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Posts Tagged ‘Michigan Wolverines’

New in Blue: 2018 DE Aidan Hutchinson

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017


(Isaiah Hole, 247 Sports)

Aidan Hutchinson – DE | 6-5, 234 | Dearborn, Mich. (Divine Child)
ESPN4-star, #11 DE Rivals: 3-star, N/A 247: 4-star, #5 SDE Scout: 4-star, 16 DE
247 Composite: 4-star #9 SDE, #204 nationally
Other top offers: LSU, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Boston College

Michigan picked up its first commitment since National Signing Day when Dearborn, Mich. native Aidan Hutchinson pledged to the Wolverines on Tuesday evening. He announced the commitment via Twitter just before 10pm local time.

Hutchinson is a legacy commitment, the son of former Michigan star defensive lineman Chris Hutchinson, so his commitment to his father’s school isn’t much of a surprise.

He’s a four-star recruit in the 2018 class according to three of the four major recruiting services. The lone three-star comes from Rivals. 247 Sports ranks Hutchinson the highest as the fifth-best strongside defensive end in the class, while ESPN ranks him as the 11th-best defensive end and Scout 16th. Nationally, ESPN has him 94th overall, 247 has him 97th, and Scout 202nd. Per the 247 Composite, he’s the ninth-best strongside end and 204th-best overall player in the class. But with nearly a year to go before signing day and a full senior year to play, there’s plenty of time to move.

Scout lists Hutchinson’s strengths as athleticism, frame, and intensity/effort while noting his area to improve as disengaging skills. They expand on that with a positive analysis.

“Great frame with plenty of room to fill in and has already started that process. Long arms. Fluid kid with flexibility and ability to bend. Can turn the corner and rush off the edge. Likely grows into a strongside end because he has so much room to add weight. Plays hard and plays physically. Still can improve technique with his hands, but physical tools and intangibles are all there.”

The 6-foot-5, 234-pound end committed to Michigan over Michigan State, LSU, Wisconsin, and Nebraska, to name a few. He’s currently ranked as the fourth-best player in the state of Michigan. He’s the third member of what figures to be a relatively small 2018 class, joining offensive lineman Emil Ekiyor and linebacker Otis Reese.

ChadTough needs your help to win $100k for pediatric brain cancer research

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017


Did you know that only three percent of federal funding for cancer research goes toward pediatric cancer? THREE PERCENT!

We’re not even talking pediatric brain cancer; that’s for all types of pediatric cancer. There is currently no cure for pediatric brain cancer and there are currently no drugs even in development to treat it.

Thus, The ChadTough Foundation needs your help.

Head basketball coach John Beilein is representing ChadTough in its quest to win $100,000 in the 7th Annual Infiniti Coaches Charity Challenge. The Foundation hopes to put that money toward the pediatric brain tumor center at UofM’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, helping to fund research for the disease that tragically took the life of Chad Carr in November 2015.

What do you need to do?

• Vote today, vote tomorrow, vote the day after tomorrow, and every day through March 11
• Share on social media
• Urge your family and friends to vote and share as well

How do you enter?

• First, visit ChadTough.org/vote to sign up for daily email reminders so you won’t forget
• Each day, visit the contest site and vote for John Beilein
• Wash, rinse, repeat

Contest details

As of Wednesday evening, Beilein barely trails Purdue head coach Matt Painter. The current round of the contest runs through Feb. 26 and Beilein has to finish among the top four to advance to the final round.

That’s where it gets most important. The votes reset to zero and the final round runs from Feb. 26 to March 11. This is where it’s important to get off to a fast start and keep the momentum all the way to March 11.

Michigan’s IMG contract prohibits its athletic department from promoting the contest. That means it’s up to you, me, your significant other, your ex, your mom, your dad, your grandparents, your friends, your teacher, your boss, your doctor, your dentist, and your mailman to spread the word.

Why?

Do this in memory of Chad. Do this for the Carr family who have suffered through a loss that no parent should ever have to. Do this for the other hundreds of children who suffer from incurable brain tumors each year, most of whom don’t live more than a year past diagnosis. Do this for Lloyd Carr, who has hope that someday we’ll find a cure.

“We’re going to beat this someday,” he said of Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG). “I won’t be here, but there’s going to be some people who are going to be so lucky that when they take their child and he’s diagnosed and she’s diagnosed, there’s going to be something they can do.

“And a lot of that is going to come back here to the University of Michigan. We’re so fortunate to have this hospital and this university and people who are dedicated to dealing with problems like this.”

Visit ChadTough for more information about the foundation. To read more about pediatric brain cancer and the efforts being made at Mott Children’s Hospital, click here

In? Out? What’s the deal with Michigan basketball?

Friday, February 10th, 2017


(MGoBlue.com)

If there is one thing that every Michigan basketball fan, coach, player, or other affiliate of the program can agree on, it’s this: absolutely no one can get a read on this team.

The 2016-17 squad had an incredible break from the gates, easily dispatching Howard and IUPUI in their regional of the 2K Classic before making quick work of both Marquette and SMU – two victories that still look solid today – to take home the preseason tournament championship.

But since then, it’s been more topsy-turvy than a slinky falling down a staircase. There have been highs – take the two home drubbings of Michigan State and Indiana, for example – and there have been lows (see: a listless loss at South Carolina, a miserable second half faltering versus Virginia Tech, an annihilation by a bad Illinois team, etc.). And then there have been the classic play-to-the-level-of-the-competition heart palpitations against Iowa (loss), Penn State (win), Nebraska (win), Wisconsin (loss), and Ohio State (loss).

So what is the deal with this team? Well, you’d need to find a person willing to sell ice to an Eskimo to have the gall to answer that question with a straight face. The absolute truth is that no one knows what to expect. In fact, I don’t even really know if this team is more likely to finish 0-7 down the stretch or 7-0. It’s just been that type of year.

Derrick Walton Jr has averaged 22.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists the past four games (MGoBlue.com)

On the other hand, there is plenty of information we can glean from watching this team. As most John Beilein-coached teams have been in the past, these Wolverines play exceptional offense, score an inordinately high number of their points from three-point land, make their free throws, and hold onto the ball. They also play poor defense, don’t crash the offensive glass, and don’t see very many free throws taken on either end of the floor. These are pretty hard-and-fast facts.

What makes this team so hard to get a read on, however, is the game-to-game uncertainty of who is going to show up and what character the team is going to display.

We’ve seen Zak Irvin put the team on his back against Virginia Tech, Nebraska, and Wisconsin by attacking the basket (7 made 2pt. FGs in each of those three contests), fighting for rebounds (16 in those three games), and finding his open teammates. But we’ve also seen (or not seen, for that matter) the senior falter in important matchups against South Carolina, Texas, Ohio State, and Michigan State (twice).

Likewise, the team has ridden fellow senior Derrick Walton over the course of the last four games to the tune of his 22.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 5.3 assists during that stretch, but fans seem to forget about the three game stretch in December where the Detroit native failed to crack double digit points, or the 10 games that he’s made three or fewer field goals, or even the nine games that he’s recorded fewer than seven combined assists and rebounds (four of which were losses).

Similar Jekyll/Hyde performances can be found in the game-to-game outputs of the two other Wolverines who have led the team in scoring in at least three games a piece – sophomores Moritz Wagner and D.J. Wilson.

Rarely has more than one player had a bona fide game on any given night. Add to that a defense that has allowed opponents to shoot better than 50 percent from the field on seven different occasions while also forcing seven or more turnovers in seven different games and you have a recipe for uncertainty with a side of unease.

If this team can put together a stretch run to give themselves solid footing on Selection Sunday, the individual players are going to need to start producing with some consistency. No more can we see Derrick Walton look like the only interested party in Maize and Blue. No more can we see Wagner get into foul trouble or fade away from his strengths as a skilled inside-out big man. No more can we this team put it together with an invisible Zak Irvin.

A little help from juniors Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (who’s scored seven or fewer one more game than he’s reached double digits) and Duncan Robinson (double digits 10 times and seven or fewer nine times) could go a long way as well. Combine that with a sprinkling of Xavier Simpson (who looked like the solid point guard prospect that he was for the first time on Tuesday night) and you just might have yourself a recipe for success.

Forget to add a couple of these ingredients, however, and Michigan fans could be left with a bad taste in a month’s time.

Quick Hitters

My Oh My, the Inconsistency

How’s this for some mind-boggling numbers: As of today, Michigan has four wins over teams that should be dancing, according to BracketMatrix.com, in SMU (100% of brackets), Michigan State (92%), Marquette (92%), and Indiana (72%). Those four wins all came in blowout fashion by a combined 99 points, or about 25 points per game.

Michigan’s nine losses, on the other hand, have come by a total deficit of just 78 points, or just more than 8.5 points per game. Six of the losses have come by single digits and three of those were by four points or fewer. This is a team that has talent and can beat up on some pretty good teams but is also susceptible to taking a close loss on any given night as well.

Speaking of Brackets…

Right now, Michigan is the fifth team out of the Big Dance according to BracketMatrix.com (in on only 33.3% of the 105 submitted brackets. Note, however, that more than half of those brackets were last updated prior to Tuesday’s win over MSU) and the third team out in my good friend and trusted bracketologist Joe Cook’s projections at 131 Sports (updated daily – and better than Joe Lunardi, Jerry Palm, and every other national guy since he started a few years back. He is an actuary, after all.). So, that means that Michigan would probably have their bubble popped if today were Selection Sunday. Today is not Selection Sunday.

Looking ahead

Michigan has an opportunity to easy play themselves into the tournament, easily play themselves out of the tournament, or to stay teetering on the same ledge they are staring off right now. There are seven games remaining on the Wolverines’ regular season schedule, including two home games (Wisconsin and Purdue) and five road games (Indiana, Minnesota, Rutgers, Northwestern, Nebraska), before the Big Ten Tournament kicks off for the first time ever in Washington, D.C. (hooray for adding Maryland?).

To me, this looks like a whole lot more good news/bad news. Michigan’s two toughest opponents must travel to Crisler, where the Maize and Blue have been mostly pretty good, with only three losses in the books at home and a couple of their mercy killings coming in Ann Arbor as well. On the other hand, Wisconsin and Purdue are going to be tough outs regardless of what floor they are playing on.

Meanwhile, Indiana has already felt Michigan’s wrath, Minnesota has lost five of seven, Rutgers is…Rutgers, Northwestern has lost two straight and is probably feeling the weight of one million Northwestern fans waiting to be let down once again on Selection Sunday, and Nebraska’s early season Big Ten exploits feel older than the age of the dinosaurs. On the flip side, Michigan has been…let’s just say not good on the road, with an 0-6 record to date.

Now the question we all want answered: What does Michigan have to do to Dance? My guess is that Michigan would be in the Tournament, historically weak bubble and all, with a 4-3 close to the regular season and a first-game win in the Big Ten Tournament. If none of those four wins are over Wisconsin or Purdue and if one or two of those three losses is to Rutgers/Nebraska, then I’m not putting money on it.

I know you want a prediction, but only a fool would be wise enough to give in to those demands.

Actually, who am I kidding? I’m a fool for college basketball: Michigan to finish out the regular season 5-2 with a first round BTT win and a second round loss to get pegged as a 10-seed.

New in Blue: 2017 WR Nico Collins

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017


Nico Collins – WR | 6-5, 195 | Pinson, Ala. (Clay-Chalkville)
ESPN4-star, #21 WR Rivals: 4-star, #17 WR 247: 4-star, #29 WR Scout: 4-star, 24 WR
247 Composite: 4-star #23 WR, #136 nationally
Other top offers: Georgia, Alabama, Clemson, FSU, LSU, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Florida, Miami, Auburn

After plucking five-star defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon out of SEC country on Wednesday morning, Jim Harbaugh won another highly prized recruit right out of the back yard of the big boys in the SEC on Wednesday afternoon. Nico Collins pledged to the Wolverines on National Signing Day, capping the best recruiting classes in program history. He then announced it via Twitter.

Collins is a consensus four-star recruit according to the four major recruiting services and they’re all pretty much in agreement about where he is ranked. Rivals ranks him the highest as the nation’s 17th-best receiver, while ESPN ranks him 21st, Scout lists him 24th, and 247 has him 29th. Nationally, Rivals ranks him 120th, ESPN 150th, Scout 178th, and 247 200th. According to the 247 Composite, he’s the nation’s 23rd-best receiver and 136th-best overall player in the class.

Collins chose Michigan over Georgia and his home-state Alabama Crimson Tide. The 6-foot-5, 195-pound receiver also held offers from most of the South’s top programs including Clemson, Florida State, LSU, Ole Miss, Florida, Auburn, Miami, and more.

Scout lists Collins’ strengths as catching in traffic, hands and concentration, red zone weapon, size, and toughness, while listing his area to improve as elusiveness with catch. Scout praises his ability to make plays and be a deep threat, something Michigan’s passing offense has sorely lacked in recent years.

“An outside wide receiver who has shown the ability to make plays down the field or across the middle. A very dependable wideout who catches the ball well in traffic. Has ideal size and length. Is more of a deep threat. Likes to run deep routes and can get behind defenders. A long strider who covers a lot of ground. Not elite quickness. Solid blocker and a very tough wide receiver.”

Collins joins a great receiving class that includes the nation’s top receiver, Donovan Peoples-Jones, as well as Tarik Black, Oliver Martin, and Brad Hawkins to round out Michigan’s 2017 recruiting class.

New in Blue (again): 2017 DT Aubrey Solomon

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017


(247 Sports)

Aubrey Solomon – DT | 6-3, 305 | Leesburg, Ga. (Lee County)
ESPN4-star, #5 DT Rivals: 5-star, #2 DT 247: 5-star, #5 DT Scout: 5-star, #2 DT
247 Composite: 5-star #2 DT, #25 nationally
Other top offers: Alabama, Georgia, Auburn, Ohio State, Ole Miss, FSU, Florida, USC, Clemson

Michigan kicked off National Signing Day by landing its biggest fish left on the board. Leesburg, Ga. defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon committed to the Wolverines for the second time just before 10am Wednesday morning on ESPNU — and this time it’s for good.

Solomon had long been considered a Georgia or Alabama lean as he lives less than 200 miles from Athens and 250 miles from Tuscaloosa, but the 6-foot-3, 305-pound senior-to-be decided to head north instead after a long and winding recruitment. He first committed to Michigan last June following Jim Harbaugh’s satellite camp at his high school in Leesburg, Ga.

“I was in love with the football aspect of Georgia,” Solomon said at the time. “I was cool with players there, but at the end of the day, it comes down to what will help me 10 years, 20 years after football and Michigan provides the best opportunities for me.”

But he decommitted just two months later after Michigan mistakenly sent him a thank you for attending the summer barbecue, which he didn’t attend. They also spelled his name wrong. However, the work Harbaugh’s staff has done in the five months since then was enough to get him to re-up with the Wolverines.

Solomon is a five-star recruit according to three of the four major recruiting services with ESPN the lone outlier listing him as a four star. When he originally committed last June all four had him as a four-star. Rivals and Scout rank him the highest as the second-best defensive tackle in the 2017 class, while ESPN and 247 rank him fifth. Nationally, Scout has him the highest as the 11th-best recruit in the class. 247 lists him 30th, Rivals 31st, and ESPN 63rd. The 247 Composite has Solomon 25th overall and second-best defensive tackle.

Scout lists his strengths as athleticism, lateral range, quickness off ball, and suddenness, while listing his area to improve as pad level. They elaborate on that as well.

“An athletic defensive lineman who knows how to get off the ball. He is most effective with his quickness. He has good anticipation and he reacts quickly in the trenches. Really gets up the field. Can make plays in the backfield. Gets consistent penetration. Can use his hands, but needs to improve that, and his moves to counter offensive linemen. When he struggles, he tends to play high, so he can work on bettering his pad level. Just a quick defensive lineman who can make plays. Plays hard and plays fast for a guy his size.”

Solomon boasted offers from most of the major powers in the south, including Alabama, Georgia, Auburn, Florida State, Florida, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, in addition to Ohio State, USC, and more. He’s the seventh defensive lineman in the class, joining Corey Malone-Hatcher, Deron Irving-Bey, Kwity Paye, James Hudson, Luiji Vilain, and Donovan Jeter, and he’s the second-highest ranked player in the class behind receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones.

New in Blue: 2017 WR Oliver Martin

Monday, January 30th, 2017


(US Army All-American Bowl)

Oliver Martin – WR | 6-0, 188 | Iowa City, Iowa (West Senior)
ESPN4-star, #60 WR Rivals: 4-star, #35 WR 247: 4-star, #7 WR Scout: 4-star, 30 WR
247 Composite: 4-star #28 WR, #178 nationally
Other top offers: Notre Dame, Iowa, Michigan State, Ohio State, Oregon, Wisconsin, BYU

Michigan got most of its recruiting done before National Signing Day, leaving few surprises for Wednesday, and that trend continued on Monday night as Jim Harbaugh and staff stole a commitment from the backyard of another Big Ten school. Iowa City native Oliver Martin committed to the Wolverines at his high school with Harbaugh and new assistant head coach/passing game coordinator Pep Hamilton in attendance. He then announced it via Twitter.

Martin is a consensus four-star recruit in this year’s class by the four major recruiting services. 247 Sports ranks him the highest as the nation’s seventh-best wide receiver, while Scout ranks him 30th, Rivals 35th, and ESPN 60th. Nationally, 247 ranks him as the 170th-best overall player in the class, Rivals 206th, Scout 216th, and ESPN doesn’t have him in their top 300. He’s the 28th-best receiver and 178th-best overall player in the class per the 247 Composite.

The 6-foot, 188-pound receiver chose the Wolverines over Notre Dame. He also held offers from Ohio State, Michigan State, Oregon, Wisconsin, and BYU, to name a few.

Scout lists Martin’s strengths as competitiveness, hands and concentration, quickness off line, and route-running skills, while listing his area for improvement as frame. That means he’s already pretty polished and could add some muscle to fill out his frame at the college level. Scout expands on that.

“Very skilled, technical wideout. Excellent route runner with great hands and ability to make catches in traffic. Smart and understands how to get open. Very good athlete with good quickness, leaping ability and body control. Competitive, hard working kid. At 6-foot-1, 188 pounds, he has good size, but is not as big in comparison to other top outside receivers.”

With a pair of highly-ranked outside receivers already in the class in Donovan Peoples-Jones and Tarik Black, Martin is a perfect compliment as a slot receiver. Michigan hopes to land one more wideout on Wednesday in the form of Alabama native Nico Collins.

M&GB Scouting Files: 2017 U-M hoops commit Isaiah Livers

Friday, January 20th, 2017


(247 Sports)

On Jan. 6, I took the opportunity to see class of 2017 Michigan basketball commit Isaiah Livers when his Kalamazoo Central Giants faced the Portage Central Mustangs. Livers’ squad won 71-36 and the power forward finished with a stat line of 19 points (9-of-18 FG, 0-of-2 3PT, 1-of-3 FT), nine rebounds, two assists, four steals, one block, and one turnover in three quarters of action.

Here is my scouting report.

Isaiah Livers – PF | 6-8, 205 | Kalamazoo, Mich. (Kalamazoo Central)
ESPN4-star, #12 PF Rivals: 4-star, N/A 247: 3-star, #37 PF Scout: 3-star, 35 PF
247 Composite: 4-star #30 PF, #129 nationally
Other top offers: Michigan State, Maryland, Xavier, Butler, Creighton, Cal, Notre Dame, VCU
Strengths

1. Ball handling:
There’s little doubt as to where Livers ends up in John Beilein’s offense – he’s a wing through and through. With his size, however, you might expect Livers to man the post on a high school team like most of the biggest high schoolers do. But that is not the case. Livers’ role at Kalamazoo Central is very much an outside-in wing role with the ability to slash to the rim, post up smaller defenders when the opportunity presents itself, and take the deep shot when open.

Crystal Vander Weit, Kalamazoo Gazette

Perhaps his biggest strength at this stage, however, is his ball-handling. On multiple occasions, Livers collected a defensive rebound or received a quick outlet pass and took it coast-to-coast for a smooth finish. He’s very confident handling the ball in the open court and had little trouble with defenders trying to swipe the ball away despite weaving through sometimes three or four guys in one full-court attack.

2. Finishing:
Livers rarely missed when given a clean look within eight feet of the bucket, and used the glass effectively. There were a couple times when he missed awkward floaters only to rebound the misses himself and put it back up and in. The senior also had a monster one-handed alley-oop finish and another rim-rocking dunk when he found himself open underneath. When he has the chance to finish with a no-doubter, he does.

3. Court Vision:
Along with his ball-handling for a sizable wing, Livers impressed with his court vision and passing ability, setting up his teammates for wide open looks time and time again. He only ended up with two assists on the evening, but he could have easily added two or three more if guys were knocking down shots. Livers is certainly unselfish when the score doesn’t demand that he takes over, and Beilein will love his ability to find the open man.

My only knock on Livers here is that he seemed to get a bit too flashy with no-look passes that could have turned out to be turnovers, and certainly would more often in college. He needs to just trust his vision and make the clean dish when he sees an opening.

4. Size:
I’ve touched on this a bit already, but Livers looks to have solid size for a guy who will likely end up in the 3 or 4 wing position in Michigan’s offense. He has good length and height, enough leaping ability, and a good frame to put on some weight in Jon Sanderson’s strength and conditioning program. Livers is listed around 205 pounds right now. I would expect that his college playing weight ends up around 225-235 pounds, and he should be able to carry that just fine.

5. Hands:
This is often a trait that goes overlooked in basketball, but bad hands can just about spell doom for a college player. Livers has sure hands catching the ball cleaning on the wing and on post-ups and also displayed some very quick hands defensively, snatching four steals in the first quarter by baiting passes and swiping his hands in at the right moment. That trick won’t get you many turnovers at the next level, but Livers should still benefit from his good paws in college.

Weaknesses

1. Rebounding:
This is not to say that Livers was a bad rebounder – after all, he got nine boards in three quarters of play. But there’s plenty of room for improvement, especially for a player of his size. Livers rarely boxed anyone out and his only rebounds came when the ball bounced directly to him or when he rebounded his own misses that careened off the rim in his direction because he had at least a few inches on every Portage Northern player.

More often than not, Livers was ball-watching when a shot went up, and was actually boxed out by his opponents on occasion even on their end of the floor. I would like to see more grit down low from Livers and a desire from him to go after rebounds that are not in his zone.

2. Hustle/Grit:
Livers didn’t show a whole lot of hustle or grit in a game that was out of hand pretty early on. The 2017 Michigan signee seemed a bit lackadaisical defensively, while rebounding, and when not involved on the offensive end of the floor. That’s certainly not something that Wolverines fans will like to hear, given the current team’s seeming lack of effort on defense, and one game is not necessarily indicative of a player’s overall body of work, but I would have liked to see Livers pushing a little bit harder.

His athleticism and size made it very easy for him to have success even without giving 100 percent, but it was still notable to see Livers not even make it past half court on a handful of offensive and defensive possessions. To be fair, most of the time that happened was in fast-break situations, but I noted at least twice when Livers was the only man on the floor not past the timeline.

Livers was also not poor defensively and never got blown by, but his footwork and want-to could have been much better than what it was. You would expect a high school player with his size to really dominate on the defensive end and provide a blocking presence down low, but that was not the case.

X-factor

1. Shooting:
Livers has drawn praise for his shooting ability in the past, and he appears to have a nice, clean stroke, but he missed his only two three-pointers on this night and did almost all of his damage in the paint. I expect that he’ll develop into a fine shooter under Beilein, but there was not enough evidence in this game.

Overall

Livers is an intriguing prospect with a nice combination of size, ball-handling, and good enough athleticism to be a solid college player. He projects very well as a wing in John Beilein’s offense and should be able to develop as a backup for at least a season before getting a shot at a starting spot. I expect that Livers will end up at the 4, where D.J. Wilson will still have two years of eligibility remaining when Livers gets to campus, and Livers should see some spot minutes as a freshman with a relative lack of depth there right now.

Depending on where Charles Matthews ends up and how Ibi Watson progresses, Livers will also get consideration as a three-man when Michigan looks to go big. If Livers continues to develop, he should easily see starting minutes upon the beginning of his junior season in Ann Arbor.

The Numbers Game: Despite disappointing finish, U-M showed drastic improvement from Year 1

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017


(MGoBlue.com)

Previously: Is Don Brown’s defense high-risk? The numbers say noMichigan’s Harbaughfense will be more explosive in Year 2, Run game makes big plays in Week 1, While UCF loaded the box Michigan went to the air for big plays, Michigan offense doubles 2015 big play pace through 3 weeks, UM’s smothering defense narrows gap between 2015 D’s big play pace, U-M offense maintains big play pace versus tough Wisconsin D, Michigan out-big-plays Rutgers 16 to 1, Michigan’s big play stats continue to tell good news, U-M offense third most explosive, defense best at preventing big plays, MSU wins big play battle, Michigan wins the war, As big play defense falls back to earth, U-M offense continues to soar, U-M’s dynamic big-play offense stalls in Iowa loss, U-M offense, defense remain among nation’s best entering The Game, U-M big play offense fizzles, defense holds Bucks below average, Michigan big-play offense looks to bounce back vs susceptible FSU big-play defense

Despite losing three out of their last four games, by a total of just five points, Michigan made some big strides in 2016. In this last installment of The Numbers Game I hope to give you some optimism heading into next season, based on the increased offensive and defensive production from Year 1 to Year 2 and we’ll speculate on how Year 3 might look based on Harbaugh’s past.

Let’s get right into it. In the Orange Bowl, Dalvin Cook could not be contained, accounting for six of Florida State’s nine total explosive plays (five run, four pass). Add in a botched kick coverage and Michigan lost another game they should have won. Such is life. Back-to-back 10-win seasons for the first time in over a decade is very good, though, lest we forget this was a 5-7 team two years ago.

Michigan didn’t manage an explosive play until the third quarter when Wilton Speight hit Ian Bunting for 21 yards on a 4th-and-4 pass. In total, Michigan notched just five total explosive plays (four run and one pass) for their second lowest output of the season. Only their three versus Ohio State was worse. That one can be chalked up to an injured quarterback and this one to Florida State doing what I was worried about the most: lining up DeMarcus Walker on the inside to take advantage of Michigan’s weak offensive guard play. I suspected Kyle Kalis would be exploited but it was true freshman Ben Bredeson who bore the brunt of the future NFL lineman’s wrath.

Regardless, Michigan finished the season with their two worst explosive play performances offensively, while giving up 17 to their opponents (OSU – 8, FSU – 9). Not exactly what we expected given how the season started but it is what it is. But as you’ll see, all is not lost.

Offensive big plays
Michigan offense – 2015 vs 2016 regular season comparison
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
2016 87 46 133 14.09% 3.71% 56
2015 47 48 95 10.49% -1.01% -3

For the year Michigan finished with 6.69 explosive runs per game (31st nationally) and 3.54 explosive passes (52nd) for a total of 10.23 explosive plays per game (30th). Their big play percentage for was 14.09 percent (35th).

After the hot 9-0 start to the season these numbers may seem a bit disappointing but when comparing them to 2015 the improvement is actually quite remarkable.

The 2015 offense averaged 3.6 explosive runs per game (116th) and 3.7 explosive passes per game (40th) for a total of 7.3 explosive plays per game (100th). Their big play percentage was 10.49 percent (97th).

Michigan improved upon every single offensive big play metric in a huge way, save for passing. But, if you’ll recall the piece on Harbaugh’s San Francisco teams you’d remember that from the year before Harbaugh to Year 1 with Harbaugh the passing game saw a decrease while the running game numbers took a giant leap. And the running game again took a giant leap in Year 2 with passing staying about the same. Remember, Harbaugh is a run-first guy, so we’re not likely to see huge numbers in the explosive pass department. Even his 2010 Stanford team with a returning starter in Andrew Luck averaged just 3.7 explosive passes per game.

In 2010 (pre-Harbaugh), San Francisco had 40 explosive runs and 36 explosive passes. In 2011, SF had 56 explosive runs and 28 explosive passes. Year 2 (2012) saw 81 explosive run plays and 33 explosive passes. The Niners went from 40 to 56 to 81 2010-2012. In Year 2, Harbaugh doubled the explosive run production from the year prior to his arrival.

Michigan’s explosive run numbers took a dip from 72 in 2014 to 47 in 2015, but then shot up to 87 total in Year 2. Progress is being made, and all with a Brady Hoke offensive line. To put in perspective how much of an improvement this is, the 10.23 total explosive plays per game this year is a 40 percent increase on the 7.3 from 2015. And the explosive runs increased by an astounding 86 percent.

Defense saw a similar theme in improvement. Although the numbers improvements were not as dramatic, the rankings were.

Defensive big plays allowed
Michigan defense – 2015 vs 2016 regular season comparison
Year Big Run Plays/gm Big Pass Plays/gm Total Big Plays/gm Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
2016 4.38 2.08 6.46 10.38% 3.71% 56
2015 4.80 2.40 7.20 11.49% -1.01% -3

The Wolverines gave up 4.38 explosive runs per game (35th) and 2.08 explosive passes (3rd) for a total of 6.46 explosive plays per game (11th). Their big play against percentage was 10.38 percent (30th) and their big play differential was 3.71 percent (21st). Total toxic differential was 56, good for eighth on a per game basis. Three of the four playoff teams finished in the top six in toxic differential per game.

In 2015, Michigan gave up 4.8 explosive runs per game (53rd) and 2.4 explosive passes per game (13th) for a total of 7.2 explosive plays per game (24th). Their big play against percentage was 11.49 percent, good for 59th and their big play differential was -1.01 percent (88th). Their total toxic differential was minus-3, good for 75th on a per game basis.

The 2016 defense improved in every single big play metric and saw significant jumps in their rankings as well. But wait, there’s more.

Let’s talk about tackles for loss and sacks. Michigan had 88 tackles for loss in 2015, an average of 6.77 per game. In 2016, they had 120, an average of 9.23 per game and an increase of 36 percent. The sack numbers were even better. In 2015, Michigan had 32 sacks (2.46 per game). In 2016, they had 46 (3.54 per game), an increase of 43.7 percent.

The team rankings show just how much they improved. Sacks went from 31st in total and 32nd per game to fifth in total and fourth per game. Tackles for loss went from 38th in total and 42nd per game to third in total and second per game. Don Brown took this defense from middle of the pack in sacks and TFL to top five in both in just one year.

All but the offensive explosive pass play numbers were improved upon from Year 1 to Year 2. And given Harbaugh’s past record we weren’t expecting the pass numbers to waver much anyway. Remember, Stanford in 2010 (the 12-1 Orange Bowl champion year) averaged 5.8 runs and 3.7 passes. His best passing team in San Francisco (2012) averaged just two explosive pass plays per game. We’re right in the range we can reasonably expect given the roster. Of course, a guy like Brandon Peters or Dylan McCaffrey might add a new wrinkle and we could possibly see an uptick once they take over.

So what sort of improvement, if any, can we expect in Year 3? If Harbaugh’s history shows us anything it’s that this is likely going to be the norm for the offense: around seven explosive runs per game and 3.5 explosive passes per game. Does that mean the offense won’t improve? No, but at this point I don’t think we can expect another drastic improvement. As Harbaugh builds this roster in his image, perhaps we’ll see an uptick, but don’t look for Louisville type numbers (8.5-plus run and 4.5-plus pass). There were only two teams who averaged more than 12 explosive plays per game this season, so hovering around 10.5 keeps Michigan around the top-25 in that category.

The defense ended up right about where we expected, allowing 6.46 explosive plays per game. There’s not much room to improve upon that, or the sack and TFL numbers, from Year 2 to Year 3. But as Don Brown has more time to teach and implement his system we might see Michigan get into the under six explosive plays allowed per game range, which would easily be top five nationally.

So hold your heads up high, Michigan fans, the future is very bright. No, the season didn’t end like we expected, but Jim Harbaugh took a senior class that went 12-13 their first two years and went 20-6 with them, giving Michigan its second coach ever to win 10 games in each of his first two seasons and the first back to back 10-win seasons in over a decade. Until next season, Go Blue!

New in Blue: 2017 OT Chuck Filiaga

Saturday, January 7th, 2017


(247 Sports)

Chuck Filiaga – OT | 6-6, 335 | Aledo, Texas (Aledo)
ESPN4-star, #14 OT Rivals: 4-star, #16 OT 247: 4-star, #13 OT Scout: 4-star, 15 OT
247 Composite: 4-star #14 OT, #98 nationally
Other top offers: Oklahoma, Nebraska, Alabama, Washington, USC, Ole Miss, Oregon, Auburn, Florida, UCLA

While Michigan awaits the decision of the nation’s No. 1 player, running back Najee Harris, the Wolverines received a commitment from another highly-touted guy on Saturday. Offensive tackle Chuck Filiaga pledged his commitment to Jim Harbaugh’s squad during the second quarter of the U.S. Army All-American game.

Filiaga is a consensus four-star recruit according to the four major recruiting services. All have him ranked similarly as 247 Sports ranks him as the 13th-best offensive tackle in the class, ESPN 14th, Scout 15th, and Rivals 16th. Nationally, 247 has him the highest as the 106th-best overall recruit in the class. Rivals ranks him 118th, Scout 125th, and ESPN 137th. He’s the 14th-best offensive tackle and 98th-best overall player in the class according to the 247 Composite.

The Aledo, Texas native chose Michigan over a top three that also included Oklahoma and Nebraska. He also held offers from most of the nation’s best, including Alabama, Washington, USC, Ole Miss, Auburn, Florida, Oregon, and more.

Scout lists Filiaga’s strengths as arm length, power and strength, and size, while noting his area to improve as technique.  Scout’s Greg Biggins expands on that.

“Two way lineman who could play on either side of the ball in college. We like him as an offensive tackle because of his length, long arms and athleticism. He has an ideal tackle frame, shows the feet to kick out and take on speed rushers but the strength to handle bull rushers as well. He is a talented defensive lineman and can get a push off the edge and moves around the line to take advantage of mismatches.”

Filiaga is the 27th member of the class, joining Andrew Stueber, Joel Honigford, Ja’Raymond Hall, Phillip Paea, Kai-Leon Herbert, and Cesar Ruiz as offensive linemen in the class. He’s the 13th commitment on the offensive side of the ball. National Signing Day is just three-and-a-half weeks away, on Feb. 1.

#11 Florida State 33 – #6 Michigan 32: Michigan resilient in comeback, but lets Orange Bowl slip away in final minute

Sunday, January 1st, 2017


(Mgoblue.com)

Michigan, playing without Jabrill Peppers, who missed the game with a hamstring injury, dug itself a big first half hole, fought back to grab a late lead, but ultimately fell by one point to 11th-ranked Florida State in the Capital One Orange Bowl in Miami on Friday night.

Florida State took the opening kickoff and marched right through the vaunted Michigan defense for a 6-play, 75-yard scoring drive to make an early statement. The Wolverines got a break after they were forced to punt on their first possession of the game when FSU’s Noonie Murray fumbled Kenny Allen’s punt and Dymonte Thomas recovered at the Florida State 1-yard line. But the Seminoles’ defense held strong, forcing a 19-yard Allen field goal.

Florida State responded with a field goal of their own on their next drive and then forced two straight Michigan three-and-outs. On the first play of FSU’s next drive, Michigan’s coverage broke down and quarterback Deondre Francois hit Murray for a 92-yard touchdown to put the Seminoles up 17-3.

Final Stats
Michigan  Florida State
Score 32 33
Record 10-3, 7-2 10-3, 5-3
Total Yards 252 371
Net Rushing Yards 89 149
Net Passing Yards 163 222
First Downs 16 15
Turnovers 1 2
Penalties-Yards 4-37 7-65
Punts-Yards 8-379 6-207
Time of Possession 34:17 25:43
Third Down Conversions 7-of-20 3-of-13
Fourth Down Conversions 1-of-2 1-of-1
Sacks By-Yards 2-22 4-26
Field Goals 3-for-3 2-for-2
PATs 1-for-1 3-for-4
Red Zone Scores-Chances 4-of-4 3-of-3
Red Zone Scores-TDs 1-of-4 3-of-3
Full Box Score

By the end of the first quarter, Florida State was outgaining Michigan 201 to 22, despite Michigan having more time of possession.

The Michigan defense forced a three-and-out to start the second quarter and put together a 11-play, 59-yard scoring drive. However, after reaching 1st-and-goal at the FSU six, the Wolverines had to settle for a 28-yard Allen field goal to pull within 17-6.

Florida State answered with a 15-play drive to get that field goal back as Robert Aguayo connected from 38 yards out. Florida State took a 20-6 lead into the half.

In the first half, both teams had 34 plays from scrimmage, but Michigan managed just 83 total yards (2.4 yards per play) compared to FSU’s 255 (7.5).

But the second half was a different story. Michigan set the tone on the first possession of the half, marching 14 plays for yet another Allen field goal, this time from 37 yards out.

The two teams traded a pair of punts and Michigan linebacker Mike McCray made the big play the Wolverines needed, picking off Francois at the Florida State 14 and returning it for a touchdown. Wilton Speight’s pass for the two-point conversion fell incomplete.

Michigan’s defense held Florida State to just 15 yards on nine plays in the third quarter while pulling within five points. But FSU wouldn’t roll over, beginning the fourth quarter with a 7-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to take a 27-15 lead.

Two possessions later, Michigan’s offense found the end zone for the first tim in the game when Speight connected with Khalid Hill for an 8-yard touchdown.

Florida State took over with 5:22 remaining and the Michigan defense stood strong, forcing a three-and-out, and giving the offense the ball with a chance to take the lead. And they did just that. The Wolverines went 61 yards in just five plays, capped off by a 30-yard Chris Evans touchdown run to give Michigan the lead with two minutes to play. Speight hit Amara Darboh in the end zone for the two-point conversion, putting Michigan ahead 30-27.

But instead of forcing Florida State’s offense — which had managed just 82 yards in the second half to that point — drive the length of the field for a game-tying field goal, Michigan’s special teams allowed a 66-yard return up the middle to the Michigan 34-yard line. Four plays later, Francois completed a pass to Murray over Jourdan Lewis in the end zone to give Florida State a 33-30 lead. Michigan blocked the extra point try and Josh Metellus returned it for two points to bring the Wolverines within two, but the Michigan offense was unable to move into field goal range as Speight was intercepted to end Michigan’s chances.

Speight finished the game 21-of-38 for 163 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Evans lead Michigan with 49 rushing yards and the one touchdown, while Darboh lead the way with five receptions for 36 receiving yards. Ian Bunting caught three passes for 40 yards filling in for Jake Butt, who tore his ACL in the first half.

For Florida State, Dalvin Cook rushed for 145 yards and one score, while Francois completed 9-of-27 passes for 222 yards, two touchdowns, and one pick.

Michigan finishes the season at 10-3, matching last season’s record, while Florida State also finished 10-3. The Wolverines may fall out of the top 10 in the final rankings, but will look to bounce back next season when they open with Florida in AT&T Stadium on Sept. 2.

Game Ball – Offense

Kenny Allen (3-of-3 field goals, 8 punts for 47.4 average, 4 downed inside 20)
For the second straight game and third in the last four, Kenny Allen gets the offensive game ball. The Michigan offense struggled to move the ball at all in the first half and Allen kept them in it with two field goals and then tacked on another to start the second half. He also booted eight punts for an average of 47.4 yards, most notably a 61-yarder that forced Noonie Murray to try to catch the ball over his shoulder and fumble, resulting in the first field goal. Allen ends his career as one of the best kickers in Michigan history.

Previous
Week 1 — Chris Evans (8 carries, 112 yards, 2 touchdowns)
Week 2 — Wilton Speight (25-of-37 for 312 yards, 4 touchdowns)
Week 3 — Jake Butt (7 receptions for 87 yards)
Week 4 — Grant Newsome, Ben Braden, Mason Cole, Kyle Kalis, Erik Magnuson (326 rush yards, 0 sacks allowed)
Week 5 — Amara Darboh (6 receptions for 87 yards, 1 touchdown)
Week 6 — Khalid Hill (2 carries for 2 yards and 2 touchdowns, 2 receptions for 19 yards and 1 touchdown)
Week 7 — Wilton Speight (16-of-23 for 253 yards, 2 touchdowns)
Week 8 — Amara Darboh (8 receptions for 165 yards)
Week 9 — Wilton Speight (19-of-24 for 362 yards, 2 touchdowns, 3 carries for 16 yards, 1 touchdown)
Week 10 — Kenny Allen (2-of-2 FGs, long of 51)
Week 11 — De’Veon Smith (23 carries for 158 yards, 2 touchdowns)
Week 12 — Kenny Allen (2-of-2 field goals, 7 punts for 47.4 average, 5 downed inside 20)

Game Ball – Defense

Taco Charlton (5 tackles (2 solo), 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 2 quarterback hurries)
Michigan’s defense gave up some big plays, but played very good when needed in the second half to key the comeback. Mike McCray could have gotten this week’s game ball for his pick-six, but as I think about who made the most impact defensively, it has to be Taco Charlton. The senior defensive end was consistently in the FSU backfield, pressuring Francois, and getting to him once. He showed why he may be the first Michigan player selected in this spring’s NFL Draft, solidifying the hype on the big stage.

Previous
Week 1 — Mike McCray (9 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble)
Week 2 — Rashan Gary (6 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks)
Week 3 — Jabrill Peppers (9 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1 sack, 2 kick ret. for 81 yards, 4 punt ret. for 99 yards, 1 TD)
Week 4 — Maurice Hurst (6 tackles, 3 solo, 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack)
Week 5 — Channing Stribling (2 tackles, 2 interceptions, 2 pass breakups)
Week 6 — Taco Charlton (2 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 2 sacks)
Week 7 — Mike McCray (3 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss, 1 fumble recovery, 2 quarterback hurries)
Week 8 — Jabrill Peppers (7 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 two-point conversion fumble recovery return)
Week 9 — Delano Hill (6 tackles (5 solo), 0.5 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions)
Week 10 — Chris Wormley (6 tackles (2 solo), 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack)
Week 11 — Ryan Glasgow (7 tackles (5 solo), 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble)
Week 12 — Taco Charlton (9 tackles (6 solo), 3 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks)