Monday Presser 11-13-17: Jim Harbaugh

Monday Presser 11-13-17: Jim Harbaugh

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on November 13th, 2017 at 6:00 PM

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[Paul Sherman]

Can you tell us what you’ve seen from Wisconsin on film on both sides of the ball?

“Very physical team. Number one defense in the country right now. Very, very physical on offense. Very good quarterback, very good running back. Really good in the lines on both sides, and skill positions as well. Talented players and very tough schemes to prepare for.”

Do you have an update on Karan [Higdon] and his status?

“We’ll get more today but seems good. Seems like positive news and update.”

You talked about Wilton [Speight] last week. Is he getting closer? Do you think he’s going to be cleared this week for contact is that still up in the air?

“Right now he’s cleared to practice, and we won’t—we’ll avoid contact again this week.”

So Brandon will be your guy again this week?

“Yes.”

Update on Grant Newsome? How’s he doing?

“Been progressing well.”

Is Wilton probably going to sit out the last two? Have you made a determination on that?

“Don’t know. Don’t know. I don’t make that determination, that’ll be made by the doctors.”

[We don’t talk about injuries except when we do, and we do after THE JUMP]

Wednesday Presser 10-25-17: Chris Partridge

Wednesday Presser 10-25-17: Chris Partridge

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on October 26th, 2017 at 8:05 AM

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[Barron]

[Ed. A- I was too sick to make the trip in yesterday, but thanks to 247’s Isaiah Hole I had video from which to transcribe.]

“I thought after the first big run that he has we did a decent job of containing there. They hit some big plays. Quarterback’s phenomenal. Hit some big plays on us in the pass game and kind of flustered us a little bit and then we couldn’t get re-settled down in terms of that. I don’t think we paid too much attention, though.”

What happened to Quinn on the missed extra point? Crowd was booing him pretty heavily but did that affect him?

“No, I mean, that’s unacceptable. That can’t happen. He knows that. He just let his emotions get carried away and kind of kicked the ground a little bit and pushed it and that’s got to be fixed immediately from a mental standpoint. Can’t have that ever happen again.”

Ambry [Thomas] seems to really be progressing in kick return. Talk about what you’ve seen from him.

“He’s explosive, fearless. He’s what you want back there. It’s a really good combination we have now. We got Ben Mason, Brad Hawkins, Ambry, three true freshmen working together, getting to know each other, feeling each other out, because all three of those guys could get the ball and two of them have to be a blocker on every kick. Really, really happy with that unit’s progression and how those guys are really coming together and feeling each other out and stuff like that. Really happy with that group.”

[After THE JUMP: Rashan don’t read this, he wants you to keep the chip on your shoulder]

Upon Further Review 2017: Special Teams vs Air Force

Upon Further Review 2017: Special Teams vs Air Force

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on September 22nd, 2017 at 10:04 AM

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gone [Upchurch]

Substitution/formation notes: As far as I could tell, coverage and return units featured the same personnel as they did against Cincinnati. The most noteworthy non-change was Donovan Peoples-Jones as punt returner—more on that after the jump.

Michigan’s formations were the same as they’ve been, but they brought pressure on punts and field goals infrequently. Earlier this week Chris Partridge said that they try to limit instances where they bring everything to keep the defense guessing. When Michigan doesn’t bring pressure on punt return, sometimes just one guy will release toward the shield, and even then he will sometimes stop and peel back before hitting the shield. On field goal defense, Michigan only brought pressure from one side and had Lavert Hill step to the line and hold on the other side. As close as the game was, Michigan decided not to gamble. Thanks to Donovan Peoples-Jones, that worked out.

[After THE JUMP: don’t have to bring the house when you take it to it]

Wednesday Presser 9-20-17: Chris Partridge

Wednesday Presser 9-20-17: Chris Partridge

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on September 21st, 2017 at 8:31 AM

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[Fuller]

Talk about Devin’s play through the first three games and how well he’s played.

“He’s played great. He’s really locked in mentally. He’s explosive, he’s running around the field, he’s becoming a leader. He’s [doing] exactly what we asked from him and what we expected. We saw it in him in the spring and in camp and everything like that.”

On kickoffs, obviously you want more in the kick return game. What can you do there to kind of make that better?

“Kick return?”

Yeah.

“Kick return’s a very difficult thing to do, to block guys that are running full speed. I feel pretty confident about it. I know you haven’t seen the product, but we’ve gotten guys that are gaining valuable experience. It takes a while to get the knack of it and I think we’ve got the guys in place now that will be able to open some stuff up. I feel pretty confident that you’ll see some explosive plays out of that phase coming up here soon.”

Is Kekoa still going to be the guy or have you opened that up a little bit?

“Um. it’s always open. It’s always open. If he’s not returning for touchdowns then it’s an open competition, it’s an open battle. He’s still back there, as are others.”

Donovan, I assume, could get a look?

“Yep, he’s in the battle too. Yes.”

We saw in the Cincinnati game every time Donovan would come off the field it was like you were right there with him having conversations. How big of a leap did he take from that week? Obviously we saw him score the touchdown, but mentally how did he respond?

“Yeah, it’s enormous. To me, I think that catching a punt outside in an open environment like that is the hardest thing to do because the wind takes it, the ball takes it. For a freshman to have to do that, those game reps are invaluable. We can do everything we want in practice, but when all the pressure’s there and people are humping down and in college football everybody’s releasing everybody, those reps are invaluable.

“He just continues to lock it in and get better at it. It’s funny: you don’t want that stuff to happen, but that happening is going to make him so much better moving forward here. I have 100% confidence, coach Harbaugh has 100% confidence in him. He’s going to be an explosive playmaker back there. He’s just got to work through some things. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.”

[Hit THE JUMP for some boggling Nordin numbers, more on DPJ, and confirmation of Don Brown's precognitive powers ]

Monday Presser 9-18-17: Players

Monday Presser 9-18-17: Players

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on September 20th, 2017 at 10:00 AM

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[Upchurch]

Rashan Gary

How much do you go against Mason Cole in practice?

“Every day. Every day. Not a day I don’t see Mason.”

How much does that help you prepare for Saturday?

“Oh man, I feel like going into Big Ten play now, I’m not going to see a tackle like Mason. We’ve been going after it since spring ball; he’s been sharpening me and I’ve been sharpening him, so it’s just iron sharpening iron. I love going against him.”

What makes him so good?

“I don’t know, it’s weird. You’ve just got to see it for yourself. Sometimes on pass rush he’s patient. He’s not the aggressive type of offensive lineman that likes to put hands on you so sometimes you’ve got to wait and see what he’ll do but you can’t wait too long, so basically you’ve got to take the fight to him and his hands, he’s able to get your hands off of you and things like that. He’s just a great guy to go against. I can’t explain it, you’ve just got to watch his game.”

How often do you win those fights?

“I don’t know, you’ve got to ask him. He’ll get me, I get him a couple times, but it’s a great battle.”

[After THE JUMP: Gary on Devin Bush and what’s next for him, Mason Cole on communication, and McDoom on Quinn Nordin]

Beet-Red And Nude

Beet-Red And Nude

Submitted by Brian on September 18th, 2017 at 12:35 PM

9/16/2017 – Michigan 29, Air Force 13 – 3-0

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also this happened [Eric Upchurch]

I have ceased being a person who gets seriously exercised about the shortcomings, real or imagined, of Michigan's coaching staff. I will get my grouse on when it's fourth and a half yard and Michigan punts, because if I tried to hold that in I would literally die. There's some stuff later in this post about giving the ball to the Hammering Panda on short yardage and how it's dumb and stupid not to. There will always be niggling details that grate.

But I'm not going to freak out because Michigan's offense is struggling. If my mentions, or Ace's, or poor damn Nick Baumgardner's are any indication the Air Force game was HONEYMOON OVER for a healthy section of Michigan's fanbase. No doubt Sam and Ira have just completed four hours of radio where 75% of the callers were spittle-flecked, nude, and beet-red, proclaiming manifestoes about the personal embarrassment they were caused when Michigan could not score an offensive touchdown in the first 59 minutes of a game against a Mountain West team.

And... eh. I mean, nobody sane could disagree with propositions up to and including "this offense is butt and probably going to cost Michigan any chance of silverware." I wish the offense was not butt, too. In previous years I might be nude and beet-red, writing a manifesto about how I suffered personal embarrassment when Fitz Toussaint ran 27 times for 27 yards.

I am not. I'm going to see how this works out.

I'd like to think this is because I am so good at looking at football that I know that Michigan's problems under Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke were clear, severe, and systemic coaching issues while Harbaugh's are not. To some extent this is probably true: Harbaugh has not switched his base defense midseason in a panic (twice!), or decided that "tackle over" was an offense instead of a gimmick, or continued inserting a quarterback without an ulnar nerve in the second half of an Ohio State game. The worst tactical issue he's had so far was the increasingly disappointing Pepcat package last year, which is a speeding ticket compared to the grand felonies perpetrated by Michigan's last two coaching staffs. Check that: three coaching staffs.

But I'm also extrapolating based on track record. There is an element of faith that Harbaugh engenders, because... uh... I mean, obviously? If you need numbers, here's Stanford, with Harbaugh in bold:

Team Year Record FEI S&P YPC YPA YPP
Stanford 2006 1-11 N/A 113 2.1 (118th) 6.3 N/A
Stanford 2007 4-8 61 83 3.0 (113th) 6 N/A
Stanford 2008 5-7 48 31 4.9 (20th) 6.4 (82nd) 59
Stanford 2009 8-5 1 6 5.2 (7th) 8.7 (7th) 9
Stanford 2010 12-1 5 3 5.2 (16th) 8.9 (10th) 13
Stanford 2011 11-2 6 8 5.3 (13th) 8.7 (7th) 6

Harbaugh embarked on a similar project at San Francisco. The 49ers were 25th in Football Outsider's DVOA fancystat the year before his arrival. They improved to 18th in year one and then had consecutive top ten years (fifth and eighth) before a dropoff in Harbaugh's final season under Jed York. That last season is the only one in Harbaugh's pre-Michigan coaching career where the offense isn't either taking a significant step forward or an elite or near-elite unit, and it's saddled with a bunch of confounding factors. (SF got hit with a blizzard of injuries that year, oh and the owner was trying to force out a guy who'd gone to three consecutive NFC Championship games because reasons.)

At Michigan he immediately took the dead thing that was the Brady Hoke offense and made it okay, leaping from 89th to 38th in S&P+. Last year plateaued largely because the starting QB inexplicably went in the tank in Iowa and then did something nasty to his shoulder.

If the late slide a year ago and early sputters from a team that lost seven starters is enough to overthrow Harbaugh's long career of mostly great offenses in your mind, please go away. Yes, there are problems. No, this isn't Lloyd Carr turning Tom Brady, David Terrell, Anthony Thomas, and four long-term NFL starters into the 60th-best offense in the country. Bitching about Harbaugh's offense makes no sense after two years of inventive game plans, plays I have to invent terms for after a decade of doing this, and mostly solid results despite Brady Hoke's abominable late offensive recruiting*.

This feels bad man. But put your damn clothes on and stick to not sports.

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

*[Deep breaths. Ready?

The only offensive recruit to even make it to year five from the 2013 class are Patrick Kugler and the fullbacks. De'Veon Smith and Jake Butt were productive and graduated. Da'Mario Jones, Csont'e York, Jaron Dukes, Dan Samuelson, Wyatt Shallman, Chris Fox, David Dawson, Kyle Bosch, Shane Morris, and Derrick Green all burned out without making any impact.

Hoke's miserable 2014 class has Speight, the starting QB, Mason Cole, Ian Bunting, and nobody else even contributing. Moe Ways, Juwann Bushell-Beatty, Freddy Canteen, Drake Harris are all gone or benched.

And literally the only offensive recruits Hoke left Harbaugh in the transition class were Alex Malzone, John Runyan Jr, and Grant Newsome. That is three recruiting years producing four starters.]

[After THE JUMP: but hey the defense though]

Air Force Postgame Presser: Jim Harbaugh

Air Force Postgame Presser: Jim Harbaugh

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on September 17th, 2017 at 11:50 AM

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[Upchurch]

Red zone: how much of a concern is that that you aren’t getting more touchdowns in those opportunities?

“I thought both teams played really good red zone defense today. Good. We had the right calls on at the right time, pushed them back out of the opportunities to score touchdowns and they held the line as well. Hats off to both teams for really good red zone defense.”

Talk about the challenge of having to switch gears on defense for a team like this and how your guys responded defensively.

“I thought we responded really well. For the most part, with the exception of a few drives. I thought we shut them down well and I thought we won all three phases. They play a brand of football I really like, which is you just keep jabbing away and you don’t make mistakes, you don’t turn the ball over, few penalties, and you get first downs… push the opponent back in field position. They make you go beatcha. They don’t beat themselves and it’s a good brand of football. Our team was able to make plays offensively, defensively, special teams was a huge factor in today’s ball game.

“Donovan’s punt return was fabulous. Our kickoff coverage was excellent all day, and right on down the line. Punt protection was really good as they were bringing 10; we got the all-out rush and we were able to block it up. Each phase. And the standout was Quinn Nordin and the snapper, Cheeseman, Garret Moores, the holder—that whole battery. And the field goal protection was outstanding. Tied a record, Michigan record, for most field goals in a game. Really proud of the way our special teams played. Offensively, defensively, special teams: thought we won all three phases.”

Rhythmically, where do you see the offense going and specifically with Wilton and Donovan, looked like that could be a connection. How do you assess that?

“Yeah, it was good to see Donovan go and make a big play offensively. Made the big play special teams-wise, so great to see him a factor in the third game of his freshman year. Just terrific. Like Tarik has done, one of those freshmen that are playing in their third ballgame and are huge factors in where we are, 3-0, and the ballgame we had today.”

[After THE JUMP: getting RPS’d, the kicking battery, jamming it in in the red zone, and how to use DPJ]

Michigan 29, Air Force 13

Michigan 29, Air Force 13

Submitted by Ace on September 16th, 2017 at 4:10 PM


Quinn Nordin got his second school record in three games. [Eric Upchurch]

Michigan had their J. Walter Weatherman game today.

You could practically hear "...and that's why you don't schedule Air Force" echoing through the stadium as early as the first quarter, when the Falcons somehow used 6:13 of game clock to drive 24 yards in 12 plays for a field goal to knot the game at three apiece.

While Michigan's defense played up to their lofty standard, Air Force lingered in a contracted game that featured only 11 full drives from each team. The Wolverines could only move the ball in fits and spurts, generally going in the right direction until they hit the red zone, where all-too-familiar problems from the season's first two games cropped up again. Whether it was blown blocks, conservative playcalling, or missed opportunities, those problems forced Michigan to settle for field goals on all four of their trips to the red zone.

"They were doing a really good of disguising coverages, disguising blitzes," quarterback Wilton Speight said, noting Air Force did a particularly good job in the red zone.

"They had a better call than we had most of the time down there in the red zone," said Jim Harbaugh. "We'd like to score more touchdowns in the red zone. I think that'll come. We're moving the ball."

Speight finished an underwhelming 14-of-23 for 169 yards in what's become a typically uneven performance. He had a few excellent throws and lost some yardage to drops—most notably on a third-down pass that clanged off Kekoa Crawford's hands in the fourth quarter—but also missed a couple open receivers and couldn't lead the offense to a touchdown until the game's waning minutes.


DPJ couldn't be stopped once he got his eyes on the end zone. [Upchurch]

Fortunately for Michigan, while the offense found their footing, the other two units were rock solid. Quinn Nordin tied a program record with five field goals in five attempts, including a 49-yarder with room to spare to give Michigan a 9-6 halftime lead.

After the defense forced a three-and-out on the opening possession of the second half, it looked like Michigan would finally break the game open. Donovan Peoples-Jones fielded a Charlie Scott punt that outdistanced the coverage, sprinted past the first wave, reversed field, and then tightroped the sideline for a 79-yard touchdown, the first of his Michigan career.

"My punt return team did a great job of blocking," Peoples-Jones said. "It made my job very easy. It just opened up like the Red Sea."

"I feel like great things are going to happen for Donovan Peoples-Jones," said Harbaugh.

Air Force countered with a rare explosive play, however, as receiver Ronald Cleveland got a step on Tyree Kinnel and took at third-down slant 64 yards to the house only four plays later.

That proved to be Air Force's only completion of the afternoon.


Somewhere in there is Air Force's quarterback. [Upchurch]

The defense, and the defensive line in particular, controlled this game. Against an offense that avoids negative plays at all costs, Michigan recorded nine tackles for loss and had three sacks on just 12 Air Force dropbacks. The three-man line of Rashan Gary, Mo Hurst, and Chase Winovich controlled the A- and B-gaps, allowing the back seven—led by Devin Bush and Mike McCray, who both finished with a team-high 11 tackles—to flow to the ball unencumbered.

By the second half, they were kicking the Falcons off the field with ruthless efficiency. Gary damn near beheaded quarterback Arion Worthman while forcing a third-quarter fumble the Falcons were fortunate to recover, inducing a roar of bloodlust from a previously stagnant crowd.

Their dominance meant two more field goal drives, plus a miss from Air Force's kicker, were enough to all but put the game away. Michigan was in clock-killing mode when Karan Higdon broke down the left sideline for a 36-yard touchdown with 1:02 to play.

"They play a brand of football that I really like, which is keep jabbing away," Harbaugh said. "They make you go beat them. They don't beat themselves."

That held true in this game. Frustratingly, it took the offense far too long to put the game away and still have fans feel comfortable heading into Big Ten play. Next week's trip to Purdue, a reinvigorated program under first-year coach Jeff Brohm, is looking far more perilous than it did a few weeks ago.

"We'll keep forging ahead, keep making improvements," said Harbaugh. "I like where this team is at right now."

Unverified Voracity Is In Year Eight Of This

Unverified Voracity Is In Year Eight Of This

Submitted by Brian on September 5th, 2017 at 12:19 PM

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run run run run run run run away oh oh oh [Christopher Cook]

We're #3.5. Spencer's top whatever:

Handing Florida two pick-sixes was only sportsmanlike, really. Without them, this is a 41-3 game or so, a complete wash, an elimination. Michigan’s chief concerns coming into the year were finding playmakers down the field. Tarik Black and Nick Eubanks did that serviceably enough, particularly so when you consider that Wilton Speight didn’t really have a great game and that the run game took a minute to lock in a stranglehold.

In sum, this Michigan team has great bones, is a handful along the defensive line, has two running backs capable of following an mean offensive line down the field, and has a quarterback who needs help from all that. But really, who doesn’t need a team? And who, among Michgan fans, will ever question the team? The team, the team, the team?

Alabama is a boring #1, as they always are.

Further Florida aftermath. I forgot to check Matt Hinton's weekly column on the SEC since usually it doesn't include extended treatises on a Big Ten team. This time it does:

It was, as McElwain said, a “plain and simple, take your whooping” kind of defeat. But the response from Florida fans was obvious too: Just how long do they have to keep taking it? Is Florida content to be a “take your whooping” kind of outfit? The Gators are nearly a decade removed from national relevance, or even from fielding a remotely competent quarterback for more than a week or two at a time. They’re no closer to filling that role after flip-flopping between Feleipe Franks and Malik Zaire on Saturday, to little effect, or to identifying a reliable playmaker among the skill players. The top two candidates, tailback Jordan Scarlett and receiver Antonio Callaway, were both among the late-breaking wave of suspensions before the game, but anyone who thinks either would have made a notable difference against the Wolverines hasn’t been paying close enough attention over the past two years.

Hinton also includes a long discussion of what the hell was going on with the illegal formation penalty—"dunno," more or less—and surveys the wreckage of the Florida offensive line:

That play — exactly the type of overwhelming debacle that used to unleash “S-E-C! S-E-C!” chants on beaten and broken-down Big Ten teams — was irrelevant to the outcome. But it was thoroughly emblematic of the line’s gradual deterioration over the course of the game. The play that preceded it was also a sack resulting in a fumble; in retrospect the Gators would have been better off if Michigan had recovered the first one just short of the goal line, or frankly if they’d just conceded at that point to taking an intentional safety. At least taking a knee in the end zone would have saved Zaire from a blindside hit everyone else in the building saw coming a mile away.

Every year you take up the banner of whatever P5 team you played in the nonconference. Last year Colorado worked out spectacularly well. This year... it's going to be weird and frustrating to be a proxy Florida fan this year. I fear I will understand the mindset all too well.

Also in aftermath, audio versions. Do you like goofily uninformed folks yellin'? Here you go:

How about the reasonably informed?

This was a bit of a comedown for a fanbase that was a wee bit optimistic headed into a game they were solid underdogs in.

They're not wrong though. Michigan's defensive performance was highly encouraging but it would be wise to pump the breaks at least a little. Florida's wasted more talent than anyone else in the country on that side of the ball:

That is incredible. Tim Tebow left eight years ago. Florida has endured eight years of Al Borges.

Is this the best sideline reporter moment of all time? Yes. Yes it is.

It's pushed over the top by Orgeron standing in the background of the shot. Congratulations to Allison Williams for surviving this stunt; going in there was a 50/50 chance Orgeron would overhear and turn her into gumbo.

I mean, okay, I guess you are Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh on the first INT, which I still think is mostly on Crawford:

"Not throwing the ball high over the middle. Those balls get tipped and have a tendancy to go up in the air. During camp we played a lot against man-to-man defenses (vs. Don Brown), with a lot of pressure," Harbaugh said. "I take this onto myself coaching. There are times you throw high and you get away with it because it's zero coverage and there's no deep safeties back there. ... But when you're playing against (zone) safeties, you have to keep the ball below the shoulders.

"Shoulders down, so the arms of the receivers don't go up and tip the ball. We've made more of an emphasis on that."

Speight could have thrown it better; Crawford still had it hit him in the hands, and it looked like he wasn't even fully extended when the ball hit.

I don't really get the other bit of Harbaugh press conference Speight critique:

"Quarterbacks, they want to show that they're the one and they're the guy. And sometimes that leads to always trying to make a big play or always trying to make a play that proves that," he said. "We talked about that (with Speight). You have to let that come to you. Operate within the system, with the reads, be a disciple with mechanics and those big plays will come to you.

Speight's deep shots in this game:

  • completions to Tarik Black and Nick Eubanks
  • PI drawn by Crawford on accurate post
  • Fade route down sideline to Crawford is OOB
  • pick six on high-ish ball at open receiver
  • incompletion when Speight makes a killer check only to miss a wide open TD

I think that's it. The only one of those that was even a little forced was the PI. Speight's decisions against Florida were excellent. His execution was occasionally lacking. I imagine that's a response to a leading I-already-wrote-my-article question and not something Harbaugh's pulling out of thin air.

Wild thing. Yes, this occurred:

Harbaugh said he’s looking for “a season of increases.” That applies, he said, to everyone on the roster -- the coaching staff, the starting quarterback, players on both sides of the ball and even the rookie kicker who carved a zig-zag pattern into the back of his hair last week as an ode to the closer mentality of Rick Vaughn.

Yes, that would be Charlie Sheen’s heartthrob, fire-throwing, near-sighted ex-con character from "Major League" -- yet another reference that predates the referencer’s existence on this planet. Nordin said he had to show YouTube clips to a couple of his teammates for them to understand what he was going for. When asked Saturday if the similarities between him and Vaughn stretch beyond their hairstyles, Nordin smiled. “Yeah, I think so,” he said. Then he turned and walked back into the locker room.

Even the damn kicker on this team has some attitude.

Etc.: Georgia will be without Jacob Eason against ND this weekend; ND favored by almost a touchdown. Here's a new Michigan tumblr. Maryland's win over Texas came at high cost: torn ACL for Piggy, fractured ankle for Aniebonam.