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Posts Tagged ‘Tim Drevno’

Michigan State 14 – #7 Michigan 10: Turnovers, sloppy offense doom Michigan versus rival

Monday, October 9th, 2017


(Isaiah Hole)

With a storm promising 60 miles per hour wind gusts and torrential rain bearing down on Ann Arbor’s primetime matchup between the state’s two premier schools, getting out to a fast start was imperative to winning the game. While neither team featured much offense on Saturday night, it was Michigan State who beat Michigan to the storm and ultimately secured the 14-10 victory.

Michigan appeared to be getting out to a fast start, methodically moving down the field on the game’s opening possession mostly by running right at the Spartan defense. But as it has for much of the season, a promising drive stalled in the red zone and Michigan settled for a field goal to cap its 16-play, seven-minute drive.

Final Stats
Michigan  Michigan State
Score 10 14
Record 4-1 (1-1) 4-1 (2-0)
Total Yards 300 252
Net Rushing Yards 102 158
Net Passing Yards 198 94
First Downs 17 13
Turnovers 5 0
Penalties-Yards 7-53 11-81
Punts-Yards 7-298 11-430
Time of Possession 30:52 29:08
Third Down Conversions 5-of-17 2-of-14
Fourth Down Conversions 1-of-1 0-of-1
Sacks By-Yards 0-0 4-33
Field Goals 1-for-1 0-for-0
PATs 1-for-1 2-for-2
Red Zone Scores-Chances 2-of-2 2-of-2
Red Zone TDs-Chances 1-of-2 2-of-2
Full Box Score

The defense forced a three-and-out, and the Wolverines went right back to the ground game, picking up gains of six and five, but Ty Isaac fumbled at the end of an 8-yard run and Michigan State recovered at the Michigan 38. Six plays later, the Spartans took a 7-3 lead on a 14-yard touchdown run by quarterback Brian Lewerke.

After back-to-back Michigan punts, the Spartans got on the board once again, this time driving 83 yards in nine plays for a 16-yard touchdown pass from Lewerke to Madre London.

The Michigan defense made its typical halftime adjustments, gaining a big edge in field position, and it paid off on Michigan’s second possession of the half. A Michigan State punt from the back of their own end zone gave the Wolverines possession at the MSU-33, and four plays later Michigan scored its first touchdown of the game on a 1-yard Khalid Hill run to pull within 14-10.

But the storm hit a short time later and neither offense was able to move the ball the remainder of the game. John O’Korn threw interceptions on three straight possessions, but Michigan’s defense held Michigan State to seven straight three-and-outs, keeping the game within reach.

Michigan got one last chance on the game’s final possession, starting on their own 20 with 34 seconds remaining. O’Korn found Karan Higdon for a 15-yard gain and another 15 yards were tacked on for a late hit. On the next play, O’Korn found Eddie McDoom for what would have been a big play, but McDoom dropped the open pass. O’Korn connected with Higdon again for 18 yards, stopping the clock with five seconds remaining at the MSU-37. O’Korn heaved a prayer into the end zone as time expired, but the ball was batted down and Michigan State earned its eighth win in 10 tried against the Wolverines.

Michigan out-gained Michigan State 300 to 252, but that’s no consolation in defeat. The Wolverines managed 102 rushing yards, but only 2.6 yards per carry — the first time in 24 tries under Jim Harbaugh that they lost despite rushing for 100 yards or more. The Isaac fumble was a major turning point early in the game as Michigan was averaging a respectable 4.5 yards per carry on 13 carries prior to that. But Michigan averaged just 1.7 yards per carry the rest of the game.

Higdon led the way with 65 yards on 5.4 yards per carry, but Michigan inexplicably only gave him 12 carries. Instead, in blustery and rainy conditions, the playcalling put the ball in O’Korns arm 35 times, something Wilton Speight has done just three times in 16 games and Jake Rudock did just three times in 13. That may be the most damning statistic for an offense that has regressed in each game this season.

It’s clear that there’s a reason that, until his injury, Speight was the starter despite his early-season struggles, and that with Tarik Black out for the season with injury the offense is full of young talent, but lacking in established playmakers. It’s also clear that for those reasons and more, the offensive coaching staff is lacking in confidence in its offense’s ability to move the ball and find the end zone. Something has to give as the schedule only gets tougher from here on, or Michigan could be looking at four or five losses.

It’s gut-check time and everyone from walk-ons to Harbaugh has to take a long look in the mirror and decide what kind of season they’re going to have. Speight is reportedly done for the season with three cracked vertebrae. Is O’Korn the best option to keep Michigan in contention for the Big Ten title? Or is it time to give Brandon Peters or Dylan McCaffrey a chance to build on the future?

Personally, I ride with O’Korn as long as the title is within reach. But he’s going to need upperclassmen like Isaac to take care of the ball and experienced receivers like McDoom, Grant Perry, and Kekoa Crawford to catch open passes. Offensive line issues that have plagued Michigan for years won’t get fixed this year, but Harbaugh and staff need to devise a way to overcome that. With the nation’s best defense, the offense doesn’t have to be great. It may not even have to be good. Slightly above average would probably do the trick. But can Harbaugh, Tim Drevno, and Pep Hamilton attain that? The next two weeks will be telling.

Game Ball – Offense

Karan Higdon (12 carries for 65 yards, 5.4 yards per carry, 2 receptions for 33 yards)
In a game in which Michigan showed little ability to move the ball consistently — save for the first possession of the game — Higdon was the one offensive standout, averaging 5.4 yards per carry. He had rushes of six and three yards on that opening possession, but Chris Evans was the more featured back on that drive with five carries for 20 yards. Midway through the third quarter, Higdon had four straight carries that went for five, six, six, and six yards before a holding penalty on Mason Cole set the offense back to 1st-and-20. Two plays later, O’Korn was picked off. Often the only back that could gain positive yards, that Higdon got just 12 carries while O’Korn threw the ball 35 times is a big miss by the coaching staff.

Previous:
Week 1 – Quinn Nordin (4-of-6 field goals, 2-of-3 from 50-plus)
Week 2 — Ty Isaac (20 carries for 133 yards, 6.7 yards per carry)
Week 3 — Donovan Peoples-Jones (2 receptions for 52 yards, 2 punt returns for 104 yards and 1 touchdown)
Week 4 — John O’Korn (18-of-26 for 270 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception, 5 rushes for 12 yards)

Game Ball – Defense

Maurice Hurst (8 tackles — 6 solo — 2.5 tackles for loss)
The game followed a similar trend for Michigan’s defense this season. It’s susceptible to a few big plays early in the game, but Don Brown makes halftime adjustments and shuts down the opposing offense in the second half. Michigan State managed just two first downs the entire second half — both on their last possession — and 66 yards on 30 plays in the second half. Hurst was a big part of that, stuffing the Michigan State running game with 2.5 tackles for loss, and drawing high praise from MSU center Brian Allen after the game.

Previous:
Week 1 – Devin Bush (7 tackles, 5 solo, 3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks)
Week 2 – Tyree Kinnel (9 tackles, 8 solo, 1 tackle for loss, 1 sack, 1 interception return for touchdown)
Week 3 – Chase Winovich (9 tackles – 3 solo – 2 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 1 quarterback hurry)
Week 4 — Chase Winovich (6 tackles — all solo — 4 tackles for loss, 3 sacks

Iowa 14 – #3 Michigan 13: Offense stalls in Iowa City, title hopes remain intact

Sunday, November 13th, 2016


chesson-vs-iowa(Isaiah Hole, 247 Sports)

After watching second-ranked Clemson get knocked off by unranked Pittsburgh on a last second field goal, Michigan took the field against unranked Iowa, looking to remain unbeaten. Midway through the game, fellow unbeaten Washington fell to USC, and Michigan had a chance to join Alabama as the undisputed t0p two. But it wasn’t meant to be as the Wolverines suffered defeat as well, 14-13.

While Michigan looked nearly invincible through the first nine weeks of the season, it wasn’t hard to see a game like this coming. In my prediction on Friday, I wrote the following:

um-iowa_small-final
Final Stats
Michigan   Iowa  
Score 13 14
Record 9-1, 6-1 6-4, 4-3
Total Yards 201 230
Net Rushing Yards 98 164
Net Passing Yards 103 66
First Downs 14 17
Turnovers 2 1
Penalties-Yards 5-48 3-24
Punts-Yards 6-244 6-282
Time of Possession 27:15 32:45
Third Down Conversions 5-of-15 4-of-16
Fourth Down Conversions 0-of-0 2-of-3
Sacks By-Yards 3-20 2-10
Field Goals 2-for-2 2-for-3
PATs 1-for-1 0-for-0
Red Zone Scores-Chances 2-of-2 3-of-3
Red Zone Scores-TDs 1-of-2 1-of-3
Full Box Score

“Although the numbers don’t support it, for some reason I have an eerie feeling about this one. Even the 1997 Michigan national championship team nearly had their season derailed in Iowa City by an Iowa team that finished just 7-5 overall and 4-4 in the Big Ten. That game required a second half comeback by Michigan to pull off a 28-24 win…

“Statistically, there’s no reason Iowa should be very competitive in this one, but that’s why they play the games. Maybe Michigan will struggle a bit offensively in the first half and let Iowa hang around longer than they should. Wilton Speight hasn’t really had a bad game yet this season and maybe he’s due. Michigan’s defense has allowed 20 explosive plays in the past two weeks after allowing an average of fewer than five per game the first seven weeks. Iowa’s offense ranks 99th nationally in explosive plays per game, but perhaps they gained confidence from what Michigan State and Maryland did.”

Ultimately, I thought Michigan would outlast Iowa at the end, and there’s still little doubt as to which team is better or more talented. But that’s cold comfort after a first loss of the season.

The good news is that very little has changed. The only team in the country that can be unanimously declared better that Michigan at this point is Alabama. Cases can be made for Ohio State, Clemson, and Washington, but they’ve all suffered similar — if not worse — setbacks. When the sun rose on Sunday morning, Michigan still found itself among the top four in both the AP Poll and the Coaches Poll, and whether or not the College Football Playoff committee ranks them the same on Tuesday night, they still have the exact same path they had prior to Saturday’s loss: beat Indiana at home next Saturday, win in Columbus, win the Big Ten championship game. Easier said than done, but not unthinkable.

So what exactly happened on Saturday? Michigan’s offense was a shell of itself, unable to run the ball consistently, and unable to keep Iowa’s defensive front out of the backfield. Wilton Speight missed open receivers and when he did hit them, they had a hard time catching the ball. The defense held strong for the most part, but let an Iowa offense that rushed for just 30 yards on 26 carries against Penn State gash them for 164 yards. The Wolverine defense was simply asked to do too much.

It’s hard to complain about an offense that ranked among the nation’s best through the first nine weeks of the season, but the offensive game plan seemed flawed from the start on Saturday. The creativity that Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Tim Drevno have displayed all season seemed to have no match for Iowa’s defense. In fact, there was too much predictability — running Jabrill Peppers every time he was in the game — and too many questionable calls — a sweep with De’Veon Smith and a sweep with Karan Higdon on 3rd-and-1 — that looked more like an Al Borges offense.

Still, there were plenty of missed opportunities as well. On at least two or three occasions, Michigan receivers had beaten their defender deep, but Speight overthrew them. And the tone was set early in the game when a series of special teams blunders proved costly. Devin Bush was ejected from the game for targeting when he tackled Iowa punter Ron Coluzzi — a questionable call for sure. Then, Michigan had back to back running into the kicker penalties gave the Iowa offense a first down, and although it resulted in a missed field goal and Michigan’s offense responded with a touchdown on its next possession, it put the defense in a tough situation and may have contributed to their inability to stop the Hawkeyes late in the game.

Next Saturday, Michigan hosts Indiana (5-5, 3-4) in the final tuneup before The Game. A loss to the Hoosiers would eliminate Michigan from Big Ten title and College Football Playoff consideration.

Game Ball – Offense

Kenny Allen (2-of-2 FGs, long of 51)
The senior kicker has faced his share of criticism this season after missing three of his first six field goals, which nearly proved costly early in the season against Wisconsin. He assumed the punting and kickoff duties this year, which may have lead to his early struggles, but he has rebounded nicely back to the reliable field goal kicker he has been dating back to last season. On Saturday, his leg was clutch as the Michigan offense was able to only find the end zone one time. Allen got the scoring started with a 26-yard field goal on Michigan’s second possession of the game. But it was his second field goal that earned him the game ball. Trailing 11-10 in the fourth quarter, Michigan’s offense stalled at the Iowa 33. Facing 4th-and-7, trying to convert was out of the question given the troubles the Wolverines had moving the ball. And punting was likely to yield only a few yards. So Harbaugh called on Allen to attempt a 51-yard field goal. The senior responded by drilling a line drive right through the uprights for the longest field goal of his career.

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)

Game Ball – Defense

Chris Wormley (6 tackles (2 solo), 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack)
Michigan’s defense didn’t play a bad game. They gave up just 230 total yards after all, limited Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard to just 8-of-19 for 66 yards — most of which came on a couple of timely screen passes –, and held the Hawkeyes to just 4-of-16 third-down conversions. Had Michigan’s offense performed anywhere close to its usual ability, Michigan would have won convincingly. But when the offense struggled to do anything and the defense let Iowa running backs Akrum Wadley and LeShun Daniels run right up the middle, it looked worse than it actually was. One of the highlights was senior Chris Wormley, who made six stops, two tackles for loss, and recorded one of Michigan’s three sacks. His sack came late in the third quarter with Iowa driving to increase its one-point lead. On 2nd-and-9 from the 45, Wormley brought Beathard down for a 12-yard loss. Iowa had to punt and Michigan’s offense kicked the go-ahead field goal on its ensuing possession.

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 for touchdown)
Week 9 — Delano Hill (6 tackles (5 solo), 0.5 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions)

Predicting Michigan 2016: The offensive line

Wednesday, August 17th, 2016


Predicting Michgian 2016-OffensiveLine
Mason Cole(Melanie Maxwell, MLive.com)

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

It’s not the most glamorous position on the football field, but no group will play a more important role than the offensive line for Michigan this season, especially with a new quarterback taking over and a heightened emphasis on running the ball.

Luckily for Michigan, it returns one of the most important qualities in an offensive line: experience. Four of the team’s five regular starters return for 2016 after Graham Glasgow was selected in the third round of the NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions.

The two unknowns heading into the offseason were who would take that fifth starting spot, and which reserves can step into a bigger rotational role.

Starting five

Four of Michigan’s five offensive linemen return after starting at least 12 games last season. The most solid, reliable player is fifth-year senior Kyle Kalis, who started all 13 games at right guard and elevated his play to near all-conference levels. Kalis has been a mainstay on the offensive line since his redshirt freshman season in 2013. Since settling in at right guard, Kalis has become a solid pass protector, but like much of the line, needs to take the next step to create the running game Jim Harbaugh envisions.

Grant Newsome played his way out of a redshirt as a true freshman in 2015 and now moves into the starting lineup (Melanie Maxwell, MLive.com)

Grant Newsome played his way out of a redshirt as a true freshman in 2015 and now moves into the starting lineup (Melanie Maxwell, MLive.com)

Fellow fifth-year senior Ben Braden takes up the other guard slot, coming off a breakout season in which he started 13 games and quietly put up some of the best performances on the line. Recruited as a tackle, Braden was hailed as a strong run blocker coming into Ann Arbor, but he’s done a nice job to date stopping the inside pass rush.

Both starting tackles return for the 2016 season, but with a bit of a twist. Fifth-year senior Erik Magnuson will lock down his familiar right tackle spot and be a major contributor on the line for a fourth straight season. He’s slowly turned himself into a strong edge blocker and enjoyed his best season under Harbaugh a year go.

But former starting left tackle Mason Cole will step into a new role for his junior year, though he’ll be just as crucial to this veteran line. After becoming Michigan’s first true freshman to start a season opener on the offensive line in 2014, Cole played left tackle in each of his first 25 games at Michigan. Now, he’ll step into Glasgow’s empty shoes as the starting center, a role he’s embraced this summer.

Michigan went through a disastrous period at center under Brady Hoke, struggling with the center-quarterback exchange, and at times, allowing defenders to get huge jumps off the snap. Cole will be critical in picking up the running game this season and shoring up the inside of the line. He’s a smart player and has the physical tools for a smooth transition, but Cole will be a player to watch when the Wolverines take the field Sept. 3.

Four starters down, and one question mark to go. The new kid at the starters’ table will be sophomore Grant Newsome, who takes over the vitally important left tackle position. Newsome is one of the best natural two-way blockers on the roster, coming into college as an excellent pass blocker and an able run blocker. He’s strong and explosive, but the key will be consistency and moving his feet off the edge on a play-by-play basis. Newsome will have his gaffs, like any young player, but as the season goes on, he’ll benefit from playing next to such an experienced group.

Projected Starters
Left Tackle Left Guard Center Right Guard Right Tackle
Grant Newsome Ben Braden Mason Cole Kyle Kalis Erik Magnuson
2015 Starts 1 13 13 13 12
Career Starts 1 25 25 29 24
Likely contributors

The starting five played a ton of snaps for Michigan last season, but there are a few returning players who contributed in the rotation. Perhaps the most seasoned backup, and a candidate for a starting role as a redshirt senior next year, is David Dawson. Dawson shared some time with Braden at left guard last season and held his own, especially in pass blocking. He’ll be an important depth guy in 2016.

Senior Patrick Kugler is in a similar situation, though his ceiling was much higher coming into Ann Arbor. The former five-star recruit played a backup role in 2015 and could provide some insurance if Cole struggles at center, which seems unlikely. Either way, the senior will play a role.

An interesting player to watch will be junior Juwann Bushell-Beatty, who played in only four games as a reserve lineman last season. The Paramus, N.J. native was just getting his feet wet last season, and passed his first college test. He might not take on a huge role this season, but look for Bushell-Beatty to make moves up the depth chart for 2017.

Ben Pliska played in two games last season, so his role could grow as a fifth-year senior in 2016. He can fill in at multiple positions on the line and gives Harbaugh another option if one of these contributors struggles or goes down with an injury.

Two linemen who didn’t play last season but should figure into the mix as redshirt freshmen are Nolan Ulizio and Jon Runyan. Both members of Harbaugh’s first recruiting class at Michigan, Ulizio and Runyan committed as three-star prospects. Ulizio fits the fits the typical Harbaugh bill — a smart, physical player who plays the position with a chip on his shoulder. Runyan is a little different, as he’s more of a quick, explosive lineman who may be a little undersized, but compensates with great technique. Expect both players to find a home in the rotation off the bench.

New faces

Michigan pulled in three new offensive line recruits in its elite 2016 class, led by Wisconsin’s finest, Ben Bredeson. That’s right, Harbaugh managed to pull a Wisconsin lineman away from the Badgers, and Bredeson is exactly what you’d expect from that ilk. One of the top offensive linemen in his class, Bredeson projects as a guard or tackle and could probably step into a bigger role if Michigan wasn’t so stacked with veteran lineman. Bredeson has decent size, but his value comes from his athleticism, which makes him an excellent run blocker. If he can bring his pass protection up to par, he’ll be a familiar face on the line over the next several years.

Harbaugh pulled another gem from the offensive line crop, snagging Michael Onwenu out of Cass Tech in Detroit. Onwenu is an absolutely enormous human who will play guard at over 350 pounds. He can pass block well for a big guy, but his specialty should be run blocking as he matures. It’s all power and strength with Onwenu, so his ability to learn the intricacies of the position will dictate his success at Michigan.

The third – and sometimes forgotten – man from this group is Stephen Spanellis, who committed to Michigan out of nowhere in January. Spanellis is just another big, strong lineman to add to the mix, joining the team at 6-feet-6 inches tall and around 300 pounds. He probably won’t play much of a role as a freshman, but the Baltimore native could factor in down the line.

Michigan also welcomed preferred walk-ons Anthony Kay, Carl Myers and Andrew Vastardis to the offensive line group.

Meet the rest

Greg Froelich: Senior, 6-2, 257, from Maplewood, N.J. (Deerfield Academy)
Greg Robinson: Freshman, 6-6, 290, from Hudson, Ohio (Hudson)

The Game preview: #10 Michigan vs #8 Ohio State

Friday, November 27th, 2015


Game Preview_OhioState_banner

College football’s best rivalry renews at high noon tomorrow, and for the first time in years a lot is at stake for both teams. Both have a shot at a Big Ten championship game appearance, though it depends on the outcome of the Michigan State-Penn State game later tomorrow afternoon. If Penn State beats the Spartans, the winner of The Game will advance to Indianapolis to face Iowa for the conference title.

UM-OhioState-small
Quick Facts
Michigan Stadium – 12p.m. EST – ABC
Ohio State Head Coach: Urban Meyer (4th season)
Coaching Record: 152-27 (48-4, 30-1 at OSU)
Co-Offensive Coordinators: Ed Warriner (1st season)
Tim Beck (1st season)
Co-Defensive Coordinators: Luck Fickell (4th season)
Chris Ash (2nd season)
Last Season: 14-1 (8-0)
Last Meeting: OSU 42 – UM 28 (2014)
All-Time Series: Michigan leads 58-47-6
Record in Ann Arbor: Michigan 31-21-4
Record in Michigan Stadium: Michigan 23-19-3
Jim Harbaugh vs Ohio State: 1st meeting
Last Michigan win: 2011 (40-34)
Last Ohio State win: 2014 (42-28)
Current Streak: Ohio State 3

But even if Michigan State seals their fate with a win, there’s still plenty to play for. Ohio State is still alive for a second straight College Football Playoff berth, though they need a lot of help. Michigan, meanwhile, has lost nine of the last 10 to their rivals from Columbus and would love nothing more than to cap the first season of the Jim Harbaugh era in the same fashion as his mentor, Bo Schembechler: by beating Ohio State. A win would essentially clinch a New Years Six bowl for Michigan, likely the Rose Bowl against whichever Pac-12 team doesn’t make the playoff.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, the biggest game of the season is tomorrow. The game lost some of its luster a week ago when Ohio State lost to Michigan State, ending its 23-game winning streak, but that should only give Michigan more confidence that it can make it two in a row for the Buckeyes. After plowing through the Big Ten last season, dominating Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship game, cruising past Alabama and Oregon to win the national title, and winning their first 10 to open this season, Ohio State was starting to look invincible. But last Saturday they were exposed by the first team with a pulse they’ve played all season, tallying just 132 total yards of offense in a 17-14 loss to the Spartans.

Prior to that, the combined record of their 10 opponents was a paltry 43-58. The only Power 5 team Ohio State had played was Penn State, who they beat 38-10. Their second best win was a 20-13 victory over Northern Illinois in Week 3. In other words, probably close to a dozen teams nationally would have been 10-0 with that schedule.

So was the Michigan State game just an aberration? Or did the schedule from the first 10 weeks simply mask larger problems? Let’s take a look at the matchup.

When Ohio State has the ball

Ohio State fans are increasingly upset with new offensive coordinators Ed Warriner and Tim Beck. The architect of last year’s offense, Tom Herman, moved on to Houston and currently has the Cougars at 10-1 and ranked 21st in the AP and Coaches polls.

This season, Ohio State ranks 48th nationally and 3rd in the Big Ten in total offense (424.1 yards per game), 15th and 1st in rushing (230.4 yards per game), 100th and 10th in passing (193.7 yards per game), 37th and 2nd in pass efficiency (141.61), and 36th and 2nd in scoring (34.4 points per game).

The talk leading into the season centered around the trio of quarterbacks at Urban Meyer’s disposal, and while Braxton Miller made the switch to receiver, Meyer let the quarterback race hang in suspension for too long. Cardale Jones got the nod to start the season, but has since lost it in favor of J.T. Barrett. Neither has found consistency. Jones has completed 62.5 percent of his passes for 1,460 yards, eight touchdowns, and five interceptions, while Barrett has completed 64.4 percent for just 668 yards, nine touchdowns, and three interceptions. Barrett’s legs have been more dangerous, scoring eight rushing touchdowns with an average of 6.1 yards per carry. Miller, meanwhile, is the third leading receiver with 324 yards and three touchdowns and the third leading rusher with 227 yards and one score.

The best player on the offense is junior running back Ezekiel Elliott, who up until last week was one of the leading Heisman Trophy candidates. He ranks second in the Big Ten with 132.5 rushing yards per game and had rushed for at least 100 yards in each game until being held to just 33 yards on 12 carries last week. The fact that he got only 12 carries is a sore subject among Buckeye fans as Meyer chose to run Barrett more often than his workhorse. Elliott made his feelings known after the game that he wasn’t happy with the play calling and essentially announcing his intention to enter the NFL Draft after the season.

Junior Michael Thomas is the leading receiver with 47 receptions for 659 yards and eight touchdowns. He has had two 100-yard receiving games with seven catches for 107 yards against Maryland and five catches for 103 yards against Rutgers. The other nine games he has been pretty consistent with four or five catches for 60-80 yards. The one outlier is last week when he caught just two passes for eight yards. Much of that is a result of Ohio State only throwing a few passes due to the weather, but Michigan State’s secondary has been porous all season and he wasn’t able to take advantage of it. Sophomore Jalin Marshall is the second leading receiver with 29 receptions for 417 yards and four touchdowns. He had a six-catch, 110-yard game against Indiana, but the has been pretty pedestrian since then.

The offensive line is experienced, returning four starters from last year’s dominant line, but like the offense as a whole, has been consistent all season. Senior left tackle Taylor Decker is the leader and a likely first-round NFL draft pick next spring. The line was dominated by Michigan State’s defensive front last Saturday, and the question begs whether the team’s rushing success is more of a product of Elliott than the line’s ability to open holes. It has done pretty well in pass protection, having allowed 16 sacks this season — the same number Michigan has allowed.

When Michigan has the ball

Ohio State’s defense ranks 8th nationally and 3rd in the Big Ten in total defense (298 yards allowed per game), 30th and 7th against the run (133.7 yards per game), 5th and 3rd against the pass (164.3 yards per game), 7th and 4th in pass defense efficiency (100.64), and 2nd and 2nd in scoring defense (14.1 points per game).

The defensive line was considered one of the best in the nation last season and is very good again this year. Junior defensive end Joey Bosa is the one everybody talks about after leading the Big Ten in tackles for loss (21) and sacks (13.5) in 2014. He won the Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year award last season. He hasn’t been quite as dominant at getting to the quarterback in 2015 with just four sacks, but he does still lead the team with 15 tackles for loss (third in the Big Ten) and 12 quarterback hurries. The other defensive end, Tyquan Lewis, ranks second on the team with 12.5 tackles for loss and leads the team with 6.5 sacks. Inside, senior tackle Adolphus Washington is a force for offensive linemen to block. He has seven tackles for loss and four sacks. The other starting tackle spot is a rotation between senior Tommy Schutt and sophomore Michael Hill. Schutt has five tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks, while Hill has gotten more playing time as of late and has a half of a tackle for loss.

Once you get past the front four, it doesn’t get any easier. The linebacking corps is fast and versatile, led by sophomore Raekwon McMillan, who leads the team and ranks third in the Big Ten with 105 total tackles. He also has four tackles for loss and one sack, but more than getting into the backfield, he flies around the field making tackles. Senior weak side linebacker Joshua Perry ranks second on the team with 88 tackles, fourth with seven tackles for loss, and fifth with three sacks, while sophomore strong side linebacker Darron Lee has 52 tackles, eight for loss, and 2.5 sacks.

The secondary is also very talented, led by junior safety Vonn Bell, who leads the team with nine pass breakups and ranks third with 59 tackles. He also has two interceptions. Junior Tyvis Powell is the other safety. Michigan fans will remember him as the guy who intercepted Devin Gardern’s two-point conversion attempt two years ago in the Big House. He has 59 tackles, three pass breakups and two interceptions. The corners are sophomores Gareon Conley and Eli Apple, who have combined for 63 tackles, three for loss, half a sack, 10 pass breakups, and three interceptions. Both are very good in coverage.

The other third

One area of weakness for Ohio State has been field goal kicking. Meyer has seemingly lost confidence in senior kicker Jack Willoughby‘s ability to make anything longer than 40 yards. He’s 7 of 11 on the season, but is 0-3 from 40-49 yards and just 3 of 7 from 30 yards or more. Punting, on the other hand, isn’t a problem for the Buckeyes. Junior Aussie punter Cameron Johnston ranks second in the Big Ten with a 43.9-yard per punt average. Of his 54 punts, 17 have gone longer than 50 yards, 24 have been downed inside the 20, 20 have been fair caught, and just six have gone into the end zone for a touchback.

Junior H-back Dontre Wilson and sophomore running back Curtis Samuel are the kick returners, averaging 23.9 and 22.8 yards per return, respectively. Marshall is the punt returner, and a dangerous one at that, averaging 12.8 yards per return.

Prediction

Ohio State laid an egg against Michigan State last week and it’s hard to imagine them doing so two weeks in a row. That’s the bad news for Michigan. The good news is the Wolverines have played well at home all season and have plenty of motivation with a potential Big Ten Championship Game appearance on the line. The weather calls for a perfect late November Saturday with cloudy skies, 42 degrees, and no precipitation, so the scene will be set for a classic Ohio State-Michigan game. And I think that’s exactly what we will get.

Make no mistake about it; Ohio State is the better team. But the gap that has separated the two teams for the last decade will be as narrow as it has been since the last time the two faced off as top 10 teams in 2006. Michigan will need to break out its bag of tricks, but won’t need to fully rely on them like they have the past several meetings. Michigan has a legitimate chance to win. The biggest key will be giving Jake Rudock time to throw. It’s unlikely that Michigan will be able to move the ball consistently on the ground, since it hasn’t done so against anyone since early in the season. But Rudock has been as good as any quarterback in the Big Ten during conference play, and especially the last three weeks when the passing game has taken off. Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh will have trouble getting open against Conley and Apple, and Jake Butt will meet his match against Bell, so if Rudock is constantly under pressure, it will be a long day for Michigan’s offense.

Fortunately, I believe Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Tim Drevno will pull out all stops with Jabrill Peppers. Harbaugh hinted at using the dynamic sophomore more at running back earlier this week, and with a month off between this game and a bowl — barring a Michigan State loss — there’s no need to hold Peppers back. I could see a running back rotation of Peppers and De’Veon Smith with Peppers getting the majority of the snaps in a variety of looks to not only get the ball to him in space, but use him as a decoy to get others open. That’s really the best shot Michigan has at being able to move the ball with any consistency.

On defense, Michigan will have to stop Elliott. That’s really what it comes down to. The chance of him getting just 12 carries is about as likely as Rudock running the triple option. Elliott may get 12 carries in the first quarter until Michigan proves it can stop him. Remember the Indiana game when Jordan Howard ran and ran and ran again? That’s what Ohio State’s game plan will be. If Michigan’s front seven can rise to the occasion and slow him down, Ohio State’s offense is much more containable. Miller is a threat when he gets the ball in space and has the ability beat the defense deep, but the rest of the offense isn’t as dangerous as anyone else Michigan has faced and Jourdan Lewis can lock down Thomas.

If Elliott is gashing through Michigan’s defense for six to eight yards a pop, Michigan will lose. If Michigan’s defense is holding him in check like Michigan State’s did, and forces the Buckeyes to rely on Barrett’s arm and legs, I like Michigan’s chances. I think the latter will happen. Michigan will sell out to stop Elliott and may give up a big play or two to Miller or Barrett, but will gladly take that over getting the ball rammed down its throat play after play after play. Peppers puts together a performance for the ages in all three phases of the game, reminiscent of his idol, Charles Woodson’s, performance 18 years ago, and leads Michigan to a thrilling narrow win.

Michigan 27 – Ohio State 24

Predicting Michigan 2015: The offensive line

Thursday, August 13th, 2015


PredictingMichigan-OffensiveLine
Mason Cole(Melanie Maxwell, MLive)

Michigan’s passing game was severely flawed under head coach Brady Hoke, but perhaps the most concerning unit over the last few seasons was the offensive line.

Michigan, recently known for talented linemen like Jake Long and Taylor Lewan, bounced back from a disastrous 2013 season with a marginally better 2014. Michigan quarterbacks were sacked 27 times and the team rushed for an average of 4.6 yards per carry. The line wasn’t dominant, but with most of the core players returning, there’s certainly enough for new offensive line coach Tim Drevno to work with.

Here’s a look at Michigan’s offensive line unit heading into the 2015 season.

Probable starters

Kyle Kalis

Kyle Kalis looks to live up to his five-star hype this fall (247 Sports)

Michigan returns five offensive linemen who played a ton of snaps in 2014 and figure to make up most of the starting line to begin the upcoming season. At the head of the group, coming off a strong freshman season, is left tackle Mason Cole.

Cole became the first Michigan offensive lineman to start the season opener as a true freshman last August, doing so as Hoke’s left tackle. He started all twelve games and wasn’t overwhelmed in his first college season. The former Florida high school first-team all-state selection figures to be the rock of the offensive line and will hold down the left tackle spot, barring injury.

On the end opposite of Cole will likely be redshirt junior Erik Magnuson, who took a mini step back last season after starting seven games at guard in 2012. Magnuson is a solid run blocker, but the concern will be his ability to pass protect on the edge. At 6-foot-6 and nearly 300 pounds, Magnuson is strong enough to be a force for Michigan after an offseason working with Drevno and the new staff.

Kyle Kalis will likely nail down one of the two guard spots, probably on the right side, where he’s been featured most as a Wolverine. Kalis had a fantastic redshirt freshman season, but took a small step back in 2014. The former five-star recruit might be the most important lineman for the Wolverines as the coaching staff works toward his incredibly high ceiling.

Redshirt junior Ben Braden, who started all twelve games for Michigan, should take the other guard spot. Though he played in just two games through his first two years on campus, Braden won a starting job last fall and was solid throughout the season. He could definitely improve as a pass blocker heading into what figures to be his second full season, but Braden is strong in the creating for the run, which will be valuable in Jim Harbaugh’s offense.

Finally, Graham Glasgow will move to center and anchor this experienced offensive line, where he’s played on both sides throughout his career. Glasgow started the final 11 games of the season in 2014 after playing in all 13 games the previous year. Glasgow has been a staple on the line since midway through 2012, but a full-time switch to center will be one to keep an eye on. Glasgow played nine games at center in 2013, which was a disastrous season for Michigan’s pass protection. The 311-pound lineman is a strong inside blocker, but his adjustment to center will come with some bumps along the road.

Overall, Michigan’s starting offensive line should be strong and experienced, but its legacy will be written based on the ability to protect the quarterback. Denard Robinson and Devin Gardner weren’t the easiest quarterbacks to block for, but with a more conventional offensive scheme in place, Michigan fans will get a better look at what this line can really do.

Projected Starters
Left Tackle Left Guard Center Right Guard Right Tackle
Mason Cole Ben Braden Graham Glasgow Kyle Kalis Erik Magnuson
2014 Starts 12 12 11 7 5
Career Starts 12 12 24 16 13

Returning contributors

The offensive and defensive lines are the most important positions on the football field to build depth in. Elite offensive lines aren’t only identified by strong, durable starters, but also by a deep group of players who can step in a play meaningful snaps late in games.

Michigan doesn’t have many experienced players waiting in the wings behind the five starters mentioned above, but there’s a deep pool of talent to work with on the roster. One of the most interesting players to watch will be Patrick Kugler, a former five-star recruit who played only one game last season.

Kugler is only 6-foot-5, but he’s one of the more athletic linemen on the team and could fill in at any position on the line. That versatility will make Kugler a valuable backup option as any of the starters could need a blow during the game. Kugler could be an option to fill in at center if the Glasgow transition doesn’t go well.

Another versatile option behind Kugler is redshirt junior Blake Bars, who didn’t see the field in 2014. Bars was an all-state lineman as a senior at Montgomery Bell Academy in Tennessee and has the skillset to help out at an interior line position if needed.

Michigan could also get a boost from a trio of former four-star juniors who haven’t seen much of the field during their careers. David Dawson, who played in five games last year, is one of the few pass blocking specialist in the rotation and, as a result, has a good chance to make the regular rotation. Logan Tuley-Tillman and Chris Fox have only played in one game apiece, but could play a role, as they’re both huge and have raw talent.

The names on this list don’t jump off the page, but Harbaugh and Drevno certainly see a ton of potential in the backup offensive linemen. Barring a major injury on the starting line, these guys will spend another year adjusting to the college game by filling in and playing lesser roles when called upon.

New faces

The 2015 recruiting class brought three new faces to the offensive line. The most decorated of these recruits is Grant Newsome, a 6-foot-7 tackle out of New Jersey. Newsome is an explosive pass protector who could back up Magnuson at right tackle in a pinch. Though he’s one of the best linemen in the 2015 class, he’s a redshirt candidate behind Michigan’s experienced line.

The Wolverines also welcome three-stars Nolan Ulizio and Jon Runyan Jr. to the unit. Ulizio projects as a guard at the college level and Runyan could play anywhere on the interior line. Both guys are strong candidates to redshirt in 2015.

Meet the rest

Greg Froelich — junior, 6’2″, 270 from Maplewood, N.J. (Deerfield Academy)
Dan Samuelson — junior, 6’5″, 289 from Plymouth, Ind. (Plymouth)
Juwann Bushell-Beatty — sophomore, 6’6″, 319 from Paramus, N.J. (Paramus Catholic)
Ben Pliska — senior, 6’3″, 277 from Kirkland, Wash. (Lake Washington)

New in Blue: 2016 OT Devery Hamilton

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015


Devery Hamilton(247 Sports)

Devery Hamilton – OT | 6-6, 290 | Baltimore, Md. – Gilman
ESPN: 3-star, #33 OT Rivals: 4-star, #26 OT 247: 4-star, #23 OT Scout: 4-star, #13 OT
Other top offers: Ohio State, Michigan State, LSU, Stanford, Clemson, South Carolina, West Virginia, PSU

After missing out on four-star in-state defensive end Khalid Kareem Wednesday afternoon, Michigan received a pledge from four-star offensive tackle Devery Hamilton.

Rivals, Scout, and 247 Sports each gave Hamilton four stars, while ESPN currently has him as a three-star. Scout is the most optimistic, ranking Hamilton as the 13th-best offensive tackle in the 2016 class. 247 ranks him 23rd, Rivals 26th, and ESPN 33rd. Scout ranks him as the 144th-best overall recruit, while 247 has him 215th, as well as 233rd in their composite rankings.

The Baltimore, Md. native stands either 6’6″ or 6’7″ depending on which site you look at and his weight ranges from 265 to 291 pounds, though the latter is more accurate.

Scout’s Brian Dohn likes Hamilton’s size, length, and aggressiveness while noting that he has the ability to play on the defensive line as well:

“Hamilton can play offensive tackle or on the defensive line in college. He has the size and length to be a left tackle. He is aggressive and is able to disengage as a defensive lineman, and as an offensive lineman shoots his hands out is able to lock onto blocks and finish them. No matter the side of the ball, Hamilton plays hard and to the whistle. He chases plays down the field on defense, and gets to the second level on offense.”

Assuming Hamilton stays on offense, his commitment adds to an impressive offensive line haul so far for the 2016 class and shows where Jim Harbaugh’s emphasis lies in his first full recruiting class. He joins fellow four-star linemen Erik Swenson, Michael Onwenu, and Ben Bredeson, giving Michigan four of the top 26 linemen in the class according to Rivals.

As the 19th commitment in the class and the 13th this month, Hamilton’s commitment moves Michigan up to seventh in the 2016 class rankings according to both 247 and Rivals. Michigan is right on the heels of rival Michigan State in the 247 rankings, though the Spartans have one more commit at this point.

New in Blue: 2016 OL Michael Onwenu

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015


Michael Onwenu(247 Sports)

Michael Onwenu – OL | 6-3, 365 | Detroit, Mich. – Cass Tech
ESPN: 4-star, #17OG Rivals: 4-star 247: 4-star, #5 OG Scout: 4-star, #5OG
Other top offers: Alabama, Ohio State, Penn State, Miami, Illinois, NC State

Just two days before Jim Harbaugh and his staff kick off their Summer Swarm tour as guest coaches at high school camps in recruiting hot beds across the country, they received a pledge from a mammoth offensive lineman from their own backyard. Detroit Cass Tech offensive guard Michael Onwenu committed to the Wolverines on Tuesday night.

Onwenu is a consensus four-star recruit according to the four major recruiting services. Scout and 247 both rank him the fifth-best offensive guard in the 2016 class, while ESPN has him 17th and Rivals doesn’t have its 2016 rankings up yet. 247 ranks Onwenu as the 140th-best player overall in the class, while Scout lists him 169th, and Rivals 191st.

Scout listsOnwenu’s strengths as drive blocking skills, pass protection, power, and strength, while noting his main area to improve is quickness off the ball. They had this to say about him:

“Big, powerful mauler who looks like he’s just a road grader, but has shown at camps that he may actually be a better pass blocker at this point in his career. Naturally strong and wins when he gets his hands on defensive linemen. Would like to see him play at a little lower weight, which would improve overall quickness and mobility, but he bends well, plays with a great base and is technically sound. Could play guard or center in college.”

Michigan’s staff has been working hard to try to lock up one of the state’s best prospects and received unofficial visits from Onwenu in both February and March. He also visited rivals Michigan State and Ohio State in addition to Penn State and held an offer from Alabama. At 6’5″, 365 pounds entering his senior year of high school, Onwenu is a beast that should serve as a pillar of Harbaugh’s offensive line in the coming years.

As the seventh member of Michigan’s 2016 class, Onwenu joins fellow offensive lineman Erik Swenson, running backs Kingston Davis and Matt Falcon, linebackers Dele’ Harding and David Reese, and quarterback Brandon Peters. The addition elevates Michigan’s class nine spots up to 26th in the 247 team rankings. Every team ranked higher has more commitments at the moment. Only 12 teams have a higher star average than Michigan’s 89.12.

Michigan releases Spring Game rosters

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015


Michigan spring practice(Melanie Maxwell, MLive)

With the 2015 Spring Game just three days away, Michigan announced the rosters for the two teams on Wednesday afternoon. Defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin will coach the Maize team, while offensive coordinator Tim Drevno will head the Blue team.

Instead of a simple practice format that Brady Hoke, Rich Rodriguez, and late-era Lloyd Carr preferred, Jim Harbaugh is bringing a jolt of life to the event with a full game consisting of four 10-minute quarters. The team hosted a draft last Saturday to determine the two squads that will face off this Saturday.

Gates open at 10 a.m. with kickoff scheduled for noon. The game will be televised on Big Ten Network and Jim Brandstatter, Dan Dierdorf, and Doug Karsch will have the call on the Michigan/IMG Sports Network.

Maize team Blue team
No. Name Pos. No. Name Pos.
4 DeVeon Smith RB 2 Blake Countess DB
5 Jabrill Peppers DB 3 Bo Dever WR
6 Brian Cleary QB 5 Kenneth Sloss WR
7 Henry Poggi DE 7 Shane Morris QB
8 Channing Stribling DB 12 Allen Gant LB
9 Ramsey Romano QB 13 Terry Richardson DB
10 Da’Mario Jones WR 13 Matt Thompson QB
12 Alex Malzone QB 14 Drake Harris WR
15 Garrett Moores QB 16 Jack Wangler WR
17 Freddy Canteen WR 18 Antonio Whitfield RB
18 A.J. Pearson DB 19 Wilton Speight QB
19 Jared Wangler LB 20 Matt Mitchell DB
23 Dennis Norfleet WR 22 Jarrod Wilson S
27 Derrick Green RB 23 Jeffrey Houston DB
27 Travis Wooley DB 25 Dymonte Thomas DB
30 Reon Dawson CB 26 Jourdan Lewis DB
31 Nick Benda LB 28 Brandon Watson DB
34 Jeremy Clark S 29 Ross Taylor-Douglas CB
35 Joe Bolden LB 31 Kyle Seychel K/P
37 Bobby Henderson FB 32 Ty Isaac RB
40 Joe Beneducci FB 32 Shaun Austin DB
41 Ryan Tice K/P 33 Wyatt Shallman RB
42 Ben Gedeon LB 36 Joe Kerridge FB
44 Delano Hill DB 38 Francois Montbrun DB
44 Chase Winovich TE 38 Nick Volk FB
45 Brady Pallante FB 43 Chris Wormley DE
46 Deyanco Hardwick LB 43 Scott Sypniewski LS
49 Anthony Dalimonte DB 48 Desmond Morgan LB
49 Andrew Robinson LS 52 Royce Jenkins-Stone LB
50 Tom Strobel DE 55 David Dawson OL
51 Greg Froelich OL 55 Garrett Miller DL
52 Mason Cole OT 61 Graham Glasgow OL
57 Patrick Kugler OL 62 Alex Kaminski LB
62 Blake Bars OL 63 Ben Pliska OL
67 Kyle Kalis OL 66 Dan Liesman LB
73 Maurice Hurst Jr. DT 69 Willie Henry DT
75 Nikhil Brueggeman OL 71 Ben Braden OL
78 Erik Magnuson OL 72 Logan Tuley-Tillman OL
81 Brian Cole WR 74 Dan Samuelson OL
84 A.J. Williams TE 76 Juwan Bushell-Beatty OT
85 Maurice Ways WR 82 Amara Darboh WR
86 Jehu Chesson WR 83 Jaron Dukes WR
89 Brad Anlauf WR 88 Jake Butt TE
90 Bryan Mone DT 94 Ian Bunting TE
91 Kenny Allen K/P 95 Michael Jocz TE
93 Lawrence Marshall DE 96 Ryan Glasgow DL
97 Cody Zeisler DE