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Posts Tagged ‘Central Michigan’

Final Look: Central Michigan

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013


(MGoBlue.com)

Before fully moving on to Notre Dame, it’s time to take one last look at the Central Michigan game. This will be a new weekly feature that looks back at the big plays, numbers that stand out, and key stats and observations from the previous game.

Three big moments

1. Dymonte makes his mark

Central Michigan opened the game with a 17-yard pass for a first down at the 42-yard line. But Michigan stuffed the next three plays, forcing a Chippewa punt. Brady Hoke had planned leading up to the game to rush the first punt and it paid off. True freshman Dymonte Thomas, in his first career game, came around the left side of the CMU line, extended, and blocked the punt. Senior receiver Joe Reynolds picked it up and raced 30 yards for Michigan’s first touchdown of the season.

2. Defense holds strong

Michigan forced another Central Michigan punt on its next possession and took over on its own 7-yard line. Coaches, players, and fans alike were eager to see the Michigan offense in action for the first time this season, but after an incomplete pass to Devin Funchess, Devin Gardner was intercepted by defensive back Jarret Chapman. This gave the Chips possession at the Michigan six.

The defense looked fast, strong, and deep despite being young (MGoBlue.com)

On the first play, quarterback Alex Niznak rushed for a yard. On the second, Zurlon Tipton rushed for three to the Michigan two. On third and goal, Tipton was stopped at the one. While trying to decide whether or not to go for it, Central was assessed a delay of game penalty, moving them back to the six and resulting in a field goal. Instead of tying the game at seven, Central pulled within four at 7-3 and that was as close as the Chips would get all night.

3. Freshmen march down the field

With the game in hand midway through the third quarter, Hoke pulled the starters and put in the heralded freshmen. Shane Morris took over under center and the running back duo of Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith took turns in the backfield. It was the moment Michigan fans had been waiting for as the Big House crowd cheered loudly when they took the field.

Starting on the Michigan 45, Morris proceeded to hand the ball off 10 straight times and Green and Smith did the work. Five yards for green, then two yards, then a 30-yard romp to the CMU 18 on 3rd-and-3. Then it was Smith’s turn, going for four yards, then three, then Green again on 3rd-and-3, picking up a yard. On 4th-and-2 it was time to see if Green’s big frame was all it was cracked up to be. He picked up seven, setting up a 1st-and-goal. Smith rushed twice for three yards each to the CMU 1-yard line and the battering ram, Green, hammered it in for his first career score. It put Michigan ahead 49-6, but it might have been the most fun drive of the day.

The feat will be much harder against the likes of Notre Dame, and no one wants to see Morris taking snaps this season in meaningful situations, but for a season opener, watching the heralded freshmen march right down the field was a sight to behold. With the loss of Drake Johnson for the season, Green and Smith moved up the depth chart going forward.

The numbers game

110-21-3: Michigan’s all-time record in season openers

3-4: Brady Hoke’s career record against Central Michigan after Saturday’s win

Nov. 20, 2010: Michigan’s last loss at Michigan Stadium, a span of 15 straight games

6: The number of players that started their first career game on Saturday (Graham Glasgow, Jack Miller, Kyle Kalis, Keith Heitzman, Josh Furman, and Jarrod Wilson)

27: The number of players that played in their first career game on Saturday (Blake Bard, Ben Braden, Chris Bryant, Jake Butt, Taco Charlton, Jehu Chesson, Jeremy Clark, Brian Cleary, Bo Dever, Ben Gedeon, Ryan Glasgow, Matthew Godin, Derrick Green, Willie Henry, Delano Hill, Michael Jocz, Drake Johnson, Jourdan Lewis, Erik Magnuson, Shane Morris, Ben Pliska, De’Veon Smith, Channing Stribling, Tom Strobel, Dymonte Thomas, Csont’e York)

59: The most points Michigan has scored in a season opener since beating Ohio Wesleyan 65-0 in 1905

213: The number of career points scored by Brendan Gibbons, passing Rick Leach and Ali Haji-Sheikh for 14th all-time

105: Consecutive extra points made by Brendan Gibbons

14: Consecutive field goals made by Brendan Gibbons, tying a Michigan record

27: Consecutive games in which Jeremy Gallon has recorded a catch

2009: The last time Michigan blocked a punt for a touchdown

4: The number of sacks recorded by the Michigan defense, which equaled last season’s best against Ohio State

Drive Chart
CMU
CMU
M
C
UM
C
UM
CMU
M
CMU
UM
CMU
UM
CMU
UM
CMU
UM
CMU
UM
CMU
M
CMU
UM
CMU
UM
CMU

*Hover over team initials to see drive statistics

Three observations

1. Depth

One of the most notable aspects of Michigan’s win was the depth the Wolverines have at most positions. Hoke’s great recruiting classes are starting to pay off, and while there’s still a long way to go to reach Alabama levels of depth, it’s nice to see so many players rotating in and out without a noticeable drop off in talent or production.

However, most of that depth is still very, very young. Hoke said in the postgame press conference that 36 of the 68 players that dressed on Saturday were either first or second year players. In total, 61 of Michigan’s 82 players on scholarship are freshmen or sophomores and 11 true freshmen saw the field. That means there may be some regression as the year goes on, especially in big games, but the future of this team is virtually limitless.

Despite two interceptions, Devin Gardner has a lot of upside (MGoBlue.com)

2. The running game still has work to do

Michigan rushed for 242 yards, averaging 5.1 yards per carry, both of which are better than Central Michigan allowed last season. Both are also better than Michigan State managed against CMU last season (173 yards on 4.2 ypc). But Fitzgerald Toussaint averaged just 4.1 yards per carry in two and a half quarters of work, and Michigan’s 5.1 average was aided by several big runs.

Removing Devin Gardner’s rushing, the three other 20-plus-yard runs, Michigan’s running backs averaged just 2.8 yards per carry on 36 runs. Toussaint had a 20-yard gain, Green had a 30-yard romp, and Dennis Norfleet raced 38 yards, all of which helped balloon the rushing numbers. Obviously, big plays are part of the overall total, but you don’t want the run game to be dependent on big runs. It worked against Central Michigan, but will it work against the Notre Dames, Michigan States, and Ohio States of the world? We’ll find out this Saturday.

3. Devin Gardner’s decision-making

A lot has been made about Gardner’s tendency to make poor decisions, especially in the wake of a two-interception game on Saturday. But I’m not as down on him as most are at this point. The first pick was a bad decision, especially in Michigan’s own red zone, and thankfully didn’t cost the team like it likely would have against a better opponent. But Gardner said himself that he was pretty nervous at the beginning of the game. Michael Schofield also said Devin seemed to settle down on the third drive. I chalk that one up to first game nerves and expect that Gardner will have a better handle on those going forward.

On the second interception, Gardner had Jehu Chesson wide open on the right side of the field, but didn’t look his way, choosing to throw deep to a covered Jeremy Gallon instead. I kind of expected this at the beginning of the season with Gallon – and to some extent Drew Dileo – as Gardner’s crutch until other receivers step up. Gardner has a lot of trust in Gallon to make plays, and in circumstances like this one, he might force the ball to Gallon when he should look him off and find someone else. That will come in time when Chesson, Joe Reynolds, and others develop chemistry with Gardner.

In addition, Gardner will continue to develop. Let’s not forget that was just his sixth career start. He will progress as the season goes along and this Saturday will be his a great chance to show that.

Five-Spot Challenge: Week 2

Monday, September 2nd, 2013


Congratulations to the first winner of the season, freezer566. His 178 points narrowly beat out kfarmer16, who finished second with 180. Freezer566 didn’t have the lowest deviation on any single question, but was the most consistent for all five and wins a $20 gift card to The M Den. Kfarmer 16 was just three away from Fitz Toussaint’s rushing total and 11 short of Central Michigan’s total yards, but was 74 away from the total yards for Michigan’s receivers not named Jeremy Gallon, which hurt his chances.

Last year’s season champion, crp12qb, is off to a slow start, finishing 15th out of 22 contestants this week with a total of 279. HTTV134 was the closest to predicting CMU’s total yards, just two away, while tooty_pops was just one over the receiving total minus Gallon and Maizenblu62 was just one off of Dennis Norfleet’s total return yards. All 22 contestants overestimated Devin Gardner’s passing total, the closest being HTTV134 who was 21 too high. The total results from last week can be found on the right sidebar.

Nobody correctly predicted the final score, but kashkaav was the closest with a 52-12 prediction. The average combined score prediction was Michigan 40 – Central Michigan 13.

This week, Notre Dame comes to town for Under the Lights II. The Irish beat Temple 28-6 on Saturday, doing the most damage through the air as Tommy Rees passed for 346 yards. Michigan’s defense looked pretty good against Central, so something has to give. Let’s take a look at this week’s picks.

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: Devin Gardner and Fitzgerald Toussaint

Saturday, August 31st, 2013


(Justin Potts, M&GB)

On how Fitzgerald Toussaint felt out there, physically and mentally…
Toussaint
: “I’d say physically I felt great, but  if I’m not mentally prepared the mental part will take over that. I felt really good mentally and I’ll be ready to play more football.”

On the importance of getting off to a fast start with the blocked punt…
Gardner
: “It was very important because that’s what the game is about early. Coach Hoke always talks about special teams and starting fast. You don’t want to get behind. If you give a team like Central confidence they will give you a really good game. They were a good team and we just kept on pounding away so they didn’t even have an opportunity.”

On the efficiency of the offense and how they felt like they did in their first game of the season…
Gardner
: “It felt great for me. We ran the ball well which was our biggest emphasis over camp. Fitz ran well. All the running backs ran well and it felt great to see that.”
Toussaint: “I just want to start by giving credit to the offensive line. They’ve been building chemistry all throughout fall camp, we just all stayed together, so we just came out here and played good football.”

On what it’s like being ‘the guy’ now…
Gardner
: “I mean it was amazing. I can’t even describe how I was feeling. My heart was racing and I was just like don’t fall, I probably won’t even touch this banner. I mean, I really can’t describe how I feel. It felt great though.”

On how the freshmen handled the pressure, specifically the running backs…
Toussaint
: “I would say the older guys are a little more anxious over nervous, some of the younger guys are nervous over anxious. The guys were nervous and a little bit anxious, just ready to get out there and be ready for their opportunity, and I think they can, but they showed that they will.”
Gardner: “We talked in camp about how pressure, you can’t touch it, you can’t feel it, you can’t smell it. It’s not tangible, so it really doesn’t exist. And I feel like the freshmen put that on their back and ran with it. They were really confident and they ran well. The DBs, I loved watching those guys play because they’ve been giving me headaches all during camp so I knew they were ready as well. It was just amazing to see guys that are like your little brothers get an opportunity so early to contribute and do well.”

On how they feel Shane Morris did…
Gardner
: “He looked fine. He made the right checks. You guys watch the quarterback, you don’t see all the inside things like the different checks you’ve got to make, getting us in the right play and things like that, so I think he did really well. Obviously, we’ve got to watch the film and see the small things that he might have missed or that he did get where he might have gotten pluses and things like that, so you just got to watch the film and see.”

On the emotion of coming back from the injury and whether he feels like he has anything to prove…
Toussaint
: “I just want to say it’s an emotional feeling. I just want to show that I can contribute any way I can for this football team and protect Devin and run the football hard. And know when it’s time to come off the field to come off the field, and my confidence to step in and my preparation to step in and I’m just ready to go play football.”

On whether it felt like a long road coming back…
Toussaint
: “Yeah, it definitely felt like a long road, but I knew if I prepared right then I could come back.”

On what Devin felt like he did well, and whether this was a good game to shake the rust off before Notre Dame next week…
Gardner
: “I feel like I managed the game pretty well. The two things I didn’t do well was throw the two interceptions, but besides that, I feel like I was pretty efficient, getting us in the right play, and making throws, and making opportunities for myself when things broke down. So I feel like I did well in those aspects. I just have to take the turnovers away and I feel like those were like rust throws. I feel like this first game was a good opportunity to knock the rust off because I’m pretty sure everybody knows the test that we have next weekend, we’ll be ready.”

On whether the two interceptions were a result of decision making or rust…
Gardner
: “The first one was inexcusable. I didn’t execute at all. I made a read and threw a decent pass, it was just a bad read, so it got turned over. The next one, I got hit while I threw it so it kind of went as far as it went. You can somewhat control that but not as much as you’d like to, so I wish I had them both back. But they’re done now, we’ll move on to next week.”

On whether he enjoys scrambling when the play breaks down…
Gardner
: “I just like to stay calm, so when I’m running around my face is pretty straight and I’m not really chaotic, my head’s not spinning or anything. I feel like my calmness allows me to help my teammates be calm. When they see me running around, they’re like ‘is he scrambling or is he not?’ so it’s probably refreshing for them and when they get open I have the opportunity to hit them, and if they don’t I’ll just run.”

On how the three new starters on the offensive line performed…
Toussaint
: “I think they did really well. Just like I said before, they really worked in fall camp to have really good chemistry. With (Michael) Schofield and Taylor (Lewan) on the outside bring those guys inside together and do a really good job of that.”
Gardner: “Yeah, I think they did a really good job. I don’t know exactly how many yards we rushed for, but I feel like we had a pretty good day on the ground. Then through the air, I had time to throw the ball and made the throws I was supposed to make. The way they were playing, our linemen responded because it wasn’t what we saw on film as much. They showed a lot more pressure on second down and long distances and they didn’t do that this game, and they (the offensive line) adjusted. So that’s one thing that you might be scared of when you have three new interior linemen, to adjust on the fly when you don’t see exactly what you’ve seen on film, and they did a really good job of doing it and giving me time to throw the ball.”

On how it went between he and center Jack Miller in their first game together…
Gardner
: “It went well. No exchange problems. Those are big deals, pet peeves for the coach. Those are things where you can’t start the play because of the exchange and we had no problems like that. Our protections were on the same page, the changes in protections, or keeping the protections the same. So I feel like it was a great opportunity for us to show that we have a lot of future.”

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

Michigan-Central Michigan game preview

Friday, August 30th, 2013


Unlike last season’s opener, the national attention isn’t centered around Michigan’s game, but that doesn’t mean Brady Hoke will prepare any less for Central Michigan than he did for Alabama. As he said in his Monday press conference, it’s the fist chance to see where the team stands after a long offseason, with a new quarterback, and plenty of youth to go around.

After all, Central is the team that finished last season with four straight wins, the team that won its bowl game, the team that had the first overall pick in April’s NFL Draft, and the team that has a running back who has seven consecutive 100-yard rushing games. No other opponent on Michigan’s schedule can lay claim to more than one of those feats.

Quick Facts
Michigan Stadium – 3:30pm EST – Big Ten Network
Central Michigan Head Coach: Dan Enos (4th season)
Coaching Record: 13-24 (Overall and at CMU)
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Cummings (4th season)
Defensive Coordinator: Joe Tumpkin (4th season)
Returning Starters: 15 (8 offense, 7 defense)
Last Season: 7-6, 4-4 MAC (4th West)
Last Meeting: UM 41 – CMU 17 (2006)
All-Time Series: Michigan leads 3-0
Michigan vs. MAC: 31-1
Michigan in Season Openers: 109-21-3
Michigan in Home Openers: 110-18-2

The last time these two teams faced off was the second game of 2006 when Michigan won convincingly, 41-17. Coincidentally, that game preceded a matchup with Notre Dame, which Michigan also won.

But times are different. Michigan is on its second different coach than the one who won that game, Lloyd Carr, and has suffered its first ever defeat at the hands of a team from the Mid-American Conference. Alas, MAC teams can no longer be taken for granted. Or can they?

Central returns 15 starters and both specialists from last year’s 7-6 squad, but this is still a team that finished fourth in the MAC West. Yes, the Chips finished the season with four straight wins, but they came against Eastern Michigan, Miami (Ohio), UMass, and Western Kentucky – teams who finished with a combined record of 14-35. That sentence above about the claims to fame CMU carries into this game? Not looking so hot right now.

Let’s take a look at how the teams match up.

Michigan defense vs CMU offense: When Central Michigan has the ball

Eight starters return on offense, but the three that don’t are pretty big losses. As we discussed in Monday’s First Look, 99.6 percent of last year’s passing yards are gone with the departure of quarterback Ryan Radcliff. The man who represents the other 0.4 percent is junior Cody Kater who completed 2-of-4 passes for 12 yards last season. But he does have some college experience, albeit in a much smaller capacity. After spending a redshirt freshman season at Cincinnati, he transferred to Grand Rapids Community College, leading GRCC to an 11-0 record. Last season he transferred to CMU where he backed up Radcliff and now has won the opportunity to make his first every FBS start in the Big House.

At 6'2" Titus Davis will test Michigan's secondary (Tim Fitzgerald, CMU Athletics)

Another key departure was receiver Cody Wilson who finished second on the team with 840 receiving yards, which means Kater has one less proven target to throw to. The good news for him is the leading receiver, Titus Davis is back, and the 6-2, 190-pound junior from Wheaton, Ill. has big play ability. He averaged 20 yards per catch in 2012 with a long of 92 and caught eight touchdowns. He had a monster game against Western Michigan, catching 10 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown. Against a similar opponent, Michigan State, he caught four for 64 yards.

The third big loss from the CMU roster was left tackle Eric Fisher, who was the first pick in the NFL Draft. He helped pave the way for what was actually a mediocre running game, but a very talented running back. Zurlon Tipton rushed for 1,492 yards and 19 touchdowns, averaging 5.9 yards per carry. He surpassed 100 yards in each of the final seven games, including a 243-yards performance against Michigan’s Week 3 opponent, Akron. Against Michigan State, he rushed 11 times for 62 yards, and while he averaged 19.4 carries per game throughout the season, his workload went up to 25.3 in the final six games.

Central was a very balanced team last season in terms of plays run with 415 rushing attempts and 413 passing attempts, but the passing game was much more successful. That might not be the case this season with a new quarterback, however, Kater did complete 68.3 percent of his passes for 2,218 yards and 19 touchdowns for GRCC last season. Yes, quality of competition is a major caveat, but this isn’t simply a kid straight out of high school.

With questions about Michigan’s defensive line yet to be answered, look for Central to feed the ball to Tipton early and often. In that same vein, expect Michigan to gear up to stop the run, forcing Kater to try to beat them with his arm. The matchup with Blake Countess or Raymon Taylor on Titus Davis will be one to watch. Phil Steele put Davis among his top 25 receivers in college football and CMU receivers coach Mose Rison compares Davis to Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown. At 6-2, he’ll have a good four inches on any of Michigan’s corners.

Michigan offense vs Central Michigan defense: When Michigan has the ball

The Central Michigan defense is led by its duo of returning linebackers, Justin Cherocci and Shamari Benton, who combined for 258 tackles a year ago. Chrroci ranked 19th nationally with 132 and led the nation with 89 assisted tackles. Benton ranked 24th nationally with 126 and led the team with 54 solo tackles.

The line returns both on the interior, including sophomore Jabari Dean, who amassed 28 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery as a freshman in 2012. Both ends have to be replaced, but Central got a transfer from Michigan State who will contribute right away. Senior Jeremy Gainer recorded 13 total tackles and two forced fumbles in 28 career games played for the Spartans, mostly on special teams, but he’ll be an instant upgrade for the Chippewas.

Shamari Benton forms a solid linebacking duo along with Justin Cherocci (CMU Athletics)

In the secondary, two starting corners and free safety Avery Cunningham are back, but the main guy who has to be replaced is All-MAC safety Jahleel Addae, who signed with the San Diego Chargers as an undrafted free agent. Cunningham tallied 88 tackles last season, while the other returnees, Jarret Chapman and Jason Wilson recorded 51 and 50, respectively. Wilson added a pair of interceptions.

The 4-2-5 defense that Enos runs relies on good play from the back seven, and that’s what they got last season. But the rush defense was the weak spot, giving up 192 yards per game, which ranked 93rd nationally. That means Michigan will feature a heavy dose of Fitzgerald Toussaint and the rest of his running mates.

However, Michigan State was a very run-heavy team in 2012 and only gained 173 yards on 4.2 yards per carry against CMU last September. Le’Veon Bell was held to 70, his third lowest output of the season behind Ohio State (45) and Michigan (68). Conversely, the Spartans torched Central’s secondary for 322 yards on 25-of-37 passing. It was quarterback Andrew Maxwell’s third-highest total of the season.

Central clearly doubled down on the run after seeing Bell run 44 times for 210 yards against Boise State the week before, and that allowed the Spartan passing game to go off. Expect similar results on Saturday, though Michigan’s offense figures to be a bit more balanced.

The other third: Special Teams

Kicker David Harman is gone, and the replacement hasn’t been named as of yet. Redshirt freshman Ron Coluzzi and sophomore Matt Cotiguala are battling it out. Senior punter Richie Hogan is back after finishing fourth in the MAC with a 41.8-yard average per punt. Titus Davis is the main man returning punts, while Courtney Williams will handle the kick return duties.

Prediction

Central will test Michigan’s defense with Tipton on the ground and Davis through the air, but don’t expect the Chips to hang around for more than a half. Michigan’s defense will flex its muscle, forcing Kater to try to beat it through the air. We’ll get a nice look at the ability of Frank Clark, Keith Heitzman, Chris Wormley, and Taco Charlton to get to the quarterback.

Offensively, Michigan will use a balanced attack, perhaps more balanced than Hoke would normally want in this type of game. The reason is that instead of simply running the ball at will against an inferior opponent, it will be important to work on the passing game with an unproven receiving corps (outside of Jeremy Gallon and Drew Dileo) before Notre Dame comes to town next weekend. Look for Gardner to give Jehu Chesson some targets to get him involved and see what he can do.

The Wolverines will put this one away by the third quarter and get Shane Morris, Derrick Green, and DeVeon Smith some playing time.

Michigan 41 – Central Michigan 17

Friend vs Foe: Central Michigan

Thursday, August 29th, 2013


The first edition of this year’s Friend vs Foe series features Ron Balaskovitz, the Central Michigan writer for the Mid-American Conference SB Nation site, Hustle Belt. He will provide his perspective on how Central can beat Michigan on Saturday. You can follow Ron on Twitter @Rovitz. On the Michigan side, Josh is taking over this weekly series this season for Maize and Go Blue. You can follow him @Jdemille9.

Three things must happen.

The first, is that Central needs to win the turnover battle. The biggest thing for any team who is hoping to pull off an upset is to keep possession of the ball, and not give the favorite short fields to work with. That is certainly the case for CMU on Saturday. Last season against Iowa, CMU won the turnover battle, but the biggest thing in that game was that they had zero turnovers of their own. Particularly against a team with an offense as good as Michigan is expected to have, CMU needs to have long drives, and force Michigan to drive the length of the field if they’re going to score. Last year, CMU was clobbered at home by Michigan State, but CMU played a strong first quarter, and was only down 7-0 at the end of it. But the second quarter saw multiple turnovers, and the score went from 7-0 to 24-0 in the span of 15 minutes. And that was against a bad offense. If CMU has more than one turnover on Saturday against a good Michigan offense, they’re dead.

Cody Kater has thrown four career passes (MLive.com)

The second, is that CMU needs to establish the running game, to help out new quarterback Cody Kater. CMU has a very strong offensive line, and one of the few advantages that they have over Michigan is at the running back spot, with returning senior, Zurlon Tipton. Last season Tipton ran for nearly 1,500  yards, and had 19 touchdowns, he was the main reason CMU ended last year on a four game winning streak. But the key for CMU to get a running game going is to help ease the burden on the shoulders of new starter Cody Kater. Kater has thrown four passes at the D-1 level, and I think many CMU fans would prefer that he not have to try and make all the plays in his first game. CMU has a talented, and deep receiving corps this year, but if they can’t get the run going, to draw the secondary up, it could be a problem for those guys to get open, and for Kater to try and find them in the smaller windows. This is probably the battle that I’m looking forward to the most on Saturday, seeing if CMU’s big offensive line can open up enough holes to keep the Michigan defense honest.

And finally, CMU needs to figure out a way to make Michigan’s offense as one dimensional as possible. In a perfect world, the front four of CMU will get pressure on Devin Gardner, and cause the passing game to struggle, forcing the inconsistent Michigan running game to step up. But the problem for CMU is that their front four isn’t very good. Last year CMU only had 15 sacks as a team, and struggled to get pressure on opposing QB’s on a consistent basis, which in turn, made their secondary look bad because they were left in coverage for extended periods of time. CMU has to figure out a way to get stops against Michigan, not only so they don’t have to pass every series just to try and keep up, but so that their defense doesn’t spend all day on the field, and get worn out in the second half. The CMU coaches have to know that if they try and matchup one on one with the Michigan athletes, they’re going to get burned, so I expect CMU to send lots of pressure and blitzes, something they don’t normally do, to try and cause havoc and turnovers.

First games are always tough to predict. Inevitably there is some turnover on both sides and each team enters the season with varying degrees of questions. Central Michigan breaks a new quarterback into an offense that was less than stellar last year. They were pretty good passing, but the run game wasn’t anything to write home about. I expect them to be right around the same 7-6 team they were in 2012. MAC teams cannot be taken lightly, as evidenced by Toledo under the last regime, but CMU should not present anywhere close to as tough a test as our season opener last year.

Michigan has come full circle now that Devin Gardner is entrenched in the starting role. Brady Hoke and Al Borges can finally run their offense. We caught a glimpse of what it might look like last year but now that Team 134 has had a full offseason to prepare and hone their craft we will get to see why Devin Gardner was the top-rated dual threat quarterback in the country coming out of Inkster High School in 2009.

If Fitz Toussaint lives up to the preseason hype he's in line for a big game (Gregory Shamus, Getty Images)

Last year Michigan relied on Denard Robinson to provide its run game. Fitzgerald Toussaint was slow out of the gates after his early season suspension and was finally getting some momentum when he broke his leg against Iowa. I wasn’t sure Fitz would come back strong, let alone be the No. 1 running back, but by all accounts it’s his job to lose, and I’m inclined to believe Hoke and Co. when they say he has looked good so far. If Gardner and Fitz can come out of the gate strong and give Michigan a truly balanced attack then this offense has a chance to be really dynamic. Not Oregon dynamic, but tough to stop nonetheless.

The defense is without its heart and soul, Jake Ryan, for at least a few games but they should be able to weather the storm without him. Blake Countess is back, as is his last year’s fill-in, Raymon Taylor. Michigan gave up the fewest plays of over 20 yards last year (35), but that’s all they did against South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. All of the Gamecocks’ five touchdowns came on big plays or directly following a big play. If Michigan wants to not only win this game, but compete for a Big Ten title they will need to limit the big plays given up.

On offense, Michigan needs to establish the run, first and foremost. If they can do that it will open up the passing game, namely the play-action. Having the threat of both a run game and a passing attack will be tough to stop. Turnovers were an issue last year, though a lot of them were forced throws into bad situations. An offseason of work should have that under control. Win the turnover battle and you usually win the game.

On defense, Michigan needs to avoid giving up big plays, or at least limit them. Last year the Wolverines struggled to get pressure on the quarterback with just the front four, and that’s something Greg Mattison has made a point of emphasis this season. If they can create some havoc in the backfield the secondary should have easy pickin’s (pun intended). They don’t need to get a ton of sacks or tackles for loss, but if Frank Clark and the rest of the line can become well acquainted with Cody Kater it’s going to be a long day for the Chippewas.

Big Ten Football Coaches Teleconference transcript (Week 1): Brady Hoke

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013


Every Tuesday, the 12 head coaches from the Big Ten participate in a teleconference. Each coach gets 10 minutes to speak, which usually allows the media time to as five or six questions. As part of our expanding coverage this season, we will bring you Brady Hoke’s transcript as well as those from that week’s opposing coach once Big Ten play gets underway, and any stories that come out of these.

This week, Hoke answers questions about Central Michigan, his feelings on the offensive and defensive lines, why he gave Devin Funchess a Legends number, a defensive player winning the Heisman, and the new targeting rule.

Opening statement

“Obviously we’re all pretty excited. I think every team in the country (is excited) to get started. You’re tired of hitting each other. We’ve had a good camp. I think our team selected four very deserving captains the other night and I like the leadership that we’ve shown to this point. But as a coach, you’ve just got to keep trying to improve every time you take the field, the meeting room, or the weight room.”

Jonathan Schopp, Spartan Nation: How far has the defense come since you took over at Michigan and how much further does it have to go to get to where you want it?

“There’s no question that we’ve made a little bit of progress, but I think the bar is set so high, not only by the coaches but by the players, how they go out every day in practice and the things that we’re doing. We’re trying to improve. We’re going to be a very young football team in a lot of ways. Sixty-one of the 85 guys are going to be first or second year players. You look at the defense, the four starters have a career (total) of 17 starts between them all. We’re dealing with a lot of young guys, a lot of guys that haven’t played a lot and so we’ve got our work cut out for us.”

Jonathan Schopp, Spartan Nation: Ideally, how many running backs would you like to feature, and do you envision the college game featuring more two-back sets like the pros?

“I think there’s always that, in any team, any situation, you’ve got to have a multiple number of backs because of the physicalness of the position. I think Fred Jackson, our running backs coach, has done a great job throughout the fall camp to get the reps to some unknown guys, when you look at the two freshmen, Derick and DeVeon, but at the same time the older guys – Justice Hayes and Thomas Rawls and Drake Johnson – have really done a nice job. Fitz is obviously the lead cow in the whole deal, so we hope to go one guy for most of the reps but also do a good job of getting the other guys into the football game.”

Dan Chalk, Midland Daily News: Can you talk about the challenges that CMU presents and assess the development of the CMU program the last four years under Dan Enos?

“Well, you know, Dan has done a really good job. I think you look at how they play and I know some of the coaches who are on that staff and have a lot of respect for them – Mike Cummings, up front – and you watch those guys play and the pad level. Then defensively, I think they do a nice job scheme-wise, and they do a nice job in the effort that they play with. They’ve got a veteran team, I think eight starters on one side of the ball and seven on the other, so they’ve got guys who have been in big games. They played a great bowl game, beat a very good Western Kentucky team, so obviously that program has continued to grow under Dan’s leadership.”

Adam Rittenberg, ESPN.com: How do you feel about the interior of the lines heading into the season?

“Well, we’re young on both sides, but it’s a good young. They’re willing. They’ve been physical in practice. They’ve been touch. I think we in the staff think that we’re going to probably make a mistake here or there where we don’t want to because of some youth, or maybe not play with the great technique that we want to play with early, but we like both lines. Offensively, I think there was great competition and I would say there was great competition defensively also.”

Adam Rittenberg, ESPN.com: What are the biggest things you’re looking to see out of Devin Gardner?

“Well, I think the improvement that he’s made in making good decisions. I think the improvement of how to lead from the quarterback position. I think he had part of that DNA in him, but you know, he was out of it a little bit. Now, the progress he’s made from decision-making and maturity has been really positive.”

Brandon Folsom, Maize n Brew: Why did you decide to give Devin Funchess, a sophomore, the Ron Kramer Legends jersey?

“Number one, Ron was a tremendous athlete – maybe the best athlete ever to play at the University of Michigan. Being a tight end, we wanted to try to keep it within that position. I think Devin and his growth, and if you look at the tight end position, we don’t have any older guys. I think his growth is something I’ve seen, and we’ve seen on this staff, has been something that’s been very special.”

USA Today Sports: Last year we had a defensive player finish second in the Heisman race. What does it take for a defensive player to win the Heisman?

“Well, obviously, Charles Woodson won the Heisman, so I don’t know (about) the ‘never had a defensive player win the Heisman trophy.’ I get a little confused when I hear that because if we go back and count the snaps that he played on defense they would far outweigh any snaps he played anywhere else.”

Todd Jones, Columbus Dispatch: What are your thoughts on how last year ended up and your expectations for this year?

“I think the expectation when you’re at Michigan is to win the Big Ten Conference championship. That’s never going to change. How we finished a year ago was very disappointing, how we coached and how we played fundamentally, so those things are all things that we need to do a better job, starting with me as the head football coach, help our kids so they can with the Big Ten championship.”

USA Today Sports: How has your staff talked to the defensive players about the targeting rule change this season and do you expect to see any ejections this weekend related to that?

“That’s a good question and one I don’t know as far as if we’ll see any this weekend. The targeting issue is not just a defensive issue. It’s a chop block or a block on a special teams play where someone comes back and blindsides a guy on an interception or an offensive lineman down the field. So we tried to educate our whole team on the safety ramifications that we want to have for our players first, and secondly, the penalties that are going to be pretty stiff, so it’s just not a defensive problem.”

Five-Spot Challenge: Week 1

Monday, August 26th, 2013



Two seasons ago we started the Five-Spot Challenge, a weekly contest that tests your knowledge of Michigan football and involves a little bit of luck as well. Each week we put up five to ten questions such as, “How many passing yards will Devin Gardner record?” If you guess 200 but he actually records 250, you get 50 points. Like golf, the goal is to get the lowest number possible, meaning you want to be as close to correct as possible for each answer. The points will be added up to determine a weekly winner.

The spot you finish relative to the rest of the competitors will be added up throughout the season to determine the overall winner. For example, in Week 1 if you are first out of 20 participants, you will be awarded 20 points. Second would get 19, third would get 18, and so on. For the full season, you want the most points, so you’ll want to make sure to participate each week.

The final question each week will be a score prediction. In this, you must specify which team is which. If you simply put 14-10, it won’t count. You must say Michigan 14 – CMU 10. This is the hail mary pick. If you pick the score exactly, the largest single differential from the other questions will be reduced to zero.

The first season, umichfan1 captured the overall title, scoring a pair of tickets to the following season’s home opener against Air Force. Last year, crp12qb won the title and was awarded a hosted round of golf at the University of Michigan Golf Course. You can be assured that this year’s prize will be of similar nature and value as those two. The weekly prizes will remain the same as last year, $20 gift cards to The M Den.

The weekly results will be announced in the same post as the following week’s questions, while the overall standings will live in the right sidebar so you always know where you stand. Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Leave them in the comments below. Good luck!

Here are this week’s questions: