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Varsity Blue

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Tate Forcier Goes Blue

Sunday, August 31, 2008 by Tim

Though many believed Kevin Newsome would be the only top-flight quarterback Michigan had a shot at in 2009, California QB Robert "Tate" Forcier has committed to Michigan, filling the void left by the decommitment of Newsome. Forcier (6-1, 190, 4.63) is the younger brother of former UM (now Stanford) QB Jason Forcier. For the most inside of all the information on Tate, check out his family site. Forcier plans to enroll in January at Michigan.

Player Notes
Forcier is a pass-run quarterback who is a much better fit for this UM system than his brother was for the old one. Forcier switched schools entering his sophomore season to avoid starting over his older brother Chris (now at UCLA). Tate is a pass-first dual threat quarterback. For those worrying about a lack of speed, it may be comforting to know that he had more rushing yards than Kevin Newsome as a junior. Tate is a little bit short (around 6-1), and his arm strength is not elite. However, he is fairly fast (faster than his former Wolverine brother), and his arm is very accurate. For the Scouts, Inc. evaluation of Tate, check out his site. One thing to keep in mind about Tate is that he has had a private QB tutor for much of his football-playing career, so his floor is very high, but he may be close to his ceiling as a passer.

Recruiting Notes
Like his older brother before him, Tate Forcier grew up a fan of the Michigan Wolverines. This gave Rich Rodriguez and company a leg up in his recruitment. However, with a family member leaving the program just a couple of years before Tate would enroll, it was unclear whther there would be hard feelings towards the Michigan program. Forcier was offered early in the process, when Russell Shepard and Kevin Newsome were the only other signal-callers holding offers from Rich Rodriguez. Speaking of offers... Tate posted all of his online (and it was really annoying to Google him every day and see that another hack columnist around the country had noticed). However, Tate said he wouldn't start trimming his list until the Pryor situation was resolved. When Pryor picked against Michigan, many thought Pryor's other "finalists," Penn State and Michigan, were among Forcier's top schools (along with Oregon). Before Kevin Newsome committed, he and Tate talked on Myspace about attending school together. When Shavodrick Beaver also gave his word to become a Wolverine, Tate was not to be dissuaded, still speaking highly of Michigan. When Kevin Newsome decommitted, Forcier was almost immediately in town for an official visit to the Utah game. Shortly after, Forcier made the decision to pull the trigger and commit to Michigan.

Video

Junior year part 1


Junior year part 2

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A (Slightly) Closer Look: Utah

by Tim

QB Comparison:
Michigan Passing v. Utah
Name
Comp
Att
%
Yds
TD
Int
Yds/Att
Nick Sheridan
11
19
57.89
98
1
1
5.16
Steven Threet
8
19
42.11
69
1
0
3.63
Though Threet's stats are worse than Sheridan's, most people who watched the game would agree that Threet looked to be the better of the two QBs in this game (this is like saying "the less painful way to get hit in the nuts with a baseball bat"). There are several factors that account for this.
  • After the first scoring drive, Sheridan went from competent (started the gane 11/13) to sucky (went 0/6 the rest of the way).
  • Nick Sheridan threw an ugly interception to close out the half that ultimately ended up deciding the game. He also had an interception wiped out due to a pass interference call.
  • Sheridan tried to rip a ball out of McGuffie's hands after he had already given it away, resulting in a lost fumble.
  • Threet's attempts all came after the ground game was abandoned due to both ineffectiveness and a need to slow down the clock.
  • Threet's touchdown pass was prettier.
  • The offense was more effective with Threet in the game.
  • Threet seemed to be more poised than Sheridan (oh god, Clausen comparisons ahoy).
  • The offense just seemed to be clicking a little more (which is to say: at all) under Threet's guidance.
I wouldn't be surprised to see Steven Threet as the starting QB next week, and I think deservedly so. however, Miami's defense is not as good as Utah's, so unless we see major improvement against the RedHawks, the offense could remain ugly all year. There were likely some first game jitters playing a role in the poor QB play as well, so don't expect anything this bad again, but don't expect to see Threet or Sheridan threaten for All-conference honors, either.

Rushing Comparison:
Michigan Rushing v. Utah
Name
Att
Yds
TD
Yds/Att
Sam McGuffie
8
8
1
1.00
Brandon Minor
4
21
0
5.25
Nick Sheridan
5
1
0
0.40
Steven Threet
5
0
0
0.00
Michael Shaw
2
1
0
0.50
Carlos Brown
1
4
0
4.00

Ugly. I think that although the running backs had a pretty bad day, much of the blame falls on the offensive line. The backfield was collapsed on most plays, meaning that the runners had to struggle just to get back to the line of scrimmage most of the time. Brandon Minor had one good looking run, but also a crippling fumble.

Once the offensive line gets a little more used to game shape, and starts playing against less talented D-lines, hopefully they can gel a bit and become more successful. Failing that, we can pray for a midseason return from Corey Zirbel that suddenly makes the line awesome.

Michigan's 36 yards finished 99th out of the 105 D-1A teams that have played so far this season, tied with Utah.

Defense by Half:
Utah's total offense in the first half: 303 yards.
Utah's total offense in the second half: 38 yards.

As Lloyd said (erroneously) after the 2005 loss to Notre Dame: "We may have lost a game, but found a defense."

After the halftime break, the players realized that the 2008 season started at 3:30 Saturday, and even if they were going to show up a couple hours late, they would just make up for it with an extra-special effort in the second half.

I really do believe that Utah has one of the best offenses Michigan will face this year, and certainly among the most balanced. In the second half, they managed to shut that offense down. If anything, I'm disappointed that the game was lost, but I think the defensive improvement over the course of the game is a source of optimism going forward.

Helping the Wolverines
Of course, Utah's mistakes were a big part of why Michigan managed to keep this game as close as it was. Utah amassed an amazing 137 yards worth of penalties in the game. This makes them the second-in-command for Mythical Penatly-Committing National Champion, behind Texas Tech.

Another note about Utah helping Michigan (though this is also something the defense and special teams earned):
Michigan's average starting field position: their own 30.9 yard line.
Average starting field position on scoring drives: Utah's 35 yard line.
The only scoring drive that didn't begin in Utah territory was the field goal, and even that series began on the 50.

The Incredible Frozen Offensive Line
So, uh what was with the plays where the offensive line didn't move?

There are two theories:
  • It was just a trick play.
  • Michigan's center was trying to catch the Utes offsides.
I believe, at least partially, in theory number 2, since the second time Michigan ran this play, the referees seemed to miss an egregious offsides penalty by Utah's entire defensive line. It could also be a trick play, but it seems a little counter intuitive to:
  1. Trick the defensive line into not rushing.
  2. Roll out, away from a presumably non-rushing defensive line.
  3. Throw a fade route, designed to hope that the DB doesn't notice the play has started, when he isn't really watching the O-line for the beginning of the play anyway.
If anyone else has further insights about this, by al means, speak up.

For this week's Inside the Play, I'll be breaking down the Nick Sheridan touchdown pass to Michael Shaw.

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Friday Night Lights 2009: August 30

by Tim

A weekly look at how Michigan's football commitments performed in their high school games. Check back throughout the day, as there may be updates. Also, high school news isn't particularly easy to come by in all cases. If you were there, or have an article/video that can give more insight, I encourage you to share in the comments.

TX QB Shavodrick Beaver Rider's season hasn't started yet, but here's some preseason fluff.
MI RB Teric Jones Cass Tech wins 37-0. Can't find an article with stats, but have heard Teric Jones was over 100 yards in the first half, and didn't play in the second.
OH RB Fitzgerald Toussaint Liberty defeats Niles 48-9. Toussaint racks up 209 rush yards and 4 TDs.
FL RB Vincent Smith Pahokee loses to Olive Branch 48-47. Smith ran for 135 yards and 2 TDs on 17 carries. He also was in and out of the game with cramps. More info.
MN WR Bryce McNeal Breck defeats Concordia 27-20. Can't find any stats for McNeal.
FL Slot Jeremy Gallon Apopka defeats Seabreeze 39-0. Gallon ran for nearly 200 yards in one half.
IL OL Michael Schofield Sandburg wins 17-14. Can't find any stats for the game.
MI DT William Campbell Cass Tech wins 37-0. Can't find an article with stats, but DTs rarely rack up big numbers anyway.
LA DT DeQuinta Jones Bastrop dominates a pair of scrimmages. No mention of Jones.
IN LB Jordan Barnes Homestead loses to Warsaw 29-22. No stats article.
FL LB Brandin Hawthorne Pahokee loses to Olive Branch 48-47. No specific mentions of Hawthorne, but "Several defensive players were angry with themselves over missed tackles, the worst of which happened on Olive Branch's go-ahead touchdown." Hmm. More articles.
FL S Mike Jones Edgewater's season starts Friday.
OH S Isaiah Bell Liberty defeats Niles 48-9. No stats given for Bell.
OH CB Justin Turner Washington loses to Jordan (UT) in the Herbstreit Classic. Turner finished with 128 rushing yards. UPDATE: Article here. 17-14 loss (under somewhat sketchy circumstances), Turner had 128 on 23 carries.
TX CB/WR DeWayne Peace South Grand Prairie lost 38-0. Peace had 7 receptions for 78 yards, ad one rush for a loss of 7.
TX K Anthony Fera Pius wins 38-20. Fera kicks a 39-yarder and hits 5 extra points.

Well, that's what I found. Time to help out, readers. If you happen across an article about any of these guys' games, drop a link in the comments.

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Instant Reaction

Saturday, August 30, 2008 by Paul

At halftime, I was trying to think of what I would post about the game. I made a note to find someone getting hit with a football in the nuts on youtube. Unfortunately that was somewhat hard to find (I was a little surprised). I settled on this:

I'm not sure what happened at halftime, (whatever it was, I'm sure Nick Sheridan didn't feel well after...), but the defense played like it should have all game. In the second half, Utah only had drive over 10 yards (the first of the half where they got a first down on their first play and then got stymied). That's dominant, but I'm not sure how good Utah is, and how much those low yardage totals are because of the dumb Utah penalties.

The first half was absolutely horrible. It looked like we had a walk-on sophomore starting, no offensive line talent and running backs who were running scared. Seriously, is Nick Sheridan the Jason Gingell of quarter backing? I have to think Gingell was really good in practice. Luckily it only to the staff a half and not 3-4 games to pull Sheridan. The defense seemed to worry more about keeping Johnson's jersey clean than covering anything between the hashes.

The worst call of the game, and I called it before it happened, was trying to get some points before halftime. Sure it's ballsy. Nobody could have predicted the defense coming alive like it did, but I could sure as hell predict Sheridan throwing an interception. That was the difference in the game.

Tim has a more thorough recap coming up tomorrow or Monday.

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Utah Postgame Thoughts

by Tim

Michigan lost a home game to a MWC team, so you can expect that I'm disappointed/angry/horrified, etc.

However, I have to say I'm actually encouraged by today's game.
  • After the defensive players realized that the season had started, and they should probably, you know, play football, that unit completely dominated.
  • The offense was pretty bad. The line was decent for the players that are left one it, but they'll need to improve over the course of the season if Michigan is going to be successful. The QB was pretty bad, but some of it was first-game jitteriness, and some was being rattled by the QB pressure. There should be an improvement by the QBs next week against a much worse defense.
  • The special teams were very good. Nice to see Lopata nail a career-long FG, and see multiple kicks (an extra point and a punt) blocked. What's scary is that I only see this unit getting better during the year.
Of course, it's always a disappointment to lose, but I saw it coming, so it doesn't sting as much as maybe it should. Lowered expectations lead to a happier postgame feeling. If the defense can play all year like it did in the second half, I expect this team to be top-25 quality (even if the record won't reflect that until much later in the year). If the offense can come around, this could be a decent year in Ann Arbor.

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Big Ten 2009 Recruiting Class Rankings 8-30-08

by Tim

Action since last rankings:
8-23-08 Iowa gains commitment from Brandon Wegher.
8-26-08 Illinois gains commitment from Hugh Thornton.
8-29-08 Michigan gains commitments from Vincent Smith and Brandin Hawthorne.

Also, a programming note: Friday Night Lights might be delayed until Sunday this week because I'll be working at the game all day today. Shouldn't matter much, especially since Michigan's newest commits don't play until Saturday anyway.

New Rankings:
#1 Ohio State - 24 commits
LB
*****
Dorian Bell
DT
****
Johnny Simon
DE
****
Melvin Fellows
CB
****
CJ Barnett
WR
****
James Jackson
MLB
****
Storm Klein
MLB
****
Jordan Whiting
RB
****
Jordan Hall
OG
****
Corey Linsley
OT
****
Jack Mewhort
S
****
Jamie Wood
WR
****
Justin Green
RB
****
Carlos Hyde
CB
****
Corey Brown
S
****
Bradley McDougald
WR
****
Chris Fields
CB
****
Dominic Clarke
WR
***
Duron Carter
DE
***
Jonathan Newsome
TE
***
Reid Fragel
DT
***
Adam Bellamy
FB
***
Adam Homan
LB
***
Zach Boren
OL
***
Sam Longo


#2 Michigan - 16 commits
DT
*****
William Campbell
CB
****
Justin Turner
QB
****
Shavodrick Beaver
WR
****
Bryce McNeal
RB
****
Fitzgerald Toussaint
WR
****
Jeremy Gallon
OL
****
Michael Schofield
DT
****
DeQuinta Jones
S
***
Isaiah Bell
WR
***
DeWayne Peace
RB
***
Teric Jones
LB
***
Jordan Barnes
S
***
Mike Jones
K
***
Anthony Fera
LB
***
Brandin Hawthorne
RB
***
Vincent Smith


#3 Notre Dame - 14 commits
RB
*****
Cierre Wood
OL
****
Chris Watt
RB
****
Theo Riddick
DT
****
Tyler Stockton
OL
****
Alex Bullard
CB
****
Marlon Pollard
LB
****
Dan Fox
OL
****
Zach Martin
S
***
EJ Banks
TE
***
Tyler Eifert
MLB
***
Carlo Calabrese
K
**
Nicholas Tausch
TE
**
Jake Golic
P
*
Ben Turk


#4 Michigan State - 15 commits
RB
****
Edwin Baker
RB
****
Larry Caper
SLB
****
Chris Norman
OL
****
David Barrent
WR
****
Donald Spencer
DT
****
Blake Treadwell
QB
****
Andrew Maxwell
WR
***
Patrick White
WR
***
Dana Dixon
LB
***
Tyquan Hammock
OL
***
Micajah Reynolds
OL
***
Nate Klatt
DE
***
Dan France
WR
**
Bennie Fowler
TE
**
Derek Hoebing


#5 Penn State - 16 commits
OT
****
Eric Shrive
CB
****
Darrell Givens
DE
****
Sean Stanley
OT
***
Mark Arcidiacono
S
***
Stephen Obeng-Agyapong
S
***
Malcolm Willis
S
***
Derrick Thomas
C
***
Ty Howle
CB
***
Stephon Morris
WR
***
Brandon Felder
OT
***
Adam Gress
OL
***
Nate Cadogan
RB
**
Curtis Dukes
QB
**
Curtis Drake
OG
**
Frank Figueroa
WR
**
Christian Kuntz


#6 Illinois - 13 commits
DT
****
Lendell Buckner
OT
****
Leon Hill
QB
****
Nathan Scheelhaase
WR
****
Kraig Appleton
RB
****
Bud Golden
WR
****
Terry Hawthorne
OL
***
Andrew Carter
FB
***
Greg Fuller
OL
***
Hugh Thornton
WR
**
Steve Hull
S
**
Tommie Hopkins
CB
**
Joelil Thrash
OL
**
Jake Feldmeyer


#7 Wisconsin - 12 commits
DT
****
Jared Kohout
DE
****
Shelby Harris
OG
***
Ryan Groy
QB
***
Jon Budmayr
OT
***
Zac Matthias
RB
***
Montee Ball
TE
***
Brian Wozniak
MLB
***
Chris Borland
OL
***
Travis Frederick
WR
**
Jeff Duckworth
OL
**
Casey Dehn
S
**
Jason Peprah


#8 Minnesota - 9 commits
RB
****
Hasan Lipscomb
RB
****
Eric Stephens
QB
***
Moses Alipate
C
***
Ed Olsen
OT
***
Josh Campion
WR
***
Victor Keise
OL
***
Brooks Michel
DE
**
Nick Rengel
K
**
Dan Orseske


#9 Indiana - 16 commits
LB
***
Jeremy Gainer
QB
***
Edward Wright-Baker
DT
***
Adam Replogle
WR
***
Jamonne Chester
WR
***
Duwyce Wilson
OL
***
Charles Chapman
QB
***
Dustin Kiel
OL
***
Colin Rodkey
CB
**
Lawrence Barnett
DE
**
Josh Keyt
S
**
Nick Zachery
S
**
Kenny Watkins
S
**
Demetrius Carr
S
**
Ted Bolser
OL
**
Pat McShane
K
**
Mitch Ewald


#10 Iowa - 5 commits
WR
****
Keenan Davis
RB
****
Brandon Wegher
WR
***
Jordan Cotton
FB
***
Brad Rogers
OL
**
Drew Clark


#11 Northwestern - 7 commits
QB
***
Evan Watkins
RB
***
Mike Trumpy
DE
***
Anthony Battle
WR
**
Drew Moulton
OL
**
Brian Smith
OL
**
Taylor Paxton
OL
*
Tim Riley


#12 Purdue - 5 commits
QB
**
Rob Henry
S
**
Ishmael Aristide
WR
**
Gary Bush
DE
**
Shayon Green
DT
* (JC)
Kris Cooke

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Vincent Smith & Brandin Hawthorne Go Blue

Friday, August 29, 2008 by Tim

Pahokee, FL teammates Vincent Smith and Brandin Hawthorne have both announced their intentions to sign letters of intent to Michigan in February. The duo announced their respective decisions today, instead of their original plan, which had them announcing at their team's game against Olive Branch (MS) tomorrow. Smith is a 5-9, 170-lb running back, and Hawthorne is a 6-0, 185-lb linebacker who boasts a 4.7 40-yard dash.

Recruiting Notes
Michigan fans first became aware of Pahokee High School when slot receiver Martavious Odoms joined the class of 2008 in February. They quickly learned of Odoms's younger teammates, including WR Nu'Keese Richardson (Florida commit) and Smith and Hawthorne. Smith was the first of the two added to the board, when he reported in March that he was about to receive a Michigan offer. That offer became public in June, and Hawthorne was added to the recruiting board shortly thereafter, when he placed Michigan in his top two, despite not reporting an offer. In early July, Brandin stated that he wouldn't make a school decision until after he had taken his official visits. However, in the middle of July, both he and Smith stated that they would announce their college decisions on August 30th at their game against Olive Branch. At the end of July, the duo started dropping none-too-subtle hints that Michigan would be the choice for both Blue Devils. Towards the end of August, both Hawthorne and Smith announced that they had set up 5 official visits, though they still planned to announce on August 30th (an announcement that they subsequently moved forward by one day). With the final choice of Michigan, it is unlikely that they will have spots reserved for them in the class if they still intend to take officials to schools other than Michigan. The runners-up for Smith were Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Tennessee. finishing in second for Hawthorne was Louisville.

Player Notes
Both players may be considered slightly undersized for their positions, though Rich Rodriguez has focused on adding speed to the team first, and will likely worry about size and speed in future classes. Smith projects as yet another RB/Slot combo, with his diminutive stature and decent quickness. Hawthorne is probably going to end up as a weakside linebacker unless he has a pretty significant growth spurt. He will have to add a ton of mass to play linebacker, and hopefully he won't lose too much speed doing so in Mike Barwis's program.

Video

Pahokee's spring game, courtesy of our friends at SoFLAFootball.com. Unfortunately, the video quality is a little too low to get any great detail.

The Vincent Smith Story from PrepTicket.

Etc.
With a pipeline to Pahokee High School now firmly established, Michigan is likely to go after Doral Willis, a top defensive tackle/offensive line prospect in the class of 2010. In addition, Nu'Keese Richardson, who liked Michigan early in the process but is a Florida commit, has expressed interest in visiting Ann Arbor with Smith and Hawthorne this year. Both Smith and Hawthorne have stated that plan to enroll at Michigan in January.

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And We're Here

by Paul

For the last 9 months, I've been obsessively reading everything I can find about the football team. I've tried to make it to as many events as possible. I've done everything I could to figure out what Michigan is going to look like tomorrow.

I have no clue.

The floor for this team is lower than I want to admit and lower than most Michigan fans have ever experienced. One or two injuries in the wrong places and the Wolverines are conference basement dwellers. The ceiling could be as high as second in the conference. I can't see Michigan winning more than 10 games (11 with the bowl), but I can also easily see 7-8 losses.

This is something Michigan fans don't deal with. High expectations dashed to bits by poor performance or predictable play calling, sure. But there's always that knowledge that Michigan will win most of its games and play in a bowl game, that except for maybe one or two games, they are the better team on the field. I don't feel that safety net this year.

Maybe that's why I am more excited for this game than any Michigan game since I've been a student. Even the Epic Greatest Game Ever of the Week 2006 OSU game, which lived up to it's billing. That was big for a game. Michigan vs. Utah is a game for a generation. I get to be in the stands at the biggest epoch in 40 years for arguably the greatest program in college football.

It's a new, uncomfortable yet envigorating feeling. It's an amazing time to be a Michigan fan.

And for the love of God, wear a maize shirt.

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Preview: Utah Utes

by Tim

As I noted in our summer preview of Utah, the Utes are probably going to be among the better teams that Michigan plays this year. Speaking with Daily Utah Chronicle writer Tony Pizza didn't dissuade me from that position.

Utah has experience on both sides of the ball, and quarterback Brian Johnson is finally healthy after suffering a multitude of injuries over the past two years. The offense should hum along, and the defense should be competent. The run defense appears to be a bit of a weakness for Utah, with a light group of starters on the line. That is probably how Michigan will primarily move the ball, especially with the quarterback situation still not settled.

Marquis Wilson, as predicted in the summer, is suspended for this game (and in fact, the entire year). One other thing that may give Michigan fans a bit of hope is the poor job Utah did defending the option against Navy last year. I predicted that they wouldn't be able to defend our option all that well before even seeing the stats. Navy ran for 316 yards on Utah in the Poinsettia Bowl, and managed to pass for 122 yards, 30 more than their season average.

The key for Michigan is to get a fast start. If they can get the first score, and a bit of momentum going, they should be able to take control of the game. Even a score on special teams on the opening kick could help make Utah think "Jesus these guys are good!" (Note: I usually think scoring on the opening kick is a disadvantage, because it makes the scoring team complacent. However, I think this Michigan team has something to prove in game one, and Utah may be fearing an obvious talent disparity). Utah has developed something of a reputation for road game chokes against BCS teams early in the season under Whittingham, and any sign that they are in for another round of the same may make the team fold.

Predictions:
Michigan's offense won't light up the scoreboard, but they will be surprisingly competent.
Michigan's defense won't live up to the 1997/2006-ish expectations that are being thrust upon it.
Michigan walks away the victor (barely) in a fairly low-scoring battle, winning 23-20.

What say you, fair fans of Varsity Blue?

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The Shafer Profile Part II

Thursday, August 28, 2008 by Tim

The part with the videos.

Now that we've familiarized ourselves with some of Shafer's credential's, let's delve into some tape from last year's Cardinal and take a look at his schemes (spoiler alert: lots of blitzing).

Shafer runs a multiple-front defense, with a base 4-3. Against spread-type offenses, he'll use a package called the "3-4 Okie" which, as the name implies, is a 3-4 scheme. The purpose of the Okie scheme is to disguise defenses so the offense can never tell who is actually blitzing on a given play. Often, on of the linebacker positions will be manned by a safety (or a LB/S hybrid) for a sort of 3-3-5 look, but with two safeties high.

4-3
One of Shafer's favorite blitzes from the 4-3 stack is a dual-OLB fire.



There are also several other blitzes where he will send at least one linebacker, but often more.


3-4 Okie
The design of this package is intended to confuse the offense into not knowing who will rush on a given play. For much more on the Okie, read up on it over at 3 and Out, run by an MGoBlog commenter/high school coach who runs the Okie as his base package.


Risks
While an aggressive defense can help generate pressure on the quarterback, there are also disadvantages. For example, if the defense overpursues, they will be vulnerable to misdirection, such as counter runs and screen passes. In addition, if the pressure package doesn't get to the quarterback, there isn't going to be as much help in the secondary. An aggressive blitz scheme can often leave the secondary in man coverage.

When you have the athletes to match up (which Michigan will in most of its games this year), it can work to your advantage. However, it can create mismatches for the offense to exploit.


Losing to the Irish
For those worrying about how Shafer lost to Notre Dame, there is a little bit of reassurance to be had. For one thing, The Irish had a drive that was all of 14 yards, and the other two scoring drives were aided by big plays that were the result of poor execution (or simply not having the talent that Notre Dame boasts), not poor scheming.

Ed. Note: Thanks to Mike Gleeson, Stanford Video Coordinator for the game film, and to VB ├╝ber-commenter RJ for hooking me up with Gleeson.

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Recruiting Update 8-28-08

by Tim

The board can be found here. I'm still trying to decide which days/how often to post recruiting updates. Until I settle into something of a rhythm during the season, I'll just post them as the post fills up.

New Information:
MI WR Cameron Gordon. He is in no hurry to make a decision. I wonder ig Michigan will pursue him a little stronger now that they want his 2010 teammate Devin Gardner.
TN WR/DB Marsalis Teague. He may take a Michigan visit.
MI TE Dion Sims. Still hasn't made up his mind, but his current choice is basketball over football.
GA TE Terrell Mitchell. Michigan is outside his top 3 (SoCar, WVU, Kentucky). With the Wolverines not really planning on taking a pure TE, he may be close to removal from the board.
CA OL Michael Philipp. USC starts showing some interest.
MD LB Jelani Jenkins. Michigan will make his next cut (Sam Webb Audio). Sounds like Michigan made quite an impression on his visit.
NJ DE Anthony LaLota. No longer planning an early decision, Michigan official tentatively scheduled for Wisconsin game (Sam Webb Audio, same as above).
AZ DE Craig Roh. Sam Webb fluff from the Detroit News. Remember, Roh is officially visiting this week.
SC S David Sims. Michigan out of his top 5. It's unclear from the article whether that is "top" or "final," so he remains on the board for now.
Also: Vincent Smith and Brandin Hawthorne have moved up their announcement(s) from their game Saturday to tomorrow.

Removed:
KY DE Trevor Foy. He is down to a final 2 of Purdue and Louisville.
MD OL Brennan Williams. Down to a final 3 that doesn't include Michigan.

Etc.:
MI DT commit William Campbell:Uh... yeah.
IN LB Commit Jordan Barnes. Fluff from the hometown paper.
Plantation, FL guys all plan to graduate early, take the info just in case Michigan nabs one of them.

Etc.:
If anyone manages to catch the Miami (Oh) game against Vanderbilt tonight, e-mail me your thoughts. I's on ESPNU and I won't be able to make it somewhere to watch.

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Preseason Mailbag

by Tim

Chen Geng (whose name can be pronounced in such a way that it sounds eerily/hilariously similar to "chain gang"):
Since it seems this season will go where the OL goes, what's the injury history been for RR's WVU teams? Did Barwis use chocolate milk to make their knees unbreakable?

Much thanks for the site.
It is my (and a generally-held) opinion that injuries are mostly freak occurences, and you can only prepare for them so much. That said, West Virginia has had a lot of luck (or injury prevention ability, if you believe in such a thing) over the past couple years. They bring back five starters this year, all of whom started most of last year except the right tackle, who started the final 6 contests.

Michigan, by contrast, started a smorgasbord of starting lineups, with Jake Long, Justin Boren, and Adam Kraus the only consistent starters (and even then Kraus and Boren trading starts at two different positions). Alex Mitchell, Corey Zirbel, Steve Schilling, Jeremy Ciulla, Mark Ortmann, etc., all started games as well. Of course, part of this was due to lack of production, rather than injuries (though they played a big part as well), but you can see that consistency is a big part of success.

So, it appears as though West Virginia has been mostly lucky in the past few years in terms of keeping starters along the O-line uninjured. If you believe that Barwis's exercises have some sort of magical ligament-fortifying power (Corey Zirbel would tend to disagree), then the futur might look bright for Michigan offensive lines.

Tony in Markley (for the record, I love the use of dorm name for location, rather than, you know, where you're from):
So, uh, what would a Forcier commit mean in comparison to Michigan just keeping Newsome committed?
Well, for the short-term, it is much, much better. Forcier is the most ready of all of Michigan's quarterback prospects to step in a contribute right away. Like many of the SoCal QB prodigies (yes, including Jimmy Clausen), he has a private QB tutor, so his mechanics and reads, etc., are well ahead of your average high schooler. That, in combination with his predicted early enrollment, would mean he might be able to challenge for a starting job in 2009. That said, any true freshman is going to be a liability as a starting QB, but Forcier would be the best to step in as a true.

In the long-term, Newsome has a higher ceiling as a prospect. He is taller, faster, probably a little stronger in the arm department. That said, he is raw as a quarterback. Even an early enrollment (which he is/was also planning on doing) wouldn't be enough time to get a QB like Newsome ready to play as a true freshman. However, he could have been an unstoppable beast down the road, once he became familiar with the responsibilities of the quarterback, and capable of doing what he needs to do to succeed.

I'll also take this opportunity to give a WTF to the stated reason for his decommitment. Newsome's father said he "heard" (ed note: this means the coach at another school, with no motivation to lie whatsoever) that Michigan wouldn't give Kevin a legitimate shot at playing quarterback. Instead, he "heard" that they would give him one chance then switch his position. This does not make sense. The Newsomes believed the most obvious bullshit negative recruiting about THE ONE school that had no intentions of ever even considering making Kevin play anything other than quarterback.

Matt from Louisiana (since I've had parenthetical commentary on each commenter so far, I'll disclose that I know Matt personally, and he wasn't expecting my answer to come in mailbag form):
Tim,

This individual was not the first to suggest such an idea:

http://www.fannation.com/blogs/post/209097

But what are you thoughts on a SEC-Big 10 Challenge over Labor Day weekend (ala Big 10-ACC challenge on the hardwood)? As the NFL would not have started, you can have games on 3 days. You would rotate sites and let the 6th place team in SEC East/West (rotate) sit out. In the current state of college football, this is merely interesting fodder for discussion. However, upon moving to a playoff system (which will happen eventually), I think school presidents will value the growth of their sport (and ratings and revenue) over playing a really tough game (and a potential loss) the first weekend of the season.

-Matt

Corso makes Gameday go. I can only listen to the smart Herbstreit talk college football for about 1.5 hours. But I will stick around for 2 hours to see that PLUS Corso's antics.
Matt, as the proud proprietor of a blog, I reserve the right to condescendingly answer your question in mailbag form, rather than the simple e-mail that you definitely would have preferred.

However, from a strictly economic sense, I'm not sure that this would be a guaranteed way to make more money. Take the excuse of Bill Martin for not playing a tougher out-of-conference schedule (which, essentially, this would be forcing schools from each conference to do): they simply can't afford it. Of course "can't afford it" is secret code for "can make more money with a different system," in this case playing Notre Dame and a rotating series of tomato cans. If you guarantee 3 home games, and shell out a half-million bucks to the helpless opponents (helpless unless, of course, it's Appalachian State - too soon?), you are still netting more than going year-on, year-off in a home-and-home scenario, since you make the same amount off TV either way. Some teams, including those in the SEC, have neutral-site OOC games to make more money, but it is literally impossible to sell more tickets at any other venue than The Big House, Happy Valley, or The Shoe.

With the Big Ten locked into contracts with the Big Ten Network and ESPN, and the SEC's recently-signed deal with the ESPN family of networks, there isn't much of a way for the conferences or the schools themselves to make much more cash by playing a good OOC schedule. The networks can make more money by promising better ratings and charging more for ad time (which, technically, in the case of the BTN would make more money for conference schools), but this revenue typically doesn't trickle down to the schools.

Also, there is the issue of coverage. Every weekend that Big Ten teams are in action, the BTN is guaranteed at least three games to cover. In SEC country, that would mean 3 SEC games that fans can't see (and, knowing SEC fans, they wouldn't even PPV the games, because they wouldn't dare contribute money to the Big Ten).

While I think that such an idea would be good for college football, in addition to being downright entertaining (and perhaps being a yearly notch in the conference supremacy belt), when it's all about the benjamins, a Big Ten-SEC Challenge isn't an economically preferred system.

As far as the GameDay thing, Orson Swindle posted a pretty good synopsis of my feelings about it under his flesh name over at The Sporting Blog.

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And for the Rest of the Fans...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008 by Tim

Paul posted a list of guidelines for those fortunate enough to sit in the student section for Michigan games, and Maize N Blue Nation has responded. What should those fans relegated to the rest of the stadium do? Check it out here.

I'd like to contribute the following addenda (while strongly endorsing the "be kind to opposing fans" and "support the team with noise" points):
  • Wear maize. I don't care if you have a vintage Tom Brady Orange Bowl jersey. Wear it at the tailgate or in front of the TV. A maize shirt costs you a maximum of 16 dollars (and even that's only if you get the official T-shirt). Wear it.
  • If a play that you predicted is called (successful or otherwise), don't gloat or say "I told you so." It pretty much just makes you "that guy."
  • If you know the answer to a question the people around you are searching for, tell them. That said, don't act like an asshole know-it-all.
  • Support the team, the cheerleaders, the band, and everything that makes Michigan's gameday unique and amazing.
Enjoy yourselves. Only 3 more days until the Best Time of Year.

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The Shafer Profile Part I

by Tim

Defensive Coordinator Scott Shafer hasn't been discussed nearly as much as OC Calvin Magee, mostly because Magee has always been by Rich Rodriguez's side, and it is a little more obvious to see what he has done in his career.

However, Shafer is an accomplished coordinator himself, known for an aggressive style that calls for blitzes frequently. In fact, Shafer's teams have led the nation in sacks on an occasion or two. Let's take a look at Shafer's years as defensive coordinator.

Northern Illinois
Category
Prev
2000
2001
2002
2003
Run D
190
60
66
38
47
Pass D
17
53
69
103
75
Total D
3
53
70
73
56
Pass Efficiency D
3
90
63
55
37
Scoring D
3
60
68
49
31

After a year as the secondary coach at Illinois (where he coached CB Kelvin Hayden into a second-round draft pick), Shafer returned to the defensive coordinator position, this time at Western Michigan.

Western Michigan
Category
Prev
2005
2006
Run D
108
56
6
Pass D
108
116
57
Total D
115
108
11
Pass Efficiency D
116
87
34
Scoring D
114
93
39
Sacks
-
23
1
Leading Sackers 2006
Player
Pos.
Sacks
Rank
Ameer Ismail
LB
17
1
Zach Davidson
DL
8
44
Matt Buskirk
LB
3.5
-
Nick Varcadipane
DL
2.5
-
Austin Pritchard
LB
2
-

It was at Western Michigan that Shafer worked the most magic. The Broncos improved in every relevant category in Shafer's very first year (the decline in total pass defense can be attributed to more attempts, as the Bronco's run defense was immediately upgraded), often by a very large margin. By his second year in Kalamazoo, Shafer's Western defense was #11 in all the land, despite giving up 39 points in their first game of the season (to Indiana). He turned Ameer Ismail, an OLB who wasn't even sniffed by the NFL, into the nation's leading sacker.

Stanford
Category
Prev
2007
Run D
117
77
Pass D
23
107
Total D
97
98
Pass Efficiency D
60
84
Scoring D
108
65
Sacks
111
11
Leading Sackers 2007
Player
Pos
Sacks
Rank
Clinton Snyder
LB
8
32
Pat Maynor
LB
6
58
Pannel Egboh
DL
6
78
Udeme Udofia
DL
4.5
142
Chike Amajoyi
LB
4.5
156

Stanford was another case of Shafer making an impact in year one. Of course, there is the marquee moment of the Cardinal's upset over USC (they were one of only 3 teams to hold the Trojans to under 24 points), but the team improved overall during the course of the season as well. The big improvement, once more, was in terms of pass sacks. Keep in mind that these improvements took place against teams with far more talent than Stanford (UCLA, Oregon, Notre Dame, Cal), and it's easy to see why people are excited about Shafer wearing the maize and blue. One thing to point out, however, is that his pass efficiency defense has always taken a step back in year one. With returning corners, but new safeties, it should be interesting to monitor how that goes. One would expect, with more pressure on the quarterback, that efficiency would go down.

For those questioning Shafer's "Michigan Man" credentials, there are a few pieces of evidence to the contrary. First, he was an assistant at Western Michigan for two years, and is familiar with the state dynamics. Secondly, there is a rather incredible story linking Shafer to Bo Schembechler since Scott's much younger days. It's a good read, and I recommend checking it out.

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A Guide to the Student Section

by Paul

As a four year veteran of the student section, I've seen a lot of awesome things in the student section as well as some things I wish I could forget. In order to make the student section as good as possible I'm going to share some tips to emphasize the good and hopefully prevent the bad.
  1. Dress Appropriately: First of all, for students, there are no special Maize Out games. Every game is a Maize Out, so wear your football t-shirt or other appropriate yellow garment (the disgusting mustard color from discount sporting goods stores is discouraged, but better than nothing). Also, the first few games of the year will test your endurance in intense heat and sun. I suggest either copious amounts of sun block or a stylish maize hat. If you are a hot girl, maize bathing suits are acceptable. Later in the year, especially with 3:30 starts, the game will begin warm and then get very chilly by the end (think '04 MSU). Wear layers, always making sure the outer layer is maize.
  2. Be in Game Shape: I don't mean this athletically, but fans do have certain responsibilities and you can't cheer and scream if you're passed out standing up. Some people enjoy pre-gaming or tailgating (I've been known to), but it's important to keep it within reason in order to enjoy the game. Remember: by the second half you're past drunk and entering hang over.
  3. Be Prepared: Especially with the early season games, I'll grab a dollar bill and a hand full of change before I head to the stadium. Usually on Hoover, I'll stop and buy a water, but I won't open it. You will always be able to get un-opened water bottles into the stadium. Then, safely in the stands, I replenish my fluids, insert the coins into the water bottle and have a very effective noise maker.
  4. You're with Students: The student section is not part of the family game day atmosphere. It is a teeming mass of 17-24 year olds hopped up on booze, hormones and fanaticism. Four letter words ought not be discouraged unless used in the least creative cheer ever (within the confines of the student section). That being said, mean-spirited slurs directed at opposing players or other fans are not cool.
  5. The Others: I've been to a few away games, but not in the stands at the schools who hate Michigan the most. It's fun and usually those fans that travel are really great college football fan who most of us can relate to. That being said, if they are in the student section, jokes made about their intelligence, economic standing, sexual preference, sexual deviancy, facial hair, etc. drawn from widely accepted facts about their university are acceptable within reason. Getting in their faces after Michigan scores or physical attacks are bush league and not acceptable. You can support your team without giving its fans a bad reputation. This also means that outside the student section (and outside the stadium), you should a least be tolerant of other schools' fans.
  6. Comfortable Shoes: The only acceptable times to sit down are before the band takes the field for pre-game, half time (unless the band does something exceptionally awesome) and after the game if you like being trampled. Also, if you hear The Victors, you should be standing, clapping, fist pumping, and singing: no exceptions.
  7. Don't Be That Guy: If you are sitting below row 80 and hear a cow bell and say anything related to the Christopher Walken sketch on SNL lampooning "Don't Fear the Reaper" by Blue Oyster Cult, I hate you. Freshman year it's acceptable and funny for the first few games. Beyond that, seriously, that sketch was on like 8 years ago. Sure there isn't a lot of cowbell-centric humor out there, but don't just retread. Same thing goes for waving your Key-card on 3rd down. Not only is it not funny, it takes all that is bad with "key play" and leaves all the good (the pleasant jingling).
  8. Don't Be That Brah: If you come in past kick-off, don't expect to sit exactly where your tickets tell you your seats are. Actually, never expect that. Being off by one row or having to sit back towards the endzone slightly more doesn't matter. You'll enjoy the game just the same as well as not coming off as dick.
  9. Be Loud: Before every play on defense there should be such a raucous cacophony coming from the student section the offense just gives up and the QB punts on first down. Maybe this will never happen, but it is still the goal. Participation in all cheers is somewhere between mandatory and strongly encouraged. Take your breaks on a second down when Michigan has the ball. If you insist on participating in the "key play" nonsense, at least make a reasonable amount of other noise as well.
  10. Stay Positive: It makes the game much less fun when you're bitching about every play on offense that isn't a first down and every play on defense that isn't a turnover. Games ebb and flow, stay centered maaaaan... If you really can't help being negative, start making $1 bets with the person next to you (e.g. "$1 says we're running a zone stretch left"). Either way you'll lose.
If you have any suggestions for surviving and thriving in the student section, please leave them in the comments.

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