The Instrument Is Out Of Alignment

Submitted by Brian on September 21st, 2015 at 12:11 PM

9/19/2015 – Michigan 28, UNLV 7 – 2-1

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This is our concern, Dude [Patrick Barron]

It didn't take long for Jim Harbaugh to shift from cheerfully and convincingly explaining why Jake Rudock's play was better than it looked against Utah to… not doing that. After UNLV, a couple of post-game questions clearly designed to fill already-written stories about Rudock's grim day with quotes raised Harbaugh's ire. He deflected a couple with boilerplate ("his job is to win football games") and assertions about a swirling wind, but when a third came:

Um, I guess I’m not as concerned with statistics as you two seem to be.

I hesitate to side with the Talk About types, but I'm concerned. I'm concerned with both the statistics (123 yards against UNLV, probably half of which came on "smoke" screens) and the overall level of play the statistics crystallize.

We're working with small sample sizes, of course, but that's all we've got to project with. The projections are not ideal.

I am not buying the wind conditions being a problem. I was in that stadium. I have been in it for many games. I once had a life and death fight with a poorly designed poncho. I have seen and endured all kinds of weather, and at no point on Saturday did the wind rise to a level where it felt like a serious factor. It blew a bit; I have seen many quarterbacks deal with that and much worse.

Those quarterbacks include one Jake Rudock. Kinnick Stadium juts out of a vast unbroken expanse of plains extending to the Rocky Mountains. In February I had occasion to drive through virtually the entire state of Iowa during a blizzard; I went at highway speeds because the snow was blown over the roads in an ever-streaming mass, never settling. Only the odd copse of trees huddled around a farmhouse provided enough of a windbreak to allow snow a temporary home, and even that was more refugee shelter than citizenship.

That drive reminded me of a David Foster Wallace essay about his youth tennis career that necessarily focused on one of the overriding concerns outdoor sportsmen have when the nearest bump in the terrain is thousands of miles to the west:

The biggest single factor in Central Illinois' quality of outdoor life is wind. There are more local jokes than I can summon about bent weather vanes and leaning barns, more downstate sobriquets for kinds of wind than there are in Malamut for snow. The wind had a personality, a (poor) temper, and, apparently, agendas. The wind blew autumn leaves into intercalated lines and arcs of force so regular you could photograph them for a textbook on Cramer's Rule and the cross-products of curves in 3-space. It molded winter snow into blinding truncheons that buried stalled cars and required citizens to shovel out not only driveways but the sides of homes; a Central Illinois "blizzard" starts only when the snowfall stops and the wind begins. Most people in Philo didn't comb their hair because why bother.

Of all the things that might explain why Jake Rudock could not hit Drake Johnson on a five-yard swing pass, wind is the least believable.

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

So. Let us calibrate our panic. It is the first year of a new head coach handed a terrible QB situation making do; that head coach has been massively successful anywhere he's laid his head. Macro panic: nil.

Micro panic: measurable. The Big Ten looks like a bunch of goobers plus MSU and OSU and I guess maybe Northwestern is good. A team that has Michigan's salty defense and a steady, boring offense is going to win a healthy number of games. Michigan's offense has been boring; it has only managed to be steady against Oregon State.

The offense Michigan fielded on Saturday loses games Michigan fans are currently filing in the win column. While that's cause for a shrug long term thanks to the state of the QB roster, it does dent Harbaugh's early momentum. Does that matter much? The recent trajectories of high-level coaches and… well… Brady Hoke say not particularly.

But it is nice to win things. I'm busy downgrading my expectations about as fast as I'm downgrading my expectations for the rest of Michigan's schedule, which is fine, I guess. I expect a bumpy ride and then as soon as anything goes smoothly I exclaim THIS IS IT FOREVER, because I am irrational.

We've gone from hoping that we should dump Rudock's career at Iowa from our expectations to hoping it's still valid to add those games in; it probably is. The upside of escaping Greg Davis, where Iowa fans are going nuts about a guy whose completions are five yards downfield or shorter 80% of the time feels gone. We would like to lock in the low-turnover game manager if that is still available.

HIGHLIGHTS

AWARDS

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wear Jourdan Lewis #brand jackets [Patrick Barron]

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Yet To Be Named Harbaugh-Themed Guys Who Did Good Award.

you're the man now, dog

#1 Jourdan Lewis had 4(!) PBUs on the day, and those were mostly as he covered the very legit Devonte Boyd. Playing as well as any Michigan DB since… Leon Hall?

#2 Ty Isaac ripped off the 76-yard touchdown that made things comfortable at halftime. On that play he made a swift cut upfield, broke a tackle, and put on the jets. He looked solid on his other seven runs as well.

#3 Channing Stribling picked off a pass, defended another, and was able to stick to the receiver any time he was tested.

Honorable mention: Blake O'Neill probably would have snagged the first-ever punter mention in this section if he hadn't shanked that one. Any member of the front seven—Michigan spread 8 TFLs among 9 players. Jehu Chesson did go grab a rushing touchdown.

YTBNHTGWDGA Standings.

5: Chris Wormley(#2 Utah, #1 Oregon State)
3: Jake Butt (#1 Utah), Jourdan Lewis (#1 UNLV)
2: De'Veon Smith(#2 Oregon State), Ty Isaac(#2 UNLV)
1: Willie Henry (#3 Utah), AJ Williams (#3 Oregon State), Channing Stribling(#3 UNLV)

Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week

Honorable mention: Picks from Clark and Stribling. Glasgow's thunderous TFL. Blake O'Neill essentially passing the ball down to the 3, and hitting a 59-yarder without a return.

WGIBTUs Past.

Utah: Crazy #buttdown.
Oregon State: #tacopunts
UNLV: Ty Isaac's 76 yard touchdown

imageMARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.

The general sentiment was to keep double bird. That was my inclination as well.

This week's worst thing ever.

Jake Rudock matches his 2014 interception total in game three by throwing one that hits a linebacker in both hands. The linebacker deflected it to a defensive back, but that was not bad luck.

Honorable mention: Rudock misses a flare route by yards. Any number of interior rushes that didn't get much. Those two Decker passes towards the end that seriously compromised Michigan's quest to keep UNLV under 200 yards.

PREVIOUS EDBs

Utah: circle route pick six.
Oregon State: Rudock fumbles after blitz bust.
UNLV: Rudock matches 2014 INT total in game 3.

I am sensing an unfortunate theme.

[After THE JUMP: corners making plays, DL emerging, run game woes explained, YIP YIP YIP YIP]

OFFENSE

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When Michigan went outside it was ridiculously easy [Upchurch]

Ground grunts. De'Veon Smith never got going in this game in large part because UNLV was willing to put the world within six yards of the line of scrimmage:

massive box

This was in contrast to Oregon State, which wasn't exactly conservative (both safeties at ten yards generally means one of them is going to be a heavy run defender) but was not exactly aggressive, either.

UNLV also virtually ignored the edges. When Jehu Chesson got a jet sweep he needed one block from Henri Poggi and one from Darboh downfield to score; most of those fullback dives featured unblocked defensive ends crashing down while no one tracked the pitch guy. The swing pass Rudock missed at the start of the second half would have gone for 30 yards and maybe a touchdown, as Drake Johnson was about to be one on one with a free safety. Any outside run on which Michigan targeted correctly was an easy chunk of yards.

Michigan did not explore this with the frequency they probably should have. This game is going to come out negative in RPS because Michigan had a lot of plays blown up by guys they weren't trying to block or didn't have the numbers to. That's irritating in the moment but with Michigan up multiple touchdowns much of the day and playing a team that barely got past midfield you can understand M going into boring, expectation-shedding mode with BYU next up.

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Rudock is not Denard [Upchurch]

Transition issues. The most alarming bit of the day in the passing game was the period in the second half where Rudock started sitting in the pocket forever and then running around because he could not find anyone to throw the ball to. One of those worked out into the world's longest eight-yard scramble; even that felt like a very bad idea Rudock got away with because he was playing UNLV.

The interception clearly sapped Rudock's confidence in what he was seeing, and the results were not pretty. Rudock's not the biggest or strongest or most likely to throw a football through a brick wall; his assets are intelligence and good, quick decisions. Remove the quick decisions and you've got a passing game that looks like Michigan's did on Saturday.

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Great catch necessarily out of bounds [Upchurch]

Wide receiver debates. There's a rift in the Michigan fanbase between folks who are piling it all on Rudock and those who are splitting the blame with the wide receivers. I'm actually more in the former camp, to my surprise. There was one pass in this game that looked bad for Amara Darboh since he turned to the inside before having to spin back outside on a deep ball that eventually fell incomplete.

[@ Right: Barron]

20925664104_425e36e30c_zThat's not great tracking of the ball; it is also a problem with Rudock since Darboh has beaten his guy solidly and expects that he'll get an opportunity to make a relatively easy catch of a ball coming over his right shoulder. Instead he is invited to execute a full Willie Mays basket catch on a ball that is much more difficult than it has to be.

Meanwhile the Harris catch above was in fact a great adjustment to a ball in flight. Unfortunately that ball gave Harris zero chance of staying in bounds. Rudock has consistently given his deep receivers little to no play on the ball. The first Chesson pass against Utah isn't even an exception. Yes, Chesson slowed up a hair. But he had beaten his man so badly that his main concern was running out of room in the endzone; Rudock overthrew a ball that he should have been putting up for a layup.

All this goes back to the major weakness I thought I saw over the summer: Rudock tries to make the perfect throw every time and rarely puts up the kind of pass where his receiver gets a chance to make a play. We've seen a couple that may have been inaccuracy more than anything.

I do think a guy like Funchess would be helping out a lot, but Michigan's situation at WR is not that incredibly dire.

OL things? I don't have much to say about them yet. Pass protection was very good. The run issues came coupled with a number of mashing blocks at the point of attack that got less than you might think because of the sheer number of bodies in the area.

Strobel number roulette. Strobel donned an OL's 50 this week and tucked inside Mason Cole on a number of goofy alignment plays that Michigan did not execute particularly well on.

DEFENSE

Rather decent. In the game preview I predicted that UNLV would not get to 200 yards if their starting quarterback did not play. He played probably 2/3rds of the game and UNLV still barely scraped over that number thanks to a Purdue-Certified Make The Final Score Look Better drive and Jim Harbaugh declining a penalty on a play that ended the first half.

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[Eric Upchurch]

Corners perform. The most notable development on the day was Michigan's corners excelling all around. We expect that from Jourdan Lewis these days but every game he does is another increment on our Bayesian estimations of his ability.

We do not yet expect that from Jeremy Clark and Channing Stribling, so watching them both pick up sweet interceptions and play well in other aspects of the game was encouraging. Stribling undercut a dig route:

Yes, the ball is to the inside; very few interceptions are not aided by the offense failing to execute. The offense wins if everyone is perfect. Taking advantage of opportunities when the offense is not perfect is what defense is about.

Clark got his head around on a go route on which he'd already put the wide receiver just about on the sideline to find the ball in his chest; he caught it on the rebound.

Both guys added other instances of quality play, especially Stribling. Stribling was tested on a few downfield bombs and defended them all. He had a PBU on a crossing route that was late. Clark had a couple opportunities he did pretty well on as well. The one clear problem was a pass interference penalty Clark took on the snap before his interception; at least Clark was savvy enough to take the 15 yard hit after he knew he was in trouble.

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Godin was robbed of a sack by balance and bloody fate [Barron]

Godin coming on. Chris Wormley had a quiet day, leaving Ryan Glasgow and Matt Godin to be the most frequent backfield stormtroopers on the day. Glasgow you kind of expect at this point. My only worry with him is that he'll be unable to hold up against big OL that double him; against average and average-at-best teams he's a rock.

Godin is a pleasant surprise. He started seeing considerable playing time late last year after some injuries and the Clark dismissal opened up snaps. He did decently with them. This year he's improved enough to be a virtual fourth starter on a line featuring three very good players, and he's making an impact. Multiple times in this game he blew opposition OL back; he remains pretty good at slicing past them, especially on stunts.

The same concerns about holding up extend to Godin, but there is a reason the OR persists next to Chris Wormley's name on the depth chart. It has nothing to do with Wormley.

Henry's got to watch his legs. Henry also didn't have a big day, as UNLV tended to run away from him on zone plays and cut him. He was unfortunately susceptible to hitting the ground on those plays and was often responsible for the cutback lanes that saw the Rebels snatch a number of successful runs.

Lawrence Marshall has just escaped the doghouse. He saw time very late. That is a better indicator he's not going to live up to the spring hype just yet than not playing at all. Marshall didn't get snaps in either of Michigan's first two games; maybe that was talent, maybe it was injury, maybe it was suspension. If he's seeing the field late in a blowout he's probably healthy and obviously not suspended; I doubt we see him take on a prominent role this year.

Meanwhile Michigan's getting solid pass rush even without a major contributor at that end spot.

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I know this is a shot of Michigan's offense in the defense section but I'm talking about WR screens (shut your mouth) and we don't have any shots of UNLV screens, which is wonderful. [Upchurch]

We are a team that is bad at blocking and has QB issues and we're going to virtually ignore WR screens. That was UNLV on Saturday. I recall one WR screen, period. I may be omitting one or two; I still love that to bits. Michigan puts their corners in press man a lot, which dissuades screens, and then it seems like the word on Peppers is out. It feels super to go through two games against spread to run teams in which Michigan gave up one chunk of yards on a dumb little edge screen*. They are in fact outgaining opponents on dumb little edge screens.

*[Not counting the tunnel screen that almost went badly against Oregon State; this is about screens that don't involve the offensive line.]

The prior point leads into this one about how modern the D feels. The opener featured a play on which a (probable) scrape exchange was not made on a zone read keeper. That play drew a ton of "argh Michigan never defends the spread" ire on twitter. I thought it too. And then Michigan shut Utah's offense off, for the most part.

They followed that up with a couple of outings against teams trying various tricky tricks that have usually resulted in Michigan falling over and soiling itself; none have worked consistently. Maybe there is an instance here or there in which Michigan does not adjust to motion or gets the bejeezus held out of a critical linebacker, but given how quickly they adapted those feel like missed assignments instead of systemic problems.

Michigan has a couple of simple checks (the flappy bird thing they do) they run constantly when offenses try to unbalance them with motion; they will interchange safety and corner when that makes sense. They are a nickel base D.

None of these teams are that good on offense, even Utah, but there are many Michigan teams of the past whose defenses would have massively underperformed expectations when faced with offenses that did not match up with the manball offenses they went up against in practice. DJ Durkin's defenses have not done so yet.

MISCELLANEOUS

YAAARGH. Hell of a shot from Eric:

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[Upchurch]

Hello. The tubes have been replaced by Yips.

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YIP YIP YIP YIP YIP YIP YIP [Patrick Barron]

Some excellent side-eye from the lady on the far left of this picture.

Puntin'. So this is how Blake O'Neill's doing this year.

bryan [1:47 PM] Are we grading O'Neil punts on a scale of Zoolander poses yet?

From La Tigra to Magnum?

ace [1:48 PM] that was definitely a Magnum

(phrasing)

That was after O'Neill blasted a rugby kick 59 yards with no return. That punt was on a line but hit so hard that the returner ended up standing in an incorrect place with insufficient time to correct that error.

Before that, O'Neill had one of his delayed kicks that he dropped at the three yard line for Channing Stribling to fair catch. His shank was really the only thing standing between him and the kind of post game praise we've never seen issued to a punter around these parts.

Returnin'. Michigan went from a series of all-out block attempts against Oregon State to a series of return attempts that didn't go quite as well as Michigan hoped. The spectacular Peppers return was indeed spectacular, but it wasn't particularly assisted by blocking until Peppers had whizzed past three befuddled Rebels.

I'm okay with that. I liked the fact that Michigan was trying something. On these returns they would line up with a few guys off the edge and then make a call to scoot guys around, presumably in an effort to get UNLV gunners releasing directly into guys who suddenly show up where they were not. It's a good idea, and one that demonstrates the effort and creativity Michigan is putting into special teams this year. That and the Aussie punter.

Orin Incandenza game theory changes. I'm going to bug the Mathlete about this, but that punt down to the three made me wonder if a world in which touchbacks don't happen or are at least very rare is one in which punting is the optimal strategy in a lot of situations where the conventional wisdom is to go for it after pointing and laughing at Rod Gilmore. I went from irritated before the delayed punt to shrugging, because sure put them at the three.

Peppers is going to be fun. This is not information.

Dadrock subplot. Oregon State music was split about 50/50 between Special K's usual playlist and Harbaugh's first generation iPod. That split went away, replaced with nothing but WCSX's greatest hits. Even the Kid Rock songs that made it were the Kid Rock songs on which he does his Bob Seger impression.

This was funny and generally diverted me from the fact that there was absolutely no let-up in the music from the Brandon era. That lasted about two and a half quarters, and then I was psychologically beaten down by it. We are still filling every available space with blaring music like Michigan fans are infants that need a rattle in front of their face 99% of the time. But when the crowd responds like this I guess you have to continue:

Hackett talked about toning it down; I haven't seen any evidence of it yet.

HERE

Best And Worst:

Best:  Neapolitan Without Chocolate and You Hate Strawberry or
Worst:  Vanilla Ice Cream topped with Vanilla Extract Mixed with Vanilla Sorbet

One of the most derisive terms you hear on the internet (coined by legendary champion/male stripper Kevin Nash) to describe a professional wrestler is that he’s a “vanilla midget”.  The term has a number of meanings and, in certain contexts, can almost be a backhanded compliment, but in general it refers to a wrestler who is good at “wrestling” but not so good at the “sports entertainment” part of it; it typically means he’s short, bad on the mic, a bit weird/generic looking, etc.  Despite its evocative nature of a particular type of guy, it’s been applied to wrestlers of all stripes, usually in a way to trivialize their real accomplishments and reduce them to a trite tableau of unmet cosmetic expectations.

I noticed during this game how many people became discouraged that UM’s utter dominance of UNLV wasn’t “more” than it was.  Outside of the one Isaac run, this was basically UM spending a half methodically walking up and down the field with minimal resistance from the Rebels, running the same basic plays effectively but without much flair.  Yes, part of that was due to Jake Rudock’s continued inability to consistently throw the ball farther than 10 yards downfield, but UM was going to play this game as close to the vest as possible.  If this was an NES game, UM just went full Tecmo on the playbook.

Inside The Box Score:

The Two Jakes
* I thought I was going to have to rename this section The One Jake. Rudock finally threw a ball to Butt in the second half. Jake B. ended up with two catches for 14 yards. If they are saving him for BYU and the bigger B1G games, I understand.
* In the now weekly battle between Jake Rudock and ST3-defined efficient QB play, Rudock was 14 for 22 (64%, check,) with only one interception (check,) but he only averaged 5.6 yards per attempt. Ugh.

WHAT ARE THOSE?
* The WHAT ARE THOSE? award goes to the BTN cameramen. Those people running around on the field in stylishly matching outfits are football players. It's generally a good idea to keep your electronic moving picture taking box pointed at those players, especially the one that has the ball in his hands. But don't get too close lest the rest feel left out.

I have availed myself of the camerawork and can report that it was real bad. At least when the camera guy is trying to express his avant-garde truth it was generally followed by a replay that indicated what the hell happened. This does not help people watching live but should prevent me from ragequitting UFR.

ELSEWHERE

Sap's decals:

DEFENSIVE CHAMPION – Channing Stribling’s interception on UNLV’s first drive set the tone for the Michigan Defense. If the opponent wants to take the football to start the game, Durkin’s D has to let them know that they will not be able to move the ball and that’s what #8 did. The INT was emotionally charging for Michigan and emotionally deflating for UNLV.

Hoover Street Rag goes on a Killers kick. Maize and Blue Nation:

But there were a lot of things to be satisfied happy about. The offensive line did what they were supposed to do to an outmanned front...holes were made and QB's were protected. UNLV got only 2 TFL's and no sacks. Ty Isaac ran the ball better and more effectively then he ever has in the Michigan uniform. The defense played outstanding as usual. Special teams were solid and Michigan's punter Blake O'neill booted 4 of his 5 aussie-style punts inside the 20. All in all, it was a business as usual type of game...which is something you haven't really been able to say around Ann Arbor that much recently.

MLive grades. Marcus Ray on Rudock. The BTN's intro was actually good, if nothing else was. Jourdan Lewis is good. Touch The Banner. Recruit reacts. Maize and Brew.

Comments

turtleboy

September 21st, 2015 at 12:24 PM ^

I have to admit, Rudock seems pretty deer-in-the-headlights to me. I imagine he's practicing well, but in games he's very up and down. Sometimes making great scrambles and coverting tough 3rd downs under pressure, other times missing wide open primary reads by 5+ yards or throwing late into double/triple coverage. I have to imagine Harbaugh is asking more of him than was asked in Iowa, but these look like mistakes true freshmen make, and not grad transfers. Harbaugh needs to get Jake's mojo working.

Gulogulo37

September 21st, 2015 at 9:28 PM ^

Rudock hasn't been that good, but I certainly don't get the deer in the headlights impression from him. People are talking about how inaccurate he is, but that really only started in this game. It's worrying, sure, but in the first 2 games he was really only inaccurate on the deep balls. Mediocre, yes. Deer in the headlights, no.

swoosh

September 21st, 2015 at 12:24 PM ^

A little wind and our QB is rendered pretty much useless?  Was there no wind in Iowa?

 

Is it me or were our third string qb passes look better down the field?  I just do not have a lot of confidence in Jake right now, I wish I did.

marti221

September 21st, 2015 at 1:31 PM ^

I agree, not saying he should be the starter. I would have liked to see him a little more in the second half to actually see if he can make some throws that Rudock is missing. When someone who hasn't proven himself is struggling, I would like to see what the next guy can do. Especially when you have the game in hand. I understand Harbaugh knows a hell of a lot more than anyone on this blog, but coaches CAN be wrong sometimes. I'm sure he has his reasons, so I trust him. I selfishly would just like to see what else we have, in a game.

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wahooverine

September 21st, 2015 at 1:07 PM ^

The long balls did look better.  The question is can Speight complete the shorter throws accurately and on time, and manage the game better than Rudock?  If the answer to that question were yes, then we'd see him in the game by now. Rudock as starter is the result of an intense, daily competition starting in the summer and apparently it wasn't even close. If Hoke and Borges were still in charge of QB decisions than sure it'd probably be wise to question their judgement.  In in our current situation, I'm accepting things as they are and expecting to see improvement.

Steve333

September 21st, 2015 at 12:28 PM ^

Jabrill is getting so close to breaking one. Which team is going to be dumb enough to actually give him a chance? And we have at least 3 more years of the possibility. YES!

JFW

September 21st, 2015 at 12:30 PM ^

Well this post was a downer.

True, but still a downer.

I'm hoping we can get some of this stuff sorted out. I'm beginning to think that improvement at the end of the year is starting to look like "consistently competent"

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Wolverine In Exile

September 21st, 2015 at 12:31 PM ^

Rudock to me just seems like a baseball pitcher who's "aiming" instead of throwing. He's got the arm strength (contrary to the opinion of 5-10 callers on WTKA this morning calling for Speight to get more time), but he's trying to "aim" the ball to a spot, instead of trusting in his mechanics to get the ball to the place on time. It's something that can be fixed with good coaching, and I trust Harbaugh can do it. The missed TD pass to Butt was a perfect example. Rudock's mechanics got out of whack and he tried to fire a perfect dart instead of just resetting his feet and putting a softer touch on a ball for Butt to run to. I'm not concerned, but I'm also not expecting any 300 yd games from Rudock either this year.

jimmyshi03

September 21st, 2015 at 1:03 PM ^

version of backup QB as most popular guy in town cliche. Does anyone really doubt that if Rudock needed to miss a half/game(s) we'd be seeing Morris, not Speight?

Part of that comes from the worries expressed by Brian before about the lack of success of Borges recruited quarterbacks, but also because we actually haven't seen a great deal of success with Speight. The throws were nice, but they weren't actually completed.

Vengeful Barbarian

September 21st, 2015 at 4:13 PM ^

Shane Morris was a 4/5 star player on all of the recruiting sites, he has the talent, but just wasn't developed properly. Speight was considered the # 7 qb in his class by ESPN, and played in the Under Armour All America game. It's not like these two were bums than only Hoke and Borges wanted.

As much shit as Borges gets around here, QB's that played for him did great at Michigan when looking at passing stats, it was the running game and OL development that lagged.

dragonchild

September 21st, 2015 at 1:10 PM ^

I agree that his mechanics are a bit off but I think Brian is closer to the truth.

I think his mechanics -- which are tough to fix in an offseason where you have to learn a new offense -- are stuck in Iowa.  Back there, he couldn't trust his receivers to get open, so he had to make perfect throws.  MGoBlog noted how well he was able to hit his receivers perfectly in stride.  But that means he had burned each Iowa receiver's pace into his memory.  Not only could he do that; he HAD to do that.  But it had to have taken time.

That's all out the window.  I think they spent the whole offseason teaching him the offense but that wasn't nearly enough time for him to get down his receivers' timing.  So he's trying to thread needles when he still doesn't have a feel for where the receiver's going to be.  Also, for the first time, he has viable options like hot routes and a go-to receiver in Butt.  But (heh) when he trusts the play to get the ball to a specific route or guy he's entirely TOO dependent and gets himself in trouble.  His most productive throws have been screens where at least the receiver's at a spot.

So you get two Rudocks; one that's constantly trying to thread needles like he's still throwing to Iowa receivers and one that's placing entirely too much faith in a route or receiver and staring it down.  He moves well in the pocket and is making reads; he looks comfortable with the X's and O's.  But at Iowa he was a Jimmies & Joes QB and that's missing from his game here.

I think people are putting a terrible amount on Rudock.  Yes his play has underwhelmed but I think the level of comfort he had at Iowa was something you couldn't build in a single offseason and that's exposing flaws in his game he didn't have at Iowa.

ClassOf14

September 21st, 2015 at 3:00 PM ^

This sums up my thoughts exactly. To me he seems like he's playing tight, and trying to aim the perfect pass instead of just letting it rip with confidence. I think when he does the latter, he is much more likely to get into a rhythm and complete passes downfield. That's why I think we haven't seen Harbaugh rip into him, during the games or during the pressers. Harbaugh isn't oblivious, he's seeing the same things we are. I think like Brian noted, Rudock seems to have the confidence sapped out of him after a mistake, as his play after the pick was not nearly as good. Every player responds differently to coaching, and I think Harbaugh is trying to coach him up while still supporting him and boosting his confidence. Just my two cents.

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marti221

September 21st, 2015 at 1:22 PM ^

Completely agree, that's the most worrisome aspect of Rudock's game thus far. Not the timing or even the inability to connect on deep balls. It's been the really easy throws underneath and to wide open receivers. That has nothing to do with timing, it's just not being able to make a throw that 90% of D1 QBs can make (not saying he can't obviously, he just hasn't consistently).

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FreddieMercuryHayes

September 21st, 2015 at 12:37 PM ^

I am very surprised by Rudock so far.  Not that he's been terrible, but right now he's basically Devin Gardner minus the ability to make huge plays with his legs.  I'm still sticking with 8-4 on the season, but this BYU game is going to tell us a lot.  I was very sure having Rudock really set the floor of this season at 6-6 with very little likeihood of actually being 6-6...but through 3 games, I can totally see that happening now, unfortunately.  I just can't understand the inaccuracy and late decisions from a 5th year senior with two years of starting experience and history of being quite efficient if not explosive.

This BYU game will be decided by Rudock.  They will crowd the box and aggresively play the run.  Which is normally great because Harbaugh's previous elite offenses were predicated on that, and then they would hit wide open pass catchers to punish the D.  But Rudock's inability so far to hit those wide open guys when they are present is very concerning.  Not the guy I remember seeing at Iowa even.

charblue.

September 21st, 2015 at 12:43 PM ^

Every Michigan starter since Bo's days have had their ups and downs. Everyone complains about a qb's failure to do something. Rudock wasn't very sharp on Saturday for whatever reason. But he handles the offense the way Harbaugh wants, and that's good enough for me at this point. What are you going to do about it anyway? 

Nothing. Because there is nothing to be done about it except appreciate what the kid offers and hope for the best. I mean really, as long as the team wins, the train keeps moving in the right direction. He just needs a little more confidence in throwing the ball positively downfield. 

 

jackw8542

September 21st, 2015 at 2:22 PM ^

While Rudock has been less than great, he has been far better than Devin Gardner was last year.  Gardner was (and remains) a great person who may well have been broken by Hoke and Borges, but this year through 3 games Rudock has performed far better than Gardner did last year through his first four games and even better than that if you delete the Appalachian State game.  In the three games following ASU, Gardner was at 59% completions, 6.7 YPA, 2TD, 6 Int, 1 lost fumble and 7 sacks.  And he went downhill from that point.  Rudock is still learning how to work with his receivers and has better numbers.

FreddieMercuryHayes

September 21st, 2015 at 2:20 PM ^

Of course the entire team has a hand in the game.  But what is more likely to cost or win the game, the defense or the QB?  So far, I feel much more comfortable saying the D will be good.  They'll give up some points and some yards, but I do not think they'll hold up their end.  Same with the OL.  They'll be OK, like they've been (hopefully take another small step forward).  But coming into this game, how is BYU thinking they have the best chance to win?  I think we all would agree their plan of attack is 'make Jake Rudock win the game'.   They'll load up against the run much like UNLV did (except with more talent and better coaching).  But that should be OK, because it's also kind of the point of the Harbaugh offense.  Once you load up against the run, it leaves you vulnerable to big pass plays.  It's how Harbaugh had elite passing offenses at Stanford.  Hell, it's the same basic principles of Urban Meyer's offenses.  That's why it will come down to Rudock: if he can't hit those open receives downfield, UM loses; if he can, UM wins.

yossarians tree

September 21st, 2015 at 12:34 PM ^

We will not know what this team or even next year's team really is until we have a QB that can be at least decent. Decent! That's all. It's hard to believe that Michigan has not had a QB that can at least be a minor threat through the air since Chad Henne 8 $%*$%! years ago!

bacon

September 21st, 2015 at 12:40 PM ^

I think Rudock isn't as polished as one would hope in his game and his throws can be a bit off, but in going back and watching the every offensive snaps from Oregon st, I was impressed how he moves around in the pocket really well and how he keeps his eyes downfield. I think the stats not reflect that he's doing a lot of things right that we've seen more talented qbs do wrong. Michigan isn't competing for the big ten this year, but the sky isn't falling with Rudock either. I say just enjoy the wins because they're better than losses.

Also, I think he'll get better because Harbaugh is going to teach him what he's doing wrong and adjust his gameplan to what works for Rudock. It's nice to have coaches that can out coach the opposition.

BlueMan80

September 21st, 2015 at 1:49 PM ^

Hopefully, he got that out of his system.  Every QB seems to have a day where things just aren't quite right.  He's also 3 games into a new system with new receivers. Not everyone is on the same page all the time, it seems.

It would have been nice if the receivers supported him better on his crazy scramble play.  No one really worked back to him and no one took off down field to bust open.  A bit of back and forth is all he got.

If Harbaugh thinks he's the best QB we have, then he is.  Hopefully, he can get more comfortable with Harbaugh's system and his reads.  I'm sure Harbaugh is working with him on the long ball given he's so hands on with the QBs.

I also think we went very vanilla against UNLV which they certainly could.  They also experimented with some blocking alignments and a few other things.  No need to show BYU what's coming this Saturday and might as well get in their heads doing some distracting blocking alignments.  Let's just hope that what's in-store is better executed than this game.

And, of course, right when I mention that the D hasn't had a shutout in a while and needed to preserve this one, UNLV has their one drive that makes it across the goal line.  I know...I shouldn't have said anything.  Just like when a pitcher is throwing a no hitter.

jackw8542

September 21st, 2015 at 2:31 PM ^

This was not Rudock's best game, but it was not bad except for the interception.  It's easy to look at long passes or "sure" TDs that wind up incomplete, but on the pass to Butt, Marcus Ray said Butt should have been heading back in the direction the throw went, because he was running towards a lnebacker (making it unwise for Rudock to lead him).  On the pass to Darboh where Darboh turned around and dropped the ball, Marcus Ray said that ball should be delivered over Darboh's left shoulder - not his right shoulder - which is where it was, so it was Darboh turning the wrong way that lead to that incompletion on a well thrown ball.  If Butt had stayed where he should have (at least according to Marcus Ray), Rudock would have had another TD pass and another completion.  If Darboh had turned the right way (according to Marcus Ray) or even caught the ball that hit him in the hands after he turned, Rudock would have had a long completion.  If you add in those 2 completions, then his numbers on the day are terrific (especially if Houma's catch is not ruled not a TD after the replay).  Rudock could quite easily have been 16 for 22 for 3 TDs and 175 yards.

Of course, a lot of the commenters on this blog would still be complaining about him.

He is, nonetheless, the first QB we have had since Henne who actually does keep his eyes downfield, does go through progressions and does avoid sacks.

remdog

September 21st, 2015 at 12:39 PM ^

...plain and simple.  He's averaging 2 turnovers a game.  And his poor accuracy has cost us TD's and ended drives.  His poor play singlehandedly cost us the Utah game.

But his longer term track record indicates significant upside from here.  As he gets in sync with his receivers,  I think he will improve significantly over the course of the season, hopefully in a linear fashion.

As for Morris, I don't think he's a legitimate second option right now or he'd be playing.  At the same time,  I think it's premature to call him a bust.  I hope he gets a redshirt year, has more of a chance to learn under Harbaugh and prove himself. 

jackw8542

September 21st, 2015 at 2:44 PM ^

You obviously have not been watching Michigan play for the past 7 years and probably have not been watching many other games, either.  Rudock has stood in, scanned the field, found checkdown receivers and done a pretty good job, all in all.  Since Henne graduated, I have watched Sheridan, Threet, Forcier, Robinson and Gardner do much worse on a great many occasions.  It happens to other teams, too.  A perfect throw will almost always result in a completion, but very few QBs complete much more than 60% of their passes and a considerably lower percentage of their long passes.

Reader71

September 21st, 2015 at 1:28 PM ^

Yeah that game was a case of really, really crippling turnovers making the QB look worse than he actually played. Not that he was great, but he was OK when saddled with a tough task.

We couldn't run the ball at all, we were out west on the road in a stadium none of the team had ever seen, and a freshman slot man who was at least partially to blame on a few of the picks.

And despite all that, we had a chance to tie it late against a decent team. Defense was the main reason, but anything we did on offense came directly from Rudock. He isn't great, but from a personal standpoint, I do not dread every drop back like I did with 2014 Gardner, so I'm still not ready to panic.