Posts Tagged ‘Cam Gordon’

A Thanksgiving salute to the seniors of Team 134

Thursday, November 28th, 2013


(MGoBlue.com)

Thanksgiving is a time for all to remember what they are thankful for, and on Saturday 17 Wolverines will take the field for the final time in Michigan Stadium. They’ll play their hearts out, hoping to redeem an otherwise lost season and play spoiler to their most bitter rival’s perfect season. But before we get there, let’s take some time to thank those men of the maize and blue that made the decision to attend the University of Michigan.

Taylor Lewan
Career starts Consecutive starts Honors
46 39 All-Big Ten first team (2012), second team (2011), Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year (2012), Walter Camp first team All-American (2012), Rotary Lombardi Award semifinalist (2013)

Thank you Taylor Lewan for sticking it out for all five years. Thank you for forgoing sure millions in the 2012 NFL Draft to return to school, finish your career, and help mentor the young offensive linemen. Thank you for carrying on the tradition that so many linemen before you began. Your senior season hasn’t gone as planned, but you’ll go down as one of the all time Michigan great left tackles and while it doesn’t show right now, your leadership and guidance of the young guys will pay dividends in the coming years. May a long and productive career in the NFL await you.

Jeremy Gallon
Career Receptions Career Rec Yards Career Touchdowns Career YPC
155 2,440 16 15.7

Thank you Jeremy Gallon for working hard to improve for five straight years. You committed to Rich Rodriguez while he was in the process of recruiting smaller guys but didn’t really even get to play in his offense. Thank you for sticking with Michigan through the coaching change and forcing yourself into the leading role in an offense built for taller receivers. You’re on pace to finish in the top five in every career receiving category and top two in single season receiving yards, despite standing just 5’8″. Whether the NFL comes calling or not, thank you for being a bright spot in an otherwise down season and best of luck for your future.

Fitzgerald Toussaint
Career Rushes Career Rushing Yards Career Touchdowns Career YPC
503 2,255 26 4.5

Thank you Fitzgerald Toussaint for bringing excitement back to the Michigan backfield for the first time since Mike Hart left. We’ll always have 2011 when you ran for 1,041 yards and, along with Denard Robinson, became the first Michigan tandem to rush for 1,000 yards in the same season since the 1970s. This season has been tough and last season ended with a gruesome injury, but thank you for pushing hard to overcome the injury and work your way back into the starting role.

Brendan Gibbons
Career FG Attempted Career FG Made Career FG % Career PATs
60 45 75% 156-158 (98.7%)

Thank you Brendan Gibbons for your improvement throughout your five years in Ann Arbor. Your freshman struggles are a distant memory as you have become one of Michigan’s all-time best field goal kickers. Your game winning kicks against Virginia Tech in the 2012 bSugar Bowl and Michigan State in 2012 will always be remembered, as will your other game-tying kicks. You are proof that vast improvement can be made year-to-year.

Drew Dileo
Career Receptions Career Rec Yards Career Touchdowns Career YPC Career Punt Ret Career Yds/Ret
39 560 5 14.4 11 7.2

Thank you Drew Dileo for coming north to play for Michigan and providing a set of sure hands. You’ll always be remembered for your big plays in helping Michigan end its losing streak to Michigan State in 2012, but more so for your hard work and dependability. When Hoke needed sure hands at returning punts, you filled in. Your ability to hold for field goals has been steady and the slide into the hold for the game-tying field goal against Northwestern this season will go down in history.

Michael Schofield
Career Games Played Career Starts
50 34

Thank you Michael Schofield for giving this year’s squad a veteran presence on the offensive line along with Taylor Lewan. While the season hasn’t gone as planned, your guidance of the young linemen will pay off down the road. You started your career at guard and then held down the right tackle spot for two years. Although you don’t have the accolades of Lewan, you’ve been a steady contributor and may you find a spot at the next level.

Thomas Gordon
Games Started Tackles Sacks Tackles for Loss FF FR INT
36 214 3 11.5 3 4 6

Thank you Thomas Gordon for holding down the secondary and providing a veteran presence while Hoke’s young guys work their way into the lineup. You were the team’s third-leading tackler in both 2011 and 2012 and currently rank sixth this year. Your interception ended this year’s Northwestern game in overtime and you led the Big Ten in fumble recoveries in 2011. Thank you for a productive career.

Cameron Gordon
Games Started Tackles Sacks Tackles for Loss FF FR INT
15 132 4 14 1 2 3

Thank you Cam Gordon for your flexibility over the past five seasons and being willing to play wherever you were needed in order to see the field. You came in as a receiver, switched to safety and then to linebacker and were named to the CollegeFootballNews.com Freshman All-America second team in 2010. A back injury forced you to miss time in 2011 but you fought your way back in 2012 and have played a key reserve role at linebacker and even defensive end the last two seasons. Perhaps most importantly you were named Academic All-Big Ten each of the last three seasons, so big things are in store for you when your playing days are done.

Jibreel Black
Games Started Tackles Sacks Tackles for Loss FF FR INT
14 69 7 14 3 0 0

Thank you Jibreel Black for an under the radar but productive career. You waited your turn, serving as an important reserve defensive lineman in 2011 and 2012 before working your way into the starting lineup this season. You recorded three sacks in the final four games of 2011 and made a key sack in overtime against Northwestern this season.

Quinton Washington
Games Started Tackles Sacks Tackles for Loss FF FR INT
16 54 1 3 1 0 0

Thank you Quinton Washington for giving the team a veteran leader on the defensive line despite coming to Michigan on the other side of the ball. You started your career at right guard in 2010 before switching over to the defense. You blocked a kick against South Carolina in last season’s Outback Bowl and have held down the middle of the defense in the absence of Ondre Pipkins this season.

Courtney Avery
Games Started Tackles Sacks Tackles for Loss FF FR INT
18 109 1.5 5 3 3 2

Thank you Courtney Avery for outperforming your recruiting rankings and earning a spot as team captain this season. You’ll be remembered for your interception on Ohio State’s final drive in 2011 to seal the win, ending their winning streak. You tied a Michigan record for longest fumble recovery against Minnesota that same year. You’ve battled injuries but always found a way to get on the field. You were given the honor of wearing the No. 11 Legends jersey to honor the Wistert brothers, Francis, Albert, and Alvin, and that will be something you can be proud of when your playing days are over.

Thank you Joe Reynolds, Jeremy Jackson, Jareth Glanda, Erik Gunderson, Dylan Esterline, and Kristian Mateus for your contributions to the Michigan football program over the last four or five years. You helped prepare the team for battle week in and week out and can take pride in being able to don the maize and blue. Best of luck wherever your post football careers lead you.

These 17 young men will be honored prior to Saturday’s game, so regardless of how you view this season make sure to get there in time to give them the ovation they deserve. If you’re not happy with the way this season has gone, you can bet they feel it ten times worse, but all of them came in under a different head coach and, stuck out the transition, and have laid the foundation for Hoke’s future success.

Central Michigan postgame transcript: Players

Sunday, September 1st, 2013


(Justin Potts, M&GB)

Desmond Morgan

On second half adjustments…
“Yeah, they always kind of bring us together at halftime and decide what they’re hurting us with in the first half, what things that we were kind of sticking to them. So we just assessed some of the things that they were kind of getting us with, a couple of the routes on the passing game and things like that, and just made minor adjustments.”

On the defense’s goals and how many of them were hit…
“As a defense, we always want to keep them the lowest points possible. I know one of the biggest things was redzone defense that we always stress and coming out twice with a stop was a big thing for us, especially holding them to a field goal. They started really close there in kind of a quick change of events with momentum and everything like that, so that’s one of them. As far as turnovers as well, our goal was to get two (and) we got two. I think there were a couple of opportunities that we could have got some more and as the season progresses we need to get more, but overall that’s two of the big things that stand out in my mind.”

On whether he felt if the defense got enough pressure on the quarterback…
“I think that’s something we need to improve on as well. I know me personally blitzing a couple of times, as linebackers have to get home on a couple more blitzes. I don’t think we did that too great today. Then pass rush is something we always like to improve on. There was one, the third down scramble that ended up going for a first down, (we needed to) get a little more pressure and contain that guy. So there were a couple of times where obviously we missed and that’s something we’re going to work on.”

On whether he has started thinking about Notre Dame…
“Just started. Game’s over. We’ll try to enjoy this one a little bit, we’re getting the film tomorrow, but walking off that field last year I haven’t forgotten what that felt like, so I’m definitely looking forward to that game.”

Michael Schofield

On whether Devin Gardner was too fired up at the beginning…
“It’s just the first game of the season, you’re excited to play. We’ve been hitting each other all camp, it’s the first time you get to hit a new team.”

On whether he noticed Devin settle down…
“Kinda. Yeah, in the third series he kind of started to settle down a little.”

On whether Devin is more comfortable out of the shotgun than under center…
“I don’t really pay attention to that much at all. I’m just blocking.”

On whether the offensive line feels more comfortable in the shotgun than under center…
“No, we’re comfortable with whatever.”

On if he feels they struck a nice balance between shotgun and under center…
“I think we definitely did. We’re just trying to balance it up.”

On what it means to have good depth at running back…
“It’s great. Not just relying on one guy to run the ball 30 times a game is going to be nice. We’ve got three guys, four guys, whatever it is to run the ball and kind of take hits off each other.”

Raymon Taylor

On the sudden change situations and how the defense responded…
“We do things like that in practice, so when our back’s against the wall in a game it’s just like in practice. When things like that happen we can’t panic because coach put us in that situation during practice. We just happened to come out on top and win the game.”

On if he thought he was going to score on the interception return…
“Oh yeah, I thought I had him, but came up short.”

On the performance of Channing Stribling…
“He did well. Like I told him before, don’t panic, just play like you play in practice, and get to the ball, know your assignments, and he did pretty well.”

On a CMU quarterback playing who they didn’t expect to play…
“All Central Michigan, the guys are great. He’s a great quarterback. I take my hat off and wish him the best this season.”

Cam Gordon

On the blocked punt returned for touchdown setting the tone for the game…
“Coach Hoke talks a lot about special teams. We really emphasize that a lot, so we kind of saw that at the beginning of the game with the blocked punt for a touchdown, so it was great.”

On what the team talked about regarding Notre Dame on the sideline towards the end of the game…
“We were all just thinking about on to the next one. We have corrections that need to be made and now we’re thinking about Notre Dame.”

On the electric atmosphere of the Notre Dame game…
“It’s going to be great, this being the last game, it’s going to be great.”

On his memories from last year’s game and if there’s one thing that sticks out…
“Not really. I mean, we lost. That stuck with me, so we need a different outcome this year, this week.”

On the importance of getting the win in the last game against Notre Dame in Michigan Stadium…
“It’s very important, especially with it going down in the history books. To be able to say that you beat Notre Dame the last time that you played them, so it’s going to be great.”

On what he saw from the defensive linemen…
“I felt like they did a nice job. I’m always going to say that we need corrections, but I feel like they did a nice job, especially getting the win.”

Central Michigan postgame transcript: Brady Hoke

Saturday, August 31st, 2013


(Justin Potts, M&GB)

Opening Statement
“One thing I really want to do is thank our students and the fans, because it was really neat to see the student section and the maize and all that stuff. It just kept building, so I want to thank the students because it’s fun and they make the atmosphere fun.”

On Cam Gordon’s play…
“Cam is a guy who has matured in a lot of ways in his time at Michigan. From receiver coming in and going to safety, and the work ethic that he showed during the offseason, his leadership, and I think his motor that he plays the game with. He’s a better technician. He’s bigger, he’s stronger. That’s a credit to him and what Aaron Wellman does in the weight room. He also is an intelligent football player that can handle a lot of things and do it well.”

On Devin Gardner’s play and his ability to improvise…
“Well, you know, he’s athletic, and sometimes I’m crossing my fingers when I see him out there being athletic. But he had a couple of decisions that I think, one for sure, he should have made a better decision on, but at the same time, he’s got a lot of confidence in his abilities. And you like that. I’d rather have a quarterback that has that confidence than a guy you have to keep feeding all the time. So I thought he had a good game. I wouldn’t say elite, or excellent or anything, but I thought he had a good game.”

On the offensive balance and it’s importance…
“Well, I think to the offense itself it’s really important. When you have balance you can run the ball, and I don’t know, I think the tailback position had probably 150-160 yards, and then I think Devin had the rest of it, but it just opens up so much with the play-action game. That’s the one thing that Devin, more than a lot of quarterbacks, does such a great job with ball handling and play-action, which is a big part of our offense.”

On what you liked and didn’t like…
“There’s a lot of things probably in the negative side. Winning was good, the defense responding in a couple of sudden change situations was good. I think running the football was something that we want to do, obviously. Getting a lot of touches to a lot of different guys was a good thing. On the negative side of it, I thought we were sloppy. Some of it is body posture, demeanor, getting into the huddle, getting out of the huddle, penalties – those things drive me crazy. So that’s a negative. The other negative, I didn’t think we tackled as well. In the second quarter they had a first down running the ball, first down running the ball, first down running the ball, and some of that’s tackling, some of it’s getting off blocks and fitting the defense.”

On playing a lot of true freshman, how they responded, and which ones stood out…
“I don’t know if any of them really stood out, until you watch the film. We think, obviously it’s a talented group. At the same time, there’s discipline and things like that you need to play with, and that’s something they’ll learn. They’ll learn a lot off this game. We took 68 guys to the hotel last night and 36 of them are first or second year players. That’s a lot of babysitting, a lot of teaching going on. And yeah, it is babysitting.”

On the importance of the young guys getting experience…
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that’s important. That’s something that we are fortunate enough that the game went the way it did so we could do that.”

On how he decides when to take out the starters and put the young guys in…
“Well, that’s a really good question, because I’m always nervous, to be honest with you. Luckily, I’ve got good coaches who remind me that we’re up by 35 or whatever, and it was time maybe to play some other guys, because I’ve seen teams come back and I don’t want that to happen.”

On whether he got everything he wanted out of this game with Notre Dame coming up next week…
“Yeah, I don’t think there’s any doubt that we really wanted to go out and (get a) first impression of this football team, make a really good impression. At the same time, there’s so much to teach from this film, and so many mistakes, maybe assignment-wise, penalties and all that I can talk about all day. But I think it’s a game that we were fortunate enough to play well enough to get enough guys in so they’ve got real tape in a game situation and we can correct from that.”

On what he liked about Central Michigan…
“I told Dan (Enos) before the game that you’ve coached long enough that when you watch a team on tape, I was very impressed. They won the last four games a year ago, and they had to win three to get bowl eligible, in a row. To do that is significant. You watch the tape, and I’m a defensive line coach, so I watch the offensive linemen, but to see the pad level they played with, their footwork, their mechanics, and that’s what I told Dan. And defensively, how hard they play, you see that on tape. Their receivers and their routes, the timing. All those things, and I told him before the game he’s got the thing going in a really good direction. I think we were fortunate today that it worked out our way but I was very impressed.”

On when he started thinking about Notre Dame, and how this game gets him ready for Notre Dame…
“I didn’t really think about it until we were done in the locker room. I think it gets you ready because young kids have played in front of 112,000 people. I think there will be a few more thousand next week and the atmosphere on campus, the atmosphere in Ann Arbor, I would think will be electric. It’s the last time Notre Dame is going to come to Michigan for a while so I would think that’s got a significance to it on both parts. So yeah it was good.”

On the injury status of Drake Johnson, Devin Funchess, and Joe Reynolds…
“Drake and Reynolds both we’ll find out a little more. I don’t know. Funchess has a cramp. That’s what he told me.”

On Devin Gardner’s nerves early on and whether that contributed to his first interception…
“It could be. I’m not in his mind, but it could be, wanted to do too much too fast.”

On when he decided that Thomas Gordon wasn’t going to play and if this is an issue that will linger…
“No. He’s part of our team, part of our family, and he’ll be out on the field next Saturday night.”

Follow-up on when he decided he wasn’t going to play…
“He’ll be out on the field next Saturday night.”

On how he determines how much improvising is too much and how much is the right amount for Devin Gardner…
“I think as long as he does a good job of protecting himself, we’ll let him do what he does well.”

On if he worries Devin’s decision making could be affected when he improvises too much…
“Well, sometimes guys who have that kind of ability, I’ve said it before, it’s a blessing and a curse. He can make a lot of plays, and as long as he keeps learning the decision on third down sometimes punting the ball on fourth down is not a bad decision.”

On the defense’s approach being so young and how it responded…
“I think when we really dig into the tape we’ll find out more. I mean, you can say you gave up nine points. I guess they responded, but did they respond well enough? This is all about winning a championship, and if we get satisfied for one effort we’re not going to win it.”

On Josh Furman’s performance in his first career start…
“Again, I think watching tape helps you. I saw him on some plays, I thought there were some plays I thought he needed to be over the top a little bit more, but we’ll look at it.”

On the punt block getting the team rolling…
“Dan (Ferrigno) did a nice job. We thought we had an opportunity and the guys executed it. So, did it give us some momentum? Yeah, because the whole team knew we were going to go after the first punt. When it works, they get excited.”

On whether he and other people were anxious to see Devin play today…
“Yeah, I think we all were, to be honest with you. I have the luxury of seeing Devin play a lot. I think to see him come out there, first start, being at home, I think it was good for him to get out there. I think they all, because they’re competitors, they always have a little bit of nerves to them.”

On honoring Tom Harmon next week and the considerations that go into who will get that jersey…
“I think it’s significant like all the honorary numbers. To be able to honor Tom Harmon and what his career was here at Michigan, and legacy that he left, obviously we want to make sure that we honor the family with the person that wears that jersey.”

On his early impressions of the offensive line…
“We started the game in a little bit of Nascar, quick tempo, and the first series we threw a pick, defense does a nice job. Come back out in the second series and we drive it down. Those were more of throwing situations. I thought when we started running the ball there was some movement at the line of scrimmage. I thought guys were finishing blocks. I really think as we watch the tape I’m going to be anxious to see how Kyle Kalis and Jack (Miller) and Graham (Glasgow) on the interior, how they really worked together.”

On whether there was one position group that he really wanted to focus on coming into this game…
“I would say both fronts. I think how they played and how they came out was good to get a lot of the young guys in. Ben Braden is a guy we think has a good chance of being a good offensive lineman here. I’m just using him as an example. Willie Henry on defense, and those guys. So it will be good to watch some tape with them and really coach them off that tape.”

M&GB staff predictions: Central Michigan

Friday, August 30th, 2013


Every Friday throughout the season last year we submitted our staff predictions, which involved a long-winded breakdown and then a score prediction from each of us. This season, we’re doing the same, but toplining the breakdown. We feel that while we aim to provide one consistent message throughout the site, the variety of opinions of each individual writer is important, so this is their opportunity to present those. We make it a contest internally, and we hope the varying opinions help make your viewing experience on Saturday more well-rounded.

Justin: Like I said earlier, I really like Central Michigan as a season opening opponent this season. Don’t get me wrong; the anticipation leading up to the Alabama game last season was fun, but the result wasn’t. I’m not opposed to season openers against high quality opponents, but let’s get back to that level ourselves first and then bring on all comers.

Central provides a matchup with a very solid running back and a receiver that will be tough to stop, which means Michigan will receive a bit of a challenge. But aside from that, there isn’t much else that can compete with the kind of depth and speed Michigan has. Throw in a quarterback making his first career start, and a retooling offensive line, and it’s a great opportunity for Michigan’s front four to get started on a high note.

Michigan will have the game well in hand by the third quarter, allowing Shane Morris and the rest of the young guys to gain some playing time. Expect a heavy dose of Fitz and the rest of the running back group. I’m most excited to see the rest of the backs, as well as Jehu Chesson’s debut.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Central Michigan
Justin 41 17
Chris 40 14
Josh 42 17
Sam 45 10
Derick 41 14
Katie 48 10
M&GB Average 43 14

Michigan 41 – Central Michigan 17

Chris: Has been out of the country for the week, so no breakdown, but did provide a score prediction.

Michigan 40 – Central Michigan 14

Josh: Refer to yesterday’s Friend vs Foe for my full game breakdown.

Michigan 42 – CMU 17

Sam: This Saturday at the Big House, as Michigan kicks off its 134th season of college football, two in-state non-rivals will be breaking in two full-time starting quarterbacks – redshirt junior Devin Gardner for the Wolverines and junior Cody Kater for the Central Michigan Chippewas. The Maize and Blue figure to march up and down the field against a Central defense that gave up a putrid 32.4 points per game last season while playing a schedule peppered with MAC teams and just one ranked squad – Michigan State.

For Gardner, it’s a chance to prove that his five successful outings at quarterback to book-end last season were no fluke, and the matchup is seemingly perfect for him. Sophomore tight end Devin Funchess should be next to unguardable for the Chippewa defense, and will find the end zone twice on the day. Michigan’s stable of running backs, led by Fitzgerald Toussaint, will also get plenty of light work, and highly-touted freshman Derrick Green figures to see a handful of carries as well. Pay special attention to redshirt freshman wide receiver Jehu Chesson, who will get the start opposite Jeremy Gallon in Amara Darboh’s year-long absence, and on defense keep a close eye on the play of the safeties. Sophomore Jarrod Wilson was being talked up all spring before nearly losing a starting spot recently to the now-injured Courtney Avery. If Michigan gets burned deep more than once, Brady Hoke will have a quick leash.

On Central’s side, there simply is not much to talk about other than running back Zurlon Tipton, who rushed for nearly 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns last season, and Titus Davis, the leading receiver on last year’s team with 860 yards and eight touchdowns on 43 catches. Both of those guys should figure to eclipse the 1,000-yard marks in rushing and receiving, respectively, but expect the bulk of their production to come after Greg Mattison’s defense shuts down the Central attack and forces three turnovers this weekend. Michigan will score first and never look back on the way to a rout.

Michigan 45 – Central Michigan 10

After an impressive freshman season Devin Funchess earned the #87 Legends jersey and is expected

Derick: Central Michigan gets the honor of showing the world what Michigan’s post-Denard offense can do. With the night game against Notre Dame on the horizon, Borges will likely want to use week 1 to test his new arsenal and prepare for that much bigger challenge. Devin Gardner will hopefully spread the ball around his receiving core, including new receiver Jesu Chesson and tight end Devin Funchess.

Michigan will showcase multiple running backs in this contest, as the preseason depth chart seemingly has four backs that could be anywhere from #2-#5 on the list. Along with starter Fitzgerald Toussaint, Drake Johnson, Thomas Rawls and De’Veon Smith will apparently receive carries before 5-star recruit Derrick Green. No matter who is on the field, the Michigan running game will be crucial this year, and they should be able to run over the Chippewa’s defense on Saturday.

Though Hoke, like many Michigan coaches before him, will probably refuse to run up the score, I think Michigan will put a pretty good beating on CMU with a balanced offensive attack. Hopefully the defense can hold a MAC offense off the board until the second string comes in.

Michigan 41 – Central Michigan 14

Katie: Great to be back for another season of Michigan football.  I can’t wait to see what our Wolverines have in store for us this year.

Now to the home opener against an instate foe, the Central Michigan Chippewas. I know that they aren’t ‘Bama by any stretch of the imagination, and that most of us take for granted that this will be an easy tick mark in the win column. But the Chippewas could put up a few touchdowns if junior Cody Kater (who replaced last year’s starter Ryan Radcliff) can show that his skill is palpable even against a Big Ten secondary, a task I’m not sure he’ll be up to.

They beat the Iowa last year, but the Hawkeyes had already lost to Iowa State and would also lose to Indiana before going 4-8 on the season. So while Central has some firepower, the loss of Radcliff will hurt, and a Michigan defense that includes a fifth-year senior strong safety in Thomas Gordon, another fifth-year senior outside linebacker in Cam Gordon, and a sophomore safety with a lot of potential in Jarrod Wilson, won’t likely help them heal.

That being said, Central Michigan does return Zurlon Tipton, a senior running back who put up just under 1,500 yards rushing last year, and a wide receiver Titus Davis who averaged 71 yards a game. With two touted starters in the  offensive line, a powerful center and left guard, Central could look to keep Michigan on their feet.  And with the Chippewa defense seeing the return of three top play-makers, one of whom, Justin Cherocci, a linebacker, had 132 combined tackles last season to put him at 19th nationally, the visitors could cause some trouble for the Wolverines offense.

Some trouble. As in keeping the Wolverines under fifty points trouble. With Devin Gardner starting this season, protected by 6’8″ fifth-year senior left tackle Taylor Lewan, with fifth-year wide receiver Jeremy Gallon and an up-and-coming tight end Devin Funchess as targets, as well as a long list of potential running backs, I’m not seeing the offense having trouble finding a comfortable rhythm and staying in it. If Gardner could amass 1,200 yards passing in five starts last year, there’s no telling what he may be able to accomplish as the designated leader of the Michigan offense. It’s a lot of pressure I realize, but from what I’ve seen he has a level head, and from backing up Denard Robinson, I assume he also picked up that winning spirit of never being down and out.

Michigan shouldn’t have a problem beating the Chippewas in their opener.

Wolverines 48, Central Michigan 10

Predicting Michigan: The linebackers

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013


(Daniel Brenner, AnnArbor.com)

Today we continue our position preview and predictions series with the linebackers. For previous positions, see quarterbacksrunning backswide receiversoffensive linetight ends, and defensive line.

Wounded Warrior: Jake Ryan

Brady Hoke and his staff have had an extremely successful offseason. They brought in a second straight top-10 recruiting class, convinced star left tackle Taylor Lewan to return for his senior season and even found a way to force students to show up to games earlier. However productive the team has been since the Outback Bowl, the news that Jake Ryan had torn his ACL and would miss some of the 2013 season has lingered like a dark cloud over the optimism in Ann Arbor. Ryan, who is possibly the best player on the entire team, let alone the defense, is recovering quickly but doesn’t figure to play for at least the first several games of the year.

When he is on the field, the redshirt junior has a knack for finding the ball. Ryan was a savior for the Michigan defense many times during the 2012 season, making open-field tackles to limit big gains. He is a versatile defender who can get pressure on the quarterback or stay back and cover his zone. Ryan was a nightmare for offenses in the backfield, recording 16 tackles for loss last year alone. While his ability to stuff the running back is impressive, what separates Ryan is his added ability to make the big play. He added 4 forced fumbles to his 4.5 sacks last year, and fans got used to seeing their long-haired leader celebrate flashy plays on a weekly basis.

It’s unfair to expect Jake Ryan to be the type of player he was in 2012 immediately after his return from injury, but something about the fire and intensity he plays with gives Ann Arbor hope that he will. Ryan is the reliable defensive leader that Michigan couldn’t afford to lose, and until he returns it will be a challenge for Greg Mattison to fill that hole.

Career Stats – Ryan
Year Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
2011 20 17 37 3.0 11.0 1 2 0
2012 56 32 88 4.5 16.0 4 1 0
Totals 76 49 125 7.5 27.0 5 3 0

Picking Up The Slack

Fortunately for the Wolverines, a couple of veteran linebackers are returning to the defense this season to help dull the pain of losing Ryan. The temporary leader of this unit will likely be redshirt senior Cam Gordon, who has played all over the field in his career. Gordon’s time at safety makes him a very useful linebacker to have on the field against the pass. He converted to outside linebacker in the spring of 2011 after an incredible first season in which he recorded 77 tackles and picked off three passes. Since that great year, Gordon’s career has hit a bit of a lull. A back injury in 2011 put his season on hold and he didn’t appear in a game until week seven in East Lansing. Gordon could never really catch up after getting such a late start to the season, and played mostly on special teams finishing the season with just four tackles.

Cam Gordon looks to step up in Jake Ryan's absence (Scott Kennedy, Scout.com)

Last season similarly failed to live up to the standard that Gordon set for himself in his redshirt freshman year, but it was significantly better than the injury-riddled 2011. Gordon was a reserve linebacker and starred on kick coverage for the special teams. He finished the season with 17 tackles, including three of those for losses. If the linebackers are going to be an effective group without Ryan on the field, Gordon is going to have to be a playmaker like he was at safety in 2010.

Coaches are also expecting big things from junior Desmond Morgan. Morgan accepted the responsibility of being one of the defensive leaders on the team when he changed his number to 48 in honor of former Michigan legend Gerald Ford. Morgan, like Ryan (#47 for Bennie Oosterbaan) have earned the right to play with the Michigan Legends patch on their jersey. This season, Morgan will get a chance to prove his worth. He will be the lone returning starter to take the field at linebacker to open the season, and does so as one of the most productive defenders on the squad. Morgan fell just shy of leading the team in tackles last season with 81, which was seven less than the injured Ryan. The most impressive part about his tackle total is that he almost matched one of the best linebackers in the country, playing in only 11 games, missing two with an injury.

In 2013, Mattison will count on Morgan to be even more of a ball-magnet. The linebackers without Ryan aren’t one of the stronger groups on the team, so a standout player like Morgan will be absolutely crucial until his return. The junior has dealt well with pressure in his young career at Michigan, notching a career-high 11 tackles in both the Ohio State and Michigan State games last season. If he continues to play his best football in the big games, he will find himself right next to Jake Ryan in the fans’ hearts.

Career Stats – Gordon
Year Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
2010 40 37 77 0.0 3.5 0 2 3
2011 3 1 4 0.0 0.0 0 0 0
2012 13 4 17 0.0 3.0 0 0 0
Totals 56 42 98 0.0 6.5 0 2 3
Career Stats – Morgan
Year Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
2011 26 37 63 1.0 4.0 0 1 0
2012 41 40 81 0.5 5.5 0 0 0
Totals 67 77 144 1.5 9.5 0 1 0

Battle To Start

Gordon and Morgan will likely be starters at linebacker when the Wolverines take the field against Central Michigan on the last day of August. However, in Greg Mattison’s 4-3 defense, there is one more spot up for grabs while Ryan recovers from injury. At this point, there are a few players that seem to have realistic shots to win that spot.

James Ross III worked his way into the lineup as a true freshman and looks to break out in 2013

One of the nice surprises on defense last year was freshman James Ross III’s play at linebacker. In 13 games, only two of those starts, Ross recorded 36 tackles, including 2.5 of them for losses. As a sophomore, Ross appears to be the early frontrunner to take over the third starting spot. When Desmond Morgan missed the UMass and Iowa games with an injury, it was Ross that the coaches called on to make the starts at linebacker. In that one Big Ten start, the fearless freshman lead the team in tackles with 12, which should be a major talking point while deciding the third starting linebacker in 2013.

Perhaps Ross’s toughest competition for the starting spot is fellow 2012 ESPN.com All-Big Ten Freshman Team linebacker Joe Bolden. Though both players received this honor, along with being named to the BTN.com All-Big Ten Freshman Team, Ross gets a slight edge over his classmate because he was called on to make starts last season while Bolden played every game as a reserve. Though Bolden recorded five less tackles than Ross, he did spend a bit more time in the backfield. He had four tackles for losses on the year and a memorable 24-yard sack against UMass. The Cincinnati native will have every opportunity to earn big minutes in the upcoming season.

A third sophomore has an outside chance of starting, if he can have an exceptional camp. Royce Jenkins-Stone played 13 games on special teams last season, but only one at linebacker, the position he was recruited to play. The reason Jenkins-Stone has a chance to start is just because of pure ability. As a top-five linebacker recruit last season, the sophomore definitely has the talent to put on a show during practice and fight his way up the depth chart. If he doesn’t win a starting job, expect Jenkins-Stone to contribute more as a reserve linebacker than he did last season.

After moving to linebacker this season, junior Brennen Beyer probably has a chance to start as well. Though the talented sophomore class will likely dominate the linebacker position during the rest of Beyer’s Michigan career, coaches wouldn’t have moved him from his former position at defensive end if they didn’t believe he could get in the rotation. After playing as a reserve on the line, Beyer was moved to linebacker to help solidify the position this Spring. He is a big linebacker and would really strengthen the run-stopping ability if he wins the starting spot.

Career Stats – Ross III
Year Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
2012 21 15 36 0.5 2.5 0 0 0
Totals 21 15 36 0.5 2.5 0 0 0
Career Stats – Bolden
Year Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
2012 16 15 31 1.0 4.0 0 1 0
Totals 16 15 31 1.0 4.0 0 1 0
Career Stats – Jenkins-Stone
Year Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
2012 3 3 6 0 0 0 0 0
Totals 3 3 6 0 0 0 0 0
Career Stats – Beyer
Year Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
2011 5 6 11 0.0 0.0 0 0 0
2012 9 10 19 0.0 0.5 1 0 0
Totals 14 16 30 0.0 0.5 1 0 0

Fresh Faces

Hoke’s 2013 recruiting class also brought in a couple for four-star linebackers to help this group. Mike McCray is a really strong player that is also solid fundamentally.  Athletically, there is room for improvement for this freshman, who would potentially be a better fit playing on the line because of his lack of outstanding speed or agility. That being said, the Ohio native was ranked highly as a linebacker in recruiting and will likely contribute to the team somehow this season; either on special teams or as a substitute on defense.

Fellow freshman Ben Gedeon will also battle to get in the rotation at linebacker, after being recruited as a linebacker out of high school. Gedeon also played running back and tight end before college, but was brought to Ann Arbor to play on the defensive side of the ball. His versatility will likely land him a spot on the special teams unit during his first season, but if he does see some time at linebacker, fans will fall in love with his old-school toughness and all-out mentality. Expect Gedeon to be one of the better defenders on the team before his time at Michigan ends.

Wrapping Up

Though there don’t seem to be many standout players in the linebacker core after the injury to Jake Ryan, Hoke and Mattison have several young players that are seemingly ready to make a big difference on defense. A strong sophomore group will likely be the X-factor for this unit in 2013, as they battle for the final starting spot. Depth shouldn’t be a problem with the linebackers, as eight or more players will likely contribute upon the return of Ryan.

Forecast Friday: Michigan vs. Penn State

Friday, October 29th, 2010


The bye week came at just the right time for Michigan after losses to Michigan State and Iowa and allowing quarterback Denard Robinson to rest an ailing shoulder that caused him to miss extensive time in both of those losses.

Many in the media tried to play up a quarterback competition between Robinson and last year’s starter, Tate Forcier, but head coach Rich Rodriguez insists that Robinson is the starter. Indeed, if he is healthy enough, he could be in for the kind of monster game that made him a household name through the first five weeks of the season.

Michigan vs. Penn State
Block M logo Sat. Oct. 30
8 p.m. ET
ESPN
Penn State logo
5-2 Record 4-3
UConn 30-10
Notre Dame 28-24
UMass 42-37
Bowling Green 65-21
Indiana 42-35
Wins Youngstown St. 44-14
Kent State 24-0
Temple 22-13
Minnesota 33-21
#17 Mich. State 17-34
#15 Iowa 28-38
Losses #1 Alabama 3-24
#17 Iowa 3-24
Illinois 13-33
36.0 Scoring Offense 20.3
281.6 Rushing YPG 128.7
250.4 Passing YPG 208.7
532.0 Total Offense 337.4
28.4 Scoring Defense 18.4
144.7 Rush Defense YPG 143.9
296.3 Pass Defense YPG 187.9
441.0 Total Defense YPG 331.7
9 Takeaways 11
12 Giveaways 12
10/3 Sacks By/Allowed 9/5
41/88 (47%) Third-down Conv. 35/95 (37%)
2/8 Field Goals 14/17
37.7 Net Punt Avg. 39

Penn State is flat out hurting. At 4-3, Penn State has given up 437 and 433 total yards the last two weeks to Illinois and Minnesota, respectively. Neither of those has an offense near Michigan’s, with Minnesota’s ranked 59th nationally and Illinois’ 88th.

While the defense hasn’t fared well, the offense has been the main disappointment for the Nittany Lions this season, ranking 82nd nationally in total offense and 99th in points per game with 20.3. Only twice this season has Penn State scored more than 30 points, in the opener against Youngstown State (44) and last week against Minnesota (33). Alabama and Iowa each held Penn State to just three points.

What has gone so wrong? Youth and inexperience is part of the problem. As Michigan found out last year, starting a true freshman at quarterback isn’t exactly a recipe for success, but Joe Paterno chose to do that with Robert Bolden.

Yet the biggest problem is that Penn State has been plagued with injuries. Five starters have been lost for the season (tackle Lou Eliades, tight end Garry Gilliam, safety Nick Sukay, receiver Curtis Drake, and tight end Andrew Szczerba), and several others, including defensive ends Jack Crawford and Eric Latimore, will miss this week’s game. Bolden is also questionable and it appears that sophomore Matt McGloin will be making his first career start tomorrow at quarterback.

If any game is ripe for the picking it’s this one, and it’s an important one. It would make Michigan bowl eligible for the first time in three years, assuring the Wolverines of avoiding a third-straight losing season, and would end a two-game losing streak, both to Penn State, and this season.

Traditionally, Rodriguez-coached teams have fared well after the bye week during his career, including in 2008 when Michigan beat then-No. 9 Wisconsin 27-25.

While Penn State players are dropping like flies, Michigan’s bye week allowed some key players to get healthy. In addition to Robinson, Michigan should get running back Michael Shaw back this week, as well as center David Molk and tackle Mike Martin.

Michigan’s offense has struggled to find a running game the past two weeks, partly because of the stout defenses of Michigan State and Iowa, but also partly because Shaw, Michigan’s starter through the first five games, has been banged up. Vincent Smith is reliable, but not the complete back that Shaw is.

Rodriguez has hinted that freshman Stephen Hopkins may see some more playing time this week. Hopkins has looked good in limited action so far this season and is the biggest back on Michigan’s roster. Supposedly, ball security in practice has kept him from seeing the field more often thus far, but he has shown enough the past few weeks to earn more time.

Getting Molk and Martin back is perhaps even more important because each is the lynchpin of his side of the ball. When Molk went down last week during the opening drive, backup center Rocko Khoury did a decent job filling in, but had a couple bad snaps. Michigan’s offense is clearly better with Molk in the middle.

Martin also had an ankle injury that happened during the Michigan State game and was reinjured against Iowa, causing him to miss much of the game. He’s the motor of the defense and with a unit that ranks 104th in total defense, his presence is obviously needed.

So how can Michigan win tomorrow? The easy answer is to score a lot of points. Penn State’s defense gives up a lot of yards, but is 22nd in the nation in points against, averaging just 18.4. However, Illinois scored 33 in a blowout win two weeks ago and Minnesota managed 21 last week.

Denard Robinson says he's 100 percent after injuries against Michigan State and Iowa (AP photo)

Denard Robinson says he's 100 percent recovered from injuries suffered against Michigan State and Iowa (AP photo)

Michigan’s offense ranks 17th in the nation in scoring at 36 points per game and second in total offense. In losses the last two games, the offense was still able to move the ball, but turnovers were the difference. Avoiding those same mistakes will be the biggest factor in whether Michigan wins or loses tomorrow.

Robinson should be able to rack up yards just as Illinois running back Mikel Leshoure did a couple weeks ago, rushing for 119 yards, and Minnesota running back DeLeon Eskridge did last week, rushing for 111. Another 200-yard rushing and 200-yard passing game is within reason, but 150/150 is more likely.

Defensively, Michigan will probably get pounded on the ground, given that McGloin will be making his first career start at quarterback. However, when he replaced the injured Bolden last week, he connected on 6-of-13 passes for 78 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, and took some shots downfield. Penn State will likely try to get the running game going and then test Michigan’s young and shaky secondary.

A lot of talk has been floating around this week about freshman Ray Vinopal getting some playing time, if not starting, at safety. A similar experiment paid off last game when Rodriguez replaced senior linebacker Obi Ezeh with Kenny Demens and he provided solid run support and was at least a small upgrade from Ezeh. Can Rodrgiguez strike gold a second time? Vinopal has really only played in one game this season, against Bowling Green, but he made the most of that time, intercepting a pass in the fourth quarter.

The freshman from Youngstown, Ohio is smart and it’s certainly worth a try against a team with such a stagnant offense like Penn State. If Vinopal doesn’t work out, nothing is really lost, since Michigan’s secondary has been horrific anyway. But if he does prove a better option than Cameron Gordon at the position, Michigan will have seen two mid-season upgrades on defense heading into the final four games of the season.

Regardless, I can see Michigan forcing two or three turnovers this week from the inexperienced McGloin.

If Michigan isn’t able to put the ball in the end zone offensively and it comes down to special teams, Penn State has the clear advantage, having succeeded on 14 of 17 field goals this season, while Michigan’s kicking woes are well-known. You can be rest-assured that Rodriguez won’t try a field goal from anywhere longer than probably 30 yards, and even that is doubtful.

Fortunately, I don’t see it being that close. Michigan’s offense will be much more efficient than the past two weeks with a healthy Robinson, Shaw, and Molk. Penn State will score some points, but won’t be able to keep up with Michigan.

Prediction:

Michigan 42 – Penn State 27

From their view…

PennLive.com declares that Denard doesn’t deserve Heisman hype because he was once in a three-way tie for the starting spot with Ryan Threet and Tate Forcier (really?); The Daily Collegian talks about a record that will probably be set tomorrow; Nittany Lines predicts a Michigan win and hopes Penn State can keep Denard to just one long touchdown run; The Philadelphia Enquirer also doesn’t know how to spell the names of our quarterbacks.

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.

Forecast Friday: UM Looks to Springboard Into Big Ten Slate

Friday, September 24th, 2010


Michigan’s performance last Saturday in what many thought to be a cakewalk left much to be desired. After thumping UConn and outlasting Notre Dame on the road, Michigan eked out a win at home over FCS UMass. This week, 1-2 Bowling Green comes to town and Michigan hopes to show that the UMass performance was just an emotional letdown after two big wins, rather than an indication of things to come.

Michigan vs. Bowling Green
Block M logo Sat. 9/25
12 p.m. ET
ESPN2
BowlingGreen logo
3-0 Record 1-2
UConn 30-10
Notre Dame 28-24
UMass 42-37
Wins Marshall 44-28
  Losses Troy 27-30
Tulsa 20-33
33.3 Scoring Offense 30.3
286.3 Rushing YPG 83.3
223.7 Passing YPG 258.3
510 Total Offense 341.7
23.7 Scoring Defense 30.3
169.7 Rush Defense YPG 195.3
269.3 Pass Defense YPG 270.3
439.0 Total Defense YPG 465.7
6 Takeaways 9
2 Giveaways 7
2/1 Sacks By/Allowed 4/11
50% Third-down Conv. 43%
1/5 Field Goals 3/6
31.6 Net Punt Avg. 36.0

Bowling Green comes in with road losses to Troy and Tulsa and a 44-28 win over Marshall – the same Marshall team that took No. 23 West Virginia to overtime two weeks ago.

While, as we saw last week, and the past three years for that matter, no opponent can be overlooked, it’s hard to imagine Bowling Green having much of a chance given the strengths and weaknesses of each team.  

On paper, the Falcons’ offense actually stacks up pretty well against Michigan’s weakness, the pass defense, averaging 258.3 yards passing per game, which ranks 29th in the nation. The good news for Michigan, however, is that quarterback Matt Schilz, who has thrown for 664 yards so far, is out with a shoulder injury, leaving redshirt sophomore Aaron Pankratz, freshman Kellen Pagel, or true freshman Trent Hurley to take the snaps.

Pankratz is just 10-21 for 163 yards, one touchdown and one interception in his brief career, while Hurley hasn’t played yet.

The running game has averaged just 83.3 yards per game this season, led by senior Willie Geter, who is averaging just 3.7 yards per carry and 81 yards per game so far, though he’s very active in the passing game as well.

Defensively, the Falcons play right into the strengths of Michigan’s offense. Bowling Green ranks 111th in total defense, and 98th in rush defense, giving up 194 yards per game on the ground this season. Michigan’s offense, led by Denard Robinson, ranks sixth in the nation with 286.3 yards rushing per game.

Last week I predicted that Michigan’s starters would play the first half, and maybe into the third quarter before giving way to the second team. That wasn’t the case, since the offense wasn’t able to find its rhythm until just before halftime and the defense couldn’t stop UMass in the second half.

This week, however, I’m going to predict the exact same thing. The most important aspects of this week’s game, aside from getting a win, is establishing consistency and keeping the starters, most notably Robinson, healthy.

Rich Rodriguez said after last week’s game that had safety Cam Gordon not fumbled his interception return, the backup quarterbacks, Tate Forcier and Devin Gardner, would have gone in. Rodriguez wants to get them some game action to stay fresh in case Robinson gets injured in Big Ten play.

With Schilz out, Bowling Green’s offense will struggle even against Michigan’s poor defense. Keep in mind that the Falcons’ offensive line is playing three new starters this year, and has given up an average of nearly four sacks per game this season. That bodes well for Michigan’s defensive line to get some pressure and force the inexperienced quarterbacks into quick throws.

Look for Michigan to force four or five turnovers and at least for this week look like a solid defensive unit as it heads into conference play.

What to watch for:

Can running back Michael Shaw repeat last week’s breakout performance and cement his spot as Michigan’s go-to back? Last week, he carried the ball 12 times for 126 yards and three touchdowns.

While Michigan’s offense has looked virtually unstoppable so far this season, it will be that much better with a proven back to take the pressure off of Robinson. Hopefully Shaw continues to emerge as that back, and I think he will.

 Over/Under – 99 Rushing yards for Shaw. I’ll take the over. Marshall’s Andre Booker ran for 126 last week against Bowling Green.

NT Mike Martin and the defensive line face an offense that has given up 11 sacks so far (photo from MGoBlue.com)

NT Mike Martin and the defensive line face an offense that has given up 11 sacks so far (photo from MGoBlue.com)

Can the defense pressure Bowling Green’s inexperienced quarterbacks? As mentioned above, Bowling Green has given up an average of 3.6 sacks per game this season, with three new offensive linemen from last season, and will be starting a quarterback who has thrown all of 21 passes in his collegiate career.

Despite Michigan’s strong defensive line, getting to the quarterback has been a problem through the first three games. Michigan has recorded just two sacks, and only three teams, North Carolina (1), Hawaii (1), and New Mexico State (0) have made fewer.

Over/Under – 2.5 sacks. I’ll take the over again. Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen, Greg Banks, and Craig Roh have to be licking their chops right now and hope to use this game as a springboard for the rest of the season.

Will the backup quarterbacks get some playing time and give Robinson a rest? Michigan is averaging 33.3 points per game this season, while Bowling Green is giving up an average of 30.3. Look for Michigan to run early and often against a poor rush defense and rack up nearly its average in the first half.

Perhaps the biggest question is which quarterback will relieve Robinson first. When Robinson was momentarily injured against UConn and Notre Dame, it was Gardner, not last year’s starter, Forcier, who relieved him.

Gardner seems to have passed Forcier on the depth chart, and Rodriguez would love to get him some live reps. On the other hand, Forcier has a year of starting experience under his belt and hasn’t sniffed the field yet this season. Rodriguez would probably like to get him out there as well.

My bet is that Gardner gets at least a few drives to show what he can do and Forcier becomes the Darco Milicic human victory cigar late in the fourth quarter.*

Over/Under – 49 rushing yards for Devin Gardner. Once more, I’ll go with the over. Of course, this all depends on the first-team offense playing well enough to yield playing time, but my guess is that Gardner will get three or four possessions. The game should be well in hand by then, so Gardner won’t be passing much. I could see him breaking one long run.

Prediction

Michigan puts it away early in the second quarter. The offense will be firing on all cylinders and the defense will force some turnovers. Bowling Green won’t have enough firepower to keep up and Michigan’s backups will finally get a chance to play.

Michigan 48 – Bowling Green 23

From Their View…

The Toledo Blade says Bowling Green draws some inspiration from Miley Cyrus, the Cleveland Plain Dealer seems to think Schilz’s injury won’t slow Bowling Green down, and FalconBlog answers 25 questions about Michigan.

_________________________________________________________________________________

*I hate to make a joke about Forcier not starting or even being the backup this year, since he was incredibly clutch in some games last season and still could become a very good college quarterback. I think the way he handled himself in the opener against UConn was very immature and embarassing, but by all accounts he has become a great team player since then, so I’m glad that he has been able to move past that and put the team first. I’m glad we have him in case Robinson gets hurt and Gardner doesn’t perform. I hate to see him on the bench, but for Rich Rodriguez, it’s a good problem to have, and I won’t belabor the point any longer.

UMass Puts Expectations Back Into Perspective for UM Fans

Sunday, September 19th, 2010


Michigan survived a scare from another FCS opponent on Saturday leaving many Michigan fans up in arms about the performance of the defense. It was a lot closer than it should have been, Michigan winning 42-37, and needing a failed onside kick attempt by UMass to seal the deal. Yet, after the way Michigan started in the first two weeks of the season, many maize and blue faithful seem to have forgotten what this team really is.

Yes, it has college football’s most exciting player right now in Denard Robinson. Yes, the offense has averaged 33 points a game so far. Yes, it beat Notre Dame in South Bend. But most figured this to be a 7-5 team before the season started, due in large part to one thing: the defense.

Defensive Coordinator Greg Robinson has his hands full this season (photo by the Detroit Free Press)

Defensive Coordinator Greg Robinson has his hands full this season (photo by the Detroit Free Press)

It’s not a knock on any player. Nor should it be a call for defensive coordinator Greg Robinson to be fired, as ESPN’s Mark May and many others suggest.

The fact of the matter is this is a defense starting a walk-on (Jordan Kovacs), a converted wide receiver (James Rogers), and two redshirt freshmen (Thomas Gordon and Cam Gordon, also a converted receiver), with a walk-on-fullback-converted-linebacker (Mark Moundros) also getting extended playing time. In addition, the top corner and senior leader of the secondary, Troy Woolfolk, was lost for the season just before the first game, and an opening day starter, Carvin Johnson, has been out with a knee injury that he suffered in the first game.

If you haven’t read Misopogan’s “The Decimated Defense” part onepart two, and part three, please click on those links and read them now for a comprehensive breakdown on why the defense is what it is right now.

Pinning the blame on Greg Robinson at this point is nothing short of ridiculous. This is the first season since 2007 that the Michigan defense has had the same coordinator as the year before. The defense needs some stability.

A lot of fans point to Robinson’s failure as head coach of Syracuse before being hired by Rodriguez as proof that he’s not fit to lead Michigan’s defense. They shrug off the two Super Bowl rings he won as defensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos.

Some guys just make better coordinators than they do head coaches. One needs to look no further than South Bend the previous five years. Charlie Weis was highly successful coordinating the New England Patriots offense to multiple Super Bowls in the early 2000s before leaving for Notre Dame in 2005. His time guiding the Irish was largely unsuccessful with a 35-27 record and now he’s back in the NFL, coordinating the offense of the Kansas City Chiefs – the same Chiefs that racked up nearly 400 total yards in a win over the San Diego Chargers last Monday.

The jury is still out on Robinson at Michigan, although judging him by the defensive performance last season and the first three games this season is a bit unfair given what he has had to work with. He should at least be given enough time to get a full crop of actual defensive recruits into his system.

With the electric play of the Robinson gaining all of the positive headlines (Denard), Michigan has regained national attention in the early part of this season. That will only help with recruiting as kids will want to be the next “Shoelace” or play alongside him for the next couple of years. If the offense can continue to roll and if Denard can keep putting up Heisman-like numbers, highly-rated defensive recruits might long to wear the winged helmet and Robinson will be able to fill the holes with concrete rather than gum.

We all knew the defense would struggle this year, so don’t let the quick start cloud your judgment. Just hope that Denard and the rest of the offense can continue to carry the team to victory and keep Ann Arbor a prime destination in the eyes of prized recruits.

Remember that this coaching transition is still a work in progress and keep things in perspective. Yes, losses and near-losses to FCS teams are frustrating, but the last thing we need to do is overreact.

Go Blue!

Forecast Friday: What Michigan Needs to Gain from UMass Game

Friday, September 17th, 2010


Michigan enters Saturday’s matchup with UMass in a position it hasn’t been in very often in the past couple of seasons: the prohibitive favorite. You can go back to the Delaware State game last October 17 for the last time Michigan was a lock to win a game.

 

Michigan vs. UMass
Block M logo Sat. 9/18
12 p.m. ET 
Big Ten Network
UMass logo
2-0 Record 2-0
29.0 Scoring Offense 29.0
287.5 Rushing YPG 223.5
215.0 Passing YPG 258.0
502.5 Total Offense 481.5
17.0 Scoring Defense 15.0
146.0 Rush Defense YPG 76.5
293.0 Pass Defense YPG 195.5
439.0 Total Defense YPG 272.0
4 Takeaways 3
0 Giveaways 1
1/0 Sacks By/Allowed 1/1
49% Third-down Conv. 46%
1/4 Field Goals 1/2
36.1 Net Punt Avg. 24.1

After throttling favored UConn and outlasting Notre Dame in South Bend, Michigan is the talk of college football with electric quarterback Denard Robinson leading the nation in rushing and total offense. The schedule sets up nicely to go 5-0 with UMass, Bowling Green, and Indiana on the slate before rival Michigan State comes to Ann Arbor.

So what does Michigan have to do in the next couple of weeks to get ready for the grind of the Big Ten schedule?

It all starts with staying and getting healthy. The last thing you want to have happen in cakewalk games is an injury to one of your starters.

Robinson will play but certainly won’t need the whopping amount of carries he has had in the past two games. Rodriguez should let him keep his rhythm and build a good lead and then rest him to keep him fresh.

As dynamic as the offense has looked thus far, it’s still missing two players that figured to be big-time playmakers this season, wide receiver Junior Hemingway and running back Fitzgerald Toussaint.

Hemingway has battled injuries his entire career, but when he has been on the field, he has stretched defenses as Michigan’s best deep threat.

Toussaint had a good camp and many considered him to be the best all-around back on the team.

Neither has played yet this season, but may return as soon as this weekend.

On defense, freshman safety Carvin Johnson suffered a knee sprain in the opener, and despite his lack of experience, Michigan needs him back sooner than later, especially given Cam Gordon’s propensity to give up the deep ball.

Secondly, Robinson needs to establish the passing game.

Everybody knows Robinson’s skills on the ground – that was evident from his first collegiate snap. The biggest question mark surrounding Robinson at this point is his passing ability.

He has shown great command of the offense so far this season, completing 69 percent of his passes, but has yet to show he can throw an accurate deep ball.

Rodriguez said the offense will flow depending on how the defense is playing them, so if teams are allowing the run, which is the bread and butter of the spread-n-shred offense, Robinson could keep on running.

But as the season goes along, teams will stack the box to try to stop Robinson, making the passing game all the more important.

Thirdly, find a running game outside of Robinson.

Michigan has a plethora of running backs competing for playing time, but so far Michael Shaw and Vincent Smith have carried the load. They have done okay, but neither has shown much of anything, averaging just 3.0 and 3.2 yards per carry, respectively.

The only other running back to get a carry was freshman Stephen Hopkins who scored from one yard out against Notre Dame.

Michael Cox and Toussaint (if healthy) should at least be given a chance to show what they can do. Michigan desperately needs a back to shoulder some of the load. Shaw, Smith, Hopkins, and receiver Kelvin Grady have combined for 44 carries, compared to Robinson’s 57.

 

Safety Cam Gordon lets ND tight end Kyle Rudolph run right by for a 95-yard TD catch (photo by ESPN.com)

Safety Cam Gordon lets ND tight end Kyle Rudolph run right by for a 95-yard TD catch (photo by ESPN.com)

Finally, Michigan needs to find consistency in the secondary.

 

The defensive line is solid and the linebackers have played well, especially senior Jonas Mouton, but the majority of the big plays given up have been on the thin and inexperienced secondary.

J.T. Floyd and James Rogers have performed admirably on the outside, but safety Cam Gordon has been the culprit for the big plays. It’s not necessarily a reflection on his talent, given that he is a converted wide receiver starting in his first season at safety, but he will only get better with time and experience. The more games he plays, the more he will figure out the position and the more comfortable he will get.

Prediction

UMass has a pretty good running game, with Jonathan Hernandez averaging 101.5 yards per game and John Griffin averaging 77.5 so far, and quarterback Kyle Havens has completed 65 percent of his passes for 516 yards and three touchdowns. But those two games were against Holy Cross and William & Mary.

The Minutemen find invade Ann Arbor ranked 16th in the Football Championship Subdivision, while Michigan finds itself ranked for the first time in a year, at 20th in the big boy division, the Football Bowl Subdivision.

Look for Michigan to set the tone early, jumping out to a comfortable lead by halftime. Robinson will work into the third quarter before giving way to Tate Forcier and Devin Gardner.

Michigan 41 – UMass 21

From their view…

MassLive breaks down what UMass has to do to pull off the upset and also estimates that UMass will bring 2,500 fans to Ann Arbor. The Daily Collegian has UMass coach Kevin Morris declaring, “We’re going to win,” while also talking about how hard it will be to stop Robinson.

The Daily Collegian also features this winner depicting the Minutemen mascot fighting a comic book character with the same name as Michigan’s mascot.

UMass header