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Posts Tagged ‘Jim Harbaugh’

New in Blue: 2015 defensive end Reuben Jones

Sunday, January 25th, 2015


Reuben Jones(247 Sports)

Reuben Jones – LB | 6-3, 223 | Lakeland, Fla. – Lake Gibson
ESPN: 3-star, #58 DE, 78 rating Rivals: 3-star, #27 SDE 247: 3-star, #64 SDE Scout: 3-star, #145 DE
Other top offers: Nebraska, Michigan State, Iowa, Louisville, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Duke, Wake Forest

It took longer than many expected, but Jim Harbaugh received his first commitment on Saturday evening when three-star defensive end Reuben Jones committed to the Wolverines on his official visit. The Lakeland, Fla. native had previously committed to Nebraska on Nov. 15, but became unhappy with the coaching change in Lincoln and announced his decommitment from the Huskers prior to visiting Ann Arbor.

On Saturday, he tweeted his commitment to Harbaugh’s Wolverines.

Jones is a consensus three-star recruit among the four major recruiting sites. Rivals ranks him the highest as the 27th-best strong side defensive end in the class and 68th-best player in the state of Florida. ESPN ranks him the 58th-best defensive end and gives him a rating of 78. 247 Sports lists him as the 64th-best strong side defensive end and 187th-best player in Florida. Finally, Scout has him as the 145th-best defensive end.

ESPN, Scout, and 247 each list his height and weight as 6’3″, 223, but Rivals has him slightly bigger at 6’4″, 225. According to Hudl, he has a Nike Sparq-verified 40-yard time at 4.89.

During his high school career at Lake Gibson, Jones recorded 212 total tackles (95 solo), 28 tackles for loss, 27.5 sacks, five forced fumbles, and four fumble recoveries. In his junior and senior years combines, Jones tallied 158 of those tackles, 25 tackles for loss, and 18.5 of those sacks.

Aside from Nebraska, Jones held offers from Michigan State, Louisville, Iowa, West Virginia, and Kentucky, among others.

Jones became the seventh commitment in the 2015 class but the first defensive lineman. He joins athlete Brian Cole and quarterback Alex Malzone — both early enrollees — as well as kicker Andrew David, defensive back Tyree Kinnel, and offensive linemen Grant Newsome and Jon Runyan Jr in the class.

Recruiting Profile: 2015 CB Iman Marshall

Friday, January 23rd, 2015


Iman Marshall
(247 Sports)

Previously: 2015 TE Chris Clark

Iman Marshall – CB | 6’2″, 190 | Long Beach, Calif. – Long Beach Poly
ESPN: 5-star, #1 CB, 92 grade Rivals: 5-star, #1 CB, #3 nat 247: 5-star, #1 CB, #5 nat Scout: 5-star, #1 CB
Other top offers: USC, Alabama, FSU, Oregon, LSU, UCLA, Auburn, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Miami, ND

One of the most talented and impressive physical specimens being recruited at the cornerback position this season, Long Beach Poly’s Iman Marshall looks to be Michigan’s number one quarry this winter. Marshall has yet to commit to any team thus far, but has either visited or has visits scheduled with Notre Dame, Florida State, LSU, Oregon, and Michigan, with USC also having mutual interest. Marshall sported the vaunted No. 2 jersey during his visit to Ann Arbor this past week, and could have a similar impact to Charles Woodson given the tools he would bring to Michigan if he does indeed commit to the Wolverines.

Athleticism

Athleticism - Iman MarshallMarshall has prodigious size as far as cornerbacks go, having a Nike verified height of 6’2″ (though listed at a shorter 6’1″ by many other outlets). While most defensive backs with 6-foot-plus frames don’t stick on the boundary as cornerbacks due to a lack of athleticism, there is no such concern with Marshall. The Long Beach native showcases very good range and downfield speed, and while he doesn’t have the most fluid of hips, he has flexible ankles and has good change of direction ability for a player of his size. Marshall might not light up stopwatches while running in shorts, but he carries his pads well on the field. Additionally, he has shown the athletic versatility to play as a receiver, with the ball in his hands, as outside corner, a nickel back, a deep safety, and as a kick returner.

Coverage

Coverage - Iman MarshallMarshall lined up most frequently in zone coverage as opposed to man coverage during his high school career at Long Beach, and seems best suited to zone going forward. Marshall has great length and demonstrated it often, frequently taking away passing windows and getting his hand in to break up would-be completions. His instincts and ability to read the play in front of him and the ball in the air are top-notch, which should translate into early playing time and success in college.

In terms of man coverage, Marshall lacks great change of direction and transition out of his backpedal, and could struggle to keep up vertically on an island versus the fastest and quickest receivers in college football. Marshall is not afraid to get physical in coverage, especially near the line of scrimmage, and has the length of a prototypical press corner. As a senior, Marshall was deployed as a single safety and charged with playing the center field which he manned capably.

Ball Skills

Ball Skills - Iman MarshallAs Marshall’s experience playing the wide receiver position at times throughout his career can attest to, he has very good ball skills, not only for the interception, but to catch passes on offense. Marshall doesn’t flash an outstanding catch radius or show off with eye-popping one-handers, but he has sure hands to pluck the football and the ability to put himself in position to do so. He adjusts well to passes thrown over his head and on his back shoulder. Marshall’s length and leaping ability are useful in competing for contested passes and high-pointing the football. When Marshall has the ball in his hands, he can be dangerous on interception and kick returns, showing shifty footwork and strength to ward off tackles.

Run Support

Run Support - Iman MarshallOne thing that can be infuriating while watching cornerbacks at any level of football is how noncommittal they can be towards playing the running game. This is certainly not the case with Marshall as he is an aggressive run defender who plays with strength and instincts. While Marshall could do a better job of getting off of blocks given his ability and the relative level of competition he faced, he pursues with great range and hustle. Marshall shows good tackling technique for a defensive back and wraps up while still delivering jarring hits on the football. With his combination of size and willingness versus the run, Marshall could convert to the safety position if needed by a coaching staff.

Bottom Line

Marshall may not possess blazing timed speed or the most explosive change of direction capabilities, but he stands out in every other category that is important to the cornerback position at the collegiate level. His great instincts will go a long way toward leveraging a role for himself on the football field and he possesses long-term potential to go pro within a few years. If Marshall does indeed sign with the Wolverines this winter, he could form one half of what could be a devastating duo at the cornerback position with last year’s five star recruit Jabrill Peppers. On the whole, Iman Marshall compares to former Virginia Tech and current Chicago Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller.

MG&B Grade (out of 10)
9.2 (5-star)

Following his visit to Michigan earlier this week, Marshall is visiting LSU this weekend and plans to wrap up his official visits with Oregon next weekend. Jim Harbaugh and staff plan to make an in-home visit to Marshall and his family — Marshall made the trip to Ann Arbor alone — before signing day on Feb. 4, but pulling him from hometown USC will be a tall order.

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.

Michigan 73 – Illinois 65 OT

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014


Dawkins vs Illinois(MGoBlue.com)

On a celebratory afternoon for the Michigan football program, in which new head coach Jim Harbaugh was introduced at halftime, the basketball team pulled together an inspired performance to top Illinois 73-65 in overtime.

Fans who packed the Crisler Center to the rafters to catch a glimpse of Harbaugh didn’t have much to cheer for through the first 20 minutes as Michigan and Illinois went back and forth in an uneventful half.

Michigan jumped out to a 7-2 lead, but Illinois went on an 18-6 run over the next 12 minutes to grab a 20-13 lead. True freshman Aubrey Dawkins hit a three to end the drought, and back-to-back baskets by Max Bielfeldt and Ricky Doyle tied the game. But Illinois outscored Michigan 12-6 over the last four minutes of the half to take a 32-26 lead into the locker room.

Illinois guard Malcolm Hill kicked off the second half with a three and the Illini kept piling on, reaching a 13-point lead midway through the half. Dawkins nailed his second three of the game to stop the bleeding, and Zak Irvin followed with two straight threes to cut the deficit to six. After an Illinois dunk, Dawkins connected again, and after an Illinois free throw, another Dawkins three brought Michigan within three points.

Four Factors
Michigan Illinois
48.5 eFG% 46.6
27.5 OReb% 20.0
7.4 TO% 14.9
21.2 FTR 24.1

Michigan forced a turnover and LeVert scored to pull within one, but Hill answered with a bucket of his own. With less than three minutes to play, two straight Doyle baskets gave Michigan its first lead since the opening minutes. Hill answered with another jumper to put Illinois back on top, but Doyle responded with another layup to give Michigan a 58-57 lead with 1:13 remaining. Hill hit a pair of free throws to tip the scales back in Illinois’ favor, but Doyle made one of two free throws to tie the game at 59. A last-second Illinois attempt fell short, sending the game into overtime.

Hill stayed hot, scoring the first basket of the extra frame, but Dawkins made a pair of free throws to tie it and Irvin followed with a three. After a pair of Hill free throws, Dawkins nailed his sixth three of the game to put Michigan ahead by four and Michigan never looked back.

Dawkins, who had scored just 15 points all season coming into the game, led the way with 20 on 6-of-7 shooting from three-point range. LeVert followed with 19 points on 9-of-19 shooting, while Irvin and Doyle each finished with 13 points. Spike Albrecht led Michigan with six rebounds, while Irvin, Dawkins, and Mark Donnal added five apiece.

As a team, Michigan shot 40.9 percent from the field and 35.7 percent from downtown. But a hot second half and overtime, in which Michigan shot 47.1 percent overall and 44.4 percent from long range, propelled the Wolverines to victory. Michigan also out-rebounded Illinois 39-36 and committed just five turnovers compared to the Illini’s 12. Hill was the only Illinois player in double figures with 19 points, while Rayvonte Rice was held to eight on 3-of-11 shooting.

At 1-0 in the Big Ten and 8-5 overall, Michigan hits the road for two straight against Purdue (8-5, 0-0) on Saturday and Penn State (12-1, 0-0) on Tuesday.

Three Stars:

***Aubrey Dawkins***
20 points (career high, 6-of-8 FG, 6-of-7 3pt, 2-of-2 FT), five rebounds (two offensive), one turnover in 24 minutes

**Caris LeVert**
19 points (9-of-19 FG, 1-of-5 3pt, 0-of-2 FT), three rebounds (one offensive), five assists, two steals, one turnover in 42 minutes

*Zak Irvin*
13 points (4-of-15 FG, 3-of-10 3pt, 2-of-2 FT), five rebounds, one assist, one steal in 42 minutes

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
03 Kameron Chatman* 1-2 0-1 0-0 0 2 2 2 2 1 1 1 0 19
32 Ricky Doyle* 5-6 0-0 3-6 1 1 2 1 13 1 0 0 1 21
10 Derrick Walton Jr* 0-8 0-2 0-0 0 4 4 1 0 1 1 0 1 27
21 Zak Irvin* 4-15 3-10 2-2 0 5 5 2 13 1 0 0 1 42
23 Caris LeVert* 9-19 1-5 0-2 1 2 3 1 19 5 1 0 2 42
02 Spike Albrecht 1-3 0-1 2-2 0 6 6 0 4 5 0 0 2 25
12 M-A. Abdur-Rahkman 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
24 Aubrey Dawkins 6-8 6-7 2-2 2 3 5 3 20 0 1 0 0 24
34 Mark Donnal 0-3 0-2 0-0 2 3 5 2 0 1 1 0 0 21
44 Max Bielfeldt 1-2 0-0 0-0 2 2 4 0 2 0 0 0 0 3
Totals 27-66 10-28 9-14 11 28 39 12 73 15 5 1 7 205
Illinois 24-58 6-15 11-14 7 29 36 15 65 11 12 4 2 205
Full Stats

Harbaugh comes home

Monday, December 29th, 2014


Harbaugh 49ers(Getty Images)

Michigan’s football season ended nearly a month ago, but the program landed its biggest win of the season on Monday when San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh landed in Detroit with his family to accept the same position at Michigan.

The move had been rumored for weeks as Michigan insiders gradually raised their odds with each passing day and NFL insiders maintained their stance that other NFL teams would swoop in and land the former Michigan quarterback. But John U. Bacon tweeted the first solid confirmation on Saturday night, ESPN’s John Clayton stated on Sunday morning on ESPN Radio that Harbaugh had begun contacting possible assistants, and Fox Sports college football writer Bruce Feldman confirmed on Sunday afternoon. Harbaugh himself made it official on Monday, a day after closing his 49ers tenure with a 20-17 win over the Arizona Cardinals.

Former Michigan quarterback Jim Harbaugh will become the 19th head coach in program history (Malcolm Emmons, USA Today Sports)

Former Michigan quarterback Jim Harbaugh will become the 20th head coach in program history (Malcolm Emmons, USA Today Sports)

Harbaugh went 44-19-1 in his four years in San Francisco, taking the 49ers to Super Bowl XLVIII, which they lost to the Baltimore Ravens, and the NFC Championship game in 2011 and 2013. His winning percentage of .698 ranks fifth in NFL history behind only Guy Chamberlain (.784 from 1922-27), John Madden (.763 from 1969-78), Vince Lombardi (.738 from 1959-69), and George Allen (.712 from 1966-77).

Prior to the NFL, Harbaugh turned around a suffering Stanford program, taking a team that went 1-11 in 2006 to four straight seasons with improving records. The Cardinal went 4-8 in his first season, 5-7 in his second, 8-5 in his third, and 12-1 in his fourth, finishing second in the Pac-10 and beating Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. He jumped to the NFL following that season, but the roster he recruited went on to records of 11-2, 12-2, and 11-3 in the next three seasons.

Harbaugh did the same at the University of San Diego before Stanford, taking a team that had achieved just 10 seven-plus win seasons since 1956 and going 7-4, 11-1, 11-1 in his three seasons. The latter two were USD’s first double-digit win seasons in program history.

Harbaugh also spent eight seasons as an assistant coach for his father at Western Kentucky while finishing his NFL playing career, and officially began his coaching career as a quarterbacks coach for the Oakland Raiders in 2002-2003.

As a player, Harbaugh started 140 games in 14 seasons with the Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts, Baltimore Ravens, and San Diego Chargers. He totaled 26,288 passing yards and 129 touchdowns and ranks second in Bears history in completions (1,023), attempts (1,759), and third in yards (11,567). He was also inducted into the Colts Ring of Honor in 2005.

Harbaugh is most beloved in Ann Arbor for his playing days at Michigan under Bo Schembechler when he led the Wolverines to a 24-4-1 record as a starter. He led the nation in pass efficiency in 1985 while leading Michigan to a Big Ten title and Fiesta Bowl victory. The following season, he finished third in the Heisman trophy voting and was named Big Ten Player of the Year. He became the first Michigan quarterback to throw for 300 yards in a game and finished his career in the top five in passing attempts, completions, completion percentage, passing yards, and touchdown passes.

Harbaugh becomes the 20th head coach in the 136 year history of Michigan football, replacing Brady Hoke, who went 31-20 in four seasons. He will reportedly be officially introduced on Tuesday at a 12 p.m. press conference and again during that afternoon’s basketball game against Illinois, which tips off at 3 p.m.

Stay tuned for more coverage and analysis in the days to come.

Hoke let go, players react

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014


NCAA Football: Michigan at Michigan State(USATSI)

The Michigan football program parted ways with head coach Brady Hoke on Tuesday afternoon after four years. Interim athletic director Jim Hackett held a press conference to deliver the news and the department released the following statement.

“I met with coach Hoke today and informed him of my decision to make a change in the leadership of our football program,” said Hackett. “This was not an easy decision given the level of respect that I have for Brady. He has done a great job of molding these young men, making them accountable to their teammates, focusing them on success in the classroom and in the community. I wanted to make sure that Brady received adequate time to exhibit the results that would come from his effort and I believe that Brady and our coaching staff had enough time to produce those results and unfortunately they are not there. In the end, I feel that moving in a different direction is the right decision. I wish Brady and his family all the best in the future.”

“I feel very fortunate to have been an assistant and head coach at the University of Michigan,” said Brady Hoke. “I will always support the University and this football program. This is a special place and one that Laura, Kelly and I have enjoyed representing during our time in Ann Arbor. I want to thank all of the sons that played for our teams and appreciate the commitment that our coaches and support staff made to the program every day. I will miss the relationships that I’ve been fortunate enough to make within this university and community. I additionally appreciate all of the support that our fans, alumni, students, administration and former players have provided our program. I leave with fond memories of my experience at Michigan. Thanks and Go Blue!”

Hoke became the 19th head coach in Michigan football history on Jan. 11, 2011. A former assistant coach at U-M (1995-2002), Hoke guided the Wolverines to a 31-20 record (18-14 Big Ten) in his four seasons as head coach. Hoke led the Wolverines to an 11-2 record (6-2 Big Ten) and Allstate Sugar Bowl victory in his first season at the helm, while U-M finished the 2012 season with an 8-5 (6-2 Big Ten) mark following a bid to the Outback Bowl. The Wolverines went 7-6 in 2013 and made an appearance in the 2013 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Michigan finished the 2014 season with a 5-7 record.

Mike DeBord will oversee the day-to-day aspects of the football program as sport administrator until a new head coach is hired. Hackett will begin a search for a replacement immediately.

Hoke won Michigan fans over from day one when he said he would have walked from San Diego to Ann Arbor for the job and placed an emphasis on beating rivals in his introductory press conference. But while his passion for Michigan has never been questioned, he went just 1-3 against Ohio State, 1-3 against Michigan State, and 2-2 against Notre Dame. Mounting controversies in the past year — the lack of transparency about Brendan Gibbons, multiple player suspensions and arrests, and the handling of the Shane Morris concussion incident — combined with a declining record made it necessary for Hackett to make a change.

The impact of Hoke’s firing was felt by the players — current and former — as they reacted via Twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is no timetable for Hoke’s replacement, but San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, LSU head coach Les Miles, Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen, and former Rutgers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano have been mentioned as the top candidates.

Miles and Mullen have both finished their regular seasons and await bowl games. Each could conceivable accept the job if offered at any time and forego the bowl game. Harbaugh’s 49ers are currently 7-5 and nearly out of the bowl picture with four games remaining. If the 49ers miss the playoffs, his final game is Dec. 28. It is unlikely that he would leave before then. Schiano has been out of football since being fired by the Bucs following the 2013 season.

Countdown to kickoff: 85 days

Friday, June 6th, 2014


Countdown to kickoff-85

It was that a coach didn’t have confidence in his defense

Thursday, December 27th, 2012


Michigan and South Carolina don’t share a field very often, though both programs have been around since the late nineteenth century. Likely it was distance, along with different conference play, and the Big Ten’s love of playing Pac-10 schools that makes this only the third meeting between the Gamecocks and the Wolverines.

The only other two meetings were played in the eighties, when Bo was still the head coach at Michigan and Jim Carlen (1980) and Joe Morrison (’85) were calling the shots at S.C. The second matchup was more or less a blowout by the Wolverines, but the inaugural meeting was one to remember, though it’s likely that the Maize and Blue offer their remembrances with a rather imposing garnish of sour grapes.

1980: South Carolina 17 – Michigan 14

Anthony Carter caught two touchdowns against South Carolina in 1980

Michigan went into the third game of the 1980 season a solid favorite against its newly acquainted southern opponent. And as expected, the Wolverines got off to a good start putting up a pair of touchdowns thanks to the sure-handed Anthony Carter. Michigan held the Gamecocks to a field goal before both teams headed for the tunnel to prepare for the second half, which was went the tides turned.

On its first possession, Michigan marched down the field to just inside the ten. Then came the blunder, a Stan Edwards fumble into the endzone recovered by South Carolina. The Gamecocks countered with a swing of their own, only they landed the blow with the help of soon to be Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers – the first in Gamecock history. Michigan 14 – South Carolina 10.

On Michigan’s next drive, Schembechler made a decision to attempt the fourth down conversion on his own 29-yard line. They were stopped short. Carolina ball. Touchdown. Game over.

Bo took the blame for the loss, saying “It was that a coach didn’t have confidence in his defense…we should have punted.”

The Wolverines would go on to win the Big Ten Championship, garner a Rose Bowl victory against Washington, and end up No. 4 in the final rankings with a 10-2 record. While Bo took the blame for not trusting his defense, the defense did not allow a single touchdown the final 22 quarters of the season. But that filed fourth down attempt that led to the Gamecocks’ winnings score and one of Michigan’s seven losses in 28 games against SEC opponents likely still has Bo turning in his grave.

1985: Michigan 34 – South Carolina 3

The second faceoff between the two teams washed some of the bitterness from the mouths of Michigan fans. Jamie Morris was the 15th-ranked Wolverines’ prolific rusher, and continued his dominance against South Carolina during his sophomore year. Quarterback Jim Harbaugh had a tremendous day also, helping the Wolverines put up 34 points. However, it was also the defense which caused two fumbles, and intercepted twice (once on the final play) to solidify the win for Michigan in Columbia.

This year will mark the first time the teams have meet in nearly thirty years, and the only time they have faced in a bowl game. Since the series is tied there is motivation on the part of both teams to take a one win advantage, but it’s more likely that both schools want show that since two of their losses came against opponents ranked No. 1 and 2 (granted the two teams the Wolverines played are now to face off in the national championship, but S.C.’s losses to LSU and Florida aren’t exactly embarrassing) the quality of their team is not to be underestimated. This should be one to mirror the 1980 struggle, not the lopsided victory five years later.

The Rear View Mirror Makes a Case for Denard

Monday, October 24th, 2011


It’s no secret that Denard Robinson had a bad game against Michigan State on Saturday or that his passing has not shown much improvement since last season. He went 9-for-24 last Saturday, lowering his season completion rate to 53.9 percent, and threw an interception to raise his season total to a nation-leading 11. Michigan fans across the spectrum are clamoring for Devin Gardner to replace him. So why is this guy still the starting quarterback at Michigan?

Denard already ranks in the top 10 in every passing and rushing category (photo by the Ann Arbor News)

The answer, in short, is because by the time he hangs up his jersey for the last time, Denard will be one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever don the maize and blue. You may scoff at that claim, given the number of signal-callers Michigan has sent to the NFL, but it depends on what your definition of quarterback is.

Is he the best pure, NFL-ready quarterback? No. There are probably a dozen Michigan alums that were better true pro-style quarterbacks. But college football is chalk full of effective quarterbacks who aren’t NFL-style QBs. Denard is one of the best, and the same can be said for his place in the history of college football’s all-time winningest program.

Don’t agree? Look at the numbers. He’s a year-and-a-half into his career as a starter and he already ranks in the top 10 in nearly every major offensive category, both passing and rushing.

Michigan has fielded 132 teams since the football program began in 1879. It has a history as rich as any school in the country. There have been some phenomenal players to take the field, but none have the statistical resume Robinson will have when he graduates.

Putting stats aside for a minute, the main metrics in which any player is judged – and rightfully so – are winning games, winning championships, and beating rivals. Right now, Denard trails in all three, but he’s not as far behind the greats as one would think.

He has a current record of 13-7 as a starting quarterback through his first 20 games. By contrast, Chad Henne and John Navarre were each 14-6, and Tom Brady and Elvis Grbac were 15-5. Brian Griese was 16-4 thanks to the national championship season of 1997, and Jim Harbaugh was 16-3-1. As you can see, Denard’s not far behind the recent greats in the win category. However, judging a quarterback by winning games alone is somewhat misleading unless you look at the talent he has around him.

Henne had probably the best crop of playmakers of any Michigan quarterback, with Braylon Edwards, Steve Breaston, Mario Manningham, and Adrian Arrington to throw to, Mike Hart to hand off to, and an NFL No. 1 overall pick, Jake Long, protecting him. Navarre had David Terrelle and Marquise Walker to throw to and Anthony Thomas and Chris Perry to hand off to. Griese had Amani Toomer, Tim Biakabatuka, Tai Streets, an NFL offensive line, and one of the greatest defenses of all time. Grbac had Desmond Howard, Derrick Alexander, and Ricky Powers.

Denard has some talent around him, but right now it pales in comparison to what Henne, Navarre, Griese, and Grbac had. Every single one of those above played or are playing in the NFL. How many of Denard’s current supporting cast will make it to the league?

Chad Henne is Michigan's career leader in all major passing categories, but had a losing record against rivals (photo by the Ann Arbor News)

Now that we’ve established that Denard is right on pace in the win category, lets move on to winning championships. If we’re talking national championships, then only Brian Griese can count in the modern era. We would have to go all the way back to Pete Elliott in 1948 to find the last Michigan quarterback to lay claim to that.

If we’re talking Big Ten championships, then Denard has some work to do. Henne started four years but won just one Big Ten title. Denard still has a chance –albeit slight – to achieve that this season. He also has a year left. Brady, Griese, and Harbaugh each also won one. Navarre won two, although one was in 2000 when he started just four games and split time with Drew Henson.

How about beating rivals? This has a chance to be Denard’s strongest comparison but just like winning games, this takes help. He has beaten Notre Dame both times he’s faced them – and did it almost singlehandedly each time. He’s lost twice to Michigan State and is 0-1 against Ohio State with a chance to even that record at the end of November. That would pull him to 3-3 against rivals, and with a sweep in 2012, he could get to 6-3. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Since he will play nine career rivalry games, barring injury, he’ll either finish with a winning or losing record in those games.

Henne went 5-6 (4-0 against Michigan State, 1-2 against Notre Dame, but 0-4 against Ohio State). Navarre went 4-4 (2-1 against Michigan State, 1-1 against Notre Dame, and 1-2 against Ohio State). Griese was 4-1 (2-0 against Ohio State, 1-0 against Notre Dame, and 0-1 against Michigan State). Grbac was 5-2-1 (2-0 against Ohio State, 2-1 against Michigan State, and 1-2-1 against Notre Dame). Harbaugh went 6-1 (2-0 against both Ohio State and Notre Dame, and 2-1 against Michigan State).

So by that measure, Harbaugh, Grbac, and Griese lead, but again, Denard still has a chance to achieve a winning record, which Henne and Navarre couldn’t. Only Henne had a losing record, so Denard will have to avoid doing that.

Stats-wise, Denard currently ranks 9th in career completions (272), 10th in passing yards (4,011), 9th in touchdown passes (31), 9th in 100-yard passing games (14), and 6th in 200-yard passing games (9). He also has the second-best single-game completion percentage, with his 86.3 percent performance against UConn last season, he currently ranks 5th in career completion percentage (59.9), just ahead of Henne, and 4th in career efficiency rating (145.9), ahead of both Henne and Brady. Last season’s 2,570 passing yards was the 7th-best season total in Michigan history.

By the time his career is over, Denard should conceivably rank third or fourth in every major passing category, behind only Henne and Navarre.

Rushing-wise, he’s like no other Michigan has seen. Michigan has had some agile quarterbacks, but none put up anywhere close to the rushing numbers he has so far, partially because they all had solid running backs alongside them. Denard is already second in Big Ten history for quarterback rushing yards, trailing only Illinois’ Juice Williams, and he’s just 1,080 away from passing Williams.

He currently ranks 10th in Michigan career rushing yards (2,815) and career rushing touchdowns (28). Those numbers are for any Michigan player, not just quarterbacks. He also has the highest career yards-per carry average (6.49), the 4th-best single season yardage total (1,702), and the 5th-best single game total (258). Last week, he passed Tim Biakabatuka in yards. By the time his career is over, he’ll likely rank in the top four in yards and top two or three in touchdowns.

So buckle up Michigan fans, because right now we’re witnessing one of the most prolific Michigan quarterbacks of all time, whether you like his style or not. After he graduates, Michigan will likely go back to the NFL-style signal-caller, and years from now, we’ll all look back with reverence at the Michigan legend that was Denard Robinson. Let’s put to rest the calls for Gardner.

GATOR WAIT: Gator Bowl Loss Leaves Rodriguez’s Fate in Doubt

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011


Well, to make what might be the understatement of the year for Michigan fans, that was painful. It was fun for about the first four minutes and four seconds when Denard Robinson led Michigan right down the field for an impressive touchdown. Then Mississippi State got the ball and the game was over. The Bulldogs spotted Michigan another touchdown and then proceeded to run up 42 straight points including a 31 yard touchdown pass on 4th-and-10 with a 31-point lead and 10 minutes left.

Against Ohio State or Michigan State or Wisconsin I might have been mad. But Mississippi State put on a clinic, making me envious of a fast, talented, well-coached defense. A defense that sees what the opponent’s offense is doing and makes changes to counter it. Must be nice.

Instead, I saw a Michigan defense that was consistently out of place, running from the sideline at the last second before a snap, players running across the field not knowing where to line up, and having absolutely no clue how to stop an opponent it got five weeks to prepare for. An opponent that didn’t score that many points in a game all season, including against the powerhouses of Memphis, Alcorn State, Houston, and UAB.

If Michigan could play entire games solely on offense or if football games were just 15 minutes long, Michigan might be national champions. Unfortunately, defense is half the game and games are 60 minutes long. Michigan dominated the first quarter this season, outscoring opponents 122-64. But once things settled down, we saw week after week that opposing coaches were able to make changes and Michigan’s weren’t. In second quarters this season, Michigan was outscored 194-83.

All season long, I’ve publicly supported Rich Rodriguez getting a fourth year. At this point, I’m as close to changing my mind as I have been all year. After the loss to Penn State on Oct. 30, I created the Rich Rod-ometer which showed my level of acceptance with the coach at an all-time low. Now, if I were to show an updated version, there would be just a tiny sliver of white on the right-hand side.

It’s not that I want Michigan AD Dave Brandon to let Rodriguez go; I still do think he can produce some great teams here and is headed in the right direction. But I also think that something needs to change. And that something is the defense. For the second year in Rodriguez’s three seasons Michigan allowed more points than its offense scored. The last time that happened was 1967.

I wish it could have worked out too, Coach Rob, but it's time to part ways

My opinion is that Brandon should put up as much money as it takes to get the best defensive coordinator he can possibly get, ideally West Virginia DC Jeff Casteel. I think the perception that Rodriguez doesn’t care about defense is false. He’s definitely an offensive-minded coach, but he had good defenses in Morgantown when Casteel was on his staff. Due to a mixture of lack of talent, youth, bad luck, and a poor fit with Greg Robinson, Michigan’s defense has regressed each of the past three seasons.

Yes, you can blame Rodriguez for hiring Robinson, but it’s not like he was an unproven no-name defensive coordinator. He had some credentials and two Super Bowl rings to prove it. Whether it was injuries, youth, or being forced to run Rodriguez’s 3-3-5 (I’m sure it was a combination of the three), he just didn’t work out. And now he should be shown the door where he will undoubtedly succeed somewhere else.

With nearly every defensive starter returning and getting senior cornerback Troy Woolfolk back from injury, this defense could be much improved next season, especially under Casteel or another top-notch coordinator. If it’s even average, it could be enough for a Big Ten title run next season with the talent returning on offense.

I admit that I am intrigued by the thought of Jim Harbaugh replacing Rodriguez, but I still don’t think it will yield short-term results. Harbaugh will give fans, alumni, and boosters a “Michigan Man” at the helm and he will add some fire to the Ohio State game. But he also presents a philosophy shift back to where Michigan was three years ago. All progress from the past three years will be lost and another period of growing pains will ensue. Denard will probably leave (but not to the NFL) and a number of others will too.

Remember, Harbaugh’s resurrection of Stanford followed nearly the exact same evolution as Rodriguez’s has at Michigan (4-8, 5-7, 8-5 with a bowl loss, and now 11-1, compared to Rodriguez’s 3-5, 5-7, 7-6 to date).  With a revamped defensive staff, next year’s Michigan team certainly has the talent for a similar season as Stanford’s this year. And that’s where my hesitation with giving up on Rodriguez lies.

Keeping everything intact is not an option at this point. So if something has to change I think keeping Rodriguez and going after Casteel or another top-notch defensive coordinator has the same long-term potential as firing Rodriguez and hiring Harbaugh. The difference for me is in the short-term. I think Rodriguez with an experienced offense led by a junior Denard and even an average defense will have a better season than Harbaugh without Denard and possibly several others, running a different offense than what has been run the past three years.

Ultimately, the decision rests with Brandon and I know he has done his due diligence and will make the best decision for the University of Michigan. Whether that’s sticking with Rodriguez or bringing back Captain Comeback, I’ll support it 100 percent. But despite the letdown this New Years Day, I still think Rodriguez’s best days are ahead.