Mailbag: Snap Jumping Again, Clock Management Win, Jake Ryan Of Christmas Past, Legends Logistics Comment Count

Brian October 16th, 2012 at 11:29 AM

medium_031608woods3[1]jerel-worthy-p1[1]

Past Jake Ryan, hopefully not future MSU

Snap jumping. Not again?

Dear MGoBlog,

Please address Sparty jumping the snap. What can be done to prevent it or even use it to the Wolverines' advantage?

Please, please, please use all your influence to prevent Sparty snap jumping from successfully occurring this Saturday.  This is an important key to Michigan's offensive success.

Thank you,
Philip McEachern

I AM USING ALL MY INFLUENCE MAN YOU JUST DON'T KNOW. Unfortunately, that influence consists of squinting really hard and making "wahwahwahwah" noises to project psychic sound waves about me. I have no influence.

I do think that we will see that snap jumping significantly reduced in frequency, possibly almost eliminated. One of the hidden transition costs last year was a coaching staff that had not endured Jerel Worthy's sometimes-offside-but-usually-just-eating-your-heart dance party and did not spend big chunks off the offseason fuming about it and scheming themselves a plan to defeat it. This year everyone is well aware that snap timing blew up the Michigan offense in all different ways and that changes must be made. We have seen Michigan vary their snap counts—they did it last week—and with a home game Michigan should be able to use audible signals if they want. Meanwhile, Worthy is gone and I haven't seen the Spartan replacements be able to replicate that maddening skill of his.

Unfortunately, this prediction about the snap jumping has reached the status of turnovers under Rich Rodriguez: logic says it can't happen again, and then it happens again. At this point I'll have to see a Michigan coaching staff enter a Michigan State game as prepared to play as the Spartans are before I believe it.

If not this year, though, when? Michigan State's coming off three straight nail-biters that required them to dump everything they had on the field in an effort to win the game. Michigan's coming off a bye and two laughers. MSU is shuffling guys on their OL, has benched a senior captain LB, and is trying to find two tight ends to rub together.

They don't have the depth to do much other than what they've done already. They don't have a changeup like Baker they can go to; they don't have the tight end depth that threw Michigan off; they are trying to find anyone who can catch a ball. Please, Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God, yea the most powerful of all fictional supernatural football deities, hear our plea.

Bellomy on the goal line.

Brian,

I am a little confused by the play calling after Denard went out with his "boo-boo".

1) Why is Toussaint in the "jumbo" (unsure if package name is correct)? Rawls just seems to have the short yardage figured out a little bit better i.e. size and running style: see 6:35 Q2. (I know my example comes after and did not have 6/7 on the line and all 11 within 5 of the LOS and inside the tackles but still).  Was Rawls insertion later a sign that he may now have the short yardage job?

You've got me on this one. I have two theories, neither of which seems that convincing.

Theory one: Fitz is in a funk and rusty and getting flack from people and some cheap touchdowns will help his morale, maybe get him driving harder at the goal line.

Theory two: Rawls is fumbling a lot in practice or going BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE.

Pick one or make one up yourself; I think either explanation is going to quickly fall by the wayside as Rawls becomes a preferred option inside the five. He probably would have scored on one of the two attempts. I do think the BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE theory has some credibility behind it since I just watched Rawls look at this…

rawls-wtf

…and decide to bounce that outside the TE instead of slam it up at the gaping cutback lane like he was born to do. Amazingly, the guy seems to have some Michael Shaw to him. Go north-south, young moose.

2) Why the vanilla play calls? It was clear later that they trust Bellomy with some measure of the offense that is clearly larger than watching the RB run into some ineffective down-blocks. With the alignment of weak-side DE, LB, and FS, why not run a PA boot with the TE rubbing off and going all Funchey in the back of the end zone? Is this just a manball fundamental that we must live with this year while the donkey punchers are being groomed?

Stuart

There's a big difference between trusting Bellomy to run around and fling stuff once you're up a billion points and having him take his first meaningful snaps in a rainstorm in a game that could still go either way.

Personally, I wanted him to hand off come hell or high water—when you're the silverback you want to lower variance, and having Bellomy think about all the stuff he's going to do after the snap could lead to bad news. Bellomy fumbled a snap later, after all, and Michigan doesn't want to open the door for anything cheap for the Illini because that's the only way they lose.

In general I don't think there's much to criticize either way about  goal line playcalling. The defense is selling out one way, you pick one or the other and succeed or don't.

[After THE JUMP: clock management, Afghanistan face-off, Legends logistics, Jake Ryan of the past.]

Late-half clock management.

Brian:

This wouldn't be the MGoBlog inbox without a dissection of the one game-theory minutiae you didn't mention in the column. While I'm with you on begrudgingly accepting the 18-yard FG for all the reasons mentioned and TOTALLY with you on applauding the playing of actual football in the final two minutes of the first half, I am baffled by the clock management during that possession.

Michigan completes a nine-yard pass (to Dileo, I think) and correctly calls one of its three timeouts with 40-some second left. So the second-and-1 play is the fumbled snap, which makes it third-and-7ish with the clock running. Rather than call another timeout, Michigan scrambles to get everyone in place as time continues to tick down and then throws a hasty incompletion before punting.

I guess if they had only one timeout left, I understand thinking you need to save it to get the field-goal unit on eventually; but that wasn't the case. I guess I could understand saying, "It's sloppy out there; we're up 17; let it go;" but you've already committed to trying to attack -- and even if the fumbled snap gave you misgivings, then take a knee on third down. But a hurry-up pass on third-and-7 in the rain seems to have the greatest downside of all the strategies available.

Anyway, may all our problems be so great. I only mention it at all because clock management seems to be the one bronze sculpture in Hoke's huge pile of gold. (And thanks for perpetuating THAT image.)

Cheers,
Matt

That didn't bother me, because at that point you're balanced on a knife edge between taking that possession for yourself and giving the other team an opportunity to use one. The right move is to let the clock bleed a bit so that

  • if you get a first down you can still use the remaining 30 seconds or so to score
  • if you don't, the opponent is going to look at under a minute left from their ten and kneel

You'll often see the equation swing wildly from one play to another. A recent famous example came in last year's first MSU-Wisconsin game, when Brett Bielema took timeouts on two consecutive late MSU plays:

Michigan State then survived a harrowing moment when Cousins fumbled deep in Spartan territory. Offensive lineman Dan France fell on the ball with 42 seconds left.

At that point, Wisconsin was eager to use timeouts, trying to get the ball back, but on second-and-20 from his own 24, Cousins found Cunningham for a 12-yard gain. The Spartans then picked up a first down on an 11-yard shovel pass to Keshawn Martin.

"If we get the ball back with less than 30 seconds we were going to go for a block," Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said. "We were going for the win."

On second and 20 the timeout is obvious. Once MSU executes and gets themselves into a situation where they can potentially turn their hole into a late winning drive, the second timeout is a much closer call. At that point MSU is probably willing to let the game go to overtime, so it's up to Wisconsin to decide if they're going to play chicken. I thought Bielema screwed up—the chances of MSU converting a third and eight and getting something out of that drive seem better than your chances of doing anything after a punt with that little time on the clock.

On second and one, the field is slanted heavily the offense's way and they should regard that time as theirs, precious. On third and seven that time could be anyone's. Down 17-0, you need points, risk be damned; up 17-0, playing it cool is right. Michigan struck a balance between foolhardy and milquetoasty there that I thought was perfect.

Half of these people are going to be unhappy in a few days.

image

Brian,

Attached is a picture our unit took today... there are more U of M fans!  Anyway, thought you may like to see it. We are based out of Jackson (1461st Trans Company), but we obviously hail from all over the state. We will be watching the game and trying to act like we are home.... kickoff is at 1230am here,

GO BLUE,
2LT  Blue

Hopefully no humvees get painted "STAEE" anytime soon.

Jake Ryan comparable?

I was in Indianapolis this weekend getting after it pretty hard with some Purdue buddies. I was watching the game intently, but everyone else fresh off the Wisconsin shellacking had a passive interest at best.

After yet another Jake Ryan TFL, my friend who had his back turned to the TV all day said, “Boy, every time I look up that number 47 is making a big play… what year is he?!” I only bother telling you this because 1. I am crazy excited to see what he posts in the UFR this week and 2. How exciting is it that he is only a Sophomore?! From a career arc perspective, what is even our closest comparison point?

Regards,
Paul

There's actually a really close comparison point, but unfortunately it's not at all useful for projecting what Ryan might do over the next couple years: Pierre Woods. Woods came to Michigan out of Glenville, redshirted, had an okay freshman year as a backup, and then blew up as a sophomore SLB: 68 tackles, 13 TFLs, seven sacks, second-team All Big Ten.

Woods then got in trouble. It was bad enough that he barely held on to his spot on the team and didn't even reclaim his position as a starter even during the 2005 season, when putting him on the field and sliding some other guys around to mitigate problems at DT was clearly a very good idea. Michigan refused to put him on the field until a slew of injuries forced them to in the 2005 Iowa game; Woods proceeded to bail Michigan's ass out against Drew Tate and have a five-year NFL career despite being buried on the bench. As a senior he had 24 tackles… and 11 TFLs… in five starts. The mind boggles. Pierre Woods's career is amongst the most inexplicable in the last 20 years.

Who knows what Woods could have ended up being without the career detour? We may find out.

Legends logistics.

Brian - How does this "Michigan Football Legend Number" thing really work?

What I don't get is, does every really good young player now have to switch numbers when the coaches hand him a Legend jersey? How will new legends ever come to be?

Jake Ryan is an example - just say he was to turn into a 3x All American and Butkis award winner, but he was 'given' #47 as Soph....can he become a "Legend" too? Is the #47 locker done in multi-toned mahogany wood joinery?

Would Charles Woodson have stayed #2 for his Heisman season, or would the coaches have bestowed the Wistert's #11 on him after his Freshman year.

I liked the idea at first, but now it's not making sense to me. I think it's cool to remember all the great players and their numbers over the years...but 15 years from now will we have a list of the best defensive players all having been #47 for their last 2-3 years? A player's number is his identity...making a kid change doesn't seem right.

And the patches? Seems like a reach. Maybe this is all a jersey selling conspiracy of some sort by DB.

I am with you on the identity thing. This has been my thing with the ongoing desperate pleas to not change Jordan Kovacs away from 32. The Legends numbers are a cool idea, but do we want 2015 Denard to wear 11? Don't we want him to wear 16, except not actually 16? Don't we want 32 to mean something to a safety or walk-on?

But I don't think Michigan has committed themselves to only giving them to great players or switching them around yearly. Brandon Moore has 87, and while Desmond Morgan's on track to being a four year starter I would be surprised if he was an All-American at any point. Michigan's introducing them by changing numbers—in the future I'd bet they're just issued to freshmen.

There's a balance to strike here between that's my number and that's the number. Michigan's #1 was hewing that line nicely before the Braylon scholarship effectively took it out of circulation. What would a #1 legends jersey look like anyway? You can't put Carter without Braylon, can't put Braylon without Carter. So… what can you do?

I don't know. I do think the bar is high enough that it would take a lot of doing for any current player to acquire legend status. Guys who do not have a legends jersey who are locks:

  • Charles Woodson
  • Dennis Norfleet

End of list. We might see #77 (Long) or #65 (McKenzie) or #72 (Dierdorf) get the treatment, but that's uncertain. Bob Chappuis's #49 and Jim Mandich's #88 should also be on the "probably" list. That's it.

It's not a ton of guys. There should be room for joint honorees—the patch can always read "X/Y." I'd actually like to see them introduce a joint #1 Carter/Edwards legends jersey just to establish that you can get your name next to Gerald Ford if you're a multi-year All American sort.

Comments

JeepinBen

October 16th, 2012 at 11:40 AM ^

First, I love the Norfleet love.

Second, why not run a toss on the goal line? After slamming it up the middle, Illinois was sold out to stop that. All you need is the TE to get leverage and it's a waltz into the endzone. Does running a toss with a Backup QB in the Rain seem like that bad an idea?

Finally, re: goal line O, I think we'll see more variations with a healthy Denard and a healthy Hopkins. Remember we ran that FB dive multiple times last year (and then play-actioned off it gloriously) I'd be surprised if that didn't come back, along with the naked boot off it, etc.

(edited so it didn't look like I was claiming an internet [email protected]#111one!)

profitgoblue

October 16th, 2012 at 11:57 AM ^

He was definitely good, but I don't think he is in the same company with Carter and Edwards.

An interesting topic for discussion is whether the #16 becomes a coveted Legends jersey.  If Denard become the all-time leading rusher for a QB then I have to say yes.  But would it go to a QB, especially one that is a true drop-back passer?  That wouldn't seem to fit properly.  Maybe it would go to someone who exemplifies Denard's spirit and love for the game?

 

profitgoblue

October 16th, 2012 at 12:09 PM ^

I do but, personally, I think Denard's accomplishments outshine Navarre's, not to mention the infection that is Denard's personality and love for playing the game.  It seems to me as though Denard deserves to be in the same conversation for a Legends jersey as Desmond and Woodson.  But thats just one man's opinion. 

saveferris

October 16th, 2012 at 12:42 PM ^

Denard is easily one of the most exciting players ever to put on the winged helmet, but what has he "accomplished"?  Most rushing yards for a QB in the Big 10 and a victory in the Sugar Bowl, and that's about it.  Navarre at least has a Big 10 title ring to his name.  I get that people always discount Navarre because he wasn't very athletic and had a penchant for making mistakes in big games that would cost Michigan, but then again, so does Denard (the mistake part, not the athletic part, obviously).

I have little doubt that at the end of his career here at Michigan, Denard will have the bigger legacy, but it just bothers me how easily fans dismiss John Navarre.  Dude was a pretty good football player, and a pretty good person.

willywill9

October 16th, 2012 at 1:28 PM ^

I love me some Navarre, and I respect him immensely and I share your frustration.  But, I don't agree with the "what has denard done" critique.  You can't undervalue winning a BCS game- something only one other quarter back did since 98, when it was instated.  (Tom Brady, Orange Bowl).

Yes, he really needs to win a B1G Championship to cement his legacy, but I don't agree with that critique (on Denard's side).

tvaduva

October 16th, 2012 at 2:09 PM ^

I think 20 years from now Denard will be a Legend. Not only is he a remarkable athlete, he's a great person, someone that can continue to be the "face" of our football program. He's already become lore.

I think this will be more likely if we go back to statue passers in the future.

fritZ

October 16th, 2012 at 4:14 PM ^

You're forgetting that the #1 wasn't the huge honor back then that it became after the Braylon scholarship.  The time off between M greats wasn't a big deal after AC or Alexander (never forget!) or Terrell.  But now, there is such emphasis on giving it to "The Next" that it's nearly impossible (improbable?) for a receiver to "earn" it.

Wave83

October 16th, 2012 at 2:19 PM ^

Agreed.  AC will always be number 1 to me.  To answer your question for those too lazy to follow the link, there were only two 3-time All Americans -- Carter and Oosterbaan.

As an aside, I notice that the Bentley Library list of All Americans from Michigan includes 126 players with 150 awards.  Why does the pregame hype video at the Stadium only refer to 77 (or is it 78?) All Americans?

Sopwith

October 16th, 2012 at 12:29 PM ^

But the gap between him and Carter/Braylon is massive, and if you were awarding bronze medals, it would probably go to David Terrell or Derrick Alexander and not McMurtry.  To wit:

Carter: 161 rec., 3076 yds (19.1 avg! holy crap), 37 rec. TD, 1 rush TD, 2 punt ret. TD

Braylon: 252 rec., 3541 yds (14.1 avg), 39 rec. TD

Alexander: 125 rec., 1977 yds., 22 rec. TD, 4 punt ret. TD, 1 rush TD

McMurtry:  111 rec., 2163 yds., 15 rec. TD

Terrell*: 152 rec., 2317 yds., 23 rec. TD, 1 rush TD

*(declared for NFL after Jr. season or would have ended with career numbers like Braylon)

McMurtry was smoove, I'll grant you that.  Great receiver.

wesq

October 16th, 2012 at 11:51 AM ^

I think we are underrating the Spartans a bit.  They are the #1 FEI Defense in the country, have young talent at WR and a pretty decent QB.  I could see the offense letting all hang out and score a few points.

M-Dog

October 16th, 2012 at 12:05 PM ^

Agreed.  This statement is the key:

"At this point I'll have to see a Michigan coaching staff enter a Michigan State game as prepared to play as the Spartans are."

The Sparty we see on Saturday will not be the Sparty any other team has seen this year.  Just like last year.  Count on it.   

The Michigan the Spartans see on Saturday needs to also be at another level.  And I think they will be. 

BossWolverine

October 16th, 2012 at 12:06 PM ^

on the young WR talent, mostly that being Burbridge. Since he's been seeing game time he has made an impact.

I also think that this is the year, much like a matured Neo, Denard has figured out the matrix. On Saturday Denard holds his palm out, looks at Gholston, and says "NO". Use your imagination for the finish.

Monocle Smile

October 16th, 2012 at 12:43 PM ^

They've played teams with dogshit offenses outside of OSU, which was still in the process of pulling their heads from their asses at the time...and they let Indiana rampage on them for a while (and then Indiana went into a shell and tried to bleed an entire half of football).

Most of that "young talent" at receiver isn't seeing the field. They refuse to throw to Mumphery very much and Burbridge is still pretty raw. Maxwell is only good when not under pressure and his mobility blows.

I can see them putting up points...in the first half. Then adjustments totally shut them down.

profitgoblue

October 16th, 2012 at 12:03 PM ^

That cat scares me.  Wha . . . what's happening to me?? . . .

Suddenly, all the motivation to complete work tasks has drained from my body, leaving only a MGoZombie.  If the boss questions the lack of productivity, will one of you email that photo to him?  I will be unable to email as it cannot be sent in the form of a Board reply.

 

oakapple

October 16th, 2012 at 12:10 PM ^

It appears that Hoke's de facto strategy is to assign them either to: A) Young players with a high ceiling (Ryan, Morgan); or B) "Good-guy" seniors with a low ceiling (Roundtree, Miller).

What he has not done, is take a star player's number away, late in his career (Kovacs, Denard). This solves the problem Brian was worried about, where after 3 1/2 years of seeing Kovacs roaming the secondary as #32, suddenly he's #11 for a handful of games.

Of course, after they've put Denard on the cover of their media guide and sold thousands of #16 jerseys, there was no way his number was going to change.

I suspect that Hoke will be leery of giving out legends jerseys to true freshmen. Hoke seems to believe that there's a "good citizenship" requirement, more than just being good at sports, and it would be tough for a true freshman to demonstrate that.

So a likely pattern is that they'll usually be given to younger players of starter caliber (but not true frosh), who'll then have the chance to wear the jersey for several years. In cases where there is no obvious candidate in the younger ranks, he'll give it to a "good guy" senior for a year, and then re-evaluate it the following season.

Michigan hasn't retired a lot of jerseys. There are pretty low odds that a second guy would have a "retire-the-jersey" type of career with the same number. In the event that happens, it strikes me as a good problem to have.

If you look at the accomplishments that get your jersey retired, they're pretty rare. I love Jake Ryan, but being a 3-time All-American and wining a Butkus award would probably not suffice.

Bodogblog

October 16th, 2012 at 12:11 PM ^

Or even if they aren't running this blitz, at least 2 of their LBs are screaming toward the LOS at any hint of a running play.  What is the counter to this? 

More than anything this seems to be the key to Sparty run D (in addition to having good players like Bullough and Allen at LB).  It almost amounts to a run blitz on any 1st or 2nd down.  Their DBs are good so they can play man-to-man on slants.  But there still seems like there should be a counter.  I've watched several games this year though, and I don't see any of their opponents doing it.  They just ram into the pile.

Last year in the bowl game, Georgia threw a simple toss the RB who leaked out over the middle.  He waltzed into the end zone.

AC1997

October 16th, 2012 at 12:24 PM ^

I really want to see the #1 jersey bestowed upon someone else, but if you're going to make it a legend it needs to be generic.  Yes, Braylon and AC were the best to wear it but the other people who wore it held their own very well. 

  • McMurtry was the first to wear it after AC and was part of the transition away from the 3-yards and a cloud of dust era. 
  • Derrick Alexander was a great player at Michigan and had the longest sustained NFL success of anyone to wear the jersey. 
  • David Terrell was Braylon before Braylon.  He made a ton of great plays, tore up the record books with Brady and Henson, left early to be a high draft pick.....and then flopped because he didn't have the mental fortitude to go with his athletic ability.

I think if you were to make that jersey into a legend, you would go all out and tie it all together.  Incorporate the Braylon scholarship, bring the families of all these players out for the game, talk about how this jersey more than any other has spanned two generations of Michigan football because so many great players have worn it. 

Also, to a lesser extent it bugs me when people associate Jake Long as the only elite OT to wear #77.  Jon Jansen was a great college lineman and then went on to have a great NFL career.  (As a sideline reporter the jury is stil out.)  I think it is a slight to his legacy (also a leader on the national championship team) to focus on Jake Long only.  Lewan may have something to say before he's done too. 

Finally, I wonder if before these jerseys are handed out whether the player is given the option of accepting it. 

AC1997

October 16th, 2012 at 12:40 PM ^

I couldn't agree more with Brian that until we see our players and coaches match the preparation and execution of MSU I will be nervous.  We've teased the MSU faithful over the years for how much of an emphasis they put on this game.  They installed a countdown clock, they promised victories, they paint their tackling dummies maize, etc.  But that's what we've been doing for the OSU game - which is what we need to realize. 

This game is the SEASON for the MSU team and they plan around it.  Maybe this year to a lesser extent, but it is still the measuring stick they use to judge success.  We need to think like that and make sure that our attention on OSU is matched with our attention on MSU.  Unless we can treat them like any other opponent because of superior talent we need to think of them as the team we're chasing.  Four straight losses will do that. 

 

My slight fear is that this mentality prompts Borges to get too cute (see Alabama/ND game plans) without a back-up plan.  Or it prompts Mattison to lean too heavily on a scouting report and not have a reaction to MSU opening their bag of tricks.  Against OSU last year they changed their plan against us and Mattison struggled to adjust.  We need to be ready for MSU to open the entire playbook.  And it sure would be nice to feel like we out-coached the MSU defense instead of the other way around. 

B-Nut-GoBlue

October 16th, 2012 at 7:03 PM ^

Pretty good points and my fears seem to match up to yours, especially the last paragraph.  I do think this year, opening up the playbook won't be as easy a task to perfrom with the inexperience and lesser talent they're fielding; we will see, though.

Also, to add to your 2nd paragraph, Dantonio even stated after the Iowa game that it was time "re-evaluate" the season's goals; I'm pretty sure going out and practicing and preparing their asses off this week, readying themselves for Michigan , is a part of that mid-season kick-in-the-ass.

Baldbill

October 16th, 2012 at 12:40 PM ^

Thanks for including the picture of the troops. After my active service in the Marines, I went home and did some reserve time in the the 1461st Trans Company, in Jackson Michigan.

Go Blue

saveferris

October 16th, 2012 at 12:50 PM ^

For me, it's not even a contest.  With all due respect to Brian, the Number 1 jersey belongs to Anthony Carter, and nobody else.  Braylon broke most of AC's records in an offense that was designed to move the football through the air as much as on the ground.  Anthony Carter played in an offense designed around running the football and he still set almost every Michigan receiving record and they stood for 30 years.  Braylon Edwards was a really good receiver.  Anthony Carter was a great receiver.  When the next great Michigan receiver is given Number 1, he's not wearing Braylon's number, he's wearing AC's number.

Brhino

October 16th, 2012 at 12:55 PM ^

Can't we have Heiko mention something to Borges during the weekly press conference about Sparty's snap jumping?  They're practically best buddies at this point, I'm sure Al would take it into consideration.

Don

October 16th, 2012 at 1:11 PM ^

and not just with helmet-twisting. I'm talking cheap shots at his knees while he's being wrapped up or on the ground, late hits out of bounds, helmet to helmet kinds of stuff. Dantonio and Narduzzi will have no hesitation in sending sacrificial goons after him who get tossed from the game for a flagrant foul; they'll consider it a trade to their advantage. And they'd be right, unfortunately.