Gary details. Rashan Gary's mom decided to put all the cards on the table in re: Gary's injury. Executive summary: he got hurt before Notre Dame, aggravated it by falling on the shoulder in the Northwestern game, and was told that he needed 4-6 weeks for the injury to heal. Penn State is 5 weeks, Rutgers 6. He is not pulling a Bosa. The end.
A terrifying glimpse inside the program. Stephen Spanellis reveals Ben Herbert's mantra:
“I had never been to Michigan State before, and their campus was awful – it’s trash,” Poole said. “It was just dry.
There's actually a giant, interesting thread on the RCMB about this very thing dating back a couple years. Folks are openly envious of Ann Arbor's ability to put up new buildings, which… hoo boy, that says something about East Lansing NIMBYs.
Okay, here's a hype video. Needs more Metellus skipping but otherwise I will allow it.
Metellus grade. Michigan's safeties are one of only two spots on the defense that seem even a little permeable—DT is the other—but even there Michigan has a guy grading out very well per PFF:
S Josh Metellus, 76.7 Overall Grade
While coverage metrics aren’t typically the best to look at when discussing safety play, Metellus’ play in coverage is certainly deserving of highlighting here. He holds an absurd 5.7 passer rating allowed to opposing receivers, which leads all defensive backs with at least 135 snaps in coverage. He has not allowed a single touchdown this season to go with three interceptions and is allowing just 31.6% of passes thrown his way to be hauled in. In coverage from the slot, he’s allowed just a 13.8 passer rating and has two of his three picks.
That rating has to be giving Metellus credit for all his INTs like he was in coverage on those throws. He was not on two, which were deflected by David Long and Lawrence Marshall. So don't focus on the passer rating, focus on the grade, which is All Big Ten-level.
Into the maelstrom of crippled quarterbacks and generalized flailing steps CESAR RUIZ [recruiting profile], the best center prospect to hit college football in a decade. Last year's preview:
Ruiz dominated his opposition at the Opening ("looked like a total star… dominant … only lost a couple reps the entire weekend") and the UA game (“shined … displayed impressive extension and solid power"), enrolled early, and started generating college-level hype soon thereafter.
This is in part because Ruiz played at IMG, the Florida all-sports academy that sucks in a full team of D-I recruits annually. His transfer there allowed him to play center when most D-I prospects of any variety get thrown out to tackle for obvious reasons, and this was a very good idea:
…he’s made to play center. I don’t remember the kid ever having a bad snap. … He’s got the right mentality and the perfect personality for the position. … He’s a real student of the game and then he has the physical skills to go with it. … He’s been making line calls and he can really step and snap. … Most guys we bring in we try to cross train them as guard-centers but we didn’t really do it much with him because he was just the ultimate center and we knew he’d be there.
Michigan probably would have been better off just rolling with him from the drop but college coaches be college coaches and he started the year on the bench. When Onwenu got hurt before the Minnesota game, he entered the starting lineup. He exited it mid-game after a comically freshman moment that resulted in yet another thunder-sack of a Michigan quarterback—okay maybe college coaches know something—but returned the game after and locked down the spot for the rest of the year. Even in that first Minnesota game it was clear he was going to be a dude:
Ruiz is already a mauler. There was little difference between him and Onwenu. The big obvious bad thing was big, obvious, and bad, but aside from that he ejected people. Excellent sign for Ruiz's presumed ascension to the starting C job next year.
Ruiz is a player. Like... now. Another excellent day from him, this time without a QB destruction that's his fault. Onwenu's obviously earned the right to his starting job but I don't think center is going to be a problem next year.
Those two starts featured +7 and +8.5 UFR days with one negative run grade of any description. Post-Minnesota:
How was our first extended look at Cesar Ruiz?
... he was whoopin' up on people. His kickout blocks were usually huge. Here he pulls to a DE and that guy reacts like he's a defensive back trying to hold up:
#51 RG pulling
I usually give relevant kickouts a half point because they're often a mutual agreement between offense and defense that the ball will go in a gap. Something that big is a full point because on certain runs that extra room is going to be worth yards. Not so much in this game, because everything was going further inside. But sometimes. Ruiz was consistently moving whoever he impacted.
This was more relevant on the Evans bounce play. He gets surprised as the guy he's pulling to is trying to dive inside him instead of accepting a kickout; his ability to stall and then drive that guy saves Evans a critical yard or two on his bend to the outside and helps give him the corner:
#51 RG pulling
Poor damn safety #8.
That couldn't and didn't last, as Ruiz got a harsh wake-up call against Wisconsin and TJ Edwards in particular. Twice Ruiz pulled to find Edwards his target, and twice Edwards knifed past him for a run stuff:
That'll happen when you're a freshman who may have been spending a lot of time at center and not pulling to All-American linebackers.
When not getting a harsh lesson from Edwards or getting Peters thunder-sacked that one time, Ruiz was excellent. Everything about his recruiting profile and first year in the program points to stardom. Immediate stardom.
In addition to his upside as a person who moves other persons, Ruiz promises to help fix Michigan massive organizational issues. Michigan's pass protection was borked all year by not knowing what to do. The ground game was up and down but always prone to plays I threw my hands up at because it seemed like half the line was running one thing and half the line something else. A fuller take on these issues and how they get repaired is in the upcoming offensive overview post. For Ruiz purposes it's sufficient to note that these are words being said about a true sophmore center:
“How it was last year, it’s like, no matter what, if he comes, you gotta block him,” Evans explained. “Now Cesar’s in there and he can adjust it and you can go at it like that."
That says volumes.
[After THE JUMP: redshirts! And probably All Big Ten sorts?]
this bullet mentions Charles Matthews and Nick Ward [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
Implications of exclusion. Charles Matthews was not invited to the NBA draft combine, and MLive's Kyle Austin has some data on what that means:
In the two NBA drafts since 2016, when college players were first allowed to return to school after declaring, 254 college players have declared early. Of them, the majority (157) didn't receive a combine invite.
Most prospects in that situation opt to return to school -- a total of 130 players have withdrawn from the draft in the last two years. But 47 of those players have opted stayed in the draft despite no combine invitation. None of those 47 players were drafted.
Many of the 47 who stayed in had reasons: they were going to be ineligible or were never going to be NBA players anyway and wanted to get on with overseas careers. (CC: Nick Ward?) A few have worked their way into the league after going undrafted, but it's a rough way to attempt to break in.
Another year of John Beilein Development™ is a better path to the league for Matthews, who clearly has NBA upside if he can just learn to shoot some.
WOULD BE NICE. Standard offseason new position coach articles do come with a little more oomph when the coach in question has the track record of Ed Warinner. Angelique Chengelis got a hell of a quote from Stephen Spanellis:
“It’s really amazing,” lineman Stephen Spanellis said during the team’s trip to Paris this past week. “Coach Warinner’s philosophy, he tells us that he doesn’t to start calculus before everybody can pass Algebra 1. I felt like before we would go straight to rocket science and try to cover everything possible in every meeting. And some guys can’t keep up and it doesn’t have value for a guy to sit in a meeting and they have no idea what’s going on fundamentally with normal plays like inside zone or power.
“So why not slow it down and learn all the basics before you progress? What makes it hard is our defense is so complex, that they break a lot of rules and you have to advance a little bit. But fundamentally, slowing it down a little bit has a lot of value especially for the younger guys who are still learning the offense. For example, James Hudson coming over from defense, it takes a long time to learn the offense in general. Why leave a guy like that at a disadvantage by making it too complicated?”
"No idea what's going on with normal plays" is unfortunately the story of every Michigan line since 2011, and the most depressing thing about last year was that disease following Michigan through a third head coach, and the one who should have been least susceptible to such a thing. But at least the ax fell.
It will not be another off year for Michigan in the NFL draft. The league's official site put out a list of 150 guys to watch for next year's draft, and Michigan players are liberally sprinkled throughout:
#3 Rashan Gary: "A big man with linebacker-like movement skills"
#10(!) Devin Bush: "the new prototype for linebacker in college and the NFL -- not necessarily big, but fast and aggressive."
#25 Shea Patterson: "shows off great escapability on the run and an ability to move the ball through the air."
#47 Chase Winovich: "can rush from a two- or three-point stance. He can also be effective bringing pressure from the interior."
#65 Karan Higdon: "clearly superior to Ohio State's Mike Weber."
#76 Khaleke Hudson
#112 Lavert Hill
David Long's continued absence from these lists is baffling.
Per Zach Shaw, Michigan has the fourth-most players on the list, behind Clemson, Alabama, and OSU. A couple of OSU's are a little… uh… speculative. JK Dobbins, who isn't eligible for the upcoming draft, is there. So is Dwayne Haskins, who hasn't started a game yet.
On Mo Hurst in the NFL. Hurst dropped to the fifth round because of his heart issue, and the Raiders picking him prompted a bunch of criticism from everyone's favorite, the Anonymous NFL Insider. A former NFL team doctor reps his bros in response:
I actually think it is not only unfair and inaccurate but also irresponsible for a scout to characterize the drafting as "irresponsible." There is no way for a non-medical person to know.
As an orthopedic surgeon and physician, even I would rely on my primary care doctor and cardiology consultants to weigh in.
I do not see how a personnel person can make this proclamation. This opinion should carry the same weight as a team physician publicly criticizing Baker Mayfield as not worthy of the first pick in the draft.
I also don't know what's going on with Hurst's heart; hopefully everything works out for him.
Apparent hockey exit. The USHL's various drafts are ongoing—I won't bother you with the details—but since one weird hockey thing is that transfers will often return to the USHL for their NCAA mandated sit-out year, you occasionally get roster news. Roster news:
Wisconsin's JD Greenway selected 7th by Chicago; Michigan's James Sanchez selected 8th by Dubuque. A good indication that both are leaving their respective programs to return to juniors.
Sanchez had 8 points in 27 games last year after playing in 34 as a freshman; he was stuck on the fourth line and probably had a talk about whether that was ever going to change.
Also in USHL draft news, highly touted 2020 commit Owen Power went 7th overall to Chicago in a different USHL draft—yes there are like seven different ways to get in this league—after being an early second-round pick in the OHL draft. That's a good sign for this edition of Michigan's never-ending blood war with the OHL.
Fellow touted 2020 commit Cole Perfetti went in the third round, also to Chicago. He went fifth overall in the OHL draft and will either be traded to a different OHL team for a bushel of picks in August or September and report or stick with his commitment. Due to yet more details about junior hockey that you don't need to know*, a high OHL draft selection is not necessarily the kiss of death. As Antonio Stranges demonstrated, it's more about location than draft slot.
*[OK, fine: Saginaw has a nearly full roster this year with or without Perfetti and will get a compensatory pick one slot lower than Perfetti's #5 selection next year if he doesn't report and is declared "defective."]
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Things we would have wanted to see if there was a spring game but there isn't so let's all imagine
Imagine a version of McCaffrey that had soft tissue on it. [Chris Cook]
More specifically, Shea Patterson making some big plays, especially outside the pocket, and Peters/McCaffrey making fewer derpy mistakes.
Seth: I was really looking forward to seeing Shea Patterson doing things that fit the meter of Weapon of Choice.
Ace: …but going to class.
BiSB: I wanted to see Joe Milton throw a ball over those mountains.
Ace: His warmups would be a show. The game itself: possibly a different kind of show.
BiSB: But seriously, it would have been a first look at Milton, nearly a first look at McCaffrey, and a first Harbaugh Offense look at Patterson. There would have been a lot of mental YMRMFSPA recalibration based on this game.
Seth: The reports are all about Shea doing crazy athletic things. His first practice there was supposedly a 75-yard touchdown run that involved a footrace with Metellus, who is definitively not slow. And yeah, we still haven't seen McCaffrey, who's apparently thicc enough now that gravity has a fair shot against a strong gust of wind. I also was planning on watching to see which coach is talking to them between plays.
Ace: I assume Shea is doing a lot of stuff outside the offense because he doesn’t know the system that well yet, but that also could be critical based on… certain other position groups.
Seth: Yes might as well skip past position groups and go right to...
“Uh, I don’t know. It was kind of tough for me. Felt like I probably should have gotten the award, me or Chase [Winovich], but it happens. Can’t dwell on it now. It’s just the way things go sometimes.”
Were you expecting it?
“Uh…you know, kind of but…whatever.”
Do you ever think about not playing in the bowl game?
“A little bit. Still not really sure. Right now it’s just business as usual, practicing and all that type of stuff.”
So you haven’t made a decision?
“No, I haven’t.”
What’s going to go into that decision for you?
“Just, you know, speaking with my family, talking to Jake [Butt], talking to Chris [Wormley], some of the other guys that may have had a similar decision. Talking to coach Harbaugh—just trying to use all my resources to make sure that I make the best decision for myself and my family.”
[After THE JUMP: Hurst on his timeline and insurance, Karan Higdon: South Carolina fan, Kugler on next year’s O-line, and McCray on SEC speed and the 2018 defense]
Jim said this morning that Cesar [Ruiz] and Mike [Onwenu] might play together. How would that work?
“Well, you know Mike is working through some things, his back… gosh, there’s three more days of practice left so we’ll kind of see how it all shakes down and like every day, we’ll roll the balls out and see who the best guys are and the best guy for us to win. Could both share time. We’ll just see as we go. Still too early to tell.”
Even if Mike’s healthy, do you feel like Cesar’s one of your best five right now?
“Cesar does a nice job. His athleticism, his initial quickness, the way he can recover on a block. I mean, both of them bring great things to the party, but to say he’s one of the best five right now, that’s just a little too early to tell just because of where we are. He’s played two games. Did a nice job in there. There’s things that all of them need to work on, just as Cesar needs to work on some things, but he’s doing a good job.”
Enough to make you think about it, though?
“Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, you think about it. Every day you’re thinking about, hey, how can I change this lineup, how can I make it better? Every day is a day in here is—you want to make sure you’re working, that you’re unsettled. You don’t want to become content. Content becomes laziness, and that’s not a good thing, is it?”
Why are you looking at me?
“I’m not. My wife sometimes says that: ‘This isn’t the Marriott, pick up your stuff around here.’”
[After THE JUMP: scouting Wisconsin’s defense, why Drevno went back to coaching from the field, where Ruiz and Bredeson won’t play, and more evidence Drevno should always listen to his wife]
Tickets (just beer at the door): $10 suggested donation just to come hang out on your way to the game.
Watch/Afterparty: Your ticket for the tailgate also gets you a round at Wolverine Brewing. If you don’t have a ticket for The Game but want to come, you won’t be alone; there’s a Lyft pickup spot across the street so when people go into the game a handful of us (I’m still in the market) are gonna go back to Wolverine State Brewing to watch it together, and more are planning to come back there (and park there) after.
Scratch provided the BBQ at the season-opening event, if you were there. It's good.
FORMATION NOTES. Slightly less heavy this week with 14 3-WR snaps, some of them on standard downs. Most, actually. There were 12 two-WR snaps, 17 one-WR snaps, and 7 beef machine snaps, one of which was the beefiest: a 7-OL, 3 TE formation on which Poggi scored. BEHOLD THE MAJESTY.
I called this simply BEEF, since brevity is the heart of our goal here.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES. QB and OL were as expected. Per 24/7, Spanellis got ten snaps as a bonus OL and Runyan got two. Evans and Higdon got about 20 each, with Walker filling in for Higdon after his exit with 7 snaps. FB snaps were 2:1 Poggi.
DPJ and McDoom got the most run at WR, with Perry getting just 13 snaps coming off injury. Schoenle was at 12 and Ways 8. Gentry and McKeon continue to lead the way at TE; Bunting got 23 snaps, though, and Wheatley 12.
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FORMATION NOTES. Another jumbo day for the offense. I charted just seven snaps with 3 WRs, all of them passing downs. The closest thing to a 3-wide snap on a run down was second and twelve. Standard down offense was split about evenly between 2 WR snaps (20) and jumbo formations (18 1 WR snaps, 6 0 WR snaps, only two of which were short yardage).
If you're keeping score that means that Michigan has all but discarded the two major changes in the offense—inside zone focus and a bunch of NFL-style empty formations—to go full Harbaugh.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES. QB was Peters, obviously. OL was the usual except for Ruiz replacing Onwenu, and Runyan replacing Ruiz after Ruiz nearly got Peters killed on that one play. Ulizio got in for the last drive I charted, FWIW. Spanellis continued in his role as a sixth OL, getting maybe a dozen snaps.
RB was all Higdon and Evans with Isaac and Walker out; Samuels only got the Malzone drive at the end. Gentry and McKeon continued getting the large bulk of the TE snaps; Wheatley was out. Bunting did get 10-ish snaps. WR was mostly DPJ and Collins in single WR sets, with Schoenle and McDoom coming in for the rare 3-WR sets. Perry and Crawford were out.
"Chase dressed up as himself. So yeah, that probably doesn't surprise any of you guys," Hurst said on Monday, drawing laughs from a group of reporters inside Schembechler Hall.
I once printed out the word "BIRD" on a piece of paper and taped it to myself. For Halloween. Not on a regular Tuesday. Except that one time when I needed to be a bird. On a Tuesday.
Spanellis has words! Stephen Spanellis has been getting a significant amount of run as a bonus OL over the past two weeks, and now people are beginning to discover his vocabulary:
The story in question is offensive coordinator Tim Drevno's tale of perseverance. The story he told reporters earlier this season about his battle with an old outdoor water pump during his days as a groundskeeper in Montana more than 20 years ago.
The lesson: Keep pumping. Eventually, water's going to come.
"(Ben) Bredeson had seen (one of those pumps) before, he's more of a country boy than I am," Spanellis, a redshirt freshman guard said this week. "So, when Ben confirmed that they exist (I believed it).
"Though I have no personal empirical evidence that they do."
In addition to his strength, Spanellis’ intelligence has stood out. Last week, Harbaugh also called the sophomore one of the smartest players on the team.
“Football is a cerebral game,” Spanellis said. “You have to be very smart to understand offense and analyze defenses. I think it helps me out because when I go out there I know, generally speaking, what the look is — I don’t have to think about it — I just go out and I see what the front is and then I know exactly what to do.”
Spanellis has done well since emerging into the sixth OL; with Ruiz getting the start minus Onwenu Michigan looks to have a ton of interior linemen who can play now, and next year. About those tackles, though.
When Sarasota, a town in southwestern Florida, was rated America’s meanest city in 2006, Karan Higdon was just a nine-year-old kid who wore size nine-and-a-half shoes. He was a big kid, no doubt, who went to the Boys and Girls Club most days after school and sometimes met his friends for kickball outside in the neighborhood. He played Pee Wee football for the Port Charlotte Bandits, and even back then he was running over every tackler in his path.
Todd Johnson, though, spent that year with the Chicago Bears. Then in his late 20s, the professional defensive back was in his fourth season in the National Football League since getting drafted out of the University of Florida. After games, Johnson would pick up leftover football gloves and shoes from the Bears’ locker room to send back to Sarasota’s Riverview High School, his alma mater.
It was also the year Karan’s mother, Samantha Christian, decided the family should move out of Newtown. On the outskirts of Sarasota’s inner city, Newtown was a tight-knit community where everyone knew everyone, but it was also an area where you didn’t want to make a wrong turn.
Higdon, Johnson and Christian are just three characters in a bigger story of how one boy from Florida did what so many others couldn’t — get out. Higdon’s story is one of motivation, hard work and commitment. It’s a story about someone who made the right choices when others didn’t and stuck by them against adversity. It’s a story about a protagonist and a supporting cast that never left each other’s side.
This story begins in Sarasota.
Injury updates. Harbaugh was relatively optimistic about getting Grant Perry, Mike Onwenu, Ty Isaac, and Ty Wheatley back this weekend. All missed the Minnesota game. No update on Nico Collins, who went to the locker room late.
Happy birthday to the worst game ever. M00N was three years ago today.
I just went back to check the game column and it is titled "Infamy Is Immortality Too," which is extremely appropriate since we're mentioning a game from the Dead Hoke era on its third anniversary. Also:
When you bring up the M00N game to your buddy you will probably be making a point about the descent into unwatchable dreck that was the last two years of the mercifully short Hoke era.
I would like us to consider the disappointments from this year and compare them to those from 2014, and then sit quietly in contemplation.
“I think that would be very difficult to do,” said Alvarez, whose term with the committee expired in 2017. “There’s no part of me that says if you go undefeated as a Power 5 and win your conference championship, and you’re not going to be in the final four? I don’t see that. That would shock me.”
Well, Barry, you play in the Big Ten West, which is bad, and your nonconference schedule is three horrible teams. If, say, Georgia runs the table and loses to Alabama in the SEC Championship game, why shouldn't their win over Notre Dame be considered as much as Wisconsin's still-hypothetical win in the Big Ten championship game? "Undefeated" is a crap metric and it's good the committee has seen through Wisconsin's thin claim to being a top team this year.
Ranked No. 11 at the beginning of the season, the Michigan field hockey team has proven that ranking was far too low. The Wolverines rattled off 16 wins in a row with 13 shutouts to finish off their season. Then, Michigan dispatched Ohio State, No. 9 Northwestern and No. 5 Penn State to win the Big Ten Tournament, securing an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
They host Syracuse on Saturday in the opening round.
And soccer won its first-round game in the Big Ten tournament with a 4-1 win over Northwestern.
They move on to the semifinal versus five seed Wisconsin. For Reasons the semi is Somewhere In Indiana; it's noon on BTN with a potential final Sunday at noon.
Representation in the first round should continue. It will be a less spectacular draft for Michigan this year, but that's a good thing because they're only losing five starters. One will be a first rounder for certain: Mo Hurst. PFF has been raving about him about as long as I have and have not stopped. He's in the top ten of their first mock draft of the year:
The nation’s top-graded defensive player at 95.5 overall, Hurst is disruptive against the run and as a pass-rusher. He’s built in the mold of current Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, but it can’t hurt to have two disruptors up front, especially in the age of multiple defensive fronts and high subpackage usage. Hurst has been dominant in his 1,233 career snaps and an interior havoc-creator is coveted in today’s NFL.
Mason Cole, the only other guy who is vaguely in the mix as a first rounder, isn't listed. He's probably a second day pick.
More feathers for the camel. The NCAA is about to be shocked, shocked that the dude who took over for Calipari at Memphis has been accused of working with a bagman type guy, by the guy. The numbers here are not spectacular...
According to the school, Jackson accepted benefits totaling less than $525 while Okogie accepted benefits totaling less than $750. ...
But Bell insists they do not tell the full story.
He said he also spent "about $500" on groceries for the players when they stayed at his house from May 9-13, and he provided photo evidence of Okogie and Jackson in his swimming pool. The NCAA should also be considering, he said, a 220-mile roundtrip ride from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport to Bell's house in Tucson, which Bell said he provided for both players, as an impermissible benefit.
...but every little bit helps the general untenability of the NCAA's rules become more widely known.
Meanwhile this Bell guy is arguing that he's offered further impermissible benefits like he's looking to wring six more dollars out of his tax return, because he's mad at Pastner for whatever reason. Never piss off the bagman. Also never have a bagman who is a delicate flower.
Why would Bell turn on Pastner -- the man he once described as a brother, the man he many times said saved his life -- in such a vindictive and public way? Asked that question several times, Bell explained it in a variety of ways. He said he feels Pastner has failed to compensate him properly for the "work" he's done. He said Pastner didn't call him on his birthday this year, which is something he interpreted as disrespectful.
I have now added "will forget to call bagmen on their birthdays" to the infinitely long list of reasons why I would be a bad college basketball coach. It's just below "refuses to call timeouts on principle" and just above "does not know how to coach basketball."