2021 Michigan Wolverines

Discussion in 'College Football' started by Phall, Aug 10, 2021.

  1. Phall

    Phall Mentor

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    Since 2005, Michigan's white starters on opening day have been 8,7,8,9,8,9,9,8,12,11,10,10,8,7,6 and 5 in 2020. They project to start 7 in 2021. This number is buoyed by an all-white offensive line that accounts for the majority of their white scholarship players.

    Michigan returns from an abridged 2-4 season shortened by COVID to little fanfare. The once-proud team has been mostly mediocre since 2006. Their recent attempts for remedy have involved phasing out the recruitment of white players, as shown by the starter tallies. They are a very standard caste team.

    Jim Harbaugh is still the coach: his name has dried up from NFL hotlists after six unproductive years with the Wolverines. For season seven, Harbaugh signed one of the most feeble contract extensions in memory, essentially lowering his base salary and buyout clause to allow him to maintain the visage of a multi-year future. Once thought to be a “quarterback whisperer,” the retirement of Jake Rudock this past month leaves the NFL without any Harbaugh-coached quarterbacks in its ranks. Among his indignities are an 0-5 record against Ohio State, a 3-3 record against local rival Michigan State, and a 1-4 bowl record including four straight losses. It’s hard to guess the minimum Harbaugh must achieve this season to keep his job, as his name carries weight with Michigan’s decision-making class of boosters and administrators.

    Josh Gattis enters his third year as the (black) offensive coordinator and has yet to meet expectations for innovation. His mantra of “speed in space” is a code word for black players in a spread formation. Michigan occasionally uses jumbo sets and found limited use in the past for former fullback standout Ben Mason, leading the internet community to speculate that perhaps Harbaugh kept a hand in the play-calling pot. This conveniently gives Gattis apologists a built-in excuse for the pervasive offensive futility.

    On the defensive side, Harbaugh tapped his brother John’s personnel pool and hired Mike MacDonald, the Ravens linebackers coach, to coordinate the defense. MacDonald has no college coaching experience and will rely on his pro resume as a selling point to recruits. MacDonald replaces Don Brown, a mostly-excellent old veteran who had drawn ire for getting torched regularly in the Ohio State matchup each year. Brown would occasionally find a few white players under his recruitment umbrella through his ties to the northeast. Don’t expect any more of that with MacDonald and the other new staff members. Michigan will shift to adopt Baltimore’s 3-4 base defense. While there aren’t many white players to worry about anyway, this means that future pros Aidan Hutchinson and Braiden McGregor will be rush linebackers going forward rather than defensive ends.

    The quarterback position seems to have an answer in Cade McNamara, who replaced black flop Joe Milton last year and drastically improved the team in limited healthy action. Dylan McCaffery has transferred to play for his father Ed at D2 Northern Colorado after being disappointed by the coaching staff’s buildup to the 2020 season. I’m not personally convinced Milton would have been the choice if McCaffery stayed, but their selection of Milton over a clearly superior McNamara does not instill confidence. Behind McNamara is Mississippi State transfer Alan Bowman and super freshman JJ McCarthy. McCarthy may end up as #2 to soak up some snaps in an effort to keep him engaged throughout the new 'transfer era’ of college football. He is the highest rated quarterback recruit in school history and projects as a multi-year starter in the future.

    It’s tough for any non-elite program to recruit quarterbacks directly in the wake of a star like McCarthy. Another new John Harbaugh alum on staff is quarterbacks coach Matt Weiss. The school of thought is that you would sign a “project” player with low ranking but high upside, which in football terms is code for a black quarterback with poor accuracy. With McCarthy on campus, Weiss has exclusively recruited black quarterbacks for the next two classes in an attempt to pull Michigan toward full diversity.

    Despite not having much deep-ball success due to underachieving wide receivers and inconsistent QB play, the Wolverines have also not had a star tight end emerge for some time. Their best chance this season is Luke Schoonmaker, who is not a starter by name but should effectively split duty. Joel Honigford has lost 50 lbs this offseason as he performed the standard “white man decathlon” of bouncing around positions to fill out roster needs.

    Michigan last offered a scholarship to a white wide receiver in 2017 (Oliver Martin, who was pushed out during Josh Gattiss’ first preseason in 2018). Before him, it was Drew Dileo, who played from 2010-2013.

    The Wolverines have amazingly retained a “snow plow” offensive line with just a couple of exceptions on the full depth chart. Tackle Ryan Hayes will probably be the highest drafted in the near future; however, there are multiple future pros in this position group.

    On the defensive line, former walk-on Jess Speight (brother of ex-QB Wilton Speight) has hustled and lunchpailed his way into the defensive line rotation. I am hoping for a breakthrough from Julius Welschof, now an upperclassman from Germany with notable athleticism and size who has served several years of racial apprenticeship at this stage. Dominick Guidice was Michigan’s lone white defensive recruit this past cycle, carrying the ignominy of the lowest ranking from the recruiting services (predictably). He won’t see the field yet, but let's hope he perseveres.

    Aidan Hutchinson is a likely first round pick as an edge linebacker. Hutchinson will likely be considered the team’s best player throughout the year. The formation change has inspired a weight drop from 278 in 2019 to a newly-reported 265. He has hopefully recovered well from a season-ending ACL tear. Braiden McGregor is a Hutchinson clone two years his junior, also returning from similar injury. It would be a pleasant surprise if both could make it onto the field at the same time. Gabe Newburg is also projected to rotate into this strong position group.

    Missing from last year is strong side linebacker Ben VanSumeren, who was not flattered by the new coaching staff and formation. He transferred to Michigan State and will be joined there by his highly-touted younger brother Alex, a nose tackle. Former walk-on linebacker Adam Shibley, who worked his way into a couple of spot starts last year, transferred to become a walk-on at Notre Dame.

    The Wolverines have not signed a white defensive back since safety Ray Vinopal in 2010. The last starter was former walk-on safety Jordan Kovacs in 2012.

    Starters:
    QB: Cade McNamara
    OL: Ryan Hayes, Andrew Steuber, Karsen Barnhart, Andrew Vastardis, Zak Zinter
    OLB: Aidan Hutchinson

    Backups:
    QB: JJ McCarthy, Alan Bowman, Dan Villari
    OL: Trevor Keegan, Nolan Rumler, Reece Atteberry, Jeffrey Persi, Greg Crippen, Griffin Korican, Tristan Bounds
    TE: Luke Schoonmaker, Matthew Hibner, Louis Hansen
    DL: Jess Speight, Julius Welschof
    OLB: Braiden McGregor, Gabe Newburg, Joey Velazquez
    S/PR: Caden Kolesar

    Michigan has an impressive fleet of non-scholarship walk-on players at forbidden positions. It is rather amazing the stark contrast between these practice squad members and the favored black players who are actually allowed to see game action. We can only wonder how reliably the “meritocracy” system extends from the practice field.

    DB: Trevor Andrews, Christian Boivin, Caden Kolesar, Joshua Luther, Andrew Russell, Joe Taylor, Matt Torey

    RB: Lucas Andrighetto, Danny Hughes, Nico Tiberia

    WR: Christian Bartholomew, Jake Friedman, Mathew Harrison, Peyton O’Leary, Will Rolapp, Sam Staruch, Jake Thaw

    Walk-on senior DL Joey George is getting some preseason buzz out of practice and may crack the deep rotation; the same goes for lacrosse standout Andrew Russell, who plays safety.
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2021
  2. El Gringo

    El Gringo Guru

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    Phall that was a awesome write up!! Great point on the “speed in space”offense. Harbaugh should have stuck to power football. It works for Wisconsin and Michigan theoretically should get better recruits than the Badgers.
     
  3. Leonardfan

    Leonardfan Hall of Famer

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    Great to have you back doing the Michigan write-up! Always the one I look forward to the most.
     
  4. Flint

    Flint Mentor

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    Have followed this team closely since I was a kid. Last year may have been the lowest point in that time. Harbaugh has been a disaster in all respects. I thought there was a chance he would whiten up the roster like he did at Stanford.

    But instead he has been the clowniest of caste clowns! With no success to show for it.

    Phall thanks for the write up and commentary. Spot on as always. Well done.
     
  5. Leonardfan

    Leonardfan Hall of Famer

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    McNamara officially named the starter for UM.
     
  6. Phall

    Phall Mentor

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    Aidan Hutchinson had a solid Week One with four tackles and a strip sack in the bodybag game against Western Michigan. Some of the Chase Winovich swagger has rubbed off on him - he showed up to Media Day with a popped collar, gold chains, and aviators.

    [​IMG]
     
  7. Phall

    Phall Mentor

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    Hutchinson was an absolute beast today against Penn State, registering 3.5 sacks, earning (just) one holding flag, and generally terrorizing the usually nimble Sean Clifford. The CBS Sports mock draft has moved him up to the #2 pick next spring.

    The season's unsung heroes are the snowplow offensive linemen. Prior to today's game:
    The Steuber-Keegan-Vastardis-Zinter-Hayes line played every snap against Indiana last week and looked pretty light on rotation again today. Everyone's eligibility is a little wonky thanks to the free covid year, but it's likely that Hayes, Steuber, and Vastardis (a former walk-on) will be value picks somewhere in the 2022 draft. Keegan and especially Zinter are on pace to get some early-round hype later in their careers.
     
  8. Freethinker

    Freethinker Hall of Famer

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    Michigan is having a great year but it really comes down to can they beat Ohio State finally? I sure hope so.
     
  9. Leonardfan

    Leonardfan Hall of Famer

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    Hopefully they can. McNamara has shown that he can run the offense and make throws at key times to give some balance. Ohio State's defense is not a stellar unit and they are (over) reliant on their offensive passing system - Michigan will need to dominate the line of scrimmage and keep their strong running game going. I trust Michigan over Michigan State to beat OSU at this point but hopefully both teams do.
     
  10. Leonardfan

    Leonardfan Hall of Famer

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    I'd like to hear the Michigan man @Phall and his take on this. Weenieworld couldn't get Gattis name correct in their write up. My take is that Harbaugh dictated the offense to return to what he did at Stanford - run heavy with an efficient offense. Gattis was a disaster implementing the spread offense in the two subsequent seasons.

    Michigan OC Josh Gattis has won the 2021 Broyles Award, which is given annually to the nation's top assistant coach.
    Broyles has played a key role in Michigan's first college football playoff appearance, helping to lead them to a 12-1 record an an Orange Bowl appearance against Georgia on December 31st. In a Covid-19 shortened season in 2020, the Wolverines went 2-4 and ranked 66th in the nation in points per game (28.3) while averaging 381.3 yards per game. This year, the Wolverines have enjoyed a complete offensive turnaround, as they currently rank 13th in points per game (37.7) and 20th in yards per game (451.9). Michigan's rushing attack has been a staple of its offense (223.8 yards per game), led by running backs Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum, who rushed for 1,288 and 939 yards respectively. Now with award in hand, Broyles will look to string together another game plan against a Georgia defense that is allowing only 9.5 points per game on the season.
     
  11. Phall

    Phall Mentor

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    It's an interesting topic, for sure. Gattis is a very "viable" candidate to win awards because he is black, young, and coaches on the offensive side of the ball. Michigan's 12-1 record certainly greases the wheels; it would be a different story if the Wolverines had dropped just one more of their one-score games against Nebraska, Rutgers, or Penn State. The way I imagine this process goes is that the committee starts with the teams ranked in the top ten, cuts the candidate pool in half based on statistical rankings for the offense/defense, and then selects based on the best narrative. An overachieving OC on a team like this year's Wake Forest, Ole Miss, or Virginia is not likely to ever win without a historic season record. Whether or not Gattis deserved this award, he did qualify for it.

    As far as what he actually does on the field, we won't know until a school takes a chance on him as head coach, which is inevitable due to the three factors listed above. I mentioned in this initial writeup that Harbaugh and Gattis seemed to get in each others' way. The "speed in space" slogan has turned out to be asinine branding. Michigan phased the fullback position completely off its roster this year, but instead effectively played two tight ends (All and Schoonmaker) in base packages, going by snap count. McNamara, for all his strengths, has struggled all with the "option" part of the RPO plays that began the year in heavy rotation, generally erring on the side of caution and just handing it off. As the season progressed, the playcalling moved away from this individual weakness.

    The Michigan staff had three new faces under Gattis: o-line coach Sherrone Moore (black), running backs coach Mike Hart (black), and QB coach Matt Weiss (white, from the Ravens). Moore would get my vote for some award based on the offensive line's superb performance. Super senior center Vastardis, a former walk-on, was a second-year starter and showed noticeable improvement. Neither of the tackles Steuber and Hayes were consensus four-star recruits, and guards Zinter and Keegan are still young (eligibility-wise, anyway). The line was greater than the sum of its parts, at least on paper. That surely had nothing to do with Gattis.

    Mike Hart is a familiar name as Chad Henne's former backfield partner. Hart left the same role at Indiana this year, which promptly cratered. Michigan's backs were also excellent, taking advantage of the terrific o-line play. Hart was replacing Jay Harbaugh as the running backs coach - perhaps ironically, the younger Harbaugh is more valued as a recruiter than an "x's and o's" guy. Anyway, Hart seems to have also contributed an unsung positive impact with last season's same players.

    I can't say exactly what Matt Weiss added to the pot as QB coach. His fetish for black quarterbacks is apparent, with every single pursued recruit since his hire looking like Lamar Jackson despite some even being pocket passers. I assume he brought in the RPO playbook, which was trimmed down over the course of the year. Whoever was responsible for that adaptation should get some credit for learning from experience. Regardless of his effectiveness, I hope Weiss finds greener pastures immediately.

    To summarize, I don't think Gattis is anything special. He seems to have smarter people working for him, which is said to be the sign of a good boss. I can't say whether he or Harbaugh calls the plays, but this year's new playbook was a product of necessity as both their jobs were on the line. Mike MacDonald did at least an equally admirable job as the new defensive coordinator, and maybe moreso considering it was his first year coaching college AND first year calling plays.

    While a lot can change quickly, Michigan's offensive line is set to add an African transfer center and promote a black backup tackle next year. Braiden McGregor barely played this season (understandable behind Hutchinson, I suppose) and is not a surefire successor at this point. At this moment, the projected white starter tally could be just five next season, and McCarthy is the last white quarterback in the pipeline. I'm glad the Wolverines are getting their "flash in the pan" year this season instead of a little bit down the road. However, they did sign a white DT (Mason Graham) and a white linebacker (Jimmy Rolder), both the first such recruits of their kind in a couple years. All three o-line signings are white, as well as both tight ends.
     
  12. Leonardfan

    Leonardfan Hall of Famer

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    UM O-Line wins the Joe Moore Award

    [​IMG]
     
  13. Bucky

    Bucky Hall of Famer

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    SNOWPLOW!
     

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