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Posts Tagged ‘Craig Roh’

Lewan, Hagerup earn Big Ten individual awards

Monday, November 26th, 2012


The All-Big Ten teams were announced on Monday night and several Wolverines were among them. Taylor Lewan received the Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year award and Will Hagerup got the Eddleman-Fields Punter of the Year award. No other school in the conference had more than two individual players win awards, though Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin also had two each.

Lewan and Patrick Omameh were named to the First Team by the coaches, while the coaches named Craig Roh and Jordan Kovacs to the Second Team. The media had Lewan and Hagerup First Team and Jake Ryan Second Team.

These teams are always gimmicky in that outside of the obvious, the coaches and media tend to differ vastly. The coaches thought Omameh was deserving of First Team honors while the media merely had him Honorable Mention. While Hagerup was named the Big Ten’s best punter, he wasn’t even on the first or second team by the coaches.

The full list of individual awards winners and All-Big Ten teams are listed below. Five other individual trophy winners will be announced on Tuesday.

Griese-Brees Quarterback of the Year: Braxton Miller, Ohio State
Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year: Allen Robinson, Penn State
Ameche-Dayne Running Back of the Year: Montee Ball, Wisconsin
Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year: Jacob Pedersen, Wisconsin
Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year: Taylor Lewan, Michigan
Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman of the Year: John Simon, Ohio State
Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year: Michael Mauti, Penn State
Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year: Micah Hyde, Iowa
Bakken-Andersen Kicker of the Year: Brett Maher, Nebraska, and Jeff Budzien, Northwestern
Eddleman-Fields Punter of the Year: Will Hagerup, Michigan
Coaches
First Team Offense Second Team
Taylor Martinez Nebraska QB Braxton Miller Ohio State
Le’Veon Bell Michigan State RB Ameer Abdullah Nebraska
Montee Ball Wisconsin RB Venric Mark Northwestern
Carlos Hyde Ohio State
Allen Robinson Penn State WR Kenny Bell Nebraska
Jared Abbrederis Wisconsin WR Corey Brown Ohio State
Matt Stankiewitch Penn State C James Ferentz Iowa
Patrick Omameh Michigan G Ryan Groy Wisconsin
Spencer Long Nebraska G
John Urschel Penn State G
Taylor Lewan Michigan T Hugh Thornton Illinois
Rick Wagner Wisconsin T Jeremiah Sirles Nebraska
Jacob Pederson Wisconsin TE Dion Sims Michigan State
Jeff Budzien Northwestern K Brett Maher Nebraska
First Team Defense Second Team
Johnathan Hankins Ohio State DL Michael Buchanan Illinois
John Simon Ohio State DL Adam Replogle Indiana
Jordan Hill Penn State DL Craig Roh Michigan
Kawann Short Purdue DL Eric Martin Nebraska
Baker Steinkuhler Nebraska
Max Bullough Michigan State LB Will Compton Nebraska
Michael Mauti Penn State LB Ryan Shazier Ohio State
Chris Borland Wisconsin LB Gerald Hodges Penn State
Micah Hyde Iowa DB Jordan Kovacs Michigan
Johnny Adams Michigan State DB Daimion Stafford Nebraska
Darqueze Dennard Michigan State DB Christian Bryant Ohio State
Bradley Roby Ohio State DB Ricardo Allen Purdue
Mike Sadler Michigan State P Brett Maher Nebraska
Media
First Team Offense Second Team
Braxton Miller Ohio State QB Taylor Martinez Nebraska
Le’Veon Bell Michigan State RB Venric Mark Northwestern
Montee Ball Wisconsin RB Carlos Hyde Ohio State
Allen Robinson Penn State WR Cody Latimer Indiana
Jared Abbrederis Wisconsin WR Kenny Bell Nebraska
Travis Frederick Wisconsin C Matt Stankiewitch Penn State
Spencer Long Nebraska G Brian Mulroe Northwestern
Andrew Norwell Ohio State G John Urschel Penn State
Taylor Lewan Michigan T Jeremiah Sirles Nebraska
Rick Wagner Wisconsin T Jack Mewhort Ohio State
Kyle Carter Penn State TE Dion Sims Michigan State
Brett Maher Nebraska K Jeff Budzien Northwestern
First Team Defense Second Team
Eric Martin Nebraska DL Adam Replogle Indiana
John Simon Ohio State DL William Gholston Michigan State
Jordan Hill Penn State DL D.L. Wilhite Minnesota
Kawann Short Purdue DL Johnathan Hankins Ohio State
Ryan Shazier Ohio State LB Jake Ryan Michigan
Michael Mauti Penn State LB Max Bullough Michigan State
Mike Taylor Wisconsin LB Gerald Hodges Penn State
Micah Hyde Iowa DB Johnny Adams Michigan State
Daimion Stafford Nebraska DB Darqueze Dennard Michigan State
Travis Howard Ohio State DB Josh Johnson Purdue
Bradley Roby Ohio State DB Devin Smith Wisconsin
Will Hagerup Michigan P Mike Sadler Michigan State

All-Big ten honorable mention honorees can be found here.

The Michigan Medley salutes the seniors of Team 133

Thursday, November 15th, 2012


They arrived in Ann Arbor four or five years ago, to a program in a state of flux that no incoming class had seen in nearly 40 years. Unlike last year’s graduating class, none came to Michigan under the old regime of Lloyd Carr prior to his retirement. The 18 [Edit: 23] players that will play their last game in Michigan Stadium on Saturday came to Michigan full of promise with a new coach. While the first couple years of their careers didn’t go as planned, they laid the groundwork for the resurgence of Michigan football that we have seen last season and this. While they still have two games left and a bowl game, let’s take a look back at the careers of each of Michigan’s graduating seniors.

#16 – Denard Robinson

No player has meant more to Michigan over the last four years than Denard Robinson. His career began with an electric 37-yard touchdown run against Western Michigan in 2009 and has produced enough highlight-reel plays and legendary performances to assure that he will go down as one of the greats to ever don the maize and blue.

Denard currently ranks fifth in career rushing yards, third in rushing touchdowns, fourth in 100-yard rushing games, sixth in pass completions, fourth in passing yards, fourth in passing touchdowns, and first in total yards in the Michigan record books. He also ranks first all-time in Big Ten rushing yards by a quarterback, third in NCAA career quarterback rushing yards, and seventh in Big Ten career total yards. If he’s able to play the final two games and bowl game, he will surely move up even higher in most of those categories.

He arrived in Michigan a soft-spoken kid and became the face of Michigan football through the roughest patch in the past 40 years. Even when Michigan was barely competitive, Denard gave us a reason not only to watch but to be excited. This August, he delivered the keynote speech at the Big Ten Media Day and serves as team captain. This is all the more remarkable considering that Rich Rodriguez was virtually the only major coach that wanted him as a quarterback.

Denard will remain a Michigan legend long after he plays his final game, whether or not his number gets official legends status.

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#32/11 – Jordan Kovacs

While Denard has been the face of the team and put up all the offensive stats over the past four years, Jordan Kovacs has been the face of the defense. And his story is even more improbable. A hardly recruited defensive back out of Clay High School in Ohio, Kovacs chose to walk on at Michigan instead of go to the only other school that showed any interest in him – Toledo.

In his first season, he was named to the CollegeFootballNews.com Freshman All-America second team and was named Sporting News Freshman All-Big Ten. As a redshirt sophomore he finished second in the Big Ten with 116 tackles and was named All-Big Ten honorable mention by the media. He also earned a scholarship. Last season, he was again named All-Big Ten honorable mention, and currently has 54 tackles through 10 games in his senior campaign. He also became a captain this season. From walk on to captain, he’s everything Rudy wasn’t.

Last weekend, Kovacs was awarded the Wistert brothers’ No. 11  legends jersey to wear for the remainder of his career. He has started 43 career games and has brought hard-nosed, high-energy defense every game. Every walk on from now on will aim to be the next Jordan Kovacs and he will be missed next season.

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#21 – Roy Roundtree

A skinny kid from Dayton, Ohio, Roy Roundtree committed to Rich Rodriguez on his first National Signing Day. After redshirting his freshman year, Roundtree led Michigan with 32 receptions for 434 yards and three touchdowns in 2009 while starting four games. He was named a CollegeFootballNews.com Freshman All-America honorable mention and Sporting News Freshman All-Big Ten. In 2010, he broke out with 72 catches for 935 yards and seven touchdowns. He ranked second in the Big Ten in yards and was named to the All-Big Ten second team by the media.

Last season, his production fell off considerably in Brady Hoke’s first season, but he provided one of the highlights of the season with the game-winning touchdown catch in Michigan’s improbable comeback against Notre Dame. This season, Roundtree has 20 receptions for 378 yards and one touchdown through 10 games, but no catch has been more important than the 53-yarder he hauled in in the final seconds last week against Northwestern to set up the game-tying field goal.

Although he won’t go down as one of the best receivers in Michigan history, he has shown a knack for big plays and won’t soon be forgotten. For the past two seasons, he has worn Desmond Howard’s No. 21 legends jersey, which was the first one given such status.

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#88 – Craig Roh

Craig Roh was a big pickup for Rich Rodriguez when he committed on Sept. 18, 2008. The seventh-ranked defensive end in the nation out of Scottsdale, Ariz. held offers from USC, Stanford, and Nebraska to name a few, but chose to make the journey east.

As a freshman in 2009, he recorded 37 tackles, 7.5 for loss, two sacks, and an interception, earning CollegeFootballNews.com Freshman All-America honorable mention honors, as well as Sporting News Freshman All-Big Ten. He upped his tackle numbers to 43 in 2010 and then was named All-Big Ten honorable mention by the media last season. He ranked second on the team with four sacks a year ago.

This season, he’s on pace for his best season yet with 37 tackles, 5.5 for loss, and four sacks through 10 games thus far. He has consistently represented Michigan well off the field and was named 2011 Academic All-Big Ten. He has started 48 consecutive games, 20 at linebacker, 26 at defensive end, and two at defensive tackle, showing his versatility and willingness to do what is needed to help the defense improve.

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#73 – William Campbell

Will Campbell was one of the most highly touted in recent memory, a consensus five-star defensive tackle. He arrive din Ann Arbor weighing 356 pounds and never lived up to the hype through his first three seasons. At one point in 2010, he moved to offensive line, but that was short lived when Hoke took over. As a senior, he has finally earned a starting spot and done well with 32 tackles and a sack so far.

#2 – Vincent Smith

The diminutive back from Pahokee, Fla. was recruited for Rodriguez’s system and had a promising freshman season with 48 carries for 276 yards and a touchdown, as well as 10 receptions for 82 yards and two touchdowns. He earned the starting job in 2010, carrying the ball 136 times for 601 yards and five touchdowns to go along with 15 receptions for 130 yards and two more TDs. When Hoke arrived, Smith lost the job as the starter, but became the third down back. Against Minnesota last season, he became the first player in program history to record a rushing touchdown, receiving touchdown, and passing touchdown in the same game. This season, he has just 24 carries for 67 yards and two touchdowns, but has always shown an ability to pick up yards when needed.

#57 – Elliott Mealer

Mealer’s road to Michigan was filled with heartache when a car accident killed his father and girlfriend and left his brother Brock permanently paralyzed. But he has overcome the tragedy with a solid career as a backup offensive lineman. This season, he earned the starting nod at center, replacing David Molk and may be best known for his mountain man beard.

#25 – Kenny Demens

Demens was a highly sought after linebacker recruit in the midwest in 2008 but chose to come to Michigan at a time when linebacker play was less than stellar. He grabbed a starting spot midway through the 2010 season and never looked back, helping to solidify a position that had been a weak point for a couple of years. He was the team’s third leading tackler as a sophomore with 82 tackles. Last season, he led the team with 94, earning All-Big Ten honorable mention honors from the coaches and media. This season, he currently ranks second on the team with 67 tackles and five for loss.

#52 – Ricky Barnum

Barnum spent his first couple of seasons as a reserve offensive lineman before coming onto the scene a year ago. He started three games at left guard and finally earned a true starting spot this season, starting all 10 games thus far.

#65 – Patrick Omameh

Omameh has started 39 consecutive games at right guard over the last three seasons while being named Academic All-Big Ten twice. He was also one of 11 players nationally to be named to the AllState AFCA Good Works Team for his regular visits to Mott Children’s Hospital.

#8 – J.T. Floyd

Floyd wasn’t highly ranked coming out of high school, but has been a fixture in the Michigan secondary for the past three seasons, starting 32 games at cornerback and playing in 40. In 2010, he finished sixth in the conference in tackles per game, and last season he was named All-Big Ten honorable mention. This year, he has 29 tackles so far for the nation’s top-rated pass defense. He has recorded three career interceptions and two career forced fumbles.

#89/87 – Brandon Moore

Moore hails from the same high school as Roundtree and former Wolverine Michael Shaw and came to Michigan as the nation’s eight-best tight end. He has been mostly a special teams player throughout his career, but has recorded two receptions for 28 yards. On Sept. 15, he was given Ron Kramer’s No. 87 legends jersey to wear for the remainder of the season.

#7 – Brandin Hawthorne

Hawthorne came to Michigan from Pahokee, Fla. as a three-star player and has spent the majority of his career on special teams. Last season, he started five games, recording 43 tackles, three for loss, and one sack. So far this season, he has 14 tackles, seven of which came against UMass.

Other seniors who will be playing their last games in Michigan Stadium are #14 Jack Kennedy, #20 Steve Wilson, #23 Floyd Simmons, #31 Paul Gyarmati, and #81 Mike Kwiatkowski. [Edit: Also, Al Backey, Nathan Brink, Seth Broekhuizen, Curt Garman, and Charlie Zeller].

Make sure to get into the stadium early on Saturday to salute each of these Michigan men for their hard work an dedication of the last four or five years. Give them a standing ovation to thank them for coming in during tumultuous times, sticking it out, and helping turn the program around.

2012 preview: the defense

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012


When Brady Hoke took over in January 2011, he stressed that his team would be tougher and would get back to playing Michigan football. He inherited a very talented offense, but it was the defensive side of the ball that would make or break the season. Hoke hired Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison to lead the charge and it was the first indication that Hoke was the right man for the job.

Mattison had a tall task at hand, trying to turn one of the worst defenses in Michigan history into something resembling a Michigan defense of the past. But he had years of experience at the highest levels to draw from, including a stint as Michigan’s defensive coordinator in 1995-96, erecting what would become a year later one of the greatest defenses college football has ever seen.

All he did was transform a team that allowed 35.2 points and 450.8 total yards per game the previous year into the nation’s 17th-best total defense and sixth-best scoring defense, giving up just 17.4 points and 322.2 yards per game. Even the most die-hard of Michigan fans didn’t see that coming.

With the majority of starters returning this season, and an offense expected to take a leap forward, is there any room for the defense to improve on last year? Let’s examine the players who will man the Michigan defense.

Defensive Line

#73 – William Campbell
Games/Starts Tackles TFL Sacks FF FR
38/0 19 3.5 2 0 1
#55 – Jibreel Black
Games/Starts Tackles TFL Sacks FF FR
26/0 25 1.5 1.5 1 0
#88 – Craig Roh
Games/Starts Tackles TFL Sacks FF FR
38/38 112 21 6.5 3 0
#97 – Brennen Beyer
Games/Starts Tackles TFL Sacks FF FR
11/0 11 0 0 0 0

Projected Starters: DT William Campbell, DT Jibreel Black, DE Craig Roh, DE Brennen Beyer

By far, the biggest question on defense is the line. The graduation of the big three – Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen, and Will Heininger – leave the Wolverines with just one player who has started a game on the line. That player is senior Craig Roh who has started every single game since he arrived in Ann Arbor four years ago.

This season, Roh is switching from weak-side to strong-side to fill the spot vacated by Van Bergen. Roh has put on about 20 pounds to get his weight up to 281, slightly less than what Van Bergen played at. He says it’s a more natural fit and he’ll need to have the same impact that RVB did for Michigan’s defense to be successful.

On the other side will be sophomore Brennen Beyer who is also new at the position. He played in 11 games at linebacker last season and is now taking over the weak-side end position. He was in a battle with Frank Clark for the spot, but Clark’s legal woes opened the door for Beyer.

In the middle, senior William Campbell’s time has finally come. He arrived at Michigan as a hyped-up five-star, but has disappointed so far. This offseason, he has trimmed down to a slim 308 pounds and has drawn praise from the coaches for his improvement and leadership. It’s probably too much to expect him to perform to Martin’s level, but if he can clog the middle well enough, it will go a long way towards forging a tough defensive line.

Joining Campbell is Jibreel Black, a junior who hasn’t yet started a game but has played in 26 career games. The last two seasons, he was a reserve defensive end, but Hoke asked him to add weight and move to the 3-tech position to replace Heininger. It has been a bit of an adjustment, moving from outside to inside, but after bulking up to 279, he still hasn’t lost his quickness.

“He’ll be the most quick 3-tech you’ll see in the Big Ten this year,” said left tackle Taylor Lewan.

If that’s the case, he’s in for a big year, but we’ll find out from the start when he goes up against what will likely be the best offensive line in the nation in week one.

Backups: The aforementioned Frank Clark is in line for major playing time at defensive end, but it largely depends on the outcome of his legal troubles. His pretrial date is Sept. 11 and it’s hard to imagine he’ll see the field before then. If and when he does, he’ll be a valuable asset. He played in 12 games as a freshman last season, recorded 10 tackles, and picked off a pass in the Sugar Bowl to set up Michigan’s second touchdown.

Richard Ash is a is a big bodied sophomore waiting to fill in in the middle. Freshman Ondre Pipkins is another. Pipkins was the subject of a scare last week when he had an apparent neck injury in practice and was taken to the hospital. It turned out to be nothing more than a stinger and he was back at practice a few days later. Both he and Ash have drawn praise throughout camp. Quinton Washington is another guy who will rotate in. He has about a dozen games worth of experience in his career.

Linebackers

#90 – Jake Ryan
Games/Starts Tackles TFL Sacks FF FR
13/11 37 11 3 1 2
#25 – Kenny Demens
Games/Starts Tackles TFL Sacks FF FR
38/20 13 80 0 80 0
#44 – Desmond Morgan
Games/Starts Tackles TFL Sacks FF FR
12/7 63 4 1 0 1

Projected Starters: SAM (strong-side) Jake Ryan, MIKE (middle) Kenny Demens, WILL (weak-side) Desmond Morgan

For the first time in years heading into the season linebacker will be a position of strength for the Michigan defense. It helps that the guys playing the position were recruited as linebackers rather than as defensive backs and converted to linebacker.

The leader is senior middle linebacker Kenny Demens. An All-Big Ten honorable mention performer last season, Demens became a stalwart in the middle. He had his share of struggles in his first year in Greg Mattison’s defense, but became more consistent as the year went on. This year, with a full understanding of the defense and a lighter frame, he should thrive.

Jake Ryan had a good season as a redshirt freshman last year and is poised to break out in 2012. He made 11 tackles for loss last season and added 12 pounds since then to help him shed more blocks.

Desmond Morgan will get the nod at the weak-side spot. He impressed as a true freshman in 2011 and despite being slightly undersized has a great football mind. Better consistency should be expected this season with a year under his belt.

Backups: Most of the backups that will play key roles are freshmen, but before we get to them, let’s talk about a couple of upperclassmen who have experience. Redshirt junior Cameron Gordon and senior Brandin Hawthorne both have plenty of experience. Gordon is a journeyman who went from receiver to safety to linebacker. He has played in 20 career games, starting 13. He has enough athleticism to give Michigan a solid backup to Ryan. Hawthorne is also a converted safety with good playmaking ability.

A host of freshmen will push for time. Joe Bolden, who enrolled early and participated in spring practice, will see snaps at middle linebacker. He has great football instincts and great potential. Kaleb Ringer and James Ross will likely push for action at weak-side linebacker to spell Morgan. Ringer also enrolled early and has a ton of potential. Ross will likely redshirt but you never know.

Secondary

Projected Starters: CB Blake Countess, CB J.T. Floyd, FS Thomas Gordon, SS Jordan Kovacs

#18 – Blake Countess
Games/Starts Tackles TFL Sacks PBU INT FF FR
12/6 44 1.5 0 6 0 1 0
#8 – J.T. Floyd
Games/Starts Tackles TFL Sacks PBU INT FF FR
31/22 131 2 0 13 3 2 0
#32 – Jordan Kovacs
Games/Starts Tackles TFL Sacks PBU INT FF FR
37/33 266 21 5 2 4 5 2
#30 – Thomas Gordon
Games/Starts Tackles TFL Sacks PBU INT FF FR
22/14 90 5.5 2 2 1 2 4

Michigan was known for putting out great defensive backs throughout the 90s and early 2000s, but the past few years have been a letdown due to a combination of injuries, poor recruiting, and attrition. This year, Michigan enters the season with the secondary full of veterans.

The leader is obviously Jordan Kovacs. You know his story – from walk-on to four-year starter. He’s on several preseason awards watch lists and has defied logic his entire career. He’s sure to be a team captain when Hoke announces them. He’s a great tackler, he’s smart, and he loves to blitz and disrupt the quarterback.

Thomas Gordon has started 14 games and is a hard-hitting safety who recovered a Big Ten-best four fumbles last season. He was the team’s third-leading tackler a year ago.

At the cornerback spot, Blake Countess is a rising star. He grabbed the starting job as a true freshman last year and had a great season all things considered. He struggled down the stretch against Ohio State and Virginia Tech, but the experience should help him grow this season.

J.T. Floyd has started 22 games and is the most veteran cornerback on the team. He had a surprisingly good season last year and will look to cap off a pretty good career this season.

Backups: Marvin Robinson and Jarrod Wilson are the main backups at safety. Robinson came in with a lot of hype but has yet to make his mark. Wilson is a freshman who, like Bolden and Ringer, enrolled early. He has a lot of upside even if he doesn’t see the field much this season. Josh Furman is also an option, though like Robinson, hasn’t lived up to his recruiting hype to date.

At cornerback, Courtney Avery, Raymon Taylor, and Delonte Hollowell are the main players. Avery started some games two years ago before the new coaching staff came in, so he’s a pretty good third option. Taylor and Hollowell don’t have much experience – just spot duty last year – but could develop into decent corners in the next couple of years.

For continued coverage of our season preview series, make sure to come back each day this week.

TomorrowRecord Watch
FridaySchedule Predictions

Fall practice primer

Monday, August 6th, 2012


The season opener against Alabama is 26 days away, but today Michigan begins its final preparations as Team 133 hits the field for fall camp. Freshmen reported on Saturday and veterans on Sunday as the team takes the field today for the first of 29 practices. With 15 returning starters most starting spots are locked up, but some questions undoubtedly remain to be answered over the next four weeks. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Position battles:

Left guard

The main position battle offensively is at left guard, which was vacated by the graduation of Mark Hugye. Taylor Lewan, Ricky Barnum, Patrick Omameh and Michael Schofield are solidified are all set (though Barnum is moving from guard to center and Schofield from left guard to right tackle), but who will be the final member of the unit?

The battle for starting left guard is one to watch in fall camp

The battle is between walk-on Joey Burzynski and redshirt senior Elliot Mealer. With such an experienced other four, especially at a school like Michigan that has made a name for itself churning out offensive linemen, it’s somewhat unfathomable that a walk-on could be the fifth starter, but Burzynski impressed throughout the spring. He earned the starting spot for the spring game and Brady Hoke came away impressed.

“Joey worked hard. Joy’s got some leverage naturally that’s pretty good,” Hoke said. “He’s smart, he’s tough, so as they come into camp, it’ll be interesting. He’s got good fundamentals, good techniques. He’s got nice leverage. He’s a pain, which is good.”

Although Burzynski won the job in the spring, don’t count out Mealer as he has more in-game experience, having played in 37 career games.

The wild card in the equation is incoming freshman Kyle Kalis. The five-star from Lakewood, Ohio will get a chance to win the starting spot. No Michigan freshman has started on the line since Justin Boren in 2006, and here’s to hoping that if Kalis does start this season he doesn’t go the same route Boren did.

Offensive line is a position that almost always requires a redshirt season, not only to add pounds and strength but to learn what it takes to be a college lineman.

“You have to black all these different defenses, and know what our numbering system is, what our rules are – that’s a monster for a young guy,” said offensive coordinator Al Borges. “Some handle it better than others, and obviously, the ones that do are the ones that play faster. There’s not enough time in the day to tell you the challenges a young player has to come in and play on the offensive line.”

Defensive line

Craig Roh is the lone returning starter on the defensive line

The second question is who will replace Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen and Will Heininger on the defensive line? William Campbell likely has one tackle spot wrapped up but will he finally live up to the expectations he arrived in Ann Arbor with? Of course Craig Roh will start at defensive end as the line’s only returning starter. He beefed up to 278 pounds to switch to the strong-side, taking over Van Bergen’s spot. With 38 consecutive starts, Roh will be the leader of the group.

The main questions arise at the other two spots. Jibreel Black should get the nod at the other tackle spot, moving over from weak-side end. He’s up from 260 to 276 and is still working to add more weight. The weak-side end spot was to be a battle between Frank Clark and Brennen Beyer, but Clark’s legal woes look to keep him out of at least a game or two. Beyer played in nine games last year as a reserve linebacker but is transitioning to the end spot and Clark’s troubles raise the pressure for him. Lewan has been impressed with Beyer’s play throughout the spring.

“His technique has gotten a lot better,” Lewan said. “As an offensive tackle, you don’t want to get your shoulders turned, and he’s done a nice job of getting the tackles’ shoulders turned. I think he’s made a lot of gains.”

If and when Clark returns, he’ll be an instant help for the line. He’s a great athlete for the defensive end spot and made his presence felt in the Sugar Bowl when he recorded five tackles and picked off a pass to set up Michigan’s first touchdown.

Quinton Washington and incoming freshman Ondre Pipkins will also figure in to the middle of the line. Washington, a redshirt junior, is the kind of big body the defense needs and came into spring in better shape than ever. If he can carry that into the fall, he’ll surely earn some time. Pipkins is a highly-rated tackle and the only question is how early he works his way into the rotation.

Receiver

Devin Gardner will see time at receiver; the question is how much?

The final major position battle is at receiver. Roy Roundtree and Jeremy Gallon are locked in, but who will emerge alongside them? The most intriguing storyline will be how much Devin Gardner factors in. He was the talk of spring practice as rumors swirled, but Hoke and Borges downplayed it all spring. But in Big Ten Media Days last week, Hoke left the door open.

“We’ve got a chance to get Devin on the field as a wide receiver some because of his athleticism, and he’s a big guy,” Hoke said. “We’ve got all kinds of different things we look for with Devin.”

And how has he handled the adjustment from quarterback to receiver thus far?

“He handled it well,” Hoke said. “He’s a competitor, he wants to play and we all want to play. He also has grown. If he can help the team wherever, he’s figuring that out.”

As far as true receivers, Jerald Robinson was the starter in the spring game. He has yet to catch a pass thus far in his career, but he turned a lot of heads with his performance and consistency in spring practice. Jeremy Jackson has good size for a receiver but has caught just seven passes in his career.

The two incoming freshmen will also get a chance to earn some playing time. Amara Darboh already has the body to play right away, coming in at 6’2″, 218 pounds. Jehu Chesson is more of a speedster, having won the Missouri Class 4 state title in the 100-meter dash and 300-meter hurdles last year. At 6’3″, 180, he’s pretty thin but his straightline speed will make him a downfield threat. It’s safe to bet that at least one of the two will win some time as the fall progresses.

Other questions:

• A lot of talk in the spring centered around Denard’s progression. How much has his passing technique actually improved, and how will his second year in Borges’ offense increase his comfortability and production?

• Can Thomas Rawls ease concerns about the starting running back spot given Fitz Toussaint’s legal troubles?

• Freshman Joe Bolden enrolled early and participated in spring ball. How soon will he make an impact at linebacker?

• How will the Navy SEAL training pay off in Michigan’s preparation, conditioning and leadership?

All those and more will be played out over the next 26 days, and by the time Team 133 sets foot on the Cowboys Stadium turf on Sept. 1 Hoke will have the team ready to make a title run against the defending national champs. Stay tuned for more coverage throughout fall camp.

The Michigan Medley talks Denard’s character and legends jerseys

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012


Denard’s speech

From his first snap in a winged helmet, Denard Robinson has provided one highlight-reel play, record breaking performance, and thrilling moment after another. He has amassed a career that will go down as one of the greatest ever by a Michigan player and perhaps the best by a dual-threat quarterback in the history of college football. But what typically gets lost in the hype surrounding his speed and his shoelaces is his humility.

Earlier in the spring, he approached Michigan sports information director Justin Dickens about giving the keynote speech at the Big Ten luncheon. He wanted to conquer his fear of public speaking. Dickens set up a practice run in front of a few hundred school children in New York City and Robinson poured his heart into it.

He delivered the keynote speech at the luncheon last week opened up more than ever before. You can read the full transcript here, but below is a selection quotes that reveal the character of Michigan’s signal-caller.

“What you may not know is I was so self-conscious about the area I grew up in that I used to hold recruiting visits at my grandparents’ house. What you may not know is that I was not even the best athlete in my neighborhood, but I was one of the ones who made it out. Why? Choices.”
“Where I came from, it was easy to do the wrong thing, quit school, do drugs, live the street life. It’s tough to do the right things. You may not know my freshman year of high school I was ineligible to play spring football because of my grades. It would have been easy for me to give up and fall into what all the other students were doing. But it was my choice to be different. To be uncommon.”
“When Coach [Brady] Hoke came in, he didn’t guarantee me anything. All I had was the opportunity to continue to play quarterback. For that, I want to say thank you, Coach.”
“Character is who you are when no one else is watching. It’s easy when you know the camera is on us to do the right thing but it may be tougher at other times. This year, because of that, I became aware of how big our platform can be. I met the President of the United States and I met LeBron James and they both knew who I was.”
“My motto is: It’s my goal to make somebody’s day every day. With this platform, we have that opportunity, an opportunity to make a difference. Tough choices don’t stop. Trust me, I’m not perfect. Just ask Coach Hoke. I drive you crazy way too often, right Coach?”
“I mentioned earlier that I lost my brother. I promised him that one day I would provide for our family so that they wouldn’t struggle anymore. I have a feeling that I’m on my way, but I’m not there yet. Like I said, I was so self-conscious of where I came from, but today I realized I’m blessed and I embrace it. Where I came from helped me become who I am today. And it shows it doesn’t matter where you come from, anything is possible. That is the message I want to carry over.”

It seems that every day we are inundated with offseason stories about players getting in trouble with the law. The growth by Denard that is beginning to be made known is refreshing. For an athlete of his talent and popularity to come from where he did and be mature enough to talk about making the right choices, using his platform for good, and making people’s day, it certainly makes one happy to have him representing the Maize and Blue.

If you missed it, you can watch the full speech here.

Legends jerseys

Last season, the football program kicked off a new tradition of honoring Michigan football greats with legends jerseys, which will not be retired, but will feature a patch. Junior Hemingway got to wear the first one, Desmond Howard’s number 21.

This spring, Michigan announced that it will honor Gerald Ford’s 48, Ron Kramer’s 87, and Bennie Oosterbaan’s 47. The question that remains is which current players, if any, will don these numbers this season? Roy Roundtree switched from his 12 to the 21 that was left behind by Hemingway’s departure, but when Hoke was asked when he will decide who will wear the other three, he simply replied, “Sometime, in the future. We’ll see.”

There are several schools of thought on determining which players get to wear the jerseys. Do only seniors get to wear one or can a player who has a great freshman season wear it for his final three seasons? Do they have to play the same position as the legend? What happens if a player is becoming a legend of his own, but wants to wear a designated legends jersey? What number will he ultimately be remembered for?

One thing is for sure: the numbers won’t just be handed out on a whim. Hoke will talk with each player who is worthy of wearing a legends jersey and make sure they understand what it means and the responsibility that comes with it.

Ron Kramer's number will be designated a legends jersey during the UMass game on Sept. 15 (photo from Bentley Historical Library)

My take: it should be an upperclassman. I’m okay with a junior wearing a legends jersey for two years as long as he has done enough to earn it in his first two seasons. There should also be an off the field aspect to it – if he does anything that will disgrace the jersey, he either can’t earn it or can lose it. I also think  it should remain at the same position as the legend. The problem with that is Ford’s 48. Under current NCAA rules, an offensive lineman – the position Ford played – cannot wear 48. In that instance, I think it would be okay to give it to another deserving player.

As for this season, there’s only one that I think should be given out, and it’s not the one you think. Many feel that Jordan Kovacs should wear either Oosterbaan’s 47 or Ford’s 48, but I disagree. Kovacs has made a name for himself in the number 32. His story is well known by now, from walk-on to all-Big Ten. If he has another all-Big Ten season this year or even makes All-American, he could someday have a legends jersey of his own. Switching numbers at this point seems counterproductive. Keep 47 and 48 in the bag this season and give Kramer’s 87 to Craig Roh.

Kramer was a two-time All-American at Michigan and played several positions including defensive end. He was most known for his play as a tight end, which he played in the NFL, but with no current Michigan tight ends fitting the mold for the jersey this season, Roh makes the most sense. He hasn’t achieved nearly the success of Kramer, but to wear the number, he doesn’t have to. He has started 38 consecutive games, was named All-Big Ten honorable mention last season, and was named Academic All-Big Ten a year ago. He has also stayed out of trouble off the field. He hasn’t made a name for the number 88 like Kovacs has with his, so switching to Kramer’s 87 won’t cause any confusion. Oosterbaan’s 47 could work as well, since he also played defensive end, but it can’t be worn by a defensive end under current NCAA rules.

So if 47 and 48 aren’t given out this season, is anybody on the current team in contention for them next season? Both would have to be either backs or kickers to be within the rules. Prior to Fitz Toussaint’s DUI last week, I would have said he should be in the running for 48 next season if he has another strong season this year, but now that should be out the window. The only one that could be a possibility is Brendan Gibbons if he has a big season. A year ago, that would have been unthinkable, but his clutch performance in the Sugar Bowl should at least put him in the conversation to earn one his senior season.

Are there any players on the current team that could receive legend status? Aside from Kovacs if he has a huge season, the obvious choice is Denard Robinson. If he leads Michigan to a Big Ten title and wins the Heisman, it should be a no-brainer. Number 16 should be give the legend treatment for Michigan quarterbacks. Should it still be deemed so if he doesn’t win the Heisman? I’m still iffy on that, but I lean towards yes if he has another great season. He’ll likely finish in the top five in all passing and rushing categories in Michigan history. He’ll also be the Big Ten’s all-time leading rushing quarterback and possibly the nation’s as well.

FORECAST FRIDAY: Gator Bowl, Michigan vs. Mississippi State

Friday, December 31st, 2010


Bowl season used to be one day to look forward to while ringing in the new year with friends, family, and if you’re fortunate, watching your favorite team play an opponent it doesn’t typically play in a warm and sunny spot you wish you were in. These days, we don’t even get a break in between the last game of the regular season and a watered down slate of games you really don’t care to watch but watch anyway because your only other viewing options are Glee or reruns of House.

Michigan vs. #21 Mississippi State
Block M logo

Saturday, Jan. 1, 2011 – 1:30 p.m. ET – ESPN2
7-5 Record 8-4
UConn 30-10
Notre Dame 28-24
UMass 42-37
Bowling Green 65-21
Indiana 42-35
Illinois 67-65 (3OT)
Purdue 27-16
Wins Memphis 49-7
Georgia 24-12
Alcorn State 49-16
Houston 47-24
#22 Florida 10-7
UAB 29-24
Kentucky 24-17
Mississippi 31-23
#17 Mich. St. 17-34
#15 Iowa 28-38
Penn State 31-41
#7 Wisconsin 28-48
#8 Ohio State 7-37
Losses #21 Auburn 14-17
#15 LSU 7-29
#12 Alabama 10-30
#13 Arkansas 31-38 2OT
34.3 Scoring Offense 27.1
251.1 Rushing YPG 215.8
249.8 Passing YPG 178.6
500.9 Total Offense 394.3
33.8 Scoring Defense 20.3
187.7 Rush Defense YPG 121.7
260.2 Pass Defense YPG 236.4
447.9 Total Defense YPG 358.1
18 Takeaways 26
27 Giveaways 20
17 Sacks By 26
11 Sacks Allowed 22
75/162 (46%) Third-down Conv. 81/179 (45%)
4/13 Field Goals 12/18
36.7 Net Punt Avg. 38.2

And so it is that we’ve finally arrived at that one day of the year where college football takes precedence over everything else and we Michigan fans get to watch a game we’ve been looking forward to since that brutal game on November 27.

Tomorrow’s matchup with No. 21 Mississippi State takes on added significance after Michigan’s two-year absence from post-season play and the fate of Head Coach Rich Rodriguez hanging in the balance.

Michigan always plays well against SEC teams (20-5-1 all-time and 7-3 in bowl games), but as we’ve learned the past three seasons, this isn’t the Michigan of old anymore.

That could spell doom for Rodriguez, but I don’t think the outcome of Saturday’s game will factor into his fate, and that’s the last thing I’ll say about the coaching situation.

Perhaps the most important factor for Michigan is the health of Denard Robinson who, by all accounts, is as healthy as he has been all season. He struggled late in the season when he was banged up and didn’t seem to have the same burst he displayed early in the season. But Saturday he’ll be healthy and playing in the warm and sunny weather of his home state of Florida.

Mississippi State is an interesting study. It’s a team that hung tough with Auburn and Arkansas, but didn’t really beat anybody good all season and barely survived 4-8 UAB. In other words, its season is reminiscent of Michigan’s.

The strength of the Bulldogs is the defense, led by linebacker Chris White, an all-SEC first team defender who gets the task of trying to slow down Robinson.

In week two, White and the Bulldog defense held Heisman winner Cam Newton to his worst performance of the season. Auburn won 17-14, but Newton completed just 11-of-19 passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns and rushed 18 times for 70 yards (3.9 yards per carry).

Head Coach Dan Mullen hopes to replicate that performance against Michigan on Saturday, but what give me hope is that performance was a long time ago. In the last five games, MSU’s defense gave up an average of 26.4 points per game. That’s good news for Michigan since the Bulldog offense doesn’t exactly light up the scoreboards, ranking in the middle of the pack nationally in points scored.

Offensively, the Bulldogs’ best player is tackle Derek Sherrod, a second-team All-American who figures to be a first round draft pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. He has helped pave the way for the nation’s 16th-best rush offense, but his line has also allowed 22 sacks. An interesting matchup to watch will be Michigan’s defensive line against Sherrod and company. Can Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen, and Craig Roh pressure quarterback Chris Relf or get into the backfield to disrupt the run game? If so, it will help Michigan’s young and oft-maligned secondary.

Mississippi State’s pass offense is it’s weakness, ranking 91st in the nation with just 178.6 yards per game. Much of that has to do with the strength of its running game, but Relf ranks 52nd nationally in pass efficiency, just behind Indiana’s Ben Chappell.

Expect the Bulldogs to pound the ball on the ground and try to keep Michigan’s offense off the field, much like Wisconsin did, except out of a spread similar to Illinois’ (and Michigan’s for that matter). That could play into Michigan’s hands since the defense goes up against a similar style offense in practice every day.

Robinson warms up during practice in Jacksonville

According to Rodriguez, Michigan should get junior receiver Martavious Odoms back from a foot injury that has sidelined him since the Michigan State game. If he really is healthy enough to play at full speed, that will help Michigan both in the run and pass game. Odoms is the most experienced wideout on the team,with sure hands, and despite his small frame, is a great blocking receiver to set up Robinson’s runs.

Also healthy is Michigan’s best offensive lineman, center David Molk who missed time in the last few games with a foot injury. His presence will help combat White and MSU linemen Pernell McPhee, Josh Boyd, and Fletcher Cox.

The strength of the Bulldog rush defense and weakness of its pass defense leads me to believe Michigan will look to pass a little more than usual. Rodriguez loves to run to open up the pass, but a couple shots downfield early on could open up the running lanes for Robinson and backs Michael Shaw and Vincent Smith and keep the safeties from creeping up. In the last five games, MSU gave up 257 yards per game through the air, which is almost exactly what Michigan’s secondary has allowed this season.

Three Predictions:

1. Denard has more rushing yards AND more passing yards than Cam Newton did against Mississippi State

2. Michigan’s defense turns in one of  its best performances of the season

3. Roy Roundtree eclipses 1,000 yards for the season

Overall, I think the game rests solely in the hands of Robinson. If the Robinson of the first half of the season shows up, Michigan will be in good shape. If the Robinson of the second half shows up, it will be a long day. The absence of Tate Forcier, who was ruled academically ineligible yesterday makes the health of Robinson of utmost importance. Freshman Devin Gardner, who was the first QB off the bench in the season opener against UConn, would be the backup, but it would mean burning his medical redshirt that Rodriguez hopes will keep him two years behind Robinson and Forcier.

As long as Robinson doesn’t get banged up, I think Michigan will be able to score around 30 points, which should be enough to beat the Bulldogs. And then the real waiting begins.

Michigan 31 – Mississippi State 27

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

Monday, November 22nd, 2010


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forecast Friday: UM Looks to Springboard Into Big Ten Slate

Friday, September 24th, 2010


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What to watch for:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction

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

Michigan 48 – Bowling Green 23

From Their View…

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

_________________________________________________________________________________

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

Wolverine Wednesday: The Difference a Year Makes

Thursday, September 16th, 2010


Around this time last year, I wrote this, questioning whether it was time to expand Denard Robinson’s role in the offense. Now, just two weeks into the 2010 season, he’s a human Heisman.

Denard doing his Heisman thing, photo by Sam Wolson / The Michigan Daily

Denard doing his best Heisman pose (photo by Sam Wolson / The Michigan Daily)

I’ll be the first to tell you I didn’t expect Robinson’s development to happen this fast, but even in that article after last year’s Iowa loss, it was less about his future as a quarterback, and more about utilizing his athletic ability given where his development was at the time.

Now that he has, to borrow a phrase from the Fab Five, “shocked the world” with his play during the first two weeks of the season, leading the nation in rushing yards and total offense, and vaulting to the top of the list of Heisman Trophy candidates, it seems absolutely ridiculous to think of him anywhere else but lined up behind the center.

While Robinson has captured the attention of the nation, he certainly has his detractors who say there’s no way he can keep it up through the grind of the Big Ten schedule. He’ll end up getting hurt from all the pounding he takes. He still hasn’t proved he can pass.

Those are all legitimate claims and only time will tell whether they ring true or not, but one thing is for certain: Rich Rodriguez has his man.

To be honest, I still haven’t even figured out what happened in South Bend on Saturday.  I think @cjane87 said it best: “I have had every single emotion over the last four hours.”

The game started out ominously with Notre Dame quarterback Dayne Crist leading the Irish down the field for a touchdown. Michigan responded with a punt. But then instead of Crist coming back out on to the field it was freshman Tommy Rees who proceeded to throw an interception on his second play, and Michigan took advantage with a 31-yard touchdown pass from Robinson to Roy Roundtree. Just like that it was 7-7.

Jonas Mouton's first quarter interception led to Michigan's first touchdown of the game, photo by the Ann Arbor News

Jonas Mouton's first quarter interception led to Michigan's first touchdown of the game (photo by the Ann Arbor News)

From that point through the rest of the half, the inept combination of Rees and fellow freshman Nate Montana allowed Michigan to pull ahead 21-7. At that point, I was feeling good about the way things were going, but knew for sure that Notre Dame was going to come back.

Sure enough, the momentum swung back to the Irish as Crist returned to bring the Irish back, and ultimately hit tight end Kyle Rudolph for a 95-yard touchdown to take the lead with just 3:41 remaining. At that point, I may have sworn at the thought of my wife jumping up and down. She’s a Notre Dame fan, and I was out of town for the weekend on a business trip, thankfully.

In retrospect, the quick strike was a blessing for Michigan and served as fuel for the growing wildfire that is Denard Robinson. Unlike the Iowa game last season when Robinson had the chance to lead the offense down the field for the win, but instead threw this (at 2:12), Robinson was fully in command and marched the Wolverines on a 12-play, 72-yard scoring drive that ate 3:14 off the clock and sealed the Michigan win.

Just three minutes after NBC announcer Tom Hammond proclaimed that Rudolph’s go-ahead touchdown would go down as one of the greats in Notre Dame lore, Robinson created his own history, becoming the first Michigan quarterback to win his first start in South Bend since Jim Harbaugh in 1986.

That list includes Steven Threet in 2008, Chad Henne in 2004, John Navarre in 2002, Tom Brady in 1998, Todd Collins in 1992, Elvis Grbac in 1990, and Michael Taylor in 1988. In other words: most of the best quarterbacks in Michigan history couldn’t do what Robinson did on Saturday.

Robinson proved he has what it takes to lead the team down the field for the win, not just with his feet, but through the air as well. He hit Roundtree with a perfect pass to the two-yard line to set up the winning score. He actually went 5-6 on that drive for 55 yards and only rushed for 17 yards.

Notre Dame fans will always argue that if Crist had played the entire game, Notre Dame would have won. They may have an argument there and I may have to agree with them, but the cruel nature of the game is dealing with injuries, and Michigan has faced its far share of them this season as well.

After a rocky first game, Tate Forcier was in full support of Robinson against Notre Dame (photo by John T. Greilick / the Detroit News)

After a rocky first game, Tate Forcier was in full support of Robinson against Notre Dame (photo by John T. Greilick / the Detroit News)

In the same breath that an ND fan can say that, a Michigan fan can say that Rudolph never would have gotten open down field had Troy Woolfolk not suffered a season-ending ankle injury in fall practice.

The fact of the matter is, Michigan won for the second straight year and fourth time in the past five years.

The schedule sets up perfectly for a 5-0 start before another rival, Michigan State, invades the Big House.

We’ll get a good look at MSU this Saturday night as they host Notre Dame.

An ideal scenario for Michigan this week and next is to jump out to an early lead on UMass and Bowling Green, letting the starters play through the first half and possibly into the third quarter before giving way to the backups.

It would be great to get last year’s Notre Dame hero, Tate Forcier, some playing time, as well as freshman Devin Gardner.

Over/Under

Yeah, so I was wrong with my prediction that Notre Dame would win. Don’t call me a sell-out for picking against the Wolverines. As I said in the pick, I desperately want Michigan to win, but have to put bias aside when making my picks. I was only three off Michigan’s point total, but 13 under Notre Dame’s.

For the season, I’m 10 over for Michigan and 34 over for the opponents. I guess I should start respecting defenses, huh?
I Said What?

“The combination of Michigan’s defense this year and Notre Dame’s offense virtually requires Michigan’s offense to score 35-plus points if it wants to win this game.”

If Crist had played the entire game, maybe, but I was a touchdown too pessimistic. (-1)

“While you can’t look at the time of possession alone to determine the outcome of a game, it can certainly go a long way toward helping you win the game.”

Final time of possession: Michigan 34:09, Notre Dame 25:51. Michigan had the ball for just over eight minutes more than Notre Dame. Part of that was due to the 95-yard touchdown pass from Crist to Rudolph, allowing Michigan to put together a game-winning drive while eating the clock, but nevertheless, Notre Dame had just three drives of more than five plays the entire game. (+1)

“Two years ago in South Bend, Michigan lost four fumbles in the rainy conditions and lost 35-17. The weather forecast calls for similar conditions this Saturday, so whichever team takes better care of the ball could be the one that wins.”

The rain held off, but Michigan protected the ball for the second straight week. The only miscue was a fumble by Robinson in the first quarter, but Michigan recovered. On the flip side, Michigan picked off three Notre Dame passes, one of which directly lead to Michigan’s first touchdown of the game. (+1)

“The defense has to employ the bend-but-don’t-break attitude that it used last week, making Notre Dame work to get the ball down the field, rather than making big plays.”

Eh, not so much. The Crist injury may have contributed to Michigan’s success in the first half, but the big plays certainly did happen: A 37-yard pass at the end of the first half, which should have lead to three points, but Brian Kelly chose to go for the touchdown; a 53-yard touchdown pass early in the third quarter; and Rudolph’s 95-yard romp for the go-ahead touchdown. Three big plays that lead to 14 (should have been 17) points. All things considered, that’s a success against one of the most talented passing games Michigan will face all season. (-1)

“Michigan’s lines dominated UConn last week on both sides of the ball. There’s nothing to suggest it can’t do the same this week, as Notre Dame has a very young and inexperienced offensive line.”

Michigan didn’t exactly dominate Notre Dame’s offensive line, getting just one sack, though as MGoBlog points out, when Mike Martin and Craig Roh weren’t being double-teamed, they did this, this, and this.

The offensive line did well to not allow a sack for the second straight game and pave the way for Robinson to run for 258 yards. (+1)

So hey, three out of five isn’t bad.

We Can Always Use More Denard

WolverineWatchDenardvsPryor

A new addition to Maize & Go Blue is the Wolverine Watch, which is housed on the right sidebar. Currently, it features a side-by-side comparison of Robinson and Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, as seen above. It will be updated after every game for the entire season to show where the two stand in comparison.

If other Wolverines break out, they will be added to the Watch next to one of the Big Ten’s best at that position. Right now, the only one I could foresee is Roundtree if he continues his pace from the last few games of last season and has more games like his performance on Saturday (eight catches for 82 yards and a touchdown).

Go Blue!

Forecast Friday: Can Michigan Silence the Echoes in South Bend?

Friday, September 10th, 2010


Notre Dame week has become a tough one for me in the past few years. I grew up hating Notre Dame even more than Ohio State, cheering their every loss and hoping they never awoke the echoes. Then I met my wife. She’s a die-hard Notre Dame fan (and so is her entire family). UM-ND house divided

At first, I tried to bring her over from the dark side, but when that was unsuccessful, I succumbed to just hoping for a Michigan win each year so I can have bragging rights for another year. Fortunately, this year I’ll be watching the game from a work trip in Buffalo while she’ll be at home in New York City, so the contentious moments in the heat of the game will be avoided. I can cheer and sing “The Victors” all I want without hurting her feelings. I can jeer Notre Dame follies and celebrate their mistakes without getting the silent treatment the rest of the day. Ahh, it’s Michigan-Notre Dame.

Both teams made impressive statements last Saturday. Michigan dominated a UConn team that was picked by many to win the Big East this season. Notre Dame stifled an average Purdue team in new head coach Brian Kelly’s first game in South Bend.

Both enter this week’s matchup with a lot of confidence and needing a win to silence the doubters. A Michigan win would set up the Wolverines for a great shot at a 5-0 start. A Notre Dame win would make Irish fans forget about Charlie Weis already. So what does Michigan need to do to win in South Bend on Saturday?

1. Score a lot

Obviously scoring is the name of the game for any team, but the combination of Michigan’s defense this year and Notre Dame’s offense virtually requires Michigan’s offense to score 35-plus points if it wants to win this game.

The defense was bailed out by dropped passes and mistakes against UConn, which it can’t expect Notre Dame’s experienced receivers to make. Make no mistake about it: this defense won’t hold many teams to just 10 points, with the exception of maybe UMass and Bowling Green in the next couple of weeks.

Last year was a shootout, with Michigan scoring the game-winning touchdown with 11 seconds left to beat Notre Dame 38-34. This year should be much the same and the offense is going to have to score often if it wants to keep pace with the Irish.

2. Control the ball

Sophomore RB Vincent Smith has scored touchdowns in each of his last three games dating back to last season

Sophomore RB Vincent Smith has scored touchdowns in each of his last three games dating back to last season

Time of possession doesn’t tell the whole story, but it certainly does help. Last week, Michigan controlled the ball for nearly 37 minutes, the longest since Rich Rodriguez took over at Michigan in 2008.

Denard Robinson, in his first collegiate start, ran 29 times for 197 yards and the offense racked up a total of 287 yards rushing. It put together four drives of 11 plays or more, three of which accounted for a total of over 22 minutes, or a third of the game.

Putting together long drives wears down the opposing defense while keeping your defense off the field. So while you can’t look at the time of possession alone to determine the outcome of a game, it can certainly go a long way toward helping you win the game.

2a. Hold onto the ball

Two years ago in South Bend, Michigan lost four fumbles in the rainy conditions and lost 35-17. The weather forecast calls for similar conditions this Saturday, so whichever team takes better care of the ball could be the one that wins.

Michigan did a great job of taking care of the ball last week, though it did get lucky, recovering a muffed punt by Jeremy Gallon. In theory, rainy conditions should favor Michigan’s running game over Notre Dame’s spread passing offense as long as Michigan holds onto the ball.

3. Don’t give up the big play

Notre Dame quarterback Dayne Crist is just a sophomore in his first year as a starter, just like Robinson, but he has a very talented group of pass catchers.

Two years ago, Golden Tate caught four passes for 127 yards and a touchdown. Last season, Tate and Michael Floyd torched the Michigan secondary with nine catches for 115 yards and two touchdowns and seven catches for 131 yards and one touchdown, respectively.

Michigan was able to survive the onslaught last season because the offense was able to keep up. Tate is gone to the NFL, but Floyd is still there, as is tight end Kyle Rudolph, which means there’s no guarantee that the Michigan offense will be able to keep up this season. The defense has to employ the bend-but-don’t-break attitude that it used last week, making Notre Dame work to get the ball down the field, rather than making big plays.

With safety Carvin Jonson out three-to-six weeks with a knee injury, the responsibility falls even greater on the defensive line to put pressure on Crist and keep him from settling in. If he does, he will pick the secondary apart.

4. Control the line of scrimmage

Sophomore DE/LB Craig Roh got into the backfield often last week. He needs to pressure Notre Dame QB Dayne Crist this week.

Sophomore DE/LB Craig Roh got into the backfield often last week. He needs to pressure Notre Dame QB Dayne Crist this week.

Michigan’s lines dominated UConn last week on both sides of the ball. There’s nothing to suggest it can’t do the same this week, as Notre Dame has a very young and inexperienced offensive line.

Defensively, Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen, Greg Banks, and Craig Roh should be able to get to Crist, but linebackers Obi Ezeh and Jonas Mouton have to keep an eye on Rudolph or else Crist will pick the defense apart over the middle.

Offensively, Michigan faces a 3-4 defense for the first time this season. Notre Dame nose tackle Ian Williams is big and slow and ends Ethan Johnson and Kapron Lewis-Moore didn’t do much to stop Michigan last season. Michigan’s line opened up holes for Robinson and running backs Michael Shaw and Vincent Smith to run through all game last week and if it can do the same, the offense will be able to put up points.

Overall, I think this is sure to be a shootout. Rodriguez will likely open up the playbook a little more than was needed last week, so don’t expect Robinson to get 29 carries again. Depending on the weather, look for a little bit more from the passing game.

Michigan is 2-8 in its last 10 road openers and 1-4 in its last five games in South Bend. Despite the great performance by Robinson last week, this will be his first start on the road in hostile territory, most likely in poor weather. He’s still unproven when forced to play from behind or use his arm to win the game, and I don’t think Michigan’s defense will be able to slow down Floyd and Rudolph enough to win the game.

Prediction:

I desperately hope I’m proven wrong, but Notre Dame wins at home, 37-31.