Sunday, September 21, 2014

Utah 26, Michigan 10

This is a sad sight in so many ways.
Shane Morris is no better than Devin Gardner. There is a large contingent of fans who always think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. They clamored for Shane Morris, and they finally got him in the fourth quarter. What was the result? An interception, a fumble, and a sack. It's the difference between a Ford Explorer and a Mercury Mountaineer. Until Michigan can establish a consistent running game, pressure will be on the quarterbacks. And if the Wolverines can't find another solid receiving target outside of Devin Funchess, things are going to get even worse. When times get tough, the only thing Michigan does is script throws from Devin Gardner to Devin Funchess. Another receiver has to step up, the offensive line has to block better, and/or the running backs need to improve.

Willie Henry was your leading scorer. Michigan scored ten points altogether, with six coming on Henry's awesome interception return for a short touchdown. I like that Michigan is scoring some non-offensive touchdowns (Ben Gedeon returned a blocked punt for a touchdown against Appalachian State, remember), but it's sad that the defense scored more points than 4-star recruit Devin Gardner, Biletnikoff Award watch list receiver Devin Funchess, Rivals 5-star running back Derrick Green, and so on.

In some ways, Funchess hurt the team. The most glaring example of this was when Gardner threw a skinny post to Funchess in the second quarter. Perhaps because of a bum ankle or laziness or inexperience at playing the wide receiver position, Funchess threw one paw out to try to catch a slightly overthrown pass. He could have stuck out both hands, and some guys would have dove. Instead, the ball bounced up to safety Brian Blechen, who pulled it in for the interception (and a nice return, which was negated by a questionable block-in-the-back penalty). Less obviously, Gardner seems more democratic with the football when Funchess is not on the field. The favorite target becomes Amara Darboh, but Darboh's not so overwhelmingly athletic that Gardner thinks he can beat triple coverage. With Funchess on the sideline, Gardner has to scan the whole field and will throw to Darboh, Jehu Chesson, Dennis Norfleet, Jake Butt, Khalid Hill, anyone. I'm not suggesting that the 6'5", 230 lb. guy with the #1 jersey should stay off the field altogether, but his presence - especially when he's limping - makes Michigan more of a one-dimensional team than they should be. That's the coaches' job to sort out.

The defense played great overall. Some people might point to the way-too-easy touchdown by Dres Anderson or the 67-yard screen pass to Bubba Poole as reasons that the defense underachieved in this one, but I don't think that was the case at all. Sure, those were flubs, but those happen in every game. Anderson's touchdown was a blown coverage, seemingly at the hands of sophomore safety Dymonte Thomas. The screen pass to Poole was a great call by Utah offensive coordinator Dave Christensen - and a terrible play by redshirt sophomore safety Jeremy Clark. Clark had no idea what to do and got caught up in the wash of a couple offensive linemen releasing downfield, rather than trying to get on top of Poole's route to slow him down. Overall, though, Michigan held Utah to 286 total yards (6 more than they allowed to Notre Dame), one offensive touchdown, and 13 first downs. Utah averaged 2.2 yards/carry as a team, including just 3.7 yards/carry by the running backs. If you told me before the game that Michigan would hold Utah to just one offensive touchdown and four field goals, I would have taken it in a heartbeat.

Are injuries a problem? I feel like injuries are a problem. I know every team goes through injuries, but it seems that Michigan's star player(s) get hurt every year. Devin Funchess got hurt in the second game and was still limping around in this one with an ankle injury that may linger for a while. Starting tight end Jake Butt is playing less than the ideal number of snaps because of his ACL recovery. Jabrill Peppers got hurt in week one, missed the Notre Dame game, and seemed to disappear for a stretch this game. Starting cornerback Raymon Taylor got hurt against the Fighting Irish and has yet to return. Both guys who were presumed to start at safety - Jarrod Wilson and Delano Hill - have missed extended time due to injuries. "Starting" linebacker Desmond Morgan has missed the last couple games, too. I would not say that the Wolverines have been devastated by injuries, but they aren't at full speed, either.

Derrick Green, you are not Darren Sproles. You are a 220 lb. former high school offensive guard. Run like it. I like that you have learned to pick up your feet in traffic, and I like that you are improving your vision. What I do not like is you tiptoeing through a hole on a straight-ahead run, getting planted on your butt by cornerback Tevin Carter, or running out of bounds when you have the choice to truck a defensive back or two. They say discretion is the better part of valor, but they also say "More yards good, less yards bad."

Derrick Green, you might be Darren Sproles. After years of eschewing passes to anyone other than Vincent Smith, the tailbacks finally got a chance to be involved in the passing game. Derrick Green had 2 catches - including a one-hander - for 26 yards, and Justice Hayes had 2 for 25. I don't think Green has the ability to become the next Eric Metcalf or Larry Centers, but Doug Nussmeier showing a willingness to throw to the running backs might set up other plays in the future.

What's Devin Gardner's problem? If I knew how to fix Gardner, I wouldn't be writing this here blog post. But as a blogger, it's my job to pretend I know.

  1. Gardner has an inherent - or coached - fixation on whoever his favorite target is from year to year. In 2012 it was Jeremy Gallon. In 2013 it was Jeremy Gallon. This year it's Funchess. Gardner locks onto his favorite receiver too quickly, and he throws to him even when he's well covered. This results in some amazing catches that make us think Gardner, Gallon, and Funchess are awesome. It also leads to lots of interceptions.
  2. Gardner has played for two coordinators who don't understand him. Both Nussmeier and Al Borges call too many play action waggles because they like to run the ball with lots of people stacked inside. Meanwhile, Gardner turns his back to the defense without having a good understanding of what's going on behind him, and it cuts the field in half. He generally keeps the ball or dumps it over the head of the unfoolable outside contain man to a fullback or tight end in the flat. Michigan has I-formation or under center tendencies with a quarterback - in my opinion - who should be running a pro-style shotgun/pistol offense the majority of the time.
  3. Michigan has yet to develop a solid complementary receiver to Funchess. Darboh is not a great route runner. Jehu Chesson does not have great ball skills. Dennis Norfleet seems comfortable only on bubble screens and swing passes. Jake Butt has been hurt. In yesterday's game, the big-play guy for Utah was Dres Anderson, but quarterback Travis Wilson was just as comfortable going to possession guy Kenneth Scott on any given play.
  4. The offensive line and defensive coordinators are in his head. Much like what we expected, the interior offensive line has improved its pass protection and blitz pickups, but the young/inexperienced offensive tackles are barely treading water. If any defensive coordinator fails to run an edge blitz on a critical down, it's probably because he feels sorry for Ben Braden and Mason Cole. Gardner's internal clock is screwed up because of it, so he spooks early.
How about a spread punt? No? Okay. We didn't need to tackle that Kaelin Clay guy, anyway.

To all the people who looked sideways at me in Friday's preview: thppppppppppppppbt. Some of you automatically assumed that Michigan would blow out Utah, and I have no idea why. Yes, their oodles of points in the first two games came against crappy opponents, but Michigan scored 52 and 34 points against crappy opponents. Utah has a solid blitzing defense and a capable, fast-paced offense. I think a lot of fans are falling prey to the whole "This is Michigan" mindset without looking at what's happening between the lines.

Minnesota is a threat. Every team is a threat now. There are no "gimme" games on the schedule. Minnesota, Rutgers, Indiana, Northwestern, Maryland, they're all capable of beating Michigan. If you are not absolutely terrible on defense, Michigan might not be able to get into the red zone. I do think things will improve because I believe in Doug Nussmeier, and Devin Gardner improved throughout the 2013 season as well. Like the Notre Dame game, Michigan outgained the opponent (308 to 286) but couldn't find the consistency to put together a touchdown drive. At some point the plays will come together consistently enough to put offensive touchdowns on the board against decent teams, but if Brady Hoke wants to keep his job, it has to happen soon.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Some pictures to make you feel better

Well, that was ugly. Here are some good looking ladies to make us all feel slightly better, including a mesmerizing gif.

Visitors: Michigan vs. Utah

Donnie Corley
Deshawn Baker-Williams - DT - Westland (MI) John Glenn: Baker-Williams is a 6'4", 300 lb. prospect who committed to Central Michigan in June. That was and is his only offer so far.

Brian Cole - WR - Saginaw (MI) Heritage: Cole recently was awarded his Under Armour All-American jersey (LINK), although he was suspended for Heritage's most recent game after receiving two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties last game. He is committed to Michigan.

Jack Dunaway - DE - Bloomfield Hills (MI) Brother Rice: Dunaway, a teammate of Alex Malzone's, is a 6'3", 212 lb. prospect who recently committed to be a walk-on at Michigan. His father was a tight end at Michigan in the mid-1980's.

Alex Malzone - QB - Bloomfield Hills (MI) Brother Rice: On Friday night, Malzone went 14/20 for 208 yards and 3 touchdowns in a 28-21 win over Shane Morris's old team, the Warren (MI) De La Salle Pilots. He is committed to Michigan.

Jalen Martin - WR - Harper Woods (MI) Chandler Park Academy: Martin is a 6'1", 192 lb. prospect with offers from Akron, Eastern Michigan, and Western Michigan. He's a 247 Composite 3-star, the #65 wide receiver, and #390 overall. He attends the alma mater of former Michigan wide receiver Csont'e York.

Jon Runyan, Jr. - OG - Philadelphia (PA) St. Joseph's: Runyan, Jr. committed to Michigan in June 2013 (LINK).

Mike Weber - RB - Detroit (MI) Cass Tech: Weber sat out last night's 50-0 win over Detroit (MI) Douglass. He is committed to Michigan.

Hit the jump for 2016, 2017, and 2018(!) visitors.

Welcome to the Weekend!

Start your weekend off properly with a gallery of good looking ladies, including an Arianny Celeste gif.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Grantland: What is the NFL's "Corner 3"?

Robert Mays looks at what NFL play might be as efficient as a three from the corner in the NBA (LINK).

Hit the jump for a girl running up some stairs, a girl in some shorts, and a bikini.

Preview: Michigan vs. Utah

Rush Offense vs. Utah Rush Defense
Michigan has taken a step forward this season and comes into this game #30 in rushing (242 yards/game) and tied for #14 in yards per carry (6.26). Of course, the best performances have come against Appalachian State and Miami, but most teams have played a patsy or two by now. Leading the pack is sophomore Derrick Green (332 yards, 6.6 yards/carry, 3 touchdowns), who put the rushing game on his back last weekend. Backup De'Veon Smith (189, 7.9, 2) has also been effective at times, but has some athletic limitations. The offensive line has improved with the return of Graham Glasgow, who has taken over the right guard position from Kyle Kalis. Utah is #39 against the run and #22 in rushing average against (2.79 yards/carry), but they have yet to play a quality opponent in their two games. The Utes' leading tacklers are senior safety Eric Rowe, redshirt junior linebacker Jared Norris (6'2", 237 lbs.), and senior defensive end Nate Orchard (6'4", 255 lbs.). Walk-on defensive tackle Clint Shepard (6'2", 276 lbs.) has made some plays in the backfield, but is obviously undersized. The Utes run a base 4-2-5 defense that might leave them a little undersized against a decent sized offensive line and a couple running backs who are 220+ pounds.
Advantage: Michigan

Hit the jump for the remainder of the preview.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

MLive: Hoke - "Hopefully those boos were at me"

Michigan fans let some boos rain down last Saturday before Michigan pulled away for the victory (LINK).

Hit the jump for three pictures of good looking women, plus a GoPro video of a girl during and after her workout.