Spring Stuff, 2015: Offense

Spring Stuff, 2015: Offense

Submitted by Brian on April 6th, 2015 at 1:43 PM

Podcast? Yes. We couldn't record it yesterday because of Easter obligations. We will tape it this evening. It should go up tomorrow.

Missed it? It's on the tubes.

Ours got more attention than normal because it was so early.

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The Michigan offense in one picture [Patrick Barron]

Rome was not rebuilt from atomized dust in a day. It was not good, obviously. People will tell you that the defense is supposed to be in front of the offense at this juncture… but not that far in front. When they say that they mean something like "it was a little ugly and they only ran for like three yards a carry." They mean that the final score was 17-10 or thereabouts.

They do not mean that the only offense of the day will be Amara Darboh catching fades against Poor Damn Dennis Norfleet, a 5'7" guy who hadn't played defense in college until being tested there this spring. The overall feel was reminiscent of the legendarily terrible 2008 spring game, which I didn't even go to because it was held at a high school to facilitate Michigan Stadium's renovations and still remember as the first "oh shiiiii" moment in the Rodriguez era.

To some extent this was all expected. Michigan fans have been debating between a true freshman, a guy who had 3.2 YPA last year, and a redshirt freshman who did not play. They were going up against a defense that has been pretty good the last couple years (until collapsing in exhaustion at the end of games). It was never going to be pretty.

But did it have to be that ugly? Bler!

Quarterbacks: come on down Joliet Jake. Morris was anointed the #1 QB coming out of spring by none other than Harbaugh himself, and that seemed about right after the spring game. That it did so after Morris went 11 of 24 for 5.6 YPA would have me purchasing bags of dehydrated food, water purifiers, and shotguns if not for the 99% official transfer of Iowa starter Jake Rudock to Michigan. Rudock may not be a conquering hero… but he will probably feel like one.

Malzone, the great (if vague) hope going into spring, did not look ready to challenge for the throne. I'm not on board with the arm strength complaints just yet, as those seemed to be generated by a wide receiver screen Lewis tried to jump but did not, giving up a first down on 2nd and 19 (in this game the equivalent of 2nd and Canada).

I may come around in the near future. The constant short stuff was disappointing: even his attempt at a game-saving two minute drill featured five yard hitch after five yard hitch. He did have one nice dart downfield that Chase Winovich dropped…

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a linebacker linebacks even when he tight ends [Bryan Fuller]

…but that stands out as just about the only attempt Malzone made to get the ball down the field. There were a lot of doomed WR screens in there. And that two minute drill… oy. They got about 20 yards before time ran out. This is a tradition I would like to leave in the past.

One thing I'll say in Morris's favor. He's got that fade down pat. One got intercepted because Darboh didn't wall off and extend away from a defensive back and a couple more got dropped; the rest save one were completions, and I think Morris ended up leaving that one short because he got hit. The rest were on the money, in that space outside the numbers and inside the sideline where the receiver has space to play with and can detach from the DB.

That's a good location to have down, by the way. It's tough to throw and thus tough to get to for a lot of defenses. Deep outs, smash routes, corners, and those fades all end up in that general area. It's the location on the field that is the reason NFL teams go cuckoo for cocoa puffs when they find a Mallett type. Morris can buy himself a lot of leeway if that throw is as consistently accurate as it felt like on Saturday.

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a lot of this [Eric Upchurch]

Run game: I don't know. Ty Isaac was all but out (he's credited for one carry I don't remember), so the Malzone team's tailback was Wyatt Shallman (12 carries, 22 yards) with spot duty from Ross Taylor-Douglas*. Shallman is more of an H-back in college and it showed.

Meanwhile, both Ace and I assumed that Derrick Green had been mostly held out with an injury of his own only to find out that he and De'Veon Smith apparently split carries down the middle. It's just that Green's 7 went for 8 yards and Smith's 7 went for 50.

Smith had a sequence early in the second half where he ran tough and his offense started getting some actual time on the field. That ended with a fumbled exchange, because of course it did. Smith never fumbled in high school and hasn't done so in college yet so that issue is probably a freshman-QB thing more than anything Smith did wrong.

If Michigan knew Isaac was going to be limited they should have swapped Green over to the Blue team to get a better feel for the competition between those guys. Either way it was a good day for Drake Johnson.

*[who has now completed his tour of all the positions you can play on a football field and can turn in his punch card for a free bag of Combos.]

The one good run. Cole gets a good push on Henry, Kugler seals away, RJS and AJ Williams battle to a stalemate, Cole gets to the second level, and Smith makes a nice out-in cut to put the other linebacker on the wrong side of the hole:

gif via Ace

If Michigan develops holes on the regular I think Smith has an advantage because his ability to grind out another two or three yards will be valuable in the Harbaughffense.

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L to R: back, under threat, trying out [Bryan Fuller]

OL depth chart hints. Glasgow was back and playing center as if he had not violated his probation; the program said he'd gotten through whatever punishment the program had deployed for him. If he keeps his nose clean that should clear him to resume playing center this fall.

Meanwhile Michigan tried out Logan Tuley-Tillman as the left tackle on the blue team, bumping Ben Braden inside to guard. LTT picked up three legit holding calls; even so that implies that he's getting a serious look and Braden may move or lose his job. Erik Magnuson playing right tackle for the Maize team is another indication that the tackle jobs are not secure.

A scholarship guy who might be looking at some writing on the wall is Dan Samuelson, who was healthy enough to make the roster but IIRC did not play much, if at all. With a couple walk-ons seemingly ahead of them they might be down for the count. Bars (who I omitted from the rosters post by accident did play, at guard:

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He is 62 next to Kugler [Fuller]

If you made me guess right now I'd say that Erik Magnuson is Michigan's starting right tackle this fall and that guard slot opened up by the various line shifts is the most heated competition out there. But that's firmly in wild guess territory.

Wide receivers: do we have a problem? There were a number of ugly drops, none more so than Jaron Dukes batting a ball in his facemask directly skyward for an interception. Morris zinged it with unnecessary force, yes. That's still a worst case scenario for a receiver. Dukes had another sorta drop later and doesn't seem like he'll be pushing past the established guys this year.

Elsewhere: Darboh had a drop and a fade wrested away from him but recovered late to be the Blue team offense. Going up against Dennis Norfleet significantly compromises that accomplishment, especially since most of the plays were "throw it over that guy's head," but Darboh did display strong hands and an ability to track the ball in flight in a difficult situation. Some people can do that (Junior Hemingway), and some cannot (Darryl Stonum). Darboh is in the former category. Can he get separation from the likes of Jourdan Lewis? I don't know—one downside of this format.

Receivers other than Dukes and Darboh were playing with Malzone and barely got targeted on anything notable. This year's spring hype machine, Brian Cole, was not a factor until deep into the second half; Freddy Canteen made a couple of nice catches on balls outside the frame of his body. There was not a whole lot else to talk about.

There was a notable lack of separation for receivers going up against actual defensive backs. That could be bad; it could be an indicator that the secondary is going to be as lights out as we all hope. As per usual, we'll find out abruptly in fall.

Poor Damn Norfleet. In the aftermath Harbaugh talked Norfleet up as a guy who could contribute in all three phases. Nope. The act of moving a guy his size to cornerback is waving a white flag on his career.

I mean… maybe not. Harbaugh is weird and one of the specific ways in which he is weird is his predilection for flipping guys from one side of the ball to the other. This could be a Harbaugh whim that doesn't mean much about playing time down the line. But it probably means that Norfleet is kaput. We'll always have that punt return touchdown to seal the Maryland game inane irrelevant block in the back by someone far away from you.

BEARD. This is not Elliott, right? This is some other spectacular beard just hanging out on the sideline?

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[Barron]

This is one Brady Hoke tradition I'm glad we're keeping.

Spring Game Presser 4-4-15: Jim Harbaugh

Spring Game Presser 4-4-15: Jim Harbaugh

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on April 5th, 2015 at 11:59 AM

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He tries to sic these guys on you if you ask a dumb question [Eric Upchurch]

News bullets and other items:

  • Shane Morris is ahead of the other quarterbacks, though Harbaugh said the competition will “rage on”
  • Harbaugh liked the way the defense performed, singling out the secondary and inside pass rush. He also thought Shane Morris and Amara Darboh did a nice job.
  • He said there’s room for improvement in receivers learning to catch contested balls, the running game as a whole, and outside pass rushing.
  • Gary Moeller and Lloyd Carr had a large part in designing the trick plays; Harbaugh said he was hands-off in that process
  • Harbaugh said the legal system has as much hanging over Graham Glasgow’s head as is possible, noting that it’s more than what the football program could do; it sounds like he won’t be suspended if there are no further incidents.
  • Players with long-term injuries noted were Joe Hewlett (unspecified), Mike McCray (surgery, not sure for what), and Michael Wroblewski (ACL).
  • Dennis Norfleet may play on offense, defense, and special teams in the fall

Your general takeaways from today? What did you like, what maybe obviously needs work still?

“Liked a lot of things. Mainly [the] thing I liked the most is we played a 40-minute game and there was no injuries that I could tell, none at least that aren’t the you-don’t-come-back-from-soon type, so I’m most pleased with that.

“There’s, uh, there’s- obviously the defense played extremely well. There’s been a lot of improvement in our secondary; that showed up again today. And pass rush, uh, pass rush is improving. Got some rush and push from our inside guys and we’ll continue to try and get the outside pass rush. That’s an area that we want to improve, especially when it’s a four-man rush, to be able to get pressure on the quarterback just with the four.

“I thought Shane Morris did a nice job. Amara Darboh made some nice catches and that’s an area that we need to keep working on, receivers that can make the catch when it’s contested, make the tough catch.

“Running game at times was okay. You know it’s not going to be real good in a spring game especially with the format that we had which was a draft, so offensive linemen are playing in different combinations than they’re used to. But overall we had the one fumble, we had the two turnovers, and with the interceptions but quarterback play I thought was good. Multiple errors [but] I thought it was good.

“To sum it all up I’m most pleased there weren’t any serious injuries today. Come out healthy, and that’ll propel us into April and May.”

I know it was just a spring game but for you to be back inside the Big House, what was it like for you personally?

“It was good. It was a great turnout, I thought. I mean, that’s a hundred-thousand-and-ten people seat stadium and to see that many seats filled was great. It really means a lot. Much appreciated. I know our players appreciate that, the turnout for the 2015 spring game. Added to it, you know. Really added to the atmosphere. Made it like a game. [I] don’t think of it just as a spring game, think of it as a game, and I know that our players had those feelings, those emotions of it being a game before the game and until they took their first hits so that’s something that’ll bode well for us.”

You had several players that were missing from the game: Taco Charlton, Mario Ojemudia, [Ondre] Pipkins. Are any of those long-term concerns or were they just players that were banged up?

“Yeah, we had multiple players that are working through something right now.”

Are any of them long-term, though?

“I’m not a doctor.”

/smirks

“I did not get my medical degree at the University of Michigan.”

[After THE JUMP: Talkin’ about the ol’ depth chart]

Mailbag: Harbaugh Wedding Invite, Late Redshirts, Hockey Expansion

Mailbag: Harbaugh Wedding Invite, Late Redshirts, Hockey Expansion

Submitted by Brian on March 17th, 2015 at 11:59 AM

WHAT COULD GO WRONG

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Hey Brian,

Please publish this anonymously because my fiancé didn't even want me to take this picture.

We're getting married at the Union this summer. Harbaugh is crazy, but not crazy enough to show up, right? Do we need to worry about a hora with enthusiasm unknown to mankind?

Thanks, and love the blog,

Anon

First: that's what we did when we got married. Did you get the Pendleton Room for the reception? It has a painting of Yost in it. That's what sold me (that and the fact it was the only appropriately-sized room in town).

Anyway. To your question.

You have committed a grave mistake. Harbaugh has just asked a 2016 recruit to prom, and they are still slightly disorganized after coming in from the NFL and scrambling to fill their 2015 class. The chances are high that they assume you are a recruit, or somehow connected to an important recruit, and show up in force at your wedding. There they will demand your brand new wife run 40s in heels. Your mother will be badgered into voluntary summer workouts. Both will  leave arm-in-arm with JayBaugh.

Your only consolation is that the younger Harbaugh will not have an arm to cradle the Lombardi Trophy that he carries with him everywhere, but can you confide in the Lombardi Trophy? Can you snuggle next to it for warmth on cold nights? Will it make you breakfast? No, no, and no. Your future is a bleak one, sitting across from a cold metallic unfeeling brick, trying to make small talk over endless breadsticks and salad. The Lombardi Trophy's only reaction will be to reflect a hideously distorted version of yourself back to your eyes.

Sounds like hell, anonymous. A hell you willingly signed up for when you taunted fate. We will remember you alongside our most foolish archetypes. 

Mid-career redshirts?

Brian- I realize I'm probably not the only one to think this but if Rudock does come and Speight seems serviceable as a backup will they try and redshirt Morris if they think he's a viable option down the road?

I know there's gentry, Malzone and O'Korn as well but possibly this would give them another QB option.

-Phillip

It is possible. Mid-career redshirts are rare but there's no rule against it, and if Speight is as good or better there's no reason to not give yourself the option.

That might be in Morris's best interest either way. He enrolled early, so it wouldn't be too hard for him to get a degree after this year a la Gardner, and then he'd have two to play somewhere if it didn't work out here. And if a guy a class behind you beats you out for the #2 spot, it's probably not going to work out.

Hockey expansion.

Hey Brian,

I was wondering if you could explain or if you even knew about any future BIG hockey expansion? I've started following BIG hockey and just wondered why Nebraska, Rutgers, and other schools do not have hockey programs if the BIG dishes our tens of millions of dollars each year. I am a hockey NOOB and just thought the BIG could be a legitimate conference if more teams (and even OSU) put any effort into making hockey decent. Thanks.

814 East U

The Big Ten shouldn't have to have more teams putting in effort to make hockey decent. Michigan and Minnesota are two of the sport's glamour programs, constantly stocked with NHL talent and near-perennial NCAA tournament participants. The have 15 national titles between them. Wisconsin has been more up and down recently but has six titles to their name. Michigan State was a national power until they hired Rick Comley and Tom Anastos back-to-back.

That's four of the six teams in the league clearly capable of being powers. Minnesota and Wisconsin are annually towards the top of the attendance leaderboard, and Michigan still more or less sells out Yost every year. Then you have Penn State, which is new but has an attractive rink and sold-out experience to offer kids. It's really only Ohio State—which plays in their inappropriately cavernous basketball arena to indifferent, sparse fans—that has an uphill battle towards respectability.

In fact, the second-most prominent complaint about the Big Ten's formation* was that it would spell the end of college hockey's charming mix of big time and small time competitors. Instead the Big Ten is in the same spot Atlantic Hockey is: vaguely hoping for a second bid one day. This is not how it was supposed to be.

But anyway that's not your question. There are two main hurdles to adding a hockey program: the arena and Title IX.

With limited exceptions, the correct size for a hockey arena is mid-four digits. Trying to shoehorn hockey into a basketball arena results in a tepid crowd and is a major drag on your program; also many arenas weren't built with a conversion like that in mind. Penn State's program was kickstarted by a 100 million dollar donation from Terry Pegula, the new Sabers owner. Similar seed money is just about required to boost any extant club hockey team to the varsity level.

Title IX adds a big hunk of expenses to your program. Hockey is popular enough that it can turn a small profit in the right situation. Penn State was 150k in the black in just its second year of existence; Michigan's program is also a net positive. If that was the end of it, all you'd have to do is pony up for the right arena and be done with it, but Title IX mandates you add a women's team of some variety. That team will have a revenue of approximately zero. It will not have zero expenses. With the BTN influx most schools could probably afford that expense, but it is something to consider.

One man's ranking of B10 schools by likelihood they would add hockey at some point:

  1. Iowa. Iowa is the epicenter of the USHL, the NCAA's primary feeder league. Iowa is financially stable and their fans have a demonstrated passion. Wrestling may be a small issue since it competes for attention.
  2. Nebraska. Iowa, except further west. Lincoln in fact already has a USHL team that plays in an arena of about 4k that has had good attendance. Nebraska's new basketball arena does have the capacity to put down ice, which has gone through a test drive. There has been sporadic chatter about adding a program that the AD has thus far shut down.
  3. Northwestern. Would need a large gift to create an arena. If that does happen it then makes a lot of sense, as there is a lot of local talent and high academic schools have proven their competitiveness over the years.
  4. Illinois. In the middle of nowhere, which is good for attendance. A basketball school, though, which raises questions about whether hockey will get requisite attention. One of the reasons Penn State has been so successful is that their fans are desperate for something other than pain after football season ceases. MSU has struggled with attention and attendance even when they were very good because basketball takes up so much headspace.
  5. Purdue. Neither Indiana team seems particularly likely to add hockey what with the state obsession with basketball.
  6. Indiana. See Purdue.
  7. Maryland. Financial basket case that slashed a ton of sports and only joined the Big Ten to mitigate the damage they'd done themselves.
  8. Rutgers. See Maryland, minus a fanbase.

You could see Iowa and Nebraska in the next ten years; anything after Illinois is highly unlikely.

*[#1 was the disruption of the Minnesota-centric WCHA and Michigan-centric CCHA, losses that are keenly felt by many long-time college hockey fans. I myself miss the old days more than I thought I would.]

Tom Osborne is watching your punting

Brian,

I went to the Sloan Sports Analytics conference last month and the college football panel was by far the most memorable. About six minutes in, Rachel Nichols asked a member of the playoff selection committee (Oliver Luck) what metrics were most important in helping to separate the top four teams from the rest. Here is the brunt of his answer transcribed:

“It’s difficult to say that there were any bits of data that everybody on the committee shared and agreed [upon] because that was really left up to [each of] us. I can tell you [that] Tom Osborne: great football coach, nobody is going to question Tom Osborne’s integrity, or his intelligence, or his football knowledge [and] he loved the kicking game . . . [H]e would spend a lot of time looking at all the data on the kicking game for all these teams in question. Others would look at other data."

My friend and I (almost) had to leave the room we started laughing so hard. Don’t let anyone tell you that adopting the spread punt is overblown. THAT'S HOW THEY CHOOSE BETWEEN PLAYOFF TEAMS.

Hail,

Travis

P.S.—Here is the link to the video (question starts at 06:40). You can watch it by starting a free trial and then cancel right after. I was hoping they’d upload it to the conference page by now but I couldn't wait any longer to share. Also, not nearly as worried about Penn State after listening to James Franklin spout nonsense for an hour.

I'm not entirely sure, Travis. "Go look at punting stats" sounds like a quintessential "go away" job.

The committee has Tom Osborne. Osborne spends most of his time rattling on about the Spanish-American War and declares every team after 1960 ineligible for the playoff. The committee says "Tom, you are a legend and we respect you immensely, and as you've said a thousand times in the last hour, punting is the most important part of the game. So have we got a project for you." Tom goes off and collates punting stats; committee swiftly chooses teams that don't punt.

This was titled "mailbag question" despite not being one.

Brian,

I hate Wisconsin basketball.

Sincerely,
Erik (Erik_in_Dayton)

I feel that sincerity, Erik.

Practice Bits: Offense

Practice Bits: Offense

Submitted by Brian on March 11th, 2015 at 2:20 PM

Tips? Hesitant about getting bombed on the message board? Email me.

Ch-ch-changes

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[Eric Upchurch]

The Harbaugh era seems considerably less paranoid than the previous regime. Practice reports are coming in from a lot more sources than they used to; no doubt this is partially because excitement sees a lot more people on the sideline. I do hear that they're less concerned about "X looks good, tempo is fast" reports getting out.

Tempo is fast, by the way. Harbaugh has brought a high-rep style to practices in an effort to get everything he can out of every countable hour. It is not exactly Oregon hyper-speed where all coaching is done after, in film. It's a lot closer to that than the Hoke-era practices were. A recruit's parent took in a practice and posted about it to a Facebook group, and his impressions match some others I've been sent:

1. Tempo of practice and the philosophy. Very different from last year. 2 sets of scrimmages per field. A play is being ran an avg of 25 to 35 secs. If they went two groups, they would alternate but each group ran a play every 25secs. So ... Coaches saw 2 plays every 30 secs. Ton of reps. Very different from last year. Coaches are coaching very quick between plays. Emphasis on getting the reps in during practice and correcting mistakes in film. Practice was very similar to how Saban runs his practices.

2. There really is competition at EVERYTHING. I saw several of these "competitions." A couple examples ... QBs did a "fastest release/ball speed" comp. On command, they had to throw a bullet pass 20yds. Malzone looked good. Several races took place today as well but most know about those.

Those were vintage 1990s; these are a lot closer to modern speeds. Michigan is running multiple reps at a time on opposite ends of the field with first and second teams. 

(Aside: I can't help but draw a line between Hoke's deliberate practice pace and his program's inability to operate at any other speed.)

Practices have also been extremely long. How one practice can be longer than another when NCAA maximums are mandated for everyone is unclear; possible that Hoke was spending some of his countable hours in other ways? That seems highly improbable, but so do Michigan's results the past couple years.

Harbaugh bein' Harbaugh

From Sam Webb:

When practice was over Harbaugh brought the team around him and awarded the day to the defense.  As a reward he told them they had to run while the offense watched because “here, the winners are the ones that earn the opportunity to get better.”

Quarterback Battle Royale

Whether it's the WWE kind or the Quentin-Tarantino-porn that is way better than the Hunger Games, what Michigan has on its hands qualifies as such. Jedd Fisch was carefully neutral during his press conference yesterday, as coaches are. He asserted that everyone was even and getting even reps, as coaches do.

But allow your author to read into things some. Fisch on Malzone:

"He's got a lot going on. But he's handled it unbelievably well. He's unbelievable in terms of his ability to not let things bother him. To be consistent and play the game. If a play doesn't go right, he's right back in there for the next one. A short-term memory is phenomenal for a quarterback."

On Speight:

Wilton is a very large man, he's a big guy (at 6-foot-6). He can see everything. He's a pretty good athlete and he throws the ball well. He doesn't seem to have had a ton of experience.

On Morris:

"Shane has a very strong arm, as everybody knows, he spins it well and he just has to understand that, really, that's not the most important thing. If you have a really strong arm, then you have a really strong arm. That's what you have. Now, it's a matter of 'what can you do with it?' How do you utilize it? His skill set and his arm strength are tremendous and he's very comfortable. It's fun to watch him in the huddle, he has a really good command of what we're asking him to do."

The tweets that captured small sections of the fuller quotes came off more negative towards Morris, highlighting "unbelievable" for Malzone and "throw it at the person" for Morris. It was more neutral than that. Via Maize and Blue News:

Even so, the overall vibe from that presser seemed to confirm reports floating around at Scout, Rivals, and in my inbox: there's considerable debate about who looks better between Malzone and Speight… and there ends the debate. Scout's observers tend to like Malzone. Rivals's like Speight. Malzone is reportedly adjusting to the size of the players in front of him; Speight doesn't have that issue and is a year ahead of Malzone in terms of college prep.

Early days obviously, but it feels like the QB race is two horses with Morris lagging behind. Gentry and maybe Rudock are yet to enter.

Tailback Battle Royale

See above in re: term. Tyrone Wheatley has a lot of options here and is doing a lot of correcting in drills. Will be interesting to see if there's a performance differential there. The latest practice video from the department features Wheatley heavily if you'd like to hear him talk some.

Most of these guys look like they've looked. Johnson's out; Smith may be a hair faster; it's tough to tell if Green's vision problems are any better in this context. (Most people observing practice do so from the sideline, where holes are not always visible.)

There is the new guy, of course. Ty Isaac is "huge" and "could be a linebacker." He injured a finger somewhat badly in one practice but shrugged it off to continue with drills. This undoubtedly earned him some Harbaugh toughness brownie points. (He did sit out some on subsequent days.)

H-back/TE wazoos

Chase Winovich is at least practicing there…

…and while Harbaugh seemed pretty dismissive about supposed position moves earlier this spring, they are looking at him there. When I fretted that this didn't make a lot of sense given the seeming surplus at H-back, Ace reminded me that Harbaugh switched guys around like mad at Stanford. Doug Baldwin played both ways; Owen Marecic played both ways. Harbaugh loves to experiment, and when he finds a Football Player that guy tends to Play A Lot Of Football. Possibly the same dynamic here.

Because man does Michigan need something above and beyond Butt/Bunting/Hill/Shallman/Houma? And Pallante? And apparently Henry Poggi?

Possibly.BYkZYKoCIAEoN8H[1]

Is it possible Winovich is getting a legit look at tailback? I doubt it but it's not like Michigan's not looking for options there.

It seems clear that Michigan has a relatively set front seven with a lot of depth at three-tech and some at linebacker. So they're taking the opportunity to test out anyone who may be an effective manballer.

FWIW, Ian Bunting looks promising but could still use some more weight on his frame if he's going to be a true dual-threat at the TE spot. When asked to catch the ball he looks "terrific," with the kind of wingspan that will remind you of Funchess "plus a couple inches." Hands are reputed to be excellent. Sam cited him as a potential breakout player.

Sione Houma has been held out with an injury, FWIW.

Receiver Battle… somewhat Royale

Drake Harris exists! He is full go in practice after like two straight years of hamstring doom. Reports alternate between impressive play and extreme skinniness. I believe both; this year will likely be a learning/glaring at hamstring owlishly/getting bigger campaign for him. 247:

There's no doubt about one thing: Harris is going to have to gain some weight in the next six months if he wants to see the field this season. However, the early impressions of him are twofold. One, he's finally 100% healthy and is a full-go at wide receiver. Two, he's been very impressive off the edge and has been a favorite target for a couple of the quarterbacks in early drills.

Harris was kind of a big deal before his leg acted up on him, remember. He was a top-50 prospect who Michigan had to fend off Alabama for after a 2,000 yard junior season.

Other reports are so scattered it's tough to draw conclusions from them. There are a lot of receivers, there are a lot of reps, an observer can easily sink into confirmation bias. At various time's I've heard good things about Ways, Chesson, Norfleet, and Bunting. Darboh's been absent so far and Canteen may still be too small to get off jams; I wouldn't read a whole lot into the former since Darboh is a known quantity.

OL Somewhat Settled(?) Royale

There's significant rotation along the offensive line, as you might expect. Other than the returning starters the biggest threats for playing time are Patrick Kugler, David Dawson, and Logan Tuley-Tillman. Miller and Braden are the returning starters under the most threat.

It is impossible to tell anything about these guys yet, as this is the point in the year when they're at the greatest disadvantage. Having eight real options is excellent, at least.

Chris Fox is still injured. You may remember that he came in after suffering a severe knee injury in his senior year of high school, ballooned up into the 350 range, and hasn't been talked about much subsequently. At least early this spring he was still on crutches. We are rapidly approaching the point where a medical scholarship is the most likely outcome.

Spring Practice Presser 3-10-15: Jedd Fisch

Spring Practice Presser 3-10-15: Jedd Fisch

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on March 11th, 2015 at 1:32 PM

photo 1 (3)

“Everybody good? Yeah? Great. Who’s kicking us off?”

I’ll kick you off. It’s only been a couple of days but what have you seen out of your quarterbacks so far?

“Uh, well, right now we’re seeing progress. That’s, I think, the first thing we’re looking for is how they’ve picked up what we’ve asked them to do. We’ve seen them now- this is what, practice four? But it’s been 16 hours on the field so we’ve had a lot of repetitions and we’ve been able to do a ton of drill work with them and been able to watch them kind of pick up the system the best they can at this point. I think there’s some really good progress in terms of command at the line of scrimmage. I think there’s good progress in terms of understanding the offense. Now it’s a matter of slowing the game down for them, and that’s what our next step is.”

How do you slow it down?

“I would say that slowing it down comes from knowledge, number one. Number two, it comes from experience, and then three, it comes from some form of comfort level. Right now their knowledge in terms of what we’re asking them to do is still growing and it’s kind of not where we want it to be yet in terms of you’d love to always fast forward the process but right now the process is what it is. In terms of experience they have none in the system and the really don’t have much college football playing experience, but with us they’ve had four days of experience. And finally, as we continue to go through this process and give them opportunities I think we’ll see them continue to develop every day and that will slow the game down for them.”

You mentioned progress. How long of a road do they have to get where you want them to go?

“I think that we’re certainly in a situation where we don’t play for a while, so that’s good. We’ve got 11 more practices, so that’s really good, and then we’ve got a big summer where they can really grind themselves. I’m a huge believer in that philosophy of players coaching players. I think that it’s huge during this time of the summer when we’re not with them that they can really take what we’ve kind of coached them on and then help each other and really continue to develop one another. And then finally we have training camp and we have all of camp to get ready for opening day. So they’ve got some time and we’re going to use all of it, every second we can, to try and help them improve and be comfortable and then be able to go out there and put us in the best possible position to succeed.”

What are the differences you see in the three scholarship guys?

“Well, they certainly do have different skill sets. Wilton is a very large man He’s a big guy and he can see everything. He’s a pretty good athlete. Throws the ball well. He doesn’t seem to have had a ton of experience. I know Shane probably took more reps last year, I would guess, because he was probably the 2. I know he went in one game, two games, whatever and then played the year before also so he’s probably had some more practice reps than Wilt has but Wilt makes a lot of nice throws and is a good sized kid.

“Shane has a very strong arm, which everybody knows. He spins it well. He just has to understand that’s really not the most important thing. If you have a really strong arm you have a really strong arm. That’s what you have. So now it’s a matter of what can you do with it? How do you utilize it? So his skill set, you know, his arm strength is tremendous and he has really good- he’s very comfortable as a quarterback, so that’s fun to watch him in the huddle. He has really good command of what we’re asking him to do and Alex- Alex should be a senior in high school right now.

“I know my senior spring I wasn’t in college, so I know that he’s got a lot going on and he has handled it unbelievably well. He is like- he’s unbelievable in terms of his ability to not let things bother him, to be consistent, and to jump right back in and play the game. If a play doesn’t go right he’s right back in [and] ready for the next one. Short-term memory is phenomenal for a quarterback.”

[After THE JUMP: more honesty]

The Invention Of Voting

The Invention Of Voting

Submitted by Brian on November 3rd, 2014 at 10:31 AM

11/1/2014 – Michigan 34, Indiana 10 – 4-5, 2-3 Big Ten

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This happened. The end. [Eric Upchurch]

Sometimes there's a game that does not have anything to say about it. This was that game. Michigan won 34-10, the same score they beat Miami (Not That Miami) by, and it felt a lot like a replay of that throwaway nonconference game.

The opposing offense wasn't going anywhere unless Michigan busted something. Michigan's running game alternated between frustrating lack of holes and lanes so open you could drive a truck through. The defensive backs could have spent the entire afternoon reading The Economist and sipping Kermit tea and nothing would have changed. Indiana had eight attempts. This game was almost literally none of their business.

Michigan thudded out to a 17-0 lead with the help of a couple fumbles that somehow benched Tevin Coleman, and then the game was over. Indiana turned a Gardner interception that ended up inside the Michigan ten into a doinked field goal. Thereupon a giant pig descended from the sky to proclaim the game state.

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Brady Hoke knew it, so he ran the ball a couple times to end the first half instead of attempting to score.

I knew it, so I wasn't even a tiny bit peeved by that. Devin Gardner had just demonstrated the only way Indiana was going to get back in the game by not quite giftwrapping a pick six. Just before that Gardner had not quite giftwrapped another pick six. Michigan could have run the ball on every remaining down and won, and it was cold and I have to UFR these things. Run that clock down. Fine by me.

Everyone in the crowd knew it, so an awful lot of them left at halftime.

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Non-student areas weren't a whole lot better. [Bryan Fuller]

At this point I'm not blaming anyone. It was cold, Michigan is playing for a berth in the kind of bowl where the gift bags include broken Swatches from 1985, and the game was already decided. I stayed because I write these columns and your soapbox is a little higher if you stayed like a True Fan™. I am enjoying the extra centimeter right now. Mighty fine view it's providing.

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

The game being what it was, about the only thing of interest over the weekend was a smattering of pissy comments from current and former players.

Desmond Howard decried Michigan's "mob mentality" on Gameday. Taylor Lewan called the Daily's Alejandro Zuniga a "moron" after Zuniga's appearance on BTN. Drew Dileo used air quotes around 'loyal' en route to stating that Dave Brandon and Brady Hoke weren't the problem—causing responders to respectfully ask what, then, the problem might be. Elliot Mealer referred to "the muggles that attend the University of Michigan" suddenly knowing something about the athletic department. Shane Morris provided a shout-out to the few students that made it to the end of the game and helpfully informed the ones who didn't that Michigan won.

It's like they went to bed and universal suffrage happened overnight.

INT. HOUSE OF COMMONS

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A raucous scene, as a bill has just come up for vote. Enter AN ASSORTMENT OF LORDS.

EARL OF MEALER

Good heavens, what are they doing?

HOWARD, DUKE OF HEISMAN

They seem to be voicing their opinions.

MARQUIS DI LEO

What-ever for?

EARL OF MEALER

Say, you, boy: what is all this ruckus?

ZEID EL-KILANI

The bill of attainder is up for vote; these are
final arguments before a decision is made.
Also, I don't think 'boy' is the preferred nomenclature.

HOWARD, DUKE OF HEISMAN

You have the vote? What nonsense!

MARQUIS DI LEO

/frantically dips snuff

EARL OF MEALER

Disaster! Woe! Surely we will topple like saplings in a typhoon!

HOWARD, DUKE OF HEISMAN

How long has… this been going on?

ZEID EL-KILANI

Approximately 600 years?

MARQUIS DI LEO

/faints

HOWARD, DUKE OF HEISMAN

WHY WEREN'T WE TOLD?!

ZEID EL-KILANI

We assumed you knew.

EARL OF MEALER

Our doom is at hand! Flee! I'll die on the squash courts if I can make it!

/exit MEALER, HOWARD

MARQUIS DI LEO

/regains consciousness

COMMONS MEMBER

Aye!

MARQUIS DI LEO

/faints again

Michigan fans always had the vote; never before had they been pressed so hard as to think about using it. When there's an epic wait list you can find another team and the edifice doesn't notice. Not so much anymore.

The ironic thing about all of this is it's actually the students—sorry, "muggles"—leading the way towards positive change. Brandon implements the worst possible version of general admission; Mike Proppe's CSG negotiates a more sensible arrangement that provides better seats to better fans. Brandon blames the new policy for the drop in attendance instead of prices; Bobby Dishell's CSG negotiates a 40% slashing of ticket prices. El-Kilani's petition laid out the case against Brandon concisely and far more authoritatively than any defenses mounted by the House of Lords, which generally amount to "nuh-uh, you don't know."

It is true that we don't know the face Brandon showed to the student-athletes. I do know that one day he got in front of his department and quizzed them as to who their customers were. The answer: "student-athletes." So he probably acted like a human to them.

That's not enough when he is a six-foot phallus to everyone else. You just don't know that unless you're outside the program, looking at a 150-dollar ticket that you could have had for 20 bucks, watching grim quasi-football that means nothing in the freezing cold. Bon Jovi is playing, for some reason.

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

Here's the thing. This is a large group of people. Every large group of people is basically a bell curve. Michigan has pushed the prices up to the point where they're going to hit the downside of that bell curve without serious change.

That's a disaster that cannot be allowed to happen. Maybe it won't be for the people in the program right now, or the people who have been through it. It is one for the people who are thinking about 30 years from now, who are thinking about what it's going to be like for their kids.

Michigan, the program, can do little to change the group of people. They will remain the same people. They can only change themselves to fit the people. Step one is firing the coach, because the crushing blow to season ticket sales that results from his retention is unacceptable. Also he is not good at coaching.

Step two is not being dicks to people outside the program. I know y'all learned it from Brandon. Unlearn it. The next AD is going to be just as fantastic to increasingly pampered student-athletes without being loathed by everyone else on the planet. The Al Bundy patrol talking down to a fanbase on the edge of deserting in droves is hilariously out of touch. Michigan revenue vs Michigan performance. QED.

It's time to stop interpreting "The Team The Team The Team" as a moat between 115 players and 113,000 fans. 

[After THE JUMP: hawt babes, and why are you trying to be a fey English twit]

Upon Further Review 2014: Offense vs Minnesota

Upon Further Review 2014: Offense vs Minnesota

Submitted by Brian on October 23rd, 2014 at 3:40 PM

FORMATION NOTES: I didn't find anything particularly unusual from Michigan but I need something visual so here's a gopher annoying a rich incompetent person.

SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Aside from Morris, the usual. Magnuson was out for this FWIW, and Green was still available.

[After THE JUMP: nothing you want to see.]

Unverified Voracity Catalogues Vitriol

Unverified Voracity Catalogues Vitriol

Submitted by Brian on October 2nd, 2014 at 11:11 AM

Kind of a big deal. As of 9 PM Wednesday, this was SI's college football front page:

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That is the lead story—a scathing roundtable from three of SI's main CFB writers—and six of the eleven top stories on the sidebar either about the Morris incident or tangential concerns (the OSU attendance thing).

Excerpts from that lead article:

STAPLES: Did Brandon throw Hoke under the bus, run him over, back up and run him over again? Or did he run him over three times? …

RICKMAN: Everyone in a position of power here is most concerned with protecting themselves, so they're passing blame around. "I didn't see it." "We didn't have enough evidence." Hoke's trying to keep his job. Brandon's trying to keep his job. At the crux of it, this is a person we're talking about. A kid who has his whole life ahead of him. And the best we can get out of an athletic department at one of the most prestigious football programs in the country is, "We should have done better." 

This is awful on all levels. …

SCHNELL: I’m not going to accuse a coach of knowingly putting a player in danger, but I will say this: People in charge do some desperate things when they think they’re close to losing their jobs. As for Brandon’s role, it’s his athletic department, and the buck stops with him. If he’s going to take responsibility, ultimately, then he needs to hold a press conference and allow questions, not email out a few paragraphs long after most people have gone to sleep. That’s a coward’s way out.

I was not kidding about "scathing."

Speaking of scathing. Stewart Mandel:

I was pretty surprised to wake up Monday morning and find that Brady Hoke hasn't been fired yet. The poor performances are bad enough, but the disregard (and flimsy excuses) for player safety should've been grounds for immediate dismissal. Is there any good reason for having him finish the season? The only thing I can think of is recruiting, but come on. Everyone in the nation knows he's gone after this year.

-- William Daniels, Mt. Morris, Michigan

Well then I can only imagine how surprised you were to wake up Tuesday morning and find out that Shane Morriswas diagnosed with a concussion on Sunday but no one thought to inform the head coach by the following day.

The Morris situation has provided a mind-numbing window into the level of dysfunction within the Michigan athletic department. Hoke’s days were already numbered due to the program’s on-field deterioration into a poster for offensive ineptitude. The only way Hoke’s team is going to a bowl game this year is if there aren’t enough eligible 6-6 teams. The Morris story only intensified the level of outrage surrounding Hoke.

Mandel goes on to say the stuff about 5-0 and we're defending the guy, and I mean… come on. If this happens to a successful coach it is a strike but not one that dooms a regime, and a sizeable majority of the anger in the Michigan fanbase right now is directed at the athletic director for the ham-handed mismanagement everyone is citing.

Additionally in scathing. They asked Don Canham's widow what she thought:

“I just think it’s gone way overboard with the crazy music and Beyonce and Eminem and that sort of thing,” Canham-Keeley said. “I guess he’s trying to cater to the students but it’s obviously not working. For me the pageantry of the football game is the band coming out on the field and the tradition of the drum major.”

“I’ve narrowed it down to fireworks, flyovers and empty seats,” she said.

“To me it’s become a circus, and that’s not what it should be. I’m born and raised in Ann Arbor. I grew up with Michigan football. That’s not—to me—Michigan football.”

She goes into the Beyonce/Eminem stuff and you're like "oh she's just old" and then she immediately cuts to how the students aren't buying it and you're like that's a fantastic point I forgot you were Don Friggin' Canham's wife.

Yet more in scathing. USA Today's Christine Brennan calls for firing everybody:

…at a Monday news conference, Hoke said Morris did not suffer a concussion. He also said that he and Brandon hadn't discussed it.

But, after midnight early Tuesday morning, Brandon released a statement in which he said that Morris had indeed suffered a "probable, mild concussion," whatever that is.

Brandon also said that he had met with "those who were directly involved" since Sunday, which clearly would include Hoke, who of course said he hadn't talked to Brandon about it.

So the two are either not telling the truth or simply incompetent. Or perhaps both.

Not in scathing. Denard Robinson spoke up for Brady Hoke's character, as did Jordan Kovacs and Elliot Mealer. Former kicker Jay Feely defended Brandon… by attacking the students as whiners.

For Students complaining about $295 season ticket prices, that's about 1/3 price of NFL tickets ... Even bad NFL teams w/ no tradition

They're not just complaining. They're not going. Yelling at them about that doesn't fix the problem. The customer is always right, right? You wanted customers. Now you've got 'em.

The oracle speaks. Detroit media jihadist Jeff Moss likes to get on Wojo for not having strong takes, but the more reasonable you are the more people pay attention to you when you come down from the mountain and say NOPE. Wojo has done so:

Brady Hoke's fate was sealed before Shane Morris wobbled on the field, before the clumsy statements and misstatements, before every media outlet in America leapt on a juicy controversy complete with compelling video.

This is on athletic director Dave Brandon now, and if Hoke should be fired, likely after the season, Brandon should be, too.

That speaks volumes.

Meta-protest. I would like to protest this from Wojo's article, though.

A few hundred fans actually marched onto the lawn of Schlissel's campus house Tuesday night chanting for Brandon's dismissal. There's a mob outrage to this, which is uncomfortable.

It's not a mob until it does something unreasonable. About a thousand people peaceably assembled, talked/shouted at each other, and then dispersed. They wanted to make a point the only way they could, and did.

Actually being there was fun. One guy nearby exclaimed "this is so much better than a home game," and I don't know that he was saying that just because he wasn't watching a football team get its jibblies kicked in at the time. Once a random hero decided to start us all in the direction of the president's house there was more passion on display than these students get to express when Michigan's blasting music at them during every lull.

After, a clearly skeptical media guy came up to me and asked me some nasty questions—"do you think this stunt will hurt Brandon's ability to hire a new coach?" was his leadoff. I was taken aback by "stunt." A stunt is something an organization does for attention. This was the opposite, a movement so grass roots it was literally unorganized.

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We want our athletic department back. If it's a mob it's got the most articulated complaints of any mob in history.

Also that guy with a megaphone takes a badass picture. Apparently he's a public policy senior:

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Just lookin' at that dude like that is more leadership than Brandon's shown this week. #ThisGuy4AD

I LIKE DAN DAKICH. He had me on his show yesterday after I tweeted something jerky out in frustration at things Mike and Mike and Colin Cowherd were saying, and I appreciate the opportunity for a half hour segment, which you can find here. A couple of clarifications and omissions:

  1. Dakich thought some of my other examples of Brandon errors were petty, and they were, but that was the point. The things the hypersensitive Michigan fans have been complaining about for the duration of his tenure have come home to roost in a major way. This is how they handle everything, and there's no reason to expect they'll change.
  2. I don't think I said the Dakich-Burke combo was creepy. I said I was "off to patent a system that turns all color commentary into Dan Dakich hitting on Doris Burke" once; a podcast demanded that "this happens over and over again. GET A ROOM! ON MY TELEVISION!" And I think that's it. For the record, she was totally into him.
  3. Apparently my level was quite a bit lower than Dakich, so when we talked over each other it was just him. Our conversation felt a lot more even to me on the phone; I thought it was a good back and forth—I've had radio appearances that I thought were unfair (cough **ALBOM** cough); this was not one of them.
  4. Dakich really is my favorite color guy other than maybe Jay Bilas right now. The reasons he's good at color can make him come off as abrasive, but I'll take that a thousand times over PRIME TIME PLAYER BAYBEEE blather. I mean, there was one time Michigan was playing K-State where Dakich called one of their post guys out for never passing the ball and he never passed the ball. Every time he got a touch we were on the edge of our seat. That's adding to a broadcast.
  5. I didn't much like the part of the interview that slid into the Guys Like Me From Gary Who Are Adults versus You Guys On The Internet Who Are Beta Males. I have a mortgage, man, and 2005-era blogger cracks are so dated.

Anyway, if he's interested I'll gladly go on any time.

Well… that's not good. Bill Connelly's updated projections foresee this:

  • 8-4 or better: 2.1%
  • Bowl eligible: 35%
  • 4-8 or worse: 33%

Michigan is expected to go 5-7 when all possibilities are jammed together.

And half of this is based on the system that was ranking Michigan 19th before last weekend. It's possible that this is a little grim since we'll probably play Gardner the rest of the way but with Utah losing to WSU it's not like we can even claim the Utes are much good.

Upshot: buy a helmet, and put it on top of your existing helmet. Then dig a bunker under your bunker.

SIDE NOTE: The chance the West winner is 4-4 has dropped to 0.1%. Dagnabit.

Offensive line starts are not particularly indicative, unless you don't have any. Buried in a random Barking Carnival post:

While O-line starts does correlate with stronger offensive performance, it’s not everything. Ohio State is the only team with fewer than 30 O-line starts performing above-average, but they’re well above average, and you don’t have to go much higher before the scatterplot becomes a field of white noise and the trendline levels out.

That said, this chart doesn’t take into account that we’re on a new offensive system and we’ve lost our QB, so the fact that we’re not too far below the trendline for our number of O-line starts is an optimistic takeaway. But honestly it’s not much to hang one’s hat on. If we start playing better, it won’t be just because the players are getting more experience – it’ll be because they’re getting more experience in an effective offensive system.

(Horizontal axis: number of O-line starts at the beginning of the year (Texas is adjusted for current personnel); vertical axis: offensive S&P; and I’m using a power law trendline, to reflect that the difference between 0 & 30 starts should be more impactful than the difference between 90 & 120)

Looks like you're good or not good and OL starts are a very minor factor, what with the random scatter of the plot.

Etc.: The MZone has come back with what's undoubtedly the creepiest post I've ever featured in. Hypothetical AD Rich Rodriguez would have handled this better than Brandon did. I am dead serious about this.

This made Inside Higher Ed, which… okay. Are we in Cat Fancy? I think that's the last outlet that hasn't covered this.

Monday Presser 9-29-14: Doug Nussmeier

Monday Presser 9-29-14: Doug Nussmeier

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on September 30th, 2014 at 8:53 AM

nuss 9-15

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In hindsight, and this has nothing to do with an injury, should Devin Gardner have played earlier in the game on Saturday based on how Shane was playing?

“No.”

And why not?

“Well, I think you’ve got to give a guy an opportunity to play. Shane prepared very well. We talked about it for several weeks, you know, his preparation leading up to the game. He deserved that opportunity to play and we were going to let him play.”

 

Doug, what was your perspective on the Shane Morris hit that’s kind of been a question after he had the hit to the head? It looked like you kind of saw him struggling on the field. What were you saying to him and what was your take on this?

“Well, I didn’t see the hit. You can’t see- everything was lost in the field of play and the guys upstairs, you know, it was third down and it was an incompletion so I was thinking- well, they say, ‘We got a roughing penalty. We’re up.’ And I’m like, ‘Okay.’ So the first thing is okay, what are we doing now? It’s first-and-10 from a playcaller’s standpoint, and then I look up and I see Shane limping. ‘Are you okay? Are you okay?’ and he waved me off, [saying] ‘I’m fine.’ Okay. I didn’t know at that extent what had happened, really. You don’t really know because you couldn’t see from our vision on the field and Shane’s a tough, tough guy, man.”

Did you talk to him when he came off the field, and what was sort of his state of mind and clarity at that point?

“I don’t really recall having a conversation other than ‘Are you okay?’ and then you’ve got the flow of the game and everything else that was going on.”

 

Coach, is it going to be difficult for either quarterback or whatever quarterback you have in there until this offensive takes a few more steps forward in terms of pass protection and things like that?

“We’re all disappointed in our performance. We needed to perform better. We needed to play better. We needed to coach better. That’s across the board, not one position. Like I said, we’ve got to coach better and we’ve got to play better. We’ve got a lot of work to do, obviously. The only thing we can do is go back to the practice field. We went and put some pads on yesterday and worked on some things, worked on some fundamental things to try and get better at every position.”

 

Do you know who will be the starter next weekend?

“We’ll go through the week and we’ll evaluate it.”

Is it a question of- if Shane were 100% and nothing had happened injury-wise would that still be the case this week, or…?

“We’re going to challenge and compete at every position, like we say every week and see where we’re at and evaluate every guy. We’ve talked about it numerous times, [we] want to create competition at every position. Both Shane and Devin have done some really good things and we look forward to watching them compete and allow each other to be pushed and get better.”

With how, from our perspective- with how long it took for the final decision to made going into last week’s game…first of all, when was that decision made that Shane was going to be the starter?

“Well, I don’t think that when that decision’s made is really relevant. What’s relevant is that our players are pushing each other every day to get better and that we’re putting the best players at each position out there every Saturday.”

[More on Shane Morris and the hit after THE JUMP]