Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Michigan vs. Bowling Green Awards

Denard Robinson's bruised knee ended his exciting day.

Let's see more of this guy on offense . . . Fitzgerald Toussaint.  Toussaint only carried the ball twice on Saturday.  One carry was a 61-yard gallop.  The other was a 5-yard touchdown.  He was caught from behind on the 61-yarder, but that can probably be attributed to the knee brace that was holding his sprained left knee in place.  I'm not going to hold that against him.  And if the biggest knock on a guy is that he got run down after gaining 61 yards, then I'm not too worried.  Unfortunately, he reportedly injured his shoulder, which is why he only got two carries.  Hopefully he can get healthy and stay healthy so we can see him on the field more in the coming weeks.

Let's see more of this guy on defense . . . Kenny Demens.  He played pretty well on Saturday (5 tackles, 1 tackle for loss), and I think he's a more viable backup than Mark Moundros.  And if all other things are equal, it's better to get the younger guy reps.  Demens is only a redshirt sophomore, whereas Moundros is a fifth year senior and will be gone after 2010.  I know Moundros is a captain, but that shouldn't necessarily figure into playing time.  (I also wish Moundros was still playing fullback, but that's a separate discussion.)

MVP of the Bowling Green game . . . Denard Robinson.  Again.  He had 5 carries for 129 yards and 2 touchdowns, on top of going 4/4 passing for 60 yards.  He left with a bruise knee halfway through the first quarter, but he was on pace for approximately 800 total yards in the game.  He surely would have been pulled for a backup before he reached that level, but he could have easily hit 300 yards rushing by halftime.

You might notice that I didn't give out any "Let's see less of this guy . . . " Awards.  That's because all three units played fairly well on Saturday, and there weren't any glaring weaknesses.  Plus I've already made clear my feelings on a few guys who get too much playing time, so there's no need to revisit those quite yet.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Former Michigan Athlete of the Week: Leon Hall

Cornerback Leon Hall now plays for the Cincinnati Bengals

Leon Hall, currently of the Bengals, had 5 tackles, 1 quarterback hurry, 1 interception, and 2 pass breakups in Sunday's 20-7 victory over the Carolina Panthers.  The Panthers were quarterbacked by former Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen.

Honorable mention: Miami Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne completed 26/44 passes for 363 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception in a Sunday night loss against the Jets.

Dishonorable mention: Braylon Edwards got arrested for DWI last week in New York.  His punishment from the team?  He had to sit in the corner and think about what he'd done for the first 15 minutes of Sunday night's game.  Then he was allowed to go out and catch 2 passes for 87 yards and 1 touchdown to help the Jets beat the Dolphins.  Rex Ryan said that Edwards suffered enough by "being embarrassed" and would endure no further punishment from the team.  In other news, Rex Ryan is a joke.  Furthermore, I have yet to hear Michigan fans attack Edwards with the same amount of hatred as they have shown for Morgan Trent.  Trent would have been much better off to drive around drunk and endanger a bunch of people's lives than to badmouth Rich Rodriguez.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Michigan 65, Bowling Green 21

Quarterbacks Devin Gardner and Denard Robinson celebrate during Saturday's 65-21 victory over Bowling Green.

Yesterday was a pretty ridiculous good time.  It's hard to learn much about Michigan's team in a game like this, because everything worked.  The Wolverines had 721 total yards, which is only six few than Michigan's all-time record for yardage that was set last year against Delaware State.

A couple new things I noticed . . .

1. Michigan used a "heavy package" that included two tight ends in the backfield with the QB and the RB.  Michigan is getting to the point where they can install new packages and formations without confusing the kids too much.  We're starting to see how many different looks Rich Rodriguez and Calvin Magee can show, and at least for now, they all seem to be working.

2. Michigan used some defensive packages with four cornerbacks.  As far as I know, Michigan hadn't used a nickel or dime package in a couple years.  Last year's adjustment to multiple wide receivers was to put linebacker Steve Brown and one of the free safeties on the slot receivers.  This four-corner look might not be a legitimate option against a talented Big Ten team like Ohio State, but it could be used situationally.  Showing it against BGSU gives those kids a chance to practice it, and it also gives future opponents something for which to gameplan.

There were also several old themes revisited, many of which have been addressed here earlier.  I won't go into too much depth on these, but they were worth noting . . .

  • Devin Gardner redshirt vs. Tate Forcier.  Gardner had some good moments but still looked awkward at times.  I'm on the record as saying that Gardner's redshirt shouldn't have been burned, at least not so early in the season.  This game seemed to support my theory.  Gardner finished 7/10 for 85 yards and 1 touchdown, while rushing the ball 6 times for 25 yards (4.2 ypc) and 1 touchdown.  Meanwhile, Forcier set a Michigan record by going 12/12 for 110 yards and 1 touchdown, in addition to 4 rushes for 30 yards (7.5 ypc).
  • Vincent Smith is still not as good as the other running backs.  He did have a nice touchdown run where he actually ran through a tackle.  But by the end of the game, Fitzgerald Toussaint had 2 carries for 66 yards (33 ypc) and Michael Cox had 6 carries for 56 yards (9.3 ypc).  Still, Smith (12 carries, 62 yards, 5.2 ypc, 2 touchdowns) tied for the most carries with Michael Shaw (12 carries, 59 yards, 4.9 ypc, 1 touchdown).  Even freshman Stephen Hopkins had a better average (6 carries, 33 yards, 5.3 ypc), although Hopkins put the ball on the ground.
  • Cameron Gordon and Jordan Kovacs are slow.  Gordon couldn't catch up to a 265 lb. tight end a couple weeks ago, and this week he got torched by a MAC wide receiver on a screen pass that turned into a 71-yard TD.  Jordan Kovacs was also unable to gain any ground on Tyrone Pronty that play.  It's not good when both of the team's safeties are so lacking in foot speed, but that's where Michigan's defense is right now.  It would have also helped if Thomas Gordon and James Rogers gave better efforts . . .
  • Michigan needs to rush more than three to get to the quarterback.  The Wolverines had three sacks (two by Ryan Van Bergen, one by Jonas Mouton), and at least two - maybe all three - came on plays where Michigan sent more than three rushers.
  • Denard Robinson is good.  He had 5 carries for 129 yards and 2 touchdowns, and was 4/4 passing for 60 yards.  All that happened in about half a quarter of play.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Scouting report: Denard Robinson

Denard Robinson had 502 total yards vs. Notre Dame in 2010

Denard Robinson, Michigan's early season Heisman hopeful, has exploded onto the national scene in 2010.  Robinson showed flashes of his running skill as a freshman backup quarterback in 2009, running for 351 yards on 69 carries (5.1 ypc) and 5 touchdowns.  But his passing was less than stellar.  That combination of skills led many to believe that he would move to running back or receiver in the new season, but that obviously isn't the case.  Here I'll offer some thoughts on Robinson's play so far, the things he does well, and the areas he can improve.

STATS
2009 Passing: 14-for-31, 45.2%, 188 yards, 2 touchdowns, 4 interceptions
2010 Passing (through 3 games): 53-for-76, 69.7%, 671 yards, 4 touchdowns, 1 interception

2009 Rushing: 69 carries, 351 yards, 5.1 average (long of 43), 5 touchdowns
2010 Rushing (through 3 games): 74 carries, 559 yards, 7.6 average (long of 87), 4 touchdowns

STRENGTHS
Extremely fast . . . Great acceleration . . . Elite top-end speed . . . Keeps shoulders square to line of scrimmage when running ball . . . Moves well laterally without losing balance or forward momentum . . . Above average arm strength . . . Improving accuracy on both short and long throws . . . Flashes occasional soft touch on deep balls . . . Quick decision maker . . . Rarely holds the ball too long . . . Large hands allow for good ball security on pump fakes . . . Shows poise in pocket and will take contact to make a solid throw . . . Throws ball accurately and with velocity on the run

WEAKNESSES
Desire to get upfield sometimes limits vision of lateral running lanes . . . Tendency to hold ball in left (non-dominant) hand when running . . . Questionable ball security when rushing, especially with ball in left hand . . . Carries ball low and loose at times . . . Carrying ball in left hand sometimes prevents use of bubble screen on zone read option play . . . Doesn't show consistent touch on intermediate and deep throws . . . Lacks great height for seeing downfield . . . Scrambles quickly without going through entire progression, although athleticism makes up for happy feet . . . Throws many balls low and hard . . . Has 3/4 arm delivery, which makes release point low . . . Questionable mechanics often point toe to left of target instead of straight at target . . . At times will throw off back foot to get rid of ball

GAME PLAN AGAINST HIM
1. Force Robinson to give up the ball on the zone read option.  Ends and linebackers should stay home and make Robinson hand off the ball to the running back.
2. Strip ball when he scrambles.  His ball security is questionable, and he will put it on the ground in traffic.
3. Play zone coverage.  Don't turn your back to the quarterback.  He will underthrow the ball at times and open himself up to interceptions.
4. Force Robinson to run/scramble left.  He has more ball security issues and hasn't shown the ability to throw the ball when rolling left.  Most of his big runs have come to the offense's right.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Former Michigan Athlete of the Week: Lamarr Woodley

Lamarr Woodley

Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley had 4 tackles, 1 sack, 1 interception, 1 pass breakup, and 1 forced fumble in a 19-11 victory over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.

Honorable mention: New York Giants wide receiver Mario Manningham caught 4 passes for 75 yards, including a 54-yard touchdown catch.  However, the Giants lost to the Indianapolis Colts, 38-14.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Michigan vs. UMass Awards

Michael Shaw

Let's see more of this guy on offense . . . Taylor Lewan.  Lewan entered the game in the second half, filling in at left tackle for Mark Huyge.  Lewan played extremely well and had a few pancake blocks.  The thing I liked most about him coming out of high school was that he blocks through the echo of the whistle, and that was evident on Saturday.  I didn't see a single missed blocking assignment, unless you count a sweep to the offense's right and the OLB blitzed around the edge.  Lewan didn't touch him, but the blitz took the defender out of the play, anyway.  This is Michigan's left tackle of the future, and the future might not be too distant.

Let's see less of this guy on offense . . . Vincent Smith.  He's averaging 3.4 yards per carry, and that's including his 11 carries for 42 yards (3.8 ypc) against an overmatched UMass defense.  Despite the fact that Michael Shaw had runs of 34 and 50 yards (Smith's season long is 13), the diminutive Smith got only one less carry (11) than Shaw (12).  I honestly don't understand Rich Rodriguez's insistence on getting Smith so many snaps.  He's not a productive running back.

Let's see more of this guy on defense . . . an edge pass rusher.  Michigan is not adjusting well to the 3-3-5 defense.  Despite having two potentially solid replacements for Brandon Graham at the 5-tech defensive end spot (Ryan Van Bergen, Craig Roh), Rich Rodriguez and his staff have been employing a 3-3-5 stack most of the time.  The Wolverines have two sacks this season (one from Thomas Gordon, one from Mike Martin) against teams that have thrown the ball a great deal (111 pass attempts in 3 games, an average of 37 per game).  The competition level will only get better once Michigan reaches the Big Ten season, and I'm guessing Big Ten quarterbacks are licking their chops.  Big yards without getting pressured?  Yes, please!

Let's see less of this guy on defense . . . Jordan Kovacs.  Before you get bent out of shape, read the rest of the entry.  It's not that Kovacs is doing a bad job, and I don't want him benched permanently.  But if Marvin Robinson is healthy this week against Bowling Green (he missed the UMass game due to a shoulder injury), then I'd like to see what Robinson can do on defense.  I don't think Kovacs is the long-term answer at Bandit, although he's probably the best guy for the position right now.  Kovacs could be part of a decent defense, but if Michigan's going to be an elite team in the next couple years, I think he needs to be replaced.

MVP of the UMass game . . . Michael Shaw.  One reason that Shaw was able to run for 126 yards on 12 carries and score 3 touchdowns was because of the threat of Denard Robinson.  So while it's tempting to pick Robinson again, Shaw was the most explosive player on the field Saturday.  He had a 34-yard touchdown run and added a 50-yarder.  Even if you take those two big runs out of the equation, Shaw had 42 yards on 10 carries, which is still a solid average of 4.2 yards per carry.

Unsung Hero of the UMass game . . . Kelvin Grady.  He earned a lot of hype during fall practices, but he hadn't done much this year until Saturday.  Grady had a nice over-the-shoulder catch of 43 yards and a 15-yard run on an end around.  Grady's not going to get the ball a ton, but he has the ability to make big plays because of all the other homerun threats around him.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Michigan 42, Massachusetts 37



I wasn't able to watch the game live yesterday.  After getting home at 12:15 a.m. from Friday night's game, I was back at the football complex by 6:45 a.m.  Then we had a full day of practice, film, and meetings before I left at 3:30 p.m.  That's pretty standard for Saturdays, so unless Michigan plays a 3:30 game or a night game, I have to watch it later.  The first time I checked the score on my phone, though, it was 17-14 and UMass was leading.  Usually I like to watch games live, but I was probably better off this way.  It would have been extremely frustrating to watch that game live.

So these thoughts are coming from the perspective of a guy who already knew the final score:

Notre Dame is stupid.  I don't understand what Notre Dame was trying to do last week.  UMass certainly wasn't able to shut down Denard Robinson (104 yards rushing, 241 yards passing, 3 total touchdowns), but they did a better job than the Fighting Irish.  Notre Dame had much better athletes, and they should have sold out to keep Robinson's gains to a minimum.  It would have been difficult for Notre Dame to lock up with Michigan's four- and five-wide looks since Brian Kelly's squad had limited depth and speed at the safety positions, but it would have been worth a try.  It would have been better to have Zeke Motta covering Roy Roundtree than to let Robinson run for 244 yards.

Vincent Smith can't get it done.  I know he came in early and worked hard.  I know he's coming off ACL surgery.  I know he's a willing blocker.  I know he has good hands.  He just can't be a feature back in the Big Ten.  Good running backs have to be able to create for themselves in open space, and Smith just hasn't shown that ability.  When evaluating Smith's performance last year, I typically excluded his stats against Delaware State because . . . you know . . . that was just an unfair fight.  Sans DSU Smith had 31 carries for 110 yards and 0 touchdowns.  This year including FCS school Umass, Smith has 32 carries for 110 yards (3.4 yards per carry) and 1 touchdown.  Smith isn't the best back on the team, and honestly, he might even be the fourth-best (behind Michael Shaw, Michael Cox, and Fitzgerald Toussaint).  Michael Shaw averaged over 10 yards a carry, but he got only one more attempt than Smith in yesterday's game (12 to 11).

Michigan needs to stop scheduling FCS teams.  I said this prior to the 2007 game against Appalachian State, and I'm still saying it.  Playing FCS teams is a no-win situation.  If Michigan wins, they're supposed to win and they don't earn any respect.  If Michigan loses, it's a giant blow to the team's confidence and reputation.  I'm sure there are plenty of lower-tier FBS schools (from the MAC, the Sun Belt, the WAC, etc.) who would take a big payday and go home with a probable loss.  Michigan's loss against Toledo in 2008 was the Wolverines' first against a MAC school ever, but that loss doesn't resonate nearly as loudly as Michigan's failure against Appalachian State the year before.  Athletic director doesn't need to go dumpster diving with these FCS schools.

Denard Robinson showed a little bit of touch.  Robinson showed something against UMass that he hadn't shown in the first two games of the season, and that was the ability to put touch on a long ball.  The Wolverines rolled the pocket right against a Cover Zero look, and Robinson dropped in a rainbow to Darryl Stonum, who was streaking down the left sideline.  There hasn't been much to criticize about Robinson's play over the first few games, but that play answered some questions.  If teams in the future give Michigan a Cover Zero look or a Man Free defense, hopefully Robinson can take advantage.

The lack of defensive depth is apparent.  Massachusetts held the ball for 37:38 compared to 22:22 for Michigan.  But Michigan didn't make a single substitution in the defensive backfield - TJ Floyd, James Rogers, Jordan Kovacs, and Cameron Gordon were the only DBs to play.  Even if all those guys are in great shape, it's asking a lot to have them out there for almost two-thirds of the game.  Only 37 scholarships are currently being used by defensive players, and 13 of those are true freshmen.

Michigan's offensive team speed is ridiculous.  I'd be willing to bet that this is the fastest team Michigan has ever put on the field.  Even Michigan's "slow" receiver Roy Roundtree was able to run away from the UMass defense for a touchdown (which would be called back).  Denard Robinson, Darryl Stonum, Michael Shaw, and Martavious Odoms are the burners, but all these guys can run.  There are only a couple skill position guys whose speed is mediocre, but those guys haven't been on the field much.

A win is a win . . . I guess.  I'm mildly upset about the score and yardage totals.  While I'm certain that the actual talent differential between Michigan and UMass is more than five points, the performance on the field leaves some questions.  In the years to come, not many people will remember that Michigan almost lost to UMass.  This is temporarily upsetting, but that will wear off.  I can't speak for everyone, but I didn't learn anything new from this game - Michigan's offense is explosive, the defense is terrible, and the special teams are mediocre at best.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Davion Rogers, ex-Wolverine

Davion Rogers
Freshman linebacker Davion Rogers has left the football program.  He was a 3-star recruit from Warren, OH.  The reason for his departure hasn't been officially released, but he had some NCAA Clearinghouse issues when trying to qualify for Michigan and rumor is that he never fully qualified.  Rogers was on campus and practicing with the team, but he had not played yet this season.

You can read my commitment post here, but Rogers was not expected to contribute to the team this season.  He's 6'6" and about 200 lbs., so he had a lot of physical development left before he could contribute at the college level.  However, he is an excellent athlete who would have been an asset to the team in the coming years.

This is the fifth Wolverine to depart since fall practices began.  He's also the fifth member of the Class of 2010 who has failed to reach October of freshman year.  My frustration with Rich Rodriguez's inability to recruit and retain players has been well documented on this blog, and this is yet another potential nail in the coffin for Michigan's defense in the coming two or three years.  Freshmen littered the two-deep at Michigan already, and that trend will continue in the coming years due to all these transfers/non-qualifiers.  Rodriguez has offered veiled complaints about the lack of defensive depth left by the Lloyd Carr regime, but no less than 11 defensive recruits signed during Rodriguez's tenure (Class of 2008 through Class of 2010) have already departed.  That means 31.4% (11/35) of defensive recruits brought in during that time have already left.

My unofficial calculations suggest that Michigan's 2011 recruiting class will have room for approximately 22 players (10 unused scholarships, 12 departing seniors).  For a reference point, a few months ago the class size was supposed to be 14 or 15.  You might think that Michigan's defense has been bad over the past couple seasons, but help won't be on the way anytime soon if Michigan keeps hemorrhaging recruits.

Eligibility Count for 2010: 77

This is a list of all scholarship players for the 2010 season. Rodriguez does not publicly announce what walk-ons are awarded scholarships, so these are my best guesses.

UPDATES:

Added Kelvin Grady and John McColgan to the scholarship list.

Linebacker/defensive end Davion Rogers has left the team.

Defensive end Anthony Lalota has been granted his release to transfer.

Safety Vladimir Emilien has been granted his release to transfer.

Running back Austin White has been granted his release to transfer.

Cornerback Justin Turner has been granted his release to transfer.

Quarterback Conelius Jones did not qualify and will attend prep school.

Linebacker Antonio Kinard did not qualify and will attend prep school.

Cornerback Demar Dorsey did not get admitted and will attend Louisville.

Kicker Bryan Wright will not return for a fifth year.

Linebacker Brandon Smith has decided to transfer to Temple.

Donovan Warren has decided to forego his senior season to enter the 2010 NFL Draft.

REDSHIRT SENIORS = 8 (Final season 2010)
FB Mark Moundros
OT Perry Dorrestein
OG John Ferrara
OG Steve Schilling
DT Greg Banks
DE Adam Patterson
LB Obi Ezeh
LB Jonas Mouton

RB Benjamin Sutton
TE Mike Therman
OT Bryant Nowicki
S Nick Koenigsknecht
P Nick Berry

SENIORS = 4 (Final season 2010)
TE Martell Webb
DT Renaldo Sagesse
CB James Rogers
FS Troy Woolfolk


REDSHIRT JUNIORS = 9 (Final season 2011)
WR Junior Hemingway
WR Kelvin Grady
FB John McColgan
OT Mark Huyge
OC David Molk
DT Ryan Van Bergen
OLB Steve Watson
OLB Brandon Herron
FS Michael Williams

TE Jon Bills
OG Zac Ciullo
LS Tom Pomarico
DE Will Heininger
DT Dominique Ware
LB Rushdi Furrha
LB Kevin Leach
CB Tony Anderson
S Zach Johnson
S Doug Rogan
S Karl Tech
S Jared Van Slyke
S Jordan Reilly
K Scott Schrimscher

JUNIORS = 6 (Final season 2011)
RB Michael Shaw
SR Martavious Odoms
WR Darryl Stonum
TE Kevin Koger
DT Mike Martin
LB J.B. Fitzgerald


REDSHIRT SOPHOMORES = 10 (Final season 2012)
RB Mike Cox
SR Roy Roundtree
SR Terrence Robinson
TE Brandon Moore
OG Ricky Barnum
OC Rocko Khoury
OG Elliott Mealer
OT Patrick Omameh
LB Kenny Demens
CB J.T. Floyd
S Jordan Kovacs

QB Jack Kennedy
WR Patrick Collins
WR Elias Kos
OC George Morales
LB Paul Gyarmati
S Matt Cavanaugh
S Floyd Simmons

SOPHOMORES = 9 (Final season 2012)
QB Tate Forcier
QB Denard Robinson
RB Teric Jones

RB Vincent Smith
WR Je'Ron Stokes
DT William Campbell
OLB Craig Roh
S Brandin Hawthorne

REDSHIRT FRESHMEN = 10 (Final season 2013)
RB Fitzgerald Toussaint
SR Jeremy Gallon
OT Taylor Lewan
OT Michael Schofield
OG Quinton Washington
LB Isaiah Bell
LB Mike Jones
S Cameron Gordon
S Thomas Gordon
K Brendan Gibbons

QB Nader Furrha
RB O'Neil Swanson
FB Jonny Childers
SR Jordan Owens
WR Joe Reynolds
OL Adam Barker
OL Christian Brandt
OL Jareth Glanda
OL Erik Gunderson
OL Tom Lindley
DE Nathan Brink
CB Al Backey
LS Kurt Graman
K Seth Broekhuizen
K Eddie Murray
K Kris Pauloski

FRESHMEN = 23 (Final season 2013)
QB Devin Gardner
RB Stephen Hopkins
WR Jeremy Jackson
WR Ricardo Miller
WR Jerald Robinson
SR Drew Dileo
SR DJ Williamson
OL Christian Pace
DE Jibreel Black
DE Jordan Paskorz
DE Jake Ryan
DE Ken Wilkins
DT Richard Ash
DT Terry Talbott
LB Josh Furman
CB Courtney Avery
CB Cullen Christian
CB Terrence Talbott
S Carvin Johnson
S Marvin Robinson
S Ray Vinopal
P Will Hagerup

Friday, September 17, 2010

Programming note

There will be no UMass preview/predictions this week.  I'm in the middle of what will turn out to be about an 85-hour work week, so time is thin.

I'm guessing Michigan will win, though.

Go Blue!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Poll Results: Who should back up Cam Gordon at FS?

Marvin Robinson (center)
After Vladimir Emilien was granted his release to transfer last week, I asked the question, Who should back up Cameron Gordon at free safety?

Here were the results:

61% chose freshman Marvin Robinson
34% chose freshman Ray Vinopal
4% chose sophomore Brandin Hawthorne
0% chose Other

My choice would be Robinson.  I think Robinson is a better overall athlete than Vinopal.  And according to Troy Woolfolk, Robinson was a ballhawk during voluntary 7-on-7s during the summer.  However, the coaches have Vinopal at #2 on the depth chart.

Thanks for voting!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ex-Wolverine Encyclopedia update

Anthony Lalota
Defensive end Anthony Lalota, who transferred from Michigan earlier this week, is now headed to Rutgers to play football.  Since he has not played for Michigan this season, he will only have to sit out the 2010 season and will be eligible for the Scarlet Knights in 2011.  Hopefully his career at Rutgers turns out better than that of Marcus Witherspoon, a Class of 2008 prospect who failed to qualify at Michigan and then bombed out of the Rutgers program.

Elsewhere, rumor has it that 2010 Michigan commit Conelius Jones has dropped out of prep school.  He was supposed to attend prep school in an effort to enroll at Michigan in January 2010, but that ship seems to have sailed.  Hopefully he can get things straightened out and play football somewhere, but it probably won't be at Michigan.

Other updates are in the Ex-Wolverine Encyclopedia at the top of the page, but keep in mind that the page is a work in progress . . . especially because it's an amorphous, ever expanding fount of information.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Blog wars!


I have received some e-mails and comments from other bloggers about me posting on their sites.  Apparently someone with a little too much time on his hands has been going around to different sites, making fake posts using my handle, and trying to get people angry at me.

That's the internet for you, I guess.

Anyway, here are the websites that I read and where I post most frequently: MGoBlog (read and post), The Wolverine (read), Genuinely Sarcastic (read and post only occasionally), and Midnight Maize (read and post only occasionally).

If you know anything about my posting habits, then you probably know that I stick to my guns.  I'm not afraid to tell you exactly what my opinion is, whether you like it or not.  So if your blog isn't listed above, then you're dealing with a handlejacker.  It's like MGoBlog's Haloscan days, except this handlejacker is way more pathetic.

Thanks for reading.  Go Blue!

Former Michigan Athlete of the Week: Tom Brady

In the New England Patriots' season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals (a team that includes Dhani Jones, Leon Hall, and Morgan Trent), Tom Brady finished 25/35 for 258 yards and 3 touchdowns.  The Patriots won the game by a score of 38-24.

Honorable mention: Former Wolverine Steven Threet earns honorable mention honors for the second week in a row.  The starting quarterback for Arizona State, he led the Sun Devils to a 41-20 victory over Northern Arizona.  Threet ended the day 33/49 passing with 369 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Anthony Lalota, ex-Wolverine

Buh-bye.

Defensive end Anthony Lalota has been released from his scholarship to the University of Michigan. The 6'4", 270 lb. lineman committed to Michigan from The Hun School in Princeton, New Jersey. Buried on the depth chart behind redshirt junior Ryan Van Bergen, true freshman Jibreel Black, and converted tight end Steve Watson, the redshirt freshman apparently gave up on seeing the field and asked for his release.

Lalota came to Michigan as part of the Class of 2009. He was a late addition to the football program at The Hun School, having only started to play as a junior. He played offensive tackle and defensive end in high school, and Scout had him ranked as a 4-star offensive tackle prospect at one point. Despite being listed by recruiting sites as big as 6'6" and 260 lbs., he measured in at 6'4", 235 lbs. prior to his true freshman season. He added 35 lbs. in between his freshman season and redshirt freshman season, but the writing appeared to be on the wall by the time the 2010 season rolled around. When you're fourth on the depth chart at a position lacking depth, it would be frustrating.

For what it's worth, I've never been a fan of Lalota's game. My analysis of him after his participation in the Army All-American Game in January 2009 went like this:

I am not very impressed by Lalota's skills. He's a recent convert to football, having not played until his junior year of high school. So significant improvement may still be forthcoming. However, he is very raw as a defensive end and usually tries to beat offensive tackles by bull rushing with 100% effort. I love the effort and that hard work could turn him into a very good player, but at 6'6" and 260 lbs., he reminds me of former Michigan player Pat Massey, which is generally not considered to be a good thing by Michigan fans. As far as I saw, he didn't make any plays in the game, and I wouldn't expect him to play significantly at Michigan for at least a couple years.

Lalota was very mechanical coming out of high school. He played defensive end like an offensive tackle. His lateral mobility was virtually nil, and he lacked great football instincts. I actually would have liked him more for a 3-3-5 defense than I did for the 4-front that Michigan employed at the time he was recruited. Regardless, he seemed overrated to me as a high 4-star prospect. Like many football recruits, the services looked at his size (which was obviously exaggerated) and his decent straight-line speed and said, "Hey, this guy is going to be good." They just didn't account for the fact that football is a sport played by athletes, not just big dudes who happen to not be crippled.

As for the impact of Lalota's transfer on the team itself, it once again hurts Michigan's APR (just like Vladimir Emilien . . . and Austin White . . . and Justin Turner . . . and numerous others). The number of guys transferring out of the University of Michigan borders on ridiculous. No, wait - it is ridiculous. Michigan was nearing the danger line prior to the season. Since then, four additional guys have left the team. I once again have to point out that I'm not impressed with Rich Rodriguez's retention rate. Many of these guys don't seem to be giving the football program much of a shot at Michigan before bailing out. I understand being frustrated about playing time, but he's a redshirt freshman. What liar told him he would be able to start for a Big Ten team by his second year in college? Whoever that liar is, I hope Anthony Lalota doesn't trust him anymore.

Meanwhile, Michigan's Class of 2011 just went from 18 to a size of 19. Guys like Anthony Zettel, Deion Barnes, James Adeyanju, and Ray Drew could take Lalota's spot. Michigan already needed one defensive end in the class. Since both Van Bergen and Watson are redshirt juniors (and Watson might be a longshot to return for a fifth year), I expect Michigan to take at least one more defensive end in the class, maybe two.

Michigan vs. Notre Dame Awards

"Prison Abs" Gordon

Let's see more of this guy on offense . . . Michael Cox. I know I sound like a broken record, and it doesn't bode well for me (or him) that Cox hasn't seen the field in the first two games. However, Michigan's runnings backs just aren't getting it done. So far Michigan's three running backs (Vincent Smith, Michael Shaw, Stephen Hopkins) have combined for 42 carries, 129 yards, and 2 touchdowns (a 3.07 yard average). I really don't care who totes the rock for Michigan, as long as he runs the ball at a better clip than 3.07 yards per try.

Let's see less of this guy on offense . . . Denard Robinson. Hold on just a second before you go ballistic, though. I don't want him to be relegated to the bench (unless the game is out of hand). I'd just like to see him carrying the ball less. He's averaging 8.0 yards per carry, but he's averaging 28.5 attempts per game. That would be 370.5 carries in a 13-game season, and that's way too much. Hopefully Robinson can get a bit of rest in the next two weeks against UMass and Bowling Green. Robinson might be the best player in the country right now, and he needs to stay healthy.

Let's see more of this guy on defense . . . Thomas Gordon. True freshman Carvin Johnson won the starting Spur job in fall camp, but Gordon played pretty well against Notre Dame in his first career start, as Johnson missed the game due to a knee injury. Gordon was the fouth-leading tackler against the Fighting Irish, tallying 5 stops, 2 tackles for loss, and Michigan's lone quarterback sack. I think he's stronger at the point of attack than Johnson, and while the freshman is probably more athletic, my bigger concern at the position is the ability to stand up to blocks and tackle. Gordon seems to do those things better than Johnson, from what I've seen.

Let's see less of this guy on defense . . . Craig Roh at defensive end. I think this was a game plan adjustment for Michigan's coaches, and the results were questionable. In order to counter Notre Dame's passing game, Michigan put elite pass rusher Roh on the field instead of the solid but unspectacular Greg Banks. However, Roh was overpowered repeatedly, and despite getting a decent rush at times, he was unable to take down the quarterback. If Michigan goes with a 4-front, then I'll be happy to see Roh lined up at defensive end. But in a 3-3-5 defense, he lacked the strength to stand up to the two blockers that usually stood in his way.

MVP of the Notre Dame game . . . Denard Robinson, obviously. He had 258 rushing yards, 244 rushing yards, and 3 touchdowns (2 rushing, 1 passing). He also led the game-winning drive, on which he was 5/6 passing and ran for 17 yards, including scoring the final TD.

Unsung Hero of the Notre Dame game . . . Zac Johnson. Rasheed Furrha and Johnson share the #36 jersey according to the official roster, and the official site lists Furrha as the player who participated in Saturday's game. However, I distinctly remember seeing Z. JOHNSON on the back of #36's jersey, so I'm assuming that was a typo on the website. Regardless, Johnson had 2 special teams tackles and continued the solid special teams coverage he's shown for the past couple years. He also made a smart play on the punt return unit, grabbing a ball on the bounce that appeared to have hit a Michigan player (although I don't think it did). Johnson saw the ball bounce, plucked it out of the air, and fell to the ground, eliminating any chance for a Notre Dame player to recover.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Michigan 28, Notre Dame 24

Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson ran for a billion yards on Saturday.

Yesterday was such a roller coaster of emotions throughout the game.

- Low: Michigan's defense sucks as Notre Dame QB Dayne Crist marches down the field for an opening-drive TD.
- High: This Denard kid is pretty good.
- Higher: Crist is hurt. Maybe Michigan has a chance!
- Highest: Denard Robinson runs 87 yards for a touchdown.
- Low: Why are all three guys with a deep third gathered in the middle of the field at the end of the half?
- High: Michigan is up by two touchdowns at halftime.
- Low: Dayne Crist is back.
- Lower: Crist throws a 53-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Jones.
- Lowestest: Crist throws a 95-yard touchdown pass to TE Kyle Rudolph over the head of FS Cam Gordon.
- High: This Denard kid is really good.
- Low: Cullen Christian's hero must be Shawn Crable.
- Coasting into the station: Dayne Crist throws an airball with :00 on the clock.

It was such a relief when the game was over. I was expecting a loss, but the thing about predicting a loss is that I'm either justified in my prediction . . . or I'm ecstatic that Michigan won. And I'd much rather see the Wolverines win than be right.

There were so many things that Michigan fans learned yesterday about their team, and I'll try to touch on a few of them here:

Denard Robinson is really, really good. Notre Dame's defense made a distinct attempt to stop him. He still ran for 258 yards (a Big Ten record for a QB) on 28 attempts (9.2 yards per carry), including an 87-yard touchdown and the 2-yard game-winner. The Fighting Irish have an experienced defense and run a 3-4 scheme that isn't seen much in college, but Robinson was also able to throw for 244 yards on 24/44 passing (55%) (EDIT: Reader MH20 pointed out that Denard was 24/40 for a 60% completion rate) against three seniors and a sophomore in the defensive backfield.

Michigan's running backs are not. Notre Dame keyed on Robinson and geared themselves to stop him in the run game. Still, running backs Vincent Smith (7 carries, 17 yards, 2.4 average) and Michael Shaw (5 carries, 12 yards, 2.4 average) were ineffective. These kids will take what's given to them, but they don't create yards for themselves. This seems to be an ongoing position battle, and hopefully running back recruits like Demetrius Hart recognize that the presence of a quarterback like Robinson should give them plenty of opportunities to get in space. After two weeks, Robinson is averaging 28.5 carries per game. That's too much for a sturdy running back, let alone a 194 lb. quarterback.

Michigan's receivers have stepped up. The only true drop I remember came from tight end Kevin Koger on a rollout pass early in the game. Otherwise, players like Darryl Stonum (4 for 33), Roy Roundtree (8 for 82 and 1 touchdown), and Martavious Odoms (7 for 91) made some highly contested catches throughout the game. If Robinson throws the ball within reasonable reach of Michigan's wideouts, they're going to catch it.

Cameron Gordon has a target on his back. Most or all of Notre Dame's big plays were the result of Cameron Gordon's inexperience and/or lack of natural talent. Luckily for Michigan, this Notre Dame team represented perhaps the most dangerous passing team on the Wolverines' 2010 schedule. But other teams will be forced to take note of Gordon's mistakes. There were numerous times where receivers ran past him or he lost track of them (the TD pass to Jones, the long pass to Riddick at the end of the first half, the 95-yard TD to Rudolph). I don't think it's a coincidence that Brian Kelly gameplanned to attack the redshirt freshman wide receiver-turned-safety. This is the reason that I lobbied for Troy Woolfolk to remain at deep safety back in the spring. Obviously, a broken ankle would have sidelined Woolfolk no matter what position he was playing, but you can't convince me that a Big Ten sprinter of Woolfolk's caliber would have been outrun by a 265 lb. tight end to the end zone. I would not be entirely surprised to see a player with more speed (perhaps Carvin Johnson or Marvin Robinson) take over the FS position in the coming years. I don't want to see him benched, but I think Gordon would fit better at Bandit or Spur.

Jonas Mouton is blossoming in this defense. He led the team with 13 tackles and also picked off a flea-flicker pass. He did miss some tackles on the elusive and speedy Armando Allen, but I can't say that I blame him - Allen could be a special college running back if used correctly. Overall, Mouton showed the play recognition and discipline to be a force for the remainder of the season.

The pass rush needs to improve. Through two games, Michigan's only sack has come from backup Spur Thomas Gordon, who started in place of the injured Carvin Johnson. Michigan frequently used a three-man rush in an attempt to get to the quarterback, and it repeatedly failed. That three-man rush often consisted of nose tackle Mike Martin, defensive end Ryan Van Bergen, and linebacker Craig Roh playing in a three-point stance. At 251 lbs. Craig Roh can't stand up to being double-teamed in the pass rush. Against a single offensive lineman, I'll take Roh to win that matchup a majority of the time. If a second lineman comes to help, Roh will get planted on his butt, which happened several times on Saturday. Ultimately, you play to win the game (thanks, Herm Edwards!), and Michigan did that. But the Wolverines also gave up 381 yards passing.

Tate Forcier is being a good teammate. There were questions last week about his behavior on the sideline after freshman Devin Gardner was inserted instead of Forcier. Forcier was shown giving Coach Rodriguez a hug prior to kickoff, he warmed up congenially when Gardner was inserted for one play, and he was shown cheering on his team over and over again. At least publicly, Forcier looks as though he learned a bit of a lesson from the media blowback last weekend.

You might hate me for saying this, but Notre Dame would have won the game if not for Dayne Crist's injury. Crist is only a sophomore, but he performed much better than his two replacements (Tommy Rees, Nate Montana) who had never played an FBS snap before. When Crist was available, Notre Dame outscored Michigan 24-7. Rees and Montana went 8/19 for 104 yards and 2 interceptions in Crist's stead. Crist was 13/25 for 277 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception, in addition to a rushing touchdown. Crist missed about 26 minutes of the game. If the Irish kept up that same rate of scoring (24 points per 34 minutes of Crist's availability), they would have scored about 42 points in the game. Despite Denard Robinson's heroics and record-setting performance, all may have been for naught if Crist remained healthy. Injuries are a part of the game, but I think Michigan fans should recognize that the Wolverines got a bit lucky yesterday.

Denard Robinson is the clear-cut Heisman leader right now. Robinson has 885 total yards (455 rushing, 430 passing) and 5 touchdowns through two games. He also hasn't turned over the ball once, and his team is 2-0. In addition, while several other Heisman candidates have played patsies at least once in the first two games, both of Michigan's opponents were bowl-eligible last season. Now that Robinson has performed well against solid teams - and rushed the ball 57 times - I'm guessing he'll get quite a bit of rest against UMass next Saturday. I doubt he'll remain the leader throughout the season because Michigan's defense will lose a few games this year, but he's been the best individual performer so far.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Preview: Michigan at Notre Dame

Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd catched a touchdown over Donovan Warren

Rush Offense vs. Notre Dame Rush Defense
Denard Robinson showed last week that he can be an elite runner from the quarterback position. He ran for 197 yards on 29 carries against UConn. Meanwhile, Michigan's actual running backs combined to average 3.4 yards per carry against the Huskies. The Fighting Irish should be geared to stop Robinson from running the ball. That means the Notre Dame contain men should stay home and force Robinson to hand off the ball in the zone read option. If I'm the defensive coordinator, I'm going to try to make Michigan's unproven running backs beat me. This is a base 3-4 defense, and the blocking schemes will be different than against UConn. Michigan's athletic offensive line should be able to get up on the linebackers, though, and provide some running lanes for Robinson and the backs. Notre Dame defensive end Ethan Johnson will be tough to handle for the offensive tackles, but this defense sets up well for David Molk, Steve Schilling, and Patrick Omameh to have a field day.
Advantage: Michigan

Pass Offense vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense
Denard Robinson was 19/22 for 186 yards and 1 touchdown. That level of success will be difficult for Robinson to emulate this week against a veteran secondary that should be able to disguise coverages. Michigan's passing game was pretty vanilla against UConn, and last year's leading receiver, Roy Roundtree, might miss the game due to injury. Combine that with Notre Dame's veteran outside linebackers who should be able to rush the passer, and I expect many pass plays to turn into running plays for Robinson. Obviously Michigan will continue its dependence on the short passing game with slants, hitches, outs, flares, and bubble screens, but this week we should see Robinson coming back to Earth from his 86% completion rate last game. Despite safety Jamoris Slaughter likely missing the game, the other three starters in the defensive backfield are all seniors.
Advantage: Notre Dame

Rush Defense vs. Notre Dame Rush Offense
Armando Allen and Cierre Wood combined for 151 yards on 25 carries (6.0 yard average) against Purdue. For all the talk about Brian Kelly's passing game, Notre Dame has a ton of talent at running back and Kelly won't be shy about using that talent. Meanwhile, Michigan's interior rush defense needs to improve. Michigan allowed 138 rushing yards against UConn, including running back Jordan Todman's 105 yards on 20 carries (5.3 yard average). It would be unwise for the Irish not to attack the middle of the defense with the run. Nose tackle Mike Martin and linebackers Craig Roh and Jonas Mouton need to play at the top of their games in order for Michigan to have success against the ground game. But even with all those guys - and Brandon Graham - playing in 2009, Allen rushed for 139 yards on a 6.6-yard average against Michigan.
Advantage: Notre Dame

Pass Defense vs Notre Dame Pass Offense
This could be the bane of Michigan's existence. Sophomore quarterback Dayne Crist completed 76% of his passes last week, and he has a solid group of receivers to catch those passes. Wide receiver Michael Floyd and tight end Kyle Rudolph are both excellent athletes, and Michigan might not have the horses to run - and jump - with them. Michael Floyd had an excellent game against the Wolverines in 2009, and that was prior to the departures of, oh, about 13 cornerbacks. Furthermore, Michigan produced zero sacks last week against UConn. The one saving grace may be that Saturday's weather in South Bend, IN, is supposed to be wet. For Michigan's sake, hopefully that leaves Michael Floyd, Rudolph, and Co. dropping as many passes as UConn quarterback Zach Frazer's targets last week.
Advantage: Notre Dame

Final Predictions

- Armando Allen rushes for 125+ yards.

- Denard Robinson comes back to Earth and completes less than 60% of his passes.

- Michigan's pass rush sacks Crist at least 3 times.

- For the second week in a row, Michigan allows a 40+ yard reception.

- Notre Dame 27, Michigan 24

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Vladimir Emilien, ex-Wolverine


Vlad Emilien, a sophomore free safety from Lauderhill, FL, has decided to transfer. He asked for and was granted a release from the University of Michigan on Tuesday.

Emilien was a highly sought after recruit in the Class of 2009, at least until he tore his ACL prior to his senior year of high school. Several schools backed off their pursuit of him due to the injury, but Michigan honored the scholarship offer. He enrolled in January 2009 and participated in spring drills, but being only 8 months removed from surgery, he wasn't up to full speed. Emilien played sparingly as a true freshman, despite a complete lack of depth at the safety positions. Redshirt sophomore Mike Williams and redshirt freshman walk-on Jordan Kovacs both saw frequent playing time instead of Emilien, who played only on special teams last season.

This past spring Emilien suffered a less serious knee injury, but battled through it to play in Michigan's spring game. However, he was beaten by slow-ish receiver Roy Roundtree for a 97-yard touchdown pass; in the chase to run down Roundtree, the receiver actually pulled away from Emilien, who was passed by then cornerback Teric Jones. If Emilien had speed to begin with, it had not returned by April 2010.

This fall Emilien was passed on the depth chart by redshirt freshman, former receiver Cameron Gordon. Walk-on Jared Van Slyke moved up to the #2 spot at free safety, while Emilien filled out the three-deep. Prior to the opener against UConn, Van Slyke suffered a season-ending injury in practice (some sources have called it a broken collarbone, some said a knee injury). Emilien presumably moved up to #2 on the depth chart at free safety, but apparently that wasn't good enough for him. He played a bit during the 30-10 victory over the Huskies in week 1, but three days later, he had asked for a transfer.

This is the second departure of a Class of 2009 defensive back within a month (Justin Turner being the other). Michigan signed 22 players in that class, and the only three departures have come from the already thin defensive back crew (Turner, Emilien, and the non-qualifier Adrian Witty). Furthermore, this comes on the heels of a season-ending injury to cornerback Troy Woolfolk, a temporary injury to safety/linebacker Carvin Johnson, the early departure of cornerback Donovan Warren, the downward spiral of criminal mastermind Boubacar Cissoko, and the odyssey of non-qualifier Demar Dorsey.

MGoBlog coined the term Angry Michigan Safety Hating God a few years ago, referring to the poor play and retention of safeties. That term can now be applied to the entire defensive backfield. Since fall practices began, Michigan has lost its #1 and #3 cornerback (Woolfolk, Turner), its #1 Spur (Johnson), and its #2 and #3 free safeties (Van Slyke, Emilien). True freshman Ray Vinopal has reportedly replaced Van Slyke/Emilien at #2 on the depth chart at free safety, which is terrifying. Other options at the position include sophomore Brandin Hawthorne (a guy who has bounced back and forth from linebacker to safety, but who has no business seeing the field at free safety) and freshman Marvin Robinson, who is currently Jordan Kovacs' backup at Bandit.

On a grander scale, this bodes unwell for Michigan's program. The Wolverines were already hovering near the APR failure line prior to this season, and the two transfers since then have only worsened matters. Emilien seems to have left Michigan on good terms, so it doesn't affect Michigan or Coach Rich Rodriguez from a public relations standpoint. However, Rodriguez needs to start getting solid contributions from his recruits, especially in the defensive backfield. Whatever needs to be done, he needs to convince these kids that it's not the worst thing in the world to wait around for three or four years to get an opportunity to play. Current starting cornerback James Rogers played two positions in three years, and was going to ride out his senior season as a backup cornerback; now due to the unfortunate turn of events for starter Woolfolk, Rogers has a job that's his to lose.

Meanwhile, the 2011 recruiting class just went from a projected size of 17 up to 18. The Wolverines can now afford to fit one more defensive back in the class, perhaps Georgia safety Avery Walls.

As for Emilien's future, Tom Van Haaren reports that he's considering UCLA, Duke, Virginia, Boston College, and Oregon. He has now been added to the Ex-Wolverine Encyclopedia.

RUMOR: Vlad Emilien has left the team


There has been an unconfirmed rumor floating about the internet this morning that Vladimir Emilien has left the team. Emilien is a sophomore safety from Plantation, FL, who is currently behind Cam Gordon on the depth chart.

I repeat: this is a rumor, but it often seems that rumors like these come true (although the Tate Forcier transfer rumors have yet to come to fruition).

2011 Offer Board Update

New Jersey tight end Jack Tabb


The 2011 Recruiting Board has been updated:

Aaron Lynch (DE) committed to Notre Dame.

Nick Martin (OT) committed to Kentucky.

Malcolm Crockett (SB) committed to Cincinnati.

Nick Waisome (CB) committed to Florida.

Kyshoen Jarrett (CB) committed to Pitt.

Mike Caputo (FS) committed to Wisconsin.

Desimon Green (DE) committed to Pitt.

Tony Posada (OG) committed to Michigan.

Jordan Walsh (OG) committed to Iowa.

Ed Davis (LB) committed to Michigan State.

Added Gionni Paul (OLB).

Added Jack Tabb (TE).

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Poll Results: Gardner's redshirt

A recent reader poll asked the question, "Should Devin Gardner's redshirt have been burned for two snaps against UConn?"

62% of readers agreed with yours truly that Gardner should have remained on the bench.

37% of readers disagree and think Gardner should have played.

Slightly Attractive Michigan Girl of the Week: Rachel


According to the video below, this is Rachel. She's wearing #20, so I can only assume she's a big fan of Corwin Brown. Women who know Michigan football history are great!




If you know of a girl whose picture should be featured, feel free to e-mail me at touchthebanner@gmail.com.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Former Michigan Athlete of the Week: Ryan Mallett


Former Michigan quarterback Ryan Mallett transferred to Arkansas after his freshman season in 2007. He had a stellar redshirt sophomore season in 2009, and he's in the conversation as a Heisman front-runner in 2010. On Saturday he was 21/24 for 301 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception against Tennessee Tech.

Honorable mention: Another former Michigan quarterback, Steve Threet, started for Arizona State against Portland State on Saturday. Threet was 14/21 for 239 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception in a 54-9 victory. He also rushed 3 times for 24 yards.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Burning Devin Gardner's Redshirt a Bad Idea


In the middle of the third quarter, during a 30-10 Michigan victory over UConn, quarterback Denard Robinson took off up the middle on one of his 29 carries. As he stretched for a first down, a defender put his helmet on Robinson's left hip, Shoelace flew up in the air and landed on his left hip, and then a large Husky landed on Robinson's right hip, driving his left hip harder into the ground. As Robinson squirmed in pain on the ground, Michigan fans' hearts leapt to their throats.

Now imagine if you didn't see the game or read the internet yesterday. If you were Coach Rich Rodriguez and forced to sub for Robinson, would you insert . . .

a) a sophomore who has 12 games of starting experience, 5 career victories as a starter, and 2,000+ yards passing to go along with 16 career touchdowns?

b) a freshman who has 0 games of starting experience, 0 career victories as a starter, no stats, and an opportunity to redshirt in order to preserve eligibility through 2014?

An objective reader would clearly choose letter "A." Not Rodriguez, though. Despite surely knowing that Robinson's injury was only minor and that he would probably be able to return to the game soon, Rodriguez left option "A" on the bench and told "B" to warm up.

Earlier in the week, Rodriguez told the media that Gardner probably wouldn't redshirt in 2010. He had apparently soaked up the playbook and shown excellent leadership since his arrival on campus in January 2010. Meanwhile, Forcier's leadership had been questioned repeatedly, most notably by Rodriguez and his coaching staff, who chose to force Tate to "earn his wings" at the beginning of fall practice; several student-athletes who hadn't worked very hard in the offseason were given plain blue helmets and told they had to work to get them back.

Leaving Forcier on the bench was apparently the punishment levied for poor offseason habits. He was essentially suspended for the game. And while Forcier had been standing on the sidelines with his teammates up to that point, afterward the television cameras caught him sitting alone on the bench with towels wrapped around his face, clearly unhappy with the situation. It was not a mature moment from Forcier (why sulk away from your teammates during a 30-10 opening day victory?), but the cameras and broadcasters focused on him for entirely too long. I can't say that I blame Forcier for being upset. I was, too. He shouldn't have wandered off by himself and covered his head during a win, but he's just barely 20 years old; expecting a 20-year-old to be great at hiding his emotions is asking a lot.

However, the choice by Rodriguez was questionable, perhaps even irresponsible and narrow-minded. For such a minor injury, it bordered on the ridiculous to send Gardner onto the field. An All-Everything recruit, he will now be unable to play in 2014, even if Michigan needs him. The only Michigan quarterback scheduled to be on the roster by then is Kevin Sousa . . . who is currently playing his senior year of high school and won't sign a Letter of Intent until February 2011. And now Michigan has three excellent quarterback recruits spread over only two classes of eligibility. If everything remains as scheduled, Forcier and Robinson will continue the quarterback battle/drama through 2012, then Gardner will be the unquestioned starter in 2013, and who knows after that? Furthmore, it's not so much the fact that Gardner burned his redshirt that frustrates me. It's the way it was burned, for a mere two snaps, neither of which was critical.

And while coaches repeat the mantras "There's no I in team" and "No one person is bigger than the program," Rodriguez seemed to make this statement: "Doing things my way is bigger than the program." It was punishment enough for 12-game starter Forcier that he didn't start and was relegated to relief duty on Saturday. Plugging in Gardner for a mere two plays (a handoff and an awkward -4 yard keeper) was a virtual slap in the face. It said, "I'd rather sacrifice having a potential All-American quarterback in 2014 than put you in the game for two snaps."

After the game the only quote Forcier permitted was "All you need to know is I'm out." Family members quickly asserted that, No no no, he was just saying that he was leaving the stadium! Yeah, right. If those were the actual words that came out Forcier's mouth, he's either a very poor communicator or he had at least momentarily decided to transfer. Just like putting the towels on his head in front of camera feeds being broadcast nationally - and 113,000 fans - Forcier almost surely knew what message he was sending. It may have been an emotional reaction in the heat of the moment, but it was his reaction nonetheless. Whether Forcier actually departs remains to be seen, but it's growing increasingly obvious that something has to give. Robinson is the starter but could play other positions. Gardner is apparently the #2, but he's only a year behind Robinson. Forcier seems to be the odd man out and doesn't have the ability to play another position, but he's got the best resume so far. For one of the three, a change of positions or a transfer seems more likely today than it did prior to yesterday's game.

The story/rumors of Forcier's impending transfer highlighted what seems to be one of Rodriguez's faults. Several Lloyd Carr-recruited players transferred away from Michigan after Rodriguez arrived, as well as several players who were recruited to Michigan by Rodriguez himself. Two players (Austin White and Justin Turner) have already transferred during fall camp. Forcier was a Rodriguez-only recruit. Hopefully he can manage Forcier's personality and mold him into a good teammate and leader. But if these attitude issues continue and/or Forcier transfers, Rodriguez's ability to recruit and judge character comes into question. Michigan can't afford to lose too many more players, or else they run the risk of facing sanctions for not graduating enough players. Rich Rodriguez needs to recruit players that he can keep around for years, and he needs to manage the personalities of those he recruits. His my-way-or-the-highway attitude is fine, but only if he recruits players who can handle it.

Highlights: Michigan 30, Connecticut 10

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Tate Forcier is apparently transferring


This is according to Ann Arbor.com based on a quick comment Forcier made after the game.

Update: Other sources are refuting Mike Rothstein's assertion.

Michigan 30, Connecticut 10

I was only able to watch the last two-and-a-half quarters of the game due to my football obligations, but here are some thoughts on what I saw.

  • Denard Robinson has improved exponentially. He took advantage of a weak defense, but he still completed 19/22 passes (86.3%) and didn't turn the ball over. Oh by the way, he rushed for 197 yards and one touchdown on 6.8 yards per carry.
  • The offensive line looked excellent in pass protection, but only so-so in run blocking. It makes things much easier for Robinson if he doesn't have to run for his life. However . . .
  • . . . Michigan's running backs looked only average. Between Vincent Smith and Mike Shaw, they got only 3.4 yards per carry against a weak defense. Both failed to hit the line of scrimmage full speed at times, and neither showed an ability to be "special."
  • There's no excuse (unless there was an undisclosed injury to Tate Forcier) for the way that Devin Gardner burned his redshirt. When Robinson left the game momentarily with a minor injury in the third quarter, Rich Rodriguez inserted true freshman Gardner instead of apparent third-stringer Tate Forcier, who started all 12 games in 2009.
  • Robinson had way too many carries (29). Yes, he was successful carrying the ball (6.8 yards per carry, 1 touchdown), but that would give him 377 carries over a 13-game season. The NFL record over a 16-game season is 416, by running back Larry Johnson. The coaches and Robinson himself need to be smart about how he's deployed and get the ball out of his hands once the game is safely out of reach.
  • Too many redshirts were burned today. Not only Devin Gardner's, but also Drew Dileo's (to hold for extra points!) and Ray Vinopal's (for special teams!). Some freshmen were obviously needed to play, but with those three, what's the point?

Some thoughts on the defense:

  • Even though Michigan only allowed 10 points, I'm certainly not satisfied. UConn helped out the defense with several dropped passes, and UConn quarterback Zach Frazer completed just 18/37 passes (48.6%) despite the fact that only 4 were deflected by Michigan players.
  • The tackling is suspect, although UConn has a solid running game.
  • Obi Ezeh seemed to play solidly for most of the game and led the team in tackles with 9, although as a senior, his play recognition should be better. On third-and-long, there's no reason to bite on a play action fake and not get the proper depth in your drop. That left an open receiver in the seam and allowed UConn a first down.
  • When a 195 lb. freshman linebacker (Carvin Johnson) is taking on a 6'7", 325 lb. offensive guard on the interior of the line on a goal line play, something is wrong with your defensive scheme. Hopefully Johnson's knee isn't hurt too badly, but the replay showed his lower leg twisting in a direction it shouldn't.
  • J.T. Floyd should be praised for forcing a fumble near his own goal line, but he's lucky the crown of his helmet hit the ball being carried by D.J. Shoemate rather than Shoemate himself. Nobody wants to see another Zia Combs moment.
  • Zero sacks on 37 pass attempts? UConn has a large, veteran offensive line, but the pass rush needs to improve in the coming weeks.
  • Cameron Gordon took some poor angles at free safety, but he's also a head hunter back there. If he can get a bead on receivers and running backs, he's going to give some offensive players some headaches . . . literally.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Preview: Michigan vs. UConn


Rush Offense vs. UConn Rush Defense
When Rich Rodriguez was in the Big East, his teams ran all over UConn. Rodriguez knows how to run against a Randy Edsall-coached team, and that should serve him well. Not only will Michigan start the fleet-footed Denard Robinson, but the Wolverines have a solid offensive line and a variety of capable running backs. The Huskies do boast two very good senior linebackers in Lawrence Wilson and Greg Lloyd, but Lloyd is coming off a serious knee injury and probably won't be up to 100%. Meanwhile, UConn's defensive line is banged up. This should be a big day for Michigan on the ground.
Advantage: Michigan

Pass Offense vs. UConn Pass Defense
I don't expect Michigan to go to the air as much as last year, not with Denard Robinson at the helm. Robinson's passing ability has reportedly improved in the last year, but it had nowhere to go but up. Additionally, Michigan should be able to churn out yards on the ground, which makes the pass merely a distraction. We'll surely see some short passes on play action, and I think Roy Roundtree and Darryl Stonum will both be targeted deep once or twice. That should keep the defense honest, and at least one big play should occur through the air. However, all bets are off when Forcier enters the game. He had an excellent game in the opener against Western Michigan in 2009, and he's healthy right now. Michigan should be able to take advantage of a weak secondary without too many turnovers, although I'm guessing they'll pick off a bad decision or two.
Advantage: Michigan

Rush Defense vs. UConn Rush Offense
Things begin to get iffy for Michigan on defense. UConn has run the ball well in the recent past, and junior Jordan Todman had 14 touchdowns and over 1,000 yards in 2009. Four of UConn's starting offensive linemen return, and that doesn't bode well for a Michigan front that includes a converted fullback starting at middle linebacker (Mark Moundros) and a freshman outside linebacker (Carvin Johnson). Michigan's defensive line should be stout against UConn's power run game, but the linebackers will probably make some frustrating mistakes. The defensive backfield is young and I have questions about the tackling ability of all four guys on the back end, excluding Jordan Kovacs - who is slow but a good tackler.
Advantage: Connecticut

Pass Defense vs. UConn Pass Offense
Zach Frazer originally committed to Notre Dame, but he couldn't hack it there. He transferred to Connecticut, and maybe he can't hack it there, either. If every UConn opponent's defense is like Michigan's, though, he'll have a very solid season. The defensive backfield is very green and - yeah, I'll say it - not very talented. Michigan has certainly suffered from bad luck regarding injuries and personality problems at those positions, but the coaching and recruiting have to be questioned, too. Regardless, the Wolverines will be playing two former receivers (James Rogers, Cameron Gordon), a former walk-on (Jordan Kovacs), and a guy who should probably be playing safety (J.T. Floyd). Ugh. There will be missed tackles and blown assignments. Tomorrow will be frustrating.
Advantage: Connecticut

Final Predictions

Denard Robinson will rush for 80+ yards.

One Michigan running back will run for 100+ yards.

Robinson will make at least two turnovers.

UConn will have a 40+ yard pass and a 40+ yard run.

Despite the "change" in terminology, Michigan's defense will look much the same as in 2009.

Final score: Michigan 38, Connecticut 31

Thursday, September 2, 2010

2010 Season Predictions


Starting quarterback: Denard Robinson will start the season opener against UConn on Saturday. However, I think his lack of passing ability (although improved) will give Tate Forcier a chance to take the majority of the snaps by the end of the season.

Leading rusher: Denard Robinson. Even if he's not the starting quarterback for the entire season, he should get enough carries - and enough big plays - to be Michigan's leading rusher. The team also lacks a clear #1 running back, which means handoffs will be shared amongst Michael Shaw, Vincent Smith, Michael Cox, Fitzgerald Toussaint, and Stephen Hopkins. My guess is Robinson will end up with around 800 yards rushing.

Leading receiver: Roy Roundtree. The quarterbacks like to target the slot receivers, and Roundtree caught 30 balls over the last four games last season. The guess here is that Roundtree gets 60 catches and 900 yards this season.

Leading tackler: Last year's leading tackler was Steve Brown, who played something similar to the Spur position. That will be manned by freshman Carvin Johnson, who will almost surely suffer from brain farts or injury this year and therefore disqualify himself. The second-leading tackler was Jordan Kovacs, who will probably lose some time to freshman Marvin Robinson. The third leading tackler was middle linebacker Obi Ezeh, who seems to have lost his job to a converted fullback. So I'm going with last year's fourth-leading tackler: Jonas Mouton.

Leading sacker: Redshirt junior defensive end Ryan Van Bergen will edge out sophomore linebacker Craig Roh by the slightest of margins, 7.5 to 7.

Leading interceptor: I don't expect Michigan to grab a lot of picks this year. The Wolverines will probably have a few guys pick off two passes each, and those will be J.T. Floyd, Jordan Kovacs, and Jonas Mouton. But because I don't want to be wishy-washy like Michael Wilbon, I'll pick Floyd.

All Big Ten 1st team: Center David Molk. Kick returner Darryl Stonum.

Leading scorer (non-QB, non-kicker): Roy Roundtree.

Breakout offensive player: I don't see anyone having a monstrous season, and Roy Roundtree was probably 2009's breakout player, or else I would pick him. So I'll go with Denard Robinson, who will hopefully be able to pass the ball well enough to qualify in this category.

Breakout defensive player: Ugh, this defense looks bad. I guess I'll go with Ryan Van Bergen. He won't be a superstar and he won't approximate Brandon Graham, but he should be able to get a consistent pass rush.

Most disappointing offensive player: Despite being listed as a co-starter, I think Vincent Smith will be somewhat of a disappointment this year. A lot of people thought he was the heir apparent last year when he seemed to be the primary backup for the senior running backs, but I think he's just mediocre. He might be consistent, but spectacular plays are outside his reach, in my opinion.

Most disappointing defensive player: Cameron Gordon can't possibly live up to all the offseason hype, although I hope he can. He's still going to be raw, and I think he'll make some frustrating plays. This is a hard category to pick, because not much is expected from anyone on defense, really.



The Big Finish
Sept. 4 vs. Connecticut: WIN. Connecticut is a little banged up, and they will be able to run the ball. But Rodriguez was undefeated against UConn in the Big East, and most of those games were blowouts. He knows how to defeat a Randy Edsall-coached team.

Sept. 11 at Notre Dame: LOSS. Dayne Crist and Michael Floyd will dispatch an overmatched secondary in a shootout.

Sept. 18 vs. UMass: WIN. Something approximating the 63-6 trouncing of Delaware State last year is likely.

Sept. 25 vs. Bowling Green: WIN. Michigan's high-powered offense and superior athletes should be able to roll past BGSU, and the Falcons lost some significant firepower from last season.

Oct. 2 @ Indiana: LOSS. Remember when I said that Troy Woolfolk's injury would cost Michigan a game at some point? It's this one right here.

Oct. 9 vs. Michigan State: LOSS. I'd like to pick a win here, but Michigan isn't good enough to start 5-1, and Kirk Cousins should be able to throw the ball all over the field.

Oct. 16 vs. Iowa: WIN. Michigan barely lost at Iowa last season, and the Wolverines match up with the Hawkeyes better this year. Iowa has a stout defense, but Michigan's offense has improved.

Oct. 30 @ Penn State: WIN. Penn State's quarterback position is in flux, the offensive line is weakened, and the defense suffered from some big losses. They'll get a bunch of rushing yards, but Michigan should be able to pull it out in the end.

Nov. 6 vs. Illinois: WIN. Illinois sucks. They'll be able to run the ball, but they won't score enough.

Nov. 13 @ Purdue: WIN. Purdue has a solid defense and they've beaten Michigan a couple years in a row . . . I just can't imagine the Boilermakers running the streak to three.

Nov. 20 vs. Wisconsin: LOSS. Wisconsin looks good this year. Even though I think they'll fall short of many people's expectations, they're probably better than the Wolverines.

Nov. 27 @ Ohio State: LOSS. Ugh.

Final record: 7-5.

2010 Countdown: #2 Troy Woolfolk


Name: Troy Woolfolk
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 195 lbs.
High school: Dulles High School in Sugar Land, TX
Position: Cornerback
Class: Senior
Jersey number: #29
Last year: I ranked Woolfolk at #8. He made 6 starts at deep safety and 6 starts at cornerback and tallied 46 tackles along with 1 pass breakup.

Woolfolk was one of the better players on Michigan's defense last season, despite flip-flopping positions. He was a cornerback in 2007 and 2008, then moved to deep safety in spring 2009. He played fairly well at deep safety for the first half of the season, but the moronic behavior (Boubacar Cissoko) and poor play (J.T. Floyd) of Michigan's non-Donovan Warren cornerback last season forced Woolfolk back to cornerback. The position move was good for Woolfolk, who proved he could cover, but it was bad for Michigan's defense, which turned into a sieve. Although Warren was a 5-star classmate of 3-star Woolfolk, opposing teams largely ignored Woolfolk's receivers and picked on every other part of the secondary.

Coming into 2010, I assumed Woolfolk would remain at deep safety. He played well there last year, and no other safeties had shown the ability to do the job. However, Michigan made some slight tweaks to the defense and converted to a defense that will be predominantly a Cover 3 defense. In such a scheme, a fleet-footed deep safety isn't needed, and it looks as though converted wide receiver Cameron Gordon will be taking that role this season.

Then the Great Cornerback Exodus began. In addition to Warren entering the NFL Draft a year early (and promptly going undrafted) and Boubacar Cissoko going to jail, elite cornerback recruit Demar Dorsey failed to qualify for entry to Michigan and Justin Turner chose to transfer; if you're scoring at home, that's one 5-star and three high 4-star cornerbacks who should be on the roster for this season. In case Michigan fans' souls weren't crushed enough, Woolfolk broke his lower leg a couple days after Turner was released from his scholarship.

There are only a couple places on the team where Michigan simply couldn't afford an injury to a quality starter, and Woolfolk's cornerback position was one of them. His backups are young, not very good, or both. When I created this list a couple months ago, I looked at the depth and talent at cornerback . . . and still put Woolfolk all the way at #2. With a redshirt freshman position changer (Gordon) playing free safety and a guy who was removed from the field in favor of Mike Williams (Floyd) at the other cornerback, Woolfolk was indispensible. Now senior James Rogers has taken over Woolfolk's position (at least for now), and while Rogers has great speed, he hasn't played much in his career. This position is weak, and I wouldn't be surprised if it costs Michigan a game or two throughout the season.

Prediction for 2010: Redshirt due to broken ankle; return for fifth year status in 2011

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

2010 Countdown List

1. David Molk
2. Troy Woolfolk
3. Tate Forcier
4. Mike Martin
5. Denard Robinson
6. Ryan Van Bergen
7. J.T. Floyd
8. Craig Roh
9. Roy Roundtree
10. Jonas Mouton
11. Cameron Gordon
12. Stephen Schilling
13. Darryl Stonum
14. Obi Ezeh
15. Will Hagerup
16. Martavious Odoms
17. Michael Cox
18. Brendan Gibbons
19. Patrick Omameh
20. Kevin Koger
21. Jordan Kovacs
22. Greg Banks
23. Thomas Gordon
24. Mark Huyge
25. Perry Dorrestein
26. Junior Hemingway
27. Vladimir Emilien
28. Taylor Lewan
29. William Campbell
30. Michael Shaw
31. Rocko Khoury
32. Cullen Christian
33. J.B. Fitzgerald
34. Justin Turner
35. Kenny Demens
36. Vincent Smith
37. Martell Webb
38. Renaldo Sagesse
39. Mike Williams
40. Mark Moundros
41. Floyd Simmons
42. Je'Ron Stokes
43. Brandon Herron
44. Anthony Lalota
45. Teric Jones
46. Fitzgerald Toussaint
47. Adam Patterson
48. Ricky Barnum
49. Kevin Leach
50. Stephen Hopkins
51. Elliott Mealer
52. Brandin Hawthorne
53. John Ferrara
54. Michael Schofield
55. Mike Jones
56. James Rogers
57. Terrence Robinson
58. Jerald Robinson
59. Jeremy Gallon
60. Ricardo Miller
61. Quinton Washington
62. Kelvin Grady
63. Steve Watson
64. Marvin Robinson
65. Isaiah Bell
66. Brandon Moore
67. Carvin Johnson
68. Josh Furman
69. Courtney Avery
70. Terrence Talbott
71. Richard Ash
72. Devin Gardner
73. Ken Wilkins
74. Jeremy Jackson
75. Jibreel Black
76. Terry Talbott
77. Austin White
78. Drew Dileo
79. Ray Vinopal
80. Jake Ryan
81. Jordan Paskorz
82. Conelius Jones
83. DJ Williamson
84. Davion Rogers
85. Antonio Kinard
86. Christian Pace

2010 Countdown: #3 Tate Forcier


Name: Tate Forcier
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 192 lbs.
High school: Scripps Ranch High School in San Diego, CA
Position: Quarterback
Class: Sophomore
Jersey number: #5
Last year: I ranked Forcier #2. He started all 12 games and completed 165 of 281 passes (58.7%) with 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also ran the ball 118 times for 240 yards and 3 touchdowns.

The hype for Forcier last season was amazing. It approximated the hype this season for Denard Robinson. Forcier was a highly touted recruit at a position of need with the pedigree and polish (if not the size) to turn the whole program around after a nightmarish 2008 season for Michigan. Things started off with a bang, as Forcier threw 3 touchdowns against Western Michigan in his first game and won the first four games of the season. His comeback victory against Indiana was followed by a near-comeback against MSU, but the 4-0 start to the season quickly devolved as Forcier went 1-7 as a starter down the stretch.

The offseason was somewhat tumultuous for Forcier. He had to recover from a bum shoulder that he injured late in the season. Then Denard Robinson took great strides in spring practices, earning rave reviews and seemingly relegating Forcier to a backup role. Rumors of Forcier's impending transfer sprouted up several times throughout the spring and summer, especially when Forcier had to "earn his wings" at the beginning of summer practices; several Michigan players, including Forcier, who had less than stellar offseasons were given plain blue helmets. While Denard Robinson was reportedly studying film, working hard on his mechanics, and participating in voluntary 7-on-7s, Forcier reportedly made rare appearances at voluntary sessions during the summer.

Forcier is still one of the top three most important players on the team due to his position and talent. Denard Robinson has received more snaps with the first string offense since the spring, and Forcier has been playing catch-up. And while Robinson is clearly a superior runner to Forcier, Michigan fans should remember that Shoelace is tearing up a Michigan defense that might be one of the worst in the Big Ten this year. Robinson made it clear in 2009 that he can gain yards on the ground against just about anyone, but he also made it clear that he has a long way to go as a passer. Forcier is virtually the opposite - he's just an okay runner, but has the ability to be a very good passer. Denard Robinson's legs might let him run past early foes with mediocre defenses like Connecticut, Notre Dame, UMass, Bowling Green, and Indiana. But the tougher defenses that loom in the second half of the season (Iowa, Penn State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State) will require a more nuanced passing attack, one that Robinson is unlikely to produce at this point in his development. Robinson was integral enough to be #5 on this countdown, but Forcier will end up being more valuable by the end of the 2010 campaign.

Prediction for 2010: Part-time starting quarterback; 1,700 yards passing and 15 touchdowns; 200 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns