Scrimmage Take: But The Defense Is Great? Comment Count

Brian August 18th, 2014 at 11:38 AM


why u no push [Bryan Fuller]

Might as well get it out of the way. The offensive line was pretty depressing. For big chunks of the scrimmage it was ones versus twos, which helps resolve the classic intrasquad "is this event good or bad" dilemma: when your second-team defense is stoning your first team offense, it is bad. And they did stone the offense:

The rotation Saturday was more stable in comparison with last season, but the three running backs gained just 33 yards on 20 carries with the first team, and the blocking issues haven’t gone away.

In this case it is maybe less bad than otherwise because there's little separation between Michigan's first- and second-team front sevens. But it is still bad.

One disturbing echo of last year: when Glasgow got dinged up and went out, it was Joey Burzynski who drew into the lineup at right guard on the first team. No offense to Burzynski, but the guy is a 6'1" gentleman coming off of ACL surgery. Surely one of the touted 6'5" guys should be ahead of him on the depth chart by now.

Kalis was out and I imagine he has managed to pass Burzynski, but his presence indicates that Samuelson and Dawson and Bars and so forth and so on are not yet viable options. And where's Bosch? On the second team, yes, but why isn't he pushing for a spot?

I can't tell you too much about any particular lineman without tape, unfortunately… Cole held his own in pass protection, so there's that.


in yo face [Fuller]

Aggression. If you needed further confirmation it is real, well, it's real. Michigan ran piles and piles of man-to-man—all the better to unleash Peppers on opponents with—and took a number of PI flags ranging from obvious to silly to questionable. They must clean those up, but with Michigan going hell-for-leather in your face this year the QB has to get it on target for it to count.

Encouragingly there weren't many biffs that led to wide open guys in the flat. Wyatt Shallman had one flare-and-run that broke for a bunch of yards when his man got picked off by the route. That will be a danger: if Michigan doesn't have a reasonable amount of zone those plays will be there.

Hello Mr. Hurts. I just misspelled "Hurst" but I'm leavin' it. Mo Hurst burst into the backfield three or four times, once getting a thunderous safety TFL. As a recruit he was reputed to be a first step that happened to be attached to a human body, and that looks on point. No doubt he will have issues holding up to double-teams as a 282-pound redshirt freshman; from here it looks like a promising debut season and considerable excitement going into next year are waiting in the wings.



Who is where at DT? And will they stay there? Your nominal starters were, unexpectedly, Matt Godin and Ryan Glasgow at three-tech and nose, respectively. There was a ton of rotation at those spots, so much so that determining a Real Starter seems not only futile but pointless, but if those two guys are actually viable that's interesting. Because it's not like Willie Henry is going away:

He will start; Godin's existence is a nice bonus. I'm a little less enthused about the prospect of Glasgow as a candidate to start at nose because there isn't a groundswell of buzz behind a couple of established players like there is at three-tech. Pipkins has gotten some approving mentions but nothing like that accompanying Henry, and while Mone is set to be a contributor he is a true freshman.

Undeserved lemon? Bolden was first choice at WLB but Morgan rotated in so frequently at both positions it seems like they just have three starters for two spots. Like DT it is at times pointless to think one guy is a starter while the other is not. This bodes well.

Bolden did just annihilate one screen, laying the hardest hit he has on anyone since his arrival. Hesitancy has been the main issue with his game since his arrival. If it has truly clicked for him, that's exciting. He is not beating out a scrub here.

Youth movement at corner. Also in "not beating out a scrub here": Lewis and Peppers are definitely your leaders there; rotation will be frequent. Countess did have an excellent INT on a Gardner throw destined for Funchess, but even so it seems like two returning starters on a decent pass defense have been booted from the starting lineup.


Darboh and Gardner have chemistry. [Fuller]

Wideout depth is quality. Michigan has their big 5 (Funchess, Darboh, Canteen, Chesson, Norfleet) and then some: Moe Ways brought in four or five catches that were reminiscent of Junior Hemingway, and while he was working on a walk-on wearing 49 for some of those the way he found the ball in the air and brought it in was impressive.

Walk-on Bo Dever showed some promise as a Dileo-type in the slot; he was Speight's favorite target; fellow walk-on Jack Wangler was also reliable. No idea if either has the athletcism or route chops to get real playing time. They've got a chance. FWIW, Stribling had a nice interception on a Dever wheel route that he had blanketed. That is not his jam.

On the negative side, Da'Mario Jones had a bad night, dropping several balls that should have been catches. Jaron Dukes didn't do much.

Oh, and the top end is rather top end.

The first downfield pass was Funchess making a spectacular stab while well covered. Yes, please. In general, the WR/CB matchup looked top-notch all around. Michigan receivers found very few open opportunities and still made some great catches. Freddy Canteen once again reminded Jourdan Lewis that the gypsy he offended needs an apology. And Amara Darboh looked very, very Avant-like on a series of slants and digs that promise to be reliable chain-movers this fall.

If Michigan can pass protect there is the potential for a passing-oriented offense to work here. If.

All the zone reps. Every OL drill in the warmup portion was zone-oriented, and about 90% was inside zone. They worked in pairs against one opponent, reacting to his movements to execute combination blocks, and then worked on IDing and reacting appropriately to stunts. As the scrimmage showed, it is a work in progress. It's going to be a work in progress all year, and all next year, and the year after that. Inside zone is hard and competence is built up over years.

Another safety solution. Hill was held out; in his stead the first team safety combination was Clark and Wilson. The twist: it was Wilson frequently creeping to the line as the strong safety with Clark playing center field.

Gardner looked good. He's fast!. He's still a little wobbly with the decisions. He looked very accurate when given time, and stepped up through pressure more than once. His only flip-around-and-chuck was a ball he was throwing away; he did have one aimless bomb downfield that should have been out of bounds but was instead up for grabs that Nussmeier did not like.

Morris looked a lot more plausible than he did in the spring, more comfortable in the pocket and less prone to throwing directly at defenders.

Injuries. Butt and Hill were in no-contact jerseys; Reon Dawson had an arm in a sling; Delonte Hollowell had a hard cast on one hand for what looked like a thumb issue. Hollowell participated as normal. Drake Harris dressed normally but didn't even take the full warmup reps with his bros. Ty Isaac was held out with something minor, and Kalis had his back issue. He should be back today.

Meanwhile, any and all optimism about Butt's return seems reasonable. He went through warmup drills with everyone else and looked just fine. If he's at the stage where he can plant and cut at full speed with a month before ND he should be ready to go by then.

Return reversal. In a bit of an oddity, it looks like Peppers is more likely to get time as a punt returner than at kick returner, where Raymon Taylor was Norfleet's backup. Usually kickoffs are where you blood new guys because a muff just means you got a touchback or some bad field position instead of disaster.

Hagerup! Booted a 70 yarder, drawing the first applause of the night. #B1G.

The thing that is hilarious. Dennis Norfleet stacked behind Devin Funchess. We do not have a photo of this yet, but when we do… oh, when we do. 

Phil Collins count: 0.

I think we killed it. I didn't mention this all last year because I didn't want to jinx it but after not only the nonstop music from the spring game but also this scrimmage, I think I can finally poke my head out and say: "In The Big House" is dead. Deaaaaaaaaad.

I swear to God, Special K, if you bring it back after I mention this I will find you. That's the best thing about making up a fictional bete noire DJ: you can threaten it all you want.

Formations. Michigan at least showed a lot of stuff, mixing under center snaps with the pistol and shotgun. The formations featured a lot of 2TE looks, and what seemed like a decreased emphasis on the FB. Nussmeier really likes motioning FB/RB/TE types out wide to trips formations, which gives the defense a dilemma: do I run a linebacker out there and tell 'em it's man coverage (and spread the box) or do I live with the potential mismatch that comes when one of my corners is dealing with AJ Williams?

This will get more interesting when Butt is on the field. Right now a 2TE lineup of Williams and Heitzman or Hill is emphatically 2TEs; with Butt you can really put a defense in a bind.

Corner blitz hot reads. Two or three times Gardner IDed a corner blitz and just threw a hot stop route to the vacated corner for nice gains.

FLEET house KO. High five!


JR's Flow

August 18th, 2014 at 11:56 AM ^

As a 90s kid (95), the number one thing that has angered me as a Mochigan fan in the latest years has been that we have been a very average to bad tackling team, and that seems to no longer be the case. The front 7 tackled tremendously.


August 18th, 2014 at 12:01 PM ^

I remember growing up my Dad would peg different schools as to their traditional position strengths.

Pretty typical stuff--PSU:linebackers, USC:running backs, ND:assholes and UM:OL.

My how times have changed.  Still hopeful however...


August 18th, 2014 at 12:09 PM ^

Maybe I'm just crazy or just super hopeful, but given that the Oline is pretty much a new unit, I expect them to improve as the season wears on.  There is plenty of talent and even a tiny bit of experience.  Once they've had more time to play together, I bet they'll be ok.  Great?  Maybe next year, but at least "good enough" after a few games.


August 18th, 2014 at 12:17 PM ^

I'd love to think the same but I'll bet you that we can find numerous comments almost exactly the same from a year ago except that comment also has mentions of 2 probably-NFL OTs in it.

I will remain doom and gloom about them until proven otherwise.

One thing to give me hope though is this: the transition from bad defensive coordination (RR/GERG) to great (GMat) improved the D immediately and it held. I'm somewhat hopeful that the transition from average (Borges) to good/great (Nuss) while see a similar uptick in the offense. A good scheme can cover over a number of issues.


August 18th, 2014 at 12:40 PM ^

this will be the 3rd year in a row of me thinking that the O-line can't get any worse.  well, we lost our 2 best of last year's unit.  so i think it can get worse.  hopefully, they can it least pass block a little bit.

also, our DL was pretty mediocre last year; no pressure on QBs.  i doubt they have improved that much.  i trust they will be better.  i do, however, have a lot of confidence in our back 7 and expect better things there.


August 18th, 2014 at 12:11 PM ^

Times like these I feel the need to revert back into my shell and watch Michigan vs. Ohio State 1989 and that 81 yard TD drive with 100% running plays (mostly cross bucks) because Bo was pissed off and otherwise grapling with one of his sideline existential funks.

Michigan gained something stupid like 7ypc the whole damn day, blowing Ohio DL defenders back like 10 yards on several plays. 

Dohring, Dingman, Everitt, Cocozzo, Skrepenak.

These were good things.  I don't know why we can't have those things. But apparently, we can't have those things. 

Rrrrat farts! *shakes fist at the sky*




August 18th, 2014 at 4:31 PM ^

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but one of the things my (very) untrained eye noticed in that video is that there was a good bit of penetration by the Ohio State DL.  It's not like there were necessarily gaping holes, with the Michigan OL manhandling and pushing Ohio State off the line.

It looked to me like Bunch, Hoard, et al., did a good job hitting the holes quickly and with force.  A couple of times I saw them get their feet tackled at the line of scrimmage, but they fell forward for a 3 yard gain.

It just makes me think that our anemic running game is not just on the OL.  Maybe it is more of an offensive issue.

But again, I'm no expert.


August 18th, 2014 at 8:55 PM ^

I'll bet many don't realize, 2013 Wolverines rushed for almost as many yards against OSU as did the 1997 team had in total yardage.

           1997                2013

Rush     42                  152

Pass     147                 451

T Off     189                 603

Punts    11                   3


August 18th, 2014 at 12:13 PM ^

I know everyone is freaked out about the OL, but the reality is,we have until October 11th - almost TWO WHOLE MONTHS - to get this shit straightened out.  I know I'm discounting Utah and  Minnesota and probably shouldn't, but we should beat those teams with Defense and Devin Gardner's legs/arm.  I don't give a flying frog's fat ass about Notre Dame.  It means nothing, as far as I'm concerned.  Get to the PSU game at 5-1 and let's see how well the line will have gelled by then.

Go Blue!



August 18th, 2014 at 12:24 PM ^

I'm on your optimism train as well my friend! Remember the start of last year, everyone was making fun of MSU on how terrible the MSU Offense was and how they couldnt score/pass a lick. I know they didn't turn into a great difference, but the turn around was drastic enough where Cook passed for 300+ yards against Stanford and OSU (I know OSU D sucked). Just saying, our Oline could make similar improvements throughout the year as they start to gel more.

Michigan Arrogance

August 18th, 2014 at 12:36 PM ^

I was about to post the exact same thing. Given 1) the OLs amazing amount of youth 2) they seem to have a decent amount of experience (it, more than ZERO)  and 3) the new OC with new philosophy etc, we should see significant improvement as the year wears on.


The biggest thing, IMO is that they have 2 more MONTHS before it gets Real (TM). The season schedule sets up nicely- ND doesn't really matter and we have @ Rutgers and Minn before the UTL III vs PSU- then the BYE before @MSU on 10/25- that's about 10 weeks.

Given the division allignment, all that matters is beating MSU and OSU to get to the Title Game. 10 weeks to get the OL's shit together for the MSU game.

SC Wolverine

August 18th, 2014 at 1:00 PM ^

This.  While it is fashionable to blame last year on Borges, there is a reason for this.  The mere fact that Devin is not allowed to check down to the uncovered receiver and get a free ten yards is a huge improvement, regardless of how the O-line plays.  Nussmeier in the place of Borges would have meant at least 3 more wins last year.

Michigan Arrogance

August 18th, 2014 at 2:49 PM ^

I know where you're coming from- historically there is no other teams I'd rather beat than 1) OSU 2) ND

but the facts of the matter are these:

  • we won't be playing ND for the foreseeable future, so for all intents and purposes the programs are mutually exclusive
  • with the new divisional allignment the most important games on the schedule are 1) OSU, 2) MSU 3) PSU 4)OSU again 5)MSU again. Those 2 programs will be the competition for the division with PSU slowly coming back next year and the year after.

the MSU game is 1000 times more important than any other game except OSU and PSU going forward.


August 18th, 2014 at 1:23 PM ^

I agree that we had that in spades last year in the middle, and I also agree that we should be patient with the O-line performance this year, especially early in the season. But this "just redshirt sophomore" meme I don't understand. Redshirt sophomores are what used to be called juniors. Juniors are not too young to have success on the field.