This Week’s Obsession: Most Snakebit Player in Recent Memory

This Week’s Obsession: Most Snakebit Player in Recent Memory

Submitted by Seth on April 21st, 2016 at 12:44 PM


Melanie Maxwell/Ann

The Question:

What it says in the title duh. Note: other than Drake Johnson, who was obviously the inspiration for this.

The Responses:

Ace: Two years ago, it was hard to imagine Caris LeVert would make a list like this. After forcing John Beilein to burn his redshirt and contributing to the 2012-13 title game squad, he played an effective second banana to Nik Stauskas on a 2013-14 team that nearly made it back to the Final Four and set the (since surpassed) KenPom standard for offensive efficiency. The blueprint was there for LeVert to step into Stauskas’ role as a junior, play at or near an All-American level, lead a deep tourney run, and then face a difficult decision about whether to turn pro early.

Lucy will let him get back on the court next time, Charlie Brown. [Bryan Fuller]

Instead, Michigan struggled out of the gate in 2014-15, suffering a few humiliating defeats as the team failed to gel around LeVert, who struggled to maintain his sophomore-year efficiency. As Michigan survived a last-second, game-tying attempt by Northwestern at Crisler in mid-January, LeVert went down clutching his foot while the rest of the team celebrated. On a seemingly innocuous play, he’d suffered a season-ending injury; without him, Michigan missed the postseason, and LeVert returned to try it again his senior year.

LeVert looked fantastic, putting up All-American-level numbers as the team’s centerpiece, and Michigan made it through non-conference play with a quality win over Texas and no bad losses. LeVert was poised to lead his team to a decent NCAA seed while cementing his standing as a first-round NBA prospect. Then, in the waning moments of the conference opener at Illinois, it happened again: LeVert stepped on a defender’s foot, rolled his ankle, and came up limping.

[Continue at THE JUMP even though you don’t want to, because you know you should, even if it’s painful. If you make it to the end there are 24 minutes of Denard highlights]

Hokepoints: Safety Spring Nits

Hokepoints: Safety Spring Nits

Submitted by Seth on April 23rd, 2013 at 11:03 AM


One of these is Jamar Adams, the other Jarrod Wilson (by Fuller)

Here's a little tradition from around these parts that you're not happy to bring back: who's going to be the new safety starter? Yeah, remember that conversation? Remember how it went around picking up all the we-hope-he's-at-least-an-Englemons out of Gibson'ed secondaries?

The best of all that. This last bout of hand wringing finally ended with the best safety tandem we've had in the Cover-2 era. In their two years together Kovacs and Gordon were the first capable pair since Brandent and Jamar, easily the best since Marlin and Ernest, and probably ranked higher than any since Marcus and Tommy or earlier. We can actually chart the stuff since '07, thanks to Brian's Upon Further Review charts (which total up the plusses and minuses accrued in each game into a rough net contribution stat). I've got my UFR database now updated that far (any further and the knowledge isn't really there to make it relevant or comparable). Remember this is a game-by-game exercise that wasn't meant to remain standard across the ages; that said the Chart?-Chart! chart totals for Michigan safeties in these six seasons very much fit your recollections:

Player 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 Career
Brandent Englemon 12 +12
Jamar Adams 9 +9
Charles Stewart -15   -15
Brandon Harrison 1.5   +1.5
Artis Chambers -1 -1
Stevie Brown -9 -7 -16
Michael Williams 2.5 -26.5 -24
Troy Woolfolk -10.5 0 -10.5
Jared Van Slyke         0   0
Brandon Smith -3.5 -3.5
Jordan Kovacs -7 -4.5 37 11 +36.5
Vladimir Emilien     0       0
Cam Gordon -26.5 -26.5
Thomas Gordon 17.5 24 +41.5
Carvin Johnson   -7.5 -7.5
Josh Furman -2 -2
Ray Vinopal -3.5 -3.5
Marvin Robinson   0 -9 0.5 -8.5
Jarrod Wilson -2 -2
Total 12 -19 -47.5 -34.5 38 31.5 -19.5

Chart notes: maize is positive, blue negative so that can stand out more. Time spent at the Spur in the 3-3-5 years was counted as linebacker, likewise Brandon Harrison's 2007 at nickel, which was a starting position on the English defenses. I tried to separate Woolfolk's corner games from his safety games; for the record here's the breakdown for 2009:

Position Gm + - Tot
Safety 5 3.5 14 -10.5
Cornerback 5 4 8.5 -4.5

…when he was obviously a better corner than a safety but as you can see from above, was needed more at the latter.

Still the totals at the bottom tell a story of a moderately positive '07 (Stevie Brown—0/-8/-8 in The Horror) did most of his damage in one game, which itself did plenty of damage to that season), three years of atrociousness, and dramatic improvement under the new staff. If you remember 2010 as worse than '09 that's because the cornerbacks were just as bad. The disparity between Kovacs 2011 and 2012 is easy enough to explain by there being far fewer opportunities for him to make those Kovacsian stops after 7 yards as Michigan faced either Alabama or teams who either didn't test or schemed against him (Air Force, Nebraska).

Also I had to chart The Horror myself because Brian didn't at the time. Thanks Brian.* Anyway the charting says Thomas Gordon (!) was the best safety at Michigan in the last six seasons. Should we be talking about all-conference stuff for ol' Prison Abs in addition to the leadership stuff? Gee, maybe. He had a spectacular spring game, which I don't think many people noticed.

As for what's opposite him Michigan has to find something out of the blues above plus another year of progression.


*Had this been done under modern UFR standards it would have doubled any record for RPS debacles. Just to know I tried doing that, handing out the remainder of expected points for any play that weren't on the players as Brian does in UFR-ing and came out with this staggering figure of +23/-46/-23. RPS is never that much of a variable, except in this game it was the alignment of linebackers, stunts (!), not stacking the box, and not responding to the QB draw even though they only ever ran one play out of that alignment.


[After the jump: Candidates]

Unverified Voracity Is Giving You The Silent Treatment

Unverified Voracity Is Giving You The Silent Treatment

Submitted by Brian on August 7th, 2012 at 12:26 PM

Colt DelVerneHelp Colt. Former Michigan kicker Jeff DelVerne has a four-year old kid with a brain tumor. They're having a golf scramble/lunch/silent auction on September 15th in Ottawa Lake. Click the flyer at right for a bigger version with details; RSVPs are requested by September 1st.

You can also provide direct help here.

Well what was the point of that then? As you may have spotted on the message board, Michigan has updated its roster for fall and changed a large number of the weights they just issued to the media in Chicago. For example, Willie Henry is now 314 pounds, up from 302, and seems all but certainly destined to be a nose tackle down the road. Other notable changes:

  • Terry Richardson is +8 to 162, which is better but still too small to see the field.
  • RJS is +7 to 213, which ditto.
  • Mario Ojemudia is vaguely plausible at 231 (+8).
  • Ben Braden is down 11 to 308.
  • Chris Wormley is +11 to 279, i.e. one pound more than Craig Roh.
  • Ricardo Miller is down to 226 from 234 last year.

Either Willie Henry's high school weights were massively outdated or he's put on a lot of weight he'll have to reshape over the next year or two. It's probably a combo. Meanwhile, the slight Chris Wormley redshirts just evaporated.

Who likes touchdowns? You do.

You: don't talk to anyone. As Heiko noted yesterday, the proverbial Fort is back and in full effect:

Michigan's athletic department has made a few changes regarding media access for the upcoming season:

  • Players' family members cannot be interviewed without permission from the athletic department. 
  • Freshmen will be withheld from media day.
  • Practice will be closed to all media.

When asked why these changes were being made, an athletic department spokesman said "are you stepping to the man?" and delivered a Degeneration X crotch chop in the general direction of the media.

This is probably good for the site since it relies less on that whole "talking to people" thing—gross—than traditional media, but as a fan I'm disappointed. Ohio State is taking the opposite tack, letting media into dang near anything. Eleven Warriors is bringing back observations like this

Day Two of Urban Meyer's first fall camp at Ohio State may have been the best offensive practice since his arrival. Quarterback Braxton Miller delivered the goods and wide receivers Devin Smith and Evan Spencer finally looked like the skill position players Meyer offenses always covet.

Another bright spot has been the emergence of Meyer's first recruiting class. The two-deep is littered with freshmen with everything pointing to several playing Sept. 1.

…and Michigan media is going to recycle press conference quotes until there's a game. Ohio State even signed up for the ESPNU show that's essentially college Hard Knocks, a prospect that caused several Michigan athletic department staffers to expire from massive cerebral hemorrhages when they heard the news and made the mistake of thinking about having cameras at practice. I'm openly dreading this upcoming Mott practice thing since it's just going to be 90 minutes of punting drills again.

This is of course fine as long as Michigan wins football games, but it's just another way in which it feels like the program feels its fans are not part of the team.

CAMERAS AT PRACTICE /dozens die Doug Karsch and his weird hair wisp bring you the officially-sanctioned version of what went on inside said Fort:

Within, we find out that:

  • Michigan is playing Alabama
  • This is fall camp
  • They have sleds
  • The practice jerseys are even more ADIDAS
  • I'm sorry, I forgot what I was saying.

Coming soon: no talking to former players either. But before that happens, TTB catches up with Troy Woolfolk:

The main difference between the coaching staffs is that Coach Hokestresses physicality.  We would do drills that had nothing to do with football, but just to see the toughness in the player.  We'd do this one drill where there was just this towel on a mat.  And at the beginning there're two people holding it, and one person had to eventually take it from the other person.  It gets really rough down there; people get bloody noses and stuff.  It teaches you into becoming a man and how to hold yours. . . . [If Coach Hoke came to Michigan in 2008], we probably would have won a National Championship in 2011."

Jake Ryan is his pick for a breakout player this year.

Yes anonymous snark. Athlon Sports takes up the Sporting News baton by publishing anonyomous coaches' takes on their conferencemates. These are usually great. I mean:

“I hated to see the Zooker get let go last season, but you could see it coming."

My assumption remains that all of these come from Joe Tiller. Unfortunately, the Michigan one is really boring.

Gardner WR Gardner WR Gardner WRRRRR. Apparently I'm naming my Roomba "Gardner." Anyway, WR hype is collected by Nick Baumgardner:

"He's a great athlete, I feel like he could play anywhere and he could probably take my spot if he tried," Michigan senior safety Jordan Kovacs said. "He's a natural athlete, and if they play him at receiver, I'm sure he'll be pretty good.

"Wherever he plays, he's going to make big plays."

This is going to be a fascinating subplot. Here's hoping he's ridiculously good. That probably goes without saying.

Deathborg pairing is go. Michael Spath talks to Billy Powers about Jon Merrill's return and comes back with news about who his partner will be to start. It will be Trouba:

"We have some very nice pieces to work with this season, and if those two get together early, and it's a pair we really like, you could see them stick together for most of the year," Powers said. "It's not set in stone, but we like to have a veteran guy with a young guy and that's a pair you could really see emerging into something special."

If Merrill manages to maintain his form from his 6-10 games and avoids the slide that he suffered towards the end of the year, that will be a killer pairing. Now if Red would only ride it like it was an intergalactic space donkey. If that works out like you think it might, those guy should be 30 minutes a night players.

In other hockey news, new 2015 commit Brendan Warren makes me feel old by being born the year I graduated from high school. He's the usual: supposed NTDP lock who may or may not arrive the high end prospect he's expected to be.

He's a top seven guy. Trey Burke finishes seventh in a CBS Sports poll that asked college coaches "if you could add any one player to your team for next season, who would it be?"

The list:

  1. Indiana sophomore Cody Zeller: 35 percent
  2. UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad: 12 percent
  3. Ohio State junior Aaron Craft: 9 percent
  4. Creighton junior Doug McDermott: 9 percent
  5. Murray State senior Isaiah Canaan: 7 percent
  6. Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel: 7 percent
  7. Michigan sophomore Trey Burke: 5 percent

Impressive company. I'm a little surprised to see Aaron Craft in third place, but I'm telling you guys who can affect the game without using possession are super valuable. That's another reason to get excited about Zak Irvin, who sounds like a lockdown perimeter defender.

BONUS: updated rankings have started to come out. Scout relents and moves Irvin into their top 100 at 62; Walton is 43 and Donnal 80. IIRC both of the latter guys are essentially static. MaxPreps has close to identical rankings of Walton (42) and Donnal (73) but Irvin is near five-star status for them at 26. Both ESPN and Rivals have repeatedly praised Walton and Irvin this summer, so bumps are expected when those services debut new rankings.

The "W" stands for "I put no effort into this, not even figuring out what W stands for." Apparently both teams in the Wisconsin-Nebraska game this fall are going to look like they're wearing crappy UTL knockoffs. Nebraska's uniforms were pretty meh but Wisconsin's are self-parodying:


I don't think that's electrical tape but it could be. Best UW take: "They're the uniform equivalent of scheduling Wofford."

Etc.: Jerald Robinson pleads to his minor destruction of property thing. UMHoops has scouting video of Derrick Walton's 16/13/7 performance in the Adidas 64 championship game. Slovenia! Has anyone noticed that the #6 team in the country according to the coaches' poll has 70 scholarship players? Also, 2012 USC as the overhyped 2008 Georgia team.

The Big East could get a real TV deal. NBC Sports to the rescue. Trey Burke, Jordan Morgan, and Corey Person purchase lemonade. Basketball's game vs NC State is at 7:30 on ESPN.

The Barrad Of Tloy Wolfork

The Barrad Of Tloy Wolfork

Submitted by Brian on April 27th, 2012 at 11:27 AM


After years and years of everyone getting his name wrong despite it being the same name as a famous Michigan tailback who happens to be his dad, Troy Woolfolk wakes up today and tomorrow hoping to see a team next to his name on the NFL draft tracker. Aaaaaand…


…oof. Fine, thinks Woolfolk. I didn't want to be part of your stupid dlaft anyway.

Hopefully this marks the retirement of the "Tloy Wolfork" tag, but I'm guessing it'll make at least one more appearance. Now on to everyone calling our new quarkback "Dennis Northfleet."

2011 Preview Review: Defense

2011 Preview Review: Defense

Submitted by Ace on April 25th, 2012 at 2:01 PM

Vastly underrated; properly rated

Previously: The Offense

My look back at Brian's epic 2011 football preview continues with the defense. This one got a lot more interesting than the offense, because despite all the warm fuzzies we felt from the GERG-to-Greg transition*, expecting a jump from the #110 total defense to #17 would have been outrageous. As in get-this-man-a-straitjacket outrageous.

Thankfully, the performance of the defense exceeded all reasonable expectations, and even most of the unreasonable ones. Let's peep last year's predictions, shall we?

*Not to mention the Tony-Gibson-to-Anyone-But-Tony-Gibson transition.

Greatest Hits

The move to three-tech won't be an issue [for Ryan Van Bergen]. He played it two years ago and when Michigan went to a four man front last year they stuck him back inside. He's now 290, a three year starter, and a senior. He's a good bet to crack double-digit TFLs and get some All Big Ten mention.

RVB actually ended up at strongside DE, which probably helped him lead the team with 12.5 TFLs. He ended up earning All-Big Ten honorable mention from both the coaches and media and graduating as one of the most beloved Wolverines in recent memory.

Demens will benefit from the move to back to the 4-3 under more than anyone save Craig Roh. With RVB and Martin shielding him from linemen he won't be in nearly as many hopeless situations where he's one-on-one with a guard He should be the team's leading tackler by a healthy margin and see his TFLs skyrocket from the measly 1.5 he managed a year ago.

Michigan's defense will probably be too bad to warrant much All Big Ten consideration, but honorable mention seems reasonable.

A year after inexplicably having to move past not just Obi Ezeh, but converted fullback Mark Moundros, on the depth chart at middle linebacker despite subsequently making it painfully obvious that he should've been the starter all along, Demens had his breakout season.  He led the team with 94 tackles—second was Jordan Kovacs at 75—and saw his TFLs jump to a respectable five. Like Van Bergen, Demens was an all-conference honorable mention.

Even so, [Kovacs's] season was a step forward from obvious liability to "certainly not a liability." Even if he's a walk-on and even if he's obviously small and slow, he should continue improving. He'll be a little less small and slow with another year of conditioning. Being in a coherent defensive system should help put him in positions to make plays. His redshirt year was not spent on the team so he's not as close to his ceiling as your average redshirt junior.

He's not going to be Reggie Nelson. That won't keep him from becoming the first Michigan safety you only hate a little tiny bit since Jamar Adams.

This may still be underselling Kovacs, who took to competent coaching even better than expected and became the team's rock in the secondary, covering for his athletic limitations with usually-impeccable positioning. No, he's not Reggie Nelson, but I don't think you can find a remotely rational Michigan fan who harbors even the tiniest bit of ill will towards Kovacs. Michigan's shocking lack of big plays allowed—both against the pass and the run—can largely be attributed to his play; despite missing a game, Kovacs led the team with 51 solo tackles. He also notched 8 TFLs. All hail Kovacs.

I have the same optimism about this Johnson/Gordon combo that I had last year. This, of course, terrifies me. It seems unnatural to think an unproven Michigan safety could be competent. I like Gordon's agility and tackling, though, and while there will be rough spots early by midseason he should settle into that midlevel safety range like Englemon or Barringer.

This time around, the optimism regarding the free safety position was justified. Thomas Gordon had his share of struggles, especially late in the season, but for the most part he was quite competent. Around here, safety competence is a luxury on par with consistent placekicking.

Sacks almost double from 1.4 per game to 2.4. That would be a move from 98th to around 30th.

Michigan finished with 2.3 sacks per game. That put them at... 29th. Tip o' the cap.

Turnovers forced go from 19 to 27.

Brian's continued insistence that turnover luck would someday go Michigan's way finally paid off; the Wolverines forced 29 turnovers. It also helped that this defense actually tackled people.



Close Enough

Morgan was the MGoBlog Sleeper of the Year based on a wide array of scouting reports that praise his instincts, lateral mobility, and toughnosed hard gritty gritness. I thought he'd have to cool his heels behind Demens for a couple years, but he may get on the field quicker than anyone expected.

No full credit simply because Mike Jones was projected as the starter at WLB, a fact I had completely forgotten about until I looked back at the preview. Morgan ended up playing in 12 games, starting seven (the first being in week two against ND), and finished fifth on the team in tackles.

If [J.T. Floyd] gets a lot better this year it's time to take the Gibson chatter seriously.

This wasn't really a prediction, but... yeah. Tony Gibson minus all of the points.

Beyond Talbott it's true freshmen, but at least there's a horde of them. Maryland's Blake Countess arrives with the most hype and should be the biggest threat to play. (Caveat: last year Cullen Christian arrived with the most hype.)

Points for mentioning Countess as the most likely freshman to see the field. No points for giving him one sentence when he took over the starting job by midseason, especially considering the Christian caveat. As you'll see, the hype that should've surrounded Countess went—justifiably, in the preseason—to Courtney Avery.

Not So Much

Healthy again and less abandoned in the middle of the defense, Martin's numbers should soar. Before the sprain Martin was on pace for 11 TFLs and 4 sacks; after it he got just a half TFL the rest of the year. While the front of the schedule is a bit easier, Martin had 8.5 TFLs and 51 tackles a year ago. Reasonable progression should have gotten him to 11.  Add in further progression plus three DL coaches plus a bit more help on the line plus a free-roaming QB attack role and 15 to 18 TFLs plus a little more QB terror should be within reach. He should be All Big Ten. He might be better.

I hate that I have to put this prediction in this category, but here it is. While Martin was the best player on the defense, his numbers were hampered by having to play the nose; he finished with six TFLs and 3.5 sacks. Despite the lack of statistical production, Martin's efforts were recognized with second-team All-Big Ten honors. He also forced a pitch on a speed option. See you on Sundays, MM.

"Experience" was why [Will Heininger] got the nod; that experience consists of backing Brandon Graham up. In is time on the field he rarely did anything wrong; he rarely did anything right, either. He was a non-factor. As a guy spotting Graham from time to time that's cool, but as a starter or a guy rotating with another equally obscure walk-on that's a recipe for zero production out of a spot that should see its fair share of plays. If this spot averages out as a zero next year that's probably good—and that's not good.

The biggest swing-and-a-miss on the list. Heininger swapped spots with RVB and started all 12 regular-season games at five-tech DT before missing the Sugar Bowl with a foot injury. He exceeded all expectations of a walk-on raised in the shadow of the Big House, proving he could hold his own against Big Ten competition and be a positive force on the interior. After the season, Brian ranked him as the third most siginificant departure on the defense, behind only Martin and Van Bergen. While part of that is due to the remaining depth along the defensive line, I don't think anyone thought Heininger's absence would be felt in such a way.

Brink will play. After mentioning Heininger's experience he said Brink has "practiced very well, played well, been productive" and promised to rotate six guys on the line. Six is a weird number because it means one of Black, Campbell, or Brink is on the fringe. Given the lineups Campbell seems the most likely even though that seems unlikely.

If you're saying "who?" you're probably not alone (though you read this blog, so you probably aren't saying "who?"). Walk-on Nathan Brink was penciled in as the starting SDE at one point in the fall, earning much preseason praise for his unlikely rise up the depth chart. After garnering all that hype, however, he made almost no impact, recording just one tackle while barely seeing the field. He's a prime example of why you must take all offseason practice hype with a grain of salt, especially when said hype involves previously-unknown walk-ons.

We've yet to see the much of the pass-rushing skill that made Roh a top 50 recruit. He's displayed hints of the ability to zip past tackles before they know what hits them when suffered to rush the passer—there's a chance that when he puts hand to ground and is told to let it rip that he goes bonkers. Roh is the biggest X factor on the team. He could end up with anywhere from a half-dozen to twelve sacks.

Playing his third position in three seasons, Roh didn't quite go bonkers, tallying four sacks and eight TFLs. Roh's play still markedly improved from his previous two seasons, but he still hasn't lived up to the sky-high recruiting hype. Much of the blame for that can fall upon the shoulders of Greg Robinson and Co., and we'll see if one last position switch, this time to SDE, finally results in Roh producing double-digit sacks.

In high school, Ryan was an outside linebacker in an actual 3-3-5. As such, he spent a lot of time screaming at the quarterback from angles designed to make life hard for offensive linemen. That's not far off his job in the 4-3 under but it comes with a lot more run responsibility—the SLB has to take on blockers in just the right spot so that he neither lets the play escape contain nor gives him a lane inside too big to shut down. Expect to see him on passing downs but only passing downs this fall.

Ryan became a pleasant early-season surprise when he started against Western Michigan and made his presence felt by batting an Alex Carder pass that Brandon Herron would intercept and return 94 yards to the house. While certainly more of an asset against the pass than the run—his balls-to-the-wall approach was great on blitzes, but not always sound when keeping contain—Ryan proved that he was by far the best option on the strong side. Just one year later, all-conference honors are very much in play.

Assuming he's healthy, another year to learn the position and get bigger should see him improve on his previous form. There is a nonzero chance his earlier performances were not representative of his ability, but the smart money is on Woolfolk being at least average. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him go at the tail end of next year's NFL draft.

Troy Woolfolk's return from the exploding ankle of doom wasn't as triumphant as we all hoped. While he started ten games—six at corner and four at safety—Woolfolk never looked fully comfortable on the field and was supplanted at each position by a younger player (Countess at corner, Gordon at safety). It would be quite a surprise to see him taken in this week's NFL draft.

Courtney Avery busts out. Going into next year people are talking about him as an All Big Ten performer.

After showing much promise as a true freshman, Avery was the obvious candidate to grow into a big-time role as the team's top corner of the present and future. Instead, he started the first two games, then ceded that role to J.T. Floyd, Woolfolk, and eventually Countess. Avery was a solid nickel corner, and should reprise that role in 2012, but his progression wasn't as great as expected.

Craig Roh leads the team in sacks with eight.

Nein. Despite Michigan's impressive rise in team sacks, they were spread pretty evenly across both the D-line and the back seven thanks to Mattison's blitz-happy approach. Ryan Van Bergen paced the team with 5.5, with Jordan Kovacs actually tying Roh for second with four.

Michigan noses just above average in yardage allowed. Advanced metrics have them about 50th.

I know Brian has no complaints about being so hilariously wrong on this one. As noted above, the Wolverines finished 17th in yardage allowed, and they also shot up to sixth (faints) in points allowed. Football Outsiders's FEI metric ranked them as the #16 defense in the country. Despite watching every second of the 2011 season (usually twice), I still have a hard time not believing I'm the victim of an elaborate hoax or a drug experiment gone horribly awry. If you see me waking up in a gutter and GERG is still the defensive coordinator, please do me a favor and run me over with an SUV. Make sure to double-tap, please.

Upon Further Review 2011: Defense vs OSU

Upon Further Review 2011: Defense vs OSU

Submitted by Brian on December 9th, 2011 at 3:58 PM

Formation notes: Since Brennen Beyer's fake injury kept him out of this game, Michigan had to adapt their big package. Behold a 5-3:

form 5-3-eagle

From top to bottom that is Black, Heininger, Martin, Van Bergen, and Roh on the line with Ryan, Morgan, Demens, and Kovacs in an umbrella behind them. Countess is pulled; Floyd is the lone corner and Gordon the free safety.

When there were more wideouts on the field this was the usual deployment:


Kovacs is rolled down into the box, reprising his days as a "bandit" in the 3-3-5. Rolling Kovacs into the box like this was referred to as "plus" in the UFR chart; any "plus" formation has a safety within four or five yards of the LOS.

Substitution notes: The usual most places. Very limited substitutions along the line, with Brink, Black, and Campbell getting a few snaps here and there. Mike Jones briefly replaced Demens at MLB during Ohio State's dispiriting 82-second TD drive after M had gone up 37-27; that came after the long Stoneburner catch and run that I thought Ryan was mostly responsible for, but more on that later.

Woolfolk started at safety but gave way to Gordon at times in the first half; the second half it was all Gordon.

A what-the-dickens-was-that-note: we talked about the oddity that was Michigan seeming to play with zero deep safety support the whole game in a Picture Pages earlier in the week. Chris Brown emails to suggest that what Michigan was doing was running Virginia Tech's defense:

Beamer and Foster also relied on a hybrid coverage of their own design: The "robber," run out of the "G" front. This coverage worked so well because it transformed an already run-heavy eight-man front into a nine man front, where they combined their 4-4 set with conventional two-deep principles: Instead of two deep safeties, they used two deep cornerbacks who split the field into halves. The free-safety then was free to play a "robber" technique -- that is, on pass plays, he read the quarterback's eyes and broke on intermediate routes, but on runs, where he truly became valuable, he was an incredible ninth run-stuffer in the box.

Although not the best against the pass, that wasn't the point. It was good enough (especially with dynamos like D'Angelo Hall at cornerback), and the focus was on stuffing the run or hitting the quarterback before he could release the ball.

That is exactly what Michigan ran much of the day, so keep it in mind. A fuller discussion after the play breakdown.

Show? Show.

Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O20 1 10 Pistol 2TE 4-3 under plus Pass 4 Hitch Floyd 5
Kovacs rolled up for the plus. Posey beats Floyd(-0.5, cover -1) but the throw is late and upfield, turning a first down (or near first down) into a meh gain. Floyd comes up to tackle with help from Ryan, who dropped into coverage on a shorter out route. Martin spun off a block to get some token pressure on Miller, barely avoiding the -1.
O25 2 5 I-Form 4-3 under plus Run N/A Inside zone Heininger 1
I'm not sure what exactly this is supposed to be but I think it is an inside zone; the fullback does not head outside like usual here but attacks the strong side of the line, likely in an attempt to break keys for the linebackers. Herron takes the ball to the other side of the line as OSU zones. RVB(+1) slants under the backside G; Martin(+1) chucks his blocker, and Herron has to bounce out into Heininger(+0.5) and Roh(+0.5) who had set up in their gaps and combine to tackle.
O26 3 4 Shotgun 2-back Nickel even Pass 5 Flare Ryan 5
Snag package for OSU to the short side of the field; Ryan is dropping into the snag and Miller goes with the flare to the outside; Ryan does a decent job on it but can't stop it before the sticks. Push. Could have gone either way.
O31 1 10 Pistol 2TE 4-3 under Pass 4 PA Dig Morgan Inc
Speed option fake into a pass. Michigan's linebackers are suckered big time (Morgan -1, Demens -1, cover -2) and Miller has a huge lane in which to hit a guy on a dig route. He turfs the ball nowhere near his WR.
O31 2 10 Shotgun 2-back 4-3 even Run N/A QB draw Kovacs 15
M slanting to the short side with Roh dropping into coverage and Ryan blitzing off the slot. Ryan(-1) gets way too far outside and upfield and RVB(-1) gets way too far inside and upfield, opening up a huge lane. Demens(+0.5) does a good job to pop off a blocker and flow; Kovacs(-2) loses leverage and whiffs at Miller's feet, turning this from around five into a big gain that could be bigger but for that Demens flow allowing Countess(+0.5) to toss a blocker upfield and disconnect to tackle after the first down marker.
O46 1 10 I-Form twins 4-3 over plus Pass 4 Waggle fly Countess 54
Roh dives inside the fullback on a play action power fake and gives up the corner; that's probably his assignment with Kovacs overhanging. Spill that. Michigan has no one on the edge; Kovacs(pressure –2) and Morgan are there, there's a pulling G in protection, and both guys plus Demens back out into a zone drop. Miller can pull up and fire to an incredibly wide open receiver. Assuming M is playing this VT D, Countess(-4, cover –4) has the deep half and blows it. RPS –2; two on two coverage and a ton of time.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-7, 12 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O21 1 10 I-Form 4-3 under Pass 4 Dumpoff -- 2
No pressure(-2) at all as Martin is doubled and no one else can beat a blocker. Miller steps up into more pressure than there actually is. M in a two deep here and nothing's open deep (cover +2). Miller's inaccurate checkdown costs them a few yards.
O23 2 8 I-Form twins 4-3 even Pass N/A WR screen -- Inc
Well wide. Looked like five or so.
O23 3 8 Shotgun 2-back Okie two deep Pass 6 Sack Kovacs -11
Regular okie has seven at the line. This just has six. That's because Kovacs is coming from the safety spot. Everyone else rushes save Morgan, who drops off into a spy zone; OSU goes max pro and Kovacs(+1, pressure +2, RPS +2) still gets a free run. He whiffs; RVB(+1) has slanted past an OL to help clean up; he can't tackle either. Kovacs(+0.5) cleans up from behind. Tackling -1? Yeah, I guess.
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-7, 9 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O20 1 10 I-Form 4-3 under plus Pass 4 Post Countess Inc
Good lord. Woolfolk moves up on the underneath route, Countess(-3, cover –3) is setting up outside of Posey, and Miller misses an 80 yard touchdown. Countess is still in the frame so avoids a –4 but this isn't good. RPS –1.
O20 2 10 Pistol 2TE 4-3 under plus Run N/A Speed option Ryan 8 (Pen -10)
With two TEs to one side and Kovacs blitzing weak it seems like Michigan's LBs have to do a better job of getting outside. They don't; Demens(-1) is slashed to the ground and Miller gets the edge for near first down yardage before Woolfolk comes up to shove him out of bounds; Ryan(+1) did a good job of holding that edge until he got held himself, drawing a flag. RPS -1.
O10 2 20 Shotgun 2-back 4-3 under Penalty N/A False start -- -5
O5 2 25 Shotgun 2-back Nickel even Run N/A QB draw Van Bergen -2
DTs stunt; RVB(+3) drives through a botched double that is botched because of the stunt and tackles Miller for loss. Given what we know about DT stunts it's possible RVB called this himself.
O3 3 27 I-Form Nickel even Pass 4 Post Roh Inc (Pen -3)
Roh(+2, pressure +2) speed rushes around Mike Adams and is tackled, drawing a holding call that will be a safety. With that guy tackled and only two other rushers Miller has plenty of time; Woolfolk has again come up on a shorter underneath route (on third and twenty seven!) and leaves Countess trailing Posey for a potential big gain; Countess(+2, cover +2) comes over the top to break the pass up. Still very dangerous. Picture paged.
Drive Notes: Safety, 9-7, 5 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O29 1 10 I-Form twins 4-3 even plus Run N/A Iso Morgan 4
Morgan(-0.5) takes the lead block at the LOS but does not funnel to his partner; Heininger(+0.5) makes a nice play to come off a block and start an ankle tackle near the LOS, robbing Herron of momentum and making it easier for the rest of the D to rally.
O33 2 6 I-Form 4-3 under plus Run N/A Inside zone? Van Bergen 1
This has an attack point outside the tackles but features a lead blocker and looks like inside zone blocking. So... yeah. Morgan(-0.5) and Demens(-0.5) get swallowed up on the second level and again they have Kovacs behind them so I think they're not doing so well; it doesn't look like M is slanting hard. The DL cleans up for them. Ryan(+1) takes on Boren two yards in the backfield; Van Bergen(+1) drives his blocker in to the backfield, forcing a cutback into Martin(+1), who tackles. Good thing, too. Demens was literally ten yards downfield by the time the play was over.
O34 3 5 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 4 TE Out Morgan Inc
Man, OSU's gameplan is go after Morgan, go after Morgan, go after Morgan. Here he's in eh coverage(-1, cover -1) on their ponderous TE Fragel; ball is high and over the hands of the target.
Drive Notes: Punt, 16-7, 1 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O30 1 10 Ace 4-3 under plus Run N/A Inside zone Martin 3
Martin and Heininger take doubles; Martin(+2) holds up until his guy releases and then sets up so the RB comes behind him, then disengages to tackle. Heininger(-1) had been blown several yards off the ball and Herron can muscle forward for a few yards. Dangerous without Martin here. Next year's run defense might be shady.
O33 2 7 Shotgun empty Wacky nickel Pass 4 Hitch Van Bergen Inc
Martin as quasi LB with Morgan on the LOS. Martin(+1) comes on his unsurprising blitz as Roh drops off; this time he shocks Brewster with his explosive contact and is about to pressure Miller when he throws; RVB(+1, pressure +1) is in the lane and deflects the pass. Open for around first down yardage if not batted.
O33 3 7 Shotgun 2-back Okie Run N/A QB draw -- 24
Full on man up okie; Miller checks into a QB draw that goes for a bunch of yards because he's running at Morgan backing out into pass coverage and everyone else is rushing upfield. Kovacs(-0.5, tackling -1) and Floyd(-0.5) miss tough open field tackle attempts to provide bonus yards. RPS -2.
M43 1 10 I-Form twins 4-3 under plus Run N/A Iso Martin 7
Martin(-1) is doubled and gives ground, eventually dropping to his knees a couple yards downfield. Demens(+0.5) does a decent job on the lead block and does not let it outside. Morgan(-1) seems unaware he has Kovacs helping behind on cutbacks and is hesitant; instead of scraping over to the iso hole he sits behind the Martin mess in case Herron cuts back and can only tackle after he decides on a hole. Heininger(+0.5) was there on the cutback as well.
M36 2 3 I-Form twins 4-3 even Run N/A Iso Morgan 1
Morgan(+2) slams Boren at the LOS and gets outside at said LOS; RVB(+1) has slanted under a tackle and forces the play out, where Morgan ends it for little gain.
M35 3 2 Diamond screen 4-3 under Run N/A QB draw Van Bergen 4
Diamond draws four defenders, leaving six on six in the box with Floyd overhanging. Van Bergen... argh, man, he had this after splitting a couple guys; his penetration into the backfield looks like it will doom the play, and then Miller jukes upfield and Van Bergen(sadface -1) bites on it, falling uselessly upfield as the blocker he beat takes that momentum and amplifies it. Martin(+0.5) and Heininger(+0.5) do a good job to converge on the guy near the LOS; momentum carries them across the line to make. Spielman says this a hold but I don't necessarily agree; Van Bergen never forced the issue by disengaging because of the fake so it's hard to tell.
M31 1 10 I-Form 4-3 under plus Run N/A Iso Morgan 5
Morgan(-1) does not take on the FB block at the LOS and gets crushed a yard downfield, giving ground. Martin(+1) fights through a block to get to the hole and force a cutback; Brink(-1) is in for RVB and gets handled by single blocking easily. With Demens(-0.5) also fighting through a block not very effectively there is a cutback; Woolfolk fills with help from Demens.
M26 2 5 I-Form 4-3 under plus Run N/A Iso Kovacs -2
I was nervous about this live because the line was Campbell/Brink/Black/Heininger and I loved this playcall, one of those Kovacs edge blitzes that gets him in unblocked for a TFL. It also got Heininger(+1) and Black(+1) past blockers into the backfield; with Kovacs(+2, tackling +1) roaring off the edge and tackling that's worth another couple of yards to the D. RPS +2.
M28 3 7 I-Form Nickel even Pass 4 Corner Countess Inc
Plenty of time(pressure -2); Countess(-3, cover -3) gets smoked in man coverage and should give up an easy TD but Miller misses. Picture paged.
Drive Notes: FG(45), 16-10, 10 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
M31 1 10 I-Form 4-3 over plus Pass 6 Scramble Martin 8
DTs stunt and Martin(-2) gets pushed out of the lane he has to be in, so when he and RVB get some pressure after coverage(+1) is there to prevent an immediate throw, Miller can bust out into a lot of grass. Demens(+1, tackling +1) makes a good open field tackle to prevent bigger problems after Michigan rushed six and let the QB through.
M23 2 2 I-Form twins 4-3 under Run N/A Iso Heininger 4
Heininger(-0.5) gets a double and gives some ground, though he fights through decently; Demens(+0.5) took on the iso block near the line and is the key tackler, though he is naturally giving ground as he does so. Morgan(-0.5) again not really relevant because he is hesitant.
M19 1 10 Pistol 2TE 46 bear Run N/A Speed option counter Roh 19
Whether this is brilliant improv or a called play Miller is busting backside on the snap and this is no field reversal based on the defense. Roh(-2) makes the cardinal and only mistake on the play by letting the guy outside of him. Out on the sideline on a counter everyone bit on understandably, it's JT Floyd, a blocker, and all of the air. Gordon(-1, tackling -1) could maybe keep this out of the endzone with an open field tackle; he whiffs. Understandable. RPS -2.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 16-17, 7 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O34 1 10 I-Form twins 4-3 under plus Pass N/A WR screen Countess 9
This is doomed from the start with Countess eight yards off and dropping on the snap. RPS -1.
O43 2 1 I-Form twins 4-3 under plus Run N/A Iso -- 4
Campbell in; he's handled okay by a single block. Demens is running at the FB; Campbell and his guy get in the way. Both FB and LB are kind of like “what now?” If M's LBs were running hard maybe they stop this for a loss or no gain but that's not a good gamble on second and short. Basically a push.
O47 1 10 I-Form 4-3 under Pass 4 PA dumpoff Van Bergen 5
RVB(+1, pressure +1) slants a little, then beats the G and forces Miller to flush after an iso playfake. Miller breaks the pocket, gets pursuit from a couple of DL, and dumps it to Herron, where the LBs converge.
M48 2 5 Shotgun empty 4-3 even Pass 4 Out Morgan Inc
Miller has Hall wide open for a first down (cover -1) as Morgan is keying draw on the snap; he misses.
M48 3 5 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 4 Flare Floyd 5
Roh(+2, pressure +2) again beats the LT, shoving him upfield as he tries to contain the speed rush and impacting Miller just as he checks down to his flare route after the first read is covered(+1). Floyd is there and shoves the guy OOB seemingly short of the first; they are awarded it. Hoke challenges, which is smart since it's not like challenges are actually useful in college and that's a big swing. He loses. Oh well.
M43 1 10 I-Form 4-3 under plus Pass 5 Corner Woolfolk 43
Pressure is not terrible but Kovacs(-0.5) should probably not get outside of Boren, instead he should hold up and not open up this lane. Miller steps up and finds a receiver breaking past Floyd and Woolfolk just as Roh spins off to deal with him. This is all Woolfolk(-3, cover -3) dying when Posey runs the same route that beat Countess.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 23-24, EOH
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O25 1 10 Pistol 2TE 4-3 under plus Pass 4 PA sack Roh -1
Gordon in at FS. Speed option fake and then Miller pivots to the backside of the play. Roh(+1, pressure +1) gets into the tight end on this and then shoots upfield once the TE releases into his route, forcing Miller back inside. Morgan(+2, tackling +1) sees the cut and immediately attacks, which is both smart given the QB and his relatively piddly short zone assignment and effective because he makes an open field tackle. Heininger(+0.5) was pursuing to help as well.
O24 2 11 I-Form twins 4-3 over Run N/A Iso Martin 3
Ryan over the slot and blitzes. Martin(+1) is not doubled and owns Brewster, shoving him back and into the path of the play; Boren runs into that mess, as does Herron. There's nothing there but no one can get through to tackle; eventually Herron pops out the other side and gains a few yards before Morgan and Floyd put him down.
O27 3 8 Shotgun 2-back Okie two deep Run N/A QB draw -- 9
Exact same thing as earlier okie, with guys flaring on the edge and no one in the middle once Morgan drops into a zone and gets blocked. Kovacs comes up on the snap but from the wrong side; Gordon(+1, tackling +1) actually makes a really nice open field tackle to almost kick them off the field but can't quite manage it. RPS -1.
O36 1 10 I-Form twins 4-3 over Pass 5 Waggle corner Gordon 22
Gordon(-2, cover -2) beaten as he's poking his nose in the backfield; Miller has all kinds of time on the edge (pressure -2) and floats it in. RPS -1.
M42 1 10 I-Form 4-3 under plus Run N/A Iso Van Bergen -4
A bit slower developing as this is going at the tackle; Van Bergen(+2) dominates his guy, drives into the backfield, and takes out the FB two yards behind the LOS. Ryan(+2) drives Stoneburner back three yards and when Herron bounces he runs into the TE. Slowed, he stops and reverses field. Van Bergen robs this of its danger by getting upfield and forcing it back again, then he comes back to tackle.
M46 2 14 Shotgun empty Nickel even Pass 4 Tunnel screen Kovacs 7
Posey decides to abort mission for some reason. Not sure why, looks well set up. Maybe RVB coming back? Anyway, it's a good decision as Morgan is out there getting doubled and Floyd has to keep leverage; Kovacs(+1, tackling +1) comes up hard to tackle as soon as feasible but still a good gain. RPS -1.
M39 3 7 Shotgun 2-back Nickel even Run N/A QB draw Van Bergen 3
No okie and this is better defended. M stunts; RVB(+1) comes through into the rushing lane and forces Miller away from lead blocks. Martin(+0.5) and Demens(+0.5) are in the area to hold this down to a moderate gain.
Drive Notes: lolpunt, 30-24, 4 min 3rd Q. Michigan moves it 40 yards and then the Hagerup thing happens.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
M32 1 10 I-Form big 5-3 eagle Run N/A Power off tackle Roh 4
Without Beyer, Michigan's big package is a five man line with Black and Roh the ends with the usual suspects on the interior; Countess is lifted. This is counter action with the play going away from TE motion and an offset fullback. The DL eats this up, with Heininger(+1) and RVB(+1) coming through blocks into the hole; Martin(+1) has beaten a block as well but won't be relevant because Herron can bounce. Roh(-1) is in good position but not prepared to handle the bounce; Demens(-1) ate a block and ends up eight yards off the LOS [Ed-S: Not holding?]; Kovacs fills adequately but misses a tackle(-1). This does maintain leverage and slow Herron so that Martin can get him from behind, so no minus.
M28 2 6 I-Form twins 4-3 over Pass 5 Scramble Morgan 23
Play action. Michigan sends five with Floyd(-1) coming off the corner. He comes in hot and gets shoved way upfield by Boren; Roh is slanting inside of Adams; this opens up a big running lane (pressure -2). Morgan(-2, tackling -1) is in open space and lets Miller outside, turning a first down or so into a big gainer; Floyd does make some amends by tracking Miller down from behind. Without that this is a touchdown.
M5 1 G Pistol Big 5-3 eagle Run N/A Speed option Heininger 2
They go away from the strength of the formation; Heininger(+1) drives playside of his blocker and forces a Miller cutback. Martin(+0.5) is the next guy; he's taking a double at the LOS and Miller has to go behind again. RVB(+0.5) gets an arm on Miller as he cuts behind the Martin double and all the way back here there's no blocking and a lot of Michigan players; gang tackle.
M3 2 G Goal line Goal line Run N/A Iso Ryan 1
Boren's motion brings Ryan(+1) to the line and on the snap he is unaccounted for by the OL; he drives right at the FB and gets him two yards in the backfield with outside leverage, forcing the play inside. With the DL sufficiently occupying the OL there is one guy blocking downfield, that on Floyd, and Demens(+0.5), Gordon, and Morgan combine to tackle after a modest gain. RVB(+0.5) made the hole small.
M2 3 G Goal line Goal line Pass N/A Waggle sack Black -2
No sale! How many times do you see this become easy. Lots of times. Here Kovacs(+1, cover +1) and Morgan(+1, cover +1) flow out onto the receiving options and Miller decides to pull down. Gordon(+0.5) is out on the edge containing, forcing a cutback into Demens(+0.5) and Black(+1), who was unblocked on the edge and supposed to run himself out of the play or get chopped; he kept his feet and flowed from behind, making first contact and removing the chance of some Braxton Miller bull turning this into a TD. RPS +2. Michigan had this murdered dead, with five guys in the area by the time Miller got tackled.
Drive Notes: FG(21), 30-27, 12 min 4th Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O20 1 10 I-Form 4-3 over Pass 4 Dig -- Inc
Panic at the disco here as OSU flips their TE and Michigan tries to flip their formation instead of just shifting to the under. Roh and Ryan are late getting to their destinations. Van Bergen(+1, pressure +1) beats Adams easily and is about to nail Miller from behind when he finds a wide open guy(cover -2) 15 yards downfield. Ball is behind the WR and not brought in.
O20 2 10 I-Form 4-3 even Pass 4 Hitch Ryan 36
Miller drops with a token but not serious PA fake; Michigan rushes four and gets nowhere near. Ryan(-2, cover -2) vacates his zone to run up on a dumpoff route by the RB and opens up a pocket outside of Demens, who has the initial route covered. If OSU is throwing checkdowns at this point in the game, fine. Gordon has bugged out for the deep routes and there is no support after Stoneburner clears the second level resulting in a big gain. Pressure -2; Demens had this covered at first and then OSU was able to adjust because no one got to Miller. RPS –1.
M44 1 10 Shotgun 2-back Nickel even Pass 4 Screen Jones 16
Jones in for Demens at MLB, maybe he screwed up on the last play. M stunts and all DL are out of commission; a bigger problem is Jones(-1, cover -1) never ever reading this and getting killed by a WR cracking down; Avery gets picked off and there's no one until Gordon. RPS -1.
M28 1 10 Pistol 2TE 4-3 under plus Pass 4 PA TE Drag Morgan 20 + 4 pen
Gordon in the box with Kovacs deep. Morgan(-2, cover -2) sees the TE dragging across the formation and gets a shove but not early enough or well enough and that guy breaks past him into open space. Morgan doesn't bug out for the sideline after the shove and this opens up the corner; Morgan simply lacks the athleticism to catch up with a TE. He and Kovacs eventually get him OOB after a big gain. RPS -1. Kovacs(-1) gets a late hit call that is deserved.
M4 1 G I-Form twins 4-3 under Run N/A Iso Floyd 4
RVB(+0.5) stands up his blocker around the LOS; Demens(+0.5) bangs the FB at the line, forcing it outside; Floyd(-2, tackling -1) is unblocked and attacking; he whiffs and lets Herron into the endzone on a play that should have gained a yard or two at most.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 37-34, 7 min 4th Q. Immensely disappointing here. M drives for a TD, gets awarded a FG, and OSU takes over down six with 1:59 on the clock.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O20 1 10 Shotgun empty Nickel even Pass 4 Post Demens Inc
Good time (pressure -1) on a four man rush; Miller throws a wobbler on a deep post Demens(+1, cover +1) is running right with. Very narrow window of opportunity here that Miller cannot hit. Still no safety over the top here... worrisome.
O20 2 10 Shotgun 2-back Okie Run N/A QB draw Morgan 4
Miller checks and Morgan backs out before the snap. Instead of rushing the edges like M has before, Demens, Ryan, and Martin come inside; Morgan(+1) comes up to take on the center's block and sheds playside to help tackle with RVB(+0.5) and Martin(+0.5). RPS +1; Michigan baited OSU into blowing this down and running the clock; OSU burns their last TO. This will become relevant.
O24 3 6 I-Form 3-wide Okie Pass 4 Fly Floyd Inc
Plenty of time(pressure -1); Floyd(-3, cover -3) gets smoked on a double move and beat deep. Miller misses and everybody in the stadium dies from fright.
O24 4 6 Shotgun 2-back Okie Pass 4 Scramble Morgan 7
Four man rush gets RVB(+0.5, pressure +1) through on a slant; he's still getting blocked but he's threatening, so Miller pulls the ball down and starts moving. Lanes have opened up; Morgan(-1, tackling -1) seems like he's in a spy zone as he flies up to deal with what looks like it will be a scramble as soon as Miller busts outside the pocket. He misses, letting Miller outside. Floyd(+0.5) comes up and almost boots OSU off the field with a tackle at the sticks; Miller reaches the ball across the line as he leaps in the air.
O31 1 10 Shotgun empty Nickel even Pass 4 Sack Van Bergen -2
Morgan(+1, pressure +2, RPS +1) sent late as Roh drops off. OSU blows their pickup with the entire interior line trying to deal with a Martin/RVB stunt; Miller rolls away from the pressure and looks like he wants to fire deep but decides against it. Morgan is now coming from behind and Miller tries to come back to the other side of the LOS; RVB(+1, tackling +1) does a great job of anticipating that cutback and shooting up in the tatters of the pocket to sack.
O33 2 12 Shotgun trips Okie Pass 4 Drag Morgan 6
Ryan(+0.5, pressure +1) is coming in unblocked until a guard manages to pop outside and block him; Miller can't count on this happening and decides to go to his hot read, which is a little drag that Morgan(+0.5) is there to tackle immediately on.
O39 3 6 Ace trips Nickel even LOL N/A Spike N/A Inc
O39 4 6 Shotgun 2-back Nickel even Pass 4 Hitch Avery INT
Decent time; RVB is coming around the outside and Roh threatens to sack if Miller tries to step up. He throws about a ten yard hitch to a seemingly open guy that Avery(+3, cover +2) tips and then makes a diving interception on.
Drive Notes: Interception, 40-34, EOG.

What happened to all my beautiful defenses?

Mostly Devier Posey, and Mattison failing to account for Devier Posey because he'd played one game, and Jim Bollman going all Citrus 2008. Let's go back to the defense Michigan was running.

That is a run defense with two corners handling vertical routes from outside receivers, and if you've got D'Angelo Hall and the horde of quality VT corners plus a ton of pressure you can get away with it. Michigan did not get a VT level of pressure, whether because of OSU's OL or their fear of letting Braxton Miller's legs take over, and neither Floyd nor Countess had any prayer of covering Posey without help.

In the Picture Pages there were a couple plays in which Countess was beaten to the inside and not punished. The near 80 yard touchdown, for instance:

On the next play Countess recovered to get a PBU on the third and forever that would eventually be a Michigan safety. On their next drive, OSU would go three and out when Miller missed an open TE on third and medium. The drive after that they found themselves in third and medium again. Countess isn't going to get beaten to the inside again. He's done with that. He's learned. He's…

…oh, man.

That same route burned Michigan just before the end of the half:

And then there was this WTF moment on the last drive:

That's all three starters in the secondary getting pwned by Posey. I'm giving whoever drafts him in the second round an A+ for their day.

Mattison's defense was a good idea for the version of the OSU offense we saw most of the year, the one in which Miller has 12, 15, 18 attempts, not 25. He was caught off guard by OSU going to the air and his secondary suffered some confusion—the first TD was just a bust. More than that, they were just incapable of covering Posey one on one. Four times Miller had Posey wide open for touchdowns: the two above, the mindboggling Floyd bite on the last drive, and the actual touchdown. Miller hit him once.

But he had to put Kovacs in the box to contain the OSU running game.

I get the idea but in practice it was pointless. Kovacs had three tackles and an assist:

  1. Sack after blitzing from safety depth
  2. TFL after weakside edge blitz
  3. Downfield fill from safety depth
  4. Not sure if this was his assist, another safety fill

I get going into the game with a plan but they stuck with it way too long; going to a two-deep shell and forcing OSU to execute underneath would have been far less harrowing. Miller's accuracy is just as goofy underneath. Michigan dared OSU to beat them over the top and OSU was like "okay."

I mean, look at the—


Look at the chart.

Note that a paucity of plays charted—only 40—means you should multiply numbers by about 1.5 to get an average day's work. I am going to work on something that fixes this variability for next year.

Defensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Van Bergen 17.5 2 15.5 Dang.
Martin 9.5 3 6.5 Slight letdown.
Roh 5.5 3 2.5 Got safety; let Miller outside on speed option counter.
Heininger 5.5 1.5 4 Quality.
Brink - 1 -1 Cameo.
Black 2 - 2 Part of big third down stop.
Campbell 1 - 1 Didn't register.
TOTAL 41 10.5 30.5 Caveat: pressure was –1 and DL didn't get much of it.
Player + - T Notes
Morgan 7.5 10.5 -3 Worrisome lack of athleticism evident on a couple plays.
Demens 5.5 4 1.5 Ate some blocks.
Ryan 5.5 3 2.5 Was not a major factor.
Fitzgerald - - - DNP
Beyer - - - DNP
Hawthorne - - - Garbage time.
Jones - 1 -1 Cameo.
TOTAL 18.5 18.5 0 Going to be hard to maintain D without increased production from these folks.
Player + - T Notes
Floyd 1 6.5 -5.5 Yeesh.
Avery 3 - 3 Game ending INT only time he was thrown at.
Woolfolk - 3 -3 One long TD on him.
Kovacs 5.5 4 1.5 Should probably be filed as LB.
T. Gordon 1.5 3 -1.5 Didn't give up anything huge.
Countess 2.5 10 -7.5 Could not deal with deep stuff by himself.
Van Slyke - - - DNP
TOTAL 13.5 26.5 -13 Thanks for being inaccurate, Miller.
Pressure 13 14 -1 Erratic, usually based on blitzes.
Coverage 11 30 -19 Not so much.
Tackling 6 7 46% Miller is tough.
RPS 8 15 -7 walrusball'd

I generally give out –3 for wide open dudes who are wide open and only exceed that for massive busts like the first TD, so that –13 understates the carnage. Mattison got burned up in this game, possibly because OSU flipped their personality.

A note on what might seem like some abnormally high defensive line numbers: they did create a safety and basically crush any conventional rushing attempts.

On 15 rushing attempts of the inside zone, iso, and power variety OSU averaged 2.3 YPC. QB draws on which Mattison got RPSed in the okie and Miller scrambles that the DL is only partially responsible for account for 71 of Miller's 115 rushing yards; outside of that Miller averaged 4 YPC. So… yeah, the DL was hugely responsible for the stops Michigan did get. They were a little disappointing as far as getting pressure goes; they were nails against the run.

That's another reason the gameplan was disappointing. Given the way M's DL was beating up the OSU OL they could have gotten away with a safer defense. This was Mattison's version of the Borges MSU gameplan: way, way too aggressive. Bad now, encouraging from a program standpoint since it'll work a hell of a lot better when the defensive backfield is full of bluechips or dudes who beat out bluechips instead of freshmen and sleepers.

But we love Mattison!

Yes, yes. This was money:

It happens to everybody. You go into a game with a plan that falls apart upon contact with the enemy. Given what we'd seen from OSU earlier in the year the plan had sense to it, but M couldn't handle wildcard Posey, busted a couple times, and were caught off guard by the OSU gameplan. It happens. Michigan still got through, and it is worth pointing out that it wasn't quite that bad for the D. They picked up a safety and ten points were given up on drives that started around the Michigan 30. You should charge the D with about 26 points given up since they did get that safety and two field goals were likely after OSU got that starting field position.

Good? No, still no. Better? Yes.

What's this about being worried about next year's defense?

With the linebackers barely treading water most of the year it's a bit scary what might happen if the downgrade on the DL is severe. It was watching this play that gave me the heebie-jeebies:

If three different DL players (two and a half if we're talking about Ryan, I guess) don't execute well there isn't a linebacker in the picture once Herron makes it to the second level. That may just be the way the defense is supposed to go; if so you are heavily dependent on having players as good and active as Martin and Van Bergen. I wouldn't be surprised to see both current MLB starters see their positions come under threat.

The LBs were good at taking on iso blocks in this game but Morgan in particular struggles to scrape to the hole when there's any possibility of a cutback. That's better than being too aggressive but B- work at best.

If the defensive line is good next year, well, then we can just expect them to kick ass until Hoke or Mattison is out. Here's hoping.

Hey, have an unsung hero?

Yeah: Matt Wile. Remember Michigan's terrible kickoff coverage from earlier in the year? It was bad! I didn't like it.

That coverage has improved, but what's even better is the relative paucity of kick return attempts. Four of eight Ohio State drives that started on kickoffs saw Wile get a touchback. When Brian Fremeau debuted a special teams FEI Michigan was languishing around 80th; now they're up to 59th. Kickoffs (20th) are their best phase of special teams. A major reason for that is Wile started putting a bunch of them in the endzone. Thumbs up.


Ryan Van Bergen had a monster day, the best of his career. A fitting sendoff. Martin was also very good, and the two "also starring" members of the DL turned in big plays here and there. That DL laughs at all the Buckeye chatter about how no one on Michigan's team would start for OSU. Hell, the OL does too.

If you pool the two teams' lines and pick starters at their positions OSU gets two: John Simon at WDE and JB Shugarts at RT. I'm not taking a single other Buckeye OL/DL over their Michigan counterparts after watching that game. Will Heininger is flat-out better than Garrett Goebel. Just look at the RB YPC.


Mattison, the secondary.

What does it mean for the bowl game and the future?

Well, Michigan should probably take it easy with the hyper-aggressive-no-help coverage back there if Virginia Tech has a high quality wideout. I haven't watched any film yet to see whether Jarrett Boykin is that guy.

Anyway, the secondary was exposed. Countess is young and Floyd isn't ready to go up against a truly elite guy like Posey by himself; Woolfolk just never regained any form after his parade of injuries. Michigan needs reinforcements down the line.

The key matchup against the VT offense will be the Michigan DL working on that VT OL. If they can duplicate their success against OSU, David Wilson can be a scary dude and still creak out 3 YPC. That should mean a return to form.

Picture Pages: Whither Safeties

Picture Pages: Whither Safeties

Submitted by Brian on December 6th, 2011 at 2:01 PM

First: a confession. I really wanted to have the UFR's raring to go early this week. You must believe me. I wanted to play Fallout 3, which I'd saved as an end of the year treat, slightly more. So… yeah. I am through the main bit of that and am now plowing through the OSU game at all speed. I apologize for lackadaisical behavior and certainly hope Michigan is taking their film breakdowns more seriously than I am.

Second: a confusion. If you're like me, Michigan's inexplicable lack of a free safety was a surprising and disconcerting feature of the Akron State Golden Bobcats game. Before, Michigan had safeties. During… not so much. The reason for this was twofold. One:



Michigan spent a lot of time in formations like this with Kovacs rolled up to the line of scrimmage. This leaves just one deep safety.



The guy on the far right in this still coming over the top of a tight end that's pretty dang covered is Troy Woolfolk. Result:


Not quite an eighty yard touchdown. This was the very next drive after Woolfolk did the same thing on incredibly easy Braxton Miller touchdown one.

And then… I mean… WTF. It's third and twenty seven for OSU on their own three yard line, and despite having a mistake-prone Braxton Miller and third and a billion from the three, Ohio State throws.

The setup:


OSU's in an I, Michigan is in its usual under, albeit a nickel. You can see Kovacs rolled up to the line at the top of the screen; Floyd and Woolfolk are your two deep safeties.

OSU goes straight dropback. Michigan rushes three. You can see Ryan dropping off in the frame below; He'll set up to contain scrambles. Martin and RVB are doubled and get nowhere, but Roh got a speed rush on Mike Adams:


Adams tackles Roh and picks up the holding call that will give Michigan a safety. Huge play from Roh against a first round pick. But that's another Picture Pages. (It's not, actually.)


Given time, Miller sets up and chucks it. Where is Woolfolk?


On the 25, covering the slot receiver. Oh, balls.






54-yard TD on which Woolfolk and Countess jump the underneath route:

Near 80 yard touchdown:

Third and twenty-seven:

Items of Interest

WTF was this? The consistency with which Woolfolk was jumping the underneath route suggests it was part of Mattison's gameplan. Watch Woolfolk on the video just above: he is sitting on the slot receiver. But if Woolfolk is supposed to come up in a robber, why the hell is Countess playing outside of Posey on both of the latter two throws?

On the first one Spielman starts chattering about how Countess can't give up in the inside, and my immediate thought was "dude that is not on him, that is on the free safety losing his mind." Then the second one happens and… if it's third and twenty seven and your free safety vacates the deep middle for the third time in seven minutes(!) can it really be Woolfolk blowing an assignment? Probably not. I have not yet run across the sideline reporter screaming "OH MY GOD GREG MATTISON IS LITERALLY EATING TROY WOOLFOLK'S INTERNAL ORGANS FOR BUSTING SPECTACULARLY THREE TIMES IN SEVEN MINUTES AAAAAAAAAH THEY TOLD ME THIS WOULDN'T BE LIKE COVERING BRIAN KELLY NOT AGAIN NOT AGAIN NOT AGAIN." If Woolfolk had not been doing what he was supposed to, this would have happened.

So. We think Michigan is playing a three deep coverage on which the middle safety is intentionally sucking up on intermediate routes and the corner is playing outside. That does not make sense. That throw in the middle of the field is easy relative to deep fly routes down the sideline—that's why there's always a deep safety—and Michigan is giving it to OSU all day. Even on third and twenty-seven.

I don't get it, man. Even if you assume Countess is a freshman and thus screwing up, you're still putting him one on one with Posey all game with no help at all over the top. That doesn't seem like a good strategy.

On the other hand. Maybe you can't blame Woolfolk for these plays because he was executing his assignment. I find it hard to believe he is not at fault on the 54-yard WTF on OSU's first drive and the half-ending corner route on which he reacted very late. If Michigan lost that game that was going to be the kid's legacy, sorry to say. OSU's gameplan was based around attacking 1) Morgan and 2) Woolfolk with a side of Floyd and Countess.

Braxton Miller problems. Putting Kovacs in the box on every play restricts what you can run in coverage and exposes the middle of the field; that spot Woolfolk keeps running into is the same one Stoneburner will exploit for a huge gain on OSU's disconcerting 82-second touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. On that play the safety (now Gordon) stayed deep and there was no one to tackle once Stoneburner found the soft spot in the zone.

[Update: you can see Gordon turn and run for the post, leaving no one behind Demens.]

So your choice is between opening that up and opening up the deep stuff; obviously neither of those is a great choice.

Hurray Roh. Roh has not developed into the devastating pass rusher Michigan fans were hoping for this summer. He's got four sacks, which is amongst the team lead but far short of the numbers an impact player would put up. Here, though, he beats a very good tackle and gets paid for his effort. Thumbs up.

Michigan Museday: What We Asked of Them, Part III

Michigan Museday: What We Asked of Them, Part III

Submitted by Seth on November 24th, 2011 at 6:12 PM


UM MINN BROWN JUG LT--SmallJBFitz--martinsmaller--Kelvinsmallermichigan-western-michigan-interception-brandon-herronWill-Heininger-celebrates-Michigan-win-over-Notre-Dame6370679027_722582bb70_o

(click the little pics for previous entries)

We're talking about these seniors. And I figure now's as good a time as any to specify exactly what we're thankful for. It's not simply loyalty to an institution: that for its own sake can lead to otherwise good institutions looking the other way when their members do awful things (see: MSU, OSU, PSU, SEC). Except for an extremely abstract and debatable conceptualization of Michigan as a "good guys" program, what our seniors have done by sticking through the "least rewarding Michigan careers in decades" is not a good because of a higher universal cause it served.

Whom it served was themselves (for they did get degrees), their fellow teammates who stayed, and most importantly for our purposes, us. We thank them for this because Michigan football, for reasons we can't quite articulate without sounding at least a little bit foolish, is massively, massively important to us. And while you can debate whether Michigan's football is—relatively or absolutely—a beacon of morality, or whether caring this much about the athletic derring do's of 22-year-olds is a healthy thing, what nobody is debating is that this thing called Michigan could have become something much less than it is today, and that these seniors, these seniors, saved it.


Kenneth Earl "Junior" Hemingway had his own personal angry X–hating god. Services were split on him, depending on whether leaping (tremendous) or speed (sub-mendous) was the high school scout's attribute of choice. Part of that disagreement was, as you probably guessed, because of an injury his junior season. At times in his Michigan career Junior was sidelined with a bum shoulder, sometimes mononucleosis, sometimes a pulled hamstring, sometimes a sprained ankle, sometimes a sprained knee, sometimes an "abrasion," and sometimes another bum shoulder. And sometimes…

The mono struck shortly after that tantalizing catch in '08. Hemingway wasn't allowed to go near his teammates, except his roommate Mike Williams, and even then they had to label their videogame controllers so as not to spread the Junior juju. That was Junior's low point, but the resulting medical redshirt did give him this season (he played as a depth guy in '07).

A National Honor Society member and academic achievement winner, as the story goes (I haven't confirmed this but it matches most students' experiences including mine) he earned enough credits before the end of the '08 season to qualify for "junior standing," meaning Junior spent three years (academically, chronologically, redshirt-) as a junior, which I find fascinating. Possessed of remarkable body control, when Hemingway was available he was Michigan's go-to possession receiver who got tons of YAC, some inexplicable, some simply inconceivable:

Here's 50 more of it. Sometimes he out-leapt guys too.

Yearbook quote:

"Junior always wants to make big plays," [Denard] Robinson said. "I think he's one of the best receivers in the country."


The same year Hemingway arrived, Michigan's offense transitioned to a zone running scheme. While MANBALL likes centers with enough mass to move massive nose tackles out of the hole, the perfect zone center is a guy who's really strong but also really nimble and really smart. A zone center who can get playside of a DT who's lined up playside of him, and seal that guy off—this is called a reach block—has pretty much created an instant 6 yards for the offense. It is also the hardest block for any offensive lineman to make. I learned this in October of 2008, when somebody first said that David Molk is the best offensive player on the team.6244778962_e6c2c2960e

I have a thing for short people. My wife is a generous 5'0. Desmond Howard made me a Michigan fan. When Mike Hart graduated I never thought another player could ever displace him as all-time favorite Wolverine. Because football is weird the guy who would was already on the sidelines.

At one point Molk was a 5'6, 175-lb high school freshman. Then he discovered the weight room and it was love at first lift. Whereas most of Michigan's on-hand interior guys were a terrible fit for Rich Rodriguez's spread 'n shred and Barwis's legendary weight room, this hit-loving, high-motor, high-attitude, high-academic, low-elevation lineman was born for it.

In 2008 Molk never missed a single offensive play. The ones where he reached some dude and Brandon Minor went RAGE-ing into the secondary were interspersed with plays where the whittle guy got tossed into the backfield by various Ogbu monsters and inadvertently kicking Sheridan in the dong (3&O). Molk responded by getting stronger, winning the Iron Wolverine Award as the best-conditioned Michigan lineman. By his sophomore year he was a Lombardi and Rimington candidate and Michigan's offense came alive. Then he broke a foot against EMU, Moosman moved to center, and the offense wasn't as good. Molk came back from the foot (and surgery) for the first series against Penn State and Michigan went 70 yards in the opening scoring drive that consisted almost entirely of 7-yard gains. During that drive Molk tore a ligament in his knee, God canceled Christmas, and all things that ever happened again were the bad things.


If you are concerned that Molk's impending graduation means the dong-punching will start again, this is not an unreasonable fear.

Molk did return in '10—said he: "It's been almost eleven months. Somebody is going to pay."—and was a Rimington finalist and First Team All Big Ten, leading the way for Denard Robinson's Heisman candidate year despite more injuries that Molk refused to talk about. 03333molkmofoThe one we knew knocked him out in the 3rd play versus Iowa. That hurt the rest of the year, though you'd never hear that from Molk. Here's a snapshot of Molk from half-time of the Wisconsin game:

David Molk decided to pull himself up, and he wanted his teammates to come up with him. They were slumped in their stalls, ready to concede, when he stood up and marched around the room. "Hey, Michigan! Are we fucking scared? Because we're playing like it! We are all on our fucking heels. ALL OF US!

"We gotta drop our fucking nuts and MAN UP! We are NOT lying down! We are NOT scared! We will fight! We will FIGHT! And we will GET AFTER THEM!

"Everyone STAND UP! Stretch out! I mean it!"

"Get up!" Van Bergen said, and they did.

"We're gonna hit 'em in the fucking face," Molk said, "and they'll cry! They'll bleed! NOW LET'S GO!"

The offence went out and played the best half against the Badgers that Wisconsin saw all year. But the defense played the worst and Michigan lost 45-28.

Then Rodriguez was fired. Despite the accolades Molk's stature and the NFL's style didn't make a jump to the pro's likely. Not that Molk ever thought about it…

Yearbook quote:

"A lot of thigns had to happen to go 3-9—not because of the coach, but because of the transition. Every guy who had a chance to leave, left. That tore our team apart. We lost starters, backups, you name it. There were only half of us left.

"We're a family. I love all you guys. No matter how much shit I give you—I love you. If we don't' stay together, we'll never make it. This program stays together. I don't want to see anyone leaving. If you do, we'll be crappy for three more years.

"I love Coad Rod. He did everything he could. But now it rests on us."

JUST JUMP ALREADY … (after the jump)

Wednesday Presser Transcript 11-9-11: Brady Hoke

Wednesday Presser Transcript 11-9-11: Brady Hoke

Submitted by Heiko on November 9th, 2011 at 2:18 PM

News bullets and other important items:

  • Delonte Hollowell had his redshirt burned two weeks ago. 
  • There will be some rotation between Thomas Gordon and Troy Woolfolk vs. Illinois regardless of which one wins the spot in practice.
  • Ricky Barnum still limited in practice. Hoke says he "will play," however.

Brady Hoke

from file

Opening remarks: “I’m going to make a brief statement just regarding everything up at Penn State. One thing I can tell you, we have an utmost respect for what coach Paterno’s done on the field. It’s really a situation that’s obviously unfortunate, but it’s one that doesn’t affect us. We’ve got to worry about Michigan and the decision that we make in getting ready for this week and going to Illinois and winning a football game.

“Now practice yesterday was good. I like it. I liked how they competed. I liked how they came out, had a lot of energy, and they fought like heck.”

(more after the jump)

Monday Presser Transcript 10-24-11: Brady Hoke

Monday Presser Transcript 10-24-11: Brady Hoke

Submitted by Heiko on October 24th, 2011 at 4:11 PM

[No coordinator or Wednesday presser this week, fyi]

News bullets and other important things:

  • We might be seeing more of Frank Clark, Brennen Beyer, and Raymon Taylor.
  • Woolfolk and Barnum seem to be better.
  • Lewan had an ankle injury but is expected back on Saturday. 
  • With Barnum back, there also will be competition at right guard (currently Patrick Omameh).

Brady Hoke

Press Conference

from file

Opening remarks: “It was good in some ways to have a bye week. From a health standpoint, I think it always helps you a little bit, no matter where you’re at in the season, to get a little more rested. I think our guys did a nice job with that. I thought our practices on Tuesday, Thursday, and yesterday were at a high tempo. I think there was a lot of good teaching that went on. When you look at the fundamentals of where we need to improve: blocking, tackling, all those things that go along with football, I think that was good. We’ve got five guaranteed opportunities left that we need to focus on, and obviously this week is Purdue.”

Any new players cracking the depth chart? “Frank Clark [is] one that comes to mind. I think Blake [Countess] has been playing, but I think that helps. Raymon Taylor, when you look at it from that vantage point, that’s good for them to get a little more work in.”

When did you move on from Michigan State, and how fired up are you for Purdue? “Well, we did that on Tuesday. Tuesday was the first time we met together as a team. [We] went through the film, met after the film, went out and practiced, and moved forward.”

You put a lot of emphasis on the trenches. How are they doing by your assessment? “I would say we are not where we need to be with the consistency of how we want to play on both groups. I think there’s been times when, from an offensive standpoint, we blocked the line of scrimmage pretty well and created movement and the things that you want to do at the point of attack. And then I think there are times we haven’t blocked it as well. I would say the same thing on defense. I think Mike’s been very consistent. He’s played better and better every week when you evaluate what he’s done in the middle. I thought Will Heininger played a better football game a couple weeks ago. Maybe one of his better games. But the consistency of all four guys is something we need to keep striving for.”

Greg Brown left the team. Why, and have you ever had guys leave in the middle of the season before? “Greg is no longer part of our team, and yes. I’ve had guys leave.”

(more after the jump.)