External Indicators of Execution-ability of Offense?

External Indicators of Execution-ability of Offense?

Submitted by Caesar on October 4th, 2018 at 3:26 AM


I'm referencing Sam Webb's 10/3 "Even more calls on the Michigan offense" or one that came just prior. In it, Sam offers some statistics about the offense's effectiveness and makes the argument that the overall ineffectiveness actually comes down to player execution and not play calling. His listeners are unable to make a convincing case otherwise.

Question: Figuring out if it's a 'Borges Problem' 

Schaefer Throws Perfecto, Softball Sweeps Weekend

Schaefer Throws Perfecto, Softball Sweeps Weekend

Submitted by South Bend Wolverine on March 18th, 2018 at 6:03 PM

Just yesterday, freshman pitcher Sarah Schaefer got her first collegiate win in the circle.  Today, she celebrated her birthday by taking it up a notch, throwing a run-rule-shortened 5-inning perfect game, just the 8th in program history.  Michigan pounded Robert Morris in that one, posting a season-high 14 runs en route to their 4th run-rule win of the year.  A pair of 2-run home-runs in the 1st inning set the tone, and Michigan emptied the bench later on.

In the second game, Michigan put the Fort Wayne Mastadons in their place a well, running away with a 7-0 win.  Meghan Beaubien threw the complete-game shutout, while Faith Canfield paced the offense from the leadoff spot, going 3 for 3 in the game.

Michigan will finally get a chance to play in front of the home fans on Wednesday, as they take on CMU at the Wilpon Complex.  Big Ten play commences on Friday with the first game of a 3-game set against the Iowa Hawkeyes.

I'm going to try & get a mid-season report up sometime this week, but it's a busy one for work, so I'm not sure how much detail I'll be able to put into it.  We'll see what I end up having time for.

What's to Blame: Lack of Playmakers, OL, Scheme (or all of the above)?

What's to Blame: Lack of Playmakers, OL, Scheme (or all of the above)?

Submitted by Kevin Holtsberry on January 2nd, 2018 at 10:45 AM

As I was attempting to work myself out of my depression about another ugly Michigan loss and sort through the emotional reactions from other fans, I landed on what really has struck me about Michigan this year.  The lack of playmakers.  When the game is on the line and you have to make a play, there is no one that comes to mind.  Someone who can singlehandedly change the game, make the play, or spark the team.  There is not a go-to play or player that you can count on with the game on the line.

I am a Pittsburgh Steelers fan.  And the obvious example this year from the Steelers is Antonio Brown.  Both early in the season when they were trying to get a talented offense in a rhythm and on the same page, and in October and November when they went on an 8-game winning streak, Brown made critical play after critical play to help them win games.  Many times, this came during ugly games against inferior opponents. The Steelers found a way to win close games late; in large part due to AB.

Now, I know what you are thinking.  How can you compare a talent laden team like the Steelers to a young Michigan team?  Well, the point isn't to compare rosters but to point out that winning teams have players that they turn to with the game on the line and who make plays even when the team is struggling.  The Steelers easily could have lost 3-4 games if not for Brown’s clutch play.  When they absolutely had to have a first down or a big play you knew who they were going to turn to and he made the play.

When I look around at the Big Ten and beyond I see the same thing.  Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, even Michigan State have playmakers they rely on when the game is on the line.  Obviously QB is critical.  And all those teams have QBs who have handled pressure better than any on the roster at Michigan.  And those teams also have quality playmaking ability at RB. Frustratingly, OSU and UW have freshman RBs who have been game changers.

This was never clearer than in all our losses this year (and in years past as well).  When Michigan had to have a play, no one stepped up.  The QBs weren't good enough.  The RBs or WRs couldn't make a play (think critical drop against MSU). In key situations, instead of making plays we had turnovers (five against SC!).

You could, however, argue that it isn't so much the playmakers but the lack of a consistent offensive line on which to build.  It is hard for QBs to make plays when pressure is constantly in their face or when they are getting knocked out of games.  It is hard to make plays when there is no room to run, or openings for the RBs, etc.

And I definitely think if Michigan is going to play at the highest level, particularly with Harbaugh's offense, they will have to develop a quality offensive line.  I don't think it has to be dominant, but it must be competent; it can't be a glaring weakness.

Others might point to scheme as the culprit.  Harbaugh's offense is too complicated or too old fashioned (requires pro style QB etc. when spread is dominant at HS).  Or maybe play calling is to blame.  Why throw in a monsoon?  Why handoff to TE on 3rd and 1 in critical point in the game?  Why throw deep on 4th and 1?

I am not an Xs and Os guy but am open to criticisms of the play calling.  And there is a sense that Michigan's offense lacks an identity; something they can hang their hat on.

But if I had to pick an explanation, I would still go with the lack of playmakers.  Michigan has come up small in big games this year repeatedly. Whether it is the QB, the RBs or the WRs, when they had to have a play no one stepped up and made it.

At critical junctures yesterday, far too many players made critical mistakes when the game was on the line.  Karan Higdon fumbled in the Red Zone. Brandon Peters threw an interception in the end zone. Donovan Peoples-Jones muffed a punt deep in our own territory.  Given chance after chance to put the game away, Michigan instead gave the game away.

The one element not discussed yet is experience.  As noted above, and by many on the board across the site, youth has not prevented other teams from making plays.  Note the fantastic years of J.K. Dobbins (OSU) and Jonathan Taylor (UW). Heck, for the second year in a row the National Championship Game will feature a freshman QB! So hard to say experience alone is to blame.

I think it is likely a combination of talent, experience, and situation (scheme, play calling, etc.) that has resulted in the misery of Michigan football in the Harbaugh era.  The question is whether the current roster, or as it will look in 2018, has the playmakers to win big games.  As has been noted ad nauseum, the schedule will offer a great many opportunities to find out with road games against ND, MSU and OSU.

If I had to rank the concerns I would list them as QB, OL, WR, RB.  We don't have the QB who has the athletic ability or mental discipline to win games.  Does She Patterson change that?  Our OL, both in terms of talent, injuries and experience, has contributed to the poor QB play and limited the running game.  A young and depleted WR corps has also turned the passing game into a joke.  I think the RBs played quite well at times despite the mess around them.  Hard to find holes when the OL is poor and the downfield threat is non-existent.

To me the QB and OL or the unknowns. I can see the line improving some just through experience but how much better?  I can see the WRs improving quite a bit as that is often the case with that position (learning the offense, running better routes, etc.).  I don't think we have a game changing RB but I can see them being reliable components of an effective offense if there is a passing game to speak of.  But having a true leader at QB who can make the plays with the game on the line looms large.

What say you?  Is the primary problem talent, the OL or the play calling?  And how confident are you that things can come together next season?

Basically 8 Offensive players out today

Basically 8 Offensive players out today

Submitted by freelion on January 1st, 2018 at 7:27 PM

Bredeson, JBB, Isaac, Walker, Hill, Perry, McDoom all didn't play for various reasons. Kugler started but was injured and replaced early.  Is this another symptom of the Harbaugh transition struggles? Poor S&C? Bad luck? SEC bagmen? All of the above?

The offense was already the weak link on this team and then you have 8 starters and/or contributors that don't play and it makes you wonder what the hell is going on. I have seen teams with injury or suspension issues for bowl games but this is just bizarre to have one unit so decimated when they had a month to heal up and get ready.

I hope this is the last of the transition to dominance because I can't take anymore.

OT: Statistical model predicts with high accuracy the play-calling tendency of NFL teams

OT: Statistical model predicts with high accuracy the play-calling tendency of NFL teams

Submitted by Don on August 12th, 2015 at 11:33 AM

I wonder if college teams are as predictable as the NFL. Seems like the people in Vegas might find this interesting info too.




Tim Drevno: Winning's cured more ills than penicillin

Tim Drevno: Winning's cured more ills than penicillin

Submitted by The Mad Hatter on March 3rd, 2015 at 8:56 AM

Seems like a slow news week, so here's a short M-Live piece about the offensive side of the game.

Re: Methodical drives...

"In 2010, with Harbaugh running the team and Drevno coaching the offensive line, Stanford ranked third nationally in this category -- as 22 percent of the team's drives qualified as methodical.

That group also finished the year No. 2 nationally in offensive efficiency, running the same basic principles Harbaugh will install at Michigan."


Utah and Michigan - Scores and Turnovers

Utah and Michigan - Scores and Turnovers

Submitted by BornInAA on September 14th, 2014 at 11:24 AM

I averaged the scores for this young season and last year for both Utah and Michigan.


Average Points Scored : 32         Cupcakes Removed: 29

Average Points Allowed: 25         Cupcakes Removed: 30

Average Rank of Ranked Opponents: 14


Average Points Scored : 33         Cupcakes Removed: 25

Average Points Allowed: 27         Cupcakes Removed: 30

Average Rank of Ranked Opponents: 12

This shows me that Utah is not the offensive powerhouse people are deriving from the last two games. Rather, we match up quite evenly.

That said, when matched with an even opponent, turnovers play a key. Here, Michigan has given up 18 interceptions to Utah's 21. Again, very evenly matched. (For comparision, the cream of the crop of each conference turnovers: Oregon 6 , MSU 9)

Best and Worst: App St.

Best and Worst: App St.

Submitted by bronxblue on August 31st, 2014 at 9:47 AM

For a variety of reasons, this is going to be a (relatively) short edition of this diary.  I’ll try to touch on a couple of points, but the fact that this wasn’t Horror II: Electric Boogaloo is all most UM fans hoped for.

Best:  They’re Learning

I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.
-Thomas Jefferson

I never thought UM would have any trouble against Appalachian State.  Though 2007 was a mere 7 years ago, even at glacial-pace UM there have been wholesale changes to the football program and its view of the sport’s landscape that it might as well have been 70 years. 

Chief amongst these changes has been a necessary expansion in how the program views the college football landscape.  Though they still sometimes talk about it with dismissive tones, the coaches today recognize that up-tempo, spread-style offenses are viable and gameplan accordingly, unlike in 2007 when the lessons of Troy Smith in The Game were ignored due to pride, stubbornness, or idiocy, only to be ruthlessly duplicated by proto-Denards Armanti Edwards and Dennis Dixon to start the season.*  That doesn’t mean UM can’t be beaten by such a team (OSU did it last year with a variant), but at least now the defense seems suitably equipped to respond, unlike when Johnny Sears was trotted out and led to this prescient outlook from Brian before Oregon came to town.

[Oregon] Will shred us. Our linebackers are clueless, we're going to spend the entire game in a nickel against four and five receiver sets, and the Ducks' talent level is vastly higher than Appalachian State's. Only errors from Dixon will keep us from playing Purdue 2006 opposite them; thankfully Dixon is the kind of guy who makes tons of errors. I figure the preparation levels will be better, but I also don't buy that Michigan can not be prepared to defend 21 instances of a basic running play. The defense sucks.

And that’s the thing – the ass-kicking by Oregon, had it not been preceded by the Appalachian upset, may not have been enough to force the types of changes we saw in the intervening years.  Oregon was a major college program, from a power conference, and UM faithful could have waved their hands and justified the loss due to Oregon’s “gimmicky” offense combined with D1 talent.  UM had been blitzed by good teams before, and this probably wouldn’t have been viewed as nothing more than a bad day and a bad opponent.  But when a body-bag game rises up and Weekend at Bernie’s you, change went from a luxury to a necessity.

That 2007 loss will forever remain a prominent footnote to UM’s history, but I believe it set into motion the type of maturation and evolution that was necessary for the next stage of Michigan football to take shape.  It begat RR, which led to Forcier, Denard, and Gardner, and even when Rodriguez was fired the influence of the spread lingered in Hoke’s first couple of seasons.  Though the offense itself appears headed to more heavy artillery, with rocket arms and galloping trees replacing super goats, the defense has the types of players you need to compete against a far wider array of offenses than years ago. 

This ASU team is a shadow of the program that came to Ann Arbor years ago, but what it embodies hasn’t, and the fact UM dominated them without breaking a sweat shouldn’t be overlooked. 

* And from a personal standpoint, I had watched UM struggle against mobile QBs for years, from Donovan McNabb at Syracuse to Jarious Jackson at Notre Dame.  While it can be said that players like McNabb could make most teams look bad defensively, it felt like the coaches were the British taken aback by the colonists using clever ambushes and non-traditional tactics to defeat them.  Lloyd Carr and co. ascribed to the rules of engagement, and at times it seemed they were incapable of responding if you didn’t follow suit.

Best:  Snake on an ATV 

I know I’m getting the reputation around these parts as the guy who writes about professional wrestling too much, and I’m honestly trying to cut down on the references because they lead to tangents, but just when I think I’m out of the woods…

Can I get a Hell Yeah!

But honestly, it was fun to hear him talk about football on Gameday, and getting Lee Corso to share a drink on screen is the second-most enjoyable moment I’ve had watching Lee in years.  We all know the first.

Best:  Ghost Hunters

So before I started writing this diary, I was trying to think of other famous upsets and if there was some parallel between teams getting their “revenge” later on.  I’m thinking Chaminade over UVa in 1982, Temple over VaTech in 1998, and the like.  I know that teams can’t erase upsets, but perhaps future domination helps to ease the pain from that historic misstep, a balm to soothe the burn.

What I realized, though, is that those upsets aren’t stains as much as they are ghosts.  UVa has beaten Chaminade, and Virginia Tech slipped by Temple a couple of years later, and yet I had to look those up games for 10 minutes while I remember both of those upsets (along with James Madison over the Hokies in 2010 and Stanford beating USC in 2007 before we all realized Harbaugh was a dickish genius) like they were yesterday.  These losses linger because there is no way to exorcise them, and that’s kind of the beauty of college sports.  These upsets aren’t malevolent spirits out to desecrate the affected institutions; they are simply a reminder that on any given Saturday one team can find those couple extra inches** and win the game.  And what happens before and after is meaningless for them to remain a part of the teams’ fabrics.  App St. will always have that win and UM will always have that loss, and that’s okay.

So I was never bothered by Brandon signing up for this game again.  UM shouldn’t “run away” from the past, as if everyone will just forget about the biggest de-pantsing in college football history if the victim always wears a belt and suspenders.  I can accept that a better opponent could have been scheduled based on results on the field, but that was never the argument.  UM’s now evened up their series with the Mountaineers, and if Brandon wants to schedule them again in the future because it’s an easy win and fills up the stadium, by all means do it.

** I know it’s cliche, but I still love that scene.  Dumb movie overall, but that’s a great bit of delivery.

Best:  Oh Yeah, The Game

We’re a thousand words into this thing and I haven’t really talked about the specifics of the game.  Well, there’s a reason for that – this was a blowout from the opening whistle.  UM was up 35-0 at halftime despite not playing amazingly well, holding the Mountaineers to under 100 yards of total offense and a couple first downs (including a penalty-assisted one due to Frank Clark laughing at the mortal construct that is the “punt shield”). Gardner had a great first half (though he had a little arm-punt action on his second TD), going 13/14 for 3 TDs (all to Devin Funchess), and after some early struggles the running game pumped out 350 yards on the ground at nearly 10 ypc.  Both Green and Smith broke 100 yards rushing, and the offensive line opened up holes and kept the QBs pretty clean through.  Funchess proved his worthiness of the #1 jersey to people who seemed unnaturally infatuated with a number previously worn by a guy with a pretty extensive “Legal issues” section to his Wikipedia page, pulling in 7 catches for 95 yards and generally looking like a first-round draft pick. 

Like all games, there were definitely some minor issues.  Jake Ryan The defense let up a bit in the 2nd half when Mattison liberally inserted 2nd- and 3rd-teamers and eschewed even token pressure on many downs, and Morris looked every bit the part of a backup still trying to match his physical tools with the mental elements of the game at the collegiate level, but those are minor nits.  This was the type of performance you expect from a good team against a below-average Sun Belt squad, and regardless of opponent it was nice to see heading into South Bend next week.

Best:  They blocked people!
Worst:  Eventually…

I’m definitely not an offensive line guru, so I defer to the experts in this estimation, but overall it felt like a positive step for the offensive line marked by a number of lingering issues that will be there for most of the year.  The inside of the line struggled early on getting a significant push, and while that can happen from time to time it was still jarring to see guys like Miller and Burzynski get pushed back with (relative) ease.  Mason Cole is a true freshman, and while his potential showed he also suffered from the usual struggles of a first-time starter, including giving up an early sack of Gardner. As the game progressed the line definitely seemed to be more in sync, and both Smith and Green showed much-improved running form in no small part due to the fact that they didn’t have guys in the backfield every time the ball was snapped. 

Make no mistake about it – as Brian noted in his season preview, mediocre is the bright, shiny beacon in the distance for this year’s line, but it wasn’t a trainwreck and considering this was a team that couldn’t get 100 yards from any of its backs against CMU last year, I’ll take this as a positive.  Next week against Notre Dame should be a stiffer test, but that defense looked a little shallow even before the suspensions, so perhaps the not-Morrissey times will keep going in South Bend as well.

Best:  The defense

On one hand you’d hope a defense comprised almost exclusively of top-rated players and/or experienced returning starters wouldn’t struggle shutting down a mediocre offense, but on the other it was extremely gratifying to watch UM give up one long-ish run to start the game and then basically close the door on Appalachian State until the contest was very much decided.  The box score only shows 2 sacks and 2 more TFLs, but the line was constantly pressuring App St.’s QB and bottling up their running backs in that first half. 

The secondary wasn’t tested much, but even with some meaningless drives in the 2nd half that helped to inflate the numbers it held App. St. to about 50% completion percentage and under 4 ypa.  It looked like a “vintage” Michigan defense, and the logical maturation of the unit that held up pretty well last year until they played OSU.  They really do have 3-4 corners who could be starters on most teams in the conference, and Thomas getting some serious run in the 2nd half was nice to see even though it seemed like the defense was in a bit of a shell.  Also, that punt block was McCray was pretty awesome, with Gedeon’s rather athletic return for a TD punctuating a great day by the defense.  Just another couple lottery tickets I know, but the young guys looked solid out there.

Overall, it looked like a defense that can win games provided the offense is at least competent, and right now it is probably the 2nd-best unit in the league.  Time will tell how they’ll hold up against the more explosive outfits in the conference, but I can definitely see why people were calling it a potential top-10 unit in the preseason.

Best:  100a and 100b

I know people want there to be a clear #1 RB, but right now (a) I don’t think either player has distinguished himself sufficiently to warrant the bulk of the carries, and (b) I don’t think it really matters.  Smith definitely looked shiftier and sturdier while Green continued that unnerving trend of going down on less contact than you’d expect, and on Gardner’s first run of the year it sure seemed like he was expecting Green to be there and not running the opposite direction.  So it’s a work in progress.  But having two backs who can produce at a high level is perfectly fine for this offense.  Both are young and still developing; in a perfect world one would have red-shirted last year. I would be fine if UM continues to play a backfield by committee as long as everyone continues to average over 10 yards per carry.

Worst:  Just Stop Talking

I’m happy I wasn’t the only one who noticed, but my gawd were the announcers vapid and useless.  Mowins was trying out there, but sometimes a lot can be said by saying very little, and telling me that jerseys have numbers on both sides and that throwing passes to wide-open players is a good sign for an offense are probably best left unsaid.  Though it was nice for her to wax poetically about Union Hall, that historical landmark on UM’s Brooklyn campus where well-to-do “alternative” parents can play Bocce and talk about their lives before they became saturated with urban beekeeping and baby DJ’ing.  She probably felt like she had to compensate for charisma vacuum Joey Galloway, who probably would have had more fun taking selfies and trying to color inside the lines than actually call a football game.

Quick diatribe:  I remain flabbergasted that former athletes keep getting recruited for on-air speaking roles based on whatever minimal “name recognition” they have from their playing days.  I know Troy Aikman has become a competent announcer, but this was me for years listening to him call a Cowboys-Eagles game.

They rarely bring meaningful insights to the proceedings, and for every Spielman or Collinsworth you get a dozen Robert Smiths and whoever that former Northwestern DB who can’t string two sentences together.  Not to make light of the situation, but lots of these guys stopped playing in part because their bodies were breaking down and they had suffered untold cranial injuries.  At their best most of these guys were average public speakers, yet every year we keep putting suits on them, handing them a hot mic, and expecting them to be great orators.  There’s a reason Robert Smith isn’t a doctor like he always said he would be, and while that’s probably in large part due to him being a f**king pretentious goober, the concussions probably didn’t help.  It’ll never change, but one of these days I hope executives wake up and just let people who know about football talk about it and not try to shoehorn in these human props in 3-piece suits.

Worst:  You ate my last Fig Thing
I’m pretty down on Notre Dame, even with their solid win over Rice.  It looks like a team with talented starters and a huge chasm to the backups.  Golson is a weapon, but I just don’t see the playmakers like they had in years past, and the defense is replacing NFL draft picks with question marks in the front 7.  It will be close because these games tend to be, but UM should enter this game the favorite regardless of ND’s pre-season ranking.

What makes this a worst is that this is the last scheduled matchup for the foreseeable future between these two programs, and the fact it is should bother fans of college sports beyond the two fanbases.  I understand the logistics of why Notre Dame backed out of the last years of the pairing, and neither program has been as dominant as they once were, but it remains one of the more “fun” rivalries in college sports, the right mix of distaste and respect that leaves you enjoying a win without worrying about some fan doing something crazy.  I’m sure it will be just as fun playing Virginia and Duke in September.

Anyway, let’s hope the game is as entertaining as past meetings, and that UM one more great win.

M FB 2014: Now featuring talent and depth.

M FB 2014: Now featuring talent and depth.

Submitted by Mich1993 on July 5th, 2014 at 11:16 PM

Feeling generally positive about the state of the roster in spite of last seasons results, I took a look at where we stand in terms of stars and then in terms of stars and experience.  Not the perfect measure of a team but seemed like a good place to start.


Here’s what I found:




3* or lower

Total 4*+



SR-2s, JR-2s, JR, SO-1

SR, SO-1, FR




JR-1s, SO, SO





JR-1s, JR-1, JR, SO-1, FR, FR, FR

SR-3s, SR-3s, SO, FR, FR





SO-1, SO, FR




SR-1s, JR-1, SO-1, SO, FR









SR-1s, SO-1





SO-1, SO

JR-1, SO-1, SO-1, FR





SO-1s, FR, FR, FR





SO-1s, SO, FR, FR, FR






JR-1s, JR-1s, SR-1, FR




JR-2s, JR-2, SO-1, FR, FR, FR

SO-1s, SO, FR, FR




SO-1s, FR

JR-2, JR, FR


SR, JR, SO and FR are obvious (did not differentiate redshirts).  2s is a returning starter that has started for 2 years.  1s is a returning starter that started the previous year.  2 or 1 is two years or one year of playing significant minutes.  My definition for this was that they were a regular part of the rotation.  For example, I counted Bolden and Gedeon as guys who played, but I did not count Dymonte Thomas or Ryan Glasgow. 


Overall, we’ve got twenty-seven 4* or greater on defense and twenty-six 4* or greater on offense.  We also have two 4*s for every starting position except at center (one 5*) and safety (three 4*s).  From a talent standpoint, this appears to be how you would want to build a roster.  The talent and depth is significant, and it is evenly spread across all positions as well as across offense and defense.  Combine this with a top notch defensive and offensive coodrinator along with near zero attrition, and it sounds like exaclty how one would want to build a roster. 

I believe strongly this team is set up for consistent success for years to come.  The big question is when does the winning start.  I consider this in the next section when I consider both experience and talent.

Experience and talent

For this review, I’m considering it a good position if there is at least one 4* or greater JR or SR for each starting postion.  Next best is a 4* or greater sophomore who played significant minutes (or started) the previous year and then 3* JRs and SRs who started the previous year.



CB:  Two 4* two year starters returning, 1 SR (Taylor) and 1 JR (Countess) plus a 4* (Lewis) and 3* (Stribling) sophomore who played significant minutes and a 4* JR (Richardson) along with a 5* true freshman.  Plenty of good options here.

LB:  Two 3* SRs (Ryan and Morgan) that have started for 3 years.  Three 4* JRs one who started (Ross) and one who played significant minutes (Bolden).  Also a 4* SO (Gedeon) who played significant minutes.

DE:  A 4* SR and a 3*SR (Beyer and Clark) who started last year along with a 4* JR (Ojemudia) and a 4* sophomore (Wormley) who played significant minutes.  Also a 4* SO that played some last year (Charlton).  Clark, Beyer and Ojemudia will do well here.  If Charlton comes on that will be a major plus for the defense.


Mild Concerns:

Safety:  4* JR returning starter (ok so far) along with two 4* SOs and a 3* redshirt SO none of which have played at all yet.  I’d feel great about Wilson if he were the second best safety.  I do think he’ll be ok.  For the other spot, there are 3 players who might be fine to good but have only Dymonte Thomas’ limited playing time and Delano Hill on special teams of game experience between them.  The strength at CB and LB will help this position.  Overall, I think the safeties will do fine with some excellent play and only a few ‘ugh’ moments on the year.  Something to watch, but not a major concern.

DT:  This surprised me as an area of concern with only Pipkins coming back from injury as a JR/SR 4* or higher.  If you put Wormley at DT (likely), that gives us a returning 4* who has played.  3* Willie Henry played last year as redshirt freshman and was very good for a RS-FR.  I think he’ll be fine at one of the DT postions.  Pipkins, we’ll see if he’s healthy, but I’ll consider it a pleasant surprise if he can play well this year.  Godin is back as a 4* RS-SO who played a little last year.  I think he’ll play some and be ok.  Hurst is a 4* RS-FR with some hype.  I’m expecting Willie Henry (from last year) level play or better from Hurst in a reserve roll.  I think Wormley or Glasgow (looked very good starting in the spring game) will be the second starter alongside Henry if not Pipkins, and either of them will be ok but not spectacular.  I see enough options here that we should be fine.  A healthy Pipkins and/or a big step forward from Henry, Hurst, Wormley or Glasgow leaves a chance this could turn into a strength.


Overall, I see plenty of strengths on defense to allow the safeties with talent but limited experience to grow on the job.  The defense will be dominant at times and solid the rest of the time while giving up a few big plays this year due to inexperience at safety.  I think with Clark and Ryan along with some penetrating DTs and an aggressive defense, we’ll get much more pressure on the quarterback then we had last year.  This is the year the defense arrives as a Top 10 defense (should be even better in 2015).    




QB:  Have to consider a 5* SR QB returning starter as a strength.  In addition, Devin is backed up by a 5* sophomore (Morris) who started one game last year and played pretty well.  Devin was up and down last year, but we should be fine at this position.

WR (?):  By my metrics, this looks good with a 4* JR (Funchess) who has started for two years and a 4* junior (Norfleet) who has played two years along with a 4* sophomore (Darboh) who played previously and a 3* sophomore (Chesson) who started the previous year.  However, Norfleet played RB and KR and not much WR.  Darboh is coming off an injury and didn’t do much when he was playing as a true freshman.  Chesson did some good things (mostly blocking) but doesn’t seem poised to be a dominant receiver.  All in all, I’m confident we’ll get a pretty good #2 and #3 receiver from Canteen, Darboh and Chesson plus Norfleet  to go along with a star receiver in Funchess, but noone beyond Funchess has Big Ten success to back that up.  If Canteen didn’t look so good in the spring game to go along with his practice hype, I’d be nervous.

RB (?):  4* JR (Hayes) who played a little last year with 5* (Green) and 4* (Smith) SOs who both played last year.  Would be nice if there was a starter or someone who was successful coming back, but this position should be fine with some combination of these three.  



T:  This is the #1 concern on the roster (ok, we knew that).  Zero 4* or better JR or SRs.  4* SO Magnuson comes back as a starter (at guard) from last year.  He will be fine.  3* RS-SO Braden played in goal-line situations late last year and looked ok but not great in the spring game.  He might be ok.  Glasgow, a JR walk-on who started last year (at center), would be fine at RT if Braden isn’t ready and someone else can play center.  There is a possibility this will be ok, but Braden’s development is critical.

TE:  This looks ok on paper with a 4* SO successful returning starter (Butt) and a 3* (Williams) returning who has played a lot for 2 years but unfortunately that’s not the whole story.  Butt is injured and out the first few games and likely will take several games or more after that until he is back to last years level.  Butt sounds like he will be back by the 4th game.  I think he will be ok, but not the high level of production this year you’d like from the position.  Williams has played quite a lot, but he is just a blocker and hasn’t been a good one so far.  Williams looked much improved as a blocker in the spring game.  I’m hopeful his spring game performance is real, and he’ll be a decent blocking TE this year.  If not, I think Heitzman will be fine as a blocking TE.  If we need a pass threat before Butt comes back, Khalid Hill and Ian Bunting are options but neither is likely to be effective blocking.  The TE play will be adequate but nothing special.      

C:   This is a tough one to judge.  We have a returning starter walk-on backed up by a 3* JR who started four games last year before being benched backed up by a 5* R-FR.  I believe Glasgow is a good player and will be fine if he stays at center.  I was impressed by Kugler’s solid play in the spring game.  My hope is Kugler comes on strong and takes the job in fall practice so that Glasgow can start somewhere else.  Center should be ok but not great with Glasgow or Kugler. 

G:  On paper, this doesn’t look bad with a 5* R-SO and a 4* SO who both started multiple games last year.  However, given the OL play last year, the fact they started doesn’t mean as much.  Similar to center, I think Kalis and Bosch will be ok but not great.


Overall, I see an offense that if things break right (Braden or Kugler step it up, Devin improves at QB, Canteen makes big plays) could be very good, but more likely is 1 year away from being a Top 10-20 offense.  There are just too many positions that need 1 more year of experience to feel confident going into the season, and if more than one OL is injured things could get ugly fast.  I do think the offense will be much more consistent than last year.  The running game will be better (new offensive coordinator, all OL have played some, RBs showed cutback ability in spring game) and there will be fewer turnovers.  With an excellent defense, this will be enough for the team to take a big step forward from last year and set us up for excellence in 2015.