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Posts Tagged ‘Mario Manningham’

What can Michigan expect from Peoples-Jones? History is kind to nation’s top receivers — except at USC

Friday, December 16th, 2016


(Getty Images)

On Thursday night Michigan reeled in five-star receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones, adding to an already impressive recruiting class. The Detroit Cass Tech star is the third receiver in the class but he’s also the highest-rated as the nation’s top receiver according to 247 Sports. So what can Michigan fans expect from Peoples-Jones in the maize and blue? A look at the history of the nation’s No. 1 wideout gives a lot of reason for excitement.

More than any other position on the field, receivers tend to produce the earliest when they arrive on campus. In a simplistic view, the position — more than any other — relies more on athleticism than a need to learn at the college level. Of course, route running, technique, strength, and a connection with the quarterback are important traits that can be developed in college, but an uber athletic receiver with good size and speed can produce right away.

Since 2000, the No. 1 receivers in the nation according to 247 Sports have produced an average of 34 receptions for 480 yards and four touchdowns in their first season of action. By comparison, as a senior, Jehu Chesson caught 31 passes for 467 yards and two scores as a senior this season (with a bowl game yet to play). That means that if Peoples-Jones performs just average as a true freshman compared to the past 17 No. 1 receivers, he would have been the third-leading receiver on Michigan’s roster this season. It gets better.

Nation’s No. 1 receiver since 2000 – by year
Freshman Season College Career
Year Name School Rec Yds TDs Rec Yds TDs
2016 Demetris Robertson Cal 50 767 7 50* 767* 7*
2015 Calvin Ridley Alabama 89 1,045 7 155* 1,772* 14*
2014 Speedy Noil Texas A&M 46 583 5 88* 1,134* 9*
2013 Laquon Treadwell Ole Miss 72 608 5 202 2,393 21
2012 Dorial Green-Beckham Missouri 28 395 5 87 1,278 17
2011 George Farmer USC 4 42 0 30 363 4
2010 Kyle Prater USC 1^ 6^ 0^ 71 654 2
2009 Rueben Randle LSU 11 173 2 97 1,634 13
2008 Julio Jones Alabama 58 924 4 179 2,653 15
2007 Terrence Toliver LSU 10 249 3 126 1,820 12
2006 Percy Harvin Florida 34 427 2 133 1,929 13
2005 Patrick Turner USC 12 170 2 138 1,752 17
2004 Early Doucet LSU 18 257 2 160 1,943 20
2003 Whitney Lewis USC 3 16 0 3 16 0
2002 Ryan Moore Miami 44 637 3 49 800 8
2001 Roscoe Crosby Clemson 23 396 3 23 396 3
2000 Charles Rogers Michigan State 67! 1,470! 14! 135 2,821 27
*Still in college
^Redshirted freshman season (redshirted due to injury)
! Sophomore season (academically ineligible for freshman season)

An anomaly among the previous 17 top receivers in the nation has been those who committed to Southern Cal. Four of them — George Farmer in 2011, Kyle Prater in 2010, Patrick Turner in 2005, and Whitney Lewis in 2003 — performed well below average. Those four averaged just five receptions for 58.5 yards and half a touchdown.

Farmer switched to running back, tore his ACL and MCL his sophomore season, and finished his career with just 30 catches for 363 yards and four touchdowns. Prater redshirted as a freshman due to nagging injuries and then transferred to Northwestern. He had originally committed to Pete Carroll, but didn’t stick it out with Lane Kiffin. Turner had the best freshman season of any of the four, catching 12 passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns, and went on to a decent career and a third-round draft pick. Lewis — like Farmer — was switched to running back for most of his freshman season before moving back to receiver where he caught just three passes for 16 yards. He sat out his sophomore season while academically ineligible and didn’t catch another pass in his career.

With four of the five worst freshman seasons among the last 16 No. 1 receivers nationally coming from USC — the other was LSU’s Rueben Randle, who caught 11 passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman –, it’s worth looking at the freshman year production average without the USC guys. If they had all not been from one school, we couldn’t do this. But when it’s isolated to one program, we can reasonably assume that it’s more of a reflection of the program than the player.

The 13 non-USC commits averaged 42 receptions for 610 yards and five touchdowns as freshmen. A performance like that would have been very similar to Jake Butt’s 43 receptions for 518 yards and four scores.

Nation’s No. 1 receiver since 2000 – averages
Receptions Yards Touchdowns
All 17 34 480 4
Jehu Chesson 2016 31 467 2
Minus USC commits 42 610 5
Jake Butt 2016 43 518 4

Three of the 17 No. 1 receivers since 2000 would have been Michigan’s leading receiver this season — Julio Jones, who caught 58 passes for 924 yards and four touchdowns for Alabama in 2008; Calvin Ridley, who caught 89 passes for 1,045 yards and seven scores for the Crimson Tide last season; and Charles Rogers, who caught 67 passes for 1,470 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2001. Last year’s No. 1 receiver, Demetris Robertson, had very similar numbers to Michigan’s leading receiver, Amara Darboh, catching 50 passes for 767 yards and seven touchdowns for California this fall.

Beyond just the freshman season, the nation’s No. 1 receivers have largely had outstanding college careers. Most of them didn’t stay all four years, but they averaged 102 catches for 1,461 yards and 12 touchdowns over their careers. Michigan State’s Charles Rogers turned in a two-year total of 2,821 yards, which would rank third in Michigan career receiving history. Jones’ 2,653 in three seasons would rank fifth and Ole Miss’ Laquon Treadwell’s 2,393 in three years would also rank fifth. Keep in mind that Michigan’s top four — Braylon Edwards, Anthony Carter, Jeremy Gallon, and Amani Toomer — all played all four seasons in Ann Arbor.

Of the 14 who are no longer in college, eight were drafted by the NFL — all in the top three rounds and four in the first round. Seven of them are still in the league.

Before Peoples-Jones’ commitment, the highest rated receiver Michigan had ever landed was Mario Manningham, who was the nation’s sixth-best receiver in the 2005 class. He turned in a 27-catch, 433-yard, six-touchdown freshman performance and ranks sixth in Michigan’s career receiving books.

Michigan’s top 10 receiver commitments in recruiting ranking era
Year Name Position Rank National Rank
2017 Donovan Peoples-Jones 1 11
2005 Mario Manningham 6 50
2001 Tim Massaquoi 7 47
2014 Drake Harris 7 67
2005 Antonio Bass 8 56
2008 Darryl Stonum 10 48
2004 Doug Dutch 10 71
2009 Je’Ron Stokes 10 90
2007 Toney Clemons 12 96
2002 Jason Avant 13 117

If recent history holds true, Michigan fans can expect a productive year from Peoples-Jones next fall and a solid career. He also comes in at the right time with the Wolverines losing their top three pass catchers to graduation. Jim Harbaugh has shown that he’s willing to play true freshman receivers as Grant Perry caught 14 passes for 128 yards and one touchdown in 2015 and Kekoa Crawford and Eddie McDoom combined for 9 catches for 106 yards and one score this fall, in addition to McDoom’s success on jet sweeps. The roster is certainly wide open for a go-to outside receiver and Peoples-Jones seems primed to fill that spot.

A high ranking doesn’t always guarantee success, and some of the best receivers in Michigan history weren’t ranked highly, but the recent history of the nation’s top receivers are good news for Michigan fans.

M&GB Roundtable talks freshmen, but not THAT freshman

Friday, August 1st, 2014


Roundtable-Freshmen

Canteen

So far this offseason we have discussed the status of Hoke’s hot seat (we pretty much all agreed this is not a make or break season for him) and the Michigan Football Legends jerseys program (we’re all in agreement that we like them, but they need a few guidelines). As we continue our offseason staff roundtable series today, we’re providing our thoughts on freshmen. You may have heard about this incoming defensive back named Jabrill Peppers, but we’re not talking about him. Here’s the question:

Which freshman — true or redshirt — are you most excited about this season, not named Jabrill Peppers? Who, other than Peppers, do you think will have the biggest impact this fall, and why?

Justin-banner

Jabrill Peppers is undoubtedly the freshman everyone is excited about. At Big Ten Media Days, it seemed that every other question for Brady Hoke, Devin Gardner, Jake Ryan, and Frank Clark was about Peppers. The amount of hype for an 18-year-old kid that hasn’t played a down of college football yet is unreal, and while we all hope it’s warranted, it was clear that Hoke and Michigan’s player representatives were tired of talking about it.

The only other freshman that has received a good amount of hype is receiver Freddy Canteen, and he’s who I’m most excited about. He was the talk of spring practice, showing off great speed, agility, and explosiveness — a combination Michigan has lacked at receiver for years. Jeremy Gallon, Roy Roundtree, and Junior Hemingway have been very good receivers the past few years, but they were all different types of receivers than Canteen. Michigan hasn’t had the Mario Manningham or Steve Breaston type of receiver (yes, I know Manningham played outside) that can complement the bigger possession receivers. And with the 6’5″, 230-pound Devin Funchess out wide, a speedy Canteen in the slot would be the perfect complement.

The big question mark for the receiving corps is redshirt sophomore Amara Darboh, who was the offseason hype machine and in line to start last season before breaking his foot in fall camp. That allowed Jehu Chesson, who was behind Darboh at the time, to work his way into the lineup. Chesson had an okay season (15 catches for 221 yards and a touchdown), but didn’t show the consistent playmaking ability. He flashed it — a catch-and-run across the middle touchdown against Akron and a jump ball in double coverage at Michigan State — but averaged barely over one catch a game. His blocking ability — a very important trait for a receiver, especially in Michigan’s offense — will keep him in the rotation, but he’ll likely battle with Darboh for the second outside spot opposite Funchess.

Canteen will likely battle with Dennis Norfleet for the slot job, and if they spring hype is accurate, has the leg up. Norfleet is just 5’7″, 169-pounds, and although shifty, has yet to fulfill the hype many expected of him. He was used sparingly on offense last season, and to mild success, because when he was on the field, it was a tell-tale sign that he was getting the ball on a trick play. Canteen’s size and game-breaking ability will allow him to stay on the field and be available for those trick plays without giving them away.

With Funchess playing the Gallon, Roundtree, and Hemingway role as The Man, Darboh and Chesson providing consistency and reliability on the other side, and Canteen giving big-play potential in the slot, this could be a very good receiving corps. There are a lot of ‘ifs’ but the potential is there, and for the first time in several years, there doesn’t appear to be a weak link in the group. The ideal situation would be for Darboh to return to the level he was pre-injury and start opposite Funchess with Canteen in the slot and Chesson rotating in for Darboh. Of course, the possibility exists that Canteen grabs the No. 2 receiver job on the outside — opposite Funchess — but that would leave Norfleet in the slot and both Darboh and Chesson coming off the bench, so that’s not ideal.

Drew-banner

There really are only a few legitimate candidates that can be considered. For the first time in a few seasons, Michigan finally will have experienced depth at most positions this fall thanks mostly to Brady Hoke’s work on the recruiting trail. In 2012 and 2013, the years he brought in his first two full recruiting classes, Hoke received commitments from 53 prospects. Currently, 52 of them still are on scholarship at Michigan, with only linebacker Kaleb Ringer transferring after he suffered a significant knee injury. The superb retention rate and lack of attrition in the 2012 and 2013 classes have allowed talented juniors and sophomores to flood Michigan’s depth chart. Accordingly, there are very few spots where Michigan needs freshmen—true or redshirt—to contribute immediately.

The only freshmen—other than Jabrill Peppers—that have an opportunity to start or see extensive playing time on either offense or defense are wide receiver Freddy Canteen and defensive tackle Maurice Hurst, Jr. There are a few other freshmen that could make notable contributions, though. Tight ends Khalid Hill and Ian Bunting may be valuable assets early in the season while Jake Butt completes his recovery from an ACL tear. Defensive tackle Bryan Mone, an early enrollee, may work his way into the defensive-line rotation by season’s end. And there are multiple offensive linemen with freshman eligibility that may be promoted to first string if the presumed starters—four sophomores and a junior—cannot improve upon what was arguably the nation’s worst offensive line last season, but Michigan fans are hoping this development does not come to fruition. Nevertheless, no freshman other than Peppers will have the impact that Canteen or Hurst, Jr. will have.

Although Hurst, Jr. may have a bigger impact as a plausible starter on the defensive line, the freshman not named Peppers that I am most excited about undoubtedly is Canteen. Canteen was a complete unknown when he committed to the Wolverines shortly after participating in Michigan’s summer camp in 2013. However, it was clear that he was unheralded only because his high school team played just three games his junior season. Once Michigan fans saw his game film and Vines of his terrific footwork, they started buzzing. Then, after he enrolled early last January, the coaching staff and his teammates began buzzing, too. Canteen provided a small taste of what he is capable of in the “spring game” when he flashed his swift speed and brisk footwork for what should have been two long completions, including one where he burned All-Big Ten first-team cornerback Blake Countess deep. With his crisp routes, he has the ability to be a playmaker immediately.

Canteen may not start, but he will play many snaps as a true freshman. Michigan lost four wide receivers, including record-setter Jeremy Gallon, to graduation in the offseason. Although the Wolverines still have arguably the Big Ten’s best wideout in Devin Funchess, they will need the younger guys to step up as the No. 2 and No. 3 options. Canteen will compete with sophomores Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson for those spots and already may have the edge on both. Plus, Michigan always could slide him in at slot receiver ahead of Dennis Norfleet. Either way, few freshmen will earn as much playing time in 2014 as Canteen, and he should dazzle all of us with his moves.

Josh-banner

In a perfect world we wouldn’t be asking this question. Personally, I would like to see ALL first year players get redshirted, sit and learn and pack on some weight without any pressure to perform. Sadly we don’t live in that world and so here we are. At first I wanted to say Freddy Canteen after his spring game showing. I mean c’mon it makes perfect sense, with Jeremy Gallon in the NFL and Jake Butt sidelined, someone has to catch the balls not thrown to Funchess. But after I thought about it a while a certain press conference came to mind, and to paraphrase of one of the greatest sports rants ever; “We talkin’ bout practice. Not a game, not a game, not a game, we talkin’ about practice.”

I’m going to head to the other side of the ball and go with Bryan Mone. The defensive line struggles, as with all of Michigan’s struggles in ’13, were well documented. They didn’t generate sufficient pass pressure, didn’t stop the run (to put it lightly) and overall were just, well not that good. Mone is a big boy, a very big boy, and by all accounts the kid can move quite well. A guy who can eat up space and occupy more than one blocker can be devastating, and if he can get into the backfield all the better. Now I won’t go so far as to say I think he’ll be Vince Wilfork, he’s a once in a lifetime player, but I do think given the chance Mone can make some noise and help get Michigan’s defense back to being a Michigan defense.

Derick-banner

I’m hoping I don’t jinx him by choosing another wide receiver this year (Darboh didn’t exactly break out last season), but how can fans not be excited about Freddy Canteen? The freshman wide receiver stormed onto the stage during the Spring Game, offering one of the few bright spots in what turned out to be a sloppy performance.

Canteen separated himself from a loaded group of young wide receivers and should line up with the starters along with captain Devin Funchess. His speed will give the offense another dimension that it badly needed after the loss of both Jeremy Gallon and Drew Dileo to graduation.

Canteen isn’t the most talented freshman receiver in Ann Arbor, but unlike classmates Drake Harris and Maurice Ways, the youngster has the offensive coaching staff buzzing about his ability as the calendar turns to August. Look for Canteen to give quarterback Devin Gardner a second option to Funchess early in the nonconference season.

_________________________________________________________________________________

So what do you think? Is Canteen your guy as well, or are you more excited about another freshman? Do you think any other freshmen will make a big contribution to the team this fall? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Inside the Numbers: Avoiding the goose egg better than anyone else

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013



October 20, 1984 was a long time ago. Brady Hoke and Greg Mattison were coaching football, not at Michigan, but 100 miles west of Ann Arbor at Western Michigan. Teachers was the highest-grossing film of the weekend. Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You” topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart for the second straight week. The price of regular gasoline was only $1.21. The author of this column would not even be born for another 53 months. Yet, that date marks the last time the Michigan football team put a goose egg on the scoreboard.

On that October Saturday in 1984, the Iowa Hawkeyes held Michigan scoreless, winning by a score of 26-0. It was an ugly, ugly game for the Wolverines. Michigan managed to accumulate only 187 total yards, did not see a single play gain more than 14 yards, and turned the football over four times. U-M’s quarterback tandem of Russ Rein and Chris Zurbrugg completed only 11-of-25 passes for a whopping total of 83 yards and completed three more passes to the wrong team. Michigan’s leading rusher, Rick Rogers, toted the rock 19 times, but averaged only 2.9 yards per carry. There is no play-by-play available to indicate if the Wolverines blew any easy chances to score. Nonetheless, the hideous box score indicates that this was a Maize and Blue mess. [Edit: As reader sarcasMike pointed out below, Rein threw an interception on 3rd-and-goal from the Iowa 14 in the second half].

Michigan has had putrid offensive performances after that dreadful day in Iowa City, but the Wolverines have not had such a showing of offensive ineptitude in the 29 years and one month since. In that span, Michigan has scored points in 361 consecutive games, tying Brigham Young’s NCAA record when Brendan Gibbons split the uprights from 25 yards out with 8:45 remaining left in the first quarter against Northwestern last Saturday.

No current Michigan player was alive the last time Michigan was shut out

During the first two decades of Michigan’s streak, U-M scored in 245 straight games, which at the time was the fourth-longest streak in NCAA history. But the Wolverines needed all three teams with longer streaks to have theirs snapped before U-M would be the given the opportunity to eclipse their marks. Even though Michigan kept scoring, it could not make up any ground on those above them until those streaks were dead.

Then, it happened. And it happened fast. On November 22, 2003, BYU’s record streak of 361 games was put to a halt when its in-state rival Utah Utes shut out the Cougars, 3-0, in the regular-season finale. The following season, the Texas Longhorns—which had put together a streak of 282 games without being shut out—were the next to bite the dust. Texas suffered only one loss during the 2004 season, but it could not make it count when it needed to. Literally. The Longhorns fell to the second-ranked Oklahoma Sooners, 12-0, in the Red River Shootout.

This left only one team between Michigan and a shot to break the NCAA record: the Washington Huskies. Three weeks later, on October 23, 2004, Washington, bearing a streak of 271 contests without being held scoreless, walked into the Coliseum to face the top-ranked USC Trojans. The Huskies were no match for the best team in the nation as their scoring streak went up in flames with a 38-0 beating from the Trojans.

And on that very same day, in West Lafayette, Indiana, Mike Hart took a screen pass from Chad Henne and darted 25 yards before reaching over the goal line to score Michigan’s first touchdown against the Purdue Boilermakers with 7:40 left in the first quarter. The touchdown extended Michigan’s scoring streak to 246 straight games. But, more importantly, it ensured that U-M would have the longest active non-shutout streak in the nation for at least one week.

Well, 115 weeks of football later, Michigan still has not relinquished its grasp of the nation’s longest active non-shutout streak. During this historic 361-game streak, Michigan has scored a grand total of 10,617 points, averaging 29.41 per game. The Maize and Blue may not have had the most prolific or high-octane offense during this 29-plus-year streak, but only one other school in the history of college football has been as consistent about adding points to the scoreboard.

This does not mean that the Wolverines have not had their share of scares in the process, though. During this 361-game streak, U-M has been held to single digits in 16 of them. The following will unleash suppressed trauma for Michigan fans, but here is a list of those games:

Michigan’s single-digit scoring performances since Oct. 20, 1984
Date Opponent Result Date Opponent Result
Nov. 18, 1984 Ohio State L, 6-21 Nov. 23, 2002 Ohio State L, 9-14
Nov. 2, 1985 Illinois T, 3-3 Sept. 8, 2007 Oregon L, 7-39
Sept. 12, 1987 Notre Dame L, 7-26 Nov. 17, 2007 Ohio State L, 3-14
Oct. 9, 1993 Michigan State L, 7-17 Nov. 22, 2008 Ohio State L, 7-42
Nov. 19, 1994 Ohio State L, 6-22 Nov. 27, 2010 Ohio State L, 7-37
Nov. 11, 1995 Purdue W, 5-0 Sept. 22, 2012 Notre Dame L, 6-13
Nov. 9, 1996 Purdue L, 3-9 Oct. 27, 2012 Nebraska L, 9-23
Oct. 26, 2002 Iowa L, 9-34 Nov. 2, 2013 Michigan State L, 6-29

These games indicate when Michigan’s scoring offense was most futile, but they do not necessarily indicate whether these games put the streak at risk. In most of the contests listed above, the Wolverines scored in the first half, extending the streak, before struggling to produce any more points.

Nonetheless, there were two contests in which the Wolverines did not score their first points of the game until the fourth quarter—one of which is not even listed in the table above. The one that is listed above is Michigan’s 13-6 loss to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on September 22, 2012. Notre Dame held U-M scoreless until Gibbons converted a 33-yard field goal with 13:10 left in the final quarter.

Yet, the contest that most threatened to end the Maize and Blue’s historic streak was a game in which Michigan actually won. In Lloyd Carr’s Michigan debut on August 26, 1995, the Wolverines trailed the Virginia Cavaliers, 17-0, in the fourth quarter. U-M remained scoreless until there was about 11:30 left in the game when Ed Davis powered into the end zone with a three-yard touchdown run. The score not only extended Michigan’s non-shutout streak, but it sparked the largest comeback in U-M history at the time as the Wolverines scored on the final play of regulation to beat Virginia, 18-17.

No team will look perfect offensively in 361 straight games. Heck, no team will look average in 361 straight games. Every school has its offensive ups and downs over the course of three decades. Michigan was bound to have a few clunkers here and there. However, unlike other squads, U-M has been fortunate enough to avoid the goose egg when it has experienced struggles offensively. To put in perspective how remarkable this non-shutout streak is, the following indicates the number of times the other 11 teams currently in the Big Ten have been shut out in the time Michigan has strung together its record-tying streak:

Big Ten teams shut out since Oct. 20, 1984
Team Number of Times Last time Shut Out Score/Opponent
Illinois 12 2012 0-45 vs Michigan
Indiana 8 2000 0-58 vs Michigan
Iowa 4 2000 0-31 vs Illinois
Michigan State 6 2000 0-14 vs Michigan
Minnesota 14 2011 0-58 vs Michigan
Nebraska 2 1996 0-19 vs Arizona State
Northwestern 8 2003 0-20 vs Ohio State
Ohio State 1 1993 0-28 vs Michigan
Penn State 4 2001 0-20 vs Michigan
Purdue 15 2013 0-56 vs Ohio State
Wisconsin 6 1997 0-34 vs Syracuse

Not only has Michigan extended its non-shutout streak to 361 straight games, but it has also played a substantial role in preventing other Big Ten teams from doing the same. U-M has handed six Big Ten teams their last shutout loss. The most significant one is Michigan’s 28-0 win against Ohio State in 1993. It is Ohio State’s only shutout loss since 1982. If the Wolverines had not held the Buckeyes to zero points exactly 20 years ago from today, OSU would be the Big Ten team with the NCAA-record streak, not Michigan.

But Michigan did shut out Ohio State, and, now, U-M has an opportunity to break BYU’s all-time record this Saturday in the same place where it was last shut out just over 29 years ago: Iowa City, Iowa. If the Wolverines can tack some points onto the scoreboard against the Hawkeyes, Michigan will set the NCAA record with its 362nd consecutive contest without being shutout.

If Michigan hadn't shut out Ohio State in 1993 the Buckeyes would have the nation's longest streak

However, in recent weeks, Michigan has made offense look more difficult than a toddler trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube. In the last three games U-M has played in November, the Wolverines have scored only 28 points in regulation. This is the fewest number of points a Michigan team has scored in three straight regulations since the Wolverines managed only 24 points in three straight from September 25, 1965, to October 9, 1965. Yes, this has been the worst three-game stretch of Michigan’s scoring offense in nearly half a century.

So will history repeat itself? Will the Iowa Hawkeyes be able to be the team that bookends Michigan’s non-shutout streak? Or will Michigan overcome its offensive woes to set a new NCAA record with its 362nd consecutive game without being held scoreless? Iowa has not shut out a Big Ten opponent since the end of the 2009 season, and one should not expect it to happen again on Saturday. Tune in to Big Ten Network at noon ET on Saturday to watch history—one way or the other.

Three Notes You Should Know Before Michigan-Iowa

1. Under Brady Hoke, Michigan has mustered only a 6-7 record in true road games. After beating the Northwestern Wildcats in triple overtime in Evanston last Saturday, U-M has an opportunity to win two consecutive road games for the first time during Hoke’s tenure. The last time the Wolverines won two straight road contests was during the early portion of the 2010 season, when U-M beat Notre Dame in South Bend and Indiana in Bloomington.

2. Last Saturday, Jeremy Gallon became the 10th different receiver in Michigan history to have a 1,000-yard season—the first to do so since Mario Manningham in 2007. This week, Devin Funchess has an opportunity to become the 31st U-M player to record 1,000 career receiving yards. Funchess needs only 82 receiving yards to achieve the feat.

3. With his interception on the last play of the third overtime to secure Michigan’s win against Northwestern, Thomas Gordon extended U-M’s streak of forcing a turnover to 12 straight games. It was Gordon’s third interception of the season. Therefore, with Blake Countess picking off four passes and Raymon Taylor intercepting another three this season, this is the first time since 1998 that Michigan has had three players with three-plus interceptions in a season.

Inside the Numbers: Despite pint sized stature, Gallon may be one of Michigan’s best ever

Monday, October 21st, 2013


(Patrick Barron, The Michigan Daily)

What is the prototypical Michigan wide receiver? For many, it is a wide receiver that is six-feet-and-three-inches tall, weighs 210 pounds, and can dunk a football over the crossbar effortlessly. For years, they have walked through the doors at Schembechler Hall and dazzled those in attendance at Michigan Stadium. They include Braylon Edwards, Amani Toomer, Tai Streets, David Terrell, Marquise Walker, and Derrick Alexander. The list is seemingly never-ending.

Michigan head coach Brady Hoke has expressed his desire to add more of them to the list and has done so since taking over the program, obtaining verbal commitments from nine receivers that are all at least six-feet-and-two-inches tall in his 2012-15 recruiting classes. Yet, it is the five-foot-eight wideout from Apopka, Florida, that may just be one of the best to don the winged helmet.

On June 5, 2008, wide receiver Jeremy Gallon gave a verbal pledge to then-Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez that he would leave the warm confines of the Sunshine State to play his collegiate ball in Ann Arbor. Gallon was expected by Rodriguez and the staff to have a versatile role for the Wolverines, lining up in the slot, in the backfield, and as a returner. Rodriguez wanted to utilize Gallon by putting him in space in the middle of the field, where his quickness and speed would expose linebackers in coverage and generate plentiful yards after the catch.

Jeremy Gallon's 369 yards set a Michigan and Big Ten single-game record (MGoBlue.com)

However, Gallon did not become the starting slot receiver until after Michigan fired Rodriguez, and the results at the position under offensive coordinator Al Borges were a mixed bag. Borges did not feature Gallon in Michigan’s game plan, and former quarterback Denard Robinson’s accuracy issues limited Gallon’s production the few times he was targeted. In Gallon’s 21 games at slot receiver in 2011 and 2012, he caught at least four passes only three times and topped 80 receiving yards only once. It seemed like Gallon would be an average second or third option in the passing game throughout his career, highlighted by his undercover 64-yard reception in the final seconds against Notre Dame in 2011.

But with a move to outside receiver and a substitution at quarterback during the second half of the 2012 campaign, everything changed for the pint-sized Gallon. He became Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner’s favorite target as they developed an ESP-like connection, and the record-setting performances began to pile up.

In the 12 games since Gardner became the starting quarterback, Gallon has caught 76 passes for 1,342 yards and 10 touchdowns—which would be the most receiving yards by a U-M receiver ever if accomplished in a calendar season. He has caught a pass in 33 straight games, which is third best in Michigan history. He has grabbed at least four passes in 11 of his last 12 games and topped 80 receiving yards in six of them. He shattered the Michigan and Big Ten single-game receiving records with 369 yards against Indiana last Saturday. Not only is that total the second most in FBS history, his first- and second-half receiving totals—170 and 199—would be the 15th- and second-best performances, respectively, in Michigan history by themselves.

With virtuoso performances against South Carolina in the 2013 Outback Bowl and Notre Dame and Indiana in 2013, Gallon has sneakily transformed himself into one of the best wide receivers in Michigan history.  Here are Gallon’s current receiving statistics, compared with those of former Wolverine wideouts considered by most to be the best ever at Michigan:

Mosts for top Michigan wide receivers – Current Numbers
Jeremy Gallon Anthony Carter Desmond Howard Amani Toomer Tai Streets David Terrell Marquise Walker Braylon Edwards Mario Manningham
In a game
Catches 14 9 9 8 12 10 15 13 10
Yards 369 154 167 179 192 150 160 189 162
Touchdowns 3 2 3 2 2 3 2 3 3
In a season
Catches 45* 51 63 54 67 71 86 97 72
Yards 831 952 1,025 1,096 1,035 1,130 1,143 1,330 1,174
Touchdowns 7 14 19 7 11 14 11 15 12
In a career
Catches 129 161 134 143 144 152 176 252 137
Yards 2,162 3,076 2,146 2,657 2,284 2,317 2,269 3,541 2,310
Touchdowns 15 37 32 18 19 23 17 39 27
*Gallon had 49 catches in 2012, but will likely surpass that number in the next game against Michigan State

As one can see from the table above, while Gallon’s best numbers in individual games are almost as good as, if not better than, every other wide receiver in Michigan history, his season and career totals are slightly lower than those of the eight ex-Wolverines listed, except for Desmond Howard’s career yardage and Toomer’s most number of touchdowns in a season.

However, this is to be expected for a player that still has six or seven games remaining in his collegiate career. To have an idea where Gallon will stand at the end of the year, one must project his 2013 season and career numbers. The best method to project these totals is to use the averages Gallon has recorded since Gardner became the starter, rather than his averages for his entire career, because Gardner will be the quarterback for the remainder of the year.

In the 12 games since Gardner became the signal caller, Gallon has averaged 6.33 receptions, 111.83 yards, and 0.83 touchdowns per game. If Gallon maintains these averages for the next 6.5 games—which allows for the possibility of Michigan participating in the Big Ten Championship Game—here is how his numbers stack up against the same former Wolverines listed above:

Mosts for top Michigan wide receivers – Projected Numbers*
Jeremy Gallon Anthony Carter Desmond Howard Amani Toomer Tai Streets David Terrell Marquise Walker Braylon Edwards Mario Manningham
In a game
Catches 14 9 9 8 12 10 15 13 10
Yards 369 154 167 179 192 150 160 189 162
Touchdowns 3 2 3 2 2 3 2 3 3
In a season
Catches 86* 51 63 54 67 71 86 97 72
Yards 1,558* 952 1,025 1,096 1,035 1,130 1,143 1,330 1,174
Touchdowns 12* 14 19 7 11 14 11 15 12
In a career
Catches 170* 161 134 143 144 152 176 252 137
Yards 2,889* 3,076 2,146 2,657 2,284 2,317 2,269 3,541 2,310
Touchdowns 20* 37 32 18 19 23 17 39 27
*Projections are only for Gallon’s 2013 season and career totals

If these projections pan out, the following would be Gallon’s rank in Michigan history in those categories:

Gallon could finish in the top five in Michigan history in all receiving categories (MGoBlue.com)

Catches in Game: 3rd
Catches in a Season: t-2nd
Catches in a Career: 3rd
Yards in a Game: 1st (Big Ten record, 2nd in FBS history)
Yards in a Season: 1st (Big Ten record)
Yards in a Career: 3rd
Touchdowns in a Game: t-2nd
Touchdowns in a Season: t-6th
Touchdowns in a Career: 7th

Gallon has a realistic opportunity to finish in the top five in Michigan’s record book for all nine of these categories. To do so, Gallon would need at least 31 catches, 299 yards, and eight touchdowns to close out the season. If he does do so, he would become only the second receiver in Michigan history to accomplish such a feat, joining Braylon Edwards.

There are two caveats that must be mentioned before one assumes these projections will come to life. First, by using only the numbers from the 12 games that Gardner started at quarterback, the sample size is much smaller and the 369-yard performance becomes an even bigger outlier. Although Gallon has averaged 111.83 receiving yards in those 12 games, he has only eclipsed 100 receiving yards in three of them. Gallon will need to be more consistent with his output because 369-yard performances do not happen every Saturday.

Second, the yards may be harder to come by in Michigan’s remaining games. The average rank of the seven teams Michigan has already faced in passing yards allowed is 72.6. The average rank of the five teams Michigan has yet to play is 58.2, and U-M likely will play better passing defenses in the Big Ten Championship Game, if necessary, and its bowl game. While there is not a large discrepancy between the average ranks, Michigan will face two top 30 pass defenses in Michigan State (no. 4) and Iowa (no. 26) after facing zero in the first seven games.

Nonetheless, Gallon has been absolutely incredible in his past 12 games, enough so that it is time to start debating where he ranks among the best wide receivers in Michigan history as Team 134 finishes its season. There is no doubt that Carter, Howard, and Edwards, in no order, are the three best at the position to wear the maize and blue. Yet, the fourth best receiver is not so clear. A legitimate argument can be made for seven former players: Alexander, Toomer, Streets, Terrell, Walker, Jason Avant, and Manningham. If Gallon has a quiet second half of the season, he will likely find himself outside the top 10 and not in the discussion for the fourth best wideout in school history.

But if Gallon can continue to perform like he has since Gardner took the reins and produce numbers similar to the ones in the above projections, he will cement his case for being one of the five best wide receivers in Michigan history, despite not matching the physical specifications of a prototypical Michigan wideout. Not bad for a five-foot-eight Floridian that would not have been a Michigan recruiting target if he had been born only two years later.

Three notes you should know for the bye week

  1. Like Jeremy Gallon, Devin Gardner also broke multiple Michigan records by a large margin. His 584 total yards were 82 more than the 502 Denard Robinson had against Notre Dame in 2010, while his 503 passing yards were 114 more than the 389 John Navarre had against Iowa in 2003. Gardner leads the Big Ten in total offense (328.4), points responsible for (18.9), passing efficiency (159.6), and yards per completion (16.63). Further, he is second in the conference with 13 passing touchdowns and third with nine rushing touchdowns.
  1. Although Michigan running back Fitzgerald Toussaint has not found many holes behind U-M’s offensive line, averaging only 3.7 yards per carry this season, he has had a knack for finding the end zone. After his career-high four scores against IU, Toussaint is tied for third in the nation and tied for first in the Big Ten with 11 rushing touchdowns—two more than the personal best he set in all of 2011.
  1. Michigan’s defense struggled mightily against the Hoosiers—allowing a season worst 572 total yards—but the Wolverines have not struggled to force turnovers. Through seven games, U-M has forced 15 turnovers after gaining only 18 all of last season. Additionally, U-M’s 11 interceptions are four more than the number in 2012, and all four starters of Michigan’s secondary have picked off at least two passes this year.

Michigan-UConn game preview

Friday, September 20th, 2013


Seven years ago Michigan hosted Ball State in an odd November non-conference matchup. The Wolverines were 9-0 at that point, ranked second in the nation, but on that day the Brady Hoke-led Cardinals almost pulled of a shocker. In front of a stunned Big House crowd that Michigan squad, led by Chad Henne, Mike Hart, Steve Breaston, Mario Manningham, Jake Long, LaMarr Woodley, David Harris, and Leon Hall, nearly suffered a demoralizing defeat. Henne threw a pick-six. Hart fumbled for the first time in two years. The defense gave up nearly 300 yards.

Hoke had some good teams at Ball State, but that wasn’t one of them.

Following the game, Henne acknowledged that with a showdown at Ohio State looming the team wasn’t completely focused.

“I think that is a lot of the reason why we weren’t focused,” Henne said. “Coming into the game, people were reading too many press clippings.”

Woodley agreed.

Quick Facts
Rentschler Field – 8pm EST – ABC
UConn Head Coach: Paul Pasqualoni (3rd season)
Coaching Record: 117-73-1 (10-14 at UConn)
Offensive Coordinator: TJ Weist (1st season)
Defensive Coordinator: Hank Hughes (1st season*)
Returning Starters: 12 (7 offense, 5 defense)
Last Season: 5-7
Last Meeting: UM 30 – UConn 10 (2010)
All-Time Series: Michigan leads 1-0
Record at UConn: First meeting
Record vs AAC Teams: Michigan leads 6-0
Brady Hoke vs AAC Teams: First meeting

“Coming into this game, everybody was talking about the hype about Michigan and Ohio State, and it kind of overlooked a team like Ball State. If you disrespect a team, they’re going to come out and give it their all.”

Michigan responded with a 34-3 thumping of Indiana, holding the Hoosiers to just 131 total yards and then played one of the all-time great games in the history of The Game a week later in Columbus, falling 42-39 to the top-ranked Buckeyes.

The point is that even great teams suffer letdowns every now and then. Ball State had a chance to tie the game twice in the final minutes just like Akron had a chance to win the game on the final play last Saturday. Michigan was fortunate to come out with a victory and the man who was on the other side of that 2006 affair knows that all too well.

All eyes will be on how this team responds this week against UConn. With all the negativity surrounding the team following last week’s performance, the Wolverines shouldn’t need anything else to fire them up, but perhaps the fact that it’s a primetime game on ABC rather than a noon start on Big Ten Network will be enough.

UConn is probably a team of a similar level as the Indiana team the 2006 squad rebounded with, and while no one is expecting this Michigan defense to put forth as dominant a performance, the expectations remain for a big, convincing win.

The Huskies enter with an 0-2 record, having lost to Towson of the FCS and Maryland, both at home. The Towson game was closer than the score indicates, but the Tigers racked up nearly 400 yards of offense including 201 on the ground. The Maryland game wasn’t quite as close as the final score shows as the Terrapins widened a 13-10 halftime lead to 32-13 before UConn scored with a few minutes to play.

Paul Pasqualoni is in his third season in Storrs and Husky Nation is already calling for his head after going 5-7 in each of his first two seasons. Prior to taking over in 2011, he spent 14 years at Syracuse, going 107-59-1 with six bowl victories, as well as six seasons in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins. In fact, as head coach of Syracuse, he went 1-1 against Michigan, beating the Wolverines 38-28 in 1998 and losing 18-13 in 1999.

In that 1998 matchup, Pasqualoni had Donovan McNabb at quarterback, a luxury he doesn’t currently have. Can he pull off the upset in front of the largest crowd in UConn history? Let’s take a look at the matchups.

Michigan defense vs UConn offense: When UConn has the ball

Chandler Whitmer has thrown 19 interceptions and 12 touchdowns in the past 14 games (Mark L. Baer, USA Today Sports)

Following a disappointing 2012 season in which the Huskies ranked 118th nationally in scoring offense, Pasqualoni brought in Cincinnati wide receivers coach TJ Weist to run the offense. Weist spent four seasons on Gary Moeller’s staff in the early 1990s, first as a volunteer graduate assistant and then as receivers coach, guiding the likes of Desmond Howard and working alongside Greg Mattison.

He inherited seven returning starters including junior quarterback Chandler Whitmer who completed 57.6 percent of his passes for 2,659 yards last season. But it was his 9-to-16 touchdown-to-interception rate that Weist is hoping to significantly improve. The results are mixed so far this season with 555 yards on 60.8 percent completions and three touchdowns, but he has also thrown three more picks. Against Maryland last week put up a lot of yards (349), but threw two interceptions and just one touchdown.

His main target is junior Shakim Phillips who has 15 receptions for 255 yards and all three touchdowns so far. By comparison, Jeremy Gallon has 18 receptions for 297 yards and four touchdowns through three games. The former four-star recruit and U.S. Army All-American Bowl participant originally attended Boston College before transferring to UConn and sitting out the 2011 season. However, he strained a hamstring at the end of the Maryland game, so while he insists he will play he might not be at full speed. Fellow junior Geremy Davis is the only other Huskie with double digit receptions so far with 10 catches for 154 yards. He was UConn’s leading receiver last season with 44 receptions for 608 yards, but caught just one touchdown pass.

In the backfield, Lyle McCombs is the feature back for the third straight year, but is averaging just 3.6 yards per carry on 36 attempts so far. He managed just 53 yards on 19 attempts against Maryland last week. In 2011, he broke the 1,000-yard mark with 1,151 yards and seven touchdowns, but those numbers declined last season due to injuries and off the field troubles. No other back on the team has more than three carries this season, so it’s clear McCombs will be the workhorse once again. He’s also the team’s third-leading receiver with eight catches.

Deshon Foxx plays the Dennis Norfleet role, a slot guy with four receptions for 54 yards and three rushes for 21 yards. Weist is counting on Foxx to be the speedy playmaker the offense needs with the ability to take a speed sweep for a big play.

Shakim Phillips is the danger man for Michigan's secondary to contain (Stephen Slade)

The offensive line returns four starters from last season. Sixth-year senior Jimmy Bennett is the left tackle with 16 career starts, while redshirt senior Kevin Friend brings 29 career starts to the right tackle position. However, Friend is questionable this week with a high ankle sprain, which could force Xavier Hemingway into his spot. The redshirt sophomore was pushed around the past two weeks, allowing a pair of sacks against Towson and a safety against Maryland. If Friend is out tomorrow, look for Michigan to pick on the right side of the Husky line.

Tyler Bullock, who started the last eight games of 2012, was supposed to be the starting center, but a leg injury has forced UConn to insert Penn State transfer Alex Mateas into the center position. He was routinely pushed back by Maryland’s defensive line last week. Bullock did play some at right guard at the end of the game last week, but it remains to be seen whether he will see more time this week. Left guard Steve Greene has 20 career starts under his belt, while right guard Gus Cruz started five games last season.

While the UConn offensive line has a lot of starting experience, it was the 121st-ranked rush offense last season and currently ranks 122nd this season. If there was ever a game for Michigan’s defensive line to get off the schneid it is this one. The Huskies have allowed 10 sacks through two games.

Whitmer operates mostly out of the shotgun with one back offset and one tight end. Weist likes to line up three receivers to one side and one on the other, which typically results in a throw to the single receiver, Phillips. This is how Phillips scored a 75-yard touchdown last week. Maryland used a blitz-heavy scheme to pressure Whitmer and attack Hemingway, which is typically Mattison’s style, but we haven’t seen it the past two weeks. After getting torched by Kyle Pohl a week ago by sitting back, expect Mattison to dial up the blitz early and often this week.

Michigan offense vs UConn defense: When Michigan has the ball

Both Maryland and Towson moved the ball well against the UConn defense, and both did so with a fairly balanced attack. Towson passed for 193 yards and rushed for 201, while Maryland gained 277 through the air and 224 on the ground. The 212.4 rushing yards allowed per game ranks 104th nationally and both the Tigers and Terps had individual rushers go over 100 yards. Maryland quarterback CJ Brown gained 122 yards on 16 carries, while running back Brandon Ross was five yards short of 100 on 18 carries. Towson running back Terrance West gained 156 yards on 36 carries.

Only five starters return form last year’s UConn defense which ranked ninth nationally in total defense. Three starters from that unit that are no longer around were drafted this past April, most notably tackle Kendall Reyes who was selected 49th overall by the San Diego Chargers.

The leading player on this year’s defense is the only returning starting linebacker, Yawin Smallwood. He led the Huskies with 120 tackles last season and ranked second with 15 tackles for loss. He already has 30 tackles in the first two games, which is twice as many as the next closest. Ryan Donohue and Graham Stewart are the other starters. You and I cheered for Stewart a couple years ago when, while playing for Florida, he blocked an Ohio State punt and returned it for a touchdown in the Gator Bowl. He played in 12 games for the Gators that season before transferring to UConn a year ago. Donohue is a Maryland transfer who played in 20 games for the Terps in 2009-10.

Linebacker Yawin Smallwood has 30 tackles in the first two games (Stephen Slade)

The four-man front includes redshirt senior tackle Shamar Stephen who has played in 34 career games. He ranks third on the team with 14 tackles so far this season. The other tackle is is redshirt sophomore Julian Campenni who started two games last season. End Tim Willman leads the team with 1.5 tackles for loss this season. He started the final game of 2012 and earned the starting role this year, while redshirt junior Angelo Pruitt is the other end.

The secondary is led (on the stat-sheet) by redshirt freshman safety Obi Melifonwu who has 15 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and an interception so far. Free safety Ty-Meer Brown is the most veteran of the unit with 19 career starts. He has nine tackles and a fumble recovery on the young season. The corners are senior Taylor Mack and redshirt junior Byron Jones. Mack has the team’s only other interception this season.

Last week, UConn played Maryland conservatively, intent on not giving up the big play, which they failed to do. The Huskies didn’t blitz once and mostly sat back in a quarters or cover two defense. Against both Maryland and Towson, UConn’s linebackers were susceptible to the run fake, getting drawn up and allowing space behind them, so look for Michigan to take advantage of the play action.

UConn hasn’t sacked the quarterback yet this season, so the Michigan offensive line – which might be shuffled this week – has an opportunity to perform well. Maryland had good success running the zone read and inverted veer, which Michigan doesn’t do as much with Gardner, but has success with especially later in the game.

The other third: Special Teams

Redshirt senior Kicker Chad Chirsten has made all three field goal attempts with a long of 34. He converted 14-of-21 last season and has a career high of 50. He also handles kickoff duties. Last week, only one kickoff resulted in a touchback, so that could be beneficial for Dennis Norfleet. Fellow redshirt senior Cole Wagner was a second team All-Big East selection last season with a 40.5 yards per punt average. Through two games this season he has already punted 15 times and is averaging just 37.5 yards.

Phillips and Foxx are the kick returners. Neither has broken one yet, but Phillips has a long of 39 yards. Freshman receiver Brian Lemelle is the only Husky who has returned a punt – two for two yards.

Prediction

A more focused Michigan team will take the field tomorrow night looking to atone for a poor performance last week. Devin Gardner will be crisp like he was against Central Michigan and Notre Dame. Michigan will look to get Fitzgerald Toussaint established early to set up the play action. Later in the game, the offense will mix in the zone read and inverted veer and Gardner will have a big day with his feet and arm.

The defense will be more aggressive rather than sitting back and letting Whitmer pick them apart. It might give up a couple of big plays, but overall it will keep the UConn offense off balance and result in the best performance of the season to date, piling up several sacks.

The nation will be watching to see just how Michigan responds from the Akron letdown. Everybody wants to know if this team is as good as it looked in the first two weeks or if those were just a mirage. A bye week follows, so Michigan will play with a chip on its shoulder and win convincingly.

Michigan 45 – UConn 20

Brady, Manningham carry Maize and Blue pride into Super Bowl

Sunday, February 5th, 2012



Tom Brady looks for his fourth Super Bowl ring, starting in his fifth Super Bowl in 10 years as an NFL starting quarterback. He would tie Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw for most Super Bowl rings by a quarterback in NFL history and he would break Montana’s career playoff victory record.

Mario Manningham enters his first Super Bowl Sunday with a touchdown in all three playoff games to this point, including the game-winner in the NFC Championship game in San Francisco. Manningham has a chance to be the standout player, taking advantage of a weak Patriots secondary that will be focusing on Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks.

Zoltan Mesko (Patriots punter) and David Baas (Giants center) also make their first Super Bowl appearances.

The halftime show also features a Michigan connection. Madonna briefly attended Michigan before dropping out in 1977 to move to New York to pursue a singing/dancing career.

Around the League – Week 8

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011


Michigan has a great tradition of sending players to the National Football League. While the pace has fallen off over the past few years, there are still plenty of former Wolverines in the League. Each week during the season, we will provide an update on how former Michigan Men fared that week.

TOM BRADYPatriots QB

Mario Manningham caught his first touchdown of the season on Sunday (photo by Julio Cortez, AP)

Last game: Went 24-of-35 for 198 yards and two touchdowns. Had a passer rating of 101.8 in the Patriots’ 25-17 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers
Season totals: 184-of-272 (67.6%) for 2,361 yards (4th in NFL), 18 TDs (4th), 8 INTs
This week: Patriots host the New York Giants on Sunday at 4:15 EST
__________________________________

CHAD HENNEDolphins QB

Last game: DNP – Our for season (shoulder)
Season totals: 64-of-112 (57.1%) for 868 yards, 4 TDs, 4 INTs

_______________________________

LAMARR WOODLEYSteelers OLB
Last game: Recorded 2 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 tackles-for-loss in the Steelers’ 25-17 win over the New England Patriots
Season totals: 36 tackles, 9 sacks (5th in NFL), 7.5 tackles-for-loss, 2 passes defended, 1 INT
This week: Steelers host the Baltimore Ravens at 8:20 EST on Sunday Night Football on NBC
_______________________________

MARIO MANNINGHAM Giants WR
Last game:  Caught 6 passes for 63 yards and 1 touchdown with a long of 14 yards in the Giants’ 20-17 win over the Miami Dolphins
Season totals: 24 catches for 290 yards (48.3 ypg) and 1 touchdown
This week: at New England Patriots on Sunday at 4:15 EST
_______________________________

BRAYLON EDWARDS49ers WR
Last game: Caught 4 passes for 42 yards with a long of 13 in the 49ers’ 20-10 win over the Cleveland Browns
Season totals: 8 catches for 90 yards (30 ypg)
This week: at Washington Redskins on Sunday at 1 EST
_______________________________

CHARLES WOODSONPackers DB

Braylon Edwards returned form injury to catch 4 passes for 42 yards on Sunday (photo by Ezra Shaw, Getty Images)

Last game: Bye Week
Season totals: 26 tackles, 5 INT (1st in NFL), 7 passes defended, 1 fumble recovery, 1 TD
This week: at San Diego Chargers 4:15 EST

_______________________________

STEVE BREASTONChiefs WR
Last game: Caught three passes for 42 yards in the Chiefs’ 23-20 overtime win over the San Diego Chargers on Monday Night Football.
Season totals: 22 catches for 335 yards (47.9 ypg), 2 TDs
This week: Chiefs host the Miami Dolphins on Sunday at 1 EST

_______________________________

JASON AVANT Eagles WR

Last game: Caught 5 passes for 74 yards with a long of 24 in the Eagles’ 34-7 win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football
Season totals: 31 catches for 412 yards (58.9 ypg)
This week: Eagles host the Chicago Bears at 8:30 EST on Monday Night Football
__________________________________

TIM JAMISONTexans DE

Last game: Recorded one tackle in the Texans’ 24-14 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars
Season totals: 6 tackles, 1 pass defended, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery
This week: Texans host the Cleveland Browns on Sunday at 1 EST
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LEON HALL – Bengals DB
Last game: Recorded 9 tackles in the Bengals’ 34-12 win over the Seattle Seahawks
Season totals: 28 tackles, 4 passes defended, 1 INT, 1 fumble recovery
This week: at Tennessee Titans on Sunday at 4:05 EST
__________________________________

MORGAN TRENTBengals DB
Last game: Waived by the Bengals to make room for Cedric Benson
Season totals: 6 tackles
__________________________________

DAVID HARRIS Jets LB
Last game: Bye week
Season totals: 36 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 tackles-for-loss, 3 passes defended, 1 INT, 1 TD
This week: at the Buffalo Bills on Sunday at 1 EST
__________________________________

ZOLTAN MESKOPatriots P
Last game: Booted 4 punts for 168 yards (42.0 avg) with a long of 53 and 1 inside the 20 in the Patriots 25-17 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers
Season totals: 22 punts for 993 yards (45.1 avg), 9 inside 20
This week: Patriots host the New York Giants on Sunday at 4:15 EST
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JAMES HALLRams DE
Last game: Recorded 2 tackles in the Rams’ 31-21 upset of the New Orleans Saints
Season totals: 23 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 tackle-for-loss, 1 pass defended
This week: at Arizona Cardinals on Sunday at 4:15 EST
__________________________________

LARRY FOOTESteelers LB
Last game: Recorded 8 tackles in the Steelers’ 25-17 win over the New England Patriots
Season totals: 30 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle-for-loss
This week: Steelers host the Baltimore Ravens at 8:20 EST on Sunday Night Football on NBC
__________________________________

JAY FEELYCardinals K
Last game: Hit 2-of-2 Field Goals with a long of 45 yards and 3-of-3 extra points in the Cardinals’ 30-27 loss to the Baltimore Ravens
Season totals: 6-for-9 FGs (Long 51), 17-for-17 XPs
This week: Cardinals host the St. Louis Rams on Sunday at 4:15 EST

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ALAN BRANCHSeahawks DT
Last game: Recorded 1 tackle-for-loss in the Seahawks’ 34-12 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals
Season totals: 16 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle-for-loss
This week: at the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday at 1 EST
__________________________________

ADRIAN ARRINGTON – Saints WR
Last game: Did not play in the Saints’ 31-21 loss to the St. Louis Rams
Season totals: 1 catch for 14 yards (4.7 ypg)
This week: Saints host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday at 1 EST
__________________________________

BRANDON GRAHAMEagles DE
On PUP list with knee injury. Expected to return this week

__________________________________

RYAN MUNDYSteelers S
Last game: Recorded 5 tackles in the Steelers’ 25-17 win over the New England Patriots
Season totals: 18 tackles
This week: Steelers host the Baltimore Ravens at 8:20 EST on Sunday Night Football on NBC

__________________________________

PRESCOTT BURGESS – Ravens LB
Last game: Recorded 1 tackle in the Ravens’ 30-27 win over the Arizona Cardinals
Season totals: 3 tackles
This week: at Pittsburgh Steelers at 8:20 EST on Sunday Night Football on NBC

__________________________________

STEVIE BROWNColts DB
Last game: Did not play in the Colts’ 27-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans
Season totals: 5 tackles
This week: Colts host the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at 1 EST

__________________________________

JEFF BACKUSLions OT
Starter
__________________________________

STEVE HUTCHINSONVikings OG
Starter
__________________________________

JONATHAN GOODWIN49ers OG
Starter
__________________________________

DAVID BAASGiants C
Starter
__________________________________

JAKE LONGDolphins OT
Starter
__________________________________

JONAS MOUTONChargers LB
On injured reserve. Has not played yet this season
__________________________________

STEPHEN SCHILLINGChargers OT
Activated from the practice squat, but has not played yet this season

BREAKING RECORDS: Denard tops all-time as UM rolled by Wisc.

Monday, November 22nd, 2010


Eleven games into the season, I’ve either gotten this Michigan team figured out or I’ve become so desensitized to losses that it’s what I’ve come to expect against teams not from the Mid-American Conference or the state of Indiana.

Montee Ball runs away from Michigan defenders (photo by the Detroit News)

All three of my predictions came true on Saturday, and while they weren’t too far out on a limb, they were right on, and save for a late touchdown by Wisconsin, the final score would have been exactly right too.

I don’t want to be right on those predictions, so it’s not exactly something I’m proud about. I’d much rather be completely wrong and Michigan win, but unfortunately, that’s where we are right now.

While defensive progress appeared to have been made last week in a 27-16 win over Purdue, window dressing is all it really was. Purdue was essentially playing with its second-team offense and the game was played in poor weather conditions, making good offense the exception rather than the norm.

So when Wisconsin came to town with its steamroller offense, everybody knew what the Badgers’ offensive strategy would be: run, run, run, and sprinkle in a pass here and there. Quarterback Scott Tolzien completed 14-of-15 passes for 201 yards, all of one of those passes coming in the first half when Wisconsin jumped out to a 24-0 lead.

From there on, Wisconsin ran the ball on 33 out of 34 plays in the second half, and Michigan was helpless to stop it as the Badgers rolled up 357 rushing yards.

The loss dropped Michigan to 7-4 on the season, 3-4 in the Big Ten, and set up a chance to play spoiler, and salvage the season, this Saturday in Columbus. I won’t go as far as to say this is the most important game in Rich Rodriguez’s three-year tenure at Michigan, since I think he’s returning next season no matter the outcome, but if Michigan wins it would certainly be his biggest win during that time.

Ohio State sits in a three-way tie for first with Wisconsin and Michigan State. Wisconsin beat Ohio State 31-18 on Oct. 17, and Ohio State doesn’t play Michigan State this season, so if Ohio State beats Michigan, it will claim a share of the Big Ten title and likely receive a BCS bowl game since it’s ranked higher than Michigan State in the BCS standings.

A Michigan win would keep Ohio State from reaching its sixth straight Big Ten title and a sixth straight BCS bowl. It would also give Rodriguez his first win over a ranked team since 2008 when Michigan beat No. 9 Wisconsin. That Wisconsin team was vastly overrated at the time and finished the season with a 7-6 record, so beating Ohio State on Saturday would easily top that one.

But most importantly, it would end Michigan’s six game losing streak to the Buckeyes, the longest in the rivalry since the 1920s. After dominating the 90s, Michigan has seemingly forgotten how to beat Ohio State since Jim Tressel took over. Ohio state fans love to point out that it has been two thousand and something days since Michigan has beaten Ohio State. Beat Ohio State on Saturday and Rodriguez will regain much of the Michigan fan base heading into the bowl game.

Ohio State is by far the better team this season and will be heavily favored, but just ask the 1993, ’95, and ’96 Buckeye teams if the better team always wins. The beauty of the rivalry is that you can throw out the records. Let Buckeye week begin!

Notes

Robinson broke the FBS single-season rushing record by a quarterback (AP photo)

Hats off to Denard Robinson for breaking Beau Morgan’s record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a single season. His 121 rushing yards against Wisconsin also made him the first 1,500 yard rusher and passer in NCAA history, not to mention the first player to have 1,500 yards rushing and 2,000 yards passing in a single season.

The sophomore in his first season as a starter has been electrifying for Michigan this season and gives the Wolverines a lot of hope for the next two years.

He’s now 403 yards short of the all-college football quarterback rushing record, which was set by Chris Sharpe of Div. III’s Springfield (Mass.) College. He would have to average 202 yards per game to break that record, which is a tall task considering Ohio State’s rush defense which ranks third in the nation.

Injuries are hitting Michigan hard in the last few games of the season. Already having lost starting receiver Martavious Odoms and cornerback J.T. Floyd, and nose tackle Mike Martin and center David Molk having missed all or parts of the past few games, Michigan suffered another blow on Saturday. Receiver Darryl Stonum was inured returning a kick late in the game and running back Vincent Smith and defensive end Craig Roh each suffered what appeared to be concussions.

Stonum ranks second on the team in receptions and third in receiving yards with 493. He also has four touchdowns. Smith is the leading running back 571 yards and five touchdowns. Roh has been more effective as a defensive end since moving there from linebacker.

All three of those guys will be needed this Saturday if Michigan has any shot to win. Hopefully Stonum is healthy enough to keep returning kicks, because at this point, he’s light years better than Jeremy Gallon, who has been Michigan’s returner most of the season.

After the game, Stonum tweeted, “hopefully I’m ok (I think I am) but its gonna take a whole lot to keep me out of this next game.”

Roy Roundtree’s 114 yards against Wisconsin put him within striking distance of becoming Michigan’s first 1,000-yard receiver since Mario Manningham in 2007. For the season, he has 839 yards, just 37 behind Northwestern’s Jeremy Ebert for the Big Ten lead. With two games remaining, at Ohio State on Saturday and a bowl game, Roundtree needs to average 80.5 receiving yards to eclipse 1,000.

He would join the ranks of Manningham, Jason Avant (2005), Braylon Edwards (2002, ’03, ’04), Marquis Walker (2001), and David Terrell (2000) as the only Michigan receivers to reach 1,000 yards since 2000.

[Ed.: The below chart will live on the Wolverine Watch page for the rest of the season]

Roy Roundtree vs. Jeremy Ebert
11 Games Played 11
7-4 Win-Loss 7-4
58 Receptions 56
839 Receiving Yds
876
6 TDs 8
75 Long
45
14.5 Avg./Catch 15.6
76.3 Avg./Game 79.6
5.27 Rec/Game 5.18

Michigan-Penn State: Can Michigan Start a New Streak?

Friday, October 23rd, 2009


The Michigan-Penn State game over the past decade or so has had a lot of memorable moments – for Michigan fans at least.

There was the “Judgement Day” game in 1997 when undefeated Michigan traveled to State College and slammed No. 3 Penn State 34-8.

There was 2005 when freshman wide receiver Mario Manningham caught the game-winning pass with no time on the clock to hand Penn State its only loss of the season.

*Mario Manningham catches the winning touchdown pass in 2006, photo by RYAN WEINER/DAILY

*Mario Manningham catches the winning touchdown pass in 2006, photo by RYAN WEINER/DAILY

And what Michigan fan can forget the 2006 game when Michigan’s defense knocked out not one, but two Penn State quarterbacks (Anthony Morelli and Daryll Clark) en route to a 17-10 win?

*Alan Branch knocks out PSU quarterback Anthony Morelli, photo taken from maizenbrew.com

*Alan Branch knocks out PSU quarterback Anthony Morelli, photo taken from maizenbrew.com

But last year Penn State finally got the Michigan monkey off its back, winning for the first time in its last 10 tries. Now Michigan looks to right the ship and show that last year was just a fluke in the rivalry.

In my season projections before the season started, I predicted that Michigan would finish 7-5. One of those five losses would come to Penn State. I also thought Penn State would be far and away better than it has been so far this season.

Don’t get me wrong – Penn State is a good team. It leads the Big Ten in total offense, total defense, and time of possession, ranks second in scoring offense, has the most sacks and the second fewest penalties, and has the best third down defense.

Yet, when you look further, you realize that it has played just one good team all season (Iowa). Aside from that, it shut out a fairly decent Minnesota team last week, and the rest of the teams on the schedule have a combined record of 13-18.

Michigan has taken some heat for the schedule it has played, most notably for Delaware State, an FCS team, last weekend. Yet the combined record of its opponents is virtually the same as Penn State’s.

*PSU running back Evan Royster ranks 12th all time in rushing at Penn State, photo taken from ericthomas.wordpress.com

*PSU running back Evan Royster ranks 12th all time in rushing at Penn State, photo taken from ericthomas.wordpress.com

So despite the perception that Penn State is far and away better than Michigan, I find the two very similar.

The offenses are a lot alike with the main talent at running back. Penn State running back Evan Royster is a senior and has already run for 641 yards this season. He has Stephfon Green, a junior who has scored four touchdowns, to complement him, although Green is out for this week’s game with an ankle injury.

Michigan’s offense relies heavily senior backs Carlos Brown and Brandon Minor, who have combined for 610 yards and seven touchdowns, though neither played last week against Delaware State.

While Michigan’s rushing offense is a little more dynamic overall, Penn State has a little better passing offense thanks to a fifth-year senior quarterback. Darryl Clark has completed 62 percent of his passes for 1,654 yards, 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Clark has play-makers to throw to in Derek Moye (472 yards, 4 TDs), Chaz Powell (316 yards, 3 TDs) and Graham Zug (257 yards, 2 TDs), all of which have more yards than Michigan’s leading receiver, sophomore Martavious Odoms (238 yards, 1 TD).

Defensively, there’s no question that Penn State is formidable. It has given up just 61 points through six games and just 239 yards per game.

Michigan on the other hand, gives up about 21 points per game. That doesn’t bode well when going up against a great defense, since Michigan’s modus operandi this season has been to put up a lot of points and hope it’s more than it gave up.

However, the last time Michigan went up against a defense many thought was impenetrable, it ran with ease. Michigan scored three rushing touchdowns on an Iowa defense that hadn’t given up a rushing touchdown in 33 quarters of play.

So what does Michigan have to do to beat Penn State?

It starts with taking care of the ball. Through the first five games of the season, Michigan had done a pretty good job of this. But against Iowa, Michigan turned it over five times, essentially thwarting its chance for an upset.

Michigan has come a long way from last year’s turnover-prone bunch, but in its biggest game yet, turnovers became its downfall.

Protecting the ball against Penn State is mission number one. Michigan has shown that it can move the ball and put points on the board. But failing to convert because of turnovers and giving the opponent good field position and momentum won’t help its cause.

Secondly, Michigan needs to prove it can be effective with the pass. It averages 235 yards per game on the ground (5.4 yards per carry) and Penn State will undoubtedly stack the box to stop the run.

Michigan quarterback Tate Forcier has proven he can pass, but much of Michigan’s passing has come toward the end of halves or games when needing to score quickly.

*Michigan center David Molk returns from injury this week, photo taken from isportsweb.com

*Michigan center David Molk returns from injury this week, photo taken from isportsweb.com

If Michigan can complete some passes early, it can keep Penn State mindful of the pass and pay dividends in the running game.

Michigan should have center David Molk back from a foot injury, so that will help the offensive line consistency. Molk has missed the last four games, leaving right guard David Moosman to fill in.

Finally, Michigan has to prevent the big play. Penn State has a wealth of play-makers and Michigan has been prone to giving up big plays all season. Its defense has had trouble getting off the field on third down and that was a glaring weakness against Iowa.

The Hawkeyes converted 8-of-18 third downs, including a 34-yard touchdown pass on 3rd-and-12.

Big plays are devastating to a defense, and even more so when the offense is turning the ball over. If Michigan can contain Penn State’s play-makers it has a good chance to win.

I think this will be a pretty evenly-matched game, especially since it’s in the Big House. But in the end, I think Penn State has too many playmakers on offense and too rigid a defense for Michigan to out-score it.

Unless Michigan plays a virtually perfect game, Penn State will win. Unfortunately, with this young team, a perfect game is unlikely.

Prediction: Penn State 34 – Michigan 27