Everywhere And Nowhere At All

Everywhere And Nowhere At All

Submitted by Brian on November 21st, 2016 at 1:05 PM

11/19/2016 – Michigan 20, Indiana 10 – 10-1, 7-1 Big Ten

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[Bryan Fuller]

When Midwestern Football Weather looms, there is only one priority for the experienced fan: please, not sleet. The heavens can aim at my head with golf-ball-sized hail as long as the precipitation is of the form that can be dodged or shaken off. The icy needle stuff that penetrates anything short of a spaceship hull is decidedly not preferred.

That's what we got in 2008, figuratively and literally. The infamous Fandom Endurance III game against Northwestern that sent Michigan to 3-7, guaranteeing no bowl bid for the first time in 40-some years, was played in a driving sleet that is bar-none the worst weather I've ever experienced at a game. I imagine the only competition available is that Purdue game from the 90s that ended 5-0; I was not present.

At halftime of 2008 Northwestern the sleet sent me to the concourse in the hope the pretzel machines could restore some feeling to my hands. They could not. And yet:

This is how weird it's been of late: as I huddled near a pretzel contraption at halftime of a game between 3-7 Michigan and Northwestern, soaked, frozen, pondering the grim futility of all things, I discovered that I was sort of enjoying this. Yeah, sure, you had to peel back layer upon layer of misery to get to the morbidly sunny core. But it was there.

That column is staggeringly old now, especially for Michigan fans who aged in dog years during the RichRod era and in you-chose-the-wrong-grail years during the Hoke/Brandon double-barrel fiasco. By the stuttering end of Hoke's tenure I was referencing that column only to repudiate it, my goodwill stripped to the bone and pecked at by Brandon in case there was any seat-cushion related morsel he could take from me and give to himself.

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[Eric Upchurch]

I don't know what's going to happen Saturday. John O'Korn didn't look like a quarterback who could win against OHIO STATE, but Ohio State didn't look like the all-caps version of themselves in a one-point win over Michigan State, or a four-point win over Northwestern, or a loss to Penn State. I don't know if John O'Korn is even going to play.

Having an Ohio State game hanging by a thread because of a quarterback problem is frustratingly familiar turf. Denard Robinson and Chad Henne literally could not throw their senior years; Devin Gardner played most of an OSU game on a broken foot; Drew Henson didn't even bother to play his senior season. It is brutal to have this defense and not know if they're going to have a chance because of yet another backup quarterback throwing a spanner in well-laid plans.

I spent large portions of that game playing Ohio State in my head. I've been doing this since the end of the Wisconsin game, to be honest. I didn't like the results much, but I suppose neither did the sliver of the OSU fanbase capable of complex thought after the Buckeyes got outgained by 3-8 MSU.

I think about ten years ago, and how seismic that felt. It felt like the world would rise or fall based on the result of one goddamn game, and how that was right. And Saturday, and ugh, and can we get this over with.

Then the heavens opened up.

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

What people with no experience of winter fail to understand is its capacity for sheer beauty. Saturday's transient blizzard turned a football game into a kaleidoscope of lacy geometries. The individual flakes traced whorls across the sky, each brilliantly lit. As they began to stick the stadium brightened, and brightened, until it was glowing. Light bounced from white to white until it seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere at once.

I forgot about Speight's shoulder, and the looming nausea machine this weekend, and Twitter, and even the fucking red hat TV timeout guy. What looked dim from the outside was brilliant as mid-day on the interior. It is something I will not forget.

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[Fuller]

110,000 people felt that same lift. Maybe they weren't thinking quite as far back in the sleety past as I was, but they knew the difference between then, and now. Someone started chanting "BEAT OHIO," and thousands more took it up, as Michigan marched out a victory lit by a sun of a their own devising.

One game to change it all. Saturday.

 

HIGHLIGHTS

Full suite from MGoVideo.

AWARDS

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[Upchurch]

Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week

-2535ac8789d1b499[1]you're the man now, dog

#1 De'Veon Smith had more than half of Michigan's yards and more or less produced all their points. On one particular short yardage run he ran directly over safety Tony Fields, causing him to eject an object that was either his mouthpiece, tooth, or soul. Fields kept coming, and Smith kept turning him into mulch.

#2 Taco Charlton collected 2.5 TFLs and created several more by driving his man deep into the backfield. He has been virtually unstoppable as a pass rusher; this was his best outing against the run. And now his ankle's 100%. Look out, world.

#3 Jourdan Lewis had three pass breakups and only gave up one of the two completions he ceded because it was in a blizzard and he was giving up ten yards on purpose. He had a couple of important PBUs on third down slants that booted Indiana off the field.

Honorable mention: Channing Stribling gave up one completion for 20 yards or so but had his share of PBUs and solid coverage; Ryan Glasgow was an interior terror; the offensive line in general blew up what had been a very good rush defense. Dymonte Thomas had an impressive thunk to prevent a drag route from converting a third down and had one of those PBUs where I have to check to make sure that he's not Lewis.

KFaTAotW Standings.

10: Wilton Speight (#1 UCF, #1 Illinois, #3 MSU, #1 Maryland)
9: Jabrill Peppers(T2, Hawaii; #3 UCF, #1 Colorado, #2 Rutgers, #2 MSU)
7: Taco Charlton(three-way T1, PSU, same vs Rutgers, #3 Maryland, #2 Iowa, #2 Indiana).
5: Ryan Glasgow(#2 UCF, #1 UW), Chris Wormley (three-way T1, PSU, same vs Rutgers, #1 Iowa).
4: Jourdan Lewis (#3 UW, #2 Maryland, #3 Indiana).
3.5: De'Veon Smith (four-way T2, PSU, #1 Indiana).
3: Mike McCray(#1, Hawaii), Ben Gedeon(#3 Colorado, #3 PSU, three-way T1 Rutgers), Amara Darboh(#1 MSU),
2.5: Karan Higdon(four-way T2, PSU, #2 Illinois).
2: Jake Butt(#2 Colorado), Kyle Kalis (#2 UW)
1: Delano Hill (T2, Hawaii), Chris Evans (T3, Hawaii, four-way T2, PSU),  Maurice Hurst (three-way T1, PSU),  Devin Asiasi(#3 Rutgers), Ben Braden (#3 Illinois), Channing Stribling (#3 Iowa).
0.5: Mason Cole(T3, Hawaii), Ty Isaac (four-way T2, PSU).

Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week

This week's best thing ever.

De'Veon Smith stakes Michigan to a lead that felt much larger than three points.

Also, shirtless men.

Honorable mention: O'Korn scrambles for 30 yards; Smith extends the lead to 10.

WGIBTUs Past.

Hawaii: Laughter-inducing Peppers punt return.
UCF: Speight opens his Rex Grossman account.
Colorado: Peppers cashes it in.
PSU: Wormley's sack establishes a theme.
UW: Darboh puts Michigan ahead for good.
Rutgers: Peppers presses "on".
Illinois: TRAIN 2.0.
MSU: lol, two points.
Maryland: very complicated bomb.
Iowa: The touchdown.
Indiana: Smith woodchips Michigan a lead.

imageMARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.

This week's worst thing ever.

Indiana goes on a Legitimate Drive in the middle of the second quarter and takes the lead at a point where you're wondering if Michigan can actually score a touchdown of their own.

Honorable mention: Various O'Korn things; the back-to-back-to-back ludicrous catches to set up an Indiana FG.

PREVIOUS EPIC DOUBLE BIRDs

Hawaii: Not Mone again.
UCF: Uh, Dymonte, you may want to either tackle or at least lightly brush that guy.
Colorado: Speight blindsided.
PSU: Clark's noncontact ACL injury.
UW: Newsome joins the ranks of the injured.
Rutgers: you can't call back the Mona Lisa of punt returns, man.
Illinois: They scored a what now? On Michigan? A touchdown?
Michigan State: a terrifying first drive momentarily makes you think you're in the mirror universe.
Maryland: Edge defense is a confirmed issue.
Iowa: Kalis hands Iowa a safety.
Indiana: A legitimate drive.

[After THE JUMP: Quarterback fussin'.]

Upon Further Review 2016: Offense vs Maryland

Upon Further Review 2016: Offense vs Maryland

Submitted by Brian on November 10th, 2016 at 3:07 PM

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SPONSOR NOTES: We're going to Iowa thanks to Matt, and he's going to be tailgating prior to the game. If you're going, hit him up and stop by. We'll be around for a few hours before the game, traffic and weather willing.

In addition to being a gentleman replete with Michigan tickets, Matt is also a good man to know if you need a mortgage. It's striking that we actually get non-astroturfed comments about positive experiences with Matt not infrequently.

If you're buying a home or refinancing, he's the right guy to call.

FORMATION NOTES: Maryland switched between fronts a bunch, seemingly because they were trying to find anything that could possibly work. A 3-4 was their base set through the middle of the game; late and early they were mostly four-man fronts.

None of this went well. Here is an obligatory picture.

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Michigan didn't do anything wacky with formations aside from some pistol stuff that is pretty standard at various places around college football.

SUBSTITUTION NOTES: 59 snaps for the line before they were pulled on the final drive. Braden-Bredeson-Cole-Kalis-Magnuson for the third straight week; Kugler got two RG snaps after the Kalis personal foul. Butt and Darboh were close to omnipresent with 47 and 44 snaps; Chesson got 33.

De'Veon Smith usage surged to two-thirds of Michigan's snaps, with Ty Isaac limited to four. Evans and Higdon had 13 and 11. Peppers got four. Hill and Poggi continued to split FB snaps about down the middle. Asiasi, Bunting, and Wheatley all got around 20 snaps; Crawford, McDoom, and Harris got around 10.

[After THE JUMP: many, many touchdowns.]

Upon Further Review 2016: Offense vs Illinois

Upon Further Review 2016: Offense vs Illinois

Submitted by Brian on October 27th, 2016 at 4:11 PM

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SPONSOR NOTES: I was struck when we were hanging out at the Bo Store that it was very cool that some of our main sponsors were very much like us: small businesses in the Michigan community run by guys who are just dudes, you know? I like to think that UGP and Homesure are the MGoBlogs of their respective fields: small, detailed, involved, pantsless.

In addition to being a gentleman replete with Michigan tickets, Matt is also a good man to know if you need a mortgage. It's striking that we actually get non-astroturfed comments about positive experiences with Matt not infrequently.

If you're buying a home or refinancing, he's the right guy to call.

FORMATION NOTES: Illinois loaded the box the entire game, usually in an over front

illinois 4-4

They played with one safety exclusively and had 8 or 9 in the box depending on whether M was in a big formation or not.

Michigan didn't have anything too weird except a slightly modified T:

t-formation

This was one play only. Oh, right, and TRAIN.

SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Starting line of Braden-Bredeson-Cole-Kalis-Magnuson went most of the way, getting 66 snaps each. The backup line now reads JBB-Runyan-Kugler-Onwenu-Dawson, FWIW. Ulizio got bumped by JBB, must be primarily a tackle.

Butt got the most snaps of any skill player with 56, and Asiasi wasn't far behind with 41. Wheatley had his most extended playing time in a while with 31 snaps; Bunting returned on a single snap. With Perry out the main beneficiary was Kekoa Crawford, who had 35 snaps; Chesson had 33 and Darboh 44. McDoom had his usual deployment.

Poggi and Hill again split snaps about down the middle.

[After THE JUMP: a diversity of items.]

This Week’s Obsession: New Contributors Stock Watch

This Week’s Obsession: New Contributors Stock Watch

Submitted by Seth on September 27th, 2016 at 12:00 PM

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Asiasi-asi! Oy! Oy! Oy! [Bryan Fuller]

Our weekly roundtable.

The Question:

How are our pre-season predictions on new starters and heavy rotation guys holding up? Eligible players are anyone getting significantly more snaps this year than last.

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

The Responses:

David:

UpTyree Kinnel. I'm relieved and satisfied from what I've seen from Kinnel so far; he looks to be another Boring Safety™. Hooray!

I looked back through the last few defensive UFRs and he received increasingly more snaps, hovering around +1 while being relevant on only a few plays. After Clark got hurt Kinnel seemed to be the DB of choice to take his spot and shift others around as necessary. Kinnel has also been used on special teams and blocked a kick. While he's not going to be a starter just yet (hopefully), his work load should increase, and for the moment it looks like that will come without a drop-off. I'm not thinking that anyone ever has serious doubts about whether he could contribute on this team, but he's at least met expectations so far.

DownOn the other end of the secondary spectrum appears to be Brandon Watson. He hasn't played a ton, but he definitely saw his snaps go up for the Hawaii and Colorado games. In the UFR he was -2 and -3, respectively, for those games. He was put in the slot against Colorado for the first couple of quarters and definitely looked overmatched. He's always been a guy who could potentially succeed if he got a good jam on a WR...however, when that does not happen, he looks lost in space. With Michigan's current and future set of CBs, its not looking like Watson will see too much extra time in close games, or not on defense anyway. It looks as if he could be destined for special teams duty for the long term.

[Hit THE JUMP for MGoBlog contributors trying very hard to find something that hasn’t gone right so far.]

Upon Further Review 2016: Offense vs UCF

Upon Further Review 2016: Offense vs UCF

Submitted by Brian on September 14th, 2016 at 3:55 PM

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SPONSOR NOTES: Oh man Sauce Castillo, you're in for it. You already turned El Assico(!) into a blowout. I'm supposed to talk about mortgages. Right: low rates right now, and Matt will take these rates and turn them into a home if you qualify for things such as loans.

In addition to being a gentleman replete with Michigan tickets, he is also a good man to know if you need a mortgage. It's striking that we actually get non-astroturfed comments about positive experiences with Matt not infrequently.

If you're buying a home or refinancing, he's the right guy to call.

FORMATION NOTES: UCF was a 3-4 front with a couple of adjustments. This is their base front; Michigan is in "ace diamond TE," with Asiasi at one of the FB spots.

ace-diamond-te

On passing downs UCF would go to a nickel with two DL on the field and standup ends:

nickel standup end

And they'd frequently line up their three DL right next to each other and shifted to the run strength of the formation:

pinched 3-4

Called this "pinched 3-4."

PERSONNEL NOTES: Michigan cut down on the rotation severely despite having a huge lead. With the exception of left guard, the starting OL got almost every snap. Non-LG starters (Newsome, Cole, Kalis, Magnuson) got all 81 snaps. Braden and Bredeson platooned at LG with Bredeson(49 snaps) getting the plurality of time. Bushell-Beatty and Onwenu came in very late in a 7 OL package.

At WR, Chesson and Darboh got most of the run in a game featuring a lot of heavy packages. Grant Perry got just 15 snaps. Butt was near omnipresent; Bunting was the next-most utilized blocky/catchy guy. Poggi and Hill are still splitting things down the middle.

Smith got about half the work at RB(37 snaps), with Evans, Isaac, and Higdon splitting the rest about down the middle.

[After THE JUMP: pass great, run not so much]

Upon Further Review 2016: Offense vs Hawaii

Upon Further Review 2016: Offense vs Hawaii

Submitted by Brian on September 8th, 2016 at 3:00 PM

HomeSure-Lending_logo_tagSPONSOR NOTES: We have determined that if the Iowa game goes badly user Sauce Castillo is the person to blame. This because it is not our fault, and it certainly isn't our lovely sponsor Matt's fault. We are going thanks to Matt, you see, and last time we did a blog road trip it ended… unwell. But that won't happen this time. Unless Sauce Castillo screws it up again.

In addition to being a gentleman replete with Michigan tickets, he is also a good man to know if you need a mortgage. It's striking that we actually get non-astroturfed comments about positive experiences with Matt not infrequently.

If you're buying a home or refinancing, he's the right guy to call.

FORMATION NOTES: There wasn't anything worth screenshotting as unusual. Here is a picture of how this game went.

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[Bryan Fuller]

PERSONNEL NOTES: Speight was your QB until the last three drives when things went O'Korn-Morris-Malzone. The RB depth chart looked to be Smith-Isaac-Evans-Higdon-Davis, with Isaac and Evans getting the bulk of the work once Smith's rib issue sent him to the bench. Poggi (15 snaps) and Hill (21) split things about down the middle at FB.

No surprises at WR, and the lack of passing cut into opportunities to see guys down the depth chart. McDoom may have passed Drake Harris? Way too early to tell. Nate Johnson was about the only guy who surprisingly didn't play, FWIW.

At TE it was all Butt and Bunting early. Wheatley and Asiasi didn't get snaps until the second half, I believe. Those two and McKeon all got around 15.

OL was Newsome-Bredeson/Kugler-Cole-Kalis-Magnuson, with Kugler getting the first and third quarters while Bredeson had the second and fourth. The second team line was JBB-Bredeson-Kugler-Onwenu-Ulizio. With Kugler on both lines he actually got 59 snaps, more than anyone else on either side of the ball. FWIW, Michigan left Newsome out for one drive after the established players left w JBB at RT and Ulizio on the bench.

[After THE JUMP: hair]

Preview 2016: Tight End And Friends

Preview 2016: Tight End And Friends

Submitted by Brian on August 30th, 2016 at 2:25 PM

Previously: Podcast 8.0. The Story. Quarterback. Running Back. Wide Receiver.

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[Bryan Fuller]

Depth Chart

Fullback Yr. H-back Yr. Tight End Yr. Flex Yr.
Henry Poggi Jr.* Khalid Hill Jr.* TJ Wheatley Fr.* Jake Butt Sr.
Bobby Henderson Sr.* Henry Poggi Jr.* Devin Asiasi Fr. Ian Bunting So.*
Michael Hirsch Jr. Jabrill Peppers So.* Zach Gentry Fr.* Nick Eubanks Fr.

A few years ago we split tight ends from the WR post and fullbacks from the RB post, figuring that under Brady Hoke there would be enough of them to warrant it. We even split guys into various categories because a tight end is not just a tight end. Then Jim Harbaugh came in. After an internal struggle this site has decided not to split each one of these columns into its own post, but it was a near thing. Those columns are:

  • FULLBACK: a man with a steel plated head who runs into linebackers, gets two 50 carries in his career, and has six catches. See: Kevin Dudley, Sione Houma.
  • H-BACK: A "move" tight end who motions all about, rarely lines up on the actual line of scrimmage, often goes from fullback to a flared spot or vice versa, and operates as more of a receiver than the fullback. Must be a credible threat to LBs; ends career with 40 catches. See: Aaron Shea.
  • TIGHT END: Larger than the H-back, the tight end is a tight end who is actually tight to the end of the line. He comes out, lines up next to a tackle, helps him win blocks, and clobberates linebackers at the second level. He goes out into patterns as well, and may end his career with 40 catches himself. See: AJ Williams, Jerame Tuman.
  • FLEX: Big enough to play on the end of the line credibly. Agile enough to play H-back credibly. Not great at either. Capable of splitting out wide and threatening the secondary. Sacrifices some blocking for explosiveness. Can be a prime receiving threat. See: Tyler Eifert, Jake Butt.

And of course many of these people bleed into other categories. Think of these position designations as Gaussian distributions in close proximity to each other.

So. These are the categories. The men who, uh, man them are many and varied and in one case the bar-none best in all the land. Let's start with him.

TIGHT END AND FLEX

RATING: 5

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opponents will call Butt dastardly this year [Fuller/MGoBlue]

In keeping with this site's tradition of dignified reserve, last year's preview claimed Jim Harbaugh called Jake Butt an "Ertz/Fleener Voltron" based on this quote:

"Jake is as good a prospect as we've coached at the college level," Harbaugh said. "We've produced a lot of great players in college at the spot and it's vital to our success."

And lo, he pretty much was an Ertz/Fleener Voltron. Per Pro Football Focus he graded out better than any tight end in the country as a receiver. Survey says: yup. I sort catch opportunities into four bins: routine balls, challenging ones, crazy ones, and uncatchable ones. Butt was a perfect 36/36 on routine balls, an outstanding 10/12 on challenging balls, and 3/3 on circus catches. Meanwhile Butt's enormous catch radius and excellent route running tend to move opportunities into easier categories. Only eight times last year did a Jake Butt target get filed uncatchable. (I don't count balls thrown away in the general vicinity of a player.) That means 83% of the time Jake Rudock tried to hit Butt, Michigan moved the ball. Butt targets averaged over 11 yards a pop. Voltron achieved.

There's still no better example of Butt's prowess than the touchdown from the opener where Jake Rudock first explored the wonders of the #buttzone:

Unless it's this sensational one handed catch against Rutgers in 2014:

Jake Butt can make your wrong-ass wrong throws of wrongness into something so right.

Even so, after eight catches in the opener Butt's production fell off. Over the next six games a struggling Rudock only hit him 14 times downfield for a measly 133 yards—there was a 44-yard screen that Harbaugh conjured in there as well. Butt's a tight end. Sometimes he's covered, sort of, and Rudock didn't look for him.

Then Harbaugh beat the stone-cold fact that a covered Jake Butt still isn't covered into Rudock's brain and production took off. Butt had 28 catches in the final six games and 376 yards. That's double the catch rate and triple the yardage. Much of that production returned to the magical land where only Jake Butt frolics:

There is no defending that. Welcome to the #buttzone. Take a highway to the #buttzone. Right into the #buttzone.

In addition to his pterodactyl-like catching radius and Wilt Chamberlain hands, Butt's athleticism allows him to shake safeties with his routes...

...and occasionally split them after the catch:

Or just flat outrun a corner. An Indiana corner, yes. Still, this is a guy who had a 70-yard screen against OSU as a freshman and drew this praise from an anonymous Big Ten player even before his breakout junior season:

"We played them late in the year, and [Butt] was someone that was really tough to defend. He's incredibly athletic. He made a catch against us that not that many receivers even make, so he has great hands."

You could not draw up a better receiving tight end.

As a blocker... I mean... he's a great receiver. I say this somewhat seriously. Opponents have to treat him differently than a normal tight end, and the run game benefits from it. Against OSU Jabrill Peppers picked up a seven yard chunk largely because he looked like he'd throw to Butt for a moment and that was enough for two OSU players to freak out.

When it came to making actual contact with the opposition, Butt was decent. Middling. Okay. He was very much a finesse blocker, and this was good enough given the strictures his presence put on the opposing defense. This isn't a brutal finish; it's good enough:

[Butt is on the right side of the OL]

There will be no comparisons to Devin Funchess here. Butt is functional as a blocker. He gets in the way of guys and stays in their way, mostly, if they're not real mean.

That is kind of the cap, though. Get him soloed up against a defensive end and it'll go like "tight end versus Chris Wormley" most of the time. In UFR his run contributions came out moderately positive against the lesser teams on the schedule and negative against likes of Utah, BYU, MSU, and... uh... Rutgers. The bowl was a nice step forward but repeatedly caving in the edge of Florida's defense could be interpreted as a motivation issue for the Gators. Pro Football Focus tastefully omits mention of his blocking when they reference him because he came out negative on the year.

Remaining upside in this department is limited since he's going from his third to his fourth year. What remains is probably more about the mental side of the game than a sudden surge in ability like AJ Williams had. He'll get a little stronger and a little wiser; what you see is close to what you're going to get.

That happens to be a guy who is going to break Jim Mandich's all-time TE receiving record, a guy guaranteed to be off the board by the end of the second round of the next NFL draft. Jake Butt is a captain on a team with Jehu Chesson. I mean. Harbaugh:

"From day one, Jake Butt is an A++ guy as a player. We're in a meeting or in an install and I see him on the edge of his seat sitting through a two-hour meeting and he's communicating with guys next to him. He's interpreting for the younger guys. He has pizzazz."

Butt's about to be the best tight end in Michigan history.

[After THE JUMP: Ol' Skillet Hands and friends.]

Spring Stuff, 2016: Feelingsball and Offense

Spring Stuff, 2016: Feelingsball and Offense

Submitted by Brian on April 4th, 2016 at 1:22 PM

First, a little feelingsball

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[Eric Upchurch]

Spring games are notorious for being a little data amidst an ocean of noise, so as always take everything here with a grain of salt. And this section isn't even a concrete observation about a player, so doubly so here. But… my favorite thing that happened on Friday wasn't a play.

It was the aftermath of the two-point conversion, when the white team poured onto the field like they'd just won the Super Bowl and blue team coach Chris Partridge roared off the sideline to have a Harbaugh-level conniption fit at the ref.

A couple other coaches reacted similarly, if not as dramatically, as Partridge; the white team organized at midfield for a photo. Wyatt Shallman headbanged like there was no tomorrow. Drake Johnson collapsed in a heap.

I tweeted to Ace that he should title the recap "Controversial finish mars Spring Game ending,"* because that was funny. It's only funny because it's kind of true.

This is a different thing now. Last year's team was good but it was still caught between being a program that apologizes for a tent stake and a program whose DGAF levels are off the charts. Judging from the reactions of everyone involved on both sides, the all-competition-all-the-time ethos has sunk in. That more than anything else makes me anticipate the upcoming season.

This concludes your feelingsball portion of the program.

*[He did not, and I was all like ಠ_ಠ.]

Highlights

[After THE JUMP: position by position breakdowns of what we learned on offense]

Spring Practice Presser 3/29/16: Tim Drevno

Spring Practice Presser 3/29/16: Tim Drevno

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on March 31st, 2016 at 11:07 AM

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[Fuller/MGoBlog]

Where have you seen the biggest growth in your offense over the last couple of weeks?

“I just think that people understand the concepts. Really the passing game’s come along with the precision and timing. You know, making corrections. People understand what you’re trying to correct and they’re fixing it the next day you come out.”

Coach Harbaugh said that his quarterbacks were making ‘one big mistake’ per day right now. Is that still—I mean, what do you need to see from them this week and then going through the summer?

“I think just, you know, in terms of where they need to go with the ball, the progressions of their reads, when there’s no play to be made make a play. And that goes for any type of quarterback in any system. That’s not just this particular system here. That’s what you’re looking for.”

Have you seen a difference between John [O’Korn] being in his first year being in a competitive situation and the other two guys, Shane [Morris] and Wilton [Speight]?

“I think John’s a real competitor. I don’t think if he’s a redshirt it doesn’t matter to him. He’s a guy who comes out, wants to compete every day, and wants to be at his best.”

How do you distinguish between making a play when there isn’t one and trying to do too much? Where’s the line that gets drawn between those two?

“I think those guys just kind of naturally have it. They know when to make a play. They know when to step up and find a spot in the pocket. They know when to scramble. They know when to get rid of the ball not to take a sack. You know, I think it’s just kind of part of their DNA. It’s in there, you’ve just got to get it out of them.”

Was moving Mason [Cole] more about the importance of that center position or just getting the top five on the field?

“You know, you just really want to get the top five in however you do that. We’re still evaluating if that’s the best position for him. He’s done a very, very nice job this spring. That’s a hard thing to do is stand there with the ball in your hand and you’ve got a 300-pound guy breathing down your neck and you’ve got to snap it, you know. He’s really handled it beautifully. He’s done a really, really nice job with it.”

Do you guys feel like Newsome’s ready to start if need be?

“Yeah! When we played him last year as a true freshman we believed that he’s ready to do that if that’s how it all pans out.”

What’s different about him? You’ve talked about football lenses opening. Was his already a little more open than most?

“He’s very intelligent. He gets it. He can make a correction once [and] he can fix it. He understands what you’re talking about when you talk to him in the room. The screen doesn’t got fuzzy with him. He stays with you in a conversation.”

[After THE JUMP: Others in the OL rotation, Ty Isaac’s spring, and what Don Brown’s scheme does for the O-line]

Open Practice Impressions

Open Practice Impressions

Submitted by Brian on March 28th, 2016 at 12:21 PM

Before we start, folks who aren't going to be mentioned because they were on the sideline: Jehu Chesson, David Dawson, Ryan Glasgow, Mo Ways, Kingston Davis, Karan Higdon, Shelton Johnson.

Established guys we didn't see much of

I've seen a number of open practices by now and there's always a subclass of guys who aren't hurt but don't play much. Those guys are gentlemen who have established who they are and are too important to the team to expose them to extensive contact. They've made it, more or less. (These are never OL or DL.)

Most of the gentlemen who fell into this category are obvious: Jake Butt, Jabrill Peppers, Amara Darboh, Jourdan Lewis. There was one that indicates a supposedly contested position battle that might not be all that contested: De'Veon Smith saw very few live contact carries.

Tyrone Wheatley Jr Is A Tight End, And A Mutant

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[Bryan Fuller]

Some guys leap off the field the first time you see them in action, because… whoah. Devin Funchess did so at the first open practice these eyes ever laid eyes on, and that proved itself more or less correct over the course of his career. It was immediately apparent that Funchess was a rare combination of size and mobility.

Tyrone Wheatley Jr. is that plus 70 pounds. He's not Funchess. He's in fact the opposite of Funchess as far as blocky/catchy types go. But he has that same combination of size and mobility that makes you go "whoah" the first time you see him in action. I was typing out tweets about how his ability to relocate himself at his size was uncanny even before he did this:

That's not a great angle; I had one. Devin Bush Jr had outstanding coverage underneath Wheatley, grabbing an arm and forcing the one-handed stab. Which Wheatley made, escaped/stiffarmed an understandably stumbling Bush, and then outran a bunch of LBs and safeties to the endzone. Even though large chunks of the crowd had left by that point it drew the largest cheer of the day, and deservedly.

That was not a one-off play. Wheatley had four or five other catches where he looked both unexpectedly mobile and a natural receiver. He also had an outstanding block in space against Chase Winovich that allowed John O'Korn to uncork a long post throw to Grant Perry for a touchdown.

There have been persistent rumors that Wheatley was destined for OL because of his size and some assertions to that effect in Rivals's Inside The Fort posts. This practice will definitively dispel those rumors. Wheatley isn't just a tight end, he is a potential gamebreaker. At 280.

[After THE JUMP: future mutants, QB battle, an extant run game, and some dude from Malaysia.]