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Final Look: Appalachian State

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014


D Green run vs App State(MGoBlue.com)

While Michigan evened the all-time series with Appalachian State on Saturday, it doesn’t take away the sting of the first meeting that Michigan fans will forever be reminded of. But on Saturday, the current team did what it was supposed to do and looked impressive in doing so. Before we get into previews of Notre Dame, let’s take one last look back at the big plays, numbers, stats, and observations from Michigan’s 52-14 win.

Three big moments

1. Devin to Devin times three

Devin Funchess became the first WR in Michigan history to catch three touchdown passes in the season opener (MGoBlue.com)

Devin Funchess became the first WR in Michigan history to catch three touchdown passes in the season opener (MGoBlue.com)

Michigan wasted no time getting the ball into the hands of its top receiver. On the first play of the game, Devin Gardner quick-pitched it out to Devin Funchess for an 11-yard gain. The drive ended with a nine-yard touchdown pass to Funchess on 3rd-and-7 when Funchess ran a beautiful route, splitting the linebacker and safety in the middle of the end zone. On the second possession, Gardner hit Funchess for 18 yards to start the drive and then the pair hooked up for a 34-yard touchdown pass. On the score, Funchess caught the ball at the 10-yard line, stiff-armed an App State defender at the five, and waltzed into the end zone. Midway through the second quarter, Gardner tossed up a jump ball in the back of the end zone and Funchess went up and got it over two App State defenders for his third touchdown.

2. Special teams touchdown

Heading into the game, if someone had told you Michigan would score a touchdown on special teams, probably 95 percent of Michigan fans would have guessed it would be either Jabrill Peppers or Dennis Norfleet. Linebacker Ben Gedeon might have been the 75th guess, but indeed he was the man of the moment.

It appeared that Michigan was going to take a 28-0 lead into the half as the defense forced Appalachian State to punt from its own 29-yard line with about a minute remaining. But linebacker Mike McCray got a hand on the punt and Gedeon picked it up and raced 32 yards for a touchdown. His dive toward the goal line was reviewed and upheld, giving Michigan a blocked punt touchdown for the second season-opener in a row.

3. Big plays on the ground

Last season, Michigan’s running game was anemic, averaging just 3.3 yards per carry and 125.7 yards per game. Not only did it have trouble simply gaining positive yards — the Wolverines led the nation in tackles-for-loss surrendered — but big plays were solely up to the passing game. In fact, the longest rush of the season was by backup quarterback Shane Morris, who rumbled 40 yards on a  play in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.

That was not the case on Saturday as Michigan rushed for 350 yards and three touchdowns on just 36 carries. Both Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith topped 100 yards, and perhaps most importantly, Gardner rushed only five times for nine yards. The running game has relied on quarterbacks too much in the past few years.

On Saturday, after struggling initially, the running game looked very good. Green had runs of 59 and 62 yards and Smith had a 61-yard run, giving the duo three rushes going for more yards than last season’s high.

The numbers game

9.7: Michigan’s average yards per carry in Week 1, which leads the nation through the first full week of the season

252: The number of consecutive games in Michigan Stadium with more than 100,000 fans

111-21-3: Michigan’s all-time record in season openers

13: The number of schools that have an all-time winning record against Michigan after the Wolverines evened the series with Appalachian State

1: Devin Funchess’ new jersey number after switching from 87. He is the first Michigan receiver to wear the coveted number since Braylon Edwards in 2004

6: Mason Cole became the sixth true freshman to ever start a game on offensive line. He was the second to start at tackle and the first to start a season opener

37: Devin Gardner’s career touchdown passes, passing Tom Brady and moving into a tie for seventh all-time with Todd Collins

5,280: Gardner’s career passing yards, passing Tom Brady and moving into ninth place all-time

Oct. 27, 2007: The last time Michigan had two 100-yard rushers in the same game. Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith became the 38th duo in Michigan history to accomplish the feat.

3: Devin Funchess became the first Michigan player to catch three touchdown passes in a season opener

Drive Chart
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*Hover over team initials to see drive statistics

Vote for the performance of the game

 
Lists on Ranker

Not this time: Michigan 52 – Appalachian State 14

Sunday, August 31st, 2014


Funchess TD vs App State(MGoBlue.com)

Seven years ago one of the best collections of senior talent in recent Michigan history suffered the most embarrassing loss in program history. This time around, a Michigan squad entering the season with plenty of questions made sure it didn’t suffer the same fate. Football was back in the Big House and Michigan left no doubt, sending Appalachian State back to Boone, N.C. in a much different fashion than it did in 2007 with a 52-14 loss.

After forcing a three-and-out on App State’s first possession, Michigan didn’t take long to find the end zone. Devin Gardner pitched the ball out to Devin Funchess for 11 yards on the first play, and nine plays later, found Funchess in the end zone for a nine-yard touchdown. On the opening drive, Dennis Norfleet caught a 10-yard pass and Jehu Chesson caught a 19-yard pass.

Michigan’s defense forced another App State punt and the second drive began and ended just like the first. Gardner connected with Funchess for 18 yards, and after four De’Veon Smith runs, Gardner hit Funchess for a 34-yard catch and run touchdown to put Michigan ahead 14-0.

Michigan’s offense stalled a bit at the beginning of the second quarter. The Wolverines forced another punt, but couldn’t do much on their third possession of the game. Derrick Green busted a 19-yard run on the possession’s second play, but Gardner was sacked two plays later and Michigan punted. After another App State punt, Gardner hooked up with Amara Darboh for 26 yards to the App State 30. The drive stalled and Matt Wile missed a 48-yard field goal.

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Final Stats
Michigan App State
Score 52 14
Record 1-0 0-1
Total Yards 560 280
Net Rushing Yards 350 153
Net Passing Yards 210 127
First Downs 24 17
Turnovers 1 0
Penalties-Yards 4-44 8-69
Punts-Yards 1-46 8-287
Time of Possession 30:08 29:52
Third Down Conversions 5-of-8 5-of-17
Fourth Down Conversions 0-of-0 2-of-3
Sacks By-Yards 2-9 1-8
Field Goals 1-for-2 0-for-0
PATs 7-for-7 2-for-2
Red Zone Scores-Chances 6-of-6 2-of-2
Full Box Score

App State still couldn’t muster any offense, punting it right back to Michigan and the Wolverines’ offense finally clicked once again. Green ripped off a 59-yard run on the first play and Gardner found Funchess for nine yards on the second. A facemask penalty moved the ball to the ASU 8-yard line and Gardner lobbed up a jump ball for Funchess in the back of the end zone on the next play. Funchess leaped over two defenders, caught the ball, and got a foot down to give Michigan a 21-0 lead.

Michigan’s next possession was all on the ground as Smith rambled for 61 yards on the first play and a 12-yard touchdown on the next and it appeared that Michigan would take a 28-0 lead into the half. But the special teams had different plans. After forcing App State to punt once again, Mike McCray blocked the punt and Ben Gedeon picked it up and raced 32 yards for the score. Through one half of play, Michigan had out gained Appalachian State 334-74.

In the second half, Michigan picked up right where it left off, this time letting Green do the work. Green carried the ball on all six plays, yet again breaking a big one, this time for 62 yards, and finishing it off with a one-yard touchdown run.

Appalachian State finally got in on the action, putting together its first extended drive of the day. The Mountaineers went 75 yards in 11 plays, capped off by an eight-yard touchdown pass from Kameron Bryant to Simms McElfresh. The scoring drive was aided by a 34-yard pass from Bryant to Jaylan Barbour.

App State fooled Michigan with an onside kick recovery, but the kicker inadvertently touched the ball before it went 10 yards and Michigan took over at the ASU 44-yard line. Gardner led off the drive with a 17-yard pass to Norfleet, then rushed twice for three and eight yards. After a three-yard pass to Chesson, Smith punctuated the drive with a 13-yard touchdown run to put Michigan ahead 49-7.

Michigan forced another App State punt and Shane Morris came in to relieve Gardner. On the drive’s third play, Morris connected with Keith Heitzman for 26 yards, but on the following play, Morris was intercepted at the App State 4-yard line.

The Mountaineers took advantage, marching 96 yards in 19 plays. Marcus Cox carried it in from a yard out for App State’s second touchdown of the game. Matt Wile kicked an 18-yard field goal on Michigan’s next possession and the Wolverines won 52-14.

Gardner passed Tom Brady for seventh on Michigan’s career touchdown list, going 13-of-14 for 173 yards and three touchdowns. Funchess caught seven passes for 95 yards and three scores, becoming the first player in Michigan history to score three touchdowns in the season opener. Green led Michigan with with 170 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries (11.3 yards per carry), while Smith rushed for 115 yards and two touchdowns on just eight carries (14.4 yards per carry).

As a team, Michigan amassed 560 total yards and averaged 10.2 yards per play, while holding Appalachian State to just 280 total yards — mostly with the second-team defense in. Michigan converted 5-of-8 third downs and held App State to just 5-of-17. Taco Charlton and Chris Wormley each recorded a sack, while Desmond Morgan and James Ross led the team with six tackles apiece.

Michigan travels to South Bend next Saturday for the final meeting with Notre Dame. The Irish beat Rice 48-17 in Week 1.

Notes: 

Devin Funchess switched from No. 87 to No. 1 prior to the game, marking the first time the number has been worn since Braylon Edwards in 2004.

 The Michigan Stadium attendance of 106,811 was the 252nd consecutive game with more than 100,000 fans.

 Michigan is now 111-21-3 all-time in season openers and Brady Hoke is now 9-3 (4-0 at Michigan).

 The game captains for Michigan were Brennen Beyer, Frank Clark, Devin Gardner, Desmond Morgan, and Jake Ryan.

 Jabrill Peppers was injured in the first quarter, but played the rest of the half. He did not play the second half. Hoke said afterward that he could have gone if needed, but they wanted to keep him healthy for next week.

 Gardner’s 92.8 completion percentage was second in program history with a minimum of 10 completions, behind only Tate Forcier’s 100 percent (12-of-12) versus Bowling Green on Sept. 25, 2010.

• Gardner also passed Tom Brady for ninth in career passing yards (5,280).

 Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith both eclipsed 100 yards, the 38th time two backs have done so in the same game in program history. It was the first time since Carlos Brown and Brandon Minor did so against Minnesota on Oct. 27, 2007.

 Michigan’s streak of 15 consecutive games with a forced turnover ended.

M&GB staff predictions: Appalachian State

Friday, August 29th, 2014


StaffPicks_banner

The eight-month wait is finally ticking down into the final hours and I’m sure you can hardly contain yourself. Last night we got to watch the first real football of the season and tonight we get to watch our rivals in East Lansing feast on an inferior opponent. Tomorrow, it’s our turn. Seemingly everyone has made their predictions by now and now it’s time to make ours. We make it an internal competition throughout the season to see who is the most accurate. Derick won the title last season, so he will try to repeat. Here are our predictions:

Justin

As I said in this morning’s game preview, there’s not much good that can come out of this game. Win big: good, just as expected. Win close: uh oh. Lose: all hell will break loose. A dominating performance that leaves no doubt is needed, but just like in last season’s opener against Central Michigan, it won’t tell us much going forward. The most important thing for the offense is to get the offensive line some confidence, let Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith show what they can do, and enable Devin Gardner to begin developing chemistry between his talented but inexperienced receiving corps. And against a defense like App State’s all three should happen.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Central Michigan
Justin 52 10
Sam 45 7
Derick 45 14
Josh 52 9
Joe 48 17
M&GB Average 48 11

I’m most excited to see Greg Mattison’s new-look aggressive defense. Running back Marcus Cox is the danger man, but he can’t do it all. Quarterback Kam Bryant is going to have to try to make plays through the air with an inexperienced group of receivers. This has the makings of a big day for the secondary, and can you imagine the hype if Jabrill Peppers makes a big play? Michigan wins big, gives the starters a rest for much of the fourth quarter, and moves on to Notre Dame.

Michigan 52 – Appalachian State 10

Sam

I will be the first to admit that I haven’t watched much (OK, make that any) Appalachian State tape to prepare for my prediction. Hell, I don’t think I’ve seen a single Mountaineer play since that game-that-shall-not-be-named.

What I do know is that Michigan will play Appalachian State to kick off this season for some unknown and illogical reason. Lightning has struck twice before, but I would venture to say that this weekend should see clear skies and a return to normalcy…at least for the time being. Michigan’s depth and athleticism on offense paired with a potentially stout defense should prove to be far too much for Appalachian State (don’t worry, I just knocked on wood…twice). The Devin-to-Devin connection will reach paydirt twice while both Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith both score TDs along with the first career scoring reception from Amara Darboh. Michigan rolls.

Michigan 45 – Appalachian State 7

Derick

Will this year’s matchup with Appalachian State be redemption? No, of course Michigan can never erase that 2007 upset. But there certainly won’t be a repear oF that debacle, at least not this year.

Michigan should dominate defensively, and an inconsistent offense will flourish against a weak, new-to-FBS opponent. Devin Gardner is going to be the talk of the town on Saturday, leading Michigan to the win.

Michigan 45 – Appalachian State 14

Josh

It’s finally that time again. I’ll be honest, I’m not looking at this game as ‘revenge’ and I’m not even upset about 2007′s game. Yes, it was (utterly) disappointing but App State was a two-time defending champ that would go on to with a third straight and was loaded with talent. But neither of the teams that took the field back then are taking the field this Saturday.

On to 2014, we know App. State is not the ’07 version and it’s not even close. Yes, Michigan has many questions on offense but the defense will be very good (possibly elite). App. State wasn’t very good at stopping the run last year so I expect to see much of the same from them. Even with unknowns on Michigan’s offensive line I think the run game will get going early and often,while mostly unproven Michigan still has loads of talent. This, in turn, ‘should’ open up the play-action game and Michigan’s superior athletic talent should run (literally & figuratively) rampant over the Mountaineers. On defense I expect to see a lot of blitzes, from everywhere on the field, which should leave to some turnovers and easy scores for the offense.

I know we’ve all been waiting with baited breath for Jabrill Peppers to take the field and, unlike with Norfleet where I always just expected his next game to be the one he finally breaks a return touchdown, I actually DO think Peppers will find the end zone. We’ve all seen his highlights, and if you haven’t welcome back from under the rock from which you’ve been hiding for the past 12 months. The kid is just an absolute freak of nature, and apparently he comes with an ‘edge’ according to Hoke.

All in all I expect this to be a typical blowout against a lesser opponent. Turnovers will be forced by the defense and the offense shouldn’t have too much trouble putting up points.

Michigan 52 – Appalachian State 9

Joe

It’s time to get this season kicked off with a BANG and exorcise some demons in the process. I’m 100 percent certain there is not a player or coach on the maize and blue sideline that cares about the last meeting between these two programs. I’m also 100 percent certain that the entire 109,000-plus fans in attendance do. That’s what makes this game so interesting. I think the offense will look to establish the running game early and wear down a smaller Mountaineer defense. Ball control…ball control….ball control. The offense will be able to move the ball relatively easy through the air as well with Funchess being a beast in the middle. A beast!

I can’t wait to see em turn the defense loose. Lots of blitz packages early will rattle an inexperienced App State bunch and create some early turnovers. Jake Ryan will have these guys buzzing and should force four or five turnovers throughout the game. They don’t give up more than 17 points in this one. Because of the turnovers, Michigan will have plenty of short fields to work with and take advantage putting up 45-plus.

Michigan 48 – Appalachian State 17
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Links: 

For more coverage of this week’s game, see: Michigan-Appalachian State game preview; a First Look at Appalachian State; our preseason Big Ten Power Rankings; this week’s BBQ/tailgate idea, Hot-’n-fast pulled pork with Carolina mustard slaw; end this week’s Five-Spot Challenge.

Also check out game previews from MGoBlogMaize n BrewMaize n Blue Nation, and Maize and Blue News. Also, a visitor list from MGoFish.

From the other side, some predictions from AppFan.com and a game preview from Big C’s Tailgate. Also, this is kind of….interesting.

M&GB season preview roundtable

Friday, August 22nd, 2014


Roundtable-banner

It has become our tradition at the beginning of each season to preview the upcoming season via a staff roundtable. We answer several questions with our predictions and expectations for what the season will bring. Drew has moved on, but we still have Justin, Sam, Derick, and Josh. We also invited our partner at MmmGoBluBBQ, Joe, to join us for the roundtable. We also invite you to give your answers in the comments below. Tell us what you agree with or disagree with. Next week we will begin our game week coverage.

What are you most excited about this season?

Justin: I’m most excited about what should be a very good defense. With so much talent and experience returning, it should be one of the top defenses in the Big Ten and may have to carry the team, at least in the early going. The best Michigan teams in recent history have featured stifling defenses — most notably 1997 and 2006 — and I think I can speak for most Michigan fans when I say I miss the days of Michigan having a dominating defense. It’s a major stretch to say this year’s unit could be as good as the 1997 one, but anywhere close would make for a very good season.

Michigan's defense won't be as good as the 1997 version, but it is one to be excited about

Michigan’s defense won’t be as good as the 1997 version, but it is one to be excited about

With most of the big questions on the offensive side of the ball, the defense is going to need to be very good, and if it is we have two recent examples that could foreshadow the upcoming season: Notre Dame in 2012 and Michigan State in 2013. Notre Dame’s offense ranked 80th nationally in scoring, 38th in rushing, and 72nd in passing that year but still made it to the national title game thanks to its defense. Last season, Michigan State’s offense ranked 63rd in scoring, 59th in rushing, and 84th in passing but still won the Big Ten and the Rose Bowl thanks to its defense. I’m excited for the possibility that Michigan’s defense, which should be more aggressive this fall, could carry the Wolverines to a special season.

Sam: I’m most excited about…football! After last year’s dreadful, seemingly never-ending season, I never thought I’d be so excited to see the Maize and Blue on the field just a season later, but I suppose hope reigns eternal right now. As far specific excitement about this team goes, I am really looking forward to seeing the whole defense working to live up to its enormous expectations. Every single position has an extremely strong two-deep, and every unit has at least one potential game-changer. With names like Frank Clark, Jake Ryan, James Ross III, and Jabrill Peppers, there’s no telling how good this defense could be. A consistent pass rush could mean a top-10 or even top-five defense nationally.

Derick: The most exciting storyline has to be the beginning of Jabrill Peppers‘ career in Ann Arbor. The No. 2 overall recruit has a chance to be a difference maker on defense and revive a kick return game that has been dormant since Steve Breaston left Michigan.

Josh: The defense and its personnel and scheme changes. I’d much rather see an aggressive, menacing defense with an average offense than an average defense with a high octane/high scoring offense. Luckily for Michigan it appears as though we just might get that menacing defense in 2014. That is something to be very excited about after we had to watch last year’s ‘bend but don’t break’ defense sit back and give up big gain after big gain.

Joe: I have a feeling that Coach Nussmeier will focus on building a strong run game with Green and Smith and help control the ball a little more than in recent years. Michigan has the horses to build an above avg. run game with these 2 and it will be fun to see if we can get back to a little smash mouth football at the big house. I’m also looking forward to some great BBQ on “Tailgate Tuesdays”.

What worries you most entering the season?

Justin: Okay, so this question is pretty rhetorical this year. The offensive line has to be the answer after last year’s meltdown and the loss of Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield. If it’s as bad as last season, even a high-caliber defense won’t save the team. But I really don’t think it will be. Do I expect it to be a mauling, classic Michigan offensive line? Absolutely not. But I do think it will be more cohesive than last season and more sound with a simplified playbook. Even so, until we see it in action, the worry is there.

The huge question obviously lies with Erik Magnuson and the rest of the line (Matthew O'Haren, USA Today Sports)

The huge question obviously lies with Erik Magnuson and the rest of the line (Matthew O’Haren, USA Today Sports)

Sam: If anyone’s biggest concern at this point is not the offensive line, he or she may want a quick crash course in foot-ball (American style). I can say with a straight face that Michigan has some sort of chance of having a First Team All-Conference player at every single position on the field (yes, this is still optimistic, but it’s at least feasible in some universe) besides the offensive line, where Michigan may not have a single Third Team-caliber performer, feasibly. The line is replacing two senior tackles who will most likely start one day in the NFL; even with those stars, Michigan’s big uglies up front last year were atrocious. Most people have been taking the glass-half-full approach in saying that there’s no way it can get any worse; it’s hard for me to look at the names on paper and wonder how in the world it could get any better.

Derick: After watching the spring game and the ‘Under the Lights’ scrimmage, how can the offensive line not be the No. 1 concern? Michigan’s defensive line was average for much of 2013, but looked like an elite unit against their offensive teammates. If Doug Nussmeier can’t improve this group, it won’t matter how much Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith have progressed.

Josh: The entire offense. They say that on defense 10 guys can fail as long as one guy makes the play. But on offense 10 guys can be doing their job and if one fails, then the play is lost. While the o-line clearly needs to be a cohesive unit that plays well, it’s not all on them and there are too many variables to work out before they can be a solid unit. Devin Gardner needs to be consistent and the running backs (whomever they may be) need to run with vision and be decisive. I see Michigan in a similar situation as Michigan State was coming into 2013; a potentially great defense that would be enough to carry them but no identity on offense. Last year the defense played well but faded late in the season as it was completely worn down after carrying the offense all year and it really showed in losses to Ohio State and Kansas State I fear we’ll see more of the same this year.

Joe: The offensive line is a HUGE concern due to the loss of both Schofield and Lewan. It wasn’t exactly a strong point last year and now it looks even more troubling. This group needs to gel quickly and improve on the “tackles for loss” that plagued them last year. 114 is way too many!

Who will be the breakout player on offense?

Justin: I would absolutely love to look into the crystal ball and pick a lineman that breaks out and puts together an all-conference season, and while it’s certainly possible, it’s impossible to predict. I also think Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith will split the workload, keeping either from truly breaking out. Therefore, it has to be a pass-catcher, and I’m going to go with Jake Butt. He’s out for the first couple of games at least, but is progressing very well in his return form a torn ACL. We got a taste of what he’s capable of last season — 20 catches for 235 yards and two touchdowns — and once he returns, he could put up some solid numbers.

We all know Devin Funchess will be the go-to receiver for Devin Gardner, but he’s going to have to find others to distribute the ball to so opposing defenses can’t simply game plan Funchess out. It’s very likely that either Jehu Chesson or Amara Darboh breaks onto the scene, but as a tight end, I see Butt becoming a crutch for Gardner. Butt fits right into Nussmeier’s offensive system and could be primed for a big season as long as he fully recovers from his injury.

Sam: This one is pretty easy for me. I don’t think the offensive line is going to be good enough for Michigan to have a star running back, so I immediately look to the outside. There I find Amara Darboh, a gentlemanly sized 6’2″, 211-pound redshirt sophomore wide receiver who was held out all of last season with a foot injury. Devin Funchess is the closest thing the Wolverines have to a sure thing this year, so Darboh should have plenty of opportunities to take advantage of cheating defenses, and his nice hands, solid size, and football IQ should make him a favorite of Devin Gardner.

Derick: Freddy Canteen will probably have one of the greatest impacts on the offense, but I think Devin Gardner will be the breakout player. Gardner struggled for much of the 2013 season, but pressure from the defense and a non-existent rushing attack made his job much harder. A healthy Gardner should take advantage of a deeper receiving core and become the quarterback fans saw for a few games at the end of 2012.

Josh: I’m really down on the offense heading into this season. True, I’m not in Schembechler Hall, but nothing I’ve seen or read since last season has given me any indication that this offense will be any better than last year’s. A simplified system and zone blocking schemes will help but they haven’t had much time with Nussmeier and development takes time and many reps. Plus the mere fact that a TRUE freshman is in line to start at left tackle tells me that this line is still in shambles and that could derail the entire offense, again. That said, I think Jake Butt (once he returns) is prime for a breakout season. I foresee Gardner looking for a safety valve as he runs for his life behind an inept line and Butt should be that safety valve. We saw glimpses of what Butt could do late in 2013 and I expect him to pick up where he left off.

Joe: I am hoping that an in shape and focused Derrick Green turns into the five-star tailback we recruited two years ago. If he can pound the ball and help control the clock, this offense can put up some big numbers. An effective Green would free up some young receivers and an elite Funchess down field.

Who will be the breakout player on defense?

Justin: Yeah, it’s a pretty generic answer that I’m sure others will give, but I’m going with Jourdan Lewis. The hype coming out of the spring and fall camp is too much to ignore. The coaching staff has talked about being more aggressive defensively, and Lewis fits that mold at corner. If he truly has beaten out either experienced corners like Raymon Taylor or Blake Countess, he’s earned it and it will only make the secondary better.

Can Jourdan Lewis live up to the hype he has garnered throughout the offseason?

Can Jourdan Lewis live up to the hype he has garnered throughout the offseason?

Sam: Defensive breakout players are a little bit harder for me to predict, and I admittedly don’t even know who would rightfully qualify as a “breakout” player this year. Would a senior Frank Clark, who has been solid but never great, qualify? How about a junior linebacker who has been playing plenty of snaps for two full seasons? I’ll assume I’d get picked on for taking either of those guys, so let me go with Jourdan Lewis, a 5’10″, 175-pound sophomore cornerback from Cass Tech. If preseason reports and practices are to be believed, it seems that Lewis has managed to wrestle away a starting spot from either senior Raymon Taylor or redshirt junior Blake Countess, both of whom were pretty solid contributors a season ago. The coaches have been emphasizing increased physicality and aggressiveness on defense, particularly from the cornerbacks, which fits right into Lewis’s strengths. If he indeed plays the first snap on defense against Appalachian State next week, Jourdan Lewis must have something going for him.

Derick: It has to be Jabrill Peppers. If he can’t contribute in the secondary then Michigan will be vulnerable to the pass all season, since Blake Countess is the only proven cornerback that can cover Big Ten recievers.

Josh: Jourdan Lewis, and it’s not even close. Yes, I do think Jabrill Peppers will show us why he was one of the best incoming recruits in recent memory but my money is on Lewis to really make massive strides from last season. He got his feet wet last year while relying on great athletic ability but now he has the technique and mental aspect to add to it. I fully expect him to be an All-Big Ten performer, and one of the best defenders in the conference, by season’s end.

Joe: Can I say Jake Ryan as my breakout player? I know he is a team captain and a stud at linebacker, but after missing five games last year due to a torn ACL, he will shine all season if healthy. He is a must for this team to keep pace defensively.

Michigan will win the Big Ten if…

Justin: The offensive line improves to simply average and the defense is as good as advertised. The defense will have to carry the team early on while the offense finds its feet, but I truly believe this is a team that has a lot of potential. It will all rely on improvement from the offensive line, but like I said above, if the defense lives up to the hype, a 2012 Notre Dame or 2013 Michigan State season is not out of question.

Sam: Michigan will win the Big Ten if the defense doesn’t allow a single point. In all seriousness, the defense has to be elite (probably allowing 15 or fewer points a game in Big Ten play) and the offensive line has to be above-average for Michigan to compete for their first conference championship since 2004. I think the defense can be elite, but I still think the offensive line is going to struggle a little bit too much for the team to reach Pasadena or beyond.

Derick: Michigan will win the Big Ten if the quarterback pressure we saw throughout camp was actually because of the elite defensive line Greg Mattison has assembled. If the offensive line can actually protect Gardner and create holes for the running game then the rest will fall in place.

Josh: Michigan State and Ohio State completely implode and each have multiple conference losses, a miracle happens with the offensive line’s development early on, Devin Gardner finally becomes the consistently good QB we know he can be all while Jabrill Peppers exceeds the hype, plays both sides of the ball and becomes the first true freshman to win the Heisman (read: I don’t think it’s even remotely possible for Michigan to win the B1G Ten this year). I’ve said it many times before and I’ll say it again, Michigan won’t be ready to legitimately compete for the B1G Ten until 2015.

Joe: We can get strong and smart play up front, as well as from our quarterback position. We must eliminate the untimely sack or tackle for loss that killed us on important drives last season. C’mon O-line, make it happen!

What’s your prediction for the season? Record, who will Michigan lose to, what bowl game will Michigan play in?

Justin: Regardless of how much improvement the offensive line shows, I don’t see Michigan winning less than eight games this season. But I think they’ll win more than that and finish the regular season 10-2 with losses to Notre Dame and Michigan State. I don’t think Notre Dame will be that great this year, but early on Michigan will still be trying to get its offense up to speed, and despite a valiant effort from the defense, bad things just happen in South Bend. The latter because Michigan State is still the team to beat in the Big Ten this season and, while Michigan will play closer than they have the past two years, it will be extremely tough to pull one out in East Lansing.

I do think Michigan will go into Columbus at season’s end and pull off a big win, leaving a three-way tie atop the East Division, but Michigan State will get the nod into the Big Ten Championship game. Michigan will go to the Capital One Bowl. I never predict the outcome of bowl games before the season because so many variables come into play about who the opponent will be.

Our predictions range from 8-4 to 10-2 with the Capital One Bowl being the most likely destination

Our predictions range from 8-4 to 10-2 with the Capital One Bowl being the most likely destination

I’m optimistic about this season and think this team will be very close to having a really special season that will surprise some people, but in the end it will come up just short, setting up big expectations for 2015.

Sam: My final prediction for the 2014 Michigan football season is as follows:

Record: 10-2, losses at Michigan State and at Ohio State
Bowl game: Wherever generic 10-2 Big Ten teams end up this season (too many to keep track of).

I think it will be a successful season overall that falls just short of the ultimate goals of conference and national championships. Michigan State’s defense should be able to wreak havoc on the offensive line yet again, and though Ohio State will be without Heisman hopeful Braxton Miller all season, their backup will have enough time to gel by the end of the season that the Buckeyes will edge the Wolverines once again at home.

Derick: I think Michigan’s season should be pretty straightforward. The Maize and Blue are great in Ann Arbor, so an easy home schedule should translate into seven wins. But tough road games at Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State make me shudder, and Brady Hoke’s resume on the road should turn all three games into losses. Michigan should take care of Northwestern and Rutgers on the road, giving it a 9-3 record for the season. Two Big Ten losses isn’t going to cut it for a trip to Indy, so Michigan will end up in the Capital One Bowl. Could Michigan win every single game on its schedule? Absolutely. But until fans see this team play solid football, there’s little reason to believe that more than nine wins are on tap.

Josh: My heart wants to be optimistic but my gut says this team’s lack of sufficient development spells doom in 2014. The offense has too many question marks for me to feel comfortable about having anything but very low expectations for them, which in turn puts more pressure on the defense to carry the team, again. The schedule does not set up in Michigan’s favor, with both MSU and OSU on the road (both of which are all but guaranteed losses in my mind). And as we’ve seen in the past Hoke’s teams consistently lose games they shouldn’t, mostly on the road (at Iowa in ’11, at ND and Nebraska in ’12 and atPSU, Nebraska and Iowa last year). They’ve gotten incredibly lucky against Northwestern the past two seasons and something tells me that luck may run out in 2014. Notre Dame, while losing several key players, is still on the road and that tilts the odds slightly in favor of the Irish. Utah could be a very dangerous trap game, sandwiched Miami (Ohio) and perennial bottom feeder Minnesota. Throw in the perennial inexplicable loss we’ve come to expect from Hoke’s Michigan teams and we’re sitting at 4 or 5 losses.

Right now I don’t see this team being better than 8-4, and not in the hunt for the East division. I see losses to MSU, OSU and then two more out of Notre Dame, Utah, Penn St. and Northwestern. They’ll still end up in a decent bowl because they’re Michigan, so something along the lines of the BWW Bowl like last year. Of course, I hope I’m completely wrong and the offense can come together and prove me horribly wrong but I won’t hold my breath.

Joe: I am predicting a 9-3 record for the Maize and Blue with losses at MSU, Northwestern and Ohio. Don’t ask me to explain the Northwestern loss, I just have a bad feeling. This will put them in the Outback bowl on Jan 1. 

New in Blue: Running back Mike Weber

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014



Mike Weber(Tanya Moutzalias, MLive.com)

Mike Weber – RB | 5’10″, 205 | Detroit, Mich. – Cass Technical
ESPN: 4-star, #14 RB Rivals: 4-star, #10 RB 247: 4-star, #13 RB Scout: 4-star, #13 RB
Other top offers: Michigan State, Ohio State, USC, Wisconsin, Miami, Nebraska, Tennessee

Just a week and a half after receiving a commitment from the top 2015 recruit in the state of Michigan, Brady Hoke and the Michigan football program picked up a big commitment from the second-ranked player in the state. Detroit Cass Tech running back Mike Weber pledged his commitment to his home-state Wolverines and announced it via Twitter shortly after 9 p.m. EST.

Weber is a four-star across the board, ranked no worse than 169th nationally by any of the four major recruiting services. Rivals has Weber the highest as the 10th-best running back in the class and 103rd-best player overall. Scout has him 13th and 104th, while 247 Sports ranks him 13th and 144th, and ESPN comes in the lowest at 14th and 169th.

Rivals and 247 are in agreement about his size, listing him at 5’10″, 205. ESPN lists him an inch shorter and Scout has him an inch shorter and five pounds heavier. Regardless, by the time he gets to campus a year from now, he’ll fit the mold of the current leaders on Michigan’s depth chart, De’Veon Smith and Derrick Green (both 5’11″, 220).

Scout lists Weber’s strengths as cutback ability, hands, and vision, and his area to improve as power. Allen Trieu had this to say: “Weber is a compact back who runs with good patience. He is a slasher with a good burst and good acceleration. He catches the ball well out of the backfield and also does a nice job in pass protection. He has run largely out of the shotgun in high school and would have to adjust if he goes to more of a traditional I-form team in college. He’s shown the ability to run between the tackles but is not a true power back.”

Weber’s commitment ends a long, up and down process for the Michigan coaching staff at the position in the 2015 class. The top overall back in the class, Damien Harris initially committed to the Wolverines on July 29, 2013, but decommitted following Michigan’s 7-6 season. When he released his top five last week, Michigan was absent. Weber was all but out of the running for Michigan at the beginning of the year, but following Harris’ decommitment, Weber became a top priority. The battle for Weber was between Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, and USC. The Spartans landed Hubbard, Ohio running back Larry Scott three weeks ago, and many feel Harris will wind up at Ohio State. That left Weber for Michigan and the Wolverines are more than pleased.

Current 2015 commit, quarterback Alex Malzone, who played a big role in securing Weber, tweeted his excitement:

When Weber gets to campus, he will join a crowded backfield. Justice Hayes will be a redshirt senior; Drake Johnson, who was number two on the depth chart coming out of fall camp a year ago before tearing his ACL, will be a redshirt junior; De’Veon Smith and Derrick Green will be true juniors; and Ty Isaac will either be a true junior or redshirt sophomore depending on whether or not he receives a hardship waiver for his transfer. With no running back in the 2014 class, it was imperative that Hoke sign one in 2015, and the depth ahead of him will allow Weber time to work his way into the lineup.

Weber’s commitment gives Michigan the top running back, quarterback (Malzone), and receiver (Brian Cole) in the state of Michigan in the 2015 class. The three also represent three of the top four players in the state. Michigan State has offensive lineman Kyonta Stallworth, who ranks third.

Weber is the 10th commitment in Michigan’s 2015 class, joining Malzone, Cole, tight end Chris Clark, offensive linemen Grant Newsome and Jon Runyan Jr, defensive backs Tyree Kinnel and Garrett Taylor, linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr, and kicker Andrew David. The class now ranks third nationally per 247 in terms of average rating (91.10), behind only Alabama (93.61) and USC (91.12). In Scout’s rankings index, the class is tied for first with Alabama, though they haven’t officially added him at the time of this post.

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.