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New in Blue: 2016 DE Ron Johnson

June 25th, 2015 by Justin Potts


Ron Johnson(247 Sports)

Ron Johnson – DE | 6-4, 240 | Camden, N.J. – Camden
ESPN: 4-star, #16 DE Rivals: 4-star, #6 DE 247: 4-star, #17 DE Scout: 3-star, #48 DE
Other top offers: Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan State, Oregon, Notre Dame, Ole Miss, South Carolina

Less than a week remains before the calendar flips to July, but Jim Harbaugh and his staff aren’t showing any signs of slowing down on the recruiting trail anytime soon. A day after landing four-star offensive tackle Devery Hamilton, the Wolverines picked up a commitment from four-star defensive end Ron Johnson.

Johnson is a four-star according to ESPN, Rivals, and 247 Sports and a three-star according to Scout. Rivals ranks him the highest as the sixth-best weak side defensive end in the 2016 class. ESPN ranks him as the 16th-best defensive end, while 247 has him 17th and Scout 48th. ESPN ranks Johnson the highest nationally as the 103rd-best overall player in the class, while Rivals has him 109th, and 247 has him 231st.

Scout lists his strengths as ‘athleticism’,'hand quickness’, and ‘speed’, while noting his areas to improve as ‘change of direction’ and ‘strength’. Scout’s Brian Dohn expanded on that evaluation:

“Johnson has an excellent motor and also plenty of athleticism. He gets up the field in a hurry, but also uses technique, including a nice swim move. He stays low at the snap and can dip his shoulder to get around the edge, and also can chase a play down from behind. He needs to work a bit on his change of direction, which is good for a kid his size. His speed off the edge is why colleges like him a lot.”

At 6’4″, 240 pounds heading into his senior season at Camden High School in New Jersey, Johnson is a great addition to the class. He held offers from Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan State, Oregon, and Notre Dame, among others. He unofficially visited Michigan back in March and subsequently received a visit from tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh a couple weeks later. He made a return trip to Ann Arbor this week along with several other New Jersey recruits and committed on the spot Thursday afternoon.

Johnson is commitment number 20 in the class and the 14th in the month of June. He joins fellow defensive end Rashad Weaver, filling a big need in the class, especially after missing out on in-state defensive end Khalid Kareem. With anywhere from five to eight spots left in the class, Michigan hopes to land more commitments this weekend and continue building the New Jersey pipeline.

New in Blue: 2016 OT Devery Hamilton

June 24th, 2015 by Justin Potts


Devery Hamilton(247 Sports)

Devery Hamilton – OT | 6-6, 290 | Baltimore, Md. – Gilman
ESPN: 3-star, #33 OT Rivals: 4-star, #26 OT 247: 4-star, #23 OT Scout: 4-star, #13 OT
Other top offers: Ohio State, Michigan State, LSU, Stanford, Clemson, South Carolina, West Virginia, PSU

After missing out on four-star in-state defensive end Khalid Kareem Wednesday afternoon, Michigan received a pledge from four-star offensive tackle Devery Hamilton.

Rivals, Scout, and 247 Sports each gave Hamilton four stars, while ESPN currently has him as a three-star. Scout is the most optimistic, ranking Hamilton as the 13th-best offensive tackle in the 2016 class. 247 ranks him 23rd, Rivals 26th, and ESPN 33rd. Scout ranks him as the 144th-best overall recruit, while 247 has him 215th, as well as 233rd in their composite rankings.

The Baltimore, Md. native stands either 6’6″ or 6’7″ depending on which site you look at and his weight ranges from 265 to 291 pounds, though the latter is more accurate.

Scout’s Brian Dohn likes Hamilton’s size, length, and aggressiveness while noting that he has the ability to play on the defensive line as well:

“Hamilton can play offensive tackle or on the defensive line in college. He has the size and length to be a left tackle. He is aggressive and is able to disengage as a defensive lineman, and as an offensive lineman shoots his hands out is able to lock onto blocks and finish them. No matter the side of the ball, Hamilton plays hard and to the whistle. He chases plays down the field on defense, and gets to the second level on offense.”

Assuming Hamilton stays on offense, his commitment adds to an impressive offensive line haul so far for the 2016 class and shows where Jim Harbaugh’s emphasis lies in his first full recruiting class. He joins fellow four-star linemen Erik Swenson, Michael Onwenu, and Ben Bredeson, giving Michigan four of the top 26 linemen in the class according to Rivals.

As the 19th commitment in the class and the 13th this month, Hamilton’s commitment moves Michigan up to seventh in the 2016 class rankings according to both 247 and Rivals. Michigan is right on the heels of rival Michigan State in the 247 rankings, though the Spartans have one more commit at this point.

New in Blue: 2016 S Devin Gil

June 19th, 2015 by Justin Potts


Devin Gil(Scout.com)

Devin Gil – S | 6-1, 205 | Pembroke Pines, Fla. – Charles W Flanagan
ESPN: 3-star, #33 S Rivals: 3-star, NR 247: 3-star, #79 S Scout: 3-star, #93 S
Other top offers: Miami, Louisville, NC State, South Florida, Central Florida, Bowling Green

Just two days after Michigan received commitments 15 and 16, Hollywood, Fla. safety Devin Gil became number 17. On Friday morning, he channeled his inner LeBron James in tweeting his commitment to the Wolverines.

Gil is a three-star recruit according to each of the four major recruiting services. ESPN ranks him the highest as the 33rd-best safety in the 2016 class. 247 Sports ranks him 79th and Scout 93rd, while Rivals does not have him ranked at this point. At 6’1″ and 205 pounds, Gil has the ability to play either safety or linebacker. As a junior last season at Flanagan, Gil recorded 64 tackles and three interceptions.

Scout lists Gil’s strengths as ‘hands’, ‘size’, and ‘toughness’, while noting his areas to improve as ‘burst out of breaks’, ‘change of direction’, and ‘recovery ability’. They expanded on that in their analysis:

“When talking size, Gil has it for a big safety. Could even get a look at linebacker down the road depending on how he grows. Loves to mix it up physically. Does not shy away from contact and makes plays in the box and behind the line of scrimmage. Can shed blocks and strike the opponent. When the ball is in the air, he tracks it and makes plays on it. Has very good hands. Always around the ball and makes big plays.”

Gil originally committed to his home-state Miami Hurricanes on Jan. 26, but received an offer from Jim Harbaugh’s staff two months later. He made his way to Ann Arbor for an unofficial visit last weekend and announced his decommitment from Miami the same day. On Friday, he pledged to the Wolverines just two days after his teammate and fellow safety, Josh Metellus, did.

With 17 commitments in next year’s class, Harbaugh is hoping to continue the June momentum he has built through his Summer Swarm satellite camp tour. There’s a good chance Metellus and Gil’s teammate at Flanagan, four-star linebacker Devin Bush Jr., joins the class soon, as he proclaimed shortly after Gil’s commitment that he will no longer be announcing his own commitment at the Under Armour All-American game.

New in Blue: 2016 OT Ben Bredeson

June 18th, 2015 by Justin Potts


Ben Bredeson(247 Sports)

Ben Bredeson – OT | 6-5, 293 | Hartland, Wis. – Arrowhead
ESPN: 4-star, #4 OT Rivals: 4-star, #4 OT 247: 4-star, #4 OT Scout: 4-star, #1 OG
Other top offers: Alabama, Auburn, OSU, MSU, LSU, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Miami

June has become Jim Harbaugh’s month and it’s barely half over. On the heels of his Summer Swarm satellite camp tour, Harbaugh had already received seven commitments since the beginning of the month, and on Wednesday he picked up two more. Pembroke Pines, Fla. safety Josh Metellus committed to the Wolverines, and earlier in the day, big-time offensive tackle Ben Bredeson gave his pledge to Michigan.

Bredeson is a consensus four-star according to the four major recruiting services and ranked in the top 53 nationally by all of them. Rivals, 247 Sports, and ESPN each rank him as the fourth-best offensive tackle in the class, while Scout has him listed as the best guard in the class. Scout also ranks him the highest nationally at 25th, while 247 has him 29th, Rivals 49th, and ESPN 53rd.

The Hartland, Wis. native is listed between 6’4″ and 6’5″ and 280 and 293 pounds. Scout lists his strengths as ‘body control and balance’, ‘feet’, and ‘nasty streak’, while noting his area to improve is ‘power and strength’. They expounded on that in their analysis:

“Outstanding overall prospect with good technique and ability to bend. Has good flexibility in his lower body and has no issue winning leverage battles even against shorter defensive linemen. Plays with a mean streak and finishes his blocks strong. Can still polish up his pass pro, and add more strength up top, but has all the tools and the intangibles to develop into a top flight college lineman. Could play tackle or guard as well.”

Bredeson visited Michigan unofficially last summer and again in October for the Under the Lights game against Penn State — one of the few bright spots of the season. In February of this year he named his top four of Notre Dame, Michigan, Ohio State, and Wisconsin. He visited again the last weekend in May and decided to end his recruitment this week with his commitment to Michigan. He also held offers from Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Michigan State, and Oklahoma, among others.

As the ninth commitment in the first 17 days of June, Bredeson joins fellow offensive linemen Michael Onwenu, and Erik Swenson, running backs Kingston Davis and Matt Falcon, quarterbacks Brandon Peters and Victor Viramontes, tight end Sean McKeon, athletes Kiante Enis and Chris Evans, defensive backs Josh Metellus and Antwaine Richardson, defensive end Rashad Weaver, and linebackers Dele’ Harding, Dytarious Johnson, and David Reese.

New in Blue: 2016 RB Kiante Enis

June 4th, 2015 by Justin Potts


Kiante Enis(Joshua Smith, Palladium-Item)

Kiante Enis – RB | 6-1, 200 | Winchester, Ind. – Winchester Community School
ESPN: NR Rivals: 3-star, #54 RB 247: 3-star, #36 RB Scout: 3-star, #26 RB
Other top offers: Michigan State, Iowa, Indiana, Cincinnati, Bowling Green

On day one of Michigan’s “Summer Swarm” satellite camp tour, Jim Harbaugh landed his second commitment in as many days. Winchester, Ind. running back Kiante Enis gave his verbal to the Maize and Blue following Thursday’s camp at Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis.

Enis is currently a three-star recruit, ranked as the 26th-best running back in the 2016 class by Scout, 36th by 247, and 54th by Rivals. ESPN doesn’t have him ranked. Enis is listed at 6’1″ or 6’2″ and between 190 and 200 pounds.

Scout lists Enis’ strengths as recovery ability, size, and speed, while noting that his areas to improve are backpedal quickness and elusiveness with catch. He also plays defensive back and could potentially end up there at Michigan. Scout had this to say about Enis:

“Fast, long kid who needs to settle in on a position. Highly productive high school running back but may be more of a safety or another position in college. Explosive and can run away from defenders in the open field and shows good closing ability on defense. Solid tackler if asked to play on that side of the ball.”

Last season at Winchester Community High School, Enis rushed for 3,189 yards and 49 touchdowns. He also recorded 42 tackles and four interceptions and averaged 33.9 yards per kick return with one touchdown and 46 yards per punt return with one touchdown.

Enis visited Michigan last weekend and didn’t take long to make his commitment official, pledging to the Wolverines over Michigan State and his in-state Indiana Hoosiers. He joins fellow running backs Kingston Davis and Matt Falcon, offensive linemen Michael Onwenu and Erik Swenson, quarterback Brandon Peters, and linebackers Dele’ Harding and David Reese in the 2016 class.

New in Blue: 2016 OL Michael Onwenu

June 3rd, 2015 by Justin Potts


Michael Onwenu(247 Sports)

Michael Onwenu – OL | 6-3, 365 | Detroit, Mich. – Cass Tech
ESPN: 4-star, #17OG Rivals: 4-star 247: 4-star, #5 OG Scout: 4-star, #5OG
Other top offers: Alabama, Ohio State, Penn State, Miami, Illinois, NC State

Just two days before Jim Harbaugh and his staff kick off their Summer Swarm tour as guest coaches at high school camps in recruiting hot beds across the country, they received a pledge from a mammoth offensive lineman from their own backyard. Detroit Cass Tech offensive guard Michael Onwenu committed to the Wolverines on Tuesday night.

Onwenu is a consensus four-star recruit according to the four major recruiting services. Scout and 247 both rank him the fifth-best offensive guard in the 2016 class, while ESPN has him 17th and Rivals doesn’t have its 2016 rankings up yet. 247 ranks Onwenu as the 140th-best player overall in the class, while Scout lists him 169th, and Rivals 191st.

Scout listsOnwenu’s strengths as drive blocking skills, pass protection, power, and strength, while noting his main area to improve is quickness off the ball. They had this to say about him:

“Big, powerful mauler who looks like he’s just a road grader, but has shown at camps that he may actually be a better pass blocker at this point in his career. Naturally strong and wins when he gets his hands on defensive linemen. Would like to see him play at a little lower weight, which would improve overall quickness and mobility, but he bends well, plays with a great base and is technically sound. Could play guard or center in college.”

Michigan’s staff has been working hard to try to lock up one of the state’s best prospects and received unofficial visits from Onwenu in both February and March. He also visited rivals Michigan State and Ohio State in addition to Penn State and held an offer from Alabama. At 6’5″, 365 pounds entering his senior year of high school, Onwenu is a beast that should serve as a pillar of Harbaugh’s offensive line in the coming years.

As the seventh member of Michigan’s 2016 class, Onwenu joins fellow offensive lineman Erik Swenson, running backs Kingston Davis and Matt Falcon, linebackers Dele’ Harding and David Reese, and quarterback Brandon Peters. The addition elevates Michigan’s class nine spots up to 26th in the 247 team rankings. Every team ranked higher has more commitments at the moment. Only 12 teams have a higher star average than Michigan’s 89.12.

New in Blue: 2016 SG Tyus Battle

May 11th, 2015 by Derick Hutchinson


Battle(Gregory Payan, AP)

Tyus Battle – SG | 6’6″, 205 | Edison, N.J. – Gill St. Bernard’s School
ESPN: 5-star, #4 SG, #14ov Rivals: 5-star, #16ov 247: 5-star, #4SG, #12ov Scout: 5-star, #4SF, #10ov
Other top offers: Duke, Connecticut, Louisville, Syracuse, Ohio State, Notre Dame

Just days after missing out on the No. 2 overall prospect for 2015, John Beilein and the Michigan Wolverines picked up a huge commit for the following season.

Tyus Battle announced via Twitter Monday that he will attend Michigan over a host of other schools, including Ohio State, Duke and Syracuse, who were considered among the front runners.

Battle is the No. 12 overall recruit and the No. 4 shooting guard according to 247 Sports. Scout lists him 10th overall in the 2016 class, while Rivals currently has him the lowest at 16th. His official visit to Ann Arbor this past weekend seemed to be the trump card for Michigan, as he committed just two days later.

Battle gives Michigan an elite guard in 2016 with the coming departures of Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht to graduation. Battle is an elite shooter from all over the floor and can create his own shots with his quickness.

If the high school senior holds onto his top 14 ranking, he’ll move to Ann Arbor as the highest ranked recruit in Beilein’s tenure at Michigan. His previous highest recruit was Glenn Robinson III, who was ranked No. 16 overall.

As a sophomore in 2013-14, Battle averaged 22.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game for Gill St. Bernard’s School in Edison, N.J. His numbers dipped to 16.9 points and 4.0 rebounds per game last season as result of an injury-plagued year in which he played in just nine games. A big senior season in 2015-16 should help keep Battle ranked among the best in the nation before he heads to Ann Arbor.

Win a free house rental for homecoming weekend

May 8th, 2015 by Justin Potts


RLAC header

Want an excuse to descend upon Ann Arbor for Jim Harbaugh’s first home Big Ten game? Or to return to your alma mater for Homecoming? Or simply upgrade your digs for a Michigan football weekend? Well have we got an opportunity for you. Rent Like a Champion — formerly known as Ann Arbor Football Rentals — is giving away a free house rental for homecoming weekend to one lucky winner. And that winner could be YOU!

The contest runs through the end of May and the winner will receive a rental from Friday, October 9 to Sunday, October 11. The house can accommodate up to seven guests and is just blocks from Michigan Stadium.

Imagine enjoying Ann Arbor on Friday night, then waking up Saturday morning just a short walk from the Big House, refreshed from a good night’s sleep in a comfortable house rather than a dingy hotel room. No need to pay for game day parking. No need to try to find a meeting place for the rest of your group. You’ll all be under one roof. You can hold your own tailgate in the back yard. Those are the benefits that Rent Like a Champion provides. And you could get it for free.

“We’re excited to help some Wolverines make it to Ann Arbor for homecoming without having to shell out for a hotel,” said CEO and Co-founder Mike Doyle. “We know how diehard Michigan fans are, and how widespread their fan base is, so our company is just happy to facilitate an awesome weekend for the group that wins.”

In addition to the contest, make sure to check out the rest of their listings for this fall. There are homes available for every home football weekend, including a current 14 homes available for Harbaugh’s first home game, ranging from $800 to $2,500 for the weekend.

“We provide an affordable and comfortable way for fans to travel to schools for game weekends,” Doyle said. “Rather than overpaying to be cooped up in separate rooms of a hotel, fans and groups can enjoy the comforts of a home with common areas, grills, kitchens and other amenities that make for a complete game weekend experience.”

The contest winner will be announced by Rent Like a Champion on June 1. Click here to enter.

The M&GB HAIL Awards: Basketball 2014-15

May 5th, 2015 by Justin Potts


UM Bball HAIL Awards

Michigan’s basketball season has been over for more than a month and the Wolverines just held their annual awards celebration a couple weeks ago, but we’ve finally gotten around to handing out our M&GB HAIL Awards. Better late than never, I guess.

After reaching the national title game in 2013 and coming just short of the Final Four last season, the 2014-15 season was a major disappointment. Everybody knew Michigan was due for a letdown after sending five players from those two NCAA Tournament teams to the NBA, but no one expected it to be as bad as it became.

Early season wins over Oregon and Syracuse were fun, and nearly topping eventual No. 2-seed Villanova in the Legends Classing championship game gave Michigan hope for a successful season. But it all came unravelled with back-to-back home losses to NJIT and Eastern Michigan, followed by a 27-point loss at third-ranked Arizona and an 11-point loss to SMU. To make matters worse, Michigan lost its two best players, Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton for the season with injuries.

The Wolverines opened Big Ten play with an overtime win over Illinois on a celebratory night in which new football head coach Jim Harbaugh was honored for his triumphant return. But Michigan had trouble stringing together wins in conference play, beating the teams they were expected to beat — Penn State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, and Rutgers — and falling to the teams in the top half of the league. Even so, Michigan had its share of near misses, taking Wisconsin and Michigan State — both Final Four teams — to overtime, but couldn’t pull out either of them. Michigan found some fire in the Big Ten Tournament, topping an Illinois squad that was on the NCAA Tournament bubble by 18 points, but Wisconsin ended Michigan’s season the next night.

It wasn’t the type of season John Beilein, the players, or the fans wanted or expected, but when all was said and done there was plenty to be excited about heading into next season. For one, Michigan shouldn’t lose anyone save senior Max Bielfeldt who likely won’t get a fifth year. Secondly, the emergence of freshmen Aubrey Dawkins and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman should give the Wolverines quality depth in 2015-16, something that likely wouldn’t have happened with a healthy LeVert and Walton.

Let’s take the time to honor the top players, plays, performances, and moments of the 2014-15 Michigan basketball season.

To revisit last year’s HAIL Awards: 2014-15 or our football HAIL Awards: 201420132012, 2011.

Player of the Year Zak Irvin

Irvin vs WisconsinWhen Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III departed for the NBA following last season, a void needed to be filled and most expected junior Caris LeVert and sophomore Zak Irvin to fill it. And for the most part they did just that. But when LeVert went down with a broken foot midway through the season Irvin had to step up and take on a larger role.

But Irvin hit a month-long slump in which he shot just 34.9 percent from the field and 32.1 percent from three-point range while averaging just 10.8 points per game. Over the final month of the season, however, Irvin hit his stride, averaging 16.9 points per game while shooting 43.4 percent from the field and 37.7 percent from downtown.

“After both Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton went down with season-ending injuries, Michigan had to rely on everyone to step up,” said Sam. “It took a little bit longer for anyone to rise to the occasion and seize the opportunity, but by the end of the year, Zak Irvin was undoubtedly the most dynamic player on the team and the one that kept the Wolverines in most games even though the postseason was always going to be a tough proposition.”

Votes: 2
Others Receiving Votes: Aubrey Dawkins (1)

Guard of the Year Zak Irvin

Irvin dunk

Irvin scored in double figures in all but five games this season and scored 20 or more points five times, including in three of the last nine games. He led the team in points 12 times and in rebounds nine times. He finished second in scoring (14.3 points) behind LeVert, second in rebounds (4.8) behind LeVert, and led the team with 33 steals.

His shooting percentage of 40.2 percent ranked seventh on the team, although he took 184 shots more than anyone else and 212 more shots than anyone other than LeVert. Likewise, his three-point percentage of 35.5 percent ranked sixth, but his 217 attempts were 121 more than the next closest, Spike Albrecht’s 96 attempts.

“Last season, Zak Irvin recorded three assists in a game just one, and tallied zero dimes more often than not,” said Sam. “This season, it looked like it might be the same Irvin with better hops early on, as the sophomore reached that magic number of three only once over the first three months of the season. Then, the light switch went on, and the Just a Shooter label came off. Over the last 12 games of the year, Irvin dished out at least three assists eight times (including the last six games of the season), while reaching double digit point totals in 10 of those games (with a low of seven points).”

Votes: 2
Others Receiving Votes: Aubrey Dawkins (1)

Big Man of the Year Max Bielfeldt

Max Bielfeldt

Losing Jordan Morgan to graduation and Mitch McGary to the NBA left a huge hole in the Michigan frontcourt entering this season. Most figured redshirt freshman Mark Donnal to be the logical replacement, but while he began the season as the starter it was obvious he still had a long way to go. True freshman Ricky Doyle succeeded him, and while he had his flashes, his youth and inexperienced was evident. By season’s end, it was senior Max Bielfeldt who proved to be the most reliable.

Despite starting just three games — the final three of the season — Bielfeldt took Donnal’s minutes and improved as the season went on. He finished seventh on the team in scoring, averaging 5.1 points per game, and fourth in rebounding with an average of 3.6. Despite playing 130 fewer minutes than Doyle, he grabbed 10 more boards to lead all big men. Over the final eight games, Bielfeldt averaged 7.8 points 4.9 rebounds and he went out in style with a 14-point, 11-rebound performance against Rutgers on senior night.

“I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Bielfeldt was the most consisten center for Michigan down the stretch,” said Derick. “The same guy that couldn’t guard a stationary post early in the year became a confident player around the rim and an above average rebounder for Michigan. Though Bielfeldt was never a focus for Michigan on offense, he developed a small, but effective, arsenal of moves and improve dramatically on defense.”

Votes: 2
Others Receiving Votes: Ricky Doyle (1)

Defensive Player of the Year Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman

MAARPrior to the season, unheralded freshman Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman didn’t figure into many projections of significant contributors. But the Allentown, Pa. native who — along with Aubrey Dawkins — filled out Michigan’s 2014 class, was thrust into action when Derrick Walton Jr. went down for the season with a foot injury.

He made his first career start on Jan. 17 against Northwestern and finished with nine points, five rebounds, two assists, and made the game-winning three. Two games after Walton went down, Abdur-Rahkman broke out with 18 points on 8-of-14 shooting at Michigan State. In Michigan’s first Big Ten Tournament game against Illinois, Abdur-Rahkman nearly missed a double-double with 15 points and eight boards.

But it was his defensive prowess that earned him playing time, and by season’s end he was called upon to clamp down on the opponent’s top guard.

“Defense looked to be the surprising strength of this disappointing season early on before the offense started to flow near the end of the season,” said Sam. “John Beilein has still yet to find one of those pesky defensive stoppers throughout his time in Ann Arbor, but it looks like Rahk might have a shot at being the first. The unheralded freshman out of Allentown, PA showed terrific poise in his head-to-head matchup with future lottery pick D’Angelo Russell and was easily the best player on the team at making a simple step-in to stop a potential fast break. I remember watching in awe a few times as Rahk stopped an opponent in his tracks multiple times when it looked like a layup was a sure thing.”

Votes: 2
Others Receiving Votes: Ricky Doyle (1)

Game of the Year 64-57 win over #24 Ohio State

Spike vs OSUThere were plenty of near-misses that could have been game of the year had they swung the other way. Early in the season, Michigan nearly topped 12th-ranked Villanova in the Legends Classic championship game. In Big Ten play, the Wolverines took both Michigan State and Wisconsin to overtime, but fell both times. And in the Big Ten Tournament, Michigan again took Wisconsin to the wire, but couldn’t pull it out.

But the one game that Michigan did impress in was a 64-57 win over Ohio State on Feb. 22. Michigan was struggling, losers of five straight, when the Buckeyes came to town, but that didn’t stop John Beilein’s squad from dominating their rivals. Michigan raced out to a 23-9 lead and led by as many as 20 at 31-11, cruising to a 39-23 halftime margin. Ohio State cut the lead to 10 a few minutes into the second half, and then pulled within three with 6:59 remaining, but a timely Zak Irvin three put a stop to the Buckeye run and Michigan held on for a big win.

Irvin and Spike Albrecht combined to score 31 points on 11-of-22 shooting, 11 rebounds, and nine assists. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman held Ohio State star D’Angelo Russell to just 16 points on 15 shots.

“Despite the awful slide to finish the season, Michigan did give fans one great memory: a wire-to-wire dominating win over Ohio State,” said Derick. “Michigan jumped out to an early lead and never let go, while holding freshman phenom D’Angelo Russell to one of his least efficient games of the season.”

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: None

Play of the Year Derrick Walton three to force OT against Wisconsin

Walton three vs WisconsinWhen sixth-ranked Wisconsin came to town in late January, Michigan’s season was on the verge of collapse. Losses to NJIT and Eastern Michigan in non-conference play made Michigan’s postseason hopes slim barring a great performance in conference play, and although the Wolverines won four of the first six Big Ten games, there wasn’t much room for error. To make matters worse, Caris LeVert went down for the season two games prior. A win over the Badgers sans LeVert would be a huge boost.

Michigan started slow, managing just three points through the first six minutes, but took their first lead at 17-16 with 8:53 left in the half. But Wisconsin pulled away to a 30-23 halftime lead. The beginning of the second half was a different story, however, as Michigan used a 15-8 run through the first nine minutes to tie the game at 38. Wisconsin kept threatening to pull away, but Michigan wouldn’t back down.

Trailing by three with under 20 seconds left, Derrick Walton Jr. took over. First, he made two free throws with 11 seconds remaining to pull within one, and then, after Wisconsin answers with a pair of free throws, Walton brought the ball up the court. He handed it off to Aubrey Dawkins who went up to shoot, but with a hand in his face, passed it back to Walton. Walton launched a three at the buzzer from the left wing and it found nothing but net to send the game to overtime. Unfortunately, Michigan couldn’t prevail, falling 69-64, but Walton’s shot was a lone bright spot in a dark season.

Votes: 2
Others Receiving Votes: Albrecht behind-the-back assist to Dawkins vs Illinois in Big Ten Tournament (1)

Performance of the Year Aubrey Dawkins’ breakout vs Illinois

Dawkins vs Rutgers

After dropping four of their last five non-conference games, Michigan needed a strong start to Big Ten play. On a festive occasion that saw the Wolverines welcome the return of Jim Harbaugh as head football coach, freshman Aubrey Dawkins led the way.

Dawkins scored 20 points on 6-of-7 three-point shooting and also grabbed five rebounds in a breakout performance. Prior to that game, Dawkins had scored a total of 15 points throughout non-conference play, but his breakout against Illinois set in motion a strong finish to the season for the freshman. From that point on, he averaged 9.7 points per game.

“This is perhaps the most telling category…three of the top “Performance of the Year” options came in losses,” said Sam. “I have to go with the one that resulted in a win, wherein Aubrey Dawkins put the team on his back much to the enjoyment of a packed house celebrating the homecoming of Jim Harbaugh and led the team to a huge victory in their Big Ten home opener. He couldn’t miss and we couldn’t stop oohhing and ahhing.”

 

Votes: 2
Others Receiving Votes: Dawkins’ 31 points in regular season finale vs Rutgers

Newcomer of the Year Aubrey Dawkins

Dawkins dunkLosing an all-everything point guard to the NBA is never an easy task for any coach, but John Beilein got a superb season out of Derrick Walton Jr. The freshman from Detroit started 36 of the 37 games, averaging 7.9 points, three rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game. Most importantly, he provided a steady presence at the point guard position with nearly twice as many assists as turnovers.

Walton wasn’t always counted on to score, but he could certainly do it when needed. His best performance came in the 80-75 win at Michigan State when he scored 19 points, pulled down six rebounds, and dished out four assists. His clutch free throw shooting down the stretch sealed the win. He also recorded a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds in the Feb. 11 win at Ohio State and finished the season with a 41 percent three-point rate.

“Zak Irvin had an impactful freshmen season, playing his role to perfection as a scoring threat off the bench,” said Drew. “In most years, he would win this award. But it is difficult not to give it to a freshman starting at a position just vacated by the consensus national player of the year. Derrick Walton, Jr. averaged 7.9 points, made 41 percent of his threes, and had the second-highest defensive rebounding rate among Michigan’s guards and wings despite being only 6’1″. Most importantly, he did not shy away in big moments, making clutch plays in the final minutes of critical road wins against Nebraska, Michigan State, and Ohio State.”

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: None

Those Who Stay Senior of the Year Max Bielfeldt

BielfeldtLike Jordan Morgan a year ago, Max Bielfeldt is the default winner of this award because he was the only senior on the roster. But as we mentioned in the Defensive Player of the Year category, Bielfeldt went from little-used big man to the best big man on the team as the season went along. By season’s end he was the most trusted man inside, able to come up with a key rebound and score when needed.

On his senior night against Rutgers, Bielfeldt put together the best performance of his career, scoring 14 points and grabbing 11 rebounds for his first career double-double.

While Bielfeldt has a year of eligibility remaining, he was granted his release and will transfer elsewhere, and per Nick Baumgardner, he’s down to Iowa State, DePaul, Boston College, and Stanford. However, since John Beilein wasn’t able to secure a commitment from his top two targets — Jalen Brown and Kenny Williams — a scholarship remains open for next season and there’s a slight chance Bielfledt could choose to remain in Ann Arbor.

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: None

Most Improved Player  Zak Irvin

Irvin vs NUWhen Nik Stauskas, Mitch McGary, and Glenn Robinson III all departed for the NBA following the 2013-14 season, Michigan needed someone to step up and grab the reigns of the team. Last year’s most improved player, Caris LeVert, was the prime candidate with many projecting him a Big Ten Player of the Year candidate. But his season was cut short due to a foot injury. Enter Zak Irvin.

Irvin rose to the occasion after a slow start to the season to steadily improve as the season went along. By season’s end he had taken the team on his back and become the all-around player he was expected to be. He finished the season with double figures in eight of the last nine games, averaging 16.9 points per game during that span with three 20-plus games. He finished his sophomore campaign second on the team in points (14.3 points per game) and rebounds (4.8 per game), and shot 35.5 percent from three-point range.

“While I think Aubrey Dawkins and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman were the best suprises of the season, Zak Irvin, in my mind, made the greatest improvement,” said Derick. “The sophomore entered the season with expectations based solely on the one-year improvements fans saw with Trey Burke, Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert, but struggled early on. He was a volume shooter with little else to offer, and his defense was among the worst liabilities on the team. But by the end of the season, Irvin’s field goal percentage improved, he started finding the big men down low for easy buckets and he even became more active on the defensive end. He became the team’s top rebounder and also picked up 13 steals in his  last nine games. If his improvement continues into next season, Michigan fans will see the Irvin they expected a year earlier.”

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: None

Ryan drafted in 4th; Gardner, Beyer sign free agent contracts

May 3rd, 2015 by Justin Potts


Jake Ryan(Tony Ding, AP)

A day after former Michigan standouts Devin Funchess and Frank Clark were drafted in the second round of the NFL Draft, Michigan linebacker Jake Ryan found a home in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers as the 129th overall pick.

Ryan, who played defensive end and outside linebacker before moving to middle linebacker for his senior season at Michigan, fits the mold of recent Packers linebackers A.J. Hawk and Clay Matthews, in number, looks, and talent. While some viewed Ryan as an outside linebacker in the NFL, the Packers had a need for an inside linebacker after Hawk signed with the Cincinnati Bengals and Brad Jones signed with the Philadelphia Eagles.

“His instincts are something that really stand out,” said Eliot Wolf, the Packers’ director of pro personnel. “He can get through traffic and make plays on the outside, penetrate and make plays on the inside run. He’s pretty good in coverage. Kind of an all-around guy who adds really good value to our team.”

Ryan collected 267 tackles during his five-year career at Michigan that included an injury-shortened junior season. He tallied 45.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, seven forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, and an interception. As a middle linebacker last season, Ryan led the team with 112 tackles (67 solo), to go along with 14 tackles for loss and two sacks, earning All-Big Ten first team honors by both the media and coaches.

After the draft ended, two other former Wolverines signed undrafted free agent contracts. Quarterback Devin Gardner, who entered the draft as a wide receiver, joined fellow former Michigan quarterback Tom Brady on the New England Patriots, while defensive end Brennen Beyer signed with the Baltimore Ravens.

Gardner started 27 games at quarterback for Michigan, passing for 6,336 yards and 44 touchdowns, but his struggles at the position — due at least in part to playing for multiple head coaches and offensive coordinators and behind a poor offensive line — caused him to change positions. He started the 2012 season at receiver, catching 16 passes for 266 yards and four touchdowns, until Denard Robinson went down with an injury that forced Gardner to move back to quarterback.

The good news for Gardner is that his new team has a precedent for quarterbacks-turned-receiver. Julian Edelman started at quarterback for three seasons at Kent State before being drafted in the seventh round of the 2009 NFL Draft by the Patriots. He caught 37 passes for 359 yards and a touchdown his rookie season, but it wasn’t until the past two seasons that his career as a receiver took off. In 2013 and 2014 Edelman caught 197 passes for 2,028 yards and 10 touchdowns, including a nine-catch, 109-yard one-touchdown performance against the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX.

At 6’4″, 218, Gardner has a much different body type than the 5’10″, 200-pound Edelman, but he’ll have a chance to earn a roster spot on a team that has had trouble drafting receivers the past few years. Aside from Edelman and tight end Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots have lacked a true outside receiver as of late. Last season, Brandon LaFell came on with 74 catches for 953 yard and seven touchdowns, but the three receivers the Pats added from the 2013 draft — Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce, and Kenbrell Thompkins — were non-factors.

Beyer will likely have a tougher job securing a roster spot with the Ravens. Like Ryan, Beyer played both defensive end and linebacker for the Wolverines over the past few years, but while he was a solid contributor, he didn’t have the same type of impact Ryan did. The Ravens feature one of the league’s best defenses and aren’t exactly thin at either position. Still, he came highly recommended by Greg Mattison — a former Ravens defensive coordinator — and that was enough for John Harbaugh to give him a chance.