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Posts Tagged ‘Devin Bush’

Michigan 35 – Rutgers 14: Peters takes over, steady in win over Rutgers

Monday, October 30th, 2017


(Isaiah Hole)

After suffering its second defeat in three games last weekend, Michigan got the benefit of a Homecoming matchup with Rutgers on Saturday to ease back into the win column. And they did just what they had to do with a 35-14 victory.

Final Stats
Michigan  Rutgers
Score 35 14
Record 6-2 (3-2) 3-5 (2-3)
Total Yards 471 195
Net Rushing Yards 334 94
Net Passing Yards 137 101
First Downs 25 9
Turnovers 1 0
Penalties-Yards 3-25 3-20
Punts-Yards 3-125 8-352
Time of Possession 36:44 23:16
Third Down Conversions 3-of-9 3-of-11
Fourth Down Conversions 1-of-2 0-of-0
Sacks By-Yards 5-25 0-0
Field Goals 0-for-1 0-for-0
PATs 5-for-5 2-for-2
Red Zone Scores-Chances 4-of-5 1-of-1
Red Zone TDs-Chances 4-of-5 1-of-1
Full Box Score

Despite a 21-point margin of victory, it didn’t start out easy, however. John O’Korn started and led the first four possessions, which resulted in two punts, a touchdown, and an interception, before giving way to redshirt freshman Brandon Peters, who made his long-awaited debut. And he did it in style, leading three straight touchdown drives to turn a 7-7 second-quarter score into a 28-7 third-quarter lead. And just like that, the Peters era had begun.

On his first drive, Peters completed passes of 15 yards to Ty Wheatley, 10 yards to Henry Poggi, and 12 yards to Nico Collins as Michigan went 77 yards on eight plays. Karan Higdon ran it in from 10 yards out.

After the Michigan defense forced a three-and-out, Peters got the ball back and completed a 12-yard pass to Zach Gentry on 3rd-and-3. Four plays later, he connected with Chris Evans on a wheel route for a 20-yard touchdown.

On his third drive — Michigan’s first possession of the second half — Peters needed just one pass attempt, a 10-yard completion to Ty Isaac, as the Wolverines marched down the field for a 4-play, 54-yard touchdown drive. Fellow redshirt freshman Kareem Walker scored his first touchdown of the season, carrying it in from five yards out.

Rutgers answered with a touchdown on its ensuing possession to pull within 28-14, but that was as close as they would get.

Peters led another promising drive, completing a pair of 15-yard passes to Grant Perry and Sean McKeon, but Michigan had to settle for a field goal attempt. Quinn Nordin missed it from 35 yards out.

The Michigan defense forced another punt, and Higdon followed up a 12-yard run with a 49-yard touchdown run to put Michigan ahead at the final score of 35-14.

Michigan’s offense racked up 471 total yards, 334 of which came on the ground on 6.5 yards per carry. Peters completed 10 of 14 passes for 124 yards and a touchdown, while O’Korn went 3-of-6 for 13 yards and an interception. Higdon rushed for 158 yards and two touchdowns, while Isaac also topped 100 with 109 yards. The two averaged 8.8 and 7.8 yards per carry, respectively. Ten different Wolverines caught a pass, led by McKeon’s three for 31 yards.

Defensively, Michigan held Rutgers to just 195 total yards and just 94 rushing yards. Rutgers entered the game 11th nationally with just six sacks allowed through seven games, but Michigan got to the quarterback five times. Devin Bush led the way defensively with 11 tackles, two for loss, and half a sack. Chase Winovich recorded 1.5 sacks, while Maurice Hurst and Rashan Gary each had one and Kwity Paye and Michael Dwumfour were each credited with a half.

Michigan stays home to host Minnesota next Saturday at 7:30pm. The Gophers are 4-4 overall and 1-4 in the Big Ten under first-year head coach P.J. Fleck.

Game Ball – Offense

Brandon Peters (10-of-14 for 124 yards and 1 touchdown)
Yes, it’s a stretch to give the game ball to a quarterback that completed just 10 passes for 124 yards, especially considering the game Higdon had with 158 yards rushing and two touchdowns. But Peters is easily the story of the game, taking over an offense that looked stagnant under O’Korn and making an immediate impact. I’m cautious to draw too many conclusions from his performance in one game — against Rutgers nonetheless — but it was a great first step and showed enough to earn his first start next Saturday. Was he perfect? No. The play before his touchdown pass, he should have been picked off. He also underthrew a wide open McKeon on the last possession of the day, a play that may have been another touchdown. But he took command of the offense, looked to be in control, made some nice plays, made the right reads, and didn’t make any costly mistakes.

Previous:
Week 1 – Quinn Nordin (4-of-6 field goals, 2-of-3 from 50-plus)
Week 2 — Ty Isaac (20 carries for 133 yards, 6.7 yards per carry)
Week 3 — Donovan Peoples-Jones (2 receptions for 52 yards, 2 punt returns for 104 yards and 1 touchdown)
Week 4 — John O’Korn (18-of-26 for 270 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception, 5 rushes for 12 yards)
Week 5 — Karan Higdon (12 carries for 65 yards, 5.4 yards per carry, 2 receptions for 33 yards)
Week 6 — Karan Higdon (25 carries for 200 yards, 3 touchdowns, 8.0 yards per carry)
Week 7 — None

Game Ball – Defense

Maurice Hurst (8 tackles — 2 solo — 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack)
This was a tough one to pick this week because a bunch of different players made big plays for the Michigan defense. Although Devin Bush led the team in tackles, when I think about who made the biggest impact on the game, I have to go with Hurst. He was constantly in the Rutgers backfield, recorded eight tackles, two tackles for loss, and a sack. Throughout the season he has cemented himself as a high draft pick next April and that was no different on Saturday.

Previous:
Week 1 – Devin Bush (7 tackles, 5 solo, 3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks)
Week 2 – Tyree Kinnel (9 tackles, 8 solo, 1 tackle for loss, 1 sack, 1 interception return for touchdown)
Week 3 – Chase Winovich (9 tackles – 3 solo – 2 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 1 quarterback hurry)
Week 4 — Chase Winovich (6 tackles — all solo — 4 tackles for loss, 3 sacks
Week 5 — Maurice Hurst (8 tackles — 6 solo — 2.5 tackles for loss)
Week 6 — Rashan Gary (7 tackles — 3 solo — 2.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 2 quarterback hurries)
Week 7 — Khaleke Hudson (4 tackles — 4 solo — 1 tackle for loss, 1 quarterback hurry, 1 pass breakup)

#8 Michigan 28 – Purdue 10: O’Korn, U-M defense turn halftime deficit into second half rout

Sunday, September 24th, 2017


(Patrick Barron)

Michigan was a trendy pick to be upset by upstart Purdue on Saturday, but the Wolverines turned a sloppy first half into a second half route to stay 4-0 this season.

Wilton Speight was knocked out of the game on Michigan’s third possession of the game and John O’Korn came in and led the Wolverines on a 13-play, 84-yard touchdown drive to get the scoring started. On the drive, he completed an 11-yard pass to tight end Sean McKeon on 3rd-and-9 and also a 12-yard touchdown pass to tight end Zach Gentry on 3rd-and-4.

Final Stats
Michigan  Purdue
Score 28 10
Record 4-0 2-2
Total Yards 423 189
Net Rushing Yards 139 30
Net Passing Yards 284 159
First Downs 24 9
Turnovers 2 1
Penalties-Yards 7-57 10-82
Punts-Yards 7-284 11-439
Time of Possession 38:59 21:01
Third Down Conversions 6-of-15 0-of-12
Fourth Down Conversions 1-of-1 0-of-0
Sacks By-Yards 5-40 4-28
Field Goals 0-for-0 1-for-1
PATs 4-for-4 1-for-1
Red Zone Scores-Chances 3-of-3 1-of-1
Red Zone TDs-Chances 3-of-3 1-of-1
Full Box Score

But the lead wouldn’t last for long as Purdue also switched quarterbacks — albeit by choice — and Elijah Sindelar led the Boilermakers right down the field for a game-tying touchdown. The drive was classic Jeff Brohm, using a series of throwback passes to gain 16 yards, 13 yards, 36 yards, and 10 yards for the touchdown.

O’Korn threw an interception on Michigan’s next possession but the Michigan defense held Purdue to just a field goal and the Boilers took a 10-7 halftime lead.

The second half was all Michigan.

It took a couple drives for the Michigan offense to get going, but once it did it didn’t look back, scoring touchdowns on three straight drives that covered 86 yards on 11 plays, 65 yards on nine plays, and 76 yards on five plays.

The Michigan defense was even more impressive, limiting Purdue to just 10 total yards in the second half. Purdue had just one second-half possession that didn’t result in a three-and-out, and it was just five plays long before the Boilers punted. They went three plays for one yard, three plays for three yards, three plays for negative-three yards, three plays for five yards, five plays for three yards, and one play for six yards.

For the game, Michigan’s defense held a Purdue offense that had been averaging 459.7 yards per game to just 189 total yards and 3.8 yards per play — the lowest total the Wolverines have allowed this season.

Purdue quarterback led the Big Ten in passing last season and entered the game tops with a 76.1 completion percentage, but he went just 5-of-13 for 32 yards. Sindelar fared slightly better, going 7-of-16 for 103 yards and a touchdown, but had just a 26.5 quarterback rating.

On the other hand, O’Korn went 18-of-26 for 270 yards, one touchdown, and one interception for an 84.9 quarterback rating. It was the first 250-plus passing game on the road for a Michigan quarterback since Jake Rudock did so at Penn State in 2015.

Chris Evans led Michigan in rushing with 14 carries for 97 yards (6.9 yards per carry) and two touchdowns. Ty Isaac managed just 20 yards and a score on 10 carries. McKeon led the way in receiving with five receptions for 82 yards, while Gentry caught three for 48 and a score. Ten different Wolverines caught a pass.

Chase Winovich earned national defensive player of the week honors with a six tackle (all solo), four tackle for loss, three sack performance. Devin Bush added six tackles, one tackle for loss, and a sack.

Michigan gets a bye week before hosting Michigan State (2-1) on Oct. 7.

Game Ball – Offense

John O’Korn (18-of-26 for 270 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception, 5 rushes for 12 yards)
It took four weeks but the Michigan quarterback is the offensive player of the week for the first time. But instead of starter Wilton Speight, it’s O’Korn, who took over when Speight was injured on Michigan’s third possession. O’Korn came in and immediately led the Wolverines on a touchdown drive. Although he threw an interception on the next possession, he steadied and led Michigan on three straight touchdown drives in the second half. Is it enough to earn O’Korn the starting job two weeks from now? Who knows, assuming Speight is healthy. But it was an inspiring performance by a guy who has waited his turn.

Previous:
Week 1 – Quinn Nordin (4-of-6 field goals, 2-of-3 from 50-plus)
Week 2 — Ty Isaac (20 carries for 133 yards, 6.7 yards per carry)
Week 3 — Donovan Peoples-Jones (2 receptions for 52 yards, 2 punt returns for 104 yards and 1 touchdown)

Game Ball – Defense

Chase Winovich (6 tackles — all solo — 4 tackles for loss, 3 sacks)
Winovich gets the nod for the second straight week after terrorizing Purdue’s backfield with four tackles for loss and three sacks. His performance was good enough to earn Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week honors. Through four weeks, he ranks third nationally with six sacks and Michigan as a team leads the nation with 18.

Previous:
Week 1 – Devin Bush (7 tackles, 5 solo, 3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks)
Week 2 – Tyree Kinnel (9 tackles, 8 solo, 1 tackle for loss, 1 sack, 1 interception return for touchdown)
Week 3 – Chase Winovich (9 tackles – 3 solo – 2 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 1 quarterback hurry)

Four Bold Predictions Results

 Michigan’s offense shows some new looks, gets the tight ends more involved, and Wilton Speight tops 300 yards passing 
– It wasn’t Speight who had the big game passing, but the passing game went about how I expected. Tight ends Sean McKeon and Zach Gentry were the top two receivers, combining for 12 catches for 130 yards and a touchdown, and John O’Korn came close to 300 yards, finishing with 270.

 The offense also converts all of its red zone attempts 
– Michigan’s offense entered the game just 1-of-10 on red zone touchdown conversions but converted all three chances on Saturday. It did so with a 12-yard touchdown pass from O’Korn to Gentry on 3rd-and-4 in the first quarter, a 10-yard Chris Evans touchdown run in the third quarter, and a 1-yard Ty Isaac touchdown run at the beginning of the fourth.

 Donovan Peoples-Jones scores two touchdowns — one on offense and, yes, another punt return 
– The true freshman who returned a punt for a touchdown against Air Force had a quiet day against Purdue, catching just one pass for eight yards and returning one punt for minus-one yard. Even though Purdue punted 11 times, Peoples-Jones was forced to fair catch most of them. He seemed to take a conservative approach, often calling for the fair catch even though he had room, so he was likely directed to do so in order to avoid a costly mistake in a close game.

 The defense gives up two long pass plays, but holds Purdue’s offense to less than 250 total yards 
– This also went pretty much as expected. Michigan’s defense struggled early in the game with Purdue’s misdirection plays and throwbacks, which resulted in Purdue’s only touchdown. On that drive, the Boilermakers completed passes of 16, 13, 36, and 10 yards. But Don Brown made adjustments at halftime and held the Boilers to just 10 total yards in the second half and 189 total yards — the fewest in their last 35 games.

Season Bold Prediction Results
= 5
 = 4
 = 3

#8 Michigan 36 – Cincinnati 14: Pair of pick-sixes save lackluster offensive showing

Sunday, September 10th, 2017


(Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press)

After a resounding win over 17th-ranked Florida to open the season, Michigan returned home and received more than it expected from a Cincinnati squad that went just 4-8 a year ago. Still, the Wolverines weathered the storm and survived a plague of mistakes to win going away, 36-14.

Michigan started the game strong with a 7-play, 80-yard touchdown drive on the first possession and an interception returned for touchdown a couple drives later to take a quick 14-0 lead.

Final Stats
Michigan  Cincinnati
Score 36 14
Record 2-0 1-1
Total Yards 414 200
Net Rushing Yards 193 68
Net Passing Yards 221 132
First Downs 16 13
Turnovers 2 2
Penalties-Yards 7-68 4-30
Punts-Yards 7-274 10-373
Time of Possession 30:27 29:33
Third Down Conversions 5-of-15 6-of-19
Fourth Down Conversions 1-of-1 0-of-1
Sacks By-Yards 4-23 1-8
Field Goals 2-for-2 0-for-1
PATs 4-for-4 2-for-2
Red Zone Scores-Chances 2-of-2 2-of-2
Full Box Score

But after the defense forced a Cincinnati punt, the ball hit a Michigan blocker and was recovered by the Bearcats at the Michigan 38. Cincinnati took advantage of the short field with a 9-play touchdown drive.

The second quarter struggles that Michigan had in Week 1 returned as the Wolverines kicked a 28-yard field goal on their first possession but managed just 51 yards on 14 plays the rest of the quarter.

Cincinnati opened the second half with a 10-play, 85-yard touchdown drive to pull within 17-14 and had two more possessions with a chance to either tie the game or take the lead. But the Michigan defense held strong, and after a pair of drives that gained a total of seven yards, the offense finally moved the ball thanks to a 36-yard pass from Wilton Speight to tight end Sean McKeon and a 33-yard touchdown pass to Grant Perry.

A couple drives later, Quinn Nordin kicked a 24-yard field goal to extend Michigan’s lead to 27-14, and on Cincinnati’s ensuing possession the Wolverines forced a three-and-out. On the punt attempt, the ball was snapped past the punter, who batted the ball out of the back of the end zone for a safety.

Michigan’s offense couldn’t capitalize, going three-and-out, but the defense scored its second touchdown of the game when Lavert Hill picked off quarterback Hayden Moore and raced 24 yards to the end zone to reach the final score of 36-14.

The Michigan offense was mistake prone and lackluster most of the day, unable to string together consistent drives against a defense that ranked 72nd nationally a year ago. Sure, the Bearcats’ defense was full of returning starters and now coached by a defensive-minded head coach in Luke Fickell, but there’s no reasons a Michigan offense shouldn’t have more success moving the ball. Take away the two defensive touchdowns and the Wolverines managed just 22 points.

Still, the Wolverines’ defense was strong, holding the Bearcats to just 200 total yards and 68 rushing yards while recording seven tackles for loss and four sacks and scoring two defensive touchdowns. Through two games, the Michigan defense has scored three touchdowns — matching last season’s total — and allowed just two.

Speight completed 17-of-29 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns. Ty Isaac topped 100 yards rushing for the second straight game, carrying the ball 20 times for 133 yards, while Chris Evans managed just 15 yards on five rushes. Kekoa Crawford led the way through the air, catching four passes for 83 yards and a touchdown, while Perry caught for for 66 and a score.

Tyree Kinnel led the defense with nine tackles (8 solo), a tackle for loss, a sack, and an interception returned for touchdown. Devin Bush had another strong game with seven tackles and a sack, while Khaleke Hudson recorded two sacks.

Game Ball – Offense

Ty Isaac (20 carries for 133 yards, 6.7 yards per carry)
Isaac could have taken the game ball in Week 1, but we gave it to Quinn Nordin for his multiple 50-yard field goal day. There’s no question Isaac was the best player on the field for Michigan’s offense in Week 2. While Chris Evans couldn’t find any running room, Isaac took the reigns and averaged 6.7 yards per carry. The senior now has 247 yards through two games, averaging 8.0 yards per carry, though he has yet to find the end zone.

Previous:
Week 1 – Quinn Nordin (4-of-6 field goals, 2-of-3 from 50-plus)

Game Ball – Defense

Tyree Kinnel (9 tackles — 8 solo — 1 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 interception returned for touchdown)
While the Michigan defense lost 10 of 11 starters from last season it still returned plenty of players with experience and Kinnel was one of them. Stepping into the starting safety spot in 2017 for the first time, Kinnel was impressive on Saturday, leading the team with nine tackles, recording a sack, and taking an interception 28 yards for a touchdown.

Previous:
Week 1 – (7 tackles, 5 solo, 3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks)

#11 Michigan 33 – #17 Florida 17: Second half surge, dominant defense carry U-M

Saturday, September 2nd, 2017


(Kevin Goheen, Land of 10)

The first game of the season is always a bit of a mystery as teams break in new players and work out some kinks as they hit the field for the first time after months of preparation. Ohio State struggled with Indiana in the first half before pulling away in the second. Washington struggled with Rutgers and Wisconsin struggled with Utah State on Friday night before both pulled away.

Michigan was one of the few ranked teams nationally to face a ranked power-five opponent, and despite having their share of struggles in the first half, dominated the second half to claim a resounding 33-17 win.

Final Stats
Michigan  Florida
Score 33 17
Record 1-0 0-1
Total Yards 433 192
Net Rushing Yards 215 11
Net Passing Yards 218 181
First Downs 19 9
Turnovers 2 3
Penalties-Yards 7-55 5-45
Punts-Yards 3-82 6-328
Time of Possession 34:13 25:47
Third Down Conversions 6-of-18 2-of-13
Fourth Down Conversions 1-of-1 1-of-2
Sacks By-Yards 6-35 5-22
Field Goals 4-for-6 1-for-2
PATs 3-for-3 2-for-2
Red Zone Scores-Chances 3-of-4 0-of-0
Full Box Score

Florida took the opening kickoff and went 46 yards in six plays for a 46-yard field goal, but Michigan’s defense held the Gators to just 146 total yards and no points the last 57 minutes of the game. It was a performance that put to rest — at least for now — the notion that the Wolverines’ defense would take a step back after losing 10 starters. The new look defense recorded six sacks, forced five turnovers (three recovered), and held Florida to just 192 total yards and only 11 yards on the ground. Florida’s offense wasn’t held below 200 yards all season a year ago.

Michigan’s offense, meanwhile, had its highs and lows but ultimately turned in a positive performance against one of the best defenses they’ll face all season. The first drive of the season yielded points on a 25-yard Quinn Nordin field goal that capped a 14-play, 68-yard drive. On the next possession, Chris Evans broke loose for a 29-yard run and on the very next play, Wilton Speight connected with freshman receiver Tarik Black for a 46-yard touchdown.

But the fun didn’t last for long as Speight threw back to back interceptions returned for touchdowns and suddenly the Wolverines trailed 17-10. Two possessions later, with John O’Korn in for Speight, Nordin showed off the big leg that earned him the top kicker of the 2016 class ranking, nailing a 55-yard field goal. Florida’s normally reliable kicker, Eddy Pinero, missed a 47-yarder on the ensuing possession and Florida took a 17-13 lead into the half.

The second half was all Michigan as the Wolverines took the first possession 75 yards on 10 plays for a 3-yard Karan Higdon touchdown to retake the lead. Freshman Ambry Thomas forced and recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and Michigan tacked on a 30-yard Nordin field goal.

Michigan’s defense forced its second fumble of the game three plays later when Josh Metellus stripped quarterback Feleipe Franks and Lawrence Marshall recovered at the Florida 31-yard line. The offense was unable to move the ball and Nordin kicked a 50-yard field goal, becoming the first kicker in Michigan history to boot two field goals of 50 yards or more in the same game.

In the fourth quarter, Nordin missed from 52 yards and 32 yards to keep Florida within reach, but the Michigan defense closed it out with a Chase Winovich sack of backup quarterback Malik Zaire, who fumbled and Noah Furbush recovered in the end zone for a Michigan touchdown.

All told, the Michigan offense put up 433 total yards in a balanced effort, rushing for 215 yards on 4.4 yards per carry against a stout Florida front seven and passing for 218. Speight completed 11-of-25 passes for 181 yards, one touchdown, and two picks. Ty Isaac led Michigan on the ground with 114 yards on just 11 carries (10.4 yards per carry), while Evans 78 yards on 22 carries (3.5 ypc). Black caught two passes for 83 yards and one score. Grant Perry had the most receptions with four for 46 yards.

Defensively, Devin Bush was all over the field, finishing with seven tackles (five solo), three tackles for loss, and two sacks. Winovich, Mike McCray, Josh Uche, and Khaleke Hudson all recorded a sack as well.

Michigan hosts Cincinnati in its home opener next Saturday at 12pm. The Bearcats, under first-year head coach Luke Fickell, beat Austin Peay 26-14 to open the season.

Game Ball – Offense

Quinn Nordin (4-of-6 field goals, 2-of-3 from 50-plus)
One of the big question marks for Michigan entering the season was the special teams play, especially at kicker where the reliable Kenny Allen had to be replaced. I said in my game preview that Florida had a big edge in this category, but Nordin put those fears to rest by nailing his first three field goals of the day, two of which were from 50 yards and beyond. Sure, he missed two in the fourth quarter, but we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt after his performance prior to that. The Michigan career record for field goals of 50 or more yards is four by Hayden Epstein from 1998-2001. In his first career game, Nordin made half of that, tying him with Mike Gillette, J.D. Carlson, Mike Lantry, and Jay Feely for third all-time.

Game Ball – Defense

Devin Bush (7 tackles, 5 solo, 3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks)
With only one returning starter on defense, Michigan needed some of its young talent to emerge and Bush did just that. He looked good in limited time as a true freshman in 2016, but shined in his first start. It almost didn’t happen as he was flagged for a late hit on the game’s first play. The play was reviewed for targeting, which would have ejected him form the game, but the officials ruled that it wasn’t. Good thing, because he was all over the field, recording seven tackles, three for loss, and two sacks.

Four Bold Predictions Results

Two good:
• Wilton Speight looks solid and throws for 250 yards as Michigan’s passing game looks exciting 
– Speight was up and down, making a nice 46-yard touchdown pass to Tarik Black on Michigan’s second possession, but then throwing two pick-sixes. The first wasn’t necessarily his fault — it was a little high but should have been caught by Kekoa Crawford — but the second was a straight overthrow. That led directly to 14 Florida points, the only two touchdowns the Gators scored. Speight finished with 181 yards but completed just 44 percent of his passes. The good news is that he gets to face a few less than stellar defenses in the coming weeks to gain his rhythm heading into the meat of the schedule.

• Chris Evans starts and runs well, but Karan Higdon leads the Wolverines in rushing 
– I’m giving myself a push on this one as I was right that Evans wouldn’t lead the team in rushing, but I predicted the wrong guy. Higdon did record Michigan’s lone rushing touchdown, but he was third with 28 yards gained on seven carries. Ty Isaac led the way with 114 yards on 111 carries, while Evans tallied 78 yards on 22 carries. Isaac was the surprise of the game offensively, looking like a much stronger runner than he did last season.

Two bad: 
• Michigan’s young secondary struggles but the pass rush, led by Chase Winovich, mitigates the damage 
– I’ll give myself the benefit of the doubt on this one. The defense performed admirably all game, holding Florida to just three points and 192 total yards. But if there is one nit-pick it is that the young secondary gave up a few deep balls. Brandon Watson and Lavert Hill each got beat a couple of times by Florida’s receivers. Franks is far from the best quarterback the Wolverines will face this season, so they’ll have to shore that up before heading to Happy Valley in mid-October. The pass rush got to Florida quarterbacks six times including the game-sealing sack and forced fumble by Winovich that resulted in a Michigan touchdown.

• Two missed Michigan field goals keep the game closer than it should be 
– This appeared to be a bad prediction through the first three quarters when sophomore kicker Quinn Nordin nailed his first three field goals, two of which were from 50 yards or beyond. But he came back down to earth a bit in the fourth quarter with two missed field goals that did keep Florida in the game. Nordin did, however, ease some concerns about the placekicking job in Kenny Allen’s absence.

Iowa 14 – #3 Michigan 13: Offense stalls in Iowa City, title hopes remain intact

Sunday, November 13th, 2016


chesson-vs-iowa(Isaiah Hole, 247 Sports)

After watching second-ranked Clemson get knocked off by unranked Pittsburgh on a last second field goal, Michigan took the field against unranked Iowa, looking to remain unbeaten. Midway through the game, fellow unbeaten Washington fell to USC, and Michigan had a chance to join Alabama as the undisputed t0p two. But it wasn’t meant to be as the Wolverines suffered defeat as well, 14-13.

While Michigan looked nearly invincible through the first nine weeks of the season, it wasn’t hard to see a game like this coming. In my prediction on Friday, I wrote the following:

um-iowa_small-final
Final Stats
Michigan   Iowa  
Score 13 14
Record 9-1, 6-1 6-4, 4-3
Total Yards 201 230
Net Rushing Yards 98 164
Net Passing Yards 103 66
First Downs 14 17
Turnovers 2 1
Penalties-Yards 5-48 3-24
Punts-Yards 6-244 6-282
Time of Possession 27:15 32:45
Third Down Conversions 5-of-15 4-of-16
Fourth Down Conversions 0-of-0 2-of-3
Sacks By-Yards 3-20 2-10
Field Goals 2-for-2 2-for-3
PATs 1-for-1 0-for-0
Red Zone Scores-Chances 2-of-2 3-of-3
Red Zone Scores-TDs 1-of-2 1-of-3
Full Box Score

“Although the numbers don’t support it, for some reason I have an eerie feeling about this one. Even the 1997 Michigan national championship team nearly had their season derailed in Iowa City by an Iowa team that finished just 7-5 overall and 4-4 in the Big Ten. That game required a second half comeback by Michigan to pull off a 28-24 win…

“Statistically, there’s no reason Iowa should be very competitive in this one, but that’s why they play the games. Maybe Michigan will struggle a bit offensively in the first half and let Iowa hang around longer than they should. Wilton Speight hasn’t really had a bad game yet this season and maybe he’s due. Michigan’s defense has allowed 20 explosive plays in the past two weeks after allowing an average of fewer than five per game the first seven weeks. Iowa’s offense ranks 99th nationally in explosive plays per game, but perhaps they gained confidence from what Michigan State and Maryland did.”

Ultimately, I thought Michigan would outlast Iowa at the end, and there’s still little doubt as to which team is better or more talented. But that’s cold comfort after a first loss of the season.

The good news is that very little has changed. The only team in the country that can be unanimously declared better that Michigan at this point is Alabama. Cases can be made for Ohio State, Clemson, and Washington, but they’ve all suffered similar — if not worse — setbacks. When the sun rose on Sunday morning, Michigan still found itself among the top four in both the AP Poll and the Coaches Poll, and whether or not the College Football Playoff committee ranks them the same on Tuesday night, they still have the exact same path they had prior to Saturday’s loss: beat Indiana at home next Saturday, win in Columbus, win the Big Ten championship game. Easier said than done, but not unthinkable.

So what exactly happened on Saturday? Michigan’s offense was a shell of itself, unable to run the ball consistently, and unable to keep Iowa’s defensive front out of the backfield. Wilton Speight missed open receivers and when he did hit them, they had a hard time catching the ball. The defense held strong for the most part, but let an Iowa offense that rushed for just 30 yards on 26 carries against Penn State gash them for 164 yards. The Wolverine defense was simply asked to do too much.

It’s hard to complain about an offense that ranked among the nation’s best through the first nine weeks of the season, but the offensive game plan seemed flawed from the start on Saturday. The creativity that Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Tim Drevno have displayed all season seemed to have no match for Iowa’s defense. In fact, there was too much predictability — running Jabrill Peppers every time he was in the game — and too many questionable calls — a sweep with De’Veon Smith and a sweep with Karan Higdon on 3rd-and-1 — that looked more like an Al Borges offense.

Still, there were plenty of missed opportunities as well. On at least two or three occasions, Michigan receivers had beaten their defender deep, but Speight overthrew them. And the tone was set early in the game when a series of special teams blunders proved costly. Devin Bush was ejected from the game for targeting when he tackled Iowa punter Ron Coluzzi — a questionable call for sure. Then, Michigan had back to back running into the kicker penalties gave the Iowa offense a first down, and although it resulted in a missed field goal and Michigan’s offense responded with a touchdown on its next possession, it put the defense in a tough situation and may have contributed to their inability to stop the Hawkeyes late in the game.

Next Saturday, Michigan hosts Indiana (5-5, 3-4) in the final tuneup before The Game. A loss to the Hoosiers would eliminate Michigan from Big Ten title and College Football Playoff consideration.

Game Ball – Offense

Kenny Allen (2-of-2 FGs, long of 51)
The senior kicker has faced his share of criticism this season after missing three of his first six field goals, which nearly proved costly early in the season against Wisconsin. He assumed the punting and kickoff duties this year, which may have lead to his early struggles, but he has rebounded nicely back to the reliable field goal kicker he has been dating back to last season. On Saturday, his leg was clutch as the Michigan offense was able to only find the end zone one time. Allen got the scoring started with a 26-yard field goal on Michigan’s second possession of the game. But it was his second field goal that earned him the game ball. Trailing 11-10 in the fourth quarter, Michigan’s offense stalled at the Iowa 33. Facing 4th-and-7, trying to convert was out of the question given the troubles the Wolverines had moving the ball. And punting was likely to yield only a few yards. So Harbaugh called on Allen to attempt a 51-yard field goal. The senior responded by drilling a line drive right through the uprights for the longest field goal of his career.

Previous
Week 1 — Chris Evans (8 carries, 112 yards, 2 touchdowns)
Week 2 — Wilton Speight (25-of-37 for 312 yards, 4 touchdowns)
Week 3 — Jake Butt (7 receptions for 87 yards)
Week 4 — Grant Newsome, Ben Braden, Mason Cole, Kyle Kalis, Erik Magnuson (326 rush yards, 0 sacks allowed)
Week 5 — Amara Darboh (6 receptions for 87 yards, 1 touchdown)
Week 6 — Khalid Hill (2 carries for 2 yards and 2 touchdowns, 2 receptions for 19 yards and 1 touchdown)
Week 7 — Wilton Speight (16-of-23 for 253 yards, 2 touchdowns)
Week 8 — Amara Darboh (8 receptions for 165 yards)
Week 9 — Wilton Speight (19-of-24 for 362 yards, 2 touchdowns, 3 carries for 16 yards, 1 touchdown)

Game Ball – Defense

Chris Wormley (6 tackles (2 solo), 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack)
Michigan’s defense didn’t play a bad game. They gave up just 230 total yards after all, limited Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard to just 8-of-19 for 66 yards — most of which came on a couple of timely screen passes –, and held the Hawkeyes to just 4-of-16 third-down conversions. Had Michigan’s offense performed anywhere close to its usual ability, Michigan would have won convincingly. But when the offense struggled to do anything and the defense let Iowa running backs Akrum Wadley and LeShun Daniels run right up the middle, it looked worse than it actually was. One of the highlights was senior Chris Wormley, who made six stops, two tackles for loss, and recorded one of Michigan’s three sacks. His sack came late in the third quarter with Iowa driving to increase its one-point lead. On 2nd-and-9 from the 45, Wormley brought Beathard down for a 12-yard loss. Iowa had to punt and Michigan’s offense kicked the go-ahead field goal on its ensuing possession.

Previous
Week 1 — Mike McCray (9 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble)
Week 2 — Rashan Gary (6 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks)
Week 3 — Jabrill Peppers (9 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1 sack, 2 kick ret. for 81 yards, 4 punt ret. for 99 yards, 1 TD)
Week 4 — Maurice Hurst (6 tackles, 3 solo, 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack)
Week 5 — Channing Stribling (2 tackles, 2 interceptions, 2 pass breakups)
Week 6 — Taco Charlton (2 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 2 sacks)
Week 7 — Mike McCray (3 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss, 1 fumble recovery, 2 quarterback hurries)
Week 8 — Jabrill Peppers (7 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 two-point conversion fumble recovery for touchdown)
Week 9 — Delano Hill (6 tackles (5 solo), 0.5 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions)

Predicting Michigan 2016: The linebackers

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016


Predicting Michgian 2016-Linebackers

Appalachian v Michigan(Leon Halip, Getty Images)

Previous: Quarterbacks, Running Backs, Wide Receivers, Tight Ends, Offensive Line, Defensive Line

There aren’t many legitimate critiques to make about Michigan’s 2015 defense, which finished the season among the 10 best defenses in the country. But it did have one clear weakness that was especially obvious late in the Big Ten season: the linebackers.
Heading into the season, the Wolverines felt good about their linebacking corps. Veteran starters Joe Bolden, Desmond Morgan and James Ross figured to have solid seasons as seniors. Unfortunately for Michigan, they were the Achilles heel of the defense and, ultimately, were the undoing in the final game against Ohio State.

Now the position will see more turnover than any other spot on the roster. With new faces joining the team and a few veterans expected to step up, here’s Michigan’s outlook at linebacker.

Returning contributors:

With all three senior starters gone, Michigan will turn to a handful of players who figure to step into bigger roles at linebacker.

Senior Mike McCray is finally healthy and prime for a breakout season (Scout.com)

Senior Mike McCray is finally healthy and primed for a breakout season (Scout.com)

One of the most talked about players throughout the summer has been Mike McCray, who missed the entire 2015 season with an injury. McCray worked himself into the mix at linebacker during his sophomore year, playing in 11 games and even blocking a punt. McCray is a reliable, consistent tackler and has the size to plug up running lanes. His challenge will be getting to the edge on stretch plays or dropping back in pass coverage – two abilities Michigan linebackers lacked in 2015.

Another player who hopes to take on a much bigger role is Ben Gedeon. Gedeon quietly enjoyed a very solid 2015 season, playing in 11 of 13 games and making a career-high 34 tackles. He showed good burst late in the year, picking up 2.5 tackles for loss in the team’s final three games. The senior has spent his first three seasons as a very solid part of the linebacker rotation, but now he has a chance to take on an even bigger role.

Oh yeah, there’s another returning player joining the linebacking corps. His name is Jabrill Peppers.

Peppers makes the jump to linebacker after playing virtually everywhere on the field. He’ll likely line up at multiple positions again in 2016, but his main job appears to be shoring up a thin second line. Peppers is the best athlete on the team, but that really hasn’t translated into any breakout performances through two seasons. He’s shown flashes of his elite athletic ability, but Michigan fans are still waiting (in heavy anticipation) for him to actually explode.

Linebacker is the spot where Peppers can best demonstrate his elite versatility. If he settles into the position, he has a chance to be one of the best at the position in the Big Ten.

Career Stats – McCray
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
11 2 0 2 0.0 1.0 0 0 0
Career Stats – Ben Gedeon
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
37 42 28 70 2.0 5.5 0 0 0
Career Stats – Jabrill Peppers
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF PD INT
15 40 13 53 0.0 5.5 0 10 0
Potential contributors:

The rest of Michigan’s linebackers are relatively unproven, but a couple of guys stand out as having a chance to make an impact this season.

One is Noah Furbush, who has battled some injuries but impressed Jim Harbaugh during camp and should work his way into the mix. The redshirt sophomore is a fringe candidate for a starting spot and hopes to build on a season in which he contributed mostly on special teams.

Furbush was a beast in high school, recording well over 200 tackles and even picking up 43 tackles for loss during his career. He’s not much of a pass rusher, but his ability to read plays and get in the backfield gives him a good chance to play in Don Brown’s defense. Remember Furbush as a potential breakout player in Michigan’s defense.

A more under-the-radar player who might contribute is Reuben Jones, who made the switch from defensive end to linebacker after committing to Michigan last season. Jones was the first player to commit to Harbaugh at Michigan and has been working his way toward some playing time as a redshirt freshman. As a former defensive lineman, Jones would bring a backfield threat into the mix at linebacker, something Brown values in his defense.

Career Stats – Furbush
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
9 3 1 4 0.0 0.0 0 0 0
Career Stats – Jones
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
New faces:

Harbaugh knew his roster was thin at linebacker, so what did he do? He brought in four highly-rated linebacker commits to stir up the competition.

The headliner of the group is Devin Bush, a Florida native who will get a look at inside linebacker this season. Throughout camp, Bush’s name has been at the top of the list of freshmen who will make an impact in 2016. He’s a good tackler with enough speed to get to the edge – something this group desperately needs. Bush showed good instincts in the spring game, but he’ll need more work in pass coverage before he’s considered a great all-around player.

Bush’s high school teammate, Devin Gil, joins him in Ann Arbor after they helped Charles W. Flanagan High School win the 8A division title in Florida. Gil was a less flashy player in high school, but showed a better knack for pass coverage than Bush. There’s a chance the freshman could convert to safety before his college career is done, but for now, he’s fighting for a chance to see the field with his old teammate at the next level.

If Bush and Gil came to Michigan as one package deal, Elysee Mbem-Bosse and Josh Uche came as another. The two committed to the Wolverines somewhat unexpectedly on Jan. 24 and have made some noise during fall camp. Mbem-Bosse was mentioned by Harbaugh Monday as a freshman who could play this season and Uche – a former defensive end – could end up playing a hybrid role as well.

With four talented freshmen in the mix for playing time, Harbaugh hopes Michigan will elevate its linebacker play from the start.

Michigan also welcomed preferred walk-on Peter Bush to the roster. Bush, a former quarterback, is a guy to keep an eye on from the walk-on list, as he had offers to play several positions at schools around the country.

Meet the rest:

Jack Dunaway: Sophomore, 6-3, 222, from Bloomfield Hills, Mich. (Brother Rice)
No career stats
Cheyenn Robertson: Sophomore, 6-3, 238, from Union City, N.J. (St. Peter’s Prep)
No career stats
Michael Wroblewski: Senior, 6-2, 242, from Sanit Clair Shores, Mich. (Detroit Jesuit)
No career stats
Alex Kaminski: Junior, 5-11, 209, from Ada, Mich. (Lowell)
No career stats
Jameson Offerdahl: Sophomore, 6-2, 214, from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Cardinal Gibbons)
No career stats
Jared Wangler: Junior, 6-2, 229, from Royal Oak, Mich. (De La Salle)
No career stats
Wyatt Shallman: Senior, 6-3, 242, from Harland, Mich. (Detroit Catholic Central)
No career defensive stats

M&GB season preview roundtable 2016

Friday, August 26th, 2016


Harbaugh(Doug Pensinger, Getty Images)

Last year at this time no one knew what to expect. Everyone was hopeful about Jim Harbaugh’s first season, but coming off of a disastrous 5-7 showing and seven years of very un-Michigan-like football, we were all nervous. Our season predictions ranged from 8-4 to 10-3, with the latter being right on. Even though we didn’t know what to expect, we were generally right about what happened.

This year is a little different. There actually are expectations. And they are big. Michigan is ranked in the top 10 and several national pundits have predicted the Wolverines to win the Big Ten and reach the College Football Playoff. Are they just buying into the Harbaugh hype? Or could they be right? Here are our predictions for the season.

What are you most excited about this season?

Justin: When I think of the Michigan teams I grew up watching, I think defense. Sure, there were great offensive players that shouldn’t be overlooked — guys like Anthony Carter, Jamie Morris, and Tyrone Wheatley, to name a few. But a great defense, one that smothers opposing offenses, is what makes Michigan football in my opinion. Lloyd Carr rode the 1997 defense to a national championship. The 2006 defense was deadly until it ran into Ohio State and USC. And last year’s defense, which posted three straight shutouts, was fun to watch until it faltered late in the season.

I can’t tell you how excited I am to watch an upgraded version of last year’s defense with the addition of the number one recruit in the country and a blitz-crazy defensive coordinator. The biggest position battle in fall camp is at the quarterback position, but with the defense Michigan has, whoever wins the job will just need to be careful with the football and manage the game. And if the defense lives up to its billing, Michigan fans will be in for a special season.

Derick: The guy I’m most excited to watch is Rashan Gary, and it’s not even close. Gary is Michigan’s first ever No. 1 overall recruit, and he comes in as one of the most decorated commits since recruiting blew up several years ago.

Gary was the unanimous No. 1 player in the country on every major recruiting site, and comes into Ann Arbor to join a defensive line that’s already very good. Gary will line up with Chris Wormley, Ryan Glasgow, Taco Charlton, Maurice Hurst, Bryan Mone and others as one of the best lines in the Big Ten. If he makes as much of an impact as guys like Jadeveon Clowney and Robert Nkemdiche — who were similarly ranked out of high school — he’ll be the most exciting player on the roster.

Sam: I just can’t stop thinking (and giddily laughing) about how dominant this defense could potentially be. The front four should be an absolute terror for any offensive line in the country, the secondary is athletic, veteran, and potentially another highlight waiting to happen (looking at you, Dymonte Thomas), and the linebacker group seems to be getting good reviews despite a relative lack of experience. And, oh yeah, Jabrill Peppers will be roaming all over the field and should be unleashed to wreak havoc in Don Brown’s system.

Josh: Another year of Harbaugh. If that’s not a decided schematic advantage, I don’t know what is!

Joe: I’m super excited to see a few things during this upcoming season. The first would be the new style of defense that Coach Brown is bringing onboard. This should be a fun defense to watch and bring a ton of pressure and new looks. They should be ELITE from day one. The second thing I’m looking for is how the incoming class plays and improves over the course of the year. If they are everything we’ve read over the last few months, the future is BRIGHT!

What worries you the most entering the season?

Justin: As I mentioned above, I’m not overly worried about the quarterback position. As long as Speight or O’Korn doesn’t become a turnover machine, Michigan will be okay. There are enough proven weapons — Jehu Chesson, Amara Darboh, Jake Butt, De’Veon Smith — and a strong defense to lean back on. What worries me the most this season is the road schedule.

Michigan will be able to handle the non-conference portion of the schedule handily, and with Penn State and Wisconsin at home, I see those as wins. Then the Wolverines face Rutgers and Illinois, which should put them at 7-0 and very highly ranked. But that’s where things get tough. In the final five games of the season, Michigan has to travel to East Lansing, Iowa City, and Columbus with home games against Maryland and Indiana sandwiched in between.

Michigan has struggled on the road the past several seasons. To make matters worse, they haven’t won in East Lansing since 2007, Iowa City since 2005, and Columbus since 2000. That’s nearly a decade without a road win over any of those teams. And to have a chance at the College Football Playoff this season they’ll likely have to win all three. To at least win the Big Ten they’ll have to win at least two of the three, as long as the one loss is at Big Ten West foe Iowa rather than the other two, who are in the same Big Ten East as Michigan. It’s hard to see that happening.

Derick: I’m most worried about the expectations. Michigan won 10 games last season when it was the underdog and nobody expected much in Jim Harbaugh’s first year. But now, as the team jumps from irrelevant to popular national championship pick, it seems like things have escalated a little too quickly. Michigan has three extremely difficult road games at the end of the season,and if they take care of business weeks one through seven, those games will hold a massive importance. Can a team that hasn’t played many nationally meaningful games handle that gauntlet down the stretch? It’s going to be tough.

Sam: This one is pretty easy for me – I’m still not sold on the quarterback position. Yes, I know that Jim Harbaugh is widely reputed to be one of the best quarterback whisperers in the country and has worked wonders in season after season. But this is a pretty important position, and there still seems to be some disagreement over who will start. That’s usually not a great sign with real football only a week away. We’ve all heard of O’Korn as the high-risk/high-reward type while Wilton Speight seems to be the more prototypical “game manager” quarterback, but neither has the whole package. At least not yet.

Josh: The media keeps saying quarterback or linebacker. Personally, I am not worried (nor will I ever be) about the quarterback position as long as James Joseph Harbaugh is patrolling our sidelines. Linebacker is a slight concern but the defensive line is so talented and so deep (8 or 9 guys) that I don’t see the need to actually worry about the LBs. Plus, it’s not like they lost any world beaters off last year’s crew anyway.

Offensive line (both its progression and health) is my main concern and it’s not even close. There isn’t much proven depth, or depth period, behind the starting five so a significant injury to the offensive line could derail the entire season.

Even IF injuries are avoided we still have the issue of breaking in a new left tackle. If Grant Newsome doesn’t work, who steps in for him? Go ahead, look at the depth chart: four freshmen, and a small cadre of former Brady Hoke guys who have limited game action and a total of ZERO starts. If this team is to compete for a B1G Ten title the offensive line needs to not only be better than last year but they ALL need to stay healthy the entire year.

Joe: It’s gotta be the quarterback play that worries me the most. I was hoping that O’Korn would separate himself from the pack but that hasn’t happened. This could be viewed as a positive or negative. I trust in Harbaugh and hope this gets settled soon.

Who will be the offensive breakout player this season?

Justin: Based on the hype coming out of fall camp, Ben Bredeson is probably the smart pick here. But I don’t like to trust true freshman offensive linemen. I know Mason Cole worked out pretty well two years ago, but that’s more the exception than the rule. To me, it’s between two players: tight end Ian Bunting and receiver Grant Perry. Everyone knows Jim Harbaugh’s affinity for tight ends, and just because he has Jake Butt it doesn’t mean no other tight ends will see the field. Bunting is huge at 6-foot-7, 252, and after two years learning the ropes, he’s poised for a bigger role.

But when push comes to shove, I’m going to go with Perry, the slot guy who caught 14 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown last season. He showed enough potential to get considerable playing time in the season opener at Utah, where he caught three passes for 41 yards, but was still raw and it showed with mistakes that lead to turnovers. By season’s end, he looked more comfortable, catching five passes for 51 yards and a touchdown in the Citrus Bowl win over Florida.

This season, Chesson, Darboh, and Butt are established threats and opposing defenses will try their best to match up with them. That leaves the potential for Perry to rack up a bunch of catches and yards. He caught 105 passes for 1,727  yards and 20 touchdowns as a senior at Brother Rice High School in 2014 and racked up 176 catches for 2,771 yards and 27 scores in three years of varsity football, so he knows how to be productive. Now, with a year of college ball under his belt, he’s ready to take on a bigger role.

Derick: The breakout player on offense will be Ben Bredeson. Word from summer camp has brought nothing but praise on the freshman lineman, who was one of the top commits in the country. If Bredeson is playing well enough to earn the starting left tackle position as a true freshman, we can expect a 2014 Mason Cole-like performance, which would be a huge lift to the offense. With four solid veteran linemen to his right, Bredeson would be in a perfect situation to succeed.

Sam: This is a tough call for me, as I’m never sure what people want to constitute “breaking out” as. As far as I see it, Amara Darboh, Jehu Chesson, and Jake Butt certainly can’t qualify for this, the majority of the offensive line is too veteran for me to see a true breakout coming, and De’Veon Smith is fairly proven as well. So while I do think all those guys will have nice years and I’m uncertain on the quarterback position, I will go with Tyrone Wheatley, Jr. By all accounts, Wheatley has the body type that will allow him to be a highly effective in-line blocker from the beginning while also possessing the speed and hands to be a legitimate (and legitimately terrifying) receiving threat. I think he’ll see a lot of action in two-TE sets and should be a major asset in both the running and passing games.

Josh: This one was tough, but I’m gonna go with Ben Bredeson. Yes, an offensive lineman. A freshman offensive lineman. I’m calling it now, Ben Bredeson will supplant either Grant Newsome, or more likely, Kyle Kalis before mid-season and perform at a (freshman) Mason Cole-esque leve

Joe: I want a running back to step up and take charge in a crowded backfield. We have some horses back there but I’d prefer a lead to get behind. I don’t care who it is, just make it happen.

Who will be the defensive breakout player this season?

Justin: Rashan Gary is the obvious choice here, but I’m going to go with Bryan Mone, who missed all of last season after suffering a broken leg in fall camp. Prior to the injury he figured to play a major part in the defense, rotating with Ryan Glasgow and Maurice Hurst. The injury meant more time for Glasgow, who shined in the role, but his season ended early with an injury of his own. Now, Mone says he’s in the best shape of his life, and with Michigan playing four linemen, he’ll get his chance to shine at nose tackle.

Derick: I want to say Jabrill Peppers, because he really hasn’t made a major defensive impact yet, but that feels like cheating. So I’ll go with Bryan Mone. Mone showed signs of being a solid defensive tackle as a true freshman, and expectations were sky high for his sophomore year. But after an injury ended his season before it even started, Mone fell out of the spotlight and has been flying under the radar since. If he’s healthy, he’ll be a huge piece in filling the gap left by Willie Henry in opposing backfields.

Sam: Everyone? Again, there are so many guys on that side of the ball that the field in my eyes is quite limited. You might make an argument for Taco Charlton on the line, but I think he’s proven enough already – he’s going to have an insane season. Bryan Mone could be an option here, as could the presumptive starting linebackers in Ben Gedeon and Mike McCray, but my pick is Dymonte Thomas. Thomas was a big-time recruit out of Ohio who is incredibly athletic, strong, and a sure tackler. The only question is whether he can be disciplined enough to prevent a big play here or there, but keep watching that interception he made in the Spring Game and tell me he doesn’t have the tools to be great.

Josh: Jabrill Peppers. Now hear me out first. Peppers’ impact was huge last year but his stats weren’t exactly something you brag about; 45 total tackles, 5.5 for loss. No picks, no forced fumbles, no fumble recoveries. If Matt Milano, a former three-star safety for Boston College can rack up 17.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks in Don Brown’s defense from that position what will the greatest athlete we’ve seen since Charles Woodson do? I’d be shocked if he didn’t have at least 15 tackles for loss, five sacks and a defensive touchdown or two.

Joe: It’s hard to say anyone on the defense will be a breakout player as they have a lot of studs coming back from last year. They are established and will carry this team from the get go.

Michigan will win the Big Ten if…

Justin: …they don’t suffer any key injuries. We all know that injuries are part of the game, but when the talent is there, a key piece of winning it all is staying healthy. Sure, Ohio State defied that logic two years ago when Braxton Miller got hurt, then J.T. Barrett got hurt, and Cardale Jones still lead them to the national title. But nine times out of ten, that scenario spells doom for a contender.

If Michigan stays healthy that means they’ll be at full strength all season. And with the talent they have, especially on the defensive side, that’s the recipe for a Big Ten title.

Derick: Michigan will win the Big Ten if freshmen linebackers like Devin Bush and Devin Gil can compliment a healthy Mike McCray and Peppers to give the defense a more solid anchor than last season. The secondary and defensive line will be tough, but the linebackers were the weak underbelly of the 2015 team. Left tackle will also be a position to watch. With the rest of the line already well established at the college level, the final piece to the offensive line will be crucial. Michigan has to run the ball much better to take a step forward in 2016. Finally, look for Jeremy Clark to either take a step forward as a fifth-year senior or a younger player to supplant him as the team’s third cornerback. Lewis and Channing Stribling were excellent in coverage last season, but Clark showed mixed results covering opposing No. 3 receivers. He got better toward the end of the season, but with possible championship expectations on the line, Harbaugh might not be so patient this year.

Sam: …they can stop Ohio State’s dynamic offense. The Buckeyes shredded Michigan’s once-stout defense in The Game last November and Urban Meyer always seems to find a way to move the ball (at least when he isn’t playing Michigan State in 2015). This season, I really think Michigan should be undefeated heading down to Columbus — there will certainly be challenges along the way, but no team on the schedule up to that point should be able to beat them on paper — and the days of The Game deciding the fate of the Big Ten race should return.

Josh: …there are no significant injuries, especially on the offensive line, the running game resembles what Harbaugh did at Stanford post Year 1 (200-plus yards per game) and Don Brown can finally be the one to figure out how to stop spread to run teams. Possible? Yes. Likely? Probably not yet. For the record I think Don Brown WILL figure out how to stop getting gashed by teams like Indiana and Ohio State.

Joe: The lines play at an elite level. They should be better and will lead this team to a Big 10 title if they play as advertised.

What is your prediction for the season (record, who will Michigan lose to, and what bowl game will they play in)?

Justin: Michigan topped last year’s prediction by one, though my prediction of a win over an SEC team in the bowl game was right. I had Michigan losing to Penn State, which was my only misstep. This year, I think we’re looking at an 11-2 team that will lose at Iowa and Ohio State. Jim Harbaugh will at least get past Michigan State in East Lansing and be 9-0 heading into Iowa City, but losses in two of the last three regular season games will be a disappointing end to a great season. Still, assuming Ohio State wins the conference and makes the College Football Playoff, the Rose Bowl will select Michigan and the Wolverines will head to Pasadena for the first time since 2007.

Derick: Last season I predicted Michigan would finish 9-4 and thought I was being “generous.” I didn’t know what to expect from Harbaugh’s team less than a year removed from a 5-7 campaign and certainly didn’t expect it to go into Happy Valley and push around Penn State. This season, expectations couldn’t be more different. Michigan is in everyone’s playoff discussion and Harbaugh is the biggest story in college football.

I don’t buy into hype, but I do draw conclusions based on facts and what my eyes tell me. Few teams have as many elite seniors who turned down NFL money to return to Michigan. Lewis, Butt, Chesson, Darboh, Wormley and others will play on Sundays, but here they are practicing in the Maize and Blue in August. As far as the incoming class goes, I don’ think Harbaugh has a top five class, I think he has the No. 1 class. Sure, other teams might have more five- and four-stars, but guys like Gary, Bredeson, Long and Hill could make an immediate impact as freshmen. Chris Evans is an offensive weapon who will almost certainly find himself a role in a stacked offense and Kekoa Crawford might, too.

Looking at the schedule, I think there’s no question Michigan will carve through its nonconference schedule. Maybe Colorado will turn out to be a little tougher than expected, but I don’t see any of that trio pulling off an upset in Ann Arbor. The pair of games nobody is talking about (but they should be) is Penn State and Wisconsin, who come to the Big House in Weeks 4 and 5, respectively. Penn State is breaking in a new quarterback and I’m not a believer in the James Franklin experiment, but Wisconsin, as always, will be a tough team to knock out. If Michigan gets through those two games, it’s a leisurely walk to East Lansing at 7-0.

That’s where things get tough. Like, brutally tough. Few teams in the FBS will be asked to play three potential top 10 teams on the road in a five-game span. But that’s exactly what Michigan has to do. Unlike at this time last year, I think Michigan is a better team than Michigan State, especially with MSU’s defense trending steadily in the wrong direction since 2013. We all thought the Spartans would take a major step back when Kirk Cousins left, and Connor Cook stepped in to lead them to the playoff, so don’t discount MSU just because of the new starting quarterback.

Even though I think Michigan State will be very good, I think Michigan will go into East Lansing and pull out a win. Harbaugh will have “Oh, he has trouble with the snap!” playing on repeat all week, and Michigan will arrive at Spartan Stadium with a vengeance. Just no tent spikes, please. I would be worried about a post-MSU letdown if it wasn’t for Michigan’s Week 9 matchup with a pathetic Maryland team. The quarterback situation for new head coach D.J. Durkin is so grim, I’d be shocked if the Terps can find six wins on their schedule.

Unfortunately, the undefeated train will come to a stop at 9-0. Iowa is still extremely talented after an undefeated 2015 regular season and something about Iowa City has never been kind to strong Michigan teams. I think the No. 2 Wolverines will fall to the Hawkeyes in a slugfest and need a win over Ohio State to win the Big Ten East. After outscoring a sneaky good Indiana team in the final home game, Michigan will go to Columbus with the College Football Playoff still in its sights. The young Buckeyes won’t be young anymore, after 11 games to replace their 450 draft picks, or whatever it was. Michigan will be much more competitive than it was at home in 2015, but I think Ohio State will come away with a close, maybe 2006-esque victory that knocks Michigan out of the title talk. OSU will head to Indianapolis and Michigan will be done at 10-2.

I think 10 wins will be enough to land Michigan a long-awaited Rose Bowl appearance against UCLA. Just like it did in the Citrus Bowl, Michigan will show up better prepared after a month of practice with Harbaugh and take care of UCLA, 34-20. With 11 wins in Harbaugh’s second season and Michigan State and Ohio State at home in 2017, Michigan will begin the season ranked in the top five and have a legitimate chance to make the final four.

Sam: I really want to pick Michigan to go to the Playoff, but…well…fine. Give me Michigan to run the table in the regular season with a couple close calls at Iowa and at Ohio State before losing to Alabama or Clemson in the first round. By my count, that should equal a 13-1 season with a Big Ten championship and a loss in the Fiesta or Peach Bowl.

Josh: Michigan will probably be favored in every game they play, aside from Ohio State, and they should win all those games. Given the talent returning and the coaching staff we have I am very optimistic about their chances this year. However, football isn’t played on paper and numerous things can upset the balance.

They should have beaten Michigan State last year and they also would have lost to Minnesota were it not for some Hoke-ian clock (mis)management by Tracy Claeys at the end of that game. They almost lost to Indiana — yes Glasgow out was a big factor — but it proves my point; it’s tough to win all, or even most of, your games in college football because injuries and other stuff happen.

I just don’t see how Michigan can get through an entire season without a major injury, or some Halloween voodoo a la Minnesota last year, causing setbacks. I think a 10-2 season is very reasonable, and that should not be viewed as a disappointment (lest I remind you that we suffered losing seasons in three of the seven years prior to Harbaugh and only ONE year in which they lost fewer than five games).

Losses will be at Ohio State (they are far more talented than Michigan but more importantly have been in the same system their entire careers) and at Iowa, Kinnick Stadium at night scares me for some reason.

They’ll play in another New Year’s Day bowl and the ‘Michigan is overrated’ headed into 2017 will start all over again. But hey, I thought this was a seven or eight win team tops last year and they proved me wrong. Here’s to hoping they do it again!

Joe: I’m looking at 10-2 season with losses at two of the three big road games. I think they’re still a year away from the CFP but wouldn’t be surprised if they sneak in. They still have some work to do. Let’s put the good guys in the Cotton so I can see them play in person.

New in Blue: 2016 LB Devin Bush Jr.

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015


Devin Bush Jr (247 Sports)

Devin Bush Jr – LB | 5-11, 226 | Hollywood, Fla. – Charles W. Flanagan
ESPN: 4-star, #12 OLB Rivals: 4-star, #5 ILB 247: 3-star, #19 ILB Scout: 3-star, #13 ILB
Other top offers: Florida State, Auburn, LSU, Florida, Georgia, Notre Dame, Oregon

A major target of Jim Harbaugh’s staff kicked off what may be a big week for the Michigan football program by committing to the Wolverines over his father’s Alma mater, Florida State. Devin Bush Jr shocked many in Tallahassee by spurning his home state Seminoles to join his teammates Devin Gil and Josh Metellus in Ann Arbor. He announced his decision at his school on Wednesday afternoon.

Bush is a top-300 player nationally, rated as a three-star by Scout and 247 and a four-star by ESPN and Rivals. The latter favors the 5-foot-11, 226-pound linebacker the highest as the fifth-best inside linebacker in the class and 184th-best player in the country. ESPN has him as the 12th-best outside linebacker and 180th overall recruit. Scout lists Bush as the 13th-best inside linebacker, while 247 has him the lowest at 19th.

Scout lists his strengths as hitting ability, instincts, and strength, while noting that his areas to improve are pass coverage skills and size. They expanded on that with much more positives than negatives.

“Plays fast to the ball. Very instinctive player who plays one step faster than many opponents. Has very good game speed. Great inside the box going downhill. Works some on the edge as a blitzer as well and he is very effective. When he hits, there is pop with it. A lot of opponents go backwards. Best in attack mode. Can move sideline to sideline. Plays with aggression and an ideal in the box. Not elite size or length, but big enough.”

Bush has a legacy to build on as the son of former Florida State safety Devin Bush, who played for the Seminoles from 1992-94, including their national championship team in ’93. He was an All-ACC selection and a first-round draft pick by the Atlanta Falcons in the 1995 NFL Draft. He spent eight years in the NFL and won a Super Bowl with the St. Louis Rams in 2000. In 2013 he became head coach of Charles W. Flanagan High School in Pembroke Pines, Fla. and last week guided the Falcons — and his son — to the Class 8A state title.

Bush Jr will fill a need for Michigan at linebacker where the Wolverines lose all three of 2015’s starters, Joe Bolden, Desmond Morgan, and James Ross III. With a wide open depth chart he will have a chance to come in and earn a spot on the two-deep immediately. He joins Dytarious Johnson as the second linebacker in the class.

Bush is the first commitment in what could be a very good week for Michigan. The nation’s top running back, Kareem Walker, makes his announcement tomorrow and Michigan is considered the favorite.