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Posts Tagged ‘Justice Hayes’

Bellomy, Heitzman to transfer from Michigan

Friday, January 30th, 2015


Bellomy-Heitzman

Four days after running back Justice Hayes announced his intention to transfer, new head coach Jim Harbaugh granted two more fifth-year seniors-to-be a release from the program. Quarterback Russell Bellomy and tight end Keith Heitzman both announced on Friday that they will seek a grad-year transfer to play out their final season of eligibility.

Bellomy appeared in six games during his four seasons at Michigan, completing 4-of-23 passes for 46 yards, no touchdowns, and four interceptions. The Arlington, Texas native entered the 2012 Nebraska game late in the second quarter in relief of an injured Denard Robinson and struggled to move the ball as the Wolverines lost 23-9. In that game — the most extensive action of his career — Bellomy completed just 3-of-16 passes for 38 yards and three interceptions while rushing five times for no yards.

He missed his junior season due to a torn ACL suffered in spring practice and came into the Penn State game last season for two series in relief of Devin Gardner. On those series, he went 0-of-2, but most importantly, didn’t make a mistake to take Michigan out of field goal range. Matt Wile kicked a 42-yard field goal to tie the game at 13 late in the third quarter.

Heitzman played in 36 games in three seasons after redshirting in 2011. As a redshirt freshman in 2012, he appeared in 12 games as a reserve defensive end, recording seven tackles, one for loss, and recovering a fumble. In 2013, Heitzman started seven games at defensive end and played in all 12, recording eight tackles and half of a tackle for loss. Last season, he moved to tight end and caught two passes for 32 yards and one touchdown, which came against Indiana.

Both Bellomy and Heitzman expect to receive their degree from the University of Michigan this spring before transferring. Neither has picked a destination yet, but both stressed their love and appreciation for Michigan in Instagram posts on Friday afternoon. We wish both the best wherever they end up.

Click here to read Bellomy’s Instagram post. Click here to read Heitzman’s Instagram post.

Senior day letdown: Maryland 23 – Michigan 16

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014


Senior Day 2014(MGoBlue.com)

Twelve seniors took the field in Michigan Stadium on Saturday for the final time, but their senior day was spoiled by conference newcomer Maryland, who came away with its first ever win over Michigan, 23-16.

After forcing a Maryland three-and-out to start the game, Michigan’s offense took over on its own 36. On 4th-and-1, De’Veon Smith was flagged for a false start, moving the ball back five yards and forcing Michigan to punt. But fullback Joe Kerridge took a fake punt 52 yards to the Maryland 8-yard line, setting Michigan up 1st-and-goal. Michigan was unable to punch it into the end zone and had to settle for a 22-yard Matt Wile field goal to take a 3-0 lead.

Neither team was able to muster any offense the rest of the quarter until Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown connected with Jacquille Veii for 21 yards to the Michigan 28 on the final play of the quarter. Michigan’s defense stiffened and forced a 38-yard Brad Craddock field goal to tie the game.

UM-Maryland-small-final-FINAL
Final Stats
Michigan Maryland
Score 16 23
Record 5-6, 3-4 7-4, 4-3
Total Yards 398 312
Net Rushing Yards 292 147
Net Passing Yards 106 165
First Downs 23 17
Turnovers 1 0
Penalties-Yards 3-24 4-30
Punts-Yards 2-86 4-154
Time of Possession 34:00 26:00
Third Down Conversions 5-of-13 3-of-12
Fourth Down Conversions 1-of-3 0-of-0
Sacks By-Yards 2-17 2-19
Field Goals 3-for-4 3-for-3
PATs 1-for-1 2-for-2
Red Zone Scores-Chances 4-of-4 4-of-5
Full Box Score

Dennis Norfleet returned the kickoff 31 yards, and Michigan quickly moved into Maryland territory. A 24-yard Devin Gardner run followed by a Maryland pass interference set Michigan up 1st-and-goal at the five. But back-to-back runs for no gain and a 11-yard sack on third down forced Michigan to settle for another field goal, this time from 33 yards. Maryland answered with a 41-yards field goal.

On the second play of Michigan’s next possession, William Likely intercepted Gardner at the Michigan 37 and returned it 29 yards to the Michigan eight. Yet again, the Michigan defense held strong and forced a 21-yard field goal to give Maryland its first lead of the game, 9-6.

Michigan got the ball at its own 16 with 1:50 remaining in the half. Five straight Drake Johnson runs gained 49 yards before Gardner found Jake Butt for four yards and 17 yards to the Maryland 9-yard line. But with time running out, Michigan had to kick its third field goal of the half, this time from 26 yards out, to knot the game at nine at the half.

The first drive of the second half was the Gardner show as he completed a 7-yard pass to Devin Funchess on 3rd-and-6, rushed for 22 yards to the Maryland 33, and then found the end zone on a 15-yard run a few plays later. Michigan led 16-9.

Michigan forced a Maryland punt and Norfleet returned it 69 yards for a touchdown, but A.J. Pearson was flagged for an illegal block. Instead of taking a 23-9 lead, Michigan’s offense moved to the Maryland 32, but couldn’t convert a 4th-and-6.

As the third quarter came to a close, Maryland caught the Michigan defense off balance with an up-tempo offense and entered the Michigan red zone. A 3rd-and-12 pass fell incomplete and Maryland had to settle for yet another field goal. But Jourdan Lewis was flagged for roughing the kicker, giving the Terrapins a 1st-and-goal. They took advantage on the next play with an 8-yard Brown touchdown run to tie the game at 16.

Michigan missed a 39-yard field goal on its next possession and Maryland marched right down the field for its second straight touchdown drive, this time a 1-yard Brown run, to take a 23-16 lead.

Johnson ran for 17 yards on the first play of Michigan’s ensuing possession, but the offense stalled. Justice Hayes lost three yards and a Gardner pass fell incomplete setting up 3rd-and-13. Gardner ran for 10 yards, but on 4th-and-3 from the 49-yard line, Funchess was unable to reel in Gardner’s pass and Maryland took over on downs. The Terps ran the clock out and sent Michigan to its sixth loss.

Gardner completed 13-of-24 passes for 106 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception. He also rushed 14 times for 82 yards and a score. Johnson led Michigan on the ground with 94 yards on 14 carries. As a team, Michigan racked up 292 rushing yards, its second-best performance of the season, and 398 total yards, good for fourth-best. For the third time this season, Michigan out-gained its opponent in total yards, but lost. Maryland gained 312 total yards.

Michigan fell to 5-6 overall and 3-4 in the Big Ten. The Wolverines have to win at Ohio State next Saturday to gain bowl eligibility. A loss would give Michigan its third losing season in the last seven years and the first under Brady Hoke. The Buckeyes clinched the Big Ten East division with a 42-27 win over Indiana, but still have plenty to play for, including a potential spot in the College Football Playoff.

Derrick Green out for season

Monday, October 6th, 2014


Derrick Green vs Rutgers(MGoBlue.com)

For those who thought Michigan has already hit rock bottom, today is proof that it can get worse. Brady Hoke announced in his Monday press conference that starting running back Derrick Green will miss the remainder of the season after suffering a broken clavicle late in the game on Saturday, leaving an already struggling offense without one of its few bright spots.

Green leads the team with 471 rushing yards, averaging 5.7 yards per carry through six games. Despite a six-carry, six-yard performance against Minnesota in Week 5, Green was on pace to become Michigan’s first 1,000-yard running back since Fitzgerald Toussaint in 2011. He had two 100-yard games, 170 yards against Appalachian State and 137 against Miami (Ohio).

De’Veon Smith, who split carries with Green, will assume the starting role the rest of the season and third-down back Justice Hayes will see an increased workload. Smith has 282 yards on 47 carries (6.2 yards per carry) and four touchdowns. The Rutgers game was the only game this season in which he has received double-digit carries (10). Hayes has 19 carries for 101 yards (5.3 yards per carry) and five receptions for 47 yards. Sophomore Drake Johnson will also likely get more carries.

Michigan (2-4, 0-2 Big Ten) hosts Penn State (4-1, 1-1) this Saturday at 7 p.m. EST in the first ever Big Ten night game in Michigan Stadium.

New in Blue: Running back Mike Weber

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014



Mike Weber(Tanya Moutzalias, MLive.com)

Mike Weber – RB | 5’10”, 205 | Detroit, Mich. – Cass Technical
ESPN: 4-star, #14 RB Rivals: 4-star, #10 RB 247: 4-star, #13 RB Scout: 4-star, #13 RB
Other top offers: Michigan State, Ohio State, USC, Wisconsin, Miami, Nebraska, Tennessee

Just a week and a half after receiving a commitment from the top 2015 recruit in the state of Michigan, Brady Hoke and the Michigan football program picked up a big commitment from the second-ranked player in the state. Detroit Cass Tech running back Mike Weber pledged his commitment to his home-state Wolverines and announced it via Twitter shortly after 9 p.m. EST.

Weber is a four-star across the board, ranked no worse than 169th nationally by any of the four major recruiting services. Rivals has Weber the highest as the 10th-best running back in the class and 103rd-best player overall. Scout has him 13th and 104th, while 247 Sports ranks him 13th and 144th, and ESPN comes in the lowest at 14th and 169th.

Rivals and 247 are in agreement about his size, listing him at 5’10”, 205. ESPN lists him an inch shorter and Scout has him an inch shorter and five pounds heavier. Regardless, by the time he gets to campus a year from now, he’ll fit the mold of the current leaders on Michigan’s depth chart, De’Veon Smith and Derrick Green (both 5’11”, 220).

Scout lists Weber’s strengths as cutback ability, hands, and vision, and his area to improve as power. Allen Trieu had this to say: “Weber is a compact back who runs with good patience. He is a slasher with a good burst and good acceleration. He catches the ball well out of the backfield and also does a nice job in pass protection. He has run largely out of the shotgun in high school and would have to adjust if he goes to more of a traditional I-form team in college. He’s shown the ability to run between the tackles but is not a true power back.”

Weber’s commitment ends a long, up and down process for the Michigan coaching staff at the position in the 2015 class. The top overall back in the class, Damien Harris initially committed to the Wolverines on July 29, 2013, but decommitted following Michigan’s 7-6 season. When he released his top five last week, Michigan was absent. Weber was all but out of the running for Michigan at the beginning of the year, but following Harris’ decommitment, Weber became a top priority. The battle for Weber was between Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, and USC. The Spartans landed Hubbard, Ohio running back Larry Scott three weeks ago, and many feel Harris will wind up at Ohio State. That left Weber for Michigan and the Wolverines are more than pleased.

Current 2015 commit, quarterback Alex Malzone, who played a big role in securing Weber, tweeted his excitement:

When Weber gets to campus, he will join a crowded backfield. Justice Hayes will be a redshirt senior; Drake Johnson, who was number two on the depth chart coming out of fall camp a year ago before tearing his ACL, will be a redshirt junior; De’Veon Smith and Derrick Green will be true juniors; and Ty Isaac will either be a true junior or redshirt sophomore depending on whether or not he receives a hardship waiver for his transfer. With no running back in the 2014 class, it was imperative that Hoke sign one in 2015, and the depth ahead of him will allow Weber time to work his way into the lineup.

Weber’s commitment gives Michigan the top running back, quarterback (Malzone), and receiver (Brian Cole) in the state of Michigan in the 2015 class. The three also represent three of the top four players in the state. Michigan State has offensive lineman Kyonta Stallworth, who ranks third.

Weber is the 10th commitment in Michigan’s 2015 class, joining Malzone, Cole, tight end Chris Clark, offensive linemen Grant Newsome and Jon Runyan Jr, defensive backs Tyree Kinnel and Garrett Taylor, linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr, and kicker Andrew David. The class now ranks third nationally per 247 in terms of average rating (91.10), behind only Alabama (93.61) and USC (91.12). In Scout’s rankings index, the class is tied for first with Alabama, though they haven’t officially added him at the time of this post.

Drew’s Mailbag: Running backs, running backs, and more running backs

Monday, June 16th, 2014


It’s time for another installment of Drew’s Mailbag, which will run frequently throughout the offseason as Maize and Go Blue prepares for and previews the 2014 Michigan football season. The topics will cover more than just football, though. I will address any questions regarding Michigan athletics, including basketball, recruiting, etc., you may have. So fire away on Twitter (DrewCHallett) or via email (drew.maizeandgoblue@gmail.com).

Many of you submitted great questions this past week. However, with the recent announcement that former USC running back Ty Isaac has transferred to Michigan, the topic on everyone’s mind is Isaac and Michigan’s running back situation. Therefore, this installment will focus solely on Michigan’s running backs situation, and I will address your great questions on other topics in a future mailbag. With that said, let’s dive in:

Is it better if [Ty] Isaac is able to play right away or save his eligibility? –Zach (@ZachWoodruff3)

When running back Ty Isaac announced on Twitter that he would be transferring from USC to Michigan, the first question out of Michigan fans’ mouths was whether he would be eligible to play this season. Isaac transferred from USC because he desired to be closer to his mother, who has an inner ear problem due to recent complications related to a surgical procedure, in his hometown of Joliet, Illinois. Consequently, Isaac and Michigan will soon or already have submitted paperwork to the NCAA requesting a family hardship waiver. If the NCAA grants it, Isaac would be able to play for Michigan this fall, rather than sit out all of the 2014 season.

However, it seems like a longshot that the NCAA will approve Isaac’s family hardship waiver request. Whether or not the NCAA grants the waiver depends on the nature of the family member’s illness or injury, the type of care the athlete must provide, and the proximity of the athlete’s new school to his ailing family member. Although Isaac’s mother’s ear injury is undoubtedly a serious one, it does not seem to be an injury that requires constant care and assistance from Isaac on a daily basis. Further, the NCAA recently refined the rules to deny family hardship waiver requests from athletes who transferred to a school further than 100 miles away from the family member’s home. The NCAA’s rationale was that the athlete would be too far away from home to provide regular care for his ailing family member if outside this 100-mile radius. Ann Arbor is 250 miles away from Joliet. Thus, the odds are against Isaac that the NCAA grants his request and allows him to play for the Wolverines this season.

Isaac

Isaac is unlikely to receive a hardship waiver that would allow him to play this season

Yet, this would probably be the better outcome for Michigan. If the NCAA grants Isaac’s waiver, there would be a logjam on Michigan’s depth chart at running back. The Wolverines already have three scholarship running backs entering their sophomore season of athletic eligibility—Derrick Green, Drake Johnson, and De’Veon Smith. Isaac would be the fourth if he is allowed to play this season. There are not enough carries to go around for four running backs on a squad, let alone four that would all be sophomores. At least two would be no better than Michigan’s third-stringer for the remainder of their careers. It would lead to their inevitable transfer from Michigan due to lack of playing time.

Further, not only would there be a logjam, Michigan would possibly not have any quality freshmen or sophomore running backs for the 2015 season. After taking both Green and Smith in the 2013 class, Michigan did not heavily pursue any running back targets in 2014, setting its sights on the running back corps in 2015.

Initially, all went as planned as Michigan received a commitment from five-star Damien Harris in late July 2013. But, after Michigan’s 7-6 record in 2013 and the subsequent firing of offensive coordinator Al Borges, Harris decommitted. Michigan has since fallen out of the lead with its other top running back targets and seems to be trailing by a considerable margin in all of those recruitments. There is a very real chance that the Wolverines strike out at running back in 2015 after passing in 2014. Therefore, if Isaac does not redshirt, there would be a giant gap in Michigan’s depth chart. It may not affect Michigan immediately, but it could be a major issue in the foreseeable future.

The counterpoint is that Michigan does not have the luxury to worry about its depth chart in 2017 and beyond. Coming off two seasons with 8-5 and 7-6 records which have head coach Brady Hoke feeling some heat, Michigan cannot afford another disappointing season. The Wolverines need to put together a successful season and that means winning games now. In order to do that, Michigan will need to have all of its best talent available to play immediately. This includes Isaac, who was a five-star recruit in high school. This is a great point, and I do not necessarily disagree with it.

This is why the best scenario for Michigan is the NCAA granting Isaac’s family hardship waiver request, but Michigan still planning to redshirt Isaac anyway. It would provide Michigan the opportunity to at least attempt to balance its depth chart at running back. Additionally, it would give Green and Smith—who also were heralded running backs in high school—another crack to live up to high expectations after a somewhat discouraging freshman season.

However, if Green and Smith do not produce as Michigan needs, then the Wolverines would still be able to shed Isaac’s redshirt and throw him in there this season. Isaac would then still be able to salvage Michigan’s running back situation for2014. This would be the best of both worlds for Michigan. This is the outcome that Michigan fans should root for, although the odds of Michigan still redshirting Isaac if the NCAA grants his waiver are slim to none.

If Ty Isaac gets a hardship waiver, what do you think the pecking order is at RB? –Steve (SteveCKays)

Even if Ty Isaac receives his family hardship waiver and is eligible to play this season, he still will be behind Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith on the depth chart. At least initially. Green and Smith have been No. 1a and No. 1b, respectively, on the depth chart since the end of last season. I do not think that changes with the addition of Isaac. Green was Hoke’s prized recruit in the 2013 class as a five-star prospect and the best player at his position. He had 83 carries as a freshman, which was the second-most by a Michigan running back behind the departed Fitzgerald Toussaint, and 42 of those were in Michigan’s final three regular-season games. Although Green had an underwhelming first year, reports are that he finally is back in the shape he was in when he was considered the best running back in his recruiting class. If Green can demonstrate that combination of size and strength that made scouts drool, he will be Michigan’s starting running back in 2014.

Nonetheless, Smith will be pushing Green for the starting job. Smith does not quite have the physical measurements that Green has, but Smith has shown flashes of a running back who has great instincts and can fight through tackles. He and Green split carries with the first-team offense throughout Michigan’s spring camp, and Smith actually worked with the first unit more during Michigan’s spring “game.” Nonetheless, I believe Smith still is slightly behind Green in this competition, but they both likely will see carries on first and second downs this season.

Where Isaac would enter the picture, at least initially, would be as Michigan’s third-down back. Prior to Isaac’s transfer, this role belonged to Justice Hayes. However, Isaac would be a perfect fit here. First, one of Isaac’s greatest assets is his hands. While Isaac can do a great job of taking a handoff, making one cut, and exploding through the line of scrimmage, he may even be a better safety valve by catching passes out of the backfield on screens and other routes. Further, Isaac is 6’3”. Although he still needs to work on his pass blocking, his size will better help him block opposing rushers than Hayes, who is 5’10”. If the NCAA grants Isaac’s waiver request, this is where he would make his greatest impact for Michigan’s offense. However, if both Green and Smith struggle, Isaac would be the player given an opportunity to be the featured back in Michigan’s offense.

With only one RB slot in the 2015 class, is [Damien] Harris still the No. 1 target? –Zach (ZachWoodruff3)
Cass Tech's Mike Weber is a priority for new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier (Scout.com)

Cass Tech’s Mike Weber is a priority for new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier (Scout.com)

No, I think Cass Technical’s Mike Weber (Detroit, Mich.) has passed Madison Southern’s Damien Harris (Berea, Ky.) as Michigan’s No. 1 target at running back in the 2015 class. Before Michigan fired offensive coordinator Al Borges, there was no doubt that Harris was the top guy on its recruiting board. Not only did Harris grow up rooting for the Wolverines, but he also was considered by many recruiting services to be the best running back in his class. In fact, at the moment, Rivals ranks Harris as the fourth-best player overall in the 2015 class. So it was a great recruiting win for Michigan when Harris chose to commit to the Wolverines in late July 2013.

However, one of the key reasons why Harris offered his verbal pledge to Michigan was Borges. With Borges no longer in Ann Arbor, Harris wanted to reconsider his options and see if Michigan still was the best place for him. So he decommitted. Although Harris reiterated over and over that Michigan still was his favorite school, it is very rare for a recruit to re-commit to a school after decommitting. Will Campbell and David Dawson are the exceptions, not the rule. As time has passed since Harris’ decommitment, his interest in Michigan seems to have waned, while he has become more intrigued with Ohio State, unfortunately. I think Michigan has realized this and adjusted its priorities.

On the other hand, Michigan’s relationship with Weber has improved tremendously since it hired Doug Nussmeier to replace Borges. After Harris’ commitment, Michigan and Weber fell out of contact as the Wolverines had their man at running back. But, since Nussmeier’s arrival in Ann Arbor, Michigan’s interest in Weber seems to have peaked. Weber has been quoted recently as saying that Michigan has made him a priority again and that he is interested in Michigan once again. He also added that no one at Michigan is recruiting him harder than Nussmeier.

Although the Wolverines still are outside Weber’s top three, which includes Ohio State, Michigan State, and Wisconsin, Michigan has a great opportunity to jump back into the race. It certainly does not hurt that Weber has unofficially visited the Michigan campus twice in the past two weeks. All signs indicate that Weber is Michigan’s top running back target for the 2015 class. This is probably the right move because he likely is Michigan’s best chance at not striking out at the position in this recruiting cycle.

Predicting Michigan: The running backs

Friday, June 13th, 2014


Predicting Michigan-RunningBacks

Derrick Green(Rick Osentoski, USA Today Sports)

The most glaring hole in the Michigan offense during 2013 was the absence of a legitimate rushing threat. A porous offensive line and indecisive running backs combined to cripple the one-dimensional Wolverine offense and led to a 755-yard decrease in rushing yards from 2012. Fortunately for offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, several players emerged as potential contributors in the backfield towards the end of the 2013 campaign.

Michigan’s worst rushing performance in the team’s 134-year history (minus-48 yards against Michigan State) came during a season in which a recruiting class loaded with running back talent took the field. Brady Hoke brought one five-star recruit and two four-star recruits to Ann Arbor in the class of 2013, only to watch his team rush for 3.3 yards per carry on the season. If Michigan hopes to steer the program back in the right direction, that number will have to improve drastically under Nussmeier.

Michigan did add USC transfer Ty Isaac last week, but this preview assumes that he does not receive a hardship waiver from the NCAA and has to take a redshirt this fall.

The Starters

When he arrived in Ann Arbor, Nussmeier announced that he will use two primary running backs during the 2014 season. Much as he did with Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon in 2012 at Alabama, the new offensive coordinator will use the depth at his disposal to get the most out of his rushing attack.

De'Veon Smith showed promise at the end of 2013, rushing for 57 yards on seven carries against Ohio State

De’Veon Smith showed promise at the end of 2013, rushing for 57 yards on seven carries against Ohio State

One of the most important players to Michigan’s upcoming season was also one of the most disappointing during 2013. Sophomore Derrick Green gained just 270 yards on 83 attempts in his first college season after showing up to camp out of shape and struggling with discipline. Green was the most highly-touted recruit in Michigan’s top-five class after his commitment famously made Hoke cry with relief.

Green is perhaps the player with the most to gain under Nussmeier, as his ground-and-pound mentality that made him the top running back recruit in the country mirrors that of Eddie Lacy, who rushed for 1,322 yards and 17 touchdowns en route to a national championship under Nussmeier in 2012.

Green’s best game came in week one against Central Michigan, when he ran for 58 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. But as the season progressed, the offensive line’s struggles hurt Green more than any other running back as rushing between the tackles became nearly impossible.

Hoke’s star recruit learned from his freshman mistake and showed up to camp in better shape this season, looking faster and more confident than he ever did throughout his first season. Green gives Michigan the best chance to be an elite team as his ceiling is higher than possibly any other back in the Big Ten.

Despite the hype surrounding Green, his classmate De’Veon Smith appeared to play the role of starting running back during the spring practice on April 5. Smith rushed for the best average (4.5 yards per carry) of any regular running back in 2013 and saw his role increase late in the season. After carrying the ball just seven times in the first nine games, Smith’s number was called 15 times in the final three regular season games.

At 5’11″, 223-pounds, Smith features almost the exact same running style as Green, but demonstrated better instincts when plays broke down in 2013. Nussmeier is faced with a difficult decision between Smith and Green, but both players will likely see significant time throughout the upcoming season.

Projected Stats – Green
Attempts Yards YPC Long TDs YPG
160 650 4.1 11 50.0
Career Stats
2013 83 270 3.3 30 2 20.8
Totals 83 270 3.3 30 2 20.8
Projected Stats – Smith
Attempts Yards YPC Long TDs YPG
130 500 3.8 4 30.8
Career Stats
2013 26 117 4.5 38 0 9.8
Totals 26 117 4.5 38 0 9.8

Veteran Depth

Michigan’s depth took a small hit when Thomas Rawls decided to transfer in the winter, but there are still plenty of quality options at Nussmeier’s disposal.

Drake Johnson began 2013 as the No. 2 back, but tore his ACL in the season opener (Rick Osentoski, USA Today Sports)

Drake Johnson began 2013 as the No. 2 back, but tore his ACL in the season opener (Rick Osentoski, USA Today Sports)

Senior Justice Hayes has made some noise throughout the offseason, and played better than both sophomores during the spring game. Hayes was largely invisible during the 2013 season, carrying the ball twice for six yards. His most productive game came alongside Shane Morris in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, when he caught three passes for 22 yards.

Hayes is a very different running back than Smith and Green, relying on speed and reads more than strength and power. Despite weighing just 190 pounds, the senior demonstrated the best pass-blocking ability, which is valuable behind an inexperienced offensive line. Hayes will have to dazzle coaches to earn a starting position, but he will be an important member of the rotation during the fall either way.

The top returning running back from Michigan’s 2013 depth chart has yet to take any reps in training camp, as redshirt sophomore Drake Johnson continues to recover from a torn ACL in the season-opener. Johnson was listed second on the running back depth chart at the start of 2013 behind Fitzgerald Toussaint, but ran the ball just twice before his season ended while covering a kickoff.

Hoke said that the running back competition will be complete only when Johnson returns during fall camp, but it’s unlikely that the young back will have enough time to earn a starting spot by August 30. Look for Johnson to provide depth for Nussmeier if he returns from his injury on schedule.

Projected Stats – Hayes
Attempts Yards YPC Long TDs YPG
35 150 4.3 2 11.5
Career Stats
2013 2 6 3.0 7 0 0.5
2012 18 83 4.6 24 1 13.8
2011 0 0 N/A N/A 0 N/A
Totals 20 89 4.5 24 1 4.7
Projected Stats – Johnson
Attempts Yards YPC Long TDs YPG
70 250 3.6 2 19.2
Career Stats
2013 2 9 4.5 7 0 9.0
Totals 2 9 4.5 7 0 9.0

Predicting Michigan: The running backs

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013


Last week we previewed what the quarterback and offensive line positions will look like this season. Today, it’s Fred Jackson’s group that gets the honor.

2012: What Happened?

Going into the 2012 season, high expectations swirled around the Michigan rushing attack. Running back Fitzgerald Toussaint was fresh off of a breakout year in 2011 and seemed poised for an enormous season next to Denard Robinson and behind a veteran offensive line. The results couldn’t have been more disappointing. Toussaint failed to rush for 100 yards in each of the 10 games he played in and ended the season with less than half of his 2011 yards. Against Iowa on November 17, the frustrating season came to an end when he took an early exit due to a serious ankle injury.

Once again, Michigan was saved by Robinson, who willingly jumped into the backfield and became the most effective running back of the season. Thomas Rawls and Vincent Smith were unable to make up for the loss of Toussaint’s meager production, rushing for a combined 20 yards in the final two games of the season.

Michigan rarely flirted with other options during the season, giving a few carries to Justice Hayes and all of two to speedster Dennis Norfleet. When the season came to an end, fans were left to remember a disaster as far as the non-Denard running game was concerned.

As Brady Hoke transitions the offense back to a more traditional Michigan style, the performance of the running backs are going to be absolutely crucial. The battle for starting snaps in 2013 appears to be wide open.

Returning Players: Bouncing Back

Toussaint will look to return to his 2011 form

Toussaint figures to start the 2013 campaign with expectations somewhere between where they were heading into the last two seasons. In 2011, Michigan had a trio of backs fighting for starts in Smith, Toussaint and Michael Shaw. Toussaint was able to grab the starting job and run with it to the tune of 1,041 yards and nine touchdowns. Fans will likely have a difficult time predicting what to expect from Toussaint in the upcoming season, given the wide range of results the past two seasons.

Rawls may have cemented his role as the goal-line back in the final four weeks of last season, failing to rush for three yards per carry in each contest. At times, it seemed like the Flint product was going to take advantage of Toussaint’s struggles and win the starting job. In the end, inconsistency killed Rawls and his lack of big-play potential resulted in more carries for Robinson in big moments.

Hayes and Norfleet have yet to get real shots at big carries. Ten of Hayes’s 18 carries came in the 45-0 blowout of Illinois, and Norfleet was used mostly as a returner on special teams. Both backs are known for their quickness in space, so as the offense moves in a more physical direction, expect both players to remain primarily on special teams and in slot receiving roles.

The final two returning running backs on the roster took redshirts last year. Bobby Henderson joined the team out of New York and will have a hard time seeing the field in 2013. Drake Johnson created a little more buzz when he signed, mostly because he came from right across the street at Pioneer High School. Johnson will likely be used sparingly as well this year, considering the number of running back options Hoke has at his disposal.

Prediction: Despite the rough 2012, Toussaint wins the starting job to start the season. Rawls continues to see regular time in short-yardage situations due to his ability to push the pile. He may also take some snaps at fullback when Borges decides to use one. Hayes and Norfleet will see most of their time as returners and in formations as slot receivers, while Johnson and Henderson rarely see the field.

Projected Stats – Toussaint
Attempts Yards YPC Long TD YPG
155 700 4.5 9 58.3
Career Stats
2012 130 514 4.0 50 5 51.4
2011 187 1,041 5.6 65 9 86.8
2010 8 87 10.9 61 1 14.5
Totals 325 1,642 5.1 65 15 58.6
Projected Stats – Rawls
Attempts Yards YPC Long TD YPG
45 150 3.33 4 12.5
Career Stats
2012 57 242 4.2 63 4 30.3
2011 13 79 6.1 25 0 26.3
Totals 70 321 4.6 63 4 29.2

Recruits: Filling The Hole

A good recruiting class is one that has highly-ranked players, but a great recruiting class also fills a team’s specific needs. After such a disappointing year for Michigan running backs, the 2013 class is a great class. Michigan’s inability to run the ball without Denard Robinson forced Brady Hoke to focus on running backs for the upcoming season, and the results were better than anyone expected. In fact, they even brought Hoke to tears.

Michigan has high expectations for the nation's top incoming running back

Derrick Green revealed that when he committed to Michigan the Head Coach was extremely emotional, which is all fans need to know when learning about the number one running back recruit, according to both Scout and Rivals. Green is a powerful running back that can carry defenders and will break out of any arm tackle. Green is the perfect fit for the Michigan offense of the future, as he prefers to run between the tackles. Don’t expect Green to be fancy, but that doesn’t mean he can’t break a big run. If defenders don’t wrap him up, the freshman will make them pay by shrugging them off and lumbering downfield.

Michigan also signed DeVeon Smith, another highly-rated recruit out of high school. Like Green, Smith will break tackles and punish defenders inside. The duo of Smith and Green should have defenses dreading Saturdays against the Wolverines in the coming years, but with the number of guys fighting for snaps this season, Smith may find himself with a redshirt. Hoke will take into account the many similarities between the two freshman, and it makes sense that he would save one of them a year of eligibility while the backfield is so crowded.

Wyatt Shallman is an interesting recruit, as he signals the unofficial return of the fullback to the Michigan offense after the Rich Rod era eliminated it completely. Shallman was one of the top fullback recruits in the nation this year, and figures to play exclusively at that position at Michigan, since Hoke brought in two talented running back recruits as well. Shallman is a big back at 6’3″, 245 pounds, but can still contribute on offense in many ways. While the fullback will be used mainly for blocking, he has some rushing ability and can catch the ball out of the backfield.

Prediction: Green battles Toussaint for the starting job and has a realistic shot to win it, but in the end he enters the season as the backup. If Toussaint fails to play better than he did in 2012, look for Green to snatch the starting job and hold his own as a true freshman in the Big Ten.

Projected Stats – Green
Attempts Yards YPC TD YPG
125 500 4.0 5 41.7

Wrapping Up

Michigan’s running game is going to look very different in 2013. The most exciting runner in Michigan history has graduated and the void has been filled by several ground-and-pound guys. Robinson improvised with his speed and broke enormous runs during his career at Michigan, but the recruiting class Brady Hoke brought in will spend the majority of its time rushing between the tackles and using a strong offensive line to push ahead for more consistent, conservative gains.

Ideally, Toussaint will return to the running back we saw in 2011. Realistically, we can hope for him to be somewhere in the middle of that and his shaky 2012 campaign, which would give the Maize and Blue steady contributions from the running back position. However, if he fails to produce this year, Michigan is better prepared. Green is ready to handle rushes on the big stage right now, and will be there to push Toussaint every step of the way. Either way, Michigan appears to be in better shape at running back heading into the 2013 season.

MMQ hopes to see more of the running back platoon

Monday, October 15th, 2012


Another game, another win for the Michigan Wolverines. On Saturday, it looked to me like the team played its best all-around game this season – maybe even since Brady Hoke arrived in Ann Arbor. While it was obvious that Illinois was way overmatched in this game, the effort that the Wolverines displayed on both sides of the ball was impressive.

Fitz Toussaint rushed for 66 yards on 18 carries (photo by the Ann Arbor News)

Denard Robinson ran the offense with perfection, as he continues to move closer to setting the NCAA career rushing record for a quarterback. He ran the ball effectively and also passed it well, as offensive coordinator Al Borges called a nice game, establishing the run early and passing at opportune times. Like I’ve pointed out in the past, when Denard throws less than 20 times per game, we are likely going to see the Wolverines adding a victory to the win column.

More impressive to me than Denard’s play was the emergence of an actual running game from the running back position. For the first time this season, Michigan was able to move the ball on the ground with someone other than Denard. This came in the form of a platoon-style attack, using the abilities of three different backs in Thomas Rawls, Justice Hayes, and Fitz Toussaint. At first, I was a little skeptical on how this would work out. But after I saw how Borges used each player, I realized that this is going to be the best way for the offense to run the ball for the rest of the season (minus the times that Denard keeps the ball himself).

The use of a corps of running backs in college football, and even the NFL, is not a foreign concept in the game the way that it is played today. It used to be that teams had one running back that got all of the carries, similar to what we saw at Michigan in the days of Mike Hart or Anthony Thomas. But as offenses have evolved, and as defenses have adapted to the new styles of offense, the need for multiple backs has become evident. Offensive-minded coaches have made it a point to run as many plays in a game as possible, figuring that the more plays you run, the more chances to score you will have. To do this, the use of the no-huddle, not only in a two-minute offense situation, has become a method that teams use. See the Oregon Ducks if you have any questions about this. Naturally, fatigue can become a factor and one running back can’t stay fresh enough for an entire drive down the field when they are running play after play without coming to the huddle. So teams will substitute one or two other backs in at any given time and rotate these guys throughout the course of the game.

Justice Hayes filled in for Vincent Smith and delivered 66 yards (photo by the Ann Arbor News)

What I like about Michigan’s situation is that the three guys they have each display different talents which make it tough for defenses to defend. Rawls is more of a power back because of his size, but he also has good speed. Toussaint is the faster playmaker. And Justice, while inexperienced, has shown the ability to find the hole and pick up good yardage, especially when Rawls and Toussaint aren’t in the game.

So far this season, Toussaint has been ineffective when he has been in the backfield as the primary running back. The coaches needed to try something else and the game against Illinois presented the perfect opportunity to try it out. The coaches have made it apparent that they still believe in Toussaint and I believe that they aren’t just saying this to keep his head up. He is a good running back, but I think the off-field distractions early in the season may have affected him. He just hasn’t seemed to gel with the offense yet. And I disagree with others in the media who have said that opposing defenses have been coming out to try and stop Toussaint. That just doesn’t make sense.  Why would a defense force the best player on the field (Denard) to keep the ball? In the games which Michigan lost, it wasn’t because Denard had the ball more often.

Thomas Rawls rushed for 90 yards including a 63-yard TD (photo by the Ann Arbor News)

The coaches realized that something needed to be done. An offense where Denard is the only running threat is no offense at all. With this new platoon of running backs, defenses will face multiple threats. If Michigan wants to pound with Rawls, it can. If they want some speed on the field, they can go with Toussaint or Hayes. Add to that the match-up nightmare which is Devin Funchess and the play-making ability of guys on the outside like Devin Gardner, Jeremy Gallon, and Roy Roundtree, and you have an offense that is tough to contain. Nice job by the coaches to earn their pay and find a way to get the most out of the players they have.

One quick note about the defense and special teams play on Saturday. Nice job! I know that the Illinois offense wasn’t very good and quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase was knocked out of the game early, but I thought the defense was flying to the ball on every play and it looked as if every player had prepared well for this game. Also, nice job by the punting unit as it downed all four punts inside the Illinois 20-yard line and allowed no return yardage. Also, is anyone else interested in seeing Dennis Norfleet return more punts?? As good of a kick returner that he is, I’ve wondered why we don’t see him return more punts. Maybe we will see more of that in the future.

Michigan’s last two games against Purdue and Illinois were not games to use as measuring sticks for how good this Michigan team really is. But they were games where the coaches could work on some things, try some new personnel packages, and get things tuned up for what will be the toughest part of the 2012 season. Michigan State comes to Ann Arbor this week looking for a win that will validate what has been a tough season so far. Then the Wolverines head to Lincoln for a night game against a Nebraska team which can be tough if they ever decide to play an entire game. Overall, things are looking good right now in all aspects, but things are going to be different from here on out in the Big Ten schedule. The Wolverines just need to keep doing what they’ve been doing and not allow other teams to dictate to them what they can and cannot do.

Meet Your 2011 Recruiting Class: The Offense

Saturday, February 5th, 2011


Nearly every starter returns next season for Michigan’s offense, including Big Ten Player of the Year Denard Robinson. Offensive coordinator Al Borges has vowed to build the playbook around Robinson’s talents while limiting his carries. Seven newcomers will join the crew, along with one kicker. Let’s meet the newest Wolverines.

Quarterback (1)
RUSSELL BELLOMY
Height: 6-3
Weight: 178
Hometown: Arlington, Texas (Martin)
Rivals Ranking: NR (3-star)
Scout Ranking: #39 Quarterback (3-star)
ESPN Ranking: #35 Quarterback, 78 rating (3-star)
Chose Michigan Over: Purdue, Michigan State, Minnesota, South Florida, Colorado
How He Fits In: Bellomy was originally a Purdue commitment who switched to Michigan after Hoke was named Rodriguez’s replacement. He’s an important commit because of the current state of Michigan’s quarterback roster. Denard Robinson will be a junior next season and Devin Gardner a redshirt freshman likely to assume the starting role in 2013 after Robinson graduates. Bellomy should redshirt next season so he’s not the same as Gardner eligibility-wise, but because of Tate Forcier’s transfer, Hoke may have to keep Bellomy ready to play. He held offers from Michigan State and Boise State, so he’s not a throwaway recruit just to build depth, though he’ll benefit from a few years developing behind Robinson and Gardner.
Running Back (2)
JUSTICE HAYES
Height: 5-10
Weight: 175
Hometown: Grand Blanc, Mich. (Grand Blanc)
Rivals Rank: #3 Running Back, #85 Overall (4-star)
Scout Rank: #14 Running Back (4-star)
ESPN Rank: #22 Running Back, 79 rating (4-star)
Chose Michigan Over: Notre Dame, Michigan State, Tennessee, Iowa, Wisconsin
How He Fits In: The various recruiting sites differ slightly as to how good Hayes is, but judging by his offer sheet, many of the top schools think he can be a good college back. At Michigan, he’s likely to redshirt next season due to a crowded backfield, and there’s a slight chance he could move to slot receiver, but he could be a very good player in a couple of years. He originally committed to Notre Dame, but switched to Michigan and then helped lobby for other recruits to follow him to Ann Arbor. He has good speed and is high character kid who will work hard to get better. Fans will love him in a few years.
THOMAS RAWLS
Height: 5-10
Weight: 214
Hometown: Flint, Mich. (Northern)
Rivals Rank: NR (3-star)
Scout Rank: #77 Running Back (3-star)
ESPN Rank: #84 Running Back, 76 rating (3-star)
Chose Michigan Over: Cincinnati, Central Michigan, Toledo
How He Fits In: Rawls was a late addition and the type of back Hoke wants for his offense. He may be a bit of a sleeper, not being rated highly by the recruiting sites. He has the body to compete right away, although with Stephen Hopkins already on the team, the smart move may be to redshirt him to create some separation. Longtime running backs coach Fred Jackson whose son coached Rawls at Flint Northern, compared him to Flint native and 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram. If Rawls can prove adept at blocking and taking care of the ball, he could see the field sooner rather than later.
Offensive Line (3)
CHRIS BRYANT
Height: 6-5
Weight: 330
Hometown: Chicago, Ill. (Simeon)
Rivals Ranking: #19 Offensive Tackle, #203 overall (4-star)
Scout Ranking: #21 Offensive Guard (3-star)
ESPN Ranking: #37 Offensive Guard, 77 rating (3-star)
Chose Michigan Over: Illinois, Pittsburgh, Arizona, Stanford, Ohio State
How He Fits In: Bryant fills a position of great need for this class and is a big pickup for Hoke. He represents a shift back to the traditional Big Ten linemen that Michigan utilized for years before Rodriguez’s spread called for smaller, quicker linemen. Bryant needs a redshirt season to lose some weight and build some strength, but once current Wolverines Patrick Omameh and Ricky Barnum graduate, Bryant should be able to work his way into the lineup in 2013 and blossom into an all-conference guard.
TONY POSADA
Height: 6-6
Weight: 315
Hometown: Tampa, Fla. (Plant)
Rivals Ranking: NR (3-star)
Scout Ranking: #45 Offensive Tackle (3-star)
ESPN Ranking: #34 Offensive Tackle, 78 rating (3-star)
Chose Michigan Over: South Florida, Texas Tech, Missouri, Tennessee, Rutgers
How He Fits In: Posada is a strong and physical lineman with a good body for Hoke’s offense. Conditioning and technique are called into question, so like most offensive linemen, Posada will benefit greatly from a redshirt season. He could play either guard or tackle, but will most likely play tackle opposite Taylor Lewan if he can work his way into the lineup by 2013.
JACK MILLER
Height: 6-4
Weight: 268
Hometown: Perrysburg, Ohio (St. John’s)
Rivals Ranking: NR (3-star)
Scout Ranking: #16 Center (3-star)
ESPN Ranking: #53 Defensive Tackle, 78 rating (3-star)
Chose Michigan Over: Cincinnati, Michigan State, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Boston College
How He Fits In: Miller will most likely play offensive line for the Wolverines, although ESPN rates him as a defensive tackle. Rodriguez and Hoke’s staffs recruited him as a guard/center, so that’s where he’ll end up. At 6-4, 268, he will need to add some weight to become a Big Ten offensive lineman, especially in Hoke’s power run offense as compared to Rodriguez’s spread. His freshman year will certainly be a redshirt and he could work his way into the lineup in a couple years. If he’s at center, he’ll have a chance in 2012 when David Molk graduates.
Tight End (1)
CHRIS BARNETT
Height: 6-6
Weight: 245
Hometown: Hurst, Texas (L.D. Bell)
Rivals Ranking: #14 Tight End, #224 overall (4-star)
Scout Ranking: #16 Tight End (3-star)
ESPN Ranking: #20 Tight End, 78 rating (3-star)
Chose Michigan Over: Arkansas, Miami, Florida State, USC, Oklahoma State
How He Fits In: Barnett was the last commitment to round out the 20-man class and a big get for Hoke. Tight end is a position of need since Martell Webb’s eligibility expired and Kevin Koger is a senior next season. The only other tight end is Brandon Moore, a redshirt sophomore who will be a redshirt junior next season and has hardly played. Barnett is a big and lean tight end with good hands and long arms. In Hoke’s offense, he could be a star in the mold of former Florida (and current New England Patriot) tight end Aaron Hernandez.
Kicker (1)
MATT WILE
Height: 6-2
Weight: 210
Hometown: San Diego, Calif. (Francis Parker)
Rivals Ranking: NR (2-star)
Scout Ranking: #4 Kicker(3-star)
ESPN Ranking: #37 Kicker, 74 rating (2-star)
Chose Michigan Over: Nebraska, Washington, San Diego State
How He Fits In: Wile is probably the biggest benefactor of Hoke landing the job at Michigan. He was being recruited by Hoke to San Diego State and followed Hoke to Ann Arbor. He’ll have a chance to win the kicking job right off the bat given Michigan’s struggles last season. The last kicker recruit, Brendan Gibbons, struggled mightily last season, going just 1-for-5, and losing his spot to Seth Broekhuizen. Wile is a good athlete with a repeatable kicking stroke, which is very inspiring.

Overview

Hoke filled needs at tight end, offensive line, and kicker, but wasn’t able to reel in any receivers. Bryant, Posada, and Barnett could all be eventual stars for the Wolverines, while Rawls and Hayes will have to battle a loaded and experienced backfield.

Not landing a receiver was certainly a letdown (though not much of Hoke’s fault, since he had just three weeks of recruiting) and will have to be a focus next season. Landing Barnett was a great way to close out the class with a pass catching tight end who can spread the field.

I’ll give this class a C+ but since it didn’t really nab any top-notch recruits, it can’t get any higher than that. Hoke has certainly built some momentum to carry into the 2012 class, which I think can be a top 10 or 15 class.

Michigan’s 2011 Recruiting Class By the Numbers

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011


National Signing Day represents the final chapter of each football season and the last chance to talk about college football until spring ball begins at the end of March. This year’s Michigan class has seen its share of changes, decommitments, and surprises. When Rich Rodriguez was replaced by Brady Hoke on Jan. 11, the recruiting class took on a shift in focus from a spread offense to a traditional pro-style offense. That didn’t sit well with some, but the momentum of bringing back a “Michigan man” and then hiring defensive coordinator Greg Mattison led a resurgence that catapulted Michigan’s class into the top 25 (according to Rivals).

While National Signing Day didn’t have the drama for Michigan that it did last year, Hoke and his staff secured two new commitments on Wednesday to go along with the 18 who had previously pledged their commitments, giving the first-year head coach 20 new players to work with this season. The majority were either Rodriguez commitments or were being sought after by Rodriguez before he was fired. About half of them were secured by Hoke once he took over. Below is a breakdown by state and by position. In a separate post, we will take a look at each individual recruit and how he fits in at Michigan.

2011 Recruits by State


Ohio Michigan Texas Illinois Maryland Florida California
7 6 3 1 1 1 1
Greg Brown
DB
Fremont (Ross)
Justice Hayes
RB
Grand Blanc
Chris Barnett
TE
Hurst (L.D. Bell)
Chris Bryant
OL
Chicago (Simeon)
Blake Countess
DB
Owings Mills (Our Lady of Good Counsel)
Tony Posada
OL
Tampa (Plant)
Matt Wile
K
San Diego (Francis Parker)
Frank Clark
LB
Cleveland (Glenville)
Brennen Beyer
DE
Canton (Plymouth)
Russell Bellomy
QB
Arlington (Martin)
Antonio Poole
LB
Cincinnati (Winton Woods)
Raymon Taylor
ATH
Detroit (Highland Park)
Kellen Jones
LB
Houston (St. Pius X)
Chris Rock
DE
Columbus (DeSales)
Thomas Rawls
RB
Flint (Northern)
Jack Miller
OL
Perrysburg (St. John’s)
Delonte Hollowell, DB
Detroit (Cass Tech)
Tamani Carter
DB
Pickerington (Central)
Desmond Morgan
LB
Holland (West Ottowa)
Keith Heitzman
DE
Hilliard (Davidson)
2011 Recruits by Position
Quarterback (1) Russell Bellomy
Running Back (2) Justice Hayes, Thomas Rawls
Tight End (1) Chris Barnett
Offensive Line (3) Chris Bryant, Tony Posada, Jack Miller
Defensive End (3) Brennen Beyer, Chris Rock, Keith Heitzman
Linebacker (4) Frank Clark, Antonio Poole, Desmond Morgan, Kellen Jones
Defensive Back (5) Blake Countess, Raymon Taylor, Greg Brown, Delonte Hollowell, Tamani Carter
Kicker (1) Matt Wile

* The class has an average star rating of 3.25 according to Rivals.
* Rivals ranks Michigan’s class 21st, while neither Scout or ESPN ranks the class in their Top 25.
* The six commitments from the state of Michigan are the most in a single class since 2005.
* Defensive back Greg Brown is the only commit to enroll at Michigan early. He’s currently participating in winter workouts with the team.
* Frank Clark comes from Ohio State pipeline Cleveland Glenville. He will be Michigan’s first player from Glenville since Pierre Woods committed in 2001. Coach Hoke compared Clark to Woods in today’s presser.
* If Matt Wile can prove consistent on field goals, he may be the most important commitment in the class and will start right away. He followed Hoke from San Diego to Ann Arbor.