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Posts Tagged ‘Jeremy Gallon’

M&GB Roundtable talks freshmen, but not THAT freshman

Friday, August 1st, 2014


Roundtable-Freshmen

Canteen

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?

Justin-banner

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.

Drew-banner

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.

Josh-banner

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.

Derick-banner

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.

Predicting Michigan: The wide receivers

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014


Predicting Michigan-Receivers

Devin Funchess, Jake ButtWhen wide receiver Jeremy Gallon walked off the field in Arizona after Michigan’s loss to Kansas State, the Wolverines lost 42.6 percent of their receiving yards for the season and the top playmaker on the team.

Michigan’s receiving corps was a one-man wrecking crew in 2013, with Gallon averaging 15.5 yards per catch and scoring nine times. His departure leaves room for a deep group of young wide outs to grow with the rest of the Wolverine offense.

Previously: Quarterbacks, running backs

The Starters

Canteen showed plenty of promise in his first spring

Canteen showed plenty of promise in his first spring

Devin Funchess represents Michigan’s top returning receiver after transitioning from tight end to wide out during the 2013 season. Funchess was moved to receiver officially after playing a tight end-wide receiver hybrid position that highlighted the tall sophomore’s downfield skills.

As a junior, Funchess will be asked to show more consistency in the receiving game. Though he was one of the more explosive options for Devin Gardner in 2013, catching 49 passes for 748 yards, he struggled with concentration lapses that turned into dropped passes. Funchess holds all the tools to be a dominant receiver in the Big Ten, as his size and athleticism make him a mismatch for virtually every defender in the conference.

Funchess is more valuable to the Michigan offense as a wide receiver because of a 6’5″, 230 pound frame that makes him a huge red zone target. The former tight end has done his best work in the end zone for the Wolverines, catching 11 touchdowns in his first two seasons in Ann Arbor.

Michigan entered spring camp with a second wide receiver position wide open until a true freshman charged out of the pack to grab the spot. Freddy Canteen dazzled the coaching staff the day he stepped on campus and has been the talk of the team ever since. The lightning-fast receiver turned heads with his quick feet and athleticism, leaving no doubt that he will line up opposite Funchess for the Wolverines on August 30.

Canteen and Funchess give Michigan a receiving duo with a remarkably high ceiling. Funchess can only benefit from an offseason exclusively dedicated to becoming a wide receiver, and Canteen’s quick rise up the depth chart offers him the opportunity to blossom with first-team reps.

Projected Stats – Funchess
Receptions Yards YPC Long TDs YPG
65 900 13.8 8 69.2
Career Stats
2013 49 748 15.3 59 6 57.5
2012 15 234 15.6 30 5 18.0
Totals 64 982 15.3 59 11 37.8
Projected Stats – Canteen
Receptions Yards YPC Long TDs YPG
35 600 17.1 5 46.2

Veteran Depth

Darboh was in line to start last fall before a foot injury sidelined him for the season (Scout.com)

Darboh was in line to start last fall before a foot injury sidelined him for the season (Scout.com)

Depth at wide receiver is one of the biggest questions facing the Michigan offense as it prepares for the 2014 season. Jehu Chesson is the only returning wide receiver that recorded over 100 yards in 2013, doing so on just 15 receptions.

Chesson was the forgotten man for much of his redshirt freshman season, playing in all 13 games but catching three or fewer passes in each one of them. Despite his inconsistency last season, the sophomore will be asked to provide stability to an otherwise young group of wide receivers in 2014.

Chesson’s struggles can be largely attributed to the circumstances that thrust him into the regular rotation last season. Amara Darboh was well on his way to earning a starting position last fall before suffering a foot injury in August and missing the entire season. The explosive sophomore has been rehabbing his injury throughout the past eight months and appears ready to make a return to a unit that sorely needs him.

Darboh sat out the spring game, but announced that he feels 100 percent and hopes to be a full participant in fall camp. If he regains his previous form, Darboh will be a huge asset to the offense, as his hands were the surest of the young receivers in camp last offseason. His pure catching ability offers Michigan a Junior Hemmingway-type player that can beat defenders to the ball.

If Doug Nussmeier decided to utilize a slot receiver, then junior Dennis Norfleet is the most likely candidate to earn that role. Michigan regularly features the speedy Norfleet as a kick returner because of his big-play potential; but the junior’s quickness could make him a valuable weapon in the passing game, in which he caught six passes for 46 yards last season.

Projected Stats – Chesson
Receptions Yards YPC Long TDs YPG
25 350 14.0 3 26.9
Career Stats
2013 15 221 14.7 58 1 17.0
2012 0 0 N/A N/A 0 N/A
Totals 15 221 14.7 58 1 17.0
Projected Stats – Darboh
Receptions Yards YPC Long TDs YPG
18 200 11.1 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
Totals 0 0 N/A N/A 0 N/A
Projected Stats – Norfleet
Receptions Yards YPC Long TDs YPG
12 100 8.3 0 7.7
Career Stats
2013 6 46 7.7 15 0 3.5
2012 0 0 N/A N/A 0 N/A
Totals 6 46 7.7 15 0 3.5

Newcomers

Brady Hoke added a major piece to the receiving corps when Drake Harris committed to the Wolverines out of Grand Rapids. The consensus four-star turned heads during his junior season in high school, catching 91 passes for 2,016 yards and 23 touchdowns. Harris was considered one of the top recruits in his class before missing his entire senior season with a hamstring injury.

Harris sat alongside Darboh in the spring game, continuing a quiet offseason for the talented receiver. At 6’4″, Harris could be a valuable target during his freshman campaign, but health concerns will continue to surround the youngster until he steps foot on the field.

Michigan’s roster also features a host of young receivers hoping to crack the lineup this fall. Da’Mario Jones was blocked by Chesson last season after Darboh’s injury figured to bring him into the mix. Former three-star recruit Jaron Dukes is eligible in 2014 after redshirting his freshman season and could earn playing time with a strong spring.

Projected Stats – Harris
Receptions Yards YPC Long TDs YPG
22 300 13.6 2 23.1

Countdown to kickoff: 81 days

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014


Countdown to kickoff-81(Melanie Maxwell, AnnArbor.com)

Countdown to kickoff: 86 days

Thursday, June 5th, 2014


Countdown to kickoff-86

Countdown to kickoff: 87 days

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014


Devin Funchess, Jake Butt

Jeremy Gallon drafted by Patriots in seventh round

Sunday, May 11th, 2014


Gallon(Rick Osentoski, USA Today Sports)

For the third consecutive day Michigan had a player drafted. This time, it was receiver Jeremy Gallon, who was taken in the seventh round (244th overall) by the New England Patriots where he will join fellow Wolverine, quarterback Tom Brady.

The diminutive receiver who finished second in the Big Ten with 89 receptions for 1,373 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013 very likely would have been drafted much higher if not for his 5’8″ size. But heading to the Patriots, who have utilized small receivers such as Wes Welker and Julian Edelman, is the best case scenario.

“They’re known for having smaller guys,” Gallon said on a conference call with New England media on Saturday evening. “They’re a team-oriented football team. They seem to just keep producing smaller guys that work in smaller spaces against big people. I just felt like it would be a good fit here as far myself and how I play and what I can bring and what they have for me to bring to the table.

“I try to model my game after them because they’re great guys, they’re great players. Everybody looks at the size and what they can bring to the table as like a 6-2 guy or as far as 5-7 or 5-10 guy. To me, I just think that doesn’t matter. It’s what you can bring to the table as far as your heart and your ability to play the game.”

The Patriots have a crowded receiving corps that Gallon will have to work his way into. Edelman and Danny Amendola are the current starters after combining for 159 receptions for 1,689 yards and eight touchdowns in 2013, while Kenbrell Thompkins signed as an undrafted free agent out of Cincinnati last May and caught 32 passes for 466 yards and four touchdowns. Aaron Dobson was drafted in the second round of last year’s draft and caught 37 passes for 519 yards and four scores. That’s a lot of production from four guys.

New England also drafted Texas Christian receiver Josh Boyce in the fourth round last year and signed Brandon LaFell, a fifth-year receiver out of LSU, last month.

Gallon could also factor into the return game. Edelman is the current punt returner and seventh-year receiver Matthew Slater is the kickoff return man. While Gallon never had a return touchdown at Michigan, he was always reliable. He compiled 32 kick returns for 658 yards and 47 punt returns for 333 yards during his career.

Gallon finished his career third in receiving yards (2,704) and receptions (173), second in single-season receptions (89), and set the single-season record with 1,373 yards. He also set the Big Ten record for receiving yards in a single game with 369.

Michael Schofield drafted in third round by Denver Broncos

Friday, May 9th, 2014


Schofield

Unlike Taylor Lewan on Thursday night, former Michigan right tackle Michael Schofield wasn’t sure what round he would be drafted in. He was hoping to sneak into Friday night’s third round, which he planned to watch with a small group of immediate family. But he could just as easily have had to wait until Saturday when his family is holding a party at at his Orland Park, Ill. home to celebrate. He got his answer as the third round drew to a close when the Denver Broncos selected him 95th overall.

Schofield steps into a great opportunity to compete for a Super Bowl on a team that made it to the big game just three months ago and wants to win now in what will likely be quarterback Peyton Manning’s final season.

“Everyone dreams of coming into the NFL and being right in Super Bowl contention, especially at an organization like the Broncos and a quarterback like Payton Manning,” Schofield said on a conference call. “It’s a dream come true.”

He has the ability to play tackle or guard, having started 36 games during his career at Michigan, 10 at guard in 2011 and 26 at right tackle. He showed his versatility when he stepped in at left tackle for an injured Lewan for part of the Penn State game last fall. He also impressed with a solid performance at the Senior Bowl.

The Broncos have some veterans on the offensive line, but also some question marks, and the pick of Schofield fills a need for the club. Orlando Franklin has started 47 games at right tackle over the last three seasons since being drafted in the second round (46th overall) out of Miami in 2011. In 2012, he allowed the fewest sacks in the NFL among right tackles that started 16 games. Right guard Louis Vasquez has started 70 games over the past five seasons — the first four with the San Diego Chargers — and made his first Pro Bowl in 2013, his first season in Denver.

The left side of the line is less certain. Last season’s left tackle, Chris Clark, stepped in for 14 games when three-time Pro Bowler Ryan Clady was lost with a Lisfranc injury. If Clady is fully healthy this fall he’ll be the starter. Meanwhile, left guard Zane Beadles is now in Jacksonville, leaving a possible landing spot for Schofield. The only other guard on the roster is second-year undrafted free agent Ben Garland from Air Force who didn’t see any game action last season.

Schofield is the only Michigan player currently on the roster and joins fellow Big Ten foes, Ohio State defensive back Bradley Roby and Indiana receiver Cody Latimer, as Broncos draft picks so far in this year’s draft.

The draft continues with rounds four through seven today beginning at 12 p.m. Jeremy Gallon is the only other Wolverine likely to be drafted and is projected to go anywhere from the fourth to seventh round.

Taylor Lewan drafted 11th by Tennessee Titans

Friday, May 9th, 2014


Lewan - Titans

Taylor Lewan was a first round lock, but the question heading into the 2014 NFL Draft was whether he would be the first, second, or third offensive tackle selected. The answer came just before 9:30 Eastern time on Thursday evening when Lewan followed Auburn’s Greg Robinson (second overall) and Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews (sixth), as the 11th pick by the Tennessee Titans.

Most mock drafts had Lewan going sixth or ninth, so he fell slightly, but still becomes the first Michigan player drafted in the first round since Brandon Graham was taken 13th by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2010. He’s also the highest Michigan draft pick since fellow left tackle Jake Long was the first overall pick by the Miami Dolphins in 2008 and was the first Big Ten player selected in this year’s draft.

The question now is where Lewan fits at Tennessee. Michael Roos has started 143 games at left tackle since he was drafted out of Eastern Washington in 2005. He was a Pro Bowler in 2008. On the other side, the Titans just locked up right tackle Michael Oher, who has started all 80 games since he was drafted out of Mississippi in 2009, to a four-year, $20 million deal with $9.5 guaranteed. One possibility would be to slide Oher to guard, but last year’s first round pick, Alabama guard Chance Warmack, started all 16 games at right guard in 2013 and left guard Andy Levitre has started all 80 games of his career. Lewan is walking into a loaded offensive line, so there’s a chance the Titans could use him as a trade piece later in the draft.

Prior to the draft, NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah listed Tennessee’s needs as cornerback, running back, quarterback, and offensive tackle, in that order. He notes Roos’ age, 32, as the reason for needing a tackle, but also says they should look to draft one somewhere around the fourth round. In other words, one that wouldn’t necessarily be ready to start from day one. Roos is in the final year of his contract, but Lewan certainly won’t be happy waiting a year to step into the lineup.

Lewan joins former Michigan defensive tackle Mike Martin on the Titans roster. Martin was drafted by the Titans in the third round, 82nd overall, in the 2012 draft and has started two games over the past two seasons, recording 52 tackles (33 solo) and four sacks.

The draft continues with rounds two and three tonight at 6:30 p.m. and concludes with rounds four through seven on Saturday at noon. Michael Schofield and Jeremy Gallon will likely find out their destinations on Saturday, but there’s a chance Schofield could find his way into the third round.

Michigan’s 2014 NFL Draft preview

Thursday, May 8th, 2014


Lewan-Gallon-Schofield

The 2014 NFL Draft begins tonight, and even though Michigan football didn’t live up to expectations last season three Wolverines are in line to be drafted, including one in tonight’s first round. Here’s a look at what to expect this weekend, what the experts are saying, and Michigan’s NFL Draft history.

Taylor Lewan – OT | Projected: First Round

Lewan is the only Michigan player in this year’s draft that will be selected in the first round. Had he chosen to enter the draft after his junior season Lewan would have been a virtual lock for a lottery pick. Instead, he returned to Michigan for his senior season, and a combination of the team’s poor performance and some off-the-field problems have caused him to slide a little bit. Even so, he’s still considered one of the top three offensive tackles in the draft and likely to be selected in the top 10 or 15.

What they’re saying

Jerry McDonald of the Oakland Tribune:

The Raiders have the fifth overall pick, and although they already inked left tackle Donald Penn to a two-year, $9.6 million contract, would make Lewan the highest Michigan player drafted since Jake Long went first overall in the 2008 draft.

ESPN NFL Draft Analyst Mel Kiper, Jr. thinks he could be drafted even higher:

“In terms of (Lewan) going No. 2, that’s not out of the question,” Kiper said during a conference call with reporters Wednesday. “If (the Rams) do take a tackle, he’s right there with Robinson. You could make an argument he’s better than Robinson, and right now, he is.

“Robinson may have the bigger upside, but I think Taylor Lewan, right now, really benefited from coming back his senior year.”

Despite claiming that the Rams could take Lewan, Kiper thinks they’ll select Robinson, but has the Atlanta Falcons drafting Lewan at No. 6 in his mock draft. ESPN’s Todd McShay also has Lewan going to the Falcons.

NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock is less bullish on Lewan:

“I don’t think [Lewan's] going to pass either [Robinson or Matthews],” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. “I think he’s going to be the third tackle off the board. Some teams might even like Zack Martin better. He’s going to be the third or fourth tackle, but I believe the third tackle off the board.”

It’s worth noting that Mayock is an analyst for NBC’s coverage of Notre Dame football, so there is likely some bias there regarding Martin.

Former Cleveland Browns general manager Phil Savage, responding to a fan question on Twitter, agrees with Mayock:

Peter King of Sports Illustrated also has Lewan in the top 10 of his mock draft:

Bills stunned that Lewan’s still hanging around, and they pass on tight end Eric Ebron, who could be a great security blanket for E.J. Manuel. Keep in mind that GM Doug Whaley is very much open for business here, and could trade down and still get another guy they love: Odell Beckham.

Regardless of where he goes, Lewan will be Michigan’s first first round pick since Brandon Graham was selected 13th overall by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2010 NFL Draft.

History

Michigan has had a strong history of sending offensive linemen to the NFL, especially in the past 20-25 years. Since 1993, five Michigan offensive linemen have been selected in the first round (center Steve Everitt 14th overall in 1993, tackle Trezelle Jenkins 31st in 1995, guard Steve Hutchinson 17th in 2001, tackle Jeff Backus 18th in 2001, and tackle Jake Long first in 2008). Michigan has had 37 offensive linemen drafted during the common draft period since 1967.

Michael Schofield – OT | Projected: Third Round to Fifth Round

Schofield, like Lewan, didn’t help his draft stock last season due to Michigan’s poor offensive line play, though that wasn’t much to his fault. The former four-star recruit from Orland Park, Ill. did show versatility throughout his career, playing both guard and tackle, which should be a valuable asset in the middle rounds of the draft.

What they’re saying

Kiper says Schofield could be an NFL starter:

“The one that I think is a little underrated is Schofield,” Kiper said. “I think maybe round three, round four … he has a chance to be a nice player for you. … Michael Schofield can be a starting right tackle in this league.”

Mayock was impressed with Schofield at the Senior Bowl, but thinks he will only work out as a right tackle, not a guard.

“Not a highly acclaimed kid; a late add [to the roster],” Mayock said. “I thought he stoned everybody in the [1-on-1] drill. Now, he’s a right tackle only, in my opinion. They tried him at guard. Right tackle only is not a good thing to be in the NFL unless you’re a starter. I think he has the potential to be a starting right tackle.”

The Sun Sentinel’s Omar Kelly lists Schofield among others as a “realistic possibility” for the Dolphins, who have a need at right tackle.

CBSSports.com ranks Schofield as the 11th-best offensive tackle and 108th-best prospect in the draft.

The Big Blue Review, the New York Giants’ SB Nation site, sees Schofield as a good fit for the Giants:

“I really think he does. Giants have traditionally loved grabbing high caliber high school recruits. Schofield was a four-star back then. He’s technically sound and a massive overachiever, which sounds like every successful Giant OL ever. He’s also versatile enough to play guard or right tackle. His personality fits exactly what the Giants look for and seems like a great locker room guy. He drew praise from Mike Mayock at the Senior Bowl, and we know that Jerry Reese and company pay attention there.

“It would not surprise me in the slightest if this guy was a New York Giants selection. I wouldn’t touch him before round 3, maybe Round 4, but can’t ever rule out tackle prospects. Could see him going as early as round 2, though it’d be a slight reach for me.”

History

Michigan has had a player drafted as an offensive lineman in each of the past three drafts. Last year, the New York Jets took William Campbell in the sixth round. Although Campbell played on the defensive side of the ball at Michigan, the Jets drafted him as an offensive guard. David Molk was selected in the seventh round of the 2012 draft by the San Diego Chargers, and while he didn’t last long in San Diego, he signed a futures contract with the Philadelphia Eagles this past January. In 2011, Stephen Schilling was drafted in the sixth round by the Chargers, and after spending time on their practice squad and even starting a couple of games in his rookie season, signed with the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks last month.

Jeremy Gallon – WR | Projected: Fourth Round to Seventh Round

Gallon is an interesting case study because he finished his career as one of the greatest receivers in Michigan history, but doesn’t figure to be drafted highly. That’s obviously because of his height. With the numbers he put up, if he had a typical receiver size he’d be a first round lock. But he proved at Michigan that he plays much taller than his 5’8″ frame and could still be a dangerous weapon in the right offense as a slot receiver.

What they’re saying

Kiper thought Gallon performed well at the Combine:

“Ran better than I thought he would, showed 4.5, 4.6 speed (in games),” Kiper said. “He was caught from behind in several of the games I watched, but he ran great (at the combine). A kid with that size, a slot receiver, could be an early day-three pick.”

Ben Volin of the Boston Globe lists Gallon among his top specialists:

Small frame will drop him down draft despite big senior season (1,373 receiving yards, nine TDs) but returned kickoffs and punts at Michigan to help his value.

ESPN ranks Gallon as the 45th-best receiver available.

CBSSports.com ranks Gallon as the 58th-best receiver and 465th-best prospect overall.

WEEI.com football writer Christopher Price has Gallon as a “sleeper for Patriots fans to focus on”:

The Patriots made the pilgrimage out to Ann Arbor in March to work out the undersized (5-foot-8, 187-pound) Gallon, who put up impressive numbers over the last two years with the Wolverines, including 89 catches for 1,373 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013. (He had 184 yards against Notre Dame and 369 yards on 14 receptions against Indiana.) He also posted good numbers as a return man, compiling 589 yards on 27 kick returns in 2010, and 192 yards on 31 punt returns in 2011. There are some questions as to whether or not he’ll hold up because of his size, but could project nicely as a slot receiver at the next level if he proves to be durable, and the fact that LeGarrette Blount has departed as a free agent means the Patriots could be in the market for a returner.

History

Michigan has had 26 receivers selected since the common draft began in 1967. The last Michigan receiver to be drafted was Junior Hemingway, who was selected in the seventh round of the 2012 draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. Prior to that, Michigan had gone three years without a receiver being drafted after having five taken in the four drafts from 2005-08. The highest receiver Michigan has ever had drafted was Braylon Edwards, who was selected third overall by the Cleveland Browns in 2005.

Burning questions as Michigan football opens spring practice

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014


Morris-Gardner(Detroit News)

It has been just 59 days since Michigan’s season wrapped up with an underwhelming loss to Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. The 2014 season seems eons away as basketball season is about to head into conference tournaments and then the Big Dance. But while it may be hard to turn our attention back to football, Brady Hoke’s squad is set to return to the gridiron today to kick off spring practice.

Last season was as disappointing as any in recent memory because no one expected it to go the way it did. Most preseason expectations ranged from 9-4 to 11-2, and after the Wolverines topped Notre Dame in Under the Lights II, there was even some talk of national championship possibilities. Of course, Michigan followed up the high of that game with a thud against Akron, needing a last-second goal line stand to hold off what may have been a bigger upset than when Appalachian State stunned the Wolverines in 2007. And the season unraveled from there.

Now, needing to get the bad taste of 2013 out of its system, Michigan has a 2014 season opener to look forward to against, well, Appalachian State. But before we get there, let’s take a look at the biggest questions the Wolverines face heading into spring ball.

How much will Gardner be able to do this spring with a new offensive system to learn? (MGoBlue.com)

How much will Gardner be able to do this spring with a new offensive system to learn? (MGoBlue.com)

How healthy is Devin Gardner?

Brady Hoke turned some heads earlier this month when he seemed to imply that the starting quarterback role was up for grabs this fall.

“I think (the starting quarterback for next season) is an unknown,” Hoke said. “We were 7-6 (last season). And we’ve got a lot of young guys (on the team). We’ve got a lot of competition.”

In a technical sense it’s true. Gardner finished the 2013 season in a walking boot and couldn’t even play in the bowl game. Until he’s fully healthy he can’t be 100 percent presumed the starter. What if the injury is even worse than thought? What if it continues to linger throughout the offseason?

But assuming Gardner is able to fully heal there’s no question he’s the starter on Aug. 30. The main question is how much will he be able to do in spring ball?

New offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier will be the third Gardner has had in his career, and although he didn’t start under Calvin McGee, it will still be the third offensive system he has had to learn. Nussmeier has done wonders for the quarterbacks he has coached during his quick rise up the ranks, from Jeff Smoker to Drew Stanton to Tom Brandstater to Jake Locker to Keith Price to A.J. McCarron.

Sophomore-to-be Shane Morris is likely to benefit the most from Nussmeier’s quarterback expertise since he has three more years to work with him, but Gardner could very well take a significant leap in 2014 given his talent and experience. In 2003, Nussmeier helped Michigan State quarterback Jeff Smoker set a school record 3,395 passing yards after struggling as a junior. He then helped Drew Stanton improve from 1,601 yards in his first season to 3,077 the next year. Most recently, he helped Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron improve on a near flawless 2012 season.

It will be important for Gardner to participate in spring drills to continue the work that he has built upon the past four years, but most importantly to work with Nussmeier and learn his offense. Gardner can still do that if not at full speed, but it’s obviously better to learn at full speed than not.

Who will catch passes?

Jeremy Gallon graduated and took 42.6 percent of last season’s receiving yards with him. Add the production lost from fellow seniors Drew Dileo, Jeremy Jackson, Joe Reynolds, and Fitzgearld Toussaint — who finished as the team’s fourth-leading pass catcher — and Michigan has just 41.3 percent of its production returning.

Jehu Chesson is Michigan's leading returning true receiver with just 15 receptions (MGoBlue.com)

Jehu Chesson is Michigan’s leading returning true receiver with just 15 receptions (MGoBlue.com)

To make matters worse, tight end Jake Butt tore his ACL in offseason workouts, and while he’s likely to return at some point during the season, he may not be 100 percent. Devin Funchess was almost certain to make the official move to the outside prior to Butt’s injury, but with no other established pass catching tight end, Michigan may not be afforded to move him permanently.

The leading returning true receiver is Jehu Chesson, who caught just 15 passes for 221 yards and a touchdown. No other true wide receiver that caught a pass returns. The x-factor will be Chesson’s classmate, Amara Darboh, who was in line to start last season before a foot injury in fall camp sidelined him for the season. At 6’2″ and 212 pounds, Darboh has the size to be a formidable outside receiver, but will his foot be healthy enough to fully participate in spring ball? He impressed last spring and fall before sustaining the injury. Can he regain that form?

The unknowns are the cadre of true and redshirt freshmen that have been brought in in the past two recruiting classes. Jaron Dukes, Csont’e York, and Da’Mario Jones all redshirted in 2013 and Freddy Canteen, Drake Harris, and Maurice Ways are incoming. Of the latter group, Canteen and Harris enrolled early and will have a chance to show what they can do while getting their feet wet this spring.

All five have good height but will need to add some bulk to their thin frames, Canteen (6’3″, 170) and Harris (6’4″, 180) especially. Chesson played last season at 6’3″, 196 and seemed thin at times. York was listed at 6’3″, 180 last season, while Jones was 6’2″, 192 and Dukes 6’4″, 190, but by the time the spring roster is released, they will have surely added some muscle with a full season under their belts.

There is plenty of young talent and great size to go around, but who steps up and garners that hype that Darboh did a year ago before his injury will be one of the biggest aspects to watch this spring.

How will the line shape up?

The biggest disappointment in 2013 was undoubtedly the poor performance of the offensive line. While senior left tackle Taylor Lewan earned the Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year award for the second straight year and right tackle Michael Schofield was solid, the interior was a sieve all season. Several different combinations were used throughout the season and the coaching staff even went as far as to try odd tackle over formations to utilize Lewan’s strengths in order to hide other weaknesses, but nothing seemed to make the offense any more efficient.

With the bookends gone to graduation and a new offensive coordinator the development of the line will be interesting to watch. Much was said throughout last season about Brady Hoke’s supposed inability to develop offensive line talent, but let’s not forget that his first full class was redshirt freshmen in 2013. Most linemen, even the most highly rated ones, don’t gain starting roles on the line until two or three years into their careers at minimum.

Graham Glasgow and Erik Magnuson struggled in 2013 but gained experience that will help them in 2014 (MGoBlue.com)

Graham Glasgow and Erik Magnuson struggled in 2013 but gained experience that will help them in 2014 (MGoBlue.com)

Highly-ranked offensive line hauls are great, but we shouldn’t have begun to sniff the payoffs until this upcoming season at the earliest. In a normal situation without the attrition from previous classes decimating the line depth, Kyle Kalis, Erik Magnuson, Blake Bars, and Ben Braden would have simply played reserve roles in 2013, heading into the spring of their redshirt sophomore season looking to work their way into the starting lineup. Instead, Kalis and Magnuson, along with true freshman Kyle Bosch, were forced into action before they were clearly ready and it showed. While that hurt the offense in 2013 it should pay dividends in 2014 as they can build upon the experience they gained.

One thing that is for certain is that, aside from injuries, everybody will get a chance to compete throughout spring practice for a major role this fall. Magnuson and Chris Bryant — both of whom started games last season — will be held out due to injury, but aside from that, who emerges as the starters is anyone’s guess.

Hoke hinted that they would start the spring with Logan Tuley-Tillman, David Dawson, Graham Glasgow, Kyle Kalis, and Ben Braden as the starting five from left to right, and the competition would go from there.

“We’ll obviously start with a five, but all that is going to be competitive, and with a young team, to some degree, even though they played a little bit, you’ve got to have it competitive,” Hoke said.

New offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier won’t bring huge changes, but he will simplify the schemes the line uses in the running game. Last year, Hoke and then-offensive coordinator Al Borges tried just about everything they could think of to find something that worked. This year, Nussmeier will start with a basic inside zone and build from there. Whichever five emerge from the April 5 spring game as the starters will carry confidence and cohesiveness into fall camp.

How will the defensive coaching shakeups impact the defense?

Nussmeier replacing Borges was the only coaching staff change this offseason, but last week Hoke announced that the roles of several defensive coaches would be shaken up in an effort to create a more aggressive defense and streamline the staff. Most notably, Hoke won’t be coaching any specific position groups himself. He spent the past three seasons coaching the defensive line. Stepping back will allow him to take a larger role and perhaps devote more time to areas that may have been overlooked in the past.

Greg Mattison switches from coaching the defensive line to linebackers this season (MGoBlue.com)

Greg Mattison switches from coaching the defensive line to linebackers this season (MGoBlue.com)

Mark Smith, who has coached the linebackers the past few seasons, will take over the defensive line, while defensive coordinator Greg Mattison moves to the linebackers. Mattison coached the Baltimore Ravens linebackers — and good ones like Ray Lewis — and said on National Signing Day that he has been looking for bigger linebackers. Smith, meanwhile, spent 15 of his 32 years as a defensive line coach, but hasn’t specifically coached the position since 2002 at Indiana State.

Curt Mallory will be taking on more of a specialized role with just the safeties after coaching the entire secondary the past three seasons, while Roy Manning will take over the defensive backs. Manning was hired prior to last season to coach the outside linebackers.

“Everyone on the staff and the kids are really excited about these changes,” Hoke said. “Greg and I met and felt this was the best for everyone, including him and his ability to coach a position group and run a defense from the middle. When you look at Mark’s experience on the defensive line, then being able to split the secondary, where you have five positions and 20-plus guys, and with the way offense and passing has changed in college football, I think it balances our staff on that side of the ball.”

Michigan’s defense has gone downhill in each of the three seasons under the current staff. In year one, Hoke and Mattison transformed what was a sieve under Rich Rodriguez into the nation’s 17th-best total defense and sixth-best scoring defense. But those numbers have fallen the past two seasons from 13th and 19th in 2012 to 41st and 66th last season. While the offense had its share of well-publicized struggles, the defense was virtually unable to stop anyone over the second half of the season.

The coaching staff shakeup sounds like a sign of desperation at first glance, a coach trying one last ditch set of moves in order to save his job. That may be partially true, but it’s certainly worth a shot. Moving Mattison to coach the middle of the defense makes a lot of sense as that’s where he coached in Baltimore and the linebackers run the defense. Hoke stepping back from coaching a position group also seems like the right move, and Smith taking over a group with which he has considerable — if not recent — experience could invigorate the line. Finally, splitting the secondary among two coaches also make sense since there are so many bodies among the cornerbacks and safeties.

In a perfect world, the moves will create excitement among the players — at the very least shake up any complacency or entitlement that may exist. Even though Nussmeier is the only new addition to the staff, the whole defense will be playing for a new position coach and thus fighting even harder to make a statement and earn playing time. Should it have gotten to that point? No. But it can only be a good thing throughout the spring.