Long post, don't really feel like making it a diary though because it's general high-level things, not a statistical breakdown or schematic breakdown with pretty pictures.
I usually don’t post on the weekends or even as much lately, and I have my reasons for that, but I figured Brian trying to take another swipe at me and mock me on twitter because of a thread of tweets I made at halftime yesterday made it worthy in this instance, so here’s some of my thoughts on appropriate perspective for these players, this team, and this program going forward.
1. Peters played well, but keep his performance in perspective
This got some support and some major pushback on the twitter. I get people are excited for his performance. I get that it’s a confirmation of many people’s assertion that it was time to give him a shot. I actually agree that it was time to give him a shot (mostly because I think you want to know a little bit about what you have going into next year, and you aren’t taking poorly playing JOK into next year, a perspective a lot of folks have had). And at least until Speight comes back (which I don’t expect to be this year, regardless of the timeline that’s been thrown out there, if only because it’s not worth the re-injury risk and it’s hard to believe he would trust everything so quickly after getting hurt), Peters will be and should be the starter.
But it was a single game against Rutgers. Now Rutgers pass defense is actually decent this year, especially considering how bad they are at rushing the QB. Their run defense… not so much. But also keep in mind that Rutgers didn’t have really any film on Peters. Is that to say that the offense drastically changes their scheme from JOK to Peters? Absolutely not, the basic tenets of the offense remain. However, there are certainly things Peters does better and things he does worse than JOK. There are certain things the coaches will lean on in certain situations that differ from the two QBs, based on their performance in practice. These tendencies aren’t on film. These strengths and weaknesses also aren’t on film for Peters, and as more of them to get shown on film, expect defenses to adjust their approach based on what they learn. In the meantime, many DCs change their approach because of that uncertainty. They either think “backup QB: ATTACK”, or “I didn’t scout this guy let’s just play our base because it’s what we do best”. This isn’t to say that switching to the backup or unscouted guy will is the correct decision for teams, sometimes the backup is the worse option, it’s just stating that things will get harder for Peters.
I think some people really question this idea. So to give some perspective I’ll talk about the difference from Speight to JOK. When I watch film on Speight, I see a guy that can read leverage and anticipate guys breaking open vs man coverage and get the ball out on time. What I also see is a guy that can hesitate if he doesn’t diagnose the coverage immediately and I see a guy that generally gets sped up, particularly with interior pressures. So I would run more zone concepts vs him with strategically timed 5 and 6 man pressures. Against JOK I would not do that. I see a guy that locks in on his first option but when that guy is open due to scheme, he can hit them. But I see a guy that hesitates to throw a guy until he is open, and I see a guy that perceives pressure based on threat alone. So I would play tight man coverage because that limits just how open guys will get. I would also never blitz more than 5 defenders, I’d keep a rat in the hole to defend his legs and take away short/intermediate crossers, and watch him bug out whether pressure got home or not. The schemes are mostly the same for Michigan from a high level, but how I defend them changes. The same can likely be said for Peters, who saw a lot of man coverage early and killed it and then almost threw a pick 6 against a zone coverage that he failed to read (and his receiver did). In general, Peters also mostly got away with hitting his first read; on the plus side his timing of getting the ball out looked better than JOK's did, which is a good sign.
As a backup, there is some freedom. There are lower expectations, so you don’t really have to be nervous, you’re the backup after all. Well now Peters has got the pressure of being the starter. Now he has the focus of the scouting report. I’m glad people are excited for him. But please don’t go anointing him the savior yet like this fan base has done to so many players before. That’s only additional pressure on him. And then don’t turn on him once he doesn’t meet your expectations, once he struggles and perhaps even looks like JOK did a few times. Don’t turn on him and trash him and trash the program and say “we’re screwed unless McCaffrey is awesome” that this fan base seems to love to do. Let him grow, let him learn, let him hit those bumps and keep supporting him. Those bumps will come, things are going to get harder.
Remember how JOK looked better than Speight for all of part of a game and people got high and mighty about how now the offense was fixed because JOK was great. Who still thinks the offense was better off in any other game besides Purdue with JOK than Michigan would have been with Speight? And now people are acting like JOK is a bad person because of it (and before people say, "only a few idiots are doing that".... look around this blog from last week). Again, I’m not saying turning to Peters is the wrong decision, I don’t think it is. But also understand the coaches do have more perspective and there likely are reasons why it took this long.
This is the perspective I was asking for in the thread of tweets that got called out by some, including Brian. I’ll be interested to see how Brian plays the “perspective” card after throwing shade out on Saturday.
2. The Offensive Line is Improving, and Will Continue To
The OL is doing much better run blocking. Their technique is improving, they are ID’ing guys better, and now they are moving people because they are more confident in what they are doing and how they need to do it. The TEs are still mostly young and a bit undersized, but their overall technique is night and day from where it was vs UF, where they were a huge weaknesses. Their improvement may be the biggest reason the run game is clicking now. It’s still far from perfect, but it keeps on improving.
It’s hard to take much in pass pro from Rutgers, because they aren’t good at pressuring the QB. But neither were some of the earlier teams Michigan faced, so there is that. Pass pro is really a part where all guys need to be on the same page, and at least it generally looks like that part is getting better. Far fewer free pressures, even when their technique is off or they are late to their assignment. That at least allows a QB to get to his first read or bail out, rather than just eating sacks or throw aways.
I’ve also seen a tone of complaining about recruiting of OTs. Yeah, Michigan lost out on a few high-profile OT recruits the past couple years. That sucks. They also recruited 4 potential OTs in the last class that are currently redshirting. They have two more in the upcoming class. If you are hand-wringing because the stars aren’t good enough for you, while I agree that stars are a good general gauge, there is no worse position to rely on stars than OL. I’ve also seen a lot of people question why Bredeson hasn’t gotten run at RT. 1) He’s still a true sophomore, almost certainly the vast, vast majority of his snaps both during spring and fall were at OG, because they were trying to get him where he needed to be for this season at the position he was likely to play rather than asking him to split between multiple positions and making him a bad option for both; 2) I’ve never actually seen him take a snap on the right side of the line… I’m sure he has, and you’d expect most guys to be comfortable on either side, but some guys simply aren’t comfortable with the footwork. I wouldn’t be at all shocked if going into his JR year (or even as early as bowl practice) he started getting increased reps at LT (still don’t think that’s his best option, but it may be Michigan’s best option).
3. People Complaining About Safeties Matched up in Coverage in the Slot
Yeah, sometimes it sucks. It’s also a part you have to live with at times as a defense, as a general scheme. People complained again about Kinnell (Michigan’s best coverage safety) getting matched up in the slot on Rutgers’s best WR. It happens. You can ask him to match up on the outside and move a CB inside, and now you’ve mitigated one threat and introduced new weaknesses. Every scheme has its strengths and weaknesses. Generally Kinnell is good at man coverage for a safety, and some of those throws were actually covered quite well (to the point that who was in coverage may not have made a significant difference while still introducing new weaknesses into the defense). Sometimes you get got. Sometimes there are better options but you’re trying to cover for all the things an offense is trying to do without knowing what they are going to try to do before the snap. That sometimes means safeties on WRs. If you love Brown’s pressure schemes, which most seem to, they quite complaining when it sometimes comes back to bite him. That’s the trade off, Michigan is going to have to deal with it or change their philosophy.
4. Bush is Starting to Get Attacked a Bit
Dude has great instincts. McCray generally has alright instincts, limited athleticism, but is generally smart in his run fits. I’m starting to see “can’t wait for this next group of LBs to get a chance”. Look, Bush is still young. The guy trusts his instincts 100%, which makes him a missile and often leads to great plays. It often takes him out of plays, particularly when he has man coverage responsibilities on a RB. He’s been picked on multiple times now for leaving the RB because his instincts tell him the threat is elsewhere. You don’t want him slowing down and you don’t want to take away what he does so well, but sometimes there is a reason for a guy more like McCray, sometimes you need guys to play with a little more head than gut. Still a young guy that will continue to improve, but he’s been attacked a bit the last couple weeks. He’s on film now, again, don’t start trashing him because he’s getting picked on, he’s learning to play within himself.
5. In general, things aren’t as good or as bad as they seem
I know it’s the internet, where people go to freak out. I get using the internet to vent emotions in both ways. And frankly, it’s great to be able to be extremely excited and extremely angry, and if there is a place to do that, generally “about football” is better than other, more important aspects of life. But we just spent most of the last week basically hand-wringing if this team would make a bowl game, and saying the future was bad and people were tired of “next year”. Yes, this year has been generally not great. It’s also exasperated by people putting unfair expectations on this team and then the team not meeting their expectations.
6. I’m Sure I’ll get Called Some Sort of Derogatory Internet Name for this Post, and That's Fine.
“Sea Lion” or “Concern Trolling” or something like that. Fine, use the internet to cover for the fact that I generally believe that acting civil in discourse and disagreement is generally a better approach than acting like a douche and acting out with those types of terms generally just demonstrates your inability to act civil, even on the internet. I don’t mind people disagreeing with my opinion. It happens. Sometimes other people are right, sometimes I am. And these are opinions after all, with varying degrees of insight into the varying aspects of the topic. And before Brian goes full “quit talking about me and acting like you’re not talking about me”… again; no, I’m pretty much talking about Brian, but probably some others as well. Him sarcastically attempting to give me personality advice from one of the last people I’d take personality advice from is rich. So here I am, on his blog, writing this, because he gets upset when I’m civil about the fact that after basically 7 years of Power O being a core part of the Michigan playbook, somehow he still doesn’t know the general rules about Power O and I think it’s worthwhile to bring those things up. Or that he still struggles to separate generally basic schemes like Power O, Counter OF, and Counter Trey (let alone more subtle changes, like Dart). That’s fine, as he’s said before, (paraphrasing) “he’s just going off of his general grasp of what he knows and what anyone could possibly know”, except he’s not, the internet just happens to be littered with information that could help him learn these schemes, and at one point under Rich Rod he was excited and energetic about actually learning those things. But “manball”, ya know. Usually I don't take those types of shots at people, there's nothing inherently wrong with not knowing those differences about a game, after all. But when he repeatedly attacks me because he feels high and mighty, then alright, maybe it's worth pointing out.
Anyway, keep that in mind when people on the internet call you “internet names” or generally act like ass holes on the internet. And if this response is worse than acting civil, that wasn't made clear by the actions and comments of the owner of this blog; so I guess I figured this was the preferred approach.
Happy Sunday everyone.