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Posts Tagged ‘Taco Charlton’

Peppers named top defender, entire defense earns All-Big Ten

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016


peppers-vs-osu(Dustin Johnson, Maize ‘n Brew)

While Michigan’s regular season ended with a loss on Saturday it was a big winner when the Big Ten announced its defensive awards on Tuesday night.

Redshirt sophomore linebacker Jabrill Peppers was named the Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year, the Butkis-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year, and the Rodgers-Dwight Return Specialist of the Year. He also joined Ohio State’s Raekwon McMillan and Wisconsin’s T.J. Watt as first-team All-Big Ten linebacker.

Peppers is the first Michigan defender to claim the Defensive Player of the Year award since Larry Foote in 2006 and he’s the fourth one to do it. He was also the first Big Ten player to claim all three awards in the same season.

Peppers ranked third on the team with 72 tackles, lead the team with 16 tackles for loss, and fourth with four sacks. He also lead the team with eight quarterback hurries and recorded his first career interception against Ohio State on Saturday. On special team, he lead the Big Ten with 310 punt return yards, averaging 14.8 yards per return with one touchdown. His 310 punt return yards also lead the nation and his 14.8-yard average ranked fifth.

Senior defensive back Jourdan Lewis became the first Wolverine to win the Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year award since it became an award in 2011. Despite missing three games, Lewis ranked second on the team with 10 pass breakups, picked off two passes, and recorded 3.5 tackles for loss.

Lewis joined Peppers, senior defensive end Taco Charlton, and senior defensive tackle Chris Wormley on the All-Big Ten first team, matching Ohio State’s four. Senior tackle Ryan Glasgow, senior safety Delano Hill, and senior defensive back Channing Stribling were named to the second team, while senior linebacker Ben Gedeon earned a third-team selection. Senior kicker Kenny Allen, senior tackle Matt Godin, redshirt junior Mike McCray, and senior Dymonte Thomas were honorable mention. The eight players Michigan got on the first through third teams were more than any other team.

The media had a few slight differences, dropping Wormley to second team and Hill to honorable mention, but elevating Gedeon to second team.

Jim Harbaugh took the opportunity to showcase the fact that every defensive starter was named to the All-Big Ten team, something he and the rest of his staff will most certainly use on the recruiting trail between now and National Signing Day.

The offensive awards and All-Big Ten teams will be announced on Wednesday.

#2 Ohio State 30 – #3 Michigan 27 (2 OT): Stunning loss a tragic tale in The Game’s lore

Monday, November 28th, 2016


barrett-4th-down(Jamie Sabau, Getty Images)

Michigan nearly did it all on Saturday in Columbus. They played well enough to beat rival Ohio State and earn a spot in the Big Ten championship game. They also played well enough to lose, turning the ball over three times, which lead to 14 OSU points. Ultimately, they didn’t play well enough to overcome both those turnovers and several questionable calls. In the end, the Wolverines suffered a fifth straight loss to their bitter rival, falling 30-27 in double overtime and may have exited the College Football Playoff race.

um-ohiostate_small-final
Final Stats
Michigan  Ohio State
Score 27 30
Record 10-2, 7-2 11-1, 8-1
Total Yards 310 330
Net Rushing Yards 91 206
Net Passing Yards 219 124
First Downs 16 23
Turnovers 3 1
Penalties-Yards 7-59 2-6
Punts-Yards 7-332 6-276
Time of Possession 31:13 28:47
Third Down Conversions 9-of-19 3-of-16
Fourth Down Conversions 1-of-1 2-of-3
Sacks By-Yards 8-27 2-16
Field Goals 2-for-2 1-for-3
PATs 3-for-3 3-for-3
Red Zone Scores-Chances 5-of-6 4-of-6
Red Zone Scores-TDs 3-of-6 3-of-6
Full Box Score

Nationally, the game will go down as an all-time thriller in college football’s greatest rivalry. For those who bleed maize and blue, it will join 1974 as one of the great tragedies of the rivalry.

In the 1974 Michigan-Ohio State game, Michigan kicker Mike Lantry booted a game-winning field goal from 33 yards out that would have given the 4th-ranked Wolverines a 13-12 victory and secured an undefeated record. But the officials called the kick no good and the home crowd stormed the field.

Bo Schembechler later told John U Bacon, “Those refs knew where they were reffing. They were reffing in Columbus that game, and that mattered.”

Fast forward 42 years and Bo’s sentiment rang true once again. The officiating crew on Saturday certainly knew where they were reffing, and in a great game between two titans that took two overtimes to be decided, that mattered.

In the second overtime, on 4th-and-1, Michigan’s defense stopped Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett right at the line to gain. Michigan fans will go to their graves knowing that he was stopped short, just as Lantry’s field goal was good. Instead, the officials ruled that he crossed the line and upheld it after replay. One play later, Curtis Samuel found the end zone to end the game.

But that wasn’t the only controversy. Michigan was penalized seven times for 59 yards in the game while the Buckeyes were flagged just twice for six yards. Michigan entered the game as the fourth-least penalized team in the Big Ten, averaging just 4.7 penalties per game. Ohio State came in as the third-most penalized team in the conference, averaging 6.5.

In fact, OSU had one game all season with fewer than four penalties and just four games all season with fewer than six. Did the Buckeyes suddenly become so disciplined that the only fouls they committed all game were one false start and a one-yard personal foul at the 2-yard line?

Sure, if you don’t think this is pass interference:

That was on third down in double overtime, forcing Michigan to kick a field goal. A correct pass interference gives Michigan a fresh set of downs around the Ohio State 12. Would Michigan have punched it into the end zone? Who knows. But they should have gotten the chance. Michigan safety Delano Hill got called for the exact same thing on 3rd-and-7 on Ohio State’s game-tying drive, keeping the Buckeyes’ drive alive.

Sure, Ohio State played a clean game if you don’t consider this pass interference:

That was also on third down, stopping a Michigan drive short and forcing a punt. A correct call would have given Michigan either 10 yards (if called holding) or 15 yards (if pass interference), putting the Wolverines on the cusp of field goal range. It was also one possession after Michigan defensive back Channing Stribling was called for defensive holding on Buckeye receiver Noah Brown.

Sure, Ohio State committed just two penalties. If you don’t think this isn’t a personal foul:

In an era of hyper-sensitivity surrounding concussions and CTE, a blind-side hit on a defenseless player away from the ball is called every single time. Except on the Buckeyes in Columbus. The umpire was right there watching it happen. But kept the flag on his hip.

Sure, Ohio State played perfectly. If you don’t consider this holding:

Fortunately on that play, Michigan safety Jordan Glasgow fought off the hold and made the tackle, stopping punter Cam Jonston short of the first down — much to the officiating crew’s chagrin. But that’s just one example of several holds that went uncalled.

Michigan played well enough to win on Saturday, and should have done so despite their mistakes. The Wolverines led for 39 minutes and trailed for just three and change. They controlled most of the game and they made a game-winning stop in the second overtime. But their drives were stopped short due to no-calls while Ohio State’s drives were extended by calls in their favor. Michigan was on the wrong side of every single call made in the game. And that’s not debatable. Don’t just take my word for it, the Michigan blogger. Ask those with no dog in the fight. Like Mike Greenberg. Or Spartan/Michigan-hater Jemele Hill. Every non-partial observer I talked to over the past 24 hours said the same thing.

Oh, those refs knew where they were reffing. They were reffing in Columbus, and that mattered.

Game Ball – Offense

Kenny Allen (2-of-2 field goals, 7 punts for 47.4 average, 5 downed inside 20)
Michigan’s offense moved the ball well early in the game, but struggled to get consistency in the second half. Part of that was penalties killing drives and part of it was that Ohio State just has a great defense. Wilton Speight completed 23-of-36 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns, but he also committed three turnovers, which led to 14 Ohio State points. Amara Darboh could have gotten the game ball after catching eight passes for a game-high 68 yards and a great touchdown grab in overtime. But senior punter/kicker Kenny Allen gets the nod for the second time in three weeks. He made both field goals attempted — a 28-yarder in the second quarter and a 37-yarder in the second overtime. He also consistently pinned Ohio State’s offense deep in its own territory with a 47.4-yard average on his seven punts. OSU punter Cam Johnston entered the game as the Big Ten’s best punter, but Allen was the best punter on Saturday.

Previous
Week 1 — Chris Evans (8 carries, 112 yards, 2 touchdowns)
Week 2 — Wilton Speight (25-of-37 for 312 yards, 4 touchdowns)
Week 3 — Jake Butt (7 receptions for 87 yards)
Week 4 — Grant Newsome, Ben Braden, Mason Cole, Kyle Kalis, Erik Magnuson (326 rush yards, 0 sacks allowed)
Week 5 — Amara Darboh (6 receptions for 87 yards, 1 touchdown)
Week 6 — Khalid Hill (2 carries for 2 yards and 2 touchdowns, 2 receptions for 19 yards and 1 touchdown)
Week 7 — Wilton Speight (16-of-23 for 253 yards, 2 touchdowns)
Week 8 — Amara Darboh (8 receptions for 165 yards)
Week 9 — Wilton Speight (19-of-24 for 362 yards, 2 touchdowns, 3 carries for 16 yards, 1 touchdown)
Week 10 — Kenny Allen (2-of-2 FGs, long of 51)
Week 11 — De’Veon Smith (23 carries for 158 yards, 2 touchdowns)

Game Ball – Defense

Taco Charlton (9 tackles (6 solo), 3 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks)
Michigan’s defense struggled in overtime, but for 60 minutes, it held the fifth-best scoring offense in the country to just 10 points, seven of those coming after Ohio State’s second interception gave them possession on the Michigan 13. A major part of the success was the dominant performance by Michigan’s defensive line, which led the way in sacking Barrett eight times and recording 12.5 tackles for loss. Senior defensive end Taco Charlton proved to be one of the nation’s best pass rushers, sacking Barret 2.5 times on his way to a nine-tackle performance. He finishes the regular season with a team-high 8.5 sacks.

Previous
Week 1 — Mike McCray (9 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble)
Week 2 — Rashan Gary (6 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks)
Week 3 — Jabrill Peppers (9 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1 sack, 2 kick ret. for 81 yards, 4 punt ret. for 99 yards, 1 TD)
Week 4 — Maurice Hurst (6 tackles, 3 solo, 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack)
Week 5 — Channing Stribling (2 tackles, 2 interceptions, 2 pass breakups)
Week 6 — Taco Charlton (2 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 2 sacks)
Week 7 — Mike McCray (3 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss, 1 fumble recovery, 2 quarterback hurries)
Week 8 — Jabrill Peppers (7 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 two-point conversion fumble recovery return)
Week 9 — Delano Hill (6 tackles (5 solo), 0.5 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions)
Week 10 — Chris Wormley (6 tackles (2 solo), 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack)
Week 11 — Ryan Glasgow (7 tackles (5 solo), 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble)

Midseason comparison: Michigan’s 2016 defense vs 2015 defense

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016


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

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

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

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

Scoring Defense

scoring-defenseScoring defense average (national ranking in circle) 

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

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

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

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

 

Let’s take a look at the run defense.

Rushing Defense

rush-defenseRush defense average (national ranking in circle) 

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

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

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

 

How about the pass defense?

Passing Defense

pass-defensePass defense average (national ranking in circle) 

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

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

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

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

Total Defense

total-defenseTotal defense average (national ranking in circle) 

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

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

#4 Michigan 78 – Rutgers 0: Michigan decimates Secret Society of Something University

Monday, October 10th, 2016


henderson-ways-vs-rutgers(MGoBlue.com)

Bobby Henderson took a quick handoff, bulled his way up the middle and crossed the goal line for a 13-yard touchdown. On that run, Michigan’s nth-string fullback who hadn’t had a single carry in his first four seasons at Michigan, outscored Rutgers 7-0. His three fourth-quarter carries for 26 yards finished just eight yards short of Rutgers’ entire running game on Saturday night. It was that kind of night in Piscataway as Michigan demolished Rutgers 78-0.

Rutgers hung around longer than expected, taking advantage of rainy conditions early in the game, holding Michigan to just five yards on eight plays in its first three possessions of the game. The Rutgers offense, however, fared even worse, gaining just three yards on nine plays in its first three possessions.

um-rutgers_small-final
Final Stats
Michigan Rutgers
Score 78 0
Record 6-0, 3-0 2-4, 0-3
Total Yards 600 39
Net Rushing Yards 481 34
Net Passing Yards 119 5
First Downs 23 2
Turnovers 1 1
Penalties-Yards 3-25 7-41
Punts-Yards 4-169 16-603
Time of Possession 33:16 26:44
Third Down Conversions 6-of-11 0-of-17
Fourth Down Conversions 1-of-1 0-of-0
Sacks By-Yards 4-28 0-0
Field Goals 0-for-0 0-for-0
PATs 10-for-10 0-for-0
Red Zone Scores-Chances 8-of-8 0-of-0
Red Zone Scores-TDs 8-of-8 0-of-0
Full Box Score

Then Jabrill Peppers took over. On the third play of Michigan’s fourth possession, Peppers lined up at quarterback, faked a handoff, and took off down the left sideline. Rutgers safety Anthony Cioffi pushed him out of bounds at the four after a 63-yard gain. Ty Isaac punched it in on the next play and Michigan never looked back.

The Wolverines rushed for 481 yards, averaging 8.6 yards per carry with 11 different players getting at least one carry. Two — Chris Evans and Karan Higdon — eclipsed 100 yards and Isaac and Peppers came close to joining them.

Michigan racked up 600 total yards and the only reason it wasn’t more was because of the job the defense did in holding Rutgers to just 39. Michigan’s average starting position for the entire game was its own 41 yard line. The Wolverines started four drives in Rutgers territory.

When Michigan came out of the locker room to start the second half already up 43-0, the starters’ night was over. The Michigan bench in the second half out-gained Rutgers’ full-game offense 286 to 39 and had four individual drives that went for more yards than Rutgers’ entire game.

Defensively, Michigan was just as brilliant. It took Rutgers into the third quarter to get above water in total yards. The Scarlet Knights rushed for 35 yards — 25 of which came on their final two drives — and completed just 2-of-18 passes for five yards. They converted none of their 17 third downs and punted 16 times for 603 yards.

It was a thorough a beatdown as a game between two Division 1 college football programs could be. After Michigan’s fourth touchdown, point-after holder Garrett Moores picked up the hold and ran it into the end zone for a two-point conversion. Whether Jim Harbaugh planned it to send a message to Chris Ash for challenging his summer satellite camp or whether he put it in simply to make future opponents spend time preparing for it is anyone’s guess. But with a bye week looming, Michigan’s performance on Saturday sent a message to the rest of the Big Ten that it is for real and it doesn’t care who is in its way.

Game Ball – Offense

Khalid Hill (2 carries for 2 yards, 2 touchdowns, 2 receptions for 19 yards, 1 touchdown)
The entire Michigan offense could be nominated this week — aside for maybe De’Veon Smith who fumbled on Michigan’s third possession — but since I have to pick one, I’ll go with Khalid Hill. The senior H-back had one of the most efficient stat lines you will ever see. Hill is Harbaugh’s favorite goal line back and got the ball at the 1-yard line twice in the first half on Saturday, powering his way into the end zone both times. On Michigan’s first possession of the second half, he took a short pass from backup quarterback John O’Korn and found the end zone for his first receiving touchdown of the season. Through six games, Hill now leads Michigan with eight touchdowns and also leads the team in scoring, a stat that kickers usually dominate.

Previous
Week 1 — Chris Evans (8 carries, 112 yards, 2 touchdowns)
Week 2 — Wilton Speight (25-of-37 for 312 yards, 4 touchdowns)
Week 3 — Jake Butt (7 receptions for 87 yards)
Week 4 — Grant Newsome, Ben Braden, Mason Cole, Kyle Kalis, Erik Magnuson (326 rush yards, 0 sacks allowed)
Week 5 — Amara Darboh (6 receptions for 87 yards, 1 touchdown)

Game Ball – Defense

Taco Charlton (2 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 2 sacks)
Like the offensive side, when a defense holds an opponent to just 39 total yards and no points, you could just close your eyes and point to someone on the stat sheet to choose the player of the game. But when I think about the player who made the most impact on the game, Taco Charlton comes to mind. Although they were his only two tackles of the game, senior defensive end recorded two of Michigan’s four sacks. Like the other starters, he only played the first half, but made his presence felt in the Rutgers backfield. He’s now tied with Chris Wormley for the team lead with four sacks on the season.

Previous
Week 1 — Mike McCray (9 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble)
Week 2 — Rashan Gary (6 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks)
Week 3 — Jabrill Peppers (9 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1 sack, 2 kick ret. for 81 yards, 4 punt ret. for 99 yards, 1 TD)
Week 4 — Maurice Hurst (6 tackles, 3 solo, 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack)
Week 5 — Channing Stribling (2 tackles, 2 interceptions, 2 pass breakups)

M&GB staff predictions: UCF

Friday, September 9th, 2016


StaffPicks_banner20152

Michigan disposed of Hawaii in Week 1 and the schedule doesn’t get any tougher this week with the UCF Knights coming to town. Joe was the winner of our picks last week with his prediction of Michigan 49 – Hawaii 3. Here are our picks for this week:

Justin
Staff Predictions
Michigan UCF
Justin 56 13
Derick 56 7
Sam 50 3
Josh 51 10
Joe 54 7
M&GB Average 53 8

Michigan had no problem steamrolling Hawaii, and although UCF currently leads the nation in points allowed (zero) they haven’t been tested. South Carolina State was an FCS school that was predicted to finish fourth in its conference this season. Michigan should have similar success moving the ball as it did a week ago. UCF’s defense actually ranked worse than Hawaii’s last season and they hired an offensive-minded coach who runs an up-tempo scheme. That’s all good when they’re scoring like Oregon does, but when they aren’t, that puts their defense on the field for a long time.

Michigan will have another big day on the ground and continue to work on getting Wilton Speight comfortable commanding the offense. Defensively, Michigan will slow down the spread and hold UCF to a field goal in the first half.

After last week’s injuries to Bryan Mone, Taco Charlton, and De’Veon Smith, Harbaugh won’t risk leaving the starters in longer than he has to in this one. Expect to see a lot of young guys in the second half. When all is said and done Michigan’s backups will give up a few points but it will be another comfortable win for the Maize and Blue.

Michigan 56 – UCF 13

Derick

Michigan simply overwhelmed Hawaii, and I think we’ll see something similar this weekend. UCF was even worse than Hawaii last season and is coming off its first win in about 20 months.

Teams like Tennessee and Michigan State showed us what happens to teams that look shaky against bad competition, so Michigan can’t afford to let UCF hang around.

The offense will be too much for the Knights and the defense should be swarming around the backfield once again. Scott Frost will have some film of Don Brown’s defense at Michigan, but it shouldn’t help much. Michigan will win big.

Michigan 56 – UCF 7

Sam

Did you see last week’s game? Tomorrow should be deja vu.

Michigan 50 – UCF 3

Josh

We’re still in the part of our schedule where Michigan plays opponents who aren’t in the same league, and Harbaugh coached teams will beat the teams they’re supposed to beat, so in lieu of a normal prediction (Michigan is going to win big) I’d like to touch on couple things I’d like to see out of our boys in Maize & Blue.

On offense: I’d like to see the running game get going early again. Yes, I want to see more of Chris Evans just like you but I’d also like to have it open up the play-action pass game. Which leads to my next item: I want to see Speight throw it 20-plus times. He was good in his small sample size last week and I have no problem with back-ups getting game time in blowouts, but I think Speight needs as many game reps as possible before teams like Penn State and Wisconsin come to town. Of course, Jim Harbaugh may not agree with me but I’d like to see Speight sling it around some more anyway.

On defense: After the injury scares to Taco Charlton and Bryan Mone (it appears both will be back by conference play) it will open up more playing time (and should become a blessing in disguise) for guys like Rashan Gary, Michael Dwumfour, and Michael Onwenu (who oddly are both No. 50). Gary showed off his lightning quick first step and strength but did not register any tackles for loss. Mercy rules were apparently in effect as he was held numerous times. With more snaps, and perhaps less of a blowout, I’d like to see him finally knock down a quarterback and register that first sack (of what should be many more to come). Hawaii got some momentum going late in the first half with their dink and dunk slant game, and I’m interested to see what adjustments Don Brown makes on that front because Scott Frost most definitely saw that and will look to exploit it.

UCF isn’t very good. This won’t be much of a game for long, and that’s fine. Michigan will pick up where they left off last week and continue to get the younger guys as many snaps as possible. Michigan wins big as Harbaugh is reminded of Scott Frost’s denigration of the 1997 Michigan team and keeps his foot on the gas until midway through the fourth quarter. UCF gets a late touchdown against the third stringers in garbage time to help them reach double digits.

Michigan 51 – UCF 10

Joe (1)

Teams are supposed to show the most improvement between weeks one and two, so this one should be fun to watch. I’m very interested to see how the quarterback play improves from Week 1. I don’t see much throwing in the second half due to a big lead so the first half will have most of my attention. I think this one gets ugly early and Michigan continues to roll. The offense looks solid behind a new crowd favorite at running back. Chris Evans looks like a stud but will obviously share some carries this week. Look for him to get into the end zone twice more.

The defense looks “as advertised” and is ELITE. They get after the quarterback and force several turnovers and a pick-six. Michigan wins big.

Michigan 54 – UCF 7

#7 Michigan 63 – Hawaii 3: Opening statement

Monday, September 5th, 2016


WoodleyWoodsonHarbaughJordanJeter(MGoBlue.com)

The dream of any quarterback is to win the starting job, take the field on opening day and immediately lead the team down the field. Those dreams then continue with a national championship, being drafted first in the NFL Draft, winning the Super Bowl, and being elected into the Hall of Fame. But for Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight, the dream started off unlike he had ever imagined it would.

“I don’t think that’s how he wanted to start his career,” said junior center Mason Cole. “He probably pictured it a thousand ways and that probably wasn’t one of them. But he’s fine. I don’t know what happened on that play but he threw a pick and he got over it. Next drive he came out and drove it 98 yards.”

The junior from Richmond, Va., who won the starting job in fall camp over fellow junior John O’Korn, took the first snap of Michigan’s season at his own 29 yard line, rolled to his right and fired a pass toward senior tight end Jake Butt. But with Hawaii defensive back Damien Packer dropping back into coverage, the pass never had a chance to reach Butt, and suddenly Michigan’s defense was back on the field.

“Obviously that wasn’t the start I was imagining,” Speight said after the game. “I was kind of rolling to our sideline and my momentum carried me right into Coach. He just grabbed me and held me and kind of starting laughing.”

The defense stood tall with a three-and-out and Harbaugh’s commitment to Speight never wavered. Michigan re-took possession on its own 2-yard line and this time Speight looked like a seasoned veteran, marching the Wolverines 98 yards in 11 plays for the game’s first touchdown. On the drive, Speight converted a 3rd-and-7 from the Michigan five with a 16-yard bullet to Jehu Chesson. He also hit Amara Darboh on a screen for a 31-yard pickup on 3rd-and-7 from the 39. He closed the drive with a perfecly thrown fade to Grant Perry for a 12-yard touchdown.

UM-Hawaii_small-FINAL
Final Stats
Michigan Hawaii
Score 63 3
Record 1-0 0-2
Total Yards 512 232
Net Rushing Yards 306 81
Net Passing Yards 206 151
First Downs 26 16
Turnovers 1 2
Penalties-Yards 3-33 8-60
Punts-Yards 0-0 6-256
Time of Possession 27:55 32:05
Third Down Conversions 7-of-7 1-of-11
Fourth Down Conversions 0-of-0 1-of-2
Sacks By-Yards 4-41 0-0
Field Goals 0-for-0 1-for-1
PATs 9-for-9 0-for-0
Red Zone Scores-Chances 6-of-6 0-of-1
Red Zone Scores-TDs 6-of-6 0-of-1
Full Box Score

Harbaugh never thought twice about his decision to leave Speight in the game after the interception and said that he used it as an opportunity.

“It’s very difficult to throw an interception on a series and then come right back and lead a touchdown drive on the following series,” Harbaugh said after the game. “It’s something I’ve always been fascinated in watching (with quarterbacks) and the really good ones can do that. They can think (too much and say) ‘I’m not going to make another bad mistake.’ That’s what some do. Good ones don’t.

“And then to see him start the next drive on the 2-yard line. I mean, that’s as much adversity as you can have for a quarterback starting a series. You’ve thrown an interception in the first throw of the game and then you find yourself on the 2-yard line. But he responded.”

Two hours later, when the clock read zero and Michigan had collected a 63-3 victory — the seventh-largest in school history and the largest since 1975 — Speight’s interception remained one of the few mistakes the Wolverines made all day. Harbaugh said afterward that he didn’t see a single mistake defensively for the first two-and-a-half quarters…

“Watching our defense go through the first half, and even the third quarter, there wasn’t a mistake made,” Harbaugh said. “There wasn’t a linemen mistake made. There wasn’t a stance alignment mistake. They were right with their eyes and right with their feet.”

In a season opener, no one truly knows what to expect. It’s why most good teams front-load their schedule with cupcakes, to work out the kinks before the real season — conference play — begins. But aside from Speight’s first pass, it was as perfect a season opener as one could expect.

Playing in front of a who’s who of sporting greats — Michael Jordan, Derek Jeter, and Charles Woodson — Harbaugh used a program record 17 true freshmen. Eleven different players carried the ball, 11 different players caught a pass, four different quarterbacks played, and three lead scoring drives. For just the fourth time in program history, Michigan went an entire game without punting. Only four of Michigan’s 59 plays for the game — Speight’s interception on the first play and three running plays to run out the clock — were not part of touchdown drives.

The defense, which entered the season with expectations to be one among the nation’s best, lived up to its billing, holding Hawaii to negative yards until midway through the second quarter, and only about 140 total yards until the vast majority of defenders on the field were freshmen and backups. Michigan’s secondary, which was playing without All-American cornerback Jourdan Lewis, who was held out due to injury — not only picked off two passes but returned them both for touchdowns.

Season openers against overmatched opponents are typically boring affairs, but even as the lead continued to widen, this one kept interest throughout. It was evident that there is more talent and more depth on this team than Michigan has fielded in a decade. It was evident that the 2016 recruiting class was ranked so highly for a reason.

True freshman Chris Evans backed up the fall camp hype with 112 yards and two touchdowns on just eight carries. Fellow true freshman Eddie McDoom flashed his speed, taking two end arounds for 34 yards and also caught a pair of passes. Kekoa Crawford caught an 18-yard pass and freshman tight end Sean McKeon caught two passes. Ben Bredeson didn’t start, but showed his talent on the offensive line, while mammoth freshman Michael Onwenu played on both lines. The nation’s top recruit, Rashan Gary, notched three tackles in his debut and looked like he fit the part.

It was a blowout, yes, but aside from injuries to Bryan Mone (leg), Taco Charlton (ankle), and De’Veon Smith (ribs), it had everything a Michigan fan could want to see from a season opener. Speight looked good enough after the interception and it remains to be seen whether he can build on it. And his coach thinks he can.

“It bodes really well for his career,” Harbaugh said. “To have done that, off an interception and then have the very next drive go 98 yards for a touchdown. Now he knows he can do it. Now we can expect him to do it.”

Game ball – Offense

Chris Evans (8 carries, 112 yards, 2 touchdowns)
World, meet Chris Evans. The freshman out of Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis, Ind. showed the quickness and burst that Michigan hasn’t seen out of the backfield in years. While senior De’Veon Smith started the game and fellow senior Ty Isaac was the second back in, Evans made his mark early. On Michigan’s third series and his first carry was a 7-yard gain on 3rd-and-2 to help set up Michigan’s second touchdown. On the next series he raced 21 yards to put Michigan in the red zone and set up another touchdown. One series later, he found the endzone himself from 18 yards out. He then got the scoring started in the second half with a 43-yard run that showcased his burst as he hit the hole and outraced everyone to the endzone.

After the game, Harbaugh praised Evans as a special football player who will have a much bigger role as the season goes on. Harbaugh noted that he didn’t even show everything he can do, such as catch passes out of the backfield, line up in the slot, and return kicks. He may not replace Jabrill Peppers on offense, but he fits the same role and provides the same type of athleticism that can make a good offense that much better.

Game ball – Defense

Mike McCray (9 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble)
Injuries have kept Mike McCray off the field so far in his career, but now finally healthy he showed what he’s capable of. In his first career start, McCray lead the team with nine tackles, 3.5 for loss, and two sacks. His speed was a noticeable upgrade from last year’s linebacking corps as he was seemingly in on every play and all over the Hawaii backfield. If McCray can stay healthy and keep up that level of play, one of the only question marks about Michigan’s defense will be much less of a question.

 

Predicting Michigan 2016: The defensive line

Thursday, August 25th, 2016


Predicting Michgian 2016-DefensiveLine
Chris Wormley(Calros Osorio, AP)

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

For Michigan, the defensive line is the position group everybody wants to see. Thanks to a strong recruiting class and minimal attrition to the NFL, the Wolverines return a very deep defensive line that was excellent in 2015 until being struck by injury.

When Michigan sported a top five defense through the first half of the season, it was led by a defensive line that completely stuffed opposing running games and caused a little bit of mayhem in the backfield. Players like Jourdan Lewis and Channing Stribling enjoyed breakout seasons, but some of their success has to be attributed to the work done in the trenches.

Will Michigan be even better on the defensive line this year?

Major contributors:

Instead of naming starters, let’s take a look at all the defensive linemen who should play major minutes as starters or heavily-used backups this season.

Last season, everything started with defensive end Chris Wormley, who racked up an insane 14.5 tackles for loss. It wasn’t just sacks for Wormley – though he did have 6.5 – as he regularly got great jumps off the edge and stuff running backs behind the line.

Taco Charlton

Senior end Taco Charlton is getting first-round talk entering the season

Wormley has evolved into Michigan’s smartest defensive lineman and the Toledo, Ohio native should be just as productive as a fifth-year senior. Look for him to improve on his All Big Ten Third Team honors.

The other returning defensive end who saw major playing time in 2015 is Taco Charlton. Charlton was enjoying a solid season through 10 games, but really broke out against Penn State. He exploded for two sacks and three tackles for loss, including a bone-rattling hit on battered quarterback Christian Hackenberg. Charlton is a pure pass rusher who has quietly picked up 14 sacks the last two seasons. He’s only made four starts in his career 35 games, but this season he’ll see his role increase as a senior.

Then there’s Rashan Gary. We haven’t seen the freshman play a single snap at the college level, but I’m still expecting him to be an impact player wherever he lands on the defensive line. He’s listed as a defensive end, but Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Don Brown won’t be afraid to move him around and take advantage of his versatility. Gary is an elite pass rusher and an able run blocker, so he can play in any situation. He put on a clinic in the Under Armour All-America Game, tallying three sacks and taking home the MVP. Gary is one of the most highly-touted recruits ever, and the first No. 1 to come to Michigan. Fans should expect a special season.

Moving to the inside of the line, Michigan has one rock who holds the whole group together: Ryan Glasgow. The fifth-year senior won’t have much success rushing the quarterback, but he’s the best run stopper on the roster. Glasgow recorded five tackles for loss last season, but his real value came in plugging up the inside running lanes. When he went down with a chest injury, the run stopping game fell apart. Indiana and Ohio State absolutely shredded the Wolverines in the running game and D.J. Durkin had no answer without Glasgow anchoring the tackles. He’s not the flashiest lineman, but Glasgow is vitally important to the defense.

Maurice Hurst complimented Glasgow well on the inside of the defensive line, providing support against the run, but also recording three sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss. Hurst played in every game last season but should see more snaps this season with Willie Henry off the roster.

One of the biggest wildcards for the entire Michigan team could be Bryan Mone, who was a solid run stopper for the Wolverines as a true freshman in 2014. Mone was expected to be a game-changing nose tackle last season, but a devastating ankle injury ended his year before it even started. Mone will get a chance to reestablish himself as a good defensive tackle and combine with Glasgow to stuff opposing running backs.

Career Stats – Wormley
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
38 44 39 83 12.0 24.0 1 1 0
Career Stats – Charlton
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
35 36 15 51 9.0 14.4 1 0 0
Career Stats – Glasgow
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
32 26 23 49 1.0 9.0 1 1 0
Career Stats – Hurst
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
21 20 18 38 3.0 7.5 0 0 0
Career Stats – Mone
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
12 2 7 9 0.0 1.5 0 1 0
Other contributors:

With Gary and Mone joining the rotation and taking up snaps, I think Matthew Godin might see a bit of a decreased role. Godin was a less effective version of Glasgow last season, specializing in stopping the run but struggling to do so after Glasgow’s injury. Godin will still be a part of the rotation because he’s a solid, reliable tackle, but there are a few players with higher upside ahead of him.

Two other players to keep an eye on are Lawrence Marshall and Chase Winovich. Marshall played in only three games last season, but his potential to be a pass rusher off the edge gives him a chance to get into the rotation. Winovich played in six games last season, but didn’t make much of an impact. He should be a depth guy heading into his junior year.

Career Stats – Godin
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
22 9 17 26 1.5 2.5 0 0 1
Career Stats – Marshall
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
3 1 0 1 0.0 0.0 0 0 0
Career Stats – Winovich
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
6 2 0 2 0.0 0.0 0 0 0
New faces:

Gary stole the headlines for Michigan at defensive line, and for good reason. But there are two other commits from the line in the 2016 class.

Defensive tackle Michael Dwumfour is a valuable tackle who can get pressure up the middle. He racked up seven sacks and 21 tackles for loss in his high school senior season and could make an impact if he doesn’t redshirt in 2016.

Shelton Johnson is a less heralded commit from the 2015 class and is off to a rough start after being suspended by Harbaugh for an unknown issue. Johnson is a solid pass rusher off the edge, but took a step back during his senior season at Riverview High School in Florida, tallying only three sacks. He might not see much of the field in 2016.

Camden, N.J. native Ron Johnson was a 247 Composite four-star with offers from Alabama, Oregon, Stanford, Ohio State, Michigan State and other major programs. The potential is there for the defensive end, but the depth Michigan has along the line will mean a likely redshirt season for him this fall.

Meet the rest:

Michael Wroblewski: Senior, 6-2, 242, from Saint Clair Shores, Mich. (Detroit Jesuit)
No career stats
Salim Makki: Junior, 6-0, 264, from Dearborn, Mich. (Fordson)
No career stats
Garrett Miller: Senior, 6-4, 271, from Adrian, Mich. (Sand Creek)
No career stats

#12 Michigan 28 – Penn State 16: Wolverines take care of business in Happy Valley

Sunday, November 22nd, 2015


Jabrill - DeVenon vs PSU(MGoBlue.com)

With Ohio State looming next Saturday for a potential shot at the Big Ten East division title, Michigan took care of business in Happy Valley with a workman-like 28-16 victory over Penn State.

The defense held Penn State to 207 yards of total offense — most of which came on three big plays — and sacked Christian Hackenberg four times. Jake Rudock continued his ascension with a 25 of 38 for 256 yards and two touchdown performance to lead the Wolverines to victory.

Penn State struck first with a 23-yard Tyler Davis field goal on its first possession of the game, but Michigan answered with a 7-play, 89-yard drive that was capped by a 26-yard touchdown pass from Jake Rudock to Jake Butt. After a Penn State three and out, Michigan made the first mistake of the game when Rudock was intercepted by linebacker Brandon Bell. But Michigan’s defense held strong and forced a punt.

UM-PennState-small-FINAL
Final Stats
Michigan Penn State
Score 28 16
Record 9-2 (6-1) 7-4 (4-3)
Total Yards 343 207
Net Rushing Yards 87 70
Net Passing Yards 256 137
First Downs 19 14
Turnovers 2 1
Penalties-Yards 13-117 3-30
Punts-Yards 6-198 6-225
Time of Possession 33:22 26:38
Third Down Conversions 7-of-14 3-of-14
Fourth Down Conversions 0-of-0 1-of-2
Sacks By-Yards 4-26 2-10
Field Goals 0-for-0 3-for-3
PATs 4-for-4 1-for-1
Red Zone Scores-Chances 3-of-4 3-of-3
Red Zone Scores-TDs 3-of-4 0-of-3
Full Box Score

Defenses ruled much of the rest of the first half until Penn State found the end zone for the first time with 1:57 remaining in the half. On 3rd-and-6, Christian Hackenberg connected with freshman receiver Saeed Blacknall for a 25-yard touchdown to put the Nittany Lions ahead 10-7.

Michigan marched 70 yards in seven plays on the arm of Rudock, who completed passes of 26 yards to Amara Darboh, four and 11 to De’Veon Smith, 18 to Butt, and then a 11-yard wide receiver screen to Darboh who evaded Penn State defenders and found the end zone. Michigan took a 14-10 lead into the break.

Michigan took the opening possession of the second half across midfield, but stalled and punted it back to Penn State. After forcing a three and out, Michigan again had to punt, but this time return man DeAndre Thompkins muffed it and Jehu Chesson recovered at the PSU 9-yard line. Three plays later, Sione Houma scored from a yard out to put Michigan ahead 21-10.

Another defensive stand gave Michigan the ball back with a chance to put the game away, but Rudock had the ball knocked out of his hands by Bell and Penn State recovered at the Michigan 42. Four plays later, Hackenberg hit Chris Godwin for a 38-yard gain to the Michigan three. But the Michigan defense held strong and forced a 24-yard field goal.

Michigan’s offense went three and out, giving Penn State a chance to tie the game with a touchdown and two-point conversion. The Nittany Lions mounted a 10-play, 62-yard drive, but couldn’t get past the the goal line and had to settle for another field goal, this time from 18 yards out.

With the game slipping away, leading just 21-16 with 7:53 remaining, Michigan needed to get something going. Enter Jourdan Lewis. The program’s single-season record holder for pass breakups took the ensuing kickoff and rumbled 55 yards to the Penn State 40-yard line, giving Michigan’s offense a much-needed boost. On the first play, Chesson took an end around 20 yards, and on 3rd-and-6, Chesson was interfered in the end zone giving Michigan 1st-and-goal at the PSU six. Two plays later, Smith broke the plane to put Michigan ahead 28-16. The defense held Penn State off the scoreboard the rest of the way and Michigan completed its first unbeaten road conference slate since 1997.

Although Michigan’s offense struggled to move the ball consistently against a very good Penn State defense, it still managed 343 total yards, and their 256 passing yards was the most Penn State’s defense has allowed all season. Michigan’s receiving trio was consistent as Darboh led the way with seven receptions for 68 yards and a score, Butt with five for 66 and a score, and Chesson with four for 69. Smith led Michigan on the ground with just 39 yards on 13 carries.

Michigan’s defense held Hackenberg to just 13-of-31 for 137 yards and one touchdown, while sacking him four times. Freshman running back Saquon Barkley, who entered the game as the Big Ten’s third-leading rusher, averaging over 100 yards per game, managed just 68 yards on 15 carries — 56 of which came on the first carry of the game.

Michigan, now 9-2 overall and 6-1 in the Big Ten, finishes the regular season next Saturday with rival Ohio State (10-1, 6-1). The Buckeyes suffered their first loss in 24 games on Saturday afternoon against Michigan State, taking some of the luster out of next Saturday’s matchup. The winner of that one needs Penn State to knock off Michigan State in order to advance to the Big Ten Championship Game on Dec. 5.

Game Ball – Offense

Jake Rudock (25 of 38 for 256 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT,)
It maybe boring to some to give Rudock the game ball for the third straight week, but since Michigan had no running game and he spread the wealth evenly between the big three receivers, it’s really hard to justify anyone else. Rudock has quietly moved his way up the Big Ten quarterback charts the last three weeks. He has completed 69.7 percent of his passes (76 of 109) for 1,033 yards, 10 touchdowns and just two interceptions during that span. He’s a major reason Michigan has won the past two weeks and if he performs the same way next Saturday Michigan could send the Buckeyes back to Columbus with a second straight loss.

Previous:
Week 1 – Jake Butt (8 rec for 93 yards and 1 TD)
Week 2 – De’Veon Smith (23 carries for 126 yards, 3 TDs)
Week 3 – Ty Isaac (8 carries for 114 yards, 1 TD)
Week 4 — De’Veon Smith (16 carries for 125 yards and 1 TD)
Week 5 — Drake Johnson (13 carries for 68 yards, 1 TD, 1 rec for 31 yards, 1 TD)
Week 6 — Mason Cole, Ben Braden, Graham Glasgow, Kyle Kalis, Erik Magnuson
Week 7 — Kenny Allen (3-for-3 field goals, 2-2 PATs)
Week 8 — Jabrill Peppers (4 carries for 16 yards, 1 TD, 1 punt return for 41 yards, 1 kick return for 43 yards)
Week 9 — Jake Rudock (18 of 25 for 337 yards, 2 TDs, 1 carry for 4 yards, 1 TD)
Week 10 — Jake Rudock (33 of 46 for 440 yards, 6 TDs, 1 INT, 7 carries for 64 yards)

Game Ball – Defense

Taco Charlton (4 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 sacks)
Everyone knew entering the game that Penn State’s offensive line was a sieve, giving up the most sacks in the Big Ten by a wide margin. The question wasn’t whether Michigan would be able to get pressure on Hackenberg; it was how many sacks would Michigan record? The answer was four and Charlton contributed half of those. In total, Michigan stopped Penn State behind the line of scrimmage 10 times and Charlton contributed three of those. While Penn State’s leading tackler had 12, and five different defenders had at least six tackles, no individual Michigan defender recorded more than five. But it was the tackles for loss and sacks that made the most impact, forcing Penn State into passing situations where they didn’t have much luck.

Previous:
Week 1 – Chris Wormley (5 tackles, 3 TFL)
Week 2 – Chris Wormley (6 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 sack)
Week 3 – Jourdan Lewis (3 tackles, 4 PBU)
Week 4 — Ryan Glasgow (3 tackles, 2 TFL)
Week 5 — Desmond Morgan (9 tackles, 1 INT, 2 PBU)
Week 6 — Jourdan Lewis (4 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 1 touchdown, 1 PBU)
Week 7 — Willie Henry (5 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 PBU)
Week 8 — James Ross (9 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack)
Week 9 — Chris Wormley (4 tackles, 2 TFL, 2 sacks)
Week 10 — Delano Hill (10 tackles, 8 solo, 1 PBU)

M&GB season preview roundtable 2015

Friday, August 28th, 2015


Harbaugh Michigan(Getty Images)

The last Friday before the first game week is traditionally when we put forth our season previews in roundtable form. That day has come and it’s time to put our predictions in ink. We won’t fully revisit last season’s predictions because, well, why would anyone want to? But our record predictions ranged from 8-4 to 10-2 and we all know how that went. Here’s to hoping this year is a bit more accurate.

What are you most excited about this season?

Justin: Of course the main source of excitement entering this season is Jim Harbaugh. He has nearly made Michigan fans forget about a 5-7 season and turned what would have been a long, painful offseason into the most exciting in recent memory. But what I’m most excited about this season is seeing a well-coached team play up to its full potential.

One of the areas Brady Hoke succeeded was recruiting, and although he missed on several big targets during his four years, he left the team well stocked in terms of talent. He just had trouble developing that talent to its potential. That’s an area Harbaugh has always excelled at, from San Diego to Stanford to San Francisco. I don’t expect a Big Ten title this year, but I do expect to see a well-prepared team that gets better as the season goes along, which will be a nice change of pace from the last seven years.

Derick: It looks like it’s a full go for the former five-star after an injury-riddled freshman campaign, and his move to safety, along with possible snaps on offense and returning kicks, should give us our first full look at what he can do. If he plays to his ceiling, Peppers could be the best player on both sides of the ball for Michigan this season.

Sam: I’m sure everyone can summarize their excitement in one word: Harbaugh. It’s still yet to hit a lot of Michigan fans, including this one, that one of the premier football coaches at any level of the game is now in Ann Arbor, and it will be a site to behold when Harbaugh joins the team running onto the field at Rice-Eccles Stadium. After four years of relative incompetency on the sidelines, the Wolverines will be well-coached, well-prepared, and hungry.

Josh: Competent coaching. I liked Brady Hoke but as time went on it became very clear that he and his staff were way in over their heads and just not cut out for big time college football. Harbaugh and his staff all have high level college and/or NFL experience and a proven track record. If Harbaugh’s past stops are any indication, and I think they are, we won’t be complaining about lack of development or lackluster play-calling. This staff will identify, develop and place their players in the best position available to succeed.

What worries you the most entering this season?

Justin: The non-conference schedule worries me most. Not Oregon State or UNLV, but the opener at Utah and then the fourth game against BYU. Both are very good opponents that could beat Michigan, and those two games will go a long way toward the success of this season. I expect Michigan to gain strength as the season progresses, but no one really knows what to expect next Thursday. So many questions abound offensively, most notably at quarterback. If Michigan can survive Utah and BYU, a very good season awaits. But lose both of those and they’ll have to pull off an upset to get to seven or eight wins.

Derick: The passing game. With the questions at quarterback and the glaring lack of a dominant receiver, Michigan’s passing game could be in for another ugly year. Either Jake Ruddock or Shane Morris will take the reins, and though they can’t be worse than Devin Gardner was last season, there are only a few reliable targets to throw to. Jake Butt will have to finally put together a complete season, and Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson will have to make plays downfield.

Sam: There are questions all over the offensive side of the ball, which is certainly not a good sign after Michigan struggled to move the ball in recent seasons, but I think Jake Rudock and the offensive line will be solid enough considering the perceived strength of the defense. What worries me most, however, is the schedule. The season opener will be a battle in a hostile stadium in Salt Lake City, BYU always seems to have a great offense, Michigan State and Ohio State figure to be strong yet again, and Minnesota and Penn State are on the rise and should prove to be formidable road tests.

Josh: I’m still very worried about the offense in general. While we can all assume Rudock is the QB the fact remains that there are no proven game changing play-makers on this roster. What we’ve seen from De’veon Smith and Derrick Green doesn’t exactly instill confidence, maybe Ty Isaac steps up but reports out of camp don’t seem promising. If Drake Johnson was 100 percent I’d feel much better, as he was the only running back that has shown enough to think he could be the No. 1 guy.

At receiver we have two guys with experience, and neither have really lit it up. Maybe Drake Harris or Brian Cole or Grant Perry step up, but they are all unknowns at this point and that is the problem. There is potential on this offense but no one has shown they are the man yet. Until a couple of them prove that this offense could be very pedestrian and unlikely to have the firepower to keep up with higher scoring teams.
Who will be the breakout player on offense this season?

Justin: While I think Jake Butt will have a huge season in Harbaugh’s offense, I see him as an already proven commodity and not worthy of breakout player consideration. That said, Drake Harris has to be the obvious choice here as the preseason hype continues to build. Michigan has lacked a game-changer at receiver the past couple of seasons, and Amara Darbor and Jehu Chesson are running out of time to step up. Harris missed his senior season at Grand Rapids Christian and then a hamstring injury kept him out of his freshman season a year ago. Provided he can stay healthy, he has the size — 6-foot-4, 174 pounds — and talent — he caught 91 passes for 2,015 yards as a junior — to be a star in the Maize and Blue.

Derick: I look for Jake Butt to break out as Michigan’s most reliable target over the middle this season. He should finally have a more accurate quarterback to get him the ball this season, and he’s playing for Jim Harbaugh, who pumps out NFL-caliber tight ends like an assembly line. Butt has had his moments over the past two seasons, but he’s never even put up 250 yards in a year. I think that’ll change in 2015.

Sam: After nearly two full years off the field, Drake Harris seems to finally be healthy and right in the mix at the wide receiver spot. Harris, a redshirt freshman from Grand Rapids, has all the physical tools and a full set of skills to be an excellent downfield threat or move-the-chains type of pass catcher. If his hamstring holds up and his blazing speed is still there, I think he could potentially emerge as the number one threat at a position of need for Harbaugh’s offense.

Josh: Jake Butt. We all know Harbaugh loves the tight end and now that Jake Butt is healthy he should be in for a monster year. Unlike Devin Funchess, Butt is a decent blocker so he can be lined up on the line, and has the athleticism to line up on the outside, in the slot or maybe in the backfield. Harbaugh and Co. are going to have a field day with Butt. Couple that with Rudock’s reputation, fair or not, for taking the safe, easy throw and Butt is primed for a huge season. I would be shocked if he didn’t lead the team in receptions and receiving touchdowns.

Who will be the breakout player on defense this season?

Justin: Last year’s pick, Jourdan Lewis, enjoyed a successful season as the team’s best defensive back and is poised for an even better season this fall. But how can I pick anyone other than Jabrill Peppers? We had to wait a full year for this, since he only made it a couple of games last fall. But now, with a full year in the program and a coaching staff that will allow him to thrive — potentially in all three phases of the game — his time has come.

Derick: Jourdan Lewis is going to put on a show this season. He burst onto the scene as Michigan’s top cornerback in 2014, and now he’s primed to take the next step as a shutdown defensive back. It’s a bit of a thin secondary behind Lewis heading into the season, so he’ll need to be everything Blake Countess wasn’t during his encore.

Sam: Michigan’s defense looks like it could be excellent on paper, and I think the addition of D.J. Durkin as the new coordinator will boost an already great unit that boasts a terrific linebacker corps, a potentially dynamic safety in Jabrill Peppers, a star-in-waiting in Jourdan Lewis, and a number of stout defensive tackles. Defensive end, however, remains a question mark, making my breakout defensive player pick, Taco Charlton, all the more important. Like Harris, Charlton has the body and raw potential to be excellent, but he needs to get his technique down to be a consistent threat to pressure the quarterback.

Josh: I wish I could pick someone other than Jabrill Peppers but I can’t. He’s just a freak athlete and by all accounts appears to be capable of not only playing multiple positions but playing them well. Depending on where he plays he’s either gonna be a big hit playmaker or a shut down corner. Either way, this should be the guy that takes this defense from good to great.

Michigan will win the Big Ten if…

Justin: Braxton Miller gets hurt. Wait, then J.T. Barrett. And maybe Cardale Jones too? Oh, I give up. Michigan won’t win the Big Ten this season, but by season’s end will look much more like a conference title contender heading into the offseason. Disclaimer: I would never wish a player to get hurt, and I certainly hope it doesn’t happen again.

Derick: the running game is dominant, the passing game is adequate, the defense doesn’t drop off dramatically and Ohio State secedes from the conference to join the SEC. Michigan was a hot mess when Jim Harbaugh got to town, and one year isn’t going to be enough to turn that around. A Big Ten title will be the goal in Year 3 of this regime. Until then, look for obvious improvement across the board and set realistic expectations.

Sam: dogs fly? In reality, I don’t really think Michigan has a legitimate shot at a Big Ten title this season with two top-10 teams in their division and four very challenging conference games. The only way they have a chance is if they win all but one Big Ten game (requiring wins in three of Michigan State, Ohio State, @Minnesota, and @Penn State) and MSU or OSU unexpectedly slips up elsewhere.

Josh: East Lansing and Columbus sink into the center of the Earth. Seriously. Unless both Michigan State and Ohio State don’t show up (in the literal sense, as in they stay at home) to Ann Arbor and Michigan plays perfectly all season I don’t see how this is even something to ponder.

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

Justin: I think we’re looking at a 9-4 team when all is said and done. Losses to Utah, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Penn State. All four losses will be competitive and it will be clear that Michigan isn’t the pushover it has been in recent years. An Outback Bowl win over an SEC squad will heighten expectations heading into 2016.

Derick: I’ll say Michigan goes 9-4, though that might be a bit generous. Utah will be a good test right out of the gate, and I think Michigan will go through some growing pains and drop the opener. The Michigan State and Ohio State games are both at home, but I don’t give Michigan much of a chance in either of those contests. Michigan State plays with the physicality Michigan aspires to attain and Ohio State is one of the deepest teams in the country at all positions, not just quarterback. I also think the Wolverines drop the Nov. 21 game in Happy Valley, with the home game against Ohio State looming. Penn State is an elite defensive team and Michigan’s offense is a complete unknown, so I’ll give the edge to the Nittany Lions.

A late September home game against BYU will be a tough test for Michigan heading into the Big Ten season, and the Golden Gophers won’t be a pushover in Minnesota, coming off an eight-win season. But if Michigan can pull out both of those games and finish the regular season with eight wins, I think they’ll get an invite to the Outback Bowl and beat up on an overrated SEC team. I like Harbaugh’s chances after a month of preparation and a full season of coaching up his players.

Sam: While I don’t think Michigan will win the Big Ten, I do think it will be a very solid season overall, with a 9-3 regular season finish, losses to Michigan State, at Penn State, and Ohio State, and a bowl win in the Gator Bowl (TaxSlayer Bowl) for a 10-3 final record.

Josh: There are two trains of thought when it comes to Michigan’s recent lack of success. One is that these kids weren’t as good as their recruiting rankings suggest and they are just a bunch of busts. The other is that they’ve been victims of a losing culture and very poor coaching. I fall on the inept coaching/losing culture side and while I know Harbaugh will bring us back to the Michigan of old it’s going to take time, likely a few years. Rome wasn’t built in a day, or so I hear.

Right now I think this is a borderline seven or eight win team, the defense should be very good but the offense has a lot to prove and while there may be ‘potential’ I’ll believe it when I see it. The fact that neither of two former five-star running backs (or anyone else for that matter) have separated themselves from the pack and the one consistent commodity (Drake Johnson) is recovering from his second torn ACL concerns me. I think it’ll be better than last year (Rudock isn’t going be a turnover machine) but unless someone like Drake Harris or Ty Isaac step up and just dominate it’s not going to be explosive by any stretch.
Losses will come to Utah, MSU and OSU with another between the “toss-up games” BYU, Minnesota and Penn State. The fact that Minnesota and Penn State are on the road really worries me and but I think we’re still looking at a 8-4 season with a decent pre-New Year’s bowl because it’s Michigan and Harbaugh. However, I wouldn’t be completely surprised if this team got to nine or 10 wins (not including the bowl game).

Predicting Michigan 2015: The defensive line

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015


PredictingMichigan-DefensiveLine

Willie Henry(Jim Rogash, Getty Images)

For fans who watched Michigan football struggle through a miserable 5-7 season a year ago, including the team’s first shutout loss in decades and another pounding at the hands of Michigan State, encouraging signs were few and far between.

But the defensive line stood out as a strong unit in 2014, holding opponents to just 3.2 rushing yards per carry and picking up 29 sacks on the season. Michigan was the 11th toughest team to run against in the country and the second toughest in the Big Ten, behind Penn State (No. 1 in the nation).

Unfortunately, Jim Harbaugh will have to fill a huge hole on both ends of the defensive line as Frank Clark and Brennen Beyer have moved on to the NFL. Some of the depth players who contributed in the regular rotation last season will have to step up and take on a bigger role.

Probable starters

With openings on both ends of the line heading into camp, veterans Chris Wormley and Mario Ojemudia are likely to step into the starting roles. Wormley, a Toledo native, started six games as a redshirt sophomore and picked up 21 tackles, five tackles for loss and three sacks. He played his best football down the stretch, recording 13 of his tackles in the final four games of the season. Wormley is one of the most explosive Wolverines off the line and could turn into their best defensive lineman as a junior.

Ojemudia, who recorded 32 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks in 11 games last season, is just 6-foot-2 and around 250 pounds. He played a rotational role from 2012-13, but burst onto the scene as a key contributor last season. Like Wormley, Ojemudia has a good burst from around the edge, but he’s also a strong run stopper. With Clark and Beyer gone, fans will get their best look at the senior this season.

The middle of the defensive line will be a familiar sight as starters Ryan Glasgow and Willie Henry return for their redshirt junior seasons. Glasgow started 11 games at the nose tackle position last season, making 22 tackles, four for loss. Henry had 20 tackles, 5.5 for loss, three sacks and an interception while starting six games. This duo specializes in clogging the middle and stopping the run, though Henry does offer a slight threat to find the quarterback up the middle.

Michigan lost a candidate for a starting spot when Bryan Mone went down for the season. The defensive tackle played in all 12 games as a freshman, recording nine tackles. He was primed for a breakout season in the middle of the line in 2015, but will instead miss the year with a broken ankle.

Instead, Taco Charlton will have to step up as a top rotational player for the Wolverines after picking up 5.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks as a sophomore. Charlton is one of the few Michigan defensive linemen who can really wreak havoc in the backfield, so he’ll likely see a ton of snaps in a rotation with Wormley and Ojemudia.

Projected Stats – Wormley
Total Tackles Tackles for Loss Sacks
30 8.0 6.0
Career Stats
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
25 19 21 40 5.5 9.5 0 1 0
Projected Stats – Ojemudia
Total Tackles Tackles for Loss Sacks
40 8.0 5.0
Career Stats
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
34 37 26 63 6.0 11.5 1 2 1
Projected Stats – Glasgow
Total Tackles Tackles for Loss Sacks
25 3.0 0.0
Career Stats
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
23 13 11 24 0.0 4.0 1 1 0
Projected Stats – Henry
Total Tackles Tackles for Loss Sacks
25 5.0 3.0
Career Stats
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
21 27 25 52 3.5 8.5 0 0 1
Projected Stats – Charlton
Total Tackles Tackles for Loss Sacks
30 6.0 5.0
Career Stats
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
22 15 6 21 3.5 6.0 0 0 0

Returning contributors

Michigan developed solid depth in the middle of the line last season with Matt Godin and Maurice Hurst each playing in over half of the team’s games. Hurst, a four-star recruit in 2012, picked up three tackles in his redshirt freshman season, playing sparingly at defensive tackle. He’s quick for a lineman and was brought to Ann Arbor to disrupt the quarterback, which will keep him in the rotation.

Godin is much bigger, 6-foot-6 and 290 pounds, and plays more of a run-stopping game. Unlike Hurst, he’ll likely be used as a plug in the middle of the line.

Tom Strobel is the only returning defensive end (other than those listed above) with any on-field experience for the Wolverines. He played in five games last season and recorded his only tackle against Minnesota. He’s 6-foot-6 and was recruited as a pass rusher, but he’ll be behind a few others who can do the same.

Lawrence Marshall did not see the field last season, but could be a factor as a sophomore in 2015. The former four-star has perhaps the highest ceiling on the line, and could emerge as an elite pass rusher when he earns regular reps.

Career Stats – Godin
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
11 4 5 9 1.0 1.5 0 0 1
Career Stats – Hurst
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
8 3 0 3 0.0 1.0 0 0 0
Career Stats – Strobel
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
7 2 1 3 0.0 0.0 0 0 0
Career Stats – Marshall
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 0 0 0

New faces

The 2015 recruiting class brings a pair of defensive ends to the Michigan roster – Reuben Jones and Shelton Johnson.
Johnson was the more highly-sought recruit out of high school, where he was a regular in opposing backfields. He has the tools to be a solid lineman for the Wolverines, but he likely won’t play much of a role as a true freshman.

Jones figures to have a better chance to play early in his career because of his ability to both defend the run and disrupt the quarterback. The more experienced linemen will likely push Jones out of the rotation in 2015, but he has an outside chance to play a role.

Meet the rest

Cody Zeisler — sophomore, 6’3″, 255 from Ann Arbor, Mich. (Skyline), no career stats
Brady Pallante — sophomore, 6’1″, 276 from Naples, Fla. (Barron Collier), no career stats
Garrett Miller — junior, 6’4″, 270 from Adrian, Mich. (Sand Creek), no career stats