursue fast enough to prevent a gain.
M49 2 4 Shotgun empty Nickel even Pass 4 Circle Floyd 6
Circle route high-lows the corner and Floyd sinks, opening up the short stuff.
M43 1 10 Shotgun empty Nickel even Pass 3 Cross Gordon Inc
Line slants right and Black drops off into a short zone... I think one of the LBs forgot to blitz. This means Persa has acres of space; he steps up and zings it to Colter... behind him. First down otherwise. (Pressure -2, cover -1)
M43 2 10 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass N/A Bubble screen Johnson 5
Late-arriving WR doesn't actually get into position so NW has five in the backfield. No call. These refs are idiots. NW throws the bubble and Michigan is finally playing it well. Gordon(+1) gets into the slot guy at the LOS in a good spot to force the WR upfield; Demens flows but misses; Johnson(+1) comes into finish with a good hit.
M38 3 5 Shotgun trips 3-3-5 press Pass 4 Hitch Countess Inc
Michigan in tight man on the first down line; Persa's first read is Floyd(+1, cover +1), which is not a good idea. Second is Countess, still not a great idea but gotta throw it, so he does; Countess(+2, cover +1) breaks it up.
M38 4 5 Shotgun trips bunch 3-3-5 press Pass 5 Sack Kovacs -10
Mattison sends Kovacs on a crazy ninja blitz from way deep; at the snap he's hurtling at the LOS at full speed. The seas part. Kovacs goes too high, though, and Persa ducks under his tackle. Tackle attempt pulls the helmet off, though, and that's a sack. RPS +2, Pressure +3—this was instant. Kovacs... +1, results based charting. And well timed blitz. Also wag of the high tackle finger. Gordon(+1, cover +1) breaks up the desperate improv throw Persa gets off after the helmet incident.
Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 35-24, 7 min 4th Q. Northwestern's last drive is down 18 with 2 minutes left and is not charted.


Er. So. I don't really think so.


Yes, yes, probably, but the things that happened in the second half were:

  1. Three and out, one contained speed option, two incompletions thanks to DL pressure.
  2. Bubble, easy rollout hitch, bubble, drag route for first down that bounces off receiver's numbers to Hawthorne (sort of).
  3. Inside zone, hitch, hitch, Inside zone (defensed!), legit pass interference on deep ball, bubble leads to fumble.
  4. Hurry up pass mode w/ Michigan in soft zone, drive ends with Persa IN, five-yard bubble, and two good plays by the D.

So… the move to have Ryan in the slot didn't really slow down the bubbles, which went for 6, 6, 4, and 5 yards. This is better than the 8 they seemed to average in the first half, but it is not a thunderous shutdown of the spread.

There were three drives on which NW was actually running its offense. On one the adjustment got a speed option contained and then Michigan got some pressure. On two NW has just picked up its second easy first down if the WR doesn't bat it into the sky. On three they have second and six after picking up a couple first downs when Gordon yanks the ball loose. What happens if the WR doesn't DROPX the drag? If Ebert's knee is down? What is your confidence level that Michigan is going to stop Persa & Co. if these things don't happen?


Wait… are you Joe Paterno?


I see. So… what I am saying is that the vaunted second half adjustments are little data being made big and what we saw in the first half was very frustrating to me. How do you stop a bubble aligned like this?


You don't. On Northwestern's final touchdown drive they ran three straight bubbles for 22 free yards. This is 2011. You should not have to adjust to the staple constraint play of the spread 'n' shred.


Yes, well… I don't want to make too little data big again. I sure as hell don't know 10% of what he does and rushing to judgment about what Michigan's defense will look like once he's had them for three years is stupid. Mattison uber alles.

HOWEVA, it seemed like he was caught off guard by the spread 'n' shred. He's been in the NFL for three years but he was also the DC at Florida and Notre Dame over the increasingly spread-mad last decade of college football, so he should be familiar with it.

Were players not reacting appropriately? Maybe. Late the secondary did get more aggressive and helped hold the bubbles down. But that was the difference between 8 (or even 13) yards and 4-6. As I was UFRing this I was again thinking of Magee describing his philosophy, or rather WVU's defensive philosophy: they run the stack because it's built to stop the spread. Maybe Michigan needs a three-man-line package for games like this?

In any case, Mattison's admittedly hypothetical inability to deal with the spread 'n' shred in year one of his regime is a moot point. The remainder of Michigan's opponents are either pro-style (MSU, Iowa, sort of OSU), triple option (Illinois, Nebraska), or so incompetent it shouldn't matter (Purdue). I'm a bit worried that Fickell is installing a ton of bubbles right now, though.


That Michigan can't defend a bubble but won't run a stretch because it's not preparing you for the Big Ten? Kinda. /ducks



Defensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Van Bergen 10 - 10 Pressure and PBUs. I enjoy his contributions.
Martin 10 2 8 Not as many plays as you might want but it's hard when everything goes outside.
Roh 6 2 4 Fourth down play; needs moar pass rush.
Brink - - - DNP
Heininger 3.5 - 3.5 No real problems, but not tested much.
Black - 1 -1 Not much PT.
Campbell 1 - 1 One play.
TOTAL 30.5 5 25.5 Step back from last couple weeks.
Player + - T Notes
C. Gordon - - - DNP
Demens 5.5 9.5 -4 Did not get outside even on speed options.
Herron - - - DNP
Ryan 2 3.5 -1.5 Dodgy edge.
Fitzgerald - - - DNP
Jones - - - DNP
Evans - - - DNP
Beyer - - - DNP
Hawthorne 4.5 4 0.5 One big error on dive; good in coverage.
Morgan 1 4 -3 Struggled, pulled.
TOTAL 13 21 -8 Major problems containing.
Player + - T Notes
Floyd 3 3 0 Push is good against Persa.
Avery - - - Didn't register.
Woolfolk 1 1.5 -0.5 Pulled.
Kovacs 4 1 3 Mostly neutralized because he had to try to tackle two dudes.
T. Gordon 8.5 2.5 6 Fumble half of the plus.
Countess 2 2 0 Beaten deep once, but also a push.
Johnson 1.5 4 -2.5 Not as bad as you might have thought.
TOTAL 20 14 6 Wow. I mean, no long stuff, right? Except the one.
Pressure 16 17 -1 Bipolar day.
Coverage 13 15 -2 Not bad. Some issues getting RPSed.
Tackling 4 6 40% Not a good day; this is what the spread tries to do.
RPS 4 15 -11 Killed by easy bubbles.

So… I ended up thinking that it was crazy that none of the linebackers could contain on the outside and hardly tried. When people keep leverage and force the guy inside, as Johnson did and Kovacs did and Gordon did, and there is no one to clean up from the inside that is a problem with a linebacker, and that linebacker was more often than not Demens. An example from Blue Seoul:



Seoul says Gordon has to do a better job getting off the block but he forces this upfield at the numbers and there is no linebacker to clean up; backside guy Hawthorne is even with Demens.

Seoul also caught my complaint about Demens on one of the option touchdowns:


Okay, Johnson missed. He missed to the inside, at which point a good D rallies to tackle.


Here a slow-reacting Demens gets caught up in an OL and cut to the ground. This is not even a triple option, it's a speed option, so, like… go. I've been taunting other LBs for being too aggressive this year but this is the alternative.

Demens did have a good blitz or two, FWIW.

The rest of the chart is basically as expected. No safety got burned on the pass and the missed tackles from Johnson were not too bad; he is still a clear downgrade from the starters. Van Bergen and Martin are high quality players; Roh is doing better but we still need more pass rush from both defensive ends. The cornerbacks are much improved but still not outstanding. Michigan got about a push in both pressure (four sacks but also a number of plays on which Persa had a ton of time or broke contain) and cover, and Mattison was slayed dead on RPS.

What was with the option success?

If you were suspecting that Heiko was the guy who asked this of Mattison

Northwestern ran the veer option with a lot of success against this defense, and there seemed to be some confusion with the assignments. For those plays, whose assignment is the quarterback, and who has the pitch man? “That’s why people run the veer option. And again, to play an option team, you have to be very very disciplined. You have to really feel confident in what you’re doing, and it’s happening really fast. There was a number of times where you might have seen Jake go down and hit the dive. Well, our ends had the quarterback all day, so right away you knew, ‘Uh oh,” and sure enough, now you have two guys on the dive and nobody on the quarterback, and that’s why people run that offense. It taxes young guys. It really does. So your next thought is to stunt it a little bit, move it a little bit, to try to make a play, and that quarterback was pretty good. Fortunately we settled down in the second half and the guys said, ‘Okay I got it now.’ Every guy that made a mistake like that during the game, they came out, they looked right at you, and they went, ‘I know.’ I said, ‘I know, too! That’s 20 yards down the field.’ But I was really proud of them.”

If you had to defend them again, who would be assigned to whom? “We do the same thing. The only thing we do differently, if we defended it again, is we would play it more honest like you’re supposed to and not cheat to take away one part of the game and not the other.”

Did Kovacs have the pitch man? “That was his job. When you’re playing the option and you’re playing man coverage, there’s a guy with a blocker on him. A guy who has man coverage and still is supposed to get off and try to make that play. Well if you’re stronger, better, faster, you can throw that guy away and make that play. So we had Jordan going through the alley, meaning he would go dive, quarterback, to pitch, and he made some good plays on it.”

…you are wise in the ways of how MGoBlog differs from other media. I wanted to know how Michigan planned to defend the option so I thought I'd have Heiko ask and Mattison gave a terrific, useful answer*. So now we know that…

…defensive ends were a big problem. QB outside of DE without pitching is a problem. Here Kovacs gets a 2-for-1 by forcing a pitch and still getting out on the RB, but Colter would learn from this and juke Kovacs on his first touchdown run. I don't blame Kovacs much, if at all, because he's on the edge against two guys. Forcing it back inside and getting any tackle attempt at all is better than letting the pitch guy walk in.

It wasn't all bad for Roh:

That is one of the plays of the game and it happens because he beats a block to force a pitch and allows Kovacs to do what Kovacs does best: take a great angle at speed.

Ryan had similar problems, and then there is the Demens complaining. So: better play from the DEs to force the play inside of them or at least force a quick pitch and getting those linebackers to the edge more quickly.

*[How much does everyone love the coordinator pressers? One million points worth, right? I mean, they give it to you straight and give you actual information and reassure you that the guys in charge are really smart.]


Yes, again this week:


When those guys miss their tackles there is no one within 15 yards. Result: 20 yard return.


Martin, Van Bergen, and Gordon. Gordon's strip was a 100% player-generated turnover that is a reason to believe they are being coached on these things.


Demens, and the inability to line up to defend a bubble.

What does it mean for Michigan State and beyond?

Well, I'll be extremely nervous when we come up against Nebraska and Ohio State since their mobile quarterbacks could force us into situations that will exploit the same things. I just watched that game and it doesn't seem like either team spends a lot of time threatening bubbles; both enjoyed themselves some pistol offset stuff with Nebraska having great success running the inverted veer out of that diamond formation becoming all the rage. Either could gameplan for the M game—Ohio State might well start preparing whatever package they think will beat M because it's not like they have anything else to play for.

As for this weekend, Michigan State is the opposite of Northwestern and the 4-3 under will be a much more comfortable fit against State's largely pro-style offense. HOWEVA, we have seen State prepare special packages for M since time immemorial and one of the recent ones was a trips-TE bubble package that exploited M in 2008 like whoah. If that's still on the shelf they might bring it out and force Michigan to line up against it. HOWEVA HOWEVA, that year they could run the ball; this year M might be able to defend it without giving up those pitches that killed them that year.

Other items:

  • Michigan continued to prove the secondary is much improved and the safeties are for real, especially the starters.
  • Heininger held up pretty well, caveats about limited tests included.


Preview: San Diego State 2011

Preview: San Diego State 2011 Comment Count

Brian September 23rd, 2011 at 1:44 PM

Previously here: Tim's preview of SDSU from the offseason. SDSU FFFF from Ace. Get your mini programs!

Other stuff: Know Your Foe from the MZone. So-bad-it's-good Hoke as Matt Foley photoshop. Previews from M&BG, MNB Nation, and BWS. Holdin' the Rope asks Who Are You And Why Do We Care?


WHAT Michigan vs
San Diego State
WHERE Michigan Stadium,
Ann Arbor, MI
September 24th 2011
THE LINE Michigan –9
WEATHER low 60s, cloudy, 40% chance of rain



Run Offense vs. San Diego State

We don't know how good the San Diego State run defense is yet but the early returns are not good for Rocky Long. The Aztecs got ground down by Army in their first game against I-A competition, yielding 403(!) yards on 77(!) carries. That's 5.2 per against a team that threw less than 10% of the time. It's also a game against a triple option opponent. See Georgia Tech games for evidence option foes can screw with your brain without affecting how well you play against more conventional competition.

A first glance at the stats suggests Washington State played as if trying to illustrate this principle, racking up 51 yards on 28 carries. HOWEVA, a zillion sacks distort those numbers greatly. When you excise those, WSU managed 95 yards on 22 carries. That's not great, but it is 4.3 YPC from last year's #117 rushing offense. Washington State might seem much better but that doesn't mean they can run any: against obviously horrible UNLV they managed just 3.8 YPC on 39 carries. Wisconsin did 6.3, so… like… yeah. Are we ready to give up the dream of having Wisconsin-like numbers on the ground yet? I'm not. Are we ready to project 6.8 YPC based on an inane chain of comparisons? Sure!

It's a guess this early, but the guess here is SDSU does not have a good run defense, and may be downright awful. Ace's SDSU Fee Fi Foe Film* featured a couple of runs where 240-pound SDSU defensive ends get latched on to and turned into donkeys by WSU offensive tackles who are most certainly not Taylor Lewan. Watch the right tackle:

That's an inside zone! You know what never happens on inside zones? The defensive end never gets crushed to the point where the play bounces outside.

If the Aztecs try to play this straight up they will die, so they won't. That's the whole deal with the 3-3-5. If you're smart and disciplined and attack the right way even a size-deficient team like TCU can slash their way into the Wisconsin backfield and live. It seems obvious SDSU does not have this down yet, but neither does Michigan have their stuff down. They spent large chunks of the EMU game looking comically bad on power running schemes, especially that pin and pull zone play that is not the stretch and never gets any yards.

The prescription here is for more donkey: QB iso/offtackle stuff behind Lewan and a surprisingly feisty Mark Huyge, mixed in with some zone read just to see if the world really has forgotten how to defend it. (Frequent emailer and smart football guy (not that smart football guy) Tyler Sellhorn emailed me about my Q about the power-zone read combo and did confirm that it really puts the WLB in a bind and makes the scrape exchange games tougher to play, but that's another post.) Runs that hit laterally are asking the quick little buggers on the SDSU defense to slant into your face and should be infrequent constraints.

Key Matchup: Borges versus Long mindgames. I don't think SDSU can win straight up here and don't think Michigan knows what they're doing well enough to figure out all the blitzes Long will chuck at them. So the Q: who is going to catch the other guy out more often?

*[MEMO TO PAID MGOCONTRIBUTORS: Good God we need to work on segment names. Between "Michigan Muesday" that runs on Wednesday and the above… let's just say it's a work in progress. The redeeming thing about the above is potentially referring to it by its abbreviation: FFFF.]

Pass Offense vs. San Diego State

Washington State quarterback Marshall Lobbestael had a very Denard 2011 sort of day against the Aztecs, except with more volume: 368 yards and three touchdowns are explosive but two interceptions and completing just 20 of 42 attempts are not so much. And that's all we have to go on. SDSU's other opponents were a I-AA team I considered applying to out of high school and option-mad Army.

Last year the Aztecs were good, finishing 20th in pass efficiency D and a bit above average in sacks. They did a creditable job against Missouri's Blaine Gabbert, who needed 51 attempts to rack up 351 yards, 88 of those on a two-play WTF drive with just over a minute left. When not desperate, Gabbert was pwned, but at least Michigan's "fall behind and chuck it deep" strategy looks like it will work.

The Aztecs return three fifths of their starting secondary, losing leading tackler and bandit-type safety Andrew Preston and cover corner Darryn Lewis; the other corner, deep safety, and spur-type safety return. SDSU's pass rush comes from all over—I count 16 different Aztecs picking up sacks last year in Tim's preview—but the main threat is fifth-year SLB Mile Burris, the only guy on the team to get more than two. His 9.5 sacks should make him a marked man. Senior DE Jerome Long has three this year against questionable competition.

Michigan, meanwhile, has had a very Marshall Lobbestael 2011. That's not good. They don't throw much, throw accurately even less, and throw short very, very rarely. Against a shifting, zone-blitz-in-a-bag 3-3-5 that actually works Denard might have struggles identifying who the open guys are going to be on straight dropbacks. Or he might not. I have no idea what a 3-3-5 is supposed to look like. Given my experience with the defense, everyone will be open by at least ten yards.

If that's not the case I'd like to see Michigan work the less-dangerous edges with the curl/flat and snag stuff Denard did last year, saving the over the middle passing for deadly play action. I'm not sure we'll actually get to see this. It's time to go back to Denard's well. Will Borges see it the same way?

Key Matchup: Denard versus The Return of Tacopants. Gotta throw it on target before we can talk about anything else.

Run Defense vs. San Diego State

This is going to be a problem. Eastern Michigan averaged 4.5 YPC without any semblance of a passing game, and while the run offense is the one part of EMU's team that isn't completely horrible we're talking about a bad MAC team running better than any Carr team ever did. Yerk.

With Cam Gordon "available" but not starting the personnel won't be much better. It may be worse. I have a credible report that Craig Roh suffered an upper body injury in the EMU game that won't necessarily keep him out but may limit his playing time and effectiveness. With Jibreel Black playing well that won't cause a huge dropoff, but it does kill off any hopes Black and Roh might see the field together.

Michigan's getting decent to good play from three of the four defensive linemen and problems from whoever isn't Martin, RVB, or Roh/Black. Will Campbell's playing time has gradually increased as it becomes clear the walk-ons are pretty much just walk-ons and not magical Kovacs walk-ons.



The linebackers have been erratic. While they're not helped out by plays like the above or the all-too-frequent edge busts from whoever the SLB has been, Kenny Demens and Brandin Hawthorne had rough games against Eastern. Demens did play well against Notre Dame, for what it's worth, and his track record suggests he's pretty good. The bigger worries are at the other two spots, where Jake Ryan is learning but still gives up the edge way too often and Hawthorne shows potential… when he's not wondering WTF is going on.

Opposite this uneven bunch of good players, walk-ons, tiny guys, larger guys, and a smattering of freshmen is Ronnie Hillman, the nation's second leading rusher. If that doesn't mean much three weeks into the season, he was tenth a year ago as a freshman. He was sort of held in check against the better MWC teams, with 62 yards against BYU, and 54 against both Utah and TCU. I say "sort of" because the main problem for Hillman in those games was usage, not efficiency: he had only 38 carries. If you're scoring at home that's still 4.5 YPC—hardly a reason to starve the beast. Here is where I will abruptly gloss over the 228 yards against Missouri so no one gets too frightened.

Did that work?

No. All right, it shouldn't. SDSU returns four of five linemen and is running basically the same offense they did last year—a lot of variety, but a variety these guys are used to. Hillman can play, and Michigan's defense to date has been frighteningly erratic. SDSU just annihilated WSU on the ground. This is going to be a problem.

Key Matchup: Hawthorne and Demens vs counter steps and other misdirection. They've been late reading plays all year and late to the hole. Do that against Hillman and he's severely testing Jordan Kovacs's to-date pristine record of not giving up long touchdowns when they bust into your secondary.

Pass Defense vs. San Diego State


Ryan Lindley and his favorite target Colin Lockett

You are probably aware of Aztec senior QB Ryan Lindley, he of the massive passing yardage and low-level NFL buzz. Lindley has not quite picked up where he left off last year. His day against Army was Denard-2011-like: 8 of 18, 146 yards, 1 TD and no INTs. 8 YPC, sure, but alarming completion percentage and what's with the number of attempts?*

Last week Lindley got the attempts in buckets (37) and managed 273 yards with two TDs and an INT.  Washington State is clearly not as awful as they've been—hammering a I-A opponent, any I-A opponent, proves that—but that was last year's #110 passing efficiency defense.

The jury's still out as SDSU hovers around 50th in passer efficiency early in the season. This is largely because of SDSU's receiver situation. The Aztecs lost NFL third-rounder Vincent Brown and running mate DeMarco Sampson, then lost their replacements to season-ending injuries. The leading returner at WR is Dylan Denso and his four catches; he's got nine already this year. Sophomore Colin Lockett is the current go-to guy with 254 yards in three games. He's a big play threat: along with his 21.6 yards per catch he has a kick return touchdown against Cal Poly. However, he's also a position-switch starter, going from the two-deep at corner to a starter at WR once the injuries hit.

Michigan's pass defense has either not had to exist or had to cover Michael Floyd with only the bruised ribs of Alex Carder in-between. They are clearly better than they were a year ago simply by virtue of defending some passes some of the time. Woolfolk's return and extra experience for Avery and Floyd gives the secondary some of that rumored depth stuff; the main problem has been in the nickel when Michigan brings in either a deeply unreliable safety or a freshman. Last week it was the freshman and given Thomas Gordon's strong play opposite Kovacs it will probably be the freshman again unless Michigan gets comfortable with flipping one of the veteran corners inside. Since the position requires more tackling, that would presumably be Floyd. The other options are tiny or wearing a big ol' cast.

Meanwhile, a series of zone blitzes nearly decapitated the aforementioned Carder and got nowhere against the veteran Notre Dame line. San Diego State's line is similarly veteran but presumably not as good. Can Michigan generate pressure from the front four? Can they get guys into the backfield on the zone blitzes? Ask again later.

Key Matchup: Cornerback du jour (Floyd?) over the top on Lockett. Given Michigan's success to date with press coverage on deep throws and their weakness against the running game, they will go to their heavy blitz press package and dare Lindley to beat them over the top with receivers who should be who-dats. Winning the battle with Lockett one-on-one allows Michigan to focus on the short stuff and Hillman and maybe slow this offense down enough to where it sputters.

*[The SDSU-Army game was a Life On The Margins hall of famer. SDSU ran just 43 plays and picked up under 300 yards; Army had 84 plays and 446 yards. So of course SDSU wins.]

Special Teams

Michigan still has no field goal attempts unless you count a glorified extra point at the end of the EMU game, which is fantastic. They've found a punt returner in the suddenly-better-than-competent Jeremy Gallon, and that's where the good news ends. Kickoff returns and coverage have been dismal. The punting has been mediocre, though I'm of the opinion the return to the dino-punt is allowing opponents return yardage they wouldn't otherwise get. Hagerup returns, but he returns next week.

The opponent is middling in most categories. They do have a kick return touchdown, but it was against Cal Poly and is of debatable meaning. Their main advantage is (as always) at kicker, where they have a guy who puts it through the uprights. Abelardo Perez was 17 of 22 last year, though he's missed two of his three attempts in 2011.




what I see when I look in the mirror

Cheap Thrills

Worry if...

  • Lockett is legit and too fast to stop over the top without help.
  • Michigan isn't refining the stuff that doesn't work out of the playbook.
  • Denard's still flinging it everywhere but the girl.

Cackle with knowing glee if...

  • SDSU's teeny DEs can't hold up over the tackles.
  • The zone read continues to amaze and mystify.
  • Michigan's zone blitzes return to effectiveness.

Fear/Paranoia Level: 4 (Baseline 5; +1 for Hillman Is Better Than Eastern Running Backs, +1 for Lindley Can Throw And Probably Won't Try To Throw To Michael Floyd, –1 for Actually Even Though Michael Floyd Isn't In The State That Might Not Be A Bad Idea Given The State Of SDSU's Receiving Corps, +1 for Irrational Flashback To Previous Close SDSU Game Against Much Better Michigan Team, –1 for Vegas Has Our Back By Two Scores, –1 for Denard How Does SDSU Defend It Not Well, –1 for Seriously Look At That Army Game.)

Desperate need to win level: 8 (Baseline 5; +1 for Insane Person Kyle Turley's Revenge Would Be Annoying, +1 for But I Like Thinking Nice Things About Michigan Football, +1 [UPDATE: I meant to finish this five hours late] for Being Ranked Is Nice, +1 for Niceness Is Nice And Nice, -1 for Reduced Risk of Kyle Turley Murdering Entire State.)

Loss will cause me to... show up at the postgame press conference with a fistful of postage screaming "RETURN TO SENDER."

Win will cause me to... be mildly encouraged about something but still deeply suspicious that 2011 is just 2010 and 2009 with a less annoying media environment.

The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:

Will Michigan be able to run, run, run, run until SDSU has to freak out about it? I kind of think so but I'm wary given the Gator Bowl, when an attacking, gap-sound defense crushed the Michigan ground game. But then I'm all like Army 400 yards, and Washington State being competitive on the ground. This should be an old-school bludgeoning as long as Borges keeps it restricted to the stuff he knows they can execute.

If that happens and Michigan can hit some RPS+3 plays as a result they can keep ahead in this game. If they can't, they're in trouble. Hillman is going to rip off big runs on M. Resign yourself to this. They're going to spread the D out and hit those misdirection plays the linebackers have been vulnerable on all year and test out that freshman nickelback. And Lindley will hit the open guys who will be open.

Michigan will do well to bend but not break here, getting good safety play from Kovacs and Gordon and picking the right spots to get SDSU behind the chains with press man and the right blitzes. Keep the big plays to a minimum and make them bleed out field goals on you.

Survey says… possible. I've got less faith in this ground game than people only attending to last year might since it seems committed to chucking away a half-dozen downs per game on something or another that this line isn't very good at and therefore think Vegas is optimistic. In keeping with the 2010 and 2009 theme, this is the stomach-churner in the fourth quarter that keeps you undefeated but makes everyone very nervous.

Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:

  • There is no screwing around with the idea that Denard is not the offense against an opponent the coaching staff respects. He has another 20 carries and 150 yards.
  • Kovacs cracks double digits in tackles, most acquired as he slices Hillman down after a ten yard gain.
  • Zone blitzing does not phase SDSU's OL—they're used to it—and Lindley has a high completion percentage.
  • Michigan, 27-24.


Dear Diary Cites Experience

Dear Diary Cites Experience Comment Count

Seth August 14th, 2011 at 8:43 PM


Hypothetical activities by a 67-year-old Jimi Hendrix if he were still alive | Lies, Deceit, & Stuff

Dear Diary,

I spent most of today trying to play with this diary by airvipermb, which spent some time yesterday on the front page before I knocked it back. For those who don't remember the Jimi-headed versions from last year, the OP did a tremendous job of going through Big Ten rosters and putting down how many upperclassmen each team was projected to play as starters and on the two-deep. What this doesn't do is provide any predictive information.

For that reason this isn't front page material. Not yet at least. But I'd like to help it get there.

First, upperclassman starters in 2011, in table format. I changed it to percent; starter % of upperclassmen is out of 11, two-deep is % of upperclassmen out 22. Because I'm pretty sure this is how airvipermb did it (likely reasoning: too hard to find data otherwise) a redshirt sophomore is an underclassman while a true junior is an upperclassman.* Your most experienced Big Ten two-deeps next year (UPDATE: added deltas):

Team '11 Starters Delta '11 Two-Deep Delta
Nebraska 90.91% +4 77.27% +5
Ohio State 90.91% +1 77.27% +6
Northwestern 100.00% +1 72.73% +1
Indiana 63.64% -1 68.18% +1
Penn State 100.00% +1 63.64% +2
Illinois 81.82% +2 63.64% +2
Iowa 72.73% -2 63.64% -4
Purdue 72.73% +1 59.09% +5
Minnesota 90.91% +1 54.55% -2
Michigan State 54.55% +1 54.55% +4
Wisconsin 72.73% -2 50.00% -1
Michigan 63.64% +1 50.00% +3

The author was optimistic but this says Michigan's defense is still the youngest in the conference excepting younger siblings. Does that matter? The O.P. suggests it does; the data say NSFMF.

Here's how this all looked last year:

Team 2010 DFEI %ile 2010 Yds/G 2010 Starter% 2010 Two-Deep%
Ohio State 92.3% 262.2 81.82% 50.00%
Nebraska 88.3% 306.8 54.55% 54.55%
Iowa 77.3% 332.1 90.91% 81.82%
Illinois 75.4% 351.3 63.64% 54.55%
Michigan State 67.4% 353.8 45.45% 36.36%
Wisconsin 66.1% 321.8 90.91% 54.55%
Purdue 57.5% 369.0 63.64% 36.36%
Penn State 55.7% 346.8 90.91% 54.55%
Indiana 34.3% 410.2 72.73% 63.64%
Minnesota 34.0% 392.2 81.82% 63.64%
Northwestern 31.8% 426.2 90.91% 68.18%
Michigan 23.5% 450.8 54.55% 36.36%

I showed the Yards per game because that's the sorting metric the author used. I'm gonna talk DFEI from here on since I'm an advanced stats fan but if you're not such, mentally upgrade Penn State and Wisconsin for hard-nosed grind-it-out game planning, and downgrade Illinois, Indiana and Purdue for "not getting it." It doesn't matter because these numbers are all over the place:


No. Correlation.

HOWEVA, if you do the same thing on pure recruiting the results are also bouncy. Here's 4- and 5-stars recruited by Big Ten teams from '06 to '08, out of 22 spots available:


Actually this is pretty un-bouncy except Nebraska and Iowa outperformed by a lot and Penn State and Michigan (infinite ARGH!!!) underperformed. Iowa is our super-duper experienced two-deep so maybe that explains them and Michigan's young roster explains Michigan. But then what's Penn State's problem? This study doesn't say. Future study: I would love it if we could get a spreadsheet of all of the Big Ten players on the 1- and 2-deep.


* Let's use Nebraska 2010 as an example for how this can throw us off. You appropriately call them a great defense and rank them second to Ohio State, which I think we can concur on. Here's Nebraska's defense as of this date last year. I count six upperclassman starters there. However Cam Merideth, Baker Steinkuhler, Sean Fisher, Will Compton and P.J. Smith are all from the Class of 2008, i.e. they're redshirt sophomores. Also from that class: Alfonzo Dennard, counted as a junior. See the problem? You've got returning starters three years removed from high school counted the same as Courtney Avery (a true freshman who was a QB in H.S.) last year, despite there being vast difference between their respective expectations of experience-based contribution.


Still Raining, Still Dreaming


Jimi eat galaxy.

Until a few hours ago, it looked like the SEC was ready to swallow up one of the last quasi-worthwhile bits of the Big XII that doesn't have its own channel. This of course sparked another round of speculating how many galaxies the Big Ten must own to keep up, from oakapple and justingoblue. This being the Big Ten, it's not who would come (except Notre Dame) so much as who can fit the academic criteria without being a.) Ivy League, or b.) Athletically challenged.

Justin took it from an academic expenditure perspective, which is an interesting way to get around having to use academic rankings like U.S. News & World Report's, and avoids the weirdness from endowments-based ranking. The candidates are Duke, UNC, Virginia, V-Tech, Pitt, Rutgers, Cuse, Mizzou and Notre Dame, though all but Duke, UNC and Pitt would be near-bottom in the conference at research spending.

For the wargames route, consult oakapple, who took a more pragmatic, dominos (NTD's) effect approach. After six previous dominos it's the Big Ten's turn and…

VII. What Does the Big Ten Do?

The short answer, at least for now, is: probably nothing. The Big Ten is already in a position of strength. It has no particular need to expand. There are only two institutions that could improve the Big Ten’s current product: Texas and Notre Dame. The Irish have chosen repeatedly to remain independent, and for reasons noted above, the Longhorns are more likely to choose the Pac-12.

Galactic plans are on hold until such time as the Pac 487 annexes China and the Big East is trying to teach the French to play football, or Zoltan demands such, whichever happens first.


Scoreboard! Thanks to M-Wolverine at Fan Day, and M-Wolverine's camera.


EGD had some thoughts for a Top 10 (which means 11 not 12) other ideas for Jerel Worthy tattoos. I'm surprised nobody suggested just getting a chip drawn on his shoulder. I'm also surprised it wasn't the 2008 scoreboard, because that's exactly what my MSU friends/family still troll me with (the reminder of 2008 is what stings). Anyway these are good but I want pics! Those of you with Photoshop/GiMP, or who are Samara Pearlstein, get on this!

And THE_KNOWLEDGE is apparently using up the last miles on his current time machine lease to predict the standout of the 2012 class will be… well I can't ruin it.


Hello: Jeremy Clark

Hello: Jeremy Clark Comment Count

Tim June 24th, 2011 at 11:06 AM

Michigan has accepted a greyshirt commitment from KY S Jeremy Clark. Clark impressed the coaches at camp, but not enough to earn an immediate offer. Should he pick up a number of mid-level scholarship offers, I wouldn't expect this one to stick.



Scout Rivals ESPN 24/7 Sports

Since Jeremy is effectively a member of the 2013 recruiting class (pending a decision from OH S Jarrod Wilson) and also very under-the-radar, this section should be brief. HOWEVA, with Brian unavailable, why not profile a guy who's basically a preferred walk-on at this point?

As you can see, the recruiting sites aren't so high on Clark. Scout is the only site with a ranking for him, and even that is a lowly 2-star. The sites are in accord there, and also on his size: He's a consensus 6-4 (ESPN says 6-2), with two votes for 205 pounds and two votes for 185 pounds. I'll go with 195 then.

Since there's nothing out there on the free webs, a paid article from Scout:

This 6-4, 175-lb. safety was the surprises of the day. He flashed good speed and EXCELLENT ball skills. He is a bit of a sleeper on the national scale because he grew four inches since last fall. Just as impressive was the fact that he soaked up the coaching like a sponge and just seemed to really be relishing the overall experience.  

Of course it's in their best interests to talk kids up as sleepers, so take it as a grain of salt. It's sleeper bluster, but in the parlance of sleeper bluster, height, ball skills and coachability are nice compliments for any system.

JeremyClark-OMGshirtless.jpgClark aso drew "plenty of attention" from Ohio State's staff at their camp ($, info in header), but apparently they didn't see enough to offer him. He is pictured OMG SHIRTLESS at right.


Most of Clark's full scholarship offers came from the MAC. Akron, Ball State, Central Michigan, Ohio, and Toledo were his offers from the Big Ten's JV league. NC State was his only other BCS-level scholarship offer.


His Rivals profile has junior year stats: 75 tackles, 3 interceptions, and 8 pass breakups. That's not a ringing endorsement of Scout's "ballhawk" characterization, but it's certainly not bad either.


Rivals says 4.47. That is very fast. A kid with Clark's size is not an unranked prospect at this point in the recruiting cycle if he's actually that fast. I'm going to have to go with 4 FAKEs out of five.


Junior highlights:


This guy is a greyshirt prospect for a reason. At one step ahead of preferred walk-on, it's tough to see him accomplishing much until very late in his career, as is usually the case for these guys. He'll greyshirt the fall of his first year (pay his own way and, if I'm not mistaken, not practice with the team), then join the squad as a redshirt freshman in the spring.

I see him being a special teams contributor as a redshirt junior and senior, and the type of guy who gets a few plays in the secondary, but not much more.

Of course, if he is the level of sleeper that Scout's recap above seems to imply, he could also blow up once he gets into college, and absorb all the coaching (and weight training, etc.) available to him, becoming a contributor by the time he leaves campus.


As a greyshirt, he doesn't affect much about this class. The needs are still offensive line, defensive tackle, wideout, and - with lesser emphasis - quarterback/running back.


Mailbag: About Obviously

Mailbag: About Obviously Comment Count

Brian June 2nd, 2011 at 12:05 PM


via the always brilliant Prevail and Ride. Warning: cartoon genitalia ahead.

Should the Late Carr Malaise be re-evaluated in light of the fact that USC and Ohio State were cheating on epic scales?

The Horror, 2007 Oregon and 2005 Minnesota still happened, of course. But 2003 and 2006 might look very different to us if USC and OSU hadn’t been quite so stacked—in which case we might see 2005 and 2007 as off years rather than symptoms of a systematic decline.

Yours in Michigan Football Historiography,


Possibly? It's impossible to tell how much of an advantage Ohio State got with its Tats For Everyone program and USC got with its Look, Snoop Dogg(!) program, and the list of knocks against Lloyd Carr's career gets a lot shorter if you remove "could not beat USC or Jim Tressel" from the list.

Carr might be regarded on par with Bo today if he'd flipped some scores in USC Rose Bowls and 2006's Football Armageddon, during which Troy Smith torched Morgan Trent. Troy Smith got a wrist-slap for taking 500 bucks, but given what we know now it seems improbable that was all he did. If he was in the supplemental draft, Michigan plays for a national title with Jake Long and a bizarre dominance of Florida instead of still-drunk-from-last-night Alex Boone and a paralyzing fear of the SEC.

However, while Carr's career might have been truly legendary without Cheatypants Sweatervest and Pete Carroll tag-teaming the NCAA rule book, the degradation at the tail end of his career wouldn't have changed. No one did The Horror to Michigan except Michigan; no one else lost that bumper crop of instate talent and left the program with six offensive linemen and only one primadonna itching to leave between Michigan and total quarterback implosion; no one else provided Michigan zero plausible in-house options in a program that evidently needed one.

HOWEVA HOWEVA, a hypothetical win in one of those Rose Bowls or Football Armageddon might have avoided that fate because it would have caused Carr to retire earlier, avoiding a good chunk of the nastiness comprising the last four years. Sans cheating, Carr probably has two or three more wins that swing public opinion of him from solid B+ to Bo 2.0.

Hey Brian,

I was having a facebook conversation with a guy I played football with in high school. He played at a moderately successful IA school from a non-BCS conference, and made the comment that "this goes on at every big-time school." It's important to note that he is NOT any kind of an OSU fan, and that when he said "big-time" it was to note that it didn't happen at his school. Now if "this" means the ebay and the tattoos, I don't really care too much. But if "this" refers to raiding the equipment room and the improper benefits, than I'd like to step off my high horse.

I know he's not really in a position to know, and I know neither are you - but please speculate for me. When the Reggie Bush thing broke, everybody said "well that's how USC dominated." When the Cam Newton thing broke, it was "that's how the SEC dominates." Not it's Ohio, and people say the same thing. But at the same time - Rich Rodriguez did convince an awful lot of people from the south to come to Michigan. Most southerners I know bristle when they hear the word "Michigan" just because of the thought of cold. Maurice Clarett and Terrelle Pryor both took official visits to Michigan. Am I just being paranoid when I get nervous about Brady Hoke kicking butt at recruiting?

I say that we just had NCAA investigators pore over our program, brick by brick. I say that similar scandals to the tattoo scandal broke with AJ Green and at UNC without it implicating the institutions as a whole. But I can't help but be a little nervous - do we have anything to worry about? Do all the "big boys" do this kind of thing?

I think the eBay thing in general has started talk about reforming college sports scholarships and restrictions on activities. But if the shadier parts, of agents and boosters, is widespread - if all the major programs have their own Ed Martin - then can college sports as we know it continue to exist as we pretend it does?

Sorry for the long email - please tell me there are no monsters under the bed.


I can't flat out say "there are no monsters under the bed" after the Jihad. During that I repeatedly assured everyone that Michigan's compliance was Serious Business that would have all this stuff amply documented. Instead we got a lot of emails from Ann Vollano to Brad Labadie and zero in return. Things can break down; what we saw during the Jihad was a broken system that needed a revamp. It could have exposed Michigan to something serious if they had recruited a 6'6" sociopath instead of the world's nicest cheetah strapped to a jet engine and pushed out of a plane.

HOWEVA, in the aftermath a large number of people lost their jobs (or sought other opportunities or whatever other euphemism you would prefer—I like "succumbed to gumball addiction"). With Michigan on probation and Dave Brandon acting as new sheriff* things are on lockdown right now as they're ever going to be. When things are on lockdown the worst thing that happens is some kid does something wrong with some agent and gets suspended a la Marcus Ray or AJ Green. (I'm not so sure UNC is going to get off with just their suspensions, FWIW. Wasn't John Blake in some serious dirt?)

As to your larger point, no, I don't think This Happens Everywhere. That Texas walk-on's story demonstrates there are places that are serious about compliance. Here's beloved MGoStoryteller CRex with a local example:

As someone who once helped a football player fix his car, Michigan compliance was so far up my ass there was a blue lot in my lower colon and I almost got my own blue bus stop.  The player bought the tie rods and I did the labor since I knew how and had the tools.  He paid me for my time in beer and pizza.  Compliance jumped all over this and figured out the hourly rate for a mechanic was greater than the cost of the beer and pizza, thus he still owed me money.  I attempted to lowball my time estimate for doing the job, they talked to a real mechanic and got the official time estimate for tie rod replacement.  They were also unimpressed by the fact I helped all my friends fix their cars in exchange for beer and pizza.  So they basically stood over him while he wrote me a check for what they demanded the difference was. They also made him pay my uncle who let us use the lift in his garage. 

I tossed the check aside and figured "I might cash this if he gets drafted, maybe".  Someone though noticed the money never came out of his account and started calling me about cashing the damn check.  This was old school Carr era though.

The next time I worked on his car I sarcastically sent them an invoice (six page writeup for helping him replace two brake pads) "for their records", they crosschecked all my time estimates and sent me back an approval letter and a genuine thank you for the paper...

While it's impossible to prevent local restaurants from giving players extra chicken wings or free cover, there is a level of shadiness that can be effectively regulated. A debate about whether amateurism is ethical is outside the scope of my brain right now because I'm so happy I'm not wearing pants.

*[While it's obvious I'm ambivalent about Brandon these days what with the whole creeping advertisements, night game uniformz, and failure to put Special K's head on a pike two minutes after taking the job, the way he handled the NCAA investigation both during and after is a huge, huge positive. Our athletic director may suffer a curly fries mascot in Michigan Stadium and refer to the department as "I" but…


…it could be so much worse.

Also, video replay in Yost.]

How does Tresselgate (and rumors of systemic NCAA violations) compare to the Fab Five fiasco in terms of sheer magnitude, and in terms of discredit they bring to the university in question?

-- bjk.

They're pretty similar. In both you have guys taking extra benefits from guys who may or may not technically be boosters, and in both the violations stretch over some years with multiple players. (With way fewer players on scholarship, four basketball players is approximately equal to the 28 Buckeyes SI say are trading stuff for tats.)

The major differences:

  1. Tressel lied to the NCAA multiple times; Fisher didn't.
  2. Michigan fired Fisher immediately and without regret, then went into their Day Of Great Shame routine. Ohio State tried to convince everyone this was worthy of a two game suspension.
  3. Ohio State had plenty of warning in the public eye from the Clarett accusations and the Smith handshake. Michigan had never brushed up against similar allegations.

I'm guessing Tatgate will be worse from an NCAA standpoint. In the end, Michigan got one year of postseason ban and a one scholarship penalty for four years. If Ohio State gets off with the equivalent they'll be skipping and everyone will be outraged. From a program standpoint, it won't be as bad because Ohio State isn't going to hire Brian Ellerbe. From a shame standpoint, probably worse since at least Michigan didn't go around pretending everything was cool.


Monocle Outlays Reaching Dangerous Levels

Monocle Outlays Reaching Dangerous Levels Comment Count

Brian April 1st, 2011 at 4:20 PM

Sorry this is late. Spent large chunks of the afternoon futilely trying to Google hard numbers on spiraling coach salaries.


You wouldn't know it from the college football world's reaction to HBO's most recent edition of Real Sports—best summed up by Michigan tight end Kevin Koger, who tweeted "They snitched on Auburn lol"—but the point of the thing was a little broader than the Paul Finebaum show. It was yet another discussion about the NCAA's amateurism brought about by March Madness.

This is a near-annual rite. Attention to the tournament invariably sees journalists bring up the eye-popping dollars CBS pays to air it, at which point someone's always like "hey, these players aren't getting any of that" and we get roundtables inexplicably containing Jason Whitlock, Rich Rodriguez, and Billy Packer. Since this is the first year of an even more eye-popping contract we've gotten a heavier dose than usual this year, one sufficient to prompt responses from John Gasaway and Big Ten Geeks. Oh, and also this.

Pieces on these tend to be maddeningly soapboxy. The headline on Whitlock's latest column is witheringly dumb: "Greedy NCAA exploits athletes." The content isn't much better. In an effort to keep things as engineery as possible, a series of questions and a table.

Who is hypothetically getting exploited?

Football and basketball players in power conferences. Nothing else consistently turns a profit. In other sports that occasionally do—baseball and hockey—there is an alternate development path for anyone who doesn't like the NCAA model. The only restriction placed on those players is that baseball players who pass up a contract out of high school have to stay in college at least three years. In other conferences even successful schools like VCU are throwing money down a pit—77% of their "revenue" comes from student fees*. 

Who is benefiting from hypothetical exploitation?

Three parties:

  • Non-revenue athletes. About 30% of Michigan's expenses are related to housing, educating, transporting, and outfitting athletes with another 16% devoted to giving them places to play.
  • Coaches. 17% of Michigan's revenue pays them.
  • Everyone else. 21% of Michigan's revenue goes to the rest of the department.

It is clear that as revenue rises, Coaches and Everyone Else take up an increasingly large chunk of the pie. In the last ten years Michigan has added PSLs to its football seats and seen television revenue skyrocket. They've gone from 25 to 27 sports, and they'll add two more in the near future when lacrosse and a sop to Title IX are added.

Operating revenue has gone from 78 million in 2004-05 to 106 million last year. Outlays to students have gone from 11.4 million to 15.7. Coaches have gone from 9.3 to 14.7, and Everyone Else from 12.3 to 18.5. Chart? Chart.

Michigan outlays to scholarships, coaches, and administrators (millions)

  2004 2010 Pct 2004 Pct 2010
Total 78 106 N/A N/A
Scholarships 11.4 15.7 14.6% 14.8%
Coaches 9.3 14.7 11.9% 13.9%
Everyone Else 12.3 18.5 15.8% 17.5%

Students are essentially constant as a percentage of revenue, and that's only because tuition keeps skyrocketing as long as anyone can get a federal non-dischargeable student loan. They're watching the people around them eat up more and more as a percentage of revenues as places like Michigan get big enough that costs like flying people around and building stuff top out. And this is over six years! In 2007 the average compensation of a D-I head coach averaged one million dollars; last year it had already gone up 36%. When I wrote about Michigan putting EMU on the schedule in 2007 I ran across a now-linkrotted Bloomberg article with this stunning fact:

This relatively ancient Bloomberg article from March 2005 takes a look at the increase in NCAA coaching salaries across the board from '97 to '03 and finds that average compensation went up 89 percent in just six years. This is before the twelfth game. (Though it's noted that there were some twelfth games in there. That was a calendar quirk and not permanent policy, however.) This is before 3-2-5e*. This before Superfluous BCS Bowl and The Two Teams With Six Wins Each bowls. This includes the obscurest coaches you can think of, like Romanian Buffalo Polo.

Eighty-nine percent in six years.


*[The hated clock rules that got repealed after one year were at the time loathed enough to be referred to solely by bylaw.]

Is there a real case here?

It's getting to the point where the Whitlocks of the world are not entirely crazy. There was a time when Bo Schembechler was making 100k per year and had to have a tearful press conference because Texas A&M offered him the life-changing sum of one million dollars and he turned it down. At that juncture anyone crying about exploitation was nuts, not that there was anyone doing that.

HOWEVA. Given the revenue growth at major universities there is a point at which even the student managers are walking around wearing monocles and puffing cigars and there will be a unified popular opinion that we can no longer treat the people doing the bulk of the labor like Oliver Twist except with infinite sex and training table. Which, granted, isn't much like Oliver Twist at all. But at some point it seems like it.

I don't know how much of the uptick in "Everyone Else" for Michigan is adding to the legions dedicated to getting athletes their educations. It's some. It's probably not that much when you consider the revenue athletes specifically and it certainly isn't enough to look a the above chart without a sense of foreboding as to where this is going. It is clear as day Michigan has money to spend on these athletes, and that goes for every team sporting a coach making too much money relative to revenues (in case you are wondering: this is all of them).

The money goes somewhere. It doesn't go to more rowers. It goes to the literal and metaphorical scaffolding around the athletes, and being in Michigan Stadium these days looking up at luxury boxes and down at Denard Robinson kind of makes me think this Oliver Twist point is in the past, at least for me.

So what now, smart guy?

I'm not actually sure. I do know that guys like Andrew Zimbalist who advocate the reduction of scholarship limits are precisely wrong about the problem. The outlay to keep a  football player around is the only thing that has remained relatively constant over the course of the Knight Commission's infinite complaints about costs. They've gone up by the cost of tuition. Coaching salaries have gone up by multiples.

The fact that anyone's even talking about making cuts to the sole redeeming bit of the whole enterprise speaks to just how badly the system is messed up. Revenue sports are disproportionately populated by black males,** many of whom wouldn't have a shot at college otherwise. Cutting them so you can keep paying the people around them in gold bullion is an idea only an academic economist could come up with.

The opposite would be better. Hockey has 18 scholarships, three short of fielding a full team. Baseball has some weird number like 11.7. Many athletes make do with partial or no scholarships in equivalency sports. The NCAA should significantly raise those restrictions. Small schools will complain about unbalancing the playing field and blah blah but we are talking about putting kids on scholarship, not autobids. An unbalanced playing field because one school has offered to pay for more tuition than the other is justified. It's beyond justified.

As for the guys making the actual money, I'm not that peeved about basketball since 99% of the exploited are good enough to go on to pro careers here or in Europe and anyone good enough can just screw off after a year or two. It's in football and its brain damage and other damage and low chance of a reasonable minor league career and low chance of an NFL career longer than three years that the moral compass gets a little confused. It's hard to look at 110,000 people paying close to 100 bucks a head and look down at Martavious Odoms and think he's not getting a raw deal.


*[Numbers come from the USA Today database. Unfortunately, it doesn't produce permalinks. VCU's specific case highlights the stupidity of the OTL piece on athletic departments making a "profit". The Rams are 600k in the red even with 12.4 million in student support. They are nowhere close to self-sustaining.]

**[45% in football and 60% in basketball this year; in all D-I sports white guys are 63% of the population; 77% of women playing sports are white; 57% of the undergrads are women.]