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Posts Tagged ‘Chris Bryant’

Countdown to kickoff: 65 days

Thursday, June 26th, 2014


Countdown to kickoff-65

Burning questions as Michigan football opens spring practice

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014


Morris-Gardner(Detroit News)

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

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

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

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

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

How healthy is Devin Gardner?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who will catch passes?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How will the line shape up?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How will the defensive coaching shakeups impact the defense?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inside the Numbers: Sending out an S.O.S. on the LOS

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013


(Rick Osentoski, US Presswire)

Since returning to Ann Arbor in January in 2011, head coach Brady Hoke has preached that he wants to “hear football.” He wants to hear the sound of helmets striking each other, shoulder pads colliding into each other, and players trying to drive one another into the ground. He wants to “hear football” when Michigan takes the field because he wants his team to be tough, physical, strong, and powerful. Yet, the only thing Hoke has heard from his offensive line is silence.

Michigan’s offense has derailed in the month of November, and its offensive line deserves much of the blame. Prior to November, U-M’s offense averaged 42.4 points and 446.5 total yards in its first seven games. In its two November contests, the offense has scored 19 points and gained 343 total yards combined, averaging 9.5 points and 171.5 total yards per game.

To make matters worse, not only has Michigan rushed for minus-69 yards on 65 carries in its last two games, it has rushed for positive yardage in only one of those eight quarters. Against Michigan State, U-M set a program low with minus-48 rushing yards, breaking a 51-year-old school record that Michigan wanted to stand untouched for all of eternity. Then, with minus-21 rushing yards against Nebraska the following week, the Maize and Blue became only the second team this millennium to turn in negative rushing performances in back-to-back games.

Gardner has been sacked 14 times in the last two games (Detroit Free Press)

The lousy offensive display in East Lansing was unacceptable by Michigan standards, but was somewhat understandable. The Spartans’ defense was ranked in the top three in the nation in almost every relevant defensive category, including scoring defense, total defense, rushing defense, and passing yards allowed. There is no doubt that MSU’s defense was one of the best defenses in the country, if not the best.

But Nebraska’s defense was not.  Prior to last Saturday, the Cornhuskers were ranked #46 in scoring defense, #70 in total defense, #85 in rushing defense, and #39 in passing yards allowed. This mediocre defense—the same one that allowed 516 rushing yards to its two prior opponents—stunningly prevented Michigan from netting positive rushing yards for the second straight week.

There is no way around it: Michigan’s offense currently is broken. Before it can be fixed, the problem must be identified first. For the Wolverines, they must look no further than the offensive line.

Entering the 2013 campaign, expectations for Michigan’s offensive line were high. Blame for last season’s sub-par performance from the offensive line was placed upon the three then-senior interior linemen—whom former head coach Rich Rodriguez recruited to play in his zone-blocking schemes—whose skillsets did not mesh well with offensive coordinator Al Borges’ man-blocking schemes. The below-average play was written off as a cost of the transition from Rodriguez’s spread read-option offense to Borges’ power offense. With talented, but inexperienced, interior linemen with skillsets more suited for Borges’ man-blocking schemes joining the starting lineup this season, significant improvement along the line of scrimmage was expected.

Instead, Michigan’s offensive line has worsened despite starting an All-American and future high-first-round NFL Draft pick at left tackle. The decline has never been more evident than in Michigan’s two November games, in which U-M rushed for minus-69 yards, lost more than one yard per carry, allowed 26 tackles-for-loss, and allowed 14 sacks. Thus, the Wolverines’ offensive line has been so poor in November that it has averaged 13 tackles-for-loss allowed and seven sacks allowed, while U-M’s backs averaged minus-34.5 rushing yards, in those contests.

However, the decline in the play of Michigan’s offensive line has not been limited to only the month of November. The cracks have been there all season. To oversimplify, an offensive line has two responsibilities: (1) create holes through which running backs run; and (2) prevent the opposing defense from sacking the quarterback. Michigan’s national rankings in offensive categories that help track whether an offensive line has maintained these responsibilities have tumbled. Not only have the rankings tumbled, they have fallen so far that they are similar to Michigan’s rankings in 2008—a year considered to be the season in which Michigan had its worst offense and offensive line in recent memory, if not ever.

To see the similarities, here is a table comparing these Michigan’s 2008 and 2013 national rankings in these offensive categories:

Michigan National Ranks: 2013 vs. 2008
2013 2008
Nat’l Rank Average/Game Nat’l Rank Average/Game
Total Offense T-83 385.33 109 290.75
Rushing Offense 97 135.33 59 147.58
Yards Per Carry 111 3.25 73 3.91
Passing Offense 51 250.00 108 143.17
TFLs Allowed 123* 9.00 116 7.75
Sacks Allowed T-105 2.89 T-57 1.83
*Last in FBS

According to the table above, the only offensive categories in which Michigan is better in 2013 than 2008 are total offense and passing offense. These improvements can be credited to quarterback Devin Gardner. Gardner—who leads the Big Ten in total offense and points responsible for—is a far superior quarterback than the platoon of Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan that completed less than half its passes in 2008.

However, Michigan has been worse in every other offensive category in the above table this season compared to 2008. Even though there are only 123 FBS teams, the Wolverines are ranked outside the top 100 in rushing yards per carry, tackles-for-loss allowed, and sacks allowed. Plus, Michigan is on the edge of being ranked outside the top 100 in rushing offense, too. To cap it off, U-M has allowed more tackles-for-loss in 2013 than any other FBS team in the nation, permitting defenses to tackle U-M players behind the line of scrimmage nine times per game.

Defenders shooting through the line has been a common site the last two weeks (Huskers.com)

It must be noted that offensive lines are one of the toughest positions to evaluate because there are no statistics that measure individual performance—at least none made available to the public. Coaches use other units, such as assignment grades and loafs, that indicate how well an individual offensive lineman has played. Assignment grades determine how well offensive linemen executed their assignments each game, while loafs measure how many times offensive linemen did not provide the effort needed to finish a play. But given that Michigan has started nine different offensive linemen in nine games, only one of which was due to injury, it seems likely that all stats measuring the performance of offensive lines have come to the same conclusion: Michigan’s may be one of the worst in program history.

Unfortunately for the Wolverines, with only four games remaining, there is no permanent solution that will fix this before the season ends. A shift in Borges’ play-calling may slightly alleviate the problem.  As “Inside the Numbers” alluded to prior to MSU, Borges has been tipping his play calls based upon Michigan’s formation, especially on third downs. Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory confirmed this observation in the aftermath of the Cornhuskers’ 17-13 win against the Wolverines with this quote: “They had certain tendencies. Whatever formation they came out in, we knew what they were going to throw at us.” When defenses notice these tells, they adjust accordingly and put the offensive line in situations in which it has no chance to make the necessary blocks to execute a play successfully.

But Michigan fans must be patient because this would only be a temporary, limited solution. The other issues affecting Michigan’s offensive line—mostly inexperience—can only be fixed with time.  Of the seven linemen Michigan has started along the interior, six are no older than redshirt sophomores and zero made a collegiate start prior to this season. Plus, in 2014, U-M will have seven additional linemen—all of which currently are either redshirt freshmen or true freshmen—that will be available to play.

Raw talent will not be an issue for Michigan’s offensive line in the future. Of these 14 offensive linemen available to play in 2014, Rivals.com rated nine of them as five- or four-star high school recruits. These players have very high ceilings. The question will be whether Michigan will be able to develop and transform their vast potential into reality. If so, Hoke finally will be able to “hear football” from his offensive line once again. If not, the silence will become deafening.

Three Notes You Should Know Before Michigan-Nebraska

  1. At the moment, Michigan is a 2.5-point underdog against Northwestern, according to Las Vegas sports books. This is the first time in the history of this series that Michigan has not been a favorite against the Wildcats. Prior to this year, the Wolverines always had been at least a three-point favorite against Northwestern, with U-M being a 21.3-point favorite on average.
  1. Michigan has forced 18 turnovers through nine games this season, matching the number it forced in all of 2012. However, U-M has converted only 11 of those 18 extra possessions into 65 points—eight touchdowns and three field goals. Further, the Wolverines have turned the last three turnovers they have forced into only three points, despite starting the ensuing series at the opponent’s 41-, 33-, and 26-yard line.
  1. Wide receiver Jeremy Gallon has 947 receiving yards for the 2013 campaign and 2,278 receiving yards for his career. Gallon needs 40 receiving yards to pass David Terrell for the fourth-most career receiving yards in Michigan history and 53 receiving yards to become the 10th wide receiver in program history to have a 1,000-yard season.

You can follow Drew on Twitter: @DrewCHallett

M&GB staff predictions: Penn State

Friday, October 11th, 2013


If not for Blake Countess’ pick-six last Saturday, my score prediction would have been dead-on, but I’ll gladly take an extra seven points and a defensive touchdown over getting my prediction exactly right. Now if it had been a Minnesota score to ruin my pick that would be a different story. But Michigan’s 42-13 win over Minnesota was exactly what the Wolverines needed to put the Akron and UConn games behind them.

Now, Michigan gets a chance to make a statement with a big win on the road. Penn State certainly isn’t a powerhouse at this point, but they are better than every team Michigan has faced this season save Notre Dame and the Wolverines’ recent road woes – 10-18 since 2008 – make nothing a sure bet. Is Michigan in danger of its first loss of the season? Let’s take a look at our picks:

Justin: Jake Ryan returns from injury and immediately turns Michigan’s defense into a juggernaut. He leads the Wolverines with 15 tackles, two sacks, and picks off a pass and Michigan cruises to a 42-0 win.

Ok, so that probably won’t happen, but it will be great to see Ryan back on the filed even if only briefly to start getting him re-acclimated to game action before the brutal November schedule hits. He likely won’t play enough to make much of an impact on the game, but if Michigan plays the way it’s capable of playing it shouldn’t need him in this one anyway.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Penn State
Justin 31 20
Chris 28 21
Josh 38 17
Sam 31 24
Derick 31 24
Katie 35 21
M&GB Average 32 21

Michigan has more weapons to go around, especially with the move of Devin Funchess to wideout, opening up the field for Devin Gardner. His big game last week will force opposing defenses to respect the downfield passing game in a way they haven’t had to until this point, which means the running game will be more effective. The insertion of Chris Bryant into the lineup last week gave Michigan the ability to run more of a power running game and Indiana had some success running right at Penn State last week when it wasn’t throwing the ball.

Defensively, Michigan will give Hackenberg the short, underneath throws and try to prevent the big plays to Allen Robinson. Look for Greg Mattison to dial up some pressure to force the young quarterback to make quick decisions and ultimately lead to turnovers.

The team that wins the turnover battle will win this game and with the expanded offense Gardner has at his disposal combined with the youth of Hackenberg, I think that will be Michigan.

Michigan 31 – Penn State 20

Chris: Penn State recovers from their loss last week and plays well at home, but it’s not enough.

Michigan 28 – Penn State 21

Josh: Please see yesterday’s Friend vs Foe for my full breakdown.

Michigan 38 – Penn State 17

Sam: With the non-conference season in the rearview mirror and one win already in the books, the Michigan Wolverines take to the road for the second time in their 2013 football campaign. Three weeks and two games ago, Michigan made the trip to East Hartford, Connecticut for a night game against UConn that proved to be much closer than expected. With a record crowd of 42,704 watching at Rentschler Field, Devin Gardner overcame four awful turnovers and a 14-point third quarter deficit to lead the Maize and Blue to a 24-21 nail-biting win.

This Saturday, the visiting Wolverines will once again be playing under the lights (for the third time already this season), but in an environment that figures to be much crazier this time around in Happy Valley against Penn State. With a putrid crowd of nearly 93,000 against Eastern Michigan earlier this year, one of the smallest since 2001, and an all-time record of 110,753 in 2002, Beaver Stadium will be rocking in white-out fashion.

Luckily for Brady Hoke and his Michigan squad, Penn State is struggling through their second year of heavy sanctions to the tune of a 3-2 record. Already with a loss to Central Florida four weeks ago and a 44-24 beatdown suffered at Indiana last week, the once-proud Lions are certainly beatable this year. But if you combine Michigan’s inconsistency, a Bill O’Brien-coached offense at Penn State, and a raucous night crowd, you will find a game that will likely be up for grabs.

With Devin Funchess warranting attention outside, look for a big game from Jeremy Gallon and others (MGoBlue.com)

Christian Hackenberg, O’Brien’s star freshman quarterback, has been very good at times and sports a 60 percent completion mark and a 2:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio; unfortunately experience is not on his side, and Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison will be throwing different looks at Hackenberg all night. Penn State will also have a trio of running backs in Zach Zwinak, Bill Belton, and Akeel Lynch who have big-play ability and all gain more than four yards per carry, but Michigan has been solid against the run for the better part of the year.

Last week’s insertion of Chris Bryant into the starting lineup at left guard seemed to open up some running lanes for Fitzgerald Toussaint, but even more surprising was a stacked offensive look with Taylor Lewan, Michael Schofield, and Bryant all lined up to the left of center Graham Glasgow.

If Michigan trots out in that power formation again, expect to see some play action open up deep for quarterback Devin Gardner. On paper, Michigan has been the much better team so far, but these two squads should be battling into the fourth quarter with a critical win on the line. Vegas opened the books favoring Michigan by just one point, and still Michigan is giving less than a field goal to the Nittany Lions with a -2.5-point margin.

Michigan’s confidence should be back, however, after a big win over Minnesota last week, and Penn State is still playing for pride alone. Hackenberg will throw for two touchdowns but will also lose a crucial second half turnover that Michigan will take advantage of on the way to a Wolverine win.

Michigan 31 – Penn State 24

Derick: Michigan will face it’s toughest opposing crowd of the season Saturday after nearly failing the first road test in Connecticut. If Rentschler Field was a tough venue for Team 134 to play in then Beaver Stadium will provide a very rude awakening.

Fortunately for the Wolverines the running game perked up after the  shift in the offensive line and stabilized a struggling offense. Devin Gardner looked comfortable running both the play action and bootleg screens with Fitzgerald Toussaint picking up solid gains on first and second down. If he can take care of the football and make the easy passes then the defense should be able to carry the Maize and Blue to victory.

Though Happy Valley proves a tough test, I think Greg Mattison will have something prepared for freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg. Michigan wins the turnover battle and as a result, improves to 6-0.

Michigan-31 Penn State-24

Katie: So the Wolverines are 5-0 but it doesn’t quite feel that way. After two tough weeks where backups should have seen playing time but instead were left to watch as their teammates played for their B10 Championship lives, a win against Minnesota doesn’t exactly cleanse the palate.  It was a good win, but a victory in Happy Valley is a most necessary followup. And considering that the Nittany Lions are 3-2, with a loss last week to the Hoosiers, the outlook is rather good for the Wolverines to continue undefeated.

But the Nittany Lions have been amassing more than a fair share of offensive yards per game, averaging 475. With a starter out for Michigan in Ondre Pipkins, the Wolverines could certainly use someone who is arguably the best player on the defense, Jake Ryan. to return. The counter to racking up so many yards per game however, is how many the Penn State defense is allowing.  Against Indiana, the Lions gave up 486 yards and lost 24-44. If Michigan can put Penn on its heels early, with consistent throws and a good running game, they should be able to dig the Lions into a pit they can’t claw out of. The key for the Wolverines will be to do better on 3rd down percentage defensively. If the Nittany Lions aren’t able to rack up a series of long drives, it isn’t likely that their defense will be able to hold Michigan.  I’ve got the Wolverines winning this one, even given the hostile crowd they will be playing in front of (fingers crossed that Gardner doesn’t get rattled, or that Morris would be ready at the helm if he is).

Michigan 35 Penn State 21

____________________________________________________________________________
For more coverage of this week’s game, see: Michigan-Penn State game preview; this week’s edition of Friend vs Foe with Jared Slanina and Bill DiFlippo of the Penn State SB Nation blog Black Shoe Diaries; Monday’s First Look: Penn State, and this week’s Five-Spot Challenge. We also featured a new urban garden campaign by Vincent Smith, Martavious Odoms, and Brandin Hawthorne to expand their Pahokee garden and build one in Denard Robinson’s hometown of Deerfield Beach, Fla. Finally, Alexandra showcased some great maize and blue fashion that you can find in and around Ann Arbor to look great on gameday.

Also check out game previews from MGoBlog, Maize n BrewTouch the BannerMaize n Blue Nation, Maize and Blue News, and The M Block.

From the other side, game preview from Black Shoe Diaries as well as their roundtable predictions.

Final Look: Minnesota

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013


(MGoBlue.com)

Michigan finally played a pretty good game that resulted in a convincing win just the way it should. Now, it has a chance to go on the road and prove it’s better than it played in the two games before the bye week. But before we get there, let’s take one last look back at the big plays, numbers, stats, and observations from the 42-13 win over Minnesota.

Three big moments

1. Jibreel Black forces a fumble

Many were wondering how Michigan would respond coming out of the bye week that followed back-to-back poor performances against Akron and UConn. Just like in the first four games, Michigan kicked off to open the game, which meant the defense got a chance to set the tone. The kickoff went ominously out of bounds, giving Minnesota the ball at the 35.

On Minnesota’s first play quarterback Mitch Leidner rushed for two yards. On the second Leidner completed a pass to tight end Maxx Williams for two more. On 3rd-and-6, Leidner dropped back to pass and then pulled it down to run a draw up the middle. At first it looked like he had a hole, but Jibreel Black came around and hit him at the 35. He got his right hand on the ball, knocking it loose and James Ross recovered, giving Michigan great field position. The Wolverines punched it in six plays later to take an early 7-0 lead.

2. Funchess diving catch

Blake Countess leads the nation in interceptions and INT return yards (MGoBlue.com)

While Michigan got off to a quick start thanks to Black’s forced fumble, Minnesota did a good job of keeping Michigan’s offense off the field the rest of the first half. The ensuing Gopher possession lasted 9:44 and Michigan only got to run 17 plays the rest of the half. With a 14-7 halftime lead, Michigan needed a strong second half to put the Gophers away.

On the first possession, Michigan looked to establish the run. Fitzgerald Toussaint took the first three carries for 14, five, and eight yards, respectively, and then Derrick Green ran for nine. At the Minnesota 44, Gardner connected with Jehu Chesson for a 22-yard gain to put Michigan in field goal position. On first down from the 22, Toussaint lost a yard. On second, Gardner threw an incomplete pass setting up a critical third down. On 3rd-and-11, Gardner dropped back to pass and fired a bullet across the field, towards the pylon at the front right corner of the end zone. Devin Funchess had to come back to get it and dove from the goal line, picking the ball off the turf at the 2-yard line. The play was reviewed and remained a catch and Green punched it in on the next play to give Michigan a 14-point lead. Without the great catch, Michigan would have faced a 40-yard field goal to go ahead 17-7, leaving Minnesota still in the ball game.

3. Countess takes it home

Michigan held a 35-13 lead after Gardner ran it in from two yards out with 2:36 to play. Minnesota got the ball back looking to possibly score once more, but Blake Countess had other plans. On 1st-and-10 from the Michigan 36, Leidner threw to the left side of the field and Countess stepped in front of the receiver, picking it off at the 28. He then raced 72 yards untouched for a touchdown to bring the final score to 42-13. It was his fourth interception of the season, tying for the most nationally, and the 72 return yards combined with his previous return yards to give him the most interception return yards in the country.

The numbers game

73-24-3: Michigan’s all-time record against Minnesota

86-27: Michigan’s all-time record in homecoming games

0: The number of turnovers by Devin Gardner, marking the first turnover-free game of his career to date

9: The number of consecutive games that Gardner has recorded a rushing touchdown

21: The number of Michigan players to eclipse 2,000 career rushing yards. Fitz Toussaint became the 21st with his 78-yard game

0: The number of passes Michigan threw in the first quarter

72: The yards of Blake Countess’ interception return for touchdown, the sixth-longest in Michigan history

Drive chart
MN
UM
MN
UM
MN
UM
MN
UM
MN
UM
MN
UM
MN
UM
MN
UM
MN
MN

*Hover over team initials to see drive statistics

Three observations

1. Starting strong

For the fifth consecutive game, Michigan started on defense, and for the fifth consecutive game the defense didn’t allow a point on the first possession. Opponents are averaging just 3.8 plays, 11.4 yards, and 1:35 per opening possession. What’s more is that Michigan’s offense has scored on four of the five ensuing possessions, including the blocked punt returned for touchdown following Central Michigan’s first possession. The only game that Michigan didn’t score right after holding the opponent to start the game was UConn when Devin Gardner threw an interception. Three of the four scores have been touchdowns. The other, against Akron, was a field goal. So that’s a combined 24-point lead that Michigan has taken right out of the bat despite not getting the ball to start the game.

2. Funchess out wide

Devin Funchess' move to the outside provides an instant upgrade to the receiving corps (MGoBlue.com)

Devin Funchess played much of the game lined up as a wide receiver and had the best game of his young career with seven catches for 151 yards and a touchdown. His sheer athleticism and height make him an instant mismatch for opposing defensive backs, so it’s a logical move since Michigan hasn’t found a true downfield threat this season. Funchess provides that. The return of AJ Williams and the development of freshman Jake Butt has allowed Brady Hoke and Al Borges to make this move.

Funchess has struggled with his blocking, but excels at catching the ball. Part of his decline in production as the season went on last season was because opponents knew that whenever he was in the game it was a pass. Oftentimes Michigan used that as a decoy, but it resulted in seven receptions in the final nine games after eight in the first four. Now, with the move to the outside, he can do what he does best and the offense won’t sacrifice anything to get him the ball.

3. Offensive line shuffle

Chris Bryant stepped into the starting lineup, pushing Graham Glasgow to center and Jack Miller out. The numbers don’t show any improvement – Michigan rushed for just 3.3 yards per carry – but it seemed to passed the eye test. There seemed to be a noticeable improvement. Michigan did have four negative rushes, a sack, and a fumbled snap that resulted in a loss of five, but the four negative rushes were only one-yard losses and three of them were by Green.

More importantly, Michigan had just two short drives. Look at the drive chart above and then go back and look at the drive charts from the Akron and UConn games. Those two are littered with short maize lines. The Minnesota game had just two in which Michigan didn’t pick up a first down. That’s an improvement.

In addition, the coaches moved Taylor Lewan around the line on certain plays and ran all but two runs behind him. Whether that’s something they will continue to do the rest of the season or this was just a chance to test it out remains to be seen, but he’s the start of the team and it’s always a good bet to run behind him.

Minnesota’s defense certainly wasn’t a stern test, so the real test of how much this shake-up improves the line is still to come. Penn State will be much better defensively than Minnesota was, so before we go grading the offensive line shuffle let’s wait at least another week.

M&GB staff predictions: Minnesota

Friday, October 4th, 2013


Michigan has underperformed everyone’s expectations the last two games, but with two weeks of practice to fix mistakes, a refocused Michigan squad returns to action tomorrow against the Minnesota Gophers. If ever there was a time for Michigan to need a big, convincing win this is it. At the end of the day Michigan sits 4-0 and is still positioned well for a Big Ten title run, but the real test begins now. Can Michigan prove it’s better than what it showed against Akron and UConn? Or will the Wolverines struggle with Minnesota again? Let’s take a look at our predictions.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Minnesota
Justin 35 13
Chris 28 7
Josh 27 17
Sam 34 13
Derick 30 17
Katie 31 17
M&GB Average 31 14

Justin: Read this morning’s game preview for a more detailed breakdown, but essentially Michigan will be rejuvenated and come out pounding the ball with Fitz Toussaint and Derrick Green. Devin Gardner will play more under control and the addition of Chris Bryant to left guard will pay dividends. The offense won’t score 59 like it did against Central Michigan, but it won’t be stagnant like it was the last two games.

The defense will load the box to stuff the run, forcing Philip Nelson to throw the ball, and that will hold the Gophers in check just like Iowa did last week.

Michigan 35 – Minnesota 13

Chris: I was wrong about the UConn game. I said that Michigan would come out and dominate all game after a bad performance against Akron. The only thing the Michigan football team did that game was barely escape with a win. With an offense that has been barely mediocre over the past two weeks, the bye week couldn’t have come at a better time. Hopefully the coaches and players used the extra week to get their act together. If not, and the team comes out and plays like they did in the last two games, then we know that this team is not as good as what we thought and Ohio State will run away with the Big Ten title. But Michigan will win this one.

Michigan 28 – Minnesota 7

Josh: Please see yesterday’s Friend vs Foe for my full breakdown.

Michigan 27 – Minnesota 17

Sam: Three seasons and four games into Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill’s career in Minneapolis, it seemed that perhaps the Golden Gophers were on the right track. Minnesota, once a proud football program, had been irrelevant nationally and even in the Big Ten for the better part of five decades and has not won a bowl game in 10 seasons. Finally, however, with a tough coach at the helm and an offensive system that does not include the word “pass”, the Gophers won their first four games this year by an average score of 42-20 and seemed to be on the right track heading into conference season.

Alas, perhaps all good things must come to an end eventually. In the first week of the Big Ten, Iowa traveled to TCF Bank Stadium and simply stymied Minnesota’s offensive attack, giving up just 30 rushing yards on 27 attempts and 135 passing yards on 24 Philip Nelson throws. And while the verdict is still out on Iowa’s potential, last week made it quite evident that Minnesota’s early season success was largely a matter of playing UNLV, New Mexico State, Western Illinois, and San Jose State.

Chris Bryant steps in at left guard to bolster the run game (Angela J Cesere, AnnArbor.com)

Michigan, on the other hand, looked like absolute world beaters in weeks one and two against Central Michigan and a top-20 Notre Dame squad before squeaking by lowly Akron and Connecticut by a combined seven points before taking a bye last weekend. To give their recent mediocrity some context, consider the fact that just two weeks after the Zips nearly stunned the nation at the Big House and one week after UConn led Michigan the entire third quarter before falling by three, those two teams lost by a total of 46 points to Bowling Green and Buffalo, respectively, Connecticut fired their head coach mid-season, and they combine for one win on the season.

The Wolverines’ vulnerability is clear right now, and the Gophers will certainly give it their all this Saturday, but it won’t quite be enough when the clock runs out. Michigan’s defense continues to improve and has shown flashes of stoutness against the run that Kill will employ, and a change on the offensive line, where Graham Glasgow will slide over to center to replace Jack Miller and make room for Chris Bryant, should give Devin Gardner some extra time to pass and Fitzgerald Toussaint some running lanes. Minnesota’s stable of runners, including both Nelson and rotating quarterback Mitch Leidner, will break a couple long runs but struggle to set up a stagnant passing game.

Michigan holds onto the Little Brown Jug as Toussaint records his second straight 100-yard game.

Michigan 34 – Minnesota 13

Derick: Night game Michigan has to rear it’s beautiful head again sometime right? The bye week might be just what Brady Hoke needed to get things back on track. One rough game is a fluke, but two is a trend and with Notre Dame’ s struggles I don’t think Michigan is quite where we thought they were.

Having said that, Minnesota is still far inferior. I think a team desperate for an easy win will do just enough to re-instill some confidence heading into Big Ten play.

If Devin Gardner can manage single-digit turnovers and both lines can hold their own then Michigan should beat the Golden Gophers.

“Should” has become a taboo for Michigan football unfortunately.

Michigan 30 – Minnesota 17

Katie: Normally, I would feel that the chances of Michigan losing the Little Brown Jug would be about as great as a gopher getting the best of an actual wolverine.  This year, even after the bye-week and some team alterations, I’m a bit nervous.  After Akron most thought we would roll over UConn, and after UConn, well I don’t want to begin the whole demoralizing after effects if this is another close one.  I know we’re favored, I know it’s by more than two touchdowns and maybe this is the week when Michigan will, well, look like Michigan.

The changes to the Wolverines O-line should prove to be a fairly integral part of the game. Gardner needs more time in the pocket, and less threats so that he can find a rhythm and stop these jitters he’s been playing with.  He also needs to know when to throw the ball away, and when to stop scrambling backwards and just take a meager loss.  He’s got great receivers, and hopefully Toussaint and Green will be able to come up with big yards; run to throw, which could take some of the pressure off of Gardner.

As for the Golden Gophers, their stats look good on paper, but having played the first four games against the likes of UNLV, New Mexico State, Western Illinois, and San Jose State, those numbers begin to look less and less impressive. There 4-1 standing (loss last week to Iowa) is likely to begin evening out as B10 play takes off. Not to say that Minnesota is going to roll over, they had 130 yards passing against Iowa, and if they can manage to be effective against Michigan’s secondary then we could have ourselves a game.

Really though I think this game hinges on Michigan’s offense. If the run game goes smoothly (thanks to a more efficient O-line) and Devin Gardner calms down and stops running with the ball four feet from his body, then Michigan could very well win by a two touchdown margin.

Michigan 31 – Minnesota 17

____________________________________________________________________________
For more coverage of this week’s game, see: Michigan-Minnesota game preview; this week’s edition of Friend vs Foe with JDMill of the Minnesota SB Nation blog The Daily Gopher; Tuesday’s First Look: Minnesota, and this week’s Five-Spot Challenge. I also answered some questions for The Daily Gopher.

Also check out game previews from MGoBlog,  Maize n BrewTouch the BannerMaize n Blue Nation, Maize and Blue News, and The M Block. Great Little Brown Jug history from MVictors.

From the other side, game preview from The Daily Gopher and some old school Little Brown Jug shots from Minnesota.

Meet Your 2011 Recruiting Class: The Offense

Saturday, February 5th, 2011


Nearly every starter returns next season for Michigan’s offense, including Big Ten Player of the Year Denard Robinson. Offensive coordinator Al Borges has vowed to build the playbook around Robinson’s talents while limiting his carries. Seven newcomers will join the crew, along with one kicker. Let’s meet the newest Wolverines.

Quarterback (1)
RUSSELL BELLOMY
Height: 6-3
Weight: 178
Hometown: Arlington, Texas (Martin)
Rivals Ranking: NR (3-star)
Scout Ranking: #39 Quarterback (3-star)
ESPN Ranking: #35 Quarterback, 78 rating (3-star)
Chose Michigan Over: Purdue, Michigan State, Minnesota, South Florida, Colorado
How He Fits In: Bellomy was originally a Purdue commitment who switched to Michigan after Hoke was named Rodriguez’s replacement. He’s an important commit because of the current state of Michigan’s quarterback roster. Denard Robinson will be a junior next season and Devin Gardner a redshirt freshman likely to assume the starting role in 2013 after Robinson graduates. Bellomy should redshirt next season so he’s not the same as Gardner eligibility-wise, but because of Tate Forcier’s transfer, Hoke may have to keep Bellomy ready to play. He held offers from Michigan State and Boise State, so he’s not a throwaway recruit just to build depth, though he’ll benefit from a few years developing behind Robinson and Gardner.
Running Back (2)
JUSTICE HAYES
Height: 5-10
Weight: 175
Hometown: Grand Blanc, Mich. (Grand Blanc)
Rivals Rank: #3 Running Back, #85 Overall (4-star)
Scout Rank: #14 Running Back (4-star)
ESPN Rank: #22 Running Back, 79 rating (4-star)
Chose Michigan Over: Notre Dame, Michigan State, Tennessee, Iowa, Wisconsin
How He Fits In: The various recruiting sites differ slightly as to how good Hayes is, but judging by his offer sheet, many of the top schools think he can be a good college back. At Michigan, he’s likely to redshirt next season due to a crowded backfield, and there’s a slight chance he could move to slot receiver, but he could be a very good player in a couple of years. He originally committed to Notre Dame, but switched to Michigan and then helped lobby for other recruits to follow him to Ann Arbor. He has good speed and is high character kid who will work hard to get better. Fans will love him in a few years.
THOMAS RAWLS
Height: 5-10
Weight: 214
Hometown: Flint, Mich. (Northern)
Rivals Rank: NR (3-star)
Scout Rank: #77 Running Back (3-star)
ESPN Rank: #84 Running Back, 76 rating (3-star)
Chose Michigan Over: Cincinnati, Central Michigan, Toledo
How He Fits In: Rawls was a late addition and the type of back Hoke wants for his offense. He may be a bit of a sleeper, not being rated highly by the recruiting sites. He has the body to compete right away, although with Stephen Hopkins already on the team, the smart move may be to redshirt him to create some separation. Longtime running backs coach Fred Jackson whose son coached Rawls at Flint Northern, compared him to Flint native and 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram. If Rawls can prove adept at blocking and taking care of the ball, he could see the field sooner rather than later.
Offensive Line (3)
CHRIS BRYANT
Height: 6-5
Weight: 330
Hometown: Chicago, Ill. (Simeon)
Rivals Ranking: #19 Offensive Tackle, #203 overall (4-star)
Scout Ranking: #21 Offensive Guard (3-star)
ESPN Ranking: #37 Offensive Guard, 77 rating (3-star)
Chose Michigan Over: Illinois, Pittsburgh, Arizona, Stanford, Ohio State
How He Fits In: Bryant fills a position of great need for this class and is a big pickup for Hoke. He represents a shift back to the traditional Big Ten linemen that Michigan utilized for years before Rodriguez’s spread called for smaller, quicker linemen. Bryant needs a redshirt season to lose some weight and build some strength, but once current Wolverines Patrick Omameh and Ricky Barnum graduate, Bryant should be able to work his way into the lineup in 2013 and blossom into an all-conference guard.
TONY POSADA
Height: 6-6
Weight: 315
Hometown: Tampa, Fla. (Plant)
Rivals Ranking: NR (3-star)
Scout Ranking: #45 Offensive Tackle (3-star)
ESPN Ranking: #34 Offensive Tackle, 78 rating (3-star)
Chose Michigan Over: South Florida, Texas Tech, Missouri, Tennessee, Rutgers
How He Fits In: Posada is a strong and physical lineman with a good body for Hoke’s offense. Conditioning and technique are called into question, so like most offensive linemen, Posada will benefit greatly from a redshirt season. He could play either guard or tackle, but will most likely play tackle opposite Taylor Lewan if he can work his way into the lineup by 2013.
JACK MILLER
Height: 6-4
Weight: 268
Hometown: Perrysburg, Ohio (St. John’s)
Rivals Ranking: NR (3-star)
Scout Ranking: #16 Center (3-star)
ESPN Ranking: #53 Defensive Tackle, 78 rating (3-star)
Chose Michigan Over: Cincinnati, Michigan State, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Boston College
How He Fits In: Miller will most likely play offensive line for the Wolverines, although ESPN rates him as a defensive tackle. Rodriguez and Hoke’s staffs recruited him as a guard/center, so that’s where he’ll end up. At 6-4, 268, he will need to add some weight to become a Big Ten offensive lineman, especially in Hoke’s power run offense as compared to Rodriguez’s spread. His freshman year will certainly be a redshirt and he could work his way into the lineup in a couple years. If he’s at center, he’ll have a chance in 2012 when David Molk graduates.
Tight End (1)
CHRIS BARNETT
Height: 6-6
Weight: 245
Hometown: Hurst, Texas (L.D. Bell)
Rivals Ranking: #14 Tight End, #224 overall (4-star)
Scout Ranking: #16 Tight End (3-star)
ESPN Ranking: #20 Tight End, 78 rating (3-star)
Chose Michigan Over: Arkansas, Miami, Florida State, USC, Oklahoma State
How He Fits In: Barnett was the last commitment to round out the 20-man class and a big get for Hoke. Tight end is a position of need since Martell Webb’s eligibility expired and Kevin Koger is a senior next season. The only other tight end is Brandon Moore, a redshirt sophomore who will be a redshirt junior next season and has hardly played. Barnett is a big and lean tight end with good hands and long arms. In Hoke’s offense, he could be a star in the mold of former Florida (and current New England Patriot) tight end Aaron Hernandez.
Kicker (1)
MATT WILE
Height: 6-2
Weight: 210
Hometown: San Diego, Calif. (Francis Parker)
Rivals Ranking: NR (2-star)
Scout Ranking: #4 Kicker(3-star)
ESPN Ranking: #37 Kicker, 74 rating (2-star)
Chose Michigan Over: Nebraska, Washington, San Diego State
How He Fits In: Wile is probably the biggest benefactor of Hoke landing the job at Michigan. He was being recruited by Hoke to San Diego State and followed Hoke to Ann Arbor. He’ll have a chance to win the kicking job right off the bat given Michigan’s struggles last season. The last kicker recruit, Brendan Gibbons, struggled mightily last season, going just 1-for-5, and losing his spot to Seth Broekhuizen. Wile is a good athlete with a repeatable kicking stroke, which is very inspiring.

Overview

Hoke filled needs at tight end, offensive line, and kicker, but wasn’t able to reel in any receivers. Bryant, Posada, and Barnett could all be eventual stars for the Wolverines, while Rawls and Hayes will have to battle a loaded and experienced backfield.

Not landing a receiver was certainly a letdown (though not much of Hoke’s fault, since he had just three weeks of recruiting) and will have to be a focus next season. Landing Barnett was a great way to close out the class with a pass catching tight end who can spread the field.

I’ll give this class a C+ but since it didn’t really nab any top-notch recruits, it can’t get any higher than that. Hoke has certainly built some momentum to carry into the 2012 class, which I think can be a top 10 or 15 class.

Michigan’s 2011 Recruiting Class By the Numbers

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011


National Signing Day represents the final chapter of each football season and the last chance to talk about college football until spring ball begins at the end of March. This year’s Michigan class has seen its share of changes, decommitments, and surprises. When Rich Rodriguez was replaced by Brady Hoke on Jan. 11, the recruiting class took on a shift in focus from a spread offense to a traditional pro-style offense. That didn’t sit well with some, but the momentum of bringing back a “Michigan man” and then hiring defensive coordinator Greg Mattison led a resurgence that catapulted Michigan’s class into the top 25 (according to Rivals).

While National Signing Day didn’t have the drama for Michigan that it did last year, Hoke and his staff secured two new commitments on Wednesday to go along with the 18 who had previously pledged their commitments, giving the first-year head coach 20 new players to work with this season. The majority were either Rodriguez commitments or were being sought after by Rodriguez before he was fired. About half of them were secured by Hoke once he took over. Below is a breakdown by state and by position. In a separate post, we will take a look at each individual recruit and how he fits in at Michigan.

2011 Recruits by State


Ohio Michigan Texas Illinois Maryland Florida California
7 6 3 1 1 1 1
Greg Brown
DB
Fremont (Ross)
Justice Hayes
RB
Grand Blanc
Chris Barnett
TE
Hurst (L.D. Bell)
Chris Bryant
OL
Chicago (Simeon)
Blake Countess
DB
Owings Mills (Our Lady of Good Counsel)
Tony Posada
OL
Tampa (Plant)
Matt Wile
K
San Diego (Francis Parker)
Frank Clark
LB
Cleveland (Glenville)
Brennen Beyer
DE
Canton (Plymouth)
Russell Bellomy
QB
Arlington (Martin)
Antonio Poole
LB
Cincinnati (Winton Woods)
Raymon Taylor
ATH
Detroit (Highland Park)
Kellen Jones
LB
Houston (St. Pius X)
Chris Rock
DE
Columbus (DeSales)
Thomas Rawls
RB
Flint (Northern)
Jack Miller
OL
Perrysburg (St. John’s)
Delonte Hollowell, DB
Detroit (Cass Tech)
Tamani Carter
DB
Pickerington (Central)
Desmond Morgan
LB
Holland (West Ottowa)
Keith Heitzman
DE
Hilliard (Davidson)
2011 Recruits by Position
Quarterback (1) Russell Bellomy
Running Back (2) Justice Hayes, Thomas Rawls
Tight End (1) Chris Barnett
Offensive Line (3) Chris Bryant, Tony Posada, Jack Miller
Defensive End (3) Brennen Beyer, Chris Rock, Keith Heitzman
Linebacker (4) Frank Clark, Antonio Poole, Desmond Morgan, Kellen Jones
Defensive Back (5) Blake Countess, Raymon Taylor, Greg Brown, Delonte Hollowell, Tamani Carter
Kicker (1) Matt Wile

* The class has an average star rating of 3.25 according to Rivals.
* Rivals ranks Michigan’s class 21st, while neither Scout or ESPN ranks the class in their Top 25.
* The six commitments from the state of Michigan are the most in a single class since 2005.
* Defensive back Greg Brown is the only commit to enroll at Michigan early. He’s currently participating in winter workouts with the team.
* Frank Clark comes from Ohio State pipeline Cleveland Glenville. He will be Michigan’s first player from Glenville since Pierre Woods committed in 2001. Coach Hoke compared Clark to Woods in today’s presser.
* If Matt Wile can prove consistent on field goals, he may be the most important commitment in the class and will start right away. He followed Hoke from San Diego to Ann Arbor.