Monday, October 6, 2014

Michigan vs. Rutgers Awards

Jarrod Wilson (#22) broke up this dangerous pass
(image via College Football)
Let's see more of this guy on offense . . . Da'Mario Jones. Jones is reportedly one of the faster players on the team, and Michigan is lacking a deep threat. Devin Funchess is being bracketed, Amara Darboh doesn't have great speed, and Dennis Norfleet doesn't know how to catch a ball that's thrown at him. It doesn't necessarily have to be Jones - it could be Freddy Canteen or Maurice Ways - but Michigan needs to find someone else to stretch the field besides a hobbled Funchess.

Let's see less of this guy on offense . . . A.J. Williams. He is slow and does not have good hands. Devin Gardner threw a quick out to him on Saturday night, and the results were sad. The tight ends running those routes should be Jake Butt or Khalid Hill. We know Butt is good, but Hill is a guy who seems to be improving steadily.

Let's see more of this guy on defense . . . Jarrod Wilson at free safety. I guess I don't see the rationale behind playing the more inexperienced Jeremy Clark back there in loads of open space, while the more experienced Wilson is covering the flats or stopping the run. Those roles should be flipped. Clark has size and speed, but he lacks field awareness. Meanwhile, Wilson's jarring hit on Leonte Carroo was the first of its kind for Michigan this season, and - surprise! - it came when Wilson was playing deep.

Let's see less of this guy on defense . . . tentative Joe Bolden and Frank Clark. On separate occasions, these guys seemed afraid to hit Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova. Bolden lacked his improving aggressive nature on a scramble up the middle, and Clark seemed to pull up on a pass rush that allowed Nova to side-step him and throw a touchdown to a diving John Tsimis. Were they tentative because of the week-long discussion about quarterback safety after the Shane Morris hit? Was it a coincidence? I don't know. Maybe Gary is just a super Nova. (Sad people make sad jokes.)

Play of the game . . . unlike last week, there are a couple choices. The highlight reel choice was obviously the one-handed snag by tight end Jake Butt. The more meaningful play was Devin Gardner's 19-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter. On a bootleg, he juked the outside contain guy and outran the Rutgers defense to the pylon, all along gliding like only he and a few other quarterbacks can do. He really is fun to watch when he gets in open space. Not many 6'4", 216 lb. guys can move like he does.

MVP of the game . . . Gardner. He didn't have a great game, but nobody really stood out for Michigan. Gardner finished the game 13/22 for 178 yards, and 1 interception; he also ran the ball 10 times for 40 yards and 2 touchdowns. For the most part, he managed the game well, especially once he got comfortable in the second half. I also thought Joe Bolden played pretty well - he made 10 tackles, including 9 solo stops, several of which stopped Scarlet Knights in their tracks.

23 comments:

  1. "He really is fun to watch when he gets in open space. Not many 6'4", 216 lb. guys can move like he does."

    He sure is ... too bad it happens so infrequently.

    TTB, who would you say is most responsible for playing A. J. Williams all these years? AFAICS he has never made a sustained, meaningful contribution to the offense. Is Nussmeier blind? (I don't think so.) Was Borges? (Ditto.)

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    1. Gardner is best when he is moving, I think we all know that, and hopefully Nuss has figured that out as well. Putting him in drop back situations just makes him jittery and uneasy, leading to taking sacks and making poor passes/ decisions.

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    2. Gardner throws better when not moving, like any other QB. They key ingredient is pass protection - CONSISTENT pass protection. So yeah, Gardner is better on the run right now, but so would anyone that has to play behind this OL for the last two seasons. Morris would throw better on the run too. Anybody taking this kind of heat is going to be skitish.

      I'd feel a lot better blaming Gardner if we had an example ANY example of someone able to do better.

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    3. Lanknows,

      Agreed about the pass protection, though Saturday they showed a big improvement against a team that came in leading the nation in sacks. I expected it to look like last year's MSU game.

      > I'd feel a lot better blaming Gardner if we had an example ANY example of someone able to do better.

      Couldn't the same be said about Borges at this point? If neither he nor Nuss can make it work ... Unfortunately this year has shown that the problem last year wasn't the OC.

      LTA

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    4. Sure, you could make the same argument for Borges that you make for Gardner and you might be right. Maybe Borges shouldn't have been fired. The difference is that Nussmeir had success elsewhere (unlike Morris). So it'd be more like throwing an inexperienced young OC who failed last season and promoting him into the role at Michigan and expecting better results.

      I don't know which specific coach to blame for the problems, but it's ultimately Hoke's responsibility, just as the defense was ultimately Rodriguez's responsibility. You can cut some slack for transition, but eventually the ineptitude crosses a line of acceptability. For me, starting Morris over Gardner was that line.

      It's too soon to judge Nussmeir. The run-game looks improved but Gardner has not performed better. I still have the feeling that the O is moving forward more consistently than last year, but the big plays are gone. Inconsistency has it's good points. I haven't seen anything TOO different from what was expected in the offseason: higher floor/lower ceiling, no change significant change in overall production.

      Honestly, I'm not even interested in evaluating Nussmeir unless he gets the interim HC job. Otherwise, he's probably out of here with whoever the new coach is.

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  2. Ugh, Clark whiffing on that sack when he came untouched up the middle resulting in that TD (was that the 60 second drive to end the first half?) was probably the low point in the game for me. I don't even remember Nova doing much to avoid it; Clark looked like rather than drive through Nova, he kind of dove to the side and tried to arm tackle Nova as he sort of drifted by him.

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  3. Khalid Hill showed he can block and catch. So why does Williams play when he can do neither?

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    1. He does not fit the prototype. He was recruited to be a role-playing receiving TE.

      Reality is annoying.

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  4. I know Hoke brought in AJ Williams as a big TE who essentially was another O lineman. Unfortunately Hoke didn't check his tape to find out he wasn't particularly agile enough to block consistently. Now we see he can't catch a ball either. This is another item in a long list of why Hoke is not the right guy for the job.

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    1. Because one recruit hasn't worked out as well as you expected? I'm afraid Michigan never has had a coach that met your expectations. How about the other TE we recruited that year, Funchess -- it looks like they made a good choice with him.

      Also, Williams was a 3-star recruit who has gotten regular playing time as a So. and Jr.; I think that's about what one would expect.

      Let's avoid the confirmation bias. Hoke makes mistakes, and decisions that can be interpreted as mistakes, every day and every game. If that makes him a bad coach, then there never has been a good coach in football history.

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    2. They made a good choice by putting the only good WR they've recruited in 4 years at the wrong position? TE depth is bad now in large part because they couldn't get Funchess to block. He's big enough to do it, they just haven't taught him.

      Taking Williams as a recruit is completely defensible. Playing him this much over the last 3 seasons is not.

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  5. Has anyone played more offensive snaps over the last 3 seasons than Williams? Williams should be a red-shirt Soph right now, getting his feet wet as a backup rotational guy and goalline sub. It's really a shame that a blocking TE who can't block or catch very well has been put in this position. It's hard not to see it as a coaching indictment, but there's always Arizona's coach to blame...

    There's just not a TE who can block on this roster. The coaches have recruited a wide-array of TE/H-back types (short and stout pass-catcher, tall and skinny pass-catcher, prototypical H-backs, prototypical 2-way TE) but STILL haven't found the blocking TE that seems to be a critical component of their offense. I don't know how much worse playing a 6th OLmen would be. A curious decision by our coaching staff.

    D.Jones has not stuck out and had an unexceptional recruiting profile. I'm not sure he's the answer. Chesson and Darboh aren't exactly veterans, but this sounds like change for the sake of change. I thought Canteen would emerge as a playmaker but for whatever reason the coaches are electing not to play him. Chesson and Darboh are solid complementary players but when you don't recruit guys with elite quickness that is what you get. Michigan is a slow football team, and it's by design.

    Isn't Wilson recovering from an injury? I assume that has something to do with the role-reversal from Spring/Summer.

    There is a common element to all these things (and the Shane Morris decision too). The coaches seem to have an ideal for the position and they play as if that ideal is met. They want a blocking TE, big WRs, tall rangy safeties, and pocket-passing QB. They seem OK with playing an inferior player as long as they fit into the mold of the prototype, regardless of effectiveness. They stray from it, only when the evidence is overwhelming, and sometimes (e.g., Gardner) not even then.

    I hope next year's coaching staff is smarter or at least capable of developing players into the roles they create.

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    1. Your assessment here is, in my opinion, absolutely spot on. Really nice analysis. Hoke brought it upon himself, in a way, though. He came in talking the talk about running the football and getting back to Michigan football blah blah. It probably kills him that he has to run as much zone and shotgun as he already does. We have talented guys on the roster, but Hoke has proven just as--if not more--stubborn as RR when it comes to fitting square pegs in round holes.

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    2. I think calling Rodriguez stubborn would have been fair if Mallet and Manningham had stuck around. You want to design your system around Threet or Cone? I do not. The useful "pro style" piece that Rodriguez inherited was a bunch of TEs and I thought he used those guys pretty well. Otherwise, nothing worth the development tradeoff. This is smart, not stubborn. Having Molk, Denard, Devin, Gallon, and Fitz is a different deal...

      Anyway, to me it's less about the guys that were inherited than the guys you actually have. There's no good reason that Williams and Watson have to be out there every snap while people like Dileo, Hayes, Norfleet, Canteen sit on the bench. There is no offense that throws a bunch of tall(er) and slow(er) receivers out there and tries to win a jump ball contest. We don't even throw many jumpballs. There is no offense that tries to throw big(ger) slow(er) less elusive backs behind an OL that can't consistently open holes.

      Nussmeir has run more open schemes before. There's no reason your skill position guys can't be Gardner at QB, Norfleet/Hayes/Smith at RB, Butt at TE, Funchess at WR1 Norfleet/Canteen at WR2 and Darboh/Chesson at WR3.

      Why so much 2TE stuff and TE/FB stuff? -- because that is what Hoke wants. We dont have the personnel to support it? Run it anyway. We don't have the OL to overpower people? Run it anyway. We don't have the blocking H-back/TE to overpower people? Run it anyway. We're not talking about year 1 of a transition here. These are the same problems every year and it's only getting worse.

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  6. Regarding players of the game. The Mlive writer blamed Bolden and Ryan for some of the pass defenses failures. Green had some pretty nice looking runs, albeit against a mediocre defense once again.

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  7. I was at the game, and Gardner actually looks pretty healthy. You could almost hear him cackling on the 19-yarder; the Rutgers defenders were very clearly outmatched.

    It's pretty clear that starting Morris last week was pretty much Bellomy Decision 2.0. Hoke spouts so much bullshit about "having good practices" that I'm starting to question whether or not he knows what a good practice looks like. Yet another entry in the long list of reasons why Hoke will not last the winter.

    Both Wilson and Jourdan Lewis had some nice pass breakups. Lewis looks like our best player in the secondary.

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  8. Play of the game: Darboh catches a pass, 1 step 2 steps, out of bounds. Then, shazaam! The zebras call it incomplete. Video review confirms he catches it in bounds, however, they too proclaim it incomplete. Definitely the best defensive play of the game because it killed our drive. Earlier in the game Rutgers completed a questionable reception to sustain a scoring drive.

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  9. I went to the game. What a pleasure to be around fans who were just excited for the team, who were pulling for them, and who only wanted the best for Michigan. (The Rutgers fans were friendly and helpful, before, during and after the game.) Afterwards the shuttle to the parking lot was a friendly group, but then one person began loudly and arrogantly pontificating the same old tired, hateful, twisted vitriol about Hoke and Brandon. You could see people darken and stop talking as the boor dominated the back of the shuttle, seeming to take pleasure in his power over his captive audience. Even a little self-awareness seems to be missing.

    In addition to what's been said above, I think people are overlooking a few big positives (I know it's heresy to some if we say anything positive or hopeful, but let's try to pretend the world isn't coming to an end):

    * Gardner playing smart, decisively and showed resilience when things go wrong. That's a big and essential change -- if the 5y Sr QB is acting and feeling defeated (which was my impression, maybe wrong) then the rest of the young offense will follow. He made good decisions and his passing was better than stats show due to many dropped passes.

    * Just one fewer mental breakdown -- by a DB, a rushing DE, a receiver -- and we would have won. A bunch fewer mental errors (i.e., down to the level of a normal team) and we would have won relatively easily. It's within reach.

    * The OL's improvement. Rutgers began the game leading the nation in sacks. In the past that would have been disastrous but the OL protected Gardner adequately. Also they opened some good running lanes and from the stands, it looked like the RBs missed or hesitated on a few holes.

    I'm glad we're not playing MSU next week so we can build on these improvements. It would be such a triumph for this team if they finished well after all they've gone through, and with so many rooting against them. Go Blue!

    Long Time Alum

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    1. I agree that Gardner and the OL are some relatively positive takeaways. Turnovers and TFL were held in check. I think the sacks thing is a little misleading because Rutgers isn't going to finish anywhere near the top sacking teams by the end of the year. Plus the penalties...

      The mental breakdowns are frustrating because it was the same situation in 2009 - a bunch of close losses, a few key plays, etc. There is a very different narrative if we are 5-1 or even 4-2. The Utah game swings on a special teams play, Minnesota on an inexplicable coaching decision at QB, Rutgers on a number of gaffs from anyone and everyone.

      But, we are 2-4 and no one would argue we deserve to be much better than that.

      In 2009, we lost on a bad OT call against MSU. Lose by 2 to Purdue and Iowa. If that 5-7 was 7-5 Rich Rod gets a whole lot more support heading into 2010 and probably a few better recruits. Probably keeps his job into 2011 and maybe DB opens the wallet to finally get Casteel.

      Ultimately, it doesn't matter. Losing close, losing by a lot. Right now we are trying to stop the bleeding.

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  10. I forgot to say because it's assumed now: Magnus -- excellent coverage of the game, the best on the Net (including the professionals) as always. Thank you! Write more!

    LTA

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  11. I forgot to add one thing that surprised me at the game: Rutgers fans were so excited about the victory. The students rushed the field, the goal posts were taken down (I think as a precaution, not by students), and people were thrilled. You'd think they'd upset Michigan! (Also, it was their first Big Ten win ever.) Nick Baumgardner at MLive wrote an interesting article about it, which reminded me:

    http://www.mlive.com/wolverines/index.ssf/2014/10/column_rutgers_reaction_saturd.html


    LTA

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  12. Magnus, I'm sorry to have to say good bye. I was really hoping to find a different, better grade of contributer here however, the bile and invective here has become as bad as at that other site. I understand everyone's disappointment with the season but it would be nice to have some intelligent discourse rather than continued personal attacks on the coaches, staff, and other contributors.

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  13. To think if rich rod would have received half the support that Brady joke had gotten...AZ's jump to #10 is the largest jump in AP Poll since 1989.. Yup 25 years... What he is doing at AZ proves how good of a coach he can be when given the appropriate resources.. Not all the loyd Carr behind the scenes negativity that he endured...great to see him be successful and yet sad to see us regress into mediocrity... I don't know why you would come to Michigan if you were a blue chip recruit... Watch the SEC network! They are marketing their schools like premier academic institutions.. With a 4 star DEF lineman decomitting and our 5 star TE taking officials elsewhere... When are people gonna realize, a change has to be made.. Also, what is up w Jabril peppers?? Is he injured? Or is there another issue? Attitude ? Why did hole dodge the question with regards to his injury and why was he not on sidelines at last home game?
    Anyways, I wish the best for blue, been a fan all of my 40years.. But it is painful to watch... Go Gardner!!

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