Henry was an under the radar recruit out of Cleveland Glenville who Brady Hoke picked up on late; his raw power wasn't matched by his technique until this year, when he put together a breakout year along with the rest of the defensive line. In honor of his tendency to hurl people away from him entertainingly he's got a "willie henry throws humans" tag; he played at an All Conference level and probably won't last past the third round. With remaining upside I wouldn't be surprised if someone grabbed him sooner. Any concerns that Michigan's NFL draft streak might end can cease, at least?
In Henry's absence Michigan is likely to move Maurice Hurst into the starting three-tech role; they still go 6-7 deep on the line with quality players. Henry's departure does hurt Michigan's chances of fielding a full-on Alabama-style line. It also opens up a scholarship; Michigan now has 19 spots available and counting.
On television, passes over a certain length are leaps of faith for the viewer. The quarterback throws it. Then there's a second or two before the intended target comes into focus. In that second you hope the guy is open or covered, depending on the situation. Maybe sometimes if you're lucky just plain expect something good to happen. For most of the year Michigan's defense has given fans the right to expect something at least reasonably difficult in those moments.
The offense hasn't quite managed that, even after Harbaugh found the right way to scream-pound Jake Rudock midway through the season. Also Florida's secondary is House of Cosby, except with Jourdan Lewis. So Rudock flung it up and for a moment there it didn't look too good. The arc was a bit high, the ball hung a bit long. Despite the recent surge I felt a wave of trepidation as this ball's parabola swung back towards Earth.
And then Jehu Chesson panned into view. Just Chesson, because Vernon Hargreaves was standing at the twenty yard line with an enormous animated question mark over his head. Chesson caught an uncontested touchdown that Rudock had punted up short on purpose, and the slow-motion rout was on.
A few months ago Michigan trundled to another one of those losses against Utah that are all pretty much the same depressing football game. In it, Chesson burned a corner on a double move almost as badly as he did Hargreaves. He downshifted as he neared the endzone; Rudock tried to make the perfect pass and ended up overthrowing a sure thing by a couple yards.
That was a theme of not only his junior season at Iowa but the first half of this year: Rudock would try to hit the perfect pass every time, and often this was just out of his reach. That tendency continued; it combined with an unfamiliarity with the offense to turn Rudock from an efficient, if beleaguered, game manager into a guy who barely completed half his passes and couldn't hit 6 YPA against UNLV.
There wasn't anything to be done about this. Rudock was in Ann Arbor to spackle over a quarterback recruiting sinkhole of epic proportions, and if he didn't work out he didn't work out. A shrug is all you can muster if the stopgap is in fact a stopgap.
Then f(Rudock) = 2^x
Ain't never seen anything like that before. One day, Jake Rudock was scuffling through a depressing transition season. The next he was keeping Michigan afloat as the defense scrambled in the aftermath of Ryan Glasgow's injury.
The Chesson touchdown, while easy, was the culmination of Rudock's year. That closed the circle from the Utah game. Later Rudock would dump a 45-yard post route in Chesson's lap to put a cherry on top.
Rudock finished behind only Nate Sudfeld in passer efficiency in the Big Ten, averaged nearly 8 yards an attempt, had a 20:9 TD:INT ratio, and led the conference with a 64% completion percentage.
Rudock ended the year against the nation's #4, 5, and 8 S&P+ pass defenses. His line in those three games: 64/101, 63%, 7.9 YPA, 6 TD, 1 INT.
I am going to repeat that. Jake Rudock's line against three consecutive top ten pass defenses: 63%, 7.9 YPA, 6:1 TD-INT.
Give Jim Harbaugh your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, and he will turn them into NFL quarterbacks. Give Jim Harbaugh your disjointed messes, your pitiful morale, your nonsense rosters, and he will put on a hard-hat and create a ten-win team. I think we just got done with the glide path. Now for a rocket and a match.
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 Jake Rudock completed his in-season renaissance with a stunningly efficient performance against a third-straight top-ten pass defense. He also ran for some yards and gave a polished post-game interview. Destined to be a backup QB in the NFL for the next ten years.
#2 De'Veon Smith went full Ricky Vaughn in this game, demonstrating a greatly improved ability to read the game in front of him and quickness possibly borne of a recovery from injury. PFF credited him with 11 broken tackles; he crested 100 yards against a fierce run defense.
#3 Jehu Chesson toasted Vernon Hargreaves crispy on a touchdown, caught a tough 45-yard post route, had a catch-and-run conversion on which he was pulling away from the Florida secondary before a safety chopped him down, had a spectacular over-the-shoulder reception on a play he also drew a flag on, and then had the best catch of his life on a throw that took him about six inches out of bounds. Do I hear Manningham 2.0?
Honorable mention: Chris Wormley and Willie Henry had terrific days on the DL and are excluded mostly because the offensive players had a much tougher matchup. Jarrod Wilson ended his boring Michigan career with a boring interception and we love boring safeties and will miss him. Kenny Allen hit a couple chip shot field goals, blasted a punt that would have probably been a 70 yarder had the endzone not intervened, and hit Vernon Hargreaves so hard on a kick return that he forgot to cover Chesson a bit later. Mason Cole and Graham Glasgow were terrific on the ground and equally good against the pass.
Honorable mention: That post route. De'Veon Smith finds a backside cut. Drake Johnson reverses direction on that draw. Treon Harris's ludicrous interception. Willie Henry eats a dude. Sione Houma befuddles a linebacker.
Utah: circle route pick six. Oregon State: Rudock fumbles after blitz bust. UNLV: Rudock matches 2014 INT total in game 3. BYU: BYU manages to get to triple digit yards in the last minutes of the game. Maryland: Slog extended by deflected interception at Houma. Northwestern: KLINSMANN OUT MSU: Obvious. Minnesota: The bit where the lost it until they didn't. Rutgers: KO return given up. Indiana: run run run run run run run run run run run run. PSU: OSU's WHAT ARE THOOOOOOSE gameplan against MSU. OSU: the second half
After the injury to Ryan Glasgow Michigan has struggled to stop zone running. Indiana and Penn State tore the defense to shreds on stretch or outside zone, until Penn State decided the thing that got them two huge gains in three attempts wasn't worth using again (please keep James Franklin forever kthx). I drew that up last week and found Michigan was still trying to defend runs by shooting the DL upfield and dominating one-on-one matchups up front, as opposed to soundly preventing guards from releasing onto the linebackers.
With Urban Meyer, one of a few true masters of modern running attacks, doing the planning for the Game, we knew Michigan's defensive coaches would have to pull something out of our butts to stop it. Here's what we found in our butts:
Under: NT on the center, shaded to strong. DT on a guard. (aka Weak, 50)
Over: NT on the center, shaded to weak. DT on a guard. (aka Strong)
Even: DL are lined up over guards, none over the center. (aka Split)
Okie: Center is covered, guards are not. (aka 30)
Bear: Center and guards all covered. (aka 46, Eagle, Double Eagle)
These can be split into "Odd" (under/over) and "Even" (Even, Okie, Bear). It is usual for just about any defense to come out in multiple fronts over the course of a game, though Bear and Okie are more rare than the other three.
Anyway that's what that means. By putting guys over the guards it makes it tougher for them to release to the next level. Michigan State used to love their even fronts back when Bullough was their best run defender, and that tells you something about the design of this defense. Tweaking your defense is about making life hard on your better players so things are easier for the rest of your players. "Even" makes life hard on the MLB, since that center is getting a free release unto him.
There's nothing 100% unsound about this defense. Depending on the offense's play, one LB is likely to get a center on him but the other is often a free hitter. If your LB eating the block is good at beating those consistently, or your free hitter is a ninja who sniffs out the play and attacks ferociously, or your unblocked guy is coached to play aggressively against an option you can defeat a basic run play regularly.
Happy Thanksgiving. Merry Thanksgiving? I'm trying not to accidentally have a war on Christmas here. Whichever Thanksgiving greeting you feel is appropriate appears in this space along with a reminder that Matt's good at making mortgages happen and a solid all-around dude, so if you're in the market you could do a lot worse.
FORMATION NOTES: Standard stuff from Michigan to the point where I forgot to take a screenshot. Here is a picture of Hackenberg getting swarmed instead.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Charlton moved to buck/WDE. With him there it's WDE. RJS backed him up an got a healthy number of snaps. Hurst, Henry, and Wormley got the vast bulk of the remaining DL snaps. Strobel got in for a few. Godin had a little bit more playing time than Strobel but maybe a dozen snaps total.
Gedeon rotated in for both Morgan and Bolden periodically. Bolden seemed to get more rest than Morgan. Gedeon might have been in there a quarter of the time. Ross played a reasonable amount as a SAM in 4-3 sets.
Secondary was as per usual now, with Hill the dime back behind Thomas. Stribling got scattered snaps. In the 4-3 Peppers and Lewis were the corners.
[After THE JUMP: diatribe! Three plays that went poorly! And then good stuff!]
After getting stretched time and again by Indiana, one of Penn State's first plays sprung excellent freshman RB Saquon Barkley for a 56-yard gain. Terror struck. Michigan then proceeded to hold the Nits (shout-out to RoUMel) backs to just 17 yards on 15 carries. What happened on that one run? Did it happen again? Did we learn to stop this all of a sudden, or maybe Franklin shelved it the rest of the game because it wasn't sporting? Let's find out.
What were they doing?
he can cut into any gap
And to zoom in on the important part:
Zone stretch or outside zone is a basic part of any zone running offense. Teams that use it most effectively are those with nimble offensive linemen. Where inside things are about blowing the defense back to make holes, stretch plays try to flank the defense.
For the OL it starts with the same rules as inside zone: if you're "covered" by a defensive lineman you block that guy, if you're not you release to block a linebacker, and if you're lined up playside of a DL you combo then release. Then you block depending on what those defenders are trying to do: if they shoot inside you seal, if they slant away you shove and make them over-slant—they'll really have no choice but to try to ride you and stay playside. Then the RB picks his hole based on whichever block went the best.
[After the jump: Michigan had a solution, which had a problem.]
When Michigan State won on Saturday, how did that change your feelings toward The Game and what this matchup might mean?
WH: “Personally for me it didn’t because this is the biggest rivalry in college football, in my opinion. They’re going to go out there and give it their all. We’re going to control what we can control, so we’re going to go out there and play Michigan football Saturday.”
KK: “Yeah, I have to agree. You know, the whole year it’s really just been us controlling our own destiny. It’s going to be up to us having a great week of practice preparing for the game. They’re going to come out hard like they always do. Yeah, doesn’t affect anything for me.”
Joe, you’re a senior. You’re from Ohio. Is there really anything else to say this week?
“Not really, no.”
Is this a game you’ve been waiting for?
“Yeah, [for] four years, you could say. Since I committed.”
Considering you’re all from Ohio, what does this mean for your family and your friends having to deal with both sides of the rivalry?
KK: “There’s definitely some conflict, but it’s all good. This is the best rivalry game in college football. No doubt in my mind, and I know I’m not the only one who thinks that. It’s going to be fun. We’ve all been waiting for it. Team’s been waiting for it. Both teams are going to come out hard, guns blazing, not holding anything back, and it’s going to be a good one.”
Willie, you guys made a slight schematic change going into the game with Penn State on Saturday: you put four traditional down linemen in the game. When did you make that decision, and how do you think that approach worked this weekend?
“That was all coach Durkin and the coaching staff. They come in every week and they’re scheming up something different to help the defense and the team to put us in a better situation to win games. They thought going down to a traditional 4-3 look was better for the team; I’m all for it. It was more what was best for the team and a schematic advantage for Penn State.”
How do you think you guys did with it?
“I think we did well. I congratulate the D-line. I felt like we put a lot of pressure on Hackenberg during the game and tried to keep pressure and get to him with a four-man rush.”
Hey man you never know when something that looks good is going to suddenly disintegrate into a pile of sawdust or like the Fed is going to say "rates are now a billion percent" so get a mortgage with Matt. I may be overreacting to the content of this post. It's probably going to be fine if you don't refinance or whatever. But it could also not be fine and you could get stuck on the field for ninety mortgages or something.
FORMATION NOTES: When I say "nickel under" I do mean a 4-3 under with nickel personnel.
Bolden is standing up on the LOS as the SAM with Hill filling in as a second ILB. Wilson is off the screen as a very deep S as per usual.
M occasionally tucked a linebacker inside one of their DEs, which is a "bear" front:
Nickel buck denotes the buck LB right behind the nose. This was rare.
Ross got in as a buck and stood up and I'm just pretending he's a DE, okay? That's what I'm pretending.
PERSONNEL NOTES: Michigan spent almost the entire game in a nickel aside from some goal line sets and a few dime packages. With Glasgow out, Hurst started. Strobel was his backup at first. He got two or three stretches of playing time and did poorly. Late Michigan started playing Henry at nose a lot. There was palpable frustration with Hurst on stretch plays. Godin also returned, though he had a very bad day.
Bolden/Morgan at LB except for two drives with Gedeon replacing Bolden and one with Gedeon replacing Morgan.
The secondary saw Thomas start over Hill again. When Thomas was hurt in the first quarter Hill got the bulk of the game. Clark and Stribling are still splitting time but it is increasingly clear that Clark has won the job.
[After THE JUMP: seriously, Kevin Wilson, I hate you]
I worked with Matt (aka HomeSure lending) and closed my refi last week. Everything went as planned and on schedule. He was easy to work with and there was good communication throughout. I've had other refi's that did not go as planned and caused wasted time for me or were chaotic. With Matt it went really well and I got a lower rate and now my monthly payment dropped and I'll pay it off in the same amount of years. …
Oh and one more thing. When I first called him, he talked me out of refinancing because he was honest and told me my current loan was better than what I was trying to do with him. Once the rates dropped he reconnected with me and that lead to the refi. He seemed really honest and truly trying to do what's right.
FORMATION NOTES: Michigan spent a lot of the game like this, with Ross at the buck (standing to the bottom of the DL) and Peppers and Hill flanked outside of the two ILBs.
This was an especially weird game to play Ross as the buck since otherwise you would have expected him to play a lot as a third linebacker. I just called this "nickel even" since Ross was functioning as a DL.
This was "quads inner bunch"; Peppers is about to do something almost awesome.
All else per usual.
PERSONNEL NOTES: No Godin, who was injured, so the rotation on the DL was circumscribed. Hurst and Glasgow rotated at the nose with scattered snaps on which both played; Charlton got snaps here and there, but Wormley and Henry had a heavy workload.
Ross bizarrely got most of the snaps at buck instead of Jenkins-Stone; he did not do well. Morgan didn't come off the field; it was mostly Bolden at the other LB spot but Gedeon got a little time; there were a few 4 LB sets.
Secondary was mostly the usual, with Thomas the primary dime back this week. Clark got most of the second CB playing time.
Upon Further Review has a sponsor. Ran into Matt at a hockey game at Yost on Sunday. We kind of shook our heads about some of the defensive breakdowns, shrugged, and went on with our lives. (Everyone was wearing pants, yes, do I really have to clarify that? I suppose I do.) But anyway this is a person who is part of our community; we've used him and we have been happy, as have other MGoFolk who have communicated this to us.
FORMATION NOTES: Michigan had a new thing for MSU's heavy sets. This lineup has Wormley, Godin, Glasgow, and Henry from top to bottom on the line with RJS lined up as a linebacker. Bolden is acting as the SAM with Gedeon the other ILB:
That is the first time this year we've seen four true DL on the field at the same time. Another example, this time with RJS rolled up to the line:
They also did this, which I called 7-2 bear:
This was the TD on which RJS got bear-hugged; it did not come out again.
PERSONNEL NOTES: Aside from the occasional 4-4 mentioned above it was the usual rotation on the defensive line with one exception: I don't think I saw Charlton out there at all save for one buck snap. RJS got every other snap on which there was a buck—M lifted the buck in their dime sets.
Morgan played every snap. Ben Gedeon got most of the game; in the first half he was the third linebacker when M was in base personnel. After Bolden was ejected he was the guy lining up next to Morgan even after Ross became available in the second half. In the brief period between Bolden's ejection and the end of the first half, Allen Gant got a few snaps. Gedeon looked good.
Secondary was close to the usual with the notable exception of Jourdan Lewis shadowing Burbridge around the field after the first series of the game. To be honest I don't know what the Clark/Stribling breakdown was because they were peripheral, but I'm pretty sure Stribling got the rest of the snaps after Clark blew his coverage on MSU's second TD. Dymonte Thomas was the dime back.
[After THE JUMP: run run throw at Lewis, punt or repeat]
What did you guys work on individually this week and what did you want to address as a team with your bye week?
AD: “We worked on a lot of different things. Me personally, I worked on routes, worked on timing with the quarterbacks and then as a team we just worked on getting better overall.”
WH: “Same on this side of the field. Defensive-wise, we corrected mistakes we had against Michigan State, worked on a lot of techniques, get our hands better, our feet and footwork because technique’s a big part of our game. Just getting better and resting our bodies as much as possible.”
What does your coach have to say to you or what did he have to say to you about perhaps one loss not taking you guys out of the Big Ten race and the forward focus you guys needed to have?
AD: “He told us to focus on us and our team. Depending on whether we won or lost we have to keep on winning, keep on taking every game as if it were the last game and go out and try to compete each game.”
Willie, coach Harbaugh was talking about Jarrod Wilson and his leadership style and how he’s not a guy who’s going to say a lot and how he leads silently. Have you seen that, and in what ways does he lead the defense?
“He’s not a guy who’s a big talker. He’s a doer, so you can see by his work ethic a lot of times what kind of leader he is on and off the field, in the class room and also when we’re off the field in the locker room the kind of person he is, the kind of person who cares for his teammates and wants the best for everyone in that locker room whether it’s the class he came in with or younger guys. He’s always trying to coach somebody and help them and help the team.”
Jon Falk isn’t here any more, so who tells the Jug story every year?
AD: “No one’s told it this year yet, but I think being here for a while we all know the story so now we’ve been telling the younger guys about it and how this is an important trophy game.”