How Are We Feeling About Football Things? Comment Count

Brian August 19th, 2013 at 11:48 AM

Over the weekend Michigan had a scrimmage that simulated what they'll do for Notre Dame week. Michigan put some ULTRAZOOM highlights on the internet, some guy attempted to UFR them, Heiko attempted to forestall panic about what was contained therein to eagle-eyed watchers. First, let's examine the pore structure of various unidentified Michigan football players:

Countdown to Kickoff 2013: Day 13 - Scrimmage... by mgovideo

Graham Glasgow's playing left guard. More than that, Glasgow was playing left guard because Chris Bryant—not massively-hyped Ben Braden—was held out after having his knee drained. How do we feel about this?

On the one hand, Bryant is a massive human who is a natural guard, whereas Braden is a massive human who is maybe not the best fit on the inside. Having Bryant emerge as a contender at guard gives Michigan more line depth, and when he's been healthy he's drawn praise like this from Kenny Demens:

I’ve always been a fan of Chris Bryant.  That has been my favorite offensive lineman since his freshman year.  I remember his freshman year he was on scout team… whenever he pulled, I don’t care if you were Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen, myself, whoever… when Chris Bryant pulled, you were nervous.  You were nervous!  Chris Bryant brings the pain.

On the other, Braden is supposedly the most physically talented guy Taylor Lewan has ever seen and line shifts in camp remind you of last year, when the flippin' and the floppin' made the line like jello, Rudy. A steady hand is always better. Plus, Bryant spent all of last year injured to the point where he wasn't really doing much in spring. I'd heard he had some lingering pain issues from that even now, and he just got his knee drained. Also, Bryant was a decent recruit but not as hyped as you might remember. Only Rivals gave him four stars, and they were so up on his recruitment they ranked a 6'4", 340 pound guy at tackle.

Do we like it? Do we hate it? I don't know man. I think I'd rather hear that Bryant is seriously pushing Braden, who is locked in, instead of a position switch that undoes a position switch from spring. The flippin' and the floppin'. On the other hand, Bryant was not available then and is now. It could just be that he is pretty good.

Braden does get some snaps at that LG spot, BTW. He was off and on, apparently hasn't been practicing much at guard, and struggled some against interior quickness in the spring game. (He also seems to get beat by Willie Henry on a Rawls iso that goes nowhere in the above video.) So… I bet he is the #1 backup at tackle when the season starts and it's Bryant at guard. If that happens I'm going to decrement Braden expectations from "Jake Long 3.0" to "plus right tackle."

Fitzgerald Toussaint Purdue v Michigan D7mJDURiHBXl[1]460x[1]

Toussaint, Hayes

Toussaint looks like Toussaint. In a good way, not Poor Damn Toussaint of last year. No one else did much at tailback except Justice Hayes, who slips out of the backfield from a shotgun set and makes a touchdown catch after Gardner buys some time. Other running back events are Toussaint juking guys, running tough north and south, and picking up yardage. People other than Toussaint get consumed. Sample size qualifiers, obviously, but Toussaint is also getting external validation from insider types and the coaches.

It's one or two carries each for other challengers, thus indicating who has the lead in the race at RB and giving us no other information. Green gets bounced outside and swarmed, looking a little ponderous. Hayes gets to the hole and nailed on by Cam Gordon on a nice play; Ross grabs him in the hole on his next carry. Rawls picks up negative one yards and zero yards (the latter on a play from the two)—picking up where he left off. De'Veon Smith finishes that drive off.

Meanwhile, Hayes: he was reputed to be a spread-oriented back and excellent receiver. Michigan needs a third down back with the graduation of Vincent Smith. Of late I've been asserting that Toussaint should grab that job but if he's entering the season as the out-and-out feature back (which seems likely given his buzz and Green's injury) Michigan will want someone else to pick up linebackers and slip into the flat. Hayes would obviously be that guy. The other backs on the roster are young or bulky.

It does seem like he's locking down that spot. He was the back in all the shotgun snaps, with that touchdown catch and a screen that Dymonte Thomas engulfs.

The first snap is Kalis pulling to Lewan on a power play. Get used to that, kids.

Chesson and Reynolds are the receiving stars. Gallon was held out, probably because he doesn't have anything to prove at this point.

Also, guy who apparently gets injury information no one else gets says Darboh has picked up a boo boo. (Injury guy has since deleted the tweet, undoubtedly after a visit from Biff the Wolverine Enforcer.)  He shows up in the first snap of the video as a blocker and then not again. Assumption: boo boo, held out, don't read too much into it. Injury Guy was right about Derrick Green, FWIW. Michigan was being a little coy with how much he was doing; the two-week estimate was not off base much, if at all. Darboh's thing is supposed to be a rolled ankle, so keep your hands off the panic button.

While you don't want to read too much into a hand-picked collection of pore videos, pencil Chesson and Reynolds in ahead of Jackson and any freshmen when it comes to the #3 and #4 outside receivers. Chesson's catch is pretty dang good, especially as it comes over Blake Countess.

Courtney Avery's playing free safety. This one is negative, I think. Avery's run support has never been a big positive, he's never played the position at Michigan, and it says some not great things about the guys backing up the presumed starters that a "five-eleven", 175 pound guy is getting a look.

One thing it probably doesn't mean: Jarrod Wilson is losing the job. Assumption here is that Michigan is experimenting in case something happens. If it is Wilson losing his job, uh, at least my prediction that we'll miss Jordan Kovacs will have been correct?


Cam Gordon is begging someone to photoshop this.

There is a lot of Cam Gordon in here. Cam Gordon pressures and chases Fitz Toussaint and hits guys and blitzes and whatnot. Beyer's supposed to be pushing Gordon quite a bit, but you can't tell that from this video, not only in terms of appearances but also in terms of Cam Gordon play. Since Beyer was not held out, that would seem to mean something.

There is also a lot of Willie Henry. The mountain wearing 69 is Henry, and he shows up on a bunch of snaps. Black was held out, but there are other guys—Strobel and Ryan Glasgow—who do not feature nearly as much. Most notably Henry helps bury the one Derrick Green carry and engulfs Rawls in the backfield. Something to note, maybe: on that play Richard Ash is also in, playing nose. Henry's at the three-tech. That makes sense with a quality nose rotation in place and a notable lack of size at three-tech. We might see him in a short yardage package instead of Black/Strobel.

It would be something if after this year we look back at ten years of recruiting and Glenville has provided Michigan with as many or even more plus players than Cass Tech.

Man I like that Dymonte Thomas play. Can't see much except Thomas flying up at lightning speed to beat a block and tackle, but me gusta.

[Also in CTK:

Countdown to Kickoff 2013: Day 12 - Special Teams by mgovideo

And Jibreel Black says things.]



August 19th, 2013 at 12:15 PM ^

I don't have a hard time believing that he's pretty good if he's healthy.  His recruiting profile here on the blog suggested a guy with a lot of potential, and you have to like Demens' reference to his pulling ability. 


August 19th, 2013 at 12:39 PM ^

Personally, I thought Bryant was the best recruit in the 2011 class. Nobody has really claimed that title yet, since Clark hasn't really broken out, Countess was injured, and Morgan has been solid but not great, etc. But it's still fairly early in their careers, and I still think Bryant can reach that level if he can stay healthy.


August 19th, 2013 at 1:16 PM ^

maybe just not as much as we had hoped.

Lewan + 1 more yr exp
Schofield + 1 more yr exp
Kalis > Any of the 3 interior guys last year (almost certainly true)

I think we just have to hold out hope that some combo of Braden-Miller-Glasgow-Bryant turns out to be better than 2 of the guys from last years interior OL. I'm hoping it's a push at worst


August 19th, 2013 at 1:35 PM ^

Good points.  But I think Lewan was pretty darn impressive last year and I am not sure how much "more" he can improve that would be changing a game.  He is going to stymie that end rusher most (all) games - but he did that last year so even if he "improves" its sort of a wash in production.  Kalis should be the upgrade - especially once we get to game 4-5 and then the other 2 spots seem like "wash-ish".  I realize the older guys last year were not great but the newer guys this year have zilch experience playing in a real game so even if they turn out better its going to be half a year to get there most likely.  Overall I think this line is going to be a slight upgrade to last year but with less guys in the box challenging them on their pulls and such as there will be more respect for the pass.

Michigan Arrogance

August 19th, 2013 at 12:28 PM ^

1) I think Bryant earning the guard spot is exactly the best case scenario: he's the best combo of experienced (as measured by years in program) and talent (as measued by recruiting analysists).


2) as I said in the avery thread a few days ago, I got this from a guy on the internet:

Theory of position switches: if you are starting or considering starting a guy who was playing somewhere else a year ago, that position is in trouble. There are degrees of this. When Notre Dame moved Travis Thomas, a useful backup at tailback, to linebacker and then declared him a starter, there was no way that could end well. Wisconsin's flip of LB Travis Beckum to tight end was less ominous because Wisconsin had a solid linebacking corps and Beckum hadn't established himself on that side of the ball. Michigan flipping Prescott Burgess from SLB to WLB or PSU moving Dan Connor inside don't register here: we're talking major moves that indicate a serious lack somewhere.


so not ideal, but not panic inducing b/c A) we have depth at the old position (CB) where he was probably 3rd string and 2) he's not going to start immediately, but provide additional depth from a guy with lots of experience. and Gamma) he switching within the secondary, as opposed to going to WR or something that would send up the panic flag.


bottom line: it's a switch to get this guy ON the field, as opposed to getting someone else OFF the field, which is a good thing. provide more depth at a position that otherwise would have limited, inexperienced depth


August 19th, 2013 at 12:50 PM ^

I am excited for the season to start. My expectations keep jumping around from last year's record to last years ND record, to rich rod's first year, and back. /remember's Greg Mattison.

So I have stopped worrying about my expectations, and am content with seeing how it plays out.

.../starts worring again.

I think if Miller is our starting center, I will be worried. I think Bryant is getting hyped because if they have to replace both Miller and Braden's spot on the line before week one, Glasgow will take center, and then they have no one else to take the guard spot.

I am really wishing I was hearing more Kugler hype for this reason. If he takes center, and Glasgow is put in at left guard by the start of Big Ten play, I will feel better.

[Edit:] I made a pretty good photoshop of Gordon helping Godzilla destroy a city, but I have no friggin clue how to upload it to things to make it accessible. it is just an idea for someone else to do.


August 19th, 2013 at 1:11 PM ^

The paths may be different, but my expectations have hit all of the same spots as yours.  I keep looking at the schedule and trying to anticipate certain outcomes, trying to see what our record could look like at seasons end.  

I've surfed the schedule enough times over the past month that I've also came to the same conclusion:

  • Be patient for the start of the season (definitely the toughest part).  
  • Let the season unfold on its own.
  • Enjoy the ride.  

Go Blue!


August 19th, 2013 at 12:30 PM ^

Didn't realize Green was so big; might be a bit too hefty for early playing time.

Happy to see Gordon playing well.  He's going to have to be a major player with Ryan out, and he played pretty well in the clips.

Not as worried about the line play simply because of the sample size, but the road-grating people expected from the recruiting hype may be hard to come by.


August 19th, 2013 at 12:36 PM ^

There's no rhyme or reason to the ways recruiting sites list guys as guards, tackles, or centers. I wouldn't read into the fact that Rivals listed him as a tackle. They just haphazardly slap some offensive line designation on each recruit.


August 19th, 2013 at 12:38 PM ^

Green looking "ponderous," chaos at left guard, potentially serious issues at safety; there's some panic-worthy stuff here. The Green and Braden issues are a bit concerning because we were expecting them to be ready this season. That they aren't is problematic.

I know people were dazzled by Lewan's analysis of Braden's physical gifts, but remember that when a guy is asked to provide a quote on a teammate the goal is to say positive stuff. It's nice to hear about someone's physical gifts, but I always prefer to hear about superior execution/work ethic/technique/improvement. We have not heard this about Braden. Contrast with what we've heard from various sources about Gardner this year for effect: We know Gardner is physically gifted, but people are talking about his improved technique and mastery of the offense and dazzling camp performances.

On the plus side I am very encouraged about our young receivers.


August 19th, 2013 at 12:47 PM ^

Because a redshirt sophomore guard who was 3/4* is beating out a 3/4* redshirt freshman playing out of position? (Can't be because he was held out of practice because you say you love the receivers and we had our #2 receiver miss a lot of the practice too). 

And I must have missed the news that Green isn't going to be ready to be the #2 back, which is all he was projected to be this year. Likewise Braden could very well be play his natural position, where he's behind two seniors who are pretty good.


August 19th, 2013 at 1:02 PM ^

Glad someone said it!! Hmmmm a guy that last year before getting injured was about to take over a starting spot from a returning senior lineman (per gorgeous Borges this morning) is doing WHAT HE SHOULD. Braden is a tackle not a guard


August 19th, 2013 at 1:07 PM ^

The LG situation isn't just Braden not winning the job, but the oft-injured guy expected to win it still dealing with knee problems sufficient to keep him out of an important scrimmage. This issue goes hand-in-hand with our lingering uncertainty at center and with the fresh memory of the late changes in last year's line that foretold a year of execrable run blocking for players not named "Denard."

And surely seasoned commenters recognize some healthy pre-season panic hyperbole when you see it.

los barcos

August 19th, 2013 at 12:51 PM ^

why you consider a "ponderous" green to be panic inducing?  i for one can sleep comfortably knowing we still have a former 1000 yard RB returning.

as to the O-line, im in the boat that thinks it can't be any worse than last year.

and finally, to the secondary (particularly safeties), let's not forget what the staff has done in the past.  until we see otherwise, we have no reason to assume the defense will be anything less than very good.

overall, i see mild room for concern at some positions, but what teams DONT have that; there is nothing close to a sheridan/threet battle of doom versus gloom.  


August 19th, 2013 at 1:13 PM ^

But last year I'd argue that Mealer was kind of a poor fit that was caused by a lack of competent backups other than I guess Miller.  But when you have a couple of high-ish regarded guards battling for a position, I'm less worried.  I know injury histories and all of that are involved, but I'm much more comfortable with younger guys fighting than a RS senior basically getting the spot because nobody else stepped up and took it.

But I agree with the general sentiment that getting too worked up before a down is played is unnecessary.


August 19th, 2013 at 8:20 PM ^

More a confirmation of what you were saying. Competition is good, and doesn't mean no one is doing well. Two guys might just be going at it so hard that it takes more time for someone to pull away. We've just sadly become used to not enough good players for competition where it was once commonplace.


August 19th, 2013 at 2:27 PM ^

Mealer for Barnum seemed last minute

If Heiko is correct and Braden hasn't been at Guard for some time, this must have happened fairly quickly in camp.  They haven't really been in pads that long.  Maybe they saw something in spring film regarding Braden's pulling vs. Glasgow's or Kallis' or someone else, and immediately opened that job up. 


August 19th, 2013 at 2:49 PM ^

The main difference between last year's line and this year's is that Mealer and Barnum didn't win position battles because there was no one battling them. The only non-starter heard from last year at this time was Burzynski (who a year later is behind 10 guys).

So yeah, he line isn't set yet, but that's because we have a handful of guys vying for a couple spots. This is a good thing.


August 19th, 2013 at 1:03 PM ^

FWIW, I don't agree with Brian on that assessment.  A DE (Charlton?) immediately knifes inside the tackle at the beginning of that play, forcing Green outside, where he is quickly met by Willie Henry, and Ross is there waiting to take Green down if he tries to bounce back inside (Ross assists on the tackle even though Green doesn't do this).  It's a nice play by the defense.  Green possibly could have turned the ball upfield a bit quicker to lose less ground, but it's very hard to tell from that angle. 


August 19th, 2013 at 12:42 PM ^

I feel generally positive about the team. It may take 2-3 games to get some kinks and/or question marks worked out. However, the 2nd game is against ND and I'm hoping things are good enough by then to pull out a win.

El Jeffe

August 19th, 2013 at 12:46 PM ^

Here's how I'm feeling:

  1. I don't know for sure, but a 315 lb man getting his knee drained seems like it might be a sign that said knee has a boo boo. I hope it holds up b/c CB's recruiting caveats were all technique- and weight-related. Not in doubt were his strength and general donkey hatred. So I'm very hopeful he can play, but at least we have depth at all OL positions this year if not.
  2. I guess if Avery plays what in the 1970s we used to call "free safety" which seems to reward speed and smarts more than teeth-rattling run supportability, then I'm not that worried. CA has seen time in all three previous years, including the nickel position, so I'm hoping he can use that experience and his speed to disrupt some deep balls or at least limit big plays to a minimum.