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Posts Tagged ‘Braylon Edwards’

What can Michigan expect from Peoples-Jones? History is kind to nation’s top receivers — except at USC

Friday, December 16th, 2016


(Getty Images)

On Thursday night Michigan reeled in five-star receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones, adding to an already impressive recruiting class. The Detroit Cass Tech star is the third receiver in the class but he’s also the highest-rated as the nation’s top receiver according to 247 Sports. So what can Michigan fans expect from Peoples-Jones in the maize and blue? A look at the history of the nation’s No. 1 wideout gives a lot of reason for excitement.

More than any other position on the field, receivers tend to produce the earliest when they arrive on campus. In a simplistic view, the position — more than any other — relies more on athleticism than a need to learn at the college level. Of course, route running, technique, strength, and a connection with the quarterback are important traits that can be developed in college, but an uber athletic receiver with good size and speed can produce right away.

Since 2000, the No. 1 receivers in the nation according to 247 Sports have produced an average of 34 receptions for 480 yards and four touchdowns in their first season of action. By comparison, as a senior, Jehu Chesson caught 31 passes for 467 yards and two scores as a senior this season (with a bowl game yet to play). That means that if Peoples-Jones performs just average as a true freshman compared to the past 17 No. 1 receivers, he would have been the third-leading receiver on Michigan’s roster this season. It gets better.

Nation’s No. 1 receiver since 2000 – by year
Freshman Season College Career
Year Name School Rec Yds TDs Rec Yds TDs
2016 Demetris Robertson Cal 50 767 7 50* 767* 7*
2015 Calvin Ridley Alabama 89 1,045 7 155* 1,772* 14*
2014 Speedy Noil Texas A&M 46 583 5 88* 1,134* 9*
2013 Laquon Treadwell Ole Miss 72 608 5 202 2,393 21
2012 Dorial Green-Beckham Missouri 28 395 5 87 1,278 17
2011 George Farmer USC 4 42 0 30 363 4
2010 Kyle Prater USC 1^ 6^ 0^ 71 654 2
2009 Rueben Randle LSU 11 173 2 97 1,634 13
2008 Julio Jones Alabama 58 924 4 179 2,653 15
2007 Terrence Toliver LSU 10 249 3 126 1,820 12
2006 Percy Harvin Florida 34 427 2 133 1,929 13
2005 Patrick Turner USC 12 170 2 138 1,752 17
2004 Early Doucet LSU 18 257 2 160 1,943 20
2003 Whitney Lewis USC 3 16 0 3 16 0
2002 Ryan Moore Miami 44 637 3 49 800 8
2001 Roscoe Crosby Clemson 23 396 3 23 396 3
2000 Charles Rogers Michigan State 67! 1,470! 14! 135 2,821 27
*Still in college
^Redshirted freshman season (redshirted due to injury)
! Sophomore season (academically ineligible for freshman season)

An anomaly among the previous 17 top receivers in the nation has been those who committed to Southern Cal. Four of them — George Farmer in 2011, Kyle Prater in 2010, Patrick Turner in 2005, and Whitney Lewis in 2003 — performed well below average. Those four averaged just five receptions for 58.5 yards and half a touchdown.

Farmer switched to running back, tore his ACL and MCL his sophomore season, and finished his career with just 30 catches for 363 yards and four touchdowns. Prater redshirted as a freshman due to nagging injuries and then transferred to Northwestern. He had originally committed to Pete Carroll, but didn’t stick it out with Lane Kiffin. Turner had the best freshman season of any of the four, catching 12 passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns, and went on to a decent career and a third-round draft pick. Lewis — like Farmer — was switched to running back for most of his freshman season before moving back to receiver where he caught just three passes for 16 yards. He sat out his sophomore season while academically ineligible and didn’t catch another pass in his career.

With four of the five worst freshman seasons among the last 16 No. 1 receivers nationally coming from USC — the other was LSU’s Rueben Randle, who caught 11 passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman –, it’s worth looking at the freshman year production average without the USC guys. If they had all not been from one school, we couldn’t do this. But when it’s isolated to one program, we can reasonably assume that it’s more of a reflection of the program than the player.

The 13 non-USC commits averaged 42 receptions for 610 yards and five touchdowns as freshmen. A performance like that would have been very similar to Jake Butt’s 43 receptions for 518 yards and four scores.

Nation’s No. 1 receiver since 2000 – averages
Receptions Yards Touchdowns
All 17 34 480 4
Jehu Chesson 2016 31 467 2
Minus USC commits 42 610 5
Jake Butt 2016 43 518 4

Three of the 17 No. 1 receivers since 2000 would have been Michigan’s leading receiver this season — Julio Jones, who caught 58 passes for 924 yards and four touchdowns for Alabama in 2008; Calvin Ridley, who caught 89 passes for 1,045 yards and seven scores for the Crimson Tide last season; and Charles Rogers, who caught 67 passes for 1,470 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2001. Last year’s No. 1 receiver, Demetris Robertson, had very similar numbers to Michigan’s leading receiver, Amara Darboh, catching 50 passes for 767 yards and seven touchdowns for California this fall.

Beyond just the freshman season, the nation’s No. 1 receivers have largely had outstanding college careers. Most of them didn’t stay all four years, but they averaged 102 catches for 1,461 yards and 12 touchdowns over their careers. Michigan State’s Charles Rogers turned in a two-year total of 2,821 yards, which would rank third in Michigan career receiving history. Jones’ 2,653 in three seasons would rank fifth and Ole Miss’ Laquon Treadwell’s 2,393 in three years would also rank fifth. Keep in mind that Michigan’s top four — Braylon Edwards, Anthony Carter, Jeremy Gallon, and Amani Toomer — all played all four seasons in Ann Arbor.

Of the 14 who are no longer in college, eight were drafted by the NFL — all in the top three rounds and four in the first round. Seven of them are still in the league.

Before Peoples-Jones’ commitment, the highest rated receiver Michigan had ever landed was Mario Manningham, who was the nation’s sixth-best receiver in the 2005 class. He turned in a 27-catch, 433-yard, six-touchdown freshman performance and ranks sixth in Michigan’s career receiving books.

Michigan’s top 10 receiver commitments in recruiting ranking era
Year Name Position Rank National Rank
2017 Donovan Peoples-Jones 1 11
2005 Mario Manningham 6 50
2001 Tim Massaquoi 7 47
2014 Drake Harris 7 67
2005 Antonio Bass 8 56
2008 Darryl Stonum 10 48
2004 Doug Dutch 10 71
2009 Je’Ron Stokes 10 90
2007 Toney Clemons 12 96
2002 Jason Avant 13 117

If recent history holds true, Michigan fans can expect a productive year from Peoples-Jones next fall and a solid career. He also comes in at the right time with the Wolverines losing their top three pass catchers to graduation. Jim Harbaugh has shown that he’s willing to play true freshman receivers as Grant Perry caught 14 passes for 128 yards and one touchdown in 2015 and Kekoa Crawford and Eddie McDoom combined for 9 catches for 106 yards and one score this fall, in addition to McDoom’s success on jet sweeps. The roster is certainly wide open for a go-to outside receiver and Peoples-Jones seems primed to fill that spot.

A high ranking doesn’t always guarantee success, and some of the best receivers in Michigan history weren’t ranked highly, but the recent history of the nation’s top receivers are good news for Michigan fans.

Mercifully over: Kansas State 31 – Michigan 14

Sunday, December 29th, 2013


(MGoBlue.com)

If season’s end had come on Nov. 30 Michigan would have entered the offseason with at least some semblance of hope. No, the Wolverines didn’t beat Ohio State and no, there are no moral victories, but their inspired performance left reason for hope. Instead, the season officially, mercifully, came to a close on Saturday with a game it didn’t want to be in and a lackluster performance that did nothing but erase any goodwill earned in the game prior.

Michigan and Kansas State entered with identical 7-5 records, but it was painfully obvious that not all 7-5s are equal. One team played like it was there to take care of business while the other like it had already mailed it in.

Final Stats
Michigan Kansas State
Score 14 31
Record 7-6 8-5
Total Yards 261 420
Net Rushing Yards 65 149
Net Passing Yards 196 271
First Downs 15 21
Turnovers 1 1
Penalties-Yards 6-39 6-64
Punts-Yards 5-204 1-45
Time of Possession 24:56 34:00
Third Down Conversions 4-of-11 7-of-11
Fourth Down Conversions 0-of-0 0-of-0
Sacks By-Yards 2-11 1-2
Field Goals 2-for-2 1-for-2
PATs 0-for-0 4-for-4
Red Zone Scores-Chances 3-of-3 4-of-4
Full Box Score

By late fourth quarter, Michigan fans were reduced to simply hoping the Wolverines would get the ball back one more time to allow Jeremy Gallon to break Michigan’s single-season receiving record. But even that felt hollow in the face of an underachieving season.

Gallon and Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield finished their careers surrounded on offense by kids as Devin Gardner looked on from the sidelines, supported by crutches.

Shane Morris, making his first career start – just the sixth true freshman quarterback to do so in Michigan history – looked poised and showed off a strong arm. Sometimes he was a second late, sometimes his throws were a little off, but many times he went through his progressions, stepped up into the pocket, and delivered a strike in a way that looked more like a seasoned veteran than a kid less than a year removed from high school.

That was one of few bright spots. There was no running game. Michigan’s running backs combined for 13 yards on eight carries. Morris finished as the Wolverines’ leading rusher with 43 yards, 40 of which coming on a long run late in the fourth. It was Michigan’s longest run of the season.

The defense gave up touchdown drives of 14 plays, 75 yards; five plays, 60 yards; and four plays, 59 yards in the first half. All culminated in touchdown passes from Jake Waters to Tyler Lockett, who routinely burnt Blake Countess and Raymon Taylor en route to 116 yards on 10 receptions. John Hubert had wide open holes up the middle all night long, just like Carlos Hyde did a month ago, finishing with 80 yards on 16 carries. Waters had all day to throw, calmly completing 21-of-27 for 271 yards and three touchdowns, and when things broke down, he picked up yards – and first downs – with his legs.

When all was said and done, Michigan ended its season with a thoroughly disappointing 7-6 record, continuing the decline through Hoke’s first three seasons from 11-2 to 8-5 to 7-6. Michigan finished the season with the eighth highest point total in program history, but while it averaged nearly 48 points per game in its top six scoring games, it averaged a meager 19 in its other seven. Defensively, Michigan started the season with just seven touchdowns allowed through five games, but gave up 30 in the final eight, resulting in the second most points allowed in program history.

Aside from individual accolades like Gallon’s receiving record and Lewan’s Rimington-Pace award, the season was a failure by every measure. The good news is that aside from Gallon and Lewan, the vast majority of Michigan’s key players return next season. The bad news is the schedule sends the Wolverines to South Bend, East Lansing, and Columbus and Michigan hosts a Utah squad that knocked off Stanford this season.

Hoke will have some big decisions to make in the offseason, likely choosing between moving in another direction at offensive coordinator with hopes of saving his own job or sticking with Al Borges for better or worse. And three years removed from the Rich Rodriguez era, that’s not a good place to be. But at least, mercifully, this season is over.

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.

The battle for Bunyan comes from within

Thursday, October 18th, 2012


If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you.

Both Michigan and Michigan State have been playing football since its induction as a rugby-hybrid sport in the late 1800s. Since then the Wolverines and the Spartans have seen their share of tremendous athletes vying for the glory of yards gained, or players tackled. Michigan has produced three Heisman trophy winners in Tom Harmon (1940), Desmond Howard (’91), and Charles Woodson (’97), as well as 78 All-Americans and 11 national titles. And while Michigan State has yet to have a player crowned as the best in all of college football, they have had 28 All-Americans and won six national titles.

Today, I want to talk about the history of these two storied programs but, as with the rivalry, I’m keeping the discussion within the state lines. The following are players mostly born and raised in the great state of Michigan, but all graduating from high schools in our proud state. Here’s to a few of the touted home grown athletes that have meant so much to their respective team throughout the years.

Michigan

Braylon Edwards personifies homegrown players who have dominated the rivalry

Braylon Edwards (2001-04)
High School: Martin Luther King, Bishop Gallagher

After choosing his father’s alma mater Edwards went on to have an illustrious career as a wide receiver. He set records for yards gained, receptions, and ran the third fastest 200 meters in school history as a part of Michigan’s track team. Upon leaving the Big House he had earned 252 receptions, 3,541 yards, and 39 touchdowns. His outstanding performance won him the Fred Biletnikoff trophy for year’s most prolific receiver. But he won Michigan fan’s hearts in the 2004 game against the Spartans, making spectacular catches to help ensure a Wolverine victory. Also a Big Ten Conference MVP, and an All-American pick, Braylon was drafted into the NFL by the Browns in the first round.

Gerald Ford (1932-34)
High School: Grand Rapids South

A highly skilled player, Ford played on the offensive line during Michigan’s 1932 and 1933 National Championship winning teams, and in 1934 was voted as the team’s most valuable player though that was likely as much for perseverance as anything, as the Wolverines only managed a single win that season. But Ford’s legacy should also be remembered because of his adherence to his own good conscious. When in his last season opponent Georgia Tech refused to play if Willis Ward, a black player, took the field Ford threatened to quit the team altogether. He was best friends with Ward, and played in the game because Ward encouraged him to do so. His number 48 jersey was later retired by the university.

John Maulbetsch (1914-16)
High School: Ann Arbor

Born and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan, John Maulbetsch led his team to state championships his junior and senior year of high school, and went on a few years later to play for the Wolverines at age 24. Nicknamed ‘the human bullet,’ Maulbetsch was a fearsome opponent though he stood only 5’7” and weighed but 155 pounds. It is said that in a 1914 matchup against Harvard that he rushed for 300 yards, though the figure is disputable. A writer covering the game said Michigan sent in Maulbetsch “as their battering ram,” another raves about the holes he punched into the Crimson line time and time again. He would go on to be named a first team All-American.

In two home games against MSU, Tyrone Wheatley rushed for 325 yards and four TDs

Tyrone Wheatley (1991-94)
High School: Hamilton J. Robichaud

A three time All Big Ten selection, he was not only a tremendous back but his name is littered throughout the record books of Michigan Football. He is in the top ten in such categories as career points, touchdowns scored, and career rushing yards. After his junior season he had already surpassed the most touchdowns scored by a Michigan running back. He also finished among the top ten in the Heisman trophy race in 1993.

Ron Kramer (1954-56)
High School: East Detroit

He was a three sport athlete playing in addition to football, basketball and track. A nine time varsity letter earner Kramer led both the basketball and football teams in scoring for two years. Not only a multiple sport player Ron also played on both sides of the ball, ranging in position from tight end to defensive end, from kicker to quarterback. In his later years he is remembered as the man who brought apples each week during the fall to various university offices.

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Michigan State

T.J. Duckett rushed for 211 yards against Michigan in the infamous "Spartan Bob" game

Charles Rogers: (2000-02)
High School: Saginaw

While playing for the Spartans Rogers broke the record for consecutive games with a touchdown with 13. In 2001 he also broke every Michigan State single season receiving record. He was the first receiver to lead the Spartans in scoring since the mid 1960’s, and became the third member to have more than 1,000 yards receiving on the season. Rogers also lead the Big Ten in receiving touchdowns in both 2001 and 2002. In his final season he took home the coveted Fred Biletnikoff award for best receiver, as well as being a consensus All-American.

Brad Van Pelt: (1970-72)
High School: Owosso

A wonderful baseball player, Van Pelt was approached by the Detroit Tigers after graduating high school to play in the major league. He turned them down to attend Michigan State, and would eventually play professional football for ten years with the Giants, before playing short stints with the Raiders and Browns. While playing for the Spartans he became the first defensive back to win the Maxwell Award for best college football player. Van Pelt was also a pick making machine, he had 14 interceptions during his career, and managed to run a pair back for scores. He would become a 5 time Pro-Bowl selection.

Sid Wagner: (1934-36)
High School: Lansing Central

Part of the team to end the losing streak against Michigan that had begun in 1916 and had ended in losses in each season except two which culminated in ties (It is rumored that Monday classes were cancelled by the President of the university to extend the celebrations). A terrific tackler, Wagner tallied 23 in a matchup against Boston College. He was also a consensus All-American, but at the position of offensive guard. In the first draft of the NFL he was taken eighth overall by the Detroit Lions.

Flint's Don Coleman was MSU's first black All-American

T.J. Duckett: (1999-2001)
High School: Loy Norrix

Duckett was the Spartans leading rusher in the three seasons he played, and was at the receiving end of a game winning pass during his senior season that upset the Wolverines as the clock ran out. Running 100 yards or more six times, he also put up 248 yards in a game against the Hawkeyes. His 1,420 yard season cemented his senior year as the fourth best in school history, and he became the fifth leading rusher behind yet another Duckett, his brother. The Atlanta Falcons chose him as their first round pick in 2002.

Don Coleman: (1949-51)
High School: Flint Central

A member of the College Football Hall of Fame, and the first in school history to have his number retired. Coleman was also the first black player to be named an All-American at Michigan State, and would go on to become the first black member of the Spartan coaching staff. Because his mother was worried about young Don sustaining an injury he didn’t play football until his senior year of high school, but he still earned the title of All-State guard. At State he played tackle despite being the lightest person on the team at just under 180 pounds, and the Chicago Daily Tribune even commented that Don “probably is packed with more football per pound than any man in the United States.” Coleman’s accolades number too many to count specifically, but his own words tell part of the story as to why he was such a dynamic player. He believed in a necessity of a good education, “I think it’s wonderful that football gave me a college education.”

___________________________________________________________________________________

If there is one thing that Michigan and Michigan State fans can agree on, it’s that they both want to keep the best athletes the state has to offer at home. Now, what school they chose is a different ball game, but something in me thinks that no matter what fans in Michigan love to watch home grown talent excel, no matter what color he dons. Although they are sure to be a little sore about it on the one day each year that they see a man in a uniform that they think would have looked so much better in theirs.

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* There are 96 players currently on the two rosters that hail from the state of Michigan (43 on Michigan, 53 on Michigan State). Among them, home grown players that could make an impact on Saturday are:

Michigan: Devin Gardner, Raymon Taylor, Justice Hayes, Devin Funchess, Kenny Demens, Dennis Norfleet, Thomas Gordon, Thomas Rawls, Desmond Morgan, and Will Campbell.

Michigan State: Andrew Maxwell, Max Bullough, Aaron Burbridge, Bennie Fowler, William Gholston, Tony Lippett, Dion Sims, Chris Norman.

Around the League – Week 8

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011


Michigan has a great tradition of sending players to the National Football League. While the pace has fallen off over the past few years, there are still plenty of former Wolverines in the League. Each week during the season, we will provide an update on how former Michigan Men fared that week.

TOM BRADYPatriots QB

Mario Manningham caught his first touchdown of the season on Sunday (photo by Julio Cortez, AP)

Last game: Went 24-of-35 for 198 yards and two touchdowns. Had a passer rating of 101.8 in the Patriots’ 25-17 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers
Season totals: 184-of-272 (67.6%) for 2,361 yards (4th in NFL), 18 TDs (4th), 8 INTs
This week: Patriots host the New York Giants on Sunday at 4:15 EST
__________________________________

CHAD HENNEDolphins QB

Last game: DNP – Our for season (shoulder)
Season totals: 64-of-112 (57.1%) for 868 yards, 4 TDs, 4 INTs

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LAMARR WOODLEYSteelers OLB
Last game: Recorded 2 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 tackles-for-loss in the Steelers’ 25-17 win over the New England Patriots
Season totals: 36 tackles, 9 sacks (5th in NFL), 7.5 tackles-for-loss, 2 passes defended, 1 INT
This week: Steelers host the Baltimore Ravens at 8:20 EST on Sunday Night Football on NBC
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MARIO MANNINGHAM Giants WR
Last game:  Caught 6 passes for 63 yards and 1 touchdown with a long of 14 yards in the Giants’ 20-17 win over the Miami Dolphins
Season totals: 24 catches for 290 yards (48.3 ypg) and 1 touchdown
This week: at New England Patriots on Sunday at 4:15 EST
_______________________________

BRAYLON EDWARDS49ers WR
Last game: Caught 4 passes for 42 yards with a long of 13 in the 49ers’ 20-10 win over the Cleveland Browns
Season totals: 8 catches for 90 yards (30 ypg)
This week: at Washington Redskins on Sunday at 1 EST
_______________________________

CHARLES WOODSONPackers DB

Braylon Edwards returned form injury to catch 4 passes for 42 yards on Sunday (photo by Ezra Shaw, Getty Images)

Last game: Bye Week
Season totals: 26 tackles, 5 INT (1st in NFL), 7 passes defended, 1 fumble recovery, 1 TD
This week: at San Diego Chargers 4:15 EST

_______________________________

STEVE BREASTONChiefs WR
Last game: Caught three passes for 42 yards in the Chiefs’ 23-20 overtime win over the San Diego Chargers on Monday Night Football.
Season totals: 22 catches for 335 yards (47.9 ypg), 2 TDs
This week: Chiefs host the Miami Dolphins on Sunday at 1 EST

_______________________________

JASON AVANT Eagles WR

Last game: Caught 5 passes for 74 yards with a long of 24 in the Eagles’ 34-7 win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football
Season totals: 31 catches for 412 yards (58.9 ypg)
This week: Eagles host the Chicago Bears at 8:30 EST on Monday Night Football
__________________________________

TIM JAMISONTexans DE

Last game: Recorded one tackle in the Texans’ 24-14 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars
Season totals: 6 tackles, 1 pass defended, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery
This week: Texans host the Cleveland Browns on Sunday at 1 EST
__________________________________

LEON HALL – Bengals DB
Last game: Recorded 9 tackles in the Bengals’ 34-12 win over the Seattle Seahawks
Season totals: 28 tackles, 4 passes defended, 1 INT, 1 fumble recovery
This week: at Tennessee Titans on Sunday at 4:05 EST
__________________________________

MORGAN TRENTBengals DB
Last game: Waived by the Bengals to make room for Cedric Benson
Season totals: 6 tackles
__________________________________

DAVID HARRIS Jets LB
Last game: Bye week
Season totals: 36 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 tackles-for-loss, 3 passes defended, 1 INT, 1 TD
This week: at the Buffalo Bills on Sunday at 1 EST
__________________________________

ZOLTAN MESKOPatriots P
Last game: Booted 4 punts for 168 yards (42.0 avg) with a long of 53 and 1 inside the 20 in the Patriots 25-17 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers
Season totals: 22 punts for 993 yards (45.1 avg), 9 inside 20
This week: Patriots host the New York Giants on Sunday at 4:15 EST
__________________________________

JAMES HALLRams DE
Last game: Recorded 2 tackles in the Rams’ 31-21 upset of the New Orleans Saints
Season totals: 23 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 tackle-for-loss, 1 pass defended
This week: at Arizona Cardinals on Sunday at 4:15 EST
__________________________________

LARRY FOOTESteelers LB
Last game: Recorded 8 tackles in the Steelers’ 25-17 win over the New England Patriots
Season totals: 30 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle-for-loss
This week: Steelers host the Baltimore Ravens at 8:20 EST on Sunday Night Football on NBC
__________________________________

JAY FEELYCardinals K
Last game: Hit 2-of-2 Field Goals with a long of 45 yards and 3-of-3 extra points in the Cardinals’ 30-27 loss to the Baltimore Ravens
Season totals: 6-for-9 FGs (Long 51), 17-for-17 XPs
This week: Cardinals host the St. Louis Rams on Sunday at 4:15 EST

__________________________________

ALAN BRANCHSeahawks DT
Last game: Recorded 1 tackle-for-loss in the Seahawks’ 34-12 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals
Season totals: 16 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle-for-loss
This week: at the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday at 1 EST
__________________________________

ADRIAN ARRINGTON – Saints WR
Last game: Did not play in the Saints’ 31-21 loss to the St. Louis Rams
Season totals: 1 catch for 14 yards (4.7 ypg)
This week: Saints host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday at 1 EST
__________________________________

BRANDON GRAHAMEagles DE
On PUP list with knee injury. Expected to return this week

__________________________________

RYAN MUNDYSteelers S
Last game: Recorded 5 tackles in the Steelers’ 25-17 win over the New England Patriots
Season totals: 18 tackles
This week: Steelers host the Baltimore Ravens at 8:20 EST on Sunday Night Football on NBC

__________________________________

PRESCOTT BURGESS – Ravens LB
Last game: Recorded 1 tackle in the Ravens’ 30-27 win over the Arizona Cardinals
Season totals: 3 tackles
This week: at Pittsburgh Steelers at 8:20 EST on Sunday Night Football on NBC

__________________________________

STEVIE BROWNColts DB
Last game: Did not play in the Colts’ 27-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans
Season totals: 5 tackles
This week: Colts host the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at 1 EST

__________________________________

JEFF BACKUSLions OT
Starter
__________________________________

STEVE HUTCHINSONVikings OG
Starter
__________________________________

JONATHAN GOODWIN49ers OG
Starter
__________________________________

DAVID BAASGiants C
Starter
__________________________________

JAKE LONGDolphins OT
Starter
__________________________________

JONAS MOUTONChargers LB
On injured reserve. Has not played yet this season
__________________________________

STEPHEN SCHILLINGChargers OT
Activated from the practice squat, but has not played yet this season

Michigan Pins Its Hopes on Hoke; Is He the Right Man for the Job?

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011


Six days after Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon announced he was firing embattled head coach Rich Rodriguez, the speculation, flight-tracking, and rumor-mongering was put to rest with the announcement of the hiring of Brady Hoke as the 19th head coach in Michigan football history. But while the waiting ended, questions abound as to whether this was the right move.

Hoke coached at Michigan from 1995-2002 under Lloyd Car

After proclaiming in last Wednesday’s press conference that he would seek out a “Michigan Man,” Brandon met with Jim Harbaugh and Les Miles, both former Wolverine players under legendary coach Bo Schembechler. Harbaugh was considered the top choice for most Wolverine faithful, and when he accepted the head job with the San Francisco 49ers, Brandon seemingly turned to Miles. While Miles’ ethics were called into question by many Michigan fans, most accepted him as a logical choice to replace Rodriguez given his success at LSU.

We went to bed Monday night expecting Miles to become Michigan’s new head man on Tuesday. However, early Tuesday afternoon, Miles was taken out of consideration when LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva stated, “Les has led this program to many great successes on the field and his players represent LSU well off the field. We look forward to many great years of LSU football under his leadership.”

It didn’t take long before Hoke was named head coach and Michigan fans are left with more questions than answers. Brandon insists Hoke was the guy from the beginning and that Harbaugh and Miles were never even offered the job, but if that’s the case, then Brandon has a lot at stake in the coming years.

Don’t get me wrong; beginning with Hoke’s introductory press conference on Wednesday, I’ll fully back the new coach and root for him to become Michigan’s next Bo. If he can turn the program around, he will certainly become a legend in Ann Arbor. But that doesn’t mean I think it was the right move for the short term or the long term.

For starters, I think Brandon jumped the gun and caved into the pressure in his first year as Michigan’s AD. Of course he will mask it by saying that leaders have to be willing to make tough decisions even when unpopular, but in reality, the pressure from the media and boosters was too much, forcing Brandon’s hand at least a year early.

Rodriguez had improved each season, from 3-9 to 5-7 to 7-6 and a New Years Day bowl game. Granted, the bowl wound up being the worst bowl loss in Michigan history and the three-year stretch is the worst percentage-wise in in Michigan history, but that’s as much a reflection on the original decision to hire him as it is about his ability to coach. Fans, boosters, and alumni were screaming for change when Lloyd Carr retired and then-AD Bill Martin hired just what they wanted. However, it was going to take time, which apparently was never agreed to by those requesting the change. The year-over-year improvement at least warranted a fourth year, given the number of returning starters and the vast amount of youth on the defensive side of the ball. At the very worst, if Rodriguez failed to improve in year four, Hoke would still be available and Brandon could make the decision much earlier in the process than Jan. 11 so as to not hurt the incoming recruiting class.

This is nothing against Hoke as a man or as a coach. He represents everything a Michigan football coach should: a passion for Michigan football, previous coaching experience at Michigan, a history of success, hard-nosed recruiting, and unquestioned ethics. I grew up with his niece and nephew, proud that I had a connection to a Michigan coach during the glory years of the late 90s. I like the guy and think he will succeed at Michigan…eventually.

Unfortunately, I think this decision means another two or three years before we can expect to challenge for Big Ten titles. The past three years have been spent recruiting for the spread offense. Recruiting Denard Robinsons instead of Tom Bradys, Martavious Odoms instead of Braylon Edwards, Vincent Smiths instead of Tyrone Wheatleys, and Patrick Omamehs instead of Jake Longs. In short, Hoke will have to fit Rodriguez’s guys into a completely different system than what they were recruited for and have practiced in the past three years, which is exactly the issue that landed Rodriguez on the unemployment line after just three seasons.

Hoke has a career record of 47-50, but turned around Ball State and San Diego State, including a win over Navy in this year's Poinsettia Bowl

Brandon said one of the pieces of criteria for the new coach is the ability to adapt his system. The biggest question Hoke will face early on is whether he can adapt his traditional pro-style offense to fit the skills of Robinson, the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. If Robinson chooses to remain in Ann Arbor, this move could ultimately help his NFL potential by making him a more complete quarterback. Perhaps Hoke will bring back former UM quarterbacks coach Scott Loeffler who developed John Navarre and Chad Henne, and in his most recent gig, Tim Tebow at Florida.

Regardless, it’s hard to imagine hiring Hoke as being an upgrade from keeping Rodriguez for a fourth year. Will 2011 yield better results with Hoke? It’s doubtful.

Next season’s Wolverines are going to be a good team no matter who is coaching, with 10 starters returning on each side of the ball and the addition of senior cornerback Troy Woolfolk who missed the entire year with an injury. The schedule sets up nicely with Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Ohio State all at home and Penn State and Wisconsin off the schedule. A fourth year in Rodriguez’s system and a second-year starter in Robinson would have surely improved on its 33 points per game. And the defense would have been better with the return of Woolfolk and J.T. Floyd, who missed the final five games, and simply because as the nation’s 110th-ranked total defense, there’s virtually nowhere to go but up.

A serious run at the Big Ten title was not out of the question for next season under Rodriguez, and with several top recruits including Demetrius Hart, who had committed to Rodriguez (and has since committed to Alabama) in the fold, the program was destined for success. It just didn’t happen quickly enough for an impatient and arrogant fan base.

Now, here we are with the irony of all ironies, with the same fans and boosters who were clamoring for change because nine wins a season wasn’t good enough now calling for a mulligan. The school was embarrassed the past week with a national coaching search which, at least on the outside, looked like a joke, because of a decision that leaves Brandon in a tough spot if the transition this time around turns out similar three-year results as the one he just ended. I don’t think we’ve become Notre Dame yet, but if that happens, we’re well on our way.

All that said, I hope Hoke proves to be the best possible option for Michigan football and goes out and wins the Big Ten championship in 2011 and restores a sense of pride and the air of ‘the Victors’ to Ann Arbor. He certainly knows Michigan traditions, the importance of beating Michigan State and Ohio State, and how to win in the Big Ten. While I can’t fault Rodriguez for lacking those attributes, it’s one area in which Hoke is an improvement. And who knows, maybe it means more than we think. Welcome back, Coach.

BREAKING RECORDS: Denard tops all-time as UM rolled by Wisc.

Monday, November 22nd, 2010


Eleven games into the season, I’ve either gotten this Michigan team figured out or I’ve become so desensitized to losses that it’s what I’ve come to expect against teams not from the Mid-American Conference or the state of Indiana.

Montee Ball runs away from Michigan defenders (photo by the Detroit News)

All three of my predictions came true on Saturday, and while they weren’t too far out on a limb, they were right on, and save for a late touchdown by Wisconsin, the final score would have been exactly right too.

I don’t want to be right on those predictions, so it’s not exactly something I’m proud about. I’d much rather be completely wrong and Michigan win, but unfortunately, that’s where we are right now.

While defensive progress appeared to have been made last week in a 27-16 win over Purdue, window dressing is all it really was. Purdue was essentially playing with its second-team offense and the game was played in poor weather conditions, making good offense the exception rather than the norm.

So when Wisconsin came to town with its steamroller offense, everybody knew what the Badgers’ offensive strategy would be: run, run, run, and sprinkle in a pass here and there. Quarterback Scott Tolzien completed 14-of-15 passes for 201 yards, all of one of those passes coming in the first half when Wisconsin jumped out to a 24-0 lead.

From there on, Wisconsin ran the ball on 33 out of 34 plays in the second half, and Michigan was helpless to stop it as the Badgers rolled up 357 rushing yards.

The loss dropped Michigan to 7-4 on the season, 3-4 in the Big Ten, and set up a chance to play spoiler, and salvage the season, this Saturday in Columbus. I won’t go as far as to say this is the most important game in Rich Rodriguez’s three-year tenure at Michigan, since I think he’s returning next season no matter the outcome, but if Michigan wins it would certainly be his biggest win during that time.

Ohio State sits in a three-way tie for first with Wisconsin and Michigan State. Wisconsin beat Ohio State 31-18 on Oct. 17, and Ohio State doesn’t play Michigan State this season, so if Ohio State beats Michigan, it will claim a share of the Big Ten title and likely receive a BCS bowl game since it’s ranked higher than Michigan State in the BCS standings.

A Michigan win would keep Ohio State from reaching its sixth straight Big Ten title and a sixth straight BCS bowl. It would also give Rodriguez his first win over a ranked team since 2008 when Michigan beat No. 9 Wisconsin. That Wisconsin team was vastly overrated at the time and finished the season with a 7-6 record, so beating Ohio State on Saturday would easily top that one.

But most importantly, it would end Michigan’s six game losing streak to the Buckeyes, the longest in the rivalry since the 1920s. After dominating the 90s, Michigan has seemingly forgotten how to beat Ohio State since Jim Tressel took over. Ohio state fans love to point out that it has been two thousand and something days since Michigan has beaten Ohio State. Beat Ohio State on Saturday and Rodriguez will regain much of the Michigan fan base heading into the bowl game.

Ohio State is by far the better team this season and will be heavily favored, but just ask the 1993, ’95, and ’96 Buckeye teams if the better team always wins. The beauty of the rivalry is that you can throw out the records. Let Buckeye week begin!

Notes

Robinson broke the FBS single-season rushing record by a quarterback (AP photo)

Hats off to Denard Robinson for breaking Beau Morgan’s record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a single season. His 121 rushing yards against Wisconsin also made him the first 1,500 yard rusher and passer in NCAA history, not to mention the first player to have 1,500 yards rushing and 2,000 yards passing in a single season.

The sophomore in his first season as a starter has been electrifying for Michigan this season and gives the Wolverines a lot of hope for the next two years.

He’s now 403 yards short of the all-college football quarterback rushing record, which was set by Chris Sharpe of Div. III’s Springfield (Mass.) College. He would have to average 202 yards per game to break that record, which is a tall task considering Ohio State’s rush defense which ranks third in the nation.

Injuries are hitting Michigan hard in the last few games of the season. Already having lost starting receiver Martavious Odoms and cornerback J.T. Floyd, and nose tackle Mike Martin and center David Molk having missed all or parts of the past few games, Michigan suffered another blow on Saturday. Receiver Darryl Stonum was inured returning a kick late in the game and running back Vincent Smith and defensive end Craig Roh each suffered what appeared to be concussions.

Stonum ranks second on the team in receptions and third in receiving yards with 493. He also has four touchdowns. Smith is the leading running back 571 yards and five touchdowns. Roh has been more effective as a defensive end since moving there from linebacker.

All three of those guys will be needed this Saturday if Michigan has any shot to win. Hopefully Stonum is healthy enough to keep returning kicks, because at this point, he’s light years better than Jeremy Gallon, who has been Michigan’s returner most of the season.

After the game, Stonum tweeted, “hopefully I’m ok (I think I am) but its gonna take a whole lot to keep me out of this next game.”

Roy Roundtree’s 114 yards against Wisconsin put him within striking distance of becoming Michigan’s first 1,000-yard receiver since Mario Manningham in 2007. For the season, he has 839 yards, just 37 behind Northwestern’s Jeremy Ebert for the Big Ten lead. With two games remaining, at Ohio State on Saturday and a bowl game, Roundtree needs to average 80.5 receiving yards to eclipse 1,000.

He would join the ranks of Manningham, Jason Avant (2005), Braylon Edwards (2002, ’03, ’04), Marquis Walker (2001), and David Terrell (2000) as the only Michigan receivers to reach 1,000 yards since 2000.

[Ed.: The below chart will live on the Wolverine Watch page for the rest of the season]

Roy Roundtree vs. Jeremy Ebert
11 Games Played 11
7-4 Win-Loss 7-4
58 Receptions 56
839 Receiving Yds
876
6 TDs 8
75 Long
45
14.5 Avg./Catch 15.6
76.3 Avg./Game 79.6
5.27 Rec/Game 5.18

Chappellbombed By MGoBlog

Thursday, October 7th, 2010


After Michigan’s shootout win over Indiana last Saturday, I was ready to write a post about how Michigan probably won’t face another offense like IU’s the rest of the season and how that’s a good thing. It’s no secret that Michigan’s defense can’t really stop anybody, and after giving up nearly 500 yards passing last week, I was going to break down how the rest of the teams on the schedule won’t be quite as dangerous (at least offensively).

Then Brian from MGoBlog beat me to it. And I don’t blame him – I’d rather read him than me anyway. So if you haven’t already, click that link and read his post. That about sums it up perfectly. I’ll make this week’s recap short and sweet and save time and energy for tomorrow’s Michigan State preview.

Offensive stats through five games
2010 2009
5-0 Record 4-1
41.4 Scoring Offense 34.0
1,622 Rushing Yards 989
324.4 Rushing YPG 197.8
1,203 Passing Yards 951
240.6 Passing YPG 190.2
565.0 Total Offense 388.0
33/61 (54%) Third-Down Conv. 32/74 (43%)
20/21 (95%) Red Zone Scoring 14/19 (74%)
3* Turnovers 7
1 Sacks Allowed 9
*2 other turnovers were fumbles on a INT returns,
so they don’t count towards offensive stats

Over/Under

After the quick start by Michigan, touchdowns on the first two possessions, I thought I would be right on track for my prediction of 51. Instead, the offense bogged down a little bit, but not enough to keep the Denard magic from continuing with a last-minute game-winning touchdown drive. I ended up nine over on my prediction, which leaves me at just one over for the season on offense. I was four under defensively, which leaves me at 16 over.

I Said What?

“Provided he doesn’t get knocked out of this game, Robinson should have a field day and continue to pad his Heisman numbers. Over/Under – 149 rushing yards. I think he goes well beyond because of the week IU rush defense, even though he won’t get the number of carries he got in the first couple of games.

Denard rushed 19 times for 217 yards and two touchdowns and completed 10-of-16 passes for 277 yards and three touchdowns. I’d say that padded his Heisman numbers. His 217 rushing yards were 68 well beyond 149 just as I predicted. (+1)

“Over/Under – 3 touchdown receptions for Belcher and Doss. I’ll go under on this one, and here’s why: Indiana has a tight end. Freshman Ted Bolser leads the team in touchdown receptions with four. Michigan has done fairly well covering receivers this season, but has had trouble covering tight ends, giving up a 95-yard touchdown to Notre Dame’s Kyle Rudolph.”

If you substitute “running back” for “tight end” and “Darius Willis” for “Ted Bolser” then I was right on. But alas, I didn’t count on Willis getting the bulk of the scores. Belcher got one and Doss went off with 15 catches for 221 yards, but didn’t score. (+1/2)

“Over/Under – 1.5 turnovers forced. I’ll go with over. The Hoosiers’ offensive line features three returning starters from last year, but it’s relatively young. It’s only allowed two sacks so far, but without a proven running game, Michigan’s defensive line should be able to put some pressure on Chappell.”

Junior Hemingway out-jumped the IU cornerback to give Michigan first-and-goal in the waning seconds (photo by the Detroit News)

Junior Hemingway out-jumped IU cornerback Richard Council to set up Michigan's game-winning touchdown in the waning seconds (photo by the Detroit News)

Michigan forced only one turnover on Saturday, though it was Chappell’s first pick of the season and it was a big one. Safety Cam Gordon picked it off in the red zone keeping IU out of the endzone, at least for that possession. (-1)

“I really think Michigan can put up a lot of points in this one, but will also give up more than it would like to. It may start out as a shootout, but Michigan’s ball possession and running game will keep the ball away from Chappell and Michigan pulls away in the second half.”

Michigan never pulled away, needing a touchdown drive that began with 1:15 on the clock in order to pull out the win. I was somewhat surprised IU didn’t go for two when it scored with just over a minute left to pull even. Michigan couldn’t stop anything at that point and IU had the momentum.

But with Denard, Michigan can never be counted out in late-game situations because they can’t sit back and give him time. He’ll run for 20-plus yards every time. If they pressure him, he has enough weapons on the outside to make them pay.

How great was it to see Junior Hemingway go up and get that ball right before Robinson’s touchdown run at the end? I don’t know if a Michigan receiver has done that since Braylon Edwards left.

The Fifth Season Begins: Breaking Down Meechigan’s Schedule

Friday, September 3rd, 2010


Each year during the week leading up to the first Michigan game of the season, I dust off my Bob Ufer “Maximum Meechigan” album and put it on repeat. As the goose bumps spread across my forearms I’m instantly transported back to the golden era of Michigan football eagerly anticipating the return of college football.

Perhaps Ufer put it best when he said, “There are five seasons across this country every year: winter, spring, summer, fall, and football. Football season makes the barber cut hair just a little bit better, and it makes the butcher slice the steak a trifle thicker. The shoe-shine boy pops his rag with more gusto, and the landlord doesn’t mention the overdue rent.”

Bob Ufer thrilled Michigan fans with his narrative and passionate enthusiasm for 37 years

Bob Ufer's soundbites live on for Michigan fans even 29 years after his death

While the quote may be a bit outdated, its meaning certainly holds true today. As we reach the start of the country’s fifth season, Michigan looks to start a new golden era, and it all begins on Saturday when UConn invades the Big House.

September 4 – UConn

Randy Edsall’s Huskies return eight starters from an offense that averaged 31.2 points per game a year ago. Fortunately for Michigan, the strength of the offense is the running game, led by Jordan Todman. Both receivers are new, affording Michigan’s weakness, the defensive secondary, a chance to get its feet wet for next week’s battle at Notre Dame.

Conversely, Michigan should be able to put up plenty of points against a very young and inexperienced UConn secondary. All signs point to a shootout, but Michigan should be able to come out on top with an explosive offense led by the duo of Denard Robinson and Tate Forcier.

Michigan 37 – UConn 31

September 11 – at Notre Dame

Notre Dame has a new coach at the helm in Brian Kelly who plans to spread the ball around in an up-tempo offense. Though the Irish will be breaking in a new starter at quarterback, Dayne Crist, he has some experienced weapons in receiver Michael Floyd, tight end Kyle Rudolph, and running back Armando Allen. Michigan fans are already having nightmares of Crist to Floyd in the same way that Michigan State felt about Henne to Edwards. In other words, it could get scary.

The one saving grace for Michigan is that Notre Dame’s defense is similar to its own: strong up front, weak in the secondary. Just like the UConn game, this figures to be a shootout, but Notre Dame will have too much firepower for Michigan to keep up with on the road.

Notre Dame 33 – Michigan 27

September 18 – UMass

Michigan gets a bounce-back game to get the offense firing on all cylinders and this should be similar to last season’s Football Championship Subdivision opponent, Delaware State.

UMass returns just eight total starters and will be no match for Michigan. Devin Gardner will likely get his first action running the offense as Michigan pounds the Minutemen.

Michigan 52 – UMass 17

September 25 – Bowling Green

Much like UMass, Bowling Green won’t put up much of a fight for Michigan. The Falcons return just eight starters. Senior running back Willie Geter is good, but won’t be able to make up for the loss of the school’ second all-time quarterback and receiver.

If there’s a common theme among Michigan’s non-conference schedule, it’s lack of depth and experience in the secondary. Bowling Green doesn’t have much to work with on a defense that gave up just under 28 points per game last season.

Indiana QB Ben Chappell looks to lead one of the conference's top offenses

Indiana QB Ben Chappell looks to lead one of the conference's top offenses

Michigan 46 – Bowling Green 20

October 2 – at Indiana

Last season, Indiana gave Michigan a scare in Ann Arbor. This season, Michigan needs to avoid a trap game on the road before entering the meat of its conference schedule.

Indiana is led by senior quarterback Ben Chappell, who pioneers one of the conference’s most dynamic offenses. Receiver Tandon Doss tore Michigan up a year ago and could be a tough matchup again this year for Michigan’s weak secondary.
Defensively, Indiana returns just three starters, all in the front seven. Michigan should once again light up the scoreboard in a close one.

Michigan 35 – Indiana 31

October 9 – Michigan State

Michigan State has won two straight in the rivalry and is licking its chops for a chance to make it three. Led by junior quarterback Kirk Cousins, the Spartans have one of the top offensive attacks in the Big Ten.

On defense, Michigan State has depth in the secondary but its weakness is up front. The leader on defense is All-American linebacker Greg Jones and he’s a force to be reckoned with, but Michigan should be able to move the ball on the Spartans. With the home field advantage, Michigan pulls it out.

Michigan 28 – Michigan State 24

October 16 – Iowa

The Hawkeyes could be the most complete team in the Big Ten with a senior-loaded offense and eight starters returning from one of the Big Ten’s top defenses. Quarterback Ricky Stanzi won’t be confused for Peyton Manning, but is efficient at running the offense.

Iowa’s defense gave up just 15.4 points per game last season and ranked fourth nationally in pass defense. The entire defensive line returns and should give Michigan’s offense fits for the first time this season.

Iowa 23 – Michigan 17

October 30 – at Penn State

Michigan gets the fortune of having its bye week prior to traveling to Happy Valley, which should help relieve the sting of the Iowa loss. Penn State has been one of the top teams in the Big Ten the past few years, but will be starting a true freshman quarterback, Robert Bolden, this season.

Taking a page out of Rich Rodriguez's playbook, Joe Patern elected to start true freshman Robert Bolden at quarterback this season

Taking a page out of Rich Rodriguez's playbook, Joe Paterno elected to start true freshman Robert Bolden at quarterback this season

Last season’s top scoring defense returns just five starters and has to replace five of its front seven. A primetime “white-out” game in Happy Valley, however, is a recipe for a Penn State win.

Penn State 26 – Michigan 21

November 6 – Illinois

With Juice Williams and Arrelious Benn gone, Illinois head coach Ron Zook finds himself squarely on the hot seat. He will likely be relying on redshirt freshman Nate Scheelhaase to guide the offense that ranked last in the Big Ten last season in conference play.

On the other side of the ball, seven starters return from the worst scoring defense in the conference in 2009. Michigan will be able to score against the Illini and bounce back from two straight losses to become bowl eligible for the first time in three years.

Michigan 33 – Illinois 17

November 13 – at Purdue

Purdue seems to be a dark horse candidate to surprise some in the Big Ten this year, but the Boilermakers face two key issues: rebuilding on offensive line and in the secondary. Head Coach Danny Hope will rely on Miami transfer Robert Marve to lead the offense, but the Boilers suffered a huge loss when running back Ralph Bolden tore his ACL in the spring.

On defense, Purdue surrendered a conference worst 173.4 rushing yards per game last season, but returns most of the front seven. The secondary is void of experience, so the defense should yield plenty of points.

Michigan 31 – Purdue 21

November 20 – Wisconsin

Like Iowa, Wisconsin features a very experienced team on both sides of the ball from a team that finished 10-3 last season and upset Miami in the Champs Sports Bowl.

Senior quarterback Scott Tolzien returns, as does junior running back John Clay. The Badgers offense ranked first in the Big Ten in scoring (31.8), rushing yards (203.9) and total yards (416.9) last season, and it only has to replace one receiver. This offense should be hard to stop with the combination of Clay on the ground and receiver Nick Toon in the air.

The defense gave up a Big Ten best 88.2 yards on the ground last year but has to replace three defensive linemen. If the replacements can hold up, Wisconsin should challenge Ohio State and Iowa for the Big Ten title. They should be too much for Michigan though.

Wisconsin 28 – Michigan 20

Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor looks to break out this season

Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor looks to break out this season

November 27 – at Ohio State

The final game in the Big Ten as we know it could be ugly for Michigan. Ohio State figures to be firing on all cylinders with junior quarterback Terrelle Pryor expected to break out like former Texas quarterback Vince Young did in his junior season. Pryor has senior wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher, a virtual clone of Anthony Gonzalez, to throw to, and speedster Brandon Saine in the backfield. Four of five offensive linemen return including Michigan transfer Justin Boren.

While this should be the best offense Ohio State has had since Troy Smith graduated in 2006, the defense has some holes to fill. The defensive line needs to be retooled, but the linebackers all return, including seniors Brian Rolle and Ross Homan, the top two tacklers from a year ago.

Pryor could be looking to wrap up the Heisman with a big performance, and unless Michigan’s secondary grows up fast, it could be a long day for Michigan.

Ohio State 38 – Michigan 24

Many outside the program (and some of the Michigan fanbase) will say that 7-5 isn’t good enough for Michigan, but it’s just what Rich Rodriguez needs at this point to ramp up expectations for 2011. Getting back to a bowl game is the first step and anything more than 7-5 will be considered a huge success this year as Michigan will return 19 starters to challenge for the innagural Big Ten Championship next season.

Don’t Listen to the Headlines; Michigan Still on Track Despite Big Loss to Penn State

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009


Michigan had a chance on Saturday to prove the doubters wrong – to shut up the critics of head coach Rich Rodriguez. Instead, its 35-10 loss to Penn State served only to ramp up the criticism and turn up the heat on Rodriguez.

A quick look around the Internet reveals some very negatively shaded articles about Michigan football. Headlines like, “Who’s to Blame For Michigan’s Downfall?” or “A Blown Opportunity for Rodriguez” or “Safety Responsible for UM Collapse” or “Penn State Dominates Reeling Michigan Football Team,” show either a misconception about this team or a clear bias against its coach.

*A symbol of the 35-10 loss to Penn State, Donovan Warren and Junior Hemmingway collided on a punt return, photo by Lon Horwedel | AnnArbor.com

*A symbol of the 35-10 loss to Penn State, Donovan Warren and Junior Hemmingway collided on a punt return, photo by Lon Horwedel | AnnArbor.com

Let’s all take a deep breath and realize that this team was not expected to challenge for the Big Ten this season. Most knowledgeable Michigan fans predicted a 7-5 finish. Some of the more optimistic fans said 8-4.
There is no downfall, no collapse, no blown opportunity, and this team isn’t reeling. It’s growing.

After a 4-0 start that included a come-from-behind win over rival Notre Dame, the expectations were immediately, and wrongly, raised. Even after taking Michigan State to overtime and Iowa to the brink, many unfairly praised this team as much farther along than it really is.

But what team can really succeed with a true freshman quarterback?

Some might point to USC and Matt Barkley, but that’s a team that has arguably the best offensive line in the country, and is loaded on the defensive side of the ball.

Some might even say Michigan’s own Chad Henne in 2004, but he had a senior Braylon Edwards to throw to. Edwards caught a school record 97 passes that season for 1,330 yards and 15 touchdowns. Michigan doesn’t have a down-field receiving threat this season.

I’m not saying that a team can’t succeed with a freshman quarterback, but it has to have outstanding play elsewhere to allow for the growing pains. Michigan doesn’t have that this season.

*Senior DE Brandon Graham blocked his second punt in as many weeks, photo by The Detroit News / David Guralnick

*Senior DE Brandon Graham blocked his second punt in as many weeks, photo by The Detroit News / David Guralnick

I’m excited for the future of Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson, but we have to be patient. Highlight-reel runs and game-winning drives aren’t going to happen every game.

We knew entering the season that Rodriguez’s offense was going to be a little bit better than last season, but still not where it will be once he gets all the athletes he needs to run it.

The addition of Forcier and Robinson helped take an offense that was virtually non-existent last season to one of the highest scoring offenses in the Big Ten this season.

Just think about how good it will be when these players have another year or two in the offense, and another recruiting class or two comes in.

Defensively, the struggles have been very hard to watch this season, especially since it doesn’t seem to be making much progress throughout the season.

Much has been made about its inability to make big stops, but defensive coordinator Greg Robinson is the third different coordinator in three years, which makes it hard to develop chemistry and consistency.

The defense will remain a frustration for the rest of this season, but should improve along with the offense in the coming years when Rodriguez gets more speed and talent to fit in.

The most important thing for Michigan fans is to not lose faith in the system and growth. We were griping for Lloyd Carr to be replaced because of 8-4 or 7-5 seasons when his teams consistently underachieved. Yet we’re all up in arms when this year’s team, in the second year of a complete overhaul, is on its way to a probable 7-5 season.

Look at it this way: in the last seven years of the Carr era, the offense averaged 30.4 points per game and 400.1 yards of total offense per game. The defense gave up 19.6 points per game and 331.5 total yards per game.

This season, Michigan’s offense is averaging 33.9 points per game and 404.5 total yards, while the defense is giving up 23.5 points and 367.4 yards per game.

Essentially, this year’s offense is better than the seven-year average in points and total offense, while the defense isn’t far behind the seven-year average. This is the best offense we’ve seen in the maize and blue since 2003.

And it’s still considered a rebuilding year!

Imagine what the future holds when Carr’s players move on and Rodriguez’s players step in. That’s not a knock on Carr at all – it’s just a completely different system that needs different types of players.

*Keep the faith in Rich Rodriguez and Greg Robinson as they build their program, photo by MGoBlue.com

*Keep the faith in Rich Rodriguez and Greg Robinson as they build their program, photo by MGoBlue.com

So while the big loss to Penn State hurts, it was just one game, and Penn State is a very good team. The first four games of the season spoiled us, but we need to keep things in perspective.

Michigan travels to Illinois this weekend to face a 1-6 team, and then hosts a dangerous Purdue team the following week.

While no game is a lock, Illinois should be a win to get Michigan bowl-eligible, and Purdue is also a game Michigan should win.

It should be 7-3 heading into Madison, Wisc., looking to close out the season with an upset over Wisconsin, or Ohio State in the final game.

A 7-5 season is likely, but an upset over Wisconsin or Ohio State would make this team an overachieving one, as opposed to Carr’s underachieving teams that we detested.

Even if Michigan doesn’t pull off an upset, and finishes 7-5, Michigan fans should be content with this season, looking forward to a bowl game and an even more talented and potent team next season.

That’s not exactly easy to swallow – being content with 7-5 – but it’s part of the process and it’s something we have to accept.

The future is certainly bright for Rodriguez and the boys in maize and blue. We just have to be patient and let the process unfold.