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Countdown to kickoff: 79 days

Thursday, June 12th, 2014


Countdown to kickoff-79

Inside the Numbers: Despite pint sized stature, Gallon may be one of Michigan’s best ever

Monday, October 21st, 2013


(Patrick Barron, The Michigan Daily)

What is the prototypical Michigan wide receiver? For many, it is a wide receiver that is six-feet-and-three-inches tall, weighs 210 pounds, and can dunk a football over the crossbar effortlessly. For years, they have walked through the doors at Schembechler Hall and dazzled those in attendance at Michigan Stadium. They include Braylon Edwards, Amani Toomer, Tai Streets, David Terrell, Marquise Walker, and Derrick Alexander. The list is seemingly never-ending.

Michigan head coach Brady Hoke has expressed his desire to add more of them to the list and has done so since taking over the program, obtaining verbal commitments from nine receivers that are all at least six-feet-and-two-inches tall in his 2012-15 recruiting classes. Yet, it is the five-foot-eight wideout from Apopka, Florida, that may just be one of the best to don the winged helmet.

On June 5, 2008, wide receiver Jeremy Gallon gave a verbal pledge to then-Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez that he would leave the warm confines of the Sunshine State to play his collegiate ball in Ann Arbor. Gallon was expected by Rodriguez and the staff to have a versatile role for the Wolverines, lining up in the slot, in the backfield, and as a returner. Rodriguez wanted to utilize Gallon by putting him in space in the middle of the field, where his quickness and speed would expose linebackers in coverage and generate plentiful yards after the catch.

Jeremy Gallon's 369 yards set a Michigan and Big Ten single-game record (MGoBlue.com)

However, Gallon did not become the starting slot receiver until after Michigan fired Rodriguez, and the results at the position under offensive coordinator Al Borges were a mixed bag. Borges did not feature Gallon in Michigan’s game plan, and former quarterback Denard Robinson’s accuracy issues limited Gallon’s production the few times he was targeted. In Gallon’s 21 games at slot receiver in 2011 and 2012, he caught at least four passes only three times and topped 80 receiving yards only once. It seemed like Gallon would be an average second or third option in the passing game throughout his career, highlighted by his undercover 64-yard reception in the final seconds against Notre Dame in 2011.

But with a move to outside receiver and a substitution at quarterback during the second half of the 2012 campaign, everything changed for the pint-sized Gallon. He became Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner’s favorite target as they developed an ESP-like connection, and the record-setting performances began to pile up.

In the 12 games since Gardner became the starting quarterback, Gallon has caught 76 passes for 1,342 yards and 10 touchdowns—which would be the most receiving yards by a U-M receiver ever if accomplished in a calendar season. He has caught a pass in 33 straight games, which is third best in Michigan history. He has grabbed at least four passes in 11 of his last 12 games and topped 80 receiving yards in six of them. He shattered the Michigan and Big Ten single-game receiving records with 369 yards against Indiana last Saturday. Not only is that total the second most in FBS history, his first- and second-half receiving totals—170 and 199—would be the 15th- and second-best performances, respectively, in Michigan history by themselves.

With virtuoso performances against South Carolina in the 2013 Outback Bowl and Notre Dame and Indiana in 2013, Gallon has sneakily transformed himself into one of the best wide receivers in Michigan history.  Here are Gallon’s current receiving statistics, compared with those of former Wolverine wideouts considered by most to be the best ever at Michigan:

Mosts for top Michigan wide receivers – Current Numbers
Jeremy Gallon Anthony Carter Desmond Howard Amani Toomer Tai Streets David Terrell Marquise Walker Braylon Edwards Mario Manningham
In a game
Catches 14 9 9 8 12 10 15 13 10
Yards 369 154 167 179 192 150 160 189 162
Touchdowns 3 2 3 2 2 3 2 3 3
In a season
Catches 45* 51 63 54 67 71 86 97 72
Yards 831 952 1,025 1,096 1,035 1,130 1,143 1,330 1,174
Touchdowns 7 14 19 7 11 14 11 15 12
In a career
Catches 129 161 134 143 144 152 176 252 137
Yards 2,162 3,076 2,146 2,657 2,284 2,317 2,269 3,541 2,310
Touchdowns 15 37 32 18 19 23 17 39 27
*Gallon had 49 catches in 2012, but will likely surpass that number in the next game against Michigan State

As one can see from the table above, while Gallon’s best numbers in individual games are almost as good as, if not better than, every other wide receiver in Michigan history, his season and career totals are slightly lower than those of the eight ex-Wolverines listed, except for Desmond Howard’s career yardage and Toomer’s most number of touchdowns in a season.

However, this is to be expected for a player that still has six or seven games remaining in his collegiate career. To have an idea where Gallon will stand at the end of the year, one must project his 2013 season and career numbers. The best method to project these totals is to use the averages Gallon has recorded since Gardner became the starter, rather than his averages for his entire career, because Gardner will be the quarterback for the remainder of the year.

In the 12 games since Gardner became the signal caller, Gallon has averaged 6.33 receptions, 111.83 yards, and 0.83 touchdowns per game. If Gallon maintains these averages for the next 6.5 games—which allows for the possibility of Michigan participating in the Big Ten Championship Game—here is how his numbers stack up against the same former Wolverines listed above:

Mosts for top Michigan wide receivers – Projected Numbers*
Jeremy Gallon Anthony Carter Desmond Howard Amani Toomer Tai Streets David Terrell Marquise Walker Braylon Edwards Mario Manningham
In a game
Catches 14 9 9 8 12 10 15 13 10
Yards 369 154 167 179 192 150 160 189 162
Touchdowns 3 2 3 2 2 3 2 3 3
In a season
Catches 86* 51 63 54 67 71 86 97 72
Yards 1,558* 952 1,025 1,096 1,035 1,130 1,143 1,330 1,174
Touchdowns 12* 14 19 7 11 14 11 15 12
In a career
Catches 170* 161 134 143 144 152 176 252 137
Yards 2,889* 3,076 2,146 2,657 2,284 2,317 2,269 3,541 2,310
Touchdowns 20* 37 32 18 19 23 17 39 27
*Projections are only for Gallon’s 2013 season and career totals

If these projections pan out, the following would be Gallon’s rank in Michigan history in those categories:

Gallon could finish in the top five in Michigan history in all receiving categories (MGoBlue.com)

Catches in Game: 3rd
Catches in a Season: t-2nd
Catches in a Career: 3rd
Yards in a Game: 1st (Big Ten record, 2nd in FBS history)
Yards in a Season: 1st (Big Ten record)
Yards in a Career: 3rd
Touchdowns in a Game: t-2nd
Touchdowns in a Season: t-6th
Touchdowns in a Career: 7th

Gallon has a realistic opportunity to finish in the top five in Michigan’s record book for all nine of these categories. To do so, Gallon would need at least 31 catches, 299 yards, and eight touchdowns to close out the season. If he does do so, he would become only the second receiver in Michigan history to accomplish such a feat, joining Braylon Edwards.

There are two caveats that must be mentioned before one assumes these projections will come to life. First, by using only the numbers from the 12 games that Gardner started at quarterback, the sample size is much smaller and the 369-yard performance becomes an even bigger outlier. Although Gallon has averaged 111.83 receiving yards in those 12 games, he has only eclipsed 100 receiving yards in three of them. Gallon will need to be more consistent with his output because 369-yard performances do not happen every Saturday.

Second, the yards may be harder to come by in Michigan’s remaining games. The average rank of the seven teams Michigan has already faced in passing yards allowed is 72.6. The average rank of the five teams Michigan has yet to play is 58.2, and U-M likely will play better passing defenses in the Big Ten Championship Game, if necessary, and its bowl game. While there is not a large discrepancy between the average ranks, Michigan will face two top 30 pass defenses in Michigan State (no. 4) and Iowa (no. 26) after facing zero in the first seven games.

Nonetheless, Gallon has been absolutely incredible in his past 12 games, enough so that it is time to start debating where he ranks among the best wide receivers in Michigan history as Team 134 finishes its season. There is no doubt that Carter, Howard, and Edwards, in no order, are the three best at the position to wear the maize and blue. Yet, the fourth best receiver is not so clear. A legitimate argument can be made for seven former players: Alexander, Toomer, Streets, Terrell, Walker, Jason Avant, and Manningham. If Gallon has a quiet second half of the season, he will likely find himself outside the top 10 and not in the discussion for the fourth best wideout in school history.

But if Gallon can continue to perform like he has since Gardner took the reins and produce numbers similar to the ones in the above projections, he will cement his case for being one of the five best wide receivers in Michigan history, despite not matching the physical specifications of a prototypical Michigan wideout. Not bad for a five-foot-eight Floridian that would not have been a Michigan recruiting target if he had been born only two years later.

Three notes you should know for the bye week

  1. Like Jeremy Gallon, Devin Gardner also broke multiple Michigan records by a large margin. His 584 total yards were 82 more than the 502 Denard Robinson had against Notre Dame in 2010, while his 503 passing yards were 114 more than the 389 John Navarre had against Iowa in 2003. Gardner leads the Big Ten in total offense (328.4), points responsible for (18.9), passing efficiency (159.6), and yards per completion (16.63). Further, he is second in the conference with 13 passing touchdowns and third with nine rushing touchdowns.
  1. Although Michigan running back Fitzgerald Toussaint has not found many holes behind U-M’s offensive line, averaging only 3.7 yards per carry this season, he has had a knack for finding the end zone. After his career-high four scores against IU, Toussaint is tied for third in the nation and tied for first in the Big Ten with 11 rushing touchdowns—two more than the personal best he set in all of 2011.
  1. Michigan’s defense struggled mightily against the Hoosiers—allowing a season worst 572 total yards—but the Wolverines have not struggled to force turnovers. Through seven games, U-M has forced 15 turnovers after gaining only 18 all of last season. Additionally, U-M’s 11 interceptions are four more than the number in 2012, and all four starters of Michigan’s secondary have picked off at least two passes this year.

Michigan-Indiana game preview

Friday, October 18th, 2013


The Michigan-Indiana series has been one-sided since it began back in 1900 with Michigan holding a 52-9 all-time record and wins in the last 17 matchups dating back to 1987. But that doesn’t mean it has been void of big moments. In fact, if not for perhaps the most famous play in Michigan history, Indiana’s win total would be in double digits.

“I have never seen anything like this in all my 40 years of covering Michigan football! Anthony Carter, the human torpedo caught the pass…Bo Schembechler is looking up, he’s looking up at Fielding H. Yost in football’s valhalla and Bo Schembechler says, ‘thank you Fielding Yost, thank you Fielding Yost for that one!’ Look at the crowd! You cannot believe it! Michigan throws a 45-yard touchdown pass, Johnny Wangler to Anthony Carter will be heard until another hundred years of Michigan football is played!”

That was the goosebump-inducing call by Bob Ufer following the final play of the 1979 Michigan-Indiana game. Thirty-four years later John Wangler’s 45-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Carter to win the game remains at or near the top of the list when it comes to greatest plays in Michigan history. But with this year’s Michigan team struggling, the last thing anyone wants is a down-to-the-wire game against a 3-3 Indiana squad.

Quick Facts
Michigan Stadium – 3:30pm EST – Big Ten Network
Indiana Head Coach: Kevin Wilson (3rd season)
Coaching Record: 8-22 (all at Penn State)
Offensive Coordinator: Seth Littrell (2nd season)
Defensive Coordinator: Mike Ekeler/Doug Mallory (3rd season)
Returning Starters: 18 (10 offense, 8 defense)
Last Season: 4-8 (2-6, 5th Leaders)
Last Meeting: Michigan 42 – Indiana 35 (2010)
All-Time Series: Michigan leads 52-9
Record at Michigan Stadium: Michigan leads 29-5
Current Michigan Streak: Won 17
Last Indiana Win: 1987
Last Indiana Win at UM: 1967

The Hoosiers are a curious case with a high-powered offense and no defense. They opened the season with a 73-35 win over FCS Indiana State. While the 73 points scored are impressive, the 35 points allowed are the second most ISU has scored against Division 1 opponents this season (they put up 70 against Division II Quincy University).

In Week 2, Indiana dropped a 41-35 contest to Navy, allowing 444 rushing yards in the process. The Hoosiers responded the following week with a 42-10 thumping of Bowling Green – which beat Akron 31-14 – and then got pounded by Missouri, 45-28. The Tigers racked up 623 yards of offense in the game.

Indiana followed that up with a big 44-24 win over Penn State, the Hoosiers’ first ever win over the Nittany Lions in 17 tries. It was much closer than the score indicates, however, as IU held just a 21-17 lead through three quarters. They scored 21 straight in a span of four minutes to open the fourth and pull away. Last week, Indiana’s high-powered attack was held in check by Michigan State’s juggernaut of a defense, resulting in a 42-28 loss.

If the trend continues IU should be in line for a win this week, having gone win, loss, win, loss, win, loss so far this season. Does Indiana have what it takes to win for the first time in Ann Arbor in 46 years? Or will Michigan bounce back from a disappointing quadruple overtime loss to Penn State? Let’s take a look at the matchups.

Michigan defense vs Indiana offense: When Indiana has the ball

As mentioned above, Indiana has an explosive offense, led by a passing game that ranks 13th nationally. True freshman quarterback Nate Sudfeld ranks second in the Big Ten with an average of 267.3 passing yards per game. He trails only Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg, who averages 278.7. Sudfeld has completed 61.5 percent of his passes for 13 touchdowns and just six interceptions and has eclipsed 300 passing yards in three of the six games.

Michigan State held him to a freshman-like performance, applying constant pressure to keep him out of rhythm and holding him to just 137 yards on 14-of-30 completions and no touchdowns. He averages 32 pass attempts per game and since the season opener when he split time his average has been 35. Hackenberg is the only quarterback in the Big Ten who has thrown or completed more, but Sudfeld has a better completion percentage and two more touchdowns.

Like Allen Robinson last week, Cody Latimer is one of the top receivers in the Big Ten (IUHoosiers.com)

Sudfeld isn’t the only quarterback who plays, however. Sophomore Tre Roberson played most of the second half of 2011 and started last season as the starter before breaking his leg in the second game and missing the rest of the season. Now, Sudfeld has taken over the starting role, but Roberson still sees the field. As a more versatile quarterback, he provides a good change of pace from Sudfeld and had better numbers against MSU last week, completing 11-of-17 passes for 122 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He’s also the team’s third leading rusher with 97 yards, but has the second most rushing touchdowns with four.

The leading rusher is sophomore Tevin Coleman who has rushed for 557 yards on 91 carries – 6.1 yards per carry – and eight touchdowns. He has two 100-yard games, both in wins, and has scored at least one touchdown in all six games. Last week, he averaged 5.3 yards per carry against Michigan State, but that was aided by a 64-yard run. Remove that and he gained just 15 yards on his other 14 carries. His backfield mate is senior Stephen Houston who led the team in rushing each of the last two years. But he lost the job to Coleman and has gained just 230 yards through six games so far this season, 155 of those coming against Bowling Green.

With a passing game as explosive as this, one would expect some talented receivers and that’s what Indiana has. Junior Cody Latimer ranks second in the Big Ten in receptions per game (5.8) and third in yards per game (90.7). He has caught 35 passes – by comparison, Jeremy Gallon has caught 31 – for 544 yards and three touchdowns so far. He had three straight games with at least 136 yards before Michigan State held him to 58 yards on seven receptions. He was a second-team All-Big Ten selection last season.

Junior Shane Wynn and senior Kofi Hughes each have over 300 receiving yards as well, 342 and 316, respectively. Both have four touchdowns but Wynn is more of a big-play guy, leading the team with a 19-yard average per reception. Senior tight end Ted Bosler leads the Hoosiers with five touchdown receptions.

The offensive line is a bit banged up. Coming into the season, four starters were back, but right tackle Peyton Eckert, right guard Dan Feeney, and Feeney’s replacement David Kaminski are all out with season ending injuries. To make matters worse, Eckert’s replacement, Ralston Evans, and another right guard, Jake Reed, both suffered injuries last week. Both are expected to play this week, however.

Michigan offense vs Indiana defense: When Michigan has the ball

Indiana defensive coordinator Doug Mallory returns to his alma mater, having played for Michigan under Bo Schembechler  from 1984-87. He’s also the brother of Michigan secondary coach Curt Mallory. While the offense puts up a lot of points and yards, Mallory’s defense allows a lot of points and yards. The Hoosiers allow 32.8 points per game, which is better than only Purdue in the conference. In terms of yards, no one has allowed more than the 456 Indiana give sup per game. Four of the six opponents have scored at least 35 points and three have scored over 40. Not coincidentally, those three resulted in losses for the Hoosiers.

The rush defense is particularly bad, giving up 216.5 yards per game, which is last in the Big Ten and 109th nationally. Yes, some of that is a result of facing Navy’s unique rushing attack which gained 444 yards, but Missouri and Michigan State both had big games on the ground as well.

Defensive end John Laihinen leads the Hoosiers in sacks (IUHoosiers.com)

Junior strong side linebacker David Cooper, who started all 12 games last season, leads the team with 45 tackles. He has one for loss and half a sack. Freshman middle linebacker  TJ Simmons has 41 tackles and 1.5 for loss, while freshman weakside linebacker Forisse Hardin has 39 tackles, 1.5 for loss.

The line is led by sophomore defensive end Nick Mangieri who leads the team with 5.5 tackles for loss and ranks second with 2.5 sacks to go along with an interception and a forced fumble. On the other side, redshirt junior defensive end John Laihinen leads the Hoosiers with 3.5 sacks. In the middle, Bobby Richardson and Raphael Green have combined for 38 tackles and 3.5 for loss.

The secondary does have some talent but it hasn’t translated to much. Junior safety Tim Bennett is tied with Cooper for the team lead in tackles (45) and he also leads the nation with 14 pass breakups and 15 passes defended. Of his 45 tackles, 35 are solo, which leads the Big Ten. Fellow safeties, junior Mark Murphy and redshirt senior Greg Heban are both tied for 12th in the Big Ten in tackles per game (7.2). Sophomore cornerback Michael Hunter has 25 tackles, 2.5 for loss, six passes defended and an interception.

Although it sounds like the Hoosier defenders have a lot of nice stats, it’s because they’re on the field a lot and not very good. The Indiana defense has been on the field for 501 plays, 21 more than the next closest defense in the Big Ten, Northwestern, and 85 more than Michigan’s. That’s essentially a game more than Michigan despite the Wolverines having played an extra four overtimes.

The other third: Special teams

Redshirt senior kicker Mitch Ewald has made all three field goal attempts this season with a long of just 27. In short, the Hoosiers practically consider a field goal a turnover this season. He was an honorable mention All-Big Ten each of the past three seasons combining to make 44-of-55 with two blocked. Sophomore punter Erich Toth averages 41.3 yards per punt, which ranks sixth in the Big Ten.

In the return game, Coleman and Houston handle most of the kicks and average 18.5 yards per return, while Wynn handles the punt returns and has returned one for a touchdown.

Prediction

Coming off a road loss, Michigan returns to the friendly confines of the Big House where they have yet to lose under Brady Hoke. With a bye week following this one and a brutal five-game stretch after that, a win is imperative this week, and a team with no defense is just what Michigan’s struggling offense needs.

Missouri quarterback James Franklin gave Michigan the blueprint to beating Indiana as a similar quarterback to Devin Gardner. Franklin threw for 343 yards and rushed for 61 more and the Hoosiers couldn’t contain him. Al Borges would be wise to call Gardner’s number a bit more often in this one than he has in the past few games simply because IU can’t stop it. Then let Gardner pick apart the IU secondary with Jeremy Gallon and Devin Funchess.

In addition, if there was ever a game for Fitzgerald Toussaint to go off it’s this one. The Indiana linebackers don’t do a very good job of sealing off cutback lanes and Toussaint likes to cut everything back. Michigan State ran the ball down their throat with one 100-yard rusher and another just eight yards shy of 100.

Defensively, Michigan will give up some yards but with Jake Ryan back look for Greg Mattison to dial up the pressure and try to keep Sudfeld off balance like MSU did last week.

It will be a close game through the first half with Indiana challenging into the third quarter, but Michigan will pull away in the fourth for its 20th straight home win and 18th straight victory over the Hoosiers.

Michigan 45 – Indiana 28

It was that a coach didn’t have confidence in his defense

Thursday, December 27th, 2012


Michigan and South Carolina don’t share a field very often, though both programs have been around since the late nineteenth century. Likely it was distance, along with different conference play, and the Big Ten’s love of playing Pac-10 schools that makes this only the third meeting between the Gamecocks and the Wolverines.

The only other two meetings were played in the eighties, when Bo was still the head coach at Michigan and Jim Carlen (1980) and Joe Morrison (’85) were calling the shots at S.C. The second matchup was more or less a blowout by the Wolverines, but the inaugural meeting was one to remember, though it’s likely that the Maize and Blue offer their remembrances with a rather imposing garnish of sour grapes.

1980: South Carolina 17 – Michigan 14

Anthony Carter caught two touchdowns against South Carolina in 1980

Michigan went into the third game of the 1980 season a solid favorite against its newly acquainted southern opponent. And as expected, the Wolverines got off to a good start putting up a pair of touchdowns thanks to the sure-handed Anthony Carter. Michigan held the Gamecocks to a field goal before both teams headed for the tunnel to prepare for the second half, which was went the tides turned.

On its first possession, Michigan marched down the field to just inside the ten. Then came the blunder, a Stan Edwards fumble into the endzone recovered by South Carolina. The Gamecocks countered with a swing of their own, only they landed the blow with the help of soon to be Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers – the first in Gamecock history. Michigan 14 – South Carolina 10.

On Michigan’s next drive, Schembechler made a decision to attempt the fourth down conversion on his own 29-yard line. They were stopped short. Carolina ball. Touchdown. Game over.

Bo took the blame for the loss, saying “It was that a coach didn’t have confidence in his defense…we should have punted.”

The Wolverines would go on to win the Big Ten Championship, garner a Rose Bowl victory against Washington, and end up No. 4 in the final rankings with a 10-2 record. While Bo took the blame for not trusting his defense, the defense did not allow a single touchdown the final 22 quarters of the season. But that filed fourth down attempt that led to the Gamecocks’ winnings score and one of Michigan’s seven losses in 28 games against SEC opponents likely still has Bo turning in his grave.

1985: Michigan 34 – South Carolina 3

The second faceoff between the two teams washed some of the bitterness from the mouths of Michigan fans. Jamie Morris was the 15th-ranked Wolverines’ prolific rusher, and continued his dominance against South Carolina during his sophomore year. Quarterback Jim Harbaugh had a tremendous day also, helping the Wolverines put up 34 points. However, it was also the defense which caused two fumbles, and intercepted twice (once on the final play) to solidify the win for Michigan in Columbia.

This year will mark the first time the teams have meet in nearly thirty years, and the only time they have faced in a bowl game. Since the series is tied there is motivation on the part of both teams to take a one win advantage, but it’s more likely that both schools want show that since two of their losses came against opponents ranked No. 1 and 2 (granted the two teams the Wolverines played are now to face off in the national championship, but S.C.’s losses to LSU and Florida aren’t exactly embarrassing) the quality of their team is not to be underestimated. This should be one to mirror the 1980 struggle, not the lopsided victory five years later.