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Posts Tagged ‘Alabama’

New in Blue: 2017 S J’Marick Woods

Monday, March 28th, 2016


J'Marick Woods(Scout.com)

J’Marick Woods – S | 6-4, 196 | Florence, Ala. (Florence)
ESPN3-star, #25 S Rivals: 3-star, #31 S 2473-star, #30 S Scout: 4-star, #22 S
247 Composite: 3-star, #26 S
Other top offers: Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Louisville, Duke, Kentucky, Penn State

Michigan continued its recruiting momentum with a second commitment before noon on Monday. Florence, Ala. safety J’Marick Woods pledged his commitment to the Wolverines just an hour and 23 minutes after Groton, Mass. running back A.J. Dillon did so.

Scout is the lone recruiting site to give Woods a fourth star at this point as they rank him the 22nd-best safety in the 2017 class. ESPN, Rivals, and 247 all give him three stars. ESPN ranks him as the 25th-best safety, while 247 ranks him 30th and Rivals 31st.

Woods received his Michigan offer last May, and after camping at Alabama last summer, took unofficial visits to Michigan in August and again in October for the Michigan State game. He took another visit to Michigan this past weekend and that was enough to convince him to give a verbal to the Wolverines over Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Louisville, and others.

At 6-foot-4 and 196 pounds, Woods will provide a big presence in the defensive secondary as he’s already bigger than any safety on Michigan’s current roster. Dymonte Thomas is the most comparable in size at 6-foot-2, 195.

247’s Steve Wilfong agrees that Michigan got a good one:

“Woods is a very intriguing prospect for Michigan, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound free safety that is rangy and big playmaking ability, but it’s obvious to say he could develop into a unique and big-time linebacker on the next level. If Harbaugh and company could add Top247 safety Jaylen Kelly-Powell alongside Woods they’d be extremely happy with safety recruiting this cycle. The 247Sports Composite ranks Woods as the country’s No. 26 safety.”

Woods is the eighth member of the 2017 class, joining defensive back Benjamin St.-Juste and linebacker Josh Ross on the defensive side of the ball. The addition of Woods and Dillon propels Michigan’s 2017 class from 14th to eighth in 247’s team rankings.

SEC, ACC hypocrisy on display in race to stop Harbaugh

Friday, February 12th, 2016


Harbaugh(USATSI)

Alabama may have put the Southeastern Conference back atop the college football world last month, but Jim Harbaugh isn’t backing down. The Michigan head coach has captured headlines since returning to his alma mater less than 14 months ago and his most recent ploy has shone a light on the hypocrisy of southern schools.

Harbaugh announced following Michigan’s Signing of the Stars event on Feb. 3 that he would be taking the team south for Spring Break to practice at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. But just like his Summer Swarm football camp tour of the south and west coast last summer, the move is drawing the ire of SEC and ACC brass.

“Our primary reaction [is] that, in the face of the time-demand conversations, we’ve got one program taking what has been ‘free time’ away,” said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey on Tuesday. “Let’s draw a line and say, ‘That’s not appropriate.'”

In other words, Jim Harbaugh is doing something within the rules but we don’t like it so let’s change the rules so he can’t do it anymore.

He continued:

“This seems completely counter to the dialogue,” Sankey said. “We have work to do on [giving athletes a] day off. We have work to do on, how do you provide a postseason break? It seems where this is one where reasonable people could say we just shouldn’t be in this space.”

One of Harbaugh’s stated reasons for the Spring Break trip is to give the student athletes two weeks off — discretionary weeks as he called them — to focus on finals, which start April 20. By starting spring practice in late February and utilizing Spring Break for outdoor practice, team bonding, and yes, visibility to recruits, Michigan can close spring practice with two weeks off to focus on academics.

“We’re going to have swim meets, we’re going to have putt-putt golf, we’re going to have football meetings, we’re going to have practice,” Harbaugh said. “I think it gives us a chance to win on a lot of different levels. We’ll be outside, we’ll be in Florida, we’ll go to the beach. It will be a good time for our team to connect and be together. That’s a lot of levels right there to win on, so I’m very much looking forward to it.”

Sankey, of course, didn’t address that fact because it didn’t fit his narrative. Think of the kids, he said. Meanwhile, Ole Miss has been charged with 28 NCAA violations, 13 of which have come from the football team, and Tennessee is facing a lawsuit from six women who claim that the university — and its football program in particular — create a culture that enables sexual assault by student athletes. Guess who has been silent about thinking of the kids in these situations thus far? You guessed it, Sankey.

Greg Sankey

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey petitioned the NCAA to ban spring break trips (Mark Humphrey, Times Free Press)

The conference that Sankey inherited from Mike Slive a year ago, and has been a part of for over 13 years, has faced numerous major infractions in the past six years, but hasn’t received more than a slap on the wrist since Mississippi State was stripped of scholarships and banned from postseason play in 2004. Sankey, coincidentally, serves on the NCAA Committee on Infractions, which he has chaired since 2014.

But the disagreements with Harbaugh’s Spring Break trip aren’t limited to the SEC. Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford joined the fray on a Thursday interview on Sirius XM College Sports.

“It is creative,” Swofford said. “It’s kind of like we’re going to take you on vacation but you’ve got to practice while we’re on vacation … it’s a huge intrusion on a college student’s life and taking his ability to have a break out of his hands. I guess it depends on how you look at it.”

All of a sudden the commissioners of the two conferences that make up the southeastern United States — where a large portion of the nation’s top recruits year in and year out reside — are worried about student athletes. Yet Swoffod’s conference has been littered with NCAA sanctions in recent years from Miami to North Carolina to Georgia Tech to Florida State to Syracuse basketball, and most recently, Louisville basketball.

“I’m not concerned about the league’s image,” he said.

Well as long as the league’s image is intact, who cares that Jameis Winston’s actions were swept under the rug while he lead the Seminoles to a national championship? Who cares that over 1,000 student athletes from the North Carolina football and basketball programs received extra benefits and were involved in academic fraud? It’s all about the kids, remember?

Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford speaks at the Atlantic Coast Conference NCAA college basketball media day in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford speaks at the Atlantic Coast Conference NCAA college basketball media day in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

College basketball teams regularly travel to holiday tournaments in Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and the Bahamas during winter break. College baseball, softball, golf, swimming, and gymnastics teams regularly travel south in the spring to open their seasons in the sun. And college football itself eschews winter break in favor of traveling south or west for a week of practice culminating with a bowl game. The student athletes’ winter breaks were further consumed by football when college football expanded to the College Football Playoff in 2014. Where were Sankey’s and Swofford’s protests when Florida State and Alabama student athletes missed out on a week of a break before spring semester began?

Just last month, Clemson, a school from Swofford’s conference, was granted an NCAA waiver to practice more than the 20-hour a week limit. Why? Because their opponent, Alabama, hadn’t yet begun spring semester and thus, wasn’t bound by the practice limits. Where were Sankey’s and Swofford’s concern for the students’ time then?

The argument for the welfare of the kids is the easy one, the political one, to make. Because it gives the appearance — even if dishonest — that his main concern is based on academics. But it’s not the real one. While Sankey denies that he’s trying to protect his conference’s built-in competitive advantage of most of the nation’s top recruits residing in their schools’ back yards, that’s exactly what his argument is about. The reality is that Harbaugh is out-thinking and out-working his coaches and he doesn’t want to be caught flat footed.

Harbaugh often turns to Twitter to issue quotes and thoughts of the day that give a glimpse into his line of thought. An old Irish proverb comes to mind for this situation.

You will never plough a field if you only turn it over in your mind.

It’s possible that Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney have had ideas similar to the Summer Swarm tour or Signing of the Stars or destination spring practices. Whether they have or not, they haven’t put them into practice. In just over a year on the job, Harbaugh has, and it’s allowing him to quickly make up ground on his counterparts.

He took a sinking, 5-7 team and doubled its win total, culminating with a 41-7 thrashing of SEC East champion, Florida. He followed that up by signing a top-five recruiting class that includes the top overall player in the nation, Rashan Gary, who included Clemson and Alabama among his final choices. The roster Harbaugh inherited in 2015 was the least talented he will have during his tenure in Ann Arbor, and his continued success on the field will breed success on the recruiting trail. Snakey, Swofford, and the coaches of the schools they preside over want to do everything they can to preserve their own success.

Harbaugh hasn’t broken the rules. He’s just a step ahead of the rest and forcing them to try to change the rules in order to keep up. And soon enough it will pay off, which is why, not only is he the target of commissioners pleading the NCAA to slow him down, but also other coaches spreading rumors about him to recruits and their families. Gary’s mother, Jennifer Coney, said as much after her son picked Michigan.

“That was a turn off,” Coney said of the negative recruiting. “Bring your program up. Tell me about all the good things that your program, your school, and the people on your staff do. Don’t kick this person in the back.  Nobody likes Michigan. Nooobody likes Michigan.  When Rashan picked Michigan, my phone stopped ringing. It was a blessing.”

Fellow defensive tackle commit Michael Dwumfor, who flipped from Penn State to Michigan in late January, agreed.

“When I was at Penn State, I heard jokes about Harbaugh and stuff like that,” Dwumfour said. “In the back of my head, I’m thinking ‘What he’s doing is working, obviously. Instead of criticizing him, you might want to take some of his techniques to try and help yourself out and get some recruits.’”

The SEC, ACC, and coaches within his own conference — who, not-so-coincidentally, came from the SEC — can say all they want, but Harbaugh will continue pushing the limits within the rule book to succeed in the cutthroat world of college football. And if they don’t match his enthusiasm, work ethic, and imagination, it won’t be long before they are dethroned.

That brings another Irish proverb to mind.

It is not the same to go to the king’s house as to come from it.

New in Blue: 2016 TE Nick Eubanks

Thursday, January 28th, 2016


Nick Eubanks(Scout.com)

Nick Eubanks – TE | 6-6, 230 | Fort Lauderdale, Fla. – American Heritage
ESPN: 4-star, #2 TE-H Rivals: 4-star, #9 TE 247: 4-star, #11 TE Scout: 3-star, #29 TE
Other top offers: Alabama, LSU, USC, Georgia, Oregon, Florida, Auburn, Texas, Miami, Nebraska

A day after landing Winter Garden, Fla. receiver Eddie McDoom and McKeesport, Pa. athlete Khaleke Hudson, Michigan’s recruiting class grew again with a somewhat unexpected commitment from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. tight end Nick Eubanks. The American Heritage product tweeted his commitment just before 5pm Eastern time.

Eubanks is a four-star according to ESPN, Rivals, and 247, but just a three-star according to Scout. ESPN ranks him the highest as the second-best tight end/H-back and 258th-best overall product. 247 ranks him as the 11th-best tight end and 269th-best player in the class, while Rivals has him ninth-best, but not ranked nationally. Scout is the outlier, listing him as the 29th-best tight end.

Scout lists his strengths as red zone weapon, running ability, and size, while listing his areas to improve as blocking ability and hands and concentration. As of now at least Scout’s analysis sounds quite a bit like Devin Funchess:

“A tight end with a great frame and the ability to play on the line or to be flexed out. Has great length, he knows how to extend for the football, and he can use that to his advantage. He will fill out, add weight, and get stronger. Solid blocker, but can get better at the point of attack. More comfortable now flexed as a big wide receiver going out for passes. Has good athleticism. Solid hands, but he can be more consistent there.”

Eubanks caught 23 passes for 344 yards and three touchdowns during his senior year at American Heritage this past fall. The year before, he caught 26 for 408 and four scores.

Prior to his commitment, Eubanks was projected to go to Alabama, which had 57 percent of his crystal balls on 247. Florida had 29 percent, Baylor nine percent, and Miami the remaining seven. But he visited Michigan on Wednesday and committed to the Wolverines based on the way Jim Harbaugh told him he would be used, per 247’s Steve Lorenz.

“I chose Michigan because it’s a better fit for me,” Eubanks said. “I can play right away as a true freshman. It’s best for my future and for my work ethic. Plus coach Harbaugh coached Vernon Davis so I know he knows how to use the tight end. Michigan showed me stuff I’ve never seen before. Not at Florida or at Alabama. How they throw the ball to their tight end. How they flex the tight end out and use the position as a hybrid. No other school I was considering does that. That shocked me and shook my mind.”

Harbaugh has been targeting a second tight end in the class to join Sean McKeon, and after top target Isaac Nauta chose to stay in his home state of Georgia, attention turned to Eubanks, Concord, Ca. native Devin Asiasi, and Nixa, Mo. native Chase Allen. The latter is expected to announce between Michigan, Nebraska, and Iowa State on Friday, but Eubanks preempted it with his own commitment to the Wolverines. Asiasi will announce his decision on National Signing Day next Wednesday along with defensive tackle teammate Boss Tagaloa.

Eubanks will join a talented pass tight end crew in Ann Arbor, led by senior Jake Butt, who was named the Kwalick-Clark Big Ten Tight End of the Year this past season after catching 51 passes for 654 yards and three touchdowns. However, after Butt, the tight end who caught the second-most passes last season, A.J. Williams (12 for 129 yards), is out of eligibility, leaving senior Khalid Hill (four for 71), junior Ian Bunting (five for 72), senior Henry Poggi (one for two), and sophomore Tyrone Wheatley. Since he’s not an early-enrollee, it will be hard for Eubanks to grab a lot of time in the regular rotation this fall, but if he can prove he can catch he will at least get a chance to contribute before stepping into a bigger role in 2017 and beyond.

New in Blue: 2016 RB Kareem Walker

Thursday, December 17th, 2015


Kareem Walker (Don Smith, NorthJersey.com)

Kareem Walker – RB | 6-11, 210 | Wayne, N.J. – De Paul Catholic
ESPN: 4-star, #1 RB Rivals: 4-star, #1 RB 247: 4-star, #2 RB Scout: 5-star, #2 RB
Other top offers: Florida State, Alabama, Arizona State, Ohio State, MSU, USC, Oregon

The nation’s top running back, Kareem Walker made it two for two for Michigan this week. Just a day after Hollywood, Fla. linebacker chose Michigan over Florida State, the Wayne, N.J. native announced his commitment to the Wolverines during a ceremony at his school on Thursday afternoon.

Walker is widely regarded as one of the top running backs in the 2016 class. Rivals and ESPN rank him the best, while Scout and 247 have him second behind Clemson commit Tavien Foster and Penn State commit Miles Sanders, respectively. Scout is the lone site to give Walker a fifth star, and lists his strengths as balance, instincts, and power. His areas to improve are listed as blocking ability, breakaway speed, and vision. Scout recruiting analyst Brian Dohn expands on that.

“Walker runs well between the tackles and is explosive through the hole,” Dohn said. “He runs with a low center of gravity and is difficult to bring down on first contact. He can get to the edge but needs to improve on finding the hole when the play isn’t blocked well in front of him.”

Walker originally committed to Ohio State during the national championship game on Jan. 12, but decommitted from the Buckeyes on Nov. 3. His recruitment picked up since then with Michigan, Alabama, Florida State, and Arizona State in hot pursuit. But it was the Wolverines that won over his services.

Michigan’s running game has been largely ineffective the past few seasons with just one 1,000-yard rushing running back — Fitzgerald Toussaint in 2010 — since Mike Hart’s senior season in 2007. This season, De’Veon Smith led the Wolverines with 644 yards, but the majority of those came early in the season. He averaged just 44.7 yards per game in Big Ten play. Walker, meanwhile, rushed for 1,607 yards and 26 touchdowns as a senior at De Paul Catholic High School in New Jersey this season.

As a big back with the explosiveness and quick feet that Smith lacks, Walker will get a chance to battle for playing time right away. Jim Harbaugh showed this season that he’s not above putting anyone out there who he feels might give the offense a spark. Smith led the team with 155 carries, but 10 different running backs or fullbacks got carries, nine of them double digit carries. That includes freshman Karan Higdon, who carried the ball 11 times for 19 yards. Walker will get the chance and if his performance warrants carries Harbaugh will give them to him.

Walker is the fourth running back in the class, joining Prattville, Ala. back Kingston Davis, Winchester, Ind. back Kiante Enis, and Indianapolis, Ind. back Chris Evans, but Enis and Evans are unlikely to stick in the backfield. Both are officially listed as athletes and could play slot receiver, or even switch to the defensive side of the ball. Davis, meanwhile, is expected to sign his grant-in-aid package today at 2pm, locking him in as an early enrollee. The addition of Walker should vault Michigan’s recruiting class to the top — or near the top — of the class rankings on all the major sites with just a few spots left to fill before national signing day.

Michigan’s College Football Playoff rooting guide: Nov. 28

Saturday, November 28th, 2015


Cardinals Stadium

Michigan’s College Football Playoff dreams took an enormous hit Saturday night when Michael Geiger’s 41-yard field goal split the uprights and cracked the Buckeyes in Columbus. The Wolverines not only lost a chance to control their own destiny in the Big Ten race, they also missed out on perhaps two opportunities to play against undefeated, top-five opponents.

Now everything falls into the hands of a Penn State that doesn’t look capable of keeping its star quarterback upright, let alone pulling off a monumental upset. Barring something insane, Michigan will have to settle for a nine or 10-win season, which is pretty incredible, considering the direction the program was trending the last seven years.

But until the final game clock hits zero, we’ll keep pursuing those slim championship hopes.

“I really, really need you”

In honor of Sanka Coffie from Cool Runnings, these teams completely hold Michigan’s fate in their hands. These are the teams that Michigan absolutely needs victories from on Saturday in order to keep the Wolverines’ CFP hopes alive. If even one of these teams falls, Michigan’s CFP dreams die.

No. 10 Michigan (home) over No. 8 Ohio State (12pm, ABC): As always, Michigan has to take care of its own business for any of this to even matter. Jim Harbaugh’s team has done nothing but improve all season and looks like it can compete with almost any team in the country. A win over Ohio State would make the 3:30 kick in East Lansing worth a glance.

Result: Ohio State 42 – Michigan 13

Penn State (away) over No. 5 Michigan State (3:30pm, ABC): This one probably isn’t happening. Michigan State looks to have really hit its stride heading into the final weeks of the season, and Penn State is just limping toward the finish line. If the Spartans win, it’ll be a Big Ten East title for Mark Dantonio.

Result: Michigan State 55 – Penn State 16

“It could happen!”

In honor of JP from Angels in the Outfield, this is the “It could happen” group. These are the teams Michigan is rooting for that have a legitimate chance to win on Saturday. Wins by these teams either help the Wolverines move up in the rankings or improve their resume (in order of kickoff time).

No. 4 Iowa (away) over Nebraska (3:30pm, ABC, Friday): On the off chance that Michigan does get into the Big Ten Championship game next week, it needs an undefeated Iowa, ranked in the top four, to boost its resume. A title game of that magnitude would really propel Michigan into the conversation during the final rankings.

Result: Iowa 28 – Nebraska 20

No. 19 TCU (home) over No. 7 Baylor (8pm, ESPN, Friday): This might be Michigan’s last chance to jump Baylor, as the Bears have only a home date with an awful Texas team remaining. A loss to TCU would put three of the four Big 12 contenders behind Michigan.

Result: TCU 28 – Baylor 21 (2OT)

No. 23 Utah (home) over Colorado (2:30pm, Pac12): Utah has been killing Michigan the last two weeks. Back-to-back losses to Arizona and UCLA has the Utes clinging to the edge of the top 25 and threatening to turn Michigan’s opening loss into a weak one. They cannot afford a loss to Colorado.

Result: Utah 20 – Colorado 14

No. 16 Northwestern (away) over Illinois (3:30pm, ESPNU): The Wildcats have done nothing but help Michigan since being blown out in back-to-back games to the Wolverines and Hawkeyes. Northwestern needs only a win over Illinois to cap off a 10-win regular season and give Michigan one of the best wins (considering the 38-0 score) of the entire football season.

Result: Northwestern 24 – Illinois 14

No. 13 Florida State (away) over No. 12 Florida (7:30pm, ESPN): Since Florida State’s resume pales in comparison to Michigan’s I don’t think a win over Florida would propel the Seminoles into the top 10. Florida, on the other hand, still has the slim chance to jump Michigan if it somehow knocks off Alabama in the SEC title game. A loss to FSU would take care of that worry.

Result: Florida State 27 – Florida 2

No. 9 Stanford (home) over No. 6 Notre Dame (7:30pm, FOX): This is a tough one, because Michigan should pass the loser no matter what if the Wolverines knock off Ohio State. But if Stanford beats Notre Dame, there’s still a chance the Cardinal might lose to UCLA or USC in the Pac-12 title game. That would lift Michigan over both teams if it wins out. Also, Stanford has no business being ranked above Michigan in the first place.

Result: Stanford 38 – Notre Dame 36

No. 11 Oklahoma State (home) over No. 3 Oklahoma (8pm, ABC): There’s definitely a chance Oklahoma State would jump Michigan with a win over vastly over-ranked Oklahoma, but there’s also a chance the Wolverines would hold serve with a win over Ohio State. This is the only scenario that gives Michigan a legitimate shot to shoot above all four Big 12 contenders.

Result: Oklahoma 58 – Oklahoma State 23

“It’s just not believable, Cotton”

In honor of Pepper Brooks, from Dodgeball, these are the true underdog stories. These teams have almost no chance to win, but if they do, it would really help Michigan.

South Carolina (home) over No. 1 Clemson (12pm, ESPN): Hey, it’s the last week of the regular season, why not root for some chaos? It’s not likely that Clemson can do anything to fall below Michigan at this point, but in a rivalry game, on the road, to a team coming off a loss to The Citadel, anything can happen.

Result: Clemson 37 – South Carolina 32

Auburn (home) over No. 2 Alabama (3:30pm, CBS): The Iron Bowl is one of the biggest crapshoots in college football, and a loss to a bad Auburn team would really put pressure on the committee to (finally) punish Alabama. Would the Crimson Tide fall below Michigan? It would certainly have to be under consideration if Michigan beat Ohio State.

Result: Alabama 29 – Auburn 13

North Carolina State (home) over No. 14 North Carolina (3:30pm, ABC/ESPN2): Despite two FCS games and a laughable loss to South Carolina in the nonconference season, North Carolina has ridden a 10-game winning streak over unranked opponents right into the top 15. If the Tarheels did the unthinkable and won the ACC, they might vault Michigan in the rankings. A loss to rival N.C. State would erase any chance of that happening.

Result: North Carolina 45 – N.C. State 34

New in Blue: 2016 OL Michael Onwenu

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015


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: Tight end Chris Clark

Thursday, June 19th, 2014


Chris Clark(247 Sports)

Chris Clark – TE | 6-6, 247 | Avon, Conn. – Avon Old Farms
ESPN: 4-star, #3 TE Rivals: 4-star, #4 TE 247: 4-star, #2 TE Scout: 5-star, #1 TE
Other top offers: Alabama, Auburn, FSU, Georgia, Ohio State, Miami, South Carolina

Michigan seems to be gaining momentum on the recruiting trail, as just a day after picking up a commitment from 2016 quarterback Messiah deWeaver, the Wolverines got the nod from one of the top tight ends in the country, Chris Clark. After visiting Ohio State on Tuesday and Michigan State on Wednesday, the Avon, Conn. star pledged his commitment to Michigan on his visit this afternoon and announced it on Twitter.

Clark is rated four stars by Rivals, 247, and ESPN and five stars by Scout. Scout considers him the top tight end and 26th-best overall prospect in the 2015 class. 247 ranks him the second-best tight end and 101st overall prospect. ESPN has him as their third tight end and 108th-best overall prospect, while Rivals ranks him fourth and 146th, respectively. All but Rivals are in agreement about his height (6’6″) and weight (247-pounds). Rivals lists him six pounds heavier.

Scout lists Clarks’s strengths as blocking ability, hands, concentration, and size, and his weaknesses as downfield threat and elusiveness. Scout’s Brian Dohn had high praise for Clark.

“Clark is a complete tight end who can block, get out and catch the ball and also be a factor in the red zone,” said Dohn. “He has very good hands and is a red-zone threat. He does a nice job running routes and he is a big, physical player. He also embraces the blocking portion of the game, and does a good job getting off the line of scrimmage cleanly. All around, Clark is a complete tight end who should havea big impact quickly in college.”

Make no mistake about it, this is a big pick up for Hoke and staff. Clark held offers from nearly every major program in the country, including Alabama, and Michigan’s three main rivals, Ohio State, Michigan State, and Notre Dame. He originally committed to North Carolina on March 16, but decommitted less than a month later and promptly visited Michigan and Ohio State.

On May 4, Clark tweeted that he would make his announcement at The Opening on July 8, but his visit to Michigan today, during which he met with quarterback commitment Alex Malzone, was enough to get him to end his recruitment a few weeks earlier. He’s the only current commit that will participate in The Opening, an invite-only competition for elite prospects at the Nike World Headquarters in Oregon, but he will join a pair of former commits — George Campbell and Shaun Crawford — as well as several targets.

Clark is the eighth member of the 2015 class and the only tight end. When he gets to Michigan next year — assuming his commitment holds through signing day — he will join a talented group that includes fellow four-stars Jake Butt and Ian Bunting and three star Khalid Hill. For what it’s worth, Devin Funchess was a three-star, though it’s a stretch to consider him a tight end at this point.

New offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier likes to utilize tight ends, so the success Hoke and staff have had recruiting the position the past few years bodes well for the future. Clark has also said that he will do some recruiting for Michigan to try to lure other top prospects to join him in Ann Arbor.

Doug Nussmeier introductory press conference transcript

Friday, January 10th, 2014


Michigan officially welcomed new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier with a press conference on Friday morning. Below is the full transcript. You can watch the full presser on MGoBlue.com.

Brady Hoke

Opening statement
“First I would like to say we addressed what we were going to do as a program on Wednesday and I want to thank Al Borges and his family for their commitment that they’ve made to Michigan and at San Diego State. It’s not easy when you’ve spent five years with a coach and a family and all those things, but we consider him more than just a colleague.

“But as you know, as you go through coaching and the profession itself, we took this job three years ago to make Michigan better. And we took this job knowing that every decision that’s going to be made by me is going to be made what’s best for Michigan and the kids in this program and the legacies and 134 years of teams that have come before. So it’s an exciting day because this change I think is going to be one that we’re all going to benefit from.

“As we look forward and as you move forward, the direction of where we want to go is, we have a vision, we know what that is, and that’s why Doug is here today. It’s a great day for Michigan football in a lot of ways and we’re excited to have Doug here and what we’ll do as an offense and as a football team. A couple things: Doug and I first crossed paths when I was the head football coach at Ball State. We have a mutual friend that I played with and also just happened to be the guy who was representing Doug while he was playing in the National Football League. So Doug and I had a brief conversation and I have tracked his career, obviously, for a long time.

“He’s a great fit and will do a tremendous job with what we’re doing offensively. With Doug himself, number one, he’s got a great family. Christie and Derrick and Ashlan and Colton are a great fit to our football family. We’re excited about that, excited about Doug and his background.

“Obviously, it’s a guy with national championship experience which is the highest goal that we all have, coached in the National Football League, coached in college, and and developed some outstanding quarterbacks. AJ McCarron, Jake Locker, Marc Bulger, at every level, and his tutoring of those guys is excellent.

“I think what’s also exciting is the balance from an offensive perspective that Doug brings. He’s had six 1,000-yard rushers over the last six years and obviously that’s something that we want to do as a program – we want to have that balance and we want to be able to run the football. We’ve talked about that since day one and we will improve that game and what we’re doing. Developing quarterbacks, developing young talent as an offense is something he’s done and proven, and we are a team that is young in a lot of ways but we’re getting older and we’re getting better every day. So we’re excited about that.

“He was a finalist for the head coaching job at the University of Washington. Tells you a little bit about nationally how people think of Doug and his character and what he represents. But the passion that he has for the game of football, the passion that he has for the young men he leads is really what being a coach is all about and having him here to lead our offense and to be a part of this great university and this program and having his family being a big part of it we’re truly excited.

“Today is about Michigan and it’s about Doug in a lot of ways and what he brings, so we couldn’t be more excited and I’m going to have Doug come up here and share. But we’re excited, and we’re excited because of what the Nussmeier family brings to Michigan and also we’re excited because of the fit that we feel we have.

“Doug Nussmeier, please.”

Doug Nussmeier

Opening statement
“I want to say first off, this is a really special day for our family and I can’t say enough how special it is that we are here together, my beautiful wife Christie, my sons Colton and Garrett, my daughter Ashlyn. I want to thank you guys for all that you sacrifice day in and day out.

“We’re very very blessed to be here and I want to say a special thanks to Coach Hoke for giving us this opportunity. Dave Brandon, our athletic director, thank you very much. This is a special place, a special, special place, and that’s why we’re here. We talk about 11 national championships, 42 Big Ten championships, three Heisman Trophy winners. It’s Michigan football and when you say the word Michigan everybody knows about Michigan football.

“I was fortunate enough to be in this conference before. I have a great amount of respect for this league and for all the things that Michigan football stands for. I just can’t say enough about how excited we are to be here, to be a part of the family, and really look forward to working with a great coaching staff.

“Talking about Coach Hoke and how we met each other a long time ago, the respect that I’ve developed over the years for what he’s accomplished as a head football coach. To watch him start at Ball State and to go onto San Diego State and to come here at Michigan, not only as a quality coach when you talk about wins and losses and being a coach of the year in the nation, but you talk about the type of man that he is, the type of person that he is.

“When you talk about Coach Hoke with other people in our profession you hear nothing but class, family, all the right things, cares about his players, as we all do – we want to win – but he also sees the big picture about developing young men both on and off the field. To have the chance to be a part of that, like I said before, we just feel so blessed, and to work with such a great quality of staff. I’ve known Greg Mattison for a long time and what he’s accomplished and the defensive staff, great coaches. To have the ability to come here and work with Heck and Doug and Dan and Fred, just really really excited about that opportunity and I want to thank, once again, coach and Dave for them believing in us as a family and the commitment they’ve made to us and we’re just very very excited to be here. With that, I’ll open it up to questions.”

You’ve talked about the direction and vision with Coach Hoke. In your interpretation, what is that?
“Tough. Physical. Explosive. That’s what we want to be. We want to be able to run the football and we want to be able to put points on the board. We want to force the defense to defend all different elements of the game.”

How much do you know about the Michigan offense? The biggest issue was the offensive line. How quickly do you think you can fix it?
“Well, correct me if I’m wrong but we’re 11 points away from being 11-1, so this is a good football team here with good young talent. If Coach Hoke recruits players, which I know he does because you look at our recruiting rankings over the last years, as well as he recruits coaches – he recruited me – we’re going to do really good with our young players and developing and moving toward the future.

“There is young talent on this team. We’ve got to develop it. We’ve got 45, 46 days before we go to spring football, so getting those young players on the same page, and player development is all about how you view it, and with any young player there’s a steep learning curve. So day to day continuing to improve, that’s going to be the focus. We’ve got to get better each and every day and focus on that day and what that holds and get the players focused on what we’re going to get better at today.”

What does Michigan provide that you didn’t have at Alabama? Why go from Alabama to Michigan?
“Well, obviously I can’t say enough about Coach Saban and the opportunity that we had there at Alabama. It was a great opportunity. Like I said, Michigan football, the opportunity to be here in the Big Ten, to be a part of the winningest program in all of college football, to have the opportunity to integrate into a staff and to take this program to where we all want to go. You talk about the quarterback position, the great quarterbacks that have played here, you go down the list: Brady, Griese, Denard Robinson, Chad Henne. It’s Quarterback U so to say, and the ability to be a part of that room here and help those guys develop and grow, I’m just really really excited about that opportunity.”

What’s your challenge in getting the players as ready to go in the spring as you can?
“I think that communication is essential. It’s essential in anything you do, and it starts with that. We’ve got great communicators on this staff and the biggest thing is for us as we sit down as a staff to evaluate where we are, where we want to go, set like I said a clear path every day for these young men and how we’re going to get better and the things we want to achieve on a day to day basis. As we grow daily, then the end product will evolve.”

Schematically, what are your plans, what do you want to install?
“We’re going to put our playmakers in the best possible position we can to make plays. That’s the goal. What that means is we want to control the tempo of the game on offense, whether that means we need to go fast, we need to go slow, whatever it may be, we want to control the tempo of the game on offense and give our guys an opportunity to make plays. Schematically, look at ways that we can create competitive advantages for our players. So what that means is you could see us in one formation one week running one play and a different one the next week. But like I said, the identity is we’re going to be physical, we want to play fast, we want to be explosive.”

What are your head coaching aspirations? How does becoming offensive coordinator at Michigan fit into your long term career arc?
“I’ve said it before, I’d love to be a head coach in the right situation. As that relates to being here today, I’m excited about the opportunity to learn from Brady Hoke, who in my opinion is one of the best coaches in all of college football. To learn the system here that he has in place, to get into a room with who I feel are very, very good football coaches. Anytime you get a new group of guys together when it comes to football there are so many different ideas and so many different avenues and ways you can go. It’s a really really exciting time for us as a family, I’m really excited, and can’t wait to get here and really get grinding.”

With the perception that Nick Saban likes to control things, do you feel like at Michigan you’ll have some freedoms that maybe you didn’t have at Alabama?
“Coach and I talked about his philosophy. Obviously, I wouldn’t be here today if I wasn’t all in on what Coach Hoke and I discussed and what he wanted to do on offense, how we wanted to be and how we wanted to move forward. So part of coming here was us being on the same page with what we want to do offensively, and we both agree on the identity we want like I talked about before. As far as schematically how we’ll approach that, we’ll adapt with our personnel. That’s something he and I will work with the offensive staff on a day to day basis.”

When you were at Michigan State, what kind of things did you learn about the Big Ten and how did you view the Michigan program?
“Well, I watched a lot of touchdown passes right here in this corner to Braylon Edwards the one year when we thought we were going to get a W. I have a lot of respect for that program. We had a wonderful time there in the three years we were there. But I said it before, when you say Michigan it’s synonymous with football, and I don’t care if you go to a mall in California, Texas, Florida, you’re going to see somebody wearing Michigan. When you get an opportunity to coach at a place like this and to be a part of this, and let me say this, this isn’t about me, this isn’t about coaching, it’s always about the players. The type of people that come to Michigan, the quality of kids, what they’ve achieved, not only on the field but look at the achievement off the field, it is a special, special place and there’s not many of them. So to have the opportunity to come here and be a part of that was something that after we discussed it as a family was something that we felt was the right move for us.”

What’s the key to being able to run the football even in an era where you see a lot of stacked defenses?
“Obviously, you’re always trying to identify the best way to do things. What’s the best way we can create a fair box count for our linemen to get people blocked, or can we use a receiver with this type of motion to create a numbers advantage? Those are all schematical issues, and there are times too when our players have got to know that there may be a loaded box but you know what, we are who we are, we’re tough, we’re hard-nosed, we’re physical, and we’re going to come downhill and run the ball at people.”

Have you had a chance to talk to any of the players?
“A little bit. Got to see a couple of them and great kids. Can’t say enough about the look in their eye and like I said the quality of student athlete that we have here at Michigan is second to none in the country.”

You’ve had success with quarterbacks. How quickly do you think it can take you to make Devin Gardner a very efficient passer?
“The biggest thing I think from a quarterback standpoint is trying to simulate a game type environment for them Sunday through Friday. When you get out on the field on Saturday, things happen fast, and if you’re not prepared you can get exposed very quickly. So you never want to put a quarterback on the field who’s not prepared and the way you prepare them is try to simulate as much as you can a gameday experience Sunday through Friday.

“The biggest thing is the amount of time we spend together in that media room, and obviously we’re limited by NCAA rules, and I think it’s really important at that position that the players possess a quality of self-determination. They’ve got to be self starters, they’ve got to be driven, because you’ve got to do more on your own because we just don’t have the time that you would like with the NCAA rules. But we’ll prepare our quarterback to play and play successfully, and we’ll do whatever we need to do schematically to put him in the best position to have success.”

On the timeline of the hiring
“Coach Hoke reached out to me recently and the conversations we had, like I said, having followed his career, knowing what type of football coach he was and what type of person he was, it escalated quickly. It’s a great opportunity. We’re fortunate to be here and like I said really looking forward to doing big things.”

When did you and Hoke meet?
“We met, shoot coach, it was a long time ago…”

When did you start talking about the job?
“Just recently we spoke.”

When will you get the ball rolling?
“Well, ideally as soon as possible. Obviously we’re in the heart of recruiting season, it’s important as they say, it’s about Jimmies and Joes, not Xs and Os. So the first thing is on the recruiting front. Football will take care of itself. I’m really excited just to get to know these guys more and really dive in and integrate. As soon as we can we’ll get going. Obviously we’re in a little bit of a dead period here, so the convention’s coming up next week and then after that we’ll get rolling.”

Have you sat down with Coach Hoke and discussed other assistants and what your recruiting role will be? Any specific regions or anything?
“I can tell you right now, it’s got to be tropical, coach. No, I’m just kidding [laughter]. Just joking. No, we haven’t and like I said I want to integrate into the staff and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to make Michigan football be successful, whatever that may be to recruit I’m all for that. We haven’t gotten to that stage yet. We did have a brief recruiting meeting this morning as a full staff, but wherever I’m needed I’m willing to go.”

How soon do you think this team can be all the things you want it to be?
“Well, like I said and coach talked about, we need to run the football. Just briefly look at statistically where we’re at, we’ve got to eliminate the sacks. We can’t have lost yardage plays, number one thing we’ve got to eliminate that. We can’t have undisciplined penalties, pre-snap penalties. Any time you’re trying to find consistency on offense you’ve got to start from the basis of we’re not going to go backwards. So we’re not going to have lost yardage runs, we’re not going to take sacks, we’re not going to have penalties. So that’s the first thing we’ll start from, as long as the ball’s moving forward and we’re ending every series in a kick we’ll have a chance. That’s where we want to start from, but that will be the key point of emphasis to start.”

How confident are you now that you have the pieces in place to make this work quickly?
“Very confident. Like I said, this football team is 11 points away from being 11-1. That’s a darn good football team and the young players on this roster, having known some that we recruited – Derrick Green and David Dawson and Wilton Speight and Shane Morris and those guys – I don’t know the whole roster, haven’t had a lot of time to familiarize myself with everybody, but knowing the players that we recruited when I was at Alabama that are here and part of this team, really feel good about where we’re headed, and we need to get there quickly.”

How far is this team from being SEC caliber?
“I can’t answer that. I didn’t see a lot of Big Ten football this season, obviously. We didn’t really cross paths anywhere. I know this, when we prepared to play this football team last season down there in Dallas, I thought it was a very, very good football team we were getting ready to play. There were a lot of sleepless nights thinking about Coach Mattison and his blitzes and all the things that we might see the next day.”

Nussmeier in

Thursday, January 9th, 2014


(USATSI)

After announcing the firing of offensive coordinator Al Borges on Wednesday afternoon, Brady Hoke didn’t waste any finding his replacement. Word leaked Wednesday evening and the school confirmed on Thursday that Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier was hired to run Michigan’s offense.

From the official release:

“Doug is a highly respected offensive coordinator and has earned a reputation as being a great mentor to quarterbacks, specifically, where he’s coached Pro Bowlers, top NFL draft choices and Heisman Trophy finalists,” said Hoke. “Doug has been successful at every coaching stop with his balanced and explosive offenses, and he brings national championship experience. He is an excellent addition to our coaching staff and football program, and we are excited to have Doug, Christi and their children join the Michigan family.”

“I am extremely excited to join the University of Michigan and work with Brady Hoke, the staff and players,” said Nussmeier. “I’m proud of what we accomplished in two seasons at Alabama, and I owe a great deal to Coach Saban for that opportunity. Michigan is a program I’ve always had deep respect for, and I’m looking forward to getting started in Ann Arbor and being a part of the great tradition there.”

Nussmeier is a graduate of Idaho where he finished his career as one of just four quarterbacks in NCAA history to pass for 10,000 yards and rush for 1,000, joining Steve McNair, Daunte Culpepper, and Colin Kaepernick. He won the Walter Peyton Award in 1993, which is given annually to Division 1-AA’s top player.

After a stint in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts, Nussmeier went to the CFL where he guided the BC Lions to a Grey Cup Championship in 2000. Following that season, he began his coaching career as the quarterbacks coach with the BC Lions and then became offensive coordinator for the Ottawa Renegades a year later.

In 2003 he got his first college coaching gig as Michigan State’s quarterbacks coach. In three seasons in East Lansing, Nussmeier guided Jeff Smoker and Drew Stanton to becoming NFL Draft picks. Smoker set a school record with 3,395 passing yards in 2003 and Stanton passed for 3,077 yards, 22 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 2005, Nussmeier’s final season at MSU. Stanton ranked second in the Big Ten in passing average, total offense, and passing efficiency that season. He was also considered a Heisman Trophy candidate entering the 2006 season, but his numbers dropped significantly following Nussmeier’s departure. Michigan State’s offense also ranked second in the Big Ten in 2005 behind only Northwestern.

Quarterbacks under Nussmeier
Year Quarterback Passing Yds Comp % Pass TDs INTs
2003 Jeff Smoker (MSU) 3,395* 61.9 21 14
2004 Drew Stanton (MSU) 1,601 64.1 8 6
2005 Drew Stanton (MSU) 3,077 66.7 22 12
2006 Marc Bulger (St. Louis) 4,301 62.9 24 8
2007 Marc Bulger (St. Louis) 2,392 58.5 11 15
2008 Tom Brandstater (Fresno State) 2,664 59.6 18 12
2009 Jake Locker (Washington) 2,800 58.2 21 11
2010 Jake Locker (Washington) 2,265 55.4 17 9
2011 Keith Price (Washington) 3,063 66.9 33* 11
2012 AJ McCarron (Alabama) 2,933 67.2 30* 3
2013 AJ McCarron (Alabama) 3,063* 67.3 28 7
*School record
Devin Gardner 2013 comparison
2013 Devin Gardner 2,960 60.3 21 11

Nussmeier then jumped to the NFL, serving as the quarterbacks coach for the St. Louis Rams in 2006 and 2007. There, he helped Marc Bulger earn a Pro Bowl spot in 2006 after passing for 4,301 yards, 24 touchdowns and just eight interceptions.

He returned to the college game in 2008 as offensive coordinator at Fresno State and a year later moved on to Washington. In Seattle, he took over an offense that averaged just 13.3 points and 263 yards per game the year before and nearly doubled the scoring in his first season. By his third season at Washington the Huskies averaged 33.4 points and 410 yards per game.

In 2009 and 2010, under Nussmeier’s tutelage, quarterback Jake Locker passed for 5,065 yards, with a 38-20 touchdown to interception ratio and also rushed for 773 yards and 13 scores. He became just the sixth quarterback since 2000 to be drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft despite a losing record in college. He was selected eighth overall by the Tennessee Titans.

Keith Price took over at quarterback in 2011 and the offense got even stronger. Price threw for 3,063 yards, a school record 33 touchdowns, and just 11 interceptions while completing 67 percent of his passes.

Nussmeier’s offense at Washington
Before Nussmeier
Year Pts/game Total yds Rush yds Pass yds
2008 13.3 3,158 1,192 1,966
Under Nussmeier
Year Pts/game Total yds Rush yds Pass yds
2009 26.1 4,506 1,668 2,838
2010 21.8 4,713 2,238 2,475
2011 33.4 5,328 2,006 3,322

Following the 2011 season, Nussmeier was hired by Nick Saban to replace Jim McElwain as offensive coordinator at Alabama. He inherited a loaded offense and did not disappoint in year one, guiding the Crimson Tide to school records for total offense (6,237), points (542), touchdowns scored (68), and passing touchdowns (31) en route to a national championship.

This past season he had to replace three starting offensive linemen and running back Eddie Lacy, all of whom were drafted, but the offense didn’t see much of a setback. It averaged 38.2 points per game – half a point less than 2012 – and ranked 17th nationally in scoring offense, 33rd in total offense, 25th in rushing, and 49th in passing.

Quarterback AJ McCarron ranked first nationally in passing efficiency in 2012 and eighth in 2013 while throwing for 5,996 yards, 58 touchdowns, and just 10 interceptions during those two seasons. He also completed 67.2 percent of his passes and finished second in the Heisman race in 2013.

Nussmeier’s offense at Alabama
Before Nussmeier
Year Pts/game Total yds Rush yds Pass yds
2011 34.8 5,585 2,788 2,797
Under Nussmeier
Year Pts/game Total yds Rush yds Pass yds
2012 38.7 6,237 3,185 3,052
2013 38.2 5,903 2,673 3,230

The common theme from his two big gigs, Washington and Alabama, is that in his first season at each school he improved the offense from the previous season.

In addition to his work with quarterbacks, Nussmeier’s offenses have produced six 1,000-yard rushers in the past five seasons. At Washington, Chris Polk rushed for 1,113 yards in 2009, 1,415 in 2010, and 1,488 in 2011. At Alabama, Lacy ran for 1,322 and TJ Yeldon 1,108 in 2012 while Yeldon also ran for 1,235 in 2013.

Nussmeier’s proven quarterback acumen bodes well for Devin Gardner and Shane Morris’ development, and with highly touted running backs such as Derrick Green and DeVeon Smith ready for an expanded role, there’s plenty of reason for hope for Michigan’s offense going forward.

His introductory press conference is scheduled for Friday at 11am and will be streamed live on MGoBlue.com.

Stay tuned for more on other potential staff changes.

Inside the Numbers: A departure from postseason custom

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013


The dictionary defines a “custom” as “a traditional and widely accepted way of behaving or doing something that is specific to a particular society, place, or time.” The prestige of Michigan’s football program was built on custom. Look no further than its 910 all-time wins, 42 Big Ten championships or its rivalry with Ohio State, which has been U-M’s regular-season finale for all but three years since 1935. Fans have accepted this way of behavior from the Michigan football program.

Another custom Michigan fans have accepted involves a New Year’s Day ritual. After ringing in the New Year with family and friends, they awake the following morning. What each Michigan fan does when it wakes up on New Year’s Day varies from person to person. But they all know that, in a few short hours, they will be watching, whether it be in person or from their couch, the Michigan Wolverines play in a New Year’s Day bowl game.

Michigan fans have become accustomed to this New Year’s Day ritual because fans have been able to follow it most years since 1975. Before then, though, participating in any bowl game was a rarity for Michigan. This was not because the Wolverines were undeserving of a bowl bid, but because the bowl system’s structure at that time limited U-M’s opportunities to play in bowl games.

Michigan played in the first ever Rose Bowl game in 1902 (Bentley)

Michigan first appeared in a bowl game on January 1, 1902, shutting out Stanford, 49-0, in the first edition of the Rose Bowl and capping a national championship season. However, in the decades thereafter, the Big Ten prevented its members from participating in bowl games. It was not until 1946 that the Big Ten allowed its teams to play in the Rose Bowl, albeit no school could do so in consecutive years until 1971. Additionally, the Big Ten prevented its schools from playing in any other bowl game until 1975.

Accordingly, Michigan had the opportunity to play in a bowl game only five times—all Rose Bowls and all on January 1st—from 1946 to 1974. Further, from 1972 to 1974, the Wolverines won 10 games in each of those three seasons. And, yet, because of the Big Ten’s rules, U-M did not appear in a single bowl game during that stretch because the conference sent Ohio State to the Rose Bowl each year instead.

Then, prior to the 1975 season, the Big Ten announced that it would allow its teams to play in more than just the Rose Bowl. The Wolverines were the first team to benefit from this rule change. After the 1975 season, the Big Ten once again sent the Buckeyes to Rose Bowl. But, because of the rule change, the Big Ten also sent Michigan to the Orange Bowl to face the Oklahoma Sooners on January 1, 1976.

This began a long-accepted custom of January bowl games, especially on New Year’s Day, for Michigan. From 1975 to 2012, there were 38 college football regular seasons. Michigan played in a bowl game in 36 of them. Of those 36 bowl games, Michigan played in 30 of them in January. Of those 30 January bowl games, U-M played in 25 of them on New Year’s Day. Thus, for the past 38 seasons, Michigan has played in a January bowl in 78.9 percent of them and in a New Year’s Day bowl in 65.8 percent of them.

Overall, Michigan has appeared in 42 bowl games and has played in 36 of those in January. Accordingly, U-M has played 85.7 percent of its bowl games in January. No other BCS team has played a higher percentage of its bowl games during the first month of the calendar year:

Highest Pct. Of January Bowl Games Among BCS Schools – Prior to 2013
Rank School No. of Bowl Games No. of Jan. Bowl Games % of Jan. Bowl Games
1 Michigan 42 36 85.7%
2 Ohio State 43 35 81.4%
3 Duke 9 7 77.8%
4 USC 49 38 77.6%
5 Oklahoma 46 34 73.9%
6 Notre Dame 32 23 71.9%
7 Nebraska 49 34 69.4%
T8 Alabama 60 40 66.7%
T8 Arkansas 39 26 66.7%
T8 Stanford 24 16 66.7%
11 Penn State 44 29 65.9%
12 Miami FL 34 22 64.7%
13 LSU 44 28 63.6%
14 Tennessee 49 31 63.3%
15 Wisconsin 24 15 62.5%
16 UConn 5 3 60.0%
17 Florida State 42 25 59.5%
18 Texas 51 30 58.8%
19 Florida 40 23 57.5%
20 Auburn 37 21 56.8%

No, Michigan does not have the most January-bowl-game appearances among BCS teams. That distinction belongs to the Alabama Crimson Tide. But, when a BCS team receives a bowl bid, no BCS team expects it to be from a bowl game played in January more than the Wolverines. This has certainly been the case recently more than ever. Since the 1996 regular season, the Maize and Blue have played in 15 bowl games. Fourteen of those were in the month of January. Thirteen of those were played on New Year’s Day.

So, on December 8, 2013, bowl executives, conference representatives, and school officials were finalizing this season’s bowl lineups. It was no surprise that many Michigan fans expected the Gator Bowl—a bowl game played on New Year’s Day—to be the Wolverines’ destination. This was tradition. This was custom. Why would it be any different this year?

Yet, that evening, ESPN announced that the Maize and Blue received a bowl bid from the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl—a bowl played on December 28, 2013—rather than the Gator Bowl. The Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl had the luxury of choosing which Big Ten team it wanted to play in its game before the Gator Bowl. Even though some, including the author of this column, believed that the Buffalo Wild Wing Bowl would select Nebraska over Michigan because the Cornhuskers beat U-M in Ann Arbor and had a better record than U-M, among other reasons, the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl selected the Wolverines over the Cornhuskers because “Michigan is Michigan.”

So rather than play a New Year’s Day bowl game for the 14th time in its last 16 bowl games, Michigan will play in only its seventh bowl game before the first day of the New Year. Although U-M’s overall bowl record is not stellar, the Wolverines hold only a 2-4 record in their previous six December bowl games. Here is a list of those games:

List of Michigan’s December Bowl Games
Date Bowl Opponent W/L Score
Dec. 28, 1979 Gator North Carolina L 15-17
Dec. 31, 1981 Bluebonnet UCLA W 33-14
Dec. 21, 1984 Holiday Brigham Young L 17-24
Dec. 30, 1994 Holiday Colorado State W 24-14
Dec. 28, 1995 Alamo Texas A&M L 20-22
Dec. 28, 2005 Alamo Nebraska L 28-32

This is a break from Michigan’s postseason custom. And this applies to more than just the month in which the Wolverines play their bowl game. The Buffalo Wild Wing Bowl, which is held in Tempe, Arizona, is scheduled to kick off at 10:15 p.m. ET. This is not the first late start for Michigan. U-M has started bowl games at 8:30 p.m. ET before, doing so in the 1994 Holiday Bowl versus Colorado State and the 2012 Sugar Bowl against Virginia Tech. Also, the Wolverines have faced Hawaii at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii, twice, but those games started no later than 9:30 p.m. ET. Therefore, the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl’s 10:15 p.m. ET kick off may be the latest in U-M history.

So, to recap: Michigan is playing in a December bowl game for only the seventh time and may be participating in a game that starts later than any game in program history. Further, this is the first time the Wolverines have played in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, previously known as the Copper Bowl, and the first time the Wolverines have faced Kansas State. Nothing about Michigan’s bowl game this Saturday resembles its postseason custom.

Unfortunately, for Michigan fans, this separation from U-M’s postseason custom was bound to happen. When the four-team College Football Playoff starts next season, many of the prestigious bowl games involved with the playoff will played on New Year’s Eve rather than New Year’s Day. Yes, Michigan still will find itself playing in bowl games on New Year’s Day, but no longer will it hope to play in bowl games that occur only in January as it has under the current bowl system.

So, when Michigan fans wake up on New Year’s Day in 2014, they will have to follow a ritual different from the tradition they have become accustomed to in recent years. However, if U-M plans to compete for national championships for the next dozen years, Michigan fans were going to break away from their custom of rooting for Michigan in January bowl games, especially those on New Year’s Day. They just so happen to need to do so one year early.

Three Notes You Should Know Before Michigan-Kansas State

1. If Jeremy Gallon catches at least five passes for 42 yards against Kansas State, he will be the only receiver ranked in the Top 3 for most receptions and receiving yards in a game, in a season, and in a career in Michigan history. Additionally, Gallon needs 47 yards to surpass Braylon Edwards’ single-season record mark of 1,330 receiving yards in 2004.

2. Devin Gardner’s status for the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl is uncertain. If Gardner plays, he can set new school records for most passing yards, most total touchdowns, and most passing touchdowns in a season with a 372-passing-yard, five-passing-touchdown performance. This seems unlikely, but, given his stat lines against Notre Dame, Indiana, and Ohio State, it is not out of the realm of possibility. Of course, Gardner must play first.

3. If Gardner does not play, Shane Morris will make his first career start at quarterback. Morris would be the fourth true freshman to start at quarterback for the Wolverines in the past decade. The other three were Tate Forcier, Ryan Mallett, and Chad Henne. Morris would have tough acts to follow as those three combined for 411 passing yards, eight passing touchdowns, and only one interception in their first starts.