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Posts Tagged ‘Drake Johnson’

Predicting Michigan 2016: The running backs

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016


Predicting Michgian 2016-RunningBacks

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Previous: Quarterbacks

The Michigan rushing attack showed improvement in some areas under Jim Harbaugh in Year 1, but it still has a long way to go if the Wolverines hope to compete for a Big Ten East title.

Michigan returns each of its three most experienced running backs from last season, but none of them have an iron grip on the starting job.

Returning Starters

Barring something unforeseen, senior De’Veon Smith will top the running back depth chart when Michigan breaks camp. Smith spent most of the last two seasons as the starting running back and did a solid job, though he struggled in conference play.

Drake Johnson

(AP photo)

In five games against nonconference opponents last season, Smith thrice ran for over 100 yards and scored a combined four touchdowns. In seven conference matchups, he rushed for fewer than 45 yards per game and got shut down in big games like Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan State.

There’s a reason Smith carried the ball 180 times last season. Because of Michigan’s struggles with run blocking, Smith gave the offense its best chance to break tackles and pick up yards after contact. He was extremely difficult to bring down in the open field and found the end zone in goal line situations.

But Smith’s big play potential is limited. There were times throughout the season when the offensive line created a hole and Smith wasn’t able to adjust in time to hit it, instead running into tacklers or even the backs of his linemen.

Smith is the all-around best proven option for Michigan this fall, but there are other players with more upside. Smith will likely be the starter against Hawaii, but he’ll need to keep earning that role to stay ahead of the pack.

Drake Johnson is the other running back with starting experience in the Maize and Blue. Johnson took the job from Smith late in 2014 and averaged six yards per carry despite sitting out against several of Michigan’s weaker opponents.

The Ann Arbor Pioneer product was carrying an undermanned Michigan offense in the Horseshoe on Nov. 29, 2014 before an injury cut his season a few minutes short. He picked up 74 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground against Ohio State and had the Wolverines in position for a massive upset.

When he went down, so did Michigan’s chances.

Johnson was an afterthought for much of the 2015 campaign despite showing promising signs when he did get in on the action. When Michigan struggled to run the ball against Maryland, Johnson earned 13 carries and turned them into 68 yards and a touchdown. He also took a screen pass 31 yards for a touchdown that basically put the game away.

Since his injury, Johnson has largely fallen off the radar. But in his final year of eligibility, he figures to play a significant role in the Michigan backfield.

Projected Stats – Smith
Rushing Attempts Rushing Yards YPC TDs YPG Receiving Yards
160 700 4.4 5 53.8 95
Career Stats
2015 180 753 4.2 6 57.9 159
2014 108 519 4.8 6 43.3 26
2013 26 117 4.5 0 9.8 0
Totals 314 1,389 4.4 12 37.5 185
Projected Stats – Johnson
Rushing Attempts Rushing Yards YPC TDs YPG Receiving Yards
50 300 6.0 3 23.1 2
Career Stats
2015 54 271 5.0 4 22.6 96
2014 60 361 6.0 4 30.1 11
2013 2 9 4.5 0 9.0 0
2012 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Totals 116 641 5.5 8 25.6 107
Returning contributors

Last season Michigan had two former five-star running backs on its roster. Neither of them have come anywhere near their expected potential and neither made a major impact on the 2015 season.

(Rick Osentoski, USA Today Sports)

(Rick Osentoski, USA Today Sports)

Now Derrick Green is gone and Ty Isaac is surrounded by uncertainty. He wasn’t bad last season, but he wasn’t good enough to stay in Harbaugh’s rotation.

Isaac’s first year in Ann Arbor was defined by one 76-yard touchdown dash against UNLV, but he also averaged a solid 4.4 yards per carry the other 29 times his number was called. He fell out of the rotation for one reason: fumbles.

Isaac’s role on the team basically evaporated after a near-disastrous goal line fumble in Maryland. Michigan was backed up inside its own five-yard line when Isaac coughed up the ball in a one-possession game. The Wolverines recovered, but it was the last straw for Harbaugh. Isaac received only four touches the rest of the season.

The talent is there, and there’s definitely a spot for Isaac in Michigan’s backfield. But he’s running out of time to make the most of it.

Karan Higdon is the only other returning running back who received double digit carries last season. As a true freshman, Higdon impressed Harbaugh enough to earn playing time against ranked opponents in Northwestern and Michigan State. He figures to be similarly buried on the depth chart this season, but with so many big, bruising running backs fighting for carries, Higdon will be a potential change of pace.

Projected Stats – Isaac
Rushing Attempts Rushing Yards YPC TDs YPG Receiving Yards
50 240 4.8 2 18.5 25
Career Stats
2015 30 205 6.8 1 29.3 0
2014 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
2013 40 236 5.9 2 16.9 57
Totals 70 441 6.3 3 21.0 57
Projected Stats – Higdon
Rushing Attempts Rushing Yards YPC TDs YPG Receiving Yards
20 60 3.0 0 4.6 7
Career Stats
2015 11 19 1.7 0 6.3 3
Totals 11 19 1.7 0 6.3 3
New Faces

Michigan brought in a pair of huge running backs this offseason, including one of the top overall recruits in the nation.

Kareem Walker was one of the most valuable commitments in recent Michigan history after he flipped from Ohio State, not only because he helped recruit guys like Rashan Gary and Michael Dwumfour, but also because he’s a five-star talent who fits the Harbaugh offense perfectly.

Walker is a powerful inside runner and makes a living abusing tacklers one-on-one. Michigan fans got their first look at the freshman when he blew up two tacklers on a red zone run in the Spring Game.

Though he admits he doesn’t want to be a back who carries the ball 30 times per game, Walker expects to be in the rotation from Day 1. At this point, there’s no reason to doubt he will be.

The other, less heralded running back commit is Kingston Davis, who snubbed a handful of SEC schools to make the trip north to Ann Arbor. The Alabama native fits into the same category as Smith and Walker. He’s a huge body who welcomes contact and runs between the tackles.

Harbaugh loves big running backs. Now, he has plenty of them.

Projected Stats – Walker
Rushing Attempts Rushing Yards YPC TDs YPG Receiving Yards
70 350 5.0 5 26.9 35
Projected Stats – Davis
Rushing Attempts Rushing Yards YPC TDs YPG Receiving Yards
20 80 4.0 1 6.2 4
Meet the Rest

Wyatt Shallman: Senior, 6-3, 245, from Hartland, Mich. (Detroit Central Catholic)
Career stats: 4 attempts for 14 yards, 0 TDs
Joe Hewlett: Junior, 6-0, 195, from Novi, Mich. (Northville)
No career stats

#17 Michigan vs Rutgers game preview

Friday, November 6th, 2015


Game Preview_Rutgers_banner

College football’s two oldest FBS programs played for the first time in 135 years of existence last season, but Michigan came up on the losing end. The Scarlet Knights became the only Big Ten school to have a winning record over Michigan as of 2014. The other Big Ten newcomer, Maryland, did the same a couple weeks later, but while Michigan avenged that loss in this year’s Big Ten opener, the Wolverines have a chance to do the same to Rutgers tomorrow afternoon.

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Quick Facts
Michigan Stadium – 3:30p.m. EST – BTN
Rutgers Head Coach: Kyle Flood (4th season)
Coaching Record: 25-20, 12-15 B1G (all at Rutgers)
Offensive Coordinator: Ben McDaniels (1st season)
Defensive Coordinator: Joe Rossi (2nd season)
Last Season: 8-5 (3-5)
Last Meeting: Rutgers 26 – Michigan 24
All-Time Series: Rutgers leads 1-0
Record in Ann Arbor: 1st meeting
Jim Harbaugh vs Rutgers: 1st meeting
Last Michigan win: 1st meeting
Last Rutgers win: 2014 (26-24)
Current Streak: Rutgers 1

Rutgers comes in with a 3-5 record, still looking for a win over a team with a winning record. Norfolk State — an FCS school — is just 2-6, Kansas is 0-8, and Indiana is 4-4. Rutgers beat those three 63-13, 27-14, and 55-52, respectively. The Scarlet Knights lost to Washington State (37-34), Penn State (28-3), Michigan State (31-24), Ohio State (49-7), and Wisconsin (48-10).

It has been a troubled season in Piscataway, N.J., beginning with accusations of head coach Kyle Flood contacting a professor about the academic status of defensive back Nadir Barnwell. Then, just two days before the season opener, six players were arrested for home invasion and dismissed from the team. Then, star receiver Leonte Carroo was arrested and summarily suspended for a domestic violence incident following the Week 2 win over Washington State. Then, Flood was suspended for three games and fined $50,000 due to the aforementioned allegations.

Flood is likely done after the season but he’s hoping for a big win to add to his resume and Michigan is the last shot. Nebraska, Army, and Maryland remain after the trip to Ann Arbor, and with last year’s win over Michigan under their belt, Rutgers won’t fear the Wolverines. Let’s take a look at what Michigan will face.

When Rutgers has the ball

In Ben McDaniels’ first year coordinating the Rutgers offense, it ranks 72nd nationally and seventh in the Big Ten in total offense (393.9 yards per game), 67th and seventh in rushing (172.8 yards per game), 72nd and seventh in passing (221.1 yards per game), 41st and fourth in pass efficiency (141.76), and 78th and eighth in scoring (27.9 points per game).

Their success largely depends on whether or not the school’s career touchdown leader plays. Leonte Carroo was the Big Ten’s leading returning receiver entering the season with 1,086 yards in 2014, and despite playing in just five of eight games so far this season, he has half that. His 105.4 yards per game and nine touchdowns currently lead all Big Ten receivers. He reportedly didn’t practice this week with a lingering ankle injury suffered against Ohio State, so if he can’t go Michigan’s defense will get to face the Scarlet Knights without their top weapon.

That makes it harder for redshirt sophomore quarterback Chris Laviano, who ranks ninth in the Big Ten with an average of 192 passing yards per game. He has, however, completed 129 of 200 passes for a conference leading 64.5 percent. But one-fifth of those completions have gone to Carroo, and Carroo is really the lone deep threat. His 12 touchdown passes rank fifth behind Connor Cook, Tommy Armstrong, Nate Sudfeld, and Christian Hackenberg, but again, nine of those have gone to Carroo. So who does he have to throw to?

Junior Andre Patton leads the team with 25 receptions since he has played in all eight games, and ranks second on the team with 327 yards, but he has hauled in just one touchdown. Sophomore Janarion Grant has caught 21 passes for 181 yards, while redshirt junior Carlton Agudosi has 15 receptions for 305 yards and a touchdown. Agudosi’s 6-foot-6, 220-pound frame is resemblant of Devin Funchess last season and will be a challenge for Michigan’s secondary. He was held without a yard in last season’s meeting, but Grant did some damage with three catches for 87 yards and two rushes for 23 yards. Aside from Carroo, Rutgers’ leading pass catcher in terms of touchdowns is redshirt sophomore tight end Matt Flanagan, who has caught three.

The running game utilizes three backs pretty consistently. Sophomore Josh Hicks is the leading rusher with 99 carries for 511 yards (5.2 yards per carry) and four touchdowns. He has two 100-yard games, an 18-carry, 118-yard performance against Norfolk State and a 21-carry, 113-yard game against Kansas. Fellow sophomore Robert Martin is right on his heels with 501 yards on 86 carries (5.8 yards per carry) and four scores. He also eclipsed 100 yards against Kansas (102 on 17 carries) in addition to Indiana (17 for 124 and three touchdowns) and is a change of pace back compared to Hicks and James. Fifth-year senior Paul James has started every game but ranks third in carries (64), yards (357), and touchdowns (one). He is featured more as a pass catcher out of the backfield than the other two with six catches for 40 yards.

Perhaps the biggest win of the season so far is the health of the offensive line. All five starters have started all eight games, and with only one out of eligibility after this season that bodes will moving forward. Left tackle Keith Lumpkin is the lone fifth-year senior and he has career starts under his belt anchoring the left side of the line. Redshirt junior right guard Chris Muller is the second most experienced with 33. The other three, redshirt sophomore left guard Dorian Miller, redshirt junior center Derrick Nelson, Redshirt junior right tackle J.J. Denman, are all first-year starters.

When Michigan has the ball

While the Rutgers offense is slightly on the other side of average, both nationally and in the Big Ten, in pretty much every category, the defense is a different story. It ranks 111th nationally and 13th in the Big Ten in total defense (454.8 yards per game), 54th and 11th in rush defense (155.9 yards per game), 119th and 12th in pass defense (298.9 yards per game), 114th and 14th in pass defense efficiency (151.32), and 100th and 12th in scoring defense (34.0 points per game).

The main reasons for their lack of success have been off the field problems and injuries. Three-fourths of the starting secondary was dismissed from the team in early September, All-Big Ten defensive tackle Darius Hamilton suffered a season ending injury, and redshirt junior safety Davon Jacobs has missed time due to injuries as well.

The linebacking corps is the one constant, led by redshirt junior Steve Longa, who leads the team and the Big Ten with 91 tackles to go along with four for loss and one sack. He also led the team in tackles last season and was named a first team Freshman All-American by the Sporting News in 2013. Fifth-year senior Quentin Gause is a team captain an the second leading tackler with 71 tackles. He leads the team with nine tackles for loss and has one sack. Senior Kaiwan Lewis is the third starter and the third leading tackler with 42. The South Carolina transfer also has three tackles for loss and two interceptions.

Redshirt junior Quanzell Lambert and fifth-year senior Djwany Mera are the defensive ends and have 34 tackles, 5.5 for loss, and 1.5 sacks between them. Mera has five quarterback hurries. Redshirt junior defensive tackle Julian Pinnix-Odrick leads the team with six quarterback hurries and has 23 tackles, one for loss. Redshirt sophomore nose tackle Sebastian Joseph has 13 tackles, 3.5 for loss, and one sack.

The secondary has gotten torched all season as backups were thrust into starting roles right before the season’s first game. Redshirt freshman cornerback Isaiah Wharton leads the secondary with 39 tackles, six pass breakups, and seven passes defended, in addition to one interception. The other starting corner, freshman Blessaun Austin, has 23 tackles, one for loss, one interception, and three pass breakups. Junior free safety Anthony Cioffi is the elder statesman of the crew as the only non-freshman. He ranks fifth on the team with 35 tackles and leads the team with three picks. Strong safety Kiy Hester is a redshirt freshman and has 30 tackles, an interception, and five pass breakups.

The other third

Senior kicker Kyle Federico is one of the Big Ten’s most experienced kickers, but ranks 10th with a 66.7 field goal percentage. He has hit 6 of 9 this season with a long of 48 and has made 40 of 59 throughout his career with a long of 52. Fifth-year senior punter Joey Roth ranks 11th in the Big Ten with an average of 39.7 yards per punt. Of his 37 punts, he has booted two more than 50 yards, downed seven inside the 20 and knocked four into the end zone for touchbacks.

If Carroo doesn’t play tomorrow, Rutgers’ best chance to score a touchdown might be on special teams with Grant’s ability to return both punts and kicks. He’s Jabrill Peppers with touchdowns under his belt — three of them to be exact. He has taken two kickoffs and a punt back for touchdowns so far this season, averaging 24.5 yards per kick return and 9.2 per punt return.

Prediction

Michigan is going to win. The only question is by how much, and that depends on whether or not Carroo plays. If he does, and is at full strength, I’ll give Rutgers a touchdown or two. But I don’t expect him to be at full strength if he plays at all, and Jourdan Lewis has the edge if that’s the case.

Michigan’s defense will look much more like the one that shut down BYU, Maryland, and Northwestern in three straight weeks than it did against Michigan State and Minnesota the past two times out. Michigan State possessed the best passing quarterback in the league and a very good stable of receivers, while Minnesota gained many of its big plays off of fluky tipped passes or underthrown balls that fell into a receiver’s hands. Sooner or later, Michigan’s secondary is going to make those plays, and without Carroo, Rutgers doesn’t have the deep threat to challenge Michigan’s secondary. The defensive line will pressure Laviano into mistakes and the front seven will keep the run game in check.

Offensively, Michigan will focus on De’Veon Smith and Drake Johnson pounding the rock against a rush defense that has allowed 490 rushing yards on 5.6 yards per carry in the past two weeks. But when Jake Rudock — assuming he’s healthy enough to play — does pass, Rutgers’ secondary is as vulnerable as any the Wolverines have faced so far. Look for Jake Butt and Amara Darboh to have success underneath where the Scarlet Knights’ baby back four been most vulnerable.

Michigan 37 – Rutgers 3

M&GB staff predictions: Minnesota

Friday, October 30th, 2015


StaffPicks_banner2015

Gopher

Michigan returns to action on Halloween night looking to bring home the best treat of the night: the Little Brown Jug. Let’s take a look at our picks.

Justin:

Michigan will come out focused and determined to reclaim the Little Brown Jug and stay in the Big Ten title hunt. Minnesota’s defense is just average against the run and allowed 203 yards on 5.3 yards per carry to Nebraska, which managed just 82 rushing yards last week against Northwestern. Expect a heavy dose of De’Veon Smith and Drake Johnson, who should finally be healthy.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Minnesota
Justin 35 6
Derick 30 6
Sam 27 10
Josh 27 9
Joe 31 3
M&GB Average 30 7

Minnesota doesn’t have the offense to keep up with Michigan, so the main question will be whether or not Michigan’s defense can record its fourth shutout of the season. Northwestern shut Minnesota out 27-0 and the Gophers managed just 10 points against Kent State, who is just 3-5 at this point and has given up at least 10 points in every other game.

It won’t be a pretty or exciting game, but it will be classic Jim Harbaugh as Michigan pounds the ball on the ground and wears down the Gopher defense. Jake Rudock has a classic Jake Rudock day and Michigan wins and returns the jug to its rightly place.

Michigan 35 – Minnesota 6

Derick:

(Full disclosure, having a bye week after a loss like that completely sucked)

There’s a lot more to this Michigan-Minnesota game than it appears at first glance. For starters, Saturday’s winner will hold the Little Brown Jug for over two years, as the Golden Gophers aren’t on Michigan’s 2016 schedule. After Minnesota embarrassed the Wolverines, 30-14, in Ann Arbor last season, and pranced around the field with the Jug well after the final whistle, I fully expected Jim Harbaugh to run this ‘rival’ into the ground.

But on Wednesday, Minnesota’s widely beloved head coach Jerry Kill made the startling announcement that his health is forcing him to retire from football immediately. Kill battled health issues over the past several years, but he said the seizures have reached a point where he risks permanent mental damage if he doesn’t leave the sideline and get the proper care. I think Kill’s announcement takes some of the venom out of the contest and will likely rally the Golden Gophers, who’ve been awful since the start of conference play.

Minnesota’s only chance to steal this game will come in the passing game. Michigan’s passing game, to be more specific. The Gophers allow only 177.3 passing yards per game — 18th best in the country — and Michigan has been one of the worst passing offenses in the entire country. If Minnesota can focus entirely on shutting down Michigan’s running game and force Jake Rudock to win the game through the air, it’ll at least give the home team a fighting chance.

I don’t think that’ll happen.

Michigan owns the best defense in the country, and Mitch Leidner isn’t going to move the ball against a secondary that needs to bounce back from an awful week against two-man wrecking crew Connor Cook and Aaron Burbridge. That means Michigan will dominate time of possession and wear down the Minnesota defense with battering rams like De’Veon Smith and Drake Johnson (who’s been fully cleared to play).

There’s a realistic chance Michigan will post another shutout in Minneapolis, but I’ll toss the Gophers a pair of field goals in a Michigan win.

Michigan 30 – Minnesota 6

Sam:

After a tough loss and a week of improvement, Michigan is ready to take the field on a chilly, spooky Halloween night against a Minnesota team that is sure to play inspired ball after losing its coach, Jerry Kill, to sudden health-induced retirement earlier this week. I’m sure the Golden Gophers will be giving it all they have, but Michigan’s defense should dominate what’s been a very mediocre offense so far. I’ll take the Wolverines to bounce back.

Michigan 27 – Minnesota 10

Josh:

After a much needed bye, er improvement, week Michigan looks to get back on track versus the Gophers this week. With the news of Jerry Kill’s sudden retirement one would expect the Gophers to play with a little extra umph. Sadly, for them anyway, this won’t do much to help them win the game. Michigan’s defense has been firing on all cylinders, no one can run on them and the only quarterback to have success in the air is a likely first-round NFL pick. Minnesota’s defense has been banged up but appears to have benefited from their bye as well and should be closer to full-strength.

On offense Michigan will continue to employ what former Buckeye Joey Galloway calls a boring offense; but he’s just too stupid to understand all the complexities of various alignments and personnel though, credit that ‘quality’ OSU education. Anyway, Michigan will keep up its ground and pound style and with Drake Johnson looking to get back in the mix I think we’ll see a rebound performance against a lackluster run defense. The one thing that worries me, or would if Minnesota was any good on offense, is that the Gopher’s pass defense is their strength and if Rudock is called upon to win the game with his arm that could make for a very close, and uncomfortable game for Michigan. I don’t see that happening unless there is a complete collapse of the Michigan defense and a complete shut down of the run game.

On defense Michigan will pick right up where they left off; stifling the run and causing fits in the passing game. Mitch Leidner isn’t a great passer and I don’t expect him to try and test this secondary all that often, so the game rests on the legs of two true freshman running backs to help the Gophers get things going. Unfortunately for them Michigan’s run defense doesn’t let anyone run on them, I don’t see this changing this weekend. Nor do I see great play calls by Minneosta, like the 74-yard pass to the fullback last week, or any coverage busts, like the same fullback play last week. I don’t want to say they’ll be shut out but I don’t see them hitting double digit points, aside from any garbage time points anyway.

Michigan should roll over Minnesota and reclaim the Little Brown Jug, and keep it for quite some time. This one starts slow with the Gophers getting some extra energy from playing for the former coach and what should be a raucous night crowd at TCF. But Michigan’s defense will quiet the crowd and take complete control of the game.

Michigan 27 – Minnesota 9

Joe:

Big week in Minnesota. Big..Big…Big. We will see which team is tougher, mentally. Minnesota lost their coach and we all know what the Maize and Blue lost two weeks ago. I’m pretty sure that Harbaugh will have this team geared up and ready to finish the season strong. Rudock will need to be smart and keep the turnovers to a minimum. Minnesota’s defense can be tough and will be looking for the upset in honor of their retiring leader. The offense will keep the ball moving with big plays from the rotating backfield while the defense will look to create turnovers and continue pressuring the quarterback. The Minnesota offense is not exactly a powerhouse and can be pressured into making huge mistakes. I look for Michigan to create pressure and therefore get a few interceptions. One or more may get taken back to the house.

Michigan 31 – Minnesota 3

#18 Michigan 38 – #13 Northwestern 0: Wolverines dominate Wildcats in all three phases

Saturday, October 10th, 2015


Chesson vs NW(MGoBlue.com)

The coin toss was the only thing Michigan lost on Saturday, but the Wolverines turned even that into a win as Jehu Chesson returned the opening kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown and they never looked back. Michigan recorded its third straight shutout with a  38-0 blanking of 13th-ranked Northwestern.

Michigan scored touchdowns on offense, defense, and special teams for the first time in a game since 2003 and held Northwestern’s offense to just 168 total yards while racking up 380 of their own — more than doubling the number Northwestern’s defense entered the game allowing per game.

UM-Northwestern-small-FINAL
Final Stats
Michigan Northwestern
Score 38 0
Record 5-1 (2-0) 5-1 (1-1)
Total Yards 380 168
Net Rushing Yards 201 38
Net Passing Yards 179 130
First Downs 21 13
Turnovers 0 1
Penalties-Yards 3-28 5-39
Punts-Yards 5-190 8-280
Time of Possession 37:05 22:55
Third Down Conversions 7-of-14 2-of-13
Fourth Down Conversions 1-of-1 0-of-1
Sacks By-Yards 4-23 3-4
Field Goals 1-for-1 0-for-1
PATs 5-for-5 0-for-0
Red Zone Scores-Chances 3-of-3 0-of-0
Full Box Score

Jake Rudock had perhaps his best game of the season, completing 17 of 23 passes for 179 yards, and most importantly, no turnovers. The running game was done so by committee as De’Veon Smith led the way with 59 yards on eight carries, Derrick Green 47 yards on 12 carries, and five others rushed for at least 11 yards as Michigan racked up 201 yards on the ground.

Michigan’s defense held the Big Ten’s third leading rusher, Justin Jackson, to just 25 yards on 12 carries, and Jourdan Lewis padded his claim as one of the nation’s best defensive backs with a 37-yard interception return for touchdown. When all was said and done Michigan scored more points than Northwestern had allowed in the previous five games combined to set up a highly anticipated matchup with in-state rival Michigan State next Saturday.

After Chesson’s touchdown, Northwestern’s offense went three and out and Michigan drove 59 yards on seven plays to take a quick 14-0 lead. On the drive, Smith had an 18-yard rush and Jake Butt a 32-yard reception setting up a Drake Johnson 1-yard touchdown run.

Trying to get back in the game, Northwestern drove 50 yards to the Michigan 25, but Jack Mitchell missed a 42-yard field goal. Michigan responded with a six play 75-yard touchdown drive that featured a 34-yard Joe Kerridge run and a 27-yard pass to Chesson. Rudock scored from two yards out to put Michigan ahead 21-0 with 2:35 remaining in the first quarter.

Michigan piled it on near the end of the first half when Lewis intercepted Clayton Thorson’s 3rd-and-9 pass near the Northwestern sideline and raced 37 yards for the score. Michigan tacked on a 47-yard Kenny Allen field goal on its first possession of the second half and then Derrick Green capped off a 12 play, 66-yard drive with a 4-yard touchdown run with two minutes left.

Game Ball – Offense 

Mason Cole, Ben Braden, Graham Glasgow, Kyle Kalis, Erik Magnuson
For the first time this season the game ball goes to an entire position group and it’s the big uglies who were impressive all day against one of the nation’s best defenses. From the game’s start, Michigan’s offensive line generated great push against a very good Northwestern defensive front. While no individual running back went off, it was a team effort as nine different players had at least two carries, and five backs and Rudock had at least 11 rushing yards. Michigan totaled 201 rushing yards as a team, 84 more than Northwestern’s defense averages per game, and 4.4 yards per carry against a defense that gave up just 3.7 yards per rush in the first five games. Sure, Northwestern sacked Rudock three times, but it didn’t matter as the damage was done.

Previous:
Week 1 – Jake Butt (8 rec for 93 yards and 1 TD)
Week 2 – De’Veon Smith (23 carries for 126 yards, 3 TDs)
Week 3 – Ty Isaac (8 carries for 114 yards, 1 TD)
Week 4 — De’Veon Smith (16 carries for 125 yards and 1 TD)
Week 5 — Drake Johnson (13 carries for 68 yards, 1 TD, 1 rec for 31 yards, 1 TD)

Game Ball – Defense

Jourdan Lewis (4 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 1 touchdown, 1 PBU)
Willie Henry (2 sacks) and Jabrill Peppers (5 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 3 PBU) could have easily gotten today’s game ball, but Lewis gets the nod for his lockdown coverage and 37-yard interception return for touchdown. Northwestern tried throwing at him with little result and he got the better of Thorson when he picked off the 3rd-and-9 pass and raced 37 yards up the sideline to put Michigan ahead 28-0 in the first half. Lewis has been fantastic all season, but will have his toughest test yet when Michigan State comes to town next week.

Previous:
Week 1 – Chris Wormley (5 tackles, 3 TFL)
Week 2 – Chris Wormley (6 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 sack)
Week 3 – Jourdan Lewis (3 tackles, 4 PBU)
Week 4 — Ryan Glasgow (3 tackles, 2 TFL)
Week 5 — Desmond Morgan (9 tackles, 1 INT, 2 PBU)

Final Individual Stats
Passing Comp-Att Yds Avg. TD INT Long Sack
Jake Rudock 17-23 179 7.8 0 0 32 3
Clayton Thorson 13-27 106 3.9 0 1 20 2
Matt Alviti 1-3 12 4.0 0 0 12 1
Zack Oliver 1-3 12 4.0 0 0 12 1
Rushing Car. Yards Avg. TD Long
De’Veon Smith 8 59 7.4 0 19
Derrick Green 12 47 3.9 1 10
Joe Kerridge 2 35 17.5 0 34
Justin Jackson 12 25 2.1 0 15
Karan Higdon 8 16 2.0 0 9
Sione Houma 3 13 4.3 0 5
Ty Isaac 2 13 6.5 0 7
Solomon Vault 3 12 4.0 0 15
Jake Rudock (QB) 6 11 1.8 1 13
Jelani Roberts (WR) 1 11 11.0 0 11
Jehu Chesson (WR) 2 6 3.0 0 12
Warren Long 1 6 6.0 0 6
Drake Johnson 2 3 1.5 1 2
Matt Alviti (QB) 3 -2 -0.7 0 5
Clayton Thorson (QB) 3 -4 -1.3 0 3
Zack Oliver (QB) 1 -9 -9.0 0 -9
Receiving Rec Yds Avg. TD Long
A.J. Williams 4 48 12.0 0 16
Jake Butt 3 40
13.3 0 32
Austin Carr 2 39 19.5 0 20
Jehu Chesson 2 26 13.0 0 27
Drake Harris 2 25 12.5 0 13
Cameron Dickerson 2 22 11.0 0 12
Christian Jones 2 22 11.0 0 12
De’Veon Smith (RB) 3 19 6.3 0 10
Amara Darboh 2 11 5.5 0 8
Dan Vitale 1 11 11.0 0 11
Mo Ways 1 10 10.0 0 10
Miles Shuler 1 9 9.0 0 9
Justin Jackson (RB) 1 3 3.0 0 3
Mike McHugh 2 0 0.0 0 2
Clayton Thorson (QB) 1 0 0.0 0 0
Kicking FG Pct Long XP Pts
Kenny Allen 1/1 100.0 47 5/5 8
Jack Mitchell 0/1 0.0 0 0/0 0
Punting No Yds Avg TB In 20 Long
Blake O’Neill 5 190 28.0 2 3 59
Hunter Niswander 8 280 35.0 0 2 47
Kick Returns No Yds Avg Long TD
Jehu Chesson 1 96 96.0 96 1
Solomon Vault 2 39 19.5 22 0
Jelani Roberts 1 19 19.0 19 0
Marcus McShepard 1 17 17.0 17 0
Punt Returns No Yds Avg Long TD

M&GB staff predictions: Northwestern

Friday, October 9th, 2015


StaffPicks_banner2015

Pat Fitzgerald

Michigan hasn’t allowed a touchdown in more than two games and one of the Big Ten’s worst offenses comes to town tomorrow. Unfortunately, so does one of the best defenses. So what will give? Here are our predictions.

Justin:
Last season’s low-scoring affair was a product of decent defenses, but mostly just bad offenses and it was tough to watch for fans of either side. Tomorrow’s matchup will also be low-scoring, but that’s because it will be a battle of defensive titans that rank first and second nationally in scoring defense and both in the top five in total defense.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Northwestern
Justin 17 6
Derick 20 13
Sam 17 7
Josh 24 10
Joe 17 7
M&GB Average 19 9

What separates these defenses is that Michigan has held two straight Power 5 opponents to just 105 total yards each in the past two weeks, while Northwestern gave up 359 yards of offense to Ball State. While Michigan’s defense is equally good in both phases, Northwestern is great against the pass, but vulnerable to the run, and that’s where Michigan’s offense excels. No one knows at this point whether or not De’Veon Smith will play, but if he does, expect him to split carries with Drake Johnson to give the offense a nice one-two punch of Smith’s hard-nosed power running and Johnson’s vision and burst. Expect Jim Harbaugh’s offense to allow Jake Rudock to take what the defense gives him with underneath passes all day long and not take many chances against Northwestern’s strong secondary.

Defensively, Michigan will focus on stopping Jackson just as it has done to running backs all season. Thorson completes just 56 percent of his passes and has thrown for 105, 152, 70, 256, and 128 yards in Northwestern’s five games. The 256 was against Ball State’s weak defense and the 152 was against FCS school Eastern Illinois, which means against Power 5 competition, he hasn’t thrown for more than 128 yards in a game. Don’t expect that to change tomorrow.

A low-scoring game is guaranteed with neither offense able to have much success. But Michigan will be able to sustain longer drives and pull out the win.

Michigan 17 – Northwestern 6

Derick:
Everyone is expecting a low-scoring battle between the top two defensive teams in the nation, and I’m not different.
Michigan’s elite front seven is complemented with a lock-down secondary and should have little trouble with Northwestern’s average offense. But on the other hand, Jake Rudock and the offense are still learning and trying to form an identity. If Rudock takes care of the ball, the Wolverine defense will make a few plays and put the rushing attack in position to score enough points.

If Michigan coughs up the ball three times, the Wildcats will probably walk away from Ann Arbor with a perfect 6-0 record. But I think De’Veon Smith and Amara Darboh will make enough plays to escape with a victory.

Michigan 20 – Northwestern 13

Sam:
Last year, the Michigan/Northwestern game was nothing more than an embarrassing pile of ineptitude that devolved into the notorious “M00N” game. This year, while N00M might be in play, it will be for different reasons, as both defenses are coming off impressive shutouts and appear to be the legitimate class of the conference in that regard. Neither offense has caught fire yet, but I like Michigan’s defense a little more versus Northwestern’s inexperienced offense than vice versa. The Wolverines will put up just enough points to keep the win streak rolling. Give me Michigan by 10.

Michigan 17 – Northwestern 7

Josh:
The M00N game will now become N00M, at least to start off anyway. I expect this to be a lower scoring game, not as low as last year but it won’t be a shootout by any stretch of the imagination.

From what I can glean off the internet and in limited viewings of Northwestern they are a spread to run team that seems to go to empty sets on 3rd downs (again, this is just what I’ve gathered from other blogs and very limited actual game viewings so I could be way off). They have a decent RB but he isn’t a bruiser so don’t expect any De’Veon Smith type running but he does have some speed and wiggle so look for Michigan to keep him from getting to the outside, especially on RJS’s side (if our D has a weak link it’s gonna be the BUCK spot until someone can prove their worth, until then expect teams to test that side of the field).

They have a RS Frosh QB who’s stats are pretty decent but they are probably misleading as he’s not asked to do much other than dump it off, or so it seems anyway. I don’t think they’ll be able to pound the rock all day against a stout Michigan front so they’ll have to be creative and might take some downfield shots. Unlike in years past I am not too worried about our DB’s getting beat deep all that often so IF the Wildcats manage to hit one deep I doubt they’ll replicate that magic again.

However, I do expect that the quick read offense will help them get some quick, short yardage on numerous occasion as they try to negate the beast that is the Michigan defensive line. While his offense is not scary in the slightest and I don’t think they’ll be able to put up more than 10-13 points, they do have a ‘secret’ weapon in SuperBack (H-back/FB/TE) Dan Vitale and he can move, as well as block. Michigan will need to keep him check as he’s one of those ‘too fast for a LB and too big for a DB’ types, but hey Jabrill Peppers is basically a hybrid SS/LB and dude will hit you, so maybe we don’t worry about Vitale, too much.

Michigan’s offense, while not as exciting as many of us would like, is still hands down better than Northwestern’s so I expect the Wolverines to put up at least 20 points with a good mix of what we’ve grown accustomed to; Smith and Johnson pounding it up the middle (sidenote: I don’t think we see much of Ty Isaac, if any, after his double fumble week against Maryland) and I think this week is the week of Butt. Hm, that sounded weird but whatever. After having been somewhat absent from the offense after a hot, hot start I think the coaches will have more than a handful of plays for Jake Butt and hopefully that will open up the deep ball for Chesson and Rudock. Each week they attempt one or two downfield, so if Northwestern stacks the box to stop our bruising rushing attack this would be an ideal time to FINALLY connect on a deep bomb.

This will be an epic battle til the end between two excellent defenses and two less than stellar offenses. I think the final score won’t be as close as the game was though. In the end the Michigan offense gives them enough and the D holds the NW offense in check. Michigan pulls away in the end and we all look forward to Sparty.

Michigan 24 – Northwestern 10

Joe:
We are finally getting to the “meat” of the schedule (sorry, I couldn’t resist). Michigan is rolling along and improving each and every week. The defense has quickly become one of the best in the country and will go head to head with another top ranked defense. This should be an old fashioned battle that will be fun to watch.

The stars will need to shine in this one to pull out the big W. Jourdan Lewis and Jabrill Peppers will be huge on the back end as they make life difficult for the redshirt freshman quarterback, Clayton Thorson. They have been getting better each week and will continue to dominate. I don’t see them giving up much more than a touchdown in this one.

The offense will need to be careful and control the clock. Jake Rudock has been careful with the ball and should continue to hand the ball off to whomever is in the backfield. Keep the chains moving by using the tight ends and Amara Darboh when it’s available. We can rule out the long ball as that has been nonexistent due to his accuracy issues. Just don’t turn the ball over on offense and make life difficult on the freshman quarterback and we go to 5-1.

Michigan 17 – Northwestern 7

#18 Michigan vs #13 Northwestern game preview

Friday, October 9th, 2015


Game Preview_Northwestern_banner

After last season’s 10-9 snoozefest in Evanston, the thought of a highly anticipated top-20 matchup between Michigan and Northwestern less than a year later was far from most peoples’ minds. And for good reason. Both teams’ 2014 seasons ended with 5-7 records just three weeks after that meeting.

But as one of Week 6’s most anticipated matchups approaches — one of only two games naturally featuring two ranked teams — both Michigan and Northwestern are poised to make a major move toward the Big Ten title.

UM-Northwestern-small
Quick Facts
Michigan Stadium – 3:30 p.m. EST – BTN
Northwestern Head Coach: Pat Fitzgerald (10th season)
Coaching Record: 65-53 overall, 31-42 Big Ten (all at NU)
Offensive Coordinator: Mike McCall (8th season)
Defensive Coordinator: Mike Hankwitz (8th season)
Returning 2014 Starters: 14 (6 offense, 8 defense)
Last Season: 5-7 (3-5)
Last Meeting: UM 10 – NU 9 (2014)
All-Time Series: UM leads 56-15-2
Record in Ann Arbor: 34-6-2
Record in Michigan Stadium: 34-6-2
Jim Harbaugh vs Northwestern: 1st meeting
Last Michigan win: 2014 (10-9)
Last Northwestern win: 2008 (21-14)
Current Streak: Michigan 4
Michigan on Homecoming: 88-28-2

At 5-0 and 1-0 in the conference, Northwestern is ranked as high as it has been since 2000, following a wild, 54-51 win over Michigan. The Wildcats shared the Big Ten title with Michigan and Purdue that season and haven’t won it since. Another win over Michigan would make Northwestern the favorite to win the Big Ten West.

Like Michigan, they have a quality win so far this season. In the opener, Northwestern shut down 21st-ranked Stanford for a 16-6 win, holding the Cardinal to just 240 yards of offense and 85 rushing yards. Since then, Stanford is 4-0, averaging 42 points and 506 total yards per game. Northwestern also has a 19-10 win over Duke in Durham and a 27-0 throttling of Minnesota last week. Despite that impressive resume, there is one game of concern, a narrow win over Ball State. The Cardinals gained 359 yards of offense — 181 on the ground — in the Week 4 near-upset.

Michigan holds a 56-15-2 all-time advantage over Northwestern, but the last three meetings were about as close as they could get. In 2012, Michigan trailed by three in the closing seconds, but Devin Gardner completed a Hail Mary to Roy Roundtree, setting up the game-tying field goal. Michigan won in overtime, 38-31. In 2013, Northwestern held a 9-6 lead late in the game, but Michigan pulled off an improbable last-second field goal to tie it. The Wolverines then won in triple overtime, 27-19. Then last year, Michigan carried a 7-0 lead into the fourth quarter before Northwestern kicked a field goal with 7:26 remaining. Michigan responded with a field goal of its own to take a 10-3 lead, but Northwestern scored with three seconds remaining. Instead of going to overtime for the third straight year, Pat Fitzgerald elected to go for two, but Michigan’s defense held strong and broke Northwestern’s heart once again.

Three years of frustration at the hands of Michigan could be redeemed with a win in the Big House tomorrow, vaulting the Wildcats into the top 10. Or Michigan could break their hearts again and make their own jump toward the top 10. Let’s take a look at the matchup.

When Northwestern has the ball

Like Michigan, offense isn’t what has carried Northwestern to a fast start this season. The Wildcats rank 79th nationally and ninth in the Big Ten in total offense (391 yards per game), 14th and first in rushing (248.8 yards per game), 118th and last in passing (142.2 yards per game), 99th and 10th in pass efficiency (114.85), and 89th and 11th in scoring (25.4 points per game).

The main source of offense has been sophomore running back Justin Jackson. His 636 rushing yards rank third in the Big Ten behind Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott (729) and Indiana’s Jordan Howard (709). Jackson is averaging 127.2 rushing yards per game and 4.6 yards per carry on 138 carries. By comparison, De’Veon Smith has just 69 carries, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. Jackson has eclipsed 100 yards in four of five games this season, but has just one touchdown.

Junior Warren Long and sophomore Solomon Vault are the backups with about six or seven carries apiece per game. Long is averaging 5.3 yards per carry and has two touchdowns, while Vault averages 4.0.

The second leading runner in terms of both yards and carries is quarterback Clayton Thorson. The redshirt freshman from Wheaton, Ill. has 200 yards on 41 carries and leads the team with four rushing touchdowns. At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, he’s not the traditional mobile quarterback, but he’s mobile enough to pick up yards when needed. He was the sixth-best dual threat quarterback in the class of 2014. Passing-wise, he stands in the bottom third of the conference with 711 yards, four touchdowns, and a 56.6 percent completion percentage. He has eclipsed 150 yards passing in just two of five games this season — one of which was 152 yards — and was held to 9-of-23 for 70 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions by Duke.

The leading receiver is senior super back Dan Vitale, who played for Thorson’s rival high school, Wheaton-Warrenville South. He has 15 receptions for 196 yards and two touchdowns this season, but most of that production came against Ball State when he caught five passes for 108 yards and both scores. Fellow senior Christian Jones is the only other player with double-digit receptions, with 14 catches for 157 yards but has yet to find the end zone, while junior Austin Carr is a big play threat with 100 yards and two touchdowns on just four receptions. No other receiver has a touchdown or more than 54 yards.

The offensive line has a good amount of experience. Left tackle Geoff Mogus has 27 career starts, and although he missed the Minnesota game with an injury, he’s expected to start tomorrow. Left guard is the main question mark between senior Matt Frazier, who started against Minnesota, and junior Connor Mahoney, who started against Eastern Illinois and Ball State. Frazier is certainly the more experienced with 18 career starts. Junior Ian Park is the center with 13 career starts, while senior right guard Shane Mertz is a new starter this season and junior right tackle Eric Olson has 14 career starts.

When Michigan has the ball

Defense is what Northwestern has made its calling card this season, matching comparably with Michigan in most categories. The Wildcats rank fifth nationally and second in the Big Ten in total defense (247.4 yards allowed per game), 26th and fifth against the run (117.4 yards allowed per game), seventh and second against the pass (130 yards allowed per game), third and second in pass defense efficiency (83.35), and first and first in scoring defense (seven points per game).

Northwestern has a good set of defensive ends in senior Dean Lowry, senior Deonte Gibson, and junior Ifeadi Odenigbo. Lowry leads the defensive line with 4.5 tackles for loss to go along with half a sack. Gibson and Odenigbo lead the team with 2.5 sacks apiece. The interior of the line consists of senior C.J. Robbins and sophomore Tyler Lancaster. Lancaster ranks third on the team with 3.5 tackles for loss and also has a half a sack.

The linebacking corps is led by rising star sophomore middle linebacker Anthony Walker, who has 44 tackles, 8.5 for loss, a half a sack, and two fumble recoveries. His 8.5 tackles for loss ranks third in the Big Ten behind Wisconsin’s Joe Schubert and Penn State’s Carl Nassib. Junior Jaylen Prater is a first-year starter at the weak side and has 23 tackles, while senior SAM linebacker, Drew Smith, who started seven games last season, also has 23 tackles in addition to two fumble recoveries.

The secondary is one of the nation’s best with a ton of experience between corners Nick VanHoose and Matthew Harris as well as safeties Traveon Henry and Godwin Igwebuike. VanHoose is a fifth-year senior who was an All-Big Ten second team selection by the media a year ago. He has 37 career starts and has nine tackles and five pass breakups so far this season. Harris, a junior, started all 12 games last season and leads the team with three interceptions and six pass breakups this season. Henry, a senior, started 10 games in each of the last two seasons and ranks second on the team with 29 tackles in addition to three for loss and one sack. Sophomore safety Igwebuike started five games as a redshirt freshman a year ago and has 27 tackles and three pass breakups so far in 2015.

The other third

Junior kicker Jack Mitchell has made 10 of 13 field goal attempts with a long of 49. Last season, he made 14 of 18, so he’s solid. Sophomore punter Hunter Niswander, however, ranks near the bottom of the Big Ten with a 38.9-yard punt average. Vault handles the kick return duties and has done so very well so far, averaging 31.6 yards per return, which ranks 14th nationally. He had a 98-yard touchdown return against Duke in Week 3. Senior receiver Miles Shuler is the punt returner with an average of 18.5 yards per return.

Prediction

Last season’s low-scoring affair was a product of decent defenses, but mostly just bad offenses and it was tough to watch for fans of either side. Tomorrow’s matchup will also be low-scoring, but that’s because it will be a battle of defensive titans that rank first and second nationally in scoring defense and both in the top five in total defense.

What separates these defenses is that Michigan has held two straight Power 5 opponents to just 105 total yards each in the past two weeks, while Northwestern gave up 359 yards of offense to Ball State. While Michigan’s defense is equally good in both phases, Northwestern is great against the pass, but vulnerable to the run, and that’s where Michigan’s offense excels. No one knows at this point whether or not De’Veon Smith will play, but if he does, expect him to split carries with Drake Johnson to give the offense a nice one-two punch of Smith’s hard-nosed power running and Johnson’s vision and burst. Expect Jim Harbaugh’s offense to allow Jake Rudock to take what the defense gives him with underneath passes all day long and not take many chances against Northwestern’s strong secondary.

Defensively, Michigan will focus on stopping Jackson just as it has done to running backs all season. Thorson completes just 56 percent of his passes and has thrown for 105, 152, 70, 256, and 128 yards in Northwestern’s five games. The 256 was against Ball State’s weak defense and the 152 was against FCS school Eastern Illinois, which means against Power 5 competition, he hasn’t thrown for more than 128 yards in a game. Don’t expect that to change tomorrow.

A low-scoring game is guaranteed with neither offense able to have much success. But Michigan will be able to sustain longer drives and pull out the win.

Michigan 17 – Northwestern 6

Michigan 28 – Maryland 0: Defense dominates Terrapins

Saturday, October 3rd, 2015


Michigan D vs Maryland(MGoBlue.com)

The threat of Hurricane Joaquin moving up the Atlantic coast moved kickoff up eight hours, and perhaps Michigan’s offense didn’t get the memo for the first 30 minutes. But the defense did its part and when the offense woke up Michigan polished off its second straight shut out with a 28-0 win over Maryland on Saturday afternoon.

Maryland looked like it was going to be able to move the ball to start the game, picking up first downs on an 11-yard pass, a 10-yard pass, and an 18-yard run into Michigan territory. The drive stalled at the 47, but Michigan’s offense was unable to get anything going on its first possession.

The teams traded turnovers four of the next five possessions as Jeremy Clark and Desmond Morgan both intercepted Maryland quarterback Caleb Rowe and Jake Rudock and Ty Isaac each coughed up fumbles. On Michigan’s first possession of the second quarter, which started with the Morgan interception, the Wolverines advanced to the Maryland 24, but an intentional grounding penalty killed the drive and Kenny Allen missed a 47-yard field goal attempt.

UM-Maryland-small-FINAL
Final Stats
Michigan Maryland
Score 28 0
Record 4-1 (1-0) 2-3 (0-1)
Total Yards 378 105
Net Rushing Yards 198 29
Net Passing Yards 180 76
First Downs 14 7
Turnovers 3 3
Penalties-Yards 7-65 5-66
Punts-Yards 6-242 13-473
Time of Possession 34:19 25:41
Third Down Conversions 5-of-17 1-of-18
Fourth Down Conversions 1-of-2 0-of-0
Sacks By-Yards 3-20 2-11
Field Goals 2-for-3 0-for-0
PATs 2-for-2 0-for-0
Red Zone Scores-Chances 3-of-3 0-of-0
Full Box Score

After a Maryland three-and-out, Michigan finally got on the scoreboard thanks to a Jabrill Peppers 29-yard punt return that set the Wolverines up at the Maryland 39. Michigan got as far as the 10 but had to settle for a 30-yard Allen field goal. Allen tacked on another, from 32 yards out, at the end of the quarter to put Michigan ahead 6-0 at the half.

The second half started similar to the first with neither team able to move the ball. Rudock was intercepted by defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson at the Michigan 44 on Michigan’s first possession. But the Wolverine defense forced a three and out. Two possessions later, Michigan finally got its first touchdown of the game when Drake Johnson took a screen pass 31 yards and dove for the pylon. Rudock connected with Khalid Hill for a two-point conversion to put Michigan ahead 14-0.

After forcing another Maryland punt, Michigan wasted no time finding the end zone again. Jehu Chesson took an end-around and raced 66 yards down the left sideline for another touchdown.

Michigan added a final score midway through the fourth. Maryland punted from its own five, but was called for kick catch interference as Peppers caught the punt, which gave Michigan the ball at the Maryland 24. Johnson carried the ball for runs of two and 20 yards, and after a Sione Houma one-yard run, Johnson polished it off with his second touchdown of the game to reach the final score of 28-0.

Despite three turnovers, Michigan’s offense racked up 378 total yards of offense, 198 on the ground. Rudock completed 16 of 32 passes for 180 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. Johnson led all rushers with 68 yards on 13 carries (5.2 yards per carry), while Jake Butt led all receivers with 61 yards on 4 receptions.

Michigan’s defense held Maryland to just 105 total yards — the same total BYU reached a week ago. Maryland gained just 35 yards on 46 plays (0.76 yards per play) after its first two possessions of the game. Rowe completed just 8 of 27 passes for 47 yards and three interceptions. Brandon Ross rushed 14 times for 44 yards as Maryland was held to just 1.1 yards per carry.

Morgan led the Michigan defense with nine tackles in addition to his interception. Matt Godin recorded 1.5 sacks, while Maurice Hurst and Willie Henry added one apiece and Mario Ojemudia notched a half a sack. Unfortunately, Ojemudia left the game in the second half with an Achilles injury that may end his season.

The shutout marked the first time Michigan has recorded back-to-back shutouts since the 2000 season.

Michigan improved to 4-1 on the season and 1-0 in Big Ten play and will host Northwestern (5-0, 1-0) for Homecoming next Saturday. The Wildcats are currently ranked 16th, but may move up in the rankings after topping Minnesota 27-0.

Game Ball – Offense 

Drake Johnson (13 carries for 68 yards, 1 TD, 1 rec for 31 yards, 1 TD)
Johnson emerged in the second half of last season as Michigan’s top running back and had a spectacular game against Ohio State before tearing his ACL for the second time. As this season began, he was buried on the depth chart and didn’t play in the opener at Utah while still recovering from the injury. But he has slowly been working back over the last four weeks, and when De’Veon Smith was ruled out of this one with an ankle injury and Ty Isaac struggled to hold onto the ball in the first half, Johnson was called upon to carry the load. He showed the talent and vision of last season, taking a screen 31 yards for a score, reeling off a 20-yard run, and scoring a rushing touchdown.

Previous:
Week 1 – Jake Butt (8 rec for 93 yards and 1 TD)
Week 2 – De’Veon Smith (23 carries for 126 yards, 3 TDs)
Week 3 – Ty Isaac (8 carries for 114 yards, 1 TD)
Week 4 — De’Veon Smith (16 carries for 125 yards and 1 TD)

Game Ball – Defense

Desmond Morgan (9 tackles, 1 INT, 2 PBU)
Like Johnson, Morgan suffered a major injury last season, but it caused him to miss the entire year. The good news is that it gave him a fifth season to be a part of this team and he hasn’t disappointed. Today, he had his best game of the young season, leading all defenders with nine tackles, picking off a pass, and breaking up two passes. He was all over the field and played a major part in holding a second straight opponent to just 105 total yards.

Previous:
Week 1 – Chris Wormley (5 tackles, 3 TFL)
Week 2 – Chris Wormley (6 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 sack)
Week 3 – Jourdan Lewis (3 tackles, 4 PBU)
Week 4 — Ryan Glasgow (3 tackles, 2 TFL)

Final Individual Stats
Passing Comp-Att Yds Avg. TD INT Long Sack
Jake Rudock 16-32 180 5.6 1 1 44 2
Caleb Rowe 8-27 47 1.7 0 3 13 3
Rushing Car. Yards Avg. TD Long
Drake Johnson 13 68 5.2 1 20
Jehu Chesson 1 66 66.0 1 66
Brandon Ross 14 44 3.1 0 18
Derrick Green 7 26 3.7 0 9
Jake Rudock 4 19 4.8 0 20
Ty Isaac 6 17 2.8 0 7
Sione Houma 2 12 6.0 0 11
Wes Brown 5 8 1.6 0 4
Amara Darboh 1 -2 -2.0 0 -2
Ross Taylor-Douglass 3 -3 -1.0 0 1
Caleb Rowe 1 -8 -8.0 0 -8
Daxx Garman 6 -15 -2.5 0 3
Receiving Rec Yds Avg. TD Long
Jake Butt 4 61 15.2 0 44
Jehu Chesson 4 41
10.2 0 16
Drake Johnson 1 31 31.0 1 31
Amara Darboh 3 27 9.0 0 15
Wes Brown 2 26 13.0 0 22
Levern Jacobs 3 20 6.7 0 11
D.J. Moore 2 17 8.5 0 10
Sione Houma 2 14 7.0 0 9
Kenneth Goins Jr. 1 13 13.0 0 13
Drake Harris 1 6 6.0 0 6
Taivon Jacobs 1 1 1.0 0 1
Freddy Canteen 1 0 0.0 0 0
Brandon Ross 1 -1 -1.0 0 -1
Kicking FG Pct Long XP Pts
Kenny Allen 2/3 66.7 32 2/2 8
Punting No Yds Avg TB In 20 Long
Blake O’Neill 6 242 40.3 0 2 59
Nate Pritchard 10 360 36.0 0 1 46
Brad Craddock 3 113 37.7 0 1 52
Kick Returns No Yds Avg Long TD
Jabrill Peppers 1 21 21.0 21 0
William Likely 4 91 22.8 31 0
Punt Returns No Yds Avg Long TD
Jabrill Peppers 3 38 12.7 29 0
William Likely 3 23 7.7 12 0

Predicting Michigan 2015: The running backs

Thursday, July 16th, 2015


PredictingMichigan-RunningBacks

Miami Ohio v Michigan

It seems long ago that five-star recruit Derrick Green’s commitment to the University of Michigan sent former head coach Brady Hoke into tears of joy. Ever since that day (Jan. 26, 2013), Michigan’s offense has left fans crying for another reason.

Though much of the blame for the team’s poor rushing performance over the past few years belongs to the offensive line, a few highly-regarded running backs have certainly struggled to live up to the hype. Green and classmate De’Veon Smith, once regarded near-elite talents in the running game, have failed to combine for 1,000 rushing yards in a single season midway through their college careers.

With an improving offensive line and even more viable options in the backfield, the rushing game should see a marked improvement in 2015.

Potential starters

For a team that struggled to rush the ball consistently under Hoke, Michigan does return a slew of potential weapons for Jim Harbaugh’s maiden voyage. Perhaps the most interesting case is that of Drake Johnson, who took the reins in the second half of last season before an injury ended his campaign a few quarters early at Ohio State.

Ty Isaac

Ty Isaac showed promise as a freshman at USC in 2013 and will get a chance to lead Michigan’s backfield this fall (David Cleveland, AP)

Johnson earned a chance at the top spot against Indiana, when he rushed for 122 yards and two scores on 16 carries. Though he only gained 30 yards on 10 carries against Northwestern, the junior finished on a strong note, gaining 168 yards and scoring twice on 29 carries in the team’s final two games. He averaged just over six yards per carry in 60 total attempts and scored four touchdowns. If he fully recovers in time for the season, Johnson will get a shot to win the starting job.

But even with a full recovery, Johnson’s ceiling is much lower than that of Derrick Green, who started to run more effectively before breaking his collar bone midway through the 2014 season. Green rushed for 170 yards on 15 carries in the opener against Appalachian State and averaged 6.2 yards per carry against both Miami (Ohio) and Rutgers.

Unfortunately for the Wolverines, Green didn’t show up to the two biggest games of his season, rushing for only 31 yards on 19 combined carries against Notre Dame and Minnesota. As a freshman in 2013, Green averaged fewer than four yards per carry in eight of the 11 games he played in and failed to record a single 100-yard game.

Green offers the best combination of power and athleticism in the Michigan running back unit, which should give him a leg up as the Wolverines transition into a more power-based offensive attack under Harbaugh. But the junior will ultimately have to find his consistency and earn the job on the field, something he’s been unable to do through two seasons.

De’Veon Smith, often the forgotten man behind Green — and later Johnson — in the rotation, stood as the only Michigan back to carry the ball in every single game last season. Smith led the team with 519 yards and six touchdowns on the ground and averaged a solid 4.8 yards per carry.

Though Smith developed a bit of a nose for the end zone last season, he earned only 108 carries in 12 games and gained over 60 yards in a game only twice – a 115-yard effort in the opener against Appalachian State and a 121-yard game in Northwestern.

Smith is the most stable running back on Michigan’s depth chart; he has neither an outstanding chance to over perform nor a colossal chance to fail. The best case scenario for Michigan would be one of the more explosive backs earning the starting job so that Smith can slot into a productive backup role he clearly deserves.

The final piece of the starting running back puzzle is USC transfer Ty Isaac, who came to Ann Arbor after one season with the Trojans. Isaac received only 40 carries for USC as a true freshman in 2013, averaging 5.9 yards per carry and scoring two touchdowns.

A former five-star recruit out of Illinois, Isaac stands at 6-foot-3 and weighs around 240 pounds. If he does win the job, he’s got the best body to become a workhorse and take over the Michigan offense. He was a single-cut back coming out of high school with good burst and quick feet for his size. Isaac can also be a weapon in the passing game, which can only help his chances with a new quarterback taking over the system.

My initial reaction to this four-man battle for the starting job was that Green and Johnson, who each put together solid half-seasons before injuries last season, would head into the season as frontrunners. But Isaac’s size and agility might actually be the deciding factors if he can shake off the rust from a year on the sideline.

New running backs coach Tyrone Wheatley has a tough decision ahead of him in naming a starting back, but too much talent is a good problem to face.

Projected Stats – Isaac
Rushing Attempts Rushing Yards YPC TDs YPG
120 672 5.6 8 51.7
Career Stats
2013* 40 236 5.9 2 16.9
Totals 40 236 5.9 2 16.9
*All at USC
Projected Stats – Green
Rushing Attempts Rushing Yards YPC TDs YPG
95 510 5.4 6 39.2
Career Stats
2014 82 471 5.7 3 78.5
2013 83 270 3.3 2 20.8
Totals 165 741 4.5 5 39.0
Projected Stats – Johnson
Rushing Attempts Rushing Yards YPC TDs YPG
60 340 5.7 4 26.2
Career Stats
2014 60 361 6.0 4 30.1
2013 2 9 4.5 0 9.0
2012 0 0 N/A 0 N/A
Totals 62 370 6.0 4 28.5
Projected Stats – Smith
Rushing Attempts Rushing Yards YPC TDs YPG
50 235 4.7 6 18.1
Career Stats
2014 108 519 4.8 6 43.3
2013 26 117 4.5 0 9.8
Totals 134 636 4.7 6 26.5

Newcomer

Michigan added another piece to the running back corps through recruiting this spring, flipping three-star Karan Higdon from Iowa at the last minute. The 5-foot-10, 190 pound back rushed for 15 touchdowns and nearly 1,000 yards on 185 carries as a junior and gives Michigan a quick outside runner who can make defenders miss in the open field.

Higdon committed to Wheatley on Feb. 4 as one of the first recruits to join Harbaugh’s class. He’s a north-south runner, which will fit well into the new offensive scheme, and has above-average power for a light back.

With the four upper classmen mentioned above, it’s possible that Higdon will take a redshirt as a freshman, perhaps to add more weight before hitting the field in 2016. But as the only guy on the team who was actually recruited by Harbaugh, don’t count anything out.

Projected Stats – Higdon
Redshirt or very little playing time this fall

Meet the rest

Antonio Whitfield, junior, 5’4″, 160, from Canal Winchester, Ohio, no career stats

Junior Wyatt Shallman‘s claim to fame so far in his first couple of years at Michigan was adopting a wallaby last month. On the field, he has recorded just one carry in last year’s season opener against Appalachian State. He was featured in the spring game in April, gaining 22 yards on 12 carries while Johnson and Isaac sat out, but in a crowded backfield he won’t see much time this fall.

Projected Stats – Shallman
Rushing Attempts Rushing Yards YPC TDs YPG
5 21 4.2 0 1.6
Career Stats
2014 1 5 5.0 0 0.4
2013 0 0 N/A 0 N/A
Totals 1 5 5.0 0 0.4

Fourth annual M&GB HAIL Awards

Monday, January 12th, 2015


HAIL Awards banner

The 2014 college football season officially comes to an end tonight, and while Michigan’s season has been over for a month and a half and everybody is swept up in Harbaughmania, we’re going to close the book on 2014 with one more look back at Michigan’s season by handing out our annual HAIL Awards for the top players, plays, and moments.

Despite coming off of a 7-5 season, the team entered the season with high expectations, most ranging from 8-4 to 11-2. With the majority of the offense back, an expected leap forward from the two Devins, a new offensive coordinator, and an offensive line that had nowhere to go but up, most assumed the offense would avoid the pitfalls that the 2013 season saw. And with the majority of the defense back, an offseason shuffling of position coaches, switching Jake Ryan to middle linebacker, and a predicted senior season breakout of Frank Clark, most assumed the defense would be among the nation’s best.

But following a season-opening blowout of Appalachian State, it quickly became clear that those preseason expectations would need to be tempered as Michigan visited South Bend and left embarrassed by a 31-0 defeat. A 34-10 win over Miami (Ohio) did nothing to turn the season around as Michigan dropped three straight to Utah, Minnesota, and Rutgers, and suddenly a season that began with hope was relegated to simply hoping for a winning record.

A controversy over the handling of backup quarterback Shane Morris and his “probable, mild concussion” suffered against Minnesota further clouded the season and set the wheels in motion for a coaching change. Michigan responded with an Under the Lights win over Penn State that offered a brief respite, but was summarily mopped off the field by rival Michigan State two weeks later. Needing to win three of four to make a bowl game, Michigan topped Indiana and Northwestern, but fell to Maryland, making a season-ending trip to Columbus a must-win. And while Michigan held its own for the better part of three quarters, even holding a halftime lead, it was unable to stop the Buckeyes, and the season ended at 5-7.

Brady Hoke was fired following the season, and exactly four weeks later, Harbaugh was hired as the 20th head coach in Michigan history. But before we turn our attention completely to Harbaugh, let’s relive the top moments of Team 135.

To revisit previous years awards: 20132012, 2011, or click here for a breakdown of each award.

Harmon Player of the Year Jake Ryan

RyanThe first three years of our HAIL Awards produced offensive players as Michigan’s player of the year. But in 2014, it was only fitting that a defensive player win it for the first time. Michigan’s offense sputtered to 112th nationally in total offense, 109th in scoring, 110th in passing, and 62nd in rushing.

Jake Ryan switched positions in the offseason, moving into the middle of the linebacking corps in order to stay on the field for more plays and keep opposing offenses from game planning away from him. It paid off with a team-leading 112 tackles (67 solo) and 14 tackles for loss to go along with two sacks, an interception, two forced fumbles, three pass breakups, and five quarterback hurries.

“For a team that relied so heavily on the defense to keep the game close, Jake Ryan was the anchor and leader from the linebacker position,” said Derick.

“Hands down rock star on this team,” said Joe. “He may have started slow, but came on strong as the season progressed. His presence on the field will be missed!”

Votes: 4
Others Receiving Votes: Devin Gardner (1)

Previous Winners:
2013: Jeremy Gallon
2012: Denard Robinson
2011: Denard Robinson

Chappuis Offensive Player of the Year  Devin Gardner & Devin Funchess (tie)

Gardner-FunchessMichigan’s offense stunk this season. There’s no denying it. It finished second to last in the Big Ten in scoring, last in total offense, eighth in rushing, 11th in passing, second to last in first downs, eighth in third down conversions, and tied for last in turnovers. Does anyone really deserve to be named offensive player of the year? Alas, we had to vote, and the Devins each received two.

“The lone bright spot (at least for a few games) was junior Devin Funchess, whose physical skillset on the outside went underutilized,” Sam said. “Funchess still had fewer receiving yards than he did in his breakout sophomore campaign, but his fireworks in the first few games were pretty much the lone bright spot on the year.”

Joe made the case for Devin Gardner:

“Okay, stick with me on this one. His numbers weren’t great, but he showed tremendous heart and never gave up on this team in spite of all the adversity. Love him or hate him, he is a heckuva young man.”

Votes: 2 each
Others Receiving Votes: Amara Darboh (1)

Previous Winners:
2013: Jeremy Gallon
2012: Denard Robinson & Devin Gardner (tie)
2011: Denard Robinson

Schulz Defensive Player of the Year  Jake Ryan

Jake Ryan vs Miami OHHad Frank Clark not had an off-the-field incident and been kicked off the team, he would have been in the running for defensive player of the year. But Ryan was the best player on a defense that was pretty good but never really lived up to expectations. He led the team with 112 tackles (67 solo) and 14 tackles for loss and recorded two sacks, an interception, two forced fumbles, three pass breakups, and five quarterback hurries.

“Jake Ryan made some head-scratching mistakes in his role as middle linebacker, but he also reminded us how great of a player he can be on more than one occasion,” said Sam. “He was the unforgettable heart and soul of a very forgettable team.”

“Easy pick, and we look forward to watching him play on Sundays,” said Joe.

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: Jourdan Lewis (1), The field (1)

Previous Winners:
2013: Blake Countess
2012: Jake Ryan
2011: Mike Martin

Yost Coach of the Year Greg Mattison

MattisonThe defense brought high expectations into the season, and although it finished a very respectable seventh nationally in total defense, no one would consider it one of the top seven defenses in the country. The failures of the offense had a lot to do with that, putting the defense in tough spots time and again and forcing the defense to carry the team, but the defense often struggled to get key stops and takeaways. Even so, there’s no question who the most important coach on the staff was this season.

All told, it ranked third in the Big Ten in total defense, fifth in scoring defense, third against the run, sixth against the pass, seventh in sacks, second in opponent first downs, and eighth in opponent third-down conversions.

“Greg Mattison’s defense was underrated because of the massive amount of time it spent on the field,” said Derick. “The offense constantly put them up against a wall, and the defense still ranked among the best in the conference.”

“The defense was the one bright spot of the team this year, if there was one,” said Josh.

Votes: 5
Others Receiving Votes: None

Previous Winners:
2013: Jeff Hecklinski
2012: Greg Mattison
2011: Brady Hoke & Greg Mattison (tie)

Little Brown Jug Game of the Year Under the Lights III win over Penn State

UTLIII winFor the second straight year a loss to Ohio State nearly won this category. What does that say about the state of the program the past couple years? Instead, Michigan’s 18-13 win over Penn State took the cake. The third night game in Michigan Stadium history was a festive occasion amidst an otherwise forgettable season, and although Penn State wasn’t anything special in 2014 either, it was a big win at the time.

Wearing all blue uniforms for the first time ever, Michigan held Penn State to just 214 total yards and sacked Christian Hackenberg six times. Devin Gardner went 16-of-24 for 192 yards and a touchdown, Devin Funchess caught seven passes for 69 yards and a touchdown, and Matt Wile made field goals of 37, 42, and 45 yards. Michigan moved to 3-4 on the season and 1-2 in the Big Ten, but remained perfect under the lights in the Big House.

“The night game against Penn State was the only game that really brought magic to the Big House,” said Derick. “Penn State was considered a solid team at the time.”

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: Sticking with Ohio State (2)

Previous Winners:
2013: Under the Lights II win over Notre Dame
2012: Last second field goal to beat Michigan State
2011: 40-34 win over Ohio State

Howard Play of the Year Frank Clark stops Northwestern two-point conversion

Frank Clark vs NorthwesternHis Michigan career ended unceremoniously, but Frank Clark gets the nod for play of the year. It ended up being the last play of his career, and at the time kept Michigan in postseason contention. For the third straight season, Michigan and Northwestern played an ugly, down-to-the-wire game. Michigan had won the previous two in overtime, and this time Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald wanted no extra football to be played.

When the Wildcats scored a touchdown with three seconds to play, Fitzgerald kept the offense on the field instead of kicking the extra point that would have tied the game. Quarterback Trevor Siemian rolled to his right, planning to stop and throw back to his left, but Clark shot right through the blockers to cut him off. As Siemian tried to stop, he lost his footing and fell to the ground untouched to end the game. After the game, Clark and other Michigan defenders said they knew exactly what play was coming.

“Frank Clark’s stop looked like the play that would get Michigan into a bowl game,” said Derick. “Even though that didn’t happen, it did essentially win a game on its own.”

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: Willie Henry fat-guy touchdown (1), Ben Gedeon blocked punt return vs App State (1)

Past Winners:
2013: Fire drill field goal to force overtime at Northwestern
2012: Roy Roundtree’s acrobatic catch against Northwestern
2011: Denard’s touchdown pass to Roy Roundtree to beat ND

Biakabutuka Performance of the Year Devin Gardner’s 254 yards, 2 TDs vs Ohio State

Devin Gardner vs OSULike the season as a whole, there weren’t many individual performances that stood out. Drake Johnson’s 122-yard, two-touchdown performance against Indiana won two votes, while Devin Funchess’ seven-catch, 95-yard, three-touchdown performance and Derrick Green’s 15-carry, 170-yard, one-touchdown performance against Appalachian State were nominated. But for the second straight year, Devin Gardner’s performance against Ohio State gets the nod.

Gardner finished his career with his best game of the season, completing 22-of-32 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns to keep the game much closer than anyone expected. He began the game with an interception that led to Ohio State’s first touchdown, but shook it off and found Jake Butt for Michigan’s first touchdown of the game. On Michigan’s next drive, Gardner ran for 10 yards on third down to keep the drive alive and set up a Drake Johnson touchdown run. Late in the game, Gardner connected with Freddy Canteen for another touchdown.

“The most impressive performances come in the biggest games, and the fact that Gardner kept this Michigan team in the game for nearly three quarters against a national championship game participant was nothing short of a miracle,” said Derick.

“Once again, Michigan looked to be toast heading into The Game, and once again, the Wolverines hung around long enough to tease the Michigan faithful,” said Sam. “Surprisingly, it was Devin Gardner who had his best game of a miserable season, picking apart the Buckeye defense in the first half to give the Maize and Blue a fighting chance.”

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: Drake Johnson’s 122 yards, 2 TD (7.6 ypc) vs Indiana (2)

Past Winners:
2013: Devin Gardner’s record-setting performance against Ohio State
2012: Denard recording 101% of offense vs Air Force

2011: Denard’s five TDs in win over Ohio State

Friedman Quarterback of the Year Devin Gardner

GardnerGardner had his struggles this season, but his heart and commitment to Michigan can never be questioned. He lost his starting job to Shane Morris five games into the season, but kept his head up and fought hard the rest of the way. Morris’ woeful performance and injury against Minnesota let Gardner retain the job the rest of the season and he closed his career with a good performance against Ohio State.

He finished the season 174-of-283 (61.5 percent) for 1,896 yards, 10 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions, and rushed 98 times for 258 yards (2.6 yards per carry) and four touchdowns. He finished his career sixth in career touchdown passes (44), fourth in career passing yards (6,336), and fourth in career completions (475).

“Gardner wasn’t great, but the Minnesota game made it painfully obvious that he was the best Michigan had,” said Derick.

“As previously mentioned, he really did play his tail off for this team and left it all on the field,” said Joe. “Despite the results, you have to admire this young man’s character and work ethic.”

Votes: 4
Others Receiving Votes: None (1)

Previous Winners:
2013: Devin Gardner
2012: Denard Robinson & Devin Gardner (tie)
2011: Denard Robinson

Heston Running Back of the Year Drake Johnson

Drake Johnson vs IULast season, Michigan’s running back situation was so bad that we didn’t even award a Running Back of the Year. This season, the running back play was much better and there were breakout performances by multiple backs, but injuries kept one back from running away with it. Derrick Green opened the season with a 15-carry, 170-yard, one-touchdown performance against Appalachian State. Two weeks later, he rushed for 137 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries against Miami (Ohio). But midway through the season he broke his clavicle and missed the rest of the season.

Not to be outdone, DeVeon Smith rushed for 115 yards and two touchdowns on just eight carries in the season opener, and while he stayed healthy, he managed just one more 100-yard game the rest of the way, an 18-carry, 121-yard, one-touchdown game against Northwestern. He finished the season as the team’s leading rusher with 519 yards and six touchdowns.

But anyone who watched Michigan over the last half of the season would be hard-pressed to say anyone looked better than Drake Johnson. The redshirt sophomore began 2013 as the backup, but tore his ACL in the season opener. He returned behind both Green and Smith, but once Green went down, he filled in nicely. Against Indiana, Johnson rushed 16 times for 122 yards and two touchdowns, then he closed the season with 14 carries for 94 yards against Maryland and 15 carries for 74 yards and two touchdowns against Ohio State before tearing his ACL once again in the third quarter. While he finished third on the team in rushing with 361 yards and had the fourth-most carries (60), he led all backs in yards per carry (6.0) and tied Gardner for second with four rushing touchdowns.

“With Green hurt and Smith never really breaking out, I believe that Johnson’s performance earned him this award,” said Joe. “If he had not have been sidelined in the Ohio game, who knows how that one could have turned out.”

“Forget recruiting rankings, Drake Johnson was the only running back who hit holes hard enough to pick up consistent gains, and he did it against OSU before the injury,” said Derick.

Votes: 4
Others Receiving Votes: De’Veon Smith (1)

Previous Winners:
2013: None
2012: Denard Robinson
2011: Fitzgerald Toussaint

Carter Receiver of the Year Devin Funchess

FunchessAfter losing Jeremy Gallon to graduation, Michigan’s receiving corps looked to Devin Funchess to carry the load. He officially made the full-time switch from tight end to receiver and switched his jersey number from 87 to 1, the first Michigan receiver to wear the iconic number since Braylon Edwards. And he opened the season in style with seven catches for 95 yards and three touchdowns against Appalachian State. Of course, no one expected him to match those numbers the rest of the season, but it was fun to project his stats out over the course of 13 games: 91 catches, 1,235 yards, 39 touchdowns.

He followed it up with 107 yards on four catches against Notre Dame, but Michigan was shut out and Funchess suffered an injury that kept him out the following week. It took until the seventh game of the season — the Under the Lights game against Penn State — for Funchess to catch his fourth touchdown and then he was held without another the rest of the season. He closed with 108 yards on seven catches against Ohio State, but with no other breakout receivers stepping up, Funchess struggled with consistency and concentration all season.

He finished the season with a team leading 62 receptions for 733 yards and four touchdowns, but while he caught more passes than 2013, his yards fell by 15 and touchdowns decreased by two, and after that first game he was never the dominant threat he should have been. Still, with enviable size, he will enter the NFL Draft this April.

“Funchess could be a force in the NFL with his lethal combination of size, speed, and athleticism, and he could have been a dominant college receiver on a better team,” said Sam. “Unfortunately, Michigan simply wasn’t able to get him the ball much, even if he did make some crazy how-did-he-do-that catches (like against Penn State) and some my-grandma-could-have-caught-that drops.”

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: Amara Darboh (2)

Previous Winners:
2013: Jeremy Gallon
2012: Jeremy Gallon
2011: Junior Hemingway

Dierdorf Offensive Lineman of the Year Mason Cole

Mason ColeThe biggest reason for Michigan’s offensive ineptitude a year ago was the offensive line. Brady Hoke mixed and matched lineups, trying to find the right combination to protect his quarterback and pave the way for something resembling a running game, but often to no avail. Despite losing two tackles to the NFL — Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield — the line grew up a little bit in 2014. But it was a newcomer that took home the award.

Mason Cole became the first true freshman in Michigan history to start a season opener on the offensive line, replacing Lewan at left tackle from Week 1, and while he made his share of mistakes throughout the season, he generally made people forget he was in high school a few months prior. Michigan’s line allowed 25 sacks, which ranked eighth in the conference, but was 11 fewer than last season. It paved the way for an improvement of an improvement of 37.1 rushing yards per game. And Cole was a major reason why.

“Mason Cole was thrown into the fire as a true freshman left tackle and managed to not be a glaring weakness,” said Sam. “That’s a huge win in my book.”

“Cole has a bright future after a decent redshirt freshman season,” said Derick. “I was impressed with how he hung in there during the Big Ten season.”

Votes: 5

Others Receiving Votes: None

Previous Winners:
2013: Taylor Lewan
2012: Taylor Lewan
2011: David Molk

Messner Defensive Lineman of the Year Willie Henry

Willie HenryDue to Frank Clark’s dismissal from the team with two games left in the season, this category suffered from a lack of standout performers at the position, which split the vote. Had Clark finished the season, his 42 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks — totals that would have had two more games added to them — would have won the award going away.

Instead, Willie Henry was the only lineman that received multiple votes, while Ryan Glasgow, Brennen Beyer, and Mario Ojemudia garnered one apiece. Henry finished the season with 20 tackles, 5.5 for loss, and three sacks, but he made one of the most memorable plays of the season. Trailing Utah 10-3 midway through the second quarter, Michigan needed a big play and Henry provided it. On 3rd-and-12 from their own 13, Utah quarterback Kendal Thompson dropped back to throw a screen pass, but Henry leapt up and snagged it at the 6-yard line and rumbled into the end zone to tie the game.

“Tough pick here, but since Clark dug his own grave, I was quite impressed with Henry,” said Joe. “His ceiling looks to be quite high and I look forward to watching him pressuring opposing quarterbacks in the future.”

Votes: 2
Others Receiving Votes: Ryan Glasgow (1), Brennen Beyer (1), Mario Ojemudia (1)

Previous Winners:
2013: Frank Clark
2012: William Campbell
2011: Mike Martin & Ryan Van Bergen (tie)

Simpkins Linebacker of the Year Jake Ryan

Jake Ryan vs NorthwesternAfter winning Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, this one was a lock, although it wasn’t unanimous. James Ross III received one vote after recording 32 tackles, and three tackles for loss. Sam explains his decision to vote for Ross:

“I know, I know…Jake Ryan wins MVP and Defensive MVP and isn’t even the best linebacker? My vote is probably a lie here, but I feel that James Ross deserves some recognition for a couple bone-crushing hits on opposing linemen. This was the best unit on the entire team, and Ross should have an excellent senior season.”

The other four votes went to Ryan, giving him the Linebacker of the Year award for the third time in four years. He led the team with 112 tackles (67 solo) and 14 tackles for loss, and added two sacks, an interception, two forced fumbles three pass breakups, and five quarterback hurries. His 112 tackles were the most for a Michigan defender since Jonas Mouton recorded 117 in 2010, but Mouton did so in 13 games. It was the most in a 12-game season since Jarrett Irons recorded 115 tackles (80 solo) in 1994.

“Ryan moved over to middle linebacker despite being one of the top outside linebackers in the country. He anchored one of the top defenses in the Big Ten,” said Derick.

Votes: 4
Others Receiving Votes: James Ross III (1)

Previous Winners:
2013: Desmond Morgan
2012: Jake Ryan
2011: Jake Ryan & Kenny Demens (tie)

Woodson Defensive Back of the Year Jourdan Lewis

Jourdan LewisLast season’s winner, Blake Countess, took a step back this season as Michigan’s secondary was constantly tested by opposing offenses. And while freshman Jabrill Peppers was expected to make the biggest impact, an early-season injury kept that from happening and it was another youngster that rose to the occasion. Sophomore Jourdan Lewis started seven of 12 games, and after being picked on in a Week 2 loss to Notre Dame, proved to be Michigan’s best corner as the season progressed.

Lewis finished the season with 39 tackles (28 solo), 1.5 tackles for loss, and a team-leading two interceptions and six pass breakups. His third-quarter interception of Christian Hackenberg led to a game-tying field goal in Michigan’s win over Penn State, and he also made a touchdown-saving tackle against Utah in which he out-raced everyone across the field to bring down Ute running back Bubba Poole at the 25-yard line. That kind of effort was there all season from Lewis.

“Jourdan Lewis can guard any receiver in the Big Ten with his speed and coverage skills, but his work ethic is what sets him apart,” said Derick.

“Tough year for the defensive backs overall, as the passing game seemed to hurt when it counted,” said Joe. “However, Jourdan Lewis looks to have a promising future in Ann Arbor, and when matched up alongside Peppers, perhaps a few more interceptions will be in his future.”

Votes: 5
Others Receiving Votes: None

Previous Winners:
2013: Blake Countess
2012: Jordan Kovacs
2011: Jordan Kovacs

Hamilton Special Teams Player of the Year Dennis Norfleet

NorfleetThe Special Teams Player of the Year vote was close between return man Dennis Norfleet and senior punter Will Hagerup, but Norfleet edged it out. Michigan’s special teams were a disaster for much of the year, often failing to even get 11 men on the field, but Norfleet was always a constant. Although he is still looking for his first return touchdown, he is reliable at catching kicks and punts and holding onto the ball, and he had a punt return called back against Maryland.

He finished the season with a 23.1-yard average on kick returns — which ranked sixth in the Big Ten — and a 3.8-yard average on punt returns. This season, he also moved into first place in Michigan career kick returns (90) and yards (2,203), and third place in career total return yards (2,293). He also fired up the home crowd with his dance moves while awaiting kicks and punts.

“Dennis Norfleet dances, and dances well. He wins,” said Sam.

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: Will Hagerup (2)

Previous Winners:
2013: Brendan Gibbons
2012: Brendan Gibbons & Dennis Norfleet (tie)
2011: Brendan Gibbons & Jeremy Gallon (tie)

Hart Newcomer of the Year Drake Johnson

Drake JohnsonAlthough a redshirt sophomore in 2014, Drake Johnson was a newcomer since he tore his ACL in the first game of the 2013 season. The Ann Arbor native began the year behind Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith, and after getting three carries for 28 yards in mop-up time against Appalachian State, didn’t see a carry again until the Michigan State game after Green was lost for the season. The following week, he ran for 122 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries against Indiana, and then finished the season with 168 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries (5.8 yards per carry) against Maryland and Ohio State.

“Tough choice between Mason and Drake, but Drake came alive late and provided a much needed spark to an otherwise sputtering offense,” said Joe. “I look forward to seeing him take snaps in a rotation with Isaac and Green.”

“Before the injury, Drake Johnson was looking like the running back Michigan’s been looking for over since the Sugar Bowl win,” said Derick.

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: Mason Cole (2)

Previous Winners:
2013: Jake Butt
2012: Devin Funchess
2011: Blake Countess

Schembechler ‘Those Who Stay’ Senior of the Year Jake Ryan

Jake RyanRyan came to Michigan as a three-star recruit from Cleveland St. Ignatius, choosing Rich Rodriguez’s Wolverines over a handful of Mid-American Conference offers. Four years and a different coaching staff later, Ryan leaves Michigan as one of the top linebackers in program history. Despite missing the first five games of the 2013 season following a torn ACL in spring practice, his 44.5 tackles for loss rank seventh in Michigan history and his seven forced fumbles rank second. He started 41 career games and earned Bennie Oosterbaan’s #47 legends jersey.

“A model student athlete for the University of Michigan,” said Joe. “He has seen the ups and downs of this program as well as his own personal uphill battle with injury. In spite of it all, he was always a dominant playmaker on the field and the face of the defense as far as I’m concerned.”

“I’ll be sad to see all of these seniors go,” said Sam. “All had their moments, and though each of them leave the University of Michigan on a sour note, they played their hearts out for four or five years on the team. I will always be particularly fond of Jake Ryan’s wreaking havoc on opposing quarterbacks early in his career though, and his leadership was tangible even watching on TV. Ryan was a gritty linebacker, an athletic rusher, and a guy that defenses were afraid of, and for that, he’s my Senior of the Year.”

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: Devin Gardner (2)

Previous Winners:
2013: Jeremy Gallon
2012: Denard Robinson
2011: Mike Martin

Harris Most Improved Player of the Year Jourdan Lewis

Jourdan Lewis vs Miami OHMichigan entered the season with plenty of experience in the secondary, led by Blake Countess and Raymon Taylor, and a true freshman — Jabrill Peppers — who most expected to be a breakout star. But injuries plagued Peppers’ season and it was another youngster who rose to the occasion.

Jourdan Lewis played in eight games as a reserve defensive back in 2013, recording 17 tackles and two pass breakups, but broke out in his sophomore campaign with 39 tackles, 1.5 for loss, six passes defended, and two interceptions. He got better as the season went on and proved to be a good cover corner, leaving fans excited for him to team up with Peppers in 2015.

“If Lewis can become more of a ball hawk, he’ll become one of the better cornerbacks in the country,” said Derick. “His speed and coverage skills were the best on Michigan’s roster this season.”

“Lewis is making strides in his game, basically doubling all of his stats from last year with similar playing time,” said Joe. “As mentioned before, it’ll be fun to see him playing in the same backfield as a healthy Jabrill Peppers.”

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: Joe Bolden (1), None (1)

Previous Winners:
2013: Devin Funchess
2012: Devin Gardner
2011: Brendan Gibbons & Fitzgerald Toussaint (tie)

Just enough: Michigan 10 – Northwestern 9

Saturday, November 8th, 2014


UM-NU(MGoBlue.com)

Nobody expected an offensive shootout in Evanston, Ill. on Saturday afternoon, and Michigan and Northwestern, both of whom feature offenses in the 100s nationally, lived up to that expectation combining for 19 points and 13 punts in a 10-9 Michigan win.

Northwestern crossed midfield on the opening possession of the game, but a converted 3rd-and-1 with a 10-yards Justin Jackson run, got called back for illegal formation and the Wildcats punted.

Michigan got a quick first down on two Drake Johnson runs, but on 3rd-and-8 from the Michigan 43, Devin Funchess dropped a would-be first down. Michigan punted.

And so the game went, neither offense able to put together anything resembling a long drive. Jake Ryan picked off a Trevor Siemian pass at the Northwestern 47 and Michigan quickly moved into the Northwestern red zone. But De’Veon Smith was stopped on 4th-and-1 at the Wildcat 16.

UM-Northwestern-small-final-FINAL
Final Stats
Michigan Northwestern
Score 10 9
Record 5-5, 3-3 3-6, 2-4
Total Yards 256 264
Net Rushing Yards 147 -9
Net Passing Yards 109 273
First Downs 13 18
Turnovers 3 4
Penalties-Yards 5-50 3-10
Punts-Yards 7-267 6-209
Time of Possession 25:49 31:51
Third Down Conversions 1-of-12 10-of-20
Fourth Down Conversions 0-of-1 0-of-2
Sacks By-Yards 6-59 0-0
Field Goals 1-for-2 1-for-2
PATs 1-for-1 0-for-0
Red Zone Scores-Chances 2-of-4 2-of-4
Full Box Score

Midway through the fourth quarter, Michigan took possession at the Northwestern 31 after a short punt and a nine-yard Amara Darboh return. Three plays later, Devin Gardner was intercepted by Matthew Harris. Northwestern gave it right back four plays later when Matt Godin intercepted Siemian at the Northwestern 35. But once again Michigan couldn’t convert. Matt Wile’s 44-yard field goal attempt was blocked and the teams went to halftime locked in a scoreless game, each offense barely over 100 total yards.

In the second half it was Northwestern’s turn to squander a great opportunity. A Michigan fumbled snap on its first possession gave the Wildcats possession a the Michigan 27. But three plays later, kicker Jack Mitchell pulled a 36-yard field goal to the left.

Michigan finally broke through midway through the third quarter thanks to another Northwestern mistake. Tony Jones fumbled a Will Hagerup punt and Michigan recovered at the Northwestern 21. Gardner connected with Funchess for 18 yards and Smith carried it into the end zone on the next play, putting Michigan ahead 7-0.

After forcing a Wildcat punt, Michigan’s offense looked to add more to the tally, but Gardner was picked off by safety Ibraheim Campbell at the Northwestern six. Campbell rumbled 79 yards to the Michigan 15. But yet again Northwestern’s offense imploded. Frank Clark stopped Jones for a five-yard loss on the first play, then back-to-back sacks by Brennen Beyer pushed the Wildcats out of field goal range. On 4th-and-38, Pat Fitzgeraldn had no choice but to punt.

At the beginning of the fourth quarter, after forcing a Michigan punt, Northwestern put together its best drive of the game, marching 95 yards on 19 plays, but had to settle for a 21-yard field goal to pull within four at 7-3.

Michigan rode Smith and a 16-yard completion to Jake Butt down the field and Wile kicked a 37-yard field goal to put the Wolverines ahead by a touchdown once again with 3:03 remaining.

But Northwestern wasn’t finished, methodically marching down the field with a series of short passes. On 2nd-and-10 from the Michigan 22, Raymon Taylor was flagged for pass interference giving Northwestern a 1st-and-goal at the seven with less than a minute to play. After back-to-back runs by Jackson failed to reach the end zone, Siemian found Jones for a touchdown with three seconds left. Rather than kick the extra point and go to overtime for the third straight season, Fitzgerald elected to go for the win. On the two-point conversation attempt, Siemian rolled out to his right, but Clark was right there waiting for him. Siemian lost his footing and fell to the ground sealing the Michigan win.

After the game, Michigan coaches and players alike said they were prepared for the two-point conversion play. Hoke credited the coaches in the booth for seeing it and the players credited their preparation during the week.

“I knew it was going to be a sprint out once I saw the double motion, and that’s how I went about it,” said Clark.

Ryan agreed, saying, “”We planned for it all week. We knew what they were doing.”

Michigan finished the game with 256 total yards, 147 of which on the ground. Gardner completed 11-of-24 passes for 109 yards and two interceptions, while Smith led the way with 121 rushing yards on 18 carries (6.7 yards per carry). Darboh led Michigan with four receptions for 41 yards.

Northwestern outgained Michigan with 264 total yards, but the Michigan defense held the Wildcats to minus-nine yards rushing thanks to six sacks. Siemian completed 32-of-49 passes for 273 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. After averaging 123 yards per game in his last four, Jackson was held to just 35 yards on 17 carries (2.1 yards per carry). Kyle Prater was the leading receiver with eight catches for 86 yards.

Ryan finished with 11 tackles, half of a tackle for loss, and one pick. Clark tallied seven tackles, two for loss, and one sack, but was a disruptive force for most of the game. Beyer and Mario Ojemudia each recorded a pair of sacks, while Willie Henry added one.

At 5-5 overall and 3-3 in the Big Ten, Michigan heads into its final bye week of the season. The Wolverines host Maryland (6-3, 3-2) on Nov. 22. The Terrapins were off this week and host Michigan State next Saturday. A Michigan win over Maryland would make the Wolverines bowl eligible heading into the season-ending trip to Columbus.