Silver Lining?

Silver Lining?

Submitted by Carcajou on October 23rd, 2017 at 12:27 AM

There will be no playoff this year, and short of a few minor miracles, no division championship. Here's the good that I believe can come from this disappointing loss:

This will allow the coaches and players to reevaluate, and evolve to be able to beat better teams.

It wasn't just the offense that lost that game. The defense was whipped as well. For two seasons, Michigan has been mostly relying on a defense that is so effective with its man pressure that overwhelms every opponent. But that defense finally met its match. So they will have to improve and evolve.

PSU was unusual in that it had playmakers at four positions on offense. Mismatches in the passing game and over-aggressive 2nd level flow in the run game were exploited. This time, the pressure didn't seem to rattle the QB- he was on the money with almost every throw. It was painful. I believe the experience will serve Michigan well in the long term preparing for teams with higher talent levels.

Maybe more importantly, the offense now has license to stop playing so conservatively. To develop and work on the vertical passing game one way or another, even if that is riskier. Just as teams seem to get a little bolder with their playcalling in bowl season, the offense can explore a few more possibilities as they try to get better on the OL and at receiver.

In a way, they are now free to develop (what is still a fairly young team) for the long run. They can also beging playing some younger players at various positions (including QB) that they may not otherwise take a chance on.

Phil Steele: Michigan's % of Tackles Returning & % Yards Returning (2017)

Phil Steele: Michigan's % of Tackles Returning & % Yards Returning (2017)

Submitted by markusr2007 on June 19th, 2017 at 3:03 PM

Phil Steele posts some interesting analysis today, 19 June on the upcoming 2017 football season:

% of Returning Tackles for 2017:  Michigan is ranked 128th out of 130 with only 36.5% of all tackles returning

% of Returning Yards for 2017:  Michigan is ranked 73rd out of 130 with 62.1% of all yards returning.

But Michigan returns both Don Brown and Jim Harbaugh, so there's that.

Is the 2016 team better than the 2006 team? Do you expect a big drop off in 2017?

Is the 2016 team better than the 2006 team? Do you expect a big drop off in 2017?

Submitted by bo_lives on December 6th, 2016 at 11:20 AM

Obviously the Orange Bowl will give us more info. But before the season started, I felt uneasy about calling this "the year" and Brian's prediction of 12-0. I got on the hype train pretty quickly of course, but in hindsight I don't think this team was as talented top to bottom as the 2006 team. A Jim Harbaugh/Don Brown coached 2006 team would have walked away with the Big Ten Title and the National Championship.

This is not my attempt at a hot-take. I do think year's defense was better than the 2006 defense. But in 2006 we had NFL caliber impact players on offense AND defense. This year's offense was a bunch of question marks. A Borges recruit at QB with no track record? (and later, we found, no viable backup in O'Korn) A hodge-podge of mediocre runningbacks and an offensive line that grew up under Funk? Compare that to the Henne/Hart/Long/Manningham/Arrington supersquad of '06. Coming into this year, the only NFL caliber player on offense we had was Butt, and I think it's a testament to the offensive genius of Harbaugh that this team ended up scoring more points than any Michigan team of the modern era.

We were clearly hoping for a '97 repeat, where an insane defease carried a mediocre offense. That could have happened, but the team was done in largely due to bad luck vs. Iowa and OSU, but mostly due to the offense's inability to show up when the defense put it in position to win (plus the fact that Urban Meyer is no John Cooper). The defense lived up to the hype--giving up 13 points @ Iowa and 17 points @ OSU should win you those games 9 out of 10 times with a solid offense. I don't buy into the idea that the defense simply fell apart late. Michigan could have salted the games away with long 3rd and 4th quarter scoring drives, but that's not what we got.

For these reason, I don't think 2017 portends as big of a drop off as anyone imagines. There will be plenty of question marks on defense, but like 2015 OSU it's hard to assess the second string when they're only playing in gargabe time. The offense will have question marks too, but if Speight pulls off a Rudockian bowl game the only game on the 2017 schedule that truly scares me is the one at Camp Randall, which will likely be a night game. My prediction: 11-1 and we beat OSU, Raback it.

EDIT: My argument is that the 2006 team was overall more talented than the 2016 team is. The 2016 defense beats out the 2006 defense, but the 2006 offense had the big guns. You put Harbaugh and Brown at the helm in 2006 and Michigan goes 13-0. We beat OSU 53-23. Brown doesn't get fooled by OSU's 4 and 5 wide reciever spreads that obliterated our secondary.

The "Young Defense" of 2017 FB

The "Young Defense" of 2017 FB

Submitted by alum96 on February 20th, 2015 at 12:05 PM

Just looking forward in a dead period of news and thinking out loud.  And yes I fully realize for most its laughable to think out to 2017 when we still have 2015 and 2016 to get through but I've noted in the past we may have some "OL of 2012/2013" issues coming down the pike on our 2017 defense so thought I'd quantify it and have some discussion.  Of course 2 years is an eternity in football but math is math.  And UM is simply lacking headcount due to our recent classes - much like the failures of 2010-2011 recruiting classes hit Hoke in 2013-2014, we may face some similar issues on D down the pike just from sheer lack of number of defensive recruits.

Image result for attrition

How did we get here?

If you are unfamiliar with our sordid past the easy explanation is one of the worst classes in UM history (if not the worst class) of 2010 combined with a transition class of 2011 (RR+Hoke) led to a lot of flameouts and attrition.  And that attrition came very fast in many cases - in my world view "very fast" in college football is when a player is out of the program within 2 years.  This led to very large 2012 (25 players) and 2013 (27 players) classes.  With low attrition in those 2 classes; a testament to Hoke in a time when not many football related things were in the positive column for him.  I believe only 4 players have left from those 2 classes (1 not by choice), leaving very few scholarships for 2014-2015.  So we had a 2014 class of 16 combined with a 2015 class of 14 = 30.  Compare that to our 2013 class of 27. 

Specific to the defense we only recruited 9 defensive players in 2013 and 4 in 2014.  That's a middling 13 players - of which one is already gone (Ferns).  12-ish defensive players is what you generally get in 1 class, not combined in 2.  Why do you care?  It's going to lead to a lack of upperclassmen down the road throughout our defense.

Here is a table comparing UM v OSU v MSU in 2014/2015 recruiting - overall and defensive player specific.  (Please note I do not know if MSU or OSU has suffered any attrition in their 2014 class ala Ferns)

  Total recruits Total recruits Total recruits Def recruits Def recruits Def recruits
  2014 2015 Combined 2014 2015 Combined
Michigan 16 14 30 9 4 13
OSU 27 27 54 13 12 25
MSU 22 21 43 12 11 23
             
Deficit v OSU     -24     -12
Deficit v MSU     -13     -10

While we have an astounding 24 (!!!!) players less than OSU in these last 2 classes that's a topic for another day.  Let's focus on the far right 3 columns - UM lags OSU by 12 players in these 2 classes on D and MSU by 10.  That means each of those two programs have 10 to 12 more "lottery tickets" towards valuable contributors on defense.  And if you account for UM's loss of Ferns it is really a 11 to 13 player defict.  That's an entire starting defensive unit worth of "chances" vs UM over 2 years.

My general (pulled our of rear end) rule is out of every 10 recruits you hope 5 become front line 2 deep contributors and 7 help the team (i.e. can do some work on special teams).  3 will flame out, leave, just not be good enough, be injured.  Maybe that is optimistic and the real number is 4 and 6 (rather than 5 and 7) - I've never looked at the %s long term for UM.  But the reality is UM is way behind these teams in these 2 classes - we only have 12 candidates in total (with Ferns gone) to make it through the program and become upperclassmen vs 25 and 23 for OSU and MSU respectively. 

Using my "70% rule" that means 8 of those 12 guys will be meaningful contributors by the time we get to their JR and SR years for UM, whereas OSU will have 17 and MSU 16.  That's a massive deficit for one side of the ball down the pike.

Won't this balance out down the road?

Yes it will - at least vs MSU.  The current count for 2016 scholarships is 14ish but assuming post spring attrition and some other losses next year of 5th year seniors etc we probably have a class near 20ish.  Then we have a huge class coming in 2017 if all other things hold steady - which they won't.  So we'll have some large classes leading to experienced teams in 2019-2020 (similar to having an experienced team in 2015).  But this discussion is for 2017.

OSU? Difficult to say - they somehow have recruited 108 guys in the past 4 years so will it ever really "balance out" vs them?  In theory yes - in reality not so much as they move players thru their system very quickly (wink wink).

Image result for old guys

Our "old guys" in 2017:

Let's look at the depth chart for 2017 with upperclassmen + the four 2015 recruits.  Keep in mind this assumes 100% retention and 100% contribution.  Which won't happen.  Right now (pending any loss of redshirts of the 2015s) we have 11 upperclassmen in total (1 deep, 2 deep, 3 deep, whatever deep) for 11 defensive positions in 2017 - that stinks.

My assumptions (which may or may not be correct):

  • I believe S Jabrill Peppers will be in the NFL in 2017.  If he is still with UM that is probably a very good thing for UM in 2017 but not such a good thing in 2015 and 2016 as it would mean - realistically - he fell short of his 5 star status.  He is not on my 2017 depth chart.
  • I have not include Brian Cole at S as Harbaugh indicated he will be a WR.  I do believe simply from a numbers perspective Cole someow makes it back to S down the road  from a need perspective even if WR is his better position but for now I go with the Harbaugh statement.
  • I assume NT Mone will remain at UM in 2017.  He has early promise and with NFL size already, 2 good years as a true SO and true JR could have him in the NFL draft as an early entry.  I have assumed not for this exercise; he remains on the depth chart.
  • We have four (!) defensive players in the 2015 class.  Obviously it is difficult to project who doesnt redshirt but based on need and experience of players in front of them I have taken the redshirt off only 1 of them - Shelton Johnson.  Reuben Jones is too small and Washington is a project ala Stribling.  Ty Kinnel would be the other guy we could take off the redshirt BUT unlike Johnson there seems to be a lot of guys ahead of him on the depth chart so I would not understand wasting a year like that unless Hill and Thomas are deemed to be busts by this staff.  I hope they dont waste guys like this as true freshman running around on special teams and doing nothing else like Hoke did, hence losing a RS SR year.
  RS SR SR RS JR JR RS SO
DE Poggi   Marshall Johnson* R. Jones
DT Hurst Jr Mone Pallante   None
LB McCray   Winovich   None
      Furbush    
      Wangler    
CB R. Dawson   Watson   Washington
S Noooobody   Noooobody   Kinnel

Image result for year 2017

Let's look at it position by position

I'll do best case, and (my) reality.  (I'll skip worst case) You may disagree with my reality.  But the math is the math - it will be a young defense overall.... and the secondary in particular brings up visions of the 2012 OL.  Other areas could also be troubling depending on development.

DEs

  • Need (4)
  • On roster (4)
SDE WDE
Poggi Marshall
Shelton Jones

General comment:  The reason I pulled off Shelton Johnson's redshirt is because aside from Mario O and Taco Charlton we have nothing in concrete behind them and Shelton is 6'5 250ish (allegedly).  So he has the size to play immediately as opposed to Reuben Jones.  Poggi was a high level recruit (Alabama offer) but thus far has created little buzz.  This is a position that it is tough to be impactful early but unlike Taco at this stage he has barely played.  We'll know better after this year what he is.  Marshall took his redshirt as he should have and hopefully shows us something as a RS FR in the pass rush.  But the door is open for Johnson as a backup and you have to account for injuries - any of these 4 guys goes down and you no longer have a 2 deep due to the misses of Malik McDowell and Hand in 2014.

Best case 2017: Poggi and Marshall begin to have impact this year as key backups.  Marshall takes over the 2016 starting WDE and Jones is his backup.  Johnson battles Poggi for the SDE in 2016, the better guy emerges as the starter.  Some 2016 recruit will be "5th man up" at DE as a RS FR.

More realistic case 2017:  One of these 4 players will not pan out either due to injury or just not cutting it at this level - that's just the odds.  A 2016 DE recruit will be in the 2 deep as a RS FR and be counted upon.  He could even be a starter if enough things fall the wrong way.

DTs

  • Need (4)
  • On roster (3)
NT DT
Mone Hurst Jr
Pallante 2016 RS FR

General comment:  DT should /could be the best position of the UM D the next 2 years with Henry, Mone, Wormley, Glasgow, et al.  But could become a very troubling position post 2016 as almost everyone graduates and there is no 2015 recruit in the assembly line. Pallante - a lightly regarded recruit - was the only 2014 recruit so that is back to back years without an "A list" recruit at these 2 DT positions.  Seems like we should have landed a higher level 2014 DT recruit - not sure what happened.

Mone is the one sure thing in 2017.  As long as he is on the UM roster.  Like Pipkins before him he played as a true freshman but unlike Pipkins it felt more like due to beating out people rather than a dearth of alternatives.  While his stats were not off the charts dude was a true FR playing a beastly position and seemed to hold up.  Hurst Jr is still a young buck and has been passed by other players at this point for playing time.  You sometimes hear good things about him - i.e. leading up to the bowl game in 2013 - but he remains largely a mystery.

Best case 2017: Mone stays and is a first team All Big 10 type player.  Hurst Jr develops nicely.  Pallante is a revelation in a Glasgow type development.  Even if all that happens you are stuck playing a 2016 recruit RS FR DT in your rotation.  That's not the end of the world - especially if he is another Mone type.  If it's a developmental player that's not good.

More realistic case 2017:  Very tough one to figure out as DTs usually don't show their face this early in their career so projecting a few years out is tough.  But lets say 1 of Hurst Jr or Pallante doesnt work out as a serious contributor.  It would mean both your backups are 2016 RS FR types. And if there is 1 injury here you'd potentially be starting a 2016 RS FR.  Not ideal at this position.  Mone leaving early for the NFL would be a major issue.

Image result for mike mccray

LBs

  • Need (6)
  • On Roster (4)
OLB MLB OLB
Winovich McCray Furbush
2016 true SO 2016 RS FR Wangler

General comment:  2015 will give UM a very experienced LB corps - then 2016 is going to be a mystery.  With Ferns gone (a player I really liked out of HS), 2016 looks like Ben Gedeon and... welp.  Will Gant ever see the field? There has been no talk of him in 3 years.  Will McCray?  He is still quite young, but little talk of him. It would be nice to see some of these guys get on the field at some point in 2015.  2017 is very difficult to project since we (properly) redshirted our 2014 class and we have barely seen anyone not named Gedeon out of the underclassmen.  And he will be gone by 2017.  Unfortunately Kirkland Jr decommited from 2015 and R. Smith never seemed like a legit option so the 2015 class brings nothing to LB. 

Best case 2017:  Magnus is wrong on Mike McCray and he becomes a legit Big 10 starter at MLB.  2 of the 3 of Winovich Furbush and Wangler become legitimate Big 10 starters and not starters only due to default (i.e. no one else on the roster).  Whichever of those 3 does not start is a valuable relief man.  We get two studs in the 2016 class, one of which will probably not redshirt in 2016 due to lack of depth chart.  Those will be backups in 2017 and/or 1 could be a potential starter in case of injury.

More realistic case 2017:  Realistically speaking we grabbed 4 LBs in 2014, and you have to assume one just won't contribute.  Ferns was the most "sure thing" of the 4 and is out of the program.  So my hope is 2 of the 3 remaining can be viable Big 10 players and not be out there because we literally have no one else.  I expect one of our 2016 LBs to not redshirt in 2016 and if a "top 50" type recruit potentially start over one of the 2014s - or at least push very hard.  It's a shame Kirkland or Smith did not commit - they almost certainly would have had a huge role on the 2017 LB core.  The 2016 LB recruits are critical and will be playing in some role - and not just one of them.  If Mike McCray does not work out this LB core will be super young and a potential big issue.

CBs

  • Need (5/6)
  • On Roster (3)
CB CB NB
Watson Washington 2016 true SO
2016 RS FR 2016 RS FR  

General comment:  Things get much more troubling in the secondary.  UM went in for a lot of 2015 CB recruits and missed on most.  The loss of Garrett Taylor in particular stings IMO; on paper he looked like a plug n play 2017 starter.  Instead we have Washington who is more in the Stribling mode - a good raw athlete with light offer sheet that needs a lot of coaching, 20 lbs, and a lot of weight room work.  Reon Dawson is a lot like a Tom Strobel and Blake Bars - you never hear anything about him so while on the roster I simply cannot project him as a contributor unless something changes in 2015.  That leaves Brandon Watson who has great size and I hope pushes Blake/Lyons* for a starting role this year as it would bode well for 2017.

Best case 2017:  Brandon Watson is a legit Big 10 starter.  Keith Washington has a "MSU CB" like development where they find great athletes who are raw at CB, RS them, and develop them into very good press corners.  UM lands a superstud 2016 recruit - said superstud would play in 2016 in a backup role or competing with Watson/Stribling across from Lewis then start in 2017.  Two other high level 2016 CBs redshirt and are ready to be backups in 2017.  Maybe Reon Dawson can help?

More realistic case 2017:  Well I don't have much different than the best case here.  The main positive here is CB is a position an athletic stud could come in and play early and not kill you too often.  Especially in a press scheme which UM is headed towards.   It should be easy to recruit stud CBs in 2016 - you can offer them almost immediate playing time.

Image result for ty kinnel michigan

Ss:

  • Need (4)
  • On Roster (1*)
S S
Kinnel Cole* or 2016 RS FR
2016 RS FR 2016 RS FR

General comment:  Welp.  It's never a good thing when your only proposed starter (or in fact player) at a position in 2 years has no photos in actual UM gear other than on a recruiting visit.  Unlike CBs where pure athleticism can get you through, S is a place you'd like some experience.  One blown read/assignment and Gary Nova is throwing for 45 yards on you or generic Minnesota RB is running for 50.  As a field general it is critical they understand the game - not just have the physical attributes.  UM has recruited this position badly for a decade in my estimation.  And of all the Hoke head scratchers - one that befuddles to this day - is dropping the recruitment of S Montae Nicholson in 2014.  He'd be the only sure thing on the 2017 roster at S - in fact the only upperclasssmen safety. Instead he played as a true freshman for a staff that is extremely stingy with letting freshman play - not only that he even started a few games.  *Bang head vs wall*.

Best case 2017:  Jabrill Peppers is not good enough to go to the NFL early.  Yes that's the "best case scenario".

Jordan Kovacs 2.0 enrolls at UM this fall.  Yes that's the second "best case scenario".

I have to think Brian Cole becomes a safety in 2017.  But if he is trainning as a WR in 2015 and 2016 I dont know how much that really helps.  It's a position you really need to understanding the whole defense and spending 2 years running routes then being asked in year 3 to convert to S doesnt make much sense to me.  But if not Cole it's basically a RS FR next to Kinnel.  Backed up by a RS FR and another RS FR.

More realistic case 2017:  I do think Ty Kinnel - as best as you can tell by reading about players - has the highest floor of our whopping four 2015 defensive recruits.  No idea on his ceiling but he already has NCAA size and has the luxury of RSing this year behind Wilson, Peppers, Thomas, and Hill. (Clark I assume is the 5th S or will enter the CB competition).  So even in my realistic case I don't think Kinnel is a non contributor.  But if an injury occurs here and Peppers goes to the NFL you are facing a 2012 OL situation with 2-3 2016 recruits and a true freshman 2017 recruit as our S rotation.  Potentially bracketed by a bunch of young CBs.

Takeaways:

  • No easy solutions
  • Our 8 remaining 2014 defensive players must have a high hit rate.
  • While this sounds tongue in cheek it is not... our four 2014 defensive players must have a high hit rate.  Like, err.... 3 of them must be starters.
  • The 2016 class must be loaded with near immediate contributors on defense, especially in the secondary.  A stud OLB who can immediately push for playing time would help too.
  • We are going to be young on defense in 2017 - at some places extremely.  2018 will be better to a degree if the 2016 class is very good, but will lack seniors ala the 2014 offense.  Then we go back to an experienced defense in 2019-2020 ala 2015.
  • UM needs to find high end skill players on offense soon to alleviate the issues - as we saw with OSU in 2014, special players at QB/RB and a stout OL can take pressure off your D.  When you score a bazillion points with NFL talent all over your offense, your D screwing up doesnt hurt so bad. We need to follow that gameplan post 2015 until 2019ish when both sides of the ball should be more equivalent in experience.