Spring Football Bits Defense: Thorns and Storms Comment Count

Seth April 18th, 2018 at 3:45 PM

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chomp chomp chomp chomp. [Fuller]

This is the defense section: I had to split these up for length which means the offense bits are here.

So Let’s Start With More on the Offense

Yeah so the McElwain presser on Monday opened up a bunch of questions about who’s in charge of the offense. Let’s clear that up with a bit of Bo knowledge and some CK2 references, because everybody who covers Michigan football must understand those at least.

I think Harbaugh told us how he’s going to do it when he said Bo didn’t have an OC, and everybody—or at least everybody who didn’t buy HTTV 2015—missed the reference. Indeed, when Harbaugh was playing here, Bo had a defensive coordinator (Gary Moeller) and more or less allowed Mo to run his duchy. But there was no like position on offense. Instead Bo had a “quarterbacks coach,” Jerry Hanlon, Bo’s right hand man going back to their Miami days. Hanlon coordinated the offensive staff, and called the plays from the box, but never got the title. They also had two offensive-minded former head coaches on staff in Alex Agase and Elliot Uzelac, not to mention Bo was an offensive (line) coach at heart. With all of those vassals with kingship claims, hierarchy was less important than council positions.

That’s how I think it’s going to work now. Pep is your Hanlon—he’s got his job and if he cares what you call it he won’t say so publicly. McElwain is Uzelac—he’ll contribute his thoughts while getting back to position coaching and waiting for an OC job. Warinner is Agase, the guy we know all too well from a long career on opposite sidelines, here because he became available and we need him. They’re not Pep’s vassals because Harbaugh holds the Duke of O title himself, but Pep is the Marshall, and leads the armies.

There. Now the offensive staff makes sense, or if it doesn’t make sense at least now you know it’s only because you don’t know enough about Bo and CK2, and you need to rectify that.

Oh, and Sam’s apologizing to anyone he sees for not being hype enough on Joe Milton, with the why at the link($).

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Defense in General

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Really would like to know how solving your problems with aggression works in baseball [Patrick Barron]

The thing about Michigan’s defense is they return all but two starters from an excellent unit, and the coordinator has put out three top five defenses in three years—one with Boston College talent—so sunshine is to be expected. At places used to such riches they’ve learned to ask more about strategies for using the varied abilities they’ve collected. We haven’t learned to do this yet, so this is going to be mostly chatter about backup battles.

What we want to hear: Now that some of Dr. Blitz’s weapons are coming into their second and third years, how are they being incorporated into the defense?

What we’re hearing: This week new linebackers coach Al Washington met with the press. Washington played at BC and later coached (running backs and special teams) with Don Brown there. He was part of Fickell’s staff at Cincy that gave Michigan fits by going to a 3-4/4-3 under front and gap-switching a ton. He has been put in charge of Brown’s Swiss army knife position: the Vipers, SAMs, Edges, and whatnot, right when third year Brown hybrids like Josh Uche and Khaleke Hudson are coming into their own. Adam, our presser guy, has a one-week-old so he wasn’t there to ask our questions, and now I’ve got a beef with the Michigan press corps for wasting this opportunity for knife talk to instead lob questions about Mt. Rushmore. But we got one thing out of it:

He said this might be his fastest defense ever. What have you seen of the talent level out there?

“Man, I’ll tell you what, I made the comparison of somebody dropping a steak in a tank of piranhas. You see the quarterback drop back and it’s like…man, it’s overwhelming. So, speed is lightning quick, they’re physical, and they’re smart. That, to me, is probably the biggest thing.

“These guys get it. This is a lot of—I think he had two new starters last year. Ten new starters, excuse me. So, a lot of these kids are coming back and they know it. They have a mastery of it and so that just makes them even faster. They’re tough. They take pride in what they do. It’s a great group. A special group.”

Piranhas it is.

What it means: If a Minnesota Twins fan complains ask him what state Ron Gardenhire collects a check in.

[After the JUMP: The Piranhas]

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Defensive Line


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OTHER GUYS! [Patrick Barron]

What we want to hear: OTHER than Dwumfour hype, can you… I said other than… okay give me the Dwum… okay is “Big Dwummie” spelled with a ‘y’ or ‘ie’? Now about the new guys?

What we’re hearing: Let’s get the obligatory Dwumfour talk out of the way first. Sam on Michigan Insider this week (start at about 3:30) asked how you can trust this much hype, and postulated the more people saying it the more likely it’s true, and with Dwumfour EVERYBODY’s saying it.

I don’t just mean insiders; they’re going on the record. Isaiah Hole talked to Cesar Ruiz, Khaleke Hudson, and Rashan Gary, and discovered the secret to getting something out of them about the RS freshmen:

“We've got this guy, Jersey kid, Michael Dwumfour,” third-year defensive end Rashan Gary said. “Fast off the ball with a get-off just like Mo. It's ridiculous. But you're going to see it when time comes. Having him, having Lawrence, having young guys like Deron, stepping in able to play. Having a couple other people trying at three-tech. So it's cool. Everything's rolling around, everybody's looking smooth.”

Did you catch that? “Deron.” That’s our first mention this spring of Deron Irving-Bey! Dude, I’m emailing umbig11 right now and trying the same thing:

Seth: How real is the Dwumfour stuff? Is he really almost as good as Mo or is this some sort of cover for concern over the young guys?

umbig11: They have so much more depth that names are all over the place. The usual suspects are with the ones, but the younger guys are getting a ton of reps. Jeter seems to be holding his own and they are not able to push him around this year. his weight is way up over 300.

Jeter too! Dude! Yo Steve Lorenz, can you try this with your people?($)

3. Lightly-talked about DL are impressing too

One source I recently spoke to said that while the usual suspects are getting the pub up front (Dwumfour, Solomon, Gary, Winovich, etc.), some of the other guys up front on the defensive side are having solid springs as well. Phillip Paea was mentioned twice. Donovan Jeter twice as well. Reuben Jones was brought up too as having some good practices.

Orion Sang of the Free Press, try asking Mattison who’s having the best spring:

“Carlo is doing really well,” Mattison said. “Another guy that is really starting to show signs is Phillip Paea. Phillip is really starting to come on. And Aubrey is Aubrey. Aubrey’s going to be a very talented player, I already consider him one of the guys.”

Paye has made significant strides in the weight room. According to Mattison, the sophomore is now “250-some” pounds, up from 230, his weight when he arrived in Ann Arbor.

“He’s a lot stronger, and he hasn’t lost any quickness at all,” Mattison said. “He’s playing like a guy that’s been here before, not like a freshman. And I’m really looking for good things out of him. He has a summer in that weight room with these guys, watch out. I think we’re going to find someone that you’re really going to be excited about.”

Okay we found the secret. Reverse Dwumcology FTW!

Also Kemp, Paye, and Uche met with the media on Monday and gave us a bunch of things about the guys behind the Dudes. Kemp confirmed he’s playing some DT as well as Anchor. Kwity says they coaches this year trust him to go out there more—he had to be situational last year and that led to Winovich playing a lot of ironman. They got asked about the offensive line a lot because of course.

What it means: Dwumfour is going to start so unless everybody is trying to set us up for a rough awakening in September, we’re going to have plenty of proof. Sam did back off from 2017 Hurst to 2016 Hurst, which lol.

It’s great to hear about the three freshmen finally without asking about them specifically. The lack of anything before this, the Marshall talk, and having Kemp play 3-tech some still makes me think the kids are not quite ready yet and the starters are going to have to take the lion’s share of snaps. But with Mone, Solomon, and Dwumfour plus the option of going 3-3-5 they don’t really have to dip into the second string (Marshall and Kemp) that often.

Oh and in case you’re worried the excitement over Dwumfour has cooled:

“Dwumfour, he’s so quick off the football,” Mattison said. “He has a lot of Mo Hurst in him. There’s times when you see him come off the ball and you just go, ‘Whoa, that’s really good.’ And he’s a little bit thicker and a little bit bigger.”

It hasn’t.

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Linebackers

What we want to hear: Depth chart?

What we’re hearing:

What it means: Nothing new to report. At last check Singleton was backing up Bush, and Ross and Gil will take the WLB battle into fall. They all look good. 

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Viper and SAM

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We had to put the safeties and murderblood safeties in different pens [Eric Upchurch]

What we want to hear: Uuuuu-che! Uuuuuuu-che! Uuuuuuuuuuu-che!

What we’re hearing: Josh Uche is a triple beneficiary of the staff changes this offseason: he looks more linebacker-sized after a winter of Herbert, and Al Washington and grad assistant Allen Gant are helping him refine his pass rush. After moving between DE and SAM he asked and was granted an offseason to focus on becoming a three-down lineman at the latter.

On Khaleke, Lorenz says he’s “probably the most hype-y player I continue to hear about.”

What it means: Ignore the fluff; I find it more meaningful that Uche was one of the guys they made available to the press—a thing I’ve started to notice happening with players they think are going to play a bigger role this year.

If you were wondering what Al Washington (who has coached RBs, DL, and some LBs)’s role was going to be on a staff that already has Mattison and Brown, it’s this hybridized group. There seem to be two real depth charts in there: the hybrid DE/LBs (Furbush, Uche) and Viper (Hudson, Glasgow). Jordan Anthony is with this group too, though I’m not sure which sub group.

When Brown talks about this being the fastest defense he’s ever coached, I bet you it’s Devin Bush, for one, he’s thinking about, but second is Hudson.

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Safety


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Keep that up and you’ll be a consul one day, Roman. [Bryan Fuller]

What we want to hear: Who’s the third guy?

What we’re hearing: The starters from last year have won their jobs back; Kinnel right away and Metellus after a challenge. It certainly seems that way from the Zordich presser:

“I would say that Tyree [Kinnel] and Josh [Metellus] have taken a step forward. They’re making many more plays out of the post. They’re doing a much better job in the run game. That was some of our weaknesses last year, pass plays in the post with the post safety. Now these guys are able—they’re figuring it out. They’re making plays on the ball in the post and they’re helping, like I said, in the run game.”

And I got some confirmation from a parent who said I can share anything positive:

First, anybody thinking Metellus was in trouble can forget about it. He was the best safety--and it was not close. In fact, his coverage ability really improved and actually played CB on Sat---(mainly due to so many injuries at CB)

…and then wrote nothing negative at all. Parents.

Jaylen Kelly-Powell has apparently passed Woods as well, though that might be an effect of the recent practices focusing more on coverage—JKP’s strong suit—rather than laying the proverbial Ol’ J’Marick on people. Also Zorich confirmed Casey Hughes (the Utah transfer), is coming in at safety. So your distribution of long and lanky thus far:

  • · Safety/Nickel: Sammy Faustin, Casey Hughes (the Utah transfer)
  • · Cornerback: Myles Sims, Gemon Green
  • · Unknown: German Green, Vincent Gray

I bet you Gray (6’2/180) is a cornerback and Green (6’2/168) they try at safety.

What it means: It’s not a surprise that the starters retained their jobs because they were pretty good last year except for inch-perfect throws by Giovanni Rescigno (and sigh, Penn State) and the Unforgiveable Drop.

The third guy is Jaylen Kelly-Powell. Yay that they have one.

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Cornerback


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Big one [Patrick Barron]

What we want to hear: Just be honest, okay?

What we’re hearing: Honesty, from the guy who spent all last spring telling us Hill and Long were not getting it done. Zordich gave a presser last Friday in which he praised the work of Long and Ambry Thomas, and was kind of hard on Lavert Hill (hip) and Benjamin St-Juste (pulled hamstring) for being out with injuries.

But that is something you touched on last year about—I don’t want to generalize and say it was a toughness issue but is that a little bit?

“Well…if you want to go back to that, yes, in my opinion, yes it is. You’ve got an opportunity to get better or even just to find out what is wrong, because you’re not going to find out by not participating. So, it’s frustrating for us as coaches, but at the same time, those other guys, you’re getting to see them blossom, which is really good for us. We’re creating depth.”

Is St. Juste in that mix there too?

“No, Benjamin is not. He’s been sidelined as well. It’s very unfortunate for him. He’s a very gifted athlete, but he has missed all of the bowl prep, now he’s missed all of spring. He’s got to find a way to get out there if he wants to compete for his job.”

Zordich probably gets upset with root beers for being out of stock when he goes to Blimpy’s. IBC was a good root beer for us last year, but Boylan’s is in that fridge competing and let me tell you, when my mouth is burning because those fries are too hot, Boylan’s is earning my trust now.

What it means: Zordich mentioned a walk-on (Hunter Reynolds) after Long, Watson, Thomas and Sims, which means we’re at the end of the current depth chart. Hill’s absence has given Ambry Thomas the chance to pass Watson, who wasn’t so bad last year. If St-Juste isn’t ready to go, Michigan can probably get by with that four-man rotation while working in snaps for whichever freshman (Sims, most likely) doesn’t redshirt.

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Program in General

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less Derek and more Donovan if you know what I mean [Bryan Fuller]

What we want to hear: Whatever was wrong last year it’s fixed now. And by wrong we mean other than the whole team was really young and Hoke left you no offensive line and you failed at recruiting one your first few years.

What we’re hearing: This is coming second-hand from a former player and I’m sharing it because it’s echoing a sentiment that a lot of people have shared this year:

Overall—and I know posters will go nuts on this—but this was the best spring sessions I have ever witnessed. I really think the influx of the new coaches, and most importantly Jim being Jim was the key to a huge successful spring campaign. What I mean about JH is that he seemed super focused on just coaching football—no extra stuff—just coaching. And I think that spread to both both Warinner and McElwain.

What it means: There’s a sign on Harbaugh’s desk this year that reads “Just coach football” and there’s a strong narrative emanating from Schembechler that his focus has shifted back to the program instead of positioning it (and himself) nationally/globally. I believe that’s being framed so positively by those around the program because that’s their perspective, but that both are worthwhile pursuits. For this year I think it’s a good thing, since the headlines did their jobs and there were some important things being overlooked on the home front.

He’s brought in a lot of young former players—all guys we’ve covered extensively in the latest iteration of MGoBlog—as grad assistants. They think they recruited the best in the business for strength conditioning in Ben Herbert plus his assistants Sean Lockwood, Kiero Small, Tank Wright, and Justin Tress (yes the Plockis are still around). And everyone from football ops to the players’ moms are raving about Abigail O’Connor, the nutritionist. In CK2 terms, he’s going into “See the realm prosper” mode and the realm is happy about this.

Comments

HChiti76

April 19th, 2018 at 2:23 AM ^

Watched BTN special on 1997 team last night. No big expectations coming into the year. Coming off 4 straight four loss seasons. Lost to SEC team in bowl game. Toughest schedule in the country. People questioning our coach. Strength was defense. Offense was question mark, especially offensive line.

Sound familiar? 

I sense a big season ahead! GO BLUE!!

ak47

April 18th, 2018 at 4:06 PM ^

Something was obviously off on the coaching staff last year on the offensive side. Hopefully shaking it up changes that because this team has the talent to beat everyone straight up outside of osu with a competent game plan.

growler4

April 19th, 2018 at 10:18 AM ^

Trying to run a pro-style offense without even average production from the QB position is ... challenging at best.

Had Speight been able to stay healthy, it might have been a different season.

In addition, we did not have a dominant OL that could take the pressure off an inexperienced  or an inconsistently effective QB when up against a good defense.

BassDude138

April 19th, 2018 at 1:46 PM ^

It was a little of both. The staff didn't do a very good job of game planning to what they did have on the field, and the offense seemed to have no flow or purpose. There were a few times (like the OSU game) where the staff actually did put together a solid plan of attack, but couldn't get the execution from the QB position. Here's to hoping that everything on that side of the ball gels this year.

Tasker Bliss

April 18th, 2018 at 4:07 PM ^

For those who, like me, need Google to understand the CK2 reference, it’s a video game called Crusader Kings 2. Judging from the references in the article, it must be even better than Crusaders Kings 1.

stephenrjking

April 18th, 2018 at 4:28 PM ^

The problem with CK2 is that the program defaults to either an extremely small font on 4k screens or a virtually unplayable VGA look if you try to draw the screen size down, and the plug-in to fix it has been difficult to find.

But it's way cool. 

1VaBlue1

April 19th, 2018 at 8:34 AM ^

I had to Google the CK2 reference, also.  I get the Bo references without a second thought, because I grew up with the 10 Year War.  But when video games are added as reference, well, please keep them Googleable.  I don't video game...  Who has time for that shit?

Killer Khakis

April 18th, 2018 at 4:08 PM ^

Love hearing all this. I know we get this every spring seemingly, but I truly think next year this defense will be scary good and the offense will be putting up numbers again akin to Harbaugh's first 2 years. Love the moves we made to the staff, love the recruits, and love what I'm hearing. Go blue, this will be a long summer.

Indiana Blue

April 18th, 2018 at 4:13 PM ^

whether it's sugar coated or not, some real expectation with excitement.  A great Defense shows up every game, and is capable of beating a team and winning a game on it's own !  Defense can destroy another team's will to win ... c'mon Blue, time to do the unexpected !

Go Blue!

poppinfresh

April 18th, 2018 at 4:15 PM ^

how much of that is an oline thats WIP and QB carousel?

torched by psu,  and looked less formidable against wisco/msu 1st half and osu.  part of that i chalk up to having their soul crushed by an O that doesn't move the ball. 

teldar

April 18th, 2018 at 4:54 PM ^

I'm sure it's going to be good. McCray was too slow for what he was asked to do last year. THis year, the position is going to manned by someone who might or might not be as good instictually, but much faster. I'm sure at least some of the lack of performance was on the god awful offense that several people deserved to be fired for.

Kenpoj

April 18th, 2018 at 4:20 PM ^

what we have been hearing from just about everyone around the program. I perused the link to last year's posts and there was nothing sounding as focused as what we are hearing this year. I can't wait to see them in action. This defense is going to be a force to be reckoned with. That along with the QB play that will be vastly improved over last year, creates the scenario we have been waiting for since Harbaugh arrived. I am so looking forward to Football season. Go Blue!!!

stephenrjking

April 18th, 2018 at 4:24 PM ^

It sounds like Pep has the role that Drev had for most of last year. Though recall that Drev got moved down to the field level late in the season, which turned out to be extremely telling. 

Not sure I'm enthralled with Pep calling the plays, but someone has to and Pep has more time to familiarize himself with Harbaugh's system. It's pretty clear that Harbaugh (and basically all HCs) needs someone calling the down-to-down plays to allow him to focus on the larger picture during a game. But Pep will still basically be calling the gameplan that Harbaugh wants him to call.

This does put more responsibility on Harbaugh in the bigger picture. That is, if a playcall is bad, he's the one that is telling the coaches how he wants the game called and has the final say on what game plan is brought in, and of course he can veto and/or supply any call he wants.

So the first time Michigan takes a sack while all of the receivers are running 15-yard routes and people start calling for Pep's head again, remember that if Harbaugh doesn't want Pep to make those calls he is free to delete those plays from the appropriate area of the playsheet and to override the call from the sideline. If Pep calls a play, it's because Harbaugh has equipped him to call it.