- Cornerback play in Don Brown's system
- Shea Patterson's fast integration into the system
- Karan Higdon becoming a workhorse
- The backup quarterback situation
[After THE JUMP: Your kickoff coverage ain't got nothing on Rutgers]
[After THE JUMP: Your kickoff coverage ain't got nothing on Rutgers]
What did you like out of Nico Collins in Saturday’s game?
[Ed-Ace: Please join us in welcoming aboard new press conference correspondent Ethan Sears, whose work you may have seen at the Michigan Daily and UMHoops. Don't worry, Adam isn't going anywhere—you'll be seeing his posts soon, too.]
“How we doing?”
(Everybody, all together) Pretty good.
So, what were sort of the qualities that set Shea (Patterson) apart from the other quarterbacks, that you feel won that job?
“I think Shea has shown in big games, over the course of his short career that he can make plays. And,not that the other quarterbacks can’t make plays, but he offers just an ability to make the on-schedule plays and the off-schedule plays, and we’re excited about having that element in our offense.”
So was experience a big part of that then?
Exactly how close, was it a close competition? And at what point in camp, any point I guess, was it clear that Shea was the guy?
“Yeah, it was an extremely close competition. I think coach (Jim) Harbaugh had talked throughout the offseason about the possibility of making that decision right up to gameday at Notre Dame. Possibly take that long. And the other guys, they showed tremendous growth from spring practice to training camp, and they played well. They did a lotta good things as well, but ultimately, coach decided to go with Shea.”
So would announcing Shea as the starter two weeks before, I guess that kinda gives the idea that you guys have known for a while. So, would it be unfair to assume that it wasn’t a close competition?
“That wasn’t the case at all. I don’t know that we’ve known for a while. Only coach Harbaugh knew when he wanted to announce it and who that guy would be, but we thought we have four candidates that are very qualified to go out and play a high level of football for us.”
Pep, how are Brandon (Peters) and Dylan (McCaffrey) different now than they were maybe in January?
“They’re a year older. You know, they have more experience and more time with the offense and within the system. They have — Brandon in particular — having played in games last year, just has a better understanding of the urgency with which you have to make decisions in real games.”
And how has Brandon handled this whole thing from your — you’re around every day. How has he handled Shea coming in and now he’s not the starter and all that sort of stuff?
“He has been consistent. He’s never stopped preparing. He’s a competitor, so of course he wants to be out there, and if he ever had to get out there, I feel like he would go out and play at a high level.”
Who’s number two on the depth chart right now?
“I don’t know. We don’t have a depth chart.”
Who would go in if Shea got hurt?
“Coach Harbaugh would decide.”
[Hit THE JUMP for more Nico Collins hype plus much more.]
There is a fairly convincing body of evidence that All Of This Is My Fault, that Michigan football will not be on top of the world again until I am locked in the trunk of a car somewhere. Last year's edition of this post is in that pile somewhere near the top. You see, I once again pointed out Jim Harbaugh's flawless record of quarterback development. Give or take a Stanford third-stringer, literally every quarterback Jim Harbaugh's ever coached has exceeded expectations:
DOES THIS THING HAVE A DIFFICULTY LEVEL HARDER THAN "INSANE"
Jim Harbaugh is a kid sitting in a basement frustrated because Dark Souls is too easy. Sure, he crafted the first draft pick of any variety in San Diego history. He beat USC with a pottery major. He got Alex Smith a 70-million dollar contract. He nearly won a Super Bowl with a guy the league is currently passing over in favor of Stoney Case. (For bad reasons, admittedly.) And he turned an Iowa castoff into an NFL draft pick and in-demand trade bait.
Quarterbacks? Quarterbacks are easy.
At some point a Michigan fan is going to set me on fire and it'll be justified. It turns out there is a QB coaching difficulty level that even Jim Harbaugh cannot conquer. Take a QB room crafted by Al Borges*, replace the offensive line with those little strips in Mario Kart that make you go faster, and it's time to rage-quit. Amongst the many grim aspects of last year's offense was a roster-wide QB implosion:
The utter ineptitude of Michigan's pass protection had something to do with the above, but that was bad all season. The arrows here are all pointing the wrong way. Speight wasn't around long enough to get Devin Gardner'd but still seemed like he'd gone backwards in the offseason, converting from a quarterback who was sneaky great at buying an extra second to get a throw out to someone who looked deeply uncomfortable most of the time. After Air Force:
The guy who was a pressure maestro last year seems gone. Even when he did the very good pressure thing in this game he immediately assumes he's running the ball in from the eight and only changes his mind very late. Grant Perry is running wide open directly in front of his face as he does this:
Crawford can and should help him out later in the play, but I don't understand why the rollout to the side of the field your best WR is running a route in does not immediately trigger "look at your best WR." ...
Speight's getting sped up by his mediocre pass protection, but make no mistake: it is mediocre. It is not terrible, or even bad. Per Football Outsiders the average NFL team gives up a pressure 27% of the time, and while college is different for a lot of reasons I'd be surprised if that wasn't pretty close. Michigan's protection metrics so far: 69%, 80%, 69%. That's not much different than it was last year, when Speight was operating at a higher level. He is making more mistakes, regardless of the youth around him.
Things got infinitely worse on the OL about two seconds after that post went up, but Speight only suffered about a half of the worst case scenario in pass protection before it fractured one of his vertebra and eventually ended his Michigan career.
But it's a blip, right? Probably a blip. One bad, weird year doesn't erase the annual litany of success this post rolls out. Please do not train dogs to smell and then bite me.
*[I promise** this is the last time you'll ever have to hear this, but: with Wilton Speight's transfer to UCLA, Al Borges *never* recruited a quarterback who finished his career as the starter at his original school. Speight and IU QB-turned-TE Cam Coffman were the only guys to even start a year. Also: Borges crafted the QB room by recruiting Speight and Shane Morris and then taking a year off, necessitating Michigan's swing at a transfer they knew little about right after Harbaugh arrived.]
**[read as "do not promise"]
Ole Miss's NCAA implosion was richly deserved and very, very stupid from the beginning so it's only appropriate that its spectacular finale featured Hugh Freeze repeatedly calling escort services on a phone subject to FOIA. A local Sonic manager named Matt Luke was hurriedly promoted, the Rebels cratered their season, and the NCAA hit them with a 2018 bowl ban.
Various players took this as the sign to leave, amongst them former five-star QB Shea Patterson. Patterson transferred to Michigan and is immediately eligible due to... something or other. The NCAA changed some rule that allowed Ole Miss to say "sure, go ahead" without accepting a document full of allegations that paint Ole Miss in a bad light, and AD Ross Bjork took advantage of that about two seconds after the rule was implemented.
In the aftermath, Michigan has the college equivalent of a high profile free agent signing. Gonna be weird. But... I'll take it.
[After THE JUMP: show them what they've won!]
How up is up? [Bryan Fuller/Patrick Barron]
In the last spring football bits, and then in the podcast, I mentioned that I’d pulled the sophomore/redshirt freshman stats of a couple decades of quarterbacks we know in order to put our two 2016 signal-callers’ 2017s in perspective. I figure I should show that work.
I was trying to answer two questions: where did Peters/Patterson rank among other QBs their age, and what’s a standard progression for a guy who started his second year upon entering his third?
There’s going to be a lot of noise in here so a few things as you peruse:
The Kizer comp for Patterson is pretty close—I’m hesitant to give him Russell Wilson because Wilson had an extremely low interception rate, a trait which seems to presage NFL success. Shea…does not. The good news is the sack rate is correlated with so many things it’s impossible to say if Shea’s higher than normal rate of going down behind the line was indicative of anything. Sometimes it’s just a bad OL.
It was very possible for two QBs on the same team to have dramatically different sack rates. But the stat doesn’t give the reason. Sometimes that really was about poise:
Sometimes however it’s about which part of the schedule you got:
And sometimes it’s completely counter-intuitive:
Other than Denard most running QBs had high sack rates like Shea’s. I can’t tell you why—maybe those guys try escaping instead of throwing it away when under pressure, or maybe being part of the run game gets them sacked because of play-action. The highest sack rating I tracked was Braxton Miller in 2011. Two of the top four are notoriously stoic T.J. Ostrander seasons, and two more in the top ten are 2007 Notre Dame (bad OL). It’s too much to unpack.
[Hit THE JUMP for the Peters projection]
[Ed. A—Thanks to Orion Sang and The Michigan Daily crew for passing along audio]
“Well, I think we’re a tough group. I think we’re a tough group. Without a doubt, we’re still a work in progress. I think when you look at the group as a whole, we have some guys that actually have some game experience, and I feel good, really good about just the overall continuity of our staff and all the experience that we have and all the different ideas and how we were able to input the things that we feel like are going to be necessary for us to be a good offense next year.”
Tough how? More physical?
“I mea, physically tough, but a coach Harbaugh team, a Jim Harbaugh team, is always mentally tough as well. He likes to grind on guys. He likes to challenge guys to push past their threshold of comfort, and so we will be a tough group.”
With no designated offensive coordinator, how is the playcalling going to work?
“Coach Harbaugh, it’s his offense. Everything goes through Coach and it starts and ends with coach Harbaugh.”
Has your role in the offense changed? Are you taking on more responsibilities than last year?
“No. No, not at all.”
How do you and Jim McElwain process things together? Do you get some input from him?
“Yeah, we all work hard together. We all process things together, so to say coach McElwain, coach Warinner, Ron Prince, Ben McDaniels, along with Jay Harbaugh and Sherrone Moore, we work well together and it’s all a collaborative effort to present coach Harbaugh with some ideas of things that we like and he gives us the yes or no.”
So on gameday will there be somebody or will there be more than one person? Have you talked about that yet, who’s going to be talking to Coach?
“It’s always been that way.”
[Hit THE JUMP for impressions of each QB]
“I'd like to thank the Outback Bowl. [Ed. A—And I’d like to thank David Nasternak for being our guy on the ground in Tampa and getting audio of the presser] Great experience. Congratulations to South Carolina on their victory.”
Did you feel it slipping away at any time, or did they get better as the game went along?
“I think they did get better. I think probably a little bit of both those things. They got better as the game went on, no doubt, and made plays to win the football game, and we didn't get the knockout punch when we needed it. We didn't take advantage of the opportunities that were there.”
Can you put your finger on why the defense was having a dominant performance and then it all changed? What did you see in terms of why it changed?
“Yeah, they made a really good throw, really good catch on the touchdown. Made another spectacular throw and catch on the second touchdown pass. Yeah, they executed well, really well, and then our errors, starting with the—really starting with the fumble by Sean McKeon, which was not Sean McKeon’s fault, that was our fault. That was a coaching error. We had the wrong personnel in there, and I should have called time out. And then the other miscues we had.”
Pat Kugler, was he banged up a little bit? Is that why you took him out of the game?
“Yeah, Pat had gotten rolled up on his ankle and gave it a go and was doing fine, but just felt like it was too much to overcome.”
When did you know about that Ben [Bredeson] wasn’t going to be able to play?
“About three weeks ago.”
[After THE JUMP: sifting through what went wrong in search of answers, shooting down NFL rumors (again), evaluating QB play and what it means for 2018]
New year, same Michigan.
In one of the uglier games of an aesthetically unpleasant season, the Wolverines never managed to cobble together a coherent offense, and five-second half turnovers beget 23 unanswered points for South Carolina.
Quarterback Brandon Peters, playing behind a line down three starters by halftime, never looked comfortable. Factoring in two sacks, Peters averaged only 3.7 yards per dropback and missed a number of throws, including two late interceptions to seal the loss. Michigan fared little better on the ground, gaining all of 2.9 yards per carry.
While the Jim Harbaugh takes will reach a level of scorching usually reserved for large celestial bodies, it's fair to criticize the playcalling, which didn't do much to take the pressure off Peters or Don Brown's futilely amazing defense. No single call was responsible for the loss, but the third-and-short handoff to tight end Sean McKeon, fumbled for a South Carolina recovery, defied explanation until Harbaugh, taking responsibility, said after the game that Michigan had the wrong personnel on the field.
That play was just one in a series of mistakes that turned a 19-3 second-half lead into a 26-19 loss. Karan Higdon fumbled inside the South Carolina five-yard line with the Wolverines leading 16-3 and poised to blow the game wide open. After Michigan added a field goal and SC responded their first touchdown drive, McKeon's fumble gave the Gamecocks the ball on the M 21; they needed one play to score again, with Jake Bentley's pass to Bryan Edwards cutting the lead to 19-16.
Michigan's ensuing drive went nowhere, and the defense—as we've seen too many times this year—cracked under the pressure of supporting an inept offense. Bentley improbably converted a third-and-17 on a jump ball to tight end Hayden Hurst; three plays later, Shi Smith beat Tyree Kinnel clean to the pylon for a 53-yard score.
The comedy of errors continued unabated. After driving Michigan 75 yards in seven plays, Peters committed a cardinal sin of quarterbacking, throwing under pressure across his body to get intercepted in the end zone. When the defense held, SC's punt clanged off Donovan Peoples-Jones's facemask, setting up the Gamecocks with the ball in the red zone, where they'd get a critical field goal to take a two-possession advantage.
Down to one timeout in the waning minutes, Harbaugh decided to go for it on fourth-and-ten deep in his own territory, but Peters's deep shot to Kekoa Crawford wasn't anywhere close to a completion. The defense gave Michigan one last chance, pushing SC back to force a missed field goal. Another interception by Peters, forcing it to a well-covered Crawford, ended it.
Fair or not, this will be a long offseason. The mitigating factors, or excuses, or whatever you care to call them, go away in 2018, when the program will be loaded with talent recruited by Harbaugh. They'll certainly look better than this. They'd better look a whole lot better.
Words fail. Holiday greetings from Patrick Kugler, Henry Poggi, and Chris Petzold.
If anyone knows what to do with their hands after seeing this please let me know.
Peters transfer: nope. The lingering concern about Shea Patterson's transfer is that it would cause Brandon Peters to transfer out, thus leaving Michigan just as thin at quarterback and reliant on an NCAA waiver for their presumed starter. That does not appear to be happening. Sam Webb talked to Peters's father; you can listen to a WTKA segment on that conversation—helpfully summarized here—or read his take on The Michigan Insider:
“That's good,” Mr. Peters said of Patterson’s transfer. “Iron sharpens iron. Brandon is up for a good fight. Put the gloves on, (get) both fists up, (and) let's go! Brandon said, ‘bring in 30 QBs. I'm going to my job at hand and work.’
“Coach Harbaugh said it’s going to be a competition and we believe him.”
Webb also cleared up the strange yes-no-yes Patterson saga: Michigan was content to go into 2018 with three quarterbacks, but once Speight decided to grad transfer they wanted to add a guy and Patterson wanted to come, so... yeah.
The grad transfer rule might also be helping Michigan keep Peters around, BTW. He will compete for the job this year. If he doesn't get it he will be the backup; if Patterson's one and done then he's in line for the job again in 2018. If he's not, Peters can almost certainly graduate in 3.5 years and have two to play two, a la Alex Malzone. He doesn't lose anything by staying, and he will be a serious candidate for the job. I'd tentatively give him the edge given his familiarity with the offense.
Not quite crootin' visits of note. JaRaymond Hall took a visit to CMU this weekend, which seems like a significant step towards a transfer. Hall is on the fence after receiving his release earlier this month.
Also: potential Ole Miss transfer Van Jefferson visited Louisville yesterday. As of Monday, Jefferson was the only one of the three guys who had not told a recruiting reporter that he was at least virtually committed, and it appears that there is a genuine race on for his services. Louisville is closer to home since Shawn Jefferson is the Titans' WR coach. If this is a backup plan because of transcripts thing expect that to get resolved almost immediately—all three guys want to be on someone else's campus for the winter semester.
Doesn't sound great for Newsome. This is reading between the lines, admittedly, but that's all we've got here. And if Grant Newsome isn't cleared for spring it's probably not good news for his career:
Michigan left tackle Grant Newsome still holds the goal of being medically cleared to return to football by the start of the 2018 season.
"Before then hopefully," Newsome said Sunday night. "As soon as possible." ...
"Trying to get back on the field as soon as possible," said Newsome, who was honored with the Pete Schmidt Courage Award at the National Football Foundation/Free Press All-State Dream Team banquet in Dearborn on Sunday. "I want to play right now. But it's up to the doctors when they'll let me go."
Not being cleared more than a year removed from his injury is fairly ominous.
Shooter. Adrien Nunez is the who-dat afterthought in Michigan's 2018 basketball recruiting class, at least if you go by rankings. If you go by the ability to make threes off the dribble, though:
That's one game and thus fairly representative. Nunez ventured inside the three point line once; he makes multiple off the dribble threes; he also catches and shoots. Nunez doesn't look like the kind of athlete who gets the shiny rankings, but he looks like a guy who can get his shot in a variety of ways. That shot is always a three pointer. Beilein kind of kid.
A disastrous nonconference schedule. Michigan isn't the only Big Ten team to suffer through a disappointing basketball stretch here. The conference has imploded:
This looks like a four bid league. Northwestern, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Maryland, and Wisconsin have all badly undershot preseason expectations. Michigan really needs this game against Texas tonight and then will have to go... uh... 11-7 in conference play to be on the bubble? Is it that bad? I think it might be.
Etc.: There's an early signing period now. Weird. Jourdan Lewis doing Jourdan Lewis things. Scorekeepers is the most popular Uber destination in Michigan: opposing ridesharing in a college town is tantamount to endorsing drunk driving. Somehow, Michigan—Michigan!—is 335th in FT shooting. FFS.
“Yeah, on behalf of the 2017 Michigan Wolverines football team and the University of Michigan, we’re excited as heck to be coming down to the Outback Bowl. We all have—most of us, anyway, on the team—friends and family in Florida. We are excited about the competition in South Carolina and… hard football team. Been watching them a little bit and they’re tough. They’re really well coached.
“We’re excited about the New Year’s Day game on January 1st. I think it’s gonna be one of the most exciting January 1st lineup of bowl games that I’ve ever seen, so excited to be part of it and can’t wait. Know it’s going to be a lot of preparation our team will take up, get underway here this week.
“We know we’ve got to be better and that starts today and having a great matchup against South Carolina really helps motivate us to do that.”
What’s your reaction to the Big Ten getting shut out of the playoff this year and the decision to go with Alabama over Ohio State?
“My reaction is there should be more than four teams in the playoffs. Again, just to reiterate, eight teams, 12 teams, 16 teams—16 would ideal to be in the playoffs. It would make us more like every other spot, every other collegiate sport that has a playoff, every league in sports that has a playoff and a championship that does it through a playoff format.
“FCS, I mean, they have that format. It’s been in place. I think it’s up to 24 teams now and at that level I think it’s the ideal way to do it, so that’s my first reaction.”
I know you always talk about bowl practices as a way to catapult the team into next season but how much are you guys looking at this bowl game as more of maybe a way to validate the season for yourselves? There were a lot of variables this year: some injuries, three quarterbacks. How much are you looking at this game as kind of more just a validation of this season rather so much than catapulting into next season?
“I’d say both, Adam. Really building and attacking at the same time. This season and next season all at the same time. It’s both.”
If I could follow up real quick, just a few weeks or actually about a month or so of bowl preparation. How much more are you looking to see out of you team going into this bowl game. Is there another level that you feel you can reach that you haven’t reached in the regular season?
“Absolutely. We look at it right now, we’re not good enough. Not good enough to win all our games and we need to be better. We need to be good enough, and that starts now. That starts now, today. That started—well, really started last week, you know, as we go forward building and attacking, using our meeting time, using our training time, using our practice time, [and] this next ball game all to motivate us and improve as a football team.”
[After THE JUMP: Peters’ status (wrt the concussion and otherwise), Speight’s transfer, a Tarik Black update, and a discussion about better redshirt rules]