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Posts Tagged ‘Notre Dame’

M&GB season preview roundtable

Friday, August 22nd, 2014


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It has become our tradition at the beginning of each season to preview the upcoming season via a staff roundtable. We answer several questions with our predictions and expectations for what the season will bring. Drew has moved on, but we still have Justin, Sam, Derick, and Josh. We also invited our partner at MmmGoBluBBQ, Joe, to join us for the roundtable. We also invite you to give your answers in the comments below. Tell us what you agree with or disagree with. Next week we will begin our game week coverage.

What are you most excited about this season?

Justin: I’m most excited about what should be a very good defense. With so much talent and experience returning, it should be one of the top defenses in the Big Ten and may have to carry the team, at least in the early going. The best Michigan teams in recent history have featured stifling defenses — most notably 1997 and 2006 — and I think I can speak for most Michigan fans when I say I miss the days of Michigan having a dominating defense. It’s a major stretch to say this year’s unit could be as good as the 1997 one, but anywhere close would make for a very good season.

Michigan's defense won't be as good as the 1997 version, but it is one to be excited about

Michigan’s defense won’t be as good as the 1997 version, but it is one to be excited about

With most of the big questions on the offensive side of the ball, the defense is going to need to be very good, and if it is we have two recent examples that could foreshadow the upcoming season: Notre Dame in 2012 and Michigan State in 2013. Notre Dame’s offense ranked 80th nationally in scoring, 38th in rushing, and 72nd in passing that year but still made it to the national title game thanks to its defense. Last season, Michigan State’s offense ranked 63rd in scoring, 59th in rushing, and 84th in passing but still won the Big Ten and the Rose Bowl thanks to its defense. I’m excited for the possibility that Michigan’s defense, which should be more aggressive this fall, could carry the Wolverines to a special season.

Sam: I’m most excited about…football! After last year’s dreadful, seemingly never-ending season, I never thought I’d be so excited to see the Maize and Blue on the field just a season later, but I suppose hope reigns eternal right now. As far specific excitement about this team goes, I am really looking forward to seeing the whole defense working to live up to its enormous expectations. Every single position has an extremely strong two-deep, and every unit has at least one potential game-changer. With names like Frank Clark, Jake Ryan, James Ross III, and Jabrill Peppers, there’s no telling how good this defense could be. A consistent pass rush could mean a top-10 or even top-five defense nationally.

Derick: The most exciting storyline has to be the beginning of Jabrill Peppers‘ career in Ann Arbor. The No. 2 overall recruit has a chance to be a difference maker on defense and revive a kick return game that has been dormant since Steve Breaston left Michigan.

Josh: The defense and its personnel and scheme changes. I’d much rather see an aggressive, menacing defense with an average offense than an average defense with a high octane/high scoring offense. Luckily for Michigan it appears as though we just might get that menacing defense in 2014. That is something to be very excited about after we had to watch last year’s ‘bend but don’t break’ defense sit back and give up big gain after big gain.

Joe: I have a feeling that Coach Nussmeier will focus on building a strong run game with Green and Smith and help control the ball a little more than in recent years. Michigan has the horses to build an above avg. run game with these 2 and it will be fun to see if we can get back to a little smash mouth football at the big house. I’m also looking forward to some great BBQ on “Tailgate Tuesdays”.

What worries you most entering the season?

Justin: Okay, so this question is pretty rhetorical this year. The offensive line has to be the answer after last year’s meltdown and the loss of Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield. If it’s as bad as last season, even a high-caliber defense won’t save the team. But I really don’t think it will be. Do I expect it to be a mauling, classic Michigan offensive line? Absolutely not. But I do think it will be more cohesive than last season and more sound with a simplified playbook. Even so, until we see it in action, the worry is there.

The huge question obviously lies with Erik Magnuson and the rest of the line (Matthew O'Haren, USA Today Sports)

The huge question obviously lies with Erik Magnuson and the rest of the line (Matthew O’Haren, USA Today Sports)

Sam: If anyone’s biggest concern at this point is not the offensive line, he or she may want a quick crash course in foot-ball (American style). I can say with a straight face that Michigan has some sort of chance of having a First Team All-Conference player at every single position on the field (yes, this is still optimistic, but it’s at least feasible in some universe) besides the offensive line, where Michigan may not have a single Third Team-caliber performer, feasibly. The line is replacing two senior tackles who will most likely start one day in the NFL; even with those stars, Michigan’s big uglies up front last year were atrocious. Most people have been taking the glass-half-full approach in saying that there’s no way it can get any worse; it’s hard for me to look at the names on paper and wonder how in the world it could get any better.

Derick: After watching the spring game and the ‘Under the Lights’ scrimmage, how can the offensive line not be the No. 1 concern? Michigan’s defensive line was average for much of 2013, but looked like an elite unit against their offensive teammates. If Doug Nussmeier can’t improve this group, it won’t matter how much Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith have progressed.

Josh: The entire offense. They say that on defense 10 guys can fail as long as one guy makes the play. But on offense 10 guys can be doing their job and if one fails, then the play is lost. While the o-line clearly needs to be a cohesive unit that plays well, it’s not all on them and there are too many variables to work out before they can be a solid unit. Devin Gardner needs to be consistent and the running backs (whomever they may be) need to run with vision and be decisive. I see Michigan in a similar situation as Michigan State was coming into 2013; a potentially great defense that would be enough to carry them but no identity on offense. Last year the defense played well but faded late in the season as it was completely worn down after carrying the offense all year and it really showed in losses to Ohio State and Kansas State I fear we’ll see more of the same this year.

Joe: The offensive line is a HUGE concern due to the loss of both Schofield and Lewan. It wasn’t exactly a strong point last year and now it looks even more troubling. This group needs to gel quickly and improve on the “tackles for loss” that plagued them last year. 114 is way too many!

Who will be the breakout player on offense?

Justin: I would absolutely love to look into the crystal ball and pick a lineman that breaks out and puts together an all-conference season, and while it’s certainly possible, it’s impossible to predict. I also think Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith will split the workload, keeping either from truly breaking out. Therefore, it has to be a pass-catcher, and I’m going to go with Jake Butt. He’s out for the first couple of games at least, but is progressing very well in his return form a torn ACL. We got a taste of what he’s capable of last season — 20 catches for 235 yards and two touchdowns — and once he returns, he could put up some solid numbers.

We all know Devin Funchess will be the go-to receiver for Devin Gardner, but he’s going to have to find others to distribute the ball to so opposing defenses can’t simply game plan Funchess out. It’s very likely that either Jehu Chesson or Amara Darboh breaks onto the scene, but as a tight end, I see Butt becoming a crutch for Gardner. Butt fits right into Nussmeier’s offensive system and could be primed for a big season as long as he fully recovers from his injury.

Sam: This one is pretty easy for me. I don’t think the offensive line is going to be good enough for Michigan to have a star running back, so I immediately look to the outside. There I find Amara Darboh, a gentlemanly sized 6’2″, 211-pound redshirt sophomore wide receiver who was held out all of last season with a foot injury. Devin Funchess is the closest thing the Wolverines have to a sure thing this year, so Darboh should have plenty of opportunities to take advantage of cheating defenses, and his nice hands, solid size, and football IQ should make him a favorite of Devin Gardner.

Derick: Freddy Canteen will probably have one of the greatest impacts on the offense, but I think Devin Gardner will be the breakout player. Gardner struggled for much of the 2013 season, but pressure from the defense and a non-existent rushing attack made his job much harder. A healthy Gardner should take advantage of a deeper receiving core and become the quarterback fans saw for a few games at the end of 2012.

Josh: I’m really down on the offense heading into this season. True, I’m not in Schembechler Hall, but nothing I’ve seen or read since last season has given me any indication that this offense will be any better than last year’s. A simplified system and zone blocking schemes will help but they haven’t had much time with Nussmeier and development takes time and many reps. Plus the mere fact that a TRUE freshman is in line to start at left tackle tells me that this line is still in shambles and that could derail the entire offense, again. That said, I think Jake Butt (once he returns) is prime for a breakout season. I foresee Gardner looking for a safety valve as he runs for his life behind an inept line and Butt should be that safety valve. We saw glimpses of what Butt could do late in 2013 and I expect him to pick up where he left off.

Joe: I am hoping that an in shape and focused Derrick Green turns into the five-star tailback we recruited two years ago. If he can pound the ball and help control the clock, this offense can put up some big numbers. An effective Green would free up some young receivers and an elite Funchess down field.

Who will be the breakout player on defense?

Justin: Yeah, it’s a pretty generic answer that I’m sure others will give, but I’m going with Jourdan Lewis. The hype coming out of the spring and fall camp is too much to ignore. The coaching staff has talked about being more aggressive defensively, and Lewis fits that mold at corner. If he truly has beaten out either experienced corners like Raymon Taylor or Blake Countess, he’s earned it and it will only make the secondary better.

Can Jourdan Lewis live up to the hype he has garnered throughout the offseason?

Can Jourdan Lewis live up to the hype he has garnered throughout the offseason?

Sam: Defensive breakout players are a little bit harder for me to predict, and I admittedly don’t even know who would rightfully qualify as a “breakout” player this year. Would a senior Frank Clark, who has been solid but never great, qualify? How about a junior linebacker who has been playing plenty of snaps for two full seasons? I’ll assume I’d get picked on for taking either of those guys, so let me go with Jourdan Lewis, a 5’10″, 175-pound sophomore cornerback from Cass Tech. If preseason reports and practices are to be believed, it seems that Lewis has managed to wrestle away a starting spot from either senior Raymon Taylor or redshirt junior Blake Countess, both of whom were pretty solid contributors a season ago. The coaches have been emphasizing increased physicality and aggressiveness on defense, particularly from the cornerbacks, which fits right into Lewis’s strengths. If he indeed plays the first snap on defense against Appalachian State next week, Jourdan Lewis must have something going for him.

Derick: It has to be Jabrill Peppers. If he can’t contribute in the secondary then Michigan will be vulnerable to the pass all season, since Blake Countess is the only proven cornerback that can cover Big Ten recievers.

Josh: Jourdan Lewis, and it’s not even close. Yes, I do think Jabrill Peppers will show us why he was one of the best incoming recruits in recent memory but my money is on Lewis to really make massive strides from last season. He got his feet wet last year while relying on great athletic ability but now he has the technique and mental aspect to add to it. I fully expect him to be an All-Big Ten performer, and one of the best defenders in the conference, by season’s end.

Joe: Can I say Jake Ryan as my breakout player? I know he is a team captain and a stud at linebacker, but after missing five games last year due to a torn ACL, he will shine all season if healthy. He is a must for this team to keep pace defensively.

Michigan will win the Big Ten if…

Justin: The offensive line improves to simply average and the defense is as good as advertised. The defense will have to carry the team early on while the offense finds its feet, but I truly believe this is a team that has a lot of potential. It will all rely on improvement from the offensive line, but like I said above, if the defense lives up to the hype, a 2012 Notre Dame or 2013 Michigan State season is not out of question.

Sam: Michigan will win the Big Ten if the defense doesn’t allow a single point. In all seriousness, the defense has to be elite (probably allowing 15 or fewer points a game in Big Ten play) and the offensive line has to be above-average for Michigan to compete for their first conference championship since 2004. I think the defense can be elite, but I still think the offensive line is going to struggle a little bit too much for the team to reach Pasadena or beyond.

Derick: Michigan will win the Big Ten if the quarterback pressure we saw throughout camp was actually because of the elite defensive line Greg Mattison has assembled. If the offensive line can actually protect Gardner and create holes for the running game then the rest will fall in place.

Josh: Michigan State and Ohio State completely implode and each have multiple conference losses, a miracle happens with the offensive line’s development early on, Devin Gardner finally becomes the consistently good QB we know he can be all while Jabrill Peppers exceeds the hype, plays both sides of the ball and becomes the first true freshman to win the Heisman (read: I don’t think it’s even remotely possible for Michigan to win the B1G Ten this year). I’ve said it many times before and I’ll say it again, Michigan won’t be ready to legitimately compete for the B1G Ten until 2015.

Joe: We can get strong and smart play up front, as well as from our quarterback position. We must eliminate the untimely sack or tackle for loss that killed us on important drives last season. C’mon O-line, make it happen!

What’s your prediction for the season? Record, who will Michigan lose to, what bowl game will Michigan play in?

Justin: Regardless of how much improvement the offensive line shows, I don’t see Michigan winning less than eight games this season. But I think they’ll win more than that and finish the regular season 10-2 with losses to Notre Dame and Michigan State. I don’t think Notre Dame will be that great this year, but early on Michigan will still be trying to get its offense up to speed, and despite a valiant effort from the defense, bad things just happen in South Bend. The latter because Michigan State is still the team to beat in the Big Ten this season and, while Michigan will play closer than they have the past two years, it will be extremely tough to pull one out in East Lansing.

I do think Michigan will go into Columbus at season’s end and pull off a big win, leaving a three-way tie atop the East Division, but Michigan State will get the nod into the Big Ten Championship game. Michigan will go to the Capital One Bowl. I never predict the outcome of bowl games before the season because so many variables come into play about who the opponent will be.

Our predictions range from 8-4 to 10-2 with the Capital One Bowl being the most likely destination

Our predictions range from 8-4 to 10-2 with the Capital One Bowl being the most likely destination

I’m optimistic about this season and think this team will be very close to having a really special season that will surprise some people, but in the end it will come up just short, setting up big expectations for 2015.

Sam: My final prediction for the 2014 Michigan football season is as follows:

Record: 10-2, losses at Michigan State and at Ohio State
Bowl game: Wherever generic 10-2 Big Ten teams end up this season (too many to keep track of).

I think it will be a successful season overall that falls just short of the ultimate goals of conference and national championships. Michigan State’s defense should be able to wreak havoc on the offensive line yet again, and though Ohio State will be without Heisman hopeful Braxton Miller all season, their backup will have enough time to gel by the end of the season that the Buckeyes will edge the Wolverines once again at home.

Derick: I think Michigan’s season should be pretty straightforward. The Maize and Blue are great in Ann Arbor, so an easy home schedule should translate into seven wins. But tough road games at Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State make me shudder, and Brady Hoke’s resume on the road should turn all three games into losses. Michigan should take care of Northwestern and Rutgers on the road, giving it a 9-3 record for the season. Two Big Ten losses isn’t going to cut it for a trip to Indy, so Michigan will end up in the Capital One Bowl. Could Michigan win every single game on its schedule? Absolutely. But until fans see this team play solid football, there’s little reason to believe that more than nine wins are on tap.

Josh: My heart wants to be optimistic but my gut says this team’s lack of sufficient development spells doom in 2014. The offense has too many question marks for me to feel comfortable about having anything but very low expectations for them, which in turn puts more pressure on the defense to carry the team, again. The schedule does not set up in Michigan’s favor, with both MSU and OSU on the road (both of which are all but guaranteed losses in my mind). And as we’ve seen in the past Hoke’s teams consistently lose games they shouldn’t, mostly on the road (at Iowa in ’11, at ND and Nebraska in ’12 and atPSU, Nebraska and Iowa last year). They’ve gotten incredibly lucky against Northwestern the past two seasons and something tells me that luck may run out in 2014. Notre Dame, while losing several key players, is still on the road and that tilts the odds slightly in favor of the Irish. Utah could be a very dangerous trap game, sandwiched Miami (Ohio) and perennial bottom feeder Minnesota. Throw in the perennial inexplicable loss we’ve come to expect from Hoke’s Michigan teams and we’re sitting at 4 or 5 losses.

Right now I don’t see this team being better than 8-4, and not in the hunt for the East division. I see losses to MSU, OSU and then two more out of Notre Dame, Utah, Penn St. and Northwestern. They’ll still end up in a decent bowl because they’re Michigan, so something along the lines of the BWW Bowl like last year. Of course, I hope I’m completely wrong and the offense can come together and prove me horribly wrong but I won’t hold my breath.

Joe: I am predicting a 9-3 record for the Maize and Blue with losses at MSU, Northwestern and Ohio. Don’t ask me to explain the Northwestern loss, I just have a bad feeling. This will put them in the Outback bowl on Jan 1. 

Introducing our new ticket partner, We Know Tickets

Monday, August 18th, 2014


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With less than two weeks remaining until the 135th edition of Michigan football gets underway, we would like to introduce our new ticket partner. We Know Tickets is a ticket reseller that offers tickets to sporting events, concerts, and theater events. I like them as a partner because in addition to fantastic customer service they donate a portion of their proceeds to a good cause, Restoration Gateway, which helps “restore peace and heal wounds among the vulnerable children and war-torn people of Northern Uganda.”

We Know Tickets is a great place to buy tickets to Michigan games this season, with a large inventory for each game and low prices. At the time of this posting, here are the lowest prices available for each game:

Current Ticket Availability (as of Aug. 18)
Game Lowest Price $ Below Face Value Qty Available at Lowest Price
Season Tickets $692 2
Appalachian State $39 $31 4
Notre Dame (away) $457 Sold Out 1
Miami Ohio $24 $46 4
Utah $42 $28 4
Minnesota $39 $41 2
Rutgers (away) $131 $24 4
Penn State $109 $97 (singles only) 6
Michigan State (away) $154 Sold Out 7
Indiana $37 $43 2
Northwestern (away) $64 $26 4
Maryland $21 $49 2
Ohio State (away) $220 ($22 over) 1

In addition to the face value prices listed above, Michigan charges a $6 service fee per ticket and a $10 order charge. Our partners at We Know Tickets are offering a special discount code to our readers that will remove the fees they charge. When you check out, simply type ‘goblue‘ into the Discount Code box and you’ll receive 10% off your order.

We Know Tickets is also sponsoring our Five-Spot Challenge this season. The first week’s questions will be posted next Monday, so stay tuned for that. Click on their logo above, or on any of the game links in the table above to visit We Know Tickets, browse their collection, and purchase tickets to any game you want to attend.

2014 opponent preview: Miami (Ohio)

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014


2014 Opponent Preview - Miami OH

Last week, we previewed Michigan’s first opponent of the season, who we also feel is the easiest opponent on the schedule, Appalachian State. Today, it’s time to take a look at the second-easiest, although the difference in “toughness” between Appalachian State and today’s featured opponent, Miami (Ohio), is very minimal. Miami got the nod over ASU because the Redhawks are already an FBS team.

Overview

Schedule
Date Opponent
Aug. 30 Marshall
Sept. 6 Eastern Kentucky
Sept. 13 at Michigan
Sept. 20 at Cincinnati
Sept. 27 at Buffalo
Oct. 4 Massachusetts
Oct. 11 at Akron
Oct. 18 at Northern Illinois
Oct. 25 Kent State
Nov. 1 Western Michigan
Nov. 15 at Central Michigan
Nov. 25 Ohio

After a surprising 10-4 record in 2010, Miami hired former Michigan State offensive coordinator Don Treadwell and he went 8-21 the next two-and-a-half seasons. He was fired on Oct. 6 last season after starting 0-5. Interim head coach Mike Bath didn’t fare any better as the Redhawks failed to win a game all season. Following the season, Miami turned to another offensive coordinator from one of Michigan’s rivals, this time hiring Notre Dame’s Chuck Martin.

Martin coached Notre Dame’s defensive backs in 2010 and 2011 before moving to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach the past two seasons, but it was his head coaching success before that which gives hope to those in Oxford, Ohio. From 2004 to 2009, Martin guided Grand Valley State to a 74-7 record and two Division II national championships. From 2005-07, GVSU won 40 straight games before falling in the playoff semifinal.

The flip side of the argument is that Martin inherited a powerhouse at GVSU from Brian Kelly, who had gone 118-35-2 there since 1991, including 41-2 the three years prior to handing the reigns to Martin. Miami is in a much different position, having achieved just one winning season in the past eight years. If there’s anything Martin can point to for hope, it’s the fact that that one winning season — the 10-4, 2010 campaign — came a year after the Redhawks went just 1-11.

But this is a massive undertaking. Miami scored 10 points or fewer in seven of 12 games last season and didn’t score more than 17. They also gave up more than 40 points in seven of 12 games. They tied for last nationally in scoring offense (9.8 points per game) and ranked 107th in scoring defense (35.7 ppg). With 15 starters returning, Martin will at least have some experience on his hands, but any improvement in 2014 will be minimal at best.

Offense

Projected Starters
Position Name, Yr. Ht, Wt 2013 Stats
QB Andrew Hendrix 6’2″, 226 2-14 for 56 yds, 0 TD, 0 INT (at ND)
RB Spencer Treadwell 5’10″, 205 171 yds (3.1 avg), 1 TD
WR Dawan Scott 6’1″, 191 28 rec. for 425 yds, 2 TD
WR David Frazier 6’0″, 175 28 rec. for 302 yds, 2 TD
WR Alvonta Jenkins 6’0″, 204 12 rec. for 141 yds
TE Alex Welch 6’4″, 251 (at ND)
LT Jeff Tanner 6’4″, 296 10 starts (11 career starts)
LG Trevan Brown 6’4″, 291 10 starts (19 career starts)
C Marcus Matthews 6’3″, 325 3 starts (22 career starts)
RG Brandyn Cook 6’3″, 301 6 starts (7 career starts)
RT Zach Lewis 6’6″, 276 11 starts (28 career starts)

The offense is the biggest challenge. Not only did it average just 9.8 points, but it ranked second-to-last nationally in yards per game (225.8), 116th in rush offense (101.6 ypg), 121st in pass offense (124.3 ypg), second-to-last in third-down conversions (24.6 percent), and last in red zone conversions (63.2 percent). The good news is eight starters return. But that’s about the only good news and Martin has decreed that no one’s job is safe.

Notre Dame transfer Andrew Hendrix knows Martin's system

Notre Dame transfer Andrew Hendrix knows Martin’s system

Two quarterbacks who got some action last season are back, but the main starter, Austin Boucher, is gone. His replacement, Austin Gearing, who took over as a freshman and completed just 24-of-54 passes for 188 yards (just 7.8 yards per completion), no touchdowns, and three interceptions. He was also sacked nearly as many times (16) as he completed a pass. Gearing was, however, an effective runner, leading the team with 478 yards on the ground. Sophomore Drew Kummer was slightly more effective in the passing game, going 18-for-48 for 267 yards and a touchdown. But Martin can’t feel confident heading into 2014 with them as his only options.

Enter Andrew Hendrix. The senior followed Martin to Oxford as a grad-year transfer and instantly became the most talented quarterback on the roster, even if his Notre Dame career never panned out. In 16 games over the last three seasons in South Bend, Hendrix completed 25-of-58 (43.1 percent) for 360 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He also added 203 rushing yards and a touchdown on 6.2 yards per carry. While his numbers aren’t much better than those of Gearing or Kummer, Hendrix has the advantage of already being familiar with Martin’s system. That may be enough to give him the starting nod, at least by the time Miami comes to Ann Arbor.

The top two rushers on Miami’s roster last season were not running backs. Behind Gearing was receiver Dawan Scott, who rushed 37 times for 231 yards (6.2 yards per carry). The top running back was Spencer Treadwell who gained just 171 yards on 56 carries (3.1 ypc) and scored one touchdown. Grant Niemiec was the only other back to top 100 yards, with 114 yards and a touchdown on 35 carries as a true freshman. Unless Martin finds luck with a newcomer or gets significant improvement from Treadwell or Niemiec, it’s probably a safe bet to assume Hendrix or Gearing will lead the team in rushing this fall.

Scott is one player who might be in for a decent season. He lead the team with 425 receiving yards on 28 catches (15.2 ypc) and two touchdowns, following a 2012 campaign in which he caught 57 passes for 851 yards and seven scores. On the other side is his former high school teammate, David Frazier, who also caught 28 passes last season, but for just 302 yards and two touchdowns. If the two can get in sync with Hendrix or Gearing, Miami could have a halfway decent passing attack. Add in Notre Dame transfer, senior tight end Alex Welch, and there is some talent there. Although Welch caught just one pass while in South Bend, he’s the highest-rated pass-catcher on the roster.

The offensive line is an experienced bunch with 99 career starts combined, but that doesn’t mean much given its struggles last season. If you thought Michigan’s line was bad last season, Miami can assure you that it can be worse. The Redhawks allowed 49 sacks — one every five passing downs — in addition to ranking 116th nationally in rushing. With no four- or five-star talent to step in, Martin will hope to find his best five in fall camp.

Defense

Projected Starters
Position Name, Yr. Ht, Wt 2013 Stats
DE Bryson Albright 6’5″, 224 55 tackles, 11.5 TFL, 5 sacks
DT Mwanza Wamulumba 6’3″, 281 24 tackles, 0.5 TFL
DT Jimmy Rousher 6’2″, 283 23 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 sack, 1 FR
DE J’Terius Brown 6’3″, 245 26 tackles, 6 TFL, 3 sacks
OLB Josh Dooley 6’0″, 227 87 tackles, 2 TFL, 3 PBU, 1 FR
MLB Kent Kern 6’1″, 229 98 tackles, 5 TFL, 2 PBU
OLB Tyler Tucker 6’2″, 220 50 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 2 PBU
CB Heath Harding 5’10″, 178 56 tackles, 3 TFL, 4 PBU, 3 INT
CB Lo Wood 5’11″, 185 10 tackles, 1 TFL (at ND)
FS Brison Burris 5’11″, 190 75 tackles, 0.5 TFL, 4 PBU, 1 INT
SS Jay Mastin 6’2″, 214 62 tackles, 1 TFL, 3 PBU, 1 INT

Miami’s defense fared slightly better than its offense in 2013, but not by much. It ranked 115th nationally in total defense (484.3 ypg), 113th in rush defense (223.3 ypg), and 105th in pass defense (260.9 ypg). The Redhawks allowed third down conversions at a rate of 48.2 percent, good for 121st nationally, and sacked the quarterback just 13 times all season, tied for 118th nationally.

Heath Harding lead Miami with three interceptions last season

Heath Harding lead Miami with three interceptions last season

Seven starters return on the defense, but the best player from last year’s defense, cornerback Dayonne Nunley, is gone. The three-time first-team All-MAC performer lead the team with 58 solo tackles and finished second in total tackles (88) and was the only Redhawk with double-digit pass breakups (13). He also recorded an interception and 2.5 tackles-for-loss. He was a bright spot in an otherwise forgettable secondary.

The good news for Martin is that he has another Notre Dame transfer, Lo Wood, who brings three years of experience — though not starting experience — with him. He played in 33 games, recording 20 tackles, 1.5 tackles-for-loss, and one interception. He’ll join an experienced secondary even without Nunley. Sophomore Heath Harding is the other corner. He recorded 56 tackles, three for loss, and lead the team with three interceptions last season. Seniors Chrishawn Dupuy and Jarrell Jones will also be in the battle to start. Both of last year’s starting safeties, senior Brison Burris and sophomore Jay Mastin, return. They combined for 137 tackles, 1.5 for loss, two interceptions, and seven pass breakups. Another guy, redshirt sophomore Marshall Taylor, could factor in. He redshirted last season after starting five of the last seven games as a true freshman in 2012 and recording 40 tackles.

The defensive line lost a pair of starters, end Wes Williams and tackle Austin Brown, but does still have some talent returning. Junior end Bryson Albright lead the team with 11.5 tackles-for-loss and five sacks. The other end, J’Terius Brown recorded six tackles-for-loss and three sacks, though he started just one game. The interior, made up of senior Mwanza Wamulumba and sophomore Jimmy Rousher, combined for 47 tackles, 3.5 for loss, and one sack. But the theme across the line is size, or a lack thereof. Albright and Brown average just 234 pounds, while Wamulumba and Rousher average just 282. Miami will need to get bigger up front if it wants to slow down opposing offenses.

There is some talent at linebacker in a trio of juniors, Josh Dooley, Kent Kern, and Tyler Tucker. Dooley ranked third on the team last season with 87 tackles and had two for loss, in addition to three pass breakups. Kern, the middle linebacker, was the team’s leading tackler with 98 tackles, five of which went for loss. Tucker added 50 tackles, 2.5 for loss. They do have to replace Chris Wade’s 79 tackles and nine tackles-for-loss.

Special Teams

Projected Starters
Position Name, Yr. Ht, Wt 2013 Stats
PK Kaleb Patterson 5’10″, 172 7-11 FG, long 52
P Drew Kummer 6’3″, 207 27.3 avg, 1 in-20
KR Fred McRae 5’10″, 175 11 ret, 20.5 avg.
PR Fred McRae 5’10″, 175 12 ret, 9.2 avg.

Field goal kicker Kaleb Patterson is back after making 7-of-11 tries with a long of 52 in 2013. Punter Zac Murphy, who averaged 46.6 yards per punt, needs to be replaced and that job will likely fall to junior quarterback Drew Kummer, who punted three times last season for just 27.3 yards per. There’s a chance that Patterson could assume both duties.

In the return game, redshirt sophomore receiver Fred McRae showed potential last season, averaging 9.2 yards per punt return, although Miami’s defense didn’t force many teams to punt. He also averaged 20.5 yards per kick return.

Outlook

With so much area for improvement, it’s going to take some time to rebuild. The non-conference schedule is somewhat favorable with Michigan being the only guaranteed loss. Marshall beat Miami 52-14 last season and should be even better, but Eastern Kentucky and Cincinnati should both be winnable games. That doesn’t mean Miami will win those, but it’s better than facing other power conference teams. Martin should hope for baby steps this fall, a couple of wins to start building towards the future.

What it means for Michigan

Martin is familiar with the Wolverines, but it wasn’t the Notre Dame offense that Michigan has had trouble with. It was the defense that shut Michigan down in 2012. That won’t happen in this one as Michigan’s offense will get to continue to test its running game against a an undersized line. Michigan will either be coming off its first loss of the season or a big road win at Notre Dame. In that same scenario last year, Michigan struggled with a bad — but not this bad — Akron team. The players admitted that they bought into the hype after the thrilling Under the Lights II win over the Irish and got comfortable, but don’t expect that to happen again. Michigan will roll the Redhawks like they should have done the Zips.

New in Blue: Tight end Chris Clark

Thursday, June 19th, 2014


Chris Clark(247 Sports)

Chris Clark – TE | 6-6, 247 | Avon, Conn. – Avon Old Farms
ESPN: 4-star, #3 TE Rivals: 4-star, #4 TE 247: 4-star, #2 TE Scout: 5-star, #1 TE
Other top offers: Alabama, Auburn, FSU, Georgia, Ohio State, Miami, South Carolina

Michigan seems to be gaining momentum on the recruiting trail, as just a day after picking up a commitment from 2016 quarterback Messiah deWeaver, the Wolverines got the nod from one of the top tight ends in the country, Chris Clark. After visiting Ohio State on Tuesday and Michigan State on Wednesday, the Avon, Conn. star pledged his commitment to Michigan on his visit this afternoon and announced it on Twitter.

Clark is rated four stars by Rivals, 247, and ESPN and five stars by Scout. Scout considers him the top tight end and 26th-best overall prospect in the 2015 class. 247 ranks him the second-best tight end and 101st overall prospect. ESPN has him as their third tight end and 108th-best overall prospect, while Rivals ranks him fourth and 146th, respectively. All but Rivals are in agreement about his height (6’6″) and weight (247-pounds). Rivals lists him six pounds heavier.

Scout lists Clarks’s strengths as blocking ability, hands, concentration, and size, and his weaknesses as downfield threat and elusiveness. Scout’s Brian Dohn had high praise for Clark.

“Clark is a complete tight end who can block, get out and catch the ball and also be a factor in the red zone,” said Dohn. “He has very good hands and is a red-zone threat. He does a nice job running routes and he is a big, physical player. He also embraces the blocking portion of the game, and does a good job getting off the line of scrimmage cleanly. All around, Clark is a complete tight end who should havea big impact quickly in college.”

Make no mistake about it, this is a big pick up for Hoke and staff. Clark held offers from nearly every major program in the country, including Alabama, and Michigan’s three main rivals, Ohio State, Michigan State, and Notre Dame. He originally committed to North Carolina on March 16, but decommitted less than a month later and promptly visited Michigan and Ohio State.

On May 4, Clark tweeted that he would make his announcement at The Opening on July 8, but his visit to Michigan today, during which he met with quarterback commitment Alex Malzone, was enough to get him to end his recruitment a few weeks earlier. He’s the only current commit that will participate in The Opening, an invite-only competition for elite prospects at the Nike World Headquarters in Oregon, but he will join a pair of former commits — George Campbell and Shaun Crawford — as well as several targets.

Clark is the eighth member of the 2015 class and the only tight end. When he gets to Michigan next year — assuming his commitment holds through signing day — he will join a talented group that includes fellow four-stars Jake Butt and Ian Bunting and three star Khalid Hill. For what it’s worth, Devin Funchess was a three-star, though it’s a stretch to consider him a tight end at this point.

New offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier likes to utilize tight ends, so the success Hoke and staff have had recruiting the position the past few years bodes well for the future. Clark has also said that he will do some recruiting for Michigan to try to lure other top prospects to join him in Ann Arbor.

Countdown to kickoff: 85 days

Friday, June 6th, 2014


Countdown to kickoff-85

New in Blue: Running back Ty Isaac

Thursday, June 5th, 2014


Ty Isaac(USA Today Sports)

Ty Isaac – RB | 6-3, 225 | Joliet, Ill. – Joliet Catholic
ESPN: 4-star, #13 RB Rivals: 5-star, #4 RB 247: 4-star, #5 RB Scout: 5-star, #7 RB
Other top offers: USC, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Auburn, Clemson, Michigan State, Georgia, Notre Dame

Michigan missed out on a key transfer earlier this spring when Alabama center Chad Lindsay chose Ohio State, but the Wolverines landed an even bigger transfer today when USC running back Ty Isaac announced via Twitter that he would sign with Michigan.

If the name sounds familiar, it should. Michigan was one of the finalists  to land Isaac before he decided to attend Southern Cal in the 2013 recruiting class. At USC, the Joliet, Ill. native rushed for 236 yards on 40 carries — an average of 5.9 yards per carry — and two touchdowns during the 2013 season as a true freshman. He also caught four passes for 57 yards. Isaac battled for playing time in a crowded backfield that included senior Penn State transfer Silas Redd. When he got extended playing time against California on Nov. 9, Isaac showed what he is capable of, rushing for 87 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries.

(David Cleveland, AP)

(David Cleveland, AP)

Isaac announced his transfer in mid-May because of a longing to be closer to his mother, who is dealing with medical complications related to a procedure. Under NCAA rules, a player can receive a hardship waiver in these types of circumstances, which would make him eligible to play right away instead of sitting out a year. However, in 2012, the NCAA refined the rule to institute a 100-mile radius from the immediate family member’s home. Ann Arbor is approximately 250 miles away, so it would be up to the NCAA to grant leniency in this case.

Illinois, which is much closer to his home, was the other top contender for his services. He visited there last week before making a trip to Ann Arbor earlier this week. Notre Dame, which was also a finalist to land Isaac coming out of high school was initially not approved by USC since the Trojans play the Irish. Ohio State also sought approval to contact him, but it was for naught.

“I decided that I’m going to transfer to Michigan,” Isaac said this morning. “I had a good visit there, and it’s just the place where I feel the most comfortable. I didn’t want to drag all of this out and see a ton of schools. Michigan was in my final three when I committed to USC, and the reasons I liked Michigan are still very much in place.”

If the NCAA grants him the ability to play this fall, Isaac will battle for the starting job with Derrick Green and DeVeon Smith, who were also members of the 2013 class. Rivals rated Green the top running back in the class, Isaac fourth, and Smith 37th. Scout had Green first, Isaac seventh, and Smith 11th, while 247 Sports had Isaac fifth, Green eighth, and Smith 15th.

If Isaac does have to sit out the 2014 season, he will be able to take a redshirt and still have three years of eligibility remaining, which would put a year of separation between he and the other two.

During his senior year at Joliet Catholic in 2012, Isaac rushed for more than 1,500 yards and 22 touchdowns, but missed some games due to injury. As a junior in 2011, he racked up 2,629 yards and 45 touchdowns, including a 515-yard, six-touchdown performance in the Illinois Class 5A state championship game.

He is the first transfer Michigan has landed since quarterback Steven Threet transferred from Georgia Tech in 2007. Threet then transferred to Arizona State two years later.

Countdown to kickoff: 89 days

Monday, June 2nd, 2014


Countdown to kickoff-89_edited-1

Countdown to kickoff: 94 days

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014


Countdown to kickoff-94

Drew’s mailbag: The rival Michigan needs to beat, Crawford’s crazy courtship

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014


Below is another installment of Drew’s Mailbag, which will run every two weeks throughout the offseason, answering any questions you may have regarding Michigan athletics. You can submit your questions to Drew on Twitter (@DrewCHallett) or via email (drew.maizeandgoblue@gmail.com).

Which [rivalry game] do you want the most if [Michigan football] can [win] only one? – Josh (@josh_muhleck)

Why only one? Shouldn’t Michigan expect to beat all three of Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State next season? This is Michigan, fergodsakes. The leaders and best. The champions of the West. Michigan does not accept anything but first place. Etcetera, etcetera. Yada yada yada.

Okay. Now that that is out of my system, let’s be realistic. The truth is that it is highly unlikely that Michigan will defeat all three of Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State in the fall. The Wolverines are staring up at all three rivals at the moment. The Buckeyes are 24-2 in two seasons under Urban Meyer. The Spartans have won at least 11 games three of the past four seasons, which includes earning an outright Big Ten championship and a Rose Bowl victory last year. The Fighting Irish are one year removed from an appearance in the national championship game. And this has all happened while Michigan has managed to have only one season with more than eight wins since 2007. The task of beating all three of its rivals is difficult enough when Michigan is at its peak, having done it only twice since 1991. Not even the biggest Michigan homer can expect the Wolverines to pull it off this year given the current state of these four programs.

To make matters worse, Michigan does not even have the luxury of hosting one of its rivals at Michigan Stadium this season. Instead, the Wolverines must face all three of Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State on the road for the first time in school history. This is a nightmare scenario for a program that has struggled on the road against quality competition. Michigan has lost its last 10 true road games against teams ranked in the AP Top 25. The last road win against such a foe was against No. 2 Notre Dame in 2006. Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State likely will be ranked in the AP Top 25 when Michigan steps on the gridiron with them. The idea that Michigan will end this extended road drought by sweeping them is ludicrous. Michigan fans should consider just one win versus its rivals this year as progress.

If Michigan can beat just one rival this fall, the pick should be the one in Columbus (Detroit News)

If Michigan can beat just one rival this fall, the pick should be the one in Columbus (Detroit News)

With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s break down which rival Michigan fans should most want the Wolverines to beat this season:

Notre Dame: Nothing would be sweeter than getting the last word in a rivalry that has all but disintegrated. Notre Dame stuck it to Michigan by notifying athletic director Dave Brandon just minutes before the two teams kicked off in 2012 that the Fighting Irish were putting the rivalry on pause after 2014. This was a shock to Michigan. Earlier that summer, Michigan and Notre Dame jointly announced that there would a two-year hiatus in 2018 and 2019 to allow the schools to schedule some new, fresh competition. It was supposed to be a short recess, not a permanent vacation.

Yet this fall will be the last Michigan-Notre Dame clash for the foreseeable future. Michigan reportedly has locked in its premium non-conference opponents through 2023. None are Notre Dame. With the Big Ten adding a ninth conference game to the slate in 2016, Michigan likely will not seek to add a second premium non-conference opponent. And Notre Dame’s affiliation with the ACC limits its availability. Therefore, a win in September would give Michigan bragging rights over the Fighting Irish for the next decade or two.

Nonetheless, Notre Dames is a non-conference rival. It always is enjoyable to watch Michigan’s quarterbacks torch the Fighting Irish, but the wins have no impact on its goal to win a Big Ten championship. Yes, wins against Notre Dame provide the Wolverines an added boost heading into the conference season. However, the significance of those wins pales in comparison to Michigan’s wins against conference rivals, Michigan State and Ohio State. Plus, unlike MSU and OSU, Michigan has had Notre Dame’s number recently, winning six of the last eight meetings. While Michigan would like to make it seven of the last nine, a win here is not nearly as important is would be later in the season.

Michigan State: In 2007, after a fourth-quarter, comeback win against Michigan State, then-Michigan running back Mike Hart claimed that Michigan State was Michigan’s “little brother.” Yet, since those infamous words were spoken, Michigan State has had the upper hand on Michigan. The Wolverines have suffered defeat in five of the six meetings against MSU that followed. Michigan has not had this much trouble with its in-state rival since before Bo Schembechler first arrived in Ann Arbor in 1969.

Accordingly, Michigan State has seen its stock rise to levels it has not experienced in decades. The Spartans are piling up wins, conference championships, and even their first Rose Bowl victory since 1988. Whether Michigan fans want to acknowledge it or not, Michigan State has become a Big Ten power under Mark Dantonio. Even recruits are taking notice as some of Michigan’s top high school talent has begun to favor the Spartans over the Wolverines. This is a trend that Michigan needs to stop in its tracks instantly. The first step to doing so is to beat the Spartans in East Lansing this season.

However …

Ohio State: No matter how compelling an argument one can make that Michigan State is the most important game on Michigan’s schedule this season, no game is more important than “The Game.” A rival against whom Michigan has had a poor six-year stretch does not replace the rival with whom Michigan has created college football’s best rivalry as the most important on the schedule. Sorry. No chance. Yes, a Michigan win against Michigan State would be quite significant for U-M’s future prosperity, but it will never define an entire Michigan season like a win against Ohio State does.

So, if Michigan can beat only one rival this season, it is Ohio State. No ifs, ands, or buts. Of course, I would not mind if Michigan shocked the world and beat all three.

Should we consider [Michigan football commit] Shaun Crawford as good as gone? –Bill (@BillOffer)

Not yet. Initially, when it was confirmed that 2015 four-star defensive back Shaun Crawford had visited Notre Dame last weekend, it looked grim for Michigan. Brady Hoke has a well-publicized policy that discourages current commits from visiting other schools. The policy is simple, even if it has been misinterpreted repeatedly:

If a Michigan commit visits another school, the staff will no longer guarantee the prospect a spot in the class. This does not mean that Michigan will banish the prospect from being a member of its recruiting class, though, as some have claimed. In most cases, Michigan still will want that prospect to be in its class and “re-commit” as soon as he is sure he does not want to take anymore visits. But Michigan may look at other prospects to fill the new vacancy. Nothing is guaranteed. That is the risk of taking visits.

Despite a wandering eye, Crawford shouldn't be considered gone just yet (247 Sports)

Despite a wandering eye, Crawford shouldn’t be considered gone just yet (247 Sports)

With Crawford’s visit to Notre Dame, his spot in Michigan’s class was no longer guaranteed. Although this does not result in an automatic decommitment, most Michigan commits who visit elsewhere tend to decommit because their spot is no longer guaranteed anyway. However, multiple outlets reported that Crawford wanted to remain a Michigan commit despite his wandering eye. It appeared he still favored the Wolverines, but did not want to be forced out by a policy he felt was hypocritical. But Crawford had yet to speak with Hoke about visiting elsewhere. Once Crawford had that conversation with Hoke, I expected that Crawford would decommit and that it would be the beginning of the end.

Yet, according to Rivals’ Josh Helmholdt ($), Crawford stated that he spoke with the Michigan staff on Tuesday night and still is a Michigan commit. Crawford also told Helmholdt that he will continue to look at other schools, which includes a trip to Ohio State soon. It appears that Crawford has gotten what he wanted: to remain a Michigan commit while looking around.

This is good news for Michigan. If Michigan had forced Crawford to decommit, the odds of him recommitting would have been slim to none. Crawford likely would have become frustrated with Hoke’s no-visit policy and disillusioned with the idea of playing football for him in Ann Arbor. Instead, Crawford maintains his commitment with Michigan, which indicates the Wolverines still are the leader for his services. Of course, this could change down the road if Notre Dame, Ohio State, or even Miami (FL) persuades him to make a switch. But this is the life of recruiting. And the odds of this happening would have been much higher if Crawford had decommitted from Michigan.

Plus, Crawford is a commit Michigan wants to keep. Most recruiting services consider Crawford to be in the top 100 of the 2015 class or just outside of it. He is a talented player from the state of Ohio that grew up a Michigan fan. This is not the type of recruit that Michigan can afford to lose right now, especially when Michigan has already lost two other top-50 commits from the 2015 class in running back Damien Harris and wide receiver George Campbell. At the moment, Michigan does not appear to have lost Crawford, but this will be a recruitment we will need to keep our eyes on the next few months.

If you have any questions related to Michigan athletics that you want answered in the next mailbag, please tweet them to @DrewCHallett on Twitter or email them to drew.maizeandgoblue@gmail.com. 

Michigan and Notre Dame to close rivalry under the lights

Thursday, February 20th, 2014


UM-ND

The last meeting for the foreseeable future between college football’s top two winningest programs will take place the same way it has the past three seasons — under the lights. NBC will televise the Michigan-Notre Dame game at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 6 at 7:30 p.m.

Night games have been good to Michigan as the Wolverines have won two of the three played, but the one loss was two years ago in South Bend when Michigan was held without a touchdown and fell 13-6.

While Michigan leads the overall series 24-16-1, Michigan hasn’t had as much success at Notre Dame Stadium, trailing 8-7-1 all-time. This fall’s matchup will give the Wolverines a chance to even it up before the teams take an indefinite hiatus.

Michigan has won four of the last five in the series and six of the last eight, but that doesn’t mean the Wolverines have dominated. Last season’s 41-30 victory in Michigan Stadium was the first to be decided by more than one score since 2008. The previous four were decided by an average of less than five points. In fact, each of Michigan’s wins from 2009-11 was decided in the final two minutes.

It will be the second game of the season for both teams. Michigan opens on Aug. 30 at home against Appalachian State while Notre Dame hosts Rice.

It’s safe to say that there will be a lot of hype entering the final meeting and both teams will want to end the series as the victor. Notre Dame passed Michigan in all-time winning percentage at the end of the 2013 season, so a Michigan win on Sept. 6 would likely give the Wolverines the lead back.