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Burning questions as Michigan football opens spring practice

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014


Morris-Gardner(Detroit News)

It has been just 59 days since Michigan’s season wrapped up with an underwhelming loss to Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. The 2014 season seems eons away as basketball season is about to head into conference tournaments and then the Big Dance. But while it may be hard to turn our attention back to football, Brady Hoke’s squad is set to return to the gridiron today to kick off spring practice.

Last season was as disappointing as any in recent memory because no one expected it to go the way it did. Most preseason expectations ranged from 9-4 to 11-2, and after the Wolverines topped Notre Dame in Under the Lights II, there was even some talk of national championship possibilities. Of course, Michigan followed up the high of that game with a thud against Akron, needing a last-second goal line stand to hold off what may have been a bigger upset than when Appalachian State stunned the Wolverines in 2007. And the season unraveled from there.

Now, needing to get the bad taste of 2013 out of its system, Michigan has a 2014 season opener to look forward to against, well, Appalachian State. But before we get there, let’s take a look at the biggest questions the Wolverines face heading into spring ball.

How much will Gardner be able to do this spring with a new offensive system to learn? (MGoBlue.com)

How much will Gardner be able to do this spring with a new offensive system to learn? (MGoBlue.com)

How healthy is Devin Gardner?

Brady Hoke turned some heads earlier this month when he seemed to imply that the starting quarterback role was up for grabs this fall.

“I think (the starting quarterback for next season) is an unknown,” Hoke said. “We were 7-6 (last season). And we’ve got a lot of young guys (on the team). We’ve got a lot of competition.”

In a technical sense it’s true. Gardner finished the 2013 season in a walking boot and couldn’t even play in the bowl game. Until he’s fully healthy he can’t be 100 percent presumed the starter. What if the injury is even worse than thought? What if it continues to linger throughout the offseason?

But assuming Gardner is able to fully heal there’s no question he’s the starter on Aug. 30. The main question is how much will he be able to do in spring ball?

New offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier will be the third Gardner has had in his career, and although he didn’t start under Calvin McGee, it will still be the third offensive system he has had to learn. Nussmeier has done wonders for the quarterbacks he has coached during his quick rise up the ranks, from Jeff Smoker to Drew Stanton to Tom Brandstater to Jake Locker to Keith Price to A.J. McCarron.

Sophomore-to-be Shane Morris is likely to benefit the most from Nussmeier’s quarterback expertise since he has three more years to work with him, but Gardner could very well take a significant leap in 2014 given his talent and experience. In 2003, Nussmeier helped Michigan State quarterback Jeff Smoker set a school record 3,395 passing yards after struggling as a junior. He then helped Drew Stanton improve from 1,601 yards in his first season to 3,077 the next year. Most recently, he helped Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron improve on a near flawless 2012 season.

It will be important for Gardner to participate in spring drills to continue the work that he has built upon the past four years, but most importantly to work with Nussmeier and learn his offense. Gardner can still do that if not at full speed, but it’s obviously better to learn at full speed than not.

Who will catch passes?

Jeremy Gallon graduated and took 42.6 percent of last season’s receiving yards with him. Add the production lost from fellow seniors Drew Dileo, Jeremy Jackson, Joe Reynolds, and Fitzgearld Toussaint — who finished as the team’s fourth-leading pass catcher — and Michigan has just 41.3 percent of its production returning.

Jehu Chesson is Michigan's leading returning true receiver with just 15 receptions (MGoBlue.com)

Jehu Chesson is Michigan’s leading returning true receiver with just 15 receptions (MGoBlue.com)

To make matters worse, tight end Jake Butt tore his ACL in offseason workouts, and while he’s likely to return at some point during the season, he may not be 100 percent. Devin Funchess was almost certain to make the official move to the outside prior to Butt’s injury, but with no other established pass catching tight end, Michigan may not be afforded to move him permanently.

The leading returning true receiver is Jehu Chesson, who caught just 15 passes for 221 yards and a touchdown. No other true wide receiver that caught a pass returns. The x-factor will be Chesson’s classmate, Amara Darboh, who was in line to start last season before a foot injury in fall camp sidelined him for the season. At 6’2″ and 212 pounds, Darboh has the size to be a formidable outside receiver, but will his foot be healthy enough to fully participate in spring ball? He impressed last spring and fall before sustaining the injury. Can he regain that form?

The unknowns are the cadre of true and redshirt freshmen that have been brought in in the past two recruiting classes. Jaron Dukes, Csont’e York, and Da’Mario Jones all redshirted in 2013 and Freddy Canteen, Drake Harris, and Maurice Ways are incoming. Of the latter group, Canteen and Harris enrolled early and will have a chance to show what they can do while getting their feet wet this spring.

All five have good height but will need to add some bulk to their thin frames, Canteen (6’3″, 170) and Harris (6’4″, 180) especially. Chesson played last season at 6’3″, 196 and seemed thin at times. York was listed at 6’3″, 180 last season, while Jones was 6’2″, 192 and Dukes 6’4″, 190, but by the time the spring roster is released, they will have surely added some muscle with a full season under their belts.

There is plenty of young talent and great size to go around, but who steps up and garners that hype that Darboh did a year ago before his injury will be one of the biggest aspects to watch this spring.

How will the line shape up?

The biggest disappointment in 2013 was undoubtedly the poor performance of the offensive line. While senior left tackle Taylor Lewan earned the Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year award for the second straight year and right tackle Michael Schofield was solid, the interior was a sieve all season. Several different combinations were used throughout the season and the coaching staff even went as far as to try odd tackle over formations to utilize Lewan’s strengths in order to hide other weaknesses, but nothing seemed to make the offense any more efficient.

With the bookends gone to graduation and a new offensive coordinator the development of the line will be interesting to watch. Much was said throughout last season about Brady Hoke’s supposed inability to develop offensive line talent, but let’s not forget that his first full class was redshirt freshmen in 2013. Most linemen, even the most highly rated ones, don’t gain starting roles on the line until two or three years into their careers at minimum.

Graham Glasgow and Erik Magnuson struggled in 2013 but gained experience that will help them in 2014 (MGoBlue.com)

Graham Glasgow and Erik Magnuson struggled in 2013 but gained experience that will help them in 2014 (MGoBlue.com)

Highly-ranked offensive line hauls are great, but we shouldn’t have begun to sniff the payoffs until this upcoming season at the earliest. In a normal situation without the attrition from previous classes decimating the line depth, Kyle Kalis, Erik Magnuson, Blake Bars, and Ben Braden would have simply played reserve roles in 2013, heading into the spring of their redshirt sophomore season looking to work their way into the starting lineup. Instead, Kalis and Magnuson, along with true freshman Kyle Bosch, were forced into action before they were clearly ready and it showed. While that hurt the offense in 2013 it should pay dividends in 2014 as they can build upon the experience they gained.

One thing that is for certain is that, aside from injuries, everybody will get a chance to compete throughout spring practice for a major role this fall. Magnuson and Chris Bryant — both of whom started games last season — will be held out due to injury, but aside from that, who emerges as the starters is anyone’s guess.

Hoke hinted that they would start the spring with Logan Tuley-Tillman, David Dawson, Graham Glasgow, Kyle Kalis, and Ben Braden as the starting five from left to right, and the competition would go from there.

“We’ll obviously start with a five, but all that is going to be competitive, and with a young team, to some degree, even though they played a little bit, you’ve got to have it competitive,” Hoke said.

New offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier won’t bring huge changes, but he will simplify the schemes the line uses in the running game. Last year, Hoke and then-offensive coordinator Al Borges tried just about everything they could think of to find something that worked. This year, Nussmeier will start with a basic inside zone and build from there. Whichever five emerge from the April 5 spring game as the starters will carry confidence and cohesiveness into fall camp.

How will the defensive coaching shakeups impact the defense?

Nussmeier replacing Borges was the only coaching staff change this offseason, but last week Hoke announced that the roles of several defensive coaches would be shaken up in an effort to create a more aggressive defense and streamline the staff. Most notably, Hoke won’t be coaching any specific position groups himself. He spent the past three seasons coaching the defensive line. Stepping back will allow him to take a larger role and perhaps devote more time to areas that may have been overlooked in the past.

Greg Mattison switches from coaching the defensive line to linebackers this season (MGoBlue.com)

Greg Mattison switches from coaching the defensive line to linebackers this season (MGoBlue.com)

Mark Smith, who has coached the linebackers the past few seasons, will take over the defensive line, while defensive coordinator Greg Mattison moves to the linebackers. Mattison coached the Baltimore Ravens linebackers — and good ones like Ray Lewis — and said on National Signing Day that he has been looking for bigger linebackers. Smith, meanwhile, spent 15 of his 32 years as a defensive line coach, but hasn’t specifically coached the position since 2002 at Indiana State.

Curt Mallory will be taking on more of a specialized role with just the safeties after coaching the entire secondary the past three seasons, while Roy Manning will take over the defensive backs. Manning was hired prior to last season to coach the outside linebackers.

“Everyone on the staff and the kids are really excited about these changes,” Hoke said. “Greg and I met and felt this was the best for everyone, including him and his ability to coach a position group and run a defense from the middle. When you look at Mark’s experience on the defensive line, then being able to split the secondary, where you have five positions and 20-plus guys, and with the way offense and passing has changed in college football, I think it balances our staff on that side of the ball.”

Michigan’s defense has gone downhill in each of the three seasons under the current staff. In year one, Hoke and Mattison transformed what was a sieve under Rich Rodriguez into the nation’s 17th-best total defense and sixth-best scoring defense. But those numbers have fallen the past two seasons from 13th and 19th in 2012 to 41st and 66th last season. While the offense had its share of well-publicized struggles, the defense was virtually unable to stop anyone over the second half of the season.

The coaching staff shakeup sounds like a sign of desperation at first glance, a coach trying one last ditch set of moves in order to save his job. That may be partially true, but it’s certainly worth a shot. Moving Mattison to coach the middle of the defense makes a lot of sense as that’s where he coached in Baltimore and the linebackers run the defense. Hoke stepping back from coaching a position group also seems like the right move, and Smith taking over a group with which he has considerable — if not recent — experience could invigorate the line. Finally, splitting the secondary among two coaches also make sense since there are so many bodies among the cornerbacks and safeties.

In a perfect world, the moves will create excitement among the players — at the very least shake up any complacency or entitlement that may exist. Even though Nussmeier is the only new addition to the staff, the whole defense will be playing for a new position coach and thus fighting even harder to make a statement and earn playing time. Should it have gotten to that point? No. But it can only be a good thing throughout the spring.

Predicting Michigan: The offensive line

Thursday, July 25th, 2013


Continuing our positional breakdown and predictions series, Derick takes a look at the offensive line and what we can expect from the unit this season. For previous posts, see Quarterbacks.

Last Year’s Line

Many fans wonder how Michigan will fare after losing over half of the starters from the 2012 offensive line. Brady Hoke graduated three talented linemen this year, when Elliott Mealer, Ricky Barnum and Patrick Omameh moved on to the NFL. All three former starters were left undrafted in April, but signed as free agents afterwards.

Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield are the only returning starters. Lewan started every game for the Wolverines at left tackle in 2012 while Schofield did the same at right tackle. These two fifth-year seniors will be critical in shaping the 2013 line, as Michigan offensive line Coach Darrell Funk tries to restructure this unit with the help of a couple of talented recruiting classes.

Returning Starters: Know What To Expect

Losing three starters from the offensive line may look like a blessing to Michigan fans when they consider the makeover project that could have taken place had Lewan declared for the 2013 draft. He may only make up one-fifth of the line, but the first-team All-American gives what promises to be a very young offensive line the anchor, leader and teacher it needs.

Lewan returned for his senior season to take care of unfinished business and lead the young line

Lewan figured to be a sure-fire top-10 pick in the 2013 draft, but elected to return to Michigan for his senior season. Lewan’s decision not only gave Michigan a talented player on the field, but also an unquestioned leader at a position where it definitely needs one.

In returning to school, Lewan proved himself to be a ‘Michigan Man,’ a label that only the Maize and Blue faithful can understand. Much as Brady Hoke did when he took the job at Michigan, Lewan will demand immediate respect from the young players that will share important minutes on the offensive line this season. As the returning Big Ten Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year award-winner, Lewan will make everyone around him better while solidifying the most important position on the offensive line: left tackle.

On the field, Lewan is one of the best lineman in the country, and has even been named to the Walter Camp Player of the Year Watch List. He has the ability to protect the quarterback against almost any other player in the country, as he showed in the 2013 Outback Bowl when he contained South Carolina’s freak athlete Jadeveon Clowney for the majority of the game. One thing that has frustrated fans is Lewan’s tendency to pick up personal fouls after the whistle. While his competitiveness has caused him to pick up some of these late flags, Lewan should be able to stay away from these types of mistakes as a fifth-year senior. Hoke will count on Lewan to be a leader this season, so the mental mistakes should be rare for the tackle.

On the opposite side of the line should be Schofield, who will likely start at right tackle. The redshirt senior spent most of the 2011 season at left guard before moving to his current place on the right side for the entire 2012 season. With Lewan and Schofield, the tackle positions should be a strength of the Michigan team in 2013, despite the questions that remain for the rest of the offensive line.

Projection
Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield will both start in every game, barring injury
Career Stats
Games Played Games Started
Lewan: 37 Schofield: 39 Lewan: 35 Schofield: 23

Next In Line: 2013 Contributors

For a football team to have the kind of success Michigan is hoping for this season, having depth on both lines is crucial. The starters get most of the attention, but when the big guys need a break, the back-ups play a big role. Michigan returns three players that have seen time on the line and could be called on to play bigger roles now that three major pieces have graduated.

After redshirting his freshman year, center Jack Miller appeared in six games at center last season. Redshirt senior Erik Gunderson has seen little game time but did play in five games last season and can give Michigan another veteran presence during his fifth season. Joey Burzynski started to see more minutes on the line near the end of the 2012 season and could contend with the freshmen for major minutes this season. Even if these veterans don’t play a majority of the snaps, they will provide Coach Funk with much more security at the offensive line position if some of the highly-regarded recruits have difficulty holding up in the Big Ten.

Projection
Miller, Gunderson, and Burzynski all come off the bench and contend for important minutes
Career Stats
Games Played Games Started
Miller: 6 Gunderson: 9 Burzynski: 12 Miller: 0 Gunderson: 0 Burzynski: 0

Worth The Wait: Last Year’s Class

Don’t let this year’s top-10 class make you forget about the group Brady Hoke recruited in 2012. All the senior leadership on the line last season allowed Michigan to redshirt several highly-rated recruits at the offensive line position.

Magnuson is the next in line under Lewan's guidance (Jeremy Wadsworth, Toledo Blade)

These redshirt freshman will be led by former five-star Kyle Kalis and four-star Erik Magnuson. Kalis was rated as a top-10 offensive lineman by Scout, Rivals and ESPN and considered one of the best high school players out of the state of Ohio. Kalis is highly regarded for his athleticism and superior blocking ability, which he used to completely dominate defenses in high school. Magnuson is similarly gifted, and is known for playing harder than most other players on the field. One word that has often been used to describe the two young linemen is ‘power,’ which has turned them into great run-blockers. If Kalis and Magnuson play big roles on the line this season, expect the Michigan running game to improve drastically with physical backs like Thomas Rawls.

Fellow classmates Blake Bars and Ben Braden also received redshirts last season, despite receiving high grades during recruiting. Bars is an interesting player, because he could take advantage of Michigan’s hole at center to land himself a starting job. Always regarded as more of an interior lineman, Bars was more of an under-the-radar recruit in the shadow of Kalis and Magnuson, but could fight for minutes and play a significant role for the 2013 team. Braden stands out from his classmates because his strength is in the pass-blocking category, and he could see some playing time as a result. He had the lowest ranking of the four recruits, but that says more about the strength of the class than it does about Braden’s game.

Projection
Kalis and Magnuson win starting jobs while Bars and Braden battle with the impressive freshman class for more time
Career Stats
Games Played Games Started
Kalis: 0 Magnuson: 0 Bars: 0 Braden: 0 Kalis: 0 Magnuson: 0 Bars: 0 Braden: 0

Fresh Faces: The Sequel

Everyone around Michigan football is excited about the group of offensive lineman that make up the 2013 recruiting class. Brady Hoke landed six standout players for the line, and now the team might have more depth than ever at the position. Dan Samuelson, Kyle Bosch, David Dawson, Chris Fox, Patrick Kugler and Logan Tuley-Tillman are six of the top players in Hoke’s latest top-10 class. Kugler and Bosch have a chance to start from day one, and their classmates aren’t far behind. While the 2012 class gives Hoke the option to redshirt the whole class like he did last season, some of these guys may be too good to wait on.

Likely the newcomers will be split, with a couple earning true-freshman minutes and the others taking a year to develop. That being said, their performance in pre-season practices will obviously determine who plays this season. The fact that Hoke can even consider redshirting so many of these players speaks to the talent of the players that came to Michigan before them.

Projection
Kugler and Bosch play during the 2013 season, with one of them winning a starting job. The other four either redshirt or fill in for injuries where needed, and play big roles in the future.
Average Star Ranking:
Bosch: 4 Kugler: 4.25 Dawson: 4 Fox: 4 Tuley-Tillman: 4 Samuelson: 3.25

Wrapping Up

With so many options at offensive line, Michigan is one of the deeper teams in the country at one of the most important positions. Two strong recruiting classes in a row will build that kind of depth, and in Lewan they have potentially the best player in the country to help groom the young talent. Offensive Coordinator Al Borges has 19 offensive linemen on the roster, and so many of them have the talent to be starting Big Ten players that it’s hard to imagine blocking as a weak point for the 2013 team.

To help Devin Gardner settle into the offense in his first full year as starting quarterback, Lewan and company need to be strong. Physical running backs like Rawls and Derrick Green will also count very heavily on the interior strength of this unit to create space to run inside. While skill players get most of the national attention during the course of a football season, the teams with the best play in the trenches usually come out on top. Luckily, Michigan has many talented options to choose from in 2013.

The Michigan Medley discusses the importance of Lewan’s return

Thursday, January 10th, 2013


Yesterday afternoon, offensive tackle Taylor Lewan announced in a press conference that he would return to school for his senior season. It came as a surprise to nearly everybody as the 6’8″, 309-pound junior was projected to be a high first round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. It’s rare for a player of his caliber to forego what would have certainly been a large paycheck, but it’s very refreshing to see.

During the Lloyd Carr tenure, especially as his career went on, it seemed that making the jump was pretty much the norm, though Jake Long, Chad Henne, and Mike Hart all stayed for their senior season. Long, like Lewan, was a sure-fire high draft pick and parlayed the gamble to come back into the top overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. Lewan has the potential to do the same as long as he can avoid the injury bug.

Lewan proved his NFL potential by shutting down Jadeveon Clowney in the Outback Bowl

It’s always a risky move to put on hold an NFL contract for one more year of college ball. Just ask USC quarterback Matt Barkley who would have likely been a first round pick last season, but chose to return and suffered through a poor and injury-riddled season that will likely hurt his draft stock this April. On the other hand, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck did the same a year ago and it payed off.

What’s most impressive in my opinion is the reasons Lewan stated for his decision. For one, he loves college, and that was evident more than ever during Wednesday night’s basketball game against Nebraska when Lewan got up in front of the band and led them in The Victors. Secondly, he stated that he has unfinished business, having not achieved a Big Ten title yet in his career. Third, Michigan has a long tradition of great offensive linemen such as Jon Jansen and Steve Hutchinson, in addition to Long, who have stayed through their senior years and still went on to long and productive NFL careers. Lewan realized that and what a special opportunity it is to play for Michigan.

“If you play at the University of Michigan, whether it’s basketball, hockey, football, there’s a tradition here and there’s something you want to be a part of,” Lewan said. “And if I do what I need to do, I’ll be able to play in the NFL for however long, but you only get one more year of college.”

The other reason he gave for returning is the most telling and the most important: he wanted to be a leader the way last year’s senior offensive lineman, David Molk, was for the younger guys on the team. Brady Hoke has brought in a great haul of offensive linemen to fill a void that was left thin by the previous regime. While the young guys such as Kyle Kalis, Blake Bars, Ben Braden, and Erik Magnuson, as well as this year’s incoming class, are extremely talented, perhaps nothing is more valuable than being able to grow and learn alongside an All-American to see what it takes to become one and what it takes to be a lock for the first round of the NFL Draft.

The foundation that was put in place by Janson and Hutchinson and Long and Molk has now transcended three coaching staffs and personifies exactly what it means to be a Michigan Man. Had Lewan chosen to make the leap, no one would have blamed him for doing so, but it would have left next year’s offensive line extremely young and inexperienced. That’s not a recipe for success in college football. His return provides leadership in addition to talent and it sets an example for the talented young guys.

“Kyle Kalis and Ben Braden and Erik Magnuson, I want to be a part of their lives for one more year and help them develop into something where they can possibly be in my position in a couple years,” Lewan said.

Lewan’s return is probably the best news Michigan could have received this offseason – better than any recruit Hoke will sign on Feb. 6 – because it will have both an instant impact next season and a residual impact on the future of the offensive line. Bravo to Lewan for embodying what college football is supposed to be about rather than simply using it as a stepping stone to the riches of the NFL.

Freshmen numbers and those who broke them in (Part 2)

Thursday, August 9th, 2012


Last Friday, we released Part 1 of our three-part series on the numbers the freshmen will be wearing this fall and the previous Wolverines who have either worn them or made a name for themselves while wearing them. Today, we take a look at the second part of the series with a group of linebackers and linemen.

#49 – Kaleb Ringer

Bob Chappuis, All-American, Hall-of-Famer, and war hero

The most famous Wolverine to wear number 49 was Bob Chappuis in 1942, ’46-47. His Michigan career was interrupted by service in World War II. As a gunner and radio operator, his plane was shot down over Italy where he was rescued and remained until the war ended. He returned to Michigan to lead the “Mad Magicians” of 1947. He finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting that year and was named All-American. To this day, he holds Michigan’s single-season passer rating (175.3) and single season record for yards per completion (18.8). When his Michigan playing days were done, he played pro football for the Brooklyn Dodgers and Chicago Hornets and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. He passed away this June at the age of 89.

Richard Volk was Chappuis’ nephew and wore number 49 from 1964-66. He played halfback, fullback, quarterback, and defensive back positions during his time in the maize and blue and was named All-American following the 1966 season. He went on to a stellar career in the NFL that included three Pro Bowl selections, and he was inducted into Michigan’s Athletic Hall of Honor in 1989.

Other notables to wear number 49: Jay Feeley (1994-98), Ed Frutig (1937-39), Dhani Jones (1996), Andy Moeller (1982-86), Kirk Moundros (1999-2002), Chuck Ortmann (1948-50), Bob Ptacek (1956-58)

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Otto Pommerening was an All-American tackle in #50

#50 – Tom Strobel

The first player in Big Ten history to play in every minute of every game in a season was Otto Pommerening, a tackle from 1926-28. A unanimous All-American in 1928, Pommerening was only 5’11″, 178 pounds, roughly the size of current Michigan defensive back Courtney Avery. Despite his small stature, he is widely regarded as one of the greatest linemen to every play at Michigan. Somehow he finished fourth for the Chicago Tribune Silver Football trophy, given annually to the Big Ten’s MVP.

Another star to wear number 50 is a guy whose number Strobel is replacing, center David Molk. Molk started 41 career games at center and won the Rimington Trophy last season as the nation’s best center. He was a consensus first-team All-American and team captain. His departure leaves a huge hole to fill, both on Michigan’s line and in senior leadership.

Other notables to wear number 50: Howie Auer (1929-31), Paul Girgash (1979-82), Mark Messner (1984), Jeremy Van Alstyne (2002-06)

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#52 – Royce Jenkins-Stone

Rod Payne was an All-American center in #52

Jenkins-Stone will share number 52 with center Ricky Barnum this season, but the man who was best known for 52 was center Rod Payne. He started 40 games during his career in which he was named first team All-Big Ten twice and first team All-American in 1996. He was drafted in the third round of the 1997 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals and battled injuries throughout his career. He currently coaches Spanish River Community High School in Palm Beach, Fla.

Payne was, ironically, the last Michigan starting center to wear number 52 before Barnum this season. The last linebacker to wear the number prior to Jenkins-Stone was Kevin Leach (2007-10).

Other notables to wear number 52: Kevin Brooks (1981-84), James H. Lincoln (1935-37), Stephen Schilling (2006-10), Chris Ziemann (1997-99)

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#53 – Mario Ojumedia

Archie Kodros blocked for Tom Harmon in the late 30s

No Michigan player has become an All-American while wearing number 53, but a very good one just graduated. Ryan Van Bergen started 38 games in his career and was named All-Big Ten honorable mention a year ago. He was an important part of Michigan’s success in 2012, teaming up with Mike Martin to form a formidable defensive line.

Another great number 53 was Archie Kodros in the late 1930s. He was a center paving the way for Tom Harmon for a couple of seasons. In 1939, one Ohio reporter said of Kodros, “One reason why Tom Harmon plays so sensationally each Saturday is shown here. The Michigan line, led by Captain Archie Kodros, No. 53, blocks beautifully and opens the way for Tom to get into the secondary where the star Wolverine back can peddle his own papers.” That’s pretty high praise. He also intercepted a pass against Ohio State to help Michigan win 21-14.

Other notables to wear number 53: Tom Cecchini (1963-65), Richard O’Schaughnessy (1951-53), Shantee Orr (1999-2002), Mel Owens (1977-80), Al Sincich (1981-84)

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#56 – Ondre Pipkins

LaMarr Woodley won the Lombardi Award in #56

Pipkins will share number 56 this season with offensive lineman Joey Burzynski who is battling for the starting left guard spot. From 2008-10, Ricky Barnum wore 56 before switching to 52 last season. The most successful 56 in Michigan history was relatively recent, defensive end LaMarr Woodley. The Lombardi Award winner in 2006, Woodley led the Big Ten and ranked eighth nationally with 12 sacks that season. He also earned a unanimous first-team All-American selection and was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. He was drafted 46th overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2007 and continues to be a dominant defensive end.

Other notables to wear number 56: Jim Brieske (1942-43, 46-47), Harold Goodwin (1992-94), James Hall (1995-99), Frank Maloney (1960-61)

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Julius Franks was the first African-American All-American at Michigan

#62 Blake Bars

No Michigan player has earned All-American honors while wearing number 62, but one wore the number and became an All-American a year later after switching numbers. It was Julius Franks, who has the unique honor of being the first African-American All-American at Michigan. He was just the third African-American to play for Michigan and was said to be the hardest working player Fritz Crisler ever coached. He was named to the Michigan Hall of Honor in 1983.

Bars certainly isn’t the most highly-ranked incoming freshman, but he has a unique chance to become the first superstar to wear number 62 if he sticks with it his entire career.

Other notables to wear number 62: Tim McAvoy (2005-09), Quentin Sickels (1944-48)

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Merv Pregulman was an All-American in 67 during the early 1940s

#67 – Kyle Kalis

Defensive tackle Nathan Brink will don 67 this season along with Kalis. Two former Wolverines have been All-Americans while wearing number 67. One is Merv Pregulman, a lineman who played all positions on the line from 1941-43. He was named a Grantland Rice All-American honorable mention his sophomore season and first-team his senior season. He played on a line with Julius Franks (above) and Al Wistert, whose number is getting Legend designation this fall. He was inducted into the College Sports Hall of Fame in 1982 and Michigan’s Hall of Honor in 1988.

The other All-American to wear 67 was John Vitale. A four-year starter, Vitale played guard his freshman year and center the other three. He was All-Big Ten twice and first team All-American in 1988.

Other notables to wear number 67: David Brandt (1997-2000), Matt Lentz (2001-05), Matt Patanelli (1935-36), Terrance Taylor (2005-08)

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Stay tuned for part three next week: #71 Ben Braden, #78 Erik Magnuson, #82 Amara Darboh, #84 A.J. Williams, #86 Jehu Chesson, #99 Matthew Godin

Meet your 2012 Michigan recruiting class: The offensive line

Friday, February 3rd, 2012


[Ed: We decided to break up the recruiting profiles by position group, so today is the offensive line (we will add Diamond tonight if he goes Blue). Tomorrow will be the backfield and we'll pick things up again on Monday as we work through the rest of the position groups]

Michigan hauled in a great offensive line class, perhaps second nationally behind Stanford. And not to beat a dead horse, but if Jordan Diamond chooses Michigan over Auburn and Arkansas this evening, it will get even better. For now, we’re not counting him. The four players signed hail from four different states and carry an average ranking of 3.7 and all four are among the top 52 offensive tackles nationally. They’re all nearly the same size – Kalis is about 20 pounds heavier – and should form the backbone of Michigan’s line for years to come.

A Quick Look at Michigan’s 2012 Recruiting Class

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012


National Signing Day came and went on Wednesday and when all was said and done, Head Coach Brady Hoke announced a 25-member recruiting class. The day started off well with a surprise commitment from four-star running back Dennis Norfleet from Martin Luther King High School in Detroit. The rest of the day went as expected with all 22 signed Letters of Intent arriving (three are already enrolled for spring semester).

There still remains a shot at Chicago Simeon offensive lineman Jordan Diamond, who makes his announcement on Friday, and Colorado offensive lineman Alex Kozan who verbally committed to Iowa on Sunday but didn’t fax in his LOI on Wednesday.

Below is a position-by-position breakdown as well as a location-based look at this year’s class. Stay tuned tomorrow for in-depth bios of each offensive recruit and then Saturday morning for the defensive side.


As you can see above, Michigan didn’t sign a quarterback in this year’s class, but has Shane Morris committed for next year’s class. He’ll enter as Denard Robinson graduates and battle for the starting spot with Devin Gardner. The four offensive linemen are all listed as tackles but in tomorrow’s individual breakdown, we’ll discuss where they project on the line. The same can be said for the four defensive backs. Terry Richardson is the only one listed as a cornerback; the other three as safeties. 
Michigan’s class is very Midwest-focused this year, as opposed to the classes we saw under Rich Rodriguez which pulled a bit more from the south, most notably Florida. Hoke didn’t get anyone south of Tennessee, and only ventured out west for two – Erik Magnuson from Carlsbad, Calif. and Sione Houma from Salt Lake City, Utah. If Kozan switches his commitment to Michigan, that will add another player from the west, as he hails from Colorado, but we won’t bet on that happening. If Diamond commits to Michigan on Friday, he will add yet another player from the Midwest.