CoverItLive (no, I’m serious) will include the UMichLacrosse Twitter feed, which will be able to give some play-by-play and scoring updates. I’ll be in and out a bit, but if you participate, please try to keep this particular chat on-topic (that can include asking questions of me if you have no idea what the hell certain things are). We can talk about other sports some other time. The chat will start around 5:45, the game starts at 6, and should last about 2 hours.
Or: How I learned to stop worrying (about size) and love the star system.
Since the dawn of the Rich Rodriguez era, there’s been a marked shift in recruiting philosophy. No, not the sudden emphasis on Central and Southern Florida. I speak of the recruitment of several tiny dudes each of the past three years who could plausibly play running back or slot receiver. The Lloyd Carr regime rarely recruited anyone under 5-9 (Mike Hart notwithstanding), and certainly not to play wide receiver. On the contrary, Carr seemed to only be interested in wideouts who were over 6-0, and preferred big guys who were 6-4 and over. Why the sudden change in philosophy? Il’l let the venerable Jim Stefani have the floor for a moment:
Lloyd was looking for big and fast RBs and WRs, kids who would fit in well into his pro-style offense and project well for the NFL. There are only a small handful of prep players each year that met the skill set that he was looking for (big AND fast), so it was critical that he land a few of these kids every year.
RichRod, however, is looking for small and quick slot type receivers and backs who excel in space. There are a lot more small and quick 5-7 to 5-11 slot types out there to recruit every year than there are future Braylon Edwards’s or Chris Perrys. These kids may not project as NFL first round draft picks down the road, but they are kids who have the specific skills to succeed in RichRod’s offense because what they will be asked to do in this offense will be quite different than what the backs and receivers were asked to do playing Lloyd-ball.
So what does this mean? Rich could just grab any old guy off the street and he would perform equally as well as Percy Harvin? Of course not. However, there is something about the little guys that is more exciting (despite, perhaps, lower rankings). I think part of the reason Michigan fans fell in love with Martavious Odoms last year was not because he was an exceptional slot man, but the fact that the Wolverines hadn’t had a little guy at that position at all in so long. The concept of the slot receiver was as appealing as Odoms himself. If Michigan starts getting elite slot guys down the road, the offense could be that much more potent and exciting.
So why is Michigan now recruiting these tiny guys? As Jim said, the tiny guys are more likely to have the skill set that Michigan needs for the slot position to be effective. Good speed, exceptional quickness, and very good change of direction are all important to make plays in space. A bubble screen is only as effective as the ability of the receiver to make a guy miss, run by a guy, and get the ball down the field. Taller guys are generally less flexible (particularly in the hips – look at cornerbacks), and less able to change direction on a dime. Tall guys can be just as fast – look at Usain Bolt or Larry Fitzgerald – but lack the flexibility for this particular position.
That said, there are taller guys out there who have the skill set. These are freak athletes, like Percy Harvin, even Steve Breaston. With more height, and the same ability to run fast and change directions, evade tacklers, etc., these players are superior. They can do everything the little guys can, plus they’re able to get balls that are thrown higher, etc. These end up being your higher-rated guys. Noel Devine was a five-star, but think if he had the same skills at 6-1. He’d probably have potential to be one of the best ever.
Down the road, Michigan will probably be able to get these taller athletes with slot skills. However, that doesn’t mean that there’s no place in the offense for tiny guys.
1st full scrimmage will probably take place on Saturday.
One of the reasons Rich wants to have a big spring game (in terms of fan attendance) is to help young guys get used to playing in front of an audience, so they aren’t as nervous when they see crowds of 100K+ in the fall.
Brandin Hawthorne, though he sometimes has been practicing with the safeties, is going to play outside linebacker.
Steve Watson’s move to defensive end has gone well. He is competing well enough that he will get some real playing time if he keeps it up. The depth at TE (Koger, Moore, Webb all doing well) allows him to play there. If they need tight ends, he’s a smart enough player that he could move back.
Will Campbell will be a big help for the team, because the depth at DT is pretty thin. He still has lots of learning to do.
Steve Schilling is at guard for now, and he’ll probably stay there for the time being. He looks good at the guard position, and shows good leadership on the field.
Observations and E-pinions:
Starting defense appeared to be a 3-4 set with the following personnel: DL – Van Bergen, Martin, Graham. LB – S. Brown, Evans, Ezeh, Fitzgerald. S – Williams, B. Smith. CB – Warren, Cissoko.
1st team backfield featured Nick Sheridan, and often had 2 RBs (Minor at FB, C. Brown at RB) in. Moundros was the starting true fullback, in front of Grady and with Forcier as the QB.
The starting offensive line looked to be (L to R): Ortmann, Schilling, Molk, Moosman, Omameh. 2nd team: ? (green jersey), Barnum, Khoury, Ferrara, Dorrestein. In individual drills for the offensive linemen, either Barnum or Omameh (the only 2 black O-linemen having 56 and 65, respectively, was confusing) appeared to be by far the quickest on the team. I think it was Omameh.
Practicing taking direct snaps at QB with rollout runs: Feagin, T. Robinson, C. Brown.
An observation from the Oklahoma Drill (or the “Wolverine Drill” or whatever they call it here): Brandon Minor looked like a man among boys. He trucked a couple defenders, was able to spin off a couple more, and run by one or two (not easy in a 5-yard-wide playing area). We should have video of at least one of the impressive runs. Vincent Smith is super shifty, as can be expected of most tiny backs.
GERG Robinson has amazing silver hair, which he partnered up with a gray sweatsuit. Lookin’ fly.
Random (and not so random) people spotted:
Skyler Schofner, William Gholston, Teric Jones, Rick Leach (more of “heard.” He also sat behind us at Friday’s baseball game), Michael Taylor, Johnny Thompson, recently fired EMU coach Jeff Genyk.
I didn’t notice Toney Clemons in attendance, but I may have just missed him.
MGoBlue report on the entire first week of practice can be found here.
When Will Campbell was being interviewed they had him step off the stage, so he wouldn’t be too tall for the cameras. Will’s personality, his bubbliness and goofiness remind me a lot of Terrance Taylor.
Surprisingly, there wasn’t a shoving match in order to get to Mike Jones. Apparantly he seemed hesitant or nervous on WTKA, but he sounded comfortable and excited here. I apologize for the lack of good questions. I was sort of a one man show at this point:
For those of you who don’t live in Southeast Michigan, you probably haven’t seen the ads for the Motor City Bowl. It’s worth checking out, mainly because I think I could have made a better commercial in about an hour
I’m making fun, but really I’m jealous. I would have been thrilled with the Motor City Bowl. Also, MSU, WMU and CMU all have 9+ wins. Weird…
The Situation Illinois leads Michigan, 31-20 with about 9 minutes left in the game. After starting strong, the Michigan offense has sputtered, but finally got back on the board on its last drive. In spite of a questionable pass interference call on John Thompson, Michigan has Illinois in a 3rd-and-2 situation on their own 49 yard line. A stop here could help continue Wolverine momentum, and give the Wolverines a chance to get back into the game.
The Personnel and Formation Illinois comes out in a 3-wide spread set, with a tight end on the right side of the line. Two wideouts are to the left. Isiah Williams is in the shotgun, with Daniel Dufrene lined up as the running back to his left. Michigan’s base 3-4 has a linebacker (John Thompson) on the line to the slot receiver side. Obi Ezeh and Jonas Mouton are centered over the line, which consists of the standard starters (Graham, Taylor, Johnson, and Jamison). The secondary is composed of Brandon Harrison, Stevie Brown, Donovan Warren, and Morgan Trent.
The Play Juice Williams runs a quarterback draw, running right into the heart of Michigan’s strong defensive line. This should be a stop by Michigan, but Williams manages to scamper 50 yards down the field, before he is run down from behind by Stevie Brown at the 1 yard line. Michigan’s defensive play is a blitz of the weakside of the formation by Thompson, with the line clogging things up and the other two linebackers playing the run. The secondary mans up on the receivers.
Why it Worked Brandon Graham and Jonas Mouton seem to both be to blame for Juice getting loose (damnit, I was going to avoid saying that). Michigan’s defensive play seems to be for the defensive line to plug up the middle, with the linebackers freed up to make plays near the line of scrimmage. Graham gets greedy, however, and gives up his inside position when it appears that Juice will try to go around the edge. This frees up a gap for Williams to head through. Mouton should be there, but he was also fooled by Juice, and has rushed to the outside to play contain. However, it appears as though his responsibility was not contain, as Brandon Harrison has filled the same gap. Mouton and Graham were both supposed to be in position to stop Juice here, and considering that neither was, it’s easy to see why he got free.
The Situation Michigan leads Illinois 14-10 with about 11 minutes remaining in the second quarter. The Illini have the ball in a 2nd-and-10 situation on their own 43 yard line. Michigan’s offense has been clicking early in the game, and a big stop on Illinois’s potential go-ahead drive would sustain the Wolverine momentum, and possibly springboard another Michigan scoring drive.
The Personnel and Formation
Illinois comes out in a 3-wide spread set, with a tight end on the right side of the line. Two wideouts are to the left. Isiah Williams is in the shotgun, with Daniel Dufrene lined up as the running back to his left. Michigan is running out of its 3-4 Okie nickel package. The corners are playing off, and Charles Stewart is the high safety along with Brandon Harrison. Stevie Brown, Jonas Mouton, Obi Ezeh, and John Thompson are the linebackers. Mike Martin is the pass-rushing DT.
Michigan is in a cover-3, with both OLBs blitzing. At the snap, John Thompson blitzes, allowing Daniel Dufrene to run right by him. This is unfortunate for Thompson and the Michigan defense at large, as this play is a designed screen (not quite a swing pass, as The Davids – ESPN’s shittiest new announce team – state). Williams lofts the ball over Thompson’s head, and Dufrene makes the catch. He follows his screen blockers, breaks a couple early tackle attempts, and outruns the Wolverines to the endzone.
Why it Worked John Thompson is the major culpable party in Illinois’s success on this play. In Shafer’s scheme, he is designated to blitz on this play, but has the responsibility to “hug up” on Dufrene if he leaks out of the backfield. It is plain to see Thompson realizes his mistake, as he has an “oh shit” moment, and turns around when he realizes Dufrene has passed him.
This was an effective play call against a blitz, and of course the responsibilities of the blitzers are supposed to compensate for this. Thompson’s fuckup amplified the effectiveness of the playcall.
It’s hard to fault him too much, since he was making sure there weren’t huge cutback lanes in the secondary, but Donovan Warren starts off this play taking a terrible angle. He almost manages to still catch up with Dufrene, and had he taken a better angle, might have stopped this 5-10 yards short of the endzone.
As some of you may know, Zoltan Mesko is a student in the business school. Also, some of you may be aware that our economy, as Sarah Palin would say, “has some things that need a little fixin’.” One reporter asked Prof. Mesko to explain the recent conversion of Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs. I’ll let the Mesko take it from here: