Thursday, April 30, 2009

Drew Dileo, Wolverine

Louisiana slot receiver Drew Dileo has committed to the University of Michigan. I wrote a scouting report on Dileo at the end of March, so I won't rehash what I already said there.

However, in the meantime, Dileo had picked up offers from Stanford, Rice, Tulane, Virginia, and Northwestern.

In regards to the rest of the class, Rich Rodriguez and Co. have to be nearing the end of their wide receiver recruiting. This gives Michigan six potential wide receivers in the class of 2010, which is an astronomical number, especially considering that the class currently should hold only about 19 players. However, Michigan has recently sent out offers to outside wide receivers such as Andrew Carswell and Adrian Coxson, so I wouldn't bet any considerable amount of money that Michigan is done recruiting WRs.

A quick run-through of the six current commits:

1. Jeremy Jackson - At 6'4", he's destined for outside WR . . . or TE. However, he would probably take his talents elsewhere if the coaches put him at TE, so he's either a WR or gone.

2. Ricardo Miller - At 6'2" and 205 lbs., I think Miller is headed for outside WR. There's been some talk that he could move to tight end, but I just don't see it.

3. Jerald Robinson - He's 6'2" and 175 lbs. but could play safety. I honestly think there's a very good chance he'll end up on defense . . . or he'll decommit, much like Dewayne Peace last year.

4. D.J. Williamson - Williamson is 6'1" and 172 lbs. He could play outside or in the slot. He could potentially add depth at CB, too, but he won't make an impact there. I think Williamson is the most likely to decommit of the aforementioned group.

5. Tony Drake - Drake is headed for slot or running back. He reminds me of Odoms, which makes me think he'll be a slot.

6. Drew Dileo - Dileo has good hands and normally I'd say he's headed for slot receiver. However, with the increasing number of wide receivers in this class, maybe the coaching staff is liking his potential at RB more and more. That's pure speculation and I doubt its voracity, but it's possible. I think his biggest contribution will be as a kick/punt returner.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bengals release Chris Perry

Yesterday the Cincinnati Bengals released former Michigan running back Chris Perry.

This isn't too surprising. Perry was drafted to be a big-play alternative to bruiser Rudi Johnson. Problems ensued, including Perry's lack of big-play ability (3.4 yards per carry in the NFL) and his inability to be healthy.

As a former 1st round draft pick, I'm guessing Perry will get another shot with an NFL team. But I'm not expecting big things from him, just like I didn't expect much from him coming out of college. Perry had a very good senior season, but I never thought he ran very hard as a freshman, sophomore, or junior. Much like current Michigan running back Carlos Brown, Perry never seemed to be able to break many tackles.

Monday, April 27, 2009

2009 NFL Draft Review: Michigan

One of the reasons I wanted to start a blog was so I could have my predictions and analysis somewhere where I could review them. Predicting how recruits will pan out is a very long process, but predicting the NFL draft is quick and easy. Here's how I did in retrospect...

Morgan Trent
Prediction: 4th round
Where he went: Trent went to the Bengals with the sixth pick in the 6th round. It looks like I overvalued him a little bit. The current Wolverine players have hinted that some of the outgoing players never bought into the new regime, and I've heard rumors that Trent was one of those. Perhaps some NFL teams heard those same rumors and dropped him down a bit for attitude issues. Or maybe nobody thought he was very good.

Terrance Taylor
Prediction: 5th round
Where he went: Taylor went to the Colts with the last pick of the 4th round. While my prediction was off, it was as close to being correct as I could possibly be . . . without actually being correct.

Tim Jamison
Prediction: 7th round
Where he went: Jamison ended up signing as an undrafted free agent (UFA) with the Houston Texans.

Brandon Harrison
Prediction: UFA
Where he went: Harrison signed with the Indianapolis Colts. They already have a 5'9" strong safety in Bob Sanders, but here's a clone. I honestly think Harrison might be able to stick on a team like the Colts. His strength is in playing close to the line of scrimmage, and the Colts defense would potentially give him that opportunity.

Mike Massey
Prediction: UFA
Where he went: Massey signed with the Browns. I'm pretty sure this is nothing more than the Browns saying, "Hey, you're from Cleveland - let's make the hometown fans happy about seeing a local product on the roster!"

Carson Butler
Prediction: UFA
Where he went: Butler went to the Green Bay Packers. They have a history of thuggish tight ends (Mark Chmura liked 16-year-old girls a little too much, for example), but I think Butler's on-field attitude will get him shooed away faster than his off-the-field behavior.

2009 NFL Draft Results: The Free Agents

Defensive tackle Will Johnson has signed with the Baltimore Ravens.

Defensive end/outside linebacker Tim Jamison has signed with the Houston Texans.

Long snapper Sean Griffin has signed with the Seattle Seahawks.

Tight end Carson Butler has signed with the Green Bay Packers.

Tight end Mike Massey has signed with the Cleveland Browns.

Brandon Harrison has signed with the Indianapolis Colts.

More updates to come.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

2009 NFL Draft Preview: Michigan

Morgan Trent - CB
Morgan Trent came to Michigan as a wide receiver but moved to defensive back during bowl practices of his true freshman season. He played pretty well in 2007 but took a lot of blame for Michigan's defensive woes in 2008. Scouts - and fans - think Trent lacks the fluid hips to be a corner in the NFL. Because of this, I think Trent projects as a free safety at the NFL level. He's a decent tackler who has improved in that area over the last couple years; he doesn't match up well against running backs at times, but he's willing and able to hit receivers. And roaming centerfield doesn't require the same fluidity as cornerback. He could also fit into a defense that plays a lot of zone coverages as a cornerback.
Projection: 4th round

Terrence Taylor - DT
At the end of Taylor's junior season, there were some who thought Taylor could have been a first round pick. I disagreed. It's not often that you see undersized DTs (he's 6'0" and 306 lbs.) go in the first round, so that was overly optimistic. A year later, Taylor looks likely to go in the fourth round or so. He rarely made big plays at Michigan and while he's fairly adept at holding up against double teams, that job gets more difficult in the NFL. He reminds me of William Carr, who was an All-American (Taylor wasn't) and a seventh round draft pick by the Bengals. Still...
Projection: 5th round

Tim Jamison - DE
Michigan fans (including me) kept expecting Jamison to break out in a Wolverine uniform, but he never really did. He mostly played right defensive end and suffered from weight issues early in his career. He measured in at 6'2 1/2" and 256 lbs. before the draft, which is probably a good weight for him. Some suggest that he would make a good outside linebacker in a 3-4, but with his 5.09 time in the forty yard dash, I disagree. I think he's purely a defensive end. He holds up decently against the run, but he's not much of a pass rusher.
Projection: 7th round

Will Johnson - DT
Despite Johnson's eye-popping 47 reps at 225 lbs. on the bench press, he never produced much in college. He's a little stiiff and doesn't do much more than holding his own against double teams. I have a very hard time believing that a team will spend a draft pick on Johnson. He reminds me of Baltimore Ravens nosetackle Kelly Gregg, but Gregg was All-Big 12 for two years. Johnson doesn't hold equivalent accolades. Johnson could stick as a nosetackle, but I doubt it.
Projection: Undrafted

Brandon Harrison - CB/S
Harrison is 5'9", 205 lbs., and fast. Unfortunately, he's never been a great football player. He's a solid tackler but not a big playmaker in the passing game. He played safety as a freshman, slot corner as a sophomore and junior, and strong safety as a senior. He never really found a position. Harrison's best chance is to contribute on special teams and be a backup strong safety, but I doubt he'll hang around in the league.
Projection: Undrafted

Carson Butler - TE
I'm not going to lie - Butler seems like an asshole. He participated in the St. Patrick's Day Nerd Massacre, punched random people on the field, and pissed off the coaches non-stop. I wouldn't want him on my team. But he's 6'5" and runs the forty in the 4.5-4.6 range, so some GM/coach will give him a shot. Once they see him false start/hold/whiff on a block on the same play, they'll send him packing.
Projection: Undrafted

Sean Griffin - LS
Griffin is a very good long snapper and while he probably won't get drafted (long snappers rarely do), I do expect that Griffin will hang around the NFL for a while.
Projection: Undrafted

John Thompson - LB
I don't think anyone ever thought Thompson would be effective in pass coverage, but I didn't expect him to be so bad at tackling, too. He wasn't a horrible tackler, but for someone nicknamed "Machete" I expected a more solid tackler. If Thompson plays in the NFL, I would think it would be as an inside linebacker in a 3-4 defense; he's too slow to run sideline to sideline like a 4-3 middle linebacker would have to do. However, regardless of the defensive scheme, Thompson very probably isn't an NFLer.
Projection: Undrafted

Mike Massey - TE
Uh . . . no.
Projection: Undrafted

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Taylor Hill, ex-Wolverine

Class of 2008 linebacker/defensive end Taylor Hill decided to transfer before his freshman year even began. I never saw any reports of this, but apparently he decided to transfer to Youngstown State University. He enrolled in January.

If the 2008 class were still intact, Hill would probably be battling Brandon Herron, Marell Evans, Steve Watson, and fellow immediate transfer Marcus Witherspoon for the starting job as hybrid DE/OLB.

WARNING: View the video below at your own risk, as you will be forced to listen to Scott Stapp vomit into a microphone.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Scouting Report: William Gholston, DE - Detroit, MI

Gholston is a heavy Michigan State lean, and I think there's a very slim chance that Michigan secures his commitment. But he's perhaps the best player in the state of Michigan, so I thought I'd do a little research and film study.

Height: 6'7"
Weight: 237 lbs.
Position: Linebacker
Jersey number: #2
School: Southeastern High School in Detroit, MI
40 Yard Dash: 4.5 seconds (reported)

Notes: Holds offers from Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Illinois, Iowa, LSU, Miami, Michigan, MSU, Notre Dame, Oregon, Purdue, Tennessee, and Wisconsin, among others . . . 101 tackles, 22 TFLs, 15 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and 2 fumbles recovered as a junior in 2008 . . . 108 tackles, 19 sacks as a sophomore in 2007 at Detroit Mumford. . . 75 tackles, 9 sacks as a freshman in 2006 at Detroit Mumford. . . 55 catches for 970 yards and 14 TDs in high school career so far . . . Plays LB and TE . . . #44 in initial Rivals 100 . . . #57 on Scout

Scouting report: Keeps his shoulders square when scraping down the line . . . Plays downhill and fills the hole well . . . Maintains good knee bend and balance, which is difficult for someone who's 6'7" . . . Has excellent speed for his size . . . Has speed and motor to play sideline to sideline . . . Does a good job of pursuing from the backside . . . Runs with good body lean . . . Plays with good pad level from the linebacker position . . . Willing to lay out and put his body on the line to make plays . . . Listed at 6'7" but plays like a smaller, more agile linebacker . . . Needs to improve upper body strength . . . Does a poor job of disengaging from blockers, attacking them head up rather than shedding with one forearm/shoulder . . . As a down lineman, stands up too high and needs to play with a lower pad level

Projection: Gholston will end up at defensive end in a 4-3 defense, but could play outside linebacker in a 3-4. He will be a very good player in a "Big Six" program and could play at a high level as early as his sophomore year. However, he may need to adjust to playing with his hand down, which might slow his development.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Marvin Robinson, Wolverine

Finally. Highly touted safety Marvin Robinson, from Lake Region High School in Eagle Lake, FL, has publicly committed to Michigan. I say "finally" not because he should have committed sooner - I fully believe recruits should commit on their own time table - but because he's been rumored to be close to committing several times and didn't pull the trigger until today. The story goes that he committed silently to Michigan on his visit for the 2008 Michigan State game, but he didn't want to go public with it because his high school coach is a big Buckeye supporter. Rumors say that the coach promised to bench Robinson if he committed to the Wolverines, but that story seems ridiculous.

Regardless, Robinson is the ninth player to commit to Michigan in the 2010 recruiting class - and the best, at least according to Rivals, which ranks him #99 overall. He also plans to enroll in January, meaning his prison abs (see above) will be even more impressive, what with Mike Barwis's magic concoction of chocolate milk and wolf blood.

If you want a rundown of Robinson's accomplishments and other people's scouting reports, feel free to visit MGoBlog. Brian has a nice write-up and, as far as I know, is a full-time blogger and therefore has the time and inclination to do a great amount of research.

However, Brian @ MGoBlog seems to think that Robinson will end up at linebacker. I think otherwise. Regardless of what I heard when Robinson was a sophomore (that he's a 6'3", 220 lb. man-child), he is listed at 6'1" and 190 lbs. And while he still has over a year before he first steps on the field for Michigan, it's no guarantee that he'll be big enough to be a linebacker. Even if he packs on twenty pounds by then, he'll still be small-ish. By comparison, safety-turned-linebacker Jonas Mouton is currently 218 lbs. Witness Brandin Hawthorne as a counterpoint to my argument, but I still think Robinson is a safety. Here's why:

Michigan's safety position has been a black hole for years and years. The Wolverines have had adequate players there, but spectacular play has been hard to find. Robinson could help to change that. He has incredible ball skills for a safety and has the instincts to make up for other players' mistakes. And while he doesn't hit like Craig Loston, he is a sure tackler. Frankly, I don't care if our safeties lay people out - I just want them to be able to take a man down in the open field. And according to Robinson, he's being recruited as a free safety, so there's that.

By the time Robinson gets here, these are the players who will be manning the safety positions (barring any further position switches or additions to the 2010 class):

1. Troy Woolfolk - A senior in 2010, Woolfolk moved from cornerback this spring and is vying to start at FS in 2009.

2. Vladimir Emilien - A sophomore-to-be in 2010, Emilien is currently coming off of ACL surgery. He has moved quickly up the ranks during spring practice, but he is obviously lacking experience.

3. Thomas Gordon - A redshirt-freshman-to-be in 2010, Gordon is considered a project and I think Robinson's talent would help him leapfrog Gordon.

4. Michael Williams - He'll be a redshirt junior in 2010 and might be locking up the strong safety job this year.

5. Isaiah Bell - I think Bell will stick as a safety, but many think he's destined for a linebacker position. He'll either be a redshirt freshman or a sophomore in 2010.

Out of those players, I think Woolfolk and Williams would probably be our starting safeties in 2010. But after that, Woolfolk will be gone and the FS job would be up for grabs. There isn't a ton of depth at safety, and that depth gets even thinner if Bell kicks down to LB. In my opinion, Robinson will be roaming centerfield from 2011 onward.

(Please disregard the ugly T-shirt on the gentleman to Marvin's left. I have it on good authority that said gentleman lost a bet.)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Greg Paulus, Wolverine

Just kidding!

Not just rumors, but news reports have surfaced over the past couple days that Duke point guard Greg Paulus wants to play football in college. In case you didn't know, "point guard" is a basketball position. Paulus has stated before that he wants to be a basketball coach . . . but he probably can't be a pro basketball player, since he was benched at times when he was a senior at Duke.

He was good enough in high school that the Green Bay Packers worked him out recently, and he visited Michigan yesterday to talk to Rich Rodriguez about the potential to play quarterback for the Wolverines. Here are some clips from Rivals:

You can see that Paulus ran a passing spread when he was at Christian Brothers Academy in New York. As a junior in 2003, he threw for 2,800 yards and 29 TDs.

Barring illegal participation in intramurals, Paulus hasn't played competitive football in four years. His timing is probably iffy, and his arm strength at this point has probably declined at least a little bit. This is high-level college football, after all.

But then again, the kid has been playing Divison I basketball for four years. He's been around great athletes, and he knows how fast they are and how high they can jump and what kind of coordination they have. He's been in a college strength and conditioning program. Despite his benching, compared to the majority of kids out there, he is an elite athlete.

Ultimately, Paulus has one year of football eligibility remaining; a player has ten semesters of college athletic eligibility, and as long as he doesn't play basketball, he could still participate in football or baseball or track or rugby. He would be a rarity in college football: a one-and-done player.

This is a zero risk proposition for the Michigan Wolverines. They may or may not be interested in giving Paulus a shot at the quarterback position, but if they are, they have scholarships to give; Michigan signed only 22 players in the 2009 recruiting cycle, and only 78 total scholarships are being used this fall. Paulus could come in and compete for the job. If nothing else, he could run the scout team, since none of Michigan's scholarship QBs (Tate Forcier, Nick Sheridan, Denard Robinson) could afford to devote time to oppositing team's playbooks and Justin Feagin should concentrated on playing slot receiver rather than bouncing back and forth between slot and QB.

I have read some opposition to this idea. Some people think that Paulus would be a distraction to Forcier and Robinson. To that I say "poppycock." Those kids will be playing as youngsters in a high profile environment where everyone will compare them to Pat White in front of 110,000 fans and national television audiences. If the presence of a 6'1" kid who hasn't played football in four years distracts the "Quarterbacks of the Future" into sucking even more than most freshman QBs do, then Forcier and Robinson are destined for failure, anyway.In fact, the presence of Paulus would probably distract media types away from Forcier and Robinson and put more pressure on Paulus to show what he can do. Paulus knows about pressure - he was the starting point guard at Duke! - so that shouldn't be a problem for him.

Best case scenario: Paulus learns the playbook quickly and beats out Tate Forcier for the starting quarterback job. Forcier has already been impressive in practices and in the spring game, which means Paulus would have done an excellent job in beating him out. This would give one of the youngsters a chance to redshirt.
Better quarterback play = more victories = fun for everyone.

Worst case scenario: Paulus throws like a girl and battles David Cone for the title of "Worst QB on the Roster" and then slinks off to grad school somewhere to learn how to be a basketball coach.

Is Paulus-to-Michigan going to happen? Probably not. But nothing bad will happen if he does.

Stephen Hopkins, Wolverine

At Michigan's spring game this past weekend, running back Stephen Hopkins, from Flower Mound, TX, committed to the Wolverines. Hopkins is a 6'0", 220 lb. bruiser whose high school team dresses itself in the silly looking uniform above. (No, that's not Ohio State vs. Texas A&M.)

Hopkins ran 343 times for 1,663 yards and 16 TDs as a sophomore. In 2008 he ran for slightly more yards (1,689) and more TDs (22) on seventy fewer carries (273 for the math-deficient). Apparently his coach thinks he's Jamal Anderson, which is bad for Michigan, because Jamal Anderson came up with annoying dances and then snorted cocaine off of a toilet.

Hopkins reminds me a little of Chris Perry, who's now riding the bench in the NFL. I was never a big fan of Perry when he was at Michigan. He was a serviceable back, but I didn't think he ran hard until his senior year. I'm not comparing their effort levels, but I see some similarities: they both run upright, neither one has gamebreaking speed, they're both downhill runners, and I don't see Hopkins having an immediate impact.

He is a big back and, if nothing more, he will likely develop into a short yardage back or fullback. Michael Cox is also a big back and will have three years of eligibility remaining once Hopkins gets on campus, so I'd expect a redshirt.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Spring Game Visitors

According to, the following players will be attending the spring game:

Latwan Anderson
Jibreel Black
Derrick Bryant
Daniel Easterly
Devin Gardner (commit)
William Gholston
Jonathan Hankins
Mylan Hicks
Nick Hill
Stephen Hopkins
Jeremy Jackson (commit)
Dior Mathis
Ricardo Miller (commit)
Christian Pace
Jerald Robinson (commit)
Marvin Robinson
Ishmael Thomas
Austin White
D.J. Williamson (commit)
Torrian Wilson

In this interview with MGoBlog, Warren, MI, defensive end C.J. Olaniyan says he'll be at the game, too. He said there's a possibility that he could commit this weekend, but I sincerely doubt that will happen.

Scouting Report: Skyler Schofner, OT - Johnstown, OH

Skyler Schofner's name has been bandied about as someone who might commit soon, perhaps at Michigan's spring game. Offensive linemen might seem boring, but games are won in the trenches. You don't see championship teams with poor line play, so I'm spreading the wealth. Here's what I've gathered about Schofner.

Height: 6'7"
Weight: 276 lbs.
Position: Offensive tackle
Jersey number: #70
School: Monroe High School in Johnstown, OH
40 Yard Dash: 5.0 seconds (reported)
Bench max: 340 lbs.

Notes: Holds offers from Akron, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, NC State, Ohio, Toledo, Vanderbilt, and Wisconsin, among others . . . Plays OT, DT, and DE . . . Transferred from Washington Court House High School to Johnstown Monroe in January 2009 . . . Named Second Team All-State in Ohio in 2008

Scouting report: Good waist and knee bend in stance . . . Comes off the ball well without wasted steps . . . Initiates excellent blow with first-level defenders . . . Has good athleticism and moves well for someone so tall . . . Has agility to play left tackle . . . Lacks motivation or desire to finish blocks . . . Often stops blocking after initial contact . . . Must improve hand punch on second-level defenders, as they are often too agile for his efforts . . . Too often blocks with a high pad level, using his chest to block rather than his shoulders or hands . . . Will get outmuscled by shorter or technically sound defensive linemen . . . Too often watches his skill players run downfield alone rather than run with them and continue to block . . . Will need to add at least 20 lbs. of lean muscle to be effective

Projection: Despite nearly identical size, Schofner should not be confused with 2009 commit Taylor Lewan. Both have similar athleticism, but Schofner lacks the intensity of Lewan. Still, the lack of intensity could be due to his lack of feeling challenged. Schofner has the athleticism to play left tackle and the run blocking ability to play right tackle. He would definitely require a redshirt year and probably wouldn't be a viable BCS-level player until his redshirt sophomore year, but he could develop into a solid Big Ten starter by his junior or senior year.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Penn State coaches clinic: Saturday scrimmage

On Saturday afternoon, Penn State held practice from 1:30 until 2:30 and then held an offense-defense scrimmage until 3:30. I started to pull out my camera to take pictures until I was reminded that we weren't allowed to take pictures of practice, only drills. Oops.

A few notes:

From the way it looked to me, Kevin Newsome is behind redshirt freshman walk-on Matt McGloin on the depth chart. McGloin isn't anything special, but he looks more comfortable in the pocket and he's more accurate than Newsome. We knew this already, but if Daryll Clark gets hurt, the Nittany Lions are screwed.

Kevin Newsome is not ready to be a college QB. He was highly ranked early in the 2009 recruiting cycle until he started showing up to camps resembling a drunken discus thrower; that thing will fly a long way, but it might kill a bystander in the process. Newsome patted the ball, even in one-on-ones. He gave all kinds of unintentional pump fakes because he didn't know when to throw the ball. As I mentioned in a previous post, in the time I was watching him during one-on-one drills (WR vs. DB) on Friday afternoon, he completed 3/15 passes. His throwing motion is inconsistent, but usually it comes from a sidearm delivery. If his passes miss their target (which they often do, obviously), they usually sail high. He has happy feet and because of that, he doesn't step into his throws properly; when he finally throws the ball, it looks rushed and he fails to throw downhill, which also contributes to his passes sailing high.

Newsome does have a very strong arm. Seemingly without much effort, he was throwing the ball 60 or 65 yards. He hit a deep ball in one-on-ones that got safety Nick Sukay chewed out by Joe Paterno. I was unable to stay for the last fifteen minutes of the scrimmage, but Newsome completed 1/1 pass (a short crossing pattern) that gained about 11 yards and then scrambled for about 12 yards on a separate play. I was somewhat surprised that they didn't have him throw the ball more, but I guess he had better get used to the running game, since that's all he should be doing if Clark gets injured. I'm glad we got Tate Forcier instead of Newsome. Newsome has the size, speed, and arm to be a very good quarterback, but there's a lot of work to be done between now and then.

Michigan fans are up in arms about running a three-man front. Penn State runs a three-man front, which a lot of people don't realize. They have a strongside rush linebacker. He does drills mostly with the linebackers. When the defensive line does drills, Larry Johnson runs them with three guys down. Yet most people would say that PSU runs a 4-3, so this 3-4 that Michigan might run really doesn't have to be a big deal.

I was looking forward to seeing Stephfon Green run the football, but he has some kind of injury and was sitting out. Evan Royster was still fun to watch, though; he had about a 40-yard TD run, but that might be partly because PSU's secondary has been decimated by senior departures.

Linebacker Chris Colasanti, from Lakeville, MI, was playing inside linebacker with the second team. He didn't look spectacular, but I have no doubts that Ron Vanderlinden will coach him up. He did have a play during seven-on-sevens in which he deflected the ball to himself and then made the diving INT.

I am not particularly afraid of PSU for 2009. I expect that the offensive backfield will be excellent with Clark, Royster, and Green, and the front seven will be decent despite the departures of Maurice Evans and Aaron Maybin. But the receivers and offensive line aren't impressive, and the defensive backfield is severely lacking talent and depth.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Penn State coaches clinic: Saturday morning

Saturday morning began with some special teams drills run by Larry Johnson and Bill Kenney. The other coaches and I were too busy scarfing down bacon - crispy, the way fatty pig parts should be - at the hotel to get there in time for the special teams sessions.

For the rest of the morning, each coach on the staff brought his position group out for twenty minutes of explanation and demonstrations. I thought it was interesting that each coach has some sort of mirroring drill they use regularly, in which the offensive player has to mimic the defensive player's movements or vice versa. All the coaches were very particular about footwork.

I expected the offensive linemen and defensive linemen to be huge. What I didn't expect was that Andrew Quarless, the starting TE, would be the size of a Volkswagen. A Volkswagen Beetle, but a Volkswagen nonetheless. I'm a pretty big guy, and he dwarfed me.

The highlights of the morning were when Larry Johnson had his defensive linemen do their drills. He does a lot of work with things that look like inflatable exercise balls, but they're solid and cost $150 apiece. To emphasize staying low and punching with the hands, managers roll these balls toward the players and they have to reach out with both hands and reverse the ball's direction before continuing on with the rest of the agility drill. Please excuse my crappy photography, but a picture of this drill is above.

The other highlight was Bill Kenney. He coaches the tackles and tight ends, and he's hilarious. While the rest of the coaches shied away from any foul language, he said "goddammit" and "shit." An excerpt came when his players were working on a combo block and one of his tight ends forgot to block a stunting linebacker in the drill. Kenney said, "That's what we call an 'Oh Shit Block.' As in 'Oh . . . shit, I'm supposed to block him.'"

Overall, I didn't learn too much from Kenney that I didn't already know. He did talk about ball security amongst his tight ends, though. He said he wants them to keep four points of contact with the ball when carrying it - hand, forearm, biceps, ribcage - but that he never wants them running with two hands on the ball. He said if they get into traffic, they're supposed to roll the ball onto their breastplate and maintain four points of contact, with the chest replacing the ribcage; he wants the off arm free for stiff-arms. This seems like a recipe for fumbles, but who are us Michigan fans to talk? We averaged about the same number of turnovers last year as Michigan State's basketball team had last night.


Monday, April 6, 2009

Penn State coaches clinic: Friday evening

We ate dinner at Beaver Stadium and then headed back to Holuba Hall for the keynote address from Joe Paterno himself. Paterno is still full of fire. Earlier in the day, safety Nick Sukay was covering receiver Derek Moye and was beaten deep on one of Kevin Newsome's few good throws. Paterno, who was standing in the defensive backfield despite being 83, gave Sukay an earful as he returned to his spot. He threw down his play sheet and screamed "Dammit!" and then proceeded to demonstrate - as well as an 83-year-old can - how to jam a receiver at the line. It was awesome.

Anyway, Paterno's speech talked about how all coaches are trying to make young men into good men and that only coaches truly understand the importance and purpose of sports. At one point, he said, "Your principals don't understand. Maybe you should buy them some flowers or a box of candy...if it's a woman." Then he paused a minute and said, "Well, nowadays, maybe if it's a man, too." The entire place exploded.

The other funny thing he talked about was recruiting:

You got guys out there like Dick Vitale going blahblahplublahgahbuppywuppy [sic]
telling us who to recruit. I got coaches who have been coaching for 200 years.
We spend nine hours in the film room. We know who to recruit. But people still
try to tell us what to do.

After Paterno was done speaking, we broke off into question-and-answer sessions. I went to McQueary's session, where he talked about different ways to beat Cover 0, Cover 1, Cover 2, and Cover 3. McQueary's a great communicator, but when his receivers screw up on the practice field, they get the Look of Death.

I saw safeties coach Kermit Buggs so one of the other coaches and I went over to ask him how he defends the wheel route out of Cover 3. He said the key is communication and in a straight Cover 3 (in which the two CBs and the FS have deep thirds while the linebackers split the short zones into fourths), the ILB has to cover the flat while the OLB runs with the deep man.

After that, we saw Larry Johnson walking around and we stopped him to ask how he teaches kids to beat reach blocks. Basically, he maintains his strategy that defensive linemen need to get off the ball fast and hard. Their first steps need to replace their down hand so they cross the line of scrimmage instead of bringing that back foot even with the other; he doesn't care if his tackles get reach blocked, as long as it's one or two yards deep in the backfield and not at the LOS.

After that, we saw cheese fries at Outback.

Penn State coaches clinic: Friday afternoon

Friday afternoon began with a presentation by Jeremy Scott, PSU's speed coach. Several outgoing Penn State players, who were training for the NFL draft, went through a workout: center A.Q. Shipley, cornerback Lydell Sargent, safety Mark Rubin, and offensive tackle Gerald Cadogan. They did various agility and speed drills for approximately an hour.

An interesting connection was made at the next session. Strength coach John Thomas brought a graduate assistant and some weight equipment into Holuba Hall. They did a session of manual resistance training, in which the GA did various exercises while Thomas used his strength and body weight to work him to failure. For example, the GA did pushups while Thomas pushed down on his back; the kid looked like he hated him for it.

The funny thing was that Thomas mentioned four or five times that he had learned some of these techniques "from a guy who's probably going to hate me saying his name, and that's Mike Gittleson." He looked over toward the opposite corner from me, as if Gittleson were over there somewhere. Of course, most of the coaches at the clinic were from Pennsylvania, Virginia, New York, and New Jersey, so I don't know if anyone else recognized the name. But I immediately started looking for someone who might be Gittleson. I couldn't find him initially, but I eventually saw him. I spoke to him for a minute about resistance training, but I didn't mention anything about Michigan, since I thought that might bring up bad memories. Interestingly enough, when I got home and Googled John Duncan, one of the first hits I came across was this article in which ex-PSU players suggested that players were actually getting fatter and weaker under Duncan; those are the exact same criticisms that Gittleson suffered from fans, although I'm sure many S&C coaches face the same questions.

After Duncan's presentation, the team came out for spring practice. I immediately scoped out some players of interest for Michigan fans, players like Kevin Newsome, Devon Still, Chris Colasanti, etc. I was concentrating on defensive line and linebacker drills, since those are the positions I coach, but I also spent some time watching Newsome throw. I'll have a more in-depth analysis later, but Newsome completed 3 out of 15 passes in one-on-ones that I saw.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Penn State coaches clinic: Friday morning

I got home yesterday from the Penn State coaches clinic. The clinic was held on Friday and Saturday and culminated with an intrasquad scrimmage. A lot happened and it was very interesting, so I'll report it in segments.

The clinic was held at Holuba Hall, PSU's indoor practice facility. The building is nothing spectacular, but it has two fields adjacent to each other, each one about 70 yards long. There were chairs and makeshift video screens in two corners of the facility. The offensive coaches (WR coach Mike McQueary, QB coach Jay Paterno, offensive coordinator/RB coach Galen Hall, and OL coach Dick Anderson) were going to talk in one corner, and the defensive coaches (LB coach Ron Vanderlinden, defensive coordinator/CB coach Tom Bradley, DL coach Larry Johnson, S coach Kermit Buggs) in the other. I stuck mainly with the defense.

Ron Vanderlinden - linebackers
I was interested in hearing Vanderlinden speak, not only because PSU always produces good linebackers, but because there were rumors that he might become Michigan's defensive coordinator before Greg Robinson arrived. He clearly knows what he's talking about, but he's not a very dynamic speaker. Luckily, he demonstrated some of the drills he does with his linebackers and had highlights of his former star linebackers, such as Paul Posluszny and Dan Connor. He really emphasized the linebacker stance and remaining in that position - knees over toes, almost in a squat position - throughout a running play. He also talked extensively about teaching his linebackers to shuffle while remaining square to the line, saying he doesn't use carioca drills (where players cross their feet) because the legs cross over naturally, but the shuffle is an unnatural movement. He doesn't believe in doing a lot of different drills, just doing the same drills over and over.

Tom Bradley - defensive coordinator/cornerbacks
Bradley reminded me somewhat of Tobin Bell (Jigsaw from the Saw movies), slightly because of his looks and slightly because of his voice. He went through his defensive philosophy and stressed tackling; he said that for every 10 yards gained, there's at least one missed tackle. To add on to that, he talked about "explosion plays" which are plays that gain 25+ yards. Teams that have zero explosion plays average 6.8 points per game. Two explosion plays give you 14.8 points per game. But if you give up three explosion plays, opposing teams will score 28.7 points per game.

Larry Johnson - defensive line
Larry Johnson is the father of the former 2,000 yard rusher and current Kansas City Chief running back of the same name. Johnson sounds like a preacher. If I were a recruit, this guy could make me want to run through a brick wall. A brick wall covered in bee stingers. He talked about being a good person and a good coach, and he wants to start a "new generation of coaching" in which coaches don't swear at their players. He said that's not how you teach young men. And it's hard to argue with his coaching methods, considering the success he's had at producing first round talent on the defensive line. He had some very interesting things to say about defensive line play, especially the first step. He also had video of some superb defensive line drills that I'll talk about in more detail when I get to the recap of Saturday morning's session. He was the best presenter I saw.

Dick Anderson - offensive line
After sitting through three consecutive defensive presentations, I thought I'd go over to the offensive corner. Jay Paterno was scheduled to speak at the last session, and even though I coach OL, DL, and LBs, it's hard to understand the game if you don't understand quarterback play. Unfortunately, the schedule had been rejiggered and instead of seeing JayPa, I observed the monotonous skeleton named Dick Anderson. Anderson is approximately 700 years old and was the head coach at Rutgers from 1984 until 1990. A fellow coach on my high school's staff began counting the number of times he said "all right?" He repeated that phrase 95 times in 25 minutes. But it was more like, "Okay, on the snap of the ball, awwright, our playside guard, awwright, takes a reach step and reads the strongside linebacker, awwright . . . ." From what I've seen of PSU's offensive line, I've never been impressed. His linemen don't finish their blocks and don't exactly blow people off the ball, so I spent more time thinking about what we were going to have for lunch than listening to Anderson.

In case you were wondering, they served us cold cut sandwiches, bags of chips, macaroni salad, and Pepsi products.

Friday, April 3, 2009


There's no excuse for the #2 hit on this video not being #1.

The reason I like this video so much, though, is that it includes the only good play Chris Graham ever made for Michigan. Which is exactly one more good play than I made for the Wolverines, so good for him.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Go get in the way of someone*

I don't like the Tennessee Volunteers (Phil Fulmer screwed Michigan in 1997, I wish Eric Berry went to Michigan, I don't like orange sherbet), but Rocky Top Talk has a good breakdown of zone blocking. I agree with the majority of the post . . . except the explanation of the difference between zone blocking and man blocking. It's just not explained well enough.

There's no blocking system out there in which a play calls for an offensive lineman to block a particular defender; "man" blocking is a misnomer. A wham/iso play doesn't require the "offensive tackle to block the defensive end" because what if there's no defensive end? What if the defensive end is lined up over the guard and a strong safety is walked up and playing as an edge rusher?

Zone blocking asks the offensive linemen to create a screen. For those of you who have played intramural flag football, some leagues ask you to "shadow block" (i.e. no contact); that's essentially what zone blocking is. Zone coaches want their offensive linemen to get in the way of a defender and then let the running back choose whichever hole has the fewest obstructions.

Regardless, this is an excellent post by Rocky Top Talk. It's not entirely applicable to Michigan's blocking scheme because it's mainly talking about running the zone play from a single-back set with the quarterback under center, but most of the basics still hold true.

*Unfortunately, I've given this bit of advice to several players who suddenly forget their plays when it's game time.

Bad news for Penn State

Daryll Clark has ruptured his Achilles tendon and his career at Penn State is probably over.

This obviously hurts PSU's chances at having a successful 2009, since they have no experienced backups and lost a lot of players to graduation and the NFL this offseason. Perhaps Anthony Morelli will pull a Bobby Valentine and try to play with an eye black mustache.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A little something for the ladies...

In the picture you see above, Sam McGuffie is preparing to leap over Steve Brown a Seattle Seahawk Rice Owl football player.

Okay, not really.

Instead, he's in the process of gaining 30 yards in Rice's spring game that was held this past Saturday. Since he just transferred there this semester and he'll be ineligible to play in 2009, the coaching staff apparently wanted to torture themselves by showing off a player they can't use for another year and a half.

I guess it's kind of like me looking at pictures of Sofia Vergara. I mean, she's away on a photo shoot right now. But when she comes back, I have big plans for us.