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Posts Tagged ‘Freshman’

M&GB Roundtable talks freshmen, but not THAT freshman

Friday, August 1st, 2014



So far this offseason we have discussed the status of Hoke’s hot seat (we pretty much all agreed this is not a make or break season for him) and the Michigan Football Legends jerseys program (we’re all in agreement that we like them, but they need a few guidelines). As we continue our offseason staff roundtable series today, we’re providing our thoughts on freshmen. You may have heard about this incoming defensive back named Jabrill Peppers, but we’re not talking about him. Here’s the question:

Which freshman — true or redshirt — are you most excited about this season, not named Jabrill Peppers? Who, other than Peppers, do you think will have the biggest impact this fall, and why?


Jabrill Peppers is undoubtedly the freshman everyone is excited about. At Big Ten Media Days, it seemed that every other question for Brady Hoke, Devin Gardner, Jake Ryan, and Frank Clark was about Peppers. The amount of hype for an 18-year-old kid that hasn’t played a down of college football yet is unreal, and while we all hope it’s warranted, it was clear that Hoke and Michigan’s player representatives were tired of talking about it.

The only other freshman that has received a good amount of hype is receiver Freddy Canteen, and he’s who I’m most excited about. He was the talk of spring practice, showing off great speed, agility, and explosiveness — a combination Michigan has lacked at receiver for years. Jeremy Gallon, Roy Roundtree, and Junior Hemingway have been very good receivers the past few years, but they were all different types of receivers than Canteen. Michigan hasn’t had the Mario Manningham or Steve Breaston type of receiver (yes, I know Manningham played outside) that can complement the bigger possession receivers. And with the 6’5″, 230-pound Devin Funchess out wide, a speedy Canteen in the slot would be the perfect complement.

The big question mark for the receiving corps is redshirt sophomore Amara Darboh, who was the offseason hype machine and in line to start last season before breaking his foot in fall camp. That allowed Jehu Chesson, who was behind Darboh at the time, to work his way into the lineup. Chesson had an okay season (15 catches for 221 yards and a touchdown), but didn’t show the consistent playmaking ability. He flashed it — a catch-and-run across the middle touchdown against Akron and a jump ball in double coverage at Michigan State — but averaged barely over one catch a game. His blocking ability — a very important trait for a receiver, especially in Michigan’s offense — will keep him in the rotation, but he’ll likely battle with Darboh for the second outside spot opposite Funchess.

Canteen will likely battle with Dennis Norfleet for the slot job, and if they spring hype is accurate, has the leg up. Norfleet is just 5’7″, 169-pounds, and although shifty, has yet to fulfill the hype many expected of him. He was used sparingly on offense last season, and to mild success, because when he was on the field, it was a tell-tale sign that he was getting the ball on a trick play. Canteen’s size and game-breaking ability will allow him to stay on the field and be available for those trick plays without giving them away.

With Funchess playing the Gallon, Roundtree, and Hemingway role as The Man, Darboh and Chesson providing consistency and reliability on the other side, and Canteen giving big-play potential in the slot, this could be a very good receiving corps. There are a lot of ‘ifs’ but the potential is there, and for the first time in several years, there doesn’t appear to be a weak link in the group. The ideal situation would be for Darboh to return to the level he was pre-injury and start opposite Funchess with Canteen in the slot and Chesson rotating in for Darboh. Of course, the possibility exists that Canteen grabs the No. 2 receiver job on the outside — opposite Funchess — but that would leave Norfleet in the slot and both Darboh and Chesson coming off the bench, so that’s not ideal.


There really are only a few legitimate candidates that can be considered. For the first time in a few seasons, Michigan finally will have experienced depth at most positions this fall thanks mostly to Brady Hoke’s work on the recruiting trail. In 2012 and 2013, the years he brought in his first two full recruiting classes, Hoke received commitments from 53 prospects. Currently, 52 of them still are on scholarship at Michigan, with only linebacker Kaleb Ringer transferring after he suffered a significant knee injury. The superb retention rate and lack of attrition in the 2012 and 2013 classes have allowed talented juniors and sophomores to flood Michigan’s depth chart. Accordingly, there are very few spots where Michigan needs freshmen—true or redshirt—to contribute immediately.

The only freshmen—other than Jabrill Peppers—that have an opportunity to start or see extensive playing time on either offense or defense are wide receiver Freddy Canteen and defensive tackle Maurice Hurst, Jr. There are a few other freshmen that could make notable contributions, though. Tight ends Khalid Hill and Ian Bunting may be valuable assets early in the season while Jake Butt completes his recovery from an ACL tear. Defensive tackle Bryan Mone, an early enrollee, may work his way into the defensive-line rotation by season’s end. And there are multiple offensive linemen with freshman eligibility that may be promoted to first string if the presumed starters—four sophomores and a junior—cannot improve upon what was arguably the nation’s worst offensive line last season, but Michigan fans are hoping this development does not come to fruition. Nevertheless, no freshman other than Peppers will have the impact that Canteen or Hurst, Jr. will have.

Although Hurst, Jr. may have a bigger impact as a plausible starter on the defensive line, the freshman not named Peppers that I am most excited about undoubtedly is Canteen. Canteen was a complete unknown when he committed to the Wolverines shortly after participating in Michigan’s summer camp in 2013. However, it was clear that he was unheralded only because his high school team played just three games his junior season. Once Michigan fans saw his game film and Vines of his terrific footwork, they started buzzing. Then, after he enrolled early last January, the coaching staff and his teammates began buzzing, too. Canteen provided a small taste of what he is capable of in the “spring game” when he flashed his swift speed and brisk footwork for what should have been two long completions, including one where he burned All-Big Ten first-team cornerback Blake Countess deep. With his crisp routes, he has the ability to be a playmaker immediately.

Canteen may not start, but he will play many snaps as a true freshman. Michigan lost four wide receivers, including record-setter Jeremy Gallon, to graduation in the offseason. Although the Wolverines still have arguably the Big Ten’s best wideout in Devin Funchess, they will need the younger guys to step up as the No. 2 and No. 3 options. Canteen will compete with sophomores Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson for those spots and already may have the edge on both. Plus, Michigan always could slide him in at slot receiver ahead of Dennis Norfleet. Either way, few freshmen will earn as much playing time in 2014 as Canteen, and he should dazzle all of us with his moves.


In a perfect world we wouldn’t be asking this question. Personally, I would like to see ALL first year players get redshirted, sit and learn and pack on some weight without any pressure to perform. Sadly we don’t live in that world and so here we are. At first I wanted to say Freddy Canteen after his spring game showing. I mean c’mon it makes perfect sense, with Jeremy Gallon in the NFL and Jake Butt sidelined, someone has to catch the balls not thrown to Funchess. But after I thought about it a while a certain press conference came to mind, and to paraphrase of one of the greatest sports rants ever; “We talkin’ bout practice. Not a game, not a game, not a game, we talkin’ about practice.”

I’m going to head to the other side of the ball and go with Bryan Mone. The defensive line struggles, as with all of Michigan’s struggles in ’13, were well documented. They didn’t generate sufficient pass pressure, didn’t stop the run (to put it lightly) and overall were just, well not that good. Mone is a big boy, a very big boy, and by all accounts the kid can move quite well. A guy who can eat up space and occupy more than one blocker can be devastating, and if he can get into the backfield all the better. Now I won’t go so far as to say I think he’ll be Vince Wilfork, he’s a once in a lifetime player, but I do think given the chance Mone can make some noise and help get Michigan’s defense back to being a Michigan defense.


I’m hoping I don’t jinx him by choosing another wide receiver this year (Darboh didn’t exactly break out last season), but how can fans not be excited about Freddy Canteen? The freshman wide receiver stormed onto the stage during the Spring Game, offering one of the few bright spots in what turned out to be a sloppy performance.

Canteen separated himself from a loaded group of young wide receivers and should line up with the starters along with captain Devin Funchess. His speed will give the offense another dimension that it badly needed after the loss of both Jeremy Gallon and Drew Dileo to graduation.

Canteen isn’t the most talented freshman receiver in Ann Arbor, but unlike classmates Drake Harris and Maurice Ways, the youngster has the offensive coaching staff buzzing about his ability as the calendar turns to August. Look for Canteen to give quarterback Devin Gardner a second option to Funchess early in the nonconference season.


So what do you think? Is Canteen your guy as well, or are you more excited about another freshman? Do you think any other freshmen will make a big contribution to the team this fall? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

2013-14 Michigan basketball player preview: Mark Donnal

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

(Jeremy Wadsworth, The Blade)

Just as we did last year, we will kick off the basketball previews with a look at the incoming freshman class before analyzing the returning positional groups. With Michigan seemingly becoming a younger team each season under John Beilein as more and more players leave early for the pro ranks, freshmen will continue to be called upon to play minutes, and often in very important situations. Of the eight returning scholarship players, only Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford are upperclassmen; the other six all sit with sophomore standing. It’s becoming commonplace across college basketball, and Michigan is no different. So without further ado, let’s begin with the least-highly ranked player in the 2013 Michigan basketball recruiting class.

#34 Mark Donnal
Measurements 6’9″, 230

Hometown Monclova, Ohio
High School Anthony Wayne High School
High School Stats (2012-13) 18.1 points, 10.4 rebounds, 2.7 blocks
AAU Indiana Elite
Projected Position(s) Power Forward/Center
Committed June 15, 2011
Major Suitors Butler, Indiana, Purdue (no reported offers)
Chance of Redshirt 50 percent
Recruiting Rankings
Rivals 4-star – Overall: 111, Position: 24
Scout 4-star – Overall: 66, Position: 13
ESPN 4-star – Overall: 89, Position: 23, State: 4, Grade: 82
247 3-star – Overall: 147, Position: 37, State: 4
247 Composite 4-star – Overall: 86, Position: 18, State: 3

Background: Like many Michigan prospects in the John Beilein era, Mark Donnal flew under the radar and committed to the program he felt most comfortable with early in his high school career the day Beilein called with an offer. Following the pattern, Donnal was pretty much an unknown out of the Toledo area until receiving that Michigan offer on June 15, 2011 – the first day coaches were officially allowed to extend offers to the 2013 class – and proceeding to climb the rankings. It’s the same story that happened with Glenn Robinson III in last year’s class and many others before.

Donnal comes to Ann Arbor as an under the radar recruit (Andy Morrison, The Blade)

With Donnal, however, there were never any fireworks on the recruiting circuit. Few, if any, other schools came calling; perhaps they thought he was too much of a tweener or to slow to want or perhaps they simply knew Donnal had found the perfect fit for his game in Ann Arbor and would be wasting time in pursuit.

Only the baby-faced Donnal truly knows what his full recruiting story was, but his style of play certainly leads me to believe that any coach in the country would have been remiss to try to pull this kid out of Beilein’s grasp. Donnal was never the flashy type on the high school court, and his numbers don’t jump off the page, but his fundamentals are, oxymoronically, extremely exciting. Having been coached by Dan Dakich while on the AAU circuit with Indiana Elite, Donnal seems to have learned that style points don’t count in basketball, and his well-rounded game backs that up.

What Donnal will bring to the table is something that Beilein hasn’t had since his days at West Virginia. Inevitably when Beilein is mentioned to unfamiliar outsiders, the first thought is what they consider to be a quirky, heavy-shooting style of offense. The next thing that comes to mind would probably be something along the lines of, “He’s that guy that coaches that Pittsnogle guy.”

In Donnal are shades of that Pittsnogle guy. Standing at a legitimate 6’9″ and boasting a solid 230-pound frame, Donnal possesses a jumper that most guards dream of and a back-to-the-basket game reminiscent of Tyler Hansbrough. In one game I caught during his senior year, Donnal attacked from all over the court, pouring in 34 points on a variety of jumpers, inside moves, and thunderous dunks while also grabbing around 13 rebounds and swatting a shot.

When all is said and done, I think Donnal’s career is going to be an excellent one in Ann Arbor, with a strong chance of being the best player in this year’s class. The rankings might not reflect this philosophy, but the fact that the former Anthony Wayne big man was never talked about on the recruiting road is likely a big part of it.

This year, Donnal joins a packed front court, but I still think he will work his way in for some minutes here and there before taking on a much bigger role next year.


What He Will Provide:

  1. 1. Scoring Versatility: While last year’s freshman class was packed with guys who simply know how to put the ball in the bucket and this year’s class may be called upon to be more role players, Donnal can certainly score in a variety of ways. His pretty jump shot will keep defenders honest, but Donnal’s post and face-up games are also pretty advanced for an incoming freshman. In a couple years’ time, Donnal will be a player who has a shot from anywhere on the court, and while it might not always be finesse inside, he will develop the strength to challenge defenders. One thing coach Bacari Alexander will like right away is Donnal’s tendency to catch the post feed high and finish high without bringing the ball down, where it becomes vulnerable to defenders’ hands.
  2. 2. Stretching the Defense: If John Beilein coveted one skill over all others in his players, it would be the ability to space the floor and stretch the defense for easier looks. Rarely will you see more than one Wolverine on the court at a time who is not a threat from deep, and with Donnal in the rotation, Beilein will again have the ability to throw out at least four shooters and make the defense pick its poison. As I’ve said before, Donnal’s stroke is incredibly smooth and easily quick enough to get off over just about any defender. We’ve seen Michigan run more and more ball screens over the past few seasons, yet rarely have we seen the pick-and-pop. Donnal will change that in a hurry, something that certainly will have Michigan coaches salivating over.

    Donnal is a versatile scorer for a big man (Jeremy Wadsworth, The Blade)

  3. 3. Rebounding: It’s often very difficult to project rebounding success from the high school to the college level, and particularly in big men because of the relative size differential. Donnal, however, gets after it on the blocks and is already, according to freshman walk-on Cole McConnell, the best leaper in the freshman class. Combine plus athleticism, tenacity, and size and you have a formula for what should be a good rebounder down the line.

What He Will Have to Work On:

  1. 1. Defense: If there’s one area in which almost every freshman struggles, it’s on the defensive end of the court. Donnal doesn’t appear to be a noticeably poor defender, but it’s a safe bet that the big step up in competition from small town Ohio ball to Big Ten ball will open a few holes defensively in Donnal’s game. Donnal possesses solid size right now, but players like Adreian Payne and Adam Woodbury will cause some problems inside and quicker four men could be devastating early on.
  2. 2. Ball-handling: In my scouting of Donnal’s high school game, the big man did turn the ball over three times – two times he was completely pick-pocketed. For the four spot to be an option for Donnal, he will have to improve his handles and be comfortable putting the ball on the floor on occasion. Obviously very few big men can dribble and weave like point guards, but a certain level of competency is a must, especially in a Beilein offense that stresses protecting the rock.

Burning Question: Will Mark Donnal redshirt?

It’s a question that many big men have to deal with, and we’ve seen John Beilein’s staff go different ways on the topic before. Jordan Morgan redshirted as a freshman to add bulk and refine his skill set. Mitch McGary was clearly ready for the college game as a 20-year-old freshman, but he had his struggles as well. Blake McLimans and Max Bielfeldt also both redshirted, as did Jon Horford (due to injury). Guards are usually more college-ready and are less likely to redshirt, but I don’t think Donnal will redshirt because of a raw or lacking skill set.

The reason many project him to sit out this season is the jam-packed front court. With a returning All-American in Mitch McGary and a redshirt senior, junior, and sophomore in Morgan, Horford, and Bielfeldt, respectively, there are a lot of bodies to throw around in the post. More and more, however, people are talking about Glenn Robinson III sliding to the three position and McGary playing the majority of his minutes at the four, as both stated among their desires in returning for another season.

If Beilein sees that as a viable option, lots more minutes instantly become available at the four and five spots – both of which Donnal should be able to back up. If that truly is the case, I think Donnal will beat out Bielfeldt for spot minutes.

Projected Stats: 1.2 points, 1 rebound, 0.5 assists in 7 minutes per game

Freshmen numbers and those who broke them in (Part 1)

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

[Ed.: This is the first of a three-part series on the uniform numbers the incoming freshmen will wear this season. For the full updated roster, click on the roster page on the right sidebar.]

Jersey numbers are the unique identifiers in team sports, but perhaps in no sport more than college football. We buy the jerseys of our favorite players and wear them proudly on game day, and the numbers of the superstars become symbolic long after the player’s days are done. Throughout the history of sports, players become known for the number they wore. Number two is Jeter, three is Ruth, seven is Elway or Mantle, 21 is Deion, 23 is Jordan, 42 is Jackie, 80 is Rice, 99 is Gretzky, and so on.

At Michigan, a new tradition was born last year to honor the legends who have made their number iconic. Desmond’s 21 was officially given “legend” status, and as we will find out this season, Oosterbaan is 47, Ford is 48, and Kramer is 87. Of course, Woodson’s two will soon be immortalized, as will Harmon’s 98 and surely others.

One of the highlights each fall before the season begins is the release of the numbers each incoming freshman will don. These are the guys we’ve heard so much about throughout the recruiting process and for the first time we can picture them in the jersey they’ll wear on the field. Some may make a name for themselves, some may not, but for four or five years we’ll get used to them in the number given. So let’s take a look at the numbers of each of the freshman and the Michigan greats who have worn them in years past.

#12 – Allen Gant

Ricky Powers wore #12 from 1990-93

Twelve will also be worn by quarterback Devin Gardner this season and was most recently worn by Roy Roundtree. It’s not a number that is widely recognized in Michigan lore, but it was worn by a talented running back from the early 1990s. Ricky Powers donned number 12 from 1990-93. He set the Michigan freshman rushing record which was later broken by Mike Hart and rushed for 1,251 yards in his sophomore season. He shared the backfield with Tyrone Wheatley the next two seasons but currently ranks 14th in all-time rushing yards. He is currently the head coach at Akron Buchtel High School in Akron, Ohio.

Other notables to wear number 12: Elvis Grbac (1988), Scott Dreisbach (1994-98), George Hoey (1966-68), Brandon Williams (1999-2002), Chris Zurbrugg (1983-87)


#13 – Terry Richardson

Garland Rivers was an All-American in number 13 in 1986

Thirteen will be shared by walk-on quarterback Alex Swieca, but he will probably never see the field. It was most recently worn by safety Carvin Johnson and receiver Greg Mathews. The best known player to wear 13 is Garland Rivers, a defensive back from 1983-86 who started 32 games and recorded six interceptions 172 career tackles. He was a consensus All-American during the 1986 season.

Keith Bostic also wore number 13 from 1979-82. He was first team All-Big Ten in 1982 and currently ranks second in Michigan history in fumble recoveries in a season (4), fourth in career recoveries (6), and 10th in career interceptions (10).

Richardson, a four-star recruit, has a chance to make a make in the number 13 in the coming years if he sticks with it.

Other notables to wear number 13: Larry Stevens (2000-03)


Grbac ranks in the top 3 in most Michigan QB records

#15 – James Ross

Elvis Grbac wore 15 from 1989-92. All he did was become one of the best Michigan quarterbacks of all time. By the time he graduated, he ranked first in career passing attempts (835), completions (522), passing yards (6,460), and passing touchdowns (71). Those records have since been broken, but he still ranks third in attempts, completions and yards, second in career completion percentage (62.5), and first in efficiency rating (148.1). Though he was drafted in the eighth round of the 1993 NFL Draft, he went on to have a long NFL career, earning a Super Bowl ring and one Pro Bowl selection.

Another successful Wolverine who wore 15 was Steve Breaston. The do-everything receiver ranks fifth all-time in career receptions (156) and first in career punt returns (127), punt return yards (1,599), kick returns (81), kick return yards (1,993), and return touchdowns (5).

Other notables to wear number 15: Scot Loeffler (1993-96), DeWayne Patmon (1997-2000), Bo Rather (1970-72), Frank Culver (1917)


#19 – Devin Funchess

Remy Hamilton's game-winner vs. ND in 1994 was a huge moment for #19

Number 19 is an odd number historically for a Michigan tight end. According to the Michigan football roster database, no other tight end has worn the number. It has been worn most by kickers and receivers, most notably Mike Gillette and Remy Hamilton. Gillette has the record for most field goals in a game (5), while Hamilton owns the season record (25) as well as the record for most consecutive field goals made (14). Hamilton’s claim to fame is a game-winning 42-yard field goal to beat Notre Dame with two seconds remaining in 1994. It was his fourth field goal of the day and he went on to earn All-America honors that season.

Gillette ranks third in career field goals (57) and is tied with Garrett Rivas for most career 40-yard field goals (13). In 1986, his 34-yard field goal knocked off undefeated Iowa as time expired. He also nailed a 58-yarder against Ohio State in 1988.

Another notable Wolverine to wear number 19 was Robert Brown in 1925. He was the captain of that year’s team, which Fielding Yost called the greatest team he ever coached. He was also named All-American that season.

Other notables to wear number 19: Bob Bergeron (1981-84), Henry Fonde (1945-47), Kelvin Grady (2009-11), Dave Raimey (1960-62), Carl Ward (1964-66)


#22 – Jarrod Wilson

Ty Law was an All-American in #22

Wilson has some big shoes to fill in the number 22, and it’s a fellow member of the secondary. Ty Law donned 22 from 1992-94 and is widely regarded as one of the best defensive backs Michigan has ever had. His six interceptions in the 1993 season rank seventh all-time and he ranks 14th in career passes broken up (19). He was a first-team All-American and two-time All-Big Ten. He went on to a long and productive NFL career before retiring in 2010. A 23rd overall selection in the 1995 NFL Draft, he won three Super Bowls, was named to the Pro Bowl five times, and was named to the NFL’s all-decade team of the 2000s.

Other notables to wear number 22: Jamar Adams (2004-07), Dennis Brown (1966-68), Ralph Clayton (1977-79), Glenn Doughty (1969-71), Darryl Stonum (2008-11), Gerald White (1983-86)


Thom Darden was one of two All-Americans to wear #35

#35 – Joe Bolden

Thom Darden wore number 35 from 1969-71 and was a standout defensive back. He was an All-American in 1971 and first-team All-Big Ten in 1970 and ’71. He ranks sixth in career interceptions (11), second in single season interception return yards (163) and career return yards (224). He picked off two passes against Ohio State in 1971, the second of which leading to the infamous tirade by Buckeye head coach Woody Hayes. He went on to play for the Cleveland Browns where he is still the career leader in interceptions (45).

Another standout in number 35 was Don Dufek. The defensive back from 1973-75 was a first-team All-American in ’75 and his five career fumble recoveries rank seventh all-time at Michigan. He also starred in hockey for the Wolverines and was drafted to both the NFL and NHL, but chose football.

Stanley Fay donned 35 from 1931-33. The halfback and quarterback was the leading scorer for the 1932 and 33 national championship teams, as well as captain in ’33.

Other notables to wear number 35: B.J. Askew (1999-2002), Chuck Winters (1992-96)


Jim Pace was an All-American in #43

#43 – Chris Wormley

Wormley will share number 43 with punter Will Hagerup this season. Hagerup has worn it each of the past two years. Jim Pace wore the number from 1955-57 and was a dominant running back in his time. He was named Big Ten MVP in 1957 after scoring 10 touchdowns (seven rushing, two receiving, and one on a punt return). He rushed for 164 yards, a then-record against Ohio State that season. He was also named All-American and ran track for Michigan, winning the Big Ten 60-yard indoor dash title.

An interesting player who wore number 43 was Ben McRae. He played for the Wolverines from 1959-61 and was drafted by the NFL, but is best known for his performance on the track. He was a six-time Big Ten champion and was part of Michigan’s 2010 Hall of Fame class.

Other notables to wear number 43: Corwin Brown (1988), Clint Copenhaver (1994-98), Carl Diggs (1999-2003), Clint Haslerig (1971-73), Ben McRae (1959-61), Monte Robbins (1983-87), Bryan Wright (2006-09)


Part 2: #49 Kaleb Ringer, #50 Tom Strobel, #52 Royce Jenkins-Stone, #53 Mario Ojemudia, #56 Ondre Pipkins, #62 Blake Bars, and #67 Kyle Kalis

Part 3: #71 Ben Braden, #78 Erik Magnuson, #82 Amara Darboh, #84 A.J. Williams, #86 Jehu Chesson, #99 Matthew Godin