I'm going to skip the user-generated content column, since there wasn't very much of it this week, and talk about the position swaps. The top two diaries at right are new this week.
Something completely different. Brady Hoke attended the Detroit alumni association's annual event yesterday and went on WTKA this morning, leaking out some position changes and player updates, as well as explaining the thinking behind the defensive position coach shakeup. News via nickbob:
Jake Ryan moving to MIKE
Chris Bryant to take medical
Magnuson will miss "most" of spring, will do some individual stuff, surgery went well
Tuley-Tillman had hand surgery
Drake Johnson and Darboh are limited and working their way back
Some other odds and ends related to the D coaching moves
Also Taco Charlton will be moving from WDE to SDE. Let's discuss.
|More Ryan is a good thing. [Fuller]|
Moving Ryan. This, like the coaching changes, is a response to college football going mostly spread. Hoke said that Ohio State effectively neutralized Ryan against the run by spreading out, thus moving him out of the box. Here's your matchups for strongside linebackers on Michigan's 2014 schedule:
- Vs tight end/manball: MSU, Minnesota, PSU*
- Vs slot receiver, spread-to-run: App State, Utah, Ohio State
- Vs slot receiver, spread-to-pass: ND, Miami(NTM), Maryland, Indiana, NW'ern
The * for PSU is because Franklin's offense is a bit of a hybrid; when adapted to Penn State's current roster I'm guessing it ends up a zone-blocked, tight-end-heavy passing offense that moves at warp speed. Northwestern will be a lot more passy with Trevor Siemian instead of Colter. Only two games will heavily feature a SAM taking on tight end blocks.
Upside: anyone who's watched Te'o or Bullough against us in recent years can attest how much of a difference a great middle linebacker can make. The downgrade from Demens to last year's linebackers in deep zone coverage was probably the defense's biggest liability, and Ryan to date has been a plus zone defender.
Downsides: SAM just went from Michigan's strongest position on defense to a huge question mark, since Cam Gordon graduated and Beyer was moved to SDE, leaving just unheralded Spur (i.e. safety)-like object Allen Gant and neophytes.
The obvious thing would be for Beyer to switch back, though Hoke told Sam Webb that isn't happening. Rather James Ross may swap to SAM, and Morgan/Bolden/Gedeon will compete/rotate at WILL and backup MIKE. Weight Watch 2014 just became how big will James Ross be watch. If Ross seizes the position this spring I think things will work out fine, though this has to be a comedown from our hype going into last year. McCray or one of the freshmen could factor in.
The other downside is the most consistent generator of pass rush is no longer on the pass rush.
[Jump: moving Taco, OL damage, coach position switches]
Moving Taco. Clark and Ojemudia to the backfield, please. Lawrence Marshall is now the third and last WDE on the roster, though if the coaches continue to use the SAMs as rush ends in the nickel that is mitigated. Between Charlton and Beyer the SDE position just got an upgrade in the pass rush.
OL damage: bad. The injuries to Tuley-Tillman and Magnuson are both seemingly minor things that I will tell you right now I plan to use all year as we complain about the state of the tackles. Michigan lost two NFL draft picks at tackle from an offensive line that performed worse than the 2010 secondary. This was an important spring for their development, for getting used to Nussmeier, and for getting a new-built offensive line to gel. Mags played guard last year and was expected to use this spring and fall to learn the intricacies of left tackle; LTT is one of those bodies you hope to develop into Long/Lewan.
Once again, it's doubtful there will be enough hale OL to field two teams for a spring scrimmage.
Bryant's shoulder was what's been holding him back. He gave it a go last year but any job he won would be tenuous depending on how well that held up. Losing one more of their precious few upperclassman linemen isn't a good thing but this was mostly expected.
Position Coach Changes. The coaching changes by defensive position are at right. Hoke explained his reasoning in yesterday's press release:
"Greg and I met and felt this was the best for everyone, including him and his ability to coach a position group and run a defense from the middle.
When you look at Mark's experience on the defensive line, then being able to split the secondary, where you have five positions and 20-plus guys, and with the way offense and passing has changed in college football, I think it balances our staff on that side of the ball."
He reiterated to Sam that this is mostly about getting more coaching in the secondary. Given they were in a nickel about half of the time last year, Mallory was effectively in charge of 4.5/11 positions on the field. That wasn't such a big deal when the secondary had virtual coach Jordan Kovacs and the coaches were raiding the maternity ward for linebackers and DL. With Wilson and Thomas your prohibitive leaders for the safety jobs more coaching is very welcome.
Mattison handling the linebackers is billed as a way for him to have a better feel for who should blitz and who should cover as he's calling the defense. Given Ryan's move and no more Jibreel Black, it's possible Michigan intends to have its DTs focus more on eating rather than beating blocks, while its interior rush comes from blitzing linebackers more often.
|Roy Manning has experience jamming and rerouting tight ends. [photo from my file of stuff grabbed from MGoBlue.com in the early 'aughts]|
Can lifelong linebacker Roy Manning coach cornerbacks? All I've got on that is a bunch of guys who played with him, most of them cornerbacks, who think he's a future BCS head coach, plus a coaching resume as a generalist. As a grad assistant at Cincy and Michigan he handled film breakdown and generally helped with the defensive staff. He was running backs coach in his second Cincy stint.
With all the young cornerbacks the idea of someone trying to learn on the job is less than squishy. Cornerback is nearer the talent end of the needs-talent-or-experience spectrum. But when we brought that up to Todd Howard at the Chicago event last November he said that coverage is talent but jamming technique is a learned skill. That is exactly the skill they need if the goal is to move toward an MSU/Seahawks style of defense.
I'm a bit peeved, given these changes, that Michigan didn't pursue Larry Johnson Sr., Penn State's legendary DL coach who landed at Ohio State. Passing on that opportunity made sense if Hoke and Mattison themselves were coaching Michigan's defensive line, not so much if it's a spot to land the LB coach.