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Posts Tagged ‘Ian Bunting’

#11 Florida State 33 – #6 Michigan 32: Michigan resilient in comeback, but lets Orange Bowl slip away in final minute

Sunday, January 1st, 2017


(Mgoblue.com)

Michigan, playing without Jabrill Peppers, who missed the game with a hamstring injury, dug itself a big first half hole, fought back to grab a late lead, but ultimately fell by one point to 11th-ranked Florida State in the Capital One Orange Bowl in Miami on Friday night.

Florida State took the opening kickoff and marched right through the vaunted Michigan defense for a 6-play, 75-yard scoring drive to make an early statement. The Wolverines got a break after they were forced to punt on their first possession of the game when FSU’s Noonie Murray fumbled Kenny Allen’s punt and Dymonte Thomas recovered at the Florida State 1-yard line. But the Seminoles’ defense held strong, forcing a 19-yard Allen field goal.

Florida State responded with a field goal of their own on their next drive and then forced two straight Michigan three-and-outs. On the first play of FSU’s next drive, Michigan’s coverage broke down and quarterback Deondre Francois hit Murray for a 92-yard touchdown to put the Seminoles up 17-3.

Final Stats
Michigan  Florida State
Score 32 33
Record 10-3, 7-2 10-3, 5-3
Total Yards 252 371
Net Rushing Yards 89 149
Net Passing Yards 163 222
First Downs 16 15
Turnovers 1 2
Penalties-Yards 4-37 7-65
Punts-Yards 8-379 6-207
Time of Possession 34:17 25:43
Third Down Conversions 7-of-20 3-of-13
Fourth Down Conversions 1-of-2 1-of-1
Sacks By-Yards 2-22 4-26
Field Goals 3-for-3 2-for-2
PATs 1-for-1 3-for-4
Red Zone Scores-Chances 4-of-4 3-of-3
Red Zone Scores-TDs 1-of-4 3-of-3
Full Box Score

By the end of the first quarter, Florida State was outgaining Michigan 201 to 22, despite Michigan having more time of possession.

The Michigan defense forced a three-and-out to start the second quarter and put together a 11-play, 59-yard scoring drive. However, after reaching 1st-and-goal at the FSU six, the Wolverines had to settle for a 28-yard Allen field goal to pull within 17-6.

Florida State answered with a 15-play drive to get that field goal back as Robert Aguayo connected from 38 yards out. Florida State took a 20-6 lead into the half.

In the first half, both teams had 34 plays from scrimmage, but Michigan managed just 83 total yards (2.4 yards per play) compared to FSU’s 255 (7.5).

But the second half was a different story. Michigan set the tone on the first possession of the half, marching 14 plays for yet another Allen field goal, this time from 37 yards out.

The two teams traded a pair of punts and Michigan linebacker Mike McCray made the big play the Wolverines needed, picking off Francois at the Florida State 14 and returning it for a touchdown. Wilton Speight’s pass for the two-point conversion fell incomplete.

Michigan’s defense held Florida State to just 15 yards on nine plays in the third quarter while pulling within five points. But FSU wouldn’t roll over, beginning the fourth quarter with a 7-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to take a 27-15 lead.

Two possessions later, Michigan’s offense found the end zone for the first tim in the game when Speight connected with Khalid Hill for an 8-yard touchdown.

Florida State took over with 5:22 remaining and the Michigan defense stood strong, forcing a three-and-out, and giving the offense the ball with a chance to take the lead. And they did just that. The Wolverines went 61 yards in just five plays, capped off by a 30-yard Chris Evans touchdown run to give Michigan the lead with two minutes to play. Speight hit Amara Darboh in the end zone for the two-point conversion, putting Michigan ahead 30-27.

But instead of forcing Florida State’s offense — which had managed just 82 yards in the second half to that point — drive the length of the field for a game-tying field goal, Michigan’s special teams allowed a 66-yard return up the middle to the Michigan 34-yard line. Four plays later, Francois completed a pass to Murray over Jourdan Lewis in the end zone to give Florida State a 33-30 lead. Michigan blocked the extra point try and Josh Metellus returned it for two points to bring the Wolverines within two, but the Michigan offense was unable to move into field goal range as Speight was intercepted to end Michigan’s chances.

Speight finished the game 21-of-38 for 163 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Evans lead Michigan with 49 rushing yards and the one touchdown, while Darboh lead the way with five receptions for 36 receiving yards. Ian Bunting caught three passes for 40 yards filling in for Jake Butt, who tore his ACL in the first half.

For Florida State, Dalvin Cook rushed for 145 yards and one score, while Francois completed 9-of-27 passes for 222 yards, two touchdowns, and one pick.

Michigan finishes the season at 10-3, matching last season’s record, while Florida State also finished 10-3. The Wolverines may fall out of the top 10 in the final rankings, but will look to bounce back next season when they open with Florida in AT&T Stadium on Sept. 2.

Game Ball – Offense

Kenny Allen (3-of-3 field goals, 8 punts for 47.4 average, 4 downed inside 20)
For the second straight game and third in the last four, Kenny Allen gets the offensive game ball. The Michigan offense struggled to move the ball at all in the first half and Allen kept them in it with two field goals and then tacked on another to start the second half. He also booted eight punts for an average of 47.4 yards, most notably a 61-yarder that forced Noonie Murray to try to catch the ball over his shoulder and fumble, resulting in the first field goal. Allen ends his career as one of the best kickers in Michigan history.

Previous
Week 1 — Chris Evans (8 carries, 112 yards, 2 touchdowns)
Week 2 — Wilton Speight (25-of-37 for 312 yards, 4 touchdowns)
Week 3 — Jake Butt (7 receptions for 87 yards)
Week 4 — Grant Newsome, Ben Braden, Mason Cole, Kyle Kalis, Erik Magnuson (326 rush yards, 0 sacks allowed)
Week 5 — Amara Darboh (6 receptions for 87 yards, 1 touchdown)
Week 6 — Khalid Hill (2 carries for 2 yards and 2 touchdowns, 2 receptions for 19 yards and 1 touchdown)
Week 7 — Wilton Speight (16-of-23 for 253 yards, 2 touchdowns)
Week 8 — Amara Darboh (8 receptions for 165 yards)
Week 9 — Wilton Speight (19-of-24 for 362 yards, 2 touchdowns, 3 carries for 16 yards, 1 touchdown)
Week 10 — Kenny Allen (2-of-2 FGs, long of 51)
Week 11 — De’Veon Smith (23 carries for 158 yards, 2 touchdowns)
Week 12 — Kenny Allen (2-of-2 field goals, 7 punts for 47.4 average, 5 downed inside 20)

Game Ball – Defense

Taco Charlton (5 tackles (2 solo), 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 2 quarterback hurries)
Michigan’s defense gave up some big plays, but played very good when needed in the second half to key the comeback. Mike McCray could have gotten this week’s game ball for his pick-six, but as I think about who made the most impact defensively, it has to be Taco Charlton. The senior defensive end was consistently in the FSU backfield, pressuring Francois, and getting to him once. He showed why he may be the first Michigan player selected in this spring’s NFL Draft, solidifying the hype on the big stage.

Previous
Week 1 — Mike McCray (9 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble)
Week 2 — Rashan Gary (6 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks)
Week 3 — Jabrill Peppers (9 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1 sack, 2 kick ret. for 81 yards, 4 punt ret. for 99 yards, 1 TD)
Week 4 — Maurice Hurst (6 tackles, 3 solo, 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack)
Week 5 — Channing Stribling (2 tackles, 2 interceptions, 2 pass breakups)
Week 6 — Taco Charlton (2 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 2 sacks)
Week 7 — Mike McCray (3 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss, 1 fumble recovery, 2 quarterback hurries)
Week 8 — Jabrill Peppers (7 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 two-point conversion fumble recovery return)
Week 9 — Delano Hill (6 tackles (5 solo), 0.5 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions)
Week 10 — Chris Wormley (6 tackles (2 solo), 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack)
Week 11 — Ryan Glasgow (7 tackles (5 solo), 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble)
Week 12 — Taco Charlton (9 tackles (6 solo), 3 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks)

M&GB season preview roundtable 2016

Friday, August 26th, 2016


Harbaugh(Doug Pensinger, Getty Images)

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

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

What are you most excited about this season?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What worries you the most entering the season?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who will be the offensive breakout player this season?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who will be the defensive breakout player this season?

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

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

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

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

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

Michigan will win the Big Ten if…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Predicting Michigan: The tight ends

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016


Predicting Michgian 2016-TightEnds

Jake Butt(Patrick Semansky, AP)

Previous: Quarterbacks, Running Backs, Wide Receivers

No position group saw its stock rise more than the tight ends when Jim Harbaugh took over in Ann Arbor. In Year 1, a handful of Michigan tight ends took on bigger roles in the offense, led by an All-American.

But the most obvious difference in Ann Arbor is the urgency with which Harbaugh is seeking out the best tight ends in the country. The 2016 recruiting class alone included three tight end commits and two preferred walk-ons.

Will the tight ends’ role in the offense continue to grow? All signs point to yes.

Returning Starters

One of Michigan’s best players and one of the best offensive weapons in the country decided to return to school for his senior year. When Jake Butt announced his intention to stay in Ann Arbor, Michigan’s offense gained one of the toughest offensive matchups in college football.

Butt exploded during his junior year, more than doubling his career receiving yards and receptions. His 51 catches were good for second on the team and he trailed only Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh with 654 receiving yards.

Though he finished with only three touchdowns on the season, Butt regularly demonstrated his knack for making the spectacular play. In the season opener, Butt’s fingertip catch over two Utah defenders was one of the best plays of the season. When Michigan needed every bit of offense it could get in Indiana, Butt came through with seven catches, 82 yards and a touchdown.

The 6-foot-6, 250-pound senior will look to improve his play in big games this season after catching only six passes for 58 yards combined against Michigan State and Ohio State. Butt has the size, athleticism, and now, experience to be one of the best targets in the country.

Projected Stats – Butt
Receptions Yards YPC Long TD YPG
60 700 11.7 6 53.8
Career Stats
2015 51 654 12.8 56 3 50.3
2014 21 211 10.0 29 2 21.1
2013 20 235 11.8 37 2 18.1
Totals 92 1,100 12.0 56 7 30.6
Returning contributors

Besides Butt, Michigan doesn’t have much on-field experience returning at the tight end position. A.J. Williams caught 12 passes for 129 yards as a senior, but no other Wolverine tight end caught more than five passes.

Ian Bunting

Ian Bunting could be poised for a breakout season (Tony Ding, AP)

One player who showed signs of breaking out early last season was Ian Bunting, who enters his junior season at 6-foot-7 inches tall and over 250 pounds.

Bunting began the 2015 season as Jake Rudock’s second favorite tight end target, catching four passes for 53 yards during the non-conference season. But once the Big Ten schedule arrived, Bunting disappeared for eight games, not catching a single pass, though he did have one 17-yard grab in the Citrus Bowl.

He doesn’t have as much natural receiving ability as some of the other tight ends on the roster, but Bunting is the most likely returning player to make some noise behind Butt this season. He has solid hands and has shown an ability to pick up yards after the catch. His enormous frame doesn’t hurt, either.

Speaking of huge frames, Michigan also has two big tight ends who didn’t catch a single pass last season, but figure to be in the offensive mix very soon. Tyrone Wheatley caused a stir at the spring game when he caught a pass over the middle and lumbered for a solid gain. The former four-star recruit is a strong, gifted athlete who has good hands for a 280-pound target.

Also a defensive lineman in high school, Wheatley has no issue doing the dirty work Harbaugh expects from tight ends in the trenches. His biggest hurdle is becoming a more comfortable offensive player who runs tight routes and gaining the awareness to make adjustments on the fly.

Another familiar name to watch is Zach Gentry, who was one of Harbaugh’s first commits at Michigan and transitioned from quarterback to tight end last season.

Gentry showed up in a few big plays during the spring game, but like Wheatley and Bunting, it’s his size that really stands out. If he grows more comfortable at the position, he will become a nice mismatch for Michigan in the short passing game.

Projected Stats – Bunting
Receptions Yards YPC Long TD YPG
20 180 9.0 1 13.8
Career Stats
2015 5 72 14.4 21 0 7.2
2014 0 0 0 0 0 0
Totals 5 72 14.4 21 0 7.2
Projected Stats – Wheatley
Receptions Yards YPC Long TD YPG
8 75 9.4 0 5.8
Career Stats
2015 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Totals N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Projected Stats – Gentry
Receptions Yards YPC Long TD YPG
10 100 10.0 1 7.7
Career Stats
2015 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Totals N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
New Faces

As I mentioned above, Michigan stacked its roster with young tight ends this offseason, highlighted by a trio of commits who have a chance to crack the rotation right away.

Devin Asiasi arrives in Ann Arbor as the most highly-ranked tight end commit. Asiasi brings Harbaugh the complete package as he can catch and run with the ball in the passing game and also block in the trenches. It’s well documented that offensive players from De La Salle High School in California spend time perfecting their blocking ability, and at nearly 300 pounds, Asiasi is a beast in that regard.

Michigan’s other two tight end commits, Sean McKeon and Nick Eubanks, both check in at 6-feet-5 inches tall and specialize as receivers. McKeon has been committed to the Wolverines since the summer of 2015 and is the purest downfield receiver of this group. He’s fast for a tight end and has wide receiver-type hands. Eubanks, on the other hand, should be more of a short game weapon. When Butt graduates, Eubanks will be a candidate for more red zone targets if he proves he can hang onto the ball.

Michigan also welcomes two preferred walk-ons to the roster in Dan Jokisch and Dane Drobocky.

Projected Stats – Asiasi
Receptions Yards YPC Long TDs YPG
20 230 11.5 1 17.7
Projected Stats – McKeon
Receptions Yards YPC Long TDs YPG
5 80 16.0 0 6.2
Projected Stats – Eubanks
Receptions Yards YPC Long TDs YPG
Redshirt
Meet the Rest

Michael Jocz: Senior, 6-4, 239, from Novi, Mich. (Novi)
No career stats
Joseph Files: Sophomore, 6-4, 252, from Lake Orion, Mich. (Cranbrook Kingwood)
No career stats
Kenneth Ferris: Sophomore, 6-5, 237, from Fowlerville, Mich. (Fowlerville)
No career stats

Michigan 35 – Oregon State 7: Wolverines ground and pound Beavers

Saturday, September 12th, 2015


Harbaugh vs Oregon State(MGoBlue.com)

Jim Harbaugh collected his first win in Michigan Stadium in 29 years when his Wolverines topped Oregon State on Saturday afternoon, 35-7. But he couldn’t have asked for a worse first three minutes.

Oregon State took the opening kickoff and diced the Michigan defense with ease, scoring the game’s first touchdown on a seven play, 79-yard drive that took just 1:59. Michigan took possession and on the third play, Jake Rudock was sacked by Rommel Mageo and fumbled, giving Oregon State the ball back at the Michigan 41.

Staring a possible 10 or 14 point deficit in the face, the Michigan defense came up with a big play as Mario Ojemudia forced a Victor Bolden fumble. Joe Bolden recovered at the 37 and raced 18 yards to the OSU 37. Eight plays later, Michigan was forced to settle for a 40-yard field goal by Kenny Allen.

The two teams traded punts on each of their next two possessions, with an Oregon State failed fourth-down conversion in between, until Michigan finally put together a scoring drive. The Wolverines took possession at their own 31 and went 69 yards in 12 plays, capped off by a 1-yard De’Veon Smith touchdown run, their first first-half touchdown of the season.

UM-OregonState-small-FINAL
Final Stats
Michigan OregonSt.
Score 35 7
Record 1-1 1-1
Total Yards 405 138
Net Rushing Yards 225 59
Net Passing Yards 180 79
First Downs 21 12
Turnovers 2 1
Penalties-Yards 10-105 8-62
Punts-Yards 3-127 7-272
Time of Possession 38:01 21:59
Third Down Conversions 6-of-13 1-of-11
Fourth Down Conversions 1-of-1 0-of-2
Sacks By-Yards 2-17 1-17
Field Goals 2-for-2 0-for-0
PATs 3-for-3 1-for-1
Red Zone Scores-Chances 5-of-5 1-of-1
Full Box Score

Oregon State took the ball with 4:03 left in the half, looking to retake the lead before the break. Michigan’s defense held strong, forcing a punt, but as OSU punter Nick Porebski bobbled the snap, he appeared to tuck the ball and start running before finally booting it away. Michigan corner Jeremy Clark ran into him after the punt, and to Harbaugh’s dismay, was called for a 15-yard penalty. Harbaugh threw one of his trademark tantrums, the first time as Michigan’s head coach, but the call stood.

Now in Michigan territory, Oregon State still couldn’t muster any offense and was forced to punt once again. This time, Porebski got it away and it was downed at the Michigan 2-yard line. However, the Beavers were flagged for an illegal formation and backed up to the Michigan 49 to re-kick. The snap sailed over Proebski’s head and by the time he recovered, he was tackled at his own 3-yard line. Three plays later, Michigan scored again to take a 17-7 lead into the locker room.

Michigan took the opening possession of the second half 78 yards in 12 plays, but the drive stalled at the Oregon State 11 and Kenny Allen booted a 29-yard field goal.

After trading punts, Michigan had Oregon State backed up deep in their own territory, and on 3rd-and-9, Chris Wormley sacked quarterback Marcus McMaryion for a loss of nine. The ensuing punt gave Michigan the ball at the OSU 39, and after a first down run by Smith was called back for an illegal block, Rudock connected with redshirt freshman tight end Ian Bunting for 21 yards into the red zone. As the fourth quarter began, Smith ran it in from eight yards out to put Michigan ahead 28-7.

The Michigan defense forced a three and out, but Rudock was picked off by Mageo near midfield. Once again, Michigan’s defense rose to the occasion and forced another three and out. With the game in hand and clock needing to be run, Harbaugh put the ball in the hands of his running back stable. Derrick Green carried it four times for 23 yards, then Ty Isaac three times for 17. Green got two more carries for four yards before Rudock found Bunting for 12 to the OSU 17. Sione Houma got in on the action with a seven yard run and Isaac carried the ball down to the two before Green found the end zone to reach the game’s final score. On the drive, Michigan ran the ball 13 times for 61 yards.

When all was said and done, the Wolverines racked up 225 yards on the ground and 405 total yards of offense, while holding Oregon State to just 138. After the game’s opening drive, Michigan held OSU to just 59 total yards the rest of the way.

Smith led Michigan with a career high 126 yards on 23 carries (5.5 yards per carry) and three touchdowns. He also caught two passes for 24 yards. Rudock completed 18 of 26 passes for 180 yards and an interception. Amara Darboh led the Wolverines with four receptions for 50 yards, while Bunting caught two for 33 and Jake Butt caught four for 25.

Harbaugh got his first win as Michigan’s head coach, and just like his mentor, Bo Schembechler, did so by a 28-point margin. He’ll look for number two when Michigan hosts UNLV at noon next Saturday.

Game Ball – Offense

De’Veon Smith (23 carries for 126 yards, 3 TDs)
After a rough game against Utah in which De’Veon Smith struggled to find holes, the junior back set a career high with 126 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries against Oregon State. He got better as the game went on, routinely fighting through tackles and carrying defenders for extra yards. Oregon State’s front seven isn’t Utah’s caliber, but if Smith can run like this the rest of the season, Michigan’s offense will continue to improve.
Honorable Mention: Ian Bunting (2 rec for 33 yards)

Previous Game Balls: Jake Butt (Week 1 – 8 rec for 93 yards and 1 TD)

Game Ball – Defense

Chris Wormley (6 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 sack)
Wormley continued to wreak havoc on opposing backfields, recording his second straight game with three tackles for loss. Now with six through two games, he’s nearly halfway to matching last year’s team leader, Jake Ryan, who finished the season with 14.5.
Honorable Mention: Joe Bolden (team-high 7 tackles, 1 fumble recovery)

Previous Game Balls: Chris Wormley (Week 1 – 5 tackles, 3 solo, 3 TFL)

Final Individual Stats
Passing Comp-Att Yds Avg. TD INT Long Sack
Jake Rudock 18-26 180 6.9 0 1 22 1
Seth Collins 9-16 79 4.9 1 0 21 1
Marcus McMaryion 0-3 0 0 0 0 0 1
Victor Bolden 0-1 0 0 0 0 0 0
Rushing Car. Yards Avg. TD Long
De’Veon Smith 23 126 5.5 3 19
Ty Isaac 6 35 5.8 0 12
Derrick Green 8 35 4.4 1 12
Chris Brown 7 33 4.7 0 26
Victor Bolden 4 30 7.5 0 21
Seth Collins 11 28 2.5 0 17
Sione Houma 2 20 10.0 0 13
Storm Woods 3 13 4.3 0 8
Deltron Sands 3 13 4.3 0 6
Jehu Chesson 1 4 4.0 0 4
Drake Johnson 1 3 3.0 0 3
Ross Douglass 1 3 3.0 0 3
Joe Kerridge 2 3 1.5 0 3
Jake Rudock 3 -5 -1.7 0 7
Marcus McMaryion 2 -7 -2.3 0 2
Receiving Rec Yds Avg. TD Long
Amara Darboh 4 50 12.5 0 22
Ian Bunting 2 33
16.5 0 21
Jordan Villarmon 3 26 8.7 0 12
Jake Butt 4 25 6.2 0 10
De’Veon Smith 2 24 12.0 0 20
Victor Bolden 3 23 7.7 0 16
A.J. Williams 1 22 22.0 0 22
Hunter Jarmon 1 21 21.0 1 21
Jehu Chesson 1 14 14.0 0 14
Ty Isaac 1 9 9.0 0 9
Caleb Smith 1 9 9.0 0 9
Joe Kerridge 1 3 3.0 0 3
Drake Harris  2 0 0.0 0 3
Chris Brown 1 0 0.0 0 0
Kicking FG Pct Long XP Pts
Kenny Allen 2/2 100.0 40 3/3 9
Punting No Yds Avg TB In 20 Long
Blake O’Neill 3 127 42.3 0 1 49
Nick Porebski 7 272 38.9 0 1 43
Kick Returns No Yds Avg Long TD
Jabrill Peppers 1 11 11.0 11 0
Rahmel Dockery 3 57 19.0 21 0
Punt Returns No Yds Avg Long TD
Jabrill Peppers 3 14 4.7 6 0
Rahmel Dockery 1 3 3.0 3 0

Predicting Michigan 2015: The tight ends

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015


PredictingMichigan-TightEnds
Jake Butt

Among its many other offensive deficiencies last season, Michigan’s offense lacked a consistent tight end threat in the passing game. Devin Funchess’ move to wide receiver left the tight end corps scrambling for a playmaker, and only one tight end finished the season with more than 100 receiving yards.

Enter, Jim Harbaugh. In his takeover of Ann Arbor, the new Michigan head coach brings with him a deep history of success at the tight end position. Zach Ertz, Coby Fleener, and Ryan Hewitt are just a few of the tight ends coached and recruited by Harbaugh at Stanford who ended up in the NFL. Ertz and Fleener each caught more than 50 passes for over 700 yards in the league last season, a trend Harbaugh surely had a hand in.

But does Harbaugh have the talent in place to turn Michigan’s tight ends into weapons in 2015? Here’s a look at the current and incoming members that make up the unit.

Returning starter

Jake Butt is the most likely Michigan tight end to enjoy a legitimate breakout season in 2015. Butt, one of the clear victims of the team’s quarterback struggles, has yet to put a complete season together, scoring twice and gaining more than 200 yards in each of his first two years.

The 6-foot-6 Pickerington, Ohio native has sure hands and solid athleticism and will catch the ball if it gets to him. He caught less than three passes per game last season, but figures to play a larger role in Harbaugh’s offensive game plan. Butt would especially benefit from Jake Rudock winning the starting job, as the fifth-year senior prefers shorter, safer passes to throwing balls downfield.

Despite catching just 41 passes in his first two seasons, Butt is a clear playmaker. He averaged 10 yards per catch last season and was named a member of the watch list for the Mackey Award, given to the nation’s top tight end, last month.

The biggest uncertainty surrounding Butt is whether he can recapture the explosiveness he showed as a freshman before he tore his ACL, an injury that hampered him in 2014. If he can be the elite athlete fans saw flashes of two seasons ago, he will thrive in a featured role in Harbaugh’s offense.

Projected Stats – Butt
Receptions Yards YPC Long TDs YPG
45 525 11.7 7 40.4
Career Stats
2014 21 211 10.0 29 2 21.1
2013 20 235 11.8 37 2 18.1
Totals 41 446 10.9 37 4 19.4

Role players

Michigan also returns a pair of tight ends who have seen significant playing time during their careers, but pose little threat in the passing attack. A.J. Williams, who scored a touchdown on his only catch in 2013, caught just four passes for 33 yards last season despite playing in all 12 games and starting four of them. Williams is a block-first tight end who was used to support an inexperienced offensive line last season. He’ll likely play a similar role as a senior, albeit losing some snaps to the pass-catching tight ends.

Khalid Hill is another blocking specialist who started three games for Brady Hoke in his final season with the Wolverines. Hill caught four passes for 37 yards and spent most of his time run and pass blocking on next to the line. Hill, like Williams, will likely see the field a bit less in 2015.

Projected Stats – Williams
Receptions Yards YPC Long TDs YPG
5 40 8.0 0 3.1
Career Stats
2014 4 33 8.3 12 0 2.8
2013 1 2 2.0 2 1 0.2
2012 0 0 N/A N/A 0 N/A
Totals 5 35 7.0 12 1 1.0
Projected Stats – Hill
Receptions Yards YPC Long TDs YPG
3 25 8.3 0 1.9
Career Stats
2014 4 37 9.3 12 0 6.2
2013 0 0 N/A N/A 0 N/A
Totals 4 37 9.3 12 0 6.2

Reinforcements

As explosive as Butt can be in the passing game, Michigan needs more than one target and a few blockers to turn the tight end position into a strength. Luckily for Harbaugh, there are two young tight ends ready to play a role for the Maize and Blue.

Though he never saw the field as a freshman, former three-star recruit Ian Bunting was a dangerous downfield threat at Hinsdale Central High School in the Chicago suburbs, catching 27 passes for 583 yards and four touchdowns. The 6-foot-7 Bunting offers a huge target with reliable hands who can go up and win a jump ball over defenders.

Harbaugh and his staff brought another huge tight end to Michigan on National Signing Day: Tyrone Wheatley Jr. Wheatley, whose father was hired to coach running backs at U of M, stands at 6-foot-6 and over 250 pounds, but that doesn’t hold him back as an athlete. He played defensive end and tight end in high school and will be a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses at Michigan.

He won’t blow defenders away with his speed and quickness, but he’s athletic enough to beat defenders to the ball and can break tackles after the catch.

With Harbaugh coaching him up, Wheatley has a chance to become the big, powerful home run threat the Michigan offense desperately needs.

Projected Stats – Bunting
Receptions Yards YPC Long TDs YPG
20 230 11.5 1 17.7
Career Stats
Redshirted in 2014
Projected Stats – Wheatley
Receptions Yards YPC Long TDs YPG
30 450 15.0 3 34.6

Meet the rest

Chase Winovich — sophomore, 6’3″, 230 from Jefferson Hills, Pa. (Thomas Jefferson), no career stats
Michael Jocz — senior, 6’4″, 231 from Novi, Mich. (Novi), no career stats

Recruiting Profile: 2015 TE Chris Clark

Friday, January 16th, 2015


Chris Clark(Rivals.com)

Ed: Please welcome our newest writer, Alex Sibo, to the fold. Alex is currently a senior at UM-Dearborn and has a background in scouting and player evaluation, having learned from some of the best in the business. He will be contributing a weekly recruit profile/evaluation piece that for the time being will be posted every Friday. Visit our Meet the Staff page to read more about Alex. 

Chris Clark – TE | 6’6″, 247 | Avon, Conn. – Avon Old Farms
ESPN: 4-star, #4 TE, 83 grade Rivals: 4-star, #1 TE 247: 4-star, #2 TE Scout: 5-star, #1 TE
Other top offers: UCLA, Alabama, Auburn, FSU, Georgia, Ohio State, Miami, South Carolina, USC

One of the top prospects that Michigan’s staff and fans have their eyes on is tight end Chris Clark from Avon, Connecticut. The imposing Clark was formerly committed to the North Carolina Tar Heels before decommitting and committing to Michigan, where he once again decommitted and opened up his options once more. Michigan is still considered one of the top schools in the running to win Clark back, but is still currently being wooed by UCLA, Texas, USC, and North Carolina, in addition to receiving offers from many of the top schools in the country. Let’s look into what traits Clark presents and how he could make an impact wearing the winged helmet.

Athleticism

Athleticism - Chris ClarkIt can be easy to say that players who are big are slow, and players who are small are fast. This is not necessarily the case with Clark, but the drawbacks to having a 6’6”, 250-pound frame are clear when watching him play. Clark possesses above average straight line speed for his size and for the tight end position, his agility, burst, and explosion hold him back as an athlete. He is a slow-starter who takes time to build up to his top speed and lacks great initial quickness out of his stance, in addition to the fact that he is slow to change directions and the ability to make sharp lateral cuts. Given that, Clark does possess some wiggle with the ball in his hands, but is much better when asked run through a defender than around him.

Catching

Catching - Chris ClarkIt takes more than just hands to be a successful pass catcher, and Clark is a great example of that, though he does possess the sticky fingers to snag the football. Clark demonstrates excellent body control, whether downfield, in the end zone, flying through the air, or reaching out for a one-hander. One of the more comforting things about the way Clark plays the ball is that he looks the pass in first before looking to turn things up field. Too often, players will concentrate on how they are going to get yards or where the defenders are before they even have possession of the football. While Clark’s vertical leap may be nothing to write home about, his frame and length more than overcome that fact to make him a high-end jump ball and end zone receiver.

Route Running

Route Running - Chris ClarkAs a senior, Clark played a lot more as a wide receiver than he did as a tight end, at least compared to previous years, eerily similar to the role of Devin Funchess during his last couple years in Ann Arbor. Unlike Funchess, Clark lacks the top flight athleticism to carry over to the college game as a wide receiver, but it did give him a different look and more experience in terms of running routes. The conundrum with Clark is that he runs best in a straight line, but not so well that he can consistently threaten the seam on vertical routes. Nonetheless, he has demonstrated that he can get open in his routes and stretch the middle of the field. Though his initial quickness leaves something to be desired, his frame will likely be enough to avoid getting jammed at the line much in college.

Blocking

Blocking - Chris ClarkOne of things that is apparent about Clark when watching him block is that he was physically superior in every way to his competition at Avon. Clark was as tall as his offensive linemen and taller than anyone else the defense could throw at him, not to mention bigger, stronger, and more physically mature at this stage. While able to control defenders and turn them out of running lanes, there was often a complacency to the manner in which he did so. While Clark would occasionally light up a defender and clear him out of the way, that fire that he will need to go up against defensive ends that are as big or bigger than him did not show up often enough. Clark will also need to work on his pad level, hand placement, and footwork — as most recruits do — in order to transition smoothly into the college blocking game.

Bottom Line

Aside from some long-term athletic limitations, Clark has what you look for in a tight end: the ability to cleanly catch the football and to block in the running game. Jim Harbaugh-coached teams at Stanford always produced very good tight ends, and Chris Clark can certainly join those ranks if he is able to be coached and work out his technical flaws as a blocker. Michigan already has depth at the tight end position with Jake Butt, Khalid Hill, A.J. Williams, and Ian Bunting, but Clark would make this position group all the more intriguing for Jay Harbaugh to work with. Overall, Clark has some NFL potential as well, and it’s not tough to draw some comparisons to former UCLA and current Detroit Lions red zone threat Joseph Fauria.

MG&B Grade (out of 10)
8.9 (4-star)

Clark is officially visiting Michigan this weekend where he could recommit, but he also has a visit to UCLA set for next weekend. Bruins head coach Jim Mora Jr, who just lost tight end commit Alize Jones to Notre Dame, visited Clark last night and it looks to be a two-team race to land him.

Predicting Michigan: The tight ends

Monday, June 23rd, 2014


Predicting Michigan-TightEnds

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Michigan

Michigan football made a few announcements this offseason that gutted the tight end depth for offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier. The team’s top option throughout much of the last two seasons was Devin Funchess, who will be moved permanently to wide receiver for his junior season. Transitioning Funchess was much easier after the emergence of freshman Jake Butt, but a torn ACL sidelined the young star and left the Wolverines without their top two options at tight end, at least for the first few games of the season.

Brady Hoke opted against moving Funchess back to tight end, and will instead choose from a number of veteran options that have made smaller impacts during their Michigan careers.

The Starters

With the offense under construction after the hiring of Nussmeier, it remains to be seen what type of role the tight ends will play in 2014. During the spring game, the majority of Michigan’s sets featured one tight end, often junior A.J. Williams.

Williams played a very limited role in his sophomore campaign, catching just one pass for a two-yard touchdown in the loss at Iowa. The 6’6″ tight end started six games, but was rarely featured as an integral part of the offense. The junior will be asked to play a much bigger role in 2014, as he holds the No. 1 tight end spot on the depth chart and received the most reps during the spring game.

Fellow junior Keith Heitzman lineup up with Williams on the first team during double tight end sets at the spring game, revealing Nussmeier’s willingness to at least experiment with more than one tight end on the field.

Heitzman has played 23 games for the Wolverines in his career, but all of them have come on the defensive line. The 271-pound junior separated himself from the rest of the pack as the No. 2 tight end, but will likely be featured as a blocker and less of a receiving threat.

Butt, meanwhile, is expected to be out until Big Ten play, but when he returns, will slide back into a starting role. The 6’6″, 250-pound sophomore impressed as a true freshman in 2013, catching 20 passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns. That’s five more catches and one more yard than Funchess had in his freshman campaign. Butt saved his best performance of the season for the matchup against his hometown Buckeyes, recording five catches for 85 yards and a score. Butt won’t match Funchess’ 2013 numbers, but will play a major role in the offense once he returns.

Projected Stats – Williams
Receptions Yards YPC Long TDs YPG
9 100 11.1 1 7.7
Career Stats
2013 1 2 2.0 2 1 0.2
2012 0 0 N/A N/A 0 N/A
Totals 1 2 2.0 2 1 0.2
Projected Stats – Butt
Receptions Yards YPC Long TDs YPG
21 250 11.9 4 27.8
Career Stats
2013 20 235 11.8 37 2 18.1
Totals 20 235 11.8 37 2 18.1
Projected Stats – Heitzman
Receptions Yards YPC Long TDs YPG
16 200 12.5 2 15.4
Career Stats
2013 0 0 N/A N/A 0 N/A
2012 0 0 N/A N/A 0 N/A
2011 0 0 N/A N/A 0 N/A
Totals 0 0 N/A N/A 0 N/A

Veteran Depth

Tight end remains one of the thinnest positions on the Michigan roster leading into the 2014 season, but quality recruits over the past two seasons have provided the Wolverines with some talented options. The struggle for Nussmeier in 2014 will be finding a tight end that can both protect the quarterback and hurt defenses in the passing game.

Redshirt freshman Khalid Hill figures to be an option if Williams and Heitzman struggle, as the former consensus three-star offers Michigan more of a receiving weapon. Hill is smaller than the other tight ends, but makes up for it with quickness and essential receiving skills like strong hands and great route running. Hill is more likely to be a difference-maker in the future, but a strong spring could put him on the radar for 2014.

Projected Stats – Hill
Receptions Yards YPC Long TDs YPG
13 150 11.5 1 11.5
Career Stats
2013 0 0 N/A N/A 0 N/A
Totals 0 0 N/A N/A 0 N/A

Newcomers

Michigan welcomed one key tight end prospect in the 2014 recruiting class in Ian Bunting. Bunting is a tall, but athletic tight end that should evolve into Michigan’s top receiving threat from his position. The freshman played wide receiver throughout much of his high school career, which molded him into the offensive threat that Hoke recruited.

Bunting figures to compete for playing time as a true freshman, since the Wolverines could really use a receiving threat from the tight end position. His versatility can only improve his chances to crack the lineup, as Nussmeier owns the option to line him up in the slot or out wide.

If a largely unproven wide receiver unit struggles during the non-conference season, expect the coaching staff to consider awarding Bunting more time at tight end to give the offense more options. The freshman fits the mold of Funchess and Butt as a pseudo-receiver at tight end.

Projected Stats – Bunting
Receptions Yards YPC Long TDs YPG
10 150 15.0 1 11.5

National Signing Day: Visualizing Michigan’s 2014 class

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014


2014 Class Visualization