photo AnnArborGIFHeader_zps02670880.gif

Posts Tagged ‘Deveon Smith’

Drew’s Mailbag: Running backs, running backs, and more running backs

Monday, June 16th, 2014


It’s time for another installment of Drew’s Mailbag, which will run frequently throughout the offseason as Maize and Go Blue prepares for and previews the 2014 Michigan football season. The topics will cover more than just football, though. I will address any questions regarding Michigan athletics, including basketball, recruiting, etc., you may have. So fire away on Twitter (DrewCHallett) or via email (drew.maizeandgoblue@gmail.com).

Many of you submitted great questions this past week. However, with the recent announcement that former USC running back Ty Isaac has transferred to Michigan, the topic on everyone’s mind is Isaac and Michigan’s running back situation. Therefore, this installment will focus solely on Michigan’s running backs situation, and I will address your great questions on other topics in a future mailbag. With that said, let’s dive in:

Is it better if [Ty] Isaac is able to play right away or save his eligibility? –Zach (@ZachWoodruff3)

When running back Ty Isaac announced on Twitter that he would be transferring from USC to Michigan, the first question out of Michigan fans’ mouths was whether he would be eligible to play this season. Isaac transferred from USC because he desired to be closer to his mother, who has an inner ear problem due to recent complications related to a surgical procedure, in his hometown of Joliet, Illinois. Consequently, Isaac and Michigan will soon or already have submitted paperwork to the NCAA requesting a family hardship waiver. If the NCAA grants it, Isaac would be able to play for Michigan this fall, rather than sit out all of the 2014 season.

However, it seems like a longshot that the NCAA will approve Isaac’s family hardship waiver request. Whether or not the NCAA grants the waiver depends on the nature of the family member’s illness or injury, the type of care the athlete must provide, and the proximity of the athlete’s new school to his ailing family member. Although Isaac’s mother’s ear injury is undoubtedly a serious one, it does not seem to be an injury that requires constant care and assistance from Isaac on a daily basis. Further, the NCAA recently refined the rules to deny family hardship waiver requests from athletes who transferred to a school further than 100 miles away from the family member’s home. The NCAA’s rationale was that the athlete would be too far away from home to provide regular care for his ailing family member if outside this 100-mile radius. Ann Arbor is 250 miles away from Joliet. Thus, the odds are against Isaac that the NCAA grants his request and allows him to play for the Wolverines this season.

Isaac

Isaac is unlikely to receive a hardship waiver that would allow him to play this season

Yet, this would probably be the better outcome for Michigan. If the NCAA grants Isaac’s waiver, there would be a logjam on Michigan’s depth chart at running back. The Wolverines already have three scholarship running backs entering their sophomore season of athletic eligibility—Derrick Green, Drake Johnson, and De’Veon Smith. Isaac would be the fourth if he is allowed to play this season. There are not enough carries to go around for four running backs on a squad, let alone four that would all be sophomores. At least two would be no better than Michigan’s third-stringer for the remainder of their careers. It would lead to their inevitable transfer from Michigan due to lack of playing time.

Further, not only would there be a logjam, Michigan would possibly not have any quality freshmen or sophomore running backs for the 2015 season. After taking both Green and Smith in the 2013 class, Michigan did not heavily pursue any running back targets in 2014, setting its sights on the running back corps in 2015.

Initially, all went as planned as Michigan received a commitment from five-star Damien Harris in late July 2013. But, after Michigan’s 7-6 record in 2013 and the subsequent firing of offensive coordinator Al Borges, Harris decommitted. Michigan has since fallen out of the lead with its other top running back targets and seems to be trailing by a considerable margin in all of those recruitments. There is a very real chance that the Wolverines strike out at running back in 2015 after passing in 2014. Therefore, if Isaac does not redshirt, there would be a giant gap in Michigan’s depth chart. It may not affect Michigan immediately, but it could be a major issue in the foreseeable future.

The counterpoint is that Michigan does not have the luxury to worry about its depth chart in 2017 and beyond. Coming off two seasons with 8-5 and 7-6 records which have head coach Brady Hoke feeling some heat, Michigan cannot afford another disappointing season. The Wolverines need to put together a successful season and that means winning games now. In order to do that, Michigan will need to have all of its best talent available to play immediately. This includes Isaac, who was a five-star recruit in high school. This is a great point, and I do not necessarily disagree with it.

This is why the best scenario for Michigan is the NCAA granting Isaac’s family hardship waiver request, but Michigan still planning to redshirt Isaac anyway. It would provide Michigan the opportunity to at least attempt to balance its depth chart at running back. Additionally, it would give Green and Smith—who also were heralded running backs in high school—another crack to live up to high expectations after a somewhat discouraging freshman season.

However, if Green and Smith do not produce as Michigan needs, then the Wolverines would still be able to shed Isaac’s redshirt and throw him in there this season. Isaac would then still be able to salvage Michigan’s running back situation for2014. This would be the best of both worlds for Michigan. This is the outcome that Michigan fans should root for, although the odds of Michigan still redshirting Isaac if the NCAA grants his waiver are slim to none.

If Ty Isaac gets a hardship waiver, what do you think the pecking order is at RB? –Steve (SteveCKays)

Even if Ty Isaac receives his family hardship waiver and is eligible to play this season, he still will be behind Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith on the depth chart. At least initially. Green and Smith have been No. 1a and No. 1b, respectively, on the depth chart since the end of last season. I do not think that changes with the addition of Isaac. Green was Hoke’s prized recruit in the 2013 class as a five-star prospect and the best player at his position. He had 83 carries as a freshman, which was the second-most by a Michigan running back behind the departed Fitzgerald Toussaint, and 42 of those were in Michigan’s final three regular-season games. Although Green had an underwhelming first year, reports are that he finally is back in the shape he was in when he was considered the best running back in his recruiting class. If Green can demonstrate that combination of size and strength that made scouts drool, he will be Michigan’s starting running back in 2014.

Nonetheless, Smith will be pushing Green for the starting job. Smith does not quite have the physical measurements that Green has, but Smith has shown flashes of a running back who has great instincts and can fight through tackles. He and Green split carries with the first-team offense throughout Michigan’s spring camp, and Smith actually worked with the first unit more during Michigan’s spring “game.” Nonetheless, I believe Smith still is slightly behind Green in this competition, but they both likely will see carries on first and second downs this season.

Where Isaac would enter the picture, at least initially, would be as Michigan’s third-down back. Prior to Isaac’s transfer, this role belonged to Justice Hayes. However, Isaac would be a perfect fit here. First, one of Isaac’s greatest assets is his hands. While Isaac can do a great job of taking a handoff, making one cut, and exploding through the line of scrimmage, he may even be a better safety valve by catching passes out of the backfield on screens and other routes. Further, Isaac is 6’3”. Although he still needs to work on his pass blocking, his size will better help him block opposing rushers than Hayes, who is 5’10”. If the NCAA grants Isaac’s waiver request, this is where he would make his greatest impact for Michigan’s offense. However, if both Green and Smith struggle, Isaac would be the player given an opportunity to be the featured back in Michigan’s offense.

With only one RB slot in the 2015 class, is [Damien] Harris still the No. 1 target? –Zach (ZachWoodruff3)
Cass Tech's Mike Weber is a priority for new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier (Scout.com)

Cass Tech’s Mike Weber is a priority for new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier (Scout.com)

No, I think Cass Technical’s Mike Weber (Detroit, Mich.) has passed Madison Southern’s Damien Harris (Berea, Ky.) as Michigan’s No. 1 target at running back in the 2015 class. Before Michigan fired offensive coordinator Al Borges, there was no doubt that Harris was the top guy on its recruiting board. Not only did Harris grow up rooting for the Wolverines, but he also was considered by many recruiting services to be the best running back in his class. In fact, at the moment, Rivals ranks Harris as the fourth-best player overall in the 2015 class. So it was a great recruiting win for Michigan when Harris chose to commit to the Wolverines in late July 2013.

However, one of the key reasons why Harris offered his verbal pledge to Michigan was Borges. With Borges no longer in Ann Arbor, Harris wanted to reconsider his options and see if Michigan still was the best place for him. So he decommitted. Although Harris reiterated over and over that Michigan still was his favorite school, it is very rare for a recruit to re-commit to a school after decommitting. Will Campbell and David Dawson are the exceptions, not the rule. As time has passed since Harris’ decommitment, his interest in Michigan seems to have waned, while he has become more intrigued with Ohio State, unfortunately. I think Michigan has realized this and adjusted its priorities.

On the other hand, Michigan’s relationship with Weber has improved tremendously since it hired Doug Nussmeier to replace Borges. After Harris’ commitment, Michigan and Weber fell out of contact as the Wolverines had their man at running back. But, since Nussmeier’s arrival in Ann Arbor, Michigan’s interest in Weber seems to have peaked. Weber has been quoted recently as saying that Michigan has made him a priority again and that he is interested in Michigan once again. He also added that no one at Michigan is recruiting him harder than Nussmeier.

Although the Wolverines still are outside Weber’s top three, which includes Ohio State, Michigan State, and Wisconsin, Michigan has a great opportunity to jump back into the race. It certainly does not hurt that Weber has unofficially visited the Michigan campus twice in the past two weeks. All signs indicate that Weber is Michigan’s top running back target for the 2015 class. This is probably the right move because he likely is Michigan’s best chance at not striking out at the position in this recruiting cycle.

Predicting Michigan: The running backs

Friday, June 13th, 2014


Predicting Michigan-RunningBacks

Derrick Green(Rick Osentoski, USA Today Sports)

The most glaring hole in the Michigan offense during 2013 was the absence of a legitimate rushing threat. A porous offensive line and indecisive running backs combined to cripple the one-dimensional Wolverine offense and led to a 755-yard decrease in rushing yards from 2012. Fortunately for offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, several players emerged as potential contributors in the backfield towards the end of the 2013 campaign.

Michigan’s worst rushing performance in the team’s 134-year history (minus-48 yards against Michigan State) came during a season in which a recruiting class loaded with running back talent took the field. Brady Hoke brought one five-star recruit and two four-star recruits to Ann Arbor in the class of 2013, only to watch his team rush for 3.3 yards per carry on the season. If Michigan hopes to steer the program back in the right direction, that number will have to improve drastically under Nussmeier.

Michigan did add USC transfer Ty Isaac last week, but this preview assumes that he does not receive a hardship waiver from the NCAA and has to take a redshirt this fall.

The Starters

When he arrived in Ann Arbor, Nussmeier announced that he will use two primary running backs during the 2014 season. Much as he did with Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon in 2012 at Alabama, the new offensive coordinator will use the depth at his disposal to get the most out of his rushing attack.

De'Veon Smith showed promise at the end of 2013, rushing for 57 yards on seven carries against Ohio State

De’Veon Smith showed promise at the end of 2013, rushing for 57 yards on seven carries against Ohio State

One of the most important players to Michigan’s upcoming season was also one of the most disappointing during 2013. Sophomore Derrick Green gained just 270 yards on 83 attempts in his first college season after showing up to camp out of shape and struggling with discipline. Green was the most highly-touted recruit in Michigan’s top-five class after his commitment famously made Hoke cry with relief.

Green is perhaps the player with the most to gain under Nussmeier, as his ground-and-pound mentality that made him the top running back recruit in the country mirrors that of Eddie Lacy, who rushed for 1,322 yards and 17 touchdowns en route to a national championship under Nussmeier in 2012.

Green’s best game came in week one against Central Michigan, when he ran for 58 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. But as the season progressed, the offensive line’s struggles hurt Green more than any other running back as rushing between the tackles became nearly impossible.

Hoke’s star recruit learned from his freshman mistake and showed up to camp in better shape this season, looking faster and more confident than he ever did throughout his first season. Green gives Michigan the best chance to be an elite team as his ceiling is higher than possibly any other back in the Big Ten.

Despite the hype surrounding Green, his classmate De’Veon Smith appeared to play the role of starting running back during the spring practice on April 5. Smith rushed for the best average (4.5 yards per carry) of any regular running back in 2013 and saw his role increase late in the season. After carrying the ball just seven times in the first nine games, Smith’s number was called 15 times in the final three regular season games.

At 5’11″, 223-pounds, Smith features almost the exact same running style as Green, but demonstrated better instincts when plays broke down in 2013. Nussmeier is faced with a difficult decision between Smith and Green, but both players will likely see significant time throughout the upcoming season.

Projected Stats – Green
Attempts Yards YPC Long TDs YPG
160 650 4.1 11 50.0
Career Stats
2013 83 270 3.3 30 2 20.8
Totals 83 270 3.3 30 2 20.8
Projected Stats – Smith
Attempts Yards YPC Long TDs YPG
130 500 3.8 4 30.8
Career Stats
2013 26 117 4.5 38 0 9.8
Totals 26 117 4.5 38 0 9.8

Veteran Depth

Michigan’s depth took a small hit when Thomas Rawls decided to transfer in the winter, but there are still plenty of quality options at Nussmeier’s disposal.

Drake Johnson began 2013 as the No. 2 back, but tore his ACL in the season opener (Rick Osentoski, USA Today Sports)

Drake Johnson began 2013 as the No. 2 back, but tore his ACL in the season opener (Rick Osentoski, USA Today Sports)

Senior Justice Hayes has made some noise throughout the offseason, and played better than both sophomores during the spring game. Hayes was largely invisible during the 2013 season, carrying the ball twice for six yards. His most productive game came alongside Shane Morris in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, when he caught three passes for 22 yards.

Hayes is a very different running back than Smith and Green, relying on speed and reads more than strength and power. Despite weighing just 190 pounds, the senior demonstrated the best pass-blocking ability, which is valuable behind an inexperienced offensive line. Hayes will have to dazzle coaches to earn a starting position, but he will be an important member of the rotation during the fall either way.

The top returning running back from Michigan’s 2013 depth chart has yet to take any reps in training camp, as redshirt sophomore Drake Johnson continues to recover from a torn ACL in the season-opener. Johnson was listed second on the running back depth chart at the start of 2013 behind Fitzgerald Toussaint, but ran the ball just twice before his season ended while covering a kickoff.

Hoke said that the running back competition will be complete only when Johnson returns during fall camp, but it’s unlikely that the young back will have enough time to earn a starting spot by August 30. Look for Johnson to provide depth for Nussmeier if he returns from his injury on schedule.

Projected Stats – Hayes
Attempts Yards YPC Long TDs YPG
35 150 4.3 2 11.5
Career Stats
2013 2 6 3.0 7 0 0.5
2012 18 83 4.6 24 1 13.8
2011 0 0 N/A N/A 0 N/A
Totals 20 89 4.5 24 1 4.7
Projected Stats – Johnson
Attempts Yards YPC Long TDs YPG
70 250 3.6 2 19.2
Career Stats
2013 2 9 4.5 7 0 9.0
Totals 2 9 4.5 7 0 9.0

New in Blue: Running back Ty Isaac

Thursday, June 5th, 2014


Ty Isaac(USA Today Sports)

Ty Isaac – RB | 6-3, 225 | Joliet, Ill. – Joliet Catholic
ESPN: 4-star, #13 RB Rivals: 5-star, #4 RB 247: 4-star, #5 RB Scout: 5-star, #7 RB
Other top offers: USC, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Auburn, Clemson, Michigan State, Georgia, Notre Dame

Michigan missed out on a key transfer earlier this spring when Alabama center Chad Lindsay chose Ohio State, but the Wolverines landed an even bigger transfer today when USC running back Ty Isaac announced via Twitter that he would sign with Michigan.

If the name sounds familiar, it should. Michigan was one of the finalists  to land Isaac before he decided to attend Southern Cal in the 2013 recruiting class. At USC, the Joliet, Ill. native rushed for 236 yards on 40 carries — an average of 5.9 yards per carry — and two touchdowns during the 2013 season as a true freshman. He also caught four passes for 57 yards. Isaac battled for playing time in a crowded backfield that included senior Penn State transfer Silas Redd. When he got extended playing time against California on Nov. 9, Isaac showed what he is capable of, rushing for 87 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries.

(David Cleveland, AP)

(David Cleveland, AP)

Isaac announced his transfer in mid-May because of a longing to be closer to his mother, who is dealing with medical complications related to a procedure. Under NCAA rules, a player can receive a hardship waiver in these types of circumstances, which would make him eligible to play right away instead of sitting out a year. However, in 2012, the NCAA refined the rule to institute a 100-mile radius from the immediate family member’s home. Ann Arbor is approximately 250 miles away, so it would be up to the NCAA to grant leniency in this case.

Illinois, which is much closer to his home, was the other top contender for his services. He visited there last week before making a trip to Ann Arbor earlier this week. Notre Dame, which was also a finalist to land Isaac coming out of high school was initially not approved by USC since the Trojans play the Irish. Ohio State also sought approval to contact him, but it was for naught.

“I decided that I’m going to transfer to Michigan,” Isaac said this morning. “I had a good visit there, and it’s just the place where I feel the most comfortable. I didn’t want to drag all of this out and see a ton of schools. Michigan was in my final three when I committed to USC, and the reasons I liked Michigan are still very much in place.”

If the NCAA grants him the ability to play this fall, Isaac will battle for the starting job with Derrick Green and DeVeon Smith, who were also members of the 2013 class. Rivals rated Green the top running back in the class, Isaac fourth, and Smith 37th. Scout had Green first, Isaac seventh, and Smith 11th, while 247 Sports had Isaac fifth, Green eighth, and Smith 15th.

If Isaac does have to sit out the 2014 season, he will be able to take a redshirt and still have three years of eligibility remaining, which would put a year of separation between he and the other two.

During his senior year at Joliet Catholic in 2012, Isaac rushed for more than 1,500 yards and 22 touchdowns, but missed some games due to injury. As a junior in 2011, he racked up 2,629 yards and 45 touchdowns, including a 515-yard, six-touchdown performance in the Illinois Class 5A state championship game.

He is the first transfer Michigan has landed since quarterback Steven Threet transferred from Georgia Tech in 2007. Threet then transferred to Arizona State two years later.

Five-Spot Challenge: Iowa

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013


Congratulations to Maizenblu62 for a narrow victory over JustJeepGear.com. His total deviation of 135 was just three points better than JJG.com’s thanks in large part to being the least confident in Michigan’s ability to score a touchdown. Every other contestant this week predicted Michigan to score a touchdown in the first half, with none later than 23 minutes into the game. But Maizenblu62 predicted Michigan to score in the 48th minute, or three minutes into the fourth quarter. Ultimately, the Wolverines didn’t score one at all in regulation.

The winner from the Minnesota and Michigan State games, Hazel Parker, was the closest to the combined uniform number of all Michigan touchdowns. His prediction of 138 was 48 away. With Jake Butt (88) and Devin Gardner (98) scoring the two touchdowns, it was about as high as it could possibly get for a two-touchdown total. Bluwolf77 was the closest to Michigan’s rushing total, just four away, while JustJeepGear.com and kashkaav were both just two away from Northwestern quarterback Trevor Siemien’s passing yards. JJG.com was also the closest to Matt Wile’s total punt yards, just three away.

Nobody correctly predicted the final score. The average combined score was Michigan 25 – Northwestern 22. The widest margin of victory predicted in Michigan’s favor was 31-17, while only one participant predicted Northwestern to win and that was by a score of 35-17.

The weekly results and overall standings have been updated.

Somehow: Michigan 27 – Northwestern 19, 3 OT

Saturday, November 16th, 2013


(USA Today Sports)

In a driving wind and rain along the shores of Lake Michigan, a Michigan offense that struggled to move the ball with any consistency for 60 minutes suddenly came alive in overtime.In the first extra period Devin Gardner connected with freshman tight end Jake Butt for the first touchdown of the game by either team. After Northwestern responded with a touchdown of its own, and then a field goal on its next possession, Michigan answered with a field goal. In two overtime periods both teams topped their regulation point totals.

Michigan started with the ball again in the third stanza and found the end zone once again, this time on a 5-yard run by Gardner. Forced to go for two, Michigan was able to convert as Gardner ran it into the left corner. Michigan’s defense held the Wildcats and the Wolverines escaped Evanston with an ugly but much-needed victory.

Final Stats
Michigan Northwestern
Score 27 19
Record 7-3 (3-3) 4-6 (0-6)
Total Yards 337 304
Net Rushing Yards 137 141
Net Passing Yards 200 163
First Downs 26 18
Turnovers 0 1
Penalties-Yards 1-15 3-20
Punts-Yards 6-255 6-180
Time of Possession 27:20 30:22
Third Down Conversions 2-of-18 5-of-19
Fourth Down Conversions 2-of-4 1-of-2
Sacks By-Yards 2-23 5-40
Field Goals 4-for-5 4-for-4
PATs 1-for-1 1-for-1
Red Zone Scores-Chances 4-of-5 4-of-4
Full Box Score

But the game would have been over in regulation if not for a controversial play in the final seconds. Michigan was trying to drive down the field to tie or win the game, trailing 9-6. After converting two fourth downs, Gardner connected with Jeremy Gallon for 16 yards on 3rd-and-23. But Gallon was tackled in bounds. Michigan’s field goal unit sprinted onto the field. Luckily, holder Drew Dileo was already on the field on the previous play and slid into position. Kicker Brendan Gibbons didn’t mark off his steps as a kicker normally would, but instead lined himself up approximately where he should be just as the snap went to Dileo. Gibbons booted a line drive through the uprights for the improbable game-tying 44-yard field goal as time expired.

It can certainly be argued that Gibbons – and possibly others – weren’t set when the ball was snapped, but the play stood and the game went to overtime. Credit should be given to the coaching staff for having the field goal unit ready to spring onto the field with no timeouts remaining.

Michigan may not have needed the heart-stopping field goal if Hoke had kicked a field goal to tie the game at nine on the previous drive. Instead, he chose to go for it on 4th-and-2 at the Northwestern 4-yard line. Gardner was tackled for a loss of one  and Northwestern took over.

Michigan started the game on offense and looked good marching 63 yards on 12 plays, but the drive stalled in the red zone and the Wolverines had to settle for a field goal. After opening with completions of 17 yards to Gallon and 13 yards to Devin Funchess, Al Borges turned to freshman running back Derrick Green who started instead of Fitzgerald Toussaint. Green rushed for eight yards and then three to pick up the first down. After a Gardner run for eight, Green again picked up three yards and a first down. De’Veon Smith then came in and picked up seven and then five to put Michigan 1st-and-goal.

Derrick Green rushed for 79 yards on 19 carries in his first career start (MGoBlue.com)

For the remainder of the first half, Michigan was unable to move the ball. The next four drives went 28 yards, one yard, 20 yards, and eight yards and Michigan went into the locker room trailing 6-3.

The third quarter was much of the same with Michigan’s three drives going 12, 39, and 27 yards. Northwestern wasn’t much better, but was able to put together a 10-play, 77-yard drive that ended in a field goal to take a 9-3 lead.

At the beginning of the fourth, Michigan downed a punt on the Northwestern 1-yard line. The Wildcats were only able to move the ball two yards on the next three plays and had to punt it back to Michigan. But Brandon Williams’ punt into the strong wind was shanked and went out of bounds at the 11-yard line, just an 8-yard punt. Michigan was in prime position to capitalize, but the Wolverines managed just a field goal. It pulled Michigan within three at 9-6, setting up the crazy sequence of events on the final two possessions.

Michigan finished the game with 337 total yards, its best offensive performance since setting a school record against Indiana four weeks ago. After being held to negative rushing yards in back-to-back games, the Wolverines ran for 137 on 45 carries.

Gardner finished 24-of-43 for 226 yards and a touchdown. Green led all backs with 79 yards on 19 carries – an average of 4.2 yards per carry. Smith added 41 yards on nine carries, averaging 4.3. Gallon became the first Michigan receiver since Mario Manningham in 2007 to surpass 1,000 yards in a season. He caught 10 passes for 115 yards. Funchess added seven receptions for 61 yards. James Ross led the way defensively with 11 tackles and a sack.

It was anything but pretty, but it assures Michigan a winning record for the season and could give the team back some of the confidence it lost the last two weeks. The Wolverines travel to Iowa City next Saturday to face an Iowa team coming off a bye week and then host unbeaten Ohio State to close the regular season on Nov. 30.

M&GB staff predictions: Akron

Friday, September 13th, 2013


Last week, Derick was the closest to the final score of the Notre Dame game with his prediction of 35-31. None of us expected Michigan to put up 41 points on the Irish defense, but like I said last week, if Michigan doesn’t meet our expectations, it’s much better that they exceed our expectations rather than not live up to them. Tomorrow’s game will be completely different, so let’s take a look at our staff predictions.

Justin: A decade ago a MAC-level school would never be expected to compete with Michigan, but then Appalachian State and Toledo happened and now nothing can be taken for granted. But App State was a perfect storm and Toledo was under the current regime. Akron isn’t anywhere close to that and Michigan isn’t the same team it was for those heartbreaking losses either. In short, this one will be over by the end of the first quarter.

Devin Gardner will lead the offense up and down the field for the first half, hopefully getting receivers other than Jeremy Gallon involved in the offense, especially Jehu Chesson. The defense will give up some yards but should be able to get to quarterback Kyle Pohl enough to keep him from doing much.

The backups will play most of the second half and continue to move the ball. Akron might punch it in the end zone late in the game, but it will be over by the time it takes to eat a glazed donut.

Michigan 63 – Akron 10

Staff Predictions
Michigan Akron
Justin 63 10
Chris 48 6
Josh 56 3
Sam 52 3
Derick 59 6
Katie 48 6
M&GB Average 54 6

Chris: A slightly sluggish start would be expected, but Michigan starts rolling by the time the second quarter begins. Gardner and Co. rack up the scores and yardage, then give way to the younger guys to get some playing time. Derrick Green and Shane Morris look good in the fourth quarter.

Michigan 48 – Akron 6

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

Michigan 56 – Akron 3

Sam: After a 41-30 thrilling victory over Notre Dame last week that felt relatively comfortable from start to finish but had enough tense moments to cause some nerves, Michigan welcomes the lowly Akron Zips to the Big House this weekend. Fortunately there is just not much to say here. Akron was throttled by UCF 38-7 in week one before squeaking by FCS opponent James Madison last week after a late missed two-point conversion attempt by the Dukes.

While coach Brady Hoke and Co. will do everything they can to keep this Michigan team focused, there is no denying the fact that the rest of the nation has taken notice of the Wolverines after two impressive outings to date. Many pundits are already penciling Michigan in for a 7-0 start to the season before heading into East Lansing, and the schedule certainly seems favorable over the upcoming month and a half.

In sports, however, we all know that anything can happen. And yes, if this Saturday’s game were played 1,000 times, Akron might win enough to make you count their victories with BOTH of your hands (that is, if you are missing a few fingers), but I’ll stick with the odds here. Devin Gardner will continue his white-hot start to the year with five touchdowns before exiting midway through the third quarter and six different Wolverines score, including De’Veon Smith, Derrick Green, and Jehu Chesson, before the clock reads a Michigan win in the end.

Michigan 52 – Akron 3

Derick: There may be a drop in excitement in the Big House this weekend, but Michigan’s near top-10 ranking should be motivation enough to put a real hurt on the Zips.

Saturday’s game offers the perfect opportunity to fix some of the kinks in the offense, like getting Fitzgerald Toussaint on track and Jehu Chesson involved in the offense. Devin Gardner should be out of the game early in the second half and the defense will likely keep Akron out of the end zone completely.

Michigan rolls Saturday afternoon and hits the road with a 3-0 record and a top-20 offense.

Michigan 59 – Akron 6

Katie: After the Notre Dame theatrics this week is going to look mighty calm for Michigan. Akron is a major underdog and will need quite a bit of luck to beat the Wolverines. And seeing as the Irish couldn’t produce enough luck I’m not envisioning that it’s in the cards for the Zips. Michigan is going to outplay and outmatch Akron, and while they will probably have some extended rallies, maybe make a few plays on Michigan’s second and third string players, it shouldn’t be anything to worry about. What I’m looking forward to this week is seeing a bit more of Morris and Green, two freshmen who will likely have a great impact in the coming years, if not this season as well.  The Wolverines take this one without much trouble.

Michigan 48 – Akron 6

____________________________________________________________________________
For more coverage of this week’s game, see: Michigan-Akron game preview; this week’s edition of Friend vs Foe with Matt Eliason of the MAC SB Nation blog Hustle Belt; and First Look: Akron.

Also check out game previews from MGoBlog, Maize n Blue Nation, Maize and Blue News, Maize n Brew, The Big House Report, UMGoBlog, Touch the Banner, and The M Block.

Final Look: Central Michigan

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013


(MGoBlue.com)

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

Three big moments

1. Dymonte makes his mark

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

2. Defense holds strong

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

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

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

3. Freshmen march down the field

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

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

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

The numbers game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

105: Consecutive extra points made by Brendan Gibbons

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

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

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

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

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

*Hover over team initials to see drive statistics

Three observations

1. Depth

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

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

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

2. The running game still has work to do

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

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

3. Devin Gardner’s decision-making

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

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

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

Michigan 59 – Central Michigan 9

Sunday, September 1st, 2013


(MGoBlue.com)

True freshman Dymonte Thomas didn’t take long to make his name known to those who don’t follow recruiting as ardently as others. In fact, true freshmen contributing was the theme of the game as Brady Hoke’s latest recruiting class displayed just why it was ranked so highly.

After picking up a first down on the first play of the game, Central Michigan was stuffed on three straight plays and forced to punt. Thomas came around the right side of the line and blocked the punt, which was picked up by receiver Joe Reynolds who raced 30 yards for Michigan’s first touchdown of the season.

Final Stats
Michigan Central
Score 59 9
Record 1-0 0-1
Total Yards 463 210
Net Rushing Yards 242 66
Net Passing Yards 221 144
First Downs 22 12
Turnovers 3 2
Penalties-Yards 7-55 8-74
Punts-Yards 7-277 1-51
Time of Possession 34:16 25:44
Third Down Conversions 10-of-15 4-of-14
Fourth Down Conversions 2-of-2 0-of-0
Sacks By-Yards 4-22 1-3
Field Goals 1-for-1 3-for-3
PATs 8-for-8 0-for-0
Red Zone Scores-Chances 7-of-7 3-of-3
Full Box Score

Hoke said afterward that the game plan was to rush the first punt and it fired up the team. It was Michigan’s first blocked punt since Brandon Graham blocked one in 2009.

But the excitement didn’t last long as Michigan forced another punt, and on the Wolverines’ second offensive play of the season, Devin Gardner was picked off by Jarret Chapman at the Michigan 6-yard line, setting up first and goal for CMU. The defense held strong, forcing a field goal, and Michigan never looked back from there.

Gardner led a six-play, 77-yard drive with a 36-yard pass to Drew Dileo followed by a 22-yard touchdown run. After another Central punt, Michigan mounted a 10-play, 73-yard scoring drive, capped by a 1-yard Fitzgerald Toussaint touchdown run to grab a 21-3 lead.

Bad Gardner reared its head once again on Michigan’s next possession as his deep ball to Jeremy Gallon was intercepted and returned 36 yards to the Michigan 29. But the defense held Central to a field goal yet again. Michigan finished the half by finding the end zone twice more, an 11-play, 79-yard drive that covered 6:09 and a 3-play, 12-yard drive set up by Raymon Taylor’s first interception of the season.

Michigan took a 35-6 lead into the locker room and came back right where it left off, marching 75 yards in six plays, most of which came on a 45-yard pass from Gardner to Reynolds. Toussaint carried it in from two yards out.

After a CMU three-and-out, Michigan turned to its freshmen running backs for its next drive. Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith carried the ball on all 10 plays, covering 55 yards and resulting in Green’s first touchdown of his career to put Michigan ahead 49-6. Green broke away for a 30-yard run on the drive and also converted a 4th-and-2.

That was the night for Gardner and the rest of the starters as Shane Morris took over under center on the next possession. The freshman phenom picked up right where Gardner left off, driving 81 yards in eight plays for Michigan’s eighth touchdown of the night. On the drive, Morris connected with fellow freshman, tight end Jake Butt, for eight yards on 3rd-and-3. He also found Devin Funchess over the middle for a 36-yard gain. Thomas Rawls got the touchdown from five yards out.

Derrick Green led the team in rushing with 58 yards on 11 carries (MGoBlue.com)

After another Central Michigan field goal, Morris threw the first interception of his career, but freshman defensive back Channing Stribling forced a fumble on the very next play and Michigan got the ball right back. For the first time all night, Michigan wasn’t able to punch it in the end zone, instead settling for a 30-yard Brendan Gibbons field goal to reach the final score of 59-9.

In all, 10 true freshmen played and nearly all of them produced. Gardner made a couple of mistakes, which he attributed to jitters and rust, but showed very good command of the offense and playmaking ability. Toussaint ran hard and the rest of the backfield showed off the depth Michigan has at the position. Dennis Norfleet displayed his game-breaking ability, taking a reverse 38 yards and nearly breaking two or three returns. The defense didn’t allow a touchdown, and there seemed to be no major injuries (we’ll see how bad Reynolds and Drake Johnson are hurt, but they didn’t appear to be too bad).

Green led Michigan with 58 rushing yards and a touchdown on 11 carries, while Toussaint added 57 yards and two scores on 14 carries. Gardner completed 10-of-15 passes for 162 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions while also rushing seven times for 52 yards and two scores. Jeremy Gallon (four receptions) and Devin Funchess (two) each tallied 47 receiving yards. Gallon also added a touchdown.

It was a good showing for the young Wolverines on an opening weekend in which nearly every other Big Ten team struggled with inferior competition. Michigan featured 460 yards of offense and a defense that held its opponent under 200 yards until mop-up time when Central barely inched over the mark. In the long run, it won’t mean much, but as for opening weekends go, it went about as well as one could have hoped.

The first true test is next week when Notre Dame comes to town with an offense that passed for 355 yards in a 28-6 win over Temple and a defense widely recognized as one of the nation’s best entering the season.

Stay tuned for continued breakdown and analysis of Michigan’s season opening win as well as preparation for Notre Dame.

Central Michigan postgame transcript: Devin Gardner and Fitzgerald Toussaint

Saturday, August 31st, 2013


(Justin Potts, M&GB)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

M&GB staff predictions: Central Michigan

Friday, August 30th, 2013


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

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

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

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

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

Michigan 41 – Central Michigan 17

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

Michigan 40 – Central Michigan 14

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

Michigan 42 – CMU 17

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

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

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

Michigan 45 – Central Michigan 10

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

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

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

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

Michigan 41 – Central Michigan 14

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wolverines 48, Central Michigan 10