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Not this time: Michigan 52 – Appalachian State 14

Sunday, August 31st, 2014


Funchess TD vs App State(MGoBlue.com)

Seven years ago one of the best collections of senior talent in recent Michigan history suffered the most embarrassing loss in program history. This time around, a Michigan squad entering the season with plenty of questions made sure it didn’t suffer the same fate. Football was back in the Big House and Michigan left no doubt, sending Appalachian State back to Boone, N.C. in a much different fashion than it did in 2007 with a 52-14 loss.

After forcing a three-and-out on App State’s first possession, Michigan didn’t take long to find the end zone. Devin Gardner pitched the ball out to Devin Funchess for 11 yards on the first play, and nine plays later, found Funchess in the end zone for a nine-yard touchdown. On the opening drive, Dennis Norfleet caught a 10-yard pass and Jehu Chesson caught a 19-yard pass.

Michigan’s defense forced another App State punt and the second drive began and ended just like the first. Gardner connected with Funchess for 18 yards, and after four De’Veon Smith runs, Gardner hit Funchess for a 34-yard catch and run touchdown to put Michigan ahead 14-0.

Michigan’s offense stalled a bit at the beginning of the second quarter. The Wolverines forced another punt, but couldn’t do much on their third possession of the game. Derrick Green busted a 19-yard run on the possession’s second play, but Gardner was sacked two plays later and Michigan punted. After another App State punt, Gardner hooked up with Amara Darboh for 26 yards to the App State 30. The drive stalled and Matt Wile missed a 48-yard field goal.

UM-AppSt-small-final-final
Final Stats
Michigan App State
Score 52 14
Record 1-0 0-1
Total Yards 560 280
Net Rushing Yards 350 153
Net Passing Yards 210 127
First Downs 24 17
Turnovers 1 0
Penalties-Yards 4-44 8-69
Punts-Yards 1-46 8-287
Time of Possession 30:08 29:52
Third Down Conversions 5-of-8 5-of-17
Fourth Down Conversions 0-of-0 2-of-3
Sacks By-Yards 2-9 1-8
Field Goals 1-for-2 0-for-0
PATs 7-for-7 2-for-2
Red Zone Scores-Chances 6-of-6 2-of-2
Full Box Score

App State still couldn’t muster any offense, punting it right back to Michigan and the Wolverines’ offense finally clicked once again. Green ripped off a 59-yard run on the first play and Gardner found Funchess for nine yards on the second. A facemask penalty moved the ball to the ASU 8-yard line and Gardner lobbed up a jump ball for Funchess in the back of the end zone on the next play. Funchess leaped over two defenders, caught the ball, and got a foot down to give Michigan a 21-0 lead.

Michigan’s next possession was all on the ground as Smith rambled for 61 yards on the first play and a 12-yard touchdown on the next and it appeared that Michigan would take a 28-0 lead into the half. But the special teams had different plans. After forcing App State to punt once again, Mike McCray blocked the punt and Ben Gedeon picked it up and raced 32 yards for the score. Through one half of play, Michigan had out gained Appalachian State 334-74.

In the second half, Michigan picked up right where it left off, this time letting Green do the work. Green carried the ball on all six plays, yet again breaking a big one, this time for 62 yards, and finishing it off with a one-yard touchdown run.

Appalachian State finally got in on the action, putting together its first extended drive of the day. The Mountaineers went 75 yards in 11 plays, capped off by an eight-yard touchdown pass from Kameron Bryant to Simms McElfresh. The scoring drive was aided by a 34-yard pass from Bryant to Jaylan Barbour.

App State fooled Michigan with an onside kick recovery, but the kicker inadvertently touched the ball before it went 10 yards and Michigan took over at the ASU 44-yard line. Gardner led off the drive with a 17-yard pass to Norfleet, then rushed twice for three and eight yards. After a three-yard pass to Chesson, Smith punctuated the drive with a 13-yard touchdown run to put Michigan ahead 49-7.

Michigan forced another App State punt and Shane Morris came in to relieve Gardner. On the drive’s third play, Morris connected with Keith Heitzman for 26 yards, but on the following play, Morris was intercepted at the App State 4-yard line.

The Mountaineers took advantage, marching 96 yards in 19 plays. Marcus Cox carried it in from a yard out for App State’s second touchdown of the game. Matt Wile kicked an 18-yard field goal on Michigan’s next possession and the Wolverines won 52-14.

Gardner passed Tom Brady for seventh on Michigan’s career touchdown list, going 13-of-14 for 173 yards and three touchdowns. Funchess caught seven passes for 95 yards and three scores, becoming the first player in Michigan history to score three touchdowns in the season opener. Green led Michigan with with 170 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries (11.3 yards per carry), while Smith rushed for 115 yards and two touchdowns on just eight carries (14.4 yards per carry).

As a team, Michigan amassed 560 total yards and averaged 10.2 yards per play, while holding Appalachian State to just 280 total yards — mostly with the second-team defense in. Michigan converted 5-of-8 third downs and held App State to just 5-of-17. Taco Charlton and Chris Wormley each recorded a sack, while Desmond Morgan and James Ross led the team with six tackles apiece.

Michigan travels to South Bend next Saturday for the final meeting with Notre Dame. The Irish beat Rice 48-17 in Week 1.

Notes: 

Devin Funchess switched from No. 87 to No. 1 prior to the game, marking the first time the number has been worn since Braylon Edwards in 2004.

 The Michigan Stadium attendance of 106,811 was the 252nd consecutive game with more than 100,000 fans.

 Michigan is now 111-21-3 all-time in season openers and Brady Hoke is now 9-3 (4-0 at Michigan).

 The game captains for Michigan were Brennen Beyer, Frank Clark, Devin Gardner, Desmond Morgan, and Jake Ryan.

 Jabrill Peppers was injured in the first quarter, but played the rest of the half. He did not play the second half. Hoke said afterward that he could have gone if needed, but they wanted to keep him healthy for next week.

 Gardner’s 92.8 completion percentage was second in program history with a minimum of 10 completions, behind only Tate Forcier’s 100 percent (12-of-12) versus Bowling Green on Sept. 25, 2010.

• Gardner also passed Tom Brady for ninth in career passing yards (5,280).

 Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith both eclipsed 100 yards, the 38th time two backs have done so in the same game in program history. It was the first time since Carlos Brown and Brandon Minor did so against Minnesota on Oct. 27, 2007.

 Michigan’s streak of 15 consecutive games with a forced turnover ended.

Big Ten Media Day Quotes: Gardner, Clark, Ryan, Hoke

Monday, July 28th, 2014


Earlier this afternoon, we posted the full transcript from Brady Hoke’s 15-minute podium session. Shortly after that, Hoke and Michigan’s three player representatives — Devin Gardner, Jake Ryan, and FrankClark — met with the media at individual podiums, allowing an opportunity for further questions in a smaller group setting. Here are some select quotes from each of them.

Devin Gardner

Gardner(Justin Potts, M&GB)

Have you reflected on last season?
“Definitely. I feel like I know what I accomplished last year. As my first time starting I feel like I accomplished a lot. I had a lot of success, a lot of adversity, but I feel like I battled through it. I continued to fight. I was there when my team needed me. Coach Nuss always says, ‘the quarterback’s always there, no matter what’ and I feel like I was always there for my team when I could and I did what I could. “

 Even though you lost to Ohio State, everybody appreciates the performance. Did anyone reach out to you after that game?
“Charles Davis was a big one and Eddie George reached out to me. A lot of different people – Archie Manning. It was great. Even though it didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to, being able to fight through something like that is big when it’s for your team and the fan base, but it doesn’t really matter if the fans appreciate it. My teammates appreciate it and they know what I went through and I’m excited to be able to fight with my teammates.”

What did Eddie George tell you?
“He just told me that I had a great game. He was excited. We built those relationships at the Manning Academy two years ago and he’s really excited to see the way I fought, the way that I played in that game. That’s pretty much it. He also said his sons are big fans, so that’s pretty cool.”

Are you excited to be in the same division as Ohio State and Michigan State?
“Our mentality this year is just to take every game one at a time and don’t treat other games as bigger games than some other games, and don’t discount anyone either. Obviously, as our rivals, and now they’re in our division, it will be a little heightened intensity during those games, but until we get to those we can’t see. I’m sure they’ll be really excited and pumped up to play us too, but we’re going to bring everything we have and we’re going to play as hard as we can.

Can you talk about Coach Nussmeier and what he brings to the table that Michigan fans haven’t seen in the past?
“I don’t know if it’s something we haven’t seen, but he’s his own coach. He’s very intense and he’s a fun guy to be around. He’s a player’s coach for sure. We can talk off the field and he helps me with football and sometimes it always comes back to some type of football lesson, so that’s really cool. He brings a different perspective as a guy that’s played NFL, played in college and excelled, coached NFL and excelled. He just brings a winning attitude and a successful attitude to the entire Michigan brand.”

What’s the hardest road venue in the Big Ten?
“I think Iowa, just because the fans are so close. You always try to block out the fans, but when they’re close enough to touch you, it’s hard to ignore everything they say, so Iowa’s kind of tough. But I feel like our stadium is a tough place to play as well.”

Who are some new guys that have really stood out?
“Freddy Canteen has done a really nice job for us on offense. He came in (and) I didn’t know anything about him until the first day of spring practice. He came out and made a lot of good catches and throughout the spring he’s been really consistent in making big plays, and being accountable and being there when we need him.

“On defense, I like the way Jabrill Peppers is competing. I don’t know yet what he can do on the field, and as far as knowing the plays and knowing where you need to be, and we haven’t put on the pads. But from an athletic standpoint and a competitive standpoint, he’s one of the best competitors I’ve seen in the freshman class.”

Who has stepped up defensively?
“Joe Bolden. He’s always been a pretty vocal leader. He’s a very high energy, high intensity guy. I really enjoy seeing him play. Sometimes he treats us like we’re the other team, on offense, but it’s great to see. Coach Hoke always says – any coach will say this – you would rather have to say ‘whoa’ than ‘attack’. I feel like that’s great for him that he’s always in attack mode. I’m really looking forward to seeing him this year.”

Is Bolden too intense?
“No, no, no. We can’t say too intense. We don’t want to say that. He is very intense in practice. He hits us – I mean, he doesn’t hit me, quarterback’s off limits – but he hits really hard in practice and he gives it everything he has like it’s his last play, and that’s how it should be.”

Are you excited about Ty Isaac joining the team?
“I haven’t seen him yet. I met him when he was a recruit. I hosted him when he came for a visit, but I haven’t seen him this summer or anything like that. But if he’s going to be a part of our team we’ll welcome him just like any other teammate. He’s not going to be more special or less special than anyone on the team. Whether he’s a walk-on guy or a scholarship guy, we treat everybody as a teammate and as a brother, so he’s welcome into this brotherhood. When I get a chance to meet him he’s going to be treated as such.”

Does the uncertainty of the offensive line make it harder for you?
“My job is to encourage those guys, encourage every guy that’s out there, whether they’re going to start, or who’s going to play. My job is to encourage them and for me to work on myself as a consistent quarterback. It’s not my job to be like ‘who’s going to play’ or ‘what’s going to happen with those guys’. I’m just encouraging everybody, having dinner at my house, inviting them over, and continuing to work on being a great quarterback.”

Frank Clark

Frank Clark(Justin Potts, M&GB)

Who is the toughest player you’ve ever gone against?
“The toughest guy I ever went against, who was here last year, is Taylor Lewan. I mean, I don’t really see another offensive lineman that was really close.

Who is the toughest you’ve gone up against on this year’s team?
“It’s weird because I’m the old one. I’m used to being the younger one. I’m used to going against Taylor every day. This year it’s like I’m the old one. I guess if you flip that around you’ll have to ask the younger players who’s the toughest to go against on the defensive line.”

Who has stepped up on the defensive line?
“Man, we’ve got guys like Taco Charlton, guys like Henry Poggi, guys like Maurice Hurst, Ryan Glasgow, Willie Henry. These are guys that are younger but have experience. When you have a young, experienced defensive line, the possibilities are limitless. We have a defensive line unit that has very good players, it’s almost like having a first team two times. So when your first team goes out, when Frank Clark needs a break, or Brennen Beyer needs a break, you can send the next man in. You can send a Mario Ojemudia in. You can send a Lawrence Marshall in, who’s a freshman. You can send a Taco Charlton in and it’s going to be like having your first team stay on the field.”

How tough was it to get over the Ohio State loss last year?
“It was tough. Every loss is tough. But at the same time it was a close loss. I believe it was 42-40. It was a tough loss and it was a loss that we didn’t really expect. Every game you go into playing against Ohio, that’s one game, without being confident or without being cocky, that’s one game that you expect to win, being at Michigan. You know it’s going to be a hard game, but it was hard. It just gave us that extra fire and that extra energy in every workout through the winter, through the spring, and through the summer.”

Jake Ryan

Jake Ryan(Justin Potts, M&GB)

Will playing Maryland and Rutgers feel like conference games?
“Now they’re a part of the Big Ten and I think it’s going to be great for us and great for the conference. It’ll be interesting.”

How important is it to be the better program in the state of Michigan?
“We’re both great programs, we both have great coaches. It’s just where we are on the map. It’s not who’s better, who’s worse.”

Why would you not be concerned about being the better program?
“I mean, it’s a rivalry game, it’s one of the biggest games, but we’re focused on Appalachian State. I’m not going to focus on Michigan State right now.”

Is one of the new Big Ten divisions better than the other?
“I think they’re both great divisions and I think they’re both going to do very well.”

Do you guys have a loop running of the 2007 Appalachian State game?
“No. They’re a whole different team and we’re a whole different team. We’re going to go into that game like we prepare for every other game, so it’s going to be a fun game to play in.”

How is the offense shaping up?
“I think Devin’s running really well. He’s running the offense really well. Coach Nussmeier has been doing a great job with the guys. Devin has gotten guys in the film room, coaching them up on things they’re doing wrong, so I think it’s going to good and it’s going to be fun to watch.”

Will it look like a different offense?
“I think it’s the same offense, but it’s just a matter of the guys coming in and doing their thing. Like I said before, Devin’s been doing a great job running it.”

On Joe Bolden
“Joe Bolden is a great player. He knows what he’s doing, very smart player. Joe’s always there and if I need help, or anyone else needs help, Joe’s doing his job.”

Is there a freshman that has stood out?
“All of the freshmen have really stood out. Everyone has different character, everyone has been doing their job, going through the runs and workouts great.”

Brady Hoke said let’s not anoint Jabrill Peppers yet, but Devin said he’s pretty special…
“He’s a good player. I mean, he’s very athletic, brings energy. But I think there are a lot of freshmen that do that as well and it can’t just be one guy. It’s got to be all of them.”

How has Jabrill tempered the expectations?
“He’s keeping to himself and he’s going through the workouts, going through everything else like every other guy.”

Is there a part of you that, despite all the hype, says Jabrill needs to earn it?
“Every single guy has got to earn it on the field. Every single guy has got to do their job in order to play.”

What do you think of the pictures he posts of his abs?
“Hey, that’s not my…I try to stick to golfing pictures, stuff like that. He can do whatever he wants.”

What does it feel like to watch Ohio State go 24-2 and Michigan State win the league the past couple years?
“I’m not focused on those teams. I’m focused on what we need to do as a team our first game against Appalachian State. It will be a really fun game to play.”

What do you need to do to get ready for Appalachian State?
“Every single day, take that step forward that you need to take. Technique, fundamentals, the game of football. And do it every single day.”

Did you talk to former players about the Appalachian State game?
“I have not. Nope. Whole different team.”

How do you keep that mentality that it’s a big game?
“Every single game’s a big game. Every single game. We prepare for every single game.”

Did you seek out any advice from middle linebackers in the NFL about the position switch?
“I’ve definitely gotten a lot of tips, talked to a lot of guys. Jarrett Irons is a great guy to talk to, but everyone’s pushing me. Coach Mattison is the greatest coach you could have. He knows everything about the position, so just going to him and talking is great.”

Will the switch to middle linebacker allow you to play more instinctually?
“It’s a little different. But a lot of positions are instincts, but there are always those fundamentals or techniques that you need to play with every single play. I mean, some of it is instincts, but you also need those things.”

What was the offseason like?
“Very good offseason. I thought we did really well, prepared really well. Runs and lifts were great.”

Was it any different from previous years?
“A little different because I was older, leading the guys. There’s different leaders out there, but I think it’s great and I think it’s great for our team.”

When installing the new offense, how long did it take for them to figure it out?
“They were figuring it out the first day they got it. They were running on us, they were doing well.”

How have you seen Coach Hoke evolve over the past few years?
“Coach Hoke has been the same guy ever since I met him. Hard-nosed, tough, you can always talk to him, go into his office. If you have a problem, bring it to him. He’s going to be the same guy every single time and I love that about him.”

Brady Hoke

Brady Hoke(Justin Potts, M&GB)

How close is the Big Ten to winning a national title?
“I don’t know why they couldn’t this year. A team comes out of here as champion, why couldn’t they? Now, I don’t know these other teams. I mean, when we vote on this stuff, I don’t know them. I don’t know who they’re playing…Wofford – nothing against Wofford – but I mean there are nine conference games that we’re going to end up playing.”

Why do you think it has been so long since a Big Ten team won it all?
“I can’t believe it.”

Do you feel comfortable turning over the postseason selection process, versus before when the coaches at least had a vote?
“How many of those coaches really did it themselves? I’ve got a guy who I talk to about it, but I mean, this group, the integrity these people have as far as the committee itself, it’s what the fans want. I don’t know if you all wanted it. I worry about the bowl system. I think that was always a good system. I worry about the semifinals in the Rose Bowl, how are you going to approach the Rose Bowl? It’s the greatest experience there is in America for kids. How are you going to do it? They’re certainly not going to go out and stay for 10 days and go to Lawry’s two nights before, whatever it is. It’s not going to happen. It’s a game. And I’m sure the Sugar, when they’re a semifinal, all those things go away now.”

Do you address what’s appropriate with your freshmen?
“Yes, we educate them every day. We educate them to not embarrass themselves, what their grandma wouldn’t want to see out there. Why would you do it?”

Have you had any instances?
“Oh yeah. You’ve probably made some dumb decisions.”

You talk a lot about ‘this is Michigan’. Can you talk about the importance of this season for the program and for yourself?
“It’s not personal. Believe me. Nothing’s personal. It’s about Michigan and it’s about the program as you said, and it’s about the kids in the program.”

Countdown to kickoff: 50 days

Friday, July 11th, 2014


Countdown to kickoff-50

Predicting Michigan: The defensive line

Monday, July 7th, 2014


Predicting Michigan-DL

Frank Clark

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

For much of the 2013 season, Michigan effectively stopped the running game with a defensive line that appeared to be the strongest unit for Greg Mattison. The defense dominated the rushing attack of weaker opponents and allowed an average of just 89.5 yards per game through six games.

But as the schedule got tougher, opponents found it much easier to bully Michigan’s line. Big Ten teams averaged nearly 190 rushing yards per game against the Wolverines in the final six regular season games, and Kansas State polished off the campaign with 149 yards on the ground in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.

Michigan returns most of its major contributors on the defensive line this season as Mattison tries to instill consistency into a group that showed flashes of greatness in 2013. Starting tackles Jibreel Black and Quinton Washington both graduated, but a wealth of talented young options will step in to fill the void.

The Starters

A pair of senior defensive ends will help anchor Michigan’s young defense as Frank Clark plays across from Brennen Beyer, who returns from a year in the linebacking core. Beyer was asked to fill the void that Jake Ryan left after tearing his ACL during the 2013 offseason. The versatile defensive lineman stepped into the role and became an important piece to an otherwise thin group of linebackers. This year he’ll move back to his position of strength, where he wreaked havoc for the Wolverines during much of the last three seasons.

Clark was Michigan’s most reliable defensive lineman last season, recording 12 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. The junior earned second team all-Big Ten honors and figures to be one of the strongest lineman in the conference as a senior.

A host of defensive tackles earned time between the seniors at the spring game, but two standout sophomores are likely to get most of the snaps when the season begins on August 30. Chris Wormley showed his elite playmaking ability in limited time during his freshman season and looks primed for a bigger role in 2014. The Toledo native demonstrated that he can get into the backfield for a defense desperate to create pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

Willie Henry has every opportunity to snatch a starting position despite seeing limited action during the spring game in April. Henry was named to the ESPN.com all-Big Ten freshman team in 2013 and started six games during the second half of the season for Mattison.

Career Stats – Clark
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
38 38 40 78 6.5 21.5 1 3 1
Career Stats – Beyer
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
35 30 27 57 2.0 4.5 2 0 1
Career Stats – Wormley
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
13 9 10 19 2.5 4.5 0 1 0
Career Stats – Henry
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
13 15 17 32 0.5 3.0 0 0 0

Veteran Depth

Ojemudia and Charlton give Mattison a pair of young, quick defensive ends

Ojemudia and Charlton give Mattison a pair of young, quick defensive ends (Gregory Shamus, Getty Images)

Michigan owns an abundance of options at defensive line if the projected starters fail to stand out during fall camp.  Ryan Glasgow appeared in 11 games as a redshirt freshman last year and played with the first team at nose tackle during the spring game. Glasgow has every opportunity to make an impact for Michigan alongside his classmate Wormley after earning the trust of the coaching staff with his steady run stopping in 2013.

Sophomore Matthew Godin will also play an increased role after appearing in six games as a redshirt freshman. Godin took first-team reps at defensive end during the spring game and gives Michigan a reliable lineman to mix in with playmakers like Clark and Wormley.

Mario Ojemudia played in all 13 games and registered 20 tackles for the defensive line last season and will likely see time behind Frank Clark this year. Taco Charlton took second team reps across from Ojemudia and should see increased minutes as the coaching staff takes advantage of Beyer’s versatility and moves him around the field.

Of course, we can’t forget about the highest-rated of the bunch, Ondre Pipkins, who tore his ACL against Minnesota last season and missed the rest of the season. The former five-star was expected to play a key role behind Quinton Washington in 2013, but the injury derailed his progress and allowed for the rise of Henry and Glasgow. If he’s fully healthy this fall, expect Pipkins to be a big part of the rotation in the middle.

Tom StrobelMaurice Hurst Jr., and Henry Poggi are a trio of young four-stars hoping to work their way into the rotation. Strobel saw action in one game as a redshirt freshman last season and recorded a pair of tackles. Hurst and Poggi both redshirted.

Career Stats – Glasgow
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
11 1 1 2 0 0 0 0 0
Career Stats – Godin
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
7 2 1 3 0 0 0 0 0
Career Stats – Ojemudia
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
22 20 11 31 2.5 4.0 1 2 1
Career Stats – Charlton
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
10 1 1 2 0.5 0 0 0 0
Career Stats – Pipkins
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
18 3 11 14 0 1.0 0 0 0
Career Stats – Strobel
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
1 1 1 2 0 0 0 0 0
Career Stats – Hurst Jr.
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Career Stats – Poggi
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Newcomers

Brady Hoke added one major piece to the defensive line in his fourth season in Ann Arbor, tackle Bryan Mone out of Salt Lake City. Mone joins a defensive line that features at least eight players hoping to see significant time on the field, but the coaches made sure the freshman also got some work during the spring game. The enormous 315-pound lineman demonstrated surprising quickness and spent most his time in the backfield during an outstanding high school career. The freshman recorded 144 tackles in three seasons en route to an invitation to the 2014 Under Armour All-America Game.

Michigan-Central Michigan game preview

Friday, August 30th, 2013


Unlike last season’s opener, the national attention isn’t centered around Michigan’s game, but that doesn’t mean Brady Hoke will prepare any less for Central Michigan than he did for Alabama. As he said in his Monday press conference, it’s the fist chance to see where the team stands after a long offseason, with a new quarterback, and plenty of youth to go around.

After all, Central is the team that finished last season with four straight wins, the team that won its bowl game, the team that had the first overall pick in April’s NFL Draft, and the team that has a running back who has seven consecutive 100-yard rushing games. No other opponent on Michigan’s schedule can lay claim to more than one of those feats.

Quick Facts
Michigan Stadium – 3:30pm EST – Big Ten Network
Central Michigan Head Coach: Dan Enos (4th season)
Coaching Record: 13-24 (Overall and at CMU)
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Cummings (4th season)
Defensive Coordinator: Joe Tumpkin (4th season)
Returning Starters: 15 (8 offense, 7 defense)
Last Season: 7-6, 4-4 MAC (4th West)
Last Meeting: UM 41 – CMU 17 (2006)
All-Time Series: Michigan leads 3-0
Michigan vs. MAC: 31-1
Michigan in Season Openers: 109-21-3
Michigan in Home Openers: 110-18-2

The last time these two teams faced off was the second game of 2006 when Michigan won convincingly, 41-17. Coincidentally, that game preceded a matchup with Notre Dame, which Michigan also won.

But times are different. Michigan is on its second different coach than the one who won that game, Lloyd Carr, and has suffered its first ever defeat at the hands of a team from the Mid-American Conference. Alas, MAC teams can no longer be taken for granted. Or can they?

Central returns 15 starters and both specialists from last year’s 7-6 squad, but this is still a team that finished fourth in the MAC West. Yes, the Chips finished the season with four straight wins, but they came against Eastern Michigan, Miami (Ohio), UMass, and Western Kentucky – teams who finished with a combined record of 14-35. That sentence above about the claims to fame CMU carries into this game? Not looking so hot right now.

Let’s take a look at how the teams match up.

Michigan defense vs CMU offense: When Central Michigan has the ball

Eight starters return on offense, but the three that don’t are pretty big losses. As we discussed in Monday’s First Look, 99.6 percent of last year’s passing yards are gone with the departure of quarterback Ryan Radcliff. The man who represents the other 0.4 percent is junior Cody Kater who completed 2-of-4 passes for 12 yards last season. But he does have some college experience, albeit in a much smaller capacity. After spending a redshirt freshman season at Cincinnati, he transferred to Grand Rapids Community College, leading GRCC to an 11-0 record. Last season he transferred to CMU where he backed up Radcliff and now has won the opportunity to make his first every FBS start in the Big House.

At 6'2" Titus Davis will test Michigan's secondary (Tim Fitzgerald, CMU Athletics)

Another key departure was receiver Cody Wilson who finished second on the team with 840 receiving yards, which means Kater has one less proven target to throw to. The good news for him is the leading receiver, Titus Davis is back, and the 6-2, 190-pound junior from Wheaton, Ill. has big play ability. He averaged 20 yards per catch in 2012 with a long of 92 and caught eight touchdowns. He had a monster game against Western Michigan, catching 10 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown. Against a similar opponent, Michigan State, he caught four for 64 yards.

The third big loss from the CMU roster was left tackle Eric Fisher, who was the first pick in the NFL Draft. He helped pave the way for what was actually a mediocre running game, but a very talented running back. Zurlon Tipton rushed for 1,492 yards and 19 touchdowns, averaging 5.9 yards per carry. He surpassed 100 yards in each of the final seven games, including a 243-yards performance against Michigan’s Week 3 opponent, Akron. Against Michigan State, he rushed 11 times for 62 yards, and while he averaged 19.4 carries per game throughout the season, his workload went up to 25.3 in the final six games.

Central was a very balanced team last season in terms of plays run with 415 rushing attempts and 413 passing attempts, but the passing game was much more successful. That might not be the case this season with a new quarterback, however, Kater did complete 68.3 percent of his passes for 2,218 yards and 19 touchdowns for GRCC last season. Yes, quality of competition is a major caveat, but this isn’t simply a kid straight out of high school.

With questions about Michigan’s defensive line yet to be answered, look for Central to feed the ball to Tipton early and often. In that same vein, expect Michigan to gear up to stop the run, forcing Kater to try to beat them with his arm. The matchup with Blake Countess or Raymon Taylor on Titus Davis will be one to watch. Phil Steele put Davis among his top 25 receivers in college football and CMU receivers coach Mose Rison compares Davis to Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown. At 6-2, he’ll have a good four inches on any of Michigan’s corners.

Michigan offense vs Central Michigan defense: When Michigan has the ball

The Central Michigan defense is led by its duo of returning linebackers, Justin Cherocci and Shamari Benton, who combined for 258 tackles a year ago. Chrroci ranked 19th nationally with 132 and led the nation with 89 assisted tackles. Benton ranked 24th nationally with 126 and led the team with 54 solo tackles.

The line returns both on the interior, including sophomore Jabari Dean, who amassed 28 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery as a freshman in 2012. Both ends have to be replaced, but Central got a transfer from Michigan State who will contribute right away. Senior Jeremy Gainer recorded 13 total tackles and two forced fumbles in 28 career games played for the Spartans, mostly on special teams, but he’ll be an instant upgrade for the Chippewas.

Shamari Benton forms a solid linebacking duo along with Justin Cherocci (CMU Athletics)

In the secondary, two starting corners and free safety Avery Cunningham are back, but the main guy who has to be replaced is All-MAC safety Jahleel Addae, who signed with the San Diego Chargers as an undrafted free agent. Cunningham tallied 88 tackles last season, while the other returnees, Jarret Chapman and Jason Wilson recorded 51 and 50, respectively. Wilson added a pair of interceptions.

The 4-2-5 defense that Enos runs relies on good play from the back seven, and that’s what they got last season. But the rush defense was the weak spot, giving up 192 yards per game, which ranked 93rd nationally. That means Michigan will feature a heavy dose of Fitzgerald Toussaint and the rest of his running mates.

However, Michigan State was a very run-heavy team in 2012 and only gained 173 yards on 4.2 yards per carry against CMU last September. Le’Veon Bell was held to 70, his third lowest output of the season behind Ohio State (45) and Michigan (68). Conversely, the Spartans torched Central’s secondary for 322 yards on 25-of-37 passing. It was quarterback Andrew Maxwell’s third-highest total of the season.

Central clearly doubled down on the run after seeing Bell run 44 times for 210 yards against Boise State the week before, and that allowed the Spartan passing game to go off. Expect similar results on Saturday, though Michigan’s offense figures to be a bit more balanced.

The other third: Special Teams

Kicker David Harman is gone, and the replacement hasn’t been named as of yet. Redshirt freshman Ron Coluzzi and sophomore Matt Cotiguala are battling it out. Senior punter Richie Hogan is back after finishing fourth in the MAC with a 41.8-yard average per punt. Titus Davis is the main man returning punts, while Courtney Williams will handle the kick return duties.

Prediction

Central will test Michigan’s defense with Tipton on the ground and Davis through the air, but don’t expect the Chips to hang around for more than a half. Michigan’s defense will flex its muscle, forcing Kater to try to beat it through the air. We’ll get a nice look at the ability of Frank Clark, Keith Heitzman, Chris Wormley, and Taco Charlton to get to the quarterback.

Offensively, Michigan will use a balanced attack, perhaps more balanced than Hoke would normally want in this type of game. The reason is that instead of simply running the ball at will against an inferior opponent, it will be important to work on the passing game with an unproven receiving corps (outside of Jeremy Gallon and Drew Dileo) before Notre Dame comes to town next weekend. Look for Gardner to give Jehu Chesson some targets to get him involved and see what he can do.

The Wolverines will put this one away by the third quarter and get Shane Morris, Derrick Green, and DeVeon Smith some playing time.

Michigan 41 – Central Michigan 17

Predicting Michigan: The defensive line

Monday, August 19th, 2013


As we continue our position preview and prediction series, it’s time to move on to the defensive side of the ball. If you missed the offense, we looked at the quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, offensive line, and tight ends over the past couple of weeks.

Shouldering The Load: A Critical Group

Since Greg Mattison has taken over as Defensive Coordinator, his unit has turned into one of the top in the Big Ten. A demoralized defense that struggled under Rich Rodriguez was turned around immediately because of Mattison’s presence. This season, he will have to work with the young defensive players that have made up the strong recruiting classes the past few seasons. Leaders like Jordan Kovacs have graduated and it will be critical to establish new veteran leaders to help the rest of the defense mature.

Jibreel Black gives the line a proven vet to rotate in

Head Coach Brady Hoke coached the defensive line during his days under legendary Bo Schembechler, and he obviously still takes pride in that group of players as the head man. In 2013, the defensive line will be absolutely critical. Great defenses are those that can get pressure on opposing quarterbacks without blitzing linebackers or defensive backs. Michigan will need to get pressure from the pass rushers on the line to help a secondary that seems to have many questions at this point in the preseason.

Veterans: The Few

This season’s defensive line will be anchored by the few returning players that will likely play big minutes again this year. Frank Clark has had a nice camp and figures to play a bigger role on the line this season. He has played all over the field on defense during his time in Ann Arbor, but this year he will play predominantly at defensive end, where Hoke expects him to be an effective pass rusher and leader. Perhaps the most satisfying play of the entire 2012 season for the Wolverines was Clark’s hit on Braxton Miller when he came through untouched against the Buckeyes in Columbus. After that hit, it is unsurprising that Clark has been moved permanently to the defensive end position.

The interior line seemingly has more stability, as proven defensive tackles Quinton Washington and Jibreel Black return as candidates to start. Washington, a redshirt senior, was solid in 2012 recording 32 tackles but only one sack. He has been steady on defense since his move from offensive line midway in 2010 and will be crucial as one of the two seniors on the defensive line. Black, the other senior, was more of a big-play threat last season. Though he only had 20 total tackles, he recorded three sacks and five tackles for loss.

The only other upperclassman on the line is redshirt junior Richard Ash, who will be a role player at defensive tackle again this season. Players like Ash are crucial to having a strong line, because so many players contribute during the course of one game due to the number of substitutions in the trenches.

Career Stats – Clark
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
25 19 16 35 2.0 9.5 1 1 1
Career Stats – Washington
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
35 16 19 35 1.0 3.0 1 0 0
Career Stats – Black
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
39 28 17 45 4.5 6.5 2 0 0
Career Stats – Ash
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
9 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Filling In: Talented Youth

While the rest of the defensive line is largely unproven coming into 2013, there is no doubt the talent is there. Two strong recruiting classes in a row have helped establish depth at an important defensive position for the Wolverines. Freshman Taco Charlton could be one of the most important players on the defense, because of his standout ability as a pass rusher. Most of the returning players on the defensive line were adequate run-stoppers last season, but there is definitely a hole in the pass-rushing department. Charlton was recruited to fill that gap, and will likely get a chance to rush the quarterback in some meaningful games this season. Hoke likes what the true freshman has shown midway through camp.

Big things are expected from Taco Charlton

Another exciting young player is sophomore Ondre Pipkins. Pipkins played in every game as a true freshman, so he could be considered a veteran on an otherwise inexperienced defensive unit. Though he didn’t start any games last year, Hoke and Mattison showed great trust in Pipkins by giving him meaningful minutes in every game of the season. This year, the sophomore has an opportunity to move up into a starting position at defensive tackle.

Tom Strobel did not see any playing time last year, as he was given a redshirt to mature. However, he was a highly-ranked recruit and could be right in the mix to play big minutes as well this season. The Ohio native has a big body and is strong in the run-blocking category which is a strength of this unit.

Fellow redshirt freshman Mario Ojemudia has caught Hoke’s attention during the offseason with his ability to jump snaps and get quick pressure on the quarterback. Ojemudia is a smaller defensive lineman, at 6’2″, but he uses that to his advantage as a quicker defender and can get around bigger offensive lineman because of that. He was given a redshirt to work on his size and strength, since that seems to be the one issue that could stop Ojemudia from being a star.

Henry Poggi and Chris Wormley were recruits that also created some buzz. Wormley is a big athlete who moves very well for a player of his size. In high school he showed incredible disengaging skills and was able to overpower his opponents the majority of the time. Poggi, who was recruited as a four-star out of Baltimore, Maryland, may be the victim of Michigan’s depth at defensive tackle and take a redshirt this season. Players like Washington, Black and Pipkins figure to receive most of the snaps at defensive tackle, so coaches may take the opportunity to let Poggi mature for a season.

Career Stats – Pipkins
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
13 2 5 7 0 0.5 0 0 0
Career Stats – Ojemudia
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
9 8 3 11 1.0 2.5 1 1 1

Depth: An Exciting Future

Having too many good players is a nice problem to have, and Michigan may have difficulty finding time for some very good young players this season because of the traffic jam on the defensive line. True freshman Maurice Hurst Jr. comes to Ann Arbor after being labeled a very talented recruit, and can help fill in at defensive line this year if Michigan needs him. It is likely that Hurst could get a redshirt along with Poggi, and we’ll see them make a major impact in a few years.

Keith Heitzman has played 12 games as a backup defensive end in his short career so far, and will continue to contribute this season, potentially winning a starting role.

Redshirt freshman Matt Godin will likely pick up a similar role this year. Godin is one of the bigger lineman on the team at 6’6″ and 280 pounds. Godin’s classmate Willie Henry is also a huge interior lineman, listed just over 300 pounds. These players will see playing time throughout the course of the season, and will need to be solid while they give the more well-known players a breather. Luckily, Hoke and Mattison are the right coaches to have around a defensive line with so much potential.

Career Stats – Heitzman
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
12 2 5 7 0 1.0 0 1 0

Wrapping Up

Michigan’s defensive line is similar to many of the other groups on the 2013 team. Two outstanding recruiting classes have established important depth, and the few veteran players will need to be leaders to help those youngsters mature. Washington, Black and Clark will be the big name veterans on the line, but there’s a great chance that some of the newer players step up and make a name for themselves early as well. Fans in Ann Arbor should be excited to see players like Charlton and Pipkins play major minutes and cause havoc on the defensive line.

The rest of the defense has their own responsibility, but the line is the really crucial group to watch in 2013. If the young pass-rushers can keep quarterbacks from getting comfortable in the pocket, the rest of the defense should fall into place. Mattison will look to his defensive line to set the tone this season.

National Signing Day: visualizing Michigan’s 2013 recruiting class

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013



Stay tuned in the coming days as we profile each of the 27 members of Michigan’s 2013 class.

High school All-American games preview

Friday, January 4th, 2013


Now that Michigan’s season has drawn to a close, the second season has ramped up  to full steam. Recruiting is pretty much non-stop these days, but now that the coaching staff is able to devote the vast majority of its time to pulling in the best class possible, it’s a frantic race for the Feb. 6 finish line. That’s the day of National Signing Day, when all letters of intent have to be signed and submitted and become binding. But before we get there, several All-American games exist to showcase the top talent on the national stage. Some of the players are already committed, while some choose to make their announcements live on national television during the game. Still others opt to wait until National Signing Day to pledge their commitments. Here’s a look at the games and the current Michigan commitments that will be playing in them, as well as the targets that Brady Hoke’s staff hopes to lock in within the next month.

Friday, Jan. 4, 2013 | 5pm EST
Under Armour All-America Game | St. Petersburg, Fla. | ESPN

The Under Armour All-America Game is ESPN’s version and features the Black (Highlight) team and the White (Nitro) team. Team Highlight is coached by former NFL head coach Herm Edwards, while Team Nitro is coached by Steve Mariucci.

Current Michigan commits:

#9 – LB – Mike McCray II (White)
#12 – QB – Shane Morris (White)
#17 – DT – Henry Poggi (White)*
#55 – OG – David Dawson (White)*
#57 – OG – Patrick Kugler (White)*
#72 – OT – Logan Tulley-Tillman (White)

*denotes starters

Michigan targets:

#22 – S – Leon McQuay III (Black)
#1 – WR – Sebastian LaRue (White)
#4 – WR – Laquon Treadwell (White)
#78 – OT – Cameron Hunt (White)

Other notables:

#3 – WR – Alvin Bailey (Black) – Former Michigan target, committed to Florida
#32 – RB – Ty Isaac (White) – Former Michigan target, USC commit

Rivals:

#6 – CB – Cam Burrows (White) – Ohio State commit
#7 – ATH – Jalin Marshall (White) – Ohio State commit
#7 – CB – Gareon Conley (White) – Ohio State commit, former Michigan commit
#8 – TE – Marcus Baugh (White) – Ohio State commit
#97 – DT –  Joey Bosa (White) – Ohio State commit
#34 – LB – Alex Anzalone (Black) – Notre Dame commit, former Ohio State commit
#60 – OT – Colin McGovern (Black) – Notre Dame commit
#70 – OT – Hunter Bivin (Black) – Notre Dame commit
#32 – LB – Trey Johnson (White) – Announcing commitment to either Ohio State, Florida, or Tennessee

As you can see, Team Nitro (White) has the majority of the players relevant to Michigan, so that’s the team to pay the most attention to. Of the uncommitted targets, Michigan isn’t in great position for any of them. McQuay was at the Wolverines’ Outback Bowl practice, but had this to say about where Michigan stands. He will make his decision known during the game. LaRue is an interesting one since he was committed to USC, but just decommitted. He reportedly wants to hear more from Michigan and has formed a bond with current Michigan commit Mike McCray. Hunt, a Cal commit, recently announced that he’s re-opening his recruitment and was offered by Michigan, but that was before David Dawson re-committed to the Wolverines, so it’s unclear as to whether the staff would take another offensive lineman. Treadwell seems extremely unlikely at this point. He favors Ole Miss, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State, but with recruiting, you never know.

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Friday, Jan. 4, 2013 | 9pm EST
Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl | Carson, Ca. | NFL Network

The Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl is considered the third-best of this weekend’s All-America games and is the Marine Corps’ version of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

Current Michigan commits:

CB – Ross Douglass (East)
DT – Maurice Hurst, Jr. (East)
* Kyle Bosch and Taco Charlton chose not to play due to enrolling early at Michigan

Rivals:

DB – Devin Butler (East) – Notre Dame
WR – William Fuller (East) – Notre Dame
OT – Mike McGlinchey (East) – Notre Dame
QB – Malik Zaire (East) – Notre Dame
CB – Cole Luke (West) – Notre Dame
RB – Khalfani Muhammad (West) – Notre Dame

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Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013 | 1pm EST
U.S. Army All-American Bowl | San Antonio, Texas | NBC

The U.S. Army All-American Bowl is traditionally considered the nation’s premier high school all-star game and is in its 13th year. It has featured eventual Heisman Trophy winners and more than 200 eventual NFL players. This year, the West team will wear yellow and the East team will wear black.

Current Michigan commits:

#87 – TE – Jake Butt (East)
#73 – OL – Chris Fox (West)
#27 – DB – Jourdan Lewis (West)
#14 – DB – Dymonte Thomas (East)

Michigan targets:

#27 – RB – Derrick Green (East)

Other notables:

#5 – DB – Kendall Fuller – Former Michigan target, Virginia Tech commit
#10 – LB – E.J. Levenberry – Former Michigan target, Florida State commit
#21 – S – Su’a Cravens – Former Michigan target, USC commit

Rivals:

#24 – RB – Ezekiel Elliott – Ohio State commit
#9 – CB – Eli Apple (East) – Ohio State commit
#35 – K – Johnny Townsend (East) – Ohio State commit
#69 – OT – Evan Lisle (East) – Ohio State commit
#76 – DT – Michael Hill (East) – Ohio State commit
#72 – OT – Steve Elmer (West) – Notre Dame commit
#1 – RB – Greg Bryant (East) – Notre Dame commit
#74 – OL – John Montelus (East) – Notre Dame commit
#26 – LB – Doug Randolph (East) – Notre Dame commit
#88 – WR – Corey Robinson (West) – Notre Dame commit
#9 – LB – Jaylon Smith (West) – Notre Dame commit
#44 – LB – Mike Mitchell (West) – Announcing commitment to either Ohio State, Oregon, or Texas A&M
#17 – WR – James Quick (East) – Announcing commitment to either Ohio State or Louisville

Unlike the Under Armour game, Michigan’s four commits playing in this one are split between the two teams. Derrick Green is the big one to watch since he is reportedly leaning towards Michigan. He fueled speculation on Wednesday by posing for a photo with the four Michigan commits and then went on a Rivals chat and said Michigan does hold a slight lead. Ohio State and Notre Dame both have a number of commits playing in the game as well, and there are a couple that are making their announcements live during the game and have Ohio State among their finalists.

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Another thing you may notice is the complete lack of Michigan State prospects on the rosters for these three games. Of the Spartans’ 15 current commits, only two are rated four stars by Rivals and the rest are three stars.