Unverified Voracity Has An Okay Defensive Line

Submitted by Brian on July 6th, 2016 at 2:05 PM


[Bryan Fuller]

Two more gentlemen are good. PFF extended its list of the top X players in the country by ten and hit on another two Wolverines. Taco Charlton:

  1. Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan

The Wolverines’ defensive line is absolutely loaded for 2016. Taco Charlton provides them with pass rush production from either defensive end position. Charlton generated 41 total pressures on 213 snaps in 2015 and his 15.1 pass rushing productivity rating ranks No. 1 among all returning FBS 4-3 defensive ends.

I did not realize Charlton's snap count was that limited. I mean, I knew it was limited because of Wormley, but that count is barely more than a third of Wormley's snap count, half of Hurst's, and about 33% lower than Glasgow, who got knocked out for the year against Rutgers. If Charlton 1) gets a bunch more snaps, 2) gets even a little better, and 3) gets most of his snaps at the WDE spot that is the glory position for most 4-3 defenses, he's going to blow up.

Jake Butt:

Butt is one of the premier pass-catching tight ends in college football. Butt showed in 2015 that he could line up in the backfield, in the slot or in-line and still get open. Butt’s +10.1 receiving grade ranks No.1 among returning FBS tight ends.

You'll note the lack of mention of Butt's blocking prowess. IIRC he came out negatively for the year, albeit slightly. I don't expect that to improve much since adding much more weight to his frame will detract from his killer receiving ability.

Meanwhile PFF surveys the state of Big Ten quarterbacking:

  1. C.J. Beathard, Iowa

C.J. Beathard is the only returning Big Ten signal-caller with a positive passing grade from last season.

Woooooooooof. Wes Lunt and Mitch Leidner are #4 and #5 on this list. Michigan's quarterback situation is already better than the vast majority of the league simply by virtue of having Jim Harbaugh.

It does look like Charlton will flip back to the weakside. Baumgardner profiles Charlton and gets some interesting quotes about this year's defense versus last year's:

"Last year we played in the 3-4 and (I was at a) tackle-type position. Now I'm back outside in a 4-3 defense doing what I'm more comfortable doing. Now I can get back to rushing that passer on the outside and using my speed a little bit more."

That doesn't fit with what my conception of a 3-4 is but whatever. Here Charlton seems to confirm the Sam Webb report that Michigan's starting DL is likely to read Gary/Glasgow/Wormley/Charlton from strongside end to weak; Charlton spent the spring at SDE with Chase Winovich trying to display his qualities on the weakside.

More defensive line praise. Bruce Feldman kicks off a list of the country's top DLs and leads it off with Michigan. Ryan Glasgow comes in for some praise, described as "pretty salty" by a Big Ten OL coach, and the addition of Don Brown veritably looms:

"What he does from a schematic standpoint because he's so outside the box with the way that he packages his pressures where they're bringing five, six every snap trying to get ready for all that stuff in one week's time is a bitch," one veteran offensive line coach said. "The scheme will definitely help their production."

OSU comes in tenth despite some questions at DT; MSU is an honorable mention largely because of Malik McDowell.

This bad thing is actually a good thing probably, but the good thing is a bad thing maybe. ESPN evaluates reasons Michigan will make the playoff, and I'm a little dubious about where a couple of them are classified. Michigan's schedule is not particularly hard:

Easier path to the playoff: Based on FPI, Michigan has the second-easiest schedule of any Power-5 team. (Oklahoma has the easiest.) The Wolverines will leave the state only once prior to Nov. 6, and that’s to take on Rutgers in New Jersey. Their three non-conference opponents -- Hawaii, UCF, Colorado -- went a combined 7-31 last season. That’s not to say the schedule is without challenges, but those challenges appear to be the exception. That’s why Michigan is expected to have some of the most blowout wins in the country based on ESPN analytics.

This is judged a good thing, and it is for Michigan's chances of getting through the season undefeated. It's not a good thing once the hairs start to get split amongst one-loss teams. It's not hard to see one-loss teams from virtually every other conference jumping Michigan in the queue if M is 12-1.

Meanwhile this bad thing is not necessarily a bad thing: 

Wrong side of the turnover battle: Last season, only Notre Dame fared worse than Michigan in the turnover battle while still pulling off double-digit wins. Neither team was very good in that department. On offense, the Wolverines turned the ball over 16 times -- but the defense forced just 12 turnovers. Michigan ranked No. 92 nationally in turnover differential (minus-4) and ranked No. 117 in turnovers gained. Defensive coordinator Don Brown is banking on a more aggressive unit to increase those numbers, but a new quarterback also has the potential to cancel out any defensive gain. At any rate, it’s rare for a playoff team to wind up on the wrong side of the turnover battle. That’s something Michigan needs to correct.

Michigan's lack of turnovers was freakish for a defense as proficient as the 2015 unit. Michigan only forced five fumbles all of last year, 123rd nationally, despite finishing well above average in sacks. (They recovered two.) Judging from PFF's take on Michigan's DL they were probably even better at getting pressures. QB pressure is the single most important factor in forcing turnovers. Sacked QBs fumble; pressured QBs throw passes where they shouldn't. Michigan should be quite good at getting to the QB again, and should do much better in TOs acquired.

Going from DJ Durkin to Don Brown is promising as well. Durkin was content throwing an absolute buttload of man coverage at opponents. Brown will mix that up with various zones that have the potential to put people in places the QB does not expect them to go, and blitzes that promise to up the chaos factor even further.

This is so dumb but it might help recruiting. Every year there is a new batch of articles featuring NFL coaches complaining about spread offenses. SI has one as part of a series on developing quarterbacks. Its lead example? Marcus Mariota:

…in the months leading up to the draft, Mariota faced questions over his viability as a pro passer. The main gripe—from the perspective of TV analyst X, anonymous scout Y and a parade of others weighing in on that year's collection of quarterbacks—was that Mariota may have difficulty transitioning to the NFL because of his history playing in Oregon's spread offense as opposed to a pro-style attack. The criticism didn't just obscure Mariota's illustrious college track record, but the top-line speed and improvisational playmaking that made him such a highly regarded prospect.

All of it must have felt like a wake-up call for the growing number of college coaches who hope to attract elite high school quarterbacks to run their spread offenses.

Mariota evaporates from the article at this point, which is a shame because the skepticism directed his way was a perfect example of how overblown this chatter is. Mariota completed 62% of his passes for 7.6 YPA as a rookie. His QBR was 61, indicating he was an above-average NFL QB as a rookie coming out of a the most spread system in the land.

A lot of quarterbacks bust for a lot of reasons. NFL people say it's college's fault because their jobs are at stake, but there's little relation to reality there. Even so their complaining helps places like Michigan, Stanford, and Georgia:

Clemson co-offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach Jeff Scott, who helped lead the Tigers to the national title game last season, says he has heard a similar line trotted out. "Just guys that say, 'You don't want to go play in that offense because it's a spread, gimmick offense, and it's not going to prepare you for the NFL.'"

There are increasingly few programs that can sell NFL-shaped QBs that they are the best place for them. Michigan is one of them. They're already two thirds of the way through a QB recruiting triptych matched only once in the star era of recruiting. Michigan pulled in Clayton Richard, Matt Gutierrez, and Chad Henne back to back to back in the early aughts. If Michigan grabs one of the guys they're in on early in the 2018 class they'll match that, and then they'll probably continue going. Lloyd Carr did not: his next two QBs after those three were Jason Forcier and David Cone.

Etc.: Mike Bottom will be at the Olympics. Bring your mosquito spray. "Impermissible recruiting decoration." Big 12 defenses are another world, man. TTB reviews Jon Falk's latest.


uncle leo

July 7th, 2016 at 10:27 AM ^

How Jake B, noted as the #1 pure TE on their ranking, doesn't crack the top 100. They may have some certain biases in regards to position. Who would you rather have right now? Brad Kaaya or Jake Butt? Jake Browning from Washington, really? He wasn't even in the top 40 last season in terms of passer rating. He's now the 81st OVERALL best player?

Find that hard to believe.


July 6th, 2016 at 2:19 PM ^

Sometimes I wonder if Jason Forcier had stuck around, he may have been able to keep Michigan's head above water, allow Denard to redshirt, and ultimately changed the entire course of Michigan Football history. Am I crazy for thinking that?


July 6th, 2016 at 4:24 PM ^

Sometimes I wonder if Jason Forcier had stuck around, he may have been able to keep Michigan's head above water, allow Denard to redshirt

Forcier and Denard were in the same class.  Forcier started their freshman year.  RR could have redshirted Denard that year (Sheridan could have been the backup) but decided not to.


July 6th, 2016 at 5:04 PM ^

Once upon a time, there was a dual threat QB named Jason Forcier, who transferred away from Michigan due to 1) Michigan 's disdain for running QBs, and 2) Ryan Mallet's immediate ascendancy to #2 on the depth chart.

That QB's younger brother Tate was in the same class as Denard.


July 6th, 2016 at 4:37 PM ^

Many people forget that Tate had an older brother who would have been a RS Jr in Rodriguez's first year had he not transferred the year before.  Imagine that offense with a dual threat, mildly accurate upperclassman at QB that year. They maybe would not have been killer, but probably could have gotten us to 6-6, which may have been enough to spare Schafer as the sacrificial-lambed, and perhaps, just maybe the 5th year senior Jason Forcier could have led Michigan to 9 wins in 2009, maybe even a win over OSU, allowing RS Fr Denard to take over in 2010.  Would that have bough Rodriguez more time? Maybe, maybe not.  I mean Brandon did seem to have it out for him.  You just can't help but wonder though...


July 6th, 2016 at 9:03 PM ^

Absolutely agree.

LBs will be fine. Good, even. QB will be coached by Harbaugh, so yeah.

But that OL. Ugh. It's not just Newsome. Anyone remember this from Kalis last year? Granted, that was the first game of the year. But still. I am worried about our OL. I think they make the difference between a very good season and a season for the ages.


July 6th, 2016 at 9:42 PM ^

It'll be interesting. Outside of Newsome (or whoever starts as the 5th olineman), you have a bunch of 3 year starters. Couple that with what most of us think is a darn good oline coach, and you'd like to think they will at least be solid. In most years if you had 4 three yr starters on the oline, fans would be salivating at what could be an oline for the ages. It speaks volumes about how they've performed in the past that the oline is still considered a pretty big question mark heading into the fall.

Goggles Paisano

July 7th, 2016 at 6:20 AM ^

I sometimes forget how bad the refs were against us  last year with the msu game and getting every single targeting call for or against us wrong in addition to a bunch of other shitty calls along the way. If we can get on the right side or the even side of the officiating and be positive on the turnover battle, we will be in good shape. 

Still hard to believe we only recovered two fumbles last year. 

Trader Jack

July 6th, 2016 at 2:43 PM ^

Been saying this for a while re: a one loss Michigan team. Even if Michigan does lose once, as long as they beat OSU and win the Big Ten there's no way the committee is keeping them out.

Sent from MGoBlog HD for iPhone & iPad


July 6th, 2016 at 2:54 PM ^

UM's schedule is pretty bad, but that also assumes that UCF and Hawaii will remain two of the worst programs in the country.  That might be true for Hawaii, but UCF simply can't be 0-12 bad again.  Heck, they made a BCS bowl not that long ago.  I assume they'll be a bit better, maybe even sneak into 4-8/5-7 territory, and then the schedule looks a bit more reasonable.


July 6th, 2016 at 5:02 PM ^

I read that turnovers section in the ESPN article and thought "I wonder what MGoBlog has to say about that. I bet they think it's a bunch of bunk." Nice to be vindicated every once in a while.

Ty Butterfield

July 6th, 2016 at 3:19 PM ^

I am the biggest pessimist on the board, but if Michigan wins the Big Ten Title game and finishes 12-1 I just don't see them being left out of the playoffs.


July 6th, 2016 at 3:39 PM ^

Because with one loss, it most likely means we beat one of MSU/OSU and lost to the other. That in turn makes it likely that whoever we lost to wins our division, and without a conference championship we're not getting in.

If we want a playoff berth, we need to beat both MSU and OSU on the road. The last time we beat OSU in Colombus was sixteen years ago, MSU, eleven. Any Harbaugh coached team that does that will almost certainly be undefeated to boot :)

The schedule may be easy overall, but the difficulty is concentrated in the worst way for a playoff berth. We will have to earn it.


July 6th, 2016 at 5:33 PM ^

Yes, NFL coaches. Spread quarterbacks are evil. Pro-style quarterbacks are glorious. Wilton Speight is a 1st rounder in 2017.

Mr Miggle

July 6th, 2016 at 5:49 PM ^

the strongest? They play at Houston and host OSU with one cupcake in between. Baylor, of course, plays three cupcakes. Whatever system came up with that ranking, I'd bet it has no meaning come playoff selection time.



July 6th, 2016 at 6:11 PM ^

I think the whole spread QB to the NFL thing is overblown. The good QB's will adjust and the bad ones won't, there are only like a dozen or so good QB's in the NFL every year anyway. What is not overblown and IMO very underrated is the effect that spread offenses are having on OL. Guys coming in to the league no have no idea how much they're missing from their game and with full padded practice time severely cut down after the new CBA deal, OL play is suffering all over the league. Michigan, Stanford, Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Wisconsin etc. should clean up on top rated OP recruits because it's not even close in how those teams will prepare you for the league versus a place like Baylor.


July 7th, 2016 at 9:51 AM ^

I think the spread offenses do make for poor QB play in a pro-style offense.  The QB never really learns to wait out the route trees and cycle through options while standing in the pocket.  They are taught options based on what one or two players do, then either get rid of it, or run  it.

Take DRob as a prime example - he is very high up on many of Michigan's all-time passing records, yet nobody will mistake him for a good passer, or equate him to an NFL QB.  He excelled at making quick hitting throws by design - throws where he didn't really have to think.  Just had to use his awesome athleticism to make it happen. RR did this with aplomb.  When Hoke asked him to stand there and imitate Brady, he sucked.  He also excelled at throwing on the run - again using his mind-blowing athleticism to make something happen - like in a sandlot.

You do those things in the NFL and you largely end up like RGIII - broken, and a shell of your former college self.  I don't think the spread does anything to prepare a QB for the NFL.


July 6th, 2016 at 7:58 PM ^

as mentioned above, man vs zone D can significantly impact turnovers.

its much easier to read a QB, break on the ball and come away with INT from ones zone drop than from man coverage, thats just a fact.

im sure theyll play plenty of press man again this year but brown will mix in enough zone to both keep Os honest and offer his guys more opportunities at picks.

i know brown runs a great cover 2 trap (and has a good feel for when to call it) and hell also utilize robbers and the like more than durkin, in addition to the more standard zone shells.

hopefully the greater variety of coverage looks results in more turnovers bc theyve really struggled in turnover margin in recent years.  itll be a fun D to watch regardless