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Posts Tagged ‘Jourdan Lewis’

#3 Michigan vs Illinois game preview

Friday, October 21st, 2016

um-illinois-game-preview-header(Isaiah Hole, 247 Sports)

Previously this week: Midseason comparison: Offense, First Look, Five-Spot Challenge, Tailgate Tuesday, Midseason comparison: Defense, Big Ten power rankings, The Numbers Game

Fresh off a bye week, Michigan opens the second half of its season tomorrow with a matchup against Illinois. The Homecoming tradition is to schedule an easy opponent so that alums who make the annual fall pilgrimage back to campus can see a sure win, and aside from Michigan’s last opponent — Rutgers — this is as close as one can get.

Quick Facts
Michigan Stadium – 3:30p.m. ET – BTN
Illinois Head Coach: Lovie Smith (1st season)
Coaching Record: 2-4, 1-2 Big Ten (89-87 NFL)
Offensive Coordinator: Garrick McGee (1st season)
Defensive Coordinator: Hardy Nickerson (1st season)
Last Season: 5-7 (2-6 Big Ten)
Last Meeting: UM 45 – IL 0 (2012)
All-Time Series: Michigan 69-23-2
Record in Ann Arbor: Michigan 33-11-1
Jim Harbaugh vs Illinois First meeting
Last Michigan win: 2012 (45-0)
Last Illinois win: 2009 (38-13)
Current Streak: Michigan 3
Illinois Schedule to date
Opponent Result
Murray State W 52-3
North Carolina L 23-48
Western Michigan L 10-34
at #15 Nebraska L 16-31
Purdue L 31-34
at Rutgers W 24-7

It has been a rarity this season that the narrative leading up to a Michigan game hasn’t centered around something the opposing coach said about Jim Harbaugh or something Harbaugh did over the summer that hurt the opposing coach’s feelings. But for this one, the main talk has been about the NFL pedigree of the two opposing coaches. For the first time in college football history, two coaches that once coached in a a Super Bowl will face each other at the college level.

Lovie Smith spent 19 years in the NFL, going 81-63 in nine seasons as head coach of the Chicago Bears, which included a loss in Super Bowl XLI, and 8-24 in two seasons in Tampa Bay. When Illinois came calling in the offseason he returned to the college game for the first time since 1995 when he was the defensive backs coach at Ohio State. Illinois is his first collegiate head coaching gig, but he spent 13 seasons between Tulsa, Wisconsin, Arizona State, Kentucky, Tennessee, and OSU before moving up.

His Illini are just 2-4 so far this season and 1-2 in the Big Ten. A 24-7 win at Rutgers last Saturday was Smith’s first win over an FBS team — the other was a 52-3 season-opening win over Murray State which is just 1-5 and ranks 115th in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).

Illinois lost to North Carolina (48-23), Western Michigan (34-10), No. 15 Nebraska (31-16), and Purdue (34-31).

Although this will be Harbaugh’s first time coaching against Illinois, he and Smith faced each other once in the NFL when Harbaugh’s San Francisco 49ers topped Smith’s Bears 32-7 in 2012. As a player, Harbaugh went 1-0-1 against the Illini with a 3-3 tie in 1985 and a 69-13 win in ’86. He missed the 1984 win after breaking his arm three weeks prior.

Let’s take a look at the matchups.

When Illinois has the ball

Smith has been a defensive coach every step of his career, so he hired an experienced offensive coordinator who has held the same position at Northwestern, Arkansas, and Louisville. Garrick McGee’s 2011 Arkansas offense led the SEC in total offense, and with the additional title of quarterbacks coach, he developed Ryan Mallett into one of the school’s best passers. His 2007 Northwestern offense led the Big Ten in both passing and total offense. He also spent 2012 and 2013 as the head coach of UAB, where he went just 5-19.

His first Illinois offense isn’t nearly where he wants it to be, ranking 10th in the Big Ten and 84th nationally in scoring (26 points per game), sixth in the Big Ten and 49th nationally in rushing (189.8 yards per game), 12th in the Big Ten and 103rd nationally in passing (181.5 yards per game), and 12th in the Big Ten and 99th nationally in total offense (371.3 yards per game).

Senior quarterback Wes Lunt has completed 60.5 percent of his passes for 840 yards, six touchdowns, and just one interception. However, he missed the Rutgers game last Saturday after an injury sustained against Purdue. In his absence, sophomore Chayce Crouch has completed 18-of-32 passes (56.2 percent) for 249 yards, one touchdowns, and one pick. He’s more of a dual-threat option as he went 10-of-14 for 142 yards and rushed 17 times for 137 yards and two touchdowns when he came in in relief against Purdue. But against Rutgers, he was just 6-of-14 for 92 yards and managed just 25 yards on the ground.

Junior running back Kendrick Foster leads the team in rushing with 384 yards and five touchdowns on 6.2 yards per carry. That yards per carry average is inflated by a four-carry, 118-yard performance against Murray State in the opener. Against FBS competition, he’s averaging a much more mediocre 4.6 yards per carry. Redshirt freshman Reggie Corbin is the second leading rusher with 325 yards and one touchdown but leads the team with 9.3 yards per carry. In all four games he has played in, Corbin has hit a run of at least 31 yards. Sophomore Ke’Shawn Vaughn is the other back who sees regular carries and he has 221 yards and two scores on 5.0 yards per carry.

Junior receiver Malik Turner is the one player on the Illini offense that ranks among the Big Ten best. His 71.2 receiving yards per game rank fifth in the conference and his 5.2 receptions per game rank fourth. He topped 100 yards against both Western Michigan (107) and Purdue (129) with nine catches in each. However, he caught just two passes for 18 yards against Rutgers last week and he hasn’t found the end zone since. Turner is by far the favorite target of the Illini quarterbacks as the second leading receiver, senior Justin Hardee, has just 11 catches for 106 yards. Vaughn and Corbin actually rank third and fifth on the team in receiving.

The Illinois offensive line has been a revolving door this season. Although the same five players have started most of the games, they’ve rotated positions to the point that not one of the five positions along the line has had the same starter in all six games. The most consistent has been the center position where senior Joe Spencer has started the last five games and has 31 career starts. Sophomore Nick Allegretti has started all six games, but began the season at center, played four games at right guard, then started last week’s game at left guard. Similarly, junior Christian DiLauro, who started all 12 games at left tackle last season, has switched between that spot to right tackle this season. Senior Austin Schmidt has flip flopped with DiLauro, starting two games at right tackle and three at left tackle. The spot that has been the most inconsistent has been left guard, which has seen four different starters in six games. True freshman Darta Lee started the Murray State and Nebraska games, redshirt freshman Gabe Megginson started the North Carolina and Purdue games — and also started at right guard last week –, junior Jordan Fagan started the Western Michigan game, and Allegretti started last week.

When Michigan has the ball

While Smith is a defensive coach, he turned to Hardy Nickerson, who coached under him at both of his NFL stops, to run his Illinois defense. After a 16-year NFL playing career, Nickerson got his coaching start under Smith as the Chicago Bears’ linebackers coach in 2007. He spent 2009-13 as head coach of Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland, Calif. before getting back into the NFL as the linebackers coach under Smith in Tampa Bay in 2014-15. He left the same position in San Francisco to become Smith’s defensive coordinator in Champaign.

His defense this season 10th in the Big Ten and 61st nationally in scoring defense (26.2 points per game), 11th in the Big Ten and 86th nationally against the run (185.2 yards allowed per game), seventh in the Big Ten and 32nd nationally against the pass (203.3 yards allowed per game), and 11th in the Big Ten and 57th nationally in total defense (388.5 yard allowed per game). They also rank 12th in the Big Ten and 106th nationally in third-down defense, allowing opponents to convert 46 percent of the time. By comparison, Michigan leads the nation at 12 percent.

The most dangerous player on the Illini defense is senior defensive end Dawuane Smoot, who has eight tackles for loss, one sack, and a team-leading five quarterback hurries. But weakside end, senior Carroll Phillips, leads the team with 11 tackles for loss and four sacks. The interior linemen are solid even if they tend to give up run lanes. Senior Chunky Clements — a former high school teammate of Mike McCray — has 2.5 sacks, while freshman Kenyon Jackson has nine tackles, but none for loss. Senior Rob Bain and redshirt freshman Jamal Milan are a big part of the rotation with a combined 5.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.

Unfortunately for Smith, he doesn’t have Brian Urlacher or Lance Briggs at linebacker. He does, however, have Nickerson’s son, grad transfer Hardy Nickerson, who transferred from Cal where he started for three seasons. He currently leads the Big Ten with 9.7 tackles per game and also has two interceptions from the MIKE position. The other two starting linebackers are sophomore WILL Tre Watson and sophomore SAM Julian Jones. Watson ranks third on the team with 41 tackles, while Jones will be making his third start of the season and has 16 tackles, two for loss.

The secondary is susceptible even though Illinois does rank 32nd nationally in pass defense. Sophomore cornerback Chris James leads the team with three pass breakups, while junior Jaylen Dunlap has two and ranks fourth on the team with 33 tackles. Senior Darius Mosley leads the team in total takeaways with two interceptions and a fumble recovery. The safeties are redshirt freshman Patrick Nelson and senior Taylor Barton, who have a combined 68 tackles, 3.5 for loss, half a sack, an interception, and a fumble recovery.

The other third

Sophomore Chase McLaughlin has made 9-of-12 in his first season as Illinois’ field goal kicker with a long of 48, though he has missed three of his last four after starting 8-of-8. Senior punters Ryan Frain and David Reisner have combined to average just 40.5 yards per punt, which ranks eighth in the Big Ten. They have downed 11 of 36 inside the 20 with only three touchbacks.

Foster is the main kick returner, averaging 22.5 yards per return with a long of 39, while Mosely handles punt returns where he averages 5.5 yards per return with a long of 22.


Given Illinois’ inability to defend the run — they allow 224.2 yards per game against FBS competition and Rutgers rushed for 203 yards last week — another big day on the ground should be expected for a Michigan offense that ranks second in the Big Ten and 15th nationally in rushing. Will the Wolverines break 400 rushing yards like they did against Rutgers? Probably not, but they should top 300. I also think we’ll see a little more of Wilton Speight than we did against Rutgers when he threw just 13 passes. Having a strong ground game is great, but we can’t forget that Michigan only rushed for 130 against Wisconsin. The passing game needs to be strong as well, especially as the Big Ten title hunt enters the home stretch. Finally, I expect the offense to show a few new plays or formations that they worked on over the weekend specifically to set up plays for the Michigan State game next Saturday.

Defensively, Michigan will shut down the Illinois offense, but surrender one touchdown on a big run. If Lunt starts, he’s not a threat to run and Michigan’s defensive line will tee off on him. If Crouch starts, the Illini will have the dual-threat option and he’ll pull off a couple of first down runs on broken plays, but he won’t be able to do enough to cause concern. Jourdan Lewis will shut down Turner, rendering the Illinois passing game useless, and the rush defense will hold them under 100 yards.

Michigan is favored by 38.5 points and I expect them to cover. I think this game will be very similar to the Rutgers game two weeks ago, but to a lesser degree. Michigan won’t score 78 for the second straight game, they won’t top 600 total yards, and Illinois will get more than 39 total yards. But Michigan will still win big.

Michigan 56 – Illinois 7

Midseason comparison: Michigan’s 2016 defense vs 2015 defense

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016

michigan-d-vs-wisconsin(Isaiah Hole, 247 Sports)

On Sunday, we showed how this season’s offense has outperformed last season’s offense at the midpoint of the season against a comparable schedule and slightly better defenses. Today, we take a look at how Don Brown’s first Michigan defense compares to D.J. Durkin’s one and only Michigan defense.

As I said on Sunday, the six opponents Michigan has faced to date have essentially the exact same record as the first six a year ago (20-14 compared to 20-13), so strength of schedule is comparable. One difference to keep in mind is that a year ago Michigan opened its season on the road in a hostile environment at Utah and also played Maryland on the road, whereas this year the only road game thus far has been at Rutgers.

Let’s start the comparison by taking a look at Michigan’s scoring defense.

Scoring Defense

scoring-defenseScoring defense average (national ranking in circle) 

This year’s defense started the season strong, holding Hawaii to just three points. Hawaii has averaged 34.4 points in its other five games. But UCF scored 14 and Colorado 28 in the next two games, and all of the sudden some began to be concerned about the Michigan defense. Michigan rebounded with just 17 points allowed over its next three games to hit the midseason point as the nation’s top scoring defense. The Wolverines’ defense held five of six opponents to their lowest point total of the season to date — the only outlier being Colorado, which only scored 17 points against USC two weeks ago.

Last year’s defense struggled in a season opening loss at Utah, allowing 24 points, but settled in and allowed just 14 points total in its next five games, three of which were shutouts. Like this year’s defense, it lead the nation in scoring defense at the midway point. But that’s where the wheels fell off for last year’s defense, which allowed 26 points or more in four of its final seven games. After allowing just 6.3 points per game in its first six games, Michigan’s scoring average during the final seven games was 25.

The scoring offenses Michigan faced in the first six games a year ago were worse than those they  have faced so far this year with an average national ranking of 80.8 compared to 67.3 this year. The best offense of the six Michigan faced last year was BYU (40th), and three of the six ranked in the bottom fourth nationally. This year, Colorado currently ranks 22nd in scoring, UCF is 43rd, and only one — Rutgers — ranks in the bottom fourth (125th).

So while Michigan’s 2015 defense allowed fewer points in the first six games than this year’s (38 compared to 62), it faced less potent offenses.


Let’s take a look at the run defense.

Rushing Defense

rush-defenseRush defense average (national ranking in circle) 

There is one major outlier throwing off the current defense’s numbers and that’s Week 2 where you see the big spike. UCF rushed for 275 yards despite losing 51-14, thanks to a couple of big runs including an 87-yarder. But that’s the exception rather than the rule. In Michigan’s other five games, the Wolverines’ run defense has held opponents to just 64 yards per game on the ground for a paltry 1.97 yards per carry.

Last season, Michigan gave up 127 yards to Utah in the opener but then ran off six straight games of allowing 92 yards or fewer on the ground. In the five games between Utah and midseason, the U-M defense allowed just 53.6 rushing yards per game on 1.89 yards per carry. After midseason, however, five of the final seven opponents topped 100 yards with Indiana and Ohio State gashing the Wolverines for 307 and 369, respectively. Nose tackle Ryan Glasgow’s injury played a big part in that drop-off.

Although the current squad has allowed more rushing yards per game at this point, both defenses surrendered just two rushing touchdowns through six games. And if this year’s team is to win the Big Ten title, it will need to avoid the fall-off that last year’s team suffered.


How about the pass defense?

Passing Defense

pass-defensePass defense average (national ranking in circle) 

This category is a little bit more even year over year as both units were outstanding in the first half of the season. Last year, Michigan gave up over 200 passing yards to Utah in the opener, but didn’t allow more than 143 in its next five games. However, in the first two games of the second half of the season, Michigan State and Minnesota both topped 300 passing yards.

This year’s pass defense struggled against Colorado, allowing 261 passing yards, but has allowed 88 or fewer in three of six games, including just five to Rutgers the last time out. Opponents are completing just 42.3 percent of their passes against this year’s defense compared to 47.7 percent at the midway point a year ago.

Can this year’s pass defense continue its pace? One disparity between this year’s and last year’s is quarterback pressure. This year’s defense has recorded 24 sacks compared to just 15 at this point last season. The pressure hasn’t translated into an increase in turnovers, though, as this year’s team has six picks compared to seven last season. But this year’s secondary has returned two of those interceptions for touchdowns compared to one at this point last season.

Finally, let’s look at the defense as a whole.

Total Defense

total-defenseTotal defense average (national ranking in circle) 

There was a big disparity in Week 1 as Utah racked up 105 more yards on the Michigan defense than Hawaii did this year, but as we hit the midseason point, the two units find themselves both ranking first nationally. Last year’s defense allowed 31.5 fewer yards per game.

Last year’s defense really was a tale of two halves as it allowed just 181.3 yards per game in the first six but 365.9 per game in its final seven. This year, Michigan is giving up 212.8 yards per game and it’s hard to see many teams having much success against it in the second half. The only offense Michigan faces in the next six games that ranks higher than 50th nationally in total offense is Ohio State, which ranks 12th. That bodes well for Michigan’s defense as it looks to win a championship.

M&GB staff predictions: Rutgers

Saturday, October 8th, 2016


Michigan passed its first big test of the season with a 14-7 win over No. 8 Wisconsin last week. Rutgers, meanwhile, lost to Ohio State 58-0. Michigan visits Rutgers on Saturday for its first road game of the season.

Sam picked up his first weekly prediction win last week with his prediction of Michigan 24 – Wisconsin 10. Here are this week’s picks:

Staff Predictions
Michigan Rutgers
Justin 49 7
Derick 48 3
Sam 48 3
Josh 52 7
Joe 54 3
M&GB Average 50 5

Michigan picked up a big win over a top 10 opponent last week and now hits the road for the first time this season. It’s a night game in what should be a raucous environment. If ever there was a letdown game, this would be it. I’d expect Michigan to start slowly on Saturday night, but never be in real danger of losing. Perhaps an early turnover or a few early penalties that stall the first couple drives. But once the Wolverines settle in and exert their will, they’ll pull away and cover the 30-point spread.

Expect a big rushing day for Michigan as the running back by committee keeps going and going and going. Wilton Speight won’t be asked to do too much. A few timely tosses to Jake Butt and a couple tries downfield will be all they’ll need to keep the defense honest. De’Veon Smith cracks 100 yards and either Chris Evans or Karan Higdon busts a long touchdown run.

Michigan 49 – Rutgers 7


Michigan’s last trip to Rutgers didn’t go so well, but the Scarlett Knights will see a different team this time around.

It’s Michigan’s first road game, but it should be a good game to feel things out away from home. Rutgers is coming off an ugly 58-0 loss to Ohio State and won’t have star player Janarion Grant back this season.

Michigan’s defense is one of the best Rutgers will see all season, so the loss of Grant will loom large. Jourdan Lewis and Channing Stribling have a chance to shut down a passing attack that managed just three completions and 33 yards in Columbus.

This is one of the best home games Rutgers has this season, and those fans think Michigan is a rival. But even in that atmosphere, I think Michigan will run away with the game.

Michigan 48 – Rutgers 3

Sam (1)

After a hard fought battle against Wisconsin to cap off an undefeated five game home streak, the Wolverines take to the road to play their wannabe rivals in Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights, coming off a couldn’t-have-been-worse 50-8 shellacking at the hands of their partners Ohio State, are running a defense that is on life support and sending out an offense that has no pulse. While Rutgers fans are calling this their Super Bowl, I can’t see it being much more than a leisurely walk on the beach for Michigan. The defense dominates once again while the rushing attack maintains its momentum with five touchdowns. Give me the Maize and Blue big.

Michigan 48 – Rutgers 3

Josh (1)

As I said in this week’s The Numbers Game, 2016 Rutgers is bad, and they should feel bad. If Chris Ash sticks around long enough I’m sure he’ll turn them around but for now this Rutgers team is pretty bad, on both sides of the ball.

Quarterback Chris Laviano isn’t a threat on designed runs but can make things happen if the pocket breaks down. Unfortunately for him Michigan’s defensive line will be the best he’s faced thus far and he shouldn’t break more than one or two runs. From what I’ve seen he doesn’t really ever get a chance to pass the ball downfield much because his offensive line cannot protect him. Also unfortunately for Laviano — and the entire offense — their one good player, Janarion Grant, is out. This has the makings of a shutout, but Laviano’s ability to scramble worries me. I think they’ll end up with a few points as a result of a busted play or two. That said, if Michigan was to completely bottle up a team and keep them off the scoreboard this is probably their best chance.

There isn’t much that this game will tell us about Michigan that we don’t already know. Michigan will dominate on both sides and win with ease.

Michigan should be able to play plenty of back-ups throughout the second half and that’s a good thing as the showdown with Sparty looms. I’d really like to see is Michigan get their kicking game in order. If Quinn Nordin is healthy again, and it appears he is, I’d love to see him lockdown one of those three spots, or even Ryan Tice. But someone needs to step up and get some real game action over the next two games.

I’m not sure Rutgers can score but then again Michigan has been prone to giving up big plays it shouldn’t (it just doesn’t give up many). A bad turnover by Speight sets them up in scoring position, but that’s all they manage. Michigan wins big and heads into the bye week 6-0.

Michigan 52 – Rutgers 7

Joe (3)

The first road game of the season comes after the biggest test so far. That battle against Wisconsin will help this team down the line, but not this week. This Rutgers team is a bad football team. I’ve tried to find some positives to talk about but the best that I can come up with is how the best players from this state wear Maize and Blue. Let’s start with the quarterback play. Ughhhh. Moving on to the defense. Blaaaahhh. Special teams may be even as long as they can make 50 percent of their field goal attempts. Heck, we’d take that right about now. This one will get ugly fast! The defense will get pressure and force two turnovers a half, maybe more, and the ground game will be a focal point as the Wolverines try to gel with a new left tackle. I can’t see this one staying close any longer than it takes to cook a few brats on the grill. Michigan big.

Michigan 54 – Rutgers 3

#4 Michigan 14 – #8 Wisconsin 7: Just enough

Sunday, October 2nd, 2016

um-vs-wisconsin-by-bryan-fuller(Bryan Fuller)

It was ugly at times. It was sloppy at times. It got tense at times. But Michigan did what good teams do. Despite three missed field goals the Wolverines ground out a 14-7 win over 8th-ranked Wisconsin to remain perfect on the season.

After averaging 52 points per game through the first four weeks of the season, Michigan’s offense had trouble putting points on the board against the nation’s 7th-best scoring defense. But it was Michigan’s own defense that rose to the occasion and shut down Wisconsin’s offense, holding the Badgers to just 159 total yards — their fewest in at least 13 years.

The Wolverines recorded two sacks, but bottled up Wisconsin’s running game to the tune of 2.5 yards per carry and kept quarterback Alex Hornibrook under pressure all afternoon. The freshman who shined in a 30-6 win over Michigan State a week prior went just 9-of-25 for 88 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.

Final Stats
Michigan Wisconsin
Score 14 7
Record 5-0, 2-0 4-1, 1-1
Total Yards 349 159
Net Rushing Yards 326 70
Net Passing Yards 130 71
First Downs 21 8
Turnovers 1 3
Penalties-Yards 6-45 3-30
Punts-Yards 7-326 9-321
Time of Possession 35:41 24:19
Third Down Conversions 3-of-15 4-of-15
Fourth Down Conversions 0-of-0 0-of-1
Sacks By-Yards 2-13 4-32
Field Goals 0-for-3 0-for-0
PATs 2-for-2 1-for-1
Red Zone Scores-Chances 1-of-3 1-of-1
Red Zone Scores-TDs 1-of-3 1-of-1
Full Box Score

Michigan moved the ball well in the first quarter with 108 total yards on 15 plays and scored the first points of the game on the first play of the second quarter. They also reached the Wisconsin 13 on the next possession before the drive stalled, but Kenny Allen missed a 31-yard field goal. He missed a 45-yarder on Michigan’s next possession and Michigan took a 7-0 lead into the half.

Michigan opened the second half with a promising drive, but it ended with the first interception Wilton Speight has thrown since his first pass of the season. Wisconsin capitalized with a 31-yard touchdown drive to tie the game. But Michigan’s defense clamped down the rest of the way, yielding just 34 yards on Wisconsin’s final six possessions — just 1.9 yards per play.

Michigan broke the deadlock with a 46-yard touchdown pass from Speight to Amara Darboh with just under eight minutes remaining. Three Wisconsin possessions later, Jourdan Lewis sealed the game with a spectacular one-handed interception.

The Michigan offense amassed 349 yards of offense, the most Wisconsin’s defense has allowed so far this season. Speight went 20-of-32 for 219 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. De’Veon Smith led Michigan with with 66 yards on 17 carries, while Ty Isaac and Chris Evans each got eight carries and went for 48 and 34 yards, respectively. Darboh caught six passes for 87 yards and the touchdown.

Defensively, Michigan held Wisconsin to its worst offensive performance of the season by far. The Badgers’ previous worst was 317 yards against Michigan State last week and Michigan held them to half of that. Corey Clement rushed for 66 yards on 17 carries and Wisconsin converted just 4-of-15 third-downs.

Michigan (5-0, 2-0) hits the road for the first time this season for a primetime tilt with Rutgers (2-3, 0-2) next Saturday. The Scarlet Knights lost 58-0 to Ohio State on Saturday.

Game Ball – Offense

Amara Darboh (6 catches, 87 yards, 1 touchdown)
Michigan’s offense struggled to move the ball consistently for most of the game and converted just 3-of-15 third downs, but senior receiver Amara Darboh made two big plays in the fourth quarter that ultimately won the game. On 3rd-and-7 from the Michigan 39, Darboh caught a slant for a first down across midfield. On the very next play, he beat the Wisconsin cornerback down the sideline and caught a perfectly thrown deep ball for the game-winning touchdown.

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)

Game Ball – Defense

Channing Stribling (2 tackles, 2 interceptions, 2 pass breakups)
This week’s defensive game ball could have very easily gone to Ryan Glasgow for clogging the middle of the line and bottling up Wisconsin’s running game. But when a defensive back records two interceptions — and nearly a third — he gets the game ball. Channing Stribling has always played second fiddle to Jourdan Lewis in Michigan’s secondary, but although Lewis’ interception was the highlight of the game, Stribling shut down the Wisconsin passing game. His second interception, when Wisconsin was trying to put together a game-tying drive with less than four minutes remaining, effectively sealed the game.

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)

M&GB staff predictions – Penn State

Friday, September 23rd, 2016


Michigan opens Big Ten play on Saturday against 2-1 Penn State. The Nittany Lions are three games into a new up-tempo spread offense that has fans in State College excited, but is still in its infancy. They’re also missing their entire linebacking corps.

Joe was the winner of our staff predictions last week with his prediction of Michigan 45 – Colorado 17. He now has the lead in our staff picks challenge. Here are our picks for this week:

Staff Predictions
Michigan Penn State
Justin 48 20
Derick 38 20
Sam 34 10
Josh 38 13
Joe 42 10
M&GB Average 40 15

This game just has the makings of a big Michigan win. The Wolverines faced adversity for the first time this season last week and showed they can overcome it. Now, with that added confidence, they’ll kick off conference play with a convincing win.

Like Michigan’s previous opponents, Penn State will load the box to stop the run and force Wilton Speight to beat them. But the Nittany Lions won’t be able to get consistent pressure on Speight and he’ll approach 300 yards passing. Watch for another big game from Jake Butt, who will capitalize on Penn State’s linebacker inexperience.

On the other side of the ball, Moorhead will try to keep the PSU offense moving quickly, getting the ball out of McSorley’s hands quickly and utilizing his feet. Michigan may give up a few big plays and some points, but it won’t be consistent. McSorley hasn’t faced the type of pressure Michigan will bring and will make a couple of mistakes. Michigan’s defense leads the nation on third down, allowing opponents to convert just 11 percent, while Penn State’s offense ranks 118th, converting just 27.3 percent. That doesn’t spell success with Don Brown bringing the heat.

Michigan 48 – Penn State 20


I think the up-tempo offensive style of Penn State will give Michigan some issues, but if Jourdan Lewis returns, the secondary will obviously have a huge lift.

On offense, Michigan will have to keep being creative in the running game to open things up for Wilton Speight in the short passing game.

I don’t think Penn State is much better than Colorado, but this might be Michigan’s toughest test to date. With that said, Michigan’s wake up call came last weekend and I expect Jim Harbaugh will have them firing on all cylinders to start Big Ten play.

Michigan will cruise past Penn State, 38-20.

Michigan 38 – Penn State 20


Michigan cruised through weeks 1 and 2 against clearly inferior competition…then came week 3 against a Colorado team that we also thought would be a mere speed hump (not even a bump!). Alas, as the first quarter was drawing to a close, I was already reasoning with myself that “it’s just a game”.

But the recovery came quickly, and things will hopefully be back on track as Penn State comes to town tomorrow. Wilton Speight is probably not as good as the first two weeks showed, and probably not as bad as last week either.

Will it be enough to win the Big Ten? Only time can tell. But it should be plenty to beat a Penn State team that is going to struggle to find space for Saquon Barkley to run into. Taco Charlton should be back in a big way as Michigan dumps the Nittany Lions.

Michigan 34 – Penn State 10

Josh (1)

Ah, Penn State. What a wonderful team. Wait, no that’s not right. Apparently they have a saying there, “It’s -blank- o’clock and Michigan still sucks.” Yes, Michigan sucks. Clearly they haven’t checked their place in the conference hierarchy lately. Even so, I think they’ll provide yet another stout test for Michigan this week. They have a new spread-y type offense, one of the best running backs in America and a dominating defensive li… What’s that? Carl Nassib and Anthony Zettel graduated? And they’re also missing two of three starting linebackers? Oh well then, disregard any mention of their defense. So maybe the defense isn’t a force to be reckoned with anymore, but their new spread offense might be and Michigan will need to be on their best game if they want to avoid getting caught on too many busted plays again.

I’ll go ahead and say it, Saquon Barkley scares me. He is shifty, he has excellent vision and he is fast. Taking the wrong angle on him could end up with six on the scoreboard. Michigan absolutely has to contain him if they are to win this game. That said, it’s been the passing game that has generated the big plays for Penn State this year (4.67 per game, same as Michigan). Luckily, Michigan is getting Jourdan Lewis back this week so that should do wonders for the defense. And maybe Taco too? Either way, this is a game Michigan should win but will likely be test once again.

On offense – I’d like to see Wilton Speight bounce back from an iffy performance with confidence and make some big plays once again. At this point I’m not sure anyone really respects Michigan’s run game (I don’t blame them) so Penn State will probably be content to let Speight try to beat them with his arm. It would be nice to see the run game get some momentum heading into the Wisconsin match-up but my gut says Penn State is going to stack the box so I’m not so sure this is the week we see our traditional run game get going. Thank God for jet sweeps and guys like Jabrill Peppers, Jehu Chesson and Eddie McDooooooooooom. I’d also like to see the left guard spot get sorted out, as neither Ben Braden nor Ben Bredeson has looked all that good there and it’s beginning to become a concern for me as we head into the meat of the schedule.

On defense – I’d like to see them shore up some of the containment/missed assignment issues that plagued them the last two weeks as well as how they adjust to another spread/no-huddle team. Penn State isn’t exactly a tempo spread team, they are no-huddle but don’t run a ton of plays. In fact, they’re averaging almost 5.5 plays fewer per game than Michigan is right now. Either way, I’d like to see how Michigan continues to adjust to a no-huddle team. How they manage to improve upon this could be the difference between 12-0 and 10-2. Hopefully adding Jourdan Lewis back into the mix is a shot in the arm for both the pass and run defense.

For the record, I’m not too worried about Penn State causing issues here as it seems they line up quickly and look to the sideline for the play-call but it could be an issue anyway. Michigan has done a fairly good job of hiding their coverages/blitzes so far but when a defense is spread out it can become tricky to hide those blitzes as well as before. On that note…

Maybe a new wrinkle, or two, as far as formations or crazy blitzes to keep that spread offense from clicking. Don Brown has hung his hat on not only his aggressiveness but also his ability to stop spread teams, with three games under their belts I think now is the time we need to start seeing some progress on that front. Holding Penn State to under three big run plays and two big pass plays would be HUGE in my opinion. Remember, holding an opponent to under six big plays per game would be on par with a top ten ranking (stats-wise) based on 2015 big play stats. This needs to be the game where Michigan really asserts itself on defense and shuts down all those big plays they’ve been giving up lately.

On special teams – All I want to see is Kenny Allen keep his punts out of the endzone, consistently. That and maybe another block/deflection. I won’t be greedy and ask for another special teams score, OK maybe I will.

Michigan is the better team. They have better players and a far superior coaching staff. Any Penn State fan who thinks Franklin will outcoach Harbaugh (I saw it on twitter) clearly needs their head examined. Penn State will put up a fight, probably not a jump-out-to-an-early-lead like Colorado fight but a fight nonetheless. After getting punched in the mouth last week Michigan should come out focused and ready to roll. Michigan wins going away but the game is much closer than the score.

Michigan 38 – Penn State 13

Joe (2)

This is a game where the lines should dominate early and often and wear the Nittany Lions down over the course of four quarters. While the Penn State quarterback is leading the Big Ten in passing yards (second in passing yards per game) he will not have much time to survey his options. Our defensive front should have a field day and generate tons of pressures and quarterback hits. That will lead to turnovers and points for the Maize and Blue.

If Michigan can keep Saquon Barkley in check most of the time and force them to throw, things will get ugly in the second half. Barkley is the best and only option coming out of Happy Valley.

Wilton Speight should come back strong and have a solid day thru the air. I think Michigan will look to establish the run early and then open things up. Speight goes for 250 and three scores through the air with two of them going to Butt. Michigan wins this one big.

Michigan 42 – Penn State 10

M&GB staff predictions: Hawaii

Friday, September 2nd, 2016


Michigan opens its season against Hawaii tomorrow, which means it’s time for our staff to make our picks. Last season, Sam collected the most weekly wins (five) and Derick won the season-long point spread title, just three points better than Justin. Here are our picks for tomorrow’s game:

Staff Predictions
Michigan Hawaii
Justin 52 10
Derick 45 7
Sam 48 7
Josh 45 13
Joe 49 3
M&GB Average 48 8

Cal quarterback Davis Webb showed Michigan how to carve apart a porous Hawaii defense, but with Wilton Speight making his first career start, it’s a safe bet to assume he won’t be given the opportunity to chuck it up 54 times. Instead, Jim Harbaugh will look to make a statement on the ground and Michigan fans will get their first chance to see how much the offensive line has improved — although that won’t be truly evident until the Wolverines face a good team.

Last season, Hawaii traveled to Columbus and hung with Ohio State in the first half, trailing just 14-0 at halftime, but the Buckeyes wore them down for a 38-0 route. With a better offense under Rolovich this season, Hawaii would like to at least put some points on the board, but Michigan features one of the nation’s best defenses. I don’t think Michigan gets the shutout here, but I don’t think it’ll be close either.

Michigan scores early and often, Speight looks crisp and make smart decisions, the running back trio of De’Veon Smith, Ty Isaac, and Chris Evans wear down Hawaii’s defense for over 250 yards, and Michigan rolls to an easy victory. The defense allows 10 points just as it did the last time Harbaugh faced Hawaii, as a quarterback in 1986, but the offense scores more than the 27 it did back then.

Michigan 52 – Hawaii 10


For the first time in almost a decade, Michigan kicks off the football season with championship expectations. The Wolverines are ranked in the preseason top 10 and have enough talent to play with any team in the conference on any given day.

The road begins with a home matchup against Hawaii. The Rainbow Warriors were awful last season and already got waxed by California in their opener last week. Their greatest weakness in 2015 was defending the run, and Michigan will want to force the issue on the ground Saturday, especially if it builds a big lead. If things get ugly, expect to see some of the athletic freshmen Jim Harbaugh is so excited about.

On offense, Hawaii faces the tall task of blocking a Michigan front loaded with NFL talent. Redshirt senior quarterback Ikaika Woolsey took over the starting job this season, so star defensive backs Jourdan Lewis and Delano Hill will be looking to capitalize on any mistakes. Pay attention to how Michigan uses Jabrill Peppers, who moved to linebacker but could move all over the field.

Michigan will probably get ahead early and turn to the ground game to speed up the clock. I see the Wolverines winning big.

Michigan 45 – Hawaii 7


As Jim Harbaugh recently pointed out, college football is one of the few sports that has no preseason. If we’re being honest with ourselves, however, Michigan will open their Path to the Playoffs with something that should closely mimic an exhibition. All signs point to Wilton Speight leading an offense riddled with playmakers onto the field while captain Chris Wormley will trot out alongside a potentially devastating defense. Tomorrow, we’ll get our long-awaited first look at some touted prospects (looking at you, Rashan), our first taste of Michigan Football in Fall 2016, and our first glimpse of what we all hope is a special year in Harbaugh’s second season home. If the game isn’t decided by halftime, I’d be shocked. I’ll take Michigan.

Michigan 48 – Hawaii 7


Hawaii is not a very good team overall, but they did manage to put up a total of 12 big plays (8 run and 4 pass) on Cal last week. No, Cal does not have the best defense but the potential is there. So I went back and watched the game and about half of those big runs and all of the big pass plays aren’t ones that would have gone very far against Michigan.

Running back Diocemy Saint Juste’s 54-yard touchdown was aided by not one but two defensive linemen having him dead to rights and missing tackles behind the line and several linebackers and defensive backs taking bad angles and just plain whiffing. Michigan would have had Saint Juste for a loss. That said, breakdowns happen and Michigan hasn’t had any actual live fire, if you will, with their new defense. I think Hawaii will bust a few big runs that will lead to a score or two.

Michigan will win this handily, that is not in doubt, but I’m interested in seeing a few things as the ‘kinks’ are worked out with a new quarterback and a new defensive scheme.

When Michigan has the ball: What is their run/pass balance? I think we’ll see more runs than pass attempts (since there are several running backs that could be contributors this year) but I don’t expect anything exotic. Harbaugh will keep things close to the vest, as he does, and much like last year he’ll roll out new wrinkles every week. What is Wilton Speight’s (assuming internet rumors are true) command of the offense? I was never in the ‘O’Korn as the heir apparent’ camp. I think Speight’s floor is much higher and Harbaugh was going to sacrifice upside for a steady hand at quarterback given the defense they have. I think Speight will look better than most expect — not late season Rudock but definitely better than early to mid-season Rudock. I think we’ll see something we can all get behind and say “this guy can lead us to a Big Ten title” but not a “holy cow this guy is gonna break all the passing records.” And I’m fine with that.

When Hawaii has the ball, I don’t expect a ton of blitzes. Some, yes, but not a lot. Again, Harbaugh is gonna keep things close to the vest. I mean, this is the guy who refused to give Hawaii some scrimmage tape before the game, so why would he tip his hand to future opponents? I am very interested in seeing how Rashan Gary plays, as we all are, but more importantly I want to see how much havoc the defensive line as a whole creates. If they can be who we think they can be then the linebacker depth/experience does not become an issue later on. Yes, caveats apply here as Hawaii is not very good but if Michigan is not completely dominant then I might have some concerns.

On the back end I’d like to see a pick or two. Ikaiaka Woolsey is not an accurate passer (50 percent) and if he’s being pressured I think we’ll see a few errant throws. Michigan needs to take advantage of these opportunities this year. Remember, only SIX teams forced fewer turnovers than Michigan did in 2015. If they want to compete for a playoff spot that has to change, and taking advantage of opportunities to pick off some passes is where it will likely come.

Harbaugh is not opposed to playing his starters deep into games nor is he afraid to run up the score (ask Pete Carroll or Rutgers) but I think we’ll see plenty of the back-ups in the fourth quarter of this one.

Michigan 45 – Hawaii 13


It’s really here.  I can’t believe we start the season in less than 24 hours. The build-up has been like nothing I’ve ever seen as a Michigan fan and I hope it lives up to the hype.  I think this one goes Michigan’s way from the first play and is lead by a stout defensive line. They will get after a tired Hawaii team from the very start.  We will see a constant rotation of bigger, stronger, and faster Wolverines against an inferior Hawaii squad.

Coach Brown will attack initially and try and set the tone to build on. I think we will see a lot of pressure from the linebacking corps as well as the defensive line. This will lead to several turnovers and give the good guys great field position.

As far as the offense goes, I think Speight will get the nod and lead the Wolverines to several first quarter touchdowns. Michigan will establish the running game and wear down the Rainbows with an elite offensive line. This one gets ugly early and fun to watch late as the Wolverines win big.

Michigan 49 – Hawaii 3

Predicting Michigan 2016: The special teams

Friday, September 2nd, 2016

Predicting Michgian 2016-SpecialTeams

Kenny Allen(Duane Burleson, AP)

Previous: Quarterbacks, Running Backs, Wide Receivers, Tight Ends, Offensive Line, Defensive Line, Linebackers, Secondary

Michigan’s special teams units was a bit of a train wreck during the tenures of Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke, but Jim Harbaugh helped shore things up in his first season.

Well, mostly.

Michigan did have some special teams blunders – none as infamous as the botched punt against Michigan State. But, in general, Michigan was solid in the kicking and return games.

Most of the major special teams contributors return, with the exception of Blake O’Neill at punter. Here’s how Michigan should stack up on each unit.

Field goal kicking:

Michigan’s starting field goal kicking job was a bit of a mystery heading into 2015, but former walk-on Kenny Allen stepped up and took control of the job. Allen converted 18 of 22 chances as a redshirt junior – including 15 of 16 successful attempts from fewer than 40 yards. Allen was perfect on extra points, converting all 46 attempts.

Allen was steady enough last season to assume he’ll take the field Saturday as the starting field goal kicker. But if he struggles, Michigan recruited a capable backup who should provide some insurance.

Quinn Nordin committed to Harbaugh after a recruiting slumber party and a decommitment from Penn State. He was the No. 1 ranked kicker in his class and projects as an accurate field goal kicker. Nordin’s career long field goal came from 51 yards out in high school.

Allen has proven himself as a reliable kicker, so Nordin would probably have to be phenomenal to steal that job from him preseason.

Career Stats – Allen
Year FG Made FG Att FG% Long PATs
2013 0 0 0 0 0
2014 0 0 0 0 0
2015 18 22 81.8 47 46-46 (100%)
Totals 18 22 81.8 47 46-46 (100%)

Allen was also very solid on kickoffs last season, averaging 61.4 yards over 78 kicks. He recorded 34 touchbacks.
In his senior year of high school, 19 of Nordin’s 23 kickoffs went for touchbacks. He has a bigger leg than Allen, but, as I said with the field goal kicking, will have to outshine Allen enough to take the job away from a steady starter.

Career Stats – Allen
Year Kickoffs Yards Avg Touchbacks
2013 0 0 0 0
2014 0 0 0 0
2015 78 4,791 61.4 34
Totals 78 4,791 61.4 34

With O’Neill out of eligibility and Michigan looking for a new starting punter, Harbaugh has a few legitimate options he could turn to.

Allen has punted twice in his college career: A 51-yard boot in 2013 and a 57-yard blast for a touchback in the 2016 Citrus Bowl. Allen has a big enough leg to handle punting duties, but Harbaugh might want to split things up with Allen already likely handling the majority of the kicking.

Nordin averaged 52.9 yards per punt as a high school senior, with seven of his 10 attempts going for at least 50 yards. Six of his punts were downed inside the 20-yard line and he notched a career-long of 67 yards.

Nordin can handle punting, but would Harbaugh hand such an important job to a true freshman after punting burned the Wolverines last season? We can only guess. Nordin will be anxious to have a starting job with last year’s starter gone, but it’s possible Allen will take all three starting spots.

The other kickers and punters on the roster are James Foug, Ryan Tice, and Will Hart.

Career Stats – Allen
Year Punts Yards Average Long TB FC In-20 Blk
2013 1 51 51.0 51 0 1 0 0
2014 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2015 1 57 57.0 57 1 0 0 0
Totals 2 108 54.0 57 1 1 0 0

For the first time since Steve Breaston wore the Maize and Blue, Michigan posed legitimate home run threats in both the kick and punt return games last season. And the Wolverines return all five players who returned a pick or kick last season.

Jabrill Peppers leads the way on punt returns, averaging 11.4 yards per punt return in 17 attempts last season. He’s clearly the most athletic player on the team, so his big play potential is through the roof. Peppers only returned eight kicks last season, but averaged nearly 30 yards per return. He’ll be a weapon in both return games again in 2016.

Career Stats – Peppers
Year Ret Yards Yds/Ret Long TD
2014 1 6 6.0 0 0
2015 17 194 11.4 41 0
Totals 18 200 11.1 41 0

Jourdan Lewis was nearly as good as Peppers returning kicks, averaging 25.2 yards over 15 returns. Lewis is fast and can change direction quickly, but he doesn’t have the vision of Peppers, who refined his skills as a return specialist in high school. The All-American cornerback will likely be among the team’s primary kick returners to start the season.

Career Stats – Lewis
Year Ret Yards Yds/Ret Long TD
2013 1 18 18.0 18 0
2014 1 6 6.0 6 0
2015 15 378 25.2 55 0
Totals 17 402 23.6 55 0

Star wide receiver and team MVP Jehu Chesson dipped his toes into the kick return pool, returning four kicks for an average of 41.5 yards. Chesson exploded for his first return touchdown during the opening play vs. Northwestern, setting the tone for a blowout Michigan win. Chesson is a versatile offensive weapon, so he’ll likely get his turn on special teams as a redshirt senior.

Career Stats – Chesson
Year Ret Yards Yds/Ret Long TD
2012 0 0 0 0 0
2013 2 36 18.0 19 0
2014 0 0 0 0 0
2015 4 166 41.5 96 1
Totals 6 202 33.7 96 1

Other returners to watch include Dymonte Thomas, Amara Darboh, Chris Evans, Khaleke Hudson, Eddie McDoom, Nate Johnson, Kekoa Crawford, and David Long.

Predicting Michigan 2016: The secondary

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

Predicting Michgian 2016-SecondaryJourdan Lewis

Previous: Quarterbacks, Running Backs, Wide Receivers, Tight Ends, Offensive Line, Defensive Line, Linebackers

We’ll go from one extreme to the next as Michigan’s secondary couldn’t look more different than the linebackers heading into Jim Harbaugh’s second season as head coach.

While no starters returned in the linebacking core, Michigan returns a ton of its top talent in the secondary, including one of the best cornerbacks in the country and four other starters.

Returning starters:

Michigan’s secondary – and likely the entire defense – will be led by All-American cornerback Jourdan Lewis. Lewis returned to Michigan for his senior season after breaking out as one of the nation’s best cover corners in 2015. Lewis defended an incredible 20 passes in 13 games and picked off two passes. He locked down each team’s top receiver and figures to do so again this year, allowing Michigan’s other corners to take lesser assignments. There’s no better cornerback in the nation.

Safety Dymonte Thomas is a popular pick to break out this season (Mark Lomoglio, Icon Sportswire)

Safety Dymonte Thomas is a popular pick to break out this season (Mark Lomoglio, Icon Sportswire)

Beside Lewis will be senior cornerbacks Channing Stribling and Jeremy Clark. Stribling enjoyed his best season in 2015, breaking up three passes and grabbing two interceptions in 11 games. Stribling is a solid tackler and made strides in coverage last season. He should be the team’s second best player in coverage this year.

Clark had his ups and downs in 2015. While he finished the year with three passes defended and three interceptions, he left some opportunities out to dry and got burned a few times downfield. Clark will likely start the season as the team’s No. 3 cornerback, but he puts himself in more positions to force turnovers than Stribling. His high-risk, high-reward style will reap its rewards.

At safety, Michigan returns two strong veterans who enter their final season as Wolverines. Thanks to Brady Hoke’s decision not to use redshirts, Dymonte Thomas and Delano Hill are in their last year at Michigan.

Hill was excellent in 2015, starting eight games at safety and hitting his stride late in the Big Ten season. Hill broke out in a big way at Indiana, when he recorded 10 tackles and broke up Indiana’s attempt to tie the game at the goal line in overtime. Hill’s greatest attribute is his support in stopping the running game. He gets good reads and isn’t afraid to go up to the line to make stops.

His partner in crime, Thomas, is more of a pass defender. Thomas didn’t have any tackles for loss in his first three seasons, but he did break up seven passes in 2015. He’s a luxury for Michigan downfield, as he can provide help for Stribling and Clark over the top. The safety tandem complements each other in the run and pass game and Michigan will be in good hands in the secondary.

Career Stats – Lewis
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF PDef INT
38 79 29 108 1.0 5.0 1 28 4
Career Stats – Stribling
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF PDef INT
34 34 6 40 0.0 1.0 1 3 2
Career Stats – Clark
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF PDef INT
32 25 14 39 0.0 0.0 0 4 3
Career Stats – Thomas
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF PDef INT
34 41 17 58 0.0 0.0 1 7 0
Career Stats – Hill
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF PDef INT
33 47 20 67 0.0 2.5 1 2 0
Potential contributors:

Michigan has two redshirt freshmen who have a chance to contribute for the first time in 2016 after patrolling the sidelines last season. The first is Tyree Kinnel, a supremely talented safety out of Huber Heights, Ohio. Kinnel is another safety who provides great support in the running game. He’s a reliable tackler and athletic enough to make stops in space.

Keith Washington will be a player to watch at cornerback after committing to Michigan out of Prattville, Alabama. He might be the fastest player on the team, but his coverage skills will dictate whether or not he sees the field in 2016.

Career Stats – Kinnel
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF PDef INT
Career Stats – Washington
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF PDef INT
New faces:

Cornerback isn’t a friendly position for true freshmen on contending teams, but Michigan did welcome some very good recruits to Ann Arbor. David Long projects as an elite cover corner and could probably contribute this season in a backup role or as an injury replacement. Long has all the tools to match up man-to-man with receivers: speed, quickness and very good anticipation. If he can learn the college game quickly, he’ll be an impact corner in the future.

Lavert Hill came to Michigan with even more buzz than Long, thanks to dominance at Detroit King High School and the long recruiting battle between Michigan and MSU. Hill is another very good coverage corner who can stick with receivers and break up passes. Unlike his brother (Delano Hill), he’s much more of a pass defender than a run stopper and his tackling will need some work at the college level.

Josh Metellus committed to Michigan with his teammates Devin Bush and Devin Gil, out of Charles W. Flanagan High School in Florida. Metellus is a solid safety who can step up and help stop opposing running games, but he probably isn’t ready for a major role in 2016.

The final commit in this group is Khaleke Hudson, who is listed at safety but could probably play anywhere on the defense short of defensive tackle. Hudson is an elite athlete who might be the closest thing the defense has to Jabrill Peppers’ versatility. Hudson will see the field this season because he is physically ready to play at the college level, but it’s hard to predict what role he’ll play. Since the team is deep in the secondary, he might see spot snaps as a linebacker or on offense. Either way, he’ll be a fun guy to watch.

Michigan also got a preferred walk-on commitment from three-star safety Tru Wilson, who turned down several scholarship offers to become a Wolverine. Wilson shouldn’t see any time as a true freshman, but he could work his way into the rotation down the road.

Finally, Tyler Cochran joined Michigan as a preferred walk-on safety from West Bloomfield, Michigan.

Meet the rest:

Louis Grodman: DB, sophomore, 5-11, 183, from Commerce, Mich. (Walled Lake Northern)
No career stats
Taylor Krupp: DB, sophomore, 6-1, 186, from New Lothrop, Mich. (New Lothrop)
No career stats
Brandon Watson: CB, junior, 5-11, 203, from Wilmington, Del. (Eastern Christian Academy)
12 games played, 2 solo tackles, 6 assisted tackles, 8 total tackles
Matt Mitchell: CB, junior, 5-10, 186, from Dexter, Mich. (Dexter)
No career stats
Anthony Dalimonte: S, senior, 5-9, 176, from Bloomfield Hills, Mich. (Brother Rice)
No career stats
Jacob West: S, sophomore, 6-0, 195, from Pinckney, Mich. (Pinckney)
No career stats
Jordan Glasgow: S, sophomore, 6-1, 210, from Aurora, Ill. (Marmion Academy)
No career stats

New in Blue: 2016 CB LaVert Hill

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016

LaVert Hill(247 Sports)

LaVert Hill – CB | 5-10, 176 | Detroit, Mich – Martin Luther King
ESPN: 4-star, #21 CB Rivals: 4-star, #14 CB 247: 4-star, #6 CB Scout: 4-star, #7 CB
Other top offers: Michigan State, Clemson, Tennessee, USC, UCLA, Ohio State, Georgia, Miami

One of the more dramatic recruiting stories for Michigan’s class has ended in Michigan’s favor with a commitment from Detroit King cornerback LaVert Hill. The younger brother of current Michigan safety Delano Hill chose the Wolverines over Penn State and rival Michigan State.

Hill is a consensus four-star recruit according to the four major recruiting services. 247 Sports ranks him the highest as the sixth-best cornerback in the class and 88th-best overall player in the class. Scout ranks him seventh at his position and 97th overall. Rivals has him 14th and 176th, while ESPN ranks him the lowest as the 21st-best corner in the class and 278th-best overall.

Scout likes his coverage awareness, hands, and instincts, but thinks he needs to improve his size. At 5-foot-10 and 176 pounds he’s the exact same size Jourdan Lewis was listed at on this season’s roster. Lewis, of course, was a first team All-American and semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe and Chuck Bednarik awards. Scout expands on their analysis of Hill.

“Has a natural knack for reading and jumping routes. Good, quick feet and ability to change directions. Technically sound and smooth in his backpedal and transition. Has the closing speed to makeup ground and break on passes. Must add size and strength. Solid wrap-up tackler, but must get stronger to improve in this area.”

Hill joins David Long to give Michigan a pair of highly-rated cornerbacks in addition to Devin Gil and Josh Metellus, who will likely wind up at safety or linebacker. At least one of the committed receivers may wind up in the secondary as well.

Hill is an excellent pickup for Harbaugh, not only for the talent he brings to Ann Arbor but because he’s a head-to-head recruiting win for a Detroit kid against bitter in-state rival Michigan State. During Michigan’s downturn the past few years, the Spartans took hold of most of the state’s best players, but Harbaugh is working to put an end to that with Hill, who is ranked fifth in the state, and offensive tackle Michael Onwenu, the top player in the state.

Hill is the second commitment of the day for Michigan, following receiver Nate Johnson’s commitment earlier this morning. Stay tuned for more commitment news and coverage from Signing of the Stars.

First Look: Ohio State

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

Sad urban

The Game lost a little bit of luster when Ohio State lost to Michigan State on Saturday evening, putting the Spartans solely in possession of their Big Ten East destiny. The winner of the Michigan-Ohio State game will have to hope Penn State pulls off an upset in East Lansing; otherwise, the winner of college football’s greatest rivalry will have only bragging rights and a better bowl placement to take away from it. But bragging rights are always enough in this rivalry. Let’s take a look at how the teams compare.

Ohio State team stats & Michigan comparison
Ohio State | Michigan Rank Defense Rank
Points Per Game 34.4 | 32.2 T36 | 51
14.1 14.9 2 6
Rushing Yards 2,534 1,775 1,471 1,102
Rush Avg. Per Game 230.4 161.4 14 81
133.7 100.2 30 4
Avg. Per Rush 5.5 | 4.2
3.4 3.1
Passing Yards 2,131 2,505 1,807 1,792
Pass Avg. Per Game 193.7 227.7 100 60 164.3 162.9 T5 4
Total Offense 4,665 | 4,280 3,278 2,894
Total Off Avg. Per Game 424.1 389.1 48 72 298.0 263.1 8 2
Kick Return Average 23.4 30.7 32 2 16.2 20.3 5 | 44
Punt Return Average 12.3 11.4 26 32 3.6 11.5 18 98
Avg. Time of Possession 28:52 | 33:19 83 | 10
31:08 | 26:41
3rd Down Conversion Pct 38.0% | 44.0% 81 34
33.0% | 23.0% T23 2
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 16-88 | 16-84
T33 | T33
32-181 | 29-224
T14 | T25
Touchdowns Scored 51 44
19 | 17
Field Goals-Attempts 7-12 14-18
8-15 | 15-18
Red Zone Scores (35-44) 80%|(43-46) 93% 93 | 7
(19-25) 76%|(21-25) 84% 23 64
Red Zone Touchdowns (28-44) 64%|(32-46) 70% (15-25) 60%|(8-25) 32%

Ohio State is averaging 2.2 more points per game than Michigan and 35 more total yards per game. However, in Big Ten play, Michigan leads the conference in points per game (34.7) and Ohio State is second at 34.3, though the Buckeyes still have the edge in total yards.

Through the first 10 games of the season, Ohio State’s rushing game was one to fear with Heisman candidate running back Ezekiel Elliott. But he got just 12 carries against Michigan State on Saturday as Ohio State was held to just 86 yards rushing as a team. Quarterback J.T. Barrett got the majority of the carries with 14 for just 44 yards and that drew the ire of Elliott in his postgame comments.

“How we lost, I just feel like we weren’t put in the right opportunity to win this game, we weren’t put in the right situations to win this game,” Elliott said. “I don’t think Michigan State was better than us. They weren’t. We didn’t execute.”

Whether that earns him a punishment or an extra helping of carries this Saturday remains to be seen, but he’s still one of the best backs in the nation and he still ranks second in the Big Ten with an average of 132.5 yards per game. He also leads the conference with 17 rushing touchdowns.

The passing game, on the other hand, has been wildly inconsistent this season. It ranks 100th nationally and 11th in the Big Ten, right in between two of Michigan’s last three opponents: Rutgers and Penn State. Those two managed just 201 combined passing yards against Michigan’s pass defense that ranks fourth nationally. Barrett doesn’t rank among the top 10 quarterbacks in the Big Ten in passing, and Ohio State’s leading receiver, Michael Thomas, ranks 10th in receiving yards per game (59.9).

Defensively, Ohio State is just a hair behind Michigan, ranking 30th nationally against the run and fifth against the pass. The Buckeyes do allow less than a point fewer per game, but that’s negligible. Two main differences between Ohio State and Michigan’s defenses are third down conversion and red zone defense. Ohio State ranks a respectable 23rd nationally, allowing opponents to convert third downs 33 percent of the time compared to Michigan’s 23 percent, which is second nationally. In the red zone, Michigan has done a much better job of forcing opponents to kick field goals. Both teams have allowed 25 opponent trips to the red zone. Ohio State has given up 15 touchdowns, while Michigan has allowed just eight.

Both teams are pretty good on special teams with dynamic return men. Michigan ranks second nationally in kick returns with the trio of Jourdan Lewis, Jabrill Peppers, and Jehu Chesson, all of which is a threat to take it all the way. Ohio State’s Dontre Wilson and Curtis Samuel rank 32nd in that regard. But Jalen Marshall’s 12.8-yard punt return average has the Bucks slightly ahead of Michigan in that category.

So what can we expect on Saturday? It’s too early for a prediction, but it’s a much more even matchup than any of us thought it would be entering the season. The status of Elliott and the psyche of a team that just suffered its first loss in 24 Big Ten games will play a major part in the outcome. Will they bounce back or will they crumble from their first experience of adversity? We’ll find out at high noon on Saturday.