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Posts Tagged ‘Matt Wile’

Predicting Michigan: The special teams

Thursday, August 7th, 2014


Predicting-Michigan-SpecialTeams

Will Hagerup(Adam Glanzman, The Michigan Daily)

Special teams never receives the same attention as the offense or defense, but this unit has a major impact on every game and how the field position battle is determined. Young players use special teams reps to earn time at their natural positions early in their careers, so the athletes that Michigan has brought to Ann Arbor in recent recruiting classes bodes well for coach Dan Ferrigno. In 2014 Michigan will feature a new-look core of specialists despite an array of familiar faces.

Kicker

Special teams utility man Matt Wile will take over the primary kicking duties during his senior year after an up-and-down campaign as the starting punter. Wile gives Michigan an added dimension to the offense, as his power makes longer field goal attempts much more of a reality.

Wile showed flashes of greatness during 2013, including a 49-yard field goal through the rain in East Lansing to give Michigan a temporary 3-0 lead. The junior also booted one of the finest punts in school history: A 69-yard blast that pinned Nebraska on its own three-yard line on Nov. 9.

As a senior Wile has a chance to be an excellent place kicker for Doug Nussmeier, whose pro-style offense will attempt field goals more often than take a chance in a fourth-down situation. Wile has converted five field goals on eight career attempts and is a perfect 4-of-4 inside 50 yards. He has has also made all five extra points he has attempted in his career.

Career Stats – Wile
Year FGM FGA FG % Long 1-39 40-49 50+ PAT
2011 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2012 2 3 66.7 52 0-0 1-1 1-2 0-0
2013 3 5 60.0 49 2-2 1-1 0-2 5-5
Totals 5 8 62.5 52 2-2 2-2 1-4 5-5

Punter

Michigan’s 2012 Big Ten Punter of the Year returns from a year-long suspension to resume punting duties for his final season of eligibility. Will Hagerup is one of the finest punters that Michigan has ever seen on the field, and if he can keep his act together off the field he could be one of the top special teams performers in the country this season.

When Hagerup last played for the Wolverines, he led the Big Ten with a school-record 45 yards per punt and added 13 punts of over 50 yards. Though punters are often overlooked, Hagerup was the most valuable player for Michigan at times during his junior season, including the opening game against Alabama when he averaged 51.3 yards on six punts and crushed his season-long 62-yarder.

In Hagerup’s absence, Wile struggled with consistency as punter in 2013, kicking several attempts off the side of his foot and straight out of bounds. Hagerup will give Michigan a reliable option that flips the field on the opposing offense nearly every punt. Expect Brady Hoke to punt more often on fourth down because of the consistency Hagerup offers.

Career Stats – Hagerup
Year Punts Yards Average Long TB FC In-20 Blk
2010 33 1,440 43.6 72 2 6 11 1
2011 29 1,043 36.0 50 1 8 5 0
2012 33 1,486 45.0 62 4 4 3 0
2013 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Totals 95 3,969 41.8 72 7 18 19 1

Returners

Michigan lost one of its top kick return options when Jeremy Gallon graduated and entered the NFL Draft, but a star recruit is coming to Ann Arbor to try to revive a Wolverine return game that has lain dormant since Steve Breaston last donned the Maize and Blue.

For the past two seasons, the speedy Dennis Norfleet has been largely considered the best return option for the Wolverines. Unfortunately, reality has shown that the 160-pound junior struggles to follow his blockers and break big returns. Norfleet has shown brief glimpses of potential as a returner — such as a 42-yard punt return against Illinois in 2012 — but he has shaky hands and averages just 23.6 yards per return on kicks.

While Norfleet will likely hold the starting job out of camp, incoming freshman Jabrill Peppers offers an intriguing second option. Peppers will play predominately in the secondary as a Wolverine, but he also owns the skills to be a valuable specialist. His pure athletic ability and strong build equip the five-star with the tools to be an electric kick and punt returner. If Norfleet has an average start to the 2014 season, expect Michigan to give Peppers an opportunity as a freshman because of his enormous breakout potential.

Michigan also gave sophomore Jourdan Lewis a look at punt returner during the spring game. Lewis is an athletic defensive back and could start the season on punt returns if the coaching staff is hesitant to hand the reins to Norfleet, who has returned just five punts in his career.

Career Stats – Norfleet
Year Kick Ret Yds/Ret Long TD Punt Ret Yds/Ret Long TD
2012 35 23.6 38 0 2 26.5 42 0
2013 40 23.4 44 0 3 -0.3 2 0
Totals 75 23.5 44 0 5 10.4 42 0
Career Stats – Lewis
Year Kick Ret Yds/Ret Long TD Punt Ret Yds/Ret Long TD
2013 1 18.0 18 0 0 0 0 0
Totals 1 18.0 18 0 0 0 0 0

Overall, while neither kicking specialist will be the same as last season, there is still plenty of talent returning, and if Peppers can live up to the hype that has surrounded him since his commitment, Michigan’s special teams could be a big strength this fall.

2014 Big Ten football position rankings: Kicking specialists

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014


Big-Ten-position-rankings-header-KickingSpecialists

This is the 10th installment of Maize and Go Blue’s series that ranks the best Big Ten players at each position for the upcoming season. Each week, until Michigan’s opener, one position will be previewed, looking at the players who will excel in 2014, not necessarily the ones who did so in previous seasons. This week, we are taking a look at special teams. Like the past nine editions of this series, this position preview is split into two parts—one for kicking specialists and one for return specialists—in order to provide thorough and in-depth analysis of each of player ranked. Today, we reveal who will be the top five kicking specialists—placekickers or punters—in the Big Ten this upcoming season.

Previously

Quarterbacks: Part One, Part Two | Running Backs: Part One, Part Two | Wide Receivers: Part One, Part Two
Tight Ends: Part One, Part Two | Offensive Line: Part One, Part Two | Defensive Line: Part One, Part Two
Linebackers: Part One, Part Two | Cornerbacks: Part One, Part Two | Safeties:Part One, Part Two

5. Matt Wile, Michigan (K) | Senior – 6’2”, 219 lbs
FG Made FG Att FG % Long 1-39 40+ PATs
2013 3 5 60.0 49 2-2 1-3 5-5
2012 2 3 66.7 52 0-0 2-3 0-0
2011 0 0 0 0 0 0 0-0
Career Totals 5 8 62.5 52 2-2 3-6 5-5
(Melanie Maxwell, AnnArbor.com)

(Melanie Maxwell, AnnArbor.com)

Matt Wile was supposed to be the savior that salvaged Michigan’s placekicking the moment he stepped on campus. He arrived in Ann Arbor the summer after Michigan went a ghastly 4-of-14 on field goals in 2010. He was expected to wrestle away the starting job from Brendan Gibbons, who made only one of his five field-goal attempts in 2010, immediately. However, not only did Gibbons enter the 2011 season atop the depth chart, he transformed into one of the most productive placekickers in Michigan history, breaking a few records and kicking numerous clutch field goals during the next three years. With Gibbons entrenched as the starter, Wile was left to perform the remaining odd jobs, becoming Michigan’s long-distance kicker, pooch punter, and kickoff specialist. Wile’s versatility proved to be a great asset to Michigan’s special teams the past three seasons, but he never has had the chance to be the kicker.

Wile finally will have that chance this fall. With Gibbons no longer a part of the program, Wile will be Michigan’s full-time placekicker. What we already know is that he has the leg to drill the football through the uprights from at least 45 yards out. As Michigan’s long-distance kicker the past two seasons, he attempted six field goals from at least that distance and made half of them, hitting from 48, 49, and 52 yards. While a 50-percent success rate from there already is respectable for a college kicker, it should be even better this year. This will be the first time of his career that he will be able to devote all of his time to honing his placekicking form and ability. Wile should be even more lethal from 45-plus-yards.

On the other hand, what we have yet to learn is whether Wile can be consistent from inside 45 yards. A big leg is a prized weapon, but coaches would be willing to trade it in for a kicker that is automatic from shorter distances. The only opportunity we have had to see Wile attempt a field goal from closer range was when he filled in for a suspended Gibbons in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl last season. He had two tries—22 and 26 yards out—and connected on both. But these were just chip shots. Can Wile convert the ones from 35 to 45 yards on a regular basis? Given that Wile was 19-of-25 his last two years in high school and invited to the U.S. Army All-American Game, my projection is that he will and there will be little drop-off from Gibbons to Wile for Michigan.

4. Brad Craddock, Maryland (K) | Junior – 6’0″, 185 lbs
FG Made FG Att FG % Long 1-39 40+ PAT
2013 21 25 84.0 50 16-17 5-8 37-38
2012 10 16 62.5 52 6-10 4-6 23-25
Career Totals 31 41 75.6 52 22-27 9-14 60-63
(Andrew Shurtleff)

(Andrew Shurtleff)

Just three years ago, Brad Craddock had never played American football. Growing up in Australia, he played four sports: soccer, tennis, track, and Australian-rules football. It is the last one that is the reason why he now finds himself on the Maryland football team. While playing Australian-rules football as a youth, he broke his arm three years in a row. This forced him to spend much of that time on the sidelines, but it did not prevent him from building his leg strength. Over time, his leg became a cannon, which led to one of head coach Randy Edsall’s former punters tipping Edsall off about Craddock. Edsall took a look at Craddock’s film and decided to take a chance on him.

Unsurprisingly, Craddock’s first season at Maryland was rocky. Not only did he need to adjust to playing American football for the first time in his life far away from his home continent, he was forced to play a position he had not been recruited to play. Craddock was meant to be only a punter and kickoff specialist. Yet, right before the 2012 season, Maryland’s starting placekicker Nick Ferrara suffered what would ultimately be a season-ending injury. Next thing he knew, Craddock was the starter despite essentially never having practiced any proper placekicking technique. He made only 10 of his 16 field goals as a freshman and dinged off the left upright would what would have been a game-winner against North Carolina State. The disappointment caused him to seriously consider not returning to Maryland for his sophomore season, but he decided to give it another shot. It is a good thing he did.

After working with one of the most accurate placekickers in NFL history in Matt Stover in the offseason, Craddock became one of the nation’s better placekickers last year. Craddock made 21 of the 25 field goals he attempted, increasing his conversation rate from 62.5 percent as a freshman to 84 percent as a sophomore. His 21 makes were tied for the most in the ACC and seventh-most nationally. Plus, Craddock still flashed the power his leg possesses, drilling a 50-yarder against West Virginia that would have been good from 60 yards. Craddock’s significant improvement was recognized as he was named a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award, which is given to the nation’s best placekicker. What Stover was able to do was harness Craddock’s power and mold him into a consistent kicker by teaching him the proper technique. It was the first time Craddock understood the intricacies of placekicking and why he had been missing kicks left or right. With another offseason of development and practice under his belt, the sky is the limit for the Aussie who will be playing just his third season of American football this fall.

3. Michael Geiger, Michigan State (K) | Sophomore – 5’8”, 189 lbs.
FG Made FG Att FG % Long 1-30 40+ PAT
2013 15 16 93.8 49 7-8 8-8 36-38
Career Totals 15 16 93.8 49 7-8 8-8 36-38

After the 2012 season, Michigan State had a huge hole to fill on special teams. The Spartans’ three-year starter at placekicker, Dan Conroy, was graduating. With Conroy’s departure, Michigan State lost the kicker with third-best accuracy (77.5 pct.) and fourth-most career field goals (55) in school history. Michigan State needed to find a suitable replacement and quickly. So how does a school accomplish this? Recruiting the best high-school placekicker in the nation is a good place to start.

Michael Geiger arrived in East Lansing as the No. 1 kicker in the 2013 recruiting class according to Rivals, 247 Sports, and kicking guru Chris Sailer, and demonstrated quickly that the recruiting services were spot-on. As a true freshman last season, Geiger connected on 15 of his 16 field-goal attempts for an astounding 93.8-percent conversion rate. His conversion rate not only set a Michigan State single-season record but also was tops in the Big Ten and tied for the fourth-best in the nation. His only slipup of the entire season was a 36-yard miss against Iowa on only the third field-goal attempt his career. He then followed that up by making his next 13 tries, including all seven that were 40-plus yards. Geiger can put some power into his kicks, too. His long of the season was 49 yards. He has yet to attempt one from longer than 50 yards, but all evidence indicates this would not be a problem for him. Simply, not only did Geiger replace Conroy adequately, he was better than Conroy.

Next season, Geiger should be the best placekicker in the Big Ten. A strong case could be made that he was the best kicker in the conference last season, but Nebraska’s Pat Smith,  Northwestern’s Jeff Budzien, and Ohio State’s Drew Basil all made at least 90 percent of their field goals, too. However, all three of these kickers, as well as Indiana’s Mitch Ewald (81.8 pct.), Minnesota’s Chris Hawthorne (77.8 pct.), and Michigan’s Brendan Gibbons (75.0 pct.), were seniors last year. This mass exodus of kickers means that Geiger is one of the few known kicking commodities remaining in Big Ten. Although kickers are weird and all are vulnerable to strange slumps, it would be a shock if Geiger did not replicate his production from his freshman season and contend for All-Big Ten first-team honors in 2014.

2. Mike Sadler, Michigan State (P) | 5th-yr Senior – 6’0″, 175 lbs
Punts Yards Average Long TB FC In-20
2013 76 3,233 42.5 69 9 19 33
2012 79 3,422 43.3 70 6 21 31
2011 61 2,509 41.1 57 7 15 25
2010 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Career Totals 216 9,164 42.4 70 22 55 89
(247 Sports)

(247 Sports)

Michael Geiger may be the best placekicker in the Big Ten, but he is not even the best kicking specialist named Michael or Mike on his own team. That distinction belongs to Mike Sadler. Entering his fourth and final season as Michigan State’s starting punter, Sadler has cobbled together quite an impressive career. In 2011, he was just one of 14 true or redshirt freshmen starting punters nationally. It was a successful debut, but it was not until his sophomore season when he sprung into the spotlight. In 2012, Sadler was named to the coaches’ All-Big Ten first team. Sadler then proceeded to be honored as not only a member of the All-Big Ten first team for the second straight season as a junior but also a member of select All-American squads and a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award, which is given to the nation’s top punter. Undoubtedly, Sadler is one of college football’s most decorated and distinguished punters.

What makes Sadler such a special-teams stud is his ability to flip field position. Although his per-punt average dipped from 43.3 to 42.5 yards, the percentage of times he backed his opponent up against its goal line spiked last season. In 2012, Sadler pinned his opponent inside the 20-yard line 39.2 percent of the time and the 10-yard line 21.5 percent of the time. These percentages increased to 43.4 and 31.6 percent, respectively, in 2013, the latter of which was the best in the nation. He also dropped a remarkable eight punts inside the five-yard line, including three at the one-yard line, last year. Plus, Sadler could hit the deep ball when Michigan State was on its own side of the field. Over 21 percent of his punts sailed at least 50 yards—one of the higher figures in the Big Ten. Accordingly, Michigan State was fourth in the nation in Opponent Starting Field Position, which is the average distance of yards from the end zone an opponent begins its offensive, non-garbage possessions. It is already well-known that the Spartans arguably had the best defense in the nation last year, but not as many understand how vital of a role Sadler played in putting that defense in a position wreak havoc game in and game out.

However, given the accolades Sadler has earned thus far in his career, many will be surprised that he is No. 2 on this list and not No. 1. The popular opinion circulating among college football and Big Ten circles is that Sadler is undisputedly the best punter in the conference, if not the nation. There really are no negatives to Sadler’s game. He does everything very well, whether it be booming a punt 50-plus yards, placing a punt inside the opponent’s 10-yard line, or even executing a well-designed fake. But there just so happens to be another punter in the Big Ten that does all of these things a little bit better than Sadler, although very few realize it because he is not utilized nearly as often as Sadler.

1. Cameron Johnston, Ohio State (P) | Sophomore - 6’0″, 195 lbs
Punts Yards Average Long TB FC In-20
2013 49 2,156 44.0 71 2 24 31
Career Totals 49 2,156 44.0 71 2 24 31
(Greg Bartram, USA Today Sports)

(Greg Bartram, USA Today Sports)

Maryland’s Brad Craddock is not the only Aussie on this short list. Joining him is Ohio State punter Cameron Johnston. Johnston, like Craddock, grew up playing Australian-rules football. Unlike Craddock, though, Johnston practiced American football kicking techniques before coming to the States. Johnston was accepted into Prokick Australia in Melbourne—a program which rigorously trains Australian kickers for American football for a 12-month period. His trainer at Prokick Australia, Nathan Chapman, raved about Johnston, claiming Johnston is the best player his program has produced and listing off punting distances and hang times that seem like hyperbole. Chapman just needed to find an American college that would gamble on Johnston.

In September 2012, Chapman contacted Ohio State about opening a roster spot for Johnston. The Buckeyes’ coaching staff watched his film and liked what it saw but already had received a commitment from Johnny Townsend, the second-best punter in the 2013 recruiting class according to 247 Sports’ composite rankings. Accordingly, Ohio State told Johnston and Chapman, “No thanks.” Johnston received little interest from other major programs, so it seemed likely he would need to wait another year before the right opportunity became available. However, on National Signing Day, Townsend changed his mind and flipped to Florida, leaving Ohio State without a punter in its class. The prevailing thought was that then-senior placekicker Drew Basil would pull off double duty and do the punting, too. But Ohio State’s coaching staff changed its mind in June 2013 and reached out to Johnston about playing for the Buckeyes. Johnston was on a plane to Ohio shortly thereafter.

It did not take very long for Johnston to prove that Ohio State’s decision to bring him on board was the best one. Last season as a true freshman, albeit a 21-year-old freshman, Johnston demonstrated just how explosive his leg is by leading the Big Ten with a per-punt average of 44 yards. It also did not hurt his average that his long for the season was 71 yards and 18.4 percent of his punts traveled over 50 yards. But Johnston also demonstrated that he had mastered how to pin opponents deep in their own territory. He led the nation in percentage of punts downed inside the 20-yard line at an incredible 63.3 percent and ranked second nationally with 28.6 percent of his punts downed inside the 10-yard line. Further, the hang time he put on his punts was spectacular, forcing punt returners to call a fair catch almost half the time. As a result, Ohio State finished first in the Big Ten and fifth in the nation in net punting. Johnston’s debut season in Columbus was an astonishing success.

Best Big Ten Punter? Mike Sadler-Cameron Johnston 2013 comparison
Avg/Punt Downed In-20 % Downed In-10 % Touchback % Fair Catch % 50+ %
Johnston 44.0 63.3 28.6 4.1 49.0 18.4
Sadler 42.5 43.4 31.6 11.8 25.0 21.1

Yet, despite Johnston having better numbers almost all the way across the board as shown in the foregoing table, Michigan State’s Mike Sadler was named to the All-Big Ten first team last year. Sadler is a fantastic punter and worthy of the honor, but he was selected instead of Johnston only because he punted 27 more times last season and receives more media attention for his hilarious engagement on social media. With its dynamic offense, Ohio State did not need to deploy Johnston as often as Michigan State did with Sadler, but, if a team needs a punter for just one punt, the numbers indicate that Johnston is the better option. Therefore, contrary to popular belief, Johnston will be the best punter in the Big Ten in 2014, not Sadler, especially now that Johnston will be more accustomed to American culture and football in his second year in the States.

So what do you think? Do you agree with our list? Or did we make a mistake by putting Ohio State’s Cameron Johnston ahead of Michigan State’s Mike Sadler? Did Michigan’s Matt Wile deserve to make the cut? And how do you think Michigan’s Will Hagerup will perform this season? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below. Later this week, we will rank who will be the five best return specialists in the Big Ten in 2014.

Countdown to kickoff: 91 days

Saturday, May 31st, 2014


Countdown to kickoff-91(Getty Images)

Frozen: Iowa 24 – Michigan 21

Sunday, November 24th, 2013


(MGoBlue.com)

Following last week’s triple-overtime victory at Northwestern, Michigan had a chance to continue to build momentum heading into the big showdown next week with unbeaten rival Ohio State. Instead, with wind chills hovering around zero in Iowa City, Michigan’s offense remained frozen and Iowa handed the Wolverines their fourth loss of the season, 24-21.

The game started on a high note when, on Iowa’s first play of the game, Jake Ryan got pressure on quarterback Jake Rudock and Brennen Beyer picked it off at the Iowa 7-yard line. He carried it into the end zone to put Michigan ahead 7-0.

Final Stats
Michigan Iowa
Score 21 24
Record 7-4 (3-4) 7-4 (4-3)
Total Yards 158 407
Net Rushing Yards 60 168
Net Passing Yards 98 239
First Downs 10 21
Turnovers 1 4
Penalties-Yards 2-20 3-31
Punts-Yards 10-354 4-150
Time of Possession 26:35 33:25
Third Down Conversions 4-of-14 4-of-15
Fourth Down Conversions 0-of-0 1-of-3
Sacks By-Yards 1-4 1-14
Field Goals 0-for-0 1-for-2
PATs 3-for-3 3-for-3
Red Zone Scores-Chances 2-of-2 3-of-5
Full Box Score

On their next possession, Iowa drove down the field, but kicker Mike Meyer missed a 36-yard field goal. Michigan wasn’t able to do anything with its possession and Matt Wile’s punt into the stiff wind went just 19 yards. Iowa took over at Michigan’s 45, and punched it in seven plays later on a 5-yard pass to tight end CJ Fiedorowicz.

Michigan went three-and-out, and once again, Wile’s punt into the wind gave Iowa possession on Michigan’s side of the field, this time at the 42. But Iowa couldn’t do anything with it and failed to convert a 4th-and-4.

At the beginning of the second quarter Michigan punted again, this time with the wind, and Iowa was forced to start at its own three. On 3rd-and-8, Blake Countess picked off Rudock at the Iowa 30, and Michigan took advantage of the short field. Six straight runs put Michigan at the Hawkeye two, and on 2nd-and-goal, Devin Gardner connected with tight end AJ Williams to put Michigan back ahead at 14-7.

Late in the second quarter, Iowa punter Connor Kornbrath found out what Wile had to deal with in the first. His punt went just 27 yards into the wind and Michigan took possession at the Iowa 47. Ten plays later, Gardner completed a 9-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Gallon to give Michigan 21-7 halftime lead.

Despite a 14-point lead, Michigan’s offense had just 113 total yards in the first half, taking advantage of a defensive touchdown and good field position.

The second half, however, was a different story. On the third play of the third quarter, Rudock found Tevaun Smith across the middle, who raced 55 yards for a touchdown. Michigan’s four offensive possessions in the quarter went three plays, five yards; three plays, zero yards; three plays, six yards; four plays, minus-one yard.

It was only a matter of time before Iowa would capitalize, and they did so on their first possession of the fourth quarter, driving 60 yards on nine plays, culminating with a 9-yard Mark Weisman touchdown run to tie the game at 21.

The interception forced by Jake Ryan was the highlight of the game for Michigan (MGoBlue.com)

Michigan’s ensuing possession lost four yards in three plays and the Wolverines punted it back to Iowa. Nine plays later, Meyer hit a 34-yard field goal to give the Hawkeyes their first lead of the game, 24-21.

Needing some late-game magic like a week ago, Michigan mounted its first positive drive of the second half. On 3rd-and-8, Gardner completed a pass to Jeremy Jackson for 18 yards to the 50. After a loss of one, Fitzgerald Toussaint took a screen pass 13 yards to the Iowa 38. Toussaint lost a yards on the next play, and on 2nd-and-11, Gardner rushed to his left for eight yards, which would have set up a short third down already in field goal range. But Iowa linebacker Anthony Hitchens stripped the ball from Gardner’s right hand and recovered it along the sideline.

Iowa needed just to run out the clock to seal the win. Michigan’s defense held the Hawkeyes on first and second down, but on 3rd-and-10, Rudock completed a 12-yard pass to Fiedorowicz to end the game.

Michigan finished the game with just 158 total yards of offense – fewer than it had in the losses to Michigan State and Nebraska – and just 10 first downs. Gardner completed 13-of-28 passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns. Derrick Green rushed for 27 yards on 11 carries, while Toussaint carried the ball just six times for 12 yards. Gallon caught six passes for 47 yards and Devin Funchess, who dropped three or four catchable passes, was held to just one reception for two yards.

The only positive to come out of the loss – and it’s a hollow one at that – is that Michigan set the all-time NCAA record for consecutive games without being shut out, breaking a tie with BYU. It was Michigan’s 362nd straight game putting points on the board, dating back to a 1984 game at Iowa.

Michigan now heads home to close out the regular season with Ohio State, who has won 23 straight games and has already locked up a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game against Michigan State. The Buckeyes, ranked third in the BCS standings, still have hopes of a national championship if either Alabama or Florida State stumbles. Michigan will surely be a heavy underdog, but stranger things have happened.

Five-Spot Challenge: Northwestern

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013


Congratulations to Myrick55 for winning this week’s Five-Spot Challenge. It was one of the widest ranging weeks of the season and fittingly so, since no one really knows what to expect from Michigan’s offense at this point. Myrick55 had a total deviation of just 279. He was the least confident (or most realistic) in both teams’ running game, only 80 away from the total combined rushing yards. He was also the closest to Michigan’s total yards (132 away). For the win, he gets a $20 gift card to The M Den.

Week 4 winner, Kashkaav, finished a close second with a total deviation of 300. He was just four away from Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong’s passing yards. BigHouseBrandon and aashd were each just one away. Everybody overestimated Jeremy Gallon’s longest reception which ended up being just 16 yards. Kashkaav was the closest with a prediction of 36. Four contestants – Jim Mackiewicz, crp12qb, kashkaav, and freezer566 – correctly predicted the longest made field goal of the game (40 yards).

The average combined score of the 19 contestants this week was Michigan 34 – Nebraska 25. All 19 picked Michigan to win.

The weekly results have been updated and the overall standings will be updated shortly.

Here are this week’s picks.

Fried Chicken: Michigan 41 – Notre Dame 30

Sunday, September 8th, 2013


(MGoBlue.com)

It was a perfect script through three quarters of play. A raucous Big House that featured multiple fly-overs, a pregame ceremony honoring the greatest player to ever don the maize and blue, the largest college football crowd ever, and a halftime performance with a message from Beyonce complete with lasers and blue LED lights, it was truly a site to behold. On the field, unlike last season’s meeting in South Bend, Michigan was able to move the ball with relative ease, going up and down the field to the tune of nearly 367 yards – 68 more than the entire offensive output last season – and stretching a 14-point lead. It had all the makings of a Wolverine romp in the final Big House meeting against the hated rival who, in Brady Hoke’s words, “chickened out” of the rivalry.

And then it started to unravel.

Over the next ten minutes of game action, the crowd fell silent and the tension permeating through the Big House was so thick it could be sliced with a knife.

Final Stats
Michigan Notre Dame
Score 41 30
Record 2-0 1-1
Total Yards 460 410
Net Rushing Yards 194 108
Net Passing Yards 294 314
First Downs 25 23
Turnovers 1 2
Penalties-Yards 6-50 4-33
Punts-Yards 3-94 2-80
Time of Possession 34:04 25:56
Third Down Conversions 6-of-12 8-of-15
Fourth Down Conversions 0-of-0 0-of-2
Sacks By-Yards 1-9 1-8
Field Goals 2-for-2 3-for-3
PATs 5-for-5 3-for-3
Red Zone Scores-Chances 4-of-4 3-of-5
Full Box Score

Devin Gardner, the newly crowned recipient of a Michigan Legends jersey, had avoided costly mistakes until that point and seemed in complete command of the Wolverine offense, even in the face of what will likely be the toughest defense he will face all season. But on 3rd-and-11 from his own 16, he faced a pair of Irish defenders in his face. As he had done all game, he rolled to escape them but this time their containment was too good and he found himself in his own end zone. As they made the hit, Gardner tried to throw it away, but it fell right into the hands of a diving Stephon Tuitt and suddenly Michigan’s comfortable 14-points lead was cut in half.

Needing a big response, Michigan took over once again and Gardner quickly found Jeremy Gallon for a seven-yard gain. But Gallon, who had a career game with eight receptions for 184 yard and three touchdowns, stayed down on the Michigan Stadium turf. He eventually walked off the field, but on the next play a false start negated the gain. On the ensuing play, both Devin Funchess and Taylor Lewan went down and nothing could go right. Michigan was forced to punt and Matt Wile’s boot went off the side of his foot, just 21 yards downfield and Notre Dame took over near midfield.

A touchdown would tie the game and George Atkinson III gashed the middle of the Michigan defense for 16 yards on the first play. Tommy Rees hit Chris Brown for 11 yards and suddenly the Irish were 25 yards away from the end zone. But the Michigan defense stiffened. On 3rd-and-8 James Ross III had a chance to seal the game, but wasn’t able to hold onto an interception in the middle of the field. Notre Dame settled for a field goal to pull within 34-30.

Michigan took over with 9:15 remaining in need of a long scoring drive to turn the momentum back in its favor. In the span of four plays, Gardner found Fitzgerald Toussaint for a 22-yard gain and a 31-yard gain to the Notre Dame 21. Two Irish pass interference penalties later, Michigan had 1st-and-goal at the Irish two. Gardner faked the handoff and rolled to his right, but everyone in the stadium, including ND’s defense, knew it was coming and he was stopped for a two-yard loss. On the next play, Gardner found Drew Dileo for a four-yard touchdown pass and the Michigan Stadium crowd could finally exhale.

Devin Gardner earned Tom Harmon's #98 Legends jersey (MGoBlue.com)

But there was still four minutes on the clock, and if recent history in this rivalry was any indication that was a lifetime. On Notre Dame’s first play of the drive, Brennen Beyer broke through for Michigan’s first sack of the game, a nine-yard loss. But passes of 10, 21, 12, and 11 yards later, Notre Dame was knocking on Michigan’s door once again. Two straight seven-yard completions to TJ Jones took the Irish to Michigan’s six-yard line, but Rees’ pass over the middle sailed high of his target, bounced off the knee of Raymon Taylor and right into the hands of Blake Countess for a touchback.

Michigan ran out the clock after Gardner scrambled for 14 yards and a first down, and for the first time since the third quarter Michigan fans could go wild.

Following the game, there was a sense of relief among the Michigan players, coaches, and fans alike. A joyous occasion – the second night game in Michigan Stadium history and the final home game against Notre Dame – nearly turned heartbreaking. The players spoke with a somber tone, fully aware that they had let the Irish back into it and hammering the point that they still had a lot of work to do.

Yet in the end, it was Michigan’s fourth win over the Irish in the last six meetings and sixth in the last eight. It keeps the Wolverines unbeaten and leaves a lot of excitement for the rest of the season.

Gardner finished 21-of-33 for 294 yards, four touchdowns and the one interception. He also rushed 13 times for 82 yards (96 when sacks are excluded) and another score. Toussaint took every running back carry but one, rushing 22 times for 71 yards and caught one pass for 31. Gallon led all receivers, while seven others caught passes. Defensively, Taylor led the way with 11 tackles, one for loss.

Michigan accumulated 460 yards of offense, more than any team gained against Notre Dame last season except for Alabama. The 294 passing yards were more than anyone except Oklahoma. While Michigan’s defense was content to sit back and rush three or four, Rees passed 35 times and threw two interceptions. The Michigan offense out-rushed the Irish 194-108.

Michigan hosts 0-2 Akron next Saturday, travel to 0-2 UConn after that, and then get a bye week before opening Big Ten play. The next three weeks should give the Wolverines a chance to work out some kinks from the first two games and rest up the injured players before getting into the real grind of the Big Ten season.

Stay tuned for reactions from the players and coaches, our thoughts on the game, and a look at next week’s opponent, the Akron Zips.

Predicting Michigan: The special teams

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013


To wrap up our Predicting Michigan series, Derick takes a look at what to expect from the special teams this season. Previously, we previewed the quarterbacksrunning backswide receiversoffensive linetight endsdefensive linelinebackers, and the secondary.

The New Mr. Reliable

In 2010, Michigan’s kicking game was one of the most embarrassing displays of football the maize and blue faithful had ever witnessed. As a team, Michigan went 4-of-14 in field goal attempts, and by the end of the season former coach Rich Rodriguez wouldn’t even consider attempting a field goal outside of 35 yards.

After a rocky RS freshman campaign in 2010, Gibbons has become Mr. Reliable (AP photo)

One of the culprits of the 28.6 percent success rate was then-redshirt freshman Brendan Gibbons. Gibbons missed four of his five field goal attempts, converting only a 24-yarder in the blowout win against Connecticut in week one, in which he also missed an extra point. Following two more misses the next week against Notre Dame, Gibbons surrendered the starting job to Seth Broekhuizen, who wasn’t much better (3-of-9).

In 2011, Gibbons regained the starting job and was much better, converting 13-of-17 field goal attempts. Going into the Sugar Bowl, he was only 2-of-5 on kicks of 40-yards or more, so there were still many questions about his reliability. He answered them all in New Orleans. The redshirt sophomore converted all three of his field goal attempts, including a game-winning 37-yarder in overtime. He then won the fans over by admitting he kept his cool by “thinking about brunette girls” before punching the winning kick through the uprights.

Last season, Gibbons did the best work of his career, and earned an All-Big Ten honorable mention at place kicker. His conversion rate of 88.9 percent (16-of-18) was truly incredible considering the low point in his career just two years earlier. Gibbons had several pressure-packed kicks, but he confidently cashed them in, including the 38-yard game-winner with five seconds remaining to defeat Michigan State and the game-tying 26-yarder against Northwestern with two seconds left to send the game into overtime.

Also during his redshirt junior season, he converted all 45 extra-point attempts, running his streak to 97, which is second in Michigan history to J.D. Carlson’s record of 126 straight. Though the Wolverines lost to the Cornhuskers, Gibbons also answered questions about his leg strength in Nebraska by nailing a 52-yarder in the second quarter.

This offseason, Michigan fans can finally stop worrying about the kicking game, as Gibbons figures to battle Northwestern kicker Jeff Budzien for the Bakken-Anderson Kicker of the Year award in the Big Ten. Seniors Drew Dileo and Jareth Glanda will be the holder and long-snapper, respectively, so this group should have no problems after working together for so long.

Career Stats – Gibbons
Year FG Made FG Att FG % Long Blocked PAT Made PAT Att PAT %
2010 1 5 20.0 24 0 13 14 92.8
2011 13 17 76.5 43 1 54 55 98.2
2012 16 18 88.9 52 0 45 45 100.0
Totals 30 40 75.0 52 1 112 114 98.2

Lack Of Discipline

Kickoff/long field goal specialist Matt Wile takes over punting duties during Will Hagerup's suspension

Michigan figured to have one of the best kicker-punter duos in the entire country coming into 2013, until 2012 Eddleman-Fields Punter of the Year award-winner Will Hagerup was suspended for the third time in his Michigan career. The suspension originally kept Hagerup out of the 2013 Outback Bowl, but was later extended to include the entire following season.

Hagerup will redshirt this year, as Head Coach Brady Hoke tries to work with the young man to figure out some personal issues and get him back on the field. If the senior can clean up his act, he will be one of the best punters in the country upon his return. Hagerup set a University of Michigan record in 2012 with an average of 45 yards per punt. Just a few years after seeing kicker Zoltan Mesko similarly dominate the punting game, Hagerup separated himself as one of the best punters in the history of the Big Ten. His loss will be Matt Wile’s gain, however, as the junior tries to take advantage of a new opportunity.

Filling in for a suspended Hagerup is nothing new for Wile, as he has done so six times in his young career. Though Mesko and Hagerup are hard acts to follow, Wile is similarly gifted with a big leg in the punting game. His power numbers are skewed by his ability to come in and pooch punt for Brady Hoke, which is another valuable skill. Wile has 13 career punts inside the 20-yard line, which emphasizes his ability to put the ball where he wants to.

Along with his precision, Wile averaged 39.2 yards per punt in his career, which is around two yards shorter than Hagerup’s career rate. To get an idea of how strong Wile’s leg really is, fans can look to his most recent performance in the Outback Bowl, when he averaged 48.8 yards in three punt attempts.

Walk-ons J.J. McGrath and Kenny Allen will round out the kicking roster.

Career Stats – Wile
Year Kickoffs Avg TB Punts Avg TB In 20 Long
2011 79 64.0 19 17 41.6 0 4 58
2012 77 60.5 28 12 35.9 1 9 56
Totals 156 62.3 47 29 39.2 1 13 58

Speed Is Exciting

Michigan has been one of the worst teams in the country at returning kicks since the days of Steve Breaston, even finishing as low as 117th out of 120 teams in total kick returns during the 2011 Sugar Bowl season.

Last year, Brady Hoke brought in true freshman Dennis Norfleet to solve the returning woes alongside receiver Jeremy Gallon. Hoke hopes that the speedy playmaker will emerge as the lone returner during his sophomore campaign, as he definitely has the most potential on the team in that regard.

Returning kicks is immensely important, because it can dictate the field position battle throughout the game. Denard Robinson was often able to make up for poor field position during his career by busting huge runs and finishing drives with long touchdown plays, but Michigan would prefer not to rely on such plays. Norfleet is one of the quickest players in the country, and if he gets past defenders they have no chance to catch him. This season he will need to learn how to run with his blockers, and use his elusiveness at the right times to give the offense a short field and possibly end the Michigan kick-return drought.

Career Stats – Norfleet
Year Kick Ret Avg Long TD Punt Ret Avg Long TD
2012 35 23.6 38 0 2 26.5 42 0
Totals 35 23.6 38 0 2 26.5 42 0
Career Stats – Gallon
Year Kick Ret Avg Long TD Punt Ret Avg Long TD
2010 27 21.8 47 0 10 4.3 15 0
2011 3 15.3 20 0 19 10.1 32 0
2012 2 11.5 12 0 12 5.5 26 0
Totals 32 20.6 47 0 41 7.3 32 0

Wrapping Up

Since Brady Hoke has taken over as Head Coach, Michigan has done an outstanding job of preaching the little things that are important to winning football games. Special teams doesn’t get as much glory as the great offensive or defensive groups in the country, but games are won and lost on special teams plays every week.

If Michigan can continue the strong kicking game they demonstrated during 2012, and improve in the kick and punt return categories, it can shift momentum more easily with short fields and easy scores. The loss of Hagerup is a tough one to swallow for this unit, but the rest of the group will have to pick up the slack and put the offense and defense in positions to succeed.

South Carolina 33 – Michigan 28: Big plays doom Wolverines in Outback

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013


For the last four years, the Michigan offense, led by Denard Robinson has been a big play waiting to happen. On Tuesday afternoon, in Denard’s swan song, it was the South Carolina offense that took advantage of big play after big play to beat Michigan 33-28 in the Outback Bowl. None was bigger than a 32-yard touchdown pass from Dylan Thompson to Bruce Ellington with 11 seconds left to serve as the winning score.

South Carolina 33 – Michigan 28
Final Stats
28 Final Score 33
8-5, 6-2 Record 11-2, 6-2
355 Total Yards 426
141 Net Rushing Yards 85
214 Net Passing Yards 341
24 First Downs 17
2 Turnovers 1
4-55 Penalties – Yards 5-44
3-144 Punts – Yards 3-123
37:59 Time of Possession 22:01
8-of-19 Third Down Conversions 3-of-10
3-of-4 Fourth Down Conversions 1-of-2
3-18 Sacks By – Yards 3-22
3-for-3 Field Goals 0-for-2
1-for-1 PATs 3-for-3
5-for-5 Red Zone Scores – Chances 1-for-2

In the first quarter, it looked as if South Carolina was going to run away with the game, as Connor Shaw hit Damiere Byrd for a 56-yard touchdown on the third play of the game. Michigan answered with a 39-yard field goal two drives later. Carolina forced Michigan to punt on its next possession, but Ace Sanders returned the punt 63 yards for a touchdown to put SC ahead 14-3. It was the first punt return Michigan had allowed for a touchdown since Ohio State’s Ted Ginn in 2004.

Michigan put together a 11-play, 76-yard drive that was capped off by a 5-yard touchdown pass from Devin Gardner to Drew Dileo to bring Michigan within four. But South Carolina once again used a big play to set up a score. A 70-yard pass from Thompson to Nick Jones gave the Gamecocks a first-and-goal on the Michigan four, and on the next play, Thompson connected with Sanders for a touchdown to put SC ahead 21-10.

On South Carolina’s next possession, Mario Ojemudia forced a Kenny Miles fumble that was recovered by Jake Ryan at the SC 31. Michigan advanced to the 16, but Gardner was sacked on 3rd-and-6, forcing Michigan to kick a 40-yard field goal. On that drive, Michigan converted a fake field goal for a first down when Dileo ran seven yards on 4th-and-6. South Carolina took a 21-13 lead into the half.

Michigan went three-and-out on its first possession of the second half, and on South Carolina’s second play, Shaw rushed 64 yards to the Michigan 11. After three incompletions, the Gamecocks lined up for a 33-yard field goal and missed.

Michigan put together an 11-play drive that ended in a 52- yard field goal by Matt Wile to pull within 21-16. When South Carolina got the ball back, it faced a 4th-and-7 on the Michigan 35 and Steve Spurrier elected to go for it. The Michigan pressure forced Shaw to roll to his right, and as he tried to pump fake, the ball slipped out of his hands and went out of bounds. Michigan took over and drove 65 yards in nine plays and took the lead on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Gardner to Jeremy Gallon. The Wolverines converted a 4th-and-1 on the drive, when Gardner romped through the middle for a 19-yard gain. The two-point attempt failed and Michigan held a 22-21 lead as the fourth quarter began.

Three Michigan defenders look on as Bruce Ellington scores the winning TD with 11 seconds remaining (Al Messerschmidt, Getty Images)

South Carolina put together a 10-play drive to open the fourth, but Michigan blocked a 43-yard field goal attempt. Michigan then faced a 4th-and-4 from its own 37 and ran a fake punt that appeared to be just millimeters short. But the refs ruled it a first down, and after reviewing the play, upheld the call. On the very next play, All-American SC defensive end Jadeveon Clowney made the biggest play of the game, bolting untouched into the backfield and slamming Vincent Smith just as he received the handoff. The hit knocked Smith’s helmet into the air and the ball to the ground, and Clowney recovered, giving the Gamecocks the ball at the Michigan 31.

One play later, Shaw found Sanders for a 31- yard touchdown pass to give SC the lead once again. The two-point conversion was no good and SC led 27-22 with 8:06 remaining.

Not to be outdone, Michigan mounted a 10-play, 64-yard drive that was capped off by a 17-yard touchdown pass from Gardner to Gallon on 3rd-and-13. Once again, the two-point conversion attempt failed, and Michigan held a 28-27 lead with 3:29 to play.

South Carolina too over on its own 30, and three plays later found itself facing a 4th-and-3. But Shaw connected with Sanders for a six-yard gain to keep the drive alive. Six plays later, SC was had a 2nd-and-10 at the Michigan 32, and that’s when Thompson connected with Ellington for the winning touchdown.

Michigan’s last second comeback attempt failed when Gardner’s pass was incomplete, and South Carolina won 33-28.

Gardner finished the day 18-of-36 for 214 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception. Denard led all rushers with 23 carries for 100 yards, while Gallon caught nine passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns. As a team, Michigan gained 355 yards, but gave up 426.

Denard finished his career as the all-time FBS leader for rushing yards by a quarterback and also second in Michigan career rushing yards behind only Mike Hart. Roy Roundtree finished his career sixth in career receiving yards, just behind Mario Manningham.

Michigan falls to 20-22 all-time in bowl games and 23-8-1 all-time against SEC schools. Stay tuned for continued coverage, analysis, and a look ahead to next season in the days and weeks to come.

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.