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Posts Tagged ‘Freshmen’

Vincent Smith looks back on the fall camp experience

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013


Fall camp is in full swing as Michigan prepares to open the season in a little over two weeks against Central Michigan. The players who have been in the program for a year or more have gone through camp before, but for the incoming freshmen, it’s a new experience and an adjustment from high school ball. I spoke to former Michigan running back and friend of the blog, Vincent Smith, about what camp is like for the incoming freshmen, what he liked and didn’t like about camp, and how it differed from Rodriguez to Hoke.

Vincent Smith enjoyed the team bonding that went on in fall camp

Describe the first fall camp experience for a freshman.
“It was brand new because you’re used to the high school experience and coming to a major division one high-level school and it’s going to be intense. You have to be aware that your first phase is learning and trying to catch on quick, and basically just get the plays down. Also, conditioning is a little different, getting used to the practices as well. It’s pretty fast – way faster than high school in your first experience.”

Were you nervous heading into your first fall camp?
“Not really nervous, but butterflies – that’s normal for anybody. Butterflies are what make you play good and that’s how I look at it.”

Was it tough to balance starting college with fall camp?
“Not really because you knew what you wanted to do coming into a major university. You knew you were going to have class. You knew you were going to have practice. You knew it was going to be way different from high school. That’s what you signed yourself up for, so the hard work is pretty much already in your head. It’s not really hard, it’s just how you’re going to get through it and how you’re going to maintain it.”

What were the first few days of camp like?
“The first days were mostly just conditioning and stuff like that, getting you ready for the different practice stretches and stuff like that. It’s just a learning process the first couple of days – film, practice, treatment.”

When do you start preparing for actual opponents?
“The last week. Game week is hype because it’s your first actual game in the Big House. It’s overwhelming because you’re a freshman and you’re getting into your classes and the regular school year. It’s really exciting and your family and all the football fans are ready so you’ll be pumped. All the butterflies go away a little bit once you get a grasp of the school and the school spirit.”

What was your favorite part of camp?
“My favorite part of camp overall was team bonding with the fellow teammates. You’re together a whole two or three weeks and everybody is getting to know each other. Every year the seniors get together and have a little quiet thing – sometimes we walk to the Big House and let the younger guys go to give them a little grasp of what it’s going to be like. This is our team and we’re going to lead them because they’re fresh out of high school, so just letting the freshmen know this is way bigger than high school and you’re coming here to love the traditions at Michigan. Just keep on this great legacy and look around at everything and just bond overall and let them know that we’re brothers at the end of the day.”

What was your least favorite part of camp?
“Anything you do consistently is going to get old along the way, but just staying mentally tough. In two-a-days and stuff you get bumps and bruises and that’s the down part of it, but other than that it’s football at the end of the day and you’ve got to love it because that’s what you do and that’s what you came to school for.”

What were the main differences in the camps run by Coach Rodriguez versus Coach Hoke?
“It was different overall because Coach Rod is spread and Coach Hoke is traditional style, I-formation, so that was pretty much different in strength and conditioning based on the scheme of the team and type of different goals. That was the main difference – the spread offense and the conditioning. The spread offense is more running than anything – that’s why we put up so many points – but it was overall just different.”

Do you have any crazy stories from camp? Any fights or anything like that?
“There were a couple brawls but stuff like that we just keep it in the family. But with the freshmen, some of the older guys we always put the freshmen in bins and tape them up and put them in the shower. Other than that, we had a lot of fun.”

Michigan vs Saginaw Valley State quick thoughts

Monday, November 5th, 2012


Michigan’s second and final exhibition matchup comes tonight at the Crisler Center against the Cardinals of Saginaw Valley State. Here are three things to watch for as the season nears:

Trey Burke will see his first game action of the season tonight

  1. Rotation: Trey Burke will be back in the lineup tonight after serving a one-game suspension last Thursday for a violation of team rules and will certainly be starting over Spike Albrecht, whose play in the first exhibition game exceeded many observers’ expectations. Because this game doesn’t count in the record books, Beilein will probably try to get Albrecht some quality minutes again to prepare him for the regular season, but I wouldn’t expect more than 15-20. Burke needs to get minutes against a different opponent with his teammates both new and old to develop the chemistry that all great teams have. Watch for Beilein to play Burke, Glenn Robinson III, and Mitch McGary together on the court for long periods of time. Also pay close attention to the rotation at the two-guard spot. I expect Matt Vogrich to start again, but Nik Stauskas’s play has certainly spoken volumes, and a bigger lineup would likely see Tim Hardaway, Jr. slide down to the shooting guard spot.
  1. Shooting: The Wolverines, and notably the freshmen, got off to a hot start against Northern Michigan with their three-point shooting in particular, as Spike Albrecht, Nik Stauskas, and Glenn Robinson III combined to go 9-for-15 from behind the arc. Was this just a case of getting hot at the right time or will these freshmen continue to light it up from deep? Only time will tell, but with each passing game it will become more evident. Pay special attention to Vogrich, who struggled shooting the deep ball Thursday, going 0-for-4 from three-point land. If Stauskas continues to outshoot him, Beilein may shuffle up the lineup sooner than I thought.
  1. Defense: With the potential to play a bigger lineup this year, Michigan has some options on both ends of the court, and many expect to see significantly more zone defense being deployed by Beilein when a bigger squad is on the floor. Against Northern Michigan the Wolverines went to the 2-3 zone for a short stretch in the second half, but there wasn’t a whole lot more than that. Watch tonight to see if Beilein mixes up the calls a little bit more on the defensive end, and if so, which zones he plays. The 2-3 will likely be the most utilized zone defense we see this season, but Beilein always has the 1-3-1 in his back pocket as well, and with more length and athleticism, Michigan could be deadly in spurts by switching to the 1-3-1 at times. It certainly won’t be used often, but I think we will see it more than we have over the past couple of years.

Michigan vs. Northern Michigan Quick Thoughts

Thursday, November 1st, 2012


Michigan opens the 2012-13 basketball season tonight with its first exhibition game against Northern Michigan at 7pm. In past years coach John Beilein has opted to play a closed scrimmage and one exhibition game, but because of the Wolverines’ lofty No. 5 overall ranking, the lack of a Midnight Madness event, and a beautifully-renovated Crisler Center, Beilein decided to schedule two exhibitions this season to get the team ready to go before officially kicking off the season next Friday against Slippery Rock. Obviously, this game will not count for anything in the final standings, but no team wants to be the one to lose a preseason game to a lower division squad. And while it’s tough to take anything away from what is ultimately a dress rehearsal, here are three things to look for tonight:

Michigan's heralded class will take to the court for the first time tonight (photo by the Detroit News)

  1. The Freshmen: Michigan’s freshman class consisting of Spike Albrecht, Nik Stauskas, Caris LeVert, Glenn Robinson III, and Mitch McGary is easily the most hyped group of players that Beilein has ever assembled in one recruiting year, and while they aren’t quite at the level of the Fab Five, Beilein did hint in a recent open practice that all five freshmen could see the court at the same time due to the versatility they possess and their projected positions. Check out the player previews on each of the freshmen to learn all about their games and what to look for early on, but be sure to pay special attention to McGary, who is dealing with a nagging leg injury. In addition, Albrecht should see extended minutes tonight due to Trey Burke’s suspension for a violation of team rules. So pay close attention to how well the man who’s role is to provide Burke a rest throughout the season can far in a leading role.
  1. Crisler will have a brand new look to it tonight (photo from MGoBlue.com)

    Lineups: Beilein has already answered hundreds of questions about what he plans to do with added depth in the front court, and the truth is he still does not know exactly how he will use all of Jordan Morgan, Mitch McGary, Jon Horford, Max Bielfeldt, and Blake McLimans down low. He has openly said that he is experimenting with a two-big offense in practice but he is still learning the intricacies of the style because of his personal unfamiliarity with it. Expect to see the lineups shuffled quite a bit tonight with some four-out, one-in prototypical Beilein offense as well as some three-out, two-in sets mixed in. Horford won’t be playing, but Beilein will still want to see how he can successfully run the offense and defense with two big men at once.

  1. New Jerseys: Adidas is coming out with new jerseys for Michigan for the second time in three years, and tonight will be everyone’s first chance to see the players don them under the bright lights. There have been complaints and there have been cries of approval on internet boards based off the pictures from media day; now people can decide for themselves from an in-person view.

Bonus: If you can, make the trek to Crisler tonight to see the newly-renovated arena for yourself. The pictures at MGoBlue.com look stunning, but I’m just as excited as everyone else to see what appears to be a brand-new building in person. You will be able to find me riding the escalator before and after and playing in the waterfall in the new entrance lobby area.

The Michigan Medley channels the Verve Pipe

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012


We were merely freshmen

Rich Rodriguez’s first recruiting classes are now the team’s upperclassmen and they have produced some stars, most notably Denard Robinson. But there are considerable talent and depth deficiencies that Hoke’s first two classes are beginning to fill. On Saturday against Air Force, we saw eight freshmen play considerable roles for the Wolverines and their roles are going to continue to expand throughout the season.

Tight end Devin Funchess had a breakout game with four receptions for 106 yards and a touchdown. Fellow freshman tight end A.J. Williams saw considerable time as a blocking tight end. The pair got thrust onto the field due to an injury to Brandon Moore, but they would have played eventually given the lack of depth at the position following the graduation of Kevin Koger. Funchess has a chance to be an outright star. Prior to the season, I predicted him to be the offensive breakout star this season. He has great length and athleticism to create a mismatch with a linebacker or safety every time he’s targeted. Williams has a much bigger frame, which is more suitable for blocking. My only concern is that opponents will eventually catch on to this and see run every time Williams is on the field an pass every time Funchess is. But Al Borges knows this and will have plays to counter this.

Devin Funchess gives Denard another great receiving threat (photo by Getty Images)

Another pair of freshmen that got significant playing time are linebackers James Ross and Joe Bolden who played much of the second half in the middle of Michigan’s defense. Ross saw time against Alabama, and Brady Hoke said Saturday that Bolden was in because his high school, Cincinnati Colerain, ran the option. Both have done well so far. Bolden was the team’s second-leading tackler on Saturday with 10 tackles, one behind Jake Ryan. Ross added four. Has Bolden supplanted last year’s leading tackler, Kenny Demens? Probably not. He played the whole second half because of his experience with the option, but Demens has several years of experience. If anything, it’s good for the team to have such talented freshmen pushing the upperclassmen for their spots and it creates great depth.

On the defensive line, another duo, Ondre Pipkins and Mario Ojemudia, saw action. Most expected Pipkins to see the field even before the season started, and possibly even work his way into a starting role, but most considered Ojemudia a year or two away. But due to an injury to Brennen Beyer, Ojemudia got in. Hoke and Greg Mattison like to rotate a lot of bodies on the line, so improving the depth with talented freshmen is a good thing.

In the defensive backfield, freshman safety Jarrod Wilson got in. He’s the future of the position for Michigan, but likely won’t supplant Thomas Gordon this season except in certain packages.

Another freshman who has impressed so far is kick returner Dennis Norfleet. He has flashed speed and shiftiness in the first two games, giving Michigan a kick return threat it hasn’t seen since Steve Breaston.

One position that hasn’t seen freshman action yet, but could before too long, is receiver. Devin Gardner has done well in the first two games, cementing his spot as a starter, but no one else has really impressed. Jeremy Gallon had a good game against Alabama, but Roy Roundtree, Jeremy Jackson, Drew Dileo, and Jerald Robinson have a combined seven catches for 64 yards. Roundtree is Roundtree and deserves a spot on the field, but Jackson and Robinson have left a lot to be desired. Freshmen Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson both have qualities that could earn them a chance to step in. Darboh has great size at 6’2″, 220 pounds and wowed teammates in fall camp, while Chesson has track star speed. Gardner will continue to be a threat and so will Funchess from the tight end spot, but Denard Robinson needs at least one more receiver to step up as a consistent threat to keep Michigan’s passing game effective and open up the running game.

As you can see, the amount of players seeing the field who were going to prom just five months ago is higher than most coaches would want it to be, but that’s where this team is at right now. It bodes well for the future since these guys are getting on the job training, but we’ll have to deal with the growing pains along the way.

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Rival problems

With one-fourth of Michigan’s yearly schedule made up of bitter rivals, each season inevitably has the “which rival do I root for?” moments. This weekend is one of those. Michigan State hosts Notre Dame on Saturday night and many of us will flip channels or go back to our tailgate spot or find a bar with a TV in it after the Michigan game to do some advanced scouting of both teams. But who will we root for?

For many, the rule of thumb is to root for the Big Ten in out of conference match-ups. But that’s easy when it’s Iowa against Florida. It’s much harder when it involves a rival against a rival. So here’s my two cents: since both of them can’t lose on Saturday, root for Notre Dame.

First of all, Michigan plays Notre Dame next weekend. I wold rather have the Irish enter the game riding high with a 3-0 record and poised for a letdown than pulling together after defeat and looking to take it out on someone. Though Michigan hasn’t always dominated the Irish, it has in the won-loss column the past few years. The same can’t be said for Michigan State. I would rather face an undefeated Notre Dame team in Week 4 than an undefeated Michigan State team in Week 7.

Secondly, the game has implications in Michigan’s postseason. Last season, Michigan State’s loss to Notre Dame was part of what helped Michigan earn a BCS bid. While the loss doesn’t outright affect the Big Ten title hopes since Notre Dame isn’t in the conference, it does even the playing field since Michigan already has one loss on the season.

So join me in rooting on the Irish on Saturday night, as hard as it may be.

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)

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#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)

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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)

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#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)

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#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)

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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)

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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)

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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