Monday, April 19, 2010

Everything I love might not be a smoldering crater

So I downloaded MGoVideo's torrent of the Spring Game to rewatch and re-evaluate and my thoughts are slightly more positive than my initial reaction. Only slightly though.

Not too much changed in my evaluation here. Robinson is your far and away starter. Forcier looked kind of lost (though I presume much of this had to do with a second-team offense that he was out of rhythm with). And Gardner, while impressive for his youth, is clearly not ready to be on the field. Next year there will be a great QB battle.

So... the second team defense is basically a horror show. Vlad Emilien still doesn't look ready for the prime time. Mark Moundros as linebacker is a nice idea but he will absolutely not contribute in any meaningful way this year. The defensive line backups are fine but unremarkable. The point being, depth is going to be an issue. The incoming freshmen should help mitigate some of this, but not entirely. Also, they're true freshmen.

As for the first team defense, they're just OK. The biggest thing that stood out to me watching the film was problems with the linebackers (surprise). With Michigan sending out 4- and 5-wide sets for much of the spring game, this meant Roh and Mouton were being pulled back into the secondary to cover zippy slot men. The hope is that with the depth of the incoming freshmen, as well as doing package subs, Michigan will have a nickel look to mitigate these problems. Early down passing is going to hurt Michigan a lot this year.

The first team defensive line is good. They're clearly the strength, anchored by Will Campbell. He was plugging up the middle and the team actually did a good job on runs throughout the scrimmage, stuffing most of them for minimal gains (at least there was only one or two long runs that broke out). If we can get the linebackers and Kovacs to hit their gaps properly, this could be a kinda not terrible run defense. Speaking of Kovacs, my opinion of him has not changed. Watching the tape, he's just so clearly in over his head. He is going to be absolutely demolished this season by tight ends and big running backs. He doesn't have the speed to drop into coverage either. Expect him to be attacked often and successfully for the entire season. We need Marvin Robinson to be able to play Kovacs' position.

Other offense stuff
The running backs were all unremarkable. No way do you see a feature back this year though don't be surprised if Michigan starts using more I-formation with Hopkins who is clearly the most physical back on the team.

Taylor Lewan, the oft-hyped left tackle this spring was good in protection but definitely got a little lost a few times. The moving pocket seemed to be a bit of a problem for him and he had trouble getting to the second level on runs. In any case, he looked competent enough to be the starting left tackle and we can feel confident that he'll be valuable throughout his career.

The wide receivers and slots were also kind of Meh during the scrimmage. We hear a lot about Player X has the potential to be a big threat on every play, but Michigan never sends receivers downfield in this offense. Maybe having more years in the system/more experienced QBs will change that, but we certainly didn't see it in this scrimmage. Otherwise, they mostly caught the balls they were supposed to catch and then got tackled.

That's about it though. You're OMGWE'RETERRIBLE ceiling has been raised to 8-4, but I think that's grasping at straws.


MVictors with Epic Photo Win

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Spring game thoughts

Take it from an obviously huge Rich Rodriguez supporter: There's no way RichRod is the Michigan football coach in 2011. This football team is fucking atrocious.

OK, so this was a spring game and there were a lot of players missing and etc etc, but I don't think there's any way that today could have been any less encouraging about the development and ability of this football team than what was shown today. That said, thoughts:
  • Denard Robinson is your starting quarterback. And it's not close. At all. Tate is clearly not in rhythm with the second team offense, that much is clear. His scrambles looked aimless and less than functional. It's clear why the offense stalled late in the season last year: You contain Forcier and he is utterly useless. He has no patience in the pocket, wasn't hitting players in rhythm, accuracy was off, he fumbled (again), and basically looked worse than he did last year. Denard, on the other hand, was hitting players in stride, throwing with authority, and generally R-sticking his way through the field leaving a path of battered and embarrassed defenders in his wake.
  • Devin Gardner got a huge round of applause when he first stepped onto the field. He fumbled the exchange between he and Stephen Hopkins on his first snap, only to punch the ball out of bounds before the defense grabbed it. Gardner is clearly the most gifted quarterback of the three on the team. He's also in over his head right now. He's patient in the pocket, has shown some touch (but only when stationary; his moving throws were absolutely horrendous), and has the kind of juking, sliding ability that we've been dreaming of since he was a high school junior. Gardner is very clearly The Future.
  • The defense. Well. Troy Woolfolk was injured and didn't play. I hope this is the problem. I spent a lot of time watching the defense and what I saw wasn't super encouraging. They tackled well, but there wasn't once all day that there was a legitimately good defensive play made. There were some nice tackles 10 yards from the line of scrimmage, but no one was jumping routes, there were no sacks, no one was really "defending". The formation is similar to last season's defense, and there are some really clear areas where they can confuse quarterbacks pre-snap (I sat thinking, I can't believe they're obviously showing their look, only to be fooled by a blitz from the weakside). Otherwise, we're in for a long year again.
  • Cameron Gordon: Had one or two good hits but was otherwise unremarkable. No picks, no passes defended. He looked like a linebacker playing at safety depth. He also wasn't tested very much.
  • Jordan Kovacs is still Jordan Kovacs and should not, under any circumstance, be on the field. His one remarkable moment? Getting absolutely trucked by Stephen Hopkins. Until Kovacs is off the field, this defense is going to be terrible.
  • Craig Roh looked good. A few times on the zone read, he contested the QB pull but stayed home and forced the QB to throw the ball. He was clearly a little slow in coverage, and any time an opposing offense goes to a 5-wide set, Michigan is hardcore playing zone which could prove to be a problem. Otherwise, it was encouraging.
  • Will Campbell is an animal. He was breaking through the offensive line frequently and nearly batted down a few passes. He is the future of the defensive line.
  • Special teams: An utter black hole. Tate Forcier is the best punter on the roster right now (not a joke). The placekickers were spotty at best. The first returnable punt was fumbled.
I reiterate: RichRod will not be your coach a year from now. That is unless there is massive and unforeseen improvement. recalibrate your expectations: 7-5 is your new ceiling until further notice.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Poor Jack Johnson

So this happened:

Spring game

Last year, we got Weapon of Choice. And we saw how that turned out. This year, who knows. Have a good time in the stadium tomorrow. I'll be there, probably yelling and standing and screaming about the lack of press coverage. I won't be hard to find.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Oh yay, more controversy

So this is happening:

West Virginia University officials confirmed on Tuesday that NCAA investigators have recently interviewed university officials about potential rules violations involving the Mountaineers' football program.

West Virginia officials wouldn't comment on the specifics of the allegations, but a source close to the situation said the allegations center on former Mountaineers coach and current Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez.

Because, well, why not. My initial reaction to this is that it was kind of inevitable after they found violations at Michigan. Shortly after the allegations against RichRod surfaced concerning Michigan, WVU went back and did their own spot check and determined that nothing bad had happened. Michigan did the same thing, and voila, there were violations. So it was probably inevitable that the NCAA would look into this a little deeper.

The concern now is that they will find something and that will adversely affect how the NCAA treats the sanctions against Michigan in a few months. I don't know the fairness/legality of how that would work, but if they find that RichRod has been continuously skirting the law since his years in WVU, that may make them act a little more harshly toward him now, whether or not that's fair or legal. Otherwise, this shouldn't do much but tarnish RichRod's already muddy reputation and give more fodder for the local media to rabble rabble about.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

It's Wednesday in the spring

So I was going to come on here and write about the local papers/blogs/etc. going all ZOMG over the quarterback competition. But The Wolverine Blog beat me to it.

I can’t help but think back to last year, however, and the biggest on-field story heading into the opener against Western Michigan. The coaching staff maintained, right up until kickoff, that three Michigan quarterbacks — Forcier, Robinson, and Nick Sheridan — would all see snaps and get the opportunity to prove themselves as the rightful starter....

What happened? Well, Tate Forcier, like every fan expected, emerged as the clear starter, with Robinson quickly settling into the role of change-of-pace QB and Sheridan seeing only mop-up duty from that point forward.

This isn’t to say that I don’t think Robinson is a viable candidate to start this season — by all accounts, his understanding of the offense and ability to read defenses has improved mightily, and a quarterback with his athletic ability is very hard to come by. But this is still the guy who was rarely trusted to pass last season, and when he did, the results were rarely pretty: 14-31 with 2 TDs and 4 INTs doesn’t exactly inspire confidence that Robinson is the man to lead the Wolverines on offense.

Yes. This. A hundred times this. A year later and it seems like everyone has completely forgotten one of Rodriguez's key tenants: No one's starting position is safe. There will always be competition. Hell, he's even been saying it this year. But it seems like no ones listening.

In other news, ESPN's Big Ten blogger and aspiring muppet, Adam Rittenberg is in Ann Arbor today and there will likely be a flood of interviews and comments up on his blog. First up, an interview with Roy Roundtree.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Since we last met

So over the last week and a half or so, I've had something of a personal collapse and have been mostly ignoring the site because of a complete lack of motivation as well as, ya know, nothing happening besides shadowy reports of goings on at spring practice. So a brief recap:

The Frozen Four was stolen away from Michigan in traditional 2009-2010 fashion as the refs called back the game winner in overtime because they're refs and we're Michigan. I was watching the game with two people that patently Didn't Get It, one of whom is a girl that claims to know lots about hockey--she, Canadian, was particularly proud of the Canadian gold medal and made sure to rub it in people's faces despite what seems to be a pretty elementary understanding of the game; but I digress. I had tweeted sometime during the game that it was obvious that game was headed toward heartbreak. That's just how things have been going for us. You know the rest of the story.

I sat in a living room with my head buried in my hands, trying to collect myself from the personal and fanatic agony of the day. The people in the room with me were palpably uncomfortable.

Next up, spring practice, where your main source of information is MGoBlue's various Inside Michigan Football episodes (that MGoBlog refers to as browser crippling; thank God I'm not the only one) and reports of Player X being dramatically improved and fighting for a starting spot. This year's videos have been utterly terrifying as every single offensive play goes anywhere from 10 to 80 yards. I have to assume these are not isolated incidents. This defense is going to be worse, despite my rumblings to the contrary. But per usual, there's no real news right now. Denard is playing with the 1s. Devin Gardner is in a sling. Running backs are running. Newz!

(I will say, the one positive thing I've seen from the videos is that Denard's throwing motion looks dramatically improved over last year. We had to assume this would happen, and he still doesn't use his body correctly and is mostly off balance when he throws. Encouraging, though. Tate will be your starter come fall.)

And in vaguely related Michigan news, EA Sports thinks Kevin Grady and Greg Matthews are still on the team. NCAA 11 will likely also see the return of Jake Long, Braylon Edwards, and Morgan Trent.
Most of the images have us doing cool things like beating Arkansas, leaving tiny defenders wallowing face down on the ground. I warn you though, do not watch the video. You've never seen Donovan Warren not tackle so many Buckeyes. Oh wait, no, you probably have.